On writing, editing, and gardening

One of the pretty cornflowers I planted last year from seed.

I was prepping my veggie bed the other day, getting ready to plant (lettuces and spinach very soon). And I was thinking about how gardening is a fitting endeavor for a writer/editor. 

Why?

Well, a brand new garden is like a blank page. The possibilities are endless. If you’re meticulous as both a writer and a gardener, you plan. You create an outline if you write. You create a blueprint if you garden. 

Once you plan, you can begin. You plant the seeds and watch them grow. You write the words and watch a piece take shape.   

Like a manuscript, a garden is a living, ever-changing thing. If something doesn’t work, you change it. You rotate crops from year to year. You plant new things to replace things that died. You change out annuals for a bit of variety. In other words, you revise. You improve. You add and remove. 

You keep working at it, hoping your garden will reach its greatest potential. Just as you would hopefully continue to work at a manuscript to make it the best it can be.   

Weeding, to me, is similar to editing. You are removing what’s unnecessary. You are cleaning up. You are clearing out the clutter to allow things to really shine. 

Both gardens and manuscripts require tending. They require care. And, if things go well, you reap the fruits of your labors. That’s the best part. And that’s what makes both so incredibly rewarding.   

Five Years

A woman pinning a pin onto a man in an Air Force uniform.
Pinning on his retirement pin

Today marks five years since my husband retired from the Air Force and we returned to civilian life. I learned so much during my time as a military spouse. I sacrificed a lot, too — especially a career. However, I wouldn’t trade my experiences as a military spouse for anything.

I have lived in and traveled through Europe. I’ve met wonderful people from all over the world. I have also seen a lot more of the United States than I likely would have otherwise, since I lived in Seattle and then Maryland (and we traveled by road in between). I have flown in Air Force Two and been invited to the Vice President’s Residence.

I will cherish all these things. They changed me. The life lessons and experiences I got as a military spouse were worth any sacrifices I have made. As for my husband, he was hired for the first job he interviewed for, and his transition into civilian life was pretty smooth. I’m grateful for the life we’ve had.

A Sixth Grade Prediction

Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash

“Remember her name. It will be on books someday.”

This is what my sixth grade Language Arts teacher, Mrs. George, said to a gymnasium full of parents as she was announcing my academic award. I have never forgotten it. 

(Of course, I no longer go by my maiden name, which is quite a bit more memorable than my married name.)

My name has yet to appear on the cover of a book. 

I don’t know why I’m thinking of Mrs. George’s words after all these years. Maybe it’s a new goal to aspire to, now that I’ve finished grad school? I’ve been having a bit of a “what do I do now?” slump since I graduated three weeks ago. 

First, I have to rededicate myself to a regular creative writing practice. 

Celebrate and Thrive

I was never one to choose a word or two to set my intentions for the year. Though if I had to choose one retroactively for 2020, it would be “perseverance.” Despite everything 2020 threw at the world, I persevered. I kept my job. I didn’t get sick. And I finished my master’s degree.

For 2021, I decided on “thrive” to set my intention. But as I decorated our fireplace mantle yesterday (both for the new year and my upcoming graduation), I decided “celebrate” is appropriate, too.

My intention in 2021 is to celebrate both the large victories and the small. The milestones and the simple moments. I don’t want to take anything for granted.

But I also want to thrive. In my professional life. In my personal life. In my health.

So, there is my intention for 2021.

For nothing loved is ever lost – And she was loved so much

Reece, in November, with Monsieur Acorn — her new favorite toy.

We adopted Reece on May 17, 2008, when she was only four months old. We said goodbye on December 23, 2020, when she was less a month away from turning 13.

In her final days, she alternated between days of lethargy and her usual energy levels. That’s why it was so hard to know something was really wrong. One day, she’d refuse to play or interact with us. The next day, she was her normal self.

