Slowing Down

I was reading the other day about slowing down. Driving slower. Living slower. Taking everything in instead of racing past life.

As I sat in the pick-up line at my childrens' school yesterday, I saw a prime example...
There are 2 women who take turns directing traffic at the school. All parents have a card w/a # on it. Our kids have the same # and come out when it is called. One of the women rushes around. I used to think she really takin' care of business and doing a fabulous job. But now I realize, that she's just frantic and stressed. She races down the line taking numbers 1/2 way down the street. She yells at the cars that don't move up fast enough to "move up! squeeze in!" trying to get as many cars as she can out of the road and into the school's driveway. She actually directs traffic like a police officer! And like I said, I always think she's doing a fabulous job.
Then there's woman #2. She is laid back, calm, and relaxed. She NEVER walks to the street, she just takes numbers as you pull into the driveway. She walks slowly and talks softly. She *never* yells. I've always thought she was lazy and didn't like bus duty.
And then I read a chapter in Elaine St. James' book, Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things That Really Matter. So I timed the ladies. It takes me the EXACT same amount of time to get through the line, regardless of who is out there working. Ms. Frantic is just stressing herself out for nothing. I want to tell her to calm down, relax, and smell the roses now :) And I want to tell Ms. Blah "Right On" and apologize for thinking Ms. Frantic did a "better" job just because she LOOKED more busy.

I stopped speedracing in the car long ago. I realized when I was in my early 20s that cussing, flipping people off, and getting fuming angry behind the wheel did nothing to change the traffic but only made me feel nervous and stressed. I'm a much more relaxed, and I think better driver now. In the past, if someone pulled out in a parking lot w/o looking and almost hit me, "Moron". Now...well, I still think they are a moron, but I don't get *angry* about it because I figure they were obviously distracted and not intentionally trying to hit me. So many people I know that things so personal. My ex-husband used to think everyone on the road was intentionally trying to wreck with him.

Slow Down. Enjoy.

Yesterday, I took the baby and preschooler to a Nature Preserve. It was so nice and peaceful. Nothing but the sounds and smells of the wetland. We sat there on a bench talking about what we heard and smelled. It was so refreshing and a wonderful reminder to me to slow down and LISTEN to the world around me :)

Frozen in time

My sister surprised me with the best birthday present ever: She took her free time (of which she has nearly none) and scanned some old family slides, which she then e-mailed to me!

Our dad was known for his love of documentation. He wanted to record everything from family events to church events to everything in between. For instance, he delighted in being able to pull a notebook out of his file cabinet that had documented every light, gas, and water bill they had had for decades. Want to know what they paid for that washing machine? It's there. Want to know what the hospital bill was for Mom's appendectomy shortly after they got married? It's there, too.

As a choir director, he didn't want to repeat hymns too often, as he wanted lots of variety, so in his personal hymnal, he would jot down the date each hymn had been used. In another book, he recorded the choir's anthems and the dates they were performed. Oh yes, if you needed to know some family or church information, no matter how trivial, our dad was the one to go to.

His most important documentation legacy, though, was not trivial at all. He wanted to document our growing up, mostly with reel-to-reel tapes, slides, and home movies. Years ago, we had the home movies transferred to VHS, which, of course, still needs to be transferred again to digital media. My sister has from time to time transferred some reel-to-reel tapes over to cassettes (which, again, needs to be transferred into digital at some point). Thanks to scanners, we are scanning old photographs to digital, and now we are finally getting around to the slides. A digitalized version of these slides is my wonderful birthday gift.

There we are, two sisters, frozen in time. Professional photographs are truly cherished, but these candid photos taken in our home in Memphis tell so much more. The picture above was taken in what was supposed to be a "den," but was our bedroom, because our elderly paternal grandmother was living in the extra bedroom of our small house. (Joy and I always shared a bedroom until one of us left home.) The window behind us looked out into the front yard, and on hot summer evenings, our parents would turn on the attic fan and we'd open that window and get the refreshing breeze that the fan extracted from the outside.

