Thursday, March 22, 2012

Plant Anyway

I’m not always great about relaxing; that’s why I need friends who are.

My friend Jeanette encourages me and my family to get away every year around the beginning of Spring, and more often than not she provides a venue for that, usually in the form of a luxurious vacation home up in the mountains. Our families get together to play, eat, and be merry, and we all have a great time.

Being so far removed from my household duties, cares, and the hustle and bustle of town puts my mind into a better place. For me, it takes a full three days to be officially un-wound. Add a couple of days of soaking in a hot tub, cross country skiing in the fresh pine-scented air, and sleeping in every morning and you’ve got the perfect combination for a singular experience.

Mine happened, almost predictably, on the third day of vacation.

I had this uncanny dream in the wee morning hours that I haven’t been able to shake the feeling of, even a full year later.

In my dream, I was back at my former mother-in-law’s country house, the one she’d sold after her husband died, out behind the hill where the creek flowed. As dreams go, this was all sort of surreal and ethereal…pieces and parts of things as a conglomerate that I immediately understood and recognized, although were I awake it would have made no sense at all.

I made my way around the familiar hill, the one my first husband and I had hiked out to during my introduction to his childhood home and acreage on one of our initial dates. It had been so important for him to introduce me to his mother, and to share this beloved playground with me. In my dream, all of that had still seemed like yesterday, but right along with that there was the knowledge of the sweet and the painful, the good and the bad, the marriage and the divorce.

I was completely alone now, but I sensed my daughter’s presence somewhere in the background, as if she were aware of me, observing me from afar…as if watching for an example.

Beyond the hill I was surprised to find my car, hood open, with beautiful lush green plants growing out of the engine. For a fleeting moment I was upset about this, because I assumed that I would still need my car. How could this stationary object be useful now? And with the plants…who was going to clean all of that off my engine? How would I ever drive it again?

Surrounded by my car were other stationary items. Coffee tables and end tables…all strangely familiar to me, like ones I’d had in some of my homes throughout the years. Each had plants growing out of them, the greenery draping over their edges. It was then that I began to notice that the plants were growing out of the smooth surfaces without the benefit of any soil. It was as if they didn’t need it.

Each plant was healthy, hearty, and the perfect deep, rich color.

Looking around, I began to not only comprehend that I was surrounded by plants, but that each plant was one I’d put in the ground at one time in my life, attempting to cultivate. There was the one that Grandma had called the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever…I’d placed them in the yard of our first home, right beneath our picture window. I’d loved the two-toned green and white of the leaves from the first time I’d seen it and had been determined to find some for our place. It was probably still growing at that old first home of ours, sold long ago.

The philodendrons that had been my houseplants. All there. Not replicas of, but I was somehow made aware that these were indeed the very same plants I’d planted ages ago, matured and thriving.

I had never been a green thumb, although I’ve given it a mighty effort. In my waking hours I often joked that all I had to do was look at a plant and it would shudder and begin to brown. Every year I planted a garden. Every year it was hit and miss.

I’ve very much felt that my life has been that way, too. A huge frustration was nearly twenty years of marriage with all of the toil, happiness and heartache that goes into such things…ending badly. At the time of this dream, I’d been ruminating over what it was all for. I’ve never been able to believe that a loving God would set me up for failure, to have me put so much effort into not just my marriage but jobs, homes, friendships, finances…only to have them dry up or become lost. While the character-building part of it was probably worthwhile (I suppose), why all of this plant and wither, plant and whither? Now middle-aged, I was weary of it. I’d even lately shied away from a few friendships, ventures, and the added effort that I’d have been much more willing to put in at a younger, more na├»ve age. What was even the point?

Being surrounded by every plant I’d ever planted, many of which I’d completely forgotten about, from well over twenty-plus years ago…that drove the ‘point’ home very clearly. The impression I was getting in a very strong way, so strong that I could both feel in my heart and hear in my mind was this:

“Nothing you’ve planted was fruitless. Everything that you’ve ever put your hands to had an effect; a result, even though your own eyes can’t see that. Everything you do matters; everything you do will eventually bear fruit in the end.”

I awoke to the sun streaming through my window and the smell of Jeanette downstairs frying bacon…and I wept.

I could finally give a respectful nod to decades of effort. Building relationships, building businesses, raising children and hoping they turned out well. The fighting and the making up and the fighting. Finances gained, finances lost. The sleepless nights and the nights roasting marshmallows in the backyard around the firepit. Jobs, (and people) that I gave my all to, and still got let go anyway, in the end.

None of it was for nothing. Every bit of it was a seed planted that would grow and never die. Perhaps it wouldn’t grow where or how I’d planned…perhaps it would turn out, like those glorious plants…even better than I could ever have imagined. I had perfect confidence that I would see the fruit…if not today, then someday. I’ve viewed things differently since having that dream. It’s not an all-or-nothing deal anymore…I’ve experienced more of a wizened, contemplative feel for things. If I don’t see what I wish I could see right now, all I have to do is be patient. It will all work out, in good time. The seeds have been planted and cultivated; the rest is purely in God’s hands.

I can wait.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

What's Your 'Why'?

I've been reading 'The Barefoot Executive' by Carrie Wilkerson. In it, she says, "The 'why' of what you do should make you cry."

Here is my why:

Why is it vital for me to help others feel important? Because I grew up grounded to a bedroom without windows for months on end, and once was even locked in an outside doghouse on an icy cold winter's day until long after sundown. I wasn't allowed to speak my mind or, often, to even defend myself or my loved ones. I felt invisible, unimportant, and alone countless times.

