When the Garden is Good

Gardening came with home-owning. Growing flowers came as therapy. A flower is a piece of art. A bouquet is a collection of art pieces, arranged to showcase the beauty of the feature star.

With our new home came new possibilities. It was difficult to keep the sprinklers running without their getting clogged. Perennial, drought-tolerant plants to fill large swathes of land, replaced wild geranium and nettle were called for. I planted lavender, Russian sage, salvia, chamomile, mint and dusty miller.

The ranunculus were on sale at Costco. They went in, along with irises that have gone with me from home to home, a sign (to me) of hope in bad times and generational love.

The roses bloomed. Years-old roses I had not worked for. In spring they came as a magnificent gift, creating a three-foot tall arrangement in my footed orange-art-glass vase.

Then I met Floret Flower Farm through Erin Benzakein’s first book “Cut Flower Garden.” Gardening became accessible. From therapy to hobby and even familial bonding as my husband grew the vegetables and I grew the flowers. Now my daughters are helping me harvest the greenery.

I arranged flowers for my home and posted photos on Instagram. Last summer, a woman from our parish reached out to me to order flowers. Orders trickled in. I sold potted paperwhite bulbs and sweet pea seeds at The Loreto Market in December.

Spring came again. Now there are more plants alongside the lavender and salvia than I can name.  Another flower bed of dahlias, zinnias, snapdragons and strawflowers sprung up where once there was dust and weeds.

More orders. Bonus bouquets. And then, a flower stand.

Each day, I arrange a handful of pint-size jars of flowers, careful to select for color, shape and complementing features and set it out. I photograph, post, and hope people will come by for $10 jars bouquets. I hope they will ask questions. I hope they will place a special order.

“The money goes to pay for the hobby,” I tell my friends. But truly, there is something deeper at work when I handle, contemplate and arrange the flowers. I have written over the years about how gardening is a microcosm full of life lessons. I feel that even more now.

Because now, we have bugs and powdery mildew; and I lunged with a garden tool at a gopher who had just eaten the rhizome off of one of my new irises.

And my daughter received her First Holy Communion, a big deal in the life of a young Catholic girl as she goes to the Church dressed like a bride That day my younger son was hurting.

“Does it feel like a step back since he was doing so well?” a friend asks, with compassion in her eyes, in response to my tears.

“No,” I said.

Because somehow I could feel in my heart that gophers exist alongside the flower stand. The roses look mighty pretty, even as the gardener clips off damaged leaves and hopes the next flush of buds will be protected.

The weeding still has to be done.

It is hard to remember this when the going is good and I have just set out seven little floral arrangements on a Monday morning. Yet, when faced with it, if we can accept the bad along with the good, the rocks along the otherwise smooth path, the weeds along with the vegetables, without thinking that the garden is doomed, that this year is a failure, that success will crumble, then we have got something to hold on to.

Then we have got a garden.

Then we have got a family.

And those are the times, more than any other, that we can feel how good it is.

Previously published in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life!” in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.

Draw Back to the Garden

Motherhood is work.
And work is play
Until the demands of my duty
Fill the hours of the day

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off–then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Melville’s sea and my garden

My first flower order of the year came at the fresh and breezy beginning of May, after the first rush of rose blooms, before the dahlias, pincushions and zinnias start their takeover of my morning hours. The calendula is beginning to speak up. The snapdragons are showing promise. Here and there new flowers are whispering that they are ready for their first bloom. Some garden beds are a disappointment. Some feel more like an investment in the future.

“It will look amazing next spring!” I say, pointing to a bunch of transplant-shocked plants. I know I should transplant in the fall. I know it. But when the plants are healthy is just when I can see they are crowding each other and where its creeping roots might be severed to fill in the gaps of another bed. 

With the first flower order complete, and with ten more bouquets besides to sell bound or  The Loreto Market, an outdoor market we hosted outside our home. As the market progressed, my stand emptied out until the last bouquet sold.

