Sunday, October 30, 2011

Is it the season?

  As the leaves begin to make their bright and scented carpet on the trails, I feel myself folding inward.  Into the private me who is a part of this world yet who embraces separation from the crowded jostling. 

I'm caught between wanting more and wanting less.  Between the desire to be an instant success and the secret fear of having too much all at once.   Between wanting to take my time with everything, yet needing a fast result.  When everything in society is about high speed, I'm here in the land of SLOW DOWN. 

In this altered state that has me sitting in a crock pot of my mind, I'm at peace.

Yet, there are a million things I could be doing with my life if only I were willing to take more leaps, more risks.    

It was a minor risk to create the homeschool writer/illustrator workshop, a bigger risk to make my proposal and set a price.  It was a scary risk to sit in the nearly empty classroom on Friday mornings and wait.  Elliot wondered.  I wondered.  And now there are four of us.

  We draw pictures.  We chat.  So far, a little writing has also been accomplished.  Afterwards, I leave feeling amazed that a path is being opened.  It used to look like a dense, impenetrable forest.  But I keep taking slow steps and the woods keep opening up.  

Over the weekend, I was able to go out dancing with my prince charming. I also discovered a secret that is probably not a secret, but something that arrived  as an epiphany to me.  I learned that taking healthy risks together can deepen intimacy.

Perhaps I have taken "happily ever after" to mean a life long attempt for safety and security.  Within all the striving for stability and a sanctuary in the conventional ideal of an American family, it is the loss of shared risk taking that can have a negative impact on the romantic aspect of a relationship.

After all, the beginning stage of romantic love happens when two people agree to take a risk together with no certainty of outcome.  They are vulnerable together.  As time goes on, and risk subsides, intensified feelings of euphoria inducing love slows down.

And slow love, like slow food, is healthy and good.

But an occasional risk brings intimacy back to the forefront.  I'm not talking about taking a life threatening risk or making unhealthy choices like abusing substances.  Sometimes its about new music or exposure to something that you once were afraid to try. 

With this epiphany, I'm now faced with a challenge.  The challenge to respond to the feeling of being afraid as a potential avenue for growth.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Apple Store Field Trip

Hi Friends,
Things are so busy this weekend and we are excited.  My mom has arrived safely after driving over 700 miles in one fell swoop.  Elliot is over the moon with happiness having his grandma here.  It was difficult for him to leave this morning to go on our scheduled field trip to the Apple Store.  Perhaps I should have let him stay home while I enjoyed meeting other home educators.  I'm learning to trust and reach out more as we go along.  I made several potentially great friends today, then had the joy of coming home to one of my lifelong friends, who just happens to be my mom. 

While we had breakfast and before we left for our field trip, Elliot told his grandma about all the yucky, scary Halloween stuff that he's seen in the stores this month.  I asked him what we should do when we're out trick or treating and we see a house with lots of scary decorations.  I nearly choked on my oatmeal at his response:

"Well, throw up in their driveway."

"That way, when they leave in the morning they will say, "what's this yucky stuff on my wheels?"

So, for all the folks in the adjacent neighborhood...think twice about putting out the gore! 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I have been experiencing a much needed break as the Halloween rush ends today.  The dust in the house has been cleared and the laundry put away.  I've reorganized my work station and this alone has sent me into the upper echelon of happiness.  With the new sewing machine that Richard gave me (thoughtfulness is his strength)  I've also made time to work on a costume for myself, not knowing if we would find a place to go out as a couple.  It felt wonderful to discover that I can successfully make a dramatic alteration on an item of clothing.  The process was fulfilling in a way that I cannot describe.  To make evening wear for oneself is liberating, but also risky as mistakes can send an entire day's work to the trash. 

The Cinderella within is rising to the surface, because now that my dress is hanging, I want to go out dancing with my prince.  The search for an evening event has proved to be a bigger challenge than I anticipated.  I'm having difficulty finding just the right location.  The last time we had a date night, the evening was a great success.  On a warm summer night while walking under the street lights of downtown Greensboro, we discovered the historic Carolina Theater.   A summer film festival was underway.  While images of the Pacific Ocean captivated me during Point Break, we couldn't help being a little bored with the acting, so while sneaking around the theater, we discovered a ballroom on the top floor.  I'd like to return to the same theater for our upcoming night out, but they're playing The Rocky Horror Picture Show with Cast...and I'm afraid to go.

