Wednesday, January 27, 2010


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 ( 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 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!