All Thinned Out

Carrots

There are a lot of creative analogies for creating healthy boundaries in your life.  Or for getting rid of negative people or situations and surrounding yourself with better ones.  Pruning, if you will.

But being the little novice container gardener that I am, I’ve found one that I kinda like.

Carrots.

As a child we would fill our garden with all sorts of things.  My mom was especially good at growing gourds to decorate with through the fall.  And we always had success at growing peas and corn and pumpkins and zucchini.  Occasionally, we would try something new.  Just for fun.

We tried lettuce.  It never got very big, and I always thought it tasted bitter.  But then again, I’ve never really cared for lettuce.  One year after I was married, my husband and I helped my parents plant their garden.  We planted like a dozen rows of potatoes.  Ok.  Maybe only two.  Regardless… not a single potato grew.  I hope they didn’t blame their hired help!

And through the years, we would occasionally try our hand at carrots, though not successfully.

So when I decided to plant my container garden, I was excited, discouraged, and challenged to read that carrots are a very popular and easy container vegetable.  (Maybe that’s why they never worked in my parent’s big garden?)

As I shook the little packet of seeds out all around the base of my Tomato plant, my dad watched and wisely warned, “Now… the hardest part for me about carrots was thinning them out.  I couldn’t bear to get rid of any, so they never grew very well.  But you have to thin them out.  Make sure you thin them out!”

I listened.  And I read up on it.  And sure enough, when they get to be about two or three inches tall, start thinning out the weak ones.  Or the ones that are growing too close to others.  Leave plenty of space for them to grow!

So I did.

Two inches later I had little piles of carrot tops scattered all over my deck.  It was easy!  What was my dad complaining about?

Until two weeks later when they were closer to 5 inches tall… and I had to thin them again.

The first time, they were just tiny white roots.  They already smelled like carrots, but there was no actual carrot there.  It was just like a little weed.

But now.  A couple weeks later.  They had developed a hint of orange.  The roots were bulging at the base of the head and were starting to look like little, tiny, carrots.  So much potential!  Doing so well!  Did I really have to pull these out and throw them away?

But I did it.  Knowing that my final crop would need space to grow deep and wide and be yummy.

It was the next thinning that really got me.  (see picture)  These were real carrots.  A little smaller than my pinky finger, but carrots, nonetheless.  There was enough meat on them that I could wash them and eat them.  A few more weeks and they could be fully grown, chopped and thrown into my chicken pot pie.

But not these.

These had to be pulled.

These had to be thrown away to make room for the others to grow and flourish and make chicken pot pie.

And it was really, really hard!  Knowing that there was nothing wrong with these carrots except that they were in the way of the successful growth of the others.

And then it hit me.

There are things in our lives that we periodically need to thin out.

Clothes.

Shoes.

Bad habits.

Tupperware.

People.

Relationships.

Obligations.

They are not always bad things, but often they hinder our growth in other areas.  Buying more shoes.  Adding more Tupperware.  Doing a few things well, rather than many things not well.  The comparisons are endless.

Unfortunately, sometimes this hurts.  Sometimes it doesn’t seem like the best thing to do at the time.  Sometimes you end up hurting another person in the process.  Because hey, nobody wants to be told they’re a weed.  But truth is, there are weeds in our lives.  Or carrots who have grown a little too close.  Who are holding us back.  Who are leaching all our nutrients.  And they very, very carefully and lovingly need to be removed.

So we can grow.

Another thing I love about this analogy is the timing.  If something hasn’t been in your life very long, it’s not too difficult to remove it.  Not much pain.  Not much regret.  Little damage done.  It’s when something has been there a long time- A habit.  An addiction.  An old couch.  A person you just can’t say no to.  Or can’t imagine your life without.- that things get tricky.  That it’s difficult.  That it hurts.  You pull that thing out and look at it.  It’s tempting to see the good.  To see the positives.  To see the potential.  What it could be.  But the fact is, it’s hindering your growth.  It’s holding you back from being all you can be.  Is it worth it?

The best part about the carrot analogy, though, is that in some cases, the carrot thinnings can then be transplanted into another pot.  If great care is taken when the removal actually happens, and then they are immediately transplanted into a new environment that has been adequately prepared, there is a good chance they will survive.  They don’t have to be thrown away. They can move on.  Take on a life of their own.  Continue to grow.  It’s a lovely picture, isn’t it?

And that’s where my analogy crumbles… because a carrot can’t make that choice for itself.  I threw mine away.  I could have tried the transplanting, but I didn’t.

