Home as Sanctuary, Refuge

Rumors are flying on both sides of the political spectrum, as America heads toward the anticipated inauguration of Joe Biden next Wednesday. It’s a difficult time, and not a little alarming, as Trump supporters and other Conservatives are threatened with retaliation by those on the Left.

A few years ago, Rod Dreher wrote a book called The Benedict Option, in which he urges people to consider following the example of the venerable Father Benedict of Nursia, who abandoned Rome and headed to the hills to dwell in caves before he was persuaded to take leadership of a monastic community. From that community he wrote a Rule which has become the standard of many successive Orders’* Rules over the centuries, and is still read and aspired to by Benedictines, today. Dreher recommends abandoning society and retreating to a more isolated life away from the controversies and difficulties of modern society.

Of course, Benedict left the depravities of Rome, not its collapse. And he didn’t have the technologies to complicate his life that we do, today.

Fact is, a full withdrawal from the world is extremely difficult in the 21st century. We have families, jobs, obligations of varied descriptions that make a full retreat impossible.

However, there is something to be considered in the Rule and life of St. Benedict that is useful for us all: the mandate to consider every dimension of our lives as belonging to God. He required his communities to set aside very particular times of the day to pray (the Mass and the Divine Office/Liturgy of the Hours), to study, to labor. In addition, his counsel calls his communities, and us, to remember that every dimension and aspect of life is God’s. The tools of life did not belong to the monk, nor even to the monastery; they were God’s, and were expected to be treated respectfully in consequence of that reality.

Likewise, our lives and our homes belong to God. And in a world where so much stress and uncertainty are at the fore (Will more shutdowns cost me work, and income? Will political and theological convictions jeopardize my employment?) the only place where we really have influence and some degree of control is in our homes.

The control should, must! be used to make our homes places of refuge from the world — for our families, certainly, but also for our neighbors and friends who are drawn to us to share concerns, burdens, prayer, need in an uncertain and frightening time. Reduce/eliminate clutter. Establish a place for everything and put items in their proper place (a great personal challenge). Cultivate a standard of hospitality, not entertainment, for welcoming friends to your home. Plain simple food with warmth and affection in the atmosphere is far more soul-nurturing than an impressive meal with stress and irritation.

In the coming days we will be called upon to comfort and encourage others, in and out of our family circle. Let’s be careful not to look on this challenge as a burden, but as our calling as home-makers. Let’s establish as our objective that all who enter our homes might sense God’s holy and healing presence there.

  • An Order, for my nonCatholic readers, is a community founded upon the particular gifts and insights of its founder — i.e., the Franciscans (St Francis of Assissi), the Domincans (St. Dominic), the Benedictines (St. Benedict), et al. Each Community and its daughter houses adhere to a Rule which outlines the particulars for that community, that Order, to live out its special gifts and calling.

A North Carolina Tar Heel in the Heart of Acadiana

I’m not accustomed to having windows open and to be wondering whether I ought to just go ahead and turn on the a/c on New Year’s Eve. Welcome to Southern Louisiana! Evidently this isn’t at all unheard of, around here. We’re also under a tornado watch, as a cold front is coming through overnight, dropping our temps from (low) 60 to 47 and (high) 76 to 59 for New Year’s Day. That’s still on the mild side, isn’t it? Uh, yes, it is.

I haven’t done as much exploring of my region as I’d like. I live in a lovely town, one which date from about the same period as my home area in the Sandhills of North Carolina. That makes it one of the newer towns down here; there are towns like St. Martinville and New Iberia that date from the mid-1700s (and had European settlers in the area at what were simple trading outposts, much earlier, late 1600s-early 1700s). This area is also pretty “English,” in contrast to “Cajun,” although there’s a large Cajun population here. We are very much in the heart of Acadiana.

