The Friday Photo
May 20, 2016

painted photos
In the past I’ve thought it would be a good idea to be part of an “organized” creative project. And in the past I’ve quit, and often wondered, “Why am I even bothering?”

Earlier this year I committed to a 10 day Leap project  led by my friend Patti Digh. On the tenth day I “leapt” into a new, creative, and less self-critical mindset. Last month I happened upon a post by my friend Heather Muse for #the100dayproject and my new “why not Leap” mindset said, “Try it! Why not? Leap!!”

Yesterday was Day 31. I am amazed I’ve gotten this far. Using Waterlogue, a phone app, every day I “paint” a photo I’ve taken and post it on Instagram with the hashtags #the100dayproject and #100daysofpaintedphotos. Search Instagram and find out how people are investing in 100 days of creative play and work.

Today’s Friday Photo is a collage of six painted photos I’ve posted so far. Later today I’ll post #32 on Instagram.

Declaring Victory

Goal Met

I had no idea what the response would be to launching a Go Fund Me campaign asking people to help me go to a camp for grown ups. The time was just too ripe for me to get to this camp led by Patti Digh, and so I decided to be my own advocate. I’ve asked people to sign comments  to support clean air and water, marriage equality, access to health care, and other issues, but IU’ve never done a “help me personally” type of ask.

This has been a humbling experience for many reasons. I’ve not told my story for myself, and for that purpose alone the experience is valuable. As a participant in other campaigns I have been amazed at people stepping up because there was value in the need and ask. I wasn’t sure that would happen for me, and every time it did I had to catch my breath.

I’ve got a lot to do between now and the time I leave for Life Is A Verb Camp 2014. Right now I am letting such unexpected generosity soak in. I am appreciative of the what everyone did to make this happen, from sharing the link to the campaign to actually typing in a donation amount.

Thank you.


I already have a recipe for potato salad

The Friday Photo
October 10, 2014

Life Is A Verb camp

Last summer a guy posted a satirical Kickstarter campaign for a potato salad recipe. He ended up raising $55K. Fortunately I have a couple of good potato salad recipes, including the slightly spicy one from the Vortex in Atlanta (no fundraising required).

What I realized I don’t have in my cookbook is a recipe for finding my way to whatever my next job will be. I’ve got a lot of ingredients but what I don’t have is a way to find the right recipe.

Some friends suggested I step outside my comfort zone and make an ask for help to go to Life Is a Verb Camp in early November. The Camp Director, my friend Patti Digh, has planned teaching and learning sessions that include poets Naomi Shihab Nye and
Ellen Bass, nonprofit leaders that span the spectrum, an Ambassador for the Alzheimer  Association, artists, writers, and health leaders. I’m not going because I want to learn how to write poetry, but rather because I need to figure out how to think differently about the ingredients I already have.

Wednesday afternoon I got two unexpected gifts outside my Go Fund Me campaign, one that included a message, “Do not put this effort down.” As Progressives know, much attention and money are focused on heated campaigns across the country, not exactly the best time to launch a smaller one like my camp campaign.

After I let the unexpected generosity soak in overnight, I was able to cut my goal be more than half. Now I’m really close to going to my first ever sleep over camp on November 6th and I need your help to top the $500 mark by Monday.

This campaign isn’t  beholden to a bunch of PACs, but I am offering to work with donors on their own marketing/nonprofit projects as a return on their investment. If you make a donation of any size, of course I’ll be grateful. If you can share the link with your friends, that will help a lot.

I’ve stretched way beyond what I thought possible. It is scary, but a good campaign requires a candidate that is willing to make The Big Ask. This camp candidate is asking for your help and support now.


My first sleep over camp

Most readers of Rural and Progressive have followed the work I have been lucky enough to be part of to stop a proposed coal plant in my rural Georgia community. None of us knew what was ahead almost seven years ago when we came together to speak up for the health of our community except that it would require strong backs, patience, strong partnerships, and grit.

The ugly part of this work has been the tearing apart of decades-long friendships and splintering of families. Sometimes when people stand up for what they believe is right, no matter how difficult that may be, communities become divided.

Four years ago I made what was probably the hardest decision I have made since I heard the announcement for coal-fired Plant Washington: I stood my ground for my values and integrity when I was asked to sit on my hands. Given the choice of sitting in silence and keeping my job, or speaking up for what I believe in, I chose my values and beliefs.

I took on a job that, if we won, would put me out of a job. Fighting Plant Washington full-time required a commitment to a much smaller paycheck, and sometimes no paycheck at all. Environmental activists don’t get rich fighting the fossil fuel industry.

Plant Washington opponents won’t stop until the project is cancelled, but the writing on the wall is in all capital letters for this coal plant. That means it is time for me to figure out what I will do next.

The scars and experience I’ve accumulated can’t be boxed up and put away. The challenge now is finding a way to put them to work for a community or organization that needs an advocate/activist to help in their work.

Can I find a way to cobble together work that will pay my bills without requiring me to move away from my family? What could that work be? Where do I look and how do I do that with clarity and focus? Who might help me and how do I make the right ask?

At 53 years old, I am ready to go to a sleep over camp for the first time in my life-
a “camp for grown camp fireups.” Life is a Verb, a three day camp/workshop/retreat will challenge me to find the questions I need to ask, and begin to work towards the answers.

Patti Digh wrote this about the camp she is leading, “Camp is a place where people of all walks of life come together to explore what it means to be fully human and what it means to live life fully, as an active and not a passive, verb. To live, and live fully. To love, and love well. To let go, and let go deeply.”

