Friday, August 31, 2012

Truisms from Jane

Repentance is said to be its cure, sir

     "How was your memory when you were eighteen, sir?"
     "All right then; limpid, salubrious:  no gush of bilge water had turned it to fetid puddle.  I was your equal at eighteen--quite your equal.  Nature meant me to be, on the whole, a good man, Miss Eyre; one of the better kind, and you see I am not so.  You would say you don't see it; at least I flatter myself I read as much in your eye (beware, by-the-bye, what you express with that organ; I am quick at interpreting its language).  Then take my word for it,--I am not a villain:  you are not to suppose that--not to attribute to me any such bad eminence; but, owing, I verily believe, rather to circumstances than to my natural bent, I am a trite commonplace sinner, hackneyed in all the poor petty dissipations with which the rich and worthless try to put on life.  Do you wonder that I avow this to you?  Know, that in the course of your future life you will often find yourself elected the involuntary confidant of your acquaintances' secrets:  people will instinctively find out, as I have done, that it is not your forte to tell of yourself, but to listen while others talk of themselves; they will feel, too, that you listen with no malevolent scorn of their indiscretion, but with a kind of innate sympathy; not the less comforting and encouraging because it is very unobtrusive in its manifestations."
     "How do you know?--how can you guess all this, sir?"
     "I know it well; therefore I proceed almost as freely as if I were writing my thoughts in a diary.  You would say, I should have been superior to circumstances; so I should--so I should; but you see I was not.  When fate wronged me, I had not the wisdom to remain cool: I turned desperate; then I degenerated.  Now, when any vicious simpleton excites my disgust by his paltry ribaldry, I cannot flatter myself that I am better than he:  I am forced to confess that he and I are on a level.  I wish I had stood firm--God knows I do!  Dread remorse when you are tempted to err, Miss Eyre; remorse is the poison of life."
     "Repentance is said to be its cure, sir."
     "It is not its cure.  Reformation may be its cure; and I could reform--I have strength yet for that--if--but where is the use of thinking of it, hampered, burdened, cursed as I am?  Besides, since happiness is irrevocably denied me, I have a right to get pleasure out of life:  and I WILL get it, cost what it may."
     "Then you will degenerate still more, sir."
     "Possibly:  yet why should I, if I can get sweet, fresh pleasure And I may get it as sweet and fresh as the wild honey the bee gathers on the moor."
     "It will sting--it will taste bitter, sir."
     "How do you know?--you never tried it.  How very serious--how very solemn you look:  and you are as ignorant of the matter as this cameo head" (taking one from the mantelpiece).  "You have no right to preach to me, you neophyte, that have not passed the porch of life, and are absolutely unacquainted with its mysteries."
     "I only remind you of your own words, sir:  you said error brought remorse, and you pronounced remorse the poison of existence."

 That sounds a dangerous maxim, sir

     "To speak truth, sir, I don't understand you at all:  I cannot keep up the conversation, because it has got out of my depth.  Only one thing, I know:  you said you were not as good as you should like to be, and that you regretted your own imperfection;--one thing I can comprehend:  you intimated that to have a sullied memory was a perpetual bane.  It seems to me, that if you tried hard, you would in time find it possible to become what you yourself would approve; and that if from this day you began with resolution to correct your thoughts and actions, you would in a few years have laid up a new and stainless store of recollections, to which you might revert with pleasure."
     "Justly thought; rightly said, Miss Eyre; and, at this moment, I am paving hell with energy."
     "Sir?"
     "I am laying down good intentions, which I believe durable as flint. Certainly, my associates and pursuits shall be other than they have been."
     "And better?"
     "And better--so much better as pure ore is than foul dross.  You seem to doubt me; I don't doubt myself:  I know what my aim is, what my motives are; and at this moment I pass a law, unalterable as that of the Medes and Persians, that both are right."
     "They cannot be, sir, if they require a new statute to legalise them."
     "They are, Miss Eyre, though they absolutely require a new statute: unheard-of combinations of circumstances demand unheard-of rules."
     "That sounds a dangerous maxim, sir; because one can see at once that it is liable to abuse."
     "Sententious sage! so it is:  but I swear by my household gods not to abuse it."
     "You are human and fallible."
     "I am:  so are you--what then?"
     "The human and fallible should not arrogate a power with which the divine and perfect alone can be safely intrusted."
     "What power?"
     "That of saying of any strange, unsanctioned line of action,--'Let it be right.'"
     "'Let it be right'--the very words:  you have pronounced them."
 


The preceding are from chapter fourteen of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, when Mr. Rochester is first engaging Jane's unique wit and wisdom; and he begins, from these conversations, to remember a higher morality.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

On the Use of Tickers, Motivation, and other Nonsense

I got to move my ticker again today.  Probably nobody would notice the difference, since the change was only 0.4 pounds.  But when that 0.4 lbs is a downward change, I'll take it.  If, on the other hand, the change is upward, it has to be a change for at least two weeks and of at least two pounds before I figure I have to move it.  Silly isn't it?

Normal weight fluctuates.  I would guess that probably a plus or minus two pound variation is within normal for most people.  But even so, I get to move my ticker down, if the weight goes down.  If it goes up, I figure it's just normal fluctuation,so I don't have to move it right away.  See how that works?

All told, since we walking buddies started weighing ourselves in the early spring, I've lost 18 pounds.  But most of that was weight I had gained since last fall.  That's a frightening amount of weight to put on in a few short months, is it not? 

I'm thankful it came off quickly.  I attribute it to my struggle with depression during that same time.  I simply was not moving.  Apparently even my normal pathetic attempts at keeping up with the house burns enough calories to moderate my weight.  Because when I stopped doing that, the weight started accumulating. 

And the converse is true, too.  Even the slow, baby step things I've been accomplishing around the house have allowed me to easily and rapidly shed the pounds.

I do like to move that ticker. 

The current ticker does not show the full amount of weight loss.  Again, it's a motivational thing.  Baby steps.  A few short goals at a time.  I didn't even start using the ticker until I could see that I was making progress.  The last thing I needed is to have this motivational ticker and never get to move it! 

I'm sure that they don't work for everyone, but for me, for now, the ticker is helping.  I really like to move that little apple along its little flowered path.  I find I am able to turn down many treats and indulgences during the course of a week, that in the hopes that I get to move the little apple a little bit further along its way.

I am kind of blathering about nothing today.  But I was excited even for that small downward movement.  We all have to figure out what helps us stay motivated for any kind of goal we have.  What works for me, may not work for another. 

But if you are pleased by pretty little things, give one a try.  There are many sites and many designs from which to choose.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Learn Something New Every Day

Today I am on top of things.  I woke up bright and early.  Matt had gotten the coffee ready last night, so I only had to press a button.  I set a 30 minute timer on my stove and stumbled back to bed.

When I next got up, I was ready to roll.  When I heard the oven timer beep, I quickly grabbed my glasses and my (newly found, second hand, paper) copy of Jane Eyre, and dashed out to turn off the timer before it could wake anyone else.  I filled my coffee cup and continued around the corner toward the living room.  When I got to the top of the stairs, I put down my book and coffee, and scooted down to the laundry room to put a quick load in.  While there, I sorted any of the stuff from the chute that had built up yesterday.

