You Just Never Know…

Yesterday I visited my second home, Camp Crestridge,  for a little bit – to see old friends, hug some necks, breathe the mountain air, and introduce Noah to camp for the first time. We weren’t there but an hour or so and in that short time, amazingly, the part of my soul where my camp memories will always be near and dear was stirred and touched, and it was totally unexpected.

In my five summers on staff I met lots of folks, loved on a lot of campers, invested time and emotions I hardly knew I was capable of, became a part of the story for girls in difficult situations trying to figure out who they are and what they have to give, played hard, laughed a lot, cried a lot, and grew more as a young woman in those short summers because of who these girls revealed to me that I was and could be through relationships with them.

A handful of them I still keep in touch with – they call on me when in need of advice or someone to listen (and sometimes when I need them for the same) and I am always eager to hear about their adventures and what they are up to. A lot of my girls I loosely keep up with via Facebook or blog – checking in from time to time to see them happy in life, embracing their challenges, and overcoming obstacles I would never wish on anyone. There are even a couple that have left this world far, far too early. Regardless of the consistency of conversation, I think about them daily. Pray for them often. And am ever thankful for their place in my life – even if from a very far distance nowadays.

Which brings me back to yesterday.

As I was standing outside the chapel listening to someone lead the most beautiful worship I’ve heard in that chapel I just had to poke my head around to see if I knew who it was – not likely since I haven’t worked in four summers. The song coming from her mouth and her guitar was giving me chills – sure  enough she was one of my former campers, ten at the time, who definitely has left a mark on me. And if you ask her, I left a mark too when I “pushed” her down in the gravel during an intense game of Underground Railroad. Clearly I never pushed a child, but that’s our thing – our bond.  And she has been blessed with an incredible gift of music and she loves Jesus with all her heart. She will do great things in her life- she already is – and she’s only eighteen. (Katie falls in the “check in on from time to time” category, and it’s been a year or so since we last talked. She has sisters, Sarah and Caroline, who I keep up with somewhat regularly – they attended our wedding and Krystal’s last fall. Team Knowles, as I lovingly refer to them. And they are the best huggers ever. Period.)

Then another former camper comes strolling out of the chapel, squeals in excitement to see us standing there, and throws her arms around us both. It’s been since 2005 since I last saw or spoke with her – she I check in on from time to time, but at a distance. This is her first time she’s been back to camp in that long as well – it does my heart so good to see her.

And then she says this, in so many words:

I should have told you this a long time ago, but thank you for talking to me and encouraging me my last summer here. I probably wouldn’t be at Florida State right now if it weren’t for you telling me to go. You said I would find friends and good people there even though the school is crazy – and I have and love it so much. I remember sitting on the Cherokee bridge with you and you said “Just find some friends and go climb trees on campus!” – and that’s where I spent most of my freshman year!   On Landis Green climbing trees! God has blessed me so much and has done so much in my life it’s just amazing. I was a hot-mess, like a hot messy mess, that summer and you helped me so much and I just love you so much.

My eyes are teary as I type this.

She quoted me.

Word for word.

From six years ago.

Six. Years. Ago.

How many conversations can you do the same for that you had last week, much less six years?

The meaning that those words spoken yesterday carried far more weight than simply strolling down memory lane – and far more than she could have ever imagined. It’s for kids like her that I do what I do. The one in a hundred who really hear what you say and trust your words and then do something with them. The kids who may be harder to love – really love –  but are so full of love and laughter and joy, they just have to find the faith within to believe in themselves. The kids who,six years later, will be pouring themselves into teenage girls, just like you once did – and you know she will be blessed by them as she has blessed you. Kids who will keep in touch or come out of the blue to tell you that you meant something to them – even if it was a conversation about climbing trees.

I share all of that to say this – hug your campers/kids/child in your life ever single day, tell them that you love them – there’s never a time too many, help them believe in themselves by believing in them first, let them mess up and be there to listen when they end up hurt, hold the mirror up for them to see their beauty, show them the simple joys like climbing trees, acknowledge that they are children and let them be – childhood is too fleeting as it is.

It’s okay to not have all the answers, I surely didn’t at 21, but to love a child right where they are, in there hot messy messiness, is right where you need to be.

And right where they need you to be.


Up the Creek

No need for a paddle. This time.

