March 16, 2015


Can't sleep again. I laid down knowing that I was so tired that sleep would probably come instantly. But for some reason, I can't stop thinking about my grandma. And tears started flowing. And... Here I am. 

We are getting closer and closer to selling her house and it's breaking my heart. We won't ever play boxcar kids in the backyard. We won't ever have dart tournaments in the basement. We won't ever have our kids table in the kitchen for holidays. We won't ever play endless games of war in the tv room. We won't ever open presents in the French room on Christmas Eve.

We won't ever be there as a family ever again. There's 26 years of memories in that house for me. Yes, I know that my dad and his sisters have many more years than that. But it's those 26 years that I'm having trouble with tonight. I'm not ready for those memories and traditions to stop. I know we will make more memories as we create new traditions this year...

But tonight that doesn't calm my broken heart. I think only my grandma's hug and laugh would calm me right now.

Of course thinking about her makes me think about my Grandpa Joe and Grandma Dot. Oh and now... the tears flow harder. Random: I wish I had spoken at their funerals as I wanted to. I am currently feeling regret about that right now. It sits at pit of my stomach. 

I had a dream about my grandpa last night that he could walk without a walker and was the man I knew for 20 years. He had such a big smile on his face and I could see humor behind his eyes. It was great seeing him that way. I hope that's exactly how he is up there with my grandma right now. Smiling, walking, and slipping a witty joke into the conversation. 

I haven't dreamed of Grandma Dot in awhile. I hope she's doing well. I still can see her smile and hear her laugh which is comforting. But still sad at the same time. I wish I could hear it for real.  I hope she's laughing with her parents and my other grandparents right now. Well, not right now while I'm sobbing and all snotty. But in general. 

Most importantly, I hope all 3 know how empty my heart feels without them in this life. I appreciate the dream visits from them. I just don't want to forget anything. 

Well this wasn't the next blog post I had in mind. But my therapist was right, it does help calm me to write down my feelings and thoughts. Time to try to revisit sleep. I'll work on a lighter post soon. 

March 7, 2015

Student Career Day

I was invited to speak at a local landscape/horticulture conference last week as a panelist for the student career section of the conference. How did that happen? Well, I'll tell you!

I applied to teach a class at a local college as an adjunct horticulture professor. The class I signed up to teach did not go because there weren't enough students enrolled. But to keep me involved, this college invited me to be part of the panel they were creating for the conference.

The panel consisted of an owner of a landscape company, the manager of another company, a garden center manager, and me. The idea was the four of us represented different sectors of working in the horticulture industry.

There were about 60 high school and college students who attended the panel discussion. I was really surprised that many students were interested in a career in horticulture! I had a very unique perspective for the room since I was the only person working in the public sector. I was worried I would sound too cynical, but luckily, I made it sound like a total blast... ;)

We each talked about how we got into horticulture, what we have learned about working in our fields, and where we think horticulture is headed. I normally can talk for long amounts of time, but I was fourth in the panel and often had to keep us on track with time. I could tell 75% of the room was bored and didn't really want to listen to us, so I prepared some anecdotes and tried to "work" the room. I know how my professors engaged me in high school and college, so I tried to emulate them.

It worked because I had a few groups of students come up to me and thank me for my information and complimented me on my presentation style. That made me feel so good! Awhile later, a few guys shouted to me "Good job in the student career session!"  as I was walking to the next session to attend. Looks like I may be able to teach if the time comes!

I felt super official when I realized my name was on the program and sign outside of the room we presented in. That's me!

I really enjoyed the experience to connect with local students and discuss horticulture. It was a good reminder about why I am in this field. Hopefully I will be invited back next year!

February 21, 2015

Projects Galore!

I've been having trouble sleeping lately, so that results in me being on Pinterest during some very strange hours! I can't stop finding fun little house projects every time I'm on there. The only problem... I don't have a lot of extra money to throw around on cutesy projects like these. I do want to save up to do one of them... but which one do you think?

1. Super cute garden hose holder. Currently, my garden hose just lays on the ground next to my garage. When my Association repaved my driveway, I came home, the hose nozzle that was all banged up, the water was on, and the hose was covered in seal-coat. Not cool! So I would really like to get it off the ground with something like this.

DIY garden hose hanger with 4 x 4 painted wood + finial + hardware store hose holder.

