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We’ve owned our Maremma Sheepdog since he was a puppy, born 5 1/2 years ago. He has been a good dog, and a worthy investment for our family. Today he got into a rather loud and angry fight with two dogs that ignored his warnings to stay off our property. The dogs’ owner lazily biked by, calling for them above the din. I watched as they ran off, my dog nipping further at their heels. I guess I half expected a limp apology but the owner calmly agreed with me, maintaining his peddle, when I told him my dog was “just doing his job.”

 

Thankfully, my maremma wasn’t hurt. I gave him handfuls of treats and lots of love, “that’s a good boy.”

 

Raising a livestock guardian dog is not easy. It’s not like you can just bring a puppy home, and suddenly he knows your rules and what he’s supposed to guard and do. If anything, because he has a guarding instinct, you have to pay attention and take the time and care to train him further. Otherwise, he may just decide that your goat (or child or cow or whatever) is his ultimate responsibility and will fight to the death anyone that dares to approach said goat (or child or cow or whatever).

 

Before we picked up our dog, I took great pains to read up on the breed and chatted with the farmers raising these dogs. I even joined the yahoo group specific to his breed, and eavesdropped. Livestock guardian dogs are not for everyone. They are very possessive and like to make up their own minds. This is a great benefit when you want that guarding ability, because you’re not always around to tell him what to do. In fact, he will balk if you tell him what to do. These dogs don’t want an “owner”. They want a “partner”. And they don’t need (or want)  your lovey-dovey-kissy-smoochie talk either. What they want–and will demand, if they don’t get it easily–is your respect.

 

Respect is a two-way street, of course. I taught my puppy to respect ME first. I used (and highly recommend) Leerburg’s dog training videos. Not everything was applicable, but I learned a great deal and used much of it. Everything my dog failed to learn (where to poop, not to jump up on people as a puppy, etc) was my fault and lack of follow through. But he learned to respect me, and to this day I can–if I wanted to–reach under his nose and take his supper dish away while he’s eating.

 

Any dog, especially a livestock guardian dog, needs to know where the boundaries lie. My dog had to earn the right to be off a lead, and we took many, many walks around the perimeter of his jurisdiction. We put up, and still use, an electric invisible fence, mainly because the cost of fencing for five acres was beyond our budget and then some. But, again, you can’t just put up an electric fence and go about your way. The dog needs to be trained to it.

 

Livestock guardian dogs need to be socialized to many people, too. They need to know that when strangers come onto the property, YOU can tell that dog that “it’s all right” and the dog will leave ‘em be. Sometimes I think my dog would cheerfully greet any stranger, but I also know that he can read “something’s wrong here” very well. When he was a young dog, I made the mistake of trying to have my neighbor feed him so we could take a vacation. I made many mistakes there that led to her getting a nip (thankfully, she was understanding).

 

What were the mistakes? First, my young dog was still in training and still highly sensitive to wanting to guard anything. So, because he was in the barn with the goats at the time, his (wrong) understanding was that any person approaching was suspect. Second, my neighbor had his food in hand–highly unusual. And, third, she admitted she didn’t like big dogs and was a bit nervous–which of course, all led to my dog’s reading “something’s wrong here”. What *I* failed to do was read the situation from HIS eyes.

 

So, be prepared to spend time training your dog. If you don’t want to put in the time, then please get a breed that is much more easy-going. I don’t know what, maybe a lab or some such. Although…our lab helped to train our maremma how to chase off coyotes, black bears, and bald eagles, so maybe you can teach other breeds of dogs new tricks.

 

Also, you need to know that in our culture of treating dogs like….I dunno….royalty? humans with their own bill of rights?…some folks can be downright….um…clueless…about how to act around a strange dog, much less a livestock guardian. I had one person march right up to my big white dog, while he was in the goat pen, ignored his (and my) warning, and grabbed his face with both hands to give him a smoochy-smoochy-poochie kiss. Of course he snarled at that person who then went on to decry what a dangerous dog I had. Another stranger tried grabbing his collar to discipline him as he was sniffing the man’s calves and waiting for me to tell him “it’s good, shove off”. And then there is the bicyclist who didn’t seem to understand that my dog could have ripped off his own dog’s heads if he had wanted to. Thankfully, my dog doesn’t “want to” really harm anyone; even strangers (with me) are able to pat him if they are so inclined. But, sometimes, “dog lovers” are the most dangerous people to approach such a dog. You’ve got to really know your dog and decide whether he’s better off staying within the livestock pen, or if he’s safe enough to have run of the property where other people may come and go.

