Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Crystal Seller

I'd like to see birch trees in the place that I live...
We’re not getting that house..and it's a good thing.

The news came to me last week, after a stressful two weeks of dealing with mortgage companies, realtors, and packing up of mine and my son’s belongings. It was as simple as this: My grandmother, whose home I was gearing up to buy…changed her mind.

This is not the first time this has happened. In 2007, I made a bid on a house and all was well and looked great until the appraiser came out and discovered the home I’d fallen in love with was completely eaten up with termites. I remember being so devastated, so heartbroken. That home came with a couple of acres and some really nice neighbors…but it was not meant to be.

That’s how I must look at this now, as not being meant to be, because even if my grandmother had not changed her mind, we were still running into a problem. In the past 20+ years she has lived there, the home has been refinanced many times…too many, really, because I had discovered, just a day before she decided not to sell, that the balance owed on the home was expected to far exceed the appraisal value. Which meant, if I pushed through with the plan, I would be paying more for a home than it was technically worth on paper. It was a Thursday when I found this out, and I came home riddled with indecision. I love that house, and I had fallen in love with the idea of living there. But for all of my frou-frou free-spirited dancing-in-the-meadows hippiness, I have a secret and very practical side that was telling me, “Think…it…through.”

This is the part where being ‘independent,’ something many people hold up as the ideal, can be very stressful, because despite what the stalwarts in denial want to spout out about going life solo by choice, the reality is we’re simply not hard-wired to do it on our own. We need other people, especially people who are just as vested in a situation as we are. In this situation, there was no one other than myself who stood to gain or lose from the buying of this house. I could talk to my friends all day, but in the end, my decision would only affect myself and my son…not anyone else in my immediate circle or even my family. And I was torn between buying a home that I loved that was perfect in so many ways, and making what could possibly be a ganormous financial blunder by paying more for that there home than it was actually worth.

But the biggest struggle I was facing was on a deeper level...I had to make a different kind of choice, one that kind of-sort of felt like giving up. That was the choice that was eating at me inside, making me toss and turn at night. It was what was likely going to make me bail in the end, and it has nothing to do with finances.

My grandmother’s decision absolved me of having to make that choice…but in truth, her decision to sell had created the dilemma for me in the first place. Now, sitting here a week later, having processed it all and made peace with what is and isn’t going to happen right now, I’m left with this question…how much do we allow ourselves to be at the mercy of the decisions other people make? Her offer to sell me the house for the balance she owed on it spun this catalyst into motion. Her decision two weeks later ceased it to a grinding halt. But her choices about refinancing it several times in the last decade would have greatly affected the entire buying process for me, if I’d followed through with the plan to buy it at all.

Bottom line…through most of this process, I was not at the wheel of this ship. Now, in hindsight, I feel almost infantile and silly. Something I wanted badly at one time in the past was dangled before me in the present and I leapt, without considering whether or not it was really in my best interests at this time, or whether or not I still desired it as intently as I once had. This same thing happened to me in late summer, with an entirely different situation, and I reacted much the same way. Why? Because it's easier to jump back into an old habit than it is to move towards a new dream.

A week before my grandmother offered me the home, I’d come to the hard-wrought decision that I wanted to raise my son in a less conservative community. I wanted the relaxed, open environment that I see and feel in towns like Athens and Asheville. I wanted to not be the one who is different for a change, and it was time to actively pursue this dream. I was beginning to feel like the crystal seller in Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, who was still in the same tolerable place he’d landed in years before, still doing the same thing he’d been doing forever, still planning trips he wasn’t taking, still just being…still. I felt empowered by my decision, because though it was going to be a difficult one to put into motion, it still felt right.

Then suddenly, I threw it to the wind in order to dump all my eggs into this one basket…a basket that would have surely guaranteed me another decade here. I’d be well on my way into that process now, had my grandmother not changed her mind…and it would not have been the wisest investment I could have made, financially or spiritually. But it sure as heck would have been easier than blazing a new trail somewhere, on my own with a young child in tow...hence the appeal of it all.

