Sunday, March 6, 2016

Fear: A Spoken Word Piece

I was asked to write a spoken word piece about fear. I'd never done a spoken word piece, so I gave it a shot:

Fear grips, fear grabs,
Fear gets ahold of you,
Fear paralyzes.

The enemy invented fear,
A piercing, clawing thing that forced its way in
And put a vise on the human heart.
And God looked at that thing and said, “All right, OK…so let’s see…”
“You create fear--I’ll make courage.”
And he did. Courage is the response to fear.
Listen, devil…what you intended for harm, God used for good.
Now we have courage, and we have encouragers.
Encouragers are the agents of God.
They show the love of God.
And this is why the word of God declares, “Perfect loves casts out fear.”
Courage is a crown of mankind,
A gift of God.
The Lord God wears the courage of his saints like a robe,
He spins, and the hem sweeps out across all humanity,
A mighty wind, blowing fear away,
And all the people of the earth are blessed.
Oh, fear, writhing creature, you cannot hold in the face of such a wind,
Such encouragement as comes when the saints of God stand up to you with their prayers.
Those prayers rise up before the Lord as incense from the altar,
And he gets them, he collects them,
Held in golden bowls
Until the day of triumph when he delivers his people
And pours those prayers out
In cascades, in waves.
Oh, fear, the irony…without you, courage would not be required.
And courage is a glorious thing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Man Should Have to Kill the Bug

I'm not one to let the nasty things of this world dampen my spirits.

And when I say nasty things, I mean spiders.

I know, I know. As a gardener, that's not a good thing for me to say. While I consider the Master Gardeners of this world to be my heroes, every time I read in one of their books how awesome spiders are—what the garden folk call "beneficials"—I want write them a kind-but-corrective letter:
Dear Master Gardener,

You really are a valuable human being, and you bring sumptuous green knowledge and irrepressible delight to my little garden world. I kneel at your feet and soak up the natural world wisdom you bestow.

But if you say one more word about how beneficial spiders are, I am literally going to come smoosh you.
Spiders should not exist. I'm pretty sure God was tinkering around during creation and said, "Say, let's see how nasty we can make a thing... [tinker, tinker]...WHOA. Wow, that's pretty nasty. I better get rid of...oh, hey, look!" and off he went, distracted by a butterfly.

So God did not correct such an action. And the darn thing scuttled off and hid somewhere in his house, and he spent the rest of the night uneasy in his bed, going, "It's worse when you can't see it."

I will concede that on some level, I probably do kind of like the little critters. Maybe "like" is too strong a word...I find them...interesting.

Take the wolf spider. No seriously, take it. Please. The wolf spider in particular gives me a serious case of the heebie jeebies because not only does it live in the lawn under my feet...where I walk in sandals...but it also does something no other spider type in the entire world does. Momma wolf spiders, when their eggs hatch from the egg sac, carry around their babies on their backs. And that might sound endearing, but trust me when I tell you, it is not.

Ask me how I know about this...

Nasty momma wolf spider in my back yard,
babies creeping all over her.
This photo has NOT been retouched. This is an honest-to-goodness momma wolf spider my husband discovered on a kid's toy in our back yard. To my delight, he snapped photos so we could relive this discovery—over, and over, and over. The horror..the horror...

Wretched, wretched man...he knows darn well I have always had a a bit of a problem with spiders. Like one time when we were newly married, I was down in the basement laundry room and spotted a VERY BIG brown spider on the floor. I screamed, grabbed a large bleach bottle, and dropped it right on top of the thing to smoosh it. This was an impressive feat, considering the creature was as large as my hand. The scream I screamed that day is what Marc would forevermore refer to as "Tracy's Spider Scream." So he knows...oh, he knows.

By the way, I left the bleach bottle right where it was and made Marc go finalize the kill and remove the carcass. This would set the pattern for our life together.

