geranium in clay pot, stunning, transplanted and still blooming, cinthia milner

Garden Coach Tip: Permission to Skip Stunning

You can skip the stunning factor in your yard. Here’s why: We’re losing the ability to be charmed. And, we’re spending all our time worrying how we look to others.

I live in a brick rancher that sits at a four-way stop. It’s a modest 1300-square-foot house that has been beautifully taken care of by previous owners. Along the west side of the house is a white picket fence that separates the house from the neighborhood sidewalk. That’s where my garden is. I have roses and salvia and veronica on the house side of the fence. Sedums, donkey tail, Shasta daises, Siberian iris, echinacea, and dahlias are on the sidewalk side. Oh, and salvia ‘Hot Lips’ which is a fun, silly plant. I have one slightly stunning factor at the end of the fence line, a hibiscus, ‘Cranberry Crush,’ though, I am officially declaring it dead, disappointingly so. Not even a hint of green has made an appearance. Hugely upsetting for my small garden and our neighborhood. We’re in a dither about it. Hellebores and primroses make up the rest of the garden in the back under the cherry trees because they’ll grow there, and I like them.

My clients say, “Your garden must be stunning.” (They feel their garden should be stunning or it just won’t do. They’re worried it won’t be.) “No, my garden is not stunning,” I say. “I don’t have the time, energy, or money for stunning.”

My garden is charming, which I prefer. I believe the world needs more charm. I consider stunning over-rated.

Here’s the garden coach question for the day: Is the big stun factor for you? If so, go ahead. Is it for the neighbors? If so, skip it. If the neighbors need to be stunned, then let their dime do the stunning. Setting boundaries not only applies to your personal self, but also your garden.

Here’s my garden coach tip for the day: Plant what you like.

My  mother-in-law always had pots of geraniums. I used to tease her that only ladies over 60 could grow them (I’ve killed every geranium I ever tried to grow). She kept them in clay pots, in clay dirt, in her basement, all winter, with complete neglect. Then, come warm weather, she gathered them up, and lined them along the side porch, where the rain watered them, not her. They were stunning. She loved them. When I visited, she’d point them out and say, “Aren’t they stunning?”

Yes, they were. And, not a neighbor for miles could see them. They were stunning just for her.

ocean pier transplanted and still blooming cinthia milner

What’s Important. What’s Not Important.

I met my college roommate, Donna, in September of 1977, freshman year, fall term, first day of school. We were assigned a room together. I got the better roommate. She, not so much. She was a brunette with a sense of purpose. I was a clueless blonde. She was a Christian. I was not. We’ve been friends 38 years and counting. This month she was diagnosed with brain cancer. I’ve spent the better part of the month wondering, why this month? This is her birthday month.

She has several brain tumors that the doctors give a grade 4.

Tumors are graded on a scale of 1-4. 1 is good. 4 is not. Though they admit to a possibility of being wrong, they’re treating it like a 4. (It’s possible the grade is 2-3. Her’s is an unusual case.) Her doctor said when people get a diagnosis like this, life becomes about 2 things: What is important and what is not.

I’ve noticed that aging is moving me to the same conclusion, but with Donna, the thought process is accelerated. Her beautiful family, her faith, her most treasured friends, and the lost are now what’s important to her.

I did not become a Christian until age 32, and the word lost infuriated me. I wasn’t lost. I was an intelligent, capable woman with a college degree, a job, several boyfriends (yeah, let’s not go there), and lots of friends who thought and acted just like me. So, what was I lost from? That’s what I wanted to know. I didn’t feel lost. There are multiple ways to explain that, but for now, I’m only going to say that after I became a Christian, I was stunned at my lost self. I am still dumb-founded by that girl in her 20’s, and how she perceived and understood the world.

