Christmas at Biltmore Estate

How about a short field trip on this Friday before Thanksgiving? Anyone needing a break?   Renaissance Man and I had to be in South Carolina earlier this week—and WE were needing a break— so I made my request:   How about on the way home we stop at Biltmore to see the Christmas decorations?   He agreed—and so we did!   And now you can, too!   Let's "travel to a whole new state of mind" to Asheville, North Carolina. Today we're visiting Biltmore Estate, America's largest home, built over a century ago by George Vanderbilt for his family—and still owned by the family today.   I know you're busy, so here are just a few bits of inspiration to think about as you're baking those ... Keep Reading...

SILENCE (followed by laughter!): Five Minute Friday

It's time for another Five Minute Friday—writing for five minutes from a single word-prompt.     START   Those rare moments when every sound stops and life envelops.   The motionless standing over a sleeping child’s bed—watching, dreaming, grateful.   The beauty of a snow-covered field at dawn before the world awakes—glistening.   The quiet tears falling down the face at the graveside—missing, lonely, grieving.   The peace that comes from saying, “Here I am Lord. Use me as you will.”   But sometimes . . .  Sometimes silence is the precursor to hilarity. It’s the pregnant pause moment when your mind says, “Did I just hear what I think I ... Keep Reading...

REST: Free Write Day 31

  START   Thirty-one days of free-writes . . .   Let’s give it a rest!   Thanks for indulging me and encouraging me to push myself through these last four weeks. It’s been an interesting experience.   Previous 31-day series have had themes. I’ve worked ahead a lot. I’ve enjoyed every.single.one of the posts.     This time was different.   There was no theme to grab on to. Each topic brought a variety of thoughts to mind.   There was no REST in the writing.   But I’m glad I pushed through. Glad, too, it’s over. :-)   I think I’ll still enjoy the Five-Minute Fridays (although it’s possible I’ll skip a week or two). But IF I do a 31-day ... Keep Reading...

REFINE: Free Write Day 30

  I love this photograph. It's the perfect combination of plain and fancy, simple and sophisticated. Both extremes are beautiful in their purest forms.   Both have value.   This photograph perfectly portrays what comes to mind when I think of "refined" people.   START   A refined person is NOT necessarily one of great wealth or aristocratic upbringing. They are NOT someone who's snooty or old-fashioned. They don't always know which fork to use.   I've known many refined people, and they all have things in common—regardless of bank balance or upbringing.   A person of refinement is kind, polite, respectful.   They are always thoughtful—in words and ... Keep Reading...

FOLLOW: Free Write Day 29

  I walked around a corner and saw them:  these shoes, sporting their cute looks along a wall. Once again, those girls showing their creative side . . . their "cute".   START   Those girls. They're following a new path.   The one they were born into wasn't pretty.   Abuse, neglect, abandonment, trafficking.   The girls no longer wonder if they'll be safe at night. No longer worry about whether or not there will be food to eat—or a bed to sleep in. Those cardboard "street mattresses" weren't very comfortable.   These girls no longer follow the path of poverty, teen (or childhood) pregnancy, and uncertainty.   Instead, they're living in homes with house parents who ... Keep Reading...

CONNECT: Free Write Day 28

  START   Life is no dot-to-dot picture.   We don't get a hint at what the future looks like. We don't even know how many dots there will be to connect.   Will our life be long, short—or somewhere in between?   Will the final picture be happy, sad—confusing?   I love watching children do their first dot-to-dot pictures. Some children know their numbers well and follow exactly as intended. For others, the final product is a little bit "off".   Life is like that, too.   Some people appear (on the surface, at least) to follow a clear path that leads to good things happening. Others take a lot of detours; some of their own making and some not.   And yet, if ... Keep Reading...

OVERCOME: Free Write Day 27

  START   For the past 11 months, Renaissance Man and I have lived in only 300 square feet. Most of that time, it's been fine—really. But yesterday . . .   The space started closing in, and I was *almost* overcome with a really gripe-y attitude.   Almost.   My desk was messy. (Still is). The floor needed swept. Books needed to be put away. (Still do.) The TV was distracting me.   And we'd spent the morning meeting with Builder #4.   The meeting was positive, but (as my husband said afterward) we're a bit jaded. We've been down this road before—three times—and we'll "believe it when we see it".   Thankfully, a short walk straightened out my mind and allowed me to ... Keep Reading...

CHANGE: Free Write Day 26

START   Before   After   . . . and everything in between.   Change rarely occurs without a lot of “in between”.   A lot of choosing—and choosing again.   We often think of “befores and afters” being things that go from bad to good, don’t we?   From inferior to positive.   Weight loss. Improved health. House renovation. Transformed lives.   I love those!   But what about when the change is from positive to negative?   From stable to unstable.   Divorce. Illness. Death.   Those are “befores and afters” too.   Change is simply part of life — but it’s rarely simple.   Change is hard, ... Keep Reading...

