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Monthly Archives: April 2007

Shaking things up

I’ve wanted to ask a long time. Finally, I got up the nerve.
“Honey, can I have a chainsaw of my own, please?”
“What in the hell for?” Mark says, his eyes leery. I can tell this request threatens him in some way. Not that he worries I’m apt to saw him in two in a fit of rage while he is sleeping or anything. More like I’m telling him he is some kind of chainsaw slacker who isn’t sawing up logs to my satisfaction. Then, there is the point that he doesn’t fancy me going around sawing off branches or downing trees that he feels should be left alone.

I explained that I occasionally wanted debris removed from the horse riding area and I hated to ask him to do it for me. Every time I request he remove a tree trunk or underbrush, he rolls his eyes and acts as if I am loading more work onto his full plate. So, I hate asking. This means I go around hitting my head repeatedly on an overhead branch whenever I ride a certain trail. I also stare, perturbed, at small trees that are inching into my pasture. The fact is, with 50 acres, no one person can keep it all groomed and cleaned up, and Mark has important work to do around our homestead – he can’t be bothered with the little things that I want for personal reasons.  I feel if I can be more independent, and help out more outside, I should.

I told him I didn’t want a huge, power chainsaw like the several he wields. His are heavy machines, one for downing branches and trees, one for debarking logs, and a smaller electric one from Florida which he keeps for small jobs around the house (OUTSIDE the house, obviously.) He said I could have the electric one (it’s lighter) but it will only saw about two branches before needing to be recharged. Um . . . that won’t do.

I said, “Certainly they must make a lighter chainsaw for women. Maybe something that comes in pink.”
He laughed at me. Told me they didn’t make pink chainsaws. And I’d be hard pressed to lift any chainsaw, much less handle it properly. Then, he started listing the things I cannot do with a chainsaw. I can’t saw branches over my head. Can’t saw anything on the ground in a way that will hit dirt. The list went on and on. . . . He advised I get an old fashion saw and cut branches by hand.
I reminded him that his mentor, famous wood turner, Lissie Olan, uses a chainsaw and a tractor and she is about 70. She could out-saw him in a heartbeat. Women certainly can handle heavy power tools if they have a desire to do so. I also pointed out that I would want a chainsaw lesson before I’d start using it. I’m not about to be irresponsible with something so dangerous. But I sure would like to spend an hour a day working on cleaning up the perimeters of the pasture. It would be a good workout,( I’d get booya arms) and maintaining the pasture is something that I consider important because I am the one with the thing for horses, but is a low priority in the bigger scheme of work to be done.

He agreed that I could learn to use a chainsaw, and it was true, he didn’t appreciate my piling all kinds of odd jobs on his plate, which were, technically, unnecessary. It might actually be nice if I could do some of the tasks I alone wanted done. And the big stuff, getting firewood or clearing downed trees, would remain his domain. 

Therefore, I guess I’ll be getting a chainsaw this summer. How cool is that! I’m gonna see if I can paint it pink, or at least put pretty flower stickers on it. Just for principal sake. It will give the boys something to make fun of.  I have no problem becoming the butt of jokes, because I know it doesn’t mean you aren’t highly respected at the same time. FLEX taught me that.

I think a lot about becoming more independent here in this new life we are carving out of the wilderness.  Granted, I’m a girl who maintains perfectly manicured nails. A girl who everyday does her hair, puts on makeup and pretty jewelry to go with her jeans and sweatshirt, even when she knows no one but family and a friendly donkey will see her. I cook and swoon over flowers and pick berries and have a dozens of girly interests. But I also don’t mind getting my manicured hands dirty and I’m the person who tracks in half the mud in this house. (My nail technician shakes her head every week and says, “What do you DO to ruin these nails so quickly.”
Ha. What can I say? “I live.”

The fact is, I want to be a girl who doesn’t have to wait for things, or make compromises because she is counting on others to make her aspirations manifest.
And I don’t want to be someone who makes her husband toil as if it is his job to make her personal interests easier to pursue. If I don’t want something enough to do the work required, than I don’t want it enough.

I dream of designing my own peacock pen, and then going out and building it. I want to get into my new barn (when I have one) and maintain it myself. I even mentioned to Mark that they make small tractors for barn and animal maintenance for about ten thousand dollars – you see ads for them in the horse magazines and there is always a well-groomed, relaxed woman at the helm. (It is clear who their target market is.) That’s the same cost of a four-wheeler – We have two of those.  Perhaps, instead of teaching me to drive his super, expensive tractor, we should consider an itty-bitty tractor just for inexperienced me (when the FLEX building sells – everything is on hold till then, but it looks to happen this month. Yehaw!) Mark just sighed, but I think I’ve set the seed for future consideration.

The other day, he bought a heavy-duty spreader for the back of the four-wheeler. This allows us to spread weed and feed and grass seed along our big pastures in a fraction of the time it took last year when Kent and I did it by hand. He also brought me a gift – an attached wheelbarrow dump fixture – something I’ve mentioned wanting many times. Now I can fill up a load of sticks or manure in this bin attached to the four-wheeler, and drive it wherever. This will help me with pasture maintenance, cleaning the chicken coup etc…  I’ve been complaining about the fact that I can’t haul stuff without doing it the old fashion way, with a beat-up wheelbarrow and pure muscle. He has a spiffy tractor to do this kind of work and I’ve been jealous. Anyway, his gift of a cart, in my opinion, is a sign he is in support of my desire to take charge of my own work.  Funny, this may seem like a pretty strange gift for a girl to get excited over, but I was delighted.

I’ve been given gifts of lingerie and jewelry from my husband plenty of times, which is sweet, but it’s been the practical, unexpected things I appreciate most. Muck boots. Bee hives. New rubber mats for my car. These items show the man I live with knows the true me, a girl who values down to earth things and life experience over symbols designed to impress others. A practical gift means he wants to make my world more convenient, which in my opinion shouts, “I care” a lot more than a polished rock. I guess romance wears many faces.  

Anyway, the point is, I want a chainsaw. It is a natural desire considering my new existence. I want to saw things. Here the roar of the engine. Feel the vibration. Be in charge of my environment. Heck, if that isn’t anew experience for a girl like me, what is?
A chainsaw fits this new non-dancing me. I love being outdoors and working closely with animals. I love working the land, pausing to listen to birds or catching a glimpse of wildlife. I love that I am getting the hang of the country existence, which is so grounded in spirituality and enriching healthful options. I don’t mind getting sweaty, or dirty, or being physically exhausted. It makes me feel alive. And at the end of the day, I take a shower, sit on the porch with a glass of wine, and listen to the gurgling creek in our backyard with a sense that I am in the right place for this stage of life.  We’ve earned this shot at a new existence. And we are not about to avoid the work necessary to design it to our specification.

We didn’t pick this new world because we no longer wanted to work. We just no longer wanted to work in the dance field.  We picked this world for the adventure of it – because it stretches our horizons and introduces us to facets of life we have long since lost contact with. There is something so intimate and grounding about working in and around nature, getting back to the basics of life and removing yourself from the trappings of our consumer culture (Malls and meals out. I’ve had enough of both to last a lifetime).  Life here is simple. I like it that way.  But still, it is nice to shake things up a bit. And what better way than to hang on to a pink chainsaw and let it rip!





National Pie Day!

I hurt my hand this weekend. It was my own fault. I was horseback riding with Neva, and because she hasn’t been on a horse in a few months, (winter and FLEX issues got in the way of our riding time) we decided to stay in the horse ring. Neva is still somewhat nervous on the horses. She is a daredevil around animals, but ON them is another issue. I guess it is a long way down when you are only 4 feet tall, and she is vividly aware that they are stronger than her and posses a definite will of their own. She is nervous because she’s smart. She knows animals well enough to know that unlike machines or computerized toys, they have moods, attitudes, and fears, all of which can be the root of unpredictable behaviors.

