Monday, March 30, 2015



I always wondered how I would deal with being trapped in a small space or held prisoner. The part that worried me the most, strange as it might seem, was what I do to pass the time--with nothing to look at, nothing to read. 

If you’re stuck somewhere but can control your environment you’ve brought a book. If you’ve got your phone you can check out Facebook and read your emails.  If all else fails, you can find some paper in your purse and write a paragraph for the book you’re working on or even compose the first scene of a new one.  If nothing else, there’s always a grocery or errand list that can be composed.  But what if you couldn’t do any of those things?  What if you were trapped with no outside stimulation? And you’re not allowed to move?

A number of years ago I had an MRI.  It was long enough ago that it was in an enclosed tube with a small opening where you slid in.  That MRI gave me the opportunity to learn how I would handle such a situation, deprived of all outside stimulation and unable (or in this case, not allowed) to move.   I never thought of myself as claustrophobic, but as those of you who’ve had MRIs know—at least if it was twenty-five years ago—it’s cramped and scary inside that tube. On the bright side, it was an opportunity to see how I would deal with being forced to remain motionless, sightless and alone with my thoughts for what seemed like an endless stretch of time.

I’d read stories about prisoners who recited poetry.  Unfortunately, I only know a few poems by heart, all learned in grammar school, so as I lay there, in an increasing state of panic, I nixed that idea.  Reciting Joyce Kilmer’s “Tree” wouldn’t work. 

Instead, I tried doing something that I was confident about: directions. I pictured myself driving to my aunt’s house in New Rochelle, New York from my house in Maplewood, New Jersey and imagined the roads I would have to take. I would go from the Parkway, to the George Washington Bridge and so on.  But I was still anxious. Recalling directions was not going to be a good enough distraction.

That’s when I came up with recipes. I’m a cook.  Maybe not a great cook, certainly not a chef, but I know how to cook and enjoy it and like most mothers and wives, I’ve cooked many meals and know the recipes for my favorites. Beginning with pasta with broccoli, my family’s favorite, moving on to chicken piccata and risotto, I went through my regular inventory, picturing myself mastering each meal.  And the recipes almost saved me.  But not quite.  One of the technicians called out my name, asking me how I was doing, and I was back in the reality of the dark tunnel. 

My recollection, it was about 25 years ago, is that I then proceeded to think about song lyrics and got through a few Broadway tunes before my name was called again, only this time, happily I was finished and on my way out of the tube.

But back to that question, what would I do if?  I write romances, books with happy endings, but even in romances, it’s not a good story if there isn’t something for the protagonist and the reader to worry about.  Better yet, a challenge for our heroine to face, to defeat.   Which brings up that the question, what would my heroine do if I put her into a situation where she’s trapped and unable to escape?  Would she get hysterical and fall apart?  Or is she brave and resourceful intent on saving her dwindling resources for the next challenge?

Deborah Nolan is the author of SUDDENY LILY and CONFLICT OF INTEREST published by Montlake and SECOND ACT FOR CARRIE ARMSTRONG published by Desert Breeze Publishing. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

How I Spent My Spring Vacation

I’m sitting in my new black-and-white bathing suit beside the pool at The Intercontinental, San Juan, with five other similarly attired women. We are talking about books. It isn’t just the palm trees, sunshine, the warmth of the Caribbean sun (particularly after this winter), or the ocean breezes making this lush setting a paradise; it is the company and conversation. I feel alive, maybe even a bit smarter than I’ve felt in a long time. My daily reality and shortcomings have been suspended and I am one of the six accomplished people on this reunion.

Every year at this time I fly to Puerto Rico to spend time at a beach resort with my former college roommates. For at least a few hours before the wine starts pouring freely, I feel somehow a bit sharper than usual. We each grab our current reading material, both in hard cover and e-book formats, and gather around the pool, some in the sun and some under an umbrella and tree. We talk, read, snack, and take dunks in the pool when we get too warm.

