October, 2012

October, 2012
October 2012

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A gardener? Who? Me?

If you would have told me as recently as 3 years ago that I would be a gardener, I would have said you were crazy.  Just the mere thought of toiling over dirt for the "possibility" of a few tomatoes and ears of corn would make my head hurt.  This reaction is not without foundation.  I grew up in a family of gardeners.  My father has a degree in agriculture from UK and my mother was a home economics teacher back in the day when they still taught students to cook and preserve foods.  In addition, they grew up in a time when you grew your own food or you didn't eat! So growing up, gardening and canning foods took up a lot of the summer.  I spent more hours than I care to remember in the hot sun picking strawberries and grapes or hoeing weeds and picking potato bugs.  Then there was the stringing and breaking of beans, shelling peas, and picking those gosh darn silks out of the corn.  I was also a 4-H'er and grew my own vegetables in pots on the back porch that I would then enter in the county fair each year for prize money.  I didn't hate it back then....but I didn't love it. 

1980 with my 4-H projects

Fast forward about 25 years and here I was living in the house and tending to the yard where all of this gardening had taken place.  The garden tools still hung in the same spot in the garage and I knew without having to look too deeply what garden chemicals and fertilizers occupied Dad's garage shelves.  Not only that, my parents left at the end of July that year and there were still tomatoes and corn growing in the garden.  Suddenly I was expected to take care of the garden and deliver the vegetables to my dad at the assisted living home.  I agreed to do the best I could not to let the tomatoes die, but didn't make a lot of promises about supplying them with a winter's supply of corn on the cob.  I had no clue how to freeze corn.....I had been a silk remover, but tried to stay away from the kitchen when the freezing and canning was going on.  I did the best I could and delivered Dad several rounds of tomatoes.....but for the most part, I told the neighbors to take what they wanted.  

The following January, Dad started asking me if I was going to grow anything in that garden.  I sort of fumbled with my words, trying to quickly think of reasons why I couldn't.  Then Dad, in only a way a dad can do, said "Boy I sure would like to have some tomatoes and corn this year." Darn.  It is hard to tell him no.

Seemed like winter passed quickly and before we knew it (I say we, because by now I had gotten Jason involved....I needed manpower) Jason was learning to use a plow without killing himself and I was trying to figure out why there were so many different varieties of corn and tomatoes?  Wasn't a tomato just a tomato?  What the heck is early corn, sweet corn, or heirloom corn?  Doesn't it all look the same?  Of course my best source of information became my dad.  Sometimes there was more information than I was able to absorb, but slowly, it all came together.  

I was now a gardener.  Not only was I growing corn and 2 varieties of tomatoes, but we also had potatoes, green, red, and cayenne peppers, eggplant, zuchini, squash, cucumbers, cantaloupe, watermelon, onions, green beans, crowder peas, marigolds and zinnias.  I was a very proud first time gardener.  Of course as I have learned gardening, is that there are successes and failures.  My tomatoes grew beautifully and so did the cucumbers and potatoes.  The zuchinni and squash were also big producers.  I had fresh cut zinnias on my table everyday for 2 months.  For some reason though, my green beans never even got going and although the corn grew as it was supposed to, I harvested it too early out of fear it was about to be taken over by corn ear worms.  I have bad childhood memories of silking corn and one of those darn worms would come crawling out.  The corn was still better than store bought and we had corn on the cob all the way up to Christmas.  Yes, that means I also learned to freeze it just like mom used to do.  Well, almost like Mom used to do.  I also made pickles and salsa.  I was proud of what I had accomplished, but more than that I knew that I was hooked.  I LOVE GARDENING!!!  Turns out, sitting for hours picking potato bugs off of plants and watching them drown in a jar of gasoline is rather therapeutic. And those corn silks?  Well I passed on that joy to my own children who actually did it with smiles on their faces.

