"Though it's galeforce, let's steer a course for sanity"

This is Edwin.  He’s fine now, but he wasn’t a couple of months ago.  He was larking about with his brother at the top of the stairs one night, when he fell through to the hall and broke the neck of his femur.
Hebe found him and called us – poor little thing, lying quietly against the wall looking confused, his leg useless.  We picked him up and took him to the vet who x-rayed him and gave him painkillers.  In the morning we collected him and took him to our own vet, who operated on him.  We had to confine him to the house for a while – just one room for the first week or two, while he gradually recuperated.  You would hardly know there was anything wrong with him now – he’s just not quite such an aerial cat as he used to be.

Yesterday I’d almost completed my grocery shopping, and had two big baskets of fruit and salad things and bread, when a container of herby olives slid out of the basket and split open on the floor of the shop, spilling olives everywhere.  Just nearby one of the store staff stood sorting out shelves.  She laughed uproariously.  “You didn’t want that to happen, did you!” she said: “Never mind, leave that to me, I’ll clear that up; just get another one.”  What a nice lady.

When I got home with the shopping, I had a quick bite of lunch, then it was time to head off out to a bereavement call for a funeral.  At the home of the deceased person I found his wife and her sister.  Together, they had cared for him at home, supporting and helping and nursing, organising the medical and care support that he needed, keeping him company, talking to him, sitting with him – right to the end.  And now, his widow had her sister there with her, loving and comforting her as she faced the loss of her husband after more than forty years of marriage.

If we help each other – like we helped Edwin, like the store assistant helped me, like that bereaved lady helped her husband and her sister in turn helped her – problems don’t diminish, but they are shared and they become manageable.

I have met no end of people who say they cannot believe in God because of all the world’s problems; but I think most of those problems would not prove a challenge to faith if we helped each other.

The last couple of days, while I’ve been running round the Wii-Fit island, I’ve helped my pace stay steady listening to our Alice’s Fisherman’s Friends album of songs about the sea.  Some of the lyrics are about the transports to Australia – grim voyages.  The songs say things like ‘I wished I could die’ or ‘It made you wish you’d never been born’.  It struck me, as I padded along on our carpet, that these terrible emotions belonged to situations of human heartlessness and cruelty.  It’s not disease, accident or natural disaster that make people wish they’d never been born, but imprisonment, torture, terror, oppression and sadism.   We are designed to cope with even awful illnesses and accidents if others are alongside helping us.  Our Hebe likes to watch the emergency services programmes on the TV; I sat with her one day watching as a rescue team gently and carefully freed from a wrecked car the three injured passengers trapped there.  Obviously the crash victims were not having fun but, with reassurance, pain relief and help, they knew themselves to be in good hands: it was bad, but it was OK.

My husband Bernard died of the most awful illness, and he was certainly scared and in extremis at various points.  But as he approached death, his pain now controlled and with us taking care of him at home, praying for him and loving him, he ceased to be afraid.  His fear gave way to gratitude, faith and peace; and that was how he died.  Such deaths do not stop people believing in God.

What destroys faith is the atrocities people are capable of.  The Bible-believing Christians with hate on their faces waving placards saying “God hates faggots”, for example.   Or the US backed Latin American dictators mowing down the protestors on the steps of the cathedral at El Savador so that their bodies flipped like fish as they fell in their droves.  Or the people of Bhopal* left with a legacy of pervasive sickness when the Western owners of the poisonous chemical plant walked away and never came back to finish clearing up the mess they’d left. 

Or even the small everyday things.  The mother I saw out with her children in Silverhill last week, barking out instructions at them, her face hard and cruel.  One of her children, a little girl maybe three years old, walking alongside the pushchair with the baby in it, crying as she walked.  Her little boy, maybe six years old, who started to cross the road (it was clear of traffic) before he was given the command, roared and screamed at, stopping with fear on his face and hastening back to his place in the terrible procession.

When people see these things, their faith in God dies.  It is poisoned at the root.

To nurture faith, to raise it to life again, we do not need a different world, one with no volcanoes, no diseases, no calamities.  Tears and sorrows are natural, they do not disturb faith.  All we need is to switch the points from hating to helping, from condemnation to kindness.

On that Fisherman’s Friends CD, in the song No-Hopers Jokers and Rogues, there’s a line: “Though it’s gale-force, let’s steer a course for sanity.”  That’s what I mean.

