I’m sitting on the back porch this morning. The birds are singing their joy songs.  We have lots of lovely windows back here…the cat is lying on the window ledge by the crabapple tree….she is kitty cat content.  The fir trees are waving their heavy branches in the wind…they are getting ready to throw their yellow pollen.  The day is cloudy and then it’s sunny…the air smells good, it’s clean and fragrant with the fir trees.  I am thinking it will yes, probably rain again....

The ferns on the other side of the porch wall have grown so high already…green and lush.  I am sitting in the midst of my painting stuff.    The porch is my summer time studio…there is a painting I can’t wait to get my hands on after I am done writing.

All is well in my world this morning. I feel alive.  My inner light is on, and I am glowing today.

What about you?  Are you glowing or just going? What lights you up and makes you feel simply and wonderfully alive?  Do you know?  If you do, are you letting yourself be engaged in our your own aliveness, or are you very busy doing other Important Stuff?  Letting life and other people decide how you will spend your time and how you will invest yourself? 

I think most of us don't really  know what lights us up.  Sad.  Maybe the idea of aliveness has never entered our minds…a foreign invasion of sorts.

Had you asked me a year ago what makes me feel alive, I could not have told you.  Yes, sad.  It bothered me that I did not know, so I decided to find out.  I sat with the thought, and I asked questions. I looked inside myself (the answers are all right there, inside us, you know).  I chatted with God about it.  He is big and He made me, so He I asked Him to help me figure it out.  I know now.  It wasn’t a hard thing to discover either-simple.  I needed to slow down and listen-let myself feel my own heart beating…

I am my most vibrantly alive when I with the growing things, the things of the earth-caring for and basking in my gardens-walking the hills around our little house-sitting by the water and letting it’s rhythm and cadence tend my heart and wash my soul.

Painting.  Moving and mixing colors-telling stories about people and places with my work.  My work is not really work at all…

Hanging out with my man.  He’s just alright, after 34 years.  I like him and he likes me.  We have it good together-can you say gratitude?

Playing with words-making mind images with simple little words.  It’s fun and I feel so satisfied when I’m done.  Part of my heart has spoken.  Blessed.

Music.  Sweet sounds.

Family together time.  Such a precious thing.  She lives all the way to the east and he lives all the way to the west. Who would have thought?  It is so good just to be all together.....it’s fleeting and hard to manage-perhaps more precious because it is.

A certain little grandson. He sure does float my boat.  It’s fun to play and enjoy his littleness, while it lasts and before he gets big and too busy to hang out with Nana.  I think I’d like to kidnap him for a least a couple weeks….we could dig in the dirt and make gardens and build forts and go on hikes and investigate the woods….he could learn to climb trees here-we have some good climbing trees.  Not certain his momma would like the climbing business.  Maybe what she doesn't know won't hurt her.....He needs to be just a little bit older….I can't wait!

What lights you up?  Think about it, better yet, do something special that makes you feel totally and wonderfully alive today.  It’s healing, soul satisfying medicine.

The plants are beginning to beautifully bloom....we've just gotten started.  I am enjoying them beyond measure...my morning time in the gardens is just simple delight.  Thought I'd share the glory....
Most every Memorial Day weekend, we head to HostaFest.  It's a two weekend extravaganza, featuring yes, hostas.  I love it. If you find yourself intrigued, you can still go next weekend! Sat and Sun, June 1 and 2. 9am-5pm. Click here to find out the particulars....It was kind of a wet weekend here in Southeastern Wisconsin, but Scott and I headed out between rain drops and gentle,  yes-downright cold mist, to tromp around once again. We did not get overly wet, and as always enjoyed ourselves immensely.

HostaFest is sponsored by Al's Auto Body and Arboretum, just a bit south of Delavan, WI.  Al fixes cars and loves to grow things...all in the same spot. The arboretum itself  is about 5 acres of scores of utterly majestic hardwoods, carpeted with row after row after row after mass of just about any kind of hosta imaginable (450+ varieties).  To walk into the arboretum, is to walk into peace.  It's well tended, but not over tended. The space feels organic and welcoming. Kind of like stepping in Another World.

