Clearing and Creating New Space

May 9, 2023

Recently, my husband “suggested” that it is time to simplify the kitchen cupboards. After all, we have twelve white plates, but we use the same two over and over.

And bowls–how many bowls are really necessary? Cereal bowls, mixing bowls, pasta bowls, serving bowls. I admit I do have a thing about bowls. One of my favorite bowls is the light blue bowl on the top shelf, and I only use it when I make cherry walnut bread at Christmas time. I suppose I could use it at other times, too, but somehow, that doesn’t seem right. And then there are the 24 small vintage bowls or as my grandmother called them, sauce dishes. I bought them several years ago when we hosted an informal soup supper for Bruce’s colleagues. How likely is it that we will ever again need 24 bowls at the same time?

Over the years we have hosted many dinner parties and parties. I have spent days planning menus and cooking and cleaning and have loved the whole process, but it now seems unlikely that we will host large groups again or even have more than six people for dinner.

Our entertaining style has changed. What we most enjoy now is inviting two people over (We have four comfortable chairs in our living room.) for “4 o’clocks”–a drink and appetizers. Cheese, sausage, crackers. A dip, maybe some fruit. Something hot. Nibbles. Often a recipe I have wanted to try. Most important is the relaxed, but intimate atmosphere for fun and meaningful conversation. Oh, and much easier clean-up. Now with warmer weather we will enjoy our “4 ‘clocks” on the patio.

I realize the issue here is not my deep attachment to a material thing, but instead I sometimes struggle accepting who I am now–my age, my energy. At the same time I have become more and more clear about how I want to spend my time and use my gifts. Still, however, I cling to the earlier images of myself. Those stacks of dishes and a bowl for every purpose under heaven represent the ways I lived in earlier years when I had much more energy. The more the merrier when it came to entertaining.

I still have a good amount of energy and lots of interests and am blessed with many people with whom I enjoy spending time, but how much of a good thing I can hold in a day is more limited. Susan Moon in Alive Until You Are Dead, Notes on the Home Stretch, reflects on what she can do with “joyful effort” in her late 70’s. I love that.

An Ongoing Process

Our daughter and son-in-love have hosted the previous two Thanksgiving dinners, but this coming year they may be visiting our granddaughter, who will spend a semester in Greece. How grand is that! Our son and daughter-in-love usually come for the Christmas holidays, and we love all of us being together. But what does that mean for Thanksgiving? Well, my husband, open and generous person that he is, suggested we should host a friendsgiving for all those in our life who are alone. Only a few years ago I would have rejoiced with the idea, but this time I didn’t respond–at least not aloud. I admit I thought about all the work, all the energy that would take (and the bowls!). I know this is a decision that doesn’t need to be made now, and there are lots of ways to make an event like that happen, but it is another one of those opportunities to pay attention to who I am now.

If you have read my essay in Next Avenue ( you know how decluttering and managing the stuff of life is an ongoing process. I suspect that leaving some room on the kitchen shelves will open some space in my heart and mind to more fully live as I age.

Words of Wisdom

When I look around the crowded room and wonder why I am keeping the large desk when a smaller one would do just as well, something inside of me is beginning to change. When three sets of dishes are two sets too many, I have begun to need more than just things. When the house is too crowded and the car is too big and the perfect lawn too much of a bother, I have begun a whole new adventure in life…It is the shaping of the soul that occupies us now. Now, consciously or, more likely, not, we set out to find out for ourselves who we really are, what we know, what we care about, and how to be simply enough for ourselves in the world.

The Gift of Years, Growing Older Gracefully by Joan Chittister, p.91

My Intentions

  • I will pay attention to what I actually use–how and when I use what fills my cupboards. Just looking at the above picture, I see two bowls that can go.
  • I will add some of my kitchen treasures to the annual garage sale my husband has in June to sell the discarded furniture he has rescued, painted, and given new life. The proceeds from his sale go to a program for homeless youth.
  • I will simplify the stack of 24 sauce dishes –keep 6 of them. Or maybe 8.

