15 Days of Happiness :: Plant a Garden


Today we added a garden area about 30 x 30 feet to our yard.  It has always been the plan, but we’ve never taken care of it in time to plant.  I can’t tell you how happy this project makes me.  At last, somewhere for my squash to run without choking other plants (they’ve been in the flowerbeds for the past 2 summers) and somewhere to plant pumpkins!  It’s not fancy, or very pretty, but the soil is good and all the plants I started back in February are now in the ground.   The watering is all hooked up and automatic so we can leave town and have it taken care of.


This was a big project.  It took us all day, and earned us some sunburns, tired muscles and headaches.  But it was worth it.  The children also planted vegetables in their garden boxes and I hope they learn good things from it.  (Some of them will learn the lesson of why we don’t crowd our gardens this year.)

I’m already excited for the tomatillos, tomatoes, peppers and squash.  I find myself wishing we could fast forward to our end of summer bounty and meal plans right away.  I’m eyeing all kinds of awesome looking vegetable dishes online.

My happiness project today was tackling something big.  And having an awesome husband who worked with me and didn’t quit until it was all done.  We haven’t had time for something like this in too long, and I’m glad we made good use of it.  I really believe that planting a garden is a healing experience.  It connects us to all the generations of the past whose survival depended on sowing seeds.  We learn great things from watching tiny seeds develop into fruitful plants, and the joy of harvesting what you grow yourself is a singular thing.

I hope you’ll plant a garden this year.  Or make time for a big project that you can stand back and enjoy for a long time.

Happy Living, Jennifer *This post is part of a short series on happiness.  For a complete list of all posts, click here.
For the previous post in the series, click here .  You can find the next post here .

15 Days of Happiness :: Pull Some Weeds


My peonies are bulging with promise and covered with more soon-to-be blooms than I had hoped for.  I planted several more of them last year, but the craziness of injuries in our home cost me precious hours in the yard, and the new flowerbeds we worked on last spring were taken over by weeds quickly.  In some spots the weeds were as tall as my peonies and it’s been driving me crazy to think that they’ll bloom and I won’t even be able to enjoy their beauty because they’re obscured by all the weeds.

Today I spent time in the yard pulling weeds.  As I worked I thought about how happiness is often work, or at least that work is what most often brings happiness.  I watch my children grow and struggle with the concept that happiness is non-stop pleasure and fun.  It’s a concept that dominates much of our society, but I’m a firm believer that pleasure and happiness aren’t the same thing.  I’ve seen people bored to death with pleasure because they’ve made a job of it and what they desperately need is work to do.  Work brings happiness.

My work in the yard didn’t rid me of every weed, but I focused my efforts on clearing the space around the beauty I want to enjoy.  I’ll spend all summer working away at the weeds and that’s ok.  What I accomplished brought a smile to my face and satisfaction to my heart.  I’m ready for the show of massive blooms that my peonies are about to provide.


As I pondered this post, I’m aware that not everyone has literal weeds on their property.  It occurred to me that we all have weeds.  Some of them grow in the flowerbeds, or between the cracks in our sidewalks.  Other weeds grow in our habits and our relationships.  So pull some weeds today.  Perhaps you can pull the weed of cynicism and sarcasm in a relationship with your spouse or teenager.  Perhaps you can pull the weed of jealousy by sincerely complimenting someone.  Weeds obscure the beauty of our relationships with others if allowed to grow and multiply.   It’s a project to get rid of them, to change our habits, but it can be done one weed at a time, one kind word at a time, one sincere gesture at a time.   Eventually we get them out by the root, but weeding is a never-ending task both in life and in gardening.   It’s part of mortality.

I’m reminded of the quote from Benjamin Franklin which says, “I was surprised to find myself so much fuller of Faults than I had imagined, but I had the Satisfaction of seeing them diminish.”

