Sunday, February 27, 2011

In Praise of Helpers (Stylish Blogger Award Meme)

or Heavy Lifting

I've given up trying to find the source of the quote that changed my life this week.  I read it in a gardening book a few years ago and am hazy now on the exact wording, but the gist of its wisdom was, "Whenever you're about to begin a huge garden task, stop first to contemplate why the universe made teenage boys."

Now, I'm not so self-absorbed as to think that teenage boys exist solely to do my heavy lifting, but the approach does have its merits, common sense being foremost among them.  There are people with energy to burn; then there are the rest of us.  I was thinking about that while looking at the micro-garden this past week—the 2' x  4' divided, raised bed where I grow vegetables.  It's a wonderfully low-effort way to garden except at this time of year, when the soil needs replenishing.  Lugging around heavy objects like, say, two-cubic-foot bags of soil, makes my CFS flare up.  Even though my muscles can handle the effort, my energy levels can't.  Lifting a couple of bags of soil onto a cart at the garden center, into the trunk of my car, and out again means a full day of bedrest afterward.

Fortunately, as I was trying to decide which day of my life to devote exclusively to a bag or two of dirt, that quote about teenage boys came to mind, and its brilliance lit the way before me to one of my favorite local garden centers.  If I had been in doubt before, I would have remembered then why it was a favorite place.  Before I had spent 30 seconds looking thoughtfully at the mountains of dirt, a pleasant and helpful young man came to my aid.  Without any nudging, he offered to load the bags onto the wagon, then pulled it over to the cash register himself, waited while I paid, towed the wagon to my car, and cheerfully loaded everything into the trunk.  He even gave me a friendly wave as I drove off.   When I reached home, I still had energy to unload the car, mix the soils, and fill the garden.  It is planted and ready to go, eight square feet of hope in seed form.

So to those of you who may be pleasant and helpful young men, or who may have been so at one time, or who are just pleasant and helpful people in general, my hat is off to you.  You give an amazing gift that makes an immediate difference in someone's life—and when you do so while making cheerful small talk, throwing in the occasional one-liner, and acting as if there's nothing in the world that you'd rather be doing, you make the gift a thing of beauty as well—a real grace.  Thank you. 

And bless you.


I've been thinking of helpers even more this week because Diana at Elephant's Eye nominated me for a "Stylish Blogger" award.  I've long admired Diana for the way she routinely, habitually supports other bloggers—she sees blogging (so far as I can tell) as both an individual and a community endeavor. She offers informative glimpses of life in South Africa, especially of the wildlife, as well as of her lovely garden, but at the same time (and often intermixed with Jurg's magnificent photos), she situates her work in the larger community.

Any meme has its rules, of course; in this case to link to other bloggers and to give some information about myself.  Shall we start with the most pleasant option first?   I've recently joined Blotanical and come across some really lovely blogs there.

One of my favorites is Carol Duke Photography.  I love the way Carol shows a detailed section of an image first, focusing your attention on the lights, colors, and abstract forms that exist in the natural world before "distracting" you with the actual subject of the photo.  She has some more recent entries, of course, but this link is the one that captured me first.  (Carol writes another wonderful, naturalist blog, too, Flower Hill Farm.)

As a former music historian, I very much enjoy Landscape Lover's writings.  It's likely that the same people were commissioning both the landscapes she studies and the music that I did; there's something pleasantly familiar in the overlap.  I've also enjoyed her recent exposés of gardens in Marrakech.

Fuzzy Foliage is a blog entirely about African violets and other gesneriads.  I'm a generalist, myself (which, oddly enough, is why I went into music history), and so am awe-inspired by anyone with a singular, whole-hearted passion, and when the writer is not only impassioned but fun and free of snobbery, her enthusiasm speaks volumes.

Getting Dirty writes well of wind and rain in Tennessee, and, more recently, of seedlings responding to peer pressure.

On the Lettuce Edge recently posted about a lovely Jewish blessing for first occasions.

Green  Apples Garden made an emphatic plea to Mother Nature to let spring in the door, which was just as emphatically rejected.

Outside Blotanical, a blog I'm fond of is Saltaire Daily Photo.  Jenny's love for her town of Saltaire, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the north of England, is apparent in every post.

Suz at A Garden Wench combines lovely images in words and photographs.  No one will be more surprised than she to receive this mention—I just discovered her recently and haven't yet been able to come up with anything more profound to say than, "Aahhh," which I have done only in the privacy of my own home.

