Charity or Justice?


I’ve just finished readingĀ Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance Between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger GroupsĀ by Andrew Fisher.

It wasn’t a fun read, but it raised some very important questions for me about charity and justice.

In my life, I spend a lot of time, money, and energy on charity, whether it is through work, community organizations, my children’s community organizations, or as a family or on my own. In December I had two dips into anti-hunger charity, as my family chose to do a Reverse Advent and collect food for donation in a gift box on our dining table all through the Advent season, and as I took the high school youth from my church to work in a community kitchen and serve dinner one evening. In contrast, the only work toward justice that I can think of in that month came in the form of lesson planning to teach kids at my church about justice, and in the form of a check written to an international organization that does some justice work.

Now, I don’t want to completely knock charity. It’s far better to be charitable and kind than it is to be selfish and mean. Charity and service is a good teaching tool for children and youth, building empathy and bringing them into contact with people they wouldn’t otherwise have met in our class-stratified society. Charity and kindness will always be needed to some degree, and softening life’s harsh edges with kindness is usually a good thing to do.

But it’s not enough, by itself, and it’s too easy to stop there.

Charity feels good. It is far too easy for me to amass charitable actions or acts of kindness and add some more sparkle to my halo, coming back home feeling good about myself. Justice work is hard. It often involves arguing and conflict, and taking actions that in some way put me or my status in the world at risk.

Charity is sweet, Justice is audacious. It’s a lot easier for me to be sweet, both based on personality and social-conditioning.

Today is Martin Luther King Day, a perfect day to reflect on this question. In recent years I have always participated in some kind of local MLK Day of Service event … usually planting trees in a local environmental restoration project. Planting trees is in no way a bad thing to do … but does it really honor the life of MLK?

Where would justice ask me to spend my day and my energy? I think it’s time for me to find a way to be more audacious with my work for justice!


Planning for Planting


It may be wet and muddy and grey here, but it’s also time to plan for spring! Thank goodness for seed catalogs, seed collections, planting calendars, and garden planners, for they truly do keep me sane in this dreary month of January.

The Home Management Binder of My Dreams

I had a dream about a week ago, that I was sitting at my dining table and I had a 3 ring binder in front of me. In my dream, I felt like all was well, all was organized, and all was contained within this binder. It was beautiful, and filled me with a sense of well-being and righteous organization and preparation for whatever life might bring.

In the last few months, I’ve been fighting a fairly bad bout of depression and general bad morale about work, marriage, motherhood, and life. It’s been (and is still) rough. Actually, this whole year has been rough, pretty much since the 2016 election. It’s hard to keep going.

So this dream felt like something I needed to latch onto. I’m going to start off 2018 with a new binder, and a bunch of new efforts to be organized, delegate, and take care of myself. As a visualization of what I want, I also took the time to collage pages for each of the categories in the binder: Work, Menu, Chores, Repairs, Budget, Farm, School, Self-Care, and Emergency.

More to come about how this works!

Growing up


During this winter break we have been working hard at re-doing my youngest child’s bedroom. This has brought up all sorts of surprising emotions for me.

First off, of course it needs to be done. I set this room up for a 5 year old, and it’s natural that the 12 year old no longer wants the personalized pink castle sticker on the wall. The room also had gone a looooonnnnggg time without a good dusting and vacuuming, as it was too full of mess and toys to allow for thorough cleaning. So this was overdue in many ways.

But it was hard to watch stuffed animals, china tea sets, and Barbie dolls all go into trash sacks and get hauled off to the thrift store. When my elder child did this, he passed things down to his sister … somehow it didn’t seem so permanent and final.

As a family, as a mother, this is the end of an era. I don’t have little kids anymore. I love my teens and naturally I want them to grow and live full lives, but I’m going to miss those littles too.

The Quiet Days of Winter Break

In the rhythm of the year, one of my favorite times is the week in-between Christmas and New Years. I almost always have most of the week off work, and use up some of the vacation days I haven’t used in that calendar year. The kids are on break from homeschooling, and are happily occupied with new toys, books, and friends who are also on break. Social and community obligations are usually light, and family visiting and coziness are the norm.

This year a blanketing of snow has made this week feel even cozier than usual. So, even though I’m very busy with some massive home re-arrangement and clean up projects, it still feels like a very calm and peaceful time here at the purple house.

New Space for the Chickens

This year we decided to keep a rooster and the hens from our Red Rangers and we’re going to try incubating the eggs ourselves rather than buying more chicks each year. But, we made that decision pretty last minute and that left us with chickens that we wanted to keep living in temporary quarters, and we’d never over-wintered anybody in those temporary pens before.

Well, we’re a bit late in getting this project done, so they did have a few weeks in just gross mud even though I kept trying to put down fresh straw … but their new digs were finished today!

I wanted to better integrate the chickens and the vegetable garden, capturing some of that good fertilizer. They’ll need to not free-range there during the tender spring season for the plants, and we’ll keep them away from the beds then, but once the plants are big and rooted people say the chickens just keep the pests under control. I’ll have to see how that works.

In the meantime, they seem very happy with their big new yard, and didn’t mind having their wings clipped to keep them safely in the new fence.

A Longer Table


Have you heard the saying “When you have more than you need, don’t build taller walls – build a longer table”?

I love that saying, and how it calls us into generosity and hospitality.

When we were house-hunting years ago, we were in no hurry. We loved our old house, even as it was feeling too small for us, and we told our real estate agent that we wouldn’t go for any house that we didn’t 100% love.

Well, I was almost sure about this house from the first look from the street. I was 100% in love when I saw the dining room. The rest of the house was just an extra. Here was a place that I could build a longer table. Here was a place that I could welcome friends and family to gather and be nourished.

In this holiday season, I am happy to set that table for extended gatherings of family. It is a blessing to have more than I need, and to share it.

(Someday I might even own a matching set of chairs, too!)