Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rantings, Ravings, and Good energy

In the last two days, I’ve been insulted and slandered more than I can remember. In both instances, I say it was because people assumed something without clarifying, but then maybe, they didn’t want to clarify. What the incidents have verified for me is that I am on the right path. These weren’t roadblocks, merely stumbling stones—the universe inquiring if I am certain about where I am and where I’m going.

The first was over our late, great Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich. I’ll readily admit that my opinion on his issue is not the popular one. I don’t believe Hot Rod was guilty of anything other than “talking shit.” He paid no money or favors, and no one took money or favors for Obama’s Senate seat. He talked a good game, but that was it. I liken the whole scenario to “MinorityReport” with Tom Cruise where people are arrested, charged, and sentenced for their thoughts. Blago went one step further and put his thoughts into words, hence conspiracy. A charge which carries a long sentence that can be applied to anything and everything, and in our justice system, is used frequently.

I suppose that was where my first problem arose—speaking an opinion that is not the popular one. Then, when I trounced on the theory of “a jury of my peers”, it turned ugly. In stating that many people were imprisoned, some executed, because the prosecution presented and persuaded better than the defense; also that the justice system is broken and corrupt I was met with “only x amount of people have been wrongly convicted over x number of years.” I was met with “it’s better for one innocent person to go down than for one guilty to go loose.” When I addressed all of these issues, I was likened to a FoxNews Pundit and Glenn Beck—arguing in circles. The statements were made and I responded. All of the issues, as most, are interconnected, leading one to another. The justice system has no justice in it; it is broken and unfair; and how dare someone who has never had a family member or loved one wrongfully convicted and/or executed say “only”?

So you see here, we started with Hot Rod in a broken justice system and we ended in a broken justice system. How is this circular? Ahh, I was then asked for my alternative “wisdom lost to our forefathers.” I responded with the question: “Do you really think the system, as it is today, is what our forefathers created or had in mind?” Of course, my alternative is to not waste my tax dollars on trumped up charges of BS on telephones or getting a blow job in your office. Of having fair and distinct laws so a Metra cop who shoots and kills a young, unarmed man in LA doesn’t get 6 months, while lost and confused young men on the streets are sentenced to life or executed. My alternative is that we should have mental health and addiction treatments instead of incarceration. THAT, was not an answer I was readily informed. Also, the system is different now than from our founders because we evolve. OK, so what lost wisdom from our forefathers were they looking for?  I pose the question to the universe because I am at a loss. Was that not a circular question? Could I have ever gotten an “A” and that one? 

I have to explain that the grit of this argument was not even with the original poster of “Yay, Blaga got convicted.” This was a friend of that friend. Seems the original felt I dismissed her opinion when I gave mine. Why is this such an issue today, everywhere? People can have differences of opinions. People SHOULD be able to debate those differences of opinions. If you can speak your opinion, I can as well. One doesn’t automatically negate the other. Oh, but it gets better for this “armchair politico”, a phrase coupled with the FoxNews Pundit.

Oh, it's a busy day being the armchair politico I've been labeled. Out to the meeting of community gardeners who feed the county to propose a garden poetry workshop with the kids who just planted their first garden at school. So not involved am I!! Peace out!

My Facebook post for the morning. Cool, right? I was so very excited to be a part of such a worthy organization as Feed Fannin that contributes not only food, but education on how to feed yourself. Isn’t that a Christian proverb or something? I will explain here that I am being sarcastic. Sarcasm seems to fall heavy on some ears, so I just wanted to put it out there—it’s sarcasm! As was my post. Sarcastic. I am very involved, have been very involved, try hard to get out of my armchair. Unfortunately, that was not the complaint this time.

I was asked why I would move to an area where I found such humor in the inhabitants; where I felt it necessary to be condescending and a blowhard; where I belittled the folks in that area and acted as though they were stupid because they had an accent.


Where was all that harvested from my post about garden poetry with kids? Of course, I was quickly de-friended before I could respond. Thankfully. I probably would’ve only gotten into another one of those circular, FoxNews Pundit, Glenn Beck arguments, and be blamed for it. I did send an email explaining my post but the response was that most of what she’s read on my blogs and Facebook has been condescending and insulting to Southerners. Hm.

