This blog is going to the birds!

I had just finished writing about fear and facing it this morning when Anna came in from the living room saying there was a scratching sound coming from the chimney.  Libby and I were doing a puzzle at the table and gave it little thought.  Lib suggested Anna hang out with us.  Anna relented and returned to her cozy spot on the couch with Ruby all curled up in her lap.  Three episodes later she was back at the table demanding I do something about it.

Haven't I seen this before?

I looked at Libby and then at Anna.  I’ve had a fear of birds since I was a little girl.  Without knowing where my fear came from, I’ve mastered avoiding them and keeping distance from birds at all costs.  Sue laughed when she saw my Christmas tree in the kitchen adorned with glass birds of silver and gold.  I told the girls it was probably nothing and lifted myself from my chair and went to show them how brave I could be.  I heard the noise within seconds and was instantly freaked out.  Kyle calls me his farm girl. “Ha” I thought to myself, “some farm girl I am.”

So, I called my knight in shining armor at work and he laughed, not at me, at the situation.  He told me he had just finished reading my piece on facing fear and couldn’t help seeing the comedy that was playing out at our farm.  We’re quickly becoming more like a funny farm each and every day.  He asked if I wanted him to call a pet rescuer.  I said no way! I pictured my long dead father rolling over in his grave, and saying, “C’mon on Jennifer.”  I hatched a plan and shared with Kyle.  He was hesitant, and now as I sit and type I’m feeling as though my plan might not have been the best route to take but so you know, the girls are back in the living room and the sounds have ceased in the fireplace.

If I had been willing to face my fears head on, I might have gotten a flashlight out and looked up into to the chimney to look my adversary eye to eye.  I wasn’t, fear won out this time.  I proudly adorned the role of chicken and took a different route.  I guess you could say, just like everyone else, I have a bit of growing left to do.

 

 



  • The other side of fear.

    This past Summer I took all the kids bridge jumping in York, Maine.  Our two seasoned jumpers, Aaron and Corey, led the charge from the car to the middle of Scotland bridge.  For both of them, this had been a baby step, and it was more of a way to cool off from the hot, muggy weather that had landed during the week.  For the rest of us, it was a chance to look fear in the face and decide what we were going to do with it.  Would we let fear kick in and keep us safe, or would we use it as a motivation to experience something we had never felt before.

    The other side of fear.

    The other side of fear.

    We took off our shorts and tees and moved towards the center of the bridge to watch the two big boys do their back flips and carefree dives  into the running water below.  Max was first to jump after them.  I watched his face, carefully studying the older two, determined to join forces, but still hesitant.  Then he jumped.  Libby began squealing with delight, a high pitched shrill, filled with excitement but laced with trepidation.  She was fighting fear tooth and nail, but it was winning.  Before I could take my gaze off of Libs, Sophie had jumped like a trooper as Aaron and Corey waited in the water below to safely escort her to the side.  Then there was me, Anna, and Libby left looking at each other.  Anna and I had both jumped the Summer before, the pulling at our stomachs as we plunged down into the cool brackish water, was still present in our memories.

    Max and the boys had climbed up with Sophie and were ready to take another jump.  Fear was no longer an issue for  them.  They had faced it, jumped through it, and conquered it, leaving it behind and moving on to the good stuff in the experience.  Anna looked over at me, “Mum, I’ll jump if you do.”  I looked down and felt as though being forty had robbed me of a bit of my courage and adventurous spirit.  Then I looked at her face, she needed me to jump, for her to find her way down to the water.  I smiled at her and said, “let’s do this.”  I pushed off of the pillar without counting and landed in the water.  The second or two that it took to reach the water seemed stretched out to a minute at least.  I felt the topsy-turvy sensation in my stomach and then the peaceful feeling of moving through my fear.  I looked up at Anna still on the bridge and then she jumped.  Her face emerged from the water, relieved and accomplished.