After hours of clipping, cleaning, and arranging I thought how welcome a break would be. Let the bees have the blooms for a few days. Before two days passed, I was back in the garden, gushing over my third peony plant in bloom. Its scent wafted up my nostrils as I tied the arching stems to a stake.

“Motherhood is work,” a priest reminded me.

The simple words spoke volumes to my soul. Motherhood is work, and I do not need to make the other projects into work right now. I’m tempted to ambition, to dive deep into the next project, to go and go and go until I reach the boundary of what I can do, simply because I have the energy to do so. I have the energy, but no longer have the time. 

The thing that was a fun hobby then becomes a strain. Other duties call my name: a five-year-old, a toddler, an emerging 6th grader, field and flower. 

After balancing life and projects last week, I thought with satisfaction of letting the weeds go and leaving the blooms to the pollinators. But then a mystery flower was covered in frilly orange faces, the yarrow burst with sunshine, the bunny tails wiggled in the wind. I must collect them. They all move so beautifully together.

This hobby takes effort, but the effort is sweet. Its work balances my duties within the home. It draws me outside, into the wind, the sun and the dirt. I pause and contemplate. My senses spring to respond to the stimuli nearby. Pathways in my brain flicker with excitement as I draw relationships from color theory. 

I cut, I clean, I arrange. 

And my home is filled with flowers.

The woman who placed the special order listened to my gardening story, that story that begins in sadness and grief, but grew a garden. “You’ll always have this as the gift she left you, your love of gardening,” she said.

Many days of motherhood are filled with laughter and tears. To find the fruit of both, I go out to the garden.

Would that we all could find the hobby that energizes us, that balances us, that helps us find a central space around which we can pivot, flexing our muscles and growing in virtue is ways that pour over into all aspects of our life. This gift is not something only I can receive because of some privilege. It is available to everyone. And its path takes us through, not just the garden, but the good life.

Spring Gift Guide – Father’s Day Gift Guide

Join us May 1 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for The Loreto Market

While you shop for yourself, your home, for Mother’s Day, check Father’s Day gifts off your shopping list after a visit to the Loreto Market. While many of our vendors feature lovely items with feminine appeal, we haven’t forgotten our fathers or the men among us. In this Year of St. Joseph, at the Loreto Market, you’re sure to find something for the father figure in your life.

Order a custom set of windchimes or music lesson package by Casey Music Service

Casey Music Service offers lessons for children and adults, tunes pianos, repairs instruments and can make the fully custom windchime set of your dreams. Talk with owner Kyle Casey about how Casey Music Service can help you with all things music.

Tap into the masculine heart through the strength of history and tradition with curated vintage religious goods by Domestic Joy

Aid his prayer with tradition and dynamic icons by Sue Forrest Artwork

Sue Forrest began in Advertising and after decades of experience in fine art, became a Certified Iconography through the Iconographic Institute in Mount Angel, Oregon. She produces icons, original and reproductions, greeting cards, fine art, and painted rocks. Along with the incredible selection original icons she’ll bring to the market, she also takes commissions for particular saints.

Celebrate his sense of whimsy with a patron saint peg doll by Whymsical Lotus

To learn more visit whymsicallotus.Etsy.com

Feed his mind with solid Catholic reading and straight-forward apologetics with used books sold by A Catholic Teachers Treasures

Tanya Valasquez, a Catholic Teacher for 21 years, is bringing her collection of Catholic resources in order, both for teenagers themselves and those who seek to be ready to answer their children’s questions arise in the search for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.

Find all this and more at The Loreto Market!

Spring Gift Guide – Gift Guide for Liturgical Living

The Loreto Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 1. If you’re in the Central Valley of California this is the perfect opportunity to support your local Catholic community and the artists, makers and entrepreneurs who are part of it.

Liturgical Living is the mode du jour these days, especially as activities in parishes are still limited to la vida virtual. Bring liturgical traditions into your home with:

A May Crowning – Add flair and flavor to your family’s May Crowning with May Crowning themed cookies by Cakes by Patricia

At the last Loreto Market, she made waves with her St. Nicholas and Advent Wreath cookies.

