Sometimes fences don’t make good neighbors

In my younger years my temper never bothered me—I was a hothead about pretty much everything. I really can’t say when I decided it was time to change this behavior, because it happened so slowly, over a huge amount of time, but now I hate it when I lose control.

This week my daughter made a foolish choice and climbed over the fence we share with a neighbor to grab a football that had fallen into their yard. She rang the doorbell but nobody came, so she thought it best to take care of the problem by retrieving the football herself.

To say this older couple is anxious about their fence would be an understatement. I put up with the husband coming into our yard to check his precious fence several times after we first moved in years ago. Every little thing we did while putting in our yard was watched, like the “eyes of a hawk,” from their back porch. The constant reminders that if we broke their fence we would have to pay for it wasn’t fun either, but I figured with a little patience and time they would come to realize we weren’t the terrible neighbors they feared. I even had my kids help me shovel their driveway the entire winter last year so the older woman wouldn’t have to do it. We didn’t ask for pay, we didn’t even ask for thanks, we were just trying to show them we were good neighbors.

Well…that came crashing down the moment my daughter jumped that stupid fence to get the football. Unbeknownst to us, the older couple had been in their backyard, sitting in the dark, observing the end of summer bonfire my teenage kids were having with their friends. The moment my daughter jumped the fence, they freaked.

I get a not so gentle knock on my front door and find my daughter in the clutches of the older woman. The older woman shoves the now recovered football into my face and proceeds to tell me what my daughter had done. I do my best to squash my sigh and take the ball from her hand. The woman pulls it back only to shove it back into my face and reminds me that if we break the fence we would have to pay for it.

That was it—the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’ve never physically shoved someone older than me in my entire life, but I pushed that woman until she no longer stood on my property. All the while, my now full blown temper yelled so loud I’m sure everyone in our neighborhood heard me. “You would think by now you would have figured out that we’re not the kind of people who wouldn’t fix something if we broke it! Yes, my daughter made a mistake, but she’s a good kid, and she’s been good to you! They are children! And they have a right to be children and have fun! Maybe if you’d take a second and remember what that felt like you’d stop being such a lunatic!”

My performance didn’t leave me happy once the red haze faded—even if the old-biddy deserved it. I showed my children, and all their friends that came, my very worst trait. Parenting 101 fail!

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Our funky bush out front

My oldest son, since he was about ten, has a habit of planting seeds in plastic cups and placing them on his bedroom’s window seal. He sometimes doesn’t even know what he’s growing—he just likes to observe the growing process of seeds.

There have been mishaps throughout the years. I’ve cleaned muddy soil out of carpet more than any mother should, yet I understand the fascination. I like to grow things too. I just do mine outside.

Around April, he put a new cup up on the ledge of his window. At first, it produced the saddest looking twigs I’d ever seen.

“What did you plant?” I asked my son.

He shrugged his shoulders, indicating, once again, his didn’t know. “Maybe it’ll look better if I plant it outside.”

I had serious doubts it would survive, but now I shrugged my shoulders. One ugly plant wouldn’t ruin the look of the many random plants I have growing in the front yard. Our yard is still only a couple of years old and I’m still trying out ideas.

Not only did those twigs survive, they thrived, turning into a large bush—but I still think it’s ugly.

We figured out this week the plant is called a Garden Cosmos. The best part—it’s an annual so it won’t grow back once the cold comes.

My son said, “Maybe we could bring it back inside in the fall.”

“Oh no,” I said patting him on the back. “We’ve set it free now. It won’t be happy coming back inside.” I’m feeling pretty good with this lie, averting my pain of having to keep the ugly thing alive.

He took the news like a champ, brightening right up. “It’s okay. I’ll gather some of its seeds and plant them again when I get back in two years.”

Dang it! Hopefully, a two year mission will help him forget.

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A garden full of antidotes-weeds

I walked out into my backyard to see far too many weeds sprouting in my flower beds. Didn’t I just pull these like a week ago, is all I could think, yet the fearless buggers keep coming back.

The struggles in our lives are a lot like these weeds—you are never going to be free of them forever. So don’t be too mad when another problem crops up not long after you’ve ripped the last one out by the root. The only way those the pesky weeds win are if I stop pulling. Our problems are much the same so you might want to think about keeping your sleeves rolled up.

