Dec 29, 2011

Podcasts?

What do you know about the word podcast? I had heard it before but never really focused on it. I confess that visions of Star Trek dance in my head when I hear the word and the picture of a space ship flits through my mind. I know that is not what it means but I never really focused on what a podcast was. Well on our epic driving trip to Utah in November I came to understand what a podcast is and how it can benefit me....let me tell you all about it.

 My daughter Madeline had  a ton of podcasts on her Zune for a radio show entitled This American Life. It continually amazes me how life is going on around me amazing books are being published, amazing groups are singing, and amazing radio shows are being broadcasted and it may be nearly impossible for me to know about all of them. This American Life has been in existence since 1995!! How have I missed it??  I have only known about it for about six weeks and I adore it. It is a weekly radio broadcast from Chicago and you can download the podcasts for free.

 My kids moan and groan when I want to listen to them in the car. They claim to like the stories but not Ira Glass's voice. Ira is the creator of This American Life and the host. And I can not figure out what could possibly be wrong with his voice it must be a kid thing. Besides the whole podcast is not just his voice.

 The podcasts are at least an hour and each show has a theme that it is loosely based on and they have a couple stories that relate to the theme. It is truly just ordinary life. The topics are fascinating. I want to be best friends with the person who dreams up these fabulous topics. The first one I ever listened to was called Frenemies....then I listened to one about well meaning parents...then one about unconditional love....one about people who want to be super heroes...the list is endless my friends and they are all real life. Some of the stories make you sad, some make you laugh, some make you nostalgic, some make you long to write, some make you marvel at all the different people in the world and the experiences they have, some make you think about what you have accomplished. And some just simply make you wonder :)

So as soon as you are done reading go and google This American Life... look at the archives... read all the topics... salivate at all the fabulous information out there just waiting for you... Download just one... get into a comfy chair preferably one with a great view out a window and listen to your podcast :) Oh, and be sure to let me know what you think :)

Dec 25, 2011

Staying The Same? Not Me :)

Sigh...hey blog, I have missed you so. Please do not take it personal :) There is not a day that goes by that I do not long to pour out my entire heart to you, it would be amazingly therapeutic... I just know it. How do people survive by suppressing things and covering them up? :) You know I am an open book my dear blog and if I had not recently learned that being an open book tends to help you lose your friends I would have already told you oh so much. Because I do not really care what you know. Surely the fact that you know I am not perfect is enough.

 Christmas was today and as the day goes on and I have been wandering through the house gradually picking things up and assimilating the new stuff I find myself thinking ahead to what my goals for the new year will be. I also find my mind racing through the past year....a wedding, a missionary coming home, a missionary leaving, a serious earth shattering trial, and evil bunnies eating every single pea in my garden :) What can I do to improve and be different? Who wants to stay the same?

I long to run. I actually have started this goal already and it has 100% surprised me. I can not remember the last time I was able to run more than a mile without my legs feeling weak and my breath eluding me. So when I started out running a few weeks ago I fully expected to be feeling not so great about myself. But there I was plodding along ever so slowly with the goal to run as far as I could in 15 minutes and then turn around and come back. I fully expected to do some walking. But I never did. I ran the whole way and I felt so good. I wondered if this was the tender mercy I had been praying for for oh so long. Would that be weird for Heavenly Father to bless me with mad running skills? Who knows? I have been running for the last three weeks about 4 times a week. So far I have made it to three miles and now I am trying to do three miles in 30 minutes. I never imagined that I would use the word liberating in the same sentence as running. But it brings me so much joy to accomplish this everyday. I put my big old headphones on. I borrow Madeline's I-pod shuffle. I put on three shirts and a hat and sometimes even gloves since it is so cold. And I just run and run. Maybe if I keep running my problems will just give up and let me be. I am hoping that the end result of all this running will be running Ragnar in May but we will see. I am trying to wrap my brain around the possibility that extenuating circumstances may prevent me from running the Ragnar relay but hopefully, if necessary, I can find something else to fulfill this need I have and be okay with that.

I long to go back to school. I have decided I would absolutely love to be a nurse. I have a friend who is patiently guiding me through the, "getting back into school process." I am trying to not be afraid of this process and reassure myself that plenty of 43 year old mothers of seven go back to school. I looked through some math books at Barnes and Noble and realized that this going back to school thing is not going to be pretty. But I feel determined. I just need to make sure Mister determined and Mister Courage are on the same page :)

I long to be normal. But what is normal? After this year I have a lurking fear that I am not normal in anyway. I find myself frantically asking anyone who will listen...am I normal? And of course they say I am. But honestly what else could they say? :) I am not sure what sort of goal one sets so that they can become normal?:) Maybe I should Google "what is normal?" But maybe I am afraid of the answer :) I should probably set a goal to not be afraid, huh? :)

Funny, I feel better now that I have rambled here for a minute. Hopefully this will get me back into the blogging thing...I do have so many things I need to tell you about :)


Nov 22, 2011

Taylor And The Baird's :)

Let's talk about concerts. Have you ever been to one? My ability to converse about concerts is very limited. The first concert I ever attended was when I was in high school. I happened to be in Utah and my cousins happened to have mercy on me and invited me to go with them to the ski slopes of Park City where Tears For Fears were were having a concert. I do not remember too much about the concert but I do remember flying down the road before the concert in someones car with all the windows down and the song Tears For Fears sings that has the words "Shout,shout let it all out" blaring and all of us singing along.

My next concert experience was also in high school, it was summer and it involved the Beach Boys and the Puyallup fair grounds. I very vaguely remember this one. I know one of my Young Women leaders at church took me and I know my friend Jenny Small was with me but that is about all I remember.

My third concert experience was when I was in my thirties and it involved about nine other girl friends, Fort Wayne, Indiana, and T-shirts that spelled out "We love you Donny"....yeah, Donny Osmond.

So now that you are up to speed and all done laughing about my concert experiences let me tell you about my latest experience and my new totally unrealistic new goal.....yes, I have not learned about reality yet :)

It all started this summer when I got a phone call, while I was in Oregon, from my oldest daughter Madeline who needed to know, right away, if I wanted to go to a Taylor Swift concert with her, Miriam, and Amanda on November 21st in New York City. I was in. But November seemed so far away I could barely give it any attention. But before I knew it November was here and starting on about November 10th I started to feel a little anxious about the details of how this whole, "concert in New York City thing", was going to work out. But thankfully Madeline was able to recognize that my usually detail oriented mind was still on it's 6 month vacation and she figured everything out. You see, you have to think about parking, and crowds, and money, and time when you go to a concert in New York City.....lots of logistics.

So yesterday at 11:45 I picked up Amanda from school we then picked up Madeline and Miriam from work and then we drove an hour and a half down Route 91 to New Haven, Connecticut to attempt something we had never attempted before.......taking a train into the city. Usually we drive right into the city and park. But I have ALWAYS wanted to take the train. There are some things you just know in your heart that need to try. It was so much easier than I had expected. You park your car next to Union Station. You purchase a $28.00 round trip ticket on the Metro North train, you get on the next departing train with your three oldest daughters and you soak up every single bit of the hour and a half ride that takes you straight to Grand Central Station in New York City.

When we got to New York City we were early. You may want to note that that will always happens when you invite me to go with you. We decided to walk from Grand Central Station to Madison Square Garden which was three blocks over and ten blocks up or was it ten blocks down? :) It was a nice evening. Not to cold, not to hot. A lot of the Christmas Windows were already up in the big department stores like Macy's and Lord and Taylor. I love being able to take my time and not have a care in the world when I am in New York City. We got to Madison Square Garden two hours before they started seating for the concert so we walked around, asked the security guards all sorts of questions since we do love details and knowing how things work and then we decided to go get something to eat.


When I am in New York City I like to make sure I never eat at a chain restaurant but I did not even tell my girls about this notion I have as we dashed into a Five Guys and ate.

Then we headed back a few blocks to Madison Square Garden. My girls all wanted Taylor Swift t-shirts so we used all our extra time to stand in line for those and we also used that waiting in line time to start taking in the sights. I think since we are concert virgins it immediately took us all by surprise the lengths people will go to for a concert. As person after person walked past us in t-shirts proclaiming their love for Taylor, outfits copying outfits Taylor has worn in the past, hair curled just like hers, posters with lights all over them, signs, and more signs. We started to feel vaguely out of place because we were not obsessive about Taylor Swift in any way. I felt that anxious feeling mom's feel when they realize they did not prepare their children for an experience....I mean if I had only known I could have given them a small hope that they could draw enough attention to themselves that someone would see them and invite them to meet Taylor backstage after the concert and then they could be best friends with her forever...right?



