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Christmas Update

A few friends have written to ask where I’ve been. I haven’t forsaken the blog-sphere…  just been on a break. Usually this happens for one of the following reasons:


1. I’m feeling down. I happen to be one of those people who withdraw when she’s feeling melancholy. Nothing serious, just life stress and/or events triggering a less than jubilant attitude. It might even be environmental, because as winter sets in, this old Florida girl misses the green landscape, mourns the loss of her garden, and gets sick of sinking ankle deep in mud when feeding livestock with frozen fingers. The point is,  I see no reason to subject others to my pity party when I’m down, so I go on a blog hiatus.
2. I’m busy. Putting up a Christmas tree, shopping, making cookies, etc. etc. can eat up blogging hours to be sure.  Real life sure can get in the way of a girl’s indulgent computer time. It’s a darn shame, I tell you.
3. I’m distracted by another project. Example: Lately, I’ve been diligently working on my book. I’m spending a good 6 hours a day on revision, 3 days a week or more (unfortunately other days are consumed with laundry and other mundane chores I can’t seem to Tom Sawyer my way out of.) I’m committed to finishing one decent novel and sending it out, and now that I’m on a roll, I don’t dare let up for fear the productivity will sizzle out. You don’t know how easy it is to sit down in the computer chair and start blogging, and next thing you know, months have gone by and you haven’t written anything except mindless life notes. I think I’m ready for my writing to amount to something more tangible.


Anyway, this past 30 day blog break is due to all of the above categories.   I’ll be back more regularily some time soon …


What I think I’ll do in the meantime, is post my yearly family letter. I write one every year to include in Christmas cards to friends and family as a yearly update on the Hendry activities. It’ll be redundant to some of you who received the hard copy – and it will be far more info than others of you care to read… but for a few old friends who just stop by occasionally to see how we are doing, or those long lost friends who Google me and show up out of the blue (always a thrill) it makes for a great one shot Hendry family overview. 


Here, by the way, is our tree this year. We take the holidays at a calm pace now-a-days. No more extravagant lights outside, no pushing to make Christmas spectacular as if it’s some kind of mid-year recital. We just try to make things lovely yet simple too, then we make sure to pause and enjoy the season. This year, we took everyone to a 6 mile outdoor light display, our big holiday event. And one day, Mark and I stole off to enjoy an afternoon at the High Museum to see the next chapter of the Louvre exhibit, then went to a Jim Brickman Christmas concert – about the most romantic pianist in the universe. Other than that, we stick to simple celebratory things, like cookie decorating and gathering to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.” We even scale back on shopping now, which is easy when you live in a place where there’s no mall and very few stores. We scheduled one big day at a mall and that was it for shopping – we figured one day of commercial frenzy has to be enough. Christmas just feels more meaningful for us without the endless acquisition of things no one really needs. Shopping exhausts me, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Don’t laugh. It really does. 
The point is, we’re  no scrooge – everyone will get what they want most… but the rest just feels like clutter.  

But the one area that we do still bother to go all out in, is our tree. Filled with hundreds of ornaments that all have a story, our tree is a monument to Family history. It’s a big tree, but then, it would have to be. We’ve been together a long time and as such, have lots of ornaments to symbolize the places we’ve been and the stages we’ve been through. Decorating this tree is a two day, full family event. But it is a walk down memory lane, and that alone makes the effort a joy.


Here it is:


The mantle is decorated with greens Mark and Kent collected on a walk. Lovely, I think. It’s free, smells good (or so I’m told) and proves that Christmas doesn’t have to come from Walmart

OK. Here is the long diatribe about the Hendry’s in 2007. Snore.

Greetings from the Hendrys, a family now headed into year three of the great Georgia adventure.


It’s been a year of exciting accomplishments and realized dreams, but a year of painful disappointments and dreams gone amuck too. (At least it gives our life balance in a weird sort of way.) What counts is that we are all happy and life is still engaging on so many levels. 


