Monday, March 26, 2012

Announcement

Dear Friends,
It has been my pleasure to connect with you through blogging.  Each one of you who regularly visit and comment have enriched my life, expanded my world and given so much.  I appreciate you more than words can say!

But the time has come for me to use the first hour of my day for another purpose.  Instead of coming here to share a bit of myself, I need to focus on structuring lessons for Elliot's education.  My heart has been conflicted for months about whether or not to keep blogging.  I would like to be able to do both; to teach my son the things he needs to learn, while also visiting with my online friends.  But the truth is that I end up going through the motions with Elliot's school in order to share here, and that is troublesome.  I know you'll understand.

I will miss being here and reading your stories.

I will miss your comments and the friendships that have blossomed. 

Thank you so much for all of the wonderful, encouraging words you sent my way.  Thank you for reading the thoughts I've shared.

Your Friend,

Jenny

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pottery and Pysanka, Babies and a Pony!

It's been a wild weekend full of stormy weather here in Greensboro.  The ground is saturated and the birds are filling the air with twittering, long calls, repetitive chants and screeching.  The dogwoods are fleshed out in bloom, while the flowering cherries and redbuds are dropping petals that make colorful puddles on the sidewalks and streets.





Two new babies were born on both sides of our family this weekend.  A baby boy on Richard's side, and a girl on my side. 

We also have a new neighbor.  A family who lives on our street built a handsome corral and adopted a beautiful Shetland pony. 

  Spring is arriving and rushing on with so much activity that I'm filled with an urgent sense of purpose and a happy heart.  I've decided to change my daily mantra from "something good is going to happen today" to "many good things are happening today."

Richard and I were also gifted with time for a date night.  We ventured out after last night's hail storm to see The Hunger Games. This movie was incredibly dark, gruesome and chilling.  It gave me an eerie, repulsed feeling, especially during scenes where the audience on the screen claps and cheers at the spectacle of children killing children for tribute to this futuristic and sick society's government.  On the other hand, I enjoyed the incredible tension and fast pace, the beautiful Katniss and her brave decision to voluntarily sacrifice her life and to defy the elitist regime by walking a thin line between compliance and subversive rebellion.

Sometimes life feels so complicated and my head so full, that I need to sit down and quietly work on a project.  It helps to clear the mind chatter and calm the soul.  This time, instead of going to the sewing machine, I opened my first Psyanka kit from the Ukranian Gift shop and worked with messy dye, beeswax, a tiny handmade tool called a kistka and an egg.

 Here is Elliot's bowl from his pottery class holding my first Pysanka egg.  




Here's to all the wonderful things that come with Spring.  I hope you are enjoying it too.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

For Hannah

There is a girl named Hannah who is five and who loves to pretend to be a unicorn.  After talking with her mom through Etsy, I created this special package for her Easter gift.  Yesterday Elliot and I took it to the post office.  It seemed like an ordinary thing to do.  But it really isn't so ordinary.  How extraordinary to be creating things for the encouragement of a child's imagination.  I'm very humbled that I am able to do this, and truly thankful that despite loads of insecurity, I keep going, thinking of ways to make a package of Knees and Paws the best they could possibly be.  One item not shown here will become a standard item included in every purchase.  Instead of an ordinary thank you card, I've made miniature thank you books out of watercolor paper and black ink.  From the cover to the inside pages, the book reads

Thank You

Especially handmade for (child's name)

Thank you for supporting your child's imagination.

Thank you for supporting a mom who works from home.

Thank you for supporting innovation and handmade.

People like you add love and energy to the world.

With Love,  Knees and Paws


Here's Hannah's Unicorn:


Monday, March 19, 2012

Stories lead to Action

Why do people write stories?  Although it makes no practical sense to attempt entry into a completely saturated children's market, I still feel compelled to try.  I've taken a few baby steps with my little children's story and realized that nothing unsolicited will be accepted for consideration.  With ink the price of caviar, I'd rather not have my story take up more landfill space.  I also learned that nearly every publishing company will not accept children's fiction.  So my story is now including  a cross cultural examination of a holiday tradition practiced around the globe.  It offers a creative answer as to why we practice a certain tradition, and why other cultures do this too.  It also will include a non fiction portion demonstrating the art that has come out of this particular tradition and tutorials for beginners.  I'm having a blast doing the research.  I've also learned that in order to write about something with any authority, I must know how to practice the art that I'm talking about.  So I might have a new hobby!  Writing has led to more crafting, and a new lesson to include in our home school. 

