Archive for July, 2008

Dear Bayou Woman,

You asked me a really good question:  “How do you replace the perfect dog?”  Whew! Boy-howdee do I know what you are talking about!

I wondered that very same thing after my first dog, Nikki, passed away.  Nikki was a purebred Siberian Husky with perfect teeth, a majestic bearing, and the softest, sweetest husky fur ever.  She never barked, she was always playful, she was gentle, and she had a remarkable sense of humor!  And when I walked with her, I was always so proud to be walking with such a beautiful, loving dog by my side.  Wherever we went, people would be drawn to her, and would ask me about her, and I felt like a million dollars.  She was beautiful and smart and we had a soul-connection that was stronger than any I’d ever felt with a dog.   When I finally had to put her to sleep at the extreme old age of 17, I thought it would kill me, like a part of my own soul had died with her. 

And then Abby wandered into our lives.  She was funny looking, and mixed-breed, and not just that, but a mix of breeds I don’t particularly care for: chow and pitbull and who-knows-what-else.  She had a  pronounced underbite,  and goofy ears, and EVERYTHING I would never have picked in a dog.  But she turned out to be the perfect dog, just like Nikki was the perfect dog, because she was perfect for me and our home at that very time.  And I’ve come to learn that, just like there are no perfect people and we are all flawed in some way, there are many, many, many perfect dogs who are ready and willing to compensate for our flaws. 

Abby taught me that you don’t have to be beautiful, or perfect, or even pure to be loving and to be loved.  She teaches me that every day.  And that makes her perfect for me.

So I hope you do let another dog into your life!  It’s a joy I can’t seem to live without.  And I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if you found out that this new dog was perfect, too. 

:- )



P.S.  I made my first-ever batch of bread-and-butter pickles last night.  I’ll let you know in about five week how they turned out! 

P.S.S.  Abby doesn’t care for cucumbers.

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Sometimes, it takes more than one chef to make a delicious meal, and today it seemed to take more than one blogger to write a blog post! My best-girlfriend-soulsister-favoriteshoppingcompanion-vicariousmotherofmydaughters Emilie wrote a blog post that moved me so much, EVEN before coffee, that I ended up writing my blog post in her comments!

Being the loving and responsible woman that she is, she rescued a dog from a bad situation and was musing about the decision she made to relinquish the dog to animal control.

As I stated in her comments, she absolutely did the right thing by that dog and by her family, who aren’t in a position right now to take a dog into their lives. And what follows is the thought that sprang forth organically as I commented:

But…..one day…one day….I know you will fall in love with a dog. People talk about dogs being child-replacements, but it’s not always so. There’s something a dog gives you that no other human being can give you, not even a child. It’s a special love that I think that displays another facet of the infinite love of God. It’s not replacement child love; it’s dog love. And for what it is, it’s perfect.

So, yes, you did the right thing with Lucky. But one day, if -you’re- lucky, a dog will find you when you’re a bit thin on acceptance, perhaps a bit wormy inside from the challenges of being human, running in and out and dodging the traffic hazards of modern life. And -that- dog will adopt you and say to you with its eyes, “Don’t worry, Lucky! I’ll take care of you!” “

That’s it. That’s how the dogs in my life found me, even the ones that I seemingly adopted. They take care of the human part of me. They are the love that never judges, always stays by me. They only want to be with me. Even when there’s nothing they can do to ease the hurts of my life, they somehow do . They ask for so little and so much. All they want is me.

True, sometimes they need food, walks, baths, and combing. But who really benefits from fulfilling their needs? Certainly, the dog benefits in the short-term, but the long-term benefit is mine. By allowing me to stop worrying for a moment and care for them in the most basic, tactile ways, they smooth the callouses that form too often on my human soul.

And as I stated in an earlier post, I know they are not children. They can never fulfill the role that children play in a parent’s life.

But I don’t think that sells them short, because I’m pretty sure that children can not fill the role that a dog plays in my life, either.

I know that, even if I’d been blessed with children, I’d still have a house full of dog hair, and even after kissing my children goodnight, I’d still crave that tender, loving, accepting, and soul-nourishing kiss from my dog.

Dogs are dogs. And that is a God-blessed existence unique to dogs.

[On a side-note, Georgia State University featured a story this week about dogs in education. It’s an interesting read, and futher underscores the importance dogs play in the human existence.]

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The photographic evidence

I’ve been meaning to share these pictures since….forever….but since I was busy IN the garden, I didn’t have time to blog or share pictures OF the garden.  However, I did take my camera with me and got some shots to share with you.

I’ve posted them all in a web album, which you can view here.