*The video on Bhopal I link to above and here is a good example of the devastation that human indifference and irresponsibility can bring, and the reversal and healing that comes when human brothers and sisters come alongside to help and rescue.

Wait... What???

I'm so grateful that all of my blogger pals suspended their posts while we're on vacation. What a thoughtful thing to do.
You know that we don't want to miss a minute of your rich and wonderful lives. :)

Hmmmm? What was that? I'm not sure I heard you correctly...

You've been blogging up a storm?

It'll take us days, if not weeks to catch up?

Holy Smokes Batman!

You've actually had more time to write because you're not spending all your time reading my novel length posts??

Oh, well, that's okay, we forgive you. :) I mean, who could stay mad at such dear blogger friends as all of you. :) Hope all is well, and we'll see you soon!

Peace ~ Melinda


The smiles are real convincing, huh?

What am I doing? Mid-sentence probably!

There were a lot of these... ;)
Lol ~ I think this one is hilarious! We all look terribly goofy!!

Riley had no idea she hit the wrong button, and then had no idea how to turn it off again! Look at us all primping before the picture, too funny! And that's Riley's weird voice, makes me laugh everytime. Hey, after 4 days of clouds and rain, you find laughter in unexpected places! :)

The end of the day

That's our Edwin, falling asleep  :0)

Excuse me if this all seems a bit insular.  It’s late and it’s just what I’m thinking about.

Today our Hebe has been working on a Calvary in the grounds of a church on the hill that goes down to the sea (here's another work of art at the same church).
The monument is made of granite, and has a crucifix on top.  The stone has got cracked and everything is dirty and sad-looking, the lettering hard to see and shabby.  Jesus has been knocked off His cross by a seagull and lost His head on the way. 
Gary from the masonry has pressure-washed the cross and monument, and re-pointed it, making good all the gaps and cracks.  Jesus is going to have His head fixed back onto His body and be fastened back onto His cross (er… I guess that’s good…).  Hebe is re-painting the lettering, a slow careful process that has to be done lying on the ground and using a No 1 paintbrush, very painstaking.

I feel very proud of the work of artists and craftsmen.  People who sneer at the church and also at the royal family, saying they cost way too much money and that all the money should be given to the poor for food and the necessities of life, often don’t realise that the church and the royal family keep legions of poor artists in work, fostering the development of excellence and allowing craftsmen to live vocationally.  A lady came to take a photo of Hebe painting the lettering on the monument, so that the church people who have put up the funds can see where their money goes – and realise that it’s not just paint slapped on over a stencil but is a slow, skilled job for a real artisan.  I feel proud of Hebe, that her letter-cutting and calligraphy are fine and lovely to the eye.

At lunchtime, I went to a concert in one of the churches in Hastings town centre.  It’s a beautiful Anglo-Catholic church with statues and an intricately carved wooden rood screen and wonderful murals.  Every Wednesday they have a lunchtime concert to raise funds for the ongoing work on the fabric of the church.  Today Bones 4 U came to play for us, four young trombonists, all undergraduates at the Royal College of Music.  They were brilliant!  I felt so proud of their achievement.  They played this trombone arrangement of the William Tell Overture.  Fab!
Travelling down from London to play in Hastings, they encountered every possible kind of setback. Their tube train broke down in the London Underground, their train got delayed by a vehicle hitting a bridge; so, when they reached Tunbridge Wells in a last desperate attempt to make it to Holy Trinity in time for the concert, they leapt into a cab and drove hell-for-leather down the A21.  The hour arrived for the concert to begin, and the organisers received a text to say the trombonists were at that moment only a couple of miles away, driving along Bohemia, and would be with us any minute.  So while we waited, five members of the audience kept us entertained, singing and playing Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring and Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus.  I felt so proud of Hastings that, in all its shambolic poverty, it is still the kind of place where an average lunchtime audience on a normal midweek afternoon can, with no notice at all, produce a group to sing in beautiful four-part harmony, with a note-perfect piano accompaniment.

