Folk School – Part Two: Settling In

My week at John C. Campbell Folk School was about to begin . . . .

Sunday afternoon, the 17th of February, Mom and I left Murphy for Brasstown (a ten-minute drive) and headed to the Folk School. We were still a bit early, so we wandered around Keith House . . .

Keith House Community Room
JCCFS Library (Keith House)

. . . until we were finally allowed to check in and find our lodging. This was mine for the week:

Hill House Room 604
Hill House

My room was on the second floor, the one with the shed dormer windows. Super cute, and my housemates were friendly from the start. (It may have helped that the first thing one of them said was, “Oh, good. You brought wine, too.”) Four of us ended up having a nightly glass (plus chocolate, of course) in our common room. It was one of the few times things slowed down enough to have real conversations with anyone, the kind David always loved. I had a disconcerting urge a couple of times to call him to tell him how great it all was. In the fourteen months he’s been gone, that’s never happened before. So . . . weird. At least I didn’t dissolve in weeping. Definite progress.

That first day, though, was just about getting acclimated. Mom, as an assistant teacher, had a complementary room in another building, so after we both settled in, we walked around taking a few pictures, since rain was forecast for most of the rest of the week.

Then back to Keith House for orientation in the Community Room, then dinner in the dining hall, then to our various studios–for me the painting studio–for class orientation and setup. I was taking Watercolor Gouache with Kathy Chastain, and my mom was her assistant.

It was all a bit like sleep-away camp for grown-ups, in a good way.  Make your own bed (optional). Show up to meals or miss them, as you wished. No KP, except to carry your dishes to the window when you were finished. They offered a 7:15 nature walk every morning, weather permitting. So maybe it happened Monday, not that I was ever going to see 7:15 a.m. in public. I barely saw it in the bathroom mirror. Then Morning Song everyday at 7:45 in the Community Room. Never made that either. I did get to breakfast at 8:15 every day. You could sit wherever you wanted, so I had a bit of middle-school angst at every meal, trying to gauge whether I was welcome at a table or was taking a seat someone was hoping would be filled by someone else. Ghaaaaa! It got better as the week went on–everyone was so easygoing–but it was disturbing to see my insecurities raging to such a degree.

Part of the problem was likely my complete lack of experience with watercolor gouache. I had done a little painting with watercolors, with mixed results, but never with gouache, so I had a baseline anxiety percolating, anticipating epic art failure. The classes weren’t really about that, though. Don’t get me wrong. There was a LOT of excellence going on, especially from the instructors, as you’ll see in my next post, but the students were accepted and encouraged whatever their level of experience or talent. It took me a while to really let that sink in, though.

So the first few days were about finding my feet (not literally–that was only a 7 a.m. challenge 😉 ) Those days were about accepting myself where I was in my learning process, enough to let it go so I could look around and marvel at the talent and expertise of others without reservation. Stay tuned for that!

Here’s wishing you sufficient confidence to forget about yourself long enough to celebrate the accomplishments of those around you!

Folk School – Part One: Murphy

I’m just back from a week at the John C. Campbell Folk School.

LOVED it! But there’s way too much to tell to fit in one blog, so here’s part one:

I flew into Chattanooga, Tennessee, on a balmy Saturday afternoon. Half an hour later I was in my rental car, driving along the Ocoee Scenic Byway, struggling to keep my eyes on the road as flashes of waterfalls rushing down the steep green walls of the Ocoee River Gorge kept grabbing my attention. It was only mid-February, but here spring had definitely sprung. I was on my way to Murphy, North Carolina. I would move into my lodging at the Folk School in neighboring Brasstown on Sunday afternoon, but Saturday night I was in Murphy, where my mom and her husband, Dick, have a little place to get away from the worst of the Indiana winters. They met me at my hotel, and we headed to Parson’s Pub for an early dinner.

