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Monthly Archives: October 2007

Fiber Fun

This weekend, Mark and I went to the Southeastern Fiber Fair. It is a huge event for people in the fiber and textile industries, associated of course, with those animals that produce the fiber. The event was in Asheville, a three hour drive from home and featured three days of seminars and classes on subjects like spinning, felting, dying, how to breed llamas for enhanced color, or pasture care for sheep grazing. I didn’t sign up for any classes this time. I mainly wanted to see the vendors and check out what this new world was all about.  I figured if I was intrigued, I’d return next year for the long weekend to participate more fully. (And I will.)

As we packed up the car, I tossed a small and a large dog carrier into the back of the car. Mark didn’t say anything.

About an hour into the drive, I said, “I suppose you noticed the cages in the back.” 

He grinned and said, “Not like I didn’t already know there would be more than two of us returning from this trip.” 

Gotta love any fellow who knows you that well  (and decides to keeps ya).

I had been talking about wanting a female English angora rabbit with a pedigree, and I had read that several vendors would have them available at the fair. I have two angoras now, but they haven’t reproduced. This August, when the heat was unbearable, I decided to shave them bald and low and behold, my female had balls. Oops. No wonder the dang rabbit won’t get pregnant. I could have called the woman I bought them from, because she is my spinning teacher and a friend and she would no doubt change out my “he” for a “she”, but now that I’ve had these bunnies for a year, I’m attached. I couldn’t possibly send away little Cumulus (we named him after the cloud). So I determined the solution was to buy a female. Since I now have a stormy grey and a snow white angora, I was hoping for a light tan color called “fawn”. 

The problem was, as we visited the vendors with rabbits, all the fawn colored girls had already been sold. Gotta move fast at the fiber fair, I learned. But Mark and I both were very taken with a chocolate colored rabbit with a striking face (guaranteed girl – we’re no rabbit fools anymore – we check, recheck then check again), so we bought her.

Then the next morning when we returned to the fair to pick up the bunny, we took one last stroll along the outside stall vendors to peek at the llamas, and don’t ya know, we see one last beautiful fawn female rabbit for sale.

Mark said, “Heck, if you really want this color, go ahead and buy her.”

I figured if he was going to pressure me so strongly, I might as well indulge myself. So, I came home with two beautiful female angoras tucked neatly in a dog carrier. Yippee!

Denver’s school is an hour away, so she met us for the day. What we didn’t consider was the fact that she is highly allergic to animal fur, and obviously this place was loaded with it. Duh.  It didn’t take long for her to start sneezing and feeling bothered, so we cut the day short. We were there for the few hours and we all had a fascinating time.

We began by viewing the llamas. They were having a llama show that morning, along with a sheep and Angora goat competition. I happen to be very interested in getting angora goats, but I wanted to see these animals in the flesh first, so the goat area is where we headed. Mark was as fascinated as I when we viewed what looked like sheep, only with a goat like face. I am not enamored with sheep, they are timid and boring and more work than pleasure, so I don’t ever plan to raise them. (I should never say never, but so far, that is how I feel). But the goats area different matter entirely. Goats are curious, personal, and they make me laugh. The angora goats look like Shirley Temple if she were an animal. Too cute!

We watched the competition, learning about what is considered good conformation and good fiber each time winners were announced with an explanation of why the goats placed as they did. There were goats available for sale and we came close to purchasing one or two, but we had plans to visit Denver’s school for a day before going home, so we thought the timing wasn’t very good. We decided it might be best to wait until spring so we can be really prepared for a new breed of animal at home and think it through. Gotta watch that impulse buying when it comes to animals, because it demands a commitment long after the thrill of loving on the new cute fuzzy friend.  

Next, we saw the man who sheered our llamas last month – he was showing three llamas. One happened to be a registered, white male, only 4 months old. We both were taken with this gentle, pretty boy, and asked if he was for sale. He was, of course, and so Mark and I both began thinking about expanding our llama holdings. The problem is, our girl is registered, but the male is not, so whatever babies we have are worth less than if they had papers, because without two authentic registered parents, new offspring cannot be registered or shown (which is a popular thing with llama lovers). We have discussed neutering our male (who once was registered, but the last owner lost the paperwork. What do you expect from boys who name their llama “Niger”. Eesh. ) Anyway, he is a member of the family now, so it would be hard to just sell him off. We are thinking it might be nice to buy a registered boy in another color to expand our breeding possibilities. So we admired the young, white llama thinking about the situation.

(Here he is, but he didn’t turn around, darn it.)

We have the fellow’s number and we said we might call, but later we decided that perhaps we should wait until next year for a new llama too. We are expecting a baby in spring, so it is not like we need another male yet. Every mouth to feed in the winter is a trial due to the fact that there is a national shortage of hay currently, thanks to area droughts. It is weird that we must think this way (like farmers) but that is the reality of our new lifestyle. We are always considering our limits in regards to feed and pasture availability.

We had fun looking at the beautiful llamas. I was jealous, because these llamas are so tame they give their owners kisses. My llamas are standoffish by comparison.

Llama people are fun to talk too. They have this wonderful enthusiasm for the beast, and they are quick to share information. We learned about “click and reward” systems of training, and people shared their experiences. I’m now thinking it is time to work with my llamas at home. Heck, I want kissing llamas too. We must be becoming llama savvy over time, because out of dozens of competitors,  the animal we were most impressed with happened to win the overall best in show. Apparently we have an eye for llama superiority. Who knew?  This does not seem to carry over to my own llamas, of course, because I happen to think they are the bestest llamas in the world, despite their flaws. Love does that to a gal.

I took a huge bag of my own llama fiber, a box of my collected angora wool, and a sheep fleece I’d purchased online to a vendor with a fiber mill. They will professionally card into roving, making a variety of blends from my base fiber, and in four months, I’ll get it back washed and ready to spin. Fun.

I purchased some hand dyed roving to spin now too. It was fun shopping at the booths because there were such vibrant, interesting blends and color combinations. We could run our hands along all kinds of llama wool, natural sheep fleeces, every kind of yarn imaginable and see finished products like hand knit scarves, hats and sweaters etc.. We saw demonstrations of looms, spinning wheels, carders (I am dying to get one of these) and other fiber instruments.

There were soap makers there too, and I inspected their wares (in a competitive way, I confess.)

It was a great day. We stayed in a lovely Victorian Bed and Breakfast and next went to visit Denver at her jewelry craftsmen school. I’ll tell you about that – but not today.

I’m late for a quilting class this morning, and IT’S HALLOWEEN. Gotta make pumpkin soup today, don’t ya know.

Later.  . . boo.


My offerings. . .

Kathy and I had our picture in the paper this week. We were both delighted – not because there was a short clip about our activities, but because the picture just happened to be a good one of both of us. (You see, we may be advocates of literacy, but we are women first, and what woman isn’t pleased when someone finally gets a decent picture of her. I am not at all photogenic, as most pix on this blog make evidently clear. It’s the dopey smile and the over-generous nose, you see. And the magic photo fat that appears when a camera is aimed my way.) 

