Friday, July 01, 2011

SAFE PASTURE 




Do you sometimes feel like a shepherdess, as though a flock of vulnerable creatures depended upon you for safety, nourishment, and their very lives? I think in many ways we are shepherdesses whom God has entrusted with the safekeeping of many of His sheep. Be they our children, grandchildren, or those who would learn from us, we have a weighty responsibility to be a guiding hand through the sunny days and a bright beacon through the dark nights of life.

Just knowing myself too well, with my shortcomings and feebleness, I feel sometimes that I am not up to the task. And surely I am not. And neither are you. That is precisely why faith comes to us in those moments when we realize with stark certainty that we are not enough. We look up when all else fails and our strength and courage are spent, for we have looked in all the other places and found them dry and barren. So we cry out, and He comes and does for us, and through us, what we cannot.

Simply. Elegantly. Mostly in ways we never expected. How many of us have risen throughout the night to care for a fussy baby or sick child, knowing bitterly how exhausted we were at the end of the previous day, only to find the endless night and unrelenting needs of others asking the impossible of us? Where does one find the strength, the patience, the sheer ability to stay awake and keep serving, when we know that another such day fast approaches?

Only from God, I contend. His Holy Spirit power holds up the arms that hold the suffering child. His grace puts yet another lullaby or praise song on our lips, and we find the new day dawning with a tiny, yet sufficient boost of supernatural energy given to us to begin again.

Let us remember our patterns in Scripture. The love chapter in First Corinthians 13, and Proverbs 31, to name a few. Empowered by His unconditional love for us, may we extend that love to others, especially our little sheep. We must for their sake, and for His, walk in forgiveness, and in wisdom, for there are great things in store for us. With His help we are examples of what it means to be a Christian, a follower of Christ. There are many, close to us or on the periphery of our lives, who are watching, and hoping for a bit more light to keep them safely on the good path. Will we hold our little candles aloft for them and help them find their way?


Friday, June 10, 2011


THE LOVELY SMELL OF SUMMER

These are last year's petunias but a couple have volunteered themselves again.

Tonight my yellow roses are blooming along with the magenta ones and of course, my heirloom Souvenir de la Malmaison, reputed to have grown in the garden of Napoleon's wife, the Empress Josephine.  These fragrances are mixed with the honeysuckle and jasmine which are climbing over the fence.  All of these delicious perfumes waft together atop the earthy foundation of grass, bush and tree.  Summer down South is a heady, languid time.

I have not been at my writing in some time, owing to work outside the home, painting and redo-ing in my home and the birth of our first granddaughter, a little rosebud angel named Abigail.  She was born on June 1st, the official beginning of meteorological summer.

I am far too tired this evening to get fancy with posting pictures, but it is my fervent hope that I can get back to all of that soon.  I hope all my fellow defenders of hearth and home are still out there, fighting the good fight.  I love all the brave ladies who are my kindred spirits on the Internet, unafraid to live the life that God has called them to.  We can save our way of life, one person, one family at a time.  Don't allow anyone to tell you differently.
I hope and pray that everyone will have a blessed weekend and great time of worship. Hope to write again soon.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

A LOVELY PORTRAIT

Ref: 47
Title: Liverpool diocese nurse.
Date: Around 1910
Location: Liverpool
Creator: Unknown
Description:
Many of the nurses and doctors that visited the Homes were not paid and worked in their free time for this good cause.
Rights: © The Children's Society


I was reading, over at The Thinking Housewife blog about nineteenth century waifs. After clicking one of the pictures, I was brought to a site which houses several photos of institutionalized children of that period and workers who cared for them.

I was so moved by this picture of this kindly looking nurse.  As the caption states, many of the nurses and doctors who tended to the children in institutional care were not paid, but rather did it as an act of charity.
It is also true that nursing was considered more than a profession, but a true vocation, as one is called to the consecrated life.  Many nurses and school teachers (also a vocation), were single women, as were quite a few missionary ladies, who devoted themselves to their life's work in the service of others. 

The website hosting this photo is fascinating and goes into much detail about the lives of the children cared for by the Waifs and Strays of England during the late Victorian and Edwardian times. Here is the site:
http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/ 

Tuesday, March 01, 2011


THE AUTHOR'S RELAXING SUNDAY, to be soon remembered as the "good old days"

My wonderful husband and I, taking a pic of ourselves with the new camera.  He was trying to get the shot just right and therefore did not think to strike a charming pose, haha.


Yesterday was a pleasant Sunday for us. After church we had a nice lunch and since the other household members were out and about, we relaxed and amused ourselves with his new camera and got to chat for awhile. After that, I had a little favor to do for my neighbor and by then it was evening.
The dog was relaxing on the floor.

This white mountain of fur is one of the cats, grooming herself in the sun.

Princess, our 17 year old kitty, decided to occupy the love-seat.


For once I sat and watched the Academy Awards, as I was interested in how well "The King's Speech" would fare. Indeed, it garnered several awards, including the big ones; Best Director, Best Actor, Best Picture. I had quit watching much of these awards shows years ago, since they had become so decadent and politically radical.

You can imagine how surprised I was to see that this one was pretty tame. The lovely Anne Hathaway hosted with another young actor, James Franco, and absolutely nothing dirty or cruel was said, with the exception of the one of the winners (a woman, of course) dropping the "F-bomb" onstage. The gowns were by and large lovely, feminine and tasteful, and the movies all looked to be pretty mild, compared to what we have been subjected to in the past. So a day of respite was well appreciated, but now onto some practical matters.

If you have been reading this blog before, you know that I am aware of and concerned about the unfolding of events abroad and here in this country. I was therefore dismayed to see the continuing harassment of the Fox News reporters covering the seemingly intractable situation in Wisconsin. The protesters have gone from chanting that Fox News "lies" in the background to now getting in the reporter's face, shouting in his ear, blocking him or the camera with their signs, and yesterday, they actually hit the man. Someone has pointed out that this reporter, Mike Tobin, has covered events in the war zones of the Middle East, including the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, all without being assaulted. In this country, however, those occupying the Wisconsin statehouse have become violent toward this man, attempting to keep him from reporting by interfering with his first amendments rights, and now physically assaulting him.

Please be aware of the times we live in. Even more shocking was when an angry mob surrounded the car of the crowned prince of the British throne and attempted to do bodily harm to him and his wife. This kind of thing is unheard of in that country, as far as I know. And what happened in Wisconsin is also breaking new ground in our country.

But it should not be surprising, given the progression of Western society from law and decency to lawlessness and depravity. We have to have known it would come to this, and should have taken steps to guard against it when there was still a bulwark of moral authority in government, church and community.

I am climbing up the cyber tower and ringing an alarm bell this morning.  Please be forewarned that the spirit of protest in this country is turning into a spirit of insurrection and rebellion.  This will lead to something which looks less like a tea party and more like the French Revolution.  If you are unfamiliar with this dark period in history, please go and do a bit of reading on the subject.  What might have started out with legitimate grievances turned into a bloodbath which even turned on itself.  Someone has said that those who start the revolution are rarely still there when it ends.  Such was the case in that bloody, hateful time and that is the normal progression in insurrections and rebellions. It becomes so ruthless that eventually the corruption, mistrust and lust for power becomes so overwhelming that the revolutionaries turn on one another.

