Monday, November 24, 2008

Old Dog; New Tricks

I recently started a new job, and I'm even getting paid for it! For the past four years I've been volunteering in a ministry that I helped to start at our church. We serve pregnant and newly parenting women, helping them when they don't have family or friends around to do the stuff that new moms need help with, especially right after their babies are born.

When the opportunity came up to join the staff at a transitional home for pregnant and newly parenting women, it seemed like a logical extension of the ministry and worth pursuing. I'm now on the substitute list for the regular staff. Since the house is staffed around the clock with either 24 or 48-hour shifts, there is plenty of opportunity to fill in for the regulars when they're ill or want vacation time.

I figured that round the clock shifts would take some getting used to, and that I'd learn a lot, and was that ever an underestimation! I've worked one 24-hour and one 48-hour shift so far, and boy, do I have some stamina to build. Working for 48 hours was a good way to learn the rhythm of the house and to get to know the residents. The time actually went by pretty quickly. The advantages are that I got a full work week into two days, and only had to sit in traffic once. But I wasn't prepared for how difficult the re-entry would be; it was a doozy! It took almost 24 hours to feel like I had readjusted to my regular life and my own home, and I was way more tired than I expected to be, in spite of being able to sleep in the staff quarters. And I actually got six good hours of sleep each night, since the house was quiet and there were no emergencies (like someone going into labor).

At this stage of my life, almost every experience seems to come down to the realization that everyone has a story. Each of the residents have a story, they each have hopes and dreams, they each want to build a better life for themselves and their babies.
Now they're living in a cooperative setting, sharing chores and living space, learning communication skills, dealing with not only their own kids, but all the kids in the house. Shared toys, shared space, shared bathrooms. And they're all trying to find jobs or get trained for jobs, and their ultimate goal is to move out of this place and into permanent housing. Whew! Kind of like dorm life on a manic hormone binge.

I feel so blessed to have the best guy in the world to come home to, and already I've roped him into a home improvement chore at the house. Two people have told me already that having Cosmo show up at the house to visit me or do chores will be such a bonus for these women to see the example and the possibility of a good and faithful man. Amen to that.

Tomorrow I work another twenty-four- hour shift. At last week's house meeting, I offered to bake Thanksgiving pies with anyone who's interested. I got a very enthusiastic response. One woman who is going to visit some family for the holiday, told me that even though she was looking forward to seeing her family, she was sorry to have to miss the pie making.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to earn a little money doing work that's so similar to the volunteer work I've been doing. I think I have something to offer here. I'm even more sure that I still have much to learn.

Friday, November 14, 2008

End-of-Season Thoughts of an Accidental Gardener

After nine years in Seattle, I'm still a little amazed that in mid-November, everything is still so green, albeit soggy; some flowers are still in bloom; and today I was gardening, well sort of gardening-- tending to outdoor plants, at least-- and not shoveling snow.

A master gardener, or any true gardener more masterful than I, might chuckle at what I call gardening at any time of the year. I've stumbled upon my skills, really don't know what I'm doing, but I do derive a great deal of pleasure from the annuals that I pop into pots of all sizes and place on the deck to watch in fascination as they take off, or don't, as is sometimes the case.

I'm fond of the usual stuff: geraniums, petunias, marigolds, lobelia, ivy and other assorted viney things. I look forward to my annual trek to various nurseries and garden departments to select plants in late May. I love transferring fragile little seedlings from their 1- or 2- inch plastic planters into their new homes, and more or less randomly grouping different varieties together to see how they'll fare throughout the season. I enjoy watching them thrive, seeing some take over a pot while others struggle for space. By the time August rolls around, when it's still light at 9 p.m., I relish the hours spent sitting out there, enjoying a glass of wine and Cosmo's company, and taking in all the color and what is to me, sheer opulence.

This year I planted a gerbera daisy for the first time. I placed it alone in an aluminum watering can that I've turned into a planter. This plant was the most fun to watch as it flourished throughout the season. Unlike other flowering plants whose blossoms branch off from the greenery, the flower of the gerbera daisy sprouts up from the dirt on its own stalk. At first it hides under the leaves, and the tiny bloom is face-down and green. As the stalk grows and the blossom gets bigger, its face gradually turns sunward and eventually it bursts upright, rising triumphantly above the foliage. My plant produced one flower at a time, but it seemed to pace itself so that as the mature flower faded, a new tiny flower crouched under the protective leafy wings, waiting its turn to make a grand and stately entrance. We enjoyed a perpetual flame of color from this delightful little princess all summer long. And even now there's still one more fledgling bloom hiding under the leaves, trying to win a race against time.

Today I swept the last of the leaves off the deck, removed fallen leaves from the pots, picked dead leaves off the plants, tossed the plants that were done for sure, and rearranged everything that was left. I was quite pleased with the result, and felt a great sense of accomplishment in prolonging the life of my container garden. The summer furniture's covered and put away, but the deck acutally looks quite lovely on this November day. We can continue to enjoy the remaining spots of color, even from indoors, even through the inevitable November rain.

And I'm rooting for that last little gerbera. I hope it has a chance to pop up into full bloom before it succumbs to the frost.