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Monthly Archives: May 2006

Some jobs are just A drag

There all these weird things on my to-do list now a days. One is “walking April”. Sounds easy, but trust me, it isn’t.  She is wild and skitterish. Kent and I work together to catch her. We chase her (and that is truly a beautiful sight) until she gets tired, and when she nuzzles into her mother for comfort, we approach in a spread out pattern with a rope held between us.  When she goes to run, we hang on for dear life. We are usually pulled along for a while, and if she doesn’t shake us off with her powerful bucking, we rein her in and clip the leadrope onto her halter. We calm her and touch her all over, talking softly and “desensitizing” her to touch and people. Then, we try to walk her. This, you see, is how you halter break a young filly. (We country folk know these things, ya’all.) 

However, April is still stubborn and won’t walk with us. She is worse than the donkey when he is in a belligerent mood.  She digs her feet into the earth and pulls away, mad as all get-out. Therefore, Kent has to shove from the rear and I pull from the front as we drag her around the pasture. Her mother, Dixie, whinnies and snorts, watching us work with her baby. We drag the brat around for about ten minutes, then stop to pet her all over some more. Then, we let her go.  It isn’t fun. It isn’t easy. But it sure is interesting. She is one month old, and we just found out we should have been doing this from day one – then she would be halter trained by now. Oops. So, we’ve done it twice, and have intention to continue as often as possible until she is trained. We figure a month. Lord knows, it would be impossible if we didn’t do this now, because the thought of battling a full-grown horse is more than a wee-bit intimidating.   As it is, she inevitably stomps on us (and even at her measly 250 pounds, that hurts) and she has dragged me a good 40 feet until my fingers just can’t hold on anymore and I end up dumped on my butt on the mud packed earth. But in any battle of wills, the person with the most commitment wins – and I am far more committed to making her a good horse than she is in avoiding becoming one, so she is out of her league if she thinks she is going to win this war. 

I love that my life is filled with these new, novel challenges. I learn so much everyday. It keeps ya young, ya know. Caring for horses doesn’t take a rocket scientist, but raising, breading, teaching, breaking, and making friends with horses is a far cry from teaching dance, and I love how it makes me see the world through new eyes. 

Anyway, I’d advise everyone to go out for a drag with a young horse at least once in their life. In fact, if you want to try it, come visit. Kent and I will sit on the lawn chairs and have a coke while shouting advice. Somebody has to do the dirty job. And if we can get out of it . . . .     


Where is the Silver Lining?

I’m not bragging when I say I’m good at almost everything I do. It’s a fact. The reason I insist this announcement is not bragging, is because my being good at things has nothing to do with my being intelligent or talented or special. It’s simply the outcome of having a wealth of life experience to draw from. We are all nothing more than the sum of our experiences and I have always had eclectic interests and a willingness to jump in and try things.


As a young girl, I dabbled in crochet, quilting, sewing, tatting, knitting, needlepoint, candle making, and other crafts. I danced, loved sports, and camped. I rode horses, loved sailing, ice-skating, fishing, and gambling. I play a mean hand of cards, and can whip your butt at ping-pong or croquet.  I’ve taken courses in guitar, computers, and language – none of which I proved a natural at, but all of which added to my basic understanding of these “arts”. I cook like a fiend and I run. Tried a few races, just to see what that was like. I’ve studied yoga, dance (obviously), taken every workout class in existence and even got aerobic certified. I once got a certificate in publishing from New York’s New School back when I joined writer’s groups for the first time. I earned a BA in business at 40, written articles in magazines, written books and now am earning an MFA in fiction at 47.  I ran a business successfully, which forced me to learn more than I wanted to learn about marketing, management etc. I managed a non-profit dance company and wrote grants too.  I have a donkey, a llama, four horses and a pile of books on how to raise wild chickens and turkeys, (and you know where I’m going with that.) I’ve taken classes on pottery, chair caning, storytelling, watercolor, and basket making just this year, and have others scheduled.

This are just a few of the “life experiences” that come to mind. The point is, when you are hungry to try new things, and you have no fear of looking stupid, you tend to expose yourself to unusual things, which add to your ever-growing base of understanding.


This means now, in my mature years, I’m good at lots of things.




Last weekend, I took a silver metalworking class at the Campbell school. The project was a linked silver bracelet and, time permitting, a few charms. Looked simple. 


The teacher said that putting the basic chain together (which wasn’t basic, it was a complicated, albeit gorgeous chain) was a bit like crochet. If you understood the concept of pattern, it would be easy. Well, lord knows, I understand patterns. I crochet. And dance is making patterns in space.  So, I’m supposed to get this, right? Wrong. I felt like an imbecile as I struggled with the seven loops made in a special coil system. I kept making a mess of it. Four hours later, my chain (with help) was finally complete. Whew.


The next day, we were to solder each of the 40 loops together so there is a consistent flow in the silver – no breaks. This is for security and looks. Cheap bracelets come from Mexico or other places, and often they are not soldered. We were learning to make “quality” jewelry.  


You many have noticed that when I listed all of the above life skills, power tools were not even hinted at in any endeavor. Nope. I’ve never lifted anything other than a screwdriver or hammer – very non-threatening, non-powered, non-challenging tools.


We were taught to use power torches powered by propane tanks to solder. I thought soldering was like using a glue gun with liquid metal in the base or something. Ummm… nope again. You must cut up itty-bitty chunks of silver soldering material, pick up these minute flecks and put them onto the piece. You first slather on this goo to assure the soldering will flow. Then each ring must be heated for the fleck to adhere. You then heat the ring and the soldering material melts and seeps into the fine spaces where the ring is connected. It glistens as if it is crying, then disappears.


Rule one. Don’t touch the bracelet when you have just spent several minutes aiming a blowtorch at it. Umm….. why did I have such a hard time with that rule? Band-Aids took the place of jewelry on my fingers all weekend as I proceeded to burn my skin every time I wanted to adjust the position of my chain. Just because it is no longer red hot doesn’t mean it isn’t hot. Duh.


Now, it is only fair to say I wasn’t the worst student in the class. There were six of us, and three of the women were definitely slower and less steady handed than I. Therefore, this put me in the middle, meaning I was “average” in the silversmith department. I can live with that.  And one of the women who was better than I confessed she’s taken many, many silversmith jewelry classes, so she doesn’t really count. So, that leaves the college kid as the only person better than I. She was amazing. She worked fast, accurately and with passion. She had instant understanding each time we were given a lesson and she would squeal with delight as she trotted off to make something grand. Ah, to be young and excited by your own, newly discovered gifts.


