Wednesday, May 18, 2016


I have a lot of talented friends from all directions in my life.  One of the many is a high school friend - Debbie Autrey Warren. We hung out for four years on the girls' basketball team, and as I recall, we had one winning season. What I remember vividly about Debbie is that she was fast; she had a very accurate overhead shot; and, she had a quick wit and sharp sense of humor. Still does.

Anyways, Debbie's the person who made the sign LIFE'S BETTER ON THE FARM  that I'm using for my new blog look. It hangs in my house, and now introduces my musings and ramblings on my blog.

We reconnected last year as several of us from the Watauga High School Class of 1970 planned our 45th class reunion. And what a joy it's been to have her back in my life.  Along with fellow classmates, Terri Greene Langdon and Bill Rominger, we've formed a bond that's solid and hilarious.

Yep, life's better on the farm, and Debbie's a huge part of the joy and fun!


Life is better on the farm when the irises bloom.  It's been a rainy, rainy May.  Despite the deluges, farm irises have opened and greatly lessened the heaviness of gray skies and chilly temps with their beauty and subtle essence.
Some people I know don't tolerate irises because they're almost impossible to keep weeds from co-habiting their bed and because they require almost yearly thinning and replanting. Their beauty trumps both annoyances for me: I think they're spectacular.



This little, bright yellow iris is one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring, and this year, it opened in March. It came from the home of an older friend who passed away close to 20 years ago and has multiplied to the point where I have to dig and divide them every year.

Although this beauty has a pale blue cast, it's officially listed as a white species.

Subtle yellow -  one of my favorite colors

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Peaceful Kwan Yin reminds all of us at the farm to stay mellow.

Happy Dude reminds all of us at the farm to laugh and enjoy life, even if elements take their toll.

MerryBelle reminds all of us at the farm to keep an eye on the cows from a distance rather than risk stepping in soupy patties.

And Mac reminds all of us at the farm to hide our bones when no one's looking.


I am deeply grateful to the Riverside Artists Gallery in Marietta for asking me to be the featured exhibitor in the May exhibit, "Zen Garden," alongside gallery members Cathy Norosky (carved and painted gourds) and Betsy Cook (metal work). For one thing, I had to get off my duff and make some paper this spring so I'd have something to work with as I thought about what I wanted to present. The papermaking process itself felt very natural, but putting pieces together sorta filled me with a creatively void feeling in that it's been so long since I actually did something to be viewed by more than just the corgis and me. Second, my eye has been shifting toward assemblage work, especially with natural and primitive elements. I have a wealth of material that could be accurately described with both of those qualifiers in the old barn that sits right outside my porch. It was in the barn that I began to see things with which I could create assemblages to match with the paper.  I began to play with the images in my mind. And third, in the spirit of "zen," the materials I chose to use were both impermanent in their natural setting and places of lasting wisdom in their own right.
This piece entitled "Final word: Felicity" is .dedicated to my dear friend and mentor, Brian Dendle. Dendle passed to the spirit world almost two years ago, and one of the last things someone found in the last book he was readingwas the word "felicity" written in his hand. My thousands of memories of Brian are tied in the flat scroll that's wrapped with a dictionary entry of the word's definition placed on top of the memory scroll. I chose to mount it  on an a piece of barn wood that fell off the barn about the time Dendle died. The hinge clung to the wood. The entire piece is mounted on paper made from burdock and mullein. I needed some practice in hammering, so I added some nails from the barn, and in doing so, I solidified specific memories of Dendle in the wood. I miss his gruffy ways and off-the-wall, irreverent humor so much.
This journal is headed to a friend of a friend in California. I painted the onion skin-dyed paper while it was still wet and had everything from recycled handmade paper to onion paper in the vat. The internal pages are done in rather plain sheets of abaca fiber so that the recipient can write on it without feeling intimidated by marking on the handmade paper. (Some folks just can't bring themselves around to using the paper to carry messages of the heart.) The purple fiber adornment on the front is made of dyed fibers of possum hair.
Journal #2 is rather plain upon first sight, but as one flips through the pages, he/she can see a fairly extensive combination of handmade paper pages that add personality and pastel surfaces for chronicling whatever the owner cares to share on its pages. The exterior is colored with walnut hull dye, and the interior sheets are ones of mullein, tea, coffee, onion skin, and burdock with a little cotton thrown in for intrest.

