Thursday, December 30, 2010

Puppy Chow

In the busy atmosphere of the holiday, our home has not maintained a puppy-proof status. Elliot is gradually learning the concept of sacrifice while he picks up the remainder of Ozzie's midnight snacks. It is a testament to Elliot's patience, to his loving attitude and caring heart that he has not complained about the material objects lost. I am proud of my son for his patience with his new puppy and his acceptance of Ozzie's behavior. Overall, our family has been amazed by the puppy's intelligence and unconditional love. Born in a remote location to an owner who passed away, Ozzie and his litter had no human contact for the first three months of their lives. His siblings all died of Parvo. He's the last surviving member, born in the wild, yet shines in his willingness to be a part of our family. We have watched in amazement as he demonstrates a knowledge of basic obedience commands. He's also surprised us by playing fetch, rolling over, shaking paws and playing tag. We've had some issues with bathroom habits but he's now on day three of no accidents.
But then I am a little worried about his digestion...
Although tasty and satisfying to eat, the following can't feel very good on the way down!

New Slippers from Santa

Plastic Ski Goggles

Bakugon Battle Gear

The entire contents of two fish food containers

and one winter boot that we can't find...could he have eaten the entire thing????

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


In my past, the turning of a new year brought a sense of loss, isolation and hopelessness. Living in Michigan meant that each December 31st was a long, dark, freezing night that came with snow and ice. Ice meant that it was dangerous to go out. When I was first married and living in a remote corner of the woods, I remember preparing for the last night of the year by shopping for cheap snacks to comfort myself. I knew not to expect more than an evening watching the citizens of New York celebrate under lots of lights and a glittering, descending ball. My young adult holiday was nothing like the New Years of childhood, when our Polish immigrant neighbors invited friends to celebrate in their home, made cheery with a fireplace, lively with music, a bar, a pool table and magical for children with the animated Hobbit playing on a color television.
The last two years have been different. Finally able to travel on the dry roads in mild North Carolina, my husband and I have taken the kids to celebrate in Raleigh. This is an act of love by my husband, who always has to work on New Years Day, made excruciating after driving 90 minutes in the wee hours to get home. I want to thank him for doing this because our new tradition is something we look forward to and talk about at times when the holidays are not even remotely on our minds. Going to Raleigh for the First Night festivities also takes the pressure off the idea of the perfect Christmas. If things don't go perfectly on December 25th, we always have New Years to look forward to!
And this year, the day after Christmas, at 7:30 am, our power was lost due to the massive east coast blizzard. The perfect Christmas is always out of reach for our family, no matter how much we plan and prepare. This time we had to forget the celebratory feeling of leftover holiday food, toys to assemble and books to read, in order to hunker down for a night in our home without heat.
With packages opened, the paper cleared, we are now celebrating the simple comforts of modern living; our safety, electricity, water and forced air heat.

So, back to this business of New Years celebrating. Even in the best of circumstances such as dry roads and mild temperatures to lift our moods as we stroll the lighted, festive streets of Raleigh, there's the resolutions to consider.

In 1412, resolution in Middle English meant "a breaking into parts" which came from Latin, "to loosen."
Perhaps this is one reason why we "loosen up" with champagne after "breaking ourselves into parts" critiquing the things we want to change next year.

Resolution also means to have a "strong will, determination, a statement of intent, a vow." Alternately, it is "the act of discerning detail." It is also a "formal statement adopted by an assembly."

My favorite meaning is a combination of two definitions. The first occurs in music theory which states that resolution is the:

"Progression from dissonance to consonance; a chord to which such progression is made."

In political terms, resolution is:

"the moment in which the conflict ends and the outcome of the action is clear."

The two definitions taken together describe a fluid movement and a static moment, which complicates the idea enough to keep me thinking about what I will write on the resolution tree this year. I'm comforted that neither of these phrases suggest a promise or a vow one must keep after breaking oneself into parts.

From dissonance to consonance, from the end of conflict to a clear action...

Peace be with you in 2011.

Monday, December 20, 2010

What Christmas character are you?

