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Prepare yourself…it’s a long one, but it does have a happy ending and a great life lesson.

First I must apologize to all of our loyal readers for my absence from the blog.  My absence turns out to be a life lesson that perhaps you all can learn from me.  Plus, I must say thanks for my dearest friend and co-blog writer for rocking it during my sabbatical…Thank you Chris!

Busy to Bust and then the rise of the Phoenix  —

Don’t let life get in the way of gardening…It is the ultimate healer and reminder of Life’s beauty…

Many of you may know I left my big corporate job to start a business – that business has evolved over the years and like most entrepreneurs, it has consumed me.  I will spare you the details — maybe leave those for a book one day 😉 — But suffice it to say, I was busy. Too busy to work my garden…too busy to hang out with my friends and family…too busy to do anything but work. Certainly not the life I had in mind when I left corporate America.

Unfortunately, life had to give me a huge sucker punch to get me to literally stop from being so busy.  This past summer my life was filled with death.

First my dear cat Sanford died of early onset heart disease.  You may be saying, it’s just a cat, but he had become one of the most loving things in my life among my busy-a-palooza. And even more tragic he was the first of many unexpected deaths this past summer.

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Next my business partner, kindred spirit, travel buddy and peer female entrepreneur, Susie Steiner, unexpectedly took her own life. I was beyond shocked. We had just signed a deal to partner on not one but two ventures: 48 Innovate and Smarty Pants Productions.  She was my future, at least I thought. She had shown me a new way of life, post divorce and quitting my job. She was my Hillary in that movie Beaches, and I was her CC. We traveled the world in our brief friendship…it was a plot ripe for a Sundance movie.

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We met in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil at a Startup Weekend Summit, then Paris for her big 40th birthday. Then a big adventure pitching an overnight made-up product on a Shark-Tank knock off pilot TV show for “As Seen On TV,” in her hometown Tampa, FL.  Then 3 weeks in New Zealand where we barely survived this epic ferry ride in a BIG tropical storm (I am so proud I didn’t hurl — meanwhile Susie read a book the whole time as we endured 20-30 foot swells on a big ferry boat).

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We had just won second place at Startup Weekend Coca Cola.

Startup Weekend Coca Cola

You couldn’t imagine a more adventurous, supporting friendship. Susie Steiner was a force, sassy with a side of positive, masterful flirt, vegetarian, animal lover and rescuer, guardian ad litem, casual fashionista, accomplished entrepreneur, lover, friend, mom and one of my best friends. I thought she and I would grow old together, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Then I wasn’t busy with work anymore, no I was busy grieving and certainly couldn’t endure the outrageous heat of July to work it out in my garden.

In true rule of threes manner, a final blow for the summer. A long-time friend and Bonnaroo buddy, Kevin Cunningham, took his life in August. I was in the middle of one of these 48 Innovate sessions in Atlanta when I got the call from a friend. She was hoping I wouldn’t see it on Facebook first…stunned, heart-broken. Kevin used to call me “South” because I was one of the only southerners on the Bonnaroo Concessions team.

Kevin and I

He was a passionate gardener who lived in Vermont. We used to always chat about what was growing in our gardens – sometimes it turned competitive…my tomatoes are better than yours <insert friendly raspberry sound>.  In my mad-busy state, I didn’t even take the time to call him all spring or summer to ask what was growing in his garden. Why? Because I was too busy to notice what was in mine, too busy to stop and share with a friend.

Kevin Cunningham was an avid skier, lover of good cold beer, music fan, husband, dad and popularly faux-elected as Centeroo Mayor (Centeroo in the marketplace and center of the Bonnaroo music festival and area I worked in for almost 10 years every summer) living the seemingly carefree rockstar lifestyle, until it was over.

That was officially the final straw…I went BUST. I think I cried the whole month of October.  I turned down work. I withdrew. I was lost.

I find that my life is epic…I win big and I lose big.  I think the universe was trying to tell me something…I guess I was too busy to listen the first or second time.

Fall came around and co-blog writer Chris, forced me to order bulbs.  I did. I planted them but in this obligatory numb, I-better-or-they-will-go-to-waste-sorta-way.

That was the start. 

That bulb planting was the first step into my garden since my workaholic-too-busy-to-notice-breathing-through-a-straw period.

