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Monthly Archives: August 2006

My Big Chicken workout

Last week, my daughter had to go to the mall to purchase some heavy draperies for her new dance room (to keep light out so the black lights will work). This is about an 80-minute drive, so I offered to go with her.


 


We got lost. (I was driving – what do you think?). I had to stop to get directions. The man in the Dairy Queen window told us to drive left, down US 41 until we saw the chicken. I knew exactly what to do from there. You see, there is a huge 20 ft. chicken on the corner, some kind of fiberglass promotional bird built in the 50’s. It has a beak that opens and closes and eyes that roll around. You cannot miss the KFC chicken.


 


As we were driving that way I said, “I sure wish I owned that chicken. If I had a business, I wouldn’t care what it was, I’d name it after that chicken. Everyone knows that chicken. I live 1 ½ hour away, and even I know that chicken.”


 


My daughter said, “What if your business was a dance school?”


I said, “I’d call it Big Chicken Dance, I swear to God.”


We laughed about that, and other businesses that I would open if I had that chicken, like the Big Chicken art gallery. I said that even if I didn’t own the chicken, if I lived in that town, I’d open right next door to make use of the fabulous landmark. Heck, it should be a  cherished historic landmark for all that it demands such attention.


 


As we drove by, don’t ya know but we see that next door is a pawnshop named Big Chicken Pawn. I kid you not! We laughed about that, and my daughter pointed out that I am not all that original.


 


This led us into a discussion about pawnshops. I admitted I’ve never gone into one, although I have friends who do visit them and have picked up some great jewelry and tools that way.


 


Sure enough, we couldn’t resist the lure. We decided to stop in on our way back. Can’t resist a store called Big Chicken Pawn. I made jokes about how I’d love to go in there with my chickens, Pot Pie and Drumstick, and act like I needed to pawn them.


 


Anyway, inside we browsed the goodies, everything from jewelry to musical instruments. It was unique. I noticed a bunch of DVD’s on a table – 5$ each or five for 20 bucks so I went browsing. I stumbled upon a series of videos called The Firm workout DVD’s. I thought, Hey, I could use these.


 


The fact is, I’ve stopped going to my health club because it is a 40-minute drive and I just don’t have the time. I can spare an hour for a class, but adding the 1 ½ drive eats too much of my day. And I’ve missed it. So, I’ve been running, but for all that running is great for cardio, I miss my pump classes. Can’t have my arms going all jelly-ish on me, and my body craves the muscular high of working out.   


I know that once we get into our house, this won’t be a problem because we’ve built a huge workout room that will sport an elliptical machine and weights. We are putting in a TV and DVD player so I can use my yoga and Pilates exercise DVD’s. I figure that when I am home, I can just scoot downstairs everyday for a workout as a physical break from writing. Can’t wait. A few of these firm tapes might round out my library, so I decided to buy them.


 


I took them to the counter. An old man was working. He looked at the tapes and narrowed his eyes at me. “Are you going to actually use these,” he said skeptically.


I assured him I was.


He looked at the pictures on the covers. “Are you sure?”


I wondered if he was thinking I was too old or too lazy looking or too something or other. I laughed and pointed to the 20 something hard bodies on the cover and said, “That will be me. I’m gonna look just like them, wait and see.” (Can’t resist a chance to flirt with an ancient man – it’s my favorite hobby)


The man kept browsing through the videos. “Will you promise to come back and show me if you do?”


I said sure. Why not?


He kept looking at the videos with a funny look, pausing, ruffling through them all. I thought it weird behavior (Denver later said she thought it was creepy.) I figured he was going to say I needed to pay more for them or something, that they didn’t belong on that 5-dollar table. His behavior was strange, as if he didn’t want me to have these tapes. I made a few more jokes about my working out and told him I lived in the mountains in an isolated area and that I was a workout demon who no longer has an outlet for her devotion. I needed those tapes.  I was hoping to get some pity here.


 


He said, “Did you take all the videos?”


I said I had left two on the table because they used equipment I didn’t have (a special Firm bar). He told me to get them. I didn’t really want more then ten videos but I figured he didn’t want me to leave a part of the set, so I thought OK, I’ll take them all.


 


He said, “Don’t go anywhere. I have something for you. I mean it. Don’t move.” Then, he left.


Denver leaned over nervously and said, “What is he doing?”


I said he was probably going to get me a rowing machine or something to try to sell me  more stuff. But I was wondering too. And I was wondering if this whole DVD purchasing idea was a mistake now.


 


Out came the old man with a step and a firm bar. He said, “I want you to have these. I’m giving them to you. I had to search my memory to recall where I put them, and I doubt anyone but me in this place even knows we had them in the back, but I knew they were here somewhere. If you are really going to work out, you need the stuff to do the job right.”


Apparently, he was browsing those videos searching the files in his brain to remember.


I was thrilled. Really. I wanted a step and a bar. Ha. Lucky me.


I asked what I owed him, I had 13 videos and a bar and a step now. He thought about it and said, “How about 45 dollars – and don’t forget to visit me.”


Wow! I was getting about 300 dollars in workout stuff and this was more than a fair break even in a pawnshop. I agreed and loaded it all into my car.


 


Denver  laughed at my full-blown excitement. She said, “Well, you are going to be a pawn shop diva now.”


She’s right. Just goes to show that happiness lives where chickens dwell.


 


Today, it is raining. I actually worked out at home with my bar to a fitness tape. I’m sore from last night’s run so it was a welcomed change of pace. Nothing like convenience. I could even do it barefoot. Yehaw.


I felt sort of stupid all alone at home working out to a video, but it beats feeling like mush.


 


 


I told Denver later that I felt badly shopping in a pawnshop because my luck might be from the misfortune of others. She disagreed. She said, “Mom, whoever had that expensive Firm series bought them and didn’t use them. And keeping them around made them feel guilty. No doubt, it was easier dropping them off here than having a yard sell. Nothing to feel guilty about. You can bet those diamond rings come from women who broke up with their boyfriends and needed some cash. Most of that stuff was probably stuff the original owner didn’t want anymore. You do them a favor by supporting the store so they have a place  to get ready cash when they need it.”


