Saturday, December 30, 2006


My Shining Knight, aka dear hubby, has never been one to focus on his clothing. But, he does need to look presentable for his work and for other reasons. Both of us have realized lately that he has worn almost everything in his wardrobe until it all looked downright shabby.

So, you can imagine how very blessed we felt when he received some gift certificats and a little cash for Christmas expressly for the purpose of getting some needed clothing.

DH was excited about using the simple guidelines listed in the outside link I referred to in an earlier post: What Every Man Needs in His Wardrobe. When I posted it on my blog, I also forwarded the link to him, and it helped him understand the core wardrobe concept. He already had a few items on the suggested list, but he needed to pick up several more basics. So, we hit the sales today. We found some fantastic deals. And, using the simple core wardrobe principles in the article, we were able to work out some very practical and stylish options for him for a very modest sum.

Tonight, DH has been ultra busy cleaning out his closet and shining shoes. He has thrown away everything that doesn't fit anymore, as well as everything that saw its prime a long time ago. He is packing away a few things to wear after we reach our 2007 goal of getting in better shape. So, all that's left in his closet are items that he is wearing in the present. His side of our walk-in closet looks so neat and orderly, and there is lots of empty space on his side. He will be able to quickly pull out exactly what he needs. And, since everything coordinates, he can get a lot of wear out of a few items.

I think this is one of the few times in our marriage DH has worn me out clothing shopping. LOL.

Santa has inspired me to do a little re-arranging, too. I have a dressing table that was my late mother's. I made a cover for it, and I placed my glass tray with perfumes on top of it and stored my hair dryer and curlers inside. But, I did not have a mirror on it, so I never used it as a real dressing table. This year, I asked for a lighted mirror for Christmas, and I received one. So, yesterday, I set up my dressing table with the mirror on it. This morning, it was a treat to sit down at the table and to arrange my appearance for today. The table makes getting ready easier. It frees up some bathroom space for my Shining Knight. It inspires me, because its old fashioned look is so feminine. And, it reminds me of my dear mother, who bought it shortly after she and my father were married. I'm going to keep playing with the items on top of my dressing table and on the other surfaces in my bedroom until I come up with the most pleasing arrangement.

Through Christmas presents, I was also able to provide some other little touches for our bedroom.

I have been inspired by these events. I want to start a gradual overhall of closets, drawers, pantry, cupboards, etc., in January. I will have to be diligent about finding bits of time to start this neatening process, as this month is already full before it starts: jury duty, a retreat, hostessing a gathering of DH's siblings, DH's birthday, etc. But, something about starting the new year always makes me want to dive into spring cleaning.

An aha moment that might amuse any British readers: All of my life, I have heard people say, "If you're in for a penny, you're in for a pound." I was talking to my son the other day, and I used that very same phrase. But, the more I pondered what I had said, the more curious I became. I was picturing a penny coin and a one pound mark on the scale or a penny and some nebulous something that weighs one pound. I was having trouble putting these two ideas together, and I even wondered if I got the expression right. Then, it finally dawned on me - - the pound is a one pound note! Aha! After all of these years, I finally understood what this phrase means. I suppose it must be a holdover from when we were British colonies and actually used "pounds" as a denomination of money. Does anyone know why we haven't long since changed it to "In for a dime, in for a dollar"?


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Men and Clothing

You'd think that shopping for men's clothing would be easier than for women's. After all, our styles change more quickly than men's do. And, we generally require more accessories and more pairs of shoes to complete a wardrobe. Add to that the fact that we have a wider selection of colors, styles, textures, and patterns to choose from. Not only that, but we wear more numerous and more complicated foundation garments. And, like most women, I actually enjoy shopping. DH, on the other hand, views shopping as a necessary evil to be dispensed of as quickly and painlessly as possible. I think he'd rather go to the dentist than to the mall.

I totally at home pulling together an outfit for myself. So, why do I have trouble putting together an outfit for DH? Ok, my Shining Knight has informed me many times that men DO NOT WEAR OUTFITS. This may be one clue as to why I am lost in the men's department. But, you know what I mean: It's hard for me to pull together a complete look for the love of my earthly life.

My dear Knight has a few definite likes and dislikes when it comes to what he puts on his back. But, he also depends on me to help him co-ordinate his wardrobe. And, he asks me to help him decide what is appropriate for him to wear on special occasions -- such as romantic dinners for the two of us, weddings, business dinners, etc. I'm great at knowing what is appropriate for him to wear for a specific occasion! But, when it comes to shopping with him or for him, I am less confident.

I am certain that there is a Regular Guy's Code to Clothing somewhere out there that I haven't read -- and I'm guessing that the nattily dressed sales guys in men's department haven't read it either.

So, I was happy to stumble across the December 6th post at What Every Woman Needs in her Wardrobe, which describes what every man needs in his wardrobe:

It's so simple!

Now, if I can just wean my dear, wonderful, shining knight away from pleated front pants.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Happy New Year and Raising Awesome Kids

In looking forward to 2007, I thought I'd copy an inspiring and convicting thought from a book called Raising Awesome Kids in Troubled Times:

Jesus expected people to be disciples. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:27..."Paul said it this way...For me, to live is christ, and to die is gain." Phil. 1:21..

"We must put first things first. This is the key to everything, not just the impractical theory we discard before getting to the 'real thing' of how to raise kids.

"Why is it that some church-going people find their marriages empty and in shambles and their children increasingtly disinterested in spiritual things? It is because merely being religious will not do the job. Even deep involvement in a fired-up church is not enough. Your kids must see that Jesus is a real person to you and that you walk with him and love him. Your faith must make a real difference in the person you are at home, because that is who you really are. You can't fake it there. There is no acting at home, just real life. Kids can spot a fake, a sham, or external devotion a mile away, and they will be turned off and even embittered by anything they perceive as less than genuine.

