Archive for the ‘Flashback Friday’ Category

Many years ago, when I was in junior high, I took ballet and pointe lessons.  Having tried tap dance in elementary school, I found that I preferred ballet and concentrated on that once I reached 12 years old instead of doing the joint tap and ballet lessons that are commonly done with children.

When I was in fifth and sixth grade, I remember wanting to dance en pointe (also just referred to as pointe) which means dancing “on the tips of the toes.” It is part of classical ballet technique, usually practiced using specially reinforced shoes called pointe shoes or toe shoes.
Sophia trying on my pointe shoe.

My toe shoes were pink with pink satin laces.  To protect them, I put a white canvas covering on them so that they would look nice for the end-of-the-year recital.  I’m glad I did this because the canvas coverings were so dirty and beat-up looking after a few practices that they always needed washing.  
This fall, I found my toe shoes, the canvas shoe coverings, the sheepskin padding (this covered the toes and helped protect and cushion them a bit when dancing), ballet slippers, and leotard (actually it was one of the half-leotards – we would just wear shirts with the half-leotards and tights in class) in my yellow dance bag.  I was cleaning out a closet and getting rid of things that I no longer needed or wanted.  The shoes…well…even though I don’t wear them I couldn’t part with them.
So, I pulled them out and showed my daughters.  They were fascinated with how different the shoes looked from traditional ballet slippers.  “Put them on! Put them on!” they begged.
“It’s been years since I’ve worn these,” I said as I put them on.  Wrapping the ribbons around my ankles seemed second-nature.  It’s like riding a bike…you don’t even think about how you’re riding…it just is an automatic skill.  
“I remember the first time the girls and I were in class and put on our shoes.  We all took the ribbons and started wrapping them up our legs – like up to our knees!  When our dance teacher – who had left the room for a moment and then came back – saw us, she yelled in a rather sharp tone, ‘What are you girls doing?  That’s not how you put on the shoes.”  She wasn’t known for her gentle delivery or guidance.
Sophia trying on my shoes from many years ago.
By that time, I had my shoes on.  “Mom, go up on your toes!” 
“Remember…it’s been years, girls, since I’ve danced.”
“That’s ok….just go up on your toes,” they said as their eyes were focused on the shoes. 
And all I had to do was go up en pointe and show them a few warm-ups and steps that I could remember.  It was interesting how quickly I could recall standing at the barre and doing the various exercises and positions. 
It was a good workout and something I enjoyed doing.  The only drawback was that I never did find a solution to getting blisters or the skin ripped off my toes each week.  I would wear bandaids and trim my nails so low, but it didn’t matter.  I think the pressure of the toes against one another in such a tiny space created problems despite the padding and bandaids. 
The other part I liked a lot was the recital when I got to wear costumes.  The first year, when I was in 7th grade, the costume was pink and the tutu was covered with feathers.  I remember the younger dancers behind stage reaching out and touching the tutus as my class made its way to the side of stage where we waited our turn. 
Sophia on her toes…but not for long. 
At least a few times a week, the girls pull out my old shoes, look at them, try them on, and try to go up on their toes.  They don’t last up there very long.  It takes a bit of getting use to.  Take a look at the picture above and you can see that Sophia is concentrating quite a bit – she’s biting her lips and one of her hands is in a fist. 
I ask her if learning to dance is something she’d enjoy doing.  “Not unless I can be on my toes,” is her answer.  That can’t happen until she’s 12 years old because serious foot deformities can result from starting pointe too early. The exception would be if her feet have ossified sufficiently in which case she could start earlier.  However, I think it’s better to wait until her feet have stopped growing rather than permanently damage them.

Until then, putting the shoes on and playing in them…that’s fine.  At least the shoes are getting used and being enjoyed once again.


Read Full Post »

I’ve always enjoyed being around animals – domestic, livestock, or wild.  One of my favorite memories is of traveling to Australia back in 1995.  Traveling along the east coast from Sydney to Cairns, there were many opportunities to see wildlife – the majority of which I have never seen in the United States.
By far, the most vivid memory I have is of visiting Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane (Australia).  It’s the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary and has over 130 koalas. It is rated as one of the top 10 zoos in the world by AOL. 
In addition to enjoying seeing the widlife in a beautiful, natural setting, there are opportunities to hold koalas and hand-feed kangaroos.
Me holding a koala. 
See the koala’s paws?  Apparently if the koala is comfortable, it will tighten its grip – just like it would in a tree before it rests.  I became the tree moments after this picture was taken.  The little koala there had quite the grip.  I didn’t mind for a while because it was soft and such an incredible opportunity. 
Another interesting thing about the koala’s paw:  there are five digits on each front paw, two of which are opposed to the others, much like our thumbs are able to be moved differently from the fingers. This helps them to hold firmly onto the branches and to grip their food. The second and third digits on their hind paws are fused together to form a grooming claw.

