Thursday, February 28, 2008


I received a really great link from my friend Persephone to this short film , which is all about the reason there is so much stuff, especially here in the U.S. It's about what goes into making that stuff (not just about the slave labor, also the actual very harmful chemicals that are in our stuff), why we buy that stuff and what alternatives we have.

Writing about it does it no justice, at all. It is such an intelligent, clear, clever film. I hope you can grab a few minutes to watch it. It definitely gave me pause, as I sat at my newly purchased Target computer desk, watching it. It's not like I didn't know that it was not the best choice to go with new Target stuff. I had first tried to get a desk on Craig's list and at the thrift store and when I couldn't I had broken down and bought one on sale, at Target. After watching this film, I will try for even a few weeks longer on Craig's List and will travel a bit further to go to yard sales before buying the other thing we have on our list - a drafting table. I'll also try to wait long enough to realize that we can live without it.

Danielle had a very informative post recently about ways to change the way we deal with our stuff. Or, more eloquently put - how to reduce our carbon imprint on the planet.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Lisa Heyman's passing

It happened two days ago. Lisa Heyman was an unschooling mother, in NY state. I didn't know Lisa or her family well but did have a few good conversations with her, and I bonded over a love of the Red Sox with her husband at the conference picnic three years ago in St. Louis. Their daughters are known by anyone who attended a Live and Learn conference. They are vital, outgoing, radiant girls, always surrounded by lots of kids. They perform with so much joy at the talent shows. I watched Lisa's husband, Larry, and their daughter Fire (self-named) climb the Alpine Tower with us, fearlessly.

But the memory that keeps coming back to me is of Lisa's smiling face answering my question about how she had dyed parts of her hair pink. I was so taken by that smile, and by her shining, sunlit hair. We were standing at the tye-dye activity on the first day of last summer's conference. I have thought of that conversation over the past few months and have wondered how she was doing on her path to wellness. It never occurred to me that her path could be ending so soon. As with Hannah Jenner, who died a few years ago this week, the suddenness of it is literally breath taking. And, it was the same progression with my mother - difficult to diagnose illness and an unexpected sudden end.

I am very conscious today, as I was yesterday, of how short and precious our time together can be. At the same time, in moments, I am also self-righteously whingeing about the fact that we don't all die in our sleep at the age of 99. But mostly, I am sending love to Lisa's family. May Lisa's gentle strength be with them.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Monday farm photos

There were lots of vegetable and bee hive photos, but I am feeling aware of how brief our time is here and felt like focusing in on the kids.

Every moment is brilliant when we are aware of how few moments there may be. My family is fine but there have been too many reminders of this truth in the unschooling community over the past few years.

Today, I'm cherishing the moments.

Gillen's ducks have been swimming in a puddle by the road instead of in the baby pool. He lost one because of this last week. So we gave them a bigger pool and he tried to fill the puddle part way with rocks gathered around the farm.
Still plenty of time to just hang...
Jesse magnifying the piece of blue chalk that he found after a fossil dig by the barn. Lately he is back into dinosaurs and talks about wanting to go to Mongolia to look for the bones of Basilasaurus (one of the first whales, apparently).
Carrying a "holy wood staff" that he later whittled, ending up with only a foot long piece of the "wood's core" by the time he was finished. Holy wood? Where did that come from? So interesting, that. I'll have to go on my own dig.

On Whingeing and Worrying and hope

Inspired by the laid-back Aussies, I committed to no whingeing this year (their word for whining) and have not had much trouble with this resolution, though it got challenging this past week. Nicolas was struck down by an evil respiratory flue and Gillen's head was visited by uninvited little squatters - yes, lice. So it was a week of shampoos, shower caps, laundry, serving, cleaning, playing nurse and then more cleaning.

Nicolas is not very happy when he is forced to stop. The kids weren't super excited about wearing shower caps over the homeopathic lice lotion for four hours instead of going to our weekly playgroup...

Those more challenging moments are just "unlucky" as Gillens' soccer coach used to say. It is tempting to whinge, in a cynical, caustic manner like the lead character on "House" that I love so much (great series that we are watching on netflix). But instead, I'm going to focus on the silver lining:

-The hour when Gillen, Jesse and I groomed one another like chimpanzees in the hunt for lice. Maybe the fact that we only found them (and not many) on Gillen's head helped make this sweet rather than horrifying.