To help support the arboretum, there are hostas of all sizes and shapes for sale.  The prices are competitive with what you might pay in a nursery.  One of Al's daughters, has a booth where she sells small orphan hostas.  Nellie's Orphans.  Nellie offers a wonderful variety of wee baby hostas, and they are very inexpensive.  I bought four yesterday.  Not only do I love to raise the babies into big beauties, but I am always looking for a way to indulge my garden obsession without breaking the bank.

A good number of years ago, I worked for a nursery guy who was a hosta lover.  Up until that point, I thought they were kind a a bleh sort of thing to put into your garden.....it took me about a week of seeing the plethora of shapes, textures and the many of shades of green that hostas offer... I became rather obsessively hooked. I bought my first "collectible"  hosta at the end of that same week. "Great Expectations".  A real looker-varigated cream and shades of medium green to blue leaves. She is still growing robustly and beautifully in my garden. I have divided her twice to multiply the pleasure-she is a slow grower....I have since added more than 50 various and sundry hosta varieties to my collection....some of them grown from little root nubs  left over on the potting house floor.  These are among my favorites.  Right now there are several huge "Cup and Saucer" gracing  the gardens.  These all came from a tiny 2" leaf, with a little root nub attached.  That first season it grew in a small pot in a sunny inside window. I transplanted it outside in the fall, and marked it, to make certain it was not overlooked....within a few more growing seasons, I had the collections of robust beauties that we now enjoy.  Ultimate gardening satisfaction.....

Here are some shots of the arboretum. I should mention that visiting Hosta Fest is free. The only cost would be the hostas you might decide to purchase.

The Giant Solomon's Seal is standing upright and green, in all it's spring time glory.  The Jack in the Pulpits are here in full force, the varigated Solomon's Seal is blooming, the Shooting Star is slowly poking itself up out of the ground-we have three small leaves now...and the dainty little un-named plant is blooming with sweet yellow flowers.  I do love spring in the garden. 

It's a busy time in our gardens.  Planted annuals for the patio last Saturday-Lowe's was having SUCH a deal....This weekend will be devoted to prepping the big garden, and moving perennials.  I lost a significant amount of plants over the winter (blaming the drought).  So, we will be doing lots of dividing and replanting.  The bald spots in the garden kind of make me sad.  I gave a valiant effort to keep everyone going-there were hoses everywhere last year...

The wonderful thing about the native plants is that they can withstand drought and extreme weather. They are hardy and adaptable.  Very thankful-the natives are my favorites.....
Close of up Jack's "pulpit"  so beautiful and just a bit weird.
Clump of Jack in the Pulpits.  Jack's start as seed thrown from the mature plant.  It takes three growing cycles to mature. This clump shows the first two.  The tiny ones are sprouted from seed that was thrown last season.  The larger plants are in their second year. The third year are the "pulpits" (stamens).  Very interesting....
Ya gotta love the little bells-blooming varigated Solomon's Seal.
Giant Solomon's Seal.  These grow freely in the woods all around us.  Their flowers become seeds that look almost like blueberries...
Little no name....the yellow flowers are just lovely!
I go out every morning to check progress....slowly, slowly it grows.  The leaves need to be three times the size they are now to for a bloom to come....we shall see what happens.  As you might have guessed, I love observing how my garden grows....if Miss Shooting Star puts up a bloom this year, I will be Very Excited!
Our crab apple tree is just finishing up with it's annual bloom extravaganza...not quite as bold as color statement as some years...(a couple years ago, the intensity of the pink of the blooms made everything around it seem pink as well).  Amazing.  This year's show was still gorgeous, and worthy of photographing.  Mr. Crab Apple did not seem to be adversely affected by last year's drought...he grew in spite of the lack of water....the hoses all over the yard must have helped. I did loose some hostas and other usually faithful perennials, even with diligent watering.
My best beloved and I watched the sunset over Lake Michigan one night last week.  It was heaven, to say the very least.  Soothing and peaceful.  Comfort. Silent togetherness.  We both came away simply and I think, deeply renewed.  Of course I took my camera....here are some of the images I like best.
When was the last time you did something special just for you...a truly wonderful thing to nurture your own soul?  A thing where you decided to invest in simply and just you?

We really are busy.  I don't have time.  Demands-do you know how many people demand and need things from me?  Yes, I do.  Hello life!  The faster and harder you go, the better it is supposed to be. The more you have. Not so.  Living like this leaves us greatly and deeply diminished.

