Thursday, August 05, 2010

Gardening for Dummies

This past spring, after learning of a sale on vegetable plants at the supermarket, I swooped up six tomato plants, two zucchini plants, and two cucumber plants; my total cost was about $12.00. That afternoon they were in the ground and ready to produce results along with my established nectarine, pomegranate, lemon, and orange tree.

I am not an experienced gardener. I have never grown vegetables before, nor have attempted to. I didn't do any research, didn't make any plans- I winged it. I figured that it was natural to put the plants in the ground and have them take off.

It was later I learned that the vegetables should been planted in a spot with at least 8 hours of sun. My spot might give six, and that certainly is "might". I also learned I needed to buy tomato gates, which I promptly did the next week. I still was not too discouraged, although I wished I had that information in my back pocket ahead of time, as I knew there was a more preferable spot in my yard the plants could've thrived in.

As time has gone by, I have harvested two zucchinis, which has produced some satisfying batches of zucchini muffins. I've had to go through and do some major weeding and pruning over the past couple of months, as I have failed to tend my garden regularly. Watering has been sporadic, and my garden is usually either flooded or parched.

The cucumbers never produced anything. I think they may have been pulled out of the ground altogether by a certain zealous 4 year old in an attempt to gather flowers for a game sprung forth from his active imagination.

The tomatoes have come, but I have yet to pick most of them. With at least two of them, there is great debate as to whether the chewed up vegetables (or are they fruits?) still on the plant are being attacked by a gofer or birds. It'll probably turn out to be a cat.

Meanwhile, the nectarines are in abundance. I already think I may be too late in picking them. The kids managed to gather some, but most of them were squishy; I have no clue what that means as far as whether or not I've picked them too early or too late.

The pomegranates, lemons, and oranges still have a couple of months before we will need to gather those. Those were rather successful last year with only a small amount of effort on our part. The crops were more than abundant.

I have felt a longing for some time to learn more about gardening and to start one of my own. I know very little about gardening and like to joke to my friends that both my thumbs are black. Yet the pull towards gardening continues year after year, season after season. I find myself participating in discussions on backyard gardens and the harvesting of our region's agricultural gifts; although my participation can hardly be called such; I guess I'm more of a spectator to be more precise.

Recently I have discovered why God has put this pull in my life; my adventures in gardening have mirrored my spiritual progress in eerily accurate ways. Wanting so desperately to produce much fruit and many blossoms, I try each year some new plant, some new crop, a new tree. Each year I do little planning, hardly any research. I just take out my wallet in line at the nearest big-box nursery and whimsically attempt a new season's undertaking.

Each year there is initial enthusiasm, and very little result. Or, if there are results, they are usually harvested too late, or too early, or with much to be lacking. Those results come after months of undisciplined, haphazard care and fickle affection for my undertaking.

When guests come and view my efforts, I'm usually trying to distract them from my poor little area of overgrown weeds and uncared for plants, or I am showing off my latest frenzy of work after a moment of energetic inspiration, which is rife with ignorance and guess-work. Of course, I never admit that, but strive to install myself among the ranks of trowel-wielding experts on all things green. I know my loved ones see right through me, but are merciful enough to play along.

This mirrors my spiritual life the way a clear, calm lake mirrors the towering granite giant of a half-mountain imposing itself against the backdrop of a crisp summer sky (this inspired realization is brought to you by an easy summer trek to Mirror Lake in Yosemite National Park this past Father's Day). So many of my spiritual efforts start off with the same fervor, the same good intention. So many spiritual undertakings end with the same half-hearted, uneven fruitfulness (or fruitlessness?).

I know why God is calling me to gardening; he is calling me to learn more about how to take care of myself and my family. He is calling me to learn how to achieve holiness.

I truly believe that the natural world created for us can be the best teacher on how to care for the supernatural reality created within us. The processes, practices, and seasons of this stomping ground I call Earth is something that I not only take for granted, but rarely take into account at all. I know very little about the way God has provided for me and my livelihood via the resources of the ground and sky, but attach myself primarily to man-made, packaged provisions and comforts. I know that delving into the unknown art of tending another part of God's creation will help me grow in tending the spiritual garden of my soul.

