Aug 16, 2016

Making It Fit.

Have you ever been shopping for shoes? My whole life shoe shopping has been a challenge. My feet are little, I actually wear a kid size shoe. It is extremely difficult for me to find grownup looking shoes in my size. When I was a teenager I would regularly buy shoes that did not fit me, they would be so pretty and I would want them so badly that I would just convince myself that they fit me even though they really didn't. My deep dark secret is that I would stuff the toes of these shoes with enormous amounts of Kleenex or toilet paper to make them fit me. It really was not comfortable but I did not care. Even though the truth was staring me in the face I would ignore it and convince myself I could make these shoes work.

Maybe it was after one too many people saw the wad of Kleenex in the toe of my shoe? Maybe I finally got tired of uncomfortably walking in shoes that flopped? I am just not sure when I stopped buying shoes that did not fit me but eventually I did. I had to embrace my true shoe size and just be happy with what I could find in my size that looked close enough to grown know, avoiding flashing lights, neon colors, Dora, or Velcro. 

There is this fabulous shoe store in Eugene called Burch's. The shoes in this store are truly beautiful. Every time I go in the store I head for the smallest size in women's and stare longingly at the amazing shoes that I know would make all my dreams come true. I always try them on hoping they may fit, but they never, ever, ever do and after about ten minutes of diligently trying to convince myself that they fit I dejectedly head over to the kid section to find size 3 shoes for me. So many times I have had to leave a pair of shoes on the shelf that I am sure would change my life if they only fit.

What about puzzles? I can vividly remember times in my life when I have been working on a puzzle  and I find a piece that has all the right colors and shapes to match the surrounding pieces. I put the piece in it's spot fully expecting the satisfying feeling that comes from a perfect fit but something just does not seem right and inevitably someone doing the puzzle with me will doubtfully say "I don't think that fits there." I will ask back, "Are you sure?" I will give it few confident pushes and wiggles to show that I am confident with my decision. But then they try another piece there and I see how smoothly it fits and I have to bravely admit, no matter how hard I tried, it did not fit.

Natalie my thirteen year old is growing like crazy right now and every single piece of clothing she puts on does not fit. Every time she comes out of her room I have to say, "Oh honey that does not fit." She looks at me like I am crazy. Then looks down at the high water pants or the tight shirt and looks at me with complete confidence and declare flippantly, "Yes, it does." We see what we want to see.

I was laying in my bed last night thinking about making things fit and how it appears that I am the kind of girl that is always ignoring the fact that something does not fit. (I have no idea where Natalie got it from :) If I really want something to fit whether it is clothes, shoes, or even...gasp... a relationship I will figuratively stuff Kleenex or toilet paper everywhere I can, trying with all my might to make it fit because I really, really, really, really, want it to. I can not tell you how many times I have embarrassed myself fighting for a relationship that I needed to just admit did not fit. Or wearing a dress that was too long or not long enough, or pants that needed a belt. Because I am petite I need to wear things that fit perfectly and yet sometimes I find something in the store that is so not fitting me right but I refuse to see it and decide I can MAKE IT WORK. I am not sure what made me this way but lately I am seeing that this darling tendency I have may someday be the death of me. I need to learn how to stop pushing and wiggling on the piece and just.... let it go and move on. Maybe if I find a mountain with beautifully smooth snow on it and I run up it wearing my cape (that fits) singing at the top of my lungs, "Let it go. Let it go it will help me :)

Aug 14, 2016

Have You Seen My Spark?

So today I was going through my folder of blog drafts that I had not posted and this one caught my eye. I am not sure why I did not post it but when I read it today I realized I needed to post it so do not get to tangled up in the time just sit back and enjoy :)

Cloudy, rainy Saturday morning. I have a pile of homework. I need to get my singing time ready for church tomorrow. I have a list a mile long of things I seem to never be able to catch up on. I have relationships that I can not figure out that are weighing so heavy on me. I have so much on my mind. I need to write and write so I can feel better but how to do that and not freak everyone out with my oversharing, possible complaining, and wondering. So bear with me as I ramble and attempt to help myself to feel better and make sense of things. I need someone to talk to and it is going to have to be handsome, fabulous listener, Mr. Blog.

