See Wonder, Not Weeds

Spring seems to have officially arrived- hallelujah! The warmer temps, abundant sunshine, and ample amounts have rain have done their job.  The yard is growing and plants are blooming at long last! With all of that new growth comes a little bit of yard anxiety for me.  The list of spring yard work is long- there is grass that needs to be cut, weeds that need to be pulled, crabgrass that needs to be controlled, trees and shrubs that need to be trimmed, perennial beds that need to be cleaned out, and mulch that needs to be spread.  Although the end result is a labor of love for me, sometimes in the process when my back hurts and my allergies flare, and the to-do list seems way too long; I can forget the love and just see the labor.

Over Mother's Day weekend, I dodged the raindrops and purchased flowers for the pots on my backyard patio.  Completing the pots is always a big item on my list, so when I finally planted the last one and hung my hanging basket of flowers I felt a sense of accomplishment.  However, it was a short-lived victory.  As I looked around I could see about 10 more things that I needed to do that I wouldn't be able to do because of the weather.  I went inside feeling frustrated partly because I couldn't just enjoy what I HAD accomplished and partly because I really wanted to do more.

Later that day my husband was out with our dog and he saw a lady and her young daughter walking on the path behind our house.  At some point, the little girl stopped and looked at our yard and said "Wow, look at that. That yard is a wonder!"  The mom paused to take a closer look, made a positive comment, and then they continued on their way.  At dinner, my husband shared the story with me because he thought I would appreciate the sweet words of this little girl.  Now, there is no question that my yard is not a wonder.  Yes, it is landscaped and I like to plant flowers, but no reasonable adult would make that assessment. It is comical that this little girl chose that word, but for whatever reason, she saw something that caught her eye and captured her imagination.  It was clear that she wasn't seeing what I was seeing when I looked at the yard. She didn't see the long list of projects that still needed to be done, she was enjoying what was already there.

Her comment stuck with me.  Later on in the week, I walked on the path and looked at my house from her perspective.  Did I see anything magical? No, but I also didn't see the weeds that needed to be pulled or the moss growing on the patio, or the little patch of poison ivy growing in my perennial garden.  I did notice the pretty pink flowers that I had just planted and the colorful hanging basket above my garden.  I took in the incredible lushness of the grass and the trees that you see only in the springtime.  I saw how much my new garden area had filled in since last year with the promise of many new flowers. Nothing had changed in my yard since a few days earlier, only in my mind.  Once my perspective changed, so did my view.  

This is an ongoing lesson for me and many others. We want to have a positive perspective and enjoy what's happening in the moment, but somehow it seems to be easier to focus on the to-do list, what's missing, or what's next.  There is a continuing struggle to stay positive and not let the negative pull you in. Oftentimes it takes a tragedy to focus our attention on what matters. What do we do when we need a change of perspective? We need to put on a pair of perspectacles-magical glasses that give you the power of perspective! Wouldn't it be nice to slip on the glasses when we sense we need an attitude adjustment?

Ok, so we probably aren't going to find these magic glasses in our local CVS. It would be so much easier if we could! 

*I once have something close- a pair of sunglasses that were tinted in such a way to make everything look more colorful, more rosy, and more beautiful than they really were.  I called them my rose colored glasses and I'm pretty sure the time I had those were some of my happiest years!*

But what can we do when we need a new perspective? In my case, a comment from a stranger helped change my view.  The little girl made me question what I was seeing and wonder how I could see what she saw. But, I also took the time to physically change my point of view.  It's like looking in the magnifying makeup mirror every day.  Sure, you get an up close look at all that needs to be "fixed", but you also have to take a step back and look at the long view to see how everything looks as a whole.  By taking the long view of my garden instead of the close-up view, I was able to look past the minor flaws and focus on the greater beauty.  I still have the same to do list that I had before, but it feels different.  Now I can see the wonder too, and not just the weeds. 

I hope to apply this lesson to other areas of my life.  It always seems to be easier to see the weeds, but it is so much better to look for the wonder.  We don't have control over many things in this life, but we can control what we choose to look at and more importantly what we choose to see.  Let's use our perspectacles to help us see the truth, beauty, love, peace, joy, kindness, and goodness that surround us every day.  They are always there, you just have to be willing to look in the right place.


