white house, say no to the task, yes to the person, transplanted and still blooming, cinthia milner

Say No to the Task. Say Yes to the Person.

Is no your favorite word? It has been mine. Not so much anymore, although I’m a bit late joining the yes wagon.

Why do we gravitate to no?

When my kids were little, before they even finished their sentence, I was already on NO. They tricked me a few times. “Mom, you want us to clean the bathrooms?” No. Oh, wait a minute. What did you say? Of course, I wasn’t listening, but it’s more than that, isn’t it? Something in our DNA makes us want to say no.

Or is it because we’re told no, over and over? So that, after a while, we quit asking or speaking. Got a boss that only has a no vocabulary, and so you’ve given up with the ideas? You just quit bringing new thoughts or new suggestions to the table because you already know they’ll be tabled? Or a spouse that is going to say no again to date night? Or a long-needed project? Or a walk and a conversation?

I knew this guy once whose father was a small-town, Illinois judge. His mother was a stay-at-home-mom. They lived on a quaint street where children rode their bikes to school. A white, clapboard house with lots of character, but small rooms describes their house. The story goes that the mom asked for years for a wall to be knocked down between rooms, opening up the interior space. The father repeatedly said, “No, that’s a load-bearing wall.” As it turns out, every wall in that house was evidently a load-bearing wall. He said no, and she finally quit asking. He regretted that later, before he died. Why hadn’t he done this one thing for his wife? If it meant so much to her that she asked over-and-over for years, why did he say no? And, when had finally she quit asking?

There. That’s the question to ponder. When did they (fill in the blank–your employees, the people you supervise at work, your spouse, your kids, your friends) quit asking? When did they finally become silent? Or do we silence them?

We all need to say no to more tasks. Our plates are full. I know. The trade I’m in is a feast or famine industry, and right now, everyone I work with is being pulled every which way but Sunday. So, no has its place. But my point is not that we should take on more.

My point is to say no to the task, and yes to the person.

so this happened how will you respond

So, this Happened. How Will You Respond?

So, this happened. How will you respond?

I’ve been asking myself that question all week.

  • You really did get fired. How will you respond?
  • You’re alone, now. How will you respond?
  • You were lied too. How will you respond?
  • Your health is gone. How will you respond?
  • Your children have ignored all the values you taught them. How will you respond?
  • Your spouse is no help at all. How will you respond?

These are mild compared to some I could write. You just declared bankruptcy. How will you respond?

But, they’re also pretty heavy compared to some I could write. The shower is stopped up. How will you respond?

How about this one? You’ve gained weight. How will you respond? (I’m going to deal with it tomorrow, that’s how.)

A friend shared a Christmas letter she received from a friend. She wanted my take on it. It wasn’t hard to understand what the author of the letter was suffering from–bitterness. He’d had a full life, a brilliant career and great health, due to a healthy lifestyle. So, yeah, he was supposed to be that guy. The guy we want to be when our turn comes. His plans were to write his memoir during retirement, but his health betrayed him. Instead, he’s making daily doctor runs, and the pages of the memoir remain blank. He’s not jogging through old age. He’s pushing a walker. It happens.

So, who are you pointing the finger at? Because, can we be honest? The first response is always the tragedy staring me. Look what happened to me. (If you’re still on your parents, then Lord help you, please respond by saying thank you for giving me life, and move on.)

Having a fit won’t change what happened. It happened.

I’m taking a class in setting personal boundaries. Here’s what I’ve realized. I don’t need to learn to say no, as much as I need to learn to respect other people’s no. I seriously need to stop hearing their no as an attack on me, and instead hear it for what it is.

Just a plain, simple no.

Oh but, that is hard when it is a gut-wrenching no.  And, we all have at least one gut-wrenching no. That one we try not to remember because when we do, we feel it all over again. Rejection.

Years ago, I worked in a Community Rehabilitation program. We helped with repairs on low-income homes. I was assigned to an African-American woman, who I thought was younger than I was (I was mid-20s.) Turns out she was 42, just gorgeous and aging really well. But, she was, as the saying goes, bat-shit crazy. She talked about her husband. Her husband this, her husband that. The husband had been gone for 20+ years. He was married with kids. Her response? She was having none of his no. She believed he would come back.

That’s one response, I suppose. Denial.