An Invitation

What outer and inner shelves in your life need to be cleared? I would love to know.

The In-Between Time: Moving Towards Spring

March 28, 2023

Just because it is officially spring doesn’t mean it is actually spring. Not with snow still much in evidence, but still the air feels different, lighter, fresher, brighter. There is no sign of green yet, but I bought the first bunches of daffodils. And I rearranged furniture.

This is transition time, and I often feel a bit itchy, restless in the in-between times. Often I channel that need for some kind of change by changing what I see, by doing more than the usual weekly hometending.

The snug transformed from this arrangement. (The pictures were taken in the fall — the pumpkins have long been packed away!)

To this:

One thing leads to another. Because I moved the desk into the snug from where it had been located next to the front door since we moved into this house, that meant changing the entry area, too. I moved the center table (top picture) to the desk wall and that left all sorts of space for this:

Voila! Another reading area and a place for one of the tables from the snug! The chair had been in the bedroom, by the way, which was changed from a heavier to a lighter look, too.

Of course, along the way, I washed floors and rearranged tabletops, shopping the house. Now instead of feeling winter cozy, the house has more breathing space and seems fresher, lighter, brighter, just like these days.

Winter Reflections

As I’ve written before in this blog, hometending is one of my spiritual practices and is a form of creativity for me. Doing this kind of re-envisoning space and our surroundings, however, is not just about changing what is visible, but for me it is also a bridge, a way to transition. As I shuffled piles of books and tweaked pillows and pictures, I thought about what changes I have noticed or deliberately made in the previous season. And what that might mean for the season just ahead. These domestic surges give me a chance to evaluate, to consider directions in my own life.

This particular winter season has been a challenging one, weather-wise, but I have noticed in myself more ability and willingness to adjust, to let go and to be with whatever is happening outside. How grateful I have been for our cozy, pleasant home, for the safety and comfort, which I realize my privilege allows me. At the same time I feel more ready for spring than I do most years. I am eager to walk without fear of slipping on the ice.

This winter has been a time to adjust to the death of a dear friend. More and more I am aware of how this time of my life, as I approach my 75th birthday, includes losses. An ongoing challenge is to accept the loss and at the same time open to the gifts of each day.

This winter has been a time when I have been more aware of how I choose to use my time. I cleared space in my week to create Writing Wednesdays, and that has become precious to me. I am working on an essay about walking the labyrinth and have submitted a couple shorter essays to online publications. In the coming months I hope at least part of Writing Wednesdays will be spent writing in our “Paris” garden.

This winter has been blessed with activities I love; for example, facilitating the church writing group as well as monthly Third Chapter Conversations, meeting with my spiritual directees, and writing my twice a week posts on this blog. As I move into spring, I know I want to continue in these endeavors, but I pray I will know when it is time to let go of any of them and that I do that with grace.

This winter has included some strife in our congregation, but what I see is that the community is stronger than one person and that we will continue to grow in ways we can’t even imagine yet.

This winter has included good health for Bruce and myself. A couple colds, true, but no trips to the doctor. No broken bones or concerns about mental or physical well-being. How grateful I am.

This winter has included my usual morning meditation routine, beginning with a short devotion in Henri Nourwen’s You Are the Beloved. My word of the year “beloved” resonates throughout the day.


Sunday my husband and I drove along the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River, one of our favorite routes. How good to see so much open water and bare ground. Along with seeing eight eagles and two hawks, we think we saw a flock of tundra swans. Although there was not yet any sign of greening, the earth seemed ready for change, for movement. Should we call these days “Sprinter” or perhaps “Wing”? These are the in-between days when we can begin to envision what is to come, but at the same time recognize what we bring with us into the new season.

An Invitation

How are you living these in-between days? I would love to know.

January Check-Up

January 10, 2023

Defrocking happens first.

