Rescue Me: A (Bridle) Path to Renewal--Part 1

I've been debating about what to post here the last week, but this feature appeared over the weekend, and I thought I would share this woman's story. It's a remarkable place, full of promise and hope. This is the first installment, which appeared in The Times Leader on Saturday, July 26. I am still deciding on whether to post my series on heroin, which isn't nearly so uplifting.

JACOBSBURG—Julie Larish promised herself—and God—that if her family got away from the abusive situation in which they lived and into safety, she would try to provide sanctuary to others. She fled to the West Coast and built a new life, the foundation for her venture, R. J. Ranch & Riding Center, now that she’s returned to her hometown. 

Larish’s training in medical assisting got her a position in the California mental health system. A local sheriff set her up with a horse ranch--a lifelong interest—where Larish saw her own daughter develop confidence and self-esteem as she spent time with the horses. Another little girl also inspired Larish’s pursuit of equine therapy programs. She was wheelchair-bound and not communicative, but began riding and interacting with the horses on the ranch. Larish says this girl not only walks and talks now, but shares her story of recovery through equine therapy with others.

Larish eventually moved to Idaho to start her own ranch with equine therapy programs and teach college courses in horse behavior, horse nutrition and horseback riding. One of her clients had to get rid of her horses and told Larish about her Arabian left with a trainer who was starving the animal. Rescuing Berica was an important move for Larish.

“I was leery of Arabians because they aren’t like other horses,” Larish explains. “You can tell other horses what to do. After working with Berica, it came to me: other horses react; Arabians think. Once I realized that they have this special connection with humans, training was easier. She was one of the best horses I ever had. I miss her every day.”

Berica, who passed away a few months ago, not only lived out her life as a top therapy horse, but was named the “2008 4-H Horse of the Year” in the state of Idaho for her therapy work.

How does equine therapy, or equine assisted therapy (EAT,) work? As early as 600 BC the Greeks were riding horses as a means of therapy, and it came to the United States in the 1960s from Europe. While other animals have been used in treatments, horses have been found very effective because of their size, non-judgmental attitudes, their ability to respond immediately to direction and their characteristic “mirroring” of their riders’ emotions. This provides quick feedback to the rider, to the instructor and to the therapist.

Generally speaking, a therapist (psychological, occupational or speech) determines the patient’s primary needs. They may stem from an illness, an injury, an impairment or abuse. Patients may not even touch the horse at first. With the help of an equine instructor, he or she may need to get comfortable with the horse’s size or even being in a farm environment. The patient may take the reins and walk the horse around the arena, then work up to feeding, brushing and grooming the horse. This is good for patients who need to work on trust, self-esteem and motor skills.

Riding a horse builds confidence and helps muscular illnesses by working, stretching and strengthening the body’s muscular-skeletal systems. At RJ Ranch riders have up to three attendants with them—one leading the horse and one on each side of the rider to ensure the rider is stable. Larish also has riders not use saddles when possible to further work the muscles and get to know the horse’s muscular responses to commands. Patients involved with EAT often show marked improvement quickly, sometimes at many levels, because they are focusing on the relationship with the horse rather than the therapy.

“It psychologically boosts confidence. If you can control a 1,200 pound horse with your pinkies, what can you do with the rest of your life?” Larish adds.

Larish was running her successful ranch in Idaho when her mother called asking if she could “come back home.” She decided to make the move and bring her ranch with her. Restoring a 200-year old farm wasn’t exactly part of the plan, but Larish says, “I called the owner about using the fields, and I bought it.”

One building, a garage, had to come down right away, but bringing back the farmhouse and barn and re-working 88 acres along historic Drover’s Trail (State Route 147) has become another rescue mission.

The property was rented for 12 years prior and had fallen into neglect. The barn had to be shored up, adding new beams, a floor, electric and water to the building. They built stalls and a tack room downstairs—after cleaning out “about two feet” of old, hardened manure on the floors. The house was no better. The tenants had left rooms full of beer cans and dirty diapers, and, in an upstairs bedroom, the carpet was still wet with dog urine. In all, Larish and her crew—family, friends and volunteers—removed eight dump truck loads of garbage and debris from the three buildings before they could begin any renovations. They are now working room by room in the house as they get the riding business up and running.

