Archive for Family Story


True Gifts of the Holidays

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We never had a lot of money to use for gifts for the Holidays in our family. There have been times I minded that, when I wanted the newest what-ever as a teen, particularly.   I also minded when I wanted to go out and buy all sorts of stuff for my children. Now? I have a very different perspective.

Those years of making things for Christmas, keeping the secret of what I was making from others, the small noises behind closed doors that signaled someone was working on something exciting, built an air of anticipation that was palpable. Just like making Christmas in “Little House on the Prairie”, each of us found time to do something special for the others in the family.

Making gifts for the others in our far flung family was also both time consuming and rewarding. One year we made soft stuffed cloth mobiles for the family on the East coast. We lived in the desert at the time and had an assortment of cactus, lightening and thunder, sun, moon, and coyote hanging from a branch. Another time I made pot holders of old jeans padded with an worn out cotton mattress pad and decorated with various motifs: pears, cherries, braid, stars, and apples. Some of these are still in use 30 years later! There were wall hangings, sweaters, mittens cut from old sweaters, and knit scarfs. Some years focused on elderberry jelly, spiced peach jam and various chutneys. There was even the year of homemade Kahlua!

I remember my Mother and Father making screen printed Christmas cards, carved wooden reindeer, and lots of different Christmas cookies. My grown children still ask for the Swedish wreath of sweet dough, raisins, and pecans that was always a holiday tradition when I was a girl. I’ll be making it again this year for Christmas morning! Yum Yum!

In our large family (we are up to 20) there is a premium on creativity. There is a tradition of re-gifting (I loved this, and I hope you like it too) and passing stuff down (younger cousins always love the books, toys, and treasures from older cousins).  We also love second-hand stores, unusual clothing, and funny surprises.

This year we are doing something really special. Each of the ‘kids’ is writing a story from the days of the Green Van and my oldest daughter is putting it together with old pictures as a book for each of us. We are so excited by this it has taken on a life of its own! What an exciting project, and what a lovely present! You can’t find this in any store nor get it for love nor money – unless you put the time into it and make it yourself.

And that, my friends, is Christmas! We do get a few things for the kids to play with, and Santa always comes! There is an orange in the toe, a silly game, a special food, and we always hope for the bit of music, the new puzzle, a good book and a warm fire to toast our toes by after a while. The real joy comes from not having to go out shopping, no frantic tally of who gets what, and the steady joy of doing something for someone that cannot be duplicated anywhere else.

Peace, friends! Joy of the season, a joy that comes from the return of the Light after the darkest day of the year! A gathering of hearts and kids and the warmth of remembrance for what has been; a pure wish for what is most dear to us all for the future; and a great love for what is now! That’s what this Holiday season is all about! It has been celebrated since the beginning of our human family, embroidered on by life and times, and still holding true today. Gift yourself with pleasure in the love that is in your life. Create a special moment of surprise for those you love, and leave out a plate of cookies for Santa, and a few carrots for the reindeer.


The Woodchuck

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Summer has opened her eyes and settled over the backyard with the  sweet scent of iris in full bloom and roses just starting. It is the time when everyone wants to hurry and finish the garden, lie in the shade of the new leaves fully opened, and dream of the ol’ swimming hole. It is the time when stories of summers past flit through my head again. The one I will share with you here takes place in the early ’50’s on our new farm in upper New York State.

My Mother brought some favorite flowers and plants with her to the farm when we moved. She had brought some of them from her family home in the South to New Jersey when she married, then transplanted them again to the farm. Some were planted in the front yard, and some behind the house where they were to hide an ugly bank of dirt and weeds. The best place to see the large rose bush and other familiar beauties was from the bathroom window, and was a wonderful view from “the Throne” as we called it.  It was one of Mother’s pride and joy patches that she cared for very much.

One day she noticed a brand new pile of earth in the middle of her back flower bed. It didn’t take much examination to determine it was a new woodchuck hole! This made her both mad and determined. Up until that point I had always seen my Mother as a quiet and peaceful person…then the big, fat woodchuck dug a burrow in her beautiful, precious flowers!

The next morning, fairly early, I found her in the bathroom, sitting on the closed “throne” in the bathroom. My eyes got wider and wider because the window screen was out on the floor, the window sash was all the way up, and she had a 22 rifle balanced on her lap. She motioned me to be quiet and stay still.

Gazing out the window, her eyes intent on her flower bed, she brought the rifle up to her shoulder. It felt like my mouth was hung open to my chest since I didn’t even know my Mother could shoot! There came the head of the groundhog out of his hole. Mother didn’t move a muscle. There was the chest of the groundhog and the two front feet on the edge of the hole. Still Mom sat perfectly still.

That woodchuck, full of confidence and greed, sat up on the edge of the hole fully exposed. BAM!! He never knew what hit him.  Mother had placed a shot dead between his eyes and knocked him back down his hole! After putting the gun away, she grabbed a shovel and buried him where he lay, muttering something about “That’ll teach ’em not to dig in my flower bed!”

On an overgrazed, poor, rough and stoney sheep farm at the beginning of Summer, I learned that a place of beauty was worth killing a groundhog to protect. I also learned not to underestimate my Mother! After that, I sometimes heard my Father call her ‘Dead-Shot Annie’!


Positive Progress

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I’ve been off and running…networking myself into a new business – at least that’s the idea. I’ve been noticed and now I am talking to some very interesting and plugged in people. The energy, enthusiasm, and joy evident in the Urban Sustainability movement is stunning! In fact every single place we need reform, or just flat out a new system, is in a marvelous state of ferment. It’s quite pro-biotic,organically growing in communities of ideas, and dreams, and deeply grounded intent. The will is there to create something new. The pieces we need are all here as well. Creativity is fountaining up in people; they are all meeting each other and immediately connecting. The air in these meetings is so delicious – full of  local, organic, flexitarian home cooking, an old fashioned pot luck with people who are ecologically conscious! We’re also bringing our own plates, cups, silverware, and napkins again! Ah! Shades of the Hippy sixties and the ‘back to the land’ 70’s! Only now it’s going mainstream.

We are all practicing the best practices for the Earth as far as we can – and ready to stretch for tomorrow. It’s so excellent to be in a room full of people who (in one way or the other) sound like you do. Or more accurately, have the same underlying vision about this next step. We all want to know what the other is doing, and enjoy seeing how it all fits into the whole. What a delicious time. This type of community is so very important right now, with the world loosening at the seams to allow for the newest configuration to emerge. And it’s full of optimism!

The “greenies” are gathering around food and becoming more eco-conscious in the process. There is a wonderful sense of comradery when you find others that don’t use paper towels, or put their tissues in the compost instead of the trash. A woman  in the same master composting class as I came up to me today, beaming, because she was so pleased to know someone else that uses handkerchiefs and turns off water!

What’s interesting is this is the way I grew up! We had a well on the farm, and particularly in summer you just didn’t take your hand off the faucet. The water went on and off fast, or you filled a basin to wash, because you didn’t want the well to run dry and burn out the pump! Then the water was dumped on Mother’s roses. Cloth napkins were normal, not fancy; and just about everything got turned into something else. What happened in the mean time? Check out for an interesting answer!

Like the first line in the Tale of Two Cities, “It was the worst of times; and it was the best of times…” Whenever you can, wherever you can, focus on what is the best about these times.