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My Father’s Perfect Lawn

Ever since I can remember, my dad has kept an amazing lawn.  This isn’t your typical “keep it mowed and free from weeds” lawn.  Oh no!  We’re talking about the most perfect lawn to where other people may have wondered if it was actually a fine green carpet spread out in front of our home.

I didn’t really notice how great the lawn was when I was a kid.  In our first house, we had a what seemed like a steep hill for a front yard.  The short, fine grass was reminiscent of a perfect buzz cut on a marine’s head.  Dense and close to the dirt made it easy for friends and me to roll from the top to the bottom until we were dizzy.  We would run around, play tag, and occasionally fall to our knees and inevitably leave a giant dent.

Every Saturday morning, my dad would pull out the lawn mower and draw it across the yard in perfect lines.  Next came the edger.  He slowly walked the perimeter making sure the whipping string caught every rogue blade that dared to go out of the lines.  When he was done, divots were gone, lawn was perfect again, and we were back to playing.

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We moved to our next home when I was in fifth grade.  This front yard had only a slight incline.  In the back yard, there was a small space of grass next to the swimming pool we were so excited to have.  This only increased my father’s dedication to make the yard shine.  He brought out special fertilizers, shoveled manure twice a year, and even had custom curbing made to line all the flower beds.  The yard  shined a vibrant green and a lush feel under my bare feet.  My dad took such care that if a weed even thought about popping up, he was out there to uproot it.

When I asked to lay a Slip ‘n Slides across his grass, I think he gasped.  After a long lecture about how the excess water would kill the grass, he pointed to the pool and said, “That’s why we have that.”

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It was in that house, my parents finally hired a gardener to help tend to the yard.  My dad’s genetic disease, Charcot-Marie-Tooth, made it more difficult for him to walk as he aged.  Why risk an unnecessary fall when rolling the mower?  He still took the painstaking care of all the additional maintenance, but took the additional help for the basic chore.

After I moved out, my parents moved to a golf course community.  And just like my dad’s other houses, his backyard rivaled the putting greens on the course. With time and grandchildren, he softened a bit.  There were many mini pools and even a Slip ‘n Slide across that stellar lawn.

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When I finally purchased my own home,  I appreciated how difficult it was to maintain such a perfect lawn while balancing the needs of a growing family.  I begged Hubs for the exact same yard as my father created.  He told me the climates were different and we could never recreate the same grass.  He was right.  We never did.  Nothing in our yard ever looked anything like my father’s.

Last weekend, I returned to my hometown to visit my father for the last time.  His disease has finally taken over his body and he’s tired.  He was placed on hospice and is at peace with having only a short time left with us.  When I walked into the backyard I could see his health’s deterioration as clearly as I did on his gaunt face.  Yellowed patches and bare spot spread across his once vivacious lawn.  Tears ran down my face as I saw what had become of his perfect yard in the last few months.  The colors weren’t what I knew they could be.  Time passed.  Things changed.  It would never be same again.

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My dad’s gorgeous lawns are one of the things I will always remember about him.  Those spectacular landscapes weren’t just grass.  They were always so much more.  They embodied his best lessons: always work hard, put all your effort into what’s important, and there’s nothing more precious than home.

I’m not sure what tomorrow will hold. I guess none of us ever do. We hope for the best. That we’ve nurtured our lawn, shown it all the care we have in our heart, and hope it will produce something beautiful. Something no one will ever forget no matter how far  they are. Or keep it an image they can always carry in their heart.  Like how a legacy should be.

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When Fantasy Meets Reality

I finally did it!  I went to Paris.  After a lifetime of dreaming about walking around the Parisian streets, eating croissants, and writing a novel on a cafe tabletop with the Eiffel Tower in the background, this year I finally pulled the trigger.  Actually, it’s more like I finally dropped the coin and flew across the world to visit the place I fantasized about since I was a little girl.

Fantasy is a fickle thing.  It’s pretty much your mind telling you what you want to believe.  Once you see it in your imagination, you defend a made up perception like there is no other truth.  My work desk is decorated with a gorgeous hand stitched Eiffel Tower card on crisp linen paper.  So precious I won’t even take it out of the plastic wrapper it was displayed in the store.  On the other side of my monitor is a glass cube with a small square of a Paris street map on one side and a fancy font spelling out the city’s name on the other side.  Daily reminders to keep my high fashion, culinary masterpiece, and magazine cover landscape notion locked in my mind.

