Monday, January 30, 2017

Thoughts - January 30, 2017

"I have read the story of a tribe in southern Africa called the Babemba in which a person doing something wrong, something that destroys this delicate social net, brings all work in the village to a halt. The people gather around the "offender," and one by one they begin to recite everything he has done right in his life: every good deed, thoughtful behavior, act of social responsibility. These things have to be true about the person, and spoken honestly, but the time-honored consequence of misbehavior is to appreciate that person back into the better part of himself. The person is given the chance to remember who he is and why he is important to the life of the village." Christina Baldwin, "Making Sense of Our Lives Through the Power and Practice of Story."
What's our immediate reaction when we read the above quote -- what foolishness, naivete, must not have been something 'too wrong', could never work in our modern society...? Well, the second time I read it - and looked at it as a 'story' - I realized I was raised hearing the same types of stories from the Bible. It's called reconciliation, go and sin no more, love others as you love yourself, forgive 70x7.... How about it - foolishness? Would never work? Then, why oh why, do we mouth the words? - Beth Almond Ford

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Thoughts - January 29, 2017

“Everything that anyone would ever look for is usually where they find it.”
― Margaret Wise Brown.
When I was a child, I loved the books written by Ms. Brown, especially the one about strawberries. And who doesn't whisper on ocassion, "Good night, Moon!" As for the quote, her wisdom of 'geography,' is just about right. We find what we are looking for....the good, the bad, the mediocre. Some of us have gone searching and we have found it there, too. Some of us have walked no further than our front porch and discovered everything we ever desired. The lesson is to keep looking, of course, but also to recognize it in the everyday, the simple and the profound. - Beth Almond Ford

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Thoughts - January 28, 2017

“It doesn’t take much to surprise others, but to surprise oneself- now that is a great feat.”
― Kristen Hartley.
As for it being a 'great feat' to surprise one's self, I guess the author of the quote must be talking about giving one's self a surprise party or a wrapped present or a blindfolded trip....since that's quite the feat! However, when I first read this quote (on my first cup of coffee), I thought - "well, B., you surprise yourself all the time....good and great feat there!" I surprise myself sometimes when I get a burst of energy and clean house. I surprise myself when I start working on postcards and realize hours of time have elapsed. I surprise myself when I realize an entire sleeve of Girl Scout cookies have been eaten...and I don't think it was the cat! I surprise myself when I watch a movie and the tears roll down my cheeks. I really surprise myself when I lash out at someone.... I surprise myself when a story unfolds and I know (know!) it wasn't me, even though it was my fingers doing the typing. I surprise myself when _________. You fill in the blanks. We do it most every day, don't we? - Beth Almond Ford

Friday, January 27, 2017

Thoughts - January 27, 2017

“Complex things are easy to do. Simplicity's the real challenge.”
― Robert James Waller.
Ah, "Simplicity" was the name of our old VW van during our first year of marriage. Sim was equipped with shelves, a small stove, a bed only newly weds could appreciate, a place to store buckets and the big kettle for heating shower water - and wooden bumpers. Instead of heading off to graduate school as I had planned, we took to the road, earning our living at the thoroughbred race tracks - living a dream, chasing a dream? Attempting to live simply in a complex world. Frankly, I'm not so sure these days that I understand what 'simplicity' really is. Even the dictionary definition in my huge dictionary on the stand goes on for row after row. I do like the one explanation that ends with - '....used to be considered a deficiency, but now considered a merit...' And the equation of simplicity with humbleness. I can live with that. - Beth Almond Ford

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Thoughts - January 26, 2017

"In middle age we are apt to reach the horrifying conclusion
that all sorrow, all pain, all passionate regret and loss
and bitter disillusionment are self-made."
Kathleen Norris (1880-1966).
Perhaps there are a few of you out there who, like me, have made a couple wrong turns in our lives and blames ourselves - horrified that we royally screwed up this or that. For 50%, it might have been a wrong marriage. Or financial issues. Or recklessness with food, smoking, exercise, drugs, sex. Regret over how we treated our friends and family. Or...letting our hopes and dreams for our lives lay dormant. Now, there are many folks who do not have these regrets - they got life 'right' and I am in awe of them. One of the reasons I am a believer in God is because I have not become bitter. Years ago I read the words, "Love God, and love your neighbors as you love yourself." I knew then, it was Personal - the Creator knew and knows and loves me right back. "Ah-ha" moments in an otherwise desultory/aimless life make all the difference. - Beth Almond Ford

