Saturday, June 30, 2012

Friday, June 29, 2012

Movie-Inspired Choreography

Summer days like this remind me of one of my favorite movies:  Pirates of the Caribbean - Curse of the Black Pearl. The first time I saw it in June of 2003 I was not only drawn in by the action and fast pace but also fascinated by the strong themes and flow of the script and story.

I had to see it again. I went with another friend a month later.  

Then, I went with a group of teenagers, and we dressed in costumes - eye patches, scarves, boots, gold medallions.  

I was obsessed!  I spent bright sunny days by myself in obscure little theatres just to see it again. Each time I watched it, I saw something different, something new. At the same I wondered why I was so fascinated by this movie.  I bought the soundtrack and the music was on my mind constantly.  And, yet I still wanted to see it again.  My teenage friend teased me, "You just want to go again so you can ogle Johnny Depp!" 

Eventually I realized that I needed to choreograph a dance to the music.  Really?  I was supposed to teach a class in the fall, and I already had another song picked out.  I had planned to do a sword dance.  (The sword = the Word of God.)  But the only music playing in my head were the themes from Pirates, and I really didn't think that would go over very well with my class, especially for use in a church setting!
So, in the end, I decided I'd allow myself to play for an hour and do some choreography using different sections of the music along with narrated passages from the Bible.  Two hours later, I was still working on it, and thinking - OMG I think this might actually work.  
After I finished the dance, I went to the movie one more time.  There, I sat in the dark, grinning about the new levels and new meaning I had created, and how much the spiritual themes were connected to the action on the screen.  When the final credits rolled, I felt a huge satisfaction and knew that I didn't need to see the movie anymore. 

I had 19 people in my class that fall.  They were all excited about the dance and worked really hard to make sure they learned all of the movements.  We performed that dance for many audiences, in several churches and at different conferences.  It was very well received.   

Mango Salsa - When Food Becomes Art

I told myself that this wasn’t going to become a food blog.  There are plenty of really good food blogs out there.  However, I have to make an exception for a batch of fresh salsa.  There’s something about the colors, shapes, and the mingling of flavors that insists that it be called a work of art that’s worthy of a photo shoot. 

I made this batch of Mango Salsa for a party the other night.  It’s always a hit.  It takes a bit of time to make (lots of chopping), but it’s well worth the effort.  And if you’ve ever made salsa, you know it’s almost impossible to make a small batch.  Therefore, salsa is made to be shared, and usually it’s at a party! 

I can’t claim complete credit for this recipe.  I attended a graduation party several years ago and someone had brought it.  I was immediately addicted to it, and since I didn’t know the maker of the salsa very well, I studied it carefully and wrote down the ingredients when I got home. 
Hope you enjoy this one!

Mango Salsa

About 8-10 tomatoes chopped (more or less depending on your preferences)
1 small green bell pepper, roasted and chopped
1 red bell pepper, roasted and chopped
(To roast red & green peppers, put them in the oven on broil for about 15-20 minutes, turning often.  Remove and let cool.  Chop into small pieces.)
1 cup peeled mango, diced
¼ cup diced red onion
2 ½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons green onions, sliced
1 finely chopped Serrano or jalaeno pepper (for mild salsa, omit)
¼ teaspoon cumin (I use whole leaf)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can black beans, drained
1 small can of whole kernel corn, drained
1 lime, squeezed
1 can green chili peppers, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Mix all ingredients together and stir well.  Cover and chill for at least 2 hours. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

High Waters

Speaking of Bodies of Water (2 days ago), I realized I've never really been afraid of water.  My mom used to tell me that when we got our boat I was one year old, and I crawled around on the deck, looking over the edge, hoping to catch a glimpse of the "wawee."  I think they rigged up some sort of harness thing for me after that.

I've never been a great swimmer.  I took lessons, but trying to coordinate the kicking with the arms and then the breathing was really quite a trick for me.  I think I made it to the intermediate level, satisfied that if I ever fell in, I would know how to survive and keep myself afloat.

Thinking about all the recent flooding going on, I was reminded of another water experience I had in high school.

I was tubing down the Apple River in Wisconsin with a group of people.  I had broken off from the raft of floaters and was drifting towards the shore.  The water was high and swift, and there were tree branches hanging out over the water.

My tube suddenly got caught in one of the tree branches.  My body was in the water through the center of the tube, and my arms hung over the top.  I couldn't seem to maneuver around the branches, and the waves swirled around rising higher.  I yelled for help as I struggled, but it would have been hard for anyone to help me.  I tried hoisting myself upward, but I kept getting pushed back down by the tree branches overhead.  I started to worry because I knew I'd get tired soon, and I'd be trapped under the tube.

What's the best solution here? I thought.  So, then, my survival instincts kicked in (divinely motivated, I'm sure).  The answer:  Forget the tube, and follow the most unobstructed path.  So, I let go of the tube, held my breath and went down under the water.  The tube passed by over my head, and I felt the branches brush my hair as I floated by.  I came up on the other side of the tangled tree branches, treading water as the current carried me along.

Someone caught my tube and returned it to me, and I hopped back on and continued my excursion, thinking I would stay away from the shore from then on.  (!!)

"You looked like a trapped animal!" my friend said a little while later.  Her eyes were wide.

Oh.  I guess I didn't really think too much about it, because I was only afraid for a very short time.  Life went on, and I forgot what had happened.  But now that I think about it, if I hadn't acted in the moment, life might not have gone on, and someone else would have been telling this story.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Unexpected Treats

Nothing profound for today, just a goofy little blog because it's getting close to midnight, and I'm tired.  So, here goes:

As I was taking a walk through one of my favorite parks, I saw some bright red raspberries along the path. I thought they looked ripe, but when I tasted one it was very tart.  Ok, so I figured I'd have to wait until August before they'd be ready.  

Then I went farther on and at another part of the path, I saw more bushes.  These ones had some purple berries.  Ok, so these are too small to be blackberries; they must be black raspberries.  I kept looking and found more so I started picking the dark berries because, after all, if I didn't pick them, someone else would, or they'd be food for the nearby critters.  Picking these berries was not without risk.  I had to step around prickly vines, and avoid stirring up the hornets buzzing around the bushes.  There weren't a ton of berries, but enough for a few small handfuls—a nice treat for that time of day.  

