Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Children and friendships...some random thoughts from an older woman.

Warning: In retrospect, I should have turned this subject into a series. As it is, the post is long, so you may want to break it down into separate readings.

Here are some random thoughts on children and friendship. Some of these principles I learned through putting the Bible and godly advice into practice; others I learned through making mistakes.

1) How are your own friendships? Have you ever done a study of what the Lord's word says about friendships? (Proverbs is a great place to start, and another great thing to do is to look in the Gospels about how the Lord interacted with people -- from his closest friends and disciples to people with whom he had only one good conversation. What are your strengths in friendship? What are your weaknesses? In what ways would you like to grow in your friendships this year? Your children will pick up on the quality of friendships you have, and their friendships will mirror yours --at least to some degree.
2) What are your children's strengths and weaknesses when it comes to making and keeping friendships? Not all children in the same family will have the same talents for friendships or the same approach to building relationships. We have one child who has always made friends easily, and we have another child for whom this did not come naturally in the beginning. The child who made friends more easily had one set of joys and challenges, and the child who was less outgoing in the beginning had another set of blessings and trials. Understanding each child's individual nature will help you help them to foster healthy relationships according to their individual needs. Don't try to force one child to be exactly like another brother or sister; teach him how to have the heart of Jesus in friendships and guide him in making the most of his own personality.
3) Friendships are a sweet blessing in our lives. However, friendships aren't just about having our needs for companionship met. They are a chance to put into practice agape love, which seeks the other person's good. Also, it's worth noting that there are different levels of friendship. Certainly, our child's closest buddies should be those whose attitudes encourage our child in faith and character. But, we should also teach our children how to reach out to someone who is shy, someone who is new in town, someone who is challenged in some way, or someone otherwise in need of a little kind attention. Look at the way the Lord extended friendship to the lost and the outcast. Teach your child to be likewise unselfish in friendship. Also, teach your children not to from exclusive cliques that make others feel unwanted or inferior.
4) Often, a child's shyness or outgoingness is evident from babyhood. Even young children can learn be more confident if you teach them to wave and say hello to others from the safety of your arms. Also, as a child grows, teach him how to greet anyone who comes into your home, how to look someone in the eye when meeting them, and other little relationships skills. Don't assume that a child will automatically know the little courtesies of a friendship. A child will absorb much from watching you, but he will still need your guidance with the nuances of relating well to others.
5) Sometimes, a preteen who was an outgoing child will suddenly become withdrawn from his usual friendships. Or, a child will radically change his set of friends. These are red flags that something is bothering your child. It could be something as something as simple as feeling awkward in a growing body, or it could be something deeper. It's good to pray about why your child has withdrawn from former friendships, and it's good listen, listen, listen to your child in order to discern the cause. Sometimes, it works the other way, as well. A shy child may blossom as he or she gets older and outgrows self-consciousness. Or, a child may retain the same basic nature, but he or she may learn how to overcome weaknesses and make the most of strengths.
6) Your child's group of friends may change, too, as they hit the preteen years. Our daughter had a number of friends in the area where we lived who were happy, wholesome children. In the preteen years, some within this group started getting into activities and attitudes that were not helpful, to say the least. Fortunately, our daughter recognized that and realized that if she just drifted along with her old friends, she'd end up being involved with those things, as well. But, things like that are reasons why it's good to know your children's friends.
7) Know that it will take sacrifice on your part to ensure that your children have wholesome friendships. Are you willing to have your children's friends into your home? Are you willing to drive your children to activities where they make wholesome friendships. Do you make it a point to get to know some of the families of your child's friends? Do you pray with your child for his friends, and do you pray on your own about his friends?
8) Do your older children -- teens and adults -- have older role models in their lives in addition to you and dear hubby? Of course, such mentoring relationships can't and shouldn't take away from your role as your children's parents. But, they can and should supplement your parenting and also enrich your children's lives. Teen and adult children should also be building peer relationships that will be a lifelong encouragement to them. Pray for your child to have a close, faithful friend who will be a positive presence in his life through thick and thin. Keep praying about your child's friendships after your child grows up and is making his own decisions about relationships, and pray this for your grandchildren -- future or present.
9) In a friendship, are both your child and your child's friend encouraging each other and bringing out the best in each other? In that case, be happy. Or, are they bringing out each other's weaknesses? If it's the latter, what can you do to help them build a more positive relationship? If, despite prayer and action, it doesn't get any better, do you want to encourage this relationship to continue? If your child has a friend who is going through some tough times, is your child being a positive example for the friend? If so, that can be good, and it can give you a chance to teach your child how to persevere in love in order to help a troubled friend. On the other hand, is your child bowing to a troubled friend's negative influence? In that case, you may need to help your child learn how to stand firm, but with gentleness and love. Or, it could be that your child is in a situation he or she is not prepared to handle. You may need to monitor the friendship in order to protect your child.
10) Is your child getting picked on or teased or criticized to the point of losing confidence? In life, we will all encounter a difficult relationship now and again. Part of growing up is learning how to deal with relationship difficulties. Also, all who want to live a godly life will be persecuted, so our children must learn how to maintain convictions in the face of opposition. Thus, you can turn many difficult friendship moments into learning experiences for your child. You can provide support, love, prayer, and encouragement, while allowing the child to have the victory of working through the relationship difficulties on his own. On the other hand, if your child has tried and is floundering, there are ways you can help. Perhaps, you can assist the child and a critical friend in working things out. Or, maybe, you can work with the parents to help the children treat each other kindly. Or, maybe, it will come to the point where you must take your child out of a harmful situation. Once, we were excited when we were able to get our grade school children into a small school attached to the university where my husband taught. Everyone we had talked with loved the school. However, our small fourth grace son was put in class with a lot of bigger fifth grade boys, who pummeled him on the playground. It seemed the teachers would do nothing to help. Our daughter had some unpleasant times there, as well. We deemed it wasn't the place for our children, even though other families had more positive experiences. We also had a reason why we did not allow our son to enter a certain house in a neighborhood where we lived, though we often welcomed the son from that household into our home. However, don't overdo. If you rescue your child from too many situations, your child will never learn to stand on his own convictions.
11) Teach your child how to rejoice with those who rejoice and to mourn with those who mourn. Teach your child to be happy for the blessings and achievements of others. If your child learns this, he will have learned a lot about how to be a good friend. Not only that, but he will be happier and more confident. It's the insecure person who is threatened by other's successes.
12) Sadly, it goes without saying that children need to be protected from sexual abuse. As parents, we walk a fine line when it comes to protecting our children without instilling undue fear in them. Usually, we think of abusive predators as being adults, but this is not always so. There have been some tragic instances in our city where children, who were victims themselves, have turned around and abused other children. Teach your child to draw appropriate boundaries. Don't leave a group of children to play totally unsupervised for long periods of time, even if you are chatting in with their parents and the children are only in the next room. With a friendly, unworried, and nonthreatening attitude, pop into where they are playing from time to time, just to make sure every thing's going ok. If your child is out playing in the neighborhood, ask him to talk with you before going to someone's house.
13) Teach your child that no matter what his friends do or don't do, he is responsible for his own actions. Also, teach him how to enjoy friendships without placing his emotional security in what his peers think of him.
I have heard many people attribute a friend's home life to forming their character, particularly if there was something lacking in their own home life. Who knows what positive effect your family and your child could have on a child who needs some love and friendship?


