Going Barefoot

For the first time this year, I was out and about with bare toes in my Birkis today and yesterday.  A moment of silence for wild inner rejoicing.

I love to go barefoot.

Sturdy shoes cause me the same difficulties as wearing gloves.  In order to engage successfully with the world I have to be able to touch it, feel it.  Gloves and shoes remove the feedback that seems to me to be so vital for complete engagement.  Without my fingerpads and the soles of my feet, I can’t always tell what the world means.  I can’t bear wearing rubber gloves to carry out household tasks.  Up through my bare feet come the thoughts of the earth.  When it comes to worship, I’m right there with Moses – bare feet R us.

In former years, before hawking up germ-laden phlegm and spitting it onto the pavement came so ubiquitously back into fashion, I went most places most of the summer in bare feet.  My compromise, that takes me through from March to November, is Birkestock sandals for out and about, and bare feet in the house and garden.  I drive in bare feet too.  As I get into the car I take off my sandals and lift them in, placing them on the floor behind my seat.  As a result of this I have several times left a pair of Birkenstock sandals in a car park or at a roadside.  I only ever lost one pair permanently doing this.

In the same way as Plain speech can cause us to undergo a complete rethink of our habits of mind (as Karen Mercer thoughtfully reflected here on Quaker Quaker) so going barefoot can encourage us to look more deeply into the Way we walk, our relationship with the earth, and our self-understanding.  Walking barefoot becomes a metaphor as well as an actuality.

Walking barefoot requires a person to use the foot differently from walking in sturdy shoes.  In shoes, the heel goes down first, striking the ground firmly.  Because walking barefoot requires a certain caution or circumspection, the foot goes down foxfoot, with the emphasis on the ball of the foot and toes, not the heel.  Steps are shorter and lighter.  To practice, while shod, the barefoot walking mode, the thing to do is imagine going stealthily through a perilous situation where it is necessary to walk as softly, quietly and lightly as possible.  The foot acts differently.

There is in the world a whole army of people who prefer to go barefoot, whether walking in the ordinary way or running.  They see the need to protect their feet from infection and injury, but are reluctant to relinquish the sense of connection with the living Earth.  This website and this one give good information about the barefoot revolution.  Out of this passion barefoot shoes were born.

The Luna is a barefoot sandal – one can either purchase the necessary materials and make it oneself, or have a pair made up from a selection of options.  Barefoot runners say it is wonderful – feeling as though the feet had nothing on them at all.  The Luna is reminiscent of traditional sandals from places like India.  Following in the footsteps of Jesus, maybe.  Over time, Lunas mould to the wearer’s feet.  To me, there is something peculiarly beautiful about that.  Buddhapada or images of ascension or something.

Sockwa  make a high-top – inevitably of interest to any Plain dresser!  Though at present the high-top Playa is suited for soft ground, not daily wear on concrete surfaces; or so they say!  The Amphibian can go anywhere though.

Our Hebe is a convert to Terra Plana’s Vivo Barefoot range; they make some very stylish, pretty shoes.  There’s a lovely red one.  For those of us designed like marsupials with feet that go on forever, the Vivo Barefoot range is sadly too limited.  They go up only to size 42 – and recommend taking a size up from the wearer’s normal shoe size.

Soft Star, like Luna, are very precise in sizing, and will custom-make shoes, and they both go up to really big sizes anyway.

Probably the funkiest barefoot shoe of all time is the Vibram Fivefinger – aren’t they fab?

There is also a new shoe, the Stem shoe, coming out later this year, which looks really good.

Many of these shoes are vegan and employ recycled material, as well as manufacturing in situations and with techniques and materials as respectful of the human race and the rest of creation as possible.  These are responsible, comfortable footwear making us more aware and responsive and enhancing our health.  A good thing in the world.

Time for a Change

Once again, I find that it is time to reaccess my life, something I embark upon quite often. What I was doing was no longer working for me, so it was time to step away, and figure out what direction I wanted to head in. I'd been doing a lot of reading lately, information aimed at promoting my Etsy shop, Simply Smitten. It made sense, all of those facts on SEO (search engine optimization), and so I spent much time applying this new info. From there I spent more time building up my Twitter account. I had set up the account back in October, but never touched it again. So, I spent many collective minutes following those with similiar interests, watching as my followers increased, a random tweet here and there. I've had a Simply Smitten business page on Facebook for some time, but I will confess that I am not a huge fan of FB. After spending just a little bit of time there, I can feel my energy drop, it almost makes me feel sad. I sense such desperation at times, so many people trying to connect...over a computer... sigh. Back to the info I'd been accumulating ~ according to all of the articles I was reading, I needed to SEO my shop. Done. Promote on Twitter. Done. Promote on Facebook. Done. Were any bringing me joy so far? Nooooo..... nothing yet.

There was once more thing to try though, and this one I've resisted for some time: blogging. Not because I don't have much to say (I mean, have you seen the length of my posts, and that's when I try to keep it brief! ;) but because I don't have the time to keep up with it. But, since I was making such a concerted effort to sell myself, it would be worth giving it a shot. Again. In order to keep up with all of this self-promotoion, it was eating up vast quantities of my time, and subsequently my life. Time I didn't really have to spend, because as a result, other avenues of my life were getting jipped. It felt like I had slipped on a new pair of shoes that were initially comfortable (or at least bearable) only to find that at the end of a long day they pinched something fierce, the color wasn't me, and since when do I wear heels? I hate heels. So, I stepped back and away from the computer, and did some meditating, some serious thinking about where I want to go. I was trying to build this empire, and do I even want an empire? Ironically, I wasn't doing any of the above-mentioned things this past summer and fall, and found I was making regualr sales, enough to make me happy at any rate. So, when did I think I needed to change things? When I began to doubt it was enough? Probably. Lack creates lack, after all. So, I stepped back into my life, my comfortable shoes that suit me just right. No pinching, and definitely no heels. We dove back into our schoolwork, I've spent 3 days perfecting a gluten-free sourdough bagel recipe, something I've wanted to do for some time. Caught up on tons of odds and ends. All the little bits of my life that bring me joy, make me feel grounded. My Jordan commented the other day that I haven't even created anything in awhile... It seems I've separated from my creative source, and that never brings me joy. It's time to find my way back, and leave the promoting up to someone bigger, and with many more connections than me. ;)

Out of all of this though, out of all these computer related activities, there is one I'm sticking with. Here's a hint, I haven't visited Twitter in days, nor Facebook, but as you can see, I've created a space of time to sit and blog! In fact, I would love to make more time for this, but that may be pushing it! At least I've found a pair of shoes that fit... for now! ;)

So, moving on, I was delighted the other day to find that my daughter, Taylor, had decorated me with an award. You may know her as Dreams of Fae, or perhaps, The Forest Faery. This "game" sounded like a fun idea, so here I am doing my part. Thanks Tay, for the award!

