Saturday, December 29, 2012

33 Things To Do In My 33rd year.

Every year I make a list of things I'd like to do that is equal to the number of years old I'm turning. In 2013 I'll be 33. Normally I don't make the list until closer to my birthday in April. This year I want to start at the beginning of the year and make 2013 extra special. It normally takes me several weeks to come up with my list, but it only took me 15 minutes this time. I know what I want from life and what I want to focus on for the coming year. <3

1. Spend more time being happy and less time worrying.

2. Learn how to can.

3. Tend a community garden plot.

4. Find a new job.

5. Spend more time listening and less time talking.

6. Save more money / live more frugally.

7. Hand make all the gifts I give or purchase them from local artists.

8. Spend more time with friends.

9. Visit Denver.

10. Explore the Black Hills more.

11. Learn more about Earth built homes.

12. Learn more about Homesteading.

13. Learn more about Beekeeping.

14. Purchase a loom and do more weaving.

15. Spend more time making art.

16. Take a dance class.

17. Join a new yoga studio.

18. Go to the lake more this summer.

19. Go camping in the hills.

20. Visit the Badlands again.

21. Go star gazing and watch the sun rise.

22. Get more exercise. Running, walking, hiking etc...

23. Eat less junk food and cook at home more.

24. Cook in bulk, to cut down on prep time.

25. Go through the things I own and only keep what I really need.

26. Go visit Kelly Ruth in Canada.

27. Take a trip to the ocean.

28. More random road trips.

29. Read more books, at least 2 a month.

30. Play more board games and role playing games with friends.

31. Play more music. Practice my dulcimer and noodle around with other instruments.

32. Smile more.

33. More bubble baths.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Travel Schedule

My time here at the school is coming to a close. Its been an amazing adventure, and I've grown so much. I've learned so many amazing things. The next three weeks hold dance, weaving, and knitting classes. I had hoped to take some Blacksmithing while here, but unfortunately all the classes I've had space for have been full with paying students. I'll have to find a teacher back in Rapid City to work with. I'll be looking into the Friday afternoon program at SDSMT. My last full day here will be January 18th. The 19th I'll eat breakfast, turn in my keys, and hit the road again. Here's my January travel schedule. I'm hopeful that the weather will be good all the way back, but who knows.

Saturday January 19th- Brasstown, NC to Carmi, IL to visit with my folks.

Monday January 21st- Carmi, IL to Decatur, IL to visit with Robin.

Wednesday January 23rd- Decatur, IL to Omaha, NE to visit with Stacy and Derek.

Thursday January 24th- Omaha, NE to Sioux Falls, SD to visit with the Holloman clan.

Saturday January 26th- Sioux Falls, SD to Rapid City, SD to be welcomed home!

Season's Greetings!

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season. My Winter Solstice was lovely! My parents came to visit for the weekend, which was wonderful. We ate lots of yummy food, did a little exploring, and went to see The Hobbit. All in all it was a nice relaxing weekend. Today I'm being lazy and resting up. Tonight I plan to attend a rather large Christmas party at the home of one of the first people I met here in Brasstown. I'm excited and thankful to have been invited.

Winter Dance Week starts at the school tomorrow. I'm both ready and not ready for there to be people on campus again. I'm a wee bit lonely here on my own, but I love the solitude. From what I've heard dance week is a pretty crazy time of year. It seems like its going to be a week long party. Which is fitting for the season.

I finished reading Spontaneous Happiness by Dr. Andrew Weil this week. Its helped me to remember all the things I haven't been doing to care for myself over the last few years. I feel much more balanced now that I've started taking care of me again. I look forward to the new year and what it holds. I'm so grateful for all of my friends and family. You're all so wonderful and supportive, and each and every one of you means the world to me!

Love and Light to you all!

Monday, December 3, 2012

down and out in Brasstown....

It seems as though, even in a place where I can allow my creativity to flow, I can't escape my depression. I'm feeling very insecure this week. Its not easy for me to hide my emotions and unfortunately this is a job where the ability to "put on your game face" is required. Twice today I've had co-workers stop and ask if I'm okay. My mom could tell something was up just from the sound of my voice over the phone. This journey is as much about working through my inner landscape as it is about experiencing this place and all it has to offer. Tonight I want nothing more than to snuggle up with my favorite person and fall asleep. That's not an option, and it makes dealing with this sick feeling in my stomach a million times tougher. I keep thinking I should just go to bed, but I'm restless on top of everything else.

I've started a list of ways to bring "Happy Ashley" back. I miss being zany, spontaneous, and delightful. I miss the sparkle!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cultivating a creative living...

I've been trying to add a post with some new photos for a couple of weeks now, unfortunately something is causing the photos to load incorrectly. They all end up with strips of color through them or only half load. So instead, here's a little piece I wrote this morning while I was sitting in a cafe drinking too much espresso.

