Sunday, October 4, 2015

Celebrating the Feast of St. Francis

Today is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. As a lay Franciscan, I take the idea of living simply very seriously. I believe that we need to "live simply that others may simply live." I also believe that living lightly on the earth is one of the best ways to ensure that my grandchildren will continue to enjoy a world in which there is astounding wildlife and spectacular wild spaces. It is my hope that more people will attempt to do so and we reach a point where all people have freedom from want; from fear; and from pollution.

What does living simply look like? One view is articulated at A Franciscan view of living simply. It can be as simple as making changes in how one makes purchases or as encompassing as a complete change in lifestyle. For example, the Global Catholic Climate Movement - Feast of St. Francis presents some ways to have an impact on the climate. Many people are making the choice to reduce the size of their dwellings, as evidenced by the Tiny House movement, which I talked about in Thinking of Space.

I hope you will consider what you might do to live more simply.

Until next time, I wish you peace.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Direction Found

I went through my notebooks on my business -- from the early 1990's on -- last week. In the process, I came across a quote from Barbara Brabec about the difference between an artist and a craft person. She said the artist creates for themselves, while the crafts person creates for the marketplace. (Paraphrased)

It was an "Ah Ha!" moment for me.

I have been struggling for the last few years to define what I wanted to do with the business. What I realized, through Brabec's definition, was that, when I began the business, it was with an eye towards the marketplace. I was a SAHM and wanted to contribute to our finances. Now, I am retired, with sufficient income. I have no need to create for the marketplace. Instead, I can finally create for myself, while simultaneously using my skills to create gifts. As a result, I am feeling calm for the first time in years.

Wishing you peace . . . calm . . . and all good.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Surprises & Milestones

We had a short vacation, which allowed us to go to some local preserves. It was special to see not only summer vegetation, egrets and a family of ducks, but also a pair of swans.

On another note, while doing research for a book I am writing, I read a book called Quilts in the Attic: Uncovering the Stories of the Quilts We Love by Karen S. Musgrave ((c) 2012 Voyageur Press (c) 2012 Text Karen Musgrave; MBI Publishing Co., Minneapolis, MN). There was a chapter on Ruby Short McKim, who designed quilts for the Kansas City Star, among other things. Today, her granddaughter, Merrily McKim Tuohey, maintains a website dedicated to her grandmother's work: McKIM TUOHEY STUDIO, and one with Ruby's entire 1931 book: 101 Patchwork Patterns. I thought you might enjoy having the links.

The other thing that I have been doing is sorting through craft supplies to pull out things I will probably not use. Now, I have to decide what to do with them.

To my surprise, too, I discovered this is my 100th blog post. It seems like a milestone that should be recognized. Perhaps it is enough to know that it is and see where that takes me.

Until next time, I wish you happy surprises, peace and all good.

(Note: I provide links to you only as a convenience, and the inclusion of any link does not imply affiliation by me with any site.)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Revving up Creative Juices

I was reminded of our trip to the Seattle area in 2013 while browsing through some "Quilt Sampler" magazines. We happened to be out there when Keepsake Cottage Fabrics was one of the featured shops. Oddly enough, I hadn't known about it until I got into the shop and picked up the Spring/Summer 2013 issue of the magazine. (It was already on my list of things to see, of course.) We also made the trip to the Public Market and Undercover Quilts, which is above the Pike Place Fish Co.

I am also fortunate that I have access to a lot of really nice quilt shops in my area like Top Shelf QuiltsCountryside Village GiftsThimbles, and B&J Sewing Center and much more. Of course, I have reached a point where I am no longer purchasing much of anything, since I need to use what I have and want to use more recycled materials. I have a lot of "Works in Progress," that are either already begun or planned with materials set aside for them.

Another thing that I have begun to think about (and I apologize to all of you who don't want to hear it) is getting ready for Christmas. Because we have a large family party and I continue to give gifts to all of the children through high school, I have to think about it early in the year. We have had three new babies join the family in the last two years, which is just about evening out the list after taking off the older children who have graduated from high school. At any rate, my gift list includes close to two dozen people. We are also going to have another new baby in the family next March, which means a baby shower fairly soon after Christmas. The nice thing about the need to plan for all that is that it gets me out of summer mode and into creating, again.

