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Thoughts on Reinvention

This is my third post on deciding what I want to be when I grow up. My mother always told me, “Grandma Moses started painting when she was 70 years old.” I don’t know if she meant she could have started a new career as an artist or if she meant to encourage me, but I do know that 70 years old sounded really, really, really old, and so I was duly impressed.

70 doesn’t sound that old to me now and time is closing in on me.

I decided the best way to go about this was to weigh the things I love doing against each other and to assess the monetary benefits of pursuing an action.

Writing is the most obvious way to make money, but writing is only my second love (I am excluding horses: I couldn’t make money with horses if I knew squat about them, and they cost a lot of money to own).

The first thing I ever did in life that I remember is to take a pencil and draw. I was drawing before I could write. I was in detention in Kindergarten for drawing a pine tree instead of a lollipop tree ( the kid sitting next to me tattled on me and told the teacher I was ‘drawing Christmas trees’. When I defiantly pointed out that it was not a Christmas tree (no decorations) and that it looked more like a tree than the lollipop tree (I probably used that term), the teacher made me stand in the corner. I was crushed, but my sense of defiance was strengthened).

I created my first sculpture in 5th grade. I remember it vividly: it was made out of home-made papier mâchè. Each student  in class made a bird, and the popular kids were very detailed and politically correct. My bird was a fantastical parrot-like creation, green, and funny-shaped. I was embarrassed at the outcome. Later in life, I realized that’s just how my brain translates to sculpture. All my papier mâchè creations since have been grotesque and strange. I’m fine with that.

I love to garden, but I came into that passion as an adult. I hated yard work when I was a child and my father snapped a long black whip over our heads. “Work, ye slaves, work! Ground, ye are! Two weeks’ detention: spend it clearing out the boulevard! I want that salt grass gone!” Other neighborhood kids came and watched us toil in our shackles and striped pajamas. “Those poor Wilcox kids. They’ll never be free…”

Okay, it wasn’t quite that dramatic. The whip was imaginary. All the rest was real.

I love to read. If I could make as much money reading as I make working a forty-hour-a-week-job, I’d read for forty hours a week. At least. I’d even put in overtime.

I hate math. Herein lies one of the greatest ironies in life: God arranged for me to have a very nice job in a closing department for a real estate company. I spend forty hours a week dealing with numbers. I have a memory for patterns and numbers, and they come very easy for me. I only hate math because I had one good math teacher in my entire public school life (Mr. English in 8th Grade). The worst math teachers were in high school and higher math. I especially despise geometry.

I love science, but I can’t deal with the rote memory of it. You’d think that would be simple, but it isn’t. I had this very lofty dream of becoming a veterinarian when I was a freshman in high school. Enter Mr. Ricketts and his biology class. He was determined that we all understood what college was going to be like and he was hard. I learned to despise fruit flies. But what was driven home more than anything was that I do not have the ability to memorize biology terms. All we had to do was memorize the bones, musculature, and nymph system of the human body.

The final was the weekend after a big conference in Las Vegas for a volunteer group I had gotten involved with. We students screwed around a lot (one night, Tracie, “Rat”, Lance, and I ran around playing “doorbell ditch” on wedding chapels. We were all going to “get married” but we didn’t know to whom we wanted to get married). But I also spent a lot of time cramming for that test, and I remember sitting in the cafe with my biology book and notes. Mr. Ricketts was one of our chaperones and he came down for breakfast at the same time. I was making notes, reading and rereading.

I failed the test. My very first core subject failure. It was a pivotal moment in my life as dreams of becoming a veterinarian were dashed completely. Mr. Ricketts, who was a notorious bad-ass, gave me a D- on my report card. I deserved an F, but he knew how hard I’d studied in Las Vegas.

He did not know I wrote my first novel in biology and passed it around to my fellow students. It was titled, “Hey, Birds.”

Today, I had an interesting conversation with a new coworker. She’s from Iowa. I mentioned that I attended Grinnell College for a year. She replied, “Wow, that’s a rich kids’ college.” Well, yeah, it was then, too. It is also a very diverse college and a wonderful liberal arts education. I was just not prepared for living away from home in the middle of the flat lands. I was not college material at the age of 17 (my father warned me: he wanted me to take a year off and then go to college. I should have listened). I loved Grinnell.