Another big event has occurred with surprising speed.  The kayak of my intention is now sitting in our garage.  I fully expected to save for at least another month before I was able to purchase one, but the exact kayak we needed (a tandem with a third seat for a child) popped up on craigslist over the weekend.  I sent an inquiry, and it was still available!   It was even less than I was expecting to pay!  We are all very excited to be able to go out on the lake that is within a mile of our house.  For eight years we have lived so close to this lake, walking the trails around it, wishing we could be out on the water, getting relief from the pressing heat of summer.  This will be the year!




Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Blooming Canopy and a Secret

It's heavenly outside, so I have nothing important to say.  My head is full of springtime.



Yesterday I wrote down a children's story, inspired by a discussion from our home school writer's workshop.  It's complete silly nonsense.  I started telling it in class because our newest student was so shy that she didn't say a word during the entire class.  By the end of the session she was giggling.  So I went home and the whole story fell out of my pen.  It feels like a secret to have written it.   I looked at a list of publishers.  I  must act quickly or else lose my nerve entirely.  I'm certain that if I read it aloud or look at it again I might hide it in a drawer forever.



Thursday, March 15, 2012

A desk for the boss of no one

    For years I have been writing and working from my perch facing an old desktop computer stacked on a lousy computer cart. I've been irritated by the sight of this work station for years but haven't wanted to replace it with another piece of junk (otherwise, absolutely no pressed board, assemble it yourself crap from China. Period.)  So I've been patient.  I practiced intention.  I visualized my future grand desk with a spacious surface made of real wood the color of deep honey.  I knew that this desk was going to be old, because I prefer wood furniture with a history.  I also knew that the type of desk I wanted was probably going to be expensive.  It might be the kind of desk you'd see in an old library.

    At Knees and Paws, I am the boss --the boss of no one.  But even the boss of no one needs a work space to stay organized.  The writer in me wanted this desk more than the boss in me did.

     One day this week, feeling a brief respite from my cold, Elliot and I ventured out for groceries.  I was feeling happy, and sometimes a feeling of happy makes me want to shop for other things besides food.  So we stopped to browse the stinky old stuff at Goodwill.  It's closer than the mall and strangely interesting...with just a touch of pathetic.  But we love it.  Emily hates to go in with me, but Elliot enjoys it.  A boy after my own heart.

    On this carefree day, while standing in the midst of old exercise equipment and bean bag chairs, I saw THE desk of my intention.  I peeked at the price tag, fully expecting it to be way out of my range.  But when you are a student of intention, there's a little spark of knowledge that tells you to go for it.  I'd been saving for a kayak and had just enough to take it home, without completely demolishing my kayak egg nest.

     When I pulled up to the loading area, the men patiently explained that they refused to put it into the back of my Ford.  One came out with a measuring tape, saying that if it fell out on the way home I would do serious damage to the back bumper. (I'm thinking, not to mention the car behind us!)  All of this talk just felt false, like an excuse not to do heavy lifting.  I knew there was plenty of room but sometimes people here only respond positively to men.  I've experienced this countless times in auto repair shops, with exterminators and with home maintenance technicians.  Usually laborers are surprised that I can speak their language as I was once a maintenance apprentice and have experience in carpentry, electricity and plumbing.  Still, they love to wriggle their way out of tackling a job until they meet and directly speak to Richard.  (King Richard as they have named him at work...not very nice but he does have an air of authority about him).

 The men at the store told me to come back with a flatbed truck with no cap on top.  I was sure this was b.s. but with other things to do I left with my receipt, not entirely sure that the desk would still be there the next day. This has happened before when there's a really valuable piece that could easily disappear after hours.

  The following day, Richard returned to the store with our receipt in the same vehicle I had been driving the day before.  He instructed the men to turn the desk upside down, and it slid right in, with only a few inches exposed.  Victory!

    At home, Richard and I worked together with a hand cart and managed to get it in the house by ourselves.  My husband is usually not appreciative of any spending that's not for essentials, but even he was very impressed with this find.  We enjoyed opening all the drawers and searching for secret compartments.  We imagined the previous owner having lunch at this desk, because one of the drawers smelled like pickles.

  After all of this writing, I'm not entirely sure why I felt it was important to share this story with you, except to spread my giddy excitement.  There's a reason why patience is a virtue.  Not having something immediately is good for the soul.  It sweetens the experience of receiving the ideal.  Was it intention at work, or simply a random coincidence?  Whatever the case, I'm sitting here enjoying the result.

  


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Singing for Ozzie

I used to sing every day.  I've never claimed to have a stellar voice, but from years of church going and teaching preschool, I had a collection of simple hymns and songs that I frequently used to comfort Emily when she was little.  She hated to sleep in her crib alone at night and hated it even more to be strapped in her car seat for long trips.  During those times, my singing would silence her crying.