It is very important to me that my daughter gains confidence and learns to control her mount well (for safety reasons and so nothing hinders her love of riding) so I watch her like a hawk, giving advice and encouragement and trying to teach her the basics of mastering a horse. I want her to feel connected and comfortable now, while she is young and impressionable. How a person is introduced to a subject often is paramount to their long-term appreciation. If you teach a person to love something from the get-go, let them experience the joy, they will embrace the frustrations and/or painful elements that are a part of the package later. A person is less likely to quit an activity the first time something hurts or they’re disappointed if a solid love for the subject has already been implanted. At least, this was my belief in regards to teaching dance, and I think the principal applies to everything. (Dance is, after all, my metaphor for life.) If you teach youngsters to love something first, the discipline required to excel will be embraced willingly when it’s time to get serious.

Suffice to say that while my eyes were on her, my horse spooked and lunged to the side, catching me off guard. Obviously, while in the ring (a controlled environment) I’m not expecting anything to happen, so I was in a relaxed, unaware state. I wasn’t unseated by the sudden bucking, but taking control meant the reigns jerked my hand in an odd way and this somehow pulled the tendons in my palm. (Do I have tendons in my palm? Well, something muscular in my hand was strained. Nothing broke, but man-o-man, did my hand hurt. ) It was a freak, painful, totally uneventful accident, which left me with a bum hand. My hand felt fine when straight, but I couldn’t grip anything or close my fingers. Moreover, typing was uncomfortable, so I had to keep that to a minimum, which always makes me feel isolated and out of sorts.

While a sore hand isn’t serious, the injury did have serious repercussions. For example, because of my injured hand, I had two bad hair days. Oh the trauma of it all….
I couldn’t hold my blow dryer, so I just let my hair go au natural, which means I didn’t have my usual Break-girl, luscious locks, swirling about my shoulders in soft curls. Nope. It was more a frizzy, haphazard do with that “just rolled out of bed” look. It was a hardship, I tell you. More for Mark than me. He’s the one that had to look at me.

Then, there was the cooking delimma. I couldn’t hold a knife to cut vegetables and such. I couldn’t bang on my chopper. When I made turkey soup, it was a bit more chunky than I wanted. My homemade stuffing lacked the fine detail of well-diced  celery and onion. My English Trifle came out perfect (no-brainer) but that didn’t appease my frustration, considering I had to serve sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes in a simple way. 
Not that anyone really cared but me. I had invited Denver and her boyfriend over for dinner. I said, “It won’t be anything special. My hand hurts so I’m just throwing a turkey in the oven.”
Later, Denver looked at my spread, nudged her boyfriend, and said, “See honey, nothing special. Just a Thanksgiving dinner in April. That’s my mom’s idea of nothing special.” (I have no idea where that girl got her sarcasm. Ahem.)

The next day, my hand was slightly better. It was pie day at the Hendrys. What is pie day, you might ask? Well, that is just one of those things that happens to someone like me. Call it a fluke thematic moment. Must be fallout from years of recital madness.

Because my hand hurt, I had planned to make spaghetti. However, I thought Kent was acting out of sorts, so I changed the menu to homemade potpie, his favorite.  I knew that would put a spring in his step. Always does.

Bravely facing the pain, stoically, I cut up the vegetables and sautéed the chicken, cooking everything in a thick, hearty sauce. It would be easier to make a few big pies that you just dish servings out of, but I like to make everyone an independent pie all their own because it is pretty and offers more flakey crust. I was expecting Denver and Eric (her boyfriend), Sonia (mother in law) Dianne (sister in law), and my still-at-home family for the meal. That made eight – LOTS of independent pies to assemble. I decorated the top of each with something to denote whom it was for. I used my fork to put a person’s initials, a heart, or a happy face on each pie. I am really queer that way. Presentation is half the fun of cooking.

Pot Pie is sort of an all-inclusive meal, considering the meat, veggies, crust and potatoes are wrapped into one pretty package. I thought a salad, some fruit, the leftover stuffing and voila! Instant dinner. However, I needed to make dessert. I ALWAYS make dessert. It is my experimental area and the meal would seem incomplete without a grand finale.

I saw a recipe for Banana  Meringue pie in a cooking magazine and it looked rather dynamic. I thought it would be fun to give it a go, and I had bananas, so I made the crust from crushed vanilla wafers, whipped up the sauce on the stove top,  and put the thing together. Actually, I’ve never made a pie with a meringue topping before, so I was looking forward to this part. I whipped up the egg whites piled it on top of my layered pie filling in a pretty way and popped the shebang into the oven. When it came out, I was flabbergasted.   It was so pretty. It was TOO pretty. Because I knew this was going to go over big, and with eight guests, I may not have enough pie to go around. This certainly wouldn’t do. But I hate to make two of the same thing, because that isn’t any fun. I like making new things. It’s simply more interesting.

I determined that I needed to make another dessert, but I couldn’t go with something too different, like Mocha brownies, because then people would suffer over making a choice. It was too much like offering apples and oranges. Easier to say, “Do you want a Macintosh or Granny Smith?” Then, the choice is easier. Beside which, my family might feel inclined to have both desserts if they are widely different, and then they’d yell at me for making them fat. No, it would be better if I made something similar, yet slightly different, so the options were not so varied. Since the Meringue was so pretty and I was feeling quite accomplished at it’s success, I made a lemon meringue pie too. This required a basic piecrust, not unlike the potpies, (and now I feared piecrust overkill) but I decided, heck, why not? It so happens, my recipe makes enough dough for two pies, and since this was a one-crust pie, I had extra. So, I cooked two crusts, thinking it would be wrong to waste a second pie shell after the work of blending it was done .

The lemon meringue pie was even prettier than the banana pie. I was dancing around the kitchen singing “Go Me, Go Me!  Martha Stewart, Julia Child, Rachael Ray – you are all amateurs compared to me!” (I am a humble cook, as you can see.)

But that third crust stood there, taunting me, challenging my creativity. I had lemon, I had banana. I had an empty piecrust calling my name. It was time for Chocolate! 

So, I made a chocolate Meringue pie. I could have, should have, varied the fare a bit, and made it a French silk pie or something, but I was on a meringue roll. Besides which, there are practically no calories in meringue and I knew this would keep me from getting in trouble for offering all these fine desserts to a family that is always complaining about their weight.

That night, everyone gathered for dinner. Mark took one look at my three perfect pies, chuckled and said, “We have to open that coffee shop. People will flip when they see desserts like this, and, um . .  how else can we unload this much cooking when you go off on a tangent.”  
“Shut up. It’s not a tangent. We are having a taste test tonight,” I explained, as if this was logic that shouldn’t have to be pointed out.
“What’s with all the pies.” Denver said. “Pot Pie, Dessert Pies? I sense a deeper purpose.”
“It is national pie day. How could you have forgotten such an important occasion? I’m only showing my patriotic commitment to pie consuming. I’m ashamed any daughter of mine hasn’t done something to recognize the day.”
“Oh yeah, national pie day. My bad.”

So, we gorged. My hand still hurt so I could barely hold my fork, but I rarely enjoy eating what I make, so that wasn’t a big deal. I think it has something to do with all the taste testing in the kitchen.  I sipped wine (holding the glass awkwardly) and tried to read meaning into every subtle facial expression, looking for validation as a cook in the taste bud reactions of those at the table. I do that. It’s stupid. Not like, they aren’t going to voice their opinions, for or against, any new dish I serve.

Today, I have a refrigerator filled with half eaten pies. I will no doubt throw them out tomorrow. That’s OK, because I have a hankering to try this Raspberry lemonade cake recipe I saw last night in another cooking magazine . I’m convinced I can make that puppy sugar free without anyone noticing. Love a challenge.