I spent the day yesterday in Seattle. I have a eency weency, teeny tiny assignment for my 30th class reunion that will be in August and I needed to pick up some things from some class members for it. Since I was already going to be there I scheduled play dates with a few of my favorite Snohomish/high school peeps who had time to play. I was really looking forward to the day.

I left Oregon at 3 in the morning. My alarm rang at 2:40 am and I decided not to think too much about getting ready for my day. I grabbed the first clothes I saw. I put on minimal makeup. Put my hair in a side ponytail. Got a box of granola bars, water bottle, grapes, and headed out. There is something very therapeutic about flying along the freeway in your car in the dark. I did not turn on any music. I just rode in complete silence. I thought and thought about so many things. I tend to imagine that I have always been a "glass overflowing" happy, energized, positive kind of girl. I have been known to unhealthily power through my days without stopping to acknowledge the immense things that are happening around me that could be affecting me....but who doesn't do that? :) I actually did not even realize this was happening until my dear friend Gail came to visit me a few weeks ago. Gail knows me so well and happens to have been through all my huge life events with me. Yeah, lucky her :) Within 12 hours of being back together with me she confidently and correctly declared to me, "Something is wrong. Your spark is gone." A spark by definition, "is a trace of life or vitality." I am confident it makes me who I am. I had not even realized it but as I thought about it I knew she was right. Mr. Spark was gone. I have not given enough credit to all I have been through the past two years and so my spark just left. I have no idea where it has run off to. I wonder if I will recognize it? I wonder if it misses me? How do I get it to come back? These are the things I thought about as I was driving.

It was a gray morning and I love those sort of mornings. The skyline of Seattle always thrills me when I came around the corner on I-5 and see it looming ahead. I immediately pick out the space needle. And I often think about how many times I have rounded that corner. I smile to myself as I realize I am almost always thinking about the same thing. Going to Seattle is my favorite thing but there is a small price to pay for these visits the memories are everywhere, very thick, and tend to make me feel a little melancholy as I drive past places I have met friends or done fun things with my family or friends.

I stopped in Snohomish to pick up a poster from a friend. I was very proud of myself because I used google maps on my phone to find where this friend's parents house was. I felt like quite the tech savvy girl as I figured out how to get the voice on google maps to tell me the directions out loud. Yes, I am bragging :)

Then I worked my way up I-5 towards Camano Island. This is where my dear friend Shelley lives. The views are spectacular and I love to visit Shelley. She and I immediately head out to take an enormous walk whenever I show matter the weather. We catch up. We attempt to solve the worlds problems and we reminisce. We never really have the answers but it is fun to commiserate.

After spending an hour and a half with Shelley I got in my car and headed towards Marysville for lunch with my favorite teacher from high school, Mr. Castro. Mr Castro taught me in jazz and concert choir. He gave me chances like nobody's business and I will always be grateful to him for that. I love to connect with him when I can and I always have a great time learning from him and listening to his experiences.

After lunch I headed out to Monroe to meet Loretta. She was Lorre in high school. We do the same thing Shelley and I do, we walk and talk our guts out. We always meet at Lake Tye in Monroe. Lorre and I both have seven kids so we have a lot to talk about. She and I spent lots of time when we were in our teens talking about how life would surely turn out when we grew up and now we sheepishly smile to each other when we remember those dreams :) The talking and walking is so needed and every time I do this with these friends I feel so overwhelmingly grateful for where they fit in my life and that we have kept in touch and of course wish we lived closer. 

All the reminiscing and talking in one day does tend to wear me out so by the end of the day I feel satisfied but my mind is so full. Verbalizing what is going on in your life. Bringing it up and talking about it makes you think about it more. Which is good but also means it needs to be dealt with. Everyone is dealing with things. Some are better at it than others. Some figure it our sooner than others do. Because I am an over thinker the plan for the dealing part often comes later than sooner.

