Monday, August 29, 2011

Life Lessons From My Weeping Willow Tree

When my husband and I first bought our house, back in the Spring of  2002, our front yard was quite the wet spongy mess.  And we never got any shade, ever.  Even a solar-powered person like me doesn't want to be cooked like a campfire stew meal in tinfoil, in my own house.
So I went to a nursery up north of here and found myself a tiny little start of a thing that they called a weeping willow tree.  It looked like this:
sorry for the poor quality, old digital- it's all I got
But you get the idea.

I had read up about what to do and how to plant this tree so that it would one day be the wonderful specimen that I envisioned.  You see, as a kid there had been one house in one year of my life that I had been pretty darn happy in and that memory was quite a driving force for me.  I remembered the long green tendrils that had swayed in the breeze in our side yard that year and how we had even set up a picnic under that tree when my sisters grandparents had visited us that summer before my sister was actually born.  I loved the fact that the tree was able to survive growing in a very wet ditch and that it was beautiful in an effortless sort of way.  I could go out in the yard and sort of disappear under that weeping willow.  It was a magical world underneath that tree.  Smooth swishing sounds under a cool green canopy seemed able to make the world a more peaceful place.
So by the time I got to the nursery to pick up my weeping willow, there was absolutely no deterring me from having this tree in my life.  I listened to the warnings that came with the tree; about how large it could get and what planting it on a regular sized lot could mean in terms of the work it would take to keep this tree under control.  I determined that I could handle this- no problem.
And for the first few years the tree grew up beautifully without much help from me.  I started to wonder what all the fuss had been about.  This weeping willow was doing exactly what I wanted with nary a worry from me at all.  I watered it, and fertilized it, and kept it from growing without too much of a lean from the prevailing winds and that's about it.
In years 2 and 3, the tree looked like this:

In years 4-7, I must have been so blissfully satisfied with what the weeping willow was doing that I have no full shots of it.  But I do remember that this was the time that my friends daughter started her love affair with my willow tree.  She has had her picture taken underneath it on many occasions.  In fact the picture below is of her at age 7, the very same age I was when I first fell in love with that weeping willow in my own yard that summer 30 years ago.

And here's another picture of her with the willow, taken just a few weeks ago:
 She just turned 11 and loves her Irish dancing.

It was also during the time that my weeping willow was growing merrily along that my neighbors really started to comment on how beautiful the tree was becoming.  One particular older lady who lives right across the street told me all about how she had always wanted a weeping willow, but it was too much work for her so she especially enjoyed seeing mine right outside her picture window.  We became known as the people with the big willow tree and others seemed to marvel at how brave we were to commit to such a tree.  
Ignorance really was bliss for quite a while. 
Then suddenly that weeping willow really started to grow, fast!  As of last year, it looked like this:

Suddenly I realized what all that planning about 12 feet of space on each side and all the recommendations of heavy trimming were all about.  And all that advice about how keeping a tree such as this in check would be a bit like keeping a rock star confined to a local venue...
I almost panicked when I realized that this weeping willow was just hitting its stride.  Could I manage this after all?  Would it be a dream or a nightmare?
After a lot more research and some soul searching I decided that I would indeed take on the task of trying to make what had started out so beautifully work for me, in the space that I have to give it.
Just a week and a half ago when my nephew and his Dad came up to visit, they pitched in and helped me do a ton of yard work including some major trimming on that willow tree.  It has grown even more in the last year and we needed to really work to train it to go upward, not outward so it can continue to live in the space that I have for it.  It was scary to watch as big chunks had to go, especially any branches that crossed and touched each other so as to avoid the perils of disease.  Nathans Dad actually climbed the tree to do the work.

