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Monthly Archives: August 2006

Ginny vs. Nature in a 50 acre ring.

       “Man against nature” has been a significant theme in literature for as long as man has set words to paper. I give you, for example, Moby Dick – a classic.  “Man against nature” is a reoccurring theme in film as well. Like one of my favorite movies, The Edge with Anthony Hopkins. Love it!

     So, it is no surprise that “Man against nature” has found its way into the Blog zone. That is what I am writing about today.


     We have a big cage currently housing a pair of beloved rabbits. It is nestled against the pasture fence by the blueberry bush. Yesterday, when I went to feed my horses and check our bunnies I was shocked at the sight awaiting me. The cage was ripped apart. The door was torn from the hinges and the wire mesh and sturdy supports were bent and broken. The heavy nesting box that our rabbits hide in was lifted up and turned on its side. Worst of all, there were clumps of white fur littering the ground underneath the cage, along with smears of red on the grass. One can conclude that our bunnies did not simply find a way out of confinement to hop merrily into the woods.


     I went to the worksite to describe my discovery to Mark. He turned to the workers and said, “What can do that? Coyotes?” Damn coyotes.

    The workers said, “No way. Coyotes and dogs are not aggressive like that. They wouldn’t destroy a cage.  Might be a  bear.”  Damn bear.

    I had this surge of anger, like Anthony Hopkins in The Edge when he said, “We have to kill the bear,” and he proceeded to whittle a spear to do the deed. I like bears and all, but not if they are going to prey on helpless, fuzzy bunnies and leave me with the task of breaking the news to my daughter. (I might mention here that not only does Neva love her pets, but this is going to be a horrible blow to her enterprise. She has been breeding her bunnies and selling the babies at the flea market all summer. She made a killing as a bunny entrepreneur. I am just thankful that we are on a break in the cycle, because at times, we have had up to eight bunnies in that cage; the mom and a bunch of adorable young rabbits -a perfect hor derve size for a hungry bear – like bunny mcNuggets)  

    The workers said, “Of course, it could be a fox. Them foxes is sneaky and can pull apart any kind of cage when they’s hungry.” Damn foxes.


     So, I don’t know what destroyed our cage and the inhabitants. But it makes me mad enough to spit. Now, not only do I feel I can’t have bunnies without irresponsibly putting them in danger, but what am I going to do with my Chickens? I planned to hire someone this week to build a chicken coop. Was thrilled at the idea of getting my poultry settled in our new home. But I can just see a bear tearing that cage apart to eat little Pot Pie and Drumstick. And what about my new Rooster (still squeaking in his little baby crow voice each morning when the sun rises). I can’t endanger my precious Joe Cocker!  But, I can’t keep these dirty birds in a cage on my porch either. Reality check.

Damn bear. Damn coyotes. Damn foxes. Damn wilderness.


     Mark says we can tie a dog up next to the chicken coup and that will help keep predators away. I looked at him as if he had grown horns. He’s going a little too “country” for me, with a comment like that. Like I’m going to keep a dog tied up all the time? Not to mention that I’d have nightmares of walking up to a leash that isn’t connected to a puppy anymore – like in the movie Jurassic Park when they tied up a goat and a moment later all they saw was a frayed rope and goat parts rained from the sky. Um . . . I wouldn’t expect even a tough ole country hound to tangle with a bear for the rights of a chicken.


This is getting complicated.

     Mark looks at me slyly and says, “I guess you can give up on the animal thing.”

     Not on your life, Bud. I’m having too much fun with my animal escapades to give up because of one obstacle.

I just need to outsmart the varmints. But how?


     I keep thinking about those cartoons I used to watch as a kid. The one with the innocent sheep, the sneaky wolf and the sheep dog that punch a time clock to begin work. They say good morning, the whistle blows to begin the workday, and the dog abruptly grabs the wolf and socks him in the jaw. I used to think those cartoons silly. Now I think they are closer to an educational documentary.


     We hope to build a barn this fall when the house is complete. I desperately want one now, before the rainy cold season begins, but it is hard enough getting the laborers to show up to finish the house, so pulling anyone off the job to build anything else isn’t an option, need based or not. And Mark’s workshop is first on the “After the house is done” list, so the barn is a long way off. I suppose, once I have a solid barn, I’ll be able to set up a bunny cage along that structure and it will be safer. And I can put my chicken coup nearby too. The activity near a barn, people coming and going (me), lights rigged to go off with a motion censor, and a donkey in residence, would make predators think twice.  No guarantees to stop an attack, but a speed bump to slow them down for sure.


    Can you believe this is my idea of trouble now? A year ago, trouble was defined as a costume shipment arriving late or a teacher getting the flu and my having to sub. Then, I was worried about bearish dance mothers.  Now it’s real bears. I guess all that FLEX aggravation was good practice for the real thing of outwitting determined wild creatures.


    Yesterday, while taking a walk around our mountain, I saw a wild pheasant. They are huge, cool looking birds! Looked like a peacock, only different. When I saw Mark that night, I exclaimed my delight and said, “I think I should raise wild pheasants and when they get big enough I’ll let them go on our land. I’ll populate our world with beautiful birds to see as we go about the day.”

He shook his head and said, “They won’t last. You will just be feeding the bears and the coyotes, and if anything, you’ll increase their population, which is not what you want to do. Give it up.”


    I most certainly won’t! For one thing, you can’t tell me that there aren’t areas where nature can balance itself – wild pheasants thrive in wooded areas, so why not mine? Then, there is the idea that if I populate the area with lots of wild birds, perhaps the predators won’t feel so inclined to go after my domestic animals. Insurance, so to speak. And maybe my wild pheasants will repopulate and multiply. They might create an ongoing supply of food for these hungry animals, enough of them so that a few (the smart ones that know to perch in trees) will thrive to awe me with their beauty.  