 

Again, owning a livestock guardian dog is not for everyone. Know that owning one has its challenges, but if you can train him up and give him the respect he needs while doing so, he will faithfully and loyally watch over you, your family and your livestock. And yes, he’ll even roll over for you to rub his belly. Want more information? I found this book very helpful (although at the time I was *stuck* with the last puppy available and didn’t get to compare him to his siblings as the book suggests). Find whatever breed’s association internet page, and connect with breeders and owners to ask questions of. Yahoo groups are another good place to look. Ultimately, a good breeder will interview YOU and make sure you are well prepared for this kind of dog…and take the dog back if you cannot work with him.

 

Have you ever considered owning a livestock guardian dog? Or do you already have one and can relate?


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We’ve been here six months now and we are still getting settled into our downsized home. Today we created a list of things we still needed to do around here: updating the septic system (to get water out), reviewing and probably replacing the water pump (to get water in), and so forth. And so on. And more. In one sense, it feels manageable, just to take one issue at a time. On another, it feels uncertain. We keep having to remind ourselves the *why* and *because*.

 

I just wish I could stop thinking about the *what if*.

 

Do you ever get stuck there? In the *what if*? What if I make the wrong decision? What if I make no decision at all? Is making no decision a decision in itself? What if we did nothing? What if we did everything? What if we fail? What if…maybe worse…we succeed beyond our wildest imaginations and then beat ourselves with wet noodles for the rest of our lives for the fear we harbored that hindered us from doing that thing sooner? What if it’s too late?

 

I hate “what if”. I want certainty. I want the output to exceed the input and, quite frankly, to grow old in wisdom born not out of my own errors but in the careful observation of yours.

 

It’s not mine to have. All I have is promise, and the promise is this:

 

Genesis 8:22   While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease. 

 

I’m promised seasons and a sun that rotates. Someday I’m going to die and the sky will still blush blue and dandelions will still blow in the wind. All I know is that in this life I’m going to walk with a lot of uncertainty and a certain dimness of clarity about a whole lot of things.

 

But if I can pay attention, I can look carefully under my feet and see bulbs coming up. Spring is coming. Despite me.

 

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And, maybe, if I can remember that my life is a vapor and that my goals and dreams and plans and desires are really just there to ultimately give the glory to my Maker…maybe I can praise Him for the blooms He does allow me to see. Even if they look a little chewed up.

 

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Don’t get so caught up in the “what if” that you miss the “what IS”. God promises His faithfulness to the seasons. Through the years, through all of your wins and loses, won’t He grow you, too? Regardless of where your decisions take you?

 

Blessings,


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Follow Your Own Tempo: Quick Granola and Slow Coffee

January 20, 2015

Do you like homemade granola? I do, but I can’t seem to find time to make it. The bowls, the pans, the stirring, the oven…blah. Half the time I make a mess in the oven as granola spills when I try to stir it up. So now I make up a batch of quick granola, […]


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Are You Convicted? Or Are You Shamed?

January 12, 2015

So you have failed? You cannot fail.  You have not failed; you have gained experience.  Forward!  Saint Josemaria Escriva One evening our family heard a talk that had in the midst of it the importance of naming your children at birth correctly. This was important because the name chosen sets into motion the vision for […]


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Downsizing Our Home, Upsizing Our Family Part 5

January 5, 2015
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Podcast: Play in new window | Download The big willow that broke and came down.   It was a big mess.   Thankful for friends with chainsaws. Join us for our last installment of this series on downsizing our home and upsizing our family (at the same time!).   This is the book that I […]


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Merry Christmas

December 25, 2014

  John 3:16   For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, love divine; Love was born at Christmas, Star and angels gave the sign. May your joy be full!


