Thursday, March 31, 2011

What Can You Do?

  There is an American phrase I've often heard that expresses hopelessness.  People say it in response to another person's struggles.   After someone tells a long story about their difficulty with politics, money, or medicine, I've heard the listener say, exhaling with a sigh,

"What can you do?"

Which has the effect of ending the conversation (sometimes, to the relief of the listener).

Yesterday, while browsing the Etsy blog, I came upon that phrase again.  Only this time, it was used in a different way.  Tara Gentile, editor of Scoutie Girl is hosting a workshop based on the question "can it be done?"

Which is a phrase to live on.  While "what can you do?" symbolizes defeat and hopelessness, "can it be done?" opens up possibilities.   The reason is that "what can you do" is a question with millions of possible answers.  It is open ended and vague.  "Can it be done?" requires only two responses: yes, or no.

Sound confusing?  Thanks for hanging in there with me to this point.   I realize that because the majority of my day is spent with my son, it seems that he is the only topic I write about.  Perhaps this gets rather boring and predictable for folks.   Today, I wanted to talk about something different.   I wondered if I could write about something other than parenting.  I wanted to write about  how we change our way of thinking so that we can set great things in motion. I thought, "can it be done?"

  When thinking of something you have wanted to do for a long time, ask yourself, "can it be done?"  If the answer is yes, even if it is a meek, uncertain yes, then go out and do it! And be sure to tell me about it later.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why we don't float through life

 My son is light hearted, seldom moody, and surprises me with his intelligent and introspective observations of the world and of things unseen.
Recently he's been working out that unsolved mystery of how God came into being, using the words "universe" and "poof."

To my mind, those words explain it completely.

When I told him that some of the questions he asks are questions that scientists still don't know the answers to, he had a moment of silent awe.

Elliot asks series of questions that start like this:

"Mom, why do some balloons float?"

"Because they are filled with a special kind of gas called helium, which is lighter than air.  Think about a pool of water.  The water is heavier than your body, which is why if you lay really still and hold your breath you can float on top of it, just like a helium balloon in the air."

My explanation not being entirely scientific produced this response:

"Well, if people fill themselves with helium can they float in the sky?"

"No, I'm sorry to say this but it doesn't work that way.  If you fill yourself with helium it just makes you talk funny."  Then I demonstrated what it sounds like by talking to him in a funny, high voice.

After laughing about that for a few seconds, he said that he wished God made people with the ability to float in the air, and I agreed.

But there must be a reason why we just can't float through life.   Maybe it's because walking is a nice thing to do.  After all, if we could float, we might miss the fun activity of climbing trees.

Or the simple pleasure of walking along a sunny path.

If we could float, we might miss noticing the color and detail of small things rooted in the ground.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A low moment

Well, I've had my first real stumbling block.

I've experienced my first incident of cyber bullying through the Etsy shop, of all places.  This event has shattered the Utopian image I had been forming...

 But I'm going to keep moving forward with my good intentions. 

I'm going to stay positive.

There are people who claim to have connections, fame, power and influence.  I say, if you don't have your heart in the right place then you can't have my respect, goods or service. 

Perhaps it was inevitable to discover people like this along the way.   Thankfully, I am not so weak as to feel bad about my little handmade business, even in its humble infancy.  

To my blogging friends, today I especially appreciate you.  You are authentic, real people with great big hearts.  

Spring or Winter?

Spring snow happened in North Carolina yesterday.  It was amazing to see the huge flakes and hear the sound of my son jumping out of bed to announce this miracle.

It seems like we were just out in the back yard, digging a deep hole for a little fish pond and turning over a layer of soil for the vegetable garden.  It's frustrating to be going strong on a project only to have it stalled. I wonder if I have become a person of leisure to let a few snowflakes stop me from a rigorous outdoor project.  Instead of dressing warmer and going out anyway, I talked Richard into buying a box of wood for the fireplace and we sat inside on a quilt, cuddling for an entire day.   It was truly restorative for the soul.  But when I woke up I realized that all that laying around for no reason is not good for the body.
We should have practiced playing catch instead!

