What I wish I could have told my younger self—and other birthday ramblings

The day has come– I’m turning 54 and I know it’s cliche to say it, but I sure don’t feel like 54 is supposed to feel. Though how do I know what 54 is supposed to feel like? Growing up 54 was close to your grandparent’s age, edging up on social security. Gosh at 55 I’ll be able to get free coffee at certain restaurants and 10% discounts on other retail stuff. I think at fifty-four I should feel accomplished. I think I should feel comfortable in my life, perhaps at ease with all the decisions I’ve made. No doubt I should have a regret or two and maybe aches and pains and pills on the nightstand. Thoughts should be toward retirement, travel, and life insurance policies.

I laugh sometimes at the sheer craziness of being in my fifties. The other day my husband and I traveled to Madison Wisconsin to start my birthday week with a nice meal and some light shopping. We visited a beautiful neighborhood in Madison that I could definitely see us retiring in. A couple of times I pointed toward people I thought were interesting and suddenly I thought–OMG, those people are my age. One was having a hard time with their walker and so my husband stepped up and lent quick assistance and all was well. Another person was having a hard time with an elevator and so we stepped up and held the elevator door open until she could wheel into the elevator. We are often handy like that having both worked, side by side, in a nursing home. It didn’t hit me at the time, but seconds later I said out loud “I’m the new old” and my husband nodded. Which of course to me meant that the people I was helping were in my age range. Either one of them could have been me. Now I know 54 isn’t that old, but consider this–out of all the people I’ve known in my life—friends, boyfriends, co-workers, and acquaintances, over 1/2 of them have passed away. My childhood/teen/young adult friend passed away over a decade ago, and several friends of mine who were younger than me have passed away, along with many co-workers I’ve had over the years. I’ve lost three “best friends” over the past thirty years. All gone way too soon. There isn’t a year that goes by that I don’t wonder what any one of them would look like or how their life would look had they been given more time on this earth.

So, what would I have told my younger self if I could? Here’s what I would have told her– stop worrying because in one week or one month everything is going to change again. Listen when someone tells you everything will look better in the morning because, perhaps it’s magic, but it does. Don’t give all of yourself to people who are just in your life for a minute–when they walk away seemingly without a care they leave a great big void in your heart and soul. If it doesn’t feel right don’t do it. Respond don’t react and don’t let emotions control important decisions. Use your head not your heart sometimes. Don’t believe for one-minute material possessions can fill a void. Unconditional love fills you up not things you buy or think you need.  Be frugal. Moderation in all things no matter what things we’re talking about. Stay away from people who don’t want the best for you. Stay away from people who hold grudges, or don’t appreciate you, or judge you without knowing you.  Accept you will be rejected by people simply to be rejected but it’s not the end of the world. Be yourself and when people walk away from you because of who you really are–consider that a blessing because you wouldn’t want people in your life who don’t want to be a part of the real you anyway, right? Take better care of yourself and try as hard as you can to see a future for yourself. Don’t give up. Don’t stop trying. Believe in yourself even when no one else does. Take risks. Travel everywhere you can afford to travel. Choose jobs or a career that makes you happy and that you enjoy doing every day. Thrive vs. survive.  Surround yourself with good people and walk away from bad.  Don’t leave the door open even a slight crack for toxic people to crawl back into your life. Sometimes you have to walk away from someone in your life in order to protect them from the truth. Learn how to say no. Learn when to walk away. Learn when to stay.

Some things I’ve learned over the years that I often share with those at the shelters I volunteer at are–don’t fear failure rather fear never making an attempt to try something. Throughout my life, I kind of sat around waiting for the right time, the right place, the right this or that. There is no right time -there’s now.  Do it now. Try it now. Even if you fall flat on your face you will have tried which is so much better than waiting because you’re afraid. I let emotions control me just about my whole life. I had a lot of issues growing up that I kept quiet about. I grew up in a household where you didn’t talk about personal stuff. My step-father often said “children should be seen and not heard.” And he lived by it–no giggling, or laughing, or roughhousing allowed. My mother didn’t believe anyone ever had any problems as bad as the problems she had.

I have learned so much in the last fifteen years–way more than I could ever put into words. One thing that I definitely want to express to anyone reading is–be careful about what you do to your body, the people you surround yourself with, the jobs you take just for the money, and the things in your life that stress you out. All of this has a direct effect on your health. My body is full of scars and wounds of a not so well lived life. Thankfully twenty-five years of smoking haven’t given me any surprises -yet, but I’m so glad I quit 15 years ago. Choosing to work in healthcare and stay working in facilities that always worked short destroyed my back. Working in group homes where I was often thrown around or hit trying to restrain/keep patients safe has caused me years of pain from broken fingers, toes, and a neck injury. Not knowing that there was always something wrong with me due to childhood trauma caused me to live a life of bad decisions, choices, and mistakes most of which were made from a place of fear rather than a place of love. I’ve spent the last 10 years trying to heal my body and mind after discovering that I’ve been living with PTSD for most of my life.

