Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Day 8--I Like Me. I really do.

Yesterday I posted about a random realization that I had about myself and how I came to see that my friendships or my desire for them have nearly always shaped the interests I invested myself in. So I made a list of "just for me" things that I could remember from time through the years. I did notice that I had stronger personal interests until I hit junior high. This is when the world around me went boy crazy. It also happens to be the same time that my Mawmaw passed away. She was probably the most influential person in my early years apart from my own parents. I think her death and the age-related insecurities of 7th/8th grade worked together to create a vacuum in my life that I desperately sought to fill with other people and interests. Odd how it can take 28 years to see these things. SO in no particular order:
  • The dollhouse that I got when I was 3 or 4. It was paperboard, printed, and had plastic furniture. The roof on the bedroom lifted so there was better access to upstairs. I loved running my little Sesame Street finger puppets up and down the plastic staircase and making up stories of all the things they did there and rearranging the furniture to see where the sofa would fit best. I still love a dollhouse. But I don’t make up stories for the inhabitants much anymore. I do still love to rearrange the furniture, though!
  • Cats or kittens over the years. My Mawmaw seemingly always had a cat and kittens. I also had a couple of special kitties over time. Mister, Boots, and Smokey come immediately to mind. They were dear friends to me, along with Daisy the dog. She and Mister were good friends and about the same size.  
  • Making things. Painting wooden shapes or gluing pompoms and felt together to make animals. Sewing doll clothes. Pottery. Cutting paper to make flowers. Pop-up cards and other little decorations for gifts. I loved doing things with my hands and making things. I still love to hand sew and embroider; I enjoy needle felting and watercolor painting. I should do these things more. I HAVE all.the.stuff. I also enjoyed sewing when I was young, but learned precious little skill till Home Ec. in the 8th grade. That may have been ONE thing that I liked “just because” at that age: sewing. I made quite a few of my clothes then. Now we enjoy making historical costumes.
  • Stormy. A book about a boy and a dog and a duck camp. I loved this book. I wrote a report on it in 5th grade and have read it more times than I can count.  My dad gave me the book but I loved it all on my own. No explanation! I also enjoyed Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys and Lewis Carroll…most reading I actually DID out of pure joy. Most of my friends didn’t really read—or at least didn’t talk about books that much. I envy my daughters and their bookish internet discussions. J I think NOT talking about what we were reading was simply a side effect of school over-saturization.
  • Cooking. I began cooking fairly regularly for my family’s dinner when I turned 12 or so. I enjoyed learning to use the kitchen and recipe books. I never enjoyed cleaning up, however.(THAT still holds true for sure!)
  • Linguistics. I took an introductory course in my senior year of college and fell in love with the science of how languages WORK. This proved to be life changing for me, as I wouldn’t have met my husband if I hadn’t fallen in love with that field of study first.
  • My husband. Wow. He is mine, all mine, but he is also all GIFT. The way God orchestrated events to have each of us where we needed to be at the proper time still just makes me shake my head. I liked him just because I  found out deep down inside me that I did. Nobody made me. Nobody even introduced us. J
  • Homeschooling. I just wanted to. And we have. The worst year we’ve had with it was the one year where I listened to what others thought I should do and put my girls in school. It was horrible.

I find that when I tune in to the person God has made ME to be, I quickly find myself in a creative place where it is okay to enjoy the world and I can actually look around me with a happy gratitude. When I get stuck in a place of trying to be other-than-myself, I get sad too quickly. I lose the joy of being and doing for the sake of it; I become my own worst critic. I worry.

And that brings me to here, now. This blog. I started it because I wanted to. I needed a place to process and to document. A place to be ME and to be thankful.
And I am. The past year or so has been pretty tough in many ways with an underemployed husband who is in many ways trying to “find himself”—which really means find out WHO he is and BE himself--after years of doing what other people told him he should. I think such an identity crisis is hard on an entire family. I have been depressed and have withdrawn from even very close friends. I have been compelled to craft and make art, but have not allowed myself because there is so much else to do and money is so limited.