I do not pretend to know why, all of a sudden, the fire of revolution is flaring up in all these countries at once. Some have suggested that it has to do, overseas at least, with food prices steeply rising.  Others point to the influx into these countries of the new communications technologies. They are showing folks that people elsewhere have it a lot better.  So it is probably fair to implicate the Internet and Google in fomenting revolutionary ideas among the young masses. Again, we take for granted the freedoms we have here that have been denied to those in totalitarian regimes. Of course, they have legitimate grievances which deserve redress.  Some of the trouble, though, lies with people refusing to take any cut in their standard of living, even though their countries are broke (think Greece and the UK) and so they take their anger to the streets.  This is what is happening in Wisconsin and getting ready to happen in several other states.  In any event, they will likely end up consumed by the fire they have started.  There are always wolves waiting in the shadows to infiltrate and subvert the ranks of the original protesters, in order to wrest control and proceed with their own agenda.  Typically the new regime will make the old one look like a Sunday School picnic.  Think Russia, Cuba and China.

Realize that this is beginning here.  Those puffy, middle-aged schoolteachers are being manipulated right now.  There are other forces at work here, in collusion.  Am I taking this too far?  If lawlessness is allowed to increase, and if there are wolves in and out of government who wish to destroy our current society in order to turn it into something else, then expect to see more protests, more disruption of the civil order, and increasing violence against opposing viewpoints and those who hold them.  If you see this happening, and I believe that with the harassment and assault on Fox News that you have just witnessed this thing beginning to move, then please heed the warnings and be proactive.

 I am writing to those who are ripe for victim-hood.  The people who go to work, and mind their own business, enjoy a pretty decent standard of living.  These are the sheep who are ready for the shearing. First off, I think Fox should file assault charges against that person or people involved in yesterday's incident.

I also  believe it is time to flood our local, state and federal government with calls for action to be taken, through existing law, against mob rule.  I think people should demand that legislators show up and do their jobs, and that crowds of people not be allowed to just take over government buildings or any other public property.

It is crucial that we vote in every election and make it our business to thoroughly investigate the candidates and understand the issues.  We need God's help and guidance and we should be taking all this to Him every day.

Of course it is vital that we not become a mob ourselves.  We must not retaliate in the same vulgar, lawless
manner as the revolutionaries.  But we must be astute.  Please refrain from getting into useless arguments with people.  State what you believe, in as civil and loving way as possible, and don't let it keep going back and forth.  But rest assured, we must stand up, within the confines of the rule of law, to these anarchistic forces and fight them with words and the law, in order to avoid having to fight them with anything stronger.

The best case scenario is that I am blowing things way out of proportion.  Wonderful.  But that will not keep the price of fuel and food from rising.  (And that puts pressure on people). It is doing that and will continue until we enact changes in how we get energy and what we import and manufacture ourselves.  We have enough oil here to keep us going for 200 years, but for some reason the powers that be are discouraging what little we drill for here, as it is.  I will leave you to speculate on the reasons for that.

I am writing today to the keepers at home.  I urge you to reign in your own spending, and concentrate on conserving your resources, monetary and physical.  This is probably not the time to be planning a big vacation, making major non-essential renovations or making any non-essential purchases.  Take what you can afford to, and stock up on food, household essentials and durable clothing.  I covered this in earlier posts, but I am imploring folks to really do it now.  Tools and the means to maintain and repair things at home are also of utmost importance. Buy some extra gas cans and fill them up.  If you use propane or kerosene for anything, get some more. Things are not going to get cheaper, so if you can stock up on things now, do it.  Just for fun, we took pictures of our pantry and freezers:


When I see a good sale (e.g. $1.97 butter) I stock up.
 A little bit messy, sorry.



There is yet a little more to the idea of conserving physical resources than the ones I have mentioned above.  When you go shopping, if you are home during the day, make it your business to go in the morning if you can, after everyone is at work.  You will find the stores almost empty and you can go about your shopping in a relaxed and thoughtful manner.  I find that the Lord is very helpful to point out things to us when we shop, if we remember to keep a prayerful stance as we go through the aisles.

Try to be home when most folks are getting out of work and rushing about, tired and harried.  This gets you out of their way and home maintaining a peaceful atmosphere for your own family.  Leave the late afternoon, evenings and weekends to the workers and the teenagers if you can, for both your sakes.

Physically conserving also refers to your health and your own energy.  Plan ahead to take care of activities when you know you are usually at your best.  For most people, morning is when they have the best mental capacity for office work and solving problems, as well as physical strength.  If that is you, then plan to do the "heavy lifting" of your day early on.  Many people feel that is not the best time, and for some that may be true.

I have found, however, that what I thought of as "energy" later in the day, was simply an over-stimulated nervous system, fueled by too much caffeine, too late in the day, and a build-up of anxiety that followed.  I then found myself wide awake into the wee hours of the morning with my heart pounding it's way out of my chest, it seemed.  What do you think the next morning was always like for me?  I would definitely feel that I was not a "morning person", that's for sure. I was invariably light-headed throughout the day.  Well, after I took the doctor's suggestion to limit my coffee to the morning (and not drink so much of it then!), and to keep hydrated and go to bed on time, the palpitations and dizziness subsided.  Now morning is a good time!

I also believe in taking breaks throughout the day or even a short nap.  We have to get to the point where we realize that not taking care of ourselves impacts the very people we are trying to bless. Plus, God loves us, He made us, and we are His temple.  Got to take care of that temple!

I sub-titled this post, "soon to be remembered as the good old days."  I really hope that is not true, and that our society's best days are ahead of us, as indeed they could and should be.  We have in this country, everything it takes to be that shining city on a hill once again, but first we need a revival, personally and corporately.  And also in our churches.  The Lord says, in 1 Peter 4:17:

"For the time [is come] that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if [it] first [begin] at us, what shall the end [be] of them that obey not the gospel of God?"

Please ask the Lord to make you to be right with Him, and let us strengthen our arms with the work He has given us to do.





Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." 
from the letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians

Surely the world has seen it's share of chaos and calamity, probably in much stronger doses, but right now there are firestorms of uprisings and violence erupting throughout the world, and to some extent, right here in the United States.  Now it is true, in one sense or another, the days have always been evil, but God has has never failed to make a way in the wilderness for those who love and follow Him. He asks us to listen to Him, to be obedient and to be prudent.  Now, perhaps more than ever in the last fifty or so years, we need to stick close to Him and to do what He tells us.

The world has just seen another horrible natural disaster, this time in New Zealand.  Today, Somali pirates killed four Americans who had been traveling around the world, passing out bibles.  A sweet lady at our church who used to do the scripture readings so beautifully, took sick a year ago with ALS, and the disease progressed so rapidly that yesterday she was given her last rites.  The upheavals in the Middle East are putting millions of people in harm's way, and threaten to destabilize the whole world.  Inevitably, the price of oil is rising sharply, and that means everything from gasoline to food to all other store goods will probably ascend in proportion.  The only things looking to tank are housing prices, employment and the stock market.

As to earthquakes and sickness, all we can do is trust God, and pray, but these are no small things! We could move mountains this way! God has put mysteries and challenges into His creation and it is our job to figure them out for the service of His creation. We must continue to put our minds and efforts into building safer structures in safer places, and work towards finding cures for disease, and better management of symptoms. Much has been accomplished in the engineering and medical fields (just think of the suffering before anesthesia!) and much more is needed.  I think we must realistically, however, look to the state of our own souls, and pray for the eternal souls of others every day, as indeed, we must all leave this world someday. Instead of feverishly trying to avoid that knowledge, we need to accept it, redeem the time we have and pray that we will run a good race, and finish strong! Accordingly, I appreciate the Catholic understanding of the need to pray for a happy and prepared death, for ourselves and others.

In the meantime, as God gives me another day and another chance to serve Him and others, I look at these world events through the prism of my vocation - that of wife, mother, soon to be grandmother, and all around home guardian.  What should the prudent keeper at home do in such times? Right away, bible verses come to mind and the Word of God gives me guidance.

Proverbs 22:3 says, "A prudent [man] foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished." This tells me to pay attention. Observe and understand the times we live in, and be proactive. Now this can be something as simple as removing yourself from endless arguments over doctrine or beliefs, or distancing yourself from people who are very negative or angry.

