Saturday, May 30, 2009

A sense of what we've lost

Although I haven’t had a chance to go out to New Salem for a few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s different between the 1830’s and now. Sure, all the modern conveniences have been invented now – central air, refrigeration, the internet. But I know in my heart that that is only the surface. There has been a critical shift in the way people live, and the more I think about it the sadder I become.

This critical shift is in community. People used to not only know their neighbors; they relied on them day-in and day-out. I’ve been reading a book that is an autobiography of a woman who came to the frontier of Illinois with her land-surveying husband right after their wedding. It is called A Woman’s Story of Pioneer Illinois, written by Christiana Holmes Tillson. She encountered a land that was wild and untamed. She discusses a lot about how women supported each other, how they taught each other the things they needed to know. She talked about how she was working in the kitchen until only a few hours before her first child was born, as her husband had invited company over. She was down for a few days, but then went right back to work. The only way this was possible was with the support of her good friend who lived on the next homestead over – and she returned the favor a few years later when her friend delivered.

Reading this book, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own modern American life. Many days go by where I only interact with my husband or the families I work for. I live in a building with seven other families, and I only actually know one of them and can recognize three others by sight, but not name. I’ve talked to some of my friends about this – we’re all part of the Facebook generation – about how we’re closer than we’ve ever been in history, and yet farther away at the same time. Our culture has traded quality friendships for quantity acquaintances.

I don’t have a solution to propose; I think awareness is the only step at this point. All the 12-step programs preach that admitting you have a problem is the first part of healing from it. We, as a culture, have a problem. People are drowning in loneliness in the most connected generation ever to walk this planet. Waking up to this fact is the beginning of the process of correction.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Repurposing: Something new from something old

I'm a packrat. If someone offers me something they don't want anymore, I seem to have a genetic compulsion to say "yes." That's how I ended up with a bag of the most hideous old sheets and workshirts I've ever seen. Ever.

Until recently, I've held onto these items, saying, "I'll find a way to use them somehow somewhere," but never wanting to alter their original purpose. When I realized how much junk I had in my tiny apartment, this simply had to change. So! Repurposing projects!

My first repurposing project was to take an old cream colored flowered bedsheet (full size -- we only have a twin and a king) and do something with it. My darling husband bought me some sewing patterns a few months back that I haven't had the chance to work with yet. One was this cute wrap dress that looked very retro to my untrained eyes. So, I set to work transitioning the old sheet into a new dress, which now looks like this:

I had a lot of fun figuring out how to lay the pattern on the sheet to have enough fabric. I also salvaged the narrow green trim from the top of the sheet and relaid it along the dress collar. I didn't do a mock-up for fitting (since I was using free fabric already) and over-all I'm thrilled with the way everything turned out. I just think I'm going to rip out the sleeves and trim the shoulders a little narrower so they sit on my shoulder point instead of down off it.

No one at church even knew it was an old sheet!

Next project: turning a heavy-weight workshirt into a pretty work apron.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New work

I've not been able to visit Blog-World much lately, as I began a new job last Monday. For the next three months, I'm working full-time for a wonderful family I met in my