My vegetable garden’s been in the ground for about eight weeks. We’re having one of the wettest, coolest summers on record, and as a result, this year’s garden is noticeably smaller and less fruitful than last year’s. It’s a bummer, but there’s not much I can do about it other than fertilize. Who knows, it might take off in September!
First, the good news: the tomatoes are cranking up! I’ve harvested a few cherry tomatoes and a couple of Romas, and the Better Boys are starting to come in. My dad set up my Florida weave system for me. I intended to use heavy metal stakes (the kind they use for traffic signs), but they’re expensive, and I already had this PVC pipe, which works just as well and won’t deteriorate. Anyway, I keep adding twine as the plants grow. So far, so good.
First big tomato!
The middle part of the garden is struggling. My squash plants drowned almost immediately. I’ve lost several bell pepper plants (including a replacement for one original plant), and the ones that remain are barely clinging to life. True to its usual form, only the jalapeno is actually bearing flowers. My eggplant’s flowers keep falling off, but it looks healthy and I think it may get going soon.
The cucumbers are thriving and flowering all over the place, but no actual cukes yet.
In other plant news:
♥ I have a handmade wooden planter in a shady spot near my front door. This year, I splurged on three Kong coleus (colei?) for the planter. They keep getting bigger and more gorgeous, with lavender cone-like flowers in the middle. I love looking at them.
♥ My gardenia bush got fried by our cold winter. Loss of a plant generally isn’t a big deal, but to me, this is no ordinary gardenia. I planted it the week my ex-husband left, and over the years I’ve felt a symbolic bond with it. It’s my version of Valancy’s rosebush. In fact, it’s come back from the mostly-dead once before. Once it was clear that last winter probably did it in, the only thing I could do to help it was cut it all the way back to the roots. Still, I had very little hope. So I was surprised and thrilled a couple of weeks ago to see these tiny leaves shooting out of the roots! It may take a long time to branch out or flower again, but LIFE REMAINS.
♥ About a year and a half ago, I planted tiger lily bulbs in my front garden bed. We had them at the house I grew up in in Hickory Hill, and they just say home to me. Well, last month they finally bloomed!
Nature makes me want to dance! And so does this dress.
So what we are saying is this: you have no guarantees, but dream anyway. You will hurt more if it doesn’t work out, but your laugh will have a more rapt quality to it. You’ll feel the sting, but your face will glisten with the fresh dew of presence. You will love more, you will feel the air in your lungs, you will feel boulders of sadness on your heart, but you’ll be alive. And you’ll be okay. Saint Bartholomew said, “Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you cannot bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain; what you have not done is feel all you are beyond the pain.” Exactly. Jesus did not say, “I will rescue you out of your disappointing world.” He did say, “The thief comes to steal and destroy, but I have come that you would have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
– Jan Meyers Proett, Beauty and the Bitch: Grace for the Worst in Me
What did he have to mope about, really? What more did he want? Love, he could hear Eve saying. Purpose. Love. Purpose. Those are the things that you can’t plan for. Those are the things that just happen. And what if they don’t happen? Do you spend your whole life pining for them? Waiting to be happy?
- Rainbow Rowell, Attachments
I am trying to remain fully alive to my hopes and dreams without losing my mind. It’s harder than you would think. I’ve been wondering how many times, how many years, you can bear unfulfilled hopes before their weight starts to crush you. How do you keep affirming them without bitterness creeping into your heart? How do you create a steady baseline of joy that’s not dependent on anything changing for the better?
I need to be reminded again and again that having an open, alive heart means that you will get hurt. You’ll be disappointed and make mistakes. You will crash and burn. Sometimes you won’t know why it happened or what you’re supposed to learn from it. You’ll be freshly reminded of what you’re missing. You may need time to pick yourself up again. That doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It means you took a brave risk, and you’ll be a more complete person because of it. To quote another Rainbow Rowell novel, “I look like this because I’m alive. Because I’ve had experiences.” Having experiences often leaves us worse for wear, but in some mysterious way, it brings us closer to the abundant life Jesus talked about.
I feel restless, itchy for positive change and hopes fulfilled, and I still believe I must be somehow on the brink. I’ve heard many women say that late in labor, there’s a moment when you feel like you just cannot do it anymore, and that means the baby is about to be born. I’ve believed myself at a similar point many times before. History shows that I have always been wrong. But this time, something is about to be born. There’s too much electricity built up in me. It has to go somewhere.