P.S I did not find my spark on this trip. I hope wherever it is it is safe. It will be such a relief to get it back and be me once again. If you find it please feed it Reeses and give it a hug....I am not much of a hugger that is probably why it left :)


You get all sorts of reactions when you declare to someone that you are going to a reunion. For some reason the reactions are most interesting when you admit it is a high school reunion. I know this because my thirtieth high school reunion was this weekend and most people I told I was going have had a pretty intense opinion about whether reunions are a priority or not. Some people think it is living in the past but the past is what made me who I am and I do adore going back to visit it and see if I learned anything :)

A reunion is defined as an "act of uniting again." So when things/people have been apart for a long time and they come back together again it is called a reunion...a gathering after a separation. I spent at least four of my very formative years with these same 300 or so people. Some I was closer with than others. Some I kept in touch with more than others. But no matter that, the truth is that our lives were all tangled together for at least those four years even if it was just a passing smile in the hall or someone loaning you a pencil. We definitely affected each other for good or bad. Most of our identity is forged in high school, it is a most fascinating thing.

Some people love to go to reunions others don't. I have thought about that a few times this weekend as I observed the classmates of mine that did decide to come to the reunion. What made them decide this was a priority? What makes others cringe at the thought and stay away? I go because I love people. I love to see what they have learned and what they have become. I don't care how they look. I don't care if they are successful or not. I just like them. It delights me beyond belief to see them loving to see each other again. If you administered a personality test to people who go to high school reunions would there be a commonality? Some piece that all those people have that makes them value re-connecting at any cost? I wonder if all the people who could not come realize that we all wondered where they were? How they are? And that we genuinely miss seeing them at our reunions?

It is not really possible to get a high school age kid recognize the value of each of these people they are going to school with, individually. And it was simply not possible for all of us to really know each other when we were in high school. It is sad but true. I am so grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with these people and hear about their lives, smile at the mannerisms they have that are still "so them." I felt an overwhelming gratefulness for how kind my classmates are. I saw them all talk to each other, reach out, and laugh about not recognizing each other. I deeply hoped everyone had a good time and got what they hoped they would get out of reuniting.

As I think about the definition of reunion I realized that there are lots of sorts of reunions in our lives. Times when we unite again.
 I have had children leave on missions and be gone for 2 years and then they come back and we reunite.
 I have had old friends come back into my life after years of being apart and we reunite.
 I have given up Reeses and then ....we reunite :)
 I have lost weight and then...we reunite :)
 I had friends I watched years of the television show Survivor with and we used to reunite years after we all moved away.
 What about when I find a missing match to a sock? Yep, reunion.
 I had my darling old college roommates come to Massachusetts a few years ago and we reunited and it was so fun.

 I remember the first time I experienced the joy of reuniting. (You have to have lived awhile to get to the point that you recognize the power of reunion.) I was living in Indiana at the time and my high school choir teacher in Washington was retiring. I had been out of high school 19 years. All of a sudden everyone who was in choir was reconnecting. This retirement was big, we had all been touched by this teacher and his life, we all wanted to acknowledge him. I had been knee deep in raising my seven children and had not had a moment to stop and think about high school, let alone the people who were part of my life then. But before I knew it I was reuniting with friends from choir and my high school choir teacher. All of a sudden there were people back in my life who had known me before I was...gasp... a mom. It was a most surreal feeling to hear what they remembered about me and to ponder on how they had affected my life. I really needed it at this time in my life. It really helped me to get some much needed perspective on who I was and where I was going. I was so grateful.

So in the end even though we know it may not end up to be the best thing we have ever done, going our high school reunion. I it is still so amazing to see what the ending is turning out to be. How can you not want to know what the end is? I loved spending the last two days watching and listening to my old classmates from the class of 1986 form Snohomish high School. To admire what they have become. To marvel at what they are figuring out and how they are learning from hard things in their lives. We are such better versions of ourselves now.