Some stories in our past are so good that they deserve to be celebrated, year after year. When we think of Christmas, many of us get caught up in the mania of expectations, gift giving and must-do lists for the season. I am one of them. But this year it occurred to me that what we are really doing in December is recreating a living story. Extending from the sacred birth story of Jesus, a collection of stories grows.
After the Wisemen gave gifts to baby Jesus, St. Nicholas gave gifts to good children everywhere. We, as the living Santa, give to all of our loved ones and to people we have never met. As I was thinking of the character I most identify with at Christmas, I realized that it's not the Virgin Mother but one of the unnamed Elves.
True to my Elfishness, I am short enough to wear child size clothing. Once at my daughter's elementary school, I was mistaken for a student. I am mostly invisible, which explains why children can't see me watching them during the holidays. I have a handmade toy business on Etsy and this year at least one child will be unwrapping something created from my imagination. I'm excited about that!
But even more exciting about the 2010 holiday season is that I am giving a special gift to my family. This season I am giving them the gift of my joy instead of my stress and misery. I am joyful because I realize that it is not up to me to recreate every Christmas story; I don't have to attempt a magical Dickensian holiday, or even the Christmas pasts of my childhood. This year, I am joyfully "reading" the story that my family and friends tell as they create their own version of Christmas "present".
Elliot has already received his first and possibly most beloved gift. On Saturday we welcomed into our family an eight month old Australian Sheppard named Ozzie. Ozzie is the only surviving member of his family. When his elderly owner passed away, his mother and siblings were left to fend for themselves for three months. It took rescuers several attempts to catch him. Now he is a lively, friendly dog with eyes that melt your heart and manners that put me to shame. I'm learning about the fantastic qualities of Aussies and appreciate that this new pet will be a joy to care for. Aside from chewing Elliot's video game chair on the first night, he's been perfect. He makes Elliot laugh from his gut, especially when he licks his cheeks and ears.
Emily is in love with a very sweet young man named David. It has been wonderful to have him visit. My house is full and bustling and this makes me happy!
We have some plans with our friends, plans for worship services with our church, and an annual New Year's Eve event in Raleigh.
We are making our own story and together it is full of little dramatic moments but also regular everyday moments of boredom and anticipation.
I have so much to be thankful for this year and every year. May your season be a story of joy that fills your heart and carries you like Santa's sleigh, right into the New Year.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Gingerbread House Raffle Winners

While creating gift bags for Elliot's friends, today I received a call from Harris Teeter saying that I won the Gingerbread House Raffle.  This magnificent construction is so big it takes up most of the dining room table.  After struggling with unresolved family issues (that impact my joy for posting regularly), receiving this generous gift was an unexpected delight amid stress and residual hurt feelings. It seems that every year, I go through some type of drama with my family of origin.  I'm sure I'm not the only one out there who pays devastating consequences for failing to live up to unreasonable expectations. 
Yet this truth remains; when doors slam in my face, others open wide.  I suddenly notice people around me; church family and friends extend hugs and kind, loving words not knowing how much I appreciate them.  A simple verbal exchange between two near-strangers can become the best gift received.   There are many many ways to give this season.  Please check in soon for a post about giving and the ways we are practicing generosity in our home school classroom.  And if you, too are having difficulty with relationships this time of year, I send lots of hugs and encouragement your way.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Our first Big Name Competition is the Discovery Channel!

Well, it has finally happened!  We have our first big name competitor.  The Discovery Channel is currently marketing a product similar to Knees and Paws.  I'm delighted to see this development, because
a) It validates my idea.
b) Their success or failure can be a springboard for my future proposals to investors or companies with whom I'd love to develop a brand alliance.  If it works for Discovery, it can work for us.
c) If they decide to include knee pads, I have a chance to defend myself with a patent date.

I had an opportunity to observe the quality of their product first hand when shopping at Big Lots.  The plush is high quality, the paws are stuffed so that they feel like thick pillows on the hands.  The masks included were interesting, but I'm not sure that small children would appreciate the nose pieces.  An additional feature is that the set makes a growling noise.
Click on the link below to see what they have created.  I'd love to hear what you think!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bill Clinton Spoke to Me (and a bunch of other people in Greensboro)

