Facebook is PUBLIC not private.

People can vary their privacy settings on Facebook.  Some of them don’t know how to do this, and those people often aren’t sure exactly who can see what they have posted there.  But what can be read of what you have posted depends not only on your privacy settings there, but on the settings of your Facebook Friends as well.

People are on Facebook for different reasons.  Some folk are just there to keep in touch with friends and family.  If they have grasped how to adjust their privacy settings, they may make their pages very private, so that none of their information can be viewed by the public.  But some of their Facebook Friends may be on Facebook for professional reasons – to increase their internet profile.  These people are likely to have set their privacy to a much more open and accessible level – because they actually want people they don’t know to be able to find out more about them.

Writers, for example, usually have Facebook pages, and each writer will manage his/her page differently.

Davis Bunn’s Facebook page encourages discussion, but gives little or no personal information – he posts almost exclusively about his books and professional life.  His page is interesting and attractive, and it showcases his work admirably without admitting passing strangers into his private world.  It is a very prudent and intelligent use of Facebook.   Davis has just over 600 Facebook Friends.

Sherry Gore, on the other hand, describes her Facebook page as being like her front porch – a place for folk to stop by and chat.  Sherry has over 2,400 Facebook Friends.  She often posts about things that are happening to her family, neighbours and friends, asks us to pray for her and for others, and engenders a sense of community on her page.    In my opinion, Sherry is a brilliant rĂ´le model for Facebook use.  She is always gracious, courteous and friendly.  She is diplomatic, kind and discreet.  If she inadvertently offends anyone she apologises and retracts immediately.  She is cheerful and funny.  If she is grieved or struggling, she shares it with us, but she doesn’t whinge and her positive posts far outweigh the sad ones and the cries for help.  She promotes her writing and keeps its publicity ever before us, but makes us feel like friends, not punters.   

I am on Facebook to keep in touch with personal friends and family, and also to get to know people I would not otherwise ever have the chance to meet with the intention of deepening and enriching spiritual understanding and journey.  My privacy settings are not especially tight, because I use Facebook for networking – I am deliberately seeking to enlarge my circle of Friends, and to allow people who enjoy my books to have a glimpse into my life.  Most of what appears on my pages is not visible to the general public, but it is visible to the Facebook Friends of my Facebook Friends as well as to my Facebook Friends themselves.  I’m going to say ‘FF’ for Facebook Friend from here!

I have 290 FFs. One of those FFs has just over 2000 FFs.    She is on Facebook as I am and as Sherry Gore is, in a combination of private and professional, both keeping in touch with personal friends and professionally networking.  I imagine her privacy settings are likely to be similar to mine – but I don’t know what her privacy settings are, and she doesn’t know what mine are. 

Recently, during a tense international situation of a serious and sensitive nature, she posted a flippant, derogatory and racist comment.  This FF is a Christian, and I thought what she had said was inappropriate.  A thread of comments began to appear under her original post, as her FFs joined in the joke.  I took exception to this, and added a comment of my own to the thread in remonstration, saying that I thought it unwise for a Christian to say such things – certainly unwise to say them publicly.  Her professional sphere is Christian, and her comment would have done her no credit with many of her professional connections.

In response to my comment, my FF posted in bewilderment – she had not intended to upset me, and apologised for doing so, but said that she did not see this as a public statement but as a discussion among friends.  One or two of her FFs responded rudely to me, one saying mockingly something like: ‘I thought we were on X’s Facebook page and now it turns out we’re on a world stage!!’

Think about it.  If this FF has over 2000 FFs and I have nearly 300, and my settings are such that all FFs of my FFs can see the comment threads on which I post, so that if each of my FFs has between 50 and 500 FFs – well, the readership of this comment thread could be massive!  But as we move in the same professional sphere, it could also be massively professionally damaging to the original poster: the person will be judged by her FFs’ comments as well as her own.

A similar event happened this last weekend.  Following the royal wedding, a FF who is a Christian writer and speaker posted in jest (I hope!) that his only disappointment was that there had been no assassinations.  I found this comment unpleasant and distinctly unfunny.  I removed the post from my news feed.  I later heard from a mutual FF who expressed disapproval of the original post that in the ensuing comment thread FFs sneered at his disapproval, and one said s/he wished our Queen had fallen from the balcony.   These individuals posting on Facebook have a wide network of Christian connections, and the person who created the original post is trying to increase his internet profile and enhance his professional ministry.  I can’t tell you how many FFs he has, because when I heard what he and his FFs were saying, I found it so distasteful that I unfriended him.  As I have 290 FFs myself, he has therefore potentially lost 290 people from his audience every time he posts about his new book or speaking engagement – because if I posted a comment in response to his posts, all my FFs could then see the posts and associated threads.

If you are on Facebook, it is vital that you remember that you are not in a private discussion, you are in a public international setting, and you simply do not know who is reading what you have written – because you can’t possibly know who all the FFs of all your FFs are.

If you are a Christian and post unkind or sneering comments, that’s the quality of your witness for all to see.  If you also have a professional Christian ministry, you just shot yourself in the foot.

And your indiscretions won’t go away.  The cruel and aggressive things you so foolishly said in a flame war on some website when you were twenty may still be picked up by a Google search now you are twenty-five and have just written your first Christian book.

The internet is public. Facebook is public.   On Facebook, as on this blog, I often disclose personal things about myself, but never without asking myself if they are things that I mind the whole world knowing.

