American Dreams

It used to be baseball and apple pie.  Today one might say it’s an iPhone (loaded with the coolest apps) and a flat screen t.v. with take-out.  But then it really depends on which cultural clique you belong to, doesn’t it?  A hipster and a gangsta won’t have the same ideals, will they?

But there’s more at play here.

It started out as a desire for something better.  A belief that anything would be better than the current state of persecution/poverty/suppression drove people to cut their losses and begin again.  A New World meant new hope.  Leave family.  Cut your losses.  Sever your roots.  Start over.  No attachments.

But if this new life doesn’t live up to one’s expectations, then maybe there’s something else because this life is too hard.  Maybe the West with its Gold will make life better.  Risk it all.  Do it or die trying.  If it looks untouched, it’s now mine.  Let’s lay tracks.  Mark it as our own.

Miracle of all miracles, some do “make it.”  Some live into their dreams and seem to have it all, from a new life, to gold, to apple pie . . . all the way to the flat screen t.v.  Yet, how many do we know who have the appearance and stuff and have peace of mind and spirit?  Do you think it was easy for them if they do “have it all”?

What happens to a plant once you sever its roots?  What happens when you take something that wasn’t yours to take?  What happens when we live our lives without regard to the consequences seven generations from now?

I struggle now with trying to understand how to balance our consumption/desire/pride/greed/fear with balance/peace/full emptiness/love.  Our amazing capacity to be connected with everyone everywhere provides opportunities unimaginable 500 years ago — even 200 years ago.  At the same time, we have capacity to destroy unimaginable numbers — not only people but ecosystems.

At the retreat I was at this past weekend, we were blessed with the presence of Joanna Seibert and Kate Moorehead.  (I highly recommend them both!)  During one of Kate’s sessions, she asked us to think of and then sketch the plant that represented our spiritual life.  I am drawn to trees, so I drew a tree.  Not just any tree.

We have a cherry tree in our backyard that has a massive root system.  From these roots other trees grow.  One of these trees we have let grow because the larger original tree will not live forever.  I used this image.

In my picture  I had a “God” tree with many roots.  Like the cherry tree, a smaller tree grew from one of the roots.  This smaller tree is me.  I have my own roots now and put forth my own branches, but there is a source from which I’ve come.  Even if that source isn’t always visible or tangible, it’s alive within me.  My roots are the gifts I receive from the source and that which feed me.  My branches are the gifts I share by being myself; the fruits I bear are the gifts I give outwardly to others.

What would it be like if the American Dreams became dreams of wholeness?  What if they weren’t based upon escape from reality, indulgence in richness, attaining that which only a few will attain?

Every one of us has a source.  Every one of us has gifts, whether they are from our innocence or our wounds or both.  But we have to care for ourselves and for those around us.  Love your neighbor as yourself. What more do we need to do?  We need to choose.  We need to choose to share that last crumb of apple pie with someone else.  We need to let the visiting team’s fan have the seat beside us.  We need to care for our land, keeping in mind of the consequences generations from now, like the back of the Seventh Generation label says (and I read when doing the dishes).

Fortunately, our roots with God are not solely tangible, and though we might cut them to seek a better way (because, of course, we know what we need/want most), the Love of God remains intact.  We are entitled.  We are entitled to Love, end therein lies a richness everyone can attain.

My American Dream?   Love and Peace.  Now, I have a capitalistic wish-list that I think would be good for my family and me and that I could probably compare to yours.  I’ll trust, though, that I have what I need to do the best I can to manifest love and peace here and now.  Thanks be to God!

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My Lint Bowl

Yes.  I have a lint bowl.  It’s quite small and irregularly shaped.  Actually, it’s from the first and only pottery class I’ve taken.  It wasn’t the first piece I made (that “gem” went to my mother), but it’s one of the first few for sure.

This little bowl sits atop our dryer, and after each load, I put the lint in it.  Or maybe I just set it there . . . or squish it on the top.  It started out in laziness, really.  The small trash can has a lid and is low to the ground and squeezed in between the dryer and the wall that has the broom and dustpan hanging there.  Why twist and stretch every time I switch the clothes?

Then I realized that I liked watching the lint bowl fill up.  The clean clothes these days have been dispersed rather quickly to where they need to go, but the lint . . . it fills up and becomes a little abundance of accomplishment, a monument of achievement.  When I think it’s time to dump it and start over, I do, knowing I can watch it grow again.