When we finally got to our seats we were pleasantly surprised that we had good seats. We sat there for two hours watching fan after fan file in and find their seats. We saw poster after poster pop up all around the arena. We watched the opening acts...Adam Brand and Need To Breathe....both were very good. There was plenty of fascinating people watching to be had.

I was stunned at all the people and all the noise they could make for one 5'11", curly hair, 21 year old girl. Remember my concert experience is very lacking. When Taylor Swift finally came on stage she completely mesmerized me for 2 hours I felt my world changing. I am 43 years old and I could not believe what I had been missing out on all these years.....how could I have thought that driving down a curvy, dark road with my music turned up way loud was the best thing ever? :)

There were fireworks, there were dancers, there was oh so much hair flipping :) there was guest singer which just happened to be the lead singer for the Goo Goo Dolls, there was Taylor bearing her soul to ME about how hopelessly romantic she is and why she felt inclined to write the words to the songs that she did, there was thousands singing along to her songs, there were glow in the dark things all over the auditorium making it look so fabulous, feeling all that power in one very big room was pretty darn amazing.


 The few times I happened to look at my three girls I had to smile as I realized that we were so alike. None of us are inclined to being crazy or drawing attention to ourselves. We all stood there, sang our guts out, clapped, raised our arms when Taylor told us too,and occasionally screamed.... but no spontaneous dancing for the Baird bunch, no rushing to try to touch the aforementioned famous person just quiet happiness :)

I watched all the future concerts at the Garden and at Radio City Music Hall flash up on the screen while waiting for the concert to begin and found myself trying to figure out how I could make it to see Lady Antebellum in May...Swedish House Mafia on December 16th, Kelly Clarkson on January 21st, and oh so much more.


Oct 18, 2011

Marveling.

Yesterday Natalie and her little friend wanted to go to the park. We live just a mere two miles from a truly amazing park with the first name of Stanley.....Stanley Park. Stanley Park is over 300 acres. Along most of its perimeter is a beautiful stone wall that I wish was mine. There are tons of trails. Numerous over fed ducks. A luscious wide open grassy spot. Gardens, ponds, fountains, flowers, huge frogs and ever so much more.

 I confess that it had been a long time since I had been to a playground at a park with my children. We seem to have outgrown that stage at our house. I chose a bench to sit on while Natalie and her friend ran to play. Gone are the days when I have to follow a child around at the park making sure they do not put anything gross in their mouth. Gone are the days when I have to follow them to make sure they do not hit someone they are not related too. Gone are the days when they need me to go down the slide with them. Gone are the days when I would meet several other moms at the park and we would chat. And on this particular day I discovered that also gone are the days they need me to push them on the swing. Natalie knew how. I am going to sheepishly declare that I do not know how she learned how to pump on the swing so beautifully. It made me feel a little melancholy that my last child knew how to pump on the swing. I sat there on my bench feeling the wind blowing the clouds across the sun you know so that you feel a burst of warmth and a burst of cool as the clouds cover and uncover the sun. One of those moments you have a feeling you will remember. I always remember where the sun was and how it felt in moments that were important to me :)

Through my mind ran so many memories of park visits in the past. Care free park visits that seem so far away now. I had brought two books to read while Natalie and her friend played but I found that the notion of putting one more thing in my head did not appeal to me at the moment so I just sat. Sometimes I found myself observing all the little personalities at the playground recognizing exactly what sort of grown ups those personalities would be when they grew up. You know....the ones who go up the slide and ruin it for those of us that are coming down :) Or the ones who block the top of the slide demanding a password. Or, my personal favorite, the ones who declare everything is base when they are playing tag. Sometimes I found myself just staring off into the distance deep in thought. For awhile I watched a pink balloon that was blowing all around the playground entertaining a little boy who thought it was the funniest thing he had ever seen. The balloon was very mesmerizing. And I was interested that it did not frustrate the little boy that the wind continued to blow the balloon out of his reach. I watched a dad go down the slide and land on his bum on the ground at the bottom :) I watched two teenage boys swing as high as they could and then see who could leap the farthest.....that brought back fond memories. Another thing that brought back memories was a kid laying on his stomach on the swing winding himself up and then letting go...spinning endlessly in circles. The circle thing always made me sick but I do love to lay on my stomach on the swing and stare at the ground and run my feet up and back, swing, and then drag my feet through the playground bark. Speaking of circles Natalie and her friend wanted to go on the tire swing. I did push them for that. They leaned back and closed their eyes and my instructions were to surprise them with a push...so that they would not know when I was going to spin them.
We only stayed about 45 minutes but the views were endless and strangely therapeutic. How will I justify the playground when they are all gone? :)

Oct 13, 2011

Running And Ragnar.

So what do you know about running? My parents started us in a running program when we were kids. It was the first organized activity I remember doing. I ran the 50 and the 100 yard dashes and loved it. I did pretty well until everyone else grew longer legs. I remember running...ahem, chasing boys....on the playground in elementary school and other kids marveling at how fast I ran. I loved the feeling of never getting caught. I thought I was on top of the world as I flew around that playground in little old Sedro Woolley, Washington.

 I have lots of ribbons in a scrapbook somewhere commemorating my track running years. I started on the track team in high school but I confess to you that I gave up pretty quickly when I realized I could not get by on sheer talent anymore that I would also have to work? WHAT? So I decided music was my thing and never looked back at track.

 My sisters all ran track very successfully in high school. My sister Rebecca still runs and actually will be running in the Boston Marathon next year. My dad ran in high school. My kids have all dabbled in track....except Joe. Madeline even ran on the BYU track team for awhile. I run from reality :) I guess the point is running seems to be all around me. I have recently found myself longing to understand it and embrace it.

 As seems to be my way I have been asking anyone I can all about their running philosophy, reading about it, and meditating about it for a few months now but still no action :) I got new shoes....so I guess that could be action. I ride 6 or so miles on my bike several days a week maybe that could be action? :) I seem to think I need proper running clothes before I can start. Stalling? I hope not :) I have a goal in mind. And that goal is Ragnar. Have you heard of it? Ragnar is when you gather with eleven, non judgemental, loving friends and run about 200 miles, relay style, with them. You share your hopes and dreams with them. You let them smell your sweat for 24 hours. You let them watch you snore in the car between race legs. It speaks to me. Madeline has run Ragnar for the last couple years and Amanda ran last year, Zach even ran one leg with Madeline just for fun. I volunteered last year and that is when I caught the vision of the absolute blast it was. I confess that I am more in it more for the bonding than the running. But I would love to be able to have successfully accomplished this race. Have I ever run a long distance race before? Ummm no. I keep looking at the Ragnar website and reading their training schedule and looking at my calendar and penciling things in thinking that I can so do this. I have felt so confident and in control until my darling other half pointed out that I am almost 43 and have not run like this before. Then I found worry creeping in. Not my favorite feeling. I tend to be an overly optimistic person never ever considering any side other than the positive. I REALLY want to run Ragnar. The race has a different course this year and is going to be run through Plymouth, Massachusetts and up Cape Cod to end in Provincetown which sounds like such a beautiful and fascinating course to me. But now I find myself questioning my abilities and I hate that part.

I need to stop worrying about if I have the right sports bra or the right shorts. I need to stop worrying about someone seeing me running and I need to just start with baby steps and not worry about anything else. Anyone I talk to who is now a successful runner always tells how they started out slow and how they could barely run a mile when they started. I used to long for time to do things like this and believe me now I have the time so I have no excuse....is fear an excuse? Is running alone an excuse? Is needing something to hold my music on an excuse? Is running though a constant fog an excuse? Is feeling a little broken an excuse? Yeah, look out Ragnar Relays Cape Cod here comes Jennifer, maybe you are just the thing she needs :)

Oct 10, 2011

It Does Not Happen Often :)

Okay, I do not want you to panic but I may or not be going to blog about craft projects today. I have told you many times before that I am a "wanna be" craft girl. I buy fabric. I buy paper with prints on them. And occasionally I do things with them. But it does not come naturally. I am not the type to just let those creative juices flow. Nope, if I craft, and when I craft it is because I have very detailed instructions written out for me...preferably with pictures...even better is a step by step how to video ....even better than that is a craft loving kind of friend who will hold my hand while I craft.