So here I sit, two jobs done and it's not even 6:00.  I read a paragraph from my book.
A little solace came at teatime, in the shape of a double ration of bread--a whole, instead of a half, slice--with the delicious addition of a thin scrape of butter.  It was the hebdomadal treat to which we all looked forward from Sabbath to Sabbath.  I generally contrived to reserve a moiety of the bounteous repast for myself; but the remainder I was invariably obliged to part with.  from Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, Jane describing her meager existence at Lowood School for Orphans.
In that one brief paragraph I found two words with which I was unfamiliar, and whose meanings I was to work out from roots and similar words.  Good thing for google, and online dictionaries.  I quickly did a search on each unfamiliar word, hebdomadal and moiety, and opened up a couple of pages for each one. 

But before I could even read the definitions, Matt stumbled up the stairs and said, "Sorry, Mom, I overslept.  Can you help me throw my lunch together, please?"  And so my definitions sat.  All those tabs open with those various meanings.  And they had to wait.  Tickling the back of my brain.  That curious corner of my consciousness that is sometimes so active I feel like a child.  Why?  What?  How?

I made Matt six sandwiches for his lunch, and I added a little something for supper, since he'll be going straight to football practice after work.  My fingers were going through the motions of spreading peanut butter and dispersing sandwich meat.  My mouth was conversing with Matt about his day and coming week. 

But all the while, in that little curious corner of my brain, I had two unfamiliar words bouncing around.  "Hebdomadal.  Moiety.  Moiety.  Hebdomadal.  What could they mean?" 

"I must know some other words that could give me a clue.  Especially," thought I, "Hebdomadal.  It sounds so Greek.  I think.  Is that Greek or Latin?" 

Having never studied either, I couldn't say for sure.  But it just had that sound as though I ought to be able to figure it out.  But all I could grasp was the dom part.  "Could that have something to do with dwelling or home, as in domicile?  Hmmm.  Contextually, it doesn't work.  Plus it feels Latin, and the word as a whole feels Greek." 

But now, after that brief pause, Matt is off to work.  I am again in my living room, sitting with my cup of coffee.  My wash machine is in its final spin, so soon I'll have to scurry back down there to start the next load.  Soon, too, I have to meet my neighbor ladies for our walk. 

But first,...FIRST..., I indulged in scanning the waiting definitions. 

I discovered that indeed I ought to have recognized part of hebdomadal.  And it was Greek not Latin.  The first syllable, heb, as in hepta-, as in heptadecagon, a seventeen sided polygon.  I still can't figure the dom or om part, but really, it feels as thought there must be something.  Maybe hebdom is the Greek for week, and we add the other letters as our adjectival ending?  Maybe?

hebdomadal:  weekly

Simple.  Fun.  A new word.  Heb: seven.  Awesome. 

I love words.

But moiety...moiety?...moiety.  There seems to be no pattern there.  No clue with this word.  No familiar roots from which to draw. 

Moiety:  Half or portion.

One drawback of the online dictionaries is that they seem to change their formats quite often.  That's why I always open several different ones.  Mirriam-Webster, Free Online Dictionary by Farlex, Dictionary.com.  Whichever.  I like to read several definitions, in the hopes of getting the most well-rounded idea of a given word.  But today none of them have included any roots.  Seems strange.  It's been awhile since I've engaged in this somewhat geeky activity.  But I think these online sources used to include roots.

The roots of moiety must remain a mystery.  I must be content with that.  I'll probably eventually check a paper dictionary if I happen to find one lying around in my heaps and piles of books that never seem to get put back where they belong. 

Until then, I must be content with having learned two new words first thing this morning.  It's a good start to a new week. 

Silly as it may be, it makes me happy.

Friday, August 24, 2012

There's Hoarders, and there's Hoarders

I hear people talk about hoarding.  The reality show, Hoarders, along with others of similar vein, seem to have put the more extreme mentality of hoarding into the mainstream consciousness.  And perhaps I even engage in a certain amount of hoarding.  I hate the idea of throwing things into the landfill that still have materials left on them that can be reused or remade into something useful. 

After going through nearly all of the totes of children's clothes I have collected throughout my nineteen years of parenting, I'm beginning to wonder if I quality as a full fledged hoarder.  In my defense, I think I simply had many children to clothe and was determined to spend little or no money on the process.  Because we live in a  very opulent era, everyone else has much more than they need and people like to pass things on.  To whom do they pass things?  They look for the people who would need them most, and well, large families tend to look "needy".  It's a very kind-hearted gesture.  And thankfully, you wouldn't believe it if I told you how little I've spent on clothes for my kids throughout the years.  But gradually, it appears, I have saved more of these gifts of clothing than I realized.  Certainly more than we would ever need. 

I currently have twelve very large boxes sitting in my front entry way waiting their trip to Goodwill in Grand Forks.  I also have several smaller boxes of things for consignment, and various other bags and boxes to go here and there.  Everyone still has a full dresser, and there are clothes packed away for most of the upcoming sizes.

So, the good news is, that I am making progress on what seemed for so long an impossibly daunting undertaking.  I am very excited about all the order, and new-found space we will have once I get everything hauled out.

In between my various jobs, I take a few minutes here and there to read.  I'm currenly re-reading the Ranger's Apprentice series.  It's a middle school level series of adventure stories with a fictional medieval setting that is roughly based upon Europe and the surrounding areas.  The main characters accupy a country called Araluen, which is somewhat comparable to England.  There is also Celtica, Teutlandt, Gallica, Skandia, etc.

The Ranger Corps is a sort of intelligence group that specializes in steath, gathering information, and a mysterious set of skills that give others the impression that they are almost magical.

Right now, I'm reading book four of the series, The Battle for Skandia.  In this installment, the famous ranger, Halt, and his apprentice, Will, team up with the Skandian jarl, Erak, to help the Skandians fight off an invasion by the Tumajai, who are roughly comparable to the Mongols.

Since the Skandians prefer a straightforward, bashing kind of conflict with their fearsome battle axes, they are dependent upon Halt and Will to lead them in forming some strategies to fend off the Tumajai hoards.  One of the ideas, the merits of which Halt and Will are discussing, is whether they could train some of the Skandian slaves to serve as archers.  These archers would be trained to release arrows at a command, which would include instructions indicating at what angle to hold the bows, in order to hit the invading armies at just the right spot.

The idea is Will's and he is waiting for Halt's reply.  He is pleasantly surprised when Halt, likes the idea.
Will had been waiting for his mentor to point out the fundamental flaw in his logic.  Now he saw that Halt was considering his proposal seriously.  Then he noticed the look of exasperation that grew on Halt's face as he found the flaw.

"Bows," the Ranger said, disappointment in his voice.  "Where would we find a hundred bows in time to let people train with them.  There probably aren't twenty in all Skandia."
At this point in the narrative, both Will and Halt are feeling a bit dejected.  It was a great idea, but it simply will not work.  But then Jarl Erak pipes up.
"I could let you have a hundred,"  Erak said in the depressed silence that followed Halt's statement.  Both the others turned to look at him.

"Where would you find a hundred longbows?"  Halt asked him.  Erak shrugged.

"I captured a two-masted cob off the Araluen coast three seasons ago," he told them.  He didn't have to explain that when a Skandian said season, he meant the raiding season.  "She had a hold full of bows.  I kept them in my storeroom until I could find a use for them.  I was going to use them as fence palings," he continued.  "But they seemed a little too flexible for the job."

"Bows tend to be that way," Halt said slowly, and when Erak looked at him, uncomprehending, he added: "More flexible than fence palings.  It's one of the qualities we look for in a bow."

