Archives for category: Parables

I’m in a strange headspace this morning. It’s a long weekend. My anniversary with my Traveling Partner coming up. 11 years married. 🙂 Worth celebrating. Where would life have taken me if I had not taken this path? I don’t know, and never will know; it is the path I took, and the path I travel now. I’m okay with that.

The headlines in the news are pretty grim. Every day more terrible news about the war in Ukraine. Nearly as often some terrible family killing or murder-suicide or mass shooting or femicide or report of a child killing someone with a gun left too easily accessible is the story of the moment. If you’re reading the news in America, you’ve likely got a news feed filled with violence. It’s fairly shameful that this is who we are. (Oh sure, “not all Americans…”, but we vote, and we put the people in power who do nothing to make the changes we need to keep people safe and free. We each have a chance to do better.)

So, today I sip my coffee. I figure I’ll help out today by not killing anyone, by refraining from acts of violence against others, by embracing calm and contentment and making merry with my partner. I’ll treat passing strangers kindly and with courtesy. If I run an errand, I’ll drive gently and considerately, and I’ll refrain from flipping off stray asshats who drive like they own the fucking road and have nowhere to go other drivers. Choices. I’ll do better, myself. It’s a place to start.

The seedlings on my windowsill are doing well. Promising. New life. Fresh vegetables grown at home. 🙂 I’m excited to have “a real garden”, although admittedly I begin every gardening adventure with maximum enthusiasm and commitment and I acknowledge the variable outcomes. lol I think my own best previous gardens were the balcony garden I had in my first apartment with my Traveling Partner (herbs and roses, and later some wonderful tomatoes), and the garden I had in the garden at #59. That one was lovely – just steps away from my apartment, with water right there easily available. I grew tomatoes, carrots, and some salad greens, that I recall were delicious, but bolted quickly in the summer heat.

I rarely took pictures of my vegetable garden, and the few pictures I had were lost when #59 was burglarized (my laptop was stolen). So… here’s a squirrel visiting my container garden on the patio there.

I sip my coffee and think about my parent’s garden when I was growing up and still living at home. At the time, I felt like an involuntary laborer most weekends. The whole family would have breakfast, usually my Dad would cook. Then we’d all go out and work in the garden in the mid-morning, on weekend mornings. It was a lot of weeding, as I recall. As kids we didn’t do much of the heavy work, or planning. I had my own 4″x4″ square plot to call my own, too. I rather foolishly planted it in Jerusalem artichokes, which thrived beyond my wildest expectations, filling the bed and coming back year after year. lol Why was that a problem? No one in my family ate them. LOL There’s something to be learned there.

…There’s almost always something to be learned…

My Traveling Partner is making me a raised bed for our front yard. I’ve planned it modestly – a manageable size that I can count on myself to take care of. I’ve outlined an “L” shape that will “nest” within the edges of the flower beds, and give about a 30 inch (about 72 centimeters) walkway between the flower beds and the raised bed. I’m excited about it! It’s a very sunny spot, well-suited to growing food. The grow bags in the back are excellent for cooler weather vegetables and things that like a bit of shade during the heat of the day. I like having both. It’s not a lot of square footage in this new bed – just 20 sq ft, but I know I can manage that comfortably without help, and that matters. I get about 3 sq ft out of each grow bag (of the size I have), and the four of those give me another 12 sq ft of growing space. 32 sq ft doesn’t sound like a lot of garden, but it’s the most I’ve had since the 20 ft x 20 ft community garden plots I had back in the very early 00’s. I had two of those; they were completely beyond my ability to manage them, but I hung on to them year after year, puttering around and playing at gardening without much to show for it. I don’t think we ever actually ate any produce from my own garden there (it was mostly herbs, roses, and flowers). My greed overcame my ability. There’s something to be learned there.

So, this time, I am hoping I’ve found the right balance between ability and will, between sunshine and shade, between yearning and having, and even between vegetables and flowers. I’ve learned some things. I’m sure there’s more to learn. There almost always is.

I find myself thinking about my parents, their garden, and the things that motivated so many of their choices and practices. Their garden was not “just for fun” – they fed us from that garden. We often didn’t have a lot of cash resources, and were not “wealthy”. In fact, I’m fairly certain we were “poor” by many definitions of that word, but that garden fed us and it fed us well. It set my expectations of what vegetables taste like way too high to eat supermarket produce and be happy with that (it often tastes almost flavorless without a lot of seasonings). I miss those flavors! My parents were not “doomsday preppers” or serious survivalists, but my Dad had an interest in survival, bushcraft, and the practical details of life without “extras”. He hunted, and we ate game. I grew rabbits, and we ate those, too. We fished, and crabbed, and ate our catch. The house we lived in was in quite an ordinary residential neighborhood, crammed pretty close to other houses, but we explored the countryside through family visits elsewhere, and trips to see my Dad’s friends out in the rural areas of the state. Most of the backyard was garden. We had a complete set of the Foxfire books and I read them eagerly. There were often evening conversations at the dinner table (or in the kitchen or by the fireplace in the winter or outside while working on a project together) about “what if…?” – What if the power grid failed? What if we use up all the oil? What if there were a new ice age? What if there were a serious drought? What if there were a major food shortage? What would we do to live, survive, and thrive… if? We were encouraged to really consider it, and to develop useful skills.