"When asked what was the greatest commandment in the Law -- that one thing which God valued most highly -- Jesus answered that it was to 'love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' Mark 12:30. We are not commited to commitment...we are committed to God and disciples of Jesus Christ himself.

"Such a life is attractive. It is winsome. It is above the grind. It is fun, and it is glorious! Your children will look at yhou and marvel. They will admire you. They will want to be like you. They will see that although Jesus calls for commitment, his yoke is easy and his burden is light. They will sense your deep inner spring of spiritual life and long to drink of it themselves. They will say in their hearts, "My dad and my mom have something inside that is real. It gives them love, joy and peace that I see nowhere else. My friends and their parents outside God's kingdom don't have it. My unbelieving teachers don't have it. All the loose-living superstars in the world don't have what my parents have. I must be what my parents are so that I can have what they have...

"To love God first, and to deeply and happily love one another (the authors are talking about a husband and wife here) is the greatest gift parents can give their children."


My husband and I just spent a happy Christmas with our wonderful grown children, my father (my mother has passed away), and my parents-in-law. Our house was merrily full of people, as well as two visiting dogs! I loved it.

While this was a joyful, busy, fun time, I did have some moments of serious contemplation. In seeing the generations represented, with all of our individual strengths and weaknesses in our walks with God, I am more convinced than ever of the truth contained in the paragraphs I quoted above.

In some ways, this conviction comes with the pain of knowing how easy it is for me to get my priorities out of whack. I can rock along for a while, letting Christ be an important part of my life, but not depending on him to be my all in all. It's easy for me to let life's worries, riches, and pleasures make me distracted. Mark 4:19. When this happens, I can come give out a vibe of being burdened and fretful.

But, the great thing about being a Christian, is that when we get off track, Christ lovingly points us back to the way. Often, we need only a gentle nudge to stay on the narrow path. Even if the Lord must dispense some painful discipline, however, what joy that discipline produces. The older I get, the more I love the imagry in Psalm 23 about the Lord's staff and his rod being a comfort.

Our youngest child moved to a new city this summer and started his first fulltime job. He is also wrestling with new questions : "Why is there so much suffering in the world? What about people who don't have a chance to hear the gospel? Why are there so many denominations, since people who aren't Christians get so confused by the great number of groups who see the Bible a bit differently? Why do some Christians do hurtful things to other people?"

We are grateful that our son feels comfortable in coming to us with his questions. We are also grateful that he is surrounded by godly people who love him. I have every hope in the Lord that he will come through this time with a stronger and more proven faith. But, it's not easy to watch him wrestle with these things. I see see from his struggle how urgent it is that we model for our children a real faith that stands up against the world's illusions and temptations.

Our children's faith will not be strong if we shelter them from the world. Neither will it be strong if we shield them from the joyful self-sacrifice that comes from following in Christ's footsteps. Our child with the questions is our youngest. When I look back, I suspect we allowed him to be more insulated and more selfish with his time than we did with our oldest child.

When our children leave home, they will meet many people who either are nominally Christian or who do not claim to be Christians at all. Many people who do not have a faith in Christ are "nice" and even "moral". Many do good deeds; I heard last night on TV about a charity event given by someone who is famous precisely because he advocates a godless lifestyle.

Hence, our children need to see something in us that is greater than merely keeping to the rules of morality -- as important as morality is. They need to see something deeper than living the typical American suburban or rural lifestyle -- as nice and comfy as those lifestyles may be.

Our children need to see not a form of godliness, but its power. II Timothy 3:5 They need to see us continually repenting and receiving grace, so that they understand that this power does not come from human effort but from God. They need to be involved with us in sharing our faith and in serving the poor, so that their own faith grows deep and strong. They need to see us developing deep godly fellowship and working out any conflicts with others according to the principles laid out in the Bible. They need to see us maturing to be more like Christ, rather than stagnating in our faith. They need to see us seeking Jesus and his kingdom first when we make decisions about where we will live and how we will live. They need to see us trusting God that if we do seek him first, the lesser needs of life will fall in place. Matthew 6:33.

Praise God that we don't have to be perfect parents! The Lord's working in our children's life is greater than ours. But, when I look back at what has helped my children know Christ, I can see that it has never been about material things -- but spiritual things. As wives and mothers, we do want to keep a neat, attractive, and orderly home. But, we must keep this in perspective.

When we get ourselves out of the way and surrender fully to Jesus as Lord, what a difference it makes! The Lord pours blessings into our lap that spill over to our families. Our children see what real faith is all about.

Since the new year is upon us, what a great time to evaluate whether Christ is truly first in our lives or if he is merely an important part of our life. And, if there are any areas of our hearts where we haven't fully surrendered, now is a great time for us to turn those areas over to God! Whether our children have yet to be born or whether they are grown and are parents themselves, they will be blessed if we continually seek the Lord first in our lives.

Happy 2007.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Happy -- Not Stressful -- Christmas

We all look forward to the holiday season from Thanksiving Day through New's Year Day. (That's in the U.S. In other countries the holiday season opens with a different holiday). This can be a happy time to reflect on our blessings, to give extra thought and apprecation for the birth of Jesus, to catch up with old friends, to reach out to neighbors, to spend fun time with family, to give gifts to those we love, and to express our creativity through decorating and cooking. But, it can also be a stressful time . We can tire ourselves out with unrealistic expectations, we deviate from our normal healthful schedule, we are exposed to more gold germs, we are invited to participate in more activities than we can handle, and if we are separated from our families for some reason, we miss them more than ever.

