My Day

Sundays are my days. I take the day for my own, protect it, love it and cherish it. There are no "shoulds" on Sundays , as in "I should clean the bathroom" or "I should do the laundry". From the moment I wake up I ask myself, "What do I feel like doing?". The day is shaped around simple pleasures, small things that bring me joy.

One of the first things I did this morning was to meditate, but that is nothing unusual, since I do that everyday. I find if I miss a day of meditation I am out of balance, not as able to take things in stride, I enjoy my life less. So, I definitely felt like meditating, and did so quite happily.
From there I moved downstairs to my workshop and created the doll quilt and matching pillow you see above (Jordan took that great picture for me!). I had thought I was going to create some clipboards today, but I guess that is for another day. While I was sewing away, delightfully all by myself in the basement, I decided my workshop needed some sprucing up. Before I go any further, you must know this about me, I love to rearrange furniture, and even rooms, and do so with regularity and passion! So deciding to rearrange my workspace wasn't all that surprising to my girls, but it sure excited me! It only took me about an hour and a half, but I love it! It feels much crisper and cleaner, it was time well spent!

After lunch I listed the doll quilt in Simply Smitten, and just now got back from a lovely, winter afternoon walk. Jordan decided to come with me, but she isn't much of a chatterbox, and so we moved along mostly in silence, except for the crunching of snow beneath our shoes. And so,that brings me to now, and here I am. There are some things that always need to get done, the animals had to get fed... but I guess that's pretty much it. I've brought up my girls to be very self sufficient, so at 14, 12 and 10 they don't need me much during the course of the day. They've been doing their own laundry for years now, the can cook for themselves, they can definitely entertain themselves and/or each other. I've finally reached a point where I can take a day, and call it my own, and I've encourged them to do the same. Riley has spent much of the days reading, and she listed another Sprout in her shop this morning. Jordan has been knitting and reading, while Taylor has been rewriting a story she wants to get published. Tonight we'll settle in and watch a Walton's together while we snack on some popcorn covered in coconut oil and generously sprinkled with sea salt, all organic of course! It will close up another refreshing, rejuvenating day.
Do I think everyone needs a "Sunday"? Definitely, I've pretty much got my mother convinced, and I've taught my girls to take the time for themselves. As I look around me, I think most people would benefit from a day where they did only what brought them joy. It may not be a Sunday, and it may not be a whole day (although I would definitely recommend that!), just as long as it is time for you. I hope that you have all enjoyed your Sunday, as much as I have mine. Peace & blessings.

Back to Blogging

Oh, where do I begin? It isn't a matter of having nothing to say, but rather a matter of what do I say first? ;) I had a blog a year or so ago, but found that I could not keep up with it. I'm wondering what will happen this time around. I've started blogging again because I'm bombarded with advice to blog, blog, blog as a way of promoting Simply Smitten, and I never have a shortage of things to talk about! :)

This past summer was a time of intense creativity for me, it was crazy really. I found I had different, new ideas every day, so my shop became a mod podge of all my favorite hobbies. Finally, in the late autumn, I had room to breathe again, and began to assess things. First thing I decided was that the handmade cards had to come out of my shop. I was virtually making nothing on them (maybe a dollar when everyone got their piece), and they demanded large amounts of time. It was time to move on.( The great thing now though, I have tons and tons of cards left, and am never short when I need to send out birthday greetings!) So, I systematically went through my shop and settled on the things that carried the most importance to me. I went from 9 pages to about 4. My Inspiration Earth products were at the very top of my list, because that is how I can affect change in this lifetime. It is a passion. A very close second were my personalized clipboards, they may have even tied for first. I simply LOVE to make them. To sit down and create them brings me great joy, and I always look forward to a chunk of time when I can work on them. So, I went with that, earth friendly products and clipboards. I renewed something(s) everyday, listed new items often, and watched as the sales began to trickle in. I'm not bombarded with sales, but at this point, I know I couldn't handle that. I am still homeschooling my girls, doing massive amounts of cooking, caring for way too many animals... but, steady business is what I'm aiming for. I haven't had a sale in about a week, but then sold 6 clipboards to a lovely woman in California 2 days ago. So, I was happy. :) I know that the only way I want to move through this life is doing things that bring me joy. It doesn't always mesh with what others desire of me, but I can't live my life based on the expectations of others. I've also discovered that when I follow my spirit voice, I am joyful, which spreads joy to those around me. It may seem selfish and self centered, but it in no way feels that way. It feels connected, balanced, peaceful. I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and it is a very good place to be.

Did Everett Bogue Kill Minimalism?

Hello all!

As you may have heard, Everett has left the building after declaring Minimalism dead. This may leave some wondering if he is correct. In order to reach the widest audience possible with the answer to this question I placed it on Associated Content by Yahoo. The link is below:

Did Everett Bogue Kill Minimalism? - Associated Content from Yahoo! -


The Menu

Now that Rachel’s vegan-bound,

We’re looking for some common ground.

In browsing through our family tree,

Here is what pops out at me.

Veggies are a vegan “yes,”

Which sounds OK, nevertheless

They can’t be touching Rachel’s fork

If they are cooked with ham or pork.

My son-in-law enjoys the sweets

Hard to live without his treats.

Not so fond of tofu dishes;

Tasty food is what he wishes.

My son’s disgust with greens is true,

Lettuce trauma through and through.

Black-eyed peas at New Year’s fling?

Nope - brings his lunch from Burger King!

The veggies he can do without,

The meat is what he’s all about.

Sarah’s got her diet plans,

I’m not sure what she eats or bans.

Her regimen's not so off-beat,

Except she doesn’t like thick meat.

Ed and I are different, too.

We have some things that we eschew.

Avoiding carbs is our big goal,

Omit the pasta from our bowl.

Each of us is on a plan

Of which the other’s not a fan.

What will thus our menu be

The next meal for our family?

