Saturday, May 31, 2008


Tomorrow is:

-the first day of counting the words I write, towards 50,000 words by the end of June.
-the first of my One Local Summer blog posts about eating a meal made up of all locally produced food.
-the annual, local Hummingbird Festival.

I had imagined knowing many more details (at least the middle and the end of the story) about my novel, by today, the day before I start this gargantuan undertaking. I have an image. It is a picture of Gillen at the farm looking, from a distance, like he is talking to the vegetables. My idea is that he is actually answering some humorous ancestral ghosts who are going to get him to help out a relationship that is in trouble...or have him find the treasure that will save his family... or set him straight about life and the pursuit of happiness, or all three. I read the book that Chris Baty, the originator of nanowrimo, wrote, which is filled with hints about how to succeed. Once I had read that too much preparation was a big mistake, and that giving myself the right music, lots of snacks and much caffeine could be helpful, I knew that this was the right kind of writing project for me. I need pressure, and crazy small goals, and delicious incentive. I will be telling myself that I can have that Green and Black's chocolate at the end of one more page, or that I can run screaming into the night and onto the trampoline, or, more likely, pass out on the nearby bed only once I reach the day's word count goal.

I wrote my high school senior paper, a loooong one that we were given half of the school year to work on, in three days. I was doing a lot of theater and had a job and "Dynasty" was on tv. This was, of course, way before computers. No rough draft. Lots of white-out. I fell asleep on my typewriter before I'd hit the finish. My glorious mother, I kid you not, lied to the school and told them that her mother had died (her mother was not part of our lives, they were estranged, but still...) thereby buying me a few more hours. It provided just the extra hour or so I needed to reach deep and come up smelling like roses, even though I had red ridges and wrinkles on my face from the typewriter keys and seemed strangely O.K. for having just lost my grandmother. I got a B+. I don't think that my ultra-serious high-school prep. school, whose graduates mostly ended up in Harvard, Radcliffe or Yale, graded based on sympathy votes. But, I really could be wrong.

A dangerous precedent was set.

Audition preparation in NY, college papers, birthday cards, handmade gifts, even going into labor - nothing gets my creativity and productivity moving like being on the deadline.

I shouldn't make light of this major character flaw. It quietly concerns me when one of my children shows signs of being the same way. But it's too late to change it before this latest endeavor. Plus, the same trait has produced amazing results for my successful siblings ...

Hopefully, I'll just post a few hummingbirds and local food pictures tomorrow and will save my words for the novel. If I am writing here, it means only one thing - procrastination. Tell me to go clean my refrigerator.

I have wanted to write a book ever since I was seven and wrote stories on yellow legal pads at our kitchen table. I need to remember that. This is supposed to be fun. It will be fun. Maybe I can make it to the thrift store today and find a hat that makes me feel like I did at seven.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Ms. Whit.

Ms. Whit. is actually Mrs. Cornelia Whitten but when we first met her, about twenty-five years ago, my then six-year-old brother christened her "Ms. Whit", and it stuck. She was the chaperon who came with my father and brother (two of the several times, I went as well) on overseas trips when we were young. My mother, no longer his wife, had insisted that my father bring someone responsible with him. Ms. Whit's husband had just died and she had never traveled outside of Georgia. My father had money, liked to drink, was young and was adventurous. That first summer, Kenneth was six, precocious and already had a life goal of being chairman of the world. It could have been disastrous. Instead, it was so magical that the trips continued for years and would probably still be happening if there were funds to pay for them.