Back in the late eighties, on the TV show Designing Women, Delta Burke's character Suzanne Sugarbaker summed up a large portion of my life's philosophy—in an episode where the gals were trying to pass the time, they each had to come up with something that makes them mad. And Suzanne said, "You know when men use women's liberation as an excuse not to kill bugs for you...Oh I just hate that! I don't care what anybody says, I think the MAN should HAVE to KILL the bug!"

You go, Suzanne! I'm right there with you. Nasty creature dealings should NOT be a part of a gal's repertoire! Let's all say it together, shall we?
The MAN should HAVE to KILL the BUG!
God gave me a man, people. He's brimming with critter-ridding skills, and by golly, I am going properly utilize them.

And, as I found out on Father's Day last year, the male critter-ridding gene is not limited to nasty spiders.

We were at my parents' place, several rural acres in central Illinois, the same piece of property where I grew up. In my 44 years, I have never, not once, ever witnessed anything there that gave me pause about walking through their back yard.

Until I nearly stepped on a five-foot-long bull snake.

Bull snake in my parents' back yard.


~~Collective shudder.~~

And at that moment, instead of my trademark spider call, I instead screamed double bloody murder for, like, a full minute. Marc did not respond. Since I have never before almost stepped on a snake, I had not yet had the opportunity to train him to respond to my snake scream. But I can tell's impressive. My throat hurt for days.

I finally ran into the house to get him, leaving my poor mom and Annabella to watch the creature. I totally freaked Annabella out. She babbled for days about Mommy screaming at the snake. I may have scarred her for life.

And so, my critter-ridder husband fashioned a snake-catching noose out of a plastic broom handle and length of old phone cord. As Marc worked to get a grip on it, the snake protested by rearing up (I am not sure I knew Midwest snakes could actually do that) and hissing something awful. 

Capturing the bull snake


Once he had captured the snake, he bravely carried it out to the far end of soybean field, where he released it, allowing it to live to harass us another day.

Critter-Ridder Marc and the snake

And so, our life pattern continues...I stumble upon the nasty critters, and Marc does his man duty to rid me of them. He's a man. That's his job.

Some will rail at me that this is sexist, closed-minded, outdated thinking. That women are strong, brave, bold. That I shouldn't rely on a man to do this thing for me.

My response: Buh-loney.

The man should have to kill the bug. It's the order of the universe. The planets align around this truth. The man should have to kill the bug.

And if you say differently...well, I'll just demonstrate my spider scream and come smoosh you. I have a bleach bottle. And I know how to use it.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Face Find: Tomato Ziggy

Haven't done a Face Find in a long time! But it's tomato harvesting season, and the heirlooms have been giving me plenty to work with.

From today's harvest, it's one of our favorite large-nosed comic strip icons of the gardening world...Tomato Ziggy!

Happy just to ripen in the warm sun.

Speaking of harvest, mine has kept me busy. I'll be back with you soon!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I'm a Jerk—or, The Bunny, Me, and PPD

OK, I'm a jerk.

See this?

Baby bunny in sandbox
 This is why I'm a jerk.

This post is a follow-up to my last post, Concede, in which I ranted about a rabbit. I called said rabbit "rotter," "beastie," and "stinker," among other not-so-nice things. I longed for predators to come along and do some pretty awful things.

And then...I saw this:

Baby bunny in the grass
Yes, friends. These are baby bunnies, possibly one of the cutest sights on God's Green Earth. That rabbit I railed about, my friends, is a mom.

And being a mom is one thing that ought to bind me heartily to this creature. When Momma Rabbit was busy eating the bejeebers outta my seedlings, she was gestating a brood. Even as I was overseeing the construction of the fence that would deny her sustenance, she was busy giving birth gazillion babies at once.

I've had two babies. At different times. In different years. And that was hard enough.

I can only imagine Momma Rabbit's postpartum headspace...cut off from her vegetable supply, with a passel of younguns to feed, fearing for her safety and that of her munchkins every time the neighbor's dog woofs or my own Screaming Grabby Climber comes rampaging out of the house. There Momma Rabbit was, under the daylillies, covering her babies, licking them, nuzzling them, plucking out her own fur to give them a soft bed.