It’s people that may need to move on.  Go find their own pot.  Make a little hole for themselves to live in.  You can’t guarantee that this will happen, but you can be an encouragement by being a strong, healthy little carrot yourself.

And growing deep and wide in your new found space.

But never forget that it’s the carrots beside you who help you grow straight and tall.  You can’t isolate yourself completely.  But you can be healthy.  And you can be free to grow.  And you can be you.

You little carrot, you.

*********

I might add, it helps to have a Gardener whom you trust who is not afraid to do a little thinning for you.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11

Her World

 Big mom & PIt’s so easy to forget that she is a child.

Not a doll or a sleeping baby or a sweet, smiling face in a picture.

She’s a little tiny human.  With little tiny human needs.  And little tiny human wants.  And while some of her wants and needs pale in comparison to the needs and wants of bigger humans, they are, at the time, pretty huge in her pretty tiny little world.

And it’s exhausting to be her world.

Want some pieEspecially on days when I’m tired and I just want to curl up in my own world and sleep.  Or watch tv.  Or stare at my computer.

Especially when her world just had a tornado come through and send every toy in the house flying from one corner to the next.  And my world is tired of tripping and kicking and picking up.

Especially when all she wants to do is watch TV and it would be so much easier to just let her do it than to encourage her to play with her dolls.  Or sit down and build a tower with her.  Or hold her lid while she colors with markers.

Because inevitably, I will become the doll who must eat the food and cover up with the blanket and pretend to go night night and wake up! a million and a half times.

And there’s no doubt that the second I get my tower built she will run and knock it over and scatter blocks across the room.  And laugh.

And there is a pretty stinking good chance that if I look away for one second she will color on herself.  The floor.  The wall.  Her clothes.  The TV.  The couch.  Or all of the above.

In my desperation to be a good mom with just the right balance of participation and independence, caretaking and teaching, relishing and releasing, I’m sometimes just tired.

And sometimes she and I don’t get along. 

I’m short with her.  And she refuses to listen.  I easily get irritated.  And she delights in doing exactly what she knows she’s not supposed to be doing.  I want peace and quiet.  She wants to whine and cry.  I want to take a shower.  She wants to scream my name with tears streaming down her face for fifteen minutes straight.

It’s exhausting to be her world.

The older she’s gotten, the more expression I see on her face when we interact.  I see her taking it all in.  I see her thinking things over before she does them.  I see her seeking permission with her eyes.  I see her start at my sudden outbursts when she refuses to stop after I’ve said stop four times.  I see pain flash across her face.  Or guilt.  Or mockery.  Or just bare, naked rebellion.

She’s two.  And it’s all out there for the taking now.

Her world is all about her… and her tummy and her diaper and her shows and her toys and her ‘right now’.  And yet somehow in the middle of all her independence she is growing increasingly wary of being away from me.  If this is her world, then I am her sun.  The light by which she sees and does everything else.  God forbid I disappear from sight for one second.  God forbid I get too close.  God forbid I get too far away.  God forbid I flare up.  God forbid I don’t respond at all.  God forbid I don’t be all about her.

IMG_1394It’s exhausting to be her world.

In the morning when she wakes I’m the first person she finds.  When she wants breakfast, she whines at me.  When she wants to watch her show, she hands me the remote.  Unless daddy is anywhere near… because he seldom hesitates.  I hesitate on occasion… to which she cries.  At me.  When she wants someone to play with her, she pats the floor and looks at me.  When she wants to go outside, she runs to me, points at her foot and says, “Go!”  When she’s mad, she hits me.  When she’s tired, she whines at me.  When she’s starving half to death, she hangs onto me.  When I’m not fast enough, she lays on the floor and cries under my feet.  When it’s naptime, she tells me “nooooooo!”.  When I walk out and tell her to rest, she screams my name pitifully.  And when she wakes up an hour early, I had better be ready to be her world.

Exhausting, I tell you.

But…

when she’s hurt, she wants me.  When she has just said a new word, she looks proudly at me.  When she puts her dishes in the sink or throws something in the trash or picks up her toys all by herself, she runs back to show me.  When she is scared, she buries her head in my shoulder.  When she’s sick, she falls asleep on me (sometimes).  When she wants to read a book, she curls up in my lap.  When she wants to share her snacks, she shares with me.  And when all the world is right and beautiful and fun and full of wonder…

she’s usually right beside

me.Us.

 

 

 

Gardening 101

wpid-20130615_090205.jpg

If you’ve stumbled upon this blog post because you want to learn about gardening, I’m not sure I’m the authority you want to be listening to.