BECAUSE: Free Write Day 25

  START   While I may have a love-hate relationship with my cell phone, there's one part of it that has revolutionized my life.   The camera.   It's the perfect addition to my day.   The phone camera is always at the ready. Always a quick reach away.   Whenever I see something I want to photograph, it's there. No more missed moments.   While I still take my big camera with me on occasion, it's not usually accessible for the spur-of-the-moment pics. The ease has revolutionized my photography. It's stretched my artist's eye.   It's helped me slow down and live in the moments.   That is a gift!   Time is a gift . . . and so are these ... Keep Reading...

REVISE: Free Write Day 24

  Look closely at this picture. I've waited a long time to share it with you. It brings to mind a few days I've had!   Have you ever had a day (or year!) like this—when everything seemed to go wrong?   Of course you have . . . and so we all do things to try to avoid problems.   We revise.   Revise recipes to make them healthier   Revise words to make them kinder.   Revise travel plans to make them more convenient.   Recently I saw a revision that made me want to scream. Still does!   START   Flipping through the real estate listings, I saw a gorgeous Craftsman-style house. When I clicked on it, I saw a house under construction.   Oh, ... Keep Reading...

WORK: Free Write Day 23

  START   Wouldn’t it be fun if work felt like play? If work time was spent doing only what you liked — or loved!   What if you woke up in the morning excited about going to work? What would that look like for you? Would you actually GO to work (away from home) or would you simply walk to a studio or office and start your day?   How would you feel about getting paid to do what you love? Wouldn’t that be nice?   Why is it so many people are working in jobs they don’t like? Why are people under qualified (and failing) or over qualified (and bored)?   What would your dream job look like? Are you doing it?   Why — or why not?   Whatever you do, work at it with all your ... Keep Reading...

LIGHT: Free Write Day 22

  START   It’s what I look for in the eyes.   Light   A sign that “someone’s home”. Indication that interaction is taking place.   Oh, how I love to see eyes that sparkle; eyes that twinkle. Eyes that light up in recognition, anticipation, hope.   Young eyes full of life, excited to learn. Old eyes full of wisdom, still loving each day.   It’s when the light goes out that I worry. When eyes look dull, bored, hopeless. When there’s no more sparkle.   It’s a challenge: Bring light back to eyes once dimmed. Join me? Who’s first?   STOP ... Keep Reading...

GIVE: Free Write Day 21

  Sometimes giving is exhausting.   It takes energy and resources to give. Sometimes giving takes more of us than we have to offer—literally.   Sometimes we givers have to slow down and find balance.   But sometimes, we need to dig deep; to prioritize what and to whom we give.   Because sometimes our gift can literally change the future.   START   Sitting in the room with me are men and women who hail from all over the world; Brazil, England, California, Arizona, Idaho, New Jersey, Tennessee.   They are givers.   Money, wisdom, creative thinking, time. Prayers, love, encouragement.   They are the board of Hope Unlimited for Children, and for ... Keep Reading...

DISCOVER: Free Write Day 20

  START   Yesterday I opened my Instagram and saw it on a favorite blogger’s feed.   #MeToo   I read the comments—other bloggers I know telling discreetly of situations in which they had been made to feel uncomfortable, were sexually harassed or abused.   Grown women remembering things they never should have experienced.   Boyfriends, strangers, family members, friends.   I didn’t like what I discovered . . .   So many women, good women, who for years never said a word about their experiences—now discovering they were not alone. Theirs was not an isolated situation. That feeling in their long-ago guts telling them something was “off”?   It was ... Keep Reading...

BRAVE: Free Write Day 19

For the 19th day in a row, you've received a post from me. That's a lot of posts—with more to come daily through the end of the month.   Thank you for sticking with me! Thank you for supporting me as I stretch my impromptu writing skills. Thank you for helping me organize my thoughts.   Thank you, too,  for discreetly hitting "delete" if you don't have time to read a post one day. When I see "one less subscriber" notifications in my inbox, the doubts kick in. :-(   Did you know it takes a little bravery to be a blogger—or sometimes a lot?     START   I love blogging. For over seven years it’s been part of my life.   Some days it scares me silly.   Some days ... Keep Reading...

SHARE: Free Write Day 18

  START   The concept of sharing is one that’s long intrigued me.   If you watch children play, some are quick to share their toys while others pitch a fit royale if someone wants to play with the same one as they.   Is that an innate trait — willingness to share — or is it only taught?   And adults . . .   Have you ever noticed that some are quick to give to others, loaning temporarily or an outright gift . . . while others hold tight to whatever they have? The fit-throwing of childhood is no more, but the “holding on” characteristic remains.   I love to be around people who share — not because I want something from them, but because I love the kind of people they are. They ... Keep Reading...