"Who could have known it would take a trip of 2000 miles to teach me that Rapid City had become my home. I never thought I'd miss my place in the Black Hills, that I'd long for wintery weather. And yet here I am three months into my adventure and I'm ready to load the car and head West. I've said a lot of awful things about Rapid City in the past, for those sins I pray forgiveness. There is a beauty in the solitude of the hills and I miss it deeply.

I miss the friendships that were formed there. I realize now that it is far more meaningful to have a few true friendships than to cultivate many partial ones. I never really gave Rapid City the chance it deserved. I think this behavior results from a life spent with too many expectations. I build places and people up so that they are destine to fail. I'm uncertain exactly when this behavior began, but I know I've spent my whole adult life practising it. A perfect example is how I've treated my college education. I often hear an undertone of embarrassment in my voice when I say the name of my alma mater. Even as it happens, I'm questioning, "Why?". Why do I act the way I do and how can I change? I'm tired of "Angry Ashley". I want to be "Happy Ashley" again. I miss her, she's way more fun and a hell of a lot cuter!

I know there's a direct link between my creativity and my happiness. This has become very clear during my time at JCCFS. Perhaps, "Angry Ashley" is a bi-product of the creative dry spell I was going through. Perhaps, she is the embodiment of my creative frustration.

I have to find ways to live my creativity. To stop getting so wrapped up in working full-time towards other people's dreams. I fully believe that way of life robs us of our creative spirit. When I spend 8 hours a day 5 days a week working, it leaves little time and energy for me to concentrate on my own dreams. So, my first step in manifesting a happier life is to only work part-time. Thirty hours a week is plenty to yield enough money to pay the bills and keep me fed. Plus, there would be time and energy left for art and writing."

The above has lead me to make a list of the things I need to do in order to cultivate a creative living. Here's what I have so far:

-Finish and publish my cook book. All that is left are the photos, the index, and the forward.

-Teach Printmaking classes in Lino-block and White Line printing.

-Teach Cooking classes in vegetarian, gluten free, and vegan cooking.

-Make and sale my artwork through Etsy, local galleries, and art fairs.

-Apply for more art grants.

-Work only part-time in order to keep the lights on and my belly fed. So that I may spend more time living my passion.

-Spend more time cooking at home, practising yoga and meditating.

-Spend more time with my loved ones.

-Practise open communication. Spend more time listening and less time talking.

-Volunteer at places I enjoy being more often. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A day off, that's just unheard of.....

I sat out to spend the day blogging from the Bella Luna Cafe, only to discover that they weren't open. They also had no hours listed upon their door. Which according to a local gallery owner, is due to the fact that they don't keep "normal hours". So instead, after buying some wonderful soaps at Blue Moon Elise, i found myself in a tiny Italian Bistro named, Antica Roma. The coffee was perfect and the cornetto marmellata left me in flaky pastry heaven! The only draw back was the lack of available wifi.

There's an auction taking place in my house today, which means even less privacy than usual. Thus, the need to fully escape for my day off. This fact was punctuated by a student (who knew it was my weekend off as we had talked about it just last night) asking me questions through the bathroom door, prior to me quickly fleeing campus. "No rest for the wicked", doesn't even graze the surface of how never ending the job of a student host is. Luckily just when I think it sucks, I realize that I'm getting a $1000 vacation/class every week. Its totally worth people interrupting my morning ritual to gain all of this amazing craft training.

I feel like I've learned more in these week long intensives than in the six years it took me to finish my art degree. Maybe its the school? Maybe its me? Maybe its the instructors? Or, maybe its the time in my life? All I know is that I have to soak it all up, and not take a single second for granted.

Which is an important lesson to apply to the rest of my life. I have a hard time living in the present. I'm a planner, a list maker, a schemer. I have to start making a better effort on living in the moment. This sabbatical is just as much about reconnecting with myself as it is about making art and learning new skills. I hope to return from this with a renewed sense of balance, one again the loving happy beautiful soul that sometimes hides at my core. Its a time for stepping back into my integrity and reclaiming my spirit.

Time to see what adventures are lurking around the corner just waiting for my arrival.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Its amazing how quickly my inner landscape can change. Anyone who has spent more than 20 minutes with me knows how fast I can cycle through emotions. I began the day morose and solemn, yet ready to do the work to redeem myself not only to others but to myself. Perhaps it was the fact that I admitted my lack of perfection that I feel so upbeat as this day comes to a close. The afternoon brought frustration, a since of loss, an aura of displeasure, and plenty of tears. Then the vibrancy of the new students brought nervousness and excitement. With tonight's start of my Kente Cloth Weaving class I've become elated and ready to take on the world. I often wish I was more even keel. That I was able to more easily roll with things. That's another thing that I need to work on. This place is changing me and I think its a change for the better.