Joy and I are a year and 9 months apart, so we have always been close. It is a pleasure to look at our two faces, a snapshot of happy childhoods, close family ties, and those 2-piece pajamas that snapped together.

I remember that once before Dad died in 1980, I asked him about the new-fangled "talking home movies" that were coming into the technological realm. "Oh," he smiled, "that's great, but I'll leave those for y'all." I can also remember how early on, Dad tried to teach us how to "pan" the movie camera slowly, to avoid the hurried, dizzying feature that was one of the trademarks of the amateur home movie enthusiast.

When a new reel had been developed, you'd think we were in a big Hollywood production company reviewing the daily footage. We wouldn't bother to put up the big screen for those; Dad would just set the camera on the dining room table and projected the movie onto the wall. It wouldn't be long before we'd see Dad sitting at the same table one evening, using his splicer to edit the new movies and attach them to the appropriate large reel.

As fun as the movies were, we got used to them. We knew every scene, but they never got boring. It was endless fascination as we watched ourselves grow, commenting on the stupid-looking clothes, or our excited expressions.

The slides, though, were seldom seen, because it was such a long process to get the slide projector set up along with the big screen. So that's what makes this birthday gift even more precious.

Thanks, Dad, for the memories. Thanks, Joy, for sending them to me.

It's all in the head (or on the bed, or being fed...)

I do believe that my dreams have gotten stranger as I advance in age. Last night I dreamed I was making an entire quilt out of Butterfinger candy bars. Believe me, that was no easy feat! I don't know if my subconscious is wanting to quilt or pig out on sugar. I will say one thing, though - it gives an entirely new meaning to "Sweet dreams."


"Default, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves." OK, I guess it's too early in the morning to mess with Shakespeare, but I've been thinking about the word default all week.

I am talking about default in the computer sense. This is the definition that has swept through our language since the beginning of the technological revolution:
A preselected option adopted by a computer program...when no alternative is specified by the user or programmer.

For those of you who aren't computer literate, I'll state it differently: My computer has its mind made up. It has a predefined way to format things I type, and, unless I specify otherwise, it assumes I want "the usual" and every document I create will be set up in that predetermined way. I guess it's like going into your favorite restaurant and having your waiter bring you your usual glass of iced tea before you even order it. You always have iced tea and your waiter knows this. It's automatic - no planning, no thinking, no decision-making involved.

However, what if one day you walk into the restaurant and you have a hankering for Coke? Even more importantly, what if you have evolved into a bona fide Coke aficionado and you never want iced tea again? Before you can even open your mouth to voice your order, here comes your waiter with the iced tea. Iced tea has become your default order, and you'd better speak up pretty quickly if you want something else instead.

Or you could have a private conversation with the waiter and tell him you want Coke from now on as a general rule.

The word processing program for my iMac is called Pages. and in general I think it's a great program for my needs, but there was one minor problem I wanted to overcome. When I open a blank document, the default setting is a rather ample space between paragraphs. I don't like that space, so each time I begin a new document, I go into the formatting options and narrow that space. It doesn't take very long to do this, but my lazy but productive self thought there must be a better way. I needed to have a personal conversation with the waiter and change the standing iced tea order. I could not, however, figure out a way to change this default. So I did what any normal person would do - I asked my geek family members to figure it out for me.

My son Matthew came up with the method, I changed the default, and now I'm content....well, almost. Now I want a default for my life.

For one thing, I'd like my eating and exercise habits to have a reliable default. One that says, say, 90% of the time I eat right and exercise regularly without even thinking about it, and I'd allow the other 10% of the time for slacking. I want a default so that without even thinking about it, I would exhibit patience over irritability, love over anger, generosity over selfishness, acceptance over anxiety, and hope over pessimism. I want good habits and good attitudes to be my default approach.