And then resetting.

Room by room.

From this:

To this:

Even the bedroom moves from holiday cheer to winer warmth.

Sometimes I feel like a set designer, but restoring order and creating comfortable, interesting spaces has always helped me move forward into the next step, the bigger task. At this time of the year the goal is to move into the new year.

Shopping the house and rearranging and fashioning a slightly different look in each of our rooms is only part of the new year assignment, however. Not as physical, but just as important, if not more so, is my annual ritual of re-reading my journals from the previous year.

Sunday afternoon I settled into my Girlfriend Chair in the garret and re-lived the past year, As I read, I wrote down in my new journal some key events and thoughts, and I noted signs of growth, along with what I still need to learn. I looked for patterns and ongoing questions. I was touched by the joys and the deep sorrows.

I honored the past year and my life in that year.

Some Key Learnings

  • My word of the year was rhythm. I was more aware of my own rhythm. Along with being aware of each day’s rhythm–appointments, items on the To Do list, my husband’s needs and plans etc–I became more aware of my own rhythm and the pace I needed to function and live well. I often asked myself, “What is possible now?’ as well as “What do I need right now?”
  • About this time last year I entered a time of intentional discernment about whether or not to continue working on my memoir. I gave myself time and space to listen to my heart and to explore what gives me purpose and meaning. I asked myself how I wanted to use my energy now. The result of this discernment time was to let go of my memoir as a book, No regrets. In fact, I have felt lighter, freer, and in some ways I have reclaimed myself as a writer, not as someone who hopes to have a book published. Here’s the other thing: I have discovered that I was not just discerning whether or not to continue working on my book, but I was discerning how I want and hope to live my life, this stage of my life. Like decluttering, discernment is an ongoing process.
  • This stage of life, these elder years, are tender ones in which loss plays a primary role. More and more I realize the importance of spiritual practice in my life; the need to maintain the ways I ground myself and deepen my relationship with God, along with ways to remain open. How do I continue to discover and live as the person God created me to be?

Simple Things That Added Joy

So much in my life continues to be life-enhancing, including meeting with my spiritual direction clients, facilitating the writing group at my church, attending weekly services, being with family and friends, writing this blog, and even continuing the process of decluttering. Along with these ongoing aspects of my life, I noted in my journal other pleasures.

  • Entertaining at 4 o’ clock. Some snacks and beverages and gathering with a couple friends in the living room or on the patio. Easy. No fuss. Wonderful fellowship.
  • Continuing to roam. Driving to small towns in Minnesota and Wisconsin. What’s interesting here? What would it be like to live there? We made a point of visiting the library in each town, and, of course, having lunch at the local bar or coffee shop.
  • Installing new carpet in the bedroom. Fresh and clean. A lighter look.
  • Working on shorter writing projects. Submitting to various online venues and having some published.
  • Trying to stay away from my desk on Sundays. I’ve noticed major slippage in that department as the year progressed, but I am restating that intention for 2023.
  • Writing 6 words to describe my day. For example, “Explored near and not so near.” or “Practice, play, prepare for next week.”
  • Listening to my Pandora station, Christmas piano music, all during Advent. Such a lovely, soothing background for whatever I was doing.
  • Facilitating conversation groups on topics important to those 55+.

I have not completed my January list—there are closets to clean and papers to organize and the oven is dirty, but even so I am planted in the new year, and I am grateful to be here.

One more thing: Thank you so much for reading my posts and for your kind and thoughtful words. Writing this blog is one of my pleasures; one of the ways I continue to learn and grow, and I thank you for your patience as I continue in the practice of life.

An Invitation

What are your new year’s rituals? I would love to know.

Pantry Envy: A Hometender’s Sin

October 11, 2022

This past weekend we visited family in Nebraska, including our niece and her husband. We had dinner in their lovely new home, and I have a confession. I had an extreme case of pantry envy. Kitchen envy, too.