 Usually the notion to craft at our house is accompanied with a child's birthday and this time it is Tatiana's birthday. She wanted to have some craft projects to do with her friends. It took me a couple days to get up my courage and then when I knew it simply would not go away I took a deep breath and went to the Family Fun website. There were ever so many adorable things to make. I printed off 7 ideas and presented them to Tatiana. She was instructed to choose two.

 The first one she chose involved acorns. Which I was delighted about because we have gazillions of acorns in our yard. I have to tell you that the acorn project had a warning attached to it. A warning about worms inside the acorns. The instructions were to freeze or bake the acorns to kill the possible worm inside otherwise you would have trouble. Worms crawling out of your acorns trouble. So when I finally got Tatiana to choose her crafts I did not have much time to collect the acorns from the yard, wash them and then freeze them for a day, defrost them and then pre-paint them. So I hurried out to our front yard to gather acorns in the rain. Sigh, the things a mother will do. Gathering them and killing worms inside of them was the least of my troubles. Remember that I had to paint them orange? Yeah, try to hold an acorn and paint it. Very difficult. So let me tell you what I ended up doing because it will make you so happy when and if you ever end up painting acorns. Get a trusty safety pin, poke the sharp end into the soft bottom of the acorn where it will stay nicely while you hold the top of the safety pin and paint the acorn.

 It took at least two coats to cover each acorn adequately. They were painted orange so they would look like pumpkins. They were so little and cute. It was worth the agony of painting each one twice. Oh and there is more agony, I had to figure out how to dry them without setting them down, and guess how one does that? They get out their trusty blow dryer and hold each painted acorn and blast it with hot air. Yes, we always pamper our acorns at the Baird house. And here is the finished, well loved, pampered acorn craft project.


The second project involved begging my friends for milk cartons. And then all it required was a sharpie and a sharp knife to cut a hole in the milk carton. Okay, and a little bit of experimenting to make sure I could burn a candle inside a milk carton...which is working out splendidly...so far :) I have no idea how, or who comes up with these ideas but I am duly impressed.
I adore these ghosts. The hardest part of them was getting a good picture of them. I confess I have a longing to make a gazillion of them. I used solid white milk cartons and the normal more translucent milk cartons and both turned out well. Tonight, Tatiana and her friends each made one and they looked so fabulous all lined up on my porch. I stood out there way too long staring at them.

Oct 7, 2011

"Fire Virgin"

So is there anyone more in love with fire than me? I really can not imagine there is. I live for that meaningful smell. The crackling, popping, sizzling sound it makes is music to my ears. Watching the colors dance is right next to bliss. I have no idea why I can make sense of so much in my life when I am staring into the fire. When I was a teenager we would often have a fire outside and I remember finding my mom sitting out there. I associate fire with nothing but supreme happiness:

Putting a pop can in a fire on the beach in Anancortes at Shelley's dad's house and running when it exploded....awesome sound!

Countless years of girls camp.....singing silly songs around the campfire about Sippin Cider Through A Straw and such :)

Sitting on a beach somewhere near Tillamook, Oregon watching fireworks explode out over the water while sitting by a huge fire....yeah, that's right I used the word fire twice in that sentence....sigh, that was a perfect moment.

Sitting by a fire and hearing owls hooting back and forth while staring into the fire.....so perfect.

Sitting by a fire listening to my mom dispense words of wisdom to my sister.

I have often longed to live in a place where we could have a fire outside. I know there are people out there who have fires every night they possibly can. They sit around them and chat, stare at the stars, and soak up nature I have been known to be jealous of them. Fire is such a simple, yet oh so powerful thing.

When we first moved into our house in Massachusetts I needed a fire pit.....soon. So the husband went to work on one. I was appreciative, but the finished product ended up being very close to an enormous rock that we have in our backyard and we could never fully enjoy the fire because one side of the fire was blocked by this massive rock and the actual pit was small, I am a BIG fire kind of girl. Nevertheless, that was our fire pit for three and a half years and it served us well.

 Last spring I got the notion to switch things up. When Zach came home from his mission in May I enlisted his help and he started researching fire pit building ideas online. But then he ended up getting a job at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah and he suddenly had to leave so we never worked on the fire pit. About two weeks ago I decided it was time to really focus on the fire pit. The husband jumped right in to help but I really wanted it to be my project so I signed a paper stating that I indeed had instructed him to NOT do a honey do :) JK.

 I have no idea why today was the magic day but it was. I made a large circle outline with my shovel and then using my hands I pulled out all the grass that was inside the circle. Then I wheeled 3 wheelbarrows full of topsoil away. Next I went to the Baird Families perpetual pile of rocks (every family should have one of these :) and I chose out my very favorites to line the fire pit with. New England is always happy to provide you with rocks anytime you need them.


When I was done with the fire pit I did not forget the most important part....proper seating. I remembered that sitting in my garage were two logs that I had used in a cub scout activity eons ago. I carried them back to the fire pit, tried them in several different spots, so as to be true to my womanhood, made a final decision, and blissfully sat on them. I confess, I was pleased as punch with my accomplishment. But there was one last thing....FIRE! Now you would think with all this talk about fire that I have been building fires since I was a wee lass....ummm that is not so. I have attempted fire building but there is something about me that just causes other people to long to show me how to do things. And I have always happily let them. But those days are over. Jennifer needs to be able to do things like build a fire on her own :) How will I ever get on Survivor? :)

So I headed to the garage and procured newspapers. Then I headed to the kitchen for matches. Then I stood with my hands on my hips staring at our leaning wood pile. I knew a few basics since I have taught cub scouts in my past....start with little sticks and end with big sticks... I am so smart :) So I laid out little sticks and rolled up pieces of newspaper and lit them with a match and voila.....yeah, not really. I mean it did start and I gave it all the love, nurturing, and kind words I could but in the end after about 20 minutes it was clear I was missing an important part. But I decided to dwell on what that missing part was later on and I moved on to the rest of my day. Yes, I am aware that you can probably identify my problem by looking at the picture :) I never was one to hide anything :)

When Tatiana came home from school and saw the new fire pit she was SO on board. She needed a fire right then and now and she needed to cook something over it. So after we did paper routes, a Wal Mart run, and other puttering around it finally came time to play fire again. We grabbed my flashlight, the newspaper and matches and headed to the backyard for,"Jennifer starts a fire volume two." We worked extra hard this time. We gathered pinecones and pine needles in the dark, we coaxed and coaxed the fire, and finally we got a very average fire going. Starting it was not a problem it was keeping it going.


Suddenly all my girls came out to join in the fun and Madeline immediately declared herself to be the goddess of fire. She explained to me all about oxygen, combustion, and everything in between. I was fascinated and immediately learned what I had been doing wrong. We all hung out by the fire for awhile. It was pretty cool to be sitting there with an amazing moon, stars, fire and my five daughters. We did not talk about all our deep, touchy feely, feelings Baird's rarely do that. Instead they danced around the fire, they yelled at Natalie for shining my amazing flashlight in their eyes and they counseled Tatiana on the fine art of cooking her brat (not a brat...you know....a brat :) over the fire. As we were winding down and heading inside I despairingly declared, "I really stink at building fires" and Madeline declared comfortingly, "It's okay mom, you are just a fire virgin." I think I said, "Thanks" :) I am still not sure what a good reply to that title would be :)


Oct 5, 2011

Best Friends With Characters.

I was flipping through a magazine the other day and I came across an intriguing question, "If you could be friends with any character in a book who would you be friends with?" I have found myself thinking about that question for a few days. So this morning I went and stood in front of my bookshelf and decided I just had to have an answer to this question. Which characters out of the books on my shelf would I want to be friends with? I never do anything halfway and I must sheepishly admit that I am sitting here surrounded by 18 books that have characters in them I would adore being friends with. And I am confident that I could have found 18 more if I had not consciously stopped myself :)


So the first one I have to be friends with is Emma from Jane Austen's novel Emma. Emma most definitely had some flaws but she always had good intentions and when she responds to a situation at a picnic in a very poor manner and her dear friend Mr Knightley reproves Emma and explains to her how wrong she was to respond the way she did she bears his reproving with such strength and then determines to fix the situation and is willing to admit that she had been wrong. I would love nothing better that to be friends with someone who tried so hard to be genuine and help people and could admit when she had done wrong. I confess that I dearly would have loved to wear those long dressses with the empire waists and take walks and shoot bow and arrows with her. She is a character that really grows throughout her story and it is fun to be around people who learn and grow in a pleasant easygoing way :) Jane Austen gives her some unlikeable qualities because Emma lives more fully than the others in her world, takes more chances, and feels her successes and failures more keenly. And I love that.