Paris was the second city visited on my vacation.  After being WOW’d by London, I knew pulling into France my heart would burst with gushing love.  Instead, after riding the super cool train that went under the London channel I was met with graffiti lined concrete instead of idealistic poppy-covered countrysides.  Ten minutes after getting off the train and waiting for my Uber, I watched a crazy couple holding up traffic because they were fighting in the middle of the street.  After yelling at each other for a few minutes, the woman wrapped herself around the man and kissed him like none of us were staring.  I clutched my purse with the first time feeling of fear this might be one of those pick pocket schemes everyone warned me about.

How could this be my initial feeling about the city I’d loved without question for so long?  I told myself it must have been a fluke.  Everyone has a bad day, so couldn’t a city have that, too?  I ditched my luggage at the hotel and headed to the streets.  That’s where I would see the real city with freshly baked baguettes, windows lined with gorgeous pastries and cafe diners laughing with friends.  The next hour was filled with cigarette smoke, a confusing transit line, and a waitress snubbing my broken high school french.  Determined to make my Paris fantasy a reality, I barreled down to a classic tourist attraction, L’Arc de Triumph and I wasn’t disappointed.  It’s massive size in the middle of a roundabout left me in the awe I was desperately seeking.  As I got closer, I smiled at the intricate detail cut into the stone.  THIS was the Paris I knew was waiting for me to fall into her arms and deeply in love.  She was starting to seduce me again by matching what I wanted her to be.

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Those little dots at the top are people. That’s how big this place is.

Ten minutes later, my emoji heart eyes stung with the gallons of sweat pouring from my forehead in trying to get to the top of the Arc.  They really should have a sign at the ticket booth that says “NO elevator. Prepare for an ungodly amount of stairs.”

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This is Ladyfriend’s picture because I was still gasping for air.

Many times circling those stairs I actually questioned if I was going to make it to the top.  When I fell out of the doorway onto the bench, I watched others gasping for breath and repeating my question to their friends, “Did you know it was all stairs?”  As I sucked in all the oxygen I could in a single breath, I realized I wasn’t tasting fresh air from outside.  That’s when it hit me like a ton of stairs, “Oh my god…we’re not at the top.”  Nope, only halfway.

How could my Paris do this to me?  She wasn’t tempting me with romanticism.  Her lack of an elevator in a national monument was inconvenient.  Her acceptance of smokers five feet from diners and leaving butts all over the city was confusing.  And the realness of being like any other big city was crushing.

I slowly carried myself up the next half of stairs in a mix of exhaustion and disappointment.  I wanted Paris to be so much more.  Not just a place to check off landmarks from my bucket list, but an experience that would revitalize my heart.  Explain to me what love means and confirm romance really is alive.

When I broke through the final threshold to open air, a wind gust blew across my wet face and brought my temperature down to a non-heat stroke level.  My hair whipped around and I made my way to the edge.  People lined on all sides and I had to squeeze in to catch my first glimpse.  I say “first” because that’s when I felt I really saw Paris.

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The gorgeous city spread out in all directions.  Streets cutting in all directions and with beautiful architecture colored with age.  Off in the distance were high rises of a the modern times and on the other side stood Notre Dame.  In the moment when I finally took in the iconic Eiffel Tower, she stole my breath.  My emotion overwhelmed me in realizing I was truly in the place I had only seen in pictures.  I lavished the view.  Then, I looked down at the street below — gridlocked traffic, horns honking, and crowds of people.

On my way down the tons of stairs I asked myself why I hadn’t been so hard on London. That was a city as much as Paris.  I had to admit I didn’t fantasize about London.  I’d built Paris into perfection in my mind.  A place right outside the gates of Heaven.  The reality clashed with what I wanted to accept.

It’s confusing seeing something for what it truly is and having to acknowledge what will never be. While I wanted to love Paris deeply, in this trip she kind of let me down.  Her flaws glared when I needed her beauty most.  We struggled to understand each other in the following days and it hurt my soul more than I thought it would.  I left a little less than how I arrived.  Even though I appreciated all she gave me, I mourned what I also lost.

After I got home, I looked through my pictures and saw Paris a little different in hindsight.  The disappointment wasn’t as strong.  In fact, she taught me a little something about myself.  When reality conflicts with the fantasy I want to believe, it does no good to fight.  Instead, it’s much better and more fulfilling to accept since it’s those little details that make it a little different than every other place in the world.

