Monday, November 29, 2010

Butterfly Eggs

It's T-minus 2 days until Christmas and butterfly eggs are not at the top of my list at the moment. But I've been mulling them over for a while now, so here they are....

Increasingly, I want my time and energy to be spent on things that matter to me. I want to have time to develop artistic and creative impulses. I want time to hone my spiritual practice and I want to live in closer harmony with the earth and its cycles. I feel a calling to help others find peace and healing through artistic and creative pursuits. This egg is already pretty clear, but it leads to.........

Personal Financial Health
No small part of the equation. After 20+ years in education, and more recently the third consecutive year of a furloughed salary, the coffers aren't exactly brimming over. In fact, the coffers are coughing - I'd go so far as to say they're gasping for breath. But hope springs eternal. There are things I can do, and my son is flying the nest even as I type, so I will begin to get a clearer picture of how much it costs me...just live. One big step in the right direction would be.............

Tiny House
It's rare that I catch on to a wave way before it crests, but it would appear that's the case with this whole tiny house thing. Is the movement gathering more momentum lately, or is it just that now I'm more attuned to it? I don't know. Either way, I'm seeing more and more about it in mainstream forums. And it's surprising how much the idea seems to resonate with others I talk to - that, I didn't anticipate. So the incubation of this egg involves further research into house plans, locations and architects/builders.

The next eggs have to do with Establishing a Business of my own. My son keeps urging me to think about a business plan that doesn't involve a bricks and mortar location. At first I didn't see how that would be possible, but I'm starting to catch on and I think he might be right. I'm fully aware that something like this takes time to get off the ground, and additional part-time employment might always be necessary, but the good news is that I can get started on this part of the program while I'm still employed full-time. So far the knitting business eggs include:

Shows and Festivals

Knitting Instruction

Knitting parties, excursions, etc.

Knitting as meditation

Knitting for charities

Creating a web page

Starting a business related blog

Knitted products

So there it is - the framework. Now I'll spend the winter fleshing out all these ideas, and that will make me happy.

Everyone have a Happy and Blessed Holiday - whichever one you celebrate!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Butterflies Are Free

A few months ago I went to the monthly meeting of a local women's group. The theme for the evening - fittingly enough - was Native American, The Butterfly Moon. Each of us was asked to liken ourselves to a butterfly in some way. I said that I thought my activities of late could be compared to the purposeful meandering of a butterfly; that what, at first glance, seemed to be the fanciful but erratic flight of a butterfly actually had an underlying intent. That right now in my life I'm trying to lay the foundation for a metamorphosis (another butterfly analogy), so I'm sampling. I'm flitting from here to there, a little of this, a little of that, a nip or two across the way. It's not wholly undirected, and each stop provides me with a little more information, a bit more nourishment.

The past couple of months I've been doing quite a lot of that. In late September I went on a four day spiritual retreat in the Pocono Mountains, along with 45 other like-minded souls. In early October, assisted by my friend Kelly, I took my first stab at setting up a knitting booth at the Chesapeake Celtic Festival on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Somewhere in there I embarked upon a course offered by the Craft Yarn Council that will certify me as a knitting instructor. I've been thinking a lot about what seems to be missing in people's lives and about what I can contribute. I've stayed on the trail of the tiny house. I've been reading, researching, networking, and jotting down ideas. So... good. Nice work. I've been a busy little butterfly. Now what?

Now the days are growing shorter and colder, and I'm tired and feeling disorganized. How do I make order out of all the bits and pieces accumulated over the past weeks? That's where I think the butterfly analogy continues to serve me. Let's say that each of those areas I've sampled becomes a perfect little butterfly egg. I will lay them all down and over the dark months they will continue to incubate (and yes, I know that's not really quite how the butterfly gestation thing works, just stay with me) as I flesh them out more in my mind. Some may not make it through the winter. In the spring some caterpillars will hatch and a few might get picked off, but the strongest will hopefully have survived. And then it will be time for those butterfly caterpillars to get busy again!

So what, you might ask, is the caption underneath each of those little butterfly eggs? Determining that will be my task for the next post. I'm happy to be back!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy......

