There are times when all we need to do to feel better is to go outside. When I need this kind of pick-me-up, I find that all the coffee in the world doesn’t work as well as a little fresh air and yard work. This morning was one of those times. I had worked until late last night and needed a jolt of something (preferably non-chemical), so I grabbed the rake and went to work on a flower bed in the front yard.

Let’s be clear on this from the start. I’m no gardener. I can barely tell the top from the bottom of a flower bulb. In fact, the first year I planted bulbs, they were all upside down. Who knew? Anyway, over the years, my skills have not improved much. I rake for the therapeutic results for me more than in hope of being asked to participate in a photo shoot for Better Homes and Gardens. J

So, back to the flower bed… This is, to say the least, any unruly little plot. It has vines, weeds, a few mystery bulbs, and a rose bush, with more thorns than blooms, right in the middle of it all. It does not offer much in the way of balance or pattern. Whoever planted it originally apparently had no plan, or it would have turned out better. What it comes down to is that I am left with a flower bed that I did not design, plants and flowers that I do not know how to take care of, and a set of minimal skills to do what needs to be done. This mess, and I say that with all due respect, is in my front yard—in full sight of everyone who passes by.

The first step in problem-solving is to assess the situation. I see that I have options, several of them. My first thought is that I could throw a quilt over the whole thing and hope nobody would notice. OK, so that might not be the best option. Moving on, it comes to me that I could gut the thing and my dilemma would be solved. The problem with that is that there would be a big scar in my yard, something not easily overlooked. Also, I would always know that it had been there and would have to wonder what I could have done to have avoided this scar. Finally, in desperation, it occurs to me that I have one other option. It’s a wild idea, to be sure, but it may have some merit. I could (gasp!) get to work and do what needs to be done to turn this into a flowering, blooming treat for the eyes, just what it was meant to be. Hmmm…. What to do? What to do?

The quilt thing was so tempting, but in the end, I picked up my rake, dug in my heels, and set out to do what I could to give this flower bed the best chance it had to shine. I raked and I raked, removing the leaves from last fall and moving carefully around the early spring blossoms that were brave enough to peek out of the ground. Carefully trying to identify the flowers from the weeds, I pulled out the invaders that were draining energy from the bulbs. Getting even more energetic, I loosened the dirt around the emerging flowers so they would not have such a tough time breaking through into this strange, new world.

Believe it or not, things were beginning to look up. By the time I cleared away all the rubbish, I could see the future! Not a bad-looking little garden, eh? But wait! What is that on the far horizon? Another weed? How did that one get by me? You’re going down! Suffice it to say, that weed became history. By this time, I realized that this was no longer just a flower garden. This was personal! It was me against the weeds, the vines, and anything else that got in my way. These were my flowers, my bulbs, and my, albeit thorny, rose bush! If those weeds try to get to them, they’ll have to go through me first. Bring it on!!!

OK, so it may be that I got a little too much oxygen today while I was outside with my rake. I may have slipped over the edge at some point, going from Roseanne to Martha Stewart without even being aware of it. Still, I learned to see my flower garden differently today. It changed from an eyesore to 25 square feet of pure potential. I changed from being an annoyed critic to an advocate on a mission, all in the course of a morning.

PWS can look to us like an unruly flower garden, a conglomeration of symptoms that siphon the very life out of us and our children. Managing PWS wasn’t our plan for our lives and we often come to it with few, if any, skills or interest. Yet, it’s there. What else is present, but not always evident in the beginning, is the magic that our children hold, magic that has the power to change us from within, magic we have come to call love. That is the force that will save us. That is the force that will save our children.

Because we love our children with strength we never knew we had, we weed their gardens, we untangle their vines, and we loosen the soil to help them grow. We do it today and we will do it tomorrow. We help them as the seasons change and as they change to meet the demands of the new seasons. In time and with care, our children will bloom and grow, becoming so much more than we ever thought possible when we looked at the tangled issues that their original diagnosis first proposed.

One other thing happens in this process. When it comes down to it, we have to ask ourselves, whose garden is really being weeded? Our children need our help, that’s for sure, but maybe we are equally in need of help from our children. Maybe they are also gardeners and our plots also needed tending. Despite all the difficulties we face with a diagnosis of PWS, it does have the potential to enrich our lives if we let it. Through our children, we learn to open our lives, minds and hearts thus becoming better people, better parents. We can become less judgmental, our lives can become directed by a higher set of priorities, and we can learn to appreciate life for what we have, not what we thought we lacked.

Henry David Thoreau said, “Convince me that you have a seed there and I am prepared to expect wonders.” Let’s join him and expect wonders from the gardens we are nurturing for our children and in the plots that our little gardeners have been sent to nurture in us. Let’s be sure we are not so busy focusing on the weeds in the diagnosis of PWS and in our own lives that we fail to see the potential of the beautiful garden that lies beneath.

Rachel

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