I have my doubts that anyone is truly “self-sufficient”. We are interdependent, each of us contributing something to a larger whole. Family, community, workplace… it’s not just one person standing in a garden, selecting that perfect ripe tomato. Where did the seed come from? The garden tools – were those hand-crafted individually by that gardener? The water… what is the source? How much of what is being used in the garden has to be purchased elsewhere? I sip my coffee and think about self-sufficiency vs interdependence. I think about “what if”… and wonder what my own life might be like if I suddenly found myself without electricity. What if there was none to be had? (“Generators!” Sure, sure …and when the fuel runs out..?) I slide contentedly down this rabbit hole on a sunny morning, as a rather large gray cat makes his way along the fence beyond my window.

A stranger passing by, curious about what I’m up to on my side of the window.

I call out to my Traveling Partner to come look at the hefty visitor making his way along the fence so carefully. I haven’t seen this cat before. He moves on; he has things to do, clearly, and no time to waste on us.

Today I’ll finish cleaning up the aquarium and put it up for sale with all it’s parts. I’ve been slow to finish this project, less out of reluctance or sorrow than avoiding the effort involved. I’ve been working at it a bit at a time, but now the time has come to finish it off and get it gone, and reclaim that space for other purposes. Here, too, there’s something to be learned.

…There’s almost always more to learn. It’s time to begin again. 🙂

I’m drinking water. It’s a sunny Saturday in April. The weather is mild and well-suited to getting outside into the garden. At least at the moment, I’m not “there”.

I’m fighting off a UTI, and I’ve been very fatigued recently, though I feel decently well-rested today (and since the antibiotics started doing their thing on this infection). I made a delicious scramble for my Traveling Partner and I to start the day on (he’s working, I’m… doing things that definitely require effort, but don’t “seem like work“). This antibiotic is best taken on a full stomach, so breakfast definitely made sense.

…After breakfast, I cleaned up the kitchen and did the dishes…

…I broke down a bunch of cardboard and took it out to the recycling bin…

…then started laundry (towels mostly)…

…then I made the trek down to the city to pick up a snap-together little garden shed to put all my gardening gear in, to get those items out of the shop space that my Traveling Partner needs for other things…

…then I came home (very cramped drive back, since that shed, even in pieces and boxed, barely fit in my car at all) dropped the shed off at the house, and headed out for some quick grocery shopping, and to return an item that didn’t suit the purpose for which it was purchased. Thankfully both tasks could be done at the same retail location.

By the time I got home again, it was lunch time – so I brought lunch home with me and sat down for a few minutes with my partner over a bite to eat between tasks in the shop. He’s got multiple projects in progress. I do my best to be helpful and supportive where I can.

…After lunch, I put the little shed together. Once completed, I asked my Traveling Partner if he’d like to help me decide specifically where to place it – he must have misunderstood my question; he came right out and put it where he wanted it. I’m cool with that; it isn’t heavy, this shed, but it is awkward, and it’s nice to have help. (I could have moved it into position, I’d just forgotten where we had talked about putting it.)

…Then I broke down the surprisingly large quantity of cardboard that the shed arrived in, and stuffed it into the back of my car for a trip to the disposal place next week; it’s too much to fit in the bin here at the house.

…Then I realized I was already feeling fatigued, and it’s not even 2:00 pm (at the time I noticed my fatigue, that is)… so… I sat down, here, with this glass of water for a few minutes of restful self-care. There’s still so much to do…

I had thought I’d spend the day weeding the garden and maybe painting… the decision to go get that little garden shed sort of threw that plan out, in that instant of spontaneous decision-making, and the discovery that there was exceedingly limited local availability of these specifically sized small sheds. I still feel the motivation… but for the moment I am wiped out. I need to give myself a proper break.

…Then…maybe…I’ll get a short walk in, out in the sunshine, around the neighborhood, checking out the progress of Spring in everyone’s flowerbeds along the way, and pick up the mail on the way back… I definitely want to do that; I’ve got new seeds waiting in the mailbox. They won’t do me any good there.

