Monday, June 28, 2010

21.5.800 21 Day Challenge Day 21!

21 Days Complete! I have officially finished the 21 day challenge. I was reminded today that it takes 21 days to form a habit. I have come to enjoy this time each day. Sometimes I find myself saying that I must write before bed. Sometimes I find myself wondering what in the world will I write today. The words have come. Some I have felt like sharing...many I have not...but they've all been valuable to me. I have given myself permission to take a little time each day to just be with my thoughts. For the most part, the kids respect that time. Todd has certainly been a loving advocate. It's been a healthy decision for me.

So, I have decided to continue. This will be the end of my participation with the Bindu Wiles challenge, but I will continue daily on a site called 750 Words. I may not post daily about my writing, but it will influence my posts.

Thanks to all of you who read daily, weekly, occasionally. Thanks for the encouragement. 

Tonight's writing was about finding peace in places that don't inspire peace. I hope that each of you can find something wonderful about this moment...something to celebrate. Below is an excerpt...Namaste to you.


Tonight's excerpt:

There are places that I feel peaceful even if matters are out of hand.  There are ways that I can feel peaceful even in the places that are not on the top of my list of destinations or situations.

make a cup of tea
enjoy a cool breeze through a window
stroll a farmers market
sit under a tree
hold hands with my love
laugh with a beloved friend
make a bouquet for the table from something cool and green

To Dad...

Only a Dad
by Edgar Guest

Only a dad with a tired face, 
Coming home from the daily race, 
Bringing little of gold or fame, 
To show how well he has played the game, 
But glad in his heart that his own rejoice 
To see him come and to hear his voice. 

Only a dad with a brood of four, 
One of ten million men or more. 
Plodding along in the daily strife, 
Bearing the whips and the scorns of life, 
With never a whimper of pain or hate, 
For the sake of those who at home await. 

Only a dad, neither rich nor proud, 
Merely one of the surging crowd
Toiling, striving from day to day, 
Facing whatever may come his way, 
Silent, whenever the harsh condemn, 
And bearing it all for the love of them. 

Only a dad but he gives his all
To smooth the way for his children small, 
Doing, with courage stern and grim, 
The deeds that his father did for him. 
This is the line that for him I pen: 
Only a dad, but the best of men.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

21.5.800 21 Day Challenge Day 20

Day 20! One more day!
Tonight I am writing, again, about attachment to loss and how we sometimes forget to enjoy right now because we are so worried about how it will end. It all ends...childhood, vacation, life, lemon pie...we can only hope to make the most of this moment.

Here's an excerpt:

Sometimes I am so focused on the present that I forget the future, forget what’s coming up that needs my attention. There are times this is no desirable. When can’t stop thinking about the lemon pie in the fridge and ignore the consequences of  eating as much as I want right now. But, when I find myself focused on the here and now, I usually am happy at what I find…surprised at the bounty of my life…reminded of the love that overflows in my house.

For example…right now…I am aware of and thankful for…
the creak of the hammock I am sitting in to write
the distant rumble of thunder that will bring rain for my tiny garden
the smell of popcorn that my love just popped and is sharing with the kids on the front porch
the daylilies planted by my husband’s grandmother years ago…they are just beginning their fierce bloom
the kids running under the boughs of the apple tree and the companionship they offer each other
the little red house with the green metal roof that will sound like music when the rain finally comes
and internally
the happiness I felt riding bikes yesterday
the warm water of the New River as we splashed today
the communal happiness our family shares when we are here in our sacred place

Happy Sunday...Namaste, Jeannie

Saturday, June 26, 2010

21.5.800 21 Day Challenge Day 19

Tired from a lovely, long bike ride with the big kids, my love, and his dad. Seventeen miles through the Virginia mountains on an old railroad bed. It was a great day; one in which I feel I did something so healthy for myself and so meaningful for my family. I go to bed at ease tonight.

Today I have been exploring attachment in my writing. It's crazy, but I am still having issues with a tooth that I had worked on earlier in the week and I am convinced part of the intensity of the pain is my fear of losing the tooth. I am certainly attached to this notion, so I am trying to work through those feelings so I can move on whether it gets well or not.

Here are some words about attachment...they could apply to anything in which we place too much emotion...hope they are an inspiration for you somewhere in your life.

‘...the sense of an object as being attractive, unattractive, or neutral...feelings of pleasure, pain, or neutrality arise. Due to such feelings, attachment develops, this being the attachment of not wanting to separate from pleasure and the attachment of wanting to separate from suffering...’ The Dalai Lama at Harvard, 1988, Snow Lion USA, p.86-7

Non-attachment gives us the much-needed space to contemplate what we want and what we hate so as to more fully reflect upon whether these things we love or loathe will truly bring us the pain or pleasure we believe they contain. By reflecting in this way we can choose what to do and what not to do - it puts the brakes on to some degree. Non-attachment can therefore be seen as the general antidote for all excesses and indulgences. It attempts to wake us up to the actual state of things and provides us with a kind of barrier to place between ourselves and the world we engage with. It dampens our drives and cools our passions in order to reflect on what is or is not a good path to follow. It forces us to contemplate the probable consequences inherent in every action we are considering.  The Path to Non-Attachment by Peter Morrell

Happy Weekend!