I have been in a growing process of realizing that gratitude isn’t always pretty. Sometimes it is all sunshine and a field of sunflowers with eyes open and a happy spin around…I love those times. But sometimes it is snotty-faced and gasping for air in huge ugly sobs because nothing really makes sense and YET. Yet. There is One who knows all things and who sets the future in its course and who directs my steps. My husband’s steps.  My children’s steps. 

So can I process the hopes AND fears here? Can I process the successes AND failures in this place? Can I manage to redeem the ugliness in some small way by pushing through the fear and the hurt feelings and the grief, even, and giving thanks in all things?
It isn’t all lovely, but He makes all things beautiful in His time.
I guess this wasn’t about friendship. But it’s what I needed today.
Thanks for listening, friend.


Day 7--Ponderings on Being a Real Person

This evening at dinner we were talking and being silly as usual when a stray comment sent my mind back to something one of the girls had said earlier this afternoon. She and her sister were embroiled in a disagreement over the acceptability(or not)of a new music choice she had made. The sister in question said something to the effect of “my friends enjoy it, so I want to like it too and we can have something to talk about so more people will like me.”
Overhearing this reasoning, I promptly jumped into the conversation with a “that doesn’t WORK.” Followed by a protest based on what I experienced in high school(and later)as I tried to like things others liked—books, movies, music—SO THAT we could have something to talk about and they would “like me.” Oh, how I remember saying THOSE VERY WORDS to my parents and best friend at the time! 
As so often happens with these things, in the middle of the otherwise benign dinner conversation I found myself choking back tears and sniffling hard as I had a realization: most of my life I have only been “interested” in things BECAUSE OTHER PEOPLE WERE AND I WANTED TO FIT IN WITH THEM.
That is a huge realization. And I don’t state it because I feel sorry for myself, but because it was so incredibly revealing. I know that I am deep down a people pleaser, a keep-peace-at-all-costs kind of girl. Apparently my extremely-felt need to fit in has been enough to keep me hopping along to other people’s drumbeats for a very long time.

I wanted to cry. Then I was nearly angry. Then I laughed at myself, because to look at me NOW you would not know I am that weakling. I am fiercely independent about my choices in entertainment, clothing, food, and activities. My motto is almost always “avoid the  hype” addended by “unless there is good reason to follow it”. I have said before that we are weird. Now I know it is truly by choice, but this choice is just the opposite pendulum swing of how I behaved growing up.
I avoid “normal” like the plague now where for years I pursued it like some plastic shiny holy grail. I wonder if either camp is really better than the other?
Because what I need is truth. I need to be molded by the truth; my decisions need to be shaped by the truth; my priorities need to be aligned to the truth. If either camp lands my life outside of the truth, I am not where I need to be.
So I sit pondering tonight. I actually got out of bed and fetched the cat and computer to work on this post. I wasn’t going to worry with a post today because I was—wait for it—tired of having to be driven by the hype. But I felt like this needed to be said. For me.  Maybe for someone else.
Oh, and for fun I started a list of things I DID REALLY LIKE, just MYSELF, as far back as I can remember. I will go into those in tomorrow's post. It's quite telling when I look at those things and look at my life now. Makes me wonder why I had such a hard time seeing it. :)
It's late here. Almost time for that amazing lunar eclipse we've been hearing about. I will be toast and good-for-nothing tomorrow.  Good thing His strength is perfected in our weakness.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Day 6--A Post about(almost)nothing

Oh good grief.
I get so caught up in silly things. Grammar, punctuation, being well-thought-through...posting for a MONTH.
Well, this day's post is trying to make it under the wire just in time, but I felt that it was either do it today or be too tempted to quit altogether. So, an intro will have to be good enough!

The next eight days(maybe seven to keep it tidy)will deal with the ages and stages that affect women's friendships. I don't have answers to how things "should" be on most of these, but I know what I've experienced and how it has affected me. I know what I've seen from living around other women--moms, grandmoms, my daughters, my friends. I know I still have lots of questions to ask.

I look forward to some self-discovery and hopefully some wisdom in the next few days.  We will start with school friends and move through the stages of young married, through motherhood in all its difficulties and on into the empty nest and grandmothering years. I hope it's interesting. I feel woefully unprepared.

But part of this is believing that it is important enough TO ME for me to keep plowing through.