On another day I was walking down a road near my house and suddenly smelled something sweet and pungent.  It came from a patch of little white flowers with jagged green leaves.  They smelled a bit like mint, but not exactly, and the smell got stronger if I rubbed the leaves and flowers between my fingers.

When I went home, my cat was all over me wanting to rub himself on my hands.  Ah-ha, it's catnip!  I looked online to make sure, and then I went back down the road and picked some choice morsels for my furry friend.  So, he's been having a good old time with HIS unexpected treat, frolicking and acting like a kitten again (even though he's 15 years old). 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bodies of Water

For some reason I've always been drawn to bodies of water.  Maybe it's because I live in the land of 10,000 lakes; I don't know.  I grew up taking trips up and down the Mississippi because my family had a boat docked there.  Even though we visited the same places over and over and saw the same sandbars, and tediously rode the locks, there was always something soothing about lapping waves.  And of course, the Chain of Lakes—Hiawatha, Nokomis, Harriet, Calhoun, Lake of the Isles, Cedar Lake— as well as Como and Phalen always held excursions of biking, walks, swimming, picnics and ice skating in the winter.

It seems like a vacation is not complete unless it involves a body of water.  We've taken trips to Door County where the riptides of Lake Michigan mimicked the ocean.  Mackinac Island was a step back in time with horse drawn carriages (no motorized vehicles allowed), bike riding and the 10 fudge shops.  Duluth and Lake Superior have always been a great weekend getaway spot.  And Sanibel Island on the Gulf side of Florida had a zillion shells.  (I met my first live sand dollar - plucked it up from the shallow low tides.  It was gray instead of the usual white, and it had a bunch of tiny air holes that looked like they were gasping for water.  I apologized, and put him back in the water!)

The first time I saw the ocean (Atlantic), I couldn't get enough of it.  It was a feast for the senses.  The waves felt fierce, wild and relentless against my body.  I loved the vibrant blue color, the taste of the salt water, grainy sand on my feet, and the smell of the ocean itself.  It was a challenge - I had to constantly pay attention if I was in the water, because I could get knocked down and dragged under in a second.

Every time I visit the ocean, it seems like I'm usually in the process of making a decision or at a crossroads in life.  The sand, shells, and waves create epiphanies that I take home with me.  For example, one time I was on vacation in California and thinking about how I wanted a different job.  I was looking for shells, and I found a large, beautiful white spiral with a few flaws, but it stood out from the rest of the shells around it.  The message to me was:  Keep looking and you'll find what you like; it won't be perfect, but it'll be the right career for you.

Another time I was at a beach near Chesapeake Bay and the relentless waves reminded me of the love of God - never tiring, never ceasing.  I heard someone say once, "You are constantly in the presence of One who loves you."  That statement really transformed my life.

More recently when I was in Florida I tried looking for shells, but many of them were broken - beat up heavily by the pounding surf.  I found one really good shell only because it was under the sand, and I stepped on it in the water.  I had to curl my toes around it so the undertow wouldn't carry it away.  I realized that the broken shells represented some of the disappointments and broken dreams in my life.  But oddly enough, that didn't bother me.  I felt ok to let some of those old dreams go, and excited that the one good dream was still intact and right under my foot.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Blog-ness Monster

It's Day 23 of the 30-day blog challenge.  Only one more week to go, and it's been a fun adventure.  I never thought I'd enjoy blogging, but I think it's a habit I could get used to.  For several years I've had the "Slices" idea running around in my head, and I even started laying out the format for it, but it was the WriterPower blog challenge that made me jump in and actually do it. (Thanks, Elise!)

A lot of my writer friends started blogging years ago, and I was trying to avoid it for many reasons.  One was the time it takes to do it. (You could be using that time to work on a novel chapter instead.)

Also, there was the fear that I'd write something stupid and either embarrass myself or offend someone.  I had visions of strangers posting flaming comments on my site or somehow tracking me down at home and setting fire to my welcome mat.  Ok, maybe not, but you do have to be careful how you present your opinions.

I've made some important discoveries during this process.  A daily blog habit is hard to keep up, but I don't have to.  If I blog every few days, I do a lot better as far as choosing subject matter and refining it for the theme of my site.  I also have several saved ideas going at a time so that I can add to them before they get published.

In reading other peoples' blogs or writing my own, I find that the ones that are successful or kept up are the ones that have a specific theme or goal, whether it's promoting their own work or other peoples' stuff.  Or, if they write about their daily activities, they have a particular style or audience in mind.

I also find that while I have plenty of material from my own life to write about, I really enjoy promoting other people, venues, and businesses.  I heard somewhere recently, that if you focus on helping other people promote their writing, it helps your own work so much more.

For me, blogging comes from a different mindset than, say, journaling or writing on Facebook.  It's almost like I've created a slightly different persona just for blogging.  If you're journaling, it's just between you and God and you can pretty much write whatever you want - draw pictures, scribble inconsistencies, yell and swear if you need to.

When I first joined Facebook and had all these "friends," I was at a loss as to what to say.  And sometimes when I did say something, they didn't always reply.  I think I ended up throwing snowballs at people because I didn't know what else to do.  It takes a real skill to write for your FB audience because your "friends" are coming from all different parts of your life, and what you say to one group may not make sense to another group, and you really don't have a ton of space to explain yourself.  So, for FB I have a public persona that's more like the highlights of my life.

And blogging has created more of a public/personal persona - (is that an oxymoron?).  Maybe someday I'll write a more business-oriented blog with my credentials, but for now, "Slices" is about personal stuff that I wouldn't mind sharing with strangers or family.  It's been a risk, but it's also been empowering - to be able to put yourself out there in a way that you haven't been seen before.  It's also been really great to see how small observations or statements can really resonate with people.

Initially, my audience was (and still is) a handful of strangers.  (Thanks you guys!)  As each day went by, and I found out that more people were reading my blog, I felt a bit more challenged. By nature, a writer is trained to write with their audience in mind. When I imagine a particular person reading my entries, it's easy to get "constipated," so to speak, by that influence.  It's at those times, I need to step back, look at my original goals, and keep my perspective so that my writing can stay true to both my heart and mind.

Thanks everyone for listening!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Living Large

My sister was in town the other day so my family got together for a dinner party.  To most people this might be a common everyday activity, but for me, a family get-together is an Event.