None of it really matters in the grand scheme.

The idea of garden poetry workshops with the elementary school kids was received with excitement, enthusiasm, and gratitude. We’ll combine the poetry with recipes from the old-timers in the area who are being interviewed, and compile all into a cookbook that can be sold at the local farmer’s market to benefit the Feed Fannin organization that helped the kids plant the garden in the first place.  

Another of the members who will work with me on the project is ReLeah Cossent Lent, the author of Adolescents on the Edge with Jimmy Santiago Baca. For me, this is a celebrity. She travels and does workshops with Jimmy and teenagers—creative writing workshops.

Yes, the path is correct. I have left (not really, only physically) the Neighborhood Writing Alliance whose motto is “Every Person Is a Philosopher" to work with a partner of Baca, who says “Literacy is freedom and everyone has something significant to say.”  

This good, vibrant energy dispels all the negative.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Conspiring Universe

There is the dream, you are the words, you merge them together and you have the book. Are you sending manuscripts yet, writing your books yet, living your dreams yet?

Am I living my dream yet? For me, the question is always, “Are you allowing yourself to live the dream yet?” Let me say first that my dream has always been to retire to the mountains and write. This is my laptop background to remind me. I posted on another blog that there is always the ‘but’. So, in answering the first, I could say yes, I’m living my dream, but

I’m sitting on a deck nestled in the treetops of Godfrey Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains writing this blog post, but it isn’t my deck; but I’m not writing my novel. 

I have found a home that looks out to the forest in front and back, but I haven’t figured out a way to financially move my stuff there yet. 

My new small home-town of 1200 has its own Arts Association where maybe I could teach creative writing but I haven’t visited yet because I need to settle first.

This same small towns has an adult education facility where maybe I could teach ESL or GED classes but I’ve not visited yet because I need to settle first.

I’ve been in this small town for a month now.

I have two ¼ time jobs to pay the bills while I write but

Every moment with every thought I must swat at that incessant but and remind myself that yes, I am living my dream. I must constantly fence with the encamped capitalist who shakes her coiffed and painted head, waggles her lacquered nail and says, “But what do you have? But how are you living? But what are you driving? But, but, but…”

The duels are less frequent now and I am less bloody. I’ve found that I cannot argue, cannot rationalize, cannot stand toe-to-toe with this sword wielding Barbie wanna-be. I used to say: “But  I have everything I need; but I enjoy my home; but my vehicle is paid for; and when she’d slice below the belt with “but you’re all alone”,  would quickly counter with, “but  I enjoy my solitude.” They were hollow shots that ricochet off her fencing mask and reverberated my rusty sword with a twang to the heart. 

The duels end much quicker now when I ignore the slashing and whipping of wind. And they are easier to ignore now that I am in the midst of my dream. When I look out over the treetops at the mist lingering in the forest canopy instead of leaning over a city porch above steaming dumpsters, her buts disintegrate into the whispers of the leaves. 

It was the forward movement toward the dream that made the difference. She is not silenced, not yet, maybe she never will be, but at least she is muzzled and muffled. 

What are your buts? In what ways do you battle with that internal warrior? What steps have you made toward your dream? 

Write your dream in one sentence. For example: Retire to the mountains and write. 

Not: A three bedroom home with 2 baths and hardwood floors on 5 acres of land with barns, pasture and horses, A white wrap-around porch with blue flower-cushioned wicker chairs and swings, and a manicured lawn. Retire to the mountains and write. Anything else can be added.

The dream is:

Then listen to your heart and take the first step, which is always the hardest. Just move without leaving time for the internal warrior to even prepare for battle. “When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it.” The Alchemist

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pickin' Home

Pickin’in the park! Many people who think they know me will be surprised that I was even interested, let alone that I thoroughly enjoyed it and almost danced. It’s an every Thursday thing at Horseshoe Bend Park in McCaysville, and I plan to make it a weekly event. Right alongside the Toccoa River where people paddle or tube by, fishermen wade in and sling fly poles for river trout and people of all ages grill or just picnic while the pickers pick.

