A few thoughts on gardening. Of the metaphorical variety.

Dear friends,


A few years ago, I heard a colleague say “It’s always a good idea to re-pot yourself every now and then.”

He was talking about professional transitions and the benefits of new jobs, new perspectives and new challenges. About that same time, I was planning to re-pot myself in the fertile soil of Missouri and another colleague warned it would take two years for me to feel fully adjusted and properly rooted. I remember the comment gave me pause. “Two years?” I thought. “I hope not.”

Turns out, both colleagues were right.

My re-potting was a great move on many levels. Though I was originally the one who instigated our transition, I think it’s fair to say all my family members now agree that the change of scenery did us good. I can confidently say we are happily settled.

So much so that Saturday night — when Mr. Mom and I hosted some newcomers for a friendly tennis match and dinner at our home — we played the roles of natives rather than transplants.

The couple has only been in town 11 months. The husband travels frequently for his new job and I could tell that the move combined with frequent spousal separations meant both he and his wife were missing their east-coast hometown terribly. I told them all the things we had come to appreciate about the community and urged them to reserve judgement for two full years.

The husband seemed surprised. “Two years?” he asked, unable to conceal the concern in his voice.

“I know,” I said. “I reacted the same way. But truth be told, if you would have asked me at the one-year mark, or the 18-month mark if I felt settled, I would have said no. And I might have sounded wistful about home. But now, at the 26-month mark, I truly feel like this is our home. We have friends. We feel connected. We belong.”

Our new friend expressed more surprise. “But don’t you miss home?”

“Sure I do,” I said. “But I miss it in a different way. Home will always be home because it’s such a comfortable place to be. And I’m a long ways away from lifelong friends, as well as professional relationships that spanned decades. But as much as I miss my old friends, I don’t feel homesick and I don’t miss living there anymore. I don’t rush at every opportunity to visit home. And that’s how I know I’m rooted here.”

I started thinking about the necklace I was wearing — a pendant of my home state that I purchased recently to support the relief fund for the devastating tornado in Moore, Okla. I’ve worried that my Missouri friends might view it around my neck and consider it a symbol of homesickness or discontent when, in fact, I feel more comfortable and settled than ever. I finally have a dear circle of friends who have heard my stories and I’ve heard many of theirs, which means not every conversation requires a set-up. I am a long ways from knowing everybody — like some who have lived and worked here “forever” — but I’m no longer the kind of lonely foreigner who has to actively seek out social opportunities, or ask for referrals for doctors or plumbers, or ask “Who’s that?” every time someone outside my family and co-workers are mentioned. And I’ve finally learned the short cuts and back roads to many of my favorite destinations, which is a sure sign that I’ve transitioned from outsider to local.

So I like to think of my Okie pendant as a talisman, suspended near the heart of an ex-pat who’s successfully transplanted and throwing out roots in all directions of her lovely new garden.

With gratitude {for the perennial sunny spot in which I always seem to find myself},

Joan, who can only claim success in metaphorical gardening and has the dead or struggling plants to prove it


Zoom! Zoom!

Dear friends,

Yesterday, I made two dozen quilt blocks.


You heard me right . . . 24 blocks.

That’s 192 pieces of fabric cut, 168 seams sewn, 672 threads snipped, and too many pins stuck to count. Oh yeah, it’s also two bobbins full of thread depleted. I had a bad case of tunnel vision by the time I finished for the day.

Somehow I ended up a few short, so I’m not quite done. I was in the zone so I really didn’t know how many blocks I had made until my back got tired and I quit around 7:00 pm. Once I laid it all out, I realized I was only five blocks away from the finish line.

Well, five blocks, a border, and a back — along with quilting and binding. Still, it feels good to be this far along.

I’ll be taking a break this week to head to Arizona, but with four more weekends left in May, I have a feeling I’ve got this.

Zoom, zoom!

With gratitude {for the rotary cutter and self-healing mat I bought last month that made today’s production so much easier — all 864 cuts},

Joan, who finds great satisfaction in the math of quilting once she adds it all up

It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas.

Dear friends,

I spent my evenings last week putting up the new Christmas tree in the Den and spreading a little holiday cheer around the house.

The tree is loaded with all our favorite ornaments:


The mantle is festooned:


And the buffet is adorned with my Grandmother’s Santa Mug collection:


I’ve got more than a dozen large totes of Christmas decorations. Given that I limited myself to a single tree, the mantle, and the buffet, I think I showed considerable restraint. (I also sent a tote with Kate so she could decorate her college apartment even though I know I’ll have to haul it home for the summer). Gone are the days when it looks like the Macy’s Christmas Store exploded in every room of my home.

Now all I need to do is buy a handful of additional gifts and get to wrapping. I gave up on the whole holiday card thing years ago. I’m deeply appreciative of those folks who take the time to send them, but in an era of Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and blogging, there’s really not anyone who desires to keep up with us who can’t do so electronically. I don’t know if I’ve succumbed to the forces of modernity or indolence, but I’ve succumbed.

And, finally, I made reservations for our family at our favorite restaurant for Christmas Eve. I’ll cook on Christmas Day, but our family has always celebrated both occasions and last year I decided I didn’t really have to prepare two lavish spreads in less than 12 hours. The impulse to do it all has faded, thank goodness.

So that’s it. My list is checked twice and the stockings are hung with care. It’s starting to look and feel a lot like Christmas.

With gratitude {for a season of maternal maturity when Christmas can feel like relaxed contentment},

Joan, who’d love to tell you all about the cool tradition she decided to start this year but is still keeping it a surprise from Kate and Parker, who are known to read her blog now and then, so she must keep her lip zipped until after Christmas

Abundant blessings.

Dear friends,

Not what we say about our blessings but how we use them is the true measure of our thanksgiving.

— W.T. Purksier

My heart is full this Thanksgiving, brimming with gratitude for our abundant blessings.  Our table is full and our bounty is evident.  A house full of guests, love for each other, good health, a delicious meal shared in safety and comfort . . . peace . . . these are the jewels of this day I dare not take for granted. May we use these blessings, in measures large and small, that reflect a glad and generous heart.

And I wish you, dear friends, abundant blessings.  Drop in sometime this holiday weekend, won’t you, and leave me a comment letting me know how you’re spending your Thanksgiving?  Power eating . . . football cheering . . . napping . . . traveling over hill and dale to see loved ones . . . whatever your activity, I wish you good cheer and godspeed.

I’ll be here on our beautiful Missouri acreage, happily humming ‘round the kitchen, delivering stealth hugs and kisses to any child within arm’s reach, and steeping in the life God has granted me.

With gratitude {for abundant blessings},

Joan, who’s got 13 tasks on her Thanksgiving to-do list today and has already completed three of them while the six other souls in her home sleep soundly