Monday, May 26, 2008

Thank you Michelle for E = Excellence Award and passing it along

Wow. While I was away on vacation, Michelle of Crow's Feet, a recent find that quickly became a favorite and part of my blogroll, posted an "E is for Excellent" award for Realizing Ordinary. Thank you, Michelle!

The best part of the award, is that it earns me the right pass it along to some of the blogs I enjoy. These are favorites because they get right down to the nitty gritty of the writer's daily life and/or make cogent commentary about the environment, politics and our world. They're well-written. They show us all how to face the crud with the good and to do it with grace. Quite often they include a bit of humor. Enjoy.

  1. Outside the Windows
  2. Verbena-19
  3. Full Soul Ahead
  4. Nature Mom's blog--a guide to natural family life
  5. Wondering
  6. Emotions, by an Iraqi mother
  7. Path to freedom: Little Homestead in the City
  8. Time goes by
  9. ulti hkpodi
  10. Dharma Vision

Memorial Day Prayer 2008

May all who cherish the memory and life of someone gone be blessed with memories more joyous than sad. May all who have lost heart, limbs or lives fighting other men's wars be healed. May their families be comforted. May all who have killed be forgiven. May all our hearts be filled with an insatiable lust for peace at home, abroad and on any battlefield anywhere. Be we ruler or serf, may our craving for peace be so deep we pursue it relentlessly, eschewing violence, responding only with compassion, until peace on Earth is no longer a promise or a dream, but true and lasting.

Skill, knowledge, compassion and one ordinary woman

She'll never win a Nobel prize, be highlighted in a feature article or lauded on Oprah. There's no video to show you what she does. There's no website that explains it. I can't tell you her name. I can't tell you details about her work because I can't know them. No one outside her offices and the individuals involved can. What I can tell you is that she's at the office most days by 6:00 or 6:30. Quite often, she stays hours late, and she puts in at least one eight or nine hour Saturday a month. Hardly a day goes by that she doesn't walk, unprotected, into neighborhoods where drive-by shootings and other violence are the norm. Her life is threatened repeatedly.

She's a social worker in San Francisco, and she's charged with protecting children whose parents are unable or unwilling to assure their children's safety themselves. Sometimes she must protect children from parents who harm them. And sometimes, when years of providing services, care and support to parents proves futile, and the parents continue to put a child at grave risk, she must testify in a hearing that results in terminating the parent's rights. Her heart breaks every time.

Long before it comes to that, she uses every tool at her disposal, both personal and system-provided, to help the parent turn her or his life around and regain custody of their child. She has plenty of tools. Together, she and the parents succeed far more than they fail.

What's her secret? She is the most successful communicator I know. I speak only from personal experience, and that is considerable, in both public and private discourse. She has a way of honoring each individual. In the most tense situations where multiple parties are involved, I have seen her respond in such a way that each person feels she is on his or her side. No matter how strongly she may disagree with another's point of view, she never fails to show respect first to the individual, but also for their feelings and beliefs.

She is a born teacher. Patient and keen, she asks as many questions as she answers. More importantly, she listens to the answers. Always, she helps people begin from where they are. She understands setbacks, and she understands next steps. Especially, she understands individual triumph. She's there with a congratulatory gift in hand when a mom graduates from rehab, when an at-risk teenager graduates high school. Sometimes she's the only person there.

She's not the only social worker putting her life on the line every day to help children in danger, and she's not the only one with that combination of skill, knowledge and compassion, but Anonymous asked a few days ago who in San Francisco is helping to build an Ordinary world, and she leapt to mind. If you're lucky enough to know her, your life is rich beyond measure. She is the main reason I know the Village of Ordinary is possible today, right now.

Who in your life is an Ordinary hero? Tell us about that person in the comments section below.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Edible balcony

This is the last in our series on permaculture gardening. In this vid, feralkevin nibbles freshly picked tea leaves, campanula and nasturtium he grows in pots in his tiny balcony garden. He includes this disclaimer with his video, and I add it in its entirety.

DISCLAIMER: This posting does not claim to be an instructional guide to eating wild plants. Never eat a plant unless you're completely sure of its edibility, and do not use this posting or other feralkevin postings to identify plants.

