Friday, October 30, 2009

Breathing Blessings

The art of tact is a valuable, charitable act of kindness that all Christians should learn. And it can be taught. Most of us learn it from our family and our peers. It is simply a natural progression of childhood training. Some children are never eased out of the egotistical stage of a young child. They miss the lesson entirely. They believe they are being honest and, in so doing, being helpful. They miss the point and influence of their words. They miss the opportunity to bless someone else.

I have a friend who was denied this lesson during her childhood, yet I know from whence my friend comes. In her mind she only speaks the truth and, in doing so, is doing nothing wrong. She doesn't realize that in being bluntly truthful, she erodes the sensitive structures of others which might have been carefully built up and might even be at risk of collapse. She is a sensitive soul herself and she's been hurt deeply in her past life. No one taught her tact because those around her had not learned it for themselves. They very bluntly and ungenerously taught her that life was not kind to anyone. Her way of guarding her inner self comes in trying to raise herself up in any way she can. Sometimes it involves putting others and their possessions down so that she can build herself up.

My friend had been to my house a handful of times when she finally asked me for a tour of my home. She seemed curious and so I granted her request. As I took this friend on a tour of my house, I found myself and my home scaled down one negative remark after another.

"Why is your pantry so far removed from your kitchen? Who planned it that way?"
and

"Oh, so that isn't a real wood burning stove?"
and

"My goodness! your laundry room is small!"
and

"Yeah, those scallops definitely date your kitchen."

She's right. All these things are true. The pantry is far removed from my kitchen. The 'wood' burning stove is not real. My laundry room is small. And I've been told by more than one person that the "scallops" above my countertop do indeed pre-date my kitchen.

But there is more truth to these things than meets the eye.

Let me tell you a little something about that pantry, stove, laundry room, and those out-dated scallops.

From the brick-lined opening above my kitchen sink, I can see my darling pantry door. It was a gift from my husband who found an old carpenter to make it for me. It stayed in my daughter's closet for twenty-years before finding a home. I have a slight obsession with pantries. For me they represent all that is special about a home; they are the abundant, life-giving corner of the home. While the kitchen may be the heart of the home, the pantry is its artery. My husband blessed me with this little room. My husband closed in this area of the house and converted the three side rooms (after years of neglect) into what they were originally meant to be. The pantry was a storage area. The middle room was an old bathroom. The room closest to the kitchen was (and is) my laundry room. We didn't "plan" it that way. The house was already planned. It would have taken a nightmarish host of time, energy, mess, and money to switch the laundry room to the pantry and the storage area to the laundry room not to mention changing pipes and breaking up concrete floors. I feel the Lord provided and I'm grateful. I have a pantry...a beautiful walk-in pantry that is just a hop and a skip from my kitchen. For me the walk to my pantry is but the number of measured steps in which I count my many blessings.

The little black "wood-burning stove" is indeed not "real" in the sense one would think but it is a very real presence in my sitting room. Its warmth is generous and there is no mess to clean-up. It was also a gift from my husband. Its very realistic flames smile a warm greeting at all who enter and shines a light on my many blessings.

The door nearest my kitchen is my laundry room and yes, it is small. Often life spills out of its recesses. It coughs up the dirtiness of our days and bears witness that life is never perfect or hidden.

But it is what it is and I love its practical presence. It is an everyday reminder that (despite the fact that I often tell my children "I am not your maid") I am a servant to my family. Not as a slave or even a maid, but as Christ was, through humble submission, a willing heart, helpful hands, and a generous spirit---though I'll be the first to admit I pray for sanctity in all of these on a daily/nightly basis.

In this little room I have room for everything I need to wash away the residue and grim of our lives. Call it the confessional in my house. I could easily close the door and I doubt anyone would follow me in there. The right-side of the room is still unfinished and awaits a folding counter and hanger section but in my other house I had only a closet in my kitchen for laundry usage. Now I have a room with a view of my family's soiled, mismatched socks and in that I sort through and count my many blessings.I harbor many plans for my kitchen. One day this wall will be knocked down and there will be a fireplace in its place. That is the "plan" anyway. Imagine it as you will.The open floor plan of kitchen and living area will be massive, a very generous space when five children begin to marry and bring grandchildren to visit. One reason we bought my husband's childhood home when his parents died is because we had seen, through many holiday/family gatherings, the ease with which it worked. This house is like a ripeful womb, full of activity and life. Still, it is old and sometimes tired. Yes, it is dated. At first my friend's words "Those scallops definitely date your kitchen" resounded in my ears. I didn't want a grandma's kitchen. I wanted something new and improved. I wanted something chic and pretty.
Slowly, too slowly for me, God moved my heart to embrace the old-ness (or what I prefer to call 'vintage') look and feel of this house. This has become part of its charm for me. These walls have heard many voices, many carols, and many birthday wishes. My children have been surrounded by a home that lives and breathes and sings with their memories and dreams. This house breathes and pulsates with our many blessings.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Remembering Aaron

I visited Aaron today.