The books we are reading are a big part of the conversation, along with what movies and shows we’ve seen, what our kids are doing, and some memories of the past.  Even when the subject of the books changes, someone will always bring it back up, whether because she has also read that book or has just seen someone else walk by carrying a book with a familiar title. The hot books of the year are in everyone’s hands and it’s sometimes funny to see someone reading WILD, when that was so two years ago. I was more current, since I had just finished ALL THE LIGHT YOU CANNOT SEE, and was starting THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. I wanted to know what everyone else was reading as they lay on the chaises on the blue-and-white striped towels handed out along with a color-coded arm band to provide proof that we are paying guests.

I also wanted recommendations as to what book I should read next. One person was reading REDEPLOYMENT and suggested THE MUSEUM OF EXTRAORDINARY THINGS.  Another mentioned AMHERST as well as BLOOD FEUD.  Several highly recommended THE INTERESTINGS, especially since it struck a chord with some of the women. I also heard good things about KILL CHAIN, LOVING FRANK, HUSH, and THE THING AROUND YOUR NECK. I have a lot of reading ahead of me.

A few of the people who attended the reunion have been doing so for as long as fifteen years, some more sporadically. Depending on who attends, the sleeping arrangements can get interesting. One year I met a woman just as I was assigned to share a king-sized bed with her. Luckily, it all worked out, and we didn’t even wake each other up on our numerous nocturnal trips to the bathroom.

While there are several things to do in the surrounding area, we rarely do any of them, basically because we’ve been there, done that. The goals of the weekend might be different for each of us, some love the sun bathing, some the relaxing getaway from everyday life and the time to snooze and read, but talking to old friends is the part of the weekend that makes the memories. We make some new friends, too, as friends of friends are invited, and I discovered some people sitting near us who know one of my oldest friends from high school. We first met the woman last year because she was attracted by our poolside canasta playing and mah jongg games.

For a few moments every year a few of us head to the beach, often to take long walks, although not this year, as I had sprained my ankle on some ice a few weeks earlier. But the waves are wonderful to play in, even when they knock me down and my roommate from forty-five years ago has to pull me up. The bonus was that the jewelry lady who stands near the entryway had something I wanted on her table. The trinkets she sells are inexpensive but some look surprisingly good. I bought a nice necklace for only twenty dollars. I consider it a bargain, but for some reason my husband thinks it cost a lot more, because he adds in the cost of the trip.

This year we were only six people so it was much easier than in the past for us to squeeze into a taxi when we needed to go to a terrific tapas restaurant across from a lively casino where some of us even made a little money.

In recent years the trip has become a memorial to a woman who came every year. She and I went all through school together from elementary school through college. Oddly, her birthday and the anniversary of the day she died are both during the yearly trip to Puerto Rico weekend, and we always remember her and miss her.

I’m only home a day and glad to get back to my normal, if somewhat mundane, life. But our trip organizer is already encouraging us to make reservations for next year. I probably should—I know I can’t wait to go.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring Cleaning

There is more to the season than cleaning cobwebs from corners, although that is an excellent metaphor for what many of us are doing with regard to our personal and professional time at this time of year.

When my family lived in Maine, Spring weather arrived several weeks later than the rest of the country. As evidenced by this year’s snow fall on the ‘technical’ first day of Spring, the state of Maine, most northerly of the lower 48, has a long winter. Once in a while, that long winter can be from first snow in October to first thaw in April.

My home town under snow, a typical Maine winter.
In one such year, the house was closed up with snow covering the ground floor windows. The front path was dug out to the road and the snow piled six feet high on both sides. My elder brother used the surplus to build an igloo over the slope leading down to the sidewalk. He dug openings at the top and at the bottom where it opened to the road.

At that time of year, there was no real danger of any child ending up under the wheels of a passing car on Lincoln Street, but the thrill of shooting through the igloo and onto the icy road kept us outdoors and sledding for weeks. Since I was never keen on snow, this was a boon to my mother who preferred all  play to be restricted to the outside, no matter what the weather.

This particular winter, the back parlor had been used earlier for our Christmas celebrations. The wood-burning kitchen stove was used to heat the upstairs bedrooms through ducts into open grills in the floor.  Ducts were closed to the back parlor to keep other rooms warmer.

Spring cleaning meant that all the windows in the house could be opened as soon as the patches of grass were at least eight inches wide and more numerous than the piles of snow. Several doors to rooms on the ground floor had not been open since the first signs of winter and others had been closed since Christmas.

