Monday, January 2, 2012

New Beginnings and Second Chances

Dear Readers,

This blog post is very personal in nature. I realize that many of you won’t care to read it and that’s okay. While this is mostly a blog about gardening, it’s also an expression of who I am. Writing it fulfills something in me that I find difficult to explain to others, so I don’t usually try.

Before I’ve finished letting the words spill out onto the page today - the fifth anniversary of the beginning of this blog - gardening will emerge as a major player in the story, but the real deal is that it’s a reflection of past events and an appreciation for new beginnings. I’m grateful for each of them and for you, because you too are an important part of the path my life has taken.    


For as much as I dislike winter – more and more as the years go by – January has historically been a good month for me. It has brought new beginnings, as it traditionally does for many. Many make New Year’s resolutions, but none of the events that I am going to tell you about here today really happened in January by design; that was purely coincidental.

I do like the idea of making resolutions, many of which can be life changing, if you stick with them. But there’s the problem I have – that stick-to-itiveness. My level of distractibility is something I battle constantly. I second guess myself on many levels and sometimes this is so overwhelming that I can’t deal with it and I abandon the project or idea altogether.

So these new beginnings I speak of were mostly thrust upon me through no choice of my own, with one exception. The first January event that I can remember having a profound effect on my life happened 48 years ago.

In the fall of 1963, I entered first grade. My September birthday was late, by school entrance standards at the time, so I was actually four years old when I began kindergarten, and five when I walked into Mrs. Gantt’s first grade classroom. Three weeks later, I had my sixth birthday, which then put me at the same numeric age as my classmates.

One day, right before Christmas break, the school psychologist walked into our classroom, went to the blackboard and wrote a word on it: forsythia. She asked if anyone knew what the word was. I knew it, but not wanting to call attention to myself, I kept quiet. After she left the room, I got up and walked to my teacher’s desk and discreetly told her what the word was.

I don’t recall what my teacher said, but in the next few weeks, I remember going through some testing, and when semester break came in January, she changed my seat to the other side of our room. Ours was a split class – common in our small school – with half of it consisting of first graders and the other half of second graders.

That year, I spent the first semester in first grade and the second semester in second grade. The next year, I went on to third grade. This was both a blessing and a curse. It wasn’t all that common to accelerate students back then and now being the extreme “baby” of the class, I felt a constant pressure to do well - to live up to the expectations my teachers and my parents had of me.

This wasn’t an entirely bad thing, because it came more in the form of encouragement from others, but I also put a certain amount of pressure on myself so that I wouldn’t suffer embarrassment if the move turned out to be a bad one.

Academically, this was a life-changer, to be sure, but at that young age, academic excellence wasn’t the most important thing to me. Changing grades determined who my classmates would be and who my friends were. Learning has always come easily to me (in most things!) and I had great friends, many of whom are still good friends decades later. But there is no doubt that that day in January affected my life in a big way.

Fast forward to 1999…

I’ve spoken of the events of the third week of January of that year many times on this blog. I contracted bacterial meningitis and partly due to its being misdiagnosed on my first trip to the emergency room as the flu, I became gravely ill to the point that my infectious disease doctors didn’t think I would live. In fact, one of them told me later that they weren’t sure why I did.

My explanation for why I’m still here and why I don’t have more lingering physical or mental effects from the disease than I do, is divine in nature. While I believe that God gave us free will, and that the decisions we make greatly affect the course of our lives, I also believe that He intervenes for reasons perhaps unknown to us, and in ways that work for our own good or for the good of others.

Hundreds of prayers were spoken on my behalf and in the end, it’s my belief that my life was spared for the sake of my family, not for me. As the father of 16-year-old and 18-year-old daughters, Romie’s life and theirs would have been vastly different if I had died.

When January comes around each year, I look back on the events of the past year and whisper a prayer of gratitude for another year of life and all the wonderful things that it held. I am not oblivious to the fact that others have been in similar or worse situations and that they did not have their prayers answered. I don’t presume to know the answer why. But I continue to pray for others and to give thanks for the blessings in my own life.

