Silver Linings

Y’all. 2020 has handed us such a crapstorm of weird and terrible, I don’t even know where to start. Wildfires in Australia, bedbugs in Walmart; the loss of a beloved family member; Covid; murder hornets (I’m still wondering if anyone actually saw that episode or if it was just a teaser); Tiger King; losing our geriatric golden retriever- our sweet Clohe girl; homeschool; socially distanced preschool graduation; twin quarantine birthdays; and so many other hurdles. Every day we survived is a victory.

And yet… you guys, the year is legitimately more than halfway over now. We’re more than halfway through. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Because we are over halfway through a year we’ve all had enough of.

(Yes, I recognize the blatant overuse of the word halfway. I’m trying to make a point here).

But what if , despite some horrible and unimaginable losses and hurdles, we look for the silver linings? What if we find the results of all of the bad stuff that brought us real, pure joy? Like…

When grocery stores started to experience shortages, our family decided this year was the perfect opportunity to grow our first garden. We started with a small box garden that Ryan built into the hillside behind the house, with plenty of room to expand if we choose to, but small enough to experiment with for starters. (By small, I guess I’m speaking in terms of someone who grew up a farmgirl). We planted tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, broccoli, sweet peas, green beans, green onions, lettuce, spinach, kale, and radishes. And guess what? Despite snow the week after I planted (and my feeble attempt at keeping the seeds warm with our electric blanket…and, no, I did not plug it in), our garden has produced, well, real produce. We’ve had sweet peas, plenty of green beans, and some radishes. I’ve harvested lots of kale, some lettuce, and spinach. I’ve picked a few cucumbers, with more on the way, and there are lots of green tomatoes on the vines.

Our boys actively participated in this activity, and have learned about how plants grow, where vegetables actually come from (hint: a lot goes into getting them to the produce section of the grocery store!), and hard work. They help to water our plants (sometimes with squirt guns), they help me to pull weeds, and they love to check the progress of our plants’ growth. They’ll look outside while it rains, and instead of resenting the bad weather, they understand that nature is taking care of their veggies. My aunt passed along my uncle’s lucky Celtic stepping stone, which we placed right next to the garden box, and we’re convinced that our garden is thriving because of the luck he left for us in that stone. We placed our pup not far from the garden, so she too can help ensure our crop is bountiful.

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 61515091320__4d83a3fe-fc96-4249-9305-8d3bdb5d776a.jpgBasil, waiting for the tomatoes to be ready so I can make fresh bruschetta with homemade French bread

A weekend staple in our house is a vegetable plate. I put out a spread of raw veggies with ranch for dipping, and the whole family goes to town. It satisfies everyone’s need to snack, and it’s the best kinds of food, keeping us healthy and strong. And we can’t wait until our veggie plate is from our own garden, because nothing tastes better than a true labor of love. Ryan enjoyed a cucumber sandwich from our own backyard just two weeks ago (a long winded history of why cucumber sandwiches are significant to our family can be found here and here).

Another silver lining to the craziness of the past year is the opportunity to take it slow this summer and really enjoy the break from our normal, crazy summer schedule. We’ve been to the beaches, cautiously met a couple of friends for play dates at the playground, had pool time, rode bikes, taken walks around our neighborhood, and have spent as many hours outside as possible.

For the first time ever, I took my boys to the beach in search of beach glass this summer. Our local beach has an area specifically known for being a spot to find it, and I’ve been wanting to go for years, but have never found the time or was too nervous to take three little boys on my own or…there were always a million reasons why just getting there was an idea but not one that fit our reality. These days though, I try to look for reasons why not. This summer, I’m trying to say “yes” more, instead of “we don’t have time.” Because we all need a little joy. And we left the beach with the beginning of a nice little collection of beach glass that I’m hoping we can add to as the summers go on.

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Another silver lining is the extra time we’ve gotten to spend with family. While many of our normal activities have been cancelled or put on hold while the world heals, the guys have continued racing their go-karts, which means we’ve spent many weekends in our hometown. My boys have gotten to spend time with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. In June, we celebrated our youngest nephew’s first birthday, complete with family, love, cake, and shotguns. (It really is fun being a part of my family sometimes, friends!)

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Also this summer, we reunited with family on Ryan’s side that we haven’t seen in far too long. Our boys got to play with his cousin’s girls, and I sat on his grandmother’s back porch watching the kids chase each other around the yard, his youngest cousins (now teenagers) helping the little kids catch fireflies, and I remembered a similar scene from not so long ago when his cousins’ kids who are now grown up did the same with me. My heart is full knowing we’ve been in town enough lately to get to see many of the faces we don’t on a quick weekend trip.

This summer, we spent Independence Day back in our hometown, making more memories that may eventually eclipse the hard times our kids endured in the first couple of months of the year.

Last week, the shaved ice truck stopped in front of our house, and my kids made a beeline for it.  It was before they’d had lunch, after a trip to the playground and a bike ride.  Friends, when I was a kid, there was no ice cream truck that stopped where we lived, so I figure this event alone is enough to qualify their childhoods as pretty darn good, even amid a pandemic. They got their treats and one more positive memory was made.

This weekend, I got to reconnect with a high school friend I haven’t seen in a few years.  Sitting around a campfire with her parents and her aunt and uncle, surrounded by their family pups, deer grazing the orchard, drinks in our hands, some classic rock from Pandora, and a million stars sparkling overhead while we entertained one another with our favorite quarantine memes made for one relaxing and entertaining evening.

From where I’m sitting, friends, life isn’t looking all that bad right about now. And I hope, in spite of the days we all still struggle, you can say the same.

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