Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The green stick tree

Some of you may have wondered what kind of tree is pictured at the top of my blog. It's called a Palo Verde tree, and it's the state tree of Arizona.

I took several photos of this tree when I visited the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix three years ago, including the one in the blog's header and this one below:

A Palo Verde tree at the Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix
The tree transfixed me. Born and bred in the southeast, I'm accustomed to tall pines, giant oaks and maples, and abundant magnolias, cherry trees and more. But what had me spellbound about this tree was its green trunk. I had never seen such a color on a tree trunk in my life. Flower stems are supposed to be green, sure, but tree trunks? In my part of the world, tree trunks are brown.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Lady Baltimore

Last August, when I took my in-laws to the local farmer's market, they bought my husband and me a lovely hibiscus, called a "Lady Baltimore," for our garden. The seller at the market promised that it's a perennial in this area. I'll admit to being skeptical at the time.

By the end of my in-laws' visit, though, the plant looked like it wouldn't even live to make it out of the pot and into the ground. But it did live, and I was delighted when it bloomed several times last August.

Although it was a single stalk last year, the seller promised it would grow back more bush-like this year, with multiple stalks. I was just happy when one stalk poked up through the ground this spring and started sprouting leaves and then buds. I've spent many mornings since the first sign of green giving it ample water to grow tall and strong.

Today, the first bloom opened. I had seen just a hint of fuchsia yesterday evening, but this morning, the bloom was open and full and the new hangout for one very thrilled bee (too shy for photos):

The Lady Baltimore
I'm doubly pleased that it came back this year, because I had picked out this variety in particular for its name. One of my favorite aunts -- who lived just outside of Baltimore for my entire life -- died in March 2010. When I saw the "Lady Baltimore" name on this particular hibiscus, I knew it was the right one for me. It would remind me of my in-laws' kindness but also remind me of my aunt, who was always interested in what I was doing and always one of my biggest fans.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A place where people love their trees and leaves

Two weekends ago, I visited St. Paul, Minnesota for the first time. I had a wonderful time seeing the sights, including the stunning St. Paul Cathedral and railroad magnate James Hill's house on Summit Avenue.

Although my husband and I apparently brought the heat of the South with us when we came, there was still a stubborn remnant of what had been a 60-foot pile of snow that the plows built in the Sears parking lot over the winter. The St. Paul Pioneer Press even covered the story of the snow pile in the paper, which is how I knew what I was looking at when we happened to drive by the Sears parking lot later that day. My southern-girl mind can't quite wrap itself around the idea of snow surviving a 90-degree day. But then, I'm also used to snow being white, not black from road scrapings and other dirt and debris that made up the remnant of St. Paul's snow.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A letter to high school graduates

Two very special young people in my life have just graduated from high school. Both are heading away to college -- one across the country after spending two years at a boarding school near home and the other, a five-hour drive from home, his first time leaving the nest.

Because there's so much I'd like to say to them and never enough time with them sitting still to listen, I've decided to write a letter to them here. If it resonates with you, share it with the young people in your life. I also invite you to add your own thoughts and advice for high school grads in the comments section.

Dear Z & K, (and M and C and A and all the rest of you!)

I have absolutely loved watching you grow up -- from the days I held you held you as newborns to now, when it's a quick hug and you're gone. You have grown into a strength and beauty and brilliance that shines on all those around you.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

You're taping what to my foot? Ramblings from a first-time MRI

I had a lot of surprises in store for my first ever MRI today, but the biggest surprise was the Vitamin E pill the assistant taped to the bottom of my foot to mark the place where I feel the most pain. Apparently, it helps the radiologist know where to look when reading the MRI without messing up the reading. Seriously?

I never went to med school, but I'd like to think that a doctor could read the MRI of my foot without needing a pointer in the form of a pill taped to my foot to identify the problem area. It also made me wonder if they could miss other problem areas -- there was no vitamin E taped to the spot of second-most pain, but what if that's the real source of my pain?

Being nervous about something so new and strange, I did a bit of browsing online yesterday. My only experience with MRIs before yesterday's reading was with the TV show "House." If you watch the show, you know that dreadful things typically happen to the patient in the MRI machine. Convulsions, seizures, heart attacks, hallucinations. I figured nothing that dramatic would happen to me, but I still wanted to know what to expect in a real-world MRI.

There are some really good children's hospital videos about MRIs online -- I highly recommend them for your first MRI -- whether you're a kid or not. So I thought I was pretty calm driving to my appointment. One of the comments online said to imagine yourself as the Dalai Lama getting an MRI. Another said to "find your happy place." I was ready to practice serenity and calm breathing and had several happy places in mind.

I didn't know if I'd need an injection beforehand, and so I was grimly bracing for that (fortunately, the Vitamin E was all I needed). I'm a chicken when it comes to needles.