And there are 19 horses that need care, one boarder and 18 of the ranch’s. Some Larish has acquired through riding clients, but eight have been rescued. Friend Lillian Siebieda talks about rescuing four horses after a desperate phone call. The man’s ex-son-in-law planned to shoot the horses at the end of the day if they were still on the farm. Larish and Siebeda scrambled to get a trailer ready and travel several counties away.

“It was January and snowing and cold,” she recalls. “We pulled up and opened the trailer door. I was holding the reins and trying to get my footing because of the ice, but the horses were just about running to that trailer. When they saw it, it was like they knew this was their one chance to make it out. All of them jumped right in.”

They also rescued two emaciated colts from an elderly man who had 47 horses but was too old to care for them. One of the colts was so sick he couldn’t stand on his own. Workers at RJ Ranch gave him the nutrition and physical therapy necessary to have him standing on his own, and now he walks in the pastures.

“We just try to give them the best life we can and condition them for therapy,” adds Larish.

Feelin' "Saucy?"

Fresh food, memories, passion--it's all in the sauce. Here's what I dished up for Saturday, July 5th's Times Leader.  I'm looking forward to talking with these people again.

Say “Italian,” think “food.” Americans have embraced the warm, familial culture expressed often by “Mangia, mangia” (“Eat, eat.”) Comforting meals prepared with love, gardens full of tomatoes and peppers and herbs, and family recipes of simple but hearty, real food are still hallmarks of Italian cuisine.  

                Truly some of the most beloved dishes are those of pasta with sauces—rich and red or decadent with melted cheese and butter or fragrant basil and olive oil. They do have histories, however. Pesto sauce, herbs “pounded” with olive oil, was probably created in Persia using coriander and adopted by the early Greeks and Romans using basil. It was definitely part of the cuisine in Medieval Italy. Many variations have followed, but the key to pesto is grinding or pounding the ingredients into a pulp.

The origins of a basic white sauce called Bechamel (bay-shah-mel) are fuzzier. Italians credit Catherine de Medici (and the chef who traveled with her) for bringing this sauce to France when she married the future King Henri II in the 14th century. However, the French argue that in the 1600s Duke Philippe de Mornay, Marquis Louis de Bechamel or, most likely, Chef Francois Pierre de la Varenne, a court chef for King Louis XIV, created the sauce made with butter, cream and flour.

Tomatoes have become nearly synonymous with Italian food. An ancient fruit used as a vegetable, the tomato was probably “discovered” by the Aztecs. By 500 BC it was being cultivated in Mexico. No one in Italy even saw tomatoes until Spanish explorers Christopher Columbus and Hernan Cortez brought them back to Europe from South America. At that time a botanist likened tomatoes to eggplant, and they were grown for decoration rather than food. Over the next two-hundred years Italians—especially the wealthy--assimilated them into regional dishes and soups around Naples and Genoa. In 1692 a tomato sauce appeared in an Italian recipe, but it wasn’t until 1790 when a recipe combining tomato sauce with pasta was included in L’Apicio Moderno, a cookbook by Neapolitan chef Francesco Leonardi.   

Two types of tomato sauces emerged as Italian cuisine evolved: sugo and ragu. Pellegrino Artusi, in his 1891 cookbook La Scienca en cucina e l’arte de mangier bene, defines sugo as “made from tomatoes that are simply cooked and run through a food mill. At the most, you may add a small rib of celery and a few leaves of parsley and basil to tomato sugo, if you must."

Ragu sauces are richer and heavier, made with meat, vegetables, wine and, possibly, cream. Its origins are attributed to Bologna.  

Immigration at the turn of the 20th century fueled the market for Italian imports of olive oil, fruit and canned tomato sauce from the homeland and created a new food industry in the United States for citrus fruits and tomatoes. It also introduced most Americans to Italian food as enterprising immigrants set up restaurants using family recipes.

Today’s Italian cooks are still using some of those recipes, and the annual Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival at Wheeling’s Heritage Port, this year from July 25 through 27, celebrates the culture, history and food. For the second year the festival will host a sauce contest, open to the public, with three categories: red, white and “miscellaneous” (such as pesto.)

