Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Two Days to Get Here

Two Days To Get Here

Blooming Redbuds on the purple mountain
Topped with floating gray white felted cloud mass
Skipping down the peaks.

Wet rock profile old Cherokee face
In ancient stone.  Blue back packed hikers cross
the highway on the Appalachian Trail.

We search the bare forest for dark moving
Masses, rounded shape of black bear mother
slender spring cub clinging to Beech bark branch.

I can only imagine their presence, 
the dark mounds I glimpse turning into sap
Bulging like basketballs on the gray trunks.

Tender baby green leaves bud out on branch
The wakening forest spreads out her green
As we ride the curving climbing highway
Through dynamite blasted tunnel, the pass
Opening to five lanes of rushing speed.

Clouds as benevolent Spirit beings
Appear on the blue sky theater stage.
Their drifting dance a pictoral language
While they smoosh together and separate.
A dinosaur cow dances with a pig.

A magician blows a handful of smoke.
A funny shark swims with a Star Wars ship.
An elephant holding a teddy bear
Floats past a boy about to go fishing.
Ophelia looks to the heavens and sighs.

We suck saltwater taffy, banana.
Buttered popcorn, huckleberry and orange.
We see bison in a pen on the plains.
We see homeless men in weathered faces.
Spring tries to catch us in the hilly farms.

At the bottom of one hill, we find home.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Happiness Jar: Ninjas and Bridges

I have fallen out of habit once again.   The happiness jar sits on my stereo, half full.

But now I'm reminded to fill it with the upswelling of love that continues to float around my heart.

Like observing how  Elliot is cultivating a source of joy for his life through acts of giving.  Last month he raised 125 dollars for his cause through a bake sale. We delivered the funds on Friday.  The conversations he shared with the organizers at the IRC day center can only be described as effervescent.   Elliot is bubbly on an ordinary day, but was popping with charm in this special place where people gather to simply "be."

 While we drove away to celebrate giving with ice cream, he said "I feel so happy.  This is the best feeling."

Elliot is learning that giving is a renewable resource for feel-good living.   When I asked him what the highlight of his weekend was, delivering his "ninja bread" money to help people experiencing homelessness was at the top of the list.

It was even more special than wining first place in a bridge building contest.

And that teaches me something about my own ambition.

After the bridge competition, Elliot went back to "work" on a new t shirt design based on his original Elliot's Ninja character "Ninjability."  Ninjability represents the spirit of ability in the face of adversity and challenge.  This character developed in collaboration with our friend James Terpenning, who won a contest on Elliot's Ninja Art Facebook page.  James helped Elliot to understand that people who navigate the world by wheels often have abilities that exceed normal expectations.  As a member of the basketball team "The Rolling Hoopstars," winner of Extreme Home Makeover, and one of the orphans who were flown out of Vietnam during Operation Babylift, James inspires us by his incredible life story and the impact he makes in his community.

Here is the latest version of Ninjability, which Elliot plans to list in his Etsy shop this week.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Living History

This weekend, we were spectators of war.

It was part of our unit study on the Revolution.  Elliot and I have been learning about the events that led the colonists to unite and declare independence. Each spring, there is a battle reenactment on the grounds of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse.  It is an impressive display of gorgeous costumes and camps.   

Elliot was able to sit near the front row of the battlefield.  

We learned that the Religious Society of Friends set up a temporary hospital in the meeting house.  A mass grave of Revolutionary War Veterans from both sides exists in the cemetery. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

I noticed this today

I noticed this today.   A disengagement of interest happening.  I am less interested in activities that used to bring energy into my heart.

Where have I drifted?

I do not know what it means.  I do not know if it matters.

Right now I'm reading a book on writing.  I am going to share a passage so that when I copy each word I will remember that it once changed my writing.

From Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg:

     Who's going to give you the authority to feel that what you notice is important?
      It will have to be you.
      The authority you feel has a great deal to do with how
      you write, and what you write,
      With your ability to pay attention to the shape and
       meaning of your own thoughts
      And the value of your own perceptions.

      Being a writer is an act of perpetual self-authorization.
      No matter who you are.
      Only you can authorize yourself.
      You do that by writing well, by constant discovery.
      No one else can authorize you.
      No one.
      This doesn't happen overnight.
      It's as gradual as the improvement in your writing.


