Failure and Fantastic are both F words

I think I’ve been pretty good about not using the F word as much in my blog as I do in daily life.   Not that I have a deficient vocabulary, but ya know, sometimes the F word just says it all and more.

Recently I learned the child unit is hovering around F status in some classes at school.  I happened to be in the company of Ms. Home-schooled her kids when I got the “Mayday, Mayday” auto-email from the school concerning dipping grades.  Ms. Homeschool wanted to know how I felt about it and what I was going to do.

I’ll admit, I used to get my panties in a bunch about anything lower than a C – I mean really, you’re talking to Ms. Valedictorian, National Honor Society.   My kids are smart and I expect them to utilize the natural talents they were given.   To learn discipline and perseverance and to take enough pride in what they do to do a good job.

Not so much anymore.   I realize there are things more important than a grade.  Here’s how the conversation used to go:

“Your grades are down.  No more xBox or TV until they are up.  No going out with friends, either.”

Nowadays, when grades dip, this is how the conversation goes:

“Do you like your teacher?   Do you like the subject matter?   Do you feel you understand what they want you to learn?  Can you think of anything in life you want to do that having this information could help you with?   Did you hurry through the work because there was something else you wanted to do more?   Did you think the assignment was stupid?  How did you feel the day of the test?  Sleepy? Hungry? Sad?”

This kind of approach makes the whole process a lot easier on me and I’m pretty sure more enjoyable for my child.

Not always readily accepted as the best approach in the educational crowd – also not deemed very productive by the workaholic crowd, perfectionist or disciplined parenting crowd.

Check back in 10 years and I’ll let you know if my child is in therapy or not, what kind of life he has and whether he has to have pharmaceutical help to get up in the mornings and to sleep at night.

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I was raised to always do my best.    What I don’t remember being told was my best is going to vary from day to day.   And that others may have a different definition of what “best”  actually means.   Not that I think my parents failed me – I just don’t remember getting that information – you know, kids don’t always listen.

For years I beat my head against a brick wall and made myself sick, trying to make sure my ‘best’ was considered ‘best’ by external forces – coworkers, spouses, friends, etc.

Which meant my whole self-identity was wrapped up in what those around me felt and just where did that leave me if they were having a bad day?

My point exactly.

I also bought into the “don’t rest on your laurels” ideal hook, line and sinker.  Which meant I never really reveled in the thrill of accomplishment.  I was too busy trying to figure out what next grand thing I could do that would top what I just did.

Horrific way to live, if you ask me.   Nevertheless, I lived that way for a long time.

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It’s so much more important to me to guide my children to the path that’s best for them – to instruct them on how to be their own best friend.   To be aware that some days you’re the bug, some days you’re the windshield and if you’re lucky, some days, you get to be the air.

To aide them in determining what their best is, to fully enjoy every accomplishment and then define what the next level of achievement looks like – not because they have to do better or do more, but because they yearn to stretch and grow.

I wish for a world where Success is an experience everyone yearns for and is possible for all, because it is not so rigidly and narrowly defined.  (Avid sports persons will tell you my vision is what is absolutely ruining little league teams….)  Competition can engage us in pushing past self-imposed limits – it can also be taken too seriously and the whole Win/Lose paradigm is just not really to my liking, I don’t care what Darwin says.

I’d like to see Failure taken off the F word list.

What did Edison say?   Ah yes…

“I know 114 ways NOT to make a light bulb.”

Practicing Without A License

Yup – I do it.  I experiment on myself all the time – still here, all limbs working and not visiting the ER often, so for me, it works.

I’ve referred before to the lunacy of how many professions we allow to “Practice” and which ones we expect to “Masterfully Do”.   No one wants a “Practicing Engineer” to build their house, the freeway overpass they drive on or the stadium they watch their favorite team in.

Everyone sort of expects the mechanic, computer technician, accountant, airplane pilot, plumber and waitress to know what the heck they are doing.

