Rainbow Garden

Last and best #summer #flowers #gardening #red #rose
My red-orange obsession--all blooming now. #spring #gardening #flowers #red
#orange blooms my July garden #summer #flowers #gardening
Summer yellows #summer #flowers #gardening #yellow
Just some of the greens #summer #gardening #colors #green
My blues,  blooming now #summer #flowers #gardening #blue
#summer #purple #flowers #gardening
Pink and peach #summer #flowers #gardening #peach #pink
I don't have a lot of white in my garden,  but this is what's happening now.  #summer #flowers #gardening #white

This is my garden in summer. These photos were all taken between the very end of May and July 7.

This is, of course, the very best of it. We are having a terrible drought in California, and I’ve been conserving water. I’ve not pictured my yellowed lawn or the roses with burnt petals. I’ve not pictured the patches of bare dirt or my lack of much-needed mulch (where does it go?).  I haven’t pictured how my hydrangeas have 90 percent fewer flowers than usual. Naturally, I don’t photograph the plants that perish. I kill things all the time.

This is the best that I can show in this hot time of year.

But I want to show it because I love it and because I have worked very hard over the last 11 years turning into this third-acre of weeds and potholes into my oasis, my home. This is my English garden, California-style, and infused with all the flare of a Brazilian Carnival that I can muster. This is what my dreams look like at night. A jungle of color. A rush of blossoms. A heaving of growth and urgency. A riot of shapes and textures.

I can’t explain why this garden is important to me, except to say, this is how I surround myself and my family with beauty.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick's Day baking. #baking #vegan #waldorf #festivals

Asher and I baked vegan sugar cookies yesterday. I always forget how long you’re supposed to chill the dough to make rolling and cutting the cookies easier.

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Lucas, Asher, Daddy, our dinner guest Kimmie, and I decorated the cookies after supper. I think we all enjoyed it.

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Aren’t they pretty? Icing made from coconut oil is delicious, by the way. We made these treats to leave some out for the Leprechauns (and for us to enjoy!).

Party set for the Leprechauns! Tea and cookies, with cream and honey. #waldorf #spring #leprechauns #festivals

Here is the little party we set out for the Wee Folk last night. Shamrock cookies, hot mint tea, honey, and cream.

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Opening gifts from the Leprechauns early this morning.

Early this morning, we found the Leprechauns had eaten up all the goodies and left the boys presents. Two pots of gold! With five gold dollar coins each and rainbow sour candy wrapped in gold paper.

It wasn’t until later, when the boys were getting ready to leave for school, that we realized the Leprechauns played a prank on us after all. They duct taped all our shoes closed! Those wonderful, pesky Leprechauns!

Tonight we’re going to dinner at our friends’ house. We’re bringing cookies!

Rescued Hens

My new (rescued) hens, Chocolate, Caramel, and Eliot (named by previous owners). They were kind of doomed to be harried to death/eaten by dogs, so we took them in.

Meet our new hens, Chocolate, Caramel, and Eliot (named by previous owners). They were kind of doomed to be harried to death/eaten by dogs, so we took them in. We were supposed to take in four hens but the Ameraucana died from dog injury before we got there to pick them up.

They are 2-year-old Rhode Island Reds and have already laid five eggs for me since Sunday noon. They’re in quarantine for 30 days.

Good grief! We now have 17 hens! That, my friends, is a lot of chickens.

We lost our only Rhode Island Red, Fireball, who was one of our first five adopted birds, about a month ago. She was at least 6 years old when she died.

Super Father’s Day

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Happy Father’s Day to the two men who mean the most to me!

To my Dad, who is my foundation and my safety net, I am very happy we are so close! I love you Dad. I hope you enjoy your potato bush (Lycianthes rantonnetii) and that it flowers like crazy. Thanks for teaching me to stop and smell the flowers.