I started planning for this year in December as I imagined a true green thumb would do.  I poured over seed catalogs and planned on how to expand the size of my garden so I could try new things.  The UK gardening guide has become my go to garden book. I read a lot about raised bed gardening, and all about the differences in varieties of vegetables.  My dad, as always, is a good source of information although he still can't wrap his mind around why I need to have raised garden beds.  I am hoping to show him the merits of this method by the end of May when we have fresh spinach, lettuce, radishes, carrots, green peas and turnips. These are vegetables he never had a lot of success with. I have at least doubled the planting ground that my dad was using 2 summers ago in addition to the 3 raised beds that Jason built for me.  I also started 3 varieties of tomatoes and my cucumbers indoors. I watch over these tender seedlings as if they were children.  

I realize that just like last year, there will be successes and failures.  I plan on growing peanuts and popcorn and am not exactly sure if I have all of the information I need to have success.  I am also expanding the space which means I may be dealing with ground that isn't as fertile as it will need to be.  Knowing how to fertilize and when to do so is still something I am learning through trial and error.  Yet, this girl who once got a headache just thinking about garden hoes and dirt couldn't be more excited!!!!

Some of my "babies"--tomatoes and pickling cucumbers--4 weeks old.

Cherry tomatoes, 4 weeks old
Spinach and carrots sprouts outside in one of my raised beds. 
 Outside, a pea sprout.  I planted 50 peas and so far I have 25 sprouts---not too bad...I think?

*Please excuse my sideways pictures.  I rotated them, but for some reason when I uploaded them to the blog, they were still sideways.  I am technologically challenged sometimes. 

Friday, March 25, 2011


Yesterday was one of "those" days.  It started with a phone call from my former sister-in-law.  She was letting me know that my brother was up to no good again.  This was at 6:45 AM.  By 9 I was headed across town with a friend and "bodyguard" in tow to check on the house my brother lives in, but my father owns.  I went without Dad's knowledge to check out damage that I had been told about and to see if my brother had abandoned the house.  I had grabbed the wrong keys, so I was only able to look in windows and go into the garage.  I knew he wasn't there, but it still made me nervous.   I am always in this terrible position of being given information and then having to inform my dad.  It has been this way for years.  When he stole dad's social security number 3 years ago and ran up $17,000 in debt in 3 months, I was the one who had to tell my dad.  When he traded the 3rd car my dad had given him in 2 years for drugs, I had to tell my dad. So, needless to say, I spent most of the morning sick to my stomach and angry at myself that after all these years of dealing with a sociopath, it can still have this kind of effect. So yesterday I had to tell Dad that there are several holes in the walls of the house, the carpet has been destroyed by dogs, and the best one.....Eric ran into an interior wall in the garage with his car and has caused structural damage to the house.  The wall in the living room is now buckled. Great. Good morning Dad, hope you are enjoying your Cheerios. 

We actually haven't heard from my brother in about 7 weeks.  Dad says it was Feb. 1st.  He knows this because he wrote Eric a check for $50 that day and said it would be the last one. He hasn't said a lot about this lack of contact, in fact I think it has been a break for him.  He scares my Dad and he is just starting to open up about those fears.  Not seeing him has been a good thing. There are still daily phone calls to my dad's number--debt collectors looking for Eric, but my dad has fallen into a routine of not answering or hanging up on them.  If I happen to take the calls, my approach is different.  I tell them Eric is a criminal and they need to quit disrupting my 92 year old father's life everyday.  I am not nice about it, but by the time I finish they usually agree to take Dad's number off their calling list.  This works for all callers except the Sprint collection people.  We can't get rid of that call because my brother took the phone out using Dad's social.  As far as they are concerned it is Dad's bill. 

So why am I writing and sharing this now?  Well, I have always talked too much, but more than that I am angry.  I am angry that once again I allowed a day to be lost to his craziness. I am angry that my Dad needs me to help him handle things because he has gotten too old to do it on his own. I am angry that he has hurt so many in his 49 years.  I am angry that he took "normal" away from so many and continues to do so.  It hurts.  It hurts to know the irreparable damage he has done to his children, to 2 wives and their families, my parents, and me.  He has robbed us all of those extended family moments--Christmas, Thanksgiving....all of it.  He has robbed children of normal childhoods.  I hate addicts.  That is a strong word, but it is how I feel.  I think unless you have lived it as we have, that may seem heartless.  I see stories of addiction on TV and sometimes I feel sad for them, but not for long.  We all have choices and some of them are very difficult.  Addicts take the easy way out and then blame everyone else.  In our case, we are dealing with more than just addiction because he is truly a sociopath, but addiction is a big part of the picture.  