She was a natural at jewelry design, and as such, I found her pretty obnoxious. Blowing on my burnt fingers in the soldering room, I told the other woman we should stop talking to the college kid, because she was just out to make us look bad and if we ignored her, maybe she would go away. 


The college kid said, “You are just jealous, Mom, now do you want me to help you with your chain or not, because I hate to tell you, but all those links you just soldered didn’t take and they must be done again.” (That would make it my forth attempt, grrrr)


I let her help me. I had long given up the idea that I would leave this class with silversmith skills. I just wanted to leave with a bracelet.

But without help, I would be leaving with a hunk of unsoldered links. I just couldn’t see when the soldering material melted. I couldn’t even see to put it on the right place, and once the bracelet turned black from the torch, I couldn’t see anything.


After quite a bit of help, I finished the bracelet, and it was lovely. I wanted to stop while I was ahead, but Denver kept insisting I make a charm. She had already made three. Sigh.


I put a “G” on a silver disk, planning a simple letter charm. First, you use a drill. I sat at the machine, just staring. Intimidated. Denver came in and said, “It’s just like a sewing machine.”


Ah – that I get. So I drilled some starter holes easily enough. Fun.


Then, I had to put this hair sized metal thread in a saw and start sawing through the silver – and let me point out that a “G” has lots of curves. Too many. Why couldn’t my name have been Ida? An “I” would be a straight shot.  


It wasn’t long before I sliced through my index finger. Blood gushed all over. As I was attending to it at the medicine cabinet (my home away from home), Denver came out and shook her head.


“I broke six of these saw blades already.” I complained, holding up my wound so she would feel ample pity for me. We took this class because making jewelry is HER passion. I was thinking that my drawing blood for her should earn me extra “good mother” points.


“Did you spit on it?” she said.

“My finger?”

“The saw.”

“Why would I do that?”

She rolled her eyes. “Because Dori (the teacher) told us to. You weren’t listening. You were staring out the window thinking of bees again.”



Another class that weekend was bee keeping. I thought that subject fascinating. I mentioned to Mark that I would love to try keeping bees on our land – you know making natural honey and bee’s wax soap and candles and all. But he hates bees and wasps – has a thing about them. He runs screaming like a little girl from anything that buzzes. So he isn’t about to condone my bringing 4000 bees onto our land. Drat. I spent the weekend looking longingly at the area where the hives were kept. Everyone in the class said it was terrific – amazing –they learned everything about keeping bees and it’s easy.

Well – maybe next year.


Anyway, after struggling with the chain for two days straight, I had no intention of making a charm for my bracelet so I didn’t pay close attention to the charm portion of the class. Nevertheless, Denver made me feel guilty for not trying, and we did have six hours left of class, so I muddled through and I have a nice lopsided “G” for my bracelet now. It rests beside a book charm that Denver made for me. It’s actually nice. Unfortunately, these charms do not come out on my photograph, but my G is a sunken carving – it rests on a second disk to give it depth, and Denver’s book has the word “book” carved on it, and it has pages and textire detailed into it too.


I do not see myself returning to this sort of jewelry course again – but I must admit, it was a novel experience. I do plan to take a lampwork bead class, which requires using the same propane blowtorch to melt glass, and I’m thinking I won’t be so bad at it next time, considering I have this experience to draw from. The more you do, the better you are at doing.  There was also a class on silver clay charms at the school that weekend and Denver and I visited the studio a few times to check it out. That looks more my speed – maybe next time, I’ll try that kind of silversmithing.


I’m thinking I’ll just add charms to my bracelet over the years as I try new courses. Next to my “G”, I might add a glass charm, one of clay, maybe a wood one, etc…. My bracelet will be a testament to my artistic bravery (even if it is full of slightly imperfect charms).   


Denver has a true gift for jewelry making. I’d love to see her study seriously just to see what she is capable of. (And just think of the great Christmas gifts I would get!) Our teacher was a very impressive and inspirational professional who designs one of a kind jewelry that has this mechanical flavor. She uses minuet pulleys and things that roll to add movement and special interest to her work. She also happens to be a fascinating woman with a generous artistic attitude. She lives on a farm and talked about the importance of leisure and calm in fine-tuning your artistic awareness – lovely attitude – one I admire at this phase of life. Anyone interested in seeing her amazing work can check out her website. It’s cool.


When I got home, I noticed I could barely read my book- the words were all fuzzy and I was holding the book an arms length away. ( I do homework every night before falling asleep). I checked my glasses. They are 125 strength. Humm….. I rummaged in my collection of glasses and found a 200. These were better. The next day, in a store, I tried a 250. Wow –it is possible to read without getting a cramp from holding a book three feet away? Now, we’re talking.


So, apparently, I couldn’t see the solder melt  because I couldn’t see. Anything. Maybe I’m not as bad as I think I am. I mean, I wouldn’t presume to call myself a good silversmith, but I’m not a total dismal failure. I just need better glasses for that kind of work. So, today, I am cleaning out my various assorted glasses (damn – there goes some of my favorite wild designs) and I’ll begin collecting stronger glasses. Do I need to point out here that I hate that I am getting old?


I keep thinking about how awkward I felt with that torch. I need to learn how to manage tools. I’m thinking I should take a class on building something out of wood next time. Then, I can learn to handle a saw and power drill. Mark will have an entire woodturning studio. I should learn about what is in there, just to better understand his world. How can I nag him about safety if I don’t know what is and isn’t dangerous? And if I learned to handle tools, I could build my own chicken coop and not have to beg my husband when I want a favor, like a rabbit hutch.

Independence is a great thing.


I missed blogging this last two weeks. Wanted to be here, but couldn’t. Life was out of control (some of which I’ll share later) and what time I could carve out for the computer was devoted to finishing my schoolwork for this term. I am now on a month long break, but I have to write two original stories in the next two weeks for the upcoming residency. Yikes.  I’ll share them here when they are finished, but I can’t promise they will be entertaining. I am reading my teacher’s book, “The Good Negress” and then I’m on to some other recommendations from staff. I have to find time to work on my book before turning it over to a new mentor too. Gosh, I’m tired just thinking about it.


