Category Archives: Mind

Beginning…Again

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice. […] And to make an end is to make a beginning.         — T.S. Eliot from “Little Gidding”

Happy New Year! How are you spending the first day of the rest of your life? What is your state of mind? To whom have you said, “I love you”? What will you do with this one precious day?

Part of living a life of thanks-living is being mindful of each day and the gifts–great and small–that present themselves to you and that you present to others. The beginning of a new calendar year is traditionally a time for resolutions and hopefulness. How about mindfulness?

What if…instead of resolving to lose weight, make more money, save more money, find the right partner, get a better job, write that best-selling novel, or whatever else you might want to achieve…what if you simply resolved to be mindful of each precious moment? What if you promised to try and be aware of the gift of each day, one day at a time?

Sure, planning is a good thing, but we twenty-first century, multi-tasking, over-booked, under-capitalized humans tend to get so caught up in looking backwards and forwards that we forget to look straight ahead into the moment. Hey, I’m as guilty as anyone else.

Instead of a resolution this year, I’m simply going to try to live each and every day as if it is the only day I have. After all, we never know how much time we do have, so let’s try to make the most of it. So…

  • Let’s put relationships first and stuff last.
  • Let’s take care of the body we’ve been given by eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising.
  • Let’s look at our work as good and valuable and do the best possible job we can at whatever we do. If you don’t feel like you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, work mindfully at following your passions. If you live and work well, the living will follow.
  • Let’s focus on giving and sharing rather than amassing and hoarding, and
  • Let’s cultivate and nurture our sense of the holy, the spiritual, and the good (what I call faith).

As 2012 ends, however the year was for you, let’s embrace the new beginning of 2013 and make it 365 single days of joy and thanks-living. I look forward to the journey!

Want a little inspiration? Check out this You Tube video:

Photo by Sally Mahoney. Thanks!

Longest Night

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. — John 1:5

Read:  John 1:1-9, 14

Ponder:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Reflect:

Well, the world didn’t end today. Surprise! Surprise! It was the winter solstice, the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Here in south central Pennsylvania it was a chilly, gray day complete with a few snow flurries. Night settled in all too fast, and the wind has been howling through the screens ever since.

The good news is that in a few hours, dawn will break. It may be another gray winter day, but the promise of shorter nights and warmer days begins tomorrow. The darkness will never permanently be with us. There is always hope and light and love.

Thanks-Living:

Give thanks for the light. Do something today to spread a little light and a little love. It can be as simple as a smile or as generous as a gift of time or resources. You know the needs; you can be that light.

Photo by Balaji Dutt. Thanks!

No Time for Fear

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. — Isaiah 12:2

Read: Isaiah 12:2-6

Ponder:

“The overcoming of fear—that is what we are proclaiming here. The Bible, the gospel, Christ, the church, the faith—all are one great battle cry against fear in the lives of human beings. Fear is, somehow or other, the archen­emy itself. It crouches in people’s hearts. It hollows out their insides, until their resistance and strength are spent and they suddenly break down. Fear secretly gnaws and eats away at all the ties that bind a person to God and to others, and when in a time of need that person reaches for those ties and clings to them, they break and the individual sinks back into himself or herself, helpless and despairing, while hell rejoices.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer (from a sermon preached in Berlin, second Sunday after Epiphany, January 15, 1933)

Reflect:

Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Fiscal Cliff, the Mayan Calendar, disease, climate change, war–these words and many others conjure up feelings of fear and anxiety in most folks. Fear and anxiety curve us inward on ourselves and prevent us from experiencing fully the life God desires for us.

Now I’m not suggesting one throw wise, prudent behavior to the wind to follow pure impulse. Not at all. Rather, I believe that we simply cannot let fear corner us into inaction, hate, and avoidance. We can’t afford to turn our homes into little fortresses, ignoring our neighbors and opting out of community.