Anyway, I was thrilled to see the mini-article because I considered it a perfect reading exercise for Kathy for our
next lesson. I am always looking for interesting things for her to practice reading. She read the article in her faltering, stumbling way, and I looked on, proud and amazed at how well she is doing. She could actually read the words “education” and “specific”. She has a long way to go, because she still has to sound words out letter by letter and her writing skills are behind the reading progress, but nevertheless, it is very rewarding to see how much she has accomplished.

In fact, she is doing so well that the director of the program said, ‘We will have to think about moving Kathy into a classroom environment soon and consider assigning you a new student.”

I thought Kathy was going to faint.
She said, “I’m not ready.”

I agreed, and the director, seeing how nervous the suggestion made Kathy, said we can talk about it another time. The comment did foreshadow an inevitable issue we will one day have to deal with. I can’t be Kathy’s teacher forever. But I can certainly be her friend for all time.

The article attached to our nice picture was a call for literacy tutor volunteers, and sure enough, FLAG (the literacy program at the college) got seven new recruits. I am the gal in charge of training them now. Next Thursday I will begin teaching adults how to teach other adults to read. Ee-gad.

I have spent a lot of time contemplating how to go about this new responsibility.  When I directed the dance school, I ended up spending more energy and emphasis on working with teachers than any single class of students. I knew the strength of the school lie in having enthusiastic, informed teachers. You can only be in one place at a time, and as such, your ability to spread knowledge is limited. But when you work with teachers, your efforts expand into many classrooms and touch many individuals. I had a motto that was no doubt very annoying to the people working for me. I always said “There are no bad students, only bad teachers.”

When teachers made excuses to me, such as saying “This is my worst class because the kids are not committed. They don’t come to class regularly and they don’t care.” Or, “These kids are out of control.” Or, “I get all the students with the worst feet (or attitude, or bodies, or stage personalities) I’d respond with, “So, what you are saying is you are not making the class interesting or fun enough to inspire the students to show up,” or “What I’m hearing is you have let discipline go and now your class is out of hand. So, what are you going to do about it?”

I always felt the responsibility lie in the person at the helm, because our students are what we make them. If we want them to be responsible, enthusiastic, and committed – or if we want them to be good turners, have nice feet or whatever, it is up to us to put emphasis in those areas. Our job is to make kids fall in love with discipline and commitment. You see, success begins with the person introducing the subject matter in a way that is engaging. Leadership is all-important.

Anyway, I feel the exact same way about teaching adults to read. It requires a lot of instinct, psychology, and enthusiasm to keep an adult interested in learning. You can’t expect them to come to the table devoted to the cause, because obviously, they have a history of discarding educational venues. So, the question is, what can we do about it?  How can we do this job without boring the student or making them feel inadequate, and help them see the benefits in the long term are worth the effort in the short term?

I am planning my lectures and materials, doing all I can to paint a comprehensive picture of the students we will work with and how our methods, if positive and creative, can make a difference in their lives. I may not be a formally trained educator, but I think I am a good person for this job. I just hope I can teach these tutors to not be judgmental, or condescending, and I make it clear how important it is not to combine religion with education (a problem up here, because most volunteers are also church recruiters) . I need to help them understand the mindset of the non-reader, then give them the tools to teach the skills required. 

Today, Kathy and I went to the high school to speak to the students in a remedial class. The focus was supposed to be about drugs and alcohol and how substances can ruin your life (Kathy’s specialty) but I was there to talk about education and how it opens the door to a stronger future. We live deep in the Bible belt, and everyone here (teachers, students, social workers, politicians) are bible thumpers who feel the only way to save your soul and live a decent life is to give your life to God. Needless to say, I believe there are many paths to a good life, and when I voice my honest opinion, it is not always appreciated. I would never, ever discredit religion and its role in serving society or forget how it gives people peace of mind, but I am also quick to profess that Christianity is not the only path to personal salvation.  We talked to the kids for about 1 ½ hours. It was interesting, albeit sad, to hear their stories of family tragedy and struggles with drugs (mostly meth) and drinking. The whole time Kathy and another speaker kept saying, “God will change you if you let him. God is the only way to live true and fight evil in yourself.”

I suggested they try journaling (don’t laugh, I did.) Who needs to clarify their thoughts more than a troubled teen with substance abuse issues? Journaling is like therapy – it can be a slice of heaven when life feels empty. Yes, God is good and all, but journaling is the ticket. It will fight the evil in your soul quite well, thank you very much.

Obviously, I didn’t offend anyone too much with my liberal attitude. When we were done, an administrator asked me if I would consider mentoring a troubled teen. It involves coming to the school one hour a week to counsel a student, one on one.

Although I am always strapped for time, I agreed to help.

The woman felt it only fair to make it clear that I’d be working with an emotionally handicapped young adult. “Can you handle that?” she asked.

I smiled and said I certainly could. I then told her that for years I volunteered at a school in Florida to teach dance to emotionally and physically handicapped students. I explained that I was probably a perfect candidate for this sort of mentorship because I do not fear people with mental problems and, thanks to experience; I don’t ever feel out of control or threatened working with them.  I also have a great deal of experience with teens. I relate to them rather well.

She tilted her head and said, “Do you still do that sort of thing. Dance, I mean?”

And there it was . . . that pivotal moment when I was once again at the dance crossroads.
I could have said, “I’m retired now,” and let dance slip into oblivion again. But I didn’t. I looked at the faces of those kids, their confessions and personal grief still ringing in my ears, and said, “You bet I do. Want to set up some classes?”

Now, I should point out that around here they don’t have much in the way of arts education, at least not in the dance venue. So my class will no doubt rock their world. The fact is, for all that I don’t teach dance for a living anymore, I still believe in the power of dance to reach deep into the soul of someone who needs an outlet for expression. And heck, I’m the girl to help get the job done.

I have some strong feelings about dance and its role in my life at this point. When I was young, I felt I truly made a difference in the lives of my students. But as the years wore on and the culture of Sarasota changed, shifting the mindset of the students, I started to feel that what I was doing for a living was superficial nonsense. Dance lost its magic for me when it became clear our role was nothing but to stroke egos and entertain kids. I wanted my life to have more meaning than that.

I wrote a book in my master’s program about a dancer who is retiring. The character is filled with anger and
disappointment and bitterness about her art. But she begins teaching a class of mentally handicapped students, and this becomes her salvation. By working with this bedraggled lot of awkward students, she rediscovers love for the art, remembering the purity and beauty of dance when competitiveness, ego and the pursuit of perfection is cast aside. She rediscovers how dance can bring out the extraordinary in a person. Teaching heals her and helps her cope with the inevitable way an artist looses dance firsthand through the aging process. When Mark read the book he said it was very disturbing because it revealed the complex feelings I was dealing with in regards to my life’s work. And, of course, it reflected what he was going through too.