Here are the guidelines

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award

2. Share 7 things about yourself

3. Award 10 recently discovered great bloggers

4. Contact the bloggers and let them know about the award,

and let the giver know that you accept the award

1. I am a happy, peaceful organic vegan who loves to cook! I haven't eaten in a restaurant in years, because I haven't found a place that makes truly healthy foods... yet!

2. I am eternally optimisitic, much to the dismay of those around me who'd like to wallow sometimes. I can always find the silver lining!

3. I have 4 dogs, 4 cats, 2 hermit crabs, 2 hamsters, 1 mouse, 4 rats, 2 goats, 10 chickens, 4 rabbits sharing my home and life with me (the house get vacuumed DAILY!! ;)

4. I am crazy organized, I hate clutter and thrive on neat, clean simplicity

5. I homeschool my three girls and most days I adore it! ;) I love to learn, read and grow, I'm on a quest for knowledge.

6. I married my high school sweetheart and we are still together and happy after 17 years, but don't get the illusion that there hasn't been effort involved in our marital bliss!

7. I am deeply spiritual and have discovered many "secrets" to a joyful life. I meditate daily.

8 My deepest, current wish is for solar heating. I love living a life that is clean and green, it makes me feel powerful and free.

Okay, that was one more than I was supposed to do, but really, be thankful, because I could have gone on, and on... :) Now, on to 10 new bloggers I've found. Taylor stole a couple of my most favorites, but I've got tons more!

Is that it? I believe I've filled all of the criteria. Now I'm off to let these fabulous bloggers know that they too have won an award. I hope someone responds, I'd love to learn even more about these interesting bloggers, who always have something to say... I'm listening! :)

Comcast Blocks MagicJack!

Note to my fellow MagicJack users: Comcast has blocked you according to MagicJack customer support.

I went to use my MagicJack this morning and discovered that it would not connect to the internet, and I could not even access the MagicJack webpage!

My Google Voice phone worked so I used it to call my sister, another MagicJack user who is fortunately NOT on Comcast. She contacted Customer Service and was informed that Comcast is indeed BLOCKING access to the website and use of the device!

They have a workaround however. In order to reach as many people as I can I have placed the link and info here. Please share this link with your friends!

The solution works; I have placed and received several test calls on my MagicJack after installing the software.


An alternative view of illness

I'm so grateful that my 10 year old got sick last night. Grateful? Yes, I know, based on our society's current view of illness, that does seem strange statement to make. After all, doesn't it seem as though our body is betraying us? We are laid low, miserable, usually drowning in self pity, our lives grind to a sneezing, coughing halt. But the reality is, we betray our bodies everyday. With the foods we eat, the liquids we drink, the choices we freely make. And yet, despite all of the harsh, unkind treatments we dole out, our bodies continue to serve us. The heart goes on beating, blood continues flowing, our organs keep pace with the rhythm of life... right? I'm in awe of the human body now, and its amazing capacity to bounce back. In many cases it may appear to be functioning at a high level, but there are indicators everywhere that things are amiss. Acne, aches, pains, ulcers, tooth decay, headaches, name an ailment, and it's your body speaking to you. Sometimes we pretend that it's in a foreign language, after all, if you're craving a candy bar, you don't want to hear that that isn't "good" for you. We don't want to 'deny' ourselves anything, so you turn a deaf ear, and shovel in that sticky sweet bar as fast as you can before you think twice about it. And life moves on. Until the day your body has reached a toxic overload and needs to restore balance. Enter the common cold. Or the flu.

I've always wondered why it is that among a family, 3 out of 5 can succummb to the illness, while the other 2 escape unscathed. After reading a book a couple of years ago,it finally became clear. Those 2 don't need the sickness. They don't need the mechanisms of the body to fire up and dump toxins. They may need it next week, but right now their body is holding its own. A book called Cancer is not a Disease, it's a Survival Mechanism by Andreas Moritz explained this the most clearly to me, and things finally began to make sense. You see, I'm one of those people who won't just accept things that are spoken to me as truth unless I either A. have researched and verified it for myself, or B. I have a knowing. I easily and deeply trust my intuitions and I can feel the truth of certain things. They usually answer questions I've carried around forever. So, after reading this book, things finally began to make sense. Your body wasn't staging a mutiny, it was staging a recovery. It is attempting to right the wrongs inflicted on it everyday. Such an ingenious system. When we get sick we are forced to rest, take it easy, sleep. That's why we never cover up a sickness in my home. I don't even own aspirin. I've always felt the body knows what it is doing, and does it better without my interference. Are you aware of the reason behind fevers (we learned this in school a couple of years back)? When the temperature of your body rises, this enables the white blood cells (the germbusters) of the body to function better and reproduce quicker, thus healing you quicker. Why on Earth would you want to make this disappear? Okay, I know why, but why?

As with many of my discoveries over the last several years, I've learned that that most everything is not what it seems, we have in fact labeled things 'wrong' or 'bad' when in fact they are not. Let me begin by saying I believe in perfect health. I know it exists and that is a major part of my journey this time around. I have chosen to leave most of the medical profession to others, having found that they weren't generally interested in finding out the "why", but instead interested in covering up the symptoms, usually with drugs. If we can't see it, it mustn't be there... ;) This is not a rant against conventional medicine, it just wasn't the answers I was looking for. I had ventured down an alternative route several years ago, and was more satisfied with my homeopath, until one day he uttered the words "the mythical state of perfect health". Well, you guessed it. I think that was the last time I graced his office. I was on a quest of perfect physical and mental health, and I didn't need any doubting Thomases infecting their negativity into my vision.

