Friday, May 21, 2010

On the Go!!!

Oh, my dear blog, how I've neglected you. I've had so many ideas floating around in my mind, potential posts that my heart is just aching for me to write, but I simply haven't been able to find the time and/or the creative space to do so. I am often envious of writers who seem to be able to "do it all," (family, work, hobbies, exercising, writing) and sometimes I get a bit down on myself for not being able to keep up at such a fast pace. The truth is, however, that I am simply not that person at all. I don't cope well with a full plate, I cringe at the mere mention of routines (unless they have been mandated by my 2-year-old...), and I have always, always fought with every ounce of me against anything that could even pretend to hold me back. Seriously, I am a free spirit through and through, a lover of adventure, and a creature of passion.



So, sweet blog, where does this leave you? How do I squeeze you into my routine-less routine? How do I justify hanging out with you over other "priorities?" Just two days ago, for instance, I decided, rather spontaneously, that it would be super fun for us to drive the 1 hour and 15 minute drive up to Mount Mitchell just because we hadn't been in a while (about 8 months) and, um, because I knew the meteorological conditions were going to be pretty gnarly. I was not mistaken. The temp. at the parking area was 44 degrees, but it had to be even cooler than that up at the summit, where stiff northwest winds nearly took your breath away and, uh, so did the sunrays burting through the menacing clouds, illuminating far-away mountains. Did I mention that we brought our 2-year-old daughter (in winter gear, of course)?


Or how about two weekends ago, where we decided on a whim to go (primitive) camping... several hours before we left, even though knew we could only stay for one night because temps. the following night were going to be in the low-40's (which we wouldn't have batted an eyelash over pre-daughter, by the way. We've totally camped in the low 20's!). That's a sh*t-load of packing and unpacking, setting up and tearing down, for about 15 hours of camping, but to me, it was totally worth it... I mean, we got to experience some of the first lightning bugs of the season, man! Did I mention (again) that our 2-year-old was with us?!


This, poorest blog, is my crazy, atypical, perhaps slightly over-the-top life. Most people I know hang out on weekends and like, cookout or something. We typically cram more stuff into one weekend than some folks do in a year. I suppose you could say that we're always "on the go," but our priorities just happen to look a bit different than most people accused of the same thing. So, I guess I've got to surmise that my blog posts are going to be very few and far between, at least while the weather is "nice" (that is, 2-year-old appropriate. I've, personally, met very little "bad" weather!) and that's a-ok! In the meantime, I have been tending to and photographing all the plants in the yard and will post them in some form or fashion, either here or elsewhere.

Until next time, c'est la vie!!!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

Snowdrop


Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis)

I could not have chosen, or planned for, a more aptly named flower, or blog post title, for the first blooming plant in my yard. When I took pictures of this delicate little beauty on Saturday, it was sunny and about 70 degrees. Today, as I post this photo and ponder the irony of it all, it is snowing. Heavily.

Welcome to spring in the Southern Appalachians, a place with sweeping meteorological extremes like no other. As much as I struggle to love the long, cold winters here, spring, even with it's occasional snow and bone-chilling air, is heartbreakingly beautiful. I don't dread the snow now, or the ice pellets that have just begun to strike my window, rather, as I lather up my sunburned arms with soothing lotion, I find it more beautiful than ever.

When I took the above photo, I had been working hard pruning bushes in my garden for hours. I wore short sleeves, capri pants, sandals and sunglasses. Beads of sweat accumulated on my brow as the sun scorched my pale white skin. Today, however, I took the photo below at almost the exact same time of day (11 minutes later), but with long pants, shoes and socks, and a winter coat. As I bent down to take today's picture, my coat rose up in the back, allowing snowflakes to melt on my warm, exposed skin, my heart pounding a bit more quickly than normal from the sheer thrill of it all.

How incredibly fortunate I am to live in a place where I can directly experience two very different seasons all at once. Life - with all of its twist and turns and perfect ironies - is definitely good.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Culture Shock: A Turning Point

Since this blog's creation 2 months ago, I've committed myself to writing for at least one hour every single day, a personal goal that, for the most part, I've acheived. The problem is, being a relatively slow writer, I usually don't have time to finish my work. Oh, and the other problem is, that I'm an emotional writer and only write about subjects that I am feeling strongly about at the time. I suppose another way to put this is that I have real trouble finishing anything that I start if I have been interrupted! The following post, however, is something that I started a couple weeks ago that I feel deserves completion, if for no other reason than for personal gain. My goal is to sit at this computer until it is done, so here we go!

I got a job working at a pawn and gun shop right after high school. I had worked as a grocery store "clerk" for almost 3 years before that, and when the opportunity came to get a new, better-paying job (a friend's boyfriend's father owned the store), I jumped at the chance. Aside from the owner's daughter, who was several years older than me and worked "behind the scenes," I was the only female out on the sales floor, where I sold jewelry. Most of the other employees were retired, gun-toting white men who had worked for the company for years. Did I mention that there was a shooting range on the upper floor?