Anyway, thinking about all that now, I realize that teaching a few classes to lost souls who need something positive to help their self esteeme would not only be helpful, but would probably be just the thing I need too. I certainly am qualified, and while I’m older than I once was, I can still out-dance and out-teach more than a few people who are active in the field. I’m retired, but, heck, I’m still me.

I’d say the hardest thing Mark and I have had to cope with during our life change is this nagging feeling that we are not using our God given gifts. It feels downright wrong for us not to be involved in dance anymore, and the guilt and remorse we experience over that loss is hard to describe. But despite these feelings, we can’t go back because having witnessed all the disappointments and frustrations selling our school triggered, we can’t bear participation in the dance world anymore. It is painful. Nevertheless, if teaching will make a difference to someone (beyond the superficial) I can and will be a part of it .

So, I’ll be teaching a class for mentally handicapped students, and another one for emotionally handicapped kids, soon. Can’t wait. And I’ll be a mentor to one teen. Bet that will be interesting too.

Speaking of interesting, the other day I accompanied Kathy to her drug court meeting. It turned out to be a court appointed Alcoholics anonymous course. There were 95 people participating with only one therapist and one volunteer trying to oversee everyone. I was overwhelmed with the futility of the task at hand considering the lack of resources.

All evening I heard people stand and say, “Hi, I’m Dave and I’m an alcoholic.”
“Hi Dave” the crowd says in response.
“Hi, I’m Sandy and I’m an addict.”
“Hi Sandy,” we all recite. Then she gives us her testimony.
I learned so much by observing these people. It helps me understand Kathy and her struggle better too, which was the point of going. But I must say, my heart bled for the troubled people I met and the stories I heard about their struggles.

For a while, they were working in small groups and I was just observing. A group of about 10 women were trying to interpret text and have a discussion about it, but often they missed the point. It killed me not to speak up or try to lead them back into what the book was trying to teach. They even had issues with understanding the actual words on the page when reading aloud. One time, they came to a word no one knew (I think it was “manifest”,  and they all looked at each other, lost. Then Kathy looked at me, and all eyes followed. I explained what the word meant, and they were like, “Oh. OK. That makes sense.”
The fact that these individuals are dealing with drug addiction, family violence (one woman had a black eye that she explained was “man trouble again”, and to top it off, they had inadequate education, made the problems they face seem tenfold. I admired them all for their resilience, yet felt deeply for their plight knowing most of them will never know the lovely side of the world that I take for granted, thanks to the advantages I’ve had.
On the walls, I saw pictures drawn by participants that stated their goals. Several women wrote “I just want to get my kids back.” 
One said, “I just want to stop hurting the people I love.”
Several referred to wanting a decent place to live, or “to not lose my house.”
Kathy’s said, “I want to learn to read.”
It was so real – so dismal – it shook me to the core.

When I came home I said to Mark that it kills me to witness so much need in our community, because there is only so much one person can do to help. I felt inspired to volunteer at that organization, but I am already committed in several other places, and no matter how strongly I feel about the issue, I can’t take on all the problems of the world.

I have thought a lot about my personal skills and what I have to offer others, and I keep thinking writing may be the best vehicle I have going for me at this juncture of my life. I haven’t mentioned it, but I have been asked to help design and promote an adult education program at Tocco College and I am working with the director to organize classes. The first class they want to introduce is a memoir writing class and a fiction class taught by yours truly. Yes, I’ll be teaching others to write in January. I guess that’s a no-brainer considering I’m a natural teacher, a writer, and now, I have the degree to authenticate my teaching. But planning that class has got me thinking. If I am going to become a writing teacher and prepare lessons, I don’t have to limit it to tuition paying adults. Imagine what I will learn if I choose to turn those skills on to people with remarkable, heart rendering stories to share with the world? All repressed, hurting people need is someone to help them learn how to expand their universe and understand their obsticles.

I think writing is a healing process and a way to discover the best in you. It certainly clarifies my thoughts, and I believe I tapped into my authentic self when I began putting my feelings into words. Why not share that experience with others?

So, I talked to a woman involved at the Ester House, which is a halfway house for women overcoming drug addiction and we are going to discuss setting up a memoir writing class for the residents. It is a start, I think. And if it goes well, perhaps I’ll branch out to other populations that need someone supportive to help them work out their feelings on paper. If nothing else, I will learn something from my efforts. It will teach me to be a better writing teacher at least. Practice makes perfect.

The point is, I feel myself evolving. I am creating a world where I am carrying the best of what I once was forward, while exploring what else I have inside too. Who knows where it will lead. Someplace new, I guess.

So now, dance is making a comeback in my life, albeit a small one. And writing is gaining a foothold, expanding it’s presence.

Walk, walk, walk

Sixty is a lot of miles. To get a good idea of just how long it is, next time you get on the highway going 60 miles an hour, take note of just how far you go in an hour’s time. You are probably many, many, many cities away from where you began – maybe a third of the way through your state. Imagine getting out of the car and saying, “I think I’ll just walk back now”. You will laugh when you witness just how far it is.

I often walk on my treadmill and I can cover 5.5 miles in an hour – no sweat. Even with a nice incline. So I figured it would take us about 4 hours a day to walk a twenty mile route. Three days of that – no problem. But as everyone signed up agreed, the three day mile is not a normal mile, because the course involves eight to ten hours of hard walking time each day, even going at a brisk clip. With lunch and a few breaks, that means you are out on the road for eleven hour days. Perhaps it’s the hills and curbs and endless stretches of pavement that makes it harder. All I know is, I underestimated how difficult walking 60 miles would be. Everyone did.

But I’m proud to say, I walked (and hobbled) the entire route. Many, many people took the sweep vans to a forward stop or all the way into camp as the day wore on. Even Denver had to call it a day after the first ten miles (on day two) when her knees started bothering her. I was determined to walk the entire 60, so I plodded on without her. The next day, she finished the route with me, so it isn’t like she is a slacker – she did walk 50 out of 60, which is still a lot of miles. And she was hurting, let me tell you.

Everywhere you looked, people were injured. The medical tents at each stop were swarmed with people having blisters lanced and strains looked after. Half the people there had wrapped knees and ankles, people were icing ligaments and rubbing sore feet, lying down with wet kerchiefs on their foreheads. I have a pretty hardy body, so by the third day, I only had the normal muscle soreness and one blister on my baby toe. On day three, I noticed my big toenail had turned a light shade of blue, but beyond that, I held up rather well. My most painful day was day three (as it was for everyone) and what really did me in wasn’t walking – it was driving back to our hotel squished into the car with luggage on my lap at the end of the day. It was a 30 minute drive, followed by another hour and a half to drive home. I could barely get out of the car.