I grew up in town in NC but I have farming roots on both sides of my family. so the agricultural makeup of this area fascinates me. Now, I know what a tobacco field looks like, and peach orchards, and soybeans, and a variety of other crops grown in quantity up in The Old North State. But I’m not so sure what I’m looking at, yet, down here. I assume the recently-flooded fields that were so cleanly plowed and disked, just a couple weeks ago, are rice fields, as I live near the nation’s Rice Capitol, but that assumption is based entirely on my reading of the novels of Pearl S. Buck. They could be crawfish fields, too, but I’m more inclined to think the fields that had some water and a lot of plant growth even after being drained last year are the crawfish farms. I don’t know who can clear that up for me, yet, but I keep looking. Sugar cane, on the other hand, is pretty easy to recognize, and there’s a lot of that here and south toward the “coast –”

— if you can call it the coast. The Louisiana coastline is primarily swamp that becomes the Gulf oF Mexico, unlike the Carolinas’ flat and distinct sandy coastline.

Another big difference is that, although the Coastal Plain of NC is flat as flat can be, there are miles upon miles of woodlands. Here almost all land is under cultivation. The only place I’ve seen real forests are actually down along the Atchafalaya Swamp. Everywhere else, there are hedge rows and trees in people’s yards, but not acres and miles of woodland. That is peculiar, but it also gives one a vista that is out of this world — miles and miles of open land to the horizon, allowing you to see the moon coming up over the horizon and the water tower of the town maybe 12 miles away.

This is also a big beef area. I get a kick out of seeing pastures with cows and small lots with cows all around here. There are some breeds I know, like the Hereford, Brahma, Angus, and Charolais, and a couple of breeds I’m not sure of at all. They all help me feel at home, as cows are also a staple of the NC agricultural scene. More and more, this area, which has felt like home since my first visit nearly two years ago, is getting into my bones, and i absolutely love it.

The Life I Want: TOOLS: Planners

It’s one thing to want to have a better life tomorrow than we had yesterday, or even today, in some vague sense. It’s another thing altogether to want a better life and to see it in our mind’s eye and to be able to move toward that life volitionally (a word I prefer to “intention,” which has become all New Age-y).

Last year I wrote about discovering Lara Casey’s PowerSheets. This values and goal planner has been of greater importance than I could imagine, when I wrote that post just over one calendar year ago. It has helped me find the courage to move, to be able to articulate WHY I was moving, and what I intend to achieve by making this choice — and HOW to actually go about making those achievements a reality. I’ve ordered again for 2021 and am at work on the first, preliminary section of the book, and this week I’m mapping out my January goals and mini-goals.

This is a goal planner. It operates by helping us identify the dimensions of our lives (family relationships, the spiritual life, work, money, etc.) and inviting us to evaluate our current experience in each, to consider what we can do to strengthen the most important, and to brainstorm how that can be achieved. There are monthly and quarterly evaluations and re-sets, indicators for accomplishments, and other prompts that help us to define what is truly important and to realistically care for each. Lara also has additional supplies like a spiritual journal, sticker books (not my big thing but very adult and usable), washi tape, notepads . . . whatever you might need in order to enjoy the process, make it attractive and usable for you.

My other major tool is Jenny Penton’s Planner Perfect. I love this because it’s NOT your standard planner. Jenny warns against reducing a planner to a mere To-Do list, and I’m glad because that’s my guarantee of failure. Instead, this is a planner that one can design to use according to one’s needs and values. She offers not only a choice of size and cover art but also of interior layout and paper type (unlined, lined, dot grid). You can use it for the old To-Do list, or a spiritual journal, your own art, or a goals tracker, or (here’s what I love) ALL OF THE ABOVE, for a more personalized use. There are a lot of YouTube videos of planner setups that show a wide range of uses for this system. I can see myself creating a more specific blog post to do the same thing; for me, it’s an excellent accompaniment to keep track of appointments, lessons, ideas, mini-goals, and whatever I happen to need to keep track of at any given time. I started with the 1-year planner, decided I need more room per day and am currently trying out her monthly planner subscription. It’s a bit more than I need, including stickers, washi, and tip-in cards, but it’s material I can use or resell through the Planner Perfect Facebook page (I haven’t yet but it is an option).

