Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I Struggle to Share People's Joy

I think I discovered something about myself today. Some of you who know me well may even say, "I coulda told you that!"
I really struggle to share in the material blessing of others--especially when a purchase seems to be extravagant. For example, I remember a time when a lady at my church purchased a new couch/chair set for her living room. It was brown overstuffed leather. Certainly beautiful, but I had seen the old couch and chair set, and I don't remember thinking it needed replacing. I struggled to share their joy.
Now when I see purposeful thrift, and the needed replacement of something, it's easier. If a family friend buys a new car that they have been saving for, after driving and repairing the old car for ten years, I can rejoice with them.
To some degree, I think I am justified, especially when I know something of the circumstances, and have a hunch that some or other purchase will place a burden of debt on individuals who really shouldn't take on anymore, but I suppose it's none of my business...Though how much help could we give one another if we weren't so closed off about these kind of things?
I don't think it's envy. I think I am pretty well content with my lot, because I know what we would have to give up to have more stuff or newer stuff, and we are not willing to give that up(ie time with family, the freedom of debt-free living etc). I guess the thing that makes it hard is seeing so many people not taking the harder, longer road. Seeing so many take what appears to be the easy road. The easy road of instant gratification, credit, and all the rest.
Now I am not trying to excuse my behavior--certainly I need to be more willing to rejoice when our Lord blesses someone in that way. Heaven knows I am joyful when it comes my way, and want others to rejoice with me!!
But do you know a sad thing in my opinion? A couple years ago, we finally paid off all our debt. You know, both my husband and I wanted to share our joy and relief of finally being debt-free!! However, imagine what it would feel like when you know that everyone you could share with isn't even close to debt-free? Kinda made it feel like boasting. We only shared it with a couple people...it just had to bust out, it was such a relief. But we both almost felt ashamed to want to share it with others. Hmmmmm....
Shouldn't we all be able to rejoice freely when we succeed in something we are guided to in Scripture?? After all, it was His blessing that enabled us to live on a budget, His provision that always covered us when times were tough, and ultimately, His direction that we were only following as He gave the grace to do so.
Does anyone have anything I can rejoice with you about today??

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Where Are You All?

I hope I haven't said something to make any of you mad. I really don't mind comments. Really!! Part of why I wanted to start a blog, was to get reactions and feedback concerning some of my favorite controversial topics. I like debate and friendly disagreement. Some of you may be older, some younger, some may be married or single, working, or home. I would love the perspectives on my posts that all of you from different backgrounds can bring. I promise I won't get mad, unless you start using foul language--which I would be shocked if any of you did that anyway!!

I haven't posted in a few days, mostly because I have been in a mood funk, and feeling discouraged and lousy. I'm in that still-queasy stage of pregnancy, most of my clothes are just a couple inches small, but all my maternity clothes are still too huge. So I live in sweat pants and baggy shirts, and feel frumpy and tired...As a result, I've been behind in housework, and wanting to curl up and read(reading takes my mind off the food thing)...Haven't felt very inspired!! Except that one on housework--that really made me feel very inspired!!(to hire someone...hehe).

Saturday, November 14, 2009

How About A Maid?

A friend and I were commenting today on how the kitchen so often seems to just swallow us up with messes, dishes, and whatnot. There are so many days that I just can't stay ahead of the dishes. I come to the end of the day and there are two loads (and I do mean LOADS) of dishes to wash.
I was pondering over housework this morning, and the thought occurred to me that it is actually a new phenomenon that most families do all their own housework. A hundred years ago, a middle class family could afford at least part-time household help, for the hardest, gruntiest sort of work--laundry, ironing, window washing, etc. Now I know there are some ladies who do this kind of work, five hours here and ten hours there, but even that is probably less than what most middle income matrons had in the last century.
If you remember, even the March family in Little Women had Hannah--who did most of the cooking and household care, and they were not a wealthy family at all--though I don't know if they always paid her wages or not.
I wonder how the economy could improve if we were still requireed to hire out for those kind of household necessities. And heaven knows it might provide our households with a bit more order!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

