Friday, April 27, 2012

Morning in the Garden

It's taken me a little over a week to get these pictures posted, and things have grown since then, but I wanted to put these up so I can have a comparison in a few weeks.  Since starting the nursing program, gardening has become more challenging for me, but also more necessary.  It really soothes me, helps me to slow down and enjoy growth, whether the tomatoes' or my own.  Growth sometimes seems imperceptible day to day.  That's why consistent evaluation is important, as is record keeping of some kind.  Gardening reminds me of that.  So, while I am loosening my expectations on the level of Spectacular that I hope for my garden, to allow myself some compassion for this particular stage of life that I'm in, I will do what I can, and share the journey with you.  Here are the first pictures of the year.

This is the first bed, and it has mostly cool-weather crops in it that have been growing for a few months.   In that first row are green onions, and some lettuces at the end, then in the second row are the remaining cauliflower plants, and in the third row are the cabbages, which I've never been able to grow before for some reason.  But all of these were from seeds I started and something just went better this year.  So far anyway.  I haven't yet actually harvested a cabbage.  And you can see I've had some cabbage worms driving me nuts.  I go out every day on a Search and Destroy mission, but man those things are hard to see.  Anyway, in the last row are some delphiniums (another in that first square in the lower right hand corner of the pic that was destroyed in a big rain/wind storm, but is growing back.) and another blue flowered plant (can't remember the name), and some chard, which I'm having insect trouble with.  I had several squares of carrots planted in this bed, and they all mostly germinated, only to have their tops eaten by squirrels, which really fries me.

Here's the second bed, again finishing up the cool-weather crops.  There are leeks and more nibbled chard in the first row, broccoli in the second and third rows, and some flowers and baby cucumbers in the last row, which will take over once the broccoli comes out.  Hopefully.

The third bed has Roma tomatoes.  Yes, I know they look ridiculous in their huge cages this early, but I needed the visual for spacing them, and I figured I might as well, since sometimes I wait too long and then it becomes quite tricky to cage them.  There are 5 plants here (Oh, there's another in that second bed, above) three in the back and two in the front.  In between the two in the front is another bush cucumber plant.  I haven't had luck with cucumbers in the past, probably because I started them from seed too late and then transplanted them too early, but this year I bought organic plants and set them in. They all have new growth, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Against the back trellis, I have two Sugar Baby watermelon plants.  I've been reading about growing more plants vertically, and they are my experiment this year.  The watermelons themselves don't get too big on this variety, and I've read that grown vertically, the stems will compensate and grow thicker to support the weight, and they can also be supported with little slings made from pantyhose.  We shall see.  Stay tuned.

Here's the back long bed with Sugar Snap peas climbing their way up the trellising.  There are about 50 or so plants.  In previous years, I've always grown the snap peas and the shelling garden peas, but I decided against the garden peas this year.  They take up a lot of room for really, very little harvest, once shelled.  It takes a lot of little peas to feed a family, even though they are super delicious.  The edible podded peas, like these, are well-loved by my family and offer a more substantial harvest.

In front of the peas are crookneck yellow squash, two plants, and then down at the end there is an indeterminate (climbing) heirloom tomato, and two other varieties of vining cucumbers (white ones and Japanese ones), and some basil in front of them.

The peas, doing their thing.  I should get blossoms any day now.

A yellow squash.  This was right after planting it and it hadn't taken off yet.  It's doing better now.

Here's my new tomato for the year, Eva's Purple Ball, which is not actually purple, but pink.  But the leaves are a nice shade of purple underneath, if you can see that on the bottom leaves.

Here are the two cucumbers that I will train up the trellising.  White ones, for fun, and a Japanese cucumber.

Here's a watermelon.  I did buy a number of organic plants this year.  Usually I grow everything from seed, but I just didn't stay on top of things this year with school, so I did what I could and then "cheated."  That's part of my compassion for myself.  Do what I can.

Here is one of the Roma plants.  Last year I planted so many varieties of tomatoes, and I find that what I want most is the Romas for sauce, so I stuck to those this year.  I buried them very deeply this time, to allow for a better root system.  Tomatoes respond very well to that.

Here is some broccoli, which was all grown from seed.  The main heads have been harvested, but they continue to produce a number of offshoots, so I'm letting them hang out a bit longer.  If you can see it, though, there is a bush cucumber plant there on the bottom, tucked in that square, which will be demanding more room just about the time we kick the broccoli out.  And that's a poppy plant there on the left side.  California state flower, you know.

