"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
August 19, 2015
Bait and Switch
by Marian Stoddard

The first thing this year that didn’t match up was the tulips in the front. I had ordered new bulbs for the box closest to the front door: one dark iris, purple feather hyacinths, and small Juliet tulips that were supposed to be white petals with purplish centers.

I’m afraid it was a bust, because the iris only grew leaves and I didn’t like the feather hyacinths very much — but the weird thing was that the tulips were entirely the wrong color. Instead of white with pale purple, they were yellow with pinkish red.

Does this look white and light purple to you?

I wrote a note to the company I bought them from and they asked for a picture of them as they were in bloom. Not that they didn’t want me to be happy with my purchase, and not that they didn’t trust me, but they wanted to verify and compare. I can understand that.

The next odd occurrence was the rose. I had bought a red “ribbon rose” that was supposed to spread out as groundcover. I only needed one, because I wanted to fill in the corner between the brick line that divides the lawn (such as it is) from the garden and a large tub with an azalea. I thought that it would be lovely to let it grow around that tub and bloom at a separate time.

When you have a yard as tiny as mine — about ten feet from each exterior side, and from the cement walkway in back — you plan the spaces carefully between flowers, the small patio, grass, and vegetables.

I planted the little rose last fall and set it inside barrier cloth to keep weeds away. It made it through the winter, which was mild this year, and started to grow a bit with spring.

Then, a sideways stem shot out along the ground; it was long and thicker, and its leaves were three times as big as the others. It shortly produced a full-size yellow rose, and then a second one.

It was definitely not what I expected or ordered. My best guess is that perhaps this was the rootstock and the small red ribbon rose was a graft. I have sent a picture and inquiry to the nursery. The rest of the plant has barely grown since; after blurting out the wrong rose it seems to have used up all its energy.

Definitely not what I ordered.

Then, we went to one of the high schools for a plant sale, looking for vegetable starts. I was taking my first try at starting tomatoes from seed, and my kitchen window had enough light but not enough warmth; it was not certain that my plants would make it to a good size, so we wanted a couple of sure things just in case.

The price was good, and the greenhouse program deserved support, so we bought two tomatoes, a Brandywine (large) and a Golden Nugget (cherry) tomato along with a few starts for other vegetables. I wanted one full size and one cherry tomato plant; if my various heirlooms didn’t produce, we would at least have a minimum of good tomatoes.

We went home happy, hardened them for a few days outside, and put them in the ground.

My seedlings took off; and with the Brandywine they have created a tomato jungle, and fruit is coming. The cherry tomato has produced quickly, but it’s not a Golden Nugget plant. I bought and planted one of those two years ago, and as the name indicates it’s a yellow cherry tomato. This one is bright red.

I have no idea what it is, but it’s very good. The fruit is large for cherry tomatoes, with a point on the bottom end rather than being smooth and round. The plant has only grown to be a foot tall, in contrast to all of the others which with this warm year have become five feet tall or more.

I don’t know what variety it is. But it definitely isn’t a Golden Nugget.

There was one more — the lilies.

I drooled over pictures of these particular lilies. They were carpet lilies, bred to produce copious amounts of full-size flowers closer to the ground, and multiply. The original offering was too great a quantity and too much money, but the eventual catalog at the end of the season, bargains to buy now for shipping in the fall, offered ten (instead of twenty-five, or forty) at half price, and I bit. I couldn’t let the chance pass me by.

I asked the elders to dig up a circle for me against the back fence, under the pear tree. I was careful to see that there would still be grass on either side as space to set a ladder in order to pick the pears. I bought a planter box to set behind them against the wood fence.

I had no guarantee that they would bloom together, but I hoped. The plan was that the low lilies and the taller dwarf gladiolas, in a compatible color, would bloom in a terraced effect.

The gladiolas bloomed first. They were beautiful, and I was enthusiastic. There was just one problem — they were hard to see past the lily stems, still forming buds, which were not a foot tall (my memory of their description) or fifteen inches tall (the catalog information when I went back and checked), but thirty-eight to forty-two inches tall.

Instead of ten or more blooms on each stem, there were the normal three or four, and instead of being the height of the patio chair seats, they had to be staked so that they didn’t poke us in the eye.