Jul 17, 2016

Personal Narrative

So this week is my last week of my online classes until September. For my last paper I was required to write a personal narrative. This was harder than I thought it would be. I mean I have a lot of experiences that have happened to me that taught me valuable lessons but when it came right down to writing about them I was surprised that most of them I was reluctant to share. Yeah, me reluctant to share? Be sure to make a note of that somewhere. Believe it or not my teacher had to coax me to add more details and dig deeper into the feelings of the experience I chose to write about. When all was said and done it was not my most favorite paper I have written this year but I am still going to post it know for posterity :)

Ever since I moved into my parent’s home nineteen months ago I have been engaged in a mortal battle with the gate at the top of their driveway. This gate is the only entrance into the 6.3 acres my parents own in Cottage Grove, Oregon. This gate diligently protects 18 years of hard work that has created a Garden of Eden, minus the Adam and Eve. It carefully protects pruned fruit trees, multiple weed free vegetable gardens, perfectly trimmed shrubs, exquisitely edged lawns, many varieties of flowers, carefully laid pathways, rock creek beds, and last but not least strawberries, blueberries, and boysenberries. My parents have done it all by themselves, slowly, day after day, year after year, piece by piece; it is a very peaceful and beautiful sight. The neighborhood deer desperately long to partake of it, which is what brings us back to the gate. This gate is what protects those years of hard work from the tame, very entitled, destructive gang of deer.
This gate is not the kind that opens and closes on its own. This gate is not the kind of gate that you drive up to, push buttons, or name drop, and it magically opens. This gate requires diligence from anyone trying to get through it. It is nothing short of a laborious process to open and close this gate. You drive your car to the top of the driveway and no matter what the weather may be, you have to open the car door, get out, and walk to the gate. Then you need to lift up the latch, and separate the two sides of the gate. One part of the gate you can just let go but the other half needs to be set behind the perfectly placed medium sized rock sitting on the edge of the driveway. It is very important to make sure that the gate is resting behind this rock because nothing is more frustrating than getting back in the car all ready to proceed and realize the gate followed you back to the middle of the driveway and is blocking your way. So once you are sure the gate is staying put walk back to the car and drive through. Wait! You are not done yet, stop the car again and go gather the left side of the gate from its spot behind the rock and bring it back to the middle of the driveway. This is the moment where you must carefully search on the ground to find the small inch wide hole in the driveway. This hole is where the long cylindrical metal part of the gate fits. If it is dark outside do not forget to grab your flashlight when you get out of the car otherwise you will never find that darn hole; it blends in perfectly with the gray, gravel driveway. Sometimes there is gravel stuck in the hole preventing you from securing the gate but no matter the obstacle you must make sure the cylindrical metal piece is secure and happy in that hole. Then go get the other half of the gate, bring it to the middle of the driveway, and slide the latch down on the side that is already in place. Now trudge back to the car over the frustrating, medium sized gravel pieces. It is tiring just to write about it let alone do it every single time you leave the house or come to the house.
Sometimes I have teenagers in the car with me that I ask to get out and open the gate. They hate the process just as much as I do. More than I care to admit it is just too much work to assign one of my daughters to do it so I just do it myself. Other times I tell them reassuringly that someday they will be grateful for the gate and the diligence it is teaching them and I make them get out and open it so I don’t have to learn about diligence.
I really do believe that as our lives go on we will look back and realize over and over again all the lessons this gate is teaching us. I roll this thought around in my mind every time I am begrudgingly getting out of the car to open or close it. Even though I am aware that this gate has so many parallels to life I can still be found murmuring, being frustrated, and declaring my eternal hate for it. Diligence is, “Constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken, persistent exertion of body or mind.” This gate definitely involves the words constant, earnest, persistent and exertion. One day I learned what happens when you are doing the opposite of diligence which is known as carelessness. The gate finally got me to pay attention to what it had been trying to teach me.
 A few months ago I managed to talk myself into the okay-ness of leaving the gate open after I drove through in the morning. You see on weekdays I leave home at 6:00 in the morning. I am often running late because of my darling teenage daughter who rides with me. So before I knew it I had convinced myself that soon after I left my early rising, routine loving parents surely walked down the driveway to get their Wall Street Journal, and obviously they closed the gate on their way back.  For a few weeks I lived this luscious dream of carelessness. It was so amazing to just open the gate and drive merrily through without having to stop. No one mentioned what was going on so I figured it was all good.
Then came that seemingly innocent Friday morning that started with my usual routine of not closing the gate. It turns out my parents do not get down the driveway as early I thought they did and the deer had finally figured out the time lapse and sauntered right through. They destroyed flowers, ate the lower branches of fruit trees, frolicked in the garden, and snacked on pretty much everything they could for at least an hour, or two. My vigilant mother never even knew that they were in the yard until she saw them lounging, with incredibly full and content bellies on her perfectly manicured lawn without a care in the world. My poor seventy year old mother had to chase those tame, reluctant to obey deer out of her yard. I felt horrible when I heard the news. I had made my parents think I did not care about their hard work and I caused damage to a lot of their yard. I wished I could take it back. But we all know how well taking things back works out.
I had been trying to call both my parents all that Friday morning and was having no luck. Finally I received a text from my mother declaring in a most direct way that the deer had been in the yard and it was my fault. I quickly called her to find out what had happened and we had a very hard conversation that left me crying like I had not cried in years. In my whole 47 years I had never remembered my mother being so frustrated with me. There I was sitting in the parking lot of my Schwab office in Eugene waiting for my 10:00 appointment with Rob to move some investments around, sobbing and sobbing.
For many days after, “Deer-maggeddon” I had lots of questions and berating thoughts. What was wrong with me? Why did I not want to stop and take the time to do something I knew was important? Why do we resent things that take our time? Why was being diligent so hard? I was most definitely a failure at the diligence/enduring thing. I would have never made a good pioneer. Diligence requires being constant, attentive, and persistent- all three words that never seem describe me no matter how much I want them to. It took something very bad happening to get me to change and now I cheerfully open and close that gate a gazillion times a day as I take my kids places, go to work, go to the store, and the church. It is a very small step for diligence in my life. But I feel so much better doing this the right way. I am so aware that if you want something protected, kept special and safe in this day and age you have to be diligent and never let carelessness creep in. Life is always waiting for you to leave your gate open so that you can be taught.