Well, I suppose you'd know,"  Erak said casually.  "Anyway, I've still got them.  There must be thousands of arrow shafts as well.  I thought they'd come in handy one day."

Halt reached up and laid a hand on the massive shoulder.   "And how right you were," he said.  "Thank the gods for the Skandian habit of hoarding everything."

Well, of course we hoard," Erak explained.  "We risk our lives to take the stuff in the first place.  There's no sense in throwing it away.  Anyway, do you want to see if you could use them?"
A few minutes later, we see the big Skandian jarl in a very satisfied state of mind.
"Excellent,"  he said happily, rubbing his hands together.  "If you decide to use them, I'll be able to charge Ragnak."

"But this is war,"  Will protested.  "Surely you can't charge Ragnak for doing something that will help defend Hallasholm?"

Erak turned his delighted smile on the young Ranger.  "To a Skandian, my boy, all war is business."
I don't know whether anyone without the context of the various personalities can appreciate this interchange as much as those of us familiar with the story line can.  I love the quirky twist it adds to the character development. 

But it does interest me a bit, too, from an anthropological point of view.  Are Scandinavians thought of as hoarders?  Is that a personality trait stereoptype that is widespread today?  It certainly fits, to a degree, with most of those among whom I live who claim Norwegian and Swedish, or even Finnish descent.

And that is not meant at all as an insult.  We save and reuse and refit and refurbish until there is comparably little wasted.  It's a beautiful thing!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Beaks and Suckers Everywhere!

I've been thinking lately of Pastor Longshore's description of Italian food,  "They put squid in everything.  And beaks and suckers everywhere.  Hope she likes it."

Calamari Stew from the Italian Food Forever blog

The she in his comment of course, is Louisa, since she will be traveling soon to Italy.  And one of her primary reasons for wanting to go is the food.  Since we eat mostly gluten free here, she is eager to eat plenty of pasta and bread.

Pastor Longshore, I suspect, would admit he is not a very adventurous eater.  He was, after all, loth to try Joe's sauteed milkweed pods or picked fish. 

OK, so maybe those are rather extreme examples. 

My Louisa is not a very adventurous eater, either.  So I'm going to tease her a little bit with this post.

Louisa, my dear, I don't know how the Biancos cook.  I don't know what kinds of foods are common in their area of Italy.   Pastor Longshore said that he spent time in southern Italy, but on the Adriatic side rather than the Tyrrhenian.  So perhaps you will never get the opportunity to try the squid soup he described.  I have no idea, in fact, if the stew I have pictures is anything like what he ate.

But I do so very much like this particular phrase of his description, "...beaks and suckers everywhere."

I found an online guide to cleaning and cutting fresh squid.  Too bad there is not more time before you leave to find fresh squid near us.  I'm sure your dad would be eager to try his hand at it.

Fresh Squid, notice the beak off to the side on the lower right

I know you are greatly disappointed.  I understand how you love all your dad's experimental culinary delights.

But I also know, Louisa, that you have a little bit of that spirit of culinary adventure yourself, albeit in a mostly different direction than your dear father.  The recipe for the Calamari Stew pictured above, should you ever decide you'd like to try it, can be found at the Italian Food Forever blog.  It is Gluten Free, so you could make if for your dad.

I love you, my dear oldest daughter, and I will miss you intensely when you are gone.  I hope all the Italian food is wonderful!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Conservatism, Libertarianism, Progressivism,...Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand

A girlfriend asked me last night to help her understand the seeming contradictions being brought up in various news outlets concerning Paul Ryan's views of Ayn Rand and her philosophy.  Boy, I felt a little bit out of my depth, since on the political front, I am still pretty much playing ostrich, with my head in the sand. 

I really don't know what's up with me, since I have always struggled to control argumentative and somewhat tactless nature.  And historically I've had a huge interest in politics and political discourse and political history.  Of late, however, I've gotten tired of the unproductive discussion.  I've tired of trying to explain my views and then have people who think they know what I believe spit answers back at me based upon what they think I believe and how they think I come to my ideals.

And sometimes, I suspect, I unintentionally treat them the same, basing my arguments on what I think they believe.

It becomes a situation such as those about which we tell our kids, "If you each keep saying the same things, and you still disagree, you must either find a better way to communicate your ideas, or you have to be content to realize you disagree, but love each other anyway.  The discussion of the same disagreement over and over, quickly becomes bickering."

Sometimes I have time and energy to do my own research and study on various current topics of concern, and other times I must merely trust others.  When one is merely trusting others, her opinion is not based upon as strong a foundation as when she has done the research herself.  And since I'm not inclined to spend time on political research and study these days, I feel kind of like a fake when I get into such discussions.  My foundation is not as strong as it ought to be.  So I find myself avoiding such conversations.

Here I am then, after two years of "head in the sand" business, and someone is asking me to explain something to her.  I'm going to summarize here my reply, and I'd appreciate any further insights in the comments section.  But please, if you got to this post from facebook, leave the comments here, rather than on facebook, so they have a more permanent home.  I'd appreciate comments on the summaries I've given, but also on the particular issue of Paul Ryan's opinion of Ayn Rand's philosophies. 

I started my answer to my girlfriend straight off by saying that I could not speak particularly about Paul Ryan's views of Ayn Rand.  But that I could explain a little bit about how and why Conservatives like some of her philosophies, and why they have problems with other parts of her thinking.

We then got into a lengthier discussion of political terminology.  Keep in mind this whole discussion was kind of a primer, to introduce someone who is somewhat new to the whole public discourse on political issues and political history.  In case it makes a difference in understanding the following, this friend is also mostly on the conservative side of things.  She does not, however, have a great depth of vocabulary and historical knowledge base.  So that's why the bigger discussion came in.

Also please keep in mind that I am aware that, in the nature of a quick summary, stereotypes are always made; and therefore one must use caution when using such stereotypes for discussion.  An important aspect of this whole subject of political discourse is listen, listen, listen.  Please don't use my summaries to tell someone else what they believe and think.  But listen to them, and then try to understand from them what they believe and think.   Generalizations are never accurate for individuals; they can only describe tendencies.

1) Conservative:  The term is used today mostly by those who seek to return our nation to the rule of law established in our Constitution and its Amendments.  Some of the biggest issues today's Conservatives fight for are smaller federal government, lower taxes, less government regulation, states rights on issues that are not enumerated in the constitution as have been given to the federal governement.

2) Libertarian:  There are two main "kinds" of Libertarians, those who are Christian or have some other external standard of morality, and those who tend toward atheism and relativism.  People within the second group are not necessarily a-moral.  But their standard of morality is not based upon any historical tradition outside themselves. Each person's moral code, therefore, is seen as equally valid.

The Christian Libertarians are going to be quite similar to Conservatives.  A difference is that Conservatives tend to be less adamant about abolishing the federal laws that promote the Judeo-Christian morality that was the norm when our country was founded.  That's a little bit of a contradiction, but in a bigger discussion, I could probably explain it better.  We want to place people in office who share our moral vision, but we also would prefer any "enforcement" of that moral vision to come at the local levels rather than the national.  And we tend to go about that similar goal in a slightly different order of priority than would a Christian Libertarian.

The Libertarians share many small government economic and regulatory views with the Conservatives, but also take a stronger stand against government regulation of lifestyle than Conservatives tend to.