I think the thing that made this walk hardest was the fact that you must sleep in a tent on the hard ground each night, which isn’t very kind to a body that has been abused. It is freezing out at night, so your muscles cramp and seize. I would have given my kingdom for a warm bath to get the kinks out each evening, because that is how I endure physical taxing, and always has been. Had I been staying in a hotel where I could have refreshed between each length of the journey, I know I would have covered the 60 with nary a sore bone. But you are roughing it in the three day. After day one, you limp into camp and they hand you a tent which you must put up yourself. You can’t help but think, “You have GOT to be kidding.” But they are about the easiest tents to put up I’ve ever encountered, so even that isn’t so bad.  Denver and I were ready to collapse and maybe hobble to the dining tent, when someone said, “They judge the tent decorations in about ten minutes, if anyone is interested.” Eeek. So we quickly slapped together a sorry looking boob infested tent. People were amused. Had we not been so tired, or had we planned in advance, we could have done a better job, but for first-timers, I think we did alright. All weekend after that, people would pass and say, “Wow, can I feel your boobs.”   Now, it isn’t like I haven’t had that question asked of me before, but rarely has it come from a bunch of women. We ended up giving away our boobs on the second day to the people who admired them most.

The wonderful organization and the logistics of this event amazed me. They served warm food to three thousand people and it was good. We all had hot water for a short shower in a mobile shower unit each night. They had medical help at the ready. But best of all was the upbeat spirit of those supporting the walkers. Everyone was in a good mood and endlessly encouraging. That made the walk bearable. The best part was the people you continued to meet. Everywhere you look ,you’d see people, young and old participating. Everyone is there for a reason. They are wearing pictures and/or names of loved ones they’ve lost or are walking in honor of, and you hear stories and meet survivors. You pass people and people pass you, so all day you are hit with images of breast cancer victims and hear their stories, good and bad. It is remarkable that this disease touches so many lives.

So it is no wonder so many people are active regarding helping to find a cure. And these are commited people who don’t feel sorry for themselves, who have a sense of camaraderie and love for others. At the crosswalks, volunteers are dressed up in amusing ways, wearing pink tutus and cowboy hats and capes and hula skirts and what have you, and they are cranking up the music, dancing, slapping you five and singing “keep going, keep going,” for hours on end. And when the walkers finally pass, they drive to a forward stop and you see them again. They become familiar faces and they feel like good friends.

Then, there are the walker groupies. We kept seeing one man over and over. He would be at one corner playing the guitar and singing a song he made up about the breast cancer three day. Then, we’d see him an hour later with a little pom pom saying “Woo”. Later we’d see him at another corner with Halloween candy. Denver and I started looking for him in crowds at cheer stations, and he was always there – it was like Where’s Waldo, so Denver and I started calling him Waldo. We decided he must be jumping in a car to hurry ahead of us each time the group finally passed. Finally, on day three as we got to our final destination (and of course he was there at the finish line), we asked him if he had someone walking and he said his wife was out there with us. He devoted the entire weekend to cheering her and everyone else on. He was cute and memorable, so we got a picture with him.

There was a group of older, gray haired women in a decorated convertible that called themselves the “Walker Stalkers.” They appeared over and over dressed in funny get-ups, cheering us on, driving the route and honking obnoxiously and shouting jokes or pelting us with candy. They became our best cheerleaders and we loved them.  

All along the route, people honk cars, waved, shouted “thank you for walking!” and offered us tokens, like candy or a drink. It is one endless three day party. Best of all were the cops. They had these handsome cops on motorcycles that looked like Chippendale dancers. They drove around all day in dark glasses, muscles bulging saying, “You ladies need anything?” and we would all laugh as our minds answered the question in the most inappropriate ways. It became quite a joke among the walkers as we wondered how they managed to find so many hard body cops to work one project. They were inspirational in the best of ways.

So many of the traditions of this event are touching. For example, you will be eating dinner two hours after you’ve arrived in camp and suddenly they announce “Our last two walkers have just arrived,” and everyone will stand and clap wildly as they parade these bedraggled, limping women through the dining hall. Everyone is shouting support and the poor walkers are crying with pride and relief, and it is really funny and beautiful all at once. Or when they parade the walkers who are also survivors into the closing ceremonies, and all three thousand walkers hold up their tennis shoes as a sign of respect to remind everyone that we are walking for them. Lovely in it’s symbolism. 

Thousands of people came out to cheer us on. I was touched by so many comments and signs of good will and support. Like the Girl Scout troops that stood out by the roads and cheered, handing us candy and holding up posters that say “Thank you for making a better world for young women like us!” These kids decorated our port-a-potties and that was cute too. People came out with their children, sitting in lawn chairs hooting and hollering and clapping as the endless processing of walkers lumbered by. It takes almost 4 hours for three thousand walkers to pass, but the crowds hang in there. While walking through a residential area, a man was sitting at the end of his driveway clapping. He’d made a sign that said, “My mother would have thanked you,” and it had her picture and the date she passed on from breast cancer. (Denver and I both cried over that one. All weekend it seemed we were either laughing or crying.) There was a bald women out there clapping and telling us to “hang in there”, yet it was obvious she is battling cancer, so we shouted back, “You too.”
I could go on for hours with the moving things I witnessed during that long, long walk.

By the end you are on automatic pilot and it seems like port-o-potties and blisters are all life is about anymore. And pink! Everywhere you look you see pink, until you feel like you are in another, parallel pink universe. I don’t much like pink after years of being drenched in it with dance paraphanilia – but it became a color of hope and symbolic action that earned my respect. When we crossed the finish line, we were celebrating with thousands upon thousands of people, all joined together, suffering together, laughing together, for a common cause. It felt like humanity at it’s best.



We signed my Mom’s name to about a hundred signs, the memory tent, and more than a few honor banners.
At the end, we were so tired  we could barely stand up (as this picture shows). I guess these pictures are more a bad hair day fashion show than anything else, but what do you expect when you are plugging on without a daily shower to start you up, or blow dryers or makeup or mood lighting. Well, it wasn’t about looking good anyway. It was about feeling good, and that part was a sucess.

It was a good thing to do – a great thing to do with your daughter. Now, I need to wrestle up a foot rub somewhere.

P.S. For those of you wondering, there is still time to donate. We have four weeks to get our money in, and Denver and I are still working on it. 

for those of you who did support us in this project – THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU.

My jelly jugs journey

I’m on my way to go walk 60 miles. Weather looks good – coolish, but pretty out. I’ve got my compression sleeping bag and cancer sucks shirt and pink whatnots, and whatever else I can fit in my one, small duffel that is allowed. We’ve opted to forgo an air mattress or pillow to make room for 30 joke jelly boobs and pink ribbon and tulle to decorate our tent. Just goes to show how frivolous our priorities are. I’m sure that after walking 20 miles each day, I’ll be sorry about that choice . Ah well, what we lack in practicality we make up for in enthusiasm. I’ve packed a book and a flashlight, but I’m guessing Denver won’t let me read – she’ll want to talk. Nevertheless, I don’t travel without something to read, so I made room by tossing out something less important – I think it was the sunscreen.   Not like I was going to get rid of my popcorn stash. Can’t expect me to survive 3 days without that! Thankfully, Advil does not take up much room.

