Friday, December 28, 2007

Changing the World

Christmas Morning Sunrise

Greetings to you here nearing the end of 2007. I hope everyone has had a lovely Christmas and as I share a few favorite photos from our Christmas day, I'd also like to share a few thoughts.

On Christmas Eve Paul asked me what I liked most about Christmas. I mentioned a few things, but one that I have been thinking of, and which touches me every year is this: my life is always changed after Christmas. Just as when I take any trip somewhere, I realize that I have stepped out of the ordinary and that my life will never be the same again. I will have new memories to mull over and to share and all of that will be added to the storybook of my life.

Eve was so excited watching Daddy open her present to him!

To the intangible, the tangible changes are added as well. Last year, when I received my iPod, I was introduced to a whole new world of informative, compelling, and inspirational pocasts as well as being connected with an online community associated with a few of them. This year, Paul gave me a dock for my iPod and now I will be able to share some of the wonderful and fun "radio" theater and audiobooks with my children. My mom and Jerry gave us a terrific set of luggage - you know, the kind you all already have with the retractable handles and wheels! - and now I won't suffer trying to rush through the airport with a heavy suitcase. Small things, but yes, they do change my life.

It is with that thought that I have been thinking about changing the world. :) Watching the movie, "Evan Almighty" with my family last night added to these thoughts. That and this overwhelming desire that I have had over this Christmastide, to be of service somehow, when I look all around at the abundance that has been given to me.

Obviously, when we hear the words, "change the world," we think BIG. But, really, changing the world can be small and doable, because an action of kindness or generosity will change the world for the recipient in a small - or even large - way, just like the gifts we exchange at Christmas. First of all, I would never really want to change the world on my own. #1, I wouldn't want all that responsibility and #2, I know myself well enough to know that there have been plenty of times I thought I was right about something only to change my mind about it later. No, I think I'd rather leave the changing of the world up to God as He intended. And what did He ask us to do? Love Him and each other. Yep, I think that's doable.

I'll admit that I struggle often with feeling like I ought to be doing more. How much more and of what I don't always know. Recently I took a few online assessments to determine my spiritual gifts - gifts given to everyone by the Holy Spirit, not to benefit oneself, but others for the purpose of furthering the Kingdom of God. I'd taken one assessment a number of years ago when I was a newer Christian, but since having grown and developed in my faith, I wanted to take a look again. After taking four online tests (all of which base their questions on different criteria - some limiting the gifts to ones mentioned in specific verses in the Bible and others evident in the whole of the Bible), the top general gifts that showed up for me were mercy and service. The most comprehensive test (which lists more specific gifts) listed voluntary poverty as my top gift, which would explain my passion for voluntary simplicity. All the information explains to me the ache I sometimes feel in wanting so badly to help... with everything and everyone sometimes.

But I need to take small, doable steps. I want to be able to follow through with commitments I'd like to make toward service. I know that I need to be careful with overcommitting myself and then letting others down. Giving and service will find their way into my new year's resolutions, but I plan to take it one small step at a time.

I am beginning with working on knitting a blanket for Project Linus. My involvement with that organization may grow, but actually being able to at least do something, to start something (as soon as my yarn arrives!!) has helped me to feel a bit more peaceful within myself.

Today I also went through some things in our closets and pulled out things to donate to the Kidney Foundation which will be doing a pickup in our neighborhood next week. I often do things like this and I know that it "counts" (isn't that a funny thing to think - whether something "counts" or not?), but I have been plagued with feeling like giving stuff to folks isn't always the answer. Even giving money isn't always the answer. I mean, there likely isn't really just one answer anyway. We're all too complex for that. But the word I keep coming back to is "relationship." I don't often have a relationship with those to whom I give and I think that is the piece that has been bothering me the most.

I don't know the poor. I live a pretty sanitized and insulated life when in comes to knowing those that are suffering on a daily basis. It's messy and challenging and this is where I feel my conscience being pricked. This is where I feel like I ought to be doing more. Maybe this feeling will develop into something that I can address in the future, for I don't know quite how to address it at this season of my life wherein I homeschool my two children and have a full life and schedule because of it. I have faith that if I start small and ask God to show me where He would like to use me in regard to this that He will show me the things I can do now and how I can continue to add to it in the future. I'll be praying for this in 2008, because like Evan Baxter, I want to change the world. :)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry, Merry Christmas!

