"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china."

Charles Dickens

November 23, 2011

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!

I am so very thankful for farm-raised food from our fields and pastures–and grown in the fields of other farmers that we know.











I am grateful for a husband who knows how to fill the barns with "the harvest cheer" and likes to fetch the odd thing at the grocery store, too. [Ok, so he likes to shop and fill the pantries and freezers as much as I do: enabler !] 


I am blessed to have three wonderful children, each unique and special, and who love me no matter what I do or say or how un-motherly I can be at times. And who love my cooking so much that they refuse to go anywhere else for Thanksgiving dinner because they don't want to miss a single homemade morsel from their "Mama Goo." [Or who even visit from afar in October just to be here for my birthday and an "early" Thanksgiving celebration! We miss you Addie!]


And I am grateful for my friends and faraway family who, here or there or through the internet, visit when they can in heart and mind or by meeting me to share a laugh or a cup of tea.

Have a blessed, warm, safe and bountiful Thanksgiving ~

You come back when you're ready! 

Catherine

November 16, 2011

Farmhouse Thanksgiving Stuffing

One of my favorite Thanksgiving decorations, from our son Henry, made many years ago.

Our first Thanksgiving in our Kentucky doublewide in 2008!
I've had a few requests this year for my stuffing and thought I'd blog about it as I do believe in sharing, even the most sacred of family recipes! When home from college one Thanksgiving break, way back in the early 80s [and no, I was not a Madonna fan: definitely a Cure, Morrissey, Kate Bush, U2, English Beat, and general British New Wave kind of gal], I came up with this recipe. It has been minimally tweaked over the years. I first assembled it with various ingredients we had on hand and additions I wanted to try. Whenever I make it, the stuffing reminds me of long-ago Thanksgivings altogether on our New Hampshire farm, many years ago, and how my visiting father especially loved it on the few times he joined us from Ohio.

Thanksgiving for 13: the table set at our old house in Hancock in 2007 (our last in New Hampshire).

Temple and our friend, Peter Sawyer,
at our second Thanksgiving in 2007.
This will easily stuff an 18-25# bird quite nicely, with plenty of leftovers. I usually make this much because then I freeze a bunch for roast chicken throughout the winter and my kids always beg for this stuffing throughout the year. [I've taken out the water chestnuts since I've been married, even though Temple didn't really know what they were until I mentioned them! But they give it a nice crunch. I've tried other nuts, including chestnuts, but the water chestnuts hold up the best.]

The added fruity sweetness pairs well with the savory additions and the crunch of the water chestnuts. And don't forget the gravy!



Catherine's Farmhouse Thanksgiving Stuffing (c. 1985)
  • 2 bags of favorite stuffing mix (I like to include one that is corn meal-based)
  • 1-2 loaves shredded up stale bread (or you can do this a few days before and leave it in a bowl on top of the fridge to dry)
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 1 very large sweet onion (or 2 large), chopped
  • 2 Tbsps minced garlic (fresh or jarred)
  • 5 scallions, chopped fine
  • 1 large bunch of celery, chopped (inc. leafy bits)
  • 1-1.5 pounds of sweet Italian sausage (links or ground)
  • 1-1.5 pounds of hot Italian sausage (" ")
  • 2 cans of sliced water chestnuts (packed in water)
  • 4 Granny Smith apples (or other crisp/tart apples that won't mush upon cooking, like Winesaps)
  • 1 bag of fresh cranberries
  • 1 can of whole cranberry sauce
  • 1 large bunch parsley, chopped fine
  • 1 small bunch fresh sage, chopped fine
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 quarts liquid (I combine chicken stock with apple cider, sometimes a bit of wine)

You will need one very large bowl to make this and a big skillet.

Two days before: cube up fresh or stale bread or shred and place in large bowl, uncovered.

