Monday, June 24, 2013

in clover: S is for....

S is for Simplicity 

This year little c asked to celebrate her birthday with a more intimate gathering than in years past. She suggested a day out with her mom and dad and one school friend and we were happy to oblige.  Big brother is off on a church mission trip and as no family happens to be visiting this year,  we thought she might be disappointed when there was only Michael and me to sing Happy Birthday to her.   So we decided to invite neighborhood friends with children to stroll that sweet spot, after supper but just before summer sing with us and have a piece of cake.  Easy for everyone!

There were still a few simple preparations.

S is for Straws, made of brightly colored paper. 

While shopping for plates and napkins, I spotted these irresistible packages of brightly colored paper straws.   The empty jam jars,  piled at the bottom of the basement stairs,  seemed like a perfectly simple companion for the old fashioned paper straws.  Who knew straws and jam jars could be so inspiring?

S is for Steal

I picked up this vintage metal tray on a recent junk store junket.  I love the colors, the pattern and the shape and with a price tag of $ was indeed a steal!  And I was excited to have an opportunity to put it to use.

And guess what?  The jelly jars fit PERFECTLY on the tray: 

But what to serve our guests?  Pink lemonade bags seemed the safest (organic, no glass and no added sugar!) as well as the most simple solution for our young guests....

but for their parents?  

S is for Sangria, the summer variety...

I have never made sangria so I googled recipes and figured I could not go wrong with this Martha Stewart recipe.  This recipe is light and not too sweet.  It calls for basil and sliced ginger which I thought sounded interesting.  I made a few "secret recipe" adjustments and voila....

I let it sit overnight and crossed my fingers! 

After the morning thunderstorms rolled on past, we tidied up the garden just a bit, set out our simple spread and soon, neighbors came strolling down the street.

S is for Sesame Honey Almonds from Trader Joe's.  

Everyone loves them and they were a nice nibble with the sangria.  The green bowl is a piece of 50's refrigerator glass that belonged to Michael's grandmother.

S is for Spiritual practice opportunities! 

Just before our guests arrived, I noticed that Atticus the cat had jumped on top of the cake box!  Tinker Belle had nearly disappeared in devil's food cake and the garden of yellow icing flowers was now stuck to the top of the box.  Michael volunteered to run it back to the bakery, hopeful they could "fix it" but in the end, we kept it simple....I smeared around what icing was left and let it go.  Sweet Michael said, "Good job, honey!  You made it look like clouds."  

I vented on status read: 

"My &*^#$%$ cat just jumped on top of Caroline's cake...Tinker Belle is toast!"  And then there was some mention of my sampling the sangria immediately.

I am glad I vented as one friend reminded me that it's our mishaps that most often lodge in our memories.  For years to come, we remember them and laugh.  This is so true!  I am sure that we will always remember this as the year the cat jumped on top of the cake. The realization made me (almost) glad it happened! 

Another friend made me giggle when she commented, "In my world there is almost nothing more holy than a spiritual director who says "&*^#$%$ cat" publicly. Except maybe one who heads for sangria next. You're in the spiritual big leagues now, my friend. Watch out world!"

I am so thankful for those who accept and affirm me, exactly as I am! What a gift.

S is for Sweet Voices and Sweet Smiling, Sticky Faces...

c was excited when it was time for singing...she didn't mind that the breeze put out the candles before she could blow them out and she sure didn't mind the smooshed bits. 

S is for Summer Birthdays and Sweet Daughters turning eight! 




Monday, June 17, 2013

in clover: welcoming new life

Recently I had the honor of co-hosting a baby shower for a dear friend.  Little c was over the top...she loves a party, especially when it involves lots of pink.   She was a great help and inspiration and we enjoyed each others company in our preparations.  (Well, most of the time anyway!) 

We made our first batch of cake pops together....

We displayed them in a pair of vintage English urns that I borrowed from my shop inventory.  


We made a banner and a big tissue paper flower to decorate our fireplace.....

We made heart shaped cucumber, basil and cream cheese tea sandwiches and decorated them with a tiny bit of impatien blossom.  (Yes, impatiens, like pansies, are edible!) 

And we made tiny little heart shaped pimento cheese bites...

We even made our gift....

I have made several hats and one pair of the knitted Mary Jane shoes before but this was my first ever sweater.  I found the free crochet pattern on line and I added some details of my own.  Our guest of honor received several beautiful handmade gifts and I could tell, she really appreciated them.  