The relativistic/atheistic Libertarians also share the small government goals.  But because their morality is less structured, you might sense a more fatalistic or nihilistic attitude of dog-eat-dog-ness in their free market ideals.  There is a much stronger sense that people ought to be free to live and act how they want.  These people, mind you, do have a morality under which they live.  But there will be less inclination to talk about it, because each person has to establish his or her own moral code, so there is less commonality.  Also there is a much stronger sense that any and every morality is OK.  Each moral code is equally valid.

3) Progressive:  Progressives see the flaws and faults and failures in the free market system and seek to use experts and institutions and the government to solve them, rather than allowing or trusting individuals, families and other local entities to do so.  I tend to lump Progressives into two camps, also.  Again it's based upon religious foundations.  This is where this discussion will likely become offensive to those who hold the Progressive view.  But again, I'm on the outside of that view.  This is a summary, and I am willing to learn where I am wrong.

There are Progressives who genuinely seek to better the world, and genuinely think the government and the experts are capable of fulfilling this better than individuals.  Many of these people are Christians, or hold to the Judea-Christian moral code.  They understand and believe that bigger and better and more inclusive government programs are a valid option to show Christlike love to our neighbors.  They see the societal ill of people suffering, as trumping the societal ill of ignoring our legal foundations. 

But there are other, less noble or ethical Progressives.  Again, these tend to be those who espouse no organized religion and who find all morality relative.  These people are Marxist to their core.  Logically, since they have no moral code because they believe in no higher power, they believe that a "noble" end justifies any means.  But again, how does one define "noble", under this Godless philosophy?

These people will use any person or people group and any situation as they see fit.  Their primary goal is to maintain their power.  We are seeing in America today, an accelerating use of the standard Marxist ploys in the currents of society and government.  This faction of the Progressive movement imprison people in dependency under the guise of generosity and care.  They provoke and nurture class warfare and jealousy.  They take advantage of crises, or even perceived crises, to grab more and more power.  They twist the truth in order to forward their agenda, because remember any means justifies their "noble" end.   It's not wrong to lie and deceive when you're trying to help people.

But all this, these people do under the mantle of those same Progressive ideals that the religious Progressives promote out of genuine love for others.  They cloak their talk in terms of love and peace and betterment.  But they see themselves as the brokers who ought to define what those same terms mean for each person, group and situation.

After that introduction to some of the political terminology that is active in the current discussion, I continued to explain to my friend the different levels at which one might claim adherence to or defend Conservatism.

From the legal angle, adherence to the Constitution and its Amendments is a goal.  Conservatives like to live according to the rules.  They feel that society is more stable and therefore more peaceful and prosperous when the rule of law is followed. And becasue they tend to believe in respect for authority, they consider following the Constitution to be the morally right way to govern.

From the academic or philosophical angle, Conservatives can explain based upon the long standing principles of free market capitalism, limited government, freedom, positive human rights, etc. why our system works.  And in a lengthier discussion, I could explain why we don't see capitalism as greedy or selfish or cold-hearted.  Let me summarize this aspect by saying that we believe in the intrinsic morality of individuals making their own choices for their altruism and their business dealings.  We believe that although there will under any system be bad people doing bad things, that more people are benefited when individuals rather than the government make more of the choices for people.

From the historical angle, Conservatives believe that history bears out the futility of solving societal problems with bigger government. Simply put, whenever and wherever it's been tried, it has failed.  People work less diligently when they are heavily taxed and heavily regulated.  There is an ever increasing number of people needing government help and and ever decreasing number of prosperous businesses and individuals to foot the bill.  People under such increasing government largess, do progressively fewer individual acts of altruism, and they gradually care less and less about their neighbors, since the governments and institutions can provide what others need.  "That's what the programs are for." 

From an economic angle, and somewhat related to the historical, Conservatives believe that wealth creation comes from individuals not the government.  Everyone's standard of living benefits from greater freedom, less regulation, and lower taxes.  From a purely economic analysis, in an institutional system of social programs, there is a huge cost involved in administering such programs.  Time and time again, the private sector has been shown to do a more efficient job of administering such programs.  But this focus on "the bottom line," when isolated from the bigger principles of Conservatism, can easily leave the impression that Conservatism is all about money.

In a word, Conservatives believe that history bears out the idea that big government is unsustainable from both an economic, and an ethical or moral stand.  Both prosperity and morality decrease as government control and social programs increase.  Freedom, motivation, and happiness itself is sacrificed when government is bigger and more invasive.

To bring this back now to Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand, again, I can't speak specifically to that.  But I can say that Conservatives tend to agree with Rand on the economic principles of small government and free markets.  But we also tend to demand a morality based upon the Judeo-Christian moral code that was the norm when our country was founded.  The founding fathers and other thinkers of that era wrote often that this system of government, and its economic and societal freedoms, would only work as long as the populace held to that same standard. 

This is not the same, mind you, as making laws to enforce a certain religion.  Each person's eternal well-being, and their views on the meaning of life in general, must never be codified by government.  But for a free society to work well, there must be some tradition of shared morality.

I suspect that Paul Ryan would agree with that.

The following quote is one of my favorites to explain how conservatives see morality working within the freedoms established in our founding documents.  It's from a letter John Adams wrote to rally the troops of the Massachusetts Militia.  But this little nugget of a quote is not nearly as good as the whole, so take a moment later to read the whole thing.

"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

The great French proponent of classical liberalism, Alexis de Tocqueville, toured America to discover the secrets of her greatness, and perhaps put them to use in his native land during her struggles and revolutions. He wrote extensively about his discoveries in the two volume, Democracy in America.  About morality in America, he wrote, "America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."

Those ideas must frame any discussion of Conservative principles as opposed to the principles of Libertarianism.  Conservatives will promote and strive for the limited government ideals espoused in our Constitution and her Amendments.  We will base arguments upon the historical wisdom and philosophies held to by those who founded our country.  But we will stop short of holding to any philosophy that is based upon a shifting or relativist morality.  In order for our system to work well and properly, there must be right and wrong.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

McGlinn's Public House, and their Beautiful Photos of a State I Love

Lightning Strike on Burch Mountain

Earlier this summer, a lightning strike started a fire on Burch Mountain, above the Wenatchee Valley in Central Washington State.  My cousin, Jerry Litt, shared on facebook some stunning photos of the lightning strike.  The shots were captured by Michael Bendtsen, a serendipitous and talented photographer who takes pictures for the McGlinn's Public House facebook page.  I've asked him if I could share some of his photos here.  All the photos on this post are from that facebook page.  They are all stunning pictures of Washington.  And I apologize that they don't necessarily correlate with the text of this post, but I hope you enjoy them all the same.

Silver Falls

You see, I love these pictures.  And not just because they are beautiful pictures of beautiful places.  Not just because they show a very pleasing sense of composition, or skills with light and perhaps even occasional digital editing. 

I'm going to try to explain why these pictures are extra special to me.  But it's going to take some time, so travel along with me, through different times and places.