It's been a bit since I've posted. From the middle of September to about the second week in November is always a busy time. Between work and personal interests/events I'm on the go most of that time, and this year is no exception. Lots happening, and I'll have plenty of thoughts to sort out via the blog once November rolls around. In the meantime, I'm posting this wonderful work by artist Larry MacDougall, entitled "Moving Day." It seemed to fit the spirit of this blog perfectly, and I thank Shane Odom for sharing it.

Have a good October, and I'll post again in the Celtic New Year!


Friday, September 10, 2010

Only One Wish

I've had a bad week. Health problems, car problems, my son in a bad place, frustration in the workplace. I've been feeling angry and bitter.

So this morning it's time to stop and take stock of where the good bits have been over the past few days. The weather yesterday and today has been absolutely gorgeous. The time I've missed at work because of the transportation issue has enabled me to make some progress on the sort out at home. And yesterday the universe once again handed me a gift in the form of a lead on a local architect who specializes in inexpensive sustainable homes.

It's also time to remember why I'm going down this "daring to be happy" road. I made a friend this summer who's from Serbia. He's been here for the summer on a work visa, leaving his wife and family back home. He goes back in a few days, and while we exchanged contact information so that his family and mine can stay in touch, we got talking about things. I told him all I want is a quiet simple life. He said it's the same for him, and how the civil war in his country has made him appreciate the importance - the good luck really - of being whole and healthy. He said that "If you are healthy you have lots of wishes. If you are sick, you have only one wish." Clearly adversity has made him wise.

That's the whole point of all this for me too. I want to be healthy - physically, mentally and emotionally, financially, environmentally.

When times are rough I need to remember to have only one wish.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Really BIG Thing to Know About

It seems to me that Goodwill Industries has gotten a mite picky lately. I'd heard it from others, but experienced it myself for the first time this weekend when I took a couple of boxes to our local 'superstore.' The boxes contained, among other things, some books - some good books. The first box was thrust back at me with the rather surly comment, "We don't take these, we only take novels." Then a second later, "Oh, these are cookbooks. Okay, yeah, we'll take cookbooks." Second pile..."No, we don't take reference books. No reference books." ...Really? Where's the goodwill?

Since it goes completely against the grain for me to toss out a book, no matter how much I don't need it, I turned next to the local public library. The librarian cheerfully took my donation, but also told me about a wonderful local initiative - Books for International Goodwill, or BIG.

Started 15 years ago by the Parole Rotary Club of Annapolis, BIG has shipped almost 4 million books to poor communities overseas and in this country to Indian Reservations and communities recovering from natural disasters. They have sent books to Africa, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, and to US Service Personnel, Peace Corps volunteers and other mission-sponsored schools. BIG "believe(s) that the route to world peace and prosperity is through giving people the tools to learn how to feed their minds....."

BIG is an all volunteer organization, they have two drop-off points in the Annapolis area, and they will take anything - even reference books.

Now there's goodwill. It makes me happy.

BIG is having a book sale at their new warehouse on Saturday, September 18th. For more information go to

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Finding Home - On the Trail of the Tiny House

Sometimes the universe hands you something so right, so timely - and so unexpectedly - you just know beyond a doubt that it's more than mere coincidence. That was how I felt when I discovered a feature about people who are in fact building the condo sized single family homes I'd imagined while trying to figure out my own lifestyle conundrum. And so my search for the perfect tiny house begins. Unfortunately, the Tumbleweed Tiny Houses book I ordered sold out immediately after that feature and delivery of the next printing has been delayed another two weeks, so I'm going to have to be patient and wait for my copy to arrive. In the meantime, I've been poring over information on other tiny house companies and plans as well. Here's a summary (in alphabetical order) :

BC Mountain Homes
Most of these are two story models; something I'm not interested in. The porches and decks are nice, but for the most part I don't find the exteriors attractive and there aren't enough windows.

Country Plans
The Builder's Cottage model is cute, but the sleeping area would have to be in a second story loft in order to have enough space. I'm too old to climb a ladder to go to bed, no matter how cozy that loft might be - not to mention those middle of the night trips to the bathroom! The Grandfather Cottage looked interesting, but there were no floor plans on the web page.

