Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Adventures in Ironing...I mean, Adventures in Odyssey!

Ironing is one of those tasks that I have a tendency to let pile up if I don't have some sort of system or motivation to complete. Until I got married I had no idea ironing was important to men. So, you ladies-in-waiting/single gals, this is a skill to master. Not that I've truly mastered it yet. Anyway, here is my latest Grand Idea for passing the time while ironing:

I listen to Adventures in Odyssey online while I iron! To tune in to these well-written, fast-paced, family-friendly, God-honoring radio drams, visit www.whitsend.org and click on "On the Radio".

My sister and I have been fans of Adventures in Odyssey since about 1989. It is a continuing story about a fun community of people in a town called Odyssey - however, the stories make sense in whatever order you hear them, so don't fret about being out of the loop.

Let me know what you think, as I am perhaps their biggest fan, as those of you who know me are aware. :o) Does anyone else know about Odyssey?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Cathedral in Time / Getting Ready to be "Sunday Heather"

"Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God."

Sundays, if a homemaker is not careful, can easily begin to seem a lot like all the other days of the week. Except for the fact that there's church in the morning, I mean. I have a lot to learn about keeping the day of rest separate from the rest of the week, I am no expert. No siree, in fact, I have a lot of questions about how to spend the day in a way that honors God.

Wise counsel over the years of my studies has led me to believe that the admonition to "do no work" does not equal "do nothing". I believe resting can mean recreating - doing something that revives us from our labors. However, I repeat, I am no expert.

I love the phrase by Abraham Joshua Heschel calling the sabbath day a "cathedral in time". Each week as Sunday approaches I try -- and often fail, but I keep on trying -- to take measures to prepare for the day. With planning and effort, I can make room for Sunday to be a day with more rest in it than if I did not prepare. In fact, in our house I am known as "Sunday Heather" on Sundays, because on Sundays I rest a lot. I move slowly, I don't start projects, I take longer to do things. Here's what this homemaker does to get ready for Sunday:

  • By Saturday night, have the kitchen counter cleared and the dishwasher empty.

This means that on Sunday, there will be a place for me to simply stow dirty dishes away in the washer instead of dealing with them or with clean dishes that would need to be put away.

  • By Saturday night, have the dining table set for Sunday's after church lunch. Sometimes, if I'm exhausted, I go for the rock-bottom goal of simply having the table clear and ready for setting before the meal. Other times, when I'm feeling like a rock star homemaker, it means that I have a special tablecloth out and candlesticks ready for lighting, places set and serving spoons out. This creates an anticipatory feeling in the living/dining area of our home: not in a show-off way I hope, but in an ushering-in-the-sabbath kind of way. Having the table set the day before also means that on Sunday that's one less thing for the homemaker to even think about/make time for doing.....it means there is resting time in place of doing time before the meal.

  • By Saturday night, I try very hard to have laundry finished so that on Sunday I will definitely not need to do laundry. For me, this makes Sunday stand out against the other days of the week, because I do laundry pretty much every day except Sunday. In our household we use cloth diapers on little Elena, so having laundry completed for Sundays means that I have a niiiiice stack of clean cloth diapers stacked on the changing table, yahoo!

Note: this does not always happen. Sometimes I blow it, and instead of a restfully prepared stack of snowy white diapers, they are in a heap in the dryer down the hall, and I have to deal with that on Sunday instead of luxuriating in a calm, lovely, prepared stack.

  • By Saturday night, I glance around the closet that my husband and I share and make sure that he has some ironed dress shirts to choose from for the morning service. Sunday mornings are a terrible time to have to iron.

  • Because of our particular recycling situation, which is too uninteresting to explain, trust me, I pack our cardboard recyclables into my husband's car trunk before he leaves for work on Saturday afternoon. (He works Tues-Sat.) That way, we can dump them at the recycling place after church. Oops, is this work? Hmmm. :o) Sigh.

  • And, I try to pack the diaper bag the night before, too. This includes a small cloth bag full of quiet tiny toys to keep Elena occupied throughout the whole service. Once I forgot this detail, and I hope I never forget it again!