Since visiting Australia, holding a koala has been banned in New South Wales (a new law in 1997).  However, people can still hold koalas in Queensland – where Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is located. 

In Queensland, koalas can only be held for less than 30 minutes per day. They must also get every third day off. This ensures that they get plenty of time to eat and sleep. At Lone Pine, they “clock on” and “clock off” their koalas when they go to the koala cuddling area.

According to the Australian Koala Foundation, “Koalas are in serious decline suffering from the effects of habitat destruction, domestic dog attacks, bushfires and road accidents. The Australian Koala Foundation estimates that there are less than 80,000 koalas left in the wild, possibly as few as 43,000.”   

To read more about koalas, visit the Australian Koala Foundation.

The other animal that stands out from the trip to Australia is the kangaroo.  I had never seen a kangaroo (except on t.v.), so this was incredibly interesting for me to see them hop around.  I was able to feed some kangaroos at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary where there was a 5-acre kangaroo reserve. 

There were over 100 kangaroos and wallabies hopping about.  Thankfully, not that many swarmed around when I came in with a bag of kangaroo food that was available at the little stand at the sanctuary. (I would have been a bit scared if that had happened.)

I remember opening the gate and going into the enclosure, and wondering where all the kangaroos were.  It was only a few minutes and there they were – standing at the top of a small hill.  Then they starting hopping down towards me.  It was a bit intimidating until only a brave handful of kangaroos came to me.

Me feeding some kangaroos
This small group of five kangaroos were the most eager to eat.  The little ones were less intimidating than those two larger ones that were almost as tall as I was.  It was fun to feed them.  They were all quite docile and friendly.  Though, one of those big kangaroos, wasn’t too happy when the food ran out.  It wanted more.  I felt like that would a great time to leave the enclosure…I didn’t want to know what a kangaroo who wanted more food was capable of doing. 

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary had five different species of kangaroos and wallabies (Grey Kangaroo, Red Kangaroo, Pretty-faced Wallaby, Swamp wallaby, and Red neck Wallaby).  The kangaroos I fed all appear to be the same species to me.

What was exciting, too, was that there were all different ages of kangaroos there.  I especially enjoyed seeing the joeys inside the pouches.  It reminded me of the Halloween costume my mom made for me one year when I was about six years old.  I was a kangaroo and my mom put a a toy kangaroo in the costume’s pouch.

Read Full Post »

I’ve continued to take pictures out of scrapbooks this past week since many of the scrapbooks are the old-fashioned kind that destroys pictures rather than preserves them.
One of the things that I can across were pictures of homes or apartments that I had lived in during my adult life – after graduating from college.  
The first apartment was at Wendover Glen in Charlotte (North Carolina).  At Wendover Glen, there were two different units that I lived in.  The first one faced the woods while the second one faced the street (across from which there was a crack village.  Literally. The neighborhood was a very rough one…and certainly one that I felt like I needed to drive through quickly as I made my way to work).
Shortly after moving in, Hurricane Hugo hit the eastern coast and the strong winds and rain made the whole apartment complex look like it was painted with leaves.  The sides of the buildings, the windows, the vehicles in the parking lot – everything – was covered with green leaves.  
The best part of the apartment: 
French doors leading to a small patio.

In the middle of the night, the wind was so strong it snapped a tree in half in the woods – not more than 20 feet from the apartment.  Having not lived in an area where there were hurricanes, it was certainly an interesting (and memorable) experience. 
Home is a shelter from storms – all sorts of storms. 
~William J. Bennett
The second apartment was on Locksley Avenue in San Francisco.  9L…I think that was the apartment number.  The apartment was on the 9th floor facing Mt. Sutro – and offered a great view of the fog rolling in each afternoon. 
The apartment complex at the top of the road.

The most attractive feature about the apartment:  the fact that it had steel construction to help steady the apartment during an earthquake.  This was very important because there was a major earthquake in the Bay area in 1989 – a couple years before moving there.