You might not think this would be applicable, but I like to make a habit of always having a back-up item in store for use when the first thing is gone. For example, even though I go grocery shopping once a week and I have a market just up the street, I will buy at least two gallons of milk at a time, or extra bread for the freezer, etc., because I never want to run out of a staple (think toilet paper!), at any inopportune time, like late in the evening when it's not such a good idea to be going to and from the car in a dark parking lot.

Truth is, however, I never want to run out of something like milk at all, and one time I learned the hard way.

One school morning a few years ago, my husband had already gone to work, and I woke up to no milk for breakfast. The five children ranged in age from about 2 to 12. What I should have done was just made toast and juice, and of course, any normal person would probably have done that. But no, I jumped in the car and ran to pick up milk. Well, I was so hurried and harried that I looked one way and then another, or so I thought, and proceeded to go out into the intersection, hitting the side of a car that I just plain never saw coming.

Thank goodness no one was hurt, but my insurance had to pay a significant amount to fix the other person's car. That whole mishap could have been avoided if I had taken the time to plan better, and failing that, just make do with what I had.

Another verse that helps to guide me is in 1st. Thessalonians, where Paul tells us: "And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and [that] ye may have lack of nothing."

Ah, wouldn't it be a better world if more of us studied to be quiet?  This is one of the great joys I find in staying home, that I can enjoy the peace and tranquility of my own little sphere while I go about my duties and my times of rest and refreshment. There are traffic snarls and crowded stores, confrontations with coworkers and anxiety over bosses out there beyond my doorstep, but I am safe from all of them.  And I am available to keep order and stability here for all of us, and to add some beauty and comfort, too.  I take the word "quiet", as it is used here, to mean being literally silent or at least reserved in speech, and also to mean  minding my own business, which indeed Paul adds in the above verse.  

Regarding the first meaning, there is so much to be gained when you don't talk.  You have time to listen, and time to think.  As the writer in Proverbs warns, "Where words are many, sin is not absent." If you have ever blurted out something that you wish you could take back, then you know how precious being silent is.  If you have been prone to this sort of thing, as have I, and finally with God's help, begin to heed the Holy Spirit's nudging you to hold back, you know the utter joy and sheer blessedness of making the decision not to blurt! It is a gift to yourself (to say nothing of the other party) that continues to pay dividends and gives you joy and relief each time you remember how you almost said it, but then refrained.

Regarding the command to mind our own business, well, I know that the government leaders felt they had good reasons to involve themselves in the affairs of other nations, working to promote one leader in one country, while working to undermine the leader in another, but I think that the error of this is proving itself very obviously now.  Perhaps if we had stayed home, and worked on producing energy and goods in this country,  letting others sort out their own existence, we would have been a lot better off, and so would they.  Of course there is a time to step in, but I think we have way overdone it.

It is the same in our own lives.  I truly believe that the world is better served by my organizing my pantry and freezers than for me to be out in the street, "community organizing" while shrieking incendiary remarks into a microphone. By keeping my food storage organized and inventoried, I can make the most of my budget, which helps our family take care of itself without having to burden anyone else.  When you are not a burden to others, God is glorified in your behavior, and you are indirectly benefiting your fellow man.  It's like Paul said, "That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and [that] ye may have lack of nothing."  Now, "them that are without" refers to those outside in the world, outside of the community of faith. They see your good works, which are the fruits of your faith, and they glorify your Father who is in heaven, as it says elsewhere in Scripture.  When we quietly, without trying to draw attention or glory to ourselves, go about our business, working to take care of our own needs, and allowing others to have their own "space", we are sowing the seeds for great peace, both without and within.

Here is one more very politically incorrect point I wish to make.  Again Paul says it so well, in 1st. Corinthians 10:23: "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not."  That means that something might be correct or good, according to the letter of the law, but it might not be the most helpful, or best thing to do in certain situations. I am thinking here about women and girls, and the horrendous situations they insert themselves into, expecting no harm to come to them because they have a right to be anywhere at anytime without fear of physical harm.  Yes, the should be safe from harm. What a word "should" is.

They are correct in maintaining that the responsibility for others to restrain themselves from doing them harm resides with those others, and not with the women themselves.  It is also right that we should be able to leave our cars and doors unlocked all night or when we are away, and not have to worry about people going in and robbing and ransacking our property.  But do we leave everything open and unguarded?  Most likely not.  Why is that?  It's our property, and the law recognizes our right to own and hold private property, does it not?

Ah, but we do lock up, keep our valuables out of sight when possible, insure them and even install alarm systems to keep our homes and cars secure, because we are wise to acknowledge the reality of a fallen world and the thieves and vandals who inhabit it.  We are not going to gamble on losing these things.

We might be outraged that it is necessary, but is it not wise, then for women and girls to keep themselves out of less than desirable environments, or maybe not be out alone at night, and take care not to invite others to dwell on their sexuality by dressing so provocatively? I mean, say you saved up and bought some gold coins or precious gems. Would you deliberately put them on display in the front window of your house, or keep them on the front porch, unguarded?

As women entered the workforce, crimes against them rose precipitously.  I do not advocate burkhas and a prohibition of women being seen in public - I just long for us to use some common sense. And to be realistic about our physical limitations (most women cannot beat the snot out of men as the heroines do on TV), and for prudence. Especially now, when it seems that people are becoming positively unglued and lawlessness is in the streets. 

My hope and prayer is that the mommies could stay home with their babies, that women and children would have strong, loving men to protect them and provide for them, and that as individuals and nations, we could be peacemakers instead of mobs of rude and violent people.

For those who share these beliefs, but are feeling distressed and frightened of events unfolding in the world, I would suggest taking some practical steps to position ourselves in the most advantageous circumstances, as we are able, and leave the rest to God.  Along with the foregoing examples, there are countless other things we can do.

Start going through your house, keeping the most precious and/or useful things, and clearing out the rest.  When you have order, you take a lot of stress out of your life. When you have order, you can actually keep your home clean and healthy, which improves quality of life for all who dwell there. Stock up on food, and other necessities. Shop for cotton clothing at thrift stores and start laying in some new cotton underwear and socks, as this commodity is rising fast. Learn how to cook, bake, mend, do small repairs, use things around the house to fix up other things - for example, years ago our dryer quit on us.  My husband remembered seeing this funny little gasket thing on the ground in the grocery store parking lot, that he realized might work in our machine, so he rode his bike up there, and sure enough it was still there.   He was able to use it and we had the use of that dryer for years to come.

Build relationships with your neighbors. Talk about how you could help each other out in the event of a natural disaster. Start helping each other out, now. If your neighbor is away at work when the garbage man comes, and the empty can is sitting out in the road, go get it and bring it back up by his house.

Go to the library and get some books out on hobbies you would like to pursue, or skills you would like to acquire.  Little by little, acquire what tools you can in order to be able to build, repair or maintain your home and property.  Tools and maintenance of  your home are sensible, terrific things to invest in. I might not be able to buy a $1,600 gold coin, but I can shop around and spend 160 dollars on food and tools or upgrades to my home environment that will add immense benefit to our lives.

Little by little, build a library of your own with your how-to books, your spiritual books and books to read to your children and grandchildren.  And do take time to read to a child, whenever you can.  Have a quiet cup of coffee or tea with your husband. Have lunch with a friend.  Go to the dollar store, and without overdoing it, buy some simple holiday and seasonal decorations to brighten your home with. Plant herbs in flower pots, and tomatoes, too, if you don't want to, or cannot have a larger garden in the ground. Savor these simple activities that make life rich and rewarding.