I hate writing.

Nah, that’s not true, but I’ve had a fickle affair with writing for years. I’ve always leaned toward the literary end of the scale when it comes to favorite pastimes, being an avid reader since the age of four. (Thanks, Grandma!) And there haven’t been more than a few weeks in my life when I didn’t have my nose in a book. I was one of those kids who used a flashlight to read under the covers at night so that I wouldn’t get in trouble for not going to sleep when I was supposed to.

Several years ago, I was asked to be an editor of an online magazine that later also published in print. As sometimes happens, deadlines occasionally weren’t met and I was asked to supply an article real quick-like. This wasn’t my favorite thing to do. My motto was, “You write it; I’ll fix it.” But after having written a few articles, I decided it wasn’t so bad after all, this story-telling.

Around Christmas of 2006, our older daughter Kara, who was 26 at the time, challenged me to start a blog, writing about my passion for gardening. I had only begun seriously gardening the year before and I found it hard to curb my enthusiasm. Writing turned out to be a great outlet of expression for me as I began Our Little Acre with its first post on January 2, 2007.

Today is the fifth anniversary of my beginning what eventually became a second career for me – one that I never could have predicted. A dental hygienist since 1977, I thought that was how I would spend the rest of my working days. I still work as a hygienist, though not on a regular basis and due to wonderful and unexpected opportunities that have come my way because of my blog, I now consider writing to be my principal source of income.

I write for several publications on a regular basis and thoroughly love it. In the process of getting from there to here, I've learned much and I’ve met some incredible people that are now my colleagues. Many have become close friends. And this is where I thank you, dear readers, for coming along on the ride and offering encouragement by way of your comments and your conversation that has spilled over into social media venues like Facebook and Twitter. That has been the highlight of it all for me - you make it more fun.

January is indeed a month that holds new beginnings and a world of possibilities. I wonder what it will bring this year...


Unknown said...

Ah, Kylee, we may differ on some things, but one thing I'm totally sure about: you were born to write, and to garden. And it is a blessing to have you here with us. I cherish our friendship across the miles, as busy and diverse as our lives are, and am so proud of how you're doing. Sending much love and all best wishes for the next five years of adventuring!

Karen Chapman said...

Hey Kylee - our paths keep crossing but we've never really got to chat! So interesting to read your story. It's always good for us to reflect on the many paths that have brought us to today. We may not always understand the journey but we can at least acknowledge and hopefully give thanks for moments along the way.

Margaret Roach said...

Happy New Year, and happy blog anniversary, Kylee. I was glad to learn more about you (and I skipped third grade, so the first part especially took me back to similar memories). May 2012 be a happy one for you and yours.

Shawna Lee Coronado said...

I love this post. This is YOU. As a friend of yours who has seen this second career you're in grow and blossom, I can say I believe this is just the beginning, not just a "second".

Your passion, kindness, and love for what you do comes through in every word you write and every photograph you take.

We love it because we can see that you love what you do so very much.

Keep it up. We believe in you.


Amy Junod said...

Happy everything! Best wishes to you and your family! Love to escape in your little acre!

Michael Nolan said...

I too believe that things happen for a reason. I'm not sure why bad things happen to good people, but what I do know is that when you were born to do something - to be something - it will happen and usually when you are the least prepared for it. Life's funny that way.

Thank you for sharing your gift and your life with those of us lucky enough to be readers. For five years you have been helping to make the Internet a better place and your friends and readers better people.

Love you.

Christopher Tidrick said...

Kylee, you have been an inspiration to me with my own blog, a reminder that the stories from our gardens often overlap with the stories of our lives. These are the tales that bring our blogs alive for our readers. Keep it coming, my dear friend.

Kerrie said...

Thank you for honesty. I treasure your friendship.
You were one of the first people to believe in our little company and us.
Here's to Januarys, new beginnings and you.

Lilium said...

