Sunday, May 8, 2011

On Mother's Day

I am fortunate to have a very loving, dedicated mother. Yet for many years Mother's Day was painful for me as we went down the long path that eventually united us with Petunia.

So today, even as I relish Petunia's excitement in all her Mother's Day plans and secrets, and am beyond thankful that this amazing little girl is my daughter, I remember those who find this a difficult day.

For years we skipped church on Mother's Day because church has a way of bringing out my emotions, and they were just too close to the surface as we dreamed and worked towards becoming parents. So on this day I will always think of those who want to be mothers but are not.

I also remember those who have lost their mothers or their children. Amp and I shared stories with Petunia about her namesake grandmother this morning over breakfast. This day will always be tinged with sadness for Amp, his siblings, his father, and all who loved her, even as we remember what a wonderful mother she was. Her four children serve as a testament of her love and dedication to them.

Sadly, there are many people who do not have the joy of a loving relationship with their mothers. And there are those separated by tragic circumstance from their children. On this day I think of them.

For all who find this a painful day for whatever reason, I pray that you will find comfort and peace.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Catherine Zeta-Jones and the Human Condition

Catherine Zeta-Jones is my new hero. And not for any movie role she’s played. Certainly not for looking glamorous on the red carpet, though she does.
Catherine Zeta-Jones is my new hero for putting a face on bipolar disorder. And for being brave enough to admit that though she lives in Hollywood, her life isn’t perfect.
A new friend recently shared some news about a struggle her family is going through. I really admire her refusal to be held hostage by the situation.  Instead, she took control, in effect saying “Yes, this is happening. And no, it doesn’t define us.”
RenĂ© Magritte, La Condition Humaine,  1933
Image Source:
Wouldn’t it make it easier for all of us to cope with our own problems if we didn’t try to keep our difficulties private, but acknowledge that these challenges are part of the human condition?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


One of the useful holdovers from my counseling days is reframing—looking at a situation that might seem negative at first, and finding a positive way to perceive it.

So the fact that I’m underemployed can be reframed as . . . .me being fortunate to have a very flexible schedule.
We live in a small house which can sometimes be tough, especially since we’ve downsized, but . . . .we’ve reduced our carbon footprint—and utility bills.
Plus, buying this small house allows us to be in a walkable neighborhood near great restaurants, stores, and Petunia’s school.
Being on a budget is . . . .teaching Petunia about making responsible choices.
Petunia’s strong opinions about what she wears is not a plan to make her parents late and push us to our limits, but . . . .means that she:
a)      has her own sense of style
b)      is discerning
c)      is not afraid to use her voice
d)      is strong-willed
e)      all of the above
f)       other
I would love to hear some of the positive reframes that help you embrace your current circumstances. Also, please give me your opinion on how best to reframe Petunia's strong opinions on clothing!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Things Jesus Would Have Explicitly Spelled Out If He’d Realized How Dense We Are

We had a visit from some dear friends from West Virginia last week. They are an incredibly kind family of six who welcomed us with open arms when we moved to West Virginia. The mom hosted a baby shower for Petunia and she never fails to remember our forever family day. Her youngest child was Petunia’s first friend, and we joke that they’ll marry someday.  (Well, they joke, and I plan.)
She and her husband met because they both went to mass every day. In their small town, they were the only two young single folks there daily and gradually she noticed that he was sitting closer and closer to her day by day. Isn’t that a sweet story?
These are the kind of folks who have one car—by choice. They used to have two, but they knew someone who really needed one and they decided they could get by with one, so they gave one of their cars away. They’re also the kind of folks who always have a full house on Easter, and who routinely take in other families to help them through a tough spot.
They’re also folks who make it to church every week without fail. I don’t think the two practices necessarily have to go hand in hand, but I suspect these two behaviors support each other. As their eight-year-old son explained to me when they visited, “Jesus said if you can’t go to church on Sunday, go on Saturday,” which is why I’m rooting for a Saturday service to be added to my church.
I’m afraid that book is missing from my Bible, but I love that this family is so absolutely committed to their faith. Church is an important part of our lives, but I’ll admit there are times we just don’t make it.
I’m pretty sure that missing book of the Bible must be the one called “Things Jesus Would Have Explicitly Spelled Out If He’d Realized How Dense We Are.”  And I’m pretty sure a lot of the content would be very relevant to me.
Since I don’t have that book I remain thankful that we have been blessed with so many living examples of God’s love.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Where Jesus Jams at SXSW

I’ve been reading about SXSW, the music, film and technology festival which wrapped in Austin last week. (For the uninitiated, SXSW is the acronym for South by Southwest, or as the cool kids are apparently calling it now, South by.)  We lived in Austin while Amp was in law school and loved it. There was a popular bumper sticker when we were there called “Keep Austin Weird”—a slogan which has since been applied to Asheville and which fits nicely. I love the food, the music, and the culture in both these places, but I especially love that both places are open to people who are outside the norm.
We also fell in love with our church there, Central Presbyterian.