These spontaneous adventures take me back to spending two weeks a summer in the mountains as a kid.

…collected “wittle wiver wocks” until my pockets were billowing over and my shorts were falling off…

…climbed hills that were far bigger than me…

…played in mud, to my mama’s chagrin, probably took more with me than I left…

…stomped through the creek, looking for the rock to make the biggest splash…

…posed for a bajillion (and one) photos to get the perfect family shot…

…learning how to use the “facilities” in the woods…

…turning over rocks and logs and being mesmerized by my findings…

…and exploring it all with people I love.

It’s crazy to think how far back these memories take me. And even crazier to be making fresh ones in similar backdrops with our little fella. I hope a million years from now he will splash and get muddy with his little ones, but that will have to wait – his heart belongs to his mama until at least 35.


Family. God. Husband. Child. Job. Self. Homestead. Garden. Sewing. Good book. Cooking. Writing. Health. Friends. Church. Giving. Traveling. Creating. Selling. Date nights. Stewarding. Sleeping. New endeavors.

How does one juggle life’s daily tasks and challenges? Can you, I mean I, efficiently juggle them all? What about the ones that I don’t plan and calculate for? If I gave 100% to even half of them, the others would surely fall by the wayside. And they do. Every day.

I am the type of person that tries to find joy in everything I do, even the mundane. Is the glass always half full – of course not – but if the joy is not there I find it difficult to justify giving it even 5% (hence why my house is typically always awry…). And then there are the things that bring me great joy (such as this blog) that I have little energy and even less time for.

Balance – this is my challenge in this season of life. I don’t promise to be great or even good at all or any of the aforementioned categories (and their subcategories). I do promise to seek joy and balance – and where those do not abound I will re-prioritize. I will always put God and family first with the soon-to-come chickens at a close third – you think I’m joking.

So how do I do it? Is there a magical formula – I am open to suggestions. But not the fluffy, make-you-feel-good, only-works-in-theory suggestions. Real. Practical. Dare I say, simple.

I know there are folks who have the balance, the zen – to you, wise ones, share the wealth…

Baby Boys & Their Toy(Boxes)

Same toybox, different boy. Wilson circa 2001.

Wilson & Noah - circa 2010

There’s something to be said about boys and their toys. There’s also something to be said about time moves like a bullet train when you want to savor every moment and creeps by in reverse when you are looking forward.

To time I say: Right now we are savoring every possible morsel. Please let us off at the next stop.

It is no big secret that I like to ponder. All things life, love, faith, joy, peace, sorrow, nature and it’s miraculous ways far too big for my mind to even begin to comprehend. I find myself getting lost in this place of thought, this place of theory, this place of ideality (not really a word, but it fits with where I’m going – think reality, but not…) – at least it’s ideal for me in my little corner of the map.

I daydream of fertile soils to dig my toes into, to plant and grow our table’s bounty, of a sustainable homestead to raise our family, of schooling that will teach our child the values of life while letting him discover who he is and who he wants to be, of a community of like-souled people (their minds are give or take – it’s the core of them that I am interested in…), an imagination that is entertained by the simple things in life – playing with my family, cooking, sewing, reading a good book/blog, a mind rid of negativity, judgments, complaints, a harmonic space of greens and blues to call home for all of my days, a deeper love and understanding of my Maker, of living with and teaching others the abundant joys of simple life, simple living.

I’m not there yet. Not even close. Baby steps…

I have discovered that to choose to live a simple life often means the more questions you have to answer:

  • Why grow/make/fix/craft it when you can buy it?
  • Does it really matter if it’s made in China?
  • Isn’t it cheaper to do it this way?
  • You don’t want Noah to grow up without a little brother or sister, do you?
  • What does (insert person’s name who “should” have an opinion about topic) think about that?
  • Do you want a flu shot for you child? Are you sure?
  • What do you have against Sarah Palin? (For the record – nothing. I just hope our next president did not get his/her start as a reality star. I can see it now: “The Situation” for President… Think about it.)

And on and on…

I’m sure the questions will always remain, and I’m okay with that. It gives me the opportunity to hopefully enlighten someone who may not be aware, to teach a friend something new, to engage in a fruitful relationship.  Most of the questions I can field, others I choose not to, and then still there are a few that no matter what the answer I give it will never be “right”. Or satisfying – to someone else at least.

