Welcome home…

Welcome homeIt would be difficult for me to describe the Kerrville Folk Festival to the uninitiated.  For those of us who make the annual pilgrimage to Quiet Valley Ranch outside of Kerrville, TX the “Welcome Home” sign pretty much says it all.   For 18 days beginning the Thursday before Memorial Day each year the ranch is home to thousands of music lovers from all walks of life coming together for the sake of the song.  By the time it’s all said and done the ranch is pretty much wall to wall tents and music.  There are fabulous stage performances every night with added performances on weekend afternoons as well as the almost daily Ballad Tree where anyone who cares to share a song can get up and perform.  The music that goes on nearly 24 hours a day at the various campsites is part of the heart of the festival and you’ll hear everyone from the casual music lover to mainstage performers at all hours of the day and night swapping songs in a circle of friends.

Groups of people gather the weekend before  for Landrush to set up camps with names like Camp Coho, Kantigree, Sweetness and Light, and Duct Tape, just to name a few.  My home base at the festival is a little slice of heaven known as Camp Nashbill where our fearless leader, liege lord and High King, Bill Nash welcomes us with open arms.

In her book, The Dance, author Oriah Mountain Dreamer has this to say about home:

“This is what home is: not only the place you remember, but the place that remembers you, even if you have never been there before, the place that holds some essential piece of you in trust, waiting for you to return when you go out into other places in the world, as you must.”

That pretty much sums up the festival and especially Camp Nashbill to me.  I was made to feel at home from the moment I stepped foot under the canopy in 2002 and to this day it remains home and my campmates are family.  Each year we’ll welcome another member or two into the fold and they are greeted as though they’d been coming there for years.

Camp Nashbill - photo by Neale Eckstein

Camp Nashbill – photo by Neale Eckstein

Bill is an inspiration to many, including myself.  Diagnosed many years ago with Multiple Sclerosis, Bill has had to develop ways to play the guitar that don’t require as much strength in his left hand.  He has developed a method using alternate tunings and multiple capos of varying sizes to enable him to play chords with one or two fingers and is always ready to teach anyone with a desire to learn.  His after mainstage song circle is a popular place for performers to stop by and share a song or two.  Bill welcomes anyone and everyone who would like to sing and play and the circle often goes on until 3:00 or 4:00 a.m.  I’m way too much of an early riser to stay up with them that late but I have a tradition of setting my tent up just outside of the song circle.  I’ve heard some amazing music while half asleep in my tent.   It’s a magical place.

To say that I am grateful for the friendships, the songs, the laughs and the hugs that I have received from my fellow “Nashbillians” doesn’t begin to scratch the surface.  In my campmates and fellow festival goers I have found acceptance and kindred spirit. If you ever find yourself near Kerrville, TX at the end of May or first part of June stop on by.  We’ll all say “Welcome Home!”


A one-eyed cat…

Junebug2Junebug only had one eye.  In fact, she was the only kitten in the litter to get an eye.  There were two others who were born with no eyes at all.  The kennel attendant at the vet clinic  I worked for  pulled her off the animal control officer’s truck saving the litter from euthanasia.  Oddly enough someone took the two blind kittens the first day.  Junebug stayed in the kennel for about a month until the owner veterinarian started grumbling about putting her to sleep.  Oh, I don’t think he really would have but I decided she could come home with me and be a barn cat at the farm where I lived and trained horses.

She got her name because when I went out to the barn the morning after she arrived she was in the middle of the feed room floor, completely surrounded by June bugs.  I feel fairly certain that she thought she was trapped.    She was not about to try to step over them.  I’m convinced that whatever caused her to be one-eyed also served to handicap her some mentally.  The other barn cats seemed to recognize this and protected her from the possums and the feral cats that lived out in the cane.

She was, without a doubt the sweetest and most tolerant cat I’ve ever known.  My friends for whom I trained horses, and whose parents owned the farm, lived in Houston but came with their two young daughters to the farm on weekends.  The girls would head out to the barn and would frequently sling Junebug over their arms and then run back to the house.  She never protested and would be flopping along like a little ragdoll.  Once they’d arrive at the house they would put her down to play with her and she’d just make a beeline back to the barn where the process would start all over again.  She didn’t seem to mind though and I never once saw her run from them.