Friday, June 25, 2010

A definition - Creative Wandering

In answer to an inquiry about my definition of a creative wanderer...

"When you feel in your gut what you are and then dynamically pursue it - don't back down and don't give up - then you're going to mystify a lot of folks."

- Bob Dylan

What do I feel in my gut? I feel I am an artist, but I don't wish to be pigeonholed into a specific type of artist and a specific medium. I enjoy writing but I have no direction and no concrete vision. I enjoy directing theatre, but I seldom have the time to perfect my craft. I enjoy painting and cutting and sewing and quilting and decorating and cooking and photography...but I am not an expert at any those things.

I have dreams of going back to school to study visual arts, but I'm not sure I could choose a focus. Would I have to? I'm sure I couldn't just float around like I have for the past forty-two years. I chose theatre once, and I'm happy I did, but once the decision was made the expectations began. I needed to make a living, I needed to fill my vitae, I needed to become a name. 

I have spent time with other art forms, but as soon as they became public commodities, the free flow of ideas stopped, or slowed considerably. How can an artist make a living at his or her craft and stay true to a vision? How can the pressure of public consumption not have an effect on how or why things are accomplished? If I go back to school and pick a medium, will I be under pressure to do what the public wants in order to begin to cover the costs of school and the time away from my family?

I feel energized now when I find a new interest. The costs and time away rejuvenate me so that I can focus on the needs of others. 

So what is in my gut? Is it "art" or is it "creativity?" Are they the same? Can they be the same? Do I have to create for others in order to feel that the act is complete? Maybe not...but I certainly have been more willing to write in the past 18 days knowing that someone else was going to read it. Do I need that external pressure to keep me motivated? 

I hope that I never stop searching for that one thing that fulfills me. Maybe it's the search that is fulfilling. There have been times in my life when I have not had a search underway and I am not content...I have wanderlust. I have tried to fill those moments with the guidance of others, but that's their vision and my will to complete someone else's vision is not strong. The best, most fulfilling of all tasks are those that come to me as flickers of light...flickers of knowing. Those that take their time to develop. Those that sit patiently in the back of my mind until the flicker of knowing becomes a steady ray of light.  They may be sparked by others, sparked by a visit to a place or the words of a song, but they are not prescribed. 

I wander through my life looking for inspiration. I act upon that inspiration with devotion and enthusiasm. I move on. Sometimes the outcome if fantastic. Sometimes there is no outcome. Sometimes the trial leads to something better down the road. I think the key is to continue to allow myself the freedom to act upon the inspiration. No one is ever good at everything, even their greatest talent isn't always perfection. We expect ourselves to be perfect  the first time, every time. Success takes failure. Failure teaches us what to avoid. It's the trying that is more important than the finishing.

So I think...THINK...what's in my gut...the thing that I should continue to dynamically pursue is creative wandering. I am a creative wanderer. All those who wander are not lost...just engaged in a process. Thanks Bob! Namaste

21.5.800 21 Day Challenge Day 18

As I reach the last day of this 21 day challenge, I am writing more and more for myself. I am finding that I am able to talk to myself about things that I need to hear if I don't have the pressure of an audience.

Today, this was my inspiration...

"When you feel in your gut what you are and then dynamically pursue it - don't back down and don't give up - then you're going to mystify a lot of folks."

- Bob Dylan

There are a few things I know I am...a few things I want to be...a few things I have no control over that I have accepted about myself. There are things I have know for years and things I am just discovering through my writing.

Today, I am realizing that I a creative wanderer in my gut and I will dynamically pursue it...and I write these words Bob Dylan just came on the radio. I must have stumbled onto some truth.

Please share something you are in your word or feels good to put it out there.


{this moment} See you soon...

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.  Following the suggestion of SouleMama at

Thursday, June 24, 2010

21.5.800 21 Day Challenge Day 17

Today I am writing about vegetarianism...more precisely about my struggles to make the commitment to become vegan. I will not share as my writing is full of sunlight...and not the bright happy kind. I am working to bring the sunshine laws to bare upon my eating habits. If it is too sad or disgusting to think about...should I be putting it into my own body or feeding it to my family? I won't force you to come into the "sunshine" but if you are interested in discussing me!

Here are a few links I like...
Compassionate Cooks - excellent podcasts and cook books! 
Nava Atlas Vegetarian Kitchen - love her cookbooks!

An excellent, eye-opening book...

Now, off to make dinner...Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

21.5.800 21 Day Challenge Day 16

Good Morning Dear Readers!
We are headed out this morning for a breakfast potluck at the park with friends, then back to the mountains we go for the rest of the summer. My vacation from my vacation is over...time to get back to my little red house. We will be traveling all day today, so I will likely not post tonight. I WILL BE WRITING before my tired head hits the pillow tonight, however. We are almost there...almost to day 21! Thanks for reading along and sending support.
Here's to seeing the world around us with fresh eyes...

Happy Wednesday! Jeannie

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

21.5.800 21 Day Challenge Day 15

I am writing privately tonight, but wanted to share this with you all...

Wordle Word Clouds

Have you ever created a word cloud? 
There is a website called Wordle where one can enter words, text, a web address, and a lovely piece of art will be created using those words. The more frequently a word appears in the selected text, the bigger the word appears in the cloud.