I've changed so many aspects of my life over the last several years that I am no longer recognizable as the same person. I am a strict and happy organic vegan. I have embarked on a series of liver flushes that have released over 4000 stones from my liver. I practice daily meditation. I have released judgements and opinons of others, knowing I can only decide what is best for me and no one else. I will only use VOC free paint in my home. I do what brings me joy. We recently made a huge health investment and purchased organic cotton mattresses for our beds. All of these things are bits and pieces I've found along the way, all pointers to that state of perfect health.

Several years back I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a typical companion of panic disorder. The doctors gave me very little hope of release from this pain except through dangerous muscle relaxants (that may or may not work) or "when you've gotten rid of the panic disorder (thorugh yet more drugs), the IBS will resolve itself". Not good enough. After the first liver flush, I haven't had an excruicitating episode since. My body was speaking to me, and I listened.

Another example: My oldest daughter's hands had been a mess for quite some time. In reality they no longer resembled hands, they were cracked, oozing claws. She couldn't even straighten her fingers, she had no cuticles and her nails were deeply pitted and scarred. Eczema, at its worst. I knew the doctors would prescribe creams and ointments, maybe even steroids. That would never lead me to the why of it all. If this flared up again in two years, I still wouldn't have any idea where it was stemming from. Her body was telling us something, and we set about trying to understand. It wasn't a quick fix. She embarked on the liver flushes with me. Her hands were in fact the first bit of evidence I found to support this new sickenss/balance idea. Her hands were horrific and she was struck down with the flu. She was hit hard, her body in desperate need of detoxing (as her hands were already telling us), and for a week she didn't really leave her bed. I figured that if what I had read was indeed true, after this illness passed, her hands should improve some. Maybe a lot. I watched and waited... and guess what? They did improve, and looked better than they had in years. They didn't stay this way,of course, but it gave us hope that we were on the right track. Happily, a year or so later, her hands are 99.9% healed. There's a dry spot or two, others would just call it the dry hands of winter, but we know better. What was her body trying to communicate? She had a Candida imbalance. She has now been on a Candida diet for 4 months or so, just a temporary adjustment. This means avoiding sugars so as to starve the Candida (yeast) imbalance in her body. We don't eat sugar anyway, but this meant even fruit sugars until her body's balance has been restored. Lately she has been experimenting with fruit a little bit. She quite happily devoured some blueberry pie I recently baked, with no repurcussions. Fingers crossed that we're at the point where she can begin to add fruits back in, her hands will tell the story.

What happens if your body speaks and speaks and speaks and you refuse to listen? That imbalance will change appearance some, it will appear as disease, in one of it's many forms. I choose not to go there. There is so much that I want to enjoy during this lifetime, so many joys to be had. I have no problem "denying" myself that candy bar, when the rewards are so much sweeter. I won't be held back by a body that can no longer function with ease. It's my companion, and I'll treat it with as much love and care as I would any other valuable possession. It will repay me in kind.

P.S. In case you're wondering, Riley bounced back with amazing agility. She got up this morning, ate a full breakfast and is now playing games with her sister and full of energy. She told us all the she "felt GREAT" this morning. Her body did its 'spring cleaning' I guess! :)

Aha! Fab aprons!

Often on Facebook, when an apron pic comes along, a whole bunch of ladies want to know where either the apron or the pattern comes from.

Especially there's a kind of Amish apron that ladies have been very interested in.

The Scarlet Thread has some beautiful garments (I love her flannel nightdress with the graceful curve to the yoke), and she has some really nice aprons.  her calico apron with the criss-cross back is lovely - and it's a slip-on one, which is always a plus.

Her country apron is the same design as the Amish one people are always wanting to know how to source.

Sprouts & Dumplings

I gave two of my girls a challenge yesterday, a bit of incentive to get creating. Usually they need no encouragement, but we're in the last couple weeks of a long, cold, snowy winter, and a push was just what they needed. Here is what I offered them: if they could create, photograph and list a new item in each of their shops by day's end, I would blog about whomever accomplished that goal.

The thought of new traffic to their shops was enough to get knitting needles flying! They set right to it, and had no problem with the creating part. Riley Mae, my 10 year old very recently opened her own Etsy shop, The Poisoned Apple, and joined the rest of our Etsy lovin' family! She actually had most of her newest sprout knit already, so finishing it up, tediously adding hair, and sewing on funky glasses was definitely within her reach. She finished it up before lunch... and then stalled. I was pretty sure she wouldn't make the deadline, but when I made a completely "random" comment that there would be no mention of her funky sprout in my next blog, well, that got her moving! It was down to the wire, but she proudly announced "it's listed!" and made it in the last precious minutes!
Jordan, my 12 almost 13 year old, has had her Etsy shop for a year or two now, Spring Showers. She also set to work with the knitting needles. She's been making hats and selling them like mad locally, but with warmer weather approaching, she figured she might want to branch out into other areas. Enter Dumplings. I knew once she got moving she would come up with something unique, and that she did. A little fluffball on a leash! Once she had a diretion we took a detour and went scouting around in Etsy until we found a shop that sells cute, little doll eyes. But since we couldn't magically transport them to us, she went on a treasure hunt, digging through my copious craft supplies for a suitable nose and eyes. She found them, and then proceeded to fashion a leash out of ribbon. She had hers photographed and listed before dinner. She loves taking the pics and editing them, she's very talented in that area. And so, there you have it. A day of creation, with only a tiny bit of prompting from me. :) Two adorable, little creations, just waiting patiently for a new home! Mission accomplished.

P.S. Even though my 14 year old wasn't part of this challenge, it feels wrong not to mention her and her beautiful shop ~ The Forest Faery. That's also on Etsy, and her blog, Dreams of Fae, can be found here on blogspot!

Don’t Quit

I have now discovered that it will be cheaper to leave almost everything here than it will be to move it, so I guess I’ll be going extreme in the Minimalist Department, at least for a while.

While looking for encouragement, I stumbled upon this poem. No idea who wrote it, but I feel the need to share:

Don’t Quit

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don't you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don't give up though the pace seems slow--
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor's cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out--
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit--
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

- Author unknown

No matter what life throws your way, just remember that as long as you keep trying it will all be okay. Just hang in there, okay?

