Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Christmas Shovel

In which our Heroine makes a Mistake, and then gets Another Chance.

This year for Christmas Jon and I decided we would like to do the “Twelve Days of Christmas” thing for a family in our church ward.  Long story short: we had trouble finding the address and then wondered if maybe they were leaving town anyway (because this couple’s children are in another state right now—and although I don’t know the situation, I thought they might be able to go see them).  Laziness took over from there.  On Christmas Eve, I wondered if they’d had enough money to buy each other gifts.  I considered dropping off some cash or something—just a card even.  But I forgot.  When I saw one of the people in the family on Sunday at church, I could have kicked myself hard.  I had failed to follow through on a prompting to help someone.  So much for surviving cancer because I had a purpose in life.  Gharrrgh!  I made a resolution to do better next time.

Fortunately, God is merciful.

Not twenty minutes ago, a family of four came to my door and asked to shovel my driveway.  They said they would take any donation at all, even small, as they were losing their house soon.  Here’s the thing.  I never let any of the neighbor kids shovel our driveway.  They ask for a whopping 20 bucks and I’ve learned that they do a substandard job most of the time.  It’s not like Jon and I are rolling in the dough.  But tonight, as stood at my chilly front door (13 degrees Fahrenheit), I looked behind the father I saw a little girl bundled up in a pink snow suit with a shovel, and this time I couldn’t say no. 

I wandered into the kitchen to the sound of shovels banging and snow being crunched outside my house.  What would I pay them?  I took down our supply of “just in case” cash.  I kept it in a poinsettia-decorated card/money folder from a 2009 Christmas present from my brother Mike.  I spread the money out on the counter-top.  My initial plan was to go with a 20, but then I thought, “I’ll pray about it.”  Along with the prayer, I had the duel thought of: “I need this money.  What if they use it unwisely? Or what if they’re not even telling me the truth?” 

I did not get a sure answer from my prayer.  But I did have the thought that generosity never goes awry for the giver, regardless of what these unknowns would use the money for.  I remembered that last year, someone very anonymous generously gave my family some cash, and I felt so loved.  Surely, I could do the same? 

I pulled the twenty in front of me—no, not enough.  I made it thirty.  (Sigh)  Fifty. Fifty-eight.  Yikes.  In one quick motion I grabbed the hundred (with Ben Franklin smirking at me on the front) and threw another fifty into my brother’s old Christmas envelope.  It still had his handwriting on it: “This packs better for the plane! LOL”

“It’s okay,” I told myself, “You still have a few minutes to decide whether to really do this.” Hah.  The doorbell rang almost as soon as I had the thought.  So I went with it.  I gave the guy the envelope and he left.  But I didn’t.  I closed the door and crouched on the bench by the skinny front window.  When the huge snow bank got between my view and their car, I stood on the bench.  Then I had to leap off really fast because all at once the whole family came running out of their sedan and back to my front door. 

They were all smiles when I nonchalantly answered a while later.  They told me I really made a difference.  Wow, I felt so good as I learned their names (Tyler, Lila, etc, and etc), and let them know that I wished them well.  

Ooooh (shiver-happy).  Warm and fuzzy.  I still feel so warm and fuzzy!  Somebody wipe this idiot grin off my face.  I’m telling you, these people gave me the Christmas gift of all time.  Now wish me luck explaining what I’ve done to my husband when he gets home from Scouts.    

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Winter Garden

In which our Heroine turns Greenwitch.

Here are a few photos of the indoor garden I’ve been working on, along with a little history in story-book format.  Once upon a time, I had this crazy idea that I could grow some fresh greens and herbs during the fall and winter in Alaska.  “What brilliance!” I thought to myself. “I’m sure I’ll save scads of money on lettuce (which tends to look wilted and slimy in most stores at winter), plus I’ll have a fun hobby, all season long!” I also thought of the perk of being able to start seeds in the early spring to get a jump on those short Alaskan summers.  I thought of the awesomeness of starting something brand new and of doing yet another crazy experiment—an occupation much loved by moi, except for all those times when such experiment fails. 

To continue to tale:  Once upon a time, a beautiful maiden began growing lettuce, parsley, and other such wonders inside her snug cottage.  This mythical maiden was known far and wide for her green thumb.  But she soon found that light was needed as fall faded into winter, and the girl was poor.  Turning to her magic mirror, she cried, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, can you give me sunlight at all?”  Much to her surprise, the beautiful girl was taken up in a cloud of fairy dust and magically whisked into her local Home Depot, where stood a vast assortment of fluorescent lighting as well as some inexpensive shop lights, which she duly set up on wire shelving in a sunny spare bedroom.  But would these cheap lights work?  Only time would tell…

The second day, early in the morning, the maiden arose to check on her seeds and the wondrous new lights.  A miracle had happened!  The dry, hard seeds had been replaced by small seedlings.  How magical.  But in the afternoon, an evil sorcerer sent a plague of locusts (whiteflies and aphids) and the seedlings withered and died.  The maiden would have liked to feel morose and to have a tantrum, but she was too innocent and sweet for such nonsense.  Instead, the lovely girl scattered new seeds and went to bed. 

