humble pie

Humble Pie? Yes, Please.

Want a piece of humble pie? Try this. Read your old journals. I’ve been reading my old journals. That I’ve written since I was 12. I can’t even.

Describes me from age 12 to say, 45: Narcissistic. Silly. Ridiculous. Delusional.

I know, you’re thinking, uh, yeah. We knew.

Then why the heck didn’t you tell me? But you were narcissistic (and often the victim), you say. True. I’d have thought it was like, so your problem not mine. Like NBD. Learn some boundaries, people. I’m on my journey. You’re on yours.

I wish age wasn’t the thing here. The thing that allows you to stop. Stop the obsessing about yourself. Stop the insanely, crazy idea that you must be happy or well, well, you just must. (Truly, happiness is a state of mind.) I wish age didn’t soften the edges or turn the mind toward others, but it does.

I used to love watching my mother with her friends. They were so very careful with each other’s lives. Their conversations brought ease, distraction, laughter, encouragement, help, or just passed the time. Certain subjects were off limits. The child that died at 40 from cancer. The husband with Alzheimer. The best friend with stage 4 colon cancer. What was the need to discuss, ad nauseam, when nothing changed, and there was still life to be lived?

I hear my younger self’s voice, and she and her friends discussing everything–husbands, kids, parents, jobs, houses, siblings–always purporting to know everything and even better, how to fix everybody. I am glad my silly, narcissistic, ridiculous, delusional self wasn’t completely alone.

Now, like that horror movie you just can’t turn away from, I find myself face buried in my journals, flipping page to page. Humiliation burns into my soul with each new paragraph, but I can’t stop myself. What was I thinking? I wasn’t. I wasn’t thinking or truly, would my rational mind write such dribble?

I want to scream to everyone who knew me then: I AM NOT THAT PERSON NOW.

But is that true? Something to journal about, I suppose.

My prayer, these last 4 years, has been for humility. These journals are a huge slice of humble pie, so prayer heard. I’m not alone. As FaceBook so often attests these days, a piece of humble pie would benefit us all, but I’ll take mine first and I want a large slice, please.

I’ve reached an age where I cannot fathom unkindness, no matter your political affiliations or religion or how right you may be, though I haven’t learned to love the one who is unkind, yet. Name calling and finger pointing make my stomach turn, though I am still stuck on so many stereotypes. Vulgarity makes me cringe, and words that serve no purpose other than to show the foulness in our hearts are simply words I don’t want to hear anymore, though I wonder, especially with my children, do my non-vulgar words build up or tear down?

I ask myself this question, am I still absorbed in me? Unfortunately, yes. May I have another piece of pie?

Am I able to say, I am not that person now? Could I, with confidence, say I have changed?

Maybe I could whisper those words, just barely utter them, but a declaration?


My journals expose the truth of how wrapped up in my life I was, how tormented by my own thoughts I was. It was a vicious cycle. One that had the simplest answer. Put the pen down, close the journal, and GO DO SOMETHING PRODUCTIVE. My, how I whined. My, how I did not proactively change a thing about myself or my circumstances. My, how I was waiting on everyone else to change. They didn’t.

The lesson I’ve learned, besides my big dose of humility? I’ll quote the psychiatrist who gets credit for me not whining anymore: “Why journal? You obsess enough without it.”


The one positive about all the volumes of handwritten agony? They’ll make great fire starters this winter.

I know some of you are thinking, journaling helps me to process. It’s a good thing. I hope it is for you. For me, I have learned that so much of life isn’t to be analyzed, but to be lived. I’ve learned by showing up and doing. I’ve learned to live a life that doesn’t match my dreams, and to make this life my dream. I’m learning to love people who disappoint me. I learning to love myself when I disappoint me. I’m learning that while words are incredible, couple them with actions and you have healing.

My Uncle died yesterday and my cousin remembered him this way, “He hugged you like he never wanted to let go.”

That’s the best way to be remembered, isn’t it? Let’s live that life, then maybe journal that.



How Long Do You Get to Live?

Just yesterday.

A woman said.

“I can live until 77.” Cracking a joke everyone over 50 identifies with.

I thought, when is the value of a life measured in dollars and cents?

Of course, she was referring to her retirement account and it’s longevity. Which seems to be the determinate of a lifespan (at least among my crowd) these days.

Saving for retirement is a lot like saving for a child’s college. Completely necessary, often forgotten, and, I would add, not always realistic when college tuition is skyrocketing, and stocks are dive bombing. I was told 2 things regarding old age.