I got to see/hear Ry Cooder. Oh my Gosh – he remains one of my absolute favorite independent musical artists. I had a great design 101 professor. I pulled a B+ average. One of my favorite courses was Humanities. World History was not far behind.

Still, I dropped out. World History, the Greeks, Poetry – those stick with me. I have a very dog-eared copy of Norton’s Anthology of Poetry (1974). John Donne became my favorite sonnet poet. Simone de Beauvoir was inspiring. I hate Freud.

I passed Physics for Dummies with flying colors with a paper on the artist Christo. What can I say? Christo had to understand physics in order to do the things he did with orange drapery.

I dropped out. I was not college-ready. I wanted to be John Steinbeck and write the Great American Novel. I’ve written three or four by now, and burned them all. The only novel I ever sent to a publisher was “Hey Birds” in the 1970’s. It was a truly awful book.

Now I am here: almost 58 and trying to decide which way I want to go. Tonight, I watched a You-Tube tutorial on oil pastels. I felt inspired. I knew that I was on the right track.

The end result of this rambling post is this: I want to be an artist. I buried my Talent for years and years as I worked my way through life: there was making a living to pay the rent, then there was marriage, and then there were children. I chose to homeschool my children which turned into a full-time job (that I will never regret, although their take on homeschooling is yet to be determined*). I was thrust into a full time job working for a real estate company.

And I found every excuse under the sun about why I couldn’t also pursue an artistic career. My bad.

Now, I want to correct that. I am leaning toward art. Really leaning. This is where I need accountability.

(I didn’t even touch on photography. I’ll make that my next post.)

*For Levi. My son. You would NEVER have broken so many laws if you had attended public school. You would NEVER have run as wild as you did if you had been in public school. You NEVER would have taken up Swing Dancing with the cute girls at community college when you were 14 if you had been in public school. I just want you to know that homeschooling worked in your favor.

This weekend was like summer’s last call (although summer actually ended last weekend). I had SO.Much.To.Do.

Isn’t that what every gardener says?

I wrote down three goals for this weekend: squirrel feeder, plant bulbs, transplant one peony.

Working backwards: the one peony has been growing under what is now becoming the Hawthorne tree. My husband insists it is still a “bush”, but at over 6′ in height, I’m thinking it is a tree.

I dug up the peony as best as I could (there remains a root still under the Hawthorne). I replanted it in four places in the front yard. Do you know that I have NO peonies in my front yard? I have this incredible peony garden and not one single plant is in the front yard! Well, that changed tonight.

I also planted several Alyssum bulbs in the back yard and several new tulip bulbs around the yard. I moved some ground cover to the front yard.

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I also moved several sedums. We’ll see which ones grow. I planted them under my older lilac bush and built a little fence around them out of rhododendron branches.

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This poor lilac needs to have the fir tree above it trimmed down. I moved the lilac to this place when we moved in, not realizing that tyhe neighbor’s fir would outgrow and outshade the lilac. The neighbor is OK if we trim the tree up – it grew by accident. If my husband doesn’t get out there with a ladder, I will. The lilac is too precious to lose. It is a double-floret lilac colored bloom.

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I also put up my squirrel feeding station. I had to take the feeder down last winter due to the brown rats that had settled in under our house and which were using the feeder as their own. I hope the new station is not rat-friendly.

On a side note… Last night, I hauled the trash from the loft out and when I opened the door to the yard, I was confronted by my husband and Murphy. Murphy had his jaw firmly clenched, but two little white paws and a naked tail were hanging loose outside his mouth. He was not letting go. I turned back inside and retrieved a slice of lunch meat which I waved under Murphy’s nose. He gladly dropped the juvenile brown rat on to the deck and ate the lunch meat. My husband quickly disposed of the (mostly dead) rat.

Good Murphy. I think.

At least it wasn’t a Norway rat.

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Tell me I am weird and I don’t care. I like my cheap croquet fence. I planted bulbs behind it.

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I also installed the day bed frame as fence in the garden. I like how it looks.

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This is how we ended the weekend: a fire in the fire pit. :)

Summer’s Last Hurrah

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We’re entering the Season of the Spider. I love late September and early October for the spiders. The big, fat, mother Argiope spiders amaze me with their art work.

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This one used bits of plant to embellish her web.