Things I Remember From Bill Clinton’s Talk on Sustaining Community, Economy….
On November 29, 2010 I was blessed with a free ticket to attend the biggest name ever appearing on the Guilford College Joseph M. Bryan speaker series.  The mood was expectant and hushed as he took the stage.  With the lights low except for a white beam that caught the silver head of our former president, his arrival on stage sent a surge of positive vibrations through the crowd.
To the enjoyment of this particular group, he began by saying how much he liked Quakers.  He reminded them that Chelsea attended the Sidwell Friends School, that he lived in a town founded by Quakers, and that he loves their philosophy of community service.
In short, he made sure to begin by reaffirming his f/Friendship with those gathered to listen.
(Note to self:  If you want to captivate people and encourage listening, it is important to begin by spreading some love.)
During the talk, I found myself wishing I had a pen and paper.  Not having this aid, I made a conscious effort to memorize bits that either reinforced my beliefs in a positive way, or helped me to think about how to navigate this crazy, big, unstable world.
I discovered what interests Clinton.   As he spoke, I absorbed these key words and phrases: biochemistry, energy, the economy, the nonprofit sector, America, The World, optimism, systems that work.  I gathered that he believes America has a chance to grow into a great nation where prosperity abounds if we would stop “assuming that the next five years will be like the last five years.”
He said that “change is an occasion for grief”.
Perhaps a stab at the current administration’s campaign motto, this quote spoke to me on a personal level.
It’s not new news, but our world is unstable because of the changes it’s experiencing at such an alarming rate.  And I feel unstable too.
Lately, everything in my life is unbalanced because of decisions I’ve made.  I’m not living on the rock of my old beliefs.  I’ve had to reevaluate the way I think about life, education, career, love, family and community.  I’m at this place were nothing feels orderly or comfy in my psyche.
Even being in the physical presence of our smooth talking former President did not make this feeling of recurring uncertainty go away.
But I left the event feeling uplifted.  On the drive home, I remembered what he said about abandoning our focus on the “big picture” and shifting to the small frame.  Microeconomics is something that I can do.  I plan to “get caught trying” to grow my small business, educate my son, care for my home, build and maintain relationships.  I plan to learn more about solar energy, systems, non profits, manufacturing and finance. One small step at a time.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My teaching philosophy

So far,  Elliot is responding to our home school with great enthusiasm and a happy attitude.  Because he loves it so far, a part of me wants to get everything "right," and is intimidated when thinking about the long road ahead.  Will he learn all he needs to know?  Home school experts claim that one of the first steps to success is to develop a personal teaching philosophy.

The following is subject to change as I gain experience.  For now, this is what I believe:

The driving force behind my teaching philosophy is love.  I love to teach and learn.  I love my son.  I care about his mind, his spirit and his healthy body.  I believe in our ability to provide a great education from home.  I believe learning happens through trial and error and by learning to ask questions, and questions on top of questions.  I believe we learn through writing, which forces us to imagine and construct thought.  I believe in practice, repetition and reaching for big goals.  I believe in the practice of silence for inner understanding.
I believe that much of what we learn comes to us indirectly and from hands on experience.  Children learn by doing.  They also learn from their peers and their loved ones.

Ensuring that Elliot has regular interaction with other children is one of the big issues we face. I am confident that our home will be filled with friends and that he will continue to be invited to participate in his friend's lives as time goes forward. In the few days before starting our school, I worried he would feel the absence of his public school classmates.  I wondered if a cloud of loneliness would hang over our heads.   So far, that has not happened.  In fact, one day this week he said, "I hope I never have to go back to those bunch of tattle talers".
Perhaps the unexpected delight of being in a classroom of one can be explained by Sociologist Elise Boulding, author of A Small Plot of Heaven.  She writes,

  "It is possible to drown children and adults in a constant flow of stimuli, forcing them to spend so much energy responding to the outside world that inward life and the creative imagination which flowers from it becomes stunted or atrophied."

  After discussing the benefits of solitude for children, she goes on to ask,

"what is happening to our children as a result of the fact that their time is so heavily scheduled both in and out of school, and even increasingly in summer---that once golden time of inner ripening for the child...dare we leave space of time?  Dare we have faith in the workings of the spirit-illuminated intellect?"

 Elliot builds a labyrinth as part of a lesson on the ancient Minoan Civilization.

Elliot makes his first stop motion animation short film.

And so we're moving forward in this new decision with joy.  Our sweet boy is hugging us more.  There seems to be a shift taking place within me as I reconstruct my role from mom to "teacher mom." 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Whatcha Say Wednesday

I'm never able to be wordless on Wednesday, no matter how hard I try. So today I'm liking up with Stash Mama for Watcha Say Wednesday.  Today's questions are:

1.  Do you think you are a good friend?

  I have been a good friend to many people over the course of my life.  When I was younger I had a tendency to attach myself emotionally my friends, perhaps a little too much.  Having experienced several profound, life changing events, I now tend to look more within myself for comfort.  I do love people, and want to reach out more.  But friendship is something that grows over time.  I'm so blessed to have some very good friends who still love me despite my faults.
I'm also a Friend, as in Friend with a capital F, as I attend a Quaker meeting.  I don't know if I'm a very good Friend because sometimes I don't attend regularly or participate in community activities.  This is not because I don't love and appreciate the people there or the experience of worshiping there.  I've learned that working from home has a downside: it's comfy here and I have to really motivate myself to get out.  I'm working on that one.
2.  What household chore do you despise the most?

After dinner clean up.  I love to cook, but I'm the kind that focuses so much on the process of cooking that I stack the prep dishes instead of washing as I go.  This makes me have to face a huge mess at the exact time when all I want to do is lay down on the couch and watch the news or read a book.   The strange thing is that I don't mind washing dishes at any other time during the day.  It sort of seems like a little break, a task that I've been doing since childhood.  My husband hates to see stacks of dishes with food and junk sitting there so if I don't start clean up, he does.  Then, I feel guilty and lazy and worthless.  We keep going on like that; he starts the water as I sneak off, then I come in to help dry and put away.