This spring, Cakes by Patricia will be selling homemade cookies – Peanut Butter & Snickerdoodle as well as May Crowning Iced Sugar Cookies (Flowers and Crowns) in Honor of our Mother Mary. After working 35 years in the educational system, Patricia retired and began baking for family and friends. All profits are donated to nonprofit organizations.

Organize family prayer with beautiful holy cards featuring fine art by Ora et Flora.

Along with the Memorare, Prayer to St. Raphael and Divine Mercy, Ora et Flora is offering a wide variety of prayers to St. Joseph to help us focus in on the Year of St. Joseph, declared by Pope Francis for this year.

Create a child-friendly shrine with saint peg dolls by Whymsical Lotus

After five years of being in business, Lotus Vele has enough saint peg dolls to fill the heavenly hosts! Find your patron saint of the patron of your gift recipient. To learn more visit whymsicallotus.Etsy.com

Let beauty inspire and deepen prayer with beautiful rosaries by Simple Beadings

Yuehesi Cuellar, owner of Simple Beadings, said, “I strive to offer affordable rosaries and jewelry to drive people closer to Christ!” At her booth you’ll find rosaries (corded, beaded, chained), religious & non- religious earrings, religious & non religious necklaces and bracelets. Learn more at @simplebeadings (Instagram) and simplebeadings.square.site .

Build your home alter or prayer corner with vintage religious goods including statues and framed prints by Domestic Joy

The joy Dezirae LaGro finds in Catholicism, homemaking and antique shopping spills over into the beauty of her booth as she brings to you Curated Catholic Treasures. Check out her instagram page of the same name.

Center your prayer around a particular devotion with spectacular icons written by Sue Forrest Artwork

Sue Forrest seeks to bring beauty to all, through the medium of paint and spread the Gospel with icons. Her breathtaking work will be on display and available for purchase. To see her past projects, visit her Facebook page, Sue Forrest Artwork.

Build your rosary supply so you have rosaries a home, in the car and on the go with rosaries by Catholic Kids

You’ll have to hurry to purchase a rosary from these ambitious entrepreneurs! The young ladies who run Catholic Kids sold out of their popular rosaries at last year’s Loreto Market. This year, their proceeds will go towards supporting Traditional Latin Mass Seminaries.

Light a candle during prayer to illuminate prayer time with candles by Healthy Mind Healthy Soul

Adriana Ramirez is will be selling a a candle perfect for May called “Mystical Rose.” “Mystical Rose in inspired by Our Lady of Guadalupe and offers notes or rose, frankincense, and Myrrh.

Integrating her passion for her profession as a future mental health counselor, and passion for her faith, Adriana , owner of Healthy Mind Healthy Soul, hit upon the idea to utilize the inspiration from her faith and the power of aroma through candles and nature’s natural scents. Thus she made candles inspired by the saints. Check out her work at on Instagram @healthymindhealthysoul_

Find all this and more on May 1 at The Loreto Market!

Spring Gift Guide – Gift Guide for Mother’s Day

Join us for The Loreto Market, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 1!

With the market taking place one week before Mother’s Day, it’s the perfect opportunity to shop local and celebrate a mother in your life.

At the Loreto Market, you will find:


Original artwork by SQHQ Art

Few reproductions could compare with an original piece of artwork. One of the best ways to add to your art collection (or your mother’s) is by shopping local. At the Loreto Market you have the opportunity to discuss her work with the artist herself. Come meet Susan Fisher and snatch up one of these beautiful paintings!

Chemical-free cleaning products by Norwex

Featuring their Safe Haven 5 Package – The EnviroCloth, Window Cloth, Dusting Mitt, Ultra Power Plus Laundry Detergent and Cleaning Paste.


Ice sugar cookies for your gathering by Cakes by Patricia



Sheep milk soap and yarn by M&J Farms plus Marcie Davis’ newly published picture book perfect for the mother who loves to read aloud!