Soon the towels will be dry, and they’ll need to be folded and put away. There’s still plenty of weeding to do in the front flower beds… and my clean laundry (from days ago) has yet to be folded. “Fuck how am I already this tired?” I think to myself, drinking my glass of cool water. I know the answer; resources are finite. That’s it. That’s the whole truth of it. Whether we’re talking about acreage, or fresh water, or cash money, or our actual living life force expressed as our capacity to do work… it’s all dreadfully finite. It’s important to “stay within our budget”, but it’s not always entirely obvious that there is one…

…I felt so incredibly free and energetic – boundless energy and sheer force of will, on demand, at any hour, any day (pretty much) when I was younger. I’m thinking teens and 20s, when I make this observation. That kind of seemingly unlimited individual energy probably wasn’t as unlimited as it seems looking back on it. I do miss having just a bit more to draw upon, when fatigue seems to set in well-before I’ve checked off my to-do list, and before the afternoon can become an evening. Sometimes, a break to rest, to drink water, to sit for a moment with my thoughts, is enough to recharge for the next little while, and I get a few more things done. Yesterday, I even managed to push past my fatigue to prepare an excellent evening meal that we both enjoyed immensely… I wasn’t good for much after that. LOL I had “used up all my spoons”. I went to bed early(ish).

Today I tried to budget my energy – and my time – a bit more wisely. I don’t know that I succeeded at all… but if I stopped right now and did not one fucking thing more, I’d be pretty okay with that… but oh! there is so much more I do want to do today…

…It’s time to begin again…

Improving my self-care, and slowing down a bit, along with assorted other verbs and changes, has been having some pleasant outcomes. My fitness is improving (physical therapy for the win!), my memory and ability to sort/store information – and then also find it again – is also improving a bit (I can thank better sleep, and just generally slowing the fuck down for that). All of this adds up to feeling a bit more “on the ball” and cognitively sharper (it doesn’t hurt that I’ve also cut my cannabis use way back – a tale for another time). Ever the student, never a “report card”… except for today. Today I feel like I “got a good grade”…

I had offered verbal assurances to my Traveling Partner that I’d run a couple errands today on my lunch break. Simple stuff, but easy to forget (for me): swap out an empty propane tank for a full one at a local retailer, and swing by the pharmacy to pick up allergy meds. No problem – but it’s the sort of thing that often plagues me with repeated forgetfulness in the busy-ness of a typical work week. I get immersed in the work details, and forget the “us” or “me” details entirely… or don’t follow through in spite of my awareness of the need, in the background, feeling rushed and overwhelmed. Very human.

Today I did not forget. Win! It gets better…

I left the pharmacy and went to my car. I love my Mazda. Fun to drive. Keyless ignition. Great back-up camera. Lots of ease-of-use features that fit me particularly well. Rainy day, so I left my keys in my pocket, grasped the door handle and pushed the wee thumb button that would unlock the door based on the keys being “right there with me”.

…Nothing happened. No click, nothing. Door did not unlock. Fuck. Oh, well. I didn’t panic, I just pulled the actual physical key from the fob, unlocked the car and got in.

…The car didn’t start. Weird. I did some troubleshooting (foot on the break? check! ignition switch lit green? check! car in park? check!). I took a breath, and exhaled. I’ve got a “supercomputer” in my pocket pretty nearly all the time (my cell phone), so I quickly googled “Mazda CX-5 won’t start”. Right there, in a list of the most common causes, the likeliest of the most common causes in bold font: key fob battery. Oh yeah… that battery is the same one that has been in that fob since I got the car… 3 years ago? 4? Conveniently, I was parked at the drugstore… and they’ve got batteries. 😀 I went back in, opening up the fob as I went (a subtle indicator of how much it actually was stressing me out), found the battery I needed, and had the package half-opened before I even got to the register. Checked out, finished replacing the battery in my key fob on my way back to the car.

I pushed the “unlock” button and felt more than reasonable relief when the lights on my car flashed merrily back at me. My car started right up, too.

No panic. No fear. No confusion. Very little stress. I am okay right now, too – no “after-shakes” or pounding heart. No headache. No dry mouth. No madness. No harm done. Hell, I wasn’t even late getting back from my lunch. Who even is this woman looking back at me in my mirror these days?? lol

There’s something to be learned here… or… something that has been learned? Discovered. Renewed? I smile and grab a bottle of water as I head back to my desk. I’ve got things to do, and it’s already time to begin again.

Most details of this delightful love I share with my Traveling Partner play out in our kitchen. Discussions about recipes, cooking techniques, taste preferences, costs and sources of various ingredients, and sharing suggestions, tips, and offering practical help, or even just hanging out to watch and share the experience, are all very commonplace happenings here. We both cook. He’s quite good at it. I’m a perpetual novice, tackling every new recipe as if cooking for the first time. I’ve learned quite a lot from my partner, in our kitchen. Even subtler nuances of love play out in our kitchen; how our dynamic works (or doesn’t, now and then), the search for balance, mutual autonomy, mutual respect, and the way our obvious fond regard for one another eases the strain of occasional conflict. How to communicate. How to follow instructions. It’s all in the kitchen.