We serve a creative, relational God who both desires an active and full relationship with us and also intends for us to share such relationships with others. It is all too easy to let natural feelings of fear and anxiety that accompany tragedy to drive us apart and to create a wedge between us and God.

Don’t let that happen. Be defiant in the face of evil and loss. Step into the breach, reaching out to others and sharing the love and hope that is found in Christ. The world needs you, yes you, right now wherever you are. In these dark days, choose to reflect the light.

Thanks-Living:

Today consider writing one or more notes of encouragement and support to the schools in Newtown, Connecticut. Be that candle in the dark by showering a few words of love on those whose lives have been marred by this tragedy.

Newtown Public School District

3 Primrose Street

Newtown, CT 06470

 

Sandy Hook Elementary School

12 Dickinson Drive

Sandy Hook, CT 06482

(Photo by anaeastudio. Thanks!)

Light

By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. — Luke 1:78-79

Read: Luke 1:68-79

Ponder:

I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars. — Og Mandino

Reflect:

When I lived in North Dakota, one of my favorite things to do on a crisp, clear winter night was to bundle up, go outside, and gaze into the star-spangled sky. Out on the rural prairie, without the interference of city lights and traffic noise, one gets a real sense of the enormity of the cosmos and the handiwork of the Creator. One also gets a very real picture of just how small and insignificant a single human can appear in the scale of the universe.

Yet, we do not have to feel insignificant because scripture reminds us that God knows the very number of hairs on our head. We are wonderfully and fearfully made and deeply loved. Even in the darkest hour of night, we rest assured that dawn will break, bringing new light and renewed hope. Jesus is coming again to bring light that the darkness cannot overcome. Yes, the stars are lovely to look upon, but it is the light of Christ that shows us the way to real life that never ends.

Thanks-Living:

Make time to go outside and look at the stars. Tonight you might even have the opportunity to see the Geminid Meteor Shower in all its glory. Give thanks to the Creator of the universe for the majesty and glory that seem to expand before your eyes.

Today also marks the commemoration of St. Lucy, a young Sicilian Christian martyr who lived during the persecutions of Emperor Diocletian. While we do not have much knowledge about her life, we believe she had decided to devote her life completely to God and give her possessions to the poor.  Her feast day is particularly important in Norway and Sweden, where the oldest girl in the house dons a crown of candles and serves saffron buns  to her family early on this particular morning. For more information click here. For a recipe for St. Lucy’s Buns or Lussekatter, click here.

Photos by Tydence and Henrik Kettunen. Thanks!

Alert & On Guard

Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly….Be alert at all times. — Luke 21:34, 36a

Read: Luke 21:25-36 (Yes, this is the same reading as yesterday, but it bears re-reading.)

Ponder:

“Sometimes it seems as though we spend our lives waiting. Daydreaming about an upcoming vacation, worrying over a medical test, preparing for the birth of grandchild-our days are filled with anticipation and anxiety over what the future holds. As Christians, we too spend our lives waiting. But we are waiting for something much bigger than a trip, bigger even than retirement or a wedding: We are waiting for the return of Jesus in glory. Advent heightens this sense of waiting, because it marks not only our anticipation of Jesus’ final coming, but also our remembrance of his arrival into our world more than 2,000 years ago.”  — Anonymous

Reflect:

What lies heavy on your mind and heart today? What worries are you harboring and nurturing? What needs to be let go so that God can infuse your very being with expectation, hope, and joy?

If you find yourself hurrying through this season with too much to do and not enough hours in the day, do something quite counter-intuitive: sit still and do nothing. Simply be. The to-do list will still be there, and maybe some of it will turn out to not be worth doing anyway. Maybe some of it doesn’t even matter in the grand scheme of the cosmos.

Be alert. Be ready. Watch for those “God-sightings” in your home, during your worship and time with friends, and even waiting in the check-out lane at the grocery. An encounter with the Divine might be just around the corner or down the next aisle. Look for God in the ordinary and extraordinary. Trust me…God is already there.