To Ian, my husband, you are everything to me and a wonderful father to our boys. You inspire us, support us, and are always so much fun! Thanks for all that you do, day in and day out, to keep us safe and comfortable, and striving and living life to the fullest. Our children have an amazing role model in you and we are so proud you are ours.

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We spent this morning at the Superheroes 5K in Sacramento, at Ian’s request. This is how he wanted to spend Father’s Day. How could we deny him this?! Ian is Captain Paisley; I was Vigilantia; Asher was the Red Knight; and Lucas was Wizard Runsalot.

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The boys ran the entire way, and left me in the dust. Lucas’s time was 32:32. We had tons of fun and there were hundreds and hundreds of people there in costume. Sacramento represents! Fantastic!

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Superheroes 5k

Finally, I just have to say that I’m glad that the boys were game to give this a try, and not too cool to be playful. I’m grateful that the axe I made out of cardboard and aluminum foil was well received by Asher. I’m glad that they were comfortable making up their own superheroes. Lucas is interested in doing more runs like this. Thanks, Ian. That’s your good influence right there.

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Happy Father’s Day!

Fifth-Grade Pentathlon

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What a day! Last Friday we attended with Pentathlon for all area Waldorf schools’ fifth graders. It was held a Live Oak Waldorf School in Meadow Vista and it was nothing short of spectacular in every way. Honestly, I couldn’t be more impressed with the way this event came together. Approximately 300 fifth graders from 12 classes joined together in a spirit of peace to compete in five athletic events. This is the culmination of their studies of the Ancient Greeks and Greek mythology. They have studied and trained hard for these celebratory games.

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Before the games began, there was a very stirring opening ceremony. Prior to arrival, the children were divided into five Greek city states, depending on temperament, and each had its own color. So our class of 26 competitors went into five different cities. Each city had a set of parent and teacher judges, who were specially trained before the Pentathlon to judge the five athletic events.

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They rang a gong to quiet the crowd. We were welcomed to this special day of fellowship and competition. Musicians played lyres and sang. The Olympian gods were invited to witness. The children chanted and sang in both Greek and English, in honor of the gods.

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The gods were invoked to bless the event and to inspire the athletes to do their very best, to let their highest selves come forward in their conduct for the day. Aphrodite, Poseidon, Artemis, Zeus, Athena, and Apollo each gave speeches, calling on the athletes to hold in their hearts peace, beauty, courage, compassion, fairness, friendship, and good sportsmanship. I just let the tears roll down my face. It was perfect. (Thomas, Janelle, Suzi, Steve, Anne, Sandy—I wish you could have seen this!)

As part of their main lesson studies in class, each class wrote odes to the gods, and then chose one student to read his or her ode aloud to all assembled on this special day. The poems were marvelous and full of epithets for the gods and imagery evocative of the Homeric hymns. The whole ceremony set a beautiful tone for the day and by the time it was done, there was no doubt in my mind that these kids were transported in spirit, and were the embodiment of the Greek ideal of ἀρετή—excellence—for the duration of the Pentathlon.

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Then the athletes processed, carrying flags of the color of their city state, around the entire field.

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In the center of the field, the gods assembled around a giant torch. A child ran a small torch around the length of the field, entered the center, and then Zeus lit the big torch to officially begin the games. Such pageantry! Such effort! They really spared no expense to make this day a marvel.

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Naturally, Ian and I followed our own sweet fifth grader around and snapped shots of him competing. (He’s in dark blue with a ponytail.) I also tried really hard to get pictures of all the fifth graders from Sacramento Waldorf School. I don’t know how to say it really—they were truly inspiring. They gave it their all.

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I know for a fact that our fifth graders have been training all year for these events. They had great form and confidence, having practiced discus and javelin, long jump, and both dashes and long runs.

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After each event was done, the whole city state trooped up to Mount Olympus to receive the awards of the gods. Laurel wreaths were given for first, second, and third place. And two wreaths were awarded to athletes who exhibited excellence in Beauty, Grace, and Style.