What strikes me, looking back, was my refusal of all Christian thought on the basis of how ridiculously stupid and intolerant I thought it was, but how quickly I accepted and made my own (without stopping to question), the world’s view on almost any subject–political to personal–especially if it leaned left and liberal. Please don’t read that, now, I blindly accept one thing while refusing everything else. I don’t. If anything, I question everything more. This includes my Christian beliefs and friends, and worldly wisdom. I may still be blonde, but clueless has left the building.

Our college, Furman University, would tell Donna and I that they taught us critical thinking skills, but they didn’t. They taught us worldly wisdom and worldly conclusions. I’m not talking solid-based research on, say, polio vaccinations type-worldly conclusions. There is much the world has discovered and applied in amazingly positive ways.

I’m talking life here. I’m talking what you do when you find out you have brain cancer with grade 4 tumors, and you’re facing radiation and chemotherapy.

If you’re my most beloved and treasured friend, you get on your knees and begin to pray with urgency for the lost.

Sure, she prays for herself. We have a list of healing verses that we’re praying for her. She wants to be healed. She’s my age, 56. She has an 18-month-old grandchild, an adoring husband of 30+ years, a house I am seriously jealous of (with the most charming garden), a beautiful daughter-in-law (in spirit and in person), 2 accomplished and loving children, a sister (they are so close), brothers, father, and friends. She has so much life ahead of her and we’re focused on that. We’re focused on taking our granddaughters (we currently have four!) to the beach when they’re old enough and their moms will part with them for a week. That’s been on our list for years; just the girls and the grandmas.

But, that doctor was right. For Donna, life is now about what’s important and what’s not. So, she prays fervently for the lost while she prays for her family and healing. I have prayed with her. Beside her couch, using her pretty, pillow shams to buffer the old knees.

If I made my what’s important and what’s not list right now, I’d have to admit that the lost don’t get top billing, though I “once was lost but now am found.” (Note to self: To whom much is given, much is expected.) But, as Donna has always known, we’ll spend way more time in eternity than this blip of life on earth, and how deeply the Father wants us all together. How deeply my dear Donna wants us all together.

I don’t for a second believe that Furman put that purposeful brunette and that clueless blonde together. I trust that the Lord made that roommate assignment. Someone had to pray for me. I was lost. That someone is still praying, and it doesn’t get anymore important than that.

donna and cinthia transplanted and still blooming cinthia milner


marigold, transplanted and still blooming, cinthia milner

How to Make Your Dreams Come True

I have a dream. And for 45 years, I’ve been waiting on that dream to show up in my life.

Yesterday, I walked to my little town’s movie theater to watch The 2nd Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I’ll admit it wasn’t as good as the first, even with Richard Gere in it, but the wedding scene made it worth the cash. The wedding scene is exuberant, joyful, full of dancing, and so much dang fun. It puts a smile on your face. It was the best part of the movie because the main character, Sonny, does it again. He figures out his dilemma, gets out of his own way, and makes a pretty great comeback.

If you’ve done that in your life, please raise your hand (or comment below).

If you’re still waiting to do that, please raise your hand (or comment below).

The movie works because each character has a dream, a yearning, but while they stall, ponder, wait, agonize, and worry (you’re thinking, you’re not getting any younger here), Sonny’s passion, youth and desire is juxtaposed against these characters who have lived long enough to lose a few dreams. They know, not all dreams come true. It’s easy to understand their hesitancy to dive back in.

Where do you go when your dreams don’t come true? What’s next?

The movie ends happily, of course, with everyone getting some traction beneath them, and moving toward their new dream. Relationships, jobs, marriage, not-marriage. Death is certain, they learn, but so is life. There is no time like the Present Time.

Of course, that’s all movie-talk, and we all can’t look like Judi Dench with her super-cute haircut, silver-grey hair and blue eyes.

But, we can all dream.