 2. Fireplace make-over. The favorite part about my house: my fireplace. The least favorite part of my house: my fireplace. I absolutely hate how the fire place looks. My whole living room is decorated in earth tones, but the face of the fireplace is black marble with a chunky mantel. Yick. My mom found this product called Airstone. It goes over existing material and is supposed to be super easy to do. I want to do this SO BAD.

 Reface fireplace brick with Airstone - this sounds promising

 3. Mirror make-over. The mirror in my full bathroom is really large and really boring looking. I found this easy mirror make-over pin. You simply add some molding to the existing mirror with glue! It really classes the joint up! I'd really like to break up the mirror ratio in that bathroom!

$30 to frame the mirror. This site has lots of ideas on changing up your home for pennies on the dollar... - Click image to find more Home Decor Pinterest pins

4. Garbage can cabinet. Have you met Leia? If so, you would know that her favorite past time (after licking you senseless) is to go through garbage cans. The can I have the biggest issue with is my kitchen garbage can. There's so many goodies in there, mom! I found this tilt out garbage can cabinet. I am in LOVE with it! The problem... I am not very handy with projects like this. I would definitely need some help constructing this one.

Wood Tilt-Out Trash Cabinet - I would love to try this... Especially to keep Leia out of the trash can!

5. Mirror make-over. Another mirror make-over! In my half bath, I have a large, round mirror that actually came with the house. It is black and doesn't match the bathroom colors and I would like to change the color. Found this easy looking tutorial to do so!

painted the mirror with Paris Grey, it dried in 10 minutes, I put the dark wax finish on it, and was done!

Where do you think I should start? Easy round mirror? Or go big with the fireplace? Oh the possibilities!

February 15, 2015

Thriller, filler, spiller - the art of planting landscape barrels

One thing I was not trained on in college was how to design. Partially because I wasn't interested in learning, but also I was more interested in the production side of things. Well, after 6 months of working in a production greenhouse, I realized I get way too bored. So really, I shot myself in the foot on that one.

At work, I decided to add landscape barrels to a few high traffic locations to bring color to an area that doesn't have much going on. Except... I really wasn't sure how to design a planter. I did some research and I found the phrase "thriller, filler, spiller." That's a pretty easy way to start a planter design! This was my third summer filling these barrels and I'm getting better each time, but I'm still not satisfied with my summer design.

This is what the design looked like the day I planted it. I wish I took another picture of what it looked like after a few months. It really filled out and the sweet potato vine really spilled over the sides. This design has a King Cyprus as a thriller and calibrachoa as a filler.

I wanted to go with the purples and greens as the main colors. I also accented in white, which you can see with the nicotiana. One thing I want to try this summer is clumping instead of evenly spacing out each plant. Mostly because the sweet potato vine chokes everything out when its spread out like that.

Here's a close up of the plants I used last year. There's also some coleus in there for some other texture. I will remember to take some beginning, middle, and end pictures to really show how the plants progress after they are established.

This year I decided to do a winter barrel design. I had never done one before, so I did some research to help me pick out some plant material. I used spruce toppers, pine boughs, red twigged dogwood, winterberries, pine cones, and coned cedar.

Here's a far away shot of both winter barrels. Sort of hard to see the specifics of the design, so I got a little closer.

I really liked how these turned out for my first attempt. I know next year I would like to spread out the winterberry a bit more. You can see that I had a few too many clumped together in the front here. After the picture was taken, I did fix the orientation of the sugar cones (the really big pine cones) so they were more centered. I highly recommend trying this to spruce up a planter in winter.

I did learn that you need to break up the soil deeper than you think. You want to firmly stick each plant into the soil so they stay standing up during the entire season. I didn't bring a big enough shovel to break up the soil so I did have some trouble getting the stems in firmly enough. 

Other than that, I really liked how these looked this year! Add a little snow to the boughs and BOOM, you have a straight-up-pinterest-landscape.

Looking forward to spring to plant the barrels again and see how I can keep improving the look!

