Happy Holidays!

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As my network of friends and experiences has grown, I have become aware of the wonderful cornucopia of reasons to celebrate the things that really matter. Many of those reasons are clustered in the coming weeks. When I use the phrase “Happy Holidays,” it is not to demean or take away from what a holiday or Holy Day means to any one set of people. Rather it is to enlarge the circle of celebration to make room for all of the people about whom I have come to care.

If I were talking to you one on one, I would try to offer the greeting specific to what is important to you though I might pronounce it all wrong. When addressing a group or when I don’t know what holidays matter to you, I opt to be as inclusive as possible in my best wishes. I do this because I believe that the world needs all the joy, peace, hope, healing, and tolerance that we can spread.

So please know that for me “Happy Holidays” includes a wish for any and all of the following plus heart felt wishes for any other holidays you celebrate in the coming weeks: Peace and Condolences to those observing Ashura; chag Chanukah sameach to those observing Hanukkah (for the record that is not a Jewish Christmas and is not a major holiday in the Jewish calendar); Solstice Blessings; Merry Christmas (whether you celebrate that on Dec. 25 or on Jan. 7 as observed my many Orthodox Christians); Habari gani to those observing Kwanzaa; Happy New Year if that happens for you on Jan 1 (including those observing the Japanese New Year) or the 23rd if you are observing the Chinese Lunar New Year). This list grows longer as my experiences and network become more diverse. (note: order of holidays is based on occurrence not any perceived importance)

So whatever you are observing: Happy Holidays and if you happen to have a birthday in the near future Happy Birthday too! I hope your special days help you reconnect to family and friends, to meaningful traditions, to your most heart felt beliefs and that they provide blessed memories for you to carry forward.

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I am thrilled to see more and more people standing up to say ENOUGH! Enough to greed and to profit mattering more than the planet and justice. Enough to sitting by and merely complaining. Enough to growing inequality.

But marching, chanting and occupying public spaces is just the beginning. For change to really happen people have to back the protests by changes in how they live. I personally think the changes are rewarding, worthwhile, and long over due even beyond playing a part in taking back our power from corporations and a privileged few. Here are some ideas for places to start:

  • Shop small, independent merchants.
  • Choose family owned businesses over chains even if it cost a few cents more or is a little less convenient.
  • Before you buy it new, consider the possibility of buying second hand, trading, or borrowing things.
  • Look for ways to barter and trade for goods and services.
  • Choose relationships and experiences over things.
  • Explore the public spaces and events in your area — parks, libraries, old cemeteries, festivals and fairs, historical sites, river banks and beaches. Find one you really like and volunteer to help out there.
  • Tell people about the discoveries you make in your own communities. Local businesses and attractions don’t have huge advertising budgets so help them out by word of mouth and through social media.
  • Pick a passion and find a way to volunteer with a group that is related to that passion.
  • Say hello to your neighbors but don’t stop there – get to know the people in your community.
  • Turn off the television.
  • Celebrate music. If you can’t make it yourself, support independent artists and local musical events and groups. Music not your thing then support your local theater groups as a member of the cast or crew or as an appreciative audience member.
  • Don’t settle for soundbites; educate yourself about the issues of the day. I bet the reference librarians at your public library would be thrilled to point you to good resources.
  • Slow down and consider your actions and the implications; challenge yourself to think of the alternatives.
  • Choose natural foods that are in season and produced as close to you as possible using sustainable and humane methods.
  • Rediscover simple pleasures and delights.
  • Find or create a group to discuss the issues and work toward solutions. Places to look might include the transition town movement, green drinks, etc.
  • Learn a new skill and then teach it to someone else.
  • Stop judging people by how they look, what they earn, and what they own. Evaluate actions, character, and what people give back to the world.
  • Treat others with humanity and compassion — smiles and hugs are free, produce no pollution, and can change a person’s day and sometimes even their life.
  • Reject mindless conformity and celebrate creativity and individuality.
  • Ask hard questions and don’t settle for non-answers.

So what suggestions would you add to the list?

Imagining the possibilities

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If money and health insurance coverage were not considerations, I would craft a life that:

  • I would split my time between two or three locations (Madison and Orlando being the two with a possible third location on the West Coast)
  • I would live communally in one or more of those locations
  • I would offer my services to the greater good by working with and for non-profit groups on special projects (research, writing grant proposals, report preparation especially as it relates to presenting quantitative data, or re-organization/system creation) or during transition times (e.g., filling in for staff who are on maternity leave or as an interim director while they search for a permanent one)
  • I would seek opportunities to foster connections among ideas, individuals, causes and rejoice in a role as a bridge and catalyst
  • I would stay involved in teaching through adjunct or online teaching or through developing materials for courses
  • I would pursue more training related to life coaching/mediation/group facilitation and work toward a practice in this area
  • I would be actively involved in the local foods/sustainable local economies movements
  • I would work on developing writing skills so that I could contribute to magazines and such regarding things I value (gardening, local foods, transition towns, small town/backroads travel treasures)
  • I would seek ways to encourage people to see beyond their perceived limits and find a way to do the things they want despite obstacles or limitations (for example, writing reviews of nature related places that are manageable for those who have mobility limitations)
  • I would be part of an ongoing goddess spirituality group/circle that studies and celebrates together on a regular basis
  • I would work on improving my skills as a photographer (more documentary style than artistic) and reach a point where I could enter shows/contests and occasionally sell an image
  • I would be active in disaster preparedness and recovery activities
  • I would get my HAM license
  • I would support causes that celebrate healthy loving relationships and families in all the forms they take
  • I would invite and welcome love into my life in all its glorious manifestations
  • I would live mindfully and with intent
  • I would be politically active
  • I would wander in the woods, explore wild places, and camp on a regular basis
  • I would be active in the burner community
  • I would make improving my health and well-being my number one priority
  • I would seek adventures great and small and find ways to share those experiences with others
  • I would create even if my creations fall far short of art (this especially in the areas of fiber arts)
  • I would return to writing poetry
  • I would take classes and learn new things for the pleasure of doing so
  • I would stop trying to fade into the scenery and embrace my quirkiness/geekhood/uppity middle-aged fat woman self