Then I had some trees cut down (they were dying), and the crew left this 9 foot pile ‘O wood chips in my driveway.  I guarantee you the neighbors were talking smack about that (I do live in the south, so that’s considered normal here). It took me 6 weeks to move all that mulch. I did about an hour or 2 a day. It was strangely healing.  Working out my sorrow, my grief, my groundlessness….with a pitchfork and a wheelbarrow. <That sounds like the beginning of a great George Jones country song, #justsaying.>

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Then another nudge from my co-blog writer and friend. She gave me the support and courage to write this post. It’s a post about healing. It’s a post to remind you all that spring does come back around. It’s a post to toast new beginnings. Welcome spring. The garden heals in all sorts of ways. Thanks to my garden that reminds me of hope and love and life. I will forever miss my friends. They have taught me an enormous lesson about the tragedy of busyness. They have taught me to focus on my own self care. They have taught me the value of the constant reminder of all of life’s beauty that unfolds with every blossom, every leaf falling, even every snowflake that accumulates and every pile of mulch spread.

I can honestly say, I am a Phoenix rising from the ashes filled with grief and loss.

The lesson of all this… is to be careful with being busy. It’s a seemingly birthright if you are an American. But it isn’t necessarily the best use of your time. Be careful with over-comitting and under-caring for yourself. Let your garden remind you of hope and all the seasons that create the perfect environment to grow incredible things. Your garden has to rest and so do you.


Your garden can be a source of inspiration from the work you put in it, to the bounty you get out of it.  Don’t let it go, it will save you. Take it from me…It has saved me over and over.

Thanks for being a part of this amazing community. Thanks for making it through this super long post.

Go out there and get dirty….it’s spring and it’s time for new beginnings.

Happy Gardening!


In loving memory of Sanford, Susie Steiner and Kevin Cunningham. You will be missed, forever. Cheers to your incredible lives!



If you love to garden and love to travel, IRELAND should be near the top of your list.

The Wicklow Mountain region south of Dublin is called Ireland’s garden spot (with good reason). Powerscourt, the most visited garden in the country was voted number 3 on Nat. Geo’s list of the world’s top gardens.


It is a garden on a grand scale–think Downton Abby with a shovel–


Pebble paving, Italian terraces, lots of statues and fountains–

Mount Usher in the village of Ashford is very different.


A wild river garden that’s over a hundred years old, it’s all about layered plantings, meandering paths, and HUGE trees, from around the world.

Check out the steps that rise from the tree roots. You have to go though the two trunks to climb–


Yes–there is a traditional English style perennial border, but like so much of Mount Usher, it’s a surprise. You find it though a small arched opening in an enormous hedge wall.

I LOVE this garden!!

Meet Travis and Lester.  I certainly won’t forget meeting them earlier this week.travis_lester1
There’s so much l liked about these two guys, it’s hard to know what to write.
But let me start by telling you that it’s a long way from the suburbs to the Wake County neighborhood where Travis and Lester grew up.  And I’m not talking about miles.

Our paths NEVER would have crossed if not for my friend Cindy who works for a great local organization, the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle.IMG_0478

With the help of the Food Shuttle, Travis and Lester are transforming a big corner of land in Southeast Raleigh.t&l_2

This week Cindy took cookbook author, Linda Watson, and me on a tour.

Travis and author Linda Watson talk herbs

Travis and author Linda Watson talk herbs

There’s a lot going on this corner—first, a working organic produce farm called T&L (for Travis and Lester).  They sell on Saturdays in the parking lot across from the Kroger that recently shut down  on MLK .  SE Raleigh is a food desert.T&l_3

T&L Farm also provides produce to some of downtown’s hippest restaurants with a 30 minute (no fooling) turn around time.   Their okra looks AWESOME BTW,  and their organic compost is to die for.

Travis is a compost genius!  I want him to sell me som.

Travis is a compost genius! I want him to sell me some.

There’s also a community garden where families can adopt a row for free.

There’s an education garden for kids.

And there are big dreams:

Lester dreams of a meditation garden on the property.

Travis dreams of collards like his grandma made, and a new favorite–kale soup

Both want to see their children eat good food and know the joys of growing it.

Both want to see their community come together around a garden and make something good for the body and mind.

Both men are in their 30s, graduates of the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s urban ag program, AND never believed that they would would be working in agriculture  and loving it at this point in their lives.

But gardens change us, don’t they.

Cindy from the Food Shuttle tells me there IS enough food in the world; it’s just a problem of access.

Travis and Lester are working hard for access their little part of the world.  Cross your fingers for them.

A long-time gardener and a passionate beginner share the dirt on their NC gardens-

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