Hee, hee! So, what do you think of my new Little Guy? This is a baby owl that I knit! After finishing everyone's presents, this is what I made for me. :) It was made using the "Errol" pattern by Andi Smith out of the book, Charmed Knits. I'm so happy with the way he turned out; I just love owls!

Well, everyone, Little Guy and I would like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas! We will be spending time with our family and friends and I won't be back here until after the holiday. I am greatly looking forward to the candlelight service at my former church, seeing old friends there and hearing the choir sing tomorrow night. Then it will be Christmas morning with my family.

May you all have a blessed and wonderful day! :)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Good Listening, Good Reading, Great Ideas

Hello, all. Did any of you hop over to BooMama's and check out the Christmas Tour of Homes? I've looked at a number of them, but, my goodness, she has well over 300!!

Other than touring the world peeking into others' houses (hey, isn't that what Santa Claus does?) I've been listening to some really fantastic content off of iTunes the past few days that's gotten me into a pretty contemplative mood and thinking about the new year and what kinds of things I hope to do. Do you make resolutions or set goals for yourself for the new year? I know I will be posting about that as we move past Christmas, but I've already started mulling those ideas over in my head.

American Public Media's "Speaking of Faith" , hosted by Krista Tippett, is one of the shows that I used to like to listen to in Minnesota, but somehow forgot about after moving down here. She has such fantastic interviews, though - so thoughtful and provoking.

Some of the shows I've just listened to are:

"The New Evangelical Leaders Part I: Jim Wallis"

If you are not familiar with Jim Wallis (and you really ought to be! :) ), he is the founder of Sojourners magazine and author of the best seller, God's Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It.

Also many other books including Faith Works: How to Live Your Beliefs and Ignite Positive Social Change, which I have added to my Amazon wish list!

I also was excited to find an interview with Barbara Kingsolver entitled, "The Ethics of Eating," which coincided with the release of her fantastic book this past summer, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I read this book last summer, but I know I will be rereading it soon after having listened to the interview. As always, Kingsolver is articulate and poetic in her writing and her speech. I scribbled down a quote from the interview where she states,

It seems to me, in this country we have yet to assign any moral value to the overconsumption of the world's limited resources. If you can afford it, it's okay to use it. That seems to be the only rule. There are many, many paths toward finding a better and more sustainable way to live in the world. Some people do it by giving up meat. I did it by giving up bananas, because when I think about all those fossil fuels that are burned in a refrigerated cargo hold to get that stuff to me, that didn't seem cruelty-free to me. I wanted to find another way to live that would brighten the prospects of my children's time on this earth.

One more fantastic interview was the one Tippett has with Shane Claiborne. That show is entitled, "The New Monastics: Meeting Shane Claiborne". Shane Claiborne is a founding member of The Simple Way intentional faith community and author of The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical (a book that is on my inter-library loan request list at the library!). A quote from the show notes says,

Shane Claiborne is an original voice, a creative spirit, in a gathering movement of young people known as the "new monastics." With virtues like simplicity and imagination, they are engaging great contradictions of our culture — beginning with the gap between the churches they were raised in, the needs of the poor, and the "loneliness" they find in our culture's vision of adulthood.

I also noticed that iTunes now has iTunes U, which has all sorts of free lectures from universities all over the country including Yale, Stanford, and many many more! I have lectures given by Wendell Berry and Al Gore in my queue.

So that's some of what's been happening around here - in my head anyway - and it's giving rise to many thoughts and imaginations of how how want to live out the new year.

A beautiful blog that is new to me, gives voice to some of these ideas. In a recent post on Advent at The Ashram, the writer says,

In this final week of Advent, almost upon the inbreaking of Christmas, we conceive of reality in which the Messiah is right here. Imagine the coming of Messiah. Break out of cynicism and pessimism. Challenge yourself and others with the presumption that God is acting and that creation is being drawn into redemption - conceive the re:creation that starts with Jesus and continues with us. Conceive of a love as genuine, as tangible, and as pervasive as the struggle which we more readily perceive. Let that conception be birthed in your actions.

God bless you in this final week before Christmas and may we all consider our re:creations as we head into the new year.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

BooMama's Christmas Tour of Homes!

Hello! Welcome to Florida and Golightly Place on BooMama's Christmas Tour of Homes! I'm so delighted to have you stop in; I remember seeing BooMama's first homes tour a couple of years ago and thought it was such a fun and brilliant idea. I'll confess that I'm the kind of person who will look in your window if the curtains are open and the sun has set and I happen to be passing by. I just love to see how homes are set up. Modest or extravagant, I don't care; I just like to see what other people like and how they live... rather, how they feather their nests! :)

So, come take a peek into my nest today. I see you've brought your sweater and that's a good thing. It's chilly today! It's beginning to feel a little more like Christmas. We actually dipped down into the upper 30's last night, which is about as cold as a winter gets here on the Gulf Coast of central Florida. We had to go out and cover the tomatoes...