Here are some thoughts I have on keeping our holidays on the merry and bright side:

1) Don't let worldly expectations drive your holiday season. Christmas is one of the most important holidays in our culture, and it is a wonderful time to appreciate Jesus' birth. However, as much as I love Christmas, I try to remember that there is no command in the Bible about how or when to celebrate Christmas or even that we must celebrate it at all. Nothing horrible is going to happen if you don't keep up with Martha Stewart or even with the family- next-door. The fall holiday season can be as simple or as elaborate as you and your family wish it to be.
2) Evaluate your own holiday expectations. We all carry around in our heads a picture of the "ideal Christmas." We create this picture from many ingredients, not the least of which are strong media images. Wanting to make the holidays meaningful for our families is a good thing. But, if we put too much stress on ourselves and on our family members to live up to our personal ideal image, we can suck the joy out of the holiday for everyone around us. It's best to remind ourselves that people and things don't have to fit our perfect image in order for the holidays to be meaningful and special.
3) Keep in perspective that people are more important than things. Proverbs tells us that it's better to enjoy a simple meal with love than a house full of feasting with strife. I find that when I'm stressing myself out about the holidays, I'm usually concentrating too much on the preparations and not focusing enough on just enjoying the people I love. Better to take on a few holiday projects and do them well, than to over-extend yourself.
4) Discuss with your husband and even with older children what your family's expectations for the holiday season are. Decide which family traditions are especially important to you and which activities are nice, but expendable. For example, in past years, my husband has greatly enjoyed stringing festive outside lights on our house. This year, for various reasons, we decided to skip the outside lights. Instead, I put a simple wreath on the front door. We have decorated inside as we usually do. Also, we have decided in advance to send our holiday cards in time for New Year's Day, rather than trying to get them out by Christmas.
5) It's important to plan early and to do a little bit each day to prepare for the holiday season. But, it's equally important to be flexible. God's plans may be different than ours. It seems that for us, unforseen events often pop up in November and December. But, even os, we always have a happy holiday. And, whatever needed to get done has always gotten done.
6) A tip I heard on the news the other day is to keep a gratitude journal through the season. I started a new one immediately. The person who suggested this tip reccommended spending at least two minutes a day thinking of all the things you're grateful for. This sets the mind to be happy, rather than stressed.
7) Reach out to people you know who may not have any family or whose family may be far away. You can brighten what might otherwise be a depressing time for them. And, in the process, you'll acquire extra Christmas cheer yourself. While I love Christmas, I have a friend for whom this is a difficult time. She has some family sorrows and also personal illness to contend with. She suffers with these problems most accutely around the holidays, when everyone else is celebrating in a way that she cannot. She also is affected by the season's short days and longer nights. So, she is greatly cheered whenever someone sets aside time to get her out of the house and to spend some fun time with her.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Laundry health hint:
I didn't know!

I read an article in AARP magazine called "9 Secrets to Better Health!" about quick and simple things you can do to feel your best. Five of these hints surprised me. The one that surprised me the most had to do with laundry.

It begins, "Just how clean are your just-laundered clothes? If you're like most Americans, not very. Only 5 percent of Americans now regularly wash their underwear and towels in water that's hot enough -- at least 160 degrees F -- to kill bacteria, according to University of Arizona environmental microbiologist Charles Gerba, Ph.D."

The article goes on to say that this means live bacteria can spread from one garment to another. Most surprisingly to me, the article also says that when you remove your wet laundry, those live germs can get on your hands. If you touch your mouth or rub your eyes, you can get a cold, an infection, or E. Coli. Lest you think that putting the clothing into a dryer solves things, the dryer is not hot even enough to kill pesky germs!

Well, I thought I was being thrifty and environmentally conscious by washing nearly everything I could in cold water. Since I have allergies, I do occasionally wash sheets in hot water to kill dust mites, but not nearly as often as I should. I've been using mostly cold water to wash nearly everything for 26 years of marriage!

So, what does the article suggest as solutions to this problem? There's always the option of using bleach or washing everything in water that is 160 degrees or hotter. But, as I discussed in an earlier post, there are drawbacks to making use of bleach on a regular basis, even though it is a disinfectant. Among other things, it is hard on clothing and on sensitive respiratory systems. So, the hot water idea sounds more feasible. Even at this, you have to weigh the drawbacks against the benefits. Washing everything in hot water adds to your utility bills if you do a lot of laundry. And, while some fabrics do wash better in hot water, others lose their color and shape and size if washed in hot water. Even so, I foresee more hot water washes in my future -- especially when it comes to underwear!

If you don't like the two alternatives above, the article suggests that you do this: Head to the sink for a soapy hand wash immediately after putting laundry into the dryer. In order to kill the germs, you must wash your hands for at least 20 seconds and use plenty of soap and hot water.

The article does not say how long the germs live after surviving a tumble in the dryer, so I imagine that a hand washing would be good after touching dried laundry as well. I'm thinking that all of this means I need to clean the inside of my washer and dryer!

The article does not mention if drying clothing outside kills the germs or not. I suspect that it might, as sunlight is known to be a slight germicide. Last week, I would have said an emphatic yes, but, then, last week I cheerfully went about throwing clean, wet, cold laundry into a dryer!
Off topic, Professor Gerba also suggests using a commercial sanitizer to wipe the bottoms of handbags, which collect and spread dangerous germs when placed on tabletops and public restroom floors.

What were the other two health hints that surprised me?