Now my Pages software has its spacing default set to a narrower width. Every time I create a new document, it will automatically have that narrower width spacing. It is set until I decide to change it again.

I wish life were that easy!

The Holidays

I'm getting simple this holiday season, too. No more buying crap because I "have to" give a gift. And I somehow need to spread the word to return the favor. I'd rather get no present than something I don't need. It's insincere and ridiculous.

So what am I doing for gifts this year? Well...I've taken up crocheting, so I'll be making some toys and clothes for the children in my life. I'm working on a cute baby bunting doll right now that I'm hoping will become a gift. I've been practicing my Dandelion Dreamers teaset to hopefully make a set for my niece. I actually ordered one set by the DD owner for my own children because 1. Patti is an AWESOME artisan, and my work could never compare, and 2. Now I have a perfect set to look at and try to get my skills 'that' good knowing what it is *supposed to* look like LOL.

I've also gotten really good at trading with other crafty mamas, so I've already set up a trade for a little bag for knitting supplies for my sister (and yes, she may be reading this and spoiling her suprise, but oh well). I have my end of the trade complete, just waiting for the other party to finish and then we will ship together closer to the holidays. I'm pretty excited about this one, it's going to be something I want to keep!

My niece has several smocks by me that she wears as jammies. Her dad commented that he wanted some flannel jammies to match hers (not smock, though LOL), so for Christmas, I'll be sewing them up a coordinating set!

So all my presents will be various handmade crafts by either myself or my friends. That makes me feel good :) And for the hubby...well...he'll just get the same present he's gotten the last few What more could a man want? Seriously.

I've come so far, and yet...

...I still have so much further to go! In fact, I don't think this is actually a journey that EVER ends. I think the simple lifestyle is always evolving and changing within me.

I haven't been posting with as much frequency as in the beginning, because I have already done so much of the major 'start up'. At this point, I feel like I'm just maintaining and fine-tuning my life/home.

I still have several projects that need to be done, but they aren't top priority, so I'm procrastinating. For one, I need to get all the pictures in the house together in ONE spot! I've been putting them in a box as I find them, but I still need to take that box, the other boxes, and the various albums and get them all sorted and organized. I'd like to have all my photos in albums by date (or a general timeline). I'd also like to do some kid-specific scrapbooks with blank pages to keep updating through the years.

I feel like I"ve done a great job maintaining the laundry, living and bed rooms, but I'm really slacking in the kitchen. I only have enough dishes and silverware as we need, but with a family of 6, just one meal racks up a TON of dirties! I feel like the kitchen is a constant battle, so I'm posting it here to get my ass in gear again. I *need* to be more diligent about cleaning as I cook as well as cleaning up RIGHT after meals.

I also have too much fabric. I've tried selling it cheap, I've tried ebay, and I've sold some but still have more. It's not a ton compared to some of my friends, but it's a lot to me. Anyone know of a charity that sews? I'd love to donate it to someone who will actually sew for charity. I tried a diapering company that donates diapers to low-income families, but they said they didn't need it. I gave some a while back to a friend who was supposed to sew and then donate the diapers to that same charity, and I'm fairly certain it's still sitting at her house untouched :( There's a great sewing room at the center in Oaxaca, but customs likes to steal packages- nice, huh?

So those are my 2 new goals: Maintain the kitchen better & get this fabric out of here!

The Wedding Dress

It's 4:30 a.m. and I decided to just get up. Believe me, if you knew how much I would rather be in bed snoozing, you would wonder why I'm up and blogging on my day off. Well, a strange dream woke me up and I felt the need to document it.

I dreamed we were pastoring a church at an unknown location, and a young man and woman in our church were getting married. It was the night before the wedding, and for some reason, I took the beautiful wedding gown home. As is the case in many dreams, I can't offer a reasonable explanation why I had taken the dress home, but I did. It was therefore my responsibility to make sure the dress arrived to the wedding on time and in perfect condition.