It was the first church that was really a great fit for us. We felt welcomed and valued—and thankful that our church strove to make everyone feel the same way.  We are fortunate that our current church, Grace Covenant Presbyterian, does a great job of this as well. Any time I think about Austin, I feel nostalgic about our time at Central, but especially when I read this article on CNN, Where Would Jesus Jam?
Where would Jesus Jam? On the corner of 8th and Brazos for one, and I can think of several spots in Asheville too. Where would Jesus jam in your neck of the woods?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Tisket A Tasket

Petunia is a wanna-be songwriter. She comes by the desire naturally, since I’m
constantly making up silly songs.  Another time I’ll share one of her original
masterpieces, but for now I just want to share a song she came home from
preschool singing, and insisted that I email to my parents. I’m pretty sure a little

creative misunderstanding helped inspire this one.

When you see the itallycs, think “big finish,” jazz hands and all.

"A tisket a tasket,
A green yellow basket,
If you wanna gonna ask it.
There's a new girl in town,
And her name's BIG BASKET!"

Move over Ella. There's a new girl in town.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

If You Can Google It, It Must Be So

My house can now be seen on the satellite images on google maps. We’re a relatively new neighborhood so this hasn’t always been the case. I’m not sure why this makes me so happy. There is something satisfying about seeing our little neighborhood and our little house with Petunia’s playset out back, and our tin-roofed front porch where we like to watch the world go by.

We live in a neighborhood that is somewhat unique these days—we actually know all our neighbors. It’s pretty cool that when Petunia puts on an especially fetching princess ensemble, she wants to run across the street or next door to show it off.

I’ve always thought of myself as more of a back porch girl, who likes to be outside but wants to enjoy it in solitude, but the truth is I’m a front porch girl.

I love knowing what’s going on in the neighborhood—seeing Tory check the mail, Julie walk to work, Wes and Amy work on their latest landscaping project, or Liz and Justin take Finn for a walk in Petunia’s hand-me-down stroller, and having a chance to check in with folks and see how they’re doing.

We’ve formed a real community in our brief time together—forged by shoveling snow, building snow men, playing charades, and breaking bread together.

A few days ago we met at a neighbor’s house and planned a community garden that we’ll be starting soon.  Amp and I have only ever tread lightly when it comes to gardening, so our skills are very limited. Thankfully there are others to lead us who have much more knowledge in this area.  I can’t wait till Petunia can break out her little rake and hoe and work side by side with our neighbors. It will be a very tangible example of yet another way that we get to reap the rewards of investing in our little community.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It’s an Auburn Thing. Or a College Thing. Or Maybe a Tradition Thing. But in This Case, Definitely a Sad Thing.

For decades, whenever my alma mater has a significant victory to celebrate, hundreds, even thousands converge on a small intersection in downtown Auburn, Alabama. Called Toomer’s Corner for Toomer’s Drug Store that sells the best lemonade on the planet, and has done so for generations, the oak trees that grace this little crossroads are soon dripping with toilet paper.

Yes, when we have something to celebrate at Auburn we roll our own trees. Weird? Maybe. Wonderful? Absolutely.

Most memorably for me, I took part in this celebration when Bo Jackson won the Heisman in 1985. I wasn’t there to take part  when Auburn won the National Championship in January. So Petunia and I did the next best thing—we rolled our Christmas tree in celebration.

Why am I writing about this when football season is over? Because someone took a sports rivalry a little  too far and poisoned the 130 year old oak trees at Toomer’s Corner. They were hit with such a high dose of Spike 80DF, an herbicide which is regulated by the EPA, that the trees’ deaths are almost a certainty. If they don’t die, they’re expected to become so disfigured that they’ll have to be removed.

The trees aren’t showing any signs yet, so how do we know? A man called into a sports talk show in  Alabama, bragging about what he’d done, and signed off by saying “Roll Damn Tide!” (Tests of the soil have verified his claim.) Perhaps even more disheartening is seeing how many people have “liked”  the article online titled Auburn's historic Toomer's Corner oaks poisoned with herbicide, likely to die”—12,000 and counting. To see if the number has gone any higher, go to .

Not everyone is a college football fan and may not get why this matters. But traditions do matter. They  bind us together and unite people across space and time. Auburn will find a way to continue our unusual, but proud, tradition. Whereas the man who did this will likely end up spending a lot of time alone, in a very confined space. He gave his first name and hometown when he called into the talk show, and I could make a joke here about our rivals, but I’m going to be charitable to the school he "supports,” and assume he doesn’t have a college degree from there, or anywhere.

Which is sad for him really on a lot of levels. Just think of the cool traditions he’s missed out on.  Don’t even get me started on “The Flush.”