Thanks for reading. And for coming back to read again.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Day 5: Making Friends (with)Where You Are

This may be one of the hardest posts to write this month; in my list I have a couple that I know are going to be tough for various reasons, but my husband suggested this one, and it was a good idea, I thought.

You see, I pretty much hate where we live. It is hot, and humid, and has no real cool weather except maybe two weeks out of the year(really, freezing temps are less than about two weeks TOTAL--not even all at one time!). The heat and humidity mean there are BUGS--mosquitos especially, but also fleas, ticks, fire ants, and other little beasts(spiders, snakes!) that love to bite and inflict pain--year round. We do not get a break from it!

I also hate sweating. And I like to wear real clothing--I don't inflict my clothing tendencies on others, but I do love to wear jackets and sweaters and skirts and boots, and most of the year it is too HOT to even think about layering a t-shirt over a cami, let alone REALLY getting dressed!

Our power bill is outrageous. Enough said. The air conditioner runs a LOT.

But those, really, are surface issues.

We have ongoing family tensions with extended family.

We don't support the local college football religion mania.

We homeschool. We read real books. We enjoy learning about history and asking "why" quite often about the status quo. We eat food that I cannot find at Walmart--in our state, where food is such a distinctive part of the culture, eating differently can easily be taken as a personal insult.

We are different.

So I have been at a loss. It can be lonely being different(We LIKE and even benefit from the way we do things!). I don't think most of these things are negotiable. We don't really have a place we fit in with a group of people. Friends to really do life with are hard to come by. We don't do team sports or church youth group. . .I don't even remember the last time we went to the mall. :)

Where can we go, what can WE do "for fun"?

Yesterday we decided to day-trip into "town" and visit a historical site. We went to Magnolia Mound Plantation and had a lovely afternoon tour of the home--built in 1791. It was easy to imagine ladies in their high-waisted gowns perched on the dainty chairs or playing the pianoforte.  The house was beautiful--though small for what we think of as "plantation homes" and period-correct in decor and furnishings. Amazing. They did not allow photography of the inside. I was mad.

After the house tour, exploring the kitchen garden a bit too in-depth(herbs!!!) and walking the grounds a bit, we went for a very late lunch to a small gluten-free, msg-free, organic, no-preservatives "deli" type restaurant. It was so nice to be able to order anything from the menu and not have to ask questions or worry about brain fog or depression or even indigestion as a result of eating mystery food.  Oh, and I did NOT have to cook any of it. A definite plus! :)

Then a trip for a few groceries, and home just after dark to find the chickens had already put themselves away for the night. It was good to be home. Even here.

And if we ever relocate, we have checked one "friendly" place off our list of things to see while we are here. The history is ONE good thing about the area.

Have you ever had to work to "make friends" with your location?


Friday, October 3, 2014

31 Days: To Have a Friend or, What does it mean to CARE?

To have a friend, be a friend.

This little graphic and phrase hung on my wall when I was small, right below a similar picture that featured a small girl praying beside her bed. I actually think I meshed the two into child-like 1st and 2nd commandments all those years ago. . .
Always say your prayers, and if you want to have a friend, you have to be one.

Never did it occur to me as a preschooler or even school-age child that perhaps I should question what it meant to "have" a friend or to "be" one. I am certain those questions arrived sometime in 7th grade when one of my BFFs from grade school suddenly didn't hang out with me and our other BFF anymore. I still don't know what happened, but that summer things changed, and I became sad somewhere inside and deeply aware of a sense of not quite measuring up anymore--or had I ever, really? She had been one of the major joys of my life to that point. It made a difficult transition even harder(isn't junior high the worst?), but I'm not sure I was fully aware of it even in the middle of life there. I suddenly just felt that something was wrong with ME. I didn't know the rules anymore and couldn't play the game.  I wanted to fit into her new world, but felt that no one cared enough to explain the new procedures to me. . .if there had been an "add friend" button, you can bet I would have been clicking it! :)

In yesterday's post I talked a whole lot about the need to be sure we are authentically and practically CARING for our friends instead of simply assuming they feel our concern. It occurred to me that we may need to see what "care" actually means, and I found to be quite enlightening, especially when I looked at the word's origins and saw that it originally had the sense of "grieving"--that's a very deep consideration, isn't it? Other meanings were "serious attention; solicitude; heed; caution" and "protection; charge". I also really thought "temporary keeping, as for the benefit of or until claimed by the owner" was evocative. How do these definitions translate into the day-to-day caring of friendship?

