Beginning a Garden

Wearing a bright green sweatshirt that’s sporting a brown t-rex, Little Foot is stumbling around through dried, crinkled leaves while waving a short, dry stick in the air and giggling uncontrollably. Just in front of him is Thing One who seems only mildly okay with being chased in circles through the yard. I’m watching this adorable scene over my left shoulder while holding a chunk of  brand new, chicken-wire fence steady with my hands, as King Ranch is looping circular nails through its wiring to secure this new fence to tall, forest-green posts buried deep in the ground.

“Can you hold it steady?” King Ranch asks under an irritated sigh.

“Oh,” I say, turning back to the fence, realizing that I’ve let it sway. “Sorry.” I peek one more time at Little Foot running around and then focus on my hands.

We’re fixing to get our garden started – an impressive, 24’x 100’ lot that has been carved out of the paddock closest to our backyard. Big plans are in store for this plot – tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, zucchini, squash and an array of herbs. Fruit trees are also being considered – pear and peach, perhaps.

Just on the other side of this project are the donkeys seemingly confused by the rising barrier. Bunny stays in line with me, only the wiring of the fence separating us. Every few seconds she turns her big brown eyes back to me and blinks heavily as if she’s searching for understanding.

Tyrion the mini donkey is pacing back and forth along the erecting fence, stomping his back, right hoof every few steps. He’s not happy. Change, I think, is something in which donkeys are not fond.

“It’s okay, little girl,” I whisper to Bunny while leaning over the fence to see my reflection in her eye. She lowers her head.

“Honey,” King Ranch huffs.

I glance back down to my hands and realize I’ve pushed the fence towards the donkeys.

“Sorry,” I say while shifting it back in line.

King Ranch is wearing a cream-colored cowboy hat that’s covering his face, so I can’t tell if he’s actually frustrated, concentrating, tired, or a mixture of all of those. A dolphin-croak behind me and I turn to see Little Foot a few paces away picking up a small, broken pecan. He opens his mouth and raises the pecan.

“No!” I shout, releasing the fence and scrambling towards Little Foot. Before I can reach him, he throws the pecan and runs away from me. This spooks Bunny who trots away with her ears straight up. I hear King Ranch exhale heavily and drop something metallic on the ground.

We’ve been out here for a while now  trying to get this fence up. King Ranch was out here well before Little Foot and I and although it’s still technically winter, the sun has beat down on him long enough to make this the most frustrating project in the world.

“Sorry,” I say, turning to King Ranch. “I didn’t want him to choke.”

“No, I know,” he says. “It’s fine.” He stands up and cracks his dusty knuckles.

Tyrion walks past King Ranch and around the fence that isn’t yet nailed into the final post and slowly saunters towards Little Foot who is using a stick to push dried leaves around on the ground. He lays his ears back and noses Little Foot’s shoulder gently. Little Foot turns for a second to acknowledge Tyrion before focusing back on his crispy, lifeless leaves.

“Any news?” I ask, rolling up the sleeves of my shirt while walking towards King Ranch who’s staring at the last post not connected to anything yet.

He pulls his phone out of the front pocket of his dusty jeans and holds it up to his face. He presses some buttons on the screen with his thumb and focuses for a moment. “Nope,” he says without emotion.

I wrap my arm around his back and lean my head against his shoulder.

King Ranch is possibly very close to landing a job not too far from here. He’s had a couple seemingly successful interviews with this particular company and several encouraging followups from the assigned recruiter. Now, we’ve just been waiting.

I don’t think that either of us want to give our hopes up about this potential job, but at the same time, we want to pour good vibes into the possibility. It’s exhausting to go through application after application and interview after interview without success. I, myself, have been interviewing with various full-time jobs around the area but unfortunately, have not been extended an offer that would cover the cost of child-care for Little Foot.

King Ranch runs his fingers up and down my spine twice before walking back towards the house in a tired shuffle. He leaves long, sliding boot-prints in the dirt.

Little Foot is hitting Tyrion in the nose with a stick.