20130608_074928I mean.  For my first real container garden, I guess it’s doing pretty well.  The carrots are my best ever.  The peas popped out like crazy.  The strawberries are still being plucked and munched by little grubby hands every other day.  And even the corn is a couple feet tall (in a container)!  The Tomato plant is as tall as I am.  The cucumbers are all abloom.

Even the Topsy Turvey has four plump little green balls hanging precariously from our deck.

However… I’ve learned a few things in the process.  Perhaps it will change the way I do things next time… perhaps.

I learned that my herbs were NOT happy to be moved to the front of the house.  My thyme has run out of time… and I’m sad because that was my favorite herb. (and previously one of my most successful).  If I could do it all over again, I’d have put them in a new pot, but not changed their sunlight and rain schedule.  Thyme didn’t like it.Peas

I learned that peas are delicious… right out of the pod… right off the plant.  (I always knew that, but this brought back sweet memories of childhood!)  A few days later while I attempted to build up enough of a stash to make one serving, though?  Not so great.  Trash-worthy, really.

Which leads me to the next thing.  Feeding a family of two and a half really takes a lot of vegetables.  A container garden is nice.  But doesn’t allow for a lot of plants, which means I’m eating some yummy vegetables…

two.

peas.

at a time.

Not very practical.  While it’s fun to watch them grow, if I did it all over again, I’d choose two or three veggies I REALLY love and I’d plant lots of them.

Not ours... These beans came from a real garden.

Not ours… These beans came from a real garden.

Let’s just say it’s not gonna be a bumper crop.

Tried and Tuesday: Scrappy-Do!

ChalkI’m sort of a compulsive fabric buyer.

And I can’t throw anything away.

Which means half of the bags and bins surrounding my sewing machine are full of scraps.  Corners.  Edges.  Weird shapes.  Leftover bits of whatever I’ve been creating that I felt were big enough, “surely I could do something with this!”

Drives my husband batty.

So when I stumbled on this blog post about a “Scrap your Stash” party, I knew exactly where I was headed.  Up to the sewing room to fish through my bags of leftovers.  (this is one of my favorite sewing blogs, by the way… the pouf was also from here)

Scrappy InspirationLeft is her original inspiration.  It was on my “Sew Easy” Pinterest board… and now it’s on my “I did it!” board!  I absolutely loved the look of it.  How the pieces didn’t match or really go together by themselves, but when you put them all together and trimmed that white shirt.  Perfection.

So I pulled out ALL my scraps.  Not kidding.  All of them.  And I spent probably an entire day sorting through them.  Pulling out only the ones that I knew would be big enough to either make a wide edge or would fold up enough to make my own bias tape.

The living room was a mess.

By the end of the morning I had piles and piles of neat little rectangles that I had cut.  Divided by size (some did not yield as long a rectangle as others, so they were reserved for the bias tape) and then organized into complementing colors.

FYI. I’m a huge nerd.

In the end, I had an adorable springy collection.  A red and pink collection. (my world is red and pink) A 4th of July collection.  What I call a green collection.  And then a random collection.  I had a lot of scraps.

Detail

That afternoon while the Pickle slept, I went about sewing and ironing

every.

little.

piece.

of the spring collection.  Side to side.  Side to side.  Side to side.  Then I sewed the remaining pieces end to end.  End to end.  Then I folded and pressed.  Folded and pressed.

It was a very methodical process.  And in the end I had a gorgeous wide strip of colorful fabrics that were just screaming to go around the bottom of an old white skirt I had.  Then the new bias tape I had proudly folded and pressed in an eternal strip made the perfect haltar straps.  Wa-lah!

My little Sweet Pickle had a gorgeous, girly, fun sun dress… that cost me nothing but time. (and love)

If you have lots of scraps lying around that you don’t know what to do with, this is an incredible project.  It would make a beautiful, quilt-looking pillow.  It would be an adorable blanket binding.  You could line the bottom of a curtain with it.  Or an apron.  The possibilities are endless.

Or if you’re looking for more ideas to do with your scraps, check out the rest of the Scrap Your Stash party they had.  Just scroll down to the bottom of the tutorial on the link above.

Loads of ideas, so little time!

Wow.

Lots of People

Would you like me to blow your mind?

We watched a movie tonight.  Prometheus to be exact.  Prequel to the Alien series.  Eighties babies, you remember it well.  Sigourney Weaver never made bald look better.  And that sweet little girl!  Awww…

Anyways… point is.  It’s a new movie.  Digital design.  Graphic art.  Computer animation.  Fancy stuff.  Very realistic.  Intricately designed.  And at the end of the movie, we watched the credits.

