Book Review: Songs of a Housewife: Poems by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Some years I go I saw, somewhere, a poem that I really loved. I looked up the author and found she had written a whole book of them, so I got it, I think possibly from a used book seller on Amazon. But it’s hard to just pick up a book of poems and start reading through, so it sat undisturbed on my bookshelf for a very long time. Then one day I saw it and noticed the author’s name again, and thought it looked a little familiar. I looked it up, and …yes, the author of Songs of a Housewife: Poems by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, was also the author of a book I dearly loved, The Yearling. So that put the book higher on my to-be-read list! I finally put it on my desk, where I’d pick it up in between doing other things and read a couple to a handful at a time.

Rodger L. Tarr edited the book and explains in the introduction that the poems were originally in a newspaper column that Rawlings wrote in the NY Rochester Times-Union between 1926 and 1928. He includes a few pictures of the column, which sported the icon and typeset he used on the cover. It came about at a time when newspapers wanted to expand beyond just the news and provide entertainment as well. They were published mostly six days a week over two years until she moved to Florida, resulting in some 495 poems, about half of which are published in this book.

Tarr goes into a brief history of her writing career (her first story was published when she was eleven) and family life. She was writing feature articles for the newspaper when she proposed a weekly poetry column for women, particular housewives. Her editor was “skeptical at first” (p. 4), but finally let her try. The poems became a “cultural phenomenon” (p. 1). Sometimes readers asked her for a poem on a specific subject.

She explained her perspective in an interview:

I was brought up to believe in the modern myth that housekeeping is only drudgery, and the housewife is a downtrodden martyr. I thought that any seemingly contented housewives were only ‘making the best of it.’ When I first began housekeeping in my own home, I felt that I had entered the ranks of the mistreated.

After a time I began to realize, to my amazement, that I didn’t feel at all downtrodden, and that I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I began to look at other domestic ‘martyrs’ from a new angle, and I have learned many things.

I have found that there is romance in housework: and charm in it; and whimsy and humor without end. I have found that the housewife works hard, of course–but likes it. Most people who amount to anything do work hard, at whatever their job happens to be. The housewife’s job is home-making, and she is, in fact, ‘making the best of it’; making the best of it by bringing patience and loving care to her work; sympathy and understanding to her family; making the best of it by seeing all the fun in the day’s incidents and human relationships.

The housewife realizes that home-making is an investment in happiness. It pays everyone enormous dividends. There are huge compensations for the actual labor involved…

There are unhappy housewives, of course. But there are unhappy stenographers and editresses and concert singers. The housewife whose songs I sing as I go about my work, is the one who likes her job (pp. 6-7).

She was writing at a time when feminism was coming to the fore, and she “was fully committed to a woman’s right to share equally in the workplace…Yet she also took the firm position that women who choose to stay home are also professionals” (p. 7).

Tarr divides the poems into six categories and at the bottom of each shares the date when it was originally published. They cover the gamut from cooking, family happenings, housework, friends and relatives, “philosophical nuggets,” and nature. Sometimes they express kind of a smiling frustration: usually they’re cheery.

The poem that started it all for me was “The Symphony of Supper-time”

I like the sound of silver
When the table’s being set,
In the early Winter twilight,
With the lamps unlighted yet.

I like to hear the kitchen door
Swing slowly out, and then,
When Mary passes, laden, through,
Swing slowly back again.

I like to hear the kettle sing;
The hissing of the roast;
The children coming in from play,
A hungry, noisy host.

I like to hear the murmurings
When my dessert appears.
The symphony of supper-time
Is music to my ears! (p. 35).

With so many poems so many days in a row, not all of them are winners. But I marked several that I particularly liked. Here are a few:

A Prayer for Housewives

Let me have endless patience, first of all,
And not grow weary when the quick doors slam,
Or when small fingers stain the new-washed wall.
Let me ignore the mud tracked o’er the jamb!

Let me be tireless, for the hours are long.
Let me be merry, when I want to weep.
And if my days may not move like a song,
Grant me, at night, the healing touch of sleep.

May I remember small, important things–
An empty cookie jar is such a crime!
Is it too much to pray at times for wings?
How else, some days, to have the meals on time!

And if there’s any fun to come my way,
Or any laughter due me, Lord, decree it!
And where there’s beauty in the every-day,
Oh, let me not be blinded! Let me see it! (p. 102).

