Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Posts tagged ‘Life’


I don’t know now how long we’ve had them, these clematis vines which grace our front porch.  I’ve noted with dismay that I’m further down that road than I thought, where one year turns to five to ten in a blink, where you swear you JUST did that bought that saw that – then realize it was half a decade or more ago.  So my vines are timeless to me, and somehow reflective of my life journey so far, reflective of this mid-life funk I find myself in at this moment in time.

The first summer we had them, I was captivated by the sight of gorgeous purple blossoms against white woodwork.  It was clean, neat, and magazine pretty.  Best of all, they needed no tending, no watering, no attention at all from me, yet burst forth with glorious abandon, the very definition of plant perfection!

There was a time in my life when I felt that glorious abandon.  College maybe? Luxembourg YES!  Blooming, finding my place, feeling like the growth was so natural and easy. Bursting with life and wanting more.

But then came winter for my clematis – and the vines which had been so graceful, so green, so lush turned ugly and brown and dead, so I chopped them off to nothingness.  More life parallels: the brokenness of first love, not graduating “on time,” perhaps.  The uncertainty of leaving college, starting over at life, starting at all.

The next spring, new growth replaced old, and new flowers, too.  Joy again!  Winter came again, but my motivation was fleeting, my intentions sincere but unrealized, so the ugly dead vines stayed put this time.  I’d go in and out the front door and look at the brown, lifeless vines which seemed to chide me for my laziness.  Like life after college – a few jobs, temping here and there where I could.  Not feeling like I was doing enough, being enough.  Good intentions, lack of follow-through.

But one day early the following spring, a whisper of green caught my eye.  I saw a 2 inch green growth, then another, and another, and another.  Somehow, miraculously, the old, dead vines I had neglected to cut put forth healthy, hardy new growth!  This was how I discovered that, like grape vines, clematis USE the old growth to sprout new growth.

That winter, I didn’t cut a thing – on purpose.  I gritted my teeth, apologized for the ugly, and assured all who came to visit in winter that yes, though our porch was hideous now, you should SEE it in the summer in all its purple glory.

From my temp job, came a lead to a “permanent” job with a company large enough for me to grow.  My longest job ever – 7 years!  Held a few positions, got a Master’s Degree 100% paid for, all A’s.  Short term plans giving way to accomplishment of longer term goals.

But spring came – and near disaster.  The growth was almost violent – vines furiously shoving each other aside, climbing all over each other in a mad dash for…growth.  It wasn’t neat and it wasn’t pretty.  It was unruly and chaotic – until the flowers bloomed, so thick and so lush and so vibrant that it took my breath away.  And a vision started to form for me.  My own porch-as-secret-garden-room dream, an escape, a welcome.  Could I dare try to train these vines? to guide their growth?


So the next spring, I tried selectively pruning. I snipped, paused, snipped again…so slowly, I worked.  Snip, think, snip – and discover I’d cut a vine which, 3 feet further on, had 6 inches of new growth. Sadness, frustration. FAILURE.  I cut new growth out, that I had meant to keep.  It was frustrating.  But somehow, the vines recovered, kept growing, and bloomed gorgeously.  And I got closer to having two different vines join at the top of the porch!


Another year, another chance to practice my pruning “skills” (or lack thereof).  But I was paralyzed by fear of failure, so I waited too long and  everything got tangled, bushy, unmanageable again.  Ironically, my own fear of failure CAUSED more failure, although the vines did meet at the top of one side of the porch, despite my sad, pitiful pruning.  So that brings us to this year.

This spring, I started EARLY – when the new growth was only a few inches long.  And I was actually excited about it!  And it occurred to me, instead of starting at the base of the plant, I could start at the tips of the new growth and work backward.  This method proved VERY effective for not cutting TOO much of the new growth by accident.  But after so many years, I was also able to take a step back and realize that the vines will be JUST FINE, even when I *did* cut off more growth than I intended.

As I was trimming, I also remembered how the very thick growth felt stifling somehow last summer, very much TOO much of a good thing.  So I got brave and started pruning more and more – leaving the long, healthy new growth that would be a great base toward connecting the vines at the top again, but cutting away some of the BULK of the plant.  And it felt GOOD!  And it looked – fresh, new, clean, light, right.

But then came the front.  The front went CRAZY last year.  And though I put up some twine and tried to help the plan support itself, the weight of its bulk overwhelmed it and it sagged precariously.  And it was so very tangled that I couldn’t unravel it, couldn’t figure out which vines to trim.  The technique I had used so successfully on the other two sections just wasn’t working.

So I chopped it.  Radically.  From 8 feet tall down to 2.  And I mourned the hasty destruction of years of growth.  It felt like a huge step back.  Like quitting everything, floundering, feeling directionless feels like a huge step back.  But freeing, too.  I’ve let go of everything weighing me down.  I’m now free to grow up again, to climb to the heights.

So the story isn’t finished yet, I know.  The clematis is growing wildly…still, again.  And maybe the vines will be healthier, prettier for the pruning.  It’s still early in the season.  And despite my current feelings to the contrary, it’s still early in mine.

