Tag Archives: Christina Ivazes

The Secret Garden-Revisited

Every Garden is a Blessing!

Every Garden is a Blessing!

As Spring approached this year, I discovered myself devouring the colorful front yard gardens of downtown Palo Alto with a hunger I haven’t felt for some time. Every week, the longing for my own garden in Sacramento grew, the deep desire to compost, grow vegetables and plant more flowers. This seasonal hunger to garden has been with me for as long as I can remember, but more voracious than ever this Spring.

While strolling by well-established gardens—each filled with surprises—my own deep need for roots was awakened again; a need for a place where I know I will enjoy the fruits of my labor year after year, without the typical uprooting I have experienced throughout my life. Though no matter how much I myself have moved, nothing will stop me from enjoying the gardens of others.

Daily meanderings took me to a creek with a green strip of psuedo forest on one side and lovely, open, bountiful gardens on the other. One day I marveled at a huge black crow chasing a white cat into the bush, laughing at how comical nature can be.

Each weekend when I returned to Sacramento, I was curious though as to why people in my own Sacramento neighborhoods didn’t have gardens like these. Why did I feel such an affinity for the Palo Alto gardens? Why was I one of the few growing flowers in my own community?

Then came the evening while reading Virginia Woolf’s, The Common Reader, when a familiar title flashed by in one of her essays: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Like a knee-jerk reflex, a familiar magical flutter filled me as I recalled the tattered, dingy, green bound book with its gold-embossed title; the book I had read so, so long ago. Warm inside like always when remembering this story, I savored the feelings it brought me.

Sunny Spring days continued and Palo Alto’s gardens proliferated with boundless colors, intensifying my hunger, yet also the gratitude for this blessed environment I found myself in—this particular year. During an unlikely detour one afternoon, I passed a home surrounded not by welcome, but by mystery. Its high fence was covered with overgrown roses and bushes meant to keep curiousity like mine at bay. I peeked where tiny openings allowed, catching a view that was followed by a flash, this was a ‘Secret Garden’!

Once again, my mind wandered back to explore the past. There was an answer for me somewhere in this story, The Secret Garden. It had deeply effected my view and appreciation of nature as a child, an appreciation and a hunger that have stuck with me throughout my life; a hunger that hits me every Spring and everywhere there are reminders.

I had to understand how this came about. I would re-read the book, hopefully solving the mystery of my serious need for nature.

Reflecting to a few years back, I remembered buying my eleven year-old niece a set of classic books, books which she gobbled up in a few weeks—much like I did at her age. I remembered the envy and pleasure I felt when she told me she had finished, The Secret Garden. I knew she now had something magical that would stay with her forever. I wished I could have shared the enchantment of this story with my grandaughters too, but they were in a different world by then; I had missed my window of opportunity—before the obsessions of boys, friends, text messaging, and social networking sites.

So, giving myself permission to be a curious child again, off I steered towards Bell’s Books on Emerson Ave. in Palo Alto; one of the last holdouts in fine new and used books after 65 years! The co-owner who I usually talked to would understand my feelings about this story. When I entered and found her free, we shared thoughts of the book, her detailed memories being more vivid than my own. I could not remember when I had read it, but it must have been somewhere between nine and ten years old before my own obsession with mysteries started—about forty years ago!

As I perused the volumes of children’s classics, the familiar binding from my past was not to be found so I chose an inexpensive paperback version to get me started, one I could pass on to others. I couldn’t wait to begin; I opened the book and started reading it as I walked down the street, looking forward to my break so I could indulge myself completely.

While I began reading this classic book from my childhood I devised a theory about the difference between the downtown Palo Alto gardens and others. Since Stanford University is close and downtown Palo Alto is filled with Stanford faculty, who are of course educated in the classics, perhaps these homeowners were creating their own gardens in reminiscence of the magic they felt after reading The Secret Garden.

The Secret Garden DID answer the questions to my passion for nature. But I had not predicted that it would answer so many questions about who I am today.

How fortunate I was to have read this as a child, to understand how nature works, how receptive she is to us as humans, and how vital she is to our well-being, no matter our age. I bought a hardback copy for my six year-old grandson so he and my daughter could enjoy it as well. I didn’t want to miss another opportunity to share this vital message with my offspring.

Although it never dwindled, I am filled with renewed reverence for the wonderous feelings and hunger for all of nature, even as they come with a bittersweet accent this late Spring. Upon my return to Sacramento last week, I found out we are losing our home to the bank and once again, I will uproot myself to God knows where, still longing for my own romantic secret garden someday.  Until then, I will be enjoying the gorgeous gardens of others, always hungry, always searching, yet always grateful every time I hear the song of a bird or see the blossom of a flower. Nothing can take away the magic that nature has given me in my life, not even the bank!

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Filed under 1, Banks, Books, foreclosure, Gardening, Literature, nature, SPring, Writing

LETTER TO MY DAUGHTER: A MODERN DAY STORY

 

 

Dear Sara,

 

As your mother, I have many regrets.  If only I could have taught you a few more things before you headed out in the world on your own.  (I guess I had to learn them first myself before I could teach them to you!) Despite these many untaught lessons, you have done quite well for yourself: successful careers, financial responsibility, loved by all, great husband, wonderful new baby boy, and now your first house.

 

In fact, you have done so well that you were the one who gave me my first lessons on office protocol, the ways of the business world, internet dating, and the value of Craigslist.  Although it felt strange at the time, I accepted your help and trusted your judgment, always, which has proven to be good. 

