Archive for December, 2011

December 28, 2011

What does your Christmas tree say about you?

As the needles begin to drop and the scent of evergreen begins to fade, I sit and admire our Christmas tree.   For anyone to walk in off the street and look at it, our tree may appear a little curious.  Lights dangle from the bottom branches on one side of the tree where the dogs have run around to bark out the window at passersby.  And on the other side, a puddle of lights lies on the floor where my son squeezes through between the tree and the chair to play with the Christmas train whose tracks once went around the tree but now look like a bad collision took place.  The tree is also only half-decorated this year.  I don’t remember the exact details of what happened, but do vaguely remember that my son, being extremely anxious to decorate, started the project on his own while my husband was working late and I was making dinner.  For some reason we ran out of time and we never got around to finishing it.  So while one side of the tree is loaded with my son’s favorite ornaments the other side is adorned with just a few.  Eventually, we added a handful of candy canes here and there and he made sure that the star was proudly displayed on the top, but that’s about it.  You would think, with our tree being in the front window, it would bother me that it’s not perfect.  A couple of times my son even mentioned that we still needed to finish it, but honestly, it made me smile, so I never reminded him or pushed the issue.

So now that the major rush of the holiday is over and I’m finally able to sit and just reflect a little, I can’t help but to laugh a little to myself.  Although the lack of ornaments never bothered me, we’ve had our tree up since shortly after Thanksgiving and I can’t tell you how many times I put the bottom row of lights back on the tree, frustrated with the dogs for being dogs or my son for having fun.  What was I thinking?  They were all enjoying the tree.  Whether they saw it as a part of Christmas, a new hiding place or simply a new obstacle to swiftly maneuver around to get to the window, lights up or lights down, they loved it.

It wasn’t until tonight as I sat here relaxing that I realized that our tree reflects us perfectly.  We always have the best intentions.  We start out strong and then seem to get interrupted, run out of time, or run out of steam, but we do what we can and surround ourselves with the things that mean the most to us and let the rest go.  We have our quirks, our dangling lights or puddle on the floor, but that’s part of what makes us who we are.    And sometimes we (me especially) need the reminder that things don’t need to be perfect.  Having fun and being in the moment is far more important than perfection.

So tonight as I admire the dangling colored lights, the half-decorated tree with the dogs sleeping beneath, I can’t help but realize that tree is us.  In all its craziness, its incompleteness, its imperfection, it’s us. And it’s perfect just the way it is.

What does your Christmas tree say about you?


December 24, 2011

The work of a coyote?

Did you ever notice that when the holidays roll around something or some things are bound to go wrong?

The past couple of weeks have been about the most entertaining for me in a while.  I think it all began with the Fire Department incident a couple of weeks ago and since then odd things just keep happening.

Like the day I thought I was texting my niece about what kind of jeans are the “hippest” these days.  I’d ignored the red flag of “Who is this?” Nope, didn’t stop me.  I thought I was pretty funny going into great detail about being her aunt, her mother’s brother’s wife, from Minneapolis… and on and on.. until she replied, “I think you have the wrong number.” As it turns out, I wasn’t texting my niece, I was texting “Jodi from Grand Rapids” but she was still kind enough to give me a list of hip jeans, tell me which stores to buy them from and wish me well on my shopping adventures and wish me a Merry Christmas.  (Now THAT is “Minnesota Nice”!)

Or there’s the morning that I was putting dishes away and triggered the glass-break detector in the kitchen, setting-off the security system.  And no, I didn’t break anything.

Or how about yesterday, when I thought I was being proactive by ditching the stale ice in the freezer so we have “fresh ice” for the holidays, which in turn blew a hole in the side of the garbage disposal (I was thinking it was a three-fer… thought I’d sharpen the garbage disposal blades, get the stink out and have fresh ice) when I discovered after looking three or four times that it wasn’t the empty ice bucket dripping water on my slippers, but instead water blasting out of the side of the garbage disposal all over my pajama pants and feet. In my defense, I was very focused on separating the ice cubes so they wouldn’t jam up the garbage disposal.

Then last night, the dogs busted into a bag of dog food (for the third time in two weeks) and gorged themselves silly.  Since they weren’t caught in the act, it wasn’t discovered until one of them was wandering around with a funny look on her face and started puking it all up on the  wool living room rug.  (I’m going to buy a dog food container today!)

I’m not sure what’s coming next, but someone is getting a HUGE kick out of this and I have to admit, I kind of am too…

Hope your Holidays provide you with as much opportunity for comic relief as I’ve had! (Minus the damage.)


December 23, 2011

Last minute gifts for a gardener

If you’re a last-minute shopper and struggling to find something to get for the gardener in your life, or if you’re a gardener and looking for a few things for your wish list, I came up with a list of things that I like/love and even a few items that I have on my wish list for this year.  Hopefully it will help spark a few ideas.