It’s odd – I gave up my business to have more time for living, but I have less time to write now than I ever had before. How is that possible? Part of the problem is driving. We spend at least 4 hours a day in the car, driving back and forth to the land, the house site, the schools, Wal-Mart. There are issues with living in this transitional situation that are hard to cope with. But the house will be finished in August, and life will change then for the better. (It must.) And the kids get out of school next week, which means my life will no longer revolve around their drop off and pick up hours. Yippee. My life is an adventure – and that is good – but I miss routine and the time to think. Breathe.


Now, I must use my time productively cause the day is slipping a way. I need to think of a place to start a story. I am writing about concrete. Trust me, it sounds stupid but it’s a good idea. Anything solid makes a promising foundation for a story, I’m thinking.



Mother’s day

My last several Mother’s days were spent at dance competitions where all the focus was on students and performances. I was lucky to get a stray hug and a “happy mother’s day, can you zip up my costume” comment. Now that I’m free and no longer encumbered by  business demands, relishing my God given role of “mother” in a natural way, the holiday is mine to celebrate. For the first time ever, I’m aware of how special it is to have a day designated to appreciating mom.


Mother’s day is a designated family day. The best part of this specific family oriented day is that Mother (me) gets to choose how the family spends it. My family asked me a week ago what I “wanted” for Mother’s Day. I said, “Nothing tangible. No gifts.  I just want to have a good time.”


I don’t want “things”, per say – but man-o-man, I am thrilled to have the power of choosing the experience for one day. That is truly a great gift. As the mother (I.E. the nurturer, mediator, compromiser) I am always throwing out suggestions, but they are overruled by the majority – or, I withdrawal my desires because I read a family member’s face and feel guilty for pushing for something I want. I tend to feel compelled to give everybody else their wish first and foremost. Not on Mother’s Day. That is a “no-guilt push for whatever you want” day.  Therefore, I did.


I told my family I wanted to go kayaking, weather permitting. If that wasn’t possible, we would go to Atlanta to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History to see all the exhibits, especially and specifically, the current tour of the chocolate exhibit, an educational and historical look at chocolate. This is my idea of a good time.


It was only 54 degrees Sunday morning. Overcast. 50% chance of rain. This did not make conditions attractive for kayaking, so we opted for the museum. I dressed in a pretty skirt and lacy top and the family took me out to breakfast. When we left the restaurant, it was a sunny 60 degrees. Now, that isn’t ideal, but it is promising. It might get warmer. I suggested we change plans (and clothes) and go back to the kayaking plan. My husband said, “It’s your day.”


So that is what we did.


We drove to the local River Adventures Company that sponsors whitewater-rafting tours. They also rent kayaks, tubes etc. Because it was rather cold, we didn’t think it would be wise to set up a scenario where we would be wet for hours on the water, so we opted for two canoes rather than kayaks– one for Denver and Kent, and one for Mark and me, with Neva sitting in between. Fun – I love canoes.  I packed snacks and water bottles.


The company offered two trips, one a measly 1 ½ miler (which isn’t nearly long enough) and the other a 6 mile float. This is rather long for beginners – which includes everyone in the family other than me, however, it was my day and thus my call. Since I was comfortable being totally selfish, we took the 6-mile trip.


The guide kept commenting about “When we flip the canoe…” I chuckled and said, “I have no intention of flipping these boats. I’ve been canoeing all my life, haven’t turned one over since I was twelve and stupid.” ( O.K – confession – I once stood up and bailed right in the rapids because I was scared. This caused my boat to capsize and my dad (and all our sleeping bags etc) to get drenched. Needless to say, I learned the folly of canoe acrobatics then and there as an adolescent, and I’ve never forgotten it.


The guide smiled and said, “I promise you, at least one of these boats will flip on this trip. Count on it.”


Silly, faithless man.


We get to the site where we put in and Denver and Kent get into a canoe, arguing all the while – much ado about nothing. Too many green paddlers in that boat, I guess, but whatcha gonna do? As they go hilter skilter with the tide, it was our turn to load.


I was going to sit in the back, because I know more about steering, so Mark had to get in first. The guide and I reminded him to hold onto both rims of the boat and step into the middle. He heard us, but his body did not obey the practical advice. The boat rocked. Mark lost his footing and he plummeted into the water – only it wasn’t deep there on the shore, so he fell into mud. He came up with gobs of goo up his shirt and down his pants.


I, of course, started laughing. Couldn’t stop. I asked if he’d be OK for the trip, (trying to be nice) because here he was, already wet, and we had six miles ahead of us and no sun to warm him up. Didn’t bode well for a comfortable trip. He insisted he was fine, the mud in his crack was refreshing and good for the complexion. He was ready to go. He wouldn’t even rinse off as the guide suggested. He was just embarrassed to have slipped in front of this experienced boat guy. And I think he wanted to get this trip over with – the sooner we started, the sooner it would be over.


We loaded a nervous Neva, I got in and we shoved off.

Thus begins a Mother’s day we aren’t likely to forget.


Let me begin by saying, I love canoeing. I love being out on the water. I love the motion of the boat – simple – fueled only by quiet paddling. I love looking at the trees on the banks of the shore, animal sightings and birds, or houses built right on the riverfront. I love how my arms get tired – the sounds of the wind in the trees and the fish jumping and quiet voices rolling over the water from one boat to the other. I love the challenge of maneuvering the boat when obstacles like rocks or a tree get in the way. I especially love rapids. Exhilarating. Canoeing makes me think of my dad and growing up. Canoe trips were normal weekend fare for us – we even owned a canoe. It was painted like white birch bark. I have many fond family memories of that boat and the hours we shared on lakes and rivers and such.


For the first half mile, we all got used to our “teams”, learning how to communicate and paddle to propel the canoes in a controlled manner. My daughter was sitting in the same position as I, in the back of her boat, so I tried to teach her how to steer, but she insisted she and Kent had their “own way” of doing things. I was told to stay out of it.

O.K. Sister. Knock yourself out.


Mark had his own paddling method. I call it the splash and crash method. He slammed the paddle into the water (too shallow), and managed to get everyone behind him wet in the process. He didn’t want to hold the paddle as suggested, so he kept slamming his fingers between the frame of the paddle and the boat. In short order, they were black and blue. Throbbing. Ouch. But he wasn’t much interested in paddling lessons either.