Peaceful, silent guidance

There are a couple of things that I can credit as having helped get me to the place that I find myself today. Books top the list, they just seem to leap into my hands! Walk into Walmart for sponges, pens, maybe some kitty litter... instead walk out with 3 new books that I can't wait to delve into, it's uncanny! ;) The books I read now, feed me. I can feel my spirit grow stronger with each sentence of knowledge that I swallow, each new concept that I chew on. I think this is what I've been searching for. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle began my foray into non fiction, and it was a heavy one to embark upon. Thank God I did. I would still be lost in the abyss of panic if I hadn't. I'm grateful everyday that Oprah picked that as her book of the month back in 2008.

But it isn't the only thing that guides me. I have a piece of everyday reserved for a practice that renews, balances and refreshes me daily: my morning meditation. I realize this comes up frequently nowadays, and for those who feel they can't make the time, it probably sounds like hippie hogwash. Those who meditate, however, know differently. It's a chance to connect to something bigger than you everyday, to channel that energy, to balance and heal, without ever needing to leave the comfort of your personal space. If fact, it opens that connection so wide, that I can find it in moments of stress, or the general busy-ness of life, when I need to be brought back home. Back to peace.

I reserve an hour each morning. I don't always meditate for that long, but I have the time open to me should I need it. The girls start their schoolwork while I head upstairs, because quiet is a must. Everyone in the house knows that when I say "I'm meditating", and shut my door, they'd be wise not speak in a voice above a whisper. I've created a space for myself that radiates peace. The colors of my room are a soothing shade of light blue/green (Harmony VOC free paint, available at my local Sherwin Williams store!), and white that makes me happy every time I walk in there. A fountain that I made several years ago bubbles happily, although during the warmer months I prefer the sounds outside of my window, singing birds and the wind through the trees. I settle down in the most comfortable chair ever created, although definitely not the most eco-friendly, (its time here is probably limited!) I've surrounded myself with plants, light and uncluttered space. I get comfortable, and then I attempt to still my chatterbox of a mind.

When I started this practice years ago it didn't begin as meditating, it was simply my relaxing time. It was during my panic years, and I found that moving through a tape I had created everyday taught me how to recognize tension in my body, and how to release it, which I find is still helpful to this day. From there, I moved on to guided meditation, Wayne Dyer's Getting In the Gap was my favorite. Now, I guide myself. Clearing my mind isn't always an easy thing, even after several years of daily practice. The mind is fiercely persistent and most days I still find I must reign it in frequently. I realize that doesn't sound very relaxing, but those brief moments of stillness are pure bliss. They keep me searching for more. Those tiny bites are enough to sustain me for an entire day, without them I feel out of balance. Short tempered. Irritable. Whereas if I meditate, those emotions rarely haunt me anymore. Then there are the days where I firmly connect. My spirit is refueled, recharged and I can conquer the world. I feel joy beyond all reason, and peace beyond all sense, life is a delicious adventure. I know that I have found what my spirit had been seeking. I am home.

Because my chicken told me so...

Reggie and Tansy, our two, sweet goats

I love the seasons. It's true, other parts of the country offer things that I haven't found here, California with its host of organic restaurants (I haven't eaten out in many years!). Or Arizona, specifically Sedona, with its spiritual community. New Mexico with its sultry heat and history. But, I figure I'm a New Englander for life. What would I do without the heat and humidity of summer? The cool, crisp, refreshing breezes of autumn? The long, cozy, dark nights of winter? And most especially the promise of spring, eternally hopeful, fresh and overflowing with promise. We're facing the inevitability of that season right now, and it is delicious to anticipate.
Bubay, hand raised by my daughter, he rules the roost!

We've had some signs. Every day the sun sets incrementally later. I've been reacquainted with the local flock of turkeys, their frantic gobbling spilling through the morning air. As far as I know turkeys don't migrate, but I haven't heard them in months, and their calls were cause for celebration. Ditto for the coyotes my husband heard howling and yipping the other morning, definitely one of my most favorite warm weather sounds. I've been hearing 'spring' birds singing and calling during my morning meditation, although I have yet to see a flock of fat, happy robins dotting my front yard. Then, of course there is the mud. Tons of ankle deep, dark, thick mud everywhere, turning our driveway into a quagmire from which we may never emerge. And since the frozen ground cannot yet accept the thousands of gallons of melting snow... water in the basement. So, it might not all be pleasant, but I'll take it, because this is spring in all its glory.

My rat, Bella

And then, the other day I received word direct from the beak of a creature with insider information. Wednesday afternoon was 'cage cleaning' day in my home. It's a production, there are tons of animal cages to refresh with clean, fragrant bedding. Rats, mice, bunnies, chickens, goats... let's just say I'm glad there are 4 of us to divide these jobs among! I had finished the goat shed and moved on to the chickens when a surprise greeted my eyes. One perfect, beautiful egg. An unavoidable sign. How do I know that spring is coming? Well, my chicken told me...

Grammy School

My friend Sally in California announced she is expecting her second grandbaby this year. How exciting! My friend Audrey in Memphis welcomed her first grandbaby last month. I have certainly enjoyed my three grandchildren tremendously. Not only have I enjoyed them, I have been taught by them. Taught by a baby? A toddler? A kid? Yes! "Grammy School" doesn't just mean Grammy is teaching the little ones. It means Grammy becomes the student! Here's what I have learned from being a grandmother:

1. Sharing. Not between the kids - I mean my sharing with other adults - the other set of grandparents. Here's a major difference in having kids and having grandkids. Grandkids automatically come with another set of one or two grandparents. All of a sudden, I am not the one of two parents; in my case, Ed and I are two of five grandparents! Time to share, certainly. Time to recognize that as these children grow up, these other adults will hold just as special relationship with them as we do. What is it that they say about joys and sorrows? With love, sorrows are halved and joys are doubled? More grandparents means more joy for the children! Each grandparent brings his/her unique qualities to the child's life we're all adding to their cache of memories.

2. Patience. Oh, this lesson starts while the grandbaby is still in the womb. Patience to find out the gender, patience to be reassured of good health, patience to let other grandparents have their time, and patience to wait between visits. And patience leads to...

3. The necessity of butting out. I have to remember these are my grandkids, not my kids. I am not their Mama, Ed is not their Daddy, and their parents set the rules and have the last word in everything. This is the proper way to raise children.