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Late Summer and early Autumn is also Aster time. This beauty is growing in a crack in the sidewalk. How it gets roots deep enough and strong enough to support itself is a wonder.

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The mother plant has been uprooted, replanted, divided, and moved so many times I can no longer count them. The original plant was a gift from a friend in the St. Johns’ neighborhood of Portland.

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I planted this aster and am continually amazed at the height and beauty of it. It isn’t as compact as the purple one, and it’s legginess causes a lot of issues, but the bees just adore it.

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The funnel spiders (family Agelenidae) have a hey-day in the Dog Days of Summer. They are relatively harmless to humans in the USA (I wouldn’t poke my finger down that web, I just don’t want my reader to freak out and call the Exterminator) and are very beneficial for killing other insects. Hmmm. I have a number of pesky Squash Bugs I want to drop down that funnel…

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I actually have grapes on my grapevine! The tag to the vine is somewhere on my desk, but I’m not going to try to dig it out to tell you the varietal. I lied: Interlaken Grapes.

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I saw this black pepper annual at the local BiMart and could not live without it. It is not edible, but it is simply gorgeous! I am hoping it will reseed itself in the pot and I will get volunteers in the Spring. The plant did not come with a tag but I had an easy time finding it on the Internet. It is called “Purple Flash”.

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I am amazed at the funnel spiders this year. This particular one has taken over my Yucca. Some people consider Yucca to be a pest and I acquired this particular plant when a neighbor re-did his yard. He set it out on the street with a FREE sign on it. I hauled it home and planted it by the water meter, on a strip of lawn we do very little with.

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The Yucca loves my neglect and the spider seems to love the Yucca.

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This phlox mysteriously appeared in my prayer garden. I don’t remember planting it.

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It is delicate and very pretty. I think it is a ground cover and I can possibly nurture it in it’s present location. I dug out another ridiculous ground cover that I purchased from a school plant sale and ended up hating because it encroached on the Douglas Meadowfoam that blooms there in the spring. The Meadowfoam came with the maple tree my husband brought me from the mountains (also the Yew).

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I think I remember planting this mallow last Spring. It surprised me with a spurt of growth and a bloom (or several) this year. I have no record of the plant, but I know it is a mallow.

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The mallow’s sisters are my hollyhocks. Those I remember planting. I also remember how my father hated hollyhocks.

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Personally, I love hollyhocks.

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My one remaining fuschia takes refuge in the shade of the yew and the maple, and still provides me with beautiful blooms all summer. I bought it from the same school plant sale as the ground cover I hated.

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I think this is a marigold. It just sprouted and volunteered its services. I am waiting for the bloom.

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Speaking of a volunteer: what is it with tomatoes? It is the last full day of summer and I find this volunteer tomato plant in the garden. Really?

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The windflowers finally decided to sprout and produce a single plant in the garden. I am loving their last minute blooms.

Tomorrow, Autumn begins. Today, Summer had one last hurrah.

 

 

 

Hold Me Accountable

Once a month, I get together with a group of people I used to work with. We started the ritual when my former supervisor “retired” in 2013 as a way to keep her spirits up. The group has expanded since then to include people who left the company several years ago but who remain friends, and to include people who were victims of the most recent lay-offs. We all have the one thing in common: the place where we all worked at one point in time. That is not really enough of a tie to keep the friendships going: there has to also be mutual respect, interest in the current lives, and a look toward the future.

We are all of an older demographic and the job market has not been kind to those who have had to brave the unemployment lines. Eventually, they have all – without exception – accepted their new “forced” retirement. Not all have accepted the new phase of their life with grace, but some have.

I wonder what would happen to me if I were to be thrown into their ranks? Right now, I still hold a job in the same industry that forced their retirement. It is this thinking that has prompted me to wonder what I can do to kindle my passion here at home and turn that passion into employment. I don’t want to take being employed for granted.

I have a coworker who is returning to school to pursue her Master’s Degree. She has a lot more energy than I do, I think. I should have the energy to do that: pursue a degree after hours and expand my options. I’m just not entirely convinced that having a degree helps after a person turns 60 (I’m not there yet, but soon).

I need a kick in the butt to take some art classes. I could do that part-time. Or writing.

But here’s the excuse:

 

OK. I don’t have one. At least not a good one.