How do you get yourself motivated?

Wishing you, as always, peace and all good.

(Note: I provide links to you only as a convenience, and the inclusion of any link does not imply affiliation by me with any site.)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Looking to the Future

According to the National Association of Home Builders (Housing Facts, Figures, and Trends for March 2006) the average square-footage of a single family home in the U.S. increased from 983 sq. ft. in 1950 to 2,349 sq. ft. in 2004. In my research for my master's thesis (on Sustainability), in 2002, I found that in 1940 the average was 750 sq. ft. By 1970, the average was only 1500 sq. ft., so the Baby Boomer generation grew up in homes that averaged between 750 and 1500 sq. ft.

According to Emma Johnson, (Forbes The Real Cost of Your Shopping Habits), "In 1930, the average American woman owned nine outfits. Today, that figure is 30 outfits — one for every day of the month."

Obviously, I am thinking about these things, in part, because of the issue that I mentioned last time I posted - downsizing. However, it is also due to the greater issue of our impact on the earth. In yesterday's news, there was a report of the finding of a possible second "earth," that may have life on it. This is the first time anything like it has been located in our space exploration, and it is 1400 light years away. (In other words, if we could travel at the speed of light, it would take 1400 years to reach it.) Yet, I heard, to my horror, a newscaster suggest we might be able to move there when we can no longer live here. My belief is that we need, instead, to figure out how we can live on the planet we have.

The other night, PBS aired a program called Humanity from Space. It chronicles the development of man, the technologies that have changed the world and how we interact with one another, and explores our potential challenges to survival.

All of this took me back to the message of Pope Francis about limiting our needs that I mentioned in my post Living in Harmony. We would solve a lot of our problems with that simple prescription. One of the current advocates of this lifestyle is Joshua Becker, who has a blog called "Becoming Minimalist." His self-identified Most Popular Posts are a good place to start in determining how to go about doing so and why.

I hope that you will explore these ideas and see how they would impact your life.

Until next time, wishing you peace and all good.

(Note: I provide links to you only as a convenience, and the inclusion of any link does not imply affiliation by me with any site.)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Thinking of Space

Last week there was a segment on the news about the buying patterns of new home buyers that suggested people are going back to the pattern prominent prior to the recession. That is, the report said people are buying homes that are quite large. When I looked at the information available on the Census website Characteristics of New Housing - 2014, I found that the average size of new single-family homes has been increasing without any apparent impact from the recession. The site gives the average square footage of homes from 1978 through 2014. Over that time, they increased from 1650 to 2506 square feet.

As someone who grew up in a house that was approximately 2500 - 2900 square feet with ten people around the dining room table every night, I can attest to the fact that one can live comfortably in 250 to 300 square feet per person. I never felt I could not find a place to be alone if I wanted it nor did I feel lonely if I wanted to be with people.

Part of the reason I have been thinking so much about this has to do with my intention of downsizing in the next few years. Another is my sense that we, as a country, need to think about our use of energy and materials. Someone pointed out to me recently that "Mother Earth" will be fine no matter what we humans do about climate change, but we humans won't be so lucky. Along the way, we are also taking other species with us.

There is another movement in the country, and apparently, around the world, towards building homes that are minimal. According to many of the people in the Small_house_movementtiny-house-nation: the-tiny-house-movementTiny House Talk and Tiny House Community, tiny houses are 400 square feet or smaller. The majority of these appear to be movable, since many communities have restrictions on house size. Many of the articles I have seen on these homes indicate that the exterior views play a large part in making the homes feel comfortable, while the inhabitants have also scaled down the majority of their possessions to fit the space.

While I cannot see myself moving into a "tiny house," in part because I anticipate moving as a couple and also because I do entertain my family several times a year, I can see the logic in downsizing to a space that is significantly smaller than the 1760 square feet we now occupy. It will require rethinking what I actually need to have available to me and how much space to allow for every activity.

How much space do you feel you need? Why?