Well, we thought it would be early, but an hour after ordering we were still waiting for our food. The place was hopping and the kitchen couldn’t keep up. It didn’t matter to me. I was still on Colorado time. The bartender and his wife, our server, were apologetic, but we were fine. We had wine, live music and plenty to talk about until the food arrived.

Mom told me the church on the hill above my hotel had some tie to the pub, which piqued my curiosity. So the next morning, since Mom couldn’t meet me until about 12:30 and I had to be out of the hotel by 11:00, I thought maybe I’d check out the church. I don’t love new situations, especially walking into rooms full of people I don’t know, so I was still undecided as I drove slowly up the steep drive and parked on the far edge of the parking lot, facing away from the front doors, hoping the tinted windows rendered me at least sort of invisible. I turned off the engine, but then just sat there in the car. I almost bailed, but what else was I going to do? Finally, I had a little mini-conversation with God: Okay, fine, I’ll go in, but I’m only doing this for You. And immediately heard back: Actually, I’m doing this for you.

Okay, then. I may not always slow down enough to hear it, but when I do, I try not to argue with that still, small voice. I went in. And it was great. There were a few appraising looks, but a number of people introduced themselves and didn’t seem at all fazed that I was a one-time drop-in and would likely never be back. Before I had been there long, in walked the pub guy and his wife. He turned out to be the “Parson” himself and the former pastor of Shepherd Church. They immediately started telling everyone how patient we had been at the pub the night before. There went my hide-in-a-corner plan, but at least they were saying nice things. Never mind that I didn’t really deserve such lavish praise simply for not being rude. Anyway, they insisted they wanted to sit with me if I didn’t mind, even though I was lurking in the back row. So much for my quick getaway, but I didn’t really want to leave anymore.

Then the current pastor, Chris West, got up and said something I hope I never forget, “If all your prayers were answered tonight, would it change the world or just your world?”

Prayer wall at Shepherd’s Church, Murphy, NC

Excellent question. He went on to introduce a new outreach the church was going to be undertaking, fundraising and giving to Charity: Water, which funds wells to provide clean water in developing countries. The whole morning was thought-provoking and motivating.

I came out of there warmed by the human connection, cheered by this unexpected gift from God, and inspired by a possible avenue toward making a difference. I’ll be looking into Charity: Water. You may want to, too. Either way, I promise going in was way better than sitting alone in a rental car at the edge of a random parking lot.

So here’s wishing you boldness to go where the still small voice of God may be inviting you. May the experience warm you, cheer you, inspire you, and provide you with a way to make a difference.


Apparently, yesterday’s post was not well thought out. Now my girls are apologizing for neglecting me, which was NOT my intent! I was trying to let everyone know I was doing well and had a good day. Plus, I was doing so well yesterday, I wanted to share some love with all of you, with the photos of our family, including a couple fun ones with two of David’s brothers.

So here’s a bit more love . . .

David and Sunny on the Ski Train (a bazillion years ago)

. . . and a little more recently . . .

Sunny and David on Ile de Ré, May 2017

. . . and some extra love for my girls!

Chelsea, Courtney, Sunny, Brittany at Charlie and Catie’s wedding, August 2017

So here’s your extra dose of love!

Happy Valentine’s Day

May 2017 in La Rochelle

I know some of my dear ones may have worried about me today, but I actually woke up happy and am doing rather well so far. Last year I had a massive bouquet from our daughters, as well as lots of calls and texts from others. Today, I think everyone knows I’m better. Not “over it” by any stretch of the imagination. I won’t ever be “over it,” exactly, but today I’m celebrating love.

All the love.

September 2016
David and Doug, September 2016
David and Eb, October 2015

I’ve just spent the past few hours looking through photos, and there are so many great ones showing so much love, but I’d be here until tomorrow if I tried to include them all. And I’d certainly miss  someone, so I’ll leave you with these, my two current favorites:

Wishing you much love, even when it’s not Valentine’s Day!