Sunday, June 29, 2014

Start from scratch if you must, but don't give up!

Good Sunday morning everyone!  As usual, I’m finding it hard to sleep even though I’m officially on vacation and don’t have to be up for several more hours to get ready for Mass.  However, I am enjoying a cup of coffee and the peace and quiet on this very warm and muggy morning. Some of the family have already arrived at the camp for our family reunion vacation; several more will arrive later today.  The agenda today includes going to church, packing a picnic lunch, and heading up to the lake where we will be “kids” for a while, regardless of our ages. We will fly kites, blow bubbles, and perhaps engage in a family volleyball game this afternoon, but that remains to be seen because my body is still quite sore from the RA flare and there is rain in the forecast.  So far, that’s the plan for the afternoon, but like most things in life…..Things do not always go as planned and the sooner we learn to “go with the flow” and adapt to change, the easier our lives will become.

Yesterday was a gorgeous day; the kind that I dream about all winter with clear blue skies and lots of sunshine. I did a little garage saling in the morning and putzed around my garden for a while before cooling off in the pool.  I absolutely LOVE playing around in the yard and being outside. I’ve always been a sun and nature lover, but I’m not sure if I enjoy it so much now because I just REALLY LIKE IT….or whether the joy comes from the years of not being able to do much besides just sit and dream about all the thing I’d like to do again.  Perhaps, it’s because God always uses things in nature to teach me things and I’m able to draw strength for my journey in the ordinary, every-day kinds of tasks that occupy my weekends. 

Yesterday, the theme was trial and error and I was reminded over and over again that “Things do not always go as planned the first time.” I’ve shared before that I put in a vegetable garden this year, even though I’ve tried growing vegetables many times before with very little success. One year, about 15 years or so ago when I was teaching school and had the summers off, I managed to grow a few things, but I worked at it, had my own compost bin, and really put a lot of time and effort into it. Ironically, it was at a time in my life when I rarely ate vegetables at all!  Other years I’ve planted some squash and beans, only to have them wither in the hot, sandy soil or get eaten by the wildlife. The past couple of years I’ve grown tomatoes in pots and managed to get a bunch of green ones on the vines, and then, some sort of critter took a bite out of EVERY SINGLE GREEN TOMATO and I ended up visiting the vegetable stands that crop up alongside the roads in late summer. In spite of all of this….. I’m trying again this year….with about 9 or 10 different vegetables. I have tomatoes, zucchini, several different squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, green beans, and my favorite, never before attempted: Brussel sprouts!  I’ve planted most of them in large pots filled with good black soil and compost that I’ve hauled from the community recycling place, and placed them in a very sunny, secluded area with high hopes for success.  So after years and years of trying without much results….what makes me think that THIS TIME I will succeed?  Hmmmm…..good question…..and very likely, it is stubborn bull-headed determination…….the same characteristics that continue to help me on my journey to a new life and keeps my trying again and again. 

 You might ask, “So how is it going for you, Theresa?”  Well; so far, the animals have managed to eat most of the leaves off several of the squash, cantaloupe, and two of the Brussel sprout plants, but apparently they couldn’t reach the others.  SO…..some set-back….but an opportunity to “rethink things…..move things around…..try something new.” I even built a new type of barricade fence with the hopes of keeping the critters out.  Will it work? I’m not sure, but at least I’m trying something new because my first attempt didn’t.  Something is better than nothing, right? If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!  Hmm… there a lesson here?

I spent some time yesterday moving some of the perennials around too, even though summer is NOT the ideal time to do so. Last year I dug a new bed and planted many of the very small starter plants (full-size perennials can be very expensive). Many of the varieties were ones I had never grown before and even though they have those little tags with expected height and width, I didn’t pay much attention to them and just planted them where I wanted. Last year it was great….because I had a bunch of smaller plants…many of which bloomed that first year. I also separated and transplanted several other plants I had in various places in the yard into the new bed. All of these were surrounding my St. Francis waterfall fountain that I purchased in memory of my dear priest friend, Fr. Sauter (you’ve heard me mention him multiple times in previous posts and videos), after his death. I was very pleased with that garden last year and high hopes that it would be gorgeous this year, but failed to take into account that the plants will grow and mature to full-size. (Have you ever fallen in love with a tiny kitten or puppy….at years later at full-size wonder what on earth possessed you?  J).  SO….now, some of the plants on the border have crowded out others; the lower growing flowers cannot be seen from my chaise lounge chairs; and the St. Francis fountain is covered up by the taller, but completely beautiful, black-eyed Susan’s that have multiplied and are ready to bloom.  Goodness….when did this all happen….they were just small little plants a few weeks ago, weren’t’ they?   So, needless to say…..I had some rearranging to do yesterday. I moved and transplanted even raised my fountain up on a wooden platform in an attempt to make it look better.  Will it work?  I’m not sure; that remains to be seen as the summer progresses, but at least I made an attempt. Gardening, like my journey, is trial and error and doing SOMETHING is better than nothing.