These are my two planner go-to sources for my new life.

#CultivateYourLife. #WriteABetterStory

The Life I Want – Transition Part 1

Lara Casey challenges us to look ahead to when we’re 85, and to envision what sort of life we want to look back on; the move was about building a new life for myself, for making the rest of my life something to be glad of and grateful for. I decided I wanted to start from scratch; if I didn’t absolutely need it (kitchen ware) or love it (my antique bedframe), or have a strong investment in it (35+ boxes of books and music) it would not come with me. I sold, donated, or trashed far more than I brought.

My first morning in town, I went to buy appliances. I’d intended to wait a few days before looking for a piano, but there was that tiny interior nudge, and I Googled Pianos . . . and found a piano dealer not ten minutes from the appliance shop. Well, it would be a total waste of time and energy to make a separate trip, right? So I drove over . . . just to look, you understand. A Steinway concert grand stood in front of the showroom, a splendid instrument but far too rich for my budget. I introduced myself to the owner of the shop (since become a victim of the Covid shutdown — will we ever know the extent of the damage caused by the political response to this virus?) and told him I wanted a nice used studio piano. He had a couple, but as he led me to them, I was distracted by the sight of yellowed keys on a dark instrument at the very back of the showroom.

“Oooh! What’s this?” “This” was a petite grand piano, long neglected, now in process of being refurbished . . . a full tone flat, he warned me, but in tune with itself. Well, I don’t anticipate working with other instrumentalists, and when I do I have access to another instrument at my new church job, so . . . I sat down and touched the keys. . . and fell in love. A prior owner had stripped all the lovely protective varnish and with it the nomenclature plate — the tuner couldn’t even find one inside the guts where one is usually attached, so I have no idea who manufactured this lovely instrument. But I was in love, and I bought her on the spot.

A piano, one easy chair, a lawn chair and wicker settee did not meet the needs of a furnished home, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do to remedy that situation. In the meantime the covid shutdowns were announced.

On Facebook I found word of an upcoming estate sale. This sounded interesting — and I drove an hour SE to the home of a retired, downsizing teacher. . . where I found several art works I simply loved, and a couple of kitchen items. . . and a Queen Anne chair . . . and two new friends, the sisters who operate the estate sale business. Through them I furnished the new house — except for some bookshelves and a desk ordered through Ikea. I now have a home I dearly love and enjoy and am glad to have people come visit.

It’s not complete, yet. I still have to shift things around a bit and add the really personal “grace notes.” But every time I walk in the door and see “Fannie Mendelssohn” (the piano), and the rich red brocaded settee, and the room in its fullness, I feel a surge of joy.

I wasn’t able to work right away, which has been a hardship. This is a part of the country that even before the shutdown was in an economic depression due to state and federal regulations of the energy industry. With the shutdown, even those with disposable income were being very cautious, in case that money was needed for essentials. I went five months without a paycheck, and that paycheck is for the part-time church work. But gradually things are picking up with teaching piano (Fannie Mendelssohn is a wonderful piano to teach from!) and some supplemental playing at other places (funerals). I feel the tide has turned on that score and I’m going to be okay. I have to be very cautious for a couple more months, but I’m not worried.

New Life Well Begun

I wonder whether this might not be a good time to revive this blog. The past year has seen a lot of changes in my life, including a major move to another part of the country, and I once again have new material to write about. I’ve not posted in months and months. I ran out of steam; living in depression is exhausting. But my new home is full of unfamiliar and interesting things to write about, and evoke reflections that might be of interest or benefit to someone, somewhere, so I believe I shall try again.

