Journey 80: The Art of Blogging Class

  

Today’s journey was also a delightful first. Alice Lynn Greenwood, director of artCentral in Carthage, MO, invited me to kick off their season of workshops with a class about blogging. 

I’ve been consistently blogging since January 1, 2014, posting daily, learning as I go.  While I’ve shared about blogging with many individuals, one on one, I’ve not taught a class on the subject until today. We gathered in the board room on the second floor of the gorgeous Hyde House, home to artCentral. Alice Lynn gave a gracious introduction and then I had the pleasure of sharing with Diana, Helen, Randy, Leesa, Paula and Jan for the next couple of hours. 

What an amazing group of people. They took notes and asked wonderful questions and came up with great ideas for blogs of their own that will share their passions and knowledge with the world. It energized me to stand before such a class. 

  

Leesa, Paula & Jan. All photos taken by Alice Lynn. 

Sharing my from own journey in blogging, I divided the class time into three segments: Why blog? Blogging Tips and online show and tell using my own blog as an example. Preparing for the class was excellent for me, as it allowed me to examine the past 15 months and see the ways my life has shifted as a result of blogging. I’ve learned. I’ve grown. I’ve found my voice and my writing style. 

I was able also to consider why I blog and offer six ways my life has been enhanced by the experience and why blogging can offer the same expansiveness to others. The Tips section showed how easy it is to set up a blog. From there we discussed how to hone writing skills and grow a community of readers.

I’m so grateful to artCentral and Alice Lynn for this opportunity this morning. Teaching the class embodied one of my favorite things about blogging…meeting new people. Each person present today was there for a reason, crossing my path because we were meant to meet. I was encouraged and inspired by each one and I enjoyed the interaction during class and chatting afterwards. That’s why I do what I do…for the privilege and honor of journeying alongside another for a time. For this, I was made. 

  

             Diana, me, Helen & Randy

Journey 79: A Rare Spring Equinox

welcome spring

USA Today announced the arrival of spring by calling it a Freaky Friday. A rare occurrence happened today, with the convergence of the spring equinox, an invisible super moon, and a total solar eclipse!

The spring, or vernal, equinox marks the passage of Earth’s northern hemisphere from winter to spring, as the sun shines directly on the equator. The official time for this event was 6:45 PM, ET. Today, the sun rose due east, and set due west. This seasonal change happens every year. What was extraordinary today was the total solar eclipse as the new super moon crossed in front of the spring sun, briefly blocking out the sun and casting a shadow across the planet.

The eclipse was seen in totality in only a few places, in the far northern regions of Europe. In parts of Scotland, England, Asia and Africa, the sun was 50% – 99% obscured. The eclipse was not visible at all in the US. This is Earth’s only solar eclipse in 2015. The next one will occur in August of 2017.

The super moon, which was responsible for creating the solar eclipse as it passed in front of the sun, is considered “super” when it is at its closest to the earth during its elliptical orbit. When it’s a full moon, the moon appears bigger and brighter. Because this was a new moon, it was not visible except as it crossed the sun.

Freaky Friday solar eclipse

So what does this triple header heralding spring mean? It did create some interesting, high-level energy, as the super moon affects the ocean’s tides in a greater way. Paired with the vernal equinox, it ushered in a time of strong rebirth and new beginnings, growth and the flowing of life. Primarily, it means warmer weather, trees turning green as they leaf out, and plants pushing up through the ground.

It was a beautiful day here, warm and partly sunny, to mark this Freaky Friday. I spent a good portion of the day in Arkansas, visiting Greg’s dad. When we said our good-byes, Greg suggested re-visiting True Treasures in Bentonville, where I had time to browse in the beautiful and unique vintage and antique store a bit longer than my last hurried visit. I chatted with the cheerful worker there, and found a few wonderful treasures to bring home. It was a good way to begin winding down this gorgeous day.

At home, preparing a very healthy yet simple late dinner, I glanced through the kitchen window, and was lured outside by the vivid sunset. The sky was awash in bright pinks, deep reds, and dark purples as the spring sun sank. I strolled along the garden paths, checking the flower borders and the apothecary garden. New green growth is pushing up through the mulch. I was so delighted! The best sign of spring I could have received today was the appearance of Life in my garden. Gustav Mahler wrote, “Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer. I must get out and breathe the air deeply again.” Ahhhh, freaky or not, spring arrived today, spectacularly. I am breathing the air deeply again.

welcome spring with true treasures

Happy finds from True Treasures. I love the metal caddy, which now holds silverware, and the mason jar dispenser which now sits next to the kitchen sink, filled with hand soap. The vintage metal colander may end up in the garden.