It’s not just a matter of what people think of your character either; sometimes people put their family in jeopardy by their Facebook posts.

A FF of mine got into an exchange on her Facebook wall with her teenage daughter.  Here is what I gleaned from the exchange (and, had I added a comment to the thread, so would all my FFs; and potentially – depending on their privacy settings – all their FFs would have had access to the same information):
The woman was away from home, with all the other family members.
They would be eating out.
They would not be returning for some hours.
The girl was alone at home, and her mother was asking her to complete some chores before the family returned.

This FF also posts photos of her home in her Facebook albums. 

The thread was quite noticeable because the teenager in question did not want to comply with her mother’s request to do the household chores, and was disappointed to miss the meal the family would be sharing.  The unfolding argument kept the situation before our attention for some while.  You do see, don’t you, how vulnerable that mother made her daughter?  Facebook does have a facility for sending private messages.  This exchange should not have been held publicly on the mother’s wall.

Whenever you post on Facebook, it pays to remember: you cannot possibly know who is reading what you have written; you can be sure only of this – more people will be reading than you think, and you do not know who they are.

This is the church, this is the steeple

The tornadoes down South have claimed many lives and loss of property this week.  One of my MT friends mentioned that her home church had been destroyed.  I know well the gut feeling of loss folks have when they hear such news about a piece of property that has made a difference in their lives.  As I mentioned last week, I am blogging for 4 weeks on losses of places - the places that have meant so much to me that it is hard to imagine this earth without their presence.  Last week, it was my alma mater, Lambuth.  This week, it is my home church, Harris Memorial Methodist (later United Methodist) Church.

Above is a bulletin cover, the one I grew up with for so many years.  Harris Memorial was located in inner city Memphis.  It was our home away from home.  With our dad being choir director and mom a Sunday School teacher for years, we were there at every service, Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesdays for choir practice.  With our dad also on the Board, we were there for church meetings.  We were there for Vacation Bible school for a week every summer.  And if that were not enough, we usually stopped by every Saturday with our parents to clean up the pews and replace hymnals in their little holders.  We helped Daddy retrieve choir anthems from the file, take out the anthems from the past few Sundays, and put new ones in their folios.   Harris Memorial was really our home away from home.

Here is a picture of Daddy holding me in front of the church when I was 3 months old:

And a later picture with both my parents:

I have vivid memories of growing up in that church, because back in the '50s, everyone dressed to the nines for services.  Women wore gloves and hats.  At Easter the fashion was intensified, of course, and everything seemed to have a special sparkle and energy.  Every Easter my sister and I got new clothes - I mean ALL new clothes, including underwear and socks and shoes.   New clothes for us was a rare enough occasion that going all out on Easter just made it even more exciting.  When we got to church, we knew that an incredible view awaited us.  Mrs. Grogan, a family friend, took it upon herself to personally decorate the front of the church for Easter morning, with satin drapes, flowers, and tons of Easter lilies.  It was beautiful, and every year it was different.  The whole atmosphere was glorious.  We got to sing the great Easter hymns, and then in the afternoon, we returned to church for a special choir concert (which took the place of the usual evening service).  Sometimes it was a cantata (one long piece of music).  Other times, it was what Daddy called "a mixed-up program" - various anthems he selected to trace the Lent/Easter story, always ending with, of course, the Hallelujah Chorus, where the entire congregation would join the choir in standing.   Those were extraordinary moments that were made possible by extraordinary planning and hard work by our small choir, the one called "the best little choir in Memphis."  Of course, we had the best director!

As my sister Joy and I got older, we made close friendships with the other children in church, many friendships which we maintain to this day.   We especially had a lot of fun on Wednesday night during choir practice, before we were old enough to join the choir ourselves.  We stayed in the Fellowship Hall, supervised by another Mrs. Grogan (the mother-in-law of the Easter decorator), an elderly lady who, I'm sure, was exceedingly bored with having to watch over and reprimand a bunch of boisterous kids who wanted to get into all sorts of trouble, kids who really wanted to play with volleyballs, which made her distraught and anxious because she was always worried we would knock the ceiling lights out.

When Joy and I became of age, we joined the choir, under Daddy's directorship.  The choir room was a small room at the back of the church on the right side as you faced the altar.  I can remember all the ladies taking their hats off and putting them on the shelf, where there was a long mirror so they would fix their hair and make sure their robes were properly positioned.  The sanctuary sloped towards the front, and therefore the choir room had to slope too, so when I ventured forth to the tiny dark bathroom at the end of the choir room, I felt I probably could have gone faster by sitting down and sliding.  Women even left their purses in the choir room - ah, those were the days one didn't worry about people coming in and stealing anything.  There was a red light near the door, and when that light flashed, that meant the organist, Sam, had finished his prelude and was ready for the processional.  Show time!

Before church, of course, there was Sunday School, which involved annual promotions, a certificate, sometimes a new Bible, and then maybe a move to a new room and new teacher.