Raising a family is not unlike singing Ten Little Indians. As the song of our life plays out, characters step aside, until all the little Indians are gone.  If nothing else, recognizing this makes us savor the family time we have together all the more. We count our blessings often as we watch our children (and our own selves) evolve and grow, moving into more mature stages.


This fall, Kent got his license and immediately landed his first job as a cashier at the local supermarket. While we’re proud of his work ethic, we can’t help but feel slightly cheated. Our newfound opportunity to share family meals and spend more time together has been fleeting as our sixteen year old son, with a gut full of ambition and a teenager’s agenda, takes his first steps towards independence.


Still a drummer, Kent landed the coveted position of quads in the high school marching band and spent the season traveling and competing with this progressive school activity. (The band placed 1st in state competitions.) The family has enjoyed going to all the home games, even though it’s true we spend more time cheering for the band and critiquing the cheerleaders than watching the football players. (Neva is partial to the concession stand.) Kent also has been developing a rock band with his guitar playing best friend. Dance may not be our life anymore, but our home is filled with rhythm all the same, like it or not. He is, as always, a model student and son, excelling in school, growing taller every day, and maintaining that down to earth sense of humor that keeps us all smiling. 


Neva  continues to be an avid soccer player, playing in both the spring and fall seasons. She spends a great deal of time writing poems, short stories and essays. One of her pieces was selected to be printed in the Georgia Literary Festival’s magazine and, always the attentive scholar, she’s been invited to participate in the National Young Scholars Program at the University of North Florida. She still plans to be a veterinarian, however, and spends plenty of time at the barn hob-knobbing with her friends; the chickens, llamas, donkey, rabbits, horses and whatever else Mom might be adding to the ark at the time. Neva always has ink on her fingertips and dirt on her bum, but that’s what makes her the vivacious entity she is.


We still love our hobby farm life, but it has had its share of disappointments.   A hawk carried off our two year old silky rooster, Yang, last month, and Neva is mourning the loss still. An unexpected cold snap killed our three young peacocks, which had Mom in a funk for days. (Guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in the area of poultry sensitivity.) An early cold snap killed all the blueberries in Georgia, seriously interfering with Ginny’s ambitious canning plans, but she made up for it with a larder filled with peach, pear, and blackberry jam, followed by gallons of marinara sauce and salsa. Then, there were her winemaking pursuits. She produced some 200 bottles of wine this year, including blackberry, strawberry, tomato (yes, you heard that right, she makes wine from tomatoes) apple, Riesling, Merlot and Pinot Grigio. She’s moved on to cordials now too, but promises she won’t build a still, even though sometimes she gets a Dukes of Hazard look in her eye that does have the family wondering. . .   


We collect eggs daily from our chickens and guineas, tend to our angora bunnies and two llamas (the female is due to have a baby this spring) have two horses, two dogs and one beloved donkey to keep us busy. Ginny is also keeping bees now, looking forward to harvesting her honey this spring. She’s even learned to make organic, natural soap products. Mark spends hours each week on his tractor, bush-hogging the fields, clearing land, hauling hay, and opening up the creek or landscaping. Yes – when we watch Green Acres we consider it a reality TV show! 


Despite the unprecedented Georgia drought, we planted a garden this spring which produced lettuce, beans, tomatoes, squash, cantaloupe, and peppers, not to mention one measly pumpkin that became our pride and joy this Halloween. We planted apple, peach, and pear trees, not to mention hundreds of bulbs, which will make this home a true paradise in a few years when the plants mature. Land development included clearing dozens of week trees and changing our creek into a one acre pond. Our home is a labor intensive work in progress but all the effort has started to take hold. Even if we don’t live here long enough to enjoy it all (due to the unfortunate business scenario) there’s something very poignant and rewarding in knowing you’ve left a place better than when you found it.


Denver has been living in her own apartment nearby and has been working at a local coffee shop while deciding what direction she wants to go with her life. This fall, she attended an eight week intensive silversmith jewelry course at Penland School for the Arts in North Carolina and she’s decide that what she wants most is to forge a career in jewelry craftsmanship. She’s now looking into additional training venues at the local craft schools and is considering returning to college to study the field more in depth. We are thrilled she’s discovered her passion, not to mention that mom likes the very cool jewelry she receives for birthdays and Christmas. (One of the perks of having a talented daughter.)