I'm a work in progress....

This isn't a post about how wonderful this place is, this is a post about something I'm coming to terms with as far as my personality goes. If you choose to comment on this post know that,  I'm not being hard on myself, I'm being honest.

After years of denying this simple fact, its finally sunk in over my few weeks out of "reality". I have a tendency towards being very cold and cruel to those who love me most. Exactly why this is I'm unsure. It is however something that has been going on since I was very young. Perhaps it has to do with some early childhood trauma that I've repressed. I'm unsure. Those in my immediate family have spent so many years dealing with it, that they've grown to accept it as an unspoken truth. Well with the exception of my mom, who reminds me of this poor behavior at least once every couple of years. I can remember her trying so hard to correct this behavior when I was in grade school. I've never wanted to believe that I'm not a nice person, but sometimes I'm just not. I know that there are few people who really are nice all the time, but when I'm mean, I tend to take it to an emotionally unfeeling, cold, numb place that most people don't.

I know that this has affected friendships, but I think to a lesser degree. Perhaps because my friends don't have to live in close quarters with me. Although I can recall one incident in which I allowed my disregard for a very close friends feelings nearly ruin years of friendship. Luckily, she forgave me for being such an asshole.

I often place blame on the other person in my romantic relationships for the bad behaviors they have, and claim that they have wreaked our time together. This isn't always the case. True that its often that we are both to blame, but its time I start taking a bit more responsibility for my role in it all. I have a lot of baggage that others have caused but a lot that I've gathered to protect myself. I use it as a shield against those who care about me. Which is completely unfair.

Over the course of the last three years I've sincerely hurt someone who I deeply care about. I don't know how to mend any of the hurt I've caused. Maybe I'll never be able to fix any of it. Maybe the wounds are too deep and the trust too broken. I hope its not. All I do know is that I'm sincerely sorry for all of it and that I honestly hope that some day they can forgive me for my distant coldness. That they can forgive me for setting up scenarios, whether I know I am or not, that doom them to fail. That they can forgive me for letting go before I gave our relationship a chance. That they know how much I really do care for and love them and that I understand why they might not believe that I do.

I'm hoping that someday I can let go of this part of my personality. That I can move past it and love with wild abandon. That I can stop being hurtful and distant. That I can trust that the other person isn't trying to hurt me and that I don't need this cold wall I always erect to save myself. I'm going to start making more of an effort to really think about how I'm treating those who care about me. To rein in the venom that often falls from my lips and to be more present in the time spent together.

I often spend too much time rehashing the past and fearing the future. This makes it impossible for me to be present in the moment. This affects my relationships in a way that is personally isolating. I don't make time for the other person when they need me and I don't practice active listening. Its a shame that all the years of working in the Mystery Tradition with Diana's Grove didn't teach me this lesson the way I wish it would have. Somewhere over the last six years all of those days and nights spent bettering myself, spent working on my integrity all faded away. I became the same self-serving person I was as a teenager and I hate it. I'm once again completely unaware of how I treat those around me and that's no one's fault but my own. I let years of transformational work waste away. All I can do is ask myself, "Why?". All I can do is start over from today.

I have hope that those who I've hurt will help me to regain my integrity. That they care enough and love enough to support me through this challenge.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Its a busy life at the folk school...

Another week has come and gone, and I've realized I haven't posted since I got here. This is a busy place to live. Plus, I'm always surrounded by people, so there isn't a whole lot of time to just sit and blog. Even now there are 10 people within 20 feet of my spot in the living room. I'm adjusting to the constant company, but I do cherish the few hours a week that silence falls over campus and I can relax. I feel like my lack of time to chat with those back home is effecting my relationships in ways I'd hoped it wouldn't. I hope it all settles and I can stop feeling torn.

My classes are going very well. So far I've taken Pine Needle Basketry, White Line Printmaking, and Fair Isle Knitting. Here are pictures from basketry and printmaking. I'll post pictures of the Fair Isle Hat I made once I'm done blocking it.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

First week down...

Things are starting to fall into place. Not that you can anticipate much of anything that happens as a Student Host, but the part that is routine is setting in. Its a lot of trouble shooting and damage control. Which is fine by me.

Most of last week was fairly quiet. I did training, explored the campus, met a lot of people, danced, hung out around the camp fire, and knitted. This week I have my first class. I'm taking Pine Needle Basketry. I'll be sure to post pictures of my project once my camera gets here. Which will hopefully be tomorrow.

Our new students and instructors arrived this afternoon and classes started this evening. I feel like I should have more to share, but until I can take some photos, there isn't much to report. Life has certainly slowed down since I got here. This is a pace that I love. Even if the work is 24/7, not constantly feeling anxious and worried about my job is wondrous.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

My new world....