Of course, I'm projecting. My own postpartum eras were so traumatic for me, personally. See, I'm one of the highly blessed 15 percent of all women who go through postpartum depression, or as I like to call it, postpartum crap-ness, which is a highly technical term I'm thinking of submitting to Mayo Clinic for consideration. After each of my kids' births, I descended into a hell that rarely let up, and I dreaded each day for about six months.

After Miranda's birth, that stuff started right away, but I was a new mom and was pretty freaked out by the whole darn thing, plus there was the reality of how little sleep I would actually get—child wanted to breastfeed every hour and a half for the first week—and I slipped into insanity. With Annabella, I felt great for several weeks and thought I had dodged a bullet. Then, WHAMO. The PPD hit me like a ton of bricks. I had no idea it could delay like that, but I did my homework and learned that yes, indeed, PPD, with all its low-level hormonal bizarreness, is often known to delay.

And so, as my brain was marinating in a chemical soup, I started down the Path of Awful.

After Miranda's birth, I made the choice to not take an antidepressant, for many reasons. I actually kind of regret that choice. I was so miserable I had a hard time enjoying her babyhood. When the PPD started after I had Annabella, I right away decided to try an antidepressant, because this time around, it wasn't just baby and me. I had a toddler to care for, too, and I had a responsibility to the whole family to get healthy. If that meant taking a drug, I was willing to take a drug.

The booked-solid psychiatrist (and every other psychiatrist I called) couldn't see me for more than a month, and there was little my midwives or regular doctor could do for me—the remedies I tried sometimes made things worse. I spent weeks going through hell with physical and emotional symptoms from the time I got up in the morning, until about noon every single day...sweats, shakes, dizziness, headaches, sobbing, and hiding out in the kitchen so Miranda (who was nearly four) wouldn't see me. Daily I'd call Marc at work, leaving painful messages on his voice mail, begging him to please call me back just so I could hear his voice and be reassured. I was trying to hold it together enough to feed and care for both children.

I finally saw the psychiatrist and got my prescription. It took a couple tries with a couple different drugs, but when we hit on the right one, I suddenly felt like myself again. Annabella had, mercifully, started sleeping through the night. The combination of a regular sleep pattern and the right chemical balance made my brain function properly. I began to really enjoy Annabella's babyhood. When she was six months old, my doctor and I weaned my body off the drug. Worked beautifully. I felt whole.

Once or twice, I've heard friends or family members cluck their tongues at the idea of PPDwomen who have never gone through it, who fail to put themselves into the shoes of one who has. The lack of empathy has been painful. Maybe that's why when I see a mom with a new babyany mom, be she human or rabbitmy heart breaks a little for her. Maybe she's not in the charmed 15 percent. Maybe she's happy as a clam. I still want to reach out and say, there-there-there. Even pregnant gals, I just want to pat them on the arm and offer preemptive sympathy.

Projecting, always projecting my own woes upon them.

The great conclusion to my story is that the brain warp lasted only a few months, but I got these two incredible, stunning children out of the deal. I think any mom would take that deal.

Is Momma Rabbit grateful for her cutie-pies, bouncing around carefree in the grass? Are all of her trials worth it? I have to remind myself that she's an animal, acting solely on instinct. She has babies because that's just what rabbits do. She probably has no hormonal hell to deal with. Even so, I could make life easier on her during that time. I could send good thoughts her way instead of plotting her demise. I could cease calling her not-so-sweet names. We moms gotta stick together, right?

Um...unless it means she's going to chew my tomato plants down to nubs. You did that, sister. Yes, you did, I remind her silently, and that crossed the line. Babies or no babies, that's why I declared war.

Right. So that's where I really am on this issue. I weigh rodent motherhood against the health of my tomato plants. It might make me a jerk, but I think the tomatoes win. The fence is still going up next year.

Though I might toss a carrot or two under the daylillies for her. Never knew rabbit compassion was a lingering PPD symptom. Might be another thing I need to submit to Mayo for consideration.