Thanks-living:

Consider calling up a friend to go for coffee or tea. Make a date with your spouse, partner, or significant other. Make special time to spend  one-on-one with your child or children. Write your parents a letter. Attend an extra worship service or Advent event in your community of faith. Find one thing to do that requires your complete presence and attention. Put those to-do lists aside and experience some joy and anticipation.

What I Did:

Last night my spouse and I were invited to have dinner with friends. Sure there is more work to be done in this season than we have hours for, but we gladly accepted their invitation, and what fun we had! Not only did Liz prepare an amazing meal, but we had conversation, laughter, and a rousing game of “Words with Friends” that we’ll savor for days to come. Thank you, Liz and Tom, for giving us the invitation and permission to simply “be” for an evening and enjoy the gift of friends and fun. Truly the love, grace, and spirit of our Lord was with us all.

Photos by paralog and Minette Layne. Thanks!

Signs

There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  — Luke 21:25-26

Read: Luke 21:25-36

Ponder:

“Advent: the time to listen for footsteps – you can’t hear footsteps when you’re running yourself.” — Bill McKibben

Reflect:

A quick glance at global news headlines can be a terrifying thing. Headlines announce war, murder, destruction, natural disaster, hunger, poverty, and abuses of all kinds in a macabre parade of words and images. It’s enough to put one into flight mode–at least metaphorically.

One way some folks cope with this onslaught of devastation is to ignore it by running to other activities, passions, and pleasures. The problems seem so big, so bad, and so complicated that it’s easier to ignore them. Thank about it: after the horror of 9/11 we were encouraged to shop, to get on with life as usual and keep the economic machine running smoothly.

Luke’s gospel tells us something completely different. Instead of fleeing, falling, and fearing, we are to “stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (21:28b). We are to look and listen for the footsteps of God’s redemption in our world.

The season of Advent provides the space and opportunity to slow down, give our “running shoes” a rest, and listen in prayer, worship, and daily life for the signs of divine action in the world. The signs are there. They are hopeful. And  they are very, very real! Dear friends, look for these signs of real life abundant and overflowing with mercy, love, and grace. Be still and encounter God.

Thanks-living:

Take a “news fast” today. Avoid encountering news on television, radio, and website. Instead, play some music that inspires you. Take a walk outside if weather permits. Bake some bread or sweets and fill your home with the fragrance of love’s creative action. Share your baked goods with family and friends. Choose an inspiring film to watch–or a comedy if you’re in need of a laugh. Most importantly, light a candle and pray for the wisdom to work for peace and watch for God-signs in the world. Blessings on your day.

Like Dave Brubeck? Remember him this week by listening to “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Check out David Anderson’s article about Brubeck, who died December 5 at the age of 92, here.

Photo by kt Ann. Thanks!

The Gift of Doris

(This is a guest post by friend, author, and fellow Compactor, Julia Park Tracey. Be sure to check out the website for the book. Enjoy!)

For the past year I have been sharing snippets and excerpts from the “Doris Diaries,” a collection of diaries from the 1920s through 1940s that I inherited from my Aunt Doris. The first volume of these has just been published as I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen (1925-1926). It has been an unexpected pleasure to spend time in the presence of someone I miss very much, and whose presence in my life was akin to a fairy godmother.

When my great aunt Doris, who passed away in 2011, was beginning to fail, starting to lose some steam in that last of her 101 years, she asked me to take care of her private things, not to leave her frillies and her secrets open to just anyone.

At that time I did not know that Doris had kept journals all her life. I did not know that she had held onto her teenage scribbling – those that embarrass us so much later in life. After she passed, my mother gave me a box of letters and diaries, and I was shocked and thrilled to find this fresh voice, this impish artistic soul, in pen and ink. For all the years I knew Doris – since 1963, if you must know the numbers – I never knew she wanted to be a writer, and never heard this voice. And this voice is lovely and amazing.

