Coastal Carolina – Spring Fever Hits Hard

Cause if you gots the fever, I’ve gots the remedy.

   by Donna Byrd

I don’t know….It started a few weeks ago.  I’d been fine up until then…But something’s happening to me.  I can’t stop staring out the window.  It’s like, something’s out there and it’s calling me.  Calling my name!  And, I’m hearing things. The ground sounds like it’s rumbling. The trees are buzzing with this high pitched energy noise.  Birds are singing at night.

And my hands…they’re the worst!  I want to dig holes in the dirt and feel it’s grittiness under my fingernails and you know how I hate dirty hands!  I know it’s crazy but I want to put my nose in the loamy earth and inhale the rich essence of something I can’t quite put my finger on. I don’t know… Life?  The essence of life?  I’m  finding myself watching tutorials on bulb planting and the pros of planting with bare roots.  I’m hoarding my money to spend at the dreamiest place ever (Pender Pines Garden Center). Heck, I’ve started walking around Lowes’ garden center like a young girl walking by that new boy’s house, humming to herself while she takes a gander at his bedroom window. But I’m looking at rose bushes!  It’s embarrassing. IMG_1126

My feet want to break out of the boots I’ve worn since last October and I can’t find my flip flops. The other day, I was sitting on the porch steps in a daze, my eyes closed.  The sun felt so good and warm on my face I peeked open an eye to make sure it wasn’t God or an angel pressing against my face.  It was only the sun, but that’s just it…when I feel this way, I believe anything can happen!  I’m losing my sense of sensibility! I’m getting all dreamy and feeling “spiritual” tingles.  I want to lay down on the ground and hug the earth.  I need help!  I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!

I was sitting on the bed, propped up with pillows, my computer in my lap, opened to a flower nursery website. Southern Living and Coastal Living magazines were scattered all about the king sized bed. Bill was sitting next to me, my ramblings nothing new to him. It was that time of year again when he knew he had to be careful and gentle with me.  I had suffered these symptoms year after year, usually beginning around the first week of March. He put his cool hand on my warm forehead.  “Honey, I think you’ve got Spring Fever.”

That was the moment when “Dr. Bill” took out his “spring tonic” and began to open the bottle. He knew that one spoonful of his remedy would bring my fever down to a controllable level. He’d developed it over the years and it had a powerful affect on me.  I am usually too delirious to realize the simplicity of his remedy at my time of need.  I gulped it down like a good girl who was promised a fairy tale garden for swallowing the medicine she’d been offered. IMG_1123

“Donna, what do you want to buy?  How much money are we talking about? I mean, of course, within reason.”  And somehow, these two questions and that part about “reason” cut through my delirium. The tonic worked immediately.  I came back to myself.  It was a miracle.  I didn’t say a word and just stared at him because I wondered how much he was going to let me spend.  I told him my plans and then my bottom line: “I want to fill in my front flower beds with lilies, phlox, liatris and balloon flowers.  I’d like to put some knock out roses in the back yard with some hostas, maybe a few hydrangeas, up by the house.  That’s all.  My guess is that it will cost a few hundred dollars… maybe three?” IMG_1117

I waited for his answer and he paused, because he knew he had to say “yes” when he was thinking, “no.”  Wisely compromising, he said, “Donna, go out and spend about half that much at first. We’ll worry about the other half later.” My Spring Fever healing had begun.

The next day, feeling eighty percent better but in my right mind, I set off to Lowe’s. Since we had bought a house in southeastern North Carolina in Sneads Ferry, on the mainland across from Topsail Island, I had to study up on what types of flowers would grow in our sandy soil and humid “down east,”  coastal environment.  Going out on a limb and because it was early in the planting season, I bought some summer bulbs and bare root summer flowers.  I read that planting your flower garden with bulbs and roots was cheaper plus the flowers would be stronger because of a better root system. Since I was all for saving money and having strong, big plants, I thought I’d give it a try.  I saw a sign on the side of the bulb display that said, “Dig, Drop, Done.”  Sounded easy enough to me.IMG_1176

When I arrived at home, I was full of high hopes and the car was filled with bag after bag of rich garden soil and pretty boxes containing the promise of multitudes of colorful summer blossoms. I put on a new pair of garden gloves and went to work.