Then, at the end of the day, the Badger being on holiday, he cooked supper so I watered the garden.  Outside among the flowers and trees and vegetables, looking at the paradise we have made in really quite a short time, watering the courgettes and peas, strawberries and raspberries we have already had many meals from, and the beans and onions that are almost ready now, I felt so proud of my husband for all the hard work digging and fertilising and weeding and sowing – and for the work he has put in all this day in his workshop, making a cabinet to store all the pieces of glass for the stained glass windows our Alice makes.

Well done, family… well done, Hastings… what are those words from Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata? “…let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals… With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”

And so it is.  Thank you, Lord, for your good and faithful servants.

To set the record straight

This week on Facebook I have in more than place come across a sister of the faith making an assertion that I feel needs correcting: that the NIV translation of the Bible was edited by Virginia Mollenkott who, because of her liberal feminist views and lesbian orientation, has caused the NIV translation to incorrectly represent the meaning of the text.

This lady is calling Virginia Mollenkott a ‘liberal sodomite feminist’, and saying she has taken out of the NIV the references to sodomy found in the King James version of the Bible, thus perverting the translation away from the interests of accuracy. 

My concern today is not to challenge anyone’s personal morality – neither Virginia Mollenkott’s nor my friend's on Facebook.  Both these ladies are Christian, and their morality and the expression of it is between them and their Lord, it is not mine to criticise or judge - so my Bible tells me.  I do have strong moral views about sexual relationships, and I believe that the right place for me to express those views is in my own life and behaviour.  I believe in the necessity of challenging or preventing sexual activity that is oppressive or abusive – rape, sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults, that kind of thing – and it makes no odds to me whether that abuse is gay or straight.  But I do not see gossip in a public place about the private and intimate personal relationships of others as appropriate conduct for a Christian woman.

But I am writing to correct two misconceptions/inaccuracies being spread by this gossip.

The first is the description of Virginia Mollenkott as a sodomite.  If she is indeed lesbian, then it is overwhelmingly unlikely that she is a sodomite.  Sodomy is a sexual act involving anal penetration, usually between two men, sometimes perpetrated by a man upon an animal.   I have no personal experience of lesbian sex, but I should be acutely surprised to discover that it involved such an act.

The second inaccuracy is the suggestion that Virginia Mollenkott is personally responsible for the editing of the NIV.  Here is a quotation from its preface:

“The translation of each book was assigned to a team of scholars.  Next, one of the Intermediate Editorial Committees revised the initial translation, with constant reference to the Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek.  Their work then went to one of the General Editorial Committees, which checked it in detail and made another thorough revision.  This revision in turn was carefully reviewed by the Committee on Bible Translation, which made further changes and then released the final version for publication.   In this way the entire Bible underwent three revisions, during each of which the translation was examined for its faithfulness to the original languages and for its original style.  All this involved many thousands of hours of research and discussion concerning the meaning of the texts and the precise way of putting them into English.  It may well be that no other translation has been made by a more thorough process of review and revision from committee to committee than this one.”

My husband (who, you will be relieved to hear, does not participate in anal sex) was heavily involved in the production of the UK edition of the NIV, and tells me that the process is accurately described in the preface, the translation being the product of editorial input from hundreds of scholars – not the work of one woman.

Could it be that this thorough, careful and accurate translation of the Bible resulted in a text that has disappointed some of the cherished and hardened prejudices of some of the faithful?  Even if that is not so, and even if the word sodomy had been introduced to every other page, it still would offer no comment on the lifestyle of Virginia Mollenkott as a lesbian – though a few heterosexual men looking virtuous at the side of their wives on a Sunday morning might have cause to be feeling a little shifty.  We would never know, would we?

The preface to the NIV ends:
"We offer this version of the Bible to him in whose name and for whose glory it has been made.  We pray that it will lead many into a better understanding of the Holy Scriptures and a fuller knowledge of Jesus Christ the incarnate Word, of whom the Scriptures so faithfully testify."
To that I say, "Amen!" 

Kind Men and Time Passing

Yesterday I went to church three times.

In the evening, I went to St Peters, Bexhill, because I had stumbled on the news that they have choral evensong from the Book of Common Prayer every Sunday.  I love evensong, and I am a total Thomas Cranmer junkie, so this was a real hang-out-the-flags discovery for me.  One by one all the churches round about have dropped off their evening worship – this was the only church I could find that opened its doors on a Sunday evening at all.  My discovery happily coincided with their patronal festival (ie Petertide), in celebration of which (joy upon joy) they were singing Parry’s I was glad.  I went along braced to be disappointed (natural pessimist), and was not.  It felt quite extraordinary, a real Tardis journey, as I found myself transported back forty years to what ‘church’, when I was a teenager, meant.  Such a beautiful and happy experience, and for sure I will go again often.    

