Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"There are Two Ways to Create Happiness"

"There are two ways to create happiness. The first is external. By obtaining better shelter, better clothes, and better friends, we can find a certain measure of happiness and satisfaction.The second is through mental development, which yields inner happiness. However, these two approaches are not equally viable. External happiness cannot last long without its counterpart. If something is missing in your heart--then despite the most luxurious surroundings, you cannot be happy. However, if you have peace of mind, you can find happiness even under the most difficult circumstances. "

from "How to Lead a Meaningful Life" by The Dalai Lama

What Does Your Life Stand For ?

People don't seem to ask, " what does your life stand for ?" It seems like an odd question but really its an important one. To know what a person you meet stands for, what their life goal is would tell you a great deal about that person.
In the book, "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff...and its all small stuff" there is a chapter that talks about developing your own helping rituals. He regularly takes his children out with him to gather up liter. Its a great way to teach his children the world is bigger than they are. It's and act that benefits others as well. It is an act of Kindness. The author is showing his children one of the things they stand for as a family.
In the first lines of this chapter, he writes..."If you want your life to stand for peace and kindness, its a helpful way to do kind, peaceful things."
Wise words.
For me, and my husband, we want our lives to stand for peace and kindness. Those two things are very important to us. Its not always easy to be kind and feel peaceful, but its a worthwhile goal. Something to strive for. To be aware of these goals in all our actions. I am the first one to admit, I have much work to be do in these areas.
In this world we are given so many opportunities to be kind and choose peace over conflict.

Japanese Gardens at Ft Worth Botanic Garden

Seeking Happiness

This morning snow fell for a brief time. Snow makes me happy, I love the stuff. When the snow was gone, the happy feeling I had seeing it fall was gone too. I had a delightful breakfast, pretty dishes, lamp light that make everything seem so much more romantic, good tea that Melissa had sent me, it tasted wonderful, plus it was a gift of love from my eldest, making it more wonderful. I had a good book next to me, and reading it made me feel happy since its about finding joy ! Yet, when the table was gone, that "in the moment" type happiness was gone. I watched the birds at the feeders for many minutes, this too made me happy to see them feed and grace my day with their color and song. When I moved from the window, that moment of happiness was gone. The fire in the woodstove felt so good on this wintry morning, it made me happy to sit on the floor in front of it and feel the warmth fill my body. When I went into another room that delightful feeling of warmth was gone and so was my happy feeling that I had just moments before when sitting by the fire.
There are two kinds of happiness perhaps, the momentary happiness we get from things that bring us a delightful feeling, that once out of our sight or thoughts, the happy feeling is gone too. Its a fleeting sort of happiness that runs along the surface.
Then there is the possibility of achieving a much greater type of happiness that runs so deep inside of us that nothing can remove it from us. It is connected to some kind of inner peace.
I read a story about a Tibetan monk who was taken prisoner by the Chinese and tortured and harmed almost daily. He remained calm and yes, happy. It irritated the guards that beat him that he remained kind, and nearly glowed with an inner happiness no matter what they did to him. After years of captivity he was released and was asked about his experience. He said at times he feared he would loose his inner happiness, and of course everyone was thinking and saying, "how could you have any happiness in such a place ?" and he said he was afraid he would loose his happiness by feeling so much sorrow for those that hurt him. That is having the kind of happiness we are all looking for. A happiness that is not affected by circumstances. Happiness so rich and deep that it carries us through all hardships and the experiences of daily living.
There is lots of talk on blogland right now about simple living and what exactly it is. The definition is simple, it is living in such a way that keeps your life uncomplicated as much as possible and filled with that inner happiness that cannot be removed by another's actions. There is no one recipe for this. We all find our own way in this. I know myself pretty well and have a real disdain for what money can do to people, so I don't want that to happen to me. I have seen it consume more than one person in my life. And certainly there is plenty written in scriptures about how hard it is for the rich person to enter heaven. So why would I ever want something that could risk so much ?
Also, I need to avoid things that make me soft physically. I also love the things of the old days. So we live what we feel works for us.
We are all different, are called to different paths, different walks. For some it may be simply having enough to eat, for others it may be having a job where no one makes you stressed. I would hope no one really thinks a bigger house or car will bring them deep and abiding happiness. I have learned in my 52 years that the things we have provide the temporary kind of happiness, out of sight out of mind type of thing. If our house was destroyed while we were away, we are first grateful that our life was spared and those of our loved ones, for it is in love we find happiness. The things lost could be replaced. But never a loved one.
Just recently they did a survey, asking young children what they would like to be different about their parents work. Those conducting the study felt certain that time would be the central key. That the children would wish for more time with their parents, but no, it was that they wished their parents would not be so stressed from work. The stress of work was robbing them of the simple things in life.
So many people stay in stressful jobs because the money is good, they give up so much for the money. Many could scale down, live with less and find a simple life far more rewarding, but egos and wants would have to surrender. This is what I write about. When things become more important than happiness.
My personal way of living simple is best for me at this time in life. But it is not the wood heat, the spinning, the soap making, the candle dipping, the animals, growing my own food or kerosene lamps that makes me happy inside. Those are all fleeting moments of happiness and if they are gone from my life I would still have that inner happiness. That comes from years of training my mind to think a certain way about things that come along and believe me its a journey that is not complete. I can still get ticked off at folks, and still feel angry at the actions of people.
With more compassion I hope to see things in a light that is full of love, kindness and understanding so that my "self" does not take over and allow my inner happiness to be lost, even if for just a moment.
No matter where you live, how much you live on in the monetary sense, you can achieve profound happiness and that is part of, no it is the main foundation of a simple life, as long as you understand that happiness comes from living a life intent on making others happy.

"Consider the following. We humans are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others' actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others' activities. For this reason it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.

Nor is it so remarkable that our greatest joy should come when we are motivated by concern for others. But that is not all. We find that not only do altruistic actions bring about happiness but they also lessen our experience of suffering. Here I am not suggesting that the individual whose actions are motivated by the wish to bring others' happiness necessarily meets with less misfortune than the one who does not. Sickness, old age, mishaps of one sort or another are the same for us all. But the sufferings which undermine our internal peace -- anxiety, doubt, disappointment -- these things are definitely less. In our concern for others, we worry less about ourselves. When we worry less about ourselves an experience of our own suffering is less intense.
What does this tell us? Firstly, because our every action has a universal dimension, a potential impact on others' happiness, ethics are necessary as a means to ensure that we do not harm others. Secondly, it tells us that genuine happiness consists in those spiritual qualities of love, compassion, patience, tolerance and forgiveness and so on. For it is these which provide both for our happiness and others' happiness."

[Ethics for a New Millennium, by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama]

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Getting Lost in The Presence of God


"Getting lost in the presence of God is a sacred happening, and it can take place during the simplest of moments."
from the book, Remember When
A photo taken looking west from our home. The kind of sky that makes you think of God

Grateful for.....