As the weather gets warmer, try hanging out a load of wash to dry in the fresh air and sunshine.  Pick up an iron and start pressing some clothes now and then. When you have a minute, from time to time, take some window cleaner and make a mirror or a window sparkle and shine. You do not have to do everything, and certainly not  all at one time.  But the things I am suggesting help you to achieve dominion over the little piece of earth and time that God has lent to you.  This is your time to shine for God, and to create good habits and patterns that will bless those around you and even your descendants after you!

God charged Adam and Eve with taking dominion over Creation and I believe He still desires us to do that. Under His guidance, we take some control over how we live our lives, and that tends towards peace for us. So let us redeem the time, walk circumspectly, not foolishly, but with wisdom, for though the days may indeed be evil, we must do the work He has given us to do while it is yet day, for night time cometh, when no man can work. Our days may see some trouble, yet we are children of the kingdom and it is a kingdom of LIGHT!







Monday, February 21, 2011

I am reprinting a very practical article which recently appeared in our newspaper the Virginian Pilot, 2/15/11, by Jamesetta M. Walker.  Recently on Lydia Sherman's blog, we were talking about good housekeeping and the subject of ironing came up. I love what Jamesetta has to say about the subject, and also her other tips on the old, tried and true methods of doing certain things. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did. (By the way, Jamesetta's bio details her extensive knowledge and expertise in the fashion and style world, and that,

"She's a true Deep South gal who hails from Mississippi's Delta and central regions.  Jamesetta goes dormant when the temperature falls below 55.  She loves mowing the yard and designing landscapes.  She's been a lifelong stickler for style and fashion sensibility.  Most days you can spot her wearing purple.")




oldies but goodies

The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star, Norfolk, VA, Feb 15, 2011 | by JAMESETTA M WALKER

Sometimes it's the simple, tried and true things that make the biggest difference. This applies to most everything, including style and beauty. Here are a few things that should not become practices of the past.
A good iron
When my mother and mother-in-law were no longer in a position to help by ironing my children's clothes, I reflected on how fortunate I had been to have them assist me with that task for some three years. Seeing folks looking like ragamuffins ruffles me, so I knew I wasn't going to ease up on that chore.
I must have gone to five people at work asking if their teen daughters wanted a gig ironing. All but one responded as if I'd asked them to pick cotton. In other words, who's still doing that? It was unbelievable to me that not only were these parents claiming their 16- and 17-year-old daughters didn't iron, but that they never had been shown how to iron.

What in the world?

My mother ironed everything from pillowcases to panties. She said it made lesser-quality items look and feel richer - and she was right. I still tease one of my best friends from high school about how we were always late for everything because her mother would still be ironing her outfits. Ribbing aside, she was among the most well-put-together students in school despite the fact that her clothes came from a discount retailer.
Central to getting that fresh look is buying a good iron. People may scoff at the notion of paying upward of $100, but it's worth the investment.

A cheap iron can ruin your day. It's maddening to have an iron spew brown water onto your shirt minutes before you're headed to work or worship service. Remember scorching one leg of those nice slacks and never getting the wrinkles out of the other ? The culprit was a whack iron that wouldn't hold its heat evenly.
Look for heavier-weight irons with a wattage of 1,700 or more, a sharply angled tip good for ironing in corners, an anti-drip feature, a no-stick plate, and a vertical and horizontal steam function, at the least.

Dry cleaning
Times are tight and you may have to trim expenses, but think twice before cutting out dry cleaning. It can extend the life of your garments, especially mid-grade ones. Although cotton and polyester are washable, I dry clean quite a few of my garments made from these textiles.
You never will be able to iron some garments just right to make them look new again. Or it could be that the fabric begins to pill, fade or lose its shape after the first wash. Dry cleaning will help you save money because your clothes will look better longer and you won't need to buy replacements.
Plus, dry cleaning is efficient. Sometimes there is just not enough time to iron. It's a relief to be able to reach into your closet, grab something and still show up looking good.

A wash and roller set
Expensive blowouts and designer straightening techniques are the rule of the day. Over time those tend to fry the life out of our manes and keep us flocking to hairdressers or in constant search of just the right miracle product to correct the damage.
A wash and roller set used to be the go-to style. Then the rise of the MTV generation gave way to everybody wanting rock star hair blowing in the wind. I'm guilty.
Those roller-set styles started looking ancient. However, advances in technique have led to the roller set looking as flexible and even more fabulous than a blowout. Plus they are cheaper. Ask for a doobie: a roller set that is combed out, brushed around the crown, covered with a plastic cap, set briefly under a dryer and combed again, very minimally using a styling iron in spots if needed.

A slip
Last year a peer mocked slips as a thing of the past. Maybe so, but they ought not be. Appropriate foundation pieces go a long way in helping you make a graceful appearance.
True, not every dress or skirt requires a slip. Many are lined, cut on the bias for more flow or are of a fabric thick enough to have body on their own, such as denim and corduroy.
But in terms of fit, hardly anything is worse than clothes that cling in all the wrong places. A slip can give the appearance of quality because it aids in draping.
Most of all, it hides your business.
Government should be transparent - your dress shouldn't be.
Jamesetta M. Walker, (757) 446-2211, jamesetta.walker@pilotonline.com
Copyright 2011
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

RECIPES FOR THE SICK

I have this great old cookbook put out by the Rumford Baking Powder Company. My edition is from 1932, but the first edition came out in 1908. The author is one Lily Haxworth Wallace, graduate of National Training School of Cookery, London, England.  Also, it calls her a "Lecturer and Writer on Home Economics, Consultant, and Food Specialist."  She wrote over a dozen cookbooks and also wrote about etiquette.
I find it fascinating to look at recipes and prefaces to chapters of old cookbooks, since they offer a glimpse into what life was like back at the time they were written. I also use this and other old books to learn how to do some of the basic things, or for recipes I remember hearing about but which now are not very familiar.

This book has a chapter devoted to "recipes for the sick". I will duplicate here what Ms. Wallace wrote, as her words contain wisdom for us today:
"The food eaten by a sick person has in many cases as much to do with rapid recovery as have drugs.  It must be remembered that the palate is more sensitive in sickness than in health, both to seasonings and temperatures, so that less seasoning and more moderate degrees of heat and cold must be observed.

Daintiness in serving greatly influences the appetite of the patient, and therefore, for this reason it is preferable to serve small portions and present the meal by courses rather than place all on the tray at one time.  Have all hot beverages brought to the door of the sick room in a covered pitcher, then poured into the cup, thus avoiding the danger of spilling liquids into the saucer while carrying them to the patient.

Food should not be kept in the sick room between meals.  It will be fresher and more appetizing if brought direct from storeroom or refrigerator when wanted.

When liquid foods are given, other receptacles than those for medicine should be used, as the association of the two is oftentimes unpleasant.  When the dietary is limited, srve the foods that are permitted, in as many forms as possible to avoid sameness.  For instance, beef tea may be given hot in the form of beef essence - as savory jelly, frozen, and as feef tea cusard; practically the same food but more palatable because served in different forms.

Be very careful to keep such foods as milk, beef tea, etc., covered while in the refrigerator, to avoid contact with other or more odorous foods.  If the refrigerator has more than one compartment reserve once exclusively for the use of the sick room."

The recipes that follow are:

Lemonade
Barley Water 
Toast Water
Eggnog 
Junket Eggnog
Albumenized Milk
To Sterilize Milk
Wine Whey 
Acid Phospate Whey
Beef and Tapioca Btoth
Invalid's Tea
Clam Broth
Beef Juice
Beef Tea
Oatmeal Gruel
Cornmeal Gruel
Arrowroot Gruel
Irish Moss
Savory Custar
Puffed Egg
Custard Souffle
Egg Cream
Dainty Pudding
Tapioca Jelly
Chicken Chartreuse
Sweetbreads a la Newburg
Beef Cakes
Scraped Beef Sandwiches

Here is the Recipe for Dainty Pudding:

Thin slices of stale bread without crust
Fresh, hot stewed fruit sweetened to taste.
Custard or cream.