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Camouflaged hangers

We will have the pleasure of a foreign exchange student living in our home for the coming school year. The building excitement has turned me back into an expectant mother—my husband says I’ve been nesting like crazy. Of course, after twenty years of marriage, he has a pretty good bead on my habits, so I can’t deny his claim.

Throughout the summer months I bought a bed, then a dresser to go in the empty bedroom she will be using. I found the cutest bedspread, but once I got it on the bed, I decided I didn’t like the color of the room.

My husband rolled his eyes, but never said a word as I brought home color swatches from the local home improvement store. After several weeks of deliberation he even helped me paint the room a soft teal color. The finished product looked so good with the bed I knew I’d made the right decision.

In the process of putting the room back together, I went into the coat closet and pulled out the plastic hangers I had purchased at the beginning of the summer so she could hang up any clothes. My husband and I looked at each other and laughed.

“Well…,” he said, “they definitely go with the room.”

Just by chance, I’d purchased hangers the same shade of teal we painted the room with. Quite the uncanny coincidence—or maybe I’d been living with a “teal brain” all along. Man, I hope she likes things to be matchy, matchy.

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Nothing fixes like forgiveness

This week I managed to lose around thirty girls on a hike in the mountains. For more than thirty minutes I stressed, backtracking over a trail I had jogged to catch a pack of rouge girls out in front of the rest of the group. The other group I had left behind was nowhere to be found. I finally decided to take the few girls I still had to the closest campsite and ask the hosts to help me radio for help. Within fifteen minutes I was told that all the missing girls and other leaders had walked into our camp without us.

Inside me, both relief and anger battled for supremacy at the news. Their decision to take a different trail not marked on the map had scared the crap out of me. I don’t think there is anything worse than losing somebody else’s child, even if it’s only for a short time.

Once we reached the camp, I escaped into private shower area and bawled my eyes out from the stress of it all. As I sat there calming down, I realized I had two choices. I could rail at the other leaders for what they had done to me, or just forgive them and move on. It didn’t take long for me to choose the forgiveness route. Anger would only ruin the rest of our girl’s camp, and I still had four days left to go. Those last four wonderful days more than made up for the horrible beginning, so I’m grateful I managed to slap a smile on my face until I truly felt it inside again. That’s the power of forgiveness.

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Wiping a slate clean despite others

Everyone you meet has a past. That past is most likely filled with mistakes. Some of them might even look huge and horrible to an outsider looking in, but a mistake, no matter how big, doesn’t have to define the rest of your life. People grow, people change—just having life experiences guarantees this to be true. The hardest part is realizing that sometimes not everyone will believe these natural changes that happen to you over time. It’s often others who are witnesses to our past that refuse to allow us to grow. To them you might always be seen as the liar, the cheat, the gossiper, or a host of other faults that can be overcome.

Don’t let these people be the reason you give up on bettering yourself. So what if they never believe you. There is no such prerequisite of approval from others required before someone can improve themselves. The world is full of judgment, but when it comes to you, the only judgement that matters is your own. So if you want to wipe some of those slates in your life clean and start over—do it.

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Oh…a Duh!

There’s something about being comfortable in situations that tends to lead me into hilarious mistakes. This past week I was asked to lead the music for a congregation of people. The patriotic music and already been chosen by someone else, but I was fine by that, I’ve always loved patriotic music.

So there I stand singing and waving my arm about, having a good old time. Well, the last song just happened to be the National Anthem—a song I have sung acapella probably a hundred times for various sporting events. It’s hard for person like me not to get cocky with that kind of comfort level. I didn’t even bother to look at the music for almost the entire first verse. But as I’m swinging my arm I can tell my arm-motion is off, I’m not hitting the top of each measure right. To people who don’t know music this probably wouldn’t bother you, but it was the weirdest sensation for me to keep singing although the 4/4 time of my arm was off. I finally look down at the top of the music and see that it is written in 3/4 time. I’d just gone almost the entire first verse in the wrong meter time. This gave me such a fit of giggles I struggled to finish the next two verses with the kind of dignity the National Anthem deserves.

It just goes to show—no matter how expert you think you are—it’s always a good idea to check the instructions at least once.

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