“No, no, no,” I say, putting my hand in front of Tee’s nose. “Sweet donkey, see?” I gently pat Tyrion’s snout. “Sweet donkey.”

Little Foot grins and throws the stick down. I squat down next to him and pick up a different stick.

“Stick,” I say, holding it in front of his studying, blue eyes. “It’s a stick.”

Little Foot grabs the stick from me and pokes a few tired, tan leaves beneath him. A warm exhale behind me and I turn, bumping my nose into Bunny’s snout. She snorts and actually shoots a bit of donkey snot onto my cheek.

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I think she might have a cold or allergies or something. She’s been a little snotty-nosed and crusty-eyed the past few days. Wiping the snot from my face with the inside of my arm, I giggle to myself. Warm donkey snot. Why does that seem cute? I’m astonished with how little bodily fluids affect me these days. When you have a toddler and live on a farm, you get covered in stuff. All kinds of stuff.

Bunny noses my hair (likely getting snot in it) and then rests her jaw on my right shoulder. I’ve read before that this is a sign of affection for donkeys. I lean my weight into her as she leans hers into mine. With his ears back and his eyes half-open, Tyrion is standing close to Little Foot who is now drawing lines in the dirt with his index finger. The breeze picks up a few leaves and sends a faint smell of sawdust, as well as a few feathery specs of white, past us.

King Ranch walks back into the yard carrying a Miller Lite in one hand and a red solo cup in the other. I stand up, patting Bunny on the snout who starts to back away.

“Whatcha got there?” I ask, extending my hand.

“Hydration,” King Ranch says, handing me the red cup with a small, sideways grin.

I laugh.

As he’s swallowing a gulp, King Ranch says, “Let’s get this last part done, then we can go in.” He points his beer to the end of the fence. I nod and place my cup on top of a blue barrel that’s been sitting in the yard since we moved here.

Little Foot is still drawing shapes in the dirt and every so often, grabbing handfuls of loose sand and tossing it in the air with a smile.

I return to my spot on the fence as King Ranch squats down with a box of nails.

“Thanks for helping me,” he says.

“Of course,” I say.

——

The next day the fence is complete, gate and all. It’s a perfect fence ready to have the growth of a garden within it. Our options seem endless. There’s so much space for so many fruits and vegetables. We’re ready to till which brings us even closer to being ready to plant.

The next day, King Ranch gets a confirmation from this company – he’s been offered the job and all pre-employment processes have been confirmed and completed.

He built that fence. He got that job. He did all that.

Now, as we move into spring, we get to see what grows. And we are so excited.

new fence

Little Wooden Bed

Not entirely sure what time during the night or early morning it must be, I’m watching the tree’s branches gently waving their shadows through the slits of the shutters on the second floor of my parents Houston home. King Ranch and I have made a trip down here for the weekend with Little Foot and Thing One for a quick visit.

Half an hour or so ago, Little Foot woke up in a screaming fury. His teeth are at that terrible toddler torture stage that makes it impossible for him to completely escape the pain. Poor guy.

Now, I’m curled up in the very same bed that belonged to me as a young child while holding Little Foot in a little spoon position. My mom has set up this toddler bed in the guest room for him to sleep in while we’re here because frankly, he’s outgrown everything else. I am surprised to find that I still fit in this bed. I’m not stretched out by any means, but I fit nonetheless.  

It’s a wooden bed with wooden railings along the sides and a built-in shelf that serves as a headboard. I’m very vaguely remembering that I had a stuffed beagle and several plastic dinosaurs set up on this shelf once upon a time. I’m also remembering that I had a Minnie Mouse comforter.

The very first dream I can remember having occurred when I was about 4 years old and sleeping in this very bed:

I was woken up by a terrible growl. I pushed the pink comforter down from my face with my feet and clutched the wooden railing of my bed. As I peered over the edge of the bed, suddenly, my view switched to omniscient, allowing me to watch myself from someone else’s point of view.