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Bedroom Tour

December 24, 2014

We’ve been settling in with Baby after getting permission to remove her from supplemental oxygen, and I’ve been resting a great deal. I’m happy to report that this has not been a hurried Christmas season but a rather relaxed and enjoyable one. I’m thankful for internet shopping   But I’d had enough of resting in a […]


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Reality and Rest

November 21, 2014

After five days, we were given the option of taking Poppy home on a supplemental oxygen unit and decided we could do that. What a blessing! We had stayed in the hospital with Ruby for ten days waiting for her to wean off the oxygen. For Poppy, no waiting, just the opportunity to go home. […]


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Ruby Has a Pal for Life

November 15, 2014

If you want the ending of the matter immediately: all is currently well. If you want the story: keep reading. We had a wonderful home birth three days ago, despite being eleven days past the due date. Overall, I think that despite the insanity of the past year with downsizing our home (are you listening […]


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Past Due Date

November 6, 2014

Well, it’s no surprise to anyone, least of all to me, that I am past my due date to have Baby. When I started blogging in 2006, it was while I was awaiting another baby, past his due date as well. I ended up waiting for him 18 days. I hope not to have a […]


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Downsizing Our Home, Upsizing Our Family, Part 4

October 29, 2014
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Podcast: Play in new window | Download The adventures continue! This is half of the very large willow tree that gave our front yard such ample shade this last summer. It came down during the night during a wind storm, and we were all very, very thankful it didn’t fall upon the house. It did […]


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Settling In

October 9, 2014

I still feel like I’m running, but now it feels more like running out of time. I’m a few weeks away from babyhood showing up and I am still working on schoolwork deadlines (I’ll share more about that later). Meanwhile, we closed on our old house, which to be truthful felt a little disorienting but […]


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Not in the Way You Might Desire

September 18, 2014

We’ve been talking as a family about how God always answers our prayers, but sometimes it’s “not in the way you might desire.” For example, a gentleman might pray for more time to spend with his family…and the Lord might allow him to face an injury that keeps him from going to work. In our […]


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Downsized Dining Tour

September 9, 2014

First of all, thank you for not only the comments, but for the ones for my eyes only, and for the emails, and for snail mail. Sometimes I am really slow in responding, but, Lord willing, I will get there.   I’m not in the “nesting” stage yet but I sense it coming. I’m still […]


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Downsized Kitchen Tour

September 1, 2014

Welcome to my new, downsized home. Not everything is in place, not every box is unpacked, and certainly not every room is finished (or even able to be moved into yet). But I thought I’d share with you the progress we’ve made, and how we’re living at the moment.   Would you like to see […]


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Downsizing Our Home, Upsizing Our Family: Part 3

August 19, 2014
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Podcast: Play in new window | Download Well, so much for my pretty scene at the pond! Tom and I heard the *crack crack….craaaaack…..* and then, enormous branches came crashing down, smashing the little maple I was so looking forward to watching blaze with autumnal colors. Other branches around the property have come down, too. […]


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On Waiting…

July 31, 2014

A month in, and I’m finally to the point of settling into the bottom portion of the house. The upstairs is still in progress, but it’s a slow process. Little by little, as my neighbor reminds us.   I’m finally back into my art journal, and enjoying seeing all of my art supplies at hand […]


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On Being Present

July 22, 2014

I just had to share this video. How much do we depend on social media or the internet to connect or build a relationship with someone?     Most of the time, it seems using social media to build relationships is not really about building relationships at all. It’s simply a way to get out […]


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Sneak Downsizing Peeks #2

July 22, 2014

Slowly, slowly…slowly…it is coming together. Boxes are moving out of the house, and shelves are going up. I’m going to spare you the corners that still have stuff all over the floor waiting for more shelving and hooks, and share some more peeks with you. Oh, and the entire upstairs hasn’t even begun to get […]


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Sneak Downsizing Peeks

July 11, 2014

Discovering fruit already here on the land (cherries!)…   And harvesting foods grown here naturally…   Finding ways to make do with less counter space…   And choosing when and how to use our resources…   Creating vertical and horizontal places for storage…   And finally taking some time to rest…   Blessed.