Well, as we wives and moms already know, airing a house is good for health. But, I was surprised to see that scientists are supporting us on this issue. According to them, any house built since 1970 was built with such good insulation that it prevents fresh air flow from outside in and inside out. This can mean, according to the article, that the air inside your home can be 100 times more toxins than outdoor air, according to the U.S. EPA. Much of it is from chemical vapors evaporating from building materials -- In other words, the house itself is poisoning us. Other toxins in the air come from air fresheners, cleaners, paints, and other odor-producing household chemicals. Many of these things cause asthma.

Could this be why asthma death rates have risen in the past thirty or so years? Hmm. Still, in allergy season, an open window can mean trouble for an asthmatic, as well. Perhaps, the pollens that come in can be dusted away if you are consistent enough. As with everything, weigh the pros and cons.

Solutions listed in the article: Open windows when appropriate, put at least two tropical house plants per 12 by 12 room, air new items such as computers and furniture made out of particleboard in the garage for a few days before bringing them inside your house, and run exhaust fans in springtime and the fall, when air doesn't move as easily from indoors to out.

(I had to think about that part when I first read it. Spring and fall are when I most enjoy the breezes that come in through open windows. But, I suppose the author means that the air in these seasons comes in, but doesn't move out as easily. And, when dealing with indoor toxins, you want to flush the air outwards. Anyone else have any other ideas?) When opening windows, make sure you have a cross-breeze going, the article says, so that the air really does freshen the house.

A similar hint was getting a few minutes of sun each day sans sunscreen. Again, don't we moms think this is good? I do, even though both sides of my family are poster children for skin cancer. But, doctors are beginning to see it our way. They are starting to think that a few minutes of sunlight can help in the fight against heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, and even some cancers. (My dh suffers from psoriasis, which is helped greatly by sunlight) We also need sunshine to make sufficient Vitamin D, and sunscreen blocks the production of that chemical. But, fair skinned people need to get the sunscreen on after five to 10 minutes in the sun, two or three times a week. If your skin is dark, you will need to go for a little more sun: 15-30 minutes. But, no one -- not even the darkest skinned among us -- needs to bake.

Fourth surprising hint: Move you pills. Don't keep vials of drugs and vitamins in the bathroom medicine chest or kitchen. I knew this, but had never seen it so firmly emphasized. I do keep my medicines in exactly those two places, so here's some re-thinking that I need to do.

Fifth surprising hint: Drink more coffee. It's loaded with good stuff and doctors are now saying that "It's good for what ails ya," as we say in the South. However, the jury's still out on this one as far as I'm concerned. I have health problems that are made worse by a lot of caffeine. And, I have dear relatives who are unable to function without coffee. So, I think I'll stick to having an occasional cup of decaf as a treat. Also, the article does warn that if you have osteoporosis, you should follow your doctor's advice for calcium supplementation. Coffee, though rich in antioxidants, is associated with some increased risk of bone fractures.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I saw this Quiz when reading Plain and Simple's blog, Echo from the Green Hills. Boy have I got them fooled! I don't know how they mistakenly concluded that I am not nerdy about reading, as dh and children would probably disagree with that. But, hey, if they want to call me a Literate Good Citizen, that's fine by me! :)

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Literate Good Citizen

You read to inform or entertain yourself, but you're not nerdy about it. You've read most major classics (in school) and you have a favorite genre or two.

Dedicated Reader

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

Book Snob

Fad Reader


What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Check Out This Post:

On Monday, Emma from over at Charming the Birds from the Trees, offered a wonderful post about how to add class to your wardrobe without spending a dime. She said she got the inspiration for this post from an entry on the blog," What Every Woman Needs in Her Wardrobe." I've included the link to the original article so you can check it out for yourself. I'm sorry the link is so long; I'm not sure how you clean up links to make them shorter.

Lovely Heart, Lovely Woman

Women who are lovely in heart and lovely in person lift the spirits of others and are a delight to be around. Some keep this pleasant, encouraging quality well into old age.

When I think of this, I think of a 93 year old relative of my mother’s. This long-widowed woman has had some wonderful times in her life, but she’s also gone through some extremely hard events, as well. At the moment, she is living in an assisted living facility, which I suspect is not her first choice of living arrangements. And, she is rapidly losing her short term memory, causing her to repeat questions a number of times.

Even so, this woman is still the epitome of two qualities I’ve always admired in her: 1) She is spunky, cheerful, full of laughter, and uncomplaining. Her focus in a conversation is on the other person, and her desire is to put them at ease. I don’t mean that she’s never honest about how she feels or what she needs, only that her focus is outward and not inward. 2) Even now, this woman is always immaculately put together. How she manages this, I don’t know. As I said, her memory is failing, and her physical health has its ups and downs. Plus, she is on limited funds and has few clothes to choose from. But, her attention to her grooming is obvious. She is without a doubt, the prettiest 93 year old woman you could ever meet!

My mother told me once that when our relative was young, she moved from the country to the city. She had a friend with a great sense of style who taught her how to dress well. I imagine, though, that this relative had an innate sense of taste as well; she always kept a lovely home.

Since my relative’s memory is fading, it seems to me that what is shining through in her now is the character that she built over a lifetime. Perhaps, she isn’t consciously aware that she is so cheerful and encouraging or that she presents herself in such a pleasant way. But, the habits she cultivated as a younger woman are so ingrained in her that they can’t help but manifest themselves now.

Strokes and Alzheimer’s disease can change a person’s personality, so we can’t necessarily judge an elderly person’s past by the way they seem in the moment. And, we can sympathize with people who find it hard to adjust as their earthly bodies decline.

Under normal circumstances, however, we are in the process of becoming the woman we will be five, ten, or even forty years from now. Even if you are only twenty today, you are setting a course that will impact how you handle life at ages twenty-five, thirty, and beyond.