Monday, June 9, 2014


I give. My soul ached.

Wretched creature
 Done. Fine. Bring on the smooshy chicken wire. My heart broke.

Rabbit-chewed zinnia
I concede, you little rotters. Beasties. Fluffy larksters with your cotton tails and perky ears. You breed like it's going out of style and you chew like your jowls are on fire.

And for the past month or so you have RUINED MY LIFE.

"Aw, lookit the bunny!" The kiddos would coo with glee. Crap, lookit the bunny, I would seethe.

It was going on and on, relentless creatures. Stinker rabbits...they'd never stop MESSIN' with me.

UGH. Defeat HURTS.

In writing these blog posts, I strive to be pretty gosh-darn wholesome. But people, these are RABBITS, and in a gardener's world, the only good thing about them is that they make tasty meals for predators. My ire has been up, and my yard has been sadly, sadly bereft of cats.

Messed-up, chewed-down gazania
OK, so repellents...I've had a small measure of success with them. I could drain my budget with repellents. Did you know bobcat pee costs nearly twenty dollars a bottle? Probably totally worth it, considering what I'm sure some schmo had to go through to get it.
OK, you hold 'im, Vern!
Aw, come ON. I held 'im last time. YOU hold 'im!
Naw...cain't. Stitches are in still in. Mean 'ole cuss...
I couldn't believe it when I saw that my local garden center carries bobcat pee. Fox pee, too. But if pee is for you, you can always try putrefied egg and garlic puree. Yum.

I'm not above using urine, as my readers know from my post earlier this spring Of Pickaxes and Cat Pee. Once Marc fixed our litter box problem, however, my ready supply dried up (so to speak). Marc had saved a good bit of the cat pee in a juice bottle in the garage...and my, did it work well. It was well-aged and tangy by the time I used up the last of it.

And then...the chewing started. Oh, those miserable blighters..."They don't like marigolds," a well-intentioned fellow at the garden center suggested. Like fun, they don't. Marigolds are their favorite.

"They don't like tomatoes."

Gnawed-upon tomato plant
 Oh, really? REALLY???

I lugged home a bag of blood meal (rumored to be an effective rabbit repellent) and liberally sprinkled it about my garden. It was quite empowering. My hands were dusted with the stuff, and the mammalian mustiness of it wafted through the humid air—heady, intoxicating.

I was a force, a despotic lord of the earth. MY GARDEN SMELLS LIKE BLOOD, YOU HELLACIOUS FUR-SPAWN. That ought to scare the droppin's out of ya.

That repellent high lasted about two days before I found yet more rodent destruction in the garden. I threw myself dramatically across the couch and proceeded to have a professional-grade hissy fit (as the kiddos took notes). Marc dropped what he was doing and sat down to comfort me.

"Want me to go get some chicken wire?"

No. That would mean loss. I'm not a loser.

I don't do chicken wire, I said to myself even as I surveyed the gazania destruction. I don't do chicken wire, I muttered softly as I gazed at my absolutely gorgeous stand of borage seedlings, cringing as I imagined their imminent decapitation.

I don't...

Deep sadness engulfed me. If I don't do chicken wire, I won't have a garden left. The cursed rabbits never even give baby seedlings time to establish before destroying them.

"So..." Marc said a few hours later, "chicken wire?"


And he was off like a shot. Out the door, off to Menards. It was 7:00 p.m.

He was home within a half hour. He grabbed the stapler and last year's tomato stakes. By dusk, I had a smooshy, ugly chicken wire fence surrounding my garden. I felt thoroughly defeated.

Smooshy, ugly chicken wire fence
 A week passed. Then two. And something remarkable was happening. The garden was changing.

The gazania leaves were growing back. The marigolds were recovering. The onion stalks were starting to grow upright instead of flat (where the rabbits had trampled them). The broccoli, too, was filling out beautifully, broad leaves, whole, unchewed.

Wait...unchewed? Yes, totally whole. Gone was the rabbit damage...but more than that...there was no cutworm damage. No insect holes.