I think I will look into my online options over the weekend. Art. Writing. Master Gardening.

You are my mentors. Hold me accountable.

Passion in the Work Place

It was a hot and steamy affair between the copy machine and the handsome postage machine, but they were separated by a wall they could only breach by cable…

Wait. Let’s try this again.

I had a dream last night.

I was in a house that resembled the elementary school I attended in the early 1960’s. I had the sense that the dream was picking up where my subconscious left off the night before: leaving that building in a pouring rain storm, thinking I was late for high school and wondering why I was even bothering to go.

I was leaving the elementary school in the pouring rain, wearing my son’s black windbreaker with the hood pulled up over my carefully coifed and heavily hairsprayed hair. I only had to walk the two blocks to my childhood home. The first block had a Farmers’ Market going on that I had to pass, but I pulled the hood down and avoided the stares and calls of the hawkers. I crossed Bridge Street to the last block. There was a ditch between the one-way streets, but in my mind I knew the ditch had been covered over since we moved out and so I forced it to appear as it would now. It was covered in snow. The house looked the same, but the entire drive way was blocked by snow piles up to three and four feet in depth. We didn’t live there, but I needed to get to the door and I was crushed that I couldn’t get past the snow.

I returned to the school and decided to start over. This part of the dream was jumbled: I was in a house that was the school, but I was also at work and a coworker was there. I did not recognize anyone else, but they were incidental. A pile of work mail and files was atop the coverlet to the bed in the Master suite. I commented that I was “off the clock” now, but I noticed that a check in a UPS envelope was among the items on the bed. “I’ll just put this in the safe drawer before I leave,” I said.

I repeated my walk home, but this time the ditch was covered over in grass and the drive to the house was wet concrete. “I made the snow melt!” I thought, and I felt elated. I had a key to the house and as I put it into the lock, a stranger approached. She wanted entrance because she knew the people who lived there now, and I let her in. I no longer needed to enter the house; I was happy to know I had access.

I went into a guest house (unfamiliar to me) and locked the door. This was where I would be staying. A king-sized bed awaited me and a long glass window that ran the length of one side of the house and which opened only at the top and at an angle to let in the air. I headed to the shower.

I googled the meaning of snow before I headed off to work and this is what struck me: “To see snow in your dream signifies your inhibitions, unexpressed emotions and feelings of frigidity. You need to release and express these emotions and inhibitions. Alternatively, snow means that you are feeling indifferent, alone and neglected.  If the snow is melting, then it suggests that you are acknowledging and releasing emotions you have repressed. You are overcoming your fears and obstacles.” (from DreamMoods.com)

The fact that the dream has stayed with me all day is also significant: I only remember dreams that God wants me to remember and they are often prophetic or they are important in other ways. I don’t sense this one is prophetic, only that it is a clear working-through of an issue, or a problem. It is significant to me that it came on the heels of yesterday’s first post about looking for passion in my work.

Several images jump out at me. I cut and pasted from the website (my favorite dream interpretation site). What is in italics is my interpretation and thoughts:

school – a dream that takes place in school may be a metaphor for the lessons that you are learning from your waking life. You may be going through a “spiritual learning” experience.

I can’t find it tonight but I searched “late for school” yesterday and the result was about looking for answers, feeling unsettled in life, and general turmoil. It is a common dream thread.

ditch -To see a ditch in your dream indicates that there is something in your waking life that you need to avoid.  Alternatively, the dream suggests that you need to let go of the emotional baggage and frivolity that are holding you back.

I’m not sure of the significance in my dream. When I was a kid, the ditch was real and had steep, rocky banks. Sometime just before we moved, the city put in culverts and covered the ditch, covering it with a nice park-like lawn. If the ditch had significance in my dream, it was that I was in a lucid dream state and I could control the imagery. I knew the ditch was covered up and I “forced” it to appear that way in my dream. Therefore, I was forcing the emotional baggage and frivolity back.

The dream may also be on pun on ditching school, work, appointment, or something that you are now feeling guilty about

Now, that is funny. :)

childhood home/not needing to enter when I finally knew I could – In particular, to see your childhood home indicates your own desires for building a family and your family ideologies. It also reflects aspects of yourself that were prominent or developed during the time you lived in that home. You may experience some unfinished feelings that are being triggered by some waking situation. To dream that you cannot find your way home indicates that you have lost faith and belief in yourself. It may also signify a major transition in your life.

