A Weed in the Garden of Life

With my thoughts turned to gardening I came across an article the other day and after reading partway through it I went back and read it out loud to my daughter and two of my sons.  In the article a woman talks about her neighbor’s son who has had one problem after another, and she sums him up tidily saying, “He is a weed in the garden of life.”  When I read that phrase my son looked up and responded, “That is so wrong on so many levels.” And my daughter frowned and said, “She probably felt really clever with that description.”  My kids are adults in their thirties by the way, not idealistic teenagers.

And I (also an adult) found the expression painfully wrong.  Why?  Because a weed is an unwanted plant, a worthless plant, one that should be pulled up and discarded.  A weed should not be allowed to live and grow.  A weed chokes out desirable plants.  A weed is bad.  And humans are not weeds.

None of my kids took an easy path from childhood to adulthood.  They did not grow in the straight lines I laid out in my garden.  They came up where they weren’t supposed to be and they grew in their own ways.  I am sure they each felt like the weed in the garden of life at times growing up.  They have all reached adulthood successfully but they know what it is to stumble, to take a wrong turn, a misstep, to be considered less than desireable.  My second son summed it up fairly well yesterday when he said, “We all could have ended up in prison at some point, but  we were lucky, and we learned from our mistakes.”  (Prison, while a growth industry apparently, does not promote growth and should be avoided.) We have got to find better ways to reach out to friends, family, and our neighbor’s wayward son who is struggling—better ways than dismissal.  Dismissal helps no one.  It is painful. But it is a quick and and easy response, maybe even clever.  No need to get your hands dirty.  Pull out that weed, toss him on the heap.

What is a weed anyway?  That unwanted plant growing where it shouldn’t be.  Sunflowers are weeds along the side of the road.  Does that make them any less beautiful?  Plant sunflowers in the garden and no one calls them weeds. Perception defines the weed.   I wonder what might happen if we actually nourished the unwanted and unwatered, offered love rather than scorn.

It’s just a thought.

Another happy thought, I saw 6 of my kids this week and not a weed in the patch.

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Of love and water

I began watering my grapes in February. I live in the hill country in southern Arizona. Our season starts early but it’s not Phoenix. We get cold days and nights still in February and even some cold days in March. When I started watering my vines looked dead. I took two cuttings from my biggest vine and planted them in the ground. Soon one sprouted leaves. My grandson stepped on the other one and it snapped in two. I kept watering. Now green leaves are thriving sprouting from one dead stick, and my established grapes are glorious!
But I have two red grape vines that are temperamental. They’re French, what more need I say!? Nothing had happened with them in all these weeks. I kept watering. Today on the very bottom of one red grape I saw a tiny pink leaf! Now it has unfurled and is green. The second red vine can’t be far behind. And that dead stick, the one that snapped in two? Little leaves are growing up the stubby stick from the roots.

And isn’t this how life is? When you think there’s no hope, when you’ve been trodden down, dried out and discarded keep on watering. When those you love disappoint, keep watering. We may not see the fruits of our efforts immediately. But love and water are powerful. Both can work miracles if we provide consistently. There may be life in the roots. Don’t give up on yourself, your kids, your spouse, your neighbor. You know who needs that extra care. So remember the garden, and Keep on watering.

Just one warning, In life you can’t water for a day or two and think you’re done.  You have to water daily.  You have to check the plants and the soil.  And if you skip a day you’ve got to give a good soak the following day and hope the drought didn’t reach down and damage those tiny roots.  You just can’t go off and take a watering vacation if you expect life and hope to sprout.   Keep it up, enjoy your fruits.