In the morning, she looked into her little kingdom of flora, and—once again, she found that elves had come in the night and replaced the seeds with tiny plants!  This time, the maiden found a secret potion to keep the evil sorcerer and his demonic minions at bay.  The plants grew and grew until they were large enough to serve in many a magical dish.  And the maiden, her prince Charming, and small fry lived happily ever after. 

Translation of magical objects in the fairy tale and other things of note:

1. The Potion: Brammer’s Peppermint Soap will keep just about any pest away, whether indoor or out in the garden.  I have since learned that my grandmother poured the dregs of her dishwater over her garden plants every morning way back in the day.

2. Magical lights: plain old fluorescent bulbs stuck in 4 ft long shop lights.  It is probable that the really expensive “grow” lights work better, but these work too, as long as the top of the plants stay within 2-4 inches of the bulb.  I use a simple, and pretty ugly system of boxes to put the shorter plants up higher when needed. 

3.Elvin-grown seedlings: I have experimented with romaine, butterhead, Greenleaf, and redleaf lettuces.  The redleaf is best so far.  All herbs seem to work.  Both lettuce and herb get leggy.  My banana sweet pepper is a surprise success, and my bok choi is a steady hit.  Spinach is a fail—I don’t know why—but three tries and its out.  Someday, I will get seeds for carrot, radish, summer squash, etc and will try those out.  I’m really only in the beginning stages of an all-consuming project here.  We’ll see what happens next.

4. “Poor” maiden: Not as cost effective as I would have liked, and the vegetables grow slowly—but it is one of my favorite random experiments to date.  And there’s nothing like having fresh parsley and basil whenever I want it.  I also look forward to having an early start on spring in a few months.  I am hoping that seeding everything myself will save a lot of money!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Say Nothing

In which our Heroine begins again.

When I quit writing my blog in June, I determined that I would only let it lie for the duration of summer because I was so busy learning how to garden (among other things).  When fall came, I found that my “summer projects” could be taken indoors.  I continued the autumnal bliss of harvesting, and even seed-planting, near sunny windows for several months.  When my enormous tomato plants somehow got outdoor bugs while inside the house, I threw them out.  I thought to myself: “is it time to blog again?” But then I bought some shop-lights and began lettuce and herbs beneath them.  At this juncture, I told myself that I would surely begin writing again soon.  Goals notwithstanding, the blog dwindled into near-nothingness.  Christmas began to creep closer, and—literally—that’s all she wrote.  At least for a good long while.

But today, I finally logged in and checked my stats.  To my surprise, people are still reading—not too often or regularly—but still.  I got a handful of nice comments on past posts, and even a request for further contact from a person in like situation.  I notice too that my most popular post is the one on the anti-convulsant that I take called Keppra.  I hope to write more on this at a later date.  Besides my continued readership, I do want to continue writing because there are times when I am fairly bursting with literary energy.  I have a lot to say.

 In addition to the nice comments of which I spoke earlier, I am also the privileged recipient of a few very nasty ones, which were obviously meant to hurt me personally.  For a few moments after reading these, I felt my heart as a bloody cut of red meat served on a spiked platter.  I had written what I thought were—and still believe to be—truthful memories.  I am sorry that some disagree.  I did not mean to hurt anyone.  These “anonymous” comments are now deleted.  I respectfully ask that those commentators keep their cutting remarks to themselves in the future.  Please do not soil my efforts at creative therapy.  In return, I will make an effort at increased discretion.  I have removed these two apparently controversial posts.  For those of you who liked the posts and wanted to see more, I apologize and thank you for your support.  To all of you, both friend and foe: I don't consider this a defeat.  I merely do not want these meanies and all their small-hearted friends coming to my blog for any reason.  Moral of the story: Sometimes its best to say nothing at all. 

Saying “nothing at all” is really hard for me.  But in the unenviable choice between dishonesty and silence, I choose to shut-my-mouth/delete-some-of-my-blog.  I guess I’ll have to replace it with some other stuff.  May the scar tissue on my  heart be infinately smaller than that located on my head.  Sticks and stones, baby.  Sticks. And. Stones.  So, with a bit of an emotional hiccup, my saga continues…