Freshman Year Complete- A Journey Home and A Journey Back in Time

Last week my husband and I drove to Ohio, packed up my daughter and her dusty dorm room, and brought her home. It was quite an accomplishment for all of us!  Claire survived her freshman year and so did we :-).  As we were packing up her belongings, it felt like we had just unpacked them and set her up in her cozy (tiny) dorm room for the first time. Yet, time being the trickster that it is, it also felt like a lifetime ago that we had obsessed over sheets and comforters, storage bins and organizational tools. Here she was in her room looking like she had done this for years. Could it be only 9 months ago that we wondered if she was prepared? Could it be only 9 months ago that I wondered if I would ever feel complete again? Thankfully the answer to both was a resounding yes. 

After the packing and cleaning were complete, we did one last walk around campus.  There was time to use a few more meal swipes and purchase a few more pieces of college swag.  The campus felt more comfortable, familiar, smaller even that it had a year ago during orientation.  After we settled into the packed van for the long drive home, with the stress of packing behind us and the monotony of the drive still ahead of us; we got to hear her thoughts on her first year of college.  We heard her talk about the great relationship she had with her roommate and the new room they will share in their sorority next year. We heard the excitement in her voice as she talked about future plans to study abroad. My heart soared as she shared stories of new friends she had met and their tentative plans to get together this summer.  We listened quietly as she talked about the challenge of learning new topics at such a quick pace and the way she adjusted her study habits accordingly. We excitedly nodded as she told us about a new program she had joined and was looking forward to next year.  

There was no way we could reasonably express with words our pride, our relief, and our excitement that her freshman year had gone so well.  Of course, that had been our hope and expectation, but the first year doesn't always go that way.  There are plenty of kids who struggled through their freshman year and who went home early, decided to transfer, or stuck it out without such great memories. We were overwhelmingly thankful for the positive experience she had and exhaled with relief in a way that we hadn't in a long time.  Eventually, the long car ride took its toll and my daughter dropped off into a well deserved post-finals nap.  My thoughts drifted back many years to my own trip home from campus after freshman year. 

I have surprisingly few memories of packing up my belongings and cleaning up my dorm room, but I do remember that my dad was the one to drive me home for the summer.  I remember getting into the loaded car and settling in for the nearly 2 hour drive home.  In an uncharacteristic display of talkativeness, I shared with my dad how wonderful my year had been.  I talked about the friends I had made and all that I had learned.  I marveled at the variety of people I had met and how exciting it was to know people of so many different life circumstances.  I can still remember the pure joy as I shared my thoughts with him. Going away to college was the single most life-changing thing that had happened to me up to that point in time.  I was bursting with excitement as I shared my experience with him.  Unfortunately, I can't recall what he said.  My memory fills in the conversation with words of acknowledgment and a few "that's great baby's".  For some reason, I long to know what he was thinking at that moment.  Was he feeling proud? Was he happy for my experience? Did he think I was being overly dramatic in that way that only 19 year olds can be? Was he tired and wishing I would stop talking?!?  Did he worry that I was changing too much, too fast and fear that I was growing away from him? I wonder.

I wish I could ask him. My dad has been gone for 12 years now and the moments of instinctually reaching for the phone to call him have mostly passed.  But for whatever reason, this moment with my daughter brought up an intense desire to know.  Did he feel the same mix of emotions that I felt? I like to think that I know how he was feeling but the truth is that I don't. For now, how he felt will remain a question mark in my mind and his thoughts will remain his alone. Maybe the expression of our feelings is never as clear to others as we think that it was.

As we continued our drive, my thoughts returned to the present. I found myself sneaking glances at my daughter. How I had missed her sweet face! I wanted to soak it all in and refamiliarize myself with the details of her face- slightly different, more mature somehow, the angles a little less sharp, same beautiful dark eyes.  As we talked, I could see that my "little girl" still had her same lively personality and infectious sense of humor.  Much felt exactly the same. Yet, I could also see her growth and maturity. What I couldn't assess was how she felt on the inside.  Did she feel like she had grown? Did life look different to her after a year away from home? I'm sure over the coming weeks the differences will be more pronounced.  Her newfound independence will bump against my sense of parenting control.  Her newly formed thoughts on different subjects may not always agree with mine.  Our town will definitely feel smaller and less exciting than a college campus! But hopefully, she will feel and appreciate the comfort and joy of coming home that will remain with her long after college life is over.

What I hope for her this summer after freshman year is that she will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we love her, we are proud of her, we support what she is doing, we appreciate her efforts,  and we ENJOY her.  Although I can't go back in time and know what my dad was thinking on our drive home after freshman year, I can do my best to make sure that my daughter doesn't have the same questions. I hope she knows the answers and isn't left to wonder.

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