 

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Good Grief

I am amazed at the response many well meaning people give a friend who has just lost a loved one. This was brought home to me again recently when a friend of mine, a woman in her late 50’s told us with tears in her eyes, that her mother had passed away that week. Another friend sitting with me immediately started in, “Your mother is in a better place. Where is your faith? Why are you crying? Your mother is finally free, She feels better now, etc. etc.” Quickly I stepped in and told our unhappy friend  it’s alright to grieve.  Even more, it’s a good thing to express  sadness at the death of a loved one. With that she turned to the critical woman and said, “I just miss her,” justifying her feelings.
What is it about death? Why do some people think that when a loved one is gone, even in death we won’t miss them and long for them to be here with us? The same woman who questioned the need for grief has a son who lives in another state. She tells me often how much she misses him, how much she looks forward to seeing him again. Did she shed tears when he left home? I don’t know. But it would be acceptable if she did. No one would question her faith. Faith in what?  That she will see him again?
I have faith  my husband is indeed in a better place, free of a body that no longer worked right for him. But I miss him everyday. Sometimes I cry when I think of him—even eight months after his death. Eight months really isn’t very long is it?  I hope nobody tells me I need to get a grip and get over it already.  (Over what, I wonder.)
I miss him even though Ill see him again someday. I will follow him. We all will eventually, but not now. And right now I miss the daily conversations, the sharing of ideas, the joy of sharing our lives. Don’t deny me the right to miss him, to grieve, to feel lonely sometimes. And don’t deny me the opportunity to talk about him and  smile and laugh at  good memories.  Death is a part of life. Let’s accept it for what it is.  My sadness doesn’t mean I don’t believe in life after this.  It means I don’t like this separation. It’s not a bad thing.  Try it! Let’s cry and laugh together.

Soon enough it will be your turn.

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The Art Collection

Several of the kids, plus spouses, grandkids, etc were here this weekend to celebrate their dad’s birthday. (Somebody had to eat the cake for him.) My son looked at the art work on the walls in our living room, kitchen and bedroom and he asked me about the art. “That’s an original and that’s an original, and that’s an original,” I told him pointing to five of the six pieces in the bedroom. And these are originals, and these are signed lithos, and. . .” I realized we have a really nice art collection in our modest little country house. It’s funny that after being surrounded by art his entire life growing up my son suddenly saw it with different eyes.
He commented on one of the pieces he’d always liked. I smiled,”That was the first nice piece we bought. We hadn’t been married long, we were in the middle of starting our own business, we had no money, and dad saw that hanging in a gallery. He had to have it. We made monthly payments on it for most of a year before we picked it up.”
“Why? Why did you buy it?” my son wanted to know. “Especially at that time when you had so many expenses and the kids coming along and so much to spend money on?”
I smiled, “Your dad liked beautiful things. He wasn’t extravagant in his life, but he wanted his home and family to be surrounded by beauty.”
I think about it. Without him I would never have bought some of our nicest things. I would have admired art but I wouldn’t have woken up to it every morning. And it wasn’t just art. The living room furniture he brought home twenty some years ago has a patina of age and hard use and it still enhances our home. The leather glows more than when it was new. It was the same with the vacations through Mexico and into Central America where we spent so many summers, the time and memory building he invested in the family. He wanted to do things right. He thought about what he wanted his life to be and he invested his time and money to make it happen. He loved books and we have hundreds of books, many signed by the author. Somehow the signature gave recognition and connection beyond picking up a book, reading and putting it down. It acknowledged the work that gave him pleasure. He read books on Kindle, we wrote books for Kindle, but he preferred the real thing. We collected beetles. Beetle collecting gave form and purpose to our vacations. It took us to strange and and wonderful places and it brought us together with interesting people. Our lives and our home were full.
I see so many things, so many memories when I look around that have enriched our family and our home and our lives. Are we wealthy? No. But we live in beauty.