Law and Medicine, we’re okay with the best of the best just ‘practicing’.   I think we should add Politicians to the practicing career list too.   At least then, we’d all know what to expect…

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Me, I’m a practicing gardener, writer, crocheter, quilter, chef, embroiderer, database builder, historian, website coder, parent, healer, beer brewer and yogurt maker.   I’m hoping soon I can be a practicing spinner, wool dyer, organic cosmetic maker, grain farmer and kvass maker.

I can practice at all of these because I don’t earn my living from any of them.   I experiment, try and share with those who have no issues with me practicing.   They share in the risks and the triumphs.   I enjoy my successes and cry the blues over the failures, but in the end, not too big of a deal whether my practicing nets a useful, needed product or not.

The moment I choose one of these items as a way to earn a living, a funny thing happens.   I can still be ‘practicing’ but I’m much more of a danger to the public now.  See, if I’m doing these things to make money, chances are I won’t be as careful as I should be in my ‘practicing’, since my survival depends on me selling you what I’m practicing at.

Therefore, lots of rules and regulations should be put in place to protect my potential customers from my practicing.  If I’m successful enough, I will be able to side-step these regulations by throwing lots of money at the people I hurt and the offices that were supposed to protect the victims from people like me…

What, exactly, did we think the threat of fines was going to accomplish?

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Someone asked me the other day why I blog – I said because I love writing and sharing what information I’ve learned.   They wanted to know if I was making any money from it.  Nope.   Then they wanted to know if I was interested in making money from it – my answer?

“Well, if you know of a way for me to make money from blogging without shamelessly advertising, reviewing or selling crap that people don’t really need, don’t really want but will give in and buy if I convince them they Should want/need it – then I’ll listen – I do not do email campaigns, buy into current marketing industry standards (hey, if it takes someone 7 contacts to talk them into buying, they didn’t really want the durn thing in first place).  I refuse to sell hope, miracles or items that require the slave labor or cheap resources of those countries not as afluent as ours, or to ask for donations for organizations that spend 80% of their donated funds on ‘administrative costs, advertising costs and affiliate fees’. “

Turns out, the questioner was a seeker like me – he was looking for information rather than wanting to recruit me into some multi-level marketing scheme.  (yes, when I was 17, I did send the SASE to learn how I could earn money stuffing envelopes.    The wording/tasks change, but that old con-game is still alive and kicking….)

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I’m lucky that I can practice a lot without actually having to depend on my various practices to support me and my son.   Not everyone has that luxury.   I also get pretty fired up over any legislation that starts regulating my practicing when I’m not subject to being lured to the Dark Side of the Force by dreams of  increasing my profits by betraying people.

I think a re-evaluation of who gets to practice and who doesn’t needs to happen.   A redefining of what positions are ‘no pay, civic duty’ and what careers are for earning a living would probably help too.   Designing a standard of living that is supportable by 30 hours or less a week of money earning labor and plenty of time to practice at the harebrained ideas each of us get at times would probably aide the whole process.

But then, I’m sort of a nut.

I’ve been practicing at that for a long time too…

Cliff-Jumping

If you’ve peered into my mind via my writing much at all, I’m sure you’re aware it’s not a neighborhood you want to traverse after dark by yourself sometimes.   Brace yourself for a trip that while totally safe, may not be totally comfortable.

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I’m really into researching, learning from the past, trying not to repeat the same mistakes man-kind has made since we first became aware of our own mortality, etc.

In short, I like to KNOW.

I’m also highly cynical of the social construct I was born into.    I have enough information crammed into my gray matter to point out what, historically, happens when any one or thing has too much power, influence or blind respect thrown his/her/it’s way.  I’m also enough of a history buff to understand today’s Facts are often tomorrow’s Follies.

In short, I’m not totally mesmerized by Experts, statistical data or scientific studies.

Therefore, I continually walk the narrow path wedged in between “Looking before I leap” and “stepping off the cliff to see if this flying thing does work.”

It’s not always an easy journey.

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Because of my previous obsession with researching and not making mistakes, my natural desire to ‘fix things’ and my passionate nature to boldly go where no one even wanted to visit, I find myself with a lot of internal conflict at times.