Speaking of a challenge . . ahem . . pies may not be the only thing I’m cooking here in Georgia. I just may be hard-boiling a bunch of peacock eggs as we speak. My damn incubator keeps inching up the temperature. If you let it go over 103 degrees, you can actually slow cook your eggs rather than incubate them, so every time I go down to turn them I’m screaming “eek” and turning the dang thing down. It has definitely soared a bit beyond the danger mark, I fear. I read that as the birds develop, their body heat can cause the temperature to rise. That is promising, considering it means they are growing, IF I haven’t cooked my goose (or in this case, my ducks and peacocks). Oh my, the weight of responsibility in this endeavor is daunting.
Neva doesn’t seem bothered. She says, “Well, if they die, we’ll just start over with more eggs.”
I guess that means we won’t be staging any dramatic funeral service for the unhatched fowl. That, at least, is a relief. Nevertheless, I go down to check more often than I should, concerned that I am not serving my roll as mother hen very well. What can I say,  I get motion sickness, ya know. The learning curve sometimes leaves me queasy.

My hand is aching again. I must stop typing.
Hope everyone had a wondering national pie day, and they are planning good things for national raspberry lemonade cake day tomorrow (to be served with lemonade and lemon chicken, of course).

Make life an event!

They Came!

They came! They came, they came, they came!!!!

On my way home from taking the kids to school, I stopped by the post office to see if I had received my eggs. It was only 8am and I know the mail comes around 10, but I couldn’t resist checking.
Vicki, the postmaster said, “I guess you got my call.”
“You called?”
“Of course, we know how much you are looking forward to getting your eggs. They’re here. We wanted to let you know as soon as we could.”
I thought that so sweet. She called.
Then she handed me another package from Amazon and said, “And I suppose this is a book on peacocks, knowing you . . . unless it’s just another college book. How’re your eyes doing with all that reading?”
It happened to be a book on peacocks. But this comment made me smile too. “Knowing you?” Ha. I lived in Sarasota eighteen years, and in all that time, I don’t think the postmaster knew my name, much less knew my interests and passed the time guessing what was in my packages.
This is what I love about living here. Intimacy in everyday exchanges. In a quiet place like this, people not only look into your eyes, they do so with warmth, humor and interest. And they celebrate who you are without critique, jealousy, or boredom. “Nice” is more than a word – it’s a state of being. 

Vicki told me her neighbor has a peacock. They raise turkeys and keep them all in a big cage. One day, a peacock just showed up on the lawn. He had his tail spread wide, a glorious sight. He was trying to get IN the turkey pen, so they opened the door and in he went. Been there ever since. Guess he had wandered off from wherever he was raised, but once he was out on his own, he missed companions. That, or he has low self-esteem and he wanted to hang with some uglies so he could feel better about himself.  Nothing sadder than a peacock with low self-confidence. 

I took the eggs home and immediately took a picture for the blog. (Like my little display? Obviously, I’m excited to show off my new hobbies. How queer am I?) It was so interesting unwrapping the eggs. The white peacocks came in brown eggs and the blue peacocks are nestled in the lighter colored beige eggs. Who knew? They are bigger than any jumbo chicken egg you’ve ever seen, and weighty. Substantial. Yet fragile. The package contained my two white peafowl eggs and two blue peafowl peacocks. Then I see that the sender threw in a bonus egg for fun. A black shouldered peacock egg. I was so thrilled at this special gift, I can’t tell you.

I took the eggs downstairs and decided to give them a few hours rest to settle before putting them into the incubator. I drew happy faces on one side – the other has the color description written lightly in pencil.

I went to clean my daughter’s room. I was planning to take her rug outside to shake it before vacuuming. The door must have been open for three minutes at most. I walk back in and there is my dog with this totally guilty look on her face. I immediately know she is up to something.
In my most ominous voice (the one I once used only for dancers that don’t pointe their feet) I say, “Maxine, what do you have?”
The dog lowers her head and drops a peacock egg at my feet, ever so gingerly. I yell big time and the dog slinks outside. She knows she has done wrong (not that that ever stops her from mischief). I crouch down to see she had carried off one of the coveted white eggs. Damn dog. But it doesn’t seem to be damaged in any way. Not cracked to my knowledge. I’m pretty amazed, (lucky) so I take the egg back to rest with the others.

I decide to finish putting the rug back in Neva’s room, and there in the middle of the floor is another peacock egg. Apparently, my dog was planning to carry them into the room where her bed is, to store for later use or something. Maybe she wanted to hatch them herself.
I swear like a truck driver, then bend down to inspect this egg. This one has a small crack in the bottom. It’s my special black shoulder egg. Granted, I didn’t even know I was getting this egg a half hour earlier, it was a bonus, but still, I’m devastated by the loss. For a moment, I wonder if I can put tape on the crack or something, but I know that once a bacterium invades it won’t survive. Dammit.

I put the intact eggs in the incubator, feeling sorry for myself. I am now mumbling angrily, thinking negative thoughts that I suspect are inspired by a lot more going on than this egg project. I’m thinking, “It is always the innocent that ruin something special, they act out of sheer enthusiasm – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t’ guilty when they do things on impulse and destroy the promise of a bright future!”

Then I catch myself having this bad attitude and I do a readjustment (this all happens in about ten minutes.) I think about how, if two years ago, someone had told me that on this very day I would be in a beautiful cabin in the mountains (always wanted to live this way in nature) yelling at a big dog (always wanted a big dog) for stealing one of my peacock eggs (never wanted a peacock back then, but I would have thought the idea grand if I’d given it a thought), well, I would have laughed. I would have found the idea of a beloved dog carefully walking around with a peacock egg in his mouth and dropping it at my feet with such a look of profound guilt and remorse, rather entertaining. And that got me smiling again.

It put things in perspective. Really, what did I have to be so mad about? I had a free egg for a half hour. Oh well. It could have been worse. I could have walked into the room and seen my dog smacking her lips having consumed the lot. I decided to be thankful for what I do have rather than mourn what I almost had. Gotta trust that what is meant to be is meant to be.

This morning, I went to the post office again to find the other two peacock eggs arrived as well as my duck eggs. E-gad, I didn’t think I’d get them all at once. So, I put them all in the incubator for now. I will probably have to get a second incubator for the duck eggs considering they will hatch on a different day (9 days sooner). Otherwise, bacteria from the new ducklings can spoil the peacock eggs still developing. But I will take a day or two to think about it first. Might have a more creative solution.

The duck eggs are white (I expected blue) and the size of jumbo chicken eggs. I unwrapped them carefully, putting a smiley face on one side and the word “duck” on the other. Not like I’m going to forget what I’m hatching – but I have a system now. As I unwrapped the last three, I noticed a slimy surface. I kept checking to see if the eggs were cracked, but they seemed intact. The last egg turned out to have a hole in the bottom. Poor devil. I guess this one eeked onto the others. Now, I didn’t know whether or not to clean the eggs or leave them slimy. I don’t want to invite bacteria into the incubator with spoiled egg slime, and yet I know eggs are laid with a film that protects them so I don’t’ know if I should clean them. I decided to wipe them off with a soft, dry towel. I put a frowny face on these eggs so if they don’t hatch, I’ll remember why. It is all a part of experimentation, you see.

Speaking of which, Neva and I decided to allow the chickens to keep some eggs to see if the hens will brood and raise some offspring on their own. This would give us the full spectrum of scientific study and more springtime fun. We see six eggs gathered in a nest so far, but neither of our brood hens seems ready to take responsibility to start sitting. Lazy girls. Neva lectured them sternly about their role on this earth, but I don’t think they paid much attention.  

And while I’m on the subject of birds (I swear I will talk about something else soon.) I will tell you that yesterday whatever it was that ate a chicken the night before had returned, burrowed into the coup and eaten another chicken. This time poor Jasmine (this was from Neva’s Disney named crop of chicks) became some animal’s dinner. I was faced with another carcass in the pen and boy, was I pissed. I put on my army fatigues, my Karate Kid headband and a pair of dark sunglasses and tromped off to Home Depot to look for chicken defense apparatus. This was war! (Not really, I kept on my running clothes, but the other image was a better description of my mood. Dramatic effect, don’t ya know.)