This piece, "Rain from the North Shield," came together one afternoon when I sat upstairs and watched the rain pour in from the north, a rare occurrence here on the farm. It's mounted on barn wood, and consists of layers of handmade paper - walnut dyed, onion skin dyed, mullein dyed and cotton that was stained with rusty barbed wire. The rain sticks above the center are a seed pod and rusty nail, as is the earthy element below. 

The final piece I share here is another homage to the barn - scrolls and nails mounted on barn wood on paper on tin roofing from the barn. Actually from a distance, the tin could look like paper itself. The middle scroll piece has a beautiful piece of snakeskin that also came from the barn - another treasure from the old structure. I'm going to add two elements to the side of the wooden block once it comes back home - two nails that I found after I had the piece installed.
Scrolls keep popping up in most everything I make. I like the idea of some sort of message captured within the rolled sheets of paper.  Most of the time, I write a little snippet inside the ones I roll up - a thought, a quotation, a definition, etc. - so that the piece carries that along to its next residence. This is an early photo of this scroll.  It has evolved a bit with other adornments and a change of paper, in part. And I have to say, I like it on my wall.  It might have to stay with me.
I would imagine these pieces have many people shaking their heads in terms of wondering what the hell I was thinking as I put them together, but as a result of this first step, I have ideas running around in my head unlike ever before. I'm excited to keep at this process, not for public scrutiny or artistic recognition on any level.  I'm just happy to have my hands in the paper vat and subsequently, have the paper in my hands.
Indeed, life's better on the farm when I make paper: my heart's full and my soul's dancing when I slop in the messy pulp and smelly inclusions that produce a rather unique beauty.

Sunday, January 24, 2016


A good winter storm always takes me back to the mountains of North Carolina when every winter brought a least a couple, if not more, storms similar to this weekend's Winter Storm Jonas.(When did snowstorms take on names??) Those of you who were students at Appalachian Elementary will recall we didn't go to school for over a month during the winter of 1960.

Memories of snow cream (not tainted from air pollution), waxing the rudders of my sled for greater speed, Mom's hot chocolate made from scratch, and cold, burning fingers and toes from staying out way too long. Richard Randall and I played at his house on snow days; like siblings, we'd get on each others' nerves, and I'd break one of his crayons, only to be sent across the driveway by Aunt Lera to get my crayon of the same color as a replacement (which I would break in half and claim mine was broken, too.) But mostly, we played and tunneled in the snow and played some more.

I don't get bored or lonely when I'm snowed in.  As a career teacher, I can vouch for the fact that teachers always have their fingers crossed for a snow day at the sighting of the first flake.

Here are a few ways I keep myself busy when snowed in. (Notice that cleaning / organizing did not make the list.)

I've knit. This weekend I worked on teaching myself a couple new stitches I'd like to use in some upcoming projects. The hat below matches my new neck warmer, and the dishcloth served as my project to learn the berry stitch - quite simple, really. Recent research, verified by several article on Facebook, tell of the stress relief my favorite hobby brings, so on snowy days, I pull out the needles and keep them clicking.

I channel Miss Jane Hathaway (of The Beverly Hillbillies for you young'uns) and bird watch. I've observed pine siskins, mourning doves, blue jays, goldfinches, titmice, nuthatches, cardinals, red-bellied woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, towhees, juncos, house finches, and others devour the oil seed I pushed through the knee-high snow to get to the feeders. Pepín, the partially leucistic house finch who was here last winter has returned, much to my delight.

I watch TV - a couple of movies & documentaries, some basketball, ice skating, etc. 'Nuf said. PBS Series recommended. Most other TV, not worth the watch.