I have to admit I have always loved Bluegrass and I even sang along to the old time gospel tunes. Then I walked down to the next pavilion and even more musicians were jammin’ away with real foot-stompin’ music. I couldn’t keep my feet still and my hands clapped happily until one older gentleman motioned me up several times.
            “Oh, no. I don’t know how.”
            “She’ll teach ya,” he responded, pointing to his wife.
Soon, very soon, I will learn mountain dancing.

Many of you have followed my travels and my search for a home. Many have seen the photo of the farm I was looking at and it IS lovely, however it is a rental. Most importantly, it doesn’t have a bathtub. This may be a small thing to some, but it was the deal breaker for me. Since it was a rental, I couldn’t do any modifications, so I would be living for years without a tub. Can’t do it.

I have found a home though. And it will be MINE. It’s obviously smaller than what I’ve been looking at but I can add because it’s MINE. Plan to add onto the porch so that it wraps around and add a fireplace and another room. All in good time, my pretty, all in good time—coz’ it’s MINE. It’s a cute little 2 bedroom on ¾ acres—which I’ve found is plenty—where I can have my chickens, a cow, and a nice size garden.

It’s one of six homes on a dead-end gravel road. Its several hundred wooded acres across the gravel road and wooded acres behind. One way in and one way out. Completely secluded BUT not isolated. This was quickly becoming a concern as I looked at houses on the side of mountains, in the middle of forests, without people for miles. What if something happens? Additionally, neighbors, across a fence are not a bad thing.

                        6.24.11 (Middle Ground)
Sharing secrets over the picket fence
Neighbors become closer
Choosing to embrace differences
Sharing memories, encouraging futures 
~Jules Paige on Writing Our Way Home

So, the move date is July 8. Heading back to Chicago, load up my storage unit, pickup my cats from my daughter’s, and heading south for good. It’s been destined. Everything just fell into place in its proper timing; I just moved over and let it happen.

Once it’s all settled, I can then check with the Blue Ridge Arts Association about writing workshops, check with FLAGG for the same, get knee deep involved with the community gardening organization Feed Fannin, and the Blue Ridge Humane Society. Number one priority is to sit on that porch and write, write, write. The dream is unfolding now that I’ve chased it down!! 

Another really cool thing about the location of this house is that it is right around the corner from all the stuff I started this post with. Actually, a 5 minute drive to go pickin', tubin' and fishin'. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tourist Towns

So yesterday, I headed north to McCaysville, Ga. to stop at two places about advertising in their local newspaper. The one, IGA, is a grocery store, and you'd think they'd want to advertise in their local paper, so that the local residents would know their sales. I talked to the owner once and have yet to get her live, no matter how many times I drive the 15 miles to McCaysville.

Just like Blue Ridge, McCaysville is in Fannin County and also on the Toccoa River (which is also the Ocoee River around the corner) where lots of white water rafting takes place. Lots of white water rafting companies up and down the highway. McCaysville's "main street" is full of cute little boutiques, BBQ joints, and souvenir shops. Alas, none of which is for the locals.

I started out yesterday early because I wanted to make the trip north then come back and hit some stores in Blue Ridge. 8:30am I pulled out of the 90 degree driveway onto Highway 5--which was totally empty--at 8:30am. This is nice coming from Chicago where traffic is bumper to bumper at that time, and crowds of people huddle at corner bus stops and on train platforms. Yes, it is nice and yes, it's what I was looking for coming south, but really, it is quite disconcerting. Especially, if you're attempting to do business--or eat breakfast.

Breakfast was my plan because I knew I was in a slow-start area. What the tourist towns fail to realize is that there are people who live in these areas, people who require services just as the tourists, and it would be nice if we (the locals, of whom I am now one) could get some service before 11 or 12 when the tourists roll out of their mountain cabin rentals. I stopped to ask the souvenir guy and he rattled off a couple names, and then quickly corrected himself that they were closed.

"There's the American Diner down the road, but you want a sit down?"

Well, yeah that's what I had in mind. Fifteen minutes and 20 miles later, I got to sit down at Hardees in Ducktown, Tn. By the time I’d eaten, drove back to stop at those places, talk to folks who aren’t the least bit interested in advertising for the locals, I got back to Blue Ridge just in time for lunch—so of course no one wanted to talk business. I don’t know if I’m still internally on Chicago time or if the days here are just shorter. The work days!

