Sunday, October 19, 2014

Really, Theresa....all of this for a few goldfish???

Good Morning…. There is no doubt that I am a “little peculiar” in my thinking about some things. Some might call me quirky; some might label me weird; others might say I march to the beat of my own drum. Obviously, to preserve my own sanity, I prefer to simply think I am “unique.” Nonetheless, I’m sometimes amused by my own thoughts. Perhaps it is the lingering effects of my respiratory infection or the medication, but today, my thoughts are rambling all over the place.

You may recall that I expanded one of my perennial gardens this summer and put a small pond in. This little pond was a source of much joy this summer, although at first, it was a big pain in the rear. It was a trial and error process, and I admit, that I went into the project with very little knowledge about water/pond gardening. It was just something I wanted to try, and when I saw the plastic pond form on sale for less than $30.00, I sent my friend to purchase it for me, without any pre-planning or even an idea of where it would go.

 A few days later, the hole was dug; the form was in; the pump set up and pond filled, and I had my first little pond. Of course, that wasn’t good enough for me: I wanted fish!  Most of you know that I live in a rural, wooded area where wildlife roams freely in my backyard and I’m often battling the critters. I even had what we believe was a black bear totally demolish my bird-feeding area last summer and again this spring. So…what was I thinking…..putting fish in a small 33-gallon pond in an unprotected garden?  It didn’t really matter; I wanted to try it… and that stubborn, bull-headed, determination that rules my persona….was going to give it her all.  And thus began the saga of “Theresa’s pond!”

Once the pond was filled and positioned, I asked my friend to take me to the creek to dig up some cattails and other pond “weeds” as he calls them. He did, and I transplanted the plants to the new pond. I hauled some rocks and arranged them along the outside; and was now ready for some fish. I wasn’t sure the pond was big enough to support fish or if they would even survive the elements, so I decided to just start with some minnows. So…my friend (the things the poor guy does for me) went to town  on  yet another ‘mission” and came home with bucket of minnows…a gift from group member and local business owner, Tom…. I was like a little kid and couldn’t wait to put my minnows in the pond.  The fish swam around happily….for a couple of hours….then, one-by-one, began to float on the top. By the next day, I had lost 10 or the 12 minnows. Apparently, something wasn’t quite ‘right” with the pond set-up, although I’ve been told that ‘bait minnows” don’t typically last very long anyway.  But….I was determined to have fish, wasn’t going to accept defeat without a fight, and so I did some research (Thank goodness for YouTube and the internet); made some adjustments to the set-up; added some chemicals to balance something out (not a science girl by any means) and went back for more minnows.  I purchased a dozen or so fish from the bait store for a couple of dollars and had several dead ones floating before I even got home, but put the others in the pond….determined that they would survive. Once again, the fish began to die. I was disappointed again….but NOT enough to give up!

What was I doing wrong?  I had water. I had rocks on the bottom and plants. I had oxygen going in the water via a fountain. I was perplexed...and somewhat frustrated.  BUT….. I am so strong-willed….and I was determined to figure this out.  After all…if OTHER PEOPLE can have fish in a pond… I CAN….even if I fail over and over again.   This time, I decided to start completely from scratch.  I emptied the entire pond (to my surprise, I found one surviving minnow….must be a stubborn, determined little guy like me!!!). I bailed all the water out, first with a bucket; then with a cup. I took every rock and every piece of pea gravel out. I dug the plants and put them in a bucket. I washed it all out on my hands and knees (why did I put all that pea gravel along the edges...made kneeling a bit uncomfortable) and started all over again, this time doing things a little differently. I decided to just float the roots of the water plants in the pond as opposed to putting them in pots full of dirt because I think the water was just too full of dirt and was chocking the fish, but I don’t know for sure. I put clean water in; I put some ‘pond-start up chemical in’ to balance the ph.; I adjusted the fountain pump and replaced the rocks.  When I was ready to give the fish another try, I went to Meijer’s and purchased a few ‘feeder” goldfish for a whopping 21 cents each. I was told that goldfish are very hardy and can live just about anywhere.  I couldn’t wait to get them home and put them in their new home, and although I was feeling determined and optimistic, I really didn’t know if I would attempt again if I failed for the 3rd time.  But….to my surprise….all but one of the goldfish lived through the night…and then the NEXT night…and for the next week.  Woot! Woot!  I was feeling pretty smug. “SEE…. I told you I could figure this out,” I boasted to my friend. 

My little goldfish continued to survive and I grew very fond of them. Every morning before work I would feed them and every evening I would sit on my swing and watch them flit around the pond. I especially loved their bright color because they were quite visible. My nieces and nephews would come to see them on the weekends when they came up north this summer and those silly little fish made me smile each time I saw them.  I’m not sure if it was the joy of seeing the fish swim around happily or the satisfaction of finally succeeding in getting fish to survive, or a combination….but nonetheless, I love my little (but not quite so little anymore….did you know that goldfish GROW in a hurry???) fish. 

About two months ago, my friend asked me what I was planning to do with the pond for the winter. Living in northern Michigan means that the temperatures are going to be well below freezing by November and the shallow pond will likely freeze solid. The fountain part will be easy to handle: I’ll just take it out and store it until next spring, but….”What are you going to do with the fish,” he asked. Hmmm….Well, good question: one I hadn’t thought about when I started this little venture.  I pondered my options. I could dump them in the creek in my backwoods and hope they survive or I could just leave them in the pond and get some sort of heater….or I could just let them die, after all they’re just $2.00 worth of feeder fish.  None of these options seemed very appealing so I just sort of pretended like winter wouldn’t come, but really, what AM I going to do with these fish?  Yes, they only cost a couple of dollars, but they ARE alive and God’s creatures….AND…they gave me so much joy…and they are sort of pets because I’ve watched them grow and took care of them…AND…..  What a dilemma!!! 