The Stuarts

I grew up in Washington State.  Most people think of Washington as being a rainy, gray place.  And for some, that's as far as their knowledge and opinions go.  Others might know there are evergreens there, and mountains.  But few realize the vast and varied beauty of the state.  It has everything.  Truly, I have often thought that there must be few states that have so much texture and variety.  The Cascade Mountains, the Olympic Mountains, The Pacific Ocean, Puget Sound, the Columbia River.  Forest, desert, plateau, basin, rich river valleys.  Berries, tree fruits, truck farms, logging.  Shipping, manufacturing, research.  Rednecks, hippies, academics, scientists, artists, and regular Joes.  And wheat (but that's going to be its own blog post).  Even the forests themselves are quite varied, from the lush, mossy rain forest of the Olympic Penninsula, to the Western ranges of the Cascades with their verdant greens and moist forest floors, to the more arid pine forest of the eastern mountain slopes, silver with sage and gold with the dry underbrush.  The mountains vary from rugged beauty, to towering peaks, to the rolling foothill ranges of the Western Rockies.  Each area has its own unique beauty in the textures and colors of its geography and flora.

Lupines on Mission Ridge

Now I live in far northwestern Minnesota.  Not too far from Canada.  Not too far from North Dakota. Let me just say that the people and communities here are wonderful, and I wouldn't trade them for all the physically beautiful landscapes in the world.

But I do have to confess that I occasionally pine a little bit for the texture and color of the land in which I grew up.  You see, it's flat here.  Very flat.  Very open.  Very ... well ... dare I say it? ... visually, a bit boring.  

This land has its own kind of beauty, of course.  Everything in God's creation has its own beauty.  But there is mostly only one kind of beauty here.  And one can see it in every direction.  For as far as the eye can see.  With very few impediments to block the view.

In the summer, the view is of agricultural fields, interspersed with the periodic cluster of trees indicating a farmstead, or an occasional woods.  Greens and yellows and russets, depending upon which crop has been planted where, and at what stage of growth it is. 

In the winter the landscape is gray and brown and white, depending upon the amount of snowfall.  Empty fields.  Drifting, blowing snow.  Sometimes, when there is not snow, the empty fields lie gray and lonely.  And there is always wind. 

And it's open.  Very open.  Very flat.  Did I mention that?

But  now!

View from trail to Rock Mountain

Now!

Suddenly!

Thanks to my cousin, Jerry, and the picture he posted from the McGlinn Public House facebook page, I have an almost daily peek at the many and varied beauties of my home state.  You see, besides a periodic post about what's on special at the eatery, and very pretty pictures of the fresh, local produce being used to create those specialties, Mr. Bendtsen hikes around the Wenatchee Valley and its surrounding mountains, and travels around the state.  And he takes pictures of the places he goes, and posts them on the eatery's facebook page for anyone to see.  For me to see and enjoy.  For me to relish the colors and textures of my native Washington.

Fresh-from-the-trees apricots in the Wenatchee Valley


Golden and Green Sage
Wenatchee Valley Cherries  





And I do so very much enjoy them.  I am so thankful to Jerry for posting the lightning strike photo.  He couldn't know what the McGlinn Pulbic House photos would mean to me.  And thank you, too, Mr. Bendtsen for your beautiful pictures.  And your sense of adventure.  I appreciate the freedom that allows you the time to travel all the nooks and crannies for the stunning views to share.

Another view from the trail to Rock Mountain

I spent the first six years of my life on the high plateau of central and eastern Washington above the Columbia River valley.  I lived in the little, very little, town of Withrow.  I suspect that when I lived there the population was less than 50 people.  There was a grocery store that also housed the post office, and across the street, owned by the same family, was the gas station.  Perhaps it was a service station, as well, but I can't remember for sure.  It seemed like kind of a large complex of Quonset or steel/tin or cement block buildings.  In the basement of the grocery store was the tavern, which I believe was only open on Friday and Saturday nights, also operated by the same family. 

There was a grain elevator  at the edge of town, and of course the railroad track ran past.

Windmill and barn on my cousin's farm near Waterville

And that was it.  The Withrow of my early childhood.  It sat surrounded by rolling hills covered with wheatfields, gulches, and the large, jagged, rocky promontories with which that area of Washington is scattered.  These jutting rock formations are known as glacial erratics by geologists, but often called haystack rocks by regular people.


The closest towns were half an hour away.

After my parents passed away when I was five and six years old, I moved to the city.  To the urban and suburban area south of Seattle, on the west side of the Cascades.  Away from my first home and on to my second, to live with my Dad's youngest sister and her family.  The city cousins. 

The landscape there was much different.  Much greener.  Much wetter.  Much more rolling.  Even though we lived in a city area, most of the places we lived were not really too urban or suburban.  More, oh, sprawling, maybe.  The first home we lived in was in Tacoma, and was probably the most suburban of any of the places we lived during my time in that area.  It was in a regular, subdivided neighborhood.  Nice neighbors.  A mix of large and small yards.  Some areas of undeveloped land that were wooded with the lush and verdant trees and plants of the part of Washington that has moderate temperatures and wet winters.  The trees, as I recall, were primarily fir and spruce, aspen, alder, and birch.  The undergrowth was a variety of berries and ferns, mosses and other greenery. 

Many of the yards were wooded. And if they were, they were sure to have a big, red, decomposing log somewhere about.  These logs were all kinds of fun.  Some homes had them for landscaping purposes only, but we had several that were for play.  They were benches, tables, cliffs, and mountains, cars and tractors and school buses.  The rotten, red wood-dust was used for various pretend foods, paint for a variety of surfaces, and when mixed with a small amount of water, we declared it a great sculpting medium.  We also carved shapes out of the spongy fibers of the logs, and hid in the hollowed out spots.

Puget Sound area marina

I've written about the areas where we lived here and here.

I think this is a view of the Stuarts, too.  It's from the Round Mountain Trail.

Everywhere we went, we saw shapes and textures in the scenery.  Trees and forests, hills and mountains, dashing rivers and crashing waterfalls, cliffs and coulees.  Blues and greens and browns of every shade.  Bays and marinas and inlets and docks and piers.

Round Mountain Trail

Valley view from Mission Ridge

Wenatchee River from Horse Lake Road

Mission Ridge ski lifts

Trail to Saddle Rock

Grasses in the sunrise

A poignant memory I carry with me is of our many trips over the mountains from the Puyallup area, to visit our eastern Washington relatives.  I loved that drive. The first part of the trip was through the rolling foothills on the western slopes of the Cascade Range.  And then up the highway on the western side of Snoqualmie Pass, on I-90.  The foliage was green and full because of the frequent rains that fall from the clouds, as they work their way up and over the mountains.  It's very verdant there.  The roadways, especially nearer the summit, are often damp.  The valleys visible from the highway are sometimes foggy.  And as a person approaches the summit, sometimes he must drive into the thick clouds that are trying to squeeze their way through the pass.  The mountainsides are steep and the valleys deep.  The views from the highway are frequently stunning.  But other times, all one can see is the the trees that tower from the depths below, but whose tops sit even with the car windows.  The lush foliage is interspersed with rocky cliffs where the melting snows and glacial streams flow down in both rushing waterfalls and small trickles.

Fenceline along Castlerock Trail

Along the way to Saddle Rock, notice the haystack rocks?

The second half of the route we usually took was through the more arid eastern mountains.  We got off I-90 and onto US 97, which goes through Blewett Pass.  The high valleys are broad there, and the mountains seem less steep.  (Incidentally, this is the area that has been in the news lately because of the Cle Elum wildfire.)  The ground is rockier and the foliage, brushier and more scant.  The Ponderosa pines grow so tall that the tops are lost far above the highway.  Most of these trees are barren of branches until higher up in the forest canopy, so that the primary view from the car windows is of the scrubby underbrush growing at intervals from the thickly-needled forest floor.  And the pine trunks.  Those beautiful pine trunks with their ruddy colored bark and deeply lined markings in dark black.  To this day, a forest of these pine trunks is one of my favorite sights. 