Journey 78: Spring Break Fun

spring break

In the Midwest, spring break is often a casualty of too many snow days. When school has been cancelled more than a couple of times, due to ice or snow, the days are made up by eliminating part or all of spring break. This year, thanks to fairly light winter precipitation, kids in the area enjoyed a full week of recess from school. I’ve had the joy this week of spending time with all of my grandkids, at various times, and all my adult children too. Today, my sister Linda and I took four of the youngsters to that favorite hang out for children, Chuck E Cheese.

Chuck E Cheese London plays

My son Nate, with Joey, Oliver and Aubrey in tow, met Linda and London, me, and my sister’s friend Tammy and her daughter Megan at the fun pizza parlor located at the Northpark Mall in Joplin. Because of spring break, and the cool, drizzly weather outside, the place was packed with boisterous children and patient, good-natured parents. We snagged two tables back to back, with the children occupying one and the adults the other. Fresh hot pizzas brought cheers from the kids, while the adults made trips through the salad bar first. (For me, being Whole30 conscious, the salad bar and an unsweetened tea was it for me. I didn’t even crave the pizza.) Greg surprised us by tapping on the window outside. He joined us for a quick lunch as he took a break from work.

As much as the kids enjoyed chowing down on cheese and supreme pizza, they don’t relish going to Chuck E Cheese for the food. They made one extra large pizza disappear very quickly. While a second pizza was being prepared, off they scampered, cups of tokens in hand. For that is the fun reason for being at this eating establishment…plugging tokens into a host of flashing, whirling, blaring gaming machines to win tickets. London and Aubrey, 5 and 6 years old, are more interested in running around, playing in the playground area and riding some of the small rides than they are securing tickets, even though they love the process of redeeming the tickets later for prizes. Megan, being older, struck out on her own, playing an assortment of games. Joey and Oliver, however, at 8 and 7 years old, have this gaming business down. They have a system of playing the same machine rapidly, and usually score big in the way of tickets. While the girls averaged about 200 tickets each today, Joey and Oliver hauled in 1200 tickets, together. I was impressed. They all had fun picking out prizes.

Chuck E Cheese Nate and the boys

Nate spent time visiting with us and then time on the busy floor, watching the girls and playing skee ball with the boys. Even grown kids need some play time. I made sure he had tokens of his own. After a fun afternoon at Chuck E Cheese, Nate headed to a meeting at work and Tammy and Megan said their goodbyes too. Linda and I gave the kids the option of having ice cream and of course they said yes. We stopped at Andy’s for treats for the kids. We quickly discovered that chocolate ice cream and a group of kids…were there really only four of them?…make a fine mess. But that was okay. Napkins and face wiping took care of that….or most of it anyway!

Chuck E Cheese Nate with kids

We ended our play date at Linda’s house, affectionately known as Gigi. One of the things I love about my sister is that she doesn’t get uptight about kids playing in the house. I would have loved to have taken the kids to a park to run and climb and slide, but we will save that experience for another sunnier, warmer day. At Gigi’s house, it is okay to make a mess, to play hide and seek, to ride the scooter in the house. The kids did all those things, plus coloring and watching cartoons and setting up a mock restaurant. They had fun. Gigi and I had fun, watching, interacting, allowing the fine staff at the imaginary restaurant to take our orders for meals, over and over.

When Nate showed up to claim his kids, he joined in the fun for a bit. And then it was time for all of us to hug and say goodbye and go home. Kay Redfield Jamison said, “Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity.” I so agree. One thing we are good at in our family, is allowing kids that freedom. It is good for their souls. They learn to share, to create, to explore. I’m grateful today for spring break, Chuck E Cheese, Andy’s, Gigi’s hospitality, friends, Nate’s willingness to share the kids….and most of all, Megan, Joey, Oliver, Aubrey and London. Their play, their creativity, their laughter, is good for my soul.

Chuck E Cheese playing at Gigis

Coloring at Gigi’s

Chuck E Cheese Joey and Oliver at Gigis

The boys play “store”. While Joey set up, Oliver discovered that three balls lined up make a pretty good recliner. And yes, we all pitched in and cleaned up after play time!