Thank you for your beautiful blog. I´m sorry, I can´t understand every word, but I enjoy very much to read and see your pictures.
It was lovely to see this photo of your childhood.

Greetings from Finland and Happy New Year!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Happy blogaversary Kylee. Your gardening and writing talent is wonderful. I am so glad that your writing has taken you to new places and adventures. Plus you get paid to do it. Couldn't get much better.

Erin @ The Impatient Gardener said...

I can't believe you've only been seriously gardening since 2007, Kylee. You are such a dynamo! (I also can't believe you were in first grade 48 years ago.) And I also find it hard to believe that there was ever a time when you doubted your writing ability. Funny how life works, sometimes, isn't it?

Congratulations on an amazing anniversary and a wonderful blog that I love reading.

Kylee Baumle said...

jodi ~ You have been SUCH an inspiration to me, jodi. Early on, you encouraged me and took the time to give me honest advice. I've told so many people that you're my mentor. Thank you.

Sure, we feel differently about a few things, but we also connect on lots of levels and that's what's important. You're special to me, jodi. xoxo

Karen ~ We really MUST have that chat one day! I'm trying to figure out a way to get to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. Will you be there, by chance?

Margaret ~ Thank you! Yes, I imagine you can relate to some of what skipping a grade entails. It can be interesting, the ways it affects your life, sometimes years later when you wouldn't think it would. I wish good things in 2012 for you as well. Perhaps it will be the year that we meet in real life. You never know!

Shawna ~ You're a special friend, Shawna. Thank you for always being there for me, always encouraging. I love you!

Amy ~ Thank you! You're always so sweet!

Michael ~ I think you're right, Michael, that somehow, we find a way to be who we really are, even when it comes as a surprise to us. I really love how we've gotten to know each other so much better over this last year. You have certainly enriched my life. Love you back!

Chris ~ My kindred spirit...

Kerrie ~ As you know, I love you and Carol and how The Seed Keeper Kits were born. It's the REAL stuff of life that stays with you. When are you guys coming back for more Ohio fun? The door is always open!

Lilium ~ How nice of you! Your English is excellent! I'm glad you enjoy Our Little Acre! Sending best wishes across the miles to you in Finland. :-)

Lisa ~ You're always so supportive, Lisa! Thank you for that - it means a LOT. xoxo

Erin ~ I started blogging in 2007, but started gardening in 2005. Still, it wasn't all that long ago, yet I can't believe so many years have gone by already! I'm so glad that Danielle introduced us to each other last year! I hope we can meet up somewhere again this year! Keep up the good work on your own blog - it's such fun to read about your gardening and remodeling adventures!

Amy Jane (Untangling Tales) said...

I liked your comments on acceleration in school. I'm still deciding how I feel about my education and how giftedness interacts with socialness and so on.

I think it's neat how you've found a niche that fits you (gardening and writing about it), and I hope I have such clarity when I "grow up."

Peace to you, and congrats on five years!

Cindy Garber Iverson said...

Although I'm a few days late, let me add my congratulations on your 5 year anniversary. I think 5 years is an eternity in the blogging world. Your blog has become this stake in the ground for me that I can always count on (although I may not comment frequently. I wish you many more years of blogging success. You have inspired me in so many ways. Thank you.

Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog said...

Congrats on your blogaversary and your writing Kylee. And making it through bacterial meng. My father also survived it so I know how incredible it is. May you have many more writing years! :-)

Anonymous said...

Inspirational post--I started a little greenhouse business just last Spring--growing 5000 little plants to sell. I was able to pay back the cost involved in the growing, but struggled to make a profit! I just hope to increase sales a bit this year! Word of mouth has traveled and I am stopped and asked "If I'm still growing those heirloom tomato plants?" this year.
I do it because I love it--but would love to "make just a bit of money" also.
I will keep going!

Janet's House said...

Hi. Fun to meet you via Margaret and our comments on A Way to Garden. I will enjoy following your gardening and writing.

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