What I/we choose for me, us, our family, our life is just that – a choice. I’ve often looked for a justification, a reason, something to explain my free-spirit, my love for nature, my passion to absorb every grain of knowledge for no other reason than to simplify, my outside-of-the-box views and opinions, my “back to the land, should have lived in the sixties” mentality… and I ran across this the other day in a wonderful little book you can find here:

“We believe this world that you see is a manifestation of God and we are living in harmony with God. We don’t hold the environment as something to campaign about, in itself. ”


You can love the earth and Jesus, too.

And even one because of the other. Which one you love first, doesn’t really matter – it’s kind of like the age-old question about the chicken or the egg. Love one of them long enough and you will likely have a little (or large) love affair with the other.

And it’s good.





Jesus even had a hootenanny or two in the wilderness…some might say it’s where he found strength and peace and solace.

I know where to find me, myself, mine.

Wherever it is for you, I hope you find it.

Mirror, Mirror, Two Feet Tall

When Chris and I worked at Second Nature Blue Ridge we learned more about ourselves and our relationship in that six months than ever before and maybe even since then. I could start a whole separate blog about our adventures there, maybe even write a book. The amount of self-examination and reflection was overwhelming at times but lead to much needed discoveries and growth about ourselves – individually and as husband and wife. Yes, we were there to teach and challenge the youth to desire better, try harder, respect their values, discover themselves, and ultimately believe in who they can be – I challenge anyone, ANYONE, to do that with your whole heart and not walk away a changed person.

One of the methods that we were taught to use was to present the student’s life as if they were looking in a mirror. It wasn’t our job to tell them their behavior or choices were wrong because of blah blah blah… rather, it was our job to help them see and reflect on their choices that got them there, allowing them to then search out the destructive nature of their behaviors and hopefully find the will to change. (We were also encouraged to do this without emotional attachment, which for me and my background, I found to be next to impossible – if not for being “with child” this likely would have been the impetus for leaving SNBR eventually.)

A second part of this tool is to mimic the student’s actions, tone, verbiage when engaged in conversation – heated, emotional, joyful, painful – to indicate to them that you understand, you hear them, and you are listening. For example, if I am sitting across from a student and they have their head resting on their right hand, I might rest my head in my left – as to mirror them. If a student uses a slang word like pot or reefer or maryjane, that is what I would call it in response rather than marijuana or cannibus – as to not appear above or better than them.

As interesting as all of this may be, and it is, my point is not to ramble on about SNBR – like I said, I could start a whole blog just for that…

Chris, Noah, and I were coming home from supper last night and Chris said, “I want to share an observation with you, more for myself than you, but I still want to tell you about it…”. I immediately recognize these words as SNBR lingo and my attention is acutely focused on what he is about to say. He goes on to tell me that when he was changing Noah’s diaper earlier in the day he started to get very fussy, for no reason in particular. Sometimes he doesn’t care for the changing table, but Chris said that his fussing continued on into the living room when he was playing on the floor with him, and then on into Noah’s room when Chris took him in there to play. While in his room Chris noticed that Noah was taking the folded clothes off of the stool and throwing them on the ground while making a growling type of noise and his face all distorted. He continued to watch him to see what he would do…

As he was sitting and watching it hit Chris like a lightning bolt that Noah was absolutely mimicking something he has seen before, most likely from one of two sources that he spends near about every waking moment with – Chris or Grits. Noah’s brain computes: I am frustrated = this is what daddy/doggy does = clothes thrown (with meaning) on the floor. At this point most of his behaviors are learned, something he has seen before whether we would like to admit it or not. It’s that whole nurture vs. nature thing – just because nurture sounds like a nice and fluffy word doesn’t mean that the nurture part always is. It can be ugly or nice, sassy or sweet, feisty or patient – whichever it is, he sees it, learns it, and repeats it. And that repeating part is the one the either makes us bubble over with joy or want to hide underneath the nearest table.

We’ve had a lot of lessons in parenting over the last year, but I think now that Noah is really starting to develop his own little sense of self, the lessons get a little personal. He is a walking (hypothetically), talking, fit-pitching, kiss-giving, laughing, adventurous, risk-taking, sassy, clothes throwing miniature of us. Me. Chris. People we allow to be a part of his life. Us.