This is so hard! This is so new!

What will we cook? What will we do?

On second thought, there’s never been

A time, to my bemused chagrin,

When our illustrious varied brood

Ate every dish and every food.

We’ve always had our little quirks,

And compromised to learn what works.

I can’t predict at this point whether

Our next big meal we eat together

Will appease our every taste,

Or look to some like toxic waste.

But then, who cares? To each his own!

We eat together, not alone.

We may have more from which to choose,

Finding out whose dish is whose.

But what’s the thing we ne’er debate?

Love is served with every plate!

Ann Voskamp - One Thousand Gifts - what a phenomenon!!

For me, it started with Nonna Jennifer-Anne on Facebook, posting links and asking us, “Have you heard of this book?”

She meant this book.  It came out on January 17th - that's eleven days ago.  It's in Amazon's top ten best seller list.  If you get as far as typing "One..." in the search box on Amazon, "One Thousand Gifts" is their second suggestion!  Today it has 170 reviews on Amazon - eleven more than yesterday!!  Whoa!!!

As the days went by I was coming across more and more instances of people talking about Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. They were not saying, “Jolly good book,” they were saying they will never be the same again because it has transformed them, turned their lives upside down. They couldn’t stop reading, they are buying as many copies as they can afford to give away.

Here's one review, by Katherine Mary Johnson.  Does anyone else get reviews like that??

I must get this book I thought (naturally). It’s published by Zondervan and only just out, so it’s not yet available at a sensible price on UK Amazon. Obviously the thing to do would be to buy it at US Amazon, but while I was just pondering this an email came in from my good friend Julie F. She’s really Julie B, but to me she’s Julie F for Julie Faraway. And she’d written to say: “I am reading a book right now that is literally rocking my world . . . I'm about 1/3 of the way through her One Thousand Gifts and I hope I never recover. Like your books, I will want to read this over and over, and I am not someone who reads books again very often.” And she was offering to send me a copy as a gift! YAY!! So I said “Yes, please!” :0D (I left that bit in about my books – thanks Julie!)

But Julie also asked had I seen Ann Voskamp’s blog A Holy Experience? I had seen it briefly because I read a post on it about Christmas, in December; but I went across and had a proper look at is as a blog rather than just reading a post, if you see what I mean. Oh, my! I am so impressed. Friends, if there are any writers among you reading this and wondering how to navigate your way across the seas of blogging – take this as your compass. Ann Voskamp has everything! Not only are her promotional and design ideas clever – seriously savvy – but the soul behind them is authentic; honest and wise and interesting and beautiful and luminous. You can promote until you’re blue in the face but if all you are is a storefront and the goods are second-rate, people will spot that sooner or later. But Ann Voskamp is the real deal. Her creativity is amazing, her talent is stunning, her way with words is superb. And there’s something else too that what I’ve said so far hasn’t covered – something in my description that leaves her sounding a bit less than she is. There’s Holy Spirit in what she’s doing; it has the touch of grace (one of her favourite words, I think).

And now I have to confess something. I am also a writer – and I work hard at what I do: and boy, when I saw what she is and what she has achieved, did I feel jealous!! Quakers, as you know, never doffed their hats to anybody. In the case of Ann Voskamp, I make an exception. Go, lady! What a phenomenon. And guess what? She’s beautiful as well !

Get that book in the post, Julie F! I am so looking forward to reading it!

Serendipitous synchronicity; a kairos moment

Just the oddest thing happened today.

I’m a reclusive type and don’t go out much.  Through this winter with its rain wind snow ice cold, I’ve near hibernated and been out very little.  Yesterday I decided I needed more exercise – and Fi said well why not walk down to the masonry with Hebe in the mornings.  Aha yes! I thought – I meant to do that!  I can work a split shift – writing and correspondence from the early hour when I wake, then get up for breakfast bath walk and all the active jobs – ironing and preparing meals and doing what Magdalena calls ‘gadding about’  :0)  Then back to writing in the evening.
So for the first time in a long time I walked down to the sea’s edge, where the masonry is, with Hebe today.  We went our usual route, through the park, crossing the busy road that bisects Bohemia, then down the road where Rosie lives, along the alley, then various little backstreets down to the sea.
On Bohemia, the side of the road with the baker and pharmacy and grocer’s store is busy.  The other side with the fishbait shop, the dry-cleaner and the double-glazing showroom is not.
Hebe and I came up from the park ready to cross the road at Bohemia.  I saw a chance to cross, nothing coming but a little red car going quite slowly, and went for it.  Hebe opted for caution and waited.  Then a wave of traffic came from nowhere, so we both waited: she waited to cross and I waited for her.  So it came about that, after a winter of going out hardly at all, on a route that consisted mainly of alleys, backstreets and the park, I stood doing nothing by a busy road on the side of the street where I was more visible, for a minute or so.
There is an odd thing about me: nobody recognises me.  Sometimes they don’t even see me at all.  Even people I’ve known for years.  They will pass me inches away and not see me.  Even my family.  I can go into a small shop and stand browsing beside a woman who counts herself a dear friend, safe in the knowledge that she won’t breach the peace of my solitude because she won’t see me.  But all that’s changed.  Now I wear Plain dress (well, I call it Plain - quaint and old-fashioned, with headcovering), everybody recognises me – because no one else dresses like this.
This winter a friend from Quaker meeting asked if anyone wanted to share a subscription to The Friend – I gladly put my hand up for that.  We agreed that she would take out the subscription, I’d pay half, she’d get the journals then pass them on to me.  Only she sometimes forgets.  I don’t mind at all because I don’t get round to reading them right away – I just like to have them by for when there’s a quiet moment (Ha!  A what?).  Anyway she’d accumulated a pile of three or four that she kept forgetting to bring to meeting, so this morning she set out to find me.  She had my address but didn’t know where my house was – unfamiliar neighbourhood.  So she came up from the sea driving slowly along Bohemia while her husband followed the map.  And they saw me just standing there.
A couple of minutes before I’d been down in the park out of sight of any driver.  A minute before I’d been on the busy side of the road, divided also by a stream of traffic from the direction my friend was taking in her car.  A minute later I’d be round the corner in Rosie’s road. Just for that brief while out of the whole of this winter I was standing there alone on that less crowded side of the street, wearing highly recognisable Plain dress, doing nothing in particular; in the same minute as my friends drove by looking for me.
They saw me, they waved, they managed to pull up to the edge of the road, and they were able to hand me the copies of The Friend and then drive away.  Meanwhile Hebe had crossed Bohemia, so we were ready to duck down the next little road out of sight.
How weird is all of that?!