Earlier in the day I went with my daughters Grace and Alice and the Wretched Wretch to worship at Pett Methodist Chapel, the loving and creative little fellowship out in the English countryside where Grace and the Wretched Wretch worship every Sunday.  This chapel is very special for our family.  My second marriage, to Bernard, was consecrated there by the then minister the Revd Derek Brice – scholarly, gentle, wise, funny, kind and much loved.  A cross of Bernard’s making hangs on the wall (he was an artist blacksmith), expressing the holy Trinity at the heart of creation and the cross that stands while the earth turns.  The east window was designed and made by my daughter Alice.  Pett was the chapel that welcomed us, nurtured us and loved us when our lives fell apart.  And I was for a while their pastor.  So our roots grow deep there, and I love to worship with them.

Pett Chapel – especially last Sunday when Derek Brice, now retired, was the visiting preacher – is a place of kind men. 

Keith Miller, their organist, manages the website, puts together the worship power-point, writes hymns and blesses the church family with the unfailing generosity of his love and his smile.  He is the kind of man who picks up the fallen and notices the ones who have been left out and forgotten.  A peaceable spirit, he is able without confrontation to work for what is good regardless of any adversity, and to stand up for and support the Kingdom things that should be happening even if they fall into disfavour or simply drop off the agenda.

Ken Hatch, with Wendy his wife, came to the rescue of Pett chapel back in the days when its congregation had dwindled away to almost nothing and closure began to look inevitable.  Against every kind of discouragement they have kept going, keeping the flame of witness alive in the heart of that village.  When the villagers couldn’t be bothered to bring their children, Wendy went to the school instead – there ‘Sunday School’ became ‘Tuesday Club’, so the children could still learn about Jesus and His Gospel of love. 
Ken has been a much appreciated friend to our family.  He visited Bernard in hospital and at home when Bernard was dying – and Pett chapel was the only church Bernard ever felt really at home.  Ken drives the fourteen mile round trip every Sunday to pick Grace and the Wretched Wretch up for chapel and then does it all over again to take them home.  Ken was waiting on the first Sunday the Wretched Wretch came to chapel as a tiny baby, the first to take him in his arms and welcome him.  On the Sundays we make it up there to worship, Ken’s quiet and loving welcome is assured.

And this last Sunday, as the time came for worship to begin and the the preacher (Derek Brice) walked from the back room, where preparatory prayers had been said with the steward, up to the front of the sanctuary, his route took him past me standing with the Wretched Wretch in my arms pointing out Jesus in the picture hanging up on the wall.  And Derek paused as he went by, put his hands on my shoulders to give them a little squeeze, saying ‘It’s so good to see you here’.  To explain why this was so very special and so very kind, perhaps I can go so far as to hint that sometimes, since the devastation that befell our family and my eventual withdrawal from ministry as everything within me unravelled, most Methodist ministers have been lukewarm at best in the proffering of fellowship.   But not Derek – because he remembers whose minister he is.

And when we came to the sharing of bread and ‘wine’ in the eucharist, not only did he understand that the Wretched Wretch would appreciate being permitted to join in the sharing of the bread, but he had the imagination to let him choose which bit of bread he would like to take from the plate.  Saint Derek.  God bless him!  By such means is the love of a grandmother permanently won.

Before that, I went to the 8.00am eucharist at our own parish, St Johns.  Our rector there, Andrew Perry, is one of the kindest human beings I have ever met.  When he greets his congregation one by one as they leave the church, they take his hand and hold on to it as if they would never let it go.  His attention fully on them, he really listens, really looks at them.  As if each one were the only person in the world.  He preaches a Gospel of forgiveness, inclusion and grace.  He is Christ’s man.

So I have good memories of yesterday – it is this kindness that arises like incense into the nostrils of a God of love.  Nostrils.  God.  What do you think?  REALLY big?  Hair growing from them?  I bet there is.

And then today, the promised heat wave that showed up on cue yesterday is still with us.
Time is so very precious, it is our treasure, our wealth.

