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Catching up

My daughter’s boyfriend left yesterday after a ten-day visit. I am guilty of not blogging when people visit, not out of choice or a lack of desire, but because of circumstance. On the one hand, there’s a lot to write about. We tend to do fun things with our guests and there is always much to reflect upon. But entertaining eats up a lot of time, (and lets not forget all the extra cooking I can’t resist doing) and I find myself squeezing in homework with late night reading in bed or creeping around in the wee hours of the morning with a book in hand. I sit in the tub at the end of the day reading my MFA material and composing letters in my head, wishing I could post them. However, the problem is, our cabin is set up as two separate structures joined by one covered walkway – sort of like a rustic compound. When guests are here, we like to give them the run of the bunkhouse where, unfortunately, my laundry and office reside. This means I fall behind on my laundry and it definitely limits my computer time. I am the kind of writer who wants to plunk out a few thoughts at very odd hours – middle of the night or pre-dawn. Even though everyone insists they don’t mind if I am upstairs (guests sleep in the downstairs bedroom) I feel it isn’t very fair invade their space at ungodly hours. Therefore, I stay away. But trust me, when friends are here, I go through blog withdrawal and my head is cogged up with thoughts I wish I could share.


 


Anyway, how does one catch up? It would take ten days of writing to cover the ten days I was MIA. So much happens in my life – some of it big and important, some of it silly and simple, yet those are the kinds of things that make others smile, so I wish I could write about them.


 


I could talk about the fact that Denver has returned home for the summer. In fact, she has left college for good. Most parents would report something like that with anguish, or disappointment or anger, but I understand her decision and she has my blessing. Not everyone needs to walk a traditional path – I certainly didn’t. I didn’t get my college degree until I was 40. I’ll get my masters at 48. The fact that I didn’t go to college out of high school didn’t mean I was destined to be uneducated or unskilled. Heck, I think I have more education and made more money than most of my friends – all those people that did the right social thing and went to school, got a job, got married and had 2.5 kids – then spent a lifetime living respectable, stable lives. That is nice and all, but I bet I have more work satisfaction and personal happiness than many of these solid citizens do.  I certainly can state that life has always excited me. That counts for something in my book.


 


College is terrific if it trains you for something you have a passion to do, but I think life offers many more options than that. The college path right out of high school is simply easier and less harrowing than other choices. Anyway, I do not fear that her leaving school at this time means she won’t be successful. It just means she is creative and brave and will have to approach life with some mental and creative muscle.  


 


She will live in Georgia with us this summer (I gave her my dance-teaching jobs) and she is considering living with her boyfriend in this area for a year come fall. They will save money, regroup and make a life plan – Denver is considering moving to NY to pursue theater as I did.( I have mixed feelings about this)  She even said she’s considered opening a studio here. (I have mixed feeling about this too.) It would be very successful – especially since she has some pretty awesome consultants and willing help living right here, but she is young to settle for that lifestyle as of yet. We’ve talked about her going to trade school to learn silversmithing and jewelry design – an artistic career to support herself while she continues theater.  But it is early yet. Time will reveal which path she will take. I have a lot to say about all this, (of course, I would) but not today


 


I could talk about the visit with her boyfriend, Steve. I like him. More than I expected. He is a perfect match for her – not that they are the same, but they compliment each other well. I think some of the best couples are two individuals that are uniquely different – like puzzle pieces that fit together well. These two make a sweet couple, and there were things I noticed about their relationship that I admire. Like the way they discovered a remote field filled with a million lightening bugs one night (parking, no doubt) and they were so fascinated by it, they had to bring us to see it. There were all these twinkling bugs in the grass and the trees, like it was Disney world or something. We made fun of how they found the place, but secretly, I was thrilled my daughter is with someone who will pause in the middle of making out to appreciate something so simple, yet so beautiful about the world– and even like it so much they are compelled to share it with others. They play games together too. They play this game with marbles and after the second day here, I noticed they had exchanged the marbles for lovely rocks they had collected here in the mountains. Cute. They have an easygoing relationship that seems to have depth.


And from the looks of it, Steven is a good kisser. That is important in the long haul in my book. But I don’t want to talk about them today either.