But don't let me keep you outside here, in our "Winter Wonderland," come in, come in!

Come on up the walk past Santa and a few other trinkets...

... and in here, through our front door.

As soon as you come in, you will have arrived in the living room. It's such a nice, sunny morning! Can you see Sparkle Pond out back? That's one of our favorite things about our house - the view of the water and all the wonderful wildlife!

To the left, you can see our dining room and the hallway into the kitchen and the girls' rooms. We'll go that way in a minute, but I'll show you around the living room first.

May I take your sweater? I can hang it here to the right in the closet. I hung these little pictures here this year. I got them a few years ago; I just love Victorian imagery - especially at Christmastime!

Come on over here and I'll show you the mantle. While I can't say I'm thrilled with the 80's style fireplace and mirror, I am thrilled with the wood-burning fireplace, itself. Perhaps, some day we will re-work the facade, but in the meantime, I work with what I've been given and am very, very thankful!

The glider has on her Christmas pillow and Lucy decided to hop into bed there. She's really friendly and is my constant shadow. Just tell her to get down if she jumps up on you. If you're a dog person, she loves tummy rubs!

This year, I wanted a bit more color than the traditional red and green, so I bought some new, pretty balls and ribbon and hung them up . It kind of makes me think of a gingerbread house or a Nutcracker theme.

To the right, on the other side of the sliding glass doors, you can see my first creche.

Behind your, looking back toward the front door, you can see the loveseat, with its Christmas pillow and to the right, behind it, is the dining room area and the tree. Let's go there next!

This is the first year that we've had this table in here. My mom gave us her smaller kitchen table for in the kitchen when she moved, so we were able to convert the dining room - which had been used as office space - into an actual dining room. We love it! But we didn't know if the tree was going to fit as it usually does. It did, but it's pretty tight... er, cozy - in this space! :)

Since I hung the ornaments at the fireplace this year we've had to say, "The stockings were hung on the chairs with great care..."

You can see our Advent wreath there in the middle of the table. It's so simple, but I love it!

Behind the table, on the sideboard, is my newer creche - my Granny's - that I inherited last year. This one is my favorite!

On the floor by the sideboard, we have our Christmas books.

Let's go on into the kitchen now. When you have a green kitchen , you really don't have to do to much in here to decorate for Christmas! :)

Here is the breakfast bar that overlooks the eat-in/homeschool area. The girls keep their mugs in front of their spots all through the Christmas season.

I got all three of these at the church thrift store a couple of years ago.

Here is the newer, smaller table Mom gave us this past spring when she moved. It's where we have breakfast and lunch and do the majority of our schoolwork.

I like to tuck things here and there all about the house for a little bit of Christmas everywhere. Here is our bakers rack that has never been used as such, but instead, houses our little, friendly stereo system. I know many folks have televisions in their kitchens, but I find that a bit too intrusive. I just like my radio with NPR or music, or some of my favorite Christian talk radio programs.

Incidentally, the school bell there is one my mom brought back for me from St. Augustine. She purchased it in the Oldest Schoolhouse in America. An yes, we love to use it! :)
Here is the only snow you'll find around these parts right now.

Finally, in the girls' bathroom, I've put a few festive touches too. I just added some leftover ornaments on this little wreath.

And a little bit of snow found its way in here, too.

Well, this is where our tour ends. Thanks so much for stopping by! Please leave your calling card to let me know you stopped in today. Enjoy the rest of the tours and have a very Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Little Elbow Room Please :)

A Christmasey Pot Pie!

Had a restful and peaceful day yesterday. I was going to say that we didn't leave the house at all, but we did end up riding our bikes down to the market for frozen pizza for dinner and the larger necessity - ahem - toilet paper.

I wondered to myself yesterday if it would ever be possible to try staying at home a certain number of days in a row. I think I've mused about this before. I bet it would even be a challenge to stay home 3 days. First, I think the challenge would be in just arranging things so that you wouldn't have to leave. Then the challenge for many would be the urge to get up and go somewhere. Maybe you could have it be that you could leave, but only by foot or bike or other human-powered transportation.

Time for Cookies!

