Friday, May 24, 2013

Reflections on Memorial Day

When I started Little House’s blog, fifteen months ago, my goal was to write about: hand-crafts that involve the heart; values of home; love and family.  My oldest daughter, Hannah, who is my right hand assistant and mentor on everything from graphic and color design to advertising and blog writing, carefully instructed me to avoid religion and politics, fearing, what she knows too well about me, and my potential risk for “rants”.

I cannot, however, write blogs about the sweetness of home without sharing my values that encompass religion and politics, though I will try not to rant. I have shared my idiosyncrasies, including my “General Jane bossy side” as well as my passion for crafts and have dared to share what keeps me going, despite the odds that challenge me and my family. Who can run a home without rolling up one’s sleeves, donning boxing gloves, or wrestling with the issues that seem to walk through our front doors.  Our homes may be our castles, but walls aren’t thick enough to keep out the bad from coming into where we live.

I don’t have to tell you what is out there. Just turn on your TV or radio and it is apparent. Joyful events and celebrations are turned into opportunities for terrorist attacks; a Mother’s Day Parade turned into a madman’s target practice and killing spree; our privileged institutions of learning, from elementary to college, are now sites for mayhems and massacres or the kidnapping of innocents; and scandals and corruptions are rocking the very institutions that are bedrock to our country. Listening to a statesman' commentary, that I shall leave un-named so as to not provoke any bias, dropped an unexpected pearl of truth.  Instead of attacking the other side, he simply said that what he feared most regarding recent current events was not the events themselves, but rather their cause.

Corruption and violence, he pointed out, were merely the symptoms or the manifestations of cultural and moral values gone awry.  “We have enemies within and without and we had best be clear and know who and what they are,” he said. He did not name the enemies for political correctness’ sake, though his inferences could not be missed.

As I crawled into bed that same night, I picked up Saint Francis of Assisi by G.K Chesterton.  It is a tiny but “meaty” little book, not one quickly read, and so I paused after reading: “The truth is in the riddle; that the whole world has, or is, only one good thing; and it is a bad debt”. Thinking that it must be a misprint, I read it again and again and then pondered.  What could be good about a bad debt?  And then with the help of the context of the story he was telling about St. Francis, it came to me like a bolt of lightning! Not to over-simplify the problems of the world, this seemed to be right at the heart of it all, and perhaps the very solution to the ills of our world right now!

We are all debtors in this country and in this world, even if you are one of the rare ones that has no financial debt!  We are all indebted to our parents, teachers, family, churches, friends, country and God. What is good about being in debt?  If we squarely face this truth, one cannot help but sense a spirit of humbleness and humility. None of us are self-made, no matter our accomplishments or gifts.

Our freedoms and blessings are not entitlements but privileges that cry out for a proper response and a taking up of responsibility.  They are gifts passed on to us.  They were dearly paid for by those that precede us. Memorial Day is but one of the many holidays to celebrate this very fact.  It isn’t just a day for sleeping in and staying home or going on a picnic, though it is a day for celebration and with all celebration comes remembering. All that we are and have are gifts to us whether from God, or those that have supported each of us, and with such realizations true gratitude is born.

Violence and corruption comes out of resentment and greed, attitudes of entitlement versus gratitude. Bringing it full circle, to you my readers of Little House Blog, these attitudes for good or bad are indeed, home-grown.  Well-balanced people have been taught to have a healthy perspective in their life and instead of just taking, know that they are to give back, with gratitude and love for all that has been given to them.

A personal sense of history is essential in order to develop appreciation and can be taught through stories told or read, at home, or in church, or even experienced through theater and movies. How many of us assume our privileges and freedoms without knowing where they came from and how easy it is to complain about our present issues not realizing how many generations of those before us contributed to our present life of relative ease and comfort. It is through this balanced and humble position in the world, that we can develop genuine gratitude.

Debt of any kind seems negative, but this riddle put it to me right between the eyes.  Being indebted requires a response  to pay back what is owed, if not directly, indirectly and attitudes of thanksgiving, gratitude and respect is at best a minimal response. My prayer this Memorial Day is that we may all remember our veterans, as well as the many others who have made our life what it is today!  May we all feel our indebtedness and express our appreciation  through our own generosity to give to our communities and take the time to tell the stories that keep the memories of those whose sacrifices should never be forgotten.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Counting Our Blessings

Job lay-offs are sudden and often unexpected.  Even if fears of being laid off are "entertained" prior to an actual lay-off, it seems that denial protects us from ever truly dealing with the realities and  fears that go with  actually being unemployed.  Of course, we all entertain brief thoughts of “what if”, and then somehow try to envision just how strong we would be.