 


I could talk about how yesterday, I taught my first dance class in a year. What fun. Denver was taking Steven back to the airport so I offered to sub her class. I worked with seven 5-6 year olds and had a blast. I so miss the enthusiasm and wonder in a little child’s eyes when they are introduced to dance in a creative way. You can see them falling in love with movement right before your eyes. Every parent there asked if I was going to open a school. Ummm…. No. But it was delightful getting a taste of my past passion once again. Luckily, a taste goes a long way when the meal is something as very rich and filling as the all-consuming art of dance.


 


I could talk about how we sold our school one year ago and now, finally, we seem to be leveling out emotionally. We have rediscovered our sense of humor. Life is filled with laughter and playfulness – a wonderful adventure, once again. This week FLEX is having their recitals. We wake every morning filled with gratitude that we are not buried under the weight of that chore. I don’t recall ever having a June to savor – at least not in twenty years. In fact, I’ve never had a summer with my kids. I began FLEX when I first had kids. That means I never got to parent casually in the leisure months of summer.  Usually, when the kids get out of school it triggers a mound of anxiety and work, for that is when the real stress and work of the year-end performance hits. (In fact, just when school got out, Mark started having FLEX nightmares again. He said he thought it was because all the usual triggers were there because of the season, even though it isn’t our nightmare anymore.)  Traditionally, June is swallowed by recital, then there is a summer program – and in August, the work begins again with a new season. I’ve never had the soft, slow days of summer to enjoy with my children. Till now. We have done more in the two weeks since they got out of school than I’ve done entire summers before.  I am somewhat ashamed to have missed it all the summers past, and yet, I think I appreciate this time more now because I know what it is like to allow the simple, yet important things in life get buried under the weight of work. We offered to run the recital for the new owners. We would have set their lights, organized the backstage, cleaned up numbers etc… We are masters at all of that, and frankly, I believe they would have benefited from our expertise. Running a good show is harder than it looks. But they didn’t want us. Hurt our feelings at first. But rather than be worried about them and how they will fare on their own (which was my first instinct) I concentrate on how their not wanting us is a true gift – for it means the summer is ours for the first time ever. I am overwhelmed with appreciation for our new life this month.   But, I don’t want to talk about that today.


 


I could talk about my animals. Or our new house. Or my masters program. Or running. Or talk about how Mark is getting his real-estate license and is going back to work – he wants to sell our cabin and the lot on the creek himself, and has been asked to represent our builders future spec homes for starters. And a friend with a real-estate office wants him to head the sales department because they are more into building now.  Mark has a gift for seeing the potential in property and he is ready to go, excited to do something totally new. And we have money to invest, and with him immersed in the field, I bet he will find great opportunities. Bet he does wonders in the field. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up with a real-estate business ourselves if he likes it as much as I am guessing he will. It is funny – for all that we wanted freedom from work, we don’t feel ready to stop. Not at 40 and 47 respectively. Too much energy to lie down so soon, I guess. (Mark says that not working at this age makes him feel guilty, like some kind of life slacker. He is uncomfortable. Interesting.)


 


I could talk about how I found a building I want to buy to begin a new business. It is perfect. I have begun doing the research and working out a business plan in my head (nothing on paper and no numbers crunching yet) but I am moving closer and closer to that point when I just dive in.  I have good instincts on things like this, and I miss the challenge of having a business of my own. We are talking about the coffee shop and art gallery still, but also have interest in importing teak rustic furniture and adding handmade rustic furniture for a bigger, cabin-remodeling store too. Maybe we will do both!!!! Why not? Yet – I don’t’ want to talk about any of these things either today.


 


I am writing an awful lot for someone who is just saying she won’t write about this and that. I think I will talk about Kathy. Yeah. We meet two times a week for 1 ½-2 hours. Our lessons  are going fantastically and she is making steady progress. I absolutely love working with this woman. She has the honesty of a child (one reason I always adored working with children is because they are the most honest people in the world and they don’t put up pretenses). I have to keep on my toes to keep the lessons progressive, but I think I am doing a good job considering I am not a trained schoolteacher. She is reading sentences now comprised of simple words. The first time she actually comprehended an entire sentence (before that she just stumbled over random words) her face lit up and she squealed with excitement. She is delighted with the evidence that she is learning to read. So am I.


