Friday, September 28, 2012

The Giving Tree Moment

The first thing I noticed when I pulled in the driveway of the offset country home on Stony Point Road was the archway of ash trees that lined the entrance way. It was not a long driveway, and the canopy was warm and inviting. There were a multitude of other things to notice about this particular home from the long row of rhubarb plants, to the (what used to be a) strawberry patch and most notably the tree that had been "repaired" and lovingly named "Frankentree".  More than anything I just remember the feeling I that took over when I pulled in under the ash trees. It was safe.

The home belongs to the family of my closest friend, and is worth note because it has long been a place of haven and solace for her, and anyone who she graces with the opportunity to share it with her.  As is true with any childhood homestead, she holds on to the moments and memories that she had there, and she also stands to inherit the place someday.  We have been on many adventures on Stony Point Road; walking the grounds as she told tales of the landmarks, harvesting the fruit and vegetables, and taking family pictures by the most scenic areas. The ash trees that line the driveway were hand dug by her father and lovingly planted to represent each member of the family.  Her brother's tree has required a constant hand and diligent care, but it is thriving and symbolic. Trees provide a certain majesty which, when in our lives over time, we take for granted.

She recently discovered that the Emerald Ash Borer has made it's way to their town and has been found at the property directly next to the family home. It is devastating. The insect's presence is an inevitable doom to these statuesque arboreal beauties. She told me in our chat last night and we cried.  She sobbed.  I knew that it was so much more than the trees. She loves trees, has a degree in forestry and sits on her town's tree commission, but it's so much more than the trees.  "Frankentree" exists because this family can't bring themselves to remove anything of value from the property.  It's the helplessness that she feels at having to watch a symbol of her youth and memory of her childhood disappear. Trees represent a strong and unwavering hope, but are also just as vulnerable as hope.

My only words to her were to take as many pictures as she could, with and without members of the family and create a plan for planting new.  It'll be a difficult thing for her family and the transition will be painful, but facing the inevitability of it head on and making positive moments will allow her some closure.

There aren't many things that hold that level of value in my heart. My loved ones, of course, occupy that space, but there are no trees. There are landmarks of my childhood, stories that endure and pictures of places that hold meaning. I don't feel like I've missed out on something, but there is a part of me that wants the trees.  And not just for me.  It's so rare that families are still in the same home they grew up in.  It's even more rare that it has been passed down for generations.  My children may never have the quintessential "childhood home" because it is no longer the norm and our choices have led us down a different path.  Sometimes I feel like I want to give them that, but I'm not sure that's who we are.  I think planting roots is admirable and steadfast. It takes a commitment level that our parents' parents had. I love the possibility and ideology of settling down but I am also self aware enough to know that if opportunity presents itself and will enable my family more of anything, I usually weigh the options. I feel that it's important to stay fluid, at least for now. I'm willing to change as our needs, wants and ideals do. I love tradition, and will continue to create and establish them for our little unit. Our challenge is accepting that we do not fit the mold of stationary life while surrounded by stationary life.

Trees are stationary and look like pillars of security, but they are just as susceptible to extraneous circumstances as we are.  I feel that there is a lesson in my friend's loss. The association of this experience to my own introspection feels slightly narcissistic, but I was deeply moved by her plight. I have a strong sense of empathy and it hurt to hear her so sad. I thought about how hard it would be to lose something like that after so long.  I'm not trying to avoid hurt or loss, but it made me realize that investing in something so fragile can be precarious.  More importantly, I realized that I invest in precarious every day.  Love is precarious, change is precarious, life is precarious. I put myself out there every day, and I experience so much new that if I was going to be majorly derailed, it may have already happened.  I am not afraid of precarious, vulnerable or stationary.  I'm afraid of making choices that aren't right for my family, and ultimately for me. A deep part of me longs to plant the roots of a giving tree, but I needed the clarity to see that the roots that I plant are intangible. The friend that is losing the forest of ash trees is my ash tree.  My husband is my ash tree. My children are my ash tree. My family, though far away, are a canopy of ash trees.  Hopefully, I am theirs. I have deep roots already, and they are stationary.