So what do you think of his fertilizer source?

Coming up next: In comments on Would you trade your daughter for a cow, Anonymous asks for examples of ordinary people creating an Ordinary world in her/his hometown, San Francisco. There are plenty. I'll introduce you to three of them beginning tomorrow.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tiny Urban Farm in the City

So you live in the city and you can't consider permaculture as an option? Take a look at how one family turned its yard into an organic urban farm. Mind you, unlike many of us in the city, they have a yard, 1/10 of an acre in fact.

They're supplying freshly harvested vegetables and fruits to gourmet restaurants. Fresh, according to the chef in this vid, means picked less than two hours ago. That's ripe, and ripe is tasty.

For more on the Dervaes family and their urban homestead, visit their fascinating website.

Tomorrow, we'll look at one fellow who gardens on his tiny city balcony.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Suburban Renewal - One backyard at a time

Earlier this week we learned from Bill Mollison of the Permaculture Research Institute that permaculture is a design system which incorporates Nature's principles to support human life without degrading habitat and ecosystems for all other life forms.

In this vid by Peak Moment TV: Community responses for a changing energy future, host Janaia Donaldson visits Jan Spencer in his Eugene, Oregon, permaculture home and garden.

What did you think of Spencer's use of urbanite? We're seeing this term more and more for concrete, steel and wood mined from urban lots, buildings and highways as the old is torn out and replaced. Keep this in mind when we get to the discussion, way down the road, about whether the world of Ordinary has always existed as we find it now, or whether villagers learned from a past much like our present. If their society evolved from one something like ours, what did they do with the cities and highways? Where did all those buildings and the stuff inside them go?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The unforgiven

In I defeat my enemy when I make him my friend, this month's issue of Ode Magazine includes a piece titled "The Unforgiven." The story is true. The cast of characters includes Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Leslie Belinda of the Tutu Foundation, Donna Hicks of Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, and two men identified as Ronnie and Malcom.

Ronnie is a member of the Irish Republic Army (IRA) who spent 25 years in prison for shooting Malcom, a British police officer who prevented Ronnie and his cohorts from setting off a bomb in England and nearly lost his life doing it.

What were these two men doing sitting across each other at a table in a house near Belfast, and why were the Archbishop, Leslie and Donna with them? This meeting was set up and filmed by the British Broadcast Corporation (BBC) as part of its attempt to foster understanding and healing between factions of the centuries-old conflict in Ireland. The hope is to end the conflict once and for all.

When you read how Ronnie and Malcom were able to move from extreme discomfort to a standing handshake across the table, and later lunch together in a pub, you'll understand just how possible it is to attain peace and live in harmony. An Ordinary world is within our grasp.

Here again is the link to the article. Read it. You'll be glad you did. "The Unforgiven" is the third story in the set, and the first two are equally compelling.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

We're in the garden of Eden

The only job we have left on earth that can express our humanity, is to return other species to their place, and take our place, which is a small place in the total system.
Bill Mollison

In parts 5 and 6 of In danger of falling food, Bill Mollison takes us from a rain forest to an African desert plateau nearly completely denuded of vegetation, then to Crystal Waters Permaculture Village, and finally to a 67 year old garden he calls the garden of Eden.

Note: This is a continuation of the hour-long film In grave danger of falling food by 220 Productions. The segments stop and start mid-sentence. See May 19 and 20 posts for parts 1 and 2, 3 and 4, respectively.

[Permaculture] has to be the mainstream agriculture of any future society.
Bill Mollison

People say to me, will permaculture work? I say, will plants grow?
Bill Mollison
I give gratitude to 220 Productions for making this film available on YouTube and to Bill Mollison and the others of the Permaculture Research Institute for teaching us all how to recognize our place in the natural system. I give gratitude as well for their showing us how to build a world much like the Village of Ordinary.

