The Silver Lining Syndrome

sunset-on-ocean.jpgYou’d think I would learn.

Living as a Christian is a dramatically altered course, and I set my sails at age 27. Over the years  I have experienced the excesses of charismatic churches, the soul-lifting prayers of various saints, the mind-numbing droning of pulpit inhabitants that perhaps should find another calling, the glorious transport to heaven on the wings of praise music. In short,  I’ve experienced countless sin-bashing sermons, participated in every Christian meditation practice I can think of, pursued Biblical wisdom until my mind bled.

Seriously.

So when fear, worry or dread, creep in on tip-toe and take my mind hostage, I should know that it’s an illusion. A snare. A poison dart to the brain, and  I should fight back with truth-darts of my own.

Instead, Continue reading

Spring Planting and the Scowlie Face

spring-4.jpg

Each spring, depending on where I live and for how long, I rush out and buy boatloads and buckets of flowering shrubs, impatiens, forsythia, dahlias – you name it, I buy it. Even though about one-half do not make it, every year I do it anyway. I have come to believe putting down Spring roots is as deeply entrenched an urge as nurturing children or seeking warmth. A primal and necessary urge.

I cannot pass a Lowe’s or a Home Depot without buying something. Anything! Even though the ballerina-grandma.jpglines are so long they wind around the back of the gardening department; even though there is not a cart in sight; even though impatiens have not even arrived yet,  at March’s end I experience Spring-planting-lust. I must buy something to put in the ground.

Something about putting down roots. Of course some people plant actual gardens every year, which I envy but will never, ever do.  I barely have a green thumb at all, and what I have is a very pale green just on the tippy-tip.

One thing I have noticed, though, is that the men do not seem overjoyed about all the fuss. The throngs of women that storm gardening departments are usually accompanied by their husbands, sons or significant others. None of these men wear a happy face. In fact most of them wear a scowlie face. Many of them stand resolutely beside their carts, guarding them with vigilance, arms crossed, waiting for the women to pick out whatever decorative, leafy thing they want. Others have reluctantly agreed to trot dutifully behind their women, and are nearly always at odds with them. For instance, this happened last Saturday:

pic of young girl jumpingMan: Mouth clamped shut. He lugs a cart loaded with plants, bushes plus two young children.

Woman in front of man: (Sarcastically) Thanks, Bob. Thanks a lot.

Man (Bob): What? What did I do now?

Woman: You could keep up with me. I need help loading this stuff, y’know!

Bob: Deep sigh. Silence

Woman: Thanks. Thanks a lot. Stalks away in a huff.

Bob: (Silently to himself) Why do I agree to this Every. Single. Year. He bends to pull an errant 2-year old back on the cart, and trudges after her.

Perhaps this is why the men usually park themselves and their carts placidly along the sidelines, waiting for the woman to summon them when needed. Probably a good idea that may prevent a domestic meltdown right in the middle of the begonias.

And this:

Man: Panting as he wheels cart to checkout, only to discover that the line is one-half mile long.

Woman: Smiling cheerily. “It’ll only take a few minutes. The line will go fast. You’ll see.” She turns to the gardening gloves, rose food, fertilizer pellets that line the way to checkout to spend another quick fifty bucks.

Man: “Um, haven’t we got enough?”

Woman: Spinning toward man, eyes squinting. “You never buy me ANYthing! And you are gonna deny me a little rose food? And do you want my Yelling woman IIhands to suffer? Do you? I must have gloves so I don’t kill my hands! She sniffs indignantly and continues inspecting various brands of rose food. Bayer, she told me, Bayer works best.

Man: Deep Sigh. He moves up two inches, his shoulders hunched in defeat. The people in line ignore the little spat because they are involved in one of their own. When Bob’s turn finally comes, after the tallying is done by the chirpy gardening department associate, she says, “That’ll be $1,341. 15.” He clutches his chest.

Woman: Nowhere in sight. She told him she’d wait for him in the car. Smart woman.

I’ve decided I will not drag my husband along on my Spring planting jaunts. If he wants to come, fine, but usually he does not. He is more comfortable putting the stuff in the ground. Doing man-stuff like digging the holes, toting stuff in a wheelbarrow, toting stuff out of my trunk and onto the assigned planting spot.

Works for me. So I think my Spring insight is this: the man is better at preparing and putting stuff in the ground; putting down the roots, so to speak.

makeover 5The woman, though, is more gifted at running up the tab. Men don’t necessarily need to witness  the annual Spring tab rolling along on a cart. I think it puts them in a bad mood. In extreme cases, it could case a sudden stroke.

I don’t have the heart to tell my husband that half the stuff I buy usually dies. I think that should be our little secret, don’t you, ladies?

Spring Projects and the Zealous Handyman

Young man in a treeMy eyes widened in disbelief.

