Monday, April 7, 2014

A Homespun Magazine for Home Training and Culture - My Parents' Review Story

A Homespun Magazine for Home Training and Culture
My Parents’ Review Story

     I’ve been happy to answer questions that enter my email. The questions are varied. But if I had to pick a frequently asked question, it would this: Where do I find your Parents’ Review magazine - published 1991-96? Remarkable. Therefore, it is about time the editor shared her story.

The Parents' Review

  “What’s this?” I exclaimed with hands-on-hips. I was thinking out loud. My little girls were playing nearby. Overseas Federal Express dropped a pile of old whiskey boxes at the backdoor. One ragged box had a hole. Through the torn cardboard I could see that the boxes were heavily laden with hardcover books. I read the bill. It was 600 dollars. Perturbed, I telephoned my husband Dean at the office.
     “Is everything alright?” he asked.
     “No,” I said.
     “What’s wrong?”
     I told him what sat at the backdoor. I hoped the Tennessee clouds wouldn’t send their usual downpour of spring rain. Expecting a baby any week I couldn’t carry the boxes indoors.   
     After a brief pause to collect his thoughts Dean said, “I distinctly remember asking the librarian at the archive for a few of the earliest years of Parents’ Review. That’s all. Just a couple sample years, when Charlotte Mason was the editor. And to send them surface. I never thought the librarian would send them all. And at such an expensive rate as Fed-EX air.”
     “The bill is almost one month’s rent,” I said, with a flair for stating the obvious, and with more than a hint of stress in my voice.
     He took a breath. “There must’ve been a misunderstanding.” 
     “Yes. Well. If you ask me, your English and the librarian’s English are two different languages.”
     He laughed.

     It was 1989. We were tightly getting by on one income. We had one car that Dean drove into the city of Nashville daily. I was sort-of marooned in the ranch house we rented. It was in the woods. No one apparently wanted to buy it. We were told it was for sale for a long time - possibly because the house was half garage. The garage was huge. The kitchen was tiny and dark with dingy brown wallpaper. Most of the rooms had solid paned windows that didn’t open. The long driveway, as steep as a roller coaster rail, dipped down at the creek, then up just as steeply to the street.

The Parents' Review

     But there were things we liked about the place. The trees gave us shade. The weedy areas had stick-bugs and wildflowers. The sandy creek had crayfish and turtle hatchlings to observe. Our sparsely furnished family room offered the children room enough to play and one sunny window - a sliding glass door.  Although furniture was sparse we were surrounded by an abundance of books, art supplies, dolls, blocks, wooden puzzles, and audio cassettes. And there was always the odd cardboard box awaiting discarding.   

     Dean cringed at the state of the wobbly whiskey boxes when he saw them. The hardcover bound volumes looked to be loosely thrown in. They could easily have been lost in shipping. Dean paid the bill. He set up a bookshelf. And I carefully checked each volume to make sure all the years were accounted for. It took the space of four or five sets of encyclopedias. “How on earth will I ever find time to read all these?” I thought.
    Heavy-with-unborn-baby I put my feet up on the sofa each afternoon. While the girls were occupied – I would reach for a copy of Parents’ Review and hold its small print before my eyes for ten minutes. I already had a stack of books by the bedside such as Miss Charlotte Mason’s 6-volume-set that we had brought back to America. It was forming a rather long queue.
     I scanned the pages of Parents’ Review, stopping at what caught my eye. Never had I read articles so unusual, so meaty, so British. I sipped the paragraphs like tea. It gave me something to think about while standing in front of the kitchen sink full of soapy dishes or baskets of clean laundry overturned on the bed. Sometimes ideas rolled over in my mind while the girls were in the bathtub. “Education is an awesome undertaking” was my overall impression. But there was something so invigorating and curiously inviting about the high ideals. 

The Parents' Review

The Parents' Review    

     When tackling anything high or big it is best to just get on with it, bit by bit. So I started plodding. As the saying goes: Inch by inch it’s a cinch, mile by mile, it’s a trial. Here and there I would experience a sense of fulfillment. It told me, that’s enough. Stop reading. It’s time to put these appealing ideas into practice – somehow - even by trial and error. It didn’t matter that I felt an awkward lack of confidence. (This was to be expected. After all, I hadn’t received an education like it myself.) The attractiveness of the ideals drew me forward. And I knew that anything really worth doing is worth doing not-so-very-well, at least at the start. 

     I mulled over that irksome Fed-Ex bill. Women tend to brood and plan. And I’m one of them. After praying about the situation I came up with a suggestion. Perhaps I could re-coop our outlay by photocopying choice articles and offering them for sale to anyone interested.