The bridge that had collapsed was still being repaired.  It was a sobering reminder of the power of earthquakes.  So, having a more “sturdy” apartment was important…plus they took dogs. 

The light is what guides you home,
the warmth is what keeps you there. 
~Ellie Rodriguez

One of the challenges of living on the 9th floor (second floor from the top floor) was that often the elevator was slow to arrive.  That meant that after work I would rush home to let Sydne (the golden retriever) out.  We waited patiently for the elevator.  If it was more than a few minutes, Sydne and I would walk quickly down 9 flights of steps to go outside.  It was a good workout, I guess.

Moving day from San Francisco to Minneapolis.

The next move was to a small, starter home in Minneapolis.  This picture was taken in the spring after moving in because there isn’t a fence around the backyard (one of the first of many improvements made to the home to keep the dog safe and give a bit more privacy). 

First home in Minneapolis.

See that concrete driveway?  Since it came out next to the house (rather than the middle of the block), everyone thought it was a driveway.  It wasn’t.  It was the alley entrance.  Needless to say, the first time a car drove slowly by the kitchen window (to the left of the side door), I was shocked.  Curtains went up shortly thereafter. 

Within the first six months of living at the Minneapolis home, it was time to begin looking for another home further out from the city.  Living under the constant noise of airplane traffic was a bit stressful.  Some of the planes flew so low that I could read the numbers on their sides. 

I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world. 
~George Washington
 After much searching, there was a tiny five-line advertisement in the paper for a home in the country.  The real estate agent warned that it was “far out…it’s a very long drive from the city” and that the “floors slope…it’s an old country home.” 
Pulling up into the driveway when the real estate agent showed the home for the first time, my immediate reaction was, “This feels like home.”  And it has been…for over 15 years years now (16 in September 2011). 

Home in Winter
The home in the middle of winter.
The home was built in 1890, with a 600 square foot addition built in 1999 (it’s on the left side of this picture) where there’s a seam in the siding.  (The home has been re-roofed and re-sided due to storm damage from two major storms a couple of years ago, so it looks a bit more “cohesive” now that there isn’t a siding seam in the front.)
This is the home where I’ve lived the longest in my life – even longer than the homes of my childhood.  I lived in North Minneapolis (the Camden area) for 8 years, and then moved to Plymouth (Minnesota) for the next ten years. 

As I look back on the pictures of the apartments and home, I still consider the present farm home (the last one pictured above) as my home.  (The home in Plymouth has been my parents’ home since 1974, and one that I consider my childhood home.)

Peace – that was the other name for home. 
~Kathleen Norris
The underlying characteristic of both of these homes is that they are in peaceful, quiet surroundings.  Nature (birds and wildlife) as well as water are present (a lake, in the case of my childhood home; a pond in the case of the farm home).   Both homes have provided comfort, solace, and a sense of retreat.  They’ve been a source of inspiration and creativity. 
Both homes are filled with memories…ones that are happy, funny, and filled with laughter.  And, as with any home, some memories that are more challenging or sad.  But, in life there are both pleasant and difficult times.  It’s the comfort and security of the home which helped minimize the difficult times and help bring the positive memories to the forefront.
Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do…
but how much love we put in that action.
~ Mother Teresa 

Read Full Post »

I was looking at photos from the Create & Cultivate Art Camp program that was held here at the farm from 2000-2003 this morning.  One of the artists with whom I was honored to have work here was D’Arcy Teasley.  Her work was (and continues to be) thoughtful, engaging, and reflective of an incredibly creative and talented artist. 

While she worked at Harvest Moon’s Art Camp, she did some large-scale, multi-day projects with the children who ranged in age from 6-11 years old.  One of the first projects D’Arcy did was to create a labyrinth in the east pasture. 

The children, teen camp counselors, and D’Arcy used rocks gathered from a nearby farmer’s field to line the pathway.  The pathway is covered with bark chips.

Four of the art camp participants by the labyrinth
The children learned the difference between a labyrinth and a maze; heard the Greek myth about the Minotaur and the labyrinth; and were able to walk/dance/hop/skip to the center of the labyrinth on the last day and receive a special necklace that D’Arcy made for each child. 

Another year, D’Arcy guided the children in making a huge storytelling lodge.  The children wove tree branches, grasses, and other natural elements into the lodge that held about 15 children and teens. 