Yesterday, my father, my boys and I visited Ms. Whit at her home to watch the Braves game together. I didn't bring my camera but have this recent picture that my sister took of her: She is 103. She lives in a wing of her daughter's home and has her own entrance. I have visited her a few times every year but have never asked her as many questions as I did today. I found out, for the first time, that she was one of six children who lost their mother when the mother was only thirty-nine. The day that her mother died, of cancer, her father remarried and proceeded to have ten more children. Cornelia and her siblings lived with her grandmother. I asked if she liked being with her grandmother and she said, "Ohhhh, yes! She dressed in old lady...(here she couldn't find the word) something or others, and she could tell a good joke." I asked if she remembered any of the jokes. She did! Here is her grandmother's joke:

There was a man who had a wife and six children. Often, in the evening, he would go out. When his wife asked him, "Where are you going?" he would answer, "That's a bone for you to chew on." This kept happening. Years later, the wife got sick and called the man to her death bed. "One of our six children has a different father", she told him. "Which one?" he asked in shock. She answered, "That's a bone for you to chew on."

Ms. Whit raised an eyebrow and gave a great little ironic smile before bursting into her familiar high, woodpecker laugh. I was overjoyed that she had remembered the whole thing.

I asked her about her health. She said that aside from a swollen ankle, that had just started bothering her that week, she had nothing to complain about. She is supposed to keep that leg lifted but for the most part can't be bothered with that instruction. She has a hearing aid but can still read books, watch every Braves game and she likes to look at her old journals and photograph albums from her trips to the Far East and to Europe. She has "no inner pains, whatsoever." Going to the hair dresser and leaning her head back to have her hair washed started to make her dizzy, so she washes her own hair, alone, in her sink at home. She said that after hitting one hundred, she stopped caring so much about her hair. Now she "combs it and lets it do its thing".

We have a massage therapist who greatly helps Nicolas and I with our many aches and pains. I asked her if she wanted a massage. Her response was that she massages her son-in-law, all the time. He lays down on her floor and puts his foot in her lap and she massages it or she massages his neck - has done it for years. She mentioned that she'd been worried that he was too rough when she first met him but now she just loves him to death. Then she said, "What would I need with a massage?" and laughed that bubbly laugh.

Yesterday, I was wearing my "No Worries" shirt that I bought in Australia. I think I should add a picture of her onto the back, her laughter highlighting the beautiful life lines of her face.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Four cool, crafting chicks, and other animals.

Here are three of the four chicks (the fourth being me) who had an impromptu gathering at Mindy's home this weekend, to have time to do art with no interruptions. Shanna is a painter. Mindy is a belly dancer and visual artist. Claudia is a scrapbooker, what Allie Edwards would call a life-artist. I was planning on writing. We did spend time doing art, some of it collaborative, and I have a better idea of what I am going to write when I start my own private nanowrimo next week. But mostly, it was about the eating, the home-made margaritas, the laughing, the uninterrupted thoughts, and the talking. It's good to get a women-only fix every so often. I felt recharged to run home and hug my boys and give thanks to Nicolas.
Laughter is good.
Of course, whenever an animal is part of the cast, it tends to steal the show. Here is Christy, the neighbor's cow who needed milking twice a day (the neighbor being on vacation). Mindy and Claudia took on this large chore. I commemorated their hard work with Christy portraits.

The volunteers doing their synchronized milk dance.
The neighbor's rooster was the angriest, meanest damn rooster that any of us had ever met. He attacked Mindy earlier that week. She still has the bruises.Mindy, shovel in hand, checking under the milking barn for A.R.'s covert war trench.
Today, back home, many beautiful winged visitors came a'callin' through out the day.

The only local farm pictures of this past week come from Gillen and Jesse's backyard farm, where they have been proudly harvesting their first radishes.

Hope you all, well, you who may still be reading here after my long blog break, had a wonderful weekend. May everyone have had a good weekend, those who read here and those who don't. May Diana have had a fabulous fortieth birthday (again I am late with a card). May I learn how to make mix-CDs that can be played on non-mp3 players. May itunes let us record songs that we have just bought from them, or may they never get my money again. May I have something to say when I sit down to write next week. May exercise (having been on on hiatus here for a few years) happily re-enter my life tomorrow, since it lost it's chance to return today. May I now go get the sleep I missed for much of May. And may this mosquito die a quick and painless death when I finally stop typing and kill it.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Monday Farm Photos

Doesn't this look like a plague of purple and white locusts? Or fairies? Or Mardi Gras bees?
Agrostemma stole the show today. Two long rows of it were fully expressing themselves, attracting all local birds,bees,insects, and Gillen and I, with their ethereal charm.
Here they are sharing the spotlight with other new Helen blooms.

