Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Finishing Touches

Finishing Touches
   The largest portion of a mother’s efforts goes into the priorities. First things first. Healthy meals, clean clothes and a clean house require nothing short of exertion.

   A mother attends to the business of seeing that the children have something to eat, something to wear, and something to learn each day. A little creativity expressed in providing all these things can make a mother’s work more enjoyable. This is how she mixes business with pleasure.

   She enjoys putting a personal touch into her work if even in a small way. Her menial tasks feel lighter and her chores carry with them a special shade of meaning when a little spare energy is available for finishing touches.

   The yellow kitchen of the Lady-of-the-House is a working kitchen – best known for its messes. One rainy morning she dolled up the sink with sunflowers. It made an overcast day feel more cheery. 

   Finishing touches speak, “This is home” even if a family is renting and their location is temporary. When an idea makes its appeal a homemaker will set aside a little energy for the pleasant task of taking steps to see it through. A chair could be painted a courageous color – or a door (if the landlord permits). A seasonal table could be kept at the door for young children to display their finds. A few flowers gathered from the garden, a basket of picture books by the sofa, a garnish of fresh herbs to an entree, - a set of cloth napkins, an accent pillow or curtain she might sew - bring taste, color, interest, and comfort to the home.

   Perhaps, at this time in her life, a busy mother hasn’t the where-with-all for finishing touches. She may have just had a baby or adopted a toddler. She might be recovering from surgery or experiencing an exhausting household relocation. She could be driving a loved one for frequent medical treatment. Until she can pick up her paintbrush, needle, or garden trowel again, what she can do is bless her chores with a smile – not the least - but the best finishing touch of all. 

What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable. Joseph Addison

A Track Record

   Much of the energy spent by the Lady-of-the-House is in the keeping room where her yellow kitchen, dinning area, pantry, and laundry room reside. She almost said collide by a slip of the tongue. For if a dotted line where drawn on the floor tracing her steps it would be a confusing web-like pattern for sure.

   Up and down the blue staircase she goes, too. Her office, where she writes among piles of review materials – and does the ironing - is in the attic on the third floor. 

   Taking a step up the first flight of stairs, she glances through the French doors, into her little parlor. Her eyes rest momentarily on the wing chair. It is conspicuously placed in this inviting spot on purpose. She likes to look at the chair when she isn’t sitting there. It was gotten by inheritance (from a descendent of Emma Cook) and is the prettiest chair she has ever had. When her work is done, here she likes to stitch, read or just rest her head on a wing.

   Afternoon sunlight illuminates the chair brightly making it perfect for needlework. She may not, however, get to that chair until supper dishes are washed up. That’s okay. Enough light reflects off the white walls in summer for her to stitch comfortably for fifteen minutes.

  It’s work before pleasure in the square house. But a moment of refreshment makes a world of difference to the Lady-of-the-House. It allows her to focus on a project for a finishing touch – though it may be months before the project is completed.

Mixing Business with Pleasure

With Summer Flowers

   On Saturday the Man-of-the-House and his Lady walked together through the Grower’s Market. They filled the trunk of the car with local produce. (His Lady has been slicing peaches for the freezer.)

   An Amish mother sells bouquets of her homegrown flowers there. A bucket of individual stems (not shown) was what attracted the Lady-of-the-House. She chose white blooms for one dollar with a mind for adding pink to the vase from her own garden. How long it has been since fresh flowers were in the parlor!

If the English language made sense, lackadaisical would have something to do with a shortage of flowers. Doug Larson

With a Summer Plate

   While the Man-of-the-House and his Lady were out together poking about a used-miscellaneous-shop, he spotted a set of Brambly Hedge plates. The summer plate features pink flowers for a wedding. “I found something you might like at the far end of the shop,” he says.
   “They’re darling,” she says after following him through the maze of clutter.
   His male ears sometimes tire of the words cute and darling. Regardless of this, she involuntarily uses the words again at home while she sets the plates in the grove of the corner cupboard and adds, “How do you manage to find things like this among all the outdated contraptions, memorabilia, and bric-a-brac?”
   Smirking he replies, “I browse for both of us while you’re talking with your kind at the till.”  

   “Come into the parlor and see my new dessert dishes – one for each season,” the Lady-of-the-House says to her married daughter who is visiting. 
   “Ah, so cute,” her daughter says.

