The Secret Garden: A Life Blossoming

Secret Garden

One of my favorite books is The Secret Garden. Not necessarily a light, uplifting children’s novel (it does begin with the death of the protagonist’s parents), but it’s an engaging story about finding beauty in your (sometimes dreary) surroundings, making the most of change, and being thrown into a new environment and finding a better self. The young heroine becomes a better person (less selfish, more understanding, less whiny, and more bold) by her change in circumstances that she could never have predicted.

I’ve been given a chance to become a better person. The day before school started for my children, I was called into the school office for a job interview. I walked out two hours later having accepted the position of the first grade aide: a job I wasn’t exactly qualified for, but one that would allow me the same hours as my kids and even give me the chance to work in my son’s classroom. Through circumstances I can only call Divine, I was given a job that I had been looking for (knowing it was time to “get back in there”), delivered in a package that I could have never expected.

And oh, how it has changed me. The school year has only been four weeks, but look what happened to the Secret Garden in one season: it blossomed. I have always had high respect for teachers, I just never wanted to be one. I sent my children to school, expected them to be well-behaved, have fun, and come home having learned something. I didn’t think much of what happened in the in-between times. Now that I have first hand knowledge of what is happening, my respect-o-meter for teachers is off the chart. One friend said that a teacher makes up to 20,000 decisions a day. That may be an over exaggerated number, but I’m sure it’s close. There is not a moment in the time that I am there that a child is not asking her for something: attention, discipline, love, more love. And the two teachers I work under always give it. It’s amazing! I am in awe that they aren’t huddled in a corner rocking themselves because they are needed too much. It’s not how they see it. They believe they are CALLED to be there, it’s not their profession. They approach each day ready to form these kids, impart knowledge, direct their paths, and love on them.

And how does that make me a better person? I get to witness it, first-hand. I get to see what authentic compassion and unconditional love looks like. And then I have the chance to turn around and try it myself. Instead of telling a child the answer, I am learning to bring it out in them. Instead of being quick to anger, I am learning self-control and loving restraint. Instead of choosing favorites, I am realizing that every child wants to love and be loved. I am a “rough around the edges” kind of gal, and I am learning to soften a bit, to bend down and listen, and that a pat on the head might mean a better day.

This “back-to-work” thing has put a cramp in my traveling, but for now I will learn what I can, and I will bloom where I am planted.

Before and After

Before and After

I love a good Before and After.

An HGTV reveal on Fixer Upper. (Hello kind Texas lady, please come and decorate my home!) A “picked” piece like the metal chair above; spray paint makes everything look better. And best of all, but least of all ever done, I love a good hair before and after. But I did it, I cut SIX inches off of my hair.

 

Hair

 

Please excuse the selfie- I am not of the selfie generation and I’ve never learned my “angles.” I prefer the non set-up on the left.

Ch, ch, changes

Now you need to know my emotional relationship with my hair to really know what a big deal this is. I feel pretty with long hair, always have. My mom always said “The only thing we can control is our hair and our weight,” so usually in times of complete chaos in my life, I become a redhead or try the “Meg Ryan” (look that up under-30 year olds). But for the last decade, I’ve kept the standard long, blonde on top, natural on bottom, hair.

My life isn’t chaotic, but with change on the horizon, it was time for something new. Plus, I needed hair that maybe looked more “professional” than the bohemian, wild woman look (which I have to admit has worked for me). So before looking for a job, I had my gal cut it off and I didn’t cry! I don’t even regret it two weeks later. And that’s a first. My hair is big (texture-wise), and I still don’t know how to style it, but I needed the change. I relate it to what people with dreads must feel like when they cut them all off. Start new. Start fresh. Change is good. And as my friends who encouraged it said,

It’s only hair.

Mama Got Her Hair Wet

Alternative title to this post:

Searching for a Child-Like State of Being

My Summer Goal this year was to get my hair wet. You see, I’m a dyed blonde and my straw-like, over processed, yellow tresses tend to grab green from the chlorine of any amateur pool owner’s water. So there’s a lot of “Don’t splash Mommy!” and “Chill out, you’ll get my hair wet.” And frankly, that’s not fun. Even in the ocean, where I feel at most myself, I have neglected to submerge in recent years, knowing it is going to be a pain in my rear to comb through later. Again, no fun. But water is where I am the most fun and to not have my kids know that side of me is…sad. So this summer I decided to do some cannon balls into the pool and have underwater hand stand competitions (which, of course, I won). My kids saw me laugh again.

