On Buzzing Bees, Balance and Joy

The past two mornings as I’ve taken Sophie out for her morning constitutional I’ve been delighted to see bees.

Yes, bees.

See, I’m worried about them. I have friends who raise bees, and I’m really worried.  I’ve heard lots and lots about how the bees are disappearing, and folks don’t know why or they do know why and it’s not good news.  I’ve seen the pictures of all the food we would NOT have if we didn’t have bees.  It’s not a pretty picture.

So yes, I see bees dancing around in my front yard and I want to dance too.

I didn’t see them much as I walked on.  I think that’s the case for two reasons–one, our grass hasn’t been cut as recently so it’s a couple of inches high and there’s something tiny flowering out there.  Two, we don’t spray.  For weeds or bugs or anything.

I’m so confused.

I see folks asking about spraying for mosquitoes or other insects.  I pass folks’ yards on our walks with the signs in the front yard.  The name of the company happily emblazoned in big bold letters and in tiny print “Insecticide applied–stay off grass.” Or “weed killer applied, keep off.”  Oh me.  True confession time:  I am terrified to walk on their grass–even days later.  When the children were very small I made them cross the streets to get away from the “sprayed” yards.  And now, with Miss Sophie, I don’t let her near the sprayed yards either.

I was traumatized years ago by a large can of industrial strength insecticide used for cattle in the pastures.  It helped keep the flies down.  Only this was being used indoors, and…..I still shudder when I think about it.  I can’t and don’t do bug sprays.  That’s it.

We do have some all-natural sprays made with essential oils.  And if the fact that the mosquitoes circling around on July 4th, big enough to tote off a cat or small dog, didn’t bite us once is any testimony, it’s good stuff.  And it smells so good.

The word balance keeps coming to mind.  And not because my Cousin and I were just speaking about it.  I despise spiders.  Actually I don’t despise them, I am terrified of them.  When I was little, Mama read the book “Be Nice to Spiders” to me to show me they are our friends and we need them.

Spiders, flies, bats, frogs, rats, snakes, and so many more…..

all of them part of the balance…..

we need them all to be part of the world we live in.

They keep each other in check.  Making sure nothing gets off-kilter, out of balance.

I’m no scientist.  I don’t know a lot of the facts.  I get that mosquitoes can make people sick.  I get that the spray can take care of them, ridding the possibility of the disease.  But what else are we opening ourselves up to when we open that Pandora’s box? It scares me so much that I’m pretty sure I’m not ready to find out.

I have no answers.  So maybe I’ll just sit out on my porch and think on it awhile, as I listen to the bees buzzing or the frogs singing at night.  If you don’t have the answers either and just want to sit too, come on up.  I’ll be at the end of the street on the porch with the unmanicured yard and the bugs flying around.  You can swat at ’em if you want or use some of my lemongrass spray.  Because for now, that’s as hardcore as it’s going to get around here.  My soul needs some balance and I’m thinking that keeping it in the nature around me is a good place to start.

Wishing you a place to sit and listen to nature’s symphony.  Love and balance to all.

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If you are interested in learning more about bees, here’s just one link among the many I found when I looked them up.  http://www.buzzaboutbees.net/

I’m using a bug spray made by a local company that doesn’t have it on a website, but I have used this and it worked great too.

http://www.amazon.com/Skedattle-Natural-Anti-Bug-Spray-8-oz/dp/B007P5AJV8/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1405739483&sr=8-8&keywords=natural+bug+spray

A couple of cool tips for caring for your plants naturally–  http://www.9news.com/story/life/home-garden/proctors-tips/2014/07/10/proctor-keep-pests-away/12422437/

And finally this:  http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=125636  “Why We Need Insects, Including “Pesky” Ones”

Just a little food for thought.

Be Particular…..and other words from a wise woman

Today is my Granny’s birthday.  She hasn’t been here to celebrate it with us in seventeen years.  That blows my mind to think about how long it has been since I’ve heard her say, “Hey girl” in that special way she had.  I guess it’s because in so many ways, so many times I feel her with me and I can even hear her voice.