I’m gonna try it.


     Is it morally wrong to populate the land with wild animals if I know they might be eaten? I have to admit I am not emotionally scared when an animal meets his demise, at least not the way I was when I first moved here. It’s not like these are abused animals, uncared for or harmed by human hands – a different story completely. When an animal meets an untimely end because another animal has been hunting, well, it is all a part of nature and I don’t deny any animal it’s right to live true to nature.  I rather not see it happen to the animals I have named, petted, and cooed to, but I recognize that a part of living deep in the throws of nature is accepting the perils that come with a more natural existence. I think what’s important is that I give everything a fighting chance, supply any animals I mentor with the tools for living authentically.  For example, I won’t handle wild pheasants and make them comfortable with other creatures if they will be indeed wild. They need to be alert and skittish to remain unharmed. I won’t let my chickens be free range if I know my dog will use them as a chew toy. I will just strive to be as responsible as I can, do research so I don’t behave in stupid ways which the innocent animals pay for, then let nature balance itself out.  


   Man has battled nature for as long as time – there is something so base about experiencing this firsthand, not in theory. Makes me feel as if I’m rediscovering my own true nature as a two-legged creature. I feel like a Buddhist, at one with the earth, accepting of the cycle of life while trying to remain passive too. Of course, few Buddhist go around saying “Damn this, and damn that, ” but . . . well, I’m still me, I’m afraid. Wanting (but not getting) everything to go according to my personal agenda.  


    Anyway, yesterday I lost two bunnies but I gained some insight about what other creatures I’ll be living with soon when we move to our dream house .  And it has set my mind aflame with a new challenge. How will I outsmart the coyotebearfoxes? I’m hoping, if I watch more cartoons, I’ll stumble upon the answer. Acme predator spray or something.


    I feel like Rocky in a 50 acre ring, determined to win the fight with nature even though I have nothing but sheer determination as a coach in my corner. I need to have the heart to stay standing despite a few sore punches.

Wish me luck.


Is there always room for one more?

Today, after I worked with Kathy, I was asked to stop by the office. They had a question for me. Turns out, they are wondering if I would take on a new student.


The truth is, I’m too busy for the one I have – teaching someone to read is a big commitment while pursuing a masters and I’m barely able to keep on top of all my work as it is. I should say no. But this case is pretty hard to resist.


The man’s name is Hoyt and he is 63. Testing revealed he doesn’t even recognize the alphabet. Only his name. He went to school up until 2nd grade, but dropped out because all they had him do was chores. He was expected to lug in the water and carry firewood. Remember, he is 63. 55 years ago in a small town like this one, the schoolhouse was a rustic, one room shed with all ages in it together.  He was appointed the teacher’s lackey, so it turned out, school was too hard for him. (for all the wrong reasons).


Hoyt went on to become a wealthy landowner. In fact, he is a millionaire now with property all over Blue Ridge, in Colorado and in Russia. I guess he began making deals with a handshake. I can’t imagine how he was able to pull off honest business dealings as a totally illiterate adult in our changing world.


Hoyt is renowned for his weakness for beautiful woman. Was always dating a few drop dead gorgeous gals, so they say. Last year he married a beautiful Russian woman that they say looks like a Victoria Secret model. She is 20. She doesn’t speak any English and Hoyt doesn’t speak Russian. He met her while dealing with her family in a land purchase (perhaps the bride was the bonus?)


When the new misses was brought to America she began learning English so she could communicate with her country gent. Now she’s at the Appalachian College learning to read and write. She wants to go to a university here in America.


Recently, she discovered her wealthy husband couldn’t read. She was shocked. She began showing him her phonetics – which were not as hard as he expected, but he forgot them the next day. One thing lead to another and suddenly, she started demanding he learn to read.


Hoyt says he is hoping this beautiful young gal won’t up and run off on him, so he wants to please her. He’ll learn to read if it’s going to be such a big deal to her.


The directors of the program wanted me to know they couldn’t guarantee he would stick out a tutorial program , considering his motivation, but Hoyt did confess he would really love to learn to read the newspaper. That is something. But he believes he is too old to learn – since he hasn’t caught on for a lifetime, perhaps something is wrong with him.



They believe I be the perfect teacher for him. For one thing, while I’m no 20 year old Victoria Secret carbon copy, I am no old Baptist school marm either, which tends to be the average volunteer in this program.  He might be receptive to me. And since Hoyt is a successful businessman, I can probably relate to him on that level too. He has said he doesn’t want anyone who will be condescending or make him feel stupid. Again, this makes me a good candidate for teaching him. If anything, I’m a person who believes that intelligence is not something measured by standardized tests.


I will meet him next week and decide if I want to take him on. I really don’t have the time, but he sounds so darn interesting I can’t resist considering it.


What is funny is that even though the women directing this literacy program don’t know me well, they have me pegged. They told me about Hoyt, then looked at me out of the sides of their eyes and said, “I imagine you would learn a lot from a guy like him.”


Ha. Every other volunteer is here to save souls. I’m here to explore them. The others want people to read the bible. I want them to read everything else. I guess my motivation is transparent.


So, next week I will meet Hoyt, and perhaps his beautiful young Russian wife. I don’t know what will come of it, but one thing is for sure. You can expect  a blogfest after that one!   


I have a rooster!!!!!