Next: We'll take a break from the world as garden and I'll introduce you to two amazing men who sat across the table from one another, made eye contact, and shook hands. One of them spent 25 years in jail for shooting to kill the other. He nearly succeeded.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bringing the chickens home

Modern agriculture is not a system for producing food, but for producing money.
Bill Mollison
In parts 3 and 4 of In danger of falling food, permaculture co-originator Bill Mollison takes us on a tour of his newest garden, where plump, healthy chickens strut their stuff, then samples the delectables in one of his first gardens, now fully mature. This garden has something blooming and growing year round, and none of it is weeds.
Digging causes work. Work causes digging. Weeds cause work. Digging causes weeds. Cause and effect. Vicious cycle.
Bill Mollison
You may have noticed in parts 1 and 2 that each part begins where the other left off, usually mid-sentence. That's because In danger of falling food is a one-hour piece, chopped into parts for YouTube viewing.

How many eggs does it take to produce one egg? If you live in the city, how much of your food dollar is for food and how much for transportation, fuel and waste? (Try 95 percent.)
Society is caught up in this system of destruction. Instead of all that, you can grow a garden in a few weeks that will provide you with vegetables and timber all your life, and it seems to me to be much more sane and responsible that people should be trained to put in those few weeks of work.
Bill Mollison
How realistic is it to grow food where we live? Find out in part 4.

My favorite line from this segment: "All plants are carnivores. They eat you in the end." Now that's Ordinary.

Monday, May 19, 2008

In danger of falling food

Bill Mollison is a living legend. He's known as the genius of permaculture.
Alan AtKisson introducing his interview with Bill Mollison
If you have a few extra minutes, you'll be glad you spent them reading the interview. Mollison's a natural teacher who entertains so effortlessly you forget you're learning. Here's a sampling of what he has to say.

On designing community: Why is it that we don't build human settlements that will feed themselves, and fuel themselves, and catch their own water, when any human settlement could do that easily? When it's a trivial thing to do?

On designing homes: A house should look after itself - as the weather heats up the house cools down, as the weather cools down the house heats up. It's simple stuff, you know? We've known how to do it for a long time.

On agriculture: That we don't design agriculture to be sustainable is totally eerie. We design it to be a disaster, and of course, we get a disaster.

Mollison is featured in In grave danger of falling food, an hour-long documentary about the permaculture concept presented by 220 Productions in their series Visionaries: Small solutions to enormously large problems. The program is available free on YouTube, in easy-to-watch ten-minute segments.

In these first two segments, Mollison builds a balcony garden and takes us into a rare Antarctic beech forest remnant billions of years old."If we lose our forests," he says, "we lose our greatest instructors."

The elegance of permaculture design is that you start where you are. Everyone can do it. In Part 2, Mollison shows us how to grow an edible garden, complete with an aquatic system and frogs, if we like, on a narrow city balcony, but don't count on eating the frogs, because they'll become your friends and "you can't eat your friends."

Permaculture is urging complete cooperation between each other and every other thing, animate and inanimate.
As quoted in the Alan AtKisson interview
That's what the Village of Ordinary is about, and that's why permaculture is so important to the vision.

Tomorrow: Parts three and four of In grave danger of falling food.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Greening the desert

Geoff Lawton taught a group of agronomists in Jordan how to turn ten acres of salty desert into a fruit-bearing garden. What's more, they sprinkled only one-fifth the irrigation water other folks were using in the region. They were so successful that months later Lawton received an e-mail from the Jordanians telling him there was fungus growing in the soil. The fungus was mushrooms, and the Jordanians were astonished because they had never seen mushrooms.

Take five minutes and twenty seconds to see how Lawton's team grew fruiting figs in just four months. More find out just how important those surprising mushrooms were to the success of the project. (I'm tempted to say, like the nightly pre-news blurb: "You won't believe the significance of those seemingly insignificant mushrooms ...")

Edit 5/19/08: My apologies, friends and readers. I embedded the wrong video last night. I've moved it to its rightful place in today's post. This is Greening the Desert. Watch it and be amazed.

You can solve all the world's problems with a garden.
Geoff Lawton

Think of denuded jungles and clear-cut forests, now desert wastelands all over the earth. Think of reclaiming them with these techniques. Think of using such techniques to grow food worldwide.