I can't afford it....self investment.  I can't bear the cost, in time or in money.  Neither can I, but I am going to do it anyway. 

I have wanted to paint for a very long time.  Not just dabble and putz with the paint, but really understand color and how to make it sing.  I've had glorious images in my mind, and have so wanted to turn them into something tangible.  My insides have been tugging at me for a while now...."paint, paint, paint..."  I would always find a reason to not.  I have too much going on....I can't afford it-art materials are expensive...I don't know any good teachers, and I can't afford to pay them anything....I damaged my neck and shoulder, the healing process was long-it kept me from singing much of anything for a very long time.

'Paint'...that sacred inward voice kept poking me.  My body healed-I could use a brush again.  Pushing watercolor around was easier on the damaged places than moving pencils or oil paint.  Hmmm.  Still lots of resistance.  I began dabbling with the watercolor...mostly abstract stuff, but it was fun....I still pushed it away. I was too busy.

One day, I was talking to a fellow artist friend.  In the course of conversation she mentioned watercolor classes.  They were very reasonable in price, and the teacher was an accomplished Color Master....I signed up.  Such a gift I have given myself. Not only am I learning about color, but the class keeps me focused and painting-there is a critique each week-a place to share the work you've done.  Motivation.

I am investing in me, and loving every minute of it.  I think the places in our lives where we encounter the most resistance, are the places where we need most to push in and bore through.  These are the very spots that will make our hearts sing and cause to us come beautifully more alive.  I cannot say what a thrill it is to discover and play with color-it's not as complicated as I have let it be, and has lots to do with simply feeling and responding.  I think about painting before I go to sleep at night and when I wake up in the morning...a wee bit obsessed.

My special investment in myself costs me ten bucks a week, 4 hours of my time, and a few art materials.  I've been buying these slowly, so I don't mangle the budget too badly....

My question to you, my friend, is when was the last time you did something special for yourself?  Invested in you in such a way that would cause your own heart to sing?  When we invest in us, we fill our own wells, and then of course, we are full-able to give and be better equipped for all life needs from us.  Most of us come to life and give on fumes, or just empty.  We are depleted and wonder what's wrong.  How are you going to fill your cup today, and what is that special, sacred thing you need to do for just you?

I have a simple question to put out there today. 

What’s right with you?

Not what’s wrong.  It’s a stupid question and we ask it way too many times.

It’s self defeating. Soul killing.  Joy sucking. Deceptive.

Ever feel like you could spend a lifetime working on yourself, trying to fix what you think is wrong or broken?  I suppose we could. Who wants to?  Not me.

“What’s wrong with me?” starts things off from a position of defeat. It is a very negative question.   We forget that in simply being human, we are not perfect. It’s ok to be flawed….

I’m too impatient.  I cuss too much.  I can’t do math-at all.  I’m too fat, I’m too thin.  I’m too opinionated, or I’m not enough of something,  of this or that….we squash ourselves like bugs before we even get started.

I think if we could look at what’s right with us, and be joyful in all that it is, the stuff that might need some work would be less, and it would sort itself out more easily.  Perhaps because we had begun from an affirming place of loving ourselves – with the simple question, “what’s right with me?”

So here’s the task for today. Make a list.  The heading should read “What’s Right With Me?”  Use a big piece of paper and lots of colors – markers, pencils, paint – whatever floats your boat.  When you find yourself finished, put it up somewhere, you know, so you can see it and be reminded what a special lady you truly are-so you can remember that you have all the right stuff- that yes you, can shine and make the world a better, brighter place.

Don’t be shy. For sure don’t apologize, don’t make yourself less.  Brag on you….pour it all out there.  Go on, give it a try.  Give yourself some wings, and then go fly….

I could not resist myself. Today's post is going to have to be devoted to a wee white violet with purple spots.  I saw this little guy while roaming the garden early this morning, and had to stop and make a few photographs...then I decided I needed to share them....

This is my friend "Freckles".  I got my first clump when I worked at a perennial nursery a number of years ago.  He has always been such delight to welcome back each spring.  Freckles grows in my wildflower garden. So far, he has not migrated any further.

Freckled violets are wild violets, native to eastern North America.  They produced lots of pearly white flowers with purple and deep blue spots or freckles.  They love the shade and are easy to grow-seeding freely in the garden and spreading quickly.  The flowers are edible.
Happy Mother's Day, a day late...