I know this guy who lives with his girlfriend. They’ve lived together 20+ years. She’s always wanted to get married. He never has. When I asked him why (because truly no two people were ever more compatible), he said he was waiting on the girl of his dreams. Oh, don’t get him wrong, he likes his live-in girlfriend, she is loads of fun, and a real nice girl, but she isn’t the one. He went on to describe the one, every man’s dream–tall, blonde, buxom, and gorgeous–and said when he found her, he’d marry her. (Okay, a little silly on his part, the eye-candy-wife, and we could easily argue that he’d already found the one in his brunette, non-buxom, short girlfriend, but that’s not the point.) My conversation with him was 20+ years ago, and I asked him, “Do you think that blonde, buxom and gorgeous girl is going to come knocking on your door while you’re living with another woman?”

I can be blunt and a bit tactless.

Listen, if we skip all the he was using the girlfriend until he found the wife conversation/judgment, and just let him talk, here’s what we might hear: Maybe, he is afraid of finding the woman of his dreams. So instead, he settles for what he doesn’t care if he loses, and hides behind their apartment door. If he was more like Sonny, he’d be the one knocking on doors until he found the one. May we all be more like Sonny.

My take-away from The 2nd Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: The dream may never present itself. You may need to go looking for it.




spring daffodil, transplanted and still blooming, cinthia milner

5 Things To Do Now That It is Spring

It is spring.

Well, officially at 6:45 p.m. today, but feel free to go ahead and celebrate. It’s been one doozy of a winter.

My co-worker, plant affascinato-partner-in-crime, dance partner (yes, we silly dance), and all round goof-ball of a friend, Carol, made the comment yesterday that you sure were sick a lot this winter. Oh my. Truth in spades.

The flu and grey skies. Who’s excited for spring? Me too.

But, I insist we hit the pause button before spring-fever begets spring-fervor.

Here’s why:

I’m going to call it spring-panic. Each spring my clients go into full-on spring-panic mode. One sweet woman texted yesterday to tell me that here it is 70 degrees and I have not pruned one rose bush, not even one. She only has two. I refrained from asking her if she had power-washed the deck yet.

Spring brings with it a load of chores, some necessary, most not. So, before you start making your list and checking it twice, here’s my spring to-dos for my clients. See what you think.

1. Acknowledge. Don’t dive into those spring projects without stopping to acknowledge the season. Don’t miss it. Pick daffodils, get your vitamin D by being outside, listen to the birds chirping, notice the mint-green leaves budding out on trees. No one is promised tomorrow. Today is the blessing. Be blessed by sunshine and spring rains and spring bulbs. Stroll. Spring is simply made for strolling. So, stroll and be blessed by the sweetness of the season.

Because maybe, your winter was a doozy, too.

2. Delete. Double check that chore list. Do you really need to do all that? This may not be the year you start a vegetable garden, or a new landscape plan, or decide 100 baby chickens is a good idea. So, get your pen out, and cross something(s) off that to-do list.

Listen to me: You don’t have to do it all.

3. Delegate. Even if it means getting your check-book out. My newly-divorced friend is hiring the mow-blow-and-go guys to do her yard this summer because, well, she’s not superwoman. And, neither are you. Help the local economy out, hire someone to do some of those chores, and free up some time for fun. For what? FUN.

The whole DIY thing is so over-rated.

4. Add. Like I said, FUN. Add it to your list. And, just so you know, fun can be porch-sitting with a glass of tea, reading a book, or taking a nap. Fun doesn’t have to be glamorous. Plan a weekend trip to nowhere, or a day trip to a pretty garden. And, while you’re at that pretty garden, do not say, not even once, I wish my garden looked like this, just enjoy the garden and go home.

Definition of fun: restorative, not exhausting or expensive.

5. Breathe. Open a window, sit on a porch, sit in your car with the windows down, or take a walk, but remember to breathe in the fresh spring air. How sweet is that smell? Relax your shoulders, un-crunch that neck, and breathe. A friend of mine used to say that while we shouldn’t smoke, we should do what smokers do; take breaks and breathe.

Bag the chore list (chores aren’t going anywhere) and breathe in spring.

