Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Ben's Bells Project

Hi Friends,
Thank you for understanding during my recent writing slump.  I chuckled at the comments from my last post because while I said that I felt I had become boring, you said that my post was "interesting."  Not one of you said, yeah, right!  Boring as dirt!   So, thank you for being such good blogging friends.
Today I took Elliot out for a science lesson.  It turned out to be one of the best homeschooling days we've had so far this year.  And we've had lots of very good days together.  Today was good because while we were free and in the wild out in the woods, searching for animal tracks to make plaster impressions of, my sweet boy said "I love homeschool, Mom."

I told him that I loved it too.  Especially because we were doing this together, as a family.  And because on beautiful sunny days we get to go outdoors for our learning.  And although the purpose was for Elliot to learn something new, it was actually me that got a lesson.  I learned that random acts of kindness really do happen.  As we made our way to the lake, I found this hanging from a branch:

Attached to this beautiful, handmade wind chime is this note:  "You have found a Ben's Bell.  Take it home, hang it in your yard, and remember to spread kindness throughout our world.  Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end."  At the end of the note there is a web address, which you can visit by clicking here.   

In case you haven't extra time to visit the Ben's Bells Project, I will share that I was deeply touched by the story behind these chimes.  Two loving parents lost their three year old son Ben...and when this happened they wanted to die too.  But because they also had another son, they had to go on living.  They chose to do something positive in their grief.  They began making these beautiful gifts and hanging them around their city of Tucson, Arizona.

  The message and the kindness and the bells are spreading.  I feel very lucky to have received this gift.  I am now committed to carrying that message and that kindness outward in some way.  I'm not sure how this will happen, but I'm certain to be more aware of ways that kindness can be shared between perfect strangers.  I think there's a difference in being kind to our family and's a given and it's expected...but to be kind to unseen strangers, when no one is around to see it...that is very special.

I have to say that being gifted melted away the last residues of my blue and boring feeling.  I suddenly feel excited and happy again.  It's amazing to me how really small things do make a big difference.
Have you ever been in a financial pinch?  Well, that's been a familiar feeling for me as an independently employed person.  But I'm finding new ways to "see" how really I'm completely blessed with abundance. 

Another "gift" I recently received came to me after I committed to teaching the writer's/illustrators class.  The first session is quickly approaching but I feel like I'm in a holding pattern.  I've often been worried that no one will show up, and so far there are no students.  While browsing our local Goodwill, I discovered a brand new, still in the plastic, block of 100 percent cotton cold pressed watercolor paper from France.  This stuff sells for $65.00 at our local art store.  I paid 2.99 plus tax.  There's really no explanation for why I was there that day...but my intuition tells me that the discovery of this paper is a sign to have faith.

And so I'm feeling "full to busted" with the generosity of unseen people.  It's helping so much to restore my sense of purpose and joy.    I hope that your days are happy and full of this good feeling too.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Afternoon Eternity

Here's a confession:  I feel boring.  Not bored, mind you-- but boring.  Not only boring, but low.  Down low.   Singing the blues low. Low and hollow at the same time.

I once wrote of this irony: the perfect and happy images that people send out into the world have unexpected effects.  Many times, instead of inspiring people, it brings them down.  We like to compare and this is a problem.

  I'm not down because of my friend's good fortunes or happiness.  I'm down because, well, it's difficult to explain.  And I know you are not my counselors or mental health professionals.

One of my favorite people, Patch Adams, once said "mental health professionals would be out of work if everyone had at least one good friend."  And I have many, many good friends.

But still it exists, this sense of boring that is close to pathos. It has been raining here for several days in a row.  I know I need to go outside and embrace the damp.  Take a long hike.  Ride my bike.  Plant some flowers.

So maybe I'll do that tomorrow.  Today is passing into night.  I've done the laundry, fixed a meal.  I've called my family and even had two lovely conversations with Emily.

 Perhaps this all comes from forgetting how much I have to be thankful for.  I'm not sure.

Remember being a child on a Sunday afternoon, when everyone went to church and had a big meal?  Then the adults would take long naps and everything was quiet?  Sunday afternoons wore on like a peaceful eternity.  It would have been nice except for that hollow feeling.  The feeling you get when you are intensely homesick.
I'm familiar with meditative practices that teach how to empty ourselves in order to receive.  I'm feeling this today.