I also had to do some reworking of my new pond because for the past several of weeks, I have been unable to keep my fish alive in it. This was my first attempt at water gardening and even though I did what I thought was best, I was pulling dead minnows and goldfish off the top every morning. I checked the water temperature; I had flowing water to circulate the water; I even had plants there to provide oxygen, but my fish were dying.  I read things on the net and I watched dozens of YouTube videos. I even talked to people at the pet stores. I thought I was doing everything right, but obviously, something wasn’t working.  After several weeks of the frustration, I decided that, “ENOUGH WAS ENOUGH and if other could people could keep fish alive in a small pond, then I COULD DO IT TOO….even if I wasn’t successful at first!”  Again, stubborn bull-headed determination at work.  And so….last weekend I completely emptied the pond. I pulled out every single rock and river pebble. I took out each plant, drained the pond completely, got on my hands and knees and scrubbed the sides and bottom off, washed each rock and plant and started from scratch. By the way, I found two surviving fish in the process.  There was about 2 inches of mucky, muddy gunk in the bottom of that pond (likely because I didn’t know what I was doing and put the cattails and other water plants in there in pots of soil) and I think I was poisoning the fish with icky, muddy water. I put everything back in place and for over a week now, I have crystal clear water AND ten happy goldfish swimming around without a single casualty all week!  I’m a happy girl and it’s amazing how much joy I’ve been getting out of feeding those silly fish each morning and evening. I’m just like a little kid!!!!  Thank God that I’m a stubborn, bull-headed, and very determined girl that doesn’t give up without a fight.

And so… I’m working around the yard yesterday, I kept thinking about these three incidents…..and how over and over, God was teaching me that THINGS DO NOT ALWAYS GO AS PLANNED.  Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts and intentions, we fail, not necessarily because of own fault or lack of will, but sometimes just because we don’t know any better.  Sometimes we are CERTAIN that THIS TIME we will succeed at losing weight….or giving up a bad habit….or sticking to an exercise plan….or changing our attitudes….or whatever.  Sometimes we are DETERMINED to make it work and nothing or no one is going to stop us.   BUT…just like me and my gardening adventures….things do not always work the first time. Sometimes we have to make adjustments. Sometime we have to “mix up our exercise routine” or “adjust our caloric intake.” Sometimes we fail miserably and want to give up completely. Sometimes we are doing so great….and some sort of critter comes along (named TEMPTATION….OR BINGE….OR EMOTIONAL TURMOIL….OR VACATION/HOLIDAY/PARTY/BIRTHDAY……or STRESS) and completely sabotages any progress we’ve made so far.  Sometimes our plants, or in my case, fish, even die (We gain back what we’ve lost or head in the wrong direction.)  Sometimes….we just aren’t successful even though we want to be and we lose hope and just decide to give up, even though we are unhappy, unhealthy, and completely miserable.  

SO the question is this:  WHAT are you going to do about it?  I had two choices with my gardening: Either I just give up and let the plants take over each other, give up hope of growing my own vegetables and trying to get fish to live in my pond…..Or I do something about it.  It’s the same thing with my weight….either I become discouraged when I’m not making progress or my pants are tight…..or I do something about it.  I’ve decided (THANK YOU GOD, for stubborn, bull-headed determination) that I am going to keep trying until I get it right. If there is a will….there is a way….and I’m not going to give up on the garden….on my journey….or on you…..until I am 100% certain that I’ve tried everything to make it work.

 I KNOW that if other people can grow beautiful gardens….outsmart the deer, raccoons, groundhogs and all the other wild creatures that grace my yard…..AND manage to keep 25 cent goldfish alive; then so can I!  And….if OTHER PEOPLE, even if it’s only 5%, can manage to lose weight and keep it off….SO CAN I!  I also know that IF I CAN DO IT….with the grace of God….than so can you!  Will it be easy (either the gardening or maintaining my journey): NOPE!  Will it be easy for you to lose weight, change your life, and give up habits, become healthier, happier, holier people: NOPE!  But it will be so worth it!  Don’t give up….do a complete overhaul if you must….but don’t lose hope. Find that stubborn, bull-headed determination deep inside you and KEEP BELIEVING that YOU CAN and YOU WILL change your life!!!

Have a beautiful weekend my friends!