-Gillen's shorter hair. He agreed to let me cut a few inches off of the back and sides in order to have less hair to treat. Despite my chop job with bad scissors, it looks amazing.

-There was lots of very cool lego and playmobil creating upstairs. Jesse's solar-powered town and Gillen's dairy and pineapple farm bartered with one another amicably, while I got to read "Pippi Longstocking" to the builders during breaks in their negotiations. These moments in lego/playmobil land with a good book make me so happy.

-Seeing the small-budget film "Once" (that I talked about last year) win best song at the Oscars. It is so hopeful when a low-budget simple expression can move so many. That's what the film makers' song ("Falling Slowly") is about.

-Recognizing that I am really not a whinger, but am a worrier. So I won't have a hard time with this year's resolution; though it may be time to get real and take on that other Aussie inspiration - "no worries".

-We are heading into a new week.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Six Things I Love About Bhu

I was tagged by Rachel, an unschooling mom in Chicago. I first connected with Rachel when she posted "The Lanyard" (a poem that I like; you can listen to it here) on the Live and Learn conference list last year. I really like reading about her adventures with her sons.

The rules:

(1) Link to the person that tagged you.

(2) Post the rules on your blog.

(3) Share six things you love about a friend, doesn’t have to be the same friend who wrote about you, really!

(4) Tag other random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.

This gives me a great opportunity to ramble on about one of my best friends - my sister Bhu. She was born when I was fourteen so she is much younger, hipper and cuter than I am (I am not being self-deprecating here, Bhu, I am just stating the facts ;). At the same time she is wiser than I am and is a constant source of inspiration. Better stop gushing and start listing...

1. Bhu is immensely generous. I posted about one example of this last summer. Here visiting, on her Birthday week, she gave me her Nikon D70!!!

This wouldn't be as extraordinary if she were rich, and was swimming in extra SLR digital cameras, but she is not. She is a photographer who is just starting her own business and is married to a just-starting-out teacher (who, by the way, is another thing I like about her). The plan had been that I would buy it from her. Instead, standing in my kitchen listening to me while I did the dishes (not easy to get to do dishes when she is around), her beautiful Julia Roberts lips curved into an anticipatory smile and she handed me the camera. I tried to pay. She refused to let me. I argued, for days. She is one stubborn girl.

Before shooting many of the pictures that I have taken since that day (and there have been thousands) I have thought about Bhu and that generous act.

2. She is sooo talented at so very many things. She sews, draws, paints, creates amazing gifts for all the kids, and is one hell of a photographer. Check out her photography web site. Be sure to click on the "project" section. Look for the series of photos that she took in a Montana taxidermist's office. I ask you? See the joy in those fascinating peoples' faces juxtaposed against their lovingly stuffed dead animals? Hauntingly good.

3. Her courage and her staying power. I love that she prizes a search for the truth, and service, over comfort and complacency. I want to be just like her when I grow up.

4. Her love of family. She gets all excited about coming home for those reunion Christmases when our family all gathers here. She is as excited about seeing all of us as I ever was about Santa. She will never tell her kids about Santa. Too much integrity for that. She is grounded in the magic of real relationship.

5. I love dancing with this girl. When my boys were small and I rarely got a shower, let alone a night out, she convinced me to meet her for sushi and dancing. I love that she is as happy and wild as I am when dancing. I hope we'll still be able to do this together when she is the one with wee ones. It would be great to live closer and have a weekly dance date now.

6. I love her authenticity, but also appreciate her ability to creatively add some sugar (unlike me she grew up in the south) or hot sauce as needed to make the truth more interesting to digest.

7. (I have to add one more) I love that fifteen years ago when she was a slightly annoying (to impatient me) teenager, I had no idea that we could ever become this. You can choose your friends and not your family. I am very lucky to have family that I choose to call my friends.

I tag two unschooling women who are super wise and so much fun to hang out with - Danielle (I choose to ignore your tag reticence) and Mindy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Eclipsing the rest of it

All kinds of things happened today - scary, funny, creepy-crawly. Seemed like big stuff until we were all gathered outside, in the brightness of a full moon, watching "our" planet's reflection slowly creep its way across the moon, putting our moments into perspective. Pretty cool. Gillen took pictures of the middle part of the process and will post them on his blog tomorrow.