Did I mention the air on that pass?  The crisp and fresh mountain air is richly infused with the fragrance of pine needles.  I can just imagine it, sitting here, remembering.

The route down the far side of Blewett Pass follows the rushing and sometimes crashing Peshastin Creek.  It flits along happily beside the highway, under the roadway and out the other side, back under again.  And sometimes it even passes under or through one of the rock faces that periodically jut out near the highway.  Sometimes The river flows over shallows, with rills and ripples as it skitters across the river bed covered with small rocks rubbed smooth from the rushing waters.  Other times it passes, deep and quick, over and around larger jagged rocks and boulders.  Oh, how I loved to watch that river.  I know it is called a creek, but you must forgive me.  It is much grander than some of the rivers that flow near my house.

Columbia River

Rocky Reach Dam and surrounds

When one gets to the lower foothills of the eastern slopes, she comes to the intersection with US 2.  From there she might turn left, to head back over Stevens Pass to the Seattle area, or to stop and visit the popular Bavarian village of Leavenworth. Even if touristy towns are not to a visitor's taste, the hills and mountains around Leavenworth are worth the short drive. 

If instead of turning to the left at the above mentioned intersection, one turns right, the road continues to wind steadily downward toward the Columbia River.  At this point, the highway follows the Wenatchee River, as it winds its way through fertile orchards of apple, cherry, peach, apricot and pear trees, and past a handful of small orcharding towns.  Again, this river is beautiful.  Rippling and flowing.  Clear and blue.

When a person finally reaches the city of Wenatchee, the valley opens up along the wide and curving Columbia River.  The mountains tower to the west.  To the east rise the rugged hills and bluffs of the Eastern Plateau.  Most of the time these hills are a golden glow.  The dried grasses shimmer in the breezes. The silvery green of sage brush dots the landscape, and periodically one can see the darker brown of the rock formations jutting from beneath the soil.

Continuing past Wenatchee on US 2, the road crosses the Columbia, and continues north along her banks, until it turns abruptly to the east to curve and climb up the steep Pine Canyon.  Around and up.  Boulders and cliffs.  When the highway starts its steep ascent, the Pine Creek valley floor is just a bit below the roadway.  But gradually, as the road climbs higher, the creek bed slips further and further below.  Parts of the old highway are still visible here and there on the other side.  Then up and over the last rise, past the last of the rocky formations, and out!  Suddenly the land opens up to the broad expanse of the gently rolling wheat fields, and the small city of Waterville.   

And with that I will end, since I want to write about the wheat fields and Waterville later.  Thanks for accompanying me on this little travelogue to one of the most magnificent places in the United States. 

Please visit the McGlinn Public House facebook page to see more such stunning views.  And when you're in Wenatchee next, give them your patronage as a thanks.  I know I plan to.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Purple Heart Day



I heard a day too late that many states have declared August 7, to be Purple Heart Day, a day dedicated to the honoring of and memory of those military veterans who have sustained injury in a field of war, defending our freedoms.  This post is my belated tribute to Joe's Grandpa Kindler.

Joe's Grandpa, Stanley Kindler, is a Purple Heart recipient.  He didn't receive this honor, however, until recent years.  I understand this is quite a common occurrence.  The folklore that I've heard regarding this phenomenon is that because there were many military personnel who would intentionally injure themselves in order to receive this honor, many of the true injured heroes avoided claiming any honor for their valid injuries.  They did not want to be in that same category of recognition seekers.  I don't know how widespread this reason is, but I have heard it several times.  It makes me happy that many of our military heroes are finally receiving the honor they deserve.

Grandpa served in the U.S. Marine Corps during WWII.   Grandpa loves to tell his Marine Corps stories, and he makes the experience sound fun and exciting.  But he also, every once in awhile, relates very touching and heartbreaking stories of his war time experiences.  Grandma tells of the nightmares that plagued Grandpa all his life.  To this day he does not like closed spaces or loud, sharp noises.

Grandpa fought in the Pacific theater.  He was stationed in New Zealand.  He was with the troops that fought in the Battles of Tarawa and Saipan. 

I don't know in what battle he was injured, or in what manner.  But he simply kept going.  He, along with many others, just kept doing their job.  He was not in it for the glory.  He was in it to serve his country and to have a job.  Times were tough at home.

Grandpa's mother passed away while he was overseas.  He didn't even get the letter telling him she was sick until after she had died.

This is how I remember Grandpa telling the story of how he ended up in the Marines Corps.  He and a buddy had heard that there was a group of recruiters down from Canada, signing up American boys to serve in their military.  When they got to the designated location, there were recruiters there, from both American military and Canadian.  But most of the lines were quite long.  There was one table, however, with little or no waiting.  And so the fellows decided to try that table instead. 

That was the table with the Marine recruiter.  Those who had more familiarity with things military apparently knew how difficult and dangerous the life of a Marine was, and were willing to wait in the longer lines.  But again, Grandpa and his buddies just did what needed to be done.  They joined the Marines and went to war. 

Thousands of others did the same thing.  They joined one of our various military venues.  Some of them were injured and killed.  Others came home to bear emotional scars throughout their lives.

Grandpa was hospitalized during his time in the military, but it was not for a war time injury.  He was home on leave hunting with some buddies.  Somehow a gun discharged unexpectedly and Grandpa was shot in the foot.  He spent time healing up in Fort Snelling military hospital.  As Grandpa tells it, this might be kind of an embarrassing story, except for the special ending.  You see, it was during his recovery, that Stanley Kindler met his future bride, LouElla Roberts.

LouElla was working at the Malt-O-Meal plant in Minneapolis.  Remember, this was the era during which all the women took to the factories to keep the country running while the men were off fighting.  LouElla, too, was doing her part for the war effort.  LouElla lived with another girl who spent time with one of the soldiers at Fort Snelling.  I don't remember all the details, but I think this fellow thought Stan needed some cheering up, because he asked his girl to find a friend who would come along see a movie with Stan.

I don't know if it was love at first sight, but it had to have been nearly so.  Stan and LouElla were married at the chapel at Fort Snelling within three months of their first meeting. 

Grandma and Grandpa had four children, twelve grandchildren (I hope I counted right), and I think twenty-one great grandchildren.  A tremendous legacy to one day leave behind.  They are both still living.  They have lived through many adventures, both joyous and trying.  They are both story tellers.  I hope to write down some of their stories one day, for a lasting record. 

Sentimental Journey was "their song."  I chose to include the video at the beginning of this post because of all the images of WWII era America.  It seems a perfect tribute to the Greatest Generation.  (There is, however, one image included that I could do without.  You'll know it when you see it.)

For a touching picture book that beautifully highlights this part of American history try to find a copy of All Those Secrets of the World by Jane Yolan.  It's currently out of print, but see if you can, find it at the library or your favorite used book source. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Clothing from Heaven

Any mother of many will understand the challenge of managing the whole issue of clothing her many children.  At first consideration, some might think that providing the clothing would be the most difficult part of providing raiment. 

"NOT SO!"  I, together with any other mother of many, will firmly assert.

We Americans are very spoiled.  Very wealthy.  So much so that most of us don't even notice our wealth.  It's very easy to think that one has to spend a fortune on a wardrobe for one's kids.  That's the kind of society we have. 

