365 2012

So, my 365 adventure begins today.  The game is to send on its way 1 item for each day of 2012, thus leaving my life 365 items emptier by the end of the year.  And for every new item I acquire, 2 must go.

I’ll post photos of the things that I’m releasing into the wild as I go, just for your curiosity.

I believe in the three Green Rs “Repair, Re-use, Recycle”, so I won’t be just slinging my stuff in the town dump.   I will consider mindfully each thing, and try to relocate it with someone who would be pleased to have it in their home – e.g. even some of the junkier bits I have put together to make up a Crafts Bag and free-cycled for a hard-pressed mama to keep her brood occupied over the holidays.   I entirely concur with Jonathan Porritt’s words about throwing things away: “There is no such place as ‘Away’.” 

I should make clear that since I decided to do this a few days ago I’ve been enthusiastically gathering stuff that I can move along, and found homes for some of it already so, though the photos will appear through 2012, those of you who know me personally may spot an item and think “Wait . . . what?  But it’s May 23rd and she gave me that thing back at the end of December. . .”  An item for each day of the year is what I’m aiming for, rather than an item on each day of the year.  I numbered each thing as I photographed it, so the items will be logged in the order I photographed them rather than in the order I’m giving them away.

I hope during this year to really make a habit of this so that my daily living becomes less cluttered, with a view to moving on in 2013 to include packaging into the game of getting rid of 2 things for every thing I bring into the house – which should certainly teach me to bear in mind that a plastic yoghourt pot is just as solid a thing as a Ming vase!  That feels like too big a struggle for where I am at the moment though, but I’ll try to keep it in my Far Horizon sights in the hope of scaling down my uptake of packaging as we travel through 2012.

Just to link you in with someone else who’s decided to accept the same challenge, you can see how Julie is getting on with her 365 de-clutter over at her blog Just Julie B.

So here we go, then.

For DAY 1, my first item-to-go is a funky pair of feather earrings.  These went as part of a craft kit for two little girls embarking on home-schooling.  Their mother blogs over at Brigid’sPilgrim.

Er . . . the mother of the girls, that is - not the mother of the earrings . . .

Made I larf

The people were urged as a religious duty to give funds for the mending of "Wikked Wayes".  

Peter Ackroyd The History of England vol.I: Foundation.

By 'the mending of wikked wayes', is meant repairing the roads! 



Lily, our border collie puppy, is as energetic as they come.  She shares the cute trait many other dogs have - loving to play fetch.  We throw her a toy, ball, or frisbee, and she runs like a bat out of hell to get it, then brings it back.  Then we usually have a problem.  She doesn't drop it.  She prances and dances and wants to play tug-of-war with it - anything but drop it.  Little does she know that we can't continue playing until she gives the toy back to us.  We've tried saying things like "Hand it over!" or "Drop it!" or "Put it Down!" and even "That'll Do!" and nothing works.  Trying to snatch it out of her hand just gets her excited and may even get us an accidental laceration.

After reading several books on border collies, the term we finally settled on was "Release."  So that's what we're teaching her as an instruction to drop the toy.

I've always liked the word "release."  I've heard at funerals that the deceased had suffered terribly from cancer or whatnot and had finally been "released" from his pain.  Release is the at the core of the AA mantra, "Let Go and Let God."  When I picture the word "release" in my mind, it's always accompanied by a big, deep sigh and a little smile, as if in releasing a heavy burden after walking with it for a long, long time.

But it's not just pain and guilt and heavy burdens we need to release.  It can be good memories, too, that we are carrying - memories that are so good, in fact, that we still live in the past, clinging to the good ol' days of when we were young or attractive or talented or popular, tightly gripping in our teeth the perspective that that time was so extraordinary that life ever since has somehow been deficient and will never ever bring us happiness again.   Sometimes it's something else - we might have a chokehold on our worldview, our paradigm for what we believe (segregation, anyone?), and no matter how wisdom has shown us otherwise, we refuse to change.

The thing that we can't get Lily to understand is that until she releases the toy, the play comes to a halt.  Her fun is in limbo because of her stubbornness.  But she will learn eventually.  She will come to comprehend that the very thing she is avoiding at all costs - putting the toy down - is the very thing which will bring her more excitement, joy, and companionship with her human family when the play resumes.  Once she lets go, she can open her mouth for the next catch - and as we do the same, we can open our hearts for the next blessing just around the corner.

My hope for 2012 is that we can all learn to release what is necessary to let go of - so we can receive again.

For 2012

 I start thinking about New Year resolutions around mid-November.  A new year offers an opportunity to re-calibrate – take stock of my current situation, reflect on how things stand at present, and think about where I’d like to head next; what it would help to drop or de-emphasise and what it would help to strengthen and focus on.

I went to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie (A Game of Shadows, did not enjoy) at the cinema, and was grateful for the habit recently copied from my friend Kath of taking with me at all times a small notebook in which to jot down absolutely anything – a kind of external hard-drive to augment my own memory.  In the dark cinema I wrote blind in consequently strange, but legible, writing the words spoken by one of the characters: 
“Tomorrow the sun will rise and set.  The rest is up for grabs.”

I really liked that as an expression of the opportunity that waits for us in every new day, highlighted by standing on the threshold of a new year.

In the words of Diana Lorence (of the Innermost House): To simplify does not mean to step down or to accept less, it means to begin again.

In beginning 2012 it seems to me that the priority both most urgent and most important is the Earth agenda, what Vandana Shiva calls Earth Democracy.  The Earth is our context, it is the place that allowed Jesus to make Love visible, the university of our soul development, the means by which we taste and hear and touch and see something of the greater glory of God.  No matter how religious we are, how focussed on heaven or how eagerly straining for the coming of Jesus in glory, without the Earth we lose the context in which God chose to play out the purposes of His sacred and beautiful will, His plan of salvation, the pattern of redemption, the vision of the Peaceable Kingdom.   Never more desperately have our brothers and sisters in every species needed to have us stand with them, choosing God over Mammon, justice over greed, what is natural over what is profitable, what is right over what is expedient.  The slime mould of Mammon is incorporating more and more of the human race, and the indifference of the religious right to the wellbeing of creation is advancing not hindering the spread of the Mammon-sprawl.