Want to see how we while away a quiet afternoon?

Mikey was fast asleep in his stroller in the passage, so for once his mother was free to play the piano without young Beethoven on her lap joining in.

Grace playing, Alice standing, Hebe crouching on the floor to stop the hymn book falling off the piano, me making masterly video:

If you want to sing along, these are the words:

Sinners Jesus will receive;
Sound this word of grace to all
Who the heavenly pathway leave,
All who linger, all who fall.

    Sing it o'er and o'er again;
    Christ receiveth sinful men;
    Make the message clear and plain:
    Christ receiveth sinful men.

Come, and He will give you rest;
Trust Him for His word is plain;
He will take the sinfulest;
Christ receiveth sinful men.

Now my heart condemns me not,
Pure before the law I stand;
He who cleansed me from all spot,
Satisfied its last demand.

Christ receiveth sinful men,
Even me with all my sin;
Purged from every spot and stain,
Glory I shall enter in.

If you like this hymn and want to learn it, you can find it here at a more sedate speed, words with music to sing along to  :0O   :0D
And then we sang another hymn.  This time Hebe, even more masterly than I am, made the film.  To get us all in shot she held the camera the other way.  She forgot to turn it off at the end, so it went sideways in the last bit.  We all thought this was hilarious and decided not to edit it out.  Now, unfortunately, when Grace loaded it to YouTube, it proved impossible to get it to load both the right way up and with the music in sync with the film.  She had to choose.  So she loaded it in sync - sideways.  Those of you with laptops, you can turn your puters sideays to watch it.  Those of you with desktop puters will have to turn your heads sideways! Or... I suppose you may decide to give it a miss...

It's only more Burdens Are Lifted At Calvary.  Anyway, here we are!  :0)

If you're wondering why Grace has a pair of underpants on the front of her top (!), well that's her "say pants to poverty" t-shirt...

Dahn the plug'ole!

Well, I just came in from meeting. Not straight in and to the puta – I stopped on the way for a little snackerel or two, and I have a delish cup of camomile tea here with me – food helps thoughts to formulate… possibly…

Anyway, Quaker First Day meeting; that’s where I’ve been.

Back in the early 80’s I belonged to a group called the Ashburnham Stable Family, started by John Bickersteth, who was 150% God’s man – a privilege to have known him. I won’t tell thee much about that except only this one thing: there was a rule about coming to meeting. The rule was this: every person who came participated; no bystanders, no observers, no sitting on the fence. During the week each of us was to listen to God with an expectant heart, waiting to hear what God’s word was for us regarding the Stable Family Thursday meeting. We had to have heard by Tuesday, so we could phone Joe or Susie or Edmund or Tim and say, “I believe we should be singing this song,” or “We’ve practiced a dance,” or “I think the Lord wants me to bring a prophecy, so I’ve put it in the post for you to check,” or “I’ve composed a saxophone piece to play,” or “I think I will be required to bring an interpretation for a prayer in tongues;” and so on and so on.

After studying the chapters on public worship in 1 Corinthians, our teachers had reached the understanding that the meeting should be ordered – not a spontaneous free-for-all, but ordered; but each one should come prepared, as the apostle teaches in chapter 14. So we came with hearts and minds prepared, and sometimes what we were prepared to bring was simply our presence and our silence – and that was ministry too.

So from those days I got used to the idea that if something is tugging at my soul all week and won’t go away, it’s probably meant for ministry for the meeting. And that happened to me this week. ALL WEEK I have had this song on my mind, but insistently!

When I came into meeting this morning, I’d forgotten about it. And then it started up again. Now, because it had been in my mind all week and I’d been singing it over and over, by the time I got to meeting, I actually knew the words (well two verses anyway, which was the most I could manage without passing out from sheer terror anyway). At the beginning of the week I knew only the tune.

I had a sense that it was for people who were labouring, people oppressed with sorrow and care. Otherwise I might have ignored it. Our meeting seems to me to be a liberal meeting, with what you might call a broad theology, and I felt not at all sure they would receive so evangelical a ditty with thanksgiving. But if the Lord had sent it for people struggling and in sorrow, I couldn’t sit on it, could I? So I sang it to them. And like the good Quakers they are, they received it with humility and kindness.

We also had a few other ministries, delightful – one in particular being an understanding of the transfiguration as Jesus’s meeting for clearness, Moses and Elijah supporting him [in choosing the revolutionary direction of suffering and self-sacrifice that altered beyond recognition the understanding of the Messiah]. The bit in square brackets is my own gloss.

I was rather scared of bringing that song, and prefaced the singing of it by explaining how times when we are in darkest sorrow and struggle, we are walking, sometimes unawares, shoulder to shoulder with the divine principle of suffering love that takes upon itself the sum of human sorrow and even redeems the world. I guess I thought that sounded a bit more Quakerly than just smacking folk between the eyes with an evangelical hymn, even if at the prompting of the Spirit. And I said that I thought it might not sit right well with the theology of the meeting, so begged the people, if it was not their idiom, to receive it in the spirit of diversity not controversy. And so they did, God bless them.