Beautiful broccoli
I began to notice birds hanging out in the garden. They were using that hastily-constructed chicken wire fence as a perch...a hunting perch! The sharp-eyed birds were hunting in my garden, snatching up the cutworms and the damaging insects.

Master gardeners had written of such things, of making sure that you include bird perches in your vegetable garden, but foolishly, in years past, I had not acted upon that advice. And now...the smooshy chicken wire was teaching me an important lesson in organic gardening. Give them a perch, and they will come.

Oh, don't get me wrong...I still don't like smooshy chicken wire. I still prefer an unfenced garden bed, gloriously carefree and unencumbered. But if it's a choice between a garden decimated by rabbits and insects, or one that grows voluptuously, I'll take the latter. Marc has been enacting a plan for a more attractive and durable rabbit fence, both for this garden and the newer one (which, sadly, has also been on the road to ruin by those furry cretins), because he wants very much to see me happy, and also because he's tired of the backyard smelling like blood-stink.

So yeah, you lousy varmints. Come on over. Hang out with us.

Lousy varmint
You and I both know you're not getting in there. I may have conceded the battle to you, but I'm pretty sure I won the war.

See that borage?

Almost-ready-to-bloom borage
The beautiful, intact, almost-ready-to-bloom borage? Well, you're not gettin' any. I really AM a lord of the earth. I've beaten you, you little so-and-so. I thought you had me down, but I got back up, victorious. I came back swinging. I...

What, you're relaxing???!!! Like I'm running some kind of rabbit spa???!!! You little stinker!!!

Now you're just messin' with me.

Friday, May 2, 2014


I have a cold.


I got it from Annabella. She's been very, very gooey—the kind of gooey where everything around her suffers. Her toys, her sheets, her sleeves. Green goo, all over. Thick. The kind that hardens up into a nice crust around each nostril and across her cheeks.

No, I am NOT a neglectful mother. There's only so many times you can wipe that stuff away before the child starts hiding from you, before the little nose-tip turns raw and unforgiving. Also, I had a garage sale last Saturday and worked my you-know-what off, as I got assaulted by rampant bargain hunters in my own driveway. It was one of those shamefully amazing spring mornings, and our subdivision held neighborhood-wide garage sales. The sales started at eight...except they didn't. They started at 7:15 when people started mobbing my pal Sherry and me as we were getting things set up in my driveway. I drank my Starbucks and worked like mad continually until about 8:30 when I turned around and found Annabella standing on the sidewalk, still in her jammies with her hair all matted from sleep, goo-crusties smeared all over her face, and a full diaper sagging down to there. "Oh, yeah, Mommy, I got Annabella out of her crib," announced Miranda proudly. She grinned broadly at me, and I saw that her clothes were wrinkly and mismatched and her hair, too, was all matted up.

In jammies, on sidewalk. Nice.
OK, I just read that last paragraph, and I think that MAYBE I am actually a neglectful mother. That could explain the scowls I was getting from the various garage-salers who observed my children that morning. But they just kept forking over their cash, didn't they? I mean, if you really were convicted that you were dealing with a neglectful mother, would you keep encouraging the behavior by handing her money?

I probably deserved the cold that settled over me that morning. My child had successfully shared her goo. By midday, my throat was full-on sore. By 2:00, I had no voice left at all. By 3:30, when Sherry and I divvied up the loot, both my ears had begun to ache terribly.

I don't know that I've ever had an ear infection before, but I'm guessing that's what's been plaguing me all this week. The ache has gone away, but now every time I turn my head or stand suddenly or make some sort of random move, I get really dizzy. It's annoying and, frankly, kind of cool at the same time. And hoo-boy, it makes me kind of loopy. Yesterday a coworker told me that whenever he has ear trouble, he gets some Gatorade, and it always helps. "So, just a few drops in each ear, right?" I joked. He just stared at me like I was an idiot.

I blame it on the goo.