Jul 10, 2016

Before and After

So for book club a few weeks ago we discussed the book Miss Peregrines's Home For Peculiar Children. In the prologue for the book the author writes this seemingly innocent sentence,

"Then a few years later, when I was fifteen, an extraordinary and terrible thing happened, and there was only Before and After."

The reviewer of our book ended our discussion by bringing up this sentence and we discussed it for a little while. Were there before and after's in our lives? Some defining moment? A line? A change?
My mind has been thinking about this question ever since I left book club. What are the before and after events in my life?

There is definitely a before I had Reeses peanut butter cups and an after I had Reeses.
Before I had my first kiss and after my first kiss.
Before I graduated from high school and after.
Before I was friends with certain people and after.
Before I had fresh asparagus and after.
Before the divorce and after.
Before I had kids and after I had kids.
Before I was a school bus driver and after.
Before I found certain things out and after.
Before I grew my own potatoes and after.
Before I knew about M-80 firecrackers and after.
Before I rode in a BMW over 100 mph and after.
Before I had a child stay in the hospital for a week and after.
Before I got my drivers license and after.
Before I watched Star Trek and after.
Before I knew about Airbnb and after.
Before I read Middlemarch and after.
Before I worked at the circulation desk at the library and after (still sad there is an after to this)
Before I sat around a fire on the beach and after.
Before I found out that I make the same mistakes over and over again and after.

So many before's and after's. I seem to not be able to live anything but before and after. These before and after's always change my life, either for the better or the not so better. Sometimes I am not even sure when they happen which way it will go, sometimes it is up to me how they will go. I have been working for the last few months on a silly goal I have made to memorize a poem. It took awhile to find the perfect poem and trust me I did. It is Invictus by William Ernest Henley and I realized as I just told you a few sentences ago that "sometimes it is up to me how they will go" that this poem goes perfectly with that idea....

