Pass It On
December 23, 2014, 5:38 PM
Filed under: Christmas, Spirituality Practices | Tags: , , , ,

Every now and then I have to go back and read, once again, what this blog is all about. It can become difficult to write about transitioning in fresh and meaningful ways after doing it close to 250 times, so rereading that ‘about’ statement helps keep me focused on the topic at hand. But, as we are drawn more deeply into this season of miracles, I wanted to deviate from my normal topics of energy, frugality, gardening and community. I’d like to offer up some ideas for making this holiday season, well, a little more miraculous than it already is.

My childhood Christmases were not happy occasions, so I tried to make up for them by making sure that my own four children had ‘good’ ones to remember. ‘Good’ then, meant lots of presents, activities, decorations, food and more. Being raised under strict Southern Baptist beliefs had somehow left me as an adult with practically no religious beliefs, so the ‘good’ Christmases I tried hard to give my kids lacked the focus the whole season is based on. Over the years, that lack of religion has gradually turned into something more meaningful and helpful to my soul than any Bible verse I ever memorized: Spirtuality. It’s a word I can’t seem to properly define so I went to my dictionary for a definition: of or relating to sacred things or matters; religious; devotional; sacred”. I guess my developing spirituality covers all those things, and that’s a miracle!

I’ve had the most remarkable week already, and it’s only Tuesday! Saturday I walked to the Dharma Center for a two hour guided meditation called “Mindfulness In Times of Madness”. Afterwards, I walked back home feeling like Buddha himself.  Sunday I attended the Solstice service at my Unitarian Universalist church and was brought to tears by the music, the candles, the food and the love that filled that space. Celebrating the season with spiritual practices of prayer, inner reflection and song help me realize that I can bring my own light to the winter darkness.

candles  In an effort to continue that morning joy, on Sunday night I decided to attend a ‘Concert for World Peace’ at a nearby healing arts center. Walking there in the cool early evening cleared my head and my heart for what I was about to experience: the concert was presented in Swahili, an ancient Hindi language, using instruments normally heard in Classical Indian music. Though I didn’t understand many of the sacred chants, I’m pretty sure the English translations went something like this: PEACE, LOVE, JOY and THANK YOU. PEACE, LOVE, JOY AND THANK YOU. REPEAT. Remember when the Beatles sang “Love Is All You Need”? And when John encouraged us to “Give Peace a Chance?” I certainly do, and I experienced the outcome at this concert. Did our sacred chant music bring about world peace? No, but the spirit of peace in that room was palpable; it actually had a heartbeat, I swear. By engaging together in a spiritual practice with the forty or so (mostly) strangers we managed to create an opening and a chance for peace to grow, passing it on from right here in my little city around the world and back. If that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is.

Then yesterday I attended a Christmas Tea, put on by a dear friend of mine. Amid the hustle and bustle of arguably the busiest week of the year, this woman catered to and pampered seven of her many friends with a feast of appetizers, soups, sandwiches, desserts and of course, 3 kinds of TEA, or ‘liquid love’. Served on her heirloom china, we ate, talked, laughed, cried and ate some more. When it was over, we were  absolutely FILLED with the light this woman had spent many hours creating for us all. She told us she considers this kind of thing her spiritual practice, her way of serving others and lighting the world. Holding tea parties is as much a spiritual practice as gardening or playing music or writing. Sharing the experience of our tea party with you is my way of lighting my candle off of hers.


Spiritual practices offer me a tangible and concrete way to create harmony and balance in my life, while enabling me to connect more easily with the world as well. I’m working on using my daily walks as yet another spiritual practice, (and it’s called a practice for a reason you know) by greeting passersby, picking up trash, or just simply being aware of my feet making contact with the Earth. Tomorrow will be my first annual Christmas Eve donation to the Red Cross, followed by another walk to a nearby church to attend a candlelight service there. It’s the spirituality, rather than the religious lessons, that I get from these kinds of activities that make them sacred and special.

As many of us rush now through these final couple of days before Christmas to finish the shopping, wrapping, baking, cleaning and more-always more- I’d like to suggest that you take time for your own spiritual practices, whatever they may be. The rituals we create in our lives, from knitting to whittling wood, can offer us peace and a sense of purpose, throughout the year, not just Christmas. May your light shine brightly this holiday season. Pass it on.