I know the months of dark and cold will be here all too soon – and not without their own austere beauty, too.  So, while the sun shines, I will sit in the garden and walk by the sea, open the window for the sea breezes to lift the curtain and waft in the freshness of the garden.

I watch the old people making their way to the post office or the grocery store, bent and slow and feeble.  While I am strong and can walk swiftly, while my joints are smooth and easy and my muscles and balance are good, let me run and dance and walk and work in the garden.

I listen to the Wretched Wretch’s first adorable beginnings of putting sentences together, hear him call with such joy, “Hello Mumble!!!” when he sees me coming or hears my voice.  While these fleeting days are here, for they will be gone before we know it, let me take time to hold him, listen to him, play with him, love him.

I see the gut-wrenching warnings of climate change and environmental degradation, I watch as the forests and the beautiful bays of the sea are sold to the highest bidder, so that concrete can cover everything until we fry in our own stupidity.  While there is sunshine and rain, while green steals over the dun landscape at the coming of spring, while stately trees shade our summer gardens, let me love this beautiful England, and drink deep of the sweetness of the living earth.

I count the friends and family members who have passed on, the sands of time run out for them, no more than a memory now.  And I wonder about Heaven.  What is Heaven like?  I don’t know.  You don’t know either, not even if you think you do.  But whatever are the glories of Heaven, lit by the fair beauty of the Lord, while there is time let me gaze on the dappling of light and shade in the greenwood, marvel at the fragility of the speedwell flower and the flavour of wholewheat bread and the fragrance of oranges and of woodsmoke and the cool pure breath of the rose.

For kind men, and for the time You have given me here on earth, Oh, I thank You, Lord.

Guilt Relief

Like many women, I sometimes feel like the Queen of Guilt.  It started in my childhood, as these things usually do.  I felt guilty when I made a less-than-perfect grade, because I was a perfectionist.  I felt guilty when I dropped out of college after one year, disappointing my parents.  I felt guilty wanting to get married at 19 and choosing to marry an active alcoholic.  I felt guilty because I had to work and put my kids in day care.  Through the years, I have felt guilty for just about anything, from what I choose to eat and not exercising enough, to playing the harp too infrequently and not making enough quilts.  I feel guilty when I procrastinate about balancing the bank statement.  Oh, brother, do I feel guilty!

But some of the worst guilt feelings I have ever experienced have been in the last three years, and they involve my mother (now 88).

Mom, having lost Dad in 1980, has lived independently all these years until she was involved in an auto accident and broke a hip and ankle.  After the hospital gave their exceptionally wonderful trauma care and sorely lacking followup care, she moved to rehab.  The next step was up in the air.  She clearly couldn't live by herself anymore.  Even if she completely healed from her injuries, she was getting macular degeneration and blepharospasm, she had one hand permanently in a claw-like position and arthritis had deformed all her fingers, so going back to her little house was out of the question.  My sister Joy, who lived locally around Memphis while I was up here in Maine, visited a few nursing homes but she said the ones that Mother could afford were bad.  So there was only one thing left to do.

My sister sold her beautiful dining room furniture and turned her dining room into a hospital room for our mother, as it was the only first-floor room she could use.  She installed the hospital bed, potty chair, wheelchair, and all the other accoutrements of postsurgical/elderly care, and moved Mother in with her.  Mother has been there ever since.

I can't help but admire the sacrifices Joy has made in these last years.  It started with getting up every night multiple times to care for her, and as Mother got more mobile, Joy was in charge of making sure her prescriptions were refilled and picked up, her doctor appointments had to be scheduled and Joy had to take time off work to drive her there.  She has had to put up with everything that living as an adult with your elderly mother entails.  With her own daughter starting 12th grade, a second daughter in college, and full-time job, and her activity in her church, Joy has had her hands full.  On top of that, Joy has had to take care of Mother's house, making sure the grass was cut and beer cans from the neighbors were out of the yard, that it was not broken into, that repairs were made, and gradually Joy has cleaned out the house so that she can finish repairs and put it up for sale.

Oh yeah, and Mother's dog?  Joy had to adopt it, too.  (For a few months, Joy had her own old dog, her late father-in-law's dog, and Mother's dog all at the same time.)  Add vet visits and dog-hair cleanup to Joy's overflowing schedule.

