The Lake Valley Garden: Creating Curb Appeal (It's Still Not Finished)

 Dear Henry, 

This year (and last year, really), I had plans. Lots of plans. Completing these plans by the end of this year seems doubtful.

To refresh your memory (read the full post here): I had planned on working through the list of Gulf War fatalities for to improve my Spanish speaking skills, to act more charitable in my opinions, and to read the entire bible this year. I also wanted to spruce up the new house and make it really pretty.

The only goal that is going well is the bible reading, and primarily because I've been relying on Father Mike Schmitz's "Bible in a Year" podcast, I've been able to ride the coattails of his effort.  

I had thought that my Spanish was improving until a gas pump incident a couple of months ago. You see, a Spanish-speaking gentleman was attempting to get gas from a non-working pump and was struggling to understand what he needed to do from the clerk (side note: speaking louder won't make someone suddenly understand English). I was sure I could help, so I explained, in very poor Spanish,  that pump number three wasn't working and he needed to use pump four or five. He said, "Gracias!" I was so proud of myself. Then I went outside and watched the gentleman struggle with pump number three. So, clearly, I have much more work to do. Embarrassment is such fun.

Fortunately, I reached the bottom of the health issues that made work challenging. You may not realize it, but because of "The Accident," I've had to have extensive dental work. During the summer of 2020, I had to get a dental implant, but before the job was finished, we moved to Tulsa, and because of the move and COVID restrictions, it took a bit of time to get back into the dentist. I should have tried harder because it turns out the implant had (probably from the beginning) gotten infected and because it had been in there for close to nine months, the infection spread a bit, and it turned into a great deal more than it needed to be. But now that the infection has been cleared out with the implant, my energy levels seem to be improving, and I'm on the upswing.  

Being sick really set me back on my goals, though.

The garden and home repairs are coming slowly, and there have been several COVID shortages. I had visions of taking, by now, I would be taking beautiful pictures full of well-manicured, lush flowers in front of a freshly painted house. Instead, we've only got the house painted, and the trim work is still pending. The trim work requires scaffolding, which has been in high demand during the COVID home improvement craze. There are no reservations for these anymore (I asked! I was told that they open at 6am and was wished luck).  

Nothing has bloomed in concert in the front flower beds, and there is a dead space where nothing seems to grow under the front window. Fish and I finally decided that a statue of Bigfoot would fill it nicely because we hadn't managed to get any plants to grow there. A lot hasn't bloomed well, but the bones have been laid. I think that next spring/early summer after everything gets more established and overwinters (provided we don't have another winter like last winter), it's going to look great (and I will have more time to find a scaffold and get the trim painted).

This year's vegetable garden has been a dismal failure. It's plagued by bugs, blossom rot, and extreme weather swings. I'm so very grateful that there is a grocery store around the corner because we would starve if we had to rely on the fruits of our labor this year. 

The one exception has been the banana tree. It looks fabulous and has been the shining star in the garden.

I had started to get frustrated by the lack of progress this year, even though most of the hindrances have been things outside of my control, and I had to take the wisdom from Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning (read the review here).  

Of course, I immediately felt foolish for, even remotely, comparing my situation with Victor Frankl's. My well-insulated-home-containing-a-full-pantry-and-comfortable-bed in no way compares to the realities of a Nazi Concentration Camp.

That realization was as important as the quote. It is so straightforward to elevate inconveniences to tragedies, and really, that I'm not meeting an arbitrary self-created timeline to an arbitrary self-envisioned goal is an inconvenience.  

I've been fussing way too much about the inconveniences and the time frame and not enough about enjoying creating new space and finding new stories to tell.  

There doesn't need to be a time frame for enjoyment, and I have plenty of time to finish it. 

xoxo a.d. elliott


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

In addition to the travel writings at, you can also read her book reviews at and US military biographies at

Her online photography gallery can be found at