Now, let the spring-panic subside, and oh yeah, feel free to stop by the store to silly dance with Carol and I. What else have you got to do?


sleeping child transplanted and still blooming cinthia milner

Being a Christian Because I Needed Some Real Answers

I’m going to talk about being a Christian this morning. (I know, some of you just clicked off.) But stay with me here for a few lines. I’ll keep it short. I’m going to tell you my story, and how I got here.

I wasn’t always a believer. In fact, I was 32 when I became one. I was on top of a mountain, all by myself, having gone for a hike that day, when I began to follow Jesus. He came to me there and asked, “Who do you say I am?” (Not physically for those who are literal like I am.) It was a heart thing and totally unexpected. Up until then, I had said Jesus was likely a good teacher or prophet or some such, but in that second, I said, “You are the Lord.” And, he’s been Lord in my life ever since. No, not perfectly so. I don’t submit to him in everything. I wish I did, and maybe I’ll get there.

As Ruth Bell Graham had put on her tombstone, “Construction is finished. Thank you for your patience.” Amen.

I was at a point that I didn’t want the world to tell me how to think or live anymore. I wanted God to tell me, though I didn’t realize it at the time. I was still looking for a savior in any form (guy on a white horse, a job, a new town, friends, a new dress). Yes, there’s plenty the world can teach me, but the first Sunday School class I went to after becoming a Christian was led by a guy who brought the Sunday newspaper in with him. The idea was that we’d read the headlines and discuss what we thought about world events. But, I didn’t want to know what the people in the class thought (though they were all nice folks), I wanted to know what God thought. Einstein said, “I want to know God, the rest are details.” I was right there with Einstein. I needed God. I needed God to tell me what to do. Other people are in the same boat I’m in. We’re all rowing terribly hard, and getting nowhere fast.

I needed real answers.

By following worldly wisdom, I”d made some superiorly ridiculous decisions. I was 32, exhausted and needed true help. I figured since God created the world, then he had a pretty good idea of how I should live in it.  I was tired of holding the world up. Maybe not the whole world, but, mine.

I remember coming across this verse:

It is vain for you to rise early, come home late, and work so hard for your food. Yes, he can provide for those whom he loves even when they sleep. Psalm 127:2

I read that and took a nap. I’d spent my life trying to maintain control while looking for something that would bring me happiness. Happiness in a world where suffering is the norm is hard to find.

Giving my life over to God, some say, makes me a wimp. Well, call me a wimp.

I got tired of controlling my own destiny, plus it just didn’t make sense. I didn’t even create this life that I live, so that argument is already out the window from the get-go. I came into this world with no effort of my own, it was beginning to make sense that living it as if I created it was even more superiorly crazy. Giving control of it to the one who did create it seemed the only reasonable thing to do. And so, that day on the mountain, I said, out loud, “Well, I’ve made a mess of this life, let’s see what you can do with it.” (Impertinent has always been an issue for me.)

I said I’d keep it short, so I will. The word grace is what I’ll end with. Grace is relief in spades. Grace is God’s way of saying I’ve got you covered. Your life, your screw-ups (hey, guess what, I’m going to use those!), your future (yes, I’ve got a plan), your eternal destiny (yes, eternal), and so you rest. Rest in the grace of knowing I love you and I will take care of you.






garden carrots transplanted and still blooming cinthia milner

Veggie Gardens (and) Dahlia Gardens (and) Empty Nests

Yesterday, a friend was bemoaning her soon-to-be empty nest. Two beautiful girls graduating (one from high school and one from college), and the college girl getting married. All within a couple of weeks of each other. Her house will go from hustle and bustle to tomb-stone quiet. Her therapist suggested a hobby. Why do therapists think hobbies are a good replacement for kids?  Anyway, gardening was suggested, but she’s never gardened, and hasn’t a clue where to begin.

So, if your kids are leaving, or you’re just bored and feeling a tad interested in gardening, here’s a wee bit of advice.

