Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Breathe Easy...

Have you ever watched a sleeping baby or even a sleeping animal? Do you notice how easily they breathe?

God created us with a natural rhythm for breathing. We each have a diaphragm, which is tailor-made for our specific body. It's function is to supply each of us with the right amount of air we need during rest and during normal activity.

This diaphragm is a thin, strong sheet of muscle that is attached to the lower edges of our ribs.
It flattens down to expand our lungs as we inhale oxygen-rich air. As it relaxes, it returns to its normal, somewhat domed shape, and carbon-dioxide filled air is expelled from our lungs. Our diaphragm also acts as a pump, helping the heart circulate blood up and down the body. It's gentle action on the stomach help digestion, as well.

The diaphragm works with the chest or intercostal muscles. When we are quiet, the lower ribs and upper abdomen flare gently, helping the diaphragm, while the upper ribs remain relaxed and still.

During moderate to strong exercises, the upper chest opens up like a reserve tank, to take in extra oxygen-rich air; this also happens when we feel fear or anger and the body prepares us for flight or fight. Sometimes, when needed, our neck and shoulder muscles even get involved. (Information on how our breathing works taken from the book, "Hyperventilation Syndrome by Dinah Bradley).

Now, God made it so that this breathing system works without much, if any, conscious effort on our part. For people who continue to breathe normally throughout life, this system naturally shifts back and forth from relaxed breathing to breathing for intense activity. God created our bodies so that they know just how much oxygen and carbon-dioxide we need, and it directs our breathing to keep our blood at just the right mix. This leads to a sense of overall well-being. Unless there is a malfunction of some other system or organ in the body, the person who breathes well feels well.

However, while most of our breathing happens without our even thinking about it, God did give us some control over our breathing. This is to our benefit. For example, think of the swimmer who times his breathing so that his overhand crawl stroke is efficient. Or, think of the singer who uses her breath to support her singing.

Unfortunately, many adults and even some children lose the natural rhythm of breathing that God gave us. When this happens, we develop poor habits of breathing and of posture.

We've all heard about people who have an intense attack in which they hyperventilate. In other words, they breathe too quickly and too shallowly in response to a trauma of some kind. They get their upper chests going in response to emotion, yet they should be breathing low and slow in order to calm themselves.

This hyper-breathing upsets the ratio of oxygen to carbon dioxide in the body. In an acute situation, this imbalance can make the person feel so sick that they may even fear they are going to die. Fortunately, hyperventilation is rarely dangerous, even though it feels catastrophic to the person experiencing it. It can be easily corrected by a few methods that helps the person return to normal breathing and normal levels of blood oxygen and carbon dioxide.

While we've heard about intense hyperventilation, many of us have not heard about chronic hyperventilation. Chronic hyperventilation occurs when someone develops long-term breathing habits that are unhealthy. Chronic hyperventilation is generally less dramatic than acute hyperventilation; no one could function on a daily basis at that intense level of over-breathing. Yet, while chronic hyperventilation is not as intense as acute hyperventilation, it still messes with the gases in our blood. This can lead to all sorts of symptoms, which can be frightening and discouraging.

Here are just a few symptom of chronic hyperventilation: Tingling and numbness in lips and extremities; chest-pains (Never self-diagnose chest pains! You must consult a doctor to rule out any cardiac causes!); frequent deep sighs and yawns; feeling light-headed or having a sense that everything is fading into white; feeling "spacey"; temporary changes in vision and other sensory perceptions; weakness; unusual fatigue; restless sleep; nightmares; achy muscles and joints; palpitations; anxiety; inability to relax; upset stomach; irritable bowel syndrome; unexplained breathlessness; "air hunger"; just feeling "off", etc.

Note: There are many conditions that can cause any of all of these symptoms. The body has only so many ways of signaling distress, so we need medical attention to help us sort out what's what. Once again, do not diagnose yourself. Let a doctor help you. Once the doctor has ruled out other conditions, you can investigate chronic hyperventilation as a factor.