You can also check out my Alive Pinterest board. ***
I’m turning 35 next month, which seems like a good age to declare that Normal is never going to happen for me. Regardless of my future, my chances at a traditional life are officially in the rearview mirror. If I marry again, it won’t be like marrying a longtime friend in my early 20s – we’ll already have decades of separate personal histories. If I find a career I love, it’ll be like Chandler Bing switching to marketing in Season 10 of Friends, not the informed plan of someone who knew what she wanted to do at 22. If I become a mother, via adoption or biology, I’ll be an Old Mom with an established general cluelessness about child-rearing. If none of those things ever happen, that’ll be a whole other challenge.
It’s time to stop looking at and judging myself by a framework that’s no use to me. Time to shake off the shame, burn the map, and take the machete.
I think I was always destined for a Plan B life, because it’s authentic by nature, and so am I. Much as I sometimes wish otherwise, fakery is not in my bag of tricks. I can’t convincingly pretend to be other or better than what I am. I’m hopeless at playing it cool. I can’t maintain an illusion of having it all together. I tried for years, back on the Plan A track, and it wore me down to nothing. But in Plan B, there’s no hiding the fact that I’m perpetually flying by the seat of my pants. Everyone is, in fact, but I’m too far gone to cover it up. I’m permanently out of the game.
However, I tend to exchange it for a new game – acting like Plan B is one big exciting adventure. Sure, it can be, but more often it’s a heavy load of uncertainty, false hopes, and dead ends. It means hacking through the jungle with no confirmation that you’re headed anywhere good. I’ve felt so weary of it lately, too weary to be the Eowyn I want to be. I need to give myself grace and freedom in the weariness too.
I need to surround myself with other machete-wielders. Blazing a trail by yourself is too large and lonely a task. I need regular reassurance that I’m not some pitiable anomaly, but am valuable right where I am. I want to be inspired by lots of different examples of a purposeful, fulfilling life. I don’t think you can ever have enough. None of us are meant to do this alone, and I’ve been trying for too long.
I’m winding up a visit with my sister and niece! They got here last Friday. Here are some highlights:
A small-plane pilot friend of my dad’s took us to DeWitt Spain Airport because Niecy loves planes. She took to the controls immediately. My dad, who’s worked in aviation for most of his adult life, was thrilled.
My brother was also here over the weekend! All three of us are only together a couple of times a year. We missed my BIL Lance, who’s at church camp this week.
Niecy has been having a blast with Nanny and Poppy.
Debra and I enjoyed a long lunch with Caroline, one of my best friends. They’re both due in October, just two weeks apart!
We hit the pool at my parents’ friends’ house. I must say, it was a big upgrade from my backyard kiddie pool.
Niecy paid her first visit to the ice cream (wo)man! She chose a rainbow push pop.
Yesterday we went to the zoo to take advantage of the gorgeous weather and free admission day.
I probably won’t see Debra again until Niece #2 is born. It’s tough being so far apart, but I’m thankful for these times with my hermana!
I can’t believe this summer is more than halfway over, and there are still so many things I want to do. Even as I try to convince myself all fun, spontaneity, and possibility will not end with the summer, I want to be sure I’m making the most of it. So here’s my Summer Second-Half Bucket List:
- See at least one movie at the Orpheum (The Princess Bride and the Grease sing-along are both coming up!)
- Make a Jerry’s run
- Watch the Perseid meteor shower. I always intend to do this and never do.
- See Begin Again (I’ve heard great things) and Boyhood
- One more Peabody rooftop party
- At least one more Levitt Shell show
- Ride my bike more often (I haven’t hit the Greenline in months)
- Plan and execute an awesome triple birthday party for myself and two friends (details still pending)
- Run the Elvis 5K on my birthday
- Go to the Weezer show at Snowden Grove. They’ve been one of my favorite bands since college and I’ve never seen them live.
- OCEAN TIME.
I would prefer to enjoy these things in good, fun company, but this is my commitment to myself to go alone if I have to. Do you have any incomplete summer bucket list items?