When she got older she got a serious bite in her chest from one of the feral cats and we treated an abscess for months.  We had a really difficult time with healing but she never once complained about all the poking and prodding.  One evening I came home to find her in the barn laboring to breath.  The abscess had gone through her chest wall and caused her to have pneumothorax.  I called the vet, grabbed her up and held the skin tight over her chest while we drove the 11 miles into town.  We were concerned about the risk of anesthesia so true to her nature she let us work on her without sedation to stabilize her and close the hole in her chest.

She became mostly a house cat after that but her wound never healed.  When she was strong enough we did surgery and a culture revealed a nocardia infection, a serious and fairly rare bacterial infection.   Considering the length of time we had already been treating her and the amount of antibiotics already pumped into her I decided it was time to let her go.  She had fought a hard battle but always with the sweetness and grace that we had come to know her by.  She was a special kitty and I’ll always be grateful that I decided to bring her home.  Good kitty, Junebug…

On being imperfect…

Navajo RugI confess…I am a recovering perfectionist.  I come by it honestly.  My father was a perfectionist.  He once built a fence and vacuumed out the post holes with a shop vac before he poured the concrete for the posts.  My fifth grade teacher didn’t help matters.  Miss Sutton made us write all of our papers in pen and if we made one tiny mistake we had to start all over.  No erasers, no scratching things out, nothing.  Nothing but perfection for Miss Sutton.  Geez…talk about making you neurotic.  Seriously, by the time you’ve read this paragraph you can trust that I have re-read and edited it at least 3 or 4 times.

As a child I was fascinated by the Native American culture.  We lived in Bethesda, MD at the time and I used to love to go to the Native American exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institute and was an avid reader of books on the subject.  One of the things that struck me as a child was how there is an intentional imperfection woven into a Navajo rug.  The Navajo say this is where the Spirit moves in and out of the rug.  I was captivated by that idea and it’s one very vivid memory I have of the exhibit; it’s just a shame that it didn’t quite sink in and the perfectionism around me took center stage.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  It’s a good thing to try hard and do your best.  But when the fear of not doing something perfectly the first time gets in the way of trying something new or creative…I mean come on!

I have come a long way in my recovery.  I mean, I even go to a church with “imperfect” in the name.  Yep–Journey Imperfect Faith Community in Austin, TX.  The most wonderful group of loving misfits you could ever meet.  Embracing imperfection is part of Journey’s mission statement.  They’ve helped me get out of my comfort zone and try things that I would not have dreamed possible.

Writing this blog is all about embracing my imperfections.  For months I have been struggling to find a way for my right brain to get a little breathing room in my left-brained world.   My creative side (that up until a few weeks ago I would have told you didn’t exist) has been crying to get out.  It’s a work in progress but I’m getting lots of encouragement along the way.  Just today author Jon Katz posted something in the beautiful Facebook Group that he created:

“Good writing is not about grammar and punctuation. They used to be, but they are not really what writing is about, especially in the immediate and visual new environment we write in. Good writing is about authenticity, feeling and emotion, always. Grammar and punctuation are not what make people laugh or cry, not what touches their hearts. I close my eyes every time I write and ask myself two questions: 

What am I feeling?
Is this the truth?”

I’ll probably always struggle with the editor inside of me that wants to be sure everything is perfect before it sees the light of day.  I am, however, immensely grateful to those who have embraced and encouraged me, with all of my imperfections and are teaching me to do the same.


Letting the turkeys get me down…

Turkey mugOkay, I’m just going to own it…I was not feeling particularly grateful for much of today.  I got up at 5:00 to go in and cover for a receptionist who was out.  No problem there but things started going downhill when I walked in the door of the clinic.  Nothing earthshattering, just really hectic; little things not working right.  I was trying to juggle the front desk and the phones along with getting reports ready to go meet the practice owner and our accountant at 10:00 a.m.