 


Well, now, there is a positive slant on the entire thing. So, thanks to her, I won’t feel guilty about my big chicken purchase. I will maintain my sleek, muscular middle-aged bod (that is a stretch, I guess, but let a girl exaggerate for ego’s sake) and celebrate my shopping savvy each day when I do my 50 minute firm workout.


 


I guess you can find a solution for anything you are missing in your life if you’ve a mind to be creative about it.

Retractions and a call for poetry



Here are Mark’s chairs. Nice, aren’t they? I threw in a picture of us too, even though I look like a serious porker in this shot. I swear, I’m cute-er than this in reality. (Can’t have my friends thinking I moved to the mountains and turned into a Buddha look-a-like. Eesh) 


 


I think, in the interest of accuracy, I need to make a few retractions.


 


I never saw two pheasants on our land. They were, in fact, two wild turkeys. We keep seeing them, always crossing the road at the same place between Mark’s workshop and the pasture where we will be putting a barn.


I said, “Look! There are those pheasants again!”


Mark explained that they were wild turkeys.


I said, “How do you know?”


He said, “Haven’t you ever seen a bottle of wild turkey? They are classic examples, just like the picture.”


Of course, he is right. After all those years as a bartender (when I was a young dancer struggling in NY), I should have recognized the birds that graced that famous whiskey bottle. I must have lifted and poured from it a million times. Yep. Them there birds is wild turkeys.


I said, “Why do you think we keep seeing them here?”


He said, “Are you asking me why the turkey crossed the road? Cause you know what I’m going to answer.”


Smart aleck.


Anyway, I do not have pheasants. I have turkeys. I am of a mind to trust that any area that supports turkeys will also keep pheasants alive, so I am still planning to raise some pheasants. In the meantime, I will pray our two turkeys stick around until Thanksgiving. NOT because I want to cook them, but for the ambiance. In fact, I am wondering if I will stumble upon a turkey nest one day with turkey eggs. Would be a cool discovery.


 


Next confession/retraction:


I am not going to run the local hill run 5K. This is not because I am a wimp, (even if I am one).  It is because when I actually checked I discovered I won’t be in town on October 7th when it takes place. I will be in Tennessee at the national storytelling festival. Check it out at http://www.storytellingcenter.net. This festival began with 60 people in 1973 and now hosts thousands. I’ve wanted to go to this unique event for some time – ever since I dabbled in the art of storytelling at a course at the Campbell school. The three-day festival features hundreds of the nation’s best storytellers, stand-up comics and folklore specialists. Seven tents are set up and stories are going on all day. You can chose authentic Cherokee stories, Appalachian folklore, a Midnight Cabaret, international storytellers and even some urban characters.  There is music and poetry which “encompasses a wealth of cultures, geography and styles”, or so the brochure says.


At night, they feature ghost stories. I’m told by the story telling crowd that it is fun – different. I love experiencing something totally new – so I bought us tickets some time ago (and made a reservation in a hotel nearby, because I’m told lodging is impossible to find if you wait too long.) Anyway, the only running I’ll be doing that weekend is running from tent to tent. Can’t wait. We are still wrestling on whether or not to bring the kids. I think it sounds like a nice family event, but Mark is pushing for it to be a couple get-a-way, because then we can burn the midnight storytelling oil. He usually gets his way. We will see.


 


Yesterday, I picked the last of my blueberries for this season. Got, maybe, a half a bowl.  They are scattered randomly around the bush now, and the leftovers lack the plump, juicy, sweet quality that makes the berries special. What I gathered yesterday will be good for our morning smoothies, but that’s about it. The edges of the leaves are turning red, and soon the bush will be a vibrant flaming color to decorate the entrance to our land for fall. I’m almost relieved to see them go. I’m berried out.


 


On my run last night, I also picked the last of those purple thing-a-ma-bobber flowers that don’t die in twenty minutes. I think my flower-picking season is over too. Nothing much left to drag home. I did see some cool pink, dried, puff do-dads that look like hard dandelion puffs. I picked a few to see how they would do, but they had these minuet barbs that jabbed into my palm when I jogged. Ouch. I didn’t let them go, however, because I had to test at least one. I figure, if they hold up, I can run with one gardening glove. Not as if I am any kind of fashion plate when I run anyway. 


 


I got my materials list for Monday’s spinning class. I need to bring baby oil and a plant sprayer, dawn dishwashing liquid, thrums (odds and ends of yarn) rubber gloves, Onion skins, yellow or red (I’m guessing this is for natural dying) and a song recollection or story or poem about spinning sheep weaving etc. Obviously, this is so we can share some folklore. Fun! (If any of you have a poem to share other than Mary had a little lamb, send it on, please. I live where there is no library, at least not one with ample information on any subject.)


 


I am also told to bring a crochet hook for making samples (got that one covered) and an extra spinning wheel if I have one. Um…. checking my back pocket. No, don’t seem to have one of those lying around.  I’d borrow one from a friend, but can’t say as I’ve ever noticed a spinning wheel in any of my friend’s living rooms. Thinking of this, I was reminded of the story of Snow white. Humm… perhaps I have never been around a spinning wheel because they were banished from the land. Perhaps, when I sit and begin, I will pluck my finger and go to sleep for a hundred years. Just in case, if this blog suddenly cuts off, please notify Prince Charming and tell him to plant a big wet one on me.  Ya never know what kind of unexpected revelations a new adventure will lead you to.


 


Today, I must write an essay/annotation on the three books that have influenced me most in my life. Much as I’d love to stay and talk, I have to get to it.
Wish me Godspeed to my fingers. I’m feeling distracted today.


 


 


 


 


 


 

Sept is spinning this way and I have to prepare.

