It May Have Been Mother’s Day, but there Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked… and the Wicked’s Family

Some mothers would be content with homemade scones & an afternoon relaxing. Not my mother.

Some mothers are content to spend Mother’s Day at brunch followed by an afternoon at the spa. But sitting down and relaxing, even after two hip replacements, are not activities my mother believes in.

When my family and I awoke to a perfect spring morning, I thought I just might be able to trick Mum into spending a leisurely day sunning ourselves in the garden. I baked orange-current scones, cooked-up Spanish-style fava beans, scrambled some farm-fresh eggs with cheese, and the three of us gathered outside under the umbrella to dine in the fresh air.

As she sipped her iced-tea she looked uncharacteristically at ease. “I think we should pull out the Adirondack chairs so we can sit and survey our ‘estate.'”

I was encouraged. Could it be possible that I’d get to spend the rest of the day reading David Sedaris and catching some sun while she sat peacefully and color-coded her calendar?


My mother wanted a new lawn for Mother's Day & I was the landscape gardener of choice

We’d been kicking back not 5 minutes before she turned to me and said:

“By the way, your father and I went to Home Depot yesterday. We have everything we need to till and reseed the lawn. There’s a pile of dirt under the plastic over there.”

“Are you telling me that you want to spend Mother’s Day digging up the yard? Don’t you want to watch the DVD of our summer vacation I made for you?”

“No. I want to dig up the lawn. Ask dad for the shovel. Let’s get to work.”

I felt a gardening glove hit my shoulder. I knew it’d be a long time before I’d be allowed to sit down again.

Over the last 2 years, I may have cultivated a new interest in gardening, but let me tell you, digging up a lawn, hauling dirt up stairs in a wheelbarrow, and spreading peat moss over grass seed is not gardening — it’s back breaking work that should be left to professionals.

At the end of the day, after we had finished the lawn and I finished cooking dinner, my father, the dogs, and I collapsed into heaps on the couch.

“That was a great mother’s day! I got everything I wanted — a new lawn!”

Next year, forget the homemade, thoughtful gifts. I’m buying her a landscape gardener named Carlos so I can spend Mother’s Day at the spa.

Tilling and reseeding a lawn isn't gardening. It's back-breaking work. But Mum got what she wanted. And I got a bottle of Aleve.

Easily Transitions from Asolos to Manolos

A book bought to spot-read for inspiration

Sitting next to my computer is a book called “Not Quite What I was Planning: 6 Word Memoirs by Famous and Obscure Writers.” I bought it to spot read at will — the 6-word memoirs would be lessons in wit and brevity. Indeed, the minimalist writings inspired me to conjure my own 6-word autobiographies…

  • Always makes it work… usually.
  • Frequently found herself lost abroad.
  • Played hard, earned many bruises.
  • Saved old girlfriends, discarded new boyfriends.
  • Easily transitions from Asolos to Manolos.

Of the above, the last is probably the best distillation of Kathleen anyone could ever write — if I have a gravestone, I wouldn’t object to that becoming my epitaph. Easily transitions from Asolos to Manolos, from clunky hiking boots to dainty stilettos, from rough n’ tumble outdoors-woman to uptown girl…

I was probably running late, but there’s always time to take one last look in the mirror. The reflection was of the girl people are used to seeing — thoughtfully made-up and sharply dressed in clothes culled from Saks 5th Avenue and trips overseas. This was the Kathleen my date was going to get, and had he, or anyone else, seen me an hour earlier, they would have thought my transformation to be the stuff of fairytale musicals.

Me in summary: Easily transitions from Asolo hiking boots to designer heels.

An hour before the eyeliner and gardenia lipstick, before the tamed curls and gold earrings, before the Diane Von Furstenberg dress and red patent high heels, I was make-up-less, except for the spf 15 and the smudge of dirt on my chin. The old t-shirt and Nike spandex I sported were covered in wood-shavings and top soil, and tufts of sod hung from the soles of my ankle-high Asolo hiking boots. Thorn pricks left bloody splotches on my calves and sweat clung to my forearms. I had spent the day hauling and laying down 25 fifty-pound bags of woodchips and boy, did I look it.