We spent some wonderful time with family yesterday.  The Hamilton clan gathered at my parents house to celebrate the moms, and to do some chores for our folks.  It was a houseful-all the siblings were present except one.....my youngest brother has 10 kids and it is really hard to travel.....

There was lots of good food, funny stories from the past, and little ones running all over the place.  A great legacy for my mom and dad to enjoy.

One of my sisters lives in the town we grew up in, and her daughters and their families do as well.  So they were all present and accounted for yesterday. My other sister had her college student daughter with her-a precious visit shared with the rest of us.

While it was a lovely, lovely time, I have to admit to a certain aching sense of loss of my own.  My kids were not with me, neither was my adorable grandson...and I missed them.  This does not mean, that I hadn't gotten calls, and presents in the mail-I did, and I felt truly special and blessed. The silver ring my jeweler son made me is just stellar....I got to talk to little Mr. Cullen on the phone twice-I actually understood some of the words...

What I missed was their presence.  My favorite daughter and her family live in the DC suburbs-more than 900 miles away.  My favorite son just moved to California-I don't want to know how many miles....I just plain miss them.  I think I always will.

My daughter is a teacher, and when she started talking about a possible job in the Fairfax County School System, I had a funny oh-oh feeling in my gut.  My gut was right.  We moved her out there a month later-that was 10 years ago.  Her brother, has lived in a few places, but never so far away as California.  My son wants to be a college art professor, and so  when he started talking about the lab tech job (first step to becoming a professor) in San Jose, I had that same oh-oh feeling. Sure enough, a month later and he was in California.

I never imagined that my children would be so far away from us. While I am not the sort of woman who needs to have them live down the street, or in the same town, or even in the same state, it would be nice if they lived close enough so we could at least manage weekend visits once in a while, and the cost of gas or airfare to these places wasn't so hard on the pocketbook.  I want my grandson to know his Nana and Jdo,  we want to have plenty of time to shower him with love and chances to simply watch him grow and become his own little man.

I am not interested in running my children's lives, or raising their kids for them-they are well equipped on both counts.  What I want is to simply know them and be a part of their lives. They are two of my favorite people in the whole world-I love just spending time with them.  The distance makes it hard, but then it makes the time together incredibly precious.

As I was missing my kids yesterday, I starting thinking about what being a mom really means.  Here are some things that floated through my mind and did make a certain amount of sense....

* I poured my life into my kids-that's what a mom is supposed to do, even if it hurts like hell when they grow up and life takes them far away from home.  Home is where your heart is, and so I guess that in my heart, they will always be home with me.

*  Our kids are not here to fill us up and make us happy. It's not their job.  We are here for them.  To love them with everything we have and teach them things.  We will know we have done our jobs well, if they can go out into the big, hard world and make it.  Both of mine have done a grand job.  I could brag here, but I will refrain....

*  Space and distance do not alter love.  Love is always present.  True love is real and tangible, in spite of. It is meant to be treasured-savored.  Having my children far away has given me the gift of understanding this.

*  It's our job as moms to equip our kids to become the fullness of all they were ever meant to be.  This is not always easy, and it generally costs us something deep and heartfelt, but it's worth it.  Watching mine walk across the stage to receive educational degrees and awards reminds me that my husband and I did our jobs well.

* Mothers teach their children many things. We made a point to teach ours to be giving people, and to understand that it's important to invest in others-that we were put on this earth to make a difference.  They both ended up being teachers-they make a difference in the world.

*Although I may always feel a sense of grief and loss in having them so far away, I think I can be ok with it.  As a mother I know I have done my job well.  My children are all I could ever have hoped for them to become.  That's what being a mom is really all about it. Yes, having them around is nice, and yes, plastering my grandson with Nana hugs and kisses would be more than nice.  Beyond that though, there is something more profound.  I raised my kids and waved to them as they set off on the adventure of their own lives.  I did my job.  I can rest. 

Laura and Lee, I love you with all my momma's heart.  Couldn't be more proud of you if I tried... 

And here's the thing.  Being a mom is just a slice of life's pie.   The work is done, and now there's time for me.  My studio is calling out my name...there is a whole lot of art waiting to be made..