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cats on Tuesday!

A Bend in the Road

A Bend in the Road features Cats on Tuesday. So, today, I will follow suit and tell of one little feline waif who found a home in our house and our hearts.

I don't have a down-loadable picture of our little Ninette, but she came to live with us in May. A vet's office found her abandoned in the bushes outside their door.

DH and I always have always had cats from the early years of our marriage and all through the years when our children were growing up. Just a couple of years ago, we had two living in our home. One of my doctors, who is also a cat person, said, "Your allergies are returning. You'd be better off to find new homes for your cats -- or at least one of them. Sometimes, having two in the home takes you over the limit."

So, we decided to find a new home for the younger one, whom we had adopted when his original owner's child became allergic to cats. We kept the older one, who had been with us for our children's preteen and teen years. Sadly, the older one left home shortly after that and did not return.

So, dear hubby and I decided that while we mourned the loss of our pets, we quite liked our truly empty nest. Some months later, we started saying things such as, "Isn't that a cute puppy? Isn't that a cute cat? Wouldn't it be great to have a cat?"

So, dear hubby decided to surprise me by bringing a cat home. One Saturday, off he went on some mysterious errand that had to be completed by 1:30. I did not know that he was going to a vet's and that it closed at that time on Saturday. The vet's office had a number of dogs and cats who need a home, and dear hubby looked at several cats.

Then, the assistants showed him one tiny little ball of calico (actually soft tortie) fur, and dear hubby knew she was the one. He brought her home for me to name, and I chose Ninette. The vet estimated she was about six weeks old at the time, but I think she might have even bit a bit younger because of her small size.

Ninette took to our home at once. My father was staying with us while recovering from emergency surgery, and she especially liked to crawl up in his lap. The only trouble was that she easily lost her balance and sometimes clawed my dad in the process of trying not to fall. It's a good thing that my dad is an animal lover and was patient with her.

Ninette is a rambunctious, but dainty little cat who hops about in the yard more like a rabbit than a feline. At Christmas time, she became fast friends with our son's cat, and I think she missed his cat when he returned to his home. The loneliness was not eased when my parents-in-law brought their Yorkshire Terrier to see us this past weekend. Somehow, she did not find the poor old dog to be as companionable as a fellow cat.

With a little help from a spray bottle and a little maturity, Ninette is slowly growing up to be a well-mannered lady feline -- albeit one with high spirits.

So, that's my contribution to Cats on Tuesday.


Monday, January 28, 2008

It's Merry Monday...

On Saturday, I posted a link about a woman who gave her own life in order that her child might be born. That started me thinking about how God, through Paul, encouraged us to think about things of good report.

Because we live in a fallen world, the reality is that tragedies and controversies occur, and the media makes much of these things. Of course, we can't hide our hands in the sand and pretend that troublesome events don't exist. However, we can mine for the golden gems among the rubble of sad news.

Of course, the first and foremost place to look for things of good report is in God and his word. He alone is truly good. And, a second place to look is in the true church, where people do reflect -- however imperfectly -- the image of Christ. However, I am also on a hunt for whatever inspiring news stories I can find that might be overshadowed by the media's focus on all that is alarming and controversial. My main interest is in stories related to home and family, but I'm also searching positive news in general.

I'll try to post a few gems as I find them. Here are a few for today:

Frugal man donates life savings.

Teen operates "store" where foster children can obtain free outfits.


And the award goes to.....

A while back Hadias
was kind enough to pass on to me a Nice Matters Award. I've been intending for a while to send it to Julieann next. But, we got busy with the holidays, and I don't think I ever actually got it done. So, I've entitled this Mend My Ways Monday, and I'm sending this along.

For those of you who read Julieann's blog, you know that her delightful, positive attitude towards managing her home and loving her family is always inspiring. If you've never visited her site, I know you'll enjoy checking it out.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Touching Story about a Mother's Sacrificial Love...

I don't know anything about this woman other than this inspiring account of a mother's decision to give her own life so that her child could be born.


This comes either one month too late or eleven months too early...

I just now saw this quote from Ben Stein (politician, actor, game show host) about Christmas, and I thought it was pithy:

"I keep seeing in the newspapers that it might not be a "good" Christmas because while visits to stores are up, purchases per visit are down very slightly.

There is also some fear that it might not be a "good" holiday season because fears about the housing correction will scare shoppers into keeping their wallets zipped.

I'm fascinated by this, because I have looked through a Concordance of the Old and New Testaments and I do not find the word "shopping" even once." emphasis mine.

Ben goes on to suggest a number of his suggestions about what makes for a meaningful Christmas, none of which have to do with the mall.

Of course, you won't find the word "Christmas" mentioned in the Bible either, nor will you find instructions to celebrate the holiday -- only accounts about the birth of Jesus. Even so, many of us do observe the day, and it's good to think about why.