As surprising as it was for me, I fell in love with my job and was good at it. Really good, in fact, and I made quite a bit of money from my commission sales. I sold everything from (used, of course) Rolex's to businessmen, engagement rings to young sailors, and holiday adornments to elderly grandmothers.

More than anything, though, I learned a ton about people and about human nature, in general. I saw prominent, wealthy members of our community pawning their Porches to pay for their gambling additions, crack addicts who sought cash for their gold teeth, and mothers begging for high dollar amounts for their wedding rings in order to feed their children. I saw the same, retired, "customers" coming in every single morning just to shoot the breeze (no pun intended!)with some of our older sales associates, as they had done for years and years before. I (mostly) got used to working alongside men wearing loaded pistols on their hips, not only to "advertise" the latest in gun technology, but to ward off potential "trouble," as well.

Believe it or not, this is not where the "culture shock" came into play. Sure, I was exposed to situations that were far outside my naive white, 18-year-old, middle-class, female comfort zone, especially once I was "promoted" to work behind the front desk (where pawns were made and cash was given), but I was mostly dealing with potentially uncomfortable situations from a distance. In other words, I wasn't traveling with the woman who was "on the run" from her abusive husband, nor did I visit the home of the grief-stricken, local politician whose young wife was dying from Leukemia. Rather, I listened to them while they were there, shed a tear for them after they left, think about them to this day, but always at an arm's length.

The same was not true, however, for my relationship with a fellow employee named Jimmie. Whereas I was the only young female employee of the pawn shop, Jimmie was the company's only middle-aged, African-American associate. I'm not sure if it was because we were the two outliers of the company's swath of employees, or if it would've happened regardless of demographics, but Jimmie and I quickly formed a close friendship. From day one we got along amazingly well, helped each other out with sales, and spent many lunch breaks together conversing about family, work, and life, in general.

For months we saw one another only at work, but one cold, rainy, December day, Jimmie invited me to an event that would change my life forever. Both of us were musicians - I was a vocal music major in college and Jimmie played guitar (and just about everything else) in his church band - and we often spoke about getting together someday to "jam." Needless to say, I was more than willing to accept an impromptu invitation to a holiday gig at Jimmie's church.

Since I was invited toward the end of my shift at work and the concert was that evening, I had little time to prepare. I raced home from work and threw on a little, fire-engine red, wrap-around dress and black high-heels (some of you may not know this, but I was very thin and beautiful for most of my life...that's another blog post that I've written in my head over and over again but just don't have the courage to share. Yet.). I met Jimmie back at the Pawn Shop and we drove to pick up his girlfriend, Lisa, who had no idea that I was going to be there. I'd only met her once, very briefly at work, and she seemed nice enough, but she was visibly shocked to see me. We drove the 10-15 minute drive from Lisa's apartment to the church in near-silence, Lisa's disapproval of me glaringly obvious.

As we drove to the Baptist church I realized that I was in a section of town - a primarily lower-class African American section of town - that I'd never been to before, even though I'd lived in the general area for most of my life. I recall feeling a bit nervous to be somewhere so out of my element... so opposite from the mostly white, middle-class bubble that I had always inhabited.

I took a deep breath as Jimmie opened the door to the recreation hall of his church and stepped inside. There was a buffet set up in the large rectangular room along the wall where we entered and there were long, white tables arranged cafeteria-style where probably 300 or so people were eating their food. Initially, the room was quite loud, everyone happily conversing together while enjoying their meals. But several moment later, and I am NOT just saying this for dramatic effect, the room turned shockingly quiet, as people looked at me, and then at Jimmie, with confused and frankly, appalled expressions on their faces. In an instant I realized that I was the only Caucasian in the room and probably in the entire city block, as well (God did I regret wearing that showy red dress!). I turned to Jimmie in horror, who smiled and winked at me reassuringly, and then ushered me to the buffet (Lisa, by the way, had ducked her head marched immediately to the buffet upon our arrival). The chatter slowly began to increase.

I could barely move my legs to walk to the buffet, or raise my arms to pick up a paper plate, I felt so out-of-place and so uncomfortable with everyone's reactions. When I was done filling my plate, Jimmie showed me to an empty chair next to Lisa's and he left to go set up for the gig. I forced a smile and took my seat. Aside from Lisa, everyone else had already finished their meals and some of the children were clearing the table. Thankfully, Lisa cordially introduced me to everyone at our table - mostly cousins of hers and Jimmie's and their families - and most people were amicable. The atmosphere was still quite tense, though, and I could tell that everyone was on eggshells, but we all made the best out of the situation.

I barely had enough time to shove any food down my throat (not that I had an appetite) when the preacher took the stage and began a prayer. Everyone took hands, lowered their heads, closed their eyes, and prayed. Finally, the lights were lowered and the music began.

