Growing Old Gracefully; 1928

“Growing Old” is not a very welcome subject in America just now. [Or in 2018!] Beauty experts and Keep-young-societies are filling the land with Anti-wrinkle Truth, yet the simple fact remains that our yesterdays do not come back.

For most people, the advancing years are a blessing for through them we grow away from the follies and fictions of life to a real understanding of the meaning of things.

Growing old gracefully is largely a matter of living gratefully. 

To me, in middle life, sunrises and sunsets have lost none of their beauty. Mr. Thomas Edison, now at eighty says, “The things which I now do give me as much pleasure as the things which I did when younger.”

There is really no age to the mind or to the soul. What seems to be age is a slowing up of the bodily processes. Glad of each morning, and grateful to God for the blessings of each day, my faith is that our souls defy the calendar.

To grow old gracefully, one must learn to sidestep worry. Worry is the plow that furrows our faces. It is a useless sin and does incalculable harm. Worry tries to tack tomorrow’s load upon the tired shoulders of today. It causes us to reach our little hands to take the reins out of the great hands of God. Every time we give up to worry we release poisons into our blood that unfits us for our tasks, and make us take hold of the tools of life with palsied hands.

Jesus observed over-anxious people and said to them, “If God so clothed the grass which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, oh ye of little faith?”

The amazing thing about Jesus is that he could face all the suffering which he knew was ahead of him without worrying about it. He certainly is our Teacher and Master in the school of trust.

To grow old gracefully one must keep busy at useful tasks. The do-nothing becomes an is-nothing. Someone says, “Suppose a person is so crippled that he cannot walk, what then?” I would reply, “No one ever arrives at the place where he needs to be useless.” I knew of a lady who was bedfast for years. Her room became a sort of shrine where people went to catch her faith and see her smile. Physically helpless, she became perhaps the most useful person in the town.

I once read in an undertaker’s magazine, “If you want a coffin, stop working and you will soon get one.” One is doing a useful task in the world who perfects an even temper in suffering, though he is deprived of active toiling.

To grow old gracefully, it is necessary to preserve faith in oneself, one’s neighbor and in God. How much easier it is to preach this doctrine than it is to practice it! We fail to reach our ideals and then give up trying. Others fail us and we lose faith in them. Life shows its teeth to us and we lose faith in God. Yet, in all this there is hope for us. Even though we fail, we can believe that we are capable of better things. A man is always better than his worst. So is his neighbor.

A better understanding of the ways of God come to us with the passing of the years, making it possible for us at last to sing.

“Blest be the tempest, kind the storm
That drives us nearer home.”

To me, old age is a beautiful thing and I am going to strive to keep to the above directions, hoping that I shall be able to prove them, should God give to me the time of gray hairs.

The Bible says, “A hoary (gray) head is a crown of glory if it be found in the way of righteousness.”

Robert Browning adds:
“Grow old along with me,
The best is yet to be.”

So I Shall Forget Me; 1923

When I was a little girl at home, I was unsatisfied. I had lots of troubles and disappointments, brooded over them and could never see the bright side of life. An old lady who had lost all her relatives came to live with my folks. She had her share of troubles, the poor old soul. We adopted her and called her Auntie.

She took a liking to me, although I do not see why she should as I often thought I was the most miserable child in the world. I was sensitive and easily hurt and many times I would go off by myself and cry myself to sleep. Old Auntie would come and sit down by me and read to me from her Bible. Then she would listen to my troubles and tell me they were very small to what other people were suffering in this world and she always would end up by saying: “Troubles and cares will do you good, my dear. Ask God to help you see the good.”

One day Auntie told me about New Year’s Day. I did not know that it was the day to “turn over a new leaf” and try to be a better girl. I was nine years old at the time and have been trying to change ever since.

I did not marry a rich man but I married a good man. We started out on a homestead in Montana. We were out on our homestead five years and were dried out every year but we proved up and it is ours now. My husband had to work out away from home and leave me to hold down the claim. We had two children then and I would take the two and the rifle and hunt rabbits and sage hens for food. When I would see anything to shoot, I would put the baby down on the ground and tell the other child to stand by him and then I would shoot my game.

One day, my tooth began to ache and I walked the floor for three days and nights and could not find any relief. Then baby got sick and I carried him on one arm and held the hot water bottle to my face with the free hand. I walked the floor this way until I was so tired I could not feel. Finally my jaws swelled shut and I could not eat. Then I took the two children and put them in the baby cart and hauled them three miles over sage brush and rocks to my neighbors’ house. They took me to the doctor, twelve miles away, and I had my tooth pulled. All the time I was suffering so, I could just seem to hear old Auntie say, “troubles and cares will do you good, my dear.”

The did do me good. I see life in a different light now. We came to Wisconsin and here is our great purpose for 1923: to get a farm and make good. And I want to help everyone I can to see the bright and better way, and to remember this: one can never have such great troubles that others have not had worse. So I shall forget me and think of others.