What doesn’t matter to me is fame (though being valued and appreciated by those around me is good) or being wealthy beyond being able to make my student loan payments, give regularly to charity, and meet my basic living expenses”Home” and nesting is mattering less to me as time goes on and I redefine what home means.

So this is where I would like to be. Now the work of manifesting this life begins in earnest as I embrace a life of coloring outside the lines and being more than my vita. Advice, inspiration, and resources for growing in these directions gleefully welcomed.

The list above gives you some idea of the places this blog may be headed though it by no means suggests all the territory that this journey might cover.

Preparing my canvas. . .

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. . . well my blog at least. Making some changes to my blog to get things ready for capturing my explorations of the midwest that will begin in a couple of weeks when I return to the US from Kabul (with a few days in Baharain on the way). I am looking forward to eating local and in seasons, exploring new places, and soaking up time in the natural world. There will be photos taken — lots and lots of photos.

Shifts in focus and blogs

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My journey has taken a new path. For now homesteading, explorations of my natural world, and embracing a life that is based in local foods and rooted in the cycle of seasons have been put on hold. Since the beginning of August I have been adapting to life as an expat in Kabul, Afghanistan where my life is organized by security announcements, transport schedules, and my housemates. I’ll be capturing experiences here and sharing them at http://www.pomegranateveils.com.

Glimpses of Mid-may in my world

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Here in far northern Indiana the first flush of spring with its clouds of crab apple blossoms, daffodils, tulips, and spring ephmerals is giving way to late spring with its own joys.

I spent Sunday searching for solitude and a peaceful place to commune with Mama Gaia. During my quest, I saw my first hummingbirds (ruby-throats) of the season, spotted lots of jack-in-the-pulpits blooming along with a few lingering trillium and fading May Apple blossoms. I added a couple of new birds, common yellow-throat and yellow warbler, to my life list while listening to the avian symphony which included lots of male red-winged blackbirds singing a claim to territory. I finally found my peace and quiet at a small nature preseve not far from home. It was my first time to visit that location and I look forward to watching the seasons unfold in that small protected space.

Eating local and gardening are two of my passions and things are still pretty quiet in those areas. Locally available produce includes rhubarb, asparagus, and morels (when you are lucky); strawberries will be appearing shortly as they are forecast to be a couple of weeks ahead of schedule. About 1/2 of the farmer’s markets in the area are open and the most of the rest will open in the next two weeks. It is wonderful to have my visits to them back as part of my weekend ritual.

In my garden, my clematis are blooming and hardy herbs are growing at an amazing rate. I finally managed to get broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, onions, and some lettuce planted. I have several heirloom tomato and pepper plants that have been moved to larger pots until I can plant them in the ground.

Made from Scratch by Jenna Woginrich

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Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life by Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm.

A beginning homesteading book with a twist. Jenna Woginrich introduces shares some lessons learned in her journey as a single homesteader who doesn’t own her homestead The book alternates between her own story of learning to live a more self-sufficient life on rented property with some basic how to advice. In both cases, you feel as if you are sitting in a warm kitchen chatting with Jenna and very much wishing that you could get to know her in person.

The book was a pleasant read on snowy afternoon. It doesn’t tell you all you need to know about keeping chickens or bees, growing and preserving your own food, or making your own clothing but it does give you background for exploring further and some initial questions to ask yourself and others.

Other than its focus on things that are possible on small plots, rented properties, and with only those hours available outside of a regular job, my favorite thing about the book is the underlying attitude. This isn’t a doom and gloom be self-sufficient because the world as we know it is ending. It is a book about adding value and JOY to your life by being more self-sufficient. It isn’t a book that pushes you to an “all or nothing” way of life but a gentle invitation to experience delights that have largely been lost in the modern world; yes those pleasures come with some work but most good things do.

Bottom line: If you expect this book to be a full-fledged how to book you will be disappointed. If you are looking to fuel your homesteading day dreams, you can find it here. If you are looking for a easy and enjoyable break from modern life, you can find it here. If you need some encouragement that homesteading is possible even if you lack your own acreage and a family to share your efforts, you will find that here. Pour yourself a mug of your favorite warm beverage, light a fire in the fireplace or a candle, and enjoy.