Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Five Ways to Help Your Children Cultivate Stillness...At Home, At Church, At School.

Childhood is a time of high energy.  Most of us who are past the age of thirty would love to regain some of that exuberance.  Our energy wears out sooner, and a period of stillness in the midst of a busy life may seem like bliss.  Children, on the other hand, quickly grow weary of sitting still.   I suppose that this has always been true; I certainly didn't understand why my parents wanted to linger so long at the dinner table until I was grown, married and had children of my own.

I suppose that it is even harder for children today. The art of stillness doesn't flourish in an environment of constant entertainment and 24/7 media distraction.  We all -- from infants to adults -- face a danger of becoming so hooked on texting, blogging, TV, and our playlists that we become restless when thrown back upon our own thoughts.  

Yes, it may be harder to teach children how to have restful hearts and how to sit still today.  Harder, but by no means impossible.  In fact, it is as important as ever for children to learn how to sit quietly, without fidgeting or squirming.  Much of life's richness can be enjoyed only in stillness.  If a child learns how to reflect quietly, he or she will better enjoy a relationship with the Lord, closeness to friends and family, and the breath-taking beauties of nature.  Stillness is also a gift that children can give to others, for if they remain quiet and pay attention during important gatherings, they allow others to participate without distraction.

Children will fare better in life if they know how to sit quietly and to pay attention in church, at school, during family times, when company is visiting, when traveling by air or by car, and in many other situations.  Children need to learn how to quietly entertain themselves and to rest comfortably even when unplugged from our age's technology.  Constant movement and constant noise breed a restlessness of the mind, soul, and body.  Punctuating our activities with moments of quiet breeds rest. 

Fortunately, stillness is a skill that can both be taught and learned.  I have encountered parents who think that young children cannot learn how to sit without fidgeting or whining.  The good news is that even very young children can practice how to be still and poised in mind, body, and soul.  How do we accomplish this?  Here are five simple ways.

1.  Cultivate stillness and poise in your own character.  It's never too late!  You may have a naturally outgoing, talkative, and energetic nature.  That's ok.  Along with your bubbly qualities, learn how to be restful in soul and mind.  Tackle bugaboos,such as over-scheduling yourself and family, worry, the need to always have media going in the background, neglectfulness of prayer, and the like.  Take time to read the Bible and to pray and even to study a new subject that interests you.  If you cultivate the needed quality of stillness in yourself, you will better be able to pass it on to your child.
2.  Talk to your children before going to church, school, or some other place where they will need to be still and/or quiet.  Let them know ahead of time what is expected of them.  Explain, on their level of course, the importance of the event.  Explain, again on their level, that sitting quietly can be a way of loving other people by allowing them to participate in the event without distraction.
3.  Play "quiet" games.   Have a contest to see who can sit for a whole minute without speaking and with hands folded in the lap.  Pretend you are at the theater and use stuffed animals to show how to enter a row quietly and to sit quietly.
4.  Have family meals together frequently, preferably daily.  Expect children to sit at the table until the meal is finished and to ask to be excused if they do leave the table before the adults.  Teach the children how to participate in dinner table conversations.  Allow them to speak up confidently when it is their turn to talk, but encourage them to listen quietly when someone else is speaking.
5.  Make sure that your children have enough healthful time to play outdoors.  There are a number of reasons why children need free time outside, many of which aren't related to the subject of this article. Regarding the art of sitting still, however, children do need to discharge their abundant stores of energy in free play in the fresh air. They also need to work out the issues of growing up through unstructured play times.  Quality playtime, in sufficient quantities, helps children relax.  Children whose need for outdoor play is suppressed will find it hard to be restful in attitude. When asked to sit quietly, their untapped energy will erupt in some way.  They will squirm, fidget, complain, or be inappropriately noisy. They may even jump up from their seats over and over again.  Many a "behavior" or "attention" problem can be solved if adults will ensure that a child has healthy and safe unstructured activity.

There are many more ways that parents can help children learn the art of stillness.  What are some things you have done to teach your little ones this important skill?  I'd love to hear.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving! Words from Abraham Lincoln

October 3, 1863

 By the President of the United States A Proclamation The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United Stated States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.
Abraham Lincoln

12 weeks of Christmas Treats Blog Hop -- December Power Bars

12 Weeks of Christmas Treats Blog Hop | Hosted by
Can you believe that Thanksgiving is already here?  In my neighborhood, people are battling out between the traditionalists, who don't believe in decorating for Christmas until Thanksgiving is past, and the ones who have already decked the halls.  In theory, I am with the traditionalist crowd and want to see Thanksgiving get its full due before rushing on to Yule time.  I have to admit, though, that I have jumped the gun this year and put up a couple of things.  Have you decorated yet?  I'd love to hear.

My December calendar is filled with many exciting events, not the least  of which is having all of my chickens home for Christmas.  This grandma is going to need some energy to keep up with all of the fun.  To that end, I have decided to cook what I am calling "December Power Bars" tonight.  I have taken a recipe for energy bars and have tinkered around with it to suit the ingredients that I have on hand.  One of those ingredients is a trail mix with dark chocolate and cranberries, which I think gives the bars a seasonal touch.  I bought the mix at our Neighborhood Walmart Grocery Store.

