Romance – The Dress

I was at a conference recently and one morning, from the 5th floor I spotted a woman down below in the lobby in an awesome dress that caught my eye.  Black and white geometrical pattern, short black sweater over the top…I loved it!

pink bubbles

Once I was downstairs, getting some coffee, awaiting my next session to begin, who do I run into, but the woman in the cute dress!  I compliment her, her shoes are super cute too.  Unbeknownst to me, she is the speaker in my next session.

As I watched her for the next hour doing her thing, I began to think, I could totally rock that dress!

Now for many of you, this may not seem like any big earth shattering thought, but for me it was.  You see, I have spent the last nine years working in warehouses, my last experience being with Amazon.  Jeans, t-shirt, hair clip and off I’d go!  I had professional business attire, but did not incorporate dresses into my wardrobe.  We didn’t go out a lot on the weekends with the schedule I had, so it never really made sense for me to get a dress.  I also felt too big to wear what I considered dainty clothes.  I simply have not worn a dress in years!  My husband and I were trying to figure out recently the last time I wore one…sometime near 2003!

I was so inspired by the thought that I could actually wear this dress, however, that I Googled the darn thing on the break and found it online at Nordstroms.  I ordered it immediately!  It makes me laugh thinking about it.  I was almost embarrassed at ordering it.  I was really embarrassed when it arrived…I snuck it off to my closet right away where I could hide it until I had a chance to try it on when no one else was around!  It fits perfectly by the way!

Why after all this time would I feel so compelled to order this dress?   I spoke in a previous post about things my husband has done for me, especially in my jeans and t-shirt days, that I considered sweet and thoughtful, romantic if you will.

Well, that man has always loved me in a dress, he reminds me of this regularly; each time, of course, I roll my eyes and scoff at the suggestion.

Ordering this dress is my romantic gesture to him.  I may be out of my comfort zone, but he will love it…he will appreciate the thought.  I might find I actually might like wearing it!

He is gone this week on a fishing trip but we have date night planned when he comes back.  Will see if I am brave enough to bust out the dress!

Rising Strong

In the two years since I was first introduced to Brene´ Brown in a Ted Talk,  I have read three of her books, Daring Greatly, The Gifts of Imperfection and now Rising Strong, all of which have helped me tremendously in my turnaround process.

Rise Strong Everyday
Photo Credit: Rebecca Milam Photography

The idea of acknowledging the role of vulnerability and shame in your life, so that one can venture forth, daring bravely is pretty life changing stuff.  After reading her first books, I set forth on my path to live a wholehearted life, daring bravely and then what happened?  Life…day to day messiness…less than perfect decision making…and sometimes even full on face down failure.

On the cover of her latest book, Rising Strong, it reads, “If we are brave enough, often enough, we will fall.  This book is about what it takes to get back up.”

Even though I know in my heart leaving my job was the best thing for me, there are feelings of failure associated with it; if I had just tried harder I could have made it work, thoughts like that gnaw at me.  Someone I worked with, as we were commiserating about the situation said, “I would quit too, but I don’t like giving up”.  Jeez louise…is that what I did?  I wallowed for a bit in my failure story.  Nevermind the fact our lives are at totally different stages and what makes sense for her, doesn’t make sense for me…failure, guilt, fear creeped into my bones.

In Rising Strong, Brene Brown acknowledges these stories we have created in our minds and challenges us to reckon with them, to rumble with them, in order to come out the other side so that we can dare bravely once again.

She gives us this exercise to help us work through our stories once we have written them down:

  1. What more do I need to learn and understand about the situation? What do I know objectively?  What assumptions am I making?
  2. What more do I need to learn an understand about the other people in the story?  What additional information do I need?  What questions or clarifications might help?
  3. What more do I need to learn and understand about myself?  What’s underneath my response?  What am I really feeling?  What part did I play?

She says, “The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but our wholeness – even our wholeheartedness – actually depends on the integration of all our experiences, including the falls.”

I for one want to own my story, regardless of how scary I have made it, and dare bravely again!  Here’s to you rising strong as well!

What is this blog about anyway?

Writing, romance, travel, connection, gardening, farming, cooking, and why?

The focus of this blog is on the major turnaround I had in my life earlier this year, the process of taking a bad situation and making it good again. I worked a crazy amount of hours, slept 6 hours a day on a good day and never saw my family.  There were so many times I said, “if only I had the time, I would be out there doing  _____.”  My blog is about the discovery of those lost things.