Start with a veggie garden.

#1 reason why: You are rewarded with your own food. You’ll have the delicious thrill of holding in your hand, one sun-warmed, juicy-ripe tomato that you grew. What better hobby than one that produces produce?

#2 reason why: You will till, sow, weed, water, harvest, and basically tend to your garden, if not daily, several times a week. It is gardening 101+.

It is baptism by veggies.

You’ll begin by finding the sunniest spot in your yard. You need what I call parking-lot sun. Direct sun 10-4 is best. If you live with no yard, containers work too. I grow my lettuces in big, fancy pots that I used to plant elaborate container gardens in, but now prefer the lettuces. And, since there’s no reason to reinvent the how-to-garden, veggie garden instructions, here’s a great book on getting started. It’s fairly cheap on Amazon, or I’d bet the local library has a copy. I have one copy if anyone wants to borrow it, and feel free to pass it along to the next gardener-in-training when you’re done.

Veggie Garden Book Ed Smith

Here’s the link for his book.

Side Note: I regularly tell my clients, you don’t have to do everything in the book. I’m generally speaking metaphorically, but in this case, I mean it. This guy loves his vegetable garden, but you’re allowed to start small. Overwhelmed = Failure. Do a 1/4 of what this book suggests. Another little, pithy thing I tell clients, it is easier to add than to delete.

We want success here.

Last bit of advice: Buy and plant dahlia bulbs around your veggie garden. (You buy these now, and get them in the ground over the next few weeks.) They’ll bloom late summer when the veggies are winding down, and keep you motivated to get out to the garden and clean up the summer veggies, or plant fall veggies. Here’s inspiration.

firepot dahlia transplanted and still blooming cinthia milner

Firepot Dahlia


dahlia garden transplanted and still blooming cinthia milner

Assorted Dahlias

dahlia transplanted and still blooming cinthia milner



tomato cinthia milner transplanted and still blooming tomato

No You Cannot Plant Tomatoes Now. Here’s What You Can Plant.

Everyone is dying, and I do mean dying, to dig in the dirt. My sister texts me almost daily with a “Can I start….?” And, every body really wants to get their tomatoes in the ground. So, here’s a little jingle for you:

Tomatoes won’t grow if it’s 50 or below.

But, to make you happy while you wait to plant your tomatoes, here’s a quick YES YOU CAN ON WHAT YOU CAN go ahead and plant. Let’s get in the dirt.

For you veggie gardeners.

When the soil is warm enough for you to dig, there are some veggies you can plant. A lot of vegetables like the cooler temperatures and can even take some frost. Rule of thumb: nurseries follow the gardening schedule, i.e. if it’s in the garden center, you can likely go ahead and plant it. So, here’s a few things to get you started, and have you harvesting long before your tomatoes get in the ground.

  • Lettuces, spinach, argulua, raddicho–all those good salad ymmies can go in the ground now
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Brussel sprouts (I have a great recipe for those included at the bottom.)
  • Cauliflower
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Cilantro (This one is iffy, but I plant now because once the weather gets warm, it bolts.)

For those interested in landscaping.

The question is: May I plant trees and shrubs now? 

The answer: Yes.

So long as those plants are watered. It is not the cold that will kill them, but the lack of water. I water new plantings (even in winter/early spring) with a drip line hose, twice a week for about 5-10 minutes depending on the plant’s size (the bigger trees/shrubs, obviously the longer). The goal is to get the roots established, and you want those roots to go deep. So drip lines are good for soaking deeply. But again, please remember that the nurseries will bring in certain plants at certain times. So, while you can find lots of conifers, fruit trees, berry bushes, and spring blooming camellias now, those billions of hydrangeas you see in garden centers come May and June aren’t quite here yet.

For you perennial lovers.

Go back indoors.