I decided to enter all the text of my first fourteen days of this writing challenge, just to see what my writing looked like. I thought I knew what my prominent words would be...or at least some variation of the prominent words. I was correct. CHILDREN was the most prominent word by far. I thought so. 

My 800 words tonight are a sort of examination of this cloud and what the largest words say about my priorities.

Check out my Wordle Word Cloud - 800 Words  - here 21.5.800 Challenge - 800 Words Word Cloud
then try your own! It's insightful fun.

Namaste dear readers...Jeannie

Monday, June 21, 2010

21.5.800 21 Day Challenge Day 14

There is a writing prompt on another blog today that begins, “I give myself permission…”

I thought about this a bit today and realized that I am constantly evaluating permission for my children. Permission to sleep over at a friend’s, permission to stay up late, permission to watch a movie. It is my job to help them learn boundaries by helping them evaluate boundaries.

In the summer, when I don’t have to rack up homeschool hours, when I am not teaching at the college or directing, it is easier to say yes. My first instinct then is, “yes.” During our school year, often I have to remind myself that a little veering off the path is good. I like to think of myself as traveling down the back road. Even though I try to make sure we are on our own path in life, at certain times of the year I am not inclined to stray from my set course.

But, when do I say yes to myself? When do I give myself permission to do something unusual? Like so many other mothers, I don’t always take the time to evaluate my own boundaries. Are they too strict or too loose? Do I allow myself healthy choices? Not always.

Based on my own convictions about parenting, tonight I am granting myself some permissions…in writing, and with a promise to myself to be consistent in parenting myself.

I have permission to…
…take time each day to write.
...stop at 526 words tonight.
…be afraid at the dentist.
…let my husband sit beside me at the dentist.
…spend money on a new vegetable at the farmers market.
…take a shower every day.
…take a summer vacation.
…let Daddy handle bedtime sometimes.
…go for a walk alone if there’s someone else around to watch the kids
…ignore, “Mommy” when Daddy’s in control.
…invite people into my home when there are dust bunnies in plain sight.
…let my hair go gray
…go without toenail polish in the summer other words, I have permission to cut myself some slack!

I try to me accepting of others’ choices. I try to live by namaste…the light in you is the same as the light in me and we are as one. I don’t always succeed in seeing the light in all people. I am an impatient driver, I am hard on my husband and children at times, and I allow some people to irritate me with quirky personality traits that I may fear to be my own. I am, however, hardest on myself.

I need to appear brave and in control. I want to appear confident when I am not, and happy when I am not. I hate pictures of myself that don’t reflect the image I want to portray. I work hard to appear to be at ease.
Tonight, on this Summer Solstice, on this eve of a new beginning…I give myself permission to be at ease. I give myself permission to be authentic. I give myself permission to say, “yes” and to take a turn or two off course. Most important, I give myself permission to see the light within me…namaste.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

21.5.800 21 Day Challenge Day 13

Do I Dare?

I looked back over my writing and decided I have a good life. Even the heartaches and fears have worked themselves out. I don’t know if that is due to luck, attitude, or ignorance. Whatever the cause, I have a safe and happy existence. In this moment, I have decided to take a look at thinks I won’t do…things I might really want to do…do I dare?

I want to get a tattoo
I want to travel to Greece
I want to be a roadie
I want to take a picture of myself and post it to the blog unedited
I want to have more children
I want to learn to drive a tractor
I want to take an art class
I want to live in an RV for a year and travel around the U.S. homeschooling the kids
I want to become vegan

These are in no particular order, except as they popped into my head. There are none that surprised me. I have thought about them all before. In fact, I have thought about each one of them just enough that these are the things I think might be doable one day…things that are possible.

Obviously I can’t do them all and I think that the list will grow and change over the years. Some of these things can’t be done now…maybe some can be done tomorrow.

Things that are within my power today: tattoo…picture…veganism

Tattoo…what scares me?
I am afraid that I will want it to be gone someday. A friend got a tattoo last summer in a very conspicuous spot. She is happy. It scared the hell out of me because I began thinking about making that decision myself. What would I get and where? How do you make such a permanent decision?
Do I dare? Not yet. I am still undecided on this one.

Picture…what scares me?
I am sometimes afraid to open myself up for judgment. Those who know me well know a bad picture…a bad hair day…a fat day…and they know a good picture…good hair days…and ok with who I am days. I have had little trouble sharing my inner most feelings on this blog during this challenge, but I am unable to share a picture.
Do I dare? Maybe. I will try.

Veganism…what scares me?
Nothing. I am certain that it is the right thing for me…for my conscience and my health. I want to allow my decisions about food to reflect my beliefs. I guess I hesitate out of selfishness and habit. I love cheese. I want cream in my coffee. Can I forgo these things?
Do I dare? Yes. I think it is just a matter of saying yes.

I can say yes to at least one uncomfortable thing. I can say maybe to others. But are these really daring? No. What do I truly dare to do?

Do I dare to stand up for what I believe? Do I dare right a wrong? Do I dare risk imprisonment or ridicule for civil disobedience? I want my children to know I am willing to take a stand. I want them to have the confidence in their own beliefs to enable them to take a stand of their own.

What do I dare that can change the life of another?