I also find myself  spending enormous amounts of time explaining to others my behavior, actions and ideas which, from their viewpoint, indicates, dysfunction, selfishness, procrastination (hey, why don’t you join in the game – pick a character trait with a negative attributes and fill in the blank….)

(Granted, I could not explain, but while I’m okay skipping along to the beat of my own drummer, things tend to get a little more complicated  for me when others in my circle of loved ones actually prefer flute music…In other words, there are those folks we  try just a little bit harder for in the areas of communication, understanding and selfless acts.)

That time, in my mind,  could have been better spent figuring out how we can design a car or home energy system to run off mosquitoes and bind weed.

It could happen, if we put our minds to it!   I have that much faith in human ingenuity.

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I will say if you decide you really like the feeling of jumping off the cliff and falling/flying – there’s often a bevvy of people around you that for whatever their own reasons, will do their best to dissuade you.

There are those who wish to install a fence at the edge, so you are safe, despite your foolishness.   There are others who smugly wait at the bottom with the ambulance, confident they will be able to say “I told you so” before you actually die from your fall, all the while posturing themselves as your rescuer.

Others are more than willing to give you the safety-straps,  glider, bungee cords,  lawn-chair with helium balloons attached to it, or any other of the various tools they used while jumping off the cliff.   They didn’t die, but they also didn’t really find out if they could fly, either, did they?

 A percentage of folks will vote for shutting the whole trail down, because it’s just too dangerous – that beautiful valley below is luring folks to their death!

And once in awhile, you may run into someone who would really like to push you off the cliff, because their world will be easier if you just fly away or disappear, at least for awhile.

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Jumping off the cliff without knowing if you’re going to fly or not can be a scary proposition – yet, in small ways, we all do it everyday – the minute something becomes important enough to us, we cast fear and danger aside and take the leap.

Saving our loved one from an oncoming car, starting a new business or being audacious enough to plant a zone 6 perennial while living in zone 5 are all examples of cliff-jumping.

There are those who will say the above examples have nothing in common because the risks are different – I say, keeping your eyes alert to any opportunity to jump off the cliff is the only way to live.  I will also point out, for each example there are experts who will tell you what you should do and what the statistical chances are for success – if you read long enough, you will find contradictory information, all coming from experts.   That’s time you could have spent designing the bind-weed fueled engine!

Life is risky.   Each moment can contain chaos or beauty, danger or reward – and more often than not, each moment contains all of the above.

We can legislate, regulate, pontificate and beautificate (yes, I just made that word up)  and no matter how we attempt defy death and look good while doing it, we’ll still have the urge to jump off the cliff, figuratively or literally, at some point in our lives.   Whether driven by despair, wanderlust or sheer bordeom, we each take risks, big and small, during our journey.   And while we should not be arrogant enough to take risks with the life of others, not risking ourselves, ever, means we’ve become what’s known as “The Walking Dead”.

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Somewhere along the journey, we figure out that having a friend who says, “Hmm.   Interesting idea.  If it works, good for you.  If it doesn’t, I have a first aid kit,” is worth more than a thousand expert opinions.

For myself, I’m getting to like the idea of flying more and more.    I chafe at the fences, danger signs and well-meaning, “but such and such could happen” dialogues – -as I think anyone who is smart enough to recapture their youth before it’s totally gone does.    I don’t need to look young, but man, I want to feel young until the day I die.

I’m tired of turning my ankle on the narrow, rocky pathway that keeps me safe.   And I’m not  convinced the path is as safe as I’ve been led to believe.

I’m longing after that grassy meadow in valley – see the one?  right over there, near the stream – why not fly over to take a look-see?

I’m also getting better at surrounding myself with cheerleaders who own first aid kits.

I’m hedging my bets as best I can.

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Now when someone tells me in one way or another to go jump off a cliff, I smile and say, “I just might do that”.

Update from the Nicotine Addict

I can no longer in good conscience title my pieces “Confession of a Smoker” because I no longer see myself as a smoker.   In the past month, I’ve smoked twice, by sharing a puff off a friend’s cigarette, just to remind myself, “Yup, it still tastes awful.”