Perhaps we could look to Scripture? Maybe we can locate a set of rules or a standard operating procedure for the care and keeping of friends...of course, we can't make anyone "Like" us for real, but if we show them the love of Christ, then we have given honor to Him, and we have done our own hearts good, I think. Let's look at the super well-known passage in 1 Corinthians; Chapter 13,
Verses 4-7:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Hmmm. . .so if I care for my friends, I will be patient. I will not huff if my call sits unreturned or she just. won't. listen. to my advice. I will be kind and guard my tongue as well as my actions even when my feelings may be hurt a teensy bit. I will seek to bless and not harm. I will not envy even though she's going on her second romantic getaway or family vacation trip this year and our family hasn't had even one. I will rejoice over God's amazing provision in her life! I will not boast--about my husband's leadership or my kids' achievements or how wonderful a relationship I have with my so-and-so. I will not be proud or lord it over her or make her feel less-than in anyway. I will not dishonor her or disregard the reality of her feelings by saying "Well, at least" in any form when she tells me of a problem. I will not seek to make myself feel better by putting her or others we know down(gossip)in any way. I will not keep tabs on whose "turn" it is to have whom over for a play day. I will pray for truth and goodness and never gloat if my advice goes unheeded and something "I told you so" about happens. I will rejoice as my friend journeys with Christ into ever-deeper truth. I will protect her by refusing to gossip or engage in idle chatter about her or her abilities or her family. I will trust her to BE a friend to me, and when she doesn't live up to my standard completely, I will hope that we can both grow more into the image of our Lord, and I will seek to persevere in growing and in helping her grow in grace.
Whew! Is that a tall order, or what?
That list is almost like bad news--there is NO WAY I can even remember all those things(I love that God just told us all the things love does NOT do in that passage; sometimes it is easier to see what something is by looking at the negative space around it.). How in the world will I DO them?
Of course, my list doesn't even touch the tip of the possibilities we can draw for our relationships from those verses, and the NEXT line in that passage says "Love never fails."


THAT is where we stop for a reality check...I always think then of1 John 4:8 where it says "God is love," and breathe a huge sigh of relief....HE IS LOVE. I AM HIS. If I abide in Him and let Him love my friends through me, I don't have to go around with a half-mile-long checklist.  That assurance takes a ton of pressure off. Yes, I--April--will fail, and miserably at times. But He--Love itself, Love that gave His life for His friends(which just happens to be all of us who call on His name!)--He NEVER FAILS.

And so that's what it means to care. To have a friend, be a friend. Or actually, to have a friend, follow the example of Jesus himself. And let Him be the BEST friend through you.
In the words of John Wilbur Chapman:

Jesus! what a Friend for sinners!
Jesus! Lover of my soul;
Friends may fail me, foes assail me,
He, my Savior, makes me whole.

Hallelujah! what a Savior!
Hallelujah! what a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.

Even when we don't know which button to press.  :) 

Have you ever had a true friend who just showed Jesus to you?

Day 4: A Celebration of Friendship

Today's post is a simple celebration.

I have a friend who possesses an amazing gift of caring for people. I first saw this gift in action in her daughter when my girls attended her 11th birthday party. The room was full of girls--I think there were at least 15 of them, ages 6-12 or so, and I realized somewhere in the middle of opening gifts that EVERY GIRL IN THAT ROOM had the distinct feeling that SHE was the hostess's own most-special friend. Do I have to say that's odd for an 11 year old?(Her mother has the same gift.) Obviously this gift came from her mom. When I talk to her, parts of my heart wake up. I laugh harder, I cry more quickly, I care more and feel like I can DO more. She energizes me, and I know by the way other women flock to her that she has that effect on them as well.  She has a gift of making people feel intrinsically valued.  Her friends list on Facebook is miles long--because she rarely meets a stranger, and when she does, that person becomes a friend before long.  Her beautiful daughter turned officially 18 this weekend, and I am in shock. From this:

To this. Wow. Eight years of precious moments. Birthdays, dolls, choir, a new baby sister, more dolls, chickens, dress ups, ballet, concerts, co-ops, dances...
the time flies.  Our girls have laughed and cried and watched movies and rehearsed music and done hair and makeup and tried on formals. They have traipsed over hill and dale and taken at least a thousand photos. My entire family is better for our three girls having had a really AMAZING friend all these years. 