I come from a large family (12 of us kids plus Mom and Dad).  Since there are so many of us, it's hard to get everyone together at the same time.  I think our last big family Event was for Christmas.  Each year we take turns hosting Christmas, and if you don't have a large enough house, you rent a hall or a church basement for an evening.  Usually there are 40-50 people which includes my immediate siblings, their spouses, their children, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Getting together with my family the other night reminded me of the rich support system I have that I often take for granted.  Our get togethers are more like touch-base times.  Everyone brings food, you eat, you talk, you make your rounds to catch up with people you don't see very often yet you're related to all of them.  Over grilled hamburgers, crock pot beans, 7-layer salad, roasted potatoes, and homemade desserts you have short, intense conversations about new babies, career ventures, ongoing struggles, health issues, and humorous anecdotes from day-to-day life.

After an event like this my spouse and I go home and compare notes.  "Did you hear about so-and-so's new job?"  "Did you know that your niece is pregnant?" and "I didn't know so-and-so had surgery a few weeks ago, did you?"  And then if you want to have a deeper conversation with someone, you write an e-mail, pick up the phone, or get together at another time for coffee or dinner.  (Or you go hunting for them on Facebook and make comments on their wall!)

People often ask me what it was like to grow up in a large family.  I guess I never thought much about it because it was just the way we did things. I also imagine my experiences as the youngest child were different from my oldest siblings or the ones in the middle.

So, what was it like?

I remember when I was young, there were always people around.  We had bunk beds and shared bedrooms, dressers and closets.  Privacy became a valued thing.  If you got your own room, it was a very big deal.  (Being the last one to leave home, I had the whole upstairs to myself!)

Being in large family is like a living in a small town.  If you tell something to one person, it usually gets spread through the sibling-vine and everyone ends up knowing about it.  So, be careful what you share!

There were major illnesses like the flu, whooping cough, mumps, measles and chickenpox.  When one person got sick, it became a household epidemic.

I always got lots of hand-me-downs, and once in a while I got hand-me-ups from some of my oldest nieces!

There was always something happening.  I wouldn't exactly call it "drama" but there was usually some major event—a car accident, a difference of opinion, a broken dish washer, or a violated curfew—that took priority over small everyday activities.

Sometimes people ask - were you one big happy family?  No, we were more like about four different families that overlapped.  And yes, we were dysfunctional even before the word became popular.

In a large family you learn how to listen to five conversations at the same time, and there are at least two that you're directly involved with.  I became very much aware of this after I got married.  My spouse comes from a small family, and for holidays we would to go lunch at his parents' house and go to my parents' house later for dinner.  At my spouse's family gathering, only one person talked at a time.  There were very few interruptions, and when you went to the bathroom, everyone knew about it.  At my parents' house everyone talked in pairs or little groups or announced things across the room.  You listened to one person but also kept your ears open to the soundbites across the table.  People would come and go.  If you disappeared for an hour and came back, you might not be missed.  The speed of talking is fast because time is limited, and there are a lot of people to talk to.  I suppose you could call it early multitasking.

Being in a large family you learned creative survival tactics.  If you skinned your knee, you found your own bandage, or you asked someone bigger than you to help you.  You learned on your own or by observation, how to deal with leaky winter boots, neighborhood bullies, puberty, bad relationships and stray cats.

You learned to think outside the box and to never take things at face value.

You learned that God and Jesus were important, but you didn't find out why until later when no one else was around to listen.

In a large family you're expected to be independent, but you also know that if you need anything, all you have to do is ask.

What's in the Box?

This year we decided to get a farm share.  Every other week or so, we pick up our box of vegetables from a neighborhood drop site and get fresh produce delivered from Harmony Valley Farm located in western Wisconsin.  They also have meat, fruit and coffee, but we decided, at least for this first year, to just go with the veggie box.

So far it's been a fun adventure.  You never know what you're going to get until the day before when they send out their newsletter. It puts you in a more creative and spontaneous mindset as far as planning meals.  After all, you don't want to waste anything, so you plan around what you find in the "box."  

I'll have to admit, some of the things we get, I've never seen before.  One week we got sunchokes.  They look like pieces of ginger root, and they taste a bit like potatoes.  I could get addicted to these.  There were these things called garlic scapes which looked like green onions, but they curled around into loops.  They work just like regular garlic.  We've gotten green leafy things that I can't pronounce - Hon Tsai Tai and Yukina Savoy (just toss it into a bowl with some fruit and make a salad).  We've also gotten some great things like parsnips, rhubarb, strawberries, asparagus, fennel and lots of mixed salad greens.  Of course everything tastes different than what you'd find at the store, and I like that it supports local farmers and organic food.

The thing is, because of the unusual ingredients, I'm making things that I normally would not make.  I made a strawberry rhubarb spread, and I'd forgotten how much I liked rhubarb.  I made pesto out of nettles and a mashed potato/parsnip side dish.  I usually make lamb soup in the winter, but since I received two fennel bulbs, I made a less-soupy batch last night and tucked it into a pocket pie.  Once a week there's a stir fry with things like baby bok choy, napa cabbage and green onions.  

We still pick up other things at the farmer's markets and co-ops when we need to, and I'll probably get tired of this by the time September rolls around, but for now "what's in the box" is making me think "outside the box."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Passion vs. Obsession

Ok, I'm cheating a little bit here.  Instead of creating a new blog, I'm posting an abridged version of a paper I wrote for one of my writing classes.  I enjoyed writing it.  I hope you enjoy reading it.

Passion vs. Obsession 

I have a love/hate relationship with Jane Hamilton's book The Short History of a Prince. There are some passages that resonated with me and I wanted to savor them, and yet, as I read, I found myself distracted, looking ahead, wondering when I would be finished.

The story is compelling enough. A gay English teacher at mid-life reflects on his senior year of high school when he's challenged by the illness and death of his brother, his love yet lack of talent for dance, his attraction for the same sex, and his confusing relationships with family and friends. The book travels between two time periods, 1972-73 when Walter, the main character and his friends are in high school, and 1996 when he looks back over his life.

As I struggled with this book and with my own work, I realized it was a matter of passion versus obsession. When I'm passionate about something or when I read passionate writing, it motivates me to read more and write more. When something I read or write feels obsessive, I get frustrated and want to stop reading and give up writing.