I am ready. Excited. Looking forward to spending a weekend with three thousand other female activists. Better yet, I’m looking forward to three interesting days alone with my daughter. I’m thinking this will be one of those experiences that cements meaningful memories – the kind we will both carry into our old age. That alone is worth any number of blisters or sore feet.  And of course, I’ll be thinking of my own mom.  Afterall, this is mostly about her.  

I am bringing a camera, so I’ll return with pictures. Not like we’ll be our glamorous best, but I’m counting on the scenery to be interesting enough to make up for that.

Think of me when you snuggle up in your comfortable bed. I’ll be passed out on the hard earth, feet trobbing,  in a tent covered in bows and jelly boobs.

Peacocks again!

One of the fellows working on our land to remove pine trees gave me newspaper published by the Georgia Extension Service. He said, “You like to read all the time and you are so enthusiastic about your barn and garden, I thought you’d enjoy this . . . then again, you probably already subscribe.” 

Actually, it was a resource I’d yet to stumble upon, so I appreciated his passing it on. Sure enough, I was enthralled. The paper (The Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin) features a few short articles about Georgia farm interests, but mostly it is full of classified ads for farm equipment, seed and feed, livestock and animal auctions. It tells you what the market rate is for beef, honey and other farm products.  There is a category for each of your basic farm animals, poultry, cows, horses and goats. Then, there is a section called “alternative livestock.” Now that sounds interesting.

This section contains ads for llamas and alpacas. It also features some really fun ads.

I said, “Hey Honey, someone is selling an Ostrich. What do you suppose your basic country ostrich goes for?”

“No.” Mark said.    

“I didn’t say I wanted one, only wondered if you could guess what they cost. It’s only $450.00! That’s a bargain, don’t ya think? ”


“No, you don’t think it’s a bargain?”

“No. You can’t have one. You couldn’t PAY ME $450 for an Ostrich. They are mean. ”

“I didn’t ask if I could get one, did I? Hey! Someone in here is selling a pair of emus. Isn’t that interesting? (I knew better than to push for an Ostrich, but it couldn’t hurt to test the waters for an emu. I don’t even know what an emu is exactly, but I think I would love to have one. It’s sort of like an Ostrich, right?)

“No emus.”

Clearly, I married a man who doesn’t share the same adventurous poultry spirit as I. Harrumph. I read on. “Hey, someone is selling baby peacocks . . . and the address of this farm is right by us.”

Now, Mark looks up. He knows when his wife talks peacocks, she isn’t hinting around or making a joke. “I thought we were waiting until spring to do the peacock thing again.”

“We are. Still . . . I wonder what color these are and how old a “baby” peacock is, by this seller’s estimation. Probably the same age as Early would be, don’t ya think?”

“Uh oh.”

Sure enough, I call. Turns out the seller lives only a short drive from our house and he is selling peacocks that are three and six months old. His current batch consists of traditional blue peacocks. Too bad. I still miss the late Early, and I’d love a white peacock to name in his honor. But blue peacocks are pretty too.  Before I know what I’m doing, I schedule an appointment for a look-see. I ask Mark if he wants to join me and of course he says yes. He thinks his presence is going to curb any impulse buying.

We drive up to a beautiful rolling meadow surrounded by forest and talk about how our land will someday look like this – it takes time to groom the wild frontier and our homestead is a work in progress. Right now, patches of our land look like a tornado ripped through. We have lots of clean up to do from the recent pine tree removal. Sigh.

We head to the barn where we spy the bright blue feathers of a peacock peeping through the slats of a fence. When we get out of the car, Mark pauses. There is a tiny peacock feather at his feet. He stoops to pick it up. “I can use feathers like this in my baskets,” he says, delighted with his newfound, free treasure.

It occurs to me stray feathers are a good selling point, so I stock that one away for later use. I begin wondering what an emu feather looks like. I bet they would be great in a basket.

Our approach startles the birds in the barn, and suddenly about three dozen adult peacocks come fluttering outside. They mosey off into the woods, natural and easy. They are a colorful flock, vibrant blue, white and cameo. The sheer number of them and the way they walk about freely, is striking. In the fenced area we see the six month old birds and a cage full of babies. I am immediately reminded of Early, which makes me partial to the young ones. Gee, I miss that bird.

A smiling older woman greets us. We ask how she got involved in peacocks and she tells us that her son got them started. If it was up to here, she’d sell them all because she is tired of maintaining them. She especially hates having to attend to the birds in the winter when their water freezes and such. Apparently, her son’s hobby just grew and grew and she got stuck with the daily care. Stinks, if you ask me. The least I could do is relieve her of some bird maintainence, don’t ya think?

We inspect the bird’s nesting area, which is pretty simple, just a few boxes on stilts with an overhang to keep them dry. She tells us the peacocks all leave the barn to roost in the trees at night. They pretty much take care of themselves. She only contains the females during nesting periods because if she doesn’t, they lay eggs all over the field. Other than when brooding, the birds roam free.

I end up purchasing three baby blue peacocks and tell the woman I’ll be back in the spring for a white bird or two, if she has any. She assures us she will. I really only want two adult peacocks, a breeding pair, but I’ve experienced the lonely peacock syndrome and think it is wise to have a spare in case something happens to one. It also increases my chances of getting at least one male and/or one female.

On our way out, we stop to admire some very colorful, ring-neck pheasants. “Do you sell those as well?” I ask, thinking they sure are pretty.

“I just want to get rid of them. I’ll let the four go (two males and two females) for 50.00 for the lot. We have too many birds, as you can see.”

“We’ll take ‘em” Mark says, before I open my mouth.

Ha, and he was supposed to be here to curb female impulse buying. I told the woman we’d pick up the pheasants in a day or two. I suppose we will let them hang out for a few months in hopes that they will breed in the spring. Then, we will set them free in hopes that they will populate our 50 acres with fun flying creatures to spy on.   

In the meantime, I am once again a proud peacock owner. My new babies are silent, tentative in their new digs nestled in the hay in a cage in the barn. Because they are young, they will imprint on us and consider this place home. I am planning to take special care of them so that by spring, I’ll have beautiful, mature peacocks roaming free.  

Right now, they look like ugly ducklings. They are brown with only a hint of green on the tiny tip of one bird’s neck. I understand some things take patience. It is always a pleasure to watch the colors slowly emerge as a bird comes into his or her own. We won’t know for another four months if they are boys or girls, but that is always a nice surprise too, and knowing there is a peacock breeder a short drive from here means that if I end up with three like sexed birds, I can make up for whatever I’m missing later.

Now, it is time to name them. I’ve decided to name this batch of birds after authors I admire. So, I’m naming them Emerson (I’ve been reading a great deal of Emerson lately – his essay on nature is brilliant) Quinn, (for Daniel Quinn of My Ishmael – favorite all time book)  and Mich (short for James Michener). Future peacocks will be names after Alice Munro and Tobias Wolff and … well, it isn’t like I’ll ever run out of names in this category. There will never be enough birds to exhaust my list of favorite authors.