Saturday, February 12, 2011

One of us gets PINKed up and another gets PICKed Up

Petunia’s favorite book of the last several months is Pinked Up. It involves a little girl “pinking up” her daddy so they can go to a “pinknic.” My apologies to anyone who’s wanted to check it out since October because until last week it was in our possession. Petunia decided she wanted to pink up her daddy. So for Christmas he was given a couple of pink shirts and a pink patterned bow tie.
A few days ago we broke out the bow tie for the first time and pinked up Amp for work.  I’ve been trying to get him to wear bow ties for years, but Petunia was the one that pulled it off. No surprise there. She’s a pretty persuasive kid. She even gets me to accessorize from time to time. (It helps that she makes beautiful necklaces for me.)
And sometimes that persuasion of hers is used for something other than improving her parents’ wardrobes. A couple of weeks ago I was feeling a little out-of-sorts, second-guessing something that I’d done, as I am wont to do. While driving alone I consoled myself by saying “It’s okay, you’re just a little bit odd.”  (Case in point—using the word wont.) When I returned home, still feeling a little melancholy, Petunia lay on the warm bathroom floor while I was brushing my teeth, and said “Mama, do you ever think you’re a little bit odd? Because sometimes I think I am.” She said this in the most sincere way, without any preschool drama or sadness—totally content to consider herself a little odd.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard her use the word odd, and for her to use it on that day of all days, and to use the exact same phrasing as I had earlier, was, well, odd. Or a little bit miraculous, depending on how you look at it.  

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Introducing Petunia & Forever Family Day

So the whole pseudonym thing seems kind of silly, but I’m going with it in an effort to protect the innocent—at least they will be protected if anyone ever happens to read this who does not know us personally! I have about 30 nicknames for my daughter—Bug (as in Snugga Bug, Hugga Bug, Love-a Bug girl), Lovey Girl, and Petunia being among those that get used most frequently. When I gave my 5-year-old daughter the option of choosing from among her nickname’s for use on this blog, she went with Petunia.  Petunia is not a name I would wish on anyone as their given name, it seems more fitting for a guinea pig, but we read it in a book once (oh who am I kidding, we saw it on a show, but if it makes you feel any better, it was probably on PBS) and she thought it was hilarious, so a new nickname was born, along with the associated rhymes (Petunia, Po-tat-a, I love you, A Lotta, etc.) because that's how we roll in our family. 
Amp (my husband, aka, absent-minded professor), Petunia and I celebrated our Forever Family Day recently by going for a bike ride at the Biltmore Estate. It was a glorious 60 degree day in January, and it was wonderful. Until we went out to dinner, and Petunia’s late bed-time the night before caught up with us. Which is fitting I guess. We’re a family after all, and not all family celebrations are idyllic.
Our family of three was formed when we adopted Petunia from China four years ago. In adoption-speak many people call the day you are united with your child for the first-time, Gotcha Day. To me, “gotcha” sounds too much like something you say when you’ve played a prank on someone. Maybe it gets at my insecurities about parenting—“Ha Ha! I’m going to be your mom! The jokes on you!”
We call it Forever Family Day and even Forevermore Family Day because I don’t want to deny the part of Petunia that is Chinese, and that existed before we knew her. And I especially don’t want to deny that in a remote mountain village in China, two people with really excellent DNA created this wondrous child. And I have a strong suspicion that they, and perhaps others, ache for her every winter at the time of her birth. How could they not?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Why Kudzu?

When I was a kid and we were travelling, I'd always look for kudzu as a sign that we were getting close to home. As an adult who's lived in eight states, kudzu really has come to be a symbol of home for me. And while Asheville isn't as covered up with it as my old stompin' grounds of North Alabama, it is present here too.

So when I was trying to come up with a name for a blog, Kudzu Asheville seemed to fit. Because we have a great life in a modest home, for a while I thought about Living Large in Asheville, (subtitled Living Large in a Small Space) or some variation of that. But I was afraid my Generation Y friends might not get the Living Large reference. And then there's the fact that I'm not exactly svelte, and I didn't really want to confuse folks about the nature of my blog.

Kudzu seems right because it bespeaks the South to me. I don't know about you, but I've always felt more Southern than [insert state name here]ian (Alabamian in my case). When my husband (aka Amp for absent-minded professor) and I got married, his mom said "I can't believe Amp is marrying someone from Alabama!"  It might as well have been Mars. See folks in South Carolina have this whole state-pride thing going on that I was not familiar with. Then a few years later we moved to Texas and that was taken to a whole 'nother level. People in Texas have bragging contests on how many generations their families have been in Texas. First or second generation just doesn't cut it. One of Amp's classmates in law school told us that she'd never consider moving out of Texas. In this global world, that kind of thinking is hard for me to get my head around.

So I'm just a 40-something woman who's trying to find her voice and decide what she wants to be when she grows up. And though my accent isn't especially Southern, I'm finding that my voice is.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Photo Credit

The flowering kudzu shown on my profile is used courtesy of Peggy Greb, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.