My mother began her cleaning and airing out from the attic. The kitchen was the center of family life and had already been cleaned but it was mid-April before she reached the back parlor. Our Christmas tree stood in the corner, all ornaments and lights intact, four months to the day after it had been decorated. Under the tree, instead of presents, was a thick pile of reddish brown needles.

My mother had better things to do with her time than cleaning house. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Never too Late by Fran McNabb

            Springtime is a time of renewal and change. If you’ve been thinking about doing something
different, maybe this is the time to start.
            Maybe your job is at a dead end. Maybe you’d like to play a musical instrument or take art lessons. Maybe you have an idea for a book or a song. Whatever it is that you’d like to do, sometimes taking the first step is the hardest especially when you are aware that time is not on your side.

            But don’t give up hope. I am living proof that it’s never too late to take on a dream or even to reinvent your dreams!
            Right now I call myself an author, but that’s not how it always was. I wrote for years before I saw the fruits of my works published. I started writing in the 1980’s, got a few rejections, thought I was being silly to think I could get published, and put the dream of publication back in the far corner of my life—but I never stopped writing. If you’re a writer, you write. It’s that simple. I wrote, played around with stories, and one day I realized I had quite a few manuscripts in different stages of completion. One day, I told myself, I’ll do something with all of them.
           That day came earlier than I anticipated. Before I was ready, I had to take a medical retirement from teaching. Boredom immediately set in. One day I pulled out those boxes of old manuscripts (I didn’t own a computer then) and the writing bug bit me once again. I joined an RWA chapter, attended as many conferences and workshops as possible, and I eventually had my dream come true.  It was one day before my 58th birthday that I received The Call.

Fifty-eight years old might seem ancient to those who are younger, but I think age depends on attitude. If you’re young enough to dream a dream, then you’re young enough to try to discover it. If you’re willing to do the work learning how something is done, then the world is open to you.
            I will have my seventh book published at the end of next month, and when it comes out I will smile and pat myself on the back because I didn’t lie down and quit when I had to find a new life. I’m enjoying my time in the publishing world, just as you can enjoy your time doing whatever it is you might want to do.

Even if you're not a "spring chicken," your dream can still come true because it's never too late to start fresh.

Fran McNabb taught high school English until she had to take an early medical retirement. Now she spends her time writing, reading, and enjoying the time she and her husband spend on the water. Her seventh book, SAVING THE CHILDREN, will be released on April 29. Visit her at  or at

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Beginning the adventure

Today marks the wedding anniversary for one of my best friends. Not coincidentally, it also marks the beginning of my adventures in romance.

Sue was married on a Thursday, not a convenient day for my parents (who both taught school) or for me (still in school). We had to take half a day off to drive the four hours to where she lived (where we used to live) and where she was being married. As soon as the festivities were at an end, we drove the four hours home to attend classes the next day. Suffice to say, my parents were not pleased.

The fun came when, just before we were to leave, two of the groom's men (each individually) invited me to stay and go with them to a post-celebration celebration. I woulda if I coulda, but the horses under the hood were already champing. I offered my apologies and left, showing up bleary-eyed at classes the next day.

Because Sue lived within blocks of both my grandmothers, we visited near her often. Whenever I planned to be there, I alerted her and she alerted the two young men (again, each individually.) For a time I dated both, though only a few times a year. I liked them both, but one ... oh my.

This isn't the place to detail how the relationship developed or how I lost him to another woman. I will only say that whenever I hear the old Association song, "Along Comes Mary," my associations are different from theirs. The point is, I fell in love. It was young and it was exciting and beautiful and intense--and real. Despite the fact I was little more than a kid, I've now been married long enough to know that I know what love is. I knew it then, too.

The newest man in my life is handsome Oliver Wright, born Thursday morning. He's a romantic hero in the making, and I confess I am smitten.

Winning at love is electrifying, ecstatic, elevating. Losing is the pits. Learning from both is what eventually led me to my lovely, lasting marriage and a beautiful family of my own. Although Sue's husband was military and mine a journalist, causing us both to live in varied places around the world, she and I are still friends, our homes hundreds of miles from where we grew up together and only eight miles apart.