The lodge was built on the back part of the farm – in an open field that had no trees at the time.  Needless to say, in the middle of the summer when the days were very hot and sunny, it was challenging doing construction work. 
However, by the time the lodge was completed and fully enclosed, it was a much cooler place of retreat and escape; and was a comforting spot where one could tell or listen to stories, enjoy a picnic, or relax while listening to the quiet of the country. 

Children in the finished lodge listening to a story.

The final large-scale project D’Arcy did during the Art Camp was a Peace Village.  This was also done in the back part of the property where the nature trail is located.  There were four structures – including a tipi, wigwam, and two other home-structures of different shapes.

If I’m recalling this correctly, I believe D’Arcy designed all four structures to use the same “footprint” in terms of size on the ground.  However, the way the sides were constructed yielded different size homes from the ground to top of the different structures.  Some homes felt smaller (like the tipi) while others felt much larger where the sides simply went straight (rather than angled in to a center point).

Each of the homes in the Peace Village were large – many children could sit in each one.  There were pathways connecting the homes to one another, and tie-dyed and decorated flags that the children made were strung from each of the homes to one another. 

Flags connecting the homes in the Peace Village

It was an incredibly cool project, and one that the children and teens were equally engaged in building and playing in.  The childen were very proud of their work in creating the homes, and were excited to show their parents at the art show on the last day of camp.

Peace village with four homes
What ties these pieces together as I look at them now is that they all used “discarded” wood products – tree limbs and branches that were trimmed; stones from a farmer’s rock pile that he didn’t want; and other natural elements that would have just been tossed or burned.  Instead, D’Arcy gave new life and purpose to these items. 

She encouraged children to challenge themselves to do things they may never have thought they could do – like build a home or a labyrinth.  D’Arcy brought to life the following quote by Caroline Adams which, I think, is a great reminder of the importance of living a life that is full, purposeful, and meaningful:

“Your life is a sacred journey.
And it is about change, growth, discovery,
movement, transformation,
continuously expanding your vision of what is possible,
stretching your soul,
learning to see clearly and deeply,
listening to your intuition,
taking courageous challenges at every step along the way.
“You are on the path… exactly where you are meant to be right now…
And from here, you can only go forward,
shaping your life story into a magnificent tale of triumph,
of healing of courage, of beauty, of wisdom,
of power, of dignity, and of love.”

Read Full Post »

About 14 years ago, in the middle of January, twin lambs were born here.  Having adopted the parents from a petting zoo (where they were neglected and maltreated), I was still working on developing trust with them.  They were reluctant to get too close to any human being.  Until Oreo was born…

Oreo – the first lamb born at Harvest Moon
It seemed like once Oreo was born, his ewe-mother (“Woolite”) allowed me to help her care for her newborn lamb.  It was critical that she accepted my help since the nights were well below zero. 
Keeping the sheep – “Dacron” (the ram) and Woolite – along with Oreo in the barn was the safest thing to do.  The trio learned very quickly that I was the food source (hay, water, and grain) and the one who made sure they were warm (with a heat lamp and lots of straw). 
Once the weather was warm enough again (above zero) and Oreo was a few days older, the sheep went outdoors again.  This trio – plus many who came after them – provided many hours of enjoyment not only to me but to family, friends, and others who visited the farm.
Woolite with another lamb, “Dali Lamba”
who was born in the spring one year
In looking at past pictures I had scanned and uploaded to my computer many years ago, I came across a few wonderful surprises:  pictures of my parents, niece, and nephew who participated in one of the Grandparent-Grandchild camps I coordinated here at the farm.
I forgot I had these pictures, and, in finding them, they brought back memories of some very happy times. I remember having up to about 50 chickens wandering around the yard and pasture – finding bugs and grass to eat; laying eggs; and taking dust baths in the dirt.
A mother hen watches and protects her chicks.

Some of my favorite memories are when a couple of the more “broody hens” would sit on some eggs for quite a long period of time.  Eventually, a bunch of little chicks would hatch, and then the mother hen would have a new job:  teaching the little ones where to find food and how to stay safe on the farm. 

A chicken coming to get a closer look at my parents, niece, and nephew
on one of the Grandparent-Grandchild Days at Harvest Moon.

As I looked at through some of the (many) pictures taken while I offered camp programs (some just for youth, others for grandparents with grandchildren), I feel incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to work with motivated and positive teenage camp counselors who wanted to make a difference in the lives of children. 