Out of the night that covers me
Black as the pit from pole to pole
I thank whatever God's may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced or cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
my head is bloody, but unbowed

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
and yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

I am the captain of my soul. I decide. It is a most laborious process to fight some of the circumstances that grab me and try to control what I will become. I have had many chances to be bitter and resentful and angry but I am the captain of my before and after's :) Not near as eloquent as soul huh? :) I am in the process of assimilating and evaluating several brand spanking new before and after's. I now can add to my list;

Before I was enrolled as a BYUI online student and after.
Before I filled out my own FAFSA form and after.
Before I knew I was a "know it all" and after.
Before I no longer had it all together and after.
Before I could admit I was dramatic and after.
Before I realized I was not a priority to someone and after.
Before I was married and after.
Before my kids were affected by a divorce and after.
Before I had a child who I had not talked to for 2 years after yet.
Before I had three children married and after.

Can you imagine life without the words before and after? It is just not possible. I am sure you got the picture and now you are tormenting yourself with your own endless list of before and after's. You can thank me later :)

I googled before and after images to find a cute little picture to jazz up this post and UGH never google before and after.....everyone on the planet who has lost weight or had braces or some sort of surgery are all in images. I was thinking of something more rainbow and unicorns like :) Seriously, now there is before I googled images "before and after" and after :)

Jul 9, 2016

Take A Chance.

What do you know about chances?

If you have kids, or have even been around kids you have definitely heard, "Can I have just one more chance?"

 I am also fairly confident at one point in your life you have declared to someone, "This is your last chance!"

 I have heard people declare, " I am not going to take that chance."

When you have a job interview you have hope that someone will take a chance on you.

So many times I have wished I knew what my chances were when I started something.

Falling in love is all about taking a chance.

Do you know someone who thinks nothing of taking chances? Are you jealous of them? What happens to them? Is it a good life to be a chance taker?

Is it possible to give someone too many chances?

Sometimes you take a chance and good things happen and sometimes you take a chance and bad things happen but the catch is that you will never know if you do not take that chance.

I have been thinking about chances a lot the last few days. I seem to have a talent for giving lots and lots of chances. I basically hand chances out like they are candy.  I have decided that this is a most serious flaw. I think it is a direct result of having way too much hope... way too much of it. I must think that giving chances automatically means people will change. But life is slowly and painfully teaching me that that is not always the case.

Can you just decide not to give chances anymore and stop?

If you stop giving other people chances does that mean they will stop giving you chances? I wonder if that is the reason I keep giving them. Would it not be horrible to not get anymore chances when you know you are doing your best to be better but you fell short yet again? How long do you wait?

May 22, 2016

Do You Know What You Believe In?

 So every two weeks I get to submit an essay for my English class this semester. This time the topic was to write about something you believe in. Apparently most of us should have had experiences that have made it so we believe in something. I confess that I question whether I have had these experiences because I had the hardest time trying to figure out what I was going to write about. I tried to make a list of things I believed in and the list was fairly dismal....things like:

I believed in facing your fears.
I believed in connecting.
I believe that you are in certain places in your life for a reason.
I believe in being on time.

None of these ideas seemed to be willing to come together on paper for me. I struggled for a few paragraphs with the, "facing your fears" idea but it was quite embarrassing how serious the writers block was. I finally settled on writing about how much I believe in gardening. This was quite a laborious process. I tried to give up once and my teacher gave me permission to change my topic but then he casually included a sentence to me about the amazing-ness of re-writing something and I decided to stick with it.

As I write I am trying ever so hard to not be so wordy. I am trying to think carefully about the words I use and make sure they are all necessary. I am not sure if I would ever think any word would not be necessary :) I find myself wondering where is the balance between writing in your voice and yet refining what you are writing.

Anyway, enough musing here is my essay, enjoy.