So as I approach the wonderful day of my birth I must say–I am glad I made it here. I am sad that those I was close to as a young adult are no longer here to share old age with. We spoke often of how we would all look in our fifties and what we’d be up to. The things that make me the happiest are the simplest things in life. Ironically as a teen, I wanted nothing more than to get away from country/farm life and travel the world. Yet for most of the last twenty years I have lived in or near farmland. It’s impossible for me to think I could ever live anywhere else except a place where there are fields of hay and cows a mooing. Have I ever mentioned on this blog how much I love cows? I do. Being humble is a good thing and every now and again eating humble pie is also a good thing. Saying no works. I fully admit at 54 that there are a few things I should have done better. I regret that when I made choices I didn’t consider myself in the choice. So many things in my life would have been different. I regret that throughout my life I may have helped and been far to generous to people that wouldn’t have even given me a glass of water if I was dying of thirst. I regret spending so much time listening to family members lie and allowing them to use me. Thankfully that chapter has come to a close. I regret not being good at the things that should have come naturally to me like motherhood. It took me until I was in my forties to see that what I’d needed most in my twenties was love, support, and maturity. Becoming a mom wasn’t my magic pill or fix. Everyone wants you to believe being a mom is a natural thing you get once you deliver your baby. It’s just not true for every mom. Well, it just wasn’t true for me. I wish that my parents would have believed I could be a better person almost twenty nine years ago now–but they didn’t and honestly neither did I. They simply believed I was acting up and behaving immaturely and not responsible enough to do the right thing. I was some of those things, but I was also an addict and had recently been diagnosed with depression, and was suffering from heartbreak and abandonment. I wish they could have seen my need for their love and support.

Most of all what I’ve learned and would tell my younger self is that you ultimately as an adult make your own bed–so you need to be careful how you go about doing that. Your parents are responsible only up to a certain point for how things turn out in your life. There comes a point where you must figure out who you are and what you want in life. Sometimes you make mistakes but then you know you’ve got to own those mistakes. Last but never least in all things have a plan b because life is unpredictable.

Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween!!

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2018 Container Gardening- Week Eight

This week I have teeny tiny pepper buds on my plants. It is so neat to see the flowers become fruit! As reported I am down one geranium,soon to be two, so I went out and bought a red geranium and red petunia to replace them. I learned my lesson at long last–no more plants no matter what from big box stores. I cannot believe I bought not one but two geraniums for $11.00 a piece and they didn’t smell like anything. For most of my life I couldn’t stand the smell of geraniums or petunias, but now my garden would not be complete without their unique smells. It sounds weird but it is true, and I can’t describe what they smell like–so next time you’re planting a garden buy some and see for yourself. They grow on you, I promise. Everything has doubled even tripled in size since plant. See for yourself–Happy Gardening All!

2018 Container Gardening–Week Three

Here’s what is going on in my garden this week– this week I transplanted everything that I had in containers and smaller pots to their final pot destination. I also used Purple Cows BioActive All-Purpose Fertilizer on all my veggies, fruits and flowers. My total garden this year consists of 2 patio tomato plants bought approx. 6 weeks ago at 6″-that are now 12″ plants. I bought my tomato plants from Bauer’s Market Place in LaCrescent Mn which is about 90 minutes from home because they are the only tomato plants that can survive how extremely hot our deck is winter, spring, summer, and fall (north face). They’re hardy plants for sure– I brought them home as 6″ plants and after a couple of days replanted them in smaller pots filled with Purple Cow Soil. Now today, 6 weeks later, and double in size they were ready to be transplanted into larger pots of Purple  Cow Soil.

I also have two heirloom pear tomato plants, one pepper plant, one large bunch of lavender, a lavender topiary, a prairie grass plant, two red geraniums, a small fuchsia, a small new guinea impatiens, a small rosemary plant, a lime coleus, and my big planter full of hens and chicks. Also, my lovely rehabbed evergreen tree, which took me three years of TLC, but finally he is back and all green and healthy again! The first year both of these trees were fine on our deck. The second winter they both turned brown. I read somewhere that what was wrong with them was winter burn–sunscald. That second spring I shook all needles off both of them, but by fall only one looked close to being alive. So that winter I covered it up halfway with a blanket, mulched it, and of course continued to frequently water it. That next spring the soil it was in seemed to be rotten, so I replanted it in Purple Cow Soil (my first year using it), I fertilized it, and this past winter wrapped just the root area of the pot. I watered it every 3 weeks or so, and once warmer weather began, I started misting it. Voila!