Journey 77: Outlander Series, Season 1

outlander poster

I have practiced great restraint the past 10 days. Highly anticipating the DVD release of the Starz adaptation of the Outlander books, I pre-order Season One, Part One before its release date of March 3. When it arrived, I held the DVD in my hands, full of anticipation….and put it away until the right moment arrived to watch it. On this cool, rainy evening, reminiscent of typical Scottish weather, I could wait no longer. Tonight, I watched the first episode of the new TV series, titled Sassenach.

Outlander episode 1 stars Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Graham McTavish, Tobias Menzes and Duncan Lacroix. It was directed by John Dahl and the action/romance/sci-fi  series is based on the wildly popular Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon. Being a TV series it doesn’t have a rating, however, if I gave it one, I’d rate it PG-13 for mild violence, sexuality and very brief nudity. Each episode has a run time of approximately 1 hour and 4 minutes.

The story begins in England, in 1945, six months after the end of WWII, as Claire (Balfe) an army nurse, and her husband, Frank (Menzies), soon to be a professor at Oxford, embark on a second honeymoon in the Scottish Highlands. During the five years of the war, Claire and Frank only spent 10 days together. The real purpose of the trip to Scotland is to get to know each other as the people they have become. Frank’s interest in Scotland is history, and in particular, researching his genealogy. His direct ancestor, Captain “Black Jack” Randall, was a British officer who commanded troops in the Inverness area. He is thrilled to discover more information about Jack with the help of a local minister.

Claire, with her medical background, is more interested in learning about herbs and plants that can be used for medicinal purposes. She’s also very eager to reconnect with her husband. The couple happens to be in Inverness during the celebration of Samhain, the Gaelic equivalent of Halloween. Frank’s keen interest in history takes the curious pair to a circle of ancient standing stones, called Craigh na Dun, just outside Inverness. Crouched in tall grasses, Frank and Claire watch as women appear to perform a ritualistic dance in the circle.

That afternoon, as Frank meets with the minister to continue his research on Captain Jack Randall, Claire returns to Craigh na Dun to search for a plant she saw earlier, growing within the stone circle. As she carefully pulls up a specimen, she hears distorted sounds that appear to be coming from one of the stones. She approaches the stone cautiously, and then places both her palms against the surface. Suddenly darkness and dizziness overcome her and she falls to the ground.

When she awakens a short time later, Claire stands up, confused, and hurries to where she parked the car. Except, the car is not there. As she stumbles around, trying to figure out what is going on, she hears gunshots, and sees men in red coats run by. Startled, she assumes she has come upon the filming of a movie. Men in kilts run past, and Claire, thinking it odd that actors would use live ammo, runs as well when a man in red fires at her. She falls and when she gets up, spies a man whom she mistakenly thinks is her husband. Realizing her error, she asks who he is. The man answers that he is Captain Jonathan “Jack” Randall (also played by Menzies). Randall behaves in a less than honorable way with Claire, attempting to harm her. She is rescued by one of the kilted men, Murtagh (Lacroix).

outlander sassenach and jamie

He brings Claire to the a group of men that includes Dougal (McTavish), a stern Scotsman who appears to be in charge, and a handsome young man who has dislocated his shoulder during the skirmish. Jamie (Heughan) allows Claire to reset his shoulder. The clansmen move out on horseback, under cover of darkness, Claire sharing a horse and a plaid with Jamie. As the group heads toward their home, Castle Leoch, Claire knows, as impossible as it seems, that she is no longer in the 20th century, but has somehow gone back in time to the 1700’s. As the tired party approaches the castle, which Claire and Frank had explored as ruins just two days earlier, she muses that her journey is just beginning.

I can’t express adequately how much I enjoyed watching the beginning of this amazing series. Last August, as I explored Scotland, I had just finished reading the first book in the series, titled Outlander. The word outlander means stranger, or foreigner. Sassenach, which becomes Jamie’s affectionate nickname for Claire, is a Scottish word for Englishman. It is normally a derogatory term, but Jamie makes it an endearment. As I rode the tour bus through the Highlands last year, I peered into the darkened forests on either side of the road, and I could imagine Jamie and Claire riding their horses through the fairytale like setting.

Tonight, I watched as the pair did just that. The beautiful scenery stirred homesickness in me, as did the soft burr of the Scottish language. And yet I am so glad I watched the episode after I had the privilege of being in Scotland. It brought memory and recognition to me, rather than just longing. The first time bagpipes played in the soundtrack accompanying the episode, tears came to my eyes. The quality of filming was excellent, the actors perfect for the roles, and I’ve already placed Jamie and Claire, Randall and Dougal (played by McTavish who portrayed the dwarf Dwalin in the Hobbit trilogy) firmly  in my mind as THE characters in the book. For I am still reading in the Outlander series, which is comprised of seven books. Making the attempt to stay ahead of the ongoing series will spur me to read a bit faster.