   The lone teacup, which matches the summer plate, really belongs to this 30 year-old daughter who received it as gift on her 16th birthday. “This is my cup isn’t it?” she recalls, fingering it gingerly. 
   “Yes, hum . . . I’m keeping it safe for you,” her mother claims as she closes the cupboard door. With a voice just over a whisper she explains the reason being. It concerns her grandsons who are at an age when their sudden movements fall into the bull-in-a-china-shop – category. “If and when you get the right shelf or cupboard, just say the word and I’ll give your birthday present to you.”
   “Okay Mom,” she acquiesces.

With a Summer Work-in-Progress  

   A new project suggested itself to the Lady-of-the-House this summer – a new-old project actually, for the rug yarn was purchased with anticipation in 2003 when she still lived in Maine. It lay dormant in her stash.

   When she came upon a simple chair pad design on monk’s cloth at a stitchery shop she thought, “This is it - my next finishing touch.” Her anticipation was rekindled. With raspberry, pink, and two greens she hopes to bring the poesy to life. 

   It feels good to make progress – no matter how slowly.

Post Script

   While in the parlor with Dean’s camera around my neck I thought I’d show you my beautifully bound hardcover copy of A Charlotte Mason Companion.

   It has a ribbon place marker. Somehow, A Charlotte Mason Companion washed up on shore in South Korea and the Christians there asked if they could publish the book in their language.

   That was some years ago, but I keep forgetting to tell you about it. I feel deeply honored that they chose to make it a hardcover (and with the finishing touch of a dust-jacket) in our electronic age.  (Click any image to enlarge.)

   I appreciated hearing from you through our post office box this month and filling your orders of the Mother Culture CD. There are plenty in stock.

Thank you for visiting,
Karen Andreola

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Stop and Smell the Roses

Stop and Smell the Roses
   Walking up or down the staircase (usually with laundry in her arms) the Lady-of-the-House momentary rests her eye on a Christening gown that hangs on a closet door. It isn’t anything her children had worn. It was a hand sewn “find” at a sprawling open-air antique market. 

   That was a decade ago. Now years later, she sees that the baby in the header of her blog is wearing a gown remarkably similar.

   She likes the gown for its association. Once she was a mother of babies. Although, at that time the days could seem long when cries for nightly nursing awakened her, in retrospect the days were fleeting.

“Life is all memory, except for the one present moment what goes by so quickly you hardly catch it going." Tennessee Williams

   The Lady-of-the-House purchased a pair of knee socks at a health food store. 

   She wore them with a comfortable skirt when she drove the Man-of-the-House to the hospital for surgery. All alternative treatments had only resulted in making his shoulder worse. Recently, a surgeon expertly made a number of corrections to it. But the week prior, the Lady-of-the-House had bouts of anxiety. She knows how the Man-of-the-House is allergic to strong medicines. And the pain of recovery would be forthcoming. When she awoke in the blackness of the night with foreboding, she recited Psalm 23 silently to herself with eyes closed. She fell back to sleep.

   She had made ready the green sweater. 

   Her plan was to knit it in the waiting room. Knitting helps steady her nerves. By sewing up the side seams and picking up the stitches around the armholes, she could knit down a sleeve fuss free while the Man-of-the-House was wheeled away. Her old rectangular basket is perfect for holding distracting magazines, too. 

   On the day of surgery the son of the Lady and Man-of-the-House stood at the door and waved a farewell. He glanced down at his mother’s new socks. He was staring  incredulously. “Mom, did you know those words were on your socks when you bought them?” The choice of garment seemed an irregular one to him. Her answer made more of a puzzling impression on him.
   “Yes,” she answered, “They take the place of a tattoo and give me a good reminder.”  She smiled a big smile when she saw the look on his face. Being more conscious of living in the present helps keep the Lady-of-the-House from drifting into unchecked anxiety over future events.

   Leaving the driveway and turning down the road the Lady and Man-of-the-House feasted on their neighbor’s bright blooming phlox with their attraction of fluttering swallowtail butterflies.

   Before they reached the highway they feasted on a wider view of the countryside – overlooking the cash crop of tobacco in the foreground. The Lady-of-the-House thought:

   Mothers often look down-the-road into the future. We have to. There is always the next meal to prepare. Another batch of clothes awaits washing. And children inevitably grow out of their clothes. They grow intellectually, too, and a new semester of books is sought and lined up. Looking after and looking ahead are very much part of her life. Birthdays and holidays are forthcoming. Recitals loom on the horizon. Wise economy is essential and money is squirreled away for future expenses. Homemakers can easily become overwhelmed with gazing too long and too often at what’s ahead.