Their pantry is the size of my kitchen. Need I say more?

And it was organized, spacious, and beautiful.

I was in love. Or should I say, IN ENVY.

Envy is not an unknown feeling for me. I am an enneagram FOUR and envy is the “sin” or “passion” of this personality type. In this case “sin” is not meant to be viewed as something bad or evil, but rather as the tendency to miss the mark in some way. When experiencing the sin or passion, we lose our center and are not our best selves.

Envy and the Enneagram

First a word about the enneagram.

The enneagram is an ancient system of self-understanding and self-discovery; a tool for personal transformation and development. Pronounced “ANY-a-gram,” the enneagram is a geometric figure that maps out nine fundamental personality types of human nature and their complex relationships.

My husband and I were introduced by a friend to the enneagram many years ago and studying it, returning to its subtleties and complexities over and over has been life-enhancing. The key step is to determine which of the nine personality types one is. After being introduced to the types, I knew almost immediately that I am a FOUR: an individualist or some times called the romantic or artist.

Envy is the sin or passion of the four.

Envy is based on the feeling that something is missing. Envy leads Fours to feel that others possess qualities that they lack. Fours long for what is absent but often fail to notice the many blessings in their lives.

The Wisdom of the Enneagram, The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types, by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson.

They see immediately who has more style, more class, more taste, more talent, more unusual ideas, more genius than they do. They see who is simpler, more natural, more normal, and ‘healthier’ than they are. There is nothing that a FOUR couldn’t be envious about.

The Enneagram, A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert

Noticing Envy

Envy has been an issue in my life, for sure. And while I am not able to say it has disappeared nor have I conquered the green-eyed monster, but I am more apt to recognize it quickly and ask, “What is this about and why am I feeling this now?” Plus, I am more able to turn the feeling into gratitude for my own blessings and to honor the gifts in someone else’s life.

So here’s how my pantry envy evolved.

What happened first was genuine delight for my niece. She and her husband had waited a long time for their dream house, and they had worked hard to make it happen. Bravo to them. In addition, how fun it was to see my niece’s hometending skills, her creativity, ingenuity, and her love of beauty, and I hope I expressed my appreciation for her gifts.

Then I sat with what I was experiencing within myself. Here’s what I uncovered:

I am living in what is sure to be my last house. I assume wherever I live next I will have a kitchen, but chances are it will be smaller and simpler, more basic than what I have now. This is because I am in my mid 70’s and closer to the end of my life than the beginning. I have had many kitchens –some bigger, some smaller–than my current kitchen and I have cooked and entertained no matter the size or the design, but I realize I no longer do that on the scale I once did. I feel some sadness about that. I know it is time to let go of some of that need. How grateful I am for all the times we have gathered family and friends around our table. How grateful I am for the ability to feed others and ourselves and to never lack for food in our home.

My envy opened me just a bit more to what I still store in my inner pantry, and that is a good thing.

By the way, my current pantry, which is a closet a couple steps down from the kitchen, is adequate. More than adequate for my current needs, and I need to remember that. It could use a bit tidying, however. I will put that on my list.

An Invitation

What moments of envy do you experience and how can they be a teacher? I would love to know.


If you are interested in the enneagram, I highly recommend the Riso and Hudson book I quoted. Also, you can take a test at OR

Breaking the Sabbath to Keep It Holy?

September 27, 2022

“Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” Exodus 20:8

Sunday afternoon I cleaned the kitchen. All afternoon.

I emptied the refrigerator, throwing out what was no longer edible, and scrubbed the inside. I rearranged some of the cupboards, moving what is used most frequently onto the lower shelves and what is used less frequently onto higher shelves. I finally tackled the space under the kitchen sink where I keep cleaning supplies –a task that had been on my list for a long time. I sanitized the garbage can, scoured the microwave, re-organized the pots and their covers in the oven drawer. I moved methodically from one area to another, shining and cleansing and tidying and finished by washing the floor cloth first and then the floor.