While at the Campbell school with Mark, I spent time looking through the brochure again. The atmosphere is serene, the people wonderful and the environment artistically enriching. You can’t help but get jazzed to take another class when on the grounds. I’ve been wanting to take a spinning class and saw that it is only offered twice a year. They do offer other spinning, such as spinning flax and silk, etc. but there are only two classes in the material I am interested in – wool.  I’ve talked to people in this class in the past during lunch, and I’m told it is a very “labor intensive” class. Translated, that means, “You never stop, you have to get up close to yucky animals, get all sweaty, and work like a dog for the week to accomplish the deed. Not as fun as we thought it would be.” I guess, many people who come to the Campbell school for a relaxing creative break from the drudgery of life. Spinning wool tends to be contradictory to that goal. But I am dying to learn how to do it and I like getting messy. And I guess I don’t need to remind you that the same process used for sheep’s wool is used for llama wool. I do have a long-term plan for this skill if I can master it.


 


The five-day class is very productive and each day covers a different element of the process. The first day, you go out and sheer a sheep. Considering my recent experience with the llama, I assume I’ll be a natural. I like sheep. Well, actually, I’ve never been within a dozen yards of a sheep, but I think I will like them. I’ll learn how to get the wool, then pull the burs from the raw material and wash it, and comb it into fluff. Then, I’ll spend a day learning to use natural dyes to color it, then spin it into wool and last, spin several thin strands into interesting yarns with texture. The results are amazing. Naturally, spun yarns cost about 60 dollars a skein, so I’ve never bought any. Frankly, wool can be scratchy and it is a bit too exorbitantly priced for me – I’d rather go for chashmere when it comes to actually purchasing some upscale fiber. But I will get a kick out of knitting something with yarn I’ve made from start to finish all by myself – I wouldn’t mind doing this at home in front of a TV just so I can say I did. And like I said, I think I will like the sheep part.


 


Mark saw me reading about the class and rolled his eyes and said, “I am NOT buying you a sheep for Christmas. Let’s make that perfectly clear.” Hum. Never say never, dear.


 


Mostly, I think learning an old world skill such as this will be vitally helpful when I return to writing historical novels. I will graduate from Lesley in June (The heavens open up with a mighty crescendo) and then I can’t wait to get back to writing the kinds of stories I love. (With, hopefully, more skill than before.) I will be creating characters that spin, weave, make clay pots and who knows what else with total authenticity by the time I am done with all these classes.


 


Anyway, I found a “Sheep to Wool” spinning class offered in Feb., a very good month for me, so I went into the office to put myself on the “list.” As a local resident, I can take these classes for half price, when and if space is available after full paid registrations are in, so I just put myself on a list of any class I am interested in and let fate determine whether or not I’ll take it. I figure if I don’t get in, I can always try again later and so far, I’ve always gotten in.


 


The office knows me. The receptionist said, “If you really want this class, we are offering it in two weeks on Scottish Heritage Week and there are two spaces in the class. I’ll put you in for half price today if you want.”


The spinning class is usually full and I know getting in as a local for half price will be difficult, so I was pleasantly  surprised. She pointed out that the session starts Labor Day weekend, so some people don’t want to commit. This meant my snatching up the class now would be a lucky break and it guarantees I get to participate. But honestly, I am drowning in school work this term, so I shouldn’t commit to anything. I told her I’d think about it, and I signed up for a soap making weekend class in March – another class that is always full and is only offered twice a year. I decided to pay full price for this one since I’ve not gotten in the three times I’ve tried –It’s only a weekend course and March is a good month for me regarding my masters. I’ll be almost done.


 


So, I went back into the demonstrations to sit with Mark, thinking all the while about that darn spinning class. And don’t ya know that a half hour later, I went in and registered. I just couldn’t resist. Then, as I was leaving the office, the receptionist said, “And in case you forgot, you also are on the list for the wooden book class in late Sept. and it looks like you’ll get in. We’ll be seeing a lot of you.”


 


Hell! I’d forgotten I put myself on that list over six months ago. I’d never have pursued the spinning class this season if I remembered that. But, I am dying to take this class too. It’s a class that makes books from scratch. You use wood covers and leather, with naturally made fiber paper and hinges and such to make incredible turn of the century books. They are beautiful, for journals or to write poetry in. I visited the class last year, and talked to the teacher and students. It is a tedious and difficult skill to master, but the product is so original and personal, I have to learn. I figure a beautiful, empty book like this would make a very special gift for a teacher or someone who writes. I’ve signed up before, but the class occurred when Mark’s dad first got sick, so I had to decline attending. I can’t bail again.


 


So, it looks as if I am going to be very busy (artistically) in September. Eek. I will have two classes at the Campbell school, which at least will give me good fodder for writing assignments for my non-fiction professor (he enjoys my craft escapades and my animal/wilderness stories and is encouraging me to write a memoir about this mid-life adventure I’m undertaking.  I write two essays a month for him and it is always fun to have an inspirational new subject about which to write.) I guess this means In Sept. I’ll be missing sleep to keep up on my homework. This is my hardest term, with the hardest professor. I am supposed to write another 100 pages of my book this month, and I can barely eek out ten a week as it is. Sigh.


 


To top it off, my parents are coming up to visit Sept. 27 for a week. Actually, I’m thrilled they are coming. After all that we have experienced with Mark’s dad, I have a compelling urge to spend time with my own parents. But it does mean I have to get on the homework bandwagon now. Woe is me.


 


Anyway, I guess Sept. will be an eclectic blog month. I will take you with me on this journey into the past to lean about where wool comes from and how it feels between your fingers in raw form. I will share the sound of a sheep when you are robbing him of his fur, and take lots of pictures! I will then complain mightily about how sore my fingers are when I make a book and do the meticulous binding by hand.


 


Sometimes I think I approach life as if it’s an all you can eat banquet. I’m the person that heaps way more on her plate than her stomach can handle, just because it all looks so appetizing. Bad habit, ’cause in the end you always end up too full, feeling groggy with a food-hangover, burping and sighing– all of which doesn’t bode well for a gal’s sophisticated image.

Ah well. Beats starving.   

Mark’s Thrones

My husband took a class on Rustic Furniture Making at the Campbell school this week. He’s wanted to take it for some time. A year ago May, when we realized we were selling our school and would have time to pursue personal interests, he tried to sign up for last August’s class, but it was filled. The school only offers this course once a year and they only take seven students because of space constraints. Therefore, with my encouragement, he signed up one year in advance and paid full price to be sure he would get a space in the class. The long awaited class began last Sunday and ran until today, Friday.