It’s the little things, right?  We are all working so hard every day to keep the wheels running smoothly.  Whether we’re working outside the home helping some company/business/organization to thrive or working in the home to make sure those nearest and dearest to us are thriving (and chances are, all of us are doing both, whether we’re paid for it or not), we are all working hard.  Sometimes we just need little signs to remind us that our work adds up.  What we’re doing makes a difference.

I have a lint bowl.  You might have a diaper pail, laundry pile, crossed-off checklists, clean dishes . . . who knows.  Keep tally marks on a post-it if you have to.  I’m telling you that you make a difference.  The work you do is appreciated.

And you will always be loved more for who you are than what you do, anyway.  So, as the card I received from a friend says: “be a beacon of fierce and potent love.”  May my family always remember how much I love them.  I know they won’t know how many times I empty the lint bowl.

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“My Fav’rite”

Right now, our youngest describes things according to her preference.  For example, she says, “Chickies my fav’rite,” and “Worms not my fav’rite.”  (“Fav’rite,” of course, is her way of saying favorite; she just drops the “o” sound.  I wish I had a sound clip because it is absolutely adorable and otherwise completely enunciated.)

In her toddler world right now, she is the sun, and everything else revolves around her.  If you’re not her fav’rite, then you might as well be on the dark side of the moon.  She has a look for you if she thinks that way, and those of you who know her know what I’m talking about.  🙂

In my world right now, I have many favorites shining forth.  Quality time with family and friends, sunshine, gardening.  I don’t get to spend nearly enough time in these arenas, but I love them dearly.  I also love the results of spring cleaning and even the time spent doing so, if I can tap into the right frame of mind.  The skies before a storm.  Watching the chickens find what I cannot see in the dirt.  Listening to others speak their Wisdom.  Feeling that which cannot be seen in another’s suffering.  Watching the miracle of birth unfold in more ways than one.  Learning.  Growing.  Loving.

What may seem like the dark side of the moon in my world is really just like night time or lying fallow in the earth.  The love I feel for everything these days, the compassion I find in oh-so-many places and faces — expected and unexpected, the suffering I know about or stumble upon, all this combines and swirls in the One.  Truly this is a Mystery, but I trust it.  I trust that all things rise and fall in my awareness.  What needs to be done will be done.  What needs to be known will be known.  I hope that I’m where I need to be when I need to be there.

Maybe my busy life is more simple than I realize.  With the right frame of mind and a solid, grounded presence, there’s an altered time, if even time at all.  We can experience life moment by moment, and that is definitely one of my fav’rites.

(photos of some fav’rite moments: Ashton reading, Alexander making artful eggs, Avery & Dino (his chicken), and Autumn making cookies)

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It’s Not a Problem; It’s an Opportunity

I once heard it’s good feng shui to have your fridge full of food.  My grandpa always kept his car full of gas.  My grandma always had a pantry full of canned goods and a freezer so full of food you could barely shut it, let alone fit another bag of frozen anything in there.  My mother-in-law usually has at least two of everything, mainly so she can share with the family — thanks to the good deals she finds.

There’s a good fortune there that can easily be taken for granted.  Their ways of being and doing things rely upon being able to sustain them.  They have the resources to do so.  I didn’t realize how fortunate I was as a kid.  I knew others relied on school lunch programs.  I knew there were homeless kids and adults, that even if they had a make-shift home, it didn’t necessarily mean they had electricity or running water.

I also realize the predicament my parents were in, a stereotypical struggle of middle class America.  Keep up with the Joneses.  Make things look well and good, even if the budget is a train wreck.  Pay the medical and dental bills out of pocket; what other choice do you have?  Buy now, pay later . . . if you can.  Don’t let the kids know how hard it is.

Now my husband and I find ourselves living between these two ways of living, and I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t an opportunity to find a resolve so that our kids won’t have to struggle with the same issues.  I feel like my grandparents, who lived through the depression, wanted to make sure they never ran out, that there’s always plenty.  They also felt very strongly about paying for things with cash; buy only what you can afford.  I feel like my parents, who reached adulthood in the 70s, lived fully in the 80s mentality: get what you need (a.k.a. want), taking time to pay it back.  It provided a kind of feast or famine way of life.

Our opportunity, again, is to find what is best of each generation, and I think that relies on us being able to clearly know what is enough.