I ended up buying some fencing meant to stick into the ground to edge gardens. But when I put this around the pen, it looked stupid and inadequate. A mouse could burrow under that flimsy stuff. So I recruited Kent and Neva’s help and we gathered rocks – big, heavy rocks. We stacked them all around the coup where we believe the creature got in.  Today, no dead chickens. Just goes to show, you don’t want to mess with me. I rarely take an attack laying down.

The chicken fatalities are not a bad thing to deal with, however, because it reminds me there are dangers to consider when raising birds. Now, when I go to build a peacock pen (assuming I will successfully rear a bird or two or six), I will be wise enough to dig it 2 feet into the ground for extra security. Having disappointments in life is no big deal if you LEARN from them. At least, that is how I come to terms with my tiny hardships.

Enough about birds. I just thought you might like to know I’m cooking up some future fun right now. Six peacocks, eleven welsh ducks, and one little bannie chicken. All I need now is a partridge in a pear tree!


Daily News and a disclaimer

I want to write an official “thank you” to those who sponsored me for the 3 day, 60-mile breast cancer walk. I also need to voice an apology. I should write everyone a personal thank you, but as yet, I haven’t. The fact is, I’ve been feeling low over all the FLEX business (the new owners went bankrupt yesterday –I can say that because it is in the papers along with the eviction notification – so anyone who wants information can get it through public notices, it’s no secret). And when I am feeling low, I tend to distance myself and become non-interactive. I don’t feel social.

One ex-student and friend wrote me to say he was worried that I might be mad because I haven’t written. Not mad. Sad. Big difference. Every once in a while, I muster up some energy and write something for the blog, like my peacock entry, hoping to focus on the good things in my life and wanting to make my friends smile. I probably come across as flippant or as if I don’t care about what is going on back in Sarasota, but it is just that my dance interests and my backcountry adventures are unrelated issues. I work hard to keep it that way. And just because I am depressed doesn’t mean I want to moan about it in my blog. And then, there is the fact that I am considered a “hot-head” and Mark and my Dad say I “go off” in an instant over the dance school thing. Considering that, it is wiser not to air my thoughts without censorship. I don’t come to the keyboard when agitated. Ha. That explains all those weeks I don’t post.

While I’m on this subject, I want to mention that a few people have sent responses to my blog and I don’t post them. They think this is a sign that I am angry or disapproving. But it’s not. I simply won’t post responses that talk about FLEX or our ex-employee’s new school because I don’t want this blog to be a forum for dance debate. And I don’t want people to come here to grandstand or thinking they need to publicly validate their friendship to us or announce their feelings about others, negative or positive. I simply don’t want to invite these types of discussions here. But I do read your messages, and often, I am very touched. I like to think these comments are written to me, not to the world, and in that case, let me assure you friends, that I appreciate your responses even if I don’t post them.

Now, as for thank you’s – I have to tell everyone that when I moved, I thought I had made a hardcopy of my address list from my old e-mail account, but it was somehow misplaced. When I got my new e-mail account set up and running, I was stunned to see I lost all information formerly saved on the old one. A serious mishap considering my MFA contacts were on that list as well as a way to keep in touch with wonderful friends. Since December, I haven’t had a single friend’s address, unless they’ve written me and I was mindful enough to save the address. I only have about eight addresses in my address book now. Oops. I haven’t been writing anyone for the last 6 months(for various reasons from mood and MFA work overload, to wanting to keep business information private – it is awkward and unnatural for us to censor our conversations with friends.)

Anyway, now that I have an occasion to send a message to privately write and thank friends who gave support , I can’t. (So, George, my dear friend from middle school, who lives in a tree house and grows peppers and is a world winning barbeque king – well, I couldn’t write to thank you even if I wanted to.  So this is my official public thank you. Leave it to you to be the first to donate, and to be so generous it makes my eyebrows pop. Ha, you always had to be the best! If it makes you feel better, I do feel very guilty at this no-address discovery because it shows how lax a friend I’ve been and how long it’s been since I’ve sent a letter. My-bad.)  I am slowly gaining the addresses of past students and friends who occasionally write to keep in touch. If you are one of those friends who are offended that I never drop you a line, don’t take it personally. Just take the first step remembering how forgetful I can be–

OK, that is my “thank you” and my friendship disclaimer.

Now, on to daily news.
Kathy and I were on TV on Friday night. She looked amazing. It was a lovely interview. I have a huge nose. I am convinced no one watching could possibly pay attention to what we were saying because they must have been focused on my snozzle thinking, “How does she keep her head up with something so big stuck in the middle of her face?” Mark say’s I’m an idiot. Well, that may be true, but then, I am an idiot with a huge nose.

I bought my bee suit today. I didn’t know what size to get. I asked Mark his opinion, saying,” I just want it to be big enough for anyone who might want to use it.”
Mark looks at me as if I’m crazy and says, “Ginny, there isn’t a soul around who is going to be putting on that suit to go visit your bees without you. It doesn’t have to fit anyone but you, trust me. Buy your size and leave it at that.”
I tested that theory. I said, “Hey Neva, they have children sized suits. Would you like to get one so you can visit the bees with me? You’d be protected.”
She looked at me crossed eyed and said, “No way. I’ll NEVER want to go near the bees.”
“Aren’t you even interested to see what they look like up close?”
OK, no takers. Not even my nature-loving partner in animal crime. So I bought the suit in my size. So much for sharing the fun. Ah, it is lonely being Eve when Adam is afraid of bugs.

Mark has been back and forth between Florida and here for almost a month now. He was home for a few days last week.  While planting, he got stung by a wasp. He shrieked and pulled his hand back and glared at me.
I threw up my hands and said, “I’m innocent. I haven’t brung home a single baby bumble bee, yet!”
“It was a wasp,” he said, as if I somehow conjured the creature up just by thinking about bees.
“Bad wasp!” I yelled. Gallantly, I killed it for him. Squashed it with my shoe like the daredevil I am. The fact is, wasps attack beehives. I will gladly join his I hate wasps club.

I now have a ten-hive beekeepers starter kit, a smoker, a bee suit, and all the trappings of bee rearing. No bees yet. Soon, I will seek out my queen and lots of boisterous boys to attend to her. Lucky queen.  I have a nifty honey grader to check the quality of my honey, a birthday gift from Mom. All I need now is a bear siren to scare off marauders. Unfortunately, we’ve determined that will be a necessity. Mark made arrangements to buy a gun from a friend. He is using the fact that I am placing beehive bear bait in the backyard as an excuse to arm the family. I better watch my step now, because if I annoy him too much he might shoot me accidentally on purpose. I’m told we will be going out together with Ronnie for a shooting lesson. I have no idea how I feel about that.

My peacock eggs arrive tomorrow. Fun.
Mark comes home from Florida tomorrow too. Relief.
I checked the post office today to see if my eggs arrived early. There was no slip in my PO box, so I went in just in case to ask if I had gotten a package. I told Vicki, the postmaster, that I was expecting eggs.
She said, “I have eggs here today, but they aren’t yours.”
I thought that fascinating. Someone else is the neighborhood is buying fertilized eggs for incubation? I told her I was expecting peacock eggs and asked what kind she was holding for the other person. She told me it was quail eggs.
Hey, quail was my other consideration! I’m so jealous.
The idea that a package of eggs was back there (not mine) made me grin. The fact is, I feel as if I am trying unusual and unique things nowadays, but to be perfectly frank, my interests are common – nothing I do is unique around this neck of the woods. The funny thing is, when a friend went downstairs into our workout room and saw all our dance pictures, he whistled under his breath and said, “Wow, I’ve never known anyone who could do that. It’s remarkable.”
And I thought, “Heck, Everyone I know can do that. . . but I haven’t a single friend that can milk a cow or trap a raccoon the way you can. Now, that is an interesting talent.”
Just goes to show that nothing we do is really original except when it sits in contrast to the world around us. “Normal” is a relative term. Anyway, what counts is that my interests, while mundane and common around here, are interesting to little former-dancer-New Yorker-suburban me. I am having fun seeing life from a new perspective. My only regret is that life is so short I’ll never have time to experience all the grand diversity that’s out there. But I’m determined to see and do what I can with my time from here on.