You can see where the guilt comes in.  Joy is sacrificing her family life, her social life, her personal mental and emotional sanity, privacy, and any hope of being able to just relax and do something for pleasure and recharging.  Meanwhile, except for a short yearly visit to stay with Joy and help with Mother (which brings it own set of problems, having to host out-of-town relatives, of course), I have been sitting here in Maine with a predominantly non-stressed life.  I like my job, my kids are all grown with their families and doing great, my husband is retired so he stays home and cooks wonderful meals every evening, my house is quiet, we live in the country, I have time to do my hobbies.  Just because of the fact that we moved to Maine 15 years ago, my sister is having to handle this life stress all by herself.  Hence, the guilt.  Powerful guilt.

A few months ago, Joy and I started mentioning in passing how nice it would be if Mom would come stay with us for a while.  When I even mentioned the idea, Mom scoffed and changed the subject.  She has never flown and won't start now and refused a car trip.  So the conversations progressed to more pressing suggestion, that she really needed to take a break and come up here for a while.  Nothing worked.  It finally was clear that only an order would be accepted, so we just flat out told her she was coming.

So in a couple of weeks, my 88-year-old mother with her walker and her prescriptions and her topical lotions and potions and her walker and clothes and, yes, her dog, will be living here with us.  I didn't have a dining room to turn into her bedroom, but I do have a very small third bedroom I've been exercising in, so that's what she will have.  We've been cleaning and organizing and buying things and hanging curtains, and trying to arrange furniture to be walker-friendly and getting ready for another dog to be living here, as it's been over a year since our Babe died.

It will be a stressful trip bringing her and the dog back.  She has bad anxiety and tremors anyway, and this will be hard on her.  But I think once she gets here, she will relax and settle down and get into a new routine.  After all, we told her, Ed and I already live like old people.  We have no social life, we eat at 5 p.m., we watch old movies from the '30s and '40s on the weekend, our house is elder-friendly (wide doors, push handles, etc.), and we have put cable TV in her new room just for her.  Add that the fact that  she can see her grandchildren and her 3 great-grandchildren on a regular basis, and it sounds very good, doesn't it?  Mother has never liked change, but I think she has finally adjusted to the idea of living with us.

I am really looking forward to it, also.  Sure, it will assuage some of my guilt for Joy having to have borne the burden ever since Mother's accident, but here's something surprising:  Along with my guilt has been some jealousy, too.  Joy has gotten to interact and take care of Mother for quite a while now, and now, it doesn't just have to be my turn, I want it to be my turn.  I talk to her every night but I really miss her, and I look forward to touching her old gnarly hands and kissing her good night on a regular basis.  Oh, I'm sure the stress and irritation will wear on me - it'll be like having a little kid at home again that you have to worry and watch out for, except this kid will query me every time I leave "shouldn't you wear a hat?" - being the stereotypical "once a mother, always a mother."  We will have to make sure her prescriptions are refilled, that she gets to the doctor, the dog to the vet, that she gets to watch her favorite TV shows.  We will have to figure out what to do about holidays since she will probably be homebound when the snow and ice starts this winter.   I'll have to get comfortable exercising in a more crowded part of the house somewhere, and poor Ed, who thankfully genuinely likes my mother, will not have much privacy anymore and won't even be able to cuss loudly at the weatherman.  It will be a major change in our lives.

But I will have a little less guilt and a little less jealously, and I am grateful for the opportunity.  My sister has been a saint.  I will never be able to be as conscientious and organized as she has been, but we have one thing the same in Tennessee and Maine - and that's lots of love to offer.  Wish us luck!

Blog Revamp in Progress...

 Happy Friday to all. :) I am in the process of revamping my entire blog (yay!) and spent the afternoon on a new page ~ My Story. Much of it will be familiar to you, but since it took me so stinkin' long to pull together... I thought I'd share. :)

My story. Hmmmm, where to begin when telling the story of one's life? So many challenges, joys, moments of revelation and contemplation have shaped me. How to abridge that into a 1 page story? I imagine it's often best to simply begin at the beginning, and let Spirit lead the way...

Me & my mom
4 generations in one photo. Many years later is was almost 5 when Taylor was born, but my nana decided it was time to move on before we could make that happen. :)

Me & my dad, once upon a time...
The home where I grew up, although the colors have changed over the years...