While we are on the subject of this child, I should point out that Denver and Ginny walked 60 miles in the Atlanta three day breast cancer marathon in October in honor of Pat East. Together, they raised 4,400.00 for this special cause. It was great fun (albeit we had our testy moments sleeping in a tent in the freezing cold and attending to our blisters) but we both considered it a precious life experience -meaningful for many reasons. Even now, two months later, Mom still has one jet black toe nail to prove she went the distance. The sore feet went away. The memories will last forever.


Mark has continued his studies of woodworking and furniture design in preparation of his new vocation, making cabin décor items for the business we will be opening (more on this in a moment). He has taken classes at the Campbell Folk school, Highland Hardware in Atlanta and The Dogwood Institute of fine woodworking to hone his skills. He’s spent the year building and organizing a professional workshop on the back corner of our 50 acres. At long last, it’s up and running. Ginny is thrilled to see pieces of rustic furniture making their appearance in the house. For those that don’t understand what falls into the “cabin décor” category, we’ve included a picture of a few pieces he made last week for our entranceway. The chairs, table, lamp and shade are all Mark originals.) Mark is also making rustic brooms, baskets, wood turned bowls and other hand crafted items for our soon-to-be store. It’s hard work, but he finds great satisfaction in the process as his creativity and ingenuity manifest into rustic, one of a kind pieces for vacation homes.

(Mirrors are hard to photograph, but this floor legnth mirror (prettier in real life) made it’s way into the bathroom this week. For the first time in two years I could take a good gander at my entire image at once. Eesh. I’m on a diet. . . . )  


Ginny was thrilled to graduate from Lesley, earning her Masters in Fine Arts in Fiction this June. This was a lifelong dream for her, and as such, a very meaningful accomplishment. After two grueling years of study, she took a 4 month sabbatical where wondered if she’d ever write another word, but then she returned to her writing with new vigor and enthusiasm – not to mention refined skill. She’s busy rewriting the very first novel she ever penned, a historical fiction. She’s satisfied with the evolution the story is undertaking and insists she loves the task, even though the family sometimes wonders as they hear groans and mumbled admonishments coming from her office as she looks at her amateur effort with a new, trained eye. Writing, like any other skill, takes diligent practice and many years of hard work to polish. She hopes this year will be the year it all comes together for her.


Meanwhile, Ginny is teaching two writing classes at Appalachian Technical College (memoir and fiction) in January and she’s been asked to lecture at the Blue Ridge Writer’s conference in March (Proving the degree does have some practical application after all.) She still maintains her blog, so friends can keep in touch, and she’s going on her second year as a reading tutor, still active volunteering with the Georgia Literacy Commission. She’s helping to train the new reading tutors and facilitating monthly meetings to support and encourage new tutors and to develop creative approaches to helping the illiterate overcome their obstacles. This volunteer work is very close to her heart.  


But not all news is happy news. This season, we had to accept the ultimate finale of FLEX, our previous business. After a bitter struggle, many personal offenses, and the frustrating ordeal of witnessing nonsensical business choices that only cost everyone involved sanity and money, the new owners went bankrupt and closed the school for good. After eighteen years of hard work and sacrifice to build the school, it was painful to see it destroyed so recklessly and needlessly, not to mention that this had a financial impact on the family which is now forcing us to shift plans. This was a very personal and painful thing to go through, but at least we can now cut our losses and move on. And so we will…


For us, this begins with our plans for a new business.  We recently bought a lot in the quaint town of McCaysville and will be breaking ground in January to erect a rustic freestanding building to house The Bean Tree, a coffee house/Appalachian Art gallery and cabin furnishing store. Our vision is to create an environmentally friendly business, serving organic fair trade coffee and green products with a commitment to locally grown produce and handmade items selected to support local artists.  Ginny will spend mornings making baked goods and preparing specialty gourmet foods for the store, and Mark will fill it with furniture and hard goods. We hope to produce our own organic soaps, canned goods and specialty items too.


