Preparation for snowmen

January 25, 2008 at 7:00 pm | Posted in blogging, country life, country living, dogs, faith, family, free knitting patterns, hat patterns, knitting, love, marriage, pets, photography, relationships, romance, snow, yarn | 13 Comments

God left snowballs on fireflys lawnA week or two ago my mother passed along an email to me featuring a photo of some “snowballs” that strewn all across a snow covered field. I think the caption was something along the lines of the snow balls having been made by God. You could see tracks in the snow, where the balls of snow had rolled along and grown in size with the wind pushing them along. I had never heard of or seen spontaneous snow balls like that before.

This week it has been quite cold here, with a couple of all-day snow showers. One morning I had a meeting to go to, and when I went out to get in my Explorer I saw snow balls all over our yard and fields just as in the photo Mom sent … what magic, and right in our backyard.

Blu is jubilant as he runs around in the snow on fireflys farmAs I drove along I saw the snow balls everywhere. They were in yards and empty fields, even strewn all across the frozen river and a lake. As I drove along I imagined the fun of God, angels, fairies … some sort of omnipotent or magical beings taking time out to make snow balls. It was almost as if someone or something had been in the midst of making a tremendous number of snowmen all at once, but was suddenly interrupted and had to stop and disappear, quick as a blink leaving their work half-done.

Of course, I know there is a perfectly good scientific, logical explanation for the snow balls lying about everywhere. Many apparently magical things can be explained away by science and logic, and that’s just what happens when they are treated that way … they go “away”, poof. Where’s the fun in that?

A child walks outside each day, and sees a world of possibilities in front of him … magic everywhere. There’s a leaf blowing along in the air, dancing around the corner of the house, a little girl follows and imagines the possibilities. Magic.

Blu dashes through the snow on fireflys farmAh, a stick. A boy picks it up and suddenly he is an Arabian knight fighting off ten armed bandits as he protects the King and a princess or two and earns a pot of gold. Magic. The stick is dropped and left behind when he sees a lizard squirming off through a bush. There he goes in a flash, pursuing what he hopes might become his next pocket pet who he might name George, Spot, or Zero. Magic.

They smile, giggle, laugh, cry, and stand in wide-eyed awe at simple little pieces of new knowledge which are giant building blocks of their intellect. Children look — actually look — right into mud puddles and see things tantalizing enough to keep their attention fixed for several minutes. When was the last time a mud puddle fascinated you?

They go along breathing magic into life as it unfolds before them, and the magic keeps them going.

Blu is a bundle of joy as he runs around in the snow on fireflys farmChildren possess an intuitive faith; that faith is the basis of the grace with which they view and experience life. I thought quite a lot about children as I drove toward my meeting, fascinated by magic snowballs lying about all over my world. Despite the knowledge of a perfectly good, scientific, and logical explanation for the snowballs I have the freedom to look at those snowballs and decide all on my own that they got there by magic. That is what I choose to believe, that belief is fun and I am at liberty to think any fun thought I choose to. So, I do.

I say those snowballs are magic, and so they are. Today, I plan on purposely looking for and finding ten absolutely normal, ordinary objects or scenes for which there is plenty of scientific evidence as to their origin and I plan on disagreeing with science and making my own decision that those things are in fact, magic regardless of the illusion of their being logically placed in the environment. I plan to do that because it is fun. Not only do I plan on deciding those things are magic, I also plan on imagining some very fantastic explanations as to how they came to be there.

Blu, you are a good old dog for such a young oneToday, as on many days, I plan to experience my personal style of spiritual freedom, all in the playground of my own mind.

That’s what I plan to do.

Care to join me?

Blu has joined in. He and I had a great time playing out in the yard this morning, running around while we visited the barn and the willow and the fields, and some new snowballs left by those extraordinary beings. You can see the fun in his face, the pure joy with which he greets life as he runs around in wild abandon. He is lithe as he runs circles around me, frisky from the cold. He laughs at me in my big fluffy coat and boots, all bundled up and unable to move around very well.