The shift began a year ago, early fall, when several things converged in my mind to make me aware that I very much wanted and needed a major life change, specifically, a move. One of the big issues influencing my decision was the arrival of my 62 birthday. My mother was 62 (and 5 months, 6 days) when she died of cancer, in 1991. To me, she had always been old. Poor health, most notably in the frequent recurrence of debilitating migraines, had robbed her of a lot of energy and ambition. Being “too old” was always her excuse not to make needed changes in her life; the fact was, I think, my poor mother’s spirit was too badly wounded and she simply hadn’t the confidence to do a thing about her unhappy life.

I did not want to be like my mother. Not in that respect, anyway (I have many much more interesting and worthwhile things in common with her). I wanted to live while I could, not to be confined to others’ expectations and demands, or their limited vision of my capabilities, or the constant reminders that, for years, for others, no matter how hard I had tried I could never be good enough to warrant their approval, or their love.

The only way that seemed open to me was a move, and the desire for a move was revealing itself in subtle ways, once realized begging action, even though physical and financial limitations made a move appear impossible.

I began to pray, “Father, may I?” not really believing that I could, only knowing that I wanted to, with no reservations left in mind.

Things began to happen with amazing speed, and in February, my NC home sold, I travelled to my chosen region on what I thought would be my first “recon mission.” I arrived on Thursday night. Friday I met with a realtor and found a charming house to rent in a pleasant neighborhood at a rental price within my budget and far less than comparable properties rent for in my former area. As the realtor, a lovely, vivacious Christian woman, and I sat on the front steps, talking, she suddenly burst out, “Laura! You need to get in touch with the pastor at First Church! They just lost their organist! She’d been there more than fifty years . . . ”

I sat on the job lead, unsure the timing would work out. But Sunday I got a message from the pastor, could I come and meet with him Monday afternoon? My realtor had given my number to her friend, who’d passed it on to the pastor. I left that meeting with a new job.

One more day in town to visit with friends, then back to NC to pack, and even there God had His hand in the matter. Instead of having to pay several thousand for professional movers to help me out, friends offered to use their church’s mission trailer and move me themselves, for the cost of their expenses. Other friends came and helped me pack and sort . . . I found a taker for my older mobile home (which had not gone with the sale of the real property) who also helped me with the clean-up.

In less than two weeks, I was back on the road for good.

What I Wish I’d Heard At Mass (WIWIH) — May 2-3, 2020

For years I’ve thought of doing this series, week after week of dealing with insipid sermons, uninspiring sermons, sermons that wasted glorious opportunities, sermons that had nothing to do with the Readings . . .  “I could have done a better job at that!” I’ve thought more times than I can count.  Well, let’s give it a whirl, shall we?

It was Good Shepherd weekend: the Readings centered around “The Lord is my shepherd,” and “I am the Good Shepherd.”  Sheep are funny animals. Until fairly recent history, their wool was an economic staple throughout Europe and probably the New World as well, so they were an investment in their owners’ livelihoods.  But they aren’t particularly smart animals, not at all like dogs or horses or even cows.  I visited friends who had sheep, one weekend several years ago, and the dumb creatures entertained me no end:  if one got spooked and leapt up in the air over some invisible spookiness, every single one of them would leap into the air, after her. Nothing there — just that one jumped over something, so we all have to jump over . . . where was it? Doesn’t matter, just JUMP!

There are two parts to this scenario that I want to point out as edifying. No, three  —

1. The Good shepherd lays down his life for his friends.  A hireling, on the other hand, is looking out for #1, and so long as he’s safe and comfortable, the fate of the sheep doesn’t bother him so much. In fact, he’ll abandon the sheep to their brutal fate rather than be inconvenienced or made uncomfortable — much less endangered.

