Best Defense is an Even BETTER Offense!

Best Defense is an Even BETTER Offense!.

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Best Defense is an Even BETTER Offense!

Garden and Greenhouse  www.groundworks-midwest.com

This is a picture of a greenhouse at a public school playground in the midst of Sioux Falls, SD,  The growth, the joy, the learning, and the planning has blossomed in the last five years.  This past September, 2013, began year 6.  On Saturday, October, 26, 2013, the greenhouse which served as the symbol of the first teaching garden sponsored by multiples of local and regional partners, and the non-profit, Ground Works, saw its last day at the pavement locked school.

Students from Northwestern College in Orange City, IA gathered with teachers from Lowell Elementary, volunteers from the neighborhood, and the staff of Ground Works to take down the structure which was originally donated from a Wal-Mart in Pierre, SD,  4 of the people who were part of the original build and dedication donned gloves and dismantled the symbol, which for 5 years has been such a source of hope and pride.

You may ask why this had to happen.  1 word:  Vandalism.

Short, not sweet, but certainly to the point.

A flourishing  garden naturally lends itself to some curiosity.  The sight of purple eggplants growing in the sun provides as much temptation as  ripe tomatoes hanging from their vines.  Some innocent exploration and the occasional splat is understandable and expected.  Hey, at least they are in the garden and taking enough time inspecting to cause a little commotion.  Even the innocent removal of a watermelon or pumpkin from its moorings provides a moment of learning for young hands who try to attach it after its been plucked.  One can smile at that and use it as a learning and teaching moment of  growth, science, and measurement.  The possibilities are endless for instruction.

HOWEVER!!!!! One cannot stand for nor tolerate the intentional destructive and violent actions of persons bent on destroying something that belongs to the children, families, teachers, and neighbors who reside in and near the school where the garden grows.  Yes, the violent and destructive nature of vandalism has visited not only this garden but 2 others in the Sioux Falls area.  No leads on the individuals or the motives have surfaced, but it begs the question as to what is happening recently.

The greenhouse frequently saw various items littering  the floor not once, but multiple times.  Each time the garden manager had a class out in the garden, she had to first canvas the area , ensuring that any nefarious items were disposed of appropriately.  Bottle rockets, broken pots and cinder blocks lay spewed on the ground, while the beds were the picture of upended plants, vegetation, and footprints.  We won’t even elaborate on the inappropriate material found which would cause any adult to shake their head in disgust and worry even more about the safety of the children in the neighborhood.  Rest assured whatever the mind may be imagining now  is nothing short of what has already been pictured.

For months, members who have been involved in this garden have hoped against all hopes that the activity would cease.  No such luck.  In fact, with each passing weekend, the activity increased and the destruction gained momentum.  With support from all partners, teachers involved, and earlier mentioned non-profit staff members,  the request of the principal for the greenhouse to be removed, was heeded.  Above all, the safety of the students, teachers, and neighbors trumps the presence of a structure–any structure.  With all partners and collaborators set on the mindset that this and other gardens exist for the purpose of education in academia, scientific inquiry, health and personal wellness, environmental sustainability, and the practice of being a great neighbor, plans were made and executed with good faith and attitude.

As the garden manager and long invested partners gathered to look at the greenhouse one last time, the feeling of anger and frustration surfaced once again as the issue of why now, why this place were left unanswered.  The anger, not directed at those dismantling, went to the core of those causing the violence and  the overall safety of the children to be compromised.   So, while 20 pound cinder blocks were stacked, ready for a flatbed, the frustration gave way to a unified  sense of satisfaction that the growing beds remain.  The learning continues, the bridge for school and community exists, and gathered on the pavement were people committed to the education of children.  Unspoken feelings of satisfaction replaced frustration as teams of people worked together to right the wrongs caused by those not able to see the benefit of what they sought to destroy.