Today over at A Peek at Karen’s World, I’m sharing one of my family’s favorite funny stories. It all happened in August 2008, when we got caught in a storm while boating and had to take refuge on the mysterious island of Boca Chita…
Recently, someone asked a group I was in about our callings. Calling, Vocation, however you want to define it, has always weighed heavily on me. I’m still figuring out what I believe about it. Like most people, I would prefer a clear-cut purpose and destiny – to walk a definite path from an early age and consistently advance, because that’s more satisfying and impressive to others. This meandering life can be a liability. I have never known definitively what I “wanted to do” in terms of a career. I’ve always wanted to do too many different things. So I develop my skills here and there as I can, jack of many trades, master of none.
But one of my evolving beliefs is that calling and career don’t necessarily overlap. For many of us, calling is bigger and more nebulous than a title. It’s more tied up in who you are than what you do, and the better you know yourself and how God made you, the clearer your calling becomes. When I thought about my personal callings, I didn’t think daughter, sister, friend or even writer (although I’ve come a long way in claiming that). What came to mind was:
- To love and affirm the people God brings into my life, right where they are
- To write and speak truth so that people will feel encouraged and not alone
- To live as a strong woman of God outside the traditional married-and-mom-by-25 box, help blaze a trail for younger women, and give them hope
- To bring beauty and joy to the world however I get the opportunity
- To do all these things to the best of my ability, not get bogged down in perfectionism, and not give up when I fail (because I will, often).
This list isn’t really one you can drop during a casual discussion group, or put on a business card. It’s not quantifiable. It’s not snappy. Sometimes I struggle hard with that. I feel inferior to people whose roles and gifts are more obvious. I worry that no one will ever look past the surface and see me. But being seen isn’t my job and shouldn’t be my goal.
I’ve come to believe that if I focus on the things I know I’m called to, everything else should fall into place. Maybe I’m shooting myself in the foot by not having a five- and ten-year plan, but I know how quickly those plans can dissolve before your eyes. Right now I’m just living open. Giving God room to surprise me. Working at being faithful to what I know. Right now, that’s enough for me.
Rainbows are still popping up around here with surprising frequency. They keep appearing in the evening, after work, while I’m out and about. The first few caught me by surprise. But yesterday, I was almost home from work and errands when the sun started shining through the light rain that was falling. As soon I pulled into my garage, I leapt out of the car and looked to the east. It wasn’t curiosity. I knew a rainbow would be there – and it was.
I jumped right back into the car and drove a few blocks over to the elementary school and ball field, where you can always get a great panoramic view. Standing happily in the parking lot with my camera, I felt a little amused at myself. I was acting like a stormchaser. I thought, I’ve become a rainbow chaser. I’ve gotten so attuned to the right conditions for a rainbow that I can look for them with confidence and expectation.
I wish life was that certain. But sometimes, even when the circumstances are right, you have to wait for that rainbow to appear. Sometimes the sun goes behind a cloud before its light has a chance to catch. There are no guarantees. But I’m still trying to be a person who keeps an eye on the sky.
City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare (4 stars)
The sixth and final book of the Mortal Instruments series finds our heroes literally walking into hell to fight Clary’s brother Sebastian and save the Shadowhunter world. As usual, I must give Clare props for her big-picture plotting and tying up of loose ends while setting out new ones. I’m satisfied with the conclusion for these characters, but am pumped to see how things play out in the next trilogy! (Despite the MANY feels in this book, I only cried at the Simon storyline. Simon 4eva)
Tempest by Julie Cross (4.5 stars)
Jackson Meyer can travel through time. Only his best friend Adam knows about his recently developed talent, and they’ve been experimenting to test his limits. But when a stranger bursts into his dorm room and fatally shoots his girlfriend Holly, Jackson freaks out and finds himself two years in the past. Stuck in 2007, he starts with two objectives: find and protect Holly, and find Adam and enlist his help. But the more he learns about his abilities, his family’s secrets, and what the CIA has to do with it all, he realizes the rabbit hole goes deeper than he ever imagined. This book exceeded my expectations, and would make an awesome movie. (Soundtrack: “Square One” by Coldplay)
Catching Air by Sarah Pekkanen (3.5 stars)
This is a character-driven novel about two brothers and their wives who decide to run a B&B together in Vermont. As they live and work together, they’re each forced to confront their Issues. Meanwhile, they take in a mysterious woman who has Issues of her own.
Veronica Mars: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham (4.5 stars)
This first Veronica Mars novel picks up not long after the movie left off and is a perfect movie-to-book translation. Rob Thomas actually started as a novelist (I read his Rats Saw God when I first became a VMars fan) and has the chops to continue his story in book form. In this installment, Veronica investigates the disappearance of some spring breakers while dealing with the personal fallout of her choice to return to Neptune and the PI life. I read the whole thing in under 24 hours. Can’t wait for more!