I once read a quote that went something like this: At twenty, you have the face God gave you. At forty, you have the face you are working on. At sixty, you have the face you deserve. The idea is that our habitual expressions etch themselves into our skin.

How can we plant seeds of loveliness now that will flower throughout our life? Here are some suggestions to think about:

A. Cultivate habits of loveliness to encourage others, rather than to seek glory for yourself. True beauty does not come by grasping for attention. It is a by-product of loving and trusting God and is manifested in such qualities as meekness, calmness, gentleness, purity, and reverence.

B. The lovely woman does not stagnate. She learns new things. She continually develops in character. She keeps her outlook fresh and interesting. She is a good listener, and she finds some way to relate to others in conversation. Her husband stays intrigued with her because he realizes that she can still surprise him now and again. As she grows older, younger people are drawn to her because she remains interested in their lives. This can be challenging to the woman who loves domestic comfort and is resistant to change. But, change is an inevitable part of life. You might as well change in positive ways, rather than negative ones.

C. If you are the busy mother of many young children, you may not have a lot of time to set aside for learning new skills. But, where there’s a will, there’s a way. You can learn a lot if you pay attention to the conversations of others; if someone mentions a subject you’d like to learn more about, ask questions. They will think you are a fabulous listener, and you will grow in the process. You can also listen to books on tape as you do routine housework or you drive in the car. You can even learn a new language this way! If you and your husband or you and your children can learn a new skill together, that will help your marriage and home life stay fresh.

D. Part of the fun of being a woman is taking an occasional afternoon or evening to try something new with our hair or to prepare ourselves for a special date with our husband. And, who doesn’t enjoy soaking in a bubble bath now and again? However, in the main, we do well to establish efficient routines for taking care of our personal appearance and health. With a little thought and organization, we can pull together a lovely appearance quickly and, then, move on to other things. It’s hard to imagine that the industrious woman in Proverbs 31 allowed herself to be sloppy or dowdy in appearance. In fact, verse 22 says that she is clothed in fine linen and purple. But, notice that this is the only allusion to her physical appearance out of 21 other verses about her character and her activities. We have to keep things in perspective.

E. Maintaining a lovely appearance does not mean that you need a lot of money or a lot of material things. If you should ever find yourself in the position where you have only one outfit in your closet, you can still keep it sweetly laundered and in good repair.

F. Good posture is important to health and to maintaining a lovely appearance. Girls in the first blush of youth often have excellent posture and grace without even realizing it. As we pass through our childbearing years and beyond, we have to work harder to maintain a healthy posture. But, doing so pays off. It keeps us looking younger. It conveys a positive, secure attitude about life. It keeps helps our internal organs, particularly our heart and lungs, function at their best. And, it is good for our bones and joints.



Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Home Health: The New Mother

When I was a young girl, women stayed in bed for at least two weeks after childbirth, if not more. By the time I had my children, medical experts had arrived at today's way of thinking: a mother should be up and around as soon as possible. This does make sense for the healthy woman.

However, it's wise to follow the guidelines given by your doctor or midwife for a complete recovery. Though childbirth is a natural process, it is strenuous. It also affects your internal organs, and they need time and proper exercise to return to their pre-pregnancy state. Attending to your recovery will not only ward off immediate after-birth complications, but may also prevent problems with dropped organs in later life.

After the birth of my second child, someone gave me the advise to be careful about what I lifted for one complete year. Of course, that was easier said than done, especially since I had a toddler and a baby. But, I learned the hard way that I should have heeded this advice.

Within a week or two after this delivery, I felt great! I was recovering even more quickly than I had after my first childbirth experience, and I was delighted. However, upon learning that people were coming over to the house, I rushed around the house, feverishly tidying things. This was foolish, as my mother was still staying with us to help out. I also should have relaxed a bit; people don't expect a house with a toddler and a newborn to be perfectly neat. In my whirlwind of activity, I injured myself. That set me off on the first of several bouts of heavy bleeding, which set my recovery back a great deal. Had I to do it over again, I would have moved more slowly and more carefully.

In today's world, most mothers are well prepared for the stages of pregnancy and labor. They are given lots of advice about what to expect and how to cope with any minor discomforts. Women are also well educated about nursing and about the baby's development over the first year of life. But, many women are surprised by the physical aspects of recovering from childbirth. Maybe, pregnancy books and childbirth classes should discuss this a bit more. But, even if a mother is surprised by some things, a little reassurance from a more experienced mother can put her mind at ease.

People often rally around new mothers in the first two weeks after a child is born. Often, both grandmothers take turns staying with the new mother and family. Church and neighborhood friends bring meals to the family. It's a good idea to check in from time to time with a new mom after the first rush of support is over. This particularly true if both her mom and mother-in-law live out of town. Some mothers breeze energetically through the first three or four months of a child's life. Other moms, however, may feel very fatigued and overwhelmed. Some may continue to experience hormonal flucuations for up to six months after childbirth. Every mother's post-labor experience is different, and a women may find reovery after one childbirth easier than after another.

If you have a brand new mother in your life -- maybe even your own daughter -- you may need to provide the encouragement and support she needs to make wise decisions during her recovery. If she is exhausted with a flood of company coming to see the new baby, you may need to be the one to say, "Mother and baby needs their rest now."

From my own experience and from watching young mothers around me, I'm convinced that many inexperienced moms tire themselves out unnecessarily simply because they don't know how to manage baby and a home, too. If you are an experienced mom, you have so much to offer the brand new mother. If she doesn't seem to be enjoying her baby as she should, often you can size up the situation and offer some helpful suggestions.