Moment of design captured...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Come What May Moment

Sitting in the stone pergola, sipping on an ice water and admiring the grapevines and wood fire pizza oven, I sat with my children and took a moment to talk about our days.  It was a beautiful 75 degree day, sunny and breezy.  I have come to really enjoy the calm few moment when I first get home from work, right before the storm of evening. Evelyn told me a story about how a little girl that she goes to school with, and has been playing with was making bad choices. This little girl is so much trouble that I went against my philosophy of "not telling your children who they can be friends with" and told her to disassociate with this child.  It's one thing to not like your kid's friends, it is quite another to teach them about the power of association.  I do not want my daughter to spend anymore time with a 7-year-old who calls her "friend" a bitch.  SO...I told her she wasn't allowed to play with her anymore and let her know how to handle it at school. The hard part is, Evelyn's heart is like mine, and she wants so badly to avoid hurting anyone's feelings, that she would rather passively bow out than tell her the truth.  I told her that it was alright to feel that way, but that she needed to let this girl know that she did not like the way she was acting and that she didn't want to be part of it.  She was nervous at the idea of hurting this little girl's feelings.  I felt as she did, it was a true empathetic moment. 

Ronan listened with interest and patience as he awaited his turn to tell me about his day.  He stated so simply, "Evie, you aren't mean. Why is your friend mean?" And she got it.  "I don't want to be friends with a mean girl, and I don't want people to think I'm mean." I decided that Ronan gets to teach the life lessons from now on. Especially since not two minutes later, the heavens opened up out of nowhere and it began to rain.  My immediate reaction was to go inside, but the children looked at me and Ronan just said, "Why, Mom, it's just water from the sky?"  Two in a row, Son... you win.  We sat, with warm end-of-summer rain coming down on us, and tried to catch the drops.  I reveled in a still peace as we felt the breeze pick up and a raindrop fell onto Evie's eyelash.  I love the rain. I have always loved the rain. As a teenager, my sister and I used to dance in the rain with our friends and in one wonderful instance had even gone so far as to stand in a down pour to shampoo our hair... no joke.  I don't know when the moment came that rain became something to avoid.  After all, it's just water from the sky.  I let it happen.  I didn't lament my hair style, I didn't squirm because I felt damp.  My daughter stood up and let the hard moment of a friendship lesson wash away as she stood with her arms outstretched and her eyes closed.  It was the way it should be.  Sitting in the gentle rain and teaching my children that it's ok to just let go once in a while.  They were thrilled.  We did a rain dance and continued to talk about our days.

Later on, as I put Ronan to bed, he begged for a story, but not one from a book.  He asked that I tell him one, "Just from your voice". My automatic response is to say no because it's time for bed.  It was, after all, 10 minutes past his bedtime already.  I thought of the moment in the rain, and how happy we were, so I let go.  Out of nowhere came a story of a purple hippo named Cletus who asked all of the other animals on the savannah to teach him how to fly.  It was a ridiculously cute story and we laughed hysterically at the end of the "just my voice" tale when Cletus put on his "wings" and flew.  It felt so amazing. It was as if I had allowed myself some rare freedom.

The clarity of those moments came to me in a flash.  The reason that I felt so happy in those instances is because they were examples of how it feels to be the person I WANT to be.  I don't have any intention upon changing who I am fundamentally, but there are always things to improve upon.  Everyone wants to be more of something, everyone sees that they have potential to be more, feel more, do more. I have the potential to just let go.  I've always wanted to feel a bit more spontaneous.  Don't get me wrong, I will always have a multitude of lists and itineraries, but I need to be resolved to the idea of letting things go.  It is absolutely liberating, even in the tiny difference between saying No and Yes.  How much, ultimately, would it have changed the outcome of my life to have gone in the house when the rain started? I'll never know, but I gave myself the freedom to say yes after years of avoiding activities if there was going to be water falling from the sky. I make the choice between making that moment an adventure or an inconvenience.

I brought a purple hippo named Cletus to life for my son.  I can do that. I want to be the person that does that.  I want to be able to take things in a little easier stride, and I proved to myself today that not only am I capable of doing that, but it makes me happy to do that. 

When David and I started dating, we realized early on that we are not an ordinary couple.  We make choices that other people don't make, and we handle things that other people don't handle in a way that they don't handle it.  We like who we are and we are constantly focusing on the life that we are creating for ourselves.  We work together as a team very well because no matter what life throws at us, we put our heads together and find a positive way to make things better.  Our motto is "Come what may", and has been for 13 years. Until now, I didn't realize how much that can be applied to everything I do.  It's not just about our home life, it's about our way of life.  Instead of being fixated on how things should be, we need to be more fluid about how things are.  Change is necessary and life throws punches.  I like the way I feel when I don't try to force things my way and instead allow life it's flow and just go with it. Even if it just begins with a dance in the rain.