When I first started to read her words from 1925, I couldn’t keep from laughing. What a dry wit! I couldn’t keep from swooning with her over the handsome boys and flirtations and moonlit rides in a roadster. Such stories she tells, so casually elegant, so refreshingly blunt. So Doris!

I’ve been asked if I’m telling her secrets and how she would feel about that. I feel confident that Doris, knowing I’m a writer of 30-plus years in publishing and journalism, would not have directed in her will to give this box of her life to me in particular, if she hadn’t wanted to share her story. And the Doris I knew wanted to tell her story; she published her memoirs in 2006, when she was 96. To quote the 16-year-old Doris of 1926, “I love to cause a sensation!”

For me, the gift has been getting to know someone I had already known for 50 years – again, and better, and deeper. And though I miss her, it’s different, and not the sense of absence and loss that usually accompanies a loved one’s passing. I realize how rare and special this is. And I’m grateful, every day.

Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning blogger, journalist and editor. Her book, I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen (1925-1926) is available at your local bookstore or through Amazon. Follow Doris’s ongoing diary adventures on Facebook and Twitter at The Doris Diaries, or www.thedorisdiaries.com.

Photos courtesy Julia Park Tracey. Thanks!

Nota Bene: Today is the last day to leave a comment on the blog or on my Facebook page in order to be entered in the drawing for your own copy of I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen (1925-1926). Don’t miss this opportunity!

Lovin’…Laughin’…Livin’ Doris Style

Occasionally a book comes along that just flat out tickles my fancy and keeps me turning pages in anticipation and delight. This is the kind of book I don’t want to put down. I want to savor certain snippets so much that I find myself turning again to particular quotes  and scenes. I find myself torn between galloping through to the end or savoring each page. A book like this is an experience, one that leaves the reader wanting more. Such is the case for me with I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen.

Doris Louise Bailey began keeping a diary in 1925, at the tender age of 15. Chronicling her adventures became a practice she would continue throughout her long life. After her death in 2011 at the age of 101, her great-niece, author and editor Julia Park Tracey, found herself in possession of a real treasure–a box of her journals, beginning with the very first teenage diary. Thankfully, Julia began the process of lovingly and carefully editing this gift in order to share Doris with a wider audience.

Typical of any teen, the pages are filled with tales of young love, exquisite crushes and fickle passions, vivid detail and bored pronouncements, all interwoven with the occasional poignant insight into the mysteries adolescence. Doris offers keen insight into the life of one very real roaring twenties teenage girl, making the book both good reading and solid history. The fads, culture, and events of the day are chronicled and filtered through the adolescent window of a girl who would become a most remarkable and strong woman.

I grew up in the South, so reading about a teen whose parents hailed from Alabama and Georgia but settled in Portland, Oregon to rear a family, was a real treat. It was delightful to watch her become bold enough to swear yet still mollified enough to cross out and soften her salty slips of tongue and pen. The book also contains a treasure trove of period photography, the majority of which were snapped by Doris’ older brother Rae with a circa 1918 Kodak box camera.

I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do gets a five star rating from me, as does editor Julia Park Tracey. It can be quite a challenge to edit someone’s private writings, especially a young voice from another era. I think you’ll be impressed by Park Tracey’s work and by her useful explanations, appendices, and forthright presentation.

Who should read this book? Anyone who enjoys a good character study will find Doris compelling. Teachers of history and women’s studies will appreciate how The Doris Diaries augment other selections and texts. Reading groups will have a hotsy-totsy (see page 198) time and some keen opportunities for themed gatherings while thumbing through the pages. Finally, anyone interested in journaling will appreciate Doris’ wit, honesty, and insight. Books make good gifts, so consider purchasing a copy for the young (and young-at-heart) readers on your holiday and birthday lists.

Win Your Own Copy of I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do.

I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to meet Doris Bailey Murphy in word and image. To give you an opportunity to do so, too, Julia Park Tracey has generously donated a copy of the book for me to give to a reader. Check out some of the excepts from The Doris Diaries Facebook page and/or Twitter feed and then leave a comment by midnight PST Thursday night, November 15. I’ll randomly select a winner from the comments left. (Note: I was not paid to read, review, or endorse this book. The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Coming Up Later this Week!