As a case in point, I will provide this illustration.  A few years back I picked up a boys' Ralph Lauren dress shirt for John.  I got it at a charity thrift store.  I probably paid two or three dollars for it.  I don't remember, but two is my usual upper end of spending.  I may have gone to three if John really needed the dress shirt at that particular time.  The shirt is obviously of better quality than a Wal-mart or K-mart special.  Its fabric and cut have remained satisfyingly crisp and even throughout many washes. 

A quick google search tells me that similar shirts at Nordstrom might cost about $40 at full price, or perhaps $25 on a markdown.  Or someone lucky or diligent enough to find a clearance might get it for half of that yet.

Next in line of cheapness might be a consignment clothing store, or an overstock type venue such as TJ Max or factory outlets.  But I don't really find those to be a wise investment for me.  The prices are simply too high for my budget.  I don't live near any such stores.  I don't care about name brands.  But for others with a little more cash flow, the time and location to shop often, and a preference for higher end clothing, such places can be an excellent shopping choice.

On the other end of the spectrum, someone who keeps track of sale days and bag sales at the local thrift stores, or who lives in a town and so has easy access to rummage sales might find my two or three dollars quite spendy. 

And so, there are variations in how much one is willing to spend, and the quality on which one chooses to spend.  It does not have to cost a great deal even if one were to purchase all the clothes each child needs.

But (insert here a dramatic pause, and perhaps a drum roll or other suspenseful music), there are also hand-me-downs.  And most mothers of many have a seemingly inexhaustible supply of hand-me-downs.  This is the clothing from heaven phenomenom with which many mothers of large families perpetually deal.

There is the constant influx of bags of clothing, for many of which we are extremely thankful.  But it's very easy to save too many things in any particular size or season.  There are times when we don't have time to sort the things coming in.  There are times we don't have the energy to pull out all the stored away boxes to put the recently acquired items in their proper spot.  There are times we can't keep up with weeding out the worn, torn, and too small items from the stock in current use. 

Any mother of many will agree that this one aspect of raising a large family seems to consume a disproportionately large amount of maternal energies.

And that's the project I've been tackling the last few weeks.  Clothes for the four youngest to get washed up, sorted out, gotten together, stored away, weeded out for consignment or charity or rags.  And to remember to keep nagging at the middle set of kids to do the same with their own.

The following anecdotes are cut and pasted from facebook.  They will set the stage for my final story.

First, on Saturday as I worked I posted,
Joe accidentally picked up some 55 gallon trash bags for a picnic on Memorial Day. I've packed one totally full of things to take to Goodwill, plus another one well on the way to full. Hurray for Mary! I bet I could fill eight of them before I would feel caught up on the clothing situation around here. But it's a healthy start.
And then in response to the question, "Are you going to be able to lift them," I explained,
It will be a two man job. I probably could, but they are quite tall, as in almost up to my armpit. So I'd worry about breaking the bag by dragging it.

But see, I have this other problem w/ stuff I pack up to give away. Since we live 75 miles from Goodwill, so have to plan a special trip to take the stuff in, it sometimes sits around for awhile. Inevitably, some little hole will be torn in a bag,  And then for some reason, curious little ones always have to pick at little holes until they become big holes, and so all my carefully sorted stuff ends up all over my hallways, all mixed all together. This time I am putting everything in these super big, super strong bags, in the hopes that they will not experience such a fate. I hope.
Last night, Sunday, I told this follow-up story,
I had one of those Calgon situations regarding the bagged clothing. This is the three 55 gallon bags.  Remember from yesterday?  I noticed throughout the day today that little holes were developing here and there on the bags.

"Stop picking holes in these bags!"

I caught kids climbing those big black mountains and sliding down a couple of times.

"Get off those bags and leave them alone."

Joe asked last night if I wanted his help to get them to the car right away so that they wouldn't get damaged.

"Oh, I've talked to the kids, I think they'll be fine. Besides, I don't know which vehicle I will have to take to Grand Forks."

Yeah. 

So tonight, I was home alone with the younger five. I went to the back of the house for a little while, leaving them unattended for a few moments.

"Remember not to play on these bags, you guys. They are starting to get torn up," I reminded them as I walked away.

When I came back, there they were, a couple of the kids, bags knocked down, kids jumping and sliding all over them.

Big holes everywhere and clothes gushing forth. 55x3 gallons of clothes mind you.

"Errgh! YOU KIDS GET DOWN FROM THERE! WHAT DID I JUST TELL YOU! I LEAVE FOR FIVE MINUTES AND LOOK WHAT HAPPENED!"

"We're sorry, Mom."

"NO YOU ARE NOT SORRY! IF YOU WERE, YOU WOULD NOT HAVE DONE IT! DON'T GIVE ME THAT LINE! WHAT WAS THE LAST THING I SAID TO YOU?"

Except for the 165 gallons of clothes spewing forth into the hallway yester-eve, the clothing sorting/managing project has been going mostly smoothly.  I packed up four boxes of toys to keep them out from under foot.  I put them along the wall of the hallway, and put a big quilt over them.  It looks like a bench, and I don't think the little ones have thought to peak under the quilt to see what's making the bench.

I do have, however, the typical ongoing battle with Inge and Donna, the chronic clothes changers.  They are eager to try on all those pretty new-to-them clothes.  These are currently waiting in the living room in baskets, for me to decide what will best fit where in the dressers.  I want to wait until I have all the clothes sorted and ready before I decide, so that I know I'm making the best use of space possible. 

But there is always the question.  Is it really a better use of time?  Would the girls stay out of the clothes better if the clothing was in the bedroom dressers?  While I'm still occupied with this gargantuan task, would I be able to monitor them, and follow through on keeping them out of the clothing in the dressers?  Which will be less tempting for these two little monkey-shiners?

Mostly, especially considering the propensities of these two youngest girls, they are exhibiting an immense amount of self-control.  I only holler at them a couple of times a day to stop getting new clothes.  I've been mostly keeping everything they have worn and soiled into the laundry chute, and most of the unsoiled items back on their hooks or in the basket.  Mostly.  But it is an ever present responsibility.  I have to stay vigilant with them.

But for this next little story, you need little tangential explanation.  Sorry.  Please do stay with me.

I find little girl slips to be one of those things of which I've accumulated too many throughout the years.  Each girl fits them differently, each dress needs a different length, etc.  Also because I buy used, things don's always last long.  So when I see a slip somewhere for mere pennies, I tend to buy it.  Hence, the gradual accumulation.

But the other angle on this whole accumulated slip situation, is that in the crazy-disorder of my last several years, I've stopped worrying about slips.  I'm lucky to get dresses on the kids, let alone slips.  If one of the girls ends up in church with a see-through dress,... oh, well,... it's not the end of the world.  I'm just glad most Sundays that they are clothed and shod when we go out.

And so the idea of a slip, and it's proper use, is wholly unfamiliar to my youngest girls.  They think these silky, lacy items are merely pretty things for playing dress-up. For that reason, I tend to keep the slips hidden away.  But that adds to the difficulty of introducing the properly use and purpose of a slip.  When I need one, I can never seem to remember where they are hidden.

So now, in the process of going through all the clothing items in the house, I have found about ten slips.  I had them in my "pile of last stuff" that has invaded one of our living room couches.  And today was the day to tackle that pile.  All those odds and ends were waiting for me to put away.  Things like mittens and hats that never got put away properly last winter, baseball and sun hats, headbands, bandanas, assorted rags, cloth napkins, doilies, about 50 pairs of tights in varying stages of disrepair, and yes, slips.  All this had to be sorted today and put in some order.  And I did it.  I got it done.  Each kind of thing that does not yet have a proper spot, now has a bag or box that is labeled. 