Did any of you get to see it? The next complete eclipse is in 2010.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Monday Farm Photos

Gillen released his new ducks from their pen yesterday. After five days they become used to the place where they are being fed and, in theory, don't fly away. They flew a bit. But mostly they just waddled around in a tight knit group, exploring. They must be pretty content with their new digs as the males have already started pouncing upon the females. Let the breeding begin!
Their quacking conference by the compost gave me a chance to get a close-up.
Tender new kale to eat tonight (with kielbasa,potatoes and muenster cheese in a casserole).
The parsley smells like spring.
The broccoli that we ate last night with farm eggs and cheese for dinner.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Kids' Art

Since returning from Australia, we have continued our pre-Christmas tendency to take over the dining room table, once in a while cleaning it up and putting the table cloth back on for dinner; but mostly, covering it with every craft material we own to make valentines and other art. Nicolas has decided that it is time to get a table where our arts and crafts can live. No worries! We are happy to oblige. So this will be the last shot of us doing art where we eat:This is Gillen's entry for a GA bird drawing competition:
The first in a series of murals that Jesse decided to create this past week. Hot Chocolate and good music were a few of his inspirations. I can't help feeling that "Across the Universe", what he saw of it, played a part as well.
Yesterday, Jesse followed through on his plan to go on a "magic quest." We couldn't find the magnifying glass that he had requested but I did give him a small container that we have that holds and magnifies bugs. He eagerly set off, with the woods as his planned destination. Gillen and I watched as he spent about twenty minutes wandering around our back yard. He came back with his magnifying cup filled with water from the frog pond, nothing in it visible to the naked eye. Looking through the lens, there were tiny bits of life moving about.

"Magic," proclaimed Jesse. "I don't have to go further than the yard to see magic!"

He added moss to the list , "since most people think it is straight and the fact is that it is furled like a Fern".

He says that he can't forgive us about our Santa lie. But at the same time he is glad that he's been inspired to look for magic more closely.

The events of the past few days reminded me of this quote.

"Kids are God. Pay Attention"
-Viggo Mortensen

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Jesse's Broken Heart

It is the end of a long afternoon of tears. Gillen went to the farm after lunch so Jesse and I were here alone. We were in the kitchen. Jesse, in his footed polar bear pjs, sat on a short step stool that we have in there and asked me, "What is life? What is the reason? Like before all of it, before the big bang?"

History was repeating itself. Immediately I was with my mother in our kitchen in Boston. I was about seven, like Jesse, and was sitting on a tall stool asking her about life while she cooked. I remembered how she had laughed but had tried to answer me.

I didn't laugh. I told Jesse that I had the same questions at his age and asked him what he thought life was about.

He said he thought it was about magic, and then he thought to himself for a bit.

"God is not something that you can see."

I nodded. "Those who think God is real know him because of faith," I said. Faith wasn't an entirely new concept to him.

"I think that Santa is a God," he said, very seriously. "We do know he is there, and is magic, so he is a God..."

I stopped him there.

"Jesse, I have to tell you something ."

And while explaining the reality of Santa, I watched the magic and faith seep out of Jesse. He was devastated. Gillen hadn't been, when he was told the truth by his cousin a few years ago. I know that a lot of kids take it in stride. But it had been hard for me. And it was so much harder for Jesse. He has been going back and forth between anger and sadness for hours. Several times he has screamed at me, "It is all about a lie! How could you do this..." his eyes showing how betrayed he feels. He said that we should have told him long ago while he was still young enough not to really get it (meaning not yet believe in so much imaginative detail, I suspect).

I didn't try to excuse the lie or to fix what he was feeling. I just tried to be there for him. I apologized. He didn't want me to be too near, but he did keep coming back to me to cry and talk out his feelings. He talked about how much it had meant that Santa was proof that there was magic. : (

I know that he will find magic again in his life - a first kiss, or a miraculous encounter, or witnessing his child's birth. But right now, I feel like I personally slayed the big guy. I wish that I could take it all back.

What a Valentine.

