Rosary Cross

Here’s the little cross from my rosary.

When I chose a rosary, its form was not a matter of indifference to me. It has dark red wooden beads which I think are very beautiful, and I like the feeling of them in my fingers. The rosary medal that acts as the bead for the first Our Father, on my rosary is for Our Lady of The Rosary - ie our Lady of Fatima - which I don't live with very comfortably because the story of the Fatima apparitions is not really my idiom and does my head in a bit.

But most of all what I chose it for was the cross.

Rosary crosses vary immensely of course. Some are very plain and simple: just a wooden cross. Some are intricate and ornate, very pretty. I am not comfortable with the pretty ones; it seems a bit inappropriate to try to make a cross pretty!

Many rosary crosses are crucifixes, as mine is. Some crucifixes show a resurrection Jesus (we have a wall cross like that in the corridor downstairs – I’ll tell you about that one day) while others have the usual crucified Jesus. Some crucified Jesuses (Jesi?) are arranged with taste and elegance on their crosses, looking more like rather doleful sunbathers, and I’m not quite comfortable with those either.

I love mine because it looks a bit extreme; and in particular because the figure of Jesus does not look tastefully arranged but hangs without dignity, utterly spent.

Dignity and resourcefulness are very important in the family in which I grew up. To be right, to be restrained, understated, capable, knowledgeable, well-behaved and dignified; these attributes were valued. Not to break or spill anything; not to speak out of turn or behave incorrectly; to use correct grammatical forms and the vocabulary of the upper middle class – these were our aspirations. Decorum, unobtrusiveness and dignity were what we were aiming for. Sit nicely, don’t rock the boat, and all of that.

The Jesus on my rosary cross has forfeited all that baggage. He can’t have anything like that. Beyond trying or caring or maintaining appearances he hangs in agony, his joints dislocated, from the nails on his cross.

When I was a teenager I went to a Good Friday Stations of the Cross at a Catholic church in the market town near our village: they were using the prayers written by, I think, Cardinal Newman.

Each meditation, on each station of the cross, started with the phrase: ‘Ah, my darling Jesus…’

In the home where I grew up, nobody kissed or cuddled anyone – or even touched them. Nobody ever said ‘I love you’ to anyone. Very Northern types: reserved, understated and aloof.

So it came as a shock to me to hear ‘my darling Jesus’ said of the Lord I always heard referred to as ‘Jesus Christ’, in a distinctly formal manner (if at all); or ‘Christ’ in my Religious Knowledge A level course at school (more formal yet, the ‘Jesus’ part vanished from view); or as ‘The Lord’ in the sermons of Arthur Blessit on vinyl disc that I insisted on listening to despite the strong reaction of distaste these occasioned in my mother and sister. I think they didn’t like the things he said along the lines of:
Why don’t people get excited about the Lord like they do about football? Then every time someone got saved they’d ride down the aisle on the preacher’s shoulders shouting “Go! Go! Go!”.
I was required to stop playing this record: but too late! The story had sunk into my heart, and is still there almost forty years later!

But ‘ah, my darling Jesus…’ was in another bracket altogether, because it is the language of love. Without the distance and formality of a title; tender, adoring, without restraint. ‘Ah, my darling Jesus…’ Yes. That was what I wanted to say.

When people pray the rosary, each bead marks the saying of a prayer. You hold the bead between finger and thumb as you say that prayer. Each rosary has on it five ‘decades’ (sets of ten beads) which are used to pray into the mystery of aspects of the life of Jesus and the faith story of the Bible. These are referred to as the Sorrowful Mysteries, the Joyful Mysteries, the Glorious Mysteries and the Luminous Mysteries. I love those names but I can never hold in my head the list of biblical events I’m meant to be remembering. That’s my problem with religion: it’s full of complicated data and I ain’t really that kinda gal. But if you are, or if you’re just curious, you can read about it here. Anyhow apart from the five decades of beads that go round the loop of the rosary, there’s that little tail on it that has five beads for prayers, and the cross. The rosary prayers kick off on the cross, with the recital of the Apostles Creed.

So I fall at the first hurdle because I can never remember the creed – well, I remember the gist of it, what it actually says; but not the exact words. It’s too long for me. Even a shopping list is too long if it has more than four items on it. Unless someone sets it to music and turns it into a hymn, I can’t remember it. I mean I can manage Firmly I believe and truly (here - run Windows media to hear the tune), which is probably in fact longer than the Apostles Creed, but that’s because it’s metrical and has a tune. So I when I pray with the rosary I don’t say the Apostles Creed when I start with (and often never get beyond) the cross. I just pray my own prayer. I look at that tortured figure who has lost all dignity; and I say ‘ah, my darling Jesus…’ and I thank him for what he has done for me (for all of us), and I adore him in his suffering and the agony of his redeeming love.

I bring him my pain and the pain of the world. I bring him the tears of my friends who are strung up in situations they cannot escape; who are facing circumstances beyond what they can bear, but cannot control. And I bring him those who have lost their dignity… whose families malign and deride them… who have lost their job and livelihood and home… who have been caught out and exposed in wrongdoing… who are persecuted and terrorized and rejected because of their sexuality… who are reduced to a quivering mess by bullying and rejection… who are tortured and tormented… who are refugees, frightened, alienated, without hope… who are afraid and left alone… ‘Ah, my darling Jesus…’

And my creed is that no matter what our circumstances, if we can somehow find our way to creep into the company of that man dying naked and without dignity such an unthinkably cruel death, we shall have reached the touchstone of transformation; for his cross is at the heart of creation and is the wellspring of the new creation. By his death and passion, he has redeemed the world.