Today we will go out and enjoy the lovely dogwood trees in bloom.  Perhaps we'll take a snack and head for the woods.  We've been learning about truffles, how they grow on the roots of oak trees...and that some people are selling them for $800.00 a pound!  Perhaps its time to teach the dog a new trick!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Forest Kindergartens

    Yesterday, while scanning the bulletin board at our church, I was captivated by an article about the first Waldkindergarten in the United States.  Cedarsong Nature School, located in Vashon, Washington, accepts children ages 3 to 5 and is held entirely outdoors.  While gathered for three hours in the woods, the children are free to roam, make hideouts, sing, gather for snacks and play.  They learn about the medicinal value of plants, make unique nature journals, create musical instruments and tell stories.    The goal is for the children to learn through direct experience with nature.

   I would have loved for Elliot and Emily (when she was little) to have had this experience.  Alas, there is nothing like that here.  In fact, although our public elementary school sits on a piece of property with direct access to miles of wooded hiking trails, a lake and an outdoor ampitheater created specifically for the school, in the last year of our walks behind the school, we have not seen one class gathered there. 

   This is in complete contrast to Cedarsong, which says

"Our programs are designed to fully engage children and adults in exploring the natural world while encouraging their sense of wonder. Our aim is to inspire a deep appreciation for the natural world by providing hands-on experience and opportunities to feel comfortable in the outdoors, developing lifetime skills they take with them wherever they go. Through the ongoing study of natural and cultural history, our participants deepen their understanding of the world around them, building a heartfelt relationship with nature and community."      

Friday, March 25, 2011

A simple thought to inspire

Today I'm borrowing this one from Happy Momma

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. 
Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that.
 Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." 
-Harold Thurman Whitman

How will you discover what makes you come alive?

Thursday, March 24, 2011


     I admit it freely: I am not a big goal setter.  It was only in the last year that I started to regularly use a calendar.  As Bill Bryson says, "life is more fun if you can treat it like a series of impulses."  This, from a guy who is actually very successful, having written loads of popular books and traveled the world.   But I wonder, is it really possible to be impulsive while also being respected and financially secure?

     I am inspired by two main things:  avoiding serious discomfort and experiencing satisfaction. I don't even have to be happy all the time.  Reasonably satisfied is an okay way to glide through life.  Lately, I feel like I'm more on target with Buddhist notions about staying in the center.

    But is this a consequence of turning 40?  I will reach that milestone in a few weeks.  I would love to go out and spoil myself with a new spring wardrobe but have suddenly realized that my shape is not what it once was.  I am caught between wanting to have fresh new styles but hating the teenage junk that's on the racks.  And who will see me besides my family, the people at the library or the post office?  I have been so conservative with gas that I don't just jump in the car and take rides to new locations anymore.  I've become boring!  My idea of being impulsive these days is to dig a little fish pond in the back yard for Elliot.  And hope that I don't pay for it with a sore back.  North Carolina soil is hard, red clay.

    Thank goodness my daughter is coming home for spring break.  I need to remember what it feels like to be youthful and to experience impulsiveness again through her animated story telling.
        Today is day two of spring cleaning.  I think I turned a corner yesterday by getting through the kitchen pantry (which is also a store room) and my walk in closet...I donated everything that didn't fit and gave up hope of fitting into the skinny jeans!  Which was liberating.  I hope you enjoy your weekend and have lots of sunshine and spring joy~

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Press the Moon Button

This character is named "Elliot"  He is surprised to find himself on the moon.
 Elliot finds that walking on the moon is difficult because of the bulky suit, the air tank, and the lack of "a lot of gravity".  He is surprised to discover that "there are no aliens, as usual."
When he returns home after a scary experience that involved a crack in his shield, he tells a reporter about his adventure.

This is a story about a boy who learns to ride a bike after years of practicing.  He ends up riding all the way to a city where he discovers a skyscraper.  Upon entering this tall building, he walks into an elevator.  In the elevator, there is a sign that says
"Press the Moon Button"
The rest of the story tells of what happens after the fateful moment when he presses the the button.