These lilies were supposed to be low to the ground, but they are taller than the back of the chair.

They were stunning flowers, but only the color was what was advertised.

I had careful plans, putting in a bed of tulips in the back corner, with pots of fancy daffodils on the opposite side of the small patio, for spring color. There is a clematis to grow up the corner of the fence. The gladiolas and carpet lilies were to be a splash of color for early summer.

The ribbon rose was to fill in a corner on the boundary between grass and garden, and a peony farther down against the fence should bloom next year. From that point to the side street, marked by another line of bricks, it’s vegetables. More vegetables on the other side of the gate, against the side of the house. Small space, best use, I wanted some space for food, and some for beauty and respite.

I have asked for a refund on the wrong mini tulips; I am going to dig all of that box up and try something else. I want a replacement for the little red rose, because what I ordered is exactly what I needed. I’m not going to make any complaint to the high school students, just eat different tomatoes.

I’m not sure yet what to do about the lilies — I’m waiting for a response. They came guaranteed from a premier grower, and if I require full replacement, they’ll do it. I don’t know if I got the wrong bulbs or if their new variety goes rogue, and other people have also been surprised.

The merchants are reputable, and I can count on them wanting to solve the problems. There was no malicious intent.

But we are swamped in our day with the work of an Enemy whose intent is malicious indeed. Satan saturates our society with messages that are false, but no mistake. He has a keen sense of our trigger points and works on our impulses and insecurities, trying to obscure our better reason. “Bait and switch” is one of his classic moves.

We look for heroes, because we need examples that inspire us and strengthen our best desires for character, service, and achieving our potential. Instead our culture has come to focus on flash and dazzle without substance. He works to break down families, our deepest source of happiness and growth, in every way possible. He has persuaded most of the world that he doesn’t exist.

He is the master of sabotage.

We each need quiet times to ponder and pray and listen, but we’re apt to be dealing with constant noise. It comes from the marketplace, from relentless technologies, from rushing around so hard that all we recognize is stress; in that state he can detour you away from spiritual experiences that would heal your life.

He will dangle inducements to sin by promising that it’s not so bad; everyone is doing it, so why not you?

He will seek to persuade that you are “missing something” if you don’t experiment with actions or substances that will, in fact, wreck your life. “Come, this will make you happy,” but it doesn’t. If you’re feeling hollow, he will promise that drugs, or promiscuity, or rebellion will fill the holes.

You should be angry, you should look out for yourself alone, you should indulge. Instead, they will leave you spiritually empty. It’s so easy to grope for “more” when what you need is different entirely. He doesn’t want you to figure that out.

When life is jangled, find the heroes of the scriptures. Look around you for light in the lives of good people. Turn to your Heavenly Father in prayer, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His word is good, and his desire is your true happiness. Let him be your help day by day.

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About Marian Stoddard

Marian J. Stoddard was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in its Maryland suburbs. Her father grew up in Carson City, Nevada, and her mother in Salt Lake City, so she was always partly a Westerner at heart, and she ended up raising her family in Washington State. Her family took road trips all over the United States and Canada, so there were lots of adventures.

The adventures of music, literature, and art were also valued and pursued. Playing tourist always included the local museums as well as historical sites and places of natural beauty. Discussions at home, around the dinner table or working in the kitchen, could cover politics, philosophy, or poetry, with the perspective of the gospel underlying all. Words and ideas, and testimony and service, were the family currency.

Marian graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland, and attended the University of Utah as the recipient of the Ralph Hardy Memorial Scholarship, where she was graduated with honors, receiving a B.A. in English. She also met the love of her life, a law student, three weeks after her arrival; she jokes that she had to marry him because her mother always wanted a tenor in the family. (She sings second soprano.) They were married two years later and have six children and six grandchildren (so far). She treasures her family, her friends, and her opportunities to serve.

Visit Marian at her blog, greaterthansparrows.  You can contact her at bloggermarian@gmail.com. 

Marian and her husband live in Tacoma, Washington. Together they teach those who are preparing to go to the temple for the first time, and she also teaches a Stake Relief Society Institute class.

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