Thursday, January 24, 2008


In response to my earlier post, Sarahwas kind enough to leave a link about how to grow tomatoes inside. Apparently, you can have home grown tomatoes in the winter!! I can't think exactly where I'd put mine, but I'm sure I can come up with something.


PS. Thanks to Earthmommy for pointing out the typo in the link. If you tried to link to the site on growing tomatoes from my site and it didn't work, please try again.

Garbage! Who'd "a thunk " you could write a post about that?

In the book, Thrift in the Household (circa 1904), the author recommends using even garbage in economical ways. Some methods, such as composting, we are familiar with today. Other ideas are unusual to our time, but they might actually be more modern than you might think. Her ideas for this are not only thrifty, but possibly "green", as well.

For the garden compost, the author recommends digging a hole, putting in a layer of garbage, throwing dirt back on top of that, and possibly adding lime if your soil needs it. I presume she intends for you to dig in this hole and move the composted material specifically to the garden.

Atlanta newspaper columnist, Celestine Sibley, just buried bits of scraps here and there around her yard and just left them there to compost into dirt. This can work. However, if you do this in the garden, the business of composting material can draw needed energy away from the growing of plants. For that reason, I think the ideal would be to use mature compost in the garden.

However, the principle that you don't need a fancy compost bin is sound. A couple of years ago, here is what I did. We had an old outside garbage container that we brought with us from a previous dwelling. Where we live now, the city provides us with an official garbage container and a recycling one, so we really didn't need this old container. So, I decided to turn it into a makeshift compost bin.

I drilled holes in the sides and top of the container. Then, as it was in the fall, I collected lots of leaves. To make the best compost, you need both leaf type materials, as well as leftover veggie type materials. I placed the leaves in the bin. To that, I have slowly added bits of kitchen garbage, including coffee grounds and used tea bags. I avoid throwing in scraps of anything containing dairy or meat, as these attract wild animals, and I and use only plant material instead. I also avoid throwing in anything that could contaminate the compost with unwanted toxins.

My original goal was to turn the compost with a shovel every few days or so, and to water the compost as well. Instead, I now let nature take it's course, while turning it only once in a long while. I continue to add to it.

Anyhow, this makes an easy container for compost. I have known people who selected a spot in their yard that wasn't up close to the house and just started throwing scraps there, until they formed a big heap. As the material gradually composted, they shoveled the more mature compost over to the garden.

Of course, there are compost bins that you can buy, including ones that have a handle on the side to turn the compost -- saving you the labor of shoveling it .

There are a variety of ways to compost, and there are many instructions on the Internet for how to do so.

The author of "Thrift in the Home" also suggests burning scraps for fuel, adding to the home's warmth in winter, and then using the ashes in flower beds. I knew a family that had a wood burning fireplace, and they used the ashes from the wood in their strawberry beds. I would imagine that burnt veggie scraps would make even better ashes for that purpose, though I don't know.

Tomatoes! Now we're moving on to something more appealing. In the book on thrift, it mentions that women used to grow tomatoes inside purely for decorative purposes. At one time, the tomato fruit was thought to be poisonous, since other parts of the plant are dangerous to digest. But, people found tomatoes and tomato plants to be pretty, and they grew them as houseplants. The author suggested that if people could grow them indoors for their appearance, anyone could grow a tomato plant in a sunny spot and enjoy the fruit to eat.

Now, I've grown herbs indoors. And, I've grown tomatoes in pots on my deck. But, I never thought about growing tomatoes indoors. I wonder if a tomato grown indoors would produce even in winter. Has anyone ever tried this?


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Blogger Book Club

In an earlier post I mentioned that Hadeas is hosting a book club and the current selection is an online tome called, "Thrift in the Home."

We're currently in Chapters 3-5. The chapters are short, so it's not too late to catch up.

Here are some thoughts from this week's readings.

"Managing is the art and science of using to best advantage what has been brought into the house."

Aha moment...The home manager really is a manager, just as a manager in a corporation is. The capable homemaker is able to oversee all aspects of the home in a way that makes the home flow smoothly, function economically, and provide nurturing of relationships. It's better to be able to bring all aspects together into a functioning household reasonably well than to excel in this area or that to the neglect of the larger picture. This means the home manager needs to pay attention to both the overall goal and the small details in everything she does.

"A good manager makes things comfortable. Her mind is easy, and, therefore, she produces ease."

Aha moment...But, in her management, it does not serve her for her to be uptight, anxious, or indecisive.

"She who has learned to prevent little leaks (the economic kind, not the water kind) has learned how to make the dollars count..."

"One common mistake for the would-be devotee of thrift is for the homemaker to cook too much at once."

Aha moment...I've got to quit planning and cooking as if my children were still at home. I have too many leftovers when I cook for just DH and myself, and, though I have good intentions of using them, I throw too much away. I either need to cut back on the portions I cook or cook enough to freeze for later use -- but not end up with something in between. I also need to plan better, because we are at a stage in life and in a role where we may find ourselves either having people over unexpectedly or eating out with someone when I thought I was going to cook.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Northanger Abbey...

Did anyone watch Northanger Abbey on Masterpiece Theater? The picture to the left is from this link to Masterpiece Theater's site. Check out the site, and while you're there, vote for your favorite Jane Austen hero.

This was one Jane Austen novel that I had neither read nor seen a movie of. We were out on Sunday, and I forgot to record it. I got home in time to see the last third of it, and I really enjoyed it.

Now, if I was as brave or as blog savvy as the lovely Mrs. Fussypants is, I'd have to "Merryrose" this picture. I'm not, so we'll all have to use our imaginations. Just imagine me wearing a pretty blue regency style dress and composing this post while seated at my beautiful wooden writing box. While you're at it, please subtract a number of wrinkles and pounds.

Oh, since you need to know what I look like in order to play along with my fantasy, here's a hint: I used to be told that I was a dead ringer for Debby Boone. Truth be told, I don't get that anymore. I don't know if that's because time has erased our similarities, or if it's because no one under the age of thirty-five has ever heard of Debby Boone -- much less her father, Pat.

Now, on to the real gist of this post: If you saw Northanger Abbey, what did you think of it?

