Monday, February 23, 2015

My magic garden

It might not be the prettiest, but we like it!
This past week, I re-started a little gardening project. It's something I've tried in fits and spurts with varying degrees of success.  I bought our seeds packets and soil, and I already had some pots, so I felt poised for success this time. But I forgot to factor in the wild card: my three-year-old son.  

Wild card indeed.  As Skyler, Lilly and I were busy and careful putting a few seeds in one pot at a time, he grabbed a couple seed packets and poured them in random amounts into pots we had already planted other seeds in.  Then he got ahold of the hose.  When I went inside to get something, Jayna started to ask me why I was soaked.  Before she had even finished the question, she said, "Oh wait... Wyatt?"  

I nodded ruefully.

To make a long story short, there was some screaming, some yelling, and lots of misdirected water.  When it was all said and done, I can say that I know which kind of seeds were planted, but I have absolutely no idea what will come up where.

It reminds me, though, of the magic garden I had when I was ten.  I don't remember exactly why or where they came from, but my mother one day showed me a few unlabeled envelopes of seeds.  She told me they were for carrots, tomatoes, peppers, and cabbages.  We planted most of them in the backyard where our dogs promptly dug up most of our hopes of having a homegrown garden.

Except for the the carrots and cabbage -- well, two carrots to be precise.  They grew and made huge plumes of green above the ground, which we all admired as we counted down the days till we could harvest them.  There might have been only two, but it was fairly obvious that they would be the two juiciest, sweetest carrots that ever grew.  The whole family gathered ceremoniously around our two carrots when the day finally arrived.  We held our breath as Mom knelt to the ground, and with a gentle tug, the plants came out.

And then we looked to see if maybe part had been left in the ground.  

Our carrots were no more than two inches long.  After that gorgeous greenery that had been above the soil, we couldn't believe our eyes.  

"Well, maybe they'll taste good," Mom said as we returned to the house.  They definitely did not.  In fact, they were probably the worst carrots I've ever tasted.  Eating a piece of wood would be more enjoyable.

But there were still my cabbage seeds, which I had planted in a little patch of rich black soil by the front gate.  There was just the right amount of sunshine and shade, and I tended them carefully.  It wasn't long before there were tiny green leaves poking out of the ground.  The leaves grew bigger, and the plants were -- well, I had never grown cabbage before, but they were looking more like plants than round heads of cabbage.

I decided to ask my mom about it.  She assured me that they would start to get round soon... But they didn't.  I asked her again.  This time she told me many different kinds of cabbage existed and this must not be as round as others.  But I was really starting to doubt her gardening knowledge because they just got taller and more "plant" looking every day.

And then there were flowers -- pretty little stars in a lovely shade of lavender.  

"Mom," I said, "do cabbages have flowers?

My mom also decided at this point that maybe gardening knowledge wasn't her strongest suit.  We waited to see what would happen next, and sure enough, out of the flowers came little purple balls. It was... Eggplant.  Absolutely delicious eggplant.

And that went down in family lore as our magic garden, where the most beautiful-looking carrot plants produced inedible wooden carrots, and cabbages turned into eggplants.

The magic garden is one of those things that I think back on often as I go through my life.  Like the carrots, I've "planted seeds" that I carefully tended and guarded and nurtured.  I've expected good things, especially when, by all appearances, everything appeared waswonderful.  These are friendships, activities, and ministries that I poured myself into.  But when the critical moments of truth came, the "fruit" was unsatisfactory at best, heart-breaking at worst.  

But sometimes, what grows out of those "seeds" is wonderfully surprising.  My kids!  My marriage!  Or other friendships and experiences... To tell the truth, I like eggplant much more than cabbage, and in life, I love when my efforts yield fruits that are more than I expected -- when I look back at something and realize it was so much better than I ever imagined possible.

So just like the garden we planted last week, which I'll keep tending and caring for no matter what comes up where, I keep planting these little seeds in my life, nurturing them, hoping for the best, even when it's disappointing.  When it breaks my heart a little.  Because ultimately, what comes up is what makes life interesting. Or even -- dare I say it? -- magical.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"If love is the treasure..."

"If love is the treasure, laughter is the key." -- Yakov Smirnoff

"There is little success where there is little laughter." -- Andrew Carnegie

I sit typing this on Monday night, the end of a long weekend.  It was a good weekend -- a really good one.  Because there was rain one day and a storm on the island has its own breath-taking beauty, but it was followed by plentiful sunshine that makes you feel like you're living in a postcard.  Because we stood on a beach and saw humpback whales breaching and spy-hopping just off shore, like they were doing a stunning ballet. 

But it was also a great weekend -- the kind I don't want to end tomorrow -- for what might appear to be the most ordinary, yet extraordinary, reason: because of the people I spent it with.  Skyler threw us all a Valentine's Day party Saturday night that involved karaoke, musical chairs, and chocolate. We went to the beach, watched movies, and played hard -- including a game of Hide-and-Seek that I think it's safe to say I won hands-down because when I was finally found, Skyler let out a blood-curdling scream. 