I wish I had taken a picture of the tree before we got started, but I found one online that looked very similar to mine- kind of like 'Animal' from the Muppet Show, way too top-heavy and wide.
photo credit:
As of now the tree looks like this:

It is quite magnificent!  It has been worth the effort, all 5 hours of it!  That's right, that's how long it took all told in 3 separate sessions so as to be sure that we weren't doing anything too drastic and yet got it to a more slender, less yard hogging sort of form.  Basically, it has to be one central trunk and you want to avoid any sort of wide V shape so as to keep it strong.  After all of the work we did, we should be good to go for at least a couple of years.   I am happy and satisfied for now, enjoying what I have helped to create.
However, as much as I do love this weeping willow tree and what it means to me, there is still a nagging question left over.  Knowing what I know now, would I do this all over again?  I know there are those who say that I never should have attempted it at all.  Weeping willow trees are meant to be large, grand, sweeping beauties without limit.  They really should only be planted where they can grow truly uninhibited, as is their nature.  And in my heart, I agree.  
I really do.
So the answer to my nagging question has to be a resounding 'No'.  I wouldn't plant a weeping willow on a small suburban lot ever again.  While I needed this tree at a particular moment in my life (more emotionally than anything else) and enjoy what it has brought me, I do see that it would have been much better off somewhere else.  A place that was better suited to allow the tree to reach its full potential.  
And that leads me to so many other things that function in this same way.  There is the idea that no matter where we are 'planted' in this life, any one of us can still be quite functional and beautiful human beings.  Would we have benefited from being placed in just the right place?  Of course.  But reality doesn't always follow that way and why dwell on it?  
For me personally, I wonder what would have happened if my family would have been grown in more fertile soil, with more care and less boundaries.  I faced the question of whether or not to try and take custody of my nephew.  At one time, there was a much better chance of me getting him than even his own father.  I could have used my resources to make that happen.  Instead, I got behind his Dad and fought for their relationship.  We all know that was for the best now, but I faced some serious demons over that choice at one time.  
Even just relatively simple things like what career a person ends up in seem to mirror what I have learned from this tree- that choosing carefully is important, but that there are also lots of ways to do things that can end up good in the end.  And just because you wouldn't do something again doesn't mean that it wasn't worth while at least once in this life.
I am looking forward to the day when I have a big ol' piece of property where I can plant a tree just like the one I have now.  And then fertilize it, and be sure that it gets enough water, and then watch it grow, unfettered to whatever potential it has inside.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Nephew Update Full Of Happy

Hi All- this one is for everyone who has suffered through some of my sad posts about my nephew, Nathan.
In the time since he has been living with his Dad, some amazing things have happened.
Here is a short but meaningful list.
1) Nathan uses eating utensils now most of the time and is still learning to go for a napkin before he automatically uses his shirt or pants.  Not that different from most 9 year olds!
2) He has learned to respect peoples personal space much more. 
3) The 'needy' vibe is way lower.
4) Nathan speaks of things other than video games and transformers.  He still loves these things, but his world has gotten much bigger.
5) Nathan's vocabulary has exploded!  He uses great big grown up words with tremendous regularity.
6) He is learning about what he loves and is interested in.  It is amazing to watch him be a normal kid who doesn't spend all his time 'gauging' Mom's current mood.  One fabulous example of this is when we took him to a local music museum.  The stuff on display wasn't all that interesting for him, but something magical happened when he put on a pair of headphones in a room that houses all kinds of Jimi Hendrix memorabilia.  His face lit up and he declared that "you've gotta hear this.  This is really good stuff."  His Dad told me that he was pretty sure that Nathan had never heard any Jimi Hendrix music before.  A couple of days later, at the baseball game, Purple Haze was played in the stadium and Nathan immediately recognized that "great guitar stuff" again. 
Just exactly how blessed am I to be able to witness this amazing transformation?  Yup, hope springs eternal.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

It's Been A Roller Coaster Ride...

To those that have been hangin' in there waiting for an answer about the job for my husband in Texas, I will get right to the point.  It ain't happenin'; at least not for now.

We really did believe that this time was it, but apparently it's not.  I won't bore you with the details, but let's just say that my husband was definitely given a lot of reasons to think that this time he was a front runner for this job.  And the powers that be say that he could still be in the running for a future position, but we're not holding our breath.  My husband feels it is time to take a break from the job hunting and get geared up for his next test in October.