I find this interesting. My childhood home has often been a theme in my dreams, but only because it was a haunted house and I was still dealing with the poltergeist of my childhood. Sometime ago, I finally banished that demon. In this dream, the house was not haunted, did not pose a spiritual threat, but only beckoned to me as a place I needed to return to. Once the snow was removed and I could reach the door, I no longer had a need to enter the house. I even allowed someone else to go in and take up residence there, because I knew I did not have ownership of the place – nor did I desire that.

key – To see a key in your dream symbolizes opportunities, access, control, secrets, freedom, knowledge or responsibilities. You may be locking away your own inner feelings and emotions. Or you are unlocking the answer to some problem.

OBVIOUS.

the check – To see a check in your dream suggests that you may feel indebted to others. The dream may also be a pun on checking things out. To see a blank check in your dream symbolizes your unused potential. It may also indicate unclaimed rewards.

This is interesting. I thought it was just a reflection of what I do for a living (I receive in checks and make the daily bank deposit). I didn’t actually see the check so parts of that may not apply – but I knew a check was in the envelope because that is what I do for a living in real, waking, life.

being ‘clocked out’ (but needing to finish the job – at least by putting the important mail into a safe place) – To see a clock in your dream signifies the importance of time in some waking situation. You may be feeling some anxiety of not being on top of things. Your mind may be preoccupied with a deadline that you have to meet or some other time-sensitive issue. It is time for you to tread on and speed up your actions. Alternatively, clocks symbolize the ticking of the human heart and thus is indicative of the emotional side of your life. If the clock has stopped, then it signifies death

Death is not necessarily physical death, but death of the past or a spiritual or emotional death. Death is always symbolic of change.

shower – symbolizes spiritual or physical renewal and forgiveness. You are washing the burdens out of your life

That would be appropriate. I had the very definite sense of washing off the old (the former school) and entering something new (the guest house which was a new structure to my dreams).

To see a guest in your dream signifies new challenges and interests in your life

Ya think???

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The windbreaker is not important: it is merely an image of the black windbreaker of my son’s that I took possession of when he moved out ten years ago. It’s a nice windbreaker and he was amused that I still wore it when I visited him last week. The subconscious picks up on strange things.

Carefully coiffed hair – probably not important, just an image of how impossible it is to keep my hair “carefully coiffed” even with a ton of hair spray and gel products. It rains and my hair-do is toast. Heck, my hair-do is toast by noon on a dry day. I have lame hair.

I share this dream because I believe it has everything to do with what I am looking for. It’s a sub-conscious extension of the blog I posted yesterday and of what I am looking for in my life. It is also an answer.

I just need to find the key to the answer – but I know something has already shifted in my search because the snow melted. That is significant.

 

Pursuing Passion

I am in a strange place of wondering. Or is that wandering? I work at a job for a corporation and the job not only pays the bills but it provides me with health insurance (albeit high deductible insurance, which, at my age, is expensive)(face it: my medications for one month are costly and my dental needs have always been <ahem> expensive. And I wear trifocals). The job does not fulfill my need for passion and intellectual growth; it is ‘just a job’. I feel no deep, lingering, sense of loyalty to a corporation that doesn’t even know I exist.

My children have not only grown and flown the nest, but they have taken my grandchildren with them (darn those parental units!). I have no one to homeschool anymore except Harvey and Murphy, and neither one of them is interested in listening to me read “Old Yeller” or “Where the Red Fern Grows” out loud.

My studio is currently littered with the detritus of art supplies, school supplies, and desk necessities: how many sets of oil pastels can one person accidentally acquire? Erasers? Tubes of oil paints? Watercolours in various forms? Clay? How often do I actually sit down and sketch something?

I have a little sketch journal I carry in my car. It has two or three sketches from camping trips over the years and it is only half full. Unfinished paintings and drawings litter the boxes and drawers. I have stacks of unused canvas board, watercolour or ink pads, and an interesting collection of India ink bottles.

Hidden in my desk are reams of college-lined loose leaf notebook paper, spiral notebooks, and pretty stationery I purchased when stationery stores were still commonplace.

