Mass Shootings, Mental Health, and Long Term vs Short Term Solutions for America

It was 10 PM and dark outside one October night when my aunt Helen heard a knock at her kitchen door. Her husband was far away, at work, and only she and her daughter were home.

She heard a man’s voice say, “We are selling blueberries, open up.”

Helen wasn’t stupid, blueberries are ripe in August in Maine, not October, and she didn’t open the door. She asked them to leave, but they didn’t.

“Rachael, go get the gun!” she said very loudly to her young daughter. Rachael’s eyes widened but she obediently ran upstairs to get their shotgun from under the bed.

The two men jumped on their motorcycles and sped away into the night, scared by the mere mention of a gun.

Helen told me she didn’t know if their gun was loaded or not, and she said she probably couldn’t have shot it even if it was, but she was glad to have had it that dark night.

This happened in a tiny town on the coast of Maine, many years ago.

Sammy (short for Samantha), 7x5 watercolor portrait of a Yorkshire Terrier by Elise, 2018

Historically Speaking

An elderly Vermont teacher once told me that young men, and perhaps even some young women, used to bring their hunting rifles to school in America.

They leaned those rifles up against the wall in the school coat closet, to easily grab when going outside at recess, just in case a deer came by - which could add meat to the family table.

I also heard a retired school principal in Maine say he remembers those days, when he locked student's rifles inside his office during the school day. It was no big deal. There were no mass shootings. Pupils had respect for their teachers then, and teachers for their students.

Arms have historically been placed on deer antlers above the main door to a home and over the fireplace mantel, easily accessible to minors.

These rifles were needed sometimes daily for protecting domestic farm animals and crops from harm. When a farmer invests lots of money and time feeding and raising chickens, for example, he is motivated to protect his birds from hawks, weasels, fox or raccoon coming to kill his chickens in the chicken coop.

What has changed so drastically in this country?

Why do young men and women now have so many more mental and emotional problems that they cannot be trusted with the responsibility of their own personal rifle at school? Why?

Yorkie, 7x5, 2018 watercolor by Elise

Major Changes in Daily Life

Over the past fifty-odd years, the points listed below are just some of the major changes in our culture which, I believe, have caused our children today to have Wounded Hearts.

And to disrespect themselves and others.

These changes have quite probably led to the anger, confusion and desire of some to hurt others - verbally or physically - which our nation presently experiences:

1. No Bibles in the Schools today. Bible reading was taken out of schools in 1962. It would be interesting to see what good would come from replacing it.

(In fact, every major faith in this world is based on a set of morals – not killing, stealing, lying, etc. - except perhaps Evolution, a faith which disregards the presence of an unseen God. True Christianity is set apart from the other faiths because it contains Forgiveness through the substitutionary death of Christ, and also the Grace of God, which, as a free gift, is not earned.)

2. No Corporate Prayer to an All-Seeing Father in Heaven.

3. Less time outside in the sunshine, in Nature, by children and adults.

4. Plastic and rubber soled shoes, separating us from grounding electromagnetically in the soil of Earth, and discharging damaging emotions. See The Science of Grounding.

5. Fast foods and highly-processed prepared foods, which lack nutrition and adequate trace minerals for healthy brain function.

6. Artificial lighting, causing hyper-activity and ADHD. See a bit of Dr. John Ott's research here: Exploring the Spectrum

7. Video Games and exposure to endless Murder Shows and Films, glorifying killing, and desensitizing us to violent death, while also trivializing the sanctity of life.

8. Higher taxation, causing many more family financial pressures.

9. We have more broken homes, more divorce.

10. More taxation due to large government has led to an extremely different and disconnected, if not non-existent family life inside our homes – broken or not, because both Mother and/or Father are now working full-time.

11. We have created a situation where children with subsequent attachment disorders are forced to self-regulate their hormones - which often leads them into addictions and substance-abuse.