I've never actually seen the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but know a little about the craziness of it...
It just sounds kinda yucky.

I'm not into the club scene.  I'm not a ballroom dancing type either.
The dancer in me usually ends up dancing at home to music that I like, away from the inebriated public.

I'd considered throwing a little party but then there really isn't enough time.  Most people like to make plans and aren't impulsive.

Then, this morning an event popped up on facebook that has great potential.   My college is hosting an alumni Barn Dance that includes beginning dance lessons at the start, cider, doughnuts, a band and hay rides.

  So, maybe there's hope for another great Date Night.

Pictures to come soon!

Saturday, October 22, 2011


I think of her often yet write about her sparingly.  That's because I feel like it would be awkward for a teen  daughter to have a mom who writes online.  So I choose silence.  Yet she's in my heart all the time and to neglect her here seems to leave the blog terribly unbalanced.  I wonder if she reads it, notices her absence and thinks that I don't love her.

There are moms of teens and adult children who can write about their growing and independent families with great sensitivity and skill.  Perhaps I just have too many emotions wrapped within the blanket of my mother/daughter relationship.  It is like a rare gift that I don't easily open.

Maybe it's enough to start with a milestone.  Today Emily took her ACT exam.  It's hard for me to believe that soon she'll be out of high school and making her way in the world...

I still keep an entire wall of her childhood art.  Now that she's not my tiny, curly haired toddler or my sweet kindergartener, now that she's not playing soccer at the Y or meeting friends at the playground, she's still the same in so many ways.   She's maintained the same sweetness in the way she gives hugs and the kindness in her voice when she says "I love you mom." She's artistic and intelligent, compassionate and funny.

People say parenting is hard.  It's not hard in the way you might expect.  It's not hard because it takes time, patience and resources.  It's not hard because there are sometimes conflicts and power struggles.  It's hard because children are destined to become independent.  It's that paradox that is the most challenging: that we must give them the tools to survive on their own.  We must be attached and at the same time let go.  So I can't hold her on my lap or sing her lullabies.  I have to hold her in my heart and be there in a different way.

How can I begin to write about my children and not be sentimental? They are the brightest lights in my heart.  The ancient dilemma of how to write about the emotion of love still exists.  I suppose poets can do this well through a carefully chosen metaphor.  I don't have a metaphor for this thing called motherhood.  It is joy.  It is heartbreak.  It is everything in between. My daughter is no longer a child.  Yet I hope that she always will nurture the child within. The one who gave my life meaning and direction.  The one who changed everything for the better, just by being herself.

Friday, October 21, 2011

What my hands are busy with

It's almost over...the Halloween blitz that arrived at Knees and Paws! I'm planning to take a much needed break, which will be a "working" break on all the things I've neglected over the last three weeks.
One big problem I'm going to attempt to resolve is that my storage space through picasa (the one blogger uses) is completely full.  Which means either I start deleting old posts, old pictures, or attempt to resize all the ones taken with my new camera.  I'm not sure which will be the better path.  Anyone who knows the best course of action, please share! It seems that pictures under 2000 or so pixels don't count towards the free storage, so perhaps I need to

resize every one before uploading to the web.  Another hoop to jump through!

I hope you're having a great weekend!

~till next time,

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Beating my personal best

Hi Friends,
You've probably noticed that I've not been writing frequent posts or visiting as often as I'd like to.  I'm sorry for that, and wish I made more time to keep up with my blogging.  October arrived with an extraordinary amount of pressure for me, as I've worked very hard to keep up with requests in the shop, homeschool, Elliot's Tae Kwon Do, my home, the house,our pets, my personal relationships...
Being at home, it turns out, is a more active lifestyle than I once thought it would be.  In the midst of all the activity and the striving, I made time to get back on the treadmill and start running again.
I'm excited today because I beat my personal best.  I ran a seven minute mile and I didn't die!  I've also lost six lbs and feel better than I have in months.  My goal is to lose nine more. 
I had no idea that I would ever run like I did today.  In high school, it was a requirement to run the mile for our gym class.  I think my time at age 15 was eleven minutes.  I guess you could say I loved to sit under a tree and read books more than I loved to play sports.