In the dictionary the word passion (as related to this paper) is described as an intense or overpowering emotion such as love, joy, hatred or anger; a keen interest in a particular subject or activity; the object of somebody's intense interest or enthusiasm.

Obsession on the other hand is defined as an idea or feeling that completely occupies the mind; the state of being obsessed by somebody or something; the uncontrollable persistence of an idea or emotion in the mind, sometimes associated with psychiatric disorder mania, fascination, fixation, desire, fetish, craze, fad.

In looking at these definitions there can be places where these two terms seem to overlap. Passion is a drive that's healthy and gives you energy. Obsession is also a drive that can turn into a sickness and sap your strength. Passion is lasting while obsession is temporary. It's the bewildering difference between a crush and a true love relationship; the fine line between a wine connoisseur and an alcoholic.

Jane Hamilton, in an interview about Prince was asked about her Walter character. She stated: "I wanted to write about someone who had a passion to dance but had no talent, like myself." (Hamilton interview)

Hamilton's passion for dance is clearly revealed in a passage she writes from Walter's point of view where he shares his feelings about dance with his aunt. He's involved in a Nutcracker production that he knows is second-rate and wonders why he's enjoying it so much.

"Why do you dance, Walter? Why do you take lessons?"

He was panting from the strain of the conversation. She was asking all the difficult questions. "I know I'm not any good," he whispered...

"So why do you keep on," she persisted, "if you think you're not any good?"

"Because," he choked, "I feel it."

"Yes, that's it."

"I feel the ideas and the patterns and the abstraction of the beauty, and—"

"Yes, you do. And you feel the meaning strongly enough you'll no doubt convey something of it. I don't think you can help it. I'd wager that you enjoy the rehearsals of this so-called tawdry production because you're communicating. In other words, you're succeeding." (Hamilton, p. 133) 

Hamilton's quote evokes passion because it touches on a universal theme, something that people can relate to and apply in their lives. It wouldn't have to be about dance. It could be about anything - singing, playing an instrument, running, baseball, or painting.

Hamilton's passage also works well because she writes passionately about someone's passion. According to her example passion means feeling strongly about something and conveying that feeling to someone else.

Where Hamilton becomes obsessive in her work is in the non-linear structure of the story. Since she works with two different timelines there's a tendency toward repetition and backtracking. The timelines are clearly marked, but they weren't distinctive. In the later timeline the author kept flashing back to fill in details and then in the high school years, she sometimes flashed forward to the future. Several times I had to keep checking to see which timeframe I was in. The parts of the story were well written, and I can't point to specific passages, but overall there was a lot of repetition and rehashed issues about how Walter dealt with his brother's death, how he felt about his lack of talent, and the love triangle between Walter and his friends, Susan and Mitch.

One place where obsession worked for Hamilton was where she described Walter's crush on Mitch with what I will call a passionate obsession. Hamilton intersperses descriptions about Walter's feelings throughout the chapter and other parts of the book.

"His was a pure love in the beginning, a love without the paraphernalia of hope and expectation. He might just as well have said Mitch to mean the word love... He whispered 'Mitch' into his pillow; he opened his closet and said it louder; he sang it softly in the shower; he filled a few notebook pages with it in different script." (p. 122)

"He no longer knew to eat or sleep or brush his teeth. He had lost any instinct that might guide him. He would have skipped off a cliff if his beloved had beckoned him across the abyss." (same) 

The first quote leans toward passion, but the repetition of he + verb structures hints at obsession. In the second quote the obsession is obvious but the universal feelings, and vivid pictures and descriptions provide passionate undertones.

Thematic symbols in a story can either infuse passion into a work or, if over-used, can drag it down.

In Hamilton's book she use the prince theme effectively. It shows up in the middle of the book and it's only in one chapter, but it flavors the rest of the story and points back to the title. Starting on page 128 Walter auditions for the Rockford Ballet. Walter is described through the eyes of Miss Amy, the director, as having "this raw kind of possibility." She ends up choosing him for the prince role because "what counted in the end, she said, was that Walter had moved his arms and legs as if he believed he was a prince." (p. 129)

Later Walter describes his passion for the role as he dresses in his princely costume:

"In the course of the rehearsals, he felt that he shouldn't be enjoying something that was so far from being even second-rate. And yet when he forgot to worry about the production as a work of art he threw himself into it wholeheartedly. He loved his blue velvet tunic that came midthigh, the matching blue blouse with cream-colored satin cuffs and a silver sequined V at the neck and his tights that had sequins sewn in clusters all the way to the ankle." (p. 130)

I think that the writing life like anything else is about passion and obsession. My passion for writing will drive me to write without rewards, do research for hours on end, and read many books. But there was one summer when I wrote so much that I developed stomach aches. (Most likely from the things I ate and drank and the lack of exercise.) Often I can get stuck in research. I get on the Internet and it sucks me in. I think that it'll just take me a few minutes to find something, but it takes hours. I run into dead ends, spin my wheels and become overwhelmed. I can see how the intensity could drive some people to drink, use drugs, overeat, chain smoke or gamble.

My life as a writer needs to be like the fine-tuned body of a dancer to maintain balance. It's a constant education and renewing of the mind in how to keep energy and freshness alive. Prayer has been helpful as well as eating healthy, getting rest, and exercising to maintain courage, stamina, and perseverance.

"Write with your eyes like painters, with your ears like musicians, with your feet like dancers. You are the truth-sayers with quill and torch. Write with your tongue on fire. Don't let the pen banish you from yourself."   Gloria Anzaldua


Encarta World English Dictionary. Microsoft Corporation. Bloomsbury Publishing: 1999.

Hamilton, Jane. Interview at Barnes & Noble. April 8, 1998.

Hamilton, Jane. The Short History of a Prince. New York: Doubleday. 1998.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Nature and Watercolors

Stately Silent Stalker
by Mary R. Hoel  (used with permission)
I had coffee the other day with my sister Mary.  We had the opportunity to sip our drinks under her paintings that were on display at the Dunn Brothers at Fairview and Co. Rd. B2 in Roseville.

My sister paints scenes and subjects from nature.  In her artist statement she says, “I seek to incorporate color, texture, rhythm and subtle surprises into my artistic creations.” 

I’ve known my sister all my life.  What’s fascinating is having the personal knowledge of all the different things she enjoys – gardening, music, homemaking, knitting—and seeing how these elements come together in her paintings. 