 


I worried that he wouldn’t be able to go, even after his long wait, because life tends to thwart the best of plans. When his dad passed away on the Friday eve before the class, it was as if fate was waving Mark towards his new destiny. He needed the distraction, and deserved a chance to be immersed in something he loves, but he wouldn’t have gone if his dad was still sick. Despite what I feared would be an impossibility, it turned out Mark could go  – and  just when he really needed something to aid his emotional recovery. Perfect.


 


Today, I went to the closing ceremony to see all the incredible crafts people made this session at the school. This week they offered blacksmithing, chair caning, jewelry design, lathe made stools, a cold foods cooking class, banjo, glass bead making, embroidery and appliqué design, watercolors, writing, and carving.  The showcase is always impressive and inspiring . I was shocked by how terrific everyone’s rustic chairs turned out, because I consider furniture making a hard subject, but honestly, I wasn’t surprised by my husband’s chairs. I expected his to stand out (and they did). Everyone in the class made one chair, finishing by the skin of their teeth at week’s end. Mark made two and had free time on the last day. Ha, that’s my boy. High achiever and artistic wonder. The teacher said he never had anyone finish two chairs in a week. Mark later confessed that he could have made three, or at least a matching footstool, but he didn’t want to appear greedy, use up the last of the materials, and no one in the class wanted to stay after hours to put in extra time the way he would have liked. Ha. You’re spots are showing, o’ leopard mine.


 


He made one big chair for himself and a slightly smaller, matching chair for me. (Makes me wonder if Goldilocks is planning to visit our cabin one day) He plans to put them in our bedroom by the window with a table that he claims he will make later. The chairs are made of tree saplings with the bark on, but he shaved away areas in the backrest and armrests to make them more comfortable. This also adds interesting texture and design to what is actually a “stick” chair.  Mark’s chairs are somewhat more interesting than every else’s in the class because he added some double rungs and forked pieces.


When I commented on it, he shrugged and said, “I didn’t have much room for creativity, because the teacher discouraged us using twisted or curved wood. He thought it would be too hard for beginners. But, wait until you see what I can do now in my workshop. All I needed was the basics. My mind is now spinning with ideas.”


Big surprise.


That is how Mark operates. The man gets a small bit of information and he runs wild with it. Amazing how his creative mind works. He has an artistic eye that is unparalleled. He sees things no one else sees when he looks at bits and pieces of whatever. Always fascinates me. I’ve learned to just trust his vision even if I can’t see it early on. It was hard to do when it was dance we were talking, but with wood and other things I do not feel I have any expertise in, I just sit back an enjoy the show. Our going in different directions (artistically) is actually very good for us in some ways.


 


It was very important to me that Mark finally took this furniture making class, because if he didn’t:


1.)    We would have a huge, beautiful, rustic log home, but it would be empty because we’ve spent every cent we have on the structure and land. We got rid of all the Florida furniture that doesn’t fit this new lifestyle, so filling this new house is going to take some creative thinking.


2.)    I would have to jump off a cliff if I heard him talk about how much he wishes he could make this stuff  . . . if only . . . . . All right already, stop whining and take a class somewhere. Gee wiz. I bought you some books, can’t you just read them, fake it, and make us a bench or something?


3.)    I began to think I would never own a single rustic thing, because each and every item I’ve seen in a store over the last year, makes me say, “Gee, wouldn’t this be nice in our house,”  But I get a response of, “Yea, but we would never buy it, because I could just make it for you.” Considering I’ve been told this about beds, dining room tables, end tables and coffee tables, chairs, cabinets, desks, lamps, and even knick-knacks like toilet paper holders and coat hangers, I’ve begun to worry. I say, “Dear, you will have to make things 24/7 to put a dent in my needs list, and there are only so many hours in a day. Are you sure we can’t buy this toilet paper holder?” and he would scowl and say, “For twenty bucks? No way, I can make it for two.”  And I think, But will you? Now, for the first time, I’m beginning to think he will.


4.)    I think it is important that all people embrace the things they love, and I believe happiness lies in soulful work that makes you feel you are living the authentic “you.” I know my husband no longer belongs in tights. I think sawdust suits him better than sequins, and I can’t bare the fact that building a house, handling our complex finances and the lingering duties regarding the sale of our school is standing in the way of him doing what he wants with his life. I have my MFA. I want him to have his wood.


 


So, he made some chairs and he is all perky and happy now. Therefore, so am I.


 


Driving home from the school with Mark’s two chairs in the back of the truck, the funniest thing happened. We were talking about the class and how much Mark enjoyed it and how badly he wants to get into this for a living once the house is finished, when a man in a sports car speeding along besides us on the two-lane highway, started honking. We thought we might have a flat tire or something, so I rolled down my window.


 


The man yelled, “Hey, where did you get those great chairs in the back of your truck?”


I chuckled and said, “He made them,” pointing to Mark in the driver’s seat.


The man said, “Do you have a card? I want to buy some.”


Mark said, “Wish I did, but I’m out of cards right now. Sorry.” He gives me the “can you believe he thinks I’m a real furniture maker” look. 


The man said, “Where do you live?”


I shout, “Mineral Bluff.”


Mind you, we are still sailing along at 45 miles an hour.


The man yells, “What’s your name?”


I yell, “Mark Hendry.”


The man then smiles and shouts, “I’ll remember that and call you. I love those chairs.”


And off he sails.


 


Mark and I look at each other and crack up. It was like a corny movie or some kind of candid camera set up. Too perfect a coincidence to believe it happened naturally.


 


I said, “You get your ass in that workshop and don’t come out until you make a dozen of these chairs!” (which sell for 600 bucks and up, mind you, and you get the materials in your backyard for free). I’m thinking, not only will he be able to make me furniture, but I can buy some furniture too– those things not made of wood, of course- once he is up and rolling as a furniture-making entrepreneur. They say money doesn’t grow on trees, but it just might roll in the wake of them.


 


This is cause for celebration. My house will not be a hollow shell after all, because I’m all for a girl locking her man up in a sweatshop to produce, especially if he thinks it’s his idea of fun.


