Little by Little

Looking into the bathroom mirror at Arnie’s shaving-foam covered face, I stated emphatically, “You have to till our garden this morning before leaving for work.” It was more a demand than request.

Arnie slipped on his glasses and picked up his razor. After pulling the triple blade across his jawline once, he answered, “You sound like you’re in a hurry.”

Combing my hair, I sighed impatiently, “I am! “Today is my day off from the hospital. My next day off won’t be for another five days. The weatherman on TV last night said it will rain by the end of this week. I want to plant my garden today.”

Making eye-contact with Arnie in the mirror, I saw a twinkle in his eye. He said, “It won’t hurt to put the garden in next week instead of this week.”

Crossing my arms, I glared at his reflection for several seconds before grumbling stubbornly, “I don’t think you’re funny. I want to plant my garden today because I have time today.”

Using a washcloth to wipe away the last bits of foam from his now clean-shaven face, Arnie leaned down to give me a kiss and said, “Don’t get yourself into knots. I’ll get it tilled for you this morning.”

Two hours later, after I saw the children off to school on the bus, made beds, picked up the house, prepped for our supper and made breakfast, Arnie came in the back door and announced, “The garden is tilled and ready for you to plant.”

After eating, I gathered my seed packets, bedding plants and gardening tools. Stepping outside for the first time that day, I discovered the day was hot. The sun glared unblinkingly down from a cloudless blue sky. Returning to the house, I put on a swimsuit and found a tube of sunscreen. Slathering the cream on every inch of my exposed skin, I stretched to reach my shoulders and back.

I worked in the hot sun from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. stopping only for an occasional drink of water. I marked the rows, planted peas, beans, radish, corn and potatoes. Next came the bedding plants from the nursery. I carefully ladled water into each hole so the plant babies would be happy. When Niki and Tammie came home from school, they retreated into the house where it was cool.

Arnie came home at 5 p.m. He stood watching me work for a while before commenting, “Your back looks funny. It has red lines like you were scratched.”

Scrambling to my feet, I said, “I don’t remember getting up against anything. I’m done planting the garden now, so I’ll go take a shower and look at my back.”

I learned two valuable lessons that day. One lesson was that sun screen really works. The second lesson was that it is impossible to put sun screen all over your entire back by yourself. I sunburned in the hard-to-reach areas where my fingers didn’t apply it properly.

Since that day I have learned many other important lessons. The biggest life lesson I have learned in the last few years is the “Little by Little” school of thought. I no longer plant my entire garden, do top-to-bottom house cleaning, read large books start to finish or do my Christmas shopping all in one day.

Mercifully, this new approach to life came at a time when I neither have the strength nor desire to do big jobs all in one giant push!

Under this new way of thinking, I still get things done. It just happens at a slower pace.  I regularly read the Bible and other large books cover to cover by simply reading one page a day. My garden gets done; one day for tilling, one day for raking, one day to install irrigation and several days to plant. It takes a long time to spread a few yards of wood chips on my flowerbeds because it happens one armful at a time. Weeding the garden and flowerbeds means pulling a few clumps of weeds during my daily inspections.

When a person lives under the “Little by Little” rule, it helps to be retired!



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