This morning I heard a strange sort of squawking, and since I am now always concerned that something is trying to get my chickens (one of our puppies killed two the day I returned home – not in a blood thirsty way, he just thinks they look a lot like one of his fuzzy dog toys. He knocked the cage over and let them escape, but when he saw them running around the porch, he wanted to play – damn dog.  I’ve since fixed that cage too. )  So, this morning when I heard a new sound, I went barreling up to the cage expecting foul play (or is that fowl play…. Ugh). However, the chickens were alone.

I heard it again.



I was told that if I get a boy chick, he would start crowing while still small. It was a tiny crow, hardly enough to wake an ant. The sound came from the cage with my smallest chicks – four fuzzy little ones. I think it was from my little black bantam that we named Pot Pie. Maybe it was from the Silky called Drumstick. Couldn’t be sure.  I was so excited. I listened a while, watching the sun come up, marveling at how nature works.


I bought a book on small animal housing and I am hiring someone this week to build me a chicken cage/coup so I can move my chickens to the land. Mark could do this, but he is swamped with the house and my projects have to be put off until later. I worry that later will be too late, considering my other pets think I buy these chickens for afternoon snacks. I could probably build a pen myself, but I am so intimidated by tools. Denver could help me – she learned a great deal about tools in scenery workshops, but she is working all the time. I really should take a course on woodworking next time I go to the Campbell school to overcome my weakness. Then, I could make myself all kinds of fun stuff. I want to buy some peacocks, but I’m told the coyotes will get them and/or they need to be trained to stay on your land (they are rather willful birds), so until I can figure out how to build a pen, I must remain peacock-less. Ah, the sacrifices I make because I am not tool-savvy.


I also want shelter for the llama because winter is coming and the rainy fall. They are simple structures, but I will need to hire someone for that too, because it is larger and will take some muscle. All these animal habitat things are outlined with plans and suggestions in this book I bought, but it is about equal to my reading instructions in Arabic. (And I don’t speak Arabic). Perhaps my desires for Animal housing will be just the ticket I need to make me plunge into the unknown and develop a new skill. I think I might look sexy wielding a hammer and saw.


I am on my way to teach Kathy (just had a few minutes to kill so I decided to check my E-mail. No one wrote, so I thought I’d do a mini blog). So that is all I have to say. I have a rooster. Yippee!

Kathy shows up again

I forgot to mention that Kathy Smith called the day before I went to Boston. She said she had been waiting to hear from me. I pointed out that I was at the college on Monday, July 3rd for our lesson, and when she didn’t show up, I tried calling, but her phone was disconnected. She insisted we agreed I’d call when I was home from my residency and has been anxiously awaiting word from me – that the disconnected phone was a temporary thing.  I told her not to worry, I planned to hunt her down as soon as school began, so it was not I would have let things go much longer. I am not the sort of girl that fades away . . . Once involved, I’m forever present, even when it seems as if I’m absent. My heart commitments don’t have a statue of limitations and no matter how demanding life gets, I find a way back to what is important. 

What counted was that we connected and made plans to continue tackling her illiteracy. I’m so glad, because I truly like her, and I like ME when I’m working with her. I respond well to the slap-in-the-face reminder that I am a fortunate individual. Sometimes I believe I am at my best when helping others help themselves. Anyway, I’m thrilled that my project of teaching Kathy to read is hanging in there – a bumpy road, for sure, but all the best destinations are at the end of bumpy roads. Fewer people are willing to endure all that jostled about when traveling roads with ruts and bumps. Makes arriving at those remote places so much sweeter than cruising the well-tred paved paths with crowds to places that aren’t so hard to reach. 

Tonight I will be collecting my materials, brushing up, and writing something for Kathy to read. I am developing our materials as we go. Funny, my best friends are never the people one would pair up with me for reasons of similar life-styles. The friends I appreciate most are people I admire, for uniqueness, ability to overcome adversity, attitude and heart.   

Anyway, tomorrow I will resumes my adventures with Kathy. Makes me smile. We can all use an extra smile a day. Maybe, I’ll take a picture of us together tomorrow so you can see her. A picture says so much about how our state. That said . . . this is me today. Grinning for private reasons. 

My endless Itch

I have this condition, a gross sort of thing that has me convinced I am in the early stages of withering. It is only a matter of time before I crumple up in one dusty heap and float off on the wind. It began when I moved to Georgia. I started itching all the time. I was convinced I was allergic to something, a plant or the water from our well, or polyurethane because we were building our cabin. For a while, I even thought it might be sawdust, and considering my husband is training to be a wood turner and comes home looking like a powdered donut everyday, this was a serious issue. The itching got steadily worse. I could swear I was getting scales. So, I went to the doctor. We began tests and I started the process of elimination regarding what could be causing me to itch. After a few months of seeking a cure, no answers and escalating medical bills, I gave up. Now, I just itch. Case closed.


I did figure out that I am not allergic to Georgia because I itched worse when I visited Florida, and it is a problem in Boston too. I take my itch with me, apparently. My doctor asked it could be nerves or stress. I laughed and told him it was doubtful. I left my business behind and with it, most of the frustration and aggravation I would associate to stress. For the first time in my entire life, we are not worried about finances. I’m healthy, and my donkey brings my blood pressure down every time I pet his nose. I can feel it. No – it can’t be stress.


In the end, I’ve decided that it must be hormonal – a coincidence that I moved to a new place and changed my lifestyle and everything about my existence at the same time that my body was merging silently into old age. I’m guessing the itching is a pre-menopausal thing. My doctor said that since I have no other signs of a biological life change (in fact, the idea of having another kid was actually tossed about for a while during our “gee, we are free and life is an adventure and what shall we do next?” phase. Of course, I felt too old to catch, so I let that ball fall flat at my feet. Moral – never marry a man younger than you are unless you want to constantly be reminded that the only spring chicken in your house is from Perdue.)   