This afternoon I was talking with Melissa, and what good talks we have. She is my discussion buddy. We talk about everything. So many times we have sat in the very room I am typing from, and we have solved the worlds problems. Talks lasting long into the night, finally ready to head to bed in the wee hours of the morning. Talked out.
Today we chatted about a few things and then started talking about our early church days. And as we talked, and she mentioned a few things I began to see how grateful I am for my connection to the Seventh Day Adventist church. I know lately I have seemed pretty down on the church for my difficult elementary school days, but I must be forever grateful for all the good that came out of my time in the church. There were wonderful academy years, teachers extraordinaire. Working in an SDA hospital where I met my husband, and also where I sung hymns loudly in the stairwells with Sunny and Debbie when we worked part time while going to school. The healthful living, the vegetarianism, the natural remedies learned and on and on. I guess it feels right to say these things to balance the scale as I had tipped it in a negative direction and feel that that was a bit unfair.
I am so grateful for the years and years of serious Bible study, the verses that were memorized in class after class. The friendships formed, the sense of community that has always drawn me.
When I have gone to the church in the past 10 years, it does feel like they sold out a bit and lost some of the precious aspects of simplicity.
In my time in the church, I gained far more than I have lost. My children were trained to be healthy living and this is a jewel that is beyond anything, for our health is so important.
I loved keeping Sabbath, a pure day of rest. Nothing else to take my attention for 24 hours. I miss that. The girls and I still clean on Fridays, as we did in preparation for the Sabbath. It was exciting as though the best company was about to come through the door. Not sure where this is going or why my need to express it so important, except that Melissa pointed out to me the true blessing of this life. Emery is a 4th generation Adventist, it runs deep in his blood. The girls both raised in the church until we started attending the Mennonite church. Long history for our family and I must admit we have been blessed by it.
And after all, we still eat things like Special K loaf, choplets, vege-burger and linkettes. We know first hand about cold mitten friction baths and the benefits of activated charcoal. And can sing all the songs sung in Cradle and do the motions with them. That says a lot !.
In the picture....
I am the second from the left in the back row, 2nd grade
my white Bible from 1964 that I faithfully used in school for many years
A old reading book
And my all time favorite song book from Elementary school, open to number 64, a favorite song of mine, "Brighten the Corner Where You Are"

Lunch Time

Picked myself up by the bootstraps and planned a fun lunch with Emery at the office.
Got myself all fancied up, make-up, nice clothes, fixed hair and headed off to the market. Picked up a baguette, cheese, sliced turkey, some sparkling grape juice, delightful dark chocolate and some fresh fruit. Putting each item carefully in my little hand held basket, imagining myself in some outdoor market. We cleared off Emery's desk and set three places since Casi works for the same company, we joyfully get to include him in this indoor picnic.
Its such a nice way to break up the day. Something different, something special. And certainly better than Emery's usual peanut butter sandwich.
Now time to change around a few things in the living room to make it less dark feeling to me. I'll add a bit more color and perhaps a bit of lace here and there.
The sky is now blue, dotted with tiny white clouds. It almost feels spring like, except for the chilly north wind.

ABC's of Achieving your Dreams


As I was on the treadmill this morning, working hard to shake off these winter doldrums, there right in front of me is a poster meant to encourage me in this journey to reclaim a healthy, fit body. The poster tells how to achieve your Dreams and I love it, but as is the way, things placed in front of you on a daily basis tend to loose any dramatic impact on us. We grow accustomed to them and ignore them or take them for granted. Much like the "stuff" in our houses that I write about. When our children were small, we would periodically pack up some of the forgotten toys and bring them out a couple months later. Once again they took on the status of new and exciting once again. I think maybe we should do that with some of our own possessions, might save on the need to shop.
Here is the poem that I look at while on the treadmill. Wise words and full of good advice for achieving those dreams we all have.

Dreams
Remember Your ABCs

A
void negative sources, people, places, things and habits
B
elieve in yourself
C
onsider things from every angle
D
on't give up and don't give in
Enjoy life today, yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come
Family and friends are hidden treasures, seek them and enjoy their riches
Give more than you planned to
Hang on to your dreams
I
gnore those who try to discourage you
Just do it
Keep trying no matter how hard it seems, it will get easier
Love yourself first and most
Make it happen
Never lie, cheat or steal, always strike a fair deal
O
pen your eyes and see things as they really are
Practice makes perfect
Quitters never win and winners never quit
R
ead study and learn about everything important in your life
Stop procrastinating
Take control of your own destiny
U
nderstand yourself in order to better understand others
Visualize it
Want it more than anything
Xcellerate your efforts
Y
ou are unique of all God's creations nothing can replace you
Zero in on your target and go for it !

Dreams of Spring



This morning I realized I am sick of winter. I suspect my feelings might not be this way, if snow lay pure and glistening on the ground, but we are living right now in a world of grays. As my custom, upon waking I grab my camera to see in the great outdoors, what there is to see and capture, but it all seemed colorless for me today, except for the bright red cardinal sitting in the nearby black walnut tree. The sky had the faintest hint of pink in it, and suddenly I was dreaming of a Monet, colors that evoke such pleasantness. I took several pictures of this morning sky, with the most subtle pink showing itself, with a brighter pink below the tree line. Making it hard to see and just about impossible to capture with the lens. I had hoped to share with you these baby like pastels but the camera just could not pick up that faint pink amid the pale blues and predominate grays. I felt hungry for more color and began dreaming about spring and summer. Peach blossoms, roses, pink lemonade, garden hats, hands digging deep into the soil planting seeds. Its surely time to be pouring through the pages of the seed catalogs and dreaming of a more vibrant time.
Today I shall set myself a proper tea, with pinks and blues gracing the table. I will dress in pink and make myself a cucumber sandwich. Perhaps I will even have some light and fanciful treat. I will dream of springtime and forget the grayness that is outside the window. Yes, that's just what I will do today.


photos:
Last years peach blossoms
Taking a break from the garden work last spring
Lunch outside with Emery April of last year

Monday, January 29, 2007

Hello Kitty for the Baby and More


What could be more natural for Melanie's baby than a Hello Kitty baby blanket. We had found this flannel a long time ago and yesterday found the perfect use for it.
I am knitting up some pink booties for this little one too.
At the same time I am crocheting a baby afghan for Priscilla and Steven's baby. My fingers are flying these days !

A Parable of Sorts

I happen to enjoy parables. And I enjoy them from several sources. There are wonderful Buddhist parables, Jewish parables and ones from the teachings of Jesus. But there are also just plain old folk stories that teach us a lot too. Parables are told in order to teach a lesson and of course to learn from, which is what this parable has done for me, taught me.
This particular parable is from true life and shows a contrast between two couples and most will see one chose a higher road.
There is a young couple, 30 something in age, well off, living in a great big house on the west coast. No children. Each one a professional. They both have very nice cars but decide to get a third car because its pretty. They have a three car garage so it seems right to them to fill it up. They justify this spending by saying that they are getting an economy car and it only cost $20,000. Far less than the other two cars they own.
There is a second couple, 30 something, have a gorgeous home, two cars, professional couple, but they each take $10,000 from their accounts, totaling $20,000 and give $1,000 to 20 different friends, perhaps you saw this story on Oprah. They tell their friends they have to use the $1,000 to "pay it forward" to help others with the money and not use it for personal use. They ask the people to write about their experiences in "paying it forward". Of course there is no end to the joy they felt from this gesture. Not only did the couple find joy in this adventure but so did the 20 people with the $1,000 each and all those that received the help.
Now its not hard to see which couple took the higher road with use of their money. And such a large amount speaks volumes to us. But there is another part of this story and its a reminder for me.
$100 spend over a month on little things, wants. Maybe some new clothes when the closet is already stuffed, maybe some fabric when the stash is overflowing already, maybe some craft items when there are 20 laying undone in a box, maybe a few too many trips to the coffee shop, when there is coffee at home, maybe a new goat when you have 4 already, maybe even boxes of cookies when you are on a diet. It can be little things, but imagine giving $100 to the family in front of you in line at the grocery store that has on ragged shoes and a basket with very little in it. No need to look at them and question how they may have wasted their money and justify our not helping them. Maybe the kids are hungry because the dad is a drunk. Poor choices for the parent, but the children suffer.
My sons that we adopted, were malnourished in this country. I do wish someone had filled their parents grocery cart a time or two.
You see children in the store with no jacket on and its cold. Buy them one. 20/20 had a special with Diane Sawyer last week about the children of Camden N.J. They have dreams just like every other child, but they are also hungry and live a life of fear and pain. I suspect $20 would make a big difference in the lives of some of those little ones.
I want to be more aware and live with more intent to end the suffering of others, especially children's suffering as they are so filled with hope and dreams and keeping those dreams and hopes alive may change their world.
Somehow the $10 and $20's that just get spent on stuff seems to have a different value to me now.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sunday Ramble


