Summer in the Soul

It is common things that quench thirst, not rare things; ordinaries, not luxuries; not palatial houses, but a home; not royal wine, but cold water; good health, kind friends, encouraging words, loving deeds, duty done, heartaches healed, a grasp, a clasp, a kiss, a smile, a song, a welcome–these are the beams that bring summer into the soul, and make us light-hearted, free and glad.  –1933

 

So there you have it, ladies.  This is our grand opportunity to be secret agents.  By all appearances, we’re mild-mannered housewives working in ordinary middle class homes, fighting a never-ending battle for clean dishes, laundry, and the Organized Way. But underneath our aprons, we hide nearly magical powers to bring a bit of summer to a dreary March day.  

We have the opportunity to set the tone in the household and give our families the kindness and encouragement that makes them feel “light-hearted, free, and glad.” Your family and friends may not even be aware of the summery little beams you scatter all over your haven like a little fairy, but they’ll appreciate the atmosphere those beams create.

What’s a common denominator necessary in all these beams the writer talks about?  Time. In spite of our efforts to be productive and make every minute count, we can’t maintain an awareness when we’re moving at a frantic pace.  A slower pace of life gives us time to notice the needs around us. These beams are not things we can hire someone else to do but at the same time, they don’t cost us anything, either. Someone has to be present to notice and provide the encouraging words, healed heartaches, smiles, and songs whenever the opportunity arises.  

Our subtle ability to create an atmosphere will leave a longer lasting memory than a dusted bookshelf or clean bathroom towels.  Of course, household chores are important to making the home a peaceful, orderly haven, but there has to be a balance. You don’t want to be like a lady I knew from church.  She was the picture of hospitality and graciousness, but you had to clear the clutter off the couch if you should happen to want to sit down during your visit. You also don’t want to be the woman who is so organized and scheduled that all the bins and baskets in her home have cute little chalkboard labels and a detailed planner marking every hour of the day but she’s too productive for just “livin’ life.” 

It’s an inspiring realization, isn’t it?  The quiet impact we can have when we deliberately schedule our days loosely enough to fit in the unexpected–a spontaneous coffee date with a friend or an afternoon in a makeshift living room tent with your children.  Maybe it will mean that you can send extra cookies to an elderly neighbor or welcome unexpected company instead of hiding in the closet hoping they don’t notice your car in the driveway.

It’s the intangibles that make our profession such an irreplaceable one.

 

Sail On!

Mistakes? I make ‘em every day, don’t you?

But no one said “Sailing On” was always easy!

It helps a bit to realize that mistake-making is universal. Only those who profit by the mistakes they make get to the point where they make few–a goal we all long for. And it helps a lot to know, not that all things are good, but that “all things work together for good–to them that love the Lord.”

We may have a hand in turning our mistakes to good. We may do as a great artist did who noticed after he had painted a picture that he had left some smudges in his beautiful clouds. They couldn’t be erased, so he made birds of the smudges.

If we are unduly cross to the children or to our John, we make birds of those ugly smudges by “fessing up” our wrong-doing and proving our repentance by sweet smiles and loving words. If we wrong a neighbor in word or deed we can find some lovely way to atone. All of which will “work together” for our soul’s good.

As housewives we all tire of the daily grind which sometimes seems so irksome, so futile. I have often been strengthened for a hard task by recalling Columbus’ motto, “Sail on!” You remember the story as told in Joaquin Miller’s poem, “Columbus.” On his first voyage of discovery his crew grew discouraged and mutinous and the mate would come to Columbus with such questions as this:

What shall I say, brave Admiral, say,
If we sight naught but seas at dawn!

Columbus’ invariable brave answer was:

Why, you shall say at break of day,
Sail on! Sail on! Sail on! And on!

From Lillian in Kansas, 1929

 

Seek to Know Ways of Cooking

For the best results in catering, women should know more about serving meat than meringue, and the wise farm housekeeper will seek to know ways of cooking beans, cabbage, turnips, asparagus, the precious Irish potato and other vegetables and the fruits that grow on the farm in abundance. -1905

Learn to cook with the simplest, most basic ingredients, which are often the cheapest as well. These include staple ingredients, like potatoes, beans, and vegetables, as well as those foods that are the foundation of other meals, like breads and biscuits.

If you have a garden, it’s important to learn all the ways you can cook with the abundance you’re able to grow in your garden plot. For example, I grow several kinds of fruit on my property, like raspberries, grapes, apples, and peaches. As my fruit trees and bushes matured and started producing, we began eating more and more fruit. I eventually realized that I had to modify the way I cooked. It didn’t make sense for me to continue making desserts that used primarily store-bought ingredients like chocolate chips, cool whip, and instant pudding. I had fruit that needed to be used! Now I make primarily fruit-based desserts, like raspberry crisp, baked apples, and grape pie. (It’s such a sacrifice. But if Burpee ever develops a chocolate chip tree, let me know.) The fruit is free to me, so the dishes I make are fairly inexpensive, since fruit is the main ingredient. And of course, a dessert loaded with fruit is unquestionable a healthy one–just take away the butter, lard, and sugar and what do you have?  A salad.

It’s also important to train yourself to take advantage of terrific sales and the unexpected ways you find yourself with extra food.  Maybe you’ve discovered some abandoned berry bushes in a vacant lot, someone offers you some meat after a hunting trip, or you score some unlabeled cans at the salvage grocery store for a song. Don’t be quick to pass it up because you’re not sure what to do with it.  Use a variety of cookbooks, find some good resources online, and seek the advice of more experienced home cooks.

I recently bought a big box of dented cans for $3.95.  Included in the box was a large can of yams in syrup. This is not something I would ever, ever buy. I figured that one dud out of 30+ cans was still a bargain and I didn’t need to feel guilty for tossing it.  But, of course, I did feel a little guilty. I searched online and found a recipe for sweet potato bread. A little flour, sugar, and eggs turned my undesirable yams into two loaves of delicious quick bread. One I took to a potluck, and the other was our breakfast.

Thursday’s post will continue this thought, with an example of how I found a use for bargain peanuts.  I’m sure the suspense will be intolerable.

Oh Sing, Sisters!

There’s not enough singing in this world–of that I’m convinced. I don’t mean singing on the radio, in school or churches. I mean in the family.

Before our family grew up and married we were always singing. On Saturdays one sister and I might be upstairs making beds and dusting, another sister might be in the living room washing floors and Mother might be in the kitchen baking, but we were all singing, and, if working close enough together, we sang “parts” to make harmony.

Sunday was the only day Dad had much time to spend with us. We never left the Sunday table–dinner or supper–without him getting someone to play the piano and the rest of us to sing. Now that I’m married and away from home, I miss those good times. Some of the happiest memories of my dad and mother are of the times when they both joined us and our friends around the piano.

If there were more singing in family life, there would be fewer arguments and more joy. When your feelings are hurt, sing, and you will soon be happier. It is simple but it works.

From Minnesota, 1936