So, one would be to just stay home. And another challenge would be to go only by human power. I think the latter would have to be a longer challenge, say, at least a week to the 3 days at home. I know No Impact Man has been living all year traveling only via human power. Of course, his circumstances, living in NYC, are different than mine. But it's an interesting thought.

This is the time of year, of course, that I get the goal-setting and organizing bug. I know it happens to many of you too, albeit, perhaps a little bit closer to January. I think it hits me a bit earlier, because 1) I'm a planner and organizer by nature and 2) I don't do well with clutter and clutter seems to be a bit what the present season gets to be about. Taking a positive slant, I am feeling, shall we say, abundant, lately.

I love to decorate - for Christmas and all the rest of the year - but the stuff... the stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff - that is all about everywhere... Well, it reminds me how much we are one of the wealthiest places on the planet. I think, perhaps next year, I won't get another ornament for the tree or more decorations. I do feel quite fully decorated this year already (and I will be inviting you all over for a Christmasey tour on Monday!).

So, before I get accused of being Scrooge (because I'm not, I'm really not! I love, love, love, Christmas! Maybe I'm more a bit like Charlie Brown this year and am just shying away from the commercialism of it all... ), I will move on the the organizing bug I've got.

Last night I began making a list of projects I'd like to do in the new year. A lot of those projects started with the prefix 're,' such as: repaint the picnic table, refinish the iron table and chairs I found last spring, re-cover the chair seat covers in the dining room, etc. I can't get to all of that presently, but I will be pulling out my calendar and putting these ideas down on dates, because I am learning that if it's not planned for, it likely won't get done!

In the meantime, I at least got to cleaning out and organizing my computer files this morning, making new folders and sliding the proper pdf's and documents into each. Just a little thing, but I love that familiar, "ahhh" when I looked at my newly cleaned-up desktop! Just a precursor of things to come!

Hope you're all getting opportunities to be quiet and thoughtful this season and finding time to remember and think about and thank Christ for coming in the first place. Have a wonderful weekend and be sure to stop in an say hello on Monday!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Links, Links, Links

So, I sent off the last of the packages today, we had the co-op Christmas party yesterday, and the homeschool P.E. group kids played kickball against the parents and coaches. Now that those things are out of the way I feel like my own Christmas vacation really begins.

My vacation will include some knitting for myself - perhaps these socks from the latest Knitty - and some peaceful planning time for the second half of the school year.

I feel like I've been a little out of the loop with the homeschooling blog community. I've only recently found the Homeschool Blog Awards page and it's a fabulous resource! I've also been having a grand time checking out all the great 2007 Award nominees' sites as well as the alumni from past years. Oh, there is much to see out there.

New to me is Jamin's blog. She's got great inspirational content with many, many links to cool - and often free - resources.

Jacque hosts the Homeschool Blog Awards Site. I dont' know how she hosts that and her own AND homeschools eight children, but she does. Amazing. Simply amazing.

I get tired even looking at some of the links that are out there! I am thankful, though, for all of the available, helpful resources. These women must have energy I simply do not or are just focused in a different way. I manage to get done what I get done and there is room for no more! I am just blessed to have found these other sites and am thankful that God has blessed us all differently with unique talents. Keeping their fingers on the pulse of the homeschooling community must be theirs!

Good grief! This short post has taken forever just because I keep clicking on more and more great sites at these places. Check them out for yourself and receive some inspiration for the new year!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Birthdays and Treats

On the way to tea!

Sunday was Mom's birthday (Happy Birthday, Mom!!), so on Saturday the girls and I took her our to tea. We went to a fun, little tea room in Sarasota called "Tastefully British." I took my camera along to take photos for the blog and set it down on the table when I got there. The camera loved the tea and thought the place quite charming, but did not take any photos. Could it have? Did it have charged batteries? Yes it did. Somehow I must have thought it to be another guest, because I just let it sit there! :(

Even without the photos we all enjoyed the Duchess Tea which came with a pot of tea of our choice and a three-tiered tray of delectable treats: finger sandwiches, chocolate cake, shortbread, Queen Mum's cake, sponge cake layered with jam and cream and sprinkled with powdered sugar, and a wonderful scone with butter, jam, and clotted cream on the side. Wow! I can see that Duchess Tea is to be enjoyed only once-a-year at most!