I hope you are all doing well and feeling good.  I miss reading about your lives and hope to be able to catch up when things start to slow down again.  My mom is going to be with us one week from today.  We are excited and happy that she'll be able to visit.  While it's good to live here in the south, I do miss my family and sometimes even the snow.

Take care....until next time,

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Migrating Monarchs

We are fortunate to live within walking distance to miles of wooded trails.  On the very edge of a city with 300,00 people, we are lucky enough to enjoy the feeling that we live in the country.  One reason for this is that our home is close to a lake that is protected from development.  As one of the city's water reservoirs, swimming and large motor boats are prohibited.  Which makes it ideal for quiet activities like bird watching, hiking and kayaking.  I know that living in this location has had a major influence on Elliot, who is still committed to his ideal of one day studying wildlife biology as a profession.  It's a great place to explore, observe the seasonal changes and wildlife.  Last spring, we read about the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly and visited a farm where they are encouraged to reproduce. We learned that Monarchs depend on perennial milkweed and how vital this plant is for their survival.  This week, to our great surprise and delight, we found large patches of milkweed growing in a clearing between the woods.  And along with the milkweed, a great number of fall generation Monarchs on their way to Mexico.
This book is an amazing read. 

Milkweed blooms

While we were walking and enjoying the beauty around us, one butterfly discovered Elliot and was so curious that it circled him at least twenty times!

In addition to us having some warm sunny days, I've also had a great rush of customers in the shop.  The strange thing is that I never intended for my items to be Halloween costume accessories.  The initial plan was to make plush knee pads and little paws for those preschoolers who liked to crawl around pretending to be dogs.  But since Etsy allows customers to directly communicate with sellers, I started filling requests for ears to go along with the paws.  Then, they asked for tails.  Then came requests like, "can you do a unicorn?"  Or monkey? And on until suddenly the whole thing is different from my original plan.  Strangely, I've been able to let go and adapt, without too many hurt feelings that my original idea seems to be buried among an abundance of other people's ideas.      

I sometimes wish I had more time to make practical things that my family and I can actually use.  I've recently learned to make hats and slippers.  Elliot has requested a pair of gloves with non slip grips on the fingers so he can climb trees in the winter...

Perhaps the best bit of news is that we're in the process of developing a new family friendship.  Through Tae Kwon Do, we've met another family who are in the same stage of homeschooling.  It has been a blessing to have another mom who understands the great insecurity that goes along with the first year of home education.  Elliot is delighted with his new friends and so am I.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Holding the Ladder

I once entertained myself with a grand fantasy of fully embracing my creative side.  This fantasy turned into a desire and then a distressing need while I was working with bleach and scouring pads in college dorm rooms.  When ninety degree heat, harsh chemicals and sleep deprivation combine, they have an affect on the brain!  Sometimes I found myself believing that it would be possible to make a living by sitting in a quiet room with my thoughts, making something.  Somewhere in this fantasy I was also writing something instead of letting those important insights and epiphanies fly to the moon, lost forever.

I am here now.  In the quiet room, making something.  Writing something.

My husband is supporting me.

I think he would do that until the end.

He's holding my ladder.

I once listened to a preacher who told a story about his personal journey to success.  He described himself as a go getter.  A man of action.  He worked long hours and over committed himself.  In college he soared.  In his professional life, he did everything he set out to do, and then some.  Then came a time when his parents began to need more help.  They came to stay with him for a while.  On his way out to an important meeting, he passed an alarming sight:  his elderly father was up on a ladder with no one to support the base.  Knowing that it would make him late, or possibly miss the entire appointment, he stopped to hold the ladder for his father.  The task took a long time.  The need to burst out the door to make even a portion of the meeting was brewing in his gut.  It was difficult to pause and reflect on priorities.  Later, that moment became a significant metaphor for an ethical path: sometimes in life, you just have to hold the ladder.

I've been thinking about what motivates me now.  I was once motivated by a fantasy.  A daydream.  A dream which I acted upon and a dream which became a reality. Perhaps it is a consequence of my childhood in the country, but my ideal working conditions involve a feeling of personal safety, peace and contact with nature.  I can have all of that now.  But realizing that I dreamed my way into reality, I'm finding that it's important to keep dreaming.   To keep evaluating what I hope for.  To ask questions. Do I need more money or more time for walks, books and projects with Elliot?  Usually in the end, I choose time. 
Time to hold a ladder....