Baby crawled into Daddy's brief case.

     With this aim in mind, and with the girls and the baby tucked into bed for the night, and Dean out-of-state on business (two weeks out of the month) I sifted. I book-marked. I scribbled notes. The articles stimulated my mind in many directions. This is precisely what its editor, Miss Charlotte Mason, originally meant them to do. It was a sort of blessed enlightenment. By 1991 I had selected a variety of topics for the first issue of my own magazine. Would my fellow home teacher find them to be of mutual encouragement?  She did. She was hungry for inspiring ideas.  

     On the cover of PR I placed this phrase:

“May its pages supply your educational endeavors with fresh ideas, a touch of culture, old-fashioned wisdom, and introductions to enduring works and lives of great people.”

     I embellished my magazine with antique black & white book illustrations and related research. As insights unfolded from what I was learning from Miss Mason’s books, unknown to me, I was laying the groundwork for the chapters of A Charlotte Mason Companion and for spreading ideas far and wide. Today it is amazing to see the fruition of seeds sown in the 1990s.

The Parents' Review

     Cut & paste was the way to do a homespun magazine on the kitchen table then. It was the early days of the home-learning-boom. Reading material for home teachers was scarce. Consequently, friends told friends about Parents’ Review. In couple of years I had hundreds of subscribers who were looking to give their family a Charlotte Mason Education.

Nature Notebooks at Longwood Gardens - Karen in a Laura Ashley jumpsuit.


     We recouped the Fed-Ex charges after several years of work. Eventually, we mailed the volumes back to the British library surface rate, wrapped snug and secure for travel. I remember standing in our dinning room, in Maryland, finding myself giving every volume, one by one, a tender pat-of-the-hand in farewell, as I fitted it into its box. I had grown rather attached to them.  

      As editor of Parents’s Review (1991-1996) I answered hundreds of paper letters from America and some from overseas. (Some I still save in an ornate hatbox.) During those years my husband, Dean, changed jobs three times. Our family made seven household moves. But never was there any feeling of hurry to contend with. The quarterly schedule was a nice pace. 

Nigel - Junior Salesman (Moving from Maryland to Maine).

     When we lived in Oregon, Sue, a fellow home educating mother, told me that her husband knew computer layout and could “make” the magazine for us. Wonderful news. No more cut & paste (1994-96). These issues that were on disk were lost. We have wondered what to do with the paper masters of our six years of back issues. PDF is hard to read and with most of the issues at 40 pages, the file would be enormous. So we’ve kept them in their original state. And although the cost of printing since the 90's has increased more than tenfold, we’ve kept the cost of each issue the same for our new readers.

     Apart from the odd book review the pages of Parents’ Review are advertisement-free. Friends still tell friends. Curious moms find us. Therefore, those six years of Parents’ Review have never gone out-of-print. Here is a photograph of the oak bookcase built into our office/family room in Maine. We’ve since downsized our library but appreciated, then, having such an expansive accommodating arrangement. You can see Parents’ Review stacked horizontally at the left. Apparently, there are some people who still like to recline peacefully with paper in hand. I do. 

     If you are curious to know the titles of the articles in PR and prices, drop me a line. I’d be happy to email you an attachment. I know I do things the unusual-way – so my son says - but I hope to place PR on the new website - eventually. It can't be rushed.  (click any image to enlarge.) 

Thanks for allowing me to share my story in words and pictures.
Karen Andreola     

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

     Before leaving for Philadelphia I started an article. It is in the polishing stage - to be posted soon. Since my longstanding readers might like a report of our Philadelphia experience I am posting this chatty piece first.

     Many thanks to those who said a prayer.  The emails and caring cards sent across the miles, were appreciated. I was touched to tears. What sympathetic readers I have. It is delightful to be home.

     I am sad to say that Nigel’s two-weeks of medical treatments in Philadelphia were unsuccessful. Dean and I sank under the disappointment initially. But we trust God for His ongoing blessings of life and love. Nigel has his low moments but generally he is looking forward to freelance work and has accepted having to write his own instruction manual (figuratively) for living with RSD by holistic means.  
     Through the long winter Nigel put his talent and skill to work by building us a new website. He is eager to finish it. You might be startled when you see how gorgeous the graphics are. What’s the hold-up? It needs more text. He is waiting on me.
     I am reading aloud, Miss Buncle’s Book by D. E. Stevenson, from my kindle. It came highly recommended. It makes us chuckle. Nigel has read - and listened on-line - to stories by P. G. Wodehouse. To be nice to his mother he says that in comparison, Miss Buncle’s Book is almost as funny. (It has a sobering side, too.)   