I had to make the journey to the church on foot through all sorts of terrain. A busy highway, a pothole-filled dirt road - you name it and I had to carry that beautiful, heavy, embroidered, pearl-encrusted gown. The journey was filled with peril at every turn - mud, animal feces, holes, limbs, speeding cars, and darkness. At one point, I tried carrying the dress directly above my head to keep it from dragging the dirty street, but it was just too heavy. I tried folding it up so it took up less space, but it just unfolded itself. I had to do a serious juggling/balancing act, as I tried to keep the dress unharmed while watching the road surface and my surroundings, and try to remember the directions to the church. Hey, that was no dream - that was a nightmare!

When I got to the church, I was relieved to find the gown intact, and as the wedding coordinator saw me bring it in, his joy soon turned to curiosity. "Where is the garment bag?" he asked. The garment bag? Oh yeah, the garment bag - the one I was supposed to put the gown in to carry it on its journey. The one which would have protected it and kept it clean. The one I totally forgot about. That garment bag.

I would have slapped myself in the head vis-a-vis those old V8 commercials, but at that point I woke up.

The time is drawing near when we hand over the house. Closing is Halloween, and we will move out the week before that date. We have been responsible for this lovely old house for over a decade now (owning it 12 years and living here over 10 years). It has been important in our lives; indeed, it is a piece of our lives now. It is nearing time to hand this heavy, delicate, pearl-encrusted jewel of a house over to its new owners. We have a month and a half to keep it in perfect condition, making sure the embroidery doesn't unravel. The journey always has elements of risk involved. The need for coordination is paramount.

And, in the end, we are relieved yet saddened to hand the gown over to the bride, for in reality, during the whole journey to the church, the dress was hers all along; we were just temporary stewards.

As a veteran list-maker, I have extensive lists of what we have to do, when we have to do it, what we have already done, and what we have left to do. As a chronic worrier, I have the nagging sensation that I may forget to take the garment bag, that I am overlooking some tasks that would make our journey smoother and less complicated.

Oh, well. The "Journey to the New House" is just one part of the "Journey to Simplicity" and the "Journey of our Lives." It gives me great comfort to know that in my dream, I managed to get the dress to the bride intact and she was able to wear the dress with joy and pride. We may forget about a garment bag, but we will make the successful journey anyway.

It's a beautiful jewel of a house, and I am thankful we were able to be a part of its long, eventful life. Weddings always make me cry.

Major Thing Happened Today...

Okay, so it won't seem major to most anyone else, but to me, it was huge.

A friend emailed me today to say she would be in town tomorrow. She wanted to meet up somewhere, but my very first thought was 'just come hang out here at my house'.

I can't remember a time when I WANTED someone to see my house. Normally, my first thought is what I can do to be sure someone WON'T see my house. For example, at my old job, I would meet up with co-workers to visit clients. Sometimes, if the clients were near one of our homes, we would just meet at someone's house and go from there. When it was MY house, I'd make up some reason why we had to meet at the first appointment because I was deathly afraid someone would want to come in to use the bathroom.

Not anymore :)

C'mon Over! Anytime!

My 9/11 Story.

So today's the day we all remember. I'm going to take a break from my usual posts and share my story. Everyone has a 9/11 story, and here is mine:

It was my 2nd day in the new office. I'd been working for the same company for 4 years but moved to a different location, so I was already familiar with everyone. Our Sales Manager had her radio on and heard the first reports of a plane. She and I hovered at her radio listening. More reports. More planes. So we headed next door to the office with a TV. That entire office of 25ish people here all sitting there. watching. completely silent. eerily silent.