I am the oldest of 4 children- as stubborn and headstrong as they come while growing up. I had an idyllic childhood. I was loved and cherished, but never spoiled. I was smart and I was fiery.

Me & my sibs
 We grew up on a small farm, for years raising much of our own food from chickens and pigs, to corn and potatoes. We grew up on homemade bread and fresh fruit. We grew up on fresh air and room to run. It isn't a stretch to say that I had a childhood one would dream of.

 I grew up to create a family of my own. I met Scott during the summer of 1989. I use 'met' very loosely considering that the small school that we attended made us all on a first name basis. I was a sophmore, and Scott a junior. To this day it's a mystery why we stayed together. (Remember the fiery part?) I guess I saw his potential. ;) We married in 1994, a backyard wedding on a hot July summer day. Some would call our life boring, I call it perfect. We both prefer to be home, we both prefer the quiet. We've settled into the comfort of each other with all of the support and love that comes from years of figuring things out together. We bought out first home out of which I opened my own pet grooming business ~ Pampered Pets. I did amazingly well and got to a point where I was able to pick and choose my clients making for very pleasant days.

Miss Taylor
 1996 brought Baby #1, Taylor. She's smart, loves to read and loves to laugh!

Miss Jordan
 I didn't waste any time, and a year a half later life offered us Baby #2, Jordan. She's fiery, independent and hilarious. If I could step back in time, just briefly, it would be to have a sweet and sleepy baby nursing at my chest, breathing in that warm, milky breath. Hovering quietly in that place where dreams begin. Surely the most delidcious smell on this green earth ~ sweet baby breath.
In 1999 my parents most generously gave Scott and I 2 acres of their land and we built a home. It is whrre we live still, and where I plan to grow old. My home is my haven. The sense of peace and calm that I feel here is inexplicable. Surrounded by trees,and birds, and sky, I am at peace here.

Miss Riley Mae
 The new millennium, 2000, brought us Miss Riley Mae. She's sweet, imaginative and loving. Three beautiful girls. Our family was now complete.

My mom and my girls
 Somewhere along the way homeschooling became our way of life. I never envisioned sending Taylor off to school, strangely, the thought never even crossed my mind. I really hadn't thought too much about what I would do, I just kind of unknowingly allowed myself to be guided there. Before you ask, yes, I plan  to continue through high schoool (in fact Taylor is already there), and no, socialization has never, ever been even the tiniset bit of an issue. In fact, the girls and I have thrived and grown in our created environment, and while their education is very important to me, their happiness is more so.

 The number 1 rule in our home? Be kind. If it isn't kind, don't say it. Practice random acts of kindness, just because, expecting nothing in return.  Are they always successful? Nope. But they're some of the nicest, most polite, well behaved, joyful kids I know. Always laughing. That's my definition of success. :)

Me & my dad
 We never watch tv, our days are spent reading, creating, raising animals, learning, growing. I don't fill extra time with extracurricular activities. We live simply and quietly, finding joy in all sorts of wonderful nooks and crannies. Our days are never dull, never boring.

Willie ~ our big knucklehead
 We are extremely health conscious. I believe in perfect health. While some say 'life it too short', I say it's too long to be sick, miserable, and in pain. My choices allow me to enjoy the time I'll be here. We've evolved into organic vegans. Gluten free, sugar free, artificial free, preservative free, yeast free... the list could go on and on.What it really translates to is that I do a lot of cooking. :) Please don't get the impression that our food is bland and boring, in fact it is overwhelming with delicious flavor. Lunch is our big meal otf the day, and we dig in with ferocity and sheer delight. :)

Reggie ~ always hamming it up for the camera

Tansy ~ a bit more reserved than her brother
My life changing moment occured in 2004 with the extraction of 3 widom teeth. Through a series of events too long to doucument here, I found myself diagonoed with panic disorder and living an existence of daily terror and despair. From the moment I awoke each morning, to the momoent I thankfully fell into sleep each night ~ each hour, minute, second, was a living hell, from which I could find no escape. While I don't believe in the existence of hell, I found myself living in my own creation of just such a place, here on Earth. Of course now, loking back, it was without question the most blessed event in my life. It kept me searching for the way, my way, to be free. Slowly, very slowly over time, several years, I have found my answers. I have the distinct feeling this journey of knowledge will last a lifetime, and perhaps well into the next.