We sit on the edge of the cow pasture. Two cows pass. One timidly sniffs the other. The other shyly steps to the side, casting huge cow eyes at the other. She wiggles her thing. I knew Aaron would laugh.

A crow caws. The nearby magnolia tree is dropping its seeded pods, impregnated with life, blood-red afterbirth hangs from its individual wombs. A stray cow runs by. It stops and looks at us then runs further up...stops...bellows...looks aimlessly for one of its own. It bellows again before running in the direction of its herd.

I ask Aaron if I can sit next to him. He doesn't mind. I'm Aunt Cay, afterall. It's been too long since we last visited. I use to see Aaron once, sometimes twice, a year. Life moves on. I still see him only once a year. The last time we had a really good talk, was at PawPaw's birthday party.

He was in my living room changing baby Ben's diaper. We had a good laugh, I don't remember about what. But it was good. I remember Aaron's gentle voice. The tenderness of his arm when he hugged me good-bye. Life moves on.

A windchime, dancing from the magnolia tree, sings with the friendly breeze. After weeks of rain and gray dismal-ness, the sky smiles a kool-aid blue with a cloudy toothy grin. Bees thirst on bouquets of flowers at each individual resting spot. A lawnmower and weedeater vibrate in the distance. A six pack of cows wander by. Two butt heads. A third one does a wheelie. It's a perfect October day. A beautiful day. A day to be enhaled, gulped, celebrated. Life renews itself.
Aaron has always loved this place. Allison once described how much Aaron loved coming to this picnic area and lying in the grass...watching those cows...laughing...talking...dreaming...bringing her and Ben to wonder in the pasture with him. I see why.

Somewhere overhead a plane gurgles in that kool-aid sky.

Aaron shows me the little toy motorbike parked on his lap. I'm quite sure his son Ben left it there. At any rate, it is intended for little Ben. Every child needs a toy to play with when they visit their Daddy.

I see that Aaron now has a friend with him. Her name is Meagan. She's 24 years old; he's 27. To me Aaron will always be 27. I'm sure they have lots to talk about so I tell him it's time for me to leave. I promise to come see him next October, perhaps sooner...in June I might visit and bring Uncle Mark with me.

So I leave Aaron and Meagan under the kool-aid sky with the mischievious cows, the thirsty bees, and the seeding of life that, in its hidden slumber, promises a rebirth and renewal of life.

The Aaron I knew is here in this beautiful gentle place surrounded by life. The Aaron that God knows is, if we can only imagine, in a much better place. And he's celebrating his heavenly birthday with Meme and PawPaw and cousin Andrew and all the angels and saints. The communion of saints is a wonderful thing and we are blessed to be a part of it.

Aaron's mother once told me that Aaron had a poet's soul. It's sad that he wasn't able to use his talent to its fullest potential...he's gone much too young...but, in God's own way, his life becomes a celebration, a message, a slumbering song. And life goes on.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Soapmaking

I am still focusing on directing my daughter's hearts towards home because...home is where the heart is. This month we met with our Keeper Club friends and learned the domestic art of soapmaking.
Of course, we always begin our Keepers Club meeting with a luncheon.
Then the soapmaking demonstration was presented.
Pouring in the lye...it was too rainy and windy (not to mention we were under a tornado warning) to do this outside.
Placing the soap in the molds.

Then the girls got to make some heavenly-scented and personally creative glycerin soaps of their own.

Such a fun day! We definitely have a new hobby.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Scrapbooking Daybook

There won't be any time to journal Sunday or Monday and I really do miss my daybooking record so...
This is my own Cajun Cottage version of the Simple Woman's Daybook
Outside my Window
"There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October." - Nathaniel Hawthorne
I am thinking of
How if it weren't for the fall we would not have the spring I am thankful for
Awesome autumn days and two dates in a row with my husband
From the schoolroom
School is coming along swimmingly
From the kitchen
I'm being inspired by Lynne Hinton 's book and waiting for Adrain to bring home the Mexican shredded cheese for tonight's Mex dish.
I am wearing
red slacks and a white t-shirt with garden scene
I am creating
Two of my girls, niece-godchild, a friend, many creative young minds, & lots of scrapbooking stuff are creating remembrance books all over the living room floor
I am going
Taking my son and god-daughter to Day of Recollection for confirmation candidates tomorrow
I am reading
Anything and everything by Lynne Hinton: her Charlotte Review column
and Friendship Cake as well as mid-autumn reading with the children.
I am hoping
That someone's plans become everything she dreams they will be.
I am hearing
lots of girl talk and giggling I am praying
That someone's dreams become everything she hopes they will.
Observing the Liturgical Calendar
Our Lady of the Rosary---October 7th---is our main focus this week
Around the house
It's slowly becoming Tornado Alley through my living room but there's creativity and fun going on in that tornado.
One of my favorite things
Autumn
A few plans for the rest of the week
Monday---co-op
Tuesday---4-H Meeting
Wednesday---Ballet & Mass @ CCD
Thursday---Soccer
Here is picture thought I am sharing
Scrapbooking Saturday