February 12, 2015

Working on loving myself

As part of the healing process, my therapist would like to me to try to work on loving myself more. He noticed as I was talking about various things, that I don't have a lot of respect for myself. He suggested a few exercises to work on liking myself a bit more. First, he suggested reflecting on what I like about myself.
  • I like to think that I am a good listener
  • I like to help people
  • I like to make people laugh
That's about all I've got for that. Hmm, I see what he means. Even he listed more positive attributes about me than I did just now. His next suggestion was to ask some friends or family to list a good characteristic or two about me. I asked a few of my friends for their opinions and their responses were overwhelming.
  • You're always there to listen
  • You make the time to check on people, if people are in need, they don't need to go far
  • You're sympathetic and understanding towards situations and people
  • You're always on the move, you keep up with the pace of the world, even if it's stressful
  •  You are not simple minded and always have something going on
  • You volunteer your time and efforts towards secondary causes all the time: people, charities, volunteer work, etc
  • You love unconditionally
  • Your thoughtfulness - I found a mini scrapbook you made me from high school with pictures and funny stories that we had together. It's special to me to have it and those memories
  • You are always willing to help and usually are smiling, even if you hate it
  • Your laugh is wonderful!
  • You are very mindful or the wants/needs/feelings of others. I'm always amazed by what you remember about what others say, they like, or don't like, or memories. I always want to be more like you and be cognizant of what others say because it's always really touching when you bring up something that I said a long time ago or something like that
  • You are dependable. There is no one else I know I can go to for anything, no matter how crazy or ridiculous it is. You accept me and care for me even at my worst.  So it isn’t just a matter of dependable, because a lot of people are dependable.  You go beyond that, to the point that I know if my life depended on it, I could count on you.
  • You are trustworthySimilarly, I know I can trust you with whatever I am going through, good or bad, and you will support me. 
  • You are so unbelievably caring.  To so many people.  I know this from personal experience but also from the way you interact with others. I admire how much you care and dedicate yourself to others so much. 
  • Seriously you are hilarious. You are such a joy to be around.  I mean, I am not a funny person but when I’m with you I feel like I’m funny because you make me funny!  You draw out the best in people, making them feel comfortable, like they can open up to you.
  • You are self-aware, reflective, and non-judgmental.
One of these people suggested I write down what they say as well, so I can go back to them in times where I feel weak and unloving. I can't even thank these four people enough for their kind words and the time they took to help me with this part of the process. My therapist developed what is called the Fear - Love model and gave me a copy of it. I carry it around with me to remind myself that I want to be on the "Love" side of the model, not the "Fear" side. On the model, there's a list of characteristics on each side. Right now I am 75% under fear. Yikes. That's not good. It's time to change and adjust myself to be more on the love side.

Hopefully this is just step one and I will keep working towards it!

Thanks, friends, for reading these past few posts and not being too disappointed that I'm not posting all of the plant/work/project stuff at the moment. I actually have a plant post on my mind. I'll get that up soon!

February 8, 2015

Things I'll Miss

Just doing some more writing to get the thoughts out of my head and onto paper. I am having such a hard time sleeping so I'm back at it. Maybe this will help since I've in a selfish phase of mourning. 

Things I'll miss about Grandma Lu: 
1. Christmas Eve
2. Doing the dishes for her and fighting about it every time
3. My birthday dinners 
4. She will never get to see my house again
5. Doing yard work together
6. Eating Portillos together 
7. She won't get to see me get married or have kids
8. Watching her and Leia interact together 
9. Driving in her car together... And me white knuckling the door handle as she drove rather recklessly
10. Her hugs and kisses on the cheek
11. Her smell
12. Going to the mausoleum together on holidays 
13. Listening to her update us on the extended side of the family
14. Eating her pasta and gravy
15. Any holiday at her house
16. Christmas Day at my parents' house
17. Getting manicures together 
18. Getting cards in the mail from her for holidays or birthdays
19. Joking around about having to eat jello 
20. Her laugh and smile when she saw any of her grandchildren

That's quite the list. Maybe writing it down will help it from swirling around in my head at night. 

Miss you Grandma. 

February 6, 2015

You're an angel

It has been a very terrible few weeks. Actually it has been a terrible 16 months. I lost my dearest Grandma Dot in September 2013. My sweet Grandpa Joe in February 2014. Shannon's mom in July 2014.

And in January, my feisty Grandma Lu lost her battle with cancer. January 18 2015.

I know this post is turning into a pity party, but if you know me, you know I struggle with anxiety and panic attacks. Quite honestly, death has not been an "issue" with me before. But since the passing of Shannon's mom, I have started to develop PTSD and a serious aversion to death. It started to change from a finality to an unfair, devastating, injustice to me. I stopped accepting that death was a part of life, and started to believe that whatever "God" that is out there is some sick asshole who get's off on people's suffering and heartache.

Whoa, sorry. But it's the truth, that's how I felt.

