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 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 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


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 :)