Later: Jesse and I managed to end our day with giggles and more deep conversation about magic. He talked about specific characters he has made up from his Fight to the Finish game but that they aren't "magic". I tried to explain that yes they are because he is the magic. He is going on a "magic expedition" tomorrow with a magnifying glass and binoculars (because it may be really, really small, or far away).

Along with Santa, the tooth fairy and the easter bunny (I hadn't thought he still put much stock in that one) died today as well. What a lot to lose.

Following Their Lead

So, there are lots of new projects going on around here. And they were begun mostly as a result of the kids' own initiative. This unschooling thing makes for self-driven people, at least this month. ;) (Though, I have learned, of late, that the fallow periods are just as important.)

After doing his own research, Gillen has added a new species into his breeding business at the farm. He called around and found someone nearby who was selling the Muscovy Ducks that he was seeking. If all goes according to plan he should have lots of ducks in a few years.

Jesse is about to begin a Living History Class about the Renaissance, taught by an amazing teacher at a homeschool class coop an hour away from us. Both boys took a few classes there last year and the commute, every week, kind of discouraged me from reminding them about the possibilities this year. Thank goodness I have a mindful, strewing fairy in me who bypasses my selfish needs. Jesse read about the living history class. They get to become a Renaissance character, put on a play, cook food of the period, and Jesse knows a boy who took it last year and loved it. He was sold. I was excited for him.

And then, two days ago, it was 8:30am and it was time to get my sorry self out of bed and into the car with him to sign up for classes, an hour away. I hadn't slept the night before (insomnia) and I called him into the bed for a meeting.

"Jesse, you know, if we do these classes, I am going to be less excited about going into Atlanta on other days for field trips or to see your friends. It is a long way."

He groaned and threw his body off the bed in response.

And still, the good unschooling mama part of me lay dormant, overtaken by selfish, sleep-deprived me-witch.

"What if I taught a Renaissance living history class here? I love the Renaissance. I was a theater director. We could invite all of your local friends? No driving?..."

The face was back next to mine, his big brown eyes filled with tears. The better part of me woke up with a start. I hugged him, drank a lot of coffee and drove him to sign up for the class. We are also taking needlework, together, with the same woman who taught Gillen to crochet last year. I'm looking for a fun knitting or crochet project to bring to the class.

And the list goes on - Jesse is working on learning all of Hannah Montana's lyrics; Gillen is creating a bird drawing for a local contest (to be printed on the t-shirt that is given to all participants in the youth birding competition that he does every year); Jesse read one sentence about war in the fantasy series that he is reading - "Keys to the Kingdom", and has decided to write a letter to the president (well, now he has decided to write to the next president, when we get one) to encourage him to stop war; their lego kingdom is growing every day...

I am more deeply following my own interests, next to them, inspired by their initiative.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Across the Universe; an update

We watched "Across the Universe" last night, all of us. I convinced Gillen and Jesse to give it a try, saying that they could always leave, of course, if they didn't like it. I love the Beatles. Gillen has been saying for the past several years that he strongly doesn't like them at all. Other than some alien having implanted an evil anti-Beatles chip in his brain, the only explanation I can come up with is that he heard too much of them when I was directing a musical that I put together (Montessori school theater group) that had the kids singing Beatles songs throughout. And then "I Am Sam" came out and I was hooked on that soundtrack's Beatles'adaptations, probably playing them a bit too often in the car.

I felt that this movie was a great chance to reintroduce the genius to the nay-sayers.


All went well until the film's reenactments of the sixties got violent. While "Let it Be" played, we saw an impression of the Detroit race riots. Gillen and Jesse went screaming from the room.

"I'm never watching a movie that you recommend again!" screamed Gillen. The history here being that I had strongly encouraged him to watch a "Lassie" movie that I brought home one day a year or so ago, knowing how much he loves dogs. It turned out to be the most creepy Lassie movie ever. Lassie was poisoned and was dying a very long, painful death, before of course rebounding at the very end (not that Gillen stayed long enough tot see that). Gillen was mad for days about that one. I felt terrible.

After dramatically leaving the room last night, he didn't want us to talk to him about what he'd seen or for us to turn off the movie. In fact, they both kept quietly reappearing to snuggle up next to us, drawn by the music to give it another chance. They managed to admit that they might even sort of like the music but I am still on the black list as a movie critic.