In these small moments when things just take on a feeling of empty, I wonder if I'm being prepared for something.  I should be thankful because boring is a quality that's better than "dangerous" or "evil" or "risky."  I'm a slow train clacking through the open fields...wishing I was a plane.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Saturday Scraps

Saturday Scraps is a Blog Hop! Play along today by adding your link at the end of this post.

Good Morning Friends! I'm up a little later than I wanted to be, but that's because we were out late last night.  One of the "scraps" I have to share today is about that experience.  At this time in our lives, we don't often take time or use much of our budget for entertainment.  So when we do something together as a family, we hope that the activity appeals to all of us.  Often, that means either a special dinner out or a movie.  Last night, we went to the late night showing of Dolphin Tale.

This movie rocked my heart with a story of loss, reclamation and love that beats anything I've seen in years. Perhaps it has effected me deeply because I am a mom to a growing boy who dreams of one day being a wildlife biologist, a boy who struggled in regular school.  More than that, I think I loved it because it engaged me on several levels.   There were stories within stories, layers of interwoven human experiences that will ensure it's mass appeal.  And since this post is about "scraps" I'm not going to tell anymore about it...but if you happen to find yourself in line to buy tickets at the theater, this one...this one...this one!

I also would like to share that I'm officially in contract with our local YMCA and will begin teaching my first eight week course called the "Home School Writer/Illustrator Workshop."  On Thursday the director shared that the course is now advertised on their electronic marquee, posted in key areas by the locker rooms and at the info Kiosk.

I am nervous about teaching. Underneath my excitement, I avoid purchasing supplies, secretly convinced that no one will sign up.  On the other hand, I think for once I am following a part of God's plan for me, and not exclusively "my" plan for me.

Last, I'm having a very busy surge of activity in the shop.  Most everything has been fine, except for two recent experiences with individuals.  I'm a little shocked to be reminded of the viciousness of some people.  The artist part of me is very sensitive and easily moved to tears by these frustrations.  However, I'm getting stronger and more able to cope with disappointment and also to stand up for myself without fear.   

I hope you've had a wonderful week, full of love and adventure.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Growing Frogs, little boys and me

It was a warm and rainy day here today, and Elliot had just finished the last of his school work.  He ran out to play and not long afterwards I heard squeals of excitement and was shocked to find him holding this enormous frog.  Since we put in the little pond in the back, we've had regular visitors of frogs and birds.  I've suspected that some of the frogs simply decided to stay as I've heard them making little chirping noises from time to time as I pass.

In the spring, Elliot found this tiny fellow that was no bigger than his six year old fingers.

Then, over the summer, he turned seven.  And the frogs must have been growing too.

Time is passing. It's become better for me lately.  This awareness of change going on while I stay at home working and teaching.  Just now I've come back from reading the most beautiful interview on NPR with one of my favorite writer/illustrators, Maurice Sendak.        Here are a few quotes that I connected with on a very deep level:

"Those two lines are essential. 'I'll never be 10' touches me deeply but I won't pretend that I know exactly what it means," says Sendak. "When I thought of it, I was so happy I thought of it. It came to me, which is what the creative act is all about. Things come to you without you necessarily knowing what they mean.  (I'll never be 10" is a line from his latest book Bumble-ardy).

The creative act being something that comes to you is dead on.  I didn't spend my life thinking up things to do.  They just come to me, and for some reason I've decided to take those gifts and do something with them, instead of dreaming at the windowsill.    

I might not be very talented or skilled in those areas but that is why I think they are gifts.  Because God knows how much I love to be challenged and to learn.

Sendak went on to say,

"When I did Bumble-ardy, I was so intensely aware of death," he says. "Eugene, my friend and partner, was dying here in the house when I did Bumble-ardy. I did Bumble-ardy to save myself. I did not want to die with him. I wanted to live as any human being does."

When the idea for my business came to me, my father was dying of cancer.  I had been spending the month of October with him.  Elliot was with me too.  We were all sad.  I came home needing to fill the void with something hopeful because at that time, there just was no hope except for his release from this life.

And this last thought helped me to think differently about the way I've been working on the development of the shop and it's marketing.