Charming set of old row houses at the foot of the hotel

     Each day, while Dean wheeled Nigel from the hotel along the city sidewalks to Drexel’s out-patient infusion suite - and back again - I was across the street - in the hospital. Those twelve days were indeed trying. But I kept an upward gaze. Aside from Small Fiber Neuropathy I was given an additional diagnosis of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome from a top-doc, the Professor of Neurology at Drexel. The results of this series of treatments (unique to him) are pending my next month of out-patient treatments. I am a sort-of experiment.
     Dean, Nigel, and our married daughter Yolanda (who came to help) stayed at the Hampton Inn. The photograph (below) was taken from their hotel-room-window. Hahnemann Hospital is a few blocks away. I was on the 14th floor. If I stood at the window in the hallway gazing at the busy city I could see their hotel-room-window.

As well as overseeing Nigel, Dean managed to visit me every day. Yolanda visited, too. One afternoon before Dean departed, he got an idea. “Let’s shine our flashlights at our windows at nine o’clock on the dot - as a final good night.” It worked. In the dark of the night I could see his little circle of light shinning clearly in his hotel window. He could see mine. My nurse smiled and thought this was cute. To me it was an inner comfort.

     How relaxing it is to be sitting in my sunny parlor again. It is necessary for women to find some way of counter-acting stress in their lives, especially when pain becomes a growing problem. Too often we shrug off, in disbelieve, the power that twenty minutes of calm can have in enabling us to unwind. Stitching a flower in four different reds was my chosen way to unwind from the stress of those two weeks in Philadelphia. At home in my parlor I re-entered the soothing, artistic world of sampler making. A rabbit with a nasturtium in its mouth and a fat bird perched on a branch, were stitched during subsequent sittings.

      This is a “make-do” sampler. I am only using threads leftover from other projects.
“Gold” Sophia decided, is the house color. The royal crown above the roof symbolizes
a Christian household where the family members seek to serve the Lord.  


     Commuting into Philadelphia is a daylong venture. The treatments make me weak and wobbly afterwards. The traffic makes the driver tired. Dean is an attentive husband and father. Recently, I dug out a picture of Daddy – complete with mustache and goatee – drawn during our daughter’s early childhood. He hasn’t changed much in twenty-five years. But I do think he now has a smaller head. 

Happy to be blogging again,
Karen Andreola  


Friday, February 21, 2014

Worry, Worry, Go Away

Worry, Worry, Go Away
     If you are new, feel free to click-about. I need to pause in writing posts for a while but plan to return before long. 

Large Shadows
     I was a young mother. Worry followed me around the house - all day.  I carried it like I carried the baby on my hip. My husband was laid-off from work and contemplating a career change. We were busy giving the walls of the house a fresh coat of paint, covering over children’s fingerprints; making the place ready for sale. We thought it best to be available to move to wherever his next position took us.

Teddy Bear Mittens

     For the sake of the children I hid my worry under a small smile. It was a forced cheerfulness. By the end of the day I was weary of anxiety and physical exertion. When all was dark in the night I said a prayer. The words seemed trapped below the ceiling. It was a short and sincere prayer. I was saving the scary details, my deepest feelings, for the morning. Exhaustion can give problems disproportionately large shadows. In the morning, in the pink tinged rays of dawn, peeking through white ruffled curtains, I would have a clear head. I decided to make this my worry hour. For the time being I knew God heard my abbreviated message no matter how I was feeling about the ceiling. I closed my eyes.

The Worry Hour
     As a young mother and home teacher, I understood the importance of scheduling set times for things. I learned to give worry its allotted time, too. A set-time is needed to be personal with God and cast all my cares upon Him. I can also acknowledge His greatness, confess undeserved-ness for His redeeming love, glean from Scripture, quiet my heart, and count my blessings. A busy day is ahead of me. And so I need my worry hour. It doesn’t usually take an hour. It might be ten or fifteen minutes. But then, throughout the day, if the gray clouds roll in for the fifth day in a row, if I stay up too late or experience insurmountable fatigue caring for a sick loved one  – I am not haunted by anxiety. I needn’t carry it around. I faced my fears already - during the worry hour.

Ferns in Maine
Primitive rock wall on our property in Maine 2003. Spring Ferns

Simple Pleasures

          We gather simple pleasures like daises - by the way. Louisa May Alcott

     To chase away clouds of worry it helps to “gather simple pleasures.” For all of my adult life I’ve enjoyed writing paper letters and walking them to the mailbox. In Maine the walk took twenty minutes. A Maine spring is much anticipated. The crisp, cool air of a walk is exhilarating. I would notice the progress of the ferns uncurling or the daffodils emerging from the bulbs I had dug into rocky soil the year before.