I am very grateful for the release of this series on DVD. I do not have access to the Starz network which hosts Outlander. I have been patiently, yet eagerly, waiting for the release. It was well worth the wait. My dilemma now is whether to savor this DVD, which has the first eight episodes on it, watching one each week. Or to immerse myself in the story and watch it in groups of two and three. I feel inclined to move slowly through the episodes….and enjoy….for it will be at least this fall, if not next spring, before the next DVD will be released, with new episodes. As Claire stated, my journey in this adventure is just beginning. I will savor it.

Outlander clan fraser

Journey 76: St. Patrick’s Day

St Patricks Day

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, and curiosity about who St. Patrick was, really, after all the myths about him are stripped away, led me on a Google search. I found plenty of blarney….and good info too. In the US today, Irish descendants and non-descendants alike celebrate by wearing green, posting shamrock pics, drinking green beer and eating corned beef and cabbage, all in honor of a man who didn’t drive the snakes from Ireland (there were never snakes in Ireland), who didn’t, apparently, use the shamrock to explain the Trinity, and who wasn’t even Irish.

Most actual facts about this man come from his autobiographical document Confession. Patrick was born in the UK, most probably Wales or England, and at the age of 16, was kidnapped, taken to Ireland, and sold as a slave. Six years later he escaped from his owner and returned home. However, in a dream, he heard the Irish people begging him to return with these words, “We ask thee, boy, come and walk amongst us once more.” He studied for the priesthood in France and returned to Ireland to minister as he felt called to do.

For the next 30 years he founded churches, monasteries and schools, ordained priests and baptized the people of Ireland. His was a quiet conversion with the Irish being the only people in Europe to convert to Christianity peacefully. Patrick’s influence in Ireland ended slavery, human sacrifice and clan warfare. He died on March 17, 461. Although there is some dispute about the year of his death, all accounts agree on the date in March.

St Patricks Day statue

Statue of St. Patrick

By the seventh century, Patrick had become the Patron Saint of Ireland. March 17th has been observed as a religious and cultural holiday in Ireland for centuries, celebrated with more solemnity there. It is the Irish Americans who have made St. Patrick’s Day the boisterous occurrence that it is here. Irish immigrants first celebrated the day as a holiday in Boston in 1737 and the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in New York in 1762. Today St. Patrick’s Day is an opportunity for many in the US to express their pride in their Irish heritage and an excuse for the rest to drink or wear green or create green sweets and treats.

I share freely about my Scottish heritage. I am of Irish descent as well, through my mother’s side of the family. The McCools and the Gregorys both came from Ireland long ago. I can say that I flew over that country last August, as my airliner approached Scotland. From the air Ireland looked green and lush and beautiful. The country is definitely on my list of places to visit and I look forward to learning more about my Celtic roots. Today, I celebrated by delivering green gift bags to my grandchildren, filled with simple, fun items. (Two grandsons received their gifts over the weekend.) It is the first time that I’ve done this. However, granddaughter Aubrey reminded me recently that St. Patrick’s Day IS a holiday. She’s right. And it is an acknowledgement of our family’s culture and heritage. As the grandkids get older, perhaps we can uncover more about this verdant country and discover which regions and villages our ancestors came from. For now, it is enough to give them wee gifts, to remember, and to dream of Ireland.

St Patricks Day gifts

Journey 75: The Hundred Foot Journey

hundred foot journey

Last week, when I stopped by my favorite DVD rental store to rent one of the Best Picture nominated films, I found The Theory of Everything, and received a recommendation. I met the owner of the store and chatted, naturally, about movies. I explained I had come in the week before to pick up Theory, but with the cold, wintry weather, that movie, along with many others, was rented out. But then, I told the owner, that led me to discovering the delightful movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

We chatted about that film and his face lit up as we shared favorite scenes. He told me if I enjoyed that movie, he had another one to recommend. He disappeared and returned with The Hundred Foot Journey, promising if I loved Marigold Hotel, I would love this one too….or he would refund my rental fee. Well, I was curious, and grateful for the suggestion, and the title had my word for the year in it. How could I go wrong? Tonight, I had the opportunity to find out if the film was a winner for me.