Cut the bread into pieces about three inches long and an inch wide.  Line a cup with the pieces fitted closely together; fill with hot, deep-colored fruit, and place more bread over the top.  Place a plate over the pudding, put a weight on the plate, and set aside till cold.  Turn out, and serve with cream or custard.

As you can see, a lot is done with eggs and beef tea, the latter being about the same thing as beef bouillon.
More recipes to follow when I post again.



Wednesday, February 09, 2011

ARGUING WITH ATHEISTS


Whew, I have been busy writing my little fingers off for the last five days, earnestly contending for the faith and the souls of three atheists. This occurred in Facebook. I have no trouble debating and rebutting, but I can see where it will end badly, no doubt, because of the hardness of heart I am up against.  You know, after awhile, that you wrestle not against flesh and blood and no amount of reasoning will soften their hearts.  It just comes back down, I suppose, to earnest, faithful prayer.

I undertook this mission, however, because the one person, a Facebook "friend" who was raised in a conservative Christian church and now has lost his faith seems hell-bent on destroying everyone else's, and denying them the simple pleasure of socializing on FB. This man and his atheist cohorts just jump on their Christian family and friends' pages and flame the mess out of them. You begin to get a hint about just what or I might better say, who, is behind their rantings.  So I got sick of it and took them on. Why? Because you never want to allow evil to roll all over people without rebuking it. They need to know that they cannot set fire to everyone's front porches like that with impunity. 

I debated whether or not I should reproduce the conversation here - it is a long one, but I think I may not, as I do not wish to give their rantings and "reasonings" a wider audience. But suffice it to say, that after about 20 thousand words or so, on my part, I am ready for the inevitable removing of the gloves, and for the verbal hand-to-hand combat to which these discussions are bound to devolve. Then it will be time to come home.

All the better, because I want to start sharing some material from a really old cookbook I have, its first edition being around the turn of the last century, I think. In the spirit of the last week, I believe I shall begin with the chapter that deals with "Recipes for the Sick".

Sunday, January 30, 2011

IN THE NIGHT SEASON


I have heard from more than one friend this week, of their feelings of frustration, of heaviness, and how at night they are anxious and fearful. Indeed, this winter has been an especially hard one in terms of rain, snow and cold. Many folks seem to lose their way at this time of year, with routines falling off, with feelings of being overwhelmed sure to follow.  The time of year and the uncertainties of the times can make us feel as if we are enduring one long, never-ending night.

Are we doomed, because it is winter, to becoming depressed, stir-crazy and paralyzed with fear? I do think the cold, combined with distressing news at home and abroad, certainly conspire with the darkness of the season to try and unnerve us. The lack of sunlight and the necessity of staying in more really do have an effect to be sure. And the reality outside our doors is that people are suffering, there is great anger and unrest in some parts of the world, and that our beloved country is in a state of confusion as to what course we should be taking.

The news reports are of absolutely no help, because they seem to contradict each other. One day all the signs are in place of an improving economy, a trend toward lower unemployment, the stock market is up, and the very next day, we are hearing the opposite being said. This on the same network, out of the same mouths! It is almost getting to where by the end of the newscast they have contradicted what they said at the beginning!

About the only thing they consistently say is that more cold, snow, and flooding is on the way! And we do know, because we see it with our own eyes, that the price of gas and now food continues to rise, sometimes daily. For most of us, the income does not rise, though, and instead is shrinking in the face of these increasing prices.

Loneliness can creep in at this time of year especially, and be an unwelcome companion. I have a dear friend and neighbor whose children are grown and gone and whose husband's job keeps him gone for two weeks at a time. This year, she is feeling so alone. And doesn't Satan just love to figure out ways to make things worse. One day last week, when her husband was home, a strange man came to their door, basically begging. He said he would sweep their porch for them if they would give him money. This kind of thing has never occurred here in the time since we all have lived here since the late 90's. The husband said no, that he could clean his own porch. I do not know if the man knocked on any more doors, but we live across the street and down two houses and I know that he didn't come to our door. We all like to be generous and do charitable works, but I find it kind of unnerving that someone would go into a residential neighborhood and knock on people's doors. I wondered if things are getting this bad that perhaps this type of thing will begin to occur with more frequency.

When I told my husband about it, he said the man might have been checking to see if anyone was home or if there was a woman there alone. Our town has consistently had the distinction of being one of the safest places in the country for years, but in this month of January there have been more robberies committed than in all of last year.

A couple of nights ago, this same friend, alone in the house except for her, thankfully, huge dog, was awakened at 12:30 a.m. by someone ringing the doorbell. She sat up in bed, wondering if perhaps she had been dreaming, but then the dog started barking loudly and throwing himself against the front door, for surely there was someone on the other side. The lady tried to peer out one of the front windows, but she couldn't see anyone. Needless to say, she is not sleeping well at all now.

I am putting all the bad news up front in this post, because I think we owe it to ourselves and to God to be honest about what is going on.  Things are not the greatest, and people are worried.  If nothing else, we should be praying about the situations that we are facing individually and collectively.  But just like David, who would start one of his psalms by lamenting this or that, typically ended them by acknowledging God and His great love and provision for us.

The best way to think about all these problems is to see them not as problems but projects!  To reiterate, we may be individually powerless to affect the big things in the world like the wars and the fact that the middle east seems to be blowing up right now, but at least we can pray! Prayer changes things, always, every time.  So let us not grow weary, but pray for the people and the leaders.

This is always the first, middle and last thing we should also do for our own personal situations. And then we might just want to approach some of these things as challenges.  For instance, the rising prices should be a challenge for us to meet head on. You know, by sitting down and thinking things out, you can stretch every dollar a lot further.  If you know you have to drive to a doctor's appointment, sit down and figure out ahead of time what other errands you can do on your way to and from the doctor's.  Now I know I am a bit out there, but if I really want to get a good physical workout and burn some calories, I will sweep the floor meticulously and then get down on my hands and knees and scrub it. Or wash the woodwork, the windows and the baseboards.  I didn't have to buy or rent a workout video, I didn't have to drive to the gym, much less pay for the membership, and I got some really good work done, too!

Sometimes I just play these little games with myself, like wondering how it would be if I were a Colonial era housewife, how would I be living?  As I turn the heat down low and bustle around the house cleaning and cooking and baking, I just think about them doing their homekeeping without electricity, or food security, or running water.  But our ancestors came here and took the hardships they faced as challenges.  They made the best of things with whatever they could find, make or grow, and put their backs into their work.  We have them to look to for inspiration, because look what they accomplished!

My lonely friend is very thankful for her big, somewhat scary(!) dog.  He protected her that night by his barking and throwing his body against the door.  She also has an alarm system, and I know she is thankful for that, too.  So we may not have perfection happening at any given time, but we always have something to appreciate, and some kind of help or comfort, even if its just words on a page.  God speaks to us in His word and through His Holy Spirit, so we are never alone or completely bereft.

I think these are the very times in which we need to reach out to each other.  I know we can overdo being on the Internet and the Facebook and all, but I also think these enrich our lives by helping us to connect with loved ones and friends, new and old.  One of my dear friends, Beth, has had a giant collage (which continues to grow) of photos of her friends and family, and she keeps it hanging up in her house.  She calls it her "Prayer Wall".  Every day she prays for everyone on that wall.  She lives back in my hometown so I don't see her very often, but we "see" each other on Facebook almost daily.  I saw where she posted a picture of herself in front of the prayer wall, and it made me remember (because I had forgotten) that she prays for me every day, since my picture is on that "wall".  What a tremendous blessing!  I feel like I would like to do the same thing.  What if we all did something similar?  How powerful would that be?