I began by digging the flower beds and spreading the rich new soil around in them.  May I just make a comment here about how hard that was?  I had forgotten how much elbow grease it took to dig up a garden. I stood back and admired the pretty, clean beds but was so out of breath and shaky that I decided the next day I would place all of the bulbs and roots where they would be planted in my garden and then I’d just do the “drop” part.  The hardest part was over.  Nothing like a hard day’s work! IMG_1132

The next morning when I awakened,  I thought the Spring Fever was back in full force but with new symptoms.  My body ached so badly I could hardly get out of bed and it seemed to worsen as the day progressed.  There was a cold rain pelting the black soil on my bare garden and I was hoping the dirt wouldn’t wash away.  I made a pot of chicken soup and stayed inside all day, cursing my body pains and nursing a sinus headache. I would begin the “Drop” part of my gardening whenever my body said it was OK.

Three days later (count them, one, two three,) my body said I could venture out as much as I felt like it. I took all of my boxes of flower “thingy’s” and went outside to my front porch. I’d decided earlier that I would be like a Victorian gardener and write down all of the flowers I’d planted so that later I could look back in my garden journal and remember what was where. Looking down on my scribbled pages, hoping I was going about it the right way, I thought I’d plant them according to their projected heights. I opened my first package.

Liatris and balloon flowers were bulbs.  Easy!  Just which end of the bulb went on top?  Wondering if the bulbs would turn over by themselves if they were planted upside down,  I started digging the holes.  Hole…water…bulb.  Hole…water…bulb.  I squatted.  I sat flat on the dirt.  My back and legs were screaming at me.  Grains of dirt squeezed up under my fingernails even though I had on gloves, yet I toiled on.  Later, admiring my work, I realized after I had dropped the bulbs in and covered them, the ground still looked the same – bare. The bulbs of promise were several inches below the ground getting a feel for their new home. Bending my ear down toward the soil, I listened.  I heard the faint hum of the bulbs, their nervous energy just waiting to start sending roots downward and little shoots upward.  And then, Donna, the Down East gardener,  smiled and said…”It is good.”  I had to take a break to steady my wobbly legs and catch my breath.

It was then time to plant the border flowers: purple freckle phlox and dahlias, the bare root plants.  I took them out of the package and stared at the plastic bag they came in,  moist dirt and roots with some type of nodules hanging on them filled the bag.  Gently, I  pulled one out and honestly, I couldn’t tell if it was the top or the bottom of the plant.  It was so dried and shriveled that I wondered if I should take it back to the store and exchange it for something that looked more “alive.”  “Oh well,” I thought, “I’m just going to put it in the ground and cover it up.  A flower should know what it’s supposed to do.  “Dig. Drop. Done.” Right?

I planted all the bare roots, spacing them as I should,  praying that I was putting them in right side up. Spreading my hands out over the gardens, I asked God to fix any wrong I might have unknowingly done and bless my garden in spite of itself!  Done! I trudged up the porch steps, feeling every groaning muscle in my body.  It’s a known fact:  If you want something beautiful, you have to work hard for it.IMG_1186

I glanced at the wicker settee and saw several other boxes of plants that I still needed to put in the ground but they were for the back yard.  Those gardens too, would have to be dug up and formed the way I had planned them.  “Dig. Drop. Done,” was starting to seem like an insurmountable task.  I gathered up all the boxes that were left and went into the house, putting them on the dining room table so that they could remind me every time I walked by them, “Hey, look at me!  I need to be planted by the end of March!”

Ugh!  I was filthy, tired and sore. As I ran some hot bath water, I wondered how much I would have had to plant if Bill had given me  all the money I thought I’d needed to plant my flower beds.  I crawled into the tub and thanked God that my husband had “been gentle with me” and only let me get half of what I wanted.  His tonic for treating “Spring Fever” had healed me from head to toe.  Just throw a little money at a project you really want to accomplish and half way through, you’ll lose energy or interest in it. Brilliant! As I begin to clean the dirt from under my fingernails, I wondered if I could come up for a cure for the “March Madness” that seemed to infect him every spring.  I was going to have to think on that one!

Update:  It’s only been four days and already we’ve spotted some of the Asiatic Lilies coming up in one of the beds around our Flowering Plum tree. I guess I planted them right side up after all or God had pity sakes on me!

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Remember, Treasure Realty has the immediate remedy for your Spring Fever.  Check our stunning spring getaway homes and prices.  You’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is Topsail Island beach time!  treasurerealty.com

OK little darlings!  Here are three of my favorite artists paying tribute to one of one of my all time “greats,” George Harrison.  Enjoy your song!