So in 2012, my first priority is to hold Earth Democracy at the forefront of my decision-making, and that my Resolution#1

Resolution#2 is to look for the Human.  I find it disturbing to reflect upon the disenfranchisement of increasing numbers of members of the human community by the increase of automation made possible by technological advance.  Driven by the unquestioned imperative of profit, people are made redundant by adoption of mechanisation – even forced to work towards their own redundancy by training the punters to use self-service machines.  In 2012 I resolve to actively seek - even where it is to my financial disadvantage and personal inconvenience - shops, restaurants and public services where human beings rather than machines still determine what is done and provide the interface with the business and the customer – small family businesses, local enterprises, and firms whose practice, as well as their product and publicity, celebrates community.   

Resolution#3 is to give myself permission to be me.  This year I will take with both hands the opportunity life has offered me to live a simple life, what William Penn called a ‘retired’ life – quiet and reclusive; because I want to.  This year I will refuse the guilt I feel at not joining in, and the compulsion I feel to attend events where I sense an expectation of my supporting presence.  I will go if it feels right and comfortable.  I might go if it just feels right.  If it doesn’t feel either right or comfortable they can do it without me.

Resolutions#4,5 & 6 are inter-connected, and should be made more possible by #3:

#4 To stop arguing

#5 To stop criticising

#6 To stop complaining

because arguing, criticising and complaining achieve nothing, leave a bitter taste behind, erode friendship and goodwill, and are destructive and depressing.

As I am considerably addicted to arguing, criticising and complaining, part of my plan in implementing this resolution is to have a nice time: to do lots of things that I like, spend more time by myself, and not to ask too much of myself, so that I have enough reserves to conduct myself positively and cheerfully.  I will be limiting my commitments wherever reasonably possible to one event per day, the rest of the time being given to housework, writing, thinking, reading, learning, cooking, gardening, walking etc.  By ‘event’ I mean mainly things with people in – visiting individuals, fulfilling family duties, attending church worship and business meetings, etc.

I shall take the advice of William Penn: Have but little to do, and do it thy self: and do to others as thou wouldst have them do to thee; so thou cast not fail of temporal felicity: and, Avoid company where it is not profitable or necessary; and in those occasions speak little and last.  Ha!  If I manage to stick to this, my family will not recognise me!!

Finally, Resolution #7 is to sow the seeds of kindness and understanding.

I’ll let you know how I get on.

Bathroom window

Oh wow!  Oh glory!  Oh total gobsmacking amazement!  Just look at the stained glass our Alice has made for our internal bathroom window!    Oh golly gosh I am so blessed to share a home with these geniuses!!!!!!!!!!!!

Various shopping expeditions and a Christmas rose

It’s not that I’m naturally quarrelsome, on the contrary I hate confrontation, but I have this addiction to being right.

Let me give you an example.

On November 26th (I remember the date exactly because of the sequence of events) the Badger and I went to Wyevale plant nursery where I spent an inordinate amount of money on some houseplants and a beautiful wind-chime to hang in our entrance hall at home.   I noticed that their Christmas roses were exceptionally good, but exercised strength of mind as I already have several hellebores in the garden, and didn’t buy one.  I got a couple of beautiful cyclamen though.

The reason I wanted these houseplants was because on that day we had Guests for Dinner and I thought the house ought to look beautiful.  We got some cut flowers too.  We don’t normally have guests for dinner, you see – in fact I can’t remember the last time we did, and I felt very nervous about it and was trying to make everything perfect.

At that time we’d done some work to the garden, and in the afternoon of that day (it was a Saturday), the badger went across to Battle to take my darling Mama out to purchase a new vacuum cleaner, hers having bitten the dust, then on to our place for a cup of tea and a glimpse of the garden (mud, principally, but restructured mud) before returning her home because the Guests were coming.  I hasten to add she was invited to stay for supper but one of the Guests was a bishop so Mama felt nervous as I did, and opted to go home.   Anyway, while gadding about the world with Mama, the Badger took it into his head to call into Wyevale plant nursery with her, because she likes plants too.  Accordingly, when they fetched up at the old homestead for a cup of tea, Mama arrived bearing a gift of a beautiful ivory-and-yellow orchid – another variety of plant I’d exercised strength of mind over and firmly put back.  Beautiful.  She had also bought herself a Christmas rose.

In the evening one of the Guests brought us a huge and glorious white cyclamen, also beautiful, so our house was resplendent by the time we’d all finished!  And we had a good time over dinner, and that was all fine.

The following day (Sunday), talking on the phone to darling Mama to check she was still alive and well over there in her apartment, I learned that she wished she’d bought a second Christmas rose so they could sit looking symmetrical on her balcony.  She said she thought she’d get one at Blackbrooks nursery next time she passed on her way to Sainsburys for her grocery shopping.  Mama is intrepid enough to have learned the car routes to Sainsburys and Tesco, the two big food shops, but hasn’t got the route to Wyevale nailed yet.   She thought the hellebores at Blackbrooks inferior to those at Wyevale, but hey.

On Monday the Badger had to go back to Aylesbury where he lives during the week close to his job in Oxford, so that Sunday, 29th, was the last chance for him to get the Christmas tree – that being the beginning of Advent.  As some of our household totally love Christmas trees and sparkly decorations, we put ours up at the earliest opportunity, Advent 1.   After some discussion (tedious, another story, won’t go into it), it was decided that the Badger would return to Wyevale as they had tree stands there as well as the actual trees, and our last year’s one had broken.  So I asked him if he’d pick up a Christmas  rose for Mama, to which he responded, “No, she got one.” 