When I get a particularly annoying bird that I must struggle to understand, I’ll name him Faulkner. In fact, if I ever get an Ostrich, that will be his name.

Anyway, here they are: Quinn, Em, and Mich. Ya gotta admit, they’re cute. An ostrich would have been cute too, but some things are best left as distant curiosities. At least for now. Still, it is fun to imagine. . . and there is always the possibility of an emu someday – IF the feathers look good in a basket. 

One person at a time.

Friday, I had the task of going to the five different locations to check on the raffle baskets Denver and I made, pick up any funds collected, draw a winning ticket and notify the recipient to get them. One basket did very well because the owner of the business was enthusiastic about the cause and she encouraged people to purchase tickets. I guess we made about 300.00 in that case. In the other four locations, we didn’t even make enough to cover the costs of the baskets, so we ended up doing all that work to break even. Drat. I found our beautiful, lush baskets shoved off in a corner on the floor behind a coat rack or under a desk. Our community is featuring a raffle for “Toys for Tots” with Christmas coming, and apparently, the raffle tickets for this fundraiser are everywhere. I guess the businesses here think helping to raise money for toys is a more worthy cause than breast cancer, because face it, it’s certainly more fun to imagine kids smiling on Christmas than women dying of breast cancer. Anyway, they were quick to replace our baskets with the other fundraiser literature and no one thought to call to notify us of the decision. It was rather frustrating to find the baskets we slaved over pushed aside and forgotten. Of course, no one is going to buy a ticket to win something they don’t know exists.


Whatchagonnado, you just don’t know what will work until you try. I chalked it up to bad luck and I just wanted to pick winners and get the baskets off my to-do list. But something happened that made me realize raising money for breast cancer was not the reason we made the baskets – at least not in the big cosmic scheme of rhyme and reason.


At one location, a bank that happened to sell the least tickets (this basket only raised 24.00 while it held over 100.00 in beautiful goods within, not to mention the time and effort devoted to all the handcrafted items inside) I drew a man’s name. David Morgan. I called him to tell him he’d won and could pick up his basket at the bank. He had a mature voice and sounded very delighted. He said he had never won anything before.  But he also told me that he and his wife had discussed what to do with the basket if they won, and they decided they’d like to donate it to someone who is actually battling breast cancer. They figured a woman dealing with something like that could really use some pampering. He said, “Can you handle that for me?”


I told him I certainly could, and called Denver to tell her about our winner’s generous attitude. We both had someone in mind. 


On the day we had the soggy bake sale (another not so successful fundraising concept . . . what can I say, our heart and effort is in the right place but it seems fate is working against us) a woman came sloshing through the rain to be our first customer. She works in a legal office next door and she bought 20.00 worth of muffins and cakes and then took a fundraiser slip to her boss. He also made a generous donation. 


We told her we were surprised she bothered to face the rain to visit us, because it looked as if no one else was going to. She said, “I been waiting all week for you and I wouldn’t miss it just because of rain.” Then she told us that she had breast cancer, and had just finished chemo and radiation. She stood there in the rain sharing some of her ordeal, thanking us for working for a cure. She was very positive and friendly, and after she left, Denver and I both talked about how everywhere we went, we met people who had breast cancer or people with someone very dear to them battling it, some surviving, some not. Once you get involved with breast cancer fundraising, it is remarkable how many people come forward to share their story.


Anyway, I met this woman again at our closing, because it took place in her office, and she was very gracious and lovely. We again talked of her health and she said she was “hanging in there.”


Since she is the one person we know in this area who is actively fighting breast cancer now, I decided to take the basket to her. I had to rush because it was a Friday and I had already devoted a full day to running these baskets around and I just wanted to be finished with them.  When I went into the office, I saw her at the desk. She was not her smiley self. Her wig seemed a bit off, and her eyes were puffy. Her skin even looked gray. She greeted me, but her smile was vacant. I was shocked.


I told her about the basket and the man who wanted to pass it on, and that Denver and I had thought of her and decided she was probably just the person it was meant for. She got up from the desk, put her arms around me, and then burst into tears. She told me she’d had been a particularly bad day and I would never know how this particular day she desperately needed something nice to happen to her. Things were not going well for her, but it was very uplifting to think someone out there cared. Just when life feels darkest, she needed reminding that she is not alone. Looking at her, so dejected and sick looking, I suddenly knew that all this basket work that Denver and I felt compelled to do was not about fundraising at all. It was about this moment. It was a very poignant, life affirming moment.


I called Denver to share what had happened, and driving home I was feeling pretty good about it all. So, I decided I should share that feeling with the man who actually chose to give the basket away. I called him and said, “David, I just wanted to thank you for your generosity again, and to let you know that the few dollars you donated to the raffle will help, but the decision you made to give the basket away to someone with breast cancer made a huge difference to one person. I thought you’d like to know.”


He thanked me for calling to let him know how the story ended and told me he couldn’t wait to tell his wife because he knows it will mean a great deal to her too.   


I got off the phone, marveling at how a brief decision and a small act of generosity made so many people feel good. David and his wife feel good, because they are obviously caring people who want to give something back to the world. Just giving away a few bucks to a good cause is the kind of thing we barely remember – it feels disconnected. Now, he has a concrete image in his mind of how his donation really made a difference to one person. That day when he threw a dollar into our bucket skewed the fateful end of this event. Denver and I feel good about making those baskets now, even if they didn’t make any money for the cause. Had someone else won and walked away with an expensive basket at our loss, I’d be feeling pretty frustrated by our insufficient returns on all our efforts, and may give up devoting so much time to a good cause in the future – cause what is the point if no one else out there cares? Now, thankfully, I feel differently.  Last but not least, the recipient of the basket feels good, because in the middle of her private nightmare, she was reminded that even strangers care and are pulling for her.


Sometimes it feels the problems of the world are too massive for one person to make a difference. We assume we can’t make a dent in the problem, so we do nothing. . . except complain about the problem. But today reminded me that even slight acts of good will, however small, can make a difference.  So I will continue my small acts knowing there may be a chain reaction that creates ripples on the flat water of despair. You just never know when these ripples add up and suddenly you are making waves.  It is not about saving the world on a macro level. It is about making the world a gentler, easier place to exist for a even one real person, helping on the micro level. For example, I can’t end world hunger, but I’ve sponsored a child in Ethiopia for over 14 years, so I know one person is not starving because of me. And to that one person, I know my efforts make a huge, life altering difference.


When you think, “What can I do, I’m only one person”, remember that life can and should be, very personal. “One person” helping “one person” is life at it’s finest. 

My Fast Life

A friend once told me “Your life moves very fast.”

At the time I thought the comment was silly. Everyone’s life is a constant unfolding story and we all experience change and evolution all the time. But the shift in a person’s life is not unlike growing hair -when you peer into a mirror daily, you simply don’t notice change. Then one day, you’ll be running a brush through the strands and suddenly think, “Lord, when did my hair get so long?” (or gray or missing), and after that, you can’t stop noticing the alteration of your appearance.