One of the contest judges, a chef for 30 years who grew up in a traditional Italian family, says that people do still use family recipes—when they cook. Hectic lives have families reaching for processed foods or fast foods instead of fresh tomatoes and herbs from a backyard garden. But it doesn’t have to be home grown to be good, she adds.

“There are some really good canned tomato products out there,” the judge explains. “Take canned tomatoes, some spices, garlic. Make a whole batch and freeze part of it. It’s a lot cheaper than jarred sauces, and you’re using real food. People need to get back to real food.”

Lisa Badia of Wheeling grew up in Bellaire in a large Italian family with her grandparents close by.

“My sauce recipe is in my grandmother’s handwriting, Teresa DiPaolo Badia,” she says. “She used her own tomatoes and canned them. My only modification to her recipe is that I use organic sauce rather than growing my own tomatoes.”

Badia’s father lovingly tended backyard gardens which provided the foundation for their meals. When she visited Italy Badia says she was “humbled” when she saw the same gardens in Italian yards where her ancestors lived.

“I really felt the connection to my heritage, to the food,” she adds.  

Frank Muraca grew up in Wheeling a third-generation steel mill worker. Last year he won three medals in the Italian Festival sauce contest: silvers for his Bolognese and puttanesca sauces and gold for his marinara. He describes himself as a “self-taught” cook though, he, too, grew up in a traditional Italian household and remembers a neighborhood full of small family grocers and shops with “cheeses hanging from the ceiling.”

He developed an appreciation for culinary arts as a bachelor who wanted “good food” like that of his childhood. Muraca grows his own herbs and has extensively researched canned tomatoes to find the right taste.  He remembers his grandmother’s sauces with beef, pork and even rabbit, and adds that his father was an excellent cook. His method is trial and error, and he encourages others to do the same. 

“There are a lot of good cooks in the Valley, but if you want to learn you have to keep trying,” Muraca notes. “I don’t have to measure anymore, but I do have to taste while I’m cooking. The key is to make it the way you like it.”

Local caterer Diane Conroy says that by the time she was 10 years old she could cook well enough to prepare a family meal. Her sauce recipe comes from the old country, too. Her Uncle Joe and his mother taught her aunt the fine points of sauce making, and she passed the recipe on to her sisters (including Diane’s mother.) Sauce ingredients came from the garden, and children were expected to pitch in and help with picking, prepping and canning.    

For Conroy, who cooks sauce by the gallon now, preserving the recipes helps preserve family memories.

As a child I felt I knew many of my relatives that had passed away already just by listening to the stories about them and the food they made or how much they loved the recipe we were eating,” she explains. “Our mothers (the sisters) would get together at least once a month to cook for the family. We were together learning about our family's history and faith. The best times even today are cherished because of favorite recipes, stories and traditions of my own family.”

Conroy plans to enter the sauce contest this year, and Muraca is busy preparing three entries again, his marinara and two other sauces. The judge is also looking forward to the contest and has some advice for home cooks.

“Most people cook the sauce either too long or not long enough,” she notes. “There has to be a balance between tart and sweet from the ingredients, but a sauce doesn’t need to cook all day. Sauces should have some viscosity, but not be like jelly. A rich sauce like a Bolognese should have some weight. It shouldn’t run off the spoon, but drip off of it.”

She and Muraca caution against putting sugar in sauces. According to them, good sauces should have a tang, but any sweetness should come from good quality tomatoes, or, as Muraca recalls a relative doing, adding a carrot. 

 Information and entry forms are available online at www.italyfest.com. The deadline for the sauces is July 10, and only homemade sauces are eligible. Entry fees are $10 for the first jar and $6 for each additional entry. For questions, contact Kim Smith, festival coordinator at (304) 242-1090 during regular business hours.

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho

In spite of the fact that I cut my hours back at the paper to spend more time working on my parents' estate and getting my new life together, I ended up working on FOUR features last week. In fact, I worked all holiday weekend. Not happy.

I'm stressing now about getting everything done at the house. My brother is on his way here as I type, and we have much to do with the contents and attorney this week. I have a project at the County to finish and turn in Thursday, and another feature is due Friday.