“Mistress and House” begins:

A gracious mistress for this gracious place,
She moves in harmony with flowers and birds;
Her voice is gentle, filled with gentle words
And there is sunlight on her quiet face.

It ends with “She crowns its beauty with her womanhood” (p. 111).

In “Treasure,” she says she’ll let her son, Tom, off from chores for a bit because he’s deep into reading Treasure Island, and closes with

He treads the ground unseeing, starry-eyed;
Plays, eats and sleeps and studies in a trance.
His mind consorts with pirates and with ships,
In high adventure. He has found romance.

Not mine the voice to call him from the realm,
Where sailors’ parrots cry and silver gleams!
He has found treasure past life’s power to steal.
He’s keeping company, these days, with dreams (p. 155).

In “Aunt Ida’s Letters,” after discussing her “ramblings” and picturing what she looks like as she writes, she says:

And through her talk of life, and things,
The beauty of her spirit sings.
And when her letter-writing’s done,
There will be somehow less of sun (p. 156).

After describing “A Peaceful House,” she closes with:

I knock. And in the mistress’ eyes
The source of this sweet peace is seen.
Her love has made her calm and wise–
Her love has made this house serene (p. 191).

After discussing various aspects of dealing with “Old Clothes,” she concludes, “Old friends forgive old clothes, because/Friendship is never out of style! (p. 198).

After describing a host’s gracious “Hospitality,” she concludes:

But did you know these things material
Welcomed me less than those that have no form?
It was your kindness that was beautiful,
It was your spirit’s grace that kept me warm.

You called me friend. You made me one of you.
I was no more a stranger and apart.
You give to hospitality a clue–
Finer than open hands, the open heart (p. 226).

I could empathize with the last stanza of “Fooling Myself”:

I fool myself elaborately,
Some other line of work pursuing.
I seize each task so eagerly–
Except the one I should be doing!

Tarr says that to Rawlings, “Nature is a representation of God’s favor, although God as a concept seldom enters directly into her poems. Instead, she relies upon faith, which she sees as a transcendental force that runs through nature. There is a large element of Thoreau in Rawlings….Nature is divine, or at least a reflection of divinity” (p. 11). I would disagree with that view of nature, believing instead that God created it and it points us to Him (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-23). But I didn’t really see that philosophy reflected in the poems about nature included here. Most of them just show a pleasure in and enjoyment of nature.

A few of her poems would not be politically correct today. In one ode to her cook stove, she calls it her “black slave, humble and low” (p. 123). Some are a little gossipy. In one, she asserts that, just like in poker, “A full house beats a pair” at home, meaning that a home full of noisy children was better than “quiet, childless homes” with their “sedate and stupid choices” (p. 117), odd since she had no children of her own, but made up one for the persona of her columns.Maybe she regretted not having children – or maybe she was just catering to the way she thought her audience would feel. But it seems more than a little insensitive.

Most of her poems, however, bring a smile or a moment of thought or sweet reflection. I can imagine eagerly looking up her column in a newspaper each day. The quiet, kind, serene “mistress of the house” she portrays in many of the poems make me want to be more more like that kind of homemaker. These may not be the highest form of poetry, but for the most part they convey truth, beauty, perspective, understanding, and fun, a worthy goal of any artistic expression.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Wise Woman, Literary Musing MondayCarole‘s Books You Loved)

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Touches of Spring

Although spring is one of my favorite seasons, I haven’t always decorated for it. Even as I collected some spring decorations over the years, I haven’t always gotten them out. But this year I was inspired by seeing blogging friends’ spring decorating, and I was just so glad for spring to come this year, even though we haven’t really had a harsh winter, that I almost couldn’t help bringing some springiness into the house.

This little table sits just inside the front door, and I was especially pleased with the decorations on top:

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The little flower arrangement on the left I got from a thrift store years ago, and the arched box on the right was a gift from Jason and Mittu some years back. It’s meant to hold Willow Tree figurines and has shelves inside, but I don’t have any that small, and don’t really want any more than I have. But I just like the box. Sometimes Timothy will tuck things in there, and sometimes I’ll put something in there for him to find. Those two are on the table year round except fall and Christmastime. The ceramic water pitcher I got at a thrift store years ago, and the little flowery bunny was a Hobby Lobby purchase a while back.

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So cute!

The little pedestal is new this year.

