Tag Archive | The Bernice Garden

Another day

Maybe it’s a misnomer to call this post “Another day,” since it’s been a week since the last one – the days have flown so quickly and so busily. But I love that song (and Paul, of course), and today is just another day in the life of a random little grandmother in Little Rock, Arkansas.

I’ve been 58 for a week. Feels like 57, which felt like – well, not 47, but the differences in years are minuscule the older you get. The cumulative effect is definitely felt, but there’s nothing you can really point to and say, “Well, boy, that’s changed since last year!”

Mother says it’s still that way for her. Hope it holds for me.

OK, so where did this blur of a week go, and why have I been such a bad blogger (bad girl! bad!)? In addition to work, we had the first garden club potluck of the year Tuesday – we didn’t join for years because we thought it was really a “garden” club. Nope. The Quapaw Home and Garden Club is a social club for eating, drinking, visiting with neighbors and seeing people’s historic homes.

We dig it, even if we don’t dig in the yard much.

Wednesday was the first night of 2013-2014 volunteer usher gig as Friends of the Rep, our fabulous local repertory theatre. This season is our 11th year, if I’ve counted backward right. I started in mid-season 2001-2002, I think, then John and  I met in July and he joined me as a regular that fall. We’ve been privileged to see so many plays.

Peace, love and ecology, baby, just like in my high school art classes. Somethings never change.

Peace, love and ecology, baby, just like in my high school art classes. Somethings never change.

Thursday was the fifth Sculpture Party and Fall Fest at The Bernice Garden, and though I work for Anita Davis, the lovely owner, I played hooky from working that night and just attended and enjoyed. You can see photos at thebernicegarden.org or on the  garden’s Facebook page. Here’s one little picture, of my lock on the Wish Locks Arkansas piece that was introduced Thursday night.

Speaking of art, I signed up to take a weekend class at the Arkansas Arts Center from my friend Catherine Rodgers, “Paint like Rothko – Color: Complement, Shade, Tone and Tint.” I haven’t painted since high school. We’ll see how well I do, but I’m looking forward to it. The small class sold out quickly and will be great, even if I’m not.

And speaking of art, let me just show off my husband’s handiwork again, now that the floors have cured.

John's design at the top of the stairs. He did it to surprise me a few years back, but with the finish, it really pops.

John’s design at the top of the stairs. He did it to surprise me a few years back, but with the finish, it really pops.

And here are the baseboards he's building. The walls look gray in the light, but they're periwinkle.

And here are the baseboards he’s building. The walls look gray in the light, but they’re periwinkle.

And just because this is a cool photo (to me anyway), I’ll add it. I pick the colors, but my painting days are few and far between with these damn shoulders.

Periwinkle to turquoise to teal.

Periwinkle to turquoise to teal.

Yesterday we upgraded phones, which always creates  a learning curve, but that’s good for our brains, though John is a little stressed over the leap from an old-school flip phone to my old iPhone, which he promptly upgraded to the new operating system. He’s dealing with my pink phone case and accessories for now,

Real men can carry pink.

I upgraded to the new iPhone, which prompted me to finally update my iPod Touch and get my iCloud and iTunes settings straightened out. Now I just need to upgrade this computer so I can fully live in the cloud. One thing leads to another.

Just like in life.

Garden party

Grandchild No. 1 spent the night with us last night, and even though he’s a very tall, big-footed 7, he’s not too cool to dig just hanging with Lolly and Pop. We had our own little garden party at The Bernice Garden last night and went to the low-key watermelon fest at the same place this morning – and he was as happy as could be with the low-key, old-school entertainment.

Ricky Nelson would be proud. The boy is true to himself, and I expect he’ll stay that way. He comes from slightly quirky stock.

His Lolly, for example, was bereft upon hearing first thing Saturday morning that J J Cale had died suddenly. No, I never met him. Never even saw him in concert that I can remember, yet he played a huge part in my life.

This morning it was back to the garden (I keep hearing “Woodstock” in my head) for the Watermelon Festival and to paint Wish Locks.

Wish Locks Arkansas did a booming business at the 2013 Watermelon Festival.