That feature, though, is something that I am happy to write. Local artist Cathy Carpenter has designed a line of beautiful necklaces and earrings incorporating poly-clay with vintage buttons, findings and pieces of jewelry. All money from this line, called "Giving by Design," will be donated to the Schiffler Cancer Center at Wheeling Hospital. She invited me to her farm last week to do photos and talk about the project.

Three of her family members lost their battles with cancer within one year. Art was her therapy throughout and after. Now she is completing the circle by giving to other families. Donations will go toward grocery cards, gas cards, restaurant cards and other expenses that patients and families face while in town for treatments or appointments. I'll post the article here later this month.

Her farm has been in her husband's family for at least 150 years. The house itself is 140 years old and is still full of his grandparents' furniture. There are no cows or sheep anymore, but birds and butterflies are all around. Lucy the rescue kitty lounges on the patio, taking it all in.

Though I was there for work, it felt like a brief respite, far away from the craziness.

Having Words

Words are the most essential ingredient to my "business." Times change, language evolves, but is there a trend toward superficial communication? I've heard more than one parent talk about their teens sitting with a group of their friends TEXTING instead of TALKING to each other. Teachers have noticed that students become anxious during a conversation. Is "<3" really the same as "love?"  Yo.

COLUMN 21

By GLYNIS VALENTI Times Leader Staff Writer

A good deal of my life relates to words. Though I’m generally a visual person, words help me paint images and stories through description, connotation and metaphor.

I enjoy the histories and sounds of words and often look origins up when I’m writing, thanks to my seventh grade teacher Mrs. Hart, who introduced me to etymology. It’s intriguing how many of our words have grown from ancient Roman or Greek roots and how their meanings have evolved over centuries. One of my favorite words is “inspiration,” whose origin is the Latin “inspirare” meaning “to breathe in.”  Isn’t that beautiful? To breathe in that which leads to art, music, dance, inventions. I have visions of “living and breathing” one’s work.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there seems to have been—and I’m not particularly fond of this phrase--a “dumbing down” in and of America. Maybe it’s all over the world at this point, but somehow we’ve gone from this Valentine declaration by Margery Brews in 1477, “My heart bids me ever more to love you truly over all earthly thing,” to texting “I <3 u.” 

I’ve noticed the change while trying to find definitions and alternate words in dictionaries. It probably began in an effort to give students a portable reference guide, but most dictionaries-- paperbacks and online—now read like, basically, “Cliff Notes” versions. My friend Rich posted an article on Facebook about this shift and the author’s surprise at the difference between his dictionary and “Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary” from 1828 and 1913. I tested this for myself.

Under “inspiration” in the above-mentioned 1913 dictionary, one of the definitions reads, “the act or power of exercising an elevating or stimulating influence upon the intellect or emotions.” In “Webster’s New World Dictionary” the corresponding definition reads, “any stimulus to creative thought or action.” They aren’t quite the same. One is descriptive; the other feels like the corners have been cut.

Granted, the paperback dictionary was designed as a quick fix, but I’m wondering if there has been too much “quick” so that it has become the norm. After all, one can get immediate information as it unfolds right there at the source, and with the right buzzwords it’s trending in minutes. Too often, though, people form conclusions based on the face value of “Cliff Notes” and buzzwords rather than the unabridged versions of, seemingly, every situation. 

Since so much of my life is about words, I am sensitive about choices and take great care in choosing them to convey exactly the meaning I want to present. Obviously thoughts are energy, and energy and intent are sent out through words. For instance, when someone says, “I love you” it probably means “to take delight or pleasure in; to have a strong liking or desire for, or interest in; to be pleased with.” One feels that warm and fuzzy elation of good intent.

Words have that kind of power. Selecting them wisely is especially important when the speaker knows little about the person and circumstances to which his words are directed. Consider the word “ugly,” meaning “deformed, offensive to the sight, hateful, repulsive.” No good can come of deflating someone’s spirit. In fact, “Think Before You Speak” is a local school program that addresses this issue as bullying because words and their energies can be devastating.  

As I grapple with Umberto Eco’s “Foucault’s Pendulum,” a daunting but humorous 670-page mystery also recommended by friend Rich, I’ve learned about a new app for smart phones which seems to be the ultimate (“incapable of further division or separation”) in “Cliff Notes” communication: “Yo.”