12. A double standard taught in schools related to drugs. Children line up at nurse's stations to get their daily dose of Ritalin, and then are taught to say “No” to “illegal” drugs.

13. This has led to a Heroin Epidemic in our country – again, just a symptom of wounded hearts.

14. Despair, depression and anxiety have led to wide-spread irresponsible prescriptions of Psychotropic Drugs, changing brain states - see the documentary, Making a Killing.

15. A rise in the use of Technology and sitting alone behind screens from a young age – computers, cell phones, and constant exposure to wifi frequencies.

Maggie, 7x5 watercolor portrait of a Sheltie by Elise, 2017


Ritalin is given to school-aged children on a daily basis. After graduation from High School, many of these young people are now Ritalin-addicted, and experience many withdrawal symptoms – which include anger, anxiety and psychosis, because the drug is no longer entering their bodies. 

What did doctors expect would happen to these children's minds at age eighteen?

Ritalin has been used to calm fidgeting boys who couldn't pay attention and sit still. It was an “easy” solution, leading to a far worse problem, as we see today.

The mass shootings and mental health problems of today all point to failures and needs in our Government, Education System and in Parenting our Children.

To further legislate who can and who cannot purchase or own an AK-47 is only addressing a SYMPTOMnot the real CAUSE of the problem our Nation faces.

Mr.. Spitz, 7x5 watercolor portrait of a Sheltie by Elise, 2017

My Questions, Looking Long Term

Will taking AK-47's out of the hands of the common people merely create a WORSE scenario in twenty years, as the “Quick Fix” of Ritalin has?

Could we not very realistically face a bloodbath in the future, because those in law enforcement are also sometimes emotionally and mentally unstable?

Historically, haven't governments with too much power been known to perpetrate great wrongs on innocent people?

Would a potential shooter go into a school if he knew there were people inside with the ability to shoot him?

Couldn't we arm the teachers? And train students how to safely handle an arm, too?

Should we stop the “legal” Drug Cartels from making and selling psychotropic drugs? Would this not protect consumers from developing dangerous brain states?

Would taking students outside more often, into Nature, to plant gardens and learn to grow their own food again; to learn to play a musical instrument and create beauty, help those who can't sit still? 

Phoebe, 5x7 watercolor portrait by Elise, 2016

Schools Today

Daily, we require our children to enter “gun-free” school zones. They are told this is for their protection. Sadly, it has led to their slaughter.

Angry, mentally unstable people are preying on the defenseless unprotected masses, grouped in schools.

By law, children must attend school today - from the age of six to sixteen in most states.

By law, these schools became “gun-free” zones “for the children's safety”. And anyone who would even think of bringing a gun to school today for their own protection could be arrested.

Our school children have become like large flocks of sheep, left without the protection of a shepherd or guard dogs. Dangerous “wolves” still lurk around and will prey on those who are defenseless.

Our children have become like sitting ducks because of legislation and rules designed to “ensure their safety.”

Bailey Boy, 17x21 watercolor portrait of a Yellow Labrador Retriever by Elise 2015

Safety is an Illusion

We live in an unsafe and dangerous world today because of the inventions of man – automatic weapons, chemicals and filthy visual and audio stimulations which create disorder in the soul of so many exposed to these damaging influences.

We Need More Exposure to Beauty, Light and Life

- Not Ugliness, Death and Destruction

We must address the Root Causes of the mental health crisis if we really desire a long-term solution to the horrendously shocking mass murders in America.

We live in a country where the Common People are afraid of the Police and our Justice System. And our Police and Government is afraid of the People.

This is evidenced by the bullet-proof glass which continues to go up in local, county and state courts, police stations, and post offices, nation-wide.

This bullet-proof glass protection was not necessary in the past.

Owning a Weapon of War isn't a Problem if the Owner is Responsible, Calm and Happy. Things change when that Weapon Owner is Afraid, Angry, Vindictive and/or Retaliatory.