I am convinced that babies produce more goo than big people. I'm not sure what causes this phenomenon. You would expect a big person to produce goo in proportion to their overall size, but nope. Both my kids in their baby phases have produced a prodigious amount of goo with each virus, far more than I produce in a single cold episode. I think it's because they know they will share it with their parents—they produce enough to go around.

When Miranda was in that stage, I washed her sheets every day when she had a cold, until she was about a year old. At that point, I figured out that she was just going to keep producing the goo each night until that cold was over. There really wasn't much point in washing things until she was fully goo-ed out. In those days, I lived pretty far away from any grandmas that might judge me for leaving my baby in a goo-infested crib for a week, so I just let the stuff ferment until the cold was done.

Oh, wow, that last paragraph convinced me a little more that I might be a somewhat neglectful mother. Right now as I type this, Annabella is running around the house in a fireman's hat, a fleece jacket, and not much else. We didn't have a proper dinner this evening. I fed the kids a roaming feast of toast with too much butter, then half an hour later a couple cheese sticks, then a half hour later a bowl of sliced bananas. The kiddos consumed each course either lying on the floor as they watched Bubble Guppies, marching through the living room singing in between bites, or wrestle-screaming at each other over who gets to play with a random Christmas ribbon I left on the counter last week.

Annabella: Goo-Sharer
Oh my word, I just read that last paragraph and I now know for sure that I am a neglectful mother. I should probably stop writing right now before some reader calls child services or something.

I still blame the goo. I am not sleeping well. I have crazy virus-induced dreams that keep waking me up. The goo has made me into a tired, lightheaded, neglectful mother, typing at 7:50 p.m. on a Thursday when both my children ought to be bathed and in their jammies by now. I'm too dizzy to pursue that, so I am allowing them to play dress-up and wallow in the cluttered mess that is my dining room. Miranda's teacher is going to observe her falling asleep in kindergarten tomorrow and realize that my child is not getting enough sleep, and she's going to call child services on me. Two calls within a week really raises a red flag with those people. I should stop writing RIGHT NOW.

I just gave the girls the fourth course of their roaming feast (apples and peanut butter), and they are happily playing a Nick Jr. Kai-lan video game, so I'm good for now. I need a few more minutes anyway...I'm just going to stand here and enjoy my ear infection buzz for a bit.

Great. That last paragraph depicts me as a buzz-happy, neglectful mom who lets her kids play video games until all hours of the night. I should really reconsider this blogging thing.

Well, whatever. Mission accomplished, Annabella. The goo's got me. Just letting it run its course. Marc's about done with his stuff this evening, so maybe, just maybe, he'll step in and take the girls upstairs for baths.

If anyone needs me, I'm hanging out in my kitchen, maybe dropping Gatorade in my ears.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Of Pickaxes and Cat Pee (or When a Man Loves a Gardener)

Marc’s text this morning was priceless:
“I started a collection of cat urine. You’re welcome.”
I’m swooning. I'm seriously swooning.

Two Tiritilli family problems have come together in harmony. First, our geriatric indoor cat Tina’s hips are giving out, and she can no longer jump into the tall Rubbermaid bin we use as her litter box (because she has bad pee-aim—taller box catches the spray). Unable to jump, she’s been peeing directly onto the vinyl floor. Until we can provide her with a solution, Marc keeps cleaning up her messes. We go through a lot of paper towels.

Second, I’m having rabbit issues. Miserable hell-rodents. Spring has sprung. I have broccoli seedlings in my garden, and I just sowed carrot seeds. Already, it’s like someone installed a rabbit magnet out there. I’ve been investigating solutions, which include 1) creating physical barriers between the plants and the rabbits (like with chicken wire—and I hate that smooshy chicken wire), 2) getting an actual predator to frequent the yard (like adopting some outdoor cats, which the neighborhood association would just LOVE to see me do), or 3) making the rabbits just THINK there are predators in the yard, so they will dine elsewhere.

For, like, the thousandth time, I stood staring out the French doors, contemplating these options, self-absorbedly fretting aloud to Marc as I drank my coffee…while he, in the meantime, with rubber-gloved hands, dutifully mopped up Tina pee with paper towels. He cleaned, I griped. But he did not point out my self-centeredness. He began deodorizing the bathroom, never once asking me to just get over the rabbit thing and help him.