Another bush cucumber plant.  There are four of them.  I hope at least one does well.  If all of them do, please come to my house for cucumbers.

There's that little cuke-guy under the broccoli.

Leeks!  Only two squares of them, as a trial.  I've never successfully grown leeks, either, probably because of too-early transplantation.  I wanted to try again, but not use too much garden space on an experiment, so I only have a few of them, but they're doing well so far!

Rainbow Chard.  Buffet-style.  I do not know what is eating it, but it's starting to get on my nerves.

Baby Lola Rossa red lettuce plants.  These are much bigger now.  I think they are so pretty.

These are at the far end of the second bed.  Three red bell pepper plants and some Black Seeded Simpson lettuce.

I'm excited about this one.  Last year I tried to grow tomatillos, and not one seed germinated.  Grrrr.... But I want tomatillos!  So, I bought a plant and we'll try it that way.  This guy is in the far corner of the first bed.

Parris Island Cos lettuce (AKA Romaine).  I need to plant another seed in that corner.  I'll do that today.

Other lettuce plants, and a so-far-untouched Swiss Chard plant.

This is the first bed from the other side.  You can see where the little green worms loved my cabbage plants, and a little of that chard plant has been nibbled on.  There is a green bell pepper plant in between the two chard plants there, and just out of frame in the front is a purple bell pepper plant.  Let's see how that works out, shall we?

The delphinium (LOVE!) and a beautiful cabbage plant.

The green onions.

Ah, there it is!  An Emerald City zucchini plant.  There are two in this first bed, and they will have more room once the cauliflower and cabbage come out.

Another kind of delphinium.  Delphiniums have always been hard for me to grow too, for some reason, so I keep trying.  I put this one outside the garden beds, along the back fence (there are two actually), and I was so thrilled when they shot up their stalks and started blooming!  Now I want the darker blue variety.

And there she is, growing, growing!  As are the weeds around my compost bin, I see.

Dear Aiden,

        I have a job for you.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Catching Up: Easter

We miss Dylan at Easter time and always! And this wasn't our year with Caitlin and Sean (we took them Big Chocolate Easter Eggs filled with coconut cream and a small gift the evening before), so here are the three at home: Conor, Lyndsay, Aiden.

Blogger has changed things.  It used to be that I had to upload my pictures in reverse order to have them be in proper chronology.  It appears that is no longer the case, but it took so long to upload these pictures, that I wasn't about to scrap the post and begin again.  So, the pictures are in the wrong order, but Easter was such a blur this year anyway. . .

Sleepy-head Conor finally found his basket hidden in the boys' closet.  We have 9am church, so baskets had to be found very early!

As per tradition, on Easter morning, the stone is rolled back from the tomb, revealing that He is not here, for He is risen!

Aiden was especially happy to find a gift card for Panda Express in his basket.  That Bunny knows him so well!

Lyndsay loves it when I take her Easter morning picture every year.  Not.  But it was her last year to participate in our Easter morning traditions, so she had to do what I said.

The kids go through their baskets to see what goodies the Bunny brought them.  Conor is fond of his new Batman sunglasses.  

On Saturday evening, we dyed the eggs, and then Conor had his plastic egg hunt in the backyard.  Good times, good times.  Conor really keeps the traditions going, since the other kids are so grown up.  Everyone else loves the excuse to participate.  Aiden is the one who hid the eggs this time.

Monday, April 16, 2012

I'd Do Anything for This Girl

Remember Amber? My BFF? I got to spend a quick sec with her over the weekend. The occasion was the temple wedding of her oldest son, whom I also love, and the timing worked out perfectly, being the weekend before my Spring Break. I took the kids out of school for two days and we drove to St. George, Utah.

Amber is the epitome of composure. Even with fifty (or more) people in her house, craziness all around, and the emotions of her firstborn getting married, she is calm and graceful, ever the welcoming host. What's hers is everybody else's, and she makes everyone feel welcome and at ease. Her home is a gathering spot--for family, for friends, for displaced teenagers. I love being there. I feel fortunate to be included in her overflowing life. I know most of her family on both sides and they feel like my own family. I even know many of the teenage "regulars", her children's friends, and adopted kids from the neighborhood. It's a bustling, happy place, and it's always recharging for me to go, even for a quick visit. I love me some Amber.