Here's the original recipe from

1/2 cup honey, warm
4 Tablespoons of peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4  tspn. nutmeg
1/4 tspn cinnamon
2 Tablespoons wheat germ
1 Tablespoon brewer's yeast
1 tablespoon molasses
1 1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/12 cups sunflower seeds
1 cup walnuts. 

Serves 18

Stir and mix well the first nine ingredients
Add remaining ingredients and mix with hands
Pat into a 9 by 12 inch greased pan
Bake at 300 degrees for 20-30 minutes (It took me 25)
Cool and cut into bars

My changes:  Instead of the amounts of seeds and nuts, I used one cup dark chocolate/cranberry trail mix, 1 scoop pea protein, 1 scoop (the same scoop) of rice protein, and a scant cup of pecan pieces.   I left out the cinnamon and the nutmeg. 

After I made these, I read a review of the original bars.  The reviewer commented that the bars are grainy and crumbly, and she ended up using her batch as tasty, peanut butter flavored granola sprinkles for yogurt.  When I first took this out of the oven, I was afraid that I would have the same problem with crumbling that she did.  As it has cooled, however, it has taken on the consistency of a true cookie.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

12 weeks of Christmas blog hop -- Gluten/Dairy Free Sweet Potato Bread

Sweet Potato Bread/Cake 
I'm excited to jump back in to the Christmas Treats Blog Hop after a week of traveling and undergoing some home rennovation.  I love to see what everyone's baking for the holidays.

12 Weeks of Christmas Treats Blog Hop | Hosted by
Our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) packages from a local farm have included lots of sweet potatoes lately. That's good news for my hubby, who could eat a sweet potato every day and never get tired of them. We actually do eat them throughout the year, but, of course, we do have special memories of our mothers' special sweet potato casseroles for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  There's something about sweet potatoes that make one think of fall and the holidays.

Since we are receiving so many at one time, I decided to make some sweet potato bread to freeze for an upcoming party. Wouldn't you know that dear hubby and I couldn't wait to taste it to see how if this bread was as yummy as it smelled right out of the oven? Alas for my waistline, it does. It also tastes good cold on the second day!  There's plenty left, but it's clear that the loaf will never make it to the freezer.  :)

I not only decided to experiment with sweet potato bread, but also to try to make it gluten and dairy free. I read a recipe that uses self-rising flour and used it as a starting point for making up my own concoction. I further tweaked ingredients because I used more sweet potatoes than the original recipe called for. That meant that I needed to increase the dry ingredients a bit.  Since I was winging it, I was relieved when it turned out so well.

Here's what I did:

I boiled 5 or 6 sweet potatoes of different sizes and shapes.  Since the potatos are of such varied sizes, I guestimated how many I would need. I let them cool in the refrigerator.  When I mashed them, they came out to about three cups.  Of course, the skins pop easily off of boiled sweet potatoes, and they are easy to mash for a batter.

To 3 cups of mashed sweet potatoes, I added
2 cups gluten free Bisquick
1 cup sugar
cinnamon (I used a packet of cinnamon from Cracker Barrel, which they send with a takeout order of baked sweet potato.  You could use 2 tsps. or to taste)
1/2 cup veggie oil
2 TBSP coconut milk
3 large eggs
1 cup pecan pieces (the pieces sized for cookies)
1 scant cup raisins

I hand-mixed all of the ingredients and put them into a greased bundt pan. I baked it at 350 degrees.  I checked it at one hour and every five minutes afterward, which I recommend, but it actually took about 15 to 20 minutes more to bake.  It is done when an inserted knife or toothpick comes out clean.

This blog hop will inspire me to go on to new treats. If I do make this again for my upcoming party, I will serve it with cream cheese.   I may also dot the top with powdered sugar just for looks.  You could also slice this bread/cake thinly, spread the slices with cream cheese, and put two together to make little party sandwiches.  But, it's a wonderful treat on its own and doesn't need any extras to make it festive.

If I had not made this bread myself, I wouldn't know by taste or texture that it is gluten and dairy free.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

12 Weeks of Christmas Treats Blog Hop: Week 1 -- Well, hello Dolly

To add to my Christmas fun, I'm participating in Meal Time Magic's 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats Blog Hop.  I have so many ideas for baking and freezing goodies this year!  Some involve experimenting with new recipes.  Some involve trying new flours and milks to create treats for family members with gluten and dairy sensibilities.  For the first week, however, I came up with an adaptation of an old tried and true treat:  Hello Dollies.  I haven't made these in years, and my husband's eyes lit up when he came home and saw a pan sitting on the counter to cool.  :)

I must say that these are easy to bake, simple to freeze, delightfully sweet, deliciously rich, and not-one-whit good for you  They surely are yummy, though, and filling.  A few bites go a long way, even for moi -- the chocoholic.