After Elliot started telling and writing this story, he kept thinking of things to add.  In then end, to my great surprise and delight, he ended up with well over 200 words.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Experimenting with my new (used) camera

A Soft Landing

        An event has occurred today that I want to share with my blogger friends.   Several months ago, I was led to a blog called Trains, Tutus and Teatime.  Written by Corinne Cunningham, it is a story of her life as a mom of two young children.  Corinne has a beautiful, thoughtful writing style and a great eye for capturing small, sweet moments in her photography.  Corinne is a recovering alcoholic who has a brilliant mind to match her sensitive, generous heart.
     When I visit her blog, I see life differently.  I am reminded to invest more time noticing small, fleeting moments.  Reading her blog has improved the appreciation I have for my own life.   As an ex smoker, I celebrate her journey of turning away from a destructive lifestyle to embrace hope and love and simplicity.
    Today I am celebrating Corinne.  I want her to know that I have been touched by her writing many times, and uplifted by the moments of her life that she shares with her readers.
    In the last few weeks, I have been anticipating the opening of Corinne's Etsy shop, A Soft Landing.   Today, it is officially open.   Congratulations, Corinne!  

Welcome to Etsy!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

If You Build a Boy a Tree House

If you build a boy a tree house, he's going to want a friend to go with it. 

A friend to look up to.

A friend who is worth waiting for.

A friend who will help construct your dreams when you are small.

Who will be there with you to enjoy the view.
After a dinner of hot dogs and hamburgers, Elliot wrapped his arms around Richard's neck and said, very sweetly, "Dad, you are my dad.  And you are my friend.  I love you. You are my best friend and I love you so much."

And Richard told Elliot how good that made him feel. He said that sometimes he needed to be a dad more than a friend, and that was because he loves him more than anything else in the world.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Power of Anticipation

   As I browsed the shelves of our library, the glossy light blue spine of Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project caught my eye.  It was just the kind of book that I like these days.
   While Rubin's perfectionism is something that makes me feel a little messy, her attitude and approach to improving the quality of her life is honorable.  I especially like that she studies happiness in a scientific way, and develops a method to apply this in her own life and to share it with the world.
    According to Rubin, one variable affecting a person's level of happiness is anticipation.  And this discovery is in contradiction to the great meditation practices that attempt to teach people to stay focused on the present moment.

    I have a big imagination.  I practice anticipation instead of meditation.

     In anticipating that I'm going to have a wonderful life, I do.   It is a useful tool that creates joy in my life.  Today I am anticipating the arrival of my new (used) camera.  It is the first camera that I've ever purchased. Having a husband who understands technical language has allowed me to focus on other things, so it was a great feeling to do this for myself.

     While my happiness gets a boost in anticipating great things, this cycle of hope can also work in another way.  In anticipating the worst, my emotions immediately plummet.   During my father's battle with cancer, I anticipated the suffering he must have felt.  I even went so far as to project that I would share the same fate.   While he was sick, I felt sick.  While he slept for hours, I felt tired.

     This is why I have an aversion to watching the evening news.  It's hard for me not to imagine and anticipate the entire obliteration of our planet.
     But this morning, before getting out of bed, I prayed for a miracle for Japan.  It helped me to get out of bed and anticipate something good.

      I know this might seem childish or unrealistic of me.  But I need to have faith in good outcomes.  I need to see the first rays of light on the horizon, a sign that anticipates a brand new day.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Playing it Cool

   I sometimes forget to give up my problems to God.  To keep my cool and remember that it's okay to ask for help.  Perhaps my nerves have been on the edge this week due to the horrifying disaster in Japan.  It's difficult to go on with ordinary life when thinking about the massive suffering and fear that so many people are experiencing right now.   I know that we are all connected.  It unsettles me.

   And I have been drinking way too much coffee.

     Yesterday, I couldn't access my business email account.  This made me nervous.  So I kept trying to change the password, over and over.  I felt violated.  I had to learn about phishing.  This sent me into  a minor anxiety attack.  But then, just as I was sweating a little and tearing up, I remembered that the most important thing to do at the moment you feel most helpless is to ask God for help.  To tell Him that you don't know how to solve this problem.  Then walk away with trust and faith.