“I know,” said I, “but she wants a second one, to be symmetrical on the balcony.”  So he got one when he fetched the tree (jolly good tree, Nordic fir, excellent shape and very firry)

The next day, Monday, I phoned Mama to check she was still with us and in good shape, and she mentioned that she’d got another Christmas rose.
“Darn!” thought I – having the superior version sat on my porch waiting to make its way to her; but I said nothing about it, not wanting to share around my (albeit minor) annoyance and frustration at her trigger-happy flower-purchasing.  And there it still sits to this day – it is flourishing.

Fast-forward (are you still awake?) to yesterday.  The Badger and I took Mama to the tip to get rid of the old dead vacuum cleaner, which had been sitting in her garage all this time, then to Poppinghole Farm Shop where I cleaned out the Badger’s bank account in a foolish surge of thinking global and acting all too local.

While the Badger was getting the vacuum cleaner and other junk items out of the garage, Mama wanted to show me a hellebore in a pot, that she’d just retrieved from the balcony.  Hellebores are hard to kill, but this one was surely on its way out, and she wanted another.  I mentioned I had one at home, that I’d got for her from Wyevale after she’d bought one and wanted another.

No!” she exclaimed. “I didn’t get it at Wyevale, I got it at the plant stall on the market.

You did not, you silly old woman, thought I.  You got it from Wyevale, I remember it all perfectly clearly.  And if it’s the second Christmas rose, you got it from Blackbrooks.   However, having resolved NO ARGUING (oh, dear, I haven’t explained about that, have I – tell you what, I’ll leave that explanation until tomorrow) I didn’t say anything.  Meanwhile she had headed off into the adjacent room and was saying “I got it, but it wouldn’t hang on the door.”

Starting to feel a little bewildered I asked her why she had said that when we were talking about potted hellebores, and followed to discover her clutching an artificial Christmas wreath.

“You thought I got the Christmas rose at Wyevale,” said she: “but this is what I got at Wyevale, to hang on the door. But the surface of the door is uneven and I couldn’t put a nail in because . . .” 

“Because it’s glass?” I suggested helpfully.

“Yes!  Because it’s glass.  So I stuck it up with loads of . . . er . . .”


“Yes! Blutak!  But it fell off . . .”

“Because it was too heavy.”

“Yes.  So I couldn’t put it up.  But I do like it.”

And all of me wanted to explain that she had got a Christmas rose from Wyevale, and unfold the whole sequence of events that proved irrefutably by invincible logic and my perfect memory why that hellebore most certainly came from Wyevale – but the still small voice said something along the lines of “Shut up.”  Well, to be fair, more like “Leave it.”  So I did.

I just said, “Well, I got you another one and you can have it when you come over on Sunday;” and she was pleased.

Early this morning lying in the dark, feeling relieved to hear the buses at the depot along the road starting up, because that means day has come at last and I can get up and make porridge and stop worrying about the logistics of cramming in to this morning the multiple co-ordinating events and people jostling over its horizon, I mentally revisited this conversation, and you know what?  The pot she had that dying hellebore in is not the same as Wyevale’s pots, so she didn’t get it there (it must be the second one).  And thinking about it, I'm not 100% sure she ever said she went to Blackbrooks (though it’s like their pots), she just said she intended to go there.  So maybe she did get it from the market stall after all.

Anyway I’m regaling you with this (seemingly but not actually endless, rest assured) story because I meant to tell you about my New Year’s Resolutions, of which the first is STOP ARGUING, because I am terrible at arguing.  It’s this addiction to being right.  It just annoys me intensely when something seems incorrect, so that I am unwilling to leave it, let it go.  And in 2012, I’m going to learn the art of letting go, and stop arguing.  But I’ll tell you about my New Year’s resolutions tomorrow.

Be The Change

Photo courtesy of Jordan
Here we are, on the cusp of a brand new year ~ the thought gives me tingles. What will this year hold for me?  Where will I journey? What new truths will I discover? What old beliefs will no longer serve me? What new people will enter my life? Which ones will exit? Hmmmm, boggles my mind, the infinite possibilities! So, now that the Christmas crazy is behind us we have this one quiet week for reflection before we jump with wild abandon into 2012. Because, like it or not, she’s coming. And as with everything we experience, we choose how to view it and subsequently how to live it. Some will look ahead with dread, fear and resistance. Others will welcome her in with grace and open arms. And tingles.

I’ll confess that I’m not a fan of ‘New Year’s Resolutions’, mostly because I’ve never seen one actually work! Lose weight. Eat better. Exercise more. Get organized. Every year I see these ambitious resolutions come… and go. Sometimes it’s a matter of biting off more than you can comfortably chew. Sometimes these ideas just lose their luster in the reality of living each day. Some last a week, others a month, but eventually they all seem to fizzle out. Gone and forgotten… until next January. I decided my perpetual resolution is to not make resolutions. ;) Despite that, it doesn’t mean that this year I won’t do better, be better, live better. Instead of setting a goal for 2012, I’m shooting for bigger. It’s more a case of reviewing my life as we step into each new year and deciding what I want for this lifetime. I may not accomplish my objectives this year, or even next or the next, but I’ll keep working towards them, slow, steady and determined.

I figure every day, every minute, every second, is a new chance for a do-over. I can never fail, only fall short of my goal and resolve that next time I will be kinder. Next time I will listen more. Next time I will be who I am truly meant to be. And instead of beating myself up, or worse yet, quitting, I can give myself the encouragement and support I will need to succeed. I can remind myself that for the time being I’m only human and sometimes that can be so stinkin’ hard!! So, as I reflect this week on 2011 I acknowledge that it was a pretty amazing year. Tons of changes which I’ve learned to not only embrace, but love. Enough growth to make me stronger yet not cripple me with growing pains. Laughter in abundance. Exploration. Rekindled love. Peace.