Have you ever found yourself sitting in your favorite chair with a pile of seed catalogs, using the perfect pen to circle all the seeds you want to buy? Have you ever deeply appreciated the perfect dirt of a freshly rototilled garden? Have you ever dug a perfect trench and carefully laid some seeds in it? Have you ever gone out to your garden for the hundredth time to check for seeds you know should be up and yet they aren’t? Have you ever scolded yourself for not having faith when they finally do come up? Have you ever gone out to your garden in the pouring rain to pick slugs off of the helpless plants in your garden? Have you ever harvested a bucket full of peas and sat in the grass with your children, shelling them and eating them without a care in the world? If so, then you will easily understand why I believe in the, “act of cultivating or tending,” which is otherwise known as gardening.

You could argue that I have to believe in gardening because I grew up in a home with not one, but two of the “cultivating and tending” kind of parents. It is most likely that this is a huge factor in my love of gardening and my ability to see how the actions I perform in a garden often parallel life. There is no doubt that those seeds were planted early in my life. Throughout my growing up years my mother could rarely be found in the house. I always knew I would have to search our fourteen acre yard for her. As I would wander around looking for her, in my head I would cross off the options of where she might be; weeding, pruning, planting, harvesting, all the gardening words were there. On weekends or evenings my father would often join in, both of them working side by side in the yard, giving every growing thing it’s very best shot at reaching its full potential. 

 The first time that I realized that there were parallels in gardening to life I was about 13 years old. I was in my mother’s enormous garden, begrudgingly and murmuring-ly on my hands and knees, working my way down a seemingly endless row of corn that I had to finish weeding if I wanted to go with my friends. I was feeling indignant and picked on. An equally indignant, picked on sibling was weeding alongside me, a companion to complain with about unfairness. Without realizing it our conversation morphed into a silly yet, at the same time, meaningful chat about how we were saving these seedlings from the evil weeds who were trying to choke out their chances to get sunshine, and rain. We had to help them get these things or they could never reach their potential, which was to grow up, and give us corn. To this day anytime I am weeding I still cannot help but imagine what the weeds represent in my life. What is trying to choke me out and destroy my chances of reaching my potential? What can I pull up in my life that will simplify my days? 

The other part of working in a garden is cultivating. According to the dictionary if you are cultivating you are “promoting or improving by labor and attention.” Most of my life I have been a most fastidious gardener putting in lots of labor and paying excessive amounts of attention to every detail. I simply must have nice straight rows. There must be perfect fences for the cucumbers and peas to climb. The weeds must get tugged up before they get to big. I must labor intensely to provide the perfect environment for my plants to grow: removing rocks, adding compost, turning the dirt over, noticing where the shade is, and hand picking pests off the leaves. During this process I often find myself wondering am I being this fastidious in other parts of my life? Am I “promoting or improving by labor and attention,” my relationships with those around me? Am I “promoting and improving by labor and attention” my spiritual life?

About five years ago for the first time in my life I lost all desire to cultivate or tend my garden. I did not notice until many months later that the loss of my desire to garden correlated with an enormous trial in my life that I could not make sense of and did not want to deal with. The weeds in my garden were left to choke out anything and everything they wanted to. They grew taller, and taller, wider, and wider, filling in every space they could find. I did not even go out to harvest. I could barely look out the windows at what my garden was becoming. I knew what was happening. I just could not muster the strength to go face it. There must be another way? Maybe the decisions would make themselves? Maybe the garden would just weed itself? 

After fighting with all my might for clarity and answers for all of June and July, one day in late August I realized it was time to have courage, face my garden and my life. I wish I could find the words to describe how therapeutic it was to get on my hands and knees and start in one corner of that garden and methodically pull wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of weeds out of that garden. Ever so slowly my rows of plants emerged. It took three days of weeding to find my brick path and free all my plants from the evil weeds. It also took three days of weeding to find my courage to make some hard decisions. Once I removed all the weeds I could see clearly what I needed to do. It would not be easy to do but it was clear and the answer came as I crawled around pulling up weeds, putting them in a wheelbarrow, dumping the full wheelbarrow in the woods, all alone with my thoughts.