Anyway, in September my Grandma Lu was diagnosed with cancer again. This would be her 3rd fight with it. The news hit me really hard, especially after hearing that it was abnormal cells with no signs of it turning into a tumor, thus no way to "remove" or "cure" it. She was given 6-9 months.

Trigger anxiety and anxiety to death again. After a few terrible months of watching my grandma suffer with chemo treatments, I decided I needed to seek professional help. The kick in the pants for me was when Grandma made the decision to stop chemo treatments. I called and made the appointment the next day.

She passed away the day before my first appointment.

Obviously I sobbed 90% of the time during my first appointment and when the therapist listened to my story, he told me to do one thing.


Write it down. Write down the events. Write down your feelings. Write down your thoughts. Get them out of your head.

So that's what I'm trying to do here. You, the reader, don't know that I have had to stop twice and sob uncontrollably. Or text Stephanie for encouragement. But I'm going to write down some things like he suggested. Honestly, I haven't been sleeping well, and I have a lot of dreams about her and it hurts my heart so much. So I hope this will help.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~  ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~  ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Once Grandma started with chemotherapy treatments, I started going to see her every weekend. I knew she was sad, sick, losing her hair, and alone. I knew she didn't really want to go through this, but she was doing it for us. I knew she didn't feel pretty or have strength anymore. So I came over to her house and helped with whatever she needed. Put up Christmas decorations. Fix the bathroom faucet. Go grocery shopping. I like to help out in general, and I felt a real need to do so for her. One of my biggest feelings when Grandma Dot and Grandpa Joe passed away was that I was not around enough. Now, I know trying to jam all that in once a week as Grandma Lu was dying isn't the best way to help that emotion from going away. But I used it as a way to cheer her up for the most part. Most of the time when I was around, she would smile and sometimes even laugh.

There were hard days, but I couldn't really blame her for having a bad mood or not wanting to have me around for long. I still wouldn't trade those days for anything. Mostly because I see where I get my stubbornness and attitude from... from her! As her granddaughter, I didn't really ever see those sides of her. And it was nice to be able to see her as an entire person.

At the end, she spent every other week in the hospital. She had to skip chemo a few times because she was so dehydrated or sick. By doing so, it started to spread. In order to control it, her doctor suggested trying a different concoction. After much thought, on Sunday January 11th, she told my dad and me that she didn't want to continue with chemo anymore. She wanted to live her last days feeling good, not sick. While it broke both our hearts, we completely respected her wishes. I remember that drive home with my dad that day.... It was mostly silent with periods of tears quietly streaming down our cheeks.

Exactly one week later, she passed away in the hospital. She was admitted for low blood sugar. While my dad and his sisters were meeting with some doctors, she became unresponsive and never woke up. I rushed to the hospital and sat by her side until she eventually left us.

It's hard to describe what it's like to watch someone die. I stared at her breathing for hours. I stared at her breaths become more and more shallow. I watched her take her last breath. It was like she was taking a big breath... except there wasn't one after it.

On the 11th, I went into the TV room to say goodbye to her as Dad and I were going to head home. She was watching an old TV show and was slumped on the couch. I could tell she was tired, so I went over to give her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. I told her I loved her and she said it back. And she said to me, "You're an angel, my dear."

I can still hear her saying that to me. And hearing "I love you too." It makes my heart break to know I won't ever hear that again. Or hear her laugh. Or eat her pasta. Or have Christmas Eve at her house. Or have a birthday dinner with her.

The past few months have been very special for me. We talked about a lot, and she confided in me more than she has before. She told me her real, true feelings. She admitted things. I felt closer to her and I think that's why I wanted to see her every weekend. To keep learning as much as I could and to be with her as much as possible. That's probably why I wanted to speak at her funeral.

I wanted to speak at both my Grandma Dot's and Grandpa Joe's funerals, but didn't know how to ask. Shannon asked me to speak at her mom's funeral and it was a very indescribable feeling to share feelings and memories of her with her whole family. I wanted to do the same this for Grandma Lu. Luckily my family supported my desire and I wrote a eulogy and delivered it. It wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. I felt some sort of calmness around me as I stood up in the chapel and talked about my loving grandma. I know she was there, and I know she appreciated me sharing my feelings. And I know she would have wanted me to be strong while giving those words. They are below for my therapeutic use.

