It’s spring again. Our ocotillo is in bloom from a spring rain and looks like a glorious firecracker against the sky. As the quarantine walls seem to close in on us in Phoenix, we are fortunate to be able to drive to our mountain cabin in Payson. The drive is a special treat. The scenery is breathtakingly full of mountains and valleys as we eventually make the climb to 6,000 feet.
The Sonoran Desert is always beautiful to this Midwest native. Saguaro cactus, prickly pear and mesquite trees still inspire awe. In the spring, we are treated to the fresh wildflower colors of gold poppies, purple lupines and hot pink pernstemons along the road. The color is bittersweet knowing the bigger the display, the higher the risk of wildfires come the dry hot month of June.
That’s the trouble with being an adult, I guess. One knows too much. Why can’t I just enjoy the beautiful flowers without worrying about the fires to come? How many other times in life do we refrain from enjoying something fully because of what might happen?
When I arrived at my cabin, I was treated to a beautiful display of daffodils. It was hard not to think about how challenging it was to get them in the ground. I vowed to let it go– to simply enjoy the wonder of their beauty and I succeeded. But it only lasted long enough until I started thinking about how nice it would be to plant some more. Sometimes the adult in me needs to shut up and sometimes it serves as a much-needed warning. The trick is to know when to let go and when to hold on to it. Enough is good enough.
It's time to stay safe. Best wishes for your continued health. To find local resources in your state, go to http://211.org/
I flew to Florida recently to be with my mother as we faced what might have been a category 5 hurricane. There were over 50 empty seats on the plane and I felt a little foolish flying to a dangerous spot rather than away from it. We were lucky, the hurricane changed directions without so much as a rain storm in our direction. My heart goes out to those Bermuda and the devastation that Hurricane Dorian wrought onto that country.
My mother is in her eighties and physically challenged. She isn’t in a position to fly anymore and in her mind, she’d rather stay home in the familiar than go elsewhere, even to her grandchildren’s homes in the area.
Living my entire adult life in Arizona, I’ve never faced hurricanes or tornadoes or even flooding for that matter. So I packed an extra suitcase full of emergency supplies and prepared for the worst while hoping for the best.
“I’m nothing if not prepared!”
We watched the news regularly to see if the hurricane would head our way. I was in charge. It was up to me to ensure our safety and to keep up morale. But when it was all said and done, I wondered who was happier, the person who didn’t think to prepare or the person who prepared unnecessarily?
It makes me think of the words of Nadine Stair who wrote “If I had to live my life over.” She states:
“I've been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat and a parachute. If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.”
Earlier in the passage she says, “I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I'd have fewer imaginary ones.”
While it is important to prepare, the most important thing to prepare is your mental outlook. Whatever is forgotten is merely a chance to use your ability to problem solve. That’s how there came to be so many ways to uses for duct tape to aid in one’s survival. It is also important to remember that, when possible, it is up to you to serve as a positive role model in times of crisis. Comedian Jeanne Robertson explains this so expertly in her Baton Story.
Where does courage come from? Is it easy to be courageous? If you have the courage to do things other people think are scary but are merely exhilarating to you, do you really need courage to do it? For example, I like to zip line. It's just scary enough to be exhilarating, but I'm not fearful. It would take little courage on my part to do it, while someone else might have to be very courageous. It takes more courage to do something one is afraid of than something in which one has no fear. I respect those who are more afraid but choose to try it anyway.
This weekend, I hosted a ladies garden party. I’m new to the neighborhood and I invited all the women in the subdivision to the afternoon party. It scared me to death. I’ve never had a large group of women to meet with and I’m finding I’m at a new stage in my life where I’d like to make this happen. But oh, those old dialogs that run through my head are hard to shake. What if no one comes? What if I say the wrong thing? What if my set-up isn’t lady-like enough? What if they hate me? What if…
Why can’t I just move forward boldly like I’ve tackled other things? I tried a new recipe for the party- it didn’t bother me that it might not turn out perfectly. I hadn’t replaced a faucet before, but faced it head-on with a sense of humor when I realized I was using pliers instead of a wrench in my attempt to loosen the bolts.