Most of the details of the concert are foggy now, over 13 years later, but I do recall being quite impressed with the quality of musicianship and enjoyed the upbeat, funky, spirited nature of the music. I also remember that, although most folks stayed near their seats, everyone in the audience danced, clapped, shouted, flailed their arms and were really engrossed in the music.

This was a far cry from the rigid, formal, and austere Roman Catholic masses that I was familiar with, which definitely added to my already high levels of awkwardness However, my guard gradually came down, and I found eventually found myself swaying to the rhythmic thumping of the bass and at one point, probably an hour or so into the show, I, too, became totally emerged in the music. With sweat pouring down my back and tears streaking my face, I danced as I had never done before and moved in unison with all of the blurry bodies around me. People were holding their arms in the air and shouting, "Hallelujah!" and "Amen!," while others dropped to their knees in prayer.

During a brief pause at the end of the show before the encore, one of the women from my table wrapped her arms around me and repeatedly told me that the "spirit of Jesus" was within me. My mind couldn't quite grasp what she meant, but my heart agreed in an instant. After all, I had just been thinking that it honestly felt as though there was some inexplicable spiritual presence in the room that I had never experienced before and wouldn't experience again for several years.

When the performance was over, the very same eyes that initially met me with, as I saw it, contempt and distrust, softened dramatically. The overwhelming feelings of awkwardness and distance that I had not so long before felt, were replaced by love and acceptance. Although most folks were eager to get home after the gig, many people stopped to welcome me to their church and inquired about my impressions of the show. Not once did anyone ask me how I knew Jimmie or what in the heck I was doing there. I felt comfortable and accepted.

So, why, you may ask, would I feel compelled to share this experience now? Well, there are two reasons. One, because I have been doing a lot of soul searching lately and have been thinking about situations that have been instrumental in forming who I am today. This experience was a real turning point for me and even though it took me a couple of years to truly grasp its impact (which will be revealed in a future post), it was monumental in changing my views in both politics and religion.

I also want to share this story, as well as several others I have in the works, as a way to more or less catch folks up who have recently come back into my life (via Facebook, mostly!) after years of being apart. I've heard over and over again from these friends how very different I am today than I was when they knew me before and they're exactly right! Oh, and by "different," by the way, they don't mean that I have a new hairstyle, that I don't hang out with the same people I used to, or that I've switched careers. In many ways, I'm about as changed as someone can be. Don't get me wrong, much of me is same as ever, but many of the labels have changed! The "old Kim" from about a decade ago and before, for instance, was staunchly Republican, devoutly Catholic, fairly trendy, etc. while the "new Kim" is shamelessly liberal, intensely spiritual (although not religious) and more feminist than feminine. I didn't arrive at this "new and improved" (in my opinion, and when speaking of myself. I have no problem believing that others can be their best selves while Catholic or conservative, or whatever) self over-night. It took numerous life-situations, such as the one this post is about, over several years with much heartache and guilt, to arrive where I am today.

So, when I'm not discussing my latest gardening charades or muttering away about motherhood, I'd love to make this blog a bit of a memoir about where I've been and where I'm going, that will hopefully benefit both you and me. Even though I'm comfortable in my somewhat newer skin, it's been a fairly drastic change for me and it's been difficult at times, for myself and others, to grasp what has led to such a transformation. The prospect of this is simultaneously exciting and scary, so we'll see how it goes!

Also, I realize that I made quite a few generalizations about African Americans, Baptist churches, pawn shop employess and customers, etc. and I hope I have not offended anyone. More than anything, I'm just being honest about my opinions and feelings at the time and in a future post you'll learn the breakthroughs and understandings I've had with all of the above people and how they all changed my life for the better. Initially I wanted to include this now, but it took so long for me to "get it" that I need to explain other experiences, also.

Be well!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Date

My husband went out with "the guys" tonight and I decided to have a date night with my 2-year-old. It was no big deal, we just went out for pizza and to the mall playground, but we had a great time. After being with Sophie all week long you'd think I'd be sick of her, especially by Friday night. Don't get me wrong, we have our moments, such as this morning when we took our elderly, ill, nervous cat, Belle, to the vet. Sophie was seemingly upset with the vet tech for "hurting" Belle, so when the tech graciously gave Sophie a pinwheel to play with, Sophie scowled at her and broke it in half. This was not a feel-good moment, for sure, but bad times just make the good times sweeter.

Speaking of which, I've been noticing daffodils and irises sprouting from the cold earth. They're barely recognizable, as they're only about 2 inches tall, but they're a refreshing sign of warm weather - and lots of gardening blog posts - to come. I don't know about you, but this long, harsh, cold, snowing, dreary winter is going to make those spring flowers all the more beautiful this year!