My next dear friend would have to be Eowyn from Lord of The Rings. Eowyn is fearless and I could use a friend with "long hair like a river of gold" and some fearless in my life :) Eowyn did not sit around waiting for an outcome she acted. SIGH.....I would love to hang out with someone who acted and did not wait to be acted upon. If I was her friend I would have been there for her when she realized Aragon did not love her and I would have been ecstatic for her when she met Faramir and married him. We could have ridden our horses across the most incredibly picturesque fields with our hair flowing in the wind and I would hope we would go sword shopping together :)

I thought about being friends with the main characters from two of my favorite books....The Angle of Repose and A Room With A View but Lucy Honeychurch would have been so frustrating to be friends with because it took her forever to be honest with herself about her feelings for George. I wonder if I could have waited patiently for her to discover them? And then Susan Ward sigh...how she messed up everything. I mean it takes two to tango but to watch her come to her angle of repose is oh so painful. But this is not about people I do not want to be friends with ...that can be tomorrow :)


How about Anne Shirley of Green Gables? Oh what a fabulous friend that would have been for me. She was stubborn, she was passionate, she was loyal and oh so smart. I think we could have taken on the world together. Our hearts could have soared together when we saw a beautiful view. I would definitely laid in the bottom of a boat and quoted poetry while floating down the river with her. We could have talked about words for hours on end. And as a added bonus Anne adored fantasy....I could use a break from my, "all about reality friends"....sorry guys :)

Another one that made the top of my list of 18 was Katherine Mary O'Fallon who is the main character in the book Mrs. Mike. She left her home in Boston to marry a Canadian mountie and headed into the great Canadian wilderness with him. I promise I do not just want to be her friend so I can see the Northern lights....that would just be an added bonus. I would selfishly hope I could learn about love from her. Her story is so tender and romantic. Would I have been a supportive friend as she adjusted to living so differently than she had been used to in Boston? Would I have been able to comfort her adequately when her children died? We could have chatted about maturing marriages and their troubles. And how I would have loved to listen to her talk about all she learned.

So I never intended to bore you with my entire list of 18 but I will tell you that silly me had Seabiscuit in my pile...who would not want to be friends with a racehorse? I had The Great Brain...yes girls can be friends with boys. I had Little Women, The Host, Pride and Prejudice, Anne Frank, Redwall (yes,I would be the first human that would be friends with mice :), My Antonia, The Great Gatsby....Nick of course would be the best friend ever he was so open minded and so good at listening. So here is to our favorite friends in books, they fill our minds with so many dreams and hopes and help us to recognize oh so many things as we watch them struggle. I wonder if I was a character in a book if you would want to be my friend? :)





Oct 2, 2011

The Sound of Silence.



Silence is like a river of grace inviting us to leap unafraid into its beckoning depths. It is dark and mysterious in the waters of grace. Yet in the silent darkness we are given new eyes. In the heart of the divine we can see more clearly who we are. We are renewed and cleansed in this river of silence. There are those among you who fear the Great Silence. It is a foreign land to you. Sometimes it is good to leap into the unknown. Practice leaping.
MACRINA WIEDERKEHR, Seven Sacred Pauses




Perhaps the most important thing we bring to another person is the silence in us, not the sort of silence that is filled with unspoken criticism or hard withdrawal. The sort of silence that is a place of refuge, of rest, of acceptance of someone as they are. We are all hungry for this other silence. It is hard to find. In its presence we can remember something beyond the moment, a strength on which to build a life. Silence is a place of great power and healing.
- Rachel Naomi Remen


What do you know about silence? Does it make you feel like you need to say something? Does it make you feel comfortable or awkward? I have been thinking about silence for about 9 months now. Yes, we always think about things for a long time before we actually try them out :) Silence is the relative or total lack of audible sound. Silence can refer to the lack of communication or it can also be total communication. Yeah, think about that for a minute :)

A long, long time ago when I was about 39 there was an activity at the church building in Indiana, where we lived at the time, and I decided to go. I will never forget the fear in my heart when the person in charge of the activity wanted to make a point by having us stand and stare into someones eyes....someone who we did not know very well...we had to stand there while a song played and simply look into this person's eyes. In my head, I was not very mature about this activity I was dreading it. I mean people never do things like that in real life. It is too personal. To still. To revealing. I felt so incredibly awkward but there was no graceful way out of it. At first it was exactly as I imagined.....awkward....but then I started really looking into this particular ladies eyes and I was startled to discover a connection forming. It felt so strange as I seemed to feel her happy and her sad just by looking into her eyes and not saying anything. I did not want to admit that it was sort of cool and because of this experiment I will always have a connection with this woman that I hardly knew.

Sadly, silence and Jennifer have never ever been together in the same sentence. Way too scary :) I have always been on such a never ending quest to know you, connect with you, and trade information with you that silence and being still were rarely on my radar. But I am happy to say that has been changing....ever so slowly... but it is changing. I love learning something new about myself. And I have learned that silence and I are actually very compatible. I am attempting things I never have ever attempted before. I sit on my front porch in the morning for at least a half an hour and just listen and think...no phone, no computer, no book, no cell phone, just me and the front porch. I notice where the sun is shining. I notice the sounds the birds make. I notice the leaves. I have been going on hikes by myself. I spend hours in a silent car with no cd's or radio just the open road and silence. I go shopping by myself. I even find myself not needing to defend myself and just let silence be my answer to rumors and untruths that reach my little ears...don't get too excited I am SO not perfect at this part but I am definitely dabbling in it :) Silence is becoming strangely comforting.

It can be difficult to interpret silence. Does it mean anger, hostility, or disinterest? Or does it mean something else? When I was reading about silence I found out that people who live in Western cultures feel uneasy with silence. So true! When I was teaching seminary I was encouraged to embrace silence and not to feel any rush to fill a quiet space with words. I was taught that it would not hurt those seminary kids to have a moment to reflect. And it turns out it really was a good thing.

There are two kinds of silence. One is good and one is bad. The one where you give the silent treatment or you are quiet because you are too weak to assert yourself can create dysfunction or disunity. The one where you wait to say something because you are trying not to speak impulsively...yeah, thinking before you talk :) Do people do that? :) that silence is good.

Sep 25, 2011

Gratitude for Ancestors.

I have found myself thinking about ancestors tonight. Is it strange that as I have struggled this summer with some oh so enormous difficulties that the one thought that kept me steady through it all was of my ancestors? Yeah, all those adorable people who came before me, all the ones I am descended from. The ones I got my stubbornness from. The ones I got my need to talk from. The ones that I acquired my love of connecting with people from. The ones I got my need for fairness from. And one of them surely had to have given me my sense of humor....sigh, and do not forget the hateful curly hair, and there is oh so much more....but not here, not now :)

 SO why did/do my stubborn, talkative,connected, humorous, curly haired ancestors keep me steady through my miserable-ness? And how did they do it since they are long since gone? Dang good questions. You see, my ancestors pushed handcarts across the plains to Utah. They suffered persecution and hardships for what they believed. Some of them died before they ever got to Utah. They left their possessions behind. They never gave up. When the very evil, "I really can not do this" thought crossed my mind this summer the next thought that immediately followed was how could I dare think that ? How could I betray that word persevere that is very solid in my genes? 

 I was in Utah this summer on the 24th of July, the very date that in 1847 Mormon Pioneers first entered the Salt Lake Valley. I was up very early this particular Sunday morning. I had a multitude of thoughts spinning through my little old mind as I was driving north on the freeway from Salt Lake City towards Plainfield with those huge, majestic mountains sitting on my right with the brilliant morning sun shining on them I found myself doing the sobbing thing as I drove along thinking about what the people who had come before me had given up.....yeah, you know sacrificed. What have you sacrificed lately? What have I sacrificed lately? If you sacrifice something you give up something of value as a means of gaining something more desirable or of preventing some evil. Do I even understand what sacrifice means? Hmmmm I wonder. I think I do.

I have quite a bit of my ancestors writings but I find myself longing for a big old fashioned talk....since we are all talkative and love to connect would that not be lovely? :) What gave them strength? What gave them courage? What were their fears? What was their comfort food? :)

I wonder what kind of ancestor I am being? What strength am I giving to some curly haired, stubborn,talkative, future mini me through my example? Do you think when they were bucking up and being strong way back in the 1800's they had any idea how it would influence my life in 2011 in Massachusetts? I am ever so grateful for their examples.

Sep 23, 2011

Plan B?