If the Lord blesses me by allowing me to become a new grandmother, I know I will want to spend every waking moment cooing over my grandbaby. Of course, grandmas do need bonding time with the new darlings of the family. But, it's important not to get so swept up in the baby so much that you don't do all that you can to help the mom. It's vital that grandmas help with other things so that the new mom is free to rest and bond with her own baby.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Cold and Flu Season: Five More Ways to Keep A Sick Family Member Comfortable

The best cure for colds and flu is prevention. So, it's wise to encourage healthy habits in your family. You may want to consider flu shots for those who are especially susceptible to flu complications, such as family members with asthma. But, even with preventative measures, most families will have to deal with colds or flu at some point.

1) If your family has frequent illnessess -- particularly sore throats -- have your indoor pets checked out by a vet. Pets often carry strep and other germs. Treating pets along with family members may break a cycle of sickness.

2) A book that I read from the turn of the twentieth century cites keeping the air fresh in a sick person's room as of primary importance. Some of the author's suggestions for how to accomplish this are out of date; we have different forms of heating and different methods of ventilation in today's homes. However, the principle remains: It's not good for either patient or caretaker to breathe the same germ-infested air over and over again. Also, fresh air is more soothing to the sick person than stale.

Some ways to keep the air pure in a sick person's room are to dust frequently, to change sheets and bedding often, to keep emptying wastebaskets full of used tissues, and to quickly clean a sick person's used glasses and dishes. Also, frequently wipe the bathroom that the sick person uses.

3) You can also experiment with opening the windows to air out the room of a sick person for ten minutes once a day. Unless the doctor objects, this can be done even in cool weather. Just be sure to keep the patient bundled-up and warm. Or, let the patient sit in another part of the house while you air out his or her bedroom. During the airing process, you can prevent cold air from entering the rest of the house by closing the door of the room. Obviously, allowing fresh air into a room is not a good idea if the person's illness was triggered by outdoor dust or pollens. Sometimes, asthmatics are greatly bothered by irritants that come into a home through an open window. Today's central air and heating systems do circulate the air and keep it from becoming as stale as rooms used to get in great-grandmother's day. So, airing a room with outside air is not as crucial as it used to be. If the fresh air is agreeable to the patient and ok with the doctor, however, it can be very soothing.

I love ceiling fans. However, they can be problematic for people with asthma, as they do sling dust around. Fans over beds also can push dust down onto a sleeping person. For that reason, some doctors advise that you take ceiling fans out of rooms where people with asthma sleep. If an asthmatic catches a cold or flu, they will be even more suspeptible to respiratory problems. So, it may not be wise to operate a celing fan when the person has a cold. You probably would not use a ceiling fan while a person is sick or feverish, anyway, as that would create a chilly draft. But, if for some reason, you should use a fan in patient's room, be sure to dust it first.

4) The busy wife and mother may feel selfish if she takes time out to care for her own health. However, if we allow ourselves to get too run-down, we will be more susceptible to colds and other ailments. Investing some time in our own health can benefit our families in the long run.

If you have been through a string of weeks when your children have passed a cold or other illness from one to the other, you are probably exhausted. As soon as the children are well, you may want to get some extra rest and some outdoor exercise to compensate.

5) The last thing a person in the first grip of flu's high fever wants to do is to attend to personal hygiene. This is where you can help. If necessary, you can wash and dry a patient's face and hands for them. You can do this with a damp wash cloth, or you can investigate the waterless cleaners I mentioned in yesterday's post. If you use towels and a blanket while you work, you can even manage to give a person a full sponge bath, while at the same time keeping him or her warm and protecting modesty. Also, try to change the person's clothing once a day. Again, you can use a blanket to warm the part of the body that is exposed as you change the person's garments piece by piece.

If the person is a girl or a woman with long hair, do what you can to keep the hair from matting as the person tosses in feverish sleep. You can try putting long tresses up on top of the head in a scrunchie or slipping an old-fashioned night cap on the patient to protect the hair. Also, silky pillow cases help prevent tangling. You can also try braiding the hair.

An old secret for cleaning the hair when a patient cannot get up and wash it is to sprinkle a bit of baby powder or cornstarch on the crown of the head, and then to brush the hair thoroughly. The powder absorbs excess oil and leaves a fresh scent in the hair. Of course, this method doesn't work as well as a shampooing. But, it can help a person feel and look fresher.

If the person is old enough to use mouthwash, bring them a cupful, along with a little basin. Let the person swish and spit. You can also bring someone a toothbrush with toothpaste on it, a cup of water, and a basin to spit in so that they can brush their teeth. Be sure that you purchase a new toothbrush for your patient when he or she gets well.

As the person feels a little better, ask him or her if they want to wash their own face and hands. When the patient is strong enough, he or she will enjoy a bath or shower. If a child has been sick with a fever for a few days, he may drag his feet at getting wet even after the fever breaks. Even a teen or adult may be very fatigued after a flu episode or a bad cold. Getting up and attending to self-care can seem like a daunting task to the person whose body is drained and whose spirits are tired from being sick. But, once the dreaded shower or bath is over, the patient will feel so much better. The more interest a person can take in keeping fresh and clean, the more comfortable he or she will feel while resting.

If someone's still wobbly after an illness, you may need to be near by in case the person gets light-headed in the bathroom. And, you may need to help the person get dry and warm after the bath. When it's time to wash the hair, be sure to dry it right away.

As little girls, teen girls, or even grown women recover from a bad cold or flu, they may enjoy having you brush their hair. They may also like it if you give them a manicure. (I'm personally not a fan of letting little girls wear nail polish at too young an age, but if you don't mind, it can be a treat.)