In her work Mary also strives to find unique perspectives - “challenging the viewer to see the subject of the artwork in a new way.”  At the coffee shop she pointed out the bright red sunset in "Stately Silent Stalker," her Great Blue Heron painting.  The brilliant red was caused by the residual haze from the forest fires out west.  In another painting (not pictured) she mentioned an unusual twist of a tree branch that bordered the edge.  “I think these are special viewpoints that God reveals just for me,” she says.

Purple Majesty
by Mary R. Hoel (used with permission)
My sister does a lot of different things; she’s a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher; she plays in a band, sings in choir, enjoys gardening and homemaking.  Painting is a relatively new activity for her, but I believe she’s found her sweet spot.

Mary's work will be on display at the Roseville Dunn Brothers until Aug. 10th.

During the month of July, you can also see her work at the Lexington Dunn Brothers.

You can also still catch her exhibit at Oakdale Discovery Center through June.  Call 612-203-8318 for more information.

Luscious Lilies
by Mary R. Hoel (used with permission)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

Some of my dad's favorite sayings:

"Nobody leaves 'til the food's all gone."

"The human body is a wonderful thing, but it looks better on a girl."

"Where were you when the paper was blank?"

"Watermelon is the only food you can eat where you can wash your ears at the same time."

"Their little tummies are full... loaded 'til they exploded."

"When you get my age, eating is one of the few pleasures you have left in life."

"Made in our shop."

Jan. 8, 1921 - Jan. 31, 2008

Short and Sweet

Just so you know, ever since I've started this blog, my perspective on everyday things has changed.  In my normal day I've been more aware of how ordinary things or activities connect to art, and then, I wonder why I hadn't noticed those connections before.

For example...

A few days ago I was getting my hair done at my regular Cost Cutters with Chrissy, my regular hair stylist that I've been going to for several years now.  We were looking through a book of color samples which displayed one-inch pieces of hair dyed in the various shades of blonde, brunette and red and some exotic oranges, greens and purples.  Later, she's "painting" a frosting-like mixture of blonde with a slightly reddish shade onto my hair, and we're talking about how choosing the right color is important because it needs to go with the person's skin color and also work with the person's existing hair color.  She also told me that most people who color their hair at home don't know how to divide the hair so that it's evenly coated with the dye.   As a result the color comes out in patches, and they look like a leopard!

We also talked about hair cutting.  When she cuts hair, she looks at the shape of a person's face and considers how the cut can enhance the person's best features.  For example, if she has a client with a large squarish chin, she's not going to give them a cut that frames or emphasizes their already strong chin line.

Colors, shades, painting, shapes, framing... It's so obvious.  Why hadn't I noticed this before?

Thanks, Chrissy!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Creative Eating

I never understood food allergies until I had them myself.  It first started with lactose intolerance, and I was in denial about it even though two of my sisters had it.  There was no way I was going to give up dairy products, especially cheese and ice cream.  I was 19 years old and going to the U of M.  I’d eat breakfast (usually a bowl of cereal with milk), jump on the bus, and by the time I finished my first class, I felt like someone had socked me in the gut.

Over time (several months) I learned how to manage my diet, and read labels for things like non-fat dry milk and whey.  I took lactase pills and used lactose free milk, ate hard cheeses and yogurt, and if I was really on top of things I could suck down a malt once in a while and have no problems.

It was just a few years ago when I discovered all my other allergies.  I kept having digestive problems, dizziness, fatigue and a number of other symptoms and decided to cut out all dairy from my diet, but that didn't help.  I had a barrage of tests done for everything from iron deficiency to ticks to low blood sugar.  Finally, I took a blood test and found I was allergic to dairy, gluten, egg whites and a few other odd things.  So, what's left?  Needless to say, the first few months were very difficult.  I'd open the cupboards, and they'd be full of food but I couldn't eat anything.  It was a major decision every time I wanted to put something into my body.  And what if I decided to cheat?  How bad would it screw up my system?  How long would it take to recover?

So, then life starts to revolve around food and eating.  I had to decide that it was ok to go to four different grocery stores during the week, to be exclusive with my own food, and that I'd need to spend a little more for some of the specialty products.  There's also the social factors involved.  You can't just go out to a restaurant with friends; you have to research and find out if there's anything on the menu you can eat and then when you get there, you drill the waitstaff and have a discussion with the manager or the chef about cross-contamination.  Potlucks used to be easy.  Now, I make sure I bring something I know I can eat as well as share.

With the first couple of weeks of eating differently I felt better.  I was always a thin person, but for some reason ever since I was a kid, I'd have a perpetually bloated gut.  When I started eating differently, I lost a lot of water weight and the bloat disappeared.  My dancing improved because I wasn't so dizzy, and my body felt more streamlined and fine-tuned.  I've discovered a lot of great foods like quinoa pasta, garbanzo bean pancakes, teff, almond milk, coconut milk ice cream.  My health has been pushed to a higher standard.

There are a lot of resources, especially in the Twin Cities for people with food allergies.  Some of my favorite links are listed below.

Northland Celiacs - a great overall resource

The Spunky Coconut - great recipes using coconut flour

Living Without - probably the best magazine for people with multiple allergies; great recipes, travel tips, new research

The Allergic Birthday Cake - one of my favorite cookbooks

Grocery Stores
Fresh & Natural - superb - everything is marked if it's gluten or dairy free

Mississippi Market - best place to get GF/DF/EF muffins

Seward Co-op

Favorite Restaurants
Brasa - Caribbean
Vina - Vietnamese
Shish - Mediterranean
Wok Cuisine - Chinese
Fresh Picked Pizza
Trotter's Cafe - bakery and sandwiches (and coffee!)

The Art of Journaling - Part III

I just can't seem to get away from these midnight blog entries.  Maybe my new alias will be the Midnight Blogger.

More about journaling....

When I wrote about things that made me mad, the blank page was a great place to just let it all out. But the odd thing was, if I waited long enough, I'd always find some sort of understanding, truth or bit of wisdom. As I continued to write, the words became more positive and my paragraphs formed into more comforting statements about myself or other people. From my mind, through my pen and down onto the paper, came understanding. I discovered ways that I could solve my issues or respond to the person who might have said something nasty to me.  I also saw how my life was a series of puzzle pieces and patterns that fit into a bigger life picture.  At the time I didn't realize it, but I was actually having a conversation with God.  God was not only listening, but through my writing, was also answering me.

