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Lean on Me

Another Way for week of October 12, 2018

Lean on Me: Two Boys and Two Grandparents’ Adventure at the Zoo

Have you ever gone on an adventure unsure if you were up to the task? Maybe a zipline, a whitewater trip, or perhaps a jump with a parachute?

More to the point: Are two sixty-somethings in good enough shape to keep up with two brothers under five at the great zoo in our nation’s capital? Without getting lost on the Metro?

As a college student, I lived in a large city one year and learned the basic patterns and tricks to navigating a city’s metro or subway system—such as standing on the correct side of a boarding platform to get the correct train, and walking to the far end of the train or platform depending on which side of the block you hope to come up on at your destination. This day our main goal was just to travel safely and not lose any boys.

Had we landed in the right train? The Metro map was too far away for me to read, and I hesitated to head there for fear the boys would want to follow me. A fellow traveler seemed approachable (not rush hour) so I asked him if our train stopped at Metro Center where we could get the Red line to the zoo. It turned out the young man has sons the ages of our grandsons and he assured us this train indeed did stop at Metro Center, and how many stops to count off.

They were happier than they looked here. At the end of our adventure, we finally got to the zebra!

Washington’s Smithsonian National Zoo (free admission!) is a large and lovely park with plenty of almost natural habitat for the exotic animals to roam or swim or fly with relative freedom. The long paths winding through it on a sunny, hot day make little boys and older people a little tired and sometimes whiney, let’s just say. But at least the boys didn’t have long lists of animals on their “must see” lists: just swimming seals, zebras, and elephants.

We would have done well to study maps and guides to the park ahead of time: It had been 25 years or more since we’d visited when our own girls were a good age for it. We asked a volunteer for help and he ended up leading us to several destinations. Youngsters tend to get off track when they want to explore every little knob that twists, or exhibit door that lifts—and forget the big animals they really came to see.

Managing bathroom breaks, requests for drinks, and finally lunch (with one gluten-free child) were additional challenges (we brought our own but there were snack shops in the park). We found a shady area where two Spanish-speaking mothers were chatting and enjoying their littles (a nine-month-old, a two-month-old, and perhaps another child, not sure). I’m sure they got more out of their time spent together—a chance to get out on that sunny morning—than their children got out of the zoo! Which is maybe the point of some visits.

Yes we were hot, sweaty and tired, but we made it! The ride home in the Metro.

Our journey back to the Metro station included asking several folks whether we were heading in the right direction. When we were at last on the right platform, I found it very fitting and even inspiring to be serenaded by a pair of Metro musicians harmonizing nicely. Their lyrics spoke to me from the Bill Withers song “Lean on Me:”

So just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on….

We arrived happily back at my daughter’s house, safe and sound in time for late naps. When my daughter asked what their favorite animal at the zoo was, the two-year-old responded, “The cow.” Okay….! We could have taken a drive through the country for that.

My only regret? That I neglected to toss some spare bills in the open instrument case of the musicians. We had so many hands we leaned on during our adventure!

If you are like me, we all have people we lean on for our daily lives as well. How long has it been since you tossed a thank you their way?

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Send your own adventure stories to me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

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The Wonder of Birth

Another Way for week of October 5, 2018

The Wonder of Birth
I have now been privileged to be present at the birth of three grandsons. We have two additional grandsons who were born before we could quite get there. But that was okay too. We got there as soon as we could.
Watching a baby come slip-sliding into the world with yes–a lot of pushing, panting, and moaning–is to observe creation at its wondrous best. And yes, it is easier to say that when you’re on the “You’ve got this!” “You’re doing great” end of things as a coach and cheerleader–along with the daddy–rather than panicking with “Oh help, I’ll never push this baby out, what am I doing to do?”.
Not counting my own birth plenty of years ago, I have been present for six births; our own three daughters and three of the grandsons, most recently in late September. I was taken with the chatty and familiar conversations in the labor room and this time especially felt the drama of a quickened pace: “We’ve got serious labor going on here” was the immediate feel in the homelike but hospital-clean quarters of the birthing room. Each woman moved with synchronicity to her appointed tasks. All together, this labor was only four hours. The only male present and helping was the daddy.
So it was not surprising that my mind was led to ponder the great company of women trading birth stories, comparing length and severity of labor, how many hours pushing, when the water broke, was the baby’s face sunny-side-up (harder) or handily face down? At this birth, a young technician,  about six moths along herself with her first child, absorbed my daughter’s tips and stories: now a pretty experienced hand after three trips through labor.
Yes, labor is messy, difficult, and intimate. Gone are the fancy words for bodily elimination functions, even from the doctor’s lips. In their place the everyday words are fine and feel comfortable in this setting.