Evening before you roast the bird (or very early in morning) esp. if you have a very cold place where you can keep stuffing mix covered up:

1. Add two bags of stuffing mix to prepared bread in bowl.

2. In large skillet, in the two sticks of melted butter, sauté the onion, garlic, scallions and celery together until translucent and nicely brown (but not overly so). Set aside.

3. Chop water chestnuts and Granny Smith apples (those should be small but not diced). Add to large skillet with vegetable mixture and lightly sauté. Add bag of cranberries and cook, on low, until they pop.

4. In another skillet, crumble and brown both kinds of Italian sausage. Drain and set aside.

5. Chop parsley and sage until fine. Add part to each of the above skillet mixtures and toss. Sprinkle, also, with kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste.

6. To large bread bowl, add all of the above skillets full. Toss with hands or large spoons.

7. To the tossed and combined mixture, add 1 can of cranberry sauce (this can be homemade but make sure you use whole berry sauce) and gradually add the 2 quarts liquid, combining as you go. You may not need all two quarts (reserve any unused for your gravy).

8. Make sure you taste and adjust liquids or seasonings! (You will have everyone trying to eat this before you get it in the bird.)

9. Stuff your bird right before roasting and set aside a dish to bake for the table and/or put right into freezer containers! There will be plenty of extra.

You come back when you're ready!

Catherine

November 14, 2011

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!


We have much to be thankful for in our home and on our farm and in our family. I've realized, for many reasons, that I need to take a bit of a blog break so I can better focus on my family, and home, and the coming holidays––and not the Internet.

I've written about the holidays quite a bit on my other blog, In the Pantry. If you go to that blog and enter "Thanksgiving" in the Search box, you will find many posts from the past six years relating to this favorite holiday. As you will also discover, Thanksgiving has always been a special time in our home. Here in Kentucky it is different: quieter, less over-the-top, back to basics. Lovely, simple, just us. As it should be but I do miss larger family gatherings and the friends that we'd have each year in different combinations. Our "farmhouse of dreams" will probably return us to those glory meals and gatherings but for now we relish these more intimate feasts.


I'm catching up with book orders, too, and this is just a reminder that The Pantry–Its History and Modern Uses [Gibbs Smith: 2007] makes a great gift for the foodie, domestic or kitchen lover in your life. Go to www.CatherinePond.com for ordering information or email me at info@CatherinePond.com for a special offer ($10 a copy + shipping! Hardbound and photographed!) and mention you saw it on Farmwife at Midlife. I am happy to sign and/or inscribe your books, also.

It is certainly pantry season around here as we have finished filling the cupboards and freezers full of good food and the bounty with which we have been blessed. Which reminds me, also, to donate to our local food pantries: money or food. They are especially low and hard hit in this economy. Every little bit helps.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

And, you come back when you're ready––

Catherine

November 11, 2011

11:11 on 11-11-11


Veterans' Day is, of course, weighted with its own importance and meaning but 11:11 is a time, and number, of great numeric and spiritual significance for me.

Since early in 2001 I started seeing 11:11 almost daily as I was doing things about our former home. Sometimes I would see it in the car. I'm one of these people who often knows what time it is, give or take a few minutes, just by my internal clock. And, I also don't really look at clocks much unless they happen to catch my eye. And, I suppose the digital clock on the stove or in the car can catch the eye in more of a way than a clockface.

So the persistence of seeing 11:11 started to intrigue me. What did it mean? Why 11:11 and not a daily dose of 2:23 or any other number pattern? This number kept haunting me for the next eighteen months or so.


On the night of October 27, 2002, just a few days short of my fortieth birthday, I realized its significance. My father, who had been in failing health, was pronounced dead (such a cold term) at 2am on Sunday morning, October 27, exactly when the hospital clocks automatically turned back for Daylight Savings. This was its own time irony, as this was a time of year that he loved as it helped justify his inner cave bear. [He also liked Halloween and the excitement of the October playoffs and World Series. He loved astronomy and mathematics, but he especially loved playing the organ, and his devotion to his family. He was also a merry prankster and liked a good practical joke.]