When I told my mother about my peacock eggs, she sighed on the phone and said, “You’ve always had to do everything firsthand.”
I don’t think that is true. I always enjoyed reading about lots of things, but I don’t think of myself as someone who jumps in to try everything. Some things. But not everything. For example, I’m 48 and I’ve never mowed a lawn. I’ve had lawns and a lawn mower but I never felt inclined to crank the machine up to try it myself. I don’t know how to use power tools or jump-start my car. There are lots of things I’ve never bothered to try.
But she said, “Even when you were a kid, you were always doing – wanting to learn for yourself what something was really like. I taught you to sew, but the next thing you know, you were learning to quilt, embroider, tat lace, knit, crochet and everything else connected. You dive headfirst into something that intrigues you.”
I was surprised to hear myself described that way, but maybe there is some truth to it.
I don’t know if this is a new element of my personality or a latent one I have unleashed in a midlife crisis explosion, but I am in a state of doing now.
After years of wanting – doing feels good.
Enough about that.

Some animal grabbed one of my chickens through the bars of the cage and ate it yesterday. I arrived to find an empty feathered carcass with one leg attached pulled halfway through the fence. I took a shovel and discarded it, racking my brain to consider what I should to do to protect the pen from more attacks.
I called Mark in Florida to tell him what had happened.
He said, “Wow, you have really gone country. Remember when you used to cover a dead mouse with an upside down bowl, waiting until I got home to get rid of it because you couldn’t face dealing with anything dead?”
Sure, I remember. Good times.

I walked 7 miles on the treadmill today. Gotta begin training.  I never believed I’d say it, but I love my treadmill. I watch movies while I walk – probably the only time I stay put long enough (and awake) to watch TV. Today I watched, “A very good year.” With Russell Crowe, my new best ever dream fella. Gosh, he’s cute. The movie is about a guy who inherits a wine vineyard. Made my heart go aflutter, I’ll tell you, and not just because of Russell Baby. I went to visit my own grape vines after the movie. They look downright dead. Probably are. Ah well, we can’t all inherit a dream. Some of us must work for years, overcome the learning curve, and wait to grow a dream from scratch. It’s a long haul from my five dead grape vines to a vineyard. But it is fun to imagine. . .

I’ve been reading a great deal. Like a flood when the reading-barrier-damn gives. You might wonder just what a girl will pick when she finally gets a chance to read something that isn’t mandatory for an MFA. Don’t ya know I ended up reading a collection of short stories called “Where Love is Found” -Literary stories – formerly published in America’s leading literary magazine, Glimmer Train.  Literary stories? What the heck!  They ruined me! Brainwashed, I tell ya.

Here I wanted to pick some smutty, casual romance novel with absolutely no merit, lots of sex, a few corny clichés and pages and pages of bad dialogue, but alas, I found myself unable to follow through. I’m reading what turns out to be the best writing ever about human connection, profound and beautiful, all the while thinking about how each story is  constructed. That isn’t brainless entertainment!  What’s happened to me? I’ve evolved as a reader against my will!

Since the concept of my becoming a sophisticated reader is so opposite to my self-definition, I also picked up a memoir written by a columnist who moved from New York to the country. It’s called “It Takes A Village Idiot” and it is filled with wry humor about both New York and rural USA. Since I can relate to both, it makes me laugh. That is better. However, this book makes me consider a memoir of my own and I start thinking about writing again.

I remember how, when I was young, I loved to watch dance. But when I was older, I was always watching it differently, analyzing, critiquing, studying. I guess that is to be expected after you study an art and become involved. You can never be just a spectator again.

I am also reading a book on beekeeping and a collection of thoughtful essays called “If I live to be 100.” These are more in tune with relaxing, but I only read them in small doses, like when I am killing time waiting for appointments or something. For quiet reading, like at night, I keep returning to that literary book. Sad but true.
Nevertheless, freedom of choice is a very inspirational thing. I am enjoying everything I read, grateful for the diverse material in the world and my ability to cross over between interests and genres.

Time to go. I’ve got animals to feed and a house to clean before I can turn to a book to enjoy.

Again, thanks to my friends and sponsors. I’ll think of you today when I walk.

Who You Calling Chicken?

I’m graduating up to the big guns – or the big birds as the case may be. Here’s a hint: I’m gonna be proud as a (fill in the blank.) I guess it was only a matter of time till I pushed the envelope.

On my birthday (as a present to myself), I placed an e-bay bid on two blue, peafowl eggs for incubation. (That’s the traditional colorful peacock, mostly green and blue, for those of you who are not poultry savvy like me.) 
Then, when it looked like I might win, I got excited, so I went browsing to establish just what a good deal I was getting, and low and behold, another seller was offering two pure white, peafowl incubator eggs and she was going to throw in two of the more common blue peafowl eggs too. Therefore, naturally, I had to place another bid. The only thing more striking than a beautiful green peacock is a snow-white one.

(The actual parents of the eggs in question are pictured above. These pictures came from the farms selling the eggs.) 

For those of you wondering, a fully-grown peacock costs about 100-200 dollars depending on its gender. However, because you purchase them as adults, they are rarely very friendly and they don’t always stick around. An aloof bird is the price of getting a ready-made, pretty-as-a-peacock peacock. You need to be a part of  the imprinting stage for warm peacock report. They also need to know where “home” is from the beginning if you want them to stick around. A baby peafowl chick is 50.00, and they are cute, but you have no idea what gender you are getting. (Remember, the girls grow up to be just big, grey birds. The boys become the beautiful, striking peacocks that become the logo for TV stations and typical decoration for oriental art.)

So, you may be thinking, what does a peacock egg go for? I’ll tell you. I got my two blue peafowl eggs for 28 smackers. Of course, I won the second bid as well (and in case you are laughing at me because you think no one else would be dumb enough to bid on “maybe” fertile peafowl eggs, I’ll have you know I was pitted against 9 other peafowl enthusiasts. Ha. I won. Better than buying the Brooklyn Bridge, I’ll tell you. ) My two, white peacock bird eggs (with the two bonus blue bird eggs) went for 48.00.  Shipping adds about 20.00 to each order. So all told, I have six peacock eggs (two of a rare white breed) for only 102.00. Happy Birthday to me!

Now, you might be asking, Will they hatch? Hell if I know. However, I’m told the odds are good. At least my rare white eggs are guaranteed fertilized because the owner candled them in advance. (Surprisingly enough, I know how to do this now myself. Gosh, it is fun to learn new stuff that has absolutely no practical value in a normal world.)

Sellers cannot guarantee eggs bought on the internet will hatch, because they cannot control what happens after they are shipped. For example, if the post office ex-rays the package, it can kill the embryo. In addition, no one will take responsibility for someone else’s incubation activities, because success requires commitment and attention to the project. You must turn the eggs three times a day, watch the temperature and humidity etc… so if the eggs don’t hatch, who’s to say the failure is due to a bad egg? 

E-bay has a rule that all incubator eggs must be shipped one day within purchase, and sent next day air. As such, I’ll have my eggs by Tuesday. This is not the case with the Welsh duck eggs we won, because those haven’t been laid. That seller offered pre-sale eggs that will be shipped the moment they are laid, nice and fresh. Fascinating.