When Elliot was born, I assumed that he would also be comforted by songs.  Apparently not.  As soon as he was speaking complete sentences, he looked at me with big blue eyes and said,

"Mom, don't sing. It bovvers me."



So I stopped singing, unless I was in the car by myself listening to Rob Thomas or Elton John.

Then, last night, while cuddled up in a blanket fort, I sang a silly song after reading a chapter of Elliot's new favorite book Lego, A Love Story.  The book is written for adults, but since the content is rated G and Elliot can easily follow the storyline, I chose it as a read aloud over the denser language of J.M Barrie's Peter Pan.  In the chapter we'd just finished, the inventor of LEGO had died  the same year he was awarded a patent.  Elliot was sad about that event and so to lighten the mood before sleep, I took a risk and sang something.

The song must have worked because his face lit up in a smile and he asked for another.  After the first lines of that song,  Ozzie came over and lay down by my side, licking my arm and sniffing my face.  I asked him if he wanted me to keep singing and his response was to rest his head on my chest to feel the vibration of the song.
During the next silly song, I inserted Ozzie's name into one of the lines.  He looked at my face and started licking me again.  I guess everyone, even pets, love the sound of their own names.  From then on, I sang nursery rhymes, inserting Ozzie's name into every song.

"The itsy bitsy Ozzie went up the water spout! Down came the rain and washed the Ozzie out!  Out came the sun and dried up all the rain, so the itsy bitsy Ozzie went up the spout again!"

Elliot laughed and Ozzie thumped his tail and gave me kisses, scooting himself onto my chest like a baby wanting to be held.  I guess it's better to have a crazy mom than one who is too sane to sing to a dog.

If anyone asks, the answer is yes.  I have officially gone mad.






Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Primitive Kitchen

One of my favorite imaginary games as a child was to gather various bits of nature and pretend I was cooking. When the warm weather arrived in late spring and summer, I wanted to live outdoors.  I made blanket tents and spent entire days playing and reading under a cottonwood tree.  Another favorite sanctuary was  a creek that gurgled happily over rocks and around little bends in the back yard.  I possessed a long attention span, easily able to block out the sights and sounds of the neighborhood  as I became deeply absorbed in the streaming water and the small fish, bullfrogs and crayfish.  Sometimes a great blue heron would startle me with an unexpected flight from his hidden spot in the reedy cattails.

 My brothers and I also had a metal swing set and a tire swing, a large grassy lawn, and a huge vegetable garden (which was of course not for playing in, but for working in). We also had an area below our sun deck that was covered in sand.  Most of our play involved acting out the drama of an ongoing imaginary game.  We were runaways and orphans, explorers and cave dwellers.  I often had difficulty negotiating the terms of play when neighbor kids came to visit and sometimes acted bossy because I was so attached to my version of the game.

My life as a child was crammed full of this kind of play, the kind that was almost entirely detached from electronics.  We did have a color television and a wonderful collection of toys, but fantasy play always seemed better when we invented and constructed things ourselves.  My favorite games almost always contained an element of the primitive.  At that time I had no knowledge of the Waldorf school of thought which values natural toys and imagination.

This week, not inspired by Waldorf, but by the memory of what I enjoyed, I helped Elliot build a little outdoor room under our ivy covered arbor.  We set up a camp style kitchen, and as I write this, Elliot and his friends are completely immersed in play.  From my spot at the window, I can hear someone saying "I'm going to be the great great master."  I fully expect that the others will soon be bargaining for independence from the master's rule.

In fact, two minutes after the self appointed great great master sends out a command, I hear another voice saying "you're not that great."

 I go outside bearing a gift:  a plate of warm chocolate cake and cold milk to enjoy in the primitive kitchen.  That should be at least as exciting as washing their own dishes.





Monday, March 12, 2012

No need to run

Contrary to this title, I literally have a need to run after two weeks of being inhabited by an alien life form, otherwise known as the common cold. The title of this post is not about the kind of running one does for strength and weight control.  It's about the kind of running one does from memories of the past. 

There's something in my past too personal for this medium of blogging. Without going into specific details, there was a collection of experiences lasting many years that set up a pattern of running.   No, I'm not running from the law (my life is not as exciting as a movie).

During a recent conversation with a close friend about my experience, I realized upon waking today that for some unexplained reason, I no longer feel like I need to run from the memory.  I'm completely surprised by the discovery that I am separate from those feelings once felt.

As the feelings once felt are now a memory detached from a "re run" experience of the emotion, I'm free.