So, I don't know that I can give a clear impression of this movie. I believe that Julie Taymor, the director, is a genius and I loved her surprising, creative uses of the songs. I read her biography and it turns out that she grew up in Newton, Mass. where I lived as a teenager and that she started out at Boston Children's Theater at age ten, as did I. She was ten years older so we didn't cross paths. She has had such a worldly life, living all over the place since she was a teenager. I can't wait to see her next endeavor - "Spiderman" as a musical, with music by U2's Bono and the Edge!

I wish I could have watched this with Diana, Kelli or other girl-friends. Next time.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Just a few posts ago, I was talking about how great it would be if life were like a musical, even soldiers on the front lines of war being moved by one another's songs enough to put down their arms. Well, apparently, it doesn't just happen in old musicals. Nicolas and I watched a film last night that tells the true story of how this actually happened, for two days, during WWI."Joyeux Noel" takes place on Christmas Eve, 1914, when French, Scottish and German soldiers all put down their weapons and even shared their lives,champagne and a sermon, all as a result of hearing one another's music. It is a great film that Nicolas and I almost missed seeing as a result of the name. I had placed it on my netflix queue so long ago that I forgot what it was about.

Another wildly-acclaimed (by more than one blogging woman that I respect) tribute to the power of music is making its way Across the Universe to our mailbox. I can't wait.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

A need for chocolate

Like a lot of others, I am sometimes melancholy during January. I can blame the post-holiday dead trees everywhere, the lack of light, and the frigid breezes blowing through our old house. It may have something to do with missing my mother. Her birthday was Dec. 30. But I don't know. There's no need to analyze it too much as it isn't crippling. It just quiets me.

This January, surrounded as I was by Sydney summer sun and my new niece's laughter, I thought I'd taken a year off. There sure wasn't much melancholy in Australia.

It's happening this week, instead. No good reason. There's just a bittersweet filter on my lens that is making me want to stay home and absorb those around me rather than make big energetic movements into the world. I want to listen and read more, take stock, drink lots of tea, catch up on our netflix queue and eat chocolate. I am using up my store of organic cocoa in the creation of hot chocolate and cakes.I hope that Jesse and Gillen don't notice any blues, just the sweetness of more rich brown in the house. They are more energetic, productive and talkative than ever. It seems it's ok for me to slow down.

This is my favorite chocolate cake to make. It is in a few of the Moosewood cook books and is called the six-minute cake. So easy, no dairy (if that is an issue for you - it isn't here but the cake is great regardless) and I just discovered that I can make it well with gluten-free flour. The glaze topping is just melted bittersweet chocolate (I use Ghiradelli or Belgian) mixed with some hot water and vanilla. I used coconut oil for the vegetable oil which means it is fighting off viruses as well as any blues.
I'm off to play chess and eat cake with Jesse. Bring on the endorphins.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

February farm day

Yesterday, I had to take a picture of our photogenic farmer, for an Atlanta newspaper article:I had planned to then let the kids play or work there while I did errands. But it wasn't cold. I wasn't needed to turn upside down to pick (which makes me dizzy). When I'm not experiencing extreme temperatures or vertigo the farm is one of my favorite places to be. So I delayed the errands for a few hours.

I helped Gillen to move his temporary turkey fencing to another area. All three of Gillen's turkeys are female (Danielle called it when she visited, knowing from their lack of gobble that they were girls). Until Gillen finds his hens some toms, they have nothing much to do with their time, but poop and eat. So Nicolas decided to put them to work eating weed seeds and creating fertilizer in some of his beds. Below, Gillen is moving them out of their permanent roosting area into their new daytime digs:So graceful and musical, in a picture anyway.

Another constant farm chore - repairs. This time it was a leaky irrigation pipe. Gillen got to help dig out the dirt around the leak so as to have more room to feel for the hole. What a great excuse to play in the mud. Jesse contributed some friendly supervising.
Jesse did some seeding to earn money towards his wii. We discussed which were our favorite Super Bowl commercials, and why. His was the NY parade one that had the Charlie Brown balloon winning the coke. I liked the "WallE" preview from Pixar. Gillen moving Cody into the new space. Of the original fifteen poults that he bought back in August, Cody is the only one that survived.
And there was still time for the boys to play "dogs". From the top of a composted soil pile (this one was delivered, not created on our farm), Gillen is stalking a rooster. Jesse was somewhere nearby, dragging a leash as he snuck through the wood pile.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Vienna Boys Choir

As a Christmas present, last month we bought tickets to go see the Vienna Boys Choir with my mother in law, Helen, who is Austrian. Those who were the boys' choir at the time had sung at her wedding in Vienna, years ago.