Kidding, but you will need to wait just a few more weeks. There are some great Lenten Roses (Hellebores) you can plant now, a few groundcovers would be okay. But most perennials are still just roots. So hold off on those lovely blooming things for a few more weeks. Don’t worry, you’ll soon have more pots of things than you can plant.

For everyone.

Use your Preen now. Weeds seem immune to weather. Get a head start.


Warm Brussel Sprout Slaw with Bacon

  • 3/4 thick sliced bacon cut into 1/2″ pieces (Olive oil can be substituted.)
  • 4 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • 2 lbs of brussel sprouts thinly sliced in food processor
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, cored, coarsely shredded and pat dry (FYI: I cut mine into thin slices and use that way, it works too)
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves

Cook bacon, drain, reserve 1/4 grease. Melt butter in pan, and add brussel sprouts in batches, cooking over high heat until soft (5-8 minutes). Add thyme, apples, and cook until apples are warmed through. Add bacon back to mixture and serve. 

This recipe is from a friend who would likely die if I mentioned her on a blog, so I won’t. But, I do work for her brother. See if you can guess who. 


pints of blueberries transplanted and still blooming cinthia milner

Practicing Gratitude in the Rain

A friend texted me to ask how my day was.

I texted back. I began:

My ribs hurt so bad from coughing from the flu last week, and we were unloading a lot of heavy plant material today, so that only made my ribs worse, and it was raining and icky outside. I tried to run an errand at lunch but the traffic was crazy, and the pharmacy didn’t have what I needed ready. I came home, took a shower and crashed. How was your day?

But, I stopped myself before hitting send and read it. That was a pretty depressing text! So, here’s what I sent instead:

It was okay. The rain let up around 11. We had lots of heavy, plant material to get unloaded so that kept us busy. I was able to run an errand during lunch. How was your day?

Such a tiny, little shift in my brain, but it worked. It made me appreciate my day. The rain did let up, something I’d actually prayed for on my first official day back, and just recovering from the flu. We were able to stay busy all day and thankfully so. Nothing is worse than being in pain, and being bored. It just causes you to focus on the pain. I did get an errand done at lunch, but more importantly, I needed to ask how her day was. What was happening in her life? It changed my whole evening. I went from thinking the day had been pretty yuck to thinking it was a pretty good day.

When my kids were little, we did nightly devotions. We began this family time by saying one thing we each were grateful for. Then we read Scripture, discussed it and said prayers. I kept a journal of our evening devotions, and can go back now and read what each of us were thankful for on any particular day for a decade. I am grateful I did that because that journal is a treasure to me now.

Here’s a few I from the kids:

  • A cup of hot chocolate.
  • It snowed! School closed!
  • Lasagna.
  • The birds at the bird feeder.
  • My warm bed.
  • My friend Todd, whose dad is Elvis Presley. (I just wrote it down.)
  • My family.
  • Platypus (the dog).
  • That George lets me cheat off his paper. (Again, I just wrote it down.)
  • Papaw and Memaw.
  • No homework.

It was my blessed moment in a mom’s busy life, listening to her children speak what brought them joy. I’ll admit it was harder for me and my ex. The adults found it difficult to find gratitude in the midst of the adult stresses of life. But forcing myself to examine my day, and find something I was grateful for at the end of it. sent me to bed with a smile and a different perspective on life.

So, for old time’s sake, and a re-framing of mind concerning my day, these are the things I am grateful for today:

  • Ibuprofen.
  • My bed!
  • Aggie (the dog).
  • Little Kitty (the cat :).
  • Blueberries.
  • Earl Grey Tea.
  • Friends who text me to ask how my day was.
  • Late night rain but clear skies during the day.
  • Plants.
  • Fun co-workers.
  • A warm, cozy house.
  • Soft socks.
  • Waterproof boots.
  • Seeing Ellen again.
  • A washer and dryer.
  • Donna and Jennifer.
  • Hot showers.
  • Doggie day care.