We have taken our children out of public school because we feel this will change their educational experiences for the better. We are willing to risk negative opinions of others to do so. We are willing to take a risk financially so that I can stay home with them until they are grown. But, it is easy to take risks for one’s children. Would I take such a risk for someone else’s child?

We have adopted three times, each time with the risk of a birthparent deciding to parent the child. We have gained so much from this risk, but would I take such a risk without such a possible reward?

Do I dare give of myself when it means risk to my own comfort?

I would like to say that I would be ready to take a seat on a bus, to walk in a protest, to trust someone who may not be trustworthy in the name of helping humankind. I have never been in this position. Sure, I have given money to NGO’s to help in Haiti. I have bought jewelry from Bead for Life. I have given of my time at Toys for Tots and I have rung a bell our Salvation Army. But, what exactly does that require of me but time or money?

I have not experienced discrimination. I have not experienced abuse. I have not been a victim of crime. I have not been asked to really give of myself in ways that might be uncomfortable? Would I be able to heed the call if it came? Would I dare?

Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

21.5.800 21 Day Challenge Day 12

Gratitude Inventory

My husband: He knows me. He buys milk. He worries about our future so I can be in the present each day with our kids. He eats vegetarian meals that I cook for him…he cooks vegetarian meals for me. He loves to grow things. He is patient. He suggests that we take the kids swimming. He looks good in a suit. He looks great on a tractor (in my mind).

My daughter: She misses the forest sometimes, but always sees the trees.  She helps me see the trees. She cares for her brothers (even Reeves) deep down inside. She is my role model for compassion. She draws in fine detail. She loves milk. She helps all the time with her baby brother. She has lovely hands. She is big enough to sit in the front seat and keep me company on trips. She is becoming a beautiful young woman.

My #1 son: He is sweet and sour. He has a sweet voice that I will miss when he hits puberty. He has cute, square feet. He is wise beyond his years and still innocent. He is an excellent reader. He genuinely loves his brother and sister. He speaks gently to the cat. He writes like a child, but understands more than some adults. He is intuitive and full of love.

My #2 son: He has the blondest curls. He is really good at pee-peeing in the potty. He announces a potty accident with, “You not mad?” He calls his sister “Sissy” and his brother “Bo.” He gives gentle hugs and kisses. He likes to cuddle. He hates changes, but adapts easily when given a nudge. He is not afraid of the water. He is eager to learn. He loves trains and dinosaurs. He eats his vegetables.

Cuss words: They are not magical…but empowering when I feel out of control.

Beets: One of my favorite vegetables that no one else in the family will eat. They taste like earth and are dangerously red.

Farmers markets: Feel like honesty. I love a market where the vendors are the farmers who grew own crops. I love heirloom tomatoes, beets, Swiss chard, candy onions, and sour cherries. I love handmade signs, local honey, and flowers cut hours before market time. I love the free puppies and kittens and the street musicians.

Lemon Pie: Perfect in its imperfection. Sold by a vendor at the market, the last one among other straggling goodies. No boxed mixes. Tangy and sweet at once.  Delicious. The beginning of my aspirations to make pies.

The farm: Our meeting place.

The van: Nicknamed “Blue Jack” by the kids. He has a small dent in the back bumper, a peeling Namaste sticker, apple cores in the back seat, a driver-side window that won’t roll down, and filthy windows. But…he gets us wherever we want to go with no complaints. He’s been good to us.

McDonalds: Though I am hesitate to acknowledge this shrine to factory farming, I have made it through many a sleepy afternoon drive with McD’s $1 unsweetened tea.

A lost Nintendo DS: A lesson in patience and unattachment has fallen upon my middle child…no, he is teaching me about these things through his reaction (nonreaction) to his loss. Though he is greatly disappointed, he is remarkably calm and resigned to the loss. He has already devised a plan but not one involving instant gratification. Go boy!

A pumpkin vine: A mighty vine that has taken over our flower bed and is crawling across the lawn toward the public sidewalk. She is reminding me to bloom where I am planted…and bloom with gusto!

Lessons learned and blessing counted.
What is in your gratitude inventory this week?
Post your list or a link in the comments!

Friday, June 18, 2010

21.5.800 21 Day Challenge Day 11

Writing challenge half way completed. Didn't feel like writing tonight, but I did write. Not coherent enough for me to share, but I can check it off. Will be back. Thanks for hanging in there with me, dear readers!
Have a great weekend!

{this moment} Puppet Show

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.  Following the suggestion of SouleMama at


Spent the day with cousins at Warriors Path State Park in Kingsport, TN.
Where there's water...that's where out kids will be!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

21.5.800 21 Day Challenge Day 10


When I was young I loved the smell of a campfire. It seems like my family camped quite a bit when I was growing up and I really enjoyed being in the woods. But the think I remember most is the smell of the campfire. I’m not talking about the smell of the actual fire. I remember the smell in my hair and my clothes; the smell on our sleeping bags. I loved coming home and catching a whiff of the smell. I’m not sure if I really liked the smell or if I liked the memories of where the smell originated.