We have to talk about hot air balloons today. Why? Because I am ever so fond of torturing myself. But lets not get ahead of ourselves. Lets calmly start at the beginning. I love hot air balloons. When I was a kid in Snohomish the hot air balloons would often fly over our house. You would be laying in bed on a Saturday morning and hear the sound of the hot gas being shot up into the balloon as it went over your house. A disconcerting sound if you do not know what it is. But once you know what it is you run to the window to see if you can see it and then you run outside to get the full view and see if it just might be the one that will land in your families lower pasture. I do not remember having a huge longing to go up in one but I do remember adoring watching them. I feel the same way about the ocean. I could sit and watch it for days but to actually get in it? Ummm yeah, not so much :)


As I grew up and moved away from Washington I have yet to live somewhere where my house has happened to be in the path the hot air balloons took so it has been years since I have seen one. It is a fond childhood/teenagerhood memory I have and I have really wanted my kids to have a chance to see hot air balloons.


 So last year about this time I saw a friend from Massachusetts post something on Facebook about a hot air balloon festival in New York. I was so interested. But I had already missed it for that year. So this year I had, "see a balloon festival" on the top of my list of things I HAD to do. I contacted that friend, researched, announced to the family many days ago that there was no choice... they were all coming, and I got the husband to procure a hotel room. Everything was set for the perfect weekend with hot air balloons ever. I have been so gosh darn excited. But I forgot one important detail.....to have a chat with Mr. Weather. Hot air balloons can't play in the rain. It drives me crazy that I still do not know for sure what the weather will be on Saturday September 24th at 5:45am. It continues to fascinate me that I have not one ounce of common sense in my 4'10" body at all and I want to still go even though rain is in the forecast. I continue to be optimistic. But I was voted off the island :) and the hotel was cancelled and I am so sad.




I was determined to have a fun weekend so I got on the computer and started looking up things that were next on my list of "must do's". I would research and get all excited about a new plan and then have my practical, realistic husband remind me it was going to be raining as I continued to mindlessly choose outdoor activities. So look out Baird family because the next sunny weekend in New England we will be driving to WaterFire in Providence, Rhode Island, a balloon festival wherever I can happen to find one in the continental United States, a hike in Vermont, and that awesome train ride in Stockbridge.....reality schmality :)

Sep 22, 2011

Use The Force


Yeah....I googled "Jedi mind tricks" and ended up spending the morning reading about the force. Wait, I can explain. I had a moment of desperation :) I can not seem to make my mind do what everyone else seems to think it should be easily doing and while I was dwelling on that concept for some reason the phrase Jedi mind tricks popped into my mind and I realized that I needed to google it.


I have a sneaking suspiscion that I may have a mind of my own....gasp. It is so fascinating to me how you can know something logically in your mind and yet have the hardest time actually doing it. I think about Luke Skywalker working and working on understanding the force while cruising through space on Han Solo's Millenium Falcon with Obi Wan. Trying to fight against that little gray floating ball while wearing that helmet on his head that covers his eyes. Being told to let go and trust his instincts. Yeah, easier said than done right Luke?


According to Wikipedia the force is all around us and a Jedi...or in this case, a Jennifer, gets her strength from the Force. The force is an energy field created by all living things, it binds everything together. Sometimes there are disturbances in the force and that occurs when there is a death or some intense suffering. There is force sensitivity which means you have a extra gift that makes it so you are ultra sensitive to the force and you have to learn how to harness this gift. If you have telekenisis, levitation, telepathy, increased empathy, basically any increase in natural, physical or mental abilities those all fall under the definition of force abilities. If I could figure out how to just let go and embrace the force I could easily launch proton torpedoes into a two meter wide thermal exhaust port on the Death Star if needed. That would be pretty sweet :) A definite confidence booster.


For now all I really need is the ability to feel and truly understand what I already know, being able to bring down the Death Star is undoubtedly in my future but lets start small. I desperately need a Yoda to help me steady my own mind and teach me how to use The Force to concentrate and be still. Remember when Luke's spaceship sinks in the swamp? Yoda tries to tell him that raising the ship out of the swamp is just like moving the little rocks he has been practicing moving. Luke declares that he will try and after a less than serious attempt he proclaims, "I can't" and simply walks away. While Luke is sulking Yoda sighs, closes his eyes, raises his little hand, does his Jedi mind "thing", and raises the ship out of the water.... Good times.

Yep, I definitely need to open the application process for a Yoda. I fear I may be as stubborn as Luke and it is possible that I may decide to disobey and run off to help my rebel friends but I think in the end it will be a rewarding job. I show lots of signs of being able to submit and concentrate. So if you are non judgemental, patient, unconditional and love frustration you should let me know.... we can watch all the Star Wars movies together before we start :)

Sep 15, 2011

Open House.

Tonight was yet another beginning of the year school open house. Last week was the high school open house. Tonight was the middle school open house and next week is the elementary school open house. I have no idea why I adore attending school open house. I fear it may be my love of watching people. They do so fascinate me.

I love to meet the kids teachers. You can tell so much about them right away. Some have hand outs for you. Some have websites. Some even have Andes mints and sharpened pencils for you. Some spend a ton of time explaining the curriculum. Some brag. Some justify their choices. Some keep you after the bell that tells you to head to your kids next class just because they can. I love how pleased they are with themselves when they immediately guess which child is mine. I never ever crush their little world by telling them that everyone in the world knows after one look that my kids are mine :) I just smile and ask them how on earth they knew that I was Joe, Tatiana, Madeline, Miriam, Amanda, Natalie or Zach's mom. I know they are sizing me up just as I am sizing them up. Some of them I can talk to immediately like we were best friends. Others I work very hard to get a smile. I always find it interesting that just as I love to tell my kids what I observed about their teachers their teachers love to tell my kids what they observed about me. I am sure they are watching which seat I choose to sit in, if I chat to the people around me, what kind of questions I ask, if I brought a pen (yeah, I forgot one and had to borrow a pen from someone in every single one of Joe's classes...UGH). They are most likely thinking that they can tell from a mile away that I am Amanda's mom as I ask lots of questions to make sure I am filling out my forms the exact right way... Joseph's mom as I ask my questions with a smirk on my face, and Tatiana's mom as I sit quietly and drink in everything in the room with my eyes.

Observing the teachers is not the only fun at open house....oh, no the parents are supremely entertaining. At Westfield High School I wish I knew the statistic on how many of the parents actually went to Westfield High School themselves. They all seem extremely chummy as we are all walking through the halls. It is almost like we are all back in high school too as we walk from class to class sizing each other up. I have "I went to high school on the west coast and don't know any of you" written all over me. But I love that. More quiet alone time with my thoughts and analyzing of them :) There is always a parent in every class that asks a question that the teacher has already answered. There is always a parent that asks a question that makes it so you know they are doing their kids homework for them :) There is always a class clown, even when you are a grown up. You can observe which ones were popular when they were in school. And which ones are still fighting their label from high school. Yep, there is nothing but a good time to be had at open house.

Tonight was the middle school open house and I confess I almost did not go. I was involved in a book that I could not put down but at the last minute Tatiana asked if I was going and I said yes and I am once again so glad I went. I learned oh so much. Her music teacher made me smile and wish I could be in school as he exuberantly taught me about chords. Her science teacher had her picture taken with Bill Nye the science guy. Her math teacher loves acronyms. Her language arts teacher wants them to learn how to make the boring interesting (which a few parents were not to thrilled about...it is so hard for their kids to write about something if something interesting did not happen to them.) It surely can not be easy to be a teacher and have to deal with us parents. We think we know how they should teach and how they should handle things and we think our kid is perfect. I find myself longing more and more with each passing open house that I could be a school teacher. It looks so amazingly fun. It seems like a cruel twist of fate that I am going to be 43 soon and finally know what I want to be when I grow up. Thanks life for showing up late.....bless your heart :)

Sep 8, 2011

Overgrown.


I have been ignoring my garden this summer....there I said it. In all my 20 plus years of gardening I have never, ever been able to say that. I guess there is a first time for everything, eh? As the evil bunnies systematically ate two plantings of peas and 6 rows of beans I felt discouragement take over and as it turned out, bunnies were the least of my worries this summer, and I finally just had to give up.

I finally decided just this last Saturday that enough was enough and I set out to face the very embarrassingly overgrown garden. I am not sure what I had been waiting for. Maybe I had read way too many church-y articles about people needing support and service and other people feeling prompted to show up to help and thought someone would show up and offer to weed along with me and listen to me talk in a most un-judging way :) Yeah, silly me, I tend to not embrace reality :) I filled our huge, wheelbarrow heaping full with weeds four times and that was not even half of the garden. Can I tell you how rewarding it was to rescue the poor little plants that were choking? It was so therapeutic to grab the base of those huge weeds with both hands and pull and pull and then to be rewarded with a beautiful open spot.