We met so many interesting people at church, and most of them in my eyes were the old people.  I've always been fascinated with old people, and many times in my life, I have been much more comfortable in the presence of the elderly than in the presence of my peers.  We had one old man who gave away Wrigley gum to the kids.  We had one old lady who always kept a cushion in "her pew."  (Most congregants sat in the same place every Sunday, and we could tell at a glance who was absent by noting the empty places.)  Our favorite old lady was Mrs. Perry.  She was a feisty widow who sat on the second row, gave us nickels to put in the offering, and every once in a while would let me wear her fox stole - yes, with the head and other parts still on it - which at the time I thought was kind of exotic, but now would make me nauseated.   We picked her up for church and took her home.  She lived in one of those big old houses in a poor neighborhood.  It was dark and dank and smelled horrible - for she was the quintessential "cat lady," with cats and kittens running amock, and to this day I wonder if she even had a litter box.  But she was the nicest person.  She always gave us a birthday card, and sometimes made us a cake.  Her only request was that when we sent her a birthday card or get-well card, that we sign it in pencil, so she could erase our name and reuse the card for someone else; her heart was big, but her budget was small.

All our ministers were old as well.  Brother Fletcher was an older man who at one point was trying desperately to increase attendance at the Sunday night service.  He decided to issue a challenge.  If the congregation managed to get a certain number of attendees at a Sunday night service, Brother Fletcher said he would stand at the pulpit and sing - yes, sing - the new hit Beatles song "I Wanna Hold Your Hand."  Of course, we met the challenge, as that was too good to miss.  He obliged, too, swaying and singing right up there at the pulpit.  It was such an incongruous sight that I probably would be thinking I had dreamt it, were it not for its presence in Daddy's home movies.

One year, the church celebrated its 100th anniversary with a huge celebration and return of former members and music and special guests, and we started wondering who our next minister would be.  (The United Methodist Church has an itinerant ministry, appointed every June, and a church may have a minister for a minimum of a year up to several years, then be appointed a new one.)   The neighborhood surrounding the church had deteriorated, some public housing had sprung up, we were surrounded by poor people, and it was obvious Harris Memorial was turning into a real urban inner city church with a mission of outreach.  It was time for a younger pastor, someone with vision and energy and along came Joe.  The youth, by this time adolescents and teenagers, were mesmerized.  He was the first minister we had ever seen in shorts.   He was the first minister we had ever seen who played volleyball.  He had a young wife and babies.  He even dressed up for a costume party! Harris Memorial would never be the same.  Joe Pennel left after a few years.  He eventually became a bishop.

The church declined further. Congregants died or moved away or decided to go to churches nearer their homes.   Crime increased in the area.  The church building became used for mission work during the week and became a neighborhood center Monday through Friday.  The congregants tried their best to invite the area residents to attend the church, but not much became of it, and after a while, it was painfully obvious the church had to close its doors.   As sad as it was, it called for another celebration, and that had to include food, for, as Daddy used to say, Methodists never gather without eating, and so we had a huge service and meal, inviting back all former members, pastors, and guests.  So many former choir members came that the choir loft was bursting at the seams.  It was a bittersweet day.  One piece of trivia that was mentioned was the fact that Ed and I were the last couple to be married in the church.

Here is a scene from our wedding in 1974 when the sun burst through the beautiful stained glass window in the front of the sanctuary:

Our parents were also married in that church in 1942.

The building closed as a site of a worshipping congregation and was taken over by the United Methodist Neighborhood Centers, continuing the mission of outreach in that needy area.  But at least we still had the building there at the corner, the one we remembered from all those years, with its big stained glass windows and towering steeple and precious memories.

Then one day came the horrible news.  During renovation/painting work, a paint can apparently caught fire overnight and the church had burned down.  When I saw it, it looked like a bombed-out building from WWII.  Before the remains were totally demolished, some people salvaged some smoky-smelling bricks for posterity, and one woman salvaged some stained glass and made wind chimes to sell with proceeds going to the Neighborhood Center.  Even in death, Harris Memorial was giving back.

The congregation (who, as we all know, is the real church, not the building) is still close and keeps in touch.  There was, in fact, a reunion just a few years ago, where people could come share their memories.  But more congregants are dying every year, and so many first-witness accounts are dying with them.  The babies baptized in that church became little kids who slept on towels during Vacation Bible School, became bigger kids who played during choir practice and went to Lakeshore camp for a couple of weeks every summer, became adolescents who were wowed by a preacher who was younger than 70, became teenagers who became lifelong friends - and they are now in their 50s, and time, as it is prone to do, marches on.

It's been decades, yet I still can't get over the fact that that building is not there anymore.  I find it sad that our generation will be the last generation to remember what that church was like - the Easters, the Christmases, the potluck suppers, the music, the weddings and funerals and everything that made growing up there such a remarkable time in our lives.  After we are gone, the stories will be relegated to obscure history books, maybe some tales being passed down within families, and some randomly written down as I have done today.  I realize this post is exceptionally long, and I'm not really recording these words for anyone but me and the others who want to remember what it was like to be at the corner of Seventh Street and Looney in Memphis, Tennessee, on any given Sunday morning years and years ago.

RIP, Harris Memorial United Methodist Church.

Garland Crowns Feature

Silver Mermaid
Happy Thursday blogger friends! :) Last month I held my first ever poll, and as promised the winner received a feature. As a result of that, we all had the pleasure of meeting Noa Jordan and her adorable felted designs. As I mentioned, I did encounter some weird blogger blip and some votes mysteriously disappeared... I thought it only fair to give the runner up a feature also, just in case she was accidentally shorted some votes herself! So,today I'd like to introduce you to Kathleen of Garland Crowns on Etsy.  

