Archive | April 2014

Planting seeds to grow a community

As I have previously stated, I started a list of goals for 2014 back in December.  Some are personal goals.  Some are financial goals.  Some are household goals.  And, some are ‘pay it forward’ goals.

One of these pay it forward goals is that I would like to start a community fruit and vegetable garden.  While it is not a new idea, it is something that I believe would benefit many people here in my local area.  People like single parents, un/under employed, dual income families with just too many ends to make meet each month– basically, anyone and everyone.  Even though I am unemployed, I do not qualify for benefits such as SNAP or WIC because a piece of paper states an amount that I should be receiving to support my children.  Sometimes I get this income.  Sometimes I do not.  It’s not at all regular, but, because that piece of paper says I get it, it leaves me unable to qualify for assistance.  I know that I could benefit from a community garden to help offset the cost of groceries for the children and I.

This garden would not be charity, though.  Quite the contrary, actually.  This garden would allow those to proud to apply for assistance an opportunity to ‘work’ for their shares of fruits and veggies.  This garden would allow those that get assistance an opportunity to stretch their benefits a bit further.  This garden would give parents a teaching opportunity for their children on what it means to work for a living.  This garden would allow children to see how awesome our environment is and how to use it to provide sustenance.   This garden would bring a community together and allow for networking and new friendships and relationships.  This garden would be a community effort– one that is as functional as it is beautiful.

I envision plots of tomatoes and vines of squash.  I picture blueberry bushes and strawberry patches.  I dream of peppers and lettuces and broccoli and cucumbers and carrots and more.  I imagine children laughing and smiling as they sneak green beans and snap peas to nibble.   I see beautiful flowering plants and overflowing baskets of healthy, ripe, delicious vegetation.  And, I visualize the family recipes being utilized to create meals that fill the bellies and hearts of all whom partake of the community garden.

When the seasons start to change, and the growing season slows, the community garden is just warming up!  While I cannot, I know there are many that can and do can fruits and veggies from harvests.  The garden will have its harvest, and the remaining bounty can be made into salsa and jams and canned tomatoes, peppers, and more.  This effort will enable the community to enjoy the labors of the summer months well into the long, cold winter.  One of my favorite Christmas gifts this past December was a jar of homemade salsa from a dear friend.  When I cracked the seal on the jar and poured out the fresh tomatoes, peppers and cilantro into a bowl, I remembered my friend and our talks and our stories.  It was comforting– and delicious!!

The problem is, though, that I do not know the first thing about taking on a project like this.  This is all that I know:  I would have to find a location and get zoning.  I would have to get word out so that we could build our list of ‘community helpers’ to get gardens prepped and sectioned off.  We would need tools and gloves and knee pads for us *ahem* older helpers.  We would need to have seedlings started– or maybe we could get donations from some of the local stores.  We would need to create schedules of weeding, watering, and general maintenance of the space.  When the plants begin to produce, we would need help harvesting and sorting and packaging.  We would need to divide the harvest amongst the community garden helpers and families.  Anything left over could be donated to a shelter or soup kitchen, I’m sure, or, used in early canning batches.

One thing that I would like to see happen–besides the community coming together to grow relationships and food–is a community dinner created from our harvest.   I can think of nothing better than coming together to share in the reward of our hard work.

Has anyone ever started anything like this?  Any advice or input?  Would you participate in a community garden?

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Silver Linings

“Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way.” ~~Florence +the Machine ‘Shake It Out’

I have had one hell of a year so far.  I am seriously considering a career in Country Music as my life provides plenty of fodder for song writing.  My car broke down in January.  I lost my job in February (remember, I am a single mom…).  My dog died in March (he was 14…).  My cat got plowed down in the middle of the street by a *ahem* very nice woman who happened to be texting while driving just last week.  Seriously, I have the makings of a perfect country singing career here, folks!

When 2014 began, I was full of hope and positivity.  I know, difficult to believe, but I was determined that this was going to be MY year.  I turn the big 4-0 *GASP* this July, and had decided that instead of dreading it, I would embrace said birthday by having an awesome lead in with the remaining months of my 30’s.  Silver linings were my thing.  I’ve spoken previously of the proverbial ‘shit-fan’ in which I seem to have a seat planted firmly front and center, but, that I was working on learning how to step aside when it turns on.  That’s where the silver linings come into play– I would take each seemingly negative situation and find at least one positive thing within it.  It was working.  People were seeing the change in my outlook and behavior.  In fact, at work, one person in particular would email me or come find me after we had been issued bad news (which was happening quite frequently) and ask me “Okay, Pam… where is the silver lining here….”.  I suppose that, like a dreaded virus or something equally as icky, my new positive outlook was contagious.  I felt good.  I felt more at peace.  I felt I was on the path to healing.

And then the car died on New Year’s Day and cost just about $500 to fix.  I do not, usually, have that kind of disposable funding lying around– especially not after Christmas and just before the twin’s birthday.  Yikes.  I found the silver lining, though– at least it broke down on a day I was off from work so that I did not miss a day!  YAY!  And then it died again approximately two weeks later.  This time, the damage was almost $900.  The silver lining was very quickly turning into a tarnished mess, but I brushed it off and moved on.