‘Ah, my darling Jesus…’ And I kiss the cross. And that’s my creed.

Simplicity/Minimalism only For Rich?

I just read this post on mnlist about the thought that minimalism is only for the rich.

I am with the blogger on this one: minimalism is for all economic classes!

I see so many people living in the projects, going from check to check that have waay more than I ever thought of doing.. some people I know spend more on their car rims than I spent on my whole house!

Minimalism would perhaps help the poor even more than the affluent by allowing them to stop worrying about stuff. It would definitely reduce some expenses for them!

St Joseph

I love St Joseph.

Statues of St Joseph come in several main types:

Holding the infant Jesus with one arm and a white lily in his other hand.

The white lily is the symbol of purity, innocence and integrity. It is often associated with Mary the Mother of Jesus, so had an obvious connection with Joseph who became her husband. But the other saint often depicted with a white lily and holding the infant Jesus is St Antony. He was a preacher (a Franciscan friar) and so this depiction of him carrying the Infant Jesus shows him as a bearer of the Word of God. In the case of St Antony, there is also a story of him having been seen with a radiant light emitting from his cell, holding the baby Jesus on his knee and chatting to him.

We are all aware of the problems within the church about child sexual abuse, and that is not a modern danger. Children have always been vulnerable to predatory adults. St Antony and St Joseph carry the lily as a sign that they are trustworthy: that what is innocent, pure and fragile can be entrusted safely into their care, because they are people of integrity.

Kneeling to adore

Where you see a statue of Joseph kneeling to adore, or standing and bending forwards holding a lantern, you’re probably looking at a figure from a Christmas Nativity set, where Joseph is shown adoring the newborn baby Jesus, and holding the light in the stable. What an honour, as Christ who is our light comes into the world, to be the one who is chosen to hold the light for him.

Striding along with a walking staff

In the gospel stories, Joseph makes three important journeys: to Bethlehem, where Jesus is born; to Egypt, in flight from Herod’s massacre of the infants; back home to Nazareth when it is safe to return. In each case he is shepherding his little family, taking care of them and protecting them.

At his carpenter’s bench

These are the statues of Joseph the worker: the man who fulfils his vocation and provides for his family by the practical skill of his trade. Experience, pride in his work, patience, perseverance, application and aptitude are all implied: and these statues remind us that our plain everyday work is holy; that trade is holy; that putting bread on the table is holy; that muscle and sweat and rolled-up sleeves and learning a craft are holy – it’s not all eyes turned heavenwards and incense wafting in the morning light.

Simply holding the infant Jesus

This is my favourite. This is the statue of Joseph that speaks to me. The infant Jesus here is the Word of God, and Joseph is the bearer of the Word: he carries the Word through the world.

The French poet Paul Claudel says:
The Word is the adopted son of silence,
for St Joseph passes through the pages of the gospel
without uttering a single word.

And that’s what I love: the relationship between silence and the Word. That the Word of God is carried and nurtured by silence and in silence. The Word of God is held and loved in silence. The Word of God cannot flourish in a life that is contentious or gossipy or garrulous or always drawing attention to itself.

The quietness of St Joseph: walking alongside the donkey so others can ride; bearing his staff to defend them; holding the light for them; refraining from accusing or complaining or criticizing; accepting responsibility; holding on to integrity; sheltering and upholding innocence; working steadily at an honest trade; and having the humility to recognize in a little child something greater than himself, which he kneels to adore – I think even if I live to be a hundred I will never cease to love and learn from the beautiful example of St Joseph. And Joseph is often shown as an older man: which is to suggest to us that he is wise: that silence, forbearance, kindness, sheltering and protecting and nurturing others, understanding, humility, working to support our families – these show us the way of wisdom.

When I posted yesterday, I said I didn’t have a statue of St Joseph, and that’s true: I don’t yet have one that is my own and that I can relate to. But I realized that I do believe we actually have one in our house.

Tony the Badger (my husband!) had a sea-faring grandfather, who brought home curiosities from the Far East, including the statue posted here, which came from China. We think of China as an atheist country, but it does have a strand of Christian tradition, and its other religions have been Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism.

It could be that the statue we have is just a pleasing representation of a grandfather and child, or belongs to a Confucian, Buddhist or Taoist symbolism that I am not familiar with: but until I manage to find a statue of St Joseph that shows him how I imagine him – and just carrying the baby Jesus, not cluttered with the other accoutrements of lantern, lily, carpenter’s equipment, walking stick or anything else – this Chinese wood-carving has the honour of representing beloved Joseph, the man whose gentle quietness carries and nurtures the Word of God.

Skyping God

Our Hebe hung about for ages by the back door, skulking furtively out of sight after putting down tempting bird food, to get this snap of one of the visitors to our garden.

We have a few statues around the place. The one in the picture sits in the yard outside the kitchen window. We have a bodhisattva outside the front door. We have a colossal terracotta sleeping buddha up on the fridge.

I have a couple of statues of St Francis, one of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, one of Our Lady, one that's supposed to be Our Lady but in my head she's Saint Clare (because the actual statues of St Clare I don't like very much, they are all stiff and stern and not much like her).

There's also a little set of sculpts that our Alice made - the archetypal figures of the Celtic Year: Oestre, St John the Baptist, St Michael the Archangel and the Christchild.

In our hallway hangs a resurrection crucifix, and I love the crucifix on my rosary.

One day in our home we shall have a statue of St Joseph - but I haven't found a good one yet.

Not everyone likes the statues: specifically, evangelical Christian friends sometimes have a hard time with them - 'Your idols' as a neighbour used to refer to the buddha figures; but, see, she hadn't understood.

