Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I have a pretty good memory. No, I can't always remember where I put my wallet or the five million little notes I've strewn throughout the house. But there are some moments and events that leave me with powerful and long-lasting images. Last week, I added another one to my collection.

I was driving along the road with my boys in the back seat. Up ahead, I could see the traffic was slowing down. "Are we approaching the section of road that's supposed to be closed today?" I wondered to myself. I wasn't too familiar with this area, so I was preparing myself for what direction the upcoming detour would take me.

I quickly learned there was no detour at all, but a scene that will be forever etched into my heart and my mind. A deer sat on the side of the road, a towel covering her head and blood streaming from her head/mouth, with a woman standing guard beside her, waiting for the help that was just arriving on the opposite side of the street.

I saw it all so quickly, as I was in the midst of a line of a couple of cars and had to keep moving (albeit a bit slower than one would ususally drive here) so as not to cause another accident. Yet one of the things that immediately came to mind was,"Is Jacob looking? How can I divert his attention before he sees what's happening?" I didn't want him to see the suffering of the deer. I didn't know what I would say to him. I didn't want him to see my face as I choked back my tears, not wanting to upset him. Thankfully (for me) Jacob was oblivious to what was happening. He was sitting there innocently looking ahead. He didn't see the deer. He didn't even notice me crying or hear me quietly praying for the deer and the woman watching over her.

But was my reaction was on the right track? Of course, we want to protect our young children from experiences that could be harmful or detrimental to their growth. Was this one of those experiences? Perhaps this could have been an experience which deepened his love and empathy for animals. Perhaps this could have given us an opportunity to talk about how God's intention was for life and not for death.

Yet when I looked back at my boys, still so young and fragile, my heart ached as I thought of how, little by little, their innocence will be eroded. They will have to come face-to-face with all kinds of struggles and sufferings, and eventually, death, in their lives. Shouldn't we aim to shelter them and preserve their innocence for as long as possible?

I don't know. There certainly are no easy answers. It's during these times when I am reminded of how helpless and lost we are without God. Sometimes, all we can do is cry out, "Lord have mercy."

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I've moved a lot. And when I say a lot, I really do mean a lot. Since I graduated from college, I've probably moved close to 15 times (and I'm not that old). My family used to joke that they waited to get my new address every year. Most of the moves weren't terribly far away from each other. But they were enough to prevent me from really digging roots (literally) in one place for too long. And as someone who truly loves to garden, this hasn't always been easy for me. One good thing that has come out of it, though, is that I've had a chance to start from scratch in a variety of places and situations. It's always fun to look at an empty piece of land, imagine the possibilities and get to work! (I also think there's an interesting parallel between garden planning/preparation and Lent. We do physical work in the garden with the hope of a bountiful harvest, and we do spiritual work during Lent with the hope of the Resurrection at Pascha.)

Last year was our first summer at our new house. I was so excited to start up a new garden... one that would be a bit more permanent than all the other gardens I've started up throughout the past several years. But when it came time to get work on it, I had a newborn baby to care for. It seemed as though every time I put my shovel to the ground, he would want to nurse. So, I did what any realistic woman would do... I put my shovel down. And I didn't pick it back up again for the rest of the summer.

What about the garden, you wonder? Oh, I had a garden, of course. But I didn't remove a single inch of sod, and I didn't dig a single inch of soil. I converted a portion of my lawn into a garden "no-dig-style" simply by letting time do the work for me. It was so easy and lots of fun! My three-year-old son actually did most of the work with me.

One of our neighbors offered up her newspapers. We laid them down on top of the lawn. I found a few cardboard boxes in our basement and covered as much of the newspaper as we could with them. Then we noticed that another neighbor had several large bags of leaved out for the trash. After several trips back and forth with our trusty litte red wagon, we dumped out all of the leaves on top of the newspaper and cardboard. Next, a friend of mine picked up several bales of straw in her truck and we spread a really thick layer of straw on top of everything else. Jacob's favorite part was when he took charge of the hose. He sprayed it all down to moisten things up and that was it!

Since our compost pile was too young to have generated any compost, we picked up a couple bags of leaf compost. Then I spread the straw around, dumped in a few handfuls of compost, and planted my seedlings. All in the same day. So much easier than all that backbreaking digging!

Now I won't lie and say it all took off quickly. It didn't. (And in the meantime I had to answer some questions from people who were wondering why I was putting all that straw on my lawn.) From what I understand, it's more ideal to wait a while to plant so everything has some time to break down a bit. But, time was not on my side. I wanted a garden and I wasn't going to miss a growing season!