On other Valentine's Days, Matt has bought me roses or something similar.  But this year, I asked him not to.  I wanted just a meal together and a chance to talk.  We went to a Mexican restaurant for lunch, and I ordered a vegetarian "super burrito."  I clearly had no idea what I was getting into.  It was like one of those eating challenges. The waiter brought my burrito out, and I'm not exaggerating in the least when I tell you it was nine inches long, four inches wide, and at least a couple inches thick.  I sawed away at it and ate as much as I could, and finally managed to eat about half.  Which is impressive, right?

The waiter thought so, too.  When he brought me a box for the burrito, he said in a voice filled with awe, "Wow!  You ate a lot more of that than I thought you would!"

Matt and I were laughing as we walked to the car.  I mean, what are you supposed to say to that?! Well, I am eating for two.  Glad to impress you!  

It was a day filled with... well, unparalleled romance.  Matt said (about my pregnant appearance), "It's kinda cool.  You look like a boa constrictor that just ate."  (So very true! Right?)

So I think what made the weekend great was the laughter that filled it.  I almost feel bad saying so because I know it wasn't a wonderful weekend for everyone.  The world is not a funny place; it's serious and downright scary.  It keeps me up at night sometimes.  

And we are sometimes very serious people.  I worry and take offense too easily; he works extremely hard.  But laughter?  It's a secret weapon, a God-gift of power that keeps us going.  Most days, if we have had a chance for real conversation, it's almost certain that we've laughed.  Ages ago when we were still just dating, my mom said to me, "I really like the way you and Matt play and laugh together.  It's an important thing, you know?  It will carry you far."  I took note of her words, though at the time, I didn't realize how true they were.

But looking back on the years of our relationship, when I think about us, I think a lot about laughter. In fact, I start to laugh.  

There was the time when I was just sixteen and we went on our first big date to see The Phantom of the Opera in San Francisco.  I wore my mom's clothes for such a fancy occasion, and the soles of my shoes were so slippery, I literally could not keep my feet under me.  Walking up and down the sidewalks was impossible, embarrassing, and totally hilarious.  

Then there was the time when I was in labor with Lilly, and I had been sitting for two hours in the waiting room with contractions two minutes apart while waiting for a triage room to open.  He looked up at me from his watch as he timed the contraction, shook his head and said, "Sucks to be you today."  And I was still laughing so hard when we were taken back (finally!!) that the doctor didn't believe I was in labor. (And Lilly was born two hours later.)

Or last year when we were living in a terrible house in Kailua with rotted out window frames that the property manager refused to replace ("It's a marine environment!" was his excuse. "They'll just rot again!") so that armies of cockroaches invaded every night.  We all got the stomach flu last spring, and as we camped by the toilet in the bathroom, the cockroaches scurried around us.  Matt somehow managed to make us laugh about our "company" till we were cried.

A thousand perfectly-timed and phrased one-liners.  Sometimes a mere look at just the right (or wrong) moment.  When we've been in arguments that seemed too big to find a way through, something happened and suddenly we've found ourselves in stitches.  He's made me laugh and helped me see humor in places I wouldn't expect to find it, making me (I think) a funnier person too.  These are gifts for which a thousand red roses or chocolates or even diamonds would be poor substitutions.

I hope that we are teaching our kids to laugh lots too, and to find spouses someday that they can laugh and play with.  Because while roses and romance are a nice place to start, as Karl Barth once said, "Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of the God."  

And maybe that is why it will, as my mom told me, carry you far.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


Last week I did not write a single post.  We were still getting over the crud we've had, and I think all the sleepless nights of coughing caught up with me.  Then my sister-in-law arrived Saturday, so we were trying to work ahead in homeschool so we could take the time off to spend with her.

And... Well... This is me as I write this.
 I know!! It's ridiculous behavior for a Tuesday morning!! 

This is one of the wonderful things about having people visit.  Normally, my life is a lot like everyone else's. I have to do grocery shopping and take kids to their activities and schedule doctor's and orthodontist appointments.  And because Hawaii has some of the very worst traffic in all of America, my view of "paradise" is often just staring at brake lights.

It's so nice, then, to have an excuse to be a tourist again.  To look through the eyes of someone who doesn't live here and think, Woah! This is seriously awesome!!
At the North Shore

Some lucky folks actually get to live here! 

Oh wait!! I'm one of them!
Goofing around
Yeah, I love it!

My sister-in-law

Skyler's sand city

Don't worry, I'll be stuck in traffic again very soon. But in the meantime, this is great. 

Having lived in a whole lot of different places, I've developed a theory that anyone can find something about where they live that would make it something worthy of showing other people. But maybe... Some places just make it way easier than others! ;-)

What do you love about where you the place you call home right now?