(Photo from Delish.com)

                                                                ODE TO BLOOMING

                                                Stealthily, they commanded the hill,

                                                Though no cannons nor bombs were booming.

                                                No movement detected, all seemed deadly still.

                                                Then, victorious as any army, all the flowers were blooming.

The earth is blooming with the joyous laughter of flowers. In my part of the world, we are enjoying the flowering season, once again.

After the long, often bleak time of pandemic burrowing, I’ve noticed how friends and neighbors are blooming with a spirited, newfound delight and determined positivity.

Like blooming flowers, we are again standing to attention with our heads raised to the warmth of the sun. We are nearly giddy with happiness, our blossoms dancing joyfully like those on the branches of cherry, peach and almond trees.

BLOOMIN’ JOY always requires resilience but even more so in the midst of world-buffeting change. You can find encouragement from Dr. Philip Zimbardo and Rosemary K.M. Sword in the May, 2020 issue of “Psychology Today” magazine. I am using their wise counsel to inform how we can foster blooming through “The S.U.N.S. (Smile-Making, Uniting, Neighboring, Spellbinding) Joyful Aging System”

SMILE-MAKING (Positive Thinking and Positive Doing)—Feel a smile blossoming as you reflect—we are still alive and there is the joy-bolstering wisdom of philosopher, Friedrich Nietzche’s famous truism: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

UNITING (Deeply Connecting)—It’s normal to slip into a gloom-and-doom funk-a-rama during hard times, but a good way to part the clouds is to focus on someone you treasure. Zimbardo and Sword advise, “If you’ve lost a loved one, consider making a vow to yourself that you’ll live ‘double’—for yourself and the person you lost.”

NEIGHBORING (Others-Centeredness)—Most of us feel marooned and “cut off” from important relationships during this pandemic. Many haven’t been able to connect in church and civic groups nor visit with loved ones. Think of others who live alone in isolation throughout every year. This would be a good time to volunteer at a nursing home or as some friends and I did for Valentine’s Day, 2022. Make certain every “shut in” person in your community receives a message of love and joy.

SPELLBINDING (Meaning Achieving “in the Flow”)—Spiritual exploration and blossoming often happens during cultural “lockdowns.” Instead of mulling, “Why is thing challenging time happening during my life?” flip your questioning to “Why not me to confront hardships?” A good, safe way to ponder deeper thoughts and get lost “in the flow” is to find an outdoor labyrinth or “meditation maze” in your neck of the woods—an easy online search.

“Flowers are transporting magical agents that attend our great transitions, from weddings to funerals; symbols of purity and fresh starts,” writes Diana Abu-Jaber in an article titled, “A Glass Full of Flowers” (The New York Times Magazine, March, 2022) about hibiscus, violet and other blooms currently in vogue as cocktail ingredients. She continues her ode to blossoms, “We collect them, wear them, crush their fragrance against our wrists and necks. They elevate our rituals and communicate love and grief. They’re the bridge between body and spirit, heaven and earth.”

BLOOMIN’ JOY is possible for all of us at every age. In my work as, “The Gerontologist of Joy,” I’m especially interested in how those who have blossomed with positivity can have “staying power.”

Just as some people need a bit of extra care to remain vigorous, some blooms require a bit more attention to remain at their peak. I found these suggestions in “Flower School” by Calvert Crary (Hachette Book Group, 2020):

ROSES—The foliage displaces nutrients from the blooms, so remove most or all and hydrate stems for 2-4 hours. Then, arrange in a separate vase of room temperature water.

TULIPS—So they can stand on their own atop sturdier stems, let the stems hydrate for 5-6 hours.

LILIES—Buds need 4-7 days to fully open and share their exquisite fragrance.

ANEMONES—Avoid too much heat and hydrate for 1-2 hours in cool water before placing in a vase.

HYDRANGEAS—To allow them to drink, make a one-inch slit up the stem and moisten the fluffy blooms with a spray bottle to ensure they stay hydrated.


Every April, communities across Alabama host “history walking tours.” Last weekend, I was the “guest historian,” shepherding a group and sharing newspaper accounts from the 1880s of the grand home and gardens of Colonel John Cullman, “The Most-Interesting Man in Alabama.”

Colonel Cullman’s flower garden was legendary. Following his death, a special public auction was held for his cherished plant specimens. An 1896 advertisement for the high-profile event promised “a large variety of rare and beautiful flowers. Ladies desiring to add to their stock should attend this sale.”

The late-Victorian Era women targeted by the advertising, understood the unspoken symbolism of flowers and some would be decoding the messages found in this colorful and compelling gentleman’s private place. Elegant ladies of this time often carried small bouquets called “tussie-mussies.”