Daffodils and rock wall
Front Yard. Maine 2003

     The cemetery lawn would be covered with purple phlox come spring. In the woods around it grew a large patch of lily-of-the-valley that rooted themselves there, from a finished pot of flowers flung over the fence, I surmised. Each walk revealed a twittering bird – almost always a cheerful chick-a-dee. Walking among the birds can smooth away a frown. It uses up nervous adrenalin. And it gives us a moment to “consider the lilies.”

phlox in Maine
Cemetery on our property in Maine - Pease is the name of a character in P.P.

     Carol in Pocketful of Pinecones felt herself slipping into the darkness of worry when her husband was out of work. She came across something in her reading that brightly illustrates Mathew 6:30. Because in Maine I had walked along a rutted dirt road this passage spoke close to home. 

I saw a delicate flower had grown up two feet high, between the horses’ path and the wheeltrack. An inch more to right or left had sealed its fate, or an inch higher; and yet it lived to flourish as much as if it had a thousand acres of untrodden space around it, and never knew the danger it incurred. It did not borrow trouble, nor invited an evil fate by apprehending it.  Henry D. Thoreau

     I am no longer a young mother. After decades of changes-of-circumstance I’m a little better at not worrying. It’s a wavering conscious effort. Sadly, our service to Rainbow Resource Center has ended. Dean is actively searching for a position that will take full advantage of his many years of executive management, marketing, and motivational teaching experience.  He has posted his resume on LinkedIn.

Work horse
Pennsylvanian work horse. You never know what will find you on a nature walk.

     Our adult son, who suddenly became handicapped over a year ago, is scheduled for long-awaited medical treatment – not covered by insurance - the first two weeks of March. I am also scheduled for in-hospital medical treatment during the same weeks, but the insurance company has denied the claim - pending appeal. Thank you for your prayers and well wishes. It will be a trying two weeks.

cross stitch alphabet

With my Needle
     Because I am asked, “What are you stitching,” here is the new sampler I started. I’ve abandoned a large project for several portable ones. My married daughter told me she fancies a house sampler. I chose an alphabet (from one chart) and asked her what color she’d like the house (from another chart). I will enjoy fitting in spots of birds and flowers (from still other charts). The house color is a toss up. Will it be red or gold? I’m waiting to hear.     

stuffed mushrooms
Ready to bake in the oven
Comfort Food
     Have you ever made stuffed mushrooms? The Man-of-the-House finds them a delicious treat. I remember watching his grandmother make them. My stuffing is like hers but without the bacon. Chopped onion or shallot is cooked in olive oil along with the chopped mushroom stems and parsley, mixed in a bowl with bread, raw egg, grated cheese - baked - served as an appetizer or in an anti-pasta.   

stuffed mushrooms on fancy blue plate

Say it Isn’t Snow
     Another way I am “gathering simple pleasures” is by displaying an over-sized book on seasons, illustrated by Eloise Wilkin. It must be spring. The little girl is wearing a fur-lined jacket but do you see what’s in her mitten? She clutches a handful of pussy-willows, violets and a jack-in-the-pulpit. (Salix discolor, Viola, Arisaema atrorubens). Delightful. After a couple days of this book-cover-of-hope on display, I impulsively reached for a ball of wool. I started knitting a pair of mittens like the one on the girl’s hand, adding a rickrack design similar to it. Books have a way of seeping their influence into the crevices of our lives. Teddy is prepared for a chilly spring with mittens made for him. 

The Wonders of the Seasons illustrated by Eloise Wilkin

Hope Everlasting 
     I love the richness of the old hymns. Contemporary songs – though simple - can also chase away the clouds. Click the album cover to link to Laura Story’s “Blessings” in case you haven’t heard it. Are you weary or worrisome? Could you use words of hope? Dean and I have been conveying a message of hope to our son and ourselves in as many ways we can think to express it.

Laura Story Blessings

     Sometimes His blessings come in raindrops.

I'll be with you again, come spring, Lord willing.
Until then, write anytime,
Karen Andreola

Post Script 
     I placed news with the comments but thought to give the good report here.

     With an appeal to the insurance company my specialist's office got my treatment approved. I will be admitted to the hospital after all. We were previously (and firmly) warned by the nurse that no time is taken (and ever has been taken) for these appeal processes. The chronic pain doctor has thousands of patients.
     I believe God unlocked and opened a door for me.