An idol, strictly speaking, is a representation which is believed to be in actual fact imbued with the divinity it represents - that's why idols are worshipped.

But I don't worship the buddhas and the saints! They come in handy for skyping God.

When I am trying to get a clear connection with God about some aspect of his nature, or some aspect of the way I am trying to walk, it helps me to have an image as the carrier of my thoughts and God's thoughts on the subject.

I'll tell you more about the other figures on a different day, but for now just to think about the buddhas.

Apparently, at some point in his life some people came and asked the Buddha: 'What are you? Are you a God? Are you a King?'

And the Buddha replied: 'I am awake'.

Sometimes I have heard the kind of Christian preacher who likes to play at 'My religion's better than your religion' crowing about the fact that Buddha is dead where Jesus Christ is risen from death. But those preachers don't get it. There is no competition. Jesus is doing something different from the buddha. So, the statues in my garden are not failed gods that I (sad person that I am) worship. They are reminders.

The Buddha did not make his teaching centre around himself; it was a teaching of ideas and principles - teachings of a Way to live that would help us find equilibrium and peace. The Buddha showed his followers how to come to terms with life and walk in serenity. And I think he did a good job.

He cautioned his followers that everything he said could be wrong. He encouraged them to do their own thinking and find their own way. And far from expecting them to worship him, he taught them that the Buddha, the real Buddha, is not external, not a person we can meet or idolise: the Buddha is within each of us as buddha-nature. That's what he taught. He taught that somewhere deep within every heart are the beautiful realities of Wisdom and Compassion. In most hearts they are dozing; in many they are spark out - blotto - out for the count - fast asleep.

And the task is to wake them up: to go through life with one's wisdom and compassion awake and active. In Christian terms, I guess that our buddha-nature is like our soul or spirit. St Paul said our bodies are Temples of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit indwells us: or , to use different language; we have buddha-nature.

When I look at the buddha statues calm and serene, sitting quietly, radiating peace, it doesn't make me worship them - it reminds me of the potential in me; the bit that needs waking up, revealing, activating, so that I too become a realised (rather than merely potential) image of God, reminding others by who I am and how I am of life's beauty and the possibility of peace.

'Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace...' my heart says to God when I see the peaceful Buddha.

Or I think of the words of the Metta Sutta, the Buddha's words on loving kindness.

The representations of the Buddha are not vying with Jesus for my attention. Jesus is Lord - so chill out! There's no need to get paranoid about a concrete statue!

I always find it a bit embarrassing, that bit in the Bible (Isaiah) where the prophet pulls out all the stops deriding people who worship idols of wood and stone, and he sneers at them, because a lump of wood can't save them or hear them.

I really wish they hadn't put that in the Bible, because the prophet seems to me to have not really got it.

Sometimes a person will keep a photograph of someone they really love and are separated from. And maybe when they go to bed at night they will kiss the photograph, and say 'I love you' and 'Sleep well'.

So we could jump in quick and sneer at them and point out that all the have there is a piece of photographic paper that can't hear them or reply hahahaha!

But, who would be the stupid one? It was only ever a means of keeping love alive, of touching with reverence and tenderness the person from whom we are physically separated just now.

And when I look at the Buddhas, settled and centred, peaceful in meditation, gentle and quiet of face, I touch with wonder the live germ of quietness and kindness in myself - and so begin to wake it up.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about the statue I haven't got yet - the one of St Joseph; which provides the hardware for me to skype the loving silence of God.

Baby Step


Okay, all of you big-time minimalism/simplicity gurus are probably going to laugh at me but I have a confession to make: I am afraid of automatic billpay.

It’s not like I don’t have the money but I always worry about the month I won’t, you know?  Or the month this bill or that bill hits my account for a really big fee for some exotic reason I cannot fathom—thoughts like this make me really nervous.

However  I am not the best at remembering to pay all of my bills every month. Invariably I forget at least one every month or so and end up a day late and an outrageous fee short so I’m going to take a baby step today.

My Wal-Mart credit card is the first credit card due every month and I always deduct it from my checking account. It doesn’t have the lowest balance, but it always hits before the other bills arrive so no worries about my bank account being short when it is due.

Right now the payment is $19 a month for the minimum. Yeah, I know I could save money  by paying more than the minimum but I need to build up a savings account first, so the minimum is what will get paid right now, wrong or right.

I am going to take a big deep breath and set this bill up as autopay for the minimum every month with my checking account.

You gurus are probably rolling in your chairs right now, but this is actually a frightening step for me and runs counter to everything about money I was ever taught my whole 40 years of life.

I want a simpler life! The fact is that I will have more money and more time with less stress by automating these annoying bills!

So okay, it is finished. I have instructed my bank to automatically pay the minimum 10 days before the due date every month on my Wal-Mart Card.

Why do I feel so nervous? It isn’t even 20 bucks a month for goodness’ sake!


Once I get comfortable with this bill being automated I will target another bill for automation. Which one? Who knows?

Heh. “target another bill for automation.” Kinda reminds me of  a Terminator movie!

Simplicity in Printing


I discovered that my printer cord has been damaged today. Desperate to print out an obituary for my printerless sister I called the library.

To my surprise McCracken County Library patrons are given 90 minutes of computer time and 10 free printed pages every day! I drove over there, printed out the obituary for her and dropped it in the mail before coming back and setting down to work.

This has gotten the little wheels in my mind turning. I don’t really print that much—this is the first thing I’ve actually needed to print in months, honestly. Could I do without a printer?