Could you give me at least 5 words or phrases that describe you Kathleen? Focused, imaginative, open minded, ambitious and meticulous.   

How did you find out about Etsy, and what led you to opening your own shop? My daughter told me about Etsy.  It’s proving to be the perfect  resource to display my creations to a niche market.

Roses for Dia de los Muertos
Is garland crown making a hobby, or would you like to turn this into a full time business?  My wish is to take it somewhere in between a hobby and a full time business. My goal is experiencing the satisfaction of creating a wearable piece of art and knowing the joy of someone wanting to wear it.  

Your crowns are really original, where did the inspiration come from?  I love costumes.  I’ve put together many full outfits but sometimes there’s a need for a spur of the moment costume. A Garland Crown can condense the festivity of a complete costume into a single head piece. I enjoy the challenge of creating art to convey a theme or holiday.  

Reggae Crown
Where do you envision people wearing your creations?  I envision people wearing Garland Crowns at festivals, ceremonies, conventions and celebrations; in performances or in parades, at costume parties and masquerade balls. Garland Crowns are perfect for occasions that call for unique and memorable dress.  

Who are your biggest supporters? I’m happy to say that people in the public eye like musicians, performers, the bellydance community and of course, my friends and family have all been very supportive.

Rainbow Pride
Are there any other places can people find you (Facebook, Twitter, Blog?) So far, Etsy is the best place to find my work.  My email is garlandcrowns@gmail.com and a website is in the works.

Is there is anything more you'd like us to know about you or your business Kathleen? Thank you so much, Melinda. I’d like to add that each crown is a unique blend of costume and personal expression designed to compliment an ensemble or promote an event.  A Garland Crown is wearable art and can be customized to reflect your purpose and passion. 

I'd like to congratulate Kathleen on her first Etsy sale! Even two years later I still remember the joy of seeing 'Etsy Transaction' appear in my inbox for the first time! I can't say it's any less exciting today! ;) Thanks so much Kathleen :)

SOLD!!! Mermaid Gold
I hope everyone is having a wonderful day, it's raining here in CT with the possibibity of thunderstorms later on. Fingers crossed, I feverishly adore a good thunderstorm! The grass is a gorgeously green explosion... I forsee the first mowing next week! ;)

Peace ~ Melinda

As bad as all that

This last week I bought The Economics of Happiness DVD by Helena Norberg Hodge and friends, and the Badger and I watched it last night.

It is a very beautiful film, very watchable, giving a glorious insight into cultures around the world.  Its ideas (pro-localisation, anti-globalisation) are well thought through and well-argued, and very familiar to me.

However, it had the usual gaping holes, and I do wish one time the Resurgence crowd (Satish Kumar, Vandana Shiva, Helena Norberg Hodge, Wendell Berry et al) would do us a favour and take a good hard look at these.

As usual, ‘white’ and ‘Western’ were dirty words.  Helena N-H did have a suggestion for those of us who have drawn that particular straw: we could go back to our cultures as teachers, to let everyone back home know how wrong-headed and destructive we are, and how much better off we would be if only we lived according to the culture Ladakh had before the road was built and the Chinese imported our cultural norms second hand and everything was ruined.

Helena N-H says she spends a good chunk of every year in Ladakh, and we saw wonderful footage of their simple agricultural lifestyle, which was held up as an example for us all to emulate, and contrasted favourably with all the rush and tear of our white Western mechanised industrialised ways.  So . . . er . . . how does she get to and from Ladakh, I wonder?  Bike?  Rowing boat?

We saw a scene in which Helena had brought two Ladakhi ladies back to The West to show them how awful everything is, and watched one of the ladies turning in sorrow from a decrepit old lady sitting in a nursing home room by herself, obviously abandoned by her heartless family.

But, wait, Ladakhi lady!  I am taking a funeral next week for an 85-year-old man who lived in a nursing home for the last stretch of his life.  It wasn’t that his family didn’t love him – on the contrary, when his wife (long deceased) had cancer, his daughter and sisters and female friends organised into shifts to care for her so she could live at home to the end, and when she died the same ladies cooked for him and cared for him.  They visited him constantly (same story with another dearly loved old man whose funeral I took last week).  But he had dementia, and needed more care than they had the skill and resources to provide.  And when he died, his relatives visiting the care home found the care assistants weeping, because they had loved him.  Why wasn’t a scenario like that in the film?  Wrong message? 

I had some friends who were missionaries in Bhutan, which is near Ladakh and has a not dissimilar cultural outlook.  While they were there, they were cherished and adored, because the simple Western medicines they brought easily healed illnesses the Bhutanese had simply had to struggle along with.  But the missionary family had to come home because a baby born to them was lactose intolerant, so couldn’t thrive on her own mother’s milk.  In the evil white West, they saved her life.  In lovely Bhutan, she would have died.  Perhaps it wouldn’t have mattered?

In Quaker meeting a few weeks back, a Friend was moved to tears as she told us about a TV documentary (yes, TV, that the Amish call ‘the sewer in the living room’.  Ha ha.) on the work of Sight Savers (to whom a Hastings Quaker financial offering was going) in India.  What made her cry was to watch a lady who lived in a mountainous village, where the tracks were unsafe for her to walk, being carried 10 kilometers for eye treatment – after which she was able to walk home to her village.  I wonder where the Sight Savers eye specialists trained, and who put up the money for the clinic.  Perhaps it all came from rural Indian villages, where they have got life right, unlike white Westerners – but then again...