Yes it is winter.  And typically cold and bleak.  So let's fill our home lives with color and cheer.  I learned back in school that the clothing of people in northern climates was always very bright and colorful, as were their furnishings.  I like to pull out the old afghans and throws to brighten the rooms and provide something to snuggle in. I also keep my little electric candles in my front windows all year long and put them on around suppertime until its time to go to bed.  I also have a "dusk to dawn" candle that is in the Palladian window in the upstairs hallway. It goes on when it gets dark and off when it gets light.  It serves as a nightlight and also, I hope, to cheer those who pass by.

This time of year is also a great time to invite someone over for tea and cookies or for a meal.  Showing hospitality to someone blesses both parties, and it is a very holy thing to do.  God likes it; it says so in His word.  If you are not used to doing this, it might seem scary at first.  But just try it; and start with someone you feel very comfortable with.  Do not worry about having your house perfect.  Just make some nice coffee or tea, and serve it on a cleared-off table in sparkling clean cups with a cookie - store bought is fine.  The main thing is to show someone else that they are worth spending time with.

There are, I am sure, endless little home projects we can undertake during this time of year when we are housebound so much of the time.  And this is the perfect time to establish, or re-establish good, healthy sleep routines.  In other words, go to bed early!  Turn off the TV and computer, and get in bed with a good book.  I might think I am not sleepy, but just let me get in bed and start reading, and in no time, my chin is on my chest!

So let's just be encouraged by all our blessings, and all of our opportunities to make ourselves stronger and more self-sufficient, and more of a blessing to others! It is true that, "...night cometh, when no man can work," but as long as we have breath, it is day, our day, to do the works He has given us to do.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

SUGAR ON SNOW


There is a venerable old custom in Vermont, and that is the making of "Sugar on Snow". Quite simply, on a night when the snow is fresh and deep and you can be assured of accessing a clean pan full, you heat maple syrup up on the stove until it is a bit thick. When it reaches a consistency where it will keep its shape if drizzled on something really cold, well you drizzle it in lines and squiggles over your pan of fresh, tightly packed snow. Then you pick it up and eat it like candy. Often this would be a community event, something to have a get-together around (long before the advent of big-screen TV's). I have been to one such social where they also served the traditional accompaniments: doughnuts and dill pickles. The dill pickles were eaten at intervals between the sweet things, to keep one from being overwhelmed. I first experienced "sugar on snow" at my grandmother's. Her tenant Blake prepared it for us one night, and it was wonderful! I will never forget the delightful taste and the contentment I felt that night.

You may recall that I explained in an earlier post that I spent part of a winter in Vermont with my cousins, while my grandmother and mother went to work to help my uncles launch their new restaurant. By this time my grandmother was 74 years old, but nevertheless, I remember her in the restaurant kitchen every night mixing a huge bowl of green salad, by hand, with her homemade vinaigrette. The same way I do most nights.

Anyways, my cousin Marcie and I would sometimes go and hang out at Grandma's after school when no one was there. Since the door was unlocked, we could just walk in and relax, thereby avoiding going straight home to her little brothers and all the noise. Now, sometime before I was born my grandfather, a master craftsman, gardener and all-around stern, silent guy, had remodeled the huge house and made two apartments upstairs and two downstairs, one of which my grandmother occupied.

At this time the upstairs apartment in the front of the house was home to the aforementioned Blake, a state agricultural inspector of some sort, and his mail order bride, Marisa, a native of the "Eternal City", but who herself was no Roman holiday, that's for sure. She was more like a Roman candle, a spitfire, as my mother called her. Marisa was a short little woman with short brown hair, and a shorter temper.  She drove a little Fiat with a license plate that read "Roma".

Blake was Marisa's polar opposite. He was large and gentle, patient and kind, and of old Vermont stock. He was slow of movement and speech, somewhat oafish. Marisa was not. She was a smart dresser, and in fact was an accomplished seamstress. She was quick, horrid and torrid of speech, mean as an alley-cat, and with a hair-trigger temper. Naturally, Blake was her target.

What ever possessed him to "send away for a foreign wife" (or so it was rumored he did), we didn't know. I guess he wasn't having much luck domestically. He was a man of means, though, a "gentleman farmer", as my mother called him (have you noticed that mother always had a hook to hang everything or anyone on?), and indeed I remember one summer day accompanying him and Marisa as he drove around the state visiting his farms and talking with his tenants. Which explains what the attraction must have been for Marisa. Also, she probably needed to land someone who actually didn't know her at all. At least that is how my child-mind perceived it, and I think that's probably about right.

Poor Blake. It must have been like sending away for an ant farm, and opening it up to discover a box full of fire ants.

To say that Marisa was excitable was an understatement. I also have a vivid memory of her at the 1965 New York World's Fair. A whole contingent had come down from Rutland to accompany us to the fair. But somehow I ended up with Blake, Marisa and Charlie, their son (who also had issues) high above the fair on the Swiss cable car ride. Marisa was afraid of heights apparently. We had all been a little nervous, to be sure, but somehow the experience of Miss Roma herself squatting on the floor of the little car, screaming and screeching like the tortured damned strained even Blake's last good nerve. I just remember him sitting quite still, trying to look relaxed as he clenched the sides of the car, white knuckled, while Marisa tried to pull Charlie down on the floor with her. This made the car jerk and sway. Charlie was crying, Blake just kept saying like he always did, "Aw now, Marisa, ah heh, heh, ah heh, heh.." and I was whispering the Act of Contrition, hoping it was perfect enough to land me in heaven immediately after my imminent death.

Apparently my religious fervor had faded by the next year because we decided to play some pranks on Marisa. Cruelly, we didn't spare poor Blake either, whom I guess had to suffer just because we thought he was the biggest dummy to have hooked up with Miss Crazy and brought her into our lives at all.

So we would call them up and say ridiculous things on the phone. I don't even remember what we said but it didn't matter because it made Marisa cranky. Easy enough. But the really fun thing was "The Knock".

In my grandmother's bedroom there was a long, almost walk-in type closet. On the other side of the one wall was the entry hall for the stairs to Blake and Marisa's apartment, and also there was a door on the opposite side of the hall to the other downstairs apartment.. That apartment belonged to old lady Smith, and wait till I tell you sometime about her granddaughter!

So if you knocked on the closet wall on your left, it would sound to the occupants above like someone was knocking on their door. Whoever answered the door upstairs would be bewildered to find no one there. Except if it was Marisa answering the door, the situation would be like waving a red scarf in front of a certain bovine beast on a Sunday night in Madrid.

One day, we came back to Grandma's in a serious snowstorm. By the way, though the snow then was just as cold, thick and deep as it ever is today, oddly it never struck terror into anybody, nor sent folks scrambling to the store to empty it out, nor made the national news like our modern snowstorms do.

So we arrived amidst thickly falling snow, probably poured ourselves a glass of ginger ale or had some orange sherbet, which were two of Grandma's staples, and proceeded to listen to the tirade building upstairs.

What else could we do? We wanted to participate, maybe add a diversion, so we went into the closet and knocked. The shouting stopped as they opened the door. No one there. After a moment, the shouting started again, answered by poor Blake's feeble attempts to calm her down. Which is like pouring water on a cat. So we knocked again, and they opened the door again. By this time we were on the floor convulsing in laughter. I think we might have had one more go around before older and wiser cousin Marcie said "Shush", and that we needed to stop before we were discovered.

I'll never forget what I saw when I came back into the living room and looked out the windows, which were right below their porch upstairs. Down with the late afternoon snow something else began to drift. Blake's clothes! His shirts, his ties, his pajamas, his underwear came silently floating to earth with the cold, chastening snow. Down the stairs ran Blake, and out to the front yard where he chased around wildly, begging her to stop while trying to retrieve his garments.

