Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How long ? At the Kalico Kitchen

We were down at the Kalico Kitchen, our favorite local eatery, the other day.  We were celebrating being home, as we had just arrived the night before at around 9:00 p.m., exhausted.

Certainly it had been a good trip; but we were, nevertheless, glad to be home.  Ahhhhhh..... yes, home again.  Comfort.

So there we sat, grinning, and ordering off our favorite menu.  We must have been looking pretty slappy-happy, because our young waitress came over and said, "Can I ask you something?"

The LOC*, always amenable to any conversation whatsoever, said, "Sure."
                                         # # # # #
Actually, once the conversation was underway, she had several questions after the first one.  
How long had we been married?  
Was it hard to stay married that long?
Did we ever argue?  (We both laughed pretty hard at that one.) How did we resolve a disagreement, when one arose?
Was it worth the effort?

She was young, beautiful (and I don't mean just kind of - but truly, drop-dead gorgeous) and clearly in a quandary.  She and her boyfriend had just been on a frustrating weekend trip, wherein very little had gone well; and upon arriving home, predictably (for those of us who have been around awhile) an argument ensued.

Thus, her questions.
                                             # # # # #
Our answers:  
- almost 27 years; 
- yes, it was hard; 
- yes - both of us laughing again - we definitely argued; 
- we talked the issue through (or as the LOC would say, "talked it to death"); 
- and yes, it was worth it.

There were almost no customers in the place, as it was the dead time of the afternoon, so she returned to our booth in the corner, again and again.
                                          # # # # #
She is a member of the "millennial" generation; and from what I have read and heard, commitment is not a concept with which they easily come to grips.  However, this young woman seemed genuinely interested in our views on "what it takes to stay in it for the long haul."  It was her hope to do that, too.
                                               # # # # #
So we spoke with her about our own mistakes; and the fact that we married in mid-life (a second marriage for each of us) and we were pretty set in our ways, which created considerable challenges. 

As I have said before, we didn't just have "baggage" - we had "his and hers" storage units full of issues.

We talked honestly about the hard work a long term relationship requires, the need for a sense of humor - especially when things go wrong - and finally a set of shared, and firmly held, values and a foundational faith. 

After a bit, she left to wait on another table.  And as we sat there ruminating, I could not help but be surprised that it was us - us - sitting there talking about twenty-six, almost twenty-seven, shared years.

Where did the time go? Was it over a quarter of a century since I awoke to a picture of John Wayne with a black eye patch in True Grit persona, hanging in the bedroom of my new husband's home into which I had just moved; oh, and one of a moose hanging in the bathroom?  I clearly remember not knowing whether to laugh or cry - and I did some of both.

Ours was a challenging beginning, and a sometimes difficult middle.  But here we are, looking back while enjoying a contented third act.  I truly cannot quite figure out how that happened; but I am grateful.  God's grace truly knows no bounds.
                                         # # # # #
How long has it been? Well, the days may seem long when troubles are piled high, but the years really do fly by.  And here we are, in safe harbor after all.  We didn't know how long it would take, but we are glad we made the journey.
                                                 # # # # #
Hope you are in a safe and comforting place tonight.  If so, we can be grateful together.  Until next time, your grateful gardener ~ Marsha
(* Lovable Old Coot)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Puh -LEEZE - Could I Be Excused ? - Or at Least Strongly Sedated

 Like many young people, there were quite a number of things I wanted to be when I grew up.

A flight attendant - only back then they were called stewardesses.

A teacher - of almost anything, but mainly of literature.

A businesswoman - because we didn't have much money and I thought all business people were rich.

One thing I never, EVER, aspired to being was ANY kind of technical advisor.  And now I know why.

I have spent a good portion (or a bad one, depending upon your point of view) of the past three days with computer "experts" who were eager to solve my PC problems for me.

Would that enthusiasm equaled understanding. On either side of the conversation, theirs or mine.