Today, I chose to walk around downtown Blue Ridge (90+ degrees with 90+ humidity percentage and no breeze) to stop in at all their cute little boutiques for the tourists. They also were not the least bit interested in advertising for the locals. Do the locals not want to know what your lunch and dinner specials are? Do they not want to know the hours of the used book store, or the music store? Here’s one I don’t understand at all: the feed store, certainly the locals want to know all about this store. Maybe they do, but no one has told the owners yet that it would be beneficial to advertise in the local newspaper.

In the city, not doing print advertising is understandable—everyone uses the internet. This just isn’t so in this small town of 1200 people. Very few have computers let alone internet, and everyone loves their newspaper. How to convince the store owners? They’re locals. Tomorrow I will make follow up calls—a few. Afterward, we’re doing exciting stuff, meeting with old timers to get their stories and some recipes. Recipes are my idea. They will go together nicely with the garden poetry I hope to get from the elementary students at their community garden project. Put it all together in a homey cookbook that can be sold at the farmers market to benefit Feed Fannin. My idea. Pretty good, huh?

Tonight, the temps have dropped, the wind is rustling the leaves, and I’m blogging to document my journey so that I can compile all with some kitschy pictures in a personal essay anthology. Yay me! I'm also hoping I can keep the bedroom windows open without a bunch of little creepy, crawling and flying little critters making their way through the screens. I already hear them tap, tap, tapping.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Houses, the People, the Place

This past week has been a roller coaster ride. My last blog post, in my opinion, dripped with complaint. However, it is my blog which I’m obviously using as a diary for the world to read, so what you see is what you get.

Part I: The Houses

Monday, I looked a house listed as a mortgage assumption with the mortgage being $635 monthly—right in my budget. When they gave me directions, they said, “After the blue house, there is a cement driveway that turns to stone—that’s us.” As I passed the “blue house,” next house I saw, with a cement drive that turned to stone, was one of those million dollar mountain homes that I wanted nothing to do with, so I drove passed. On second thought though, I turned around because, after all, it was a mortgage assumption. I drove up to the house and no one was home, so it couldn’t be the one. I came out and found another drive that fit the description. Not only did the drive turn to stone, it actually turned to an overgrown trail—I’ve been on these a lot lately—so I slowed and wondered. Two people were strolling on the path, so I asked them about a house up there. They didn’t know for sure but, “there very well could be another house back there somewhere.” Uh-oh, I was on another round-the-mountain road, but I kept going. Thankfully, I did.

The house is in the Wolf Creek area of Murphy, NC and it’s a gorgeous cabin with a Jacuzzi. The Jacuzzi is not the selling point, the spring fed water system is, and the wood burning fireplace, and the ready-built fire-pit in the backyard circled by green wrought-iron furniture (that will stay), and the secluded but not isolated location. These are the selling points, and the current owners.

They had a dream much like mine. They wanted a place for their grandchildren to visit and learn a simpler way of life; grow a small, self-sufficient farm with chickens, and goats for milk. She is an artist who painted murals on the walls and makes jewelry. They were dropping off the grid but unfortunately, the financial crisis is dumping them off instead. He became disabled and she lost her job after only 4 years in their dream home. I want this home for them. I want to continue to pursue my dream in the atmosphere of theirs, so something will come to pass. We finally found the person I need to talk to for the assumption and I will fax over paperwork this Monday with hopes and prayers for dreams.

Tuesday, I went to look at a house that was left to the organization Feed Fannin. Again, this was a perfectly quaint little house with a full screened-in front porch, complete with rockers. There were four 2x10 raised garden beds that the previous owner harvested enough to feed himself through the winter and donate to the organization which feeds Fannin County families. My offer, for a land contract with no down-payment, was that I would create two more raised beds and donate both to Feed Fannin. I would also donate all of my services—website design, educator services, grant writing services, grant research services—everything and anything I could do. My hope was that since the previous owner had been a close friend of the organizers, that who got the property and what they did with it would be as important as the dollar. The house has been on the market for 4 years with the price going from $120K to $68K. I offered $80 with my conditions. If the house doesn’t sell them hoping I come into some money.