    We heard Libby’s strong voice proclaim that she wasn’t jumping this year and that was more than okay. Libby had faced fear and reasoned with it, did a dance of sorts, and let go. With certainty, she decided bridge jumping wasn’t her gig.  Fear has a way of bringing us to the edges of our own skin, stretching us out to places we might not have ever dreamed of going.  Just as we approach this new state of mind, place of being, fear stops us dead in our tracks in floods our brain with images of everything that could and might go wrong. Fear has the innate ability to  conjure up the most remote possibilities that are more likely to never happen, yet somehow they are the easiest for us to cling to when wanting to turn away from a new experience or challenge in life.

    I watched some of the kids face fear again at Gunstock.  They feared what might happen, how they might look, and not being able to actually ski or snowboard at all.  I witnessed the struggle, the fight, and the calm surrender in each of them at different times on the mountain. I marveled as each one of them pushed through their fear to the other side by the end of the night and were laughing, sharing, and building amazing experiences together in a sport that doesn’t always come natural to everyone.



  • Adventures in Happiness

    There is an incredible article floating around facebook right now, 21 Ways to Happiness, or something like that.  I opened the page this morning and scanned down the items and nodded as I read each one.  There was one which caused me pause for even longer than the others.  The gist of it was about trying new things, having new adventures.  I smiled remembering an article last year that focused itself entirely on the positive benefits of switching things up in life, not getting too complacent or set in your ways.  The article explained how endorphins are released from our brains when we are in new situations, having to “figure” things out good or bad.  It can be as simple as taking a new route to work, or involved as taking up a new hobby which demands you learn new skills in an environment that it is foreign to you.

    Since we became a new family less than a year ago, I feel like our endorphins have been flowing in a constant stream as we “figure” things out and often embark on new adventures.  My cup is overflowing with happiness even during times of uncertainty or frustration.  This weekend felt like a dream as we packed up two cars filled with ski and snowboard equipment and enough food to feed a small army.  We set off for Gunstock, excited to meet cousins and siblings for a whole new adventure.  Aaron was my co-pilot, Anna and Max filled the middle seat, while Kyle followed behind in the Subaru with Sophie and Libby in tow.  We are all novices at best, except for Aaron and Kyle’s brother, but that didn’t dampen the flow of excitement in both cars.

    As we made our way through Rochester and Farmington, I couldn’t help but remember the endless car rides I had made on this same road when Aaron had his accident on Gunstock almost a year ago.  He had taken a horrific fall off a jump and landed in the ICU for four days, followed by a lengthy stay in the hospital.  His spleen was in danger of being removed and his liver suffered from  deep lacerations.  He almost bled out, but thankfully the team at Gunstock got him off the mountain and to the hospital in record time.  I’ve never been so scared in my entire life.  Kyle and I had only been dating for a few short months but he was there by my side, making sure we did everything for Aaron that we could, holding my hand as we waited to see.  Aaron turned to me in the car on the way to our new family adventure and told me he felt better than ever.  He felt stronger, healthier, and happier.AaronandAnna

    Four hours on the green hill, one ski dropped from the lift, numerous falls on my tush, and laughter and giggles abound, created some of my most favorite memories yet.  I looked around in the lodge and stole glances of each of the twelve that surrounded our long table.  Multiple conversations were being shared at the same time, new and old faces connecting with one another, talking about runs on the hill, already planning and looking forward to the next adventure.

    Kyle grabbed my arm and squeezed it gently.  It is almost as if he knows when I’m reflecting, writing our story in my heart, cementing it for years to come.  He pulls me back to the present so I can enjoy where we are and assures me with his quiet grace that there will be so many more adventures to come.maxboardlibssophski



  • Somewhere in Maine – Medillia’s Lament

    rusted chair“Most of the gardens had long ago gone to seed.  The bones of the once meticulously maintained flower beds barely held their ground. Someone in William’s family had a green thumb and an eye for detail.  The moss covered pavers peeked out from beneath the dried flowers and grasses that had gone to seed. John pulled one of the metal Adirondack chairs over to the edge of the yard, close to the path, away from the bright sun.  He preferred the shade casted out by the looming pines and oak trees.  He sat down in the chair, catching his khaki’s on the corner of the seat.  He felt a tug and ignored it hearing a small rip as he pushed back against the cool rusted metal.  He could care less if his pants were torn up or soiled from the rust.  He had long ago given up keeping up appearances for people he gave a damn about or even those he once loved.”  Medillia’s Lament p. 17

