Oct 18, 2011


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.

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.