The Soundtrack of My Life

My life has many soundtracks.  Sesame Street and Walt Disney songs are my earliest recollections.  I had a kid’s record player and still have singles like “There Are Five People in My Family,” “It’s Not That Easy Being Green,” “The Alphabet Song.”  I was also a big fan of the Mickey Mouse Club.  Old time-y church hymns also remind me of my childhood.  (I’m Lutheran; we sing – lots!) Not so many weeks ago, “God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again” in church brought tears to my eyes and the ghostly sound of Grandma Wilt’s strong singing voice right to my mental ear.

I remember the raging musical debates over Shaun Cassidy and some other pop star (maybe Andy Gibb?) at the time when I was in 3rd grade.  I remember not caring much about either one as a singer, except that Shaun Cassidy was one of the Hardy Boys on TV, so I put myself into his camp.  I did have a Shaun Cassidy album I found at a garage sale.  It skipped during “Da Doo Run Run“.

My dad was a HUGE Beach Boys fan.  We’d listen to “Endless Summer” on 8-track in the sky-blue 1970 Chrysler convertible while cruising home from wherever.  That album is still THE summer album of choice and must never EVER be played in the winter unless you are in Florida.  I think the Beach Boys were the first group I saw in concert at Blossom Music Center – with my parents.  It didn’t even feel weird.

My mom liked lots of music, but the Lettermen stand out in my mind.  We saw them live at the Front Row in Cleveland.  The seating was circular, around the stage which itself turned.  It was a neat place.  My mom also liked show tunes, though I don’t remember having tapes or albums of anything but “Annie.”

I think I got my first walkman when I was 12.  The whole world was amazed at the thought of carrying your music with you in your pocket (pockets were LARGE back then).  The first tapes that I personally owed were Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”  I have no idea why I received those – I know I didn’t ask for them, but they were “hot” at the time, I guess.

Jesus Loves Me was sung at my 8 year old sister’s funeral when I was 12; my kids don’t get why that one makes me cry in church sometimes but one day maybe they’ll understand.

I went to high school in the 1980’s, so those are the “oldies but goodies” for me.  Certain songs conjure very specific memories of school dances, but nothing I can recall specifically at the moment.

When I started dating, every boyfriend of significance left his own musical mark on my life.  My first serious boyfriend was – and still is – a Mannheim Steamroller fan.   The next long-term boyfriend was a serious Rush fan.  Tom Sawyer is my favorite Rush song.  The Beatles will always make me think of  John. And John Denver, too. I sang the Steven Curtis Chapman song “I Will Be Here” for John at our reception.  Still don’t know how I pulled it off without crying.  I was the only one NOT teary.

Some music crosses life stages. The “Jesus Christ, Superstar” album always comes out this time of year.  I have vivid recollections of my younger self flopped on the rainbow-colored shag carpet on the floor in front of the  entertainment center in our “New Room” trying to follow along with the lyrics inside the album and figure out their meaning.

The several hours of Christmas music my dad taped from the radio some year became THE Petersen Christmas tape, the one we always decorated the tree to.  I still have the original tape with his handwriting listing the songs and singers.  One of John’s most thoughtful Christmas gifts to me was splicing that tape back together when it broke and digitizing it so I would have it forever.  I wouldn’t let him edit it, though.  The skips in the “on, on they send; on without end” part of “Carol of the Bells” still give me chills.

The Sound of Music meant staying up late to watch the whole movie as a kid, then going to the real places in Europe on the oh-so-cheesy but fun “Sound of Music” tour.  We using the wedding processional from the movie in our wedding (sans the ‘How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria’ motif, though that might have been apt foreshadowing!) and later went on the same Sound of Music tour together and stood in the church where that wedding scene was filmed.

When we had kids, we knew each one needed to have a special song and a special mix CD.  Emily’s song was “Baby Mine” from Dumbo and her CD is called Schinklet Songs (because “Schinklet” was what we called her before she was born!).  We used “Borning Cry” at her baptism (and for the seating of the moms at our wedding.  I cannot even hear the first few notes without tearing up!)

Megan’s song is “La La Lu,” the lullaby from Lady and the Tramp.  Her CD is called Toddler Tunes because we like alliteration – and also had a toddler running around by then.  “You Are a Masterpiece” was the song sung at Meg’s baptism.  I have the sheet music saved in case she grows up and has never heard it.  It’s a gorgeous song.

James Keelaghan‘s music has been a large part of our family life.  We discovered and heard him live before we had kids; several of his songs are on our kids’ mix CD’s; and we’ve heard him in concert every few years for a while now (when he can make it down from Canada).  A few years back, we took the kids to hear him live in Kent and this coming May, he’s going to be in Columbus so we are all going down to hear him again.

There are probably more songs in my life’s soundtrack, but this post is long enough for now.  HUGE hat tip to Bonnie at Crib Chronicles for the inspiration for this post!

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