     So I did.  And I felt better.  I remembered to relax and think of all the other things in life that are so much more important than an email account.  I called my mom and had a nice long conversation.   Then Elliot read a bed time story to me while we cuddled with Ozzie.

     This morning, I was able to access the email account.  And I discovered some pictures that Jen from Tutu's Bliss had sent that I didn't even know were there.    Opening that missed email was a gift. 

 A gift that I wouldn't have discovered if I had not been paying close attention to every email in my inbox.  
I'm celebrating this as a sign to keep moving forward.  

And to remember to pray when I feel most helpless.  Every time I see an image from Japan, or have a thought of the people who suffer.  Or when I wonder what impact this has on our planet.  Or when I worry that major disasters keep happening all over the world.

I know we are not meant to live in fear.
But sometimes I can't help it.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pop Up Playground

There is a grassroots movement happening now that I love.  It's all about families with children coming out to play.  I am borrowing this picture from Kaboom's website today in the hopes that it inspires us to think more about inventive ways to create communities where children can play with one another outside, in their neighborhoods.   In this picture, kids have been generously supplied with a variety of items that they can use to build their own pop-up play ground.  It is just the type of play that I used to do growing up.  The pop up playground here is more than just a playground.  Designed by the children, it suddenly becomes a street festival where imagination lives.  I want to do something like this in my community.  For more info, please check out the Kaboom! Hot Topics in Play page on this blog. Or click on this link:

Friday, March 11, 2011

Weaknesses into Strengths

  Language and information bubbles around us, as we swim in a soup of facts, ideas, philosophies and opinions. We are media saturated.  And given that we are enmeshed in the exchange, it takes bull-headed determination to remain faithful to one's internal thoughts and voice. Luckily, being bull-headed is my natural attribute.  But often I feel like my interaction with the internet is similar to shopping in a bargain basement flea market.  Lots of stuff to sift through in the search for something valuable.  It can leave a person feeling defeated and mind-numb.

    Yesterday, I just needed a break.  I turned from my computer screen but found myself needing a print fix, so I picked up a book.  It was the only thing to do since I was experiencing an episode of mild food poisoning.  I had taken Elliot out to lunch as a way to add variety to our routine, but ended up spending the rest of the day on the couch with Bryson's Neither Here Nor There.  At first, I was amused by his comical storytelling, but midway through, I realized that this guy's journey around Europe felt pointless and sad.   I haven't finished it and I probably won't. 

     While I read, Elliot watched PBS.  I'm not sure what program was on, but I heard the phrase, "turn your weaknesses into strengths".   This was something I'd heard a long time ago, but never fully appreciated.  Then, this morning, I read the same thing on the Triumph and Tears Blog.

     I think God knows that my weakness is that I don't really listen to Him the first time.  He always has to repeat Himself.  So, this time I am going to take the hint.  I am going to examine a few weaknesses and attempt to turn them into strengths.

     Despite my weakness being that I don't listen the first time,  I have been attempting to help Elliot turn a weakness into a strength since we started home education.  After that terrible first grade conference when the teacher told me that Elliot could not write properly, he has just finished writing a 200 word story for the Go! Writer's Contest.  After the April 29 deadline has passed I will post some pictures of his work.  Our goal was to show Elliot the amazing progress he's made in his writing skills.  I am proud of his accomplishment. I am truly delighted that he is now writing sentences that are neatly written.  Every week, there is improvement. 