Other friends planned the games and contributed homemade cupcakes and layer cakes,  yummy cookies and beautiful fresh fruit and veg.  I noticed that sharing the responsibilities increased my joy...and not just because I had less work to do but because it was more fun to plot and plan together.  Often I find that my own creativity is unleashed when I am around other creative folks.

c and I had a wonderful time decorating the house and fixing the food but the  most fun of all was filling the party favor bags.  Our idea for the favors took some time to gel but eventually, inspired by a big bag of colorful beads we found in our basement craft area, we came up with these:

Each bag contains a white votive candle and a prayer litany rolled into a scroll, secured by a simple prayer bracelet.  My friend Greta introduced me to the idea of giving white candles at baby be lit during the birth. I love this idea!  The bag of beads we found was left over from a Prayer Bead Meditation I led for a group of women a few years ago and so we thought, why not also give our guests a prayer bracelet? 

I spent some time researching prayers for labor and birth but in the end I wrote my own.  I asked our guest of honor for permission to share it here.  She graciously agreed. 

Actually, this is what she said which I thought was sweet and funny: 

 "Feel free to use our names! And don't forget to mention that one of the prizes for the shower games was a dozen fresh eggs. That was so incredibly cool and I think the world should know."  

We did offer one dozen of our eggs as a game prize and my hens would be proud to know that their eggs were immediately snatched up.  

Feel free to use the litany yourself, I only ask that if you add it to your own blog or print it on paper, please attribute authorship to me and provide my blog address,  I thank you and your karma will too.  :)


A Prayer Bead Litany for the birth of Liv and Elijah's daughter....

Bead One: 

Creator God,

We ask your blessing on Liv, a new mother, as she enters into this unknown and sacred experience of childbirth.  Connect her with the ancient knowledge of her sisters who have come before her.  Help her to embrace her strength.  Help her to embrace her power. Help her to surrender to her bodies own Wisdom.  Fill her heart with joy at the  anticipation of this most divine labor, now beginning to unfold for her.  

Isaiah 41:10
"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand."

Bead Two:

We ask your blessing on Elijah, a new father, as he emotionally and spiritually labors with Liv and lovingly supports her in her physical labor.   Fill Elijah with stamina and a peace filled divine energy that he might share his strength with and bring Your Presence to Liv.  Connect Elijah to the wisdom of all his brothers who have come before him. Allow him to share deeply with Liv this most sacred experience of labor and childbirth, now beginning to unfold for him. 

Psalm 29:11
"The Lord gives strength to his people, the Lord blesses his people with peace."

Bead Three:

We ask your blessing on this child, a new daughter.  Divinely guide her transition from the womb of her mother into the tender and welcoming embrace of her mother, her father and all the others waiting for her. Throughout her unique birth experience, cradle her in surrender and beauty. Allow your Peace to surround her, as she moves from the warmth, support and darkness of the womb towards the Light of your Creation, bringing your Light into the world by her very Presence. 

Jeremiah 29:11
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." 

Bead Four:

We ask your blessing on the medical professionals and caregivers charged with tending Liv and Elijah and their daughter.  Help them remember the sacredness of this experience.  Help them to remember the uniqueness of each birth.  Give each of them the heart of a midwife, mindful of the body, mindful of the spirit, and most mindful that they are witnessing a miracle. Bless their minds, hands, and spirits well as they expertly care for this family, so beloved to us. 

Psalm 118:23
"This is the Lord's doing, and it is wonderful to see!"

Bead Five: 

We ask your blessing on each of us, the family and friends of Liv and Elijah.  Help us support them in labor and childbirth through our prayer and meditations.  We pray with great joy and anticipation and thanksgiving for the soon to be new life in our midst.  We pray for Liv as laborer, in this ancient and sacred rite.  We pray Elijah as supporter and advocate.  We pray for the doctors, nurses and midwives in their call to the medical profession and as witnesses to the miracle of birth. Lord, hear our prayer.

Numbers 6:24-26:

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace." 

Bead Six:

We give thanks for the miracle of birth, the Holy Cycle of Life and for the divinity and humanity of your Living Creation.

Ephesians 3:20:
"Now all glory to God, who is able, through God's mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think."

Bead Seven:

We bless this birth! 

(Here I actually included a birth blessing written by someone else but I do not have permission, yet, to include that.)

Monday, June 10, 2013

in clover: self portrait

early morning solitude. 

no talking,

in the garden.



a journal, 


zinnia pajamas

(and a camera). 

Monday, June 3, 2013

in clover: watching for fairies

Last summer, on a whim, I put together a small fairy garden.  I used an old english stone trough, pilfered from my antique shop, as the base.  The fantasy garden was ostensibly for Little c.  She was delighted by it and spent quite a bit of time near it, just looking.  And I will admit, I was so taken by my creation (and keeping it tidy...keeping it "right")  that I quietly discouraged "playing" with it.  I am not very proud of that but that is the truth.  This photo is of the fairy garden, last spring.

As the seasons changed, I neglected to winterize the little garden.  It survived, mostly intact, and I intended to put it all back to rights at the first sign of spring...that is, as soon as I had time.  c asked me about it several times but I had no time.  I made lots of promises to get the garden tip top and fairy ready asap, but "not today."  

