Monday, May 27, 2013

The Nursery of Eden

I need to get back to my favorite garden center– Meadowview Farms in Southwick , MA.

I briefly alluded to this plant emporium as the Nursery of Eden in last week’s blog. Yet, even then I knew I hadn’t given the garden center its due.  By the time I left the  aisles and aisles of vegetables and flowers and grasses and herbs – there was even a section dedicated to cacti – all I could think was that the country – no, the world, should run the way this busy business operates.

I got there before 10 A.M. on a weekday, and the place was packed. Cars had already parked past the edges of the paved lot onto the grass. The departing customers pushed carts bursting with splatters of colorful blooms against multi-shades of greenery. Arriving customers frequently offered to take an empty cart as strangers finished loading their trunks with their purchases.

This is my kind of shopping
This air of cooperation continued in the crowded aisles of the open market. No one seemed to mind waiting while a patron picked through geraniums or spikes or vines, visions of a barrelful of blooms dancing in her head. This is a scenario where no one seems to mind lingering a little longer.

Supermarkets don’t rise to this level of consumer congeniality.Big Box Stores sometimes even fall short of basic civility. Their customers weave in and out of aisles more robotically. Even on the cashier line, many glue their eyes to their phone screens or stare at the magazine rack loaded with sensational headlines about celebrity birth, weight, and relationships. Some of the people I’ve stood in line with don’t even talk to the cashier as they check out. They just swipe, punch in a pin number, and go on their way. 

Here at the farm, everyone is smiling! At one point I panned one corner of the vast market to the other to see if I could find a disgruntled face or two. Not a one came into view. There must be something soothing about being surrounded by table after table of blooms, a floor full of larger pots and bushes, and hanging baskets overhead.  Soothing and aromatic, especially through the herbs.

I gathered my usual three varieties of tomatoes: an early bloomer (for its earliness) ,a  plum (for sauce) and a cherry (for snacking mostly right from the vine).  I picked out a colorful array of peppers – all sweet,  and dill and fennel to add to my herbs that came back this spring, after a colder than usual winter. (I wasn’t surprised to see the hardy chives and oregano come back – but the sage, rosemary, marjoram, and even a few sprigs of parsley surprised me. Must have something to do with planting them up against the sunny side of the house.) I decided to try a few Brussels sprouts plants, for the first time (The sign said “easy to grow", though I’ve come to find out they take a lot of pinching back. Time will tell.) Couldn’t resist a small white eggplant either.

In the floral category I decided to go with coral geraniums for the porch flower boxes. Three in each with a touch of silver duster between them.  Yes, that was me holding up the works in the geranium aisle earlier,
I need to get back to Meadowview Farms - for three more coral geraniums. Apparently I miscounted. Chances are I’ll return home with more than those few plants.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Torn Over Tornado Reporting

I didn’t turn the news on when I got up this morning the way I usually do. I didn't want to hear 
Tornado history repeats itself in Moore, OK
 (photo from
more about a mile-wide tornado that travelled twenty miles in about forty minutes through Moore, Oklahoma. I had followed the breaking news yesterday through the late night TV news broadcasts.

I had had enough.

I don’t mean I had had enough in a sated way or in a disgruntled way. I mean I had seen enough to have the horrible tragedy, like other unfathomable events of the recent past, now  ingrained in my consciousness. Sad to say I’m no longer surprised when bad events are experienced by undeserving people. Natural disaster and acts of random violence have nothing to do with whether or not  their victims have “it” coming to them. 

Nothing would have been gained by resettling myself on the couch, in front of the TV, this morning.  Viewing repeated news clips of the same horrible moments of destruction or cries of despair I had seen last night,  over and over, would not have helped anyone in tornado-torn  Moore Oklahoma  or (as of this morning) calm Connecticut . What will help is, once again, a national community effort to support the people most impacted by the tornado.The Town of Moore OK website has already posted the best ways.

Text STORM to 80888 for Salvation Army.
Text REDCROSS to 90999 for Red Cross.
Text FOOD to 32333 for Oklahoma Regional Food Bank

At this time, PLEASE make financial donations only, until when and if other types of donations are requested.   

I hope my readers will join me in abiding this call.

Back to this morning, instead of turning on the news, I took an early ride to my favorite garden center just over the Massachusetts line. Lush indoor and outdoor displays surrounded me there, and everyone was smiling

A good place to be, I  thought. 