Both government officials and the private people fall into these two categories, above.

Seamus on Chato Island, 8x10 watercolor portrait of a rescued mixed-breed dog by Elise, 2015

Injustice Leads to Anger

Almost any time a system, company or organization becomes a large money generator, there will be abuses and people trying to take advantage of it.

Our present-day court and jail system, our educational system, our drug companies, our corporations, as well as our food industry, are all prime examples of these large money generators. And abuses of power.

When someone is taken advantage of, wrongfully, and injustice is done, people can and do respond in anger. Historically, when those abuses become so large that they cannot be borne, people riot. They stand up, alone or in groups, and rebel, no matter what the cost.

We are facing these consequences of repeated injustices today.

I'd add that while plenty of grave injustices have happened in my own life, I have not responded by buying a gun/arm/weapon, ever.

But I have both large faith in the justice of God, and a strong belief that non-violent resistance to evil is best. 

I stand for what is true, right and just, knowing the truth of Romans 12:14-21:

Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. 

And if you are feeling angry today, don’t despair! Anger and frustration are often signs someone has great potential, but that potential is not being utilized. Channel that energy into something positive!

Stan - A Friend Loveth at all Times, 11x14 watercolor portrait of a Golden Retriever by Elise, 2017

Might Does Not Make Right

Quick, easy solutions to any problem never work, they just create more and larger issues in the future.

Removing AK-47s from common people will lead to more and different problems in the future.

It's interesting to note that the prophecy in Isaiah 2:1-4, where the people “beat their swords into plowshares”, the initiative to disarm themselves came from the people - men and women – NOT as an order from Government, after being "rebuked" by God:

"The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."

This may be applied today, too.

We, the people, may decide to resolve our differences, our anger and envy. We can work individually and as communities to bring health to those around us – to care and be cared for.

This is what a Strong Nation does, on all levels.

For America to be strong again, we need strong Families, strong Communities, and strong Counties. Only then will have strong States and a Nation that is able to lead the World in Truth and Justice.

We Must Stop Looking to Government Agencies to Solve Our Problems!

We, the People, need to take more Responsibility, more Initiative, more Creativity, and with more Wisdom. We also must have more Compassion and Sensitivity as we attempt to help those in need around us.

Beautiful Winnie, 8x10 watercolor collage of a White Labrador Retriever by Elise, 2017

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword

I love my country. I devoted seven years of my life to her future success as a non-paid volunteer, in teaching good character to children in schools.

For eight years, my family produced a free public speaking contest in our community, to try to teach others to speak confidently on issues about which they feel strongly.

And at our public speaking contest, we sang all four stanzas of the National Anthem.

I pray God will bless America, even though we often don't deserve that blessing.

While change is constant, improvement is rare. Inspiration is good, it can motivate people to action. But we are in need of more than just inspiration in America. We need transformation. Supernatural transformation is needed as we look to the future. I know of no other place to go for this help than the Holy Spirit’s transformation in lives.

Your painting and writing-friend,

Martin, a sweet dachshund, 6x8 watercolor by Elise, 2017

{A Song of degrees.} Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD. Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities. ~ Psalm 130

By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life. ~ Proverbs 22:4

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” ~ President Calvin Coolidge

Piper - Depending on the Master, 8x10 pen & ink w/ watercolor collage of a Golden Retriever by Elise, 2018


Scripture, Seeds and Science, How My New Book Finally Came to Be

I am glad our Father promises to “restore the years the locust has eaten” in Joel 2:25. I feel my life is now in the process of being “restored” and that I am being rewarded, making peace with, and seeing a whole and safe completion made by God's grace in several areas of my life.

When I was a child, I really had no plans to become a book author.

I did love to read a wide variety of subject matter, but assigned book reports which required me to compile information covering huge amounts of text, or any sort of creative fiction felt like a lot of work. It was hard for me to focus, to sit still.

And I didn't feel very imaginative, either. Writing fiction also made me feel like I was lying.