4. Priorities. As my grandbabies grew, they began helping me with priorities, starting with my first grandchild, Caroline. Every interaction reminded me of people over things. Then when we started downsizing and simplifying, I had to reexamine my priorities, as I was bringing a toy or book to the girls on each visit. What was I showing them about consumerism and "stuff"? Could my presence actually be the more important thing than the presents? Now I concentrate more on making memories. The toys will be lost and forgotten, but their memory of Grammy playing hide-and-seek will last forever. And that brings me to....

5. The importance of playing. With your own kids, you are too busy sometimes raising them, keeping house, earning a living, etc., to spend a lot of time just playing. When you're visiting grandkids, though, that's the whole point. You're free to be a kid again. You get to smell and use those crayons and Play-Doh, try to assemble buildings out of blocks, get in a small tent and pretend a bear is outside, make a puppet show, read fairy tales, make things with glue, glitter, construction paper, stickers, and pipe cleaners, sing silly songs, look for bugs under a log, chase each other around the yard! It's easy to forget I'm 56 years old (until the next day when the more physical aspects of play wreak havoc on my old body!).

6. The legacy of pictures. Rachel and Matt grew up in the film age, and we really don't have as many photos as I would like because film and developing it was expensive, and we were having trouble making ends meet sometimes. But my grandchildren are growing up in the digital age - and that means digital pictures! Thousands of digital pictures! And yes, I am taking advantage of that. I have 26,864 digital pictures in iPhoto - how many do you think are of the grandkids? Hee hee!

7. Awe. Every moment is awe-inspiring, from the first time I cuddled with them to the times I watch them soak up the world like sponges. Watching them develop into their own personalities has been fascinating. And, of course...

8. Anticipation. What does the future hold for my little ones? My youngest, Joshua (7 months), has already won me over with his smile and laugh. I just know he has much to teach me in the future and will develop into a wonderful young man before we know it! My Charlotte (5) will spend the night with us next Friday for the very first time and I know will keep us entertained. My Caroline (7) is always surprising me with her knowledge; so much of what I try to teach her, she already knows! What's next with her? What's next with all three of them? So much to look forward to! (Not to mention sometime in the next few years, I may be calling Sally in California to tell her Matt and Sarah will be having their second baby too!)

Grammy is always a student as well as teacher. As a tribute to Grammy School, here are a few past blog posts where lessons were learned. (Most of these are from Caroline, as she has been here the longest and I had been able to document more visits with her, especially as she and her family lived with us for a couple of months when they were between houses. I expect great lessons to be learned from Charlotte and Joshua in the years to come!)

Book recommendations

Right now on UK eBay this book is up for auction at a reasonable price (they will ship to the States).

Long out of print, the only copy you can get on US Amazon at the moment is $37 - but thee knows how it is with out-of-print books, the pricing is very erratic, it'll be around at much less than that some other time.  And on UK Amazon, prices start at £2.99.

The same problem applies to being a writer as to being a preacher - one's critical faculty goes into over-drive when presented with other people's work.  Very rarely can I find a book that I can simply enjoy.  Many of the well-written ones are full of stuff I would rather not be reading.  A book, a film, a song - it has to edify my soul, or I lose interest in it.  Many of the ones that fulfil my criteria of edifying the soul are badly written.

But I do enjoy a good read, to lose myself in a story I can really enjoy.

Recently I have been groping back through my memory to books I read long since, and would like to find again.  I tracked down a few, and they have started arriving in the post.  As I read them, I'll let thee know which I thought were the really good ones.

Yesterday this book, Torrie by Annabel & Edgar Johnson arrived in the post.  I read it when I was fourteen (the same age as the girl in the book), and absolutely loved it.  I was intrigued to find out if forty years on it seemed as good.  I sat down and read it straight through.  I think it's brilliant.  It's well crafted - really well written - it celebrates goodness and it identifies and explores some of the less glamorous noble traits of character like steadiness, humility, dependability, modesty, honesty, fairness and kindness, and well as the more exciting ones like courage, self-sacrifice and adventurous spirit.

It also examines the theme of romantic love with a concern for that being love that will last forever, love that a person can trust.

Annabel & Edgar Johnson had this book published in 1960.  They married in 1949 and lived in New York for a while, then took to the open road, travelling the western states, hunting and fishing, camping and writing.

Torrie, set in 1846, is about a pioneer family who left St Louis for California, and tells the story of their wagon-train journey to get there.  You can always tell people who really spend a lot of time out of doors, because they write about the weather so much and in such vivid detail!

Reading this book made me feel happy, and it did my soul good, and it reminded me of things I want to be reminded of - like not following the opinion of the crowd, the value of a provident life, and holding firm to my purpose.

I very much recommend it.

I see that Annabel and Edgar Johnson have written other books too, all in the 1960s I think.  I'm going to try Wilderness Bride, The Black Symbol and The Golden Touch.  All of them are available second-hand on Amazon, and it's wise to check between US and UK Amazon for the best price - or just google the titles.


My life is undergoing some changes. A move, to where I’m not sure and into what I don’t know.

Thank Goodness I’m a minimalist. That means that I won’t have much crap to move.

I would explain it all but frankly I’m beat. I’ve been ranting and stressing on the other blog for a couple of days and thought I would come over here and rant but I’m just too dog-gone tired.

Anyhow, you can check out the other posts if you want to know what happened and why I have to move—and my options. I’m just too beat to wrap my head around it all…

At times I wish life would stop throwing me this crap, but if it did what would I have to write about?


Plain dress: expense and versatility

When the subject of Plain dress comes up, friends committed to living simply sometimes point out that the simplest thing is to wear quiet sober clothes chosen from among cast-offs, bought at jumble sales and charity shops.  Undoubtedly they are right, but there are other factors about the Plain dress witness to be considered, which may be the subject for a blog post another day.

Friends with a witness of simple lifestyle may therefore see Plain dress as the antithesis of simplicity - complicated and expensive!!

Something I didn't realise at first when I began to dress Plain is that the clothes can be - and are meant to be - combined.  Not Amish dress perhaps, but the kind of modest clothes that come from places like The Kings Daughters where I get my dresses.

If a lady bought three dresses and three jumpers (UK pinafore dress), she would have far more than six options.  She could wear each of the six separately (with a blouse or tee under the jumper), or she could wear any of the jumpers over any of the dresses.  So a large wardrobe is created out of relatively few garments.