Tomorrow, we'll delve deeper into permaculture, with the first of six ten-minute videos with Bill Mollison, one of the founders of permaculture. You'll be filled with hope, and just possibly inspired to start your own permaculture garden on your urban balcony, and maybe to plant a few seeds. Now that's Ordinary.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

See the three hundred year old food forest

For twenty-eight generations, this Vietnamese family has grown its food and medicinal supplies on two acres of land in what permaculture expert and trainer Geoff Lawton calls a three hundred year old food forest.

We can do this. A bountiful lifestyle like the one Rose, Cheyenne and the entire Village of Ordinary enjoy is possible for each of us now. We can eat healthier, preserve our precious water supply, and live in harmony with the Earth.

Over the next few days, I'll show you how Geoff Lawton trained a team of Jordanians to grow figs and citrus in the sandy desert, how urban gardeners are relaxing with permaculture gardens on their balconies and in their backyards, and how permaculture co-originator Bill Mollison got his start reclaiming overgrazed land and rebuilding the soil and local water resources.

You might be surprised how much of your own energy a permaculture lifestyle can save, because permaculture is not just about the food. It's about a way of life that gives back as much as it takes. Stay tuned. Learn how. And if you're already doing it, tell me about it in the comments section below. We can learn from each other.

Friday, May 16, 2008

What is permaculture and why should you care?

Permaculture is
  • Care of the Earth
  • Care of People
  • Setting limits to population and consumption
  • Reinvesting surplus back into the system
Those are Penny Livingston-Stark's words, not mine. She's talking about the basic tenets of permaculture, and in this video by globaloneness she shows how agriculture is perhaps the easiest way for us to begin to adapt the concepts of permaculture into our lives. Take a look.

David Holmgren and Bill Mollison developed the concept of permaculture in Australia in the Seventies. Mollison says the term permaculture is a marriage of two words: permanent culture. By observing and imitating natural systems, say Mollison and Holmgren, we can better establish a working partnership with nature that ensures the longevity of our species. Rather than the slash and burn, pillage and exploit, tear down and rebuild strategy of the past three centuries, permaculture shows us how to live in abundance without destroying our world.

Want to see how it works? Check out Crystal Waters Permaculture Village and Earthaven Ecovillage. These people have been living in an Ordinary village for decades. They show the rest of us how.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bloggers united for human rights May 15, 2008

Bloggers UniteToday bloggers all over the world are writing about human rights abuses wherever they see them, feel them, know of them. There is much to tell.

I'm staying close to home. Jarvenpa is a blogger/bookstore owner in Northern California. She writes so compellingly of her friends living on the edge that I would rather you read her post, Where we are at home. Go there. Read. You'll be glad you did. How many people do you know who are one paycheck away from homelessness? How many do you know who could not meet their rent or mortgage payments if the economy soured just a little more? Where would they sleep?

I don't have the answers to homelessness, but I know there is something wrong when our society puts people with mental illness on the street with no safety net under them. I know there is something wrong when society demands that the homeless find another neighborhood to lie down and rest, not under their bridge, their overpass, their doorway. I treasure the example Jarvenpa sets for us all. How Ordinary can we make that example in each of our lives?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Go native or exotic?

In Where I'm going--Short term I listed, in no particular order, some of the foundation issues I've been researching for Village of Ordinary. The first of those is: Should the people of Ordinary grow only native plants, or can they enjoy exotic shrubs, trees and forbes?

Wherever possible, the people of Ordinary Earth use native plants. Like peoples everywhere, however, trade is an important source of diversity in diet, textiles, ceramics, clothing and art, as well as agricultural and landscaping materials. Human beings have always hungered for the exotic, and the people of Ordinary are no different. They enjoy the bounty and variety of imported trees and shrubs, especially as food sources, but also as ornamentals. Where Earth tenders in the land of Ordinary differ from our culture is in the care with which they introduce exotics.

Before a new plant is introduced to the environment, every known factor is gleaned from the host community gardeners. What pests or diseases like it? Is it an invasive plant? Does it tolerate conditions similar to those it will find in the new location? How might cultivating this plant in the landscape affect wildlife? If the local agronomists decide the plant is worthy of testing, they carry it home, carefully isolating seeds or cuttings.