   It reminds me that there are things within each one of us that we didn't know were there.  It makes me wonder what I have yet to find within myself. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

On Life's Path

     Wow!  I feel like a nut that's been cracked open.  No one told me that blogging could be such a deeply personal kind of thing.  After a year of posting, suddenly I have some feelings attached to it.  While I understand that the unspoken rule here is honesty, I happen to like a little sugar with my truth.  So thank you, Michelle, for the very kind comment you posted yesterday.  I want to believe what you said.  In my liberal interpretation of teaching and learning, I've often thought that it doesn't take an official title to be a teacher (I consider myself to be one as I home school), and that it doesn't take a publishing house to make a person a writer.  
     For the first time in my life, I am doing exactly what I want to be doing.  Thank you, Thisisme, for helping me to realize this fact.   Your comment helped me to see that I am not like the Biblical Jonah, hiding in the belly of the whale, avoiding at all costs the calling to be a school teacher. I realize now that my childhood dream was

a.  the only response I could offer at family gatherings when aunts and uncles asked that question "what do you want to be when you grow up."  I was six years old and the only jobs I saw available to me in my rural town were teaching, mothering and farming.  Farming involved poop.  So did mothering.
b.  an idealized picture of me writing neatly on a chalkboard.
c.  I loved my teachers so much that I wanted to be lifelong friends with them.  When I grew up and moved away, they weren't there anymore.

     God has led me down so many paths and not one of them led me back to a brick and mortar classroom.  It's a great feeling to know that I can make a life for myself outside the security of the institutions that dominated my life for so many years.  Thinking about leaving behind a childhood dream to pursue something new and unexpected has helped me to stretch.  It is a faith journey.  It is my way of being a teacher to myself.

     I did not know how to operate a sewing machine when I started this activity.  I did not know how to make my computer do what I wanted it to do.  I knew pretty much nothing about photography (and am still working on that).  So if there is a lesson, it's that we all have something called neuroplasticity.  We each have the ability to rewire our brains to do things that we never thought we could.

      I am so thankful that this business wasn't on my to do list.  Because, if it was, the sheer number of things that I would have had to teach myself would be so overwhelming that I would have walked away.  Thankfully, I get to teach myself, in small, manageable chunks, and stay at home while reaching out to my community.  I have made some GREAT friends.  And, BONUS! I have customers who are not only satisfied but excited to be a part of something new.

It's true that I fall into the learner camp more than the teacher camp.  But this is okay with me.  One day, the memory of the things I learned will stand out more than the things that I taught.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

List Making

       Working at a steady pace with no interruptions is one of my favorite ways to spend a day.  I don't work with a to-do list, I just dive in and go...from one room to the next.  In the yard, I work randomly until I'm tired enough to fall into bed.  I would even choose a day at work over a day at the beach for the satisfaction it brings.  I'm not a workaholic, ambitious, or an over-achiever.  One look at my resume and you'd see that I've accomplished little more than a string of entry level jobs and an undergrad degree.  Starting a business was a huge leap that forced me out of my comfort zone.  I like to read books and do ordinary things.
      So when I discover people who are trying to rehabilitate themselves from depression and anxiety by creating bucket lists, I secretly wish I had that kind of motivation.   Maybe it's because I'm sitting here in my pajamas with my coffee growing cold, but I can't think of anything I want to achieve or challenge myself to do.
    Someday I will die.   I want my life to have meant something, just like everyone else.  But unlike Randy Paush, I did not achieve my childhood dream (which was, since age six, to be a school teacher).
    I did not become a writer of books.  This blog is all I've got.
    I live in a house with a yard in a beautiful city.  But that is not my achievement. I help maintain it.
    I wrote a patent application but somehow people don't consider my invention a real invention since it's not  a technical thing ( love those self important folks who ask "what did you invent?")

  On the other hand, I continue to give as much time, love and attention to my family as I can.  I support them in their dreams and through their problems.  I mostly continue to live my life as it naturally unfolds, through the passing of time and events.  I try to handle problems with wisdom and common sense.  I continually try to be practical and frugal.   One of the most wild and unpractical things I've done was to go to hang gliding school and hike part of the AT.  So maybe there's hope for me yet.
  I guess it's time to think about what I really want my life to be about. What could I do to deepen my experience and appreciation for this daily kind of life? Perhaps this only happens when we get seriously ill and are near death. When we are limited physically, we fantasize about doing normal things like laundry.  A few weeks before he died of cancer, my dad risked being seriously injured when he walked down to the basement with a basket of clothing.
Do you make lists of things you want to do, things that will expand your life?  I'd love to know if  you found it to be effective or self-defeating.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Baby Pictures

I've been thinking about the rapid change that takes place in the first six years of a person's life.  When did he stop being a baby? 