Obviously wearing two dresses is hotter (er - temperature, not fashion!) than just one, so the layering will take her through the changes of the weather, with the assistance of petticoats, vests and drawers of different fabric weight.  Large roomy drawers are cooler in summer and warmer in winter than tight briefs, too.

But today I stumbled upon yet another combination (I can be slow to catch on).

My dresses all have elbow-length sleeves, which I prefer for working in, but they are not really warm enough for Second Month without a cardigan.

This morning I have to conduct a funeral, so will be wearing my best black dress.

I am dreadful at spilling food on my clothes and didn't want to get my black dress dirty.

I don't like to be too late in my nightie in case the postie comes.

It's very cold.

Aha!!!  I put my jumper on over my nightie!  My nightie is flannel, so it adds a warm, cosy layer - and it has long sleeves.  Perfect!   And a flannel nightie would do for any cold day, not just like now when I am waiting to get dressed into what I finally intend to be wearing.

This versatility reminds me a little bit of conversations about giving up one's car with friends committed to driving.  An important argument advanced is about difficulty of access - such a long way to walk etc.  And at first when one gives up one's car, it does seem such a long way to walk everywhere, until the realisation that - aha! - there is no need to walk along the roads where the cars go.  Not only is a walk through the park or along a green lane pleasanter, it also opens up the possibility of using the alleyways and footpaths that cut through places where cars cannot go.

It's a question of adjusting to a different way of looking at something familiar.

Let's give this a try...

Uggghhh, I've been on the computer all week, many, many hours! I've been trying to blog for days, but I was on a mission to launch my new website~ Yay!!

Awhile back I started getting my business cards through Vistaprint because well... they were free! Then, I decided to upgrade because I wanted my own design, and recently I became reaware that they offer websites. A couple of years ago I had tried this when I opened Simply Smitten, and I was not impressed. It seemed very limited, and I canceled before the free trial was even over. However, I thought I'd try it again, I hoped that things had been updated and advanced in the past two years!

So, on Sunday I signed up for my free month trial of the most expensive package (30.00 per month) because it was the only one that offered a Paypal shopping cart. I spent a couple of hours Sunday trying to figure things out, basically getting the hang of it again. It seemed easier, although there are still a couple of things that don't please me. I was thrilled that they offer much support on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) which I've been reading a lot about lately, and applying to Simply Smitten. So, Monday and Tuesday were spent setting up shop. Of course that had to be worked around school, cooking, chores and sleep, but I got a lot done. ;) Last night I officially published my new website Inspiration-earth.com. I'll admit, I had butterflies!

There are still some things I need to tweak, and some more things to figure out. Let's suppose I get found on this enormous World Wide Web. In Etsy I only list one of each item. I do have the stock for more of all my Inspiration Earth products, but someone would have to contact me for a large quantity. On the Vistaprint site it's left wide open. I wish they had an option of "quantity available", especially if it adjusted as one was sold. I suppose I can go in and do this myself, it just means more work that I will have to continually keep on top of. Right now, I'm just going to play it by ear, still thinking on that one...

Also, shipping is less than desirable. I have a separate shipping price listed for each item, (like in Simply Smitten), but if someone were to place a large order, that shipping would be off. There is an option listed on there about going through Paypal, I'll have to research that. What I would love is a shipping calculator! :) Right now I've just made sure to explain on my "Shipping Info" page that I don't try to make money off of shipping overages, and I will refund said overages once the package is shipped and I have an accurate total.

So, this is one more part of my new adventure. It may take awhile to get found in Google and the like, but when I launched my profile it was fed to over 100 different search engines. I spent much time trying to get my "SEO" numbers up to 100%, but the highest they reached before I gave up was 85%. I figured that would have to do for now. It sounds so redundant, and unintelligent to keep repeating the same words over and over. I know it's for the search engines, but come on? Human beings will be reading this too... hopefully! ;) There are statistics in my dashboard that tell me how many people have visit my site, where they are from, what pages they viewed, I LOVE that! Over 30 people had found my site overnight, and that was even before I had launched my search engine profile this morning. So, I'll keep you posted as time goes on. I figure I'll give it a couple of months after the free trial to see what I think, it can be canceled at any time, no obligations. Just thought I'd share with you, there might be someone else out there willing to give this a try! Happy Wednesday to you all!

Changes to the planning system - the Woodland Trust

This is a photo of the trees of Sussex, just a few miles along the road from where I live, taken from the retreat house where the retreats I lead take  place.

Changes to the planning system - the Woodland Trust

UK friends - PLEASE act on this. We have only until February 28th. What is happening, is that the government is proposing to change the planning laws in tandem with selling off the forests, so that the way would be open to develop the land for change of use. The proposed change does allow for protecting the ancient woodland, but states that will only be necessary if it is more important than other factors. Other factors thought to be more important than the woods would of course include our society's number one over-riding priority - making money. The deadline for comment on the proposals is February 28th, so we don't have much time to respond.

The Woodland Trust has an email all ready, with the important bits written in, and part of it left open for editing so you can add your own personal comments. Then you only have to add your contact details, click 'send' and it will go off to the right person.

Please, please take the time if you can, to do this small thing for our woodland. And please pray for England, and for the trees. It seems we are so powerless, but at least we must do what we can.

Just what you would expect in a strange, strange world.

Just the oddest thing happened to me yesterday.  I felt as though I’d been sorting out my clothes and discovered that Narnia really does begin at the back of the wardrobe.
Cast your mind back to my previous blog post, in which I said that I had just finished writing a very difficult passage of human interaction.

For the purposes of this blog post let’s call the characters involved in this Hugh and Eleanor, otherwise I won’t be able to blog this until 4 more books have been published and I want to tell you now, not in 2 years’ time.   And that’s strange enough by itself – giving fictional characters aliases to allow them to appear disguised in the real world!!

Well, Hugh and Eleanor have become very dear to me.  I believe this happens quite a lot with writers of fiction; the characters appear out of nowhere and seem to start telling their stories themselves.  All I have to do is take time out to really look and listen and concentrate, and their story kind of unfolds before the imagination, leaving only the task of actually writing it down.  In so doing, I come to love them dearly; they become as real to me as members of my family.  In fact, between writing novels, meeting people online and stranger-watching in the place where I live, what reality is becomes quite hard to define!