  1. Marry well so someone can take care of you in your old age.
  2. If you don’t marry well, have a lot of children so they can take care of you in your old age.

I did neither. I’ll add that neither did I work for the state, so they could take care of me in my old age. The conclusion: Someone is necessary to take care of me in my old age. I rebel at the thought, while recognizing the changes age is definitely bringing with it.


That describes my emotions as I move into this last 1/3 of my life.


That’s the word I hear from financial planners to insurance salesman to my AARP magazines. Plan for retirement, plan for long-term care (they turned me down), plan to downsize so my expenses are less. You cannot plan enough. Who can plan all of that and even hope to get it right?

I don’t really want to know when I’m going to die, but truly if one did know, and the means thereof, the planning would be a tad easier.


I’m told to enjoy these final years. I find that word a bit pandering.

Someone recently told me that life was not a spiraled progression but a series of circles. We stay in one circle until it’s time to go to the next one. And then we must leap to the next one. The time immediately before leaping is the hardest. We don’t often know what circle is next or what to expect when we get there.

I don’t like the stereotypical circles for “elderly,” retirement communities, cruise ships, nursing homes. I can’t see myself in any of those circles. They remind me of the show my College Son watches, The Dome. an encapsulated place predetermined by God knows who that is supposed to meet my needs, but doesn’t quite, and even separates you from family in some cases. But, I don’t think I’m so smart I can outwit old age, and avoid those places. Sometimes life is about finding meaning and purpose right where you are, encapsulated in a dome or not.

If I had a bucket list, it would have only one thing on it: Purpose.

I want my last years to be an exercise in addition not subtraction. What can I add too? Where can I give? Where is the circle that accepts what I still have to offer? I want my days, when I am laid to rest and the reminiscing starts,  to be added together, each day added to the previous one to equal the sum of a life with purpose. Giving, loving, blessing, contributing, belonging. If subtraction enters the equation, I only want it to do so based on what I gave, not on what I depleted.

And, if there is any money left in any accounts (and, hey, don’t forget all those off-shore accounts :), then oh, do spread it around. Don’t stress over it’s longevity. Cast it onto the waters,  and see how it returns.

Preparing for Death and Climbing Mt. Everest


Call me morbid, but I have realized recently that death is imminent. One of my sisters made the comment that, if statistics are correct, then one of the four of us will die within the next ten years. While I hope stats are wrong, the possibility is a very real one. I don’t relish it.

And yet, I call myself a Christian.

Why bring that up? I guess I thought being a Christian meant I’d be completely prepared for death, maybe even looking forward to it since I’m a big fan of Jesus. But, if being honest is a virtue, then me being virtuous is me saying, I am so not ready for that. I’m not ready for one of my sisters to die. I’m not ready to die.

When the kids were little, I’d often pray, “Just until they’re both 18, then I can die, Lord.” Now, I want to see my granddaughters get married. My deadline for death shifts bit-by-bit each year as new loved ones come along (the grand-girls) and new memories are made. How does one let go of life when there is so much of it?

That’s the question, isn’t it? How does one let go of life?

By having faith that more life is beyond this one than is imaginable.

After Jesus is resurrected, he is talking with Peter while walking on the beach. He tells Peter that when Peter is old he will go where he does not want to go. Jesus says it to Peter as follows in John 21:18-19:

18 I’m telling you the very truth now: When you were young you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished, but when you get old you’ll have to stretch out your hands while someone else dresses you and takes you where you don’t want to go.”19 He said this to hint at the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. And then he commanded, “Follow me.”

Many believe Jesus was referring to the fact that Peter would die a death of crucifixion. (He and his wife, upside down no less.) That makes sense and I cannot fathom such a horrific death, but verse 18 is one that runs through my head lately. As I witness parents of friends experience this very thing–once young and independent, now old and dependent. They rely on children to be understanding and helpful–to dress them, feed them, drive them, and yes, even take them where they may not want to go.

Growing old gracefully is a new thought indeed. Am I up for the challenge?

Some refuse to accept growing old and so they’re out climbing Mt. Everest. Forgive me for this, but boring. Once you get to the top, you have the chore of coming down. And, while it would seem that would be easy part, it actually isn’t. Climbing down a mountain can be as challenging as climbing up one.

And, climbing down feels like the challenge now.

Yes, I still have mountains ahead with plenty of adventures and excitement left, but I also have the responsibility of preparing for death. Read that sentence again.

I have the responsibility of preparing for death.

