Posts Tagged ‘Isabella Catalog’

Taking Ourselves Off Automatic

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

[Dear Friends letter from our sister site Isabella Catalog.]

I’m having an issue with the trees and plants in my back yard. After over 10 years of everything thriving, something’s not right. Several of my favorite trees are starting to die, and the arborists I’ve consulted speculate that the trees are just getting so much water that the soil doesn’t have a chance to dry out enough to suit these particular trees.

The solution? Completely turn off the irrigation system and water by hand, selectively giving more or less water to appropriate parts of the yard. ‘You’ve got to be kidding,’ was my first reaction. I’m used to my sprinklers coming on every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. For 5 minutes. In the dark of night. While I’m sleeping and not even aware that anything is going on out there. So convenient. So automatic. So clean and hassle-free.

But you know what? It turns out that the mandate to get outside and hand-water my yard is the best thing that could have happened to me (yard-wise, anyway). As I stand there with hose in hand, looking, really looking, at each and every plant and tree, I find myself infinitely more connected to my little corner of nature. I marvel at how abundant and big the succulents have gotten since I planted them 2 years ago. Time to divide them and give them more breathing room. I notice the Staghorn Fern isn’t doing so well in the spot I had it, and I search out a better place for it. The delicate spray of my hose finds and showcases a perfect and exquisite spider web I wouldn’t have otherwise seen. The Gardenia needs some fertilizer, and, whoa, there’s a bird’s nest I hadn’t noticed!

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Friends Through Thick and Thin

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Not too long ago my husband and I had the opportunity to spend the weekend with our oldest and dearest friends, Nancy and Jeff. Oldest because we have known them for over 25 years (I have actually known Jeff for nearly 35 years, but that is another story altogether), and dearest because no matter what the situation or circumstance,we are always there for each other. Over the years we have attended each others’ weddings, cared for each other during sickness and surgeries, offered support and encouragement through illness and loss of loved ones, celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, new jobs, and new homes, and spent many, many glorious hours on weekend trips and adventures. There have been times of laughter and tears, times of fear, anguish and uncertainty, and the occasional brief moment of hurt feelings, but mostly,more than any other feelings or emotions, there have been years of joy and respect and an immeasurable amount of love.

We have shared many off-road adventures, bouncing and sliding along a steep, rocky, nearly impassable trail with no choice but to either go over the sheer side or to continue up the trail to the summit and on to easier paths. Nancy and I have gotten out and walked on more than one occasion, but our boys always get us home safely. On one trip several years ago,we were stopped at some crucial point in the trail (this seems to occur frequently on our adventures) and Scott and Jeff had to get out and examine the rocks to find the perfect line through, the one that would cause the least amount of damage yet still provide a white-knuckle experience, when I was struck by the fact that these two boys that I had known for so long and knew so well were no longer boys but had turned into grown men. When did that happen, and where was I when it had?

The answer finally came to me years later as the four of us were relaxing under the magnificent nighttime desert sky. It just happened. Gradually without any of us realizing it, we grew up.We’re adults. We actually have been for quite a few years now, with all the responsibilities and worry that can go along with the title. But in addition to those things, we also have the wisdom and experience to know that tough times don’t last,we are as strong as we need to be to get through any difficulty that comes our way, and if we falter,we will always, always have our friends to help us through the rocky parts. Thank heavens for enriching and nurturing friendships like these. They make such a difference in the way we handle life.

Worst Case Scenario

Monday, March 14th, 2011

How many times have you caught yourself saying,”Well, with my luck (fill in the blank with the worst case scenario for what you are dealing with)”? I find myself doing this more than I like to admit. Several weeks ago, during a particularly trying time in our lives, my husband and I were driving home from a very scary visit to our vet’s office. We had taken both our dogs in for their yearly routine exams having no clue anything could seriously be wrong with them. When the vet found a large, very suspicious mass on one of the dog’s chests, he soberly told us he didn’t like what he saw and would let us know the pathology results in 5-7 days. On the car ride home, I burst into tears and told my husband, “We just can’t catch a break these days.” My husband was very calm and told me to just keep my emotions in check until we knew what we were dealing with.

That was the longest week of my life. My stomach was in knots, I couldn’t eat, couldn’t find joy in anything, and basically just wanted to curl up in the fetal position. My dogs are brothers and extremely close. All the worst case scenarios of how the other dog would go on without his brother kept running through my mind. It was horrible. The test results finally came back and showed that the mass was large and in a very bad spot, but was benign. A great deal of money, a quick surgery and recovery later, and our pup is back to normal.

This whole incident made me take a serious look at why I am always ready to jump to the worst case conclusion. Am I trying to protect myself? Get my armor up and ready for battle even though it might not be needed? Why can’t I be more positive and optimistic? Does it always have to be the darkest day in my brain?

I think a lot of us do this. We expect the worst and the worst hardly ever happens (thank goodness!). But when it does happen, it rocks our world, and we decide to not be caught unprotected again. So, next crisis, our minds go into overdrive and we imagine what it will be like when the world falls on our heads so we can be “ready.”