I heard that it’s best to use the full tank of gas before filling up again.  I know from experience that I feel like I’m not wasting as much money on gas when the tank if full.  (Doesn’t it seem like the top half of the tank lasts longer?)  I know that food does not last forever, even in a freezer.  It’s best to cycle through and actually use it and replace it regularly.  Some staples do last longer when frozen, so saving room for bulk flour, oats, rice and such is smart.  I appreciate credit, too, but unless it can be managed wisely and paid off quickly, it’s best to pay with cash.  Do not live outside your means.  I’m still learning this simple lesson that can be so hard to live.

I also take the opportunity to tell my kids why we don’t eat out so often, why the fridge might not be full of fresh produce, why I cannot and will not pay full price for new clothes and such (unless absolutely necessary).  I don’t tell them to make them feel guilty or ashamed; I want them to know and understand.  I also try to make sure they share in my gratitude for what is shared with us, what is given to us. As a parent, you have to know how hard this can be.

Slowly, we are learning what is enough.  Though it may feel like we’re cutting it close on having enough food and supplies, we do have enough.  We realize how little we actually need to feel sustained and thriving.  Appreciation goes a long way.  A positive attitude does make a difference.  Our time isn’t spent moping about thinking about what we lack or miss.  We have to set a standard for ourselves.  Society’s expectations and norms have proven skewed and unbeneficial.

We have the opportunity to find where the value lies in our family.  We determine what is enough for us, really and truly.  If we need to buy in bulk out of necessity to save $10 and make sure we don’t run out of toilet paper or peanut butter (you have to have your priorities!), so be it.  I have a feeling other lessons and opportunities will follow regarding learning to live sustainably.  Our awareness continues to broaden.

I am so grateful for our abundance.

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Holiday Weekend

I cannot remember the last time we truly took a holiday weekend, or, rather, that I took a holiday.  There is something seemingly appropriate about a mom taking Labor Day as an excuse to kick back.

Truthfully, it started Friday when my daughter and I played our pajama day card.  The fact that I’m reading the Twilight series might have something to do with that, too (future post to comment on that one).  I was supposed to have a meeting with my spiritual director, but a change of plans led to a cancellation.  During our brief phone conversation, I mentioned my p.j. day with novel in tow, and she said it sounded like I was pretty well-balanced.  Would I be her spiritual director? she asked me.  That resulted in a good laugh, but I was glad she approved of my unkemptness.    I did manage to get dressed, pick up kids from school, and make it that night to a delightful cookout at my cousin’s house with her family.  My day felt rich and full.

Saturday we slept in.  Then I went out and purchased a bike trailer.  I haven’t truly ridden my bike, even a bike, in almost eleven years (the age of my eldest daughter), if not longer.  But I felt a sense of determination.  This is something I was going to do, not only for myself but for the family as well.  Home from that, I left with my girls to meet a friend and her daughter to go on a bike ride along the trails in our city.  I hadn’t been on them before, even to walk, and I loved it — sore derriere aside.  I don’t know how many miles it was, but it was beautiful outside, overcast, the rain holding off for the late evening/early morning hours.  I truly felt the beginner’s mind on our trip, being very much in the moment.  You never forget how to ride a bike, but I got reacquainted with my gears.  I went on faith that the girls were okay behind me in the trailer.  At one point, they were sprayed with mud slung from my tire; a little while later they were almost asleep.  We got back an hour late, but we came home to a clean house, thanks to my dearest, and immediately submerged ourselves into a small dinner party.  The yummy dessert wine that concluded our feast was a testament to sweet enjoyment all around (I hope!).  I slept so well.

As if that weren’t enough to wrap up a most lovely weekend, we topped even that.

After church Sunday morning, we came home and prepared for another day outdoors.  We planned on rock climbing, but why not take the canoe on her maiden voyage (for our family, anyway).  My husband and I realized we can load the canoe on the van by ourselves (and get it off).  We also discovered what fun it is, even just on a lake, taking turns with the children.  But most fun for me was the time I got to take by myself.  Not only am I reading Twilight, but I am also premenstrual; truthfully, I could have been a recluse all weekend and have been just as content, though not nearly so healthy.  My dear girlfriends suggested I take my book out on the canoe and read in peace, not worrying about the children.  I wasn’t climbing anyway due, I supposed, to PMS lack of energy.  I took the canoe out.

“Where are you going, Mom?!” my 5-year-old shouted after me from the bank.

“I’m running away!” I shouted back with a laugh.  “Be back soon!”