So today, we will do what most addict's families do.  We will tell ourselves this is a new day.  We will pretend that everything is normal and take a break from discussing the elephant that is always in the room.  There will be jokes, discussions about gardening, and the daily critique of my evening meal. There is a UK game tonight and we never miss those.  I also have a friend coming to visit that I haven't seen in a while and I am excited about the visit. This is our normal.  For today at least, God will grant us the serenity to accept the things we can't change and change those that we can.  Maybe tomorrow we can discuss how to get one step closer to getting the elephant out of the house. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Basketball, the Benjamin Way

I was really excited this year when Ben said he wanted to play basketball.  I saw this as a great opportunity for him to learn about the game and how to be part of a team.  I didn't count on just how entertaining watching 5 and 6 year old kids play basketball would be. Or at least how entertaining my son would be. Honestly it is some of the funniest stuff you will ever see.  

First of all, the coaches are literally on the floor running back and forth with the kids.  They really get a workout. They have to run up and down the court with the kids because for the most part the kids don't know what is going on.  There is a lot of yelling "Hands in the air" and "Dribble the ball".  There are a few stand outs who seem to already have a grasp on how the game is supposed to be played, but for the most part this is just kids having fun.  The looks on their faces when they "accidentally" make the basket is priceless, even when the basket made is not on the correct end of the court.  There are also those dumbfounded looks when an opposing player steals the ball out of their hands.  When there is a "fight" over a ball, it is a true wrestling match and most of the team...well at least those paying attention...are involved in the battle. 

Unfortunately for us, Ben is one of those players who starts out paying attention, but then loses it quickly.  Tonight he seemed to forget he was there to play at all since he left the floor twice as his teammates ran the opposite direction.  The first time, I guess nature called and couldn't wait.  He ran off the floor.  The coach didn't seem to notice he only had 4 players on the floor.  By the time Ben came back, I guess he forgot he was supposed to be playing, because he went and sat down on the bench.  I yelled his name until I got his attention and pointed to the game and he ran back onto the floor.  He played with his mind on the game for about the next minute or so.  Then, I looked up and he and the girl he was supposed to be guarding were at the opposite end of the floor than the rest of the players and seemed to be talking smack to each other.  I could tell it was a heated conversation because she had her hands on her hips and her little pigtails were bobbing up and down.  By the time they finished, the team was coming back towards them so they decided to play again.  That was the first half of the game. 

During halftime, Ben took another bathroom break.  This was good, he would be ready to play, I thought.  He sat on the bench for the first part of the second half and I was proud that as he sat there, he seemed to actually be watching the game.  Then it was his turn to play again.  Within about 30 seconds he managed to hit the referee in the face when he tossed him the basketball.  The whole crowd made a sound.  I just shook my head.  The ref recovered quickly and the game resumed.  Ben finally did some decent dribbling and had 2 great efforts at shots.  Then, when I thought he had finally settled into the game, he left his team on the floor for the second time.  He left the floor, walked right over to me, gave me a hug, then went back to playing.  I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.  I mean it is hard to turn down a hug from Ben.  

Finally, the game was over.  I have no idea who won because they don't keep score with this age group.  All in all both teams had played a good and very entertaining game.  

On our way out, I found out that during his second  trip to the bathroom he had decided to check out the girls bathroom, because as we were leaving he told me the girls bathroom had white paint.  I decided not to ask if there were any girls in there at the time.  I was already mentally exhausted. 

His last game of the season is tomorrow morning and I think I will have Jason take him.....I am not sure I can sit through it again and keep my mouth shut.  One thing is for sure though, Ben has enjoyed playing.  He is sad that tomorrow will be his last game and I am a little sad too.  It will never be as simple and carefree as it is at this age.