After some time went by and the plants seemed to be stalled in their growth, my husband started remarking that it didn't seem as though my garden was going to do so well this year after all. But I did not give up hope. As the saying goes, "All good things take time." I just figured it was taking a little extra time for the roots of the plants to dig down through the sod and the hard top layer of the soil. Sure enough, things sure did take off! I harvested enough tomatoes to not only make and freeze sauce for ourselves but to share with all of our neighbors, too.

The other day, the weather was absolutely beautiful, so I had a chance to check out how everything looks underneath that straw. I'm excited to say that, except for a light covering of straw, everything has broken down into a nice, rich, crumbly soil! So, after all of last year's beginning "hard" work, I'm hopeful about another season of fresh veggies from the garden.
The picture on the left shows the garden space I started last year, all ready to get going for this year. The picture on the right is Jacob's garden. Last year, all I could plant with him was some sunflowers. He ended up taking over the rest of his garden as a digging site. This year, my plan is to expand his garden space toward our composting area to give him more room to grow things in, and as a great bonus, less lawn to mow (don't get me started on my thoughts about lawns!). I'd also like to take out the bushes alongside of our house and plant something a little more useful (like blueberries) instead, but I haven't quite convinced my husband on that one... I'm hopeful :-)

Thursday, March 12, 2009


"Only wonder can comprehend His incomprehensible power."

- St. Maximus the Confessor

I am so behind on organizing pictures that I have pretty much admitted defeat. Jacob will be four in May and the last picture I developed was from when he was six months old. The one good thing I've come to appreciate about this is that when I get a chance to root through some old digital cards, I discover some beautiful moments that really melt my heart and remind me of how deep my love is for my children.
Jacob has the gift of finding great joy in life. When out in the natural world, he loves to fully immerse himself in everything he can see, touch, taste, and smell. He often literally dives right into the experience with joy just oozing out of him. I absolutely love this about my son.

I am not one of those mothers who expects their children to stay clean when they go outside to play. To me, getting dirty is evidence that you've had a seriously good time. I think that's part of the job description for a child.
I remember when I took that picture of Jacob playing in the stream. I will never forget the sound of him squealing for joy as he jumped and splashed around. A man was walking past us while this was happening and said, "You're a good mom. My mom never would have let me do that." My thought is, why not? How sad it is that we squelch children's innate desire to have fun in the natural world just because we don't want them to get wet or dirty. If it's not too cold, I say, let them jump in the stream! Let them get wet! Just bring along an extra change of clothing...
If only we, too, could experience the wonder of God's creation through the senses of a child. Perhaps this would instill in us a reverence and love for creation that would inspire us to do something to bandage the wounds we've inflicted upon it. Maybe we all need to dive right into the stream ourselves more often... and just take along a dry change of clothing :-)

Sunday, March 1, 2009


"It is not too late. God's world has incredible healing powers. Within a single generation, we could steer the earth toward our children's future. Let that generation start now, with God's help and blessing."

- Patriarch Bartholomew & Pope John Paul II, 2002 Joint Declaration on the Envrionment

While I struggle with the cold darkness of winter, there is one thing during this time that brings me great joy... starting seedlings for my garden. My seedlings have begun germinating, and one of my favorite things to do throughout the day is to dote upon them... watering them, looking at them, watching to see if any new seedlings will sprout. I never cease to be amazed by the process of nurturing the life that comes forth from a seed. At first glance, a seed seems so small and insignificant. Yet, within each seed lies the hope and promise of new life.

Even in the most unwelcoming of situations, life wants to grow. I have often marveled at the tiny plants that poke up out of the cracks in the sidewalk. Their persistant desire to reach toward the light is inspiring. Several years ago, while I was in the midst of a huge emotional struggle, a very dear friend of mine gave me some beautiful advice that I carry with me to this day. She said something to this nature, "If you think this time of darkness in your life is worthless and empty, think of the seeds that are planted into the darkness of the soil. They get rained on and trampled on and sometimes forgotten. Yet they eventually grow into something beautiful."

When thinking of the suffering and injustice in the world, it can be easy to fall into despair, to feel as though our efforts are tiny and insignificant. Too often, we either excuse ourselves from making different lifestyle choices by saying one person's choices won't make a difference to the world, or our sheer laziness prevents us from taking opportunities to make more compassionate choices. Yet, by God's grace, one person truly can make a difference.

Each small action we take to be kinder to God's creation is like a small seed of hope planted into the darkness of the world. And by being faithful in the small things, we can learn to be faithful in larger things. Besides, as Patriarch Bartholomew once said, “If we are not moved to compassion, bandaging the wounds of the earth, assuming personal care, and contributing to the painful costs, then we might easily be confronted with the question, which of these do you resemble: the Good Samaritan or the indifferent person?”