We don’t take our kids camping. Honestly, we’ve been once and it was two nights of sheer pain because we just weren’t prepared with the correct equipment for our old bones to sleep on the ground. So I think it is safe to say, “We don’t take our kids camping.” But even that one time, when we came home and our belongings smelled of wood smoke, I was happy. When friends build fires at picnics or if we just pass through a spot on the road where someone is burning brush, I am happy. Anytime I have the opportunity to be by a fire it’s like comfort food to me.

What does it say about us humans that we attach to something sensual because it brings us back to happier times? I have always loved the dusty, acrid smell of coming rain and the smell of overripe apples. For me it’s all about the smell. Apples are easy. They are my passage back to hours spent climbing my grandparents apple trees; watching my Paw-Paw work in the garden. I’ve always loved a rainstorm, maybe because the world is allowed to stop for the moment of a downpour; stop and wait; stop and just be. No one is expected to be on time in a downpour. No lawns can be mowed, no groceries loaded into the car. It’s an excuse to break from the routine and be with your thoughts, be with your kids. It’s an excuse to read, to make tea, even to put on boots and stomp in the puddles. Maybe that’s why I like the smell of coming rain.

Taken alone, these smells may not represent anything but fire and rain and apples. Add the memories and they represent family and freedom and adventure. It’s amazing what triggers a memory, and there’s no stopping these memories; good or bad. In my mind, I remember my elementary school by the smell of the oiled wood floors. I remember my grandmother by the smell of Oil of Olay, though she hasn’t used that particular brand of moisturizer for years. I remember college through a veil of cigarette smoke, and visits to my relatives’ through the scent of the pine forests that surrounded their houses.

It’s hard to say what I will remember by smell tomorrow or what my children will remember. It isn’t about remembering something because it smelled good or bad. There is no judgment in the smell. The judgment is in the emotion of the memory. Sometimes there is no judgment at all…just memory.

The emotion is there, but the attachment is not. It is as if these memories have found a comfortable place to reside. When I happen upon them by accident they simple raise their heads and wait to be acknowledged, then easily fall back into slumber.

I would be interested to know what brings about these easy memories in others. Is it a scent, a sight, a sound? What will bring about these memories for my children? Will they involve something I did or said or made? I know there is no way to tell, no way to control this…these memories are seemingly random and not usually of the significant events in life. I suspect they will be for them what they are for me…vivid recall of the mundane that helped to shape my personality and choices. I know from the past eleven years that surprising, everyday memories I have of my children will be most brilliant.

Perhaps when I am old I will be blessed most often with these types of recollections. Instead of sitting with memories of terrible regret or profound joy, I will be comforted by these simple remembrances of life. My grandchild will visit me with the smell of a campfire in her hair and I will be sustained. I will smell apples and remember that I was young. I will smell a coming rain and be inspired to put on my boots and stomp in the puddles. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

21.5.800 21 Day Challenge Day 9


There once was a man who did not smoke or drink. He did not do drugs. He did not ride a motorcycle. He used to ride a motorcycle, then he had a kid and he didn’t ride his motorcycle as much. Then he had a second and third kid and he sold his motorcycle. He even gave up his old truck to drive a newer truck; one with less miles and more reliability. He went to work. He played basketball. He had a garden. He watched football. He no longer rode a motorcycle.

There once was a woman who did not smoke or do drugs; she did not drink much. She rode with the man on the motorcycle once or twice…before their first child. She took care of the children. She taught. She played in the theatre a bit. And she cried when he rode the motorcycle alone. She saw her life without him and she cried. She knew of his need to ride the motorcycle, but her fear won in the end. She didn’t ask him to, but he sold the motorcycle.  

There once was a girl who always hugged her parents when they left. There was a boy who needed his parents to remind him that he was loved. There was a younger boy who ran to the door whenever his parents returned. There were others, yet unnamed, who needed to hear his laugh. They are the reason he sold his motorcycle.

There once was a family whose favorite time of the year was spent by the blue mountains…as a family. They worked, and played, and dreamed there…as a family. They loved the little red house with the green roof. They welcomed friends as family. They welcomed family as friends. They were happy…and this is why she cried when he rode his motorcycle.

There once was a plan. The man and the woman would spend their years together in the little red house. They would leave the blue mountains only to see the world together. They would take every opportunity to say yes. They would dive into warm seas, walk ancient streets, drink strong coffee…perhaps they would rent a motorcycle. 


I have added a new follower feature on the left. If you want to read more, please follow me down the backroad!!


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

21.5.800 21 Day Challenge Day 8


I am struggling with my writing tonight. I feel that I have covered what drives me, what moves me, some of what I fear. I am not inspired by generic writing prompts, but tonight I am resorting to a one-word prompt for inspiration…shadows.

Shadows…those images that are in the periphery, void of detail and definition. What are the shadows in my life? Are they all worrisome or are some happiness waiting patiently for me to turn to them in the light?

What lurks in the shadows of stillness…fear of finding my weaknesses.

Often when I am awakened in the wee hours of the night, I am unable to sleep. I usually read myself to sleep within minutes when I first go to bed, but not late. I am usually awake for some period of time after putting a child back to bed or hearing the cat bound through the dining room after some phantom nemesis. I lay in the dark long enough to become aware of the shadows. These aren’t shadows of intruders or noises in the night. These are shadows of doubt…am I doing enough to education my children? Am I kind enough, honest enough, thorough enough? Am I doing everything I can to keep our family financially stable, emotionally stable, spiritually stable?