So first up this week – Romance.

The funny thing is, asking people about romance and what it means to them, I had no idea this could turn out to be a damn near hostile topic!  I was very taken aback by the responses.  I asked for feedback from a broad range of women in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.

I know because of my schedule earlier this year, romance had to be the first to go.  My husband had essentially become my pit crew, slapping me back together and pushing me back out there each day.  That was all the romance I could hope for during that time.  I am fortunate in that he did a number of things for me at the height of the craziness that I consider romantic.  For example, he put those old fashioned looking string lights in my garden.  It makes the place magic to me at night.  I would like to say my husband is so up on this whole romance thing, that he totally knew what he was doing with that, but no…truth be told, he had no clue. But he knows me, loves me and wanted to create something special just for me…that right there is the essence of romance to me.  Doesn’t get any better than that.

Garden 2015 - lights

So back to my unscientific survey; the 20 somethings I spoke with weren’t exactly sure it existed, especially in this social media driven world they have been raised in.  They are still in the process of defining it for themselves.

The 30 year olds are a different story!  Based on my small sample, those 30 year olds got it going on!  The heat and passion in their world is palpable.

Here is what Miss Kennytta, age 33, from Atlanta, Ga had to say;  “For me romance is a frame of mind. Anyone can be romantic but to fully experience romance I think that you have to be it in every sense of the word.  I have felt romance by a single touch, embrace, stare. Romance can be shared by two people who don’t love one another and never will, or by two people that love each other deeply.  Romance is fluid and ever changing, someone can see romance in one thing and the next won’t.  It’s an expression of love.  It doesn’t have to be love or as I said shared by lovers or even people who love each other.  It can just be a shared experience between two people.   With that being said..ahhhhhh…I loooove romance!”

See what I mean…sister’s feeling it!  I love that.

Here’s another one; Shawnta also 33, from Greensboro, NC,  “Romance can be displayed in different ways. For me it can be a romantic moment, day, trip, act or something he may say… I feel like it’s something that you have to work on, on a regular basis because you can get content and complacent with someone and not even think about it and up to a point where the romance is gone. I do all of the above and also leave little notes for him or even a text here and there. You can be romantic in so many ways. Just take the time to show or display how you feel about the person you are with.”

Now, I am ready and willing for you all to prove me wrong on this next statement…many of the 40’s and above ladies that I spoke with were all at various levels of resignation about it being a part of their lives anymore.  There were some beacons of hope out there for sure, but overall, resignation.

Does it still have an important place in our lives once we hit 40?  Does it always wane at some point?  Is it possible those ladies with heavy resignation in their voices became complacent as Shawnta mentioned above?  Maybe, but in all honesty, every situation and circumstance is different.  Each life takes many different twists and turns.  Last thing we need to do is compare our level of romance to another person’s.  We do, however need to do two things: (1) understand what it really is to us as individuals.  There is no right or wrong and this is as individual as we are, and (2) nurture and feed it in order for it to be healthy.

I will share other stories and opinions that I received in the coming weeks.  They are very entertaining!  In the meantime, I would love to hear your input on romance and what it means to you.

Before I Die…

Last year I heard a great Ted talk by Candy Chang about her Before I Die project.  I loved her premise of wanting to create thought provoking art that makes us want to rethink how we go out into the world each day.IMG_0747

I was very excited when I was randomly driving through Louisville, Ky and spotted this wall.  I made the people I was with stop immediately and add some thoughts to the wall.  When you stand there, it can be overwhelming all the possibilities you could put up there.  You can be serious, silly, naughty, reflective.  This one didn’t have too much on it.  If you look closely someone wrote skinny dip…seriously?!  Thats what you’re waiting to do?!  Knock that out sister, there is so much more out there to embark on!  The one thing I found in putting it on that wall, I now am intentionally committed to making that thing happen in my life.  I wrote it down, put it out in the universe.  Intentional.  For me, before I die, I want my children to know the depth of my love for them.

Have you ever seen or written on one of these walls?  Would love to see your picture!