There are many versions of this recipe on the Internet, and, I assume, in old cookbooks and on recipe cards traded among friends.  Below is the recipe my mother clipped from the Atlanta newspaper.  Unfortunately, the date is not on the clipping.  I have an idea that it is from the early seventies, as I seem to remember that's when we first enjoyed them.  At any rate, the early seventies, when I was a young teen and a novice cook, is when I learned how to make them.  
Even younger children can follow this recipe with close supervision.

1 stick butter
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup coconut
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup chocolate chips
1 can condensed milk

Melt butter in square pan. Add other ingredients, one at a time and in the order they are in the recipe. Make sure that the mixture is evenly spread.  Do not stir.  Bake 30 minutes in oven preheated to 325 degrees.  Cut in small squares.

As you can see, I used a 9 by thirteen pan and used more graham cracker crumbs, coconut, nuts, and chocolate chips to stretch the recipe to fit.  I also used slivered almonds instead of chopped nuts. Note:  Many people use chopped pecans, but I also like walnuts or almonds). I am glad that I used almonds in this batch, but I wouldn't make such a heavy layer of them again. I cut the baked and cooled Hello Dollies into squares, placed them in one single layer in freezer bags and froze them.  (That was after my beloved Professor Doc Engineer hubby and I sampled them just to make sure that they were safe for our holiday guests.  :))

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, if only in my mind...La...La...La....

What does that photo have to do with the Christmas theme of this article?  Not much.  I just like it.  It's of my parents and me. Can you tell from the palm trees that we lived in north Florida?  My early Christmases were hardly white ones. In fact, one of my grandfathers visited from Tennessee one Christmas, and he could not get over the fact that the roses in our backyard were in full bloom.  Other than as a very young baby on a family trip to Tennessee, I did not see snow until I was ten years old.  I used to imagine that it would feel like cotton. Our "green" Christmases were very special to me, though, and I have fond memories of them.

Well, that's enough time spent on memory lane. :)  As I posted yesterday, I've started following the Holiday Grand Plan 2013.  This is a plan that helps you do fall cleaning, de-cluttering, and the like, as well as starting you on small steps toward having happy holidays. The plan focuses on all of the holidays, from Halloween to New Year's, and is adaptable to whatever holidays your family happens to celebrate.  The plan begins in September, which is why I'm already thinking forward to December.

I love all of the seasonal holidays.  I'm especially excited about Christmas this year, because this is the year that all of our family will be together in one place for Christmas. Plus, this will be the first time that my one year old granddaughter will come to our house for Christmas. (Our married children alternate between all being at home for Thanksgiving and being with their in-law for Christmas one year and vice versa the next.  We usually see our children sometime around the other holiday as well, but usually not all together at one time and in one place. Our children are especially attached to Thanksgiving and love the years when we do Thanksgiving at our house, but we all love Christmas, too.)

This week, the holiday grand plan offers questions to think about. One of them is, "What would your ideal holiday be like?" I've been giving that some pondering. Throughout my life, I've been blessed with wonderful holidays and truly merry Christmases. Even on those one or two occasions where my husband and I have not had our children home for Christmas or Thanksgiving, we've been able to have church family and other friends in to make the day cheery.

The only Christmas that came close to being off was the year that my daughter, then 18 mos. old, caught a stomach virus and had to be hospitalized a few days before the holiday.  I was nursing our son at the time, and I was not allowed to go see my daughter for the fear that I would carry germs back to our baby. My husband was allowed to go, however, and he did catch the virus and became brutally ill.  I was exhausted and only slightly ill. From us, the bug spread to many in my husband's extended family.  My parents, who lived in another state, came to celebrate with us. When they saw how sick we were, they jumped right in and nursed us.

At some point, I think the only two people in my family and my husband's who were still standing on the morning of Christmas Eve were my father and my mother-in-law. My mother-in-law was a nurse at the time, and she gave my husband a shot and some pills. My daughter was released from the hospital late on Christmas Eve, and her homecoming was the best Christmas present ever! However, though we were all over the violent part of the illness by then, we were still weak, and all my husband and I wanted to eat was grits. We finally did make it over to my mother-in-law's for a real Christmas meal, but I can't remember if it was on the 25th or later, after we all recovered.  Even that crazy time of sickness, though, has morphed into part of our family lore. It has become one small thread in the fabric that makes us "us".

Basically, my ideal Christmas revolves around the themes of "relationships" and "peace".  Some years, particularly when my children were teens, we were so busy in December that I started to feel "Scroogy" around the 20th or so. Our calender was packed with great things: service projects, children's recitals, parties, Christmas concerts, my husband's company Christmas dinners, etc.  Even too much wonderful, however, can overwhelm me, and I start singing, "It's the most stressful time of the year". Once the pre-holiday rush settles and family and friends start gathering in, I always get in the Christmas spirit and have a great time. I think that's why my ideal picture of Christmas is one of simplicity and peace. Of course, that has to start in the heart, with prayer and closeness to the Lord, and then it can work out from there.