Sample plants are cultivated in a closed system, with care taken to avoid accidental release of seed or spore to the environment. Nursery workers plant new seeds or cuttings in conditions that simulate local soil, air, moisture and light. They observe how the quarantined plants respond to the environment. Do they thrive? Are they prone to disease? How well do they tolerate the soils and typical moisture levels throughout the seasons?

When a plant proves an ability to thrive in local conditions, other agents are introduced, one at a time. First, the plants have an opportunity to show how they respond to insects, molds and blights of the region. If they resist attack, selected native plants are introduced, simulating the gardens or fields in which the plants will live upon release. Do the exotics choke the native plants and take over the site? Or are they good companions, offering new textures, hues, scents, and tastes to delight the senses?

Only when a plant has met all these tests over a period of three growing seasons is it permitted to appear in a few test gardens, carefully managed and watched for two more seasons. An exotic that proves it fits in the landscape as if it were a native is ultimately welcomed for its unique appeal.

Gardening responsibly, with care for the natural ecosystems of a neighborhood and region takes time, but the longterm payoff is tremendous. Native plants are well-suited to local climatic changes and soil conditions. They have developed natural resistance to pests and disease. Exotics add welcome variety to please the senses, but it is important that they thrive in local conditions without overtaking and replacing the native flora. If, once established, they have no more need of extra care than native plants, naturally resist pests and disease, and adapt well to climate, including rain and groundwater conditions, they are worthy and welcome additions.

Were we to take similar care in mixing exotics with native plants in our gardens today, we would avoid the use of toxic pesticides and excessive watering so common in western culture. Even better, we would spend a lot less time gardening and a lot more time enjoying the fruits and blooms of almost self-tending gardens.

Some, though not all, concepts in this post roughly follow those of permaculture gardening. I'll tell you more about that Thursday. It's fast becoming the Ordinary way to garden, from city balconies to the most arid of deserts.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What's next

Two weeks ago today I committed to posting every day for two weeks. I did it! It is said that if you do a thing every day for twenty-one days, it will become a habit, so I now commit to posting for seven more days.

In the last week, we sampled ways individuals, working together, make harmony and peace in the world. They start where they are, work with what they have, and rarely take no for an answer.

This week, we'll discuss some of the nuts and bolts aspects of the Village of Ordinary. I hope it becomes a discussion. I need your participation. Your creative ideas might just give me the boost I need to further the story of Ordinary. Won't you participate? All you need to do is leave a comment. There's a link below that makes it easy. You don't need to be a blogger or have a user ID to post your thoughts. You can post anonymously or not, as you like.

Won't you join me? Speak out here. Your opinion counts.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Ordinary people doing extraordinary things

Just watch this.

No matter what you think of their contributions to society and the Earth, each one of these people achieved something extraordinary. They're the ones we know about. Every day, all over the world, people whose names we will never know contribute their heart's passion, their joy, their love, their devotion in the best ways they know how.

That may be as simple as mowing and irrigating their mother's lawn, going to work to a job that sucks the life out of them but is all they can see to do right now to put food on the table and pay the bills. It may be as simple as smiling at the next customer and the next and the next, all day long, and treating each one as if they are the most important person they will help that day.

Maybe they're lucky enough to earn their living doing what they love most in the all the world--making music with the philharmonic orchestra, designing buildings that are beautiful, functional, and energy efficient, or teaching children to read.

The world is full of everyday, unsung heroes. I bet you're one of them. We all have one thing in common, the Einsteins, the Hellen Kellers, you and me. We all came into life squalling and naked. Ordinary? You can make a difference. Do the next thing. Take the next step. Write the next sentence. Plant the next row of vegetables. Give gratitude for what you have, for what you've accomplished so far. Ask for help. Receive graciously. Give.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I stood for peace

Stood in a park on a hill overlooking the city. The wind blew cold and fierce. The sun shone brightly, almost warmly enough to counter the wind. The sky was clear and blue. The breezes rippled the tall grass this way and that. Tree limbs bowed and swayed, their leaves shimmering, twisting, dancing.