I’m happily puffing away on a new e-juice that has a stronger mint kick than the juice I ordered previously.   That seems to have quieted my urges for a ‘real cigarette’, as the mintier version takes care of my desire to feel the “throat hit” I experienced during my smoking days.

Still, I ordered the juice in full strength nicotine level.   Since I’m pretty convinced I won’t smoke regular cigs as long as I have myself stocked with my new favorite form of nicotine, I’m content to let it ride for awhile.   I’ve got other things going on right now that mean huge transitions in my own growth and I just really don’t feel like adding one more thing to the list of “adjustments to be made”.

Call me lazy, I call it “one thing at a time” living….or ten things…whatever the case may be.

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I also gave up being so durned attached to VG (vegetable glycerin) only juices.   Quite frankly because I know where it’s at if I want it, one or two bottles of juice with 20% PG is not going to kill me OR make a huge impact on the 850 billion barrels of oil we consume daily….(wait, let me double check that figure….oops, sorry, the figure is actually 1.1 million barrels every week for food related oil consumption in the US.  See the scoop here.  And don’t ask why I’m lumping my e-cig consumption in with food – okay, if you must know, I budgeted my cigarette purchases out of the grocery budget…)

I will point out an oddity I noticed – The pure VG juice seems to be pricier than VG/PG or PG only blends.   Which begs the question, are we still building new parts of our society on the illusion of cheap oil?   Question #2 is, if VG is pricier than PG based blends, then why is bio-diesel cheaper than regular?   Inquiring minds want to know….

But I digress.

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I’m just not certain how concerned I am with my nicotine habit.   I’ve noticed that I still get tired and edgy at the end of the day, whether I’ve chain vaped or not.   To my mind, this is due more to the fact that I don’t always rest and eat during the day like I should, rather than on how much I’ve vaped.

Since I’m still evolving in my own personal growth, my end of the day feeling is also directly related to how many mean and/or stupid people I encountered during my travels.  (C’mon, at least I’m honest about it!)

I’ve also noticed that when I do want to vape, I can put it off for longer periods of time without the attendant emotional angst that used to show up.   My thoughts now are, “Hey!  I’m wanting to vape…oh well, I can in a little while…”

For me, this reaction is HUGE.   I used to spend my work day swinging from “ahhh…had a smoke, ready to work” to “When the heck will things slow down enough for me to sneak away for a minute?” and finally, “Why is every mean and/or stupid person in the US of A coming to my office at this moment?”  (See what happens when life is not going the way we want?  Others immediately lose any grace or intelligence they used to possess….)

I’m much more laid back now.   If I can vape, fine, if not, I’ll enjoy vaping on the drive home.

I’m not convinced all my bad habits were directly linked to nicotine, per se.  I was aware of the possibility that all my character flaws were direct symptoms of me not getting my own way.   I’m now even more convinced that theory has merit – see what vaping can do for you?

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As I’ve said before, I really like the saying, “Moderation in all things.”   I’ve also learned that in some circles, nicotine is used to treat various disorders in the human body and is considered a safe treatment option.   I still get a smile out of the report that nicotine ingestion helps to alleviate the symptoms of schizophrenia and many with that imbalance self-medicate with cigarettes without even being aware that’s what they are doing.

Perhaps, I’m still keeping my schizophrenia under control.

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I’m still of the mindset that when I do take the last step down to 0 nicotine, I most likely won’t vape.   One indicator is the only e-juices I’ve tried are all versions to imitate menthol cigs.   I don’t have the slightest interest in trying coffee, grape or apple pie flavored juices.   I’m sure they’re great, just not my thing.   One vendor sent me a free bubble-gum flavored, 0 nicotine cartridge as a “thank you for ordering” gift.   I vaped it when I had run out of everything else and still hadn’t received my new order.  Didn’t do the trick and was rather a frustrating experience for me.  Although, in comparison, I guess it was less harmful to me than chewing bubble gum laced with aspartame….