This painting that I hope to one day own is for sale in my friend Sara's shop ~ SimplySarafina.Etsy.Com
Simple yet powerful ~ I love it!
What do I wish for myself in this brand new year? As I pondered this, one of my most favorite quotes sprang to mind. You may be familiar with it ~ “Be the change you wish to see in the world” spoken by the wise and peaceful Gandhi. Be the change. Along the way I have decided that this is the very best course to effect a transformation, big or small. It seems so quiet and unobtrusive in appearance and not nearly forceful enough, be the change. But that still, open and seemingly passive expression seems to be the most effective tool I’ve found as of yet at creating the world I’d love to see around me.

When I wave my magic wand, what exactly is it that I see? This will come as no surprise to my regular readers, I’ve said it before ~ I envision a world where “Live and Let Live” is a way of life and not just empty words. I see nations, religions and neighbors suspending judgments, making one right and the other wrong. Only when this happens  do I believe we can get a glimpse of how crazy amazing we can become. We can only truly know what is best for our own self, and even then sometimes I flounder. And since some days I can’t even figure out what direction I’m supposed to take, how can I pretend to know what is the right way for anyone else? I can’t. And so every day, every situation, I release the need to criticize or render a verdict, recognizing that while it may not be my way, my way is definitely not the only way. I find I’m most challenged by those closest to me ~ husband, children, family. Thankfully I’m provided with many opportunities to succeed. But when I fall short, and I will, I remember I’ll be given the chance to try it again, and again, and again…

So, this year I will be the change. I will live by my convictions and beliefs and allow others the same. I will be happy. I will be peaceful. I will be kind. I will be open. I will love deeply. I will laugh daily. And I will know that by doing so I may encourage others to do the same. I will not preach. I will not pressure. I will not judge. I will live the very changes I wish to see manifest.

I wish you all an amazing and joyful new year.

Love & blessings ~ Melinda

{While I may not be a personal fan of resolutions I'd love to hear if you've made one ~ feel free to share below! Bring on 2012!! J }

Mouths and gatherings

I have found a most helpful marker to enable me to distinguish between the gatherings I can manage gracefully and the ones where my stamina is likely to give out and I might 
a) behave badly 
b) feel the need to leave, urgently and fast  
c) be so drained that I then behave badly all the rest of the day.

I can tell if it’s likely to work out by whether the people’s mouths are open or closed.

The kind of gathering where people have their mouth open is the sort where I am likely not to cope.  I mean the kind of event where people look like this.   If they are looking like this or this, I’ll probably be OK. 

If the socialising is taken a stage further and as well as showing their teeth and red glistening bits of their mouths and standing too close they are also smacking their lips over food, or eating with their mouths open in demonstration of how delicious something is, or making loud wet kissing noises in greeting each other, I definitely shouldn’t be there because it freaks me out even when it’s only on telly.

I have found it very helpful to arrive at this discovery because it helps me sort things out.  At our church, the 10.30 service is the variety where people have their mouths open a lot – at the peace they come towards you with that look, and there is a significant amount of socialising where people look like this.  At the 8.00am service, on the other hand, though the people are still friendly they mostly look like this (only with bigger spaces between them), and I know it’ll be OK. 

I miss Quaker meeting, where their mouths are mostly shut tight all the time unless they have something purposeful to say, which I found very soothing to the spirit.  But I still think I was right to decide to worship in the place my family can feel comfortable – I just have to identify which events to be at, and checking how the people do their mouths is a good rule of thumb.

A gift of God

When it’s Christmas or my birthday, I ask God for a present.  One year I asked Him for long hair.  He said OK but I’d have to take a while unwrapping it. 

This year I felt fraught and frazzled on Christmas Day.  I have discovered that I cannot cope with days when a lot happens – I disintegrate into bad behaviour – so I recently started the strategy of one-event-days.  Each day I permit only one of the events that wash away my topsoil, and let the rest of the time be for quiet, thoughtful occupations – housework, gardening, cooking, reading, sewing, laundry etc.  Basically it’s social interaction that I can’t do for long, and Christmas Day had a great deal of that in it, so that when I finally retired I felt a bit harrowed.

Consequently, I asked God for a present – if I might please have something like a cool drink for my soul, a restorative for my inner condition.  Then I went online and mooched around for a bit googling on subjects like ‘living simply +house’, ‘simple living +kitchen’ etc: I wanted some images of peaceful domestic interiors, plain and light-filled.

In so doing I came across The Innermost House; and that was my Christmas present from God, the restorative for my soul, with the ability to re-orientate me towards my right north star, the direction my life is headed.

I looked up every link I could find to discover as much as I could - here . . . and here . . . and here . . . and have allowed my soul to marinade in the beauty and serenity, the discipline and spirituality of Diana Lorence’s home and approach to daily life.

On the actual Innermost House website, the most fruitful parts to read are the ones headed In Diana’s Words I and In Diana’s WordsII.  If you click on those, you then have a series of essays to choose from.

The images of the house are just amazing.

I like the way we live here, and for our household a large house with a vegetable garden is the right way to go.  I don’t choose to emulate Diana Lorence’s tiny house in a woodland setting, even though I am totally in love with it.  But though our homes are different, I feel we are sufficiently on the same track for me to learn an immense amount from her – the disciplined simplicity of environment, the discernment and choice of the real, rejecting the synthetic and artificial, the attraction of the natural with its healing and comforting power, the necessity of silence, the nourishment of starlight, firelight, moonlight, sunlight and half-light; the importance of slowness, quietness, space and peace; starting with the inner life and allowing that to work outwards so that home becomes and expression of meaning . . .


Just beautiful.


It occurred to me today - if every day in 2012 I find one thing to move out of my life, by the end of the year I'd have 365 fewer things.

I like that idea.  I might try it.

Christmas Blessings!

Things I love about Christmas

:: a cozy fire on a cold night ::

:: ornaments that remind me of the gifts Jesus brought me: Joy & Peace ::

:: a Christmas tree, with its twinkly beauty ::

:: red decorations ::

:: wrapping presents for people I love ::

:: family ::

:: a precious baby ::

:: My Saviour! ::

Without the gift of His life 2000 years ago, there would be no Christmas.
No Joy!
No Peace on Earth.