"I feel like I'm working for myself at this point. If it's publishable, fine. If not, it makes not too much difference. Because I claim that this time is for me and me alone. I'm 83 years old."
"I'm writing a poem right now about a nose. I've always wanted to write a poem about a nose. But it's a ludicrous subject. That's why, when I was younger, I was afraid of [writing] something that didn't make a lot of sense. But now I'm not. I have nothing to worry about. It doesn't matter."

As an inventor of something new, I often feel that I'm working with "a ludicrous subject."  But thank goodness I am reading Sendak's feelings about work now, while I am somewhat young.  I would love to be able to really feel it deep down that I truly work for myself.  That if what I make is sellable, fine.  If not, it makes not too much difference.  Because I want to claim that this time is for me and me alone.

I get so many request for different things from my customers that suddenly the original plan has gone from something new and original to something that people are familiar with. I feel like it's become more of a costume shop than a shop for little ones who simply like to pretend every day.  The basic simplicity has gone out of it.  And while I'm amazed at how I was able to diversify and stretch my self taught, bumbling skills, there is a part of me that just wants things the way I want them and if they sell or not, so what.  I have done my best and will continue to do my best with that thing that just came to me...that gift of an idea.

I seriously hope that Sendak publishes his work on the ludicrous subject of a nose.  I will order a brand new copy and keep it forever on my desk.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Knees and Paws first TV commercial Bloopers

Hi Friends,
Here's our first made for tv commercial, care of my brother Ken LaRock.  This is the outtakes version which is a series of bloopers.  The little white dog was originally not invited to participate, which I now see as a shame.  So, Mom, if you are reading today, this is dedicated to the memory of your wonderful companion Snowball.  We still miss him so much!

Projects, Purpose and a New Me

I am different.  I have changed.  On a daily basis I don't easily recognize this, but I am very different from who I once was.  No one can really tell this by looking at me.  I'm generally the same on the outside besides gaining a few more pounds, gray hair and more lines on my face.  I am different because I have a new purpose. 
There have been many times when I've questioned my decision to write a patent application and begin an independent adventure.  Looking back, it was a leap into an unknown void, taken at a point in life when internally I felt my options for a successful career would never materialize.   It was a lonely, scary shot in the dark. 
I am not earning a wage or paying bills yet.  And the products are continually changing.  Once I was certain that slip on knee pads combined with paws would be a hit with kids who love to pretend.  Now I've loosened my conviction about that and expanded into other areas. 

I recently had an experience which stands out as a flag marking my divergent path.  I was suddenly left with 2 hours to myself while Elliot was at a birthday party.  
I was expecting to stay, but on arrival realized that at big kid parties, the parents disappear.  So I went shopping in some of the retail stores in the area, completely aimless. 
There was nothing that I wanted.
So many items in these stores came from China. 
I had no reason to be meandering through the aisles.  And that bothered me. 
At one time, I used to fill hours with that shopping/browsing activity with no purpose.  It didn't seem to bother me then, but it does now.  Now when I go out, I'm searching for something that I need. 
There is a new urgency to be frugal.  To maximize time and finances.  To find quality items that are useful.

I felt irritated that I was wasting time.  

Projects with long scopes are important for our development.  I wish I had known this from a younger age.  Projects without an endpoint or a concrete plan are also vital for expanding our lives.  They teach us to be open to new people and experiences along the way. 
They challenge us to learn new skill sets and ask more questions.  To reflect and to practice imagination.

Any activity that results in the combination of love, work and play is vital for feeling energetic, useful and expansive. 
In your life, were there times when you clearly recognized a change within?  Did it happen as a result of a big event or something more stubtle?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Saturday Scraps

Saturday Scraps with Knees and Paws
Saturday Scraps with Knees and Paws

In order to participate, copy the code in my right sidebar and post it somewhere in the body of your post titled "Saturday Scraps"  Then add your post to this blog hop by clicking on the "add your link" button at the end.

Hi friends! Today I'm introducing the first Knees and Paws Meme:  The Saturday Scraps is a writing and/ or photography prompt designed to celebrate process, fragmentation ad friendship.

(yes, I'm aware that today is Sunday, but maybe instead of being a day late, I'm actually posting six days early!)

This post is actually a preliminary test.  I welcome your thoughts and ideas and would love to include your suggestions in the first "real" Saturday Scraps blog hopping meme.