During the covid-19 shutdown, some very good priests have been frustrated at the shutdown of the Mass and the prohibition of visits to shut-ins, hospital and nursing home patients.  They are aware that their vocation mandates that they serve the flock, even if it costs them their lives — as it did Christ. To be thwarted in the celebration of Sacraments and the service of the Faithful is painful to them. They are concerned for our spiritual well-being, even more than of our physical health, and they are willing to do whatever it costs them to see us draw closer to The Shepherd, and to get to heaven.

2. The sheep know their shepherd’s voice.  That means we listen attentively, and obey promptly so as to hear His voice more clearly, in future.

3. Sheep follow one another, which means we have a duty as well as a privilege to follow close to the Master’s feet, so those who are watching US will be faithfully led.



Planning for a better 2020 — in which I take a step back on Planners

I said planners and gadgets don’t work. Not for me.

Well, I found one that I had to try, and I’m loving it.

Lara Casey’s PowerSheets www.cultivatewhatmatters.com — I kept seeing all sorts of YouTube videos touting them, and with all the detail provided, the idea entered my mind that this might just possibly be a truly useful tool. So I took a very deep breath and ordered the Powersheets Starter Bundle ($100, roughly) . . . and prayed I wasn’t throwing that $100 down the drain.

My box arrived yesterday, Wednesday, after I ordered late Saturday. Not bad at all.

Let me say this up front: This is NOT a “Planner” in the traditional sense of the word. The Powersheets Goal Planner is a guided evaluation of your present and past life, and a chance to consciously plan where you want to go from here — what you want to be able to look back on when you’re an 80 (or 90, or 100) year old Geezerette. There are monthly sections for short-term goals and evaluation, but this is a tool to work in conjunction with your regular calendar/planner.

And this not the usual trite and frivolous planner. Casey and her development team invite us to go deep, to look at our fears and insecurities, to transform the way we see them, and to consciously create lives for ourselves — based on what we value, not on what some external authority tells us is supposed to be important. Somewhere I saw that Casey comes at this from a faith-based perspective, but there’s nothing cloying about PowerSheets; I am comfortable with them as a Catholic, and I think a person without any faith value would be just as delighted at using them as I am. WE get to determine what we value and want to accomplish.

There are a multitude of YouTube videos introducing the Powersheets — my favorites are Elyssa Nalani and Ashlyn Writes — but you can just put Powersheets in the search bar and have at it.

I’ve made a start with the preliminary evaluations, but I’ll be revisiting these early pages often in the next two and a half weeks, leading up to Christmas, developing my thoughts, going deeper inside myself to see not only what’s important (that’s kind of obvious?) but past the generalities into a more specific vision.


Planner mania

It’s the season for planner mania — all the planners and organizers marketed for 2020 are being pushed everywhere, not least on YouTube. I found one from a gal who actually uses a lot of the accessories for planners (stickers, washi tape and so on) who did a video saying, basically, “you don’t NEED all the Things.”  Gotta love someone with the guts to say it, when everyone else seems to be saying, “Oh, you NEED the Things!”

Confession: for years I was one of those who bought the Things thinking they would somehow elevate me to being the sort of person I imagined the promoter to be: savvy, sophisticated, ducks in a row, etc. etc.  In a word: lovable.

NEWS FLASH:  they don’t work.

I don’t have the time, nor the inclination, nor the artistic bent to mess with all the Things. I want a planner that will allow me NOT to forget my schedule (when little Tommy’s make-up piano lesson was scheduled, this week?) and will give me an opportunity at the end of the day to say, “Ahhh, good, I did these things on my list. It’s been a good day.” or, sometimes, “Eh, need to tighten up on . . . “whatever got neglected or overlooked.

With that in mind — and because I do need beauty around me (topic for another blog post, soon) I have invested in a Franklin Covey BLOOMS, 2 pages per day, planner, which I will be using for recording me ToDOs, writing word counts, music lists. . . whatever.  I’ll be hybridizing it with a dot grid “bujo” style paper to keep track of various projects and misc. lists that have to be dealt with. I love the soft pink and green background on this planner so I will enjoy looking at it as I use it, and I’ll use it several times a day.