Because of Him, we celebrate!
Because of Him, we have hope.

O come, let us adore Him, Christ, the LORD!

Christmas Day

May he who by his Incarnation gathered into one things earthly and heavenly, grant you the fullness of inward peace and goodwill; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you always.

Divine order - nature, religion and the being of God. She is puzzled.

What is God like?

Bewilderment often impels me to ask this.

I listen to the teaching and preaching of the church, and noting (amid its well-meaning and good-hearted reverence) the signs of superstition and narrow muddled thinking, inconsistency and vested interested, I turn aside discontented from its packaged doctrines and odd specific implementations of general morality.

I believe God created everything that is, that the one-song (uni-verse) poured forth from the Spirit’s life urge in a tumbling cornucopia of myriad self-expression.  I believe tsunamis and ticks, sunsets and scabs, Pacific waves and putrid waste all tell me something about the divine economy and what one might call the 360o point of view of the Living God.  But every now and then something makes me stop and think, “Yikes!  God!  What are you like?” 

This happened yesterday morning when we were discussing over breakfast the necessity of implementing the cats’ next flea treatment.  Casually observing to my beloved spouse the connection between fleas and tapeworm – that fleas carry tapeworm eggs and, being small and streamlined, can crawl freely in and out of an animal’s anus and deliver tapeworm to its gut by depositing the eggs in its rectum – once more I found myself lost in the old question, contemplating the ways of mty Creator, asking “God . . . what are You like?”

The church is quick to offer me answers, but I find most of them are like carrying water in a paper bag – they don’t take you very far. 

Over the last several weeks I have followed on television a series about British teenagers having a taster of Amish life.  At the same time I have been reading Joe Mackall’s Plain Secrets.  Both the TV series and the book puzzled me deeply.  I think of a community prepared to take a human being brought up separate from ‘the world’, having no ID papers allowing him to make his way alone, lacking the social skills to swim easily in the mainstream, not even a social security number or a home, and condemn him to excommunication and shunning, forbid his family to speak to him, insist not only he but also his parents will surely be damned by God to hell – because he prefers to drive a tractor . . . because he prefers the common-sense option of a car on the freeway rather than the impossibly vulnerable buggy to transport his children . . . because he wants to use a cell-phone . . .

I read of the Swartzentruber Amishman taking his injured child streaming with blood from English house to English house for someone who could give them a lift to the hospital and, finding no-one home, resorting to taking her to the vet to be stitched up (the vet did a good job).  Very resourceful under the circumstances, and no doubt the Amish are steadfast, admirable, faithful and courageous, with much to teach us who have been trapped and infected by the Mammon-tangle – but to say the Ordnung originates with God?  Can I believe that?  I don’t think I can.

In the case of a number of other lifestyle issues, I watch with bemusement the stockpiling of proof texts and tortuous application of biblical literalism necessary to arrive at predetermined evangelical points of view, and I ask myself - can I believe that?  More to the point, does it take me any closer to the God who created fleas creeping in and out of anuses and hermaphrodite snails and volcanoes that will freeze a living city in death in the blink of an eye?  Does the God who made the shark who stripped the flesh from the terrified swimmer care how he wore his braces or how short she cut her hair?

There are people who will, with kindness, courtesy and restraint, explain to me exactly why it matters that a menstruating women must not be allowed past the man-made rail that separates this patch of ground from that patch of ground lest she contaminate by her approach this wood/stone/concrete man-made table where the consecration takes place of the wafers they call ‘bread’ that were made far away in a press by other menstruating women set aside from the world in enclosed convents . . . 

I listened as the Amish-woman on the TV said that it freaked out her children to see her British visitors hug each other goodnight (because that included hugging people of the opposite gender).  She cautioned the girls over how they should bend down when they were picking tomatoes in the field, lest inadvertently, despite the modest dress they had been given to wear, men might see their breasts or legs or whatever it was that she was bothered about men possibly seeing.

The Bible says that God looked at everything that He had made, and pronounced it good.  Everything.  Breasts and legs, hermaphrodites and homosexuals and heterosexuals, volcanoes and quicksands and tsunamis, carbuncles and the ebola virus, grief and death and sorrow, fear and pain: God made everything, and said that it is good.  Laughter and singing, the smell of rain on summer dust, the terror and splendour of sheet lightning, those seriously weird fish that live right down at the bottom of the sea. Hydrothermal vents and giant tube worms.

God pronounced good the octopus that found the crevice in the corner of the tank in the sea-life centre through which it escaped by night into the neighbouring tank to eat the fish that God had also made before creeping back into its own tank again before morning.

What are You like?  God, what are You like?  You are like something that is not adequately addressed by kapps and aprons, by monastic Rules, by the Athanasian creed or the Ordnung.

And human beings, in enshrining the holy, comprehensively get in the way.

I almost (this is a long story) ended up co-ordinating the flower rota at church.  God, seeing this, acted swiftly and mercifully to prevent its occurrence because, you see, God knows me.  But when I thought I was going to be the flower lady, I bought a book about arranging church flowers; and there, near the front, was a paragraph explaining to all would-be flower arrangers that they must charge the congregation all that they could for their expenses – car parking fees, petrol, foam block – anything and everything, because (this made me blink and read it again to check I’d got it right) the more they charged the church the more the church would benefit.   Only a natural theologian could come up with so perfectly opaque a piece of reasoning.   At first I put the book on a high shelf where I could hardly see it.  But it still made me feel physically ill to know it was there, so I took it to the charity shop.

But puzzling about what God is like, bewildered by the perceptions and assertions of religious people, I glanced out at the woodpile, built against the garden wall.  The seasoned logs, provident and neatly stacked, representative of forward thinking and orderly life, and the wall beautifully re-pointed by Joe and Kevin to last another hundred years, spoke to me of shelter and peace.  And here I see the meeting point of the Amish Ordnung and the monastic tradition, mother Church and her dogma, holy ecology and the Divine mind.   The ways of Mammon are essentially chaotic – even where they are systematic they tend towards chaos.  The ways of God exhibit divine order – the bee lives for the flower as the flower lives for the bee, and each unfolds the inherent nature of what it was called to be.  Order and peace are interconnected – mutually proceeding from each other.