At first I breathed. Simple breath. Cold air in. Warmer air out. I thought of the possibly 100,000 dead in Myanmar, not from war, but from cyclone. I thought of their leaders, refusing aid, then receiving it, only to hold it until they stamped their names on it, made it appear they were giving food, water and supplies to the people. Not to all refugees. They choose who gets aid and who does not. Meanwhile, people pump drinking water from ponds filled with bloated bodies.

I thought of Julia Ward Howe, who called mothers everywhere to leave their homes and convene for the first Mothers Day as Mothers for Peace. Say firmly, she admonished the women whose husbands, sons, brothers and fathers marched home from the Civil War only to learn of the call to another, say firmly,

We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.
And yet. One hundred thirty-eight years later, we send our sons and daughters, our husbands, partners, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers off to war.

Great Spirit, I prayed, help us all, the human family, to make peace in our hearts. Let not one person raise an arm against another. Let soldiers everywhere refuse to kill. Fill our hearts with love. And if, for some reason, this is not yet possible, then fill my heart with love. Let me bear no ill will to any person, no matter the provocation. Let me respond to all situations with understanding, compassion and love. Help me to remember, when I want to lash out, that






For more information, visit and The Great Silent Grandmother Gathering.

Mother's Day May 11, 2008

For all mothers everywhere, and for our children.

I'm not only parenting Mavis and Duncan, but I'm responsible for every child that comes through.
Alfre Woodard

Remember the Iraqi child near the end of the video who had lost her legs? Last year, three organizations banded together as Mother's Day for Peace and asked for help to bring Salee to America for surgery and new legs. America responded. This is Salees's story.

Thank you Mother's Day for Peace, Brave New Foundation, No More Victims and Code Pink for doing so much to help this child and her family. Thank you for waging peace every single day.

Happy Mothers Day to every woman who has tended a child. May you be a thousand times blessed.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Get up and do it

I started out this week discussing love and how love is what it takes to make a place like the Village of Ordinary work. When we are loved from the get-go, we feel confident and strong. We know ourselves and our strengths and weaknesses. We know how best to contribute to society and the greater good. When we feel loved, we are at peace.

To show Village of Ordinary-like love at work in the world today, I explored a few people and organizations who are taking care of themselves and the world around them. I took you to Africa where Erna and Mark, Emmy Moshi, Chief Ntutu and others with love, determination and passion are building schools and desks and clean water supplies. These four are working to save girls whose parents sell them into slavery to improve the family's standard of living.

I introduced you to, and invited you to stand with grandmothers and their families all over the world on Mothers Day, May 11, at 1 pm your local time, anywhere you wish to stand, for five minutes. We're standing for peace. You can learn where people are standing near you here.

I shared with you the Grameen Foundation, which is helping people in third world countries lift themselves from poverty. The Grameen Foundation and the Grameen Bank provide tiny loans, often as little as $100 to individuals to build businesses in their communities. Ninety-seven percent of the recipients repay their loans, and the money is recycled to other families.

Finally, I introduced you to two remarkable individuals, Paul Potts and Jody Williams, ordinary citizens who, in doing what they felt impelled to do, achieved extraordinary things.

I'd very much like to know what you thought of these posts. Did they encourage you to pursue your own passions in some way? Did you perhaps see how one person can make a big difference, or how believing in yourself enough to keep doing what you love can change your life?

Knowing ourselves well enough to commit to our dreams is what Ordinary is all about. What are your dreams? What do you love most to do? Get up and do it! (Then come back and leave a comment about it here.)

When ordinary people achieve extraordinary things

Jody Williams considers herself an ordinary person. In her essay, When ordinary people achieve extraordinary things, featured on public radio's This I Believe, she says,

It is possible for ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things. For me, the difference between an "ordinary" and an "extraordinary" person is not the title a person might have, but what that person does to make the world a better place for us all.
Williams was working a temp job, she says, when someone handed her a leaflet about activism as she exited the subway. Here's what she has to say about that.

Jodi Williams shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, of which she is a co-founder.

Think you can't make a difference? Think you don't have enough of whatever it might take? What's your passion? What do you love to do. Do that. Somewhere, in someone's life, you will make a difference. That is how we build the Village of Ordinary--by doing more of what we love to do, by being more of what we are, by sharing our passion with each other.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Grameen Foundation--Ending poverty one micro-loan at a time

Ten percent of earnings I receive from my Squidoo lenses goes straight to Grameen Foundation because of the tremendous contribution they are making to ending poverty and creating peace in the world.

