While attending a marriage seminar on communication, Tom and his wife Peg listened to the instructor declare, "It is essential that husbands and wives know the things that are important to each other." He asked Tom, "Can you describe your wife's favorite flower?" Tom leaned over, touched his wife's arm gently and whispered, "Pillsbury All-Purpose, isn't it?" The rest of the story is not pleasant. —Author unknown

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10 (or so) Moments in 2010

Inspired by my friend Jeanne Ambrose’s blog today (www.heartbreakrecoverykitchen.com), here are 10 moments (okay, a few more) from 2010. I’m striving to stay in the moment as much as I can to receive whatever is here, now.

1. I’m grateful for work I love. Those of you who have been laid off from a job you loved may be able to relate. The loss is not merely economic. It’s a body blow to lose a creative outlet, a chance to help, a way to participate in professional life. One day this summer, leaving Meredith after a long day of freelance work as project editor on Better Homes & Gardens Rose Gardening (buy it at that link!), I drove home in a rosy glow of happiness that I was once again employed doing something I loved. Thanks also to editors who hired me for Bloomberg News, Lowe’s, Zelenka Nursery, and magazines Gardening How-To, Horticulture, Iowa Gardening, BHG Country Gardens, BHG Garden Ideas and Outdoor Living, BHG Landscape Solutions, Flea Market Gardens (coming out in March) and others.

2. I get a lump in my throat steaming past the Statue of Liberty. Because the unpronounceable Icelandic volcano scuttled our plans for Italy, my husband and I took an unexpected 6-day trip to New York City in late April-early May. We had a marvelous time visiting museums (we are history and art JUNKIES), visiting friends and relatives, and seeing Broadway plays (“In the Heights” and “Billy Elliot,” starring amazing Iowa native Alex Ko!) We couldn’t believe our fortune being about 10 feet away from the crystalline voice of Judy Collins at the Cafe Carlyle. But the thing that surprised me most was how I felt as our boat pulled alongside the Statue of Liberty. As with seeing Stonehenge, the Grand Canyon, the monuments of Washington, D.C., the Eiffel Tower, the Parthenon, and other icons, a surge of emotions overwhelmed me.

3. I get a lump in my throat bicycling across Iowa. In all but three summers since 1993, I’ve spent all or most of a week on RAGBRAI, the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. Now its 39th year, RAGBRAI is the oldest, largest and longest touring bicycle ride in the world. People who believe Iowa is flat are in for a big surprise. I travel with Team Larry, a herd of about 20 cats from around the United States who assemble, Brigadoon-like, once a year for a week. We arrange ahead of time to camp in the yards of private homes (thank you again, hosts!) True, there’s some sweat, aching muscles and whining, but mostly it’s a week spent laughing and hanging out together. Especially in the first couple of mornings, when the sun spreads its apricot rays and the dew is fresh on the cornfields, I’m overwhelmed with the beauty of Iowa and filled with gratitude that my body is able to pedal these 430-some miles with 15,000 of my closest friends.

4. I celebrate important traditions. This is the 15th Christmas I’ve decorated cutout sugar cookies with my “Little Sister” Chelsie and the 23rd year we’ve observed the Wiley Wine Tasting (Chateauneuf-du-Pape this year). It was the 19th year for Mother-Daughter Weekend with my mom, Kathy Grauerholz and her mother, Doris Nero (our mothers met in the hospital when Kathy and I were born)! It’s the 6th year we’ve done the Senior Prom (aka Des Moines Metro Opera Gala) with two or three other couples and approximately the same for the Weeg-Grauerholz-Schmidt-Wiley Dinner. The year isn’t complete without these traditions.

5. I get to type hunched over with a cat on my lap. A perk of freelancing!

Buck's goatee

Buster

6. I see—and photograph—some amazing plants!

Sunrise Sunset rose

Bleeding hearts

Hellebores

Frog and daylily

Iris

Ornamental cotton

Tree peony

Orchid

7. One word: FAMILY!

8. It’s great to live in Des Moines, with close access to Broadway shows, the amazing Iowa State Fair, wonderful local talent, miles of bicycle trails, and a $40 million sculpture park downtown.

9. Beauty all around. This is Dixie and Henry Brueck’s barn near Battle Creek, Iowa, and the sky in Manchester, Iowa, in July.

10. A final word: FRIENDS! Too many to show here. I’m beyond grateful for the people in my life.

Here’s wishing you many wonderful moments in the year to come.

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