3.  What was your favorite board game as a kid?

The first was Chutes and Ladders.  Then I loved one called Head of the Class.  My dad loved to play games and I  played Scrabble with him for many years before he died.  Operation was always fun too.

4.  Bonus question:  Look around the room to find something with I, J and K.

Ink pens, Jenny (that's me), and Keyboard.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My Faith in the Light

 It was only after graduating from a Quaker college that I began to practice meeting for worship with the Religious society of Friends.  Raised Catholic in a parish so small we had to have visiting priests, the New Garden Friends Meeting in my new city of Greensboro felt like coming home.  Perhaps that's because there's really not that many Quakers in the world.  In fact, half of them live in Kenya.  The other half are spread around the US and England. But while the size felt familiar, everything else about my experience was completely different.  And perfect.  And wonderful in a way that defies words.  Sitting in silence to wait upon the presence of God is an extraordinary feeling.  Even more extraordinary is when the Spirit calls me to stand up and bring a spoken message to the meeting.  Like a live wire plugged into an electrical outlet, my heart begins to hammer (hence, "quaking") until I cannot take it anymore and stand up to speak.  The messages that have come out in the last few years always seem to explain some truth or beauty or struggle that I'm experiencing and I feel immediately connected to everyone.  Today I want to share some messages from other Quakers to go along with my pictures of light.  The Light is another way of explaining God's presence within each person.

 "Men seek, often without realizing it, to know what they are and what may arise from the depths of their own being to give meaning and direction to their life" ---Howard H. Brinton

"God can lead us by more ways than one.  Some he makes ready before he sends them out, others he sends out so that they may be made ready" ---Mildred Young

Listen, then to the silence. Listen to what they say who say nothing.  Open yourself to the silence within, to the Inward Light that shines in every soul."  ---Frederick Parker-Rhodes

"Once having the vision, the second step to holy obedience is this:  Begin where you are.  Obey now.  Use what little obedience you are capable of even if it be like a grain of mustard seed."  ---Thomas Kelly

The final quote is particularly important to me now as I commence with creating a home school for our son.  And while I didn't know of it's existence before starting Knees and Paws, the line "begin where you are" is a thought that gave me the courage to try. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Monday Mugs: Best Friends

Sandie and I were best friends at GHS in Michigan.  Twenty years later we discovered we're living parallel lives in North Carolina.  Thank you fb!

Cae and I are opposites in many ways.  Perhaps that's why it's easy for me to love her.

We love Cae and her children like our own family.

Elliot and Kit Cat

Jack Jack and Thomas the Dog

My daughter Emily and I are also best friends. 

Richard is my husband, but truly the best friend I've ever known.

Looking Up

This morning I'm joining Tabitha and friends as we share our favorite quotes.

"Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you" --- Maori proverb

It is an uncomfortable reality but sending my children to public school in North Carolina has taken an emotional toll on my family. Perhaps homeschooling would be an even bigger emotional investment, an additional financial burden and extraordinarily time consuming. But as I write this post, I am two inches from achieving my childhood dream of teaching, even if the classroom only has one student: my own.
As a first grader, Elliot has spent a great deal of time in school but has apparently not learned much. And now his teacher is complaining.
Let me pause to say just this: if I have to spend four hours each night to bring him up to the standard level that is acceptable for first graders, then why am I sending him to school at all? Why send him for six hours of nothing only to have him do all of his learning at home in the afternoon?

Elliot and I have begun practicing sitting in silence with our candle in the
mornings. We are not sending desperate prayers to God to save us from what we know we must do. We just sit there in silence and feel comforted.
And yesterday, we took a break from our work to walk. It was incredibly beautiful. Just being in the woods seemed to wash away our problems. With camera in hand, I realized that instead of hanging my head down in shame, determined to work harder so that my son will succeed,

I need to look up and see the sun.

And look within for answers.

Knowing there will always be bridges to cross.

And unexpected signs of love on the path.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday Mugs and My 100th Post

As Heather says, "Mondays are hard! Blogging on Mondays shouldn't be!" This week's theme is pink.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Fall Party for 18 First Graders

I used to feel comforted in the cloak of anonymity that comes with living 700 miles away from home. In the early years of being new to this city, I began to build an identity for myself that was not based on the religious or political views of my parents, family members or first husband. I had the pleasure of seeing life through my eyes. There was not a single person to whom I felt pressured to impress with my style, intelligence or wit. I simply went to work and attempted to provide comfort to my daughter during her emotional grief that came with divorce. Being far from home meant standing up on my own two feet and living life on my terms.
But this post is not about those years...