I thought the “lake” seemed small, but it was enough to float in nicely in the late afternoon sun, reading a few more chapters.  The loudness of our children beckoned me back, their voices along with others along the wooded trail, reminding me of my responsibilities.  Come to find out, the lake is bigger; I just didn’t go around the bend.  There’s always next time.

Back home, we enjoyed yet another dinner together with our friends, finishing off the leftover soup, replenishing the sides.  Sleep found us quickly.

Labor Day, I did actually make myself do some work on the house that was showing signs of neglect, even after having been clean on Saturday.  Sunday night I even dreamed of mounds of laundry that were just a little to close to the real thing.  By the end of the day, the house looked and felt better, and I could settle in to read some more with good conscience.

The weather was beautiful all weekend, especially with the evening storms.  I appreciated feeling the muscles in my body.  I appreciated the rests I took.  I enjoyed the time spent away in books.

Mostly, though, I am grateful for the awareness, the time, the being, the relationships nurtured.  We should spend more weekends like this with even more of our family and friends.  Many thanks to all.

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Meaningful Meals

Not long ago I posted about having strangers over for dinner, which still lingers in my mind as a weekly possibility but hasn’t been acted upon yet.  I’ve just learned about another mealtime event that will not only fill your own belly but also help others, too.

Heifer International has designated April as Pass on the Gift Month.  The mission:

“start a chain of Passing on the Gift by hosting a meal
to help end hunger. Get together with friends, family or your
congregation to help us celebrate–and help us raise funds to
give more families a life of hope.

You can have organic/local/healthy meals either catered or potluck.  You could serve a meal in your house and charge per plate.  You could have a large potluck and pass a bowl around to collect what others are willing to give.  The possibilities are many, and the potential is great.

Our local Earth Scouts are hoping to host one in April.  Join the FaceBook group or Yahoo!Group to keep informed about upcoming events in Earth Scouts. 

Would you be willing to give?

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Challenge: Personal Goals

There’s this strange (to me) dichotomy in our society regarding health/fitness. Everyone needs to be healthy and look physically fit, but we find that it’s easier and much cheaper in the short term to eat poorly and devote our time to any given task or gadget instead of exercising.

Regardless of where you are with your new year’s resolution, it’s always a good time to put your intention on being well, living well.

My husband found what’s called the Ultimate Black Belt Challenge (UBBC), which is something our local dojo offers.  You set these incredible goals for yourself (basically for mind, body and spirit), and if you achieve them, you get your black belt (usually after paying a fee).  Well, originally we thought it was a challenge meant just for black belts, that it was a challenge for challenge’s sake, meant to improve yourself in every way.  (We didn’t read the letter well, I guess, because it’s quite clear.) 

No one in our family is a black belt in taekwondo or aikido, but we set some goals in all areas for each of us.  It’s easy to say what you’d like to do, who you would like to be.  It’s quite another to put your time where your mouth is.  With every day scheduled to the brim, how do you squeeze in a couple of hours for this and that?

That’s why it’s a challenge.  Do you stay up late to watch the great new movie, or do you get some sleep so you can get up early the next morning and get a productive start on the new day?  (FYI — last night we watched the movie.  Probably shouldn’t do that any more!)

So what are your goals?  If you had to push yourself to be a better person, what would you do?  Lent is coming up soon.  It’s a great time to give up that which doesn’t nourish you and take on that which makes you more whole . . . maybe even more holy?

My goals, total for the year:

  • 160 hours of workout/exercise time (30 min/day)
  • 12 books
  • 250 hours in the garden
  • 120 desserts (two or three/week)
  • 30 meals out (doesn’t count meals at church)
  • 25 Spanish days (goal is for family to learn Spanish)
  • 100 hours family game time
  • 25 hours of journaling
  • 100 hours walk/bike/swim/hike
  • 50 hours creative time

I’m going to be working on our chart.  I’ll share it when it’s done.  Put your creative energy to work today on living well!

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Are You Happy?

This is an extremely loaded question.  There are many levels to a person’s well-being.

What I’m wondering is if you’ve given thought to your own happiness of late.  How do you define being “happy”?

When I was in high school, my senior year I gave posters to some of my closest friends, duplicating by hand 365 reasons to be happy around and around the posterboard.  I don’t know if they still have the posters tucked away somewhere, rolled up in a closet, or if they trashed them upon one of their many moves.  I wish I had kept that list.  I’d like to look it over, see which ones still apply 10+ years later.