I’m sorry, but movie credits nowadays just blow me away.

They are half an hour long.

8 point font.

Lists and lists and lists of names.

Who keeps track of all these names?!  (and let me tell you, there are some cool names!  Asian names, Indian names, Jewish names, Scandinavian names.  Rockin’ names.  You thought North West was original?  Watch the end credits of your next movie.)

The screen is covered in them.  If you want to really be mesmerized, watch the Lord of the Rings credits.

What’s so mind-blowing about this, you ask?

Every 8pt. font name belongs to a person who has a job, however small, in the movie industry, who lives in a house or apartment, who has a mom and a dad, who perhaps is married, maybe has kids, has interests, favorite foods, bad days… a life.

So either you can be blown away that a person’s whole life can be reduced to a 5 second scroll up a black screen twenty minutes after a movie in 8pt. font.

(I just picture some kid sitting in his living room with his mom and dad rewinding half a dozen times screaming, “There it was.  Did you see it?  No, right there.  On the left.  In the middle.  No, between Javier  and Muhammed.  No.  Right next to Xan.  Do you see it?  No, mom.  Right there!”)

OR

You can be amazed that those thousands and thousands (and in LOTR’s case a few thousand more) of names belong to people with real, full lives- just like you and me.  It blows me away.  Helps me realize my place on this earth.  Helps me respect the enormous body that makes up humanity.  Not just my little sphere of influence.  Or my city.  Or my country.  But the fact that there are just

so.

many.

people.

I am so humbled by movie credits.

And I wonder what those people are doing right now?

And I wonder if they’re going through a hard time?

Or celebrating a beautiful moment?

Or still working on yet another small part in an enormous production?

Do they love their job?

Do they love their life?

Are they loved?

Am I just weird or is this incredible to anyone else but me?

Can I confess to you that if I sit through credits long enough to reach this overwhelmed point, I start praying for the names on the screen?

As fast as my eyes can grab them (and usually first names only, since I can’t pronounce three fourths of their last names).  I pray for joy.  I pray for peace.  I pray for contentment in life.  I pray for unknown needs.  Or health.  Or struggles.  Or protection.

The end credits often make me cry…

Because they’re not just names.  They’re people.  Thousands of people.

People I will never know.

Or meet.

Or sit next to.

Or share a cup of coffee with.

But I believe God knows each of them.  Each job.  Each family.  Each struggle.  Each joy.

And I believe He cares about them ever so deeply.

And can pronounce all their names…

perfectly.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” -Matthew 10:29-31End Credits

The World Style

gangnam

Gangnam Style was my ringtone for about 12 hours.

That is, until my phone rang and my husband gave me the death glare.

I was up late the other night working on something that required me to find music, which led me to YouTube, which led me to explore this new world of YouTube meme’s.  Funny stuff.  And while I think PSY’s video is just plain weird, I thought it was funny.  And catchy.  So I made it my ringtone.

Apparently my husband didn’t approve.

He urged me to do some research before hopping on a bandwagon that I knew nothing about, and subsequently asked that I remove the ringtone.  I love my husband.  And I respect him.  After all, as a music-lover, he’s the type of guy who reads articles and watches entire series’ on his bands and artists.  He knows them like he knows his own family.  So he listens to music in a context way beyond the radio fads and YouTube sensations that so many of us base our interest on.  Including myself.  So I immediately removed Gangnam Style from my ringtone… and did a little horsey dance in the living room.

In my defense, though, I know NOTHING about this Korean artist.

I don’t know where he’s from.  I don’t know his views on anything.  I don’t know what kind of coffee he likes.  All I know is he made a funny, weird video, and I thought his song had a good beat.  I firmly told my husband that I was completely ignorant and I was not going to do a full-on research project before I chose to like or listen or eat or watch ___________. (fill in the blank)

Which brings me to the point of this rant.

china-sweatshops2It drives me nuts that we can’t just live life and trust that the people and products around us are innocent.

Instead, we have to research everything.  We have to take polls.  We have to read twenty different sources before we get the whole truth on something.  We can’t just take one person’s word for it.  And we definitely cannot trust the advertisements or the media or the reviews.

But you know what?  I don’t have time for that.  I don’t have the money to be picky and choosy about what I buy at the grocery store.  I don’t have a ‘stupid’ filter for my car radio (which is why we don’t listen to the radio).  I don’t have an app on my phone that dings me every time I need to be notified that the brand of soap I am buying is run by a company whose CEO is friends with a man whose mother in law once gave some money to a charity in a country where it was used to buy water that was from a business that thinks purple is a better color than green, so I shouldn’t buy that soap.