Over time some of my entries became prayers, and sometimes I'd see concerns addressed or answered even though I may not have asked about them.

I suppose in this way writing is like putting your heart and soul on paper, and I'm sure that if you dabble in other art forms, it's a similar experience.  I know that dance, even more than writing, is a labor of love.  Sometimes I think I'm crazy to spend hours working on a piece, practicing, teaching others, and then it's all over in just a few minutes.  Yet, there is a fierce joy that follows.  I know people who draw and paint, and it's almost as though they're capturing a heartbeat moment measured in the blink of an eye.  Other visual artists can capture a global or universal idea just with their one piece of work.  And then there are musicians whose art requires patience and accuracy before they can develop the flavor of their work and the passion for it that can inspire others.

Scissors, glue, construction paper and fabric - reminders of school art projects where my main goal was about how I could do something completely different from anyone else in the room.  How can I be unique? How can I stand out?

I think that uniqueness and our pursuit of it as well as our willingness to take a risk and put ourselves and our Spirit out there is what defines and motivates us as artists - no matter what kind of art we create.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Art of Journaling - Part II

Some of my favorite places to buy journals have been Barnes and Noble, Blick Art, Borders, Half Price books and various specialty gift shops and stationary/paper stores.

People journal for a lot of different reasons.  If you read published diaries by those from earlier centuries, there's a sort of formality to them.  It's almost as though they expected they'd have an audience at some point in the future.  I'm sure it was just the way they talked at the time, but even some of the mundane things come across as somewhat extraordinary just in the way they're presented.

The reason why I started keeping a journal was because I had to.  It was a place where I could manage the overwhelming parts of my life and at least pretend to keep them under control.  Though I grew up with a lot of people around me, I really had no one I could talk to on a consistent basis.  And those around me—my parents, my siblings, and my peers—were usually trying to figure it all out just like I was.

I'd write about things that bugged me or made me mad.  There were fits of jealousy and bouts of winter blues. The unfairness of life and the roller coaster of emotions influenced by hormones.  I also wrote about small victories or little things that I observed that I figured wouldn't matter to other people:
  • I was riding the bus one morning to work and noticed that the waste steam rising from the Horner Waldorf paper factory created a small rainbow on each side of the rising sun.
  • Sometimes when I drove south on 35W into downtown I'd keep my eye on Minneapolis skyline.  It would start on my left as a small patch and slowly grow larger.  It would dip from my view as I went under a bridge, and then all at once as you wound down into the city, it would sweep around the horizon from left to right, disappear one last time, and then reappear as you crossed over the river.
More later...

The Art of Journaling - Part I

I have a confession.  I am a journal snob.  I've kept a journal every year since I was in 7th grade, and now I'm really picky about the journals that I use.

Long before blogging the only thing they really had for people who liked to play with words were those one-year or five-year diaries that had pages about the size of a postcard and a lock and key that were useless.  I was afraid to ask for a diary for Christmas because then everyone would know that I had one, and of course, they'd want to read all my private stuff.  But I asked anyway, and I received a forest green five-year diary that I used for 3 years.  I loved it.  And I had the perfect hiding place.  I had a wooden jewelry box on my dresser, and the diary fit snugly, into the outside bottom frame.  If you lifted the jewelry box, the diary would come with it.
My diary entries in those days were very short, to the point and cryptic - I suppose not unlike a tweet!

Here are some samples:  

When you are with one person all day you start to act like that person.

The shockings were stung by the shimney with scare.

Kitty looks Chinese when he's half asleep.

Knot hole secrets.

Over time, I got empty books with lines.  I didn't try to write every day, but I'd write in the date and wrote as much or as little as I wanted.  For some reason, I also put in the the time, and I still do that today. 

My journals got larger over the years.  They grew fatter or longer because I found more things to write about or fret about as I got older.  I also decided that I didn't like having ruled lines to write on because they were too confining.  Sometimes I wanted to write BIG or on a slant.  Sometimes I wanted to draw pictures.  I also started collecting newspaper clippings and ticket stubs to mark the events of the year. 

It's amazing now to go to the bookstores and they have whole walls full of journals.  It's a tradition.  Around Oct. or Nov. if I don't have an empty book waiting in the wings, I start looking for one that will take me through the new year.  (I had a great rainbow book two years in a row - every few months you got to write on a new color.) What I've found, though, is that most of the journals are too small too last for a whole year or they have lines.  

A few years ago I gave up on the bookstores and went to the art supply store.  I stopped looking for journals and looked for sketchbooks instead.  Those seemed to have worked out well.  I made an exception this year, though.  I found a smaller but beautiful purple flowered with decorative borders on each page.  Half of the pages have lines and half don't so it's as surprise every time you start a new page.  I call this my transition journal.  Transition?  From what to what?  I won't really know until I finish and start my new one (I have one page left).  

I'm looking forward to my new "Smash" journal that I found at the art store.  Every page is different with lines and lists and categories.  It's expandable and has pockets so you can tuck stray objects and papers in like a scrap book.  It also comes with a pen and a glue stick.  It'll probably take me to the end of this year.

I'll keep you posted!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Steeped in the Leaves

I'm not just a coffee drinker; I also like tea.  I think the first time I had tea was back when I thought there were only a few kinds available. For hot, it would be the Lipton tea, and for cold, it would be Nestea.  My mom had another kind called Constant Comment, and I only remember it because she gave me the tin box to play with, and it had the most amazing smells.  I also remember taking a special trip to the Biblot shop on Como Avenue where I picked out a miniature tea tin of black tea with fruit.

Over time I tried the vanilla teas and the herbal fruit blends.  When I went to work full time in an office cubical, the only exciting part of my day was drinking Good Earth Sweet and Spicy Blend from my kangaroo mug.  The kangaroo mug was a cute idea, but not well thought out.  The mug had a built-in ceramic "pouch" on the side where you could store a dry teabag.  But if you used your teabag and put it in the pouch, then every time you took a drink, you'd have tea from the wet bag dribbling down your face.

