i hated my back yard. it was small...muddy when it rained...smelly from dog poop...it was horrible! in fact...about a year ago, i pretty much stopped barbecuing because i despised being in my back yard so much. i finally decided that moving my man grill out to the front porch was a solid solution...temporary, but solid.
any how, cleaning up the bain of my existence has been firmly on my radar for awhile...and not just so i could have more space on my front porch again, but to also have a fun place for my kids to play and a easy path for sharon to get to our driveway from our back door...and a non-mud area for the dogs to run. sooo....a couple weekends back, i finally did it!
sharon and i had been talking for awhile about grass....then a deck....then cement...and most recently stone pavers. all of which were brilliant ideas that just never seemed to happen for one reason or another. so, when the first rain of the year came....uh around the middle of october (laughable) and sharon was dealing with an infant, 4 big kids and 2 dogs...she asked...heck, she begged me to please do something! it was in that moment that i thought "hey....how about bark? how about black bark???" sharon sensed my weakened state and pounced on it!
so, in one full saturday i turned my dirt/mud/poop/weed/dead vine/nastiness filled back yard, into a low maintenance mecca that was sure to provide hours of fun for the kiddos. heck, i even dusted off an old play house that had completely skipped our youngest three kids! but the biggest surprise didn't come from the kids faces when they saw the finished product. nor, did it come from sharon when she was able to walk directly to the car instead of all the way around the house. the biggest surprise came when i received some unexpected help from an expected source. let me rewind a bit...
earlier in the day, i had gone over to my friend chad's house to borrow his wheel barrow for the job. while i was there loading it up, chad's wife michela asked me if i needed any shovels to which i replied "no thank you." i had a shovel already, and i was the only one working...so i certainly didn't need two shovels! but michela wouldn't take no for an answer. as she handed me the 2nd shovel, she looked at me and said..."you should take this....you never know who's going to help". i laughed to myself, hopped in the truck and drove home to my pile of bark.
when i got home, i unloaded the wheel barrow, leaned the 2nd shovel up against my fence and started shoveling, and hauling, hauling and shoveling. it wasn't hard....but i was getting tired and starting to wonder if i was going to be able to finish the job in one day. then, out of nowhere, my neighbor pulled up in his truck. now, i say my neighbor because he lives in my neighborhood...and because i didn't know his name. you know what i mean? he was the guy that you'd give the "weighbor nave" to as we pulled in and out of our respective driveways...but that was all. you get the idea. well, he pulled in to his driveway and walked over to observe the huge pile of black bark in my driveway. "you're doing a project huh?" "...uh....yeah" i replied (shoveling) "do you need any help?" he asked. "no, not really....i'm just shoveling. it's not hard." i responded....to which he said "huh" and picked up that 2nd shovel that i had leaned against the fence.
over the next 2 hours, i discovered that my neighbor's name was fong. he had 13 kids! wowzers! and was an out of work book keeper. we talked about kids and school and politics while we shoveled and hauled and hauled and shoveled. the time literally flew by. when we were all done, i thanked fong for all his help. he smiled humbly and said "no problem." we shook hands and he walked home.
what an amazing feeling of satisfaction! in one day, i had transformed my wretch of a back yard into a useful, fun spot for our whole family...and all it really took was a little bit elbow grease. but as i stood i my back porch, staring at our new yard, i realized that i had gained something greater than a clean back yard that day. i had made a new friend that i had completely overlooked for years. it was a wonderful reminder to keep my eyes open all the time for new opportunities to make new connections. i was grateful, and thankful. i returned the 2nd shovel, but kept the lesson.