Until then, stay warm and dry!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Silence

It seems as though I can only write something worthwhile in solitude and quiet. The current conditions, for example, which consist of rather heavy music blaring ("Carini" by Phish, if you care), my husband clanging away at the dishes (god bless him) and my daughter chattering on the baby monitor, just don't don't get those creative juices flowing for me. I spent the past 45 minutes writing one short paragraph on the way too wordy and LONG post I've been working on for a week or more. I'm beginning to think the only time feasible for me to write is very early in the morning (say, 5am) before everyone wakes up, but since I'm an insomniac (no really, I am) I just don't see that happening. Something's got to give...maybe I'll try earplugs!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Working On It

I've been solidly working on a very personal piece for the past 2 days entitled, Culture Shock: A Turning Point that still isn't finished and probably won't be finished now until early next week (parents are coming into town). I'm sorry my blogging activity has been so low on your end (I've written soooo much that hasn't been posted), but it will pick up soon, I promise. You're going to be so sick of me once the plants start blooming...

Peace and love to you all!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sneaky

Shhh... I'm sneaking away to write to you while my husband is pulling my daughter around in a laundry basket, as he's been doing for the past 1/2 hour at least.

I LIVE for Fridays. We usually go out to dinner (as a family) on Friday nights because I just can't muster enough energy to make another meal. But here I sit, pretending to be away from home as the snow falls on yet another Friday evening, tonight's dirty casserole dishes still adorning our kitchen table.

Well, it's GOT to be my turn to pull by now. Thank you, blog, for these invaluable mini-vacations!

Shhh!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Is There Anybody Out There?

(Don't get too excited, unfortunately this post has nothing to do with the famed Pink Floyd song whose song title I borrowed.)

I allow myself 1 hour of writing time per day, usually during Sophie's "nap" time. Most of my writing amounts to nothing, which has been troubling for me at times, but for the most part is understandable. As I "write" now, for instance, my lovely daughter (who's supposed to be napping) is yelling at the top of her lungs,

"Hello?

Mommy?

Are you there?

Is there anybody out there?

I need help!

MOMMY?!

HELLO!!!

Are you watching the weather? (As if...)

MOMMY!!!!!!!"

Granted, she is not yelling out of anger, rather, she finds this quite humorous. I do, too, to a certain extent, but I swear right here and now NEVER to get down on myself again for writing something disjointed, incoherent, or downright lousy. Who can concentrate with all of this noise?! It is no wonder my mind is only flooded with good ideas when I'm lying in bed at night... it's the only time I get any peace and quiet.

"Mommy, mommy, MOMMY!!!"

Monday, February 8, 2010

In Sync


I had the most wonderful day with my daughter today. It was one of those days that makes me so grateful to be able to be with her every moment of every day and so worth the petty sacrifices I've made to be able to do so. I'm not exactly sure what precipitates a day like this, if it has something to do with me, or her, or the stars, but it is such a beautiful thing, regardless of cause. I don't know what I did to deserve such a thoughtful, caring, sweet little girl, but it must have been pretty impressive.

Recently, my dear friend, Carrie, posted a piece on her incredibly well-written and thought-provoking blog, http://www.iwantnina.blogspot.com/, about the image(s) of ourselves that we project to the world. It really got me thinking about the things that most influence the images I project and the things that shape them, from my near-crippling issues with body image, to my unrealistic drive for perfectionism, to my tendency toward obsessive-compulsiveness. I thought a lot about how I even put up a front for the people closest to me (I think we all do to a certain extent)... but not with Sophie. Aside from the fact that we're always together, I think part of the reason we're so in sync with each other is because I don't need to pretend with her. I can be the "real" me because she has yet to develop self-consciousness and therefore, has no idea about concepts like judgement.

What a gift this has been for me! Since I've been able to let my guard down with her, I've learned so much about myself that I either never knew existed or completely forgot about. This has definitely been one of the most unexpected yet welcomed aspect of motherhood for me thus far.

This is certainly not to say that all of my revelations have been positive. For the first year or more of Sophie's life I was plagued by a fairly deep depression. Suddenly the mirror was right in front of my face all the time and I often didn't like what I saw. It has taken me, and is taking me, a long time to come to terms with and work on many different aspects of myself that, frankly, I'm not crazy about. But on days like this, when the stars align just right, I actually see quite a few areas that I not only like, but am proud of. And it's days like these when I realize that you have to have good with bad, as day needs night and hot needs cold.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Joys of Homeownership!

Somehow, our corian kitchen sink, which is built-in to our corian countertops, got a huge crack all the way through it and drenched the cabinet underneath. Then, as I was doing a load of laundry in our beautiful Maytag front-loading washing machine that came with the house, I smelled the unmistakable, burning smell of "something electrical" and when the load finished all the clothes were sopping wet. A week later, an appliance repair person came out to tell us, in about 1 minute and with an $85 charge, that we need a new washer. We bought the washer (which is really cool, by the way), waited a day for it to be delivered to the store, brought it home and spent all of yesterday and this morning doing laundry. Finally, today, we noticed that we had no hot water and that the pilot light was off on our gas hot water heater. It will not reignite. I plan on taking full advantage of the Super Bowl festivities tonight to "clear my head!"