So, given the abundance of "treatage" that surrounds me - and everyone else at this time of year - I was out walking this morning trying to burn up a little of that clotted cream! It's such a challenge to find the time, it seems. Right now, I mentally had planned that I would be standing in line at the post office getting my packages out before the line grows obscenely long. But, Eve has not gotten into the shower yet and so here I sit. But at least I got the walk in this morning.

On the way home from tea I was talking to Mom about the difference in the holiday season now from holiday seasons past. I think it was Bill McKibben who wrote in Hundred Dollar Holiday about how it used to be that Thanksgiving and Christmas were the one time of the year when rich foods were eaten. People had worked physically hard all year and were now ready to celebrate the harvest and sit down and feast!! And deservedly so

I was telling Mom that I really wished I could experience that mentality, because it really is absent from the modern life. We don't even have to lift a finger or reach out a hand very far to enjoy various confections daily from all around the world. Mocha latte with whipped cream and chocolate shavings... in June? Sure thing! No problem. Cheesecake? Would you like that frozen from the grocery store or fresh from the bakery case? How about down the street at the nearest restaurant? There is abundance all around us. In fact, my mental state regarding food during the holidays is not really sitting down to feast, but thinking more about having just a little bit of everything and just a little taste of dessert, because, truthfully, there was the plate of cookies at the Bible study two nights ago and there was the eggnog coffee at the knitting group the other night and on and on. The rich food is just there. Always.

I'm not complaining. I'm just saying that it must have been something - really something - to have Christmas coming years and years ago. It must have been special to look forward to food that you haven't eaten all year long. When I look through all the delectable recipes in the book The Pioneer Lady's Country Christmas (such a wonderful book!!), I want to make all these homemade, delicious goodies. But I also wonder who will want them? I know plenty of folks who are watching their waistlines and cholesterol levels and blood pressure, etc. etc. And for good cause.

I don't want to be a Scrooge about food. We're going to make some gingerbread cookies and sugar cookies to pass along to family and friends. I found a recipe for Turkish Delight that is part of my British heritage and part of my own curiosity peaked by Edmund's greedy craving of it in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I enjoy baking during the holidays and I love a good candy cane. I just know that there is still a large stash of Halloween candy still in my children's bedrooms around here. Halloween treats that once-upon-a-time would have been long gone, because they would have been homemade popcorn balls, caramels, or cookies that wouldn't have a year-long shelf life and we would know the people from whom the treats came and we would have trusted them to give our children something good and safe to eat.

I understand the why's of what we do today and the necessity of much of it. But at this time of year, especially, when tradition hangs thick in the air, I cannot help but wax nostalgic just a little bit... or even a lot. :)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Presents, 7 Random Things, and Snowflakes in Florida

In the past few years, Daddy has become the "Master Wrapper" at our house. Last night, while the ladies and I were having Bible study in the living room, Paul was holed up in the bedroom creating this year's masterpieces! He brought them all out when our company had gone home and firstly tortured the girls with the fact that he had not put any tags on them. But after much cajoling he relented and the shaking and listening to the packages began!

Speaking of packages, I am going to need to be heading to the post office soon!! The Hufflepuff scarf is now completed with its tassels and everything, so the packaging of my own gifts must begin.

I promised a 7 Random Things meme yesterday and so here goes:

1)I don't like my children to sing Christmas songs (around me) during any time of the year - except after Thanksgiving through January. :) Does that sound mean? Oh, but I just love Christmas carols and the whole anticipation of them and I really don't like to hear them in June. I do ask nicely, if they just have to sing it, "Please take your song elsewhere." They usually don't even realize they had been singing "Jingle Bells" or the like and just switch songs. They know how I am. LOL!

2) My favorite animal is a lamb.

3) I am left-handed.

4) I think I may have shared this in another random things post a long time ago, but my nose is pierced.

5) I prefer savory over sweet; give me a pot pie over cheesecake any day.

6) I am Norwegian, Dutch, Danish, English, French, Scottish and Swiss. The most I have is 12.5% Norwegian and I look nothing like that.

7) My favorite Christmas movie is "A Christmas Story." I watch it every year!

I made these snowflakes two years ago and just keep them every year in a file with my Winter activities: ideas, magazine articles, etc. These are very easy to make and look pretty anywhere...

...even in bathrooms! The girls love to walk into their "winter wonderland" in the mornings in their bathroom.

I'm thinking of making a few more this year and adding some glitter-glue for extra sparkle.

Here is the link where you can find the patterns to make for yourself. There are even patterns there that children can cut out too! This will be the only snow we'll see this year and I'm pretty okay with that. :) Enjoy!
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