If you wept over the decimation of the English language during the rises of Valley Girls and Ebonics and cringe at texts like “CUL8R” and “jk,” well, brace yourself. “Yo” is apparently the be-all, end-all of phrases now, which, probably unbeknownst to the app’s developers, dates back to Middle English.

According to the app’s description, verbatim (grammatical errors included,) “Wanna say ‘good morning?’ just Yo. Wanna say ‘Baby, I’m thinking about you?’—Yo. ‘I’ve finished my meeting, come by my office’—Yo.” What began innocently as efficiency has mushroomed into brazen and unapologetic laziness.

I hope there’s a mind-reading app available, too, because a single “Yo” appearing out of nowhere on my phone is not enough information. Am I supposed to meet someone at Panera? Do I need to reschedule a photo shoot? Do I have an admirer? A stalker? How does one determine whether it’s an “I love you” yo, or a break-up yo? As the app’s description points out, “The possibilities are endless.”

So not only have we decreased face-to-face encounters through email and texting and sanitized the definitions of our language, but we have depersonalized conversation by attempting to distill all emotion, intent, and meaningful interaction into one silly word—which, admittedly, would eliminate the need for dictionaries altogether.

A boggling one million people have downloaded the app in its first two weeks but will most likely have to talk to their recipients anyway to decipher those cryptic messages. Though the app is probably a joke, are we really moving away from beautiful language and our essential connections to it and to each other? Do I hear a yo? 

Rescue Me

I accepted an invitation and assignment for this afternoon. The feature will appear in the newspaper (and probably here) in late July, but I'm looking forward to telling this story. I thought I was covering a new equine therapy business, RJ Ranch and Riding Center, but as I spoke with people today, I realized it was a rescue story: preserving a local historic farm, saving animals literally hours from death and turning an autistic child's life around.

I did get some photos for the article today, but these are "artsy" ones of the old barn that Julie Larish, owner, says they've "pretty much rebuilt." Broken horses are mending and thriving as therapy animals brightening the futures of their clients. The email address is "rjranch911."

Meditative Mushrooms for Monday

I am still working on the house, cleaning and boxing and purging.  After posting this I will be downstairs moving boxes closer to the door to take to recycling and Salvation Army or Goodwill. I need to take knick knacks off of shelves and move some of my things to the garage. I’ve posted ads on craigslist for a couple of things, but I would really like to just open the doors for an estate sale or have the Salvation Army truck back up to the door and load it all up. This, of course, is a lesson to me to travel lightly. We don’t need nearly as much as we have.

And I am getting rid of my own stuff, too. Part of the issue is that I don’t know where I’m going from here, so I don’t know what to do about furniture. I think selling the house is the right thing to do, but then what? Put what I’ve kept in storage and go to Italy or France for a month? Purchase a house in the Ohio Valley?  Rent? Go to Oregon and retrieve the rest of my belongings? I do have to do that. But will I stay there? More meditation is in order.

These mushrooms have been in my camera since October, and I don’t know why I didn’t download them. There is something very “still-life-y” about them, and they are calming my mind today. Though they were taken in the yard, I feel the woods, the cool, quiet woods with soft earth created by and covered with damp leaves that don’t crinkle but muffle.

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Father's Day 2014

Following these photos is an article from yesterday’s Times Leader about dads. I interviewed four fathers to find out their perspectives on what being a dad means. They also answer the eternal question of what fathers really want for Father’s Day.

This is my first Father’s Day without mine. The photos are some that I’ve found in drawers: one of the only existing of him as a boy; a picture of him in the Salvation Army band where his lifelong love of music and playing the guitar began; his US Army portrait as he went off to the Korean War; his beloved Chevy Corvair, white with red interior. The "ZAQ" license plate was his throughout my lifetime.

One of my favorite photos of my dad was the very first photo I ever took. My 4-year old self asked if I could take one with his 35mm Kodak Retina. He said yes! I gingerly held the camera pointed it up at him and pressed the shutter button. I was hooked. Maybe I’ll be able to post that one next year.

Happy Father’s Day to my friends and relatives, wherever you are.  May you spend the day with people you love, cold beverages and a good baseball game.