He has taken to the snow just as he took to the river. Look at his coat, he is pretty much naked out there in 20 degree weather, pink skin exposed on his underbelly. I dare say if I was out there in the yard all pink and exposed I would not be running around with a crazy, wild eyed smile on my face. I rejoice in his joy, and have a great deal of fun photographing him as he bounds and careens all over the grounds the way we should all be enjoying our lives.

Really, that is how we should be approaching our lives. The way a child or a dog does the moment they step outside, each and every day. Joy. Unsuppressed, unbridled jubilation at the thought of being alive and out of doors.

Fireflys hand knit Baby Cable Switchback HatWho is to say we can’t, any of us, decide to feel that way and then go about creating those feelings in ourselves. Regardless of “reality”. I think we have been pushed into accepting far too many “realities” by others who are accepting those and other powerful “realities” … and they tell us we must agree. We must believe, but believe in what? Believe in sourness, dourness, dryness, dullness, dreariness.

No. I say no.

Blu thinks Joy is a great ideaI’m for joy. Unsuppressed, unbridled jubilation at the thought of … what may be.

Didn’t we all just get finished celebrating a season of joy to the world? Let’s keep it going. What do you think, Blu?

By the way, take a look at my new hand knit hat (pattern available in my Etsy Store) … can you see why I chose those colors?


Starting the New Year right

January 15, 2008 at 4:58 pm | Posted in art, blogging, country life, country living, dogs, faith, family, free knitting patterns, hat patterns, knitting, love, marriage, pets, photography, relationships, romance, scarf patterns, socks, yarn | 22 Comments

Fireflys little angelThe beginning to the new year has been a bit mixed … but the entire year is bound to be mixed no matter whether the overall picture after the fact turns out to be success and joy or struggle and disappointment, there will be a mixture of everything if this year is anything like other years in my life.

I hope it is like other years, because all of the years of the river of my life have carried along in their currents a mixture of experiences which all together form the status of my life at this time and I do so love my life. There have been poignantly painful experiences along with the way, uplifting joyful awakenings, seemingly bitter disappointments, powerful realizations and connections, and happy little surprises and mistakes.

For me, there has been one powerful lesson I have learned over and over again. This particular lesson I have resisted with every fiber of my being at times, I have fought against it tooth and claw, snarled at it, spit in its face, defied its inevitable approach, and grudgingly bowed to its command so many times I can hardly count. Evidently this lesson is so valuable I enjoy learning it over and over and over again.

The thing is, I am stubborn — or so I am told (though I don’t always agree with that particular adjective).

Buttons on Fireflys Hand Knit Baby Cable Switchback HatIn the case of this most valuable of life’s lessons, I believe I am truly stubborn but I also believe that must be a part of the game and I’m cool with that.

What is the lesson? Are you sure you want to know? Afterall, you just might be stubborn as well.

Here it is:

Sometimes those things I think I want are not actually good for me. Conversely, sometimes those things I think I don’t want are actually something I need dearly. An example would be two to three years ago in California when everything in my life seemed to be coming to a strange, unavoidable halt. My business, some aspects of my family life, my financial situation, my dreams. It all seemed so tragic, so horrible, so painful.

I fought those changes harder than I have fought anything in my life. I staunchly set my heels into the ground of what seemed my grounded life and I said, “NO!”.


My counter assault against the inevitable movement of my life was noble, magnificent, brave, and perhaps stubborn. At the time, I wasn’t trying to be stubborn, but I was being dense. I temporarily forgot the LESSON, which I had learned a number of times already. Really, honestly … I was sure I was finished learning that lesson, so when it whomped down on me again I didn’t recognize it for what it was. So, perhaps I wasn’t stubborn after but was, instead, unsuspecting.

That is a much better, more amenable adjective. I was unsuspecting.