With marketing and management skills experience hard gained from running a dance school, combined with our entertainment experience, we hope to make the Bean Tree a unique gathering place for people who love nature and art, featuring special events, such as book and wine clubs, senior meet and greets, and writer’s groups. Featured entertainment (musicians, storytellers, and poetry readings) will be scheduled in the evenings for residents who enjoy mountain living but long for intellectual stimulus as well. Located across from a train station that brought 55 thousand tourists into the town last year, we feel The Bean Tree has great potential. Ginny is even toying with the idea of publishing an in-house magazine for customers and Mark is researching website design and ways to expand our potential through e-marketing and sales. With hope, we will be opening in October of next year, so news of this venture will come in next year’s Christmas update if not sooner. Of course, everyone is invited to join us for a cup of coffee anytime!


For all that we are excited, we are ever aware of what we don’t know too. In January, we are going to Portland Oregon to attend Barista School (a fancy name for a serious coffee school) to learn the details of coffee house management, restaurant design, equipment maintenance and even how to make fancy artistic latte’s. (After years of putting it off, we were finally planning an European vacation, but well . . . . sometimes life gets in the way. It’s coffee school for us instead!) Then, in August we’re off to Pennsylvania to attend an art gallery management seminar and convention as we diligently fill the holes in our understanding of what this new venture will involve. We know there is a learning curve to any new endeavor and all businesses are subject to their unique headaches and risks, but we look forwarded to working together as a couple again to build another business that encompasses all the things we appreciate and love at this juncture of our lives.


Anyway, that is the year in review. We are all still in transition, but perhaps we always will be, for isn’t that a part of ongoing growth?  Life isn’t always smooth sailing, but at least it’s never boring. And while it’s sometimes scary, it’s also fascinating for each member of our family to finally discover what lay hidden beneath our leotards.
 
Happy Holidays to all,


Love,
The Hendrys




Some say,Mark is a guy who goes “over the top” when it comes to creative pursuits. Well, here’s a picture to prove that’s still the case, even in Georgia, when it comes to his Chrismas tree. Who else needs a twelve foot ladder to decorate the top of their tree?

Before and after… Bet some of you can even pick out an ornament or two that you gave us over the years. They are all there.

About Ginny East Shaddock

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

5 responses »

  1. Merry Christmas Hendrys! The tree looks fabulous (as always)… Best wishes,Jessica ps- I found a coffee you MUST try.. it would be great for your new business..

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  2. If it’s organic and fair trade, I’m game.We are in the serious experimental stage now… I’m leaning towards coffee’s produced by “Grounds for change”, a company that supports our basic principals.by the way, your christmas card is sitting on my desk. Since you keep moving, I don’t know where to send it. I almost stuck an Italy stamp on it but thought that may be premature.Let me know where your going to land one of these days, please.  

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  3. It’s both organic and fair trade.. AND Healthy! And so very LA.. but you have to check it out: http://thehealthybean.com/ Thanks for the X-mas card! I read your posting, so hopefully I am all caught up on the news… As for me, I have no idea where I am headed next, but once I know, you’ll be next to hear it, I promise! Getting there is half the fun isnt it? Thanks & Merry Christmas 🙂

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  4. WOW! You put Rockefeller to shame! That is an amazing Christmas Tree!

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  5. Rockefeller had SERVENTS to do this kind of thing. We had to devote two days to the task – and sometimes I wonder if we spend so much time PREPARING for the perfect life that we don’t have the time to actually enjoy LIVING it. We have scaled back from our old habits. there is only one wreath on the house and a few strands of ready made snowflakes outside. But the tree is something we can’t seem to avoid pushing to granduer.  I guess each family has their priority list, and a big, lovely tree is one of ours. But our new year’s resolution is (again) to simplify life. We left Florida intending to do that, but habit and old priorities that were way too ingrained to beat got in the way. We are now reevaluating and planning some changes. It is always important to pause to see if you are on track and pursuing the life that will make you happy. Merry Christmas… my best to your Mom and dad… and the pig, of course. 

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