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All We Have is Time

My husband and I came from very different backgrounds. I came from the classic 1950’s family. My mother was a stay at home mom. My dad worked an 8 to 4 job. We lived in company housing from the time I was born until I graduated from high school. We ate dinner together, we had family prayer, we attended church every Sunday. I was the fifth of seven kids. I really believed that everything my parents did was the way things should be done.
My husband came from a broken home. His mother married for the fifth time about the same time we got married. He used to joke that he gained weight in basic training because it was the first time in his life he got three meals a day. He loved the army because of the order it provided him, something he had never had in his life. He was the third of six children. His mother put his older brother up for adoption when the child was two years old. His younger brother died in a bathing accident when my husband was two. His mother told her children again and again that she could have done great things had she not been burdened with children. The way his mother lived became his negative example.
So when we married he was happy to look to my family as an example of how to do things. Except he had formed the habit of making his own decisions and choices about what worked and how life should be lived. My parents lived in the age of efficiency. When there were tasks to be done on a Saturday morning they divided their lists and one went one way and one went the other. Soon after we were married my husband pulled out a list of things we needed to do one afternoon. I looked over the list and said, “I can go to the bank while you go to the cleaners. You can. . .” He gave me a look that stopped me mid-sentence.
“Can’t we just go together?’
“But that’s not efficient,” I sputtered.
“Who cares? I’d rather run errands with you.”
Well who could argue with that? And so we started forming our own patterns, separate and different from those of our families. For forty years we did everything together. We worked together at the same schools, we played together. We shared hobbies, we wrote books, we traveled to interesting places near and far. My parents were fairly restrained in their expressions of affection, but my husband told me he loved me everyday. We raised 8 kids. And the kids went everywhere with us until they finally had to grow up and go to college and make patterns of their own.
And then my husband died. We were on vacation in Peru. Just the two of us. We were having a wonderful time. We had visited my sister and brother in Chile and nieces and nephews. We were headed back to Chile the next morning. But we didn’t make it.
We spent forty years with each other, together.
I couldn’t go with him this time and I miss him. And I am so glad he didn’t listen to me way back then.
Efficient don’t mean a thing.
Time is all we have.

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The widows and the fatherless

How often are the widows and the fatherless mentioned in scripture? Look out for those poor widows and judge the fatherless righteously. It’s there, over and over again.
Now I know who we are and why we need looking after. It isn’t just physical. It isn’t help with the bills at this house. It is spiritual and emotional and words I can’t even conjure up right now. It is hard.
I don’t want to pray right now. I don’t want to read my scriptures. Mike asked me to read the scriptures to him every night. And I did. He said we should set a time when we shut everything else down so we could read and talk. And we did. I don’t want to read without him. It’s an admission that he’s not here. I want him back.
I feel this wavering inside. And I know it’s false. I know what’s true and real for me, but it all shimmers without him to share it with. That’s crazy. It’s not what he would want, it’s not what I want. But I’m like a kid throwing a tantrum. I don’t care about rational. I want my husband back. Now. Not later. I don’t want my life to change. I liked it the way it was.
I was saying my prayers at bedtime. Thinking of the things of the day and I started talking to Mike. Then I started praying again, and I said I know I pray to you God, not to my husband, but I miss him so much. I want to talk to him tonight. And I realized I was a little upset with God. I don’t like his plan right now. I don’t like being alone in my house, not sleeping. I don’t like lonely and I don’t like worrying about the kids and why didn’t they see that life is serious and turn their lives around when their dad died? Why do I still have to worry about them too?
See what I mean? An emotional wreck. Look out for the poor widows. It’s not easy. And we put on our public face, we smile, but there is a big emptiness. The fatherless too. No wonder God tells us to judge these kids, big and small, with a righteous judgement. Maybe they do crazy things. They just lost their anchor. Give ’em some slack. Please. Just for awhile.
I don’t know how long that is. But fatherless doesn’t end very soon. Be patient with us. I’ll try to be patient with me too. And I’ll keep saying my prayers. It’s who I am.

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Daylight Savings? Isn’t there a better way??

Hooray, thank goodness for Arizona!  Daylight savings has come and nothing changes.  What are we saving with daylight savings?  Whatever it is we give it back in the fall.  But meanwhile the sun goes merrily on its way ignoring the clocks and their various settings.  The sun defiantly rises to the middle of the sky in the middle of the day no matter what hour we declare it noon.