To counter my inner Scrooge, I usually watch one of my two favorite versions of a Christmas Carol before the Christmas rush starts.  I watch it by myself, first.  Then, when it's being played over and over, I watch it with family.  My husband and I both love the story, and A Christmas Carol is our favorite holiday movie.       
My husband I both grew up in a church background that does not view December 25th as Jesus' actual day of birth and does not place much emphasis on religious holidays. It was pointed out that while the Bible describes the events surrounding Jesus' birth, it does not mention Christmas or command us to mark it with a particular holiday. We viewed Christ as someone to celebrate daily in our lives and weekly in communion, and that is still how I view Him. The spiritual intent of Christmas in our culture was acknowledged in our childhood churches, but not emphasized as much as it is in some traditions.

I do love the story of Jesus' birth, though, and Christmas is a lovely time to remember it and to share it with church, family, and friends. It's the one time of year when everyone celebrates some form of winter holiday, and that provides an opening to share Jesus with others. I love Christmas carols and hymns and Easter songs, as the lyrics remind us of our joy in the Lord.  I also like to learn about Christmas traditions from around the world. My dream is that every family gathering we have throughout the year will honor Christ and that His presence will be in us and with us.        

What about you?  Do you celebrate Christmas or not?  What are your childhood holiday memories?  What are your current traditions? What is your picture of the ideal Christmas?  Have you ever gotten an idealistic picture in your head of how the holidays should be and than have been disappointed if things didn't go exactly to plan? Have you been encouraged by joyful holidays? I'd love to hear from you. :)          



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Counting down to the holidays!

Are you using a holiday organization plan this year?  There are lots of them on the Internet, and all look helpful.  Some are for 12 weeks; others, six; still others one month.  I'm going back to a tried and true plan: The Holiday Grand Plan.  This has been on the Internet in some form or another since the 90's.  I've done parts of it, but never have followed it all the way through.  This year, I think I will tackle it all.  I'm a week behind, though, so gotta run...


Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Social Media and personal conversation: what we say about our husbands and children.

Recently, a young mother blogged on Huffington Post about an incident in which she and two-year-old son were treated in a frightening way.  In her post, she made some controversial remarks.  I am concerned about some of the things she said, and I would love to be able to chat about those concerns in a friendly and personal way -- perhaps over a cup of coffee at Starbucks. I do not know her, however.

The young mother's comments have led to a public firestorm of both positive and negative responses. According to a latest Huffington Post article, her personal information has been leaked, and she has received threats directly to her family and her physical home. Now, the police have been called in. I am not linking to the articles, because I reason that this young woman has received more attention than she ever intended to attract already. I do not believe that the meant for this to get out of hand, as it has, and I have nothing but sympathy for her plight.  She and her family need a break from publicity.

Fortunately, the controversy will die down in time, and her family will likely regain their personal safety. My question is this:  will the comments that she and others made about this incident in her son's life ever completely go offline? Perhaps, the child in question is too young to remember much of this when he grows up. Will he, however, come across his name and his mother's on the web at some future point?  If so, will he be happy or distressed that he was used, however inadvertently, to make a point?  I wonder.

That's only an extreme case of a trend that bothers me.  It's popular now to discuss in public just how difficult mothering can be.  We all know that mothering takes stamina.  Young mothers do need a place to joke about the need to get away for a few days or to seriously ask for advice from older mothers about how to weather the rough spots. To me, that place is in person, within a trusted, intimate circle of friends.  Even then, we need to make conscious choices about what we say and to whom concerning our spouses, children, in-laws, etc.  

When I was a young mother, I appreciated women who were positive examples to me of loving their husbands and their children.  I appreciate examples of grateful, positive grandmothers now that I am a new grandmother. Those examples inspire me and make me want to grow as an individual and in my various family roles. I also appreciate sympathetic and wise friends with whom I can discuss worries, concerns, or difficulties.  If someone confides one of their struggles to me, I appreciate that, as well, for that lets me know that I'm not alone.  

I am glad that my husband and children have similar, loving, in-person friendships. I don't think I'd be very happy, though, if my husband put out on Facebook or on a blog the equivalent comments about me that I see mothers make about their children:  My wife was home all weekend! (My child was out of school and under my feet all day!).  I deserve a martini for putting up with my wife.  (I deserve a martini for putting up with my children!)  Really?  

Yes, those comments might be funny in a certain setting, but do we really want them on the web where they last forever and ever. Also, sharing from the heart can help bloggers relate to their audience, and vice versa. There's a fine line, however, between having enough open and honest relationships and broadcasting intimate details to mere acquaintances or even to strangers.        

What will it be like for this generation (the homeland generation) to grow up being so publicly and individually discussed?  How will they respond when they become adolescents and wrestle with who they are, only to find that their mothers have publicly shared TMI? That remains to be seen. In the meantime, I think we all do well to remember that gossip on the Internet is permanent and has the potential to go viral to a worldwide audience. We need to ask ourselves if we have the right to share certain things about children who are too young to give their input.

Love always protects, I Corinthians tells us. I think when we love our husbands and children, we are careful about the things we expose them to. We think about the impression we leave of them.  We also think about whether a blog post or a Facebook comment might expose a loved one to danger.  If we lose readers because we do not seize the chance to grab a headline at our children's expense, so be it!      