In the meantime, I got a whole bunch of yard work done by my nephews Dad and it all looks so great that I feel like we could actually hold an outdoor party in our back yard and I won't be worried about having to test out my homeowners insurance policy! 

After all that work, we also got to take my nephew to a Mariners game where he got to run the bases at the end of the game.

Then we took a couple of days and went to an indoor water park.  Nathan loves the place and he got to spend time with his good friend who also has red hair.  I love the connection that they share.

Overall, we had a wonderful week and it made waiting for an answer on this whole job question a lot more bearable.  Now that we're not going to be doing any moving right away, the next thing on my agenda is spending two weeks at the end of September in Palm Springs.  I am looking forward to some hot, sunny weather, and some real relaxation.  We're taking our dogs with us and we plan on doing not a whole lot!


I have also made a decision for myself during this time of waiting and wondering.  I am going to be cutting back on my work schedule after January 1, 2012.  I started a small business several years ago that I use to express my more artistic side and haven't done much with it over the past year and a half.  It's time for me to get back to what I really love to do and stop worrying so much about what we'll do if money gets tight.

So, if you're going to be in the Palm Springs area for any reason within those last two weeks of September, I'd love to meet you.  Seriously.  You'll find me on a bike or in a pool or on a golf course...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I Don't Think I Have Anything Left To Cross

My husband is back!
But he doesn't have any news to share yet.  He feels as if the series of interviews went well, but he can't say whether he thinks they would be leaning one way or the other.

He was given all kinds of info. about benefits, etc.  Talk about dangling that carrot!  Let's just say that there are things about this prospective company that are available as benefits that we would have never even imagined.  It makes his current place of work look like 'just a job'. 

So naturally I am wishin' and hopin'- hard.  Fingers and everything else crossed!
 It's funny how this whole thing got started because we would like to move to Texas.  And getting sunnier weather and a lower cost of living wouldn't be half bad either.  Now we are learning that looking around to see what's out there is never a bad idea.

In the midst of all the excitement of what could be possible, my husband has decided that if this is not the job at this moment in time then he is going to use this experience to motivate himself to end this year by passing a second test, along with several other prerequisites that he has acquired this year already.  That way he will be absolutely irresistible to any possible employers out there.

I love his positive attitude and I feel that this experience has already been a good one.  I am grateful for whatever we have in this life and I know that we are so fortunate for every opportunity that we ever get.  Still, I would like to think that this one is maybe, just maybe the particular one that we have been waiting for. 
                                                     Fingers Crossed How about you???

Sunday, August 7, 2011

T Minus...

These are my t minus numbers for the next day or so regarding a job interview for my husband in Texas!

(4) In just 4 hours I will be taking my husband to the airport.

(14) At 6pm central time my husband will have dinner with a few of his prospective co-workers and others.

(30) 8am central time will be the beginning of a long day of interviews for my husband.  It seems as if he will be meeting just about anybody and everybody.

(62) The number of hours before my husband will be back home and hopefully have some encouraging and maybe even exciting news to share!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

For My Friend, Donna

I got the call today, the one I knew would come eventually but I was still surprised.
The cancer finally got to my beautiful, quirky and forever honest friend, Donna.
The friend that I should have known better, sooner, because we are so much alike.
We both love Mickey Mouse and Disneyland, love kids but never had any of our own, and love a good dance- anytime, anywhere.
Donna was given 48 hours at midnight last night.  She is on her way to the other side any time now.  Maybe she will show me something from over there, somehow.
The hospice has had a harpist come in and play for her.  Her friends have come and shared tea with her.  She has been given a prayer shawl and was read her last rights tonight.  She is comfortable and peaceful.  Her husband seems amazingly relaxed in this moment.
As my friend struggled through these last few years she gave me so much.  I learned that sometimes you have to get past your fears, no matter how strong they are.  And that sometimes just being together is enough.  No need to say anything at all.
Oh how I will miss her smile and her true ability to throw caution to the wind.  There are tears, but they are fleeting.  I know there is so much more to come.
Here's to an utterly fantastic journey for my friend.  I will definitely catch her on the other side!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Truth About My Sister

Some blog posts are just so honest that it can be scary.  This is about to be one of those.  If that turns you off, sorry- this might be one you'd like to skip.  In real life, I am typically a pretty easy going person.  I think I have a pretty good grip on reality and I don't see my life as any better or worse than most.  However, this blog is a place where it feels safe to share what are sometimes not so pleasant aspects of my pretty normal life, so here goes...