There is some duck news to report - Mae Belle is sitting on thirteen eggs, get this, surrounded by roosters in the temporarily male-only-chicken coop, otherwise known as death row. Gillen says that she laid the eggs about two to three weeks ago and has been sitting on them about a week. I so hope that Mae Belle and the other two ducks will soon be followed closely by a long line of sweet, squeaky ducklings.

In turkey news, I am sad to report that one poult drowned and the other one got out of the fence and did not return. The Bronze turkey mamas are laying, but not yet sitting.

The plums are starting to ripen.
Gillen made up for an earlier sibling moment he'd had with his brother by giving him the one perfectly ripe plum he found hanging off of a tall branch; still showing Jesse who could carry whom, but with kindness.
The farmers taking a moment to smell the roses, and scratch their feet.
Jesse has been spending lots of time practicing on his new Ocarina. He has made up a tune called "Unite of Underground" (which I mistakenly thought was "You Knight of Underground" but was corrected). He is presently working on his second composition - "The Tuki Tune", named for our dog Tuki, not two keys. This time, I called it correctly the first time.

Long Way Round

We have started watching this documentary about Ewen McGregor and his friend going around the world on their motorcycles. Apparently it was shown in episodes on TV at some point. We rented it from Netflix. We are only two episodes into it and I am hooked, and I think that the crush I am developing on Ewen McGregor is only part of the reason.

It has me thinking about risky decisions, about passions, about the balance between purely personal pursuits and serving, being with family - how these intersect.

Giving myself hours to write, next month, is my motorcycle trip. What's yours?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Georgia Renaissance Festival

Despite loving the Renaissance living history class that he just took, Jesse really didn't want to go to the Renaissance Festival today. The tickets were bought, the rest of us wanted to check it out, for the first time ever, and it was one of those occasions where Jesse had to come along, despite his reticence and whinging.

When we saw this sea of cars, I wondered if he'd had the right instincts.

But once inside, we didn't feel the crowds like I thought we might and we all had a good time. whew! He ended up telling us that he was really glad that we came.

There were jousting and sword-fighting shows, giant turkey legs to eat, tons of Renaissance-geared people to watch, and fun games. Here is Gillen jousting on a Griffin.

Jesse also loved the Griffin. I like the little Renaissance-clad girl who is watching him. It would be fun to own some Renaissance costumes. Gillen liked the vests (I know there is a better word for them) and I fancied the corsets and flower hair pieces.
Jesse asked for his first instrument and we were happy to get it for him - it is called an Ocarina and is an ancient type of flute. He got a songbook with it that is filled with songs from Zelda, Ocarina of Time, one of his favorite video games, and the reason that he was aware of this instrument.
At one point, I was in ye olde coffee hut waiting for my sweetened iced coffee while the guys were off buying Gillen a sword. I thought, "this is my chance to do some serious people watching" and looking up saw a woman a foot in front of me chewing on a large piece of beef jerkey. It looked really good. She looked really familiar. She was a fellow unschooling mom whom I hadn't seen since last year's unschooling conference! Dame Mary Alice! A goodly time was had by all - our boys becoming acquainted via sword fighting. Now I can't stop thinking in Olde English, but I'd best stop writing in it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Uniformly unique

My boys have definite opinions about their clothes. Their favorite outfits change every few years and are completely different from one another and from their parents. Though I will do all I can not to go shoe shopping with my oldest boy again (well, for at least a season - or after some therapy) I really do appreciate each boy's unique style. Gillen has wide feet but prefers style to comfort and.. I may have some shoe issues.