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. – James Keller, Catholic Priest

Frugal Friday- Christmas Revisited

Christmas has come and gone again but it’ll be back as soon as I get all the holiday decorations put away, so I thought perhaps it’s not too late to share with you some of the frugal gifts that were given  in our household this year. Maybe  you’ll find an idea that you can use for your next gift giving occasion. Remember I wrote about my intention to give my family members the gift of an EXPERIENCE, rather than a THING? We had a really fun Christmas weekend, eating at  locally owned restaurants and driving to nearby Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, TN where we spent many fun-filled hours at Wonder Works.


A good time was had by all, and I think they’ll remember our time together far longer than they’d remember yet another DVD or blouse. I didn’t spend any more money than I normally would’ve, and there was nothing to wrap. However, over the last few years I’ve started gifting them with little things I find at yard sales or thrift shops; things that I think they may need or enjoy, and I always tell them they are second-hand, right along with the wrapping paper, which I haven’t had to buy in many years, since I save all kinds of ‘gift wrap’-from flower bouquet cellophane wraps to wine bags to baskets!  The ‘wrap’ is half the fun! They are always AMAZED at the quality of these sometimes-found gifts and I really enjoy the creativity of wrapping them.

For example, Daughter #1 collects an expensive Pfaltzgraff dinnerware pattern called “Naturewood” and for several years running I’ve been able to find at least one piece to add to her ever-growing collection, often for only a dollar or so. (Psst! If you see this pattern at a yard sale this summer, pick it up for me, will  you? I’ll go as high as TWO DOLLARS for the right piece 😉 )

plateOther gifts included  a beautiful pair of black leather ladies’ gloves, size Small, that I found in an alley on one of my daily walks last winter, and that fit Daughter #1’s tiny hands perfectly, a brand new  turquoise-colored  Kitchen Aid mixing bowl that I found on top of a trash pile on another daily walk, and that matched Daughter #2’s new kitchen colors exactly. She tells me it is now the most used and loved thing in her kitchen. Go figure-that’s it on the bottom…bowl

There were brand new tubes of ‘Silk and Shine’ lip balm for Daughter #3, (that I’d received in a free  bag of socks from a fellow Freecycler). The tubes fit perfectly in a beautiful little purple satin/jewel-crusted  box I’d received as a wedding favor and amazingly, this daughter is positively ADDICTED to ‘Silk and Shine’ so I knew she’d love them. She did…      silk

And last, but not least, there was a brand new ‘gift set’ of Tarot Cards for Daughter #4 that I bought for $1 at a thrift store, then wrapped in a ‘silvery’ scarf which I’d paid 50 cents for. Since Daughter #4 loves all things blingy and all things mystical, it was a magical little gift for her.


I didn’t intend for today’s edition of Frugal Friday to be all about Christmas gifts, but maybe by sharing these ideas with you, it will inspire you to be on the lookout throughout this new year for your own little finds that will make thoughtful and fun gifts for your loved ones next Christmas. Don’t be ashamed to share with the recipient the origins of your gifts either! If they are as delighted as my kids were with their gifts, they too might be inspired to gift others with found objects, and so on, and so on, until maybe some day Christmas gift-giving will become an acceptable occasion to ‘trade’ things we don’t want for things we love. It’s become an accepted practice now with my family, (but really, do they have much choice?)  and my hope is that it will be with yours too. Even if we spend a lot of money on gifts for everyone in our family, nothing we buy could give them as much happiness as the gift of attention and love. That said, it’s lovely to have a beautifully wrapped gift under the tree with your name on it! I dislike waste, whether it’s food, money, or tangibles but this practice of repurposing, regifting, buying used and offering more experiences and time together not only uses fewer of the earth’s dwindling resources, it results in far less clutter (and waste) for everyone involved and it allows me to give freely to my kids while staying true to my values. Not to mention, it’s a lot of fun to practice Frugal Friday every day and in every season!

PS About those daily walks: you wouldn’t believe some of the things I’ve found lying in the streets, on the sidewalks and in the alleys! Either people are extremely careless with their things and are losing them somehow or, in the case of those items that have obviously been deliberately thrown away, they have so much unwanted ‘stuff’ they can think of nothing else to do with it. In either case, I’m irritated by the gross excess and happy if I can find a new owner for it. We lived out in the country before moving to this urban area in 2012, and in my 10 years of daily walks there, I don’t think I ever found anything more valuable than a deflated basketball and a rotten jack o’ lantern! Do you find this to be true where you live? Have we really become such mindless consumers that we throw stuff away just to make room for more stuff?  I’ll take pics from now on of the things I find and share them with you on the pages of this blog. Feel free to share  your ‘finds’ with me too. Surely I’m not alone in this ‘discovery’!