I always said I lost all modesty entering labor and delivery (used to be two separate rooms–glad my daughter didn’t have to do that) and it doesn’t really return until months later–perhaps when you finish nursing, (if you are able to feed that way.) My daughters have enjoyed trading stories and birthing tales also with friends and even private Facebook groups, like groups formed of women “due” in the same months. We all like

Grandpa was anxious to cuddle the new little one. So thankful for his safe arrival.

to connect with others going through similar experiences, don’t we?

I’m left marveling once again at the miracle of birth–and let’s not ever forget the mystery. Women around the world of every nation, color, religion, caste, income level and livelihood giving a new little child the gift of life. Even those who were unable or not wanting to give birth share this common entry point into the world–from our own mother’s womb, through the birth canal (or c-section), and out into the wild and wonderful world. Yes, scary and sad, too.
But it makes me cry with joy and praise for our Creator who gave us the gift of body and breath, and the treasure of growing up into this one life. My mother’s heart also sorrows for the many who experience grief, pain, addiction, poverty and the inability to feed a newborn child. Our hearts are torn knowing not all are as fortunate to be born into loving and nurturing families. Bless all the foster and adoptive and grandparents who step up to care for the precious little ones among us.
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What stories or experiences does this make you think of? We’d love to hear your comments here!
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Send stories or comments to me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.
Another Way is a newspaper column by Melodie Davis in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at findingharmonyblog.com a week after newspaper publication.

Ten Ways to Improve your Marriage

Another Way for week of September 21, 2018

Ten Ways to Improve your Marriage

Last week I canvassed friends on Facebook about their top causes of disharmony in marriage. I was curious whether others faced the same kinds of regular or even annual arguments that pop up for us. Several of our skirmishes no one else named include planting the garden; finishing DIY projects; performing stressful nursing duties for the other recovering from an operation; cleaning the basement or garage.

But enough about the ugly. Let’s look at what we can learn from the top issues, and how to nourish marriage.

Money was named most by those responding. Especially when you’re young and starting out, this is a biggee. We know that being raised with similar values helps, as does having long range goals that match up. Keeping a mutual checking account (but probably one person drawing from that fund to pay bills) works best for most of us. My husband and I also like each having an “allowance”—say $20 a week that each can spend freely without checking with each other. For bigger long-range goals, we recommend listening to the Dave Ramsey program or podcasts or even enrolling in one of his locally held “Financial Peace University” seminars to help manage money and get out of debt.

Relating to in-laws is sticky for many; I take a pass on that issue because I never had the opportunity to know my mother-in-law. Where love abides, keeping a focus on that basic love of parents for kids and vice versa, giving each other space and courtesy provides breathing room. There are toxic parents and toxic kids who hold grudges or put loved ones down. Talking with a pastor, friend or even a counselor can provide insights, direction and support.

The third on our list last week was chores—and I don’t know of any family or couple who hasn’t struggled with this issue. No matter how much we help each other, lists and responsibilities can always seem weighted towards ourselves. Pick one of these thoughts and see if you’ve felt it: I do more than he does; I do more than she does. Neither is a good feeling. But it doesn’t help to frame chores that way. Before marriage, these kinds of issues need to be discussed. Longtime family counselor Harvey Yoder recommends regular check-ins as a couple when you both have time and are in a good mood to sit down and discuss how you’re each feeling about issues.

Another item is the “You always” and “You never” conversations that are ill-thought out from the beginning. Try to frame those issues or complaints as an “I” statement: I feel overloaded when ….” Or “I wish we could ….” Recognize the cyclical nature of your own arguments and don’t let them surprise you. When you feel a need to point out the obvious—“Why can’t you put things back where they belong and then you wouldn’t have so much trouble finding things”—just stifle it. Commit yourself to working together without raising old arguments; they rarely do much good.

Finally here are time-tested ways to enjoy each other as a couple and improve your relationship:

  1. Go out to dinner or a movie. If that’s too costly, have pizza and movie night at home.
  2. Sit on your porch or deck or anywhere the TV isn’t blaring.
  3. Take a hike or drive or visit friends or neighbors.
  4. Make or keep a list of things you’re thankful for in your relationship. Compliment each other regularly.
  5. Especially when the children are young, enjoy date nights to be able to focus on each other. Offer to exchange the favor with friends—you keep their kids one night, and they keep yours another.
  6. Volunteer together for a cause you both support.
  7. Plan trips at least every several years, with or without children. If traveling distances isn’t your thing, find someplace nearby where you can get away for one or two nights to unwind and check in with each other.
  8. If there are intimacy problems, find a way to kindly address them or get help. Marriage is worth nurturing and cherishing.
  9. Enjoy the private jokes, the handholding, the snuggles.
  10. Go to church. If you can’t agree on which one, make space for each to have a respected connection with a faith group.