Did you know that in the book -- which I still have yet to read -- Jane Austen mentions at least five Gothic romance novels by name? I read on a Jane Austen board that many modern readers have assumed these were all made up, though they are, in fact, real books that were popular in her time period. Jane was lampooning the beginnings in her day of the romantic movement, with its focus on the sensational and the lurid.

Why do you think Jane Austen has been enjoying such a revival starting about fifteen years or so ago? I've heard different opinions about that. If you're a Jane Austen fan, I'd love to hear why you enjoy her works.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Ta Da! I finally Did it...

It's true. After driving poor hubby crazy with mountains of paint chips, I finally settled on province Blue Province for my kitchen and Cheshire Gold for the living room. (These are actually Glidden colors, but...shh...don't tell the nice Glidden people that I had the colors matched in Behr. Behr was offering a rebate for MLK weekend.)

I'm using fabrics and other items to tie the colors together into a country French scheme, since you can see one room from the other.

Who knew how challenging selecting a blue paint and a golden yellow paint could be so challenging! There are so many shades and tints of both. And, then there's the "what will it actually look like when dry and in mass quantities on my wall" question.

Also, as I had been working toward greens for many years, I had forgotten how many little green details we have in our house -- as in kitchen throw rugs for example. It's all coming together, though. I was ready for a change.

Our walls were ready for a change, too, as they are a dull neutral that is beyond touching up after 7 years of wear and tear. It's interesting that our living room has been painted pale brick (peachy pink) for almost that long, and it looks as fresh as the day that the paint went on. I don't think that the paint the builders used was of great quality, as it is very hard to clean without washing it off. Then again, it could just be that the richer color in the dining room just doesn't show marks.

We don't have a lot of time in our schedules or money in our budget for redecorating, so I know that I need to count on living with my choices for a while. I think that was one reason why it took me a while to think through exactly what I wanted.

DH devoted all weekend to painting, and we are now in the process of moving everything back into place. I am very happy with my choices. The colors just make me feel happy!

Now, on to fabrics....


Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Handbag -- You've got to see this one!

Topaztook shared a link in her comment about organizing a purse, and it took me to a lovely post on the Giving Flower about making an organize for your handbag.

Here's the link: The Giving Flower.

The Giving Flower shows you how to sew a holder that has pockets for everything you need. You roll it up and stick it in whatever bag you are using. This is pretty basic sewing, so even if you're a total beginner, you can do this one.

The author says it's not a new idea, but it's new to me. All you crafty, thrifty, and organized fashion divas, check it out! You wanna-bes out there, like me, will also enjoy the post.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Handbag...

As a younger woman, I switched purses for different outfits. Then, I went through a stage where I tried to make do with only one basic handbag and an evening bag for extra special occasions. In fact, I tried hard to follow the very sensible rule of having only one neutral as the basis for your entire wardrobe and choosing all of your shoes, purses, coats, etc. in that one neutral.

Alas, I never have quite settled in on just one basic neutral. I blame it on my coloring. I am a light to soft summer, which means that I have a cool-based complexion but with some measure of warmth. My best neutrals are hard to find some years, especially in fall and winter clothing. Plus, though I should stick to cool neutrals, I find myself being allured by camel or brown on occasion, and I have just enough warmth to get away with that.

Camel is a versatile option, as it goes with black or certain shades of brown. I've also found red or cordovan to be a surprisingly neutral option for all but my most delicate pastels.

I envy my friend who buys black skirts, black pants, black shoes, and a black purse and pairs them with blouses and jewelry that suit her winter complexion and hair. Her best colors are the colors that look best with black. She always looks fantastic, yet with a minimum of fuss and expense. Shopping for her is no-brainer. If something is black or if it's in one of her best colors, it'll work with everything else she owns.

As for me, however, I've decided to accept for the moment that my wardrobe needs more than one purse to make it work. So, I'm going back to switching the contents of handbag from time to time. This will actually be good for me, as it will force me to keep my bag clean of old receipts and such.

This means that I will try once again to corral the contents of my purse somewhat after the manner of organizing expert, Emily Barnes. She puts everything in her everyday purse into three or four smaller cosmetic bags or purses of various sizes and colors. Then, when she switches a purse, all she has to do is to slip the cosmetic bags into another handbag. If she's going somewhere where she doesn't need every one of her little bags, she only puts in what's appropriate.

I doubt if I'll include everything Mrs. Barnes does. She, like many of her peers, has one of those Mary Poppins purses we talked about earlier on this blog, from which the women of her generation seemingly are able to produce anything a body could need in any situation. However, I think I can come up with a doable system for me.

Here are the contents of her purse. Obviously, she wrote this before the days of cell phones and other gadgets which we now carry with us:
1. Wallet
Pen/credit cards
Driver's license
Current Calendar
2. Makeup Bag #1
comb/small brush
change for a phone call
(While we do use cell phones today, I can see the value of having a few bucks or some change in a bag that's separate from your wallet. If you were to lose your wallet or if someone reached into your bag and stole your wallet, you'd still have some money with you.)
3.Makeup Bag#2
nail file
small perfume
hand cream
nail clippers
small scissors
breath mints/gum/cough drops
matches....? Not sure why she included that, as I wouldn't think she was a smoker. Maybe, it's to start a campfire if you're stranded or to light your way if you're in a building when the lights go out? Suggestions, anyone?)
4. Sunglass case
5. Eyeglass case for reading/spare glasses.

6. Small bag I
Business cards
library card
seldom used credit cards
small calculator
tea bag/artificial sweetener/aspirin.
7. Small Bag 2
reading material-small Bible, paperback book.
cleanup wipes
tape measure
feminine protection.

What about you? Do you stick to one neutral only in your wardrobe, or do you have shoes and purses in different colors? How often do you switch purses? How do you organize your purse?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

P.S. Meredith did a wonderful article about how she keeps her purse. You can find it on her site, Like Merchant ships, or on the Ladies Finishing School site. I will be loading the other classes onto the Finishing school site throughout the year, so check it from time to time to see what's new.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Live with no regrets...

