Sunday, September 19, 2010

Roots and Fruit

As we wind down our home garden harvest, I was thinking about a few parallels between the fruit of a good garden and the fruit of a good marriage.  It occurred to me that sometimes the solutions doesn’t immediately seem to relate to the problem.  Too often, I focus on the fruit--the symptom--and not on the root cause.  
For example, this year we had some tomatoes that were beginning to form with bad spots on the bottom of the fruit.  I was confused at first because I tried to make sure I wasn’t splashing any mud on the leaves or fruit when watering, which has been a problem in years past.  I eventually resorted to googling some photos of tomato problems and took a specimen to the garden center.  
The solution?  Calcium.  It was a soil problem.  There’s not enough calcium in my soil.  So, I bought a little bag of ‘Tomato-tone’ a slow-release fertilizer containing calcium.  I also sprinkled some crushed egg shells around the roots of my tomato plants.  Believe it or not, problem solved.  This is not the only example, though.  Whether you want better blooms on your hydrangea or more fruit on your blueberries, you’ve got to have good soil for healthy roots.
Incidently, you can also graft a plant onto the roots from another plant in order to avoid some external problems.  The grafted plant’s ability to grow, bear fruit and the fruit’s ability to resist disease will be largely determined by the properties of the root stock.
Too often I neglect the roots and think that a quick pruning will take care of the problem.  I just pick off the bad fruit or the wilted and yellowed leaves.  This works if there is an external problem, or if the problem is improper growth.  But, more often, the external problem AND the improper growth will be remedied by amending the soil and fixing the roots.  When we fix the roots, the fruit often takes care of itself.
The roots of a healthy marriage are not really that complicated.  As in the garden, however, the roots are often ignored.  What are these roots?  From my perspective:
Talk: Mrs. O. needs to hear that I appreciate her for who she is--I enjoy her sense of humor, I appreciate that she takes such good care of me and our boys, I want to spend time with her.  She needs to hear that I love her.  It is good to show love with actions, but I don’t think this is wholly adequate.  It is essential to hear it.
Touch: From a simple affectionate touch to making love, touch can be calming and disarming.  Mrs. O. told me once that when she sits next to me with her legs resting on my lap it makes her feel like she’s getting away with something.  I had no idea that it meant so much to her, but I’m glad she let me know.  What a simple way to make her feel treasured.  I’ve also noticed that when we get into a tense discussion, sitting on the couch next to her solves half the problem instantly.  It’s just not possible to fight as intensely with that kind of posture.
Recreation: Date nights are essential to that mysterious feeling of being ‘connected.’  Whether reading, shopping, gardening, or playing video games, we both need that recreational time regularly.
Security: I think this one can be pretty simple, but easy to overlook and sometimes uncomfortable to implement.  For Mrs. O. security builders include: locking the doors before I go to bed, whisking away bugs before she even knows they’re nearby, and handling the difficult conversations with friends and family.
Trust: At first, I thought security and trust were kind of the same, but I think differently now.  I build Mrs. O’s trust by doing things as simple as making her aware of my daily schedule--where am I going to lunch, how many appointments do I have, what will my tasks look like today.  She feels trusted and I become trustworthy to her when I share the details with her.
These are just a few of the things that I would call the roots of marriage.  Whatever the symptoms, I find that these are often the solutions.  Sometimes they don’t even seem related to the issue that is giving me pause, but when I feed these roots, the fruit takes care of itself.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Family Vacation 2010: Sorrento, Maine

We're just getting back from a family vacation this weekend.  We spent a week at 'The cottage at Oak Bluff' on Doanes Point in Sorrento, Maine."  It's across the bay from the famous Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.  Here are some brief highlights:

The Cottage

 It was beautiful as you can see.  It sits only a few yards from the water.  We enjoyed many hours of reading on the deck. . .

 . . . enjoying the view of the bay. . .

. . . cooking lobsters. . .

. . . warming by the fire . . .

. . . eating ice cream. . .

. . . and hunting for creepy crawlies under the rocks and seaweed.  We found crabs, snails, eels, clams and a sea urchin.  Oh, yeah.  There were mussels by the billion. 

We took a short hike into the woods to swim at Little Tunk Pond.  

We also watched a few bald eagles, an adult and two juvenile eagles, fishing and eating their lunch!

All in all, a great week.  Now back to real life!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Me Time

'Me time'...what's that?  Is that when I get to mow the lawn, or clean the car or fix the garbage disposal?  Sometimes it feels like being a husband and dad of small kids is all about chores.  I don't even know what I like to do anymore.  I have so little time to do chores that it feels like that's my recreation!  When do I get to 'decompress?'  When do my needs take priority?

What about coming home from work?  I've had a tough day.  I need a break.  Just a few minutes to clear my head and get ready for the evening with two energetic little boys.  Can I just get a few minutes to decompress?  How do we fit that into the schedule?  Mrs. O. seems to need the same thing.  Who gets a break first?  Maybe I'll take the kids for 10 minutes and then she'll take them back for 10 minutes and, this is getting confusing.  If not that, then what?

Recently, we hosted a marriage study at our home.  We read the book Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs.  The book was mediocre, but we came up with a lot of interesting questions like the one about 'me time.'  We never really answered it, though.  Then, a few weeks later I was reading Little E. a Bible story from his Beginner's Bible.  I had been thinking about this issue and talking it over with Mrs. O. so it was on the fore front of my mind.  We were reading the story about Jesus feeding the crowd of 5000.

In the Beginner's Bible, the story begins by saying that Jesus and his disciples were tired.  They were looking for a place to rest.  They got into a boat and crossed the lake, but the crowds followed them.  Jesus took pity on the crowds.  He healed.  He taught.  Then, it was getting late.  The disciples suggest--tactfully, I'm sure--that Jesus send the people away to fill their bellies.  Jesus responds by telling his disciples that they are to find something to feed all these people.

Where am I going with this?  Well, it struck me that Jesus was tired.  Tired enough that he crossed a lake to find a quiet place to rest.  In fact, Jesus had just learned that John the Baptist had just been executed.  He was wiped out, sad and needing to be alone.  But when he got to the other side of the lake, he saw the people and had pity on them.  He served first and rested later.

How can we do this in real life, though?  How did He operate like that?  Well, here's my theory: He made a habit of spending solitary time in His favorite places.  He had regular 'me time' and He could count on it.  He kept His 'me time' tank full.  Try it.  This has worked wonders for me.  I've been getting up at 5 am for quite a while now.  I don't need to do that in order to get ready for work.  Six or 6:30 would be plenty of time, but I get that time to read, blog like I'm doing right now, check email, browse through the garden for harvest or pestilence, and enjoy a cup of coffee.  It makes all the difference for my day.

Now, when I get home from work I don't have an expectation that I'm going to get to check email, or write another post.  I don't plan on working in the garden or reading more of whatever book I'm working on reading.  My reading time is scheduled.  I have created for myself, an expectation that I will get to do those things in the tranquil hours of the morning.  When you have 1 1/2 hours of peaceful silence in which to read your favorite book, you won't even want to try to do it any other time!

Note to self: make time for 'me time.'