But this thing of ministry, of ‘I’m gonna sing when the Spirit says sing, and obey the Spirit of the Lord,’ well it feels a bit at times like I’m walking right along there but then I discover that keeping company with the living God is somewhat like getting the hem of my coat caught in the door of a moving vehicle – “Uh-oh! Whoa! Here we go!!” He doesn’t always travel at my speed.

I’ve come to terms with headcovering and Plain dress – which did take some doing and determination – but NOW I can feel the tug-tug-tug all over again: this time with regard to Quaker Plain speech. You know? “Thee” and “Thy”.

I have two problems with this.

1) It’s one more thing that’s weird, eccentric, non-mainstream – and frankly I don’t need any help in that direction.

2) The Quaker application of it is – I don’t know why; why did they do that? – non-grammatical. They don’t say “thou think’st”, they say “thee thinks” WHICH IS WRONG!!!! But Quakerly.

So I have to grit my teeth and get over English language structures and the purgatory of Sounding Weird, if I am to go with this leading – which of course I am. “Thee gonna look stupid when the Spirit says look stupid, and obey the Spirit of the Lord.”

These leadings, they hardly even admit of any discussion. It feels like the calm flowing river along which one was peacefully punting suddenly gathered speed as all unsuspecting one found oneself sucked towards the weir. Uh-oh, here we go – Daaaaahn the plug’ole!

A vegan? In our family?

I never majored in sociology (almost did, but chose music). However, I am always interested in reading about what's going on in our culture. I can't help but notice that more and more people are shying away from marriage, even to the point of having children in an unwed/nonlegal relationship, and the divorce rate is still about 50%. Now some folks will immediately delve into the morality of all this, but that's not what I'm interested in. I'm intrigued about why marriage is so difficult. I will have been married for 37 years this August, so I have a little experience on my side here.

Two people have a mutual attraction, and decide to commit the rest of their lives to each other. When you think about it, that's one of the most major decisions you can make, except for becoming a parent. Why is this hard? Because both partners grow. They change. They become in some cases totally different people. The hope and expectation is, of course, they will both grow together in the same direction. The hard part is when they don't.

For instance, I got married at age 19. I am now 56. I can honestly say I am 80% a totally different person than when I got married. My beliefs have changed, new wisdom has (I hope!) influenced me, I have a different level of patience and priorities, I have adopted several hobbies/interests that I did not previously have, I have developed new fears and anxieties, and habits, and I eat differently. My taste in clothes, living environment, and a host of other things has changed. I certainly do look different.

Meanwhile, my husband Ed has changed also. He was 27 when we married; now he is 64. He used to drink excessively until he got sober in 1984. He used to smoke cigarettes when we met; now he smokes pipes and is trying to cut down on that. He too has changed his way of eating, the kind of clothes he prefers, and how he chooses to spend his time. And, yes, he does look different too!

I am not the woman he married, and he is not the man I married. Things never stay the same. How can a 19-year-old girl know enough to commit the entire rest of her life to one person?

This is why they say marriage is hard work. The work comes, I think, not just because two people living together are bound to get on each other's nerves, but because the two people grow. They grow as a couple, true, but they grow as individuals. Some couples grow apart; others grow closer. Some partners are excited to watch the changes in their chosen mate; others are apprehensive or even aghast to watch their life partner morph into a stranger. The key is to give your loved one the freedom to grow and change and the hard part is honoring your commitment to be there for a lifetime.

No wonder 50% of marriages end in divorce. This is a hard pill to swallow. And I can totally understand the fact that so many marriages don't work out, because sometimes people do grow apart, so far apart that they have nothing in common anymore. I am not here to preach morality - just to try to understand reality. Lord knows I would never be able to hold my marriage history up for moral inspection and I'm not about to do that to anyone else!

What started me thinking about individuals in a marriage changing this week is that our daughter has progressed from omnivore to vegetarian to vegan. She is married to a meat-eater and she is the family cook. Her poor husband - he didn't marry a vegan! But he's married to one now! He's probably frantically going through their marriage vows, trying to find out where he promised to "love and cherish in tofu and tempeh."

I didn't marry a preacher (but he became one), I didn't marry a pipe smoker (but he became one), and I certainly didn't marry a man with gray hair and beard whose body shows as much signs of aging as my own. I married a cigarette-smoking drunk. I was fortunate that he changed. I hope as well he thinks that most of the changes I have gone through have been for the better.

It's not just our spouses who are changing. Our kids change and grow before our very eyes. As they do, each one becomes an individual, unique, and whatever that is, we deal with it because that is the commitment we have made. We may not have made it knowing that autism or cerebral palsy or drug addiction or leukemia or even vegan versus omnivore would become part of the bargain, but we made the commitment all the same.

Change is not always good, not always bad, but it will happen as assuredly as there will be over 20 inches of snow on our ground by tonight. Today I am praying that we are all equipped to cope with changes - in ourselves and our loved ones both - and that sometimes means being more observer than reactant, with both sides willing to compromise and see another point of view - because it is almost always the case that both sides have something worth teaching, and staying open-minded is imperative.

Happy veganism, Rachel, and good luck, Chris! You are only reaffirming the adage that life is always an adventure and you never know what's around the corner!


My sister in her job receives queries from authors who are writing articles for magazines or books, and if one looks particularly applicable, she passes it on to me. This week, an author is looking for women to write about a woman who had an impact on their lives. As I tried to put my specific story in writing about my late best friend, I thought of all the women and men who have impacted my life. People who think of themselves "self-made" might be wise to consider the probability, no, the certainty, that that particular feat is impossible. We are obligated to acknowledge the help of known and unknown people who have made it possible to live our present lives and be the person each one of us has become.