As his three children we had the difficult and weighted prospect of having to let our father go. He knew what was happening and what the alternatives were as his system slowly started to shut down in his last week of earthly life. Late in the night of October 26 we gathered around him one last time and said our goodbyes. He nodded and squeezed our hands. He had accepted what was and although he could not speak he could nod vigorously and even try to write. This is so intensely personal and there is more to say, but not now.

When they took him off of what had been his life support for his last few days, I noticed the time. It was 11:11pm. I didn't really appreciate the significance of that until I returned home a week later, to New Hampshire. The old Art Deco electric clock that he had given me, which had sat on his bedside table as a child, had been playing peculiar games that week. My husband, who was in New Hampshire with our daughter and young boys, had awoken on the morning of October 27, around 2am, and saw that the red, glowing night light portion of the clock was illuminated. The well-worn nightlight feature, with its original small bulb, hadn't worked for many months. He thought it strange and didn't tell me about it. A week later we compared notes and realized what had happened.

This clock was something my father was going "to pitch," as he'd say. And he was good at throwing things out! Not one for sentiment, except in memory or in special objects–or musical works–he kept very little. I was always attached to that clock. I liked its Deco look, its pewter finish, and the red glowing warmth from its clock face. I had spent the night in his old room in the house where he grew up, many times as a child, and for an entire summer before I went to college. My father's bedroom was right next to my grandparents' room, with a shared door. The reassurance of their presence through the wall and the door next to me, and the glowing clock face, were reminders that I was not alone in their big old post-Victorian house that smelled of rosewood and cool plaster.

My father had given me this clock while I was visiting him in his Akron apartment when my daughter was much younger. "You want that old thing? It's wiring is probably shot but, OK, if you want it, take it home with you." He didn't really see the sense in it. The clock was older than he was and probably from the 1920s or early 1930s, still with its original cord.

I couldn't resist this once in a lifetime opportunity. Before it was 11:12am,
I called my traveling husband to say "Happy 11:11, 11-11-11!"
There is more to this story but this is a blog, after all. I couldn't let this day pass by without commenting on 11:11. I've since discovered that this is not a singular phenomenon. There are entire websites about 11:11. Maybe it means something else greater than my own story.

But every time any of my immediate family sees 11:11 we call out from wherever we are and to whomever is listening, "Hi, Grandpa!"

You come back when you're ready!


Catherine

Postscript. I forgot to mention that approximately six months after my father died, in April 2003, the glowing red light bulb from the clock's night light extinguished again. This happened on the night we set our clocks forward an hour. My father was always the merry prankster. I haven't used the clock since it was packed in a box for our Kentucky move in August 2008. But it's in a box and when I find it, I will plug it in again.

November 5, 2011

A Quilting: Friendship, Harmony, Unity

Two years ago my daughter and I were part of a unique experience. A group of women from the local Old Order Mennonite community in Casey County, Kentucky, led by several of my good friends in this faith, wanted to make a 'Friendship' quilt for my husband's December birthday. That summer I had selected the fabrics, and decided upon the pattern, with my friend Anna. She then pieced the blocks together and took each of thirty-six blocks to different families and individuals that we knew in the community. In late October we gathered at her father's house, a central location, to quilt the sewn back and front together and to bind it off.


All day the women worked at the quilt frame in the late October sunlight that filtered through the southern side of the home. At noon we took a break with a meal my daughter and I had provided–of meatloaf and many sides, if I recall–and then we enjoyed a potluck dessert with a grand (surprise) birthday cake for my 47th birthday. All of that time I'd been trying to keep the quilting a surprise from my husband, which, believe me, was very hard to pull off, and here my friends were also wanting to surprise me. It worked! Anna's daughter Norma made the beautiful birthday cake.

I picked many vintage fabrics and patterns that were semi-neutral 
and not overly feminine (well, a little bit), because it was Temple's gift, after all!