I listen to a lot of music and search for new artists who pique my listening ear. And, I tune in to a lot of NPR radio to fill in the gaps. I am aghast by the numbers of folks who take Donald Trump seriously. Likewise, Ted Cruz nauseates me, as does Sarah Palin. (My cousin recently reprimanded me for posting too much #feelthebern into on FB, but I'm "feeling the bern," so I don't care!)

My makeshift indoor greenhouse in my bathroom holds my orchids, and I piddle around with it,  cleaning and rearranging the plants housed therein. All my orchids are thriving - a contrast to the winters they've endured without sufficient protection from the too direct light and inconsistent temps. Since I can never remember the proper names for the orchids, I call this one the Dancing Russians Orchid - in glorious bloom and happy as a lark.

I'm also happy with the coleus I rooted from last summer's stock.  Nice colors on dreary days.


I hang out with two corgis and attempt to keep the house as free of their year-round shed as possible. They're not big fans of heavy snow falls since they get lost in the drifts. Mac tends to enjoy plowing through the snow with his nose; MerryBelle would just as soon stay inside.

Cleaning up the clutter and going through papers has yet to make the list. My entire house looks like my office used to look. There's a chaotic organization to my clutter, however, and I can live with that, especially when snow's on the ground and I can do all sorts of other things.

Finally, I layer up in a mountain of clothes and go out to play. Looking like the Pillsbury Dough Boy, I waddle through the snow, make a couple of snow angels, check out the barn, and do laps out the lane.

That's where I'm headed now.

Monday, December 21, 2015


It's here!  Winter Solstice. Officially at 11:48 PM EST tonight. The shortest day of the year and longest night. (The day around which early Christians decided to place the birth of Christ.)

The most powerful day of the year: the day in which one contemplates what to conceive, fertilize, and nurture in her /his life over the next year (and beyond).  Darkness gives way to light, winter passes, and the Earth bursts forth with life. What we plant today charts our course for the following year and beyond; today's thoughts determine our reality, as Buddha would remind us.

(Words of wisdom, learned by experience: Careful what you conjure. Define all things precisely, leaving no details unconsidered, no stones uncovered!)

 Eliza and I head to Boone tomorrow to spend Christmas with Samuel (who's already there), Petie, Myra, and three dogs. I'm stoked! No doubt Eliza and I will sing a great part of the way down the road; Red Wolf will await us at the top of the tree in Petie's living room; our stockings will hang over the hearth for the 63rd year; we'll have an abundance of yummy treats; and the hugs exchanged will fill our hearts like fine champagne - bubbling over with love of family and friends, and the grace of the mountains.


This Solstice, I am particularly thankful for the freedom retirement has brought to my life. I got to be in the mountains for autumn colors, and I took a trip to New York City at the time when my colleagues returned to the classroom. I've had time to ride my new bike, walk with the dogs, and go to the YMCA at my leisure. I've had time to knit, make paper, play mah jong, and listen to music all day. Most importantly, I've been free to visit my mom in NC and spend precious moments with her. One never realizes how much work obligations interrupt "LIVING" until they no longer define each day. After 6 months, I'm still in awe of the joy I feel with the freedom that comes with retirement. And, I am grateful beyond words.

I don't have Solstice details for what I plan to offer to the Universe ready for words at this very moment, but my overarching thoughts about the upcoming year have to do with peace, tolerance, civility, and decency. There is such an absence of these basic principles these days that I sometimes believe people have forgotten how to love - or even that love is absent in their world. The energy of  hatred, vitriol, and intolerance encircles each person on the planet. It's essential for humankind to step back and breathe in the opposite direction. How do we manifest that notion? would anyone not choose such basic ideas to guide his / her life?  I'm still trying to figure that out, but I invite everyone to join me in working to restore each of those principles in his/her life.

For now, my go-to quote sums it up best once again:

"...I swear I will not dishonor my soul with hatred but offer myself humbly as a guardian of nature, a healer of misery, a messenger of wonder, an architect of peace...." and "I intend to leave those whom I encounter happier than before and with a smile on their faces."

