Frances Hopkins, creator of the STEPABLES plant line gives advice about how to maintain STEPABLE plants in the garden.

What do I want to be when I grow up?

Over the past Christmas holiday, my son Mitchell came home from college with his new girlfriend Sarah (who is splendid by the way and I completely adore her). They are both music majors and way over worked with courses and practicing their craft. This got me thinking of career paths and how we choose them…or for some of us, how they choose us.

When I was a kid, I dreamed of being a baseball player. Yup…this little tomboy loved the game, loved the smell of the grass and loved diving after every fly ball that found its unfortunate way into my outfield. Every night I closed my eyes and pretended to be the most amazing left fielder ever. That happy place got me through many, many a lousy day.

As I grew older though, things changed. In high school my grandmother gave me the book All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot and that was that!

I instantly knew I wanted to work with animals, but not sure how, where or which animals.

So I started at the top I suppose…I decided to try my hand at training wild animals my first year in college. That is, until I got bit by a lion (no real damage-just a bruised stomach & ego).  That little exchange changed my mind pretty darn quick about that!

I immediately change my major to pre-vet and started working with large farm animals. However, they still were ten times larger than I was and shoving a thermometer up a horses you know what wasn’t exactly what the “major plan” in my head looked like. Definitely still not my deal.

Harrumph! I changed my direction once again, and moved into pre-vet small animals. This I liked. Got a great job at a veterinarian hospital as a vet tech, reworked my curriculum at school and was on my way…so I thought.

I really liked the whole concept of being a vet, but I was years away from wearing the white coat. And, as low tech on the totem pole, it was my job to euthanize the animals. I really hated that part. It was depressing and so not  in the major “Fran plan”.

Now, I was one of the fortunate souls who had to put themselves through college and desperately needed two jobs to pay for tuition and bills. I tried my hand at shipping-receiving/ forklift driver/ selling Princess House crystal door to door/selling vacuums door to door/delivering newspapers at 2AM—yes-door to door/working in a sewing factory and waitressing.

I finally got a job at Builder’s Emporium in the paint department, and shortly thereafter became an assistant garden center manager.

I had an amazingly cool boss and I really took a shine to horticulture. I juggled both jobs and school for quite some time until I got pneumonia and nearly landed myself in the hospital. Both employers had had enough of the “wonder woman” complex and made me choose one job or the other. The decision at the time was a no brainer.

At 21, I really had no clue how that one, single decision would completely shift my life forever.

Since you are reading this blog…I guess it would be apparent that I chose the garden center–mind you I am writing this next to my reef aquarium, with two dogs on my lap and the cat sitting on my shoulder! I will never stop being an animal lover, but plants really became a passion for me.  I literally did everything under the sun in horticulture to find my niche. It wasn’t until I got a job as an assistant grower that I found my happy place again. There is nothing like walking into a greenhouse that has just been freshly planted. There’s an earthy, barky smell that fills the air, mixed with a flowery bouquet of goodness.

All in all, I changed my major six times in college. I never did finish with a degree. My ex husband and I bought a little nursery and I had no time to go back. No regrets though…the school of hard knocks has given me more insight over the years than a college degree ever would have, so I am good with that.

However, watching Mitch and Sarah, and even now, watching my step son AJ (17) daughter Rachel (16) trying to decide on a future path of life…I wonder—-do any of us really have a clue where we will find our happy place?

So, am I what I wanted to be when I grew up? Hmmmm… I used to be of the mind that I would make my own future. I would be the driving force that would make my path. Funny thing is, no matter how determined you are, eventually you find out that you are never the person in control of your own destiny.

16 years ago, God threw me a major curve ball with my first back injury. I had no idea 16 years later I would have been through 5 back surgeries and have an implant in my back.  Could this have been avoided? Could it have been my stubbornness that pushed my body too far, or my passion for my work and play? Still not sure, but having a decrepit back was always in my cards…and in my genes. Nothing I could have done in my life would have mattered…be it a baseball player, veterinarian or horticulturalist…nothing would have changed my outcome. I just have bad bones.

Did this change what I wanted to do with my life? Yes, most definitely.  I can tell you that a year and a half later after my last surgery to implant this funky device in my back, I find myself 50 pounds lighter and a lot smarter about my “physical well being”.

I work out every day to stretch and keep my body strong. Sorry to say however, that diving for fly balls is not in my future anymore, nor is rollerblading in the park.

My goals and my dreams look a lot different now. I will always keep my body and my back in the best shape that I can. This is a top priority for me. I want to be able  to accomplish those small, everyday “feats of glory” that most people take for granted. Just being able to take a long walk with the man I love, or go for a long drive and still be able to get out of the car and function like a normal human being keeps me going day after day. Stupid stuff like that, because for about four years, those silly, easy to do things became impossible and highly unlikely to ever do again.

Everything in my life is a work in progress right now. I have no predetermined answers. I have no clear path of what my world will look like in 2013–provided we all make it past Dec 21!

What I do know is this: At the ripe old age of 46…I am feeling pretty good about where I sit. 2012 will mark my 25th spring in the nursery business. Holy Cow! I can’t believe I have been at this that long!!!

Still, there are so many things I want to do with my life.

I would like to teach. I want to learn how to play the saxophone. I have always wanted to be a chef (which is what I am working on now in my spare time now) and I have always wanted to write a book.  I also want to be the most kick ass grandma ever and be able to teach my grandkids how to throw a baseball, and how to make a kitty burrito when they need to pill their cat.

There are so many things I want to do when I grow up. I have never been tied down to any one thing…my inner Gemini just wouldn’t have it any other way. The possibilities are endless. What could tomorrow bring? I’ll let ya know!

Until then,

Go get dirty out there!




Out with the old, in with the new!

Hi everyone! This may look like my first blog, but it is so not. My blog was infiltrated recently by some ruthless foe (or so my webmaster tells me) and I have lost six years of memories, slide shows, videos and other tools that would have helped many of you through your gardening endeavors.

  *!#$$!!?*&!!! Okay…there… I said it. I don’t really feel any better, but life moves on and so shall I.

I will try to repost some of the old stuff, but for right now I will concentrate on new things! Stay tuned!!!