I actually use the scanner more than I do a printer, settling for a lower quality all-in-one rather than the higher-quality scanner I would actually prefer.

I come to the library regularly to work if only to get out of the house and avoid the (at-times) incessant ringing of the phone. This way I can tell family and friends that I honestly cannot talk :). What would it hurt to do my occasional printing here while I am at it?

If I could eliminate that one device (printer/scanner all in one) life would be that much better. One less device to maintain, buy ink for, refill and replace when it goes south.

Anyhow, until I repair the printer cord (or replace it depending upon the damage) I will be doing my printing exclusively at the library. If I can locate a place to scan I might not bother with even attempting a repair.

Until then it is back to work. I’ve been much too lazy as of late!

NOTE: McCracken County Library is located in Paducah, KY. If you ever visit the computer area and find a really short lady madly typing away you have probably spotted me :)

Less Dishes: Less Clutter

A while back I pared down my dishes, silverware and other kitchen items. I was a bit nervous about reducing to the degree I wanted to but did it anyway.

It did not work miracles: I’m still horrible at doing dishes but I am forced to wash them more often this way, which keeps clutter in the kitchen down significantly.

Overall if one reduces the amount of stuff they own and use it will reduce the amount of clutter in the home.

I have been actively working toward a more minimal lifestyle for a couple of years now but just this past year has seen a dramatic improvement in how much time I actually spend cleaning.

I don’t have to clean as much because I don’t have as much to clean. Which translates into more time for me and the kid.

I spend less time shopping, and more time doing other things that I enjoy. I do spend a little more time in food preparation, however. It takes a few minutes more to chop up veggies from scratch than it does to microwave a pizza or nuke a burrito (both of which I’m famous for) but the meals are healthier and more tasty.

My electric bill has went down as well: last month it was $30 and this month around $25.  I credit this to not using my clothes dryer as well as other things.

All of this has me thinking that perhaps I can reduce a bit more, and once again I am eyeing my possessions wondering what else I can eliminate from my life.  The clutter control factor of having less stuff really rocks, and I’ve got to pursue this further.

Life Without Air Conditioning

ac fan

I have an air conditioner.  Actually this trailer came with two. So far this year I have yet to turn them on even once.

I could say this is to save money, but honestly I really don’t like air conditioning.

When you run the air conditioner you get used to the cooler air, making it incredibly uncomfortable to go outside “in the heat.” You cannot open your doors or windows—you become trapped within your home just as surely as if someone locked you in!

I love having open windows and doors—the ability to come and go outside as I please!

I am fortunate in that I live in a mobile home. The way it is designed I can control the airflow through the home via opening or closing certain windows. I keep a box fan in my daughter’s window sucking in cool air, which forces a bit of circulation here, and then I use other fans in whatever area I happen to be in.

I use a window fan in my bedroom window at night pulling in the cool night air and allowing it to waft over my floor-level bed. That breeze feels so good at night!

When I visit friends’ homes I hate it. I freeze with all of their air conditioning.  I have to wear jackets inside their homes because my body has not adapted to the cold air, and when I leave I am extremely hot for a time until my body adapts again.

In my car if I’m not driving on the interstate I just leave the windows down, but I use the air conditioner to chill the air when on the big road. Turn the settings to recirculate that cooler air then turn off the AC… it keeps it just cool enough that way to be comfortable without having too much wind.

Do you live without air conditioning? I would love to hear your story!

That's Life!

On November 7, 2005, I got up early and created a blog post. The picture that accompanied that post was a big question mark, and the title was "Who will it be?" Our daughter Rachel was in the hospital that day preparing for a repeat C-section to deliver our second grandchild. The new baby already had an older sister in the family, and we knew Caroline well, so we thought there would probably be similarities in whatever sibling joined the family. Only....that morning, we didn't know the gender or anything about what the new baby would look like. Rachel and her husband had chosen to be surprised, so, of course, we all were! We didn't know this information beforehand, but we did know the date and approximate time, since repeat C-sections are scheduled. Some things we knew; some things were a total surprise!

Now we're in the same ocean in a different boat. In this boat are our son and daughter-in-law, expecting their first child. However, this time, we know the gender - a boy - who will be named Joshua. We can even see in this ultrasound a pretty good preview of what he will look like! But....we don't know the date or time of labor or delivery, and we certainly don't have a sibling to wonder about similarities. Some things we know; some things will be a total surprise!

I have always said that life is never boring for me. Most people assume that is because I have so many hobbies - quilting, sewing, cross-stitching, singing, piano, harp, making greeting cards, photography, etc. Even my medical transcription career is usually challenging and exciting. But there is another reason I'm never bored - life itself. There are always surprises, one can never assume, and the very scenario you create for yourself frequently changes before your eyes - ultimately full of mystery and amazement. What wants to get up every morning and know exactly what the day will bring? A major hotel chain used to tout the fact that they had "no surprises." In other words, you could be assured that every time you stayed in that hotel, every room would be exactly the same, no matter where in the world you were. I guess to some, that was comfortable familiarity, but to me, that was not a selling point in their favor! Around the same time, fast food chains were making sure that one of their burgers in Arkansas tasted exactly the same as one of their burgers in Alaska. Again, familiarity, no surprises, but something in their favor? Not for me, thanks. I remember when my sister visited Maine a few years ago. We were planning to eat breakfast out, and there was a Denny's nearby, inexpensive and convenient, same everywhere. But she was adamant: "I didn't come all the way to Maine to eat at Denny's!" How true - so we ended up with delicious blueberry pancakes with real Maine maple syrup at a locally owned diner.