I hesitate in a way to mention anyone in the "Troupers" section of my own blog list—they are all people making lives for themselves despite debilitating illness, and they are likely to be overwhelmed by outside attention.  They rely on their blogs for contact with the outside world and for support and understanding and community, but they don't necessarily seek a wide readership.  Even so, I honor Dominique at 4 Walls and a View, because of her constant efforts to raise awareness of CFS/ME in the wider community.  Despite some horrific setbacks of her own, she recently launched, an effort to bring the lives of those with CFS/ME to the attention of a wider world.

And finally, a blogger I'm much indebted to is Michelloui of The American Resident.  At one point she remarked that blogging was the only field of endeavor she could think of where being good to others was rewarded, where one's success depended on one's own generosity.  It was that remark that convinced me to start blogging myself, because the blogging community sounded like a place where I wanted to belong.


Oh, dear.  The facts about myself.  I suppose I find this awkward because my blog has mostly comprised "set pieces"—a series of essays in which I might reveal something of myself, but where, for the most part, the "fourth wall" of theater has stood firm.  To go informal all of a sudden is a change that's kind of startling—not unpleasant, just disconcerting.  With that bit of squirming out of the way...

1)  The latest anyone on either side of my family came to the United States (or the colonies, as they were then) was ~1730.  Since then, if I have my facts right, no one has stayed in the same town for two generations running; they have ranged from Vermont to California; from Florida to Washington.  I have a bit of a problem with wanderlust.

2)  If the opportunity for space exploration were available, I would take it.  In a heartbeat.

3)  In addition to being a music historian, at one point (like half the population, apparently), I was a professional radio announcer.  My favorite work of all time, except for the hours, hands down.

4)  I grew up in a family that named its wire-hair terrier/dachshund mutt "Phydeaux."  That should tell you a lot about my parents (in a good way).

5)  Leaving musicology and in essence throwing away a Ph.D. because of my health was one of the hardest and best things I've ever done.  Lesson learned: you never owe a job or a career your health.

6)  My favorite charity is Heifer International.  I value independence and self-determination, and I think Heifer gives those things both to individuals and communities—and I think it gives women, especially, opportunities they might not otherwise have had.  (Locally, I prefer literacy-oriented organizations like Albuquerque Reads—New Mexico has a terrible track record for education.)

7) Writing this list has taken me longer than the rest of the post altogether...


  1. LOL I couldn't stop laughing at the first part of your post. You have obviously never met my teenage son. It is the rare day that I can pry his fingers off his xbox controller long enough to take me to a doc appointment. I usually have to stand in front of the TV screen to get his attention ;-) That being said he does drive me all over the place and get me groceries and helps me cook so maybe I'm exagerating a bit when I say he spends all his time shooting zombies.

    BTW, where can I find the meme questions? I would love to answer them myself but unsure of my interpretation of your answers back to the original questions.

  2. Baffled - Oh, I see what you mean. ;) If this quote came from the book I'm thinking of, it was published long before xbox was anywhere in the picture... That may make a difference. :)

    There weren't actually any specific questions - we were just asked to list some random facts about ourselves. If you had deduced the questions behind them, I would have been *extra* impressed! Look, everyone, Baffled has psychic powers! :D

  3. Stacy - the next visitor to our Stylish Nguni post will be pointed this way.

    Baffled - the 'question' is simply to reveal 7 things about yourself. They can be profound, or heart-wrenching, or flippant, or ho-hum. You can be as mysterious or as open as you are ...

  4. I can believe that your list took longer to write than the post itself. LOL.That happened to me listing ten things for a meme once. It was excruciating trying to talk about MYSELF. And of course it was in a self deprecating manner no less on GWGT. Thank you much for listing and linking to Green Apples. I am honored that you like my blog.

  5. It is nice to read how one opens up, releasing a little bit of oneself. Definitely it has nothing to do with the physical look, ONESELF is always about attitude, commitment, enthusiasm and worldly views.... You deserve the award in style. ~bangchik

  6. Thank you for this interesting and varied post. I am honored you mentioned my new blog among such an awesome list of blogs. I can't wait to read more of the others and yours. And I agree, we should all support Heifer. The donations make great gifts to give to those who have it all, especially to the young and impressionable set.

  7. Ah...your post is bringing back memories of music history classes...:) They were some of my favorite classes at college, and some of the hardest too!

  8. Dear Stacy, This is a very heart warming post! I am deeply honored to be mentioned here . . . Thank you for listing and linking to my new blog! It is great to learn more about you. I share a respect for Quakers and music, though I am no scholar as you are. Though you may have changed lifestyles, no one can take the knowledge and however you wish to apply it to you life away from you. I am sorry that you have to manage your life around these chronic illnesses. I will go to the other links here. I have friends who must deal daily with these same misunderstood illnesses. I find you piece on the young helpful lads very touching. I too support Heifer . . . a great organization for those in need. Terrific post Stacy! I appreciated all the effort that went into it. Thank you again for including my blog.