Now, you might be asking, what does Ginny know about peacocks? Um.. . . . Nothing. 
Why does she want them? Um . . . . . cause they’re pretty and I’ve never had one.
How much work and effort will raising them be? Um . . . . I dunno.
Next, you may say, Hey Ginny, considering you know nothing, like Shultz from Hogan’s Heroes, what were you thinking!?! Um . . . I wasn’t thinking. I just thought a world with peacocks hanging around my back door would be mighty interesting.

Therefore, since I’m now into peacock performance knee deep, I went to Amazon and bought a book on peacocks. I have 39 days to learn about these birds while I await the hatching. If there will be a hatching. One can only hang around, stare eagerly into that little incubator window, and hope.

If all goes well, I’ll build a peacock pen next to my chicken coup. A section of our property has turned out to be devoted to my animals now – out where the barn will eventually be, where I feed the horses, donkey and llama and rear the angora bunnies. So it isn’t as if I have to be concerned with space for additional critters. It is more a matter of planning. I simply must consider what I need for long-term convenience for me, the caretaker, and for the health and well-being of my flock(s).

I must assume Lady, the killer-dog, will lust for a peacock snack as well as she craves live chicken nuggets and a rooster appetizer. Damn dog. So a cage will be required, more for protection than to contain the birds . I will allow them roam during the day to free graze as long as I’m around, just as I do with the chickens. Perhaps, when the barn is built, the peacocks will nest there, free and safe up on perches. That would be fun as well as decorative. If Lady someday disappears, all my animals will be able to roam naturally. That is only fair. What the heck is the point of 50 acres if you can’t have some privacy to let a chicken out now and again?

Last night, I told our friend, country-boy Ronnie, that I won some peacock eggs. He said he always wanted peacocks. Love’s ’em. He especially loves that deaf defying loud, shriek they make.
Um…. they make a deft defying shriek? Ahem..
Mark just lifts his eyebrows at me.  He’s getting very good at that “I married a moron but it is only now coming out,” look.
At that moment, I thought about mentioning how good a few peacock feathers would look weaved into his antler baskets – just to hint at the creative possibility for him, which might diffuse any peacock concerns he might have – but I thought my blatant stretch would be too obvious. I just reminded him that the coup is so far away we can’t hear the roosters so it is unlikely peacock calls will be an issue. He gave a “that will suffice for now” sort of nod.

I am constantly amazed and shocked that my husband doesn’t pitch a fit when I pursue a new interest that involves something alive. He takes it all in with this eerie calm. I mean, I guess I haven’t done anything that will interfere with our quality of life. We have animals already, so in order to travel we are going to pay somebody to feed the livestock anyway, and what is a few more cups of grain tossed into one additional cage?  I do the care and maintenance of the animals so that assures my getting pets doesn’t mean more work for him – except when I ask for help to build new housing or need him to get me hay with the tractor. Nevertheless, I always feel tentative about confessing a new livestock interest and I expect steam to come out of his ears. Perhaps he is saving it all up for one big meltdown – or he has some secret huge thing that he wants and he is going to hit me with one of these days, and there won’t be a dang thing I can say because I’ve been shown all this consideration over and over again regarding animals. Gee, perhaps I should worry about that.

Anyway, this week, I will receive six peacock eggs to hover over in Neva’s incubator. They will come bubble wrapped, nestled in foam peanuts. I don’t know what to expect in regards to size or color. Are peacock eggs blue like pheasants, or red like some ducks? Maybe they are white like geese. Or green like mallard duck eggs. Hummm…….. Will they be as big as a fist? Bigger? Will I know the difference between the albino peafowl eggs and the others? And when the birds hatch, will the white and blue birds look differently or will they all be covered in yellow fuzz like ducklings or swans. How long will it take until they lose the down and start getting feathers so I will know which are boys and which are girls – who will be white and who will be blue? Will the boys fight like roosters so I can only keep one?  I have to wait to see! The suspense is killing me. I need my book!

At least I do know that when the eggs arrive, I must sit them at room temperature, big end up, for about 8 hours so they can rest and adjust after their journey. Then, I put them in the incubator at 100 degrees with light humidity for 39 days.

You see, all fowls lay eggs but usually they lay one a day or less. They don’t sit the moment they lay an egg as you imagine. They wait until they have several eggs, and then the brooding instinct kicks in. If the eggs disappear, they don’t give it another thought. But if the eggs remain and start to gather, the mothering gene kicks in. In fact, some people put fake eggs under a bird to get her “broody” so she’ll sit. It takes time for a collection of eggs to gather, so an egg stays “fresh” for about 6 days, thanks to the protective coating nature provides for this duration. Only when the hen begins sitting and warmth sets in, does the fertilized egg begin to grow. This is how people can sell fertilized eggs, transport them etc… because they have a week after the eggs are laid to set up for the process of developing. Amazing, don’t ya think?

We have one little bantam chicken egg in our incubator now. It is brown and tiny and it has a cute smiley face drawn on with magic market. Neva turns it about four times a day, talking to it as if it is her best friend. Do I dare mention how I want to just toss that dang thing into the trash so we can make room for the super eggs. Well, considering I don’t particularly want to scar my daughter for life, I will just have to share incubator quarters for two more weeks. Then, our one baby chicken (maybe) will come into the world. I will have to quickly clean the incubator so no fluff or debris contaminates the environment, a minor risk to my expensive peacock eggs, but only fair. While this chicken egg was a freebie and we could have dozens more anytime we want ( it happened to be the first we picked up in our coup) and it won’t become any special sort of chicken, it IS our first experiment, and the fact is, it IS Neva’s incubator. Of course, Neva has bargained for compensation for allowing me to hatch my peacocks in her machine. She gets to help me name the potential peacocks, and one bird will be totally “hers” if we have several in the end. She will also get first dibs over all the pretty tail feathers that will fall on occasion.

Anyway, stay tuned for more peacock news. I will post a picture of the eggs and the chicks if and when they hatch. Then I will take you on a journey of what it is like to live with peacocks right outside your back door.

I think of the entire hatching a peacock thing is one more metaphor for life. Liife, like a peacock, is fragile and fascinating, beautiful and you can learn alot from it  but take care ’cause it also packs an ear-splitting screech and can peck you to death if you aren’t careful and don’t treat it well.

I am aware that this experiment may end in dissapointment and in 40 or so days, I’ll just have a bunch of lifeless eggs taking up space, rotting in our incubator. But that is a risk I am all for taking. Life isn’t about the rewards, as much as enjoying the experience – trying something new and focusing on the promise it holds.  Happiness is a matter of whether you see the peacock glass as half-full or half empty. I, for one, just count myself lucky to even have a glass. The peacock juice inside is a marvelous bonus. And frankly, I won’t waste energy considering what might go wrong. I am too busy celebrating everything that may go right.

Not a bad attitude to adopt for every area of life.

Happy birthday to Me. I want presents.

Happy Birthday to Me!

You want to buy me a present. Come on, you know you do. I know just what I want and I’m not afraid to ask. Sheepish, maybe, but not afraid to brazening solicit gifts this year.

Go to this website – – and sponsor me for my new project, the 60-mile breast cancer walk next October. Do it for cancer. Do it to protect someone you love from having to deal with the disease someday. Do it because I only have so many friends and I seriously worry that I won’t be able to dredge up enough fundraising.

Heck, I’ve been feeling so blue all week, do it just because there isn’t anything else that will make me feel better and no one deserves to be depressed on their birthday. Or do it because my snotty kid opened her website page at the same time I did today (same address only with Denverclark in place of my name for those of you who rather forsake me to sponsor her or who want to divvy up your support fairly) and within an hour she had donations already. Of course, she called me to brag obnoxiously and hint that I should be deeply embarrassed by my fundraising thermometer because it’s already been an hour and mine is still on the big fat zero. What can I say? Is that because she is nicer than me? Naw, it’s more like her friends are nicer than mine. Humm……. You gonna take that lying down?