Of course, with surprises, there are always pleasant ones and unwelcome ones. As the old song says about love and marriage..."you can't have one without the other." In my experience, though, I firmly believe that I have had many, many, many more happy surprises and blessings than the other way around. I have fortunately had the wherewithal to deal with the setbacks as well as the ability to appreciate and enjoy life's unexpected enchanting moments.

At Caroline's recent 7th birthday party, her other grandmother was telling me a cute true story about surprises. A mother asked her little girl what she wanted to be when she grew up. The girl thought a minute, then said, "A doctor..." With this answer, the mother beamed. She thought how smart her kid was, how proud she would be of her chosen profession. Then in the next breath, the little girl, still deep in thought and unfinished in her reply, said, "....or a pumpkin."

Just when you think it's over, there's always something else to hear - or create, or manage, or learn, or reconsider, or work on, or be astonished by... Hey, that sounds familiar! That sounds like life! And in two months or so, a little baby named Joshua will be entering this crazy world and discovering what all the fuss is about. I can hardly wait!

People Think You’re Nuts for Not Wanting Stuff

I have got to share this with you! A blog post that so accurately mirrors my feelings on the whole “stuff” issue I honestly could not write on it any better!

I have been told so many times that it is not normal to live with as little as I do—and I am not near where others are in simplicity and minimalism!

I’ve got stuff, too much of it in my opinion, but I don’t want to get rid of things before I am completely ready. I know that this is one race best ran at a slow and steady pace, with lifelong changes instead of temporary ones.

Simplicity is not about how low you can go—it is about how low you WANT to go. Trick is, not everyone has the same attitude as I do about stuff. Or the same attitude that you do for that matter.

To some, simplicity and minimalism may mean a floor that doesn’t have stuff to trip you when you walk from one room to another. To others it may mean a room with almost nothing within it.  This doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with me or with the person who disagrees—we just have different ideas and different preferences.

I don’t go into other people’s homes and tell them they have too much stuff, yet I have had several who have came to my home and blatantly said I have too LITTLE stuff.

When I clean it I must admit I disagree with the notion I have too little (smile).

When I pay the bills I must disagree that I have too little space.

When I sit here when the kid is gone I REALLY disagree with the fact that I have too little space and not enough to fill it! I would be perfectly content in a home half this size for just me.

I can’t say that I “never” want stuff—I’m human like everyone else. My wants and needs are simply different, you know?

So when you come to my home don’t feel you have to offer me televisions, beds, couches and other furniture—I am perfectly content with that I already have. If I want something different I’m sure you’ll hear about it when I begin my search for whatever it is. :)

Anyhow, that’s my rant for the evening. If you get a chance visit David’s blog and read his post. Bookmark him if you like what he has to say, cause he comes up with some excellent posts and ideas.


One of my coworkers was complaining last week that she needed yet another new set of tires, because her tires seemed to give out every 19,000 miles. She was bemoaning the inconvenience, the expense, and especially the problem of no guarantee on the particular tires she had been purchasing.

I buy products all the time that disillusion me. After I get one home and unpack it from its box or impenetrable plastic shrink wrap, I note in the accompanying brochure that there is a guarantee of ONE YEAR. Instead of being reassured, I am frustrated. One year? This product that the company is advertising as reliant, safe, exceptionally well made, is so bad that they can only guarantee that it will work for ONE YEAR? That's a guarantee? Sounds like a warning to me!

I've always been a guarantee-desiring person. Back in college, I wanted to join the show choir. However, you couldn't just join - you had to audition, the process of which was frightening to me. My professor, Dr. Fleming, director of show choir (I was a music major) asked me to try out. I told him I was too scared because I thought I wouldn't make it. He persisted and did everything in his power to persuade me to audition - everything, of course, except guarantee my acceptance, which would not have been an ethical move. My fear of failure, minuscule as it was, won the day, and I never did try out. Of course, today I can look back and realize that I am sure I would have been chosen, and I also realize my professor had the confidence that I wouldn't have a problem - but my fearful nature got the best of me.

Although I've done my share of stupid things in my life, I don't consider myself a huge risk-taker. Without a guarantee of safety and/or success, I just get intimidated. That is one of the most challenging life lessons I have had to learn. Life has no guarantees. You aren't guaranteed you're marrying the right person, aren't guaranteed your children will be healthy and intelligent, aren't guaranteed your pet will live a long life free from problems, aren't guaranteed you will always have your job, your house, or your health. You aren't guaranteed that if you perform in public, you won't mess up. You aren't guaranteed that your book you submit will be published (well, unless you're Stephen King, and then in the beginning he was rejected too). You aren't guaranteed a new diet will work or the new haircut will be what you envisioned. You aren't guaranteed that you'll see whales on a whale watch or moose on a drive through northern Maine. You aren't guaranteed that during the simplification process, that book or coat you are giving away is not something you may need a few months down the road. You aren't guaranteed that the dress you are sewing will look like the picture on the pattern. You can't even start a quilt and be guaranteed that all the seams will match up perfectly. (Well, on that latter one, you can pretty well be guaranteed that they won't match up perfectly.) Some of these things we have more control of than others, but despite our best efforts, there still is no guarantee of a favorable outcome.

The key to all this is to know that every choice in life has risks, some big, some small, and when the time comes that the end result is failure or humiliation or just frustrating inconvenience, we pick ourselves up and move on. Really, life would be boring if we had a guarantee of success in everything we attempted. At least that's what I keep saying to myself when things don't work out as planned.