Anonymity in one's community can be beneficial to the independent souls needing space to develop their identity, belief systems and desires. But after years of standing alone, I realized that I wanted to connect with people in a meaningful way. I made attempts to reach out and make friends, to participate in community events. It took a long time before people would actually accept my offer to participate in things. I was still an anonymous nobody with no connections.
So this year, when Elliot's teacher asked me to be the room parent, I accepted. It is an honor for a nobody like me to be asked to do something! And, even though I'm particularly busy with sales this month thanks to Halloween, I'm finding that I can manage. My to do list now has several columns. I am aware of the potential for burn out, considering what it looks like:

Etsy, Housekeeping, Meals, Laundry, Pets, Yard, Errands, Phone Calls, Email, Patent Drawings (learning CAD), Kitchen Renovation (OMG will it ever be finished???) Mothering, ARF Tulsa Event, Room Parent....

And maybe that looks like light work to most everyone reading. The things I take on keep me busy but they also keep me from sinking into depression. There's just enough things to keep me on the edge of stress without overwhelming me. I'm discovering that balancing one's life between self nurture such as taking time to enjoy lovely walks in the woods, fires in the hearth, or running at the gym with community activities is an art. To do this well, one really needs to know what they enjoy. For example, I care about the hungry but despise working in industrial sized kitchens after my stint as a lunch lady. So, you won't find me in the soup kitchen. But I do love to create things that are fun for kids. Instead of a craft, this year's fall party for 18 first graders is going be like a mini festival with activity stations. We'll have something for everyone, including:

A Mr. and Mrs. Pumpkin Head station, where students dress up pumpkins like Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head. We will add extra pumpkins for kids and pets. We might even make salt dough so they can form their own ears, noses and lips to attach with toothpicks. We'll have a box filled yarn wigs, hats, silly glasses and markers. Parents can take pictures of their finished creations.

A Cooking Station, where students are taught how to make their own flavored microwave popcorn from scratch using paper bags and regular popping corn. We have been experimenting at home with great success. I'll have to devote a post to this process as we perfect our recipes.

A Theater, with poems, stories, puppets and props.
The kids will direct and organize their own productions.

A Story Telling Station. This will be a great way to have a little break from all the activity. I might have to bring a pillow and listen to one when I start to freak out from all the busy stuff going on!

A Face Painting station. I'll be making a little sample board for the kids to choose their images. This is challenging given the fact that we are pretending that we are not celebrating Halloween.

So, if you happened to knock on my door today, you might have to clear a space to sit down. We've got multiple projects going on at once. I used to worry if things were out of place and get all out of sorts when too much was going on at once. I think its a sign that I've become a happier, more flexible, active and social person, now that I can enjoy and embrace the chaos of a fuller, more vibrant life.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Imagining the Otherwise

Maybe I have not had enough coffee this morning to write a proper title. I can't decided what to call it. Since visiting Fresh Mommy I wanted to participate in the Sunday Citar, which is all about sharing your favorite quote. Perhaps the following is not incredibly artsy or poetic, but it carries me.

"The courage to imagine the otherwise is our greatest resource"--Daniel J. Boorstin

I found it in Bernie Seigel's 365 Prescriptions for the Soul. Bernine follows this quote with an inspiring commentary. He writes:

"We are told to dream the impossible dream, but who knows what is impossible? Does it make sense to look at an enormous aircraft and think it can fly, not to mention to the moon? What are your unspoken dreams and imaginings? Write them down, and when you have time explore and develop them. If we never imagine what can be, it will never come into not thwart your children's imaginations by being discouraging and telling them to get in touch with reality. Reality is what we imagine it to be."

Since last week when I was feeling feeling defeated and fragile because people told me to "get in touch with reality," the business got busy and I feel better. Especially since one customer shared that the Knees and Paws she ordered would be used for a year.
To think that something created by my hands would be kept that long was an amazing feeling. I silently suspect that I'm not just making Halloween accessories to be thrown away or stored in a box for next year, although I did challenge myself to create something from Elliot's imagination seen here:

From the very beginning, Knees and Paws have been inspired by the way children play; the goal is to help them have a fuller imaginative experience during daily pretending.

That being said, I am thankful for the increased sales in October.

And today, for the first time in two weeks, I have a day off! I plan to fold and actually put away my laundry and take my sweet boy out. Perhaps we'll pick out the perfect carving pumpkin and fill the yard with lights. I'll be sure to listen to the ideas that flow effortlessly from his imagination. I'll take extra care to encourage him to start designing and building the jet pack he's always wanted.