When Helena N-H is staying in Ladakh, suppose she sustained, say, an eye injury requiring delicate and complex surgical intervention to save her sight.  I wonder what she’d do?  Shrug her shoulders and let the eyesight go, I suppose.  Hey, what does it matter?  Or maybe it might cross her mind to hop on an evil aeroplane with its affordable (if earth-wrecking) flight from its shockingly untaxed aviation fuel, to get to an evil white Western hospital and get the eye fixed?  I’ve met several English people who chose to live abroad because they liked the sun and the way of life.  While all was well, and they had money to spend, they lived there happily.  Then when they got ill and needed long-term hospital care and attention, they returned to England where they would receive it free.  So the society people love to revile was the one that helped them and gave to them, even though as citizens they had not chosen to enrich or support it.

Last week on Facebook, a (white, English, female) friend linked to this article ("10 Conversations On Racism I'm Sick Of Having With White People"), feeling that what it expressed was helpful and good.  I did not share her view.  I thought it racist in the extreme, and damagingly inaccurate.

It is racist to lump together ‘People of Colour’ and contrast them with ‘White’ people, and give the impression that’s what racism is – a skin colour issue perpetrated by whites.  What about the Hutus and Tutsis?  What about the way Robert Mugabe treats his own people? (Seen his palace?  It's here.)  And so many other ‘what abouts’ I could mention from all around the world, I expect you can instantly think of many.

Yes, oppression and prejudice and cruelty and torture and disrespect and unfairness are wrong – but race has nothing to do with it: they’re wrong under any circumstance and perpetrated upon any person.

It always saddens me that my race is hidden, disregarded, as well as despised.  I am English, but I can never say so.  If I make a purchase online, or fill in a form, or complete a questionnaire, when I am asked to enter my country, I am given a list, and England is never on it.  I have to fill in ‘UK’.  But I am English.  For the Royal Wedding, Rough Guides have some internet advertising telling folks about what a good holiday they could have here because "there's a lot to discover in this busy, diverse country" (Great Britain).  Great Britain isn’t a country at all.  It’s a collection of countries, of which England is only one.  The Royal Wedding is happening in England.  
Among the Amish, ‘English’ seems to be a word with about the same level of respect as ‘nigger’.  I am English, and I notice.  But as an English woman, not only do I have to put up with racist sneers and smears such as are in the article "10 Conversations On Racism I'm Sick Of Having With White People", and the invisibility of my country being hidden in ‘the UK’, but also with my own people eager to do themselves down and say how awful we all are and how much better off we and the whole planet would be if we all lived as they do in Kerala, or Botswana, or Ladakh.

At present there is argument going on about putting a cap on economic immigration to England, and if there is such a cap what the level should be.  What?  You mean they all want to come to this awful place with its terrible values and heartless abandonment of human beings and evil soul-destroying consumerism?  I wonder why?  Many of those who revile England do so having ungratefully benefited from education received here.   Our English government officials are not always admirable in treatment of refugees, and there is much to be put right – but we do at least have such places as The Medical Foundation here, receiving and helping people who have been tortured from all over the world, and England does seem to be perceived as a refuge, so we must be getting something right.

I think Ladakh is beautiful.  I have watched every TV programme and seized on every picture book and website I can find about Ladakh.   I feel much the same about Bhutan and Nepal and Afghanistan. 

I have learned a tremendous amount from reading about traditional rural and nomadic peoples, about Romany gypsies in traditional rural England, and about new green initiatives and eco-villages all around the world.

I believe in simplicity, frugality, and establishing health through nutrition, lifestyle and traditional remedies.  I dislike the fashion industry and the global rat-race.  I believe in life lived slow, with room to breathe and pray and sing.  I like to grow my own food in the garden.   I love the traditional Christian worship of the Church of England, the 1662 prayer book.  I love our old cottages and little villages.   This weekend coming, we have the Jack in the Green festival here in Hastings, and the town will be heaving with Morris Dancers and clog dancers and people in costume celebrating ancient traditions to welcome in the summer.  And these are living traditions here in Sussex – just as alive and just as much a folk tradition rooted in English earth as any corresponding festival in Ladakh rejoicing in its roots.

And tomorrow we have our Royal Wedding.  If the Royal Wedding were Ladakhi, no doubt it would be lauded as an example of splendid tradition and admirable social cohesion.   Here it attracts criticism on every side from every whingeing socialist and moaning Minnie you can think of.  But I am proud to sing “God save our gracious Queen” – may He indeed rest her happy and glorious, and give her victory over all that harms and hinders her.  I am so grateful for her reign over us, sober and wise defender of the Faith, ever an example to us of dignity, self-discipline and restraint.

Can we not find a way forward that addresses the urgent need to change from consumerist and destructive habits but doesn’t involve an old racism dressed in new clothes – without demonising and hating all things white and Western?   If what we want is a return to rural agrarian traditional cultures, can we have some suggestions about how to treat the sick – yes, I do know that depression and cancer and MS and fibromyalgia etc etc are connected to our Western nutritional patterns; but I’ve seen some horrendous (untreated) cancers in rural Indian and rural Indonesian contexts too, not to mention other global shockers like guinea worm and ebola virus.  And AIDS started with a European air steward visiting America – but then African traditional cultures have done little to stop it in its tracks.  Surely we don't want to embrace a slow, peaceful agrarian economy at the cost of losing our medical research and treatment of illness both chronic and acute?