 


Anyway, that potential customer in the sports car was like a sign from heaven that Mark is following the right path. Mark will no doubt do something wonderful in this world of wood. The house will be finished in eight weeks, and then his workshop will be built and outfitted with his bazillion tools and . . . let the games begin. Can’t wait to see where it all takes him. My mind is already spinning with the possibilities. I will write articles about the new wood artist in Georgia that will put him on the map. He has the talent. I have the tenacious marketing savvy and no shame.


 


Mark tells me that he loves making the chairs and wants to make dozens for one of the upcoming art festivals. He figures he can sell twenty or more in a weekend – we’ve seen people do that without trying.  Then he tells me he intends to have me cane them all.


I was like, “Say what?”


Caning is the hard part! But I wasn’t going to bust his bubble on the very day he blew it. I figure, when the time comes, I’ll offer to help him – if and only if, we make it a chair caning mini-party. We can sit outside together and talk and make it a marital social event. I never see him anymore – he is buried under logs and a fog of sawdust. I figure forcing him to work with me always worked in the past. I’m no fool – after 19 years, a girl figures out just how to maneuver a difficult fellow.


 


I did take the chair caning class because I thought one day it would allow me to participate in this furniture making thing – but I was thinking about my dining room chairs, not outfitting cabins nation wide with Mark-chairs. Bet I end up sorry I opened that can of worms. Eesh.


 


Anyway, I am definately going to share pictures of the chairs even though pictures don’t do them justice and he still has to oil the seats to give it a rich sheen. But not now. I have to wait for Mark to down load them, because I have fiddled with thei camera for an hour now and I can’t figure it out. I’m technology challenged. But when you see them tomorrow you will see they are neat. Guess you have to like woodsy sorts of things.  I sure do.  They are substantial, solid, natural and lack pretense– qualities I like not only in furniture, but in people.  And let me just say that I think he did some pretty good seats – in fact, they are so good I couldn’t possibly match their exquisiteness. In fact, I might ruin any chair he made if my sloppy caning dared interfere with their artistic genius . . . . it would ruin the artistic integrity of the seat . . .  yep . . . I shouldn’t touch them . . . 


Um . . . think that will fly?



I’ll post pictures later.  


 


      


 


  


 


    

The season for running, cooking and spying on wildlife.

I’ve been running again. Well, that isn’t exactly true. I announce that I am going running. I put on a running outfit and shoes and I march off in my best sporty strut down the mountain. But really, what I do at the bottom is run along the flat sections of the country road and trudge slowly up the hills. I have to walk down the hills on the other side, because running on downward slopes kills my knees.  I guess I’m not a runner anymore. I’m some kind of meandering, lumbering, partial jogger.


 


In the paper the other day, I saw an ad for an upcoming 5 K in the town right by our cabin. Only about two miles away.  I got excited. It has been awhile since I was in a race and a short 5K right in my backyard would be an opportunity to meet other runners from the area. (If there are any – Lord, you never see them here the way you do in Florida or Boston. I think most of the racers come from the Atlanta running club – here’s a joke: I’m actually a member. Geez, if I actually actively participated in half the clubs I join I’d be superwoman.)


 


I thought of signing up for the race, but then, I saw the title and my face fell. It’s called the Morganton Hill Run. Might as well be called the Morganton Death by Incline Run for me. Or the “Let us embarrass you 5K”.  Sure took the wind out of my sails. I’d hate to go and make a fool of myself. But, the more I thought about it, the more I thought I should sign up. The real fools are the people that stay home and don’t take the opportunity to do something healthy and fun, and grasp the chance to meet others with similar interests. I may have to slip one of those Groucho Marx fake nose and glasses disguises in my pocket so no one will see who I am when I cross the finish line 30 minutes after the conditioned runners have finished, but hey, I might surprise myself. So, today, I’m sending in my registration. Then, I plan to call the race committee and ask where the route is and go give it a drive. I might try running out there once or twice before mid Sept when the race takes place. Just to see how pitiful I really am. I’ll sign up Kent to join me. I am the sort of nurturing mother that enjoys dragging her kids along on torturous escapades, the kind that might take them hours to recoup from. I figure, if he’s running next to me, Kent will look like a seasoned athlete – it will be good for his self-esteem.


 


Lately, when I run, I’ve been picking flowers on the route home. I figure I’ll be either picking flowers or picking up trash, and one endeavor tends to make me feel joyful and the other makes me cranky. So, the flowers prevail. But pick’ins are slim (and now we know where that cliché came from) because the only wildflowers blooming late in the season here are what I would call “weak” varieties.


 


 I come home all sweaty with a fist full of flowers and Mark shakes his head and says, “Pretty, but I hate to tell you. . . . the yellow ones will shed all over the table within an hour, the orange ones won’t last even an hour and the white ones might, if you are lucky, last till dinner.” Damn if the Ole Party Pooper isn’t always right. Having a spouse with gardening savvy is a mixed blessing.


 


Slowly, I’m learning which blooms to bypass altogether. I could skip the entire flower-picking thing, I guess, but I can’t resist dragging them home just to try them out. I figure, if the blooms only last through dinner, they still make a nice centerpiece. I confess, sometimes, I wrestle with guilt over it. I’m learning that flowers are just like animals. The domesticated ones do well captured and brought into your home, but the wild ones can’t survive no matter how hard you try to gently attend to them. They need to remain wild or they die. The idea that I shorten their short existence on earth doesn’t sit well with me.


 


I have a plan though. I went to the Wildflower Seed and Bulb company on the internet and purchased another bunch of wildflower seeds (for fall) and some bulbs. I will plant them erratically around the land, toss them here and there. Then I’ll have semi-cultured flowers to pick in the wild. They say you can’t fool mother nature. Ha. Doesn’t mean you can’t give it a try.


 


While at the land yesterday, two huge pheasants crossed the road. Neva spotted them first and shouted, “We have turkeys!”


I explained that they were actually pheasants – a male and female, or so it looked. We stopped the car so we wouldn’t scare them away, then climbed on the hood to watch them go all the way up the mountain through the trees towards Mark’s workshop. I have to admit, I was out of my mind excited. This discovery proves that pheasants will survive on our land (and now I can raise them) and in fact, we already have some. Our alleged bear doesn’t eat everything that has fur or feathers. Cool beans!