Time to get our act together, it seems… we now have a reflection, about two and a half feet tall, that mirrors our every step.

Monkey see…
Monkey do.

E.V.E.R.Y. S.T.E.P.


Dear Readers (all 4.5 of you),

I am sorry to announce that you will have to check back at a later date for the monthly update of the boy. You see, his mama is dealing with the heartbreaking realization that Noah is no longer a “month” age – as today is his birthday – he can now use that four-letter Y word. As soon as she is done wiping her tears and keeping them out of the pumpkin muffins and s’mores cupcakes (and cleaning, mopping, vacuuming, tidying, cooking, crafting, etc. for his party) she will gladly (well, maybe gladly) provide you with the latest and greatest of Noah.

Until then, let’s reminisce:

Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Plenty of cuteness and birthday goodness to come.

The Ford Fam


rec-on-cile: (verb) to bring into agreement or harmony; make compatible or consistent

I’ll get back to that in a moment – I promise, it’s relevant to the next part.

Conversations are like clothes – there are some that you have that you wear all the time, every single day if you could. No matter how many times you’ve worn it or how tattered it may be, you will keep it and cherish is forever and ever. Amen.

Then there are some that sit on the shelf for years, rarely even glanced at, only to be taken down for special occasions – a wedding or funeral perhaps. You like them alright, you just don’t need them on a regular basis.

And then, of course, there are the ones that old Aunt Gertrude gave you – you know the ones. The itchy, scratchy, stuffy, makes-you-uncomfortable-thinking-about-them sweaters hidden deep in your closet – that is, if you haven’t offloaded them on some other poor soul already.

If I had to relate the conversation I am going to share to one of these three categories, it would definitely be the first one – and likely I would label this one: Chacos. Yes – near and dear to my heart to the point that it probably stinks.

In March of 2007 I had a conversation with a dear friend and former boss, Chris (of the other Chris and Beth) before committing to a new summer job that would require a lot of patience, prayer, and well, something I was/am not the best at – forgiveness and reconciliation. Without going in to great detail, it was very apparent that I would not be able to effectively do this job without first finding peace and understanding with someone who had hurt me greatly and I, them. Chris helped me to understand, in a way that only he can make me see, why this was so important, beyond just the job itself, but because Jesus teaches us that in forgiveness there is freedom and joy. And believe me friends, there were neither of these for miles in this present struggle.

As I mentioned, neither one of these things are my best attribute, and unlucky for me they go hand in hand. I had no idea how I was going to approach this, let alone resolve it. I knew it was pertinent for this job, but as I began to pray and ponder I realized that aside from the job, it was vital for the condition of my soul, the core of my being. Holding on to this ugly thing for three years had done nothing more than weigh me down, trip me up, distract me, break my spirit, make me angry and bitter, and it showed it’s effects in more places than just this situation. Anger and bitterness are like the poison of life – both perfectly normal and acceptable to have, but not to hold onto. I had to let them go – which also meant relinquishing control. And if I am not good at forgiveness and reconciliation, I am even worse at losing control.

Thus began this season of my life – the season of finding harmony in situations where peace no longer dwelt. Giving reconciliation my power and control and trusting that God would heal and make new. I have learned over and over that reconciliation is a relationship – it is not one-sided, it is not conditional, it is not a one-time deal. For the past three years I have been on this journey of seeking peace and harmony, love and truth, restoration. The more I struggle, the more I prosper, it seems. It’s way more than just letting go – it’s embracing the freedom to love. Freedom to laugh. Freedom to start again.

I don’t promise to make all things right or good. I don’t assure that we will be the best of friends sharing in life’s little pleasures together. I don’t even promise to be good at being a friend. I don’t intend to create drama. I don’t even always desire to go back to the time when things were good.

What I can give is my word that I will do my best to find peace and harmony where it can’t be found. This may mean that we agree to disagree – I go my way and you go yours. But know that I love you nonetheless. And I wish you well. If it is the moon you desire to have, I hope you hold it in your hand one day.

It’s all about the simplicity – and life just isn’t simple when there’s all that baggage to lug around.

Oh, and the situation that spawned this season – it is healthy and well. I am thankful for this person in my life and the lessons I have learned in community with her.

I wear my Chacos everyday – just in case I might need them.