Summer is not a good time to be in the studio. It is in the loft of our home and heat rises. There are two fans at either end of the loft and on a “normal” summer, they suffice to keep the house cool on the three or four days in a row of hot weather that we get. This summer had been unusually dry and warm, and the loft has been stuffy. But I don’t play with all these things in the winter, either, so blaming my catharsis on heat is merely an excuse. Still, I am paralyzed.

I have a novel I am working on. I get in about a thousand words a night when I actually sit down and work at it. It is easier now with MS Word as the typing paper doesn’t stack up and get mixed up, and I can delete paragraphs with the touch of a key. The story is stalled on a crucial plot pivot. I’ve rewritten it several times in the past two months.

The fact of the matter is that I rise early and leave the house before 7AM. I drive to work, listening to the road report and 80’s music. I work eight hours with a one-hour lunch break. That lunch break is taken in my car, hiding from my coworkers and the public in general, working on a crossword and trying to commune with God or taking a nap. My drive home takes 45 minutes to an hour and a half, and by the time I walk in the front door, my brain is dead. All creativity has been sucked out of me. I only want to hide in a darkened room with no sound for an hour. I’m dead to the interesting objects around me.

What is the answer? I need to find my passion. I need to rekindle the fire that burned in me when I was young and had the whole world to burn. My mind imagines the paintings, but when I pick up the brushes to paint – I think about the clean up!! My mind imagines the plot twists, but when I sit down to type – the past day floats before my eyes.

I took a couple online tests: “find your passion”. They all came up the same. I want to learn, first and foremost. I want to create, second. I prefer to work alone, third.

I have a coworker who is constantly annoyed at the things I “know”. Somehow, acquiring knowledge is not her passion and she resents me for my interests and my passion for facts. I don’t mind people correcting me when I am wrong about something, but I really get annoyed when people who do not know anything themselves seek to mock me for at least trying to understand and know things. Can I slap her now? Correct me because you know more and I’m fine. I’ll go back and research the subject, acquiesce if necessary. But mock me because I know something you don’t? How grade school.

I need to write. Writing comes to the top of nearly every quiz or test taken. Art (which I had once considered my primary passion) is down a notch. Gardening and the natural world is tucked in between writing and art: I am a Naturalist at heart.

How can I be a Naturalist when most of my hours are spent in a concrete prison? My car is parked in a parking lot with almost no landscaping, only feet from the MAX lines and US Hwy 26 West. I listen to lightrail and freeway sounds during my lunch hour. I hate that parking lot. I despise the cubicle culture and the “modern” art on the walls of the office (really? couldn’t they have at least selected actual original artwork instead of mass-produced canvas imitations for which the artists received squat?). I resent that I have to petition my office in order to hang my framed Monet print or my framed Edward Robert Hughes print. At least my selections have signatures that mean something: who the hell remembers who squirted paint onto the canvas to resemble bird poop? (But that’s the Naturalist in me, again, isn’t it? Monet’s flowers and Hughes’ faeries versus paint tube splatters and Elephant art.)(Apologies to the elephants.)

The $64,000 question is this: how can I pursue my passions and still make enough money to keep the mortgage (and health insurance) paid? The job (which is just that: a job, not a passion and not a career) pays the bills. I have eight more years before I can retire. I am unhappy. I have deep stirrings to change my life and do it NOW. I also have a strong leaning toward being cautious (the Introverted self and the Controlling self).

I plan to continue blogging along this line for awhile as I seek, knock, ask. I intend to find the answer. I intend to succeed at my passion and my calling. Stay tuned.

 

CCU = Christ Centered Unschoolers. It is a Yahoo List/forum for homeschoolers with an unschooling bent. We’re not necessarily of the same faith despite the name and we’re all in different stages of life or raising children. It is not a list to go to to learn how to unschool or even how to homeschool, although you can get that information from the many members. It is more of a place for prayer, friendship, and support in all the issues that come with life and homeschooling. I discovered the list around the end of 1997 or early 1998, the first year I homeschooled my kids. I no longer have children at home but I remain a member of the list because the members of that list have become life-long friends.

My trip out to North Carolina presented me with the opportunity to hook up with some of these friends. (There are a lot of people I would have also liked to have met up with, also, but the ccu friends are the ones that made it possible with my schedule.)

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Karen drove from her home to Fayetteville to have lunch with my son, two of his children, and me. She’s every bit as beautiful in person as she is on line.