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I got the idea from Laura’s lovely spring decorations. I couldn’t find white like she had, but Hobby Lobby had these in pink, blue, yellow, and green, and they had all their spring merchandise 40% off last week. They had a package of ready-made nests with these eggs in them as well. I was originally looking for white or blue eggs, but liked these.

For a long time I avoided eggs and bunnies around Easter, but after a while I felt that they are fitting for spring, and spring is a picture in a way of the resurrection.

This is in the dining area and is a favorite. I forget where I got it.

I had wanted to come up with a new wreath or something for the front door – or actually for beside the front door. Our door has an oval glass insert which doesn’t seem conducive to wreaths or other decorations, and a little hanger was already installed in the brick next to the door, so we use that. In past years I’ve used this:

Roses and Hydrangea door ornament(That’s an older photo on a different door). I liked it, but somehow it looked funereal to me. Plus roses and hydrangeas aren’t blooming yet, so I wanted something a little more springy. I wrestled with whether I wanted it to look like spring in general or Easter in particular. On some of my shopping excursions last week, I looked around to see what was available. I definitely wanted tulips, but there were almost none in the fake flower departments, and what I did find, I didn’t like. I guess I should shop earlier in the year for fake spring flowers! After walking all around a few different stores, I finally found one lone tulip bunch at Hobby Lobby, a few half-off sprays at Joann’s and a small cheapy arrangement at Wal-Mart that I harvested to put together for this:

I don’t remember where I got that green pocket holder years ago, but I love it. It’s nice to just toss things in without having to use hot glue or a form to stick the flowers in. I had been considering the idea of a wreath with tulips and a little nest nestled in, and maybe I’ll try that next year, but for now I like this.

I ended up with some leftover flowers after all of that, so I put them in here:

I had an egg on a pick leftover from a flower arrangement years ago and found a package of them at Hobby Lobby, and tried a few of them in the pocket arrangement above, but it just looked too busy. I think if the flowers had been all one color, it would have worked better. I debated about whether to put any in this little arrangement, but finally settled on just the one.

In addition, these two are out year round, but they do look springy!

This is beside my kitchen sink. I don’t remember where I got the little pitcher: I’ve had it for years. But the flowers were just two picks from Home Interiors. I do change the flowers out for fall and Christmas.

The lighting wasn’t ideal for this photo – the sun was streaming in blindingly, but when I closed the blinds and turned on all the lights, it wasn’t quite enough for a clear shot. But anyway, the cloche with the bird nest in it was from Cracker Barrel (I think I may have hinted at it for a gift for Mother’s Day one year. 🙂 ) And the little birds were on sale at Hobby Lobby a couple of years ago. The little plaque is metal and I think came from a Christian bookstore in SC.

I enjoyed working on this last week, and now I feel sufficiently springy inside. 🙂

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The Value of Housework

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Housework is probably not on many people’s lists of favorite things to do. I tend to get frustrated over having to put aside the more interesting or even spiritual pursuits in order to dust or do laundry. But I do value housework. I don’t get excited about the need to dust, but once I get started, I enjoy the clean surfaces. I like the results of picking up, sweeping, doing laundry, washing dishes, even if I am not fond of the process. But even the process can be lightened up with listening to an audiobook, podcast, or music, or conversation while working with someone.

I’m embarrassed to confess this, but, believe it or not, when my husband and I were first married, I often wouldn’t do dishes until we ran out of clean silverware. We didn’t have a dishwasher, and I was a part-time student with two part-time jobs and the adjustments of being newly married. Plus both my jobs involved cleaning – a person’s home and five banks (my husband and I did the banks together – nice job for students because it could be done any time the bank was closed), so by the time I got to my own home, well, who wanted to clean then? But that meant that washing dishes, plus everything else I didn’t get to, took up a big chunk of time on Saturdays. I eventually learned it’s easier (and more sanitary and less disgusting) to clean in smaller doses as I went along, especially once I had children and no longer had big chunks of time to do anything.

I’ve been in homes where housework wasn’t valued – where I would have been afraid to eat or use the bathroom, where bugs crawled all over everything. I’ve been in hotels where there was pink stuff growing in the corners of the shower and the bedding looked questionable. I’ve been in restaurants with a waitress that acted like she could care less about serving and food that was under or over-cooked or unidentifiable. I’ve even gotten food poisoning from restaurant food. It makes such a difference when people care.