I lay and grit my teeth. I toss and turn; never really stopping to examine and resolve one topic; adding worry upon worry like layers of paint on an old barn. So, eventually, I get out of bed and find something to occupy my mind until I can rest…put another coat of paint on the barn without getting rid of the ones that came before it. Sometimes I don’t find the peace I need to go back to sleep. Sometimes I am found dozing on the couch when others start the day, having just grown so exhausted that I am able to let go for a short while.

I think I could count on my fingers the number of times I have been willing or able to simply turn the light out and sleep. I rely on books to stop my racing mind; to end the doubts long enough to allow me to rest. Eventually, the paint on that old barn begins to peel and chip. All of those coats of paint become visible again. The shadows of past mistakes; colors that didn’t suit, dirt splashed on near the ground during the rainy season…they all work themselves to the surface again.

The cracks don’t appear if the old paint is stripped before the new paint is applied. I’m not a methodical painter. I love picking the new color. I never paint my barn the same color twice. I love the thought of changing the hue. Is that because the same color means having to deal with the things I didn’t like about the old color? The shadows of unresolved issues are going to make their way back into view someday.

There will always be shadows that I choose not to see…those I choose to paint over (mixing metaphors here, I know!) But, there are shadows that I seek everyday too. I seek the ones that hold adventure. I seek the ones that challenge me to learn something new about the world.

What awaits me in the shadows of the everyday…the thrill of walking in to a strange place.

We don’t always vacation in new places. We have lived for seven years just a half a day’s drive from major cities I have never seen, yet we have not been. I have plans to go…I am blessed and cursed with wonder lust. We have simply chosen to spend our time and resources elsewhere. But, I am motivated to find new experiences in those old familiar places.

We come to the same cabin, on the same mountain every summer. But, every summer we try a new restaurant, try a new vegetable at the farmer’s market, try a different back road on the way home from town. That doesn’t sound like much as I look over the words, but I believe that part of the adventure in these small things is taking the time to see adventure in the simple. I take pictures of the cows in the road. I hang a newly fallen, moss covered branch over the picnic table to be viewed more closely. My husband mows a path to the cherry tree and spares the patch of wild mint he knows I will love. We plant grapes and blueberries banking on future adventures in this old place.

I want to take my children to see the redwoods. I want to visit the Greek Isles with my love. I want to spend a week in an eco-camp on St. John. I long for big adventures, but I relish the small ones. There are always shadows of adventure in the corners. There’s always the fog on the top of the mountain that turns the world into a fairyland. There’s always a cold soda in a glass bottle waiting in an old market on a country road. There’s always the lily of the valley that blooms around the barn, despite the many coats of peeling paint. There’s always adventure in the shadows.     

Goodbye to a special teacher

I found out today that my first grade teacher died. There are teachers I had over the years who were special, but this lady was the first and last. She was a special role model in my own life as a teacher. I saw her a few years ago and was happy to realize that my impressions as a child were not wrong. You will be missed Mrs. Cooke.
Hampton Funeral Service: Obituaries

Monday, June 14, 2010

If I Had a Hammer - Outdoor Monday

Outdoor Monday

It's been forever since I posted something for our outdoor Monday friends over at 5 Orange Potatoes...

It's easy this summer being here in the mountains. We eat, read, play, and work outside all day. It might be more of a challenge to post an indoor scene, but I'm not complaining. The big kids are wrestling up on the hill in the hammock as I write this!

Today, we got out some wood and tools and practiced driving a few nails. The kids are interested in building lots of contraptions but have no concept of the physics involved, so we are trying to remedy that hindrance to their creativity.

Happy Monday! Happy Summer!
(Missin' our friends in KY...and Daddy! Wish you were here!)

21.5.800 21 Day Challenge Day 7


I have begun several days’ writing with the words…sacred place. I hear this voice inside whispering those words whenever I am here at our farm. Allow me to clarify. We have a small raised-bed garden, a young grapevine, two old apple trees, and two small blueberry bushes. Besides that, though, it is not a working farm. It once was.

Once it was a thriving family farm with garden’s, an orchard, dairy cattle, hay fields. It was the ambitious vision of a local boy who grew up to be a lawyer in Pennsylvania, and for a time was a lawyer for the Internal Revenue Service. This local boy married a local girl and while they led their working lives with great success off the mountain, they were drawn back home. This farm was the summer and weekend retreat from the business of life. It became a family village of sorts as houses were erected for aging parents and children with families of their own. It became a refuge for extended family and friends who, like the boy and girl, needed a place, a sacred place, to retreat from life.

That boy and girl, and their children, were probably never inclined to call this place anything but the farm. As far as I know none were of the spiritual bent to call a place sacred that was not directly related to religion. But, I can see it in the eyes of the son of the boy and girl when he looks around and misses the place it was when he was a child. I can see it in the eyes of the grandson of the boy and girl; the man who has brought me to this place. Together this has become our sacred place.

I have no memory of this place in its original glory. But this man has both memories of the joys he shared here with his parents and grandparents and the time we spend here now as a family. This place holds the past and the future for him. It is the place he grew to a man and the place he watches his children grow.