Building the Peaceable Kingdom is not possible in a culture of name-calling and blaming and hating.   People have histories to get over – sure they do; but the getting over part should be as high profile as the history.  And it isn’t helpful when people see themselves as archetypes and icons – as, for example, in 2007 when we all focussed on the abolition of slavery, I heard the well-to-do, comfortable, successful Christian leader Joel Edwards identify himself with the slaves and the white people in his audience with the slave traders.  What?  If he has chosen to throw in his lot with the evil white Western world and live here participating and integrated into this English society, must he not also accept a share in responsibility for the global influence we exercise – regardless of his skin colour and racial descent?  What’s that got to do with anything?  I thought we were all descended from Africans anyway!

As I understand it, the way forward is to treat all living beings with kindness and respect, to accept responsibility for making choices that bless the Earth and all the beings that live here.  As far as I know there is not one country or race or cultural group that does not have some area of behaviour for which they should be ashamed.  We every one of us stand in need of God’s forgiveness and grace, and may God forgive the English for our arrogance and for our part in the damaging aspects of colonialism, as well as for our destructive consumerist habits.  But let us not delude ourselves that other cultures are Utopian, and if only we lived there all would be well.

Undoubtedly the way forward is a path of simplicity, leading away from reckless consumption and the unsustainable manufacture of useless junk and disposables; but please can we get there without embracing this culture of blame and racism, without accepting the undiscriminating demonization of everything white and Western?  

Clipboards, Doll Clothes, Date Night & Kale

Just some odds and ends today, I don't actually have a lot of time. Scott and I will have the house to ourselves for 2 entire hours while the girls go to Teen Group tonight. It's Riley Mae's first Teen Group, and also the first time Scott and I have been alone together in many, many weeks, or most likely months, since I can't actually remember the last time it happened...

I was once again the guest blogger on Everyday Inspired. :) These have replaced my Eco-tips for the time being since I haven't managed to get both written! This week features some great green cleaner recipes (I use the floor cleaner a couple times a week, in fact, it's what's next on my list for the evening!), and several reasons why you should dump those toxic commercial cleaners. I would love it if you took a peek, and last I saw, Valerie was up to 999 followers. It would be a wonderful way to say 'thank you' if I could help her make that teeny tiny step to triple digits. I always enjoy her blogposts, especially this months green features.  :)

Haven't had much of a chance to sew yet. Taking a week off meant a lot of catch-up the last couple days, in addition to helping my sister move into her new home (yay!). But I did manage to get a couple of things listed

I did get several clipboards made, it's been awhile and it was so much fun! I listed this board yesterday in Simply Smitten

I had someone request and order a wholesale listing for my Cinnamon Stick Air Freshener! Yay! :)

Updated photos of my wholesale Lemongrass Cleaner ~ finally! Sometimes these things take awhile... a long while!

I listed this outfit last week (probably more like the week before!) in Smitten, it was my first attempt at overalls. Well, actually this was my third pair. The first was too short, the second closer, and finally the third was just right.

Riley Mae is always thrilled when I embark on a new outfit idea. She knows that she'll probably end up with a new outfit or two... and she did! Recently she has acquired a new doll jacket and two pairs of overalls. Not bad. :)

Before  I go, I thought I'd share a great, super easy recipe with you. We eat this almost daily in our home, it's beyond delicious and super healthy to boot. I see many of you are already fans of kale, so you'll definitely want to give this one a try!

1 head of kale
sea salt

Remove the thick stems from the kale. ( They can sometimes be really tough. But, my mother never removes them... then again she could eat sticks and stones and say they were delicious!!) Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the kale and cook for 5 minutes. Drain.

Slice shallots. I use 5 or 6 because we love, LOVE them so much. The more the better is what we all feel. Saute them up in a bit of olive oil until nice and brown. They get much tastier the longer you cook them.

Toss the kale with the shallots, sprinkle with sea salt and enjoy! :)

Even Willie adores kale!

And so, that'll do it for me this evening. Thanks so much for reading blogger friends! :)

Peace ~ Melinda

Finds her head a bit done in

In England, the Transition Town movement is one of the community responses to the Earth asking us to change our ways as climate change makes it clear that our way of living is unsustainable.  The Transition Town vision is about making the change from an oil-dependent society, through the time of Peak Oil, to a post-oil society.

My Badger loves the Transition Town movement.  It works with the idea that government response is too slow and unwieldy for the speed of change we need, and that individuals working alone cannot manage the scale of change needed – but if we energise local communities, then change can happen.

At the heart of the Transition Town movement is a focus on small local communities.  This focus takes various forms.  Transition Town people would seek active community engagement on a number of levels – perhaps volunteering in projects like (here in Hastings) cleaning litter from the beach or clearing overgrowth from the streams in the Country Park.  They would support local choirs and amateur dramatic groups in their performances.  Avoiding car use, walking and biking, Transition Town people lay special emphasis on local trade.  They shop at small local stores and seek small family businesses as service providers.  They buy veggies from the Farmers’ Market not the supermarket.  They might also have allotments to grow their own veggies.

The Transition Town movement links easily to the Permaculture movement – and to the US Urban Homesteading movement.