Wish Locks Arkansas did a booming business at the 2013 Watermelon Festival.

John has been in Farmboy Westley mode lately (“as you wish”) so he took it well when I told him I was having a musical emergency and really needed to dart in Best Buy to see if by some chance the store had a copy of Bruce Springsteen’s The River on CD.

My late-night dates with Bruce have left me in critical condition and I only have the double album on, well, album (in one of those boxes on the same shelf, I think) with no turntable. They didn’t have it, so Amazon Prime will deliver it soon.

Along with another book to add to my stack. I’m helpless. I’m an addict.

Thank the stars I married a farm boy.

Time warp

I’m not sure what’s going on with the cosmos, but lately I’ve been caught in some kind of odd time warp. I mentioned that a couple recently recognized me from my old column in the newspaper – one that was abruptly cancelled 9 1/2 years ago but that they thought they’d just read recently.

Turns out that was just the first of five or six times in about 10 days that someone recognized me and said they’d been seeing my work – or that they missed it.

Then at ArtWalk, I ran into a reader who became an acquaintance many years ago after introducing himself to me at Barnes & Noble (as he reminded me).  We ran into each other constantly for years, but I hadn’t seen him in maybe five years until Friday night – and the first thing he said was, “I was just thinking about you,” which was odd enough.

“I was reading the paper the other day and thinking, ‘It’s just not right,'” he went on.


Sunday I pulled out what I thought was an empty manila envelope because I needed something to hold some documents, and it contained clips of a few articles I’d written – very yellowed with time and an absolute surprise.

Not sure what’s up with all that.

For much of my adult life, when I wasn’t working at the statewide newspaper, I taught high school, journalism, desktop publishing, newspaper staff, creative writing and, briefly in the mid-1980s, English. (And I served as girls soccer coach for three years, which was a blast.)

I loved my students, even most of the ones I could hardly stand.

But I always had a special bond with my creative writing students. So that made Sunday even more special.

My current writing gigs are for The Bernice Garden, the Arkansas Cornbread Festival and Esse Purse Museum, all extremely fun things to be involved with and right in our neighborhood.

I’d thought maybe I knew one of our 2013 sculpture contest winners at the garden this year (for the community project sculpture to be named “Wish Locks”) – the name Erika Droke was so familiar that I expected to recognize her when I got to the garden to talk to her and husband John Van Horn and take pictures of people painting locks Sunday during The Bernice Garden Farmers’ Market.

The very cool sculpture

The very cool sculpture “Wish Locks” will be decorated with locks painted by members of the community.

But I didn’t expect her to be one of my creative writing students from the early ’90s, though we recognized each other instantly! Crazy.What an excellent surprise.

John Van Horn and my former student Erika Droke came up with the creative

John Van Horn and my former student Erika Droke came up with the creative “Wish Locks” idea. Yes, I’m very proud!

We had a brief catch-up session and plan to do more. I’m going to take Jude to paint locks one Sunday – he’s quite the artist and we’ll each do one.

Speaking of Jude, in other time weirdness, I was putting something on a high shelf this weekend when I came across a little “Yellow Submarine” Beatles figures set I’d gotten him for Christmas and hidden too well, evidently.

When I mentioned that to Liz yesterday, she said, “Oh, yeah, I was just thinking about that. I wondered what happened to it.” That would be a flash of clairvoyance, according to Judith Orloff, who wrote Second Sight.

This was a perfect time to find it, though, because he started a summer art class at Arkansas Extended Learning Center (owned and run by my friend, Dana Venhaus, unbeknownst to Liz, in another small synchronistic touch) and was feeling shy. I told him I had a surprise for him if he went with an open mind and was brave

He did, he was, and the Yellow Submarine set was his reward.

One last “coincidence (?)” – the other day I had a missed call from a friend I haven’t talked to in ages. Since I’m not a big phone talker, I don’t call back if people don’t leave messages, assuming missed calls are pocket calls. (Unless it’s my kids/son-in-law or my mother.) So I didn’t call back. But I did run into her yesterday at Target.