Fall Friskies

Orange. Red. Yellow. Crunching. Leaves. Chai Tea. Thanksgiving. Hammocks. All Things Pumpkin. Cool Breeze. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Socks with Chacos. Long Sleeves. Festivals. Halloween (OK- really just the candy). Harvest. Change. Fireplace. Crisp Air.

I. Love. All. Things. Autumn.

I think I am not going to call it Fall anymore. Typically when something falls it breaks, shatters, hurts itself – all not-so-very-fun things. And Autumn is so very fun.

I have decided to make a list – a list of projects I want to take on this Autumn for no other reason than they will bring me joy:

  • Dig up hosta plants that have taken over my yard. They are pretty and apparently expensive but I don’t have a desire for 9,374 of them in my yard. I would like to plant other things – like tulips or carrots.
Hosta la vistaHello, pretty spring time flowers!
  • Build chicken coop (I originally spelled this “coup” – and then laughed at the image of a bunch of chickens living in a rag-top hatchback) with my dad. Yes, it’s happening. This spring we will get chickens. I haven’t decided yet if we will try to hatch them or try to acquire them post-brooding, depends on how in touch with my roots I am willing to go. Chicken pox, you don’t scare me.
Welcome home, chickens.
  • Hang our hammock. Sadly we have moved two hammocks to three houses and have yet to put either one of them up to enjoy since Kansas City where it’s a frozen tundra three-fourths of the year. (I’m not bitter.) Operation: Hammock may happen this afternoon – I have to check with my boss. The little boss.
I need a lot more of this in my life… just up off the ground.
  • Sew. Sew. Sew. My goal is to make a stockpile of hand-grown goodness to sell on (deep breath) Etsy and then the Market Square Farmers Market next season. I also have Christmas gift dreams to fulfill as well. I think I will need to tune up my machine to prepare it for the storm – anyone know how to do that? Cinderelly, Cinderelly…
The dress I made for a little one who is loving life in the womb.
Come on out and meet the world, sweet girl.

  • Research and plan a year-round garden based on the Vegetannual starting in the spring to further our attempt at becoming locavores (Folks who eat local, in-season food as best they can). I gladly welcome any pointers. I am not trying to feed Roane County, just our little family and enough to can/freeze for the cold months.
Yummy – now when do I plant y’all in East Tennessee?
  • Paint our dreary living area. I say “living area” because it is just that – our kitchen, living room, dining room, entry way, sewing nook are all one big room. And the color on the wall is about as exciting as a root canal.
I am digging this color or something similar – bright and inviting.
I also like the green of the next room.

  • Create a business card. (Listen, I know I am nothing fancy, but a girl can dream.) Tell me what you think.
  • Throw my almost-one-year-old the most incredible birthday celebration this side of the Mississippi. I know, I am running behind, but this chicken pox stuff has thrown me for a loop – and now I am rethinking the original theme. This is what happens when I have too much time to think…
Celebrating a little early with Uncle Matt & Aunt Heather.
We are working on the whole “thank you” thing…
  • Carve pumpkins and reminisce on previous pumpkin carving parties. Do they have pumpkins in the northwest?
We’ve got mad pumpkin-carving skills in this neck of the woods.
Too bad half of our neck has run off…

  • Take a trip or two to the mountains. It’s always good to go home.
Back porch view from HiZi – such is life.

Whew. I better stop while I’m way already way behind. Three days, folks, until the Autumn equinox. I’ve got a lot of goodness on my plate – how about you? What are your favorite things about the season formerly known as Fall?


The procrastination of creating this post is not coincidental. I assure you that.

This time last year I was counting the days, hours, minutes until Noah would grace us with his sweet, sweet presence. I could never have imagined the way my life would take on a whole new form, one almost entirely unfamiliar to the one I’d always known. More about that next month (gulp).

In Ford fashion, it’s been a crazy busy month for us, capped off with a trip to Florida over Labor Day weekend. And in Noah fashion, he continues to amaze me, knock the Chacos right off my feet. It’s phenomenal the things he picks up on and learns within minutes of seeing it for the first time. Blows my mind.

And in no particular order:
1. If he wasn’t a flirt before, Noah has now added the wink to his repertoire. Cute as heck and will charm the pants off of anyone – if he isn’t too bashful to show you. It’s the double wink followed by a flutter of the eyelashes… guys, you better hold tight to your ladies.