Moment of Design captured...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Nesting Moment

So... over the last couple of days, there have been numerous little references to my childhood. On Friday, I had a conversation with my student employee, who is not a too much younger than I, about our respective childhoods. I tried to relate to her recount of the misgivings of her childhood, but it was an awkward, round about, not-really-relating-at-all kind of relating. As she spoke of her tumultuous relationship with her mother, all I could think about was how difficult it is to be a mother.  My attempt to relate to her was to say that parents work very hard to do the right thing by their children and don't even realize that they're working so hard to do it, or that it's not working at all.  The only tools a parent is given is what they've experienced from their own parents, parents they've associated with and natural instinct. That's a pretty primitive set of tools. From that perspective, I suddenly had so much clarity about my own parents.

When my sisters and I were growing up, we didn't realize our parents were "parenting" at all, and we NEVER felt them struggle.  We recognized only things like; Mom worked a lot in the house and liked things very clean, Dad worked a lot and was very tired, we eat a lot of spaghetti and canned green beans and our aunts and uncle are around a lot.  What we didn't see was; Mom is constantly picking up after us, sewing us clothes and running an in-home daycare, Dad works construction and is tired because he works overtime to make the house payment, we eat spaghetti because noodles are inexpensive and our family is always around because Mom and Dad are the ones that everyone goes to for everything.  The only things we new for sure were that we were loved and happy. The truth is, I don't even think my parents recognized the truth until much later in life. They didn't know that they were "working" to make everything seamless and comfortable for us, they just did it. They always did right by us, and we didn't know they were trying. Ultimately a great deal of sacrifice was made to create that environment, but at the time, I don't believe any of us knew that.

Recently, a song came on the radio that threw me back to one of the true and original moments of design from an early age. There is no way to properly narrate the feeling, so I will generalize the scene. Every Friday and/or Saturday night as I was growing up, my mom and dad and their brothers and sisters would get together and play music.  I remember it in the depths of my heart as if it were yesterday.  After begrudgingly being tucked into bed, we would crack our bedroom door and listen to my mother's beautiful strong singing voice, my father's soft baritone and a chorus of background singers and acoustic guitars playing rhythm to a huge range of genres.  My uncles kept time with my dad as he lead and my Aunt Dani would laugh and sing her few silly songs. Some nights, as we got older, we would get to stay up and sat silently to listen, or sing along to ourselves with the favorites.  Eventually, we sang with the aunts & uncles, who we adored and even made our own requests.  There was always music. 

Then tonight something amazing happened to finally seal that this was indeed a moment of design to hang on to.  For dinner we were having cube steaks, mashed potatoes and corn. I know this seems irrelevant, but hang on... My children were not complaining about it by any means, but they were just not into it.  David and I are exhausted of the perpetual dinner time battle of keeping them on task long enough to get through a meal in a timely and positive fashion.  Out of nowhere I made little "nests" out of the mashed potatoes, put corn in the middle and cut up the cube steak very small so they could eat it all together.  I have never done this for them and I don't know why because EVERY time we had that exact dinner as a child, my mother would make us "nests" out of the mashed potatoes, put corn in the middle and had named it a "West Virginia birdsnest". Which is spurred no doubt by some creative genius she came up with to get us to eat.  Dad's from West Virginia... that's the only explanation I have for the name of the creative genius. Honestly, I never asked her why she called it that, because I had kind of forgotten it.  But I'll ask now. My kids laughed and made their own "nests" and ate that dinner like they were starving.  It was a beautiful thing.

So how do all of these moments connect? They caused me to have the most startling and enlightening revelation that my childhood was an incredible, irrevocable success.  Granted, I never, ever felt that I had a bad or less-than childhood, but it wasn't until noticing these little moments, and comparing them to experiences of other people, as well as looking at my own parenting style that I realized how good it truly was. We never knew the pain that our parents felt. We never knew that they struggled constantly to provide a good life for us.  We never thought that they were anything less than wonderful.