Granny was the wise country woman who sewed her own dresses, had her gardening boots by the back door, and kept a butter churn next to the gas heater.  I don’t remember any butter being made in it, but that doesn’t mean she never did.  She was always busy.  Her hands were always doing something.  Shelling peas, shucking corn, stirring the soup, patting out the biscuits, frying the okra or catfish, sewing a dress, painting a ceramic figure, playing a game with one of her grandchildren, turning the pages in her Bible, rolling out pie crust, washing dishes, or laying out the pallet for us to sleep on.  She kept a tissue box in the back window of the car, and I used to think how smart she was to do that.  She kept toys in the bottom of the china cabinet for us to play with.  I was especially fond of the Fisher Price Little People RV/camper.  (Maybe I can blame my ever-present longing for an RV on that?)  She kept Archie and Jughead and Betty and Veronica comic books for us to read on lazy summer afternoons as we waited for the heat to let up a bit so we could go back outside.  She had a room full of wonderful books.  Some of my favorites were the Wonderful World of Disney set of storybooks–“Tales from Another Land” and so on–thanks to eBay we also have a set of these great books.  I read the best biography of Lady Jane Grey (yes I’ve read more than one–ahem–nothing wrong with that right?) that belonged to her laying on the bed in her back bedroom.

That room, which I believe was my Daddy’s and his brother’s growing up (is that right?) , was once called the “cold room.”  It was on the other side of the house from the other two bedrooms, and it stayed a lot cooler than the other two.  It was the furthest from the little gas heater.  I don’t remember when, but one year Granny put up some curtains that were red bandana and denim print as I recall.  It was then re-dubbed the “pretty room.”  That room was not one usually frequented by us children.  Perhaps that’s why it felt like it held some kind of secret magic or something.  This was the ideal place for keeping the Christmas candy and goodies that Granny prepared year after year.  Oh my, the bounty I can remember being in there in Tupperware containers and the like.  Martha Washingtons, Buckeyes, Divinity, Date balls, and so many, many more.  The mind and my sweet tooth would boggle.  I can also remember beans and other vegetables laying out to dry to become seed for the next spring.  We had to be careful not to step on or scatter them.

Granny’s was a safe place for me, and so much stayed the same that being there was always a comfort.  Honeycomb cereal poured from the plastic cereal bins.  Irish Spring soap in the old bathtub with the high curved sides.  And I’m pretty sure she always had Pepsodent, but I could be wrong about that.  She kept red solo cups for drinking water–the smaller sized ones–in a dispenser next to the second sink in the kitchen.  When she made homemade peach ice cream, she had these little containers she’d pour leftovers in to have another time.  Only you might better think of it a little bit before you wanted to eat it, because it was brick hard when it first came out of the freezer, and it took a little while to get just right for eating.

Granny loved dogs.  She bred terriers back before I can really remember, and then later she had a basset hound and bred those.  She let us watch “Gunsmoke” in the afternoon and “Hee Haw” on Saturday night. And she watched the 11 o’clock news on WMAZ every night.  We knew the lights were going out at 11:35.  In later years, after her move to town, “Doctor Quinn” was her go to show.  That and anytime Billy Graham was on TV.  She didn’t watch a lot of TV, she wasn’t still enough to do so until her body slowed down, and she couldn’t do as much.

My Granny taught us to “be particular.”   These were words that covered a lot of territory.  Be particular about your belongings.  You don’t need much, but take care of the things you do have.  Be particular about the people you look to for guidance.  That doesn’t mean you can’t care about folks who are different, just be careful what example you’re following.  Be particular about what you eat–make sure it’s real and good.  Be particular about your language.  What words are coming out of your mouth.  No need to resort to certain kinds of language or saying unkind things.  Be particular with other people’s things, feelings, and hearts.  And be particular with the choices you make. They are a lot more far-reaching than you think.  I think that if I ever go back and put “Loved” and “Others” on Mama and Daddy’s gravestones, I should probably go ahead and put “be particular” on Granny’s.  Because she was.

She had a saying that she often still says to me.  And I’ve earned it.  Every.  Single.  Time.

“Lazy folks always did have the most to do.”  I guess she said it.  Mama quoted her left and right when I was growing up, and now, no kidding, it’s my Granny’s voice I hear when I wind up having to clean up two messes because I didn’t feel like taking care of the first one in a more timely manner.  Or when I don’t take the time to put something up right and it either gets lost or broken.  Ahem.  Not that these things happen very often.  Not at all.