Of course, some of the people out there who tune in to this blog are not exactly friends. They are checking in like moles to dig up FLEX dirt because they are excited by the turmoil going on. Ha. Well, my dear frienimies, you can sponsor me too. Do it because once I get donations I’ll have to do the dang walk, and that will cause me miles of suffering and muscular anguish. Certainly, that will bring a smile to your face. I might trip and twist an ankle even. Perhaps a deadly scorpion will crawl into my sleeping bag at night. There will be thousands of walkers – I might even be trampled moments before I limp over the finish line. See – there are lots of exciting possibilities if you maneuver me into walking.

The point is (Oh my God, everyone is right. I do say that all the time…) this is my official plea for your support.  Well – this is my FIRST official plea for support. I’ll have to be a total annoyance if no one responds and then I’ll start mentioning it on a regular basis, and that will get really boring. Let’s just get this out of the way right now.

It’s my birthday. This year I want presents.
Send them boldly in your name.
Or send them anonymously if you don’t want me to know you read this blog and I can pretend I have a secret admirer.
Send them with your name all in caps because I’m cornering you with this blatant request and you now feel obligated – might as well get credit for doing your duty as a friend, not unlike when you bought Girl Scout cookies because I was a troop leader and you made a show of stuffing them down your face everytime I walked by to remind me you got at least six boxes, despite the fact that you were on a diet. Now, that’s what I call a BFF!

A birthday is a perfect excuse to hit up friends, don’t ya think? And I am not one to let an opportunity like this one slip away. Today is the day. B-day. I’m asking.

Give me something real to celebrate.
Oh yea, I need to add one thing. . . .  Please.

As the world turns

Monday, I sent the first copy of my thesis out to my professor. She will respond in a few weeks, allowing me to make corrections before sending it to my official “reader”. Then I will get that professor’s response and make final adjustments before having it bound and formally turned in. I will plan my public readings from that final copy.

It was an amazing feeling, printing those 150 pages (they don’t want the entire novel, only this exact number of pages) and finally packaging it off. Relief. Concern. Thrill. I understand that the thesis is a formality- just a monstrous assignment designed to establish a certain level of writing proficiency required to graduate, but deep down, we all want to be proud of the material too.

I’m happier with it than I expected. Three days before finishing, I had an epiphany about just what the book needed to make it work. I was so bothered by the fact that I had to kill all the commentary about dance (which I believed drove the action ) that I just couldn’t stop rolling it over in my mind. Then, it came to me. I could change the essays into blogs and write reader responses from other dancers! This would make the book more contemporary in regards to cultural influence and also allow me to keep what I love by introducing fair argument on the dance issues as other dancers put in their two cents in a response format!  And if that isn’t enough to make the idea fester– it ties in my senior seminar (the class I teach the other graduates) because I chose a topic centered on blogs as writer’s aids, and books born of blogs. Now, the entire MFA final project is connected.

Mark has been reading the different versions of my book, and with this last copy he said, “This really makes it all come together. It is more compelling this way. A far better book.” Just goes to show that it is right to follow your instincts, regardless of outside opinion. I had to stay up two days straight to get the entire manuscript rewritten. But I did it.

Dianne and Mark both read my final copy and agreed I have improved as a writer. They liked my early books – but mostly they thought the stories were fun. The writing was average. Now, they say the writing is remarkably professional – ten times better. (Ten times? Gee, I must have sucked before.) They aren’t as jazzed by this literary story as they were by my swashbuckling historical romances, because a literary story is sometimes obscure and moves more slowly. But that response is to be expected. Commercial fiction is entertainment. Literary writing is for quiet contemplation.

I’ve come to believe writing is like dance or any art. Talent is all well and good, but what really makes it come to fruition is training, training, training. I am proud I’ve done what I needed to do to grow and improve. Of course, I still have a long way to go, but you never want to come to the end of learning. It is just nice to know I’m meandering along.  Stumbling a bit, but at least moving forward.

Anyway, my thesis is done. I am happy. I am now going to read a book . . . any book that is NOT literary or a writing craft book. Do you know it has been two years since I read a book just for fun??? Considering for me reading is one of the great pleasures in life, you can imagine how delighted I am with the freedom to choose once again.

I guess everyone imagined I stopped blogging last week because I was neck deep in homework. I wish that had been the case. I had a heck of a time getting my thesis ready by the deadline, because I was called away to Florida the week before the due date. I had counted on this time at home, clearing the week to be immersed in writing. All of a sudden, I had to leave and even though I brought my computer with me, I was too distracted and agitated to work on homework. Needless to say, it had me stressed out on every level.

We were in Florida because my former business is on its last, final gasps as it clings to existence. (We were there for legal issues connected to eviction and possible foreclosure.) Needless to say, it is a messy, poignantly sad, complicated endeavor. Mark is still in Florida and must be there again next week as all this comes to a final conclusion. I could say a great deal about what happened and why, but I don’t think it’s important. As one good friend and former employee said, “It is what it is.” And who knows, there is always the long shot miracle that might reverse things.

I expected to be an emotional wreck, but strangely, I wasn’t. I’ve been grieving over the inevitable FLEX finale for two years now as I’ve watched things go askew from a distance, powerless because it was no longer ours to fix. And during that time, I’ve been through all the classic stages of dealing with death: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and finally, acceptance. Coming to the final stage is, in a way, a great relief; however, that does not mean I am not deeply saddened by everything. Oddly, I’m not depressed about the school potentially closing, so much as I feel intense empathy for everyone involved. I feel for the students, the staff and even the couple who bought FLEX in hopes that they would make their dreams of being successful entrepreneurs come true. For all that we can make accusations or cast blame in anger, the fact is, everyone is losing here. And any “I told ya so’s” or “Ha, ha, that’s what you get” ‘s is  just ugliness- a residue of disappointment.

It has been an emotionally trying month as we wrestle with what to do in the face of the problems. We have tried to find creative solutions for the new owners. Then, when that wasn’t working, we discussed moving back, but that would not be in our family’s best interest and frankly, what seems like a simple solution is far more complicated than anyone would guess.

Besides which, we just don’t have the heart for it anymore.  So much has transpired to make us see just how volatile and ugly the dance business can be – we have witnessed such spiteful, ego-driven, disrespectful actions in e-mails and other forms of interaction between former students, parents, studio owners and staff. Some of this was targeted at us, some was slung at other people. Either way, my respect for everyone involved has steadily declined. Rather than focusing positive energy on their own aspirations, certain individuals are hell bent on actively hurting FLEX (and the people who, with good intentions, purchased it). These individuals are on some kind of vendetta, lying, spreading rumors, passing damaging information, and doing all kinds of things to stir up problems and cause more distress. They have this David and Goliath delusion-  an attitude that they are bringing the great FLEX down for the righteous cause of dance. Ha. The problems with our former school have nothing to do with a crop of disgruntled patrons leaving and one or two opportunists taking advantage of the school’s financial difficulties. That kind of thing is so common in the dance biz it doesn’t merit attention. It’s the lack of sensitivity, the pettiness, which shocks me. Why be hurtful to people who are obviously going thorough serious personal hardship? Dance is a noble pursuit, but heck, humanity (respect) comes first.

I won’t go into details about the things that have transpired – now or ever. It would be focusing on the negative, and I am not willing to devote any more of my emotional energy on petty dance wars. I have learned there is nothing more precious than stepping back and going to a place where the aggressive edge slips away, because it helps you to see things clearly. What I’ve seen in the wake of our leaving is not admirable, but it sure makes me happy with my choices in life – both those I made as a studio owner and the choice to no longer be one.