All my adult life I have been passionate about green issues, and also about taking responsibility for my own health through nutrition, herbs, and traditional, natural modes of healing.  Gandhi’s maxim ‘Think global act local’ has put down roots into my heart.

I also care very much about the living beings that share this beautiful earth with me – and compassionate, ethical farming practice is of great importance to me.

I try to walk a spiritual path, living simply and patterning my life on God’s word to me in the Bible.  I believe that Jesus came to teach His people Himself, and I believe my life is made whole by a living relationship with Him sustained daily through faith, prayer and practice.

In walking this way I have felt a call to simple, modest dress and to the covered head that symbolises a way of humility such as Francis Clare Fischer writes about here and here.  I love the Plain People and much about their way of life speaks straight to my heart – and links up in many ways with the whole Transition Town and Permaculture scene.

Just recently, my dear Badger invited me to go with him to a Transition Town conference that is coming up.  He is keen to attend, and would love it if I go with him.

I don’t want to go. 

Why?  Because all these things I am describing amount to so much pressure.   It’s hard to source the vegan food we enjoy without supermarkets – I mean, it can be done, but it becomes either too expensive from the little wholefood shops or else the diet becomes a bit . . . er . . . penitential.

I got everything all organised to be without a car and then Life moved the goal posts and I need to run one again to care for my mother. 

Living in a way that harmonises spirit and earth and faith is possible for us by sharing and budgeting carefully – but as commodities rise relentlessly in price, we who have low incomes rely on supermarket prices.

I do buy my clothes either second-hand or made by small businesses – Christian ladies who work from home as seamstresses: but they are in America, not England, so they do have to travel a way to get here.  Most of our things we have at home – furniture and so on – is second-hand or passed on by friends and family.  We try to live simply.

Among my friends of faith, I am disturbed at times by the focus on externals – bonnets and religious rites and whatnot.  People refusing to celebrate Easter because it has pagan connections, people talking about Satan and abominations and getting into how thick a petticoat should be to make totally sure no sunlight gets through so no-one can see you have legs.  People wearing hats all night in case they feel called to pray.  People saying C.S. Lewis is ‘of the Devil’ – and there’s even a woman with a massive sign all over the back window of her car saying “To Be Married To The Divorced Is Always Adultery – Mark 10” as if it was an actual verbatim quotation from the Bible.

Each individual thing is interesting in its way and makes a sort of sense, but together it turns into a sort of scary jungle of religious and political imperatives and rules that make me feel like I can’t breathe.

I don’t want to go to the Transition Town conference because I can’t walk the walk, so there seems no point in talking the talk.  It’s just too stressy and difficult to figure out how to make life work without the supermarket.  I mean, okay, I guess one day it’ll be forced upon me, but in the meantime it makes my head spin, all this religion, and all these worthy causes and things to remember and do and get right.  When I look at the sign on the back of that lady’s car I feel like I could just drop the whole lot – it gets too big to hold it all and keep on travelling.  

I want it to be simple.  It makes life complicated enough trying to be wheat-free and vegan – that by itself at one stroke turns any social occasion into a nightmare; especially once teetotal and no coffee and no tea are added into the mix.  But that’s how I stay well.

We kind of muddle along here and do what we can.  We try to take care of one another and live naturally.  I want to be modest and humble and gentle.  I love Jesus and His beautiful Gospel, and I love the Bible, and I love the beautiful Earth; I want to walk lightly on the Earth.  And when we have some money in, we try to do the good stuff like solar panels and loft insulation and the wood stove.  And though Badger has a car and I have one too now, his is a special hybrid one that uses less gas and mine is a very small economical one and I try to use it very little.  I don’t really go anywhere much – well, just to church and to visit my mother and to get in the groceries; that’s it mostly.

But all the rules and religious obsessions and things to remember and things to get wrong are doing my head in.  And all the people have their own set of preoccupations and expectations, and I can’t keep up with them.  And I have been divorced and I am married to someone who has been divorced – so where do we go from there?  I mean, hey, life bowls you a googly sometimes, it’s all not as straightforward as you might think.

Recently, I got all the way to applying for Quaker membership, and I thought I knew what I was doing with that – then right at the last minute after it had gone to Area Meeting and everything, I thought it was the wrong thing, because it cut me off from my family, took me into a group where they couldn’t follow, cos it’s just not their scene – and because one of us is only a toddler, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed but sitting in motionless silence for an hour, well, toddlers are not great at that.  So I backed out of the Quaker thing, and started to go back to Badger’s church again, and everyone was really sweet and understanding but . . . I wish I felt more grown up.  I wish I could be a bit less dysfunctional and get my head straight.  I feel permanently bewildered and inadequate and ashamed.  And then there’s all the scary stuff like Fukushima, and expanding deserts and GM crops and melting polar icecaps . . . it’s too big, it never ends.

Isn’t life hard enough without religious rites and bonnets and terrifying women threatening us with the Bible?

“He has shewn thee, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of thee but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God?”  

That’s it, isn’t it?  Isn’t that all we have to do?