Apparently, the environmental department lets releases water from the damns several times a day which causes a great, hearty flow and a higher water level in the Ocoee river (that is where the former Olympics was – yep we live in that area where the perfect river runs and the entire world agreed that season). But on Mother’s day, they were not letting water out till midnight, so it meant a shallow river. This meant our trip was a virtual minefield of rocks. Cool. Mark did not find this cool, however. He felt rocks are a call for much cussing and complaining. I kept pointing out that he was the lookout and had to tell me where to maneuver the boat. He couldn’t just scream “rock” as we were hitting them. I couldn’t see from the back – partly because he is too big to see around and partly because my eyes suck.


It took us about two miles to get him on the ball in the rock-warning category. But eventually, we started working together fine. We had a method – I call it the “let the kids get ahead and when they get stuck, we will go the other way” method. It worked most of the time.


I think it’s fair to say that much of the six miles we covered was not a float – more a push and scoot method of forcing the boat forward. Sometimes, up ahead was such a perilous obstacle course we just had to let the current take us wherever it wanted, because it was impossible to avoid turmoil and hard work to get through. But get through we did. And we didn’t get out of our boat once.

Everyone was not so lucky.


At one such area where the rapids were rough, my kid’s boat tilted and Kent lost a flip-flop. He reached out to get it just as Denver was compensating with a lean, and their boat flipped. They were dowsed – freezing and mad – yelling. They had to lug the boat to the shoreline to turn it back over to get in.


I felt terrible for them. I couldn’t stop laughing.


I must admit – I laughed all day. I mean, it was like I was possessed or something. I couldn’t stop. I laughed at my loved one’s discomfort, their awkwardness, their stupidity, their good humor, their willingness to go canoeing when they didn’t want to, their jokes, their complaints. They would be in the rapids yelling and shouting at each other, and I’d be yelling “Ye-haw! Whoopee!” and laughing .  And the more fun I had, the more annoyed they got.


Finally, Mark looked at me, shook his head, and said, “You are loving this, aren’t you? For the first time ever, instead of the family making you miserable, you are having the time of your life and you get to make US miserable.”


So sue me, I like canoeing.


To be honest, everyone was a great sport about the day for the first three hours. But then, tones began to change. For one thing, everyone was cold. Of course, it is only fair to point out that everyone was wet, but me. I am the only person who remained dry, other than Neva, and since she was sitting in the middle of the boat and Mark had splashed so much water in with his brutal paddling, she was pretty wet from the waist down too.  So, naturally, they were less comfortable than I. Their lips were blue and their feet numb. And everyone said their arms felt like they were falling off. Big surprise. They were all paddling furiously for hours on end, while I was paddling and steering and taking leisurely breaks between rapids when we had smooth sailing. I wasn’t sore in the way they were – and frankly, I am more in shape (other than Kent) and that helps too.  So at this point, everyone (other than me) lost their humor because they were so darn uncomfortable.


They started singing songs about how they hated canoeing.


I said, “Come on – take a minute to look at the baby ducks. You have to admit the scenery is beautiful. If it was sunny out, this would be great.”

My daughter glared at me and snapped, “It isn’t sunny. And we are OVER this, Mom.”


I was very sensitive to their misery. I laughed some more.


It took us 5 hours to complete the trip. I tried bargaining with snacks to get everyone in a better mood, but when Kent stopped paddling to eat some popcorn or a cereal bar, his sister yelled at him because the boat got off course. Mark dropped his crackers in the water so he threw them overboard with a disappointed snarl. Neva said her fruit roll up was gooey from moisture. Big disappointment.  But, I enjoyed my snack. My crackers were crusty and good, even if the duck swimming along side us wouldn’t trust us enough to eat some.


We were half a mile from the exit when Mark shut down completely. He said he couldn’t paddle anymore. He sat there as if he was on a Disney ride and he was expecting it to roll to a halt in front of the exit any minute. The boat kept rocking perilously as he shifted in his seat because his hips and knees were killing him.


He announced he would NEVER get in a canoe again.


I said, “What does that mean? You can’t mean you will never canoe again, just because today it is a bit overcast and cold.”

He assured me, I’d be hard pressed to ever convince anyone in this family to go canoeing again. “Unless your dad comes up to visit and you go out with him, you will be alone if you ever want to get in a canoe again.”   He said, with my kids nodding support.


It didn’t matter what they said., because the fact is, Mother’s day comes every year.


I told Mark he had to participate, like it or not,  at the end, because we were getting lodged on rocks and the only way he could end the misery was to help me get us to the finish. He started bashing at the water with his paddle, as if he was trying to kill an alligator or something – when the only thing around us was gentle waves. He argued that I wasn’t steering well, when really, I just needed more motion for my steering to have effect. It didn’t help that he changed sides every two minutes all day long. I tried to convince him to just stay left and I would compensate, but taking canoe orders is simply not in the genetic code of these Hendry’s, it seems. But I wasn’t angry at anyone’s bad temper. It was a long trip, after all.  


When we finally got to the end of our six-mile adventure, Mark couldn’t even stand because his hips hurt so bad. Denver said her feet were so cold she couldn’t feel them, so she fell as she walked, as if both feet were asleep. Kent was miserable, and Neva (because she didn’t want to feel left out) started complaining too. We dragged the boats onto the shore and I threw away the trash. We lumbered to the car, dragging our wet sweatshirts and shoes.


Denver did comment that she thought we would laugh about this day in the future – but not until then. I had to be quiet until then. I tried. Really.


So, we sat on towels in the car and I drove home (it’s only a fifteen minute drive). Everyone had a shower and slowly, the circulation came back. The heavy gray clouds let loose and it started to rain.


“See, we were lucky in a way.” I said. Everyone groaned.


After changing – tired and beat-up-  they took me out to dinner to a Chinese buffet (also something I love but they feel cool about. Hey – it is still Mother’s day – my pick). We laughed a little at their misery. They passed a bottle of Advil around like it was candy, complaining that their arms hurt too much to life their forks. My mother’s day concluded with us opening fortune cookies – all of which seemed eerily apropos to our current life situations. Neat.


It was the BEST ever day.


I don’t think it could have been any better, even if everyone was in a good mood the entire 5 hours of canoeing. I didn’t mind the complaining cause, heck, my family was truly uncomfortable and they don’t have to hide a simple truth that is so apparent. What counts is, they were there, floating along beside me, doing my thing because they were committed to giving me one day a year that is mine all mine. And that meant a lot. I loved it all – the gray sky, the shallow water, the hard seat that numbed my butt, and even the complaining family.