Then came Mr. Smith.  Let’s just say that Mr. Smith takes great pleasure in being rude and insulting all under the guise of being “funny”.  He’s one of those people that causes my receptionists to have to force a smile and stifle a groan when he walks through the door.  Oh, and he’s a “friend” of one of my doctors.  He thinks it’s absolutely hysterical to leave a $1 or $2 balance on his account every time he pays his bill and trying to convince him otherwise just results in a big , long drawn out thing.  The only time that I’ve had any real interaction with him is when I spoke with him about this and politely explained that it cost us money to have to bill him for these small balances so we would really appreciate it if he would just pay his bill in full unless there were special circumstances and prior arrangements were made.

Well, today he walked in and was greeted with a smile and a friendly “Good Morning” by both me and my coworker.  He then proceeds to loudly make a big deal with my coworker about why she was working by herself today.  “I’m not by myself”, she said.  “Judi’s been right here working with me all morning”.

“You didn’t answer my question”, he says, “Why are you working by yourself?”.  To her credit she handled it with a smile, ignored the question, helped him schedule the boarding reservation that he came in to make and sent him on his way without too much more unpleasantness.  For my part, I just ignored him but I do have to wonder why it is that I allow this man to yank my chain.   It’s not something I usually do but for some reason this man just drives me crazy despite the fact that I know that’s exactly his motivation for acting the way he does.  I try my best not to let him see it but he gets to me nonetheless.

The rest of my work day was just kind of a comedy of errors.  I got out of the office late for my meeting; spilled my hot tea all over the table at the restaurant and managed to drip hot sauce from my breakfast taco down the front of me, blah, blah, blah.  I left work this afternoon declaring that I was going home to find something to be grateful for and to blog about it!!   So there!

Now I realize that all of these little things are what are commonly referred to as “First World Problems”.   I have a job…a good job; with really good coworkers and a good boss and mostly really, really good clients.  And then there’s the patients…I mean I get to work in an office where there are dogs and cats and birds and prairie dogs and rabbits and all kinds of wonderful creatures.   I am blessed.

And then there’s Pippin.  Wonderful, smart, playful and energetic Pippin.  Pippin is almost 21 months old now and we’ve been practicing “Down, Stay” for a long time.   He’s mostly pretty good at it, I tell him “down” and “stay” and then I throw the toy and we wait.  85-90% of the time he’ll wait until I release him and then take off after the toy but if he breaks it’s all over; there’s no stopping him.  Until today.  Today he broke but then went right back down on command.  Score one for me and Pippin!!!!  I was so proud.  Proud enough to post a crappy picture of him on Facebook that I took with my phone to commemorate the event.  Pippin, in the moment lying down, focused on his toy and waiting for me to give him the go ahead.

Pippin 6-27-13b

Maybe Pippin knew that I needed an attitude adjustment and a reminder of all that I have to be grateful for.  Good puppy, Pippin!

Peace and gratitude to you all for stopping by…

What is gratitude anyway??



The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

gratefulness – thankfulness – thanks – appreciation

What is all this talk about gratitude? Why is it important to live with gratitude? What does it really mean anyway?

Well, I can only speak for myself, but here’s my take on it. When it was first suggested to me that I keep a gratitude journal it made sense but I had no idea the positive impact it would have on my life. Now, to be honest I haven’t been very consistent with it. My hope is that putting this out there on the internet will change that. There is a tendency to do it when it’s convenient; when things are going well. Unfortunately, that totally misses the point. When things aren’t going well is precisely when practicing gratitude is important.

Living a grateful life is not about being happy all the time. It doesn’t mean that everything will be wonderful. What it is to me is a shift of focus. Let’s face it–everything doesn’t always go the way we want. To live life fully is to experience joy and pain. Trying to “numb out” the pain only serves to numb the joy as well. But if I can allow myself to find something, even in the midst of pain, to be grateful for it causes a shift and I firmly believe that what we focus on grows. And I can always find something or someone to be grateful for. Writing it down is not necessary but keeping a gratitude journal makes that focus intentional for me. This blog, this commitment to put this out for everyone to see holds me accountable.

Do I do this perfectly? Not even close. But I am learning to accept that my imperfections are okay; it’s part of being human. That has not always been and easy thing for me.

So I thank all of you who have modeled the grateful life to me. It has been the greatest gift…



Ignorance is bliss…

Pacman at 2 months
By all rights Pacman should not have turned out as well as he did.  I had made up my mind that I wanted a Rottweiler puppy so when a client came in to the vet clinic where I worked with a litter I just had to have one.  That was it…no research, no real thought…I had to have one of those puppies.