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Checking In

Good evening!

I just wanted to drop by end ask for your patience! I've been ill and have had some home-owner catastrophies and just haven't had time to write. I have quite a few pieces in the works, so if we keep our power for the next few days (yet another snow/ice storm) I'll be sure to share.

Until then...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Backyard

There was a story on the local news the other night about a recently deceased, 77-year-old man nicknamed, "Wild Man of the Smokies," who, after his family was forced from their land by the National Park Service upon the creation of the Great Smoky's National Park, eluded the law and spent the rest of his life, alone, in a remote mountain cabin with no modern conveniences. His family tried numerous times to persuade him to adapt certain amenities (running water, electricity, phone service) to his humble lifestyle, but he refused. Apparently, this man never knew what year or day of the week it was or who the president of the U.S. was. He told time by the position of the sun and was known to say, "Everything I need is right in front of me. Everything I want is right here."

This story reminded me of the very first idea I had for a blog post and one of the most important lessons I've learned. Last spring and summer, Sophie was old enough to be aware of her surroundings and Jeff and I were eager to take her to many of the places we'd always dreamt of bringing her. We took her to waterfalls, scenic hikes, mountain summits, and picturesque streams, all the while eager to see her reactions. Every single time, however, without fail, we were a bit disappointed. Instead of being drawn to the thunderous roar of the waterfalls, she was more interested in examining the gravel in the parking lot; instead of being seized by the sheer grandeur of the highest peaks east of the Mississippi, she found joy in climbing on the Park Service's cement benches. After experiencing this time and time again, it finally struck me - beauty is everywhere. It is in the sound of the Velcro strap of a toddler's stroller, it is in the way your body feels as it ascends and descends a steep hill, and it is in the droplets of rain slowly dripping off a freshly emerged leaf. The problem with expectation is that you blind yourself from everything except the object of your desire, all-the-while missing everything else along the way; you set yourself up for disappointment.


I told this story several months ago to my dear friend and spiritual advisor/teacher, Tom (this description does NOT do Tom or my relationship with him ANY justice what-so-ever, so stay tuned for a piece devoted just to him!), and after taking a moment to contemplate my words, he said (and although I'll use quotation marks I know I won't say this quite right), "People talk to me about traveling to India and other places around the world and if they ask me if I've been I usually answer, 'No, but have you seen your backyard?'"


So, here's to the "Wild Man" who never sought, to my daughter who is fascinated by everything she sees, hears, feels, smells, and tastes, to Tom for putting things into perspective, and to me for figuring it out on my own! This blog, which will catalog every little beautiful plant in my yard (especially as they sprout and bloom) feels that much more significant now.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Not Forgotten

Hello, loyal reader(s)! I just wanted to post a quick note stating that I have not abandoned this blog! I have several pieces in various degrees of completion that will be up shortly. Oh, and it doesn't help that the things I most want to write about are taboo to most, offensive to others, and just downright inappropriate. I've decided - begrudgingly - to put these things on the back-burner for now, but I've never been good at holding back, so we'll see. You just might be offended, after all!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Betwixt and Between

Something peculiar has been happening to me lately and I feel compelled to share. Two nights ago, I fell asleep almost instantly upon lying in bed (a rarity for me) and immediately started having a nightmare. It was so terrifying that I somehow tried to wake myself up in the middle of it. I recall reassuring myself that I was only dreaming and that the moment I woke up the terror would stop. However, I got "stuck" in the dream and could not awaken. My eyes had to have opened because I was conscious enough to realize that Jeff had not yet gone to bed. I was facing the door and could see that the family room light was still on and I desperately tried to get his attention. I attempted to get out of bed but I couldn't move; I tried to scream, but I couldn't find my voice. At one point, which was obviously while dreaming, I reached for my cell phone which lay on my nightstand and struggled to call his phone, but it wouldn't work - some foreign screen popped up and I was unable to get past it. I tried and tried, as if my life depended on it, to fully awaken, but for several minutes at least, I remained caught somewhere in between the dream world and the waking world. It was as if I was in a coma; fully-conscious yet unable to move.

This is the second time this sleep paralysis has happened to me in the last couple of weeks, except the previous time I had an out-of-body experience with it. In my dream, I could visualize myself (or perhaps more accurately, my self) lying on my bed, unable to wake up. It was as if "I" was hovering over "me," helplessly witnessing myself desperately seeking wakefulness. The biggest difference about this episode from the other, however, was that it occurred immediately before waking up. I had awoken when Jeff left at about 6:45, fell back asleep, began to (lucid) dream, and then couldn't wake up around 7:30 when I heard Sophie babbling on the baby monitor.