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Thoughts - January 25, 2017

"Sometimes people carry to such perfection the mask they have assumed that in due course they actually become the person they seem." W. Somerset Maugham.
I worry about this - and have since I was a youngster. I know, I know - what a strange thing to say! But from the beginning, people saw me as "Doc's daughter", Greenbrier's little sister, is she smart like sister K , is she as 'fine a Christian' as her mother.....the list is endless when one grows up in a small community. I rebelled as best I could, but was shy when the mask got askew. At the age of 17, I headed over the waters to Western far from home as one could get. I was totally unknown, though as a Rotary representative there was a label of sorts. But I felt the freedom to actually be Beth - to say and do and act as 'me'! Frankly, it was life-changing. I've had my memoir writing class students write their tales of discovering their true selves....some can't put their finger on it, some don't feel the need, some wont admit it, but many know exactly when they discovered themselves - and they've never looked back. - Beth Almond Ford

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Thoughts - January 24, 2017

“Life is a drama full of tragedy and comedy. You should learn to enjoy the comic episodes a little more.” 
― Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle.

Through the years, I've sometimes had to remind myself about 'comic episodes.' They can be as simple as watching the baby animals jump and play with abandon in the snow. Or as profound as a surprise party. Sometimes they creep into the tragedy times, too. That is when they buoy the spirit. Right before one of my surgeries in 2015, moments before, the anesthesiologist laughed at the band on my arm letting the whole world know I was allergic to crab. I quipped, "Yep, I had to divorce my hubby from Baltimore." (Crabs are their passion....). The whole operating room chuckled. Life didn't seem so scary anymore. - Beth Almond Ford

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Thoughts - January 22, 2017

“All children mythologise their birth. It is a universal trait. You want to know someone? Heart, mind and soul? Ask him to tell you about when he was born. What you get won’t be the truth: it will be a story. And nothing is more telling than a story. ”
― Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale.
I have never thought about asking my writing students to tell about their births. It sounds like an interesting idea. Since none of us actually remember our births, it will be a retelling of the family myth. It will take some creative thought and descriptive words to describe how my mom and dad took their jeep up some bumpy very back roads in WV to attempt to get her labor started...."they crept slowly over the bank and crossed the slippery, rocky creek, mom holding tight to the window edges of the old WWII jeep, her hair flowing out in the wind, a big grin on her face. 'I think it's working, Harold!' If my son ever decides to go into politics (heaven forbid!), his will be the perfect birth for the campaign trail....the old wooden farmhouse, with an outhouse, deep in a West Virginia holler. This could be fun! - Beth Almond Ford

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Thoughts - January 21, 2017

“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”
― May Sarton.
Of course the question of who that self may be is what many of us wonder. We take FaceBook quizzes to determine our color, our animal in a previous life, our personality type, what cartoon character best describes us.... But do we stop and be still and ask ourselves the questions that just might reveal more than we want to know? At the group I attend every Tuesday evening, one time we asked ourselves the question: "Where am I spiritually today?" 'Today' was the key question, at least for me. What am I believing at this very moment...not what I believe on Sunday morning or in the scary dark of the night or during the awe of a sunrise. And spirituality is only a part of me, what about the physical, mental, and practical me? Do I dare to be me and is it really necessary (and safe for others and myself?!) to let that facade down? - Beth Almond Ford

Friday, January 20, 2017

Thoughts - January 20, 2017

“Don’t you want to be alive before you die?”
― Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See.
What is it that makes one "alive" or even feel alive? Is it simply the act of waking up, breathing, looking around, plodding through the day? The first time I even thought about the concept of "alive" or "dead" people walking around our communities was the first time I read "The Education of Little Tree" and the young boy looked around and said, "why are there so many dead people amongst the living?" (or something like that). Anyway, it made me pay attention to how I felt deep inside, the aura or light that surrounded me at various times during the day. Do I live in the moment when pumping gas in my car; do I expect good things when I walk down the road; do I approach each person as though he/she had a piece of the Creator within; do I smack my lips and eat this pie as if "it's the best piece of cherry pie I've had today?!" (as my father used to say when asked if he liked something)? It takes effort (sometimes) to feel alive and appreciate the moment. Sometimes it even takes work. Other times, it's pure grace and a shiver of delight! I want to be alive before I die, yes. - Beth Almond Ford

