Monday, October 29, 2012

Throwing in the Trowel

The weather has turned, and we've been spending lots of time outside. Bonfires, pecan picking, yard work -- these are fall staples, listed in descending order of preference. I stopped by Lowe's for painting supplies the other day and picked up five pots of ground cover.

I used to be an enthusiastic gardener. I had a large and moderately successful vegetable garden. I planted a perennial border that ran nearly the length of the house. In its prime, it was lovely. I nursed a patch of Zinnias each year, a flowering window box out front, various pots scattered around.

The vegetable patch is now officially Lawn. The Zinnias didn't even make it into the ground this year. And the ground cover is the beginning of the end of the perennial flower bed.

Five years ago it all looked so different.

So what happened?

1. The small shrubs I planted behind the perennial border grew and grew and now block out most of the sunlight (which is essential for perennials).

2. I held on to one humble patch, determined to keep it pretty when a neighborhood cat decided to turn it into a litter box and killed every last bedding plant three years running.

3. I birthed John and Ainsley. Growing people leaves less time for growing plants.

As I planted those five pots of ground cover, a wistful feeling briefly overcame me. I loved my perennial garden -- Daffodils and Phlox, Purple Coneflowers and Yarrow. And just as suddenly as that wave of nostalgia came, it left. I felt peaceful and -- does this sound melodramatic? -- free. I thought to myself, "I think I'll pop by Lowe's and grab another ten of these."

What was once an enjoyable pastime had become pure chore, and here's the heart of the matter: I don't need another chore. I can't keep up, and it's depressing to be reminded of that fact every time I walk into the backyard.

So I'm throwing in the trowel.

As I hop around my little corner of the blogosphere, I find women in a variety of walks of life making hard choices about where their time is best spent. Many -- most -- of them are grappling with far, far more serious issues than whether or not to garden. But the common denominator is the same: We have a finite amount of time and energy. How are these best spent for God and the people God has put into our lives?

Dwija tackles this issue head on in a recent post titled "The Tyranny of Something Extra." Dwija is an upbeat, funny lady, and she lives in Michigan, so you gotta love her even more. She writes:

I sit down at the end of the day, kick off my paint-splattered Dansko clogs and sigh. Deeply. And I say to myself "Why am I so tired? I didn't even do anything today!"

Do anything. A thing.

This crippling idea that unless I do at least one "thing" every day, something special and different...something EXTRA, that I can point to and say "look! this is interesting!", I don't deserve to feel tired or take a few moments to relax, is an absolute joy-suck
She concludes:

Friends, I am done with the tyranny of "something extra". The things I have to do (all this mothering business) and the things I want to do (this blog, that writing work)...those are real things! They take time and energy and effort. They are good and helpful. And just because I haven't managed to take people on a tour of a local dairy farm or sewn valances for my kitchen windows doesn't mean I'm not worthy of a little rest at the end of my day.

These regular things . . . they can be enough.

Christine was the first true friend I made through blogging. She is one of the most positive people you'll encounter and is facing some daunting trials right now as her daughter faces a difficult illness. Christine writes:

I’ve already cut back my hours at work . . . and after Christmas I will be taking six months’ unpaid leave. I think it’s very unlikely I will be able to return. However, although I’m a bit sad about both these changes, at this point I’m very relieved to be able to devote myself solely to looking after the Dafter [her daughter] – and myself. It’s not that I’m a martyr, or that I will be with her every single minute of every day. It just means that the very small amounts of time when I can get away, I’ll really be able to relax and do things for myself. As my job entails helping people, and doing a lot of listening, it is very tiring and I come home just beat these days.

As I contemplated the demise of my once flourishing perennial border, I reminded myself that Not Today does not translate into Not Tomorrow; it certainly doesn't mean Never Again.

For a variety of reasons, this year will be an intense one for us. Like Dwija, I am turning away from the tyranny of something extra.

(And I'm sure Christine would appreciate prayers for her daughter's complete recovery).


Kris said...

So true. We're in a very busy season around here too. My oldest son is thinking about colleges (he'll be a senior next year)and it's just daunting. Not to mention homeschooling the others (one will head to high school next year). And you are so right - I have had to let go of so many things for "right now". I'm sure I will have plenty of time as they continue to get older, but I have to focus on the here and now. And remind myself that in less than 2 years, one child will not be here full time, and it's the beginning of pushing them all out of the nest. Of course, it doesn't make it any easier to sit here and stare at my kitchen walls, partially peeled of wallpaper and waiting for a coat of paint!!

Tim Dolin said...

Kris - Have you homeschooled all the way through? Do have a set schedule for school hours? Do you buy a program or create your own?

I am always curious about homeschooling - both the how and the why.

John has had some struggles with kindergarten so we're doing quite a bit of school at home, and I love learning with him

Anonymous said...

Kelly, I was so surprised and touched to read that you'd quoted me. Thank you for your very kind words, and your prayers. You are absolutely right to take any extra pressure off yourself and concentrate on the important things. The garden will always be there! And when you have time to enjoy it, you really will. God doesn't want us to be making extra burdens for ourselves. xox

Dianne said...

Another wise and wonderful post, Kelly. There are truly only so many seconds in any given day. The zinnias and the perennial bed won't remember the time you spent with them but your amazing children will. I wish I could turn the clock back and invest less time in housework and my part-time nursing job...I wish I could have known THEN to just PLAY more! Now, I'm alone (again) and retired. Thankfully, I am now 14 minutes from my precious daughter and her family. I go over and I PLAY! (I help her also but I play a lot). My grandchildren are reaping the rewards of the wisdom that time brings (lots of time). I always enjoy your blog!

Kris said...

Kelly -- not all the way through. Our oldest went to Catholic school the entire time. I started homeschooling when our 3rd started 2nd grade - he just really needed it. My intention was to just do the one year and put him back in Catholic school - which we loved. My 2nd was in 5th grade at the time, and he ASKED to try homeschooling that year, after seeing how much his brother loved it. So we pulled him out also, and never looked back. My two youngest have never been to school - they are 4th and 2nd grade now. It really works for our family, especially with all the sports our 4 boys do. Cuts ways down on the chaos. I started with a fully packaged curriculum because I was terrified to homeschool and miss something. A friend recommended Kolbe Academy, which is Catholic and traditional. We really like it, but as the years have gone by and I've gotten more comfortable, and figured out what worked and what didn't, I've branched out. I still use some Kolbe stuff, but mostly I have my own curriculum. However, that being said, I still do a very traditional program with emphasis on language arts and math. I try to have a schedule most days in terms of starting at a set time. I use a program in the computer that organizes my lessons for each child, so they are largely independent in terms of what they do, when. I print their list every morning, and they work independently unless they have a question or need to do something orally with me. The little ones are usually done by lunch time and my now-8th grader finishes early afternoon. He takes two classes (Geometry and Writing) outside the house, and will (hopefully!) attend Catholic high school in the fall.

Kris said...

Oh - forgot - this is year 7 for us now.......