I’ve thought about that fast moving life comment often the past few years, and I am ready to admit, my life moves very fast. This is evident whenever I spend a few weeks, or even days, without blogging. I come to the computer and think, where should I start? Because inevitably, there are many events or experiences to write about. The picture I paint here of the Hendry world is nothing but a Swiss cheese rendition of a dense (yet palatable) meal. I couldn’t cover it all even if I gave it my best college try. So I strive to hit the highlights, or often, just pick silly subject matter (like chickens) meant to entertain. But in the case of friends who tune in to my blog because they are sincerely interested in how our world is evolving, I’m always sorry I can’t be more thorough. Sometimes I am compelled to write about a particularly moving moment, but I simply don’t take the time to do so. The fact is, I am most committed to living a full life in the flesh than creating one on paper – an important distinction and one I must remind myself of often.

Anyway, changes are happening in our life, things both small and large, which combined seem daunting, exciting, scary and riveting all at once. We sold FLEX two years ago, and a great deal has happened in that time, but it seems as if suddenly everything has picked up speed. Our life was like a river clogged with debris. The water eeked through, but it didn’t flow freely and the fluid that did ooze through the damned up area was littered with fallout.  Suddenly, it feels as if the dam has broken free, allowing the water gush along with new force. With each passing day, it flows more clearly. 

For us, the dam was FLEX and all the nasty strings attached. We left, but we were tied to the school and/or people, regardless (not something we expected.). This tied our hands so we couldn’t move forward to build a new life with conviction. We had serious financial limitations we were not counting on when we began this transition, and as it became obvious that things would not end well, we kept tossing around the idea of going back. This was a perpetual enthusiasm killer and until that door was truly closed (selling the building) the lingering possibility kept us tentative about planting permanent roots here.  Throw into that mess Mark’s father passing away, taking on the responsibilities of his mother, addressing conflict with my own family, and dealing with no small amount of depression regarding retiring from an art we loved (and due to physical issues and age,  we knew that we really had no choice but to gracefully end our love affair with dance), it is no wonder we lacked steam to forge forward.   But now, knowing there is no going back, we are suddenly focused on our options and deepest desires for creating a new sort of life. And that demands action.

Anyway, what has happened since I blogged last? I’ll give you an overview.

Big things:
Denver cashed in the remaining balance of her college fund to pay for an intense eight week course in silver smithing and metal work for handcrafted jewelry design at Penland, in NC. It is a very prestigious school for folk arts, offering subjects such as glass blowing and blacksmithing. Her teacher is a renowned jewelry artist with pieces in art galleries all over the country. Denver is learning so much, and she’s happy with this new venue in her life. She sent me her first creation yesterday, a pair of copper earrings with horses cut out of the front disk. I adore them, more than I can express. I don’t plan to take them off until she sends me something else – perhaps something in silver? She said I have to wait until her skills are more refined before she makes me something in silver, considering it is 178.00 for a six inch square sheet of raw material. Copper is good practice material. We talk almost every day and she sounds happy, which makes us happy. Everyone must find their way in life, and if the arts are calling her, who am I to try to railroad her into a practical career that doesn’t feed the soul? She says the school is in the beautiful mountains surrounded by 100 acres – with free ranging llamas all around and that makes her think of me. She said she tried to make llama earrings, but they came out looking like big cats, so she stuck with the horses. Ha.

We will go visit her in three weeks – can’t wait.  We are each walking on our own, preparing to meet for our Breast Cancer Walk in ten days. I will, of course, wear my earrings for the entire 60 miles.
Speaking of which, fund raising for the walk has been very difficult because we are in this quiet, small country place and know so few people. The friends I can count on from my past have done what they can, and I am so grateful, but I am constantly hitting obstacles when it comes to business help etc.. We’ve done the bake sales, sent the letters, auctioned the baskets (the proceeds of which we put into Denver’s account) but still we are far short of the required goal. It is very frustrating. For example, Mark and I have spent over 70,000 each in two different firms recently with our business conflicts, but neither responded to a request for a sponsorship. That sucks. Other businesses we have supported for years and years have not responded either.  Makes you feel the world is a cold place. Ah well. If I’ve evoked enough pity, you can still donate, just go to:

Moving on:

We closed on our new land for the coffee shop/ art gallery (the Bean Tree). We took pictures as if it was a great and exciting beginning. Both of us noted that when we bought the Lakewood Ranch land (at a far higher price because that was a BIG project) we went through the motions like robots. We had a ground breaking ceremony and the paper was there taking pictures etc… but deep inside we were already drained and our overwhelming feeling was, “sigh, here we go again.” This closing felt far different – we were thrilled over this tiny patch of earth – it felt important in the big scheme of life events.

The only sad thing was that the man selling the land has cancer, and hospice got involved earlier than expected, so they called to tell us they didn’t think he would make it until our closing date. They asked if we could do anything about that, and while we wanted to finance the land with a bank, we decided to go ahead and close right away and handle the financial details later. The family was very grateful. They felt their dad was “holding on” for something, and they guessed it was this closing because he was concerned about his wife being set financially before he left her. So we did a quick impromptu closing, and they went home and told him everything was in order. He died a few hours later. The family called and thanked us for arranging a quick closing. It was a glitch in our long range plans but we felt it was the right thing to do. It was a poignant experience, more so because Mark had just experienced the same loss with his own father. Anyway, we own the land now. Yippee. The conditions upon which it was being sold are sad, but we hope to do something special there so that family feels all ended well.

The very next week, (ain’t life cruel) our Lakewood ranch building deal fell through – only days before the expected closing. A church had contracted for the building, but they are having problems getting a permit from the county. Funny, because our first proposed buyer was a liquor store, and that was OK. But the county knows to keep out those rebel-rousing churches. Whatever – it was a huge disappointment, because this will delay our being able to build our new business. It is always something…..

We are in negotiations for selling our cabin. That is good. We don’t like the attitude of the people interested in buying it, so we are on the verge of saying “forget it.” That is bad. But our interests are too spread out now, so we would like to get this cabin off our list of things to think about. We need to focus. But it might go. It would be a relief to say the least.

There is a two acre lake in my back yard. What a huge difference water makes to a home setting. How did a big ole lake show up in our backyard? Well, God works in mysterious ways. So does Mark. Pictures and more on this phenomenon later. It deserves some real attention.

Mark’s workshop is finally finished. We had to wait for the Sarasota Building to sell to move forward on things that required an investment, so as soon as we closed, we jumped in with a vengeance. I got the barn, he got the workshop. He is in the throws of organizing equipment, setting up machinery and building workbenches to get this project fully operational. His set-up is quite impressive – I’ll post pictures when everything is finished and the machines are roaring. He is excited, and I am excited for him. I know that man only needs the tools and a chunk of wood and great things will happen. It will be fun to see his creativity unleashed. I am also more than a little excited to get some furniture in this house. I think I have balanced my coffee cup on my lap for long enough. I want a table somewhere. Last but not least, this workshop getting functional isn’t just about him making things. It also means he will be busy and I will have more private time for writing. Long overdue for us both.

