Saturday, April 27, 2013

Lesson 14- Keep a secret

When was the last time someone asked you to keep a secret?

I admit I don't get this request often. But having a grandchild keeps the skill alive. Don't worry, I'm not that grandparent. I don't keep secrets from my daughter. And I don't keep a secret that would harm either of them. But in my short experience as a grandmother, I've learned one of my biggest assets is being a confidante. In fact...

the biggest reason to keep a secret is to gain someone's trust.

some of  Valerie Fields' early work
I learned this from Valerie Fields who is (after all) my granddaughter. When she was five, she suddenly got embarrassed when we talked about her. And we talked about her a lot. She was always doing funny things. In a circle of adults, she was really all we had to talk about. But it bothered her. And she told us that, so we stopped.

I kept writing the things she said that made me laugh. Because that's what I do. And because I really needed a laugh. One day I decided to put them into a blog, so everyone could laugh. When I told Valerie Fields my idea, she was excited.
"Great idea, Nana," were her exact words. But when I told her everyone would also know the stories were about her, she changed her tune.
"I'm sorry," she said, "I don't think that's going to work for me at all."

She would be embarrassed. I knew that. Before I ditched the idea, I posed another. "You could use a different name, " I suggested. "Maybe your pen name, Valerie Fields."

She was only four when she gave herself that name.

It was at the beginning of her book making phase. She told us book makers had 'fancier' names. So she changed hers, for the sake of her career.
"Hmmm," was her response to my idea for another name change.
"I think I need a not-so-boring name for stories. Like Pinkie Gladys Gutzman," she suggested. (Yes, that one.)
And so it began. The first week or two she gave me the name she wished to be called. Then she lost interest entirely . And went on to the business of being six- like making books and drawing pictures.

later  work on same subject
Now I invent names for her myself. Like Oreo or Sweet Pea or whatever I am thinking of when I think of her. You see it doesn't really matter what she is called, as long as I am not telling the part she asked me to keep secret.
And that is the story of how six year old book maker Valerie Fields (who, I'm proud to say, is also my granddaughter) came to write her own privacy statement.  

Friday, April 19, 2013

Lesson 13- Plant something

They're in the ground now. The Arkansas Traveler, the Early Girl and the Porter Cherry. Also an eggplant, a jalapeno and a bell pepper plant. Seventy-five plus days from now, with any luck, we should be seeing some sort of harvest.

Let the betting begin!

Will it be worth the worry and toil?
Lucky for me, I love getting dirty. I mean, how many times does something not

end well when we get dirty?
Plus, I planted according to the Farmers Almanac Best Days for planting and

I had Valerie Fields (who is really my granddaughter) to help me.
Along with the vegetables, we also planted marigolds, Texas native hibiscus and wildflower seeds.

There are no guarantees in gardening.
Planting anything is about hope. Gardeners get giddy at the prospect of  flowers and food coming from tiny seeds. The journey from conception to harvest is huge. And Mother Nature does not play by hard and fast rules.
The obstacles begin at planting time.
Last night when I went to bed, we were under a tornado watch. Two hours later, the newly-planted were treated to an inch of rain.

Even the Best Days are subject to heat and cold. Flood and drought. Insects and disease. And in Texas, the hardest soil you could ever push your way through.

Seventy-five days is an eternity to an Early Girl.
 But gardeners dare to hope. And water. And water some more And chase away pests and predators. With every cup of soil I removed with my hand trowel, I said a silent prayer for the fledgling plants. That they might thrive and bring me smiles and good things to eat.

With ever trowel of soil Valerie Fields dug, she shouted out the number of worms she got.

When we finished, I told Valerie Fields to go inside and get a bath.
To use the nail brush to clean the mud from her pretty fingernails.

"Okay," she said. "But I'm counting this as a full workout."

Have you started a garden this spring? Which plants are you betting on?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lesson 12- Try something

When was the last time you tried something new?
Yesterday the rain stopped. After a week of power outages and haunted printers, I decided I need to change my routine.

I picked up Valerie Fields (who is really my granddaughter) and we had a picnic in the backyard. For no reason, as Valerie Fields said. We fixed leftovers on pretty plates. I had ham and coleslaw and a piece of cornbread. Valerie Fields had a tortilla with cheese-and a boiled egg. When she noticed I had cornbread, she ate that, too. I put the tiniest piece of ham on Valerie Fields' plate. She turned up her nose. I asked her to try it, but I didn't beg.

After dinner, Valerie Fields wanted to ride her bike. Last week, Biker Mike took the training wheels off. She only had a couple tries then. She was fearless, but not competent.

It wasn't a great day for bike riding. It was windy. The ground was wet and I was tired. But Valerie Fields left the ham on her plate and walked the bike to the front sidewalk. She looked it over from top to bottom. She asked me questions about the hand brake. Something in her eyes told me a plan was forming.

She climbed onto the bike and fastened her helmet. When she asked me for a push, I ran a few steps to launch her. Then I let go. And Valerie Fields kept going. And going. She didn't wobble. She didn't fall. When the bike got stuck in the grass, Valerie Fields jumped off and started screaming.
"I did it. I did it, " she shrieked, as she jumped up and down. "Oh my gosh, I know how to ride a BIKE!" I ran to her.
"Valerie Fields," I asked as I hugged her. "How did you DO that?"
"I pedaled," she answered, without even thinking. "This time when you let go, I tried pedaling."

That tiny morsel of ham left on her plate paled in comparison to the challenge she had issued herself. In the wake of Valerie Fields' glory, I wanted to try something, too. Then I remembered the printer.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Lesson 11- Wallow

It has rained for three days. That's too long, even when you need the rain. I also have a problem I can't seem to solve. The presence of unwelcome obstacles to my daily routine has resulted in a pity party. And I am not at all ashamed. This week I am wallowing.

I love the word wallow. I love to say it, too. Wallow. Its definition conjures such imagery. Rolling about in a lazy and relaxed manner- think pig in the mud. Devoting yourself entirely to unrestrained pleasure- think toddlers and gigantic tantrums. It's like they are using their entire bodies to roll with what their minds are telling them. I'm miserable. I'm sad. I want a cookie.

a young Valerie Fields, just after a wallow

When my granddaughter (whose pen name is Valerie Fields) was three, I would watch with pride as she threw a tantrum. The seemingly endless fit included kicking, tears, wails and body jerks that made as little sense as whatever she was upset about. Most times it took only a small distraction (like 'Valerie Fields are you going outside with me?') to snap her out of it. But while the body and soul dance was going on, I was in awe of just how this worked for her. Often she would stop on her own (in just a matter of seconds) and walk away as though nothing had happened.

When my godson (Adam) was three, he had a different approach. When he was frustrated, he would lie perfectly still on the floor- usually in a doorway. It was a full body protest. And while no one was the least bit inconvenienced by his demonstrations, Adam was in full control. Getting up when he was good and ready. Like Valerie Fields, he called it quits only when he felt better.

Sometimes you have to go with your feelings to get over them. Burying emotions is not healthy. But a tantrum is not always appropriate. For my wallow, I've chosen a day of sighing and moaning. Physical, but unobtrusive. Very polite. Most likely no one will notice but me.

I can't control the rain, but I'm hoping tomorrow I will have a solution to my problem. Until then, I'm in for the wallow. I learned from the masters. Care to join me?