Weed it and reap

Thank you to those of you who read my article last week and for the many kind, supportive comments and likes you sent my way. You are the wind beneath my keyboard.

I confess that while I’ve announced I’m going to start writing again, I don’t actually have a plan or an agenda of WHAT I’ll be writing. I’m just hoping I have enough pride to fuel me to write an article every week now that I’ve gone public with my intention.
As I sit here looking out my den window onto the garden I’ve recently prepared, I’ve decided to write about gardening.
If you had told me before this past year that I would be writing a story on gardening, I would have asked what you are smoking from your garden.
In my life until now, I paid about as much attention to gardening as I did to quilting–another hobby that produces something useful but didn’t intrigue me in the least to learn how it’s done.
Not to mention, I spent my previous twenty years in apartment and condo buildings, so gardening wasn’t even an option. And if you’re thinking, Chris you can still be into gardening with potted plants on a balcony and there are community gardens where people can join to plant…I will stop you right there and refer you to my previous sentence about my whole not intrigued by the gardening thing.
My limited experience with gardening occurred in my youth.
Speaking of, this pic of my dad and I is not in our garden and I have no idea where we were or why I’m armed with a leaf rake instead of a bow rake, but it’s the only pic I could find relating to my youth and gardening.
Anyway, for a few years, my mom made some attempts at the tilled rectangle wrapped in floppy chicken wire that tried in vain to prevent the rodentia that frequented our yard courtesy of the adjacent corn field, pasture, and woods–a tough triangle for protective gardeners.
Other than a few ripe tomatoes to take juicy bites from, the garden’s main yield was lonely, leafy green remnants, fractured stalks and frustration.
Eventually, the garden was abandoned to regular grass turf and a horseshoe pit.
Despite this past experience, I eagerly awaited tearing into and tilling a flat, sun-rich patch in my backyard. Meghan is a whole food enthusiast who imagined growing all her own food and I was giddy to start yard work as a new homeowner and husband and provide her that bounty.
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I added the Apple tree on the left and the garden on the right. Lilacs and tulips in the middle courtesy of the former owners.  FYI-we planted a ‘salsa’ garden–Four different types of tomato plants, two peppers, two zucchini and one basil. (A heckuva lot of work just to make a tortilla chip taste better.)
I started by staking an 11 x 11 area. Then began unrolling, twisting, and cutting the tightly-wound cylinders of chicken wire–I mulched, dug up and axed unsightly bushes, pruned wandering branches, pulled low and tall weeds, trenched along the porch, dug a hole and planted an apple tree. This work puts you on all fours, twists your back and dirties your hands and clothes.

Generous relatives wedding showered us with gardening utensils, plants, trees, and garden center gift cards.

Several long-married aunts and uncles advised us on how gardening was a great metaphor for marriage.   You have to nurture the growth and prune out the bad stuff along the way.  Unfortunately, the weeds are always under the surface so don’t get cocky and risk letting them through. Be vigilant in plucking them out when any signs appear.
The greatest plant can be still be ruined and wilt if you don’t regularly water it. And you will often smell bad. (I added the last line, speaking for myself)
Author John R. Whiting wrote: “The home gardener is part scientist, part artist, part philosopher, part ploughman.” 
So, I plow on, in writing, in gardening, in marriage, and in parenting with high hopes, little skill and big, green thumbs up.
Even though I’m a novice, I’m encouraged that even the mistakes and the bad stuff that pops up can be turned into compost that can actually help yield fruitful, future harvests.  Challenges can make you grow stronger if you’re willing to take them on, learn from them and well, handle a little shit.
“Life’s a garden. Dig it!” –Garden saying

Just listen!

My wife, Meghan, told me I needed to start writing again. And I’m practicing listening to my wife. Seems like an attribute that will serve me well in my married life. I need to practice because it doesn’t come naturally to me.

View More: http://twoonephotography.pass.us/meghanandchriswedding

My excuse is I was unmarried for 42 and a half years…so the only person I’ve ever consistently listened to…is me. Listening to myself, “trusting my gut” is something I’ve probably done a little better than the average guy. It also struck me that listening to yourself means purposely not listening to what others say.