So, if we are born breathing properly, then why do so many people become chronic hyperventilators? There are many reasons. Here are a few examples:

A. Some people have incorrect ideas about posture, which causes them to hold in muscles that are meant to expand and contract effortlessly.
B. Our culture values flat stomachs. It is good to avoid abdominal fat, which can lead to heart problems. And, there is some value in standing properly, so that our lower abdominal organs are held in their right place. However, it's not helpful to obsess about having unnaturally flat abs. Our abdomens are meant to expand when we breathe. If we continually suck them in tightly for vanity' sake, we can undermine our health.
C. Some children (and adults) experience a lot of stuffy noses. Consequently, they can get into a habit of breathing through their mouths, which encourages hyperventilation.
D. Likewise, asthma, by definition, is an interruption in our normal breathing cycle. Those who suffer from chronic asthma sometimes continue to breathe differently, even when they are not currently experiencing an attack. Asthma is nothing to fool around with, so get a doctor's advice in this regard.
E. During times of change, stress, or even happy busyness, we can get into a habit of holding in the muscles around our diaphragm tightly, rather than letting the diaphragm work as it normally should. We can do this without even realizing it. Many's the time I've been surprised to catch myself holding in my upper abdomen.
F. A woman's monthly hormonal shifts, as well as menopause, can affect breathing patterns. Once again, the body will try to to normalize breathing. However, if you have let yourself develop bad breathing habits, it will be hard for your breathing to correct itself.
G. People who have health problems, particularly heart or lung problems, can become over-anxious about their health and chronically hyperventilate as a result.
H. After surgery, people are given breathing exercises and breathing devices that help us keep our lungs clear and pneumonia free. In the short term, this is a good thing. But, it's essential to return to normal breathing once the recovery period is over.
I. People with permanent damage to their lungs and airways may not be able to breathe normally. A doctor's advice can help.

Next time: How to maintain or recover good habits of breathing.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Hi All!

I'm sorry I've been out of pocket for the last week. Between helping my dad settle into a new living situation, traveling out of town, and coping with some minor health issues, I've fallen down on my blogging all together.

We are about through with our First Finishing School project. If you were on the teacher's list and have not posted your week yet and would like to, please contact me.

Coming up: We will be transferring the posts to the Finishing School Blog. Also, we will issue a printable certificate for anyone who wants to have a memento of completing the "course".

At some future point, we may do a Finishing School, Part II. So, if you have any suggestions for "classes" you'd like to take, please let me know. We could delve more in depth about one of the topics we've covered already, or we could introduce something

A big thank-you to all of the teachers who participated, as well as to all of you who have followed along with our posts. Also, thanks to Emma, who helped kick-start the idea, and her husband, who created our signature button.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Don't forget to keep checking Sherry's blog at Redbud's Lane. She has still been posting this week about ribbon embroidery, and has just now reached the end of her lovely series.


"Up and up the car climbed over the grassy road, not as on a steep hill, but a steady slope so gradual that only when Noel stopped the car did she realize that they were on the top of such an elevation. In three directions they could look over the fertile country with its prosperous farm homes. Acres of plowed land and acres of green wheat divided the land into checkerboard squares. Far to the north, the silver thread of a river shone through willows. The spires of three country churches pointed upward, remindingly, to the heavenly blue of the sky. To the east only a smoky haze told tales of the city. On the south side of the road, a sloping apple orchard, like a great pink-and-white nosegay, filled the girl with ecstasy.

"Oh!" Leah Lindsey stood up in the car. "did you ever see such a beauty place?

"Can you see anything up there?" he asked. "Anything that isn't there?"

"Of course! A house -- little low house! How absurd a tall one would be. It's shingled and stained. The sides are apple-blossom white and the roof is green, as if all the leaves from the apple trees had tumbled on it. There are windows everywhere for the blossoms to look in. Inside the house there are gay chintz curtains and books and a corner cupboard and shiny pans and clean milk crocks! And down the back path are hollyhocks and blue cornflowers!"