I have now been rebooted, refreshed, logged on, logged out, deleted, canceled, unsubscribed and reconfigured.

Subsequently, I am bemused, confused (but definitely not amused), annoyed, dismayed, and exhausted.

Oh, and after each of the three separate customer service / chat/ help desk experiences, I have been politely invited to provide feedback about my satisfaction level.

                                      # # #
So here's the deal.  I may be back in a day or two when I have recovered from the above mentioned trauma.  Or, it is entirely possible that I may never be heard from again.  Right now it is a toss up.
                                    # # #
Hope no one offered to fix your problem today; but if they did, I sincerely hope they actually delivered on their promise.  If not, you have my condolences.  Until next time (maybe) ~ Marsha

Thursday, June 18, 2015

To Serve and Protect

We recently visited with one of our children, who happens to be a police officer in a large city.  He has never had to fire his weapon in the line of duty, except at the firing range in order to keep his required qualification status.

He sincerely believes that his primary duty as a sworn officer of the law is "to serve and protect."  And he does.

Contrary to what we often see on TV, his proudest moment as a policeman was when he saved someone's life a couple of years ago. He did not mention it, but his family told us about it and that he received a commendation for it.  Would that there were more like him.
                                                  # # #

I recently read an article written by Mark D. Roberts, of the Max DePree Foundation, wherein he said that when God instructed Adam to take care of Eden, the original language "to till it and to keep it" quite literally meant to serve and protect it.

Not to dominate it, nor exploit it, nor neglect it; but to protect and serve it.  Mr. Roberts offered that this is a prototype of what is really intended for work that is meaningful and satisfying.

We can protect and serve, no matter what line of work we are in.

If we are a teacher, we are to protect and serve our students.

If we are a doctor or nurse, we are to protect and serve our patients.

If we are an administrator, we are to protect and serve those in our organization.

If we are an HR professional, we are to protect and serve our employees.

Even if we are an elected official (also known as, heaven for fend, a politician) we are supposed to protect and serve our constituents.

(Here I could go off on a tangent about whatever happened to the concept of being a "public servant"; but I'll save that for another day.)

If we are a farmer, we are to protect our crops or herds, so that we may serve our consumers the food needed for life.

And so it goes.  In today's society, the generally prevailing attitude is, more often than not, win at any cost.  Outdo the other guy.  If making her look bad makes me look better, so be it.

I suspect that this unbridled ambition, and mean-spirited competition, is why so many are miserable in their work.

Once again, it appears that God knew what would lead to a satisfying life, when the first work he assigned mankind was to "till it and keep it" - or put another way, to protect and serve, regardless of where, or what, our particular role might be.

It's a thought.
                                          # # # # #
Let's hope we have something worth tending and keeping today.  If we do, let's share it with someone, shall we?  Until next time, your grateful gardener ~ Marsha 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Condition We Are In

There is an old song that says something about "the condition my condition is in".

I have a condition. Don't we all?  I don't like it and I don't talk about it. Mine isn't visible, at least not usually, so most people never know about it. That is just the way I prefer it.

During a doctor's visit nearly ten years ago now, I was diagnosed.  He was a general practitioner, whom I respected, but still, it was a somewhat discouraging announcement he was making.
Although I had suspected it for some time, it was, nevertheless, disconcerting to have it made official.  So I made an appointment with a specialist in that field.

He confirmed the problem and then gave me his best attempt at a good news - bad news prognosis.  "Well, it won't kill you. However, there may be days when you wish you were dead."

Hello -"Thank you very nice" (as my favorite sportscaster, Mike Krukow, would say).  Krukow has a condition.  It has a long, complicated name and he does not like to talk about it.  We would know nothing of it, except that he stumbled and fell coming off the team bus last summer, and it could no longer be kept private.  He now uses a cane whenever he stands while broadcasting.  Other than that, nothing has changed - and he  plans to keep it that way.  I say good for Mike.
                                                                                 # # # # #
Today I read a blog written by someone who fights something much more serious than that with which I struggle.  She wrote, "Don't become your disease."  She is right.  It is a slippery slope once you go down that path. And no good can come of it.