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I’m guessing that some of you have great tips of your own. Share them here! We’d love to hear yours.

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Send your own tips or ask for my free booklet, “Secrets of Long Marriage.” Write to me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Sure-Fire Argument Starters in a Marriage

Another Way for week of September 14, 2018

Top 10 Sure-Fire Argument Starters in a Marriage

Our neighbors Harold and Willie, on their 70th anniversary.

We recently were privileged to celebrate the 70th wedding anniversary of our neighbors with a nice dinner out. What a milestone!

While it is great to focus on the love and beautiful times that help a couple grow their marriage for 70 years, I know that any couple which has been married 30, 40 or more years, have survived their share of arguments. If pushed, most of us would probably be able to name some sure-fire argument starters as a couple.

I posed that question recently on Facebook and I was not disappointed. I’ve changed almost all names here to protect the innocent (and maybe save an argument), but preserved the spontaneous wording of their Facebook posts:

1.     Money. Pamela was first up with a one-word response, “Money.” Nedra and several others named this also and Peter just posted a $. Daisy added a quote she’s heard, probably more than once: “You spent HOW much on WHAT??”

2.     In-laws or parents. Georgia posted five words: “You’re just like your mother.” Dan gave two twists on that: “This isn’t as good as my mother’s” and “That’s not the way Dad did it.” Lacey was totally in this camp with “My mom didn’t do it (whatever it may be) that way.”

3.     Chores. Rhonda named a big one for many of us: “Housework that isn’t getting done.” Sharon listed “Leaving ice cream/snack dishes in the sink overnight.” At that I was going “Uh, that would just make me happy the dishes got into the sink instead of staying on the counter, table, or coffee table.” Martha said this line starts arguments at her house: “I’m so glad you retired so you can finally get my Honey-Do list done”!!

4.     The “You always” or “You never” arguments. We all know it’s bad to start a conversation that way, but they slip out. David put it this way: “Anything not complimentary beginning with “You” or “You always…” Lucy said “Any use of you, always, never.”

5.     Disrespect. A number of “top arguments” fall into this category such as Pam’s lament, “Being ‘corrected’ in front of our boys.” Patty said “Speaking ill of any of your spouse’s family of origin” or, “commenting on how the other is driving!” Loretta put two words together that cause arguments in their marriage of over 40 years, “Being disrespectful or dismissive.” Any familiar territory here?

My romantic father and mother on my wedding day, flower boy Bob photobombing.

6.     Intimacy. One woman just put this painful argument out there: sex. A husband framed it, “When a spouse/partner wants ‘special’ attention, and the other one just isn’t interested or is really tired at the moment.” ‘Nuff said.

7.     Times you should be getting along great but it’s stressful. Jill wrote “Packing for a vacation with the kids.” Lucy said “Setting up the Christmas tree” and another couple dittoed that with “That was one of ours, too.”

8.     Cleaning the basement or garage. I can’t believe no one else posted this, but it is one of our worst ways to always, always, pick at each other.

9.     Hangry. Haven’t heard of that? I’ll give credit to the real gal, Gina for introducing me to this word meaning “Anger caused by hunger. In our vows I promised to try not to boil in, or discuss my anger with my husband until I’d eaten to make sure I was actually angry at something! Funny how much a granola bar can change your outlook on life!” We’ll remember that, Gina.

10.  Politics. Only one person offered this one, but everyone may be like me and my husband, generally avoiding the topic so it doesn’t get us mad.

It’s comforting to know that others are also very human and that we’re not alone in the skirmishes in a relationship. Next week we’ll look at what we can learn from this list, and how to preserve the good stuff!

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Send stories or ask for my free booklet, “Secrets of Long Marriage.” Write to me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

The World of Work

Another Way for week of September 7, 2018

The World of Work

If you’re employed, Labor Day is basically just the last of summer’s three paid holidays, nicely spread out.

I got to thinking seriously about our national labor force as the manager at a box store sat entering the details of my custom blinds order. The manager—the top dog at Home Depot was doing this mundane detailed work that an employee should have been doing. Meanwhile as he waited for the computer to spin he was fielding calls from all over his store: so and so called in absent; what should I do about such and such cash register? The accommodating young man who had tried to wait on me had also called the manager to help because he didn’t yet know the particulars of ordering.