From "Their House of Dreams" by Bess Streeter Aldrich


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Houses and Bess Streeter Aldrich -- Part II

At the time Mrs. Aldrich wrote her stories, young people were breaking with "traditional" ways of doing things. Many wanted to be "urban" and "sophisticated", and they wanted to distance themselves from small town or rural roots. They were also experiencing the end of the First World War. The horrors of a world war were a shock to that generation, and war experiences left many young people with a jaded view of life.

Society was changing, as well. Chaperones and strict rules of courtship were falling by the wayside. Automobiles were replacing horses and buggies. Young people were more likely to meet each other away from home than ever before. Now, families might not even meet a prospective son or daughter in law until the couple had already formed some type of friendship.

While some people rushed towards the "Roaring Twenties" with enthusiasm, many others yearned for the days when life was simpler. Sound familiar? Based on where we are today, we think of the early twentieth century as being part of "the good old days". We look back to that time and long for its "innocence".

Yet, people of the early twentieth century weren't sure what to make of the changes in their day, just as we wrestle with the changes in our own times. Thus, they had to make the same choice that all people have to make in every century and every decade: Do I build my life on the unchanging Rock or do I let myself be blown along the sands of life by the winds of an ever-changing world?

Mrs. Streeter didn't exactly put it that way. What she saw was a growing "modern" disdain for the "old-fashioned", wholesome, Midwestern way of life. Now, that way of life is not necessarily one and the same as true faith in the Rock. However, there is much to be said for the values Mrs. Streeter had grown up with. She championed those values with a light touch and a dose of humor.

Mrs. Streeter captures this theme in her light-hearted story, "The Mason Family Now on Exhibition." Katherine, the eldest daughter of a large and happy family, had just returned from teacher's college. The experience has been a good one for her, and she has come home as a contented and accomplished young woman.

But, now, as she awaits the arrival of her beau, Professor Keith Baldridge, to Sunday dinner, she starts looking at her home through newly critical eyes. Suddenly, her family's faults seem to loom larger and larger. Their many great points seem, unaccountably, to diminish. She does not stop to analyze why this is so.

Keith hasn't proposed yet, and Katherine hopes that he will once he has formally met her family. The thought excites her, but makes her nervous at the same time. Though she is usually easy-going in character, she now drives her family to distraction. She wants her home and family to be perfect for her wonderful, intellectual, sophisticated Keith.

Katherine views Keith's home life as being the ultimate in refinement, and she tries her best to turn her own family into an imitation of his. Her parents realize this is unwise. Still, they are patient with Katherine, and they urge her siblings and the maid, Tilly, to be patient with her, as well. However, the family, in no wise, shares Katherine's attitude that anything is lacking in their happy home. Katherine redoubles her efforts:
"If you could just know, Mama, how different the Baldridge home is from ours!" Katherine was in the kitchen now, assisting Mother and Tillie. "Our family is so talkative and noisy, and laughs over every little silly thing, and there is so much confusion. Why, at their dinners -- beside Professor Baldridge, there's just his father and an aunt, both so aristocratic -- at their dinners it's so quiet and the conversation is so enlightening -- about Rodin, and -- and -- Wagner -- and, oh, Maybe Milton... -- you know what I mean, so much more refined...And I wish you could see their house. It's not as big as ours, and really no nicer, but, oh! the atmosphere! The hangings are gray or mauve or dark purples -- and they keep the shades down so much lower than ours -- so it's peaceful, you know, like twilight all the time..."
"Ain't that a gloomy way to live, and unhealthy, too, I must say." It was Tilly speaking.
Katherine still insists on perfecting the family before Keith's arrival.
"After breakfast, Katherine, like General Pershing, reviewed her troop, the house, and the grounds. From vestibule to back porch, through the big reception hall, library, living-room, sun parlor, everything was immaculate. There was not a flicker of dust in the house. There was not a stick or dead leaf on the lawn."
Mother Mason remembers her own days of courtship, when she waited for Father Mason to propose. As sympathetic to Katherine's plight as she is, she realizes that Katherine is behaving poorly. She resists the impulse to make an issue of it right then, when her daughter was anticipating Keith's arrival. Still, she is a bit skeptical about her daughter falling for a man who has inspired her to indulge in such snobbish attitudes.