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My Bill Done Bought Me a House

“He makes his home where the living is best.” Latin proverb

I grew up with dreams of getting married, having children and buying a home. In 1979, Bill and I got married and six months later, at the age twenty-three, we bought a house in Tarboro, North Carolina. It wasn’t an extravagant house by any means. It was a small, white, wood frame, two bedroom home with one bath and a floor furnace in the hall. It cost us $23,000 and to me, it might as well had been the Taj Mahal. We did what many couples seem to do; we got a nice dog named Muffin. Every day, Bill would sing this song to her: “Oh do you know the Muffin Girl, the Muffin Girl, the Muffin Girl…Who lives at 1100 Chapel Street?” Our mansion. Our dream.   It was time for a baby.

John was born three years after we were married. I quit my job so that I could be a stay-at-home mom and all of a sudden, finances got pretty tight. We sold the house for $29,000 to pay off our debts and moved into a nice rental home on a pretty street with brick homes. Life was good! We then got pregnant with Natalie and moved into the house next door because we needed more space. Once again, we were renters.

When Natalie was almost two years old, we left Tarboro so that Bill could pursue Christian Education Administration at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia. We put everything we owned into a U-Haul truck, said good-bye to the corporate world and went out on “Bill and Donna’s Excellent Adventure” to see where God would take us. In Virginia Beach, Bill got his education and Donna got another baby, Stacey. What was next for this family of five?

New Orleans! We lived in three different abodes, one a pretty little town home set in a garden courtyard. The courtyard had thick, jungle-like greenery and trees I had never seen before, making up a type of exotic forest. Everything about New Orleans was different. The people talked like they were from the Bronx and they had Mardi Gras! The food was fabulous and I learned to cook Cajun delicacies. But I felt as if I was in a different country! My fourth child was born there. Jeremy. I think some of the music from New Orleans seeped into his soul. We always left each city with a piece of it in our hearts.

In Atlanta, we stayed in a Christian retreat center just outside the city. We had rustic rooms that looked like kid’s camp bunk rooms. The children thought that they had died and gone to heaven. They could jump on all the beds and run and play all over the expansive property.  We were the only ones staying there for months. It was almost like a vacation.

Orlando was our home for nine years and we lived in eight different places. At first, we lived in a condo on beautiful Lake Lotus. This was my first Florida home and my best remembrance of it is looking out of my sliding glass doors on the first morning up and seeing the mist rise out over the lake as a tiny boat sat on perfectly still water.  Some snowy white birds were on the shore and I thought to myself, “I live in Florida.” I smiled to myself for weeks, thinking I was the luckiest girl on earth.

We moved our growing family and tribe to what we called the “blue house.” It had four bedrooms that were filled to the brim with life. The first morning we were there, the older children went to school and by the time they got home, I had the house entirely decorated. Pictures on the walls, my cross stitched master pieces prominently displayed for all to see. I remember that Natalie walked in after school, looked around and said, “Momma! You put up our ways on the wall.” She automatically felt like she was home.

When we got married, I began cross stitching. I decided not to read as much (I was an avid reader) but to do something during my spare time that showed the work of my hands. During my pregnant and nursing years, (eleven or twelve years) I was a cross stitch artist. I spent so much money on custom framing that I could have made a down payment on a small house! Bill was always fussing about it, but I decided that my artwork would be a legacy for my children. No matter where we lived, that art decorated our walls. The day my last child, Cody was born, I stopped doing it and began to read again.

My last two children, Isaaca and Cody were born when we lived there. They were rare, Florida natives. Our family was complete. One dream accomplished!

Later, we lived in two other nice homes on lakes, one of which I actually caught my boys playing with baby alligators at a retention pond in the neighborhood. Next, I got to live out another dream of mine by living in a log cabin. We weren’t in the mountains but in Florida! I thought it must be the only log cabin in Orlando. The neat thing about it was that Bob Ross, the artist on T.V. lived next door. He was the kindest man. He took care of wounded squirrels and birds. One time, he showed Bill and me his basement studio and his 19th century art collection.  I know you’re jealous! It was so cool!

For me, the best thing about the house was the front yard and porch. I planted beautiful fern and caladium beds flanked by multi-colored impatiens in the front yard in the deep, green shade. I loved to drive into my driveway, sit in my car and look at that loveliness and from time to time, glance over at Bob Ross’ house. It satisfied me.

Of course, I’ve written about the apartment complexes we lived and ministered in. That certainly satisfied our desire for adventure but it also taught us that no matter where you live or who you live around, you find that people are just people. I recall that our son Jeremy made friends with a Haitian boy, Marcus, in one of the complexes. They played together every day and made a fort on the corner of the property with trash they found lying around the neighborhood. It was probably nicer than some of the temporary homes in Haiti. I hated that someone tore it down one day. There were two broken-hearted little boys!