But not being aware isn't what made our childhood successful, it was that the moments of good seemed to come so easily, and so frequently. It wasn't that our parents were perfect that made our childhood so good, it was that they weren't. They were just so real. I think it's very important to be imperfect as a parent.  You never want to be put on a pedestal of perfection because the first time you aren't perfect it's devastating to the child and to yourself.  I want them to know that I'm human, flawed and always trying to be the best version of myself, which is always a work in progress. It's nice to know, looking back, that my parents were OK with being wrong. They did their best to be right, but were also willing to be flawed. The important thing was that they always fixed what was broken to the best of their ability. They always worked to make things happy for us.  I remember feeling happy. However, I think the most important thing was that we always felt so much love. I never doubted that we were loved, and that we were always sure of the difference between right and wrong.  They taught us to be just and open minded and independent.  We were set up with a very efficient set of tools.

I took this revelation and analysis and applied it to my own parenting style.  It's very different, of course.  The world is different, my husband is more like my mother and I am my father.  We have a very different and interesting set of circumstances with which we live. So there's that. I am constantly evaluating myself as a parent and looking for ways to stay me and improve our lives at the same time.  I thought about how happy my children were with their "West Virginia bird's nests" and vowed to do more of the same in different scenarios and realms of involvement.  I tried to recall the way I felt as a child and then reverse engineered how to make my family life feel that way.  In short, we need to have more fun. I need to harness the inborn, as well as nurtured, gifts that I was given and use them to my advantage. This realization is a game-changer.  The simple things that it took to make us happy as children stemmed from the fact that our life was simple. It doesn't take change, or therapy or... effort.  Little things like more music, silly food names and making a walk down the street the most important time in the world will redirect our course toward greater happiness.  I proved it today, and once I realized what I was doing, I tried more.  We had the most peaceful and argument free evening that we've had in a very long time.  This new awareness made me realize that there's hope for me yet.

Moment of Design captured...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Inside-out Moment

On campus we have been interviewing candidates, one of which will become my boss, over the last couple of days. This experience, along with being enlightening about Higher Ed has brought about a considerable amount of introspection, which I didn't expect.  The interviews are done in a panel setting with the various groups with whom the candidate will interact.  I love the idea of the panel interview for this reason, but it definitely intimidates me on a very deep level.  One of the candidates in particular stood out to me for a myriad of reasons, particularly that he was a self-proclaimed, "huge geeky nerd" and also and introvert. 

I am both of those things, and have always been proud of those things.  However, the topic of his introversion came up when reviewing the candidates with the panel the next morning, and the perception of these self proclamations was not favorable.  I was a little surprised... a precious little... that even in higher ed the world views introversion as an unfavorable trait. In a highly extroverted world, the subject of introvert continues to hold a negative connotation.  I needed internal clarity about my status. So I took an introverted moment.

We are the contemplative wall flowers. I am not an outward wall flower, but I cling to the outskirts of any situation that is a large group, or even unfamiliar.  I just do it with a learned grace.  We are the collaborators.  I am not usually quick or eloquent in a large unfamiliar group, but if we are face to face I can help solve the world's problems.  We are the thinkers.  I am not the first one to dive right in and attack something, but I can help reason a way in and out of it, if given time.  We are the strong.  It takes a great deal of energy, effort, and an incredible tool set developed over time to thrive in an extroverted world. And so, we are the reason peace and quiet was created... OK, that might be a stretch.

Just because we are introverts doesn't mean we aren't personable or approachable.  In fact, it's usually exactly the opposite. We might derive our energy from our reflective alone time, but that helps us be with people with a calm and collected perspective.  Just because we don't get our charge from being with people all of the time doesn't mean we can't lead a large group or be good leaders. This attitude that I'd witnessed, be it ever so small, led me to consider leadership as well; the things I truly value in a leader, and attributes I hope to possess as I lead.  Among the qualities I valued most high was, aside from my ever-present  passion for accountability, approachability. I consider myself to be highly approachable and value that as a strength. For my introversion, being approachable is a learned behavior. Those acting classes didn't hurt, either.

I think I'm a pretty good time in most situations... it takes a lot of mental prep work, but once I've deployed my parachute of learned behaviors (that now come naturally), I float gently into the party and fight my magnet to the wall.  I do have a passion for entertaining and hospitality, but I want to do it on my terms.  It's all about learning, creating and using tools.