The first teacher I had in grade school criticized my then-poor punctuation skills, and so I figured the writing of books should be left to someone else, not me.

Writing books was actually my younger sister's dream; she had hoped to print a book before the age of twelve, which would mean she had a book printed earlier than Shakespeare.

But printing was a much more difficult and expensive enterprise thirty years ago.

My older sister was always good with words, a gifted poet and song writer.

Drawing and painting were much preferred ways to express myself as a child, though I did enjoy dictionaries, playing Scrabble and Boggle, and composing detailed, newsy hand-written letters, on pretty notepaper, to send my pen pals, friends and relatives.

I also really loved the tiny pictures on postage stamps!

After computers became more widely available, email became a cheaper and easier mode of communication than snail-mail.

However, after taking a Journalism class around age thirty, I finally realized I could write – but my genre strength was non-fiction.

My Journalism instructor was a local “retired” man in his eighties, who had invested his entire life in newspaper reporting. He had worked his way up to National Editor and been a Foreign Correspondent to France for the Washington Post.

Just the facts, Ma'am,we want just the facts,” he told the class.

Last May, after participating in an online motivational course, I wrote down some goals on paper, saying I would print a piece I had written back in 2005 in the next 18 months.

Well, after just eight months this goal is becoming a reality!

How I Came to Be a Vegetable Gardener

Growing up as an artist, I didn't have a steady income which would allow me to pay rent. And so, I remained at home for many years. In order to help my family financially during this time, I cooked, cleaned, fed animals and wood fires, and grew large 60'x90' vegetable gardens annually. Providing vegetables for five months of the year was a large savings, most years.

Gardening every Spring, Summer and Fall was hard work that tied me down. Plenty of times I chose to stay home to weed or harvest rather than go anywhere. I've pretty much always been more interested in my projects than having a social life.

I was very dirty from being in the soil a lot, and I'm sure I looked like the Peanut's character, Pig Pen, but the natural world taught me so much.

As I tended thousands of little plants over many years, I often imagined how, if they had been my children, I would want them to grow strong and healthy.

Young plants, like young children, need constant, vigilant oversight so they continue to mature.

There were plenty of dangers from which to protect my little seedlings. Wind, hail, geese, chickens, ponies getting through the picket fence, hot and cold weather, and even mice and voles...I became very emotionally attached to my little plants, I felt their pain and I admired them as they grew, matured and gave fruit in their season.

Writing to Educate Others About Genetic Modification of Seeds

When I first noticed Genetically Modified Organisms written about in the local paper, it was 1997. I remember my mother handing me a newspaper article and saying, “You may be interested in this, Elise.”

I thought the idea of Genetic Modification was an extremely stupid idea, that would soon die a normal death.

But I was wrong. This unnatural idea grew exponentially and proliferated. The idea carried a big lobby in government, with millions of dollars behind it. Feeding people is big business.

Around 1994, author and speaker Jeffrey M. Smith came to the Vermont Statehouse, to speak about the dangers of GMOs. I attended and remember a question he was asked by someone else in the audience.

Do GMOs become weaker with every generation and then die out, as hybrid seeds do?” “No,” he replied, “they actually become more and more promiscuous with every generation, breeding with the weeds around them.”

I had been reading and noticing agricultural passages from the Bible for many, many years, and this statement was the final catalyst for me to begin compiling and writing what I felt I simply had to, from a scriptural viewpoint. Other scientist's writings had also greatly moved me to action.

But it was not an easy topic. I struggled greatly, to know how to pare down the reams of information I had read in many different books, and include the most important Biblical passages, into something which could be understood by the general public.

As I prayed for our Father's assistance, slowly, over a period of six months, my paper began to take shape. Some days I typed for ten hours straight. I remember the elation I felt – I was not tired at all! I was grateful that my sister and mom took on more of my house work chores, letting me focus on my writing.

