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  • Cheryl Catrini


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I am ambitious. I mean this not in the "Cheryl is an ambitious and bright individual..." reference letter sort of way but more in the I-am-constantly-creating-new-(read: maybe-too-many)-ambitions-for-myself way.

While I was pregnant, the first nursery theme that didn't strike me as too boyish or girly or neutral (Here's looking at you, grey. I'm over it. You've had your time but really you are just middle-of-the-road and noncommittal) was [plant] nursery nursery. One, it's a play on words which is one of my very favorite things and two, it is important to me that my son grows up around greenery despite the fact that his first few years will be spent living in a glass box 250 feet up in the air. Thus, the best option was for the little newb's room to have some plants in it; nursery nursery. We filled our baby registry with lime and lemon trees, naturally, both of which we ended up receiving along with a starter kit for creating a living wall. We were set, verdancy would be ours!

Well, when the first [fantastically-scented] lemon flower blossomed, and then wilted, revealing a minuscule bulb that started to plump into a lemon (!), I was hooked. A few plants was no longer enough for me, I wanted to be a condo farmer.

Currently growing in our back forty (farm joke!), and by that I mean throughout our condo are lemons, rosemary, thyme, grapefruits, lavender, avocados, sweet potatoes and, formerly, limes.

The reality of the situation though is that for all of my Googling and researching and attempting to root and sprout the seeds from every piece of produce we buy, my green thumb is still, honestly, quite green. We are doing well but there is so much that I don't know. That 'formerly' on the limes is because our lime tree was not the mirror image of its well-endowed lemon neighbor, currently bearing one large fruit, three medium ones, ten tiny ones and a few blossoms with real potential, it was really more just a stick. A really sad stick whose last few dry, wrinkly leaves bailed on it, but to whose scrawny carcass I clung for a good week or so because I was too sad to call time of death. Or to figure out the cause.

My mom on the other hand is much more versed in flora functioning and had been helping me to diagnose the issue which was beginning to affect the lemon tree as well. One thing she advised was to check for scales. She hunted and found one. A tiny, innocuous black oval that she easily removed with her fingernail.

I could handle that- everyone has picked scabs before. The next morning I too went on the hunt.

I found one.

Roughly the size of a granule of turbinado sugar and about the same color, I went to remove it with my nail...and it popped.

"Mmmmooom...what exactly is a scale?"

"It's a bug."


I can't say exactly what I thought scales were. A disease or maybe some hardening of the tree's flesh that wasn't good for it or just a scab, a healing of a small cut, which like on humans, essentially beg to be picked.

I definitely wasn't thinking bug. And I wasn't all that happy to have just smushed one with my finger. Or that my tree had bugs. Or that I had just smushed one with my finger.

Upon further inspection, not of the tree, but of the overall presence of the scales, I descended into an small existential conundrum. Scales have a very questionable existence. Male scales don't have mouths. They cannot eat. They live a mere few hours then they starve to death. Talk about life being ephemeral. The females latch onto one spot and never move again. They kill trees. Then they die. Sometimes with a pop. Why would such a thing exist? If I can have bouts of feeling pointless, what hope is there for the mouthless or immobile scale? At least for me, I eat therefore I am.

Worry not, though. I figured it out.

All fairy tales and folk lore that have people being transformed into seemingly less worthwhile creatures have all been subject to inaccurate translations. Whatever the creature was that was written, the actual intended meaning was scale. There is nothing wrong with being a frog, all frogs go through more of a metamorphosis than most people, but being a scale...

Scales must exist so curses have somewhere to send people.

These are not the sort of concerns I anticipated experiencing with my urban farming but I'm sure there will be more. Like how do I eat these lemons once they have ripened? I am spending months (literally the same length of time it took to grow my son) watching them grow, how will I bring myself to roll them on the counter, slice them open and squeeze them into my water, fulfilling their purpose in a mere twenty-five seconds? Even when I zest them first, how is that enough? How many lemons have I already so flippantly taken for granted?

At this point, you may be wondering about this seemingly tangential anecdote and why it has any relevance to, well, anything. That's a legitimate wonder, one I briefly just had myself, considering my sleep-deprived mom brain often has me losing track of where I was really going with something, but then I remembered. This rabbit hole was to illustrate the rabbit hole that many of the things I endeavor to do often burrow into. While all well-intentioned and brimming with potential, they enter these rabbit holes and, much like Chicagoans cooped up for the winter, multiply like rabbits. Thus, they must be properly managed.

But, how?

Just before starting this, I was doing the part of my morning routine that now involves being the constant gardener and knowingly popping scales, while watching my son, folded completely in half, forehead casually on the floor, big toe in mouth. He reminded me not only that I haven’t restarted my yoga practice since he was born but also that if I stretched every day such flexibility could be mine.