 


I don’t know it if was a coincidence that I saw the pheasants the same month I saw one at our cabin or not. Perhaps these birds are seasonal and start wandering out and about this time of year. I do know I associate pheasants with fall, but I don’t know why. I’m thinking it may be their autumn coloring that makes them a common image used in fall decorating, or the fact that the pilgrims ate them or something and there are lots of pheasant recipes in my cooking magazines along with turkey recipes. Or maybe, we are coming upon a pheasant shooting season (no doubt – they have a season for shooting everything here, except the damn hunters, who deserve to get an ass full of buckshot.) Whatever – suddenly, pheasants abound! They are remarkable looking. I hope the two we saw are busy procreating so I will see baby pheasants one day. I will need to read up on the species to find out when, where, and how they lay eggs and some details about their habits. I want to become a pheasant aficionado. Yessirree.


 


Speaking of seasons, I have decided that perhaps God, in his ultimate wisdom, knew what he was doing when he gave everything a season. Especially blueberries. I was sad to see the blackberries fade, but I am going to welcome the end of blueberry season in a few weeks. I am making yet another batch of blueberry jam this morning to take care of the serious backload of blueberries jamming up my fridge. What else is a girl to do? I can’t stop picking them, and Mark is dieting so I can’t, in all fairness, make any more blueberry desserts. We’ve eaten so many healthy blueberry bran muffins we could bust, and my freezer is full of raw blueberries for winter cooking. So, I am back to making more jam . Sigh. I have another ten jars sitting on the counter with a “do not touch” sign on them today. Tomorrow they can join the other 20 jars in my cupboard.  At least my fridge has room for a gallon of milk now. Yippee.


 


It will be apple season in two weeks. We don’t have any apple trees of our own (yet) but there is an orchid nearby where we go to pick bushels. I love how cheap apples are in Sept. because I can buy a big basket of them for a song. I do this for the horses. The cool temperatures in Sept. mean the apples won’t rot in the big plastic trunk outside that I put them in, so everyday, when I go feed the horses, I have fresh apples for treats. All summer, the horses were only given carrots because I’m a big cheapskate who won’t pay a dollar an apple to feed a horse – especially considering I have five mouths to feed (donkey counts, ya know, in fact, I usually sneak him two treats ’cause he is my favorite.)


 


Hopefully, Mark’s diet will take a break in Sept. because for all that I can resist making blueberry desserts, I think it is highly cruel to expect me to avoid making apple desserts. Skipping the wealth of apple pies, cakes and sauté recipes in fall would be damn unnatural, if you ask me. Besides, apple escapades are my warm-up for all those pumpkin dishes to come.


 


Enough meaningless talk. I have to get to my homework.


Bye.


 

Kathy’s big, fat progress

Kathy is learning to read. Mostly, small easy words, but she’s reading, nevertheless. I’m proud of her, and between you and me, I’m proud of myself too. Teaching someone to read is harder than you imagine. Whoever made up the English language and all the dumb rules involved had to be drunk at the time, I swear.


 


Anyway, she is good at recognizing my flashcards and can read the sentences I type out for her each week. She is doing well on lower-level workbooks too, which are helpful to shake up our routine. But, the other day, I asked her to write some sentences for me and she drew a blank. Even when I suggested she use words that I know she knows, she paused, incapable of pulling the letters out of the back of her mind to match the sounds she was voicing out. I hadn’t realized that teaching someone to read and teaching them to write were two separate things. Oh, I realized it, I guess, yet I didn’t realize how different the two skills are. They are so related, that you just expect one to assimilate the reverse of the skill. Not true. So now, I am putting more emphasis on Kathy’s writing for a while. She has homework of writing sentences for me between each lesson.


 


In Kathy’s world, everything is big and fat. When asked to make up sentences she writes;


There is a big fat man.


I see a big fat cat.


It is not fun to be bit and fat.


The big, fat boy ran.


 


I told her, “Um, Kathy, not every sentence you make up has to be about big, fat stuff. Can you think of a sentence that isn’t about a big, fat man?”


 


She thinks a moment, then says, “That man is not big and fat.”


Ha. Well, at least she has a sense of humor. In that way, we work together very well.


 


Today, I scoured the town seeking forms for Kathy to fill out. I think it’s pretty ambitious to think she will sit down and read Faulkner one day – the goal is to make her functional in our society. So, I went about gathering job applications, credit card applications, memo pads, magazine subscription cards and change of address forms. I also brought envelopes to our lesson. I had her fill out a few of the easier forms. It was instantly obvious that we will need to work a bit longer before she tackles anything that includes more than name, address and phone.


 


We discussed how envelopes are addressed. She is vaguely familiar with this because she does receive mail, even if she can’t read it. (She recognizes bills, of course – don’t we all.) I had her address an envelope to herself and told her to expect me to send it to her with an assignment inside. When she gets it, she’ll have to read what to do, than do it. I also had her address one envelope to me, and her homework is to write me a letter. I suppose I’ll hear all about her big fat life in the letter, but that’s OK. What is important is that she keeps practicing, and hopefully, this will make her feel as if she is developing competency.


 


I also bought her an address book. I showed her how the letters that stick out on the sides are like files, and that you are supposed to put names inside by the first letter of a person’s last name. I had her put my name, address, phone and e-mail in the book. Then, I told her that her homework this month is to fill the book. I want every friend, family member and whomever she encounters, in that book.


Kathy flipped through the pages of that little address book as if it were made of gold. She said, “My mother in law has one of these. I’ve seen one of these books before. It will be neat having one of my own.”


 


I told her that collecting addresses of her acquaintances will be good practice, and in November, I would have a bigger assignment. I will have her make out Christmas cards to everyone in the book. I’ll supply the cards and stamps. She’ll be in charge of the manpower. She got so excited. Warmed my heart.