Myrtle Creek Gardens and Nursery – In search of Garden Magic

I am always in search of destination type nurseries,  gardens where you could easily while away a few hours, lost in the beauty and bounty of nature.  Some of my favorites are actually in Texas…the Wildseed Farm in Fredericksburg, Tx and the Antique Rose Emporium in San Antonio.  I literally want to move into the Antique Rose Emporium, it makes me that happy.  I am currently embarked on my search for  new favorites in California.  A few weeks ago I came upon just such a place; Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens and Nursery in nearby Fallbrook, Ca.

Historic Landmark Barn
Historic Landmark Barn – Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens and Nursery

The property is situated on land that was at one time the original town of Fallbrook.  It was purchased approximately 40 years ago by the Sherman family.  Over the years it has been run as a small family nursery.  The oldest son took over the operation a couple years ago and brought in a team to help him turn Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens and Nursery into a destination location for visitors longing for gardening magic and throw back nostalgia.  According to Kent Harvey, Executive Director of Myrtle Creek, the intention is to build on the feeling that you get when you come through the front gates, to take what is inherently magical and here in this place and build upon it.  Every decision about what to do next is predicated on maintaining that feeling.

Wagon Wheel - Myrtle Creek

As you drive into the property you will see a beautiful red barn in the back.  It is the oldest structure on the property, built in 1898.  There is a small room built inside the barn that served as shelter for the original settlers of the land, allowing them to stay close to their livestock.  Those settlers used a combination of linseed oil and rust from old farm equipment in order to treat and stain the wood, giving it it’s rustic red color.  The barn is currently home to three rescue goats that kids love to feed.  An ethereal mural has been painted on the front of the barn, setting the tone for what you are about to experience.

Once inside the gardens visitors will find the original farmhouse converted to a beautiful country style store, full of specialized bath products, jams and jellies, candles, handmade jewelry, decorative accents and garden themed products.  They have a great selection of early farmhouse lighting.  The front yard of the farmhouse is full of fun statues, bicycles and decorative accessories for the garden.

Featuring large selection of California native plants
They have a great selection of statuary throughout the property.
Vertical pallet gardening

Visitors can take a break and enjoy lunch outside on the deck at Cafe Bloom.  Cafe Bloom features all organic offerings.  The menu changes daily based on available offerings in the area.

Cafe Bloom Menu

You cannot leave until you taste their Myrtle Berry pie.  It is a mixed berry treat you can eat by the slice or take one home whole.  I chose to take one home whole.  I believe I sold two in the parking lot to strangers as I was leaving, they are so beautifully done.  I am a homemade pie snob and this one is definitely worthy!

Myrtle Berry Pie
World famous Myrtle Berry Pie

They offer a variety of classes, tours and events throughout the year.  They have a great selection of fairy garden items and families are welcome to come and build there own.  There is an amazing spot under the old oak trees, with a large family style table set up; a perfect place to hold a baby shower or birthday party event with your girlfriends.

Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens
Beautiful bird sanctuary nestled in the oak trees
Fairy Garden 101 - Myrtle Creek
Fairy Garden building station
Fairy Garden - Myrtle Creek
Make your own one of a kind fairy garden

If you are lucky you will spot a gentleman with a big, white beard by the name of Kim hard at work there.  He is the in-house historian of the area and docent of the property.  He has a wealth of information about the area and loves to answer questions.

This is my kind of place…a place that keeps you wanting to wander and explore.  It is a hidden gem that I hope you love as much as I did!  There are open 9-5, seven days a week.  You can get more information about them at their website,  Feel free to let them know how amazing their place is @myrtlecreeknurs.  Please comment and let me know your favorite garden spot!

Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens

Amazing succulent baskets hanging from the oak tree


Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens
A floating bed under a teepee for the yard?! Yes please.
Basket full of succulents
Treasures found on the front lawn of the farmhouse
Front yard of farm house
More treasures out front
A teepee of vines with a bench underneath to escape to.
Old school sheep herder’s trailer
Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens
I must always have a chicken in the yard
And flowers of course, black eyed Susan vines.
So love the color…
Lots of strategically placed seating options

Only two options – move forward or make excuses

Getting ready this morning to head to Dallas for my very first blogging conference.  This past month has been full of first time things for me, taking leaps of faith and moving forward.  This conference is is another one of those steps, one of the many small steps that will provide me a strong foundation to turnaround on.  Walk confidently into your morning people!

