Monday, August 19, 2013

SO PROUD

Just a quick update on the "kids".... (See posts from May 20 and July 3)

All are growing into maturity, at varying rates.   Our first two little beauties were harvested with great fanfare, cut delicately, and arranged onto a serving plate to be shared 6 ways at a family dinner.   Magnifico!

I'm pretty proud of nurturing tomatoes into redness.  It's a first for me, as I come late to the gardening craze.  I want to take all the credit, but I'm seeing that growing things is a fine balance of so many factors that I feel I am the least of them.  It's actually a small miracle, isn't it?  Dirt and seeds and good weather....a delicate and powerful push toward life.

May that Force be with us all.

At least, that's the view from here...


Thursday, August 15, 2013

A "HOODIE" DOES NOT A CRIMINAL MAKE...

Well.  I write having just committed a crime against nature.  I am ashamed.  I am humbled.  I am an idiot.

We have a gas boiler hot water radiator heat system in our house.  The boiler died last spring and we are just now getting around to replacing it, noticing the barely perceptible shift in light and temperature that signals fall...and chilly days and nights ahead.  I like heat.

This morning, Hub went down to the garage, where the old boiler is sitting after having been removed from the furnace room.  Pretty soon I heard him shouting, "Wow!  This is a HUGE spider!" and I went running to have a look.  I am not afraid of spiders.  I don't necessarily like them crawling on me, but I don't have the same freak-out fear that some people do.  In fact, I sort of find them fascinating.  I am loathe to kill spiders...I think they do more good than harm, so I am not their natural enemy.  I love August and September when they start to spin their webs outside my windows.   I watch them with awe as they weave their magic, and the morning dew catches on the intricate patterns making nature-art right at my door.

So I walked right up on the specimen Hub noticed on a cinder block in the garage.  It was really big!  And it had an interesting pattern and coloring, which I appreciated aesthetically.  We did decide, however, that it should be moved outside, so Hub carried the cinder block a distance from the house and I ran back inside to Google it, of course.

I found a really good site, telling how to identify venomous spiders, which of course I checked as a precaution.  I looked at a few photos and none matched our specimen, until.....

OHMYGOD!  There was one, the infamous Hobo Spider, looking exactly like the one currently stationed in my driveway!!!  Now it WAS time for me to have a freak-out moment.  That killer was just sitting there, waiting for us gullible humans to get close enough, then it would strike.  No doubt it would lay in wait for the most innocent of us, our little Angel, who is curious and fearless.  Surely it would attack her with vicious abandon at the least provocation!

I knew I had to KILL IT NOW!  I ran for the garden shovel and took a swipe.  My aim was off and it suddenly sprung from its perch on the cinderblock and took off, all eight legs running for its life.  There was nothing to it but for me to PURSUE it, striking over and over the ground around it with my shovel until finally I struck the fatal blow.  Whew!

Feeling the rush of adrenaline subsiding, pretty proud of my courage, I came back inside to find the website still open on my laptop.  As I reached to close it, I realized there was more to read after I had stopped at hobo spider, so I scrolled down.

Gulp.  Here is what I would have read, had I not panicked 10 minutes earlier:  "The giant house spider gets a horrible reputation and causes a lot of panic in Northwestern homes because it is easily mistaken for the hobo spider."

Easily, indeed.  

Much has been made of the tragic and terrible profiling of an African American teen who was killed by a man who judged this young man on little more than the clothing he was wearing (a sweatshirt with the hood pulled up over his head), assuming he was up to no good in a neighborhood where he "didn't belong".  I am no apologist for this man.  I am appalled that a jury acquitted him.   But I feel just as guilty in this case of the mistaken spider.  I made a snap judgement based on some similar coloring, not taking the time to investigate further, or look for other data that would have proven helpful in judging whether there really was call for alarm, in this case a huge discrepancy in size.

Fear can be a powerful motivator and often can save us.  Panic is different.  Panic is reactionary and irrational.  I panicked today.  Spidey, you taught your lesson well;  I won't forget.  And I'm sorry.

At least, that's the view from here....©




Wednesday, August 7, 2013

RIPPLE EFFECT

I get a lot of inspirational posts on my Facebook newsfeed.  Sometimes they make me grumpy.