They do this through microfinancing, or making loans of as little as $100 to people in third world countries. These loans help individuals, mostly women, to start businesses whose income feeds, clothes and schools their children. Why are most of the recipients women? Because the Grameen Foundation discovered that women were more successful, not only at raising themselves from poverty, but in bringing their entire community or village with them.

Think $100 or $500 is too small to start a business? Take a look.

Amazing? Such programs--and their success stories--are becoming more and more Ordinary every day. Sometimes it pays to think small.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

When you feel discouraged, think of the remarkable Paul Potts

Imagine how many hours this man stood alone in an empty field, perhaps, a barnyard full of chicks and sows, a darkened house, singing his heart out. No audience to hear him. Sing he must. Sing he did. Else where did he hone this amazing voice?

Enjoy this treat.

To be sure, in their efforts to praise him after the show, the judges reveal a bit of elitist condescension, but he went on to win the competition and to sing for the Queen. Later he sang for Oprah. May he always sing.

May we all sing, each in our own way, for the joy of it.

What do you love to do, no matter who is watching, no matter who knows that you do it? What talent uniquely yours do you long to share with others? Begin.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Where will you stand on May 11?

Have you decided where you will stand on May 11? That's the day women and men all over the world are standing for peace for five minutes. Doesn't seem like much, does it? You can stand in your back yard, on your front porch, in front of City Hall. Some folks are standing in the middle of redwood forest preserves. Some are standing on mountain tops.

We are standing for the world's children and grandchildren, and for the seven generations beyond them.

We dream of a world where all of our children have safe drinking water, clean air to breathe, and enough food to eat.

A world where they have access to a basic education to develop their minds and healthcare to nurture their growing bodies.

A world where they have a warm, safe and loving place to call home.

A world where they don't live in fear of violence--in their home, in their neighborhood, in their school, or in their world.

This is the world of which we dream.

This is the cause for which we stand.

Go to and tell the world where you will stand on Mother's Day. (You can do so anonymously.) Together, we can make standing for peace absolutely Ordinary.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Would you trade your daughter for a cow?

That's the title of Kim Giancaterino's Squidoo lens about the all-too-common custom in some African locales to trade a girl child into slavery. The story doesn't end there. Kim's friends, Erna and Mark, traveling in Africa, learned about this practice and decided on the spot to do something about it. They founded the Asante Africa Foundation, and here are some of the things they're doing.
  • Teamed with Emmy Moshi, founder of Into Africa Ecotourism, who builds schools with the profits from her tourism business
  • Started a nursery school for 300 children
  • Provided desks, water lines, books and school supplies for two primary schools
  • Sponsored one child at boarding school for one year
  • Built a network of people who raise funds for limited projects; these are everyday people, like the four year old girl who collected shoes so Kenyan children wouldn't have to walk to school barefoot
  • Hosted Maasai Chief Salaton Ole' Ntutu in California "to forge a link between his tribal community and ours;" among his many making-a-difference accomplishments, Chief Ntutu built a rescue shelter for girls escaping the practice of genital mutilation and encourages alternative rites of passage
  • Much, much more
Asanti is Swahili for thanks, and I give thanks to Kim Giancaterino, Erna and Mark, Emmy Moshi, Chief Ntutu, that four year old child and her thoughtful, responsive parents, and the many others who are making a difference, one person, one gift, one day at a time.

That's mighty Ordinary, these days, but no less astonishing in scope and love. Like a bazillion shining stars in our night sky, ordinary people are lighting all our lives with an awe-striking brilliance, one spark at a time.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Love is the answer?

What about all the people who have not felt completely loved and tended? What about people whose parents were drug addicts and unable to care for their children properly? What about people whose mothers and fathers were so busy building careers or simply keeping a roof over their heads and food in the family's collective mouths, they had nothing left to give?

What about all the rest of us? The flip answer is: That why god made therapists.