I just finished reading and reviewing True Woman 201: Interior Design by Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss yesterday, and one of the chapters I most appreciated dealt with work. Before discussing “keeping the home,” they couched the discussion in the greater spiritual principles that work is good, that we work because we’re made in God’s image and He works, that Jesus did humble physical labor longer than He worked as an itinerant evangelist and teacher. In the course of that chapter the authors quoted a couple of feminists of the past concerning housework:

“Women’s work within the home gives her no autonomy; it is not directly useful to society, it does not open out on the future, it produces nothing” (Simone de Beauvoir).

“Women who adjust as housewives, who grow up wanting to be just a housewife, are in as much danger as the millions who walked to their own death in the concentration camps … they are suffering a slow death of mind and spirit” (Betty Friedan).

Wow – pretty strong stuff. It made me wonder – did they live in a pigsty, then? Or did they hire housekeepers but devalue them as “lesser” specimens of womanhood? Or did they value housework if someone was paid for it but not if women did it in their own homes? Reminds me of the G. K. Chesterton quote, “[Feminism] is mixed up with a muddled idea that women are free when they serve their employers but slaves when they help their husbands.”

I decided to list all the advantages I could think of for housework:

1. Sanitation. I have been in homes where there were roaches crawling over caked-on food on counters and appliances and toilet seats and sinks were black. Bleah.

2. Sense of peacefulness. When things are chaotic in the house, it’s hard to relax. But when everything is in order with my surroundings, my mind and heart feel more orderly.

3. Not being embarrassed if someone comes by unexpectedly, or not having to do a major overhaul before having people over. There may be shoes off by the couch or a newspaper or glass on the end table, but there’s an overall sense of order and cleanliness.

4. Saves time. Staying on top of things is much easier than having to do major clean-ups.

5. Being able to find things rather than having them get lost in the shuffle or buried.

6. Save money. Things last longer when they’re taken care of, plus you avoid purchasing things that you forgot you had.

7. Releases you to be creative in other areas. For some of us its hard to be creative in a mess.

8. Multitasking – with some chores you can listen to music or a podcast or an audiobook while your hands are busy with something else.

9. Almost instant gratification. You can see the dish pile diminishing and the dust disappearing.

10. Sense of accomplishment. I’ve been thinking over this post for a few days, and just this morning while listening to Robinson Crusoe heard this passage, in which he brings supplies into a cave. “At first this was a confused heap of goods, which, as they lay in no order, so they took up all my place; I had no room to turn myself.” Then he tells how he arranged things, made furniture, fixed a place to hang his gun, etc., then “so that, had my cave been to be seen, it looked like a general magazine of all necessary things; and had everything so ready at my hand, that it was a great pleasure to me to see all my goods in such order.”

Of course one can go too far and make everyone feel like they can never relax for fear of getting something dirty or out of place. You want a place where everyone is comfortable, not a museum. I knew of one women who did all sorts of things around the house that she thought a good wife was supposed to do only to find that those things didn’t really matter to her husband: he’d rather be greeted by an attentive, peaceful wife than neglected by one who was in a constant frenzy over the house. It’s good to confer together over these things. Some people don’t mind a little dust as long as clutter is picked up. We all have things that “bug” us or make the room feel unclean, but then have other things we can live with, at least for a while.

And we don’t have to go all Disney princess, singing “Whistle While You Work” while bluebirds tie bows in our hair.

And there are seasons and moments of life when housework takes a back seat (when a young child is in the house, when there is a “teachable moment” with a child or an opportunity to sit and play with him for a moment, when a husband wants you to do something or go somewhere with him and leave the dishes for now, when a friend needs a listening ear, when you’re tired, etc.).

And it is ok to pay someone to clean your house: it’s not a sin if you don’t do it all yourself. Even the Proverbs 31 lady had help. I’ve known elderly or working women to hire household help  for various tasks or people to hire help for special occasions. By the way, if you’re a mom, it’s perfectly ok and even a good thing to have your children do household tasks. It’s good for them to learn to pitch in, to learn the value of work, to value keeping things clean and orderly, to train in that way for their own homes and jobs. We always had the attitude that kids doing work wasn’t just “helping Mom,” but rather instilling in them that we all pull together as a family to get things done (more on children and chores here).

But the point is that housework is valuable and does provide meaningful service, for ourselves, for our families, for guests.