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These children just flew!

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Lucas won a laurel wreath for Beauty, Grace, and Style in the long run, which was a race around the entire field. I am so proud of him!

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Javelin was the final event and all four corners of the field were used at the same time. Hay bales were put up to separate the areas. Here is Lucas getting ready to throw the javelin. Both of his throws were good and stuck, making them count. For a little while he was in first place, but then other children got greater distance with their throws. I think Lucas would really like to continue with this sport.

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Every athlete received a medal for participating. Some kids won several wreaths; many won none. But I think everyone had an amazing day.

There was a closing ceremony, of course. The gods were thanked for attending. Each of them spoke about the noble qualities they saw in the children: perseverance, bravery, honor, kindness, fellowship. They chose a winning ode, and one more laurel wreath was awarded to the poet.

The day was challenging, long, and tiring for the athletes. They were physically competing from about 10 to 4, which is a long time for 11- and 12-year-olds to stay focused and follow the rules. They comported themselves with such maturity and determination, even when struggling or disappointed, and also with camaraderie and good spirit. Oh, the GLORY!

 

HPV Vaccine

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I love vaccines. I love that we have them, that my sons will never have measles or diphtheria, will never die of whooping cough or worse—from some Dark-Age disease that we can prevent.

Today, we went for vaccinations. (This does not make me the most popular person in the family, but that’s OK. I have broad shoulders.)

Today, my son received the first of three anti-HPV shots. (HPV is a sexually transmitted infection, or STI; about 20 million Americans have it, with 6 million more infections occurring each year. HPV causes cancer. It causes cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers in women. Almost all cervical cancer is caused by HPV. Cervical cancer is the second leading  cause of cancer deaths among women around the world; 12,000 women in the US get cervical cancer each year and about 4,000 are expected to die from it. HPV also causes anal and oropharyngeal cancers in both men and women. Plus genital warts and throat warts.)

These vaccines (Gardasil is the kind available for girls and boys) are effectively the first anti-cancer shots, folks. Hopefully they are the first of many future anti-cancer vaccines. Go Science! Go Science!

I know some people debate against vaccines. Not me. I know some people have a hard time confronting the idea of STIs in relation to little children of 10 to 12 years of age. Not me. The point is to get them protected before they become sexually active and exposed to the HP virus.

I love that because of this vaccine my kid will face one fewer obstacle in what I hope will be a long and healthy life. I love that he will never catch or spread this virus to a future lover. We will have plenty of challenges to face as he grows through his tween and teen years, and I’m quite happy to take this one off my worry list.

I’m a Waldorf mom who is decidedly pro vaccines.

Spring Break

Vacation

Well, I’ve not been writing much here lately. Instead, there’s been a whole lot of living happening. The boys had two weeks of spring break and while sometimes a school vacation means I have more time for hobbies, such as blogging, sometimes it totally does not.

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The boys have been reading and drawing like crazy. Both are completely captivated by all things Fantasy, all things Dragon, and all things Tolkien. Asher has a great fondness for Dwarves. Lucas fancies Elves. They write books, design games, draw pictures, and create “Game World” stories, which are “video games” that exist only in their heads and they act out the action. I like those video games!

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We had one super great Mama & Boys Day; we went to a local miniature golf course and played minigolf and a few arcade games—a very rare treat indeed.

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Asher played a killer game of Fast & Furious, a driving game where he spent most of the time flying off bridges and overpasses, but the old standbys were best—air hockey and skeeball. I let Lucas play the rifle-shooting game and he looked at me like he had just won the lottery. Arcade: $3. Minigolf for 3: $21. Lunch for 3: $25. Oh yeah, that’s why we don’t do all that many outings like this. Oh well.

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Then we went to the library and the park. This is more my speed.

