Working 9 to 5, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Working 9 to 5

Let’s all start by saying we wish we worked 9-5. I’m more like 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. How about you? But hey, it pays the bills, and that does seem important. I make more money working more hours, not more money by the hour. Welcome to the blue collar world. Still, I love my job and am very passionate about what I do. So, I keep doing it.

But, this week was a bad week at work. It just was. Even a job you love and are passionate about can be a pretty crap job some weeks. It’s life. Work is a good thing that sometimes isn’t so good. Here’s how I handled that. I chose to be a little underhanded. Because someone picked on me, I picked on someone else. The pecking order and all that. How old am I?

Bottom line: I was mean.

I was passive aggressive about it so it’s possible the person missed it entirely. That generally flies right over a guy’s head. Women never miss a passive aggressive move. So, here’s hoping the guy I picked on didn’t notice my passive-aggressive little self. If he did, here’s  hoping he noticed my bending-over-backward-to-be-nice self the following day. Because I regretted the silly behavior the second I did it. I felt childish and ridiculous. And, let’s face it, no one deserves to be picked on just because I was.

Skip to my sister’s work week and well, my passive aggressive move looks like buttered toast with a warm glass of milk. Her boss, a supposed genius, decided to take her into a closet, and use every “gd” word he could think of while reminding her who signed her check.And, this because she did something his wife instructed her to do. Obviously, trouble in paradise.

That reminder, the check, was enough to keep her silent. Oh, how I wish I had been there because he does not sign my check. I understand though. Fear of losing one’s job, the very thing that puts food on the table is nerve-racking, and causes us to devalue ourselves enough to allow some crazed idiot to scream in our faces, and call us names. So long as that tirade doesn’t end with you’re fired, we’ll stand there and take it because we need the work. I will. I wouldn’t have opened my mouth with the bi-polar boss calling me every name in the book because I’ve got no back-up. It’s me and me alone that pays my bills. If I don’t come up with the cash, nobody does. So, while I lectured my sister on speaking up for herself, I acknowledged that I, too, would have stayed quiet. What we’ll do to provide for ourselves is a bit scary. Not to mention passive-aggressive, sometimes.

It can all be very traumatizing. I mean that quite seriously. Which is a shame because if fear didn’t dictate the work force, or bullies didn’t call themselves bosses, or he bottom line didn’t mean you’re fired, or lack of experience didn’t mean you’re too young, or aged-out didn’t mean, well, that you’ve aged out of the work force, I’m betting we would all do some pretty amazing things.

Remove all the insanity and fear, and you have people who are free to do what they’re designed to do. From engineers to ballet dancers, everyone could flourish.

But, there’s also this. Bettering ourselves. Climbing up the ladder of classes. Every person wants to make it to the next rung on the ladder with the thought that it might make life a bit easier. And money does make life easier, so the temptation becomes giving up what we’re passionate about so we can better ourselves. Having been on both sides of the money equation, having money is so much better than not. Having been on both sides of the work equation (love it & hated it), hating your job is so much worse than not.

We either work to live or live to work, the saying goes.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we lived to work, and that work paid for us to live? I believe that’s what’s called “having it all,” the job we love with the paycheck that stretches.

I don’t have the answer to this, and frankly my frustration with what my sister had to endure is the nemesis for this blog post, so perhaps this is more rambling than enlightening. I’ll conclude by saying that I have chosen to do what I love though I scramble to pay the bills. If I stop to evaluate it, I come back to the same conclusion over and over: I am a gardener. It’s what I do, albeit with less money than I’d like, but with other plant geeks who make less money than what they’d like, but who aren’t cursing people out in closets.  My bosses are busy watering plants. So, am I.  Which seems a good thing to do on a scorching hot day when we all could use a drink.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

"pouring rain, brothers with umbrellas"

Pondering the Past in the Pouring Rain

It is pouring rain and I have spent the day pondering the past. I would add that I have spent the day curled up in my bed, pjs on, drifting in and out of sleep, while I reflected and considered. It is good practice. I recommend it.

My backyard is a puddle. The Weather Channel is now calling for flash flood watches, and staying indoors seemed the most profitable thing to do, and so I have. I have given myself the delightful, but unusual for me, rare treat of doing absolutely nothing all day. The animals were thrilled. Their owner was home and rarity of rarities, she was still. The cat, or Little Kitty, as she is called, went as far down under the covers as she could go and wrapped herself around my feet and slept. Aggie, the dog, curled into a tight ball and crammed herself against me, sleeping the day away.

I allowed myself the time to think.

I wondered this: Do I see my life correctly? Can I see my life correctly? Could it be that God, who calls things that were not into being (Romans 4:17), looks down upon my life and sees something I do not, and cannot?

What does God see when he sees me?

  • I see that I did not stay to my budget this month.
  • I see that I did not hold my tongue when I promised myself I would.
  • I see that I forgot to call my perfect grandchildren because I got busy with mundane tasks.
  • I see that I still do not have a successful career.
  • I see that I have not mopped the kitchen floor.
  • I see that I still did not get the car cleaned out.
  • I see that it is Sunday night and Monday looms, and there is still so much to be done, and I am typing away at a blog that has 15 readers. Seriously?

And that is the small stuff. Early this morning, knees bent, head bowed, the question is prayed, “Lord, how could you love someone like me?”

Early to bed. Early to rise. Work like hell: fertilize. (Emily Whaley) is my motto more than not. I look for meaning and comfort, and believe that if I just work hard enough, I can right wrongs. If I figure out a way to get life “right” now, then my past–those places and memories I hate to remember but cannot seem to forget–will be redeemed, by me. Oops. That is the very place my thinking takes a quirky turn. I cannot work that hard. No, I need not work that hard.

Those places, those memories, those very things I want to strangle myself over while somehow setting them right, have been redeemed in Jesus.

How do I keep forgetting that?

What does God see when he sees me? Jesus.

That means, this day spent sleeping in the rain, is exactly okay. The work I tirelessly strive to do is the work Christ has already done. I can put my pjs on, roll over and let it rain.

 

 

In That Small Sunday Space

Today is Sunday. I woke up around 7, like always, but it was Sunday, so I willed myself back to sleep. My clients don’t call (well, most of the time). The store is closed. One day out of seven, I can do this. Covers over my head, bury myself beneath the dander of dog hair on my comforter (she’s not allowed but she’s good at cheating), and close my eyes tight. In this small space of Sunday morning, cravings that are ignored weekday-in-and-weekday-out are heard.

I need to mow the yard, write garden notes for three clients, get ready for an hour long seminar next Saturday, review notes on the client’s I’ll visit on Monday, weed the perennial bed, vacuum (remember the dog dander), buy groceries, walk the dog, fill out insurance papers, go to church. My church is 40 minutes away. Do I do the drive? (I hate it when things I love become chores.) Pay bills. Figure out where the darn ants are coming from. Vacuum again. These are not the cravings, if you’re wondering.

These are. I want to shop for my daughter-in-law’s birthday, which is this month. She is a fall girl. I want to pamper her with gifts that smell like fall. I want her day to be joyful. I want to look at the picture of the ultra-sound she texted me yesterday–a new grandchild due in May. I want to lie still and listen to the nothingness of Sunday morning. I love the Body of Christ, but I don’t want to drive anywhere today. I want no place to go. I want to cook something nourishing, because it is 58 degrees outside and suddenly a crock pot full of food is so tempting. I want the house simmering with the smell of it. I want to write. I want to take the dog on a long walk and snap pictures of gardens. I want to go to McDonalds and get black coffee and sit on my screen porch, on my glider, sipping it to the sounds of the birds chirping away. I want to organize my pictures. They’re all digital, ugh. I want to FaceTime my granddaughters. I want to hear their silly laughs, and Miss Priss say, “YaYa, do you want to play with me?” I want to talk, really talk to my children. I do want to vacuum because the pet dander can only be stood for so long. I want to finish reading the book, And I Shall Have Some Peace There, because if she found it, surely I can too. I want to plant the fall flowers I bought for my community spot in my little town, to make me happy, to make others happy. i want to garden. I want to create.

In my small space on Sunday morning, all these cravings, unheard over the drone of the workday week, present themselves. Head down, tucked under the covers, I am torn. It’s not as easy as it seems. Take the day, and rest, Cinthia. Just rest. The Sabbath for you, Jesus said. Created for man. Created for our refreshment. Take the day.

My clients are side work, done on my days off. If notes aren’t written today, then it’s an automatic behind for the week ahead. I don’t have another day off until next Sunday, and this week’s evenings will be spent preparing the fall clean-up seminar. The insurance man would probably like his papers filled out so he can clear his desk of my file. The bathroom needs a cleaning that no amount of candles or diffusers will disguise. If I want lunch at work this week, then groceries are a must. I could possibly do the crock pot, but I will miss the dog’s walk, because a day is only 16 hours. I have no idea when I last paid bills, but I am grateful for all this work, because I can pay them. Don’t read this as griping about work. I am thankful for the blessing of work. .

But sometimes, it seems the pursuit of creativity/personal care/relationships/life is overshadowed by the pursuit of money. How much is enough? My boss often says you can tell who is hungry and who is not by how they work. I am evidently quite hungry.

Fun Fact for some of you: Did you know that if you start taking 4% out of your retirement account right now, it will not deplete in your lifetime? (But does 4% pay the bills?) My financial planner is full of these little nuggets of wisdom.

The time ticks away with my head still buried under the blankets. I swear I hear the sound of the digital clock, and this small space of Sunday is almost gone. This moment when the world is quiet and a day could possibly be spent in creating (cooking? writing? gardening? photography? long walks for inspiration?) a possibility. I know that when my feet touch the ground, and the shower head starts to steam the bathroom, that these Sunday dreams will cease, and I will end the day wondering, what was it I wanted to do today?

 

 

Freedom 55? How I Wish.

I read an article today written by a guy who termed himself a Millennial, as in part of the Millennial Generation or Generation Y. The dates for this generation are iffy, but it seems to refer to those individuals born between 1980-2000. He titled his article Freedom 55, referencing my generation (the Baby Boomers) and our desire to retire at age 55. He thought the idea of retiring at 55 a bit mundane, not because he didn’t like the idea of retiring, but because he wants to life his life fully, every day, right now, He doesn’t want to wait until he is 55. I can applaud that.freedom 55

He also plans on redefining the work structure in America, or at least for himself, and anticipates working more efficiently, instead of longer hours or extended years. And, he expects to be rewarded handsomely for his efficiency, thus allowing him the ability to life that full life right now. I can applaud this too–except–he did not give any explanation or ideas on how he intended to work more efficiently.He just said he was going too.

But, he made a couple of assumptions:

1. He assumed that Baby Boomers never considered the idea of working more efficiently with less hours or extended years. He assumed that it never occurred to us that while we poured ourselves into a day-in-day-out-job-consuming-week-upon-week life, to stop and wonder, could this be done differently? I don’t know about the rest of the Baby Boomers, but I most certainly have wondered if work could be done differently. Racked my brain over it, actually. Which is why I would have preferred his how-to over his going-to article. Perhaps I’d follow his example, only he left us without one.

2. He assumed that all of us are going to experience Freedom 55. Not so. Though I am 55 there is no Freedom Bell ringing in this household. I suspect I will be working long past 60 and into my 70s. My own mother is 77 and still works a full-time job. She cannot afford not too. But, how I WISH.

3. He assumed that we Baby Boomers are not living our lives fully now. That we’re all waiting until the day of retirement to begin.

4. He assumed that we bought into an employment ideology. I am sure we did, and just as sure that he has. It may be an ideology yet to be revealed, but I am certain, it is one the generation following his will accuse him of buying into. But how are ideologies born, I’d like to know? And, do we only know, after the fact, that we’ve bought into it? It being some life-sucking, dream-denying monster that ended up destroying us?

Here’s what I hope:

1. I hope his generation is able to find a way to redefine work. I hope they can teach their predecessors what that is.

2. I have seen my son’s generation–at 25 he is a Millennial–do some pretty awesome things, so I think I have good reason for some high hopes.

Here’s what I know:

1. It will take more than just boasting to accomplish it.

 

 

 

Cottage with Flowers

Getting off the Treadmill (Without Going off the Grid)

I despair.

It’s work.

Understand, I love my job. I’m outside all day, with my plants, doing my thing, and mostly talking people’s heads off. What’s not to love?

But, here’s my despair. I have discovered the timeless truth of the treadmill. And, I am on it.

I talked non-stop with Debbie N, (that, I-think-I’m-having-a-nervous-break-down,  talking) for an hour, yesterday. She was standing in line at Moe’s ordering burritos for take-out supper. Chicken and rice, if you’re wondering. Having to do the whole ordering and paying thing while on her smart phone with her hysterical friend. Mouthing, “yes, large tea” (sweet, it’s the south), and gesturing “yes, extra chips, yes extra sour cream,” to the Moe’s folks with the phone cupped between chin and shoulder. It’s what we women do. I could hear “Welcome to Moe’s!” being shouted in the background.

By the time she got home with supper, I was going to empty my savings, pack a few belongings in the car, and Thelma and Louise style, just start driving. I was thinking west coast, because that just sounds so good when you’re running away.

Which is what being on a treadmill does to you. It makes you want to run away.

Now, that I’ve calmed down considerably, two or three Xanax later (but really, who’s counting?), I am pondering the whole treadmill thing from a much more laid back perspective. Say man, what do you think about the treadmill of life? (Kidding, it’s the Xanax talking.) One major thought popped up.

When I moved to Brevard, almost two years ago, I told the Lord that I would work 24.7 if that was what was needed. Newly divorced, newly employed, and newly responsible for the household and kid, I was typical Cinthia. Extreme, determined, and way too prideful to ask anyone for help. You know, the whole bootstrap mentality.

2 years later, and completely exhausted, here’s what I’m realizing. It isn’t my job to work 24.7. It is the Lord’s. If anybody is on the ole’ treadmill, the Lord is. I mean, look at his job. He keeps the whole world cruising along every day, all day, with no sleep, and no help. Now, that is a treadmill deal. If he stops, it all stops. Meaning, he  is in control, and I’m not.

And, isn’t that where the treadmill lie originates? We’re stressed because we’ve convinced ourselves that the world rests on us. If we stop, it all stops?

Sometimes, I  want to be a teenager again. Back home in my room, staring out my window, gabbing on the phone, mom making dinner and dad hanging out with her. Because then, I wasn’t the one responsible for it all.

But, here’s the takeaway. I’m not the one responsible for it all now. So, when I feel like I am running on that treadmill of life and work again, I need to step off, and say, “Sorry, Lord, it’s all yours.” Because it is.

PS Kidding about the Xanax, it’s Klonopin. 🙂

Abraham’s Journey to Home (and mine)

English: Abraham Goes to the Land of Canaan (G...

English: Abraham Goes to the Land of Canaan (Gen. 12:1-6) Русский: Авраам переселяется в землю Ханаанскую (Быт. 12:1-6) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Scripture, Abraham was told by God to pack up and start moving. But God did not tell him where. Instead, God told Abraham to go to “the place I will show you.” Abraham didn’t argue, although he did camp out at one place for awhile before he really started moving along on his journey. But, eventually he started walking (let that soak in) in earnest toward the “place God would show him.”

I never envied Abraham that trip. There are plenty of people I’d like to be in Scripture. The Woman at the Well comes to mind. The servants who watched the water turn to wine before their very eyes at the wedding (Jesus’ first miracle). Priscilla is intriguing. Philip, mainly because he literally got to space/time travel. But Abraham just seems old and tired to me when he begins his trek and like, he really would have been okay hanging out near the pyramids of home and simply enjoying retirement. That is exactly how I feel. Old. Tired. Ready for Retirement.

My biggest fear right now is that I will not be able to work as hard as I do for as long as I’m probably going to need too. My livelihood depends on me working. Period. From month to month, if I am not employed we don’t eat or have a roof over our heads. It is humbling.

So, while I wonder where home for me is, I am acutely aware that it might always be someone else’s home, i.e. a place that I rent.

I spent some time with a financial planner after my divorce, and we discussed whether he thought I’d ever purchase a home or not. He was very matter-of-fact about the whole thing when I mentioned the money I’d “throw away in rent.” He said, “How is it throwing money away? You need a home, and yet you can’t purchase one because you don’t make enough money. This isn’t about money management, its about staying out of the cold and the rain.”

Sometimes, a good reminder of the most basic sort is in order. It allows you to re- frame your thinking and begin to have a paradigm shift.  Abraham lived in the City of Ur of the Chaldeans. Reportedly, the place was very developed for its time. Houses had indoor plumbing and running water. There were markets and fresh produce. He had all the comforts of home. Then God said, pack it up, we’re moving, and Abraham finished out his years in a tent in the land of Canaan. Canaan would become the Israel of the Old Testament, and Abraham’s descendants would live in the land as their own.

So, sometimes the plan is less about the immediate and more about the eternal, as in Abraham’s case. It wasn’t about providing Abraham with a home. It was about bringing forth a Savior (Jesus) through a group of people whom God would build through the lineage of Abraham.

In my own trek, I am not living in a tent, but a nice rented home. Every night I thank God for putting a roof over mine and my son’s head. For paying the electric bill. For paying the internet, because my son needs it for college. For buying the groceries. For heat. For plumbing. For air conditioning. For cleanliness. For good landlords who treat us with respect.

Oh, there is a paradigm shift happening. From a home of 20+ plus years where the comforts of home were simply taken for granted, to a very real awareness of what a good thing hot water is.This type of consciousness is necessary if I am to discover my new home. I must first start to think of home differently.

Abraham followed God to unknown places, but in reading his story again, I do not see Abraham (or Sarah for that matter) all that focused on, where’s home? They seem more intent on where is the Savior (who would come through their child)? It makes me wonder if my focus is in the right place. Is it a home I am searching for, or a Savior?

God Made a Garden

I work in a pretty and charming flower market. Its about 2 minutes from my house, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that  every person that walks into the store says the same thing to me. This place is so wonderful. It must be fantastic to work here.

That statement makes me feel better because some mornings I wake up and think, ugh, I don’t want to go to work today. Then I remember people envy my job. Because I work in a garden.

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Pretty hanging plant (air plant)

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Gorgeous succulent design (by Linda Clemens)

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Pretty benches and pagodas

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Whimsical Chairs

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A Good Spot to Sit

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Tropicals in the kiosk

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Bamboo containers downtown for our “adopt a tree planting space” (design by Erik Ladd)

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Front view of store, Come on in.

I suppose, when you consider the fact that God placed Adam and Eve in a garden, and told them to work it, then it is only natural that we’d want to be in one too.