Below is one of the many pajama outfits that Jesse wears when he knows we are not getting in the car all day.
Here was the outfit he chose to do his Shakespearean Yorick monologue (when Hamlet speaks to the skull of his father's dead jester) today in his final Renaissance class. It worked. Here they are all acting out Shakespeare's "Seven Stages of Man".
I can't remember which stage of Man the dramatic de-hatting and de-caping was all about. His classmate seems perplexed.

See the blond, skateboard shoe-wearing camouflaged boy in the back? That would be the visiting brother who did not want to take this class and who "hates theater". He was only able to sit back and watch for ten minutes before throwing himself into the fray. There were lots of opportunities for death scenes and none were as dramatic as Gillen's. He wants to take the class next fall.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"Back to the Garden" trailer

Remember those wonderful documentary film makers who filmed Nicolas last month and then taught me to roast asparagus? I just saw the trailer for their upcoming film. I thought it was great. They have a blog where they are documenting their process.

They also made a documentary about a small Maine town fighting off a Wal-Mart intrusion. I would love to see that as well. Gillen and I had a date today to buy things for his garden and to buy a new baby pool for his ducks. Due to the crazy gas prices, we did not drive from the nursery to Target, a half hour further away, to get the pool. We went next door, to Wal-Mart and I entered it's creepy super doors, for the first time in over a year, with appropriate down-faced shame.

If only we had closer alternatives or I were more energetic like those Wally-World-fighting moms in Maine.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Beautiful Farm Pictures

The following were taken by my sister, Bhu Sullivan.

Inspired by :

-Molly's lemon-dill salad dressing, which I have been making every other day for a few weeks. It is unbelievable that a salad dressing can be so life-changing.

-Danielle's farming blog which has finally pushed me to join the summer eat local challenge. It asks you to eat one all-locally produced meal a week and then post about it on your blog. We eat mostly local meals so it's time I learned how to take pictures of a few of them (I am challenged by food pictures) and share some recipes here - not, Farmer Nicolas, that I am not hard at work on a farm website as well. I am, in my mind, conceiving all kinds of brilliance with all of this inspiration.

-Next month (gulp), inspired by a tiny germ of an idea I've had in my mind for years, I am taking on the National Novel Writing Month Challenge. The challenge happens, with lots of support from the website and from fellow participants, in November. But June is the month that my kids have chosen to attend lots of day camps so that is the month when I will have hours of uninterrupted time in which to procrastinate write. I do wish that I had fellow writers to do this with. Anyone else want to join me?

-Jen Lemen's blog where she is recounting her soulful (Stephanie's apt word for Jen)and successful attempt to raise money and cards for girls in Rwanda. She is making the trip to Rwanda this month and has created a zine that is beautiful. There is so much more to the story. Check it out.She and Stephanie (and Danielle) inspire me to think and create with a world-view, and/or to support those who already do.

Tamar's comment on this recent, somewhat self-deprecating post of mine. She talked about how an accessory or style choice can make you feel great, just as Gillen's new cowboy hat had him walking tall last week. That comment helped inspire my newest hair accessory, which I purchased yesterday while shopping with my sister. It was also inspired by my love of a Wedgewood China ashtray we had growing up, by how awesome my mother looked in head scarves and by how good I feel when I wear Julie Person's hair accessories.

Lastly, I am inspired by Jesse's peace post to live in my peaceful "yes" and fight to control the dramatic "no" demon and reactive witch who occasionally also inhabit my body.

Anyone out there inspired to write 50,000 words with me next month (while living peacefully and eating locally of course)?

Those only inspired by the farm photos - they are coming! Taken by my photographer sister, they are amazing.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Six Word Memoir Title

Deanne tagged me.

1. Write the title to your own memoir using 6 words. (I did see this)
2. Post it on your blog.
3. Link to the person that tagged you.
4. Tag five more blogs.

I didn't have trouble with the six words but came up with too many titles. I guess my memoir would be a series. What an interesting tag. Thanks Deanne.

Speaking of tags, a tag that I wanted to do but never got to (which is true of so many loose ends to which I later return) provoked my first title:

Still haven't done Sandra's winter tag.