There is the wonderful key….their destruction did not dampen the spirits of those rolling up their sleeves.  Their desire to deny others gave way to dreaming and planning of a different sort.  Those who have been present from day one 5 years ago remember fondly the seminary student who dared to ask, “What if?”  That same question came full circle yesterday.  Just as in the past, if something was uprooted, it was immediately replanted.  The ideas of expansion took shape and smiles spread across faces.  College students never before met,  served alongside teachers who cared.  Strangers, made friends demonstrated EXACTLY what the teaching gardens proclaim they do.  They bridge the divide of race, gender, station, desire, education, and financial or social standing.  Conversations of teamwork, student dreams, and future garden plans were discussed with good humor.  Throw in some sunshine, free food, laughter, and the ulterior motives of others were forgotten.  That is right, the motives of those who sought to ruin, were disregarded.  Violence did not have the last word, nor was it the attitude allowed to take root.  It did not take an  angry response to stop the behavior.  Hard work, teamwork, and community proved more important than reacting.  Proactive response demonstrated more maturity and collaboration than a few wreaking havoc.

There are other gardens in the area being targeted.   Ground Works offers  the hand of positive partnership to calling an end to such behavior.  We remain committed, along with others, that the cycles of violence and destruction have a source far deeper than what the surface represents. It is our obligation to go below that surface and ask the tough questions and listen when even tougher answers come forth.  It is our obligation to ensure that a safe and productive learning environment blossoms not only at the gardens we serve, but for those gardens experiencing similar issues.

Destruction has no place in our neighborhoods, or near our schools.  The group yesterday stood positive that quiet and well planned and executed response is of far more worth than misplaced anger.  Love wins, it always wins.  Now, try to destroy that!

No Fiddler on My Roof

No Fiddler on My Roof.

No Fiddler on My Roof

Whether I like it or not, the holiday season will be upon us in no time.  I have gone into the local Wal Mart (ewwwww) and seen the Christmas decorations up already.  I visited a local plant nursery and part of their morning task was to create some holiday ornaments.  The cashiers and I talked about how in retail after Labor Day they have to run full speed into Halloween then to Christmas.  Talk about a whirlwind of a time crunch.

Watching and listening has me thinking lately.  I decided today that I would visit one of the few traditions I carried from my childhood.  My mother would wake on Sunday morning and put in the fixins for a beef roast meal.  This was our Sunday noon meal and I must say, all of us loved it.  Usually mom would take the potatoes from the pan with the roast and mash them!!!!! I watched as my brothers would mix corn in the mashed potatoes and inwardly cringe as I recoil in shock that someone would dare to MIX their food.    I have a strong aversion to mixing food, or to even have food touching one another on a plate.  Can’t do it.  I have good friends who have watched me take fruit off my plate, separate it, then eat it alphabetically.  OK, maybe a bit OCD.

This meal was a moment where everyone gathered–one of the few.  Whether there was much talking was of little interest.  It was usually my older brother talking to my father or my brothers and I egging each on to misbehave.  The food, the smell, the warmth, the promise of leftovers  always brought a smile to my face.  AAAAAhhhh, leftovers.  Let it be said now that there are certain foods which are better the 2nd or 3rd day. Lasagna, scalloped potatoes, goulash, roast beef,–I could go on, but I think you have the idea.  I knew that meant at least a meal or two would be a break from my usual fare of peanut butter sandwiches.  You have no idea.

I was working on such meal today, reliving how it must have been to put it together.  I added a few more touches:  squash, crescent rolls, and choc cookies–anything to bribe the boys.  I was thinking about the details in such a meal, then remembered that I was never shown that.  I observed and am thankful that I have a good memory for such.  I found my youngest standing next to me, clad in only a fuzzy blanket as he had just taken a mid-morning bath. (I don’t know why)  I was peeling and cutting potatoes and he requested to help me.  I instantly tensed as I tried to remember ever doing that when I was young.  I searched my database and could not recall.  I told him he could help me, but he had to get dressed.  No nekid boys in my kitchen, no matter how cute they are.