May blessings abound!

Thursday, December 03, 2015


It's a classic gray winter day here at the farm - one of many we can expect until Spring decides to embrace us come March / April. While I enjoy the solitude winter brings, it's easy for this Virgo to get lost in her head during the months when I don't have my hands in the dirt, when I'm not outside most all day. It's also the first fall I haven't been in the classroom.  Thankfully I have a lot of time to myself. My task is to fill the hours with things I want to do....not all that difficult, thankfully.

But things have transpired lately that make accessing my joy difficult , specifically the level of killing in our country and abroad and serious illness that seem so prevalent these days. I tend to be a fixer - one who will work diligently to make people feel better. I intend to create moments that bring joy and peace to my space and those I love. When I realize I can't do anything about situations like in Paris and San Bernardino, I become anxious. When those I love fall seriously ill, I want to be the medicine that cures them.

I have to find a way to fix a lingering sense of futility. That's what I don't have figured out.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


In August. Laida Carro and I decided on the spur of the moment to go to NYC to see the John Singer Sargent exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Last week, we took off.  Here are a few photos to show some of the many things we enjoyed along the way.
Lady Liberty welcomed us as we cruised by on our harbor tour.

And the Empire State Building hovered high above us on every hop-on/hop-off tour we took.

In NYC, one sees classic, old buildings lend an idea of elegant structures of decades ago, despite the invasive and overpowering modern structures that engulf them today. I would LOVE to take a tour based on the architecture of the city prior to skyscrapers.

These men, gathered in groups of three, await the arrival of the bus after a day's work. The diversity of the Big Apple's inhabitants makes it the extreme opposite of the Mid-Ohio Valley, recently given the honor of the second least diverse area in the country. I LOVED people watching in the city!
Little did we know that the Pope would decide to come to New York while we were there. I'm sure our presence was a deciding factor in his visit
We managed to avoid a lot of inconvenience caused by the papal presence by going in the opposite direction of where he was to be. That said, the city made the best of all the interruptions caused by the Holy Father's visit. 

One of my favorite works at the Whitney Museum.  I didn't get the name of the piece nor the creator, but I know it was done by an American artist. How's that for detail?
 Traveling with an artist like Laida equates to lots of museum time: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim Museum, et. al.  Most fine by me! On the next visit, I want to take in the Frick Museum and the Museum of Modern Art.

I'm fine in large cities as long as I can get outside and as long as I see animals. New Yorkers love their dogs and horses. This guy was on break and seemed to like the idea someone talked to him while he stood in the middle of the city breathing bus exhaust.  (My favorite breakfast place, called The Barking Dog on 94th Street, provided my daily dog fix.)

It was interesting to learn that the southern part of the island, the area where Wall Street and the World Trade Center are found, is built on a land fill. And all that land fill supports these huge structures. The Big Apple is a city of 8.6 million people, a multitude of diverse groups who speak 300+ languages.

Throw in visits to Chinatown, Brooklyn, Chelsea, NoHo and SoHo (north of Houston / south of Houston), and The Lion King on Broadway, and the cubana-americana and ameriana-cubana felt as if they got a good bang for their buck.
This Green Acres mom was thrilled to be away from the cows and stinkbugs for a few days. But, she was even more thrilled to return to the peace and quiet the land offers. Nope, no sirens on an hourly basis and open spaces here at The Farm, thank goodness!

NEW YORK, NEW YORK (9/24-28, 2015) - Ground Zero

One cannot dismiss the soulful impact of the museum and memorial at Ground Zero. The recollection of the morning of September 11, 2001, parallels that of the disbelief those of us who recall President Kennedy's assassination felt - an instantaneous understanding that we were witness to a moment in history that would forever change our country.

I heard the news of the Twin Towers when I left a Grammar Techniques class I had just taught at our local community college. As I walked into the lobby of our main building, I heard the receptionist at the welcome desk telling students that our country was under attack. It was the day before my birthday, and any anticipatory happiness I felt for the following day dissolved on the spot.