Which reminds me, how come you can’t find gum with plain old organic raw sugar in it anymore?  Even the health store only carries gum with Xylitol in it.  Which is made from plant fibers (like corn), which made me wonder what’s the difference between corn syrup and xylitol?  One is a demon the other a savior and they are extracted from corn….here’s the link if you want to read.

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All in all, guess I’ve successfully transitioned from smoking to vaping, though I’m not quite done with nicotine yet.   I’m still amazed by attitudes expressed by those non-smokers who witness you vaping and I’m still confused about why some addictions are socially acceptable and others are not.

Those addicted to feelings of power through verbal manipulation and verbal abuse have been fluttering on the edges of my world this past week.

Thank god I can easily move through it without needing a cigarette to get over the damage their addiction just caused my soft heart….

Until next time, from one addict to another (I assume you have some kind of addiction…most of us do, ya know.) tallyho – May your addictions be friends rather than foes.

2011 Garden Dreams

Forgive my long absence – – perhaps once I unveil what I’ve been up to, you’ll understand why I haven’t been writing…

3 weeks ago, I left the townhome behind and moved back to the home I grew up in.  Which also has acreage…and a place to have a real garden…without containers…

(Drum roll please….)  Ta- Da!

First, the confessions list: No, I did not double dig this entire area by hand – – I’m not that much of a man yet (nor, will I probably ever be).   A long-time neighbor was kind enough to bring over his garden tractor and ease the load on my poor ole outta shape body.   I also didn’t square the spot, nor did I use a plumb line, square or any other utensil known to man since the Great Pyramid was built – – more on that later.

And, no, I do not know if sloping the beds towards the south without definitive sloping grades/angles is going to work – – but I’m going to try it anyways…

Yes, perhaps it’s an awful big garden to start out with and maybe I won’t like turnips in the same quantity as I’m planting, but they are a good companion plant and the neighbor’s hogs are surely going to like mine better than the little packaged pellets from the factory….so I don’t foresee any waste, even if everything I plant does come up and flourish…

And last, but not least, I am not running an entire line of drip emitters, nor am I investing in soaker hose that will need to be replaced in a few years – I’m using 1/2″ drip line to feed 2 micro sprays at the top of each bed and hope the water runs downhill – at an average of 31 gallons of water per bed, per week, that’s coming from a well. (which is 1/2 the amount every book and website chart says I’ll need for the season – – this is my little note of faith to Mother Nature that she’ll do her part.)

Now that I’ve addressed the objections, concerns and kindly commentary voiced by master gardeners, competent engineers, detail-minded landscape artists and conservation savvy folks, I’ll share what I’ve learned during the gardening season so far, which may or may not be on your research list.

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#1 – At some point, you have to quit researching and start doing

As you probably already know, I’ve been reading about gardening and dreaming about a garden for nearly six years now.   Each time the circumstances of where I lived and how much time/money/energy I had changed, I would get another book and research some more – to date, my bookshelves hold 17 books on the subject – – the ones I thought informative enough for me to purchase.

I’ve read about container, lasagna, square foot and raised bed gardening.  I’ve learned about the four-season harvest, mini-greenhouses, water harvesting and discovered how the terraces at Machu Picchu were built to conserve water and keep the mountain from sliding away.

Insects don’t like Rue and neither does Basil.   I also know that I want to try and see if Woodruff really does keep rabbits, antelope and deer out of my garden, even though everyone who has actually been gardening while I’ve been reading about it tells me it won’t…

I have not lost my stubborn streak…

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#2 – Collaborating and sharing helps humans grow

We have wonderful neighbors who purchased a portion of my parent’s place years ago.   I will refer to them as my brother and sister, as they have always kept an eye on my mom when I and my real brother were too far away to do so.   Henceforth they will be known as Brother Imhotep (after the Egyptian architect and engineer) and Sister Order (because her eye for detail surpasses mine and pleases Mom!).

Imhotep and Order came over the first Sunday I was here to join in on planning the garden, as they would like to have one too, and Order was feeling somewhat out of her comfort zone.   I offered to share any of our bounty with them, in exchange for  help if I find I’ve bit off more than I can chew.  (Oh, I do so hope that’s what I find come August.)