 

Be a Real Vamp; 1924

The modern definition of a vamp is a woman who is “striking, exotic, or overtly glamorous” and who is “usually a heartless, man-eating seductress.” Oh, my! Such an interesting phrase to describe the ideal farmer’s wife!  

Have you a little vamp in your home? Now don’t look so shocked because, I’m going to say something worse than that. You should have one. You should be one!

When you have done the weekly wash and scrubbed the cellar and the porches, besides your daily dozen (which includes the dishes, cooking, sweeping, chickens, beds and–Oh! Why mention them? You know what all I mean, and sometimes it seems more like a daily thousand than a daily dozen) and you have had baking, and perhaps churning too, thrown in for the day and you are tired but you still have a half hour before you need to start supper. Don’t change the papers on the pantry shelves. I know they need it but you are so much nicer than any pantry shelf you ever saw. Let them go and give that attention to yourself instead.

Wash face, shoulders, arms and feet (of course, a complete bath would be better if you have time.) Cold cream your face and then lie down and relax for three minutes or five or more. Depends on how much time you have. I mean relax completely. Not a tense muscle in your whole body. Not a solitary wrinkle in your face. Chase that pucker out of your forehead and rela

This period over, put on your white shoes and stockings, wipe the surplus cream off your face and put on some powder, fix your hair prettily and top all with a clean dress. Nothing fussy.  A blue percale bungalow apron will be just fine.

Now look in the glass. Did the pantry shelves with clean paper ever look prettier than you do? No. They did not. Now we’ll get supper.

My! How John watches you. Really good to look at. Had almost forgotten how pretty you were. Supper tastes so much better too and although you were so tired an hour ago you feel rested now. And it has a soothing effect on John’s tired body to see someone pretty and cheerful opposite him instead of a tired, bedraggled old farm woman.

The woman in the home is the real home-maker and the morale of that home is raised or lowered just so many points by her daily appearance and her outlook on life and its problems.

Finally John says, “Why are you all dolled up tonight?” And when you tell him, “Oh! Just for you,” don’t be surprised if he doesn’t take you in his arms and pet you a little because he probably won’t. He might, of course, but more likely he’ll reach for his pipe and say, “Golly! I hope that rain holds off till I get the West Forty done. I stepped right along today.” Don’t feel slighted because he takes more interest in the Forty and what he is doing than he does in you. He noticed you, didn’t he? And, way down inside he feels flattered because you did it for him. He’s just a child grown up and he is as susceptible to flattery as any child. Tell him, “Yes, I noticed that you were working pretty steady.” Doesn’t make any difference whether you really noticed it or not. You know he was. Take an interest in his accomplishments. More flattery. And a vamp never overlooks the possibilities of flattery. Never carry it so far as to sound insincere. Just be interested.

If he jollies you or teases, don’t fail to jolly back. Flirt with him. Vamp him. If you don’t, somebody else will. And men like water, traffic and other things too numerous to mention, follow the line of least resistance. Make it easier for him to be with his cheerful pal, his chum, his wife, than to be away from her.

Through your comradeship and the resulting wholesome atmosphere of your home, your family will gain a prestige in the community that nothing else, not even wealth, can give. The result will be well worth your effort. Start now.

Rest Where You Are, 1925

With the exception of one aspect, I have truly loved my 40+ years of being a housewife. What is my one exception? The following old saying states it best: “A man works from sun to sun, but a woman’s (housewife’s) work is never done.” Since my home is my workplace, my many duties are always in plain sight staring at me, begging to be done! Although I knew that I needed a change of perspective rather than a change of job, I was never able to grasp a solution to my problem until now. A teenage girl from Nebraska, born more than a century ago provided me with the answer.

I am a high school girl and know the meaning of hard work. My mother is an invalid and I have five brothers and sisters and so have housework and school work both to do.

I want to tell you of some magic words I found. Maybe you will not think they are magic if you read them casually. I don’t know who wrote the verses but I do wish every harassed house mother and others who are overworked, might try their potency. Read them slowly with the idea of getting their full meaning. There is something almost mysterious about the way they fit each hard day.

“When spurred by tasks unceasing or undone,
You would seek rest afar

And cannot, though repose by rightly won,
Rest where you are.

“Neglect the needless, sanctify the rest,
Move without stress or jar,

With quiet of a spirit self-possessed,
Rest where you are.

“Not in event, restriction or release,
Not in scenes near or far

But in ourselves are restlessness or peace,
Rest where you are!

“Tasks, unceasing or undone,” which spur you unmercifully on–isn’t that sometimes true of housework? If you cannot be spared for a vacation, why “rest where you are!” I know it can be done.

“Neglect the needless” and half of your load is lifted. “Sanctify the rest.” After all is there any office on God’s green earth so well worth filling as that of caring for your home?

“Move without stress or jar,” in other words, take your time and do not worry. Now say the rest slowly. It is magic!

I may be little but I have found the magic within which makes me bigger than the biggest day’s work that ever comes my way.