There is a fine line, I think, between inspired and discouraged.  And I don't need much encouragement to feel discouraged, because the other frequent posts are dire warnings about the earth, our country, city, and neighborhood going to hell in a handbasket.  Our politicians are corrupt, our environment on a warming path to ruin, our food is mostly poison, our neighborhoods riddled with crime, and everybody seems to despair.

So, one would think that the inspirational stuff would uplift.  Yet, often I feel it rings a false note of an oversimplified "Pollyanna" approach to problem solving; or a lament of "everybody does it better than we (the U.S.) do", then trying to encourage an unrealistic sea change in public/private behavior to do better ourselves; or encouragement to just love ourselves into a Nirvana of heaven on earth.  Or look at these cute kittens -- always with the kittens.

I do my fair share of forwarding what I think are important, interesting, funny, or inspiring tidbits too.   I want to inform, educate, and entertain.  But when I do that, what I'm really doing is showing you what's important to me without telling you why.  My son's employer doesn't provide health insurance and he can't afford it on his own; my brother lost his job and medical coverage one month before he was diagnosed with cancer.  I might send you a link to Obamacare, not only because I support it as an important public policy, but because it will help those I love.  Maybe I could just say that.  "I'm posting this because...."

I think the posts I find truly inspirational are not those that are forwarded over and over, but those that are little glimpses into lives being lived to the best of a person's ability, with honesty, integrity, optimism, and humor.  One day at a time.  One person at a time.   I like hearing about how Jim grew his own beans, Sue cares for her elder mother, Jim hosted a fundraiser,  Sue baked an apple pie for a new neighbor, Jim faces cancer with determination, Sue sang a solo at her son's wedding, Jim helped his neighbor build a garage, Sue was at the birth of her granddaughter, Jim missed his putt and made everyone laugh... You get the idea; real stuff.  The stuff of life.

I like knowing that each in my FB family of friends is out there living full-on, making a small and important difference in their worlds, just by trying, by being fully human, by challenging themselves to grow into a more compassionate, abundant Self.  There is a ripple effect.  Show us the pebble you are dropping into the great sea of humanity.  We'll all be inspired.

At least, that's the view from here...©.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

HERE COMES THE BRIDE?

Weddings are a curious phenomenon.  I'm not a big fan.  Give me a smiling bride in a simple dress with some lace on it, a groom not wearing jeans, a small bouquet, a friendly and optimistic officiant, immediate family and the closest of close friends gathered in a vacuumed living room, or weeded garden, and maybe one or more musician friends playing instruments or singing a song; afterwards, a little party that someone else plans.  Done.

But the Wedding Industry frowns on such simplicity.  The W.I. wants you to attend a Wedding Show at a huge convention center and be inundated with:  Invitation Designs, Venue Options, Gown Choices, Catering Samples, Photographers and Videographers, Florists, Wedding Planners, Limo Services, Honeymoon Hotel and Travel Destinations, Cake Concoctions, Tux Rentals, Musicians, DJ's, Decorating Ideas, Wedding Favors, Attendants Gifts,  Dance Lessons.... I'm sure I'm leaving something out.  But you get the idea.  "Simple" it's not, if you want a "wedding to remember."

Our family is in the throes of wedding planning.  Son One and Future DIL are a little over 6 weeks away from the Big Day.  It started out simple enough....and as these things go, it's still relatively low-key.  But it HAS snowballed just a tad.  Early ideas for venue were a picnic shelter or a tent in our side yard.  We now have a rented "venue" on the waterfront with an amazing view and a sound system and a kitchen for the caterers.  What started out as "pizza and beer" for the reception is now salmon and baron of beef.   We are, however, sticking with Farmer's Market flowers (making our own centerpieces and bouquets), friends doing the photography and wedding cake (both pros, thankfully), and an I-Pod playlist instead of a DJ or a band.  There's been some stressing over decorations and set up issues for changing from the ceremony to the reception, seating arrangements, and some consternation over who will cue the music and announce the various transitions of events.

But. There will be a beautiful bride in a knock-out gown, the most handsome groom ever, and undoubtedly the most precious flower girl to ever walk a wedding aisle, our Angel.  There will be some family and friends, although it remains to be seen how many -- RSVPs are slow to arrive, so there is some tension now about that (see previous post on July 29).  Yet, when all is said and done it will surely be a lovely evening.