I could go on, but lesson learned. Grumble and complain or rejoice and be grateful. I’ll go for the latter. And you? Would you mind leaving a comment of one thing you’re grateful for today? What brought you joy today? I’d love to hear.








Are You Tall, Exceedingly Tall?

True Story.

My best friend in high school was Christine. I spent many nights at her house in Woodside Hills in the downstairs den. The den had a big, soft, corduroy couch, a huge, brick fireplace (loved it), a table, and a work space behind the couch that was filled with pine cones. Her mother made pine cone wreaths, and I assume, it was a bit of an obsession as pine cones were generally everywhere. Christine’s father, a forester, I gathered, was the one responsible for the gathering. Although, I think the husband and wife team spent a lot of time gathering together. I loved the wreaths. Most of the couples I knew played bridge, or in my parent’s case, golf. So, I thought it was super sweet that he helped her gather pine cones, and assemble wreaths, and that it wasn’t bridge or golf, but something different. Something that required they spend hours in that den wrapping floral wire around pine cones–just the two of them.

Christine’s mom was a stay-at-home-mom, right around the time that was beginning to be out of fashion. I think she sold the pine cone wreaths at local art fairs, and made extra Christmas money.She was very frugal.

Her frugal ways extended to her daughter’s wardrobe. She made both her daughters’ school clothes. Each fall, she would take the girls shopping, and they’d pick out all the things they liked, and then, instead of buying it, she’d go home and make it. Her sewing skills were pretty phenomenal, and I was always surprised that their home-made clothes turned out as good as the real deal. But, here’s the deal.

The mother constantly told Christine to beware of the shoes she bought to go with the outfits. We were in high school and boys were on our minds, and Christine was very tall, exceedingly tall. So, flats were her only option if she didn’t want to look down on every guy. While I was beginning to pick out heels to go with my Sunday dresses and prom dresses, Christine was stuck with ballet flats. We both thought that was just the worst.

Skip ahead four years to college degrees and professional jobs, and Christine and i are roommates trying to build careers. She was better at focusing on her career than I was. I was better at going on dates. But finally, she met a guy she thought was worth the trouble, and the hunt for the dress for the big night began. We went to the new Asheville Mall.

The difference was that, now, I was the one reminding her that she was tall, exceedingly tall. Flats were her only option.

We found the dress. A red slip of a thing that made Christine’s naturally black, curly hair and fair skin stand out like Cinderella, Except, with flats, the dress fell flat. She really needed heels to make the perfect dress perfect.(This was before the days of Nicole Kidman towering over Tom Cruise on the red carpet.) We were in the dressing room, looking at her profile in the three-way mirror. We felt she’d never looked better. Bemoaning what to do, wondering if he’d care if she looked down on him, and basically feeling like shopping failures, I asked hopefully, “Well, how tall is he?” She thought for a second and said, “Maybe 5’10.” I muttered what a shame he wasn’t at least 6′.

Then, I asked a question I’d never asked Christine, “How tall are you?”

“5′ 4,”  she said.

I am 5′ 6 1/2″  which meant, I looked down on her! “Christine,” I said, “You’re not tall. You’re not exceedingly tall!”

Turns out Christine’s mother was barely 5′. So, to her, Christine was terribly tall.

But to the rest of the world? Christine wasn’t small, but she was not exceedingly tall. Red dress and heels went home with us, and we drank a bottle of wine to high heels, and new revelations, and I hung up my pine cone wreath. My Christmas present that year from Christine’s mom.

just myself transplanted and still blooming cinthia milner

No, I’m Not Crazy; I’m Just Not You

When I was pregnant, I felt like superwoman. I thought I could conquer the world. I was creating a life. Step back. My hormones were in perfect sync. (Please don’t hate me. It’s the only time they ever were.) I am one of those women that was happier pregnant than not. I wish I could be pregnant all the time, but without the arrival a baby in 9 months. While I was pregnant, something clicked inside of me, and it was a click I’d been waiting on my whole life.