And aren’t time zones political in nature?  Years ago when I flew regularly from Delhi to Karachi we all adjusted our watches by fifteen minutes, not marking our changed position on the earth’s surface, but marking the importance of political borders. There is still a fifteen minute time difference between India and Nepal.  Newfoundland is a half hour off from the Canadian mainland, but the French islands of St Pierre and Miquelon in exactly the same longitude are in the same time zone as France. Solidarity!

China and India have only one time zone.  Hmmm.  I wonder what the sun has to say about that.  Russia stays on Daylight time year round, trying to keep ahead of the sun.  Chile while lying directly under New York shares a time zone with western Greenland.  Argentina shares a time zone with easternmost Brazil even though Brazil juts far into the Atlantic.  And of course Hugo Chavez gave Venezuela its own time zone so that he would not have to share the sunshine with the United States!

Even in Arizona time zones can get hinky.  We share the same time with the Pacific zone for part of the year and with the Mountain States for the remainder of the year.  But the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona does change its clocks for daylight savings.  If you live on the edge of the reservation you may be constantly juggling your watch.

Why daylight savings at all I ask myself?  Why four time zones?  Arizona is able to live well in two time zones year round without touching the clock.  Why not combine Pacific and Mountain time by allowing Utah to stay on Standard Time year round and California to stay on Daylight  time?  (With their adjoining states of course!)  And if it works well in the west, why not combine Central and Eastern time in the same way?  That might mean there would be a two hour time difference between the two zones but it should beat the three hour difference we have now with four zones.

I think this is a perfectly reasonable and logical suggestion.  And it would make it easier to call my grandkids in California and New York at any time of the year.  Don’t worry.  The sun will figure it out and go on its rounds as if nothing had changed at all!

 

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Six word sentences

Oh my, I just came across this, written last year.  My husband and I were having fun.  How time flies!

Hi Janelle, this is your sis.

We cleaned the book room yesterday.

Mike found his sixtieth birthday book.

He read it again, every word.

All our converstions have six words.

It’s so great to be sixty!

You should only use five . . .

That’s what 50 is like.

But, you’ll never see 50 again.

Life keeps getting better and better.

Does your body ache all over?

Oh, it will–I promise you.

Soon you’ll need large print documents.

Bifocals may soon follow; so sorry.

Hair color fades, facia hair sprouts.

And your hearing? What about that?

Well, we’ve had lots of fun.

Now I will give you a message:

In just 25 words or less:

“These things are important: marriage,
mission, college. Press on, set goals,
write history, take pictures twice a year.”

Hope you all enjoyed General Conference!!

Enough already. Have a great night.

Mike and Karen

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Let Them Eat Bulgar

When God told Joseph, “Wheat is for man,” He wasn’t talking about Wonder Bread or pasta or boxed cake mixes  or even chocolate chip cookies. Sorry, it’s true, I’m pretty sure about this. He said wheat, not white flour. Not that white powder without even the germ in it. And there is a difference.  Whole wheat is one of the healthiest foods available, but when you sand of the outer coating,remove the bran, and take out the germ with its essential oil you don’t have much left–60% of the kernel has been removed, including half or more of the original amounts of B1, B2, B3, vitamin E,  folic acid, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron and fiber. No wonder people are looking for gluten free–white flour is almost wheat free!
So what’s so good about whole wheat?  Let’s start with the important stats.  Women who eat whole grains, including whole wheat weigh less statistically than their more refined sisters. Remember, it’s not carbohydrates we want to avoid, it’s refined carbs. But how to add whole wheat to your daily diet? Eating whole wheat flour can be a hard adjustment, requires some modification of the recipes you’ve been using, tastes different than what you’re used to. So I suggest you begin your adventure in whole wheat by adding bulgar to your mornings.
I began eating bulgar for breakfast when we lived on the Navajo reservation more than thirty-five years ago. I would put a cup of whole wheat in the crock pot, add 3 cups of water and leave it overnight. In the morning the wheat had swollen up into round ball bearings. I served it with milk and honey. And I discovered that I really liked it. I didn’t start cooking wheat as a health food. I started because it was convenient. I lived a long way for a supermarket. Corn flakes were expensive at the trading post, and I had a can of wheat someone had given me. Voila. The benefits? I used to say I could eat whatever I wanted all day long. I never gained weight. My body regulated itself.                                And yes, I was never constipated. But there were even better side effects. Through eleven pregnancies I never suffered from morning sickness. I had easy pregnancies and easy deliveries. I was full of energy and I didn’t suffer from PMS or monthly migraines—until I abandoned bulgar for the all American diet many years later.