I didn't write about it at the time on my older blog, In the Pantry–except for the initial fabric purchasing–because I had felt like it might be violating a very special, and almost sacred, occurrence in my life. Of course, I took many photographs, being careful not to include faces if I could help it. I wanted to document the occasion, as it's not everyday that one is given a handmade friendship quilt or gets to see part of its creation, and most in attendance understood this. [One of the more conservative church women spoke out about this, however, and got me in a bit of trouble, something which soured me a bit for a time. But, as I explained, while quilting is the women's way of self-expression, photography and writing are mine.]




 



Our daughter was visiting between resort job seasons and tried her hand at stitching, also.

Friendship quilts are often made before a woman's wedding or as a send off,
or welcome, to someone in the community from the other women (or families).
A beautiful birthday cake from Norma.
I put in a few stitches for luck–
mainly because my cooking
exceeds my sewing ability!



Team work! Two Mennonite girls transport rolled-up quilt 
after the quilting. There were several quilts done at the same time.

Many of these women are the most industrious women I know: they easily run domestic circles around me and, sometimes, I wish I could just turn the ideas and thoughts that clatter around my brain off (A.D.D. much?) and try and work more as they do in and around the house. [To stay on task, and so well, is an enviable attribute.] A quilting provides a necessary pause away from all of that domestic routine and solitude, and a time for more intimate discussions, a chance to share news, some polite well-meaning "gossip" or to share recipes. These women run their houses like well-run machines and I swear they could run the world if we let them! Being a part of that day showed me what women can do when they put their minds to it, in whatever capacity: how, when working together, they can make great things. It was a truly humbling for me. [After four years at a women's college in the early 1980s, and in the workforce, of course I understand that women can work together–I just had never seen this kind of collaborative effort before with such a great number of people. Or, to be honest, I'd not been privy to women working together so well, in any setting. The men in their communities work together the same way on building projects.]

A quilting–like a church-cleaning, auctions and other occasions–is a chance for the women 
of the Old Order Mennonite (or Amish) faith to join together, only in a more intimate way. 
This is also what most farm women did in rural communities, and as far back as early American times. 



What I realized today as I was changing our bed, and still thinking so much on this recent church split, is that the quilt we use and see every day represents these friendships and acquaintances that we hold dear. There is such harmony in its pattern and yet great diversity, too. And there, stitched on each block, are the names and individual embellishments from so many families in the community–from both churches. I can run my fingers over the stitching and think of each one, each gift they that have given us with their participation and handiwork–and many with their friendship.

On Christmas Day in 2009 we assembled at the home of Anna and Melvin Hurst to sing hymns together in the afternoon. The day was dreary and dark but the songs of the many gathered there lifted us up to the place you should be on Christmas. I felt a stark kind of spiritual experience and to be a part of their fellowship made me feel all the more welcome here on a holiday that can be hard so far away from one's familiar. 

After the singing, Anna and I and some other women walked out with the quilt. My husband was very surprised, moved, and, for once in his life, speechless.




Today I look at that quilt and am reminded of how well this community of Old Order Mennonites can and does work together. They are the first to show up for local blood drives and in times of disaster, working for weeks after the Liberty flood of 2010, among other things, including rallying around their own people in need or crisis. They are always the first to help each other, despite their church differences.

A quilt of many colors: here Anna and her daughter Grace hold up the top,
minus the final row at the bottom, a few weeks before the quilting.









The quilt represents beauty, order, benevolence, and individuality amongst unity. We were blessed to receive it and my daughter and I were blessed to be a part of its coming together (even though we only added a few stitches for the sake of doing so–seamstresses we are not!).


And it will be a constant reminder to me that among discord there can always be a quiet, but resonant, harmony, a purposeful mission, a joining together in force despite differences of opinion or ways of worship. A reminder that, as with most things, it is the final outcome or greater glory that is important and not necessarily the details. If only I could take it to each family and remind them of this, too, despite our many differences in lifestyle and worship, and what it means to me: especially now in the clamor of their community's internal upheavals. 