Anyway, I itch all the time, and as result, I am constantly slathering every kind of lotion on my body, taking baths laden with body oil, and drinking water. Helps a little. I’ve tried every sort of lotion on the market, from expensive medicated, dermatologist-recommended brands to homemade love-lotion from the farmer’s market. Honestly, I don’t think one is better than the other is. Some are oily and greasy, others are creamy and lay on your epidermis like a white body stocking. In time, your body drinks in whatever is there and your exterior returns to its normal flat sheen. But I often wonder about the invisible chemical reaction going on in my pores as result of applying this stuff. Does it really make a difference? If it worked, wouldn’t the world be free of crow’s feet? I, personally, love crows feet. Not on me, of course, but on others. I like them on women because it makes me look better by comparison (just kidding) I like them on men, because they are evidence of all the things I admire in males– good humor, wisdom, and often, an inclination to be outdoors. It brings attention to the eyes. Look at the most gorgeous men of all time, like Brad Pit or Gene Hackman (don’t you dare question my taste in men). They both look better with crow’s feet – gives them character. But then, I am weird. I am not put off by bald spots or gray hair. The “real-er” the boys come, the harder I fall.


I was talking about itching. Right. Pardon me when I go astray that way. Just picturing a handsome pair of crow’s feet can do that to a susceptible girl like me.


The thing is, I now put some kind of cream on the back of my neck about ten times a day. For some reason, that is one of the places where I am withering most.  And when I flew home yesterday, I wasn’t allowed to tote any cream or lotions on the plane. It actually grew uncomfortable moving my head after about three hours without something to soothe the dry skin. So I went into the Body Shop to snag a squirt from a sample. The place was dead. I felt so badly for the business. Since people can’t bring anything liquid on board of planes, the store can’t make any sales, yet it remains open, further evidence of our new threat. On my way to Boston, I had visited this very same franchise and purchased a few items. Only five days earlier, I had to wait in line to pay. Now, it was as if the store was closed and I had snuck in under the gate. It is daunting how the terrorist threat filters into so many areas of our lives. Fear of travel is only the beginning. It affects our economy, our view of humanity, and our choices in a multitude of ways.

It’s enough to make a girl itch, ya know.   

Old fart from Georgia

Yesterday, I went to the mall with a fellow staff member – actually she’s an age old friend. One reason I agreed to teach in Boston was just to spend some time with people I’ve known and loved for many years. 


I am not much of a mall person. I don’t like the crowds or the way all the same stores in every mall in the country are the same, making the world feel like a generic place. Not to mention that you feel that if you purchase anything you aren’t really creating an individual identity, you are reinforcing your sameness. Originality is nothing but an illusion in a world where everything is mass produced. (Ee-gad, I sound like such an anti-establishment nut nowadays. Forgive me.) 


Anyway, the closest mall to my home is two hours away, so I actually enjoy the mall experience now. But it does confuse me. For one thing, I can’t figure out where people come up with all the money to support the endless consumerism in America. How rich is the world now? Store after store of high end items are filled with people toting home name brands. Amazes me. Sometimes I think the entire world’s existence is an endless quest to make money so they can spend all their free time spending it. Every hour is consumed with too much work to support too much consuming– very little time is left for living. Sad.  


I couldn’t help but notice all kinds of stores that I (as a non-shopper) am totally unfamiliar with. There were popular clothing stores and shoe stores that I’ve never heard of. My friend Diane (who is very hip, buys only name brands, and is a classic product of our progressive culture) made fun of me, the farmer who so quickly fell out of the pop culture loop. She said, “Where have you been? Under a rock?’



We went to Brookstone to see all the nifty gadgets and inventions. (Who am I kidding, we are middle aged dance teachers and we wanted to sit in the massage chairs after a day of physical torture.) In the front window was a strange purple stool. Diane, a very hilarious person, was quick to try it out. It is supposed to be some kind of exercise device. The stool began gyrating. It looked far more like a sexual stimulator than any kind of exercise machine, and we laughed ourselves sick. A lovely young saleswoman came to talk to us. She actually was a good sport and I think she enjoyed out sense of humor. I asked her what the heck that machine was supposed to be good for.

    The woman said, “If you’ve ever ridden a horse, you will know that riding gives a person a perfectly flat stomach and perfect hips and thighs. Guaranteed. This device is a horseback riding simulator. You can sit on it while watching TV and develop a great body. “

    I looked down at my less than perfect body and back at Diane and said, “Guaranteed? Think I can sue my horse for breech of contract?”

   The saleswoman said, “You have a horse?” I told her I had four, and dang if there wasn’t a one that moved like that when I was riding and even if they did, this guarantee of a perfectly flat stomach has eluded me, dammit.

    The woman laughed and whispered, “It’s stupid, but people like it.”

      I imagined bringing one of those ridiculous purple machines home and setting it up in my living room where all my new friends (horse owners) could see it. Ha. They would laugh me out of Georgia. But I must assume some place, people are buying them. Diane and I sat in the massage chairs and watched people come and go, trying that machine out of curiosity right in the window. Looked obscene. We laughed so hard I bruised my ribs – or maybe it was all the abuse I was getting from that wicked chair. Ow.

    Then, we wandered through the store to look at all of the new conveniences designed for modern man. In every isle, Diane said, “I have one of these,” and I was standing there thinking, “what the hell is it?” So, she proceeded to make me technology savvy by demonstrating all the goodies, giving me her own hard sell. You see, I need a thumper (a shovel sized wand to give myself a back massage) and I-pod speakers for the shower (Umm…. She forgets, I’m the only dance teacher on the circuit that doesn’t have an Ipod, they intimidate me) and a pillow that vibrates and a chair that simulates movement for playing video games (don’t play them), and a TV controller that allows me to tape everything and pause shows (oops, I don’t watch TV either), a mechanical disk that will clean my floors all day long – HOLD ON! I DO need this. Not all inventions are frivolous, I find. And so on and so forth. I felt rather stupid seeing all these inventions that apparently, the entire world knows, uses and thinks nothing of, and I am like Gomer Pile going, “golllllliiieeeeeee”.


