My blog has devolved recently from troublesome and buggy to fully down and out. If my blog were a summer garden vegetable, it would be zuchinni overtaken by squash bugs. Whithering and brown and oozing with regret. Failure. Please know that one million stories are aching to be shared; life is full to bursting around the W. I hope you’ll check in with us again soon!
Hello! I have something fun to share.
This past weekend we partnered with our dearly beloved friends Mickey and Kellie to open the farm for a community painting event. It had been an evolving inspiration for some time, a craving and a brainstorm one day just grew legs.
We wanted an activity to welcome all sorts of people, something to spread some calm, tie us gently together, and draw out some creativity. An offering of time and space to breathe in the golden hour here which we love so much, both with people we know and love and with strangers. The farm really can be spectacular just before dusk, and on the evening of our event the weather was so perfect. We felt wrapped in color and tranquility. Energy.
The event was opened to the public with just one week’s notice, and we promoted it very little. Still, almost two dozen people attended. How thrilling! (And for everyone who wanted to join us but couldn’t, we will absolutely be hosting again soon! Lots of supplies need to be used up, and we want to meet you!)
We had decided to distinguish this particular fun from the structured painting events you might attend elsewhere. We set up tables and cleared empty spaces all over the deck and south yard and grassy area near the shade garden.
Those were all surrounded by easels which Brandy and Mickey had built themselves. We provided halved egg cartons for mixing custom paint colors, dozens of brushes, and of course blank canvases. All sizes. For the kiddos who lit up the farm with their amazing energy, we had a few old tank tops and cheap white tees I wear for gardening. (Now covered in painterly hand prints and streaks of joy, those are my favorite shirts again.)
My husband spoke briefly at the beginning, as everyone was still nibbling plates of summery treats and getting comfortable. He invited us to paint at will and allow whatever was inside of us, all of our individuality, to come out. He spoke easily about peace and joy, about love for nature and about community and connection, and he was in his element surrounded by kids eager to dive into some paint.
Ok here is where I could tell you dozens of stories about the artwork I glimpsed, about our friends’ wide array of personalities and how much color, technique, subject matter, and emotion came pouring out and onto the canvases.
You might want to know about the kids’ paintings and their innocence and effervescence. Or about the masking tape creativity a few people used. The tiny feather strokes, the gorgeous splattering, the complete revamps, the sudden inspiration, the delicious sense of exhale and calm when someone landed on what they really wanted to paint. My friend (and secret mentor) Kelly drove all the way from Ada toting her current work-in-progress, and you might want to know more about that. It is gorgeous!
Do you want to hear how my other friend Kellie and I sat blindly across from each other but accidentally started painting almost the exact same thing? Ha! The tiny canvases by Jeff and Leanne stole my heart. Maddie, freshly returned from Japan, painted the most beautiful pair of koi fish, I almost stole that for myself. The Whitley crew all painted something different and wonderful, ranging form bold and abstract to cheerful minions and hand prints. Zach drummed up an excellent Lorax (to deal with a smudge deposited by one of his precious babies), his wife and my gypy friend produced these lush tropical leaves. The artwork was all full of hidden jokes, pure self expression, and surprising joy. And we all intermingled with each other over the differences (except Kellie and me, obviously, ha).
There was just so much to love that we would have missed had we all been painting the same image under direction.
No offense to guided painting whatsoever, by the way. Maybe at another event we will do exactly that! But for this first event, the free form welcome was perfect.
Or you might want to hear about the conversations. The easy ways everyone was managing to catch up on each other’s lives, elbow to elbow, just sort of entranced in their own blooming work. We talked about tattoos and life and food. Restaurant ideas, summertime work, big things we are waiting for. We talked about chickens and parrots and gardening. Softball tournaments and injuries and grand kids. Marriage. Love. Everything.
The hours sank past golden and into that purple-pink, bruised dusk we love just as much as daytime. The deck lights twinkled. Paintings came to fruition at a similar moment, all at once, which I thought was magical. We laughed a lot and walked around looking closely at each other’s work. A few people returned to the supply table for extra blank canvases. The kids (and Klaus) enjoyed some time at the flight pen petting and learning about chickens and ducks. I silently wished everyone would stay all night. I silently promised to make them all a really great breakfast tomorrow.
Toward the end of the evening, Mickey gifted us with his rendering of what we had all done, of the gathering itself. It is beautiful. A dark, swirling sky view dotted with triangles that represent the easels all over our farm. We will treasure it forever.
Jessica and her boyfriend joined the fun. We all continued snacking on treats and laughing. Klaus thought it was all for him, as always, ha! Friends began saying their goodbyes. And we all hugged and wished for either an immediate bedtime or many more long hours to spend together. Both, was my wish.
That evening was magical, and we are thankful to our twenty-ish guests for carving time out of their lives to make it that way. We are thankful for the energy cast over our little group to act on a longstanding inspiration. And we absolutely cannot wait for the next community event! If you are local and want to follow along, maybe even join us soon, find “The Lazy W Family Outreach” on Facebook. We will be posting more and more there. More on that soon, I promise.