There is always plenty of work to be done around this place. Just keeping the wood chopped and kindling ready for the stove is a full days work each week. But Emery loves being outside and says chopping wood is good for the soul. I think he is right. Gives a person time to think, be outside, and still accomplish much.
This morning Emery and I talked about what this house would have been like when it was first built.
The walls were constructed of 1x12 inch boards, bat and board style. No 2x4's used. The walls were 1 inch thick. There was some sort of paperboard stuff on the inside and then some wallpaper. That was it. No insulation to keep out the winter chill.
The original house was built around 1905. It consisted of 3 rooms all in a row. The living room, the bedroom with a hallway running past it to the kitchen. The bathroom was outside ! By the time we purchased it, two more bedrooms had been added and a bathroom. But the original outside walls had remained much the same, just some wooden siding put over the old external walls.
In the original house, there was no closet to hang clothes up in as you were taxed for each room and a closet was considered a room. You certainly wanted to keep taxes to a minimum so no closets. Even now, we just have three tiny closets, one in each bedroom. Keeps you from holding on to things you don't use that way. Not much space for collecting things that are not important in daily use.
The entire house would have been just about 600 square feet, total when it was first built. We cannot imagine living in such a small space now a days. Through our years in this house, much has changed. Two additions, insulation everywhere, thermal windows, new floors and more. Changes and no doubt more to come. All the work of our own hands and still we have plans for more changes.
Having dreams and plans are both good things. It keeps us feeling hopeful. Keeps us looking forward.

We are experiencing many changes right now. Grandchildren on the way is a big one. But just watching all of our children begin their lives as adults with their own families is exciting. And we are proud of each one of them. Melissa and James are people that want to make a difference in the world and they are both doing that with jobs that make the world a better place. Teaching and sharing music with the world.
Melanie and Casi, so filled with joy over the upcoming birth of their firstborn. They have jobs that mean something and show accomplishments. Steven and Priscilla also joyfully planning for their first baby. In the Mennonite world, no one talks much about being pregnant and most woman never tell anyone but their husband until it becomes very obvious that they are with child. As if to hide it as long as possible. It is thought they feel a bit of shame or something, like in the old days. Its hard to understand in our modern world, some of the ways of the past or traditions that we see as silly. Their church is a bit more modern but still some of the old ways remain.
I remember one Sunday in church a dear friend of mine came over to me and said, "we are having a baby" I asked "when are you due ?" the reply, "in about 8 weeks". No one knew but her husband, not even her other children. She had hidden the protruding tummy quite well under her cape dresses. This was not uncommon and still isn't in most plain churches.
So if I don't talk much about Steven and Priscilla's baby, you know why. I want to be respectful of their ways. She is nearly 3 months along now so in time there will be more discussion. We do of course talk about it within the family and talk about baby clothes and such.
They are going to be using a midwife for the birth and have the baby at home.
The sun is fading in the west, the sky turning golden. Time for me to head to the kitchen and think up a meal to prepare. Perhaps there are enough left overs. I hope so. I feel lazy. I would rather be knitting than cooking tonight.

Melanie and Casi registered at Target this weekend for baby things. What fun they had doing that. I will have to check out what they have on their wish list.






Saturday, January 27, 2007

A Strange Day, A Restless Day

Most of the time our days are influenced by many things, the weather, what we ate or did not eat, who we have talked to, how well we slept the night before, and if you are a woman, you can always add some hormones to the list of ingredients for any given day.
Today is a strange day for me. Lots of things have influenced me. Weather and food being the big ones.
I remember feeling this way in school, around February. Usually a walk through the streets around Harvard Square helped me some. Today started off gray, turned sunny and warm, warm enough to leave the front door open and go without a jacket to do chores. A tease of spring.
Now its gray again, solid cloud cover. Its left me feeling unsettled, restless and a bit aimless.
My music has been as varied as the weather today. I have played Eric Clapton, Indian music, including Ravi Shankar. From there I moved on to Cheb Mami's sort of Arabic Rock and Roll ( I am a real fan of his stuff) and then on to some Turkish music that left me wanting to travel to far off places. I just can't settle to one thing. Even my food choices have been that way. My body is telling me I have been eating too much sugar. Always I feel best when I leave the stuff out of my diet. But since the holidays it has snuck its way back in. And now I feel it. The stuff is addictive you know. Seriously it is. One time I read it takes 6 weeks to get it out of your system. I woke up committed to return to my 100% organic, health diet minus all sugar but I stumbled quickly. Needed a sugar fix, so made cookies, well they were organic but.....
Along with all this, I haven't worked out in a couple weeks. Having that cold just left me feeling lazy and not very energetic. Now I feel like a sloth. Moving along so slowly that mold could grow on me.
O.K., that is a major exaggeration and anyone who knows me knows my slow motion is normal speed for anyone else. Regardless, I feel slow.
Just ran outside to pull in the last few things off the line as the sky was growing darker and darker as I was typing and much to my surprise the temperature had dropped a bunch too. A cold north wind nearly blew me off the stairs. Wished I had thrown on a jacket. With no coat on, I worked fast out there.
So now back to my moodiness of the day. On days like this, nothing feels written in stone, every thing seems to fly off in the wind like a dainty silk hankie. Interests nearly elusive. It's not a bad thing, its just how it feels, leaving me feeling unsettled.
I sat looking around my living room wondering why I had so many things from the past surrounding me. Was I setting myself up to be stuck in the past like some folks that are not willing to move on and change with the time ? No, not really but... things just felt old to me today. Maybe I have a touch of spring fever or is it winter blues ?
The colors feel dark in my house. I find myself dreaming of pulling off the curtains and putting up sheer pink or purple beaded things. Maybe even orange or better yet a different color in each window.
Watching Bride and Prejudice will perk me up, tonight would be a good night to watch it.
I love the scene where they are all dancing in the streets, the bright colors a real delight to the eye.
That's just what I need, some brightness on this day filled with changes in weather peppered with that sick of winter feeling. Too bad Harvard Square is so far away, it would be medicine for this restless soul of mine.

