Life Lessons from the Unlikely Lavender Queen
Writer Jeannie Ralston translated her Do-Over! into a wonderful memoir, The Unlikely Lavender Queen, which I blogged about last year. Since she pioneered the first lavender farm in The Hill Country, she’s gone on to a few more Do-Overs! Lucky for us, she graciously agreed to update her adventures and share her “list of four,” as part of this month’s celebration of my Do-Over! fourth anniversary:
I think I was on to Do-Overs! early. I remember when I was just out of college I hoped that I would have several different careers. But I don’t think I anticipated how different they would be. Going from New York City journalist to lavender farmer in rural Texas was certainly a huge leap–one I recounted in my memoir, The Unlikely Lavender Queen, which you can learn more about on my website.
Recently I’ve had another career change. I’ve become a teacher. I know all parents are teachers in many ways, but I’ve taken on the role in an official way. For the past year, I’ve been homeschooling our sons, ages 13 and 11. It has been both the most rewarding and exhausting job in my life. I’ve really had to work on my patience (something I struggled with already during my lavender farming days) and my empathy.
A few reasons I’ve loved teaching: I’ve gotten to know my kids in a different way, by seeing up-close how their minds work. I realize that to teach someone, you really have to be able to step into their brains to understand what they might not know. This has really pushed me to get out of my own head. Plus, I’m learning so much myself! I’m starting to wonder if I slept all through my education, because I’m discovering or rediscovering so much about history, science, art, and literature. (I purposely did not add math to that list, since my husband, Robb, and a tutor take care of that. I have not a remnant of math know-how in my brain to work with.)
OK, the very best thing about this particular Do-Over! is that the perks include travel! The reason we took on homeschooling in the first place was so we could travel with the boys before they became too cool to hang out with us. We were in South America in the fall and Africa and Europe this past spring. (Since I did all the planning of these itineraries I guess I could add travel agent to my list of careers–except I think Expedia and other Internet sites have eliminated travel agents as real paying jobs.) If you want to see what we’ve experienced this past year, you can check out our blogs and photos on our family website.
We’ve enjoyed homeschooling so much that we’re planning to do it at least one more year. Right now I’m putting together an Ancient History tour–Egypt, Greece, Turkey, and Rome. I LOVE this teaching gig!
Since I’m in the teaching mindset right now, I’ve come up with my top four life lessons:
Bloom where you’re planted. This is a popular saying, but I don’t think I understood it till I got out on that lavender farm in the middle of nowhere. The way I say it is, “Work With What You Got.”
If you can’t change your situation, change your attitude. I truly believe that when you get stuck and it feels like nothing is working out the way it’s “supposed to,” you often only have to change your mindset to free yourself. I hated living in rural Texas until I realized that I wasn’t going to be moving any time soon, which meant I had a choice: learn to embrace my life there or continue to be miserable. The answer was in my head all along.
People will generally treat you the way you treat them. I guess this is a version of the Golden Rule. I tell this to my boys all the time. I believe that you get what you give, and if you give off negative feelings, you’ll probably get negative back. But if you stay positive, even if someone is being negative toward you, you can often turn them around and soften their approach toward you. A corollary of this is: kindness is often the best response to unkindness. Kindness is wonderfully disarming!
Be the answer to someone’s prayers. My minister once ended his service by saying, “Go out and be the answer to someone’s prayers.” That struck me like lightning, and I’ve done my best to live up to his directive (but am sorry to report I have not done half as well as I would have liked). We all probably have heard that to get our minds off of our own troubles, think about someone else. Well, doing something for someone else–really being of service–is even more powerful.
Photo: Jeannie and her husband, Robb, with their boys, Gus and Jeb, after hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Courtesy of Jeannie Ralston.