My journey was long, but here I am on day 3 of living at the folk school. I've unfortunately left my camera at my sister's in IL, so until she ships it too me I can't share any pictures. This week is pretty laid back and I'm not taking a class, as they like to give the Junior Host time to transition in to the surroundings. This is very important, considering I'm one of very few hosts to have never been to the school before. Normally, a host has either attended a class or been a work study prior to getting awarded the position. I feel pretty lucky to have been chosen without having done either.

 I feel like I'm doing a pretty good job on navigating, but I'm certainly lacking some of the "jump in and get it done" attitude that I tend to exude. Right now I'm shadowing Sadie, the Senior Host, and Tammy, my boss. Things seem to be going fairly well and I'm sure I'll feel like an old pro in a couple of weeks, but for now I'm still a little lost.

The meals have been amazing! I'm so glad they are able and willing to make me "special" food. The tofu scramble at breakfast has been spectacular and last night the spicy chickpea and tomato dish was so good I over ate. Everyone here is super nice and helpful. It's a very positive and caring community. Which is exactly what I need.

Tonight is my first folk school dance. I'm excited and a bit nervous. Its been a long time since I've done what I consider "real" dancing. By that I mean dances that have actual steps to them and aren't just people grooving to the music. I'll start my first class next week. I'm taking Pine Needle Basketry. Should be fun and it's something completely outside my skill set.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


This morning promises to be a perfect late summer day. I'm sharing an outside table at the food co-op with a tiny sparrow. There is a delicate breeze blowing across the patio. I had forgotten how amazing it is to have a plethora of vegan options. I was a little overwhelmed looking at the breakfast possibilities in the bakery/deli case before me. Today I settled on a chocolate chip scone and a cup of coffee. I'm unsure what to do with the remainder of my day I might drop in for a class at Amara Yoga. I could also take in the sculpture walk at Meadowbrook Park. This day is filled to the brim with possibilities.

Comfort of feeling at home...

I'm currently a day behind on posting. This is an entry that I made in my notebook yesterday afternoon while I was waiting for Palmer to finish up at work.

"The first thing I'm comforted by are the familiar smells of places from my not so distant past. Baked goods and coffee at Art Mart. The produce section at Common Ground Food Co-op. The mustiness of vintage clothes at Dandelion. Crisp Apples and pumpkin pie at Curtis Orchard. The distinct smells of home.

Greeted with big hugs, kisses to the cheek, the words, "I knew I heard your laugh!". Proof that no matter where I go, or what I do, Champaign-Urbana will always feel like home. I drove passed all my old "homes". The house on Hill St, where my studio apartment goes on without me, seemed to be saying, "Welcome Back". I've certainly missed it most since my move.

Its funny seeing familiar faces and wondering if they recognize me. Its amazing what looks the same and what looks so different. There was a part of me afraid I'd feel strange being back, that it wouldn't leave me feeling as calm as when I left. What a silly thought to have had. After all everyone told me when I left, "You can always come home". And even though its only for a few days, I certainly have."

Last night Palmer and I went to Siam Terrace for an amazing dinner. I had forgotten how good and how spicy their Mock Duck Basil was. So happy I have a little left over for lunch today.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

On my afternoon walk...

While I was on my walk around Decatur Lake, I got to see the local Sailboat Club out and about as well as a Heron perched on one the docks. What a beautiful day to be out on the water.

On my way...

My journey officially began at 7:30 am on Friday. I wanted the first day of the trip to be the longest amount of driving, to make the rest easy. I drove the 8.5 hours to Omaha, NE to stay with Carl's cousin. We had a wonderful night filled with many a glass of wine. I had originally planned to spend the whole weekend in Omaha visiting all the vegan hangouts. Instead, I opted for an extra day in Illinois.

I let myself sleep in on Saturday, since my drive to Decatur was only 7.5 hours. My route took me through northern Missouri. It was a beautiful drive filled with lots of trees, farmland, and sandstone cliffs. Robin and I celebrated my arrival with a Mexican fiesta. I had really missed traditional Mexican food while I was living in South Dakota. Texmex just doesn't do it for me.

Robin has to work today, so I'm on my own until this evening. So far today, I've posted to Season of The Vegan, read part of A Discovery of Witches, ran on Robin's treadmill, and had a tasty lunch. I think I'll take a walk and explore around the lake this afternoon.

Tonight I'm going to make us an amazing dinner. BBQ Tempeh, Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes, and Wild Rice are on the menu. Tomorrow we have plans to go to a local coffee shop, Wildflour ,for breakfast, go hiking, and then enjoy some Indian food for dinner.

Thus far I'm having a lovely time on my sabbatical. I can't believe I'm only a couple weeks away from my time at JCCFS. I'm so excited!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Almost time...