Nailed to the outside of my bed by his hands, was a growling and snarling monster with long, tangled, bright, orange hair. He had two horns that poked up crookedly from his head and bright yellow, angry (but also kind of googly and scared) eyes. From my outside point of view, I watched myself, wide-eyed, peeking over the edge of that wooden bed and becoming so frightened that I when I tried to shout, nothing came out.

Suddenly, a police car with flashing lights and screaming sirens came crashing through the wall by my bed. The wind blew my hair and the monster’s orange hair in the exact same way: chaotically. I fell back and reached for my stuffed beagle.

I smile and laugh a little. I remember that dream as if it happened last week when really, it’s been nearly three decades.

Three decades.

Three decades later and I’m holding my son in this very same bed beneath a blue blanket while my own mom, who nearly three decades ago comforted me in the middle of that orange monster night, is sleeping in her own bed downstairs. At least I hope she’s sleeping. The room we’re staying in right now is above theirs so I’m worried that Little Foot’s painful crying and my footsteps have woken her up. They probably have.

Little Foot grunts and with his eyes still closed, he reaches a hand back in search of mine. I place my index finger in his palm. He clutches it with his small fingers, pulls my hand against his chest and relaxes back into sleep. His curly hair is beneath my nose and smells like a mixture of citrus and spaghetti.

What must Little Foot be dreaming about?

It’s difficult to put into words how it feels to curl up in a bed with your child that your mom used to curl up in with you. This particular bed is one that I had while I was still so young – it’s what I had before I even started grade school. At that time, the world was what my parents taught me and what I started to explore for myself.

I’m wondering what my mom thought about on those nights that she stayed up with my brothers and I. I’m wondering if she can still remember what our hair smelled like beneath her nose. I’m wondering if she can remember any dreams that she had as a child and what it felt like for her mother to hold her. I’m wishing that she could hear my thoughts and come up the stairs so that all three of us could curl up together.

King Ranch and I have been through so much over the past year. This trip back to Houston is one that I think I needed because sometimes, when I’m scared, hurting, uncertain or just exhausted, all I want is to go home and be with my mom.

I think that there was a time when I was ashamed to admit that. As if I felt like I needed to be an adult. Face my problems. Become independent. Handle it myself.

Don’t get me wrong, those are all good and necessary things – to grow up. But I guess what I’m laying here thinking about is that it’s great to be successful, independent, and able to problem solve on your own while also being okay to, every once and awhile, feel the need to curl up with your mom because you just need to feel safe and secure.

Little Foot, I’m imagining, will never be too old to come home. I’ll never stop wondering if he’s sleeping well. I’ll never stop wondering what he dreams about. I’ll never stop being curious about what he must be feeling. I’ll certainly never forget what this Little Foot in a little spoon feels like in this little, wooden bed – his little breath rising and falling – while the shadows gently sway across the ceiling.

If I know my mom, which I feel like I do pretty well, I’m fairly certain that she’s lying awake in her bed downstairs debating on whether or not she should come up here to see if we need help with Little Foot. But in the end, I know she won’t come up here because we’re indeed adults and she knows that we need to be capable of solving rough nights with a teething toddler on our own.

So I’m just laying here smiling. I’m smiling because my kid is asleep again feeling safe in my arms. I’m smiling because I’ll be drifting off soon enough, feeling safe with my mom and dad in their bed down stairs. My mom, I hope, is smiling down there because of the irony that is her daughter awake with a restless, teething baby while probably imagining how insane it is that her own child has a child. And somewhere out in the universe, I imagine that my mom’s mom is pretty tickled that her daughter, her daughter’s daughter, and her daughter’s daughter’s son are all beneath the same roof.

I watch the swaying tree branch shadows on the ceiling. My mom is probably seeing something very similar on her ceiling. One day, Little Foot will remember the same on his ceiling. The wind will always blow the branches.

Some things, no matter how much time goes by, never change.

 

 

A Donkumentary – Featured on Motivate Me! with Lynette Renda

Our little Donkumentary was featured on Lynette Renda’s Motivate Me podcast this week! Please follow the link below to hear all about our story and how our sweet donkeys have impacted our life!