The Hundred Foot Journey stars Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, and Charlotte La Bon. It was directed by Lasse Halstrom and is based on the novel of the same name by Richard C. Morais. This comedy drama, which released in theaters August 8, 2014, has a PG rating for brief violence and a run time of 2 hours and 2 minutes.

The Kadam family, owners of a successful restaurant in India, flee the country after political violence breaks out, destroying their business and claiming the life of the mother. The patriarch, affectionately called Papa (Puri), loads his children into his old vehicle and heads into Europe, looking for a new place to settle and open an Indian restaurant. His son, Hassan (Dayal) is the cook of the family, a gifted young man who has learned the culinary arts from his mother. When the car breaks down in the quaint French village of Saint Antonin, Papa feels it’s a sign from his deceased wife. They are assisted into the village by a pretty young woman, Marguerite (La Bon), who feeds them well with fresh homemade delicacies. Pushing their car through town, Papa spies an abandoned restaurant for sale, and makes an offer on it, even though it is across the street, exactly 100 feet, from the village’s classy French restaurant, the La Saule Pleureur, a one star Michelin establishment run by Madame Mallory (Mirren).

As the Kadam family cleans up their new restaurant, the Maison Mumbai, Madame Mallory, horrified to have competition, begins plotting their ruin. Meanwhile, Hassan discovers that Marguerite is a sous chef at the La Saule Pleureur and they enter into a friendship. Hassan discovers old French cookbooks in the kitchen and asks his new friend many questions about French cuisine. There is a competitive edge between them, and attraction as well. As the opening night for the new Indian restaurant approaches, the dislike between Papa and Madame Mallory moves into all out war. It is a battle of wills and a clash of cultures and cuisine. The French inhabitants of the village are slow to embrace the Kadam’s restaurant, but once a few customers trickle in, word spreads about the marvelous fare. While he prepares Indian cuisine by day, Hassan practices his French cooking at night, impressing Marguerite with how quickly he learns. She recognizes the amazing gift that he has, and tells him that Madame Mallory can tell the quality and potential of an aspiring chef by having him or her prepare an omelet, and sampling just one bite.

All is going well with both restaurants, but hostility simmers beneath the surface. One of Madame’s chefs in training starts a fire in the Maison Mumbai late one evening. Hassan frantically fights the flames. The fire is extinguished however Hassan’s hands are burned in the process. That act of violence, so like the tragedy back in India, brings a shift in attitude within Madame Mallory. She fires her chef, and taking a bucket of water and soap, scrubs the outer wall of the Kadam’s restaurant, removing racial slurs written there. That act of peace halts the war between the two eating establishments. Hassan, encouraged by the tenderness he sees in Madame, asks if he can prepare her an omelet.

Because of his injured hands, Madame Mallory assists in the kitchen, following Hassan’s recipe and instructions, which includes the addition of spices from India. When she sits to take a bite of the creation, Hassan hovers nearby, awaiting her verdict. Savoring the bite she took, Madame tells Hassan, in a voice choked with emotion, “You have it.” She offers him a place in her kitchen. It is difficult at first for Papa to let his son go, even though he will only be 100 feet away. But he and Madame both know Hassan has a gift, a gift the world needs to experience. And indeed, the village and then the world begins to take notice of Madame’s new chef. Hassan’s rise in the culinary world puts a strain on his relationship with Marguerite, however both are becoming fine chefs. It is Hassan’s skill that brings another Michelin star to the La Saule Pleureur. And then the world calls to him in earnest, and it is off to Paris he goes,  becoming the chef in a restaurant where innovation is key. There he garners much praise and recognition, but discovers he has disconnected from his heart. Eating a simple but flavorful meal with a co-worker, prepared by the man’s wife over an open fire in the courtyard, awakens Hassan’s heart and emotions again, leading him home.

The DVD rental store owner was right. I loved this movie. I’m so glad for his recommendation for here was another movie that I had not heard of and missed somehow. I smiled so much during the film. I loved watching the trips to the market for the freshest of ingredients, loved watching the choreography of chefs skillfully creating in the kitchen. It was good I had a great dinner earlier, or I would have become hungry watching as amazing meals were prepared. A longing for the Webb City Farmers Market did arise and I’m glad it is almost time for the open air market to begin again. I love watching people cook….I’m not much of a cook myself. Perhaps a cooking class is in my near future. It was inspiring watching the characters follow the passions of their hearts, while honing their skills.