How will I do that? By remembering, and believing in the most clear and definitive way that more life awaits me there than ever could here. And by there, I do mean heaven.

Yes, this preparation feels like climbing down a mountain to me. Like I’m being led to where I do not want to go.

But, if Scripture is correct, (and I believe it is), then I am not climbing down but going up. Stephen, the first Christian martyr looked up and saw Jesus sitting at the right hand of God, as they were stoning him.  Jesus ascended when he left this earth. Elijah went up in a fiery chariot to heaven. The tower of Babel was built up to reach the heavens. On the last day we will rise up to meet Jesus as he descends down. All of this feels so surreal and unreal as I prepare myself mentally for the death I will most certainly have.

In this journey ahead, I may feel like I am climbing down the mountain as the years click by, but I am actually climbing up, bit-by-bit, not to Mt. Everest, but to heaven. And, once I am there, I thankfully do not have the chore of coming back down.

Plants Gonna Die, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Plants Gonna Die

On this morning of a frost-filled night, there is but one thing to say, “Plants gonna die.”

Most of my clients will credit themselves with killing half the plants in Western North Carolina. And, if you consider the number of plants they have purchased and planted, they may not be too far off in their accounting. But, there is this odd notion held by almost all garden center-goers: They do not think plants die (unless at their hands). They have this tricky thought that if not for them and their lack of ability in the garden, plants would live forever. They most especially believe this regarding trees. To most novices, trees just don’t die.

Case in point. My favorite, hand’s-down-question-so-far-this-year:

What can I do for my dead tree?

A very kind gentleman, about 40-ish with a small child, grabbed me in the parking lot, wondering if we had anything to help his dead tree. A chainsaw? We don’t sell those.

He was serious.

They also think they are at fault for plants refusing to bloom (here they are generally right), or they go in the opposite direction and do not understand why plants don’t live in their standing water? Can’t I just put gravel in the hole? Or why don’t we have vines that grow in full shade, bloom all summer and are evergreen? See (they show me a picture on their phone)? I have a trellis right there.

Geez. If I had the plant that was evergreen and bloomed all summer and grew beautifully in dense shade, I’d be counting money instead of days between paychecks.

Listen up: Plants are living things and like some of the people we know, they will disappoint us. They will refuse to meet our expectations. As I will discover shortly when I venture outdoors, some of the more tender things I already planted (I know, I know, last frost date is Mother’s Day weekend), will have met their maker. In other words, some plants gonna die, or I should say, all plants gonna die sooner or later. It is a part of the circle of life. (Lion King, anyone?)

I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite quotes from garden-center goers.

I have 4 crape myrtles and none of them bloom. I’m here to buy another one. 

So you want 5 non-blooming crape myrtles? Okay. Let’s go pick out a pretty one.

I need a plant that stays 4’10” tall, is yellow and evergreen.

Amazingly, we generally find these “specific-plant-or-no-plant-folks” something that will work.

Do you make perennials that don’t lose their leaves and will bloom in winter?

I’ve yet to make a plant, which is why I’m counting days instead of money, but I can show you the silk department.

What do I do with the dead leaves from my perennial plants? Do I need to leave them there so the new leaves will come up?

Might as well. I haven’t cleaned up my garden in years. Sort of the case of the cobbler with no shoes, but hey, aside from the diseases and pests, everything is doing great.

If I buy 1 rose, will it split into 2?

That explains the roses that are popping up all over my yard. The darn things are splitting themselves in half when I’m not looking, and propagating everywhere.

Lastly, What is wrong with these plants. They keep dying. 

What can I say? Plants gonna die.

Plants Gonna Die, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

The mangled roots (poorly planted, roots should not look like that coming out of the ground, but that’s another blog), of a Japanese Magnolia, removed by Erica, our amazing grounds-keeper/designer. All I’ll say is, someone who knows better planted that. So sometimes, even the experts kill trees (or shrubs).




The Pocketbook, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

The Pocketbook

My mom, Frankie Ann, was the worst gift-giver.

I’d tell her exactly what to get–say a new book. I’d give her the title, the author, the date of publication, and I’d go by the store–the one that wasn’t “weird with no parking”–and tell the salesclerk to hold it for Mom. Her one task? To pick it up and pay for it.  Then gift day rolled around, and she’d proudly hand me some useless kitchen gadget. I don’t cook. And no, it wasn’t a hint to start cooking. She didn’t cook, either. She just tanked at giving gifts, and seriously there was no following her thinking on this, though she had a thought behind it. It was always a puzzlement to me. But, I did inherit this trait. My gifts are always last minute and so lackluster. (To all my dear friends, I apologize.)