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thoughts - January 19, 2017

"People's memories are maybe the fuel they burn to stay alive." -Haruki Murakami, writer (b. 12 Jan 1949)
Sometimes I will look at long ago photographs of my son (who will be 35 y.o. in a few days) and I have to really concentrate on bringing those memories to the reality of today. Or photos of the various houses where I raised him, put him on the school bus, cooked all those meals, took long walks on those roads. I've not forgotten, yet the memories are sometimes like a movie I saw decades ago. And then, like yesterday, I see a young child who tugs on his parents' sleeves a certain way, asks them a question with that look in his eye, walks with a certain firm swagger -- and I'm immediately transported back to real moments. Those are the memories that are fuel, that ignite tears and smiles..that keep the home fires burning. - Beth Almond Ford

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Thoughts - January 18, 2017

"It is a mistake to regard age as a downhill grade toward dissolution.
The reverse is true. As one grows older one climbs with surprising strides." George Sand.
When I read this quote late last night, I pictured two of my older friends, both men in their early 80s, both people who walk miles every day. They don't just walk, they stride. And both are thinkers, planners, dreamers. I don't think I ever had that kind of physical energy (and probably never will), but unbeknownst to these two fellows, they stand on top of pedestals in my mind - statue figures in motion. My life/work has been intertwined with many older folks who cannot still walk, whose minds are wracked by dementia, whose bodies are full of disease. But even in these people, there is a spirit, a certain cache of wisdom, a strong will that has been shaped by years of living. Their lives help in the reflection of my own passing years. - Beth Almond Ford

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Thoughts - January 17, 2017

“The superior man leads not by violence or by coarse physical acts but by the pure intelligence of a wise mind.” Pearl S. Buck
I harbor just a tad bit of pride that Ms. Buck was born in West Virginia, raised in China by her missionary parents. Her writings range from the profound to simply entertainment - vast quantities of stories. Many of her tales take place in other lands, but many are set right here in the U.S. Some deal with the big issues of life, ranging from politics to complicated relationships - and others are stories wrapped around the holidays and family life. She's on my mind this week as I'll be leading a discussion about her and one of her stories. You'll probably see some other quotes from her as I try to wrap my mind around her's..... - Beth Almond Ford

Monday, January 16, 2017

Thoughts - January 16, 2017

“Take care of your life force and always keep it streaming. Always be active and creative, and never ever stop dreaming.”
― Suzy Kassem, Rise up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem.
I'm not usually partial to the 'cheerleading', self-help kind of quotes. They tend to make my lip curl up and a little snarl come out. They seem to be telling us to do thing we already know are helpful. But (yes, the "but"), it seems like several folks have been feeling down and a bit bored with life. I've never understood boredom (and have little patience for it). There are dreams to dream, books to read, movies to watch, and people who need us. There are books to write, dreams to fulfill, art to complete, and people/animals/communities who need us. And there is that 'life force' within that especially needs us. I don't care what you call it -- God, soul, conscience, awareness, brain, heart, or the force within - it is there. It is unique to you. It is your responsibility to respond and nurture it - and to enjoy it. Keep dreaming those dreams! - Beth Almond Ford

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Thoughts - January 15, 2017

“I suffer because my interactions with others do not meet the expectations I did not know I had.” 
― Jim McDonald

Although I had to read the above quote three times to fully appreciate it (coffee is only slowly sinking into my brain this morning) - I finally gave a small chuckle. Yes, indeed, that is me. I am the queen of expecting others to be a certain way. I don't consciously do this, most the time, but I am easily disappointed when 'let down'. "How could they do that?" "They're smarter (kinder, better, insert word - ) than that!" Sometimes having high expectations is a good thing, of course, and works well into that "self-fulling prophecy" of teachers and favored students. But face it, even the best of spouses or great friends or obedient pups or teenagers or our very selves .... we just don't make it over the high bar every time. Inner peace learns to laugh at such expectations - and let them go. - Beth Almond Ford