So Hugh and Eleanor fall in love, and through much adversity finally get to be together, only to find that in the daily domestic round living together is not as easy as they had expected.

The humungous row I had to write was Hugh and Eleanor struggling with remarkable lack of success to communicate effectively with one another.  But they do love each other dearly, and their path of love together forms a significant proportion of what the book I’m writing now is all about.

I finished wrestling with this difficult and demanding passage telling the tale of this couple in love on the evening of Valentine’s Day, and I read it to the Badger over the cusp of midnight into Valentine’s Day.  So somehow his and my love, and our stories, got twined together with Hugh and Eleanor’s love, and their story.  Their relationship is not a re-telling of, or even like, my relationship with the Badger, but it has certain ordinary human commonalities that he and I – and I hope all readers – can surely relate to.

So yesterday, Valentine’s Day, after the Badger and I had exchanged cards and a kiss, off he went to work and I went to check correspondence and opened my email.
I sat there stunned, rooted to the spot.

There, in my inbox, sat an email from Hugh and Eleanor, “With love on Valentine’s Day”.

How could this be?  I was actually quite frightened to open it, in case some weird hacker had somehow got into my life and knew what I had been writing!

Well, I did open it eventually, and it was a book promo from a writer whose work I have purchased in the past, whose first name happens to be Hugh, and who has formed a professional alliance with his wife, whose first name happens to be Eleanor, and they are marketing their work as a joint enterprise, using Valentine’s Day as a platform for their promotion.

But, cor!  What a weirdness in a world of weird!  I shall keep that email.  And I’m glad to know Hugh and Eleanor are watching me as closely as I am watching them!!

"Aha!" and "Phew!"

These two things are not connected at all, except for inhabiting the same space of time.

This is Thing One.

I have always wondered – and asked several people – about the process of hait going grey.  I’ve been curious to know, does each hair have its own colour, so that if a hair is grey it will be grey all along its length, so the process of going grey happens through the gradual replacement of black/brown/blonde/red hair with grey/white? 

Or does a hair that is coloured at the tip change to grey at the root, so that it’s grey near the head and coloured at the end of its length?  I didn’t know, and nobody I’ve asked has ever been able to tell me – not even people with grey hair.

But now I know.

This year, my hair has advanced significantly in greyness.  It started a while ago, but gave the impression of merely being more blonde than brown.  That’s because there is a lot of red in my hair, and red keeps its colour longest.
But now it is going seriously grey, and it is also long, so it’s possible to see that the truth is a hair can be grey at the root and its original colour at the other end.

Like this. 

So, mystery solved.  How satisfying!

Now, Thing Two.

Today is such a peaceful, happy day.

When I write novels, I don’t start at the beginning and work through to the end.  I make them like a patchwork quilt.  I have a plan, a pattern, that will give shape and cohesion to the whole thing, but then I work on different sections as they present themselves to my imagination.  When one is complete I turn to God in prayer, asking for the next chunk to be downloaded, please.  Not that I claim my writing to come unsullied from the throne of grace, but it is indeed soaked in prayer before it unfolds on the page, not only by me but by the dear friends whose praying helps the story come to birth.

The novel I am writing at present explores themes of home and family, with a special focus of the way we communicate with one another.  It is about two-thirds written, but a big section was missing from Chapter One.

The reason it was missing is that it had to be a most humungous domestic row.  And I hate rows – or even arguments, or even a sense of tension and disharmony.

Much fiction – whether novels, film or television serials – depends on aggression and conflict for dynamic interest and strength.  ‘Dark’ is a very popular word in the world of fiction, and so is ‘adult’.  As though we were immature in some way of we wanted to write/read about the light, about purity and innocence.  In much fiction, innocence is there to be deflowered, love to go sour, friendships to be betrayed and marriages to be spiced up by an adultery.

But this is not what I personally am looking for in a story.  I like stories that will edify me and fill me with hope and faith, that will help me believe in life and in people – and in God.  I like stories that I can transplant into my imagination to make me a better wife and mother, a truer friend, a kinder neighbour.  I like stories that are about goodness and gentleness, about people who try hard – and succeed as a result.

And I don’t want to read graphic descriptions giving explicit detail of the physical events of sexual intercourse, or torture, or other physical close-up material.  In fact, in my own writing I have continually to resist the hankering of the wistful editor to have me tell the reader that a character has body odour or an overbite, greasy hair or a paunch or muscular arms or yellow teeth.  These physical details serve to attract or disgust, to allow the reader to measure the character against the yardstick of what the world calls success; and that isn’t why I’m writing.  In my stories, all the characters are good; that’s what I write about, human goodness – because I have an unshakeable belief that goodness is interesting, and reading about it has a positive effect on the human spirit.  

Occasionally I put in physical detail, and that is often with the intention of countering mainstream prejudice: so, for example, in my books all the fat people are either clever or pretty, and the hero is often unpopular, or disabled, or growing old.  I like to take the characters that are usually given stereotyped bit-parts, and put them centre-stage, and make them loveable and alive.

My stories are sometimes described as ‘slow-moving’.  If there is a Die Hard V, or an Apocalypse III, it won’t be written by me.  I write close observation of human character, relationship, behaviour and experience in the light of the transformative power of divine grace.

And I write about the effect on people when, in adversity, they meet the healing touch of gentleness, goodness and understanding.

So, you can imagine, I do not like writing a humungous row.

It took me ages to gear up to writing the one I just have – hatching it in my spirit felt almost like an illness.  It felt heavy and hard and grievous to bring forth.

Last night at last I wrote it.  I finished the chapter in which it is set – which deals with the misunderstanding, miscommunication and unintentional conflict that bedevil so many families and marriages.  The chapter is about 11,000 words long.  This is how I tested if it had come up good. I read it to the Badger when he came to bed at eleven o’clock, after watching a really interesting drama on TV.  This is a good test – to read a long piece to someone when they are sleepy and ready to doze off.  I finished reading to him at a quarter past midnight, and he was still wide-eyed and gripping the edge of the blanket, invaded by the dilemmas and adversities of my characters.  To be fair, midnight took us into Valentine’s Day, so he possibly thought it might be worth staying awake.  But even hopeful people can’t stay awake on purpose when it’s midnight and they’re bored.  So it came through good.  I got it right.

