Category Archives: Seasons

Goodbye, Winter!

A bloom from my husband's favorite rose-bush.

A bloom from my husband’s favorite rose-bush.

So Spring began last week. I’m certain there are a lot of folks really happy to see Winter leave. I have a sister in Philadelphia who is tired of shoveling snow. They’ve had something like 15 snow and ice storms blow through.

I live in the Pacific Northwest and our winter has been strange, but mild in comparison. We started the year 11 inches below normal for rainfall. That’s a LOT. It was the driest winter I think we’ve ever had. I don’t know that for sure, but it seemed like it. Until about a month ago.

The heavens opened up and we’ve gotten gully-washers for rainstorms. We generally get rain and drizzle, but not too many downpours. These were all day downpours. And we’ve almost caught up to the average rainfall for our area. In THREE weeks! It’s crazy. The more important thing for us is that the mountain snow-pack, which was seriously depleted, has also almost caught up to average. We need that snow this summer to feed crops.

So we’ve been super dry, then super wet. But overall, mild here. I feel like I need to apologize to the rest of the world for having an easy winter while others have struggled so. :)

This year was a neutral year. That generally means a more unstable weather pattern. El Nino years tend to be warmer for us, La Nina tends to be cooler. They are already saying that this next winter will have an El Nino pattern.

Personally, I don’t like El Nino warming. It generally means I don’t get to see any snow unless I drive to it. And I like a little snow in the winter. Not as much as some of you have gotten this year. My shoulders ache just thinking about how much snow some of you have been shoveling. I  only like enough for a nice walk or two.

For now, though, I’m ready to see Spring. Soak up some sunshine, let the rain help our gardens grow, and air out the house (my favorite thing to do in the Spring).

So how about you? How was your winter? And are you glad for Spring to have sprung?

Oh, and a quick Happy Birthday to my pinochle partner and father. 87 years old, wheelchair bound, and still finding a lot of life to smile about. :)

March the Month of Spring

imagesSpring is one of my favorite months. It can be a cool even a cold month in the Pacific NW but it can also be a warm one and often mixes weather so that we appreciate the sunny days. It also means longer days and of course the first appearance of blooms. I noticed that there were a couple of flowers just peeking their heads out. Brave souls as it has been a bit cold and wet out.imageimagexx

March was named for The Roman god of war, Mars. In the northern hemisphere it is the beginning month for planting though here it can be a little early and I remember more than one year we had to replant. I haven’t gardened for a number of years but with the raised beds I’m planning to do a little this year. Will see how that goes as my thumb would be considered anything but green.

This year I’m also putting on a covered patio and doing some landscaping. I’m working with this fantastic architect. He hand draws the plans and they are framing quality. He came over last week to take an inventory of the plants in the yard so he can incorporate them into the plan. I can’t wait to start.

St. Patricks day is the 17th and in researching March facts I found this —- ready? Save A Spider day 14th. Okay, now I’m probably banned from hanging over the fence but couldn’t resist sharing.

Oh wait, this morning I read in the AARP magazine that with the dwindling days of winter, March is the month for spring house cleaning. The article comes complete with tips though, lucky for this blog I didn’t get that far.

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday also known as the first day of Lent. For the next 40 days, a number of people will be giving up something to take part in the lead up to Easter. I’m not a Catholic so I don’t go to the church to have ashes put on my forehead although I think that tradition is quite nice. I have a number of friends who will be walking around with this mark all day.

I also don’t usually give up anything for Lent but I do try to use the period to attempt to fix some habit or personality issue that I perceive I  have. Sadly, I haven’t been really successful in making life time changes – I have read somewhere that you can form a new habit in 30 days but I’m not sure I agree with that. I plan to test the theory yet again this year as I am going to try to not be so dang sensitive. I find as I get older that I’ve become someone who seems to wear her heart on her sleeve. I wasn’t this way before but for some reason, it’s been true for the last few years.

I tend to invest everything I am into every endeavor I undertake and that includes friendships. I’m finding as I age that this is not the norm for people and as a result, I’ve been in situations where I get hurt (feelings, not physical).

I’ve decided to try to change a little and not invest so deeply so fast. I’ve got a new mantra I’m going to try in this Lenten period and it’s “surface, surface, surface.” I am going to endeavor to keep things on a surface level. Once I master that and learn to take my time in diving in deep, I think I will be better off and my heart may hurt less.

What about you? Any ashes for your forehead? Any Lenten traditions?