While I am not proud to say that I will inevitable begin by checking out materials of the "Gardening for Dummies" variety from my local treasure trove, aka the library, I know this journey is not about starting off as an expert in need of fine-tuning. Rather, it's about starting off as nothing, allowing the hands of my Lord to cultivate me into a bountiful, fruitful plant. Maybe even a tree. Personally, I'd be happy to end up as a patch of alyssum at this point.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

You know life is good...

...when you've spent a good part of your day playing with the fat wrinkles on your 6 month old, pretending to eat him up!

I honestly don't know why people don't have more babies. I literally have someone in my life who for a whole year looks at me like I am the most beautiful thing ever created and clings to me with love. Who wouldn't want that kind of an ego boost?

Besides, with no other friends or family members could I get away with giving them nicknames like "Chunky chunkies!" or "Booly-booly."

Dear Mom

My oldest son's Mother's Day letter to me:

Dear Mom,
I am so happy of this day. Espaisaly because of you taking care of me. I like it when when take me places. You are soo nice. You are soo fun. The awenser I really like that you say is, "yes"! You tell me things important, like when you told me to care about other people. You teach me things I like to do alot. When I ask, you awenser it. I like when you do that. When I get scold, we talk together. It makes me feel better. I love you so, so much.


Sniff, sniff....

Monday, May 08, 2006

"Love means never having to say you're sorry."

Today I was at my book club, and a couple of the kids had an altercation, and one of the moms was making her daughter apologize. Our hostess then says, "Oh, we don't make our son apologize in these instances, because that is teaching him to lie," as she finished her statement with a pouty lip.

I looked up in stunned belief. What?! I had never heard this parenting technique before.

I think another mom thought along the same lines I was, because she said, "What do you mean?"

The hostess went on to explain that she doesn't tell her son to say he's sorry, because if he doesn't mean it then she is essentially telling him to lie. She said, "What if he isn't sorry?" Instead, she asks him, "What can you do to make the other child feel better?" And if her son repsonds, "I can say I'm sorry," then she lets him.

I asked, "But what about teaching your child empathy? How do they learn how to apologize if they are never made to do it?" She responded that when SHE makes a mistake or accidentally hurts someone, then she apologizes, and then her son sees that in her and models her behavior.

OK, I rarely like to criticize other parents, because I know it is hard to find your way, your style of parenting. But I came home and laid it on my husband, saying I thought this was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard and the reason why there are so many insensitive, self-centered people in the world today.

Is a child then taught that he doesn't have to do something he is supposed to do unless he feels like it? Unless he means it in his heart-of-hearts? What is he going to do when he grows up and faces a world where he will daily encounter something he doesn't want to do? Will he be allowed to let these obligations slip him by? "I don't want to show respect to my teacher, because I don't like her." "I don't want to be quiet in church because I want to scream a Wiggles song!" "I don't want to share my toys and so I will hit that girl until she lets go of it, and then I won't apologize because I am not sorry I did it because I got what I want!" I am lost as to how this teaches a child to function in the real world.

On the flip side, what about the child who just got hit in the face by a screaming preschooler? Is she supposed to sit there and take it? "Sorry baby, but that boy doesn't feel sorry, so you don't get an apology, or really any kind of justice, so you'll have to just deal with it and get over it." I wonder how the hostess handles an offending child that hits or screams at her little one?

Not to say I think the hostess is a bad parent by any means. I was just totally rubbed the wrong way by this parenting technique. Whatever happened to respect for those around you, to instilling a sense of duty and obligation into our children? Are those virtues taboo now? We have to do things often that we don't feel like doing, not because we mean them or are convicted, but because they are the right things to do. We have to live in a world with 4 billion other people, and we do things out of obligation and duty to the dignity of those other people. Apologizing and making ammends for our wrongs is one of them, even when we don't feel like it. There are too many people in this world whose conscious revolves around themselves and their feelings. I think the world needs more people who have taken down the mirrors they hold up in front of their noses all their lives and have exchanged them for some spectacles to better see those around them.