Two women, who worked in the same company with me, were both diagnosed with the same ailment as the one my doctor identified and at around the same time.  Within a few months they had both taken a medical leave of absence from work, certified by their treating physician.  One ended up hospitalized and later applied for long term disability. The other one simply quit and, from what I later heard, spent most days in bed.

I knew about their diagnosis because they were both very vocal about it.  They groused, they moaned, they actively sought out those who would commiserate with them in the break room.

I watched as they each "became their condition" and allowed their lives to revolve around their symptoms and ensuing work/life/health complications. It wasn't pretty. And according to my doctor and most of the medical articles I have read on the subject, it was mostly avoidable.

From the outset I decided upon a different approach.  I told no one at work, except my boss and two subordinates who would have to cover my duties on the occasional day when I simply could not get out of bed. I let them know that I believed this would be a very rare occurrence and that I had every intention of continuing my duties as usual.

Over the next several years I rarely missed a day of work due to the "condition" - although, as was to be expected, there were days when I struggled to work at the same energy level as I had previously. Once in a while, someone would ask me if I was "doing okay?"

"Yes, thanks, why?" I might reply.

"Oh, I just noticed that you are limping."
                                                                 # # # # #

The fact is that we all "limp along" in life, in one way or another,  Some of us limp in a way that is visibly noticeable, however we might try to disguise it. Others have mental or emotional limps that hamper their best efforts. Although we may not be able to avoid our limp altogether, we may often have a choice about whether to make it worse.

Regardless of the "condition" which may have occasioned a particular limp, my observation has been that those who do their best to ignore their limp, and simply keep putting one foot in front of the other, tend to end up in a better place than those who spend lots of time and energy focusing on their limp.  They constantly examine "what condition their condition is in."

Personally, I think each limp is unique.  It can add character, or even panache, to one's walk through life.  My belief is that one's condition is simply one attribute of one's self, like the color of our hair or how tall we happen to be.

Unless our condition is of a completely debilitating or terminal nature, and even then some people manage to keep walking with a lot of dignity, it only becomes fatal when we use it as an excuse to lie down and quit.

So there you have it.  Yes, I still sometimes limp.  But I don't see that as any reason to quit.  Do you?
                                                                              # # # # #
Hope you are not limping today.  But if you are, whatever you do, don't quit.  If you keep walking you may find yourself in a much better place.  If you quit, you are stuck right where you are.  Just saying ... Until next time, your gimpy but grateful gardener ~ Marsha

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Space in Which to Grow

A few days ago I sat in my friend's garden.  She is what my mother might have called a "working wonder" regarding what she can do with a garden space.  In just a few short years, since they moved to Oregon from the windswept plains of Wyoming, she has created a garden that is simply sumptuous.

No, it is not a vegetable garden, although some of the plants grown for beauty really do look good enough to eat, it is a plant and flower garden - extraordinaire!

There is enough space that you do not feel crowded.

There is enough variety that you are never bored.

There is enough color that you are delighted, but not overwhelmed.

And it is not perfect.  That would be somewhat discouraging to an amateur such as myself.  She laughingly pointed out the blue spruce that simply will not grow up.  It prefers to squat and has developed a goofy looking topknot.

I think what charms me most about her garden is that rather than aim for perfection, she has aimed for joy - and has hit it just right.  We talked about her roses, columbines, geraniums, and some of the most gorgeous lupines I have ever seen in my life.

She also planted a couple of low-growing Japanese maples, the kind with the burgundy leaves all year long.  They are flourishing and provided such a great contrast to the yellow roses nearby.

We sat in rockers on her back patio and discussed rainfall, heat issues, seeds versus live plantings, and on and on.  It would have been incredibly boring to anyone who doesn't love to garden.  But we were smiling ear to ear as we compared notes.