But, Frankie Ann was stylish. One day we were having lunch at a favorite spot, having what she called, “our expensive salads,”  and she randomly pulled out a new pocketbook and said, “I can’t stand that purse you’re carrying, here I got you this one.” It rocked. A hot, little neon-blue number that I got a billion compliments on.

Thus, began the years of the purse-gift. From that day on, the only gift mom was allowed to give me was a pocketbook.

Solved her problem of tanking at gifts, and my problem of picking out ridiculous and cheap pocketbooks. (I hate dropping cash on a purse. I’ll spend whatever on shoes or a shirt, but a pocketbook? I’m always like, don’t you have one for $10? No. Of course, they don’t.)

The purse-gift became famous with my friends. When they saw the edgy-cute camo bag from Charming Charlie’s hanging over my shoulder, they said, “Frankie Ann?”  Yep.

We kept the purse-gift up for about a decade. Then she died on July 28 last year, very unexpectedly, and when fall came, I didn’t know what to do. I stood in Kohl’s just staring at the pocketbooks.

I dug out an old one and carried it–seams torn, and straps unraveling. (I’m pretty hard on a purse.)

Skip ahead to April 4, my birthday, and yet another pocketbook dilemma. My birthdays aren’t much fun anymore. One, I’m getting way too old way too fast. Two, my kids aren’t around to help celebrate. Three, mom isn’t here and, you know, when the other person who was there with you on the actual day of is gone, it’s just wrong.

But friends help, and plenty of mine showed up to wow the day. My friend Debbie and I share what I call the birthday week, meaning we can technically celebrate all week, if we want. I’m the 4th, she’s the 10th. I made the dinner reservations. She drove. The minute I got in the car, and saw the gift bag, I knew I’d been up-gifted.

She said she tried to channel Mom to give me just the right gift. You’d think I would have figured that out immediately, but I didn’t and was curious if I was going to get another useless kitchen gadget. (Channeling can go so wrong.) But Frankie Ann showed up in the channeling, and I got my birthday purse. The best, most thoughtful gift ever. Mom would’ve approved.

The Pocketbook, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Love the color. It’s smiling because it found it’s happy home.


I often say, because my mom’s death was so sudden, that I feel as though someone opened a door and pushed her through it. My granddaughter, who loved her Maurme (Frankie Ann), asked, “When is Maurme coming back?” Oh my. I keep asking the same thing. Will someone please open that door and push my mother back through?

But for that moment, in the gift of the pocketbook, Mom did come back. Debbie did channel mom, though maybe not as she thought, by picking out the coolest purse ever. She channeled her because she did something only moms do. She remembered.

I Will Garden (Part One)

It’s been a feverish week. My fever has stayed around 104 without medicine. 101 with it. I’m alternating Tylenol and Ibuprofen every two hours like I did with the kids when they were little and ran high temps. It’s the flu. 7-10 days I’m told. This is day 6. I don’t hold out much hope for day 10 if I continue like this. But, we’ll see.

Amazing how resilient the body is and yet, how not.

I will recover from this flu, though I suspect it will lag on into spring with a miserable cough, but the day will come when I tell my flu story during the February that all the doctors shut their doors due to “inclement weather.” There is several inches of ice in my backyard. The roads are fine (I know, I drove myself to the store out of necessity), but I suppose even doctors need breaks, and seized the excuse of black ice to have one.

Here’s the skinny: my mom died, and I’m going to garden again.

I know. Wow. Random, right? Nah. Because when you’ve lost both parents, as my absentee doctor says, it changes your position in the family. In other words, my granddaughters had three barriers between themselves and death. Their Maurme (my mom, their great-grandmother, so minus one barrier now), their YaYa, me, the grandmother, and their parents. While they could die early, it is more likely that they will pass the years as I have, and one day be the generation whose turn is death. Admittedly, I probably still have another 20-30 years, but just as likely, I may not. A dear friend, for whom I’d move heaven and earth to let no harm come to her,  is facing the unknown of her health right now, and we’ve texted late nights about the “what-ifs.” This is the hard stuff. Flat out. It just doesn’t get any harder than this.

I’ve arrived at the age where friends, siblings, and myself must look death straight on, and ask ourselves this question, what will be my response to death?

I will garden.