We are learning fast  how to survive.  My husband jumps at any chance to work, even if only part-time and not being healthy enough to go out and work myself, I pray as though our life depended on God and then cut and sew like everything depends on me! This combination of praying and then working as hard as we can has always seemed to work, albeit, we sometimes work harder but not always smarter!

There are, however, dark nights of the soul when fear and anxiety seem to take hold and I struggle to think and plan what is next. I have found this to happen when I am too tired to really be up to solving small issues let alone big ones and how big our problems can seem during such times! I have recently realized that it is best to count our blessings instead, and remember other times when things looked bleak and tiny miracles seemed to find us, making life brighter again.  I am also learning that “acting if” and “faking it till you make it” are strategies needed when my faith is shaky and all seems bleak.*

I have always considered myself a mentally strong person and my determination never lacking, but sustaining such attitudes, especially with health issues is very hard, and perhaps impossible. Never did I envision that age and illness, much less cloudy thinking would be my partners when I faced such trials of life.  No wonder seniors fall prey to scams and lotteries.  Gambling appears a real solution when the chips are down.  I smile and count my first blessing, that I haven’t succumbed to desperation, as I have in the past (see my previous blog).

So number one blessing: I am NOT desperate YET.  Number two: the sun will come up again today and push the darkness and gloominess away, and it won't cost me anything, except a little less sleep and effort to reassure myself that there is enough means for tomorrow, and there is number three.  And number four: I still have a lifetime of collected materials and scraps and notions in my craft storage room and number five: hands eager to make special creations to delight my heart and soul and hopefully those of others as well.

What about food and shelter and heat?  They are needed too.  Today I have a roof over my head and just as my stored materials, I have a reserve of fat and no hunger yet.  There’s six and seven, and eight: I have many quilts with scraps to make more, so I have heat as well.

Number nine: I have a store on ETSY and the love and support of my husband and daughter to keep my wares posted, and number ten: purpose to my day, to stitch and create, no matter my present physical limits keeping me from my careers in nursing or teaching as before.

Ten blessings and I haven’t even gotten out of bed yet!  That’s enough to start my day and I’ve always said, “Starting is half the battle”.  See my friends, if you are like me and facing what appears to be overwhelming challenges that weigh you down, look around. What are your blessings?

Each day starts anew with enough light to push away the darkness and with much prayer, God’s grace and a bit of my own effort,  there is enough for today, and a day filled with purpose besides!  Mustering a bit of  courage and “acting as if” or “faking it till we make it” and we will  and you will too! And number eleven: the lilacs are in bloom again.  Could there be anything nicer? Can you smell them?
*Credit to my good friend, CC, for this great advice!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Mother’s Day I Will Never Forget

In my next blog, I write of NOT succumbing to lotteries or scammers yet as I presently have more sense than that. Well, I must confess this has not always been the case.  Years ago, we went through another financially difficult time, and so I entertained bizarre ways of making money and I took me and my kids to play Bingo one night at our local parish hall.  If we won, great, and it we didn’t, I rationalized, the experience would support our church, though I admit, minimally and it would renew an old lesson learned that I have never forgotten from the days of my youth and perhaps teach my kids that same lesson.

I was about eight or nine, and had gone with a girlfriend to our local shopping center.  It was the Saturday before Mother’s Day, and I needed to get my mother a gift, besides which there was to be a local fair.  Sure enough, it was all we expected it to be!  There was a nickel toss where you could win beautiful prizes, and I saw a set of dishes that I was sure my mother would love.  A few nickels to win them, and I would have the remainder of my five or six dollars to spend on myself. It was a brilliant plan!

In those days my wants weren’t big and this would be just what was needed to spread my wealth and delight  both my mother and myself. She would be thrilled with what my money otherwise couldn’t have bought and  I envisioned a week’s supply of bubblegum cigars for myself, an ice-cream cone and perhaps even a painted turtle from the Five and Ten Store?

How fortunate I was to have such a good brain that could scheme so well!  Only an hour later, I returned home, my pocket full of booby prizes: Chinese finger pull traps, balloons, little ring puzzles and a yoyo.  Still stunned that I had run out of nickels with no new dishes or bubblegum cigars for me, I reported to my father, hoping I could gain his sympathy and another allowance for a Mother’s Day gift.  He chuckled and said, “Mmmm, so you learned your lesson-- that gambling doesn’t pay?”.  He then offered to help me wrap my bizarre assortment of the worst Mother’s Day presents ever.  No sympathy or extra money was given to me despite my tears.

Yes, my kids and I would have an inexpensive night out, have fun, and either win the bingo lottery, or learn (again) that gambling doesn’t pay. We went with just about the same sort of cash as in my first gambling venture, a jug of Kool-aid and a bag full of cookies. With the help of my newly acquired and much experienced bingo friends who saw our innocent green faces and watched over our single cards to be sure we didn’t miss any called number, along with their dozens of cards in front of them, we won!! It was no big lottery, but enough to “wet our whistle” to try again next week for a bigger pot of gold.