I personally have a strange mixed up relationship with “the kitchen”. In my childhood, this was the place women gathered – or were directed towards. “Real chefs” were respected in the world… women in the kitchen were not. I have a lingering fuck-ton of baggage about misogyny, the kitchen, feminism, equality, and what it means to be a woman in the kitchen, in American life. All mine. I don’t think my partner shares that garbage (he’s no doubt got his own to deal with), and this too becomes part of the theater of life – and the kitchen.

…I do love cookbooks. This may seem odd considering my strange relationship with the kitchen and with cooking. I long resented the dishes (as in “dirty, in the sink”) as emblematic of servitude, for like… decades. No idea when I got over that… I think it was when I realized that it was my own desire for order that drove my stress about the dishes, that I was finally able to put some of that down and walk on from it. I even like cooking. I like taking ingredients and making them something more than they once were – something worth sharing, and experiencing. The effort has meaning and value, when I allow myself to wholly enjoy the outcome, authentically, honestly, and fearlessly. I mean – let’s be real here – I’m not the most fantastic cook on the block. lol I’ve got a lot to learn, and mistakes have been made. 🙂 I’ll probably enjoy learning more about cooking for a long while to come.

I’ve learned a few things in the kitchen, in this relationship, and not just recipes or gadgets. I’ve learned more about “the dance” of lovers in close quarters working on separate tasks; kitchens are often small confined spaces, and in some cases even two people is one person “too many” for ease and convenience. Coordination becomes relevant. Communication is important. Acceptance, and understanding, and the assumption of positive intent keep things merrily moving along toward a successful, hopefully tasty conclusion. 🙂 There are some really useful lessons to be learned in the kitchen.

Friday I said I wanted to work on my pancakes this weekend. They’re okay. Not “great”. They’re perfectly good pancakes, but not such that anyone is going to ask me to make them. LOL So, okay. I made pancakes yesterday. Re-learned the lesson that is “make sure your surface is hot enough before you start cooking the pancakes”. Important lesson there. 🙂 In the evening, I remembered my plan to make pancakes and spoke up about my intention to do so again today for breakfast. My partner’s reply? “Waffles?”. Yep. I learned to make waffles pretty well last year, around this same time, I think. At that time, my Traveling Partner was kind, and very clear about it “I don’t really like waffles, but…” he was totally open to supporting my efforts by eating waffles now and then. He just didn’t want me to be disappointed if he just wasn’t wowed by waffles. I appreciate expectation-setting, especially when done with such care and love. I made the waffles. They were “okay”. We ate them. I made more waffles, and the next time or two they were beyond “okay” – we ate those, too, obviously. My waffles are pretty good. Good enough to freeze any excess and using them as homemade freezer waffles for later. lol My partner asks me to make waffles – because my waffles are fucking delicious. 😀 There’s a lesson here. There’s a metaphor here. I think it over and sip my coffee.

Soon, it’ll be time to begin again. In the kitchen. Making waffles. Feeling loved.

We don’t necessarily choose where we start our journey; our starting point is what it is. We can choose our direction. We can choose each step along the way (although we often trudge through our lives more haphazardly than that). We can choose (and embrace) change. We often don’t. I know I too frequently endure what could be changed… endurance has been sort of habitual for me, and often seems “easier” as a result.

Enduring misery seems kind of stupid when choices can be made. If a job or relationship feels miserable, why would we not choose to change it? This could mean walking away, it could be taking a new approach or setting new/different boundaries and expectations. So many choices. So many opportunities to use the power of choice and change…

Choosing can seem pretty difficult, itself. I’m not sure I have good insights on why that is. Change feels scary sometimes. Choosing it brings that fear into prominence, up close, intimately connected with how I see myself, and what I may think I “deserve” in life. Weird, right? I mean… how strange that one might choose to endure misery rather than face one’s fears about change, or reflect on what we can or should do to care for ourselves.

Some weeks ago, I admitted to my Traveling Partner that I am not happy with my current job. Commonplace enough. His response to that, looking back, seems pretty rational and practical, too. “Maybe it’s time to look for something different?” I replied “Maybe. Probably.” I reflected on that conversation, and my circumstances… new mortgage…a desire for stability…fearfulness of change…and a job that I was not finding satisfying because I’m not finding success in it (based on my own definition of success, which requires – for me – that my best work also be effective). Endure? Or… seek change? Could the needed change be achieved where I am? Do I even want that based on all the information at hand?

These sorts of questions work whether the struggle is to do with jobs, projects, relationships… pretty “all purpose” for contemplating purposeful change in life. 😀

One morning, I made a choice.

Anyway. The “tl;dr” of the thing is that I started looking at other opportunities, and found something that suits me better. Time to make that change happen. Time to walk on. Time to live with purpose and time to choose.

…And it’s time to begin again. 😀