I have a basket of washi tape that I bought on impulse and may or may not ever use . . . and a couple of pens, mostly black, but also the ever-reliable Pilot Precise V-5 in assorted colors.  I had bought a few sets of color pens, including “brush” pens, in hopes of pushing myself into the Artsy realm. . . but that was a flop and I gave the pens to a teacher friend to use in her classroom.  She and her students will get far better use out of them than I would have done.  There really isn’t any point in spending money in other Things — because I’m not going to use them. I like keeping things streamlined with a fine-point black pen. <shrug>

The point is, a planner doesn’t have to be elaborately decorated in order to be useful. What do you need to record? Dietary and exercise achievements? Word count on a writing project or time/pages of editing and revision?  Appointments? Household routines and tasks? Music practice? Stickers might be a bribe to do more for some people, but I’m not one of those people. Just let me get on with the task and not waste time trying to figure out whether the sticker needs to be in the right-hand upper corner or  somewhere else.

I DO, however, practice using a nicer handwriting in my journal. I am teaching myself Spencerian script, and I’ve been using a French 5-line paper to practice. But that’s because I love pretty lettering and calligraphy, and I feel it reflects my sense of self-respect. When I’m hurried . . . my handwriting isn’t so nice.

Do what you need to do in order to accomplish your goals. You can always ADD embellishments as they reveal themselves to be relevant. Easier than diving in over your head and becoming discouraged because you didn’t do it “perfectly.”  The only PERFECT planner is one that helps you to be a better you. And it doesn’t have to cost buckets of cash.  So relax and just do it.

And God bless you!

Why all this talk about the home?

I’ve known it all my life, but only recently begun to practically achieve it:

A woman’s primary function is caring for her family, which care includes creating a loving home.

My father was largely absentee. He was a long-distance truck-driver and spent most of each week on the road, driving up and down the Eastern seaboard for a major textile company. When he was home, he was rarely home. He’d get in his pickup and come out to the homeplace to visit his sister and her family, visit with neighbors, go to town before bed and drink coffee with the locals and catch up on local news and gossip. My mother resented his absenteeism enormously and complained about it frequently —

But she gave him nothing to come home to. Our home was in a constant state of chaos. Dishes sat on the counter, dirty and unwashed, until the cabinet was empty and it was wash dishes or do without a meal. Laundry sat in piles — dirty on the floor by the washer and dryer, clean on the picnic table that served as the folding table where the ironing board was set up (and rarely used). I’m ashamed to say it but my dad’s room (he and Mother had separate rooms) stank. Mom didn’t change his sheets or make his bed or air the room or collect his dirty clothes — when I got to be old enough I tried to take care of him but it was more than I could manage. He didn’t complain much, he just put up with a lot that no man ought ever to have to put up with.

If my mother had put forth even minimal effort to signal to my dad, her husband, that he was important and respected and appreciated, he would have thought he’d died and gone to Heaven.  Instead, he went where his stories were enjoyed and his generosity toward others was appreciated. Never “another woman.” He was very old-fashioned and principled. But he occupied himself away from home as much as he could. Our house was not a home for him. Or for me: I couldn’t wait to escape.

Nowadays, we talk about our rights as women, and men sharing in the drudgery of keeping a house in order. I suppose it’s not unreasonable when both spouses have full-time jobs, but oh! what a cost!

The idea of women, especially mothers, working outside the home is another issue. But let’s think about this:

You know of the idea of love languages? That people have different ways of experiencing, demonstrating and receiving, love. Quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation,gifts, acts of service — one or maybe two of these convey love in ways the other methods don’t. My two big ones are physical touch (hand on the shoulder, one-armed hugs, hand-squeezes. . . ) and quality time. I have a friend who goes all mushy in the stomach and brain when a man gives her a nice gift. I like getting gifts, am downright childish about it, in fact; but I don’t miss it or feel any deficiency when I don’t. But I’ve never met a man for whom acts of service didn’t rank HIGH on his love language list. He goes out to work, to provide for his family, to fight dragons in the public square so his wife and children, his loved ones, can be safe.  “Of course I love you – I work to make a home for you, don’t I? To give you nice things –” etc.