So Happy Birthday! We love you, Miss B!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

31 Days of Friendship : Real Life Connections in a World Gone Virtual

Since the explosion of social media in the past few years, everyone we know--close friend or mere acquaintance—can have a ready view into all our moments—the exhilarating top of the plunge and down near the bottom where they keep the cameras that take those horrible pictures. . .social media says "Here I am, world, look at me! Notice me! Care about me!" And we all look. We can't help it; nosiness is built into our nature as Daughters of Eve.

But do we notice?
Do we really CARE?

 I have begun to wonder more and more if our casual and semi-constant access into people's lives has served the opposite purpose of what we all initially thought. I think we all signed up for Facebook and Blogger, Twitter and Pinterest with a sense that we would be more closely connected, more knowing and understanding of one another. What could be wrong with seeing pictures of each other's kids more often, or with getting status updates of joys and struggles several times a day? How could we argue with the opportunity to better know other people's likes and fears and interests and lunch preferences? Wouldn't it make us better able to care, more likely to extend a real helping hand, more understanding and patient with one another?

Have you thought any of those things about social media? What's the purpose? What's the effect? Do you feel MORE connected logging into Facebook for the tenth time in a morning, or just more nosey and isolated? Do you think you are more authentic in your posts, or do you tailor what you put out there to always make a particular type of statement and portray a carefully crafted image? Really think about it.

I find that when I meet someone at the store or at church and they've already seen everything I've done that week on Facebook, we have nothing left to talk about and are quickly reduced to "That was fun" or some other meaningless commentary. We've forgotten how to ask questions and how to connect. I think it is easy to actively care LESS as a result of social media, because it gives us a sense of knowing without having to exert the effort to grow intimacy. They are not the same thing.

Of course, this seems hypocritical, as I am using social media for this post! It has its merits; never before have we been able to communicate near-instantly with those we love, near and far. I have family with whom I ONLY relate via Facebook because it’s a convenient medium and geography has placed us so far apart. When my brother was deployed the first time was my initial foray into Facebook—it was a lifeline to hear from him, albeit mostly impersonal—during those long months. I still treasure any handwritten letters we sent or received, but it is admittedly so much easier to just type it and hit send.  Now he lives ten hours away, and we still “visit” primarily through Facebook and text message. This is great for staying connected in the long months between visits.  But what about those friends who are ten minutes away?

The fact that we are on Facebook can complicate things—taking the real out of friendship and making it too easy to NOT really “be a friend”. I see they are busy. They see I am busy. Problem is, we only see the busy that we are willing to put out there for the highly-cultivated world of digital social interaction. I don’t really know how, for example, a friend’s husband’s new work schedule is affecting her family. I won’t know that by the smiling faces of kids in practice. She can’t know that we had a really rough day of school yesterday and all went to bed nearly in tears by the picture I posted of the beautiful roast chicken we had at dinner . . . and on it goes. Despite the seeming connection, we are not really connected at the heart through this interface. We need face time, the chance to communicate real feelings in private conversation, perhaps a hug and a chance to see each other’s families in action—just like I need to see my nieces and nephew and their mom and dad at Thanksgiving. We need that flesh-and-blood time to keep relationships true and grounded. Otherwise? We end up knowing a bit about one another, but losing track of knowing each other.

I think this trap is easier to fall into now that we are so connected without having to make the effort of connecting. My knowing the same things about a friend’s life that 300 other people know is not what makes our friendship valuable. Our friendship is made invaluable when we take the time out of "busy" to care...more about caring in tomorrow's post.

Do you sense a struggle between being a real-world friend and a “virtual” friend? How do you deal with these potential pitfalls?
Have you thought about these things before?