Lucas and Asher had a little time with grandma. They played a lot with the neighborhood boys. The fact that we now have some neighborhood kids is a great pleasure—we have lived in this neighborhood for almost 13 years and for 12 of them there were no children. Elderly neighbors. The housing bubble and then the crash. Finally some younger families are moving in.

Let’s see … Ian built me a raised garden bed, which is totally awesome.

Rehearsal. Asher on ukelele, N on drum machine, Lucas is the band manager.

Asher got to have a buddy come to play. They created a rock band. Asher played ukelele, N played the drum machine, Lucas was their manager. They rehearsed. They sang songs called “Alabama Shakes,” “Lightning Strike,” “Golden Wolf,” “Clutches,” and “Death Knife.” I kid you not. Lucas told them they had a kind of punkheavymetal sound and then convinced Asher and his friend to put on face paint. It. Was. Awesome.

I love this boy.

He agreed to be photographed. He must be feeling pretty cool.

And there was this. I love this boy.

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On the last day of Spring Break, we went on a lovely hike with Mars and NoNo.

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River outing

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Mars showed us the game he is making. We picnicked. We got wet in the river. The dogs got to sniff a lot of things and meet other dogs. We walked the trails and spent time under the great big sky. I can’t really explain how refreshing and nourishing that is for me. It’s like medicine.

And now, the boys are back at school. Our normal rhythm has returned and I am happy about that, except I’m still not a morning person and never will be.

Easter Surprise: Påsk Ris

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A mazillion years ago, when Ian lived in Sweden and I was visiting at Easter time, we saw everywhere in Upsala bare branches decorated with colorful feathers. We wondered, is this sympathetic magic? If the Swedish people decorate bare branches with feathers, are they invoking the coming of springtime? Of course, at Easter time, the ice and snow still holds sway, and warm days are still several months away. (As I type this it’s currently 27 degrees F there.)

“The Easter tree, or “påsk ris”, can be seen all over the country this time of year. Outside shop entrances, in peoples’ living rooms, outdoors in the neighbours’ gardens.”

I’ve had these bare branches in a vase in my home for a couple of months now. They held hearts on Valentine’s Day and they’ve lingered through the month of March. I’m pretty sure they’ve poked everyone in the eye at least once. I’m also sure that my Ian has wished I would take them away.

But, NO! I had a secret plan, you see. I wanted us to make him a påsk ris as a surprise. Because once, a mazillion years ago after we came home from Europe, I made one of these to decorate our very first apartment together at Easter time, and it was sweet and lovely and back then life was uncomplicated …

So anyway, Lucas, Asher and I made a påsk ris to surprise Daddy.

Materials

  • colorful craft feathers
  • branches
  • glue gun

Tutorial

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Get out your low temperature glue gun and your patience and start gluing feathers on. That’s it. It takes a good long while and maybe an extra pair of hands to hold the feather in the warm glue until it sets.

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But you can get funny photos while you’re doing it.

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And then you can surprise people you live with and people who visit, and they’ll say, “What the heck is that?”

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And then you can explain that the symbolism of the Easter tree is not about bringing on the spring, or sweeping out winter, or even about Easter witches—which is a Swedish thing! Really.

“But, apparently the Easter tree has a completely different origin and symbolism. It comes from the 1600’s. Swedish people in the 1600’s used to take twigs and sticks and beat each other with them on Good Friday to commemorate the suffering of Jesus. In the 1800’s and 1900’s, they started to be decorated and became a symbolic decoration for Easter.” —from Watching the Swedes

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Boys and Cans

May I present to you the thoughtful and funny writing of my dear husband, Ian, who describes a fairly typical activity in our home. This is only the second time I’ve talked Ian into letting me publish his writing on Love in the Suburbs. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and welcome him as a guest blogger.

Note: I’m the one with the nasty Diet Coke habit. Sometimes I add whiskey.

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At our house, like at many houses, recycling aluminum cans is a way for our boys to get a little pocket money. Of course, cans have to be stored, and it’s best to flatten them in order to store them.