Look for a guest blog post by none other than Julia Park Tracy. I’ve known Julia through The Compact for several years now and appreciate her own blend of wit, wisdom, and wonderment. She’s an excellent writer, and I think you’ll enjoy what she has to say.

Time to get back to living this good day. Or, as Doris would say: “Love is life; life is love!”

Photos courtesy Julia Park Tracey. Thanks!

 

 

None of the Above

I made the mistake of answering the phone for a number I did not recognize today. It was a pleasant-sounding voice by the name of “Karen” conducting “market research.” Boy did she dial the wrong number!

The first question concerned where I get my news. My options were 1) newspapers, 2) television, 3) Internet, and 4) radio. My answer was 3) Internet. It’s here that I watch video, read newspapers, and enjoy the perspectives of several reputable news outlets including (but certainly not limited to) the BBC, NPR, Daily Good, Sojourners, UTNE Reader, Christian Science Monitor, and the New York Times.

The second question concerned advertising. The bile began to rise in my throat at this query. “Do you watch television advertisements,” “Karen” the voice purred? “No,” I responded flatly. “We don’t watch TV. We have a television, but we use it only for movies and Netflix.”

Uh, oh. I was not thrilled with the way this conversation was headed. She asked a few more banal advertising/marketing preference questions to which I was a lackluster respondent due to my disinterest in consumption in general and my lack of current advertising content knowledge. I don’t even get excited about Super Bowl ads,but I do adore Adbusters.

The real clinker came when she said, “We like to thank our survey participants by giving them a choice of one of three gifts–a $25 WalMart gift card, a $25 Target gift card, or a set of steak knives. Since I’m a functional vegetarian (only eating meat when it is a social necessity) and a person who avoids big box stores, I responded, “None of the above, thank you.” And that was that.

It feels good to be able to say “none of the above” and mean it, to joyfully opt out of consumption and walk another path. Had she asked me about supporting local businesses and family farmers, I could have waxed eloquent. Had she inquired about whether I prefer to purchase fair trade and/or recycled goods or whether I do my personal shopping at Goodwill and the Rescue Mission, we could have had a lovely conversation. Alas, I was simply one of “Karen” the voice’s more disappointing responses for the day.

That said, I’m quite comfortable in my un-consumer, non-conformist skin. Being a “None of the Above” kind of person allows me to live a rich life that focuses on relationships, creativity, faith, and justice. I am grateful for every breath and moment. Less stuff means more freedom, and that dear friends, is a very good thing.

How about you? Do you fall into the “None of the Above” category? If so, what do you think marketers most need to know about us? What do you enjoy most about the lifestyle you are living or aspire to live?

Photos by Marc Lagneau, cogdogblog, and Berto Garcia. Thanks!

Chow, Chow, Chow*

*or, the fine art of maximizing excess produce and living frugally but well

Spatchy Cat checks out the Chow-Chow

Unless you live somewhere in or around Appalachia, Pennsylvania, or various Southern states (or have roots in these areas), chances are you think of Chow Chow as a dog breed of Chinese extraction rather than a delicious relish to slather on pinto beans or hot dogs.

Growing up in the foothills of Appalachia, Chow-Chow was a regular condiment on our family’s table. Mammaw Nannie, my paternal grandmother, used to give us a few jars every year, and my father prized it about as highly as he did banana pudding and my mother’s meatloaf. As a child, I was ambivalent about the brightly colored pickled concoction. But it grew on me the older I got, sort of like a taste for coffee grows on a person, and by the time my Mammaw passed on, it had become one of my favorites, too.

Mammaw Nannie shelling beans for canning.

For most of my adult life, I’ve resorted to local or regionally produced varieties, an occasional purchase of a homemade batch sold at craft fairs and festivals, or (gulp) none at all. In fact, I’d gotten to the point that I didn’t really think about it–until my spouse and I started gardening again.