I think I’m due to make a revised list.  Feel free to post a comment adding your reasons.  When we get to 365, I’ll make a separate new post with 365 reasons to be happy.

By feeling happy, I mean having an overall sense of well-being, feeling in accord with yourself, others and the world, following the “right” path.  For me, it’s that overcoming rush or shiver that spills forth, and I could just sing out in operatic song “life is so good!” if, indeed, I could sing in opera (which I can’t and don’t).

I’ll get us started with five:

1. Watching my healthy, sleeping children.
2. Belly-laughing about something my husband has told me.
3. Finding a rainbow with the family — bonus if it’s a double rainbow.
4. Having no late fees, penalties — bills paid in full, on time.
5. Helping a mother recognize her own accomplishments.

Like I said, feel free to add yours in the comments.  I’ll add some, too, and when we reach 365 (or more), I’ll make a new post.  You have reasons to be happy; share the love!!

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Handkerchief Quilt, Personally Interpreted

I have a collection of handkerchiefs from my maternal great-grandmothers, grandmother, and great aunt.  One of the gifts made for Christmas was a quilt from these handkerchiefs for my mother.  I originally had lofty ideas of how beautiful this would be, but in reality, the hankies came in all colors and sizes.  Not to mention, I was making the last stitches on the binding as my mother entered my home on Christmas Eve.  Alas, a quilt was made, the love stitched throughout.  In my haste and lack of battery-charging, few photos were taken at the end of the process.

Due to the delicate nature of the handkerchiefs (most of which are much older than me), I backed them with Wonder-Under and the comparable alternative for which I don’t have a name but was all I could find when I made a mad dash back to the fabric store for more, only to find they were out of the W-U.

I laid out the kerchiefs in the order they fit best within the dimensions of the quilt — 45″x60″.  It’s a crib size quilt, but perfect for a lap quilt, too.  The smartest thing I did was take this photo.  I could refer to it later when the kids helped with arranging the kerchiefs they way they thought they should be arranged.  No, not very helpful.


I then ironed the hankies onto the front piece, a nice soft flannel.  This is why Wonder-Under is so wonderful. It’s just an adhesive interfacing to hold your applique in place until it’s sewn; it also helps prevent fraying.


Once everything’s ironed into place, I took time to sew around all the kerchief edges and once around the middle to make sure it is held in place.  For sake of time, I didn’t want to have to do a lot of quilting, so this at least gave it more of a quilted appearance.

Time to layer.  The flannel I chose for the front was also used for the back, except with the wrong side out.  The wrong side is a solid beige, unlike the front that has a faint petite floral pattern (which unfortunately mostly faded in the wash).  The middle layer is natural cotton batting, crib size.  I pinned all three layers and trimmed the edges to make attaching the binding easier later.

I used the machine to quilt.  Obviously, I was in a time crunch and honestly have not taken the time to hand-quilt anything as of yet. Using a wavy stitch on the machine I just ran through the quilt between all the handkerchiefs, starting from the middle and working my way out.  In my haste, I made mistakes and had a couple of gathers, but for this casual quilt, I think it will be fine — much like the purchased mocha-colored binding.  You can make your own binding, to be sure, but for sake of time and considering it was on sale for 30% off, it couldn’t be beat.

And neither could the expression on my mother’s face, knowing she would love the quilt even more than me.

The other halves of the handkerchiefs are saved, not to worry.  I promised my daughter I could make one for her someday, too.  As a finishing touch to the above quilt, I added a couple of embellishments.  One is a strip of ribbon that says “family ties,” which I knotted on either side and hand-sewed it into place toward the top.  At the bottom I made a “homemade” tag and sewed it into the binding.  Sometimes these little touches add even more personality.  Personality is something women in my family definitely have.

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Life of This Parent

celebration_champagne_cheers_240063_l.jpgNew Year’s Eve doesn’t mean a fancy night out to dinner and then a huge party with friends, drinks and loud music for this parent.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had such a celebration on the last night of the year.  Maybe that’s why, with four kids in tow, I’m not terribly resentful that my plans for the night include a homemade dinner, sparking grape juice, a dvd and leftovers from a 6 pack of pear cider (my fave) for the hubby and me.

Everything in due time.  It’s a good lesson for me.  Be patient.  Enjoy every moment.  Take my time.  If I can’t enjoy it, change my perspective until there’s something to be grateful for. 

I’ll toast to that, if we’re still awake.

(photo from, by a_glitch)

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