I decided you would still love me and not be too disappointed in me if I posted a picture of the part that is left for me to weed so you can see just how neglectful I have been. And hopefully you can feel better about the state of your garden.

I was curious to discover that despite the weeds I had a fabulous crop of potatoes. A overwhelming crop of cucumbers. And way too many tomatoes. And meandering all around the garden are the best pumpkin vines I have ever grown with huge pumpkins on them. So all was not lost. Definitely not pretty to look at but still fulfilled it's purpose.

I spent Tuesday canning tomatoes and got 20 pints from my first picking. I am going to have to find more tomato based recipes to use all these canned tomatoes :)

As I weeded my garden I found myself thinking about The Secret Garden. I can vaguely remember reading the book and I know I watched the movie and I found myself wondering if what I remembered was true. So today when I really should be weeding the rest of the garden I fear I am off to go sit on my bum and watch The Secret Garden. It seems like I remember the overgrown, hidden garden giving someone a focus, a goal, and some perspective but I could be, oh so, wrong :)

Sep 6, 2011

Running Shoes.


I have known for awhile now that I needed running shoes. I actually had a pair picked out in May at Marshall's but when I went back to get them they were gone. I have a few issues that make it so shoe shopping in general, let alone, running shoe shopping has some serious obstacles.

The first issue is my shoe size which happens to be a kids size 2. Some of my shoes are three's, some are four's, I even went through a phase where I convinced myself I could wear a ladies size five but the truth of the matter is I wear a size two in kids. Yes, I could wear shoes that have Dora the Explorer or princesses on them if necessary......which is a very helpful thing to know.

I had a dear friend that alerted me to the fact that there are websites out there that have amazingly grown up looking shoes in my size but I have yet to commit to one of them. Instead I continue to wander aimlessly through the kid shoe sections in Kohls, JC Penney, Kid Footlocker, Marshall's, Lands End and oh so many more. Occasionally I will have amazing luck and find something that looks grown up-ish. It may have flowers on the bottom, so that I can leave enviable footprints wherever I go but all that matters is that on the surface it looks like a 42 year old woman's shoe. I have to say that this amazing luck with shoes happens very occasionally.

When I was a teenager I was known to stuff the toe of my shoes with toilet paper so that I could wear a shoe I adored but did not really fit me. I just needed to confess to you about that just here in the middle of my blog :)

An issue that comes with running shoe shopping is finding good running shoes for kids....ahem, that are not pink and are actually good running shoes like they would make for a serious running adult. Which I am hoping to be :)

Two weeks ago I spent way too much time in all the running shoe stores in the mall with Joseph, my 15 year old, and while I was waiting for him to look at every single shoe in every store I wandered over to my section and checked out what my options were. Everything was very trendy. With odd bottoms or colors or velcro :) Things that make the kids feel like they are going to die if they are not wearing them. I am not sure what a shoe would have to have to make a 42 year old woman die if she was not wearing them. Finally in one store on the clearance rack I saw a pair of Nike's that spoke to me. They were light. They could bend in half. They were gray. They were $39.99. I did not purchase them. WAIT....the story is not over :) If you are going to shop with me you have to know this is normal. I left them there. And the next two times I was in the store I looked at them again. I needed to know if they were going to be good running shoes. I knew I liked them otherwise. Finally, I ended up at the mall with my 20 year old daughter who ran on the BYU track team and she approved my shoes...I think it is called validation and reassurance :) And those two words were all I needed to purchase the Nike Glide 2's in gray.

Of course now that I have the running shoes I need running outfits. For the first time in years I am looking at running tights, running shorts, running shirts....gasp....without sleeves. I do not know why some of us think we need all the right things before something can happen :) But all the stores in the world must surely be grateful for us :)

I am going to take the best care ever of these shoes. They are not allowed in the garden or when I am doing yard work. I always end up wearing my "running shoes" everywhere until they become "everything shoes." But not these shoes. The other shoes in my closet are going to accuse them of being stuck up and it is going to be true...they are only for running :)


Sep 2, 2011

Pissarro, Williamstown and Friday.


Yesterday was the first of my Adventure Friday's. I have had Clark Museum written on my calendar for several days and was so excited for this day. All summer long there has been a billboard on the Mass Pike and this billboard told everyone heading west on the Pike about a special exhibit at the Sterling and Francine Clark Museum in Williamstown and I would stare at it longingly every single time I drove by, which is way to often :) The exhibit was called Piasarro's People and I was going to die if I did not get to see it. I easily convinced my dear friend Gail to go with me and we chose yesterday for our fun.

The drive in itself makes it so worth it to go. It was a beautiful clear day with a hint of Fall in the air. The trees are getting ready to change color. The entire drive there are trees and mountains in every direction and I could see hints of fall colors on the tops. We passed several beautiful lakes. We saw enormous wind....oh dear what do you call them? They are so amazing. They are huge and they look like giant pinwheels that are plain white and they make energy out of wind. They look so out of place yet mesmerizing when you see them peeking over the mountains turning around and around. I wish I had a picture to show you what it looked like. I could have watched them for a long time. The New England towns are so beautiful to drive through. And a few times the road would just happen upon an amazing view that would fill my heart so full it would nearly burst. The conversation with Gail is always fascinating and I had not even arrived at the museum yet and I could confidently declare it was a perfect day.

I did my research and the library in our town had a free pass to the Clark Museum so we were feeling pretty proud of ourselves that our day was going to be free.....oh, alright, gas and some food :)

I have to admit I did not know much about Pissarro so I did not know what to expect. It continues to amaze me as I look at art and read about the paintings how confidently people can declare what the painter was feeling when he painted the picture and how his political views, his personal relationships, and his profound social and economic concerns can all shape what he choses to paint. I guess if I would have sat still and thought about it it does make sense that your work would be much better if you were trying to make a statement and cared deeply about the topic and that you would need a strong motivation.

So the scoop is that Camille Pissarro was an impressionist painter. Often referred to as the father of impressionism.....what does being an impressionist painter mean? If you are an impressionist painter you use small, thin, yet visible brush strokes and your emphasis is on the accurate depiction of light. Also you paint common ordinary subject matter. And there are some other guidelines but these seem to be the basic ones :)

Pissarro painted his family, friends, and farm workers. Lots of the pictures were set in his home, out in fields, or market places. Of course one of my favorites was painted in a garden. Pissarro had eight kids so he had lots of options for subjects to paint. He apparently was a family man but not conventional in any way. He encouraged his kids to read and draw and to question the values of the time. Pissarro himself had anarchist beliefs. I had heard that word before but I had never had a cause to really focus on what it meant. As I read about him at the museum and talked with Gail I came to understand what it meant and to form my own opinion of anarchist beliefs. Pissarro's anarchist beliefs were a huge part of his life.

We looked through part of Pissarro's paintings on the main level of the musuem and then we wandered through some other exhibits. A fascinating concept if you think about it.....wandering through a museum staring at things other people painted, wondering what they were thinking about when they painted the picture. Amazing how much of art celebrates the human body. There were also lots of portraits and landscapes. I felt a little disappointment at some of the titles of some of the pictures....."Man in a Hat"....really? I could do so much better even just a few more words would have made a world of difference.....Man in a Hat Thinking About His Day" would have thoroughly satisfied me and given me lots to think about.

We eventually found our way to the rest of the Pissarro exhibit on another floor of the museum and then sadly we had to get going. I hate how your real life reaches out and grabs you and you can not ignore it. We ate at a cafe in the museum that was truly amazing. I had quiche with swiss cheese and ham in it and an amazing salad with all sorts of fresh lettuces. It was so fabulous and yummy that we both did not even hesitate to order the chocolate mousse for dessert. I NEVER order dessert but the lunch was so light and perfect that I was surprised that I actually had room for dessert. And it was oh so decadent. I wanted to stay there all day. It was such an amazing day that I still feeling the after effects of it today....have you ever had a day like that? That the feeling and impressions of the day are still with you the next day? As I am sitting in my cozy bed in my flannel pajamas. I am sincerely longing to go back to Williamstown.