We saw them last night, in a nearby small Georgia city that has a good arts council. They performed in an old high school auditorium. This must have been the most humble theater on their tour. But even standing on faded,scratched black platforms and accompanied by a less than stellar piano, they were young boys with angelic voices and had our hearts beating more strongly. Gillen's jaw was dropped for much of the concert. He was blown away. Jesse too.

Being in a high school, after the concert Gillen and Jesse asked if they could dance down the halls, like in the High School Musical movies. After their dance, on the way home, Jesse stated that he may want to go to high school as he could imagine being able to sing and dance with friends there. He earnestly tried to convince me that this really could happen.

If only life were like a musical. Everything would change. The dingy grey walls of a high school or office building would stand in stark contrast to the brilliant, alive sounds it encased and new paint, in bright warm colors, would be applied on a regular basis. Any personal conflicts would soon be remedied by the bonding wrought through having to 'shuffle, ball, step', turn, breakdance or leap, in unison. Men on the front lines of war, hearing the enemy singing would find themselves moving their hips to the music, their throats tightening as they related to the pathos coming through in the foreign battle lyrics.

I'm just saying we need more music and dance, and less self-consciousness. O.K. - And more talent. There you have it - my justification for breaking out into musical numbers as I go through my day. I'm not only insane. I'm inspiring myself to finally repaint the kitchen. If only I had the talent of the Vienna Boys' Choir, or Patty Lupone, or someone my kids idolize, like Hannah Montana.

Friday, February 01, 2008

My new favorite restaurant; Gillen thriving despite our blundering

A few mornings ago, Gillen asked Jesse and I if he could make us breakfast. I was still only sleeping a few hours a night (finally getting better now) so responded with a hugely appreciative, high pitched, "yes!" What a great surprise. And he didn't just throw together some toast. Half an hour after his offer, he called for us to enter "In the Garden", his new restaurant, where:

we were welcomed by our host:

We were given a menu (actually this is a picture of the next day's menu - yes, In the Garden has stayed open for the last three breakfasts!):That first morning, we both chose the pancakes (gluten-free) and grapefruit. Both were delicious. The next day's eggs with toast:Our cook was also the waiter, the bus boy,
and even the dishwasher!

So now that I've shown you proof of how awesome my kid is, I'll confess to how Nicolas and I lost sight of our unschooling trusting path and shot him down last night. And then you can give me the beating I deserve.

Periodically (around every five to six months), Nicolas or I, or both of us, get frustrated by Gillen's ability to throw himself, sloth-like, guilt-free and with a certain bored teenager look on his young face, onto the floor, the coach and his bed, for large periods of time. He did this yesterday, a lot. I suggested all kinds of possible activities. I offered rides to cool places. I asked him to just talk to me (always the worst invitation) and he just got more grunty and slug-like, until his friend Aaron got out of school. At this point, every day this week, he has been filled with energy to go ride bikes, make traps, build a fort and whatever else they do when they are off and running in our neighborhood.

When he came home for dinner, Nicolas and I told him that he had to finish some of the projects he has started or to start new ones if he would rather move on, but that he can't just keep throwing his body on furniture all day in a desperately bored manner.

Looking back, and after a great conversation with wise unschooling mother Mindy, I realize how negative and wrong we were in our approach. Gillen does well when he can choose what to do, when to do it, how long to do it and whether or not we are involved in it. We set ourselves up in some kind of competition with his 10 year old friend and were insuring that we weren't going to win.

Gillen didn't take our requests too seriously. We haven't damaged him and can revisit the conversation again tonight. But I would love to never get in this bungling old-school parenting, expectation place again. In several months, when I wake up thinking about Shakespeare and about how my kids may never be inspired by him if I don't strew him in the right way, I hope I'll breathe a bit, strew brilliantly :) but also shut my mouth with duct tape long enough to take in what this person has in store for me already. He is starting his own blog today where we can all read about him, in his own voice. I'll post it in my links when his first entry is finished.