Goodfit, Ross Chapin Architects
I didn't like the boxy style of these houses, and it didn't feel like the interior space flowed well.

Stone Mountain Cabins
These are really lovely. I'm afraid the cost of some materials (stone) might be prohibitive, but perhaps there are other exterior finish options. The Cub Creek model is very appealing, the right size, nice big windows, and a good floor plan. The entry is through a covered side porch and into the kitchen - I like that.

Timberframe Houseplans Ltd.
The Gaspereau Cottage is cute and its floor plan is nice and open, but again, it's a two story house.
Very nice models, and very professionally rendered on the web page. The exteriors are a little 'much' for my taste though, and while the floor plans are interesting, they probably don't work well for my needs.

Tumbleweed Tiny House Company
The Whidbey seems to be the Tumbleweed model I like the best. All on one floor, about the right size (though maybe a bit too tiny), a good layout and I love the exterior and all the windows. It has a cute little front porch, a transition area inside the front door, and extra storage space in the loft.

So it would appear that from my initial investigation of companies and house plans, I've narrowed it down to two models - Stone Mountain Cabins' Cub Creek plan, and Tumbleweed Tiny House Co's Whidbey plan. In future posts I'll look at these two sets of house plans side by side and in more detail. I also welcome information from readers on other builders and homes I've not already stumbled upon.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Finding Home - The Dream Sheet

When I was younger my ideal home was a rambling old farmhouse, Victorian era preferably, with lots of wood and architectural interest, a wrap around porch, and plenty of land for growing things and catering to wildlife. Of course, that vision included a husband and children to help with it all. Once I was a single working mother, I learned to appreciate the feeling of safety and convenience living closer to 'civilization' afforded. Now my son is grown and about to launch, and I find myself at yet another turning point in life.

So what do I want now, really? To some extent it depends on when you ask me. If you ask while I'm doing laundry, I'll tell you I want a laundry room that isn't two floors away from my bedroom. If you ask me in the spring, I'll tell you I need way more room to garden - in mid-August I'll tell you a small garden is really more practical. If I've just stubbed my toe or whacked my elbow on something, I'll tell you I need more room. But when I'm cleaning or doing exterior maintenance, I'll tell you I need a much smaller place. You get the picture. Obviously I need to organize my thoughts about how much and what kinds of space I need.

The basics are fairly easy:
  • Kitchen/Dining - I like to cook when the conditions are right and the kitchen is organized and well stocked, but I'm not a gourmet chef and have no inclination in that direction. Moderate amount of space here.
  • Bathroom - bigger than I have now, that's for sure, but again fairly basic. As much as I love a good relaxing soak in a garden tub, I don't want to have to clean it - I can do without.
  • Laundry room (or closet) - I'm flexible here but I'm also a woman; gotta have room to hang up those delicates.
Now it starts to get a bit more difficult. The spaces that, theoretically, I should be using on a regular basis are the living room, my large bedroom, and my workroom. The reality is that I spend most of my time in my bedroom. I rarely use the living room, and the workroom almost never except to store materials. Clearly, I can be happy with less space, especially if it's well organized.

The problem of course, is my hobbies. I read a lot, I engage in a variety of fiber arts, I draw and photograph, and I garden. Translation: books, paper, yarn, thread, canvas, beads, fabric, markers, brushes, assorted tools, and photographic equipment. How do I create storage and workspace - a studio in effect - without having to live amidst clutter? This will be the biggest challenge.

Finally, I want everything on one floor, with lots and lots of windows. A transition space at the front entry, and a covered porch somewhere would be lovely. Extra storage is always a plus. And yes, more room to garden - even in August.

Now that I have a clearer picture, it will be easier to evaluate those tiny house time.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

"Eat, Pray, Love" .... Me

I went to see “Eat, Pray, Love” last night. Not because of the incredible hype surrounding the release of the film, but because I wanted to see if I would relate to the heroine. At first it was hard. It’s tough to feel sorry for a woman who’s feeling sad while taking an entire year to travel the globe in search of herself, starting with four months in Italy eating pasta, shopping and sight-seeing with new-found friends. Still not with her as she whines her way to India. (I didn’t have to go scrub floors at an ashram in India to build my character, sweetie - plenty of opportunity for that here on the home front, ya know?) But about halfway through India, Liz’s story and mine began to seem not all that different, really.