It was indeed a pocket call, but we had a quick and fun catch up visit in the aisle, and now she wants to read Second Sight, too. Synchronicity at work or coincidence?


Well, I lied. One last last thing. As I was leaving Lakewood in North Little Rock tonight, I had a flashback to the early ’90s when Liz and I were in a guitar shop on JFK Boulevard. She was in junior high and dabbling with guitar, and I was teaching at NLRHS. A young woman who worked at the shop came smiling up to us with her arms extended.

“You was my English teacher!” she said, introducing herself, though I remembered her pretty well. (I still know her first name, which I’ll withhold.)

“Nice work, Mom,” Liz leaned into my ear and said. I had to stifle a laugh.

With a little help from my friends

Now that things are slowly regaining a semblance of normalcy – or we’re adjusting to the new normal – I want to take a moment to acknowledge my friends who did something large or small to help us through our weeks of hellishness surrounding Mother’s surgery and Bill’s unexpected death.

You know who you are, but I want others to know, too.

Rhonda not only was there for the family and me but for her buddy Bill, too. They had a special friendship and she visited him frequently. She brought us a delicious cake when extended family arrived after his death and made (knitted? crocheted? I never know the difference) me a gorgeous, amazing red wool scarf, just because.

“Red is your color,” she said by way of explanation. Red is love, too.

Scarf made with love by Rhonda

Scarf made with love by Rhonda

Anita made a fabulous cheesecake and offered loving support at the funeral and at home.

Julia, ah, Julia, took some of the hardest shifts, helping Mother calm Bill one rough day while I ran errands and sitting with him part of those few hours in hospice so Mother, Cathy and I could have lunch and while the whole family (and Rhonda) met with the hospice doctors. She and Rich also sent glorious flowers, and Julia considered postponing her own orthopedic surgery to be there for the funeral. (Mother soundly vetoed that.)

Dauphne and Jason sent beautiful white flowers, as well as coming in person.

Julie and Bimal gave me two lovely Red Sari scarves that helped keep me warm many cold days (and nights) at the hospitals.

I won’t even try to list all my wonderful peeps who came to the service and/or visitation at risk of leaving someone out. Your presence was noticed and appreciated. I love you all.

Some of my long-distance friends went above and beyond, too. My dear friend Jan sent me the most wonderful wind chimes – they play the opening notes of “Amazing Grace,” which just happened to be one of Bill’s funeral songs.

My friend Leslie McClure from Pebble Beach, of 411 Video Info, happily sent me (at my request) copies of Tracey Mallet’s The Booty Barre Beginner’s & Beyond DVD. TM'sBBB I’d been doing the more advanced Booty Barre workouts before everything went crazy, but after a giant step backward fitness-wise, the beginner version is more my speed.

It’s as fun as the others – Tracey Mallett is a cute hoot, and at my age, I should really probably stick with the beginner version, at least for a while.

But let me go back in time a bit to tell you something else Leslie – and her friend Jeanne Mattick, whom I’ve only met once – did for us. When Leslie learned way back in early December, when life was fairly tame, that Mother was facing back surgery, she and Jeanne asked to send Mother one of Jeanne’s Secure Threads hospital gowns (more like robes in substantiality), for two reasons. One was for Mother’s safety (more on that in a sec) and the other was to get her opinion/feedback on the product Jeanne created after being a cancer patient herself and after losing her husband to a hospital error.

Mother was so thrilled with the gown that she agreed to model it here on my blog. She gives it a rave review and adds that her nurses, therapists and other rehab workers thought it was just the coolest thing they’d ever seen. One of them took her picture for the rehab floor bulletin board.

Mother modeling her Secure Threads gown.

Mother modeling her Secure Threads gown.

What the gown has, beside substantial velcro fasteners to protect patients’ dignity and hidden slits inside pockets to allow access for tubes and wires without pulling the gown askew, is four pockets embroidered with critical information for a successful hospital stay. The first one has the patient’s name, blood type and birthdate.

That one had special significance for us, since Type A+ Mother had recently been wrongly typed as A-, a recipe for bloody disaster.