Most of all, this was a story about how people from different cultures, different ways of life, perceive each other and learn to change those perceptions. It became a love story as Papa and Madame Mallory “almost” became romantic, and Hassan and Marguerite moved through their competitiveness to become partners in business and in life. Because of the way I view the world and the unseen realms, and have ongoing conversations with the Divine, I loved that Papa had conversations throughout the film with his deceased wife. He listened to what she had to say. My favorite saying that came out of one of those conversations was, “Maybe breaks break for a reason.” The flow of life took the Kadam family to this little village in France, which was exactly where they needed to go…for themselves…and for Madame Mallory and Marguerite. How did they all know that? Because that’s where the car broke down.

How do I know I was supposed to watch this movie? It flowed into my life, as easily and surely as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel did. I learned so much from watching both. I enjoyed both. Sometimes the most difficult journeys are not the longest ones, such as the 100 feet between restaurants, or the shift between rejection and acceptance or moving from the head into the heart.  I’ll be taking The Hundred Foot Journey back to the DVD store tomorrow. If I see the owner, I’ll thank him. And I won’t be requesting a refund.

hundred foot journey omelet

Journey 74: Wild, Wild Weston Birthday Party

Westons second birthday eating cupcake

Today my family celebrated the birthday of one of its youngest members. Weston, grandson of my sister Linda, and son of my nephew Scott and his lovely wife Nicole, will be two years old tomorrow. Warm weather created the perfect opportunity to move into Scott and Nicole’s big backyard to play, to laugh, to rejoice over this adorable little boy.

Westons second birthday party

Westons second birthday Kaleb

Rather than a game of poker, Kaleb and I played blocks. I couldn’t stop smiling over his moustache!

Westons second birthday cold drinks

Howdy Ma’am, would you like a cold drink?

Using the theme of Wild, Wild Weston, the house and yard had the feel of the Old West, complete with the bathroom becoming an outhouse and bandanas and moustaches adorning the guests. I loved the Wanted….Reward posters scattered throughout the house, with various cute pics of the birthday boy. I have to say, my eyes filled with tears when I thought about the truth in this clever decoration. Weston was SO wanted by his parents. They waited for this little boy with hearts full of love and hope. When he was born, it was definitely cause for celebration. And joy of joys, Weston now has a baby sister, Lola, who at four months, was an interested onlooker today.

Westons second birthday wanted poster

Westons second birthday Lola and Gigi

Little sister Lola tries out the pony

We feasted on grilled hot dogs with all the fixings, and gathered in the living room to watch Weston open gifts. He was excited about all his new toys, seriously inspecting each item, ready to play long before the last gift was opened. He has the cutest way of saying “thank you” without really moving his lips. It’s more the intonation of the words, the rise and fall of sound that’s just right so that you know that is what he is saying. With his curly red hair, big brown eyes, and impish smile, he could easily be a toddler model. He is content being his mom and dad’s first born, and Gigi’s only grandson among her four grandchildren. I love the way that his eyes take in everything. He’s a thinker who considers carefully and then he takes action. He will be an awesome big brother to Lola.

Westons second birthday opening gifts

Westons second birthday boy

The highlight of Weston’s afternoon was the setting up of the gift from his parents, a mini trampoline, surrounded by a safety net and complete with a swing connected to the side. He joined his dad, uncles, and Papa Roy and “Papa” Greg, happy to be in the middle of the action, testing the frame as the guys began set up. Eventually Weston joined the ladies and the other kids indoors, much to his chagrin, while the guys completed the task. It was not an easy job! We joked about how many men does it take to set up a trampoline. It takes a family, apparently. They did a great job and soon Weston had the honor of being the first jumper. I caught a great pic of him as he bounced, body suspended above the trampoline, smile on his face. I foresee many fun hours spent in the backyard this summer.

Westons second birthday helping

Westons second birthday the guys

Westons second birthday jumping

Go Weston Go!

Meanwhile, the adults sipped cold sodas or iced tea, visited and laughed, and watched some of the older kids play a giant sized Jenga that Jon made. It was such an enjoyable, relaxed afternoon, spent with some of my favorite people on this earth. I am blessed that they also happen to be my family. We sang Happy Birthday as Weston blew out the candles on his strawberry cupcake. Watching him as he had fun, it is hard to believe that a year  ago we celebrated his first birthday as he sat in his highchair. So quickly the time flies. The baby has become the toddler and a big brother. He is already busy showing up as the person he was created to be. It will be a joy to watch him journey. Happy, happy birthday Weston!