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Dads about Dads

By GLYNIS VALENTI Times Leader Staff Writer

Father’s Day is a relatively new holiday, signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1972. It’s one of the top four holidays for the greeting card industry, with 95 million cards sold in 2010. The necktie industry has also benefited, and, cliché as it may be, ties were still the most common Father’s Day gifts in recent years.

                What do fathers really want for Father’s Day? More importantly, what do they want for their children? What have they learned from their own fathers? This writer interviewed four dads who confirm that fatherhood is more than biology.

How have your parents influenced you?

David B. (father of 3:) I think my parents have a strong sense of right and wrong, and they didn't compromise. I guess that makes them "strict," but I prefer to think of it as holding firm to convictions. I see that in me.

Larry M. (father of 4, grandfather of 5:) I was blessed with unbelievable parents. My mother was always in my corner, whether I was right or I was wrong. She always fought for me. Dad always took time out of his busy schedule to talk to me and guide me. I worked the farm with him, so farming gave me the opportunity to spend more time with him than other people might have with their fathers. He also knew when to hold back. He allowed you to make mistakes without letting you get hurt.

Kelly M. (father of 3 plus 3 step-children from a second marriage, grandfather of 2:) My parents divorced when I was 2 years old. My dad did what he could—coached my little league teams, showed up to my games. There was a big age difference, and my older brother and sister were pretty much out of the house by the time I was 6. My mother raised us until that point by herself. Even so, my family was always close, getting together for all the holidays and birthdays. We’ve always been a strong family unit.

Ken S. (father of 2, grandfather of 4:) I had excellent, excellent parents. My mother taught us to respect everyone, and she taught me how to be a gentleman. My father always said to trust everyone until they give you a reason not to trust them. He always gave good advice. He died at age 39 when I was a senior in high school. That’s something that I regret, that I miss—not knowing my father or having him here while I’ve been an adult.

 What are a father’s responsibilities?

David B.:  A father shows his children with his example how they should live, not just by telling them what they should do and how they should behave. He instills a sense of worth and positive self-esteem. He teaches his sons how to treat women and teaches his daughters how they can expect to be treated by men. If he does a terrible job, then another generation learns bad behavior, but if he does a good job, the world is a better place.

Larry M: Protecting them, providing a stable place for your children to develop and hope that they become sustaining citizens.

Kelly M: To raise his kids to be productive adults and to keep them safe. At one point, though, you have no control, and you have to let them go on to live their own lives.

Ken S.: The welfare of the children, including provision, safety and faith. Faith is as important as anything else. You have to feed them spiritually, too. 

 Do you have a favorite memory of your own father?

David B.: As I have gotten older, I really value the way my father has become more of a counselor and advisor to me. I value his input and opinion on life decisions.

 Larry M.: His sayings that I quote all the time, his guidance as I went into public life. I knew he was always there for me. When Dad passed away, my son gave the eulogy and said, “Older people claim to be able to talk to young people. Grandpa listened.”

Kelly M.: He was never afraid to take chances on anything, and if he wasn’t happy, he would just…go. He would say, “Why stay and be miserable?” I think there’s a part of everyone who wants to do that, live like that. He was all about being happy.

Ken S.: I was 6 years old. He and I were driving down a road in his black and chrome Ford Fairlane 500. He pointed at the rearview mirror and said to me, “This mirror is here because sometimes you have to look at where you’ve been to see where you’re going.” I never forgot that.

 Do you have a most memorable Father’s Day?

David B.: Probably my most memorable Father's Day was my first one. Nothing too special happened that day--we had a picnic at a park, I think. But I was very excited to be able to celebrate.

Larry M.: It was my daughter’s two children giving me that picture [a painting of Larry’s father on a tractor.] Dad was sick at the time; it was just before he died. They saw tears in my eyes and thought I didn’t like it, but that wasn’t it at all. There was a moment of “the handing over of the reins,” so to speak. I realized I was going to be the new patriarch of the family.

Kelly M.: A few years ago my son came into town [from Kentucky] for that weekend, and we spent the day at my dad’s house. It was one of those times I wished would never end.

Ken S.: We went to Tappan Lake for a picnic and spent all day there. All of us got sunburned.