I am equally fortunate to have had the opportunity to work alongside talented artists who inspired children and teens to explore the arts – visual, dance, music, and theater.  The talent that was shared with youth – who would now be in high school or college, or be college graduates – was impressive.  I’m hoping that children and teens who were part of the camp program look back and have some good memories of their time at Harvest Moon.

Two generations working together to make a birdfeeder.

What was nice for me to see when I was looking at pictures from the Grandparent-Grandchild camp were of seniors working and learning with youth – both generations were having fun and learning together.  One of the activities that the grandparent-grandchild teams did was to learn about birds and how to feed them.

I found two pictures – one of my niece with my mom; and one of my nephew with my dad – working on a project together.  They were creating simple birdfeeders in which they spread peanut butter on a cardboard tube and then rolled it in birdseed.

Working together on a birdfeeder.

These feeders and other ones were sent home with the participants so they could put them in their trees and watch the birds eat.  A simple pleasure – feeding and watching the birds – but one that my dad instilled in me as a child.  It’s one that still lives on today.

Read Full Post »

When I think back on birthdays when I was growing up, my mom made an effort to make each person who was celebrating her or his birthday feel special.  We never went out to eat for birthdays (that I can remember) when I was younger, but we were asked what special dinner we wanted.  Often times, I remember choosing tacos or meatloaf. 
There was always a homemade birthday cake with candles and ice cream; and then there would be time to open some presents. 
One of the most memorable cakes I remember my mom made was of a doll standing up in the middle of a cake.  The cake was the bottom of the doll’s skirt.  I could tell she put a lot of time and effort into the cake.  It was beautiful.
I don’t remember receiving a lot of toys on birthdays – maybe one or two – but nothing extravagent.  Rather, more practical gifts were given – socks, underwear, and (perhaps) a new top or shirt. 
My mom took a cake-decorating class one year where she learned how to make roses out of frosting and make the edges of the cakes look pretty.  This is a picture of my mom back in 1982 with her mother and two brothers (Earl, on the left; Paul, on the right). 
This picture was taken in the winter.  In July 1982, my grandma died.  This is the last picture I have of her.

We didn’t take a lot of pictures when I was younger.  With a camera, we were all much more careful with the shots we took and hoped the picture would turn out okay.  There was no second chance. Digital cameras have changed that…thankfully.

I don’t have many pictures of my grandma, and was thrilled to have found this one.  It was in a box that checks come in along with two other pictures (one of a cat I had in college and the other of a sunset on the lake where I grew up); two buttons from high school; three pairs of decorative shoe laces; and two rosaries.  This was my “memory box” from  high school…a rather odd collection of items I chose to keep.   

I found the memory box when I was cleaning out part of a closet that had old scrapbooks in it. My goal is to remove all the photographs from the old scrapbooks so that the photos can be preserved (this was before they made photo-safe photo albums).  I wonder what other treasures I’ll find as I look at the albums.

Read Full Post »

About a year ago, I made a quilt for my Dad who has Alzheimer’s Disease.  It had a variety of images on it – photographs that he and I picked out that were meaningful for him. 

Finished Sensory and Memory Quilt (for my Dad's Christmas Gift)

The black and white picture at the top of this post is one of the photographs that he picked out.  He’s riding a cart attached to his goat at one of the farms where he grew up. 

I can only imagine how much fun that would have been for a child to be riding around in the country with not a care in the world.  Through the years, my dad shared many memories of times that were spent at farms.  It seemed like these some of the best memories that helped sustain him…even as an adult.

Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love,
the things you are,
the things you never want to lose.
~From the television show “The Wonder Years”

Now, as an adult, I live on a small hobby farm.  Many years ago, I had sheep, chickens, horse, and turkeys.  When Sophia and Olivia were adopted, the animals were here. 

Sophia watching the sheep in the pasture.

However, circumstances changed and a farm auction was the end of the livestock.  They went to new homes.  It was a difficult and painful day.

Thankfully, in 2008, a miniature horse and pony came to live at the farm.  The girls are thrilled to have “outdoor animals” again. 

Horses Getting to Know One Another
Olivia introducing Bailey and Hoss to one another. 
They were adopted from the Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue Foundation
and did not know each other prior to living here. 

I’m hoping that the experiences Sophia and Olivia are having now will be pleasant memories when they are adults…and sustain them on days that easy as well as those that are more challenging.

And even if you were in some prison,
the walls of which let none of the sounds of the world come to your senses –
would you not then still have your childhood,
that precious, kingly possession,
that treasure-house of memories?
~Rainer Maria Rilke

Read Full Post »