Trying Not to Feel SAD

So, here we are already a week into 2014. Christmas has passed, the decorations and tree put away and life returning to normality. David has gone back to work after two weeks’ holiday, mother has been safely returned to Reading, and the house seems strangely quiet. Our Christmas was relaxed and enjoyable, unlike many in the UK who had theirs and their homes ruined by flood damage and electricity failures over the period. My heart goes out to them, it must have been awful. Flooded property is a nightmare and for many it will be months before they can get their lives back on track.

Many claim the flooding as part of global warming but there are other natural factors involved. This year’s flooding was caused by a combination of a full moon, a low depression and high winds causing storm surges and exceptionally high tides. Similar happened in England in 1952 and there are records of severe flooding in the West Country in the Middle Ages, with the Bristol Channel and River Severn flooding in 1607, wiping out complete villages with high loss of life. The River Severn has the second highest tidal rise in the world, so this sort of event is nothing new.

We live on high ground above the River Severn so we were safe, but living high up does have a few disadvantages, like the strong winds which blow direct off the Atlantic, and boy, have they blown lately. It’s invariably windy here, which is why we have high hedges, fences and walls surrounding the garden. Many of our plants lean permanently at an angle and much, including the vegetables, need to be staked or tied in. At this time of year hanging washing out is impossible – it would take off! Thank goodness for tumble driers.

We are only a few weeks into winter so there is a strong possibly the weather will turn much colder, with heavy frosts and perhaps snow. I hope not; I hate the snow and the cold. I’m a summer gal and long for the warmth of the sun, often laid low by SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), and sorely miss my early morning coffee taken in the garden. I used to get very depressed by the long dark nights and cold, dismal days of winter but a simple observation by my husband a few years ago helped me to see this time of year in a new light when he pointed out that once the shortest day had passed, the days increasingly get longer; and they are. Within a few weeks, the difference is obvious. So armed with this positive attitude I find I can handle winter a lot better.

This morning the sun was out, the rain stopped so when I went down the garden to refill the bird feeder, I took a walk around the garden, for the first time for several weeks, my boots squelching in the sodden grass. For the past two years, on New Year’s day we had crocus in flower on the lawn; this year not a sign of them, which is surprising as the weather although wet and windy has been remarkably mild – I even had roses in flower on Christmas day! But the snowdrops are up, their shoots, inching up above the grass, the daffodils in the lee of a south-facing wall are nearly a foot high, with buds forming, and some of the wallflowers are already in flower. The bluebells are also shooting, and my favourite hellebore is full of fat, dark purple flower buds, soon ready to open. The clematises have new shoots sprouting, although next month the plants will be pruned back in anticipation of summer. And whilst there are several months to go, spring is definitely on its way.

I might be a bit late in saying this, but I do wish you all a Very Good 2014 and hope all your dreams, hopes and aspirations are fulfilled this year.

Till next time…

Hello January

imagesWhat do you think when you think of January. Winter? I wasn’t surprised to see that when I googled January clip art a very large percentage was of snow and cold. But in the Southern Hemisphere it is summer. However winter, or summer, I like January. For me it’s sort of a quiet month away from the hustle and bustle of holidays. It is also a fresh beginning of a new year.

Being somewhat a dreamer I can’t help feeling anticipation on what the year will bring. It’s sort of like having 365 wrapped presents under the tree. They hold mystery, challenge, fun, fulfillment, happiness, achievement, opportunity, excitement and all sorts of surprises. Can you see these things and more floating out of the brightly wrapped packages?

It used to be that with a clean slate of a new year we made resolutions. There have been so many jokes about these mostly broken vows that most people don’t, or at least won’t admit to making them. I used to and in the past couple of decades it has been weight related. Now I make goals. So what is the difference between goals and resolutions? I looked it up and this is what I found. If there is a specific achievement that can be measured it is a goal. Permanent changes to your life are resolutions since you keep doing them and not just until a specific achievement is reached.

So for examples:
Goal: Run a marathon (no it’s not on my list).
Goal: Lose 25 lbs
Resolution: Develop healthier eating habits
Resolution: Increase physical exercise

I guess I can’t face doing something forever so do better with a specific goal. But after defining the difference maybe I do need to add a few resolutions to my annual goals.

What about you? Do you make goals and/or resolutions? Do you write them down? Do you share them?


I hope everyone had a great Christmas. Everything is pretty much back to some sort of normality here in the UK and the sales are in full swing. From Christmas Eve most of the ads on TV are for the sales which start here on Boxing Day (traditionally the day after Christmas when servants would receive gifts from their masters which became known as a “Christmas box”). Having shopped-out prior to Christmas, I always think I’ll be happy to give the sales a miss, and yet I always seem to be ready to bag a bargain!

