Meacham garden

Theresa Meacham and her children work in their backyard garden.

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In theory, it sounds great.

Eating off the land. Saving on groceries. Teaching my kids about one of the most historic and basic skills of all humankind. Introducing new vegetables and upping our health game.

I like the idea of a garden.

This past year, I planted my third backyard garden.

My gardens’ production has been average at best. The biggest yield by far has not been in food, but in lessons. What I’ve learned in 21/2 years is what many of us learn about so many other more important things in life — the idea of something and the reality of it can vary wildly.

My children are my greatest joy, but the reality of raising them is far from what I’d envisioned in my head.

Most mothers would agree their reality and their ideals can differ greatly.

Most teachers did not envision so much paperwork. Most health professionals did not dream of so much charting.

The idea of getting healthy and fit feels very different from the reality of saying “no” to foods we crave and “yes” to workouts we don’t.

Instagram, it turns out, is a liar.

And reality, it turns out, is much more than a pretty picture of a polished end product.

I thought I’d be a natural for growing a garden. I love healthy food. I value fresh produce. I think eating close to the ground is good for our bodies. I’d much prefer picking organic groceries than buying them. I like looking out my back window and seeing healthy plants growing real food.

But what I’ve found is all of that makes me a natural for eating from a garden — not growing one.

Truthfully, I’m scared of bugs and worms. I don’t do well with scorching summer heat, and I’m not a huge fan of dirt under my nails.

I struggle with the consistency a good garden requires. Some days, I simply don’t feel like watering, picking or trimming.

I want the food without the effort. I want the results without the process.

Too often, we all do.

We want well-meaning kids without the hard work of forming them.

We want great marriages without self-sacrifice.

We want health without discipline.

We want growth without work.

We want gardens without the sweat of growing them.

While I may or may not approach my garden differently this year, my garden has me approaching life a little differently. Instead of an idealized vision of what I ultimately want, I want to put more time into the work that will get me there.

Perhaps the real challenge is to fall in love with the process more than the end result. To develop a taste for journey. Maybe learning to relish progress, not just the product, is what matters most.

They say the joy is in the journey. But that’s only for those who commit to the journey. And then learn to love the commitment.

Theresa Meacham’s column appears Wednesday in The News-Gazette. She can be reached at

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