Secrets to Success

It appears as though my mental health day, slowly but surely became a mental  health week. I guess I needed a vacation! ;) However, reading through blogs today and seeing what everyone has been creating, got me feeling antsy. I want to create something! So, looks like I'll be back to work soon... but it was a lovely holiday. :)

Awhile back I had ordered some natural, safe incense from a lovely little shop called Walk in the Woods. She's no longer on Etsy, but does have an Artfire Studio where she seems to do quite well (unlike my little shop! ;) Anyhoo, I recieved her package and it was like Christmas! Free gifts, lovely notes, business cards, you could tell that my package had been wrapped with loving care. I immediately thought, "I want to do that". I want someone to open their order from me, and forget they even had to pay for it! I want them to feel like little they received a gift, because I'm ever so grateful every time someone chooses Simply Smitten.  :)

This was a recent order, a lovely woman ordered this for her daughter for Easter, but couldn't wait, and gave it to her early! :)
 Each order I get receives extra special care and attention as I package it up and ship it out to its new home. I have several steps involved, and while my husband looks at me like I'm crazy, he can tell it brings me great joy. First, if it's an Inspiration Earth Friendly product it gets made fresh. I don't like to leave them hanging around. If it's a personalized clipboard, it gets a name added and the mod podge finish is applied.

I sit down periodically and made a whole batch of cards since they are a bit time consuming. That way I'm stocked up for awhile!
  Once the items are ready, I choose a free gift. I usually like it to match the order, so maybe a free chapstick would go with an eco friendly air freshener, or a handmade card with a clipboard. If I have a repeat customer, I try and give them something different as many times as I can! If it's a card, it gets wrapped in tissue paper and tied with a rafia bow.

Since I took this picture, both Taylor and I have ordered new cards!
 Next, I add in one of my business cards, one from Tay's shop, one from Jord's shop, another from Riley Mae's shop and one more from my mom's shop.

I print out an invoice and write a personalized note. Not just 'thank you', but a real note. After all, I've never met anyone who doesn't like getting mail!

After all the pieces are assembled, they get carefully packaged and boxed up. I tend to mostly reuse boxes, and so they aren't always in the prettiest condition. To spruce them up I wrap them in recycled wrapping paper, making them crisp and clean. Adhere a printed postage label, and it's ready to go.

I feel such a sense of accomplishment as I send an order out. Of course, I've already run through the entire order in my head (12 times) to make sure it's accurate! ;)
 So, it's always such great fun to come across another Etsian who approaches their business with the same care, and I have met several. Most recently I ordered my very first piece of artwork. I think much art is really very lovely, but it doesn't speak to me in a personal "I have to own that" way. The walls in my home are adorned with photos, or paintings my sister had done in high school, or various crafts I've tried throughout the years. I admire art in other peoples' homes. But lately, I've come across two most talented artists that have me swooning. One, some of you know, is Laurie from Primal Painter on Etsy. I did a feature on her awhile back and adore her work. In fact Laurie, if you read this, I'm reserving the crown chakra well in advance... ;) The second artist is Sara of Simply Sarafina . She posted a photo of a painting she had made for a Wine Gallery, a week or two ago. It spoke to me, I just had to have it, and I knew it would be perfect for my workshop. So we began to go back and forth, and she most graciously decided that the painting had indeed been done for me, and she agreed to sell me her work. Wonderfully, she shipped it out right away (another detail that I think is very important!), and in only a couple of days it arrived safely at my door.

The first thing we all noticed was how perfectly and carefully it was packaged. In big, bold lovely letters our addresses adorned the front of this most wonderful box. It arrived as I was getting lunch on the table, so to the consternation of my family, I decided to wait until after lunch to open and savor my "gift". Inside I found a wonderful little note, I read and reread the thoughtful, kind words she had written. In time I moved on to the painting (by now my family was getting stern with me!) Once again, most carefully wrapped, and with joy I slowly opened.

It was most perfect. The colors matched the blue in my workshop like it was made for it, and indeed I believe it was. The quote is something I believe with all my heart, and Scott and I used to listen to Jimi Hendrix while in high school, so it was also a nice trip down memory lane! Recently I turned my desk around to see more of the light, so there was a spot directly in front of me where my painting now hangs, to be admired often throughout the day. I've received compliments from all who've seen it, and I am deeply appreciative to Sara for agreeing to sell me this work of art.

So, those are just a couple of what I believe to be secrets to success. Attention to detail and postive energy go a long way towards making the customer feel special. And who doesn't love to feel special? ;)

I hope that you are all enjoying a wonderful Easter Sunday. The sun is trying to come out here, my fingers are crossed, it should be a lovely day! :)

Peace ~ Melinda


Further on 'Walking Into Simplicity' in a day or two - for the moment I seem to have walked so far into it I had a bit of trouble getting back out and onto the computer!

But friends, I had to show you this!

My daughter Grace (Buzzfloyd online), mother of the Wretched Wretch, found the MamAmor dolls, and oh they are so beautiful, delightful - such a wonderful idea.   Of the ones for sale at the moment my favourite's Agnes.  Which one do you like best?

They are for exploring the experience of giving birth, breastfeeding, carrying and loving and caring for babies.  They are big enough to be used in group work - women's groups, children's groups, schools, all sorts - as well as suitable for individual children, who clearly love and relate to them amazingly (see the photos on the website).

It is just such a joy to see something so positive and life-affirming, beautifully and mindfully made.  And I love to see artefacts individually designed and made by creative people in their own homes rather than mass-produced factory products.

God bless MamAmor, may that business prosper and flourish!

Web address: www.MamAmorDolls.com