But mostly the period between Christmas and New Year finds me in reflective mode and, can I say, a little melancholy. Not sure why, and I wonder if most everyone feels this way. It’s not so much the let down after the frenzy of the season, but more reflecting back on what I’ve achieved the past year and whether I feel I’ve made the most of it.

Looking back, I’ve met most of the goals I set myself for 2013 – written two fiction novels and one non-fiction book, boarded what seems a plethora of puppies for Guide Dogs, had some lovely trips away, and finished some jobs around the home that seem to have been at the planning stage for ages. All in all it’s been a pretty great year. But have I fulfilled the potential of the year? It’s always hard to say. What I do know is the year has gone by at lightning speed and I spent most of it in busy mode.

So here I am reflecting on last year and planning for next. Some of my goals so far are to be more organised (that’s a big one), write two more novels, take more trips away with AJ, but mostly I plan to take time to savour and value everything. To, in the words of Henry David Thoreau, “suck out all the marrow of life”.

That’s the plan anyway. How about you? What are your goals for 2014?

Christmas Day


Warm wishes for a beautiful Holiday Season and a New Year filled with peace and happiness.

Holiday Bazaars

Lk LawrenceI went to my first holiday bazaar this past weekend. For years this one has been an annual event for us. Some of the vendors are familiar but their things are always fresh and new.

I love the ambiance of country bazaars. There never seems to be a hurry and people, strangers, take time to stop and chat. Instead of coming home from a shopping trip tired, I come back from these feeling good, happy and sometimes a little nostalgic.

One year is a particluarly fond memory. Our daughter suggested that all of the Christmas gifts be home made. I quickly amended or expanded that to mean you could purchase hand made items. I’d never have time to make everything. How did my grandmother do it?

We started out early that year and it soon became like a treasure hunt. We found amazing gifts. Ones that meant a lot to the givers and recievers. In fact most of the gifts are still on display in our homes. At least the ones we didn’t eat. ☺

Time consuming, oh yes but so much fun. We made friends and memories that will stay with us a liftime.

Amazing Maize and Other Halloween Traditions by Valerie J. Patterson

I’m trapped.  I can’t get out.  I see no exit, and there are no windows.  I’m surrounded by, well, corn!  And it was a great experience!

A couple years ago I took my Sunday school class to a fright farm—not to see ghouls or goblins, but rather to go through a maize maze.  Have you ever been?  Yes?  Then you know how much fun they are.  No?  Then search for one in your area and go!

The Maize Maze I went to was 7 and a half acres of corn, 2 and a half miles of trails, and had one way in and one way out.  The brochure said to allow 4 hours to get through the maze.  Throughout the maze, there were food and beverage stations, tuba phones (for getting help from farm employees), bridges used to gain a vantage point to search for your next step forward, and clues to solving the puzzle, the mystery of the maze.  It was an excellent adventure!  Just when you were certain you were headed in the right direct, BAM!, you hit a dead end and have to retrace your steps.  The stalks of corn are taller than you are, so you have no choice but to press on and follow the path not only looking for the way out, but also searching for the next clue that will allow you to solve the mystery of the maze.

Before you know it, you’re so engrossed in your endeavor that hours fly right by and you find yourself at the exit.  As you step across that finish line, you turn and peer one last time at this humungous maze and you know that you’ve achieved success.  You conquered the maze and solved the mystery.

I really enjoy autumn, and Halloween can be and should be a fun holiday.  I’m not much for fright houses, horror movies, or monsters, but I enjoy searching for the perfect pumpkin and then carving it.  I like hayrides and bonfires.  I like the rich earthy tones associated with autumn gardens and decorating, and I adore masquerade parties!  I like the appeal of the mask hiding your identity until someone figures it out and gives you away.

When I was a sophomore in school my youth group had a masquerade party.  I worked and worked on my costume.  My mom helped me.  I sewed a hula hoop into the waistband of a pair of men’s trousers, then sewed a dress shirt to the outside of the waist of the trousers, making a one piece outfit.  I pulled my hair into a bun and scrunched it under a work hat.  Added a pair of work boots, and took some ashes from the fireplace, which I smeared on my cheeks.  I left my eyeglasses at home and had my dad drop me off a block from the youth center so no one could see me with him and gain access to my identity.

Inside the center, I walked over to a group of my girlfriends and waited.  They each turned and looked at me.  “Great costume.” I heard from several of them.  I nodded and smiled, but didn’t dare speak.  I was out to see how long it took them to figure out who I was.  Eventually, they wandered away from me and I heard, “I thought Valerie was coming tonight?  Anyone see her?”