Transitions R Us
December 29, 2013, 9:20 PM
Filed under: Christmas, Economic Collapse, Transition Towns | Tags: ,

 I got an Earth Fare gift card and a tiny blue tooth ear receiver for Christmas. I got a cold and  a box of tangelos too. But I am very happy. The cold is almost gone, the tangelos will soon be too. I’ll use the gift card to take advantage of those Earth Fare weekly freebies that require you to make a $5 to $10 purchase, extending its’ value even further, and I’m looking at the ear piece as an investment in my health since I’ve heard that holding a cell phone to my ear could be unhealthy for my brain. My Ohio family members came for a visit, and my “locally grown” family members joined us for fun, food and games around the table. I’m really happy that our celebration was such a simple affair. No one had to worry about ‘outdoing’ one another gift-wise, or had to be concerned about how they might afford more expensive gifts and none of us have to find a place in our homes or closets for yet another doodad or article of clothing. We’ve left Gifts R Us behind.


Looking back, the transition we’ve gone through to get to this happy place has been a perfect example of what this blog is about. Transitions take time, and in my family’s case, more than a decade. How long might we expect it to take a society, one based on infinite growth, using finite resources, to transition to one that’s built on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being? If our economy and society collapse, I’d say we’ll do it (one way or another!) in less than a decade, but it would be a time of great duress for everyone. Just ask Cuba. I propose that we not wait for a societal collapse but instead begin the hard work NOW of transitioning to that new way of living and being that we want to be a part of. A gradual and graceful transition to that new lifestyle is still my Christmas wish and my New Year’s resolution. I hope you and your family will join me and my family for Transitions R US. To inspire you, here’s a link to a full length film about the Transition movement. It’s an amazing story about how Transition groups around the world are responding to the challenges of depleting and costly energy resources, financial instability and environmental change.


“So This Is Christmas”…

…”and what have  you done? Another year over, a new one just begun”… and so the song goes. The tune has been stuck in my head for days, and at one point almost drove me mad, until I stopped long enough to really listen to what the universe was trying to tell me, and realized I needed to write it down. After looking forward to Christmas for weeks, now it’s finally here. I relax, knowing  the anticipation of an event contributes to the happiness of the event itself.  Vacations and family visits and concerts are like that too. Last night I sat alone in my candle-lit living room, reliving how much fun it was to wait until my four young daughters had finally fallen asleep on Christmas Eve so Santa could then begin fulfilling their dreams. It was the anticipation of their Christmas morning delight that was so meaningful for me. I am taking some time today to reconsider what Christmas means to me now that they’re all grown up.  At first glance, this post may appear to have nothing to do with transitioning, but as I re-read my own words on the “ABOUT” page of this blog, I realize that the changes I am going through in regards to Christmas are very relative to seeing the world in a new light, and so I’d like to share these thoughts with you today:

I remember one year asking my Grandmother, who was in her 70’s at the time, what she wanted for Christmas and she said there was no longer any thing she desired. She told me that some day I’d feel that way too, but at 24 years old I couldn’t imagine ever feeling that way. At the time I saw the world as FULL of things that I wanted! But here I am now,  agreeing with her. Don’t get me wrong…the lure of advertising and bright, shiny new things call out to me just like everyone else but I very rarely feel moved enough to buy them. I’ve found my groove where money is concerned and my life has actually become simpler and richer because of my personal refusal to consume, just because I can

 I wanted curtains for my living room for close to a year and a half after moving here. I knew what color and style I wanted but couldn’t justify the cost. Then suddenly, the very curtains I desired were offered to me by a good friend back in September- she found them hanging at her windows when she moved into her new home, but didn’t need them. I love them and am so glad I waited until they came to me, rather than me moving heaven and earth to get them right now! I feel lots more satisfaction with them than if I’d gone out and bought them right away. Again, I think it was the anticipation of finding what I wanted, (with a zero price tag to boot!), that made the bare windows easy to live with for so long. In this culture in which instant gratification abounds, the fun of anticipation is often forgotten. 