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Thoughts - January 14, 2017

“The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.”
― Ana├»s Nin.
Ah, when we learn at an early age that Santa Claus is not 'real', does it kill the sense of wonder and mystery surrounding this jolly fellow? Maybe. Maybe not. How about when we learn that Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character? Or those on a soap opera are simply actors doing their job? Or that airplanes fly because of rockets and thrust or whatever engineering terms describe it....does it make it less a source of wonder? Or when the Spirit speaks in our ears loudly and clearly - is the mystery killed? Of course not! Well...maybe....a little. But that is when we delve a little deeper, 'study on it', as I would hear my elderly kinfolk say. And, yes, there is always more mystery. Don't let the possession of knowledge slow you down from the quest, especially for the Holy. - Beth Almond Ford

Friday, January 13, 2017

Book Review: Provence, 1970, by Luke Barr

Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste by Luke Barr
Friends that know me realize that I simply don't cook. So why did I chose to read a book about a group of culinary geniuses that met in Provence in 1970, at a time when attitudes in America were changing toward food and cuisine? The main reason was that the book was written by the nephew of M. F. K. Fisher, who wrote sensuous cook books during the 1920s, 1930s and beyond. Yes, I'm one of those people; I will sit down and read a cook book, without any intention of cooking a thing, if the material is interesting.
I think Barr did a good job of conveying the changing attitudes of the members of cooking high society, although occasionally things got a little repetitious. I remember most of the players as famous during my childhood and teen years and it was interesting to visit that era again. And Provence, after all! - Leslie Shelor Allen

Thoughts - January 13, 2017

"To move freely you must be deeply rooted." -Bella Lewitsky, dancer (13 Jan 1916-2004)
Many years ago, I learned about the taproot system of plants, especially trees. This is the root that keeps the tree firm and strong, able to grow tall and straight, having many branches, and able to sway in a storm. For many of us, our parents, family, and communities were our taproots. Throughout our lives, we depend upon the taproot for continued sustenance. There are way too many people who were never firmly rooted, fertilized, nourished. Some are lucky and find fertile soil on their own or with the help of others. Some never do. The amazing thing to me is how, unlike trees, someone with deep roots can tap into that foundation wherever they find themselves, especially in a storm. - Beth Almond Ford

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Thoughts - January 11, 2017

"Passion crashes into obstacles; Reason peers around them."
Mason Cooley
I love to watch someone ponder a 'problem', take their time to think things through - be it a mechanic, a child, an artist. My father always said a good doctor is like a detective, unraveling the clues of an illness to reach a diagnosis. I think he came up with many a solution while working in his strawberry patch. In this day and age, patience is not considered the virtue it once was. We expect the broken to be fixed immediately (think of all the IT folks...heaven knows I want a problem on a computer fixed NOW!). But life truly doesn't come unraveled when things slow down a bit...waiting for the 'real' answer. Obstacles are chances to use our reasoning powers, one of the greatest gifts of life. - Beth Almond Ford

Monday, January 9, 2017

Thoughts - January 9, 2017

“Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.” 
― Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Laughter is such a universal language, as are smiles. Right or wrong, I tend to trust people who have "laugh lines" around their eyes. Of course laughter comes in many guises and some of those are maniacal or satirical, but we recognize those folks and call it as it is. True laughter is music and soothes the soul. It is contagious. It lights up those around. There is no medicine that heals like a deep belly laugh (and even science has discovered this to be true). So, how do we keep our laughs and stay sure-footed? First, surround yourself with people who aren't afraid to let loose with a big guffaw. Make it a point to read or watch something funny every day. Practice laughter - it's actually a tool for group counseling (hold hands and start laughing until all are doing the same). And remember the old Yiddish saying, "We plan and God laughs." I used to think this sounded mean, but I look at it differently as I age -- God is laughing with glee as we live our lives to the fullest. - Beth Almond Ford

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Thoughts - January 8, 2017

“Sometimes grace is a ribbon of mountain air that gets in through the cracks.”
― Anne Lamott, Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith.
Simple elegance. Unmerited favor. To recognize God (or anyone, for that matter) as "gracious" is a high compliment, in my book. Along with compassion, mercy, and a refined eye, graciousness (and grace) is the ability to be generous of spirit. One of the fruits. Having lived in many an old farmhouse, in a variety of mountains, I always welcomed that little ribbon of cold air coming through a crack, even as I would shiver and wrap a blanket tighter around my shoulders. I can hear my father's voice, spoken on a long ago winter morning, "the cracks probably saved those folk's lives from carbon monoxide poisoning..." Grace appears in the strangest of ways. - Beth Almond Ford

Thoughts - January 7, 2017

"In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out.
It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit."Albert Schweitzer.
Isn't that a lovely sentiment - and makes me appreciate those who keep my spirit lit - and often times blazing! Thank you, my friends. - Beth Almond Ford

Friday, January 6, 2017

Episode 29 - Breaking Up Christmas

Holiday happenings: friends, games, and Beth's loot!