And then I remembered my sister. She had just taken a new job in Manhattan. I knew it wasn't at the WTC, but I didn't know where or how close. I didn't even have a number. So I called my other sister. She was in a meeting, but they got her out. She had a number, called, everything was fine. But for about an hour there, I had a creepy, dark feeling, and it was pretty freakin' scary. I talked to her that night, and she told me about it all. She saw the 2nd tower fall. They had gone to the top of their building to watch the commotion after the first one fell. She started to walk away, heard a crash, turned around, and the 2nd one was gone.

She and her boyfriend, to this day, still consider themselves to have post-traumatic stress disorders because of it. But thankfully, they did not know anyone who was a victim. They had one friend who worked at the WTC, but he was late for work that day and spared.

At my work, we sat there the rest of the day in silent shock. We did our duties, but no one really spoke. No laughing, just everyone thinking. Which, if you knew about me and my co-workers, you would know how serious that is.

When I got home, I couldn't stop watching CNN. It was all the same thing over and over again, but I just couldn't look away. When I went to work the next day, my boss told me that he had had the same thing happen when he went home.

It was just complete and utter disbelief.

Interesting Read about Diapers

I think a lot about diapers. Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the overall effect of cloth vs. disposable. Yes, using cloth- natural fibers in particular- will lessen what I leave on this planet. And for me, that reason is good enough.

But...I read all these websites advocating FOR cloth, and it makes me wonder. Overall, how do they REALLY compare? You know, it takes pesticides to grow conventional cotton. It takes energy to produce the fabric, gas to get the fabric to you, energy to run your washing machine, etc, etc, etc. The argument that has always bothered me is the "disposables are filling our landfills" statements. When I was in college a thousand years ago, I got a degree in Anthropology. During my stint as a student, I did a report on something called "Garbology"- taking garbage and landfills and using their contents in anthropological studies. I remember reading that a common misconception is that disposable diapers are filling our landfills, that in fact, they are a very small percentage of what is found.

So that's the history of what lead me to do a search today for "Garbology + Diapers" to see what I could come up with. And here's what I found: Beyond The Pail. It's long, but a very interesting read.

That said and read, I still think cloth is better. Hands Down. :)

Commercial-Free Parenting

I hate TV. Well, mostly I just hate commercials. I try to stick with PBS and Boomerang since they have cartoons but no commercials. PBS has added a few here and there between shows, but nothing flashy or blingy. I loathe Nickelodeon. I swear, it seems like every commercial is about how to make your little girl more like a teenage ho. And in that train of thought- who was the evil person that created Bratz dolls????? Not only is is offensive to refer to them as "brats", but they look like HOOKERS. Plain and simple. And I used to think Barbie was bad! She's a respectable woman now compared to those little sluts!!!

And Cartoon Network? Uh yeah...they advertise WEIGHT LOSS products between shows. Nice.
But back to commercials....They really hurt the simplicity quest. I get the toys all streamlined and basic. Good for creativity and thoughful play. Then they are bombarded with commercials for useless junk and convinced that they "need" it. I guess in reality, though, it's my responsibility to police the TV better, so I guess I'm typing this "out loud" in an attempt to hold myself more accountable and DO SOMETHING about it.

"Jack - Come on Down!!!"

The Price Is Right, I believe, is one of the oldest shows on TV. Who can forget their signature call when Bob Barker identifies the next contestant? "Mary Smith - COME ON DOWN!!!" Next thing you know, the audience erupts in chaos and Mary Smith jumps two feet out of her seat and runs down to the stage, clapping and screaming all the way.

We had to use that phrase today. You see, when the painters painted the exterior of our house a few years ago, they neglected to paint a 6-foot area of trim. Now that we are selling the house, the buyers understandably have requested that that trim be painted. Sounds easy, right? It's only 6 feet. You know there has to be a catch, right? It's under the eaves on the third floor.

Most of the painters we have contacted do not consider getting paid $50 to paint 6 feet of trim on the third floor "easy money." In fact, they don't consider it a job worth their time at all. After considerable effort, we finally turned to a man I'll call Jack, whose real name in this post will not be mentioned as a gesture of goodwill on our part.