I hope there will be a chance to see Paris again. Life is long and maybe one day when the timing is right, we will reintroduce ourselves to each other.  And when we do, I’ll accept her for all she really is, as I hope she will of me, and we will find a way to love each other unconditionally.

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(At the top of the the Arc!)  Even though I’m a hot mess, we earned this picture!

 

 

 

 

CoMo Cookie Monster

A couple months ago when Coast Modern announced their 2018 Spring Tour was going to be themed Haunted House party, they put out a request for fans to bring their talents and lights to the show.  Both were going to be highlighted and produce a more interactive experience.  Having no talent I could parade on stage, I started to think about what kind of lamp would best represent me.

Bringing any old light doesn’t seem to capture the creative genius behind this idea.  From the first day, I was excited to see what light-art fans would create throughout the country.  It’s a little taste of people from all over.  It seemed the best way to rep my Oregon #CoMo love was to give it my all.  I mean how else can I convince them to take a chance on So. Oregon?

My first thought was a strand of lights in the shape of cookies.  A quick Amazon search and I came up bust.  I did find cookie cutter light strings.  It was cute and charming, but didn’t have the real pop I wanted.  One thing about me is I like there to be real thought and effort if you’re going to create something.  Art is a piece of your heart.  If you’re gonna do it, you better show it.

I threw around the idea in my head of making a cookie lantern.  Build it together like a gingerbread house, even though I’ve never done one.  I wanted to use my sugar dough recipe instead of stale gingerbread just in case someone wanted to eat the thing. I hoped the royal icing would give a firm and more stable shell to the soft sugar dough.  Maybe it could work?

The weekend before the show, I got down to business.  Go big or go home, right?  I wanted something substantial to hold its own next to the other lights on the stage.  I cut out the side panels 6 inches wide and 9.5 inches tall. I cut a top and a base before cutting out the decorative pieces.  I knew I was going to make a stained glass look with crushed sugar candies.  I was feeling pretty confident this lantern was going to be awesome.  (Narrator: This is the foreshadowing that it did not go awesome.)

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I iced all the panels and let them dry solid before thinking about starting the build.

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I thought about how I could support that panels when piecing together.  With the first two walls done, I was still feeling pretty confident. (Narrator: She shouldn’t have been confident.)

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It was when I went to put on the third panel and the edging from the first two cracked at the seam, I knew I was going to have some problems.  Then it got worse.  I edged up the 3rd panel and I hit me like a ton of bricks — cookies spread when they bake and these lines are not square.  So I loaded up the thick, firm frosting and started spackling the thing together.  While it wasn’t looking pretty, I still had hope I might have structure at the end.

When I had the four sides pieced together I went to set it on the base only to find out these no square edges and frosting filled gaps had made the thing too big to sit on the base.  Back to the oven I went and baked a larger base.  The top however was a different story.  I filled in the cracks with more frosting, tried to smooth it out, and hoped this wasn’t going to fall apart on the five hour car ride to Portland.

Once I had the whole structure together, I hated it.  It looked nothing like how I imagined.  My visions of smooth sides seamlessly blending into the other instead had spatula streaks and sharp frosting edges.  After a day of drying, some of the candies started to leak down the side.  These are the moments when I start thinking about chucking the whole thing in the trash.  Bestie and Hubs did their best to be reassuring that I was being much too critical.  All I saw were the flaws.  How could I give this to one of my fave bands as a representation of me?

I decided to cover the flaws with edible pictures of them and their single covers. Even that didn’t go smoothly!  The papers bubbled up and pulled away.  My imagination wanted it to look like those buses wrapped in pictures.  Instead, the cookie lantern looked like an elementary school art project.

It was done and no matter what, I was taking it.  Bestie and I checked it every stop on our way up.  We coddled it until it was safely resting in our hotel room in one piece.  She continuously reassured me it was cool.  “It’s a lamp made out of cookie! Most people don’t even know how to bake.  Who’s not going to love it?”

Show time came and we walked through those doors with giant cookie lantern in hand.  It happened to be we saw Luke of Coast Modern at the entrance too.  I presented it with pride. (That’s a Pogs and Slammers song lyric. Buy their album here if you haven’t already. SO good.)  “It’s a lamp all made out of cookie,” I said.  I held my tongue from following up with “Don’t look too close. I know it’s a mess” and just watched Luke look over the monstrous cookie art.  He smiled and said something nice about how that was cool.  He walked downstairs with us and let me put the lights in it so we could see the thing in it’s full glory.  In that moment, the cookie monster was exactly what it needed to be.  And I was happy.