Amber and Kevin hosted a dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant the evening before the wedding. They had rented the whole place, and we drove into town just a few minutes after the event started, so we went directly there. I was seated by Amber's sister, and we just picked up where we last left off, at least a year ago, maybe two. Amber's parents were happy to see us, and Kevin's parents were hugging and kissing me before I even realized where the love was coming from. The food was delicious, and as usual, I ate it all.

The sealing was the next morning at the St. George temple. I felt really privileged to be a part of the group, and be able to witness such a beautiful event. I am so, so proud of Alex, and already love his new bride, Brooke. She is a perfect complement to him, and he did well to choose her for eternity.

After pictures we all went back to Amber's to pass the afternoon. Huge quantities of pizza were consumed by the masses, and Conor and I snuck in a nap. In the evening, we headed over to the St. George Opera House for the reception, which was tasteful, modest, and elegant. Brooke has great taste.

The kids and I had to get on the road the next morning so that we could be home for Lyndsay's Senior Portrait session that we were able to squeeze in with a photographer that I've been wanting to use for over a year now. She's from UT, actually, and makes periodic trips to CA for portrait sessions. Initially, I was bummed that the weekend she was coming was the weekend I knew I'd be out of town, but we were able to figure out a schedule that worked. (And that was so much fun! I am super excited to see the pictures!)

So, it was a quick trip, but a fun one. I love being with my kids. They're great travel companions, and Conor never leaves silence alone. My heart was happy for Alex, and grateful for a little bit of time with Amber. Everyone should have a friend like that. I'm so lucky to have several, and I count each one a tremendous blessing.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

About that CJane Birth Story Post

Last week there was some commotion over on CJane's blog. Instead of writing her originally intended book, she is writing her memoir in blog posts and bravely opening them up to comments. Appropriately, she began with her birth story, which she learned from her mother was an induction during a snowstorm (perfect dramatic background for the entrance of CJane!).

Her mother told her that the induction was scheduled because she was two days overdue, and that the labor was "horrible", with "no feelings of sanctity or holiness," only agony and loneliness and the feeling of "fighting her body to the end." CJane was grateful for the honesty of her mother, but long after their conversation, the details of her birth started arousing feelings of great sadness inside of her. She writes,

"While I understand the need for inductions in high risk situations my heart always breaks when I hear of them as normal procedure. I want to feel like I can trust my body with its innate knowledge of timing and truth. But even more than that, I don't want to rob my baby of the first gift of mortality: agency. If I were to induce my body into labor I would send a message of distrust to both me and my baby. Birth is not about control, it's about something so much bigger than control."

That line incited quite the controversy in her comments, about inductions robbing babies of their agency in when they decide to come to earth. I've been thinking of it ever since. Women are highly defensive of their birth experiences, which is understandable. Some women have strong opinions about birth, and others don't so much--they just really want a healthy baby--but they are still defensive of their births, whether they were carefully planned or medically-intervened processes. I've had uneducated, ill-informed hospital births, (including an induction) and carefully, thoughtfully planned, beautiful home births, and after both experiences, I have to say, that I can completely respect CJane's point of view. I never thought about an induction in those terms, but I think she has a point, and I love, love, love that SHE thinks about things so deeply and so internally and is willing to share her opinions and intuitions so publicly.

Our lives do not begin at birth. We are beings that have existed infinitely, first as intelligences, then as spirit children living with our Heavenly Parents. As such, we had personalities, strengths and weaknesses, relationships, and agency. Indeed, we made the choice to come here to this earth life. It is my feeling that even those who realize the blessing and necessity of coming to earth to receive a mortal body, may at times struggle with the actual leaving heaven part, that glorious realm of light and love. In very, very simple terms, I really want Lyndsay to go off to college, and I know it is for her good, but at the same time I don't want her to leave. She feels the same way. She knows this is the necessary next step and she is so excited, but she also is sad to leave the safety and familiarity of home. I can understand a spirit wanting to come, and yet being hesitant to leave. And I believe that the spirit coming has a say in the timing.

Anyway, because coming to earth to receive a body is an act of agency, I can imagine that there is much anticipation and also much action in preparation and readiness in the heavens for when that spirit will actually slip through the veil of mortality and make his/her grand entrance. I think that element is part of the reason that the exact mechanism that starts a labor has yet eluded medical science. Medicine knows some of what may be involved, but really, it remains a great mystery. Even with that lack of knowledge, medicine sometimes uses its overinflated ego to call the shots that may not be its to call, relating to length of pregnancy and timing of delivery. As with so many other things, it is possible that we sometimes interfere with heaven's dealings with earth life.