I enjoyed every minute of the process.

In fact, when I stood in the dining room looking into my small kitchen, I felt refreshed.

This feeling of refreshment felt like my version of a “Sabbath exhale.”

Without the Sabbath exhale, the life-giving inhale is impossible.”

Sabbath, Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight In Our Busy Lives by Wayne Muller

Sunday Routine

My Sabbath started more traditionally the night before–taking a shower, washing my hair, deciding what to wear to church the following morning, and getting a good night’s sleep. We had missed church the previous Sunday when we were staying with friends in their northern Minnesota lake home and that was its own kind of Sabbath, but I was eager to return to the Sunday morning ritual.

How good it was to sit in the sanctuary before the service started–to take a deep breath and release the busyness of the previous week. How good it was to close my eyes, to pause, to remind myself to be there, only there, to listen to the music and prepare myself for the gifts of that time. How good it was to be in community, to witness the baptism of a beloved baby and to receive the bread and the wine. I sent blessings to each person who came to the table.

How good it was to greet one another and to rejoice in this gathering, both during worship and during the education hour.

Sabbath time, and I felt refreshed.

Our tradition for many years, beginning when our children were young, was to go out for lunch after church. More than giving me a break from fixing a meal, although that was greatly appreciated, Sunday lunch in a casual restaurant was a time to relax with one another. To check-in. To remind ourselves of who we were as a family. To pause before moving forward into what was sure to be another busy week often of conflicting and complicated schedules and responsibilities. My husband and I have continued the tradition throughout our empty nest years. Now, I confess, we take the NYT with us, but it is a time of ease, an in-between time.

This past Sunday our grandson Peter joined us. He had been staying with us for a few days while his parents were out of town. He is a good conversationalist and oh how good it was to have him all to ourselves.

Sabbath time, and I felt refreshed.

Paying Attention

Once home I continued my Sabbath–by cleaning the kitchen. Yes, by cleaning the kitchen. Doing that felt like a kind of rest because I didn’t approach it as drudgery or something that needed to be done or something to cross off my too long and too dictatorial TO DO list. No, one of my spiritual practices is hometending, and cleaning the kitchen that afternoon was a Sacred Yes. I entered the time with joy and gratitude for the privilege of living in a lovely home, for the delight of sharing my life with my husband of 51 years and in remembrance of all those who have crossed our threshold and in hopes and expectation of future gatherings.

Sabbath time, and I felt refreshed.

Here’s a warning–mainly to myself. How easy it would have been for the pleasure to have turned into obsession. To clean out all the cupboards and drawers. To clean the inside of the oven, and yes, it needs it. To polish all the copper pots hanging in the window. And then to push myself to continue into a cleaning frenzy of the first floor.

The refreshment could easily have become exhaustion. And that would not have been Sabbath rest.

Dinner was easy–only leftovers. I spent the rest of the day reading in the snug.

The day had been “a piece of time that opens space for God.” (Dorothy C. Bass)

I realize my Sabbath rest may not have been a literal or traditional way of keeping and remembering the Sabbath, and many Sundays I attempt to be more intentional about resting, but this past Sunday I paid attention to my own rhythm, and I felt refreshed.

An Invitation

What does Sabbath rest look like for you? I would love to know.


Here are three resources about the Sabbath from my library:

  • Sabbath by Dan Allender (2009)
  • Sabbath Keeping, Finding Freedom in the Rhythms of Rest by Lynne M. Baab (2005)
  • “Keeping Sabbath” by Dorothy C. Bass in Practicing Our Faith, A Way of Life for a Searching People, Dorothy C. Bass (editor) (1997)
  • The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel (1951)
  • A Sabbath Life, One Woman’s Search for Wholeness by Kathleen Hirsch (2001)
  • Sabbath, Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives by Wayne Muller (1999)
  • The Sabbath World, Glimpses of a Different Order of Time by Judith Shulevitz (2011)