Blue Sky Weekend

      I took this picture two days after our last big snow/ice event, feeling so thankful that we made it through without any damage. We were one of the lucky families to keep our power.  During the storm, many trees were lost, inflicting damage to businesses, homes and vehicles.

       Winter here is different than I was used to during my life in the north.  While incredibly heavy snows and steady sub-zero temperatures have been  frustrating  maddening for my family in Michigan and Ohio, I cannot even mention the weather without seeming ridiculous.  Yet when winter strikes us in NC, it means damage and danger on the roads.  It means layers of ice, which makes it unsafe to go out.  During a typical Michigan winter, one embraces the snow, straps on a pair of skis or skates, and enjoys the white wonderland.   Here, we are lucky to have a few hours for sledding on a half mud, half snow covered hill because as soon as it snows, the sun generally appears to melt it.  And in the short time that winter descends in all her ferocious glory, people have to struggle with loss of heat, water, and lights, closed business and schools, and cabin fever.

       The cabin fever that arrives after two days of ice tells me how soft I have become in the last 12 years.  Living in an extreme climate instills an undefeated resilience within.  For years I lived in remote areas of northern woodlands, isolated from community in winter and spring, where melt water made the roads so muddy that it was impossible to drive.  We used to park our car nearly a mile away and hike in to our home.  I would put our groceries in a plastic sled and drag them to the house.  When it was time to take Emily to preschool, I covered her in snow pants and boots and we walked to the car in mud so slippery and deep that she fell several times.  When we got to school the teacher wondered what in the world could have happened.
   During the heaviest snows, I went for weeks without going anywhere or seeing anyone other than my child and my husband.  Cabin fever was a big reality.  I've noticed that here in the south, where I am used to getting out every single day, two days of being stuck inside can bring on a grumpy mood.   I am completely spoiled.

Recently we had snow that came down in feather sized flakes, so much more magical than the icy slush storm.   For Elliot, snow is peaceful and magical.  I hope he always keeps that sense of wonder.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Obstacles in Writing

I have just finished reading a powerful book.  It's called The Undefeated Mind by Alex Lickerman, MD.  If you don't mind reading through some densely worded, hair splitting scientific jargon, there is gold to be found within each chapter.

Today's post is about identifying obstacles in writing.  According to Lickerman, just noticing your obstacles is what you need to navigate around them.  I'd rather walk around my obstacles when I see them appear, instead of bashing my head against the same brick wall.

After I made the following list of obstacles, I made this surprising discovery:  some of the obstacles have also been reasons why I write.

What stops me from writing are:

1.  Unexpected events such as the flu, subpoenas, storm preparation and violent weather.

2.   Interruptions from family such as random talking and questions.  (Conversations I have with my family have also deeply enriched me as a writer...I'm talking about the little daily questioning and favors which are totally normal in parenting and something I'm not resentful of.  I have to be an attentive listener as I'm also a home educator, and this is a privilege. I also cannot deny that my writing is fragmented when I'm interrupted).

3.   Television noise.

4.   The draw of Facebook.  (I have also been cultivating my writing voice in that realm, but it is a double edged sword.)

5.   Draining social events (play group, co-op meetings, science Fridays)  These are so enriching to Elliot that I will not sacrifice them, but after a long day of multiple conversations, I'm wiped out!)

6.   Grocery shopping/errand day.

7.   The annoying and manipulative game the cat plays with me as soon as she notices me at the desktop computer. (in, out, in, out, in, out, meow, in, out, in out, meow.)  

8.  Texting.

9.   Insecurity in presenting a distorted or privileged view.  (My loved ones do not want to be represented in my writing, and I respect that. However, it's an obstacle because due to the relationships involved, I automatically avoid writing about a complex or interesting story.  I fail to think about the ways I could possibly address that story without harming someone's ego or risking their need for security.)  Is the the door to fiction?

10.  Perfectionism.  The backspace button has destroyed more words that I can count.

11.  Idealism.  When I want something to be a certain way, I might tint the writing with rose colored glasses.

12.   Comparisons.   I often feel like I am coloring with crayons next to a master.

13.    Anger.  When I'm in an angry mood, I am often afraid to give that emotion more power on the page.

14.  Feeling overwhelmed with responsibility. Family, home, education and social connections are the stuff of life.  My priorities are in the right place, but there must be room for more writing.