School Violence

I have commented to my husband several times about how school violence isn't new. If you look to schools 100 years ago or more, many schools had problems with bullying and violence--frequently against the teachers themselves.
Now the two examples I will give are from stories, but stories that were at least based on fact, if not written from real life examples.
The first one that comes to mind is from Farmer Boy, written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It is the story that tells about her husband Almanzo's growing up years. One of the tales told is about a bully who frequented their schoolhouse named Big Bill Ritchie. He was the son of a French trapper who lived in a little village of trappers. He was notorious for his fighting, his temper, and his ability to break up the school the other parents worked so hard to bring to their community. He had been known to beat up the teachers, one so badly, he died from it later. Mr. Corson, Almanzo's teacher, was described as a slim, pale man with small features--not a fighting man. When Almanzo expresses his concern to his own father, his father replies (more or less),"The school board hired Mr. Corson. It is his job and his problem to figure out, and I am expecting him to come out on top."
Anyway, later on when Big Bill finally starts to go after the teacher, Mr. Corson pulls a blacksnake whip, that is 15 feet long out of his desk, that has a solid iron handle, and proceeds to whip this bully to shreds. He lashes his skin and clothes to the point of bleeding, blubbering, and whimpering to leave. All his cronies slink out the back door, and Mr. Corson wins the day, and Almanzo is both amazed and relieved.
Now, my understanding is that Mr. Corson is NOT fired for such actions, but commended. He stood up to the bully, and gave him a taste of his own medicine. He also protected the other students from harm, and earned the respect of those who would otherwise have scorned him.
The other story I am thinking of is The Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski. When Birdie (the main character) starts school in their neck of the woods(Florida), a local bully does the same thing, only in that case, he is beaten to a pulp, and the school is let out for some time, because he is so injurred. However, the teacher takes his rod and does attempt to defend himself, but he was outnumbered 3 to 1.
Just gauging from these two examples, school violence isn't new. However, tying the teacher's hands and lessening punishment and discipinary action are.
Can you imagine what would happen today if a teacher attempted to do the same in a classroom today--even if he was faced with a student who was endangering everyone? Not that you want schools to be places of warfare, but with the reality of shootings, bomb threats, and other lovely(hint:sarcasm)modern contrivances of violence, it seems to me, it would be wise to have some kind of action available against such students. Perhaps a rotation of armed teachers? Only a few, and it could change from day to day, but it's a possibility.
I could see a teacher faced with a student who could be blowing his fellow classmates away, doing something to stop him, even if it harmed the student, and getting in trouble, or losing his job for doing so.
Seems to me things are getting a little out of whack?? And the government wants the schools to be even bigger, causing some students to feel even more alienated and afraid. I attended a large city-type school when I was 11, and the experience is not one I wanted to repeat or one I would want my children to endure. There were fights constantly, it was filthy, the food was rancid, and it was extremely overcrowded. I remember my science class housing 40 students in a college-type tiered classroom stepping down to where the teacher taught--in sixth grade!!
I think the older ways of school are more appealing-before the days of football, million-dollar budgets, and bussed in students from every corner of the county.
Farmer Boy describes their school system, also--imagine this in your neighborhood. The school Almanzo attended was, I think, a mile and a half from his house, and he and his brother and sisters walked, Almanzo carrying the lunch basket. It was your typical one-room school with the small children up front and the older children in the back. What I found interesting was this--the teacher boarded at each house in the district for two weeks. When the round of two week intervals had been completed for each home,(homes who had children in the school I would imagine)the school term was over. Also, I found it interesting that whenever Almanzo begged too much work at home, he was allowed to stay home and work instead of go to school. His parents were well-educated, and even wealthy for those times, but they still saw value in having their son stay home rather than go to school. Heaven knows he learned plenty of practical hands-on type things that school didn't offer. He also learned work ethic at home, and learned how to contribute to the family he came from. He learned bartering and business watching his mother and father sell their homegrown produce(his mother sells butter for 50 cents/pound! can you imagine?).
Nowadays, Almanzo would be forced to go to school, at least most of the time, and whose to say that the confining nature of the school to a freedom loving lad would have caused him to get antisocial and bitter?? However, we must group all students in the same pot and force them all to go to school so they have a better future, when some children and adolescents might be better off if they had other alternatives to institutional school. Like being at home, forging tighter bonds with mom and dad instead of peers--and so keeping them out of trouble. I understand it's pretty common that children who go to school tend to favor their peers' opinions more than mom and dad's.
I have crossed the line over into rambling, so I will sign off, but I will say that I am in no way trying to condemn anyone for their decision to send their children to school or keep them home, but I do wish more people would actually think about the decision before making it--too many just make the decision by default--public school--no other options.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dying to Our Flesh