Every March twenty-first, I think of her wedding and all that came after. The beginning of her marriage marked the start of my romantic life and taught me valuable lessons in what it means to love.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 13 published novels and has part in three boxed sets, all 16 titles available now. Mother to seven, she is "gramma" to 24. She lives in northern California with her husband of 44 years and the two spoiled cats they serve and she loves hearing from readers @SusanAylworth, at, or You can also follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


by Sierra Donovan

As I believe I've mentioned, I'm in the business of helping characters live happily ever after.

But I've got to admit, some of my favorite stories – even my favorite love stories – don't always meet that criteria. Sometimes a tragic or poignant ending is just what's needed.

Below, you'll find some of my favorite stories – some on film, some in books -- that don't end with that traditional happily-ever-after. And although I won't go into great detail, since I'm going to be discussing endings, let me preface the rest of this blog entry with: SPOILER ALERT!!

Casablanca: There's a reason this is considered one of the greatest movies of all time. Take two star-crossed lovers, give them an unresolvable conflict – then manage to have them part and leave the audience feeling good about it. Every scene in this movie is fabulous, but that ending … Here's looking at you, kid.

The Great Gatsby: Oh, I loved this book. At first I didn't think I'd be able to relate to any of the characters, but when I discovered the lengths Gatsby went to for love, I was blown away. He created a complete, artificial persona, yet he was so much more real than the people around him. At the end, he's destroyed by his own idealistic vision of Daisy, but I'm still consoled by Nick's final words to his friend: “You're worth the whole damn bunch put together.”

Roman Holiday: When you start with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, it would be hard to go wrong. And the writers don't go wrong. They even have the guts to resist working out an unlikely Hollywood ending that would make it possible for the couple to be together. It's lump-in-the-throat time, but it's so rewarding.

Tucker: He loses the battle, but it's a triumph of the spirit when he invites the jurors out for a ride in those beautiful, non-existent cars.

Gone With the Wind: Readers and moviegoers may disagree on whether Scarlett could ever get Rhett back, but there's no denying this is one of the most unforgettable endings of all time!

How about you? Which tragic/tear-jerker endings stand out in your mind?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Our Big Fat Greek Easter

By Gina Ardito

Every spring, I wind up explaining that, since my husband's family is Greek Orthodox, we celebrate Greek Easter. What are the differences? 

It starts with the date. Often, Greek Easter falls on a different Sunday than the traditional Western Easter. There are three conditions to the Greek calendar when it comes to the celebration of Easter. 

First, the Greek Orthodox Church follows the Gregorian calendar, not the Julian. Second, Easter must occur on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the official start of spring. Still following along? Yeah, I know. I'm dizzy, too. But hang on. The third condition is the easiest to explain and, therefore, my standard reply when asked. Easter must fall after Passover. 

There are some benefits to the different date. When our Easter is celebrated after Western Easter, we get all our goodies for half-price. The downfall? Since my husband was born in April, there have been years when his birthday fell on Greek Easter. (During those years, he hijacks my birthday in August.)

What are the traditions of Greek Easter? Glad you asked. Most are similar to Western traditions. In the days before, we color eggs, though ours are dyed red. We bake a sweet egg bread called "tsoureki" (tsoo-RECK-ee).

Like celebrants of Western Easter, our kids find baskets full of goodies in the morning, we gather together with family, and share a good meal. We drink ouzo (a strong licorice-flavored liqueur).

After dinner is the highlight of the celebration for my family. The dyed eggs are brought to the table, and each person chooses one for the "tsougrisma" (tsoo-GREES-ma). One by one, family members challenge each other to an egg-tapping contest. One person chooses an opponent. The challenger proclaims, "Christos Anesti" (CREE-stose Ah-NES-tee). The opponent replies, "Alithos Anesti" (Ah-lee-THOSE Ah-NES-tee). The two then tap their eggs against each other--pointed end to rounded end--in the hope of cracking the other's egg while leaving his/her egg unblemished. The game continues around the table until only one person has an uncracked side of their egg. That person is declared the winner and is said to have good luck all year.

This year, our Easter will fall on April 12, the week after Western Easter (and two weeks before my husband's birthday. Whew!)