If you have read The Alchemist, then I know you know what I mean, and you know how I am feeling right now. You know that there comes a time when we have to quit trying to convince ourselves that the easiest path is the right one, and accept that it’s just the easiest one and that’s why most people settle down somewhere along it. I know you know this and I know you’re at the same place I am…sitting on the side of the road, thinking, “Well, it’s nice enough here, maybe I’ll sit down a while and rest before moving on.” But then ten years pass, then another, and then we are the crystal seller, still here at the end of our lives simply because we just became too settled to go any further. We convinced ourself that this, somehow, was enough. We put down more and more roots, became more and more convinced that the risks of leaving far outweighed the risk of staying.

Ah, but I know you know for folks like us, that's never going to be true.

I’m glad now that my grandmother changed her mind, because I don’t want to be the crystal seller. And deep down inside, no matter how much you try to convince yourself and the rest of the world that remaining in place is for the best…I know you don’t want to be him, either.

So I left my own home listed on the market. This opens the door somewhat, throws a catalyst of another sort into motion. We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Special Valentine's Day Post by Guest Writer Jennifer Smiecinski

Valentine’s Day- the day dedicated to love.

What about loving YOURSELF?

There are lots of types of love in the world. There’s romantic love; love for our parents and children; our pets; love for cheesecake; our favorite television show; our favorite pair of fuzzy sweat pants…the list goes on and on. We often overlook the most important love- love for ourselves. You may be thinking, “What?!? That’s selfish!” but hang in here with me for just a minute…

Many of us live such busy lives, always going from one thing to the next. We spend so much time caring for others that we often get bumped to the bottom of our “to-do” list or feel guilty when we partake in some time for self-love. The funny thing about that is when we truly love ourselves we can open our hearts and love others more fully.

We show ourselves love by being compassionate with ourselves. Forgiving ourselves (and forgiving others); letting go of things we can’t control; slowing down; spending time in nature; nourishing our bodies with healthy food; staying hydrated; getting some exercise; and spending time in meditation.

What does meditation have to do with it? You may be surprised… One of my favorite meditation techniques is Metta, or , loving-kindness meditation. One of the things I enjoy about this meditation is that it starts with ME! I certainly can’t forget to include myself when I am first on the list.

Here’s how it works:

Find a comfortable seat- sit with a tall spine, gently close your eyes, your jaw should be relaxed and parallel to the floor. Hands should rest comfortably on your legs- palms up or down. You shouldn’t feel like you are working so hard, be comfortable- sit on a cushion or pillow if it makes you feel more at ease.

Begin to shift your focus to your breath. Take a few breaths here and notice how it feels as it enters and exits your nose. Is it warm? Is it cool? Allow your mind to be quiet.

When you feel ready- bring an image of yourself to your mind. Your mind could possibly recall an image of you as a child, an image of you as you are at present, or somewhere in between. Imagine that you are sitting face to face with yourself, look into your own eyes, and repeat quietly in your mind… “May I be filled with loving-kindness. May I be well. May I be peaceful. May I be happy.” Take a few deep breaths here and feel your heart begin to expand as it fills with love.

The second step is calling to mind an image of someone who you love deeply. It can be anyone! Your spouse, your children, your parents, your best friend - anyone! Recall time you spent with this person when you felt loved. You can also recall a time when this person taught you something or did something really wonderful for you. Imagine you are sitting face to face with this person and repeat quietly in your mind, “May he/she be filled with loving-kindness. May he/she be well. May he/she be peaceful. May he/she be happy.” Take a few deep breaths here and feel your heart grow larger.

The third step is calling to mind someone in your life who is neutral to you… It could be someone who you see regularly like the barista at Starbucks, the mailman, or a grocery store clerk. Again, imagine you are sitting face to face with this person and repeat quietly in your mind, “May he/she be filled with loving-kindness. May he/she be well. May he/she be peaceful. May he/she be happy.” Take a few deep breaths here and feel your heart grow even larger.

The next person you will call to mind is a “difficult person” in your life. It doesn’t have to be someone you necessarily dislike. It could even be someone who has done harm in the world. This one may be tricky but, trust me, this will free up room in your heart where you have held onto negative feelings and will make room for more love. Imagine you are sitting face to face with this person and repeat quietly in your mind, “May he/she be filled with loving-kindness. May he/she be well. May he/she be peaceful. May he/she be happy.” Take a few deep breaths here and feel your heart expand beyond the limit of your imagination.