With all of this talk about imagination, I feel my sense of play returning. That, combined with the cooler weather, has awakened the feeling of Michigan and the memory of so many gorgeous fall days. I'm sure that much has been written about the feeling of homesickness in fall. It makes perfect sense that there is something called Homecoming. Fall is a time to return. A time to return to the roots of our childhood imaginations. Nature proves it when leaves release their hold to lay close to their roots, falling home.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Eggshell Baby

Three times in one week, people who are close to me, whom I love, whom I admire, have shared comments meant to 'educate' me. Those comments, taken together, leave me here on a Monday morning feeling raw, bruised, and insecure.
As you know I've been building something new for my life. It's so new that it's like a baby doll made out of an eggshell. The words shared by my friends have had the effect of stomping on my eggshell baby, crushing it to bits on the concrete.
I wish I were not so sensitive. Perhaps I need some kind of emotional armor.
Perhaps I am in an eggshell of my own creation and need to emerge so that one day I can fly.
My thought for today is that I want to heal this oversensitivity and the feeling of desperation that comes with it. I should be happy and go outside, take a walk in the woods and forget words that float into nothingness in the air. I wish I had no memory of the sound and shape and feel of words like arrows flung my way.

Friday, October 8, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things

Erin at Dropped Stitches has inspired me to share a list of things that make me happy. Sometimes just thinking about them is enough to change my grumbly, irritated mood. I need a happy list today because I'm sleep deprived and cranky after my son came home with an excessive amount of homework seen here:

I love Van Morrison's Into the Mystic I have to be careful not to play it too much or it will lose it's magic.

One of my favorite movies is The Jack Bull with John Cusak. I love pretty much every movie he's ever made, especially Better off Dead and Say Anything.

I love running, hiking, kayaking and riding bikes on the park trails with my son.

Dancing with my Husband in the living room with our socks on.

Sitting in the sun on the deck with the cat on my lap.

Giving things away. Sharing time with people.

Kids of all ages.

Reading travel memoirs. Someday I may write one. I just need to pick the right destination. If you've ever been somewhere exciting and wonderful, let me know!

Granola cereal with cold milk.

The smell and taste of cider, cinnamon sugar doughnuts and crisp Macintosh apples at the apple orchard. This is an experience from my childhood that I carry with me always. When I think of home in the fall, the memory of this place wakes up the child inside.

I'm sure there are so many more happy things to remember but for now, that's enough to propel me into having a great day. I'd love to read what you love, too.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Please let this new and wonderful activity in the Etsy shop keep going! Orders are rolling out the door every day! I'm so incredibly blessed and excited. October may now be my new favorite month!
I have an idea cooking that I'm just dying to start creating. Please visit again for pics of this craziness!
So busy right now it's hard to blog properly, so I do apologize! Thinking of all my blogging friends and looking forward to reading what is going on soon. xoxoxo

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Raw Materials

Do you ever wonder why God decided on clay as the raw material for forming humans? Perhaps it was because clay is easily molded. It's basic structure and pliability makes it endlessly variable.

In one way, God and I think alike. I like raw materials and experience a deep satisfying pleasure of making something from scratch. Although it takes time, growing flowers and vegetables from seeds I've planted or a baking the perfect loaf of homemade bread send happiness bubbles through my veins. I love how formless "stuff" can be turned into beautiful, delicious or sustaining things.
Recently I discovered an old yellow laundry basket full of wood blocks at a flea market. They were just like the ones I had as a child. Although I'm teaching myself how to save and have money, they were completely worth the five dollars I spent. Taking them home and spreading them out on a rainy afternoon with my son was the most fun I've had in a while.

We pretended all sorts of things. We built houses and barns and roads. He was delighted that I spent the whole day playing and creating from our imaginations. I discovered that we both share a love of building and creating together.
So if there is a new personal metaphor for my life right now, I think it might be "raw materials".
It fits with the process of building a new business and a career for myself from scratch.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Discovering Your Personal Metaphors

I needed a day off from "work". So instead of devoting the precious early morning hours to visiting blogs, fb, Etsy, email, or the stack of plush waiting to be transformed, I went for a run.
When I came home, I decided to tend the neglected flower beds. I imagined taking a long bike ride in the afternoon and then taking my son to a local football game.

I'm still going to take that bike ride but before I do I had to write something that may only be important to me. Today I discovered a personal metaphor. I never would have discovered it if I had not been blogging this week.

Blogging helps me see things about myself and my life that a mirror or a camera cannot.
For example, while thinking of the previous post "the blue trailer", and receiving Angie's comment about isolation and a time of growth, I realized in a flash that the blue trailer of my past is a symbol...

or a metaphor.