Why attribute my good fortune to whole wheat and not just excellent genes? Well, for one thing, when I did abandon bulgar I turned my life around. I gained weight and at one point was even diagnosed as pre-diabetic. And yes, the symptoms of PMS and depression raised their ugly head (or is it heads?).
What is it that makes whole wheat a wonder food, you wonder? Whole wheat is  one of the world’s healthiest foods containing all the necessary nutrients for weight and mood control. But no, it should not make up your entire diet and it should not be considered a panacea. It should just be an important component.
-For the potential pre-diabetic whole grains are high in cereal fiber and have a low glycemic index. They are absorbed slowly through the intestine allowing the body to respond without spiking insulin levels. But that is just the beginning.
-Whole wheat is a great source of magnesium. Low magnesium is one of the villains in PMS, the villain in leg cramps. Magnesium should be your best friend. It interacts with more than 300 enzymes in the body including enzymes involved in the use of glucose and insulin secretion. (diabetes anyone?)  And yes, there is a correlation  between low magnesium levels and type 2 diabetes.
-What about energy? Whole wheat is a source of betaine (a metabolite of choline) which helps control internal inflammation. Think arthritis, stiff painful joints, etc. Lower inflammation levels mean higher energy levels and perhaps lower tumor ratios. Certainly worth a try.
-Thel fiber in whole wheat speeds intestinal transit time, reduces bile acid secretions, increases insulin sensitivity, and lowers triglycerides (fatty acids). I was going to say, See, no constipation, but it is so much more than that!
-And what about cancer? Wheat bran accelerates the metabolism of estrogen. This means decreased blood estrogen levels, better regulated hormones, and lower risk of breast cancer. Wheat bran (but not corn or oat bran) has also been linked to a lower risk of colon cancers by reducing the concentration of bile acids and bacterial enzymes that promote colon cancer.
-The wheat germ that’s removed from refined flour is also a great source of phytochemicals–the antioxidants we hear so much about in chocolate for example. And wheat germ is rich in vitamin E which is important for immune system function, cancer prevention and blood glucose control. There it is again!
Whole wheat is low in fat, has no cholesterol and very little sodium. One cup of whole wheat flour has about 130 mg of potassium and 13 grams of protein. It contains calcium, magnesium and iron, and is a good source of vitamin B6.
There’s more. Much more, but for now, why not give it a try. Eat good, feel good, and best of all, bulgar tastes good!

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Six months

Six months. Where did they go? It has been the longest and the shortest six months in my life. Six months since my husband died. Forty years together, you don’t adjust to losing that overnight. But it literally happened overnight.
So how to adjust? Can I adjust? He’s here everyday–I pass everything by him. In my mind. Oh, he would like the new bathroom. He would be very pleased with the refi on the house. 3.12%, what’s not to like! The new car? He would never have traded in the Yukon, but I can’t drive the Yukon. I had to get something else. He’s okay with that.
He’d tell me it’s time. Make plans, get out of the house. Travel if you want to. Visit the kids. I will one of these days. Clean out the closets, give the clothes to people who need them, he tells me. He wasn’t sentimental about stuff, not most stuff. Me, I have trouble throwing away his school papers from his days as a principal. I do it a little at a time. One of these days I want to fit a car in the garage again.
I make to-do lists. I think of things in the middle of the night and write them down. But when I look at the list I put off getting started on this or that.
I sleep on my side of the bed. I read until two in the morning. I finally fall asleep and I wake up when the sunlight hits the window.
Things are not the same.
Big things,
little things.
Me.

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