The inspiration for this meme is taken from my observation of a master storyteller when he taught his craft to a small group of writers. He said,

"if a writer is like a quilter, his second job is to put all the scraps together.  If that's the second thing to do, what is the first?

And the group answered "gather all the scraps."

Quilts cannot be made without scraps...and in linking our scraps together we may start to see the beginning of a blogging friendship quilt.

I have an abundance of scraps: fabric scraps, plush scraps and paper scraps. Any kind of scrap that I can collage with will find it's way into my work zone.

I also have plenty of memory and information scraps.  And I'm interested in those scraps too. 

Like the following stuff of life scrap: over the weekend I had and argument with Richard.

After which I was suddenly left with the house to myself for several hours.

And I'm reminded of the wisdom of Fred Rogers when he said

"Love isn't a perfect state of caring.  It is an active noun like struggle."

He also said,

"Anger makes us feel so isolated."

So, although I was gifted with a few hours of solitude, I comforted myself by catching up on sold items.  Yesterday was a milestone for Knees and Paws. We had our 100th sale.  It was the Lemur Tail and it's going to someone in Los Angeles California.  (How exciting is that?  Maybe it will find it's way into a film!)

To celebrate, I spent some time making a few things for myself. 

Our kitchen renovation is a decimal point away from being completed, so I felt inspired to sew a tablecloth, napkins and place mats for our dining space.     In the first phase of remodeling, I used a picture of a kitchen with brick walls as the inspiration for all the color choices.  The colors we used are dark green, rich mahogany brown, and white with copper accents.  We also have a beautiful wrought iron pot rack that our neighbor Tom made in his workshop.  Hanging above the table is a wrought iron light fixture.  The brick that I loved in the picture never became a reality...until I discovered a large scrap of fabric with a brick pattern.  This is what I used to make the tablecloth and napkins.

Remember the antique baker's table we found at the salvage shop?  Richard created a new top for it and conditioned all the wood to bring out the color.  

Here's what we started our renovation project with...the rubble of wood scraps.

And a century old baker's table that fits my height requirement.

After ^^^^ 


I was so excited about having a new kitchen, I wanted to spend the rest of the evening at our table.  So I lit some candles and started a new watercolor painting.  The inspiration for this work was taken from a photograph on Driftwood Rambling's Blog.  Desiree's adventures in South Africa leave me with a longing to visit this beautiful part of our world.  

I started with a simple sketch.

Then I tested the colors by making a "rough draft" painting.

And then working with a larger sheet of water color paper, I attempted to put less pressure on the brush and let the colors drop and meld together for the final...

To see the real photograph that inspired this painting, click here.

Do you have scraps to share?  I'd love to read your thoughts and stories.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Are you hot or cool?

As time goes forward, I'm finding that my interest in a variety of topics is expanding.  One topic that I've always loved to read about are theoretical discussions about human development, learning theories and play as a scientific discourse.  As my business and faith in this journey grows, I've yet to find the book that explains why I am so compelled to invent and market my handmade children's products.  Until now. 

As a college student, my art teacher handed out a packet of learning theory and told us it was the course "bible."  Nearly everything we learned had a meaning that could be drawn from that work.  If Knees and Paws has a bible besides the Christian Bible, it is David Elkin's The Power of Play

I was particularly interested in the following explanation of the impact that media has on children, but I realized that all people might relate to this (so I'm sharing it today).  Elkin references the work of media mavin Marshal McLuhan who explains the spectrum of media as hot to cold:

         Any hot medium allows of less participation than a cool one.  As a lecture allows for less participation than a seminar, and a book for less than dialogue...high definition or intensity engenders specialization and fragmentation in living as in entertainment, which explains why any intense experience bus be "forgotten" or "censored" before it can be learned or assimilated.

From that springboard, Elkin further explains,

     With respect to content, high-definition, high-intensity, "hot" content is more fully engaging but demands less viewer participation than does low-definition, low-intensity, "cool" content..presentations that are stimulating, visually arresting, and passivity inducing are at the hot and end of the spectrum.  Presentations that are slow paced, quiet, and visually interesting are on the cool, activity inducing side of the spectrum.

    So, what does this mean for people like me?  Well, it explains quite a lot about who I am.  I guess it's now a scientific fact that I'm cool!  I love cool media...the low intense kind.  For example, it is uncomfortable for me to go to the movies and watch Transformers because of the intense action.  People who like hot media loved it, while those who like cool media would not.