Even millionaires and billionaires could not have been financially successful in business were it not for the person who had enough confidence to give them their first job, the banks willing to loan them money for an idea, the employees willing to work for many times low wages, the customers who bought their products, the companies who advertised for them and developed slogans and images, the lawyers who dealt with copyrights and trademarks, etc. Yes, maybe they worked long and hard to achieve their success, but that wasn't enough without help. (And if you earned your beginning wealth through inheritance, I don't need to say anything more about having help, now do I?) To say anything different would be arrogance.

From the very first teacher who taught you to read to the mentors who guided you through your career - everywhere in your past, you find those to whom you owe gratitude. Parents, siblings, and other relatives who taught you ethics and patience and faith and commitment - friends who encouraged and supported you and helped you along the way - all these were ingredients to the final product of you.

One of the author's suggestions was to write about someone who has "changed" your life. That can be hard to quantify, sometimes, but I prefer to use the word "enriched." Enrich has gotten a bad rap in recent years because of enriched bread - yes, the old Wonder Bread was one of the originals - taking the whole grain out and then putting back vitamins and calling it "enriched" which does the word no justice. The definition of enrich is to "improve or enhance the quality or value of...add to the cultural, intellectual, or spiritual wealth of..." Ah, now that is a different story!

There is not enough paper or web space to talk about all those who have enriched my life. Starting with my wonderful family - my parents, sister, husband, children, grandparents, uncles and aunts and cousins and nieces and now grandchildren - then moving on to teachers who taught me to read and write, teachers who taught me to think in an expansive and creative way, teachers who introduced me to the beauty of French, teachers (not necessarily at school) who taught me skills such as sewing and quilting and cross-stitch, authors who got me interested in Abraham Lincoln, my spiritual guides, the woman who taught me how to play piano, the man who taught me how to play the organ, the woman who hired me for a transcription position basically on faith, the wonderful people who married my children - these are all people who enriched my life. Even people in short-lived situations have to be added to the list - such as the kind young man who brought back my PC computer when it crashed a few years ago, the woman at church who let me borrow her Celtic harp which resulted in my falling in love with the instrument, the folks with the Instant Text software who allowed me to participate in the beta program and taught me so much - they too enriched my life.

I have to add to the list people whom I have never met: The anonymous donor who paid my fee for a church youth group trip to NYC and DC when I was a teenager, the doctor who took care of my pregnant mom and then delivered me surgically 56 years ago, the physicians who invented the vaccines that kept me healthy and well all my life, the inventors who made strides with photography that allow me to watch home movies of my dad holding me decades ago, the scientists who harnessed electricity and invented computers and programmed software to allow me to video conference with my son so I can see my little grandbaby Joshua - all these strangers have enriched my life by their contributions in their chosen fields.

No, no one can be arrogant enough to claim he/she is self-made. You can be the most talented musician in the world, but someone nurtured you in music. You can be the greatest thinker that ever lived, but those before you wrote and published books and essays that fired up your mind. You may have talent, God-given abilities, knowledge, strength, courage, and a whole slew of attributes that have guided you through life - but it hasn't happened on your own and it hasn't happened in a vacuum. It has been interaction all the way.

Of course, with me as with everyone, it is a work in progress. People are continually enriching my life. There are those who have enriched my existence for years and are still involved, and there are those who will remain strangers, but they are adding to my life all the same, from the man who held the door for me, to the cashier who flashed a genuine friendly smile, to the mighty fine folks who let me publish my little musings free on this blog site - there's a lot of enriching going on. As well, I hope that I have been and continue to be an enricher as well as enrichee. I can't ask for more than to be in awe that so many have positively affected my life, while at the same time trying to remember that I too can be part of the process that makes the world a better place. It ain't Wonder Bread - but it is certainly Wonder.

Pointless, but hey.

I thank God for the friends on Facebook who prayed with me and for me when I had to do the telephone interview with the radio people on Friday.  They made it so special, like they were right there with me.  I thank God for the internet that has woven our lives together and made friendships that would never have been blossom into something beautiful and real.

I thank God for friends who have encouraged me as a writer and bought my books and said lovely things about what I have written, and can have no idea of the hope and happiness their kindness brings.  Otherwise it would be lonely ad disappointing, but they make all the hard work worthwhile.

I thank God for my daughters in these last few days when my mother has been moving house to live just nearby, helping with cooking supper and being welcoming and kind and sorting out her new place and making our home tidy and pretty and clean and looking after me when I get tired.

I thank God for my dear husband, and the kindness in his face and when I wake up in the night and he is there beside me; and he is faithful and cheerful and hardworking - and generally everything you always hope a husband will be, really.

I thank God in these winter days that we have a brand-new highly efficient furnace and a woodstove that makes our house friendly and toasty warm and an open fire in the other room as well to be beautiful and make the house smell like incense.

I thank God for the bright happy colours of the crocheted blanket on our bed that chases away the gloom and makes our bedroom look homely and happy.

I thank God for the prettiest ever dress with little purple flowers that Daina at The Kings Daughters made me, which is the nicest garment I have ever had.   And for the warm soft flannel nightgown she made me which is just the thing for these January nights and has to come back from the wash as quick as ever possible so I can wear it again.

I thank God that despite the usual whirlwhind of familiness and all-purpose life I have managed to get a new novel started and will make twenty thousand words by the end of the weekend and it is taking shape okay and looking like it might work out as I hoped.

I thank God for my grandson Mikey who makes me laugh.  His mother shows him his darling fluffy teddy-bear and he lets rip with a terrible snarl because Mikey Knows About Bears. 

I thank God that in a world where people are hungry and cold and  homeless and lost and hate each other even to war and bombs, we have a pantry full of food and a fire in the stove and a calm and loving home all dry and clean and welcoming.  And I thank God for the Lord Jesus who walks every day with me so wise and patient and loving, and blesses every silence with the warmth of His grace.

I thank God for the Hastings Quakers, darling motley crew, whose silence is full of kindness and whose ministry is plain and honest.