  9. Stacy,why I want to thank you for mentioning me and you are right, I never expected it. I just go about my business of loving life and gardening with an eye toward the critters and other wards that grace my garden and stay. Every single day I walk the garden loking for joy,everyday. And I find it. Work in the garden is rewarding, but the joy is freely given by God through nature to me if I just look.
    Sometimes I think I am whistling in the I know someone as nice and special as you is reading along. Thank you
    I love how you said.."eight square feet of hope" My that is a grand way of saying it!
    and wanderlust...Oh sister we could ride together...thank you again Now to visit the others ;)

  10. I really enjoyed this post - how right you are about helpers. And how good it is to stop and notice, instead of being oblivious to people's kindness.

    Thank you too, very much, for your lovely words and link to my blog. I might just find a way of carrying on the meme. I don't usually (I did do one once on my 'other' blog) but it's really nice to link to other people's blogs from time to time.

    I like the fact that, for different reasons and in different ways, we both tend to be blogging about our immediate worlds. A surprising amount is revealed in what at first glance is 'familiar'.

  11. Stacy,
    Your post was wonderful:) And you are right about those "helpers". My gson came over and helped me unload groceries the other day:) He's 10. Our daughter fixed us dinner last night. What a huge relief.

    I loved hearing about you personally.

    Congratulations on your nomination too.

    I need to find my little spot for gardening. We used to plant nearly an acre...

    Bless you for sharing from your heart.


  12. Stacy ~

    Great blog! I wish I gardened! It's on my bucket list, lol! I myself have two teenage girls!

    Glad to be following your blog. I invite you to follow mine:


  13. Stacy how wonderful on your award...I am indebted to my hubby for his help in the garden although at times he must be bribed... :)

  14. Green Apples - I hear people talk about how narcissistic the whole idea of blogging is, but most of us actually seem quite happy not talking about ourselves! :)

    Bangchik - thank you so much for your kind words! I look forward to reading more about your little vegetable garden.

    The Lettuce Edge - I really, really loved that post about shehecheyanu, which I may learn to spell some day without looking up...

    Hanni - so glad to hear that you enjoyed those music history classes...and that the profs made you work! :)

  15. Carol, thanks for such a thoughtful comment and for your cheering words. I'm really enjoying meeting so many lovely new people through Blotanical.

    Suz, I'm so glad you were pleased - I thought it might seem a little too out of the blue. I love what you say about the joy being there if you just look for it.

    Jenny, thanks so much for the return visit and your comment. Yes, we do seem to approach our worlds (or at least blogs!) in a similar way - a lot of beauty emerges from looking more closely at what is ever present.

  16. Elaine, I'm always so glad when you visit! Glad, too, that your grandson and daughter were able to give you some reprieve. It's amazing what a big difference someone can make in your day by unloading groceries, isn't it? And I wholeheartedly believe that even a little tiny bit of gardening does wonders for body and soul.

    Judy, thanks for your comment and invitation. Teenage girls are ideal helpers for a new garden - although they might not agree... :)

    Donna, my sister was just talking about bribing big guys with pizza to help get her large dog groomed a while ago. It sounds like you know the value of a good bribe, too!

    Cheers, all, for your comments! :)

  17. Hi, nice blog! You might like to go to my blog Oncewasvon for a post on chronic pain, way back now.Read your post and agree with all you list.Good wishes!

  18. This was a really interesting post! Thank you very much for the mention and for the pointer to other interesting blogs. And as far as your list of things about you... I'd join you in the space travel in a heartbeat as well!!

  19. I enjoyed the first part of your post! I think you might enjoy a visit to my blog to check out my latest post about lessons learned, and a quote from another blogger about "asking for help." It's hard to admit when we need help, but such a blessing when we ask and receive it :-)

  20. Von, thank you, and thanks for the invitation as well.

    Michelloui, thank you. If I'm ever headed for outer space, I'll invite you to come along!

    Toni, thanks for visiting and for your comment. It's astonishing how many of us deal with similar issues, and how hard we all find it to ask for help...

  21. Stacy, had to let you know that I actually planted four plants today! I'm so excited and proud! I posted pictures at my blog! (url in my comment above).


  22. Stacey, I found your blog via Jeans Garden, and am very glad that I did. Your post linking old quilt fragments and the curl of tulip leaves was charming, and I was busy enjoying this one on the helpfulness of teenage boys when I stumbled across your recommendation for my blog! Many thanks for mentioning me.
    Good luck with all your endeavours, Jill

  23. Landscape Lover, thank you - I'm glad you enjoyed the posts. I've very much enjoyed discovering your blog and seeing those lovely Parisian gardens through a historian's eyes.