Because truth is, I don’t know yet. Death is a different subject than life, and I’m still dealing with the hassles and yes, joys, of life, no matter where my biological age has landed me. Life doesn’t say to you, oh, you need a moment to sort? Catch your breath?  Okay. Go ahead. Take a moment. I’m not sure how to navigate what seems like the very precarious space between life and death right now. I have to work. Pay bills. Eat. Do the normal things of everyday life while feeling like someone opened a door and shoved my mother through it, and I’m waiting on them to open it back up, and push her back into my life again.

I will garden.

Until my mind calms and creativity and death have formed some sort of pact.  I will go to the garden. I always have. It’s one place where peace reigns, time stands still, and death must linger beyond my garden gate, even when I am killing plants I’d rather keep alive.

I haven’t gardened in awhile. Not since I left South Turkey Creek. I didn’t see much point in actively gardening in a rental property, so mostly, I got the yard cleaned up, uncovered some pretty perennials, got rid of a billion firepower nandina (there is no plant I loathe more), and a few scraggly abelia that were in too much shade. It was rather like taking a good set of pruners outside and shaping things up a bit. But not much more. That’s what I did the first summer I was here.

The second summer, the unfinished path by the white picket fence was finally too much for me, so I finished it. I used cedar mulch for the path and planted David Austin roses to climb the fence. I splurged on an Agapanthus for Aggie. The fence faces South, and forms a barrier between the sidewalk, the roses, the path and the house. A great place for sun-loving plants, and since Brevard is located next to Pisgah National Forest (a rain forest), water and drying out in a Western exposure wasn’t an issue for the roses. It turned out to be the least mildew-inspiring spot. I jazzed up the the sidewalk side of the fence for walker-bys. It seemed a gracious thing to do. I chose fun plants for the kids: Echeveria, paddle plant (Kalanchoe thyrsiflora) and Euphorbia Myrsinites (Myrtle spurge or Donkey Tail), and colorful plants for the moms and those driving by: Salvia greggii ‘Hot lips’ lots of echinacea, penstemon, even day lilies (not a fan), but I wasn’t going for what I liked. I bought off the sale table at work. The succulents wouldn’t live through our presently 6 degree winter, but they were cheap, and lively, and added texture among the lilies and fancy penstemon. It worked. Folks stopped during their morning and evening walks to admire and ask what this or that was.

But, that was it really. Renter’s curb appeal. Being a good neighbor and keeping my yard ship-shape. The only true gardening I did was a test garden. As a horticulturist, the only way to know how it grows is to grow it.

But now, here I am. At this awkward and yes, scary place in life. I find myself wondering which friend, which sister is possibly next? Such morbid thoughts but death has that quality to it. So, this morning with dawn’s light creeping into my backyard, and prayers whispered for my dear friend who’ll spend her day chasing down doctors, I got dressed in boots and coat (leaving pjs on), and surveyed the back yard. Two cherry trees are the crowning glory, stretching their flower-laden branches between my yard and my neighbors. They need pruning desperately. 35-40′ feet tall and 25′ wide, that is a big job. Mental note to call Aaron, my handyman-soon-to-be-forester student. He’ll need to climb up in them for a proper job, but those lovely double blossoms will be blessed by it.

Second mental note: Weeping Snow Fountain Cherry must go. Horrible tree. Grafted and the trunk is completely out of proportion with the top. The blooms are slightly pretty, but not pretty enough, and besides it stands crowding a Hicksii yew. Who wants that? If I chose, I chose the Hicksii. It reminds me of my friend, Carol, who worked at the famous Hick’s Nursery on Long Island where it was developed. Plants that remind me of lovely friends are keepers.

And, out with a blooming crab tree in a corner by the picket fence. It looks like a jungle in that corner. Replace it Arborvitae ‘Emerald Green’ because the power line cuts right through there and with their max 12′ tall they’ll give privacy but not touch the power lines.

The cold felt good on my hot skin. I could breathe again momentarily. And my thoughts were my own, not crowded with loss, but planning a garden. I would have stayed a bit longer but my neighbor stuck her head over the fence and yelled, feeling better are we?

“No,” I said, “just making plans for spring.” My moment of reverie was gone. My brain was getting fuzzy again, anyway.

She threw up her hand in agreement, and disappeared behind her frozen walled fence that I’ve never gotten a glimpse behind. Perhaps for the best.

Yes, I said to myself, I am making plans for spring, and a garden.

