I Am Awesome. And So Are You.

I am!!!

Inspired by my lovely niece, who was in turn inspired by her lovely friend, today’s post is a celebration of what I love about myself.

Normally, I’m not one to point out my strengths or qualities. Like (I would suspect) most of us, I tend to dwell on my weak points and foibles. I’m quick to rattle off a list of those: I’m a klutz, I’m a dork, I’m lazy, I’m a little slow on the uptake. I think we all do that – we’ve rehearsed the list all our lives, until it becomes a common bond that we can share with someone else. Instead of being a humble confession, it becomes almost vanity, a point of pride to be ‘worse’ than other folks. “You think that’s stupid? Well, let me tell you about when I cut the miniblind cords off because they were too long!” (True story.)

So today I step out of that comfort zone of self-deprecation and admit that there are some good – nay, great – things about me, things I’m proud of that make me happy. I’m awesome, and I’ll give you ten reasons why.

  1. My brain. I was lucky to be a bright child – quick to learn and understand. I did well in school, earning scholarships and accolades, and my parents always encouraged me to think and absorb the world around me. As a result, I have confidence that there is nothing I can’t learn or teach myself. I especially love that ‘aha’ moment when a concept clicks and all those neural traces connect – I love being able to relate something new to something I already know. I love how my brain can stow bits of trivia and then retrieve them at the most unlikely moment. The brain is a magnificent organ, and I only wish I had enough time to learn everything I want to know.
  2. My sense of humor. Each of my parents had an offbeat, upbeat sense of humor. They did silly things and taught us to see the humor inherent in life. All of my siblings and I possess that same quality, and I firmly believe that is a very strong part of the bond that connects us. When I’m amused, you know it. I love to laugh, and I love to make other people laugh, too. I love to clown around and crack wise; like my niece said, the world is sad enough as it is. Let’s have fun!
  3. I root for the underdog. Pa once told me that I had a strong sense of fairness and a lot of moxie (which, by the way, is one of my favorite words). I have always cherished his assessment. It’s important to me to stand up for what’s right, even when it’s unpopular, and to champion the little guy. It’s who I am.
  4. I’m authentic. There is no pretense with me. What you see is what you get. Like Popeye, I Yam What I Yam. Heck, I don’t even color my hair or wear makeup. I’m just plain old me, and if you like that, great. If you don’t, well…<shrug>.
  5. I’m compassionate. I’ve had some rough spots in my life, and I have come out on the other side with a renewed sense of kindness and understanding for others. While I don’t consider myself a ‘bleeding heart’ with exaggerated sympathies, I do care a great deal about people and try to be considerate and compassionate. Sometimes it’s hard to be kind, but I’m always trying.
  6. I’m quirky. My medical history is populated with strange events and afflictions. My running joke is that because my mother was a week shy of 37 when I was born, my oddities are a direct result of her ‘old eggs.’ So, I laughingly told her that my hypermobile joints (double-jointedness), inner ear disorder, migraine cluster headaches, third set of front teeth, missing wisdom teeth, mismatched vision (one far-sighted eye, one near-sighted eye), and other physical quirks are because her eggs were past their pull date. But that’s the stuff that makes me, me.
  7. I can write. Ever since I can remember, I have been in love with words. I love to read, and I love to write. I have always been able to express myself in writing, and I’ve been able to use this gift to help other people over the years. I believe my friend’s assertion that ‘everyone has their own talent,’ and while I would love to be able to draw or sculpt or bake or craft, I am content to have been given the gift of writing.
  8. I’m a spoiler. I will go the extra mile to do something special for people I love. I used to put notes in my kids’ school lunches to let them know I was thinking about them. I enjoy spoiling Mr. Stuck. I have a soft spot for the elderly, especially little old men. I will go out of my way for you, just because.
  9. I have great hair. I’ve always loved my hair, except during my adolescence, when, try as I might, the Dorothy Hamill bob and Farrah Fawcett look escaped me. Once I came to terms with that, I’ve been happy with it. Long or short, it was thick and healthy, with its own waves and cowlicks and a very pronounced widow’s peak. Like me, it has a mind of its own, doesn’t care for the muss and fuss of curling irons and hair spray, and is at its best when left alone. It’s greyer and thinner now, but I still love it.
  10. I have a great smile. I used to have a gap between my front teeth. It was handed down through the generations on my mother’s side, and several of my sisters and their kids also have gaps. Mine was huge – I used to joke about being able to floss with a tow rope. Getting braces and a permanent retainer eliminated that gap, but I still love my smile. When I am happy, there is no mistaking it: apple cheeks, bright eyes, and a big, wide grin with my whole mouth.

It took me a while to come up with this list, and I changed my mind a few times. I wasn’t even sure if I could find ten whole things. But I’ve looked it over, and I am satisfied.

Now, a few things I need to work on:

  1. Patience. I’m just not very good at it, especially when I get behind the wheel.
  2. Procrastination. Unfortunately, I’m an expert in putting things off. Like blogging.
  3. Follow-through. I’m a great starter, but a not-so-great finisher. I get bored too easily and switch gears. I need to learn to see things through to completion, whether it’s a book I’m reading or organizing my closet. Or blogging.
  4. Judgment. I struggle with being too judgmental. It is something I work on every day. I think it comes from being judgmental toward myself and then spreading the misery. Ugh. Let me apologize in advance.
  5. Self-control. I have long said that I can resist anything but temptation. I have the ability to talk myself into and out of just about anything, especially if it’s not good for me. My overdeveloped conscience helps me behave most of the time, but too often, the devil on my shoulder wins out.

you are awesome

Now, I’d like to invite you to tell me at least one thing you love about yourself. We spend so much time being critical that we often forget to celebrate our wonderful individuality. Learning to love that unique, amazing person in the mirror is another step toward being healthy and happy!