I have so much to thank God for I could go on all night... but mainly I just want Him to know that I have noticed all this love and blessing that cascades around me like golden light and blesses my life, blesses my home, blesses my days, blesses my heart.  There are things to pray for, troubled and frightened and tired souls to lift into the Light, of course there are.  There is work to be done and the usual mountains to climb, of course there are.  And God keep them, God hold them, God receive them.  But most of all, my Father,  I thank Thee, oh I thank Thee, for the outpouring extravagance of Thine all-surpassing love, which lifts me up and carries me and shines on me, from the hearts and eyes and lives of my friends and family, and from the circumstances of every single ordinary day.

How to Make a Gallon of Liquid Laundry Soap

Hello all!

I have finally done it: today I made my very first video tutorial. This video gives step by step instructions how to make a single gallon of liquid laundry soap.

The reason I chose this subject is that while there are several recipes for enormous batches of liquid laundry soap, you rarely find any for smaller batches.

This recipe makes a single gallon of cleaner, perfect for those who don’t have space for a larger batch, or for minimalists who do not wish to make up more than they can use in a reasonable amount of time.

If you enjoy the video and would like more frugally minimalist recipes, please download a free sample of my ebook The Minimalist Cleaning Method available on Smashwords.

Update: There is a 25% off coupon on that book good until the end of January 2011: Just use the code MV35U at the checkout.

Thoughts about good and evil

When I’m writing, I’ll be going along fine, and then I get stuck and need to mentally change gear for a little while.  So while I write I also have Facebook open, and pop across to see what friends are doing and saying.

I love to look at people’s photos – especially the photos of Plain-dressing friends.  It’s always a ‘whoopee!’ moment when Katie Troyer has posted some more pics from Pinecraft.  I am so enjoying Sarah Burrell’s v-log.  I love Anna Cory’s cheerful and positive spirit – her posts are good to read.  My friend Elizabeth Bullock-Rest always leaves kind and reflective make-me-think posts. Quaker Jane never speaks up unless she has something wise and sane and kind to say – and there are many more whose thoughts bless and cheer me.

Then, there are some posts that chill and depress me.  I am no fan of the satan-spotters – people who have more to say about the devil than they say about the Spirit of God.

John Martyn, a folk singer from Hastings where I live, wrote a beautiful song that said: “I don’t want to know about evil, I only want to know about love.”  And I second that.  I am not interested in satan.  I see no value in thinking about satan.   We had a chorus that was very popular when I was a new Christian:
Towards Jesus is where the eyes of my soul should be focused.  When I get it together to do a little exercise with the Wii Fit, I love the balance games.  What I’ve noticed is that good balance is led by my eyes.  It’s where and how I’m looking that makes me keep or lose my balance.  Same applies in my spiritual walk.  If I keep my focus on what is beautiful, kind and generous, that’s how I’ll walk.

I also get a bad feeling from friends who post against things – whether it’s hate posts about people who have done something wrong, or posts denigrating political leaders, or posts criticising the celebration of Christmas and Easter, or posts making judgements about the private lives of other people – or any other Christians-Against-Everything misery posts; that turns me off.  What my old Badger described so well as ‘Plainly Wrong’ posts!  :0D

To create good in the world begins with a kind and encouraging attitude.  It is nurtured by fixing the eyes of the spirit on what is holy and pure and loving.  It’s also encouraged by doing as Max Ehrmann said in his poem Desiderata: ‘beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself’.  For you, too, are made by God to flourish in the sunshine of kindness and the dew of mercy.

Today and yesterday I had the pleasure and delight of several hours of the company of my grandson Mikey and his mother, my daughter Grace.  Grace and Clay (her husband) and Mikey do not always find life easy, but they practice a daily discipline of gentleness. Their home is a place of kindness and hospitality.  They try always to be understanding.  At Christmas time, a favourite among Mikey’s gifts was the little brightly-coloured plastic whirligig his aunties gave him.  What was a joy to me was to watch him rushing happily round the room making sure every single person had a turn at blowing his whirligig – everyone included, nobody left out.  At eighteen months old, ‘thank you!’ ‘you’re welcome!’ and ‘here you go!’ are among the first phrases he has learned to say.

On Sunday as we sat down together to eat, for the first time in his high chair he had reached the stage where, instead of squidging the food on his plate, he carefully ate everything with his little fork, taking trouble to do exactly as we were all doing.  He wanted to be like us, to do what we did, to be the same as us, to be one of us.   Grace and Clay have exercised immense patience in bringing Mikey up to know gentleness and understanding, reassurance and kindness.  No smacking.  No harsh words.  No leaving him to cry.  No mocking or belittling his mistakes.  Just encouragement and love.  As a result, already they have a little boy who delights in loving others, who is cheerful and trusting and confident.

Grace told me today of something that Clay had said, which I thought so wise I wanted to pass it on to you:

“If you want to create evil in the world, Step 1 is to pick on a little kid.  There is no Step 2.”

Thinking of all the clinical research that has been done on anti-social and cruel, psycho-pathic behaviour, I would say the evidence is with him all the way.

Building the Peaceable Kingdom begins with unconditional love of the children we know and the children who, whatever age we may be, we still are.

Cheerfulness, patience, gentleness, loving-kindness, encouragement, understanding, forgiveness, and a sense of humour.  If we keep busy with these, and focus on the loving heart of God, we shall not go wrong, we shall find our way home.

The Road of Blessing

I am cautiously excited about this book.  It comes out around now, in the UK, and in a few weeks overseas.  It's on pre-order at the US Amazon, where they also have a search-inside function so you can have a riffle through and see if you like it.  It's on (presumably quicker) pre-order at UK Amazon, where they haven't yet got the search-inside set up (though my publisher has chivvied them, so it should be coming soon.

I was brought up in the Christian faith, and went to church in my childhood.  I have always not only believed in God but felt close to me the presence of the Holy in everyday life.  Even so, I do believe that when Jesus says "Behold, I stand at the door and knock", the idea is to open it and invite Him in, not leave it and hope if it's really Him he will materialise through it somehow.