Westons second birthday Jenga

Westons second birthday London jumps

London jumps on the trampoline

Westons second birthday blowing out candle

Journey 73: Irrefutable Signs of Spring

proof of spring sign

Although it was a little cool today, and overcast a good portion of the day, two signs of spring appeared, to let me know that the season of awakening and rebirth is near. I noticed this afternoon that my purple lilac bush, located on the northeast corner of the house, had unfurled pale green leaves, the first of my plants to stir from winter’s sleep.

proof of spring lilac

And, my front porch began its transition from winter to spring today. I did that, of course, but it signals the arrival of spring as surely as the budding trees and the lilac opening. I love this ritual of resetting my porch and my house, creating vignettes and using pieces in new ways, as the seasons change. As the temps continue to warm up, I’ll add live plants and colorful potted flowers, and bring my yellow metal baker’s rack back to the front deck.  

I’ve come to appreciate winter for its time of rest and reflection, time of restoration and preparation. I LOVE spring, summer and fall. Although I’d be hard pressed to pick my favorite among those last three seasons, I think spring wins by a narrow margin. The stirring of the earth, the rebirth signified by flowers pushing up through the moist ground, the greens and golds of early foliage and the fragrant flowers on fruit and decorative trees, the animals who reappear after wintering elsewhere, all create an answering awakening and stirring in me. And the warming of the air and ground means I can be outside, gardening! I am so excited to see how my backyard garden fared over the winter, and begin phase two back there.

I’m letting pictures tell the rest of the story this evening, and so the remainder of my blog post is pictorial, capturing those early signs of spring. Margaret Atwood shares one of my favorite sentiments about spring: “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” I can’t wait!

proof of spring porch swing

A favorite place to watch the world go by

proof of spring side table

The letter C from Kaleb, and the green bud vase move outdoors. Dried baby’s breath and dried basil fill the vase.

proof of spring crate

My old wooden crate holds mason jar candles and fat red birds, and the ruby red bud vases from Kaleb.

proof of spring entry table

Yellow and green, blue and lavender, and hints of red and pink….colors of spring.

Journey 72: Acorns of Memory



I am loving how the tiny acorn is showing up as I travel. It seems to be finding me, rather than me seeking it. And when this reminder of the journey crosses my path, I happily accept it. 

The first acorn I found was a real one, nestled in the grass beneath a huge oak tree. The scene from The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and Mindy’s passing were fresh experiences. I carefully placed a couple of perfect little acorns in my pocket to bring home. 

I uncovered acorn items at The Fancy Flamingo Flea Market and the 2 Friends & Junk Show, much to my delight. Those inexpensive treasures came home with me as well. 

Recently, while placing an order for books on Amazon, a small silver prayer box appeared in the suggested items list. Threaded onto a delicate silver ball chain, the prayer box was shaped like an acorn. I added it to my order. I love it. The cap of the acorn is the lid of the miniature box. I wrote a word on a sliver of paper and tucked it into the acorn. 



A couple of weeks ago, scrolling through FacebooK posts, I was captivated by a silver and copper ring featured on the page, Bilbo’s Acorn. A single exquisite acorn adorns the slender silver band. The link took me to an Etsy store, Homegrown Silver and Stone. The ring is a stacking ring. I purchased the acorn ring and a plain silver band to pair with it. 

Today, my rings arrived. They immediately went on my finger and I’m enjoying them already, glancing at them often. In that amazing scene in the final Hobbit movie, Bilbo shows Thorin the acorn he has carried on the long journey. When Thorin says it’s not much of a treasure, Bilbo assures the king that he will carry it back to the Shire, plant it, and nurture it. Every time he looks at the growing tree, he will remember the journey he took. “One day I’ll remember. Remember everything that happened: the good, the bad, those who survived… and those that did not.” 

That’s the significance of the acorn for me as I journey this year. What a remarkable reminder, to have the acorn present with me, every day, perched there on my finger. At the end of this year, wherever my path has taken me, I will look at my acorn ring and remember…everything that happened and every dear traveling companion who accompanied me…including one who did not survive but who lives on in another realm. Memory and the tiny acorn are forever linked for me. 



Journey 71: The Theory of Everything

theory of everything poster

I don’t normally do two posts in a row about movies, however, what a joy this week, as my journey included two movies that deeply impacted me. Tonight I watched movie number three among the eight nominated for Best Picture…The Theory of Everything.