This year we had an over-abundance of green tomatoes, and as the first frost loomed ever closer, I started looking for ways to use the excess produce rather than letting it go to waste. (After all, one can only consume so many fried green tomatoes.) I posted a question to The Compact looking for Chow-Chow recipes and got a few responses and ideas, but nothing seemed to match exactly what I remembered from childhood.

My resourceful cousin Bev was able to figure out the basic process and ingredients from conversation with her mom and our aunt. Between that and a vintage cookbook my mother had given her for a wedding present, we came up with a workable recipe for “Green Tomato Relish.”

My spouse and I harvested the remaining tomatoes, and chopped them along with onions, red and green peppers. We cooked them down with a brew of vinegar, sugar, and spices, and water-processed 10 pints and three 1.5 pint jars. We even saved the excess seasoned vinegar for salad dressing and cooking.

Tomorrow we’ll open the first jar to serve with pintos, turnip greens, and cornbread–a Southern Appalachian feast.  Better yet, we have plenty to share and made the best possible use out of virtually all the tomatoes in our garden. Mammaw Nannie and so many others of her generation knew how to stretch a dollar, feed a family, and make the most of everything–including each and every day of life. Thanks, Mammaw, for continuing to teach me how to live well and be a good steward of God’s many gifts!

What ideas do you have for making the most of your garden produce to live frugally but well?

Mom’s Green Tomato Relish (aka Chow-Chow)

1 gallon ground green tomatoes

6 green peppers

6 red peppers

4 stalks celery

2 T. salt

1 T mustard seed (white)

1 T celery seed

Onions to taste (optional, but I use four or five)

Grind (or mince) tomatoes. Put hot water over them. Drain and rinse in cold water. Boil three pints vinegar and three cups sugar along with the salt, mustard seed, and celery seed for 5-10 minutes. Add drained vegetables and simmer to consistency desired. Pack Chow-Chow into hot, sterilized jars and seal. Note: I processed them in a water bath for 15 minutes.

When I shared this story and recipe with the journaling and scrapbooking group at Trinity Lutheran Church, Sally B. brought me a photocopy of a couple of recipes from an old family cookbook (handwritten). Here they are:

Chow Chow

1 peck tomatoes, green-ground

6 cup ground cabbage

6 onions

6 sweet peppers ground

6 stalks celery

1/2 cup salt

Boil 20 minutes, strain, add vinegar enough to cover it well.

4 lbs sugar

1 tbsp cinnamon

2 tablespoons cloves

a little mustard

boil 15 to 20 minutes, makes 7 1/2 qts.

Pepper Hash

24 peppers

16 onions

1 qt vinegar

3 cups sugar

2 ts celery seed

2 ts salt

Grind pepper and onions, scald with salted water 32 times, drain, add vinegar, sugar, and celery seed. Let boil 15 minutes and seal.

Sally also brought me a copy of a traditional Pennsylvania version of Chow-Chow that uses a wider variety of vegetables and makes about 12 pints.

1 pt green string beans

1 pt yellow string beans

1 pt sliced celery

1 pt kidney beans

1 pt yellow corn

1 pt carrots sliced

1 pt lima beans

1 pt Navy beans

1 pt cauliflower

1 pt small pickles

6 chopped red peppers

2 small onions chopped

Note: Anything that isn’t precooked…do it, but not until it’s mushy. Whenever possible I use frozen vegetables @ room temperature, or canned beans because they are already precooked.

Drain and rinse all vegetables. Make a syrup of:

1 1/2 pound sugar

1 tsp. mustard seed

1 tsp. celery seed

1 qt. white vinegar

1 qt. water

1 TBSP pickling spice in a cloth bag…..bring to a boil….remove spice bag….add vegetables to liquid….bring to a boil again and then pack in jars & seal.

Photos by sblezard and davidpbaxter.