Of course,  the feminists quoted probably didn’t have any problem with a woman swishing a broom occasionally: what they particularly disliked was the idea of a woman being a full-time homemaker. I’m glad for many of the choices available to women today, but one of them is being a fill-time homemaker (I realize that not everyone who wants to be at home can be). I prefer the term homemaker to housewife, because I am not married to my house: I am creating a home. In a sense every woman is a homemaker, because every woman has a home, whether she’s single or married, has children or does not, works outside the home or does not. And as someone who has been a homemaker for 36 years, full-time for 32, I can tell you it isn’t a mind-numbing, useless existence. It can be as creative as you make it.

Some years ago I wrote Encouragement for Homemakers, and want to pull a couple of quotes from there:

Homemaking—being a full-time wife and mother—is not a destructive drought of usefulness but an overflowing oasis of opportunity; it is not a dreary cell to contain one’s talents and skills but a brilliant catalyst to channel creativity and energies into meaningful work; it is not a rope for binding one’s productivity in the marketplace, but reins for guiding one’s posterity in the home; it is not oppressive restraint of intellectual prowess for the community, but a release of wise instruction to your own household; it is not the bitter assignment of inferiority to your person, but the bright assurance of the ingenuity of God’s plan for the complementarity of the sexes, especially as worked out in God’s plan for marriage; it is neither limitation of gifts available nor stinginess in distributing the benefits of those gifts, but rather the multiplication of a mother’s legacy to the generations to come and the generous bestowal of all God meant a mother to give to those He entrusted to her care.”
~Dorothy Patterson

I long to accomplish great and noble tasks, but it is my chief duty and joy to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble.
~Helen Keller

What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow.
~ Martin Luther

And I’ll add this one just discovered in the True Woman book:

“The reason we give priority to managing household responsibilities is not that vacuuming, dusting, or cooking are intrinsically valuable or satisfying tasks. It’s that we want to create a peaceful, orderly, welcoming environment conducive to nurturing and growing disciples for the kingdom of God” (p. 154).

So take heart as you go through your home bringing order out of chaos: your work is both valuable and meaningful. And perhaps be inspired by this:

The Blue Bowl

All day long I did the little things,
The little things that do not show;
I brought the kindling for the fire,
I set the candles in a row,
I filled a bowl with marigolds—
The shallow bowl you love the best—
And made the house a pleasant place
Where weariness may take its rest.

The hours sped on, my eager feet
Could not keep pace with my desire.
So much to do! So little time!
I could not let my body tire.
Yet when the coming of the night
Blotted the garden from my sight,
And on the narrow graveled walks
Between the guarding flower stalks
I heard your step, I was not through
With services I meant for you.

You came into the quiet room
That glowed enchanted with the bloom
Of yellow flame. I saw your face;
Illumined by the firelit space,
Slowly grow still and comforted—
“It’s good to be at home,” you said.

~ Blanch Bane Kuder

See also:

Encouragement for Homemakers, which, incidentally, contains my favorite ever comment from my husband.
Happy Housewife Day!
I confess: I don’t really like to cook.
A Real Home.
Wanting things to be “perfect.”
A Homemaking Meme.
Another homemaking meme.
A prayer for home.
Two views of housework.
Meditations for daily tasks.
Thy list be done.
The Value of Homemakers.

(Sharing With Inspire Me Monday)

A new gadget!

One evening while my husband perused some of the “deal of the day” sites he follows while I was making dinner, he asked me if I wanted a new sewing machine.

No, I replied. My little faithful, uncomplicated Kenmore had served me well for 30+ years now, and I figured I’d just keep using it until it gave out. Besides, those newfangled computerized ones would probably require a significant learning curve to become comfortable with, whereas I knew my Kenmore so well I could operate it almost without thinking.

But he began to read some of the features of the one on sale, and the more he read, the more attractive it sounded. And, I began to reason, when my machine does give out, there might not be a deal like this readily available. So I said, “Sure, if you want to get it for me.” 🙂 So he did.

It arrived last Saturday, and thankfully he was here to help me get it out of the box and figure out some of the diagrams to get started with it.

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This photograph with the light on isn’t as good, but you can see the screen display:

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Some of the basics like threading it and the bobbin were a little hard to figure out: some of the specialty stitches were easy, and I had fun playing with those a bit.