This biographical drama/romance stars Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Harry Lloyd, David Thewlis, Charlie Cox and Maxine Peake. The movie was directed by James Marsh and is based on the book, “Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen” by Jane Hawking. It is rated PG-13, for thematic elements and has a run time of 2 hours and 4 minutes. The Theory of Everything was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Musical Score, Best Actress for Jones and Best Actor for Redmayne. Eddie Redmayne won the film’s only Oscar.

The Theory of Everything is the story of one of the most amazing and well known physicists of our time, Stephen Hawking (Redmayne). A student at Cambridge, Stephen is considered brilliant, but he is unsure what to pursue as his thesis. He meets Jane Wilde (Jones), an art student at Cambridge, and the two begin a relationship, shyly at first, and then with more passion as they get to know each other. And then, just as it seems life is beginning for the young couple, Stephen is told he only has two years to live. Doctors diagnose his muscle weakness as a motor neuron disease called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the American baseball player who died from the illness.

Stephen is shattered and withdraws. However, Jane refuses to walk away. She tells Stephen that she loves him, and no matter how short their remaining time, she wants to spend it together. Embracing life again, Stephen decides what his course of study will be…time…the thing which is so precious to him now. The couple marries, and in spite of his prognosis, Stephen does not die. His body continues to decline as his muscles weaken, but his mind is as sharp and questioning as ever, his spirit undeterred. As children are born into the family, two sons and a daughter, Hawking breaks new ground in science as he searches for a theory that would explain everything…about time, about the universe, about the birth of the universe and time.

As those two years turn into many years, Stephen must rely on a wheelchair for mobility and his wife for his daily care. He begins receiving recognition for his work and awards, while Jane just longs for a normal life, or at the least, help in managing her husband’s growing health needs and a lively family. Needing to get out of the house occasionally, Jane joins the church choir, and meets Jonathan (Cox), a recent widower. He offers to help the family by taking on some of the care for Stephen, spending much time with the Hawkings. Eventually, he and Jane recognize that they have feelings for each other, but agree to back off of the relationship when Stephen ends up in a coma in the hospital.

theory of everything actors with stephen hawkings

The actors with Stephen Hawking

The doctor urges Jane to let Stephen go, but she fights for him, as she has all her adult life. To save his life, a tracheotomy is performed, making it easier for Stephen to breathe and silencing his voice for the rest of his life. A new live in nurse, Elaine (Peake) arrives to help care for Stephen, encouraging him to speak using an alphabet board at first, and then a computer program that translates typing into spoken words. The distinct mechanical voice with an American accent, all that was available at the time, has become one of Hawking’s trademarks and he continues using the same voice today.

Stephen begins his book, A Brief History of Time, as his relationship with Jane draws to an end. He releases her to be with Jonathan, while he moves out and later marries his nurse, Elaine. The movie concludes with Stephen meeting the Queen of England and for his escort for that honor, he asks Jane to join him. As they watch their children in the royal gardens, Stephen remarks to Jane, “Look what we made.” She says the day has been extraordinary, and then amends her words to say to Stephen that all their shared life has been extraordinary. When they were dating, Stephen said to Jane, “What if I reverse time to see what happened at the beginning of time?”. Jane answers, “Wind back the clock?” The movie closes with the clock rewinding….from the shared moment in the garden, back through their marriage, the births of their children, their wedding day, their courtship, the evening they attended the dance, the first time they saw each other across a crowded room. Back….to their beginning in time.

I was so impacted by this movie that I find it difficult to share the depth of feeling associated with it. It wasn’t just one element of the film, which is the story of two very real people, it was many things. I knew Stephen was going to be affected by an incurable disease and yet I winced as I saw the onset of symptoms. I watched most of this film with a heaviness in my chest and a feeling of constriction in my throat. I can’t quite explain that yet. My eyes teared up many, many times. In spite of the seeming unfairness of life, Stephen never lost himself even as his body became almost useless. He smiled so often. Even when he couldn’t speak, his eyes, his smile, his wriggling eyebrows conveyed a joy that couldn’t be dimmed by disease.

Most of all, I hurt for the relationship that sustained them both through challenging years and then came to an end, with tears from both of them. It wasn’t that they didn’t love each other any longer, rather, they released each other to live different lives. Perhaps, that was the greatest act of love they could offer to each other. According to information I found online, after the movie, Stephen is divorced from the nurse he married in 1995 and has a close relationship with Jane, his children and grandchildren.

Near the end of the movie, Hawking shares these words with an audience: “There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.” I am tonight, filled with hope.

theory of everything the hawkings

The Hawking Family