When I was in Chicago last summer, one of my favorite places to go was ArgoTea.  They brew their tea on location and make specialty drinks from all their different flavors with almond or soy milk.  One time I had a Red Velvet - red tea and almond milk.  Another time I tried a Sangria - like drinking wine.  We have a few places in the Twin Cities area that serve tea drinks.  There's a place called SIP Coffee Bar in NE Minneapolis that makes red tea lattes.  The Valley Natural Foods Co-op in Burnsville also has a few selections, and I've also ordered decaf tea lattes at the Starbucks.  Of course, you can get authentic Chai at some of the Indian or Afghani restaurants.  I'm still hoping that someone will open an ArgoTea here in the Twin Cities.

My current favorite in the morning is White Ayurvedic Chai from Teavanna.  I brew this in a two-cup cast iron teapot.  I've also made my own lemon ginger mint tea.  I put a slice of Meyer's lemon (sweeter than regular), a slice of fresh ginger, and fresh mint leaves in the tea strainer and steep it in almost boiling water for 10-15 minutes.

My favorite evening tea is Evening in Missoula from TeaSource. (chamomile, rosehips, raspberry, papaya, peppermint, spearmint, vanilla, strawberry leaf, passionflower, red clover, anise, lavender, cherry bark - all in one tea!)   I brought my little teapot to Duluth with me and had some of this on some of those brisk early summer evenings.

I've tried a lot of teas over the years, and after a while I had so many containers and boxes and tins that I was taking up valuable real estate in my cupboards and on my counters.  So, I bought myself a tea suitcase.  I cut up the cardboard boxes and keep the name of the tea with the tea bags in a ziploc, and then I put them in this decorative box.  Sure, there are some that still sprawl out over the counter, but it's not as unmanageable as it was.

Fellow readers, do you have any favorites?  I think trustinfaith mentioned a raspberry chai.  What other tea flavors and tea shops do you like?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Round Theatre and Round Photography

Just got back from seeing "The Hollow," an Agatha Christie play at Theatre in the Round Players.  We've gone to this theatre for years and have always enjoyed it because of the style - audience on all sides so that the actors play to all sides.  It gives more of a three-dimensional feel to the production (moreso than a proscenium or thrust stage), and you feel like you're right in the middle of what's happening as it's going on.  There's probably not a bad seat in the house.

Besides being an Agatha play with twists and turns in the plot, the actors had three-dimensional qualities as well.  I'm always amazed by what they do with the sets, having authentic period furniture and decor and some nice touches with a garden door entrance and a hanging chandelier.

TRP is the oldest community theatre in the Twin Cities.  This is their 60th year.  We've seen classics and favorites by Shakespeare, Shaw, Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Sam Shepard and Neil Simon.  They also perform works by more current playwrights I haven't heard of before.

One side benefit to attending a play is that there is a gallery that features exhibits by local artists.  This time the exhibit was called "Tiny Planets" by Richard Mueller.  Pretty amazing.  It was a series of photographs of well-known places in the Twin Cities such as the Mill City Ruins, the Cherry Spoon, and the Basilica, but with a unique aspect of morphing the picture into a circle which stretched some of the familiar features of each location.  Each circle was placed on a sky background so it looked like they were floating.  It's hard to explain, but I did find his website.  See if you can recognize some of these well-known places.  Then, imagine yourself living on one of these "Tiny Planets," walking among the pathways and fitting in as a warped resident of this planet.  Is it really too much of a stretch (pun intended) from our own reality?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Broken Glass

A word about mosaics. They are fascinating!  For me as a dancer I'm so used to having a goal of creating lines, shapes and curves that extend or connect. I think what excites me about a mosaic are the many pieces all broken up that are fitting back together in a new way. I don't know; it's like a suspended explosion that catches your breath and then you hold onto it forever.

I read a book once that was about mosaics. Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos was an enjoyable journey exploring a non-traditional family and themes that symbolize brokenness.  An older woman dying of a brain tumor lives in a house full of expensive antique glass, and she purposely shatters it.  She befriends a young woman who has an estranged relationship with her father.  The two women create mosaic artwork from the broken pieces and they find healing in what they do.  

A friend of mine does this same sort of artwork.  You can check out her website, My Mosaics by Linda Mix Yates:  Linda creates lovely artwork out of broken glass and dishes which is called picassiette.  For me, the most fascinating thing, though, is how her artwork has evolved over the years (I think 18) that I've known her.  I still have a set of stained glass candle holders that she gave me early on in our friendship.  Nice, simple, and I've always loved them, but she tells me that was her "early work." I've seen her other projects - one of them was a coffee table that she picked up probably at a garage sale and redid the top with broken saucers and plates.  She's created mirror and picture frames and worked on whole bathroom sink countertops and fireplace walls.  

I think Linda's most current work is my favorite.  Her mosaic wall murals show movement and energy.  When I look at them, I feel the same excitement, the same suspension that I would find in other mosaics, yet I also find a sense of calm, as though I'm being taken on a journey by a very capable tour guide.  

As we write our stories or create our art or develop our performances, may we be the healers of brokenness and be those capable tour guides for the audiences that are watching us.  

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Big Apple vs. the Minneapple

I was reminded by a fellow writer of my two-day stint in New York back in 2007.  I had just spent a ten-day residence in France with the Spalding U writing program, (another story), and I decided to take a sample trip to Manhattan because I had never been there.  I only knew one person living in New York that I could visit, but ironically she was going to be back in Minnesota during the exact time that I was there.  As I was flying in to New York, I began to panic because I knew I'd be there in this big city all by myself, and if anything happened, there wouldn't be anyone around that I could call.  At the time, I had no cell phone and no laptop, and the only internet access I had was from a Palm Pilot.  My France roommate lived in upstate New York and gave me her number, saying that it would only take her about half an hour to get into the city from where she lived.  So, that made me feel a little better.

The New York subways were easy compared to Paris.  I loved the hotel I was at. I read about it in the Pioneer Press as an affordable place to stay in New York.  The Pod - an artdeco sort of place. Small rooms with a bed, desk, and sink. Bathrooms down the hall. The only thing I didn't like - the doors were so new that the locks were loud. You could hear everytime someone walked out to the hallway to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Studio room at the Pod
My first night there was 4th of July, and I walked to the end of a dead end street overlooking East River.  A small cluster of 15 was gathered, and there was a sign that said, "No standing allowed." I found out that it was actually a No Parking sign. After about an hour, the crowd grew.  I pretended like I was with this friendly older couple who had just come from England.  Everyone huddled in the poring rain and people opened up their umbrellas and shared. The guy next to me was a Godsend. He had a huge umbrella that he opened and about 10 people could fit under it. "It's like bringing my roof along," he said.
Lobby at the Pod

Over the next two days, I rode the subway a lot, (loved the underground wall art!) took the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty, walked down Broadway, visited Ground Zero, walked through a tiny bit of Central Park, Washington Square, NYU, Battery Park and went up to the observation deck in the Rockefeller Center. 