Until next time, I wish you peace.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Living in Harmony

My break from the studio was punctuated by a flurry of activity in visiting, and our granddaughter providing a reminder that she had been here:

We got the chance to have several days together, sharing meals, stories, reconnecting with old friends, and getting lots of hugs. After they left, I was able to return to the studio and begin working, again, on the quilt. Some of the pieces are now up on the design wall:

Last week, the Vatican released  Pope Francis's latest encyclical: Laudato Si: On Care of Our Common Home. While it is a long document, it is worth taking time to read. In it, he addresses the impacts of continued disregard of the evidence of climate change, as well as suggesting how one can make a difference. Since he considers not only lifestyle changes but political and community actions, it presents a variety of ways one can influence the state of the entire world for years to come.

I found several sections especially interesting. For example, on lifestyle changes:

“211. . . . . A person who could afford to spend and consume more but regularly uses less heating and wears warmer clothes, shows the kind of convictions and attitudes which help to protect the environ­ment. There is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions, and it is wonderful how education can bring about real changes in lifestyle. Education in environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us, such as avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices. All of these reflect a generous and worthy creativity which brings out the best in human beings. Reusing something instead of immediately discarding it, when done for the right reasons, can be an act of love which expresses our own dignity.”

“212. We must not think that these efforts are not going to change the world. They benefit society, often unbeknown to us, for they call forth a goodness which, albeit unseen, inevitably tends to spread. Furthermore, such actions can restore our sense of self-esteem; they can enable us to live more fully and to feel that life on earth is worthwhile.” 

As well as:

“222. Christian spirituality proposes an alternative understanding of the quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption. We need to take up an ancient lesson, found in different religious traditions and also in the Bible. It is the conviction that “less is more”. A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment. To be serenely present to each reality, however small it may be, opens us to much greater horizons of understanding and personal fulfilment. Christian spirituality proposes a growth marked by moderation and the capacity to be happy with little. It is a return to that simplicity which allows us to stop and appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the opportunities which life affords us, to be spiritually detached from what we possess, and not to succumb to sadness for what we lack. This implies avoiding the dynamic of dominion and the mere accumulation of pleasures.
“223. Such sobriety, when lived freely and consciously, is liberating. It is not a lesser life or one lived with less intensity. On the contrary, it is a way of living life to the full. In reality, those who enjoy more and live better each moment are those who have given up dipping here and there, always on the look-out for what they do not have. They experience what it means to appreciate each person and each thing, learning familiarity with the simplest things and how to enjoy them. So they are able to shed unsatisfied needs, reducing their obsessiveness and weariness. Even living on little, they can live a lot, above all when they cultivate other pleasures and find satisfaction in fraternal encounters, in service, in developing their gifts, in music and art, in contact with nature, in prayer. Happiness means knowing how to limit some needs which only diminish us, and being open to the many different possibilities which life can offer.”

And on community work vs. political action:

“232. Not everyone is called to engage directly in political life. Society is also enriched by a countless array of organizations which work to promote the common good and to defend the environment, whether natural or urban. Some, for example, show concern for a public place (a building, a fountain, an abandoned monument, a landscape, a square), and strive to protect, restore, improve or beautify it as something belonging to everyone. Around these community actions, relationships develop or are recovered and a new social fabric emerges. Thus, a community can break out of the indifference induced by consumerism.”

The press conference at which the encyclical was launched produced a document that is also worth looking at. Vatican Press Conference - Presentation of "Laudato Si - On Care of Our Common Home" -June 18, 2015. (To read it in English, one needs to scroll down.) I found the section on the science extremely informative.

My own preferences for action tend towards lifestyle changes and spreading the word to others. In that light, I wanted to suggest a few other sites to check out. These businesses present a variety of ways in which materials can be fully used and ways to provide jobs and income.

Reuseworks is a non-profit that conducts worker training and uses waste and discarded materials for its products.

Rpreservedcom is a business providing upcycled and vintage items.

The Knittin' Kitten is a shop in Portland, Oregon that buys previously owned but not used craft supplies from estates and people who are downsizing and sells them both in their shop and on Etsy. They also create some art and craft pieces for sale.

I am sure that there must be a variety of other businesses and community activities addressing these ideas. I invite you to add any of which you are aware to the comments.