Jack is a local resident about 60 years old who makes his living doing what they call "odd jobs." We have utilized him many times for taking trash to the dump, since we don't own a pickup. (Not regular garbage, but the special extensive trash one generates with a good basement or garage cleaning.) He has always been dependable and can always use the money, so Ed called Jack and gave him an offer he couldn't refuse. He told Jack that he would pay him $50 for just a few minutes of work - painting the eaves on the third floor - assuming he owned or could borrow a ladder long enough to reach said area. Jack said, "OK, why not?" I personally could think of several reasons why not, but Jack, as nice as he is, has always seemed to be, well, not the wisest of men.

Sure enough, this morning he arrived in his red pickup truck with a long, long ladder, which he proceeded to stand against the house in the appropriate vicinity.

Alas, the ladder was tall enough, but it wouldn't reach the eaves, so he left and came back with two more ladders and some rope. Up the ladder he went for the second time, holding a can of spray paint in one hand and the shorter ladders in the other, the rope dangling by his side.

Meanwhile, I was in the house trying to stay busy to distract myself from poor Jack on the roof. I heard the little noises associated with ladders and climbing, but just tried not to think about it. Finally, I was forced outside when I heard the electrician drive up. Ed was busy holding Jack's ladder, and I realized I would have to deal with the electrician.

There we were, the three of us standing in the driveway, shielding our eyes from the sun as we watched Jack clumsily maneuver around with his equipment. I was going to take the electrician in the house to show him what needed to be repaired, but I couldn't move. It was like watching a car wreck or a horror movie. You want to turn away, but you can't.

Jack had climbed all the way to the roof, and had tied a rope around his waist, which had been strung around the chimney, then crossed over to a gingerbread wooden ornamentation. As we watched anxiously, Jack shouted down to the driveway. "D'ya think that will hold me?" he asked, pointing to the small piece of wood. My husband yelled back, "I have no idea. It's been there over 100 years." I couldn't tell if Jack took that to mean it was sturdy or to mean it was so ancient it could disintegrate at any moment. Jack warily shuffled across the roof and still couldn't reach the eaves.

Well, that's just great, I thought. Jack will fall off our roof and kill himself, our chimney will come with him, and the ladder will probably fall back and hit the electrician's truck. At this point, I turned to Ed.

"Get him down," I whispered.
"Get him down."
"But he's already up there."
"Make him come down. Tell him we will pay him the 50 bucks - just make him come down."
Ed looked up at the scene on the roof. He sighed. "OK."

"Hey, Jack!" Ed shouted. "Never mind it - just come on down!"
Jack looked perplexed. "Huh? Hey, Ed, d'ya have a roller brush on an extension pole?"
Ed shouted louder. "Never mind, Jack! Just come on down! We'll pay you the $50, just COME ON DOWN, FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE!"

Jack, though confused, finally acquiesced. He removed the rope from its various stability points, threw it to the driveway, and, as Ed held the ladder, Jack slowly made his way down. I could hear him mumbling something about "didn't really do anything." He felt guilty about taking the check, but I was so relieved he was finally on the ground that the $50 didn't matter to me much at that point.

Of course, this means we are $50 poorer and we still need the trim painted. But Jack, bless his soul, survived intact, and on top of that, the electrician got an interesting story to tell his friends.

Jack would never make it to the stage on The Price Is Right. I think they want people a little more excited to come on down.


I work only a few blocks from my house, so I used to drive home for lunch every day. Most of the time when I got back to work, my parking space (near the door, because I am the first one in the office every morning) was usually taken, and I had to scour the parking lot for another one. After a few years of playing "musical cars," I decided that the lunch hour excursion to home was not worth the hassle, and settled instead for a sandwich at my desk while I checked e-mail.