    There’s something about writing someone else’s story.  As I move along through the dialog, creating imagery, describing the characters and the settings, I can’t help but draw parallels to my own world, my own way of being and reacting to life.  It’s from that place of common ground that I draw on from my own experiences, words that fill the spaces between the beautiful choreography of Jody’s script.

    When I was a little girl, my family used to visit a cottage on Granite Lake.   The tiny little red cottage belonged to Lilly, a dear old family friend, who had lost her husband before I could remember.  She had no children of her own, but loved all others to the moon and back.  My dad had pulled Lilly under his wing, taking care of all the things that would have seemed daunting to a widow in her seventies.  We would pick her up in Keene and make the twenty minute drive to the cottage bringing food for lunch and towels and suits for the lake. I remember sitting on the mossy ground to the right of the cottage while the grown ups sat in the old Adirondack chairs, with my bare legs spread out wide feeling the soft green fur surround them.

    Her lawn was mowed by revolving old rusty blades on a long handle, yesterday’s lawn mower, but  the gardens had long ago been abandoned and let go as they became too much to keep up with.  Writing the scene above in Medillia’s Lament brought me back to Lilly’s cottage on Granite Lake.  Months ago I took Kyle by the cottage on the way to a visit to Keene.  It had been bought and sold a few times I’m sure, and barely resembled the place I once loved so very much, but it’s bones were there.  They stood tall and proud for me to recognize and called up such sweet little memories from a day long gone.



  • No!

    Just say no?No is a funny thing. It’s one of the first words, concepts, that we teach our children and pets, but also the one we like the least when it is being said to us.  No is a boundary, we create a safety bubble of sorts, around our children by using it; no running in the street, no playing with matches, no talking to strangers, and no eating too much sugar.  Some become immune to no, even rebel against it as they grow older, while most treat it as an impenetrable, invisible wall that it is able to stop them in their tracks.  Like everything else, navigating no, is a fine line.  I’m the first one to admit, when I hear no, it fuels my fire to do something even more than before.  I guess that’s why I did well in marketing. If a company or publication said no to my business, product, service it made me dig my heels in even deeper.  When Kyle and I started dating, jokingly I said to him, “I’m going to say yes to everything you ask me.”  I knew what happened when you shut down in a relationship and always said no.

    Wondering if like everything else there needs to be a balance between yes and no, what do you think?

     

     



  • Fresh fallen snow in Maine

    Across the yardThe snow began falling yesterday and by the time we woke up this morning there was a thick fresh blanket covering the farm and all of South Berwick. It called each of us in different directions and as our family of seven split up to divide and conquer the snow each in our own way, it felt good.  Kyle and I got lost in the woods behind our house with neighbors on snowshoes, the kids went off in two different directions sledding with friends and family, then finishing the day with cross country skiing and snowboarding on the hills on the front and side of SeaStar Farm.  Everyone will be sleeping well tonight and waking up with sore muscles tomorrow.

    It feels like we are creating the life for our family that I always dreamed of having when I was younger.  It feels good.  Kyle and I stopped at the edge of the pasture to help feed Comet and Jingle some pine through the fence that they were having a hard time reaching.  It was warm for a snowy day in December and the perfect type of day to spend outside breathing in the fresh air, breathing out needless worry.  Max wants to go back out after dinner snowboarding on our side hill.  I’m excited he asked me and hoping everyone will come out with their sleds or skis.



  • Tonight I learned to fly

    Jaspal Singh

    Taking Flight by Jaspal Singh

    Three years ago I wrote the passage that follows.  When we are living in the moment, feeling, breathing, and being it is almost impossible for us to give thought to the future and how everything could be and most likely will be different.  I dare not spend too much time looking back or peeking forward or surely I will miss out on the present.  Tonight though, on Christmas a little reminiscing couldn’t do too march harm.