Mom, I am thinking of you this Mother’s Day and am still wondering what you did with those Chinese finger traps, ring puzzles, balloons and yoyo?  And I have to smile now, for as life comes full circle, I remember other such silly booby prizes in your drawers, as I cleaned out your home.  You had succumbed to playing lotteries and were scammed to enter many a sweepstake.  Now I know it is from your genes that I come with such crazy schemes and it makes you more dear to me than ever!  I have grown up to be like my mother, in more ways than I ever imagined!  I love you forever Mom!!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

April Showers Bring May Flowers

April showers bring May flowers and I am excited to share my new flower pot pincushions with my readers. They are now posted in Etsy! Flowers never grow at  at my house without dandelions and wild clover and so I created these as well. I am using new techniques, all using felted wool.  No watering is needed though they may need an occasional dusting with a tape roller.  All are hand sewn and richly detailed.  Don't miss them!

Coming soon will be one of my most favorite creations that I hope will bring the country right into your home. I will be revealing them in another several weeks.  I am ever so busy sewing after a bit of re-organizing my studio spaces, and dealing with an onslaught of challenges following the loss of my husband's job as well as my beloved doctor of many years.  Challenges are just speed bumps in the road of life, but the slow down seems to have stimulated new creative ventures, so do keep visiting Little House!

May's Common Thread Give-Away Winner

Congratulations to Peggy Davalt for being May's Common Thread Give-Away Winner! How lucky you are to have won Kim Gifford's boxed set of cards!

We are excited to be adding more artists to our Common Thread group. Be sure to tune in at the beginning of each month to see who the featured artist will be and leave a comment on their website to register yourself for the free monthly give-away! It is as simple as that! Again congratulations to this month's winner!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

May's Common Thread Give-Away Artist is Kim Gifford!

May's Common Thread Give-Away Artist is Kim Gifford and her free give-away is not to be missed!! It is a perfect gift for yourself as well as the special mom-figure in your life, and you will notice that I didn't use the word or.  She is offering a set of her own special collage-designed cards, and each set comes with two cards of four different designs!  This means you can individually frame them and frame them collectively as a set to decorate your house and the house of a significant other in your life!  Or you can use them to send what counts most in any gift-giving: your own personal message in a classy and treasured art card.

Kim's beautiful photographs combined with her humor and thought provoking collages make her cards a perfect and delightful give-away. Each card has the story of her art piece on the back. They will be absolutely free to the lucky winner of The Common Thread Give-Away drawing that is sponsored monthly by one of our artists.

All you need to do to register to win, is to go to Kim's website at pugs&  and leave a comment for Kim. While there, don't miss treating yourself  to the delight of getting to know one of my favorite artists. She is a wonderfully sensitive and beautiful person, whose professional writings will delight you, and whose artwork captures the ordinary in an non-ordinary way. Artwork and photography combined with her humor and perspective makes each of her writings and artwork "elevate" the common experiences to us all.

Her reverence for what is dear in life, along with her humor will make you see the world through her eyes and change your perspective!  I think this is the value of art, and Kim does it well!  Don't miss visiting her and leave a comment and you could be the lucky winner of this month's give-away!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Peepers are a right of passage from winter to spring.  It is time to again throw our bedroom window open and listen to them sing away as we fade into a peaceful sleep.  There is nothing like it, fresh air filled with peeper’s songs.

I remember the first time I heard a whole chorus of them.  It was like being part of an enchanted forest with these melodious creatures delightfully singing away.

I am tuning into the other signs of spring: the budding of the trees, the grape hyacinths, and all the other bulbs poking up in the gardens. Hannah, my daughter, loves to garden and I used to love it as well, though didn’t get enough of it in my better days, especially here in Vermont, which is so different than the arid climate of Colorado. Miss a day of watering there and whatever you had planted withered. Here in Vermont, you put something in the ground and nature takes over. The rain comes, along with the sunshine along with the weeds and before you know it you have a whole garden full of delightful finds!

Hannah works at a garden shop and so she has access to plants at a discount.  It is her delight to have too many things to get into the ground.  Somehow she manages to find space for all of them.

She also works with children to encourage them to explore their gardening skills and brings her five year old twins that she nannies over to the garden.  I can sometimes feel a lack of privacy, until I realize that they have no interest being inside the house.  They have come to be in the garden. Besides gardening, they make mud pies and other such delicacies, and are thoroughly entertained for hours at a time!

Peepers, flowers, junior gardeners, senior gardeners, they are all about spring and the summer to follow. It doesn’t get better than this.  A  little bit of paradise right here in Vermont!