Effervescently joyful though too often tired.

Touched by everything yet seriously silly.

I tag:

Jesse I asked him what he would do and his answer was the best mother's day gift I could ever want. I'll let him post it. Of course, it could always change by then. But it was about living peacefully with his family. (Later - he did it. I swear he came up with this. He did add, as he wrote, "sometimes Gillen and I aren't so peaceful on the trampoline" but he insisted that peace was the word he wanted as his blog title.)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

A midweek southern "din-nah"

The photo below was not taken by my talented-with-a-camera (and so much more) sister, unlike all but one of the other photos, so I feel that I can complain about the bad angle that has made a shelf of my breasts. Now that I am whinging, I will just add that it would have been swell if I had decided to actually wash or maybe comb my hair that morning and maybe choose another outfit. The angle seems to have worked for my father, son and sister, so I decided to eat crow (well, fried green tomatoes) and publish it anyway. I'll have to risk the possibility that youthful-for-their years old friends and lovers may be lurking here and get on with it (and start doing "the Firm" again, soon).Here are some undeniably beautiful Foxgloves from that day, as taken by Bhu.These pictures were taken at The Blue Willow Inn yesterday. In honor of Bhu's visit home, our father took us there for lunch - also sometimes referred to as dinner in these parts. The restaurant is housed in a big old southern mansion surrounded by fountains and beautiful landscaping. Bhu had her rehearsal dinner there when she got married two years ago. Food is served buffet style and includes fried everything, turnip greens (cooked down with ham hocks),sweet potato souffle, mac and cheese and many cobblers(to name just a few of the selections). Gillen was in heaven, except for the deserts - he prefers homemade. His highlight - he got to see a cowboy. Once we got home, he recreated that cowboy's outfit and has been wearing it for two days.

The highlight for me was bumping into Ms. Whit there - our 103 year old friend, whom we have known since I was eight. She told us about having just gone to Turner Field last night to watch the Braves play. She is a huge baseball fan. We made plans to go watch a game with her at her house in the next few weeks. She is so lucid, and funny! She loves to crack jokes about having tried to iron out her wrinkles. She drinks coffee everyday, and likes donuts and strange non-foods like Ensure shakes. I think her longevity is due to the fact that she loves life and doesn't take anything too seriously. But I don't know. I want to find the time to hang out with her more and find out. I don't care about the secret, she is just wonderful to hang out with.

I like this last photo. One of my boys is actually listening with what may be interest to my gesticulating monologue, and it was not about something he lives for, like hunting, birds, or farming. I feel loved. Not that I don't often feel it, but it's nice to have it captured here.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Monday Farm Photos

Gillen is at Bhu's mom and stepdad's home with Bhu tonight. Apparently, last Thursday while Jesse and I were in Atlanta, he charmed them with a farm tour and the gift of freshly picked, washed and dried lettuce.

Bhu's stepfather, Tom, is a hunter and her mother, Elizabeth, frequently sees Painted Buntings and Blue Grosbeaks (among other rare birds) in her backyard. So Gillen was thrilled to go. He had sprained (we think) his big toe yesterday, so he couldn't do much Monday farming anyway.

So, it was up to Jesse and I to help out the farmer.

We arrived at about 4:30 p.m. The first order of business - Jesse decided to move some rocks.
I needed to take pictures of Helen's newly blooming flowers:And of the beautiful greens:Realizing how tired I was at this point, I mosied into Helen's house for some water. Jesse showed up five minutes later, also in great need of a break.

But then we got (a bit)busy - transplanting, egg collecting and watering.

Nicolas decided to try putting the turkey eggs (that are being ignored by mama Cody) under a brooding hen. Jesse doodled on them so that we would recognize them as being from the turkeys.He tried to place them under a sitting hen but we very quickly called for help from Nicolas, who had way too much fun rebuking the hen's pecks as he succeeded in placing the eggs.

The final farm chore - dancing a few stray hens back into their quarters. MardiGras beads flying, Jesse easily scared the girls back through the open gate.