    Tonight I Learned to Fly – A Little Lift – Writing to Live         Dec. 25, 2010 pg.190

    “What is more magical than learning how to fly?  When someone challenges all that you have always been, forces you to spin a new cocoon; you have no choice, you can either let yourself be destroyed, or be changed into the person you were always meant to be.

    I’ve lived in this chrysalis for far too long; it’s time to break free of my past choices, stretch out my new damp wings, and let the wind take me where it may.  To open my heart seems daunting, but to allow it to remain closed, seems unacceptable.

    It’s time for me to relinquish my need to know the outcome of each story line.  Understandably, the plot twist and turn unexpectedly, but at worst it will do so predictably.  For tonight, “I have a dream that I can fly from the highest tree.”  Many thanks to Priscilla Ahn for her continued inspiration, through her melody and lyrics. They are absolutely beautiful.

    Listen to everything and everyone that surrounds you.  Feel the wind and the direction it blows, for it might be carrying everything you need to take flight.”



  • Under the tree

     

    Under the tree - photographed by Aaron Ares

    Under the tree – photographed by Aaron Ares

    It’s Christmas on SeaStar Farm.  We’re smack dab in the middle of our first year of consolidating traditions, creating new ones, and blending our two families’ expectation of the holidays and the promise they hold for each of us.

    Last night, the eve of the holiest of all, we sat down to a table of seven for an intimate family dinner. The kids exchanged their Secret Santa gifts before the food was laid out.  They took turns opening and then guessing who their Santa was.  Their eyes lit wide and smiles traveled far as they carefully undid the ribbon, bows, and baubles that fancied up their packages.  Kyle and I sat across from one another and exchanged looks of gratitude and love as laughter erupted and giggles pursued from the littlest to the biggest.  This was a new tradition for us all.  Sitting at the dinner table, giving and receiving, names had been drawn weeks ago.  The last opened their gift and Kyle and I shared that we had a new tradition of our own for SeaStar Farm.  We asked the kids to find their package under the family tree in the living room and bring it back to the table.  They each unwrapped a cigar box filled with trinkets individually wrapped and handpicked to bring joy and fun.  Underneath each box was attached a book, wrapped and signed, that had reminded us of each as we perused the shelves at Riverrun in Portsmouth.

    Then we ate, sharing our gratitude first around the table, digging into our favorite foods.  Christmas is only half over at SeaStar Farm and yet I’ve already marked last night as such a special memory in my heart, one of many to come.  This morning it was only Aaron, Anna, and Libby opening gifts from Santa then sitting down to a good ole fashioned farm breakfast.  Now they are gone, back to their father’s house for another Christmas morning.  Max and Sophie will be joining us later this afternoon and we will be starting all over again, opening the family tree for the second time, celebrating and cementing what we have created by bringing our two families together.

    I asked Kyle if our Christmas reminds him of “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray. He smiled and said he guessed so.  He pulled me into his arms and kissed me, told me how much he loved the gift I made for him.  Another of my new favorite traditions, Kyle and I make each other’s Christmas gift.  This year I filled a large cigar box with hundreds of individual love notes that I had written sealed in beautiful stationary for him to open on whim throughout the year.  He took my breath away with a hand painted wooden sign for our farm.  We’ve already decided where we are going to hang it, over the door into the barn.  We’ll be able to see it washing dishes from the kitchen sink.

    Christmas  spirit abound on the farm this morning, after Aaron left with the girls, Kyle and I brought a head of Romaine lettuce out to the barn for Comet and Jingle as their special present.  Ruby followed along on her bright red leash and explored the barn as we changed out the goats water and opened the stall for the day.  Happiness is contagious, it has a way of spreading roots and reaching out to others close by and bringing joy along with it.  I watched the kids around the table last night beaming and listened as Kyle shared his gratitude.  “We have bumps and hiccups as a new family, but most importantly we have a lot of love.”