But too many women don’t recognize acts of service as Love. They don’t realize that, when they demand their husbands help with the laundry and the dishwashing, they’re demeaning his acts of service already rendered. They’re nonverbally conveying that they don’t love him so very much. We think men just want sex? Men want respect and appreciation. They want to be loved in ways that they can interpret as Love.  Daddy sometimes complained, “I don’t bust my butt driving up and down the Eastern seaboard to live in a mess like this. Can’t you even see that I have clean clothes to wear to work?”

He showed his love for his family by working; he needed to be loved back in a similar way. She could have done it, too.

This is an idea that very decidedly goes against the grain, against modern feminism. Women have protested for generations that they are good for more than scrubbing toilets. Women have fought for generations for the right to use their God-given gifts and abilities alongside men. Women serve the world as doctors, lawyers, educators, business executives . . .  and I admit that I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing for society as a whole, and certainly not for the woman, herself. After all, I know from personal experience how frustrating it is to have no outlet for one’s gifts and abilities, to have them bottled up inside with no visible hope of an outlet.

But the fact is that we’ve paid a high price for our so-called equality. Children raised in commercial daycare don’t, can’t, have the same emotional and moral grounding achieved by children raised in the family. We have a generation of young adults who cannot function with any degree of maturity; they are demanding, whiny, quick to violence when they don’t get their way. This is behavior learned in commercial child care, where the undesirable behaviors get attention, and good ones are not rewarded as vigorously (attention is the sought-after reward).

We are seeing men emotionally emasculated by women’s demands and ascension to power. All this talk about “toxic masculinity” — what nonsense! Toxic feminism, yes! The demand for the “right” to self-fulfillment, even at the cost of the destruction of one’s own children is a curse upon our nation. Toxic loss of authentic masculinity, yes! as men, influenced by infusions of female hormones into the environment and even more by a deliberate suppression of masculine energy and drive, by this toxic feminist culture, become more and more insipid, uncertain, indecisive, and immature.

Society is collapsing, and at the root of this collapse is the loss of a strong sense of family and the home.

The only way to save ourselves is to restore a sense of proper order. Let women be willing to recognize that we are not inferior to men, only different in function. A woman’s innate instinct is to protect her children and to serve her Beloved; this is the very heart of Home. And we are the heart of home and family! Men, by nature, are dragon-slayers. Individual women might wield a sword well enough, but it takes a grave toll on us, emotionally and spiritually, when we have to wield it again and again and again. When we don’t have to, but choose to wield it, we can become warped. Distorted.

I teach piano, and several of my students are from military families. I’ve observed that the military wife serves the Nation as surely as her husband does; by providing a solid place of Home — of refuge and rest  — for her soldier husband, she helps make it possible for him to better do his job in the field. Usually, she’s not really aware of those wider-reaching influences she exerts, though; she’s just thinking about being sure things don’t fall apart while her husband is on deployment. But, when he returns, she usually helps him find a restored balance to daily life at home.

We are engaged in an even greater battle for souls. The Church is called the Church Militant because of this battle. I call it the Great Battle. And in the past few years it’s heated up to an alarming fierceness. Women need to raise their own children — and frankly, to be directly engaged in their education — in order to help protect them from diabolical influences. Yes, I advocate for home schooling. Best students I’ve ever had were home schooled — and the most mature, overall.

