Wednesday, August 12, 2015


"Nice to meet you, Mollie. What do you do?"
"I'm SO glad you asked. I'm a substitute-teaching freelance journalist with a degree in landscape design."

 <wilted sigh>

At age 39, I'm still looking for my place in this world.  August heralds the reminder that with no definitive career, I'll spend the next nine months wandering through yet another school year, the nomadic substitute.

A little over a year ago I decided to put my A-L-L into becoming a certified teacher.  Jumped through hoops, passed an exam, contacted places of higher learning.  Turns out, it's just not in the cards.  Unless a university president is reading this and wants to award me free tuition, that is.  Wink, wink.  Yes, I see you reading this blog. and I have spent a lot of quality time together.  Indeed is a job classifieds site.  It's filled fresh each day with positions for administrative assistants, nuclear engineers and registered nurses.  If there's a job I'm not qualified for, they've posted it.
If there's a job that doesn't fit my schedule, they've posted it.
If there's a job that I would rock at but is over an hour away, they've posted it.

And yet the glistening mirage of my career beckons eternal.
I keep opening the app, hoping the perfect job will be there >>sparkling<< in all its digital glory.

But the cynicism is creeping in.  It's hard to fend it off sometimes.

It's not the money.  You don't go into substitute-teaching freelance journalism with a degree in landscape design to rake in the big bucks, obviously.  Although you do a lot of raking.
Thank goodness for Tall Dark and Handsome.  Or should I say Sugar Daddy?  Without him, MasterCard would've locked me out long ago.

Well, okay, if I'm being honest, it is a bit about the money. I'd like to make more than the girl handing out slurpees at Burger King, which is an increasing challenge. But there's a bigger bottom line on my mind: who am I?

Goodness.  Such a dark post.  You check in here to read charming nibs about my exploits with lost pruners and naughty grubs, not to delve into the depths of my self-worth.

Well, whether you made it this far, or gave up three paragraphs back, this airing of my thoughts is  therapeutic.  Even if my words echo hollowly back to me, there is something about posting them to the universe that scratches my mental itch.

Thank you.
I do feel better.

And for those of you that hung in there,  I have a point.  A horticultural one, even.

Remember this pic of my annuals-in-the-flat, left for dead by our house sitter?  Mollie the Horticulturist labeled them past their PWP (Permanent Wilting Point). Translation: it's a goner, with a capital G.

I splashed water on them anyway because Mollie the Eternal Optimist hasn't yet reached her PWP, even if she is drooping a bit.

The next morning, I found this.  

A love note from God to one of his hope-thirsty seedlings.   

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, 
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.  

Psalm 143:8

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A Forest of Contentment

After a week's vacation,
I came home to find my garden changed.

Sunflowers had burst open

tomatoes plumped up

and of course

the weeds had a field day in my absence.

Not that my presence hinders them much,
but maybe I just noticed their usually subtle advance more since it had a week's worth of progress.

My red pepper (notably singular) is looking small but rosy and ready to pick.  For those of you that purchase a plant with a bloom or, God forbid, a fruit already forming, look to me as your example of what not to do.

The soft-hearted amongst you, observe the fruit of my empathy.  I could not pull it off when I brought it home.  And this is what I have to show for my kindness: a thwarted plant.  A dwarf.

You've heard it before, but maybe this will bring the message home.  Plants only have as much energy as their leaves can photosynthesize.

If you bring a juvenile plant home with minimal foliage and it starts producing a fruit, that is all you will get.
One fruit. It's like a pregnant has precariously few resources to care for itself and a baby.

Leaves are tireless little kitchens: They take their Mama's secret recipe, absorb essential amounts of sunlight, respirate oxygen and carbon dioxide, add in proprietary amounts of water and cook up some sugar.

But if their kitchen pantry only has enough ingredients in it for one small, rosy-red pepper, then that is all you will get.

More leaves equal more ingredient-laden pantries.

Get it?  Got it?  Good.  Even though I get it, I still made the mistake, and probably will again.
If you do too, don't feel bad.  No one will ever know as long as you don't post it online.

The house sitter kept most of the plants alive, even though I'm sure she thought her primary objective was to keep the dog alive.

She clearly didn't think I was seriously still trying to maintain annuals in the flat (who would?).

I came home to find them well past their permanent wilting point.
Sad face. Sad face. Sad face.  

The eternal optimist/procrastinator inside me was still planning on plopping those near the birdbath sometime before frost.