It's an interesting personal discovery to understand that I am attracted to cool media such as watercolor paintings,  children's books and television with cool content such as Little Bear or Milne's Winne the Pooh, or lovely pastoral themes in movies such as Fly Away Home. 

This concept also explains why I believe in Knees and Paws.  They are playthings that promote imaginary play that exists away from media and screens.  They are accessories to play that can be used to "weave a story tapestry of the child's own invention."

If you're still with me, thanks for sticking it out.  I wanted to share this information to explain how I'm expanding my inner courage and potential on this journey of creating work from scratch.   

And so I'm off to school at here at home (in the next room)...but I wanted to ask this question:  Are you hot or cool?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

You Were With Me All Along

Hi Friends,
Just a quick note to say that I'm behind on my commenting but will visit as soon as possible.  Thank you so much for all the wonderful comments this past week.  I'm happy to say that I've finally figured out this new interface.  In order to see what you've written I have to click on "awaiting moderation"  Imagine my delight at opening that today and seeing 27 of your thoughtful comments!  It makes the sun shine brighter today.

Fabric Store Clerks

Several years ago I worked behind the checkout counter in an outdoor gazebo selling blooming plants and garden supplies.  The owners of this garden center instructed all of their employees in exceptional customer relations--- believing that people are more important than the bottom line.  They taught us that it was more important to make a friendly connection than to enter the numbers correctly on the cash register.  We were taught to greet the customer with kindness and offer help whenever needed.  This included customers who called the shop with ordinary questions.  If you were ever caught being negative to a customer the result was dismissal.  This was sometimes challenging if there happened to be a rush on seasonal plants and a long line of hot, impatient people.  I loved this work, being outdoors, engaging with people, watering and growing crops of new flowers.  It was challenging to learn the latin names of plants, shrubs and trees and also extremely physically demanding.  There were days of unloading trucks filled with heavy potted trees, 50 lb bags of mulch and manure.  It made me athletic and energized and happy. 
       Since that experience I have retained the habit treating all people with the same positive, friendly attitude.  No matter if they are a customer with money to spend in my shop, or if I am a customer with money to spend in the fabric store.
       It is a consequence of fussiness, perfection, and poor customer relations training that the ladies who cut fabric for me do not return my sunshine.  In the script of my life, they are characters I've come to love for the entertaining and predictable response I get every time I lay a bolt of faux fur or novelty fleece or cushy plush on the table.   
     Now, one would think that people who work in fabric stores have a very easy job due to the simplicity of their tasks.  The main requirement of a fabric store clerk is to be able to use scissors.  One doesn't even have to cut a perfectly straight line, because the raised metal strips on the long tables act as a guide.
    It's probably to my financial advantage that I dread going to stock up on my supplies.  Less trips across town save gas and help me to maintain a low overhead.  One day, I will be able to order everything in big fat bolts online without having to scrimp on fractions of yards of the most wonderful furry stuff....but until then,
I stand and wait for the arrows that fly my way...

    "This stuff is messy"

     "Phew! it goes every where"

 Then they stand there brushing themselves off in a huffy sort of way, sometimes bringing out a duster to collect fibers, swishing it in arrogant strokes like a mother cleaning up her children's mess.

It used to bother me that just by laying down a bolt of fabric, I had the power to turn someone into a grump.

Now I just laugh inside and stand there in complete silence.  I never feel the need to apologize for their discomfort.

Now, this happens every time, no matter what, at both fabric stores in my city.  At the one furthest away with the best prices, there is a short elderly woman who looks just like the smoking dead lady in Beetlejuice.
She is positively wizened, with a little hump on her back and a raspy voice.  She wears large frames with thick lenses to magnify her round, popped out eyes.   She's my favorite and I love her...that's not sarcasm I promise.  If you knew her you'd love her too.  Once I brought Richard to help me shop and he charmed her.  In fact the only way I get past the fabric table with kindness is if I take him with me.  Those women would cut the hide of a dead rhinocerous without complaint as long as he keeps chatting to them and smiling.
  Yesterday I didn't have my handsome man with me and had to face it alone.  And guess who was favorite character of all.

And when I plopped that bolt of long black faux fur on the table, with no restraint, she said

"I HATE this stuff.  What a mess.  Do you wear contacts?  Don't wear contacts when you're working with this stuff.  YOU"LL SCRATCH YOUR EYEBALLS OUT!"       