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It’ll only got better with great positioning on the stage in front of the drums and even a super special shout out during the show.  (Thanks to Bestie for catching some of it on video because I think I’m turning the beginning into my ring tone.)  I am forever grateful for their fan appreciation and remind everyone again THIS is why I love them so much.  They are nice people.  Genuine and kind. Thoughtful and considerate.

So what happened to the monster cookie you ask?  This did:

Before you get all upset, this is what I asked them to do.  And they did it perfect.  I even got to watch it happen, which was an even bigger thrill.  I’ve had several people gasp and ask how could I watch that many hours of work be destroyed.  Easy…they made something even better with it.  They were so thoughtful in setting up the shot, taking a great picture of it beforehand and really taking their time to make sure they captured the moment Luke stomped his foot on it.

In the end, I have to admit the monster cookie was a very good representation of me.  It had odd sides to deal with, needed a little more support than originally thought , and maybe became a little more than what I bargained for.  It also was made completely with love to show my appreciation for a hard working band who has shown me kindness. I wanted to bring my best effort as a thank you for them always bringing theirs.  I think it did exactly that.

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Of course I was gonna throw in a cookie selfie. Are you crazy?

Out in the Universe

The other day, a co-worker said into the hushed air, “If anyone wants to bring in some cupcakes, that would be okay with me.”  Everyone paused from their duties for a moment and looked at her to try to find the reason.  She didn’t say another word, and so everyone went back to work as if nothing had happened at all.  A moment later, the woman sitting next to her said “If not cupcakes, I’d sure like bagels.”

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For a couple of seconds, I thought about making cupcakes even though I had a lot of other work to do that night.  Different cake flavors cycled through my mind and I considered what would be the quickest to fit into my busy schedule.  After resigning I couldn’t get it done, I moved onto “why did she say it in the first place?”

“I guess you’re putting that out in the universe to see if it comes back to you?” I asked.

“I’m just sayin’,” she said.

“Good to know.”

The next day, no cupcakes arrived.  Bagels either.  There was slight disappointment, but co-worker still wore a smile on her face.  “It’s okay, I’m getting Chinese food for lunch so that makes up for no cupcakes,” she said.

When lunchtime rolled around I came back to my desk expecting to smell some Orange Chicken in the air.  Instead, she was flustered.

“The universe is against me,” she said. “Not only did no cupcakes show up, but now the Chinese restaurant’s phone is broken so I don’t get that either.”  Her disappointment caught me.  The situation felt more important with the weight of the universe on that lunch order.  I couldn’t let it stand with such disappointment heavy on her heart.

“How about I’ll drop off your order on my way to lunch?” I said.

“You’re going that way?” she said.

“No, but I will for you.”

<Insert collective “awwww” from everyone in a four cubicle radius.>

Since that day I’ve thought about this putting things out in the universe to see if they’ll come back.  Why don’t we do that more?  Maybe because it feels kinda silly saying your wants into the open air?  Is it a sense of vulnerability  that you will be judged in wanting such a thing?  Or is there a guilt at the thought you are somehow asking those around you to supply it?

The interesting part was my co-worker felt none of that. There was nothing self-conscious about her request.  She moved along with her merry day as quickly as she stopped to say her piece.  She didn’t expect anyone to fill it and didn’t look disappointed when no one jumped up to cater to her needs.  She simply stated a simple fact of what she wanted.  It was in this fearlessness that something good did come back her way.  If she had kept all that to herself, I wouldn’t have been swayed when she couldn’t get the lunch she’d waited for all week.  Speaking her mind about her wants resulted in the universe answering it.

I’ve decided to try this out.  I’m going to put out positive vibes, thoughts, and sometimes wishes into the world.  Not only telling people the things I want, but sharing the great things I see in them.  With this we’ll see what kind of things the universe brings back.  It could be a sweet smile from a friend, a thank you for helping someone in need, or maybe even the contest win for those Matt and Kim concert tickets they’re giving away that I really want.  Whatever it may be, I’m ready to keep my eyes open and live a little more fearless so we can all be in a better place.