The garden “matures” as the pictures progress, and I’ve added captions to help you in your tour.  All these pictures were taken at least three weeks ago, and there’s been a lot of growth since then.  I’ll let you know when I update the album!

I hope you enjoy it!  It gives you a bit of an idea about where I’ve been all this time, and what I’ve been up to. 

Love and fresh veggies to all!

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Yesterday afternoon, when the day had cooled a little, I was feeling up to a little excursion…

Wait a minute, that’s not exactly the way this story starts…

Yesterday afternoon my aunt called to give me the report on “what’s happening at the farm”.  [She’s been so good about keeping up with the watering and the weeding and the picking, all while caring for my grandparents AND her own grand-daughter at the same time.  So, what’s about to follow is in no way a criticism of her efforts…just want to get that out there.]  The plants have been watered, the tomatoes are going to get another string tied around them later this week, and the watermelons are really growing quickly.  Squash and cucumbers are being produced by the bushel.  I was really happy to hear all that.  She calls every day to keep me in the loop about Grandpa’s recovery, what’s happening in the family, and how the garden is doing.

But she didn’t mention the beans…and then I made the mistake of asking (using a little, tiny, almost plaintive voice),  “Have you been picking the beans?” 

Before I go on with this story, a primer on beans.  Much of gardening is tricking plants into doing what they would do once to do it over and over again.  For instance, the bean plant’s only job in life is to reproduce itself and make more bean plants. (This would be an interesting segue into a discussion about infertility…)  As the beans mature, and put out blooms and then pods, each of those pods contains the progeny of the plant.  If left to their own devices, the bean pods form, and then reach a point of terminal growth, at which point the plant receives a chemical signal that tells it, “Good job! You’ve made the next generation of bean plants.  You can quit now.”  However, if you pick the bean before it reaches that stage, the plant is fooled into continuing to put out more and more beans each season, just waiting for that signal (kind of like the way an infertile woman will fill her days with a lot of other activities, tying to get that sense that her life is complete and meaningful enough….but I digress).  So, if you want baskets and baskets of beans, you have to pick them before they reach that terminal growth stage and the plant “retires”.

“Oh, Trish, I haven’t had time to pick the beans.”

Now, this is a real dilemma for me.  Of course she hasn’t had time to pick the beans….she’s very busy with all the other things she’s doing for the family.  On the other hand, I really don’t want the beans to go to seed.  Love of aunt trumps love of fresh green beans, but….I’m only human…

Then, I ventured another step into the world of dangerous questions, by asking (in that same hesitant voice), “Has anyone watered the greenhouse…”

“Oh, Trish, I’m afraid to look in the greenhouse.  No one has watered it.”

Now, this conversation did nothing to help calm my inner voice from screaming at me, “See…I told you it was all up to you!” 

By the time Tony got home I had decided that, although I couldn’t garden, I could at least go and take a look at the state of the garden and the greenhouse.   Promising my friend, Evan, that I would lift nothing heavier than a glass of cold water, I bullied…pleaded…asked…whined my sweet husband into driving me over there to take a look.

In some ways, it was a great trip.  The watermelons are amazing, and even though it’s only been about 12 days since I was there, the garden has really changed and grown.  The beans really do need picking badly, and I’m not even sure if it’s too late or not.   I walked around for a bit, looked at everything, talked to my aunts, and then checked on the greenhouse. 

Yeah, it was bad.  A massive die-off, as a matter of fact, but I watered it just on the off-chance that some of the flowers and plants would spring back to life.  But as I told myself, and continue to tell myself, the loss of 12 flats of marigolds, a nascent herb garden, and dahlia seedlings is really a small thing in the great scheme. 

And I can plant again next year. 


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Trish is well.

Hello, World of Wonderful People!   It’s been quite a ride on the rollercoaster of life.  I’ll try to do my best to fill you in.

I’m well.  Let’s start by saying that.  I am well

Well.  “Well” is a funny word.  As my grandfather says, “that’s a deep subject”, and he’s right. 

Dictionary.com gives twenty definitions for the word “well”, but the ones that most accurately apply to me are “in a good or satisfactory manner”, “with great or intimate knowledge” (as in to know a person well),  and in good health; sound in body and mind”.

I’ve had some down times, recently, and have had to do quite a bit of thinking.  I’ve alluded to a bit of it, off and on, but have never really stated it up front: so here it comes:

Hello, my name is Trish, and I’ve been sad.

My grandfather is declining, and I’ve had to observe that, and watch it, and try to make some sense of it.  I don’t know why this came as a surprise to me.  It wasn’t really a surprise, but it was something that I can’t overlook anymore.  Last year, we had such a wonderful time in the garden and I was sure that my being in the garden with him was helping to keep him going.  It was not only the joy of gardening for me, it was the joy of being useful, and the joy of being with him and working side by side.