For example.

Coming out of my senior year in high school, no college recruiters thought I should be playing Division 1 football. Not even Division 2. But I wanted to play for my beloved Wisconsin Badgers football team. So, I walked on, tried out…and made the team.

Photo May 03, 10 42 18 AM

Then, when I made the team, a coach told me I probably wouldn’t make the team the next year. I decided not to listen and worked out harder…and made the team the next year…and the following three years all the way until we won a Rose Bowl championship for the first time in school history.

So, I’m glad I listened to me and not to others.

If you want to read more about this experience, I wrote a book about it. No Bed of Roses. I’d give you the amazon link…but heck, I’d rather you just contact me and I’ll sell you a signed copy for half price. (Please! I have 3 boxes full in my basement!)

When I graduated with a Journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin and said I wanted to try to be an actor, I listened to myself. So did others. And many didn’t think what I was saying was very wise.

“That’s no way to make a living.” “What? Are you gonna be a waiter?” “Everybody wants to be an actor.” “That’s the most competitive field there is!”

With those sentiments echoing out my ears, I moved to Chicago anyway.

After a few months working at a newspaper, and as a waiter, I booked my first professional acting gig–a Hardees commercial. My girlfriend in the spot, Michelle Monaghan, was also making her TV debut. One of us went on to star opposite Tom Cruise in a couple Mission Impossible movies and headline several other major studio films including Made of Honor, The Heartbreak Kid, and Mr. & Mrs. Smith.


I will let you decide whose career was really launched that day.

While stardom may have eluded me, I was able to snag a film role and a TV show pilot while in Chicago and armed with a few lines on my acting resume decided I wanted to go to Los Angeles and try my way onto some more shows and sets out there.

My Chicago acting friends and even my agent told me I was making a mistake. “Too green, too soon.” “You’ll be swallowed up out there.” “You will be back here in 6 months, penniless and broke.” Not sure why she had to add the “…and broke” part…feel like that was covered with “penniless.”

I’m proud to say I didn’t listen and ended up on the set of the hit show, “Party of Five” within eight months of moving to LA.

A.	cast counter clockwise: Scott Wolf (Bailey Salinger), Lacey Chabert (Claudia Salinger), Neve Campbell (Julia Salinger), Jacob Smith (Owen Salinger) and Matthew Fox (Charlie Salinger), star as orphaned siblings in the one-hour Columbia TriStar Television series

And when I say “on the set” I mean, literally, I was knocked down on the set, shoved by lead actor, Matthew Fox’s character, Charlie, for making a pass at his girlfriend!

Welcome to Hollywood!


I picked myself up, dusted myself off and starred in quite a few commercials, films and shows over the next 9 years. The One with Joey’s Fridge is The One I Will Be Forever Known For amongst my ‘friends’, former classmates, and family, as I was cast as Patrick in the Friends’ episode as a potential date for Rachel (Jennifer Aniston).


While Rachel and Patrick didn’t make it as a couple, I could say I, Chris, had “made it” as an actor.

What I’d ‘made’ was my own path, without direction from anyone on how to do it. Not only did no one make it for me, “they” told me the path I imagined wouldn’t be possible.

Just like “they” said about me trying to play college football. Just like “they” said about my wanting to be an actor. Just like “they” said about me moving to Los Angeles.

When I first pitched my book, every agent I sent it to told me no. “There are too many college football books out there.” “Oh, that story has been told.” “If you played at USC or Notre Dame, that’s different. Nobody knows about Wisconsin.”

But, I found a publisher, without an agent, and…I had my book published.

So, listening to myself, and blocking out others, served me well and allowed me to accomplishments I’m still proud of to this day. Listening is a good practice.

In the past few years, I’ve neglected my writing.  There are excuses, some I would consider great ones. My marriage and my son, Cash.

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Some, like being too busy or my own general lethargy, not so great.

Other than be a great husband and father…when asked what I do, or what do I want to do, I say “write.”  For awhile now, I haven’t been listening to what I keep saying. But someone has. Meghan has. And, now, she’s telling me to write.

After 43 years, it’s nice to know, there is one less person I have to block out.

And one more person, to practice listening to.