I am seriously thinking it is time to turn in my two-seater kayak for a one man, easy to lift boat. I may have to throw in the towel on the “teaching your family to love a great river trip in a canoe” quest. After this Mother’s day, I’m thinking it aint’ gonna happen. But then again, when the sun comes out and the hot days of summer arrive, it’s amazing how quickly people forget the cold. I might finagle another family try at canoeing, which might go better if I am smart about it.


Yesterday, as I was dropping my daughter off at the airport (I had to lift her luggage cause her shoulders and wrist were so sore) my daughter said she might join me for a gentle cruise around the lake someday in my kayak since there are no evil rocks laying wait to capsize you in a lake. She also said, maybe on a day when the river flows well, she’ll even try a short three-mile trip in a flat bottom kayak. She had to admit paddling must be great for a gal’s arms. I pointed out that her aunt says it gives you boobs like a rock too.


Later, Mark said he wouldn’t mind putting in at the same spot if we parked the car at the public park that is a few miles down the way, on a day when the river is higher.




A shorter trip?

On less frustrating water?

We are talking compromise, right?


I can do that.. . until the next Mother’ s day at least.   


Point of View

    My husband doesn’t read my blog. He simply isn’t interested. The few times he’s “checked-in” have been inspired by something said in passing.

    A friend makes a comment or a joke and he’ll say, “What are you talking about?”

    They’ll laugh, and say, “You know . . . the blog.”

    This makes him feel a bit awkward or concerned about what everyone is hearing, so he’ll sigh. “I better read it and find out what Ginny’s been saying.”

     In a way, his interest is like that of a parent who feels they have to check upstairs because it’s too quiet – they feel obligated to police the silence to assure their kids aren’t sitting on the bed, naked, smoking a joint or something. 

   Sometimes, when our daughter makes a comment about the blog, he’ll say, “I’ve been busy so I haven’t gotten to it yet,” as if he is embarrassed that he isn’t a regular reader. Or, with an apologetic tone, he’ll comment to me that he hasn’t read my blog in a month or more -like it’s a marital obligation to read whatever I post. Of course, by now, I’m surprised if he does read it, so it isn’t necessary he make excuses for, or justify, his disinterest.    

  Sometimes I feel guilty about writing a blog, as if I am creating an annoyance for him –one more mundane task I’m heaping onto his to-do pile. “Gotta weed those damn flowerbeds because my wife has mentioned it four times this week and I have go pay for the storage unit because she is worried about that getting behind, and as if these responsibilities aren’t enough, now I better read her damn blog so I appear interested . . ..” He shouldn’t feel pressured to dutifully pay attention. My blog isn’t a test.

      When my daughter said, “Why don’t you read Mom’s blog?” he answered, “I don’t have to read that stuff. I live it.”


    But last night he said something that really put his feelings into focus. In a testy voice, he said, “I don’t like the blog because it’s slanted. It’s her take on our world. Not mine.”



     A blog is more than a factual accounting of the events of one’s life – It isn’t an outline or a daily calendar. A blog is a way of sharing specific experiences and your perceptions of those events in a manner that challenges your ability to express yourself. It’s putting “life” into words – telling your own story – which is more difficult than non-writers might imagine. It’s a challenge to know what to talk about, what to include or exclude and, of course, having the gall to be honest. And it takes discipline. Many’s a person who began a blog with enthusiasm, but ran out of steam when another interest took center stage.

     My perceptions of everyday events are different – must be different – from my husband’s or anyone else’s. That’s what’s called point of view, a vital element of all literature – the element that makes a story poignant and intimate.

    For example, I got a llama for my birthday. That’s a simple fact. But how I feel about that event – how I experience it- is going to be far different from how Mark experiences it. For me, it was about the surprise and my emotional response to the gift. I assign my own set of “truths” to the act of getting a llama. The animal, as a factor, is besides the point. Receiving it, to me, was an act of love  – I interpreted it as proof of my husband’s commitment to making me happy. 

   As such, my llama blog is “slanted”, because it revolves around how I experienced the event. If Mark shared his vision of this very same event, it would be far different. The fact that he bought me a llama would still be the same – that is an undeniable fact. But from him, we would learn what it felt like to write the check for an animal that he feels we don’t really need (or that he doesn’t really want). We would learn what he felt looking at his wife’s face in those first moments when she saw the llama.  Did he feel satisfied with my reaction? Was it worth the trouble to arrange this gift, or was he disappointed with my response? Did he consider his gift an act of love, proof that he wanted me to be happy (as I did) or was it just easier to buy the llama because he was too stressed and disinterested to shop for something else? (Hope not.) This point of view is what would make his blog worth reading. Without the slant, it’s just journalism. Bah. Humbug.

   A blog is not supposed to be a factual accounting, sans opinion. It’s like a public diary -a medium designed to reflect and interpret accounts.  The fact that Mark is not interested in reading my interpretation of the experiences we share is a personal choice. He “lives” these facts, and as such, doesn’t necessarily desire to see them from an angle other than his own. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s his personal choice.

   I, for one, wish everyone I loved had a blog. I would adore a window into their heart and soul. I think freeform writing provides outsiders with a powerful resource to understand a subject and, maybe, to respond in kind. An honest blog (hopefully) makes a reader reflect and think. If I were given an opportunity to read my husband’s slanted view of the world, I may not like what he’s thinking, but I’d like to believe the awareness would be a gift. So often I wish I knew what was going on in that masculine head. This having to read minds and second-guess the one you love is a big fat pain.


    My blogs are always, absolutely, accurate. No question. I take pains to assure they are. When I write dialogue, you can bet those exact words were said – verbatim. If I describe something, I do so to the best of my ability, complete with what I notice, what strikes me as important and what stands out. And I garnish this with the feelings that hit me along the way. They are real too. Absolutely.

    I’m in a creative non-fiction course with a professor named David Rachlin. I send him two pieces every month. Because these exercises are meant to be derivatives of real life experiences, I browse my blog to find material. I find a passage that is interesting (or has the potential to be) and work on it, make it more polished and defined, to send as my assignment. David says some very positive things about my work, often commenting that my writing is very “real” and “natural”. He likes the funny details I include. For example, when I sent a 20 page paper about teaching Kathy to read, he wrote that he loved the extra’s I added, like making Kathy’s husband a septic tank cleaner and describing her lack of teeth. “These are the sorts of things that are unexpected and draw the reader in,” he said.  

