Allison and the patio garden

There’s something about spiffying up your own home that does wonders for the mental well-being.

I’m by no means a clean freak, but my home is absolutely a reflection of mental state. When counters are cleaned and not being used as a catch-all of various pieces of mail, when I have my bags all packed up the night before for work the next morning, I feel calmer. My brain is clear and I can actually remember all that I need to do.

But when the sink is nothing but coffee mugs that need rinsed out, peanut butter knives and bowls with Marina’s uneaten wet food? That’s usually the first step to upcoming chaos. My apartment doesn’t feel like my own anymore, and the attention deficit disorder with a dash of mild depression amplifies.

The same unfocused feelings also come back whenever I have a home or life project I want to do, but for some reason have to put off. This past month has been something else. Work is going through a busy season, which is both fine and stressful. Since the half marathon at Canaan Valley, I’ve spent every weekend on the road. First Canaan Valley, then two weekends home for Mother’s Day with Mom and Grandma and then a 5k with Mom this past Saturday.

I got home Saturday night and – as much as I had fun with Mom and needed time with just her and then just her and my stepfather – it was time to crash with Marina kitty, who has been letting me know she doesn’t like her mom being gone so much.

Unfortunately for the kitty, this upcoming weekend is the Cleveland half. Candidly, I’ve got a mix of positive and not-so-positive emotions going into this race.

 On the plus side, I’m excited to be going up to Cleveland. The last time I was there was three years ago, when I ran the full marathon. Downtown Cleveland then was so magical and lively, and we had a great time running around and exploring. Unlike the last time I was up there, I’m by myself and got a room at one of the downtown hotels near the start and finish line of the race. I’m excited to explore the city on foot before and during the race, and I’m also getting way too excited to have an early dinner at Lindy’s Lake House Flats. In short, the three year wait to return is finally coming to an end.

On the not-so-positive side, I’m feeling the price crunches of gas and groceries going up, so I’m trying to think of creative ways where I can enjoy my stay without feeling like I’m burning through my wallet all the time. The fact summer is around the corner is bringing out all of the crazy drivers, so I’m a little nervous about getting stuck in traffic or seeing my life flash before my eyes on the way up there since someone’s Nana in her minivan just had to pass me in the slow lane and cut off a tractor-trailer. Amazingly enough, I felt safer doing 60 in the mountains of West Virginia than I do merging onto the highway in my own neck of the woods.

On top of that, I’m also tired. I know once I’m actually parked at hotel in Cleveland I’ll feel the butterflies again, but right now with a late shift week at work and the constant go-go-go, it’s hard to feel anything else but “meh.”

This takes me back to Saturday night, once I got home to Marina. On the way home I was thinking about my patio garden ideas. It was either plant tomorrow – this past Sunday – or wait until next week, when I already have Monday off. However, that Monday is the day after the Cleveland half and I know I’ll be (more) tired. Frankly, I don’t want to work on a day I have off.

So I decided to get up, get my butt in gear yesterday, and got down to Canal Winchester. I had some flowers and soil to buy.

I was going to get my patio garden done and done on Sunday, and finally cross something off the list I’ve been thinking about for the past few weeks.

SO that’s what I did. After picking out hostas for the front, I scoured Dill’s Greenhouse for the best plants for my patio. The back of my apartment is full sun and gets hot, so I needed something that would survive the oppressive heat once summer arrived. Some of the flowers I picked up were old friends from gardens past – geraniums, celosia, marigolds, dianthus and ageratum. I also made some new friends while I was there, bringing home scarlet and orange purslane, as well as African violets and calibrachoa. The cart was a sea of pinks, magentas and purple with yellows and oranges added for good measure.

Then it was time to get everyone home and plant. I took care of the front first, planting hostas in my two containers and then five small ones around the base of the tree out front. This part of my gardening adventure was pretty easy and turned out great.

Once the front was done and cleaned up, I changed into the oldest swimsuit I could find and went out back. You all are welcome to judge the swimsuit part – on hot days, I refuse to sweat in real clothes, and I was working in the afternoon sun, so might as well take advantage of the vitamin D.

I didn’t even keep track of how long I worked, or the warmth on my shoulders. In that moment planting my flowers, all I could think of were two things. The first was pride, how proud I was of myself for finally doing making myself do something productive and beautifying to my space. The second thing was the peace that came with doing something that is normal, after an extended period of nothing feeling normal.

Planting flowers is a May tradition in my family that I have carried on each year since I moved out. This year, I had no motivation to do it at all, nor did I think I had the time. It always felt like there was something else I needed to be doing at all times, and my home took the backseat.

But like with all things in life, there comes a time where one has to look in the mirror and have an honest talk with themselves. Mine was last Friday when I tried on a new swimsuit I ordered and … well, let’s say I gotta get a grip on my stress eating. Which I do, even if I didn’t have a muffin top. But I’m digressing. Back to the patio.

This year’s planting was my reminder that stress and sadness are always going to be there and if it’s not one thing, it will be another. While I can’t control what’s going on in the world around me, I can always take care of and tend to my immediate surroundings. Let my own space and mind be a respite.

I planted the flowers, swept off the porch, even washed the windows on my sliding glass door. I’m exhausted and that warmth on my shoulders turned into an impressive shade of scarlet. And yet who cares about those scarlet shoulders when the rest of my corner of the world has pinks and purples and greens and blues and yellows again?

So with all that being said, never abandon yourself or forget to find color in the everyday.

Yours in writing and running,


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