The party turned out just fine, and the ladies seemed to appreciate both me and my efforts. All that worry was for naught. I think I will have some new friends from the party as well. I’d call that a success. It took a ton of courage for this introvert to put myself out there and even have a party. The fear of rejection was real as was the exhaustion of being in a large crowd (of 20!). I wasn’t comfortable. But I feel comfortable now calling on some of the women individually and growing friendships from there. Having a little courage and discomfort is already paying off as I met three of the women for breakfast recently.
I urge you to find your courage to try just one thing out of your comfort zone. What was it? How has it paid off for you?
I’m usually an organizer, list maker, goal-setter, and over-achiever. When I plan something, it gets done. I’m used to being in charge, delegating, supervising and evaluating progress. Of course I believe in rolling up my sleeves and working alongside my team members, but I am usually in the leadership role. How exhausting!
When I volunteer, I struggle to ensure I remain a team member and not the team leader. Just as some people could benefit from learning how to lead, I feel there is much to be learned from simply serving on a team.
The first benefit from serving on a team verses being the leader is the camaraderie of the members that naturally eludes the leader. As friendly as the group may be, the leader, by virtue of his/her position, is one step removed from the group. How wonderful it is just to concentrate on making friends and the activity at hand!
A team member doesn’t have the demands a leader does to ensure the goals are met. This makes the activities within the group more relaxing and enjoyable. When the meeting is over, it’s really over. A leader may have to do additional follow-up, but the team member is done. How freeing is that?
Not being a leader is a chance to learn from another leader. How are they organizing and motivating the team? We are used to our own way of doing things. Watching others is a great way to learn new techniques.
It’s a chance to voice an opinion. I believe a good leader (not a boss) is the neutral facilitator of the group. A good leader should bring the group to consensus without attempting to add his/her own bias. As a team member, I can voice my opinion knowing that it only carries the same weight as the other members of the group.
A person doesn’t need a title to lead others. Being a great team player is a challenging job in and of itself. Even as a team member, I can help to motivate others, quell gossip and support the leader. Whether you’re used to being the leader or the team player, it’s good to challenge yourself to take on a new role. It might be more fun than you realize!
I’ve been planting. I’ve been planting and I feel like I deserve a medal. But how hard can it be? One website even boasts, “Dig. Drop. Done.” about flower bulbs. I wanted to believe them. How hard could it be? And the bulbs, they were so cheap…
But I live in Arizona, home to caliche soil. Caliche forms in dry climates. It’s a mixture of soil cemented together by calcium carbonate. Cemented is the operative word. It forms a layer a few inches below the topsoil and can be small rocks or large, lanky boulders. I borrowed my neighbor’s gas powered tiller and spent hours trying to break through small sections. That’s when I wondered why I bought daffodils instead of just iris. Iris bulbs are smaller and need to planted around four inches deep. The large daffodil bulbs need to be planted around 6-8 inches. The biggest indicator of success seems to be how deep one plants the suckers. It took me three hours to create a two foot by three foot plot if I rounded up my measurements. It was the end of September and even though I was close to 6,000 feet in elevation, it still reached almost 90 degrees every afternoon. Dig. Drop. Done. I think the motto for Arizona would be dig till you drop and pronounce yourself done. I found I could do two to three hours in the morning, then shower and nap resting until after four when I would start all over again. I was determined that neither dirt nor deer (elk) were going to stop me from having a beautiful retreat.
Finally, Nature decided to help. It brought a hurricane off Mexico moving lots of rain over my humble half acre in the Arizona woods. While I was sad for the devastation it caused others, I had the opportunity to be grateful. After three days of rain, the dirt was as good as a Midwestern corn field. (Well, maybe not, but it shoveled like one.) My husband drove up from Phoenix and we spent three cooler days finishing the job. And what a job it was! Over 250 bulbs when into the mud with less than half the effort. I was grateful for the miracle.
Next year, will be our first full spring in the cabin and the first year I will ever have a garden. In the spring, I want to supplement the bulbs with ever-faithful bleeding hearts and maybe some sunflowers. For now, we plant with foolhardy hope. We plant with a look to the future. Maybe I won’t get my medal. But if I’m lucky, I will get flowers.
After talking with a friend who seems to volunteer every waking moment of her life, I had to ask myself, am I a good person? Is it merely enough not to hurt others? I did a Google search and found multiple quizzes I could take to determine if indeed, I was a good person, or a nice person, or even a kind person. Even Scientific American had a test to see if you could benefit from being agreeable.