Another, in the detail photo,  shows patient allergies. The third pocket lists medical conditions and medications and the fourth has emergency contact info.

For times when a patient doesn’t want the info out there, inner flaps can be pulled out to cover the embroidery.

As I mentioned, Mother loves hers and will definitely wear it if she has another hospital stay.

One last group I need to mention is the folks I do freelance work for. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your patience and for giving me the time and space to take care of my family first.

Speaking of that group, I’m also blogging over at thebernicegarden.org, if you want to check that out. Cool things happening in the neighborhood.

Actually, I need to thank a couple of furry people for their patience in the weeks they got so ignored. Tess and Zuzu, we love you and your exuberance. We do hope you find your inside voice soon, Zu, and could go for a little less gusto, but you’re still a big old pup. You’re both fun to come home to.

My love to all. And thanks again, friends.

Zuzu and Tess don't hold grudges. They just grin and bear it and love us still.

Zuzu and Tess don’t hold grudges. They just grin and bear it and love us still.

Tell me something good

My 10-night recent bout of insomnia has left me with a new mantra: “Tell Me Something Good.”

I started hearing Chaka Khan’s throaty refrain on auto-play in my brain the first morning after I started sleeping again. My mental vision of Rufus on stage in Fayetteville in the mid-1970s, with Chaka’s Afro bobbing and silver lamé hot-pants, bikini top and knee-high platform boots sparkling, still makes me smile.

I’ve realized hearing or reading about too many bad things, especially things about which I can do nothing, is not good for my sleeping habits. I’m on a Time, The Nation and MSNBC diet for a while.

Of course I’ll continue to read enough to be informed (and Calvin Trillin is a necessary delight), but for now, we have enough going on in our family circle to keep my brain occupied. Overdosing on bad news and hype is bad for my health. And I don’t believe we’re going over a damn cliff anyway. Maybe a speed bump ….

So with that in mind, here’s a dose of good news (some arising out of bad):

Mother is in horrible shape with her back, bed- and wheelchair-ridden – but it’s fixable. We saw the surgeon Thursday, Dec. 6, and are awaiting a surgery date (soon, soon, soon). Rehab will be a long haul, but she should end up in decent shape for a 77-year-old with rheumatoid arthritis.

The doctor’s visit was followed by The Bernice Garden Tree-Lighting and Craft Festival, which was a big success. A good time was had by all. One of my neighbors was delighted to report that at the last few events there she’s only seen about three people that she knows – it’s not just our neighbors taking advantage of the beautiful facility anymore.

People of all ages, races, and socioeconomic levels mixed and mingled at The Bernice Garden Tree Lighting party.

People of all ages, races, and socioeconomic levels mixed and mingled at The Bernice Garden Tree Lighting party.

Forward thinking downtown-dwellers are tickled about that!

Carolers from a neighborhood school were a precious part of the entertainment.

Carolers from a neighborhood school were a precious part of the entertainment.

I bought one gift and some wonderful “Lavish Ylang” beeswax-based Killer Bee Wholy Healin’ Cream that I’ve been using on my face at night to help me sleep. Lavender and ylang-ylang. Yum. Can’t get much more relaxing than that. I highly recommend it – excellent, locally made and inexpensive! That’s a winning combination.

KillerBees Wholy Healing Cream was just one of the vendors at the Garden.

KillerBees Wholy Healing Cream was just one of the vendors at the Garden.

Saturday I put up our lovely little live tree, yesterday I got Mother’s up for her, and last night we had the pleasure of seeing our boy Jude sing his heart out at the Immaculate Conception School children’s Christmas concert. He’s such a handsome, big boy.

I’ll end this short post with a couple of random things that made me smile the past few days. Since Washington state legalized pot, the Seattle police department has invoked The Dude in its outreach campaign to stress the limits of the legality. “The Dude abides and says, ‘take it inside” is one of their slogans.


(I’d like for them to have said “toke it inside,” but that’s the editor in me.)

And in today’s Zits comic strip, dorko Dad, a baby boomer like yours truly, is sporting a Humble Pie T-shirt.

Gotta love it. Happy December.