While this is just human nature for some of us, starting now I am going to make a real effort to temper this impulse. Spending those 7 days imagining life without my beloved dog was in no way good for me or my family. And, of course, as it turns out, totally unnecessary. I am going to try to put my imagination in a lower gear, be realistic when things come up, but not panic and freak out. I know this will be harder than I think, but in the long run, it will balance my life, allowing me to be a more positive presence for myself and a more positive force in the world.

Break Away From the Herd

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Leave it to my dad to find enlightenment from a herd of one-track rabbits. Eons ago when he drove one of those open-car, hand-cranked railcars for the Milwaukee Railroad (Hello, Elmer Fudd?!), he said that rabbits would get on the track in front of him, and once they started running, they couldn’t seem to figure out that all they had to do was jump off the track to avoid their demise. I don’t know if my dad realized what a powerful life lesson he imparted with this story, but it’s about the best metaphor for life a dad could share with his daughter.

Just as life never pans out for rabbits running from trains, it doesn’t fare too well for us when we’ve got railcars of pettiness, negativity, and — well, you fill in the blanks — heading our way. I don’t know what motivates rabbits to continue in their folly, but I have an inkling of what compels us as people. Long before wheels and railcars were invented, group survival was where it was at, and I still fall prey to its siren song of ‘there’s safety in numbers’ as well as that strong desire to be ‘included’ and the fear to change.

In that sense, it takes a brave bunny to break away from the herd (especially when that herd is its family of origin!). But I’ve found life is so much sweeter when we take a daily look at the track we’re on, our traveling companions, and what we have stuffed in our brain’s baggage compartment. Over the years, I’ve learned that if it looks like a train, sounds like a train, and smells like a train, it’s my cue to take the nearest exit. There’s no need to hurl insults at the rabbits who choose to remain, or throw rotten eggs on the railcar, track, or conductor. Just get yourself off the track now. Refuse to spend one more minute of your precious life huffing and puffing in order to stay out of harm’s way. You’ll never out-run a moving locomotive, and it’s no fun trying.

Truly, life is too short to settle for being steamrollered by anyone or anything. It’s a new year. The next time someone in your life wants to engage in drama, trauma, or just plain petty meanness, choose to get off the track! You can do it. A beautiful world of unlimited possibilities awaits you. Wishing you all a Happy New Year and Happy Trails!

The Art of Imperfection

Friday, November 12th, 2010

No matter how hard I try, the perfection I strive for seems to be just out of reach. As soon as the floors are mopped, a little tuft of dog hair inevitably appears in the corner. No matter how many hours of tender care I give my roses, the critters that forage in the yard at night leave nibbled petals and an occasional broken branch for me to find in the morning. Then, there are those personal life ‘experiences’ that burst the perfection bubble. Let me explain.

It was a picture perfect (nature can be perfect!), sunny afternoon, and my husband, our two sons, and I were at a high school graduation party for one of the nicest kids you could ever hope to meet. He and his beautiful mom (also one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet) live in a gorgeous home on a hill with an absolutely stunning view. I felt pretty confident that I looked nearly perfect: my hair was up, my dress was cute, and everything about my outfit said ‘this woman has got it together.’ Little groups of people were scattered about, chatting and munching on the yummy food, enjoying the whole setting. As I was chatting and munching, a soft breeze came up and blew a couple of pieces of lettuce off of my plate. Being the conscientious guest that I am, I stepped back so that I could pick up the lettuce. Did I mention we were outside? So, I stepped back — and directly into the Jacuzzi. Way in, to the middle, completely submerged. When the need to breathe overpowered my feelings of utter humiliation, I surfaced and slowly opened my eyes to see a row of surprised faces and my oldest son sitting on the steps and holding his head in his hands in total mortification. As I retrieved the piece of pizza bobbing on the churning surface of the water, all I could do was laugh. My stunned husband helped me out of the water, the really nice kid brought me a big towel, and his even nicer mom asked what, if anything, she could do for me.

Well, there wasn’t anything she could do; it was up to me to own the moment. So, I wrapped the towel around my dripping dress, apologized to my embarrassed 18-year-old son, removed the clip from my hair and fluffed it a little so it could dry, accepted the new plate of food my darling husband brought me, and enjoyed the rest of the party. Did I still look nearly perfect? Not a chance. My hair was frizzy, my dress was a little wrinkled, although it was completely dry by the time we left, and my mascara had settled into dark smudges beneath my eyes.

So, as you are frantically cleaning, decorating, baking, and wrapping this holiday season, remember that the little mishaps in life make it interesting. Your friends and family are not coming to your home to check whether your cloth napkins are expertly pressed, or whether or not all the candles in the centerpiece are perfectly straight. They are coming to see you, to share your warmth and laughter, because they love you and want to be with you just as you want to share yourself with them. Relax and own the moment, imperfections and all. Who knows, you may just end up with a great story to share.