I knew that I could not, in good conscience, just let these silly little fish die, so I began to look for a fish aquarium so that I could bring them inside. Really, Theresa???  You have four indoor cats….and $2.00 worth of goldfish….are you REALLY going to buy $50.00 worth of aquarium supplies to save 5 little fish?   See what I mean about being a bit “weird” in my thinking?????  Well, I’m NOT going to just let them die, I decided….and once I make up my mind about something….I’ll figure it out. (Did I mention I’m a bit stubborn?) Perhaps, more accurately, GOD will help me figure it out….(YES, as silly as it may sound to some, I think God really cares about EVERYTHING that happens in our lives, even the insignificant things like goldfish…(just my faith perspective anyway).  Therefore, I was not at all surprised….but extremely grateful….when I went into work a few weeks ago and my friend, Matt Dixon, greeted me with a big smile and a, “I’ve got something for you!”  He had found me an entire fish aquarium set-up at a garage sale, and was kind enough to purchase it for me as a gift! What a great guy!!!  And so…..the combination of my stubbornness….God’s providence….and the support of friends…..and my little goldfish now have a new home on my kitchen counter. Sometimes, it takes an army!

Besides this being just a silly little saga with a happy ending, this little goldfish tale is really just one of the many ways that God speaks to me and encourages me on my journey.  When I began my weight loss journey, there was no ‘pre-thought’; no “plan” in place to succeed; no “knowledge of how to lose weight”; and no “long-term plan” in place. It was just an “I want this: I’m going to do this, spur-of-the-moment’ decision, fueled by complete stubborn determination that I was going to make this work, even if I knew ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about how to do it. If OTHER PEOPLE can do it (have a pond and make it work) I can do it too!!!!   Like buying that pond on a whim; I started this journey…and figured out the rest along the way.  I did what I thought was right. I purchased food that I thought was good for me. I sought out information when I didn’t know things…and I went into it full-force, somewhat blind….but determined to succeed.  There were days when things went really well. There were weeks when I was losing weight rapidly. There was a sense of excitement and joy….but then the “fish” began to die. I was no longer losing 5 pounds a week, but rather just a pound or so….or none at all…but I kept at it. I felt discouraged after losing 50 pounds and still wearing the same clothes (Will I EVER get out of this 5X) ….but I was determined and stubborn… I set smaller goals. I changed the eating plan around a little; I adjusted the calorie allowance…I got ‘new fish” (began praying for a “new way of seeing things”) if you will…..but then THEY died too (when I lost my peace, struggled, or got agitated when someone pushed my buttons or upset me).  Hmmm….

Well…. I AM going to do this….so I will keep trying. So what, the 2nd batch of fish died…. I’ll just start completely over. It’s a new day….a new opportunity. I’ll try ONE last time with a DIFFERENT kind of fish.   I started lifting soup cans in my lazy boy chair to get some form of exercise. I started buying “real” vegetables and cooking real food as opposed to frozen dinners. I began to get up earlier to pray and write.  I kept trying and finally, I found my stride. I was making consistent progress….and….was succeeding.  My new fish were thriving (I was reaching goal after goal); I was excited and began to walk a few steps without the walker (Enjoying the fish); people were beginning to notice my progress (enjoying feeding my fish); and I was feeling great.  I was happy and felt pleased that I hadn’t given up!

When I began my pond project, I didn’t put any thought into what I would do with it at the end of the summer. The same is true for my personal journey to wellness.  Although I had made the decision on Day 1 that the changes I would make HAD to be for life….I never really gave it much thought about what that meant. It just seemed like too far away, much like the winter was too far away to worry about the fish now; after all, it was only MAY!  But….time passes quickly…and before I knew it, winter was approaching. The two years I took to lose the weight just FLEW by and now I was faced with the pressure to “eat an ice cream cone for your birthday…or certainly, you can have a cookie now, Theresa.”  Sure, I could ‘go back to my old way of life” when I lost the weight I wanted (let the fish die)…….but…….I’ve invested SO MUCH of my time and energy into this journey….I’ve enjoyed the process and all the new adventures that have come my way as a result of the weight loss…..I love THIS NEW LIFE…..and I’ve managed to keep the weight off (keep those fish alive)….so….I’m invested. I HAVE….to DO….WHATEVER I have to do to maintain this, right?  At whatever cost…..RIGHT????   I CANNOT go back to the “Old Theresa” way of life. I absolutely CANNOT let those fish die….without a sincere effort to keep them alive.  BUT fortunately…….I don’t have to do it alone. GOD….and my stubborn determination….and the support of loved ones and friends…..will help me. (Did Matthew really find an aquarium at a garage sale the VERY week I told him I needed one…YUP!) 

Whew….what a long-winded story…..but, my friends… I encourage you today….to think about WHAT YOU WANT….more than anything.  What is it?  What do you have to do to get it?  Are you willing to risk failure?  Are you willing to invest yourself into your journey?  Are you willing to sacrifice your time, energy, will to get it?  Are you so determined that you will try and try and try again if you don’t succeed at first?  Are you determined that THIS time you will do it?  And mostly….are you willing to do this FOR LIFE?  You cannot buy goldfish on a whim…and then just let them die when they’ve served their purpose any more than you can start a weight loss plan or life-changing journey…..for just a few weeks or months.  Dig deep….find that stubborn determination inside….and Go for it!!!!!  You will be so glad you did!!!