  • Before bed on Saturday I pull out whatever I'm defrosting for our main course on Sunday.

That way, when we wake up on Sunday, a lot of the details are taken care of and we aren't starting the day completely from scratch.

Is this perfect? No, often we are still pulling out the garage a few minutes late. Is this the only way to do this? No. In fact, I would really appreciate hearing anyone else's ideas for preparing for Sundays. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Goodness at Aunt Ruthie's Sugarpie Farmhouse!

Oh, I just love visiting Aunt Ruthie's. Ruthann Winans' blog, called Aunt Ruthie's Sugarpie Farmhouse, will make you feel like a favorite niece being welcomed into your favorite aunt's gracious kitchen, where a pie cools on the windowsill and the kettle quietly whistles on the hearth. The air is filled with the aroma of all your favorite foods, and you can hear Aunt Ruthie singing hymns as she merrily sweeps or washes dishes or tends the fire.

Happy sigh.

I want to spread the word: Aunt Ruthie has just written a new e-book called Watermelon and Fireflies: 51 Farm Fresh Ideas for Celebrating the Good Ol' Summertime. It is packed with recipes and household tips and fun family ideas, all explained in Aunt Ruthie's contagiously cheery writing style and decorated with her collection of vintage graphics.

You can learn more about this by clicking here.

Also, she has invented a free-to-join sisterhood called the Sugarpie Sisterhood. Joining gives one access to forums full of other sisters: homemakers! Hoorah.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Household Guestbook

The road to a friend's house is never too long.

That saying always makes me think of the S. family, a family whom I greatly admire for their big-hearted hospitality and cozy home. Their house is a huge distance from everywhere, completely inconvenient to find, and nearly hidden in a posh wooded neighborhood of coastal New England. Yet, their household is like a people magnet! Their guest book is always stuffed to the gills with names. They must know some secret of how to attract crowds of fun, wonderful people, because I've been to more gatherings there than I can shake a stick at....appropriately, the S. family gave my husband and I a guestbook as part of their wedding gift to us in 2007.

I've been shyly collecting guest signatures in this book, and it is sweet to sit and admire the names and comments that guests leave. This book will serve as a nice record of the friends and family who visited us over the years.

Two days ago, however, the guestbook served me in an entirely new way. And feel free to chuckle at me, dear reader, when you discover how it did so. One of my new neighbors, whom I had met by way of delivering a big smile, a welcome, and a mini loaf of banana bread in January, came over for supper. For the life of me, I could not recall her name. To my shame, she remembered mine, as well as my daughter's! Gosh.

The visit went beautifully, we all had a grand time. And at the end of the visit I pulled out the guestbook and asked if she would do us the honor of signing it. (You see where I'm going with this?). She was thrilled to sign, and wrote her name very clearly, along with a happy comment.

So, now I know her name, yippee! Yet another use for guestbooks. I really think that if more people knew about the joys of guestbooks, more households would have them. Tee hee.

Your friend,

More Like Mitford, or, Learning to be Neighborly

Some of my favorite books include the Mitford series by Jan Karon. Reading them is so comforting, and I often think that our world needs more people like the characters in those books: namely, people who make the time to be good neighbors.

I've got a lot to learn about being a good neighbor. But, here are some ways that I've been trying to live out the golden rule and help build community in our little neighborhood:

a) As I push the stroller on neighborhood walks, I smile and wave at anyone we happen to see outside. This small polite gesture - if done casually and not overdone -- seems to work wonders. People mowing their lawns wave back, dog walkers come over and introduce themselves, the rare porch sitter nods and waves.

b) I've welcomed new neighbors with hand-delivered baked goods, and introduced myself that way. Its been a great way to help new people feel welcome. Also, when I deliver it I let them know that I'm a homemaker; I specify that I am at home during the day in case they would ever need anything. Usually people are surprised by this. To me its a neat and hospitable way to let others know that full time homemaking exists, as well as to offer help if needed.

c) "Babies open many doors" my grandmother told me once. What she meant by this of course, is that most people sort of melt when they are near a clean, happy, well dressed, sweet smelling little baby. In the past months I have learned that this is entirely true, and the result is that waaaay more people stop and chat with my husband and I now that we tote around baby Elena. She imitates, as babies do, so now she waves to everyone she sees and is friendly just like I am.