But, like the guy frustrated with doctor’s offices, and blank memoirs, how much time are we wasting? That stunningly beautiful woman lived alone her entire adult life. The brilliant man knew illness happened to others, but believed he was exempt. She believed no one could leave her. He believed doing it all right insulated him. People leave. We’re not insulated from anything.

So, this has happened. How will you respond? How will I respond? I’ve been asking myself that question all week. My conclusion? Grace. Grace for me. Grace for whoever. What else is there, really?




I Love Plants. I Should Have Married the Doctor. My Next Husband Will Hate Gardening.

I’m a horticulturist, a gardener, a plant geek. I love plants. So do the people I work with. It’s literally all we talk about. We never discuss movies, or tv shows, or politics or art (unless it is art related to gardening). We only discuss plants and, though it is a pretty-far-off-second, sometimes food.

I once dated a doctor and when he was with his friends, who were also doctors, they only discussed medicine. I thought he was obnoxious. It was impossible to have dinner with these men and their spouses/girlfriends because the men (the doctors) monopolized the conversation with the world of medicine. I wasn’t interested in medicine. I was interested in plants. So, I stopped dating him and found a forester to marry who talked incessantly about plants, too. I thought that would suit me much better, though admittedly, I would be poorer for it. Sadly, sometimes one’s passions trump one’s reason.

It was years later, while reading Mrs. Whaley and Her Charleston Garden that Mrs. Whaley, a Charleston gardener and author of the book, made the astute observation that it wasn’t always wise to marry someone who shared your passion for gardening. That meant they would have opinions in the garden, and no one wants that. Instead, aim to marry someone who enjoys the garden, funds the garden, but takes no interest in the garden, i.e. they could care less if camellias would be planted that year, or the birches limbed up to allow more light in the perennial garden. Brilliant advice, but I was 20 years in, and the doctor was a confirmed bachelor by then. There was no going back. Reflection did force me to agree with Mrs. Whaley, and while hindsight is 20-20, I realized, conversation aside, the doctor cared little for gardens, and would have happily funded mine while pursuing his passion for medicine without a single opinion regarding the garden.

The forester had opinions in the garden. He was a naturalist who followed a Darwinian methodology of gardening–only the strong survive. I ascribe to the right-plant-right-spot common sense method of gardening, but I already knew what plants would survive in my garden–the ones I wanted. I am the gardener, not the observer, and I stated this during many of our heated “plant conversations” I’d been so keen to have.

We argued over the choice and placement of every tree, shrub, perennial and even vegetable. His stupid cantaloupes were planted exactly where my eggplant was supposed to be nodding their fat, purple heads. As if anyone wants cantaloupe instead of eggplant. He wanted shade. I wanted full sun with areas of dappled light. He wanted conifers. I wanted roses. One sad day of gardening arguing ended with two 25 foot tall Norway Spruces becoming topiaries. The forester and myself did not recover from the shock of that day, and neither did the spruces. When the snows came that winter, our topiaries were pitiful. Their snow-piled limbs hung down their bare trunks defeated and embarrassed to be reduced to that silly state, when only months before their beautiful swaying branches would have accommodated that snow with grace and poise. I couldn’t drive down the driveway without feeling shame when they came into view, because that mishap was mine. What was supposed to be a compromise on dappled light versus shade, became topiaries.

The one thing the forester and I agreed on? The native perennials. We had the loveliest stand of trilliums, trout lilies, Alleghany spruge, lady slippers, phlox, bloodroot and Virigina bluebells. For some reason, in the presence of mayapples, we were united.

Sadly, just about the time we got the garden established and firmly determined our prospective areas (and learned the polite art of staying out of said areas or even mentioning said areas), the forester discovered passions beyond our garden gate, and became the ex. The good news? If any future spouses present themselves, I will heed Mrs. Whaley’s advice. Future spouses will hate the labor of gardening but love the rewards, and be absolutely opinion-less on the subject. Future spouses will view it as a sort of hobby that keeps me out of their hair.

I will gladly listen to a future spouse (or spouses, you never know) rattle on about any subject from Fantasy Football to the History Channel–so long as they absolutely abandon the garden to me–while I continue my daily dialogue with co-workers wise enough to marry first-time-spouses whose passions range the globe, but always detour the world of plants.