Note: Doctors can glean a lot of information about a person's health by looking at their finger and toe nails. The color of a person's nails can indicate if a person's blood is fully oxygenated. So, if you suspect that your patient might be heading for bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, or some other respiratory problem, use only clear polish or paint only the toes and not the fingers. Your doctor may want to check the nails if he has to make a diagnosis of new and worsening symptoms.

Unscented lotion is especially nice to have around. It can soothe the skin without triggering sneezing fits.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

Comforting the Sick At Home: Part I

Imagine this: Today is your errand day. You have already made two stops on your list, and you have several more to go. Suddenly, your head begins to ache, your nose begins to run, your muscles hurt, and your stomach sends you unpleasant messages. You realize that you are coming down with the flu.

What image immediately pops into your head? Home! You want to go home and crawl into your own snug bed. You want someone to bring you a cup of hot tea and a good book. You long for the soothing presence of someone who loves you – your mom, your husband, your good friend.

So it is with our family members, too. When most of us are ill, we long to be at home. There are times when hospitalization or a stay in a nursing facility is inevitable. But, in general, when we are under the weather we prefer the comforts of familiar surroundings.

A Victorian woman expected to do her share of home nursing. Even until well in the twentieth century, many births and deaths took place at home (and are taking place there once again). Frequent illnesses and premature deaths were more common during the days before modern medical advancements, a fact we’d do well to remember when we become poetically nostalgic for the good old days. People took greater care with even minor ailments – such as a cold – because any ensuing complications were more dangerous.

Few of us would want to return to the days when pneumonia, rheumatic fever, polio, consumption, typhoid fever, and the like were greater threats to a family’s health. But, we can learn one thing from great-grandmother: We can accept that illness and aging are facts of life, and we can learn how to comfort those who are ill.

Modern Americans in particular have little tolerance for the minor sicknesses that befall even the healthiest person. We expect that someone will give us a magic pill that will enable us to keep working as hard as usual. We see it as a sign of weakness if we have to spend a day or two in bed.

European doctors have traditionally been more cautious about prescribing antibiotics, and they have used them only when really needed. This policy has proved wise, considering that overuse of these life-saving modern medicines has created resistant strains of antibiotics. This policy has worked because, until recently, European patients listened when their physicians and pharmacists advised, “Drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest, and you’ll be good as new in a couple of days.”

Americans insist on leaving the doctor’s office with a prescription in hand. “I don’t have time to be sick,” we cry. And, so, our physicians given in and give us antibiotics that do nothing for viral infections, like colds. We trudge along, and, because we do not get the rest we need, we often stay fatigued long after the original illness has passed its peak.

Today, we can be thankful that most of us will enjoy some measure of good health for most of our days. We can take recovery from common ailments in stride. We can rejoice that we have access to up-to-date and accurate medical treatments and information. At the same time, we can learn great-grandmother’s tips for soothing an ailing family member.

Here are five tips that will help us comfort someone who is ill:

1) Keep your approach to nursing in keeping with the person’s desires and needs. Does your patient crave or need attention? If so, you think of some creative ways to keep the patient entertained. Also, it’s helpful to have something for you to do handy if you are keeping a vigil over a loved one’s sick bed. Does your patient prefer to be left alone to rest? If so, quietly check on the person at intervals. You can meet that person’s needs without hovering unduly.
2) If we are naturally robust, we can find it hard to be patient with people who are chronically ill, aging, recovering slowly from a traumatic accident or illness, or suffering from a nervous or depressed condition. We may find it wearisome to listen to the person talk about his aches and frustrations with illness. We may have unrealistic expectations about how much activity the person can handle. On the other hand, we can get so emotionally wrought up in another person’s illness that we make the patient feel uneasy. In our fretfulness, we may introduce into a patient’s head that he or she is sicker than he really is. We can slow down a person’s recovery by not allowing them to get up and move around. We can do a sick person a world of good if we strike a good balance between calmness, empathy, and encouragement.
3) Taking care of a sick person at home is easier if we have some supplies already on hand. There are many articles and books describing how to put together a home medical kit. Read a couple and decide for yourself what your family needs. Two items that may come in handy are a bedpan and a small basin that you can use to soak a sprained ankle or to bring bathwater to a patient’s bedside. Also, be sure to have some waterless cleaners and wipes on hand to freshen up a patient who is too weak or feeling too badly to take a bath.
4) It used to be thought that people who were injured or sick should be confined totally to bed. Today, we usually move around a little more when we are sick. This means that an ill person may have two or three places in the house where he or she hangs out during recovery. For example, a child with the flu may spend as much time lying down on the living room couch as in his or her bed. It’s important to keep all areas where a sick person recovers fresh and clean. It will help the patient get well faster, and it will also help prevent the spread of infectious diseases to other family members.
5) Soups provide needed liquid and are often easier for an ill person to tolerate than solid food. It’s handy to know how to prepare a variety of soothing soups and to keep necessary ingredients on hand.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Origin of Quilts

Don't the children in the picture above look like they're having fun? :) If you are in one of the areas in the U.S. and Canada that's been hit by a winter storm today, I hope your family is snug, safe, warm, and enjoying the snow.

Even here in Tennessee, we're having a cold snap, too, though we can hardly complain compared to what others are experiencing. Yesterday and the day before, we were enjoying temps in the mid 70's. Right now, it's a chilly 37.

So, what a great day to snuggle up with a quilt! In keeping with that thought, I decided to do some research about how quilts began. Even if you're reading this in semi-tropical warmth or you're basking in down-under's summer, I hope you will enjoy reading about it along with those of us who are having to work at staying toasty.