How would an adult handle this problem? Take the cans, put them on the patio, smash them with your foot, put them in a bag, be done. 5 minutes, maximum.

But how do boys handle this?

The smaller brother stands in the wet-bar where the empty cans have piled up. He opens the back door wide and hurls the cans outside. His brother stands outside with a stick, whacking the cans out of the air like Babe Ruth. The cans fly erratically, dripping bits of flat, sticky Diet Coke. Some bounce off the house, some fly into the garden, one came straight back into the house, over the little brother, and careened off the TV hutch.

I could, at this point, interject some paternal guidance into this operation. However, that would take all of the fun out of it. Adult methods, I have come to realize, are quick, efficient, effective, but altogether too much of a drag.

Once the cans are outside they need to be gathered into one place for crushing. This is accomplished by taking whatever tool is handy and hitting the cans with maximum force a la ice hockey. Since the cans have been distributed a great distance an argument is necessary to determine who is responsible for gathering the most distant cans.

While the big brother continues to herd cans, the little brother comes in to find a bag into which the cans may be put. The bags are on top of the clothes dryer, but he can’t find them. They are on top of the clothes dryer, but he doesn’t see them. The clothes dryer! The laundry, they are on the—oh, he found them, good.

The presence of the bag necessitates another argument about who has to pick up the cans. While one can see both points of view, one really doesn’t care, just pick them up.

Finally, the bag of cans is stored in the middle of the walkway in the overcrowded garage, but at least the task is done. Or is it? Stray cans can be found under the rhododendrons, behind the hot tub, and on the lawn. Asking the boys to pick up these cans as well elicits a complaint: “But Dad, we’ve already done the cans!” as if these cans were not part of the original project.

Seven Days of Increasing Kindness

“Kind hearts are the gardens, Kind thoughts are the roots, Kind words are the flowers, Kind deeds are the fruits, Take care of your garden And keep out the weeds, Fill it with sunshine, Kind words and kind deeds.” —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Do you ever get crabby or short-tempered? I do. Sometimes I have to work hard to be my best self. Kindness in everyday interactions makes pretty much every situation better. We can make kindness even more reflexive by taking some time to work on it.

Day 1: Set Your Intention

California Central Valley

“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” —Albert Schweitzer

First, you have to want to embrace kindness. Maybe kindness is already part of your spiritual beliefs or religious practice. Or perhaps no one has ever put it to you that living virtuously is largely a matter of being kind to others. If you’re ready to embark on this little seven-day experiment, sit for a moment with yourself and commit to it. Over the course of this week, you will endeavor to keep kindness in the forefront of your mind. You will do your best to notice kindness, engage in it, share it with others, and give thanks for it. Read ahead on this first day, if you wish. Know what you’re getting into. Really, you do this stuff already, so relax and set your intention. Making a mindful practice of kindness will be simple and rewarding.

Day 2: Plan Your Kindness

Daddy Helps

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” —Dalai Lama

Just as you write out the week’s grocery list or daily tasks, you can plan kindness into your life. I believe you already do this, but you’re perhaps not aware of it. Every time you agree to pick up your girlfriend’s kids from school, take your Mom to tea, pack your child’s lunch, or iron a shirt you are being kind. Those everyday kindnesses are wonderful and important. Chances are, they shape your days. With just a little more mindfulness, however, you can plan something extra—some out-of-the-ordinary kindness—into your week that could really mean the world to someone. So get out your calendar. What things have you been meaning to do lately? Who has been in your thoughts or your dreams? What can you say or do to touch their lives this week?

Day 3: Think Kind Thoughts

Lucas Love

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” —Lao Tzu

Think for a few minutes today about your family members and pay attention to all the things you appreciate about them. Overlook failings or hurts and focus on the good stuff. What do you wish for these beloveds today, this week, or this year? What good do you hope for them? Now expand your kind thoughts to include friends, coworkers, students, acquaintances, etc. Think of the people who are facing challenges, ill health, or difficult change. Imagine all the kind things you would like to say to them or do to help them. Think about the wonderful communities to which you belong. This next part is harder: Think of people you usually do not like or with whom you have difficulty getting along. Think kind thoughts about them; find something you appreciate in the situation. There’s always something. You’ll find it.