My heart stopped, and my hand slid over my mouth automatically. I could almost feel the liability issues crushing me in a vise-like grip, along with our handyman’s mangled body.

Fortunately, this scenario played out in my mind only, but the horror of the thought was enough.

Spring has sprung, and so has my overly energetic calendar of home improvement projects. Last year, a friend of mine referred a resourceful, experienced and responsible handyman. I was delighted, and my home improvement cup ranneth over. I have used him for several projects, and he is reasonably priced, dependable, quick and honest.

But he does it on the side, and is not insured or bonded.  A minor detail I waved off with a flap of my hand when he was referred to me.

“Not bonded or insured?” I said with a roll of my eyes. “Not a problem. There’s nothing major we’ll put him to work on where he could get hurt. It’ll be okay.” So enraptured was I with the whole cheap-honest-quick-experienced description. I snapped him up and booked him immediately.

Last week we coordinated a fence project. We have a great (but ancient) split rail fence and many of the rails needed replacing. I figured he wouldhandyman 3 finish this project quickly, and what the heck, while he was in the backyard, he could look at and decide when he might take down a part of the dying river birch as well.

Right.

A half day into the fence project, I glance outside to check his progress, and lo and behold, he’s wielding the chainsaw like a crazed maniac on the 60-foot tall tree. Alone. No ropes.

Fortunately, my husband was home that day, and I screamed at him something like this:

“OHMIGOSH! OUR HANDYMAN IS TRYING TO CUT THAT TREE DOWN BY HIMSELF! DO SOMETHING!”

handyman 1My husband, who was reclined in the den watching sports, turned his head toward me slightly and furrowed his brow.

“What?” he responded, unwilling to move unless he absolutely had to. Obviously I had not communicated the severity of the situation. So I tried again, louder.

“OUTSIDE! LOOK OUTSIDE!” I pointed a quivering finger toward the backyard. He sighed, popped the recliner up, and heaved himself to his full height of 6’3″. His reluctance was communicated with each movement.

“HE DOESN’T HAVE A ROPE, OR HELP, OR…OR ANYTHING! YOU GOTTA DO SOMETHING! WHAT IF THE TREE FALLS IN OUR NEIGHBOR’S YARD?! WHAT IF HE GETS HURT?!”

He glanced casually at our handyman, who was still buzzing away at the tree. He shrugged.

“He knows what he’s doing. Besides, he’ll cut it so it’ll fall in the right direction. He’s okay.”

By now my heart had slowed a little. Since he was not concerned, I thought well, maybe he’s right. Maybe I am over-reacting. So I forced myself to drop it, and went to do something else. After a little while, I heard a huge WHAR-UMPHH followed by a smaller whar-umphh or two. My heart dropped to my knees. I ran to the window.

My husband had apparently decided he’d needed to get involved after all, and was walking back up the hill toward the house, shaking his head. At thehandyman 4 bottom of our backyard, lay two perfectly healthy, new split rails in pieces, where part of the dead tree had fallen and broken them. A large part of the dead tree lay in our neighbor’s yard and the rest of it, thank goodness, lay in ours.

I took in the scenario quickly, and glared at my husband as he entered the house. He understood the glare perfectly. It said Did I ask you to help? Didn’t I just want you to stop him until he had a better plan? What the heck happened?”

Knowing all this was zipping through my brain, he replied defensively, “It wasn’t my fault! He couldn’t have held the tree limb either! It was just too heavy to push in the direction he told me to!”

Then he mumbled similar things to himself and anyone who would listen the rest of the afternoon. I decided to drop my irritation and be very happy no one had gotten hurt. Later he told me our handyman had asked him to take over the chainsaw part at the bottom and he would leap up into the tree and push the dead limbs in the proper direction. My husband quickly volunteered to do the leaping up in the tree part, visualizing, I’m sure, severed limbs and several thousand pounds of tree on top of him if he tried to wield the chainsaw.

Obviously the leaping up into the tree and pushing the dead half of the tree in the right direction did not work out. But both the handyman and my husband were uninjured, so thank God for that.

I still don’t know what bothers me more: that I nagged my husband to get involved with a project he probably shouldn’t have, or that the handyman unwisely chose to begin a job that was more than he bargained for. If I’d kept my mouth shut and assumed the handyman knew what he was doing, would it have turned out better? Should I have hired a tree service instead of asking the handyman to take out half of the tree?

Maybe.

handyman 5Afterward, the handyman mentioned to me that he would hate it if he got injured on my property, then he gave me a sorrowful look. Well, now I understand why that bonded and insured thing is particularly important.

The handyman, no matter how many things he knows how to do, will only be working on less injury-prone projects from now on, or maybe none.  And no matter what, I will not demand my husband get involved.

Spring has sprung alright, but my home improvement initiative has been dealt a crushing blow. Maybe I’ll just focus on planting flowers.