Today finds me anticipating the arrival tomorrow of my family and grandchildren. It’s a wonderful feeling and extends the whole Christmas ‘event’ out another day. No post-Christmas let down here! Michael and I plan to go to a friend’s house this evening and share coffee and desert with them and several other close friends. The anticipation of that is wonderful in and of itself, and reminds me once again that we don’t need to pursue happiness since we have the ability to create happiness all around us. 

As the curtains draw closed on another Christmas day, I realize “so this is Christmas…” and I am happy. I hope you are too. Merry Christmas!



Frugal Friday- December 20, 2013
December 20, 2013, 10:24 PM
Filed under: Buy Local, Christmas, Food Waste, Frugality, Mindful Consumerism, Reducing Waste | Tags: ,

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve entered a period wherein I’m ‘looking for the easy way out’ and frugality is lower on my priority list than usual. It’s due to the fact that we’re facing the winter equinox tomorrow, and, like clockwork, I’m feeling ‘old and gray and in the way’, I’m wearing my fat pants again, and I have a lot of extra things going on each day.  So, saving a buck seems pointless right now. Luckily, my winter blues always disappear when the days begin to lengthen and by the New Year, my resolutions seem bright and promising. So, given the current context, I’m digging deep this week to find things I’ve done that promote my own motto of “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”. 

Monday– Fully aware that this is a ‘first world problem’, I decided I needed to clear out the refrigerator and top freezer of leftovers, both frozen and fresh, so this has been a week of…leftovers, both frozen and fresh. I’ve managed to use up withering potatoes, a sprouting onion, bits of corn, bread ends, tomatoes and broccoli as well as repurposed butter bowls filled of various soups. Our meals have been…creative. And extremely frugal. Savings: nothing fresh was bought at all this week, not even bananas! But we did have fresh greens and cabbage from the hoop house, as well as local apples we’d bought in October (and stored in the cellar), tangelos bought from a band student’s fund-raising efforts, and smoothies made from frozen berries and bananas. Let’s put it this way: we’ve eaten plenty well this week, and I’m still wearing my fat pants, so we sure didn’t go hungry. And now I have room to accommodate the holiday goodies and meals that will surely be a part of next week’s meals when family arrives!

Tuesday– This really works. Rub a walnut meat on a scratch and it will cover it. I’d read about this many times but finally decided to try it. These pictures don’t do it justice but I thought it was amazing how well it worked. Savings: $3.49 plus tax for a ‘scratch remover’ pen.

                                                                           Before:  IMG_0022


   Wednesday:  Used Freegal™ Music Service to download three more free MP3 songs. You can do this once a week from the Freegal catalog that contains millions of songs that includes Sony Music’s legendary artists catalog. I’ve managed to download entire CD’s by  going here and entering my library card number. Savings: $3 each week!

Thursday: One day not so long ago, I hurriedly poured one cup of water through the top of my coffee pot, but forgot to push fresh coffee in the basket. The resulting brew was as fresh and good as the coffee I’d made that morning with those same grounds! So… I’m getting one extra cup a day now without using any extra coffee. The trick is to pour the water over the spent grounds, because simply adding the extra cup in during the first brewing of the morning just seemed to make the original 2 cups weaker. It’s like reusing a tea bag for a second cup. You DO reuse your tea bags, right?  Savings: one extra (free) cup of home-brewed coffee per day= what? $1.40 a week?

Friday– Made my dog a happy one by pouring the liquid from a jar of veggies over her dry kibble. I didn’t do this JUST today, I’ve been doing it for  years but it did occur to me today that it was something I could share with you on this Frugal Friday. She loves the extra bit of flavor that the liquids from canned or cooked foods (think tuna, corn, potatoes, pasta) provides to her boring meals.  Plus they would otherwise be poured down the drain, so it’s one more way to reduce my food waste too. Savings: good pet health is priceless and I think the extra vitamins in the liquids are good for her!

There won’t be a frugal Friday post next week because I’ll have a house full of family visiting from Ohio then, but there’s certain to be some good tips the following week…waste always seems to be more abundant during the holidays but I’m going to make an extra effort this holiday season to eliminate it as much as possible-starting with reusable gift bags, recycled paper and bows, and repurposed gifts in some cases! One more thing while we’re talking about spending (and saving!) money this holiday season:


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