Companion planting and happiness

“Companion plants create opportunities for timeshare or simultaneous display.” Lauren Springer Ogden, The Undaunted Garden.

I bought this gardening book because my green-thumbed Grandma DeeDee told me to. The problem with the book is that there is so very much information crammed onto every page. It will likely take the rest of my gardening life to get through it all. It’s not like reading a summer book, flipping pages while lounging in the sun. I read this gardening with my graph-paper notebook next to me, sketching out possible ideas to try as I go.

I won’t go into my specific gardening attempts with this post. Instead, I want to comment on the quote I shared above.

Companion planting is important to gardening well, whether it’s vegetables, trees and shrubs, or flowers. The flower above is one of the bulbs I planted in our parking strip (or hell strip, as Gardening Lauren calls it). It’s called an anemone coronaria hollandia. I planted it with over 800 other bulbs so it has a few companions, plus it’s surrounded by buffalo grass, which is currently dormant, but will turn bluish-green in the summer and require very little watering and no mowing.

One thing I’ve found that’s a must-have for me, home with my kids, is the need to do companion planting with my life.

Yes. I love spending time with my kids. It’s fascinating to watch them take in the world. They say hilarious things. They scream and fight. I lose my temper. We have amazing days. We have tiring days. But I absolutely need my “companion plants”. What are your companion plants in your life? Here are some of the things in my life that “supplement” or grow alongside my time spent with my kids:

  • Writers’ group
  • Book groups
  • Game night
  • Date night
  • Conferences (writers, tech, or spiritual)
  • Girls’ night
  • Soccer
  • Buying something on Amazon
  • Playing the piano
  • Doodling
  • Successfully cooking good food
  • Successfully gardening

I could go on and on with this list. This ties me into something I read in one of my other #becausehappiness booksHappier, about tracking what I do and whether it’s contributing to my happiness. You write down activities from your day and rate each with a number for how happy you felt doing it and how meaningful it was for you. Activities that are high in both contribute the most to your happiness. Cooking doesn’t always feel meaningful or joyful. Same with gardening. The best companion plants would be high in both categories, although, not all of the time, similarly to how flowers aren’t in bloom year round.

One last thing to add to my list: trying or learning something new. That’s a big part of my #becausehappiness goal and choosing the different books on my list. Learning and growing and stretching feels meaningful and joyful.

Come find me on my Facebook Writer’s page and share your list of companion plants. I want to hear it!

finding happiness with small children

positivepsychology_tobehappyMarch 20th was International Day of Happiness.

Happiness and I don’t always get along. Our relationship is fickle. Like any relationship, this one requires work, and I don’t always put in the time, or prioritize it, to make it successful. For most of the winter, I would say that happiness and I are in a fight. There’s some fleeting forgiveness around the holidays, but then the bleakness of January and February scare the love away.

Springtime, as the bulbs start popping through the soil, our relationship recovers, at times. But then, the baby starts crying and it’s only 10:00 pm and that is definitely NOT sleeping through the night and why ever could she be crying and if she’s not poopy then she couldn’t possibly be hungry after only two hours and maybe she’ll stop in a minute or two but who am I kidding she never does that so should I go in and try the binkie that she just chews on and won’t suck on so it never soothes her and I just feel. So. Tired.

Happiness and I don’t always get along with small children in the picture. There are the tantrums. There are the sleepless nights. Poopy diapers. Teething. Scraped knees. Goose eggs. No more naps. Potty accidents. Disobedience. Tiredness. Crankiness.

And yet, my memories don’t cling to the above list. My memories cling to Dom’s first words: mama, dada, tape, and hola. To holding Dom on the couch in the middle of the night so he could sleep sitting up with his pneumonia. To Gabbi reaching for my face while she’s nursing. To Dom earning DumDums the first times he used the potty. To Gabbi laughing at her brother making faces in the car. To Dom cheering and running to the door when Nathan comes home from work.

In spite of my propensity towards anxiety and pessimism, I try so hard to improve my relationship with happiness. Sometimes the trying comes in researching it. I read and listen to books about improving myself, being open to vulnerability, how to improve my marriage, ways to parent better, increasing my emotional intelligence, and how to be happier.

Have you heard of Shawn Achor? He’s an expert on happiness, Harvard trained and what not. I like his stuff. I recently grabbed one of his books I wasn’t familiar with, Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change , and just wanted to share a few of the great quotes I’ve highlighted while reading the book (which I’m still reading).

While the human brain receives eleven million pieces of information every second from our environment, it can process only forty bits per second, which means it has to choose what tiny percentage of this input to process… thus your reality is a choice…

This is a choice that my subconscious is making, right?

Your IQ teaches you what you need to do, emotional intelligence shows how, and social intelligence illuminates with whom… you need to [construct] a positive reality first.

If I can even pretend to be an optimist, then my kids will learn to do this, too, right?

…our ability to see positive details can indeed be heavily impaired by fatigue.

And hunger!

Turns out, being optimistic is so hard with little kids because SLEEP, and eating. I think of the times when I finally open the fridge for my own food after one child is in quiet time and the other is napping. Or, I finish up the cold mac & cheese left on the table. Mmm, nutrients.

The harder your brain has to stretch and work to scan the world for multiple realities, the greater your creativity, your problem-solving ability, and even your empathy for those who do not see the world as you do.

Here’s a serious question for you on this one. We have moved to an area with good schools, great neighbors, and a family-oriented culture. BUT, there’s not much in terms of DIFFERENT cultures around. So how do I expose my kids to it when it’s not at home, school, or church?

By the way, Dom learned to say tape early on because we were boxing up the contents of our condo in an attempt to make the 900 square feet look open, enticing, and something that somebody else would want to buy and live in. The tape gun scared Dom, though, so I would warn him before I taped another box: “I’m using the tape, Dom. Tape!”

A Little Poetry from the Journal

I have a rule about my journals. I’m not allowed to tear pages out. It doesn’t matter if I’ve written something incriminating, if I’ve completely changed my opinions or if I’ve tried to draw a cartoon and didn’t like the finished product ONE BIT. The page must remain.

When I lived with my parents after graduating from college, I had a rushed move from Provo to Salt Lake so I didn’t really go through my stuff or carefully pack up boxes. I found, one day, a very random scrap of paper. It had clearly been torn out of my journal. The handwriting was mine. The experience, I remembered. I didn’t remember writing the poem and I didn’t remember tearing out the page.

I only remember the experience, now recorded as a memory in this poem:

“A Faded Trail”

Nothing’s left but faded memories.
I stopped, ignored the warnings.
I didn’t listen to a word,
found myself awake in mornings
hearing sounds I’d never heard.
And inside the walls had crumbled.
I could feel forgotten tears
all at once, proud and humbled,
full of courage, full of fears.
Welcomed back into the color,
I then wondered what I’d missed,
thought myself filled up with valor
as I searched and I wished
to find a scrap of memory
a taste or smell that might remind.
I could only look in front of me.
The trail faded out behind.

Just Because

In this moment.
I have a feeling in my chest.

Overwhelming, but contained.
It’s like spring is blossoming inside of me.
Only I don’t know why.
There isn’t a particular reason.

But does there have to be?

Can’t a girl just be happy BECAUSE?

It makes me feel beautiful only nothing has changed on the outside.
I’ll take the overwhelming, contained inside.
I’ll take it any day.

Just because.