Well, I have less than 48 hours until I hit the road. I've nervous, excited, and can't seem to shake the feeling that I'm forgetting to do something important. I have a "To Do" list that seems to grow by the hour. I'm going to start packing the car late this afternoon. Before I start packing, I have to get the oil changed and spend a good amount of time at the car wash.

Carl and I spent the weekend in Sioux Falls for Ted and Savannah's wedding. It was beautiful! I always have a great time hanging out with Carl's family. They're such a fun loving bunch of characters. We had planned to come back on Monday afternoon, but we were still so tired and having so much fun that we stayed an extra night.

Here's my updated travel agenda:

Friday 9/7 Leave Rapid City, lunch in Sioux Falls with Savannah, stay the night in Omaha with Carl's cousin Stacey

Saturday 9/8 Leave Omaha, drive to Decatur, IL and stay with Robin

Tuesday 9/11 Drive to CU and stay with Palmer and/or Jen

Wednesday 9/12 Get together at The Blind Pig

Friday 9/14 Drive to Naperville

Monday 9/17 Drive to Carmi

Tuesday 9/18 Get together at Dimaggio's

Friday 9/21 Drive to Brasstown, NC and camp with my folks

Sunday 9/23 Move into my rooms at JCCFS

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

And so it begins...

Well, Friday was my last day of normal employment. It was a strange day at work. I could certainly tell who was sad to see me leaving and who was glad. I won't deny that there are certain people, who I haven't exactly gotten along with during my employment. However, shouldn't people act with a certain sense of decorum when saying farewell to a team member? I'll never understand why some people insist on being such party poopers! Too bad for them, the rest of us had a lovely day that included the most amazing vegan lemon cupcakes made by Mary. Scott, my favorite coffee customer, brought me a very thoughtful and loving going away care package. He made me ratatouille with fresh veggies from his garden and a baguette to go with. It was the best dinner I've had in a long while.

Saturday I spent the morning wandering through the shops and farmer's market in downtown. Then at half passed twelve I met up with some of my girlfriends to watch a movie at the historic theatre. When I got home, I discovered that Carl had scrubbed the whole kitchen for me. What a lovely first day of sabbatical!

Sunday was spent doing housework, watching movies, and knitting. I did get some important travel prep done on Monday. Today has been spent hanging out with Carl while he gets ready to start his first semester of college. I have my last Black Hills Fiber Arts Guild meeting tonight. I'll really miss the ladies of the guild. They've helped me feel so much more at home here in RC.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

3 days of work, 17 days until I hit the road, 33 days until I start

Life has been pretty grand this week. The new coffee bar staff, I've been in charge of training, is coming along fantastic. I'm really happy to be leaving my beloved espresso machine in the capable hands of Kaylie, Bethany, Megan, and Lori. They're amazing women, who are going to make a great team. I've realized while working with them, that the thing I disliked most about my job was the feeling of stagnation that had descended upon the store. Now with the new owners and the influx of energetic staff members, the store seems refreshed and revitalized. I'm giddy to be leaving it on a happy note. Speaking of leaving, I only have three more days left of conventional employment. I've got a belly full of butterflies! Its a sort of, "Well this is it, no looking back, time to take the leap!", feeling. I love it and I've missed this feeling of anticipation and wonder.

Since my health insurance expires at the end of this month, I've been frantically running about getting things taken care of. I got new glasses on Tuesday. Here's a link to my new frames. Mine are the Eggplant/Aqua ones, they look great with my bright red hair. I adore them! I'm also biting the bullet and going back on full-time meds for my sinus issues. Its looking more and more like I have a chronic sinus infection that is doubled by the scar tissue in my left sinus from an angry wisdom tooth that broke through it four years ago. Nasonex a couple times a week, seems to keep it all in check, so I might as well stock up while I can.

I'm still working on the whole packing thing. I think my best plan of action is to pack for my time across the country first and then pack everything else. I've been trying to do it the other way around, and it just isn't working out. This weekend will be mostly devoted to packing and re-packing until I get it right.

I still have to check in with my bank about maintaining my account while I'm on the other side of the country. That's scheduled for early next week. Next Wednesday night I'm having a little going away shindig at the local martini bar to say my goodbyes. Then its a weekend of wedding activities in Sioux Falls with Ted and Savannah. After that I'll come back to RC, pack the car, and hit the road. I can't believe its only 2 1/2 weeks away. Crazy!!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The original plan is often the best...

After a night of wondrous sleep, I've decided to stick with the original plan. I'm leaving my cat here in South Dakota with Carl. Even though it might mean not seeing her for upwards of 7 months vs 4 months if she was in Chicago, it'll be less stressful in the long run. I'm so lucky to have friends and family who are willing to help and support me along this journey. It's an amazing adventure that I'm about to embark upon and it wouldn't be possible without all of you.