Are you young? Are you just starting out as a wife and mother? Or, are you somewhere in your busy thirties? If you have yet to see your fortieth birthday, it may be hard for you to imagine a time when you have more years on earth behind you than you have ahead of you. However, if the Lord blesses you with a long earthly life, the day will come when you do reach middle age and beyond. At that time, you may find yourself reflecting on how you've lived your life so far.

Sadly, for some, the middle years are filled with regret regret. In fact, the current issue of AARP says that it's common for midlife people to mourn over lost opportunities. The article lists these as the five most five most common regrets listed by middle-aged Americans:

1) Not pursuing educational opportunities.
2) Wishing for more success in his or her career or wishing that he or she had chosen an entirely different career.
3) Regrets related to long-lost loves, unrequited affections, and broken or painful marriages.
4) Not spending enough time with their children, wondering if they were good parents, making poor child-care choices, and estrangement from parents or siblings.
5) Regrets about their own failures, abilities, attitudes, and character flaws. Surprisingly, a large number wish specifically that they had had more self-control.

According to Hamilton Bezley, Ph.D., an expert quoted in the article, the years between 40 and 65 are a time when people reevaluate their lives. That means that the huge numbers of baby boomers are now within this period of life-assessment.

Beazley thinks that boomers are even more likely to focus on regrets than previous generations, because they were raised with the expectation that increasing prosperity and advances in technology were going to fix the world's problems. According to Beazley, boomers often have the idea that hard things -- even getting older -- just shouldn't happen to them.

Now, these are just my opinions, but here is my response to the article:

1) No matter whether you are 18 or 88, heed Ephesians 5:15-17. Make the most of every opportunity you have on earth, because the days are fleeting. Understand and follow the Lord's will. In every stage of life invest your heart and your treasure in heaven. Matthew 6:18-32. Spend your life on things that will last for eternity.
2) Count your blessings! Every day of your life, you will wake up with blessings and challenges. You will have to choose which you focus on. If you live your life with a problem-centered focus, you will look back on your life and remember mostly problems. If you can learn to praise and be thankful, even in hard times, you will look back and remember riches.
3) Even for the faithful woman, there may come a time when she looks back and wishes she had done some things differently. We all make mistakes. We may need to mourn some losses while, at the same time, accepting the Lord's grace, comfort, and gift of repentance. However, it's one thing to work through griefs; it's another to get stuck in regret. Read 2 Corinthians 7:8-16 to understand the difference between worldly sorrow, which leads to death, and godly sorrow, which leads to life and joy. Also, remember Paul's attitude. He left whatever belonged to yesterday -- good or bad -- behind him and he pressed on to the goal of being like Christ and with Christ. It's fine to cherish wonderful, happy memories and to come to grips with sorrows or sin. But, we are not to dwell in the past. We are to press forward, to take hold of the hope that the Lord has in store for us.
4) Every one of the regrets listed in the AARP article can be a blessing: Education, Career, Romance, Family, and our own Life. However, if you put your hope in any one of these things to the point that it becomes an idol for you, you are sure to be disappointed. The only perfect and true foundation for our life is Christ. Matthew 7:21-27; I Peter 1:13. With Christ, you can enjoy blessings in their proper perspective.
5) Cherish relationships. Love your husband. Love your children. Don't let yourself get out of joint over trivial irritations. Don't waste any precious moments nursing bitterness in your heart. Ask yourself, "Will this really matter to me 100 years from now?" Get help from the Lord and from godly people if you have problems in relationships. If you need to reconcile with anyone, do it while you have the chance. If the other person doesn't respond to your overtures of love and peace, you are not in control of that. Live in such a way, though, that you know you did what you could on your part. Romans 12:18.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Day in the life hostessing another book club. This time, the group is reading "Thrift in the Home". In keeping with the subject of thrift, you can read it online -- rather than having to purchase a selection.

Here's the link in case you want to check it out for yourself. Book club.


S&H Green Stamps and Green Points?

Do any of you remember S&H Green Stamps from when you were a child? I remember that everyone (including my mother) used to collect them. People got them when they made certain purchases at certain grocery stores, gas stations, and other stores. Then, they pasted them into booklets. S&H provided a catalog of items, and each item "cost" a certain number of Green Stamps. You could turn the Green Stamps in as if they were cash to obtain the item. Or, you could go to the Green Stamps store, view the item in question, and "pay" for it in Green Stamps on the spot if you wanted to. The program offered all sorts of things, including small appliances if I remember correctly.

Green Stamps. Follow this link to learn more about the old Green Stamps program.
The article says that the reason the old Green Stamps program worked is that more people were given Green Stamps than actually turned them in. Apparently, this is what retailers who offer rebates count always on, even today. They depend on there being a lot of customers who will never bother to redeem the rebates. However, in my memory, it seems to me that lots of women actually turned the Green Stamps in, and, by dong so, obtained nice little items for their home. I know that both my mother and my mother-in-law did, at any rate.

My mother-in-law is downsizing and is trying to find a home for an item she got through Green Stamps. So, I decided to Google the item to see if I could find out if the item had any value today or if anyone would want it.

To my surprise, my Google search turned up a home page for S& H Green Stamps. I had thought that Green Stamps were a thing of the past, but apparently, they're still around in the form of a Green Points program. (This Green in Green Stamps or Green Points has nothing to do with being environmentally "green".)

Guess what! The Green Points program is still taking the old Green Stamps. You can use the Green Stamps alone or you can combine them with the newer green points. I would imagine that there are some older women out there with completed Green Stamps booklets lying around in a drawer, so maybe they can get some use out of the old stamps.

The old Green Stamps had just about disappeared by the time I married, so I never got a chance to use them for myself. It seems to me, though, that the homemakers of my mother's generation found them to be a great value. I think this was because you were given the stamps for lots of purchases that you need to make anyway, such as gasoline, and because Green Stamps catalogs and stores were such a large program with lots of offerings. I remember picking out items with my mother and helping her save toward them.

I wonder how the new Green Points program stacks up. Is it a thrifty plan, too, or does it actually end up costing you money?