As I continued to watch him suckling himself into a pretzel-shaped nap, I also felt the zing of knowing that if I slept more then my brain would be clearer, more focused and less Alzheimer’s-inclined.

*enter downward spiral*

Also, also that if I diligently drank the 32-ounce lemon water that my tired brain repeatedly fails to prioritize before coffee each morning that I would feel infinitely more energized and could potentially achieve immortality.

Also, also, also that if on the daily I took the fish oil supplement that I have an Amazon Prime subscription for that my lubed-up joints would be ready for my stretch routine and my lubed-up brain would be impervious to deterioration and disease.

Also, also, also, also that if I brushed, flossed, gargled, washed, exfoliated, toned, moisturized, dry brushed, scrubbed, cleaned, moisturized, tweezed, plucked, shaved, moisturized, sunblocked, planned, shopped, prepped, ate (moderately), squatted, jumped, jogged, ran, walked, meditated, socialized, hydrated, dressed, supplemented, read, thought and wrote then I would be properly ready to start my day doing all of the other things that I am supposed to do.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is merit to all of the verbs we ‘should’ be gerundizing into daily habits and I more than most believe that you can unlock a substantial amount of time in the day by learning to appreciate just how long even a minute really is.

Feel free to stop here and complete my microwave test.

Set the microwave timer for 60 seconds - feel free to include food to increase the anticipation - and press start. Without your phone, computer or any other distractions, work on something in your kitchen. Unload/load the dishwasher. wipe down the counters. check a few expiration dates in the fridge. Guaranteed you are going to get more done in that minute than you might think. Or if you don’t want to leave the room you are currently in and/or want a more poignant lesson in time, get yourself down to the floor and hold a plank position for one minute

We have time. There is time.

But that also means we have a lot of time to waste. Too many should be's and you lose all the could be's. Especially if you are hopping around and inconsistently dabbling in various shoulds, as maybe I am want to do on occasion. That is why as I watched my progeny multitask the soothing of his just-cut bottom teeth à la his big-toe-turned-pacifier while working to maintain the limberness of a body whose demarcation of age is yet to be quantified in years, I decided to write this post, using it to clear out a few of the notes in my phone containing habits that I have wanted to remind myself to consider acquiring and to keep all of my rabbit holes productive.

Now, sort of arbitrarily, sort of because odd numbers just seem like a bigger commitment to me, I have decided to focus on five daily habits that are both feasible and serve long-term goals of mine. Each habit will be written in my planner's to-do list every day, partially for accountability (it hurts to have an unchecked item at the end of the day) and partially because I am the type of person that thrives off of marking things off a to-do list. So much so really that sometimes I start to-do lists with items that I have already completed that day just so I can cross them off immediately and start with a few successes under my belt. Each habit will also have a general game plan set out for it. These will come into play during the moments when only the unchecked box and I know what I have and haven't done and the not doing is starting to look a little too easy...

An example of one such game plan, and these are all ridiculously straightforward and almost slightly absurd in their simplicity, is for my goal habit of drinking 100 ounces of water each day. There are plenty of times when water is fantastic [edit: water is always fantastic, I aim to not take having endless access to clean water for granted], but there are times when drinking it is enjoyably refreshing and I can almost feel all of my cells plump up (in a good way!) and I even get to feel a little cool on account of my snazzy bkr water bottle that I carry around. But, then there are the times when water not only feels so boring but also like a burden, like a salad of iceberg lettuce. For those times, the system that I have put in place is if I do not feel like drinking water then I must pick a random number between 15 and 30 and drink my water while counting to that number in my head. It seems silly that it should work but just having that rule is the little extra push I need to actually start taking sips. Can't have an unchecked box and a broken rule.

Two of my other habits, reading and writing, I have assigned specific lengths of time for, 30 and 60 minutes, respectively, so for these, I use the timer trick that I have mentioned in a previous post.

My thoughts:

Write for an hour...that seems like a lot of work, I don't know if I'm up for it...start a timer, that's easy, I can do that...oh shit, the writing timer is going, I better get writing!

Once again, very silly, but all too effective.

My last two habits pertain to my skin care and workout routine and I won't bore you with all the crazy workarounds that I sometimes have to implement, but what matters is that this concept can be applied to any habit that you could think of acquiring and maintaining. Decide what some long-term goals that daily baby steps can walk you to, figure out what habits suit your needs and lifestyle, make backup plans for each of their implementations and then, get to it.

You may still think that you don't have the time or energy to do five more things, especially everything single day, but it could just be that you don't have the time or energy because you aren't yet consistently doing the five things that you've decided are best for you.

Thank you!

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