  • John, the protagonist

    despair by Carl Rey

    “He reached for the silver flask buried at the bottom of his suitcase.  His clothes had been thrown in last minute and remained packed, wrinkled, ready on a moment’s notice for a quick departure. The flask had represented  his entire reasoning for coming to this tiny island in Maine.  John had driven through the night, stopping only for gas and endless cups of really bad coffee.”

    As I read about John in the script and began to get a sense for who he was, what he had gone through, I couldn’t help but cling to the similarities he and I shared.  John, a fictitious character created by Jody, quickly became more real and authentic then I imagined possible.  I was familiar with what it felt like being a hot mess and as I described his movements, his inner thoughts, and  the way he looked as other characters in the script saw him; I realized that I knew John, or at least the essence of John.

    Every story has a main character.  It’s in their story that we become attached and invested in their experiences and adventures.  John is the perfect leading man, strong, handsome, capable, yet very vulnerable.  I quickly developed a crush on John as I read through the Medillia’s Lament script for the first time.  Now as I continue to spend more and more time getting to know him through writing him,   he is more of a brother, a kindred soul, who shares many of the same ghosts in his closet as I do.  Developing John’s character for the M.L. novel has been an inner journey for me, diving deep down into dark crevices I’ve purposefully left unexplored until now.



  • First read through


    Let the tears flow

    When I first read the script for Medillia’s Lament, I hadn’t yet met Jody face to face.  We corresponded mostly by email and messaging and had a few phone conversations about how we would proceed with this unorthodox idea of turning a screenplay into a novel before it had been made into a movie.

    I printed out the hundred or so pages of the script and waited till the girls had gone to bed before I crawled into bed with the thick pile of paper on my lap.  I hadn’t read a script since high school and had forgotten how quickly it flowed reading dialogue only.  As I read on in the script and was introduced to John, his brother, William, etc…I became hooked, caught on a line and it was only time till I was fully reeled in by Jody.  I began wiping the little drops that formed in the corner of my eyes with the back of my hand, sniffling as I turned the pages one after the other, and blown away by the number of correlations in the script and my own childhood and young adult life.  I even made a mental note to talk to Jody about the similar experiences we must have shared.  I finished the script in one sitting and knew before I had even made it past the second scene that I would be writing the novel, filling in the descriptive phrases, setting the scene in and around the poignant but realistic characters, and doing something I had never done before.  The only thought that held me back was whether or not I felt I could give up creative control of the project,  The outline had been drawn and cemented, it sat in front of me.  I would only be filling in the blanks.

    I called Jody the next day after I had emailed him late into the night that I was in.  I blurted out that it was another coincidence that he and I had traveled some of the same dysfunctional paths in our childhood and young adult life.  He immediately replied that he had made it all up.  I felt popped.  The air rushed out of my balloon and dissipated between us.  How was it possible that he not having had the experiences as a child was able to speak to them so convincingly that someone who had reading the dialog felt as though I had just stepped into a time machine set for the 70’s?  I pushed away my disbelief and moved on.  I wanted to write the novel, there was something inside telling me that I was supposed to do it, I could do it, and I would do it.

    We shook hands, wrote up a quick binding agreement, and it was done.  I had just signed on to write a work of fiction based on a screenplay already created but not made into a movie.  The novel, Medillia’s Lament, was set in two cities; Chicago and a factitious seaside island village in Maine.  Easy I thought to myself.  I moved to an island in Maine when I was in high school and I traveled to Chicago when I was in corporate in my early twenties.  I had a feel for both locations.

    So there it is, that first read through lead to me taking a very big leap of faith and signing on to do something I had never before imagined doing.  I’ve convinced Jody to allow me to create this page as I finish the second half of the novel.  I believe it keeps me accountable in writing as often as I am able and also begins to build interest around the screenplay for now and eventually the novel when it is published.

    Check back often as I will be posting slices of the story here, enough to get you hooked but not nearly enough to reel you in.  You’ll have to wait for the book to come out for that to happen.