Thank you to all dear friends who pray for me in my writing.  I cannot tell you what a difference it makes.  The task of writing the things of God in a way that will appeal to the imagination is ministry that sets up opposition, and I am constantly aware of the turbulence it creates.  But I think it is worthwhile.

There are still about 25,000 words to write of that book, but the really gritty, tough bits for me to write are mainly in place.  The rest is easier for me.

Today feels like a real chillout day – and the sun is shining, too.  In fact it’s like a foretaste of summer just now.  No doubt the harsher weather will be back before spring is fully here – but this day is beautiful.  

And I thank God. 

The Kindess of Strangers

I love random acts of kindness, those simple things that can make all the difference. They don't have to be huge, anything will do. One day I was heading home and I passed a woman walking on my country road. She smiled and waved, I mean really, sincerely waved. A giant grin (I saw teeth), and a body shaking wave. You'd have thought she was my very best friend in the world. I couldn't help but respond in kind, her joy was contagious. It was then I decided to wave to all who passed me on my daily walks. It was a small extension of kindness, but it made me feel great. Sometimes I'll surprise people and get a positive and energetic response. Others are too busy talking on cell phones and trying to stay on the road to be bothered, which is fine, all I can do is extend the kindness, not force others to accept. And some it is truly hard to wave at. You know, the ones that roar by, splashing water, snow, salt everywhere with little to no regard for me. I'll confess that sometimes I fail with them somewhat. I don't manage a friendly wave, but at least I don't express my distaste with another much more unkind gesture. ;)

Recently I had the pleasure of 'meeting' a fellow Etsian after she posted on my Facebook wall. She took the time to read my blog, and become a follower. She then continued on to my daughter's blog and became a follower there. She visited all of our Etsy shops (and there are four of us in my home!), handed out hearts to everyone and generally left behind a feeling of unsolicitated, genuine kindness. I was so taken with her simple acts that I had to send her a thank you, and see if she wanted to become my first featured artist on Inspiration Earth. I was thrilled when she accepted, I wanted to get to know this kind woman a little bit better. To begin with, her name is Julia, and she can be found at JuliaPeculiar.Etsy.com. She began by describing herself with the following words: loving, open-minded, stubborn, optimistic, melodramatic,loyal, moody, creative and absent-minded daydreamer. I could hardly wait to get started!

What led you to Etsy and what motivated you to open a shop? I can't remember how I found Etsy, I think maybe a friend told me about it. I remember thinking straight away that I would love to open a shop on Etsy. It seemed a really friendly and creative place to be, and I found all the different ways people were being creative really inspiring. I had decided that to open up a shop was a great way to mark my 40th birthday. I had been putting it off for so long, and it was something I really wanted to do. (Yay Julia!)

What are your favorite things to create? My favorite things to create are paper dolls, as they always just seem to create themselves, and I love to see their personalities gradually coming to life. I made my very first mixed media canvas just before the end of last year, and was surprised to sell the second one I created on Etsy just before Christmas. I am really looking forward to learning new techniques and trying out new ideas.

I think my favorite thing I've made so far on Etsy has to be the personalized ring box that a lovely chap asked me to create for him for his marriage proposal at the beginning of this month. He sent me a beautiful message telling me he'd had tears in his eyes when he received it, and that they would always have me and my work in their hearts. I was really honored to be a part of such a special moment of their lives, and was touched by how appreciative the customer was.

I will always have a love for ACEOs as they are what got me into altered art in the first place. I had seen a few altered art ACEOs on Ebay and loved them. Through these sellers I discovered the artist's group ZNE, which I'm sure a lot of people are familiar with as it was a great meeting place for anyone interested in altered art. I made my very first ACEO in September 2007 and it was like lightbulb moment for me. Until then I'd dabbled in various creative things, but never felt that any were really 'me', but as soon as I started creating altered art, I found something that moved and excited me, it was amazing.

What do you find to be your best-sellers, or what generates the most interest? I haven't sold enought to have a bestseller! But I would say I've mostly sold ACEOs and my paper art dolls seem to generate a lot of interest.

Do you work outside of the home also? While my husband was in the USAF, I was lucky enough to be a SAHM and I dabbled in making dried flowers and country crafts. I'm a florist by trade, so it seemed the most natural thing to do. I never really made any money doing that though, I have thebusiness sense of a cabbage!

Soon after my hubby retired at the start of last year, I was lucky enought to find my dream job of working on a homeschool programme with an amazing little boy with autism. A couple of months after starting though, my whiplash from an accident I'd been in the preivous year came back with a vengeance, and I ended up having to quit work and begin physio again. At the time I was heartbroken, but I decided to turn it into a positive, and once I was able to start working on my art again I decided to really go for it, trying new ideas, and to reallybelieve in myself as an artist. I got a bit depressed after having to leave my job, and dealing with the whiplash, and I think my art played a big part in helping me to recover.

Is it your hope to make a living off of your creations, or is it just a hobby? I would love to make a living from my creations. I now get advice from my daughter who is much more business savvy than me, and I'm learning a lot from others on the Etsy forums and Facebook.
Who are your most avid supporters? My family are great at supporting me, my hubby tells me I'm very talented, bless him. And my teenage son and daughter are always ready with praise when I appear before them, like a toddler saying, "Look what I made!" My best mate Dawn Handy, who is an amaazing artist, is a great inspiration to me, and has always encouraged me to share my art and believe in my creative self. She has really helped me to grow as an artist. I've also met some fabulous people on Facebook who are very supportive. Evi of AedanSeppe on Etsy and Arien of VictorianScarlett on Etsy have been particularly supportive and encouraging.

Do you sell anywhere other than on Etsy? How does that do? I decided recently to open a shop on Folksy, as I realized a lot of people, especially in the UK, aren't even aware that Etsy exists. I'm working on getting my first listing up right now.

Where else can people find you and your work?

And so, that was my first featured artist. I had such a great time reading her replies and learning more about what makes her tick. I found myself smiling as I pictured her parading her creations in front of her family (I do the same thing)! I found myself cheering her on when I read about her injuries and embracing the change of direction her life took (go Julia)! And I was so happy that she has a husband, family and best friend that support and encourage her on her creative journey. She was cheery, energetic, honest and positive. What a great way to kick off my features. Thank you Julia. :)