Life Lessons from the Garden

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch


I looked out the window to my mess of a backyard. Birdseed drove foreign plants out from the lawn of assorted weeds. The wild, drought-tolerant and all-too-happy to be watered plants had grown, taking over the slow and steady evergreens I hoped to still see this winter.

I am inclined to visit our front yard in the evenings when the sun sets behind the house, neighbors walk their dogs and children while I sip something delicious and my kids roll around on their bikes behind the safety of our little fence. Nothing drew me to the backyard. It is the place of forgetfulness, where I send the kids after their wiggles have wearied me for the last time.

This is the summer of endless heat. I can remember just one day when it dipped to a cool 94 and we felt we could handle the outdoors all the way up until noon. Other days, we are running for shelter by 10 a.m. particularly if we dared to do any housework and break a sweat.

You see, my son cannot tolerate the heat. His medical needs dictate it so. Summer bears a particular burden I had never known before.

Drained and dried out from being indoors all day, I finally started to sip my coffee in the backyard, while the sun shined full force on the front of our east-facing house.

That I can stand and stare at a garden bed, pondering its plants, their placement and their challenges, and then discuss it with others as we stare into the abyss of dirt and new growth, to me, is the clearest sign of adulthood. I saw these conversations pass between my mother and other adults. I nodded politely through my twenties as she discussed it.

The love of gardening dawned on me at my aunt’s house in the California coastal redwoods outside Santa Cruz. Form and fancy British gardens were not for me. Bring me the wild sweet peas, the daisies, the ivy. And let them grow.




Those were my first years of gardening. We planted wormwood and Jupiter’s beard and daylilies in the backyard. Like childhood, you let it grow and see what comes.

Then comes the realization that the small plants are suffocating, the wormwood is covered with aphids and crabgrass has spread beyond belief. While our native plants punctuate Highway 99, most will agree, such untended growth is hardly the stuff of ladies’ magazines.

It is time to prune and to weed. I hope this happens in adolescence, more likely it takes place after college when we see the fruit of the way we have lived in those, generally, easier years of education. We begin to learn our faults, to work to improve, to cultivate our virtues.

Then I consider. What would work better here? Too many of my plants are the stringy, small-leafed, flowerless kind. It needs more. Dare I say, it needs more structure.

Now I am in my thirties and ready to consider what is missing. I have wisdom enough to realize how glad I am for the things that could grow on their own when my life was too full of heartache to care for them. That natural ability to survive gives us something even in the hottest of summers, even if it is not the plant we might have chosen in the spring.

While I may have eschewed my mother’s garden for its roses and formality, I find myself turning to her to discover how to bring order to the fade of spring and the height of summer’s growth. This is the age to ask for wisdom from those who have practiced it for many years.


Photo by Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash


What happens in the fall? I can look at books and internet blogs to learn. Yet I know, from coming this far, the education and book knowledge is second hand to learning and living it myself. There will come a time when I feel compelled to replant, to dig up bulbs, divide and share. It will come naturally, just as surely as the planting, pruning and planning have.


Photo by Mark Kamalov on Unsplash


It is a beautiful thing…this life, and the lessons we learn from gardening.


Discloser of Material Connection: I am a freelance writer for the Hughson Chronicle. As such, this is a “sponsored post,” reprinted with permission. The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

What I Learned This Spring

I used the calendar to jog my memory of what took place during the past three months. It is late in the game to make this reflection. Nevertheless, let’s begin.



It is worth it to travel for a good haircut. I am sure there are a lot of wonderful stylists in the area, but after a year of looking, I did not find the one for me. Keeping in mind the wisdom someone’s mother once said, “you wear your hair everyday,” I will travel an excessive distance every three months to have a haircut. From every angle, this sounds crazy to me, until I leave the salon and am ever so glad I made the choice to do that.



A common mission illuminates a marriage. My husband and I have always had our values in common. It has not been difficult to navigate our parenting styles. Financial style is still a work in progress, but it does not generate altercations. Even with all this goodness, it was this spring when we invested our energy into each other’s endeavors the most. My husband took a composer’s retreat, three days away in the coastal redwoods to dig into his work, in this case, a hymnal. Twice a week surrounding that, I lock myself in the bedroom while his voice scolding the children resonates through the walls of this room of my own, and I write. Discussing our businesses and their branding was a spring project of spring and added a joyful thrill to marriage. We are artists. While I always thought faith brought us together, lots of people have faith. For us, it was faith and art.



Lent and Good Friday can be a refuge for a grieving parent. Many a feast is cause to celebrate, but one’s heart is not always in it. My spirit felt congruent in this season of faith. There is suffering in this world, it is not the end, and even if the “only way out is through” others have walked that way. I am not alone.