It took years to realize that the message 'you're nothing'
was a big lie, told by people who didn't feel solid about themselves.
Certain situations might momentarily trigger those feelings once again, but they're short-lived.

If there is anything within my power to do to help those around me feel visible, important, and above all vital, I am going to do it. Through my speech, through my writing... using whatever means I have.

No one is going to feel insignificant on my watch. Everyone I've ever encountered is a celebrity and incredible person in their own right. My 'why' is to make sure they know and never forget it. And, if they do, I'll remind them.

That's my big 'why'.

What's yours?

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

When Irish Eyes...

I first met Aunt Betty when I was very young. I remembered the bright red hair and the lilt to her voice. She was short, round, and had a Minnesotan accent. She was darling. Whenever we'd go to her house, we filled up on hard candy that she insisted we pick out of her special glass dish.

I hadn't seen her in many, many years. But when I moved to Arizona to live with a cousin for a short time at age eighteen, there she was. Her husband, Uncle Don, had died and she'd lived somewhere in the vicinity of our cousin and her family ever since.

Aunt Betty was their "Nana", and they knew her much better than we did. What we thought were cute little phrases, the grandkids viewed as annoying. What we thought was a lovely casserole called "Wednesday Night Special", the grandkids viewed as gaggy, and the 'same thing every week.' Their parents, (their mom was my cousin) got Aunt Betty set up in a nice little apartment in Mesa. Once a week, the younger set would drive over there to spend some time with her. Teenagers only was the rule. She wanted to know all about us and would have the cheesey, potato-y casserole with the crumbled potato chips on top waiting.

Whenever she needed a ride to the store, she'd try to buy me something, a tube of lipstick or a hair product I used. Sometimes I'd have to insist that she didn't spend her limited money on me. I adored this lady.

To me, Aunt Betty was larger than life. She'd been my father's favorite Aunt growing up, and I'd heard so many wonderful stories about her. I felt happy to be able to be around her so much while I lived in Arizona. But it was explained to me by a teenager or two that Nana used to live with them, before she got her own place, and that since they had to deal with her every single day, it wasn't always 'fun'. Nevertheless, I still viewed her as somewhat glorified in my eyes. She was just a cute, spunky, red-headed little lady with a great sense of humor. She called me "DollBaby" and bought me stuff and made yummy food for me once a week.... What's not to love?

My favorite memory of Aunt Betty was on her birthday. She was Irish to the core, and in honor of that, her daughter and son in law took her out to dinner. The rest of us joined them. We went to an authentic Irish restaurant there, Aunt Betty's favorite. She laughed and her eyes twinkled, and she had herself a beer. It was adorable to watch how much she was enjoying herself. But the best moment of that evening was when they presented Aunt Betty with a beautifully wrapped box, large silken bow and all. As she removed the paper and took the item out of it's box, it was evident that she was already touched, no matter what it was. You could see the, "For....ME???" in her eyes. But the kicker was when she figured out exactly what the item was, and the thought meant behind it. It was a ceramic of an Irish-type dwelling...that was also a music box. It played "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling", Aunt Betty's favorite song.

She immediately began to cry.

So did everyone at the table. Because even though she was Nana and she bugged them, and she didn't get around very well anymore, and she made the same thing every Wednesday night for dinner....she was their mother. She was their grandmother. And she was my great-Aunt. Her phrases and her chronic Wheel of Fortune-watching, her piles of magazines in her apartment, her nicknames for each one of us, and her some-times annoying ways....were all a part of her. And she'd been a part of us for a long, long time. An integral piece to the puzzle that was our lives. And none of us could imagine our days without her.

She played that music box more than once before we even left the restaurant.

It's been twenty-four years since that birthday. My cousins moved from Arizona and went to San Diego, a place they'd always gone for vacations. They took Aunt Betty with them, and it was said that she was not doing so well. I worried about her and wrote her a few letters.

A couple of years later we got the news that she'd passed away. I later learned that she hadn't been in very good health when we'd all lived together in Arizona...she'd actually been in a lot of pain then; I'd had no idea. She never griped. All she did was make casserole, watch Wheel of Fortune, and buy stuff for loved ones, whether they wanted it or not. Never heard her complain once, the dear soul.

So when I hear that song, "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling", I'm suddenly back in that little Irish pub, watching Aunt Betty drain her beer, and then seeing her open that treasured music box. Her Irish eyes not only smiled that night; they glistened, too.

Here's to you, Aunt Betty. I'm sure you've found your pot of gold by now.

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An Encounter With A Leprechaun

(A post from a couple of years ago, unearthed).

Saturday is our grocery shopping day.

Last Saturday we had the Bonus Grandkiddies and Sis with us, so there was a Party of Five. Two shopping carts. Sis pushed one, Husband pushed the other, and I was an independent agent. Not a bad deal.

I parted with the group to dive down the crowded bread aisle. About halfway down, I saw a little old lady that looked...I'm not kidding... like an elf. Red hair, pale skin, almond eyes behind thick glasses. Given that it was closer to St. Patrick's day, she may have even been a Leprechaun (do they come in the female version?...of this, I am uneducated...). She suddenly hollered to the tall man standing nearest the shelf.

"Hey, YOU! Right behind you is the dark rye! Grab that for me, wouldja?"

He did.

Then she said, "Thanks.......I'll pay ya back in Heaven!"

He said he'd see her there.

She said, "All righty, I'll be waitin' for ya! I'll meet ya right there at the pearly gates!"

They laughed and parted ways. I was still grinning. I couldn't help but turn around to face her, telling her that this was one of the cutest things I'd heard yet.

"Well, @#$%!" she exclaimed, surprising me with a rather boisterous oath, "I'm four-foot-ten! I've had to learn to boss people around!"

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