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Growing Forward

Updated: Mar 16, 2023

Every early spring and fall we close Inspired Chaos for 10-14 days to redo the decor and to complete any renovation/maintenance work that our Victorian house needs. (There's almost always a project that we can't do when the store is open for an extended period of time.) Each time we close, we choose a different theme for the store decor/vibe. "A River Runs Through It," "Here Comes the Sun," and "A Seasonal Symphony," are just a few of our past themes and each brought an opportunity to create a new space.

When my mom and I started discussing our visions for this season, we both had several big ideas and started trying to figure out ways we could make them come to life. We began planning, sketching, scheming...

... And then suddenly, for the first time ever, we both started to feel a bit of dread and anxiety about the flip instead of our usual excitement for the creative opportunity. I felt overwhelmed by the task... and in unison one morning over my mama’s hot tea and my overly frothed coffee, we said “What if we don’t go all out this spring like we usually do… what if we just…do a little bit and say that's good enough?"

"The burst pipe fiasco in December was enough renovation and work; what if we just make some minor changes this spring?"

“... But what will people think and say?”

“We’ve had people drive in from two hours away just for our reopening after flips…”

“What about that reporter that wanted to do the story about our decor?”

But then we both shook our heads and decided that the most important thing to us in 2023 is taking a slow step backward instead of constantly sprinting forward. We wanted to nurture what we already had growing.

My mother's nails are short and, throughout the spring/summer, are usually stained from the 10-20 hours each week she spends with them in the soil. Her gardens are her happy place, her therapy session and her social time all in one spot. Her care and intentional work returns in hundreds of compliments each season about the joyful colors of her beautifully curated, "Inspired Chaos" cottage gardens. She shares seeds and information with dozens of strangers every single week, and learns new things herself every year.

So far this very early spring, she had to remove the Privet hedge that we’re told had been on the property for 50+ years as it became diseased. She’s cut back her perennials and started seeds inside. My uncle built us a fence to discourage walking through the flower beds (since some folks don’t notice that they're walking right on top of plants - ugh,) and are looking forward to painting the fence with a vibrantly colored mural to pair with the wide variety of rainbow flowers.

Watching how my mother (and grandmother over the years) gardened tenderly, creatively and passionately, raises similarities with how we were raised -- as the way we tend a garden mirrors just how much we try to nurture our relationships, our business and our lives. The garden graces us with poignant lessons every single day.

Having a vision...

I catch my mom walking through her gardens a few times a day, maybe while she's playing with the dogs or retrieving the mail. She doesn't just grab random seed packets and throw them around anywhere and everywhere. She asks herself what kind of garden she wants, what purpose she wants the garden to serve, and how she wants it to be laid out. Just as my mother has a vision for her gardens, having a vision for our lives is necessary. Our dreaming leads to our doing.

Priorities are important.

If my mama could have every single plant - tomatoes, pumpkins, sunflowers, pansies, green beans... she'd have it all. She dreams big and then narrows down her plans and list to be more realistic and sustainable while still holding her vision. Setting my priorities is crucial for my productivity. I make lists and work through what's my most important goal. I can't train for a 5K, learn another language, become a master herbalist and write my novel all while running a business. We must plant seeds that will provide the most beneficial fruit or the heartiest flowers. Then, maybe in a few months or next growing season, we can plant some new or different seeds.

Soil matters.

Whatever my mama decides to plant won't grow unless there's healthy soil. Gardeners spend so much time, energy and expense to get the richest soil possible. Mom adds manure, compost, minerals and other nutrients to create an environment that encourages healthy growth. In the same way, we can nurture our environments and dreams. Whether it's getting a new education or learning skills to allow us to achieve new aspirations, creating a more organized space by decluttering; creating steady habits like eating well, getting enough sleep or meditating; nourishing that fertile soil; and creating a solid foundation gives those seeds and dreams the productive space to grow strongly.

You reap what you sow.

If my mama wants green beans, she plants green bean seeds. She doesn't plant foxglove and then wonder why there's something poisonous growing in her veggie beds instead of those crunchy green beans. It can be easy to look at our lives and not like what we see and wonder what went wrong. Maybe we planted the wrong seeds.

A woman I went to high school with came into Inspired Chaos a few weeks ago. It was great catching up with her and hearing all of her achievements -- a thriving career, a solid relationship with her girlfriend, and she was getting ready to purchase her first home. I asked her about her siblings, and she said they weren't doing so well or so much. I expressed that I was sorry that they weren't where they wanted to be, and she said, "You get out of life what you put into it, Jenna. They've had the same opportunities as me." She planted some hearty seeds, allowed space for deep extending roots, and is feeling the growth every day.

You have to keep a close eye on the conditions of the garden.

My mama recognizes that different plants need different environments to thrive. How well her plants do depends on the sunlight, watering, wind exposure, temperatures, soil levels and eight stomping golden retriever 'feets.' In life, I frequently have to check in with myself to make sure the conditions of the day-to-day support my personal growth and well-being. Are we surrounding ourselves with people and things that nourish our lives? Are we providing ourselves with the essentials to not just survive but to create the best version of ourselves? The environment we provide for ourselves is essential to growth.

My mama had the most beautiful Hostas planted the first year we bought our house. They were the richest-green, largest Hostas, tucked under the shade of a century-old Oak tree. The Oak became ill and had to be removed, so the Hostas lost their shade. Their color changed; they withered. We recognized that they couldn't thrive where they were planted and moved them somewhere they could heal and grow.

Sometimes you have to build a fence around your garden...

At the home I grew up in, we had to dissuade deer from eating our gardens. Once we moved to town, it became golden retrievers and people. Protecting our gardens from feet and chompers has always been necessary.

Sometimes we have to build fences and set boundaries for ourselves in life, too. Kicking those Debbie Downers to the curb, saying "no" to things that aren't good for us or that we can't commit to, allowing ourselves to remove distractions so that we can grow and achieve our goals...

There are things that are out of our control.

Some years, it doesn't rain quite enough for my mama's gardens. Some years , it rains too much, and the plants drown. Weather plays a big part in the success of a garden (not to mention that there are bad bugs and diseases...).

Life throws us situations that we can't control, and we often suffer unforeseen setbacks. We do our best to remain flexible and find a way to grow forward.

Gathering your bounty...

After all of the weeding, sweat and frustration, my mama's garden produces the most beautiful flowers to share with all who visit. Life can turn out the same way. We work it, we own it, we get to enjoy it. We can produce bountiful rewards. We can grow a career we love, good relationships, good fun and tremendous laughter...

And in the end, we feel the utmost gratitude for what we reap.

What would you like your garden to look like this season? What seeds will you plant? How will you tend it?

For our decor this spring, we’ll be bringing the Inspired Chaos cottage garden vibes inside with a new jewelry display as we work to have other new displays designed/built. We'll switch out our textiles and do a good deep cleaning...hopefully. We've added more track lights and will have some boards of the original floor shored up to be less creaky. We're adding more support to the foundation to keep our Victorian safe and standing for a very long time.

We’ll be nourishing some of the things that we already have started growing while we stop to smell the roses.

Inspired Chaos is... growing a garden.

(Fern as a puppy "helping" to remove the periwinkle from one of our beds.)

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