Today, however, for various but predictable reasons, the office stress became too much, so I came home, had a quick lunch with Ed, then headed back. When I returned to the hospital, it was the same familiar scenario - my spot was taken. I found another parking space and went back to work. At quitting time, I was walking out to my car, heading in the usual direction, when I had one of those momentary lapses in memory. Why was another car in my parking spot, and why wasn't my car there instead? Then I suddenly remembered. "Oh!" I said out loud (I tend to talk to myself out loud). "That's right - I moved!"

I had to chuckle. How I have wanted to say that lately - "I moved!" That will have to wait, though. Closing on the house is scheduled for October 31, and it will be another month before we actually move into our new house.

What a versatile word - "move." I moved my car. We will move into the new house. That piece of music really moved me. The first two examples note a physical change in position. The third example has a different, more abstract meaning. When I listen to beautiful music, I may not move physically from my chair, but I definitely move spiritually. My emotions move to a totally altered state of consciousness. Those transcending minutes can carry me through sometimes.

I hope the next three months will be full of moving moments for us. Both kinds!

Fair Trade ?

What makes something "Fair Trade"? I get the concept, paying a fair wage to farmers/workers, right? But who governs this? Who says what is fair?

NO MORE CARPET! and more ramblings...

Woo Hoo! This has been an ongoing project over the last few years. We had only one room left with carpet: ours. Monday, the hubby pulled it all up, and we went to Home Depot for some wood laminate flooring. He's been working on it 2 nights now, and it should be complete tonight. After that first night, I could tell a HUGE difference. I didn't wake up but one time, and that was to nurse the baby. Last night was the same. You just don't know what that means to me! I'm the kind of person that wakes up EVERY morning with a stuffy nose and sore thought. Not the last 2 mornings, though :)

On a different note, we all know the W Mart controversy. But, I just wanted to say that I was there yesterday, and they had a pack of Cushies cloth diapers in the baby section. I was totally shocked.

Since the bombardment of holidays is almost upon us, what are some of you doing to combat the crapalanche that happens because of family?

I've been practicing my crochet skills. They are pretty non-existent, but I completed my very first diaper cover this morning! It is ugly as heck, but I'm proud of it! I bought some cheap acrylic yarn to start out with and practice before I dive into some soft, nice wool for the babe.

Hands Can

I bought Caroline a book when she was younger called Hands Can. It rejoices in all the various things hands can do. For instance, "Hands can catch/and hands can throw./Hands can plant seeds in a row." Now Charlotte is enjoying the story of hands.

What drives me and others like me to be creative with our hands? I don't go sledding or cycling because of my innate fear of injuring my hands. I make my living with my hands, of course, and would be financially devastated if I could not transcribe anymore. But the creative things I do with my hands - play the harp and piano, quilt, cross-stitch, sew, bake bread, write - these are the things I would really miss if I sustained a hand injury.

Ed always said that when we lovingly make something with our hands (or minds or both), we are actually "co-creators with God." Out of nothing comes beauty. Out of unorganized ingredients comes form and shape. Things that are useless by themselves (flour or fabric or a harp sitting silent on the floor) are touched and as if by magic, they transform our worlds. Our chosen creative outlets enable us to use our gifts. I believe everyone has gifts, and one of the most important duties for parents and teachers is to help children discover their individual gifts. So many of these gifts can be brought to fruition through the hands.

My sister in Memphis has been deluged with figs from her backyard fig tree. Even after giving some away, she still had too many that would spoil quickly unless she did something. So she decided to make a jar of fig preserves. Never having done anything like that before, she did some research, bought the jars and tops, and brought forth her creation. She burned her hand a little because she didn't have all the proper equipment, and I figured that, by the time it was all said and done, that jar of preserves cost a lot more than the one at the grocery store, but all the same, she actually made a jar of preserves which fed more than her stomach - it fed her spirit. She also enjoys working with her hands doing woodworking.