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (4.5 stars)
A powerful, Printz Award-winning story of two young women fighting in WWII: Maddie, a pilot, and “Verity,” a wireless operator who’s been captured by the Gestapo in a small French town. The less you know going in, the better, but it lives up to the hype.
Books for June: 5
2014 year to date: 32
We had the second-rainiest June on record, which led to a lot of rainbows! I celebrated 25 years of living in Memphis. My BFF Alanna and I did a fun photo shoot around town. Everything else is covered below!
Read and Reading:
I read mostly fiction this month, including the first Veronica Mars novel. It picks up not long after the movie left off and is a perfect screen-to-page translation. More Logan in the next one, please!
I’m working on N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope, which is excellent, but really dense. So it’s taking a while.
The Fault In Our Stars was perfect. If you want to see it and do something afterward, I advise making your plans before the movie. Caroline and I were so emotionally bewildered, we couldn’t decide where to eat and ended up going home. LOL.
Transformers: Age of Extinction was kind of a mess. The dinobots don’t even appear until past the two-hour mark. Cool effects as usual, though!
On TV, So You Think You Can Dance is back. Woo!
I attended part of the Moon River Music Festival at the Levitt Shell, hosted by Drew and Ellie Holcomb. I went to hear my friend Myla play. It was very hot, so we only hung around for a little while, just long enough to absorb the fest atmosphere! We also went back to the Shell the following week to see Katie Herzig.
My company rented out a showing of The Music Man at Theatre Memphis. Despite my love of musicals, I’d never seen it! I was dismayed to learn that the title character was a con artist, not a kindly drum major. But the tunes are still catchy.
I ordered some Popsicle molds! Despite feeling excited about them and pinning tons of Popsicle recipes, I’ve only made one batch so far. I need some volunteers to help me eat my experiments.
I also made watermelon agua fresca on a bad day when I needed a special treat. It was delicious.
I planted my garden on May 31st. The excessive rain killed a few of my plants, but most are hanging in there. Later my dad put in stakes for my tomatoes. We ended up using extra PVC pipe from my shed, which isn’t aesthetically pleasing, but should hold up well!
I volunteered at WKNO (our PBS affiliate) again, this time for TV pledge. The shift manager advised me that it’s very different from radio pledge, and I saw what she meant immediately. Public radio listeners are generally pretty with-it; public TV viewers often don’t understand the gift packages even after several explanations. Still, it was fun and I plan to keep volunteering there.
Things I Love (Fitness Edition):
My office campus has a fitness room that I use twice a week. They remodeled this month and brought in new high-tech machines (with TVs that actually work)! It’s annoying to log in to each machine, but they track all your stats over time, which is nice. I especially love the new AMT machine, which feels like walking on the moon but burns tons of calories. Also, after many years of exercising on back-to-back days, I’m now spacing out my workouts and feeling so much better. What was I thinking??
I registered for the Elvis Presley 5K, which will be held on my birthday morning (August 16). My goal is to run the whole thing without stopping, something I’ve never done before! So far I’m up to two miles on an indoor treadmill, but outdoor “training” is a struggle.
Also, my yoga teacher started a hula hooping class this month. I thought it might be one of those things that you either can or can’t do, and I never could as a kid. But by the end of the class, I could hoop in both directions and turn in a circle! I’m excited to practice more.
I went to Evansville to visit my brother. It was fun, but I’m getting bummed that I haven’t been on a real adventure in a long time. I have a pending home-repair situation that might be resolved next month, and if all goes well, maybe I can start making some trip plans!
Pinterest Quote of the Month:
On The Blog:
Posts I Loved:
Eileen at The Scenic Route: That Time I Felt Like a Stray Puppy
I know I over-link to Shauna Niequist, but this made me love her even more: You Are Significant With or Without a Significant Other
My friend Becca is in the midst of an interesting series on Growing Up Footloose.
Paul Heggie, blogging through an inspiring cross-country road trip: Plan To Break Your Plans
Kelsey Munger: That Chipper, Hurtful Christian “But”
Kari at Through A Glass Darkly: In Defense of Young Adults and Their Literature
LOL of the month: Local Man Ostracized for Ordering Non-Local Beer