Lastly, call to mind everyone everywhere… I know this can feel like a lofty goal. It’s hard to imagine ALL of the people in the world. I like to think of the picture of the world with a circle of people around the circumference who are holding hands. That makes it easier for me to imagine. Repeat one last time- “May everyone everywhere be filled with loving-kindness. May everyone everywhere be well. May everyone everywhere be peaceful. May everyone everywhere be happy.” Take a few deep breaths here and notice how connected you feel to all of these people you just called to mind.

One of the best things about this meditation is that it is FREE and it can be done anywhere. A loving-kindness meditation will calm your mind and keep you in tune with your heart. And just think, it all started with YOU!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Jennifer is the owner of Emerald City Yoga, located in beautiful Uptown Greenwood. She maintains a blogsite at If you would like to learn more about meditation, she is offering an Intro to Meditation class on February 23 from 2-3:30. For more information about classes and schedules, visit Emerald City Yoga on Facebook

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Hardest Thing...

I'm featuring my usual guest writer for Valentine's Day...however, heard this line on the movie Wedding Date last night and thought it was worth sharing:

"The hardest thing about loving someone is just letting them love you back. But at the end of the day, when you know all her stuff and she knows all yours, you can decide if it's worth it to give up...or keep going."

How true is this?

When we are confronted by someone who knows all our stuff, it's very daunting. But when they know it all, and love us anyway, when they don't have to, when there is no logical reason, when they aren't family and therefore obligated to love us, when they stand by us even if we don't deserve it....well, if you find someone who loves you like that, my advice is...

...there could be nothing in life more worth fighting for.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

And So We Roll....

"You still gonna buy Mother's house?"

It was my father on the phone. I was at work, preparing to leave. My only plans for the evening were to put away laundry and then sit outside and chuck shells off pecans. Pretty simple evening, right?

"Yeah," I said. "Whenever she gets ready to sell it."

"She's ready," he responded. "She signed the papers on a new place today and made the down payment. So whatever you need to do, do it fast."


And this is how it goes, one moment your life is flowing in a smooth, predictable pattern, the next everything is thrown into sudden, swift chaos.

There is suddenly so much to do. I have to call the bank again and tell them to take my 'preapproval' and put it into active loan status. I take a deep breath. This is a good thing, a step up, an amazing opportunity and a blessing of unprecedented proportion. I'll have a large studio. We'll have a guest bedroom. A fenced in yard. She's leaving all of her appliances. Old Duke Rate. There's a window at the kitchen sink where I can put a bird feeder. There's a shed in the back that my son's already claimed as his workshop. It's at the end of a cul-de-sac. Hardwood floors throughout, real ones. A mud room for shoes, coats and boots. A back porch. So much landscaping potential. Ample parking for the gatherings I like to host. A former co-worker two houses down with a grandchild my son's age. Lots of space for bikes, skateboards, and scooters.

When I came home last night, I could barely breathe for the amount of work and stress and financial expenditures I know I'm about to face to get this all done. I've not moved in ten years. I've not bought a house in ten years, and I've never sold one. I'm far from ready. But if I wait until I am ready, the moment might pass. So I leap in, because I know that what threw this catalyst into motion was my own spontaneous offer to buy the house at Christmas. It came out of me from nowhere while I was visiting; I did not go over there with the plans to say that, just like I did not go to lunch with a friend a few days ago and plan to ask about summer teaching positions at a local college, nor did I go into a large metaphysical shop a few weeks ago and plan to sell them on the card line I'm about to launch. But all of these catalysts were launched into action when my higher self propelled them into being by stating them out loud and giving them breath, life, a chance to be real.

My trust that all will work out for the highest and greatest good and my belief in intuition and the wisdom of the higher self absolves me of any fear when leaping into these situations. I see nothing but the good. I do not focus on the sadness of leaving the home and neighbourhood we love; rather I ask myself, do I really still want to be in the same place ten years from now? Do I want my son to miss out on the pluses of a bigger home, fenced in yard, and opportunity for new experience because I was hesitant, afraid, lacked belief in myself? This home has room for more people, and we both want that. Not tomorrow, necessarily, but at some point, we know we want to make sure if new people come into our lives, we have room for them in our lives, our hearts and our homes.