The blue trailer is a memory rich in detail that I can make use of as a literary device in the narrative of my life. Writing from that source will help me to heal that old hurt and free myself from the power of the painful and pathetic emotions locked in that image.

The blue trailer is a metaphor for all the things I try to hide.

It's nicer to have coffee at my friend's house because then I'll never be embarrassed by my empty flower pots.

The blue trailer is the stack of dirty dishes in my sink. The smelly trash can. My weight gain.
The blue trailer had holes, and mice. Everything inside was worn. The window frames let the cold seep in. It had a terrible rust-colored couch. I had to clean out hundreds of mothballs before moving in. I think the mothballs, even after being removed, permeated everything.
The poplar trees around it blocked out the sky. The sand road imprisoned us in winter and kept people out.
The blue trailer is isolation.
It is full of anxiety about having enough money and food and gas and books to read.
It is all the things I am embarrassed to talk about.

I am so thankful not to be living in the blue trailer. I just need to search for the happy image that will become the metaphor for the life I have right now.

Do you have a personal metaphor?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Blue Trailer

There was a time when I lived in a narrow trailer in the north woods of Michigan, far removed from convenient shopping, from cultural events, from higher education, from society. One could not see a single sign of human life from my front porch. The light blue trailer, with its dangerous electrical wiring, occasional mice (thankfully gone after adopting a cat), and solitude, stands out as a sad chapter of my life. It should have been a really happy time, especially given my love for natural surroundings. I should have been happy, given that I was incredibly blessed to have a sweet tempered, beautiful curly haired daughter. But I was severely unsatisfied with nearly every other aspect of my existence. Although I was a diligent housekeeper and kept everything clean, the ugly sight of our poverty showed in every room.

In the winter and spring, our road was impassable. I used to walk a mile in knee deep snow, sliding my groceries home in a plastic sled while coaxing my daughter to follow. In spring, the mud was so thick that attending preschool was an event. We walked together, hand in hand, sliding and falling until reaching the drier road where our car was parked. When we finally arrived at her preschool, the mud stains on her purple snow pants reached above her knees. Her teacher's mouth dropped at the sight of us.
I didn't own a computer and could not afford many long distance calls to my mom. Sometimes I went to church but felt alone among the crowd.

Then I joined a Mops group and met a truly beautiful friend. I spent hours sharing coffee at her house, too embarrassed to invite her to mine.
I will always remember the loving reassurance and hope that Wendy generously gave me. Although we have drifted apart, the memory of her sweetness stands out against the gray days of my silent misery.
Although that time is long past, the experience of it continues to influence me. I want to be that kind of friend that Wendy was to me. This year I've been so blessed to meet a lot of truly amazing women...many of you who are reading this now!
Thank you for your kind comments and encouragement. Thanks for offering bits of your lives for me to read. Your stories keep me connected and full of appreciation for the struggle and the bliss of life.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why I love Custom Orders

I love custom orders because it is supremely satisfying to create something imagined in the mind of a child. On my own, I shop for colors and patterns that evoke my personal memories, such as the honey brown plush that reminds me of the Cocker Spaniel that shared our home while I was growing up in Michigan. Her name was Midget and she loved to hunt toads and bark at visitors. In the Knees and Paws Etsy shop, you will see a Chocolate Lab set that is inspired by my mom's dog, Bear. Bear is one of the star actors in our first made for television and youtube commercial. Somewhere behind the products in my shop, there might be a memory of the animals in my past. I also work with regularly occurring colors in nature that are common to all of us. Fusi and Jensen, inventors of the Tiny Tears (TM) doll say that "the most effective toys are those that simulate reality". Knees and Paws are specifically designed to simulate the reality of having fur while pretending to be an animal without overheating the body.

But my customers have wisely stated that going a little beyond reality turns ordinary into extraordinary. It is their imaginations that make outstanding contributions. While my memory provides a starting point, their minds make my work so much better.

Monday, September 20, 2010

On Peace

You know it when you have it and suffer when it's lost. I lost my peace on Sunday and am slowly coming back to it. Quakers like to say that there is no "way to peace" that "peace is the way". I've been intentionally practicing the way of peace for two years, but sometimes the "dark side" (as in Star Wars) takes over.

And here it is, Monday morning. The house is peaceful. Elliot went back to school after being out sick last week. My husband is at work. There's a candle burning in my office and the house is clean. Perfectly peaceful. Except inside my head and heart.

Losing my cool makes me weak. I don't care for the experience no matter what conventional wisdom says about 'getting it all out'.
It's exhausting and depleting. Especially this habit I have of replaying the ugly scene, over and over in my mind. In the film clip, I am the monster.
The one who hurts and stabs her love with harsh words.