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It will take a while to feel “at home” with it, but that should come with use. It’s supposed to have an automatic needle threader which I haven’t figure out yet but which should come in really handy: I keep a little magnifying glass in the desk drawer for help with threading now. One feature I really like is that there is a little push button on the side that opens a little drawer for all the extra presser feet, bobbins, etc., thus freeing up crowded drawer space.

And, as an added bonus, the sewing machine cover I made for my old sewing machine last year came out a bit too big for it, but – you guessed it, it fits this one nicely. It’s a bit snug, but it still covers it.

As I moved my old sewing machine and began gathering all its attachments, I felt like I should give it a hug for all its good work through the years and pat it and tell it what a good job it has done. But when I feel sentimental about appliances, this video comes to mind:

So even though I am a little intimidated at figuring out things with the new machine, I am looking forward to it as well, and I am thankful for my husband’s love and generosity.

Finished Projects!

Some of you who have been here for a while may remember some years ago my showing this fabric that I had gotten for curtains and asking advice about them.

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I am ashamed to say how many years that has been, but it was before we moved to this house {blush}. Thankfully the family room here had the same number of windows similarly sized.

My biggest holdup in any kind of project is deciding what to do. My inspiration for using toile and check came from seeing the combination at a friend’s house years ago. I knew I wanted a valance that used both but had trouble deciding how to do it: toile on top, check on top, which pattern to use, trim or not, etc. After thinking about it every which way I possibly could, I finally decided on what I was inclined to do in the first place.

First I’ll show you the valances that were here when we moved in:

BEFORE: Old Valance

BEFORE: Old Valance

BEFORE: Old valance

BEFORE: Old valance

I apologize for the lighting in all of these. It was an overcast day, and even with all the lights on I couldn’t get the lighting right, then my phone camera kept wanting to focus on the window. These valances were all right – in fact, up close they had a lot of nice detail. But it was lost there on the window, and the beige valance on beige walls was pretty blah.

So this is what I came up with for the new valances:

AFTER: New valance

AFTER: New valance

AFTER: New valance

AFTER: New valance

IMG_0008(1)Eventually I want to make curtain panels as well. But I need to make a date with my husband to hang the rods for that. 🙂 This was a good stropping place for now.

I used this McCall pattern. I gave some thought to just adding a strip of the toile to the bottom of the check fabric rather than making the double valance that was called for, and in some ways I wish I had: even though these were attached, it was like making four valances rather than two. I did lengthen them a couple of inches from what the pattern specified.

When my dear husband was helping me hang them, he asked if I had ever thought about making them professionally. I thought to myself, “Oh, my dear, if you only knew….” I make way too many mistakes to sew professionally. I tend to do the dumbest things when I sew. For instance: the pattern called for a 1/2 inch seem. So instead of placing the fabric to the left of the 5/8″ guide mark on my machine, I placed it to the right, and then thought that seemed like an awfully wide seam allowance that was just going to be cut off. Then I realized my mistake, thankfully before I had gotten too far. There is a pretty major mistake with the lining on one, but since it was the lining and not in front and not obvious, I left it. But I did know what to watch for when I made the second one.

Seam ripper

I won’t bore you with all the flaws, but there are plenty. Thankfully they came out looking relatively well for all that.

At one point I wished I had the buffalo check that’s so popular these days, but since I already had this on hand, I felt like I should use it instead. But then, I told myself, if the buffalo check is trendy now, it might not be a few years from now, and the regular toile and check combo is fairly classic. Yet when I got these done I thought they looked more country-ish, which I am trying to get away from, rather than classic. But I am telling myself that’s just my imagination and they do look classic. 🙂

I also wanted to make a couple of pillows, mainly to tie the room together but also because I have a couple of old ones that are about ready to be retired. I got the idea for this one from here as well as instructions for making an envelope pillow.

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I really liked doing an envelope cover rather than stuffing  a pillow! I went back and forth with whether or not I liked this as much as I thought I would, but it does accomplish its purpose in tying the room together, I think.

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I also made the front and back for another one, based on this one seen on Pinterest (I found the other one originally on Pinterest as well). I was originally going to add lace like that one has, but decided I liked this design:

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I’m trying to decide whether I want to put cording around the edges or not. I’m going to see what Hobby Lobby has and then decide from there. But it shouldn’t take to long to finish up either way.