My backyard has one large eye sore, a chain link fence. On a good day, those things reek of death, but on a winter’s day, with its shape outlined in ice, even more so. Something must be done about that fence, I pondered, but that was a problem for another day. Still, I could not go inside and let it win, with its glint-y iciness, so I spoke aloud. “Spring is coming. Spring is coming, Mr. Chain Link Fence, and you cannot stop it.” The resurrection of life is as sure as death. It is coming.

And, I will garden.


Leaf Senescence; Pondering Mid-Life as Autumn Approaches

Senescence is the orderly, age-induced breakdown of cells and their components that lead to the decline and ultimate death of a plant or plant part. The timing of senescence is species-specific. For deciduous trees (non-evergreen) it is typically fall. Leaves last through the growing season before senescing prior to winter.*

People talk about getting old and how they’re going to do it differently. They won’t be grumpy old men, or cantankerous old women. They won’t get fat, or soft. They’ll stay active and eat right and travel the world and have new adventures. In other words, they will use those final years (that last 1/3 of life) rather like a plant’s senescence.

Senescence is a metabolic process and so, it requires energy. It isn’tt just the ending of growth.

Take leaves. They move the products of photosynthesis out of leaf tissue into stem and root tissue during senescence and before leaf drop, The bright green color of chlorophyll fades during this process and the yellow/orange colors of the carotenoids become prominent and combine with the red/blue anthocyanins to produce vibrant colors–quite the display in my neck of the woods right now.

All this talk of activity and world travel from my peers will require energy too.

Around me, my friends are discussing how they will use the products of their own photosynthesis (energy conversion) to fuel other activities or organisms as priorities shift and time moves forward. Energy will be expended prior to the their death, or the death of some part of life they’ve always counted on, like work or health. Perhaps running through neighborhood streets or yoga in converted warehouses will replace subway dashes and five o’clock traffic.

I passed the mid-way mark (is it still 40?) over a decade ago, yet I am only now beginning to think to myself, so how will I grow old? What will be my energy conversion and when will I begin it? Leaves, it is thought, but not known, have a senescence hormone. I suppose that would be a hormone that triggers the process of aging, and death. Soybeans are thought to have what is referred to as the senescence factor, but all plants may not have it. .

I’m not sure all people have it. I fear I do not, and am behind on the senescence, not the physical changes, but the mental processing of it. But then again, I am nothing, if not forever behind.

When my boys were growing up. I was always playing catch up. I thought they were 4 years-old, when really, they were 5, and on their way down the kindergarten hallway. When the heck did that happen? So, I’d scramble to figure out all the nuances and protocols of kindergarten, and just when I nailed that, I looked up, and bless me, they were in the 3rd grade, with a science project due the week before Thanksgiving. Guess who’s buying a turkey while shopping for craft supplies? Is it just me? I’m all like, isn’t this great, we have 3rd graders doing a school play tonight, only if I look closely, it’s my granddaughter, and she’s headed out the door to dance class. How do I miss the change in time that others seem so cognizant of, but to me is as subtle as the light shifting through the slates of my bedroom blinds as autumn approaches?

The role of hormones in senescence is not clear, but the role of hormones in my own senescence is rather apparent. I am at least conscious of it, and I wonder if the plant is. I am unable to name all my particular hormones, and what their roles are in this stage of life, but I see the evidence. Much like the leaves changing colors, there are things changing physically for me. I tire more easily. I am hot now when I used to always be cold. My knees and feet hurt after running or walking a ways. i have little tolerance for lack of sleep, but I wake early no matter what. And while, I hope to make my own list of possibilities for these last years, I find I am still winding down on the previous ones. I wonder if I will miss my opportunity.

Presently, I am having a good dose of reality about aging gracefully, or not.

Growing older must be scarier than we yoga loving, adventure hounds care to admit, or why else would the words mid-life and crisis so often couple? While I see no reason to be all gloom and doom about passing the mid-way mark (more than passing it actually), I do think some of old age’s accouterments make it, well, harder to process than a trip to Europe will soften. I am a realist and must process the facts before considering the possibilities. Still, I am hoping for my own vibrant decline, depressing as that may sound.

As I observe the changing of summer into fall, and am awed by the glorious sight of it, I think how odd that death holds such beauty. Perhaps, hormones and senescence aside, death is speaking to us. Could it be that this bared beauty, that holds nothing back, is telling us, this is just the beginning?

The leaf senescence allows the perennial plant to continue living by providing for the roots and stems what it stored in its leaves. One must die for the other to live. I do not claim to understand the mysteries of death and life, or even plants–who frankly shroud their mysteries well–but I am finally watching the signs.