Slow Down for Clarity and Self-Discovery

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Do You Believe in Magic?

It’s approaching 1 in the morning and I still can’t sleep. This pillow is all wrong. I sleep with it every night but for some reason right now, it feels foreign – like I’m back in college sleeping on someone’s futon and they’ve tossed me a couch cushion in lieu of a proper pillow.

Little Foot woke up an hour ago. Luckily I managed to get him back to sleep pretty quickly. He’s been doing this thing lately, where if I just hold one of his hands in mine for 10 or so minutes, he falls back asleep. It’s adorable. He holds my hand to fall asleep. It’s a habit I should probably be concerned with breaking soon but…I love it.

King Ranch is sleeping, but is tossing and turning more than usual. I’m worried that it’s me keeping him awake, so I slide out of bed and wrap up in my robe.

In the living room, we’ve left a lamp on near the front door with a low-watt bulb that makes everything amber. It’s so quiet and in this dim light, so cozy. I bundle into a throw blanket and plop down on the couch. The cushions are cool from being empty for several hours.

I relax my shoulders and my face.

Has that clock on the wall always ticked so loudly?

I bury my head under the blanket.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

I can’t take it anymore, so I throw the blanket on the floor and walk into the kitchen while adjusting my robe a little tighter around my waist.

Not entirely sure what I’m looking for, I open the fridge. Leftover stir fry in a red-topped Tupperware. A bag of oranges. A half-eaten container of Little Foot’s sweet potato baby food. Many, many condiments.

Carrots.

I take four carrots out of the bag and head into the utility room. Still barefoot, I pull on my mud boots and slip on King Ranch’s green jacket that is hanging by the backdoor. Back in the living room, I hear the jingling of Thing One’s collar as I open our back door. Every door creaks in this house.

“You coming?” I ask, holding the screen door open. Thing One scrambles outside as I softly close the door behind me.

It’s chilly outside, but only because of the wind. We’ve had a bit of a warm front here at the end of January, which isn’t uncommon for Texas winters. The chimes on our patio are ringing hauntingly as they clang their low-belly song.

Above me is a blanket of stars. From horizon to horizon there are twinkling stars of every shape and color. Interesting that you can only see the sparkling of stars when it’s otherwise completely dark. Magic.

I unlatch the lock on the gate that leads into the pasture while making a clicking sound with the back of my tongue and scanning the pasture for movement as best I can without wearing my glasses. I’m still not entirely sure where the donkeys sleep or if they even have a designated spot.

By the back-house, I notice a slow moving shadow and then the yellow reflection of one giant eye. There she is.

“Come here, little girl,” I whisper loudly. I hear a snort and can finally see Bunny’s shape emerge from the shadows. Not far behind her is Tyrion.

The donkeys slowly saunter up to me, their eyes wide with curiosity. I pull the carrots out of King Ranch’s jacket pocket and snap them in all in half. Alternating between Bunny and Tee based on the loudness of their crunching, I give them a piece of carrot at a time. The nose each other to try and get in the way of one another.

“It’s all gone,” I say. Bunny and Tee continue to sniff my hands. I’m wishing I’d brought out more carrots.

Tee snorts and moves past me a bit to graze on a patch of grass. Bunny stays with me and leans all of her weight into my side.

Squatting down, I put a hand on either side of her jaw and scratch.

I’d do anything to keep her healthy and safe. Bunny and Tee. I don’t need anything in return. I don’t want anything in return. I just want to spend time with them. Take care of them. I’m briefly angry at Bunny’s previous owner for leaving her behind without any of her companions, but then I’m immediately grateful that she gets to be a part of our family now. Darkness turned light, I suppose.

I think of this family: King Ranch and Little Foot sleeping inside. These donkeys. Thing One sniffing around the yard. Even our flock of chickens – I just want them all to be healthy and happy. I just want them all to sleep at night knowing that not only will the sun come up tomorrow, but when it does, it will be on a day that will in one way or another, be filled with wonder.