When Keith finally arrives, Mother Mason realizes that he is a man of character. She also sizes him up as being friendly and down-to-earth, to boot. Her heart is relieved for her daughter's sake.
"He was big and athletic-looking, and under well-modeled brows shone gray-blue eyes that were unmistakably frank and kind. What that God-given intuition of mothers, she knew that he was clean--clean in mind and soul and body."
For her part, Katherine is thrown for a loop when her Grandfather decides to join her family for lunch. She loves the elderly man, but he is from the pioneer generation, and his manners are anything but aristocratic. Grandfather tells Keith all about his adventures as a young homesteader and pioneer, peppering the stories with poor grammar and incidents he has already told the family a hundred times. Keith, being a professor of history, couldn't be more delighted to meet a man who actually made history.

Katherine doesn't realize just how much Keith enjoys the lunch until -- after obtaining her family's permission -- he takes her for a drive. He tells Katherine the astonishing news that he has invited her grandfather to dine at his father's house the next week. He wants to write a book about the state's pioneer generation, and he wants to interview Grandfather Mason.

As Keith talks on and on enthusiastically about Katherine's family and her town and the land around them, Katherine realizes -- perhaps for the first time -- just how special her family really is. Perhaps, by using "sophisticated" Keith as a mouthpiece, Mrs. Aldrich was gently challenging her "modern" readers to respect their own heritage.
"And this", he went on again, indicating the landscape, "this is our heritage from the pioneers. From sod houses to such beautiful homes as yours! I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed being with your family today. It's the typical happy American family. When I think of my own gloomy boyhood, I could fight someone -- a lonesome, motherless, little tad studying manners, and "Thanatopsis," under a tutor. Yours is the kind of home I've always wanted. It's the kind of home I mean to have when I marry -- all sunshine and laughter and little children."...
He turned to her suddenly and caught her hands. "It was to talk about that that I brought you out here. With my whole heart -- I love you -- Katherine."
Katherine accepts his proposal, and Keith takes his leave. The whole family sends him off with love and food and well wishes.
"All but Katherine, for she was not there. She had slipped into the front door and up to her room. There she dropped on her knees by the side of her bed and made a little fervent prayer to the God of families. And her prayer was this: That some day -- if she lived humbly for the rest of her life -- she might be purged from the sin of being disloyal -- even in thought -- to her own."

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Houses and Bess Streeter Aldrich -- Part I

Many of you know Bess Streeter Aldrich (b. 1881 - d. 1954) from her famous novel, "A Lantern in Her Hand." Lantern is a loving, but unflinching look, at the life of sensitive, musically talented, pioneer woman, Abbie Deal, who gave up many of her childhood dreams for the sake of her husband, her family, and their land.

I read an abridged version of the book when I was a little girl, and I don't remember much about it -- except that it left me feeling much sadder than reading the Little House Books. However, that was from the point of a sheltered young girl who was probably reading a book that was over her head. Now that I have a more mature understanding of the problems and challenges a woman and a family can face, I might see other treasures in the book if I were to read it today. The upshot is that I just don't remember enough about the book to give a recommendation. Maybe, some of you who are familiar "A Lantern in Her Hand" can leave comments about what you did or didn't like about the book.

Did you know that Mrs. Aldrich wrote a lot of short fiction, as well? I have been reading "The Collected Short Works 1907-1919) of Mrs. Aldrich, and I've enjoyed these stories a lot. It's been an interesting insight into the life of small-town women around the turn of the 20th century. These women are happier, better educated, more talented, and more strong of mind and character than you might think if you knew only today's popular idea of what life was like in that era.