 What do fathers want for their own children?

David B.: I think most fathers want the standard happy and healthy for their kids. Also, I think most fathers hope that their kids turn out better than they did and don't make the same mistakes they did.

Larry M.: Every night I used to whisper a little prayer in my kids’ ears, “May God bless you and keep you happy, healthy and strong.” If they can grow up that way and remain that way, then a father’s work is done.

Kelly M.: When you’re divorced your hands are tied in a lot of areas. You miss out on so many things. I want them to be happy and healthy. I hope they are.

Ken S.: To be happy, healthy, safe, to do better than we did. Ditto for the grandchildren, by the way. I thought it would be cool to have grandchildren, but you don’t know until you have them. It’s much cooler than I imagined.

 So, what do fathers really want for Father’s Day?

David B.:  A little bit of peace and quiet!

Larry M.: I always told them don’t buy gifts because if I want it and can afford it, I probably already have it. If I don’t have it, it’s because I can’t afford it, and I know you can’t afford it either. I think a hug and an “I love you” is probably the best thing. The sharing of that is really special.

Kelly M.: I never want presents. I guess I really just want a phone call to let me know they’re okay.

Ken S.: A card is good. They usually get me a lot more. Don’t tell them, but I’d be fine with the card.

To Market--Scenes from Opening Day

Yay! It's farmer's market season, which means fresh, healthy, locally grown produce from hard-working neighbors. The growing season is running about a month behind, but tables displayed rhubarb, blueberries, potatoes, herbs, popcorn, baked goods, essential oils and flowers. So fun to see everyone.  A vendor named Michelle has revived the art of tatting, and new vendor Hilltop Coffee roasts small batches of free trade, organic beans for sale. This year market manager Meggan Pasqualla has arranged for live music, too. Susan West greeted everyone with a sweet honeysuckle bouquet. Ken Swisher had a "take one" basket of non-GMO peppermint puffs. I purchased eggs (from Crossroads Farm,) and potatoes and one of Diane Conroy's raspberry and white chocolate scones for tomorrow's breakfast. Mmm, mmm.

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The Next Chapter

Well. Here we are, and here we go. If you’ve been reading my blog, you are aware of the “themes,” the “mantras,” the “riffs” that run through my thoughts and life.  The Universe has been at work again, and I have a new blog site. GoDaddy discontinued their blog product and told everyone they had to move, so I packed up all 250+ entries from the past seven years, and here I am.

I, of course, am at another plateau anyway. Since last year, I have been “releasing.” I copied all of my years of blog posts into a Word doc—1,101 letter-sized pages of photos and words. Scanning through those entries reminded me why I moved to Oregon and what I can do when I’m working creatively.

As the world at large moves into its next phase, my world is shifting, too. There are new causes to explore and priorities to rearrange. Sorting through the house after my parents’ deaths in November is teaching me much about release. Let go of the sets of Time-Life books; one only needs so many throw blankets; keep my grandmother’s jewelry box. As it happens, my niece is moving into her first solo apartment, so she will be able to use some of her grandparents’ furniture, dishes and pans. This is good.

I’ve turned inward to release habits and thought patterns that no longer work for me. My focus is on evolution and re-finding my purpose, though I suspect part of it does include the journey here to help my parents these last four years. Now, though, I feel myself running in place, excited to move on, yet not quite knowing in which direction.

Just last week a friend posted that her “overworked and overwrought” husband is leaving his job “to take time to smell the roses. And to fish.” I say, “YES! Do it!” I’ve leapt off that cliff in the past and feel myself moving toward the edge again. Writing, photography, teaching, consulting, wine—I’ve done this before. The hard part is honing in all of the possibilities to develop something doable that makes sense. 

These photos are from a field trip I took recently with high school art students. It was great to be at the Carnegie Museum with them and to wander amidst art and creatures from other eras. The pot in the first photo is decorated with the archetypal swirl that appears in nearly every culture throughout millennia, always symbolizing change, transition, birth, growth. I've been drawn to the swirl for a long time and used a version of it for my first business logo in Rochester and Oregon. This pot is more than 5,000 years old. Fascinating. These objects are ancient, but the beauty and drama of their energy live on as the world continues its story.