Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The long ride to preschool

I'm not sure how my mind got there.

I was just driving from work to Fairview last week, undoubtedly thinking great thoughts -- so great, in fact, that I can't recall a single one of them. Most likely it had to do with work and some things that I expect to come to pass over the next 18 - 24 months. I'm not looking forward to these changes. In fact, they might be deal-breakers for me.

And this is where the memory of my great thoughts becomes quite clear. I remember coming to that conclusion -- that if what I expect to happen actually comes to pass it could be a deal-breaker for me -- and thinking "Boy, do you have a lot of nerve." How many people lost their jobs last year, and along with them their savings, their possessions, even their homes? How many people would fight tooth & nail for a good, secure job today? How many people are scratching to make ends meet, thankful for the paychecks they bring home to their families? And here I am, suggesting that a change in my work environment just might cause me to kick my career to the curb? Boy, I do have a lot of nerve.

I know all of that. And while I often grouse about my job I am thankful that I have a certain set of skills and talent that someone is willing to pay for. The income that my job provides is vital. I'm not going to chuck it all because I don't like the new logo or am irritated by the new company line.

But here's the rest of the story: Economic crisis aside, it has never been in my makeup to imagine that there could be something else beyond what is laid out before me. I work in a setting where, with my particular background, there are not a lot of different career paths to choose from. Early on most of us decide on educational versus medical tracks; once you've established yourself & developed certain areas of expertise, that's pretty much your professional lot. At least this is how I have experienced it and how I have observed it in the lives of my colleagues.

It never occurred to me that maybe I had options.

It never occurred to me that other people had already figured this out.

By now, I was out of the car and walking the path up to the church. The significance of my epiphany wasn't lost on me. It's pretty liberating to realize that it really isn't crazy to think about chucking it all. Lots of people have done it and been incredibly successful in the process. There must be a way, a method of getting from A to B to C that people follow. It's different for eveyone, I'm sure. But there have to be common threads.

But it wasn't until I got to the door that the bigger lesson (yes, bigger than the freedom to change your life's work) hit me: I have to make sure that my daughter doesn't get caught in my trap. I have to make sure that she isn't snagged by the fear of change and failure that has left me blind to the fact that I can reshape things. I have to figure out what it takes to be able to do this, and I have to be sure that Sara knows that her path is not a long road without turning, but a winding, hilly journey -- and the joy of life is in the bends and turns of that journey, not the comfort of a smooth, straight, uneventful path.

I'd say it's about time for me to buckle up and enjoy this ride. Wouldn't you?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pour les oiseaux

Rarely to I appreciate that walk into work on Monday morning, particularly when it is a frigid grey morning with the promise of more snow to come.

Actually, it’s fair to say that I never appreciate that walk into work. But today was different.

I have this thing about trees and birds – really, about all the things my mother and I spied outside our kitchen window. Birds, trees, plants, squirrels (except, of course, when they were on the feeders), the garden… we loved them all. Mom was no expert but she had logged hundreds of hours staring out of those kitchen windows and cultivated more than a passing interest in the life that was buzzing around our little microcosm of a backyard. We had the binoculars and the field guides, and plenty of time on our hands.

Now I’m the one with more than a passing interest. As I’ve been dreaming about our home and how it will look and feel, over and over again I am drawn to these things. I imagine crafting a boot bench using the sturdy, fat trunk of a tree we took down from the back yard, the rough texture and nutty color of the bark so appealing in its familiarity. I found this nest last summer that I have tucked away to display on our mantle, miraculously saving it all these months from destruction at the hands of my sweet girl. And every Pottery Barn catalogue I find in the mail these days seems to know that I’m eagerly preparing for our long-awaited move home, as page after page offers rugs and pillows and dishes and sheets that feature birds and trees and flowers. I could - without a doubt - go crazy if left to my own devices.

Luckily I got a freebie today, some performance art put together by God (I am convinced) just for me on this cold, weary Monday. I saw it as I approached the ED entrance at the hospital, a flurry out of the corner of my eye that seemed a bit out of place at that moment in time. A small, ornamental tree I’ve grown so accustomed to seeing that I can’t even tell you what it is – but on this morning, it was alive with dozens of robins, hopping from branch to branch and feeding on the small dark berries it produces. The bird's russet breasts looked just like those last leaves of autumn, stubbornly clinging to the tree; the fluttering of their grey grey wings caused the tree to sway like a late fall wind was blowing, though the air was almost still where I stood. And then, when I had decided that the sight of it was as perfect as I could hope for, I saw a squirrel perched on one of the slender branches, his body plumped by fat and fur and his tail pulled up along its back to help brace against the cold.

And with that, it was perfect.

If there weren't patients waiting I would have stood there and watched this picture unfold in front of me in spite of the bitter weather, and if I could have reckoned a way to capture the moment and bring it into our new home I would. But it was fleeting, as all the best things in life must be, and so I’ll just have to look forward to the next time that God supplies an unexpected joy like the one I stumbled across today. With open eyes I suspect I can find many of these small masterpieces. He does have quite a canvas to work with, after all.

Maybe that’s why Mom spent so much time looking out that kitchen window.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Garden porn

I've spent hours (no, seriously) pouring over the seed catalogues: Burpee, Jung, Territorial, Johnny's. After dreaming about all the possibilities, then paring it down to something more realistic, then paring it down to something that actually might be realistic, I've landed on the following line up for this summer's garden:
  • Asparagus: Jersey Knight [in truth, this is still a maybe - not sure I have the space to dedicate. YET.]
  • Pole beans: Malibu [probably no bush beans, but if so: Soleil]
  • Carrots: Purple Haze and Baltimore
  • Popcorn (yes, popcorn!): Calico
  • Cucumbers: Diamant and McPick
  • Lettuce: Petite Rouge, Jericho (romaines), Victoria (butterhead), & Microgreen mix
  • Watermelon: Petite Treat
  • Onions: Copra
  • Spinach: Olympia
  • Tomatoes: San Marzano Gigante, Golden San Marzano (paste), Chocolate Cherry, Yellow Pear (cherry), Brandywine, Pineapple, Kellogg's Breakfast (heirloom)

With some obvious exceptions (lettuce, melon) these were selected with both fresh eating and storing/preserving for winter in mind. Depending on how things pan out I'd also love to try some potatoes. We've never done them before but it would be fun to grow some fingerlings to have around next winter. I'm also hopeful that we can do some swapping with a certain fabulous gardener friend that I happen to know.

If we have a successful year or two (or three or four), then I'm hoping we can branch out and try some other favorites: beets, broccoli, cauliflower, winter squash, cantaloupe, sugar snap peas... obviously, I could go on & on. But I won't.

Oh! And then there's the herb garden...
  • Basil: Aroma 1
  • Chives: from my mom's original stand
  • Dill: Dukat
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Sweet Marjoram
  • Oregano: Greek
  • Sage: Grower's Friend
  • Thyme: French

Hmm. That's still quite a list. But I have no idea what I'd be willing to part with.

We've also got some strawberries that we need to get a better handle on, and I'm dreaming of red & black raspberry bushes and blueberries as well, and who wouldn't love blackberries and grapes and an apple tree or two?

Some day...