I'm personally sobered when I remember that the words I write on social media may very well outlive me! My public comments, even more so than written letters, may be a legacy that I leave. I have letters written by late relatives that I still treasure, and I'm sure that many of you do too. Reading those old letters is a traditional way to stay close to the memory of a loved one. Often, people have gleaned wise advice and a sense that they were loved from such writings.  A hateful letter, though, has often inflicted much pain. What will be the impact of our current web communication on the ones we will inevitably leave behind?  It's something to consider.  

The Bible has so much to say about the tongue and how we speak of others.  Many of us have worked on this in our personal lives.  We need, more than ever, to ask for God's guidance about the things we say in social media.  I say this as a reminder to myself!  

Along with that, we can ponder our responses to snark.  If we respond in a loving, forgiving manner, we've stopped what could become a cycle of meanness and cruelty. If we can teach our children to be confident be enough in the Lord to respond as he did on the cross, we will go a long way to helping them withstand snarky comments and even potential cyber-bullying.          

Ephesians 4: 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sprucing up the love nest day 3

Here are details I am working with.  I welcome suggestions.  The quilt was made by my beloved mother in law because she knows I love yellow and purple is the natural complement of yellow.  Wasn't that sweet of her to do?  You can not tell from my bad photography, but her work is exquisite.

I personally would rather work with yellow amd blue or pink at this point but I want to incorporate the quilt in some way.  Maybe I can play
up the greens in the quilt.  I am ready to dump a yellow bed skirt that predates the quilt, which is about 12 years old.  I am ready free

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Sprucing up the Love nest -- Day 2

Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant; also our couch is green. The beams of our house are cedars, and our rafters are firs. I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valley.  Song of Solomon 1:16-17

She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Proverbs 31

My dressing table arrived and is all put together (picture to come)!  Somehow, the style of the table makes the rest of my old arrangement look junky by comparison.  So, I'm on the lookout for some thrift store or otherwise inexpensive shelves to hold a little bit of my stuff, plus some books.

I love the style of this room by Lucienne. Of course, I don't have twin beds, but a king sized bed.  And, it's not a guest room, the keeping of which is totally different than that of a master suite.  But, we do have some yellow in our bedroom, which I would like to play down.  We have a quilt made by my husband's mother for me with yellow, violet, and a touch of green in it; she chose those colors because she knows that I love the color yellow.  We have enjoyed the quilt for many years now and still want to keep it.  However, I'd like to de-emphasize yellow for a bit and pick up some other colors.  I think the room in the picture is a very subtle, restful take on yellow.  I don't know exactly what I'll come up with, but this gives me an image to work with.  


I talked in my last blog about how easy it is to let your own bedroom be the last place in the home that you decorate.  It's also easy to let it be the catchall for folded laundry that needs to be put away and other items.  Or, at least it is for me. So, I am being inspired today by poetic images from the Bible regarding the love between a wife and her husband and also the potential beauty of one's most intimate space.

The verse from Song of Solomon, according to various commentaries, could refer to a romantic outdoor spot, a sweet country home rather than a palace, or the freshness and vitality of the couple's physical relationship. 


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Sprucing up the love nest...Day I

Carina Comfort Set -- Bed, Bath, and Beyond

Why  is it that it's so easy to neglect our bedrooms and master baths?  After all, that is either our personal intimate space or the intimate space that we share with a beloved husband.  Along with the kitchen, it forms the "nest" in our home.  We begin and end our days in our bedroom.  It's where the romance in our marriages either thrives or dies.  Peace and loveliness in this oh-so-important "nest" goes a long way to making our days sweeter.  

I have this image in my head of having a calm and gentle heart which translates into how I keep the heart of my house.  Some times, I attain something close to this goal.  At other times, I let it become the staging ground for laundry that is folded and not put away, for packages that need to go here or there, for cleaning materials that could be put out of sight, and for an array of cosmetics that could be ordered.

I'm determined this summer to beautify my love nest on a tiny budget.  Yes, I am an empty nester, so any of my young readers might be thinking, "Why does it matter at your old age if the bedroom is a romantic, soothing, relaxing place or not?"  The answer is; you're never too old to want the place you share with your husband to be inviting. :)  Also, the older you get, the better it feels to have a tidy, lovely place in which to re-charge not only your marriage, but your physical health and your spirits.

I have some chronic ailments which slow me down.  It's just when I'm at my most fatigued that I am tempted to clean the public areas of my home, the areas that visitors will see, yet skimp on my bedroom.  Ironically, it's at those times that I most desire to be able to curl up and recover in a clean and comforting environment. In view of that, I've decided to reinforce my routines for keeping the bedroom neat.