The title of this post is something that has been giving me a lot of trouble lately. I struggle every day, every hour, every minute to overcome my flesh. Or perhaps the problem is, I don't overcome, because I don't struggle--I give in... I think the sanctifying reality of being a stay-at-home mom, is that you live with inconvenience. Live on a tight budget? Even more inconvenience. Homeschool your children? Even more...
Your whole life is controlled by the presence of your children--even in households where parental authority is respected and taught, 90% of your existence has to revolve around them. When they are teeny, you don't have any choice. They need all our time to provide their basic needs, and that doesn't stopp for at least 5-6 years (at lessening degrees). There is no decision you can make without considering the children.
Inside the home, until children are old enough to really be of help, mom does nearly everything, and the presence of children nearly always slows, hinders, and in a lot of situations undoes all the work. I think that this is why the feminist movement struck such a chord in so many women--the feeling that you are getting nowhere, doing the exact same tasks over and over. And as a mom doing this job, even when you have some idea of the importance of your work (in the long term), the minute by minute and day by day difficulties just shrink your life down and make it hard to remember the whole scope of what you are doing. It is so easy to get stuck in the details of getting coats on and "where is my shoe?" and vaccuming crumbs from under the table, and washing peed-on sheets, and plunging the toy out of the toilet, and digging race cars from under couch cushions. And as any mother of small children knows, living with day in and day out irritations, limitations, and the constant need to live for others is a HARD thing to do. Ann Voskamp of Holy Experience refers to needing things seen by others as being idols. We want our accomplishments to be seen. We want the recognition, the accolades. In our world of self-centered philosophy, this mindset is rampant. And the place it is most rampant is on the college campus! And yes this desire can become (or already is) an idol. We cloak it up under lots of names. We listen to lots of pop psychologists who tell us we deserve the time away, the extra income, the recognition. But, if we have a choice, is it God's best for us? God's best for us is always striving for Christ-likeness. And what is that? Pouring out our lives for others, as He did. Learning to rid ourselves of discontent, grumbling, unthankfulness, idolatry, self-importance,no matter the circumstance, and coming to rely on the only one who can redeem us and make us into new creatures.
What are we showing by our example to our children?? Are we showing them how to live for ourselves? Are we showing them how to rely on the strength the Holy Spirit can provide minute by minute? Are we showing them how and why to take everything to the Lord in prayer? Or are we so disgusted with our "lot" in life, that we do the bare minimum necessary for our households, and take every opportunity to leave our children so that we can feel like we are doing something worth while?
My parting thought is this--Mother Theresa was a beautiful woman and I believe, a godly one. Most people, mothers included would point to her as a wonderful example of loving godliness. However, she and all her fellow sisters spent a good portion of their time doing exactly what mothers do. She and her sisters of charity took care of babies, cleaned, fed, cooked, clothed anyone who needed them under stressful, and not ideal circumstances. Why do we see caring for the poor and the leper in Calcutta as being godly work, and see caring for our own flesh and blood as being inconvenient, bothersome, and frustrating?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Money-Saving Tips

In our current economic crunch, it is always wise to save a buck if you can. Along this line, I thought I would pass on some tips I have found that help keep costs down.
When I buy tomato product, I try to buy an all-purpose one. Usually I buy crushed tomatoes, as they have a more saucy texture than puree or sauce. I use these for everything from base for sloppy joes, to pizza sauce, to extend one jar of more expensive spaghetti sauce. I also use it to make my homemade tomato soup. I discovered recently, that buying a couple of tiny cans of tomato paste may be even more frugal--store brand crushed toms are 1.39. Store brand paste is .59.