Perhaps you've been lucky in your life, as I have, to know amazing individuals who beat all the odds and grew into productive, healthy, happy adults despite a childhood of horror. Perhaps you've known a holocaust survivor who lived a long and successful life filled with family and friends, despite all they endured. Or perhaps you know someone who, faced with one severe life challenge after another, is always the most upbeat person in the room.

How do they do it? I haven't seen a study on that, though I'd like to, but I have observed a few similarities among the people I've been lucky to know. Here is what they have in common.
  • They are experts at taking stock of a situation and, McGyver-like, making the most of what is at hand.
  • They are forgiving.
  • They laugh a lot, big bellyful laughs.
  • They smile a lot.
  • They are generous.
  • They have good boundaries.
  • They treat others with respect, even when others show them disrespect.
  • They are quick to express gratitude.
  • They are forgiving.
  • They are forgiving.
That takes love. Love is always the answer.

Unlike the Village of Ordinary, we have not yet known hundreds, perhaps thousands of years of harmonious living. Every child has not yet felt completely loved and supported from the moment of conception. Yet, in our world, there are people who have learned to live with conflict, to live with violence, and to remain whole. There are people who love no matter what. There are people with an astonishing capacity to forgive and to build and rebuild.

These are our examples. They point the way to the world of Ordinary. Who in your world is like that? Celebrate them here. Post a comment and tell us about the gift of their presence in your life. This is one of the ways we hold and strengthen the vision.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Why is love the answer?

When one is deeply and completely loved from the moment of birth, one has no reason to hate or to hurt.

Ponder that.

Friday, May 02, 2008

What underlies every decision about the world of Ordinary?

These basic premises underlie every decision I make about activities, lifestyles, and relationships in the world of the Village of Ordinary today.
  1. Timeframe: Now. Rose and I write on the same day.
  2. Principle thesis: A society that raises its children in a loving, supportive environment that honors their individual natures and teaches them to respect themselves, others, and the Earth produces productive, healthy, self-actualized adults capable of living harmoniously with all other creatures and with the earth. That's a mouthful. Let's break it down.
    1. Earth care: Taught from early childhood, all human beings understand their deep connection to the Earth and the interdependent role of each system on any other system.
    2. Conflict resolution: A given. The people of Ordinary, and the rest of the world, have lived in peace and harmony for a long time and are highly skilled at resolving conflict immediately.
    3. Population control: Like the Ladakh, villagers the world over regulate their populations so they do not require more than the land can give them.Every child born is keenly desired, welcomed and celebrated.
    4. Contributions of the elderly: Like the Ladakh, the old are venerated for their wisdom and loved as deeply as the youngest child.
  3. Lifestyle
    1. There is no money system. There is no barter system. Each individual supports the larger community with time, energy, skills, and talents according to their ability.
    2. Like the Ladakh, people in the world of Ordinary smile and laugh much.
    3. Diversity is not feared, but celebrated.
    4. Architecture and agriculture are based on available resources and climate conditions.
    5. Craftmanship and art are key components of any design.
    6. Music, dancing and celebrations are common.
    7. Efficient use of resources leaves much time for pursuing individual passions, for solitude, and for time with family and friends.
Overriding thesis: Love is always the answer.

What would happen in the world we know if that guiding principle were Ordinary in all our lives?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Making the shift

It's so easy to feel despair at the possibility of achieving peace in our violent world. Have you noticed that the people of the Village of Ordinary never mention peace in the context of violence and war? Rose gives gratitude for many things, but never for the absence of human-on-human hatred and suffering. Many of you tell me you cannot imagine a world like that, but you can, if you stretch a bit. People all over the world imagine it.

And they're doing something about it. Small ways. Bigger ways. Each what they can.

Watch what happens in this video from World Peace Emerging. Feel the shift in your body when the movie shifts.

Did you feel it? Real people, determined in some way to make peace in the corner of the world they live. You recognize some of them. Yes? Others you've never seen before. Isn't it exciting? Millions of us are making the shift, one prayer, one meditation, one kindness, one gift, one letter to our lawmakers, one act of forgiveness, one act of compassion, one moment of choice, one friendly smile at a time.

If all you've got today is a smile, share it. You can't get more Ordinary than that.