I can feel a void in my life when I don't take time to be creative. There is nothing like the feeling of the harp strings vibrating under my fingers, or running my hands across a soft quilt, smiling at the designs, remembering when I purchased the fabric, and reminiscing about what was going on in my life when I hand quilted it.

Why do we bother? With our time constraints, why don't we just buy a blanket at Wal-Mart or a jar of preserves at the supermarket? There's just something about that act of co-creation that refreshes our soul. There are other quilts and other preserves, but none exactly like the ones we made. As individuals we are unique, and our creations can be, too.

Ed and I recently read some articles on whether food made with love tastes better. There is general consensus in some groups that when you make something with your hands (especially if you are loving the process), that love flows through your fingers into the product, and indeed it affects the product in an invisible way. Sleeping under a quilt handmade with love brings an unseen comfort that you don't get with a Wal-Mart special. We are more powerful than we ever imagined.

Hands can; they can, indeed!

The ease of Simplicity

Well...I had a nasty head-cold the first part of the week and that set the mood for the whole week: SLACKER. My daughters are having a friend spend the night tonight, so I got up knowing I would have to clean today.

Thanks to the purging and cleaning of the past, it was a BREEZE. Even after not maintaining through the week, I was able to get the kitchen, Living Room, and Bathroom looking just fine for company (I had the kids clean their own rooms last night).

It was also interesting, because I was able to pinpoint some areas that still need more work. Like, I have a set of coffee cups and then saved 3-4 of the old ones, too. I now realize we don't need that many. All we did was let them pile up in the sink.

The childrens' clothes are looking GREAT. I narrowed it down to 10 outfits per kid, so I only have to wash 2X a week, and really only once if I want. I washed all their dirty clothes this morning in ONE load!!! There are still some stragglers in my hamper, but I'm getting through those now. I don't put anything in the drawers until it is ALL clean and can be paired up in outfits before going in the dresser.

Now just as long as no one decides to open MY door, it's all good.

Remember how I said I wanted to follow through with sponsoring a student in Oaxaca? Well, it's in the works! Officially! I had a big sale on my website and sold ...are you ready... $750 in cloth diapers. So, my treat to myself is to send $150 to Oaxaca Street Children Grassroots. My husband says that's not much of a personal treat, so I also bought some rugs for the bathroom. LOL. He says I don't know *how* to buy something just for me. So I had him make reservations for Sunday to eat at the hotel we got married at :) Now I think he's pleased.

And here's the best part- I've already put $250 in savings. That might sound like pennies to you, but I've NEVER been able to save, so to see to that is great for me. I'm making it a challenge to see how much I can have left at the end of the month. I read a tip in a book to write down your goals and keep them near your money. Everytime you start to spend, look at that list and decide if it's worth it, or if you would rather save the money to get closer to your goal. I don't have the physical list, but I'm mentally thinking that EVERY time I make a purchase. I've logged on to a fabric store online about 5 times in the last 3 days and then "x" out when I think of my list :)

~~~~Healthy Eating Update~~~
We've decided to go Organic/Freerange/Humane/Whateveryouwannacallit on our meat from here on out. It's going to take a little adjustment at first- finding places to buy from, so we won't go 100% from the get-go, but within a few months, we should be. We found some farms nearby that do beef, poultry, and pork. We just have to get a freezer so we can buy large quantities to save money. We can get Grassfed Beef at Publix now, but it's $6.99/lb. OUCH. So we are also going to reduce the amount of meat we eat overall. The less but more concept. The "supersize me" mentality we have been raised on is a hard one to beat, but it's our goal. It's especially hard for my husband who is 6'4" and 300 lbs, but I know he can do it. He has a willpower that I could never comprehend. I guess it comes from hardcore Buddhist training. We also feel the Organic meat options will do our Karma some good, but I won't go into our philosophies on that here ;) (they're pretty wierd to most, a mix of Buddhist values and Evolution).

Have a great day!