As we were driving to Florida, Mark sighed and said, “Guess what today is?”  Then he reminded me that only two years ago to the day, we put our business up for sale. It took eighteen years to build, and about nine months for it to turn south. We were just exploring the possibility when we went into that broker’s office, and five days later the business sold. Our counsel was not wanted, and so we wound up moving to Georgia years before we had expected or planed. Everything happened so fast – we are only now getting our bearings.  “Can you believe so much can happen in such a short time?” Mark said, “Look where we are now. Look at how the people we cared about changed. Look at how different things can be in a snap. Who’d have thought life could take such unexpected twists?”

I keep thinking about that. It’s a good reminder to savor what is good while you have it, and to prepare at all times for potential change. Life can shift in an instant. Be flexible and at all times, remember what really counts.

That is all I want to say about the sad situation at FLEX.

Instead, let me talk for a moment about my current life, sans the emotional upheaval going on in Sarasota.

Today, when I met with Kathy (who is still learning so much, by the way, despite all the missed appointments due to my travel) the local TV station showed up to do interviews of students for a feature on the college. We were both interviewed and our clip will be in the program. Kathy was thrilled. I was thrilled too, (mostly I was thrilled because I put make-up on this morning and didn’t show up looking like a total shlump. E-gad, talk about luck!) I mentioned in the interview that I’d written a piece on my teaching experience for my MFA. Later, the director asked if she could put it in the newsletter. I explained that it was too long, and not really appropriate. Therefore, she asked me if I’d write a piece that would be good for the newsletter. I agreed.

Now that I have turned in my thesis, I hope to get more involved with the college and the literacy program. I hung around today watching the people being interviewed. Mostly, the students are simple country folk who quit school early and are now returning to get their GED (which is no easy process for a working adult). I was filled with respect for their commitment and aspirations to get an education. I suddenly felt compelled to be a motivating force – an activist for people who want to better their world. It is easy to write a check and tell yourself you are making a difference, but far more rewarding to roll up your sleeves and be an actual catalyst for change. Anyway, I believe I will soon be doing more for literacy in our quiet county. I recognize that subtle churning in my gut when an idea starts building in importance in my heart and mind.

Next subject: We got Neva an incubator for Easter. We’ve done the raising chicks thing – loved it – now it’s time to dig a bit deeper. She is gathering fertilized eggs from our chickens and plans to hatch them herself. The eggs are nestled in a square, foam incubator that she hovers over as if she is a brood hen herself. Twice a day she turns the eggs and checks the temperature and humidity. (It takes 21 days to hatch a chicken) She draws little faces on the eggs so each egg has a personality of its own –this allows her to know which side is up. When Mark is in Sarasota, I invite Neva to sleep with me, and we stayed up last night, lying in bed, reading all about the science of hatching chicks. It is educational fun, a science lesson but with the excitement of gaining a new pet too. I will share more on this later. I think hatching eggs with your kid deserves a blog all its own. We went on E-bay to purchase some different poultry eggs too. Amazing what you can find on E-bay. We have bids on exotic duck eggs, a goose egg, and some colorful rare pheasant eggs. You know us Hendry’s – give us an idea and we drive it over the top! It will be fun to share later.

Speaking of poultry, I hate our neighbor’s dog. He’s an ugly hound dog that the owners only feed once a week (up here, that is common. They say keeping dogs lean makes them better for hunting, but I just think its lazy and cruel ownership). The case of my occasional chicken disappearance has been solved. This dog is the culprit. He killed three for sport, then while I was in Sarasota, he tore open a small cage and killed seven Americana babies. Worst of all, he also got a hold of Joe and tore him up. My big ole rooster fought back so he wasn’t killed, but he is terribly injured. He has been sitting in the corner of the roost for a month, head down, trembling. He hobbles around with a limp because his leg was mangled. His tail was torn out. His back has open wounds that look like hamburger. He sure as shoot isn’t crowing.

I said to Mark, “OK, I’m ready to get a gun.”
Mark lifted his eyebrows and said, “Really. I never thought I’d see the day.”
I said, “Yea, I was thinking along the lines of a super soaker.”
“A water gun! Heck, that won’t do anything but take the smell off that dog, and he’ll still eat your chickens. We have to really shoot him. I’ll dig a hole with my tractor and cover him up and no one will know what happened to him. You know, once a chicken killer, always a chicken killer.” (He is always full of these country sayings nowadays. I can’t take him seriously.)

I should point out here that in Georgia, there is a law that allows you to shoot any animal on your property doing mischief. It’s designed to control nuisance dogs that bother livestock. Nevertheless, I would never do harm to an animal, even if it is a total annoyance. For all that the dog (Lady) is a pest and I’m hating her right now, I also know she is just following instincts. It is not her fault she’s grown up untrained, left to wander where she doesn’t belong. (I am all in favor of shooting her owners, however, if that can be arranged.) Our friend Ronnie offered to come shoot her, as if that loophole would make me feel less guilty. Um… no. Then, he advised me to call animal control to pick her up. The problem is, I know they would put her to sleep within seven days, which would be just serving her the death penalty too. I think that is a harsh end for an innocent (albeit monstrous) dog that doesn’t know better.

In the end, Mark and I agreed to a compromise. We are going to buy a rubber pellet gun. They sting like the dickens. That will deter any dog that dares mess with my flock. Mark plans to get lots of target practice because Lady is always on our land, chasing his truck, eating my chickens and attacking our dogs. Shooting rubber pellets is a rough way to train a dog, but what else can we do without hurting her more? I wish they would tie her up.

Meanwhile, Joe is convalescing. I am a good chicken nurse, if I say so myself. Day by day he is getting stronger, but I wonder if he will ever be the robust crowing wonder he once was. Ah well. Love is accepting that the object of our affection won’t always be perfect. I still love him, flaws and all. In fact, maybe I love him more now that he isn’t so cocky.

Another subject: Today, I see Mark bought me a bee starter kit. The company sent me an e-mail that it is on the way. Most be a birthday present. Ten hives, the works.  I’m so excited. I am ordering a bee-suit myself, a birthday gift from my Mother-in-law and Dianne, but they don’t know it yet. They said, “Pick something”. Therefore, I did. It’s a crack-up. It looks like a space suit. Very sexy in a potato sack kind of way. But if you are turned on by girls that spit in the face of pea sized danger and wear head to toe canvas, gloves and a veil, well, I’m your fantasy, Babe. The bee thing is unique – I believe it deserves a blog of its own, so I will speak more on my bee interests later. When I saw the bee suit, I thought, you gotta be kidding. All those years I was putting little three year olds in bee costumes and I was making flower or bear suits for the assistant dancing with them, and I could have gone the bee suit route for only 65.00???? If I’d only known (Not only would that have been a cute and trouble free costume, but I’d have a free bee suit in my closet today. Ah – the opportunities we miss in life.)

Last subject for now:
Beware! Denver and I have signed up to participate in a three day, 60-mile walk for breast cancer in Atlanta in October. I’m excited because we will train together and have a unique camping experience (they erect huge tents and have campfire and such to house the thousands of walkers and provide food, housing, evening entertainment, camaraderie, etc.) and we’ll have lots of miles for down to earth talks.  Mostly, I want to participate because my mother is a breast cancer survivor. Denver and I will walk in her name. But  we must each fundraise 2200 bucks for the charity to participate, so I’ll be hitting you all up for a sponsorship donation later. Heck, I don’t know many people here, so who else can I annoy with a plea to support the cause? Denver works at the coffee shop, so she has access to potential donations. I will have to get more creative. If you sponsor me, I promise to make it worth your while with future commentary that describes the torture, the glory and the blisters. But I’ll address this another day too. Tonight I am tired.

I must go to bed. First, I’ll pick out my book. I’ve been having nightmares all week, so maybe that will allow me sweet dreams for a change. For all that I can control my attitude when I’m awake, I fear I’m less positive in my sleep. The anxiety can’t last forever, can it? I’m ready to feel something else for a change.