And grow right out of these little shoes?

Yet, he is the same little scientist he always was.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Traveling the World

     I am a world traveler.  For a glimpse of my trip to Europe, click here
If you just returned from reading that vignette, then you'll understand that being anonymous in a foreign land is not entirely pleasurable for me.  While I enjoy and appreciate the perspective, landscape, culture and people of various parts of the world, I rarely think about planning trips outside the US anymore.  And this is a shame, because there are many places I would love to visit. 
     England is high on my list, given that I am somewhat of an Anglophile.  This is a contradiction to the Native American in me, but I can't help it.  I love all things English.  I have a degree in English Literature.  Studying the great works of that nation gave me great pleasure while challenging me to higher levels of thought.  I love the rock music that comes from England.  My new faith practice even comes from England, although the Quakers left their homeland to find religious freedom here.  I love the images of its countryside and the people who live there.
     Yet, here I am, plugging away at my desktop (not having a laptop or a capable phone that would allow me to travel outside these walls for coffee at Starbucks).   I'm not searching the web for destination packages that would truly be a worthy way of spending the entire tax refund plus adding some debt.  I'm being conservative, frugal, practical, and will get my travel fix by reading Bill Bryson's Neither Here Nor There.  Which may lead to a real trip to Europe given that after reading his A Walk in the Woods I actually went out, bought expensive boots and hiked parts of the Appalachian Trail.  While the famous author did not see a single bear, my husband and I enjoyed seventeen bear encounters within four days.  This reminds me that passively reading about traveling and actually going somewhere is different.
     As a passive reader, I've traveled to every continent.  In the last six years, most of the books I choose to read for pleasure are travel memoirs.  A psychologist would say that I have a subconscious desire to escape.  Perhaps that's true.  Don't all moms who work from home or stay at home have these desires?  Perhaps the novelty of lovely North Carolina is fading.  I want to be excited about living here, the way I was in the first few years of moving here from Michigan.  It is lush and green and bursting with color in spring.  This month, walking around here with be an optical buffet of color.  First, the daffodils, then the redbuds.  Next the pears, peaches and cherries.  Then, my favorite, the dogwoods.  Never in my life have I witnessed so many blooming trees.  But I've never been to Hawaii, except by way of blogger.   I would also love to visit the pacific northwest and see my friend Michelle.  
    But for now, it's time to be content with where I am.  I know that there are certain philosophies that teach us how to have bliss by sitting in one place and breathing, being mindful of the blessings we enjoy on a regular basis.
   But if I sit here too long, I'm afraid that I'll stop reaching and thinking about possibilities.  I'm afraid to be complacent.  I love to be contented and comfortable but lately, I'm craving a challenge.

Friday, March 4, 2011

I Wanna Be A Dog

Knees and Paws took the stage with this wonderful performance of I Wanna Be A Dog.  I think we have a new theme song!  Thank you to babyprincessparis for sharing your daughter's outstanding and heartwarming performance.  We love it!

A Special Thank You To Corinne

Dear Corinne,
     Your review of Knees and Paws that appeared this morning on your awesome blog  was incredibly supportive and positive.  You could have made a straight list of pro's and con's, but you didn't.  You could have photographed the items on the floor instead of on the children.  You could have complained about any number of little issues that I need to improve upon.  Criticism is something that is supposed to make us strive and perform at higher levels than we thought possible...
I took a risk in asking you for this review.  I was nervous.  But I was also thinking that this journey has to be based on reality and not my ego, which often lies.
So if, in several weeks, you decide to mention any drawbacks, I will appreciate those comments too.
Thank you for helping to support independent, hand made businesses.  I value your commitment to this "revolution" which we turn away from mass produced items to consider things from home.
Many, many thanks for sharing Knees and Paws with your readers today.  Even more thanks for the great comments and support you give here, on the blog.   I appreciate our new friendship, a growing, blooming thing that delights me. 
With Love,