Thursday, I looked at a rental. A horse farm with a stone front porch, also complete with two white rockers. Plenty of room for a good sized garden, chickens, a barn for the cow and pasture for it to graze. Additionally, it came pretty furnished, which I’m not exactly thrilled with, except for the washer and dryer. They house is wood heated only, but the owners are planning to put in a furnace this winter. As I walked around, I spotted perfect places for peonies and lilacs, a willow out by the pasture fences, with some cherry and apple trees along the drive. But, what if the owners didn’t want or like peonies, lilacs, and cherry and apples trees? And, just think of moving again, only this time needing to find a place that takes chickens and cows. Ah, rentals but if push comes to shove—if the assumption falls through, and the non-profit doesn’t have a change of heart in the next few days—then rental it is. The good thing is that it is a 3-5 year lease. Anything could happen in that time.

Part II: The People

Elaine, the owner of the Fannin Sentinel, sent me an email Wednesday night asking if they could use the truck to move furniture donations she’d received for the Alzheimer’s Yard Sale Fundraiser and of course I agreed. After I met with the realtor on the rental Thursday morning I met Elaine and Lisa at the office. She bought us lunch and I had a delicious walnut salad. Mm-good. Then I tried to hand Elaine the keys to the truck. Five hours and two trips later we were almost done. Yes, we, her-a 68 yr old, and me, 54, moved 2 TVs, 3 microwaves, 2 dining room tables, 6 dining room chairs, a toddler bed mattress, and a carpet. The last trip, for whatever reason, the tailgate wouldn’t go down, so everything was lifted up and over, in and out. Elaine is an excellent taskmaster. She works you, drives you, and works you some more with nothing but a smile and soft words. She’s good—real good!!

After it was over she handed me a small wad of money and when I asked her what it was for, she said, “I told you.” I’ve found that Elaine says that a lot. Sometimes she has told you, and then sometimes she hasn’t, but according to her, she always has. This time she had. Originally I told her I didn’t want to work full-time (ever again), and that I would sell ads for the paper on commission only, and write articles on spec. Monday, she came into my office and said, “I can’t let you work for commission only. You can work part time but I’m going to give you $100 week plus the commission.” Then she turned around and walked out. Well, after five hours of manual labor, this little lady treated herself to a hotel room with a large tub and cable TV, potato chips and dip. That was my Friday night.

Saturday morning, I slept in, lounged around, picked up the complimentary breakfast and came back to lounge some more. Check out time was 11, and I left at 11:05. When I pulled up at the Alzheimer’s yard sale I was promptly informed that Elaine was looking for me. No one knew for what and no one had her cell #, so I headed downtown to the Corvette show I knew she was covering. I met her as she was leaving and asked if I’d forgotten something. She informed me we needed to get the rest of the donations and when I said I thought her and her husband had planned to do it last night, she said, “I told you…” You can’t say no to this woman. Two hours later we had moved a wooden seating bench, a painting, the full toddler bed, and a blue floral print winged armchair that again “is yours.” This is why you can’t say no—she’s a taskmaster with an oversized heart.

Part III: The Place

So after a restful rise, a labor-full morning, and a fruitful hour at the farmer’s market, I headed over to the Corvette show. Blue Ridge does more fundraisers than I’ve ever seen. From what I can tell, there are very few government programs here, but the people give and give and give. The Corvette show was a fundraiser for the town Arts Center, which is highly functional. There’s a community theatre, a children’s theatre, as well as painting, sculpting, music and writing programs. All of this in a “city” with a population of 1,210; inside a county of 23,000.  

The week has been a rollercoaster. I’m technically still ‘homeless’ but that should be completely changed no later than July 1, which is really right down the road a piece. If someone would’ve said last week, it would be July 1, I might have choked, but this week, it’s all good. I sat on the deck writing this until a strong wind brewed up a mighty storm. Now, I’m inside finishing while the big ole red disk sets in the distance and the trees are draped in blue mist. Life is good.

And nothing like a good stroll down memory lane. I once drove off from Addison rocks at Chicago's lakefront with a big, long-haired, bronzed-body blonde in a 'Vette just like this. Mm-good!!