All of these changes - good and bad - were a sight for sore eyes.

Only I didn't realize they were sore.

Yesterday morning, I sat on a deck in Tennessee grieving my last moments in the Smoky Mountains.  The deep comfort of the forest, the mist hanging low, the trickles and gushes of waterfalls, I connected with it all.

My children - removed mostly from their electronics - splashed and played, clambered up and down waterfalls, hunted for crayfish, salamanders, and the ever-illusive black bear.  Given the option, I would never have left.

But the schedule and the budget demanded our return.  And so with a very heavy heart, I pulled the door shut on our cabin at 8:30 yesterday morning and climbed into our Honda.

Eight hours later, I was desperate for home.  

Trapped in an unholy traffic halo around Indianapolis, I dreamed of pulling into our driveway.  Maybe that back-up was a bit holier than I had originally surmised.  Maybe God was massaging my heart to long for home.  It worked.  

We pulled up and our forest-less, mist-less, waterfall-less home looked perfect.  The weeds, I loved them.  The slobbery dog, I loved him.  The flat cornfields, I loved them.

Thankfully, these entities do not lie side-by-side with the Smokies for direct comparison.  But a hypodermic shot of interstate madness was just what the Doctor ordered.

Home looked heavenly.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tomato Turmoil

Hovering over my treasure, I beamed as I revealed the latest garden loot to my husband.  “Know what these are?”  I asked. 
“Tomatoes” he replied nonchalantly.  Clearly, he wasn’t picking up on my infectious enthusiasm.
“Yes, but not just ANY tomatoes.  These are {pause for emphasis} Our First Tomatoes.”
He gestured towards a pile of rosy red spheres on the opposite counter.  “So what are those?” 
“Those are from Wanda’s garden.”
“And those?” he asked, pointing to a colander of bright orange cherry tomatoes. 
“Those are from Alicia.” 
“Mmm hmm.”

What my husband failed to recognize is the monumental significance of today’s garden haul.  I’ve spent the last two weeks wringing my hands over an entirely unripe tomato crop.  A plentiful harvest that refuses to ripen is more insulting than one lost to bugs or disease.  I should know…I’ve lived through all three forms of frustration.  With August well underway, I was beginning to suspect that I was falling victim to another green tomato tragedy. 

Gardeners are cut from warm and generous stock; the orange and red produce scattered throughout my kitchen bore testimony to that fact.  Unfortunately, they set off a little alert in the gardening cortex of my cerebellum.  “Why are everyone else’s tomatoes ripe?”  I had planted at least 5 different varieties, from two different sources, and spread them throughout the backyard.  None of them had shown so much as a shy blush until this morning.  Hence the hand-wringing.

Tomatoes, I am told, will ripen, given a long enough growing season, which Illinois certainly has.  The complex biochemistry percolating in those plant cells can be a touch sensitive, though.  Tomatoes prefer air temps below 85 degrees.  Any higher, and the plant shuts down its carotene and lycopene production, two components essential to the ripening process.  Resist the urge to fertilize: failing to ripen is not a nutritional deficiency.  Adding fertilizer could actually force the plant into a vegetative state, further slowing your fruit maturity.  No, the only solution is to wait.  I hate waiting.

But none of this emotional rollercoaster registered with Tall, Dark and Handsome.  Aside from enjoying a slice on his cheeseburger, he’s not a tomato enthusiast.  For him, tomato season brings the pleasant tidings of salsa kisses and dragon breath emanating from his sweetheart and the onslaught of fruit flies in the kitchen.  Considering these enticing prospects, his response may be justified.  There is not, I’m sorry to say, much I can do about the salsa breath.  I write it off as collateral damage.   Homemade salsa for supper does not fresh morning breath make.   Add to that, salsa for breakfast and lunch as well, and sweet exhales are gone with the wind.

I have, however, had some success in controlling fruit flies this year.  After a particularly produce-laden purchase at Sam’s Club, I discovered a very effective homemade fruit fly trap.  In a cup, I put an apple slice and some vinegar.  I cut a small corner out of a sandwich bag and secured it over the cup with a rubber band.  It didn’t take long for the flies to find their new favorite restaurant.  Only trick is, finding their way out was considerably harder than finding their way in.  There are suggestions all over the internet for ‘fly enticements’.  Apparently the little drunkards like beer or wine, and heated apple cider vinegar draws them effectively as well.  This summer, don’t let those buggers put a damper on your harvest.  Bring on the tomatoes!
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