Well, as I stated above, the couple of months since have been progressively worse, and I have lost all sight of that silver lining.  Gone.  Vanished.  Just like my 30’s are about to be. I have not had that awesome lead into my 40’s as I had hoped and planned.  And, I’m angry.  Bitter, even.

Much like Florence + the Machine state in their song, regrets do collect like old friends.  They like to bring along buddies.  They like to fill the room until everyone is nose to nose and there is no room left for anyone to take a single breath without stealing air from someone else.  They consume everything.  They continuously whisper in my ear…… they tell me I’ve failed. Again.  They remind me of all of the things I promised myself I would do.  They remind me of the list of goals I started back in December for 2014 (also when I implemented the silver lining initiative) and how I have not accomplished a single one of them.  Like a child clings to every single word of the story their parent reads to them before bedtime, I cling to these regrets as if they somehow keep me alive.

But, they are killing me.

I have never, in my entire life, felt so lost.

I know that it may seem as if this post is simply to bitch and moan about how awful my life is— but I promise it is not. In fact, I have been attempting to gather my thoughts enough to sit down and type this since leaving Church this past Sunday.  There is a gentleman there that plays piano for and sings (amazingly) with the Praise Band (my teenager sings with them once a month… it was her week as well) and he sang a song that….. that, I do not even know how to explain it… but it just seemed to dig right through all of the piles of shit I have sewn together and wear like a prom gown:

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise ~~Laura Story “Blessings”

Don’t worry, I am not going to get all holy roller on you all.  I am still struggling with my faith and beliefs, so I am hardly the one to preach.  But, for whatever reason, as he sang these words, I wanted to cry.  I have spent all of these years looking at the countless trials I have been handed as bad luck…. a massively raw deal… each one a tragedy.  As he sang these words, something shifted within me and I felt something I have not felt in a very long time…..

I felt hope.

As he sang these words, I thought about each one of these raw deals I had been handed throughout the years, but especially the ones these past few months, and realized that they are not tragedies at all.  They are opportunities.  How can my busted car be an opportunity. you ask?  My dead pets?  My position at work being downsized?

My busted car has provided me with an opportunity to see the value of getting it paid off so that I can finally purchase a dependable vehicle.  I am close to having it paid off, and had I not lost my job, it would have been paid off by now, but that is okay….. I will continue with my regular monthly payments for now, and when I find a new position I will go back to throwing double and triple payments at it and move forward with my goal of obtaining that new(er) vehicle. A positive thing.

My animals passing away is tough– anyone that knows me and my wild kingdom of children and animals knows that I am crazy about my pets.  They are just as much children to me as my actual children.  But– Hudson lived a very full 14 years and can now swim in the lakes without worry of those awful, painful ear infections or his back-end giving out.  Sokka the kitty only had four short years of life, but he was the neighborhood watch-cat.  Everyone knew him.  He was a superstar on our block.  Perhaps his terrible death caused by the texting driver gave her pause– and opened her eyes that next time might be a child.  Perhaps his passing helped one person put down the phone while driving. That would be a positive thing for sure.

My position being eliminated at work has caused me much turmoil. I have cried more tears than I ever thought I could create. I am, for all intents and purposes, the only one supporting my children and our home, and the loss of employment has taken away my ability to do so.  But truth be told, I was unhappy in my position.  I felt that I was being under-utilized and under-paid due to the wage freeze for five of the seven years in which I was an employee.  I wanted more.  The loss of the job has provided me with an opportunity to find a position that I will love and be excited for each day.  I am still looking, but am optimistic that I am going to find something wonderful very soon.  The other good part of being laid off is that I have had these past six weeks to focus on the final class in my graduate degree program.  I will complete the program on April 29th and will have earned my Masters of Arts in Organizational Leadership— and I did it as a single mother of three working full-time.  Not too shabby.  A very big accomplishment, if I do say so myself.

I guess what I am saying is this:  As he sang that song and those words, he brought back my silver linings.  He forced me to feel things I had been refusing.  He forced me to put things back into perspective.  Yeah, I know…. he didn’t sing the song for me… and, likely, has no idea about everything I have been going through lately.  Maybe it was the fact that I really love his voice and focused a bit more on the words.  Or, maybe it was the big man upstairs trying to get a message to me that He knows I’ve been cursing Him and feeling like I should just walk away from Him and the Church all together.  I have no idea.  All I know is this… whatever the reason… it worked.

I pulled out that list of goals for 2014 I created back in December.  I changed a few things– mostly time frames due to the layoff– and added a few more.  I feel more strongly, now, that I will not only accomplish the goals I have already written down, but, that I will be adding a lot more to it as the months (very quickly) pass.  There are a few that I need to buckle down and begin working on here very soon as I have them slated to be completed prior to my birthday.  That gives me just shy of four months.

I am scared, but determined.

I’ve got this.