I remember evenings when I would hear my mom calling from downstairs, “Elise, we're watching a movie, do you want to see it?” “Is it any good?” I asked. “We don't know yet, we haven't seen it,” came the reply. “No,” I would say, “I'm working on my tome.”

What I finally compiled and wrote became a rebuttal of Genetically Modified Organism's (GMOs) being a wise idea, from an unusual perspective, which has never been written before, that I know of.

I feel it is one of the most important projects I have ever completed in my entire life.

Although I've never been given the blessing and privilege of having physical children, this book is my way of leaving a legacy. Unlike my more fun-to-read children's books, this book contains an extremely serious message.

My tome was completed in July of 2005. I took it with me to a science conference, where it essentially changed my life. And I sent it out via email to around seventy-five interested folks.

Because the message is still very applicable and educational twelve years later, I want the information to be more accessible to the general public, in book form.

How to Print A Book You Have Written

Over the past two years or so, despite four moves to different locations and many other responsibilities, I worked to turn my original paper into a chapter book.

I formatted the front matter in November of 2017, and asked my printer for an estimate on what it would cost to make a First Edition of one hundred copies.

Then, in December of 2017, enough funds arrived for me to print. The First Book Proof was put into my hands just three days after Christmas! The Second Proof arrived and I am excited to say this book is going to print very soon!

This little book is just over one hundred pages, contains over one hundred references and end notes, and the front cover looks like this:

I'm asking a gift of $12.50 for each book. With Book Rate shipping and handling added, one book would be $15. Please write for more details, and to order your copy of the book, or to obtain information about bulk orders.

I gratefully remain, among other things, your painting and writing friend,


Blessed is the man...but his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. ~ Psalm 1:1a, 2-3

The Joy of Taking Part in Sports

Blog illustrations are sequential start-to-finish photos of my most recent large 17x25 watercolor “The Power and the Grace” - rowing friends, Ashley and Kendall, who I photographed during a training session back in August on Great Hosmer Pond in Craftsbury, Vermont.

"The Power and the Grace" 17x25 watercolor by Elise, 2017, available
This piece required enormous focus and energy. I am still recovering from the effort. I hope you will enjoy the metamorphosis journey, how a blank piece of 300 lb. 100% cotton Arches cold press paper slowly turned into a clear visual message, telling a story.

I've wanted to write a Sports blog for awhile now and this painting illustrates it nicely, so it's time.

Movement and Balance

It's taken me years to comprehend why I love movement so much.

According to the Boston Trauma Center (I heard this fact on an online webinar), it used to be thought talking was the only way to help traumatized people, hence the advent of couches and therapists. But now people who study the body understand touch and movement also help heal trauma.

ADHD (which I don't have) can be a sign of the microbiome (intestines, digestion) needing work. It can be overcome by changing your diet.

Not being able to sit still can also be a sign of PTSD, being in “fight and flight”... I know this was probably true of me, years ago. As a child I was always moving, going places. Sitting still wasn’t something I enjoyed doing.

Painting can be a sedentary profession, if you don’t learn to stand up while you paint. Being in front of a desk four-five days each week takes discipline in any profession. I’ve now trained myself to sit very, very still for hours at a time. This is not healthy for the body or eyes!

Because of my work I MUST take time to stretch and move. I sometimes accomplish this less than more, but I keep at it.

It's said you give to the world what you need most. At the moment, I am in need of encouragement to get outside.

 Feeling Your Body

Being sensitive to yourself, learning to control and feel what’s going on in your body is important. Knowing what and when your body needs to eat and also when to exercise or rest is a very important area of health. Sometimes I drag myself outside. Other times, I just rest.

My many experiences with serious injury and partial paralysis have taught me playing any sport is a very special privilege, not to be taken for granted.

My parents taught my siblings and I to try new things, to love to learn. We are grateful for the opportunities and the mindset of “I can” they gave us.

May my sporting tales encourage you to try out a new area of balance and movement!