Some glass pieces in the bottom of a bowl

Plain and Simple Joy



Last night the sky was a changing backdrop of a magnificent show in the sky. Hawks soaring over my head, and crows chasing the hawks as they often do. At first the clouds reminded me of some rather poorly done painting, the kind you look at and think, "the colors are all wrong", but maybe they weren't after seeing this evening sky. A front was on the way in and soon the clouds transformed into piles of gray cotton balls. The joy from this simple act of sky gazing will remain with me for days. I hopped into the car and drove to a place that gives full view of the sky in all directions. I was not disappointed at all and later I drove a mile or so down the road to the duck pond. They sky had changed to a solid mass of gray by that time but the ducks were fun to watch even if the sky had turned rather pale.
I carried this sight with me in my heart, the rest of the night. So much better than watching some violent movie.
The morning sun soon woke me, I slept in late this morning and enjoyed every single minute of it.
The weather report says cold and rain, snow, sleet on the way this coming week, so I got busy putting wash in and will have the lines full long before lunch time. I felt the need to feel homestead-ish or old fashioned today. It feels comforting to me to dress in a long skirt, long heavy winter slip with rows of tucks at the hem. I like the feel of a skirt at my ankles. Perhaps a left over from another period in our life on the farm. I pulled on heavy wool socks and laced up my work boots. Gave my wet hair a brushing, smelling the scent of the home-made soap I used to wash my hair with.
Today I miss having goats to milk. Maybe that came from putting bag balm on my hands today to chase away the dryness of winter on my skin. The smell from that green container brings to mind many fond memories of milking the goats and spreading this gooey stuff on their udders to protect against the cold. We learned long ago how nice it makes the skin on your hands from all those years of milking.
Smoke from the chimney is curling down to the tops of the window, little twists of gray. Another simple joy.
I would miss seeing so much sky or the way the pasture looks when I gaze out the back door if I had to live in the city. I would miss the sound of the chickens clucking in their own sort of joy as they lay another egg, or the sound of Solomon the rooster crowing as morning arrives and the rather teenage boy sounding crowing of the young rooster, who is still nameless. God put me just where I need to be.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Simple Beauty

We stopped at the craft store today to pick up some more wick for candle dipping and to look at pink fabrics for a baby quilt. The fabrics were a delight for the eye. So many colors, so many combinations, so many textures. Almost more than my mind could soak in. Same with the yarns. Rows upon rows of color, demanding to be touched, felt, taken in by more than just vision. Some seemed as though they should smell like a baby or cotton candy.
Along other isles, fake flowers, real looking many with fake drops of dew on them. Walking down each row of the store gave me insight into how the attraction of so many items gets us into trouble. Buying more than we need. Our senses overloaded and filled with the desire to own, to bring home, to have this store ever present. Feeling as if we cannot live without this or that new thing. I bought what I needed and a couple things that had nothing to do with need, but only want. A baby is coming so want plays a bigger role in my life right now. Creating a beautiful environment for her seems important, necessary to me. But what I want for her to learn in life is to look deeper than man made things, so I need to watch myself, make certain this grandmother teaches what I believe in most deeply.
To balance what is of the earth and what is not.
Walking through the door to our home, I was greeted with the light scent of incense, burned this morning early while I sat and contemplated life, and also the air had a chill, a reminder that I lit no fire this morning in my rush to get where I needed to be in time. There was also the smell of health food, it is distinct. Herb like, but more. If you know it, you recognize it quickly. Brewers yeast, nuts, dried fruit, herbs, Braggs amino acids, and grains That sort of thing. It seems you can always tell upon entering the house of a health food nut, the house smells different, as different as say a Whole Foods market from a regular food store.
But what really struck me as I came into the house, was a pile of old threads, casually tossed on a piece of hand-woven fabric, catching the late morning sun. My old glasses that I love to wear, they make me feel connected to a time past, these glasses lay right on that same cloth. So simple and so NOT flashy like the things in the store I had just come from. The sight of them made me sigh that sort of sigh that comes from a feeling of, "yes, this is right, this is simple beauty". In a world filled with flashing pictures before our eyes on a television screen, to glossy magazines showing us all what we DON'T have yet, and store shelves calling to us, begging us to over spend, over buy, such a simple thing as old thread on a rough piece of cloth refreshes the soul. We are much like people that eat too much salt on their food and can't taste the subtle flavors anymore. We see so much flash, we miss the simple beauty in a leaf, a bird, a cloud, the sunrise, the wind in our hair, the pattern on a puddle frozen into ice.

Time now to slow down, take time away from stores, movies, television, magazines and just look around us at the simple things.

Looking Past the Behaviors

It's probably normal that around our house right now there is lots of conversation about when the children were babies and small children. We are looking back a bit to help us remember all that we have to look forward to with baby Mei Ling arriving in a few months. Since I am going to be taking care of her some of the time, I am really thinking about how much love these wee ones bring to you.
In these conversations that Emery and I have been having, we often think of some crazy funny thing that happened, like when Melanie was balancing a penny on her tongue and accidentally swallowed it. I was in the other room and she was watching some children's show that featured a seal balancing a ball on its nose, she thought a penny on her tongue would be the same. When we talk about such things, we might pepper the conversation with a phrase like, "oh she was just a baby". This train of thought made me think about something more serious......
when a person is an adult and we love them, we might say things like, "well,don't mind Jane, she didn't know what she was doing." when an adult does something kinda strange or not so thoughtful. The picture shows my goat Annike that I had a couple years ago. I loved this goat, but she was so full of "personality" as I called it. I loved her enough to excuse her bad (personality) behaviors. We can easily forgive the folks we love and excuse their behaviors for so many reasons. It is often simply because they are who they are and we know deep down they have good hearts, kind souls.
There is a little chapter in one of my favorite books, "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff...and its all small stuff". titled, "Look Beyond Behavior" that is about this very thing. The author, Richard Carlson, writes, "Wouldn't it be nice if we could try to extend this same loving-kindness toward everyone we meet? " Can you imagine how this would change the world we live in ? If only we could extended this type of compassion to all around us.
I sure don't, but would like to make it a goal to behave in this way.
All a parent of a teenager has to do is think of how stupid some of the actions of their teen is, and understand this concept. We all excuse some of their behaviors saying something like , "can't put a wise head on a young body" and since we love them and hope they will figure it out someday we pass it off.
We need to care that much for the folks that maybe never get past that stage emotionally for some reason or another.
People are who they are, some are even a bit nuts. We meet them in business, talk to them on the phone and some of us have them in our extended family. Looking beyond the behavior might help us deal with them.
It would be great if we could just step back a bit, imagine these folks through the eyes of someone that loves them and just say, "oh don't mind Jane/Jim, they don't know what they are saying/doing" I bet we would all be happier. Just to not take hold of every little weird behavior of another and make it personal. Just let it stay what it is, a crazy moment that belongs to them alone.

Now on another note, busy day around here again. Taking Melanie to another Doctors appointment today. Then heading to Hobby Lobby for some PINK flannel. Since I am heading out the door in a bit, I didn't want to get the woodstove going. The house is cold, my fingers are freezing as I type. As cold as it feels, I know its nothing like what my sisters and Melissa are experiencing back in New England. So will just count my blessings on my cold hands.

This is my favorite picture of Annike, her expression says it all.



Thursday, January 25, 2007

Can You Guess What this Means ?

Melanie went to the Doctors today and found out the baby is a girl ! Now I can get really busy : )

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Thenthuk, A Tibetan Soup We Love

This soup has been gracing our table for so many years I have no idea when I started making it and no doubt the children think it was part of their baby food menu.
Its wonderful on a cold night when the dampness seems to envelope you. Its not hard to make and certainly is good for you. I have never made it with meat and probably never will. One time I used whole wheat flour to make the dumplings but that was a once only thing, they were heavy and no one much cared for them.
Tibet is a place I hold dear in my heart and the food of that country is also dear to me. If you feel like trying something new, give this soup a try. Its so good and no need to measure or be fussy, just imagine yourself high in the Himalayan's on a cold night, sitting with family around a small stove and sharing a bowl of this soup. Maybe even play some music from Tibet, on that note I can hear my children saying I have gone too far. No one in this family appreciates my CD's of Tibetan monks singing. Oh well.....
Here is the recipe, its almost exactly like the one I use so I copied it from the web site rather than type out my instructions. A lazy move, but certainly a time saver.