Click the picture for more 31 Days of Friendship posts.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

31 Days of Friendship: It Begins with an Introduction

Every October for three years now an amazing thing has occurred; hundreds of women have taken a challenge to deeply explore a single topic for an entire month, posting daily on that subject on their personal blogs. Today I am glad to join them for this year's 31 Days event, begun and hosted by the Nester.

Oddly enough, I had forgotten about the 31 Days series until I checked my blog this morning for the first time in weeks. We have been super busy and my brain has been so full, and it just so happened that I was in tears over some friendship struggles at the moment, and I clicked through just to try and distract myself long enough to stop crying. As I read the post on The Nesting Place I felt strongly as if I should do this. . . on the topic of friendship. It seems there is so much that we have forgotten about making and keeping friends these days. Or maybe I just felt I still have so much left to learn.

Having not posted regularly for nearly two years, and being the queen of beginning-but-not-finishing, thirty-one consecutive posts seems like a giant task, but when I told my husband about it and advised him to discourage me in attempting it, he told me I should DO IT. So there! 

I mean, HERE. Here I am. 
  Me on the left. And my bestie.

 So yeah, Friendship. A big topic for women, especially. We start out early with our best friends in preschool and thus begins the lifelong roller coaster we seek to navigate dressed in our cutest clothes, with a phone and a kleenex box clutched tightly on one side, a container of chocolate ice cream held tightly in the other hand, and a whole world of hopes, fears, and insecurities clutched tightly within. Truly at times the ride is scary and exhilarating. Sometimes we feel like the lap bar just came up at the top of a plunge. Sometimes we feel that tug in our throat as the climb uphill whisks us out of a valley. Sometimes we just feel stuck and wish the little guys in their tool belts would hurry up and fix things so we don't have to try to climb down those skinny little side-paths holding all our insecurities. Sometimes we feel happy or sad or just nothing at all, really, but as women, we FEEL, and we share these feelings with our friends. 

This month I want to explore friendship--making and keeping friends, how friends help us, why we need them, and how the stages of our lives affect our friendships. I want to look into our most significant relationships and see what makes them tick while coming to understand better the maintenance steps we need to take to keep our relationships healthy.

I'll approach all this from the perspective of a homeschooling mom of 13 years. A mom who loves Jesus and seeks to live that in front of her kids and husband every day. A woman who fails and tries and often cries and who has no idea how to get it all done, but who knows deep down inside that there is much more significance to the mundane tasks and joys of everyday living than what we often stop to think.

So will you come along with me as we look at what it means to be a wife, daughter, mother, sister--what it means to be a friend?

Grab a cup of something warm and comforting. I look forward to journeying with you.


Click the picture to go to the listing for more on Friendship.

Click Here to be taken back to the 31 Days site.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Twelve-Minute-Muse: A Creative Adventure

Several months ago my husband came in from his "seasonal" employment of lawn care and announced he had a new, fun idea for a creative outlet: a podcast. It would be a twelve-minute podcast, highlighting conversations with artists of many kinds--musicians, authors, graphic arts, and on it goes...he even had a title: the Twelve Minute Muse!

I, being always a very supportive and encouraging wife, assumed he had been out in the sun too long and handed him a glass of ice water while murmuring something like, "That's nice, honey."

Well, he did it! The cooler months allowed a break from the lawn care so that he had time to pursue this goal, and so every week for fourteen weeks now he has interviewed, edited, posted, linked, and generally spent SO MUCH ENERGY on this podcast. And it has grown. I am proud of him. Furthermore, it is INTERESTING. He's interviewed some wonderful people; we have learned some inspiring seemingly universal truths about creativity(one being that it CAN be WORK and that's okay!), and we have been motivated to pursue some other creative interests of our own as a family.

I would love if you would give a few minutes(generally about twelve, as the title suggests)to check out this new endeavor. He would be thrilled. Which makes me happier.

Here's an easy link to this week's interview(very interesting musical style and a GREAT love story!)with artist Josh Garrels.

Enjoy, and if you can, leave a comment about the Twelve Minute Muse...and it would be wonderful if you gave him a "Like" on Facebook too! Don't forget to check out past episodes as well!