Marcie of M&J Farms shared about this particular illustration, which may be recognizable to locals. “It’s the original farm that was settled on and has been in the family for over 100 years. The barn was there when my great grandparents, John & Anna Baptista, arrived from the Azores. John worked for Charles Geer of Geer Ranch, giving our current busy road it’s familiar name. The AB stands for Albert Baptista who, with his brother Alfred, ran a cow dairy on site, which was eventually taken over by Raymond Baptista. I tried to add a little bit of Hughson nostalgia and family pride to my book.”



The opportunity to care for herself by signing up for a course through The Woman School.

Salve for parched skin and rosaries for her and her children made by Catholic Kids.

You’ll have to hurry to purchase a rosary from these ambitious entrepreneurs! The young ladies who run Catholic Kids sold out of their popular rosaries at last year’s Loreto Market. This year, their proceeds will go towards supporting Traditional Latin Mass Seminaries.

A moment of tranquility made possible by a set of custom wind chimes made by Casey Music Service.

Kyle Casey began experimenting with creating my own wind chimes about 10 years ago. Over time I learned much about their construction and developed my own unique techniques and designs. He now sells them mostly online to those who wish to have a very specific set of notes that no other known wind chime company can do for them. He said, “I strive to provide the highest quality custom made wind chimes made with the best materials available that not only sound great but look great as well. I also strive to provide the most effective music lessons specifically tailored to each individual student.”

An Icon by Sue Forrest Artwork

Sue Forrest seeks to bring beauty to all, through the medium of paint and spread the Gospel with icons. Her breathtaking work will be on display and available for purchase. To see her past projects, visit her Facebook page, Sue Forrest Artwork.

The beauty of age and tradition with curated antiques Domestic Joy

The joy Dezirae LaGro finds in Catholicism, homemaking and antique shopping spills over into the beauty of her booth as she brings to you Curated Catholic Treasures. Check out her instagram page of the same name.

Jewelry by Simple Beadings

Yuehesi Cuellar, owner of Simple Beadings, said, “I strive to offer affordable rosaries and jewelry to drive people closer to Christ!” At her booth you’ll find rosaries (corded, beaded, chained), religious & non- religious earrings, religious & non religious necklaces and bracelets. Learn more at @simplebeadings (Instagram) and simplebeadings.square.site .

Candles by Healthy Mind Healthy Soul

Integrating her passion for her profession as a future mental health counselor, and passion for her faith, Adriana Ramirez, owner of Healthy Mind Healthy Soul, hit upon the idea to utilize the inspiration from her faith and the power of aroma through candles and nature’s natural scents. Thus she made candles inspired by the saints. Check out her work at on Instagram @healthymindhealthysoul_

There’s more to come!

See you at the Loreto Market!

May 1

10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Spring Gift Guide – Gift Guide for Sacraments

The Loreto Market takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 1. With so many holidays and events on the calendar in the coming weeks, I thought a gift guide might be handy.

Do you have a Confirmation mass to attend in the afternoon? First Holy Communions coming up? Whether Baptisms, First Holy Communions, Confirmations or the beginning of the wedding season, at the Loreto Market we’re featuring:

Saint peg dolls by Whymsical Lotus

After five years of being in business, Lotus Vele has enough saint peg dolls to fill the heavenly hosts! Find your patron saint of the patron of your gift recipient. To learn more visit whymsicallotus.Etsy.com

Home decor with spiritual themes by Simple Beadings

Yuehesi Cuellar, owner of Simple Beadings, said, “I strive to offer affordable rosaries and jewelry to drive people closer to Christ!” At her booth you’ll find rosaries (corded, beaded, chained), religious & non- religious earrings, religious & non religious necklaces and bracelets. Learn more at @simplebeadings (Instagram) and simplebeadings.square.site .

Curated Vintage Artwork by Domestic Joy

The joy Dezirae LaGro finds in Catholicism, homemaking and antique shopping spills over into the beauty of her booth as she brings to you Curated Catholic Treasures. Check out her instagram page of the same name.