 


I also bought her a small, purse-size planner and showed her how this works. Kathy has dozens of appointments every week. It’s amazing that she can keep them all straight – she lives in fear of getting in trouble if she forgets something important. She has to attend two AA meetings a week, a doctor’s appointment, two lessons with me, a drug test, periodic court dates etc….. Keeping straight is a full time job for someone in her position.  I told her to fill out every obligation she has, and to flip forward to future months to put in birthdays and anything else she can think of.  I explained that just because she thinks she can remember something, like lunch with a friend, she should still write it down, just to get used to the process of taking notes. I want writing to be a part of her everyday life, as it is for you or me.


She smiled and said, “This is really fun.”


 


Amazing, isn’t it? The things you or I take for granted and consider a pain are considered exciting to someone who has been excluded from everyday participation for a long, long time.


 


Anyway, my lesson was different today – focused on practical application. I am doing all kinds of mental acrobatics to come up with ways to teach some of the hard spelling rules that I can barely explain, much less break down into sensible systems. I don’t know how elementary school teachers do the job so efficiently. I feel inadequate some days, and worry that Kathy won’t learn as much as she should because she is stuck with me, an untrained amateur, as her guide. But we are scooting forward at a pace that works for us.  


 


In the meantime, I spend dead time, like when I am driving around town or waiting at a stop light, brainstorm more reading and writing projects for Kathy. Hey, maybe I’ll get her to fill out a tax return. Ha! It will be the only time in the history of mankind someone does that and thinks it’s fun!  


 


After I posted Kathy’s picture the other day, I thought about my flippant comment about how country people don’t smile. Truthfully, I took six pictures and she scowled in every one. But later, it occurred to me why. You may remember, Kathy has only three teeth. While I am used to this now, I’m sure she is self-conscious about it. I felt horrible when I realized that was probably what was going on. I kept thinking of how I urged her to take a picture with me, and her standing there reluctant as all get-out. No doubt, she was feeling uncomfortable about it, yet she didn’t want to refuse my request. I can be such a stupid dope.  


 


Well, I bought her an address book and a planner as my unspoken apology for the unspoken offense.


 


I was looking at the electronic word games, a hand held Leap-pad thing, today at Wal-Mart to. I wonder if she would use it if I bought her one. She might find it fun and spend an hour or two a day testing herself on spelling and sentence structure etc…That might be a great thing.  I didn’t buy it, because at 90.00, which is the cost of set-up, I want to think about it first. I think there are many things in that price range that Kathy could use, and I have to think about whether or not a leap-pad merits the investment. I may want to hold off and spend whatever money I want to allocate to her in another way. But I must confess, I was itching to pick up that machine just to see it if would make my job go any faster. What kills me is that I just got rid of about three such devices when we moved that Neva had outgrown. Drat.


 


Speaking of which, I have to go pick up Neva.

Pardon me. I can’t talk about dance in a whisper. I tend to shout.

In order to make a living, Denver has decided to begin a dance program here in Blue Ridge – the need is great and she will do very well with it. So all week, she’s worked on a flyer and kept asking our advice. She has a great deal of preliminary material to work with, considering our history, so she put together a fantastic informational “sales” flyer/brochure describing the classes and her philosophy. She also had a meeting with the Blue Ridge Arts Association where she will be teaching, and asked me to attend. We brainstormed together to set the sessions, pricing, fix the dance room etc.

The assistant director then said she would send something to the paper if Denver would give her some particulars. I told her that wasn’t necessary, that I was planning to write an article about her for the paper. I am a writer now, and no one knows this dance program like I do (since I created it), so I sincerely doubt anyone could do justice to describing this emerging program as I could. I’ve also met the editor and he is expecting some human interest articles from me (I’ve already done the interviews, but been too busy to sit down and plunk out the actually articles.) Turning something in would alleviate my guilt in that area and help my daughter too.

She said fine, but the article had to be in Friday, (the next day) to be published next week. So yesterday, while sitting at Dianne’s house, I sat at the computer and plunked out an article about my daughter.

Funny, but every woman’s ultimate fantasy is to have control over everything her kid says and thinks. For one hour I could do just that. I filled my article with quotes and ideals that I thought would be accurate and beneficial while still trying to capture my daughter’s sentiments.
Later Dianne laughed and said, “I never knew Denver was so eloquent.” Ha.  

I turned the article in with some dance pictures of Denver.

Later, I left a copy for my daughter to read. I assumed she would be thrilled, but she just smiled and said, “It’s funny.”
Funny? Funny ha ha, or funny weird? I asked her what she didn’t like about it.

She shrugged and said, “Has it occurred to you that I have to live up to that now? Gee Mom, I just wanted to make some money.”

I stood there, holding my cell phone in my hand, in a quandary, trying to decide if, in writing that article, I was out of place – even though the director and Denver asked me to do it.

Mark pointed out that I dive into any project with an attitude that it is a full commitment, always shooting for something bigger – not that it has to come about, but that I lay the foundation for greater things to come just in case I become gripped in the passion of the project. But, he pointed out, not everyone lives that way.  I should not put pressure on Denver to excel or create a huge shadow that she has to walk in. I need to let her world unfold without my influence (Of course, I’m thinking, then she shouldn’t ask for my input). . . but I get his point. 

Anyway, I did what I could to help her set up for success in the local dance arena with the best of intentions. And honestly, I meant everything I said in the article. She can do this better than anyone else. . . If she wants.

Here is the article for anyone interested in my emerging journalistic skills. I’m guessing, Denver will be thrilled when she sees it in print. One thing is sure, the people of this town will know “dance” has ventured into the mountains now. Had it been with me, it would venture in with a hobble. But with my daughter, it can leap in with all the enthuasiasm and energy of youth.


DANCING IN THE MOUNTAINS


By Virginia East


 (Had to find a name other than my own since I quoted myself. Ha, how awkward is that?)


 


  


     Denver Clark came to Blue Ridge to visit her parents in June, expecting to dance on to New York to continue with her theater studies. However, moved by the lovely attitudes prevalent in our community, she’s decided to do her dancing here for a while.