On the way home we passed a beautiful green, wood door sitting in the "free zone" :) Gail needed that door and so we stopped. We laughed and laughed as we got it to fit in my little Subaru. And then we stopped down the road to re-adjust the door so the back hatch could actually be closed :)

I am planning another Friday adventure for next week now that the kids are back in school. I do adore the freedom. And I am continually amazed at how much there is to see around where I live and I am determined to see it all :)

Aug 29, 2011

Have You Ever Noticed?? :)

One thing about what I have been through this summer is that it has made me very aware of when something makes me smile. And when I notice that something made me smile I have been making a note of it in my head. I have never done this before. Usually everything makes me smile but this summer I have learned a lot about not feeling like smiling and it has actually been good and has made me notice the little things so much more.

On our paper route we drive by a house that almost everyday I notice that the husband and wife are sitting in chairs just inside their garage. Just sitting there observing the world. Maybe they are chatting or maybe they just sit there in silence. Regardless, it always makes me smile and today I even heard a chuckle escape from my throat as I saw they were both wearing khaki pants and a white polo.

Last night I decided to watch Mama Mia. I forgot how delightful that movie is. There are several parts that make me grin from ear to ear. Yes, I do always sob when Meryl Streep sings The Winner Takes It All with such passion to Pierce Bronson. But the rest of the movie, the music, and the little asides, truly make me smile.

The other day I was riding in the car with Madeline on the way home from book club and she and I happened to notice a guy in a truck that was practically in the trunk of my car and as he passed by us in a huff we ended up having to stop at a stoplight next to him and as we stopped we looked over at the guy driving the truck and he looked over at us at the same time and we realized he was not too bad on the eyes and he realized Madeline was not to shabby either and Madeline and I bust up laughing as we all had this realization. It felt good to burst out in laughter.

I have taken to sitting on our front porch and thinking and as I was sitting there the other day I watched a little chipmunk come up out of a little hole and rest his little paws on the edge and just gaze at me like he wanted to have a conversation. It made me smile as I wondered if a chipmunk looking like he cared could count as a tender mercy? :)

When we mowed the lawn the other day Tatiana and Natalie spent forever out in the yard playing and when they came in Tatiana was telling me that they had been gathering the mowed grass and playing with it. I told her how I loved doing that when I was a kid. It seemed to give her courage when I said that and then she decided to come clean and told me that they had been picking things in the yard and making "salads." I smiled. And I told her how I totally remember making salads out of things I picked in the yard when I was a kid. It made me feel like going to play salad with them.....oh and then we could turn the bikes upside down and turn the pedals and make ice cream with ingredients from the yard too :)

Kid History makes me smile. When the college kids in my house come home from college they spend oh so many days treating us to discoveries they have made on Youtube while getting their education. The latest discovery is Kid history. And they brought that home in December. You must quickly go to Youtube and search for kid history and be prepared to laugh and laugh and laugh out loud. It feels so good. My kids love them and have introduced all their friends to them. I even exposed my parents to them and I think they liked them. You know that anxious feeling you have when you introduce someone to something you really like and you want them to like it too? And you wonder will they? I have yet to find anyone who does not laugh out loud at Kid history.

There is this word that Natalie made up and uses all the time that makes me smile. Whenever she wants to say the word without she instead says "forout" So she will say "I want my sandwich "forout" mustard." "Or I want to go to the store forout Tatiana." As often is with made up words we all use "forout" now and it really makes me smile.

It has been interesting to feel like I have been "forout" a smile for so long that I am actually noticing when I am smiling. I am amazingly grateful for the perspective :)

Aug 25, 2011

Do You Have It?

"I have confidence in sunshine. I have confidence in rain. I have confidence that spring will come again besides what you see I have confidence in me."

Can you see Julie Andrews, a suitcase in each hand, dancing down that oh so beautiful road somewhere in Austria, on her way to her nanny job for the seven Von Trapp children, singing her guts out about whether she has confidence or not? I deeply adore this song I am actually listening to it at this very minute and blogging at the same time :) Do not try this at home...it requires a huge amount of concentration :) Lately, having confidence has been on my mind way too much. I wish you could get confidence just by thinking about it. If that was the case I would currently have a ton of it and would be selling the excess to you for a tidy profit :)

If you have confidence you believe in yourself and not just yourself but your powers and your abilities. Did you know the opposite of confidence is mistrust? People who possess confidence have determination, assurance, resolution and certainty. The part that fascinates me the most is that if you have confidence you are not afraid to be who you are. Is Jennifer afraid to be who she is? I have been pondering this.

I know I was not afraid to be who I was when I was little. I mean you just have to look at my class pictures from those early years and how could you ever doubt my confidence? :) In one grade I am wearing a red ribbon tied oh so carefully around my neck...definitely had confidence then. What about the year I wore the pink dress with my blue running shoes? Yep, that screams confidence. Oh wait, we can not forget the year I wore the white and red knitted poncho...yeah, I could have written the book on confidence that year. Clearly I was who I was, none of that hiding who I truly was stuff for me. Now in case you think I think confidence means you wear out of the ordinary things in elementary school, actually, there are more reasons why I think I used to have confidence.....

I am sure it took confidence to hit a boy in the neighborhood with a big stick when he proposed playing doctor.....I did not care one bit what he thought of me and was not scared to stand for what I believed in...yes, I know I hit :)
It took confidence to try out for solos in choir in middle school
It took confidence to try out for student office over and over and over again.
I wonder if it was confidence I had when I told my sixth grade teacher how to organize the talent show never considering that I should not share my fabulous ideas :)
...editor of my sixth grade newspaper, running track, playing the piano, singing......I must have had a little bit of confidence to try all those things

Never once did the thought cross my mind that people would not like me....yes, it crosses my mind daily now...ugh :) I wonder where that confidence went? Knowing my luck it probably is in Greece and I will have to get a passport and lots of money to go find it :)

I am determined to locate my self confidence. According to what I have read that means that I have to first figure out where I am right now...where I want to go...get the right mindset for my journey... and apparently commit(yeah, we love that "C" word).

A confident person does not behave based on what other people think.
A confident person does not stay in their comfort zone afraid of failure and afraid of taking a risk
A confident person does not work hard to cover up mistakes and hope they can fix their problem before anyone notices.

I am forcing myself to have lots of quiet, alone time with myself so I can figure out confidence. Usually I fill the enormous void in my life with party after party and person after person. I seem to have a different perspective these days it is a little unlike me but I am pleasantly surprised at how empowering it is turning out to be. I have always admired people who could give themselves what they need and not need from other people. I want to have that quiet confidence.

To start my journey I made a list of things that would be outside my comfort zone and I am going to accomplish them all. I will not bore you with the entire list but the biggest one on the list is running a Ragnar Relay next spring. I think the running will really help my confidence. Since Seminary is starting soon my running time will be 4:30 or 5:00 in the evening everyday. My first goal is to be able to make it to Stanley Park and back and then I will add to that. This was a goal awhile ago but life just was to heavy for awhile there for me to accomplish anything but now I am back and very excited and determined to face this one.

So we can all start looking forward to the day that I can dance, and sing about my confidence, while swinging my suitcases down a lane in Austria just like Julie Andrews.


Aug 23, 2011

Connecting.


I am sitting here in my cozy LL Bean flannel jammies letting my mind wander around the word connect as I stare at the chocolate brown walls in my room. I am not quite sure what started me thinking about this word tonight. Maybe I felt a longing to connect, recognized it, and started really wondering what would make someone have that longing. Maybe I was thinking about how amazing it feels to truly connect with someone. Maybe I was thinking about doing a dot to dot :) Maybe I was thinking about the game Connect Four. Maybe I was thinking about the joy that comes when you can not figure out how to put something together and then you figure out if you connect this to that and then..... voila you did it. Whatever it was, I am deep in thought about connecting, and have lots of longing to connect with you on the subject :) Most of the thoughts are meandering ones so do not get your panties in a bunch as I brainstorm out loud. Putting the words down is oh so helpful for me but possibly confusing to you :)

As I was contemplating how I could put into words all that is in my head and heart about connecting I went to dictionary.com and checked out the word connect....there were all the usual connect type words there hanging out... join, link, bind, fasten together, unite, associate.....but then something caught my eye...the word bridge. You all know I have been fascinated with bridges lately. I have been trying for over a year to find a spot of time to read The Great Bridge by David McCullough. A book all about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. I devoured it on all my plane trips this summer and I am finally half way through it. I long to finish it. The book is so fascinating. From the minute I read this quote in the front of it, I began my fascination with bridges;

"It happens that the work which is most likely to be our most durable monument, and to convey some knowledge of us to the most remote posterity, is a work of bare utility, not a shrine, not a fortress, not a palace, but a bridge."