 


Today, we wrote a letter to the girls in jail – a letter of inspiration to let them know her path is hard, but if she can do it so can they. Kathy has told me so much about her life and the people in it. She told me four of the ten people in her rehabilitation counseling sessions couldn’t read. Wow – how many poor illiterate individuals are out there? I went home contemplating how I could get them together in one room – so I could help more than one person at a time. But honestly, I think a huge part of Kathy’s progress is due to the one on one attention. I am both a teacher and a counselor (and a friend) to her. And she needs all of the above. So I have to limit my ambition to saving one non-reader at a time. For efficiency sake.


 


She told me she picks up driftwood at the lake and makes wall hangings and centerpieces. She hot glues silk flowers, moss, butterflies and such to make small scenes. Her husband makes walking sticks from twisted laurel that he sands and polishes. He burns designs on the handles. She is on house arrest, so she is now spending her days making things to pass the time. She brought a walking stick and one of her driftwood pieces in to show me. They were nice. Well, of course, this got my mind humming. I asked her how she might go about selling them, and she said her husband once set up a table on the side of the road and they sold quite a few. She just doesn’t know how people get these booths at fairs and such. So, I am doing research for her and I intend to help her start a small business of her own. I will help her find out how and where to buy her materials at discount and walk her through the process of setting up a booth at a craft fair. I even think I will enroll her as a member of the Blue Ridge Arts association so she can put a few pieces in their store/gallery. She doesn’t have the capability of learning the ins and outs of marketing handmade items at this time – but I do. And she can learn with me so later, she can do it on her own. Of course, reading will be required to figure out some of the forms. Talk about a perfect assignment. Motivation!!!!  It is a duel benefit exercise – my idea of a purposeful education. Anyway, working with Kathy fills me with a sense of purpose. If I had one wish for my friends, it would be that they could each find something just like this to do, something that fills their heart with joy. It makes you feel as if you are leaving an impression on the world, however small, and that you are doing your part to help humanity (even if it is only one person you help). I’ve written checks to organizations and done volunteer work before, but nothing compares to the intimacy of this, rolling up your sleeves and getting in the trenches to change a person’s lot in life one on one. Anyway, it makes me feel wonderful.


 


New subject –


Today I interviewed a cosmetologist for an article for the local newspaper – a student success story from the Appalachian Technical College. I guess you can say I am easing into professional writing. Who’d a’thunk it of this dumb dancer chick?  I could post the end result, but it might bore everyone – it’s just journalism. Yet, if I like it I might. You are a captive audience, in a way.  Anyway, let me say I am a natural at this. I am good with people – I LOVE asking questions and learning new things, and I can make a good story out of anything. I am having fun. My mind is filled with ambitious ideas for writing projects. Ha. It would be. Give me an inch of opportunity and I’ll make a mile of it. You’d think I had 40 hours in a day to work with. I act like it. In reality, I get far less done than I want.


 


Now – I have homework to do. A book to rewrite, a human-interest story to write, a dinner to make, and I still need to take my evening walk around the mountain to see what is in bloom. I have my priorities straight now, that’s for sure.


 


A big kiss to anyone out there who still reads my blog. You are a trooper.


 


P.S. Today I got an E-mail about my upcoming high school reunion in August. I think it is year 29 or 30!!!!! Gosh, I’m old. I don’t know whether to comment on it to Mark or not. I’d love to go, but maybe that’s a bad idea. I don’t know if he would be open to it, and I couldn’t go without him. But I’d love to see how old friends turned out. Why not? I can’t imagine I’d have anything to be embarrassed about. I’m well enough preserved that I won’t scare anyone or be unrecognizable, and I’m not ashamed about how I turned out career wise or family wise. But perhaps I should worry about everyone else – remembering people for how they were has a certain apeal I don’t know. But it would give me something fun to write about! Nevertheless, I’m thinking it’ll be a “no”.


Sad, that.


 

About Ginny East Shaddock

Director of Heartwood Retreat Center, Ginny is also a writer. This is her personal blog with essay form writing about life and reflection. My entries are often lengthy and random, because I'm not here to promote or sell anything. I'm not expecting followers - just find this format a good place to think with the pen.

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