Whatever spring holiday you celebrate in April, may you be surrounded by love, joy, and good fortune. 

"Kaló Páscha!"

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Thoughts on a New Grandchild

By the time this is posted, my sixth grandchild should be born. My daughter is due March 4 and has had two previous C-sections. The doctors are trying to accommodate her wish for a VBAC, but they won’t let her go much beyond her due date since the chances of complications increase dramatically as the baby gets larger.

At the time I’m writing this in late February, the child is still in utero, though we know that he is a boy, the third boy they will have. His two older brothers will be a hard act to follow. His three-and-a-half-year-old oldest brother has already taught himself to read, write, and do simple arithmetic. His other older brother is a physical whirlwind who loves music and climbing on everything possible.

But like his brothers, he starts off life with many advantages. The boys are blessed with highly intelligent, spiritual, and academically-oriented parents who’ve read to them almost from the day they came home, who provide a variety of enriching toys and spend a great deal of time interacting with them and guiding them.

This has made me think about how many children are born into this world without the advantages those children enjoy. For too many around the world, their parents can’t even meet their basic needs for food, shelter, and clean water. Enrichment of any sort is far beyond their grasp. Survival is the only battle they can fight.

And even where basic survival isn’t necessarily a battle, many families are still too marginal either economically or culturally to be able to do any more than meet basic needs.  Their own lack of education and cultural development hinders many more from even knowing what they could be doing to improve their children’s chances of success in life.

It’s a huge, massive problem and one I can’t solve, though I try to do what I can to support literacy programs and basic outreaches to the poor and hungry. Plus I do what I can to support my own children in their efforts to raise theirs. That’s why when you’re reading this I’ll be in Indiana where I hope to be cuddling a brand-new grandson, plus reading to and playing with his older brothers.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Getting To Know Us with Tracey Lyons

Okay, inquiring minds want to know…why a writer? Certainly not for the fame and fortune…or maybe it is. 
I’m a writer because I’ve always liked to play make believe. Even as a little girl every one of my dolls and stuffed animals had a back story! I know a lot of writers when asked this question answer with something along the lines of; “I can’t imagine myself not writing.” For me it is the same. Except when I’m not writing I use my creativity in other outlets such as cooking and redecorating my home.

When did you first put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to create your classic and cozy characters? 
I started writing my first novel in 1983 on a typewriter I’d purchased several years before at a local office supply store. I had lots of paper and those little jars of Whiteout on my desk. I’m so glad we get to use laptops now!!

Do you have a set writing schedule? 
I prefer to write in the morning hours. I like to do my new scenes then and later in the day I edit or handle the business portion of my career.

Is there a certain routine, food/drink, or location that summons forth the muses for you? 
I wish I could say that I start my day with an inspirational walk on the beach…unfortunately because I live inland in the Northeast there is no beach. I’m finding that doing Yoga has helped calm my thoughts and open my mind to new ideas and creativity. And drinking a glass of wine is always good for awakening my muse! But when I’m stuck on a scene I find that sorting through paperwork or reorganizing my office space usually helps to free my thoughts. 

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? 
I love spending time with my grandchildren and I will confess that I’m a bit hooked on the slot games on my new Kindle! I love to watch the cooking networks and then try to recreate the recipes in my own kitchen. 

I imagine you’ve been reading all of your life (all great writers have.) What was your favorite book as a child? 
I loved my Mary Poppins book and the T’was the Night Before Christmas book with the Grandma Moses illustrations. 

Do you re-read books?  
I don’t normally re-read fictions books. One of my favorite reads is actually a non-fiction booked called Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil. I’ve re-read this book several times. I so enjoy the depiction of the infamous Savanah murder because it reads like a good old-fashioned suspense novel.

But there’s more to life than reading, writing (and arithmetic)…what is your most memorable adventure in your life? 
I would have to say when I went snorkeling off the coast of Key West! This was no easy feat considering that I don’t know how to swim and I thought we’d be in shallow water. Imagine my surprise when the captain of the boat took us out to a reef and I plunged into the warm blue water only to find myself dangling off the deep end with nothing more than a skimpy life vest and a blue water noodle to keep me afloat. Realizing my feet did not touch the soil was horrifying! But I can honestly say that I was brave enough to do something so far out of my comfort zone and I’m proud that I did it. Would I do it again? No way!
 If you were on American Idol, what song would you sing to WOW! the judges? 
“Stand By Your Man.” 