Thank goodness, thank God, and thank anything else in the universe worthy of being thanked that all of the efforts I pulled out and all of the contortions I put myself through emotionally and otherwise were of no avail. Of course, it was the powerful current of the river me that was exerting itself anyway I just didn’t realize it at first.

At some point, however, it did finally occur to me … “Oh, it’s the lesson again.” Stop fighting it, listen, learn, go with the flow.

Go with the flow. It is along the lines of, “Go with the Force, Luke!” from Star Wars.

Last year, even here in my beautiful new life in Western New York on a farm by a river with my husband … even here and now, I still had instances of learning that lesson anew. It was a wonderful year in many ways, but there were definitely challenges I had not anticipated. Challenges in helping my daughter find relief from her pain, challenges in maintaining professional productivity while running a home, loving and supporting a husband, raising a puppy, evolving my blog and website, establishing myself in New York as an artist, staying in communication with my many readers, getting enough sleep, figuring out my schedule, trying not to gain weight in a rural setting (man, that’s a tough one), and on and on.

Fireflys Hand Knit Baby Cable Switchback HatToward the end of the year it all came to a standstill when I, yet again, slipped and fell on our narrow staircase. Bump, bump, bump … six times in all, square on my tail bone.


This time it was worse than last Christmas when a similar thing happened, and I have not been able to spend much time sitting at my computer.

The nice thing about it is that I can paint standing up, and I can take Blu for walks without discomfort, I can knit comfortably from a reclining sofa or chair. Laying down and resting is great too. So, I had a forced but refreshing break from the computer and the Internet and the chair. I would not have willingly afforded myself that break even though it was just what I needed. No, I had to go the round-about-way of slipping and falling, hurting my tail bone, and having no choice but to take a break right here at home.

Although injury was involved, even in this instance, there are things to be grateful for. That is always the case. You can always find a myriad of things to be grateful for no matter the situation you find yourself in, if only you apply your mind in that direction. That is the trick to freeing yourself from the apparent struggle of the LESSON. Relax, embrace, find gratitude and then find some more gratitude and then some more, and some more. Ah, fresh air.

Oh, hello again farm. Hello environment. Hello river, and weather, and wind. Hello old barn out there in the back yard. Hello paint and easel and brushes. Hello snow. Hello life. Hello me. I am taking it all in, newly in the moment as if I had just arrived.

Pears in Monochrome an Oil Painting by J L FleckensteinDuring this time, I have finished the large painting that will hang in a local restaurant … 50″ wide, 19″ tall. It is oil on hardwood, pears in monochrome.

I also finished that cute hand knit hat I mentioned before plus I also designed and knit a warm, cozy stole (noun: a wide scarf worn about their shoulders by women) and am starting on a pair of hand knit warm and wooly house socks. This year I plan to start selling some of my knitting patterns online and in yarn shops in addition to continuing to release some for free online. The hat and stole will be the first two patterns I publish for a fee and I am thankful for the inspiration I am experiencing toward that end.

My tailbone is on the mend, and so this morning I have been able to write a blog post in relative comfort. I always try to respond to every comment I receive on the blog, as well as any emails from readers. Please understand that if I have not answered your communication recently, it is only because of my injury. I hope you will be patient and understanding with me.

Have a beautiful day and week … and welcome to Your Life, 2008!

Warmest wishes,

Treasured visitors

January 2, 2008 at 5:40 pm | Posted in art, blogging, Christmas, cookie recipes, country life, country living, dogs, faith, family, food, free knitting patterns, gifts, hat patterns, Holidays, knitting, love, marriage, photography, pumpkin recipes, recipes, relationships, romance, snow, socks, yarn | 17 Comments

Jack Frost left some magic on Fireflys windows this morningAnother holiday season has swept through, leaving in its wake warm and loving memories and a sweet lingering feeling of relaxation. Each year I learn new lessons in keeping the holidays in simpler and more humble manners. This is my personal effort to help keep the true spirit of the holidays alive for myself, my loved ones, and anyone whose life I might happen to touch in some way or other.