In my ignorance I didn’t know that both of Pacman’s parents were known to have some serious aggression issues.  His sire, a champion show dog had ended his show career by biting a judge.  I later found out, after spending some time around his dam that even the woman who owned her was half afraid of her.

So, Pacman (a.k.a. Bowling Ball Head) came to be part of the family.  I was a professional horse trainer and I had owned dogs most of my life but I was no dog trainer.  Somehow I muddled my way through training him.  He was a smart dog and quickly learned the basics of “sit” and “come” and spent his day following my Border Collie mix, Bruiser and me all over the farm.  On the weekends, the people that I trained horses for and their two young daughters would come to the farm and Pacman loved them all.  Apparently, he didn’t know his parents had aggression issues either.

As he grew, one of the things that took him a long time to figure out was that he was much bigger than Bruiser…twice his size by the time it was all said and done.  Nevertheless, he deferred to Bruiser’s wisdom and experience.  A friend built us a big dog house for the small yard they were kept in at night and when I was at work.  It was plenty big enough for both of them to sleep in.  Bruiser would have none of that though and stretched out in the dog house while Pacman slept on the ground.  One morning I woke to the sound of Bruiser’s frantic barking.  Pacman had apparently had a little light bulb come on in his big head and was stretched happily out in the dog house with a look of triumph on his face.  Bruiser was barking and tugging at his collar making a valiant attempt to drag Pacman’s 110 lb frame out of “his” dog house.  Pacman had figured it out.

As Bruiser got older they both wormed their way into my small garage apartment at night.  I had one dog bed at first and when I would open the door they’d both make a run for it.  Whoever got there first claimed the bed for the night.  One morning, after Bruiser had parked himself in the bed the night before I woke up to find Pacman looking at me dolefully.  He had spent the night in the laundry basket full of clothes that I had left on the floor.  I wish I had a photo to show for it but the sight was hilarious.  He was falling out of both sides of the basket—he couldn’t have possibly been comfortable but the look on his face said, “Bruiser got the bed; I’m not sleeping on the floor; it’s NOT FAIR!!!!”

Pacman loved everyone.  He would come to work with me occasionally at the vet clinic.  As we’d walk through the door early in the morning he would immediately push past me and make a beeline for the hallway where the coffee pot was.  He knew there would be people there to love on him and for him to love back.  Then he’d make his rounds greeting all of my coworkers with a bump of his big head and a lick.  When he was done he would push the kennel door open and park himself in the first open run, waiting patiently for someone to give him some water, a bed and close the kennel door.  He was “at work”.

Now, I don’t recommend getting any breed of dog—any animal, for that matter—without doing research.  It’s important and the lack of it is one of the reasons way too many dogs end up in shelters.  I got lucky.  This could have turned out badly.  But maybe Pacman’s story is a lesson about life in general.  Maybe it’s a lesson in letting go of pre-conceived notions and assumptions about how we think things should be; people, animals, anything for that matter.  I’m grateful to Pacman for teaching me that.  Good boy, Bowling Ball Head!

Pacman 9 monthsPacman & Bruiser

What the world needs now…another blog???

gratitudeHi there!  Thanks for stopping by.  Okay, so the world probably doesn’t need another blog; at least not one from someone who, up until recently would have told you firmly, “I am not a writer”.  But recently I have joined the most wonderful group on Facebook and they have been more than encouraging about nurturing my creative side.  The group, started by best-selling author, Jon Katz is full of writers, photographers, animal lovers and just plain good people who love to support and encourage each other.  It is a truly remarkable collection of souls that I feel honored to be connected to.

I’ve long believed in the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal so I figured that might be a good theme for the blog…kind of a running dialogue on things that I am grateful for and maybe some musings on the days when I don’t feel so very grateful but need to be reminded.

So, perhaps the world doesn’t really need another blog but I think it’s safe to say that one of the things that the world needs is a bit more gratitude.  I might as well start with me.  So, today I’m grateful for Janettee who first suggested that I start a gratitude journal all those years ago.

Hope you’ll check in from time to time – I’d love to hear what you’re grateful for too.

With Peace and Gratitude…