After going through the list of all possible foods to grow, to see if they wished to add to the garden what I had left out, and explaining  the thousand-and-one reasons why I was doing the garden area the way I was, Order turned glazed eyes to me and said, “I would have just done it the way my mom did – plant some rows, weed and hope something comes up.”

Mom’s memory of what Order said is as follows: “Why can’t we just plant in rows the way my mom did?”

Memory – it’s a funny thing…

And I have been known to over-inundate folks with too much information, too soon, at times….

Imhotep spent time helping me to measure and square the plot (yes, I know the tape measure says it’s square, but it looks crooked to my eye…).  He also brainstormed with me on several options for providing hail protection.   In the end, not much was accomplished, other than a few beers had and lots of new ideas to contemplate.

But it was a start.

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#3 – Sometimes your best intentions remind others of less pleasant experiences

The next week, Mr. Has a Garden Tractor came over and plowed up the area I had marked by secretly moving the square corner markers Imhotep had placed, so as to be better in line with how the grass was growing at the edge of the lane.  (Please, please, don’t tell Imhotep.   He’ll know it the first time he sees it, but I hope to have enough fresh bread made for him by then that he’ll forgive me…)

You must know that Mr. Tractor has run a nursery for 20 years or more.  A successful one.  And is a farmer at heart, even when he may be off doing something else.   He has successfully accomplished what I hope too and is a wealth of information.   I learned that day he has also been the target of criticism from overly-zealous conservationist-back-to-the-land folks, because he dared to irrigate using, gasp, ground (well) water.   The fact that he produced  way more using way less water than any other nursery in Colorado (to his knowledge) is beside the point, in their eyes.

I now understand why he used to get quiet when I was talking about what I wanted to ‘try’ and why I wanted to.   Perhaps he thought I was one of “them”.

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#4 – No one is an island

I also placed a call to our wheat growing neighbors – who keep my buckets of potential bread full each harvest and who informed me, two years ago, that if any of the cereal rye I was going to plant as a companion blew over to their fields, I could plan on coming over to help them pull them out (apparently, it took them many years to get rid of the rye in their fields).   During the call, I happily informed them I had decided on comfrey and sunflowers to do the job I had planned on rye doing, in deference to their concerns.   I also asked if the millet and amaranth I was planning on growing would cause any problems.

I’m sure I give everyone a good laugh – but hey, I’m trying to be a good neighbor.

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#5 – There is always something else you can add/improve

A call to Sod and Hay farmer brother netted me an exact phrase to type into Google which lead me to a crash course in drip irrigation planning.

The discovery of a near neighbor who has chickens meant another round of planning/researching to find out what I could grow for them in trade for eggs and chicken/straw composting materials (just until I’m growing my own composting materials….)

See?  My little efficiency expert heart just can’t stop reading and researching.  I said I was done thinking about it and ready to start DOING!   Each time I found myself placing a call, internet searching, etc., a small voice in the back of my head reminded me, “Hey, aren’t we just about ready to jump in and try?”   And I would quietly get irritated with myself, but plow through the page of information in front of my eyes, anyways.

Then the grace from above was bestowed…

#6 – Grace finds you if you stand still long enough

I was in the plowed garden, shaping my beds while the soil was easy to work and mentally stressing because moisture was in the forecast and Mr. Tractor said it would be harder to work after it got wet.   I felt my self slipping into the old habit of “I’ll work hard now to get it done, then I’ll rest.”

Historically, though, I never rest until I’ve made myself sick.

My decision to move home also included a vow to create a new life of peace – one I didn’t need a vacation from .    The realization of the inner conflict created by what I say I’m going to do, and what years of habit means I actually do reminded me of the phrase, “No matter where you go, there you are.”

I had brought my old self into my new life…

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I made myself stop raking like there was no tomorrow and instead closed my eyes and listened.   The birds were chirping and I sensed the breeze blowing across my arms.