On Friday morning I was blissing out, running east into the sun and against wind as hot and stiff as a blow dryer. It was the first day of summer and I luxuriated in every detail. I drank them in. Gnats perished on my glossy shin bones. Saltwater dripped into my mouth and eyes. I inhaled wildflower pollen and sunscreen and celebrated the heat rising up and pounding into my shoes. My work for the week was caught up, and we had a fun weekend planned. That previous night I had even dreamed of Jocelyn in that way that always reassures me she is okay and maybe even dreaming of me, too. I was smiling-with-my-heart-and-mouth-open while I ran, watching neither pace nor distance. Just happy to be on the go.
Then a whooshing, tttzzz-aaahhh sound assaulted my periphery from the left. The shadows were all behind me, and my music was a bit too loud, so all of my terrible reflexes ignited at once and I jumped mid stride, yelped, then screamed because my own yelp scared me, and all of this nearly caused an approaching female bicyclist to wreck. She wiggled on her two-wheeled vessel, gave her own little yelp, and stuck her muscular legs out to either side to regain balance. Her arms stiffened, and her helmeted head twisted to look back at me and, thankfully, laugh. We both started laughing so hard that I had to stop running to catch my breath. She pedaled away (almost) calmly down the trail.
About 45 minutes later my new BFF had changed direction and was headed toward me now. I saw her from a reasonable distance, started laughing again, quite involuntarily, and she also laughed a little but punctuated the whole exchange with a head tilt and Robert Duvall-style half-nod that said as plainly as any unspoken gesture can say, “Fool me once…”
Maybe she didn’t realize we were BFFs.
I regained my composure (mostly) and jogged in my very own lane past her, definitely surrendering the opportunity for some last minute eye contact. Still running into the glare, still lapping up my own sweat, still loving that so much hard work and consistent effort lately had brought us to the brink of a true summertime weekend. The luscious details are icing on a cake of Overall Life Satisfaction, and I am forever grateful.
I wish I could find this bicyclist and apologize for nearly wrecking her. And ask her if she is always so apt to being almost wrecked. I also want to know if she felt as happy that morning as I did, barring our near miss with asphalt. She definitely had that glow, that strong energy of Life Right This Minute, and I love thinking about it.
Following several days of pure bliss, I succumbed on Sunday to a few hours of good ol’ fashioned What If Anxiety. I kept forgetting to breathe, as my husband calls it. It was a trifecta of external stimuli: a couple of failed side dishes I had cooked for beloved friends (minor in the scheme of things but disappointing); a rouge, really violent hailstorm that did some mean damage to my beloved vegetable and flower gardens; and (the biggest What If of them all) waiting on health news regarding one of our most beloved young people.
I definitely kept forgetting to breathe. My mind kept rolling over the worst case scenarios for each of these, projecting into the future all the most terrible extrapolated consequences: They’ll never come to the farm for dinner again and probably think I am a kitchen fraud. I might as well give up gardening. I am definitely a fraud. She has something very wrong with her health but won’t reach out for help. Then I’d furiously resist those negative thoughts and scold myself for the struggle, because I know better than that by now. And that resistance created more tension. So I ate a second helping of dessert and got mad at myself for that too because vacation is over ma’am and you are so weak and also not a very good runner. Healthy living fraud.
Wow. Only one of those external stressors really mattered to life; but worry has a way of sneaking in through tiny openings to crack open the door and let the big stuff in. Have you ever been in such a tailspin?
As Sunday evening drew to a close, the biggest What If was silenced, and we went to bed thankful and exhausted. We were happy to be home and safe and ready to approach the threshold between all those previous days of bliss and the fresh, brand new work week. I muscled my thoughts back into the light. And I finally remembered to breathe.
Monday morning after Handsome left for the Commish, I plunged into all kinds of chores around the house, allowing the physical activity and sweetness of domesticity to drum up more positive vibes. Eventually Klaus and I walked around the farm, just to survey the storm damage with calmer eyes. The weather that morning was much more like early October than June. Bright and crisp, soft breezes, mellow. I could barely relate all of that crystalline brilliance to Sunday’s low, black canopy, woolly humidity, and violent wind and hail. I noticed a clarity inside myself, too. The storm had passed and everything felt fresh and good again.
The facts followed suit. Once I had the fortitude to really examine my gardens, I found only minor damage. Some broken vines and torn leaves, sure, and a few marshy beds that were begging for a stretch of warm sunshine to dry out. But all of it was more of a shakeup than a tragedy. And I had to laugh at my Yesterday Self for being so devastated at nothing. I also had to stop and give lots and lots of thanks for all the good news we had received concerning the much more important worries in life.
So I walked around correcting small injuries to various plants and re-threading tomato vines, harvesting slashed-off zucchini blossoms and deciding that the fallen stone fruits (still unripe) would be great to crush and feed to the hens.