Which reminded me of A Christmas Story when the department store Santa tells Ralphie  "you'll shoot your eye out kid!"

And today, with both of my eyes unscratched, I sit here writing and chuckling, excited about the season that brings the parents and grandparents of children to Knees and Paws, searching for items that they won't find at Walmart.   Like this Ring Tailed Lemur Tail that I made with black and white faux fur.

***To my wonderful customers, I assure you that once the fabric is sewn together there is little or no's only when it must be cut that the fibers are loosened.        

Monday, September 12, 2011

Life is motion

I'm not sure what's wrong but I seem to have lost my writing bug.  We are having the most wonderful weather and it fills me with the urge to do everything I want to do all at the same time.  I want to work in the yard, mowing, planting new flowers and setting up a little birding garden.  I want to keep adding new and unusual things in the Etsy shop.  I want to clean the house from top to bottom and to spend those first four hours of everyday in our classroom.  I want to ride my bike and run three miles and start making plans for Christmas.  I'm not sure where all of this energy and time is going to come from but while attempting to do all of these things I must make time to practice my lessons for the writer's workshop.

I spent such a heavy-hearted weekend watching the 9/11 memorial coverage that I woke up today with the continued awareness that life is so short.  Busy activity seems to cover up the fact that someday I'm going to die.  I keep working to ignore that we all have to do this one. last. thing. 

And try not to be too sad about it.

But watching the families grieve and the nation come together to remember was something that I'm still carrying in my heart.

Living in motion, feeling the pause...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

You know you're having fun when your hands are dirty!

"You know you're having fun when your hands are dirty" said Elliot, while making a mud lake in the space that used to be the garden. 

Later, he holds up a fat white grub between his forefinger and thumb for me to examine.

"I think I found a grug. Does daddy know what these things are?"

"Yes, and so do I.  You found a very nice sized grub."

"Can you eat grubs?"  He asks, while thrusting the creature towards my nose.

"Yes, but only if you're starving.  We don't eat grubs around here."

"How about fried?" 

"No, Elliot, we are not going to eat that grub.  He's very good for the garden."

"I think he's dead.  Wouldn't it be okay to eat him if he's dead?" 

"Elliot, I'm not hungry for a grub and if you keep insisting on this, please take it up with daddy."

Now, I know I'm in trouble when I say this because Richard is an extreme survivalist.  He could live in the wild, and has in the past, with very little provisions and a few simple tools.  He plans to teach Elliot how to find edible things in nature.  Which can be dangerous, especially when foraging for mushrooms. 

I realize that this is a wonderful skill to have.  Especially since we love to take Elliot hiking.  But thank you God, for the daily BREAD.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A New Discipline

A few weeks before my father died, I was blessed with one last good phone conversation on his birthday.  I remember his voice saying "discipline is a routine that comes to feel natural."   I was struck by it then because I had never thought of the word discipline in that way before.  Until that time I associated discipline with authoritarian, corporal punishment which usually came with a heap of shame.  This conversation with my father was a gift in many ways, but especially because I now have a new way of developing my potential. Through practicing challenging tasks until they come to feel like an ability I've always had, my life is taking on new shapes and internal comforts.  Developing new disciplines also helps me to set and keep a routine, which I find helpful as I'm independently employed.  The artist side of me usually resists routine, because it wants fresh images and experiences.  Yet since keeping a new routine of writing three long hand pages per day of a "morning pages" journal, I'm creating more.

This week, we started a new routine of going back to school, while also signing Elliot up for Tae Kwon Do.  For those of you who remember that I'm a peace loving Quaker, I've decided to let my personal philosophy be something that I arrived at...while allowing Elliot to enjoy the discovery of his own beliefs.  The new discipline of his class has been a great blessing for us.  Two days ago, his master gave him a bright and shiny new uniform with his first white belt.  Elliot is thrilled with it, and has already made a new friend who instantly engaged me after class with a request for a play date. 

Elliot acts taller in his new uniform and walks with a big-kid brand of confidence.

And while he's in class learning his first basic forms, I've gone back to running on the treadmill.  Writing and teaching, not to mention blogging and sewing....sometimes comes with an ever expanding stomach!  So it's a great feeling to run again.  When I first started running over ten years ago, I was only able to run for five minutes.  Since then I've been strong enough to keep going for over an hour and I know that if I really want to, there will be even longer runs in my future.