I spent some time packing yesterday. I figured out why packing my clothes seems like such a chore this time around. Its because I have to plan for a month on the road as I'm packing. I can't just toss everything in a bag and go. I have to figure out, "Will I wear this in the next month?" for every piece of clothing. I also, didn't realize just how many sweaters and jackets I've amassed. Those suckers take up a lot of space! There's a part of me that wants to unpack and start over, only allowing myself to take a certain amount. I did this when I went to France during undergrad and it worked perfectly. I think I'll start my list here, right now!

3 Sweaters
2 Jackets
2 Sweatshirts
1 Coat
5 T-shirts
2 Tank Tops
3 Long Sleeve Shirts
4 Skirts
3 Jeans
1 Dress Pants
2 Dresses
3 Yoga Pants
1 Pair PJs
1 Robe
1 Coveralls

That should be plenty of clothes to get me through any occasion and weather development. Now to head downstairs and put this plan into action!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Why am I making myself crazy.....

I've been giving myself a headache over my travel plans this week. I seem to be making myself crazy over things lately. I don't know why, its not like I haven't moved before and its not like I don't want to go. I can't figure out where all this freaking out is coming from.

This week it all centers around where my cat will live while I'm away. On the one hand, she's comfortable here with Carl and he's willing to take care of her if need be. On the other hand, taking her to Patty's means I'd be able to have her back with me as soon as I'm done at JCCFS. I think the reason I can't seem to make a decision is because, regardless of what I decide, I feel like I'm abandoning her. It would most likely be easier on her in the long run if she just stays here. It'd be less stressful.

Work is wrapping up. I only have 7 shifts left. It feels a bit odd to know I won't be employed at the end of next week. Perhaps, then I'll actually take the time to pack. I've been such a slacker about getting ready to go. I'm not really sure as to why. It's not like I'm not over the moon excited about going. I just need to take some time and and focus my attention. I've got to break it down into baby steps and get to work, instead of watching movies and knitting.

My mom was able to move her days off around so we can still camp for a few days before I start at JCCFS. Hard to believe I'm only 36 days away from my start date. I wasn't even this excited when I was getting ready to leave for college.

Okay, time to get to it and go through the hall closet.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A few hiccups....

So I got my official Student Host information packet in the mail today. It turns out there's been a wee bit of communication error regarding me at the school. There was a staffing change, and with it apparently some of my info was lost.

About a month ago I received an email saying they needed to know what my "silver bullet" classes were going to be, so they could assure my enrollment. I had emailed that info in months ago to the past director and hoped I'd still get in to the classes I wanted. Which I did. Then a few days ago I get an email and phone call saying my info packet had been returned to sender. Turns out, my address hadn't been updated during my interview when I explained that I no longer lived in IL. So, I gave the new director my new address and she sent out my packet. I get my packet today and discover that I had been told the wrong dates for my time at JCCFS. Now, had this been the first time the dates had changed, I wouldn't be so anxious, but its the third time in the process that I've been given different dates. I'm certain that Sept. 23rd to Jan. 19 are the correct ones, as they are the newest.

It also wouldn't be a big deal if it weren't for the fact that my mom is taking the week after I start off for vacation, because we thought we were going to get to spend it together. My parents were planning a camping trip for the week of Sept. 24th to 29th, so we could spend some time in and around Brasstown before my position started. Hopefully, she can change the dates she's taking off, so we can go a week early.

Its better these hiccups are coming up now and not in a month when I'm on the road to JCCFS. I'm happy to get them out of the way now. Here's my updated travel schedule:

8/24 - Last day at SITK

8/30 to 9/2 - Sioux Falls for Ted and Savannah's wedding

9/3 to 9/6 - Pack

9/7 to 9/9 - Omaha, NE

9/10 to 9/11 - Decatur, IL

9/12 to 9/ 14 - CU, IL

9/15 to 9/ 17 - Naperville, IL

9/18 to 9/ 22 - Carmi, IL

Monday, July 30, 2012

The countdown continues....

I'm 25 days away from being on sabbatical. I find myself very antsy. Work has been quiet since I returned from my vacation time, and I think its adding to my anticipation.

I managed to finish going through my things and have begun my pile of things to take. Thus far it includes, my yoga mat and other yoga props, my laptop bag, and a large tub of art supplies. I still have to add my large portfolio packed with paper too large to fit in the tub, all of my fiber arts supplies, my printmaking supplies, and all my clothes, shoes, and accessories. It seems like a lot, but it'll be far less than what I packed in my car to move from Urbana, IL to Rapid City 3 years ago.

I still feel weird about leaving my cat here. I know she'll be fine and that in reality it'll be far less stressful for her than if I moved her to someone's home closer to where I'll be. Its just that she's been my companion for 11 years now, and I'll miss her dearly. Plus, there is the fact that she isn't exactly fond of others and I'm afraid she'll freak out with me gone for five months. I'm so grateful to have Carl and Cori to look after her while I'm away. Here's hoping she doesn't beat up the dog too much while I'm gone.