Thenthuk ( Tibetan Noodle Soup )

from the web site http://www.yowangdu.com/tibetan-food/thenthuk.html
"Thenthuk" ten-took (n) : A typical Tibetan noodle soup that keeps the nomads warm during those long Tibetan winters. You can make it either with vegetables or meat.
In Tibetan "then" means pull and "thuk" means noodles.

The Dough
The dough is very important for this noodle soup. It needs to sit for fifteen or twenty minutes so that it can become flexible and easy to pull.
If you want to make "Thenthuk" for two people, put two heaping handfuls of all-purpose flour in a pot and add about half a cup of water.
Mix the flour and water very well by hand and keep adding water until you can make a smooth ball of dough. Then knead the dough very well until the dough is flexible.
You want it thick enough that it will stretch when pulled.
Separate the dough into pieces about half as big as big as your fist, and roll the dough between your hands.
Make the shape like bananas, or wedges.
Then put oil on your hand and roll the pieces between your hands again so they won't stick together. Put the wedges in a plastic bag or in a pot and put a lid to cover the dough so it doesn't dry out.

The Broth
Now the dough is prepared and you can start the broth.Chop half an onion, a small piece of ginger, a clove of garlic, and one small tomato. If you want to use meat, cut 1/4 or half pound of any kind of meat into thin bite-size slices. (free range, please....ed.)
Fry everything in two tablespoons of oil for three or four minutes, or until the meat is cooked well. Add a pinch of chicken, beef or vegetable bouillon, a dash of salt, and few shakes of soy sauce.Add about five cups of water to the pot. At this time, you can add one potato or daikon, which is a Japanese radish. If you want to use the daikon, slice it thinly. After that wash it in water with a little bit of salt. That way, the daikon won't taste so strong. If you want to use the potato just slice it thinly and put it in the pot.
While you are cooking, chop 1/4 of a bunch of cilantro, two green onions, and 1/4 bunch of spinach.

The Throw-down
When the broth starts to boil, you can add the dough. Take a wedge of dough and roll it between your hands so it gets a little longer. Flatten it with your fingers. Then pull the dough off in little flat pieces as long as your thumb and throw them in the pot.
See how fast you can pull off the noodles... ("I hear the people in Amdo can do it really fast." - Tenzin)

When all the noodles are in the pot, cook it for an additional three or four minutes. After that, you can put in the cilantro and spinach. They don't need to cook, really, so you can serve the soup immediately.
Before you serve the "Thenthuk" make sure that the taste is right for you.
Enjoy your food and sweat because it really makes you warm!
Cilantro, green onions, and the dough

The soup just about ready to eat, noodles have risen to the top.


Update on Melanie

Prayers have been answered. Melanie's CAT scan was normal, her severe headache was from being dehydrated, which we are not sure how that happened, since she is no longer having mornig sickness. They gave her 4 bags of fluid in the ER.
She also has a urinary tract infection.
She came home with me as Casi had to head back to work and is now sleeping soundly on the couch.
Thanks so much for praying for Melanie.

The Pain of Judgementalism

Unless I get this off my chest, it will be very hard for me to keep blogging. It has been heavy on my heart for most of the past week. While I am waiting for news on Melanie, it seemed a good time to write about this.
There seems to be such a fine line in how an observation is portrayed and how it can be seen as a judgment. Responsibility belongs to both the speaker and the hearer on how to understand the true motive
One of the things I have known for many years is that when a Christian states how they view things it is seen 99% of the time as a judgment. And for this we have no one but ourselves to blame. If a person states the exact same thing but said it from say a Buddhist point of view and then another says the exact same thing but is a Christian, the two views are taken in totally different ways. One is seen as wisdom and the other as judgment.
Even I see things that way. The reason is clear. How many of us out here have felt the sting, the pain of being told how wrong we are or how bad we are for doing this or that by a Christian ? I can recount many many instances. A rather funny one to me was when we first moved into this nearly all Seventh Day Adventist town, someone knocked on our door and asked if we sold cheese, we were attending the Mennonite church, sold goats milk and fresh eggs and perhaps looked like cheese makers to this person. I told them I make cheese for our family, but did not sell it. They went into a tirade of shouting and condemning, saying "eating dairy products will make us unfit to flee when the Sunday laws are passed and that we must keep Saturday Sabbath or be lost". My children stood behind me in horror as this woman let loose her venom, all in the name of Christianity and in her mind love I suppose.
This is just one single example, but we all have stories to tell I am sure. It could even be from some street preacher on the corner shouting out to another or even a family member.
I have NEVER had someone from another religion do that to me. No Hindu or Buddhist has ever tried to convert me or tell me I am condemned for some action.
There is a saying that "Christians are the only ones that shoot their wounded" . How sad is that ?Why am I talking about this rather delicate subject, in hopes that people will grow aware and stop condemning others. And I personally never want to appear as though I am sitting in some high and holy place looking down on others. I don't ever want that sort of job, I am way under-qualified.
In certain circles within Christianity there are many rules, if you don't do this or that, live to their standards, you have no salvation. Christ said, "believe in me". Simple isn't it ? Let the work of changing be between God and that person.
The funny thing is, Christ said over and over, DO NOT JUDGE. Imagine, a whole group, missing the main message and alienating so many in the process. So many folks have been hurt in the name of Christian condemnation that people shy away before the whole sentence has been spoken.
I wish, that things would change and judgment would be left to God who knows the heart, knows the circumstances of a persons life and that the tide would turn and a time would come when words spoken by a Christian would not make others feel backed into a corner, with claws out ready to defend. We have done much harm with so many generations of telling others what is wrong with them.
I hate that what I have said felt like a judgment to others about my life, but I know why it seems that way. I understand. It was never meant as that though, never.
Been there, been on that receiving end and I bet most everyone who reads this has too.
My life is simple, it is calm, what we have chosen has worked for us, but may not for everyone. I do know people are in pain in this rushed hurried world. Violence is everywhere in our lives, making us frightened. We work for stuff and then worry about having to pay for it, or work so hard to pay for it that we get little time to enjoy life.
In all, loosing track of what really matters in the end. In this nation, nearly 1/4 of the adult population is sleep deprived, stress being the major factor in most cases. Our grandparents slept nearly 10 hours each night, we are down to 6 hours a night for the national average. We are worn out, frazzled and haven't a clue to get back to a good place without surrendering the things we think we HAVE to have. I only wish to share there is a way out, if you want it.
If this has come across as being judgmental, I apologize. It was never my intention.
So if you are a Christian, choose your words wisely and with compassion as we have wounded so many through the years. It may only be in a look, a condemning, look down your nose type thing, or a whisper behind another's back, a phone call to share a " did you see him/her" sort of thing.
We have attacked our own. It is time to stop making others look worse than what we know we carry in our own hearts.
There I have said my peace and that is the end of it. Again I am sorry for ever sounding like I was judging anyone, even one person is too many.
Saying what we did, how we did it, is the facts, not a "look at me, see what I did" thing. If you knew me well, you would know that's not the person I ever want to be.

A Prayer Request

This morning at 6 am Melanie was taken to the Emergency Room at the Hospital. She has had a bad headache for over 24 hours now and has fainted twice in the last few of those hours.
At this moment she is having a CAT scan done. We are all so worried about her and the baby.
If you could say a little prayer for them it would be such a blessing to us.