So let’s hear it!!

 

photo credit: parker yo!  and torley

Goodbye, Teacher.

Dick Raymond 91 yoFor many years, Mr. Stuck and I have gotten our tomato plants from a local source. The plants are always large and loaded with blossoms, with stems as thick as a man’s thumb. We get four or five plants, and sometimes we purchase one of the hanging flower baskets or potted lilies that are for sale, too. But aside from the healthy, organically-grown plants, our main reason for buying our tomatoes there was the gardener himself, Dick Raymond.

One day about fifteen years ago, Mr. Stuck came home from work to tell me about a man he’d just met who sold tomatoes, and that we should go buy some from him. He insisted that I had to go see this man’s garden – there wasn’t a weed to be found!  I come from a long line of gardeners, so that I had to see.

We drove up to the neatly-kept, white house with blue trim. A sign out front said to go around to the back yard. Dutifully, we made our way around the side with the huge, purple clematis to find a little old man in overalls and mucking boots, stooped over the plants he was weeding. Mr. Stuck greeted him with, “Hi, there! I had to bring my wife back to see your garden!”

Mr. Raymond chuckled, wiped his hands, and came over. Mr. Stuck introduced me to him, and he shook my hand. He gestured toward his back deck, where stood at least 50 tomato plants in gallon-sized pots. “Well, I’ve got a few tomatoes here,” he deadpanned. He showed us his garden plot, which took up most of his back yard. The soil was dark and crumbly, tilled and sown in perfect rows. He happily explained his composting and soil amendment methods. He pointed out the cherry tree that was heavy with blossoms, and noted that he allowed the birds to eat the fruit from a different tree so they’d leave that one alone. He said, “This one will be loaded with cherries this summer, so come back and get some!”

We admired his garden, bought a few tomato plants, thanked him for his hospitality, and went on our way. I returned a few weeks later to buy one of his gorgeous hanging fuchsia baskets. I had described them to a friend at work, who then asked me to pick one up for him to give his wife. It was so large I had difficulty putting it in my car! My friend could not believe how big and beautiful it was.

It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for little old men. I suppose growing up without grandparents and losing my dad has something to do with that, but no matter — I found Mr. Raymond absolutely delightful. He was warm, engaging, and had a great sense of humor. He was of the same generation as my parents, the ‘Greatest Generation.’ He was a war veteran.  His thick accent belied his New England upbringing (Massachusetts) and punctuated his jokes and stories. He greeted everyone as a friend, and always gave helpful gardening tips to the folks who stopped by.

plum 3
Look at the fruit on this plum tree!

One such tip seemed like a joke when he first told us. We came back that first summer for the cherries; the tree was so laden it was red with them. Mr. Raymond said that a couple had just picked a five-gallon bucket of them, but you couldn’t tell at all. We asked how he got such a huge crop – did he use a special fertilizer? He leaned toward us, and in a conspiratorial whisper, said, “If I tell you, you won’t believe me.”

It was a special technique he used on his trees: early in the spring, before the sap rose, he would roll up a newspaper and beat the tree trunk soundly. He said, “You have to whack it good. Get that sap to rise, wake that tree up. It works – trust me!” And he demonstrated, saying, “I get people all the time asking me how I get so much fruit on my trees, and this is what I tell them. They think I’m pulling their legs, but I’m not.”

plum 2
The result of his tree beating.

Every spring, we’d make our way back to Mr. Raymond’s garden for tomatoes, peppers, and flowers. We’d visit and catch up on things. He’d show us his new projects, like taking cuttings from the rhododendron he had out front whose blossoms were the most gorgeous shade of violet-red I’d ever seen, or the hundreds of lilies and trillium he had growing around his yard. With palsied hand, he would pull Polaroids out of his pocket to show us his enormous tomatoes or abundant flowers, and a couple of years ago he shared a news clipping commemorating the celebration of his 90th birthday. He couldn’t stop talking about how much fun it was.

polarnacht
The closest I have come to the shade of that rhody — this beauty is called Polarnacht.

Recently, as we drove past his neighborhood while running errands, I mentioned to Mr. Stuck that it was time to go check out his tomato plants again. We decided to swing by on our way back home that afternoon. Last year, Mr. Raymond had sold cuttings from his gorgeous purple clematis, and I was lucky enough to get the last two. Maybe he had something new this time.

clematis

When we pulled up to his house, it looked different: there was a gate on his fence; a dog was barking from the back yard; and two children’s tricycles were out front. Mr. Stuck said, I don’t think he’s here anymore. The gate was open, so we knocked on the door. The man who answered the door said no, Mr. Raymond was deceased and hadn’t lived there since last fall.

We thanked him for his time and walked sadly back to our car. Not sad for Mr. Raymond, because he had lived a long, full life, but sad for us, that we wouldn’t enjoy his wisdom and humor and gardening expertise any longer. I wish I had known about it when he passed away – I would like to have gone to his service to meet his family and express my deepest respect for the man.

So goodbye, Mr. Raymond. You taught us well. I hope that the folks who live in your little house have as much love for the seeds and the seasons as you did. I hope the cherry tree is bursting with the promise of fruit, and I hope your rich garden plot does not lie fallow, but that life springs forth from it for as long as someone lives there. You will always have a place in our hearts; after all, you know what they say:

Dick Raymond 91 yo 2
Rest in peace. Dick Raymond, May 2, 1922 – September 18, 2013.

…Old gardeners never die – they just spade away.