I knew my brain was short one screw (or several) toward normal. I felt I lacked clarity, sureness of self, confidence, social skills, and worst of all, decision-making abilities. Then I got pregnant. and felt like really, what’s the big deal? When my husband called me at work and asked if I’d stop by the grocery store on the way home (and it was quite literally on the way home), I didn’t want to weep. I went to the store. It was so simple.

I was able to keep this oh-so-not-a-big-deal attitude going straight through breast feeding. But then, I quit breastfeeding, and I was back to weeping at the grocery store.

Does anyone know what I’m talking about or is it just me? Why would a trip to the grocery store make a grown woman weep?

I felt the same way when I took Prozac for a day. A psychiatrist prescribed it for me and he said, “It’ll take six weeks for you to notice a difference. For it to get into your system.” Heck no. It took all of 24 hours. And again, I felt that click. Only this time, I was not pregnant, and the kids were 5 and 1.

Here’s what happened:

My then-5-year old asked if we could stop on the way home (from work and day-care), and get a video (back in the day). His brother was under 1. Which meant, you already know this, getting the baby out of the car seat, and keeping up with the 5-year-old in the video store, while jiggling the baby that wanted to go to sleep but could not, or it would mess up the night’s sleep routine. (And every mother knows, you don’t mess with the sleep routine.) And, this with dinner still to be made, baths given, and monster checks done (a billion times), and the hope (the desperate hope) that somehow I might-maybe, just might-maybe, get 5 minutes to myself after the kids were in bed.

Here’s the take-away: I said yes to the 5-year-old that wanted to stop at the video store. I felt like, I can do this. So, we got the baby out of the car seat, and got our video, and got back in the car, and then I had a 10 on a 1-10 scale anxiety attack, and had to sit there deep breathing with the car door open, and the children screaming. It seems Prozac can cause massive anxiety attacks in certain people, especially people who react to it as quickly as I did.

I handed my prescription back to the psychiatrist, and wondered, is there anything else? No more breastfeeding. No more Prozac. What was going to make my brain click and me normal?

Normal being a mom (or anybody) who could go to a grocery store and not consider it a death sentence, or pick up videos for the night and not contemplate leaving for Utah or Idaho, or wherever Sundance is, in hopes of becoming one of the privileged people who have other people buy their groceries.

Though, let’s face it. I’m not an adventurous girl. If I can’t get to the grocery store, chances are slim I’m heading out at sundown for Sundance.

But I wondered. So, what was that click?

Or, why am I not the Mom who loves being in charge of the booster club? Surely, she grew up with a clicked brain.

Then, I met a man at The Cove (the Billy Graham Training Center) this past fall. He was a Coastie like my son, and so we spoke through-out the weekend. I do not remember his name (it rhymed with crouton), but he said something wonderful. He explained that he believed communication was messed up along with creation, and mankind, and the universe when sin entered the world. “Think of it,” he said, “Communication in the garden was perfect. They weren’t comparing themselves to anyone or feeling misunderstood, because communication was such that they could completely understand each other. And, in that understanding, completely love each other.”

I wanted to kiss Mr. Crouton because my brain clicked for the third time in my adult life, and without benefit of hormones or Prozac to force it. I knew the problem. It was communication. That’s what was missing.

My ability to say, no, I can’t be you. I really can’t. But, I can be me.

Comparing myself to others had created what I thought was the missing part of my brain. The only gauge a kid has is what others are doing and how they are doing it. And, in the world I lived in, people showed confidence and go-get-em attitudes, exactly how I felt while pregnant or during the 12 hours Prozac was my friend.

Pregnancy hormones super-charged me and for 9 months I had more energy than I’ve had the other 642 months of my life. Prozac boosted me, and for 1 day I wasn’t overwhelmed by life’s overwhelming nature. The rest of the time? I was just me. And, I’m beginning to understand that me is okay. Click.