And there will be reviews.  Here's what I'm learning:  everybody has an opinion about weddings.  I have heard from various people completely conflicting, strongly held ideas about:  bridesmaid's dresses (most are reviled),  decorations, types of flowers, whether children should attend or not, host or no-host bar, length of ceremony, seating arrangements, music, bring a gift or have it sent from the store to the bride's home, gifts themselves -- like or dislike what the bride and groom registered for, cake flavors, sit down dinner or buffet, menu selection, and how to do "the send off".    

I hate to be sexist here, but most of these very opinionated comments have been from women.  One man asked me if he had to wear a suit and if there would be bourbon.  That is the sole male commentary so far.  When I mentioned to Hub last night that between now and the wedding there would be a lot to attend to, he said, "Like what?"

Well, OK.  I guess it is not really non-stop activity, but there is a lot that needs to happen and my feeling is that we need to do more than sit on the sidelines.  Future DIL's parents live in Hawaii so we are "it" in terms of on-site parental support.  We are (mostly) retired and the bride and groom work full time and then some on side jobs and  home projects.  I know there is an arbor to build, some table decorations to assemble, bouquets to make, follow ups on RSVPs to do, seating arrangements to figure out, a dress alteration (to cover the 'it's too scratchy' waistline on Angel's dress), meetings with the cake baker and caterer, help make wedding favors, plan a rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, get the house "company ready" for guests and gatherings, and whatever else I can't recall or foresee right now.   (What happened to beer and pizza in a tent?)

I have been losing sleep, but then I tend to perseverate.  The bride and groom are totally chill about it yet.  "It will all work out" is their mantra.  And seeing them so happy and excited really is part of the joy for me.  So I'm trying to focus on that, except for those 3 a.m. awakenings when I am wondering if the mics will work and if the sunset will create a problem for the photographer and if the right music will play at the right time and whether will I trip out of my new shoes during the Mother-Son dance (for which I refused lessons -- will I regret that?  Oh dear.)  "It will all work out...."

At least, that's the (OK, a little stressed at the moment) view from here...©.

Friday, August 2, 2013

MARY, MARY QUITE CONTRARY....

How does MY garden grow?  Well, typically not that great.  But this year, I don't know, something has taken root within me and I am A GARDENING ADDICT!

I think it was the slow water torture of many years of observing friends devoting themselves to flower and vegetable gardening so vocally and passionately.  Or maybe it's me (at last!) putting down all the gardening magazines, articles, newspaper clippings, and Pintrest posts showing lush and beautiful gardens, and deciding, YES I CAN!

My previous attempts have not been pretty.  But then, I didn't try very hard.  This year we've begun to implement the "30-years on the to-do list" landscaping plan in our side yard.  We cut out part of the vast expanse of lawn on one side of the house and created berms that are the Phase I of a multi-phase plan for re-imagining that part of our property.

I've called in the experts -- a small team friends, gardening veterans all, who have come over to see my  empty dirt and make recommendations about what to plant where.  I've made a new friend at a local nursery who has agreed to be "on call" for me (and probably hundreds of others who frequent her nursery and value her knowledge).

I am so delighted by all of this that I got seriously motivated and started to plant trees, shrubs and perennials that I actually hope will grow.  I am watering and feeding, tending, and fretting.  I also have a little raised bed vegetable garden and those afore-posted-about tomato plants on the back deck (update coming soon!)

And, I have a suspicion there is more going on here than just a sudden wake-up call to the joys and challenges of gardening.  It just feels different.... I feel different.

First, how long was I planning to get to this "someday"?  I'm not gettin' any younger!  All those years of pouring over gardening magazines and books was not going to get the job done.  I had to admit it; I wanted a garden, not just a lot of pretty pictures.

Next, I am aware that I have a need to "mother" something in my home.  My children are grown, the dog and cat are dead, the bird feeder at the front porch was fun but way too messy and drew critters I DID NOT want hanging around, my houseplants are healthy, happy, and not very needy anymore -- but an outdoor garden?  Now there was something I could take under my maternal wing and NURTURE!

And then there is the whole mortality thing that is never far from my mind.  I feel like planting the trees, especially, is planting something that will live on after I am gone.  I am planting something the earth will nourish and will be nourished by.  I am leaving a legacy.  I am creating something beautiful.  I am intimately involved in the circle of the seasons -- the life and death cycle of which everything is a part.  It feels calming and comforting; a reminder that I am just a cog in big, giant wheel that will go on and on in one way or another.... the Grand Garden of Life, Death, and Rebirth.

At least, that's the view from here....©