Our men also are engaged in these serious battles. Men have to deal with a lot of nonsense in the public square.  Having unpopular opinions can result in repercussions with a man’s career. They might enjoy the battle to some degree, but when they are done for the day, they want (and deserve) to be able to lay their sword down when they walk in the door of their own home. They ought not to have to be competing with their wives for dominance, or having to fight her for a sense of sanctuary in that home.  It’s not fun scrubbing toilets or folding laundry, but by golly! These are the chores that help to create an atmosphere of calm, peace, and order in a home.  They are tangible ways of saying “I love you,” to our families.





Making improvements: TOOLS

It’s no good just tossing stuff and simplifying if we don’t also use our imaginations to improve our — let’s call them our systems. Our systems are the way we do things and the tools we use to do them. Mine needed some serious overhaul.

My office baskets – I spend a lot of time in this room, but I don’t get a lot done. I realized that the clutter and disorder has been a major distraction and energy-suck. I had too much furniture in the room – desk, wheeled microwave cart repurposed to hold the printer, a wicker settee, two other chairs (including the desk chair), and two older file cabinets.  In addition, books were double-shelved, one row in front of another, for most of the shelves — and I’m pretty sure that if I live another 62 years I won’t read half of them.

I had a bookshelf that is a real clutter collector, and I wanted to rehome it. So I started there — pulled the writing books out and sorted which ones I find useful and which ones never have helped. The latter are on their way to a free share shelf at the local post office. Some of the domestic books are headed the same place, and the rest are now replaced in the main shelves.

When I purged my paperwork, during Hurricane Dorian (which skirted my area but left my joints stressed), I consolidated six drawers full down to three. Yeah, I had that much paper clutter. One of the three drawers was my journal collection. I’d like to purge those, but a friend is urging me to tell my story, and I am using them . . . not fun, but probably needful. That means five drawers became two.  I bought two sets of two woven baskets off Amazon and put all that stuff in baskets in my main shelf.  They look quite pretty.  When I buy the shelf I’ve decided to get for the printer, which will fit under my Ikea desk, it will have an extra shelf for my extra printer paper, so I will probably have more shelf space freed up. The journals fit into an Amazon box I’d been holding on to, and are now stored in the closet.

Vacuum cleaner. One of the tasks I badly procrastinate on, due to back and knee issues, is vacuuming. I have a really good, efficient Bissel vacuum cleaner,  but it’s heavy and I find it hard to stand to use for more than a couple of minutes. So I am trying out a plug-in “stick” vacuum from WalMart — I like it a lot and find it useful for light maintenance. Once I figure out the best way to clean the filter, I’ll probably use it more.

Mop. I also bought an O Cedar mop with a removable, washable cloth head. WOW!  Where has that thing been all my life!  There’s a spray bottle where you put the water and cleaner (I use cleaning strength vinegar) and spritz . . . and run the mop over . . . and I don’t know when my floor has been so clean. Not since it was installed, I’m sure.  I bought the mop plus two extra heads through Amazon, and used two heads the first time I mopped. Yeah, that’s how mucky my floor was. That’s why women used to mop on their hands and knees with real rags — to avoid swirling the dirt around and simply redistributing it. Which is what I’ve been doing for (ahem) years, evidently.

Dish drain. I wash my dishes by hand, and I’ve been using a large enamelware basin for washing, one sink for rinsing, and the other side of the sink to hold my standard dish drain. Living in a small trailer, I don’t have counter space to leave a drain with a mat. But I also don’t like having to take up the sink with the drain. — I came across an advertisement for an over-sink dish drain. I’d never heard of such a thing! But it’s a brilliant concept. I ordered one, it arrived yesterday, I put it together last night and inaugurated it today. It’s not perfect — the water dripping of the draining dishes is kind of an unpleasant addition to the work. But it’s a big improvement over what I had going, so I’m well pleased. Also available through Amazon.

Those four things — baskets, vacuum, mop, and dish drain — have made such an enormous improvement in my ability to stay on top of my homekeeping.  What tools do you need to re-figure or upgrade to make your work more efficient and pleasanter?