There were times in my life, such as when I was in college, when it was all about me. I’d like to think I was kind to others, but I did little to volunteer or donate. Frankly, it was all I could do to stay afloat with my classes. When our first child was born, we joined a new church. I remember the minister asking on what committees I would like to serve. I was flabbergasted. As a new parent, I was lucky to make it to church. As time went on, however, I began to teach Sunday school and became very active in multiple ways. Still, did that make me a “good” person?
Are there times to give and times to prepare oneself for the greater good? Are there times when it’s ok to simply rest and focus on one ’s self? Is it okay merely to do no harm but never give time or efforts to others? Is not being bad mean that you are good?
While every religion has a viewpoint on this issue, the general consensus would be that it is a lofty goal to strive to be “good.” It’s a fine thing to use your talents for the benefit of others. It’s nice to help people. Yet for all my helpfulness, volunteering, and donating, there are times I find my definition lacking. I find myself falling short. It’s hard to be good.
The hardest time for me to be good is when I have to take that deep breath with my mouth closed so I can listen to someone else’s ideas. I’ll have to keep working on that.
My husband and I have been making a lot of decisions lately, especially those involving money. Some couples fight over money. I used to think it was because there wasn’t enough. Certainly that could be a reason, but even those will a healthy bank account can lose it over money.
One of the promises we made to each other early in our marriage was never to argue over money. So we sit down with the expectation that each voice will be heard and we try extra hard to listen. It’s been a joy to work together. I feel like inventing issues just for the pleasure of working them out with him.
It’s hasn’t all been easy, however. We both love art and I wanted a piece to replace one that was over the couch. It was pricey and he convinced me to order in a smaller size than I would have liked. When it came, I realized it wouldn’t work over the couch and we needed to leave the picture that was there. I wasn’t fond of that picture, but my husband was. I could have accused him of doing it on purpose. But I knew my husband. He would never be so deliberate. It took some doing, but together we found a place for my picture that didn’t relegate it to a back bedroom. He hung it with care and then stood back to admire it with me. “It looks good there. It’s growing on me,” he said, hugging me and making me feel valued. What more could a person want?
We used to ask, “Would you rather be rich, or famous?” or other variations on that theme. To be honest, neither of those have been my life’s goal. All my life I’ve dreamed of having a little cabin in the woods, complete with a fireplace, a tongue and groove ceiling and a river nearby. That dream is finally coming true for me.
I wonder when I get that moment to breathe the pine smell and listen to the wind through the needles, will I feel I’m truly home? Is there only one place on earth where we are meant to call home? I have lived this dream for so long, what will it be like to finally obtain it? Will I stagnate until I ask the, “Now what?” question? Or, having finally found the place where I belong, will I be able to become my best self and truly blossom?
How does one truly live the dream? Will it finally be enough or will I still want more? Will I still find things to complain about? Will the new life I’m so excited for bring about new adventure and discovery? There is a parable about a two men going to a new city. They ask a stranger from that city what it is like. The stranger asks them about their old city. One says it was great– the other terrible. The stranger says they will find it to be the same way in their new city. I guess, if I am looking for adventure and personal growth I will find it. Maybe I could start today.
My teen was having a hard time recently and stormed around for a day and a half. Teens tend to be overly dramatic, so I thought letting him work through it was part of the process. But then it occurred to me that part of the drama was because he didn’t know how to react when faced with a problem. Was this the end of the world? Could he make it go away?
With age, comes perspective. I have lived through enough situations that I know I can fix my problems. I know the difference between a minor setback and a problem that is going to require more effort on my part. I can project what will probably happen if I ignore a problem and whether it will go away on its own or grow exponentially. A teen hasn’t grown that perspective.
I have a friend whose catchphrase is, “It’ll be okay. Everything will be okay.” I didn’t understand her need to say that until just now. As my teen seemed to be circling in a loop of angst, I realized he didn’t know it was going to be okay. It was fixable. I sat him down and told him it would be okay. We talked through the nuances of the problem until he realized it wasn’t so big after all. The pep talk on how capable he was helped to make it seem surmountable. I reminded him that he wasn’t alone. He didn’t need to worry by himself. If he needed help, he could rely on his parents.
To date, the problem has yet to be resolved. But we aren’t worried. It’s going to be okay.