      Creative non-fiction is all about taking truth and adding fictional elements to make the story more vibrant. But the funny thing is, I don’t add fictional elements to my piece. Kathy’s husband does clean septic tanks and she doesn’t have teeth.  And even so, the story was interesting, standing alone, naked as it happened. Frankly, I find life in general to be is pretty interesting without embellishment – all you have to do is simply look at it through interested eyes. That’s where “slant” is so very special.

      I prefer to keep my stories accurate. Because of that, I’m not really exploring artistry in the category of creative non-fiction. As such, I get lots of corrective criticism regarding my straightforward prose from my professors. I add sensory detail to make a story more vivid, but I can’t bring myself to alter the facts. Guess I’m all about the “non-fiction” element, but not about the “creative” element when writing creative non-fiction. 

    When an author springboards from real fact, just to enhance the entertainment factor, I don’t find them very trustworthy, no mater how acceptable the practice is in the literary world. So for me, the only element in my work that is up for discussion (in regards to it’s accuracy) is my point of view.   And frankly, that is mine to share and it can’t be criticized. No one can complain that your honest response to life isn’t what it ought to be just because it differs from there’s.

    I guess a person can hide what they honestly feel. We are taught from birth to be polite and to hide our gut feelings to avoid social discomfort. But I think, being able to write from an honest place is harder than it looks, and anyone who doubts this is so should give it a try. You’ll find yourself censoring your voice more often than not. Trust me. It’s easier.       

   But for all that honesty is a challenge and admirable on one level, sharing your honest feelings can get you into trouble. If you’ve done something nice and you share it aloud, people accuse you of trying to make yourself into a hero. Bragging. (My husband once read a blog about the bunnies and commented that I certainly can make myself into a hero when I’m in the mood. – Ouch. I rather thought he might see me as heroic due to my true actions, rather than focusing on the words that described them, as if they were the contrived just to get attention.)

     Then there is the fact that if you dare criticize something or proclaim your disillusionment about a subject you feel strongly about, you are suddenly hateful or attacking others. I wrote a blog about the tension and volatile emotional environment of the dance school business and was later told it “offended everyone who has ever known me, and now everyone hates me.”

    Everyone? Wow. People have known me (and professed to appreciate me) for over ten years and in one two page expression (which was only intended to explain some of the past riffs in relationships with people I always considered dear) they turned their feelings around 180? Talk about the power of the pen! But, rather than be devastated by that, (well, a little) I found myself feeling blessed. For no mater how painful it is, you have to accept that it’s a gift to know which of your friendships are superficial and which are built on sterner stuff. All I know is, if I sat and had a drink with a real friend, and I expressed an attitude they did not agree with, they’d tell me I’m full of shit and that would be that. But they wouldn’t stop being my friend. If one disagreement is all it takes to dissolve a friendship, then you can be damn sure there was never much of a friendship to begin with. My very best, most revealing, fights have been with the friends I love and respect. Honesty has the power to test your relationships on many, many levels.


    My husband doesn’t want to read my blog, and that is, at times, awkward, but mostly, it’s just a sign that our methods of processing  the world are different. He associates something to my being open that he doesn’t like – as if I’m contriving to get attention or something. Or maybe he just doesn’t trust that my point of view is a true accounting of my perceptions. He thinks I’m full of shit. Or maybe, the simple act of listening to the woman you’ve lived with for eighteen years is a complete bore. After all, what do I have to say that he hasn’t heard before? It can even be that he feels venerable and exposed knowing I’m talking out loud about things that concern him. He rather ignore it than start censoring me – which is a form of respect if you think about it. Perhaps his not reading the blog is due to a combination of all of the above.

   I’ve thought about what this means to me, this having a husband who doesn’t read my blog. Ha. For one thing, it means I can talk about him if I want. (grin) 

   But really, it just means I’m alone with my thoughts here. And that’s OK.

Kid’s coming and going

    I am missing my youngest daughter today. She’s been on a five day field trip with her school (the small gifted program here at Blue Ridge Elementary) to Orlando. They’re taking classes at Disney. We sure didn’t get field trips like that in Sarasota. She’s armed with my cell phone so she can call home whenever she wants, and I get cute little “check-ins” every few hours, excited descriptions of the rides she is waiting in line for or descriptions of those she’s just experienced. We’ve been to Disney a million times, but for some reason, she thinks it’s more exciting when you have to travel all the way from Georgia to get there. The group took two educational classes at Epcot too, and Neva says they were wonderful. We took our dancers to an educational program at Disney once – they do a good job.

     We’re about the only parents who did not chaperone on this trip. We just aren’t that protective and I’m comfortable with the family that volunteered to have her in their room (makes it easier to keep their own child entertained, they say). My older daughter is in college in Orlando and she made time to visit Neva – so it’s not as if my baby is far from home without family nearby.

     Our family will be going to Orlando in July to find a new living situation for Denver, because our pre-paid contract for a dorm is up after this year. Groan – I figured at the time that two years of prepaid dorm payments were enough because an upperclassman would want an apartment. Now that the time is here to shell out funds for an alternate living situation, I could kick myself in the patootie. What was I thinking? Anyway, we thought it’d be nicer to spend our Disney time as a family on our own than with a school group, so we let Neva take this trip on her own.

    To raise money for the trip, the group sold bottled water. A local water company gave them cases (24 bottles) of purified spring water for only 2.00 (cost) and the kids sold them for the market value of 12.00. (Generous support from that company, I’d say.) That meant the students got 10.00 per case to pay for the trip. We didn’t know anyone here to sell water too, so we bought 40 cases. We figured we had to pay 400.00 for the trip anyway, so why not get some water out of it? This way we ended up with 40 cases of water for only 80.00 cash outlay– a great deal. But now, we have water stacked up along this cabin, at Mark’s workshop, by the horses – everywhere. If there’s a nuclear war, we won’t go thirsty. I could build a barn out of them if I don’t ever get around to building one out of wood. Of course, this also means I might be giving my relatives cases of water for Christmas if we don’t get drink’in soon.

    Denver is coming home from college today for a two-week visit– I’m going to Atlanta to pick her up at the airport in a few minutes. I’m thrilled she is coming and we have some fun things planned. This weekend we’ll be taking a silver charm jewelry making class at the Campbell school and next Wednesday, a bead weaving class at a local bead store – all a part of her birthday gift. (She is turning 20 – wow!)