Then one evening, I wandered outside with a glass of wine.  My intention is always the sit and enjoy.  I have attempted to design our humble garden for this very purpose...there are comfortable chairs scattered about with tables nearby for a book or a mug of coffee, umbrellas for shade and flowers for enjoyment.  As winter becomes spring and I long for the garden, what I envision is always the, settling in with a hot mug of coffee early in the morning, or with a cool glass of wine as the sun sets, simply enjoying it all.  There is no busy-ness in my vision (and no bugs, either.)

But truthfully, my sitting usually lasts less than five minutes.   Inevitably,  I scan the garden and, rather than seeing all that there is to enjoy, I begin to notice all the things that need doing and fixing...there are weeds to pull, shrubs to trim, pots to water, flowers to dehead and the list goes on.  And, usually within a very few minutes, I am up and uncle calls it my "Granny gene."  He says I come by it honestly.  I think, like all things, there is both a blessing and a curse in my granny gene. 

This particular evening, after only a sip or two of wine,  my gaze landed on the fairy garden and waves of guilt immediately washed over me....I should have made it more of a priority to "fix" the tiny vignette, as I had promised c.  And then I noticed something....the fairy garden was decidedly more pink and green than I remembered.  Upon closer inspection, this is what I found: 

c had transformed the fairy garden with leaves and small bits of evergreen, azalea blossoms and even one purple flower she gathered from a clump of chives.  I remembered how amazed she was last summer, when I revealed the fairy garden surprise.  Now it was my turn to be surprised and enchanted!  

I was most taken with the fairy sized "umbrellas" she had created by perching upside down azalea blossoms on small twigs,  strategically anchored in the rock hard ground.   I am sure this took a lot of effort on her part.

Honestly, what fairy could resist such a sweet resting spot?

It only took a few moments for my delight to give way to dismay.  I felt very guilty that c had felt she must take it upon herself to rescue the garden.  After all,  she will only be a little girl for a short time... who knows how long this time will last....will this spring be the last when a few bits of broken brick and pottery shards evoke such delight in her?   

But, as I sat with all those "bad mommy" thoughts and allowed the guilt to simply pass through me, eventually I had a different thought. 

What if there is more to this story than simply the guilt and remorse of a harried mother, neglecting to fulfill a promise?   If I've learned anything from the practice of spiritual direction, I've learned that there is always something more.

Could there also have been a gift to c in this? 

She loves to express her creativity...she writes and draws and decorates and invents games and makes up funny songs and loves to take photographs and I do my best to encourage all of that....but I must admit, I tend to hold on to some home decor and garden design!  In those matters, we often butt heads.  I am sure, had I made the time to "fix" the fairy garden, I would have taken charge and perhaps (more than likely) even rejected c's ideas.  

As completely unconscious as my stepping back was, was created for little c to act on her own creative impulses.  She was so proud and I was truly delighted by what she designed.  And in the end, with my need for correctness out of the way, the fairy garden became something far more meaningful than looking picture perfect...far, far more sacred!  The garden is still a lovely place for fairies but, more importantly, it is a place for a little girl to express herself.... a canvas that invites, encourages, and nurtures imagination and creativity.  A place that invites an encounter with the Divine through creative expression. 

Last year, c spent hours sitting and watching the garden...certain that if she waited long enough a fairy would appear:

Now, I am the one who sits and watches the fairy garden...hoping to catch a glimpse of gossamer wings or a sprinkling of glittering dust in this place,  now of our shared creation...feeling connected TO my daughter...feeling connected to God THROUGH my daughter.  

I do not mean that my distracted behavior toward my daughter is excused and I certainly don't mean that it was "God's plan"...there are lessons for me here about distraction and priorities and, at least for a few days, I know I will be more present to her.  But there is always more.  The story is never only about our failures.  That is what the practice of spiritual direction is about.

The Sacred is moving in EVERY moment of our lives, not just the ones that make us feel good or proud of ourselves.  God is just as evident in our parenting failures as She is in our successes.   Many, like Father Richard Rohr, believe there is more spiritual growth potential in failure than in success. 

Working with a spiritual director can help you notice and savor the Sacred in all areas of your life.  My guess is that many of you have never heard of spiritual direction and it might even sound a bit odd to you.  It  sure did to me!  The first time someone, a minister, said to me, "Why don't you investigate spiritual direction?"  my immediate response was, "Spiritual direction?  What the hell is that??"

If you want to know more about what spiritual direction is or perhaps even more importantly, what it is not, send me a note.  I will be glad to share information with you.  If you are interested in engaging in this ancient practice, get in touch with me.  If I cannot work with you, I will happily help you find a trained and appropriate director.  

God is present in it all and God is longing to be known THROUGH it all....precious little girls and fairy dust and broken promises, azalea blossoms and twigs and rock hard granny genes, for better or stillness and busyness, in love and in imperfect parenting.  There is sacredness in and of it all. 



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