So, when I was fifteen I made the believer's prayer for myself, asking Jesus to be the Lord of my life; and I became His property that day, to dispose of as He wishes - though I have to say He does need to remind me of that at times, because you wouldn't all the time know from what I am and choose and do and say that I belong to Him.

I will be fifty-four next birthday.  That means I will have walked with Him for nearly forty years.  During that time, the main focus of my life has been to learn about what I have come to call 'the road of blessing', by which I mean finding the path of holiness.  I made a new friend on Facebook yesterday who says on her profile that an activity she enjoys is 'walking in a good way'.  That's the kind of thing I mean.  Making life choices and creating habits that flow with the current of God's grace, and can attract His blessing.

In the forty years (nearly) I've been doing this, I may not have learned a lot, but I've learned enough about a few things to be sure of them.  I have practiced some principles of living to the extent that I know I can rely on them.  No doubt I can be shaken, but I am sure beyond doubting that the things I have written about in this book cannot be shaken.

The Road of Blessing sets out the principles I have learned from the Bible that I have lived for almost forty years and can promise you can trust.

If you enjoy reading this blog, well then I guess you'll enjoy the book too.

Blue Skies Smiling at Me

I didn't take this picture, but it reminds me of an experience I had last week. While I was driving home under gathering storm clouds, I noticed a peek of blue in an otherwise gray blanketed sky. I remember thinking how strange that looked - and unexpected. The more I considered it, the more I became aware that it is never a case of gray cloudy sky versus bright blue sky - that at the same exact moment we are seeing the gray cloudy sky, the blue sky is there all the time! I always pictured the weather changing forms in a linear-time fashion - one minute clouds, then the sun comes out and you have blue sky - except that's not reality. The sun doesn't stop shining just because I am seeing gray rain clouds up above; it is just hidden, as the blue sky in this picture peeked out from its hiding place - just as the moon is hidden by the brightness of the sun, even while it still exists simultaneously in the atmosphere.

This whole epiphany reminded me of Dorothy's shoes in The Wizard of Oz. She was amazed to hear that all along in her adventures, she had the power to return home - and didn't take advantage of it because she didn't realize it. Simultaneously existed the troubled journey and the power to heal the fear and trauma. Simultaneously the blue sunny sky and the dark gray clouds. It's not either/or - it's both.

We tend to think of Time as linear - past, present, future in what we consider chronological order. But apparently many physicists believe that many timelines are happening simultaneously on different levels, in different dimensions, and our way of thinking limits us when we try to understand this. Ed used to preach that Time for God is nonexistent, that it is always Now. You are simultaneously to God a newborn, a 4-year-old, whatever age you are now and whatever age you will become, and all the ages in between. When we focus on one aspect (especially a negative such as a cloudy dreary sky), we fail to see that simultaneously happening is the blue sky behind it, temporarily hidden.

The purpose of great affirmations is to convince ourselves that we do indeed have the power within us, at all moments, whether we see it or now. When we look up and see only gray clouds, we can't picture the blue sky behind it - but it's there. All we can focus on is looking forward to the day when it's a sunny, beautiful day again, and not entertain the thought that it's already a bright sunny day here and now, this very moment, if we allow ourselves to see it.

And that's where we need the Second Sight - the Internal Sight - the Eyes of the Heart, to give us the ability to focus on things beyond our immediate troubles or situation. The light is not at the end of the proverbial tunnel - that is the linear way of thinking - but it is in the tunnel itself, temporarily invisible to us. My goal this year is to be able to see beyond what is evident, to be constantly aware that whatever I need is already here, not far off and unobtainable, and certainly not something relegated to some vague future date. The realization of power within, available for the taking, is what drives people to great things, to empty their spirits to the world in compassion and love and incredible sacrifice, to attain lofty goals and to do the "impossible." One of the saddest remarks I ever made was, "Wow! I didn't know I had it in me!" - when I had those Ruby Slippers on all the time....

I have these spoons

My friend Margery was a Christian artist, working mainly in stained glass.  She also designed and made beautiful banners for churches, for which she used her own lettering alphabet that she had designed herself. She was a teacher too - of art - for many years.

Margery was a person of deep faith.  Her whole life was founded on prayer and lived in the flow and current of the movement of the Holy Spirit.  I loved her very much, and she was a dear friend.  She died about seven years ago, in her mid 80s.

I have various things that belonged to her.  It is not my practice to hold on to possessions, even when they have special associations, otherwise before I know it the possessions start holding onto me, and you get the Sorcerer's Apprentice effect going on.  I don't like my life and options to be dictated by the proliferation and requirements of inanimate objects!  "Problems arise where things accumulate" (Toinette Lippe).

I have two stained glass panels that Margery made.  They are really beautiful works of art.  I have not yet found the right home for them, because they are spiritual work not worldly, and they are wonderfully wrought, not shoddy work.  For now I keep them with me, and one day I will find the right place for them.  I don't hang then in my own windows because I have such a hunger for light that I want all the light all the time from all the windows.  But they are beautiful.  I had a nude that she painted - which she stipulated must never be hung in a living room where men might see it, it must always be hung in a bedroom.  It is such a graceful, lovely picture.  That has gone to my friend Rosanna.  I have a portrait of a dignified old lady that Margery painted.  That fits in any room really well, so it hangs in our living room over the fireplace.

Then I also have these spoons.  Margery used them for measuring out glazes and powder paints when she was teaching art.  They are old and battered (which I personally feels adds to their delightfulness), because they are very vintage!  Now, I don't really measure anything.  My cooking is of the 'some of this, some of that' school, and  I just heave in a bit from a jar, no spoon comes ito it.