And on another note, how can we then teach forgiveness if we never teach a child to say he is sorry?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

My son is too much like me

My 8 year-old son's favorite movie is Narnia. He watched it today while I've been cleaning the house. As I was passing by, I noticed he was watching it a second time through... with the audio commentary by the director on. What have I done to him?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Keep holy the Sabbath

I have always struggled with how to keep holy the Sabbath. I have never quite mastered the art of having a restful Sunday and wondered exactly what I was supposed to do in order to have a truly holy Sunday. But my pastor gave us a brief explanation on how we as Christians view the Sabbath much differently than the Jewish people before Christ did.

When Jesus came, He said that He came to fulfill the Law. One of the Laws He fulfilled was "resting" on the Sabbath. When He died on the cross, He died on Good Friday, "rested" in the tomb on Saturday, and was raised Easter Sunday. He fulfilled the command to rest on the Sabbath.

That is why we do not celebrate the Sabbath on Saturdays anymore, because Jesus fulfilled that Law by being dead and "resting" on Holy Saturday. The early Christians began celebrating Sunday as The Lord's Day to celebrate His Resurrection and the breaking of the bread (the Eucharist). Because of Jesus' fulfillment of the Law, the early Christians did not put as much emphasis on "resting" on Sundays as the Jewish people did for the Sabbath. Our requirement now to "keep Holy the Sabbath" is not the same as it was for those who lived before Christ. Our main requirement is to go to Mass, receive the Eucharist and remember the Resurrection.

However, I still think it is a great idea to have as peaceful a Sunday as possible to make the day holy and reflective. I'm just glad for the clarification.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Stolen car, bathroom breaks, and St. Anthony

G.R.'s car was stolen, again. It has been stolen twice and broken into at least 3 times. It's a 1985 Toyota Camry, a total clunker!

The police seemed optimistic that the car would be recovered, again. But G.R. felt horribly disappointed in himself for forgetting to put the club on the car. I told him, "It's not your fault! People shouldn't be stealing your car!"

I prayed about it all day, mainly because we cannot afford to get another car because we just spent our tax return money on airfare for our vacation to visit his brother in Minnesota. One of my kids shares a name with that ever-beloved saint who finds lost things, and so I was calling out to him all day. The last time our car was stolen, we did a novena to him and the car was recovered two weeks later.

"Come on, St. Anthony. I named my first-born after you! Could you help us out?"

That afternoon I became inspired. "I think I'll go drive around and look for the car." I know, I know, like I'd really find it, right? Oh well, it's worth a try, and plus driving around listening to music relaxes me anyway. So off we go. G.R. was at work so it was me and the five kids.

About 10 minutes into it the whining begins. "Why are we just driving around?" "I'm too hot!" "I'm too cold!" "I wanna go home and play computer games!" "I'm hungry!" Grrrrr.

And then the one complaint a mother can't ignore. "I have to go to the bathroom!"

We drive up to the cleanest Chevron in town. They all go to the bathroom. Fine. They think we are going home. Nope.

I want to get back to the neighborhood I was in right before the bathroom break. Only one street gets there, and it dead ends into another street that dead ends into where I want to be.

I'm driving along with much calmer kids. It's sunny and warm. A good song is playing on the radio.

There it is.


There it is.

What? Seriously? Really, God? My prayers answered?

St. Anthony, you mean you really did hear me?


There it was, parked on the side of the road, our little brown/gray 1985 Toyota Camry. Pull out the cell phone (which we had just bought the previous night due to my being unaware my son had swallowed an eraser at school and had been taken to the ER by my husband, who had to leave work since no one could find me. By the way, it was the son named after Uncle Tony and he is fine) and I called the police. They came out, looked it over, gave it back to us.

G.R. has been bragging about me ever since. But really, it was a God-thing. And a Saint Anthony thing.

Everyone should name at least one of their kids "Anthony". That way, no one would have to worry about anything being lost or stolen for long.

Friday, March 24, 2006

A New Favorite

The Donkey

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings
The devil's walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

- G.K. Chesterton