My sugar snaps for the third year were a fail, and my nasturtiums don’t seem to want to flower. No clue what is up with that? Something new I am trying this year with my tomatoes is a ground cover around the bottom of the stems and on top of the soil. I am hoping to keep my plant foliage dry and warm up the soil a bit. Warm soil=lots of ripe & juicy tomatoes. This year I am focusing solely on growing great tomatoes. Hence why I have so few containers of plants growing on my deck this year.  The sun can get to be 108-110 degrees on our deck during summer, and the wind 20-25mph or more if tornado-like weather comes through. For me to container garden at our current place I have to start with good hardy plants and last year learned–top of the line good soil.

This is my tenth year gardening at this apartment. My goal has always been to learn how to grow my own food. Along with that, I have learned that gardening is good therapy for me. I know that sounds like a cliche, but it is so very true. I think the therapy for me, and probably for others comes from the process of gardening. I used to think people meant planting, weeding, and watering was therapy. When it wasn’t working for me, I wondered what I was doing wrong. It wasn’t until we moved into this apartment and my PTSD was getting hard for me to manage that I decided to give it another go on our deck. From the challenges of growing things in containers to keeping plants watered in front of and after the days’ hot sun, to producing a yield, showing up, and accepting the challenge. Gardening has become very therapeutic for me indeed. Not giving up is also very therapeutic.  I have never let living in an apartment stop me from gardening. Though until last year, when I finally found some good soil, previous years were kind of in vain. I could grow good, but not great plants, and my yields were little to none. Also my flowers would last a month and then stop flowering and basically die. Last years garden was absolutely fabulous–in October I still had geraniums flowering and tomatoes on the vine!

 






Houseplants–wintertime gardening

Gardening is very therapeutic for me. I think for most of my life it always has been, but it has taken most of my life to get semi-sort of good at. Let me tell you what I learned this year that has made ALL the difference–watering plants from the bottom. But first, you must add water the regular way, and then set the plant in a shallow pan with water. This way the entire plant gets properly watered. My overwintering of rosemary did not go well and my rosemary plant died. However, I bought two new plants and at least one will make it to the porch once temperatures warm up a bit. I have 8 Christmas cactuses alive since last Christmas, my 40-year-old Opuntia cactus, which grew little tubers out of each pad, which I later learned was the plant seeking more sun. Once I started giving it, even more, sun it has now begun to grow two new pads. The ponytail plant and bonsai are plants I am growing for my husband, and I have 5 new African violets, several succulents, ferns, and 5 English ivies. I have read that English ivy, and the ferns are poisonous to cats so they are growing either out of reach of him or in my Ikea greenhouses.
Several years ago I was diagnosed with PTSD and realized upon getting home I was ill-prepared to deal with it even though I had worked in mental health for several years. One thing I knew for sure was that I had to find something that was therapeutic–with the possibility that it would be something I could do year-round, maybe make me feel more alive? and definitely a sense of purpose other than my general responsibilities. Growing things year-round has been good for me. It’s not easy, but I don’t like easy anyways. I’ve learned to love a good challenge. The two biggest tips I can give anyone thinking of growing plants both inside and out are– water from the bottom up and don’t overwater, and always provide the recommended and suggested heat/cold, plus sunlight environment for your plants. A third tip would be to buy good strong quality plants from a trusted gardener/nursery.

My next post will be about Microgardening!

Soulful Baker by Julie Jones–a review

Soulful Baker by Julie Jones is a loving tribute to baking made beautiful by Julie Jones. I’ve followed Julie Jones and her soulful excursions making pies, tarts, cakes, and bakes for some time. Beautifully decorated desserts made with natural ingredients, and pastry recipes perfectly extraordinaire.

There is simply nothing more beautiful than the story behind both her Instagram account and this beautiful cookery book. Both feature fabulous creations by Julie and her mum captured in beautiful photography and loving stories shared throughout.  From the apple roses to the salted caramel, and the chocolate tart– this book is filled with inspiration. This is your chance to learn how to bake like a pro. All you need is your imagination and Soulful Baker by Julie Jones.

I requested Soulful Baker from NetGalley to review because of its loving tribute to the author’s mum. I simply fell in love with the recipes, photos, and stories included with each recipe. I highly recommend this cookery book to everyone!

Professional Reader