Saturday, March 10, 2012

For Elliot and Emily

Just in case one day you're reading this, I wanted you to find this picture of your Grandpa.  Along with your Grandma, he taught me all of the important things in life.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Manners

When my brothers and I were kids, we were enrolled in "Momma June's Manner School."  This was a series of meals hosted by our patient and loving mom, who always had a creative way of teaching us valuable life lessons. Ironically, we sometimes got extreme cases of the sillies during manner school. Trying to hold in a giggle, I felt I would burst at the seams and laughed so hard that orange juice came spurting out of my nostrils.  That was the end of manner school and my first failing grade.  I'm not sure I would have done very well in home school.

Perhaps my mom should have invited these dogs to the table, to teach us how to eat a meal using proper etiquette.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Recovering

It's been an emotionally challenging few weeks.  Suddenly I've come down with a virus.  Perhaps it's a signal to slow down and rest.  So that's what I'll be doing until my strength returns and my head is clear.

I might even order all the groceries online and let kind, hard working folks load them in my car.

I'll surely let go of all the things that I've been working so hard to keep up.

Because even if the children and pets leave the house messy, I'm sitting here in my own home with the roof and walls intact, feeling sad for those who've lost everything to tornadoes.    My prayers and intentions are with those who now have to bury their loved ones and rebuild their lives.

I would like to be positive, chipper and happy, with bright sunny language and golden bubbles of thought.  But sometimes I think it's more important to just be myself.  When you're feeling weak the laughter doesn't arrive easily.  

Yet, I have a memory of a certain place that fills me with comfort.

When you're left without immediate access to a direct experience of joy, it's good therapy to simply rest and remember.  In my mind, I'm at Jockey's Ridge state park on the coast of North Carolina.  This little pocket of desert, with dunes and steady ocean breezes makes my heart lighter and my mind clear.  Just the thought of this place makes me relax and feel good.  Even if I'm not hang gliding there, I love to simply hike those hills and look out over the expansive ocean.

This is my favorite picture of Elliot









Sunday, March 4, 2012

Busy Hands are Happy Hands

The Jungle Book order is nearly finished.  This week I'll be finishing seven elephants and some leafy arm bands in my dwindling spare time.  Wait, did I say dwindling? I meant nonexistent!











Friday, March 2, 2012

I went out running

I went out running yesterday, when the world was full of spring air, wind, blue sky and sunlight.  Some of the neighborhoods smelled like Easter with their cultivated gardens and blooming pansies.  I went out running and it felt incredible to be alive.  Feeling free and happy, I ran all the way into town. Forest Gump's voice was actually in my head, saying "I just kept on going."  I smiled as I ran, with a secret inside.  What a surprise to discover that this was easy!  By the time I returned home, I had traveled seven miles and despite feeling a slight discomfort in my feet from wearing old shoes, I wasn't tired.  That hasn't happened before.

Perhaps it was because I've been training at the gym on a consistent level, increasing my speed gradually. Maybe it was the weather and the fact that since Richard was home sick, I had hours of free time.  Whatever the cause, I felt a sense of great joy building up again, where the lows couldn't reach.  The bird had flown away.

As I was running, I thought a little more about what it would mean to devote one's life to writing.  This thought arose after seeing some really amazing fine art painted by Tom's son, who has lived his entire adult life as an artist in the mountains of North Carolina.  I wondered what would it mean to avoid all the tempting ways to make regular, steady money.  To give up comfort and security to create something over the course of years, never knowing if it would sell or be accepted.  The courage in that leap of faith is mind boggling.

So as I was running along, I was thinking about myself as a writer.  I used to hear this said on the subject:  "writer's write".  And that used to stick on the roof of my mouth like a wad of cheap white bread from a peanut butter sandwich; I longed to flick it out.  Writers write.  How obvious. 

Yet there's truth in the idea of accomplishing something with regular practice, like running on the treadmill.  One day, I might find that I've written an entire chapter and found myself in the midst of a town, with bustling traffic, fast food restaurants and medical buildings. What if I wrote things on paper in the same regular practice as I run?

I was thinking about writing as I ran.  I ran past an earth worm and knew I could write about that worm and my childhood.  I saw dandylions and knew that they would be in the writing too.  Then I passed an empty pack of Marlboro's and said, "yup, there's loads to write during those years."

Then  I came home and instead of writing those things, poured a cold glass of ice water and went out to the deck, feeling the warming sun and breeze.   Perhaps in the end it won't matter much if I ever write about weeds, worms and cigarettes.

But I think I might be leaning towards the idea.

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