Sharing the Bounty

One of the very best things about gardening for me is to share what we grew.  Our neighbors and friends are probably sick of tomatoes, squash and peppers by now but we love the exchange of produce and eggs that goes on along our street.  Yesterday one of my neighbors brought a couple jars of her grape jelly.  She has dubbed it Carmelita Crush after the street we share.  The Temecula Valley is known for it’s wineries and grapes love our weather here.  Can’t wait to make some biscuits!



How come there is always at least one gigantic okra and zucchini in the beds?  I check this stuff everyday and everyday there is some enormous vegetable that I did not notice the day prior.


Our chocolate bell peppers are just now coming in.  They were last year’s favorites.  This year’s favorite in mild peppers is this little gem above, the paradicsom alaku sarga szentes pepper, one of the very best Hungarian peppers you will ever have.  It is a very rare variety that was collected in farmers markets in Matrafured, Hungary and later developed in Szentes, Hungary.

We get most all our seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  Their catalog alone is a great read, providing a ton of information about food from all over the world.  Check them out,

Life is a Triumph

When I left my job back in April I had a plan to take my life back; focus on work I had always wanted to do, and creative outlets I had always wanted to explore but never had the time for.  Before I got started on this journey though, I had a couple things to take care of, things my job didn’t allow for previously.  My daughter had three months left before she left the state for college…there were finals, graduation, a going away party, a family vacation and preparing her for the move.

I also needed to spend time with my dad.  He was deep in the final stages of lung cancer.  After seeing his mom suffer through chemo, he had made a decision for himself, a life long smoker, that he would not seek treatment.  I think we have a false perception of what the final months/weeks of our lives might look like.  The final months seldom look like our normal lives.  Over the course of the summer I watched his condition decline quickly.  This past week was especially hard, with his condition changing hourly, daily, until he took his last breath just a couple days ago.  I can’t even describe the relief I feel that he is no longer suffering.

All the events of this summer have been things to go through, to endure, to breathe in.  There wasn’t really anything to “fix”, only moments to absorb.  After so many years busy being busy, I am so grateful to have taken this time.  There was nothing about it that was easy or intuitive to my nature, it took fairly regular focus to stay on the task of just being.

Over the course of the week with him, it had gotten to the point I was no longer able to properly clean and care for him.  He could no longer swallow…no water or morphine.  He needed a bigger, more experienced team to take over.  We spent the week trying to find a good rest home for him to move to.  Finally we got the call for Friday morning, ambulance would be coming for him.

I had plans to leave the next day.  In the past, I would have simply raced home and jumped back into the action of our family, but after what I had experienced over the past five months, I decided to stay back one day in a hotel all by myself.  To say my step mother’s house was an intense place to be in that last week was an understatement.  I needed cleansing head to toe spiritually before I could get myself back in the car.  Spent the day on the coast through Monterey, Pacific Grove, Cannery Row.

At the same time this was going on, my daughter was calling me from Colorado.  It had been three weeks since she had arrived at school and everyone had gone home for the three day weekend.  She was feeling all alone and homesick.  I challenged her to a photo challenge for the day.  We would both be alone on our own adventure.  Sharing pictures throughout the day might be just the right balance of family support and necessary alone time that we both needed all at the same time.  Over the course of the day, we ended up with all three kids and my husband involved.  To be honest it was so fun we are going to do it regularly.

The northern California coastline gave her a run for her money…




But then she pretty much killed me with her good camera, the Rocky Mountains and a beautiful horse ranch.



After my day of taking in the northern California coastline, I went back and saw my dad one last time.  He asked me where he was.  After being completely uncommunicative the previous day, hearing his voice was sweet.  I stayed with him, held his hand, rubbed his chest.  Eventually I told him it was time for me to go home, and that it was time for him to go home too.  He passed away four hours later.


So where does all this leave me now?  While the last five months have been about taking it in, I am ready for the next months to be about action…that turnaround I keep talking about.  I have mourned so much, I can see how people get depressed and bogged down within themselves.  In the months before he died though we talked several times about his life and how good it had been for him.  Recently Kathie Lee Gifford, in describing her husband Frank Gifford’s passing, said something to the effect of, this is not  a time to be sad, his life was a triumph!   Well, my dad was certainly no famous football player, but in my dad’s mind, he did everything and more than he ever set out to do.  He was so satisfied and fulfilled with the life he had created for himself.  His life was indeed a triumph.  I take strength in knowing that.

While I am so very grateful to have had this time, I need to make my way down my next path, I need to create my triumph!