Along those lines, here are a few things I've learned in 32 years of marriage:

1)  Your definition of a hot love nest might be different from your husband's, and vice versa.   In fact, your husband may not care very much about a romantic setting as long as there's no clutter and you've got a smile on your face. Try to incorporate both his tastes and yours in your room so that the space is appealing to you both.  Update things as both of your tastes evolve over the years.  
2)  Try your hardest to maintain your room as a place for sleep, romance, and prayer.  Try to find other spaces for work, hobbies, working on your finances, TV, etc. If you live in a one bedroom apartment and must use your bedroom for many purposes, find ways to attractively hide your activities away so that your room will be a restful place.  Catch some 70's re-runs and notice how Mary Tyler More always pulled a screen down to hide her kitchen after she finished cleaning it.  She also made a ritual of pulling out her hideaway bed and neatening it every morning.   Her character was single, but it's not a bad example for married women, too.
3) You will get behind at times.  This is especially true if you are a mother with young children.  That's ok.  Just get back on track as soon as you can.  It doesn't have to be perfect.  Just be consistent in your efforts to keep things neat and sweet.
4)  Teach your children to respect your bedroom.  (And, show some respect for their personal spaces, as well).  Teach them how to knock if they need you.
5)  If you are the mother of young children, remember that the time when they will grow up and start their own adult lives is closer than you think it is.  The transition to an empty nest is much easier if you make consistent investments in your marriage.  Doing what you can when you can to keep your bedroom lovely is one way to show your husband that you love and value him.

I've been totally inspired by this blogger's creative and inexpensive bedroom makeover!  It makes me want to take a beach vacation with my dear hubby, aka the Professor.  :)

Do you have any bedroom projects going on this summer?  Do post a link and some photos! 


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Merry Rose Reads : The Charlatan's Boy by Jonathan Rogers

I received a review copy of The Charlatan's Boy by Jonathan Rogers from Blogging for Books (WaterBrook Multnomah Press).  I was intrigued by the name, the cover, and the premise, and I looked forward to reading it.  It had a charming fantasy plot hook, as well as quirky characters and an innocent tone.   I enjoyed it, but wish I could say that I enjoyed it more. 

The story centers around Grady, an orphan, and the medicine showman, Floyd, who takes him in.  As the pair travel about their country of Corenwald, Floyd exploits Grady as a way of providing for himself and for the boy.  The two use Grady's physical unattractiveness to promote him first as one of the scary swamp people, the Feechees and, later, when people don't believe in the Feechees anymore, as the ugliest boy in the world. All the while, Grady suffers from not knowing exactly who he is or where he came from.  Grady's plot arc revolves around the question of his true identity and the need to find home and acceptance. 

So far, so good.  That plot hook certainly whetted my interest.   For some reason that I can't put my finger on, I felt that the plot didn't live up to its potential.  For me, the book lagged in several places.  Also, I felt that the fictional setting pulled from too many influences.  It felt like an odd mix of Georgia (my home state), the old American west, and Cornwall in England.  I do think all of those influences could unite in a fantasy world.  In this book, however, some of the details conjured up one setting in my mind and other details, another, and I found it hard to stay oriented in the author's intended world.  For me, the setting kept getting in the way of the characters and of the plot.

I am a grandmother who still enjoys reading the best of books for children and teens.  I'm not in the target audience for the book, however.  So, just because it dragged for me doesn't mean that a young child, particularly a boy, might not think it's a thrilling read.

I've noticed that the author has written a trilogy that some reviewers seem to enjoy more than the Charlatan's Boy.  I thought enough of the Charlatan's Boy to take a chance on reading the trilogy.  I do think that the author has talent and creativity, and I can easily imagine that he either already has or will pen a treasure of a book.  For me, the Charlatan's Boy is close, but not quite it. 

Just a note:  The book does deal with questions of belonging and identity and somewhat with faith, but not in a particularly Christian framework.  It also deals with the theme of a person's value not being dependent on his outward appearance, which is an important subject in today's culture.  I think the author was trying to hint at Christian spirituality without being overt. If so, it seems to me that he overshot the mark, moving right past subtlety to hard-to-find. I don't think that means that the Charlatan's Boy isn't worth a read.  I mention this only because buyers might see the Multnomah label and might expect the book to be more evocative of Biblical themes than it is.  


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Attic Treasures and The Dressing Table

When I was a little girl playing among attic treasures (except that they were in a garage), I found a beautiful cover that had been on my mother's kidney shaped dressing table but no longer worked with her bedroom decor.  It had pale pinks in it, if I remember correctly.  I wish I knew what happened to that cover.

Mom eventually abandoned the kidney shaped dressing table in favor of a newer set up, and it, too, moved to the area of old treasures.  Eventually, it ended up in their attic and remained their until long after she died.  One year, I enjoyed "shopping" in my father's attic, which by then contained not only things he no longer used, but several items from his late sister -- who had been a good ten years older than my father.  He was delighted to have someone use these items, especially since it freed up his space.

My mother had classic tastes.  She would never, ever have described herself as glamorous, but she was very beautiful and she had that kind of classic, all-American glamor that I associate with women who came of age in the 40's.  That fit very nicely with my Dad's classic tastes.

My paternal aunt and I, on the other hand, share some random frou-frou, rococo gene.  Her frilly tastes were always neatly presented.  I lean towards SHABBY chic, despite my best efforts to do away with the shabby and leave the chic.  I often spot things I think are pretty for the home and say to myself, "Here's a new direction for you to go in."  Inevitably, the item or look I have just seen will be labeled French provincial, even though I don't always see the French connection at first. 

During my year of shopping in my dad's attic, I snatched up my mother's dressing table and sewed up a cover out of a yellow sheet, some yellow gingham, and some lace trim.  I didn't attach it correctly to the swing arm, so I eventually wore out the swing arm.  The cover is ratty after 11 or so years of use, as well.