Making Movement a Priority Yet Also Learning to Play

For years I've kept track of how I invest time each day, including painting hours, when I practice guitar or piano, and also for tracking exercise.

My goal is to spend time seriously moving at least eleven days each month. And there has to be a significant amount of effort for me to count it as exercise. This is a minimum, some months I am much more active.

“Going on vacation” used to be a term which meant, for me, “I get to invest four hours a day exercising”. I loved this freedom when time and strength allowed, but sometimes I overdid it.

I remember doing the entire cliff walk in Newport, Rhode Island one winter, in cold weather, exhausting myself.

In San Juan, Puerto Rico “on vacation” I swam in the ocean twice a day, doing laps. I loved it, but also realized later what a workaholic I was. Sometimes it would be best just to stop working and play in the waves...

Curiosity may Kill the Cat but it Can Educate the Mind

Growing up, my parents bought a Sunday newspaper most weeks. My older sister’s favorite sections were the comics and arts & entertainment. But I was interested in reading the Sports section first. I didn't care too much about big team sports like football, baseball and basketball, I liked reading about individual sports.

We didn't have a television in our home for most of our childhood, but for three weeks, winter and summer, every four years, my parents would rent a TV so we could watch the Olympic Games. I guess this chance to see races around the world really influenced me, for today I love sporting events of all kinds!

Detail - Kendall
And winning races isn't the whole point of learning to play sports – it's more about challenging yourself to grow stronger, to take part.

Perhaps too many people “sit on the sidelines” in all areas of life today.

Detail of Kendall's face
Being a Child

Children don't have to be told to exercise. They do it naturally. My first experiences with snow sports came as a child, sledding in little red sleds and runner sleds – Flexible Flyers – which were good on an icy crust.

Then my parents got us ice skates and I remember holding my daddy's hands, trying to skate between his legs when I was around three. I took only a few lessons over the years, for skating lessons were costly, but I still ice-skate whenever I have the opportunity. It's such a beautiful feeling, to float on ice. I really love to play with my edges.

When I was five my dad taught me to do flips on an indoor gym trampoline, which subsequently led to my flipping (disobediently) on my bed at home. This was before my serious neck injury at eight.

We played co-ed soccer at recess in school, and by age nine, I could keep up with the running speed of the boys in fifth grade.

I learned to swim, a little bit. My dad taught me side-stroke. And we all went to Jones Beach to enjoy being in the waves when we visited family.

We had our little bikes and roller-skates as children. We also had a tether-ball; badminton rackets and net; and bats, balls, and gloves to play softball.

My mom taught us to play croquet and sometimes we went bowling. Once in great while we played miniature golf with our grandparents, too.

My mother's old Pogo stick kept us busy, bouncing. I got up to 1,000 bounces one time. If kickball is considered a sport, we participated in that activity, too.

We climbed trees and hung out of them. We fell out of them, too. We also went on long mountain-climbing hikes in the wilderness as a family and did tent camping, in summertime.

My dad taught me to fish when I was six, which I suppose is a sport…not a very active one unless you are traveling up a stream bed looking for trout.

We were given the privilege of learning cross-country skiing at an early age. I clearly remember being with my dad at age seven, when I first got the kick and glide rhythm. “You've got it, you've got it!” he told me.

My mom was able to find us two little Shetland-type ponies, when my sister and I were ten and eleven. We called them Love and Joy. Those ponies gave us a great deal of practice in taking daily responsibility, and we learned to ride and drive them. I fell off my pony, Joy, a lot. But I would get back on her and try again. I studied horsemanship, reading lots of books on equitation, and my riding skills improved. I trained our mare, Corrie, for a 25-mile trail ride once.

Growing Up in the Water

As I got older, my dad saw my ability on a diving board and began to coach me. We joined a summer swim team. I swam and also represented the diving team.

