Sunday, October 24, 2010

My Family Tree

Several years ago, a friend of mine, from work, showed me this picture of his crab apple tree. It was bizarre seeing a pink branch, blooming off a white tree. Obviously, he had grafted in this unfamiliar branch from another variety. As you can see, the graft took well, binding this new member into its family tree. It's amazing what can be done in the world of horticulture. Many varieties of roses, apple trees, and even some shade trees have been grafted on to different root stocks, for the purpose of giving those plants a better chance at surviving our Minnesota winters--and that, with the benefit of flowers and fruits, not normally suited to our environment.

This past weekend, we had a visit from our Omaha family. My step-dad, and a friend of the family, flew up for a day trip. It's great to have a pilot with an airplane, in your family, when 6 hours of driving and 280 miles are between us. We had lunch together, at our house. I decided to put a roast in the oven, complete with carrots, potatoes, onions--good comfort food. Jim and Linda brought a cherry pie from a favorite Omaha restaurant(thank you for that!), and I also baked the apple pie that we've all grown to love. Oh, and there is still broccoli in my garden. The last of the produce for the season. Every couple of days, I can pick enough to make a side dish for a meal. Gotta have something green, every day, right? It was nice, sitting on the front patio, watching Troy and Adrian in that roaring combine, filling up with corn, ever so quickly. We are having a good harvest, in Minnesota, this year.

When I try to explain my extended family, I usually lose new people in the translation of who's-who and how so-and-so are related to us. Why? Because my family truly is, extended...beyond the threads of DNA strands or even the bonds of marriage. It makes me appreciate the diversity of how we've come to know family, as it is. My parents, both remarried years ago, gave me extra parents--and in addition to my baby brother, a variety of new siblings. Some of whom I lived with while growing up. Others, I maybe have seen a handful of times, in my life. One big, happy family? Well...not always. We've had our share of dysfunction, like anyone out there.

Three weeks ago, I spent the weekend with another part of my family. I took the kids down to see my dad and step-mom, who live in southern Minnesota. You would think that we'd get down there more often, seeing that we live less than 2 hours away. But life gets busy for all of us. And before you know it, 3 months have gone by...or more, at times. Lucky for me, my birthday was fairly recent so I got to request my favorite cake: homemade chocolate with butter box or canister for this yummy treat! It was nice of Terry(my step-mom/Grandma) to do that for me. And on top of that, a present, too! Can it get any better? The kids loved playing at the park, and also the lawn mower rides with Grandpa Glenn: meandering through their little town, stopping at the grain elevator, driving underneath a gigantic field sprayer(whoa!). Getting them to sleep proved difficult: where oh where is the OFF button??

I do enjoy my family--all of the many branches that hold us together. I haven't always enjoyed the pruning along the way. Some lessons are hard-learned. Some cuts go deep. Kind of like the rugged scars you see on a branch from a break, or pelted reminders of hail damage. But the most beautiful branches are the most weathered...and albeit, strong, as well. Some wounds take longer than others, to heal. The fact that there is pain in life is evidence that we are, indeed, alive.

Another community I have great memories with is my work family. I spent a good 8 years of my life with "the gang"--as our director referred to us. When I first got the job, my friend Rob would attest that I was "pretty green", and that was being nice, at best!(LOL) I had so much to learn early on. Not only about the job itself, but more importantly, about the people I interacted with, day in and day out. Yes, we grew trees and shrubs and everything else...but really, it was a people business.

When I think about all the blunders, shaking my head, laughing at all the stuff that went on, its amazing I lasted as long as I did! But you want to know the truth? What happened through all of that is we learned how to live with each other. Those who know me well are aware of my distaste for conflict. I would do whatever I could to avoid it; but when you are it, you can't hardly hide from yourself! We walked through those times, and the reward for doing so was moving past being just co-workers to now, friends.

And then came that day when I would find myself, sitting in my bosses' office...holding that little 6-week old baby boy. I was shaking, crying, and it was so hard to tell him that I was, indeed, leaving. Because while I had grown to love everyone there, this little guy had stolen my heart. It was the end of an era, for me, with new chapters to be written in the days and months ahead. It was hard to walk in the office, after leaving--seeing someone else on the other side of the counter. Took me a few years to get used to that image.

Four years later, its still amusing when I stop in for my own plant orders and see one of our customers, from the old days. The look and the question is usually the same: "Oh, hello! When are you coming back?" I find that humbling, and comforting, too. It will forever be a place where I will feel at home. Walking through that door ushers in a presence that I've never really left. A part of me still remains in that place. It's cute when my kids are in the van, asking for peanuts before we even get there. Can't even count how many times I used to refill that basket, when I was there.

I want to thank God, for being the truth behind the old cliche': Every thing happens for a reason. All good things come from Him. And what is painful, comes from life on earth. We are the branches, grafted in to a variety of family trees. It gives Romans 11 new meaning. Here's to family--the people who go out on a limb, for us.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Here I am

Alone in my heart,
yet surrounded by many.
The anguish of soul,
hidden within.
For so long, an orphan,
panicked for security.
A version of family remains,
yet altered and unaware.

The child-parent figure,
wearing a hat that doesn't fit.
Taking care of those whose
shoes are worn thin.
A lovely burden,
yet hard to shoulder.
What would become of us all?

In the palm of His calloused hands,
holding the balance of our lives.
Carrying the weight of our baggage,
establishing our dwellings.
Visiting the old places,
embracing our present address.
Reaching out for a resolution,
but only what is answers back.

How do we find ourselves in the place where we are?
Painfully, I watch my character develop strength.
From chapter to chapter,
Our stories unfold--one page at a time.
The Storyteller, never ceasing to read aloud...
And I am the ink--but the pen is not mine.