We can be certain that quilting dates at least back to the days when Latin was still a viable language. We can trace our modern English word "quilt" back through the middle English "quilte" to the Latin word culcita. Culcita means matress. Since our matresses have quilted tops today, I suspect that the thinner mattresses used by Latin speaking peoples were also quilted.

Though the word "quilt" dates back to Latin times, the concept may have originated even earlier. If you define quilting as stitching through padding between two layers of cloth, one of the most ancient examples dates from 3400 BC. There is a statue from that time of an Egyptian king who appears to have modeled while wearing a quilted mantle.

From ancient times, quilting appears to have been used in the construction of clothing, shoes, and bed coverings. Most ancient examples of quilting have long since perished, but we know of their existance through ancient art and books. According to the International Quilt Study Center, the most ancient piece of quilting that remains intact is a linen carpet found in a Mongolian tomb. It dates back to sometime between the 1st century BC and 2nd century AD, and it is now housed in Russia.

As far as clothing goes, soldiers from various periods of history have worn quilted garments for warmth. These garments also provided some protection for the soldier. Perhaps, they weren't as effective as metal armor, but they did allow the soldiers more freedom of movement than heavy armor did. When armor fell by the wayside, quilted uniforms became even more important for a time.

In 15th century Europe, women wore quilted pettiocoats to ward off the cold. This was such a frequent practice, that petticoats were often referred to as "quilts" in England. It is sometimes difficult for historians to distinguish if the word refers to a petticoat or a coverlet when reading certain historical documents. In some time periods, some caps and some doll clothes were also quilted.

When it comes to shoes, archeologists discovered a quilted slipper that was patched with leather. It dates from the 8th to 9th century AD. It was found on the silk trading route somewhere near the Chinese-Russian border.

Though bed quilts are mentioned earlier in history, the oldest surviving ones we have are Chinese silk quilts dating back to about 700 BC. The earliest surviving European quilts are three trapunto quilts that were made in Sicily around 1395. One is owned by a private collector, but the other two are on public display. You can see one at the Victoria and Albert museum in the UK and the other can be viewed in Bargello, France.

As you can tell from the examples already mentioned, quilting seems to transcened many cultures. In 1516, a Portuguese traveler to India described the gorgeous quilted bed coverings, bed canopies, and quilted clothing he saw there. There are also surviving quilted costumes from the Ottoman Empire.

While we often think of quilting as being a folk art, some historians think that there was a time when only the wealthy could afford quilted items. Expensive garments and bed clothes were investment pieces of sorts, and even the wealthy would repair damage with a patch them to make items last longer. During the Dark and Middle ages, people kept household inventories of their precious clothing, bedding, and linens. Historians have learned a lot about European quilts from reading these household inventories.

Supposedly, records show that Hentry VIII of England gave his fifth bride, Catherine Howard, two dozen gold and silver quilts from the royal inventory. He meant this as a way to bestow his royal favor upon her. Wouldn't you love to recieve two dozen exquistiely sewn gold and silver quilts? But, considering the unlucky fate of Henry's brides, Catherine would have been better off without the king or his quilts!

Many early bedding quilts were whole cloth quilts. I have read conflicting reports about whether patchwork or pieced quilting was known before the 1800's or it if dates back to a much earlier time. Even today, Provence, Wales, and certain parts of India are still known for their lovely whole-cloth quilts.

There's no doubt that quilting in the U.S. reached a heyday during the 1800's. Blocked quilts came into their own about the 1840's.

Technology had a hand in making quilting such a popular nineteenth-century American pastime. Factories churned out pre-woven fabrics. Also, the sewing machine was invented and became popular over the span of a few decades. This had two effects: 1) Women were freed from weaving and spinning and could quickly machine stitch pre-made fabric into garments. This immendsly reduced the amount of time they needed in order to make all of the necessary clothing and fabric household items for their families. Thus, they could afford to spend more time on decorative projects, such as making pretty quilts. 2) Woven fabrics and sewing machine made the process of quilting, itself, go faster. So, women were eager to take up quilting as a craft. Of course, we remember the famous quilting bees, which served as a social outlet for women of the day.

Just preceeding and during the Civil War, women on both sides quilted to raise money for their side's cause. Women with Abolitionist sympathies made beautiful quilts to be auctioned at fairs. Sometimes, they put anti-slavery sentiments or poetry on them.

Confederate women rose to the call for money to buy gun boats by auctioning their lovely quilts. These earned the nickname "gun boat quilts".

During the war, the demand for warm bedding for both Union and Confederate soldiers was immense. Women on both sides rose to the call to meet his need. In the north, women either made new quilts or cut up existing bed coverings for quilt material. Since soldiers slept on narrow cots, women could get enough material out of a bed-sized covering from their linen closet to make two or three quilts.

As the war dragged on, Southern women had a harder time of it. In antebellum times, cotton was grown in the South but it was turned into material in the North. When the war came, the South was cut off from receiving fabric supplies from the North. Blockade runners brought in some cloth from other places. But, in the main, Southern women were hard put to find material for clothing, much less bedding. They had to revert back to spinning and weaving in order to produce fabric, which was a slow process. And, in many cases, the fighting destroyed the raw materials they needed to produce cloth, leaving Southern women with few options. Even so, Confederate women continued as best they could to sew bandages, uniforms, and quilts for their soldiers and clothing for their families.

Isn't it fascinating to think that quilting is a thread (pardon the unintentional pun) that runs back through time. Can't you picture women of yesterday humming as they lovingly fashioned quilted garments and bedding for their loved ones? Knowing that they enjoyed creating beautiful and useful quilts just as we do brings history a bit closer, don't you think?