He’s almost 86, so it’s not any wonder that he would be declining, but it is so hard to watch.  This year is so very different.  I am there.  The garden is there. But Grandpa is not there.  Not as it has been. Not even remotely.  And there have been times when I haven’t been sure that I’m a help at all.  Sometimes, instead of him seeing the garden and being pleased, he seems sadder, and perhaps angrier that he can’t get in there and work the way he used to.  He mentions it everytime I am there, and I’m starting to fear that maybe I’m just making it worse for him.  That maybe I’m prolonging the pain. 

I don’t know.  I just really don’t know.  I’ve had beautiful days in the garden, the sun on my back, watching my plants grow, and at the same time watching my grandfather diminish, slowly, but perceptibly.  I’ve picked my words around him as carefully as I pick beans from tender vines, always trying to build him up and let him know that he’s still vital to me in all the ways he’s never measured as a man.

He spends less and less time in the garden, satisfied to receive reports and see the produce we’ve picked, so I don’t hear his stories or his wisdom as much as I used to, and it seems like a transition for me, too.  I don’t want to get used to working there alone.  I don’t want to not have him by my side.  In May, he injured his bicep and had to have surgery on it, so now he’s mostly immobilized and, well, that was the end of that.  Now he talks in terms of if  there’s a garden next year, and that’s unbearably hard to listen to.  There has always been a garden. 

And if there’s to be a garden, it will be up to me.  Which brings me to my second source of conflict this summer:  what am I capable of accomplishing, really?  I have always believed, or at least, operated under the assumption that I can acheive anything I set my mind to if I work hard enough.  But honestly, at almost-forty, that is getting harder and harder to do.  I spent every spare minute in the garden in May, and that meant working all day and going to the garden from about 5 to 9pm several times a week and all weekend.  Tony started to feel left out, I didn’t have any time for my friends, and I had no time for rest.  And yet I felt driven to do as much as I could because it was all up to me

Don’t get me wrong. I love it there in the garden.  Those evening hours in the garden, watching the water flow and the sun set were some of the most peaceful I’d spent in a long time. I knew what needed to be done, and I did it.  There’s peace in that.  And because I was alone in the garden, there was plenty of time for reflection.  That’s rare for me.  I don’t often slow down long enough to think, and the garden is a soft place to do that.  But that reflection brought a lot of sadness, melancholy and conflict that I couldn’t really put to words.  So….I didn’t.  I just worked.  And worked.  And worked.

I worked very hard, trying to keep everything together, knowing that it all depended on me.  And then I had to face how vain that thought is.

The first week in June, my doctor tracked me down.  Remember, I have this ongoing adversarial relationship with my reproductive organs?  Well, having missed a followup appointment and ultrasound, my doctor called me.  “Well, Dr H, I…uh…I’ve been very busy.”

To make a long story short, I was scheduled for surgery on June 30th and spent the month of June working even harder to get things in order before my surgery.  The surgery went much better than expected, but here I am, convalescing and unable to garden, and therefore completely unable to carry the responsibility of keeping it going.  My aunt, Joyce, has been a real Godsend and has stepped in to water and weed and pick while I, and Grandpa, cannot.

And when I say “Godsend” I mean that in a very literal sense of the word.  I had spend a lot of time and energy operating under the illusion that it’s all up to me, but it’s not really, is it?  I can only do what I can do, just as Grandpa can only do what he can do.   And someone else will do what they can do, and in the end, it’s all up to God.

And while I sit here, forced by my circumstances to really think about life, instead of trying to constantly stay one step ahead of it, I have to confess that maybe Grandpa and I are in the same place this season.  He’s struggling with the fact that it’s not all up to him.  Changes are happening to him, the family, and the garden, and he can’t do anything about it.  Likewise, while I cling to the idea that it’s all up to me, I can pretend to have some control over the situation.  But I don’t.  My ongoing health concerns continue to play a part in my abilities, no matter how much I try to ignore them, and probably they always will to a degree.


To get back to the beginning of this post, I am well

I am healing well, and will go back to work next week, probably better rested than I’ve been in a couple of years.  And, throughout the summer, I have gotten to know myself, and my family, better, and perhaps more intimately. 

And finally, in the paraphrased words of one of my favorite hymns, whether peace finds me, or cares carry me away, I always know that it is well with my soul, that most human part of me, that God loves, and bought for His own, and that, at least, I don’t have to worry about.  He has my soul, the loving, caring, hurting, grieving, striving part of me, and it is well with my soul.

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