The quilt is like an intricate rosary of fabric and stitches and handmade, heartfelt care. It has warmed our bed and our hearts for the past two years. When I look upon it, at times, I will say prayers of benediction for every one of those who have given it to us and for the healing of the community that has been such a part of our lives here in Kentucky. 

You come back when you're ready! 

Catherine

November 2, 2011

Schisms

A tranquil ravine behind the Laura Ingalls Wilder farm in Mansfield, Missouri.

We all have experienced schisms in our lives: with friends, family members, ideologies, in companies, nonprofit organizations and even churches. Some rifts quickly fuse back together, some are narrow enough to hop over and others are so wide that they are impassable. Lately I've been troubled by the widening gap created in our local Old Order Mennonite community. It is sad and disheartening, so unnecessary to those of us who are on the outside looking in or who know many of them as friends or neighbors. While I can't go into great detail here or all of the history–much of which I don't know or understand–the usual cast of characters is involved: Ego, Pride, Righteousness (and I will add, Male, as their religion is set up as a complete patriarchy). As a friend of mine back in New Hampshire has observed, in any church split or religious issue the women are usually the ones who suffer the most. She couldn't be more right about that in this case.

Young Buddhist monks (photograph from the website ReligionFacts.com)

"How do you want to create peace
if there is no peace inside yourselves?"
~ Thich Nhat Hanh


I have friends on both sides of the divide and they, too, are also friends with each other. A couple, quite close to us, is even experiencing the divide within their own home. As individuals in the local community they are all friends or at least friendly and charitable with each other and community-natured. But when it comes to church rules and personal conduct, they are divided. So much so that the splinter group that decided to leave the original church several years ago (which is part of the larger Groffdale Old Order Mennonite Conference that settled here initially) have now been told to leave the area by a group of bishops in the established conference. It has reached a point where there is no resolution and the group that has left the original church–that has sought even stricter rules of conduct from how they all were raised in the church (or "man's law" vs. "God's law")–has been given a finite period of time to sell their farms and businesses and move away from those from whom they wish to worship separately. They certainly understand that they are free to worship as they please–which is why the Mennonites and Amish came here from Germany and Switzerland in the first place–but because their religion and lifestyle is so intricately meshed, church splits in their communities effect all areas of their lives. Thus, major whole-herd moves as the result of dissension are not uncommon. [As for the financial ramifications in this economy, I can't even begin to ponder it.]

Hay on the knob and the Morgan Cemetery, Hickory Nut Ridge, Summer 2009.
"I'm a Protestant atheist. [Philip Larkin's poem, Church Going, captures his attitude] to religion, tradition, faith, 
architecture, Englishness, Larkin's admirable stoicism. 
Larkin very much wanted to be a believer, and couldn't do it. 
And he was petrified of death."
~ Christopher Hitchens
[as quoted in an article in The Sydney Morning Herald]


I asked the other day, in the car, with several Mennonite friends that I took on errands, "Where is God in all of this?" Does God care where we worship or how, or even with whom? Even though we would like to find a church that works for us, I have believed for a very long time that we can avoid the middle man–the Church–and go right to the source: God. My favorite cathedral these days is among the open fields of our farm or in the quiet Kentucky woods. In nature do we see God's greatest glories and sometimes the very harsh realities and tempests.

Gertie and John, Valley View Farm, December 2010.
"Trouble no one about their religion, respect all in their views, 
and demand that they respect yours."
~ Chief Tecumseh

Church does serve a great purpose: it binds people in community and fellowship and it provides a place and time each week for pause, prayer and reflection. There are rituals and rites and there can be great beauty and comfort in them. Church, as a structure, can even provide the setting for magnificent music and great art and architecture. But it can also split and fracture and wound. The blood-letting can be gradual or immediate but there is pain either way. That pain doesn't come from a holy place but from the man-made and the mundane.

