A to Z Challenge: Petra and Quinn

Character sketches that are fictional but based on real people, like you and me.

They were interesting children. Quinn, the oldest, was used to doing the planning, as in what and where they would play. Petra didn’t mind being the follower, having a lot of the same likes and dislikes, but she also added her own creativity at times. Both of them spent most of their time around well behaved adults, which resulted in their own pretty good behavior. But they were kids. Sometimes they were a bit lazy, distracted, willful, and as such were considered normal.

Both of them were cared for by parents who didn’t spend a lot of time following fashion trends and were fine with them wearing whatever hand-me-down or thrift shop outfits were available. They grew up in the country where clothes didn’t stay clean long when playing out in the garden or the woods anyway. They were appropriately dressed for what they did at home and were quite happy, through ignorance mostly. Later, they would say to their mother “what were you thinking when you let me wear that? And you had to take a picture too!”

They had long, straight hair with bangs. Petra often had a rat’s nest in the back from bouncing her head on the back of her car seat or her favorite “rocking couch”. That was her preferred method of handling boredom or discomfort. Quinn was less patient and would tell someone when she had a problem, or better yet, think of a way to correct the situation. Quinn was usually the one to get in trouble, playing with car keys and losing them, carving her initials in the furniture. Petra lived quietly in big sister’s shadow. They never fought and seemed to have a compassionate regard for each other, rare in children.

They both had a fierce love of animals of all kinds. They loved kittens, dogs and especially horses. Petra even loved insects and befriended the ants that congregated in the bathroom sink around the toothpaste. The two girls would spend hours with their toy horses, making stalls out of cardboard and listing the names of all their steeds and their pedigrees. On family walks, they rode imaginary horses that often reared and took off on them. The point was that they had wonderful imaginations and to all appearances were enjoying their childhood.

But, as usually happens, things changed. The day they heard that the family was moving to the other side of the United States, they didn’t realize what that would mean. The adventure side of things was clear. They were going to be in a mid sized city with access to cultural events, new learning opportunities, a new house, maybe new friends close by. The loss side of the move was yet to come.

It reached the point of pain, on the day of the yard sale. They had been told that they could have money from the sale of some of their toys. But to see the furniture from their rooms out on the lawn, and being loaded into other people’s cars started to be a bit traumatic for them both. The farm would be left behind with its large yard, tree forts in the wood lot, the barn and hayloft, the kittens, and even the grandparents. THE GRANDPARENTS.

Quinn was trying to keep busy. At eight years old, she was the oldest and was in charge of selling the toys but the situation was beginning to weigh heavily on her. Especially when she looked at Petra. Petra, a 5 year old, was beyond focusing on the activity of the sale. She was sitting on her beloved “rocking couch”, repeatedly bouncing against it’s back with tears streaming down her cheeks. She was singing a sad, little goodbye song as the loveseat sized rocker creaked and groaned with her movement, it’s price tag taped to its arm. Clearly, a crisis was brewing…

That was the day that two little girls discovered their own personal super-hero. Someone came along who understood the impact a move was having on them and made the decision to lessen the trauma. The price tag got marked SOLD, and Grandma sat down between Petra and Quinn. They rocked together as they discussed how rocking couch could probably fit somewhere on the moving trailer. It wasn’t the first time Grandma came to their rescue, and it wouldn’t be the last either.

Planting: Relationship in the Garden

Planting, in the garden, was a very early relationship building activity. Julia and I both love dirt and have a long history with it. As a family, we have always had some kind of garden on our property, and except for a few hot days picking beans or hoeing, Julie and Esther loved being there. During their teen years, they didn’t feel the ownership of the garden quite as keenly but I still preached it as an important way to connect with God, nature, and fellow gardeners.

Now that they are grown, I see that has paid off. They are plant lovers, landscapers, gardeners, people who appreciate things that grow. They both have their own style, suitable to the places they live and the time they have to invest. It’s another thing we love to do together when I visit. There are always things to do in their yards or gardens.