I didn't have to walk far to get meals.  On the corner there was a place that reminded me of CafĂ© Latte (on Grand in St. Paul) with its two levels, but it also had a grocery store.  On my last night I decided to go out for a nice relaxed dinner. I didn't really want to eat by myself though.  I met this woman on the elevator in my hotel and then I walked around the block looking for a restaurant.  I ran into this woman again in front of a Thai restaurant on the other side of the block, and I told her I was looking for some place that was not a bar. She was doing the same. Since she was by herself I asked if she'd be willing to share a table with me. We had a great time.

Being in NY, even for two short days, I made some major discoveries:  Everything in New York is important. If there's a shop, a restaurant, a gig, or a street vendor, people know about it. They know what street it's on, what's nearby and which subway line to take to get there. Nothing is trifle, ambiguous or hidden. Everywhere I went, I found specific locations, restaurants or landmarks that I've heard of from songs, books, movies or television, and I don't even live there.

Another thing about New York is that people have a sense of pride – a good pride. From the suited businessman having a gourmet lunch in Battery Park to the guy with the thick accent behind the counter in Ess-a-Bagel on 3rd Street who called me Babe, everyone is important. Even the trash collectors seem to have a certain pride about where they live, who they are, and what they do. Of course this may be different than in the days before 911.

I keep thinking about my own Twin Cites, and I suppose in a way we have a little bit of that pride.  There's a lot of different cultures and many thriving arts communities although the flavor of it is somewhat different.  We don't have a subway, but we have a light rail, and supposedly we're #1 in the country for biking paths.  And sometimes I take the lakes for granted even though they attract mosquitoes.  

I'm wondering how the central corridor light rail will change the nature of the city.  The construction is a major inconvenience, but already there are several dance studios along University and the existing Raymond/University art crawl venue will probably expand.  Something to look forward to in the next couple of years.
Mosaic art on one of the subway walls

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Writing vs. Dance

I really tried to blog yesterday, but when I got to my computer, my internet connection kept getting hung up.  So, today I will continue on the 30-day blog challenge, and somewhere along the line I'll add an extra entry.

Creating choreography is a lot like writing, only much harder.  At least with writing, you can sit down with just a pen and paper, or your laptop, and pretend for a while as you fill up the blank page.  With dance, you need to have the space to do it, to get warmed up, to have music and a stereo or ipod, and then if you come up with something, you have to do it over and over until you remember it, unless you happen to own a camcorder and can play it back right away.

And what is it about this elusive choreography?  As a dancer, when you hear music, you can see movement in your head, and imagine how your body will move to it.  You'll get these ideas at the most inappropriate times, like when you're driving down the freeway ("You're choreographing again," says the concerned spouse from the passenger seat), or when you're standing in the shower (don't try this on one foot), or when you're sitting too long at a serious meeting.  (Hmm, I wonder if they'll notice if I get up on the table and start doing tendus.)  Of course, then when you're all set up, ready to work on a dance, it's like pulling teeth trying to get things to flow.

This happened the other day.  I had a practice in the early evening for our Friday show, and I made the mistake of waiting until the "ugly hour" to do choreography.  The ugly hour (more like 2 hours) is that time after lunch between 2:00 and 4:00 when you're tired, and every creative idea seems ridiculous and irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.  Plus, I had to come up with something in the next 90 minutes that I had to teach to 7 other people.  After the first half hour, I had maybe 8 counts figured out.  I hadn't knocked over the lamp yet, but I almost ran my foot into the vacuum cleaner in the corner of the living room.  Slowly, I gained momentum.  I packed up my water bottle, dance shoes, and costume, ran out the door, and finished the choreography in my head while I was driving.

So, writing is easier than dance.  Or is it?  I think last year, with the exception of Nanowrimo, I didn't do much writing beyond my regular journaling.  If you're working on a novel, it takes a while to immerse yourself back into that fictional world that you created.  Then, once you get there, you remember why you got stuck and why you left it behind.  Imagine, then, if you have several projects going - 3 or 4 fictional worlds where you're dealing with characters, conflicts and decisions that you've created yourself and now you have to clean up the mess!

I once was getting ready for a writing conference, and I decided to pitch about 3 or 4 different novels.  Of course you have to prepare your work and get up to speed on how you talk about your characters and the plots of your books.  After working for a solid week on all of these projects, I woke up in the middle of the night and thought, "Ok, what story world am I in?  Oh, this is my life!  This is my reality.  So, do I like this reality?  Yes, I do like it..."  It can be a very fractured experience.

But there are other times, too, where the writing and the dance feed each other.  After all the dance practices are done and all you have left is the performance, after the show, you can go home and be content to sit in a chair and toss out the words, not caring if they make sense or not, because you can fix them later.  These are ideal moments of balance, where mind, body, spirit and intellect connect.  I love it when this happens!

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Art of Coffee

I never used to drink coffee, but now it's been part of my daily habit for years.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Personal One-Liners

I'm on a 30-day blog challenge with my meetup group called WriterPower.  I'm on day three; I'm tired, and it's getting late.  So for this entry, just for fun, I'm going to list the first lines of my finished and unfinished novels.  (No, these are not published, yet.)  Hope you enjoy.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Dancing in the Cities

I had a four-hour dance practice today.  I'm working on a piece with a group associated with the U of M House of Prayer and we'll be presenting this dance next Friday at a worship service.

It's interesting that, although I've always known I would be a writer, whenever I'm in the midst of teaching a dance or performing in front of a group, I still ask myself, "How did I get here?"  I've been dancing and teaching for several years now, but I still ask myself that question.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Birding Around

I've had an unusual fascination with birds lately ever since we returned from our trip to Florida. In Florida we saw resident peacocks roaming freely in the parking lot where we rented our condo.  Along the beach there were several types of egrets flying over the ocean, once in while taking a nose dive into the waves and recovering with a wriggling fish.