Day 4: Say Kind Words

Rainbow of Handmade Quills

“Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.” —Blaise Pascal

Some days pass by without our paying much attention to what we say, especially when we are busy. We show our love and concern for others (or lack of it) in our choice of words and our tone of voice. All people deserve respectful, kind words. You might be surprised to observe you’re always polite to the restaurant server, but sometimes are snappish or dismissive to those you love most in the world. Take a deep breath and allow the kindness of your heart to ride forth on your words. Here are some ideas for cultivating kindness in what you say: Greet your family after sleeping or an absence. Smile. Tell them how happy you are to be with them again. Call a friend or elderly person on the phone. Say that you were thinking of them and wanted to hear their voice. Ask them how they are. Give compliments as often as possible. Write a letter or an email. A handwritten letter these days can have a tremendous impact, so take out your stationary and write. Show your appreciation for the help you receive by saying thank you. You’ll melt when you see your child’s smile after you say those blessed words.

Day 5: Do Kind Deeds

Pumpkin Rye Bread Rising

“The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.” —William Wordsworth

This one is easy. You do kind deeds every day! And now that you’ve been thinking a lot about kindness you probably have many new ideas of kind things you can do for others. Pay for someone’s food or toll. Help someone with a chore. Make a favorite meal. Volunteer. Teach someone something they need to know. Save someone some time or effort by taking on a task and lightening their load. Share what you have with someone who has none. Give a gentle, healing touch or a hug. Make something especially for someone, personalizing it and pouring your kindness into the gift. The possibilities are endless, and the joy that results from kind deeds is sublime.

Day 6: Make Kind Wishes

Morning Walk to Preschool

“If you want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.” —Mother Teresa

You may be accustomed to meditation or prayer in which you send out your love to others. You may already say blessings at mealtimes that express your care and concern for humanity and the health of our planet. This is your kindness spreading to all beings, to all corners of the earth. Even if this feels alien or uncomfortable, try it. Think of all the good you’d like to exist in the world: peace, sufficient food and resources, sustainable living, the end of human rights abuses, the end of horrible violence and murder, love and support for the world’s children, education for all. Wish it for all our sakes. Let your kindness radiate from your heart into the universe. Let your kindness waft on the breeze to all beings everywhere.

Day 7: Reflect on Kindness

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“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.” —George Washington Carver

You are here because of the kindness of others. In your life, you have received a million small acts of kindness, gifts, boons, words of encouragement, and good wishes. Adopting a reflective attitude about this can lead to a deep sense of gratitude. When you truly appreciate the gifts of your life, you will give to others in turn with intention and generosity. So, make a list. Take a few minutes and start writing down the names of people who have been kind to you. You will most likely immediately write the names of your partner, your parents, and your children. After you get through all of the obvious ones, you will expand your awareness of all the people who do or say kind things for you: your boss, your coworkers, your child’s teacher, your grocery clerk, the librarian at your elementary school when you were a child. Before long, you’ll have a list of names a mile long. Now, don’t you feel supported and cherished? How have you benefited from these kindnesses? I’m sure that’s a long list, too.

Finally, reflect on your week of increasing kindness and know that others noticed and benefited. You touched lives with your many kindnesses. How do you feel? Now notice how you yourself have benefited from your kindness experiment. Know also that you have modeled a beautiful way of being to your children and others.

“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.” —Amelia Earhart

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  • About Sara

    Thanks for visiting! I'm Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

    Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.

    © 2003–2017 Please do not use my photographs or text without my permission.

    "Love doesn't just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new." —Ursula K. LeGuinn

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