Meanwhile, I thank Dr. Fleming for not guaranteeing me a spot in the show choir. Maybe it helped me grow up a little. I've had to spend the rest of my life working on my fears, and I know fear of failure has been a big one. That was a good first step to my realizing I had a problem.

Now on to my halfway-finished highly imperfect crib quilt I'm making for my grandson due to be born in July. The seams are not all ideally matched, but something tells me he really won't care.

Storage Solutions For Small Spaces

I stumbled upon this article at Associated Content about Storage Solutions for Small Spaces. She not only has some good tips about storage but about clutter control as well.

If you get a moment check out the article. There may be something in there that strikes a minimalist chord in your heart!

Have a nice day!

Missing Google Docs Offline


on screen keyboard

One of the things I did to make life simpler was move all of my word processing to Google Docs. I love working in the cloud with the exception of one thing: Intermittent Internet Access.

I tend to do my best writing while on the go, and nothing is more annoying than having to juggle multiple programs and files. When I discovered Google Docs had an offline feature that used Google Gears I jumped on it.

It was so wonderful to be able to write and access stuff on my laptop wherever my muse led me, uploading and synchronizing when I was once again connected to the Internet.

Google disabled offline access as of May 3, 2010.

Once again I no longer have access to my cloud documents when I am not connected to the Net. Once again I have to use other word processing programs to write and then upload them at a later time.

GDocs, oh GDocs! How I miss my offline access!

While the wonderful creators of Google docs are hard at work on the issue that forced them to disable offline access, I surely do miss it! Life is not as simple as it used to me when I could depend on a single word processing program!

Simplicity in Friendships


Sometimes you just have to ditch the complicated ones.  Yup, just drive away.

Should I? Shouldn't I? What to do?

Here is what I am cautiously considering.

When I was fifteen, I came across the Fioretti (the Little Flowers of St Francis), and totally fell in love with everything that Francis stood for. I tried out preaching to the animals like he did. I used to go and stand at the bottom of the sheep field, and sing in tongues for the sheep. Normally unless you had a bucket of sheep nuts in your hand to rattle, they would completely ignore you – apart from looking up to say hello before they carried on chewing – but when I sang in tongues to them, it had an electrifying effect. They would skip and buck, and come tearing down the hill and jostle in tight around me.

One of the field boundaries was a river, and one summer it dried up. I came home from school to find the sheep had all walked off down the river bed. What to do? I thought I’d better go quick and get them back. The problem was, in that narrow space, getting the other side of them – because obviously as I got nearer they’d move on further. I had just dashed off to see where they’d gone and hadn’t thought to get some food to attract them back. Then I thought to sing to them in tongues – and they came at once and followed me home with no trouble at all. I had a similar experience with cows in random places (we didn’t have any of our own); but the birds and the fishes ignored me – even so my experiences with the sheep made me not dismiss the stories of Francis preaching to the birds and fish as mere fables. I bet he did, you know.

I loved his barefoot way and his humility. I’ve tried to do it. In those early teenage days, I did occasional things – I’ve never told anyone this, it feels a bit embarrassing to write it down – like once when one of the cats had shat on the lawn, I cleared up the cat shit (it had dried in the sun I hasten to add) and buried it in the flower bed just with my bare hands. I would really hope to be able to report that I washed my hands after, but I don’t remember that I did. I know humility is meant to be relational, but I was on my own most of the time, so self-abasement R us when that's you.

When I was 19 I wanted to be a Poor Clare, but I also fell in love with a wonderful musician, free spirit, into Zen. I prayed what to do. I put it before the Lord that if my musician asked me to marry him, then I would; if he didn’t, I would ask to be a Poor Clare. So here I am at 52, with 5 wonderful musician daughters! My musician husband proved a free spirit indeed, and flew the cage with another bird ten years ago, but we’re still good friends.

And all my life the simplicity of St Francis has tugged at me, tugged at me. I’m quite a lot like him. A bit daft. I love beautiful things and am appallingly extravagant. Money leaves my hands as quick as it comes in, and I would give away anything. I love groovy hippy clothes. I am a bit of a clown and a performer, and am prey to racking self-doubt and remorse about things. that goes spiralling down and down to black-red. I love Mother Earth, and I see everything that is as my sister and brother. I believe in humility and in the power of forgiveness. I love to live small and shabby, and try to choose the little way, and shun all self-advertisement. But I lack the absolute quality of his vision. Mine is the kind of vision that wears socks in winter and says ‘oh, sod it, let’s eat out’ and misses Compline because there’s something good on the telly. You see what I mean? That’s not like Francis, is it? I play fivestones with the pebbles in the foothills while he's on the mountain-top praying in the snow. There's no chance of me going blind from watching and weeping and praying or being given the stigmata, I assure you!

Even so, in my way, I have struggled along making what headway I could towards simplicity and sharing. I’ve brought up my children in that kind of way, and now 5 of us (Tony my husband now, and my three youngest daughters) live together in community, living very simply, supporting ourselves by the work of our hands in ways that do good and live out the Gospel.

I have reason to believe that some people think I’m a really really really crap Christian (reason? They tell me so). And I think I upset the Poor Clares in our town. I daren’t go and see them now. What happened is, when they moved in we went to see them and took them some bits to say hi and welcome, and I had a car then (a 2nd-hand Nissan Micra) so said if they ever needed a lift anywhere they could call me. What I had in mind was like if it was raining or they needed to get out into one of the villages where the bus doesn’t go.