After all, we are floating in space on a blue and green planet, circling a massive ball of fire and gas. The air we breathe is thanks to the trees that grow. The Earth we walk on is thanks to the gravity that keeps us grounded. Seems like magic.

I’m still squatting down in front of Bunny who is resting her head on my shoulder. I start humming something. She begins to sway, and I with her. Tyrion wanders back over and rests his head in my lap.

The warmth from their heavy exhales is enough to cancel out the chilly breeze. It’s almost too warm. Their heads are heavy on me, but I don’t care. I love it. All of it.

I just want them to feel safe.

After a while, I realize I’ve lost feeling in my feet from crouching down, so I slowly stand up, a hand on each donkey. They keep leaning their weight into me. I decide to stay outside for just a little while longer.

The breeze is cool on my face. The stars, a twinkling symphony. The chimes are distantly ringing.

Magic.

Back inside, King Ranch and Little Foot are still sleeping. I sit in the chair in Little Foot’s room for a while listening to him breathe. I’m remembering what it felt like when I was pregnant with him and I couldn’t sleep. He’d wiggle and flail and I’d sit up and chat with him in the dim middle-of-the-night light. I wondered what he’d be like. Now, there he is – breathing the same air as us.

I never really go back to sleep on this night – and I’m not upset about it.

It’s two days later and I’ve just finished teaching a yoga class in town. I’ve been at this particular studio long enough to expect a host of usual suspects in my classes on normal days…

…I’ve actually been stuck at this sentence for a while now trying to find a way to describe how it feels to teach a yoga class.

At the risk of sounding ambiguous, it’s other-worldly. I find so much joy in being able to provide a space where people can just be. From my own experiences, I know the weight of the world can seem so heavy sometimes. We all experience that in our own ways. We all have more responsibilities than should ever be humanly possible. We all have scars. We are all held to standards and expectations set by sources other than ourselves. It’s why we’re anxious and self conscious and critical of every little thing about ourselves – because the world has made us that way.

So for an hour at a time at the studio, I do everything I can to slow down life for just a bit. I want so badly for my students to be able to see their beauty and their worth. And then I want them to be able to carry that around with them. I want them to look at themselves and be proud. I want them to feel loved.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that to teach yoga is an honor. It’s an honor to have the opportunity to try and connect with people when they’re at their most vulnerable. Physically and mentally, yoga is quite outside the norm by today’s standards. So it’s truly an honor to facilitate that hopeful process.

As I’m leaving the studio, fully ready to return to my normal life, I am, out of nowhere, reminded of this quote by Roald Dahl:

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

Then it hits me – Love is magic.

If you don’t believe in magic, you’ll never find it. If you don’t believe in love, you’ll never find it.

Love is what I have for these members at the studio. It’s what I’m trying to pour out of myself as I lead these yoga classes where I don’t care if they can touch their toes or not. I just want them to feel loved. Love is these members putting trust in me to let their walls down. Love is them, in some cases for the first time, being purely themselves – and being proud of that. Love is what they’re sending back to me and why I’ve been having a hard time describing the experience.

Love is what brought Little Foot into existence. Love is what keeps King Ranch and I together. Love is Thing One trying to protect us from what he perceives as threats to our family. Love is Bunny and Tee swaying with me in the middle of the night – and me wanting them to never, ever be abandoned again.

Love must be those feelings of protective mom and wife I get when it comes to Little Foot and King Ranch and truly having no boundaries or lines for what I would do to keep them safe and healthy. I’ve talked about it before – how I’d fight the masses and infiltrate the mob. Hell hath no fury like a loving wife and mother.

As I’m leaving this studio today, I am feeling loved. I am feeling so magically loved.

King Ranch. Little Foot. Thing One. Bunny. Tyrion. All of the staff and members of this studio. I am feeling so utterly and unconditionally loved.

Love. It’s magic. Open your glittering eyes and look for it. It’s out there – in its purest form, it’s out there.