I found out the other day that my folks are planning to drive down with me from their place to Brasstown. The three of us are going to camp for a couple of days, explore the area, and get me settled in to my new home at JCCFS. I'm really excited they're coming with me, it'll make the final leg of the trip less nerve wracking.

25 days from the end of my job, 39 days until I leave Rapid City, 61 days until I start at JCCFS

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

One month...

Today marks one month until my last day of conventional employment. I've been having panic attacks in my sleep the last couple nights about money. This isn't anything new as I have them even when I'm not about to quit my job and take a road trip, but they seem more intense right now. I think there is a part of my subconscious that wants me to be a typical 32 year old, who is settling down and planning for retirement. To bad for them, it isn't going to happen anytime soon. This is a life experience that I wouldn't miss out on for anything in the world.

I have to admit that I haven't done any of the prepping I'd planned to during this vacation. Most of my time has been spent reading and visiting with friends and enjoying Rapid City. I spent yesterday printmaking and needle felting with Emma. It was wonderful. I'm really going to miss her while I'm away.

I'll also miss the beautiful view of downtown from my front yard.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


It feels a little strange to be taking an 8 day vacation just before I leave my job next month. However, I have a good chunk of PTO that my bosses wanted me to use up prior to leaving. I kicked off my staycation with a batch of banana pancakes for breakfast. Had a fabulous lunch with my dear friend, Mary, at Prairie Berry Winery. Carl and I took our dog, Milo, to the dog park for the afternoon. I love taking Milo there, but I hate being out in this heat. I long for Fall weather. Now Carl and I are waiting to take our roomie, Cori, out for a birthday dinner.

Most of the next few days is going to be spent going through my belongings and prepping for my trip. I found someone to stay with in Omaha, NE via CouchSurfing. That puts me more at ease. I'm trying to make this trip on as little money as possible, since my stipend at the JCCFS is tiny. So, I was getting worried about hotel costs for my weekend in Nebraska. No worries now! I'm excited for my first couch surfing experience. I'll get to visit their Farmer's Market, and some galleries and vegan eateries that I missed last time I was there. Plus, I'll hopefully make a great new friend.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

42, 56, 78

As of today I have 42 days left at my job, 56 days before my journey across the US begins, and 78 days before I start as the Student Host at JCCFS. I've been a little on edge about it over the past couple of weeks. Everyone keeps asking if I'm excited. Of course I am, but what most don't realize is, for me, along with excitement often comes worry. All who are brave, hold a healthy dose of fear within their bellies. I know that part of this worry could be eliminated by preparing more. I need to be sifting through my belongs, cementing my travel plans, looking at what life will be after JCCFS. The problem isn't that I don't have the time, its that I recently haven't had the will. I can't decide if its the heat or the worry, or depression, but I can't seem to focus long enough to make any progress. I feel like I'm allowing my time here to slip past. Its not just the tasks that come with my move that I'm not focusing on, its everything in my life. Part of the reason for this journey is to regain the balance I feel I've lost over the past year.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Learning and creating without boundaries....

In my last post I gave the link for JCCFS' Student Host Program. In this post I'll be talking a little bit more about what that is and why I'm inspired to do it.

Unlike the full-time staff, I'll be on campus and on call 24/7. Once the office staff goes home for the night, I'll be the one answering the phone and responding to the needs of the students and instructors. Unlike the work study students, I won't be trading a week of work for a week of class.

My specific duties will include the following:
• Welcoming students and instructors/orientation
• Leading blessings & announcements at meals
• Leading morning walks
• Setting up Morningsong each day
• Leading afternoon activities/tours
• Leading evening activities/tours
• Setting up and taking down student exhibits each week
• Setting up chairs for weekly concerts and other school activities
• Attending to student departure at the end of the week
• Setting up equipment for each class prior to start & returning
equipment from previous week

In exchange for my hard work I receive the following compensation. A class every week on a "space available" basis. They try to fill each class with as many paying students as possible before opening it up to hosts. Three "silver bullet" classes that I'm guaranteed a space in. The cost of my room and board plus meals are included. Plus, I'll get a wee stipend for times when the dining hall is closed and for making long distance phone calls.

For my "silver bullet" classes I'll be taking: White-Line Printmaking with Sandy Webster, Kente Cloth Weaving with Linda Weghorst, and Beginning Mountain Dulcimer with Rosy DeVane. I'm also hoping to take classes in blacksmithing, book making, mushroom foraging, Danish folk dance, and felting.

Some of you are most likely asking, how can you give up a stable job with insurance and spend four months 2000 miles away from your partner and pets? I mean really who does this sort of thing? Well the answer to this is, I do and I do it because at the core of my being its exactly what I set out into the world to do.