  • Pruners – Nothing beats a great set of pruners! Bypass pruners (look much like a scissors) are better for green material (live plants), while anvil pruners are better for woody material.  (Anvil pruners will crush and damage live plants.) My favorite bypass pruners are made by Felco.  If you’ve never shopped for them before you might get sticker shock, they aren’t cheap, but they are definitely worth the money.  The thing I like about Felco pruners is that they are made to last.  You can easily take them apart to clean and sharpen them, if the blades are ever too beat up or worn down to sharpen any more you can also buy replacement blades.  Felco also sells small sharpeners for the blades as well as cleaner/lubricant to keep them in good shape.
  • Diamond Files – These are great for filing pruners of all kinds!
  • Spade – Nothing beats a good sturdy (and sharp!) spade.  Spades don’t come sharp.  You’ll need to sharpen them.  This can really make all the difference when gardening.  It’s like transforming a spoon into a knife blade, and if you sharpen it right, it will work the same way.  You can cut through soil, roots, etc. like “butta”.  If you don’t feel comfy doing the sharpening yourself, buy them a couple of files to go with it.
  • Files – These are another garden tool no gardener should go without.  Keeping tools sharp takes the back-breaking labor out of gardening!
  • Soil Thermometer – This comes in especially handy for those who are doing veggie gardening.  One of the keys to seed germination isn’t so much the weather as the soil temperature.  Every type of seed germinates at a particular soil temperature.  A soil thermometer can help gardeners gauge whether the soil is at the right temperatures for germination.  Or… at least know whether it’s warm enough to start planting. 🙂
  • Garden Journal – Ahhh… the book that every gardener needs.  You can read a million books or information online to get information on plants, but this is what serves as a gardener’s memory.  It’s what helps all of us learn what works, what doesn’t, what the weather was like and where did I plant that Lenten Rose?  Journals can be as simple as a notebook or hardcover book with a template to serve as a reminder of what to record.  No gardener should go without one.
  • Compost bin – If you eat and garden, then you should have a compost bin.  Whether it’s made of wood, plastic or chicken wire, this little gem is what turns kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, leaves and plant cuttings into black gold.  This will help create the best fertilizer any gardener can ask for.
  • Plant stand & Grow lights – If you’ve thought about growing plants from seed or tried it and he windowsill doesn’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a plant stand and grow lights.  There are many styles and types out there, but they can also be built from scratch.  Basically you need one or two shelves to set plant trays on and a hanging, adjustable height, shop light.  A timer is also handy to make sure the plants get the necessary light to grow well.  The bulb itself needs to be a grow light or plant light.  (A standard fluorescent doesn’t have the full spectrum of light necessary to grow plants well.)
  • Timers – Good addition to a plant stand and grow lights.
  • Bio-dome – This is handy way to start seeds, it’s an enclosed domed plant/seedling tray with adjustable ventilation windows at the top.  Instead of using a standard potting or seed starting medium (soil), the Bio-dome comes with sponge plugs.  You plant the seeds right into the plugs, then when the plants are larger, the plugs get planted into small pots until the plants are ready to be brought outside.  Additional sponge plugs can be bought separately.

For additional gift giving ideas, think Local .


December 22, 2011

Don’t forget to breathe! (a.k.a. – Surviving the Holidays)

Children singing, people laughing, bells ringing, people calling, emails flying, emotions soaring… the holidays are here!

In the midst of all of the flurry of the holidays it’s easy to get caught up in all of it and forget to take care of ourselves.  There’s so much energy swirling around you can practically feel it and if you close your eyes, you just might get dizzy.

It’s in this time, when I feel myself spinning, things moving so fast around me that everything becomes a blur.  I’m making my lists, all 240 of them, and checking them twice, and three times and four times, then transferring them to another list so I only need to focus on what’s left….  The house needs cleaning, cards need mailing, gifts need wrapping, menus need planning, cookies need baking… ribbon is twirling, lights are flashing… make it stop!

The other day as I was feeling the pressure from every direction a friend reminded me… “in the storm, create your own centered space, Zen, if you will”.  Then everything came to a stop.  Calm and peacefulness came over me.  I was feeling the storm and needed to revert back to my centered space. I had gotten caught up in the undertow.  My friend threw me a life-preserver.  When I “go inside”, meditate and ground myself, I’m a much happier and calm person.  I smile at the chaos.  It’s like having a magnetic force field protecting me from the noise.  And by noise, I mean everything: the music, the commercials, the reminders, the emails, the registers, the intense emotions, the intoxicating scents, all of it.


If I go to my centered space (envision the raisin exercise), I can watch it all take place (much like watching a movie), take it all in, and then choose whether or not to get involved.  I get to choose my action versus just reacting to the situations at hand.

So as the days wind down to just hours until we celebrate Jesus’ birth, I thought it would be a good time to pay it forward.  Just as my friend reminded me to go within, I’ll remind you as well.  When things get hectic, when emotions are running high or low, when things feel like they are getting out of control and everyone is losing sight of the true meaning of Christmas, remember to go to your centered space and breathe.

Just… breathe.