Orlando entertained us all the time. In one house near Kissimmee, every night at 7:00, you could see the fireworks from Disney, Universal Studios and Sea World. It was the Fourth of July every day! At the apartment complex in “the hood,” you could see helicopter light shows all the time. They always flew low over where we lived, seeking out car thieves, drug dealers or murderers. We were Christian adventure junkies!

Miami was interesting! We lived in a condo at a resort right on the beach. Bill sold time-share out of it by day and did Spanish speaking church services at night and on the weekends in the conference rooms. Our apartment had two bedrooms and a sun room. There were eight of us and most of the kids slept on pallets on the floor. We felt as if God had given us a year’s vacation! After that, we got to stay for several months in an apartment in a flower nursery. That was odd, but hey, the place was loaded with nature’s colors and beautiful birds lived all around us too! It was so tropical. Plus, there was a great Cuban restaurant across the street at the gas station. Did I tell you Cuban food was one of my favorites?

I loved Miami! It was blue and aqua and green and white and it smelled of all kinds of foods and it was the only place where I had ever been where you could stand on a street corner and hear car radios blasting in at least three different languages at one time. Sensory overload! It was glorious!

The next place we lived was Alabama, God’s Country! We lived there for nine years and served in a church with the loveliest, kindest people we had ever met! We lived in one house for eight years, the longest time we had ever stayed in one home. The kids really grew up in that house and over time, it became a showplace to me. I planted rose gardens and dug flower beds in red clay, as hard as cement. I added truckloads of black, rich soil to the red dirt and mixed it with my hands every year and miracle of miracles, the flowers were stellar! My pride and joy! My little bit of heaven!

I had an artistic friend, Candice, who came and painted in free-hand, lyrics on my walls. I had a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song, “Our House,” painted all around the house, over the fireplace, the piano, dining table and chair railing down the hallway. It was our mantra. It made us all happy to see it and we smiled every time we walked by the beautiful, free flowing words. That house held so many dreams in it…It was a magical house where our kids came to live there as young children and left as adults.

The children all moved to Nashville, Tennessee because music was calling and they had dreams to live out. When that happened, I had a breakdown. We were leaving Alabama too, and they were all in a new town without me. I felt as if my life had been pulled out from me. My life was a beautifully, set table and someone yanked the table cloth out from under it.

But God had plans for us. Bill and I went to Sneads Ferry, North Carolina to work, after twenty eight years of ministry life, at my cousin and her husband’s real estate company, Treasure Realty. Our lives had completely changed and in my heart I thought it was only temporary. Bill and I desperately wanted to be in Nashville. We made plans pleaded with God to let us go…open the doors…get us near our children. They were our home. We just wanted to be near them.

And somehow, it didn’t happen. Nothing worked out for us. There was not even a crack of door opening anywhere. So…

We lived in lovely places in Sneads Ferry. Twice, we lived in condos on the beach. For a little over a year we lived in a garden home and since last March, we’ve lived in my cousin’s downstairs apartment in their home on the Intra Coastal Waterway. Not too shabby! God always gives us the best places!

We’ve been here for three years now and I have to tell you, after a while, we just chose to be happy.   I can’t tell you the day I decided to do that but we thought, “At our age, we need the stability of work. Also, we are celebrated here and people love us! We have other family members near us. What’s not to like?”

Little by little, I began to see myself in Sneads Ferry. Bill and I started looking for a house, not to rent but to buy! I must announce that we found one.   We saw it on a Sunday and within a few weeks, it was our house! We are over the moon ecstatic about it! After thirty-two years, we are home owners again!

We are having the inside painted now and we will move in a few weeks. I can sit on the front porch and actually hear the ocean roaring from a half mile away. When we lived in Alabama, we lived right off of Interstate 20 and at night I would lie in bed and hear the big trucks rolling down the highway traveling to and from Atlanta and Birmingham. They sounded like the ocean’s roar to me and I would pretend I was at the beach, going to sleep under the oceans hypnotic spell.

I don’t have to pretend anymore! It is the ocean and I have a big front porch! Come and sit with me and let’s visit!

My brother-in-law, Keith used to always tease me and ask, “When are you guys going to stop renting houses and buy one?” I’d always answer back, “Don’t you worry about it. My Bill is going to buy me a house one day.” It became a family joke and as some of my Southern friends would say, “Donna’s Bill done bought her a house!” I just may have to have Candice come up and paint some free-spirited words on my wall or just put the old ones back because: “Our house, is very, very, very fine house.”

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Oh, and by the way…Nashville is never out of the picture! One day, Nashville. Me and You…Just you wait and see!

 

 

Here’s a couple songs….enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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