Being here is like being sheltered from the world. There is work to be done. There is hard work to be done if it is to last until we are old. There are bugs and cellars and winds that make the electricity unpredictable. But there is a sense of time here. There is joy in the weeds and the sink full of dishes. There is peace in the slamming of the screen door and the rain on the tin roof.

We often wish that we could live here year-round. I wonder if we would feel the same if this were not a refuge for us, but every day for us. Would it be as peaceful if this was where we worried about paying the bills, about getting dressed for work each morning, about mowing when we had community obligations? Would we be able to sustain this sacredness of this place if it became commonplace for us?

This place is my backup plan. This is the place I yearn for when things at home become stressful. The place I think of as my refuge should I find myself alone in the world, alone to raise children, alone to grieve. It is the place where we are closest as a couple and as a family. It is the place that I want to be with my love when we are old.

I am grateful for this sacred place. At home, I have sacred spaces where creativity and conversation bloom. Here, though, is the place that makes sense. All the spaces are special. I am fully aware of the blessing of this heart’s home. There are few who find such a treasure, and I try to be present in each moment here. I try to stop and be mindful of the birds singing in the morning, of the echo of my children’s laughter in the forest, of the green and the cool and ghosts of those who have felt refuge here before me.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

21.5.800 21 Day Challenge Day 6

Motherhood for Me

My road to motherhood was different than most. Our children came to us through adoption. I did not experience conception, gestation, and delivery. I have never felt a child kick or hiccup in my womb. I have never experienced morning sickness or the glow of pregnancy. But I have experienced motherhood. I can’t imagine that my own experience has been any less than that of a biological mother, although I have no way of knowing for certain. Yet, I am so fulfilled as a mother that I have no desire to be told what I might have missed. Frankly, I think this path has offered the unique opportunity to open my heart to even more love.

When we were young, my husband and I decided to have a baby. We had discussed adoption as an option for later children, but neither of us gave pregnancy a second thought. Who does, really? When we had no success in getting pregnant we tried many different procedures and treatments to aid in the process. I do not remember most of them…what I remember is the heartache. I remember the days of anxious waiting, the tears each month when the answer was no, the desperate need to try again. And I remember the gradual realization that it would never happen.

I won’t speak for my husband but I am fully aware that I endured true grief for this child that would never be. I was shocked that this was happening to us, that we wanted to have a baby so badly and we just could not. I was angry…so angry. So many of our friends just seemed to have no trouble at all and I could not bring myself to be part of their lives. I gave up on more than a few friendships because they were able to have a baby and I was not. I tried making deals with God…looked for signs that this was it, even though I didn’t really believe in signs. And I was so sad, so very sad, and our whole life stopped. We stopped living in the moment. For six long years we lived for the future day that we would have a baby. We lost much of those years together because we were so focused on our goal.

Then, after a long time, we just stopped trying so hard to have a baby and we decided we were ready to be parents. Some may say that thought is redundant. Let me say it in a different way. We stopped focusing on ourselves. We stopped looking at the situation as a failure and started to think of the child, the children, with whom we wanted to share our lives. We were finally ready to parent.
We continued in some of the fertility treatments, but things were suddenly more relaxed. We began to explore other options, namely adoption. After looking at several agencies and varied types of adoptions, we settled on a small agency that dealt only with the open, domestic, adoption of newborns. We were terrified. We had heard so many horror stories about birthparents that change their minds years down the road or children who were adopted who had emotional problems. We heard nothing much of the success stories. Successful adoptions just don’t make for great ratings. And we were not convinced that open adoption was something with which we could be comfortable.

Could we really love a child whose birthparents were still in the picture? Wouldn’t it be easier to just have a closed adoption and pretend that this was our biological child…pretend to the world…pretend to ourselves…pretend to the child? It was not an easy concept to put into perspective. But, we believed what we read in books about the benefits for all parties in open adoptions. We believed the social worker from the agency when she said this thing works. We were terrified…but we leapt.

Eleven years later, we have been blessed threefold with children who could never be more our own if they were biologically ours. We are blessed with a huge family of people who love these children…grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins…birthparents, birthgrandparents, birthaunts, birthuncles, even siblings in some cases. And we are blessed to love them too. Yes, we love these people and are grateful to share our lives, our homes, our hearts with them. Our children know, or know of, and love the people responsible for giving them life and those who share their daily life.

As a matter of fact, we worry most about our child who has the least amount of contact with his birthfamily. There are unanswered questions for him that may remain so and we are powerless at present to help him. I can love them all with all of my heart, and I am confident that I am the one they think of as “Mom,” but I can’t take the place of their birthmom…and I do not wish to do so.

Today, I can look back at us… na├»ve and afraid…and I can smile a knowing smile. I can, with certainty, say that open adoption works for us. I can say that I am a better person because I know and love the birthparents of my children. I can say that I am a better mother than I might have been because I am responsible for a child who is also another mother’s child. And, I can say with my whole heart that if I were offered the chance to relive my life, I would ask that it all be the same…all the fear, all the grief…and all the love.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

21.5.800 21 Day Challenge Day 5

The Village

Tonight 800 words seem impossible. I know that I am avoiding further writing because I’ve stumbled on something uncomfortable.  I’m not ready to explore the questions, or I’m afraid to explore them. So, I’ll just write.