Exit gate at the Cathedral of the Pines,
Rindge, New Hampshire, June 2009.
"We must learn to live 
together as brothers, 
or we are going to perish 
together as fools."
~ Martin Luther King

The Bible provides a code of conduct for pre-Christians (especially in the The Old Testament) and later Christians with the word of Christ, but so much is no longer applicable, particularly in the Old Testament, to our lives today. There are too many examples to name here but we also know that the Bible does not explicity say that we are supposed to live separately but equally, while celibate (eg. the United Society of Believers, aka Shakers, who actually believed in a dual deity of Mother and Father); or to have many wives (Old Order Mormons); or live without electricity, modern conveniences, automobiles or tractors (eg. the Amish and some Old Order Mennonites); or to even have a Pope. Those differences are all from human intervention and decision-making. As long as no one is hurting anyone else, why not? I respect people's individual journeys, even if I don't always understand them.

Lupines by a Vermont brook, June 2009.
"Our view is that there is truth and holiness in other religious faiths. Our view is that there are many paths to God."
~ Rabbi Eric Yoffee

The Bible is a template for living for those who wish to follow it, just as there are comparative texts in other religions such as Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam, to name a few. Some even share the same texts, such as parts of the Old Testament in the Bible, Torah and Koran. But I believe there is one creator and that he/she/it very likely came to different people throughout the world and in different times as the same entity or embodiment, only with different personas. In other words, religious pluralism.

My favorite mountain in the whole world, the Grand Monadnock,
taken from Sawyer Farm, Jaffrey, New Hampshire, June 2009.
"There are many paths up the Mountain, 
but the view of the moon from the top is the same."
~ Ancient Japanese saying

It would seem that there are so many schisms now in our society. Our political world has never been so divisive (and, ironically, because religion is often thrown out there into the mix). We are disconnected in so many ways from each other and with ourselves. The rise in drug use and substance abuse has never been greater. Our economy, and the world's, is a house of cards and collapsing everywhere. If ever there was a time to come together it is now.

Mount Monadnock from the outdoor altar at the Cathedral of the Pines,
Rindge, New Hampshire, June 2009.

"Why is it that when we talk to God, it's called prayer, 
but when God talks to us, it's called schizophrenia?"
~ Lily Tomlin

So why, in God's name, do we fight about what God says or represents or how we are to worship? Why can't we tolerate religious differences as long as there is a peaceful methodology and good intentions behind them? As long as we do unto others as we would have them do unto us, with all people and in all things and in all places and at all times, we are on the right track. The trick is in staying on that track and that is where we, as humans, fail miserably and fall hard. As long as we get back on it, and keep walking, we'll be doing the best that we can do.

You come back when you're ready!

Catherine


The former Baldock Chapel interior.
Casey County, Kentucky, 2008.
...Move forward, run my hand around the font.
From where I stand, the roof looks almost new -
Cleaned, or restored? Someone would know: I don't.
Mounting the lectern, I peruse a few
Hectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce
'Here endeth' much more loudly than I'd meant.
The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door
I sign the book, donate an Irish sixpence,
Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.





The Baldock Chapel, pre-demolition.
Casey County, Kentucky, 2008.

Yet stop I did: in fact I often do,
And always end much at a loss like this,
Wondering what to look for; wondering, too,
When churches will fall completely out of use
What we shall turn them into, if we shall keep
A few cathedrals chronically on show,
Their parchment, plate and pyx in locked cases,
And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?

~ from the poem "Church Going," by Philip Larkin

November 1, 2011

To DO List for My 50th Year


On the sweatshirt of a birthday gift from a very funny friend.

I am so blessed to have made some amazing friendships in my life. While I have cherished a few golden oldies from my childhood and college years––even though we don't see each other enough (thank you Facebook!)––most of the dearest friends that I have made have been in the latter half of the past decade while still living in New Hampshire and here in Kentucky. Several make me laugh, a lot, and I was quite spoiled by some on my recent birthday: with good wishes, thoughts, prayers, laughter and some lovely gifts. 