And I know from personal experience, by the touch of His Spirit upon my life, that the presence of God is peace.

Therefore I have discovered at least this: that inasmuch as it strive towards order, religion with all its blindness and cruelty shows truly a yearning and twisting of the soul growing up toward the light. 

If I work to put (and hold) in place order and peace in my life, then there will be some small thing thing in resonance with the one-song, the still small voice, the eternal Word.  I think.  I hope.


One of my favorite Christmas movies is Christmas in Connecticut.  In it, Uncle Felix, a rotund Hungarian chef, steals the show.  He is part of the plot to make his friend, played by Barbara Stanwyck, appear to be a Martha Stewart type character to keep her job as a magazine columnist when in real life she can't cook or do anything even loosely connected with housekeeping.  When her wedding is about to take place, Felix, who is a good friend of the bride, is asked by the judge if he will give the bride away.  Felix, who is frequently confused by American/English idioms, replies, "I don't give nobody avay.  Alvays I keep my mouth shut."

Sometimes people ask me why I bother blogging.  I'm not specialized enough to have a bunch of people interested in what I say (e.g., don't write about sewing or cooking or specialized hobbies), yet I still write every week or two.  My answer is that I mainly write for introspection, because it is only when I put things down that I realize what my priorities are and what problems I need to work on.  The only other reason is my grandkids.  I won't be on this earth forever, and I certainly can't assume I will still be here when my grandchildren are grown with the their own families (a situation my Mom enjoys), so I hope this blog serves as a window for my grandkids into their Grammy's mind and heart.  Maybe they can learn some life lessons from my mistakes and successes.

So here's my life lesson for this Christmas Eve:  "Don't give nobody avay.  Alvays keep your mouth shut."

Knowing when to just keep your mouth shut has to be one of the hardest lessons in life to learn.  Kids today grow up with rewind buttons everywhere, and the sooner they realize there is no rewind button for life, the better.  You'd think folks my age, born in the '50s without rewind buttons, would have easily assimilated that fact, but no.  I can speak from personal experience.   I speak, then I think.  Unfortunately, that's backwards, but hey, sometimes I'm a stubborn student.

There's an old story about a spiritual teacher who had his students roll all sizes of stones around a big area.  Then he asked then to go gather every stone and bring each one back.  It took a little time, but they did this with no problem.  Then he gave them feathers, and asked them to scatter the feathers and bring them back.  As you can imagine, the wind carried those feathers miles and miles all over the place.  They came back to the teacher in frustration, saying, "Master - the feathers have dispersed over miles; there is no way we can gather every one of them and bring them back to you."  The wise teacher said, "And that is how it is with words.  Once you say them, they are scattered forever and you can never take them back."

Throughout my life, I've said hurtful things on purpose.  I've said hurtful things by accident.  I've talked about people in a negative way to others.  I've said things that should have been left unsaid.  When I felt  accused, I've talked back defensively by reminding others that they're as sloppy/hurtful/inept/forgetful as I am.  I've offended, wounded, and distressed both people I am only acquainted with and people I dearly love.  It breaks my heart at times and fills me with awful regret.

Of course, my husband Ed has this fault, too.  I'm constantly berating him, "Why did you SAY that?!!" and many times he will reply, "I know.  As soon as it left my mouth I asked myself the same question." Ed also has taught me that the bad habits/transgressions that irritate us about others are a mirror into what we hate about ourselves.  I know when I get upset with him that down deep I am just upset with myself for harboring the same problem.

It only takes a moment to filter words in your brain before they are said out loud.  One of my New Year's resolutions is to be careful with words - once they are gone, I can't bring them back.

I wish everyone the blessings of Christmas and the New Year.   Live life in 2012 with the assurance that you don't need a rewind button, and watch those feathers.  They're light and buoyant and can be gone in an instant.

Cletus McDirt and Avocados

Chocomole recipe to follow...
 It's almost Christmas, and how do I know this? Because each morning Riley is sure to remind me, almost quaking with anticipation and excitement. And despite the fact that I've been working on gifts since, oh say August? Nope, still not done. My problem is that I keep coming up with new ideas, always new ideas. And while it keeps me busy up until the day, I'll take it. It's much better than the depressing, creative slump alternative.

When I think of Christmas many happy thoughts jump to mind. Our lazy Christmas mornings, leisurely opening one handmade gift after another. Family. Tons of laughs. And none of us can forget Cletus (my brother's alter ego!) Each year he makes a family video that we all await with fevered aniticipation. But mostly? Heaps and heaps of... FOOD!! Or more specifically, tons of desserts! It's not that I don't make desserts on a regualar basis, in fact, my desserts are pretty much as healthy as our meals and I have no qualms about eating them. But timewise, I don't always have the extra chunk to throw something together. And I definitely don't whip up three pies for the sheer pleasure of it, much to my familys' dismay.

My nieces and nephew appearing in Christmas Cletus 2008

Cletus in all his glory
Several years back Scott, the girls and I decided that we much prefer our disgustingly big holiday meal here, at home. We can make all of the foods we adore and enjoy it thoroughly, punctuated with many moans and groans of delight. We don't have to worry about accomodating, or worse, watching our food go to waste. That, is a very, very sad thing. Organic food thrown in the trash? I shudder at the thought. I'm afraid one day Jordan may physically injure someone who leaves a morsel of our food on their plate. A morsel that could have gone into her bottomless belly. :) So while my presents aren't quite finished, our holiday meal plan is securely in place. The meal will be simpler than usual. After spending the morning in the kitchen on Thanksgiving, I'm in no mood to do that again. I settled on a simple meal followed by as many desserts as I can manage! Right now we've got a chocolate cake (Scott's favorite), an apple pie (Tay and Jord) and a sweet potato pie (Riley) on tap. My mouth is watering just thinking about the deliciousness. But one of our favorite desserts may sneak in too and I thought I'd share this recipe with you today. It's super simple (if you've got the ingredients) and a healthy alternative to a timeless classic. Chocolate pudding, otherwise known as Chocomole in our home.