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Downsizing Our Home…Upsizing Our Family…Part 2

July 9, 2014
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Podcast: Play in new window | Download Good-bye Big House Over a week later, I *finally* have internet. I must say, though, the world didn’t come to an end without a connection. This past week has been STRESSFUL..I suppose I will be glad I didn’t have the internet distraction to make it worse. Lots and […]


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Downsizing Our Home…Upsizing Our Family

June 30, 2014
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Podcast: Play in new window | Download Well, today’s the big MOVE! The big yellow rental van will be here in about two hours, along with a group of friends. Last night my husband and I recorded our last podcast in the primo studio, and talked about what we’re doing, and why. Hopefully you’ll get […]


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What If…(on Downsizing)

June 27, 2014

I have a large slice of chocolate cake and a glass of milk next to my computer. I picked up the cake this afternoon from one of our local cafes, after I picked up the easy (read: conventional store-bought) meals to feed my family for the next few days. I’m sitting at the bar in […]


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Downsizing into the Bungalow

June 25, 2014

Work continues in the little 1951 bungalow. Tools are everywhere, dust is abundant, paint splotches are spotted on the floors and lots of people are using their time and tools to help us make the transition. It’s not a small thing, *just* time and tools. Most folks have to travel as we do, 45 minutes […]


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Downsizing Progress

June 14, 2014

What’s going on at the house(s)? Well, quite a bit.   Today in our current house, we were blessed with eight friends that showed up to form teams and cleaned all of the hundred-and-fifty-whatever windows we have. I made a taco lunch for everyone, and wished more than once I could grab a camera. But […]


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Look Up

June 12, 2014

In my mind, I am writing many blogs, updating progress as we go. In my mind, I am taking photographs, uploading and sharing them with you. In reality, however, I am burning out, rarely home, and very tired. I miss my routines, my quiet, my time to write and work on handwork. In the midst […]


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More Downsizing the Kitchen…and Closet

June 5, 2014

After spending some time yesterday in my new kitchen, I decided that what I had to do was come up with a plan. I did the same thing when we were building our current house, and I even labeled (on paper drawings) drawers and cabinets with *exactly* what was going to go where. Last night […]


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Downsizing the Kitchen

June 3, 2014

As many of you know, we are downsizing our living space from 3800 square feet (not including the basement and attic) to under 1700 (no basement nor attic). We’ve been wanting to podcast some of the craziness going on, but honestly we are falling asleep practically at supper time. Today we spent the day at […]


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What I’m Learning from Our Caterpillar Infestation

June 2, 2014

  It’s a caterpillar year here. That means there are caterpillars everywhere. On fruit trees. On alder trees. On porches. Climbing up screened windows. Hitching rides onto people. Crawling about indoors.   I can’t help but think of the frog infestation of the Old Testament. In gardens. In homes. In beds, ovens and–truly more so–everywhere. […]


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Leather Journals, Basketry, Weaving and More Beginner Art Journaling

May 26, 2014

Well, the vast majority of the packing is finished and boxes are piled into the garage. The basement is crazy overflowing with garage sale goods and now I am just waiting on other people: painters, window washers, carpet cleaners… There is nothing for me to do now but to wait during this lull before listing […]


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Bible STUDY

May 19, 2014

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 How’s your Bible reading going?   Seventeen years ago I was saved, and for the past fourteen I’ve been in my Bible pretty much daily. I credit the few years I spent […]


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Seeking Balance in Downsizing

May 12, 2014

Proverbs 30:8-9   Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:  Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.  That was the verse I attached to the photograph […]


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Why I Blog

May 8, 2014

  I once saw a t-shirt for writers that had written upon it, “Be nice to me or I’ll put you in my next book.” As funny as that is, the truth of the matter is that writers do use–among other things–their experiences and worldviews, and yes, that means interactions with other people, to create […]


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Packing, Packing, Packing…

April 29, 2014

I am already tired of packing. And the more I pack, the more I wonder how I will ever fit it all into our smaller house, even as the garage sale pile grows ever higher. At this point, it’s going to take me hours just to get that sale pile out of my house! I […]


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Hard Marriages and Silent Wives

April 24, 2014

Another friend of mine is divorcing. It makes me sad. And it makes me sad when I go to weddings, too. I want to warn the couple: the chances are very, very (very) good that there will be a “for worse.”   But I’m also sad at how our faith community handles family breakdowns as […]


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Trying to Maintain Normalcy While Downsizing

April 21, 2014

I am decluttering and downsizing and packing away my belongings. One box, one room, one area at a time. Even as the garage sale pile grows bigger, even as the trips to send off donations gain frequency, I am still bewildered about how I am going to make this downsize work. I’ve taken measurements of […]