I love the trim, which I learned is called gimp, and thought it would be the easiest part to deal with, but I found it’s a little hard to keep in place – it kept wanting to pull over while I was sewing. And I did learn not to stretch it while sewing! I did that in a couple of places on one pillow, which made the fabric look a little puckered, but thankfully it evened out with pressing.

There’s one more I’d like to do, as well as the longer curtain panels, but this is a good stopping place for a week or so. My oldest son is coming in this weekend, and a very special grandson is having his first birthday next week, so I need to turn my attention to other pursuits just now. 🙂 With trying to get these done I haven’t been to visit you all like I normally would, and I hope to catch up soon.

Camouflaging Dirt

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Years ago when my youngest was still a baby and we were moving to another state, a house we looked at had all white cabinets, flooring, and appliances in the kitchen. I thought to myself, “This will never work with three boys.” But that is the house we ended up buying, and a funny thing happened. Because everything was white. I noticed streaks and smudges right away and cleaned them up as I noticed them. That kitchen was probably cleaner than any of my kitchens with darker floors and wooden cabinets mainly because I don’t notice dirt and smears against the wood as easily as against white. I was shocked recently to open a wooden cabinet door and notice when the light hit it just right that it was covered in dust that I had been totally unaware of. Sometimes I think I have dusted the wooden end tables or swept the parquet floor thoroughly — until the sunlight comes through the windows at just the right angle, and then I see spots I missed.

We used to have stovetops that had metal (aluminum, I think) removable burner pans that would catch all the gunk and spills, which would then get encrusted and hardened with the heat from cooking. I tried to keep on top of the spills, but eventually I had to do something with the burner pans. When I could find cheap replacements, I’d just buy those and toss the old ones. When the replacements got too expensive, I came across a tip to put the burner pans in a big pan of water with some baking soda, bring it to a boil, and then just let them sit in the hot water for a while. Somehow that did make them easier to clean even the caked-on stuff. But it was tedious. My stovetop now is totally while and doesn’t have removable burner pans, so, because the spills are more obvious, I clean them as I go and rarely have to do a major cleaning there.

Sometimes when we’re looking for furniture, appliances, or flooring, we want something that doesn’t show dirt. I still think that way in some areas. I wouldn’t want a totally black or white car: the black shows up pollen and dust, the white shows up everything else.

But I’ve come to prefer white in a kitchen, partially because it makes the room lighter, brighter, and more open and airy, but also because I like to be able to see and keep on top of the dirty stuff rather than wonder what I am going to discover with a closer look.

One church we were in had flooring in the kitchen/fellowship area that looked dirty all the time. It wasn’t unclean: it was just that the color and pattern made it look grimy. Recently we went looking for flooring for our bathroom, which came with carpeting, which is gross in a bathroom. A lot of the vinyl flooring we looked at had the same feature: a swirly pattern looked to me like smudges, and dots looked like something had spilled that needed to be cleaned up. I guess the designers figured that’s one way to hide dirtiness: camouflage it so it always looks dirty anyway.

And then sometimes we can’t see dirt when our eyesight fails. I was cleaning a windowsill recently and thought I was done until I put on my reading glasses, and then the windowsill didn’t look very clean at all. One of the signs of my mother-in-law’s aging was that she didn’t see things that weren’t clean. She had always been very industrious, but the older she got, the more we found areas that were sticky or covered in dog hair that she would have clean if she had realized, but she just didn’t see it.

I’ve often thought, when I see sunlight showing up the dust I missed, that I should probably dust or sweep at that time of day so I can see better and do a better job in that light. I’ve also thought that it was a good analogy of the need to shine the light of God’s Word on my life. Everything may look okay to me, but my spiritual sight may need adjustment. My human dimness may have camouflaged an unkind thought as justifiable or missed a selfish motive. And I need to compare myself not to my fellow creatures with their own smudges, but to the blazing holiness of the Son of God. Why would we do that when none of us can come close at all, when we look so shabby and dingy in that light? Because that’s the best way to see what needs to be taken care of. And instead of fearing to come to that light, we can have confidence that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9) and we can have assurance that we can “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

One of our sons, when he was very little, used to have a hard time admitting he had done anything wrong. Often we took him to Proverbs 28:13: “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves” (I John 1:8a). As long as we cover, camouflage, excuse, or miss seeing our sins, faults, and flaws, we’re stuck with them. But if we see, acknowledge, confess our sins to the Lord and forsake them, He will cleanse us.