Thank you

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Classic Winnie the Pooh for Baby


What fun I am having preparing for two grandbabies. It is easier making things for Melanie as I know her likes and dislikes and what style baby things she wants, where with Priscilla, I just don't know her taste in things yet.
Last night after we finished eating, the two girls and I sat in the guest room and went through some of the baby things and they each took big bags of wee things home with them. I have plenty to go around. It was fun watching them light up with all the tiny little clothing.
The dishes never got done last night, they had to wait till today but it was worth it to spend the time together looking at all the baby things.
Today I worked on the classic Winnie the Pooh quilt for Melanie and Casi's baby. It was just a cheater quilt top, backed with a cream color flannel that is as soft as a kitten. The whole time I was quilting it on the machine, I was thinking about the tiny one that will be wrapped up in it and my heart was so filled with joy in putting each stitch in.
Melanie wanted an afghan to match the colors of the babies room so finished that up today too. She chose the yarn when we were at Hobby Lobby the last time.
Tonight I started an afghan for Steven and Priscilla's baby. Priscilla picked out some yarn from my growing supply of baby yarn.
What fun to becoming a grandparent.

How About Once a Week Trip to Town ?

Sleet fell this morning, hitting the windows with a sound much like that of fingernails tapping on a desk, only faster.
I wished it was snow. I had to brave the spitting ice from the sky and do a couple errands. To be honest, all I wanted to do was stay home and work on the Winnie the Pooh quilt for Melanie and Casi's baby. When I was at the store, it was surprising to me how crowded it was. Maybe because I didn't want to be out, my thoughts had turned to, "does anyone ever stay home? " Back in the old days, people made a once a week trip to town if they were lucky. Now its more like people stay home once a week if they are lucky.
It's no doubt good for the economy that so many people are out and about shopping and probably good for the storage rental places. But maybe, just maybe my house would be less filled with things to move around when I need to dust if I went back to the old time way of thinking and went out to town just once a week.


Emery's Paternal Grandmother, Annie Levina Haun Lockwood, born in 1886, and her dad, Emery's Great Grandfather, William Woodville Haun born 1860, he was 69 in the photo.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

The View From Inside a Buggy





When I was going through pictures today, I found this group of photos that Steven took from inside his buggy when he was up north in the Amish community. It occurred to me that probably not many people now a days have had the view from a buggy, looking at the world over the back of a horse. There is something rather soothing about the sound of a horses hooves on the road and the whole trip would be fun provided no cars whizzed by. More than once when the girls had the pony cart out on the road, someone would drive close and beep the horn, even 18 wheelers would do that. It always caught the poor pony off guard. Good thing the girls were good drivers and the pony was good on the road.
Stevens horse was an ex-race horse. Fast out of the gate, shall we say, and would bolt. More than once Steven had burning brakes trying to slow the horse down. An amusing sight in my mind, to see an speeding Amish buggy with smoke coming from the brakes. Steven assures me there is nothing amusing about it at all. Steven is very happy owning a car now.
I have had fun going through pictures today. So many farm pictures and pictures that spark memories that were buried under more recent happenings.

Am I a SAHM or SAHW ?




I will always be a mom, no doubt about it. Its not even up for discussion, but my role as a mom sure has changed in the past few years.
When all the children were home and I was homeschooling them, it was easy to use the label SAHM (stay at home mom) . I was busy doing the once a month cooking, 4-H, homeschooling, making sure the children did their farm chores and helped in the garden. Plus there was all the sewing for them as I made all their clothes. We were busy teaching them how to be industrious and the list goes on and on. Just about everything I did revolved around raising the children with Emery.
Our kitchen table became a school desk as soon as the breakfast dishes were cleared away and stayed that way most of the day. School posters lined the walls of my kitchen. I was always in the kitchen it seems. Children's Chore charts lined the hallway, and toys filled the shelves in two bedrooms. The clothesline was never empty, it was filled with all sizes of clothing flapping in the wind.
Anyone walking through the door of our house, saw me there in the kitchen. My role as SAHM was clear-cut and I loved every single minute of it.
Now this little 4 letter acronym seems not quite right for me, since its mostly used for moms at home with children at home with them. A quick search on the internet for SAHM, popped up with play groups for SAHM's and blog listings for moms with small children at home. It really is an acronym for moms with children at home with them. It appears I have outgrown that particular acronym.
So what am I then ?
I have thought about it and decided that SAHW sounds pretty good to me, Stay at Home Wife or you could use Woman in place of wife if you want. I am a wife and like being a wife so that was my personal choice.
When the children were first all gone from home, just about daily someone would ask me if I was going back to work and I thought about it some, for a fleeting moment in time, and then decided this is really a pretty good life. I am healthy, so I could work outside the home, but its just so much fun to be home and take a break when I want, not have some boss breathing down my neck, not being told what to do and to cook meals each and every night without being tired after a days work.
Emery never wanted me to work, he tells me he enjoys being spoiled, and we have this religious conviction that a woman should be home. Yes, I know that is terribly old fashioned and yes I know not everyone can do that, but we did it when Emery made under $5 an hour, so sometimes I think more people could do it if they really really wanted to. We just lived "humbly" (I like that word better than "poor as church mice"). When we had all 4 children at home we were making under $30,000 a year. Amazing what can be done on so little.
So here I am no longer a SAHM but still home, joyfully I might add. So from now on when I am giving my bio on the net somewhere I will write SAHW. The role has changed and so didn't the acronym : )
Oh wait, maybe I will be considered a SAHG soon, Stay at Home Grannie.

Its fun looking at old photos and being reminded of just how busy my days were. I keep pretty busy even now, but nothing like when the children were young and our little farm was in full swing. One of the best lesson gained when part of the Mennonite community, was how to work hard and find joy in it. It's a lesson I cherish.

The children around the table for school, Melissa was in college already so she is missing from the picture ( left to right Melanie, Steven and Scott )

Melissa with a new kid
Melanie with LOTS of kids
Steven taking a break from farm chores

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Stretching My Mind a bit

Most of you know from reading my blog that I am a huge fan of the writer Lin Yutang. I first read his works when I was in my late teens and was so intrigued by his wisdom and the beauty in which he wrote.
One of his books, " Between Tears and Laughter" written about war is mind stretching even to this day.
He spends some time writing about materialism, and compares Power as the harlot and Peace as the "lady". Those in charge tend to want to be with the "harlot", rather than the "lady". Peace watches through the window as those in office party with "power" wondering if after the night of wildness, they will see her (Peace) true value.
Yutang also spends a great deal of time writing about the then current speech of Roosevelt on the Four Freedoms. Freedom of speech, Freedom of every person to worship God in his own way, and then these two freedoms....Freedom from want and Freedom from fear.
Yutang brings up a point or two that had me put on my deep thinking hat for a bit. Things I had never put into my own words, but had felt them in some way or another.
he says..."Freedom from fear is not freedom, but political security. Freedom from want is not freedom but economic security. Both may be achieved at the cost of human freedom, and probably will, if we think too much about animal security. Nothing gives such a feeling of perfect freedom from want and fear to a dog as a collar around its neck. Its next meal is guaranteed. A bird in a cage has exchanged its freedom on the wing for freedom from the preying hawk and freedom from starvation in the snow. but a bird which deliberately flies into a cage cannot be said to be fighting for its freedom except by the most caustic casuistry"...further on he writes, " It is possible for a man to have all the Four Freedoms - the freedom to talk and think as he pleases and to be fed and sheltered in security- and yet be a slave."
He later writes about free will and I sat there thinking and thinking on how I could define free will and it was hard for me to define it. Yutang says in this book, " But while we are arguing about the content of freedom and raising the question whether the concept of human freedom has not changed, we are threatened with another more serious and more fundamental matter, which has come about entirely unnoticed, and that is, Freedom of the Will has disappeared. Unless we recapture freedom of will, we shall not have the strength to restore human freedom, and unless we restore human freedom, we shall accomplish nothing with the Four Freedoms, even if we attain them. Why has the Freedom of Will disappeared ? "
After reading that I mused, " no wonder I can't really wrap my thoughts around what Freedom of Will really is".
You see the dictionary tells us Free will is....
1. The ability or discretion to choose; free choice: chose to remain behind of my own free will.
2. The power of making free choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such as fate or divine will.