Aside from the lucid dreaming aspect, which I do experience every now and again, the only other time in my life something similar occurred was when I was a young child. I have vivid memories of sleep-walking, recurring nightmares, and "night terrors" from when I was approximately 3-5 years old. During one such incident, I was having a nightmare about being lost in a jungle and when I "awoke," my bedroom was transformed into the dream, itself, complete with tropical plants and trees, monkeys, brightly-colored birds and spiders that fell from the ceiling, landing in my hair and covering my body and bed. Unlike the more recent occurrences, where I was unable to utter a sound, I screamed bloody murder until my mother came in to comfort me. She described me as wild-eyed and inconsolable, obviously not fully awake, but not fully asleep, either. I couldn't have been more than four-years old.

So, why now? Why, more than 25 years later, am I suddenly having similar, terrifying episodes? Am I really so stifled by this loss of self that I've been blogging about that even my dreams are paralyzed, or could there be other, more innocent reasons? And are there any other ways in which I am betwixt and between this and that?

Well, I literally finished writing the previous sentence last night and had a bit of an epiphany today. Jeff, Sophie and I (Jeff "called in sick" from work so we could get some things accomplished that can only be done on weekdays) had a "date" this morning with our dear friend Natalie ("Mommy Natalie," as Sophie calls her) and her 2-year-old son, Julian, at our local arboretum where we were supposed to take the children to their "Wee Naturalist" class. Much to our chagrin, we discovered that the class is on a bit of a hiatus for the next several weeks. Natalie pointed out that our other winter outing spot, The Health Adventure (a children's museum downtown) was also partially closed down for a bit while its upstairs changing exhibit was in transition. We made the most out of our morning and let the kids run around through the muddy pathways and trails of the arboretum's seasonally flowerless gardens and dry water features. We attempted to stroll through the new Education Center, but we were turned away because (you guessed it!) a new exhibit was being constructed. Afterwards, we set out to dine at the 12 Bones Smokehouse, a local bbq hotspot, and learned that it was closed for several weeks. Our next attempt, a popular Mexican restaurant, was also closed. Famished and exhausted, we ended up at an antiquated, kitschy, German restaurant, complete with Cuckoo clocks and Oom-pah music (why we didn't skip the bratwurst and opt for the beer after such an ordeal is beyond me!).

I supposed this is how it is this time of year, during the throws of winter. Everyone and everything are on a bit of a break for now, while they regroup and reinvent themselves for warmer times to come. I guess the same is true for me. Although I can't quite explain the cause of my recent bout of sleep paralysis, I'll take it as yet another sign that this is a time for reflection and renewal; a time to integrate aspects of sleep and reflection with wakefulness and regeneration. As much as we may dread the stark, cold, lonely aspects of winter, this is when our real work should get done; work from within. We need this time, as trees bare themselves and animals slumber, to rebuild ourselves so that we are ready to truly live when buds finally swell on naked stems and flowers emerge from thawing earth.

So, here's to winter, with all of its interruptions! I would much rather be a cleaned-out exhibit space waiting for a new display than a faded mural in an outdated restaurant. The true gift, I suppose, is being able to recognize this and to be grateful for this serene, albeit a bit boring, season of cabin fever and reflection.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Part of the Path, Part I

For the first 18 years or so of my life, I considered myself a devout Roman Catholic. After all, I'd been raised in the Catholic Church since birth, I rarely missed a mass, and I sang in the choir. I'd been baptised, had my first Eucharist, said penance, and I'd even willfully been confirmed. Everyone on both sides of my family were Catholic; it had been that way for many generations.

My favorite time of the church year was Easter week and I usually attended all masses, from Holy Thursday and Good Friday to Easter Vigil and mass. Many times I attended these masses alone, since my family, as well as a majority of Catholics, only went to mass on Easter Sunday. Aside from the obvious reason for attending these masses - to mourn the crucifixion and death of Jesus and to subsequently celebrate his resurrection - there was something in the formality of it all that really spoke to me, that moved me in a way that nothing else had.

During Holy Thursday mass, as the priest, dressed in ornate vestments, silently walked up and down the aisles, incense billowing from his staff, solemnly chanted ancient, Latin hymns, I was always overcome with intense emotion. I could practically feel my heart ripping away from its cavity as the same priest, his mournful face tear-streaked and red, lay his body on the floor before the altar, offering himself to the crucified Christ. I found it nearly impossible to hold back my own tears on Good Friday, the day of Jesus' death, when the priest and congregation slowly marched from the pews of the church to the bell tower in reverence of the fallen Saviour.

After all of that sadness and gloom, there was the Saturday Easter Vigil, which begins in darkness and is slowly illuminated by the candle light of parishioners, each lighting her candle from the person before her. At no other time did I feel such solidarity, not only with my congregation, but with Catholics across the globe, as we lit our candles together, literally being the light for our Church, our priest, our God. Finally, Easter Sunday ensued, where everyone joined together in celebration, all of us invigorated by ideas of hope, faith and rebirth.