I will be interested to see if either of my children gravitate toward the introverted side.  Right now, there's a whole group of people-people living in this environment, and it seems that the children feed off of that.  I think Ronan is exhibiting signs of needing his "recharge" time, which, of course, I am sensitive to. I have noted that it's worth noting... I like notes- and I'm fairly certain extroverts do, too.

It resonated with me that the candidate volunteered this information because I felt like I could relate to him, and I thought it took a lot of strength to vocalize this fact. I am happy to be the way I am. I find my energy in a quiet moment. I constantly look for ways to improve my people skills. In my efforts to recharge, I have found self awareness.  I feel good being by myself.  It's important to know that you're alright on your own.  So many people aren't, and can't find peace.  I take comfort that I was born with personality traits that are contrary to society's "norm" which enable me to find quiet in a very loud world.

Moment of Design captured....   

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Enchanted moment

The moment began like this...I listened to my 4-year-old son, Ronan read me a story that he had written.

Ruby was a husky horse. He lived with me, Ronan. Ronan fed her hay. Ruby liked to climb on the mountains with me. One day a squid fly (don't ask, I have no idea what this is) found them. The squid fly took Ruby and Ronan to his house. His house had a triangle roof and lots of bricks. He trapped 
them in a cage. They used a key they found on the floor to get out. They ran away to New Mexico where the squid fly couldn't find them. New Mexico is very far and it has peace and quiet. Ruby and Ronan lived happily ever after. 
The End

I realized as he wrapped up his mini-fairytale that he is as prone to enchantment as I am. I am not only prone to it, but drawn to it.  I am captured by it and I seek it out. There is nothing wrong with enchantment. That moment that you feel yourself calm and focused and lifted to another place.  That moment when you see possibilities. It's being a dreamer, but it's more than that.

Ronan's story clearly shows some creativity. Predominantly, it shows the detail of a 4-year-old mind. It has a basic plot and hollow characters. It is cute (especially the squid fly?). But then he states, New Mexico is very far and it has peace and quiet. I was a bit stunned. I knew that David and I had felt that way about New Mexico when we were there recently, but we had not been vocal about it. It was peaceful, and it was quiet, and we were in a state of calm for most of the trip. Clearly, it translated. That wasn't the part that got me, though. It was the fact that he VALUED peace and quiet.  He was enchanted enough by the idea of peace and quiet that he made it his escape destination in a fairy tale.

I realize that it is important to be pragmatic, and that society doesn't believe that we cloudy-headed, unfocused dreamer-folk can make rational leadership-worthy decisions. There always needs to be balance.  There is always pressure to make concrete, logical decisions and stick by them.  Even if they're wrong. Emotion is the enemy, and dreams are worthless. I can't live like that. I believe that my indecision, mistakes and enchantment enable me to have an interesting and full life.  I will never have a picture perfect, by-the-book lifestyle because it is not who we are...

Both of our children are dreamers. They are happy as long as they are weaving a tale and entrenched in their environment. Our world is full of music, color and story. We will, of course, teach them to balance enchantment with logic, but I am proud of our cloudy headed, unfocused dreamer-ness.  We are the people who find beauty in anything and solutions from nothing. We truly need very little.  One of the things I am learning about myself is that I do better with less. Simplicity has been more and more attractive and we are finding that our children do better with a simpler life as well.

I find that I am moved by simple statements of peace and the fostering of creativity. We toured a school for Evelyn the other day and I was taken by the amount of care that went into the atmosphere. It was not, by any means, a wealthy, shiny computer lab, modern fixutres and latest & greatest school.  In fact, the district is not well off at all. However, this particular school has chosen to stay small and dedicate its energy toward developing a warm, inviting, and artistic culture.  David and I both felt at home and welcome. It was enchanting. I love those moments when I feel like I'm on the right path. It is usually when I allow my subconscious true creative control and choose to feel the freedom that we are all born with.

Peace and Quiet in the Land of Enchantment
My challenge is that there are two sides to everything. We need structure to exist in society, so it is the weight that I carry to strike that balance between structure and enchantment and solidify those practices with my family. When I recognize qualities of strength in either structure or dreaming I will focus and nurture them.

We hold onto these fantastic pictures of the future that are enchanted visions of the life we long to lead, peppered with reality and experience. However, I do not believe that life exists only in the future.We find our enchanted moments of reality in the present and hold on, knowing that they will help us form the pictures to come.