My sweet ratter, Bella
 I have released all fear from my life, along with all negative emotions such as worry and guilt. I have no place for them in a life now overflowing with joy, peace, laughter, purpose and creativity. I have evolved into a deeply spiritual being, finding connection everywhere.  In the birdsong outside my window, in the whisper of the wind, in the heady scent of  flowers. I have discovered a deep and unrelenting connection to Spritit/God/Universe that I never found through the rigid rules of any religion, which isn't to say that isn't the way for others. My daily morning meditation keeps me balanced and true to myself. On those rare and magical occasion when, for just a moment, I sit with Sprit, bathed in joy beyond description, they are enought to sustain me for the rest of my journey. Bliss beyond bliss and peace beyond any I've every known.

I learned to embrace change and have discovered once I stopped resisting, change always leadd me to a better place. Without fail. I can always spot the silver lining. I have discovered the 'secret' to abundance. I hold no judgements on any of my fellow human beings. We are each here on an individual journey of experience and rememberings, and I respect that and cherish that with the same fervor and passion that I pursue my own way.
Me :)
  Every day brings with it new questions, and every hour provides me with new answers. I find the guindance is always there in the quiet of my heart. In the stillness between breaths. This journey is an amazing treasure. I'm grateful for all moments large and small. I'm grateful that you're here to share it with me.

Peace and many, many blessings ~ Melinda

More Reasons to be Grateful...

Last week the girls and I received an awesome little package in the mail, another treasure from another extremely talented Etsian. Have I mentioned how much I LOVE Etsy? An eclectic mod podge of genius, all in one place... such bliss. I could kiss the person(s) behind Etsy. :) Anyhoo, Jordan had sent some of her most loyal bloggers a pair of these awesome fingerless gloves she makes, just a random act of kindess to those she thought would wear them (that's my girl! :) Much to our unexpected delight, we received kindness in return. And not just Jordan, but all four of us Smitten gals. Isn't that wonderful?
Our dear blogger friend, Renee, made each of us a personalized bookmark. Mine is green (probably my favorite color!) with the sweetest little pea pods adorning it. Renee, who is a faithful reader of our blogs, took what she's learned about each of us,and created something unique that reflects our individual personalities perfectly! It was such a thoughtful and considerate thing to do, but that's just the kind of gal she is. :)

She even made one for Riley, my youngest, who can't yet have a blog, although she pines for one daily. According to Blogger rules you must be 13, and since I find it impossible to lie... she'll just have to wait a little bit longer! Her bookmark was purple and she declared that it is the prettiest one of all! ;)

You can find Renee here on Blogger at Elf Renee, or take a peek and browse her creations at Elf Renee on Etsy. Her shop is full of beautiful creations, there really is something to please everyone. Thank you Renee, as an avid reader, I doubt one can ever have too many bookmarks!! ;)
Then, on Monday I was also the recipient of these gorgeous flowers, much to my surprise and delight. I'm not afraid to let it be known that although I adore my husband, it is definitely not because he is a hopeless romantic! In fact, I'm not sure he is even aware that such a thing exists, except maybe in fairy tales... ;) That being said, the one or two times a year that I receive flowers from him are truly special occasions. These were made even more so because they were a 'just because' gift.

Thank you Scott. :)

And lastly, I am so thrilled to be able to be able to say that I just finished up the last of the 25 clipboards today! Yippee! I finally received the paper on Saturday and dove in on Saturday afternoon. Everyday, several hours has been dedicated to their completion. I'm so happy they came out so well, I made an extra just in case... but didn't really need it. I'll throw it in as a thank you gift. :)

There are clipboards covering every available spot in my studio!!. So nice to have the job complete and it was fun to be working on clipboards again. :) I think that I'll have to add some new ones into Simply Smitten soon, I just picked up some adorable paper at Michaels the other day, stay tuned... :)
Thank you to Taylor for the perfect photos of my new and wonderful bookmark. And thank you Jordan for the pics of my 'just because' bouquet'. I'm so glad you'll take pictures for me at a moment's notice... these posts would never get up otherwise! ;)

And so, that'll do it for today. I'm off to make bread... again, even though what I really need is a nap...;) I hope that you all have a most lovely afternoon.

Peace ~ Melinda