Montgomery Schulyer made that quote in Harpers Weekly in 1885. And I have thought a lot about it and read it over and over. So when I connect with someone I make a bridge and my most durable monument long after I am gone will be those connections I have made with people? Some of the bridges I have attempted to make have not stood the test of time and misunderstandings have caused them to fall....they apparently were not built on firm foundations. Washington Roebling went to so much work to make sure the Brooklyn Bridge was built on a extremely firm foundation. The amount of work and research he did to make sure the caissons were sitting on firm solid ground in the river was truly amazing. Some of the bridges I have made in my life have been built on that sort of foundation and have been unconditional and solid and brought me so much joy and wonder.

So, there I was last Saturday standing on the deck of the Staten Island Ferry at 5:00 in the evening taking pictures of all the amazing bridges I could see all around me, in every direction, all of them connecting things. Each bridge was different. I wanted to know about them all. Who built them, and how, and why, and when. When the Brooklyn Bridge was built some people were afraid of what the connecting of New York City to Brooklyn would do and some were excited about the prospects. People are like that too. Some of us are afraid of making connections....we may get hurt, it may be a connection that requires some work, or maybe it is a connection that will require a sacrifice. I confess I never think about the scary parts of connecting I just plow ahead needing and wanting a connection.....sigh...maybe someday I will learn to stop being so naive and learn to weigh the enormous risks of connecting.

We all long to connect, right? I work oh so hard at it. I really am interested in people. I keep in touch with people from every place I have ever lived. It is very important to me. I love that I can reach out to friends from years ago and pick up right where we left off. Sometimes I fight with all my might the incredibly overwhelming need I have to connect. I have been known to secretly curse this part of me and try with all my might to suppress it. It is oh so often misunderstood to be neediness or sometimes people do not think it is possible for someone to want to connect as much as I do and they decide I am not genuine.

When you meet someone for the first time you immediately start searching in your conversation for ways to connect....Where have you lived? Where are you from? What is your favorite color? Searching for a common ground....a connection.... and, oh the joy, when you discover a connection..... you like avocado, and apricots, and asparagus? SO DO I !

Aug 21, 2011

Some Shoes Just Need You.


Do you remember when you were a kid and you were shopping with your mom and while shopping you saw something that you just fell in love with? Something that you could totally imagine yourself wearing. Something you just know would complete your image? Something that will make you famous? :) JOKING. But seriously, something that connected with you? I remember this happening a few times in my life. Often the free flowing dreamy happiness that I knew would come pouring in when I got the item of my dreams depended upon if I could get my mom to see the vision too.

Once when I was in Junior high I had a solo in a choir concert and I needed a new dress for the occasion, while shopping I found this amazing, "flowy", gauzy, white dress with short puffy sleeves. It was made by the brand Gunne Sax which was my brand of choice when I was a kid. I was so positive that when I went to the Academy Awards I would be wearing a dress made by Gunne Sax :) Anyway, I do not remember the conversation my mom and I had about this dress but I do remember her actually calling my dad from the mall (back in the day of ....gasp... no cell phones.) to ask him if she could purchase it for me. I think it was around $40.00 which was pretty unheard of when I was a kid. But I am happy to report that both of my parents saw the free flowing dreamy happiness that would come to me when I got this dress and it did became mine. I wore it, and wore it, and wore it clear into high school. LOVED this dress. I do not remember caring whether I looked great in this dress or not I just cared that I felt on top of the world when I wore it.


Once I saw a pair of jeans in the JC Penney catalog that had a roller skate embroidered on the back pocket, the girl in the catalog looked so happy wearing them that I could SO see myself at the roller skating rink, skating around with ALL my friends, wearing those fabulous jeans. This was one of those times when not one of my miserable, boring, non visionary parents agreed with me and those jeans that would have made all my dreams come true were never mine.

Just a few weeks ago when I was in Oregon thrift storing merrily away with my mother in Eugene I saw some shoes sitting in a shelf that, without a doubt, knew my name. I saw myself in these shoes. It did not matter what anyone thought of them I knew they were mine. Of course you hope for some validation and reassurance when you purchase but occasionally you just purchase because you just know and that was the story with these shoes. The great part about thrift storing is that you can often just do that because usually the price is "oh so right"and definitely not an issue in the decision making process. SO for $1.50 I really had no decision, the shoes were mine. My mom had some questions about the shoes as I would have too if one of my girls had shown the same shoes to me. They are suede and had a few spots on them but I would not be dissuaded from purchasing them. I never even sat them back down. Which is not really like me.

When I got home my dad took out his shoe cleaning basket which was full of all sorts of amazing things that I had no idea even existed on this planet and we brushed the shoes and rubbed a magic stone on the shoes (JK about the stone...we did rub the shoes with a magic blob of something I just do not remember what it was called.) But I had an enormous amount of hope in it. The shoes seemed to look a little better, but again, it did not really matter, I had already seen myself wearing them...for eternity :)

I have worn the magnificent shoes about 5 times since I got home from Oregon. No one has noticed them or said anything about them but I adore how I feel when I wear them. I have never ever owned a pair of red shoes. Red is my very favorite color. I love the thick chunky feel of these shoes. I love the confidence I feel when I see the red peeking at me when I look down at my feet. Yes, my life is complete :)

Aug 17, 2011

Hiking Alone.



I can not believe that I have not yet told you about my hike last Saturday. Remember Alander Mountain? Remember me hiking it alone? Yes, all by myself :) Well it finally happened. I set out to accomplish it a few times and glitches kept happening so this time I was determined. I had spent the day before I went reading all sorts of things about this hike. Alander Mountain is not very straightforward there are several trails to the top. Some are marked well and some are not. Some are easy and some are not. I read ever so carefully every opinion I could find. That is how I do everything in my life I gather and gather and gather information and then I sort through it all and then....maybe, then I decide :) As with everything in my life I wanted to go one way but was afraid because the way was not as clear to me as I wanted it to be....so I chose the easy well marked way.

All of my family had things going on all Saturday morning so the earliest I could leave was 1:45. I arrived at the hike at 3:00 pm. I grabbed my backpack which I had very thoughtfully and carefully filled with my awesome flashlight which could definitely substitute as a weapon :), lifesavers, some pages with information and directions, a few cliff bars, water, a jacket, my clipboard with paper, a pen, some chex mix, okay, and I will sheepishly admit that some of my seminary papers may have been in the backpack too :) I wondered as I was packing if you pack differently if you know you are hiking alone but I did not think about it too hard.

They had a spot to sign in for the hike so I signed my name and paused as I wrote the number one in the square where they asked how many were in my party.....is one a party? Well I was sure going to find out. I headed out with confidence but true to my nature I asked the first group of people I came upon all sorts of questions...... a little validation and reassurance fix :)

For the most part I was the only one on the trail. I thought about all the different people that were on the mountain all hiking to the same goal I was but all from different starting points and on different trails that they had deemed the best way to the top. My hike seemed strangely like life. We all have a common end goal (hopefully a view :), we meet different people along the way, we ask them about what they have seen or learned on their way, or we ignore them, we may just smile at them, or we may attempt to seriously connect with them, no matter how many people are around us we really are alone, we all reach the top at different times, some of us like to go off of the trail for awhile some of us don't, some of us are prepared, some of us aren't, we all notice different things as we are walking along. Yeah, the list could most definitely go on :) So much symbolism I can hardly bear it :)

I discovered things I never knew before since I usually hike with huge groups. I learned that even full water bottles make a sloshing sound when you walk. I listened to birds. I admit I said a few Snow White type words to some little brown scurrying mice but they paid me no attention and did not seem to know anything about a prince. The hike was well shaded most of the way and the trail was wide and very well marked with blue blazes and some signs. I passed a primitive campground and also a primitive cabin as I neared the top. I stopped at the cabin and read all the things people had written on it and wondered very briefly about the pair of personal effects someone had nailed on the outside.

As I headed up the last very steep part a group was coming down and they warned me about three rattle snakes up ahead sitting on the trail. Strangely it did not bother me and I never did end up seeing them. When I got to the top at 4:18 pm I felt very empowered. I admired the amazing view from every spot I could. I sat and ate some of my food. I did some writing on my trusty clipboard which has now been to the beach and the top of a mountain. I stayed on the top until 5:30 pm and then I decided it was time to head down because of the impending nightfall. Hiking alone in the dark did not appeal to me in anyway......okay, it scared me. I lingered as long as I dared and then slowly headed down.

On the way down I thought about getting to the top and expectations and how I felt. On the way down I met people who asked me questions just like I had asked questions of the people coming down earlier. We always want to know from someone who has already been don't we?