Friday, October 2, 2009

Mid-Autumn Festival Reading

I enjoy selecting October literature for my children. With school work already underway, our books need a chance to cackle and show their toothless grins as well. It's a good change because the sights and sounds of these books bring the outdoor spirit into our homes and reminds us to get outside. It's the most perfect season of the year!
According to the Chinese calendar Moon/Mooncake/Mid-Autumn/Lantern Festival is observed on October 3, 2009. This brings us into a lunar phase that reminds our families to observe the whispers, the crackle, and the crunch of autumn.
Smoke signals beckon autumny woods, crunchy acorns underfoot, candy corn in crimson candy dishes, orange-bellied pumpkins, saints and sinners, toothless scarecrows, spicy pumpkin recipes, and browning blistered hot dogs. A spiritual finger beckons me and my girls to the bookstore for a change of page.
This is exactly where Annie and I found ourself this October day. Armed with an icey, shaved lemonade for her and a hot, whipped, chocolate-caramel macchiato for me; we haunted the bookshelves. It's always a celestial experience for my daughters and I.
What will we read this month? What book cries out for us to save him from the purgatorial spaces which gasp for breath?
First we found Cake Girl by David Lucas and read it right there on the floor surrounded by the prying eyes of Strega Nona, Alexander, Harold, Fancy Nancy, and Corduroy. This book bewitchingly reminded us of another Halloween book we enjoy biting into: The Bake Shop Ghost by Jacqueline K. Ogburn. Both books are enjoyable reads for young readers which show how sweetness and acceptableness are the confectionery way to handle life...whether you're a grouchy old lady, a ghost, a witch, a new baker, or an edible girl made of cake.
For Garrett I decided on Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow because nobody takes you on a better tour of the autumn countryside than Irving.
"It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day, the sky was clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery which we always associate with the idea of abundance. The forests had put on their sober brown and yellow, while some trees of the tenderer kind had been nipped by the frosts into brilliant dyes of orange, purple, and scarlet. Streaming files of wild ducks began to make their appearance high in the air; the bark of the squirrel might be heard from the groves of beech and hickory nuts, and the pensive whistle of the quail at intervals from the neighboring stubble field."
Then there was the platter of food laid out for us foodies. Irving knows how to tempt:
"Fain would I pause to dwell upon the world of charms that burst upon the enraptured gaze of my hero as he entered...the ample charms of a genuine Dutch country tea table, in the sumptuous time of autumn. Such heaped up platters of cakes of various and almost indescribable kinds known only to experienced Dutch housewives! There was the doughty doughnut, the tenderer oly kock, and the crisp and crumbling cruller; sweet cakes and shortcakes, ginger cakes and honey cakes, and the whole family of cakes. And then there were apple pies and peach pies and pumpkin pies; besides slices of ham and smoked beef; and moreover delectable dishes of preserved plums, and peaches, and pears, and quinces; not to mention broiled shad and roasted chickens; together with bowls of milk and cream, all mingled higgledy-piggledy, pretty much as I have enumerated them, with the motherly teapot sending up its clouds of vapor from the midst---Heaven bless the mark!
Only Laura Ingalls Wilder does it better. But this is a book post, not a food one, so I'll move on...

We will also read (and listen to) Arthur Miller's The Crucible as part of our early American history study and to witness how marketing frenzy, public hysteria, and uneducated bigotry can malign the most rational person.

For Chelsea I have selected The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. For the month of October, Chelsea will put aside her World War II reading and focus on early American history as well as understanding the dangers of making hasty judgement calls. Annie will be invited inside the Magic Treehouse for the first time and join Jack and (another) Annie on a visit to the Haunted Castle on Hallow's Eve to meet Merline the Magician then on to New Orleans where she will meet Louis Armstrong on A Good Night for Ghosts.

Happy Moon Day! It's a beautiful time of year.

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