As Laida and I approached the area on Saturday, I was amazed to see the new World Trade Center structure.

The light of the afternoon shadowed a cross on the side of the building.  I'm assuming that shadow is planned, but I don't know that for sure. The little dots ascending the building are lights that twinkle in the darkness and can be seen from a fair distance.

The fountain outside the memorial museum conjures the same feeling as the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. Simultaneously beautiful and somber, the area pays sweet tribute to those who perished there on 9/11.

Flowers decorated the names of people who perished. I remembered a young woman from the Marietta / Parkersburg area died in the Twin Towers' collapse, but I couldn't recall her name. Ironically, hers was the first picture I saw in area inside where each person who perished is honored. Her name was Mary Lou Hague. (I took a picture of her story photo at the memorial, but I later learned no photos were allowed, so I will not post it here.)

There are numerous twisted metal pieces throughout the museum that resemble huge metal sculptures. Had I not heard the constant repetition of the names of those who died in the background, I could have envisioned these displays as the work of an artist of reknown.

Relics of that day - a letter from a man to his sons and wife, the twisted remains of fire engines that responded, driver's licenses, shoes, etc.- remind visitors of the many whose lives ended that day.

It's impossible not to feel the sacredness of this burial ground, along with the resilience of the people of New York and their ability to move forward.

Saturday, September 05, 2015


June 1, 2015 - My first day as an official retiree!  A moment I've waited for for years - a moment that seemed like it would never arrive, especially during those stretches of burn out / frustration during the 37 years I stood in front of a group of students wondering if I could continue the next day. Or, as I sat in endless days of meetings that really recycled the same sort of administrative bullshit and requirements year after year.  A day that would redefine my life in terms of exactly what I want it to be.

Three months down the road, I can report that it does feel good, very good.  Free.  Liberating.  Peaceful.  Restful. Stress-free. Joyful.  Happy!

The Saturday before my colleagues headed back to the class room, we celebrated a "Tanya's Not Going Back to School" party at here at the farm. The cake, a gift from Charlotte Hatfield, Lori Fahn, Pam Plaskett, and Carol Garoza, summed it up:

And the Thursday night before, my beloved Bobbi showed up totally unexpectedly at the door.  A huge, wonderful surprise. One that filled my heart with joy and bubbly love. Samuel didn't make the fiesta, but having the two girls at home for a long weekend was more than I had ever envisioned. It'd been a long time since we all hung out here, and it took zero time to move right back into our crazy farm humor and laughter. Eliza got to hang out with her sister and fellow Scorpio; I had some special Bobbi time, and the three of us were together for some good fun and talk.  Over the top wonderful.

 (my girls)
With assistance from Christy Veladota, Eliza planned and carried out the party. She wanted to honor her mom, and that meant the world to me. E's such a beautiful woman, inside and out.  Organized.  Efficient.  Loving.  Caring.  I am so blessed to be her mom, and I love watching her blossom and grow. 
Many folks ask me what my plans are in retirement, and I've been amazed at the suggestions others have for me.  "Hey, you could do this.  Or that"  "Have you considered applying for this position or that position?"  "Why don't you try project A?  Or B?", etc. My honest response is that I'm giving myself one year (or longer, should I so desire) to do exactly what I  want to do, and if that is spend the day without crossing a thing off my list, then so mote it be.  I've worked all my life living by the guidelines and dictates of others.  It feels just great to know I don't have to do that anymore. I can be the master of my own fate! YIPPEE !!!! Highly recommended (for anyone who is on the fence about retirement life!)
What I have decided so far:
learn to play mah jong. I joined a group that meets once a week, and I'm hooked. I even mah-jonged twice one afternoon.
join a book club to jumpstart reading again.  It's been a while since I had a book in my hand to read for pure enjoyment. I found that looking studying textbooks for almost 4 decades. diminished my desire to read for pleasure.  Fittingly, just this past week, I was invited to join a local reading group.
And that's it for now.  I'll visit my mom frequently, make some paper, play with photographs, see friends, and play around the farm.  For once I'll be able to tend to a fall garden. The corgis and I should get ample exercise, as well.
I have not experienced any sort of nostalgia as the school year has begun. The highlights of my career have always centered on my students and their growth.  Perhaps I'll miss my contact with them, but as yet, I don't sense their absence greatly. 
The bottom line:  Tanya Wilder is loving her early morning conversations with her high school friend, Terri, is joyful at the freedom of taking a walk whenever she desires, is delighted to have time for fall chores around the farm that NEVER got accomplished previously, and is eager to score a few more mah jongs, make some paper, and listen to music all day!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