So if you have something that you've always wanted to do, think of developing that new discipline no matter that the first steps are wobbly and awkward.  Soon you will fly!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Generous Gifts

Yesterday a package arrived from my friends Odie and Linda from The Simple Life.  I was surprised and delighted when I opened the heavy box. Inside appeared item after item of thoughtful gifts, from a collection of the most heavenly smelling scents, a fall delicacy fit for company, lovely notepads and energy boosting vitamins. Elliot loved the Crazerasers, especially because they are like little toys he can also use as school supplies.  He used to be dismayed about making mistakes in his spelling, but now he's having fun erasing errors with a barn and a tractor.  Receiving this box of love made me realize how generosity grows from receiving.  I realized that I have not been as generous as I could be with my family and friends.  Receiving instilled a sense of gratitude, a mind set of abundance and propelled me into thinking more about generosity.  With all the negative talk about a devastated economy, I think I've developed the habit of walking around with tightly clenched fists, just trying to hold on.  Perhaps I've been like Ebeneezer Scrooge.

So today I want to send a big thank you to Odie and Linda for hosting the giveaway and for being so thoughtful.  Many of you who visit me here also know and love them too.

In other news, I have received the official contract for the writer and illustrator workshop for homeschoolers and will meet with the director to sign my name on the dotted line!  I can't believe this is real.   Also, things are picking up in the etsy shop, as it is the season for costumes.  I hope to keep all of these different activities in balance and still make time to breathe, to love, to absorb life going on and the change of seasons.  The woods and parks are calling to me from my window, with gentle temperatures and dappled sunlight.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The One Inch Picture Frame

Wow, I have a lot of catching up to do!  It's been a week since I last posted but it feels like a month.  I've missed everyone so much.  Part of the delay was caused by my ignorance of the new blogger thingamadoodle...I did not understand how to find comments or see posts in the reader.  Today is the first time that I've been able to see that you have visited.  Thank you so much for all the kind things you continually say.  Honestly I cried today, just now, while pressing the "publish" button.  That sounds so sentimental and sappy, but it's true.  I'm here sniffling and smiling because I have such awesome blogging friends.

Yesterday we went back to school.  During the first hours I had surges, tidal waves of insecurity about teaching homeschool.  I wondered if this journey is a completely arrogant decision.  How do I dare to believe that I can provide a solid education that's not based on whimsy and intuition?  I actually felt weak, afraid and nervous.  I felt these waves of doubt despite the fact that I've discovered a wonderful curriculum that meets and exceeds national standards.  Never mind that this year we spent time creating a beautiful classroom with a chalkboard that I made, a classroom with maps of the world, a room with a big table and a science lab, a room with colorful lanterns that hang from the ceiling.  It's a happy space with a cat and a dog to keep us company.   Despite being prepared and planning for a good year, I kept wondering about this one question:  if Elliot doesn't thrive and learn with my guidance then what?  I could send him back to regular school but I don't want to just yet.  I kept thinking about the whole long journey of school, from kindergarten to senior year.   It was too much.

I was not thinking about the one inch picture frame.

In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott writes about a tool she uses for wriggling out of writer's block.  She keeps an empty one inch picture frame on her desk.  When she glances at this prop, she remembers that to get started she only needs to fill a once inch frame.   She can go forward with the writing of her stories and books just by filling this one inch frame with a character description, or a scene in a park.  The important thing is that she begin the actual writing.

 And so today as we go back into our classroom I'm going to remember to teach this way.  A single one inch picture frame at a time.  We will examine small things closely, together...and take our time.  There are so many words to learn to spell but we will do them one at a time.  No need to worry if it takes all year.

 I am also about to have some very good news about the writer/illustrator workshop.   To this date there is a contract being drafted with my name on it.  I'm very excited but am trying not to act like a kid on Christmas Eve. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Back To School

It's almost back to school for Elliot and's a picture we took at REI while we were trying on backpacks for our AT Hike.  I love his sweet kindergarten smile.   When we buy backpacks for our son, it's not to send him away on the bus, but to take him on a hike!  That's why we've named our homeschool "Learning Free and In the Wild." 

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