Ten Things I Still Want to Learn

My daughter Jenna recently blogged at jennakristine.com. about ten things she still wants to learn. I felt like I was seeing an entirely new dimension in her as I read how she wants to learn more about art history, kickboxing, and how to stay motivated in cleaning her studio. Ok, well that last one actually wasn’t too surprising.


I mean, seriously, though. Even though I think I know Jenna pretty well, it was fascinating to see all these areas of potential growth, mixed in with her almost non-funny humor. Her question stuck with me: What are ten things you still want to learn?

And so I took the challenge. I’m 27 years older than Jenna, with some vastly different interests. Nonetheless, here are ten things I still want to learn, in the order they come to mind.

1. Navigating our U-verse system better. I want to be able to watch what I want to watch and find what I want to find. I’m sure it’s not rocket science.

2. Advanced management of a WordPress website. This would be helpful on the job and for my personal blog. I’m sure IT at work wouldn’t mind me learning this, either.

3. Keeping up our fish tanks, from the scientific angle. I’d like to be able to keep the fish alive when my husband has to travel.

4. Cooking a decent burger on the grill—and on a completely different note, making my own kombucha. Maybe this summer for both.

5. Becoming more knowledgeable in the actual science of essential oils. There’s that word “science” again…

6. Writing quicker, finishing a blog faster, and not looking back.

7. (Stealing this from Jenna, although I’m a beginner and she’s advanced): Understanding InDesign and PhotoShop better. I need this in several areas of my life, and PicMoney isn’t cutting it anymore.

8. Navigating and dictating directions to my husband while he’s driving. I mean, I can follow a GPS, sort of—but this weakness isn’t especially strengthening to our relationship.

9. Laying out an amazing garden rather than just planting hodge-podge around the yard. The latter seems to work for me, but still.

10. Sewing. There, I said it. The only thing I’ve used a sewing machine for in the past 10 years was a Fred Flinstone costume for Greg. (And yes, he wore it.)

I feel obligated to clarify—this isn’t a bucket list of things I’d like to do, rather my list of things to learn and master. Also, it was harder than I imagined to come up with ten, and that was alarming in itself. At somewhere around 50, I’m hoping I always want to learn. Maybe in six months I’ll do an update on this post, cross off some things I’ve conquered, and add a few more.

My family hopes I start with the burgers.

What ten things do you still want to learn?


Come Grow a Tomato with Me

My first vegetable garden was on my apartment patio in plastic containers bought at Home Depot. The vegetables never received any direct sun and did poorly from the start. I eventually replaced the wilting tomatoes with flowers which also received no sun. They looked pretty for my mother-in-law’s visit but died soon after she left.

My second vegetable “garden” was on the kitchen counter in Solo cups as part of my daughter’s homeschool project. To her delight, the green bean plants grew quickly—but then never produced any more than a hint of a bean.

For the next decade I stuck to silk plants inside and a single flower pot by the front door. But again and again, as I replaced those potted seasonal flowers (if I could afford it), that gardening itch kept returning. Finally in my early 40s, I decided it might be time to get it right. With a little more planning and a lot more effort, vegetable garden number three was the charm.


As a Christmas gift that year, my husband surprised me with all the elements needed for my first backyard vegetable gardening experience, including several bags of beautiful black soil, a must-have in our sandy Florida yard. (Don’t judge him for that; he also gave me a necklace!) The next week I methodically positioned my first plants in the 4×8 raised bed he built. I began to faithfully water my six cabbage plants, three tomatoes, and a few herbs. I watered and waited, watered and waited—and hoped for the best.

Crazy thing, but everything actually began to grow! I mean, I knew that was supposed to happen, but it had just never happened for me. I can’t even tell you how much fun I had watching those plants reach taller, expand wider, and start showing signs of real, edible food.


And then came the day I realized it was time to snip off and use a couple sprigs of the herbs, harvest that very first cabbage, and start eating the tomatos. I felt like I’d become my dad during our Illinois summers in the 70s when he would come in from the garden completely delighted to cover the kitchen counter with his homegrown produce.

During the next year, my husband caught the gardening bug, too, and our joint efforts resulted in non-stop tomatoes for months and months, even after all the leaves were practically dead on the stems.


As the tomatoes kept coming, I began to sympathize with my mom’s consuming efforts of trying to keep up with all the zucchinis my dad grew. I personally didn’t grow zucchini, but I felt like I was bonding with her in a new way, realizing her mix of gratefulness and frustration with so many homegrown garden delights. By the end of that second season, I had eaten so many tomatoes I became allergic to them.

Tomatoes on hold for me, and with the extended gardening season in South Florida, Greg tried planting peppers, onions, and carrots. Then one afternoon I walked around our backyard and realized he’d dug up yet another area—to plant carrots.

See, I told you he’d caught the vegetable gardening bug. Then he started planting fruit trees, and even brought home a baby avocado tree for me on Valentine’s Day.


In the next couple years, we learned how easy it is to grow pineapples, if you’re super patient, that is.


Of course, along the way, we had to brighten it all with some some orchids, another low-maintenance gardening beauty.


Admittedly, the perennials I planted around the yard helped during the times the veggies died off and weeds overtook the gardens. During those times, this red shrimp plant just kept showing off its colors.


After all this time, we’re still planting, watering, and watching things grow. It’s been a decade-long adventure of seeing up close the wonder of God’s artistry. I love it how during at least three seasons of the year, His intricate creation supplies us with fresh fruit, fresh veggies, and produce for juicing, smoothies, and salads.

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I don’t claim to be an expert on backyard farming, nor am I a photographer (except with my phone). But with those disclaimers, I invite you to join me here on my blog. Along the way, if you get the urge to dig a hole in your own soil and grow something edible (or just simply pretty), I’d love to hear from you.

My blog won’t always be about gardening, but you can be sure I’ll be returning to the backyard again and again in my writing. So go ahead and subscribe to Beyond (left of screen) for future ideas, photos, stories, successes, bloopers, and how to be part of this fun and fulfilling “farm to table” and flower-filled living.

(And one last thing. If you love essential oils, they’re going to pop up here, too. What do they have to do with gardening? Stay tuned. Because I’m rarely in my garden without them.)