3 super ripe avocados
16 dates (I use Medjool)
8 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder

I pit the dates, throw them in a saucepan with some water (not enough to cover them completely, but you don't need to be exact here because you'll add water to the recipe later) and stew them until soft. The original recipe didn't call for this but I always add in this step.

After pitting the avocados, scoop all that green stuff into the food processor, add the cocoa power, the stewed dates and about half a cup of water. Process, adding a bit more water if necessary to achieve that thick and creamy consistency.

The original recipe called for only 2 avocadoes but with all of the health benefits that avocados have I wanted to increase this if possible. Also, despite the fact that dates contain only natural sugars, they contain a TON of sugar and I'm still careful not to overdo. I make up a batch of this, split it in half and we eat it over two days, crazy slow and savoring each delectable bite. We think it's super sweet and tasty, but remember we are sugar free here and so our taste buds are more sensitive to the sweet stuff. As of yet I have not been able to cultivate a passion for avocados. Quite frankly, I find them tasteless and boring. I know, some people think I'm crazy when I say that, but I love tons of flavor and these little green fruits just don't have it. But here are some of the reasons I'd like for them to be a part of our diet:

Avocado health benefits ~
helps regulate cholesterol
heart healthy
helps regulate blood pressure
good for the eyes
helps prevent birth defects
act as a "nutrient booster" allowing your body to absorb other nutrients
high in fiber, Vitamin B, folic acid, postassium and Vitamin E
high in monounsaturated fat (the healthy kind!)

And so I'm off, Jordan needs a last minute run to Micheals (she has the same continual creating disorder that I do) and then it's back to work. I know the clock is ticking but I'm still thinking I'd like to spend the afternoon curled on the couch, crocheting and watching a Christmas movie... :)

Peace & blessings ~ Melinda

Sowing the seeds of peace

Here is my grandson (the blue blanket is from his mother's own childhood), dreaming and thinking and wondering.

He will be three in May.

His parents are raising him in an unusual way.  They are taking the approach of treating him with complete respect – the same respect they would show an adult.  They listen to him, and take him seriously, and they always have, from Day 1.  As a tiny baby, when his father was in love with him but somewhat overawed by his smallness, his mother entered willingly her responsibility to listen to him.  Even when he was silent she listened to what his soul was saying.  She put her considerable intellect to work observing, making connections, noticing links and patterns, to get to the place where she could work out what this or that noise, this cry or that cry, meant.  My grandson’s parents would no more dream of hitting him (call it spanking, call it slapping, call it smacking, call it any euphemism you like, they don’t do it) than they would think of slapping the face of the archbishop of Canterbury.

I do not know any other child raised like this, and I am finding it an education and a fascinating delight to see the results of it unfold.  At times I have felt impatient with it.  The child-in-me is always tempted to force things, hit them if they don’t go the way I want.  My daughter’s approach requires a person to behave like an adult to make space for the actual child to behave like a child.   The approach of the average parent is that the parent takes the role of the child – demanding, shouting, insisting, impetuous – while the child takes the role of the adult; watchful, responsive, second-guessing what is needed to make everything go right.

Now that my grandson can speak fluently, we are starting to see his responses to the world and the situations he encounters day by day.  Playing with his granddad (his mother’s father) about a month ago, he had been interested in some kitchen tongs for picking up hot food.  Seeing his interest, his granddad took hold of the tongs to personify them for a game, calling them Mr Nipper and Mr Grabber coming to get the child.  My grandson (his name is Michael, by the way) was intrigued, delighted and terrified all at the same time, engaged by the game but running away screaming to the other side of the kitchen out of the range of Mr Nipper and Mr Grabber.  Seeing genuine apprehension, his granddad laid the tongs aside.  Then a moment later, Michael demanded that he get "Mr Crab" back. He stood a safe distance away when Granddad pretended to get him, and he said said, "I not afraid of you, Mr Crab." Then he walked up and said, "Hello, Mr Crab," in a friendly manner, and waved. Then he started pointing out a few items of interest around the room.

His mother says this seems to be his tactic - to make friends with anything that scares him, and he does this with other children at the groups they attend. If another child upsets him or behaves in a way that worries him, he'll retreat to his mother and they talk about it, then he'll get a toy to give the other child and go up to make friends.

More recently at their home, Mikey was watching with his dad the powerful, moving, beautiful film Koyaanisqatsi, which contains stock footage of nuclear bomb tests. The scene of the bomb with its mushroom cloud is sombre and profound, and Michael was sensitive to the momentous nature of what he was seeing.   He wasn't upset exactly, but picking up on the gravity of it all, he felt concerned about the bomb.  He asked about it, and his dad told him what it was, and he said, "I want to talk to bomb, Daddy." When his father asked what he would say, Michael replied, "Don't worry, bomb. I give you some soup, bomb."

Way to go.

Underlying all aggression is fear.

I like the way my grandson is being brought up.  This is how to make love not war.  This addresses the seeds of war in the human community.  This is how wars stop.

As a young mother I held in my heart the hope/dream of the day coming when instead of teaching my children about the world, I would come to the spring of wisdom native to the country of their own souls, and learn from them.  It has happened.  My dream came true.  My children have all grown up into gurus, and by the beautiful wisdom in her my daughter Grace (good name, eh?) is raising a holy man.

There’s a whole raft of stories about the inimitable (Islamic) Mulla Nasrudin, wisdom fables.   One of the stories in particular stayed in my mind – of an occasion when a seeker came to the village where the wise man lived hoping for audience with him, but the wise man remained incognito, preferring privacy, so the stranger remained unaware he was actually talking with him.  And the stranger’s opening gambit was to say that he understood many famous men had been born in that village (hoping to compliment the villager, assuming he would take pride in fame attached to his village, I guess).  But the wise man replied that as far as he was aware, only babies had been born in his village.