And in case you were wondering, the other co-worker got her bagels a few days later.  Bestie heard the story and brought in a batch to brighten my day and theirs. Sometimes the universe doesn’t work in mysterious ways, it works in fantastic ones because it’s filled with some pretty damn great people.

Resolutions Reboot!

At the end of 2016, I was cocky.  Or grumpy.  I’m not totally sure.  Either way, I decided I’d done resolutions long enough.  Years of making goals and reporting back to the world about how well I’d done seemed passé.  Who needed that shit?  Um….yeah, in 2017 I realized I do.

So, I’m back!  I have to admit, I’m really excited about it.  There’s a bit of a theme this year — it’s a reboot.  Those are popular nowadays, aren’t they?  They did it with Jumanji and it seemed to be a hit, so why not me?  (Really…who thought they would remake Jumanji?)

I realized with such big changes last year, I need to get back to some basics.  You know, get my bearings straight with some of the goals I’ve made in the past.  I’m a different person now and I’m eager to see what these older ideas will look like when I revisit them.

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Even in one of my last selfies of the year, I look a little suspicious. Really it was the hat. I wasn’t sure about the dunce cap hat.

1.)  Write 15 minutes a day. Every day

Fifteen minutes sounds so easy, I know it does.  But damn, this one scares me the most.  I can’t put this off.  No excuses, no delays, not “I’ll do it tomorrow.”  Nope, this is an every day task.  Like exercise, I need to get myself in writing shape and this only comes with consistency.  I want to be that writer who has to write because it’s part of what makes me happy.  The best part, the most exciting part, is that I have no rules about what this fifteen minutes looks like.  I can do any kind of free write that enters my head.  If I want to write a whole dialogue about making out with some hottie lead singer, I get to enjoy every last heavy breath of it. (Phew, fan me off.) Let’s move to the next one.

2.)  Host Delish Open Houses

A couple years ago I had this one down on paper, but at the last minute I modified it with “try new ideas.”  Then I never did this.  Since big changes in 2017 when I became the sole Delish owner, I wanted to add some structure on growing the sales.  Each month, I’m going to host an open house where I showcase a particular item I offer on the menu.  There will be some samples for people who want to check out my goods before committing.  Hopefully, my regulars will show up and bring a few newbies.  This will be a timid toe-dipping in the idea of a store front and getting some customer feedback. I couldn’t be more excited.

3.)  Query

Yep, that’s right.  I’m pulling the trigger this year.  Finally time to finish some projects and get out there in the query game.  I feel like my heart is ready for the rejection that’s bound to come.  More importantly, I’m ready to complete a book.  My process has been stuck in molasses for far too long.  I need some action and the commitment to query before the end of the year is just the thing to do it.

4.)  Read a book each month

Excuses, excuses, excuses.  How did I get to a place where I barely read?  It doesn’t really matter how because I’m here.  Where I challenged myself to read 25 in a year before, I’m going a little more conservative this round.  Hopefully, I’ll be so inspired there might even be a Baked Book actually published.  (I hate to admit how many I’ve baked and not published.)

5.)  Recover quickly

I’ve saved the most important for last.  I tried this a few years ago and singing “recover quickly” became my mantra anytime I felt my skin rush red.  I’ve lost my way from this for a little too long.  When I lost some friends last year, I let things get under my skin and fester in so many terrible emotions.  The worst part was I was the only one losing any energy over it.  They moved along just fine without looking back to see me still looking for answers.  It reminded me sometimes it’s more important to recover and keep moving versus trying to figure out someone’s motives.  This year I am dedicated to recovering quickly and continuing to move forward.

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Saw this sign and made the joke it would be a great tattoo for me. I think using it here is a wiser, long-term decision.

Although these are resolutions I’ve had before, it doesn’t make them any easier.  In some ways, they’re even tougher.  (Didn’t you compare which Ghostbusters you liked better?)  Resolutions always come with the same questions — What if I don’t get them done?  What if they’re too hard?  What if at the end of the year I can’t check off a single one?  Then I remind myself it’s all in my control.  I make these resolutions because these are important things.  Writing them down is only a symbol of the commitment my heart is ready to make.

Good luck on yours!