As an advocate I’m not used to asking for myself, but I am trying to let go of that stumbling block now. I set up a Go Fund Me account because I simply am not able to cover the costs of going to camp and finding a sustainable way to what is next for me.

My goal is to cover the costs of camp and traveling back and forth. I’ll arrive there ready to do the work at hand and maximize every minute. What I learn will help me step into the unknown that is knocking on my door.

My life has truly been an action packed adventure since I stepped into a huge unknown almost seven years ago. Now I have skills and experience I want to share with people and communities who have challenges of their own. What I have learned is meant to benefit others, not be put on a shelf and collect dust.

I’ll write about my adventures at Rural and Progressive as I prepare to leave and when I return (letting go for me also includes less time with electronics).

I hope you’ll support my first-ever camp experience with a donation. Any amount will help send a 53 year old advocate/activist to camp for the first time.


April is National Poetry Month. Rural and Progressive is posting favorite poems shared by writers and poets. Today’s was contributed by writer and artist Patti Digh.


Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,

feel the future dissolve in a moment

like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,

what you counted and carefully saved,

all this must go so you know

how desolate the landscape can be

between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride

thinking the bus will never stop,

the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,

you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho

lies dead by the side of the road.

You must see how this could be you,

how he too was someone

who journeyed through the night with plans

and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,

only kindness that ties your shoes

and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,

only kindness that raises its head

from the crowd of the world to say

it is I you have been looking for,

and then goes with you everywhere

like a shadow or a friend.

-Naomi Shihab Nye, “Kindness” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. Copyright © 1995

Patti b&w
I studied English and Art History in graduate school, specifically the interplay between art (spatial, instantaneous form) and literature (linear, temporal form). So I thought to share a series of poems written about one painting, “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” to show how spatial forms are translated differently by various writers into written form.
And then I realized I was letting my head lead. I decided to let my heart lead instead, and chose this poem about kindness.

I have known for some time what I want on my tombstone: “She was kind and generous.” This poem about kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye was the first poem I ever read by her. My friend, Catherine Faherty, pointed me to it years ago and it resonated deeply with me. Naomi is a songwriter as well as a poet, Catherine told me.

When Catherine’s friend, Mary Ann, was dying of cancer just a year after Mary Ann’s 20-year-old daughter, Meta, had died in a car wreck, Catherine called Naomi Shihab Nye. She told her that when Meta was a baby, Mary Ann had sung songs by Naomi to her. She asked if Naomi would sing some of those songs to Mary Ann on the phone as she prepared to die and be with her daughter again.

And so, the poet sang to a dying woman she had never met.

The size of the cloth of sorrow is so huge, and only kindness makes any sense anymore.

Patti Digh is the author of “Life is a Verb” and “The Geography of Loss,” along with 5 other books. She lives near Asheville NC with her family.


This pinch hitter sends it out of the ballpark

Three amazing women decided to post a photograph everyday and create a blog called 3x3x365. The first photo on each day’s post belongs to Patti Digh, the second to Kathryn Schuth, and the third is Amy McCracken’s.

Sometimes when life adventures take one of them them away from the connected world, they call in a pinch hitter. Patti has called up her husband, John Ptak, to pinch hit for her while she is speaking and teaching.

John Updike once described John Ptak’s writing as “brilliant.” Ptak’s March 15, 2014 post is, again, brilliant. http://3x3x365.blogspot.com/2014/03/31513.html?m=1

Yesterday it finally sunk in

The Friday Photo
December 27, 2013


Sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake. Two years ago I started (but didn’t finish) a daily writing prompt project led by my friend Patti Digh (she’s amazing and human at the same time). One of the prompts involved spending the time to clean up your desk/work space as a way to invest in yourself and what you do.

I’ve been better about being able to see the surface of my desk since last summer (only because I moved my desk and had to start fresh), but today the writing prompt finally registered. I walked into my home office/sewing room and started to move, again, the two boxes in today’s photo. Finally, finally, a light came on that said, “Why don’t you unload these things? Today. RIGHT NOW! What are you waiting for?”

So I did. In almost no time. I tossed some stuff, figured out how to be less sloppy with filing until I am ready to record/account for things, and put some pictures out that really matter to me.

Thank you Patti, for this lesson, and so many others.

Still drafting members of Team Brilliant

In little rural communities like the one I live in, it isn’t unusual to see donation jars in convenience stores, bbq lunches cooked and sold, and motorcycle rides planned to support someone who has cancer but no insurance.

Team Brilliant has taken fundraising and support for a cancer warrior and his family to an international level.

Last Wednesday, on September 5th, National Team Brilliant Spot Removal Day, my friends asked about my team t-shirt and were impressed with the campaign progress to eliminate a family’s worry about paying for health care when they need all their energy to beat kidney cancer.

Overnight 12 people came off the Free Agent list. We are just 12 team players shy of 1000 donors/team members and less than $4,500 from meeting our goal of raising $100,000 dollars. That’s what community is all about.

People all over the country (and probably around the world, I can’t keep up with all the ways people have stepped up) have sold art, handmade goods, web site design work, and weekend yoga classes. At least one restaurant has devoted an entire day’s business as a “pay what you can” so their customers could join the team.

We need to meet the 1000 team members and $100,000. Hear John and Patti share their deep appreciation for those who have become part of this phenomenal community and then join Team Brilliant.