Moment of Design captured...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Hot-head Megan, full of grace moment

Today, I took a deep breath. Then another. I am accountable to the choices and mistakes that I make, because I believe that growth is not possible without mistakes, failure and the lesson.  I cannot change or control anything but myself.  These are things I believe to be truth, but not everyone does.  I have a universal goal for most interactions with people: Stay positive. Listen. Find a solution if that is necessary.

I find it easy to be kind. I like to laugh, and smiling sets people at ease.  I am not a merry-sunshine-rainbows-and-unicorns-are-awesome kind of person, but I do believe that good is better than bad, nice is better than mean, and anger accomplishes nothing. I struggle with anger just like anyone else, and I feel frustration when communication has not been productive.  Today I decided to breathe.  I defined myself years ago as a professional, and that takes practice, but to truly handle things outside of your control takes grace.

Grace is one of my favorite words.  It's simple, and beautiful, and conjures images of flight, flow and strength. It has long been a dream of mine embody more grace.  I am a klutz, by nature.  If there is a hole to fall in I've fallen, if there is a sign to run into, I have letters imprinted in the limb that hit first. My husband David and I have wrecked every small motorized vehicle used for recreation that can be ridden in tandem. Often I've picked myself up and vowed to try to be more graceful.  Over the years I've discovered that grace is not a physical capability, but a state of mind.  It takes more fortitude than a headstrong 20-something can muster, unless naturally inclined... which, clearly, I am not.

My moment of design came with an exercise in grace.
Grace is tolerance.
Grace is patience.
Grace is keeping your mouth shut.
Grace is ignoring panic and breathing through frustration.
Grace is patience (yeah... I need to remind myself of that one repeatedly).
Grace is humility.
Grace is strength and openness.
Grace is peace.

Every day is a lesson in grace, but it is not recognized. The most important thing about this design element is the effect it has on people around me.  If I can possess grace, my surroundings stay peaceful, and then in turn I am happy.

Moment of design captured...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Blog post anxiety moment

I am making an assumption that every beginning blogger feels exactly the same anxiety at this moment.  It's a blank page, that will soon be public, so it'd better be good. Or at the very least entertaining. I mean,who's going to read this anyway? I'm working on that confidence thing... it's all part of the plan.

Life is full of opportunity. I have been living proof of that, and also of what happens when you seize it. Among those opportunities are little moments that define and design who we are and who we become.  I have begun to notice and identify those moments of design and I find them fascinating. I believe that we are forever incomplete for a reason.  It keeps the canvas open for more possibility. We make a million little choices which ultimately shape who we are. I am trying to capture mine.  Even a few of them.

One of today's defining moments is this post.  I have always wanted to start a blog.  I am not a classically trained, dedicated writer.  I do not have ambitions of being a stellar and world famous novelist.  I do not pine away hours attempting to come up with topics that move or change the world.  I just like writing. It makes me happy.  And that is the theme of my latest design.

I am a relatively happy person, but I feel that more could be done to solidify a stable happiness quotient. Unfortunately, as a mother and wife, I have the role of setting the tone for the household.  It is not a role I relish, but one that I accept.  In turn, I have decided that it is important to focus on what matters, whether trivial or monumental, because that will increase the level of happiness felt by all around me.

I remember turning 30 and a friend of mine told me that you really start to evaluate significance of people and decisions in your life.  Suddenly you are real adult (don't ask me why, when not in your 20s the world takes you more seriously) and the choices made now weigh heavily.  I have honestly felt that, though part of me wonders if it isn't the power of suggestion and a little self-fulfilling prophecy that has made this real. As I redefine and design the person I want to be, I notice more of these little moments.  

Wouldn't you choose to be with them, always?
Aside from truly beginning my blog, my moment of design for today was stepping out of my comfort zone to accept an invitation from new people. I have recently relocated far from everything comfortable that once defined my life, and I've struggled with the idea of "starting over" in the human relations realm. I have very real and definable limitations, which I vacillate between embracing and trying to conquer. In order to form new friendships I feel I owe it to all involved to be the best version of myself. A blatant openness is the only way I can come up with to accomplish this.  When accepting the invitation to go gold panning with the youth pastors from a church we rarely attend I defined my boundaries up front, explaining that we do everything with our children, so I hoped it would be alright that we make kid friendly concessions.  They were understanding, welcoming of the idea and even complimentary that we had chosen that path.

Moment of Design captured...