These ways of being friendly have led to the establishment of all of my neighborhood acquaintances. Are these elaborate schemes, or complicated practices? No, they are not. I'm not pretending that these are new ideas, or even overly clever ones. But, these are simple ways to spread friendliness and neighborliness!

Monica over at The Homespun Heart has done some sweet and hospitable neighborliness projects over the years. Her blog is one of my favorite, maybe you would like it, too.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Glamorizing Modesty

How about simply calling our campaign Glamorizing Modesty?

It may not have a lot of zip, this title, so let's call it a working title and I'll keep thinking about improving it. Sounds like a plan.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

This Campaign Needs an Inspiring Name, any ideas?

"The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender.
There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind.
There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined.
We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith;
We have enough greed; we need more goodness;
we have enough vanity; we need more virtue.
We have enough popularity, we need more purity." --Margaret D. Nadauld

Over the weekend our little family attended something delightful called the Farm Animal Frolic at Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm. Baby Elena, who currently seems really interested in animals, especially sheep, got to pet all sorts of baby farm animals. It was an afternoon of good memories and sweet scenes as I watched my husband hold my daughter, surrounded by early summer sunshine.

The afternoon was briefly interrupted by a scene that I won't go into in depth: I will just say that near the bunnies, a mother kneeling near her child was being greatly betrayed by her incredibly low-rise jeans. I was appalled, and was haunted by the rude display of flesh for hours afterward.

During that moment or two when I noticed the problem, I really didn't know what to do. Should I let her know? How should I phrase it to her? Surely she could sense all that exposed skin, couldn't she? Other than this fashion faux pas she didn't appear to be the usual candidate for trying to shock anyone, she was otherwise very average in her mid-thirties motherly appearance. I was very frustrated. All I ended up actually doing about it was warning my dear husband to look in the other direction, and our family left the scene calmly to visit the lambs instead.

Throughout the remainder of the day I struggled from time to time with that question - - what should our response as ladies be to the women in our midst who are immodest, whether by their own honest mistake or their own intention? I've been in that situation before and also did not know what to do, and ended up doing nothing.

What is the compassionate response? What is the ladylike response?

I have no idea, still, about what the conversation should look like. Something tells me it needs to be non-judgemental and kind if it is to make any kind of positive impact, however, beyond that I'm not getting any ideas.

The next day, we were at the grocery store as a family, and in the produce department my husband quietly pointed out to me a young lady about my age who was wearing a very pretty, modest, casual day-dress. It was one of those everyday kind of dresses that is super cute, yet knit jersey and probably not dressy/respectful enough for church, but perfect for looking cute at home or out and about. Oh, dear, I need to learn to post photos so I can find an example on the web and pin it up here. "See? that's your kind of dress, Heather, and it is modest!" he whispered. (He knew how down I was feeling about the widespread immodesty in our culture.)

Anyway, I had noticed her, too, and had been relieved and heartened to see this.

Then, I had an idea!!!

What if, instead of dwelling on my unanswerable question of what to say to the immodest, I help promote modesty by finding some quiet, polite, positive way to compliment those ladies among us who are dressing modestly? To me, that sounds like a plan!

So, the next lady I saw in an outfit that filled that bill (and I must say, it was only about 2 minutes later in the bread department, hooray), I just naturally told,

"Oh, what a great skirt," with a polite smile. I was careful not to be overzealous. She beamed back and gave me a big "Thanks!"

Phew. That felt like such an easy exchange when compared to the scary low rise jeans incident of the day before.

Will you join me in my campaign to promote modest dress? My intention in this article is not to gossip or cast judgement, it is to launch something positive.

Could that something positive be a new habit or two?
1. a habit of dressing in a ladylike (i.e. feminine and skin-covering) manner, and of
2.providing quiet compliments to others who do so too,

thus positively reinforcing ladylike dress.

This leaves us back at the title: this campaign requires an inspiring and non-war-like name. Any ideas?