For those of you who may not know who I am, my name is Amy and I am Lucille's oldest grandchild. Thank you to everyone who has come to celebrate her life today, as well as yesterday. Before I continue, I should clarify that she is known as, and always will be known as, Grandma Lu to my cousins and me. Grandma Lu is known for many things: her cooking, her rules about sitting on the "French room" couch, her affection for big band music, her daily trips to Portillos for lunch with Grandpa, and her standing Saturday morning beauty shop appointments. But most importantly, she is known for her love, commitment, and devotion to her family.

When I sat down to identify a memory or two to share with everyone, I found it extremely difficult. How can one summarize a relationship as special as the one between a girl and her grandmother? It actually can’t be done, but I WILL try to share a few memories with you all today.

 As a child, I don't remember a school play, concert, or function that she wasn't in attendance. Actually, looking back on it, she was pretty devoted to attend every one of my brother’s, Doug, and my high school band concerts. Some of those were pretty terrible! But it didn't matter to her. Afterwards, she would be there with flowers and a big hug, congratulating us on our achievement and ready to take us out for dinner. It doesn’t stop there; Grandma Lu and Grandpa Joe also joined their children's families on vacations. Whether they went to Hayward, Mexico, or Disney World, it was very important to them to be a part of their grandchildren’s childhoods. I don’t think any of us would trade those memories for the world.

I think I speak on behalf of all my cousins when asked about our favorite memory with Grandma Lu. It has to be Christmas Eve! And we were lucky enough to celebrate one last Christmas Eve with her this year. Ever since I can remember, my aunts, uncles, and cousins would all gather at Grandma’s house to celebrate Christmas and we always did so on Christmas Eve. I actually remember one Christmas where my family decided to visit my mom’s family in Cleveland for the holiday. Doug and I were so concerned about missing all of the traditions with the family!

Every Christmas Eve was the same: munch on way too many snacks before dinner, play pool or darts in the basement, eat too many helpings of Grandma’s pasta and garlic bread for dinner, begrudgingly eat the traditional course of Jell-o, Megan, Ben, Jack and I washing the dishes, the countdown to present opening, and the systematic tradition of opening gifts from youngest to oldest. I remember feeling twice the amount of anticipation for Christmas Eve than Christmas Day…. Because it meant that my entire family would be together and enjoy the holiday as one. And Grandma Lu was at the center of it all.

I was talking to a friend and expressed my fear that these memories or her attributes would fade away. But he brought up a great point. Grandma Lu’s energy, compassion, sense of humor, love for her family, and spirit will remain forever, through all of us. They will remain in Doug’s dedication to his career in film editing. They will remain in Annmarie’s compassion for animals as her progresses as a veterinary technician. They will remain in Megan’s determination to help educate youth in her career as a teacher. They will remain in Tommy’s initiative to pursue an education in his passion. They will remain in Jack’s sense of humor as he always has the family laughing at his stories and jokes. They will remain in Ben’s attention to the family’s interests and passions.

Since she started chemotherapy treatments, I spent nearly every weekend with her. We would sit and talk, eat Portillo’s, watch old black and white movies, I would clip her acrylic nails as they grew out, and help my dad with things around the house. I will never forget those moments or take them for granted. And her memory will remain in my heart forever. Rest in Peace, Grandma. I hope you and Grandpa are enjoying a nice Portillo’s Italian beef with a diet coke, no ice and a chocolate shake for dessert…. Together.

It's Friday night and I'm sitting in my PJs, under a blanket, crying, and writing. And besides harboring a broken heart over everything I will miss about her, I am also upset that tomorrow is Saturday. Because I would spend Saturdays with her. And I won't be doing that tomorrow.

 "You have no events scheduled for tomorrow"

One of the things that was important to her was to visit her parents and brother at the mausoleum where they are buried on holidays and birthdays. Her mom used to do it, and Grandma continued the tradition once she passed away.

Once Grandpa Joe passed, I made sure to tag along when she wanted to visit her family. She would also bring a flower for each person there. For years we brought 3 carnations each time we went. For the past year, we brought 4. On January 22nd, I placed 5 carnations in the vase she placed there years ago.

During her last few hours, the nurse reminded us that the hearing is the last to "go." So I talked to her about my day, Leia, and made some promises. I promised her that I would take care of the peace lilies that were sitting by her door from Grandpa's funeral. And I promised that I would  always visit her on holidays and bring a flower for each person.

I'll be there on Valentine's Day, Grandma. I promised