I am clearing out things at home at the present time, going through streamlining and sorting and house-calming.  We have several large bags to go to the charity shop, but I don't want to send these spoons to a charity shop, because they would be thought worthless as they are old and battered.  But they aren't worthless, they would be really excellent for anyone who needs to measure out powders or drizzle liquids carefully.  And they belonged to Margery, so for decades they were the tools of hands dedicated to prayer and praise and healing ministry.

What I want to know is, would one of you like these spoons?

If so, check the comments section to make sure no-one else has already put up their hand for them, and I wll send them to you.  You are safe to send me your address in a comment, because it will come to me by email for moderation.  I will not publish it with your address it, I will publish a comment saying 'The spoons have been claimed by Sister (or Brother!) X', instead, and send the spoons off to you.

If you have them, please treasure them.  Margery and I spent countless hours together, talking about life and the things of God, praying and laughing and drinking Lapsang Souchong tea.  She was a woman of pure heart, a soul of real integrity; and, though her income was tiny, her wants were so few that she always had money to put by so that she could respond to the nudgings of the Lord Jesus and help people who were in need.  She liked to give to people and situations that didn't come under the wing of any charity or welfare benefit.  She used to send money to a black African pastor who lived in a South African township in the days before apartheid ended, to keep him and his family going and his work for God as well.  She used to listen quietly and notice when young couples were struggling and hadn't enough for rent and food or special projects, and she'd help them.  Every time she gave, she asked God a) whether to give and b) how much.  Margery believed that money is a very potent force that can do as much harm as good, and that it must be used strictly under God's direction to bring blessing.  Out of God's direction it becomes a curse.

Here is a picture of the spoons so you can see their form and size.  You will see they are very ordinary and shabby looking - wabi-sabi spoons!  Their specialness is that they carry with them women chatting and prayig quietly in the afternoon sunlight, drinking tea together, and art students learning under the tutelage of a person of pure soul and unusual grace.  They bring with them a murmur of something beautiful, a memory of friendship.

It may be that nobody here wants them at all!  If that's the case, I shan't mind.  I'll just keep them until the right person comes along.

Sweet fellowship

Hello dear online friends.

It is always very precious to me when sisters and brothers I have met in faraway countries post pictures of themselves or videos of themselves speaking.  It makes the fellowship we have more real.

I was really excited to learn that Sarah Burrell (of Tabitha's Legacy) plans to keep a v-log through 2011, sharing her year with us on Facebook as it unfolds.  I have looked at Sarah's photos of her home and family - including that little dog! - and they have become very dear to me; and I also have some kapps and aprons here that Sarah has made for me.  It feels really special to me to wear clothes that are made not by an anonymous operative in a sweatshop in some unspecified foreign land, but made by a sister in Jesus working on her own homestead, with a free and fulfilling life, finding joy in the work of her hands and the praise of her heart.  'Put your hands to work and your hearts to God,' as Mother Ann Lee, founder of the Shakers, said.  So I have grown to care about Sarah and her family, and I felt so excited to consider that I would be able to hear her speak and share in what she has to say through this year.

I also love Anna Cory's videos at Veiled Glory, and I like to watch them just for a sense of keeping in touch. 

This inspired me to upload a video myself.  Now there are a few drawbacks to this.  My camera has no memory card, so it will take only a really short video, and I don't know what other way to do this - I think I may be able to use my computer, maybe the Skype facility or something, but I ran into server problems when I tried to open a Skype a/c, so using the camera seemed like the fall-back option.

Because I was thinking about making a video rather than about saying something profound, I had no ideas in my head, so I just sang you a little song, one of my favourites, instead.

As time goes on maybe I will become more skilled and resourced at doing this, and I will be able to post slightly longer videos.  Meanwhile, it will do anyway for a brief sharing or blessing, jsut so we can be together in a fleeting moment of fellowship.

God bless you day to you my friends, here's my song  :0)

Simplicity Recap of 2010

slideshow-5I wanted to take a moment to thank each and every one of you for hanging in there and keeping up with this blog.

While I no longer add to this blog regularly, I wanted to update you on what has been going on with my life since I opened

For a while I didn’t pare down as much as I used to; part if it has been winter blues, while part has been the fact that I reached a plateau.

With the end of the year nigh, I did eliminate some stained shirts, old books and software, and a lot more digital clutter with the unexpected death of my big hard drive. My closet actually has room to shift items around now, I am wearing my better quality clothes (that had been buried behind my worn out casual ones), and I think that soon I may be able to transfer my pants to hangers and free up two drawers in my bedroom!

Spending Money to Save Time

I have decided that sometimes you need to spend some money to save time and make things easier; my computers now are all running Windows 7 with Microsoft Office as a result. Having the same operating system on all of my computers will make maintenance easier, and Microsoft Office has saved me hours already when I go to create and submit articles online. Something about OpenOffice forces me to spend a lot of time fixing strange errors whenever I upload articles, so that alone has saved me a lot of time. Also, I am now reading all of my emails in Outlook now instead of visiting the individual websites; the use of IMAP enables me to keep my emails synchronized online, so I still have the ability to read my emails anywhere, but now instead of going from site to site to check all of those accounts Outlook takes care of it in the background. It even handles Twitter, enabling me to send and receive my tweets while I’m checking email, saving me from having to visit yet another site.

All of my blogging is now done in Windows Live, meaning that I can blog to any of my accounts at will with just a few clicks; as a result I will try to update this and my other blogs more often.

I feel like a traitor to Linux by switching so completely to Microsoft products, but the current round of software does everything I need and does it well, so for the sake of simplifying my life I am switching entirely over to Windows, at least for a few years. I’m not giving up on Linux entirely; I still plan to play with it, just not use it in a production setting.

I’m sorry Linux, but you don’t have the integration capabilities or the ease of use that I require at this point in my life.

For a detailed summary of 2010, please visit this post on my main site. I tried to cover everything that I could think of in there.

Well, I’m off to explore more of 2011. I hope each and every one of you has a wonderful year in store!