Mrs. Aldrich repeats a number of themes in her stories. The most obvious one is her love of small-town Midwestern and western characters, who possessed shared characteristics with her real life Midwestern and western relatives and neighbors. An equally strong theme strong theme is a woman's love of marriage, family, and home. In her fiction, this often involves the necessity of either choosing for the first time or of re-finding the path to a happy home life.

Now, keep in mind, the magazines who accepted Mrs. Aldrich's work were either family
magazines or women's magazines. Readers of these magazines expected family life to be portrayed in a positive way. They enjoyed wholesome, if also funny and poignant, stories about down-to-earth people. Many people of that time had also moved from farms and small towns to big cities, and they welcomed stories that appealed to their nostalgia for their country roots.

That suited Mrs. Aldrich's style just fine. A native of Iowa and a long-time resident of Nebraska, she had a great affection for the people of America's heartland. She also had great respect for her own pioneer heritage. When she wrote of a wholesome home life and of small town life in general, she knew whereof she spoke: She had a happy partnership with her banker/farmer husband, raised four children, participated in church and community activities, has a recipe published in an Armour Cookbook, and helped start the first public library in Elmwood, Nebraska.

Her husband recognized her talent and encouraged her to take more time for writing. But, Mrs. Aldrich would not let her family suffer for her art. She said that she wrote while "the meals cooked, when babies tumbled over my feet, and while I was ironing, in the old days. the hand that rocked the cradle was often the left one, while the right was jotting down a sentence or two. I have had the first draft of many a story sprinkled liberally with good old sudsy, dishwater."

Here's a description of Mrs. Aldrich's work by Carol Miles Peterson:

Not surprisingly, Adrich's principles for her fiction were those by which she lived. Her writing must be acceptable to everyone, she determined. Her stories are about decent people saying and doing decent things. There is no swearing in Aldrich stories, no sex, no divorce, none of the seamy side of life; indeed, decent and seamy are Aldrich's terms. She (Mrs. Aldrich) wrote, "Why quarrel with a writer over realism and idealism? After all, an author is a glass through which a picture of life is projected. the picture falls upon the pages of the writer's manuscript according to the mental and emotional contours of that writer. It is useless to try to change those patterns. If one writer does not see life in terms of dirt and grime and debaucheries, it is no sign that those sordid things do not exist. If another does not see life in terms of faith and love, courage and good deeds, it does not follow that these characteristics do not exist....I claim that one may portray some of the decent things about him and reserve the privilege to call that real life, too."
Since family is such an important element in Mrs. Aldrich's writing, it's no surprise that she described some delightful houses and cottages. The houses are just the literary framework for the happy family within; they are merely symbols of happiness and shelter. But, her vivid descriptions of them do help me visualize what it means to keep a comfy, welcoming dwelling. Of course, Mrs. Aldrich had in mind the styles of her day, particularly the old Victorians or the newer Craftsman style that was coming into vogue. But, you could take some of the same principles and use them to create a lovely home in any style from Victorian to ultra-modern.

Here's one description of home in a story by Mrs. Aldrich. In this scene, a fiance is showing his young lady around a humble little house. He hopes she will think it a worthy place to set up housekeeping. He is sure enough of her character to know that she will be happy with it. But, he has a financial dilemma to solve, and he hasn't told his bride about it yet.