Those commercials I saw yesterday, all those telling us we are not as good as we can be because our skin is sagging, our hair is graying, our skin is not baby soft any longer, well its hard to live a life with free will to age as we should or have a tooth out of place, hair that does not shine like a mirror. We are pushed on every side to not walk the street as we are. We are not free to choose to get old gracefully, or to be young and have a less than perfect body. We are scorned and laughed at, children made fun of for not having certain shoes, or for having a quiet nature. We have lost our free will in so many areas. We have even forgot to hold this free will dear to us and fight for it. We have lost ourselves somehow. I know how in a way, I read about it.
" The nature of man is usually quiet, but when it is affected by the external world, it begins to have desires. With the thinking mind becoming conscious of the impact of the material world, we begin to have likes and dislikes. When the likes and dislikes are not properly controlled and out conscious minds are distracted by the material world,. we lose our true selves and the principle of Reason in nature is destroyed. When man is constantly exposed to the things of the material world which affect him and does not control his likes and dislikes, then his overwhelmed by the material reality and becomes dehumanized or materialistic. When man becomes dehumanized or materialistic then the principle of Reason in nature is destroyed and man in submerged in his own desires. From this arise rebellion, disobedience, cunning and deceit, and general immorality. We have then a picture of the strong bullying the weak, the majority persecuting the minority, the physically brave going for violence, the sick and crippled not being taken cared for. This is the way of chaos." Lin Yutang summed up our world today pretty well.
Now of course not is all that way, there is good, wonderful good in the world but we do all live in fear, fear of aging, fear of walking certain streets, our homes are alarmed, our cars are locked, our children never left alone to play carefree in the yard. We have lost much of our free will.
These are my thoughts today, as I sit by the fireside, stretch your mind, disagree, agree, think, open wide your eyes, and watch the birds that fly free by your window, yes we use the words, "fly free".

On page 1 of this book, "Between Tears and Laughter", Yutang says, "Nobody is ever misunderstood at a fireside: he may only be disagreed with. Agreement of opinion is the least important thing: disagreement is not only profitable, but neccessary to thinking. At the fireside of a friend there are many a heated argument, after which both friends see many things not seen before. A writer who is willing to let go is sure of being understood, and only friendship which can stand occasional plain speaking is worth having."
Sit by my fireside today with me friend !

Friday, January 19, 2007

How Could We Ever Be Satisfied ?

Melanie and I had lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant today. We go there so often, they don't bother to ask what we want to drink, they know. They know all of our family and we have watched their children grow up working in the family business. But today, I kept noticing what was playing on the television up in the corner. I hate that people need TV while they eat, but it's a reality and restaurants have to supply what most of the customers want.
Today, commercial after commercial was some sort of product women MUST have to be better. There was one for body lotion to make the skin softer, another to make the woman younger looking with firmer skin, another for hair dye to make your hair look more radiant, then there were several for diet programs, and in that hour we sat there, you would think women from the teen years on, were all falling apart, fat, sagging skin, skin like sandpaper and generally not acceptable as they were. I wondered what this is doing to our real self worth, our real concept of being beautiful just as we are. We speak so much these days about self esteem, being proud of who we are etc, yet we are bombarded minute by minute by ads that make any woman feel that she doesn't measure up in some way or another and we buy into it and run out to get the products.
There were face lift ads, and ads for better bodies attained only at this or that gym. I am a firm believer in living healthy, and taking care of your body but....

And what is this doing to our young ones and our aging ones to see over and over that we are in constant need to fix ourselves up and chase that elusive image of the perfect "10" ?
We worry about how a young girls self image is, yet we as adults, their parents and grandparents are buying millions of dollars for stuff to try and make us feel like we measure up in some way. Surely the young ones notice us doing that.

Maybe we need some help in how we see ourselves for our true value and in doing so stand tall and show by our own self image, then the young ones would know the truth about real beauty by a good example.
I could have easily come away thinking, gosh.. my hair isn't shiny enough, my skin is not like silk, my face is aging, how do I get rid of those age spots, and my goodness, I need a chin lift and somehow there must be some six pack muscles somewhere under my womanly body, oh wait, gravity too has taken its full effect, no doubt I need a body lift. Maybe if I dye my hair perhaps I can try and fool someone I am a few years younger, a "dye and Lie" sort of thing. Oh then there is the commercial that tells me if I don't get diamonds for Valentines day, well then that must mean my man doesn't really value me either. Another whole subject.
Self esteem, worth as a woman as I am, how in the world could I ever feel good enough watching all that stuff on TV or reading a magazine ?

The wrinkles in this puddle make it more interesting, hold more beauty. Perhaps another lesson from nature.

A Quiet Evening


The fire is glowing, steadily. Music playing softly, calming, soothing. Incense burns in a holder on the brick hearth, filling the room with a slightly exotic scent. Rain, gently falling outside and tapping lightly on the windows. Emery is reading, and I have been crocheting. Little bits of conversation breaking the near silence. A cup of green tea shared between the two of us, we like it best that way.
The comfort and peace of this night is profound in the very essence of it. There exists no stress. Calm, like that of a time of meditation fills the room.
There are dishes still in the sink from our evening meal, and there is mail on the table, still waiting to be read, a few groceries waiting to be put in the cupboard from today's shopping. Material on the ironing board that sits in the living room but still, there is order of a higher level. Orderliness of our thoughts and direction in life perhaps. Maybe it is on such evenings that the simple life shows its finest colors. Its most profound depth.
There are so few worries in our daily life. A meal of left over soup and mince pie. No deadlines, no competitions, no race to produce "stuff" or collections.
I wish that it was possible to squeeze this night, with all its wonder into the cyber world in a tangible way, to share with you, so you could see it, feel the warmth and peace, smell the incense, hear the music and the conversation. Perhaps someday we will have video that has scent and warmth but for now, words will have to be the medium that conveys all that is around me.

Today Melanie and I went shopping for fabric for Baby Sangsvang's quilt to match the nursery. What fun we had.
I also purchased 6 DVD's for the baby to watch as he/she grows into toddlerhood. Chinese children's songs with the most delightful animation to go along with them.
What fun we are having planning for the arrival of this little one.

