Saturday, May 8, 2010


Ok, you are a parent, and since ALL parents are working parents, pretty darn busy!  It's easy to get locked into a daily grind, where all you do is work, work, work and then do laundry.  It hit me early on that I was going to need an outlet for my personal ambitions.  

And laundry is NOT a hobby.

At first I didn't have personal ambitions beyond having the baby nurse, sleep through the night, smile and roll over.  But it all happens sooner or later, and somewhere, in the back of your mind, is that book you never finished, that piano you never mastered, that garden laying fallow.  This happened for me when Peter was about four months old and I realized that if I was going to have any personal life at all, I was going to have to make it for myself.  I also realized that since I wasn't earning any money, I'd have to find a cheap way to nurture myself.

I began by digging up all those books on Watergate.  I'd never finished Leon Jaworski's "Right and the Power, so I found it in a box in the attic and completed it.  I then decided to re-read "All the President's Men"  and from there on, I was addicted.  There was a used book store where I could by used books cheap (half the time, they were never really used, you could tell from the condition of the spine), and over time, I built up a library that would rival the Library of Congress.  

I'd never really learned to play the piano - and it always bugged me.  Sure, I could figure out the notes and the tempo of it all, but I'd never learned how to sight read and play for the first time, all at once.  Fingering was difficult for me, and just the inner hesitation I felt playing at all sometimes overwhelmed me.  But, I signed up for piano lessons with a nice lady who came to my house for a very reasonable fee.  Before you knew it, I was cracking out sonatinas like a pro.  It just took time, and when you are home with kids, you actually have little pockets of it.

I'd also always loved gardening.  I just love earth, germination (I still get excited when a little green sprout uncurls from the soil) and nurturing.  There is nothing more rewarding than starting something from seed and seeing it turn into something splendid.   So sometime around Peter's third month, I hauled him, his playpen, and my diaper bag into the back yard.  My early gardening experiences are now legend ("Why did Mollie plant 10 zucchini plants, Mommy?) but still rewarding ("For the 10 quarts of zucchini puree in the freezer for future souffles, Honey, now stop pointing").   Our first year gardening, my husband and I had enough raspberry jam, zucchini puree, tomato sauce and apricot marmalade to feed a small village.

All of this served to keep me amused while Peter was batting at dust motes with his little hands and kicking a big bouncy ball with his feet.  We had a nicely shaded area under our deck where he could roll around in his playpen to his heart's content while I weeded.  As he grew older, the back yard was a great place for him to play with his brother and friends.  I could weed, water, prune and harvest, AND overhear little snippets of kiddie conversation.  It was a blast.

Gardening was a great hobby in that it was uber cheap.  I'd swap seeds with friends, share bounty (Pleeeeeeeeeease have another zucchini, Diane!) and just go crazy figuring out new ways to propagate, germinate, hybridize and fertilize all those guests in my garden.  My only gripe about gardening is that things did tend to shut down during winter months and I'd be left with a freezer of tomato sauce and jam.  But isn't that why God made books and pianos?

So take stock of what feeds your inner seedling.  If you like crafts, do crafts.  If it's books that turn you on, get reading! Most hobbies are something you can work into a budget (unless your hobby is collecting diamonds!) and you can barter, swap, resell, regift and recycle to your heart's content.  So take stock of your unfinished business - like the unread books and dusty piano - and prepare to become the neighborhood cache of zucchini recipes.

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