      Last week I was enrolled in a clay bead class at the Bead shop. On the day it was taking place, it rained heavily. This meant Mark couldn’t go to the land to sand logs, so he decided to join me and learn to make handmade clay beads for his antler baskets (no store-bought garnishes will make interfere with the” integrity” of his baskets, say’s the man – now a country craftsmen extraordinaire).

   We had a ball learning how to make coils that join in dozens of ways to make these remarkably complex beads. They are striking – with fine detailed patterns and glorious shapes. They’re also fun to make because you can experiment and venture from established patterns to discover innovative designs hidden in the mix. In fact, we liked it so much that the minute we got home, Mark went on-line and bought gobs more clay. We plan to have a bead-making party with Denver, Kent and Dianne this week. (And Neva can roll some clay too.) It’ll be a jewelry themed visit for my daughter, I guess, which is a dream come true for her. For our family bead night, I’ll make chicken wings and we’ll open a bottle of wine. My beads may end up a bit lopsided, but hey, it will be a good time.

   I took the beads I made in the class home and made a fantastic ornate necklace that looks very Native American. These unique clay beads add a completely new dimension to my new passion  -making jewelry. They offer another texture and another way to make my creations original – but I must admit, it’s getting ridiculous. I have about 40 new, funky, creative necklaces (no simple bead stringing for this girl). My handmade jewlery is a central part of my new uniform now– jeans, cute top and unique necklaces and earrings.  Mark says I better plan to start selling them soon or he ‘ll have to build me a “jewelry room” in our new house. Watch out fella, don’t give me any ideas!

     When Denver is home, I actually shop – she comes home with almost empty suitcases and I always send her back with it stuffed. We go out to the Chinese place for lunch (only the girls in the family shares a passion for lo mien so I don’t get to eat my favorite food much.) We go play pool, screaming and squealing as we aggressively try to outplay each other. Denver and I are competitive in a funny way. We’ll be taking hikes this trip too to see the waterfalls. And we are taking the kids to Dollywood and Gatlinburg on Mother’s day weekend. Then, there is the fact that I plan to take Denver horseback riding a few times. She fell last time (big weenie) and it’s important she get back in the saddle again.  But this time I’ll put her on Peppy – the horse is good and healed from his injury now. He’s a perfect mount and riding will be a very different experience for her this time. We can ride along the trails and talk. It will be nice.

   So, overall, the next few weeks will be prime family time. I have a huge writing packet due for school next Monday, so I’ll be burning the candle at night to free up my daytime for all of the above stuff, but that’s OK. I’ve learned you don’t need “time” to go to school – you need to be willing to “make the time”, no matter how inconvenient.

    I am off to the airport. I want to leave early to stop at the nearest Starbucks along the way (an hour drive) so I can get a cup of coffee and experience the suburban environment. Sometimes I like reentering “civilization” and I enjoy the convienience of it all– other times, I find it off-putting and I’m hit with a wave of distaste for pop culture and how it makes everyone go through life like the overworked, bored fella from the Duncan Donuts commercial – “Time to make the donuts” (sigh). This makes me grateful that I’ve moved to some place more interesting. More alive. Funny – I don’t know how the traffic, people and franchises will strike me until I get there, but either way it goes, I can count on the coffee being a delight.

    Time to go. Neva just called. She is just leaving “Fronteerland.”
     Ha. So am I.

When dance peeks around the corner, I invite it in.

     In a moment of absolute madness, I called the local dance school. I was driving by, and I guess I was hit with a wave of nostalgia. I don’t miss owning a dance school, but I do miss the kids. I miss the laughter, the creative energy, and the funny little expressions kids make when they’re talking to you.  I miss dancing with them – playing with music and movement  -teasing them – provoking them to excel.

   It was 6:00 on a Tuesday when I picked up my cell phone and called information for their number. No one was at the studio. No one is ever there when I pass. Imagine – a school so small that it’s empty 60% of the time. Closed weekends too. I can’t conceive of such a thing.

    I left a message. I gave a very, very short explanation of who I was and said I’d love to meet the owner. I thought, as two “dance” people, we might want to make an acquaintance. Then, I offered to teach a master class – for free. I figure this little school can’t afford me anyway, and when someone pays you – well, then the act of teaching dance is muddied with practical elements. I just wanted to introduce myself and meet the students. The class would be a gift. A little inspirational jolt for the kids – for fun.

   The teacher never called back. I’m not surprised. Her recital is three weeks away, and this time of year, dance schools are frantic with rehearsals and such to close the season. Nevertheless, it’s a missed opportunity for that little school. I don’t imagine I’ll call again.


    I did get a call, however, from Mary, the office manager of the Blue Ridge Arts Association. They have lost their dance teacher for their summer children’s program (no loss, I’m afraid to say, from what I’ve heard) and she wondered, “If anyone in my household would be willing to help out and teach a little in the summer.” Ha – does that include my dog? Alas, he’s still lost. That leaves me, Mark or the kids.   

    I told her I’d come down to discuss what it is she needed.

     She is looking for someone to teach “creative dance or hip hop or anything” to kids 5-8 and 9-12, four days a week for two hours. There are 6 weeks in the program. I won’t be here for two of them, due to my next MFA residency, but I’m free the others. We talked a long time about what they envision for the program. Part of the problem is that there is no vision. It is a random sort of thing.

   I discussed elements that are required to develop a strong arts education program and offered to help. And don’t ya know, I agreed to teach for a few weeks. I left it somewhat open, so that, should my daughter choose to come home this summer (which at this time, she plans to avoid so she can be with her boyfriend and work at Universal), she can take over the classes. The pay is remarkably good, considering – 70.00 a class. Personally, I don’t need to be teaching beginners in a tiny corner of a courthouse. But I will. I feel the arts association needs someone with experience to help them get a youth program more established, so why not help? I will thoroughly enjoy it. I need new friends, and my best friends have always been kids. They are so unassuming and enthusiastic about life. And this will help get me in the mindset for my job in Boston in August. In addition to this, my body craves dance. I need an excuse to fling my legs over my head and shake my hips without someone lifting an eyebrow.