Until very recently, Betty Crocker used to have a points program, sort of like Green Stamps except that you got points only when you bought their products. I did collect Betty Crocker box top points at various times throughout twenty-seven years of marriage. However, with the exception of flatware which I didn't need, I never thought that the Betty Crocker bargains were that great. While you could actually "buy" an entire item using only Green Stamps, the Betty Crocker points generally gave you only a discount off of an item and you had to pay to make up the difference. It took a whole lot of box top points to get the best discount that BC offered for an item. And, the item was priced so high to begin with that the discount only bought it down to fair market value, in my opinion.

The catalog was enticing, though, because it offered some items you could only get through Betty Crocker. So, I started saving the points again. But, wouldn't you know? Betty shut down her program.

(Betty is a real woman who lives in a 1960's kitchen and who teaches real children how to cook. I have held on to her children's cookbook since I was ten years old, and it has quotes from her students and from Betty herself in it, so I know this is so. If you think otherwise, please do not disillusion me. Yes, Virginia, there is a Betty Crocker...)

Back to the Green Stamps and the Green Points: Hey all you thrifty readers out there, tell us what your findings have been. Have you used the new Green Points program? If so, what do you think of it? How do you think it compares to the old program? Do any of you have any memories of the old Green Stamps? Tell us about them.

Here's the link in case you want to check it out for yourself: Green stamps

Keep in mind, I have not tried this yet. So, I can't comment one way or the other about whether it's a good program or not. I'm depending on some of you thrifty experts to weigh in on this for us.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

More Thoughts on Goal Setting

1) Keep a master to-do list. You can keep this in your overall planning notebook/calendar if you have one. Or you can carry a small notebook with you throughout your day to jot down ideas. Organize this list anyway you find to be useful.

This list is where you jot down items you'd like to accomplish, but not necessarily today. For example, let's say you go to your storage area to put one item away. While there, you notice that the entire space could use a good dusting and re-organizing. But, it's not on your agenda right now, and there are other, more pressing needs at hand. Jot down, "Clean storage space" on your master list, and list all of the separate steps you'll need to do a good job. Review your master list later on, and work these steps into your future daily to-do lists. It's good to give yourself some sort of deadline so that "Clean storage space" doesn't stay on your master list forever.

What are the advantages of a master to-do list?
a. It helps you get ideas down on paper, so that you can clear your mind and you can focus on the tasks that need doing right now.
b. It's invaluable when you find yourself unable to sleep because you're excited about some project. If you toss and turn while mentally planning your project, get out of bed. Jot down your exciting ideas on your master to-do list, and let these ideas go for the night. Crawl back into bed and get a good night sleep.
c. It captures good ideas so that you don't forget about them.
d. This can serve as a tool for brainstorming. If you write down whatever comes to mind, you can take time later to evaluate your goals. For example, if in a fit of spring fever, you jot down, "Paint bedroom buttercup yellow", you have the freedom to cross that off your list if you change your mind later on.

2) Follow the Rule of Three. Since I made this rule up, I arbitrarily chose the number 3. Put in your a number of your own choosing, provided that you keep it small.

Here's the principle: If you have a lot to do, pick three things you want to accomplish. These can be little things or big, super important things or just things that could use some attention. Don't think too much about which three you choose. Then, do those three things without being side-tracked by anything else.

Once you've accomplished those three things, be thankful. Then, if you have time and strength, choose three more things and do them and so on. You'll find your momentum building, and you'll get more done than you ever thought you would.

When to use this rule:
If you're playing catch-up, say after the holidays or when a new baby is in the home or after you've been ill, this helps you whittle away at things until you start to feel more on-top of your tasks.
If you are in a situation in which you have limited time or strength, say if there's an unusual family medical emergency going on, this allows you to focus on just a few things that need doing without feeling that you must keep up with your usual schedule. If all you get done are three things, congratulate yourself.
Planning experts suggest that we prioritize our daily to-do list according to #1 most important task #2 most important task and so on. They suggest that you work down the list so that you get the most important things done. In that way, whatever you don't get done will be of low priority, and you can either decide not to do it at all or to move it to the next day's to do list. This is a fantastic time management principle. However, some of us have days when it seems to us that everything on our to do list is a #1, and we have trouble putting our tasks in order of most important to least important. In that case, following the rule of 3 helps you at least get started. Generally, by the time you've gone through a few cycles of accomplishing 3 tasks, the priorities for your day will come into sharper focus. At that point, you can switch to the traditional prioritized to-do list.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Definitions and interesting thoughts...

Have you ever thought about just how the world -- U.S. culture in particular -- defines the role of women and their relationship to the home? It seems to me that this has become a struggle in recent years.

In a 2003 article in the Atlantic Monthly, entitled "Housewife Confidential", Caitlan Flanagan made this intriguing observation:
I pore over descriptions of ironing and kitchen routines; I have never made a solution composed of one part bleach and nine parts warm water, but the idea of such a solution and its many practical uses—wiping down an emptied refrigerator once a month, sanitizing a kitchen sink—commands my riveted attention. The notion of a domestic life that purrs along, with routines and order and carefully delineated standards, is endlessly appealing to me. It is also quite foreign, because I am not a housewife. I am an "at-home mother," and the difference between the two is vast.

Consider the etymology. When a woman described herself as a "housewife," she was defining herself primarily through her relationship to her house and her husband. That children came along with the deal was simply assumed, the way that airing rooms and occasionally cooking for invalids came along with the deal. When a housewife subjected herself and her work to a bit of brutally honest examination, she may have begun by assessing how well she was doing with the children, but she may just as well have begun by contemplating the nature and quality of her housework. If it had been suggested to her that she spend the long, delicate hours between three and six o'clock squiring her children to the array of enhancing activities pursued by the modern child, she would have laughed. Who would stay home to get dinner on? More to the point, why had she chosen a house so close to a playground if the children weren't going to get out of her hair and play in it? The kind of childhood that many of us remember so fondly—with hours of free time, and gangs of neighborhood kids meeting up after school—was possible partly because each block contained houses in which women were busy but close by, all too willing to push open a window and yell at the neighbor boy to get his bike out of the street.