Are you following?

This is ridiculous.

I hate that I can’t trust the people who grow my food.

I hate that I can’t trust the choices of the actor I love to watch.

I hate that all my clothes are from Laos and Cambodia and China… and I’ve seen the workers piled on the trucks, their faces covered in hankerchiefs, with barely enough money to feed their families.

I hate it.

But I can assure you, if I do full research on everything I eat, wear, drink, listen to, read, buy… everything.  Not only would it consume my life, but it would drive me crazy.  And I wouldn’t eat.  And I wouldn’t wear anything.  And I wouldn’t drink.  And I wouldn’t listen or read or buy.

I would live in a cave.  a Monsanto protest 5-26-13

Because whether you agree with it or like it or support it or not, EVERYTHING comes from SOMEWHERE!  I don’t see how we can pick and choose what’s a right product and a wrong product.  How we can be passionate about not doing certain things, but then flippantly do something else.  Can we ever really know the whole truth behind something?  Do we know the jobs it is providing for people who otherwise would have none?  Do we see the heart of the person on stage?  Do we care about the children of the man whose hands skillfully crafted that item?

I like to think that in my Grandma’s day people were more upstanding, all sharing the same values.  That companies were honest and hard-working.  That the food from the farms that stocked her grocery stores was clean and organic.  And that all of her clothes and fabrics and yarns were locally made.

But I know that’s not true.

From the beginning of civilization, humans have been looking for shortcuts and taking advantage of one another and pushing products that were not as good as they touted.

But from the beginning of civilization, the public has wanted progress, and new conveniences and cheaper prices and new fashions.  It’s a double-edged sword.

Where does it end?

Which product or artist or organization is pure to the very core?

Which food is completely and totally safe- from seed to sprout?

When do we stop having to research everything we do?

Chick-fil-A-DayWhen is it ok to claim ignorance and when is it not… or do we conveniently decide that for ourselves to push our own agenda?

I can assure you, there is someone in the world… perhaps a LOT of someone’s… who is not happy about what you just put in your mouth.  Or what you just bought.  Or what you just listened to on your iPod.

What are you gonna do about it?

Apologize?  Spit it out?  Take it back?  Really?

As a mom, this is tough for me.  We’re raising our girl in a new world.  A world of commerce and competition and billboards and facebook and tweets.  There is an excess of information that she will have to wade through before she can make any decision- no matter how simple.

How will we teach her to respond to that?  How will we train her to listen to her heart and seek the Lord when there are so many voices vying for her attention and her support.  How will she learn to think for herself when there are so many people out there willing and eager to do the thinking for her?  And how can we be sure that she’ll be able to live with herself when she can’t always make the ‘right’ choice?  Or God forbid, she choose to make the ‘unpopular’ choice?

I’m sure there’s an app for that.

And a YouTube meme.

And a protest.

Somewhere.

Picking up Blocks

Feet

I had a moment tonight while the Pickle was taking a bath.

I went in her room to tidy up and get it ready for bedtime.  As I was picking up her blocks I found myself suddenly faced with a critical choice.

Do I choose to grumble about picking up these 9 or 10 blocks?

I remembered when we were just about to go downstairs earlier today and she decided that was a good time to kneel down in front of her wagon and start throwing them backwards over her shoulder.  I had shooed her away before the entire wagon got dumped out, but we never made it back up to put them away.

So here I was, at bedtime, putting the blocks away myself in an effort to move things along.  I feel like I’m always “moving things along”.

Do I grumble about the blocks?

Or do I thank God and cherish this mundane task… knowing full well that in the blink of an eye, this season in my life (and in her life) will be gone?  Knowing that all too soon the day will come when I am straining to remember details like this.  The blocks strewn on the floor.  The crumbs under her chair.  The smell of her sweaty head after a nap.

I love this and I hate this.

Trying to live fully in each moment when I’ve spent my whole life hurrying things along to the next step.  Trying to find that perfect but delicate balance between remembering who she was, cherishing who she is right now, and cheering her forward to become the person she will be.

Tomorrow.

Or in a year.

Or in 5 years… or 15.

Tonight I chose to be thankful for those blocks.  And I didn’t get so upset when she poured water all over the floor.  And I snuggled her a little tighter, all wrapped up and warm in her lion towel.  And I read an extra story.  And I gave an extra squeeze (or twelve).

Because I only get today once.

I will gladly pick up blocks.