 

What an inverse era we finds ourselves in, when children teach their parents the nuances of resumes, job searches, and career choices.  I know I am not alone in this experience.  Millions of mature adults such as myself are forced to enter and re-enter the work force after years in a singular field. We are up against masses of youthful competition and our children often have a window into how to compete with their peers, providing us with the updated knowledge we need to succeed.  It’s like we’ve raised our own little resource directories that give us free regular updates.

 

Now, years have passed and the winds of usefulness have shifted, once again in my direction.  Most recently with your first pregnancy, childbirth, as a new nursing mother, and now as a new homemaker, you have found new value in what I can offer you.  The things I always wanted to share with you, the wisdom I knew I had to offer you, has finally found its day.  In my pride as I witness you as a new and wonderful mother, it feels like you see me with new eyes with every question or favor you ask. Your motherhood has transformed our relationship.

 

 

The nurturing experiences from our mothers will always transcend the value of fast pace, technical toys, and current school of thought in any given era. In our new era, I am here to offer you time tested remedies, sagacious secrets, resplendent recipes, and common sense practices that will outlast every parenting trend, marketing miracle, or latest medical advancement. 

 

My experience as your mother has evolved from that stressful and fumbly first bath while I tried to gently wash all of the folds in your chubby little neck, to the fears of the many responsibilities in the world I found myself in one day—on my own—with you and your two sisters.  Today, as you give me my seventh grandchild, I sense that all of the maternal encounters of my past will serve you well and overshadow any lack of business savvy I may still suffer from. 

 

As your own motherhood evolves, remember that whatever question you ask, or favor you need, that for me, it is a blessing to again be able to give you an answer, a suggestion, a helping hand, a hug, or just a shoulder to cry on. 

 

Not so long ago, I used to be zipping up your coat and tucking your cherub cheeks into your hat before you headed out of the house into the biting Colorado weather. Today, as your mother, I find so much joy in tucking your son’s sweet cheeks into the cozy hat I made for him so he too, can feel the warmth of my love for you both. 

 

I may not have all of the answers; I may not make the best choices in every aspect of my life; I may not respond perfectly in every situation; but one thing is a constant: my love and commitment to my children, grandchildren, husband, and other loved ones.  In this, I hope to never let you down Sara.

 

With cherished anticipation of all we have yet to share and give to each other in our many future moments, I Bless you Sara with goodness and wish you the most Awesome Birthday and Best Year Yet in your new home!   

 

Love, Mom

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Filed under Barack Obama, Breastfeeding, Craigslist, Grandchildren, Internet Dating, La Leche League, mother, nutrition, Parenting

The Power of Words to Inspire A Call To Action

That passionate artery of mine was flowing freely as I received my invite along with thousands of others this week. I became part of yet another Obama inspired online movement: The Citizen’s Briefing Book.

Actually, intending just to sit down and edit my manuscript, I committed the cardinal crime: I checked my email first. There it was, an invitation from Valerie Jarrett asking us to contribute ideas for President-elect Obama. Much like going to the grocery store hungry, this invitation fed me unlike past ones sent to Obama supporters since the election.  Without hesitating, I jumped in with the others that evening, voting on ideas for the president elect like filling my grocery basket, hoping each of my choices would make it into the book of ideas from us, his loyal supporters because this Citizen’s Briefing Book will be given to him to read.

How could I also make a statement that would encourage votes for my idea so it would make it into this book that that our future President Obama would read? With ravenous furvor, I typed a proposal that has been at the forefront of my thoughts for years as well as the main inspiration for the book I am writing.  In fulfilled haste, I proofread my idea for our next president and sent it off into cyberspace with the thousands of other worthy ideas, watching with baited breath to see what happened.

To my surprise, negative votes and posted comments started rolling in. Flush with concern, I realized instantly the error was in my word choice.  In the end, there was a (negative)-320 points with 14 posted comments.  I had used the word ‘mandate’, where I should have used ‘campaign’. This error contorted my message and inspired a call to action in the form of  inflammatory comments and negative votes. 

Curious as to what would happen if the wording was changed ever so slightly, I clarifyied my proposal by replacing the word ‘mandate’ with ‘campaign’, and shifted the title’s wording somewhat.

Without the word ‘mandate’, this revised idea gained positive votes slowly but surely, yet prompted no comments. In the end, it had a (positive)+490 points with only 1 comment.

What does this prove? Yes, anger does inspire action more than just a great idea.  A vote was easier than a vote with another step to write a comment, but if you were angry about the possibility of something you didn’t like becoming a reality, you jumped into action. In the end, the reception of my idea was positive and helped me find the pulse on how to communicate ideas more effectively.

As a postscript, I might just entertain the idea to inflame when I want to inspire a call to action; negative publicity really does work. (Kidding, I think.) Perhaps this is why so many of us came out in full force when John McCain picked Sarah Palin for his VP. 

What was my idea?

“Prevent Diabetes Where it Starts!” 

Beginning with a massive ‘campaign’ to encourage and support all mothers to breastfeed their babies exclusively for at least six months, thereby reducing the propensity towards obesity with infant formulas made with high fructose corn syrup, etc. 

To read the entire idea, go to: http://citizensbriefingbook.change.gov/ideas/viewIdea.apexp?id=087800000004wI6&srPos=0&srKp=087   

Let’s see if it makes it into the Citizen’s Briefing Book to President Obama.  For the sake of our country, our health care system, and our children, I hope so!

Christina Ivazes

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