The manager completed the deep detail parts of my order before turning the transaction back to the young man to handle the more routine parts. I told the manager sympathetically, “You need more help here.”

He responded with a grimace, “No, what I need is for the people we have hired to come to work!”

I hear things like this all the time about how today’s younger workers don’t have the work ethic of their parents or grandparents. I hate to paint generations with too broad of brush and usually give people a generous benefit, doubting the factual nature of such statements. But some quick true stories:

  • The warehouse my husband retired from after working 30 years used to be considered a great place to work with deep appreciation for employees, expressed through bonus plans and awards, elaborate and fun company picnics, trips and great Christmas parties. Now all those perks are gone, partly because of hard times. The company now has trouble keeping people; temps are hired and they leave just as quickly.
  • A 70-year-old man was lying on the floor in our kitchen when I got home from work the other week. He was installing a new motor in our older model refrigerator, which he said would last much longer than any fridge we could buy today in a typical big box store. He has spent his life lying on kitchen floors fixing refrigerators, washing machines, dryers, dishwashers and more but said his kind is a dying breed: “The young people don’t want to do this kind of work. They would rather sit behind a computer.”
  • An article in our local paper featured a dog trainer, Lawrence Frederick, who performs with his dogs catching frisbees (and related tricks) all over the world. He said he’s not inclined to hire helpers/trainers much younger than their early 30s, because “many don’t have the work ethic or the ability. It looks like fun, but it is work.” His team of 13 dogs and nine contract dog handlers work from morning until bed time walking the dogs, cleaning up after them, feeding them, and then practicing or performing every three hours. Hard work for the dogs, and the humans, and I found it revealing that the youngest he has hired is 33—because of the work discipline thing (“Furry High-Fliers” by Tom Crosby, Daily News Record, August 25, 2018).
  • We enjoyed eating out with neighbors celebrating their anniversary recently. This was not a fancy place, and I’m sure the waitstaff only make modest wages and tips. But our very kind, friendly, and excellent waitress—probably late 50s—said she likes people and therefore enjoys her job; her mother always told her how much of a privilege it is to wait on people and serve them. Old-fashioned? Maybe. But real.

I know my readers here are mostly of the 40 and up generation, and you may have your own stories. I’d love to hear them. How can we encourage our kids and grandkids to learn the joy of work well done and the satisfaction of working with our hands—and minds?

***

What comments have you heard about enjoying work?

Have you taught your children the privilege of working?

Send stories or ask for a free booklet, “Work Therapy.” Contact me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

 

What You Can Learn Parking Cars at a Large Event

My grandson and great great niece parking their cars.

Another Way for week of August 31, 2018

Don’t Blame the Parking Crew

At an event or an amusement where there was a parking crew, have you had to park someplace that irked you?

I think I will forever look differently at the job of parking cars. Particularly in a poorly marked grassy field.

Sooooo, what happened was my husband and I, along with others from our Lions Club volunteered to help park cars at our local county fair. It is one of the bigger fairs in our state, and generally well run, with hundreds if not thousands of volunteers. The cherry on top for our efforts was a monetary donation to our club for our assistance.

It was hot, it was muggy, it was chaotic. On the positive side, we learned that 99 percent of people are gracious even when you’re asking them to park in a row far from the entrance gate, and even though they said they hurried to arrive early so they could park in a good location.

No, I didn’t see anyone arriving at the fairgrounds dressed like this.

Folks, when it comes to getting a good space (meaning close to the entrance) at huge fairgrounds, that’s a wild hope. It happens to a lucky few, but when you go to Disney World, you expect to park in Timbuktu and walk, right? They may have a monorail to whisk you to entrance gates but you are still likely to walk forever to catch the monorail. At least that’s the way it was when I last went to Dizzy World.

Problems: untrained volunteer parkers; folks driving dreamy sports cars desiring huge spaces to protect their doors; excited children erupting from carseats; a parking coordinator who tried to make volunteers tell people who had parked and left their vehicles to get back in them and move them four feet—I kid you not; and trying to straighten rows where early afternoon-goers had parked willy nilly (without parking crew).

I smiled a lot and thanked people for cooperation, and said they could be happy they didn’t have to use the far far parking lots up the back hill of our fairgrounds. I was also known to look the other way if folks said they had a passenger who had trouble walking, and motioned them to drive on up closer and find a space.

If we had had curbs and markers like these …. no sweat!