WINTER 2015 - OFF FROM WORK TODAY - 2/19/2015

It's been a typical black / white / grey (with dirty brown and pine-tree green  thrown in) winter here in the MOV.  There's nothing new about that, and in fact, one begins to expect colorless days in the valley beginning around Thanksgiving, if not a week of so before. A couple of days lately seemed to have been painted from a blue-ish palate, adding just a bit of variation to the otherwise monochromatic landscape. I'm happy to report, the sun is out at the moment; I counted 14 species of birds at the feeder a while ago. I'm sure they're delighted to much sunflower seed in the bright rays, even though it's cold as the dickens.

Today's classes are cancelled around the area because of the below zero temps, and I hear tomorrow morning we'll see the likes of -10 to -15.  Then with the thermometer soaring to slightly above freezing, rain and sleet will cover the snow for the next couple of days, and we'll really have a mess.  EERGGH!! I hear my dear Grandma Shook in the back of my mind, reminding me that "you cannot control the elements," so I might as well relax and sink in to the joys of solitude and stillness. I'm at home alone a lot!

The corgis LOVE the cold!  Their eagerness to get outside and roll in the snow inspire me to go out and play, even for just a few minutes at these temps. As I write this, MerryBelle's charging through the snow, plowing with her corgi nose and chasing the snow fluff she makes.  On days like this one, I'd like to have two layers of thick fur covering my body. My students got the "mom lecture" the other day about dressing for the weather (i.e.,  heavy socks and boots rather than tennis shoes with anklet socks...layers covering the chest rather than a t-shirt with a zipped-open hoodie, etc.) I reminded them that people will think they've lost considerable weight come spring since we all look 25 pounds heavier with tons of winter clothes on.) That notion seemed to resonate with the scantily clad goofball young adults! Even Buddha of the Field recalls Grandma Shook's wisdom and dons his winter snow cap to keep his head warm.

When I look around me and make a mental list of all the things I could accomplish today while I'm here at home, I come up with dozens of chores that merit my attention.  More than likely, however, I'll putz around the house, pick up some knitting, listen to music, and plan summer flower gardens in my mind. I find I excel in thinking a lot, accomplishing little on days like today.  And, I'm quickly arriving at the conclusion that thinking is an accomplishment in and of itself.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


The gray skies hang heavy, but I find that if I get outside, my desire to crawl in a hole and not come out until spring lifts a bit.

Mac and MerryBelle seemed eager to head to the back woods this morning, so off we went - the first time in a couple of days. I have an adjusted work schedule today, so the morning was mine to enjoy with the pups.

Turkeys, deer, coyotes, and raccoons had taken their morning stroll before our arrival - their tracks fresh and abundant - , and the corgis took off after a rabbit that bolted from the fence line. As always, MerryBelle found frozen scat to savor as Mac goofballed along the way in search of the perfect stick to bring me.

I remembered to take some dried lavender flowers to scatter where the big buck we lost before Christmas exhaled for the final time. Strange. I felt as if he were there still, and the dogs came to stop at the exact point where he lay to take flight.

We meandered on, and suddenly, the woods crackled with the sound of a large animal on the run. As I turned to look that way, I saw the stag's heir - the younger buck (possibly an offspring of the large stag) who now lays claim to the farm. 

He's not new to me; I've seen him before. (I know most all the animals who hang out here.) I do believe, however, it's more than coincidence that he let me get a good glimpse of his majestic, masculine self today.