These were powerful days, to say the least; days in which you undoubtedly believed in your church and its teachings. I can recall these events as if they occured today. Even though it has been nearly a decade since I have experienced this, since I've believed, I still get choked up as I type this, chills creaping up and down my spine.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Before and After

I've started and stopped more blog posts throughout the past week than my two-year-old has said "no" today. This post, however, I am committed not only to finishing, but to sharing, as well.

The truth is, I'm having a hard time with this blog business and I've only been at it for a week. I'm not only rusty in the writing department, but I'm also severely out-of-practice with anything that is, to quote my two-year old, "mine." Since giving birth to my daughter, the only identity I've really occupied is "Sophie's mommy." As a stay-at-home mother, I have focused nearly all of my energy on her and little on me. Somehow, somewhere, I've lost my sense of self. But I've got a bee in my bun to find it and what better time to start than NOW!

This is not to insinuate that I regret even a minute of the past 28 months, because that is certainly not the case. I'm proud to say that Sophie and I have spent nearly every waking moment of her life together and that I've never missed a thing in her young life. She and I have an amazing relationship and a closeness that is really special. I have never taken for granted how fortunate I am to be able to be with her every day and I honestly don't feel as though I'm making sacrifices to do so. Sure, Jeff and I can't afford lavish vacations, fancy meals, or other frivolous expenses, but we're doing what we feel is best for our daughter and we've never felt an ounce of guilt or regret in the process. That being said, I do feel as though Sophie and I both could benefit from me having... a life outside of her! How can I teach her to be independent and free-thinking if I'm not setting those examples, myself? And how can I feel truly fulfilled if I don't at least acknowledge my own dreams and personal aspirations?

I know this may be shocking to those of you who have had the unfortunate luck of only knowing me after September 25, 2007, but prior to mommyhood I was a pretty cool chick. I was quite free-spirited and thrived on spontaneity. Hell, for the most part, I just thrived, period. My husband and I were huge Phish-heads (those who follow the band Phish, just in case you're not hip to the term) and it was nothing for us to drop everything - including bills - to follow the wild, psychedelic, improvisational, "jam band" (I strongly dislike that term) geniuses for several shows at a time at any venue we could get to. I lived for anything mind-expanding and spent well-over the standard 4 years of college hanging on my professors' every word, pushing myself to the brink of insanity to excel in school and to be the best student in every class. I took entire foreign languages (well...one) and advanced philosophy courses just for the thrill of it and ended up double-majoring in Sociology and Anthropology at one of the most liberal "Liberal Arts" colleges in the country. I was an intellectual through and through and I read and wrote and thought and dreamed. I prayed and cried and danced and loved and combed the interiors of my soul for purpose and meaning. I had a Zen-based spiritual practice with so many profound experiences that any one of them would have left me a lifetime of contentment. I was blessed and blissed beyond belief.

And if that weren't enough to earn me a top slot in the cool club (or at least cool here in Asheville), my husband, Jeff, and I were also, um, AVID outdoorsy folks. By avid I mean we camped, as simply as possible, about a third to a half of the weekends in a year. We found God in nature and couldn't get enough of feeling one with the trees, the streams, and the stars. Camping was our priority; we did it over everything else. Petty things like... cleaning the house and paying the bills got squeezed in late on weeknights when we "had time." We even got into winter camping and camped in sub-freezing temperatures in ice and snow and rain and frost. We planned entire vacations around camping in some of the most pristine locations in the country. As-a-matter-of-fact, right before I got pregnant we flew out to the Pacific Northwest with practically nothing but what little camping gear we could fit into our suitcases and camped throughout the Olympic Peninsula and Mount Rainier National Parks.

Then, on Wed. October 11, 2006 my life drastically changed. I found out I was pregnant, which was a bit of a surprise, but a very welcomed, albeit a bit scary, one. On Sat. October 14, 2006 I went to a life-changing Zen Retreat. And on Sun., October 15, 2006, as I was getting ready to pick apples with my brother and his then girlfriend (now wife), when I suffered a devastating miscarriage. I was only about 7 weeks pregnant, but the blow hit me with such intensity that I thought I would never recover from it. In some ways, I still haven't.

I graduated from college on Dec. 15, 2006 and was pregnant again just a few weeks later. At about 7 weeks pregnant, I thought I had another miscarriage. The emotional pain was just about more than I could handle, but, much to everyone's surprise (including my doctor's), somehow I was still pregnant. It turned out that I had most likely lost a twin and I went on to have a healthy pregnancy and later, beautiful Sophie.