Thanks, friends!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A January Morning

As I crawled back into bed at a quarter of six this morning and shivered up against the warm lump of my sleeping husband, I remembered many, many cold mornings growing up in the country. I spent week days –some early mornings if I couldn’t catch the bus at home, and nearly every day of Christmas break—with my grandparents who lived just up the road from us. Their house was a pier-and-beam construct from the late thirties, with no insulation under its oak hardwood floors and heated only with small gas heaters in the kitchen and living room and a fireplace in my pawpaw’s bedroom. It was COLD. To maintain the warmth in the heated rooms, the doors of other rooms were closed tightly and sometimes a towel stuffed underneath to avoid drafts. The main areas affected by this were the dining room—located between the kitchen and living room, and the black-and-white checkered floored hallway which separated the living room from the bathroom. That bathroom itself was very chilly, warmed only by a sunny window on the south side, and I remember slowly turning the old porcelain knobs—anticipating the blast of cold-- and closing the doors carefully and quickly behind me in the chill air. It was a methodical and shocking process to move from one oasis of warmth to another. There were times that the shut-off rooms were cold enough to see my breath in the darkness of early morning.
Old colander with Christmas village light behind it. STARS! 

But then there was the warmth. Is there anything warmer than a room with a fireplace and a huge sofa with a hand-tied crazy quilt to wrap up in near a bookshelf and a sunny window? The red linoleum floor in its bandana print radiated the heat of the fire back into the room as the clock above the mantel chimed the hour with a single DING and the pages of Reader’s Digest rustled in my hands…I read many books in that sunny spot by the window of that room. Dickens in “A Christmas Carol,”  "A Cricket in Times Square," the “Little House” books—snuggling in tighter as I read of Laura and Mary’s snow-drifted quilt under the rafters, thankful for the warmth surrounding me. I read stories of odd diseases(Reader’s Digest!) and strange events and enough comedy features to ensure a lifetime of corny humor…I puzzled over words I didn’t understand and moved on to the next article, content to read my meaning from the context only. I pondered the super colorful and usually abstract artwork on the back covers(these were issues from the 1960’s) and thought of my art lessons that would likely resume in the summer. A perfect warm orb of contentment surrounded me in those days.

The kitchen, of course, was never cold for long. Mawmaw would light the heater and then turn on all the gas burners –one to heat the kettle for the stove-brewed coffee and the other three for heat, and would preheat the oven to make the ever-present biscuits while I watched in awe as she seemed to snap her fingers  and fill the pan. She told me of times when the house was full of kids and she made 40 biscuits every morning before they headed out to work for the day. I couldn’t even think then what 40 biscuits would look like;  as she talked her fingers flew—pressing the Crisco into the super-white, freshly sifted flour, mixing in just enough cold whole milk to moisten and hold it together, patting the lump of dough into an egg-shape and pinching  the biscuits off, turning them in the oil in the pan and nestling them up against one another till the pan looked full to bursting , then tucking them into the blast of heat from the oven till they emerged brown and crunchy around the edges and soft in the middle where they touched and swelled together in rising.
While the oven worked its magic, the coffee was brewed in the aluminum drip pot on the stovetop, bacon was crisped in the frying pan and eggs were dropped in the hot fat till the edges browned and the yolks shone as yellow as the sun outside the window. Somewhere in the activity, grits were boiled and buttered, their whiteness stark against the  margarine melting into golden pools that seemed to mirror the eggs in their fried glory. 

The food went onto the warm plates and then to the green-formica-topped table where Pawpaw quickly prayed and  doused his eggs with a king’s ransom worth of pepper and was finished eating in five bites; a handful of multicolored pills downed with his glass of milk or juice, and he was gone to his man's day. Mawmaw took her time; one biscuit buttered and sopped into the liquid yolks, grits and bacon eaten and then another biscuit crumbled into the sweet-milk coffee left in her cup to be savored with a spoon while we talked about whatever little girls and their grandmothers talk about in the early morning—wondering how mom’s day at work was going, perhaps, or that particular day’s tasks? Maybe we talked about the cat or the cows or the latest wanderings of my imaginary friends. We would finish breakfast and she would clear the kitchen—soaking the dishes in the huge white sink and wiping the table and stovetop, likely  simultaneously starting something for lunch-- while I tried to help by washing the dishes and getting distracted with the lemon-scented soap bubbles, or by making the beds, wrestling with the sheets and quilts and flimsy bedspreads that unforgivingly showed every wrinkle I had unwittingly left in the undercovers. They had to be perfectly smooth so that only the wires from the electric blanket showed through, and then NO SITTING ON THE BED because of possible damage to those wires. I hated the electric blankets. They were part of the delicate web of warmth that was cast over the house in winter, though; each part crucial to the comfort level.
Their anniversary would have been January 8th. 