I have always loved that taking care of plants is such a learning experience. Going through the seasonal process of planting, growing, harvesting and resting provides such teachable moments. I have tried to convey to them that a garden is truly a kind of spiritual place. Air, sunshine, water and earth are clearly seen as elements of life. We get to watch the miracle of a dead looking seed respond to these elements and become something completely different. We get to see how weeds can take over and choke out useful plants. Unprotected borders let rabbits and deer in to eat. We have also killed our share of plants, but that is the price to be paid. Plants don’t live forever either and there is something to be learned even in that. I can hardly be in the garden without a God-analogy coming to mind.

Esther lives in an urban community and has a small but beautiful yard. She loves small space gardening, and has a yard where entertaining is easy and fun. Plants thrive in the mild climate in Washington state. Almost every time I visit we go to her favorite garden center and look (well, and buy).

A couple weeks ago I was in North Carolina, where the grass is already green and the trees are flowering. Julie had a day off and we had nothing planned. Of all that we could have chosen, planting the salad garden and working in the yard was what we wanted to do. She too knows that I would rather work in the garden than sit around.

If you discover that planting is an activity that someone in your life would like to do with you, go for it. And don’t forget – plants are alive. We don’t know what they are thinking, if they think, but we know they have likes and dislikes and they seem to know when they are being treated kindly. It’s a bit spooky if you think about it. Makes it more fun. Just sayin’…

A to Z: Selling Our House (Letter P)

Another P word is Pop! That’s what our contrasting door color is supposed to do for our rental house, makes people want to come in. (HGTV wannabe)

P Painting

There is nothing like a good paint job to change up the world. No matter what lies beneath it, that fresh new surface is like a start over, a clean slate.

This is the first time I have been involved in a whole house paint job. There have been numerous DIY, one room at a time projects in my past, but to have a professional painter come in and do the complete job – well, who would have thought it? Our rental house needed a fresh face, and the magnitude of the job required someone like Ed, from HIS Painting. Ed works alone, doing all the steps himself. It was interesting and educational to watch his progress.

The paint job included kitchen cabinets, which are always a bit of a challenge, spraying all ceilings including a high cathedral one, all walls and trim and front doors. It took the better part of a week. The prep probably took more of that time than the actual painting, and that is what bothers me about this kind of work. Taking off hardware, cleaning, sanding, priming, taping, ad infinitum to the point of despair – and then maybe you can paint. But, of course, Ed does this for a living and accepts it graciously.

The organizational aspect of a whole house job is something I hadn’t thought of before. To have something drying, while you’re preparing the next thing is a learned skill.  To do trim first without worrying about the edges, then finishing with the walls and brushing in details. Knowledge of specialized products is another element a professional painter brings to his work. The ability to patch, disguise, and transform depends on knowing what’s out there that best completes the job.

It was costly, but it was worth the price. The house looks great – better than I would have thought possible.  That was Ed’s part, and we hired it done knowing that the rental house was going to be empty, making it easy to work.  Our house is a different situation. We are still in it.

Because I do clean occasionally, and I do paint occasionally, I didn’t think our house needed as thorough a paint job. However, there were a few relatively small projects which I have been working on myself, slowly. It would have been great to have Ed do it for me, but I can’t imagine him working around all our stuff as I sort and pack.

If there were paint police, they would have taken away my brushes long ago. I hate prepping, I hate paint clean-up, I hate having to mask things, cover floors, remove hardware, … all of it. I hate it.  And, if there were a painting hell, I would most certainly be assigned there for my many painting sins.

My previously unfinished wood closet, now white and almost the same color as the walls (don’t look too close). I did the painting myself.

I hunted for several days for the right white to match our major walls – never found it. I wish I had labeled all the partly used cans of paint in the garage, another major frustration. Those edges where one color meets another are a constant challenge to me. I paint over cat hair, spiders, and dust. Latex splotches adorn many of my clothes and shoes. I just hate painting, but there is no escaping it.  Even this will come to an end, and I am looking forward to that.

I am sorry about my attitude toward painting and I will work on changing it, if God gives me time. There are very few things I hate, and hating anything really takes more energy than it’s worth, just sayin’…