A Little Sweet...

Grazzka's Andrea's Shawl
Most favorited pattern on ravelry for the year. Andrea's Shawl by Kirsten Kapur.

Babaruda's Mandala Madness
Mandala Madness by Helen Shrimpton

Leslie talks about knitting needles; varieties available and materials for aching and aging hands.

A Little Tart...

Mountain Christmas past and present.

“You can always tell what kind of a person a man really thinks you are by the earrings he gives you.” - Audrey Hepburn

A Little Unexpected...

"The Birth (Near Port William) by Wendell Berry

Music Attribution

Breaking Up Christmas by Jump Steady Boys

Reverie (small theme)
by _ghost
featuring Pitx
Drops of H2O ( The Filtered Water Treatment ) by J.Lang (c) copyright 2012 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Airtone
Don't Be Scared ft. Christine Autumn by Calling Sister Midnight (c) copyright 2015 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Ft: Klaus Neumaier, Christine Autumn

Download this episode (right click and save)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Thoughts - January 4, 2017

“Now listen to me, Buddy: there is only one unpardonable sin - deliberate cruelty. All else can be forgiven. That, never.”
― Truman Capote, The Thanksgiving Visitor.
After hearing these words in a play at the Barter Theatre one evening a few years ago, they have danced around in my mind. I didn't toss and turn in my sleep, but I pondered times I may have been deliberately cruel or been visited by such cruelty. These words were said to a very intelligent 7 y.o. boy who had taken advantage of a hated person's weakness. Buddy was a youngster who took this admonition from his best friend to heart and no doubt they resonated in his mind throughout his life. Let's face it - we have probably all done or said something in our lives, even or especially in our early years, that we would give anything to 'take back'. What we have is today. - Beth Almond Ford

Thoughts - January 3, 2017

"To be capable of embarrassment is the beginning of moral consciousness. Honor grows from qualms." -John Leonard, critic (1939-2008) 

I thought it was simply my Irish and Scottish genes which causes my easy blushing and even, perhaps, my predilection for embarrassment, but maybe it's actually the beginning of moral consciousness. Stop and think why and when you get embarrassed. For me, it is usually when I don't know an answer or I'm not as prepared as I should be....or when I'm attempting to tell an untruth. Or I misjudge a person or situation....Maybe, just maybe, I need to beware of the qualms, that sense that something I'm doing is wrong. The word itself so aptly describes how one's stomach feels at those moments, eh?! - Beth Almond Ford

Monday, January 2, 2017

Thoughts - January 2, 2017

"The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope." Barbara Kingsolver.
Hope is one of those words we banter about like the word 'love'...."I love your scarf!" "I hope you're coming to the party!" But the concept of hope is so much more. It is often as strong as medicine. There are days when it is the only thing that gets one out of bed. It is the inspiration which propels us toward goals. It is the opposite of despair. As we dive into a New Year, hope is one of the strongest emotions, perhaps even instinctual for survival. I'm giving a lot of weight to this little four-letter has kept me company for a long time and my goal for 2017 just may be to figure out what I'm hoping for! - Beth Almond Ford

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Thoughts - January 1, 2017

“The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.”
― Jessica Hische
Staring off into space and pondering? Picking up a stack of old postcards that I bump off when I go by a table and end up sorting for an hour afterwards? Walking along the back road, enjoying nature, forming essays in my mind? Stopping to listen to a good segment on NPR? Taking time for a little exercise via a baton and a rock n roll song...or two? Reading a chapter here and there in between trying to clear off the kitchen table? Dashing off a note or a quick phone call to touch base with a friend? Getting out the laser light and having a play time with Clue-kitty? Deciding now is the moment for some meditation/prayer? Oh, I am the queen of procrastination and, alas, none will put food on the shelves, but they do add the joy and light and wonder to life! - Beth Almond Ford