Pictures

New fabric for the baby quilt.... I think its a boy

162 childrens songs in Chinese on 6 DVD for the baby to hear

CD playing..... Zen Tranquility
Tea..................Constant Comment Green Tea
Incense...........Quan Yin Joss Sticks

Grateful for these blessings
rain on the roof
the sound of cars driving by on the wet pavement
one big mug of tea to share with my love in life
comfortable Hanna Anderson cotton long johns
wool socks that keep toes warm
music
laughter
left over soup
wood heat
waiting for babies to arrive
thoughts of sweet baby breath
dreams of tiny fingers that can hold your heart
learning new things each day
good Doctors
the comfort of holding hands often
compassion
friendships
open hands
feather beds
being surrounded by love

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Blessing of Free-cycle

Today this Grannie to be was very blessed by a kind person on our local Free-cycle list. I was in need of a diaper changing table for the wee ones that will be arriving soon. One was available on our local Freecycle list and I was the blessed recipient.
We picked up this lovely baby changing table tonight. Its is great shape and will work out perfect for me to have here at the house.
If you have never been a part of a Free-cycle list for your area, consider it. Its a great way to pass along things no longer needed, help someone with a need and as in my case tonight, provide something we needed.Instead of things going to the landfill or catching dust in the back corner of the garage, you pass it along to someone who can use it.
One time we got a cell phone for Melissa after hers had been stolen in Austin. Its just a wonderful system of sharing.
Yahoo groups lists many freecycle lists, so check it out. My next wish is cotton diapers !

First Thoughts of The Day

I am not sure what most people think about the moment their feet hit the floor in the morning but I do know what I think about.... "what can I do to become a better person today ?"
Before I think about what to have for breakfast or what to wear, or what is on the agenda for today, my thoughts turn to what I need to work on to be a better person. Maybe because there is so much work to be done !
I suspect reaching this stage in my life, the busy-ness has lessened and there is more time for looking honestly at who I am.
The past couple years have brought so many changes in my life and during transition you worry so much about getting to the next place on this journey of life that you hardly take time to understand the purpose of where you just were.
Although in my life and probably in most peoples lives, there remains certain constants. Things that never change much, there are the stretching and steps that take us further on. And there are times when we take a few steps backwards for whatever reason. Which even in itself can be a teacher if we look at each step honestly.
With the recent negativity by way of comments on my blog, I knew right away that my problem was not with what they said, since it was not the truth, but for me it is still this pride thing, this idea of holding on to self. I was indignant...."how dare they say that, its not true". I have been here before and felt all this before but never grew from it, so the lesson comes again and will come over and over I suspect until I get the message. Its not their words, its my reaction to them that needs the work.
We are often offended when a mirror is held up to our heart and we see our own reflection. Great peace comes when confrontation doesn't get to us, doesn't hit us in our ego. Doesn't go beyond the frontal lobe so to speak.
When someone says something negative and not correct, that is simply their view and does not change the facts. If their facts are wrong, what stands tall is the truth that remains. So why do we get so ticked off when people confront us with what is their concept of the thing ? Because we want so badly to be seen in only good light. It's normal I suppose. We feel some great overpowering need to justify ourselves. In some cases maybe we need to, today I am not sure what those cases might be. We also wish to see them made to look foolish and what is to be gained from that ? Nothing, it helps no one. I am so thankful for the blessings gained by this recent experience, it has made me grow spiritually. It has made me look deep into my own self. That is why I am still talking about it, but hopefully in what is seen as a positive way.
Today I am thinking about how much I miss the kindness of where I left. There is what the outside world calls, being sheltered, being ignorant of world situations, being naive and the like in the plain world but sometimes if I had to weigh those aspects with knowing so much about things in the world that are disturbing, well, the scale tells the truth of which is better. I miss the gentleness of the sheltered environment in some ways. The constant and sure kind reactions to situations. The shelter in the storm.
Today, as I go about my day, the prayer on my lips will be to not be so attached to self. To work on surrendering my pride more and more. To walk in quiet gratitude for this simple life.
Yes, today I miss the good things about the "plain" life which is o.k. to do, but also realizing its not a place I can go back to.


Our pony Tony, taken several years ago on a day just such as this day

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Farm Home

The Farm House

Myrtle Vorst Sheppard

Peace dwells here, and quiet security:
and love, stripped bare of selfishness,
makes homely tasks beneath this roof
true sacraments. Here breaking of the
family bread, and story hours, and tucking
babes in bed are joyous highlights
of the day. Within these walls a strong
man's gallant heart is fed. This is a
place apart, serene beneath the loving
hand of God: a spot that travelers mark
....where yellow lamplight on the snow
becomes a beacon light to those who go,
uplifted, past in the dark.


It is my prayer that all our homes be as this poem speaks.
Emery in the glow of the lamp light bringing in the final load of wood for the night.

Evening Meal



By lamplight we had our evening meal. Hot soup with warm baking powder biscuits. Topped off with some mince pie.
Outside the air is nippy, and with heavy cloud cover there is no moon, making the night dark.
Melissa was telling me how cold it is up in Vermont which made me feel spoiled by our comparatively warm temperatures. I remember that kind of cold and it takes your breath away.
She and I talked a bit about how cold it was doing the milking on cold winter mornings. Frozen fingers and cold wet skirt hems from watering the animals.
The weather man has said we are in for more of this wintry weather. Snow and sleet remain in the forecast for quite a while.
Emery is on his way to the woodshed to bring in more wood for the morning. It seems like an endless job right now. My living room floor is covered daily with what I call "wood crumbs". Bits of bark and wood from the logs. Somehow they scatter all over the place which makes for lots of sweeping.
As the evening winds down, I am thinking it might be time to add one more quilt to our bed. I am ready for a good nights sleep, its been a busy day and I am tired.

Here is the recipe I use for baking powder biscuits. For light fluffy biscuits, make sure you don't handle the dough very much and when you cut them out, make sure not to twist the cutter. Cutting straight down will ensure biscuits that raise nice and tall.


Baking Powder Biscuits

1-3/4 cups flour
1 Tbsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup milk


PREHEAT oven to 450°F.
Mix flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl.
Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Add milk; stir with fork until soft dough forms.

PLACE on lightly floured surface;
knead 20 times or until smooth.
Pat or roll lightly until dough is 1/2-inch thick.
Cut with floured 2-inch cookie cutter to make 16 biscuits,
rerolling dough scraps as necessary.
Place on ungreased baking sheet.
BAKE 10 minutes or until golden brown.

The Joy of Simple Living


As I went outside to get some fire wood and do my afternoon chores, a feeling of awe came over me. The world around me was held in a moment of silence. No cars driving down our road, no sounds of mankind, just those of nature. A strange animal noise came from the woods, not one I could recognize. I strained to listen more closely, hoping to hear it again.
Birds in abundance flying from tree to tree and from one feeder to another. The sound of ice covered branches squeaking in the wind. A sound only found on such winter days. Under my feet, the sound of snow and frozen grass, crunching.
It feels so rich, so almost holy, this freedom from mankind sounds. If I listen closely, I can hear the sound of my breath.
I feel so alive, so blessed, so full of thankfulness for this simple life. No running here or there, just content at home. The man next door calls a cheery hello to me. Time to get on with my chores. I head to the woodshed and start loading our wood carrier, an old wheelchair. I fill the seat full of wood, and start my trek to the house, the wheels need some oil it seems. The cats follow me, unsure of the cold wet stuff under their feet.
A pie sounds good to go with supper tonight. I mentally went through what ingredients I had on hand and decided a mince pie would work our quite nicely . Soup and freshly made home made biscuits for our meal. No biscuit mix for me. I love the job of cutting the butter into the flour and deciding the right moment to add the other ingredients. It's a time to talk to God, this mindless task of biscuit making, done so often it takes no thought.
I love my simple life. So uncomplicated and so full of a deep peace.

Mince pie cooling, a mug of cold milk and my favorite winter reading

Robins, hopping around the yard