But an at-home mother feels little obligation to the house itself; in fact, she is keenly aware that the house can be a vehicle of oppression. She is "at home" only because that is where her children happen to be. She does not define herself through her housekeeping; if she is in any way solvent (and many at-home mothers are), she has, at the very least, a once-a-month cleaning woman to do the most onerous tasks...

The at-home mother defines herself by her relationship to her children. She is making sacrifices on their behalf, giving up a career to give them something only she can. Her No. 1 complaint concerns the issue of respect: She demands it! Can't get enough of it! She isn't like a fifties housewife: ironing curtains, shampooing the carpets, stuck. She knows all about those women. She has seen Pleasantville and watched Leave It to Beaver; she's made more June Cleaver jokes than she can count. (In fact, June Cleaver—a character on a television show that went off the air in 1963—looms over her to a surprising extent, a sickening, terrifying specter: Is that how people think I spend my time?)
Hmm. Is there a gap in how the at-home woman of the fifites, sixties, and seventies defined her role and how at-home women describe their role today? I hadn't thought of it exactly in those terms. After all, as a baby boomer who was reared by a sixties and seventies housewife in an area filled with sixties and seventies housewives, I can attest that my peers and I received a generous amount of parental attention.

However, I do think that our mothers saw homemaking as being more than mothering. They put heart and intelligence into all aspects of marriage and home. The majority were at home before children arrived. The majority also did not view their work as being over simply because children matured and left home. As I've mentioned before, when I first got married, empty nest homemakers contributed much to church and neighborhood.

On the other hand, I think that a good many women of my mother's generation initiated the charge out of the home as soon as the last baby chick had left the nest. I think it was also in that generation that the former view of home management as a noble profession began to change. A few notable women of that era publicly argued that homemaking is limiting to women, and it took a surprisingly short time for that idea to take hold of "modern" thinking.

Now, many twenty-and-thirty something women are reversing the trend. Many question the idea that the only way a woman can define herself meaningfully is through a paycheck. So, quite a few are choosing to be in the home. Some want to be at home only as long as their children are younger than school age; others plan to be at home as a lifetime career.

I think that in a culture in which women almost have to apologize for making homemaking their career, having children at home is the most "acceptable defense". So, perhaps, today's women at home do define themselves more as being an "at-home" mom, rather than as keeper of the household. On the positive side, it's great that so many younger women are meeting their children's needs for a full-time mother.

However, I suppose that subtle terminology of "at home mom" could affect a woman's way of thinking. What if a woman sees her main purpose for being a keeper at home in terms of her baby? Will that lead her to neglect her marriage in favor of parenting? Possibly. If so, that's neither healthy for her husband, for her, or for her children. Children really do flourish best when Mom and Dad maintain their marriage as a high priority. Defining one's role in the home simply in terms of raising children also sets a woman up for depression once her nest empties. Plus, she may cling to her children too much, refusing to let them grow up and leave and cleave as they should.

By contrast, the Proverbs 31 woman conducted all of her activities either within the home or with the home as her base of operations, and she had a full life. You could even argue that she came to full fruition in her middle years. After all, her husband was old enough to be an elder in the land, and her children were old enough to rise up and call her blessed.

Today, many operate home businesses in order to have more flexible time for the family. In some cases, this supplements the income so that the wife can be in the home. In other cases, it allows a business-minded woman an outlet for her talents. Perhaps, as with having small children in the home, it also provides an at-home woman with a defense against critics who question, "Just exactly what do you do all day?"

The Proverbs 31 woman lived, as most women throughout history have lived, in an agrarian society. In a farm-based economy, women are needed in the home, but they also have venues for conducting some commercial business -- such as selling produce or handwork or working alongside their husband in a small-town business.

The unfairly negative stereotype of the American housewife, however, is based on upper middle-class suburban lives from about 1945 to about the 1980's. Or, at least it's based on our culture's perception of that lifestyle. It's ironic that becoming an increasingly high-tech society, which enables more business to be conducted via the personal computer and the Internet, has put us back in a position where a woman can be in the home and engage in some enterprise, as well.

For the woman who can manage it, an at-home business can be a boon; for the woman who feels pressured into it to justify her role at home, a home business can backfire.

It's been my observation that working outside of the home full-time is no guarantee that a woman will escape the trials ascribed to the homemaker or at-home mother. Likewise, though it is my personal opinion that a married woman does best to regard home management as her primary career, I can see that merely being in the home doesn't guarantee a woman fulfillment. In order for her to be happy, her heart must also be there.

No matter what her situation, any woman can become discontent with her lot. Any woman can struggle when her children grow up and leave home. Any woman can feel like her talents are being underutilized or under-appreciated. Any woman who hits the middle years can question the choices she made earlier in life.

So, if we do take on the worthy vocation of being full time keepers of our home, it's good to define why we are doing so and what we, along with our husbands, see as our purpose for being in the home. If we have a clear purpose in mind, we are more likely to see our work at home as fulfilling. And, we will continue to grow through the years, rather than to stagnate as critics claim homemakers do.

If you want to do some extra reading about how our culture sees the woman at home, see Homemaker on Wickipedia. (I enjoy Wickipedia, but I keep in mind that it's written by volunteer contributers and that is, perhaps, not as carefully researched as a true encyclopedia is.)

What about you? What term do you use to define your role at home? Do you see yourself as an at-home mommy or as a manager of your household? Do you think it makes a difference?

If you do some type of paid work in addition to your role at home, do you see yourself primarily as a working woman who also has a domestic life or primarily as a home manager who also happens to have a paid job or business? Do you think that makes a difference, as well?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Setting Goals and Making Resolutions -- Part II:

3) In the last post, I mentioned that the more specific a resolution is, the more likely you are to keep it. This is where goal setting comes in. A true goal is measurable, according to homemaking expert, Emile Barnes. It involves a specific action, and it has a time-frame. For example, let's say that I have resolved to get in better shape. A measurable goal would be to do 50 crunches a day, five days a week, until March 1. Or, I could set a goal of losing ten pounds by March 1 through a combination of diet and exercise. Whatever I choose, I need to be able to look back on my goal date and see how I'm doing.