It was fun seeing what technology can do, but it made me feel like the country bumpkin (and face it, I must have been one long before moving to the country.) These items are expensive, and I believe I can afford them easier than many people, yet even I can’t justify the  need to acquire them. Does anyone really need a vibrating pillow – ummm… don’t answer that.


I called Mark and said, “Honey, I am an old fashion prig. I don’t understand the world and I don’t get it.  Diane has these cool things, and I have none of them.”

He said, “You have a llama. Llama’s are cool.”    

I said, “If they were really cool, Brookstone would make them. I do however have a horse instead of a purple simulator that looks obscene, and I’m proud of that.”

I told him about the cool floor cleaner.

He said, “Hate to tell you but they’ve been around forever and I can get you one at Wal-Mart every Christmas.”

Thus, my husband reaffirmed my fear that I am a nerd that isn’t “with it when it comes to modern conveniences.”

I said, “If I am this far behind after living in Georgia a few months, what will happen as the years go by? I won’t know how to function in our society.”

 “Something to be proud of,” Mark says, striving to protect my self esteem . . . or more likely to save himself from facing a charge card bill loaded with thumpers and squeakers and a cool 20 Questions ball that can read your mind.

“Do you think we should buy a massage chair, just to prove we are connected to the world?”

“Did you love it?”

“I think it hurt. But you might love it.”

He chuckled and said, “It’s the cost of a riding ring, two peacocks, a chicken coop and a pump to get water to the new barn.”

Oh yea. These are the modern convenience and desires I harbor now.  So I tossed the brochure for the handy-dandy massage chair away with my empty Starbucks cup.

   I don’t know what I’m going to do about my detachment from pop culture and our high tech society. I feel like some kind of unwilling Mennonite hiding in the mountains. I think I have to start watching TV, just to know what is going on in the world – and I’m not talking about the news. I just don’t like TV. We lived in the cabin 6 months before we even hooked up our cable and then it was only because New Orleans was hit and I went crazy not being able to follow the news. Even my kids can skip it – it isn’t a habit for our family. We do watch movies – ALL the time, but TV itself seems mindless and eats too much of a life. Rather read or make something.


Anyway, I’ve decided I will force myself to a mall once every three months to do a culture inspection. I will brave the crowds and pick up some signature thing to prove I’m still cool. I will marvel at the money spent in our world, our method of assuring we are all generically acceptable in the “in” crowd, and even add a bit to the economy by toting home something I don’t need.       


In the meantime, thank god for my kids who are the fashion police, pop culture advocates and preachers of all that is cool. They can keep me on the straight and narrow when I fall too far behind.


By the way, another funny thing happened yesterday. I bought two designer jeans jackets. They were on sale and I figure the fall is coming. This Florida girl can’t get enough cool weather wear designed for the outdoors. The salesman looked at them and said, “Are these for you?” with a tone of disbelief.

      I laughed and said, “Yea, Why? Do I look too old for them?”

       He blushed and said, “No, I didn’t mean that. I was just wondering.”

     I thought about telling him about my new lifestyle and how I live in jeans, not because they are fashionable, but because they are hearty and comfortable and  resistant to dirt. I thought about saying, “You are only as old as you feel” or breaking out into a hip hop dance or something to prove I am funkier than the average 47 year old. But really, it was easier to just smile and point out the expensive designer label.

     He nodded as if that explained it. Wearing impressive labels at any age makes sense to him, I guess.

     It just will never make sense to me.


I am flying home this afternoon. Have to brave the airports on full alert due to the state of the world and the terrorist close call in Britan. Inconvenient. Mostly, sad.

Reading well

I am told I am a very good reader. Astute. My professors have commented that I pinpoint important elements in a work and understand their significance. Other students have said I’m a thorough reader with insight. As such, I’m a valuable peer in workshops. I don’t feel as if I’m a particularly good reader. I see words on the page, and since I don’t know how others would process them, I think and feel what I think and feel. Reading is a very intimate experience if you think about it.


I’m reading a fantastic book this week called In Fact, the best of creative non-fiction. (Edited by lee Gutkind). It is a book of nonfiction essays about life, event, attitudes etc…. by some of the most renowned writers published today. Each essay concludes with the author discussing the challenges and urges that gave birth to the essay, as well as advice or aspiring writers. I am loving this book. It makes me think. Feel. It inspires me. I have developed a fascination for creative non-fiction, and as soon as I graduate and finish my fiction project, I am looking forward to undertaking a memoir – maybe begin working on creative non-fiction projects for magazines. Creative non-fiction (a sister to fiction, only it’s based on life experience) is a far cry from traditional non-fiction, and 80% of all the works bought today for publication happen to be creative non-fiction. Guess that is an off-shoot of our reality TV culture.  But it is not because the style is so popular that I want to experiment in the genre. I think I am suited to it. Creative non-fiction feels natural to me – blends with my voice. If I had had a better understanding of literary disciplines when I began this MFA journey, I probably would have made it my major of concentration. Ah well, I am learning about it in conjunction with my fiction studies.