I find I succeed in some ways, and fail in others but always my quest is to get it better than I have before, learn from my mistakes, discard regrets, and move on toward a future of increased goodwill and peace to whatever degree I, one single individual spirit, can contribute to that motion.

The beauty and magic of snow on fireflys farm in Western New YorkMy beautiful, large family, which has gone through various stages of fragmentation since the death of my oldest brother two years ago, is finding and knitting its way back together. My son and daughter, my husband, and I spent Christmas alone here on our farm just the four of us … and of course our dear sweet Blu and a couple of magic cats that showed up lately on our porch.

We enjoyed a beautiful snow storm on Christmas eve, the day my son flew in from California. After that, for several days, the four of us stayed at home pretty much the entire time. My son and I enjoyed cooking together on Christmas eve and Christmas day … treasured memory. The four of us visited together peacefully, gently, with love and regard for one another. We enjoyed laughter, gifts, naps, the “Christmas Story” marathon on television, tasty baked goods, and pretty scenes outside our the many windows of our home.

Pretty touching snow outside of fireflys farm in Western New YorkI managed not to cry when we drove him to the airport and dropped him off for his flight home. The inevitable tears did not begin stinging their way into and out of my eyes until we pulled away from the curb and he and I shared a last wave of “goodbye, see you soon”.

I have promised myself he will never see me crying as he leaves, nor feel any sense of sadness coming from me. We are both doing quite well in life, and though our separate paths have dictated 3,000 miles between us we stay in such close contact via the many conveniences afforded by modern technology that I am able to keep my perspective which help keep feelings of sadness at bay.

Magic awaits us all in 2008This year we sent holiday care packages to each of the families within my family containing apple preserves I made this fall, ginger snap cookies my daughter and I made just in time for shipping, pumpkin bread from Grandma Johnson’s recipe, and other items or treats according to what I had on hand and who the recipient might be. The ginger snap cookies were the biggest hit of all … my goodness (I use the recipe straight out of The Joy of Cooking). They became our favorite Christmas cookie last year, my first Christmas on the farm, and now we have decided they will be our traditional Christmas cookie from here on out. So, family, get ready for more of that crispy goodness next year.

Meanwhile, we have a year of living to get on with and I am ready to begin.

I am well underway on the large painting I am making for our favorite local restaurant. In a few days I should have a photo ready to share.

A pretty view of snow outside at fireflys farm in Western New YorkMy daughter gave me beautiful yarns for three hand knit projects (a hat, a shawl, and a pair of warm and cozy house socks) for Christmas. I have completed the hat (will share a photo in the next posting) and am well on my way with the shawl. I plan to create printed versions of this year’s patterns which will be carried in my local yarn shop and on my website. If the patterns do well in sales in the yarn shop, I hope to start distributing them in other yarn shops around. Of course, I will still offer free patterns online … so don’t worry, I won’t be cutting you off. However, it is the prudent thing to do to make some of what I do here generate income and knitting patterns seems to be a good way to go.

Over the past months I have settled in more to my new life on a farm in Western New York, so this coming year will be simpler and less stressful than the last, and it will be more productive and satisfying … and even more magical. Ah, I breath a sigh of relief and restful anticipation just thinking of the days, weeks, and months to come.

Heres a toast to magic waiting around every cornerThis is the way to begin a new year: peaceful, relaxed, rested, happy. Jack Frost, a treasured visitor and friend, left a handful of beautiful drawings in ice crystal on the windows of our sun porch this morning. His little touch of magic drew me and the camera out of our restful dreams with a glimpse of a view of the year ahead.

Will you join me in heralding in a new a magical year with happinesses yet to discover, successes yet to unfold, and pleasant surprises glistening on our horizons?

Wonderful! Let’s get going …


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