At the time I was living in a tiny cottage on the edge of a wood, (with Bernard my second husband, who died; it was his cottage, he built it) where the mice and squirrels came in and the birds flew through the house. Loved it. Anyway I got a letter from the Poor Clares saying they had some dignitary from the Vatican coming and would I go and pick him up from Gatwick Airport. Mouth went dry. Heart began to thump. Gatwick Airport? On the big roads? Motorway, multi-lane traffic? I couldn’t do that. Bernard couldn’t do that. Nobody I knew could do that. I thought about it for a bit and then wrote back and explained that because I was poor and all the people I knew were poor, that meant we none of us ever went anywhere much really, so we were all terrified of driving on the big roads and none of us had ever been to the airport and you might as well ask us to drive to the moon. I explained that there’s a train from Gatwick Airport, and if he could catch that we could meet him at the station. And I (this was probably not well advised) said that they had come here with the idea of living among the poor, but this was what living among the poor meant – no-one ever goes to the airport; and that I thought their dignitary from the Vatican would do well to get his head round that if he wanted to visit the Poor Clares living in poverty among the poor. So I think that didn’t go down too well, because I never heard from them again, and I’m scared to go near them now. I wouldn’t be scared if it was Francis himself, because I know he’d understand, and forgive me my rudeness, but – well, the sheep aren’t the shepherd, are they? I want to go back. I want to go to their prayers sometimes. But I think I’d better not.

Now there is this thing tugging at my heart to maybe check out becoming a member of the Third Order of St Francis, but I am scared about that, too. The problem is, I have this way of putting authority figures in a real big rage. What do I mean by that? Well… the then secretary to the Methodist Conference got absolutely furious one time. The sort of thing that made him angry was (eg) once I said to him that as a teenager I had been taught to ask always ‘what would Jesus do?’ and I didn’t think Jesus would ever have spoken to me like he just had. So he blew his top and said how dare I and threatened to terminate the conversation. It got worse after that and he accused me of all kinds of things in the end. My Chairman of District made him apologise as none of it was true, but even after we were friends again he said I was 'born to rattle the cage of the Methodist Church'. Glory! I hope not! What a waste of time! And once the priest of the church I go to now (but not its present priest - a different one) wrote me a letter (I burned it at once in case anyone ever saw it and thought he was evil) saying I was a totally sick psychotic person who went round damaging everyone/everything. He might be right of course. And I think the church doesn’t love me a lot since I left the ordained ministry. Hey-ho. And of course a person can follow in the way of St Francis without joining anything.

If you join, you have to give them money, but I don’t know how much. I do have money, but not that much. Tony puts in my housekeeping money for me. And he gives me money for my extravagances (eg buying a book on Pirateology for my godson yesterday, and some farm animals and The Gruffalo’s Child for our grandson) too.

Also if you join, you have to have a spiritual director. I only had one once. She gave me tedious Ignatian exercises to do which I found immensely boring. They talk a bit religious, don’t they, usually – spiritual directors? And that’s not really me. And you have to pay them. My boring Ignatian one was £30 a throw – and a train fare up to London.

After my first husband left and we’d lost our home and I had no job and all the Trauma Years began, I asked my doctor if maybe I should have counseling – which my daughter No 2 thought maybe I should, to stop being practical and start getting in touch with my grief. But my doctor said wise women were hard for men to live with and thought I probably wouldn’t be counsellable. So I didn’t. Are they directable either?

As you can tell I am drawn to this Third Order thing a lot but very scared of it too. I love St Francis, and Jesus, and simplicity. But I also feel that ‘uh-oh, here we go’ feeling about attempting to join anything. I spend most of my time alone and writing except for spending time with the household here. I have gone a bit feral really, and was never that easy to fit in before.

What to do? What? What?

You don't suppose they have meetings where they wear polyester habits or something do you?

Eliminating The Need for Laptop and Desktop


If you are mobile at all, the chances of you having both a laptop and a desktop are very likely. Laptops have cramped keys on a keyboard that you cannot rearrange separate from the screen meaning that you cannot independently  position them for maximum comfort.

There is an article about converting an Acer Aspire One netbook into a desktop, and frankly that same method can be used on laptops as well, though the specific steps may be different.

Check it out. It may help you to eliminate the cost of yet another gadget in your life.

It's all inside

How much is too much? How much is not enough? Was a man who has a net worth of 500 million dollars for some reason not satisfied when he reached 300 million dollars? How much is too much food? Too many clothes? Too much TV or computer time? Too many errors in a report? Too long a wait for an impossible dream? Too much sleep, or not enough? Too much job stress and not enough job satisfaction? Too much wasted time? Too many notes? (Mozart actually had criticism of his music!)

The thing about the "terrible toos" is that the answers have to be considered by individuals and generally not collectively. What may be sufficient food for one person 6 feet tall may be way too much food for me at a little over 5 feet.

Ed and I were talking about corporate and personal greed this morning. How do we monitor our needs and wants? How do we control our wants of "more" while we meet our needs? How would my life be different if I could have an abundance of the good habits and cut back on the bad ones? I mentioned seeing one of those inspirational signs to stick up on your mirror that said, "At this moment have everything I need." I said that sounded so calming to me. Ed was not so sure. He said, "That sounds all New Age and everything, but it's not necessarily true. Not in real life." I thought for a minute. Yes, I suppose he's right. Everyone has unmet needs, whether it's money to pay the oil bill or some other kind of need, maybe emotional, that is not being met. When you are dependent on circumstances or other people to meet your needs, there will always be holes.

However, the more I thought about that little sign, the more I decided there was truth in there. So in my head, I changed that little sign to read, "At this moment I have everything I need inside myself." That puts the emphasis not on outside forces, but on inside powers. Untapped oil reserves? How about untapped powers within each of us? It's the one thing we can control, and it's right here, right now.