What else am I reading? Lots. I am reading The Poisonwood Bible now. And a slew of short stories and literary journals.  I don’t always feel like a good reader. Nonfiction moves me, but sophisticated fiction takes trust and contemplation to understand. Sometimes I struggle to grasp the core meaning in prose. Recently, I read a story that is written entirely in letters from and to a man in prison. This story is beautifully written because each letter has a distinct, individual voice and collectively, they make one conducive whole that supplies the reader with a bigger picture. I often wish I had the skill to pull off something this unique. I admire an author with such a strong natural gift for words. Artistic craft and personal flavor – what a combination! Anyway, I read passages of this story and didn’t know what to think. At first I thought, there is a very special message here. Then, I read on and thought, no, this is just a story and I am reading more into it than the author intended. (I’m aware that people so often see what they are looking for; mentally conjuring up what they wish was there. The author might just be having fun, and here I am foolishly trying to assign meaning where there is none when all I have to do is be entertained). Then, the pendulum of my mind swings back and I think, No, this is brilliant. This text is embedded with powerful messages – only, maybe I am too simple to understand them – help! Where is my literary decoder ring? Then, I decide it is only a story again and I feel so stupid for trying to complicate what is really just a lovely reading experience. No author should have to endure such scrutiny – a story is what it is. And maybe it isn’t important that I understand. Maybe I should just enjoy the amazing flow of words, the beautiful mind behind the masterpiece. I doubt my readers catch every nuiance or message, try as I might to write in multi-levels.


So, as you can see, I may seem like a good reader, but really it is fleeting. The luck of the draw. Sometimes I am on. Sometimes, I struggle, frustrated in my weakness. I long for simpler text and I think the next book I buy should be Literature for Dummies.


I wish I had all the answers. Or at least, a decoder ring.

Till then, I will just keep reading. Sometimes that is all you have.

* Ee-gad. It is almost time for my next class! Time flies when you are blogging instead of doing your homework.  I must jump into a phone booth and change back into super dance-teacher and fly back to the convention center.

LIfe crashes in when one member of a supporting team isn’t on call

My husband, God love him, holds down the fort when I leave to pursue my heart’s content (or a job or whatever). He never complains or makes me feel guilty. But I know how difficult it is for him. We tend to set up a life that takes two people to run. We create a demanding existence that falls to ruin without both captions at the helm. He has his duties, but when I am gone, he must juggle mine as well. And it is frustrating and exhausting. This week, school began. He is running the kids to school and picking them up, and taking my daughter to soccer (something new we are trying) and my son to band practice and drum lessons, while still building the house. And he must feed all the animals (my job) and feed everyone else too. And his father is so sick, his sister needs help. Today, he must watch his Dad for four hours while Dianne is at a physical therapist appointment with their mother, and he has to find a way to get the kids picked up from school etc…. He is going crazy.

I told a friend here how badly I felt dumping life on my spouse while I teach in Boston (a job I don’t have to accept). She shrugged and said, “He can manage 5 days. It is good for a man to experience all the crap his wife does. Makes him appreciate you.”

I don’t agree. I believe he appreciates me without torture as a reminder. And I certainly don’t have to experience his crap. You don’t see me gassing up the tractor to take it for a backhoe spin or plugging in the sander to work on logs because he is busy.
Yesterday, he called to tell me a huge wind storm occurred. Lasted only 15 minutes. When he got to the land, a tree had fallen on our garage where we keep the tractor. Another tree fell across the road making it impossible to drive in . Another tree fell on the pasture fence and the horses were down the street. He had to scurry all over putting things in order, knowing he would now need to spend a day chain sawing these trees to remove them,  having to talk with the guy to repair the fence. Now, he has to feed the horses in an inconvenient place (lower pasture)until things are fixed.   He has to talk to the insurance guy, and arrange for a new garage. Insurance does not include getting the smashed one removed – big drag.

I felt so badly, because his plate is so full. I need to get home – do my part.
This also puts our tree dilemma back up for discussion. We have all these beetle eaten pines that must be removed (I’ll write a tree blog another day) Huge job.

Anyway, today I am feeling guilty. I take my role in our union very seriously – I am supposed to contribute to the quality of life of the guy who cared enough to make a commitment to me (which I am fully aware was a brave choice for any guy – living with a girl like me requires an ongoing leap of faith.)  

I can’t stop the trees from falling, but I sure want to be there to wave my hands frantically as an assistant when Mark maneuvers the tractor this way and that to remove them. 
A good life demands a team effort and I want to be a team player. It is only fair.


I know that Girl . . . I think

I am always amazed, humbled, by how life experiences alter our world view. I’m not talking about the big, life altering events that impact us with a bang. Obviously things like death, marriage, childbirth, personal catastrophe, witnessing powerful images, experiencing fear, love, fluctuating income, vocation, etc…  will leave a mark our on psyche and shade our view of life. In this case, I’m talking about the subtle things, the tiny encounters and small nuisances that we barely notice, even though they resonate in our soul forevermore. As such, we grow. Evolve. Shift. Our personalities are always being enhanced or diminished, twisted or mellowed by things we see, do, read, or hear.


This is why I don’t feel aging is a drag. I don’t particularly like the wrinkles, but I love how living leads us by the hand to deeper knowledge – about the world and about ourselves. If you are the least bit reflective, you can’t avoid growth. Your soul ferments just by being exposed to living. It makes everyday a wonder, an adventure, and if you take the time to consider it, you begin approaching every hour curious to see how it will unfold. Truly, it’s the tiny things that shape our mind and feed us emotionally.


Details. Life is cluttered with details that collide and jam up our perspectives, until all we notice is generalizations and preconceived assumptions. I guess this is how we filter so much stimulus to remain functional. But, I’ve learned you can – must – note the details. Relish them. You just have to slow down to be receptive to new input. There is beauty everywhere; something to be grateful for in every situation. And people, situations – life in general – can be entertaining if you maintain a sense of humor and shed the tendency to criticize or judge. I am grateful for the hearty laughs I gain each day from unintentional sources. 