I've ordered a new dressing table and hope to create a new little sanctuary in the corner of our master bedroom.  This time, I have chosen something decidedly English -- note the spindle legs versus curved legs.  It's still just a touch frou-frou, though, and I intended on frou-frouing it up. :)   Here's a picture of the table:


What do you think?

Do you have any suggestions for how I might decorate my new space?  I'd love to hear from you, my lovely readers.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

5 ways to pray throughout the day...

Two Girls Praying...Munier 1850
In the Bible, particularly in the life of Jesus and in the Psalms, we see the value of daily times reading God's word and praying.  We also see examples of getting away from it all in order to have even more focused time with the Lord.  Finally, as when Nehemiah petitioned God before conversing with King Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 2:4), we see the value of sending up short prayers throughout the day.   This helps us express our dependence on the Lord.

We can, of course, become so busy that we forget to talk to our Lord about the events of our day.  There are several things we can do to become more prayerful.  Here are five that have helped me:

1) Take every opportunity to praise the Lord.   The Psalms and other scriptures are full of prayers that begin with blessing God's name.  Reading and memorizing these will help us develop the habit of praise, as well.  We must also train our hearts to take notice of the good things that God pours into our laps and to respond in gratitude.  Even things that we don't enjoy -- such as a long meeting or scrubbing a kitchen floor -- can be an opportunity to thank God for having a job or for having a kitchen to scrub.  There are many in the world who have neither.   We can rejoice that we have the strength to do our work, for many do not have that, either.  We can also always rejoice in what Jesus has done for us.

Jewish culture is known for saying blessings throughout the day.  Here is a Jewish blessing for trees:  "Blessed are You - the Lord our God, King of the universe, who has withheld nothing from His world, but has created in it goodly creatures and goodly trees for the enjoyment of human beings."

2)   When you do someone's laundry or clean someone's room, pray specifically for that person.  

3) Tell yourself that you will pray every time you buckle your seat belt or every time you sit down to the computer or the like.     

4)  Make an appointment with yourself to pause at some designated time during the day for five to fifteen minutes of prayer.  This should be in addition to your regular devotionals.  Set an alarm or phone reminder.

5)  When you walk in your neighborhood or drive through your town, pray for the people you see, for the homes you see, and for matters that affect your neighborhood, your community, and the nation.  Keep a map of world countries, and pick one to pray about each day.

Most of us also say prayers of thanks at meal times.  Don't think that these prayers are of little account, but put your heart into them.  I once heard a woman say that when she was thinking of giving up on God, the habit she had learned as a child of thanking the Lord at each meal kept her heart in touch with Christ so much that her faith only grew stronger, instead.   



Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Five things new mothers should know about nursing...

A Pinterest funny... 

He tends his flock like a shepherd.  He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.  Isaiah 40:11

When I was born, my mother nursed me for six weeks.  That was unusual in that day. (The year was 19 cough, cough, cough).  Medical science was in its glory, and the culture looked down on nursing as being primitive.  To be fair, 20th century medicine made some astonishing advances:  antibiotics, the eradication of smallpox, the near eradication of polio, organ transplants, and the like.  Not the least of these advances was a reduction in maternal and infant mortality, as well as improvements in recovery rates for typical childhood ailments.  Despite all of these advances, it does seem a shame that the natural process of nursing babies and having more natural childbirth got lost in the process.

By the time my children were born in the 1980's, our culture had been through the back to the earth movements of the 1960's and 70's.  The La Leche League, among other influences, had slowly induced the culture to consider mother's milk as healthy again.  Nursing was common.   So many of us in the mid to late baby boom were having children, and we all had a lot of interest in the welfare of babies and interests.  Younger doctors were coming into medicine, and they were more open to things like natural childbirth and nursing.  I may have had an unusually good experience, but I felt very supported in nursing my children.

Today, there is even more support for nursing mothers.  There are more lactation specialists around today.  There are clinics for nursing mothers.  There are newer breast pumps and other developments.

I think all of the new nursing help is wonderful.  What I do see, however, is many young mothers struggling to have the "perfect nursing experience".  That seems to work itself out in two ways.   I know young mothers who really wanted to nurse, but who hit a little problem and gave up too easily.  They assumed that a glitch meant that nursing just wouldn't work for them and their babies.  I also know young mothers who have had true medical or other barriers to nursing and who struggled for a long time with depression or even guilt for not being able to nurse.  I suppose that my peers and I experienced some of the same struggles, but I'm now looking at it from the vantage point of having grown children.
In light of that, I'd love for new mothers to consider the following five things:

1)  Whether or not you can nurse your baby is not the measure of whether you are a good mother or not.   Yes, nursing is not only a wonderful experience, but it has great benefits for you and for your child.  If you can't nurse for any reason or if you choose not to nurse, you may feel some pangs.  It doesn't have to be the end of the world, though. Mothering is made up of many aspects, of which nursing is just one.  If you must bottle feed, you can still give your baby great nurturing. 
2)  Relax!  I know that can be easier said than done, especially if you have fifteen different friends offering fifteen different theories about nursing baby.  However, nursing is a natural process that works best if you can stay calm about it.  Learning to peacefully trust the Lord with your nursing experience is good training for trusting Him throughout mothering!  Ask the people in your life for help in creating a peaceful environment for you and baby if you need to.
3)  Nursing and parenting experts are great, but be wary of following any one theory too slavishly.   We are fortunate to live in a time when so much parenting advice is available.  However, we can needlessly fret ourselves by trying to fit our mothering into a theory rather than enjoying a relationship with our baby.  We can also take on unnecessary baggage if we compare ourselves unduly to another mother or to an ideal from a book.  Let the Bible be your ultimate standard.  Lean on God, a few trusted friends who have done well in mothering, and common sense.  Let any other parenting tools be your servants and not your masters.
4)  There probably is a happy medium between nursing totally on demand and rigidly scheduling a young infant.  So many parenting theories divide out over this issue, and you may feel pulled between one or the other. Work out what is best for you and for your baby (and your husband!) and stay flexible as baby grows from birth to weaning.  
5)  Don't neglect God or your husband while you are nursing.   While you are nursing, your infant will be a big focus.  You won't get as many other things done as you might in other seasons of life, and that is ok.  However, you will do well to make daily investments in your relationship to God and in your marriage.  Even small investments will help you stay grounded and happy.     


Sunday, March 03, 2013


"Elegance is refusal," said Coco Chanel.

If elegance can be defined as dignified gracefulness or restrained beauty of style, then we can understand what she meant.  A woman who aspires to elegance choose that which is best and leaves the rest.  That is not my strong suite, but I am working on being able to discern what is best from many options.

Elegance is not necessarily a spiritual value and the pursuit of elegance can take people far from the heart of love.  Yet, what better example do we have of elegance than the Proverbs 31 woman?  

She chooses what is best with regard to time.
She chooses what is best with regard to the raw materials she works with.
She chooses what is best in her investments.
She chooses what is best in being open-armed to the needy, for she seeks to spend her resources on people and their care.
She chooses what is best with regard to her words.
She chooses what is best with regard to fearing the Lord, rather than chasing ephemeral things that might lead to frustration.

She is a wise manager of all the resources the Lord has given her.  She is not dragged along by busyness or the crowd, but evaluates and makes wise choices.  She lives with purpose.  

She is elegant.



Sunday, February 24, 2013

Advanced Style, Advanced Substance...

While recovering from pneumonia, I have had the pleasure of perusing Ari Seth Cohen's lovely blog, Advanced Style.  He takes photographs of interesting and stylish older women (and men), and he often adds quotes from their wisdom or little glimpses of their life stories.  Most of these are people he meets on the streets of New York, but he also finds chic elders in other cities and countries, as well.

It seems to me that the women of Advanced Style along two sartorial lines.  There is a continuum of women who favor boho/funky to wildly glamorous style expression and a continuum from nicely pulled together to classic to quite elegant in their presented.  My favorites fall in the last category, though, that of course, is a matter of personal taste.  My absolute favorite is this sparkly, spunky 101 year old named Ruth.  Ruth was just featured in a Pilates magazine -- Yes! at 101 years old. 

Apparently, some of the women that Mr. Cohen meets are surprised that anyone would want to photograph them at their age.  Others have expressed gratitude that Mr. Cohen sees them, as older people -- especially women -- often feel invisible in our society.  Kudos to Mr. Cohen for having the eyes to see the beauty in people of advancing years.

That makes me think how God sees us as we age.  I'm not in the Advanced Style age group yet, but I'm close enough that I feel the passing of time.  It means a lot to me that the Lord sees and loves us through this time in our life. Last night, as I was lying awake, having issues with breathing, so many verses about this came alive to me.

I love that God shows us in Proverbs 31 that his love for us transcends how we look or how old we are or any other circumstance of our life.  He says, "Beauty is fleeting and charm is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." It's our relationship to him that the Lord values; it's the substance of us and not the style of us.  And, even beyond our substance, which on our own is frail and sinful and corrupted, he loves because he is love and chooses to love us.  "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  Romans 5:8.  Isn't that wonderful?

One beautiful example of how God sees and works through the aged is Anna, the prophetess. She is someone who could have felt alone and forgotten, but she devoted herself to the Lord.  In her old age, she was privileged to see the newborn Messiah and to proclaim him.  She came up to Mary and Joesph and Jesus just as Simeon, who as also aged, had recognized Jesus.  Here's her story:
"There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem."  Luke 2:36-38.  

What did Anna look like?  How did she dress?  We don't know.  We do know that, though God, she got to be part of the most profound events in all of history, and this was at the age of eighty plus.  She was able to see and to know Jesus.  God holds out to every one of us the chance to have this deep, everlasting, intimate relationship with Christ. (Acts 2:38)  When that is in place, our human relationships become more deeply connected, as well, and we have fellowship with God and others.  When we obey God, his love is made complete in us.  Our current bodies will change with time, but we can rest in peace that our hearts are held in the Lord's hands.  I John Chapters One and Two  

Do we truly grow insignificant as we age?  Never!