2. His vocabulary is growing leaps and bounds – he will repeat, or at least try, anything you say to him. Among his easiest to decipher: hello – ayeee, fish – ish, daddy – da-dih, mama – behh (which we think is him calling me “babe” or “Elizabeth” because that’s what Chris usually refers to me as), herehee-ah, this – diss, duck – dah, Grits – giss… and many, many more that I am sure we just can’t figure out yet.

3. The tooth count is up to eight – and they are pretty adorable. They sure do make him look big though, which is the part I am not so sure about.

4. Uncle Caleb came to visit and meet Noah for the very first time. Noah was none too impressed that it took Uncle K-Luv ten months to finally make it to Tennessee, but I think they made up for lost time rather speedily. We are hoping and crossing our fingers that we will get to see a lot more of him in the near-ish future.

“Whoa, I’ve never been this high before.”
Noah, Uncle K-Luv, and Mama before C headed home, I mean to Ridgecrest.Ay-eeeeee!

5. I for sure thought that by this point he would be running circles around the house, mostly because he crawled so soon, but I think he figures he can get there just fine on all-fours, why mess up a good thing? He has started to let go of my leg, the couch, a bench, or whatever he is holding onto at that moment and balances for a few seconds before he realizes he’s not touching anything and plops onto his fanny.

Nothing better than morning cartoons with these guys.

6. At the ripe old age of 11 months, Noah has started his first LDR (Long Distance Relationship) with one of his very first and favorites, Ms. Allison. We took her out to lunch at the Tellico Grains Bakery (if you haven’t been, you must – I don’t care if you live in another state, region, or country, this place is goooood.) for a last shebang before she headed west. We miss her already, but I think this is one LDR that will survive. I mean, this is the stuff love is made of, right?

7. Tantrums – have I talked about those yet? He has them. They are entertaining. He snatches his arm away when I try to make him sit back down in the tub – he waves his arms furiously in the air like the “all done” sign language if he doesn’t like what you are doing or giving him – he has a fake cry which sounds similar to that sound they make on Dumb and Dumber, you know, the most annoying sound in the world. These are few and far between but his not-so-little personality is starting to show more and more. And show that he got a lot of it from his daddy…

8. The mullet is official. Yes, my precious son rocks the Euro-Mullet. His Aunt Dita would be so proud…

Look closely, it’s there…
Now I can only hope as he gets older he can claim
the sexiness of the mullet like David Beckham…
with the money and humor of Terry Bradshaw?

9. Hello, my name is Noah and I like to greet you like this:

I have no idea how this started or where it came from, but apparently his pops and his Uncle Matt (of the Matt/Heather married combo) did this very same thing when they were little. I have always known Chris saw the world a little differently. This explains a lot.

10. My independent, do-it-myself, won’t cry when I fall on my hiney-child has found a new love for snuggling. I will stop whatever I am doing whenever I am doing it to take full advantage of scooping him up, breathing him in, and lingering while time stands still and all is right in the world. He even let me rock him to sleep a couple of nights – he hasn’t done this since he was probably 6 months old. We pray and hope and love that our babies sleep on their own and through the night, but let me say, rocking him in my arms those nights will stay in my heart for a long time.

…and last but certainly not least…

11. We are weaners! Yes, that’s right, Noah has successfully weaned himself as of the beginning of September. Breastfeeding mamas, don’t ask me how we did it, what we did, or if I have any tips because all I can tell you is this: let the baby take the lead. I know that many, many people much smarter than me preach wholeheartedly against “demand-feeding” during the beginning, but let me throw out there that once you have a rhythm going and it’s good for mama and baby, I really believe that it will all happen naturally – at least that’s the case for us. All along Noah has “dropped” feedings around the suggested ages without any coercion, and the whole experience has been fabulous. Do I miss it? No, not yet… I am just glad to have the girls back.

Let’s take a look back real quick, to what I was doing a year ago today:

Holy guacomole, I looked like a rolly polly…

…and he still had a month to cook. I am woman, hear me roar.

So let the labor, I mean growing, pains begin… countdown to twelve months. I don’t even want to talk about it.
Think I was late this month?
I may just have to resign from this blogging gig, it’s giving me wrinkles.

Be still my heart, be still.