My husband is an experienced parker and crew leader for overflow events at our church such as large funerals when we must park cars on our church front lawn. He’s a master at it, and doesn’t mind enforcing rules either, and mostly he does it kindly and makes sure those who have walking difficulties can park as close as possible. But he heats up when drivers try to pull rank and tell you they’re pastor so and so from such and such (at services where there are lots of ministers attending).

I saw our building supervisor at the office having what to me was a hard task the other day: kicking people out of our office parking lot. Another job I wouldn’t want is giving tickets to people who’ve overstayed their two-hour time period on the side streets near our office.

Back to the fairgrounds and the one percent of people who went ugly on us. The regular parking officials said the goal was to prevent people from blocking each other into their spaces—other years they had to call tow trucks when parking went way awry. Remember that parkers have a bigger picture of the planned traffic flow, and we’re asked to follow directions for our own good, to stay out of trouble. You can make spiritual applications there if you wish!

Such is life on a hot August day in the rural valley we call home. We survived and as far as I know, no one was hurt while parking or walking from the far-flung fields that night. We learned a lot about humanity and maybe ourselves. Not bad for an evening’s work.

Parking gripes? Leave them here!

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Parking praises for kind people?

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Or, what was your worst—or best volunteer experience?

Comment here or send to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

 

 

 

Behind the Scenes: Making a Hymnal

Another Way for week of August 24, 2018

Behind the Scenes: Making a Hymnal

What is your all-time favorite hymn or spiritual/religious piece of music? That may be hard to narrow down, but if you are a regular reader of this column, I know that you likely go to church and participate in regular worship services. If you do that, you also likely enjoy the songs and hymns most churches count as a very important part of their worship of God. It is the music portion of a service that most often moves me emotionally, even to tears, and I’m not alone in that. You probably have a number of favorites, depending on the mood and circumstances.

Of the many privileges I have had working as a writer for the Mennonite churches these past 42 years, getting to help—in however small of capacity—on a new worship and song collection for the church is stirring and rewarding. We are currently about half way through that process at the agency we call MennoMedia and while I plan to retire from my job before it is finished and published, I have learned a little of the tremendous planning, thought, sleepless nights and even tears (usually the emotional, joyful kind) go into producing and publishing a hymnal.

Hymnal: A Worship Books is looking dog-eared and worn in many pews.

It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me, even though there are musicians and leaders in the church who have worked on two or more such productions. Denominational hymnals are not usually created more than once a generation and may even span 30-50 years between new hymnals. Let me also hasten to say there are many of us assisting with the process who are not musicians and barely know a treble clef from a bass. While I sing heartily with a congregation, you wouldn’t want me to sing a solo anywhere other than the shower.

But I have been privileged to work behind the scenes writing or editing things like news releases, and helping on fundraising and marketing tasks. As part of the editorial team at MennoMedia and Herald Press, this has also included sneak peaks at various cover designs and colors, and voicing opinions on options for title and cover. It is such a collaborative process, that other than the project director, in this case a splendid musician and teacher, Bradley Kauffman, no one person can be named as author or creator or organizer. From the staff end, Amy Gingerich as executive director has been supervisor and cheerleader to the process. What a group effort—especially for the actual committee, mostly volunteers, numbering around a dozen.

From upper left, the marketing and editorial team weighing on the new cover: Valerie Weaver-Zercher, Melodie Davis, Amy Gingerich, Rueben Graham, Joe Questel, LeAnn Hamby, Alyssa Bennett Smith, Bradley Kauffman (project director) and Merrill Miller (designer).

All along, those who have envisioned, planned, and sought input for this new collection have pitched in with their hearts and souls. A few months ago, before the title and cover had been revealed, staffers were a little giddy to know what it was going to look like before it was shown to the general public. The name and cover for it are now out there: Voices Together and you can see it here: voicestogetherhymnal.org

Raising the funds to develop a long-term project like this has been spurred by a huge and generous $100,000 matching grant from two Mennonite-related agencies, Everence and Mennonite Central Committee. They made the grant because they see church music as so important to the future of the church: bringing new generations to love singing and worshipping God through music.

This collection will be published not only as a traditional book for church pews, but a projected edition and a digital app. It will also have artwork in it – expecting 12 pieces to lead and inspire congregations in worship. I’m told that artists are super pleased about this aspect. In addition, the music will represent a wide variety of cultures, countries, and Christian theology: truly a book which voices can enjoy, together worshipping the God who made us all. 

For more about the hymnal project visit voicestogetherhymnal.org. Send comments to me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

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