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Story about Love and Money

     This is a story about love and money. 
     One day, a man sitting in his car looked out of his windshield and saw for the first time the woman he would marry.  She was picking up trash in a parking lot, walking along the sidewalk with a blue plastic bucket.  She wore a frayed white baseball cap, blue jean shorts, a tool apron and a stained t-shirt.  She weighed 98 lbs, underweight but not frail.
     He didn't know this, but she was a mom struggling to pay the bills for her then nine year old daughter.  She was also blissfully happy to pick up trash.  Every day when the sun warmed the cold dark morning, spreading gold through the trees, she would open up the little shop below the office, collect her bucket and proceed to take a quiet solitary walk under blooming dogwood trees.
     While he sat behind the wheel of his aging blue Mustang, the man heard a voice in his head that said "there goes your wife."  On hearing this very audible message, he shook his head.  Thinking that was an odd event, he went on with his life for several weeks and forgot about the woman and the voice.
     Meanwhile, the woman went on with her life just the same as it was for the last several months.  She was enjoying being light and became used to little pangs of hunger that amplified the taste of everything she ate.  Soon, a friend would suggest that she go downtown for food stamps and then things wouldn't be so hard.  Soon, she would go back to college and finish her degree.  Soon she would be in love, the kind of love that squashes every ambition a person could have unless it is to be rolled up together for days on end.  Then, there would be a baby, a house, a totally new and beautiful life.
   But at that moment, the woman and the man were not conscious of any of that.  They were hungry, poor, and seeking...
    Seeking meaning and not people.  Both burned by divorce,  they viewed relationships as complicating destructive forces.  Even after two years of single life, they worked daily to remember the essence of who they were as individuals.
      But inevitably, these two people wound up sharing phone calls, letters, and meals.   They ate simple meals on cardboard boxes with tea lights set inside aluminum foil.  
     And let me just say that for both of them, these experiences were the richest, most incredibly beautiful times.   They had nothing of value on the outside, but when all material wealth had been stripped away, the inner light of intelligent, articulate and philosophical conversations shone through.  It was magic.  And no amount of money could have bought such an experience.  It was a time when the woman started to experience a spiritual awakening that opened the door to living a truly satisfying and expressive life.
To have less and to struggle is normally something that people try to avoid.  In truth, the woman and the man continually seek to maintain the blessings that they now share.  And when they see what they could reach for, they reach.  But there is nothing wrong with not having things. In the absence of all the stuff and things we could have, or the dreams we never achieved, there exists something intangible and wholesome and satisfying.  Today I'm going to remember this every time I find myself wishing for something else.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Playing with Paint

I found a new creative outlet.
  The Paint program on my computer has given me joy this past week.  During my first year in business I wanted so much to have graphics that showed what Knees and Paws are.  I was not able to really capture this in photographs of my models.  I sat here wishing for a solution to this problem, not realizing that every day I had what I needed to make this a reality.  Thank goodness I decided to "play" as a way to problem solve.  I know, I'm a little slow.  But it was worth the wait.  The day that I made this graphic, I plugged my headphones in and listened to my favorite songs by Rob Thomas and Edwin McCain.  The feeling of making visual art is an incredible anti-depressant.  I knew this already but I did not know that creating designs on the screen had the same effect as drawing and painting on paper.

Sylvie from Jewett's A White Heron

  I found comfort during illness this winter by painting a scene from my favorite short story, A White Heron by Sarah Orne Jewett.  I've often thought about writing an adaptation of this story for children as a picture book.  Now that I've spoken that secret desire, I'm sure that a very talented writer and illustrator is somewhere working on it.  The story is so beautiful that I read it aloud to Elliot during our Big Back Yard Bird Count lessons.  He was amazed to learn that Orinthologists used to shoot and kill birds in order to study them.

If you've never read this classic American short story, I highly recommend it.  There's something magical in Jewett's way of capturing rural New England and the heart of a child who cannot be bought;  a child who is so much a part of the natural world that she cannot be persuaded to reveal its secrets.

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