I welcome him and will try to keep him safe, as I did his predecessor.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


I just watched Eliza drive out the road on her way back to Cincinnati, and the emptiness that accompanies her departure has returned to signal the official end of our holiday time together. 

The Shook / Wilders had a wonderful 10 days together - a lot of time in the car with both kids, very special moments in Boone with Mom and Myra, and another Christmas dinner around the table with Aunt Lera, Richard, and the latest member of the family, Colton Moyer, a young man whom Richard brought home for the first time.

Samuel arrived on Christmas Eve morning. Eliza, Myra and I drove to pick him up in Charlotte where we stopped to have a brief visit with Aunt Linda, my dad's next to youngest sister.  She's a very special aunt, and since we don't gather around the table at Grandma Shook's anymore, having an hour or so with her helped fill that void.

Once we got home and Petie got her long-awaited hugs from Samuel, we decorated Mom's tree.  From her chair, she helped out by letting us know where to hang ornaments. Myra sparkled in her Christmas PJ's.  (She bought some for all of us, and eventually, we looked outfit-coordinated enough for one of those classic holiday family portraits.)

One of the many advantages of having adult children is that no one was up and full of energy at 6:00 AM - with the exception of a corgi who had to go outside to pee at 5:45 AM.  Mac was more certain that Red Wolf has ever been that he saw Santa, so yours truly was out on a walk before anyone (except Mr. Big Ears) thought about moving. All I could see while trying not to wake up completely as I slugged down the street was a happy little corgi butt, sashaying over to the rhododendrons to lift a leg. No Santa in sight!

I think everyone was ready to take it easy on Christmas day. We opened a mountain of gifts, had a couple cups of good coffee, and chilled until preparation time for our late lunch rolled around.  Myra, Eliza, and I were in the kitchen together at various times over the day.  The big debate on whether to have mashed potatoes AND macaroni and cheese was decided; Eliza prepared both, and both were appropriately consumed in their entirety.  Myra fixed the turkey and green beans while I prepared the table, cooked some collard greens, and made fruit salad. With Aunt Lera's rolls and cranberry salad, the Shook / Randalls celebrate Christmas Day together as we have for over 50 years.  It doesn't get much better !

All of us had another three days together before we had to return Samuel to the airport and before Myra headed back to Richmond. A bit of shopping, another good meal with the Randalls, a good long walk in the mountains with the dogs, and the annual University of Kentucky vrs. the Louisville Cardinals filled out the days. Time passed too quickly, but we sure did make some moments last!

Myra returned home Sunday morning after Eliza and I left to take Samuel down to Charlotte to spend the day with Harrison before Samuel headed back to Chicago.  Then yesterday morning Eliza and I packed up all our stuff and two corgis and headed back to the farm.  Tradition holds that she and I celebrate our Christmas once we return from NC, so she found some gifts awaiting her under the tree.  I was elated to find the 2015 Witches Calendar and two bird feeders under it for me! (My list is always an easy one to take care of thanks to

So now, I'm here with the corgis until tomorrow when I take off to spend a week with my friend, Laida, and a couple of other friends who are in from Cuba.  I look forward to being around festive Cuban energy for New Year's Eve.  I also hope to be on the beach for a couple of walks, as well as enjoy the outdoors without 10 layers of clothes. 

As I look forward to 2015, I know there will be many wonderful things that unfold in my life, not the least of which is RETIREMENT! I plan on getting my body in shape, traveling as much as my retirement budget will allow, making paper, taking photographs, and doing some "artsy" things.  I also will be honored to spend much more time with my mom during her 96th year.

Moving forward, I can't contemplate the horrendous atrocities and uncivil things that tend to define the world today, so I'll cling to my mantra here at the farm and look for those things that open my heart and make me laugh. 

Join my in putting this on your refrigerator and breathing in the spirit of these words into your life:

I swear I will not dishonor my soul with hatred but offer myself humbly as a guardian of peace, as a creator of beauty, as a healer of misery, as an architect of peace.

Best wishes to all for a wonderful, healthy life in 2015 and beyond!