I never really think of myself as beautiful, but caked in mud, muscles toned from exertion of countless treks uphill with 100-lb loads, hair tousled underneath a dingy Yankees cap, I felt gorgeous. There was no one to judge me and no bell-curve of tall, busty blonds to grade me against. There was no need to be self-consciousness. The flush in my cheeks, the rose in my lips, and the light in my eyes were put there by the fresh air and physical exertion — not by a brush and a pancake of pressed powder. I was fit, invigorated, living, breathing, unmediated Me. What could be more beautiful than that?

I might have looked a lot like pigpen, but I felt beautiful. Lucky for my date, I clean up okay too.

When I met my date for dinner, he gave me a kiss on my cheek and told me I looked “lovely.”

“Thanks. I clean-up well.”

He repeated it back to me under his breath and it took a minute to process before he laughed and helped me with my coat. Little did he know…

Finding a Green Thumb

view from the front porch on a summer day -- everything green was planted by my parents

A year ago, on my alter-ego site Meet Me in the Drawing Room, I wrote about the Underappreicated Dangers of Gardening. At the time, my relationship with gardening was a tenuous one. I tromped to the local nursery begrudgingly and planted impatiens impatiently. Planting and pruning were chores that needed to be done, but I can’t say I was a particular fan of laying down woodchips.

One summer not too long ago, a friend called to ask for advice because they were planting a garden along their driveway. I laughed as I hit redial. Little did they know… gardening was my cod-liver oil.

Two weeks ago, a different friend asked for my help in designing a flowerbed in his backyard. I jumped for joy and started listing a selection of annuals and herbs that would not only look good together, but would also thrive in the yard’s shade/sunlight distribution.

Yes, I am now a gardening fanatic. Give me a pair of hedge trimmers, and call me Edward Sisscorhands. I’ve voluntarily gone to the nursery more times in two weeks than I ever thought possible. I have plans for a rose garden. Today, after my yoga class, I tackled the last un-landscaped corner of front yard. As I stood under the Juliet balcony, daisies in one hand and trowel in the other, my mother stared in disbelief before running to get me a gin & tonic. She was concerned — I mean, only yesterday, I had planted an herb garden and a cluster of dahlias.

I entertain. I do yoga. I have an MRS degree. I decorate. Now, I garden. They didn’t call me Mini-Martha in college for nothing, ya know.

today's lanscaping endeavor

When my parents bought our home, a turn-of-the-century field-stone and wood farmhouse, back in the 1970s, it was smaller, more rural, and in need of landscaping. Mum & Dad were in their mid to late twenties and new to the States with little money to their names. It was their first house and they were determined to make it their home. Armed with pick-axes and spades, they dug-up over-grown rose gardens and planted  hedges, evergreens, and willows. My grandmother smuggled Barberry and maples in from Canada and Rhododendrons were purchased from the nursery.

“I think your father nearly threw the pick-axe at me,” my mother told me when she handed me the gin. I wasn’t surprised.

“We had a fight about where to dig the holes.” Still not surprised.

“I think I won.” I would have been surprised if you hadn’t.

view of our yard post the epic storm of early 2010. trees scattered all over

The winter and early spring of 2010 wrought havoc on our yard. Putting aside the dozens of downed branches, we lost the last apple tree on our property — it used to be an apple orchard — as well as two large pines. There’s a gaping hole at the corner of our fence. I’m determined to plant two more rhododendron there. Or maybe that’s where I’ll plant my rose garden.

Despite my ambition, there is a problem. Roses or rhododendron, there are large holes to dig and I need a partner willing to wield a pick-axe and a spade. Gardening is back-breaking work, and it’s always better to have a buddy breaking their back with you (preferably, one with some muscles who takes direction well… knowing his way around a nursery would be a plus).

I make good iced-tea and will willingly bring it out on a tray with some homebaked cookies.

I promise, I won’t throw a pick-axe at you.