Catch more of Tracey Lyons the last Thursday of every month here on the Classic and Cozy Blog.  

For a complete list of Tracey’s books click on over to her website
And be sure follow her on Facebook

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Best Deal in NYC - The Library

Watched over by the famous Library Lions, the main branch of the NYC library system has been one of my favorite spots for years. I've been there more times than I can count. As a college student, back in the days of card catalogues, I spent hours in the general research room.

Every trip back to NY brings me to the library. The surroundings, the tourists, and the lions are familiar, but each experience is  different. I never go in with any specific exhibit in mind, but there is always something that piques my interest.

Last week I discovered the Spellbound exhibit. Eight cool items celebrated the art of spelling the English language. Small but informative, I loved this exhibit - especially the explanation of why we don't spell colour like our English cousins. It was part of a movement to get American children to appreciate American children's books.

A family edition of Noah Webster’s An American Dictionary of the English Language from 1841, which includes annotations by Webster including the definition for the adverb "wordily;”
A 1906 menu from the Thirteen Club, which represented the English spelling reform movement. 
Dr. Seuss’s Spelling Bees: The Oldest and Newest Rage, published during his time as a commercial illustrator;
The Freedman's Spelling Book, which was modeled after antebellum primers, contains material specifically for former slaves;
An 1821 textbook that promises to lead children “gradually from spelling to reading in a very short time;”
The Spelling Match Song: I Couldn’t Spell That Word Because I Love You!, a vaudeville song sheet from the turn of the 19th Century;
A set of ivory spelling disks, similar to those used by the son of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley;
A Is For Apple Pie, a Victorian picture book about the alphabet features amusing and animated depictions of Victorian children at play—all of them in quest of the titular “apple pie.”

You'll never guess who I met outside the library. Flat Stanley was having his picture taken. It was a little too windy for Stanley so I offered to help. Stanley and I took a picture by the Library Lions. The lady taking the photo will send it to her  7 year old niece in California.

Next time you're in the neighborhood stop by. You never know who you'll meet or what you'll discover.
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street
New York, NY, 10018

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Winter Never Lasts Forever

Posted by Sandra Wilkins

         Softly, snow floats to the ever-whitening ground.  All of nature seems to pause as if to respect the peacefulness.  Children and adults alike press their glowing faces to the cold panes of glass in great anticipation. 

          Well…maybe not.  When Oklahoma recently had another round of snow, I was jolted to reality as I recognized a lot of people aren’t fond of the fluffy white stuff. Around here, there is the frantic run to the grocery store at the first mention of it.  Fretting and worrying seem to be natural responses to the news.  A few inches cause school and church closings.  Complaints about bad roads and freezing weather are on almost everyone’s lips. 
          Then, I think about those hardy New Englanders under feet of snow.  They must certainly be tired of the man-made mountains and frigid temperatures.  How they survive is beyond me.  My hat’s off to them—they might need it anyway.  
          I have the feeling I’m in a minority when it comes to liking winter weather.  I adore sitting at my kitchen table with my steaming cup of coffee and watching the flakes drifting toward earth from the gray sky.  I think it’s a lovely sight.  It’s a reminder to slow down and delight in the beauty around me.  When it melts a day or two later, the roads are clear and it’s only a memory.   
          Sometimes it feels as if we’re stuck in a repeating pattern of drudgery, but things do change.  It’s the way of life.  So, if you’re one of those who is tired of the dreary days of bone chilling weather or if you have a battered, worn soul—just remember—winter never lasts forever. 

         Sandra Wilkins is busy writing another series while home educating her two daughters.  Ada’s Heart, Rose’s Hope and Gwen’s Honor are her first three published wholesome historical romances.  Go to to find out more about her and her books. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Sure Sign of Spring

posted by Jayne Ormerod

     As snow still covers the ground in my home in southeastern Virginia (where “normal” temps are in the high 50s this time of year—today we’re expected to top out at 29!) it seems natural for my thoughts to turn to spring.  More specifically, spring activities, such as gardening.  So I thought I’d dig out and dust off an article I wrote almost 10 years ago, but is still relevant today, and gives me hope that spring will be here soon!