How not to take a vacation. Yes, this medical mom made a bunch of mistakes, mostly due to not researching ahead and not communicating with the medical team. No emergencies happened, but they could have. There are additional steps on my vacation to-do list, and I am using them as we prepare for the next attempt. I want to learn how to travel even with medical needs, do it well, and for now, we will just do it in California.



Dress rehearsals are better to go to than performances when writing a review or an article. Most places will not allow photography during performances. This is the way in, plus opportunities to talk with performers.



My suspicions confirmed I learned through four instances that it is better to charge less and sell more when you have an inexpensive product and your main concern is community, not currency.


Lemonade for Sale! Fifty cents a cup!


All American Classic Meal for Sale by the Knights of Columbus and YLI, four meals for the family for $10



Different theories inform feeding and speech therapy. They are rooted in psychology. I can navigate this world of speech and feeding therapy for my son, as I have navigated the medical world. This spring brought about first lessons.





I believe in Providence. This spring, I learned remarkable things about one of my son’s doctors that sheds new light on much of the path we trod.



I have only so much energy for relationship investment. Children and spouse require most of it. Of what is left, the investment in social media relationships caused me to neglect in-real-life relationships in this season of my life.



I am giving priority to life at home over career, putting the brakes on ambition and personal dreams, indulging my passions within the space parenthood allows and, this spring, I learned that’s okay.



Lin Manuel Miranda and Flannery O’Connor are brilliant.



And I love reviewing books and writing others’ stories.


I encourage you to make your own list, too! You can share it with me by emailing me at

Life Lessons: The Lemonade Stand

Growing up in the country, there were certain aspects of life that were simply not possible to experience in my neighborhood. I had an orchard to myself, rows and rows of blossoms in the spring, castles, tree houses, massive play structures to let the imagine run wild. We’re not able to give these to our children on a daily basis (except when we visit the grandparents) but there is something I was always aware of, yet could never do myself except in pretend: the lemonade stand.

It’s iconic, isn’t it? So iconic it could be parodied decades ago by Lucy from Peanuts in her psychiatry stand. With joy my husband and I discussed years ago the idea of it for our children. This weekend our city held a city-wide yard sale and it seemed the perfect opportunity.

A friend delivered bags of grapefruit weeks ago. My husband juiced it and froze it. After the hit rosemary-grapefruit-ade we made for our littlest’s birthday party, we decide to re-create it. My mother donated some of her of delicious snicker doodle cookies and in the first day my daughter made $20.

We were open for a short period on Saturday since my husband works on Saturdays. Sunday, we were open all morning after mass. She totaled out at $32, my little entrepreneur.

I feel the experience, to be repeated in the future, is ripe with possible lessons. Setting up the stand takes some creativity. We use our picnic table, an umbrella from my parent’s house, homemade signs, and the crocheted pendant banner I made (found a use for it!). Over time, my daughter can decorate it and make the signs herself.

Creativity with products and recipes. Next year I plan to put out lavender bunches and make lavender lemonade. As she grows in her ability to plan, my daughter can put her signature touch on our products.

IMG_6924Creativity with what God has given us. The grapefruit was from a friend’s tree. The rosemary grew in our yard. The lemonade (made for the second day) was juiced and frozen from leftover lemons my mother did not use for a dessert donation. Being able to look around and see the potential in the things around us is an important life skill.

Money-wise lessons. Saving money through resourcefulness will yield greater profit. She’ll also have the opportunity, as she did this weekend, to learn about currency, addition, change, etc. We can prepare her better through homeschooling lessons before the next lemonade stand.

Marketing. Cute girls sell lemonade. I asked her to wave and smile when people went by and quite often, they stopped because of it. Lemonade was priced at 25 cents a cup. Who can resist? If she gets the bug and wants to make more money, we’ll have a marketing talk.

Saving. We’ve discussed what she can do with her profits. 10% goes to the church in the collection basket. Then a certain amount, approximately 40%, goes to the bank. I am thinking we’ll actually have her walk in with my husband to deposit the $10 at the bank to get the most out of that lesson. Then she can choose how to spend the rest. She has already decided to save $5 for ice cream, the little cutie. She bought a dress at a yard sale for $2.50.

She is young and worked hard. After the first day, it was much harder for her to sit in one place and stay on the job. She did an amazing job considering her age. All these lessons will take time to be learned, but I’m excited that we are blessed in such a way as to be able to provide her the opportunity.

We held a yard sale at the same time, and didn’t do too shabby either, I’m pleased to say. Before we started on the second day I spotted this antique chair at a neighbor’s yard sale.







IMG_6936For $7, I’ve got another exciting project on the list. I’d like to reupholster it in this (P/Kaufmann Adelaide Tigerlily Fabric) from Sailrite or something like it. I plan to leave the wood as it is. The chair fits the decor of our master bedroom so I have just the place for it.