The bride-to-be was orphaned as a young girl and has lived at school or with relatives ever since. She has become a school teacher. She misses her parents and the sense of home she had before they died. She doesn't care about having a luxurious dwelling; she only wants a little place that she and her husband can call "home". As the couple passes through the house, the fiance watches his bride for her reaction.
"The house was nothing unusual, a story and a half, bungalow style. It has its duplicate in almost every city of the Union with only the loving touches of the people who call it home to differentiate it from the others. Up the steps they passed and to the wide porch. Jim inserted the key, was turning it, as Eleanor touched his arm. 'Oh wait Jim." she said breathlessly. 'Wait just a minute. It's such a -- big thing in my life -- I want to take it slowly.'... They entered a reception hall, bare of furnishings, but, even so, it seemed to hold out warm, welcoming hands... 'Oh, how pretty it will be,' she said, happily, 'a soft green and gray rug, green and russet pillows on the built-in seat, and -- oh, Jim, could we have a clock on the stairway?"...They turned to the left, where pillars separated the hall from the living room. 'A fireplace!" the girl exclaimed. 'And built in bookcases on either side! Oh, it will be so dear in here -- warm, soft tans and browns in wall paper and rug, creamy curtains, and old-rose pillows on the davenport, our books in the low cases, and hyacinths in a silver dish on the library table....To the dining-room was but a few steps. The slanting rays of the sun were flickering unsteadily over the floor. 'Blue", she announced decisively, "Delft and cornflower blue, and brass candlesticks on the buffet. My mother's dishes that she left me have delicate little sprays of cornflowers on them,a nd the curtians shall have borders to match...Pushing open the swing-door, the kitchen seemed fairly to shout at them, 'Now what do you think of me?' It was small, but as snowy-white and charming as enamel, aluminium, and glass could make it.'
The house had three upstairs bedrooms, all of which the girl figures that she can furnish and decorate with items she inherited from her family. These things are old-fashioned and a bit worn, but she does not mind. She has no notion that she must have all new stuff in order to furnish her home. She also states that even if they could afford a maid, she wouldn't want one, for she wants to take care of the lovely house herself. Her fiance takes special note that though he has not brought up the subject of a budget, she, by character, displays thrift and creativity in her plans.

While the girl is dreaming about a cozy home, the fiance turns his financial dilemma over in his mind. His wealthy stepfather has offered him a great deal of money. If he accepts this offer, the young man will be able to treat his beautiful, intelligent, and talented wife to a grand house and a life of refinement. But, the young man fears that he will lose his self-respect if he follows this road, for the fortune his stepfather offers has a questionable condition attached to it.

His other choice is to reject the stepfather's offer, which means that he would lose all hope of any financial help from his stepfather forever. This means that the couple would start out in this humble cottage, for it is all the young man and woman can afford on their own. He would work hard at his career, with no guarantee that he could ever provide his wife with a fortune equal to that his stepfather offers. He would receive no inheritance from his wealthy parents. But, he can take this route and maintain his self-respect and peace of mind.

The bride's delight in the bungalow and her ability to envision how they can furnish it with economy and taste emboldens the fiance to tell her of his financial dilemma. Of course, the bride-to-be sets the young man's mind at ease. She chooses the humble cottage and the uncertain future, for she values her husband's character and self-respect far more than she does an easy fortune.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Finishing School News

Sherry at Redbud's Lane is posting the rest of her series about ribbon embroidery. Sherry has had a lot going on lately, and we appreciate her continuing to work on this series for us. I know I've learned a lot already. I didn't know there were so many ways to transfer a pattern to a piece of cloth. I'm excited about the rest of the series.

Hope you all have enjoyed the Finishing School Series. We are winding down now, with only a few classes to go -- depending on how things work out. I know I've enjoyed it a lot, and I hope y'all have, as well.

I've had an interesting week, with helping my father get settled into new living arrangements and still dealing with his health. So, if you have left comments and I haven't gotten around to answering yours yet, please know that I will soon. I have read them all and appreciate every one.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

The board becomes more puzzling...The wonder of old porches
Regarding yesterday's posts.

In examining information about colonial and Victorian lap desks, it seems that most were really called, "Lap Boxes" or "Letter Boxes". The lap desks usually had a compartment underneath that held all the writing supplies. People could take these with them when they traveled. Usually, the writing surface was sloped, and, often, it could be lifted up to provide access to the supply compartment.

The lap desk I asked about in my last post does not have a box attached to it. And, it appears to be larger in size to the antique lap desks shown on the Internet.