Go Get Your Mani/Pedi, The Sisters Made Their Bucket Lists

My sisters and I (there are 4 of us) aren’t sure how to manage the deep, black hole my mother left. Today, Sister #3 dropped her college kid off, and was sad because every other year (this is the junior year) she texted Mom a picture of the college dorm room. But, no Mom this year. She texted it to the group message we’ve had going since Mom died, instead.

Here it is.

Adorable niece in college room

Adorable niece in college room

All, l I’m saying is, it’s a good thing Mom had her cataract surgery or she’d be hard pressed to make out which grandchild this is. What’s with the blurry pic, Sister?

Then, the group text decided we needed something to look forward too. That started the  bucket lists flying, and honestly, one of us did have skydiving on her’s, but thank God her husband said no. We would have voted against it anyway, since we did vote that we would help each other complete our bucket lists. (We’re supportive, but we’re not crazy.)

Here’s what we got so far.

  • A Broadway play and Niagara Falls.
  • An infiiniti pool with a bar and fruity drinks on a beach.
  • A night out at the symphony in Boston, majorly dressed up with good seats.
  • A visit to the Sankaty Lighthouse in Nantucket (the oldest ever, in case you’re wondering).

Yeah, we’re an adventurous group. At least Mt. Everest wasn’t on the list. So far, we’re calling up the Ritz to complete our lists, or the Plaza. Who doesn’t love Eloise? All I need for this bucket list is a mani/pedi. I feel a book coming on.

I can’t imagine it will change the empty space Mom left, but I hope it will change time. New-memories-made-out-of-new-adventures, kind of time. But, let us go on record for saying, that, well, Frankie Ann would be furious. If we ever did anything without her, there was H-E-double-toothpicks to pay. She wanted to be included in everything. Which is the one word everyone that knew Mom used to describe her–inclusive. So, it only makes sense. Mom liked her people.

But, to be fair, Mom would be blessed to know we’re helping one another make dreams come true. Or, really, to know we’re helping each other through this Valley of Death, and, in the midst of the horror of it, possibly dream new dreams.

My sister is home after the college-kid drop of. This was her final text for the night.

Cross on Interstate 24 towards Chattanooga

Cross on Interstate 24 towards Chattanooga


Mom would have loved it, even without the cataract surgery. Good picture, Sister.

cinthia milner, transplanted and still blooming, golf

Why I’m Considering Golf

It’s Wednesday. I write about gardening on Wednesdays. But this week, I will focus on golf.

I’ve never liked golf. Here’s a few reasons why:

  • My childhood was spent waiting on golfers. Have you ever waited on golfers?.They always play an extra nine, no matter what time the dinner reservations are.
  • Silly shoes.
  • Hate the shirts.
  • Too much equipment.
  • No one gets to talk. (Spend an entire 5 hours together and never get to speak. Huh?)
  • I wish they’d go organic on the golf course.
  • It’s just a ball.

So, why am I considering taking up golf? Turning in my Felco’s for Hello Kitty’s Complete set of clubs?

At Mom’s memorial, the only real memory I have is of my granddaughters (their smiles were the best), and the golfers. Tons of golfers came through the receiving line. They were part of Mom’s weekly golf group(s). She played every week (several times a week) at a local municipal golf course with a ladies’ group (and other groups that included the men).

These people were ancient. I mean like 92, 87, 95. Most of them still playing the game. They were vital, happy, energetic folks who didn’t seem to realize they were old. One after the other offered their condolences for my loss, while telling me about their last golf game with Mom. Those games always ended in dinner or a late lunch out, accompanied by lots of laughter.

My College Son said, “Mom, golf is the fountain of youth. You might want to consider it.”

He is so right.

I always wondered what my mother’s secret was. How did a woman, who lived alone, who worked until the day she died (literally, she was getting ready for work), whose children could have been so much nicer to her (speaking for myself here), have so much excitement for life? Golf.

My mother adored the game. She was so thrilled when she played a good game, that I generally got a call to tell me about it. And, nothing made her happier than a day dedicated to 18 holes. Traveling 2 hours away to a course for the day just made it better, because then the entire day was about the game. Pure heaven for her.

I never understood her passion, but I listened as she talked about the “Dirty Dozen” (one of her golf groups), or the “Hilly Dilly” (no clue). She was like a kid. She watched the game on tv, talked about incessantly, and played it every chance she got. This made gift buying for Mom super easy.