My Little Voice

Usually at this time of year, you might expect to see a blog about how I’m spiraling into my annual depression. That bit where I haven’t done all the things I wanted and I feel like I’m wasting my life. Sure, I try to write some upbeat piece about my attempts to combat it, but I’m usually pretty deep in the “you should haves.”  It starts in November with my birthday and continues to grow with the new year looming right around the corner.  Through the holiday obligations, and as the clock ticks closer to midnight on December 31st, I reflect on what little I accomplished in the previous 365 days in comparison to what I should have done.  Lucky for me this year, I’m not facing this issue.  Unlucky for me, it’s because this entire year has been a constant “What the fuck?”

There’s something absolutely insane when you’re entire life that took decades to build feels like it’s been put into a blender.  Rapid swirling, loud noise, and a small blade cutting through anything you ever thought was solid.  Your whole world turned into a mushy mess, the consistency of baby food, in one not-so-simple year.  It seemed the harder I fought to keep my shit together, the more it oozed through my fingers.

I’ve always believed things happen for a reason.  This isn’t only for when something great blesses me and I think it must be some reward for clean living.  (Ha!  When did I ever live clean?)  Even in tough times, I tell myself there are no coincidences.  You have to look hard for clues to figure out what lessons you’re supposed to learn.  This is a little harder to swallow when you start to feel like nothing is going the way it should.  It’s easy to fall into “Can’t I catch a fucking break somewhere?”  However, that’s when this thinking is really tested, right?  So as I kept choking down this garbage year, I told myself some reason will explain why my life is falling apart.

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Is this what clean living looks like? Wings out your neck?

When my birthday passed and no anxiety came with it about wasting my life, I assumed it was still on its way but was fashionably late.  When I went through Thanksgiving and I still wasn’t over analyzing my to do list, I realized something was different.  Why the silence?  Is it because I’ve done everything I ever wanted this year?  Ha!  This isn’t a fairy tale, people.  In fact, I haven’t really done shit.  There’s been time to write, but I haven’t.  I’ve had the opportunity to bake more and I didn’t.  Why haven’t I done a damn thing?  And since I hadn’t, why wasn’t I beating myself up about it?

Throughout the year when I looked at doing nothing with my time, I pulled out the easiest excuse — “This year has been so haaaaard.” (Totally said in a whiny voice.)  People accepted it.  Hell, they even encouraged it with a sympathetic “you’ve had the worst year.”  I reveled in their pity.  And guess what?  Still nothing got accomplished.

Then on a cold morning at the beginning of December, during my morning walk I thought about why there were no voices.  I went “real talk” with myself and admitted I hadn’t done more in 2017.  I’ve had the choice to do the things I want.  No obligations weighing me down, no time constraints to blame, no compromise to resent. All things that had been go-to reasons in the past when I told myself I should have done more.  In that moment, I had to face a hard reality.  The fact I didn’t do them rides 100% on my shoulders with the answer “because I chose not to.”

You might be thinking this is a sad discovery, to admit you’ve let yourself down.  It’s actually quite the opposite.  I learned something every important.  There’s an empowerment in holding yourself accountable.  You realize you are the one who gets to make the decisions that are right for you.  With this accountability comes a discovery it’s your own personal responsibility to make yourself happy.

First thing I did was tell myself it was okay.  This year was about transition and learning.  Things changed and I had to understand how to accept it.  That takes time and is still a work in progress.  Even more important, I’m forgiving myself more. Trying to work on not avoiding risks of falling down, but focusing on making the recovery time faster.  Jumping back up and continuing to take small steps in the direction I want to go.

I’m not saying it’s easy.  In fact, right now it’s the hardest thing in the world.  There’s lots of work to be done.  The falls still hurt.  Sometimes I stare at the scabs longer than I should and cry over the scars that will never go away.  In those moments, the little voice has changed from a berating  “you should have” to a soothing song of “It’s okay. You’re going to get there. Some day.”  And as I take a deep breath to get back up again, I think I might have found the most important lesson of all.

 

 

Planting The Idea

I keep waiting for inspiration to jump start my writing.  Anything to bring back the passion for something I love to do.  Anyone who writes knows waiting for a muse is the death to a successful writing regimen.  Words don’t just “show up” in your head and force you to write them. (Contrary to what some writers say.) Writing takes persistence.  Hard work.  Dedication.  It doesn’t take long before you’re out of practice, sitting around waiting for it to happen, and letting your writing dreams die a slow death.