I always felt out of place in the art department at EIU. I quickly discovered that what I craved in an arts education was the chance to explore without being graded and measured. Unfortunately, this is an overarching problem faced by all art programs that are set in traditional four year college formats. They're forced to grade you and thus most grade you on technique far more than on creativity. I longed to go to a private arts school where I could more freely create. Yet the money just wasn't available and frankly my parents weren't thrilled with the idea of me not getting a "well-rounded education". Which by the way doesn't really exist. I mean honestly how many of you remember anything from that required upper-level chem class or math class or history class you had to take that had jack all to do with your major?

I digress, my time spent at John C. Campbell Folk School as the Student Host is the opportunity for me to embark on the arts education that I have always wanted. It will give me the chance to unlock the parts of my brain that have been left to languish due to far too much time working in the "real world". It will also, hopefully allow me to continue upon a path of working in the arts and allowing others the chance to learn and create without boundaries.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How this all started...

A few of you have asked me what exactly it is that I'm traveling across the country to a tiny town in the Appalachian Mountains to do. Let's start at the beginning of how this adventure came to be shall we.

Roughly 3 1/2 years ago, I applied to John C. Campbell's Student Host program. It's a 4 month work exchange that they offer. They hire out for it any where from 1 1/2 to 2 years in advance and its not exactly the easiest thing to get selected for. Its also not the easiest thing for most people to uproot their life for. Back when I first applied, I was nearing 30 and realizing that I wasn't living the life I wanted to lead. Sure I had a job with people I loved, a tiny studio that was cozy and homey, and a great town to live in. But when it came down to it, I felt stagnated. I wanted to be living as an artist, spending my days working towards a career in the arts. I decided it was time to take some risks and see what happened.

I don't really remember how it was that I came to know about John C. Campbell Folk School, but I suspect my time spent at the SOFA expo in Chicago could be how. I figured what the hell. It couldn't hurt to fill out the application and see what happens. I mailed it in and waited, and waited, and waited. Nothing, not a word. I never really gave up hope though. I think somewhere deep in the corner of my mind I knew that some day I'd make it there. Maybe not as the SH, but perhaps as a student. So I didn't fret or worry and merely went on with other adventures.

Those adventures of course took me to Rapid City, SD. To live with the love of my life, our dog, our cat, and now our new roommate. I had told Carl, before moving that if the chance arose for me to go the JCCFS, that I wouldn't be able to pass it up. He being an understanding, loving, supportive partner, who just happens to also be a free spirit and an artist, completely understood. Fast forward to May of 2011 when my phone rings, two years after applying.

I didn't recognize the NC phone number and let it go to voicemail. It then took me 2 1/2 weeks to get a hold of the woman in charge of the program to let her know I was still interested and would die for the chance to interview for the spot.  I set up a phone interview for a few days later. It went so well that about 1/2 way through, she stopped me and said, "You know what, you've got this. I think you'll be a perfect fit. I'll email you the available dates and you let me know which time frame suits you best."

I decided the best time for me to go would be this coming Fall/Winter. Mainly so I could pay down my debt, get my ducks in a row out here, and save a little money before taking off. My other reasons were that I didn't want to deal with my spring time allergies while trying to work outside, or deal with the extreme heat and humidity of the summer. Plus, I'll be able to spend my week off for Christmas with my family.

And so here I am 64 days from the beginning of my adventure and 99 days from starting at JCCFS. So exciting!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The beginning...

In 65 days I will be embarking on a journey that will take me from my current home of Rapid City, SD to the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC. I plan to use this blog to document my trip across the country as well as my time spent at JCCFS. Here is the tentative schedule for my departure:

8/24/12- Last day at my current job.

8/30/12- Drive to Sioux Falls, SD for Ted and Savannah's wedding weekend.

9/3/12- Back to Rapid City, SD to finish packing.

9/7/12- Drive to Omaha, NE and hopefully couch surf (If I can find a host) for the weekend. Explore a little more of downtown Omaha.

9/9/12- Drive to Decatur, IL and stay with Robin for a couple of days.

9/11/12- Drive to CU, IL and stay with whoever will have me. Visit all my favorite places and people. Stock up on tasty bits from the Common Ground Food Co-op.

9/15/12- Drive to Naperville, IL to spend the weekend with my niece and nephew who have birthdays this weekend. I can't wait to see them!

9/18/12- Drive to Carmi, IL to stay with my folks for ten days. Visit all my friends in my home town. Spend some time in Evansville and New Harmony, IN.

9/28/12- Drive to Brasstown, NC and couch surf over night.

9/29/12- Start my job as the Student Host at JCCFS.

1/26/13- Last day as Student Host at JCCFS.

Most of this isn't set in stone and could very easily change. Prior to leaving I'll be posting pics of my favorite places and spaces here in RC as well as blogging about the process of uprooting my life to have an adventure.