As Dorothy found out, she had the power to leave Oz and go home at any time, but just didn't realize it, I have so much more potential already present in me that I just either am not aware of or try to ignore. Maybe it's the fact that with power comes responsibility, and we don't feel ready. It's like being handed a winning lottery ticket, thinking it's just a scrap piece of paper, or sitting on the treasure chest filled with gold, thinking it's just an old bench. The power cannot be accessed until we are aware of its existence.

One of my favorite shows is the reality TV show "The Biggest Loser." These contestants ostensibly use the competition to see who can lose the most weight, but the transformation that usually takes place is as psychological as it is physical. At some moment in the show, most of the players finally realize that they had this mental strength inside them all along, but didn't know it until they were forced beyond their "comfort zone" and challenged to do more and be more. "I didn't know I had it in me!"

So I have to daily remind myself that, yes, I have the energy inside me to do this hour of exercise, I have the skill inside me to transcribe this grueling report, I have the wisdom inside me to make this difficult decision, I have the courage inside me to respond to this challenge, I have the generosity inside me to sacrifice for the greater good, I have the determination inside me to get this task done, I have the patience inside me to be calm in the face of stress, I have the flexibility to adapt to change, I have the intelligence to learn this new software, I have the assurance inside me that I am ready for whatever the future holds, and I have the loving nature inside me that can forgive and move on. All I need to do is be conscious of the presence of these qualities, then reach in and grab them.

That's what introspection does. It's finding out how strong you really are inside, and acting accordingly. You can find the questions above anywhere, discussed on TV, in the newspaper, at the book club meeting or at the family dinner table. The questions are easy. It's the answers that are hard. But asking the questions is a good place to start. "I knew I had it in me!"

Simple Housebreaking?

angel and coco 2010

I have heard of dogs being trained to ring a bell whenever they need to go outside to potty. This would make it better for both the animals and myself—especially since I am struggling to housebreak my cousin’s little Pomeranian.

I found the bell training system at Wally World for ten bucks and grabbed it. Apparently all you do is hang the bell on the doorknob, ringing it when you say the word “outside” or whatever word you use to ask them if they want to go out to potty. They end up associating the bell with going outside and will ring the bell when they need out.

It seems simple enough and doesn’t really change my routine any. I just ring the bell whenever I ask them if they want to go out and wait for them to catch on.

I’m going to try this. At worst I’ll have a neat looking bell for decoration!

A window into Britain under Conservative government

UK friends, before you vote tomorrow, please read this article.

Friends beyond our shores, please pray for us in Britain as we go to the polls.

Shelfster up and Running!

shelfster screenshot

After attempting a repair install with no success I uninstalled and reinstalled the Shelfster Desktop Tool. Now the program is running perfectly with an added perk: I now have access to a tool other than the simple clipping utility. This lists what you have uploaded to Shelfster recently as well as allows you to create new notes without having to upload them using the clipping tool and then going online to update them.

This tool definitely makes it easier! It also lists how much I have uploaded for the month so that I can determine my capacity.

One thing I notice on the webpage but not on the desktop application is the ability to search your items and access them.  While you can do this on the Shelfster website apparently this feature is not part of the desktop tool. The tools seem more specialized to clipping and uploading than dealing with the individual items.

One disadvantage I see to this method would be for those who do not have constant Internet access (e.g. those who go to libraries and Internet cafe’s for their access instead of paying for Internet at home). Not having a way to view and work with your clips offline could hurt in a pinch if you need a note “now.”

I don’t blame Shelfster for the glitch in getting it to work again: I am running Windows 7 64-bit, which sometimes acts really weird on 32-bit programs.

Now that it is back up and running I am making test clips and notes to give it a good workout.  I’ll keep you posted!

OH-FYI: I still have several invitations left for trying this beta version! Send me an email with the subject line “Shelfster Beta” and I’ll be happy to send you the link!

Those who have the link: Please give me a shout and let me know what you think, okay?

General news & hi

Been writing writing writing.

Have nearly finished the second novel of the new trilogy I've set out on, and have begun notes etc for the third.

They feel good - kind of real and what I want to say.

Scrambling to get book 2 finished so I can complete The Road of Blessing,due in to the publisher within a month.

I've given myself bursitis doing this, which is a bit of a bummer! My left arm is all but out of commission & my right elbow creaking badly. Thanks be for Ibuprofen, which is my breakfast dinner & tea at the mo.

Still working through building issues & house repairs, making slow progress - two steps forward, one step back.

Waving to y'all from England. Bless you bless you xxx

Advantages of a Simple Wardrobe



This spring one of the things I have done is drastically reduced my wardrobe.  Where it used to overflow from a giant closet it is now contained in a closet half the size of the former one.

One thing I noticed as I thinned out my wardrobe—I had a lot of duplicates. I prefer a simple unadorned gray or black tee shirt for everyday wear, purchased in packages from the men’s department.  These shirts are inexpensive, lightweight and can handle a lot of abuse as well as going perfectly with my everyday jeans. I discovered quite a large collection of these little shirts, all of which I kept because they actually get used. 

Since reducing the size of my wardrobe I have noticed that I am now wearing a greater variety of clothing than I did in the past. One would think that the opposite would be the case but for me it is not. I think I had so many clothes that it was easier to wear the same things repeatedly instead of digging for something different!

There are a few items that aren’t getting worn currently. Partly because of the season but partly because I will need to reduce a bit more. Later this summer I will evaluate what I have and eliminate some more.

It is much less stressful to choose something from my closet now which I directly attribute to my simplistic, minimalistic path.

I am liking this.