Scour your local dollar store. I have very specific things I buy at the dollar store. I buy all our paper goods (not very much), toothpaste($1 a tube), most personal items (shampoo), and a select variety of dry goods. I like to get evaporated milk there (85cents), dish soap (85cents for Palmolive!), and recently, I purchased something called Cocoa Butter Creme for 1.65, that is a very rich, creamy lotion. That has pure cocoa butter, lanolin, etc. And it smells like chocolate!

See if you can discover an Amish or Menonnite store nearby. Even if it is not nearby, it maybe worth making an occasional trip. I buy from an Amish woman near us, who sells 10# of bread flour for 4.80. I buy all the sugar, bulk spices (1# of cinnamon for less than $2), some hot and cold cereal, cornstarch, dried fruit, cocoa, choc chips, nuts etc. for substantially less than the grocery store!! She also sells large cheese chunks like Mozzarella for 2.20/lb(groc store is 3.99/lb)
I also discovered an Amish farm selling apples for 7.50/bushel, already picked!

In the meat department, and our local grocery is great about having meat on sale all the time, I find ways of stretching a minimal amount of meat. Did you know that a family of five can make a meal of one boneless, skinless, chicken breast?? Cut it up and toss in a casserole or saute with spices, and add rice for chick and rice tacos. Mix with cottage cheese, all diced up, and some pimento and minced cucumber and spices for a sandwich salad. A large ham steak can go far too. I buy one large uncooked ham steak(about $4.50), with a bone, and can make up to three meals. I dice a bit up for soup, use some for casserole, throw a bit in some scrambled eggs. I frequently do the same with loose sausage. I buy on sale (1.49/lb) and package some of it into 1/2 lb bags for use in breakfast dishes where you don't need much.

We also eat a lot of hot cereal. We eat grits, cornmeal mush(fried), oatmeal, oatbran, no wheat products, cause of my wheat allergy, but they would certainly be an option otherwise. I can buy three pounds of cornmeal at my Amish store for $1.50, and use 2 cups of it for mush that I cool overnight, dredge in flour, and fry in oil. We top with butter and syrup. How much do you think it all costs?? Maybe $2.00 to feed all of us?? (as opposed to cold cereal in which we use almost a whole box in one sitting to feed all of us for 3 or 4 bucks.)

I avoid laundry detergent. I buy borax powder, washing soda, amonia and bleach and can usually combine something to get out most stains (ecxept bleach and amonia--bad idea!). I don't use laundry sheets or liquid softener. Use white vinegar instead.
I will be trying Charlie's Soap very soon, which, at $20/3# bag, sounds expensive, but will do 80 wash loads, and so breaks down to 4cents a load. Pretty cheap!

I mentioned above that I buy very little paper products. This is very true, sometimes to my dismay...However, they eat up the budget, and if I have to choose between paper napkins and food, I choose food. We only buy tissues when we are all sick. Otherwise, we use hankies--I know, some think that is gross, but I don't haul a dirty hanky around all day, I use one up all at once, and put it in the laundry. I keep a huge pile of rags on hand for cleaning and wiping up. I mean little ones for doing the mirrors, and towel rags for cleaning up spilled food. That way we don't waste $ on paper towels. I occasionally spring for napkins, but rarely, and then we only use them when the meal is really messy. Ya'll know I use cloth diapers, and wipes.

My, my--I certainly have been rambling!! Any tips that work for you-all, that I missed?? Hope these help!