Over the past couple of months, my nephew who I have written of many, many times before has been seeing a psychologist because of some behavioral issues that he has.  Over time it had become obvious that he is not quite up to the average for his age group in many ways.  Thankfully none of these ways involve a lack of IQ or mental capacity, but it is still quite important that he learn how to relate to the world in a relatively 'normal' way.  So on good recommendation from his teacher and councilor, off to the psychologist he went.

Now I will admit that I am a bit skeptical of the tendency to over diagnose.  It seems that almost everyone in this world is diagnosed with something these days.  Plus with the history that I have witnessed of way too many people in my family going to councilors and psyche doctors for years & years and never having improvement, you could say my expectations are never high for this kind of thing.  Still, I thought it would be worth a try.  And it turned out that right away I could tell that this psychologist was the real deal.  Once I got past her silly squeaky voice, I could tell that she meant well and wasn't there to just find a diagnosis.

My nephew did go through a bunch of testing and the psychologist met with several different family members several times before she gave us her opinion.  I have to admit I was very curious to see what she had to say and I have had a burning question in my mind about my nephew for the past few years so I was anxious to see what would come of this.

The question that I have never really faced is this:  Does my nephew have some sort of issue like ADHD, Aspergers, OCD- or is it purely an issue of the way that he was raised?

I think I know now why I never really wanted to face this question.

My nephew has been diagnosed with PTSD.  He is nine.  I am sad for him beyond words.

I am sad for the fact that he has been so traumatized that it has affected who he is and how he relates in everyday life.  I am sad that he is just another casualty in a family that just doesn't seem able to function at even a relatively normal level.  I am sad that the abuse that runs deep in my family couldn't have stopped with my sister and I.

How in the world does anybody have a crappy childhood and then turn around and do the same garbage to their own kids?  I know, I am one to talk.  I don't have any kids.

But I did have my sister- that I seriously pretty much raised from the time she was born when I was 8.  (I used to drop her off at daycare down the street on my way to 3rd grade.  My mother would call and wake me up and then I would get myself and my baby sister ready for the day.)  And at one time I thought that the love and values that I had shared with her would be enough to keep her from ever turning out like so many women in my family have.

There is my great grandmother who allowed a soldier who was staying in her home to rape her daughter, my grandmother.  My grandmother became a mother at 14 as a result of this.  And then went on to have 4 kids by the age of 19.  4 kids that she did absolutely horrendous things to.  Things like tying them to their bunk beds and whipping them with extension chords.  One of those kids was my mother, who once had a high heel shoe put through her skull.  My mother who ended up with Munchhausen by proxy and gained attention for having such 'sick' children.  One of those children, my sister, became a cutter and a drug addict and is also abusive. 

It seems that the women in my family are just truly sick and evil in so many ways.  Ways that petrified me growing up and made me wonder who and what I would turn out to be.  They were all addicts and abusers in turn.  Now my nephew is the latest in the line of victims.  Seeing him and how he is affected is very difficult.  It is like looking in a mirror in some ways.  In other ways, it is empowering.  I can see the results of this long line of abuse and I can see that there is a chance to change things.

While I am disgusted by the fact that this experience with my nephew seeing a psychologist has made me look at a hard truth about my sister and who she really is, I am grateful for the opportunity to grow and be a better person who is available to my nephew in a very special way.  I know that when the day comes that he just might share his deepest feelings with me, I will be there as a healthy and supportive person who can show him what life can be- no matter how it started out. 