     I left Mary one of the children’s dance CD’s we produced and literature about our children’s program. She was floored. I reiterated my offer to begin a handicapped class, and we agreed to start it in the fall. I will help her get this class off the ground and find outlets for the students to perform too, which will bring some good press to the association. She told me about the local handicapped residency, and I plan to pay it a visit. I might just offer to teach there a bit in the meantime. Volunteer work – offering an activity in their rec room if they have one.  I also agreed to begin a teen jazz class in the fall. I want to do this for my son. He wants to keep in shape and I would enjoy one evening a week to hang with some young adults. Keeps ya abreast of what is cool, ya know. I need all the help I can get now a days in the “cool” department.  

     Before I left the Arts Association, I decided to go upstairs and look at the dance room again. It is so tiny, with a creaky wooden floor and old barres set too close to the wall. The mirrors are discarded pieces, all uneven at the top, like they installed hand-me-down chunks from other businesses that they had to piece together to make half the wall reflective.

     I couldn’t help but smile. It reminded me of the tiny studios I grew up in. Our school has been huge and streamlined for many years now. Our dance space was fantastic. But there is something very dancey – very intimate – about a old dusty empty room with smudged mirrors. It is what dance used to be and probably should always be. Simple. Not a huge, multimillion-dollar building with a polished veneer, designed to railroad masses of kids through the doors. That room at the Blue Ridge arts association might seem like going backwards to some people considering the places I’ve taught,( colleges, huge studios, hotel ballrooms) but I loved it. I will love teaching there – a room that you can cross in three steps and where the sound bounces off the walls immediately.  It won’t be about money or enrollment numbers or aggressive training (well, maybe a touch of that – forgive me). It will be about dance. Me and some kids, dancing because dancing is wonderful.

     As I left, Mary asked if the space was sufficient. I told her it was perfect. I meant it.

    I probably should have avoided making a commitment – given myself time to think about it. I discussed this entire thing with Mark this morning before going down to visit with Mary. I wanted to make sure my going back to teaching wouldn’t make him uncomfortable and I promised I wouldn’t agree to anything that would put a crimp on our summer family time. He said, “Just promise me it doesn’t snowball. . .”

     I vow to keep that promise.     


     A couple of weeks ago we read in the paper that The Blue Ridge Arts Association is looking for a new Artistic Director and Administer. Mark said, “You should take that job. You’d be perfect.”

    True. I have the experience and the required formal education. (BA in business – soon to have an MFA in an artistic field) They are looking for someone with grant writing experience (have it) and the ability to devise programs (no prob) and someone with a flair for fundraising (piece of cake) who understands art (I do).  They need someone who can move in the higher financial circles and speak the lingo of the rich. I can do that too, even though I hate to admit it.

  I couldn’t help but ask Mary if they found anyone yet. Just curious.  She said they are receiving some résumé’s but haven’t found a proper candidate yet. I asked how much they were paying, and she said 24-30K a year. Sad, because I’m thinking for that kind of money they will never get anyone with the skills necessary to accomplish what they need and deserve. Ah, the catch-22 of the arts. No money in it.

     She said, “Why, would you take the job?”

     Um… do I want to do the same thing I did for my own school for ten times less money and fill my every waking hour with work and stress so I can’t pursue my own passions or perhaps, begin a new empire when the spirit moves me? Gee hard decision.  

     I told her I’d love to, but I am not ready to go back to a full time job. She nodded understanding, “It is a full time job . . . and then some,” she said, looking tired.

    The thing is, I was itching to say, “I’ll send you a résumé.” I looked around that office and my mind exploded with ideas to promote the place and develop the programs. I’d be so darn good at that – I’d put that arts association on the map so fast it would break the sound barrier. I’d love exploiting all the resources available to a non-profit organization to see just how far I could stretch the tentacles of arts awareness. I’d love to organize fundraising events and hob knob with money people with evil intent to take them for as much as I can (for a worthy cause, let me point out). At this time, the BRAA doesn’t work with the schools or utilize the paper or any of the easy avenues to grow more established. They’ve made a great start, getting the former courthouse as a permanent home, etc… but they need someone at the helm to make the programs, festivals and other activities they sponsor continue to grow. They just aren’t tapping into opportunity.

   But I sat on my hands and just said, “The way I can be the best help is by volunteering for specific projects. I am not prepared to make a long term, on-going commitment to an organization.”

    That’s a fact.

    I walked outside, looked up at the glaring sunshine and the blue sky, and reminded myself that I can go anywhere and do anything I want with my days. I don’t want to fill them with obligation to thwart my energy away from living, no matter how attractive the challenge. Once again, I thought of how, if my kids were all grown, I’d make different decisions. Man-o-man, would I love to sink my teeth into that arts association. But not now. Now, there is a world of living that has been evading me for eighteen FLEX years. I need to get to it.


   I talked to Jill from the Toccoa Technical College today, and she is calling the sheriff to arrange a few hour long visits a week to the jail so I can resume my reading lessons with Kathy (behind bars – wow, my life is like a TV movie – do ya think they will frisk me?) And on Wednesday, I will become a member of the new task force (think tank) for the college and literacy collation to help them promote their programs and inspire more people to get a GED and/or vocational training. I’ll start writing for the paper (might even slip in an article about the new dance program at the arts association with the new, remarkable dance teacher in town. – Ha. I have no shame.)

    Then, maybe I’ll begin working with the handicapped individuals in the area soon. This is important to me. There are gaps in my life – things I’ve left behind whose absence leaves me feeling empty. I need to do something to fill the holes, so a flood of heartbreak doesn’t pool inside. Enough said.

   Anyway, I am slowly making footprints in the earth around me in this unchartered territory of Blue Ridge. Feels good to feel the mud between my bare feet for a change. Before this, I couldn’t feel anything due to the hard callouses that teaching dance (at the expense of all else) left behind. My footprints might not be permenant, but for now, they prove I’ve arrived and I’m walking a new path.  

     Obviously, my creative energies are leaking out all over the place now that I don’t have FLEX to channel them all into. I am going in every direction –(which is sort of like going in no direction at all – I am very aware of that.)  But who said we have to travel in one direction on a linear path, anyway? Not me. I can’t do everything that tweeks my fancy (Lord knows), but experimenting – trying on new things for size – feels good.

     Then again, slipping into an old outfit that is really comfortable is good to.  So, Miss Ginny will be dancing again soon. These kids in Blue Ridge don’t know what they’ve been missing. Time to show ’em. Ye-haw!!