My first gardening catalog came addressed to “Robert S. Jones or Current Resident."  That’s me.  Current resident.  We’d just made our fourth move in two years in conjunction with my husband’s career in the US Navy.  He had orders for twenty-four months.  Why, that’s long enough to plant perennials, I thought! 
                I showed a great deal of restraint when I limited myself to a $500 order from that gardening catalog.  A rainbow of reds, whites, blues, pinks and yellows.  A selection of varying heights and curious textures.  My home would stand out from the others in this new, cookie-cutter neighborhood.  Okay, so I would eat nothing by macaroni and cheese for two months, but with the Yard of the Month awarded by my neighborhood association came a $50 gift certificate to the garden center, so it would balance the financial scales a bit.  And based on the glossy catalog pictures of what my gardens would look like, I was a sure winner.
One sunny day in early April a small box arrived.  A very small box filled with more than a hundred two-inch plants that looked like they should be on life support.  But hope springs eternal, and I had faith these would grow quickly to look like the advertisement in no time.
                The instructions said I should plant the garden as soon as possible.  Hmmm.  I hadn’t actually thought about that part of it.  I’d ordered enough flora to fill three very large areas, all of which were currently sprouting bright green weeds.  As any good navy wife would do, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.
                First I outlined the beds with edging bricks, hauled in station-wagon loads of 50 per day.  That took two weeks.  Next step was to loosen the top four inches of soil.  After three days of back-breaking labor, I broke down and rented a tiller.  Then the dump truck deposited a load of topsoil in the middle of the driveway when I wasn’t looking. I had to borrow my neighbor’s car to run to the hardware store to purchase a wheelbarrow and move the dirt before I could even get my car out of the garage.  The important lesson here was exactly how much dirt fit into a dump truck, most of which my neighbor ended up using to fill in his swimming pool.  Thinking I’d learned my lesson on the soil, I opted for hauling in mulch bag by bag by bag by bag.  One-hundred and seventy-two, if memory serves.
                It took over a month, but I celebrated the day I popped the teeny plants into their tiny holes, being careful to adhere to the paint-by-number instructions in order to achieve the same stunning effect shown in their catalog.  Little tiny specks of plants spaced twelve to eighteen inches apart.  It looked like a barren wasteland.  I wanted to cry.  It looked pathetic.  All that work….  My back ached, my legs ached, my hands ached.  But most of all, my budget ached.  I was in for over $1,500, once I figured in the repair costs after I’d run over the tiller I’d parked behind my car.  I reminded myself it would all be worth it when my husband returned from deployment to find our yard looked like it should be on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens.
                That was my very expensive lesson in patience.  Having been raised in a well-established mill town, I’d taken flora planted by long-dead ancestors for granted.  I had no idea it took fifty years for ivy to climb the brick exteriors, or forsythia bushes to grow as tall as the houses.  I expected instant gratification in my gardens.  Needless to say, my sparse plantings did not earn me Yard of the Month, let alone even a "wow" from my husband when he returned home.
                We moved nine times over the next fourteen years.  I never again made the mistake of undertaking significant landscaping projects I would never be around long enough to enjoy, but at every place we lived I left some small patch of perennials or a few puny peonies for a future nomadic tenant to enjoy.
                We found ourselves back in the area of our first home and detoured down the street where I’d foolishly invested so much time, energy and money.  I cried when I saw it.  The big pink peony blooms smiling up at the sunshine took my breath away.  Lush vinca had filled in enough to choke out all the weeks and make annual mulching unnecessary (which had been my goal.)  The gardenia bushes, which had started as one-foot high twigs, now formed a tall, thick, fragrant hedge.  But the thing that caught my eye was a sign right smack dab in the middle of the beautiful red, white and blue field of perennials—Yard of the Month.  That sign was more a testimony to the passage of time than to my efforts, and certainly the current homeowners spent a lot of energy and money maintaining it all through the years.  But even though the sign read Yard of the Month, I know what it really meant…Congratulations Jayne Ormerod! You’re a Gardener with Vision!