Present With God

  “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things,” says our Lord Jesus. He then points out that Mary has chosen the good part. *1

   Do we pause and listen at the feet of Jesus like Mary in the calm of a present moment? Do we also, as St. Paul tells us, “by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving” pour out our hearts to the God who loves us?*

“Happy is the person who knows what to remember of the past, what to enjoy in the present, and what to plan for the future.” Arnold H. Glasgow

Present With Her Husband
   In a good marriage a wife lives in the present with her husband. Anne Morrow Lindbergh is insightful on this. She says. “Security in a relationship lies neither in [looking] back to what it was, nor forward to what it might be, but living in the present and accepting it as it is now.” Unless we find contentment in the present we will never find it.

   Forgive and forget. If we haven’t forgotten perhaps we haven’t really forgiven.

   Love loves in the present.

Present With Her Children
   A mother who lives plentifully in the present with her children worries less. She has learned to be mindful of the words of Christ Jesus, “sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” *3
   The best preparation for the future, says George McDonald, “is the present well seen to, and the last duty done.”
   Our todays make our tomorrows.

Present in the Home
   For my young lady readers, as much as youth is filled with anticipation and aspirations, enjoy the present with your mother, father, brother, sister. Someday you may live miles apart as professions in America so often necessitate. Families become geographically separated. This is what the Amish strive to avoid by confining themselves to the horse and buggy. 

   Someday you may be leaving and cleaving. A new home will be established. Then, you may be arranging for extended family gatherings for a renewed time of togetherness.

An Example From Fiction
    Speaking of young ladies, the Lady-of-the-House has before her a copy of Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel North and South. Have you seen the BBC film? In this beautifully done period piece, nineteen-year-old Margaret Hale is the main character. The first dozen chapters of the book are tightly fitted into the film’s first installment. Between leaving the parsonage, a country home in the south of England, and reaching their destination north to the smoky, crowded, manufacturing town of Milton, the Hales take a holiday at the seashore. This holiday is described in the book but omitted from the film. The Lady-of-the-House soaked in some lines that especially spoke to her. They reflect Margaret’s thoughts during her stay at the seashore. (She came upon them not long after the purchase of her new socks.)

   After the emotional upheaval of father Hale’s shocking news combined with the physical packing of boxes for the family’s “removal”, for the first time in many days Margaret felt at rest. The sights, sounds, and scents of the seashore were wonderfully new and refreshing to her. Mrs. Gaskell writes:

Camden, Maine, U.S.A. 

   “There was a dreaminess in the rest, too, which made it still more perfect and luxurious to repose in. . . the stroll down the beach, the sea air . . . the great long misty sea-line touching the tender-coloured sky; the white sail of a distant boat turning silver in some pail sunbeam: - it seemed as if she could dream her life away in such loveliness of pensiveness, in which she made her present all in all, from not daring to think of the past or wishing to contemplate the future.
   But the future must be met, however stern and iron it be.” 

   Our Heavenly Father is omnipresent. He is not bound by time. But for his children He is a very present help in trouble.”*4

A Poem
This little poem by Mary Frances Butts sums up this post’s message sweetly.

Build a little fence of trust
  Around today;
Fill the space with loving work,
  And therein stay;
Look not through the sheltering bars
  Upon tomorrow;
God will help thee bear what comes
  Of joy or sorrow.

Post Script
   Dean is recovering slowly and surely. He photographed the flowers and countryside in previous weeks. Someday I may learn photo-shop but for now Dean always crops and balances the colors of each post’s pictures for me.

   The grasshopper-green sweater with rolled edges was completed this week in size 2 for a grandson.

   My cross-stitch sampler (more strawberries) is hung on a bedroom wall. I positioned it in a parlor window (above) to photograph it (along with a few close-ups of its parts) in greater sunlight. The design is by Words of Praise. 

Your thoughts are welcome,
Karen Andreola

End Notes:
1. Complete story: Luke 10:38-42
2. Fuller passage: Philippians 4
3. Fuller passage: Matthew 6:34 
4. Complete passage: Psalms 46:1