After I had finished sorting that particular mountain, I asked Inge and Donna to put the slips in a box of things on Stella's dresser.  Temporarily. 

"But, Mom,: said Donna, "They have a place in my locker cupboard.  Remember we used to keep them there?"

"Yes we did.  You're right.  But right now we are cleaning and sorting and reorganizing.  They might not go in that same spot once we get everything put away.  I want you to put them in the box until I decide where their spot is going to be.  Please put them in the box for me."

The girls took the slips, an armload each, all those satiny items slip-sliding in their little arms, and went their way.  To the bedroom.  To the box on the dresser.  Ideally.

But alas!  It was not to be.  About 20 minutes later they came into the living room, each dressed in their choice of pretty lacy slips.

"Oh, you girls!  I wanted those put away.  Please take them off and get dressed in your regular clothes and PUT THE SLIPS IN THE BOX!"

"But, Mom, we want to look pretty.  These are pretty.  They are for dress-up and we want to dress up."

"Yes, they are pretty.  But they are for underneath dresses.  They are like underwear.  They aren't supposed to be dresses.  They aren't supposed to be toys."

They both got kind of confused expressions on their faces.  They looked at each other sheepishly.

"Really?"

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Moment of Evening Pause after a Full Day's Work

I'm going to start with the pause and then brag about my day.  Really just exalt over it a bit with my readers.  But first, the pause.

I didn't turn on my A/C today since the day was not as hot and humid as it has been and I thought we could live without it.  And our nights have been blissfully cool, so we start each day with a nice cool and fresh house.  But it did get hot in the house tonight after the supper cooking was done.  So when it was time for our evening devotion we gathered all the kids to the front porch.  It was a lovely night for it.  Dusk was just beginning to fall. The evening air was cool after the hot day, with just a slight breeze.  The hayfield in front of our house was cut today, so there was a hint of the fragrance of new-mown hay all about.

Matt, Inge and I sat on the wicker loveseat, Joe sat on one of the chairs with Stella behind him, since she had been rubbing his neck and shoulders.  Elsie sat in the opposite chair with Donna behind her, since Donna wanted to braid Elsie's pretty hair.  Clara and Sophie were on the top step.  Jeremy was standing in the remaining corner of the porch.  Louisa is at work, so that was the one mar on an otherwise perfect moment.  I looked at my family and felt such joy and thanksgiving over what God has given Joe and I.  What a privilege to be asked to raise this bunch of children to His glory.  It's humbling really, because we fail every day.  But then we repent and bask in the purity of Jesus blood and righteousness.  And trust in His promises of grace to our children.  Their names are written in heaven. 

For devotion tonight, we prayed the Lord's Prayer, and our two bedtime prayers.  We sang "Children of the Heavenly Father" and "I am Jesus Little Lamb."  I would have loved to stay out there longer, and sing hymns for another 1/2 hour or more with my family.  But Matt gets up early for work, and works hard all day.  I knew he was getting tired.  I had also made a commitment earlier today to get the little ones to bed on time.  So we left off after those few hymns and got the littles tucked in.  The bigs and middles all went their more independent ways.

And that was the end of our pause.  But it was a great way to finish off a day. 

I couldn't help but remember the time our good friends, the Thompsons, spent the night at our house.  If I remember correctly we had some sort of circuit doings at our church on a Sunday, and then on Monday the monthly pastor's meeting was scheduled.  So Jenna and Dave and their family had a sleepover at the Abrahamsons.  We put up a couple of tents where the kids slept, and had a campfire complete with smores, I think.  After it got dark, we sat around the fire visiting.  Then we finished off the evening with a big family devotion time and sang hymns for quite awhile.  It is wonderful to have friends who build us up in God's Word and with whom we can share such moments.  Happy memories, indeed.

And you know, I think we did the same thing when we visited them for our spring mini-vacation when they lived at the Schwan Center in Northwest Wisconsin.  It makes me happy to think about the shared values and habits each family has and that we bring along when we come together.

And for my moment of boasting about my day, I will just say this.  Yesterday was a pitiable day, but today was great.  I finally braved the murky wastelands of my younger girls' bedroom.  It's not done.  It may not be for several days, since I have lots of re-organizing to do.  But I have the floor space clean.  I have the toys in the bins and the books on the shelves.  I have all the trash hauled out and the dirty laundry down the chute. 

I have all the "doodads" sorted.  This is the collection of items I find each time I clean that I have to sort.  The little things.  Usually about the equivalent of several gallons of such doodads.  Things like screws and nails and hairbands and tools and silverware and puzzle pieces, games pieces, and playing cards, dice and dishes and clothespins and twist ties and rulers, pens, pencils, and crayons. 

I also have a largish pile of clean laundry from the various bins of stored clothing that have gotten dug through and otherwise spilled throughout the last several months of neglect.  But that is one of the projects for the next several days.  Now that I have the laundry mess from downstairs cleaned up, I can proceed to reorganize all the dressers and packed away bins upstairs.  It's time to weed out and get rid of many, many things. 

It feels good to be rolling again.  I remember several months ago, when I was trying so hard to get moving.  I had planned my little 28 day challenge.  It didn't go so well.  This old rock of my life was so firmly fixed in the inertia of imovability that I just couldn't get anything going.  I think at the time I compared it maybe becoming a little bit loose in the earth, or by the end of the 28 days, just starting to shift.  But it's rolling now, and gaining speed with each passing week.  It is a wonderful feeling after having been stuck in the mire for so long.

Thank you, God!

Very Cool Blessing: God is your Refuge and His everlasting arms are beaneath you

Your sandals shall be iron and bronze;
As your days, so shall your strength be.
There is no one like the God of Jeshurun,
Who rides the heavens to help you,
And in His excellency on the clouds. 

The eternal God is your refuge,
And underneath are the everlasting arms;
He will thrust out the enemy from before you,
And will say, ‘Destroy!’
Deuteronomy 33:25-27

I was looking for a certain Bible passage this morning; I don't even recall anymore what particular one I was seeking.  But instead of finding that which I sought, I found this gem of a passage.  It's part of the blessing with which God through Moses blessed the children of Israel near the end of Moses's life.  The whole of the blessing is rich with vivid imagery, so take a moment sometime to read it in its entirety. 

The section I quoted above is from God's blessing to Asher.

I had to look up Jeshurun, because I didn't know what it meant.  It apparently means upright ones, so the God of Jeshurun is the God of the upright ones.  All God's children are upright ones through Jesus.

The following is my favorite image.  Just think of it.  The Eternal God is my refuge.  His everlasting arms are beneath me.  I love that. 

The eternal God is your refuge,
And underneath are the everlasting arms.

Perhaps this is a piece of unnecessary statement insurance, but my husband is a stickler regarding Biblical context, so I better include the following explanation.  I do realize this blessing was to the tribe of Asher, and not to me and to the church universal.  But the attributes of God are universal.  I know from other passages of Scripture that God is my refuge, and that He is always with me, supporting me constantly.  So I'm going to forge ahead and grasp this metaphor for my own, at the risk of making certain theologians roll their eyes.  The eternal God is my refuge.  His everlasting arms are underneath me, holding me up as I go through each day.  Amen.