I also searched blocking boards, knitting boards, and tatting boards and didn't see anything quite like it.

One interesting tidbit about my great-grandmother's home management. Every Monday, the washing was done come rain or shine. That was pretty typical back then, especially for someone of her German heritage.

Like most Southern homes, my great-grandmother's home had an open porch on the front, for socializing. Most Southern homes had a utlity porch on the back, as well. The one on her house ran down the side, but it was hidden from the street by the length of the front wing. My great-grandmother often did or had tasks done on the back porch. So, on this utility porch, she had long clotheslines where items were hung to dry in damp weather. On sunny days, they were hung on lines in the yard. I imagine that on blowing rainy days, the clothes were hung somewhere inside the house.

I also suppose that in the sweltering heat of the Tennessee's Little Delta, in pre-air-conditioned days, a family couldn't have too many porches!

In old Southern homes, the front porch was usually the place where the family relaxed, entertained company or at least waved to friends as they walked by, rocked in a porch swing, or sat in rocking or wicker chairs. The utility porch was generally on the back. It was sometimes screened -- provided extra storage, as well as a place to perform heat-producing chores, such as ironing, in fresh, cooler air. That made it more comfortable for the person doing the chore, and it also prevented the heat from adding to the general heat of the kitchen and house. This was also a place where you could do tasks that required good ventilation, such as polishing shoes or painting furniture.

The antebellum houses tended to have a defined front porch, and any other porches -- be they side porches or back porches were separate. Many of the later Victorian houses often had a porch that wrapped a good way around the front and sides of the home, plus a back porch.
In many parts of the South, they had screened-in sleeping porches, as well. When the summer heat became unbearable, you could sleep on the cooler porch and be perfectly safe from mosquitos.

I grew up in a mid-twentieth century home that had a huge screened in porch, where we had wrought-iron patio furniture with comfortable cushions. By this time, the screened-in porch had become less of a utility thing, but more like an extra room of someone's house. We also had shades that could be let down to screen slanting sun rays, if needed. We often sat or ate out there. I love fresh air, and I have very fond memories of times our family spent on this porch.

It seems like these screened-in were replaced by decks for a while, but are coming back in. While decks are nice, I'm all for the revival of porches! I adore porches. Many of the homes my relatives lived in when I was young were older homes, and many of them had wonderful porch swings where you could relax and rock.

At this point, we have a deck. But, perhaps, we will be able to convert it to a screened in porch one day, as some of our neighbors have done.

The oldest houses in my family -- the antebellum country homes -- were built with the kitchen separate from the main house. This was to keep any possible kitchen fires away from the big house, in a contained space. That way, if there was an accident with the fire in the kitchen, the kitchen might burn down, but main house could be saved. Also, it kept the intense heat of those old kitchens with the huge fire-places out of the house. Usually, those kitchens were connected to the main house by a covered walkway.

By the time I came along, the outside kitchens had been torn down and replaced by modern inside kitchens. And, many a little room or closet had been converted to a "water closet", as well.
Of course, I was born well after the advent of central air-conditioning, which changed many things about the South. One of theses things was Southern architecture. In the old days, Southern homes were designed with many features that provided some natural cooling. (I suppose that houses in the northern U.S. had some of these features, too, but I know more about Southern architecture and can only speak for that.) Porches and long central halls that could be opened to act as breezeways were just two of the old-fashioned ways of beating the heat -- or, at least trying to.

Fewer homes are built with these features today. I think that the 50's through the early 90's reached the peak of architecture designed without regard to our local climate.

There's no doubt about it, air-conditioning has made our long, humid summers more tolerable. I have spent enough time in non-air-conditioned summer camps and dorm rooms to know that I love my air-conditioning! But, I wonder if we might save on energy costs if more modern homes were built with many of the features that past architects used to keep a house more naturally cool. I do think there has been a revival of interest in this, which has been spurred by environmental concerns. Why not have the best of both worlds?