These charming nosegays not only carried beauty to show and smell, but they also delivered secret messages. For example, a “tussie-mussie” might combine strands of ivy as a symbol of “fidelity,” gardenia meaning a “secret love” and forsythia for “anticipation.”

BLOOMIN’ JOY can be yours by creating your own “tussie-mussie.” Here are flowers for your consideration and the meanings they could help you communicate:

APPLE BLOSSOM—Good fortune

BABY’S BREATH—Everlasting love

CAMELLIA—Perfect loveliness

CARNATION (Red)—Fascination

CARNATION (Yellow)—Disappointment


GARDENIA—Secret love

LILY—Pure of heart

MARIGOLD—Jealousy, cruelty


ROSE (Red)—Passionate love



“Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine to the soul.”—Luther Burbank

“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.”—Zen Shin

“All of us blossom when we feel loved and wither when we do not feel love.”—Gary Chapman

“If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.”—Therese of Lisieux

“Flowers don’t worry about how they are going to bloom. They just open up and turn toward the light and that makes them beautiful.”—Jim Carrey

“Every flower blooms at a different pace.”—Suzy Kassem


Two old gents are sitting on the porch, their wives in the kitchen. One says to the other, “Bob, you should try that new restaurant we went to last night. Best food I’ve had in a long time.”

“Yeah, Joe. What was it called?”

“I can’t seem to remember. What is the name of that flower with the red blooms, the one with the thorns on the stem?”

Joe answers, “A rose is what I think you’re thinking of.”

“You’re right, thanks.” Then he yells to the kitchen, “HEY ROSE, WHAT WAS THE NAME OF THAT RESTAURANT WE WENT TO LAST NIGHT?”


April 23—Shirley Temple

April 24—Barbra Streisand

April 25—Walt Whitman

April 26—Carol Burnett

April 27—Lizzo

April 28—Jay Leno

April 29—Willie Nelson

                                                       BLOOMIN’ BAKED POTATO—IDAHO

                                                                 (Source: delish.com)

Each week, Joy & Gerontology shares a recipe saluting a healthy food produced in America. The delicious and nutritious collection is called “The S.U.N.S. USA Longevity Cookbook” and highlights vitamin B-3 (niacin) which many gerontologists believe the promise for a long, healthy, joyful life.


4 russet potatoes

3 Tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon garlic powder

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

2 Tablespoons finely chopped chives

Sour cream for garnish


Step 1) Preheat oven to 425 F and line a baking sheet with foil. Cut off the top of the potatoes. Using a paring knife, make three circular cuts in each potato, then place the potato cut side down on a cutting board and slice crosswise, leaving a small space on the top uncut. Carefully flip the potatoes back over and place on baking sheet.

Step 2) In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil and garlic powder. Brush potatoes with olive oil mixture and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes.

Step 3) Brush with the olive oil mixture and bake for another 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Scatter cheese on top of potatoes. Bake until the cheese is melted and the outsides of the potatoes begin to crisp, about 10 minutes.

Step 4) Top with bacon and sprinkle with chives. Garnish with sour cream and serve.

BLOOMIN’ JOY EVENTS THIS WEEK—BLOOMIN’ FEST (St. Bernard Abbey, Cullman, AL) the 38th annual arts/crafts/music festival is 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., April 23 and 24; CULLMAN COUNTY MASTER GARDENERS SPRING PLANT SALE is April 22 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. and April 23 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. at North Alabama AGRIPLEX (across from Cullman Bowling Center)


362. The giant vase of fragrant, Rubrim lilies when my son was born.

363. My great-grandmother’s rose bowls my mother gave me and the tulipiere’ she tried to give me.

364. The facile and prolific art of Raoul Dufy, all pure joy.

365. The classy professionalism of comedian Chris Rock after an audience member physically attacked him.

366. A spirited game of “spoons.”

365. Hanging a spoon from your nose.

366. A twanging mouth harp.

367. Kindergarten cubbyholes with your personal symbol.

368. Buying costume jewelry for your mom and she acts like they are precious jewels.

369. Uncle Kitty’s striptease girl steering wheel knob and ink pen.

370. Dancing with a fun girl who wore a lighted Christmas tree skirt.

371. “Don’t do that, you’ll put your eye out!”

372. “I don’t make trash, I burn it!”

373. The clever choreography of “Stomp!”

374. Square dancing.

375. Buck dancing.

376. Waltzing.

377. Root vegetables in deep winter.

378. Marzipan.

379. Monkey Bread.

380. A dog named “Lady” who was anything but.

381. That zaftig, totally nude German gal playing beach volleyball in Nice.

382. “Don’t make me put my Jesus socks on!”

383. Seeing Princess Diana’s wedding bouquet in a flower shop in London before she married Prince Charles.