I’m learning what the phrase, “Getting old is not for sissies,” really means. I thought it referred to the bodily aches and pains that accompany aging. That factors in, but what it really means is that with aging comes loss. My pre-50 years were full of friends and family I so dearly love, but as I passed the mid-mark, I started to lose many of them. This year I’ve lost a brother-in-law, father to my nieces, and now my mom, my best friend and role model. It isn’t my body that aches but my heart. Both parents are gone, my ex-mother-in-law, my brother-in-law, and many friends. And, the years ahead bring promise of more loss, more dear souls in heaven, and less here. Dang right aging is not for sissies, and my mom was a lot of things, but sissy did not describe her.

She was determined, stubborn, strong-willed, independent, passionate, creative and kind. And, after my dad died, instead of shutting down, she played golf. While my sisters and I were busy building our families in the years following Daddy’s death, she was playing golf. She was enjoying the game, the camaraderie, the outdoors, the competitiveness, the beautiful courses, the friends, the dinners. She was re-building her life on a golf course. She had played some with my Dad, who also adored the game, but really she played after he died. Maybe that was a good way for her to grieve.

Mom’s golf buddies were tearful and sad about losing her, but their eyes still had mischief and delight in them. They were quick to laugh and quick to tell stories of their golfing adventures. I watched 92 year old eyes twinkle and 85 year old smiles erupt like children, as they recalled one adventure after another. I may be wrong, but it appears that more happens on a golf course than a game. It appears that friendships are forged, adventures are the day’s fare, life is lived, and for 18 holes, old age is kept at bay.

Truly, I could consider worse.


Mom, a good day of golf; she had a 42 on the front 9. One of her best scores.


When Our Hearts and Our Flesh Fail; The Secret to a Successful Life

In week one of Bible study, we talked about suffering. Unfortunately, we will all suffer. This week Psalm 73:25-26 leapt out at me in my personal suffering, and put another dimension on the topic. My roommate from college, Donna, sent these verses ito me in a text because my mother–my energetic, vibrant, determined, stubborn, always on the go, Independent  outgoing, godly mother–passed away. Very unexpectedly and very suddenly. Tomorrow will be one week. When my oldest sister called me to tell me someone had died, my mom was not on my radar. She radiated life, not death. And I could not describe how I felt until I read this passage. Psalm 73:25-26

25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength[b] of my heart and my portion forever.

I read these verses when I was throwing up. A stomach bug attacked our house (myself, my two sons, daughter-in-law, and two granddaughters) this week. I was its Wednesday victim–the day my mother’s physical body ceased to exist. She was cremated that day. I literally came unglued while throwing up. My flesh and my heart both failed me.

These verses spoke to my condition because God was telling me, that stomach bug aside, my ability to cope with the week’s events was nonexistent.

My cousin, Kim, the pastor who spoke at Mom’s memorial told the family that humans don’t have death in their DNA. God created us for life, not death, he said, It was sin that brought death into our world, and so death is unnatural to us. It is not something we actually know how to handle. But God does. He is our coping mechanism when we have none, and so far as death goes, we have none.

My mother knew this. I watched this past week as the dichotomy of Mom’s life played out. A woman whose resources were so few, lived a life that was so full. Her bank account and her life did not match. Her assets were people, her joy was the Lord. The receiving line at her memorial overflowed with those she had involved herself with. When I view my mother’s life, it literally makes no sense from a worldly perspective. My Coastie son spoke at her funeral, and said, “Maurme (the grandchildren’s name for her) lived life like she drove, about a 100 miles an hour.” Meaning, she lived it to the fullest. How is this possible for a person in her situation? At 77 years of age, she still worked to provide an income for herself.

The Lord was the strength of her heart and her portion forever. 

She let God worry about the things she had no control over. And, let’s face it, other than making up our beds (which Mom always did, and did it HER way), there’s not much we do have control over. Her life was a puzzlement outside of God. She was happy, joyful, cheerful, had a ton of friends, and in her words, few worries. What was the secret to her success?

The Lord was the strength of her heart and her portion forever.

This week’s lesson only has one question because it is the question I have pondered all week, and perhaps you need to ponder it too.

If the Lord is my strength and my portion, why do I wait to live? 

Please feel free to leave comments below. I am always blessed by them.

Father, gracious and precious to us, be our strength and our portion. Teach us to live fully, not waiting until everything is just right or ready, but to live in the present moment with you. May we take our hands off the reigns, stop trying to control every aspect of life, stop trying to achieve, and just receive. In Jesus strong name, Amen..