Original and Reproduction Icons by Sue Forrest Artwork

Sue Forrest seeks to bring beauty to all, through the medium of paint and spread the Gospel with icons. Her breathtaking work will be on display and available for purchase. To see her past projects, visit her Facebook page, Sue Forrest Artwork.

Handmade Rosaries by Catholic Kids

You’ll have to hurry to purchase a rosary from these ambitious entrepreneurs! The young ladies who run Catholic Kids sold out of their popular rosaries at last year’s Loreto Market. This year, their proceeds will go towards supporting Traditional Latin Mass Seminaries.

Candles by Healthy Mind Healthy Soul

Integrating her passion for her profession as a future mental health counselor, and passion for her faith, Adriana Ramirez, owner of Healthy Mind Healthy Soul, hit upon the idea to utilize the inspiration from her faith and the power of aroma through candles and nature’s natural scents. Thus she made candles inspired by the saints. Check out her work at on Instagram @healthymindhealthysoul_

There’s more to come!

See you at the Loreto Market!

What to Do with the in-between season

As I write this, it is the first day of Spring.

From the white board in front of our makeshift homeschool classroom, I can erase the word “Winter” from the combination “Winter/Spring”. We live in a form of winter/spring for a handful of months in the Central Valley. The weather warms, but might still freeze. The temperatures reach up near 70, inching bit by bit, because a cold spell and a day of rain makes us all remark how like winter it is in March.

Purple iris

Other states sit covered in snow, waiting for the flowers to poke through the icy layers, signaling the end of a long winter will not be too far off.

Californians start their seedlings, but plant them also, seeing the first fruits in their open fields. Farmers carry in boxes of citrus, as sweet as candy, while we smell the sweetly scented air filled with almond blossoms and pollen.

Landscape with cut flower garden and seedlings

It is winter/spring here in California when the mud puddles merge together with puddles from misdirected sprinklers, their timers signaled too soon in preparation for dryer spells. Children shed their winter clothes for lighter garments, only to shiver once the sun goes down because the mornings are below 50, the coldest temperature we generally see.

It is winter/spring as our loved ones receive the vaccine alongside the safety, hope and peace it brings to know they can gather again with loved ones will still following CDC guidance; as some of our youth return to schools and sports and order special masks and bell covers to play their preferred instrument with the victorious spirit of a high schooler who has faced something no generation before ever faced.

It is winter/spring as liturgically-focused Christian religions move through the Lenten season, with just a shot time remaining before Easter, the highest of holy days, the more triumphant, grandest, important celebration to the heart of Christian belief. To enter the church that Sunday, the church they could not enter one liturgical year ago, when doors were closed and services live-streamed and Easter egg hunts canceled.

It is winter/spring as we gather with others in small numbers or shop for plastic eggs at Target while still wearing masks, keeping our distance and trying not to make physical contact with someone we do not know, when once a handshake might have been the best approach.

It is winter/spring as my daughter bends the top line of the growth chart, yet never sleeps. As my son outgrows another size of clothes, but has surgery next month. As my oldest learns Latin but will go into 6th grade, signaling to me the beginning of the end of her children and her emergence in a new phase of life, one I have never experienced before as a mother.

The weeds grow with the new flowers. The dahlias emerge even where the cats scratched. The rain waters the fields even as it inspires the weeds to give it one last go before the vegetable garden is planted.

Detail of cut flower garden with white garden bench

All of our lives we live in this winter/spring, with the bare ground filled to the brim with seeds and life waiting for just the right amount of daylight, warmth and water to break forth. In this season all the potential is there. We have only to wait a little longer, tend the ground a little more gently, and continue to feed the heart and soul of the project with the very best we have, the practice of virtues, including kindness, understanding and justice determined by reason and not emotion.

Understand and embrace the duality in which we must live, the tension to which we must adjust. Even as today is the first day of spring, a chill is in the air. Nothing ever fully ends or disappears, and the beauty that lies in wait for us lies within this tension.

Discover it. Embrace it. See what is has for you today.

Pink and purple early spring bouquet