(Now I do understand that we each came to earth with imperfections and sometimes those imperfections show up in our abilities to conceive, carry pregnancies, or deliver babies. I'm not talking about those obviously different circumstances, when medical knowledge is what gives the gift of motherhood, but I'm also not excluding those circumstances from effect.)

I am saying that if I believe that I existed before I was born, then it is plausible to believe that I have been affected and shaped by things that have happened before I was born, as well as during my birth, and after my birth. I only remember the things that have happened after my birth, but that doesn't mean that I haven't been affected. I also believe that all the experiences that I have had--whether they are experiences that I am consciously aware of or not, whether they are experiences that I have had before, during, or after my birth--have been experiences that are necessary for my growth and progress, and have been divinely appointed for my ultimate benefit. I cannot exclude the details of my birth, though to be honest, I don't really know them, except that my mom was alone and my dad paced the hallways waiting nervously.

Lyndsay was an induced birth. Looking back I think it was totally unnecessary, but at the time I was not informed enough to know better. I was in a drugged fog, and after pushing for an hour and half she was vacuumed out. I cannot exclude the possibility that maybe she was just not quite ready to come---that she did, ultimately, obviously, but maybe that first mortal experience has shaped her in some way that I am unaware of (contributed to her stubbornness? Or maybe, the very first manifestation of her stubbornness?). Of course the best blessing is that she was here, safe, healthy, happy, and so, so beautiful, but I cannot be so defensive of that fact that I deny the other possibility that her consciousness was affected, that her agency was infringed upon. Maybe? I don't know. But I allow for the possibility, and I don't think it makes me a bad mother, because again, every experience we have is necessary.

Many commenters on CJane's blog were ruffled by the thought. They took it personally, which they shouldn't have, really. I mean this is CJane's memoir, her experience, her beliefs, her thoughts. Some said something like, "I wouldn't be able to give birth if it weren't for inductions! My body doesn't go into labor!" To which, in my mind, I say two things. One, we really don't know if your body truly would never go into labor since modern medicine would probably not allow for the real possibility of finding out for sure. They'll intervene long before that. And two, even if it was a proven fact that your body lacks the ability to go into labor on its own, be grateful for the fact that medicine could help you, but don't deny the possibility that a medically induced birth may have affected your child's experience in some way. Weigh the pros and cons---and the pros definitely outweigh the cons, but the cons may still exist. We can save premature babies, but they may still have complications. Other commenters said something like, "That idea is nonsense. You are not shaped by things you have no control over!" To which I simply shake my head and say, "Really? What mortality are you experiencing, because I've been shaped by many, many things that I had no control over!"

I equate it with divorce, for example. I did not choose divorce, though I will admit that some of my choices and actions led to that outcome, and my children certainly did not choose divorce, but it most definitely affected them! Sometimes divorce may be the best option, but even then, it leaves a mark. And things like this in life affect people differently. Some children of divorce grow up to thrive and achieve great things, with healthy, intact self-esteems, and go on to have successful marriages of their own. Others never learn to trust, or communicate, or believe that they were not at fault.

There are countless other examples. Sometimes things are medically necessary. Heart surgeries, brain surgeries, amputations, for instance. But being medically necessary doesn't mean that they don't affect the consciousness of that person or change him/her in some way. And it doesn't mean they are changed for the worse, either.

CJane's realization that her birth was an induction helped shed light on the sadness she has always felt when she hears that a delivery must be induced. She never understood, until her mother told her her own birth story, why it made her feel so sad. It was an innate part of her being. So, it affected her. It also helps to explain why she felt so strongly to trust in her body's abilities and let her 3rd daughter come when she was ready--3 weeks after her due date, born unassisted at home with just her husband helping her. She didn't know her birth story at that time, but it's possible that her spirit did know, and helped to create the consciousness surrounding those feelings and those decisions.

I believe that there's so much our spirits know that we don't. Things about us, who we are, what we really feel, how our experiences have shaped us. Maybe that sounds really "out there" to some people, but I think much of our existence here is lived unconsciously, unaware, numb, and out of tune. I actively try to fight that in my own life. I think we are marvelous beyond imagination in our capacities. And I don't think it does any good to live defensively, blindly, and unconsciously, pretending that what we don't want to be true, can't possibly be.

I think possibilities are wonderful, and openness to them even more so. And conversations about them shouldn't make us feel threatened, only empowered.

I thank CJane for starting the conversation, once again.