And then he perked up. “Tracy, get me a disposable cup.”

That darling husband of mine proceeded to retrieve every cat pee-soaked paper towel from the trash and wring it into the cup. It was an impressive amount of urine. It half-filled that Solo cup.

And then! That husband of mine took the Solo cup and all those paper towels outside and rubbed the pee all over the timbers that surround the garden.

Genius. That man is.

Thoughtful, and long-suffering, and yes, pure genius. He was going with option three—simulated predator. And he was using Tina’s pee to do it.

Talk about using lemons to make lemonade! (Um…or not.)

*Deep, love-y sigh*

So, he loves me. That’s all there is to it. Any man can go out and buy his woman a piece of jewelry, but how many men would wring out a Solo cup of cat pee for you? THIS is the way to a gardener’s heart, my friends. Well, it’s one way. The pickaxe thing is another.

Flash back a couple weeks. Marc’s the one sipping a beverage, staring out the French doors into the chilly spring day. “You know, Tracy, I could put in another garden for you.”

My heart skips a beat. Then it thumps loudly in my ears. “Um…yeah…?” I am hesitant. Does he fully understand what he is suggesting?

“Oh, sure. Right over there,” he gestures to the fence, “and run another water line. I’ve got enough valves.” He’s referring to the automated watering system he’s been building for me, which happens to be a third way to a gardener’s heart.

“Oh…oh, OK. Yeah, that would be good,” I stammer casually, cautiously. He hasn’t mentioned the pickaxe yet. There’s an established carpet of full, thick sod out there, and not a tiller in sight. Maybe when he realizes, he’ll take it back. I hold my breath.

He takes a sip. “Yeah. I’ll get out the pickaxe this week.”

The heavens open, the choir sings. I’M GETTING A NEW GARDEN!!! Calm, Tracy, calm. I talk my excitement down. He might regret saying this. He might never get out that pickaxe. “Sure, that would be great,” I say brightly. But not too brightly.

Fast forward a few days. We have the first amazingly gorgeous spring Saturday of the season. After the kiddos are fed and dressed, I hit the outdoors to put in some onion sets and plan my seed sowing. And Marc pulls out the pickaxe. He’s doing it! He’s really doing it!

By sundown, he has pickaxed half the sod. By the end of the next day, he’s done the rest of it. And THEN, over the course of the next couple days, he demonstrates a fourth way to show love to a gardener by driving out to the local university farm, shoveling load after load of compost into the back of the minivan, hauling it home, shuttling it all around to the back yard, and working it into the garden bed.

Seriously, I’m swooning.

It’s not that I really want Marc to break his back with the pickaxe, or that I want Tina to keep peeing all over the floor. It’s just…well…I’m a gardener. Really, I can’t help it. Even if I don’t have a garden, I just am.

When I’m at work and I walk by the cubicle where this one gal has a languishing spider plant dangling its hapless spider babies over the fabric wall, I feel the urge to rescue a few and let them sink their infant air roots into good potting soil. And I don’t even like spider plants that much. When a coworker mentions that his wife has a few fruit trees, I wind up talking his ear off about my plans to grow an apple tree espalier-style, if I ever live in one place long enough to train an apple tree. (And he then does his best to move away from the crazy plant lady.)

It’s why I have forty amaryllis bulbs hogging every south-facing window in my home. It’s why I have prematurely wrinkly, sun-damaged, soil-dried, old lady hands with raggedy fingernails. It’s why I am not fond of neighborhood associations. (They tend to prohibit things like compost piles and cold frames made from other people’s junk.) And it’s why in our 15+ years of marriage, my husband has learned that the best way to show his wife love is not through new clothes or fancy dates or expensive vacations. It’s through automated watering, and compost hauling, and pickaxe wielding…and, of course, cat pee collecting. Wonder you why I swoon?

Predator simulation is definitely a love language.