Sometimes when we discover a mess we had missed, we can be discouraged at the work needed to clean it up. Sometimes when I start to clean one area, I notice five others that need work, and it can be discouraging. But spiritually, Jesus has done all the work. He took all of our sin and all of God’s wrath towards it on Himself on the cross. When we believe on Him, our sinfulness is exchanged for His righteousness. Though we still have to battle sin in this life, we can be cleansed, and in heaven we’re given white robes, the Bible says. I sometimes joke that I can’t wear white til I get to heaven because of my propensity to spill or brush against something messy and end up with a spotted garment. What a joy it will be in that day to have sin totally removed so it can’t touch us any more. But what a joy in our day that though our “sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18).

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139: 23-24

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

Around the house

I got a few gift cards for Christmas and enjoyed spending a couple of them earlier this week. One was to Amazon, and I splurged on a couple of books, one of them the annotated Pioneer Girl book, which contains the autobiographical manuscript Laura Ingalls Wilder which was the basis for the Little House books. I don’t usually spend so much on a book, but doing so with a gift card seems justifiable. 🙂 Unfortunately they were out of stock, and I don’t know if I’ll receive it in time to read for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge next month, but I’ll enjoy it whenever it gets here.

The other gift card was for Hobby Lobby. I had a couple of spaces around the house I had been wanting to decorate, so I set off to see what I could find. This is what I came back with:

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Everything was on sale except the XO picture, and I had a 40%off coupon for that. The item to the right is a shadow box. I wasn’t in the market for one, but I really liked it when I saw it. It was half price and the only one of its kind that was in good shape: otherwise I probably would have waited and thought about it for a while. I do have a place I am planning to put it once I decide what to put in it.

The XO picture I bought primarily for the frame – no offense to the artist. 🙂 One day as I was folding clothes in the laundry room, I thought the space over the washer needed something. I don’t want to put a lot of time and money into decorating that particular room, but I want it to look pleasant as I spend so much time in there. Then at the first of the year when I was transferring all the important dates from last year’s calendar to this year’s, I saw a calendar page that would be perfect for that room. Its size wouldn’t fit a conventional frame, so I’ve been looking around for a frame that would work, and this one looked like it would.

It was a little more tedious to take the backing off the frame than I had anticipated, but eventually I got it done. The calendar page had to be cut down a little, but most of it fit:

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The calendar, by the way, is a 2014 one called Living Faith by Joy Hall. Her art is new to me, but I love it and really enjoyed this calendar last year. I’m glad to be able to keep a piece of it out to enjoy year round.

I was originally going to put it on this same wall but further down above the washer. But it just seemed like it would look better down with the other things I had there.

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The Precious Moments cross stitch was done by one of my sisters some years ago and says “Loads of Love.” I confess that’s not how I usually feel about laundry, but it’s a reminder to me. 🙂 The piece underneath is wooden and says, “Everything comes out in the wash.” I got it years ago from a catalog. The framed calendar page says, “Clothe yourselves with kindness,” Colossians 3:12, and is another reminder I frequently need.

I was pleased with how it all turned out.

The smaller square piece in the top photo says “Let Your Faith Be Bigger Than Your Fear.” I put that in an empty spot on top of my desk:

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The flower arrangement was another Hobby Lobby purchase from years ago and has been there with the candle holders (currently without candles) for some time. The little angel was in a dish garden that my mom had sent me way back in college. The little pedestal I got at a thrift store and just put up with the Faith piece yesterday. I’d had it for a while but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it – it just seems to fit there now. I’ll probably put something else on it besides that leafy stem, but I just grabbed what was at hand.

Unfortunately that side of the desk doesn’t match the other…

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…but the utilitarian stuff doesn’t fit into the cabinets and it needs to be nearby.

This little alcove is off the dining area, and this is my main view from where I sit at the table, so I’m happy to spruce it up a little.

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I don’t usually get bunny things, but I do like pink roses, and this was just too cute, not very expensive in the first place, and on sale. I put it on a table that sits just past the front door.

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Everything on this table was a gift except the flower arrangement, which I got at a thrift store, and the little bunny. I started to wait to put the bunny out til Easter – but I like it too much. 🙂

So there you have a peek into my newest decorations. It was a fun time shopping for them and then setting them out. And I still have $12 left on my Hobby Lobby gift card! 🙂