I flew in and out of Richmond specifically to hook up with one of my oldest ccu friends, Mary Ann. Mary Ann runs the website, “The Homeschool Mom”. Her website was one of my first discoveries when I was trying to figure out the “how to’s” of homeschooling, right about the time that I found the unschooling list online. A special bonus was added when yet another friend from the list, photographer April C. Raszman was able to drive to Richmond on the same weekend. (April’s link is to Facebook, so unless you have a FB account or her site is public, you probably won’t be able to see her beautiful photography).

To celebrate our first real-life meeting, Mary Ann looked up places to go and picked the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. That probably sounds pretty bizarre, but – it really is not. Mary Ann and I share a passion for genealogy and it was a wonderful photo opp for April. I think we all love old cemeteries (and I know my mother would have been in heaven in this place – pun intended).

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First stop: the pyramid.

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It is huge. From the webpage:

Monument to the Confederate War Dead
This famed 90-foot pyramid stands as a monument to the 18,000 Confederate soldiers buried in Hollywood Cemetery. It was created through the efforts of the women of the Hollywood Memorial Association, who tended the graves of the Confederate dead after the Civil War. They worked together to raise over $18,000 and commissioned the help of engineer Charles Henry Dimmock to design the pyramid.

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There are marks on the stones from the drills used to break the rock into shapes for the building of the monument.

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Mary Ann ponders our route through the maze as April and I take photos. Well, April took photos, I wandered off to read head stones.

The cemetery is for Confederate dead, and for families who can trace their family lineage back to Confederate ties. Mary Ann can do that, having grown up in the Richmond/Washington D.C. area where many of the battles were fought. The headstones close to the monument date from the earliest battles to the latest battles and are loosely grouped by dates. Many of the dead were originally buried elsewhere and were re-interred at the Hollywood Cemetery. There are dozens of unnamed soldiers buried there.

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One of the sights to see is this cast iron Newfoundland dog who guards the grave of a little girl. The website does not give her name or any other details, and the headstone is too worn to read. We know she died in 1862.

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The grave itself has become something of a modern day altar, strewn with baby toys. Did grieving parents leave the toys or did children who were touched by the story leave them? I found a blog post on the grave by Richmond on the James.

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I hope to see April’s photos soon. She showed us the raw ones as she set up her views. My own attempts at framing are pitiful, but that isn’t going to stop me from sharing them. I loved how ornate some of the later monuments are.

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Look at the detail carved in that stone!

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There were many family plots like this one, some of which are still waiting for the last family member to pass and be buried there. (I’m not sure I would be cool with that: having my name and birth date recorded on a headstone that is just waiting for me to die…)

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The tenth President of the United States, John Tyler, was buried at the Hollywood Cemetery in 1862. He was the first president whose death was not nationally recognized because of his ties to the south, but Confederate President Jefferson Davis held a huge going-away ceremony for him.

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The fifth President of the United States was re-interred at the Hollywood Cemetery due to his southern roots. This is the “Birdcage” where President James Monroe’s remains are buried.

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Last among the presidents is Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

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April at work.

April, Mary Ann, and I fell into an easy friendship. We’ve known each other for years on-line and the segue into real-life friendship was just as easy. I do wish Karen could have come to this outing, but I am still so very blessed that she drove down to Fayetteville to have lunch with me!

We had to leave the cemetery way too early: we arrived there a little after 4:00 pm EDT and the gates closed at 6:00. they closed right behind us, in fact. That’s how close we called it.

We then had dinner at a wonderful Mexican Restaurant on Cary Street, Little Mexico.

Our last stop was my motel, Four Points by Sheraton. I booked it through Expedia and picked it as one of the least expensive close to the airport with a free shuttle to the airport. I still paid too much ($112) but after spending the night there – it was worth the cost. For starters, the staff was wonderful.

I was subject to a lecture by Gwen (who checked me in and then took our photo) about not going skinny dipping in the pool and no boys in my room. 10357135_10203671998852835_4187457787783968504_n

We did not plan our outfits! This is just how good friends manage to think alike! It was so wonderful to end my vacation with a mini-get-together with some of my closest and dearest friends. I have many more friends from ccu that I have yet to meet, but getting to meet three of them in one week = priceless!

The cemetery was just a bonus.

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