The “What Ifs” Got Me

And this was only my first step in searching for a child-like state of being. My life has become ruled by “What Ifs” and “Be Carefuls.” I’ve become a joy kill. I swear I used to be the funnest person in the room when I was younger. My friend’s 5-year-old ran up to me the other day to give me a great big bear hug. I stopped her because I had just gotten out of hot yoga and I was sweaty and didn’t want to get her wet. My girlfriend replied “She doesn’t care. She wants to show you what you mean to her.” She reminded me that kid’s don’t have those boundaries we set up as adults and continue to hide behind. I need to give more wet hugs. I need to drop some boundaries. I need to be less careful. Travel used to push those boundaries for me; how can I rediscover travel to use it again to open me back up?

The Ocean is Calling Me

CA beach

To put this child-like state of being into affect, I challenged myself to be a little spontaneous on my most recent day out. My daughter and I were heading to an art festival, and as we approached the turn off, I asked her “Should we just go to the beach instead?” The ocean is calling me, and I must answer. Caution be gone, I even ponied up the $15 to park (knowing this beach is really the gem of So Cal), and down we went to the water. At first I began with “Don’t go into the water past your thighs.” (Because old habits are hard to break.) But then we went further and further, until the water washed over us like the most spiritual baptism. We laughed and we splashed and we rode the waves in. 

One day my daughter may not want to be seen with me. One day being at the beach with her mother won’t be cool. So that day I soaked it all in-my daughter, the water, the joy. And perhaps pure joy is how to become childlike again.

***Side Note: Later that evening, I discovered I lost my driver’s license at the beach. My joy quickly subsided when it dawned on me that I was going to have to spend a day at the DMV. Trying to sustain that joy, takes purposing it into being on a daily basis. So to regain it once again, the next day when a skater rode by me with an albino boa wrapped around him, and asked me if I wanted to pet it, I did. I was hesitant at first, but reminded myself that my younger self would do it. As I went to touch the enormous snake, the skater said to me “See, you’re being brave.” And as my fingers went to the back of the boa’s body instead of near the mouth, the skater continued “Ish…Brave-ish.” That’s okay, that’s a beginning.

Here We Go: Wild and Free

Oahu, HW

I live a nomadic life. In my head. In my head I live a nomadic life. Truth be told, I’ve actually lived in the same city for my entire 30’s. My 20’s was a different story: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Costa Rica, back to LA, Las Vegas. But with children came sedimentary and as I look at entering a new decade, my wanderlust has emerged once again.

All Good Things Are Wild and Free. Thoreau

I believed (believe) this quote, but I’m just not sure what that looks like now. Last night I watched the documentary “Surfwise” (I watch A LOT of documentaries), about a family who’s patriarch was a Stanford educated doctor, but he bucked society, collected his nine plus kids in a camper, and lived to surf and travel. Love the premise, but in all actuality, none of the grown children seemed very happy. My mother always says “Everything in moderation, even moderation.” I don’t think I’m ready to live with my family in a camper. In fact, we are heading out on a road trip up the coast soon and I’m nervous just being in the car all together for a few days. But I digress. We are looking to retire from the military after TWENTY years of service (the hubs, not me), and we could go ANYWHERE! But we’re scared. There’s a whole lot of anywhere. And our kids like it here. And I finally have a good hairdresser. But we don’t feel very wild and free.

OverSeas 

Oahu, HW

In high school, one of my girlfriends went with her family to live in Costa Rica for her sophomore year. How cool is that? When everyone is so shallow and crazy hormonal, grab the kids and take them to another country to see it’s not all about them. I don’t think I got it at the time, I was actually miffed that they took our point guard away from the girl’s basketball team, but now I think they’re great parents. My husband and I LOVE Hawaii and my daughter has a connection to sea turtles after swimming behind one there and she says Hawaii like a local. We have a connection. But the reality is that’s a major move. You would think a military wife wouldn’t be afraid of a little move, but this military wife hasn’t had to relocate much. So here we are with the question “If all the world is your oyster, where do you want to spit shine your pearl at?”

And that is what we will be figuring out ladies and gents…