While we love where we live now, we barely have room for ourselves, and so I know I'm opening the door to a world of potential with the new house. And my creativity, which has stagnated somewhat since the end of July, I'm hoping will get a kick-start of inspiration once I have a studio of my own to create in. This is possibly what I am the most excited about. I can already visualize how it will look in my head. I can visualize the dining room, den, and even the bathrooms (one's tiled in pink!)

I'm so excited. Last night the realtor came and we did all the necessary paperwork to list mine to sell. When I come home from work today, there will be a sign out. I'll spend the next few weeks packing. "Are you sad to be leaving?" my mom asks, and I say no. Not because it's true, but because there is simply no time to waste being sentimental, and it's not in my nature to wax poetic over what is past.

How long have I wanted and dreamed of a house with all of these attributes? Too long to think twice about not leaping.

And so we roll...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Goddess Dress

I had stopped by Bowers Rodgers, still my favorite local thrift shop, to pick up a grab bag of toys for the treasure box in my classroom. Since I'm trying not to buy clothes until 2014, I have not been into a thrift store in almost 2 months. So I knew it would be tempting. Once inside, my son headed straight to the clothes and began sorting through them.

"No," I said, "We're not buying clothes, remember?"
"Oh, yeah," he responded, and proceeded to the book room. I found a suitable bag of assorted small toys, looked around a little bit, then got ready to head out. I was proud of myself because I'd not stopped to look at any clothes.

Cowl I made back in December. My favorite one, though I've made like a gajillion since...

Then, when I was almost to the door, I saw it.....

A long, crushed velvet dress, medieval style, perfect for a Renaissance Festival (which we've been attending a few of lately) or any event where one needs to look absolutely magical and fabulous. Fitted, to the floor, with flared train at the back and wide, open, gypsy sleeves with heavy embroidery along the cuffs and, to top it off and make the magical mystical goddess-ness of it complete, a hood on the back with the same beautiful embroidered panels.

I stood there, riveted. Now remember, if you've followed my blogs on this subject, how much I love clothes, and how much I love magical mystical stuff, and how much I love the type of things you see at Renaissance Festivals, and how much I'd freakin' absolutely adore wearing that dress to, well, anywhere. It was deep burgundy, the embroidery was all black and gold and blue and red.

Here's the beauty I made with vintage 70s fabric to wear to Atlanta. I absolutely love it, and got loads of compliments!

And it was only six dollars. If you want to understand the value of this, visit a website that sells clothing for Renaissance Faires...there is a reason I don't own a dress like this already, and it has to do with dollar signs. (Just to give you an idea, visit Yet here it was, something I've always wanted, for mere pennies almost. So I stood there, trying to convince myself that it didn't really count as clothes if I was getting it for Ren Faire. That my goal was only to TRY not to buy clothes for a year, so it would be okay to slip a little. That it would be more foolish NOT to take advantage of the sweet deal than to hold onto my guns and walk away. I rationalized for at least five minutes while standing there, feeling the fabric and admiring the embroidery.

Then I turned and walked out the door. I called a friend, who I knew would also love the dress and have a need for such a garment, and told her about it. She visited the shop later but ended up not purchasing it. And so I told a few others who I know that might venture up to check it out, and last night, at our gathering, we laughed about the irony of finding a dress like that in such a rural, conservative town, and all the logical reasons I might have given myself to break my vow and buy it anyway. One of my friends even said she was gonna go up there and buy it for me, and we laughed about that as well.

Would love to make a dress a day...but a dress a week has been more like it! Latest creation!
It was tough to walk away and leave something I knew I'd not likely come across at that great of a deal again, but it would have been tougher for me to fail at this goal so soon into it. It may not make so much sense to others, but it's an important objective to me. And so, I'll look for some patterns and hopefully find some amazing fabric and perhaps make my own dress before the coming Renaissance Faires in Atlanta and Greenville.

Or maybe I'll just wear the amazing dress I already have in the back of the closet, which I'd forgotten about until I had to dig deep to find something 'new'. In the meantime, I've got four crates of bulbs for our community garden that are calling my name, and a visit later to a friend in Greenville. And that's just the morning and afternoon.

It amazes me now that I ever had so much time to shop!

Have a blessed Sunday!!! :-)))))