It was pitiful.   Even as a child, I had the revelation standing there, that what was happening was the expression of a tortured soul lashing out at the cosmos, that cosmos being a middle-aged country gentleman for this particular soul.  To say that Marisa was evil does not quite fit in my estimation, for she certainly loved her husband and their child, and felt much affection for my grandmother.  And she was always kind to me.

A couple of years before that, my mother had taken sick in the night on one of our weekend trips up there.  It must have been a kidney stone because she sat up  screaming in excruciating abdominal pain, which woke the entire house.  My grandmother called the doctor, who charmingly enough got out of his warm bed, dressed and ran over to the house.  Grandma of course didn't stop there but proceeded to call all six of the "boys" and their wives.  The neighbors (more old Italians) and tenants were either called or took it upon themselves to investigate when all the lights went on and cars began to pull up.  I'm sure everyone was yelling, too.  All I know is that within minutes the house was filled with people.  I remember running from room to room, freaking out.  I was crying and desperately negotiating deals with the Almighty.

At one point in all of this, Marisa started following me around, grabbing me up in an embrace and trying in her broken English to comfort me as well as she could.  Of course it didn't make me feel any better, but I was aware of her trying. 

I don't know what the doctor did for my mother but she must have passed the stone or whatever because by dawn she was feeling better.  A follow-up to the doctor the next day and we were on our way.  I just remember, and will forever, the terror of that night, me promising the Lord that I would never disrespect my mom again if only He would save her, and Marisa.  She was the only one who saw and could feel my anguish and tried to console me.

I imagine that today Marisa would be diagnosed as bi-polar.  But if there is any truth to Thoreau's famous saying that "most men lead lives of quiet desperation,"  as certainly did poor Blake, perhaps we can also say that some men and some women lead lives of noisy desperation.  Extroverted in temperament, they look at their predicament in life, the unrealized dreams, the closed off paths, the extreme discomfort of having to play the cards that circumstance and their own hands have dealt them, and they give full vent to their frustration.

Much to the horror and discomfort of everyone else.  And also to the sometimes amusement of other poor sinners known as children.

I don't think we ever pranked them again.  And the ironic thing is, they stayed married for decades more, till one day poor old Blake added one more piece of property to his collection, to wit, he bought the farm. The big one.

And to be sure, no widow ever cried longer, and certainly no LOUDER, than did Marisa.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

HOW TO KEEP BUSY AT HOME



Cape Cod Cottage, by Paul Landry, buy at Allposters.com


When our lives are centered around our homes and families, we can be as busy as bees on a June morning if we so desire.  Or we can pace ourselves, or just have a quiet, restful day.  We work this out for ourselves, in the general absence of deadlines.  For those who haven't tried making home life their full time "job", I can quite imagine that they would wonder what on earth we do all day.  Don't we run out of things to do?  Isn't it boring? 

I hardly know where to start to try to convey the difference between just doing enough at home to sustain life so that you can spend your time at work, and actually "making" home your vocation.  The difference between the two ways of life is like imagining what strawberries and cream taste like as you chew sawdust all day, and well, feasting on strawberries and cream.

When I work full-time (which usually includes overtime), I will plainly say that most all of my domestic feelings fly out the window and I do not feel like doing anything at home but flopping on the couch, eating supper and falling into bed. The weekends are consumed with fighting the crowds at the supermarket and on the roads, then doing laundry, yardwork and just trying to catch up enough to be able to slide out the door again early Monday morning for work. Naturally, but it came as quite a revelation to me, I find myself uncharacteristically annoyed if unexpected company shows up during this time, or I get a phone call from an out-of-town relative who wants to catch up. I find any interruption of my time on the weekend extremely painful, since I know I only have these few hours to do the maintenance work of life.

On my breaks and at lunch, I literally run to my car for refuge. It becomes my pseudo-home where I can relax and think a thought or two that has nothing to do with my work. This is important because the nature of my work is all-consuming, non-stop and exacting. I no more want to sit around the break room and engage in office gossip than I'd want to hang from a telephone pole on a rainy Autumn night, trying to fix a power line while the wet wind blows in my face.

Since I only do this job about five months out of the year, I make myself do it and keep in mind that soon I'll be back home, and things will get back to normal. Because when I am home, I become a human being again and stop being a specialist robot on auto-pilot.

When I am home, I have time to contemplate, to feel the warm earth beneath bare feet as I saunter out back to pick a few herbs for a meal I am preparing. I can sit here at my computer researching whatever I have a current interest in, looking up recipes or writing on my blog. If my daughter or older sons stop by, I can make them a bite to eat or some coffee and we can sit and chat. My husband, who is disabled with back problems, is retired and home now, so we often will go food shopping or to Walmart or the local hardware store together. The roads are quiet, the stores sparsely populated and my heart is not racing.

I can do the many aspects of housekeeping that often get ignored when working full-time.  I can dust, and wipe baseboards, hang clothes outside to dry, wipe the smudges off windows and woodwork, clean out a drawer or closet, wash out all the little trash cans in the rooms and set them in the sun to dry, iron clothes, try new recipes, de-clutter, and find countless other tasks that will call to me for attention.

Being home gives you time to think and to see the big picture.  You have the leisure to figure out better ways of doing things.  You can sit down and spend some time looking over papers and finances, and finding  where waste can be cut, and income preserved or stretched.  Even taking the time to look at the weekly grocery specials, lining up any coupons that can be used on top of that, and then planning meals accordingly saves a lot of money, and gives you the satisfaction of taking control of the family's health and finances in this area for the week.  Congratulations, you just "earned" some money with the added benefit of being the boss of the operation!

Perhaps it might be good to just mention a few of the things I was able to do in the last week because I was home.

Because I was home, I was able to get some extra sleep because I wasn't feeling well. 

I had time to talk to my daughter about some things that were bothering her, and some decisions she needed to make.

When my foster daughter got sick, I was able to drop everything and bring her to the doctor.  I had put a roast beef in the oven, and when it was apparent that we were going to be delayed at the busy doctor's office, I called my dear husband and asked him to heat up some vegetables that I had on hand in my well-stocked pantry.  We came home to a beautiful dinner.  Though I was cleaning up the kitchen much later than usual, it was OK because I did not have to get myself ready for work the next morning, nor get into bed by a certain time.

I also accompanied my husband to his doctor's appointment.  When we got home, our oldest son soon stopped by for a visit.

My husband and I were able to leisurely visit a couple of stores one day last week and I found Christmas gift tags on sale for 74 cents, a damask cloth tablecloth for the dining room table for $3.24, sets of Christmas ornaments for  $1.49, as well as various other items for 75% off.  That completes everything I need to be able to wrap next year's presents whenever I start shopping for them, plus snag a couple of good bargains on other useful items. I did some comparison shopping for a set of Correlle dishes I want but am not buying at present, until they go on sale somewhere.  We did the same thing today at Home Depot, looking at storm doors.  When we found out that they will probably go on sale towards summer, we decided to wait until then.

I went to an overnight retreat with some ladies from one of our church's ministries.

I have been going through receipts, utility bills, and all kinds of paperwork from 2010.  I am lining up all my rebate offers with the receipts, and plan to send them off this week.

I am catching up on phone calls that need to be made in order to get information or straighten out orders or doctor's appointments, etc.

I have written four articles, including this one, for my blog, as well as having the time to read other blogs and articles of interest online.

I have cleaned and organized several drawers, and compiled a couple of boxes of items to donate to the thrift store nearby.

I planned my meals and thawed out meat ahead of time so I would be good to go.

Of course on top of these things, I kept up with the housework, cooked from scratch every day, and took some time to talk to the Lord and to think about some decisions that I need to make.  As a result, I have dropped out of one of the ministries I was involved in, and have decided to end another activity I was involved in.  Both of these things had served their purpose and my time with them has run it's course, I am led to believe.