Finally I sighed and told my friend that, while I am a solidly Western philosophy kind of person, I could easily "just go all zen" right here in her garden.

As the evening waned and we prepared to go inside, I told her again how much I admired all that she and her husband had created here in their very own little Xanadu.  I wistfully expressed my longing for such garden beauty at home.

She graciously mentioned some of the good things we have been able to accomplish where we live, like the potting station and all the new plantings of the past three years, which she saw when they visited us a few months ago.  And then she surprised me.

"What I love most about your garden and yard is all the space you have.  It is wonderful."
                                                                   # # # # #
As I thought about it, I realized that her gardening space is about the size of two good rooms.  I have a half-acre to play with.  Sometimes that is a burden, as I struggle to fill it up.  Maybe I should just take a deep breath and celebrate the space I have in which to play.  To work.  To grow.

Hummm - maybe life is a lot like that, too.  We look at someone else's garden and see only their accomplishments and beautiful surroundings.  Meanwhile, we may have forgotten to celebrate our own "space" ?  It's a thought.  I think I will just wander around my yard enjoying it for a bit when we get home. ... And then I will get to work.  Sorry, just cannot help myself.  :)
                                                                  # # # #
How is your "garden of life" growing this summer?  Hope you are having fun, learning new things, and taking time to smell your own roses.  Until next time - your grateful gardener ~ Marsha

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Happy, Small Life

Pacific Northwest rural road from
I read an article in the Seattle Times the other day wherein the author, op-ed columnist David Brooks, wrote about a recent survey that had surprised him.  The survey was about whether reaching "big goals" caused those who reached them to become more satisfied in life.  Did such goals represent their purpose?

As I recall, the answer to that question was ambivalent - sometimes it did and sometimes it didn't. What surprised the writer more, however, was something else altogether. He called it the "happy small life."

Several respondents described themselves as happy with their lives, not due to any single great accomplishment, or goal they had achieved; but rather, they described their families, their gardens, their friendships, and how those things had led them to a happy life. They talked about kindness and generosity.
                                         # # #
We attended a wedding weekend before last, a small but joyful backyard ceremony.  It was held at the home of the bride's grandparents and her grandfather had personally built the archway / trellis under which they exchanged their vows. The groom was in his Air Force dress blues and the bride was a beautiful sight in her wedding dress. 

The weather was perfect as it topped just above seventy degrees with a gentle breeze.  Hummingbirds flitted around several feeders placed among the strands of winking lights all over the yard.

Someone told me not long ago that the average wedding now costs approximately $10,000 and that many spend well over $25,000.  The first house we bought cost only $26,500. I realize that was nearly two generations ago now, but still .... . What are people thinking?

I cannot begin to guess.  But I know what this young couple was thinking about when they planned their modest backyard celebration. I know because one of the grandmothers told me about it during the reception.  They were thinking of a starting their new life together with no debt and with a little money with which to make their first home; which would be a small sparsely furnished apartment on a military base in Montana.  And they were happy as could be about it.

Perhaps they also have big dreams.  I do not know.  All I know is that this young couple had already reached their first major goal in life:  a wedding that was held in a place that was meaningful to them, with lots of family and friends in attendance, and without spending a small fortune they had made it lovely. It was fun, too!

One of the more touching parts of their ceremony was one of the scriptures they had chosen.  It was Jeremiah 29:11.
                 For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to bless you and not to harm you; to give you a future and hope.

Those two kids are going to do alright, if they hang onto that promise. And if they keep making the kind of choices that, even if modest in the eyes of others, make them happy.
                                                  # # #
This week we are traveling in the Pacific Northwest. It is beautiful here, as it always is.  But we have noticed that it is no more beautiful than where we live every day.  Different, yes.  But not better.  We have a small happy life on a half-acre in Paradise.  And we are thankful.                     # # #

Hope your half-acre, wherever it may be today, is happy.  Until next time, your grateful gardener ~ Marsha