My dad would stand next to the board and coach me on how to do a 1-1/2 forward flip during practices. “Dad, I don't think I can do it,” I'd tell him. “I'll stand right here and watch you do it,” he encouraged me. 

I would try. I loved bouncing on the board, but the excruciating pain of landing wrong, head down, with pinched nerves in my neck was horrible. I would wonder if I was paralyzed and then I'd get out and do the same thing again. I didn't complain too much, I just locked it up and ignored the pain. I didn't know this kind of pain wasn't normal, at the time I figured I was pretty normal.

One of my favorite dives was a forward flip in full position, with a half twist. I did just about everything I could to land feet first, due to my increasingly painful neck issues.

After my dad left, I continued to try to dive, but in losing him, I felt I'd lost my nerve. I became afraid of hitting the board and inward dives were too scary.

We joined a winter swim team for four years, where we all really learned to swim. Back, Breast, Butter, Free. I am so grateful for the ability to be comfortable in the water today. It really helped me in learning to row this past summer, because I wasn't afraid of tipping the boat, which I managed to do quite often!

I swam through a lot of pain during those four years, emotionally and physically, but swimming has remained one of my favorite things to do.

A few years ago I waited in line to take my turn at a beautiful bouncy diving board at a New Jersey pool. Doing back flips takes courage at first, but once you get the feel of it, it's hard to stop. They’re fun at any age!

I am becoming more cautious about taking physical risks these days. I didn't flip off the rocks into Lake Champlain this summer, I just jumped =\ I had recently injured myself...otherwise I'd have flipped!

Variety is the Spice of Life

When we were little, we made ourselves archery bows, using bendable branches and string, and we had straight sticks for arrows. We spent hours outside, playing.

We took the local hunter-safety course and learned  how to shoot and clean a rifle. I liked aiming and hitting the targets, but don't really enjoy the loud noise, shooting. In New Zealand, I did some shotgun firing at clay pigeons.

We played only a little basketball. Aunt Elise became a PIG, a HORSE and a loser at one-on-one just last weekend, because my niece's basketball skills are getting rather good. =)

At the local college on summer Sunday evenings, growing up, my family played volleyball in the sandpits. We had a net at home for birthday parties and cookouts, too.

Playing round-robin at the Ping-pong table in our cellar was a favorite past-time when friends came over...and we tried to learn to play Pool (billiards), too, when we went somewhere that had a table.

We trained and ran in the local foot races annually, although running is NOT a sport I enjoy. Too much impact. We also trained with the local cross-country team because we knew the coach. I only went running with them once, if I remember correctly...

I walked eight miles to town many Sunday mornings, to get to church early, enjoying the solitude and the woods. In our culture, people don't use walking to get places, they just go out to exercise. 

The mental mindset of “three miles is nothing” has really helped me over the last few years. I now walk this distance to read my emails and have an internet connection at a library.

Mountain biking on back roads is an even faster way to go places. I still bike a lot every summer.

Mom gave us tennis lessons at the local university, so we came to understand TV tennis match scoring. We also played raquetball. Tennis requires a lot more arm as well as running to the ball, while raquetball is more about using your wrist.

My brother learned to rock climb outdoors as well as at an indoor gym. I went rock-climbing a few times indoors and once outdoors, roped in.

My brother also learned to golf, and he took me once, for a round of nine holes. Someone said I was a “natural” as my drives were long and straight, even though I needed help to see where the golf ball went after being hit! Golfing this one time was so much fun! I can easily understand how Golf can become addictive.

I lifted iron weights a bit, to improve my swim team times, and then later for strengthening my upper back and neck. We had daily hay bales and water buckets to lift, too.

Loving Winter

We built a Luge run one very snowy winter with family friends, shoveling down through three feet of snow and banking the turns. We covered the run with water, which froze, and then we had our icy course!

Three to four times each week, come winter, I cross-country skied with my old 9mm three-pin bindings, back and forth on a ¼-mile track. I'd pack my track down each time it snowed. There was no one else around, just me, the trees and the sky. As I got stronger, double-poling down the inclines by winter's end on ice was fast and fun.