 Does anyone really – REALLY- understand everything you do and why, from what coffee drink you order and the tone in which you speak to the server, to what house you live in and who you live with? Does anyone outside of your head know all the millions of comments and events and triggers that made you think and feel and act as you do? Of course not. Yet people judge you without all this information at hand as if they can sum the essence of who you are by one action– which means they “get you” wrong. They may think you competitive or foolish or egotistical or heroic or dull or weak, or a sellout, or adventurous or loving or cruel. When in fact, their perceptions are more about how they feel in a situation and how your existence affects them, than based on any kind of understanding of how you are experiencing life and reacting to its stimulus.


And if others can “get you” wrong, it is only logical to assume so too can you be off the mark when you are critical of another person’s actions or choices. Considering you can’t ever know what life is like from another person’s viewpoint, wouldn’t it just be easier to stop holding them up to your benchmark of what is acceptable by your standards, or noble or admirable, and just witness the grand differences in people? Celebrate flaws. Give the world- the individual, a little slack. Assume the best for once.


Next time a guy cuts you in line to get his donut first, don’t think him a “dick”, feel sorry for him because he values a donut more than polite exchange and wonder where and why he learned that behavior. Interesting.  Perhaps he was donut deprived as a child, or this donut shop is the only place in his mixed up world where he can assert himself because his wife picks his donuts everywhere else. Perhaps his great grandfather invented the donut, and therefore he resents that he doesn’t get special treatment. Who knows why, in this one moment, he is behaving in non-admirable ways. It doesn’t define him. The guy could be remarkable in all areas unrelated to donuts.


There are too many people in the world. We are bound to clash, behave aggressively or competitively. We act out. It is the nature of the beast when cornered or poked at with a stick. Sad but true. Attitude is no one person’s fault. There are just too many people in the world for everyone to live in harmony and since we don’t live in a bubble, we are affected by situations, events, even each other, in ways that contort our personalities.


The trick is to know yourself, learn your triggers and try to live true to yourself and your personal ethics. And, of course, to lighten the load of others who may not be self-aware. Make the world a more pleasant place for the glut of people, even if it means stepping aside with a smile to give the donut aggressor his space. With understanding.


When you can get past the frustration and general big events that happen around you, perhaps you will begin to notice the less obvious details. Like the fact that the donut man is wearing mismatched socks (ah, he is running late today, no wonder he is acting rude,) or the face of the elderly woman behind him when she looks him up and down and snorts. Funny. 


What is my point? I’ve forgotten.  Something must have triggered this, but for the life of me, I don’t know what. Ha. I must have filtered out that detail. I did buy a donut this morning, but no one was rude. I think this began about small things making us change – altering our views.  That must be it. (My mind does ramble . . .)


I am in Boston, and while I am doing something I have done for over 9 years, I’m a different person than I was last year. Smarter. More content. Less physically flexible perhaps, and four pounds heavier still (yes, I’m still counting even though, without dance, it shouldn’t matter. Georgia makes me lazy, I think.) I feel somewhat wiser. Definitely more passionate about what I have to say (regarding dance education). But less committed to the need to say it. Curious about the young people choosing dance now, at the beginning of their long, interesting lives. Curious about the competitive dance environment and how newcomers will fare.  Fascinated by how the dance world is changing, molded, dented by technology, social change, communications, everything.  Proud of my part in impacting it. Relieved I can give up the endless quest to stay current and know everything – what everyone is doing in the field. And yet, I can’t give up old habits either as I listen to gossip about the leaders in the business, old comrades and friends. I still care about the changes taking place in the dance world. I wince and worry about the state of the art.


I have to resist my habit of storing all this information and ACTING on it.  My mind is awash with ideas, places I could take dance now.  I need to go home to my donkey and gentle breezes to shed this churning in my gut to get involved. For I know that I am different, not because I sold my dance empire and moved to Georgia (big things) but because I have experienced little things. I’ve looked a newborn horse in the eyes and run my hands along his fuzz of mane. I have cooed to a llama so he will stand still as I dig fingers into matted hair that an hour later will be laying at my feet. I now pick things – blueberries, blackberries, wildflowers, chickens, when previously, I didn’t have the time or inclination to devote any of my precious waking hours to leisurely explorations. I have paint in my hair, a small slash of tan that yesterday, made my eyes pop because at first I thought it was gray. Then I smiled, because I recognized that it was the color of the inside of my new writing room’s closet. I have a writing room! In it I will think foolish and great thoughts, write good and bad passages and sit staring out the window watching deer instead of focusing on my computer screen. And all of it will be good. Because I write not to achieve anything specifically – just to investigate what I think and feel (And that is probably the best evidence that I have changed of all.)


Yes, I’ve changed – but I wouldn’t say I’ve shed who I used to be. No, it is more as if I’ve crowded a new person into my skin. All these new experiences make a girl more complex. I am not different – I am more.    


Opportunity abounds here. Last night, a crew of dance teachers I’ve known for years (and admire) tried to talk me into teaching studio management seminars. They recently paid 1200 for a two day seminar (6000 attendees!) and were talked into a monthly $180 ongoing consultant fee by a new company that preaches they have the formula for dance school financial success. But everyone is of the opinion that Mark and I could do it better – and we wouldn’t be teaching this material theoretically. Our lives, our success, are proof of what we preach. They insisted they learned more over drinks at dinner with me than they did in the seminar. Interesting.


I couldn’t resist the bait. I called home and said, “Honey, want to get rich? We could do seminars. I have a handful of people ready to sign up – testimonials and all kinds of supporting evidence. I even have formulated an outline for presenting material. We could do this.”