Without spoiling it for anyone who might want to see it, the film is about a lot of things. It’s about having lost yourself. It’s about understanding your past and its context in the present. It’s about finding your place and your peace with your God. And it’s about how - having reclaimed your balance - to be unafraid to lose it again in the interest of life and love. It’s about understanding the process. For Liz and for me, it’s about daring to be happy.

Next time, back to "Finding Home."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Progress Isn't Linear

Today I'm having a hard time imagining where the energy for all this 'daring-do' is going to come from. I'm feeling draggy, a big gaping hole where my motivation should be. It will pass. Just thought it important to point out that I'm not Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, and sometimes this initiative is going to feel all uphill. Ah well. Another cup of coffee please . . . .

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Finding Home

When it comes to domiciles, I’ve done just about everything. I’ve lived in single family homes, I’ve lived in apartments, I’ve lived in a condo. I’ve lived in a large townhouse and a small townhouse. I’ve rented a room in a house, I’ve lived in a dormitory, and I’ve lived in a camper traveling across country and back. I’ve lived in a motel waiting for a house to be built, and I’ve set up temporary homes away from home in luxury hotels a week here and a week there while traveling on University business. One would think that with all that experience I’d have developed a clear preference by now. But the truth is, they all have their pros and cons and I’ve been having a hard time deciding what would make me happiest.

Then a couple of weeks ago did a piece on a fellow named Jay Shafer and his Tiny Tumbleweed houses. The model featured was an 87 square foot home on wheels that you’d really have to say is a glorified camper. But the reader was regaled with stories of individuals who had built tiny homes for barely more than their annual tax return, thereby freeing themselves from mortgage payments, sky-rocketing utility bills and the trappings of a materialistic society. Hmmm. Come on though – 87 square feet? My bedroom is bigger than that. Still, the concept itself is intriguing – small, space-efficient homes that are fiscally, physically, and environmentally sustainable. Even for someone like me.

It turns out, there’s a whole tiny house ‘movement’ going on out there. Somehow I doubt there’s any danger of the tiny house becoming the home of the future – this is America after all, we’re not big on small and humble – but apparently it’s an option. And it’s one I intend to research further. I need more than 87 square feet to be sure. But if I think about the amount of space I have now, and how much of it I actually live in on a regular basis, the not so big house concept really makes a lot of sense. Especially for someone like me.

In coming posts I’ll look at some of the tiny or not-so-big homes and builders out there, but for now check out the photos (right) of Simon’s Eco House in … wait for it ….. Wales, home of at least half of my ancestors. Clicking on any of the photos will take you to more information.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Beginning Again

Not too long ago I read an article – a collection of case studies, really – about some people who had made life altering decisions in the wake of this country’s economic bust and, by extension, their own personal Armageddons. Their choices were unconventional, creative, and in some cases bold. While the jury was still out for some, others had discovered that – huh! – their lives before hadn’t been working all that well for them anyway. It got me thinking.

I’ve never been much for the American dream of more, bigger, better. All I’ve ever wanted was a quiet, meaningful life. But it can be hard to swim upstream against the current of affluence and extravagance. As a single (divorced) working mother, life has often been a struggle. Still, I’ve been more fortunate than many in my position. I have a roof over my head, enough to eat, a loving son, and if my job isn’t exactly lucrative and the professional satisfaction is waning, I am – at least as of this writing – still employed.

Over the coming year there will be changes in my life whether I do anything or not. My son will leave the nest. In September I will turn 55. The sand is still shifting under the nation’s financial foundation, and a global climate and environmental crisis looms large. Sure seems to me like a good time to make some daring moves. I hope this blog will help me sort out my thoughts and keep me on track along the way. And if, through my experiences, someone else gets a spark of inspiration or some insight into their own situation, then my work here will be done.

I feel it only fair to warn you, this is also my first experience as a serious blogger – I may or may not know what I’m doing. Where appropriate, I promise to change the names to protect the innocent, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be sharing anything here that could potentially pique the interest of Homeland Security. Thus endeth my disclaimer. Come along if you dare ……