He came skipping back and I thought this odd.  All I am doing is peeling potatoes and making them ready to roast.  He wanted to peel, uh not so much.  I struck a deal and let him cut them in half under my supervision.  He jabbered the whole time.  I was confounded.  A meaningless task, and he approached it with such good humor.  I shared with him about how his grandpa would have to peel potatoes in the army and that was probably why he might not like real mashed ones.  (again, I dunno)  Hmmm, sharing history.

That may seem so common for many.  It is uncommon for me.  I will soon hear of great traditions, baking, baking,, and more baking.  Making large meals as a unit, games played, memories shared.  i understand some of that from watching my husband’s family.  They talk of vacations, decades of holiday traditions, memories etched in photos.  Hm. That is all well and good for many many many families.  For mine, there was a different level of focus.

To say that the difference in focus is better or worse is not for me to say.  I cannot recall any specific memories except a pinochle game or 2, and times when we would congregate at a certain aunt’s house for a holiday.  Before long, most of those times had faded and no new traditions were born.  I thought nothing of a need to want this.  I did not know to want it.  Now, I struggle with the fact that I just might want something like that.

My family and I have long ceased any get togethers.  We all have our own families, and most often in-laws receive our attention.  I think of Christmas, and I can tell you day for hour what will happen.  Eve will be at one in-law, morning is family time, my family may stop by if the weather is good and they are able.  It will just be my parents and the kids will be overjoyed to see them.  After an hour or so, weather permitting, they will take their leave and the afternoon will be spent at the other grandma’s house.  There all my husband’s sisters and their children will be present.  I have been around 14 years and it is still foreign to me.  I know the drill, the expectations, still it feels like I am under water, treading, trying to navigate the bottom with a slight view of murky water.

I see the goodies my in-law’s families have made, the handmade and cute little ornaments and decorations.  I have none of that to bring.  I don’t know how.  People speak of trips taken and making special efforts to keep certain traditions alive, I have no reference for that.  I think I want to establish, but I am not sure how to do so.   I am not a crafty girl….in the least.  I have boys, not so keen on cooking and baking and artsy creative stuff.  If they do want to help, what does that look like?  How do you let them help and not make a mess or how do they not drive you nuts in the process with wanting to take over and “help”?  We know they are really not helping, right?

Many will wonder, huh?  No baking, making things together, no special traditions that HAD to be kept, a favorite place that was the ONE place that brought everyone back together?  You HAVE to be joking.

I am not.  There was occassional games, but don’t ask me to play Pictionary.  There were times at the lake where we played all the time, but nothing that had to be followed.  I have memories of a moment or 2, nothing more.  I look at pictures of my husband’s family and the scads that I take of my children as they grow.  One of my children asked me where pictures of me would be.  I told them honestly that was not a priority in my family.  Hard work and doing work well and doing the best you could was valued, which is not all bad.  However, there are no pictures, no record of what we did or how we did it.  I asked my mother the other day what my song was that she used to get me to go to sleep….there was none.  I never thought that would bother me.  It does now, weird, at 39 that bothers me BIG TIME.  What book was read at night?  None.  What favorite stuffed animal or dress or what have you, that I HAD to have?  Dont’ know.  What made me laugh, giggle?  Who knows.

That may not seem like much to wonder about at my age, but as I watched my son today wanting to help cut potatoes, I was aghast at what and how to pass traditions on to them.  How do I pass on recipes, lefse cooking, krumkake, games, stories, AAAAHHHHH?  I know that legacy lies in the stories and traditions we leave behind.  Makes me wonder, if there is little of that in the family I grew up in, what does that say about our legacy?  hm.  Interesting thought.    I just stumbled on that.  Legacy and tradition, it seems that’s where its at…..

What legacy of tradition to leave?

shalom

cahl

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