Though we don't want to be overly methodical when it comes to relationships, setting measurable relationship goals helps us love others. For example, let's say that I want to be a more loving wife to my husband. That involves finding out what my husband's current needs are and thinking about how I might meet them. Then, I can set a specific goal. I could decide, for example, that I will ask him every Monday morning for a month if he would like me to run any errands for him, and I could fit these errand's into my week's schedule. Or, I could determine that I will prepare a candlelight dinner for just the two of us some time before the end of January.

Some resolutions may not lend themselves to being broken down into specific goals, but most do. Since goals are concrete, measurable steps toward a larger end, they can be the nuts and bolts of our resolution process.

4) No discussion of resolutions and goals is complete without talking about repentance. Making resolutions and setting goals are wonderful tools. Sometimes, however, we try to resolve ourselves out of situations where what we really need to do is to repent. If the issue involves putting away a sin and attaining to a righteous quality, repentance is called for.

The original Greek word in the Bible for repentance is metanoia, which means a total transformation of our mindset. (Meta means transformation, as in metamorphosis, and noia means mindset, as in paranoia). Metanoia follows being cut to the heart about our sinfulness before a holy God, and it involves our faith in the forgiveness offered through Christ. It is a change of mindset in which we urgently turn from sin and turn whole-heartedly toward the Lord. Repentance may be triggered by godly sorrow, but it does not end there. It ends in joy!

Some scriptures that help us understand repentance are Acts 2:36-47, Acts 3:19-21, I Timothy 1:19-21, II Corinthians 7:1-16, Matthew 3:8, and Luke 3:10-14.

Why is repentance important in a discussion about resolutions and goals? Well, here's an example. Every January, nearly everyone in the U.S. sets a goal to lose weight and get in shape. The question is, are we motivated by faith in the Lord, or out of selfish reasons ?* Are we relying on God's strength to help us change, or are we trying to gut it out (no pun intended) on our own determination? Most of all, are we confronting any underlying sins that might contribute to being overweight and out of shape -- such as gluttony or laziness -- and are we replacing sins with godly fruit -- such as self-control?

People can achieve a lot through determination. But, without godly repentance, whatever changes we make won't bear lasting fruit. As in our example of getting in shape, I have known people who have gone from flab to extremely fit, but in such as way that diet and exercise and even eating disorders have become their consuming idols.

It's interesting to study the topic of repentance in the Bible, particularly in the New Testament. It's also helpful to note how many times in the Bible that this pattern is laid out for us: a) Remember our Lord and Savior b) put off the things in our life that are ungodly and c) put on the qualities that are like Christ.

When we are turning away from a sin and putting on righteousness, we may make useful goals and resolutions to help us carry out our repentance. However, these work only if we have first changed our hearts and if we are acting in faith.

5) That brings us to the next and final point: Understanding our ultimate priority. If we truly belong to the Lord, we derive our goals and our resolutions from him. Jesus gives us a guiding principle here: But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33.

God is a loving father who wants our plans to succeed. Proverbs 16:33. However, he sees the big picture. Sometimes, we plan something and we want to see it come into action a certain way. However, God may know that it's better for it to happen another way. In setting goals and resolutions, we must stay flexible to the Lord's will, whether it's his direct will or if it's circumstances that he allows to come into our lives.


*We do look forward to the personal benefits of accomplishing goals like losing weight, and I think that's perfectly OK. God wants us to enjoy the blessings that come with achieving goals and from making wholesome changes in our lives. However, my point is that true repentance arises out of respect for the Lord.

How to Set Goals and Make Resolutions, Part I:

It's a new year, and many of us are drawing up resolutions for things we'd like either to accomplish or to change during 2008. January is a great time to make a fresh start, and I think that's why we always look forward to the first month of the year.

However, for those of us who are keepers at home, goal-setting is a daily part of our lives. Managing a home -- indeed managing anything -- requires us to assess where things are at any given moment and to decide where we want to go from here. Even when jotting down a daily to-do list, we are making resolutions for that day.

For some of us, making and keeping goals is easy. Others of us have trouble. We either struggle with bringing our goals into clear focus, or we lack the follow through to accomplish them once we've set them.

I suppose that my biggest bugaboo when setting goals is to make too many at one time. It's better to concentrate on a few things until you've accomplished them, and then to move on to the next thing.

A good place to begin is to define goal-setting terms. Many times, if we are not effective in reaching goals, it's because we don't know how to state them clearly in our minds. Here's where it helps to go over some basic concepts. We'll tackle three in this article and two in the next:

1) The first building blocks of resolution and goal setting are conviction and principle. defines conviction as a fixed or firm belief. Regarding principle, it offers these definitions:
an accepted or professed rule of action or conduct: a fundamental, primary, or general law or truth from which others are derived; a fundamental doctrine; a personal or specific basis of conduct or management ; guiding sense of the requirements and obligations of right conduct.

What are your convictions and principles? Spend some time thinking and praying about this from time to time. Your life will be more effective and satisfying if your resolutions and goals flow from and are in harmony with your convictions.

Having crystal clear convictions also helps us set priorities for our goals and resolutions. Sometimes, we have to make a choice between greater goals and lesser ones, and it's important to know which is which.

Clear convictions also help us make wise decisions on the spot. Planning is an essential tool in life, but much of life happens outside of our plans. In such moments, we need to have firm convictions and firm principles to guide us.
An example of this is the time that Martha became fretful in her worthy efforts to serve Jesus, while Mary sat peacefully at Jesus' feet. Mary understood that time listening to the Savior was more important at that moment than the meal, and she made the better choice.

2) Next in our list of definitions is resolution. helps us out here again: A resolution is a resolve or a determination, to make a firm resolution to do something; the act of resolving or determining upon an action or a course of action, method, procedure, etc.

Resolution can be closely intertwined with conviction and principle. Our convictions and principles motivate us to determine certain courses of action.

The more specific a resolution is, the more likely we are to achieve it. For example, I may resolve to organize my household this year. That's a good resolution, but it needs some fine tuning: Exactly what is it that I need to organize? My time? My closets? My craft area? What course of action, method, or procedure will I follow in order to achieve my resolution?

Tune in to part II!