I recalled so many other times in life when my worries turned out to be far scarier than reality. Often the anxiety can be quieted with just some time, some breathing, and lots of deliberate trust. Things really do tend to work out. But resisting fear is different than choosing faith.
How wonderful to remember all of this. The mental games of What If are powerful. It is up to each of us moment by moment to choose to put that power to good use. We can funnel our vast imaginations into fears and worries and extrapolate terrible future chains of events; or we can harness the same exact power inside ourselves and project incredible future outcomes.
We can visualize and aim for beauty, strength, success, progress, healing, connection, abundance, and miracles. We can see the damage and exaggerate it with our dim perspective; or we can see the damage and give thanks that so much can be recovered, that circumstances, just like the weather, can so suddenly turn around.
Choosing our thoughts matters, in case you need the reminder today like I could have used it on Sunday. Our thoughts can steer our feelings and our behavior. They can literally shape both our perspectives and our circumstances along the way.
Choose Joy. It won’t always come easily, but it is always available.
Choose Joy over and over again, no matter how things look and especially now matter how you feel, temporarily.
P.S. This blog post is dedicated to two of my best friends, who could not be more different from each other: Mickey, who had the presence of mind on Sunday to assure me that, in fact, some stress can strengthen plants and trees (so true). And Brittany, whose already gorgeous life is suddenly brimming with some mammoth What Ifs. I am down here in Oklahoma sending up magical possibilities and promises for you friend!
Magic is Real.
The Gardens will be Fine.
So Will She.
Five solid gold stars to this book for its social content, writing style, readability, relevance, and emotional impact. Wow.
Often after devouring a book, I immediately want everyone around me to read it too, if only so I can then make them discuss it with me, haha. Educated by Tara Westover is no exception, but this time I have a few specific target audiences in mind.
Friends, make time to read Educated if you:
- are a feminist.
- don’t call yourself a feminist but want to understand your feminist loved ones better.
- have ever struggled with fundamentalist religion.
- appreciate your beautiful life situation (or are perhaps amazed by it) but feel you don’t deserve it, feel you don’t belong where you are.
- are a survivor of an abusive relationship (not necessarily a marriage).
- are estranged from either your parents or your children (though this could make parts of the book especially painful, it could be very healing too).
- are not estranged from family but distinctly separated from them in some important way, and it hurts.
- doubt your potential as a human being because of your life circumstances so far.
- crave a wider view of the world, of written history, of society and family dynamics than what your personal world has offered so far.
- simply enjoy lush prose and masterful storytelling.
- appreciate memoirs that span time, geography, personalities, trauma, and triumph.
- need some encouragement about the resiliency of average people and the length to which the Universe will go to assist us.
Okay. Does any of that include you? If so, please take my advice, as I took my sister Gen’s and her BFF Julia’s, and read this book. Page after page offers heartbreak, wisdom, good solid writing (even poetry), and plenty of universal truth and encouragement. Humanity stuff.
I can stand in this because I’m not trying to stand in it. The wind is just wind. You could withstand these gusts on the ground, so you can withstand them in the air. There is no difference. Except the difference you make in your head.
I’m just standing. You’re all trying to compensate, to get your bodies lower because the height scares you. But the crouching and the side stepping are not natural. You’ve made yourselves vulnerable. If you could just control your panic, this wind would be nothing.
The author is young, so her memoir only covers the earliest chapters of her life, which I hope will be long and only more fruitful. This is just her beginning. But in a little over 330 pages she manages to weave a page-turning drama and paint the emotional landscape of a life that could have continued on a very different trajectory, had fate or Love or (as she concludes) education not intervened. She views herself in a detached enough way that she can write with humility, almost too much of it, and a great deal of curiosity, just as if she is one of many human specimens worth studying. Curiosity is a vital element to good education, after all.
This is more than a coming-of-age story, so please don’t avoid reading it thinking that’s all it is. It’s as much about this one girl’s life as it is about her family, her family’s generational patterns, and their culture at large. It’s about ignorance and straight up mental illness. It asks really big questions about who writes history, what feminism could say to polygamy, how to discover self worth and exploit our potential free of labels, and so much more.
And because any true account of this much trauma and family implosion will certainly have more than one side to explore, you might read it with some skepticism. I did. The internet is brimming with skepticism about her stories. But what I found refreshing about this author is how diligently she examines herself, how brutal she is about checking her own motives and scrubbing clean her own processes. I never felt beguiled or cajoled into taking her side as I read. Even when I (incredibly) could perceive there was more to the story with her parents, I trusted her telling of the facts as she saw them, and this has led me down some healing paths in my own estrangement story. All of it is heartbreaking. All of it is beautiful, eventually.
Ok. This book deserves lots of deep conversation. I am so thankful to Gen and Julia for the push to read Educated.
And I am so happy that a few of my close friends are reading it now too, so we can roll it around together. Do you want to join the conversation? It is all so smart and beautiful and provocative.
Okay. Gotta go. Thanks for reading, friends! What else are you reading?
“First find out what you’re capable of,
then decide who you are,”