Alternately, I'd climb the hill behind our house and set up my ski poles for gates, and go down, practicing my balance without metal edges and with my heels free. Herring-boning up the steep hill was a great cardio workout. My lungs worked in the cold air happily. I'd go skiing at 7° F without the wind-chill factor, in my wool sweater and feel perfectly warm. Sometimes we had extremely strong winds on our mountain.

Detail - final of Kendall's face and torso
My mom and siblings and I finally learned to downhill ski the one winter we all worked at a ski area. My edge control from ice-skating came in handy and I was able to ski the black trails by the end of the year halfway decently.

We were known as “the family” and this winter became probably the most fun winter of my life. We rented skiis for $1/day and I skied forty days for just $40!

I taught myself to Telemark ski too, just on the green trails with low leather boots (not much control), getting literally black-and-blue on both hips from falling so much. Finally, the balance and technique came together!

Two of my siblings love to snowboard, but I never tried to because my neck, low back and wrists have been injured too much over the years.

I made the hard decision to stop working for a free lift ticket the second year, in order to focus on planning my new speaking-contest and to begin teaching children about good character. It was a sacrifice. I have missed downhill skiing.

Final Detail of Kendall's face
Experiences Around the World

The summer I worked in NYC, I bought Rollerblades, going around Central Park many times, without any knee or arm pads. I never fell badly, thankfully. My sister and I Roller-bladed a lot in Vancouver, British Columbia, too.

I did fall hard twice, Rollerblading, catching a pebble while flying along on asphalt, when I came back to Vermont...and spent most of that summer healing my road rash and wounds.

I rode horses three times in New Zealand – once in the Waiuku Forestry, which was heavenly. Another horse did a flying lead change for me. Although I hadn't ridden in years, it came back to me.

Final Detail of Ashley's face
My family went snorkeling to see the fish in the Florida Keys once, too.

There was a Pilates class in the Hamptons. And a Zumba intro class in Maine. Holding an exercise class on a concrete floor is not a good idea. I didn't return after that first class due to joint pain.

Usually I tend to injure myself in exercise classes, trying to keep up with others and do things my body isn't ready to do. I generally find it better to just work out on my own and pace myself.

I took a women's self-defense class a different year in NYC, from a friend, learning a bit about martial arts, which requires a lot of balance and body control. It was lots of fun, although I managed to get myself injured, again.

Vermont, 2017

After twenty years of waiting, I trained and FINALLY skied in the Craftsbury Outdoor Center's annual cross-country ski marathon in January of 2017, winning second for my age group at the 12K distance. I was NOT going at any real speed, but I started and I finished. I kept telling myself to ignore everyone else, and just ski my own race.

My sister gifted me with a summer of special joy – to learn my 38th “sport” - how to scull. I had wanted to learn to scull for years, watching others race, but with no equipment or suitable water around it seemed pretty improbable. Then I moved to the right location.

Co-ordinating arms and legs with proper back posture and the moving seat and oars took a little time for my brain to figure out. After starting in a wide rowboat, I moved to a middle-sized boat, and finally to a narrow racing scull in about two months time.

On Mt Monadnock, Vermont, October 2017

This past fall I hiked up Mt. Monadnock in Vermont and Mt. Cardigan in New Hampshire with an old family friend who needed someone to go along for health reasons.

Me on Mt. Cardigan, NH, October 2017
I still desire to learn to sail, sail-board, surf, and water ski before I die. The common missing element here is having enough water. And I'd really like to learn to ballroom dance, and play polo - the “sport of kings”...

I'm dreaming now, but it's a nice dream!

With thanksgiving for all the good gifts Christ brings to the Body,
I am gratefully your painting and balance-loving friend,

She girdeth her loins with strength and strengtheth her arms. ~ Proverbs 31:17

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