I choose time so that I'm not the only one who gets to be creative.    On a rainy day, in the middle of the busiest season for Knees and Paws, I stopped sewing long enough to help Elliot make an Ewok Village out of various gathered materials.  I know I'll remember this more than I will the number in the bank account. 

Was there a time when someone held a ladder for you? 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Lactose Free Dark Chocolate Zucchini Cake

This year my fortieth birthday came with a new challenge: how to take milk out of my diet.  After weeks of feeling uncomfortable, I finally did a little test to see if I was lactose intolerant.  In the realm of health issues, it's a rather minor inconvenience, especially since the invention of Lactose free milk, cottage cheese and sliced cheese.  However, I'm still waiting for new lactose free items to appear on shelves.  Until that time, I have to reinvent recipes along the way.  Nearly everything that is processed has milk in the ingredients.  So, baking from scratch is my new hobby.  This week I discovered a delicious recipe that can be amended for those with Lactose problems.  It's taken from the Pure Dark brand of chocolate bars. 

Dark Chocolate Zucchini Cake:

1/2 c butter flavored Crisco
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 c lactose free milk + 2 tsp white vinegar (add vinegar to milk as a substitute for buttermilk)

2 1/2 c flour
1/4 c cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 c grated zucchini
4-6 oz dark chocolate baking squares, cut into small pieces
walnuts (optional)

Directions:  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Heavily grease and flour a 9x13 or large Bundt pan.

In a mixer, cream the butter, oil and sugar (about 2-3 minutes).  Once creamed add the eggs, vanilla and milk and mix until fully incorporated.

In a separate mixing bowl sift all dry ingredients together.  On a low speed, mix the dry ingredients slowly into the wet until completely combined.

Fold in grated zucchini into the cake batter and spoon into baking pan.
Sprinkle the chocolate baking bar pieces onto the top of the batter.

Bake fro 45-55 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool for at least ten minutes before serving.

Sprinkle walnuts over top.
Top with warm glossy chocolate sauce for an added chocolate kick:

In a small saucepan, heat 1 1/2 cups light corn syrup with three ounces unsweetened baking chocolate.
Heat on low until chocolate is melted.  stir in 3/4 teaspoon vanilla.

Fresh red raspberries make a wonderful garnish for this fantastic cake! 

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Heaviness of Being Successful

In the labyrinth of information technology, I tend to walk a circular path.  I walk around the familiar hang-outs, the ones we all love.  Sometimes a scrap of information from the living, breathing outside world finds me by complete accident.

Like the fact that Steve Jobs has just died of pancreatic cancer.  I was listening to the radio on the way to the post office when I heard his voice for the first time.  He was hours dead, yet living on in the recorded version of his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford.  The words he spoke and the soft tone of voice had me sitting up straight, listening like a hunting dog in the field.  After the audio clip had ended, an annoying commercial attempted to distract me but I was focused on committing to memory the words from that speech. The ad kept chattering on and I asked myself why I was still listening to noise and clicked the dial off.   As I walked into the post office with several packages, the words were already starting to drift away.  But I remembered the name: Steve Jobs.  I made a mental note to look this guy up.

It's okay to laugh at me I admit that I did not know who Steve Jobs was.  I fail completely at keeping track of who's who.  Of course I've heard the name before, but did not connect the name and the brand for which he is known.  If his name was Steve Macintosh then it would have been easier.

I've never owned a Mac.  I don't have and iPhone. I'm largely ignorant of all the fantastic things these inventions are capable of.  Steve Jobs is obviously a stellar individual to bring so many changes to our world.  That day in the car, it felt like he was speaking directly to me when he said,

 "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

And then at home, when I looked up the text version, I uncovered these beautiful, thought provoking gems:

"I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life."

"And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle."

This thought suddenly helps me to forgive my past...all the jobs I've tried and left seem more like a brave, experimental  period in my life.  The truth is, I'm still experimenting. It's difficult and challenging because I've started from scratch and have to take baby steps in everything.  Yet being a beginner is truly freeing.  I'm celebrating this creative period in my life.  The freedom to work with my hands and my heart.  It probably won't change the world but the truth is I act on my heart and intuition every day.      

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