I returned home with lots of coral geraniums and veggies and herbs. Through the early afternoon I assembled seven flower boxes for the porch. Then, in minutes, an ominous cloud cover rolled in and soon the heavens let loose with heavy. . . heavier . . . and then the heaviest rain I've seen in some time. So heavy. the dog and I had to leave the porch as the wind  sprayed the rain diagonally onto it. Inside, I turned on the TV to learn areas in my own state had been issued tornado warnings. I sure hope the Connecticut storm will not overtake the news tomorrow. But if it does, I hope the viewers from afar will pull themselves away from excessive media coverage that just replays the same emotional footage 24/7, support the cause with a donation, and make their untainted day worthwhile.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Angie and Me

ABC Good Morning America photo

I never expected I would ever compare myself to Angelina Jolie. But after reading her Op-ed in the New York Times this morning, I’m feeling some really significant common ground.

Chances are we will both owe our future health (hopefully good health) to preventive medicine.

Jolie stunned the world today with the disclosure that she has spent most of this year undergoing a preventive double mastectomy to combat her high chances of developing breast cancer. A genetic test Jolie chose to take after her mother’s death from ovarian cancer assessed the actress’ risk at 87%.

With such high stakes, she decided to take action before the odds played out against her. No question. No reality show. She just halted her busy schedule as mother, actress, and philanthropist. Three months  of opted surgery may just have added decades to her life. Her odds of getting the disease are now less than 5 %.

My kindred story doesn’t involve genetic testing (which has been reported to have cost Jolie about three thousand dollars). Just yearly check-ups, which most health plans cover.
I left one of those yearly check-ups six years ago, expecting to not have to see the doctor again for a year. Instead, I got a phone call the day after my appointment. “There’s blood in your urine and your liver function is off,” he told me on the phone. “We’ve got to find out why.”

The next day a tumor the size of my fist appeared atop my right kidney on an ultrasound screen. There had been no pain, no bleeding perceptible to the eye (just microscopic blood cells in my urine sample on the day of my physical), and no palpable lump.

An MRI followed. Then a diagnosis: Late Stage Two kidney cancer. Yet, I was fortunate. Within weeks, major surgery removed the tumor and kidney - before the cancer had spread. My lymph nodes were clean.

Every year, at my annual physical, I still tell my doctor how thankful I am that he saved my life.

“Early detection,” my doctor replies. “Prevention is the way to go.”

I still get yearly physicals  - and yearly chest x-rays because of the kidney cancer. It always surprises me when women I know, smart women who have more than adequate health insurance, tell me they do not have "time" for physicals. Some say they are too  busy raising their children, juggling work with parenting, etc. etc. I hope these ladies stop to take a look at how a busy celebrity cleared her globe-trotting schedule for preventive medicine. I don't think she did it to prolong her movie career. More likely, the fear of leaving her children and fiancĂ© without a mother and wife made her find the time to make an informed decision.

 I feel fortunate  that I only have to wonder what might have happened if I didn't start seeing a doctor regularly, in my forties. I'm glad Jolie will  just get  to wonder what might have happened if she didn't choose the preventative medical treatment this year.

I hope more busy women will take the time to detect medical trouble before it's too late to stop it .

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day - Revisited

I woke up today thinking about my mom, gone four Mother’s Days now. I decided to post her picture  -- in remembrance – on  Facebook -  This way, I knew my cousin network on FB would be reminded of her too.

I uploaded a photo of Mom with Dad, young newlyweds, pre- kids. In it, they look as if they do not have a care in the world.   Then I recalled the message a dear friend recently emailed me. Titled  flowers , the text read: Had a flashback to your mom today. On our way to Auburn, we saw a lawn with almost no green – it was all those “pretty yellow flowers.”

My friend and his wife live hundreds of miles away from me now. But they had read my memoir last fall and suddenly, out of the blue, found themselves remembering a story about my mother. I’m sure they were grinning ear-to-ear too.

The story recalls when I was eleven years old and my family uprooted from Brooklyn, NY to northern Connecticut. Mom, experiencing her first burst of spring in New England, went to the local nursery seeking seeds for “those pretty yellow flowers on everybody’s lawn.” Dandelions.

You’re grinning now. Right?

That's just the tip of Mom’s deep-rooted dandelion tale in the memoir, a tale that digs through generations of her Italian background.  Writing the memoir led me to discover the layers of that story. My friend’s email reminded me of the power of memoir, writing immersed in memory. “Full of Grace,” the piece about Mom in Staying Alive: A Love Story had not only made Mom present in my life again, it was making her present in others’ lives too, as spontaneously as on a ride through a suburban neighborhood. This unplanned series of events then made me more glad than sad– for the first time in years – on Mother’s Day. Ready to celebrate it with my own children and, for the first time, my grandson.