I opened my eyes and saw a cloud in the shape of the dog I hope is finding his/her way home to our family.   (We do need help with rabbit control….and perhaps, somewhere Mr/Ms. God-Dog is searching for a place where they can be themselves too).

I brought my attention back to my somewhat crooked path and uneven sloped beds.   My eyes gazed at the 5′ and 2 1/2′ markers I had made in my attempt to make my beds and paths straight.   I realized once the ground cover was started and green things were growing everywhere, the fact things were not square would be gently and beautifully obscured by Mother Nature’s generous bounty.

I remembered why I was doing all this – in part to have the pleasure of good nutrition outside my doorstep without spending the barrels of oil to fertilize, grow, ship, process and store the food I eat.  Or at least part of the food I eat. (Got to start somewhere and some is better than none.)

But most of all, my dream garden is supposed to be my haven.   It’s supposed to be the place I quietly wait for Mother Nature and all her minions to brush away my tears of frustration and stress caused by parts of a daily routine I haven’t quite learned how to let go of – – you know the routine of which I speak – “Achieve, Accomplish, Get Ahead, Serve and Do, Do, Do”, with the unspoken price tag of, “No matter what it does to your body or soul.”

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#7 – Your projects should reflect who you are –  not define you

My haven should probably be a bit like me, if I’m to feel at home there.

That means being full of things that like the climate/soil they grow in – that can gently go about being themselves without struggling to survive and who are tough enough to hold on one more day when life isn’t going along perfectly.  It will do it’s best not to interfere with the neighbors’ pursuit of happiness.   Meandering around, getting to the point some time and on it’s own schedule while trying to remember there are others who take time much more seriously than we do will most likely be a defining feature.   Straight stepping stones offset on the diagonal,  with cushy creeping thyme in between will make the crooked paths beautiful and also gently accommodate feet attached to those who have had a few too many beers or going through a clumsy stage.

Flowers, herbs and vegetables will be themselves and beckon to those in search of haven, “Come sit, rest and revive for awhile.   Take a load off.  Talk if you want, or be quiet.   What do you need today?”

Most of all, I want Mother Nature to look down and say, “Ahhhh….that’s pretty close to how I would have done it.  Here, let me help.”

And hopefully, I haven’t gone so completely against her plans that she views my spot as the banishment place for bindweed and mosquitoes.   (I’m sure they both have their purposes – – I just haven’t figured out what those purposes are yet…)

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#8 – Questions are always answered

I’ve also remembered these past few weeks to lighten up.   For example, instead of getting out the tape measure and compass (or whatever tools are used to correctly measure slope and grade) I instead took time early one morning to look at the frost patterns on my raised beds.   Mother Nature politely put heavy frost on the portions of my garden that are too low or mounded too thick.   A few deep breaths of morning air, a look over of the beds and I knew exactly where to adjust dirt  levels.  (Where is a small boy with a Tonka dumptruck when you need him?)

That morning exercise was much more enjoyable than messing around with tools I do not how to use and pestering people for formulas I probably learned in 8th grade geometry but have successfully blocked out of my mind.

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#9 – The ‘means’ should be as enjoyable and beneficial as the ‘ends’

For myself, I want a life that has the thrill of accomplishment and overcoming challenges, without the heart-breaking experience of struggle.   I want to enjoy the process as much or more than the end result.   I’ve vowed not to turn my garden project into the same nightmare I’ve turned every project I’ve done for the past 25 years – – hurry, struggle, push myself way past my limits, in order to hurry up and ‘git ‘er done.’

I’ve backslid some – but for the most part, I feel on track.    I also know my combining of numerous ideas may result in me sitting in the middle of my garden in August, crying to the wind, “But why?  I planned it so well?”

Thus, 2011 also becomes a year of experimentation.

But this time, I’ve vowed to enjoy the experiment as much as the results.

P.S. Imhotep showed up with a truckload of compost in between me writing the blog and actually posting it – – He noticed the garden wasn’t square – – he assured me lots of home made bread will cure his angst….  Thank God for understanding neighbors…