I have a good friend who has told me that she is amazed at the transformation in me over the past couple of years.  She has declared that I am a whole new person.  She is religious and has declared me a person who has broken generational sin.  She tells me how inspiring this has been for her to see.  I have learned to take her compliments and use them for good instead of denying them.  I will use my experiences for the positive.  I will be someone that my nephew can always count on. 

a picture taken at the Newport, OR aquarium during one of my nephew and I's many wonderful adventures!
I will NOT allow my sadness that my sisters life is not what I had dreamed of for her to affect my nephews possibilities.  I am not 8 years old any more, trying to get a colicky baby to calm down while watching an after school special.  I did the best I could then and this life is not about the past.  Facing the truth doesn't have to be an exercise in futility.  I will always love my sister, though I doubt very much that I will ever fully understand her.  I may be sad that she will never really share the gift that she was meant to give of herself to the world.  But I promise to my nephew, Nathan, that I will not let my sadness take away from what I have to offer.  I will love him and comfort him and help him to grow, right where he's planted.  And one day I will tell him all about how I helped to transplant him to the spot where he's at.  I will share how much it meant to me to be a part of making his life a positive and how much helping him has absolutely changed my soul and allowed me to grow in ways I never could have imagined.

Monday, August 1, 2011

One Day When I Don't Have To Clean Up Crap For Money

This post is brought to you with much inspiration from my husband.

There is more to report on the job hunting front and it is all good news so far.  Yay!

The company we have been working with in Texas is flying my husband in for an in person interview on the 9th of August.  They have let us know that they had planned to interview for this position in September, but they have decided that they would really like to talk with my husband sooner, hence the interview coming up.  Of course we are excited, yet trying to remain tempered.  My husband & I are practicing patience, while allowing ourselves to hope a bit. 

In and amongst our daydreams of hope, we have both come up with some pretty idealistic scenarios.  While we actually know that life will be no more perfect than it is in any particular geographical location, sometimes I do find myself imagining things like a house that is truly low maintenance.  I have heard my husband dare to speak aloud about how strange and wonderful it might be to afford a little indulgence here and there without so much buyers remorse later.  While we have worked hard to get to a point in which we are fortunate to be able to pay for life's expenses without a horrendous amount of effort, sometimes it feels as if the rewards for hard work are always just a little out of reach.  So as much as neither my husband or I want to think that changing our location is all about money, we would be fooling ourselves if we did not admit that a much lower cost of living is definitely an important aspect of any future move.

And so, having admitted to being excited about the idea that saving some cash is one heck of a motivator to do anything, I offer you my story of how my husband made me laugh about being paid to clean up dog crap:

My regular work will be slow for the next 6 weeks, so I agreed to take care of a dog for a person who has employed me for many different projects over the years.  I figured that I could use the money since my income would be down and I had taken care of this dog before so what was the big deal???  The big deal is that this dog has picked up some really annoying habits sometime between the last time I watched her and now.  I'm not sure what happened, but she really seems to have lost more than a few IQ points and her behavior is quite poor.  One of the worst things this dog is doing that is wreaking havoc on my household at this moment in time is that she is now stepping in her own crap when she goes outside.  Tonight she managed to drag it in on her foot and prance right across the carpet, before anyone noticed that she had done it.  That's right, I got to steam clean my carpet at midnight!  And you can sure bet that I loved that.  After the excitement had died down and I was putting away the cleaning stuff, my husband came to me and promised me that one day soon I would not have to clean up any more crap for money.  I could hear the unusual amount of frustration in his voice.  He went on to say that he felt bad that he had not reached the level of success that would insure that I would never have had to do this kind of thing for money at all. 

All of the pent up disappointment that my husband has been feeling over not finding work in the place where we really want to be has come down to this.  The man was actually apologizing to me for having to clean up dog crap.  And worse, he felt that this dogs lack of at least a half brain's worth of sense had anything at all to do with him or his ability to provide properly for me. 

While my decision to take on a rather crappy dog sitting job is really all my own, I couldn't love my husband more for seeing that I do deserve better. 

So naturally, I answered back without skipping a beat- 'hey, at least I don't have to do it for free.'

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