I love that story, love it.  It makes my soul smile.  It does just what a story should do, which is contain a whole related series of truths nesting compactly inside nutshell of its exterior.  So much truth that I can’t be bothered to unpack them all and I’m just assuming you can see how big a story it is for yourself.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 KJV)

I have been away from blogging for a while, working, thinking, thinking, working, feeling and hearing the whisper of the Spirit calling me along new-old paths, figuring out what I have to do and have in place, how to align myself and where the stepping stones may be to place my feet where the Way is calling now.  And I have thoughts and questions tumbling around to share with you.  How’s your Advent going?

Christmas Craft #2

Happy Monday, dear friends!! This post was supposed to be up last Thursday...but life happened! Hadassah has started teething, which means naps are shorter and baby a little more fussy. So I'm finding it a bit challenging to get everything on my to-do list crossed off. But I'm learning [slowly!] some thing about what is truly important. And some days, that means saying "no" to anything other than hubby, baby, and of course, getting some food on the table! I'm sure you moms can relate.... So, no, I didn't get much time to work on crafts last week, but I wanted to share a super-easy project I did for the Christmas brunch I hosted!

They are place cards that I fell in love with when I saw them on Pinterest! You just need to gather some fresh greenery [at your neighbors', if you're lucky like me! Or even better, at your own house], snap the branches into even-sized twigs and cut off the ends of the greenery. Use a hot glue gun to glue two twigs together on the ends, and then add a spray of evergreen to complete the card holder!

The actual place card can be whatever you choose! There are so many fun free designs to download online or at Pinterest, of course!! I chose to make my own, using some old music sheets [thanks, Amy!] with black paper to make them pop. They were a perfect accent to the Christmas decor and had a natural, outdoorsy feel. And...they were Free!! 

So what's your favorite place card holder? Any fun Christmas-themed ideas? I'd love to hear them!

New Intentions

Photo courtesy of Taylor
I'm baaaaaack {but hopefully not in a creey, evil poltergeisty kind of way!} Wow. It's been so long, but in fact, I wasn't sure if I would return to blogging at all. After that last post way back in August (?) I felt all talked out. Despite the fact that I had so much more to say... I had nothing left to say. I obviously had a couple of things to work through, but at the time all I knew was that I wanted a long, long break from the computer. So, I dove into creating, where I'm most happy. I was turning out Christmas gifts galore and feeling so freeeee! :) And after a time, things started to become clear, as they always do with enough patience.

Photo courtesy of Jordan
Who do I want to be? What do I have to share? How do I want to make a difference? Ahhhh, here I go again, now this is familiar territory. A little bit of soul searching was in order. I had shut down my Etsy shop several months back, not because I didn't believe in what I'd been doing, but because I was losing sight of who I was. Instead of creating and sharing, I was stuck staring stupidly, glaze-eyed at the computer screen for hours (hours!) a day. While I know that some people enjoy that, I'm not one of them. So after a several month break I'm back. But with a new plan. (Yes, again. ;)

BackyardDreams.Etsy.Com ~Jordan took this adorable photo of a little critter that lives by our mailbox. He doesn't even run now when we approach, just sits quietly nibbling a nut, or chattering insults in squirrel speak!
I've reopened my Etsy shop. A new start with a brand new name ~ Backyard Dreams. It took me days to come up with that name, and finally after a brainstorming session with the girls I settled on this. It feels warm, cozy, and well, me. This time my shop is 100% earth friendly. My Inspiration Earth products are back, as well as my clipboards. If it doesn't meet my eco-criteria, then you won't find it in my shop. I'm even adding in some new products, things I've been using around here for several months now like this hair wax that I love
Organic hair wax
and these organic cotton hats that I made a dozen of for Christmas gifts!
Riley modeling one of my hats, isn't she cute? :)
One thing I really, really dislike it taking photographs, so I've hired Jordan as my professional photographer. All of the photos in my shop are courtesy of her talented eye. This time around I'm doing things my way. I'm done following all of the advice out there on how to get a shop up and running. Not that it wasn't sound advice, and it worked very well for them, but it just isn't my style. I tried it on for awhile and I've decided it just isn't a comfortable fit. No more Facebook (yay!), no more editing and re-editing (and re-editing) listings so that they're "Google friendly". No more incessantly checking views. No more blogging for business reasons. So what is my goal? To spread the green. People, like me, are out there looking for chemical free, safe and organic products. I offer them and they'll find me if they're meant to. It's also an outlet for all of this creativity raging through my system. Now I can make a hat if I want to without wondering who the heck I'm going to give it to! And if I make a little bit of money doing what I love? Fantastic. But I'll probably just sink it into more supplies anyway...
Beautiful photograhpy by Taylor
As for blogging? I'm taking the pressure off there too. Instead of trying to post every other day or so I've set a goal of once a week. If I manage more, great. If not that's fine too. I considered removing the comments section but haven't been able to make myself do that. I love you guys and all of your kindnesses. Despite the fact that I haven't been seen in Blogland in months, I'm still reading some of my favorite bloggers and certain names are still heard regularly around here (Laurie, Renee, Sara, Amanda, Gracie... to name a few!) Removing comments would take more pressure off of me, but it might take some joy out of blogging too, so the jury is still out on that one.
Another of Jordan's beauties
And so, that is my new plan. For now. As those of you who know me are aware, that is likely to change in the next hour or two. :) But for right now I'm smiling. And since right now is all I have, that is enough.

Wishing you all an inspired and joyful day. Peace & blessings ~ Melinda

P.S. My daughter, Taylor, over at Perfectly Sensible Nonsense came up with an ingenious idea, one that sparkles with kindness and makes me proud. Go on over and take a peek at {Unofficial} International Leave a Note week. Join in the fun and spread some love. :)