Ironically, anger was the catalyst for a big action I'm taking now in writing.  In the Undefeated Mind, Lickerman advises us to turn "poison into medicine."  I discovered that telling a certain kind of story has the power to restore me to a place of health and freedom.

What are your obstacles in writing or in any kind of goal you might have?  Making this list was an empowering activity.  I plan to make new lists of obstacles for other areas of my life, such as business and fitness.  I think it could be applied to relationships as well.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Story That Took My Anger Away

This week I was fighting mad!  At no less than about four people, all at once.  It was a lot to carry by day, and difficult to put down at night.  Sometimes I'd wake up at one a.m., frustrated that the noise in my head carried on in my subconsious.  Negative feelings are so upsetting to me.  When I'm in this kind of attitude, it's so hard for me to break free.  I don't eat healthy or work out often, I forget to turn to my creative projects, and I steam like a pressure cooker.

Then bad little things start to cluster around the anger, like accidents and injuries.  Like burning my hand in hot grease, throwing out my back and getting a huge crack in my windshield.  The vacuum also broke during my bad spell, and I barely touched it.

One of my friends says I have incredibly powerful intention.  When I'm mad, other things start falling apart around my negative cloud.  The cat even peed on the carpet on Valentine's day.

During this funk, I barely noticed other people.  But just now, after telling a story about a friend, the anger melted completely away.  So I thought I would share this story with you, in case the writing of it heals me further, and that you experience a lifting.

My friend Anna (not her real name) and I have known each other since high school.  Anna was an only child growing up, and I loved going to her house. I enjoyed times we spent together either one on one or with a group.  She was the kind of teenager that other teen girls felt safe with and drawn to (possessing a rare combination of energetic spunk, edgy wit, beauty and fierce loyalty). She had four cats who used to eat their dinner on the counter top.  She taught them to fetch crumpled Dixie cups.  One of the cats was named Fan-belt, because he survived a harrowing encounter with a fan belt when they started the car.

Anna was generous with love.  She gave me a going away party when I went to college for the first time.  I have kept those cards that were given to me that day, along with a Christmas ornament she had engraved with the words "best friends."

Alas, college life was really a huge distraction for me, and with my father's cancer battle, I lost touch with my dear friend.

Until several years ago, and the life changing event of Facebook. (I'm sure there are a billion stories of those reunions..but I never tire of them).  Since then I've enjoyed renewing our friendship while we share little things online.  I learned that for many years, she was a special education teacher.  She would post pictures of herself with some of her students with a caption that read

 "Down's is not a disability, it is a gift."

She loved her students and would often invite them for events at her home where she helped them to learn horseback riding.

Anna also has three wonderful kids who regularly earn top honors in academics and 4H.  They are a family that stay so incredibly active I wonder how all of it fits into a 24 hour day. A few years ago, Anna and her children experienced a huge life change...she fell in love, finished her college degree and remarried.  Soon after the wedding, this brand new blended family relocated to a different state and purchased a farm.  She began working full time for 4H, a job she was thrilled to begin.  Months later, she announced yet another life changing event...an upcoming arrival of a baby boy!  The announcement was shared in a picture of rows of cowboy boots, the tiniest boots standing in the front row.

While she was carrying this sweet baby, she took her family to Disney World.  (My friend is obviously stronger than Superman and has more stamina than a triathlete).

For years, Anna's posts have brought me happy feelings.  I'm encouraged and inspired by her life and awestruck by the changes that keep rolling through in such rapid succession.

 Two weeks ago, Anna's  baby arrived.

His name is Colt.

He is the most beautiful baby.

He has Down Syndrome.

Deep in my core, I understand that God knew exactly where to send this precious soul.  To my friend with the biggest heart for ALL children.

So, quite suddenly, I'm no longer angry.

  Here is what my friend wrote under one of the first pictures of her new son:

"This is such a blessed experience."

*****And would you believe me if I told you that their Sow recently gave birth to piglets?  It's a house full-to-busted with babies and love.

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