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Rehydrating Dehydrated Sourdough Starter

April 16, 2014

Well, so much for “zero doubts” in getting my dehydrated starter perky and going again. I said as much on my post on dehydrating the starter, and I figured after almost a year, it was time to raise the starter. I wasn’t successful.   This is what I began with, an airtight mason jar of […]


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Part Two: Upsize

April 15, 2014

In the midst of downsizing our living quarters, we’ll be upsizing our family. Yes, we are expecting baby #8.   I appreciated rereading Matthew 27 this past week. Jesus, the most innocent man ever, stood with dignified silence in the midst of false accusations, mocking, insults, and wrong assumptions. It gave me courage to relay […]


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Part One: Downsize

April 14, 2014

Well, I promised to share some news, so here goes. We are moving. Actually, downsizing. Actually, almost micro sizing, compared to where we’ve been. My current house is a dis.as.ter with boxes everywhere and things collecting for garage sales, Goodwill, and Craig’s List.     This is very bittersweet for us. Bitter in that we […]


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First, You Take a Deep Breath…

April 5, 2014

…and that’s what I’m going to do for this week. Take a deep breath. Because before I share with you all the absolute craziness happening around here, I’m going to take a week off the net and hang out with a friend in the city. We plan to take a lot of art classes and […]


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Natural Face Care

April 1, 2014

My post on homemade face cream continues to be a favorite among my readers. Ironically, I very rarely make that face cream. Mostly, because I’m lazy   That’s not to say that I buy fancy facial products though. I just can’t spend that much for it, nor do I want all of the *interesting* ingredients […]


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An Alternative to Obamacare

March 30, 2014
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Podcast: Play in new window | Download   Rather than join the chorus to rant about Obamacare, I thought it might be more helpful to hear about an alternative. Join us as we talk with Jamie Pyles about Samaritan’s Ministries and hopefully answer any questions you may have about this organization.     If you decide […]


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Do You Know Affliction?

March 24, 2014
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Podcast: Play in new window | Download It’s great to get behind the microphones with my husband again! In this episode, I share about my new book, Present, coming out soon, and offer to you some encouragement regarding affliction. We’re not spared affliction in our lives, but in Christ, we are never alone within in […]


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Spring Planting

March 21, 2014

Well, it’s the first day of spring and I finally closed my eyes to the mess indoors and went outside. I’ve had starts by my kitchen windows, and because I’m getting tired of working around them, decided some of them could go outside. I put a bunch of kale seedlings out, and topped it with […]


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Tying Up Loose Ends

March 20, 2014

Tightening up and tying off the ends of my first woven silk scarf. It drapes beautifully, but I am ready to get out the cottons and make a good dozen (and non-finicky) kitchen towels.     My husband meets with the “potential house” owner this weekend. I suppose that will be another loose end to […]


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Retreat and Reboot

March 18, 2014

Six of my girlfriends and I went up to the mountains and spent a couple of nights in a log cabin. It was a nice retreat, a chance to spend time with one another and rest. We each brought an offering to share for a devotional, and then took turns praying for each other’s needs during […]


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Mission: Un-Organize My Home

March 5, 2014

There’s nothing quite like considering a massive downsize to make you rethink each and every thing you own. Many of us know the quote by William Morris, “…Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Well. Yes. Except that it all was useful and beautiful at one time. And some of […]


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Why I’ve Been Quiet

March 3, 2014

Oh, where oh where to begin…. This is going to be equal to about a dozen blog posts, but I’m going to just dump them all here. You can attend to the subtitles and read to your interest(s). MARRIAGE: Twenty-two years later, we’re still in the ebb and flow of relationship. That happens, doesn’t it? […]


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Marriage and the Art of Compromise

February 22, 2014

I was in the kitchen grinding some coffee recently and took a longer glance at my little set up. Hand grinder, coffee beans, electric grinder.     I prefer the hand grinder. It’s slow. It’s quiet. It grinds very fine and of course I think the flavor is better, too. It is something that forces […]


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More Sewn Bible Covers

February 12, 2014

It looks like we finally got a little bit of winter here in the Pacific Northwest, at least enough to snow us in and make a good excuse to spend extra time in the kitchen making pumpkin doughnuts. We live at the end of a long gravel road and without a spiffy 4×4 (we dream […]


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