Granny could straight cook.  Each year, on her birthday, I have made her coconut cake from her recipe.  It is one of my favorites, especially after a day or two when the icing has had a chance to sink into the cake a little bit.  Oh boy.  When it snowed on her birthday weekend in 1993, and the family get together at her house in town had to be cancelled, I was the lucky one who went to stay with her because we’d lost power out in the country.  I took her coconut cake with me and we had some Saturday night after Dr. Quinn but before bed.  And again on Sunday morning.  For breakfast.  As I mentioned off-handedly that maybe I shouldn’t be eating cake for breakfast, she told me in no uncertain terms that she had a friend in the nursing home who said something about eating good things while you still can, “because the day is going to come when you can’t.”  Amen.

I love my Granny.  She was a strong woman, and the memories of her carry me through hard times of my own.  She stood by my Papa and my Granddaddy as illness and age took them away from this life.  Her faith never seemed to waver.  She loved God fiercely.  She was smart and knew how to take care of things.  After she moved to town, the layout of the house was very different.  Where there had been no hall in the house on the farm, now she had a long hall to trek down from the living room to the bedroom.  And unless she went down, turned on her bedroom light, and then came back and turned off the living room light, it could be a long and risky trek.  She asked someone in to do a little work, and the next thing I knew, Granny could leave on the living room light, go down the hall to her bedroom, turn on her bedroom light, and then turn off the living room light.  From her room.  So cool.  She laughed that the next folks who bought the house would probably think, What on earth?!  I laughed too.

Today I didn’t make my Granny’s cake.  I didn’t make a side trip out to the cemetery on the outskirts of town where she was laid to rest.  What I did instead was carry her in my heart all day, not much different from any other day, but I celebrated the good memories I have.  Of telling ghost stories late at night while staying there with my cousins.  Of playing “hangman” with her and us laughing over the crazy words we came up with. Or Battleship–that was my very favorite. Of me sharing strawberries I’d just picked or picking up Church’s Chicken or Creekside Catfish for her.  Mostly of the great conversations we always were able to have.  Today I remembered all of those, and I took care of business.  The business of putting away the things of another life well lived.  Another strong woman I love.  It was time.  I like to think that she and my Granny are up there, pausing for a moment in the middle of their birthday festivities, nodding, approving what we got done today and letting me know it’s okay there’s no cake this year.  Now my Daddy–he’s off to the side, shaking his head, and saying, “Well, it’s about time.”  But my Granny, she probably cut her eyes at him and told him to leave me alone–that I’m doing okay.

At least I sure hope so.  She was a fabulous woman whom I love and adore.  I sure hope she’s okay with who I’m becoming.  Because I sure am a work in progress, and I really am trying to be particular.

Happy birthday, Granny!

Love to all.  If you still have your Granny with you, go hug her.  They’re precious and dear, hold on tight.

Old Sewing Scissors and Things Made New

This morning our Princess and I had a Mama/Princess event.  Aub was at work, and the Fella and Cooter were out doing their “Guy’s Breakfast.”  So my girl and I went to Bare Bulb Coffee for a tie-dyeing and “upcycling t-shirts into scarves” class led by one of my favorite local artists Micah Goguen and his trusty assistant.

It.  Was.  BIG Fun.

Princess working on her tie dye project.

Princess working on her tie dye project.

Gathered with friends and folks we had not met before, we cut, we twisted, and we bound with rubber bands–so many rubber bands–and then we bleached two color tees (one green and one yellow)-and our Princess added beautiful color to her white tee.  The bleached ones we have already washed, and I love the patterns that came out in them.  The tie-dyed one will be revealed tomorrow.  She is almost beside herself with excitement.

Our Princess' tie-dyed scarf project, waiting for the reveal.

Our Princess’ tie-dyed scarf project, waiting for the reveal.

We returned as a family this afternoon to dye pillowcases to brighten the stays of young ones at the Children’s Hospital in Macon.  For a little guy who didn’t want to go, Cooter had a great time.  He loved blending the colors and turning the white pillowcase into something cheerful and fun.  Cooter, Princess, and my nephew Shaker all enjoyed themselves, and after they’d colored a pillowcase for a child in the hospital, they each were allowed to decorate one for themselves.  They were told that sleeping on it could help them remember to pray for and send light to someone sick in the hospital.