On Wednesday, she was acting normally until just after lunchtime. Then things went quickly downhill. We knew, this time, that it wasn’t just some passing illness. When she refused to eat even her very favorite food … when she went outside and laid down in the grass and refused to get up. She had to be carried back inside.

Our regular vet had closed for the holidays. My husband, L, took her to the emergency vet, which is, thankfully, near our house. I stayed home with our other dog.

Maybe an hour later … less … he called me. They found bleeding in her stomach and a mass that was very likely cancer. Nothing they could do. Surgery or chemo would only extend her life a few months.

He came back to the house to pick me up and take me back. When they brought Reece in, she already had the catheter taped to her leg — what they would use to administer euthanasia. She was more alert when she came in to see us than she had been for most of the afternoon. They told us we could take as much time as we needed, and to let them know when we’re ready.

Who is ever ready for this?

We spent a few private minutes with her. She was more focused on L than she was on me. I’m not sure my presence registered much with her at all. I also remember the receptionists talking and laughing outside the door, which was awful for me. L couldn’t tell them we were ready, so I had to do it. We weren’t ready, of course. But best to get it over with and not prolong everyone’s misery.

A few minutes later, the veterinarian came in. I don’t even remember her name. Reece wagged her tail when the vet came in and gave her a few kisses when she crouched down to Reece’s level. She explained step by step what she was going to do, since we had never gone through this before.

Within minutes, it was done. Reece was breathing. And then she simply wasn’t. I asked about next steps. L apparently had already discussed cremation with her. She explained that they would call us when the ashes were ready, and we’d get a clay imprint of her paw. She asked us if we wanted a stamped paw print on paper to take home with us that night, but I was numb with shock and just wanted to leave immediately.

It took a while for the tears to come. But they flowed most of the day on the 24th.

I find it odd that I’m not having those moments other people speak about. Where they turn around and expect their pet to be there. When they forget for just a second and call their pet’s name. I wake up each morning, and the weight of her absence presses on me immediately. The house is too quiet.

Our other dog is grieving, too. He still looks back toward the house when we let him outside, expecting her to follow him. In his grief and confusion, he hasn’t eaten much (very unusual for him, since he’s very food motivated). And he’s been sleeping more than usual.

Nighttime is the hardest for me. As I lie in bed trying to drift off to sleep, I keep reliving those moments in the veterinarian’s office over and over. Being alone with my thoughts right now is a pretty terrible thing.

Tomorrow, when I return to my home office to go back to work, she won’t be with me. Reece always spent the day in my office during my work hours. We have a dog bed up there for her, and I have a chair that folds out into a lounge/bed, which she also used.

My office companion.

Not having her quiet presence there to keep me company when I work is going to hurt a lot.

The land of chocolate, cheese, horses, and buggies

To celebrate the end of my master’s program and my mom’s birthday (November 11), Mom and I went to Amish Country last Sunday and stayed through Wednesday morning. We only live two hours away from that area of Ohio, but neither of us had ever visited. We would occasionally pass through areas of Amish settlements on our way to somewhere else, so we’ve seen the Amish buggies on the roads. But never in the numbers we saw them on this trip. 

Now … a brief review of the places we visited.

Guggisberg Swiss Inn: I booked three nights at this inn just outside Charm, which is also the home of Doughty Glen Winery and Amish Country Riding Stables. Horses roam free on the property. The price was extremely reasonable and included a hearty breakfast each morning (eggs, hash browns, and sausage – sometimes pancakes – along with yogurt, cereal, toast, pastries, etc.) 

The grounds are beautiful, with views of rolling hills, farmland, and vineyards. One of the main attractions is the duck pond, and you can bring quarters to buy corn out of a dispenser to feed them. Mom and I were quite popular with the ducks … we had a lot of quarters! 

As quiet and relaxing as this bucolic setting is, there is much to see and do in the area. Here are some of our highlights (in no particular order): 

Guggisberg Cheese: Yes, this is owned by the same people who own the inn, and the cheese factory is just a stone’s throw away. Stop here to buy the Premium Swiss and/or Baby Swiss, which are both ranked best in the U.S. Of course, they also sell a variety of other cheeses, as well as things that go great with cheese. 