What else? We finally built shelves in my office. That doesn’t seem like a big thing, but it is to me.   I have at long last unpacked my reference books and placed the things that inspire me about the room. For two years, I’ve lived out of boxes -Yuck. I feel good in here now – ready to work. I have started a new book, a memoir of moving to the country. It is humorous and fun. It is nice to be out of school and finally free to write something close to the heart. After a funky period of disillusionment ( a part of the growing process, I expect)  I have a renewed excitement about writing – there are so many projects I want to work on. Writing (other than a blog or a school assignment) is another long overdue and sorely missed aspect of my life that got put on hold. Here are pictures of my office where I spend a great deal of time. The top shelf won’t be set in for another week, because it is a natural edged rough sawn wood for looks and we had to wait for it to dry. It will be pretty when finished.  You might notice that over my windows are the words, “Imagine” and “It’s all good.” They are words to live by, in writing and in life. I’ve even taken out the “slaves for sale” chairs and put them on display. If you are newer to this blog, you won’t know what that is – I made a couple of chairs by putting antique newspapers from 1850 over them and shalacked the surface. I caned the seats myself too. The want ads displayed on this chair are concerned with runnaway slaves, which is the subject of one of my historical books ( a book with a hero who who runs the underground railroad), thus I find the chairs meaningful. I like them, anyway. 

The dolls over my desk have finally come out of hiding. Mark HATES these dolls, he says they are freaky and they remind him of Chucky. As such, they have never been allowed to see the light of day. But each one was chosen to represent a character in one of my historical books. I pick them for their period dress and coloring and expression. I look long and hard to find a doll that really looks like my characters -they serve as inspiration to me. I don’t really care that he hates them. Heck it keeps him from hanging out in my office. I am now on the hunt for two dolls that represent characters in my second historical- one has to be a black doll, the other a dark skinned doll with blue eyes dressed in Indian dress. I know, that will be a stretch and I may never find it. The point is, I don’t collect dolls just because I like dolls – I collect dolls as representations of the important people of my imagination. I guess I’m only telling you this so you don’t think I am some weird woman who still plays with dolls.
Little things that have happened:
We always go to a restaurant on the last week of the month to here a live jazz band that Kent’s drum teacher (a wonderfully talented man from England – don’t know how he ended here in the mountains) organizes. Last time we went, at the end of the night, Simon (the teacher) suddenly announced Kent and put him on the spot to play. I thought Kent would die of embarrassment. He was a nervous wreck because he’d never played with a live jazz band, didn’t know the song they would play, and didn’t know the feel of that particular drum set. Nevertheless, he stood and took his place behind the drums for his first live debut in a club. The band played a swing number and Kent was great! His teacher was beaming and said, “I told ya so, he is remarkable” to anyone who would listen.   Mark and I were shocked, because swing is complicated – it’s not like you have an even beat in the background to simply pound out. Kent was doing riffs and drum rolls and off beat rhythms as if by instinct he knew just what was needed. The people at the restaurant went wild applauding and the members of the band kept saying, “How old are you again?” as if they couldn’t’ believe anyone 16 could handle such authentic swing. But then, rhythm has always been Kent’s strength, and he’s had very diverse exposure to music, more than the average kid. It took about an hour for the color to leave his cheeks. We were very proud and impressed and happy for him. I was so bummed I didn’t have my camera.

Had we never stepped away from dance, my kids would never have the opportunity to discover their unique gifts. They were too involved in our world, following in our footsteps out of habit and convenience and because dance was all they knew. But each person needs to create their own path and for Neva that includes soccer and horses and writing. For Kent it is drumming. I will always be grateful we retired in time to give them the space and time to question who they are and what they love and to go out and tackle it.

Neva came home the other day and said, “Sorry mom, I got published before you.” And indeed she did. The Georgia Literary Festival had a contest for youth writing, and Neva submitted work. From the 500 or so entries, she was one of 5 picked to go in the book. I’m not surprised, she writes all the time. She is mostly a poet.
Here is her published poem entitled :

Mountain Moon Dance

Look up at the sky, what do you see?
Upon the moon, a glimmering star,
Fitting in the moon lit sky perfectly
The moon dances

More stars appeared before my eyes
They danced and twinkled all night
The crickets started applauding
As if the finale was near
The moon did a last shimmer with the stars
But then he left the stars, following
Giving the part to the sun
The Mountain Moon Dance is done

Neva Hendry  – age 10
Some day I’ll post some of her other poetry – she has written some lovely pieces about horses and I recently sent one in to Pony magazine. We’ll see how it goes. She is a remarkable little soul – and talented. If she wasn’t my kid, I’d be jealous.

Mark’s sister, Dianne, just got a position training to be an ex-ray technician and working in the medical field. She is thrilled. It is a good job with benefits and potential for advancement and one she feels will be meaningful. She is overdue for something exciting happening in her life. I’m happy for her.
We’ve gone places I could write about too, but I just haven’t been in a blogging mood. For example, we went to a horse auction. It was like going to the pound, only with starved or unloved horses on the block. Sad. Some great bargains to be had- some wild horses just needing someone to train them and love them a little. It was HARD not to buy one – Mark practically sat on my hands and it looked like he was ready to put tape on my mouth. He did buy me a new, upgraded saddle at an unbelievable price. We plan to go back to purchase a donkey cart there too. The underground horse world is unique – we stood around this huge auction barn with dozens of rough horse traders and old men-farmers, who buy and sell like horses as unsentimental commodities. I, of course, consider the horse as something sacred, more like a beloved dog that requires gentle care. It was a fascinating, if not disturbing experience. I will go again. It was interesting for sure, and there is always something to learn when you wade deeper into an interest, even when you go into the shadowy corners. I am very taken with my horses. That is an understatement.

We have season tickets to the theater in Atlanta and went to our first show last weekend – The Rat Pack. It is always fun dressing up and taking the kids to ever sophisticated Atlanta to remind them of the other half of the world. But it is only as good as it is because we get to come home again. My cosmopolitan-loving days are long over, I’m afraid, and while I adore the events, I can’t help but watch the traffic, people and consumerism and wonder where the world is going. We have concert tickets, show tickets, and a yearly pass to the art museum (the second chapter of the Leuve exhibit opens this month.) For all that we embrace “country” we have a duel existence. Creates a wonderful balanced life

Kent had a birthday. He is sixteen! Pinch me. I’m so old.  He is going to get a license next week. I’ll write more about this later – providing I don’t’ have a heart attack between now and then as I teach him to parallel park. 

This is a long update, but at lease it catches readers up a bit so I can go back to blogging at random without feeling I’ve avoided important family shifts.   I will try to make the next entry more entertaining but, then again, it is October. I always slide into a quiet period in October. Just one of those things….

Now, I’ve been called to help Mark paint his workshop. I’m willing to put in some muscle to get that job done.