So grab your trowel (and your timer if you feel too busy).  Go outside.  Soak up some sunshine and get your hands in the dirt.  While you do it, examine your heart and see if there isn’t a thistle you can uproot somewhere else.  Think small and simple; don’t expect too much.  Just do something.
*This post is part of a short series on happiness.  You can find a complete list of all posts in the series here .  For the previous post, click here .  For the next post, click here.

It’s Here.


Spring.  And surprisingly, it arrived as scheduled, for I have a single flower blooming in my yard.

A week ago this same spot looked like this:


And now that’s what my hyacinths look like:


The lilac bush is full of promise:


It’s that wonderful time of year when everything appears to be dripping with potential.  One day there’s nothing, and a day or two later there are flowers.  If you look away too long, you’ll miss it.

Which is exactly how my life feels right now.

I love this season so very much but  I’m struggling a bit with what it means on the inside of my house.  I was on top of the laundry a week ago, and now I’m terribly behind.  The term ends on Friday for all my students.  We’re scrambling to get everyone registered for school, lessons, camps and anything else you can dream of.  All of a sudden I’m in the car for a couple of hours or more every afternoon and getting dinner on the table at a reasonable hour is an accomplishment.  As hard as I’m working, the few hours I have while most of the children are at school are suddenly WAY too short to accomplish what needs to be done now that my afternoons and evenings have evaporated.  Everyone is tired from the daylight savings time change but I can’t get them to bed early because all our activities were just scheduled to end an hour later and when we get home we still have homework to do.  We’re living tired, which makes the little girls more needy and life just feels complicated.  I know we’ll get through it and have a lot of great experiences, but there’s also a Herculean amount of work that goes into getting through it.  If I look away for a minute, it feels like I miss 100 things!

My neighbors have a massive tree in their yard, which the owner began cutting down on Monday.  I took this picture when the bottom half of the branches had been removed.


When I next thought to look, it was gone.  A stump in the yard and a massive tree trunk laying in the grass.  Gone.  I keep having the feeling that the next three months will be like that; a glance and then gone.  I also feel like, because it’s spring, I have projects to take care of that need as much work as removing that tree was for my neighbor, and I wonder where I’ll find the time/energy/resources to tackle it when life is in “blink and it’s gone” mode.  I don’t want to miss the big things, and I want to be thorough on the right things, and I want to enjoy this precious time of year – both in the natural world and in the lives of my ever-changing children.  It’s about priorities AND timing.   I have a strong “slow down/move faster” tug-of-war taking place in my heart.

I’ve been letting the children enjoy playing outside as much as possible because if the weatherman is right, it will all be covered in snow in the next day or two.

I started my seeds in the basement under grow lights and with a heating mat.  They got right to work becoming what they were created for and I love visiting my tiny plants every day.


I can’t tell you how excited I am to grow tomatillos again this year.


All the squash are thriving and need transplanting to larger containers right away.  (As fast as my kids are growing out of clothes/shoes/bikes, etc, it seems!)


Much as I love seeing these things grow, I’m reminded that the season of my life dictates my priorities more than the season of the year.  I am a mother first, gardener second.

A mother armed with a list of where she needs to be every 15 minutes between 3 and 8 pm so that everyone gets to and from their commitments safely and hopefully on time.  A mother who’s praying there are clean uniforms to wear in the morning, who had to make a second run to the store today for bread to make sandwiches for lunches at 6 am tomorrow.  A mother timing one child on the piano, another on the violin, and another on their fluency reading at the same time, while also trying to listen to what her 15 year old has to say about which chemistry teacher we should register for next year and smile at the 14 year old who’s alive with excitement from compliments received at soccer practice, with the thought dawning in that very moment that the bathroom sink has been running too long and it sounds like more than one child might be playing in there.  A mother who held her 3 and 5 year olds today while reading books and tried to memorize the curve of their cheeks, the way their hair frames their faces so perfectly, the sound of their voices telling me stories.  A mother who’s going to gather flowers at every opportunity during the wild ride that will constitute the remainder of the school year.  A mother who’s blinking fast, hoping she doesn’t miss anything that really matters.  Reminding herself to breathe, to smile, to laugh.

Welcome, spring!

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