He said, “Come home. Your llama misses you. Write a book.”

He is smarter than I.


I told a friend that what I missed most about my life change was the physicality of dancing everyday. I wish I had a studio on our property. Just for me. Just so I could put on music and let my soul loose.

My friend said, “Why don’t you build one?”

I laughed and said, “My husband won’t go for that. He doesn’t trust me with a viable dance space at my disposal. Thinks that once I have a resource, I am a sucker for the challenge of using it creatively. (He has me down pat.) As it is I’ve hinted at how great it would be for us to develop a serious summer dance camp for fledgling artists. We could build cabins on the grounds and a few studios. We have contacts with all the best teachers in the country. We’ve been organizing dance events for years, designing programs. As such, we could host the best dance camp around. It would be successful and we would only have to work two months a year instead of ten. We’d even be creating a wonderful gift for the dance world.


My friend said, “I have 25 kids I’ll commit right now to sending to you next summer.”
Someone else next to her in the limo said, “I have about 30 that would go.”

(I’m doing the math – hummmm…. great potential here for a reasonable investment.)
Tom, a very established teacher (and friend) on staff here said, “I’ll work for you – and spread the word. There is such a need for that kind of program . Sounds fantastic.”


So, I told my husband we had a clientele for my vision of a serious dance camp.

He said, “Talk like that and you can’t go to Boston anymore.”

Ha. The offhand things we hear set seeds that influence us. See? He knows this.


I told my husband that I want to write a book proposal for a nonfiction book called “The Million Dollar Dance Studio”. A book about studio management and the way to maneuver the minefield of dance education to find success, commercially and artistically. He was quiet and then said, “That would be a good book. Go for it, Hun.”

Wow. He didn’t tell me to go pluck a chicken! Must be that a book doesn’t sound threatening. A book can’t eat your life. It consumes you for a bit, but it’s a finite commitment, a project with an end. Or maybe he was distracted since he was talking to me on his cell phone and I could hear construction in the background.

Anyway, I keep contemplating the possibilities. But the fact that something is possible – viable – doesn’t mean it must be done. How important is it – to me? To the life I want to design?

I miss my donkey. I worry that no one is giving my horses carrots and sugar cubes in my absence and I mourn for all the blackberries that are drying up on vines because I am not home to gather the end of season leftovers. Between dance classes here, I pour over homework and read literary novels rather than contemplate choreography. But home, I can have all this and still write a book about dance. If I feel compelled to.


I got up yesterday and readied for my classes. I put on my funky black, nylon Capri pants and a black sports tank. Put on a sporty black sweatshirt and wore my tried and true black hoop earrings that I traditionally teach in. I laced up my state of the art Nike’s (the only pair of shoes I have that are not stained with red Georgia clay and horse dung) looked in the mirror and thought, I know you. You’re that dance teacher I used to be.


It was so familiar. Such a visual blast of comfortable identity. I just stared a few minutes, wondering why I don’t dress this way still – for blackberry picking or something. But I know why. This surface dressing is evidence of a different me- a me I’ve decided to put out to pasture – figuratively and literally. I get confused staring back at that old me. My identity crisis is hard enough without optical illusions muddying my clarity.


I will not talk about the feelings I’m experiencing when I watch my peers still meshed in the dance scene, unchanged, struggling, pushing forward as master dance teachers in a steadily changing field. The dance world ain’t what it used to be when we were students.


Thoughts cross my mind. Where are they going without me? Did I bail too early, leaving important things undone? Or am I just the first to turn a corner and venture into new horizons? Am I brave? Or tired? Or giving up? Or something else all together? Why am I changing while others I have worked with for years, people with equal talent, experience and passion, remain in the trenches? Are they happy? Am I?


I can relate to them, yet I can’t see life through their eyes. So, I won’t judge or evaluate or speculate or philosophize. But it does make me contemplate my inner changes. Embrace them. I am comfortable with the decisions I’ve made. I honestly believe there are big things I’m destined to do, and it involves closing one door so I can open another.  I met a teacher yesterday who is 87 and still teaching 12 hours a week in her dance school. She is fit. Happy. That could have been me. Odd, that it won’t be. I respect her, yet I am glad I won’t be her. Evolution suits me. But I don’t want to leave dance behind. I want to take it with me. I have to ask myself, How shall I do this?.


I’ve learned slow down and see the world through new eyes. Eyes that take in detail and find humor around every corner. Eyes that come from a place of self assurance and pride in my past – hope for my future. I notice things now because I have the time and the inclination to do so.


I like people again. I no longer feel like a duck in a shooting gallery with a thousand dance mothers waiting in line, pop guns in hand. I am never emotionally tired – physically tired on occasion, but that is usually evidence of a productive day – things accomplished. Sure beats feeling as if the world is stamping on your heart.


It is good to laugh. Good to sigh happily. Good to look into the eyes of someone you don’t know in a donut shop, smile – and mean it. It is good to live an authentic life – even if it is unfamiliar territory and you aren’t the most impressive person in the room. Most of all, it is good to have a donkey sweet enough to truly miss. And blackberries on your vines. And paint in your hair. And the ability to say I can do that, but I can do this too . . . and tomorrow, who knows. I will probably be able to do even more.

I am crowded inside, with all these Ginnys jostling for space. But they are in good company and everyone gets along well at the slumber party in my skin. In fact, all those Ginnys are having such a rousing good time that no one wants to be the first to go to sleep.

Biltmore visit

A few shots of us at Biltmore Mansion. As you can see, I was into the art. Mark was into the ice cream. No matter where you move, you take yourself with you, ya know.