I believe I am happier living this way, and therefore, my family is happier.  I am not barking, snapping or simply tuning them out. Doing things for others brings me joy, and being home gives me the chance to make my own schedule and do things at my own pace.  I do not have to worry about pleasing my boss, and answer only to my husband.  If I displease him, at least I know he loves me and is not going to fire me!  And he is secure in knowing my love for him and my commitment to him.

Women have a need to share and to nurture, without deadlines and pressure says John Gray, PhD., and author of the book Venus on Fire Mars on Ice. According to what he's gleaned from studying indigenous cultures, he found that women routinely work alongside other women, doing the necessities of life, which for them center around hearth and home.  The manner in which they work, steady, unhurried, and communally, helps build their levels of the hormone oxytocin, which fills the female body with a sense of peace and well-being.  He contends that this is central to a woman's physical and mental health throughout life and certainly provides protection as she ages. 

On the other hand, women in our modern, push-push, deadline driven culture begin to experience a stress-related breakdown of health because they are operating in a way that is foreign to their needs.  In fact, they are forced to behave and react in ways suited to the male of the species - something he thrives on, but something we do not.

So you see, we can best "contribute to society" by building up our homes and loved ones.  We can be rich beyond measure, by owning our time, making our own choices, and even adding material wealth to our family by focusing in on how we can most efficiently acquire things we need and even some things that are luxuries.
We have the time to prepare our carefully chosen or home-grown food, and serve it to the delight and health of our families.  We can be rich in social interaction by showing hospitality to others, or making visits, phone calls or writing letters. 

These are the things which make life rewarding and worth living in my estimation. If anything I feel a little guilty to have such an abundant life on a fraction of what other folks are bringing in.  But I am always thankful.

Friday, January 14, 2011

WINTER MEMORIES


It Snows, Oh It Snows by Grandma Moses
© 1951 - 15" x 12" from Artique.com

I am unpacking some winter memories today, and after unearthing them after all these years, I must admit I never thought about how odd they might seem to folks today. My memories of the eccentricities of my childhood seem now like clothes left forgotten in the attic. After seeing such things, so long out of style, one can scarcely believe anyone wore them. But they did.

When I was 11 years old, my mother and I spent part of the winter in her hometown of Rutland, VT, as she was trying to help two of her brothers get started in their new restaurant. It was a wonderful Italian restaurant, proudly named Bernardina's, after my grandma. She decided to do this one day, so she packed us up and put me in school in Rutland. My father was probably laid off for the winter from his construction job, and she just left him and my teen-aged brother there to hold down the fort while she went on her mission.  I suspect my brother might have been happy for this turn of events.

It seems kind of odd that she would do that now when I think back on it. My mother was a special person, but not as rare as one might first think. She was indeed very independent, but enjoyed her independence within the soft nest of being in a traditional, religious (then typical) family. Hard to explain, but she was married to Dad faithfully for 48 years until her death, raised my brother and I beautifully on my father's small salary, but was blessed in that she had a quick mind, a vibrant spirit, and a husband who had no issues with her flitting on and off a little project now and then.

For instance, when I was seven and in the second grade, she decided to start her own diner. Again it was winter, again my father was out of work (which perfectly fit her plans as she made him the dishwasher), and Grandma was available to come down from Vermont and cook. As I have mentioned before on this blog, Grandma was built just like a Sherman tank and had the raw strength and power of one, as well.

 Unlike the tank she was a lot faster, though, as I personally witnessed her cleaning up the entire kitchen many times (no dishwasher or disposal) after having fed tons of people, in under 10 minutes. This included putting all the dishes away. You really didn't want to be in her way when she was working like this, and since you might be slain on the spot if you got close enough to breath on any of her windows or starched curtains, it was best to just go outside.

So my mother, as good a cook and baker as Grandma, a whiz with numbers, and the kind of person who, upon meeting, most people just became their true selves with and compulsively coughed up personal information, giving up secrets and everything, went into business. Up went the sign bearing the very original and clever name for a diner: "Mary's".

She was wildly successful, made lots of money and endeared herself to anyone who walked through the door. After three months, she up and quit. Went out of business. Why? Well, she was tired of it, and missed being home with my brother and I, and besides, now it was spring and my father was getting hired back onto a construction job. Grandma packed up her aprons, and called one the "boys" (my uncles who all lived up home in Vermont), to come get her. She put herself into the Cadillac, along with a huge order from the Italian importing store in Schenectady, and her new foundation garments and dresses from Nelson's (affectionately referred to as the "fat lady store") and rode off into the sunset, waving and blowing kisses.

My father, I seem to remember vaguely, was only too happy to escape "Mary's" kitchen and get back out with the men, digging ditches. And he was equally happy, extra money and success aside, to say good-bye to "Mary's", and get Mary back where she belonged as queen of the realm at the house. Funny how men back then were not so concerned with income so much as they were with living a cozy, well-ordered life.

My mother came home, which delighted me. For the past three months I had been tended to in the morning by an older lady named Clare. She was nice enough, but I felt lonely. She was a stranger in my house, making me soggy french toast and bringing me to school. I just couldn't acclimate myself to this! She wasn't my mom and there was no getting around it. After school my dad would get me and bring me to the diner where I would stay with them until after the dinner hour, and then we'd all come home around 7 pm and go to bed early. I don't remember where my 12 year old brother would spend his time after school. Maybe he would be there a lot, but more likely he was probably hanging out in the neighborhood, hitting passing cars with snowballs, and just being the biggest smart-aleck. What a trouble maker that kid was!

So my childhood was pretty interesting, really. While I was in Vermont staying with my favorites, Uncle Pat, Aunt Margie and their six kids, it was, as I said, the dead of winter. Back then, of course, there was not much electronic amusement for youngsters, and the grown-ups were not in the habit of providing money, and pre-fabricated entertainment to children nor so-called "quality time" with them. They were more prone to spend "quantity time" with us, the women home all day, the men at work, but everyone around the dinner table at night. After that, the adults would sit in the living room and watch a sometimes fuzzy TV that received about three channels on a good day.

There was, I should point out, no "family room" in anybody's house, as I recall. Heck, my uncle's house had a dirt cellar which held the most amazing and unique feature: a huge boulder sitting right in the middle of it!  I guess back in the 1860's when they dug out the foundation, they found it and just decided to leave it be - wouldn't hurt anything, would it?

So most every night, my cousin Marcie and I would, just for fun, venture out into the still, frozen darkness and down the road about a half a mile to a little store owned by an old, almost totally blind, lady. She lived in the back of the store, and you had to pull a string when you entered, which would ring a bell back in her quarters to let her know she had a customer.

Have you ever heard the expression, "robbing you blind"? Well, it did not apply here, amazingly enough. Apparently this system had gone on for years, and in that part of the universe (perhaps it was a parallel universe, after all) all the customers were honorable. Including us. We would chat with the old lady, buy something cheap and then walk home. Most of the time, strangely enough, we would buy an ice cream cone. Vanilla, I think was the only flavor she had. But ice cream on January nights in New England! Intrepid youth!

Often, snow would be falling on our ice cream cones, as we leisurely made our way back up the road, fantasizing to each other about our future husbands. Oh, they would be lucky, handsome, and insanely rich husbands! We would  pick them from the royalty and rock stars we'd undoubtedly meet and smite with our beauty one day. The snow would pile onto our cones, making them last a little bit longer. And how clever of us to eat ice cream outside when it was too cold for it to melt and drip down the cone like it does in summer.

Well, I have unpacked a couple of boxes today, and I see lots more to be gone through in the time to come. To some these things might be clutter, but to me they are precious keepsakes which have helped to form me along the way.

As I look back over my shoulder, I see lots of adventure here, because this attic is packed!