Remembering all that this morning, I was thankful for the extra quilt on the bed. For the warm body next to me and for wool socks. For the coffee pot that would click on automatically in a few more minutes, and for the memories that warm me just as much as the oven will when I finally go in to wake up the kitchen for the day.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Craft Studio Summer and Winter

After all the holiday busies slowed down and we actually were able to have some time at home, I knew it was time to FINALLY make the push to get the craft studio in organized order--both so I can work on new projects IN it(to this point it's been only a storage zone and things have still been overrunning the house when we need to craft or sew), and so I could take pictures to show YOU! These first few pictures were taken back in the summer--I didn't quite have everything in there yet, but the light was so pretty that day, and it looked pretty neat on the organizational level, so here's the (Louisiana!)summer's vs.winter's day contrast.

 The porch we closed in is almost 18 feet long and just over seven feet deep; obviously it makes for a long, skinny room. We tried to keep the "porch" and "old house" feel by closing it in with salvaged doors. Since the view from my bedroom windows now is into the studio, it's really nice that the glass keeps the backyard squirrel action visible and lets in quite a bit of light.

This corner hasn't changed  much since summer; it is designated as the paper crafts and beading side of the room. I would like to put a small rug down here in front of the white cubbies as a place to sit and work OR to help keep beads from bouncing if they're dropped. It would also cozy up the tea station which is in this corner(See the mushroom cookie jar? It's perfect for out here!).
 This end of the room is the sewing station. Since the summer I've moved things down a bit and added another bookshelf in the corner. More storage, though I love the versatility the pegboards provide, I also need shelf space  for patterns and books and tchotchkes!
 More details of sewing stuff. I had fun amassing the years of odd accumulations of stuff to use in this space. It's fun and quirky!
 My window seat has hinged storage underneath. I love sitting here and watching the birds almost right overhead in the trees.
 This little door--which admits a TON of light, ladybugs, and lizards-- leads to the newly-fenced and soon-to-be garden area! I am excited since this side yard is totally fenced with privacy panels--I dislike feeling "watched" when I'm gardening! C has already been drawing up shmancy plans for the space--she forgets we have NO budget for it at this point. 
The side yard--on a true Louisiana winter day. It was misty-moist and COLD(well, for us!) when this picture was taken a couple of weeks ago.
Here's a good picture of my sweet little picket fence Hubby has installed. It's so charming I almost wish it were in the front yard! :) Hopefully it will keep the marauding chickens out--I love them, but they do wreak havoc on blossoms and young veggies!

 Contrast of the light in winter when it's hazy from the summer picture above. :) I prefer this weather, by the way!
 This corner again; it has changed slightly as I have moved things around. I did get around to hanging a shadow box in that huge empty white space.
 It cheered it right up!
 And here is my sewing corner, revised. I added the tall brown shelf my daddy built for my books in college(it was sized perfectly for carting up and down dormitory stairs!). I also hung some more things and covered the worktable(a luan door bought just for the project--needs to be sealed because it sheds red dust). The vinyl tablecloth adds more color and will keep my fabrics from snagging or getting dusty on the wood.

Of course, I didn't show you the storage on either side of the window built-ins. Those are shelf units that hold all sorts of sewing things and patterns and books and gift wrap; I don't have those "prettied" yet, and I plan to put curtains over them to help hide the crowding, but they are FULL and work well. The studio is a blessing from my hubby--I'm so thankful and blessed that he makes my interests a priority.

Hope you enjoyed seeing my little space! 

Having fun along with: