Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pink Parfait

This peony bush was one of three given to me for Mother's Day in 1989, the year when my oldest son was born. This variety is called Pink Parfait. It didn't bloom the first year, and when I called the nursery from where we bought it, I was told that we had planted it too deep. We needed to replant it closer to the surface. Sure enough, the following year I had a single, spectacular bloom, and every year after that, the bush prospered with an ever-increasing number of flowers.

Peonies can be tricky plants, the flowers are so heavy that they need to be staked, and if a good rainfall comes, it can destroy the blooms. It wasn't unusual to find me outside cutting flowers if a rainstorm was announced. Often, I'd cut a flower on my way to work, to keep in my cubicle. Cubicles beg for flowers.

I was very sad to have to leave my peony bushes when we moved to Naperville, but at least we took cuttings to plant in our new home. However, we've struggled to get the peonies settled in. We've had to re-plant them several times. Two of the bushes are still not talking to us. This year, finally, Pink here seems to like her new spot. It was a happy day when this lovely flower finally unfurled its petals and announced to the world: "I'm home!"

Monday, June 22, 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Father's Day

This photo was taken on Father's Day 1993. We went to church, and then to breakfast at The Paddle Wheel, a local Greek diner where we knew we could take the boys and no one would frown on the crumbs left in our wake. They also served pretty good pancakes. Now they weren't Daddy's pancakes, but he deserved a break on this day.

"To her the name of father was another name for love."
— Fanny Fern

One missing - Boo hoo!

These are six of the seven siblings that form my husband's family. They arranged themselves right to left in proper birth order. The only one missing is Ronnie who was not able to come. As time goes by, it becomes more challenging getting everyone together, so moments like this are truly priceless. Don't they all look wonderful!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mary Ann and Bill

This is my sister-in-law, Mary Ann. When I think of Mary Ann, the phrase "multi-tasking" comes to mind. I've seen Mary Ann wear a tape recorder around her waist, listening to the latest book-on-tape, while moving around the house straightening up. She throws parties, with delicious, elaborate menus, entertains effortlessly and when the party is over, the kitchen is clean and all the food has been put away. She keeps a grueling schedule for work that frequently has her playing catch-up with her sleep, but still finds time to lead a Girl Scout troop and attend Little League games. And more, she carves out time for scrapbooking and for taking pictures. Mary Ann never seems frazzled. She is so even-tempered! I don't know how she does it all.Bill is such a family man. He is totally dedicated to his home and to helping Mary Ann raise their two beautiful children. Bill also has a large extended family to whom he is devoted. A party at Bill and Mary Ann's usually means lots of family and lots of children, and that's the way they like it. When my kids were little, nothing would excite them more than to be told that we were going to visit Uncle Bill. To them Uncle Bill represented fun. Uncle Bill always had cool gadgets, and a basement full of games waiting to be explored. Uncle Bill never changes. He still has the best and latest gadgets, and visiting Bill and Mary Ann is always, always fun.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Osteospermum Hybrid

. . . or as it's more commonly known, African Daisy, in a scrumptious color called "Lemon Symphony."

I planted this annual in the backyard in honor of my son, David, who just graduated from high school. His school colors are navy blue and gold.

Yellow flowers are so happy!  Perfect for our celebration!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

From “Song—For a’ that and a’ that—“

A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, and a’ that;
but an honest man’s aboon his might,
Gude faith he mauna fa’ that!
For a’ that, and a’ that,
Their dignities, and a’ that,
The pith o’ Sense, and pride o’ Worth,
Are higher rank that a’ that.–

Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a’ that,
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth
Shall bear the gree, and a’ that.
For a’ that, and a’ that,
It’s comin yet, for a’ that,
That Man to Man the warld o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that.–
—Robert Burns

Robbie Burns was a Scottish poet known for the use of dialect and humor, and is one of my favorites. I must admit however, that this poem was hard to read. After having read it half a dozen times, I'm still not sure what it all means but I love how it sounds. Don’t try to understand it, just read it a couple of times and try to capture the poet’s meter. See if it doesn’t put a smile on your face.

P.S. The spelling is the author’s. If anybody can figure out what “mauna” means, please let me know. “Gree” means superiority, preeminence.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Robert and Barb

Robert is my husband's younger brother, and Barb is his wife. Boy, that sentence doesn't begin to remotely cover what these two people mean to us. Robert is one of the most loving and generous men I know. He is also extremely intelligent. Occassionally he displays a certain stubbornness when it comes to politics (because of course, it's him that is stubborn, not me), but he magnanimously overlooks what I'm sure he sees as my lack of political acumen and still comes to visit and nurtures a relationship with us, and with our children.
Now Barb . . . how do I describe Barb . . . O.K. Imagine the moment before the universe began, then Bang! Stars are formed and begin traveling through space, carrying with them the energy to create new worlds . . . Barb carries that energy within her. She seems unstoppable.
Barb sings, plays the piano, paints, creates jewelry. She looks at life with an artistic eye. But more importantly, she cultivates that other God-like quality, kindness. Barb opens her home to anyone who might need warmth or shelter and keeps in touch with a myriad relatives.
Her indomitable strength carries her through her own difficulties and imbues others with the courage to conquer their own challenges.
We are very lucky to have Robert and Barb in our lives.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Angela and Doug

Angela is a wonderful photographer and an incredibly talented writer. This picture was taken by her and I think it's one of the best pictures of me taken in a very long time. I've become addicted to her blog. I expect any day now she'll announce she has written a book and I'll be the first one in line to get a dozen autographed copies.

Standing next to me is Doug, Angela's husband. Doug is one of the sweetest guys I know. Kind, sweet, infallibly courteous, brilliant. I just love Doug.

Angela is super smart and super creative. Whether it's cooking or raising children; scuba diving or photography, she passionately immerses herself in her current interests until she masters them. When you are around her you get the feeling that nothing is impossible.

Together, this wonderful couple has managed to produce three beautiful, loving and amazing children. Angela and Doug, with their easy going personalities, and love of learning bring out the best in me. Thank God I still have Angela's blog. The withdrawal would be too painful if it weren't for the virtual contact.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Cheneys

This photo of the Cheney gang was taken at David's graduation. We were not able to capture all of those that came; some had already left when we decided to take this picture. We were so touched that so many of them were able to gather for this event. They came from several Chicago suburbs, North Dakota and Texas. It was wonderful seeing everyone.

I'm trying to plant the seed for a family vacation somewhere warm in the Caribbean. I mean, the Caribbean and some family antics . . . Who could resist?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Zen and the Art of Handkerchief Maintenance

I've passed the baton! Er . . . that is, I've passed the iron! My son John just learned how to iron his own handkerchiefs. It might seem like an easy task to iron a square piece of cloth, but ironing is an art, and it's better to start with something simple.

Of all household chores, I like ironing best, although I don't get to do much of it anymore. I began ironing my father's handkerchiefs and the wide inverted pleats of my uniform skirts when I was ten years old.  In Cuba, most of our clothing was made of cotton or linen, fabrics that are cool and comfortable in the tropical climate, but that look horrible if not pressed.

There's nothing like a freshly pressed garment.  Permanent Press, although handy in some instances, just does not leave clothing looking as crisp.  As a teenager, I took over the ironing for my family - especially my father's handkerchiefs.  My father was steadfast in his use of handkerchiefs.  The concept of a paper tissue left him bewildered.  Slowly, however, the number of garments that I was ironing dwindled as polyester took over our lives - and I began working!

Ironing returned to my life when my kids began attending Catholic school.  Their white Oxford button-down shirts needed to be pressed continually.  Those shirts used to take such a beating! White shirts and little boys are not a good combination.  Each of the boys went through a lot of shirts every week - sometimes two a day, one in the morning, and a clean one when they returned to school after lunch. 

I pressed a lot of shirts during those years.  And then I figured since the ironing board was out, I may as well press their jeans, and their polo shirts, and my husbands . . . and on and on . . .

The truth is that I love ironing, especially after I discovered the Rowenta steam iron. Even now, I can feel myself going into a trance the moment I hear the steam hiss.  Ironing is a great way to meditate, and when you are finished, you not only feel your equilibrium restored, you also end up with some nicely pressed clothes.

John did a nice job ironing his handkerchiefs, but the lesson needs to be repeated. You can't learn how to meditate properly with just one try, and you can't perfect a crease without some practice.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bed in Summer

In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet
Still going past me in the street.

And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?

— Robert Louis Stevenson
(from “A Child's Garden of Verses.” 1905)

I learned this poem from my mother who had to memorize it as a young student in Cuba. Many years later, she and my uncle Sergio, my father's brother, had a poetry smack-down during a party, and they laughingly recited it, trying to outdo each other in accuracy and pronounciation. You haven't really heard this poem until you experience it with a thick Spanish accent.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Wedded Bliss

My godson, Scott, the oldest of my brother's boys, just got married. Weddings tend to follow traditional patterns, but some things do change over the years. Take bubbles: Now, instead of rice, newly married couples are showered with bubbles. I don't exactly know why, but it sure does make for a cute picture.