"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'” 

People who know me know that I am the real deal, bumps and all: I may speak my mind at times, I may defend others who are not so fortunate, and I never suffer fools gladly. Like meets like and stays with like and if you encounter a false friend in your life you will soon know it. The best indicator of a sour relationship is that it just isn't working: something's "off," you might find yourself apologizing too often and for things you're not aware that you've done, or it just feels forced. Perhaps there is a certain envy in the relationship on one side, or both, that causes friction. Either way, these friendships are toxic and you are best to run, fast, in the other direction. 

Sometimes we just encounter narcissists––whether friends, family members or coworkers––in our lives who are simply incapable of any kind of authentic self or true relationship or the ability to accept responsibility for their part in something. They can be classic victims and often shed their identities, and personas, and start again. You may be left in their wake. Consider yourself fortunate and, if still standing there trying to figure them out, just run, RUN! Or, sit back and enjoy the behaviors from a distance. Better yet, no, just run and don't look back. Maybe say a few "Hail Marys" or prayers while you're at it. Forgiveness fills the heart but it never forgets. [It is also good to remember that narcissists, like sociopaths, can not change who they are: there are thousands of websites on this very subject, and even many books. They are more insidious then you might think and not always whom you might expect, at first.]

It goes without saying that my family comes first–our children on Addie's
visit last month–but sometimes we have to make time for ourselves, too.
We had such a wonderful time out West in October–a trip is a great way to reconnect.


Above all we need to be surrounded by people who love us and have our backs, just as we need to be that friend, family member or colleague. One thing I'm realizing as I age and stare at 50 next year is that I have a reduced capacity for bullshit of any kind or people who lack a sense of humor or who are inauthentic. So boundaries are in order. So is cleaning out my closet: in all realms. This year will be a combination of many things as I prepare, hopefully, for the next fifty years of my life.

“You are never too old to set another goal 
or to dream a new dream.” 

I need to also count and remember my blessings each and every day. And, as C.S. Lewis wrote (he is also responsible for all of the quotes in this blog today): 

“You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” 

I would like to try and do things that nourish the body, feed the soul and surround the heart in warmth and good feeling. Several years ago, two friends and I started writing out our goals for the next year, around the holidays, always with shared presents, good food and a cup of tea. This continues that tradition.

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough 
or a book long enough to suit me.” 



To Do List for My 50th Year (written just after my 49th birthday):
  1. Put health, exercise and good eating habits FIRST and ALWAYS (the rest will come): SCHEDULE IT IN!
  2. Make weekly menu plans for best use of pantries and freezers.
  3. Go through all "stuff" in rooms, closets and cupboards in two houses, bite by bite, room by room: keep, pitch, donate, regift, sell. Only keep what is useful or truly beautiful (this includes special sentiments). Prioritize projects for 2012-13 execution (esp. archival and WRITING).
  4. Go through shop, box by box, and either rebox or SELL!!!
  5. Go through archives in shop and either pitch (eg. BURN) or regroup for later proper storage and sharing.
  6. Spend as little money as absolutely possible.
  7. Get office spaces better ready for good work flow (see 3. and 4.).
  8. Spend much less time with media and read much more.
  9. Write more notes and letters to friends and family: "Only connect." (see 8.)
  10. Establish clear boundaries in all realms to open doors and windows in others: Let the LIGHT in and darkness AWAY!
  11. Cultivate authentic relationships.
  12. Keep laughing and occasionally swearing. It helps.
  13. Drink more tea, and often drink it with friends. 
  14. "Remember," as my great-grandmother advised, "the ruthlessness to rest."

An old cross in the adobe home of our cousins in Colorado.


“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” 


~ C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

You come back when you're ready!
Catherine