      Building an alliance with the Blue Ridge Arts Association, Denver is creating a program designed to expand creative awareness through an introduction to dance which includes everything from technical skill to artistic expression. Denver believes dance education involves much more than teaching routines or donning costumes to put on a show. Dance teaches self-discipline, physical awareness, creative expression and physical fitness, while exposing students to art classics and more modern cultural movement at the same time.


     The Blue Ridge Arts Association has earned a fine reputation through programs designed to share visual and Appalachian arts with the community. Denver is excited to expand their offerings to include traditional dance classes and is excited to work in association with a growing, non-profit organization whose heart is, she believes, in the right place.


    “I feel the people involved in the BRAA are open minded and committed to bringing the best of the arts to our community,” Denver says. “And I think it’s wonderful they want to add dance to their roster of arts awareness programs.”


     The BRAA has offered dance classes before, but they were random classes, lacking long-range goals. Now, the facility is working with Denver to design a progressive program that can grow as the organization grows. 


      It seems, no one is better suited to this ambitious goal than Denver. Denver comes from a family of dance educators. Before retiring last year, her parents owned one of the largest dance schools in Southern Florida with over 1200 students and two 10,000-foot state of the art studios. The Hendry’s are the innovators of the renowned KIDDANCE program, producing educational videos and CD’s for dance teachers, a progressive syllabus and an international newsletter of creative dance concepts. Ginny Hendry, Denver’s mother, still travels to teach dance seminars for Dance Master’s of America and affiliated organizations. After retiring last year, she began pursuing a low residency MFA at <ST1laceName w:st=”on”>Lesley</ST1laceName> <ST1laceName w:st=”on”>University</ST1laceName> where she is now writing a novel about dance.


    “Mom is dancing on paper now,” Denver says with a smile. “And my father, Mark Hendry, is still a guest choreographer for schools and regional companies. For all that they are retired, dance remains a huge part of our family’s life.”


     Denver is proud to carry on the family’s tradition of dance education by beginning a program of her own in Blue Ridge. “And my parents are here to consult me and help as needed. I am lucky to have their experience to guide me,” she says.


    Not that her parents believe she will need much help. “Denver has trained all her life. She has participated in competitions, seminars, and all sorts of performances. She has all the tools she needs to be a successful teacher.” Ginny Hendry says. “I am proud to step aside to see what my daughter can do with dance. And I’m thrilled she’s chosen our community as her new home.”  


     Denver plans to offer children’s classes following the KIDDANCE syllabus, a progressive program that teaches dance basics creatively. KIDDANCE was featured in Dance Teacher Now Magazine as one of America’s most innovative approaches to dance education in 1999. The syllabus encourages teachers to introduce basic dance concepts in ways that make learning fun.       


     For example, to teach correct arm placement and spatial awareness, one exercise consists of students wearing socks on their arms and moving under a backlight to create shapes in space. With only arms glowing, the exercise is fun for kids but it also keeps their focus on placement and visual space. Another creative exercise involves “paper bag ballets”. The origin of ballet is pantomime, so once a session, students will don costume pieces to “get into character” and dance out a ballet narrated by the teacher. These short improvisational ballets expose young dance students to the story lines and music of the classics while also encouraging them to emote. Another exercise is a foot mat created by tracing students feet on long rolls of banner paper which is later used as a pattern for an exercise that teaches the difference between turned out or inverted foot positions. “It is all about camouflaging basic principals in joyful exercises,” Denver says. Many other creative methods are incorporated to teach dance concepts, along with more traditional exercises that  teach dance terminology, steps and proper technique.  Collectively, this system leaves children not only learning how to dance, but loving dance.


     “Dance involves endless practice to reinforce technique,” Denver says, “The Kiddance program finds different ways to practice the same thing over and over again so children learn  without getting bored. It is also highly creative which teaches a budding artist that dance is about personal expression, not just steps or routine exercises . The best way to get students to embrace the discipline required for dance is to make them love the art so they want to work hard to excel.”


     The new dance program at the BRAA will be offering classes in eight-week sessions beginning September 5th. Denver feels this term will instill a foundation in movement and hopefully, tweak new dancer’s interest enough to continue throughout the year. “We want the emphasis of these classes to be on exploring movement, not just learning routines or practicing for an end of year recital,” Denver says.


     But that does not mean that she doesn’t’t think performance should be a part of the dance education experience. On the contrary, Denver plans to end each eight-week session with some sort of performance, preferably dancing at community events such as festivals or homes for the elderly. “As a non-profit organization, I think it’s important that the BRAA dance program gives something back to the community. I’m hoping to find lots of avenues for performance which will be non-competitive and rich in the spirit of artistic sharing.”        


    Denver has spent the last two years attending <ST1laceName w:st=”on”>Central</ST1laceName> <ST1laceName w:st=”on”>Florida</ST1laceName> <ST1laceType w:st=”on”>University</ST1laceType> in Orlando in pursuit of a BFA in musical theater. She’s a singer, dancer and actor and she draws from all disciplines to make the dance class engaging.  In addition to creative dance classes for youth, including a Mommy and me parent and child interactive class for ages 2 & 3  and preschool movement classes, she is offering more traditional dance classes in the subjects of ballet, tap and jazz for


 


elementary and middle school students. She will also offer a hip-hop and musical theater class for teens.


    Beyond traditional dance classes for area youth, Denver hopes to offer specialty classes that will serve the community. For thirteen years in Florida, Denver’s mother taught a group of students with Downs syndrome, not only teaching them dance but also taking them to competitions and performances. She’s written several articles for national dance periodicals on how to teach handicapped students and lectured on the subject at dance conventions. Denver assisted these special needs classes and having been exposed to the unique complications of physical and mental disabilities, hopes to offer a similar class for handicapped individuals in Blue Ridge.


    “Dance is for everyone,” Denver says, “Creative expression is a tonic for the soul, and I think dance helps a person get in touch with their inner selves in the healthiest of ways. I’m hoping, as I learn more about our community’s needs, I’ll be able to contribute something special through arts education. It’s wonderful to be able to do what you love for a living, but even more wonderful to share what you love with others.”


 


    For information and a schedule contact BRAA at (706) 632-2144. Class size will be limited and registration is ongoing. BRAA recommends interested students reserve a space by signing up early.