My entire pregnancy, however, was filled with worry. I had two monumental losses back-to-back and I just couldn't shake the thought that something was going to happen to that one, too. Somehow, I had lost faith. Even after my perfect baby girl was born, my emotions were still numb. I desperately wanted to breast-feed her, but my body just wouldn't cooperate with me and it couldn't happen. A couple months later, my thyroid went bezerk (and is still out-of-whack today). I felt as though my body had betrayed me many times over and I was angry. Instead of turning to God or meditation I recoiled and invested all of my energy on Sophie and forgot about me.

Well, here I am, folks. I'm here to take back my self and to become reacquainted with the Kim from before October 15, 2006. I know writing is one of the elements to make this a reality, but so is accountability. I'm taking a big chance here, putting myself out in the open like this, so that you, my loyal readership (of three!) can hold me accountable. I am not going to hide behind pain and self-hatred any longer. With any luck, I'll find the things I loved about my "old" self and fuse them together with all of the energy I've invested in motherhood and maybe, just maybe, a "superKim" will emerge!

Thank you for reading! Peace and love to you all...

Friday, January 8, 2010

American Holly


I really did not want to begin my cataloging escapades with a photo taken from behind glass, but the winter weather conditions outside make it necessary for me to do so. It is currently 9 degrees outside with stiff northwest winds causing windchill values to be well below zero. Oh, and it's 8am and I just rolled out of bed. And it's snowing. Thank god that holly bush is accessible from my office window!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fickle Perennial?! Oh, the Irony!

According to Merriam-Webster's website:
fickle - adj. Characterized by erratic changeableness or instability.
perennial - n. Something that occurs or seems to occur on a yearly or continuous basis.

I wish I could claim ownership of this catchy little title (if I do say so, myself!), but it actually came from my dear friend, Linda. Years ago she, her wonderful husband, John, and I were sitting in my living room one evening having drinks, when out of nowhere Linda called her husband a "fickle little perennial." After John and I picked ourselves up from off the floor and wiped off our tear-streaked faces from laughing so hard (remember, we were "having drinks..."), we marveled in her brilliance for using such a remarkable phrase. We even went so far as to say that if we were ever in a band (or if I were, John has been in many) we would call ourselves, "F.L.P." for "Fickle Little Perennial," or at least use it as our album's namesake. Well, so much for the band, but a more perfect title couldn't be had for a blog about...uh...gardening...

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Beginnings

Last March, my husband, Jeff, and I purchased a well-landscaped home just outside of Asheville, NC. I'd dabbled in gardening before, but mostly with the container gardening variety due to the fact that we had always rented and never stayed put for too long (it is a bit of an understatement to say that I have "issues" with permanence, but that's another post!). Having moved into our new home in the winter, we had no idea what was in store for us gardening-wise, and committed to leaving our half-acre property "as is" for one year until we knew exactly what plants would be blooming. It was obvious, even in the wintertime, that our house's former owner was an avid gardener; there were mulched beds, evergreen shrubs, and numerous bare stems and sticks that lay dormant during the cold weather.

Spring brought with it an impressive collection of daffodils,hyacinths, lilies, and other "bulbed" plants, as well as forsythias, phlox and candy tuft. I shared online photos of our beautiful new blooming property with family and friends, some of whom, who had not read my captions, assumed I was showcasing pictures of a local, manicured park. This reaction was certainly well-received by Jeff and I, but it also brought about a bit of intimidation on my end with the realization that I was going to have to tend to all of this and I had little idea how.

As the months and seasons changed, so did the flora in our property. Thankfully, my mother is a seasoned gardener and was available to answer most of my seemingly endless questions about what the latest plant to erupt was or how much water each plant needed. I would often snap a photo of a particular plant and email it to her for advice. At some point during mid-summer I realized that I should have been cataloging my new plants somehow, that it would have been helpful to have had a labeled photo of each plant, along with a brief description of when it first bloomed and any advice my mom (or books, or online resources, etc.) gave me. Since I use digital photography, I thought about different avenues for online cataloging and decided that I would begin such a program during the new year.

Somewhere around this same time, I became engrossed in some of my friends' blogs and found myself inspired to write. Thanks to these friends (whose blogs I'll gladly share on this site), I had all kinds of ideas floating around in my mind and I was reminded that, for years and years, a long time ago, writing was not only an important creative outlet for me, but instrumental to my mental well-being, as well. An idea was born! What if I could somehow fuse my online gardening catalog with some of these creative snippets, as well as personal stories of my joys and challenges as a mother, my triumphs and frustrations with spirituality, and other general depictions of my everyday life?! Perhaps I would even find patterns and connections between and among some of these areas! Even if no one was interested in reading such a beast, at the very least, I would surely benefit in some way.

So, there you have it...my very first post, over half a year in the making! It would feel inauthentic not to mention that as I write this, my 2-year-old daughter, Sophie, who is suffering from bronchitis, keeps waking up from her supposed and well-needed nap, screaming hysterically. I've had to console her about nine times since starting this. So much for inspired creativity!