One of the topics suggested by posts about this challenge was community. This writing challenge has brought together hundreds of people who wish to find a voice and support each other. I appreciate the comments and contacts that I have received already and I am encouraged to go on writing and moving. Tonight, though, I want to speak of another community that has become so important to me.

For the last fifteen years of our marriage, because of career choices, my husband and I have lived in locations that require overnight visits from family. Calls for assistance have been answered with generous extended visits from grandparents on many occasions, but we are not lucky enough to live close enough for spur of the moment babysitters or Sunday dinners. We have struggled to find a “village” in which to raise our children.
I have written briefly about the decision we have made to homeschool our children. With the typical questions about socialization, one might believe that homeschooling would be the antithesis of community.  But, this decision had finally allowed us to find that “village” we so desire and need.

I am not the type of person who cultivates acquaintances. I genuinely like people, but have not felt the need to be with others or accepted by others to feel happy. I am an introvert at heart and draw energy from time alone. I have held miserable jobs where I was expected to mingle with peers in social situations and I have experienced panic attacks in those social situations.  I have spent years in a town without going out with anyone but my husband. For most of my adult life, I didn’t realize that a good friend might be something to celebrate. I know I never thought that being a part of a group of women could bring me such joy. Never once did I stop to think that maybe this was something I might actually need. This thing that has happened was accidental, or serendipitous, and it has changed my outlook on friendship.

There is no plot to this story; no real conflict or climax. Simply stated, my kids needed a social group to share activities with when we took them out of school. We were invited to join in a scavenger hunt and were thought of as members of the group from that very moment. The emotional part for me at first was the acceptance that my kids felt from the kids and the other parents. The surprising part was that I couldn’t shake the feeling that this group would somehow be important to me personally; important to my own well-being and to the creation of my own “village.”

When I speak of this group I really speak of individual, beautiful, loving, diverse women who came together as a means to an end (our children) and who stay together out of love, respect, and genuine interest in each other. Some of us come and go as our lives ebb and flow, but all are accepted back into the fold when we return. I feel a need to hear these women, to watch their children grow, to sit beside them in silence when they cry, and to laugh raucously when they rejoice. This I have never felt for any of my peers except my sisters. I have never felt blessed to be responsible for friendship before.  I have never felt so completely vulnerable, or so completely supported by friends before.

I wish I could say thank you, but I do not expect that of them. I expect loyalty and honesty. I expect them to love my children and to respect my right to hold political and religious beliefs different than their own. I expect them to have my back and to have my kids’ backs. I expect them to be in my life somehow when I am old, even if as a fond memory.  I expect a great deal from them, but I do so because I expect more than this of myself. I feel all of these things from them, and more.

I know that friendships come and go. I know that simple and complex things can drive a wedge between people; wedges that may stick forever. I know that this may happen someday, but really there is no someday…no tomorrow. There is only today…now. So for now, I am thankful for what I have found. I am grateful for this moment even if it all ends in the next. My belief in this connection has been established and I hope to have the mindfulness, the presence, to be ready for this to happen with others.

Friday, June 11, 2010

21.5.800 21 Day Challenge Day 4

Tonight's post is only a partial bit of my 800 words. When I read the verse below, I had in mind to write about thoughts we have that manifest into character; things like secret racism, negative self-talk, expectations of ourselves and others that are too low. As I began to write, I bypassed my intended topics and skipped right to the heart of the matter...something that has been swimming around my brain for awhile...something that I need to work through alone. So, I will share what I am comfortable with, there may be some abbreviated posts coming up in the next few days. I'll be sure to get back to my rose-colored writing soon!!


In recent reading I was struck by this Buddhist verse:
The thought manifests as the word;
The word manifests as the deed;
The deed develops into habit;
And the habit hardens into character.
 So watch the thought and its ways with care,
And let it spring from love
Born out of concern for all beings.

What struck me most was that the thought became the character in the end. This verse has been a meditative point for me for several days. What do I think that makes me who I am? What do I allow my children to think that will shape their character? What do I think of others that causes me to act in ways that change them or myself?

As a child my sisters and I were not allowed to say that we were bored. My mother always taught us that we were in control of our boredom and able to find ways to entertain ourselves, to stimulate ourselves intellectually.  I cannot speak for my sisters, but I live by that belief effortlessly today. There are times that I have difficulty not keeping myself busy. I packed six bags of books, embroidery, art supplies, and yoga mats for our summer stay. I have already been to the library here and have downloaded several books on my computer. I have plans for a garden and a few art and photography projects beginning to take shape. The thought has certainly developed into habit. I would venture to say that those who know me well would say the thought has hardened into character.

Yet, I wonder sometimes if the thought of being in control of my own boredom has developed into the habit of avoiding my own thoughts? As I looked over the writing I have done this week I found little with which I struggle. I certainly don't struggle with anything that requires medical or psychological help. Even my thoughts on fear were superficial. I have begun to wonder this week if I allow myself to think about things that truly stick in my soul.  Do I avoid intimacy with myself and does that manifest into deed, habit, and character?

I'm not looking for some serious problem and I am thankful for my life as it is and my state of mind. I just want to make sure I'm not overlooking something because I have a feeling this personal lack of intimacy, if it exists, may be effecting my relationships with others...