When Hubs and I moved into the home we built 14 years ago, we had to plant a tree in the middle of the yard.  It was part of the CCAs and being new to the home owning world, we thought we had to abide.  I was seven months pregnant when I shoveled a dump truck size load of dirt into the yard and we planted our tree.  We stared at it with smiles and glory as we talked about how it would grow with our first child.  It’s regal size would be a constant reminder of how precious time is and how strength can carry you even through the toughest storm.

We killed the tree within a year.

It could’ve been that I didn’t water it enough.  Or maybe I over watered it.  It could have been our tree selection choice, except neighbors seemed to have no problem with their trees that looked to be the same species.  Either way, our nine month old son played in the grass next to a wilted tree with no leaves.

We planted again.  Dug out that dud of a tree we bought the first time and carved out more space for the root ball for the second one.  We consulted with the nursery to make sure this was a hearty tree that could withstand people who had killed their first one.  The nursery people acted like it was a no-brainer.  You put the tree in the ground, water it occasionally and voila!  You have a booming tree to take you into your golden years.

Our second child was two when we had to admit out second tree was a goner.  It no longer produced any leaves and we were pretty sure it had stopped growing a few months before.  What the hell?  We fed it with food.  We watered it, but not too much this time since we learned over-watering was a thing.  The soil must be tainted.  There was lots of clay when we dug down.  How could all of our neighbors produce such fruitful trees when we continued to kill ours?

“Fuck this tree thing,” I said.  No more fantasies about it shading our house or building into the street’s charm by having it lined with mature trees like the older neighborhoods.

“It’s required,” Hubs said.

“Do we even really have a CCA?  I’ve never even seen anyone who acts like they check these things,” I said.

And we left our dead tree in the yard until I couldn’t take the eyesore reminder any more.

I suggested we fill it in with grass.  Hubs considered it briefly before buckling down and driving me back to the nursery with young children in tow.  They ran around on crushed gravel paths in a plant maze while I told the nursery worker I needed an un-kill-able tree.

She pointed to the first one we brought home.  “Nope. Killed it,” I said.  She took us to the pine trees and I grimaced at not wanting to make our front yard look like something on a Christmas tree lot.  She finally made her way to a smallish thing with no leaves.  “Fall is a great time to plant.  The leaves will show up next spring.”  Perfect, I thought.  At least I wouldn’t have to admit it was dead and deal with it until the next year.

We planted and gave it the same care we did our other trees.  In the spring it produced leaves.  We rejoiced.  Sang.  Possibly even danced around the small trunk no bigger than a PVC pipe.  Five years passed and we felt like we’d finally gotten past our curse of tree murders.

Then the top leaves stopped growing.  The trunk looked sickly and we knew what was coming.  It would travel down until no leaves stayed on the limbs.  I hated looking at it.  I had no idea how to fix it and each leaf that fell reminded me of failure.  This tree didn’t even represent anything like that first tree had.  That one was supposed to be a symbol of life and I killed it.  What did I care what happened with this tree? I started to resolve I would never have a beautiful tree casting over our home and blazing the sky with gorgeous fall leaves.

Hubs read up and asked a few people.  The nursery people said the culprit might be the sprinklers hitting the trunk.  The same thing we needed to keep our yard alive was poisoning the main staple in it.  They recommended we wrap it with a plastic pipe covering and we did.

We left that thing on well beyond what it needed.  Kind of like finishing a prescription well beyond when the infection is gone.  For fear if you abandon too fast, the illness will come back with a vengeance.  That wrap stayed on it until the trunk became so large it broke out of the protective shell we created.

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This fall I stood in the front driveway and stared at that tree.  I enjoyed every single shade in each leaf, even the dead ones scattering the ground.  I didn’t compare it to the cherry tree in our neighbor’s yard that never had an issue growing large while we went through our problems.  I didn’t beat myself up for the two other trees I had to chop down and dig out.  Nor did I start to worry if this tree too would one day die.

Instead, I stare in silence and appreciate the quiet inspiration it shared. The wind whistled through its branches reminding me the truly great things take time, energy, and persistence.  The strong trunk reminiscent of how I could have chosen to leave in the skinny dead stick, or grassed over the hole like a grave.  Its whole being represented even though this wasn’t the original idea I had when I planted that first tree, I still got to a pretty damn good place.  All those things telling me that it only happened because I kept trying.

So here you have another blog.  A small attempt at growing something better.  A writing sapling planted in the ground waiting to see what will become of it.