So now what? I could try to analyze the source, discover where it started, logically explain to myself and those around me why I blew up. I told our son that sometimes even Mommy has to battle the dark side and sometimes she loses. Before going to sleep last night, he said "I hope my prayer worked for you, Mom. I asked God to put angel wings over you to protect you from the dark side."
And this really made me feel better. In my failure to be loving, my son's faith grew. Through his simple prayer, mine did too.

Although it's a shame that we have to learn things through negative experiences, the incident was valuable. Elliot watched first hand the way my husband responded (he remained positive despite being my target). Then he witnessed, over the course of the day, my struggle...but ultimately my ability to soften my heart and return to my peaceful self.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Knees and Paws plays Show and Tell with MOO

One day while gathering important advice from the gang at Etsy I stumbled upon MOO. At the time I was struggling with the tedious act of explaining Knees and Paws.

I mean, it takes too long to say this: I am the inventor and designer of Knees and Paws. Knees and Paws are hand and knee coverings for kids who love to crawl around playing cats and dogs. They are made of soft plush and kids love them!

My elevator speech makes me seem like a fruitcake.

In the last year I have been incredibly blessed to discover that there are kids out there who actually use and love my product. But none of those customers learned of Knees and Paws on a business card. My original business cards were a waste of paper (sorry little tree!)

The name of my product makes it look like I have some kind of pet care business. I mistakenly stamped the original cards with puppy faces and paws prints. Passing these cards around did nothing to explain what Knees and Paws are, how they look and how they are being used by children.

MOO saved me from my dilemma by allowing me to SHOW my product first, then TELL about it later.

I use these cards as a visual aid in every casual conversation I have about my work. I mail them to my customers. I am planning to order many more for a Knees and Paws display at a local fundraiser.

Because of the fantastic photographic quality on my MOO cards, I feel better about presenting my business locally. In fact I feel really excited to share it with others. Thanks, MOO. I love you.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Putting Your Mind To It

It's been rather lonely here. My few regular visitors seem to have lost interest. This makes me a little sad but living in denial won't help. Perhaps I'm failing to connect to readers in their minds and hearts.

This blog started out as a way to document my journey into business as I transitioned from college and several unsatisfying and unsafe working conditions. I was so tired of asking God and myself where I was meant to work that I simply came home. And stayed here.
I wasn't meant to continue to clean the library while my boss watched everything I did from the security cameras ( such a yukky feeling to know you're watched...different from knowing you're being read). I couldn't accept that I could never have my children visit me at work even though my workplace was a learning institution. I struggled with sleep deprivation from rising at 3:30 every morning. The sleep deprivation was what got me in the end. It's a soul stealing, personality erasing condition.

I didn't want to live in that sleepy fog so soon after quitting smoking and exercising. I wanted to enjoy my life and use my intellect and creativity to the fullest. At the time, I felt that the only person who would appreciate those aspects of myself was me.
It was Jill Bolte Taylor in My Stroke of Insight who helped me take the next steps into my new life. As she shared her story of recovery from a debilitating stroke, I felt empowered to embark upon a beginning. She taught me things about my brain that I needed to know. I started seeing myself as a person with an amazing capacity to expand my life and my satisfaction with life by taking on new challenges. Instead of saying "I'm a technophobe. I could never learn any of that stuff they do on computers" I started to try.

I'm still not at a really comfortable place doing this. I mean, yes, I'm comfy at home of course, but still there are uncomfortable aspects. There are oceans of people just like me out there, trying to sell something from home.
There is still so much to learn. But learning is an addictive sort of activity. The fact that I'm ignorant on so many fronts when it comes to business is what makes this fun for me.
And of course, I also do it to show by example the importance of trusting the still small voice inside that leads the way. There are endless possibilities to manifest the things that lay quietly under the surface. One day, my children might need a reference; an example in the real world, a story they can relate to an remember. A story that they watched unfold. I hope by the time they are making decisions about their life's work that I don't have to tell them the old cliche' "you can do anything you put your mind to". I hope they will have absorbed it as a fact of life.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Calling all Dogs! and Wildcats too...

Hi Blogging friends! Thanks for stopping by today. I haven't been writing much lately due to being busy creating new items for the shop. You don't want to miss two of my new fall items on Etsy...perfect for playing around the house or as halloween costume accessories. Both of these can be custom fitted at no extra charge. For more information, visit or email me at Look for new items all week featuring a cocker spaniel, super soft plush tigers, black cats and leopards. These are going fast!

I'd also like to send a big thank you to my most recent customer (you know who you are) for the incredibly positive feedback. Your encouragement meant so much. I'm still carrying around a bubble of happiness.

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