Hershberger’s Farm and Bakery: They have a petting zoo here, if you’re into that sort of thing. But mainly it’s a small market/bakery and a place to buy crafts, antiques, and gifts. We got there too early for the petting zoo, unfortunately. They also offer buggy rides for a fee. 

Coblentz Chocolates: We stopped in Walnut Creek, mainly because we were passing by there anyway on our way to Sugarcreek. The Der Dutchman restaurant is probably one of the main draws to Walnut Creek. It seems to always be packed. If you happen to stop in Walnut Creek, this is a great place to buy chocolates, fudge, and candies. It smells heavenly inside. 

Also in Walnut Creek: Carlisle Gifts (across the street from Der Dutchman and part of the group that runs the restaurant – a beautiful shop with a great selection of gifts). Rebecca’s Bistro is a great alternative for breakfast or lunch if you can’t deal with the crowds at Der Dutchman. It’s small, but quaint. I highly recommend the blackberry bacon grilled cheese.

I was curious about Sugarcreek, the “Little Switzerland” of Ohio – home of the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock. Naturally, this piqued my curiosity, since I lived in Germany for 4 years and I’ve seen some pretty large cuckoo clocks. It’s a fun little detour. Make sure to get there on the half hour or the hour. (There is ample on-street parking and a public lot just across the street.) 

You can see video of the clock here (I changed from vertical to horizontal mid-recording … we sat too close.)

We didn’t stay in Sugarcreek long. Some of the places were closed, and there were some shops we weren’t interested in seeing. But we did go into a shop near the cuckoo clock called Secret Garden. It’s a feast for the senses – almost overwhelmingly so. 

Breitenbach Wine Cellars: There are quite a few wineries in the area, but we found ourselves here. And I’m glad we did. We had unseasonably warm weather (mid-70s!) for November, and they have a very nice patio. After we did a tasting (so many wines to choose from!), we decided on the plum wine. We ordered a chilled bottle to drink there and purchased a cheese plate (local cheeses, of course). This was probably the highlight of my day, just relaxing on the patio with some lovely wine and cheese.  

All of the above were places we visited on the first full day, with the exception of Rebecca’s Bistro, which was a second-day stop. We ended the evening sharing a bottle of Doughty Glen’s White Catawba on the patio back at the inn.  

My aunt joined us on our second (and last) full day to celebrate Mom’s birthday. We concentrated on the nearby town of Berlin, since there are a huge number of shops there. We stopped at Sol’s in Berlin, which is Ohio’s largest craft mall. Just down the street from there is Sheiyah Market, where we spent quite a bit of time also. (We stopped at Buggy Brew Coffee Co. inside the market – great pumpkin spice iced coffee!) Berlin Village Antique Mall was also right there, so we browsed in there, too. 

After summer-like weather for our entire trip, it turned the morning we left. It was rainy and chilly. But we were up early and drove to nearby Miller’s Bakery so we could get there when they opened. OH. MY. GOD. Their cheese tarts! I got a cherry cheese tart. And I got a creamstick to take home for my husband. (Though I ate about a quarter of it. Sooooo goooood.) 

One last recommendation – if you’re in the mood for pizza while you’re in that area, order from East of Chicago. That was our dinner the night we arrived (mostly because it was one of only a few places open on Sunday in the area, and the Berlin location was a short drive from the inn). We each ordered a medium pizza and had enough leftover for dinner the next day.  

TWO WEEKS!

Two weeks from this evening, it’s all done.

I will get my final grades within the following week. And soon, I will be able to put an M.S. after my name on my LinkedIn profile.

It’s getting real.

I’ve spent the evening making some updates to my portfolio. I wanted to add what I feel are the highlights from my program. I’ll slowly be adding more things in the coming weeks.