I smiled and refrained from squealing.

One of the cute guys asked me to dance, which completely took me by surprise because I was not wearing an attractive outfit by any stretch of the imagination.  Plus, whenever I danced, the hula hoop sort of caused my costume to go in every direction at once.

He kept asking me questions, which I kept refusing to answer.  A slow song came on and he actually reached an arm around me, somehow avoiding the hula hoop.  “You’re really tiny,” he said, and I tried not to beam with pleasure.  He said something about the hula hoop being between us, but I didn’t hear it.  I was trying to keep my composure.

The song ended and he asked, “Not going to tell me who you are?”

I shook my head and he shrugged as he went back to join his friends—our friends.

That night I won most original costume, and I was pleased with that.  Then the end of the evening came and the award for most mysterious was still up for grabs.  I was called to the stage along with three others.  When the youth pastor came to me and handed me first prize, I was thrilled.  I’d pulled it off.  Then it happened.  A deep voice called out from the crowd.

“Hey Swanson?  Is that you?”

My head snapped up and my eyes darted to my left, locking with my earlier dance partner.  I’d been found out.  I got to keep my prize nonetheless, plus it was the end of the night, so I was fine.  I left the stage and headed toward my friend.

“How did you know?” I asked.

“Your eyes.  There was something familiar about your eyes when we were dancing.  It was while you were up on stage that I realized I was used to seeing them behind glasses.”

When my dad came to get me, he asked me how it went.  I told him it was one of the best parties I’d been to, but that it was also one of the loneliest evenings I’d ever spent while in a huge group.  My refusal to speak for fear of giving myself away proved to alienate me from my friends.  No matter.  It’s all about being mysterious.  It’s all about the masquerade!

What’s your favorite autumn activity?  Bobbing for apples?  Trick or Treating?  Hayrides?  Regardless, I hope you have fond memories of the activities and the people who were with you.

Until next time, I hope you have a little mystery in your autumn days, and plenty of blessings to warm you at night.

Leaves of My Generation by Valerie J. Patterson

Every family tree—large or small—has many leaves. Some are fresh and new due to the addition of new babies. Some are brightly colored as relatives enter the prime of their lives. Still others are weak and withered. Each branch of the family tree represents a different family line whether it be aunts and uncles, grandparents, or nieces and nephews; you want your family tree to have multiple branches. Strong, healthy branches. Branches that spread out and reach for the glory of the sun and sky.

The problem?

As with earthly, planted trees, each family tree goes through periods of losing leaves that can never be replaced. Each leaf that falls from the tree represents a loved one lost. Taken from our view and our lives, never to be replaced.

As we age, there are milestone leaves, if you will. These are losing grandparents, followed—hopefully many seasons down the path—by losing parents and relatives of their generation. Those milestones are life-changing events. Those cause voids that will never be filled. My husband and I have both experienced the loss of a parent. Our lives were forever changed by their passing.

But what about when the leaves of your own generation begin to fall from the tree? How do you handle those losses? These are perhaps the kinds of losses that not only narrow your world, but also cause you to take stock in your life and to look around at who remains.

Unfortunately, I’ve already begun to see the leaves of my generation begin to fall. On September 8th I lost my cousin, Walter. On September 15th I lost my cousin, Bobby. Bobby and Walter were brothers. As I sat at the memorial service for Walter, I slowly looked around the room. Even though I still saw the cousins I played in leaf piles with, or rode bikes with, or spent countless overnights with, or went to camp with, I was struck with the realization that we had—dare I say it—gotten older. Walter—perhaps among the eldest of my generation—was still the young man I could remember seeing in a military uniform when I was very young. Bobby, his junior by eight years, was still the older cousin I fondly remember taking the time one evening to sit with his younger cousin (me) and actually talk with me about any subject my young mind wandered to. I could easily remember these guys bounding down the stairs of their home and rushing out the front door on their way to see friends or girlfriends or whatever.

Tomorrow, I will say goodbye to Bobby, and as I write this, I still have trouble grasping that the leaves of my generation have begun to fall from my family tree. How I wish I had the power within me to catch them as the wind whisks them off the branches and gently stick them back in their places.

Life is a gift, and today is a present to be opened and shared and enjoyed. Take the time to look at the colorful leaves of your family tree, then reach out and hug them and tell them you love them because you never know when one will fall from the branch never to be replaced.

Until next time, I hope when your feet hit the floor in the morning that a smile tugs at the corners of your mouth and your day is full of bright sunshine and wonderful blessings.