Shaker's pillowcase project.....he was really getting into it by the time he was working on the second one.

Shaker’s pillowcase project…..he was really getting into it by the time he was working on the second one.

Beautiful, right?

This morning my knitting diva friend–Micah’s trusty assistant, who can do anything from building a deck or stairs for her dogs to climb into bed to knitting and sewing clothes for her grandchildren and their dolls, was teaching us how to make the scarves once our fabric was ready.  As she began showing us the first step, she looked around.  “Where are my scissors?” she asked, checking the counter and tables.

Someone reached to hand her a pair of theirs.  “Here, these are really good scissors.”

My friend shook her head gently, and said, almost to herself, “No, let me find my blue-handled ones.”  And then she did.  The lesson continued.

It made me smile.  Just an hour earlier when my girl was getting ready to cut her shirt as directed, she was having a hard time with a pair of scissors.  A kind woman behind us offered us her scissors.  “Here, use these.  They are dressmaker’s scissors.  They are made for cutting fabric.”  (They may have been, but my girl still struggled a bit, which made me wonder about an “operator” issue.  Never mind that, she did get it cut and we moved on.)

It tickled me later when I started thinking back on my day.  And as I laughed to myself, I was also laughing at myself.

I don’t know if it happens all over, but us folks around here, we take our sewing scissors seriously.  In case you didn’t know, yes, sewing scissors are only for sewing.  And they are treasured and taken care of.

Which is probably why I asked if I could have my Mama’s sewing scissors.

To my knowledge they never touched anything other than fabric.

Okay, not more than one time.  And I said I was sorry.

Those scissors were special.  They were always ALWAYS where they belonged (but then again, not much in Mama’s house wasn’t) and they always cut precisely.  I guess because she took them to be sharpened as they needed it.  I can remember seeing signs at Hancock’s Fabrics back in the day with the date the scissors sharpener “truck” would be there.  I guess Mama either took them there or Daddy might have sharpened them for her.  Either way, she took good care of those scissors.  And we knew we were to leave them alone.  They were NEVER EVER to touch paper.  Good heavens above, under NO circumstances were you ever to use them for a school project or even for cutting patterns as I recall.  And I only did once.  I felt so guilty over that, but as they are still cutting just fine, I guess the damage wasn’t irreparable.

I’m just as serious about my sewing scissors.  I don’t let the children use them at all.  I even got other scissors for cutting the fleece for blankets because I heard that fleece can dull them.  (And I am picky about my fleece scissors too–I have the ones that are spring loaded to make it easy for cutting the strips.  I often wonder why the fabric cutters in fabric stores aren’t issued those scissors–they sure can save your hands.)  I am sure I have traumatized a child or three when I’ve seen them casually reaching for my sewing scissors for a craft project.  Oh good gravy no.

Tonight I am thankful for the opportunity to learn a new craft.  Mixing and changing colors–there is something soul-stirring in that.  Creating. All those shades of light and dark coming together to make beauty.  And finding a new purpose for something old and worn out, well, that fills me with hope.  I am looking to be repurposed myself sometimes.  To be made over for a new way to be in this world.  And I’m grateful for the memories of my Mama and her scissors and to have people in my life who still live with the old ways.  Sometimes–no, I’m starting to realize more and more–most of the time, the old ways ARE the best.

I was just thinking, sometimes it’s best to hold on to the old, but sometimes it’s best to create something new…..and sometimes you can do both at the same time…..

Life sure is a funny thing sometimes, isn’t it?

The transformation from t-shirt to scarf…..creation, I love it!

The bottom part used to be the same color as the top part of the shirt.  Who would have thought that bleach would turn it such a beautiful red clay color?

The bottom part used to be the same color as the top part of the shirt. Who would have thought that bleach would turn it such a beautiful red clay color?

Cutting off the bottom seam and then cutting the strips.  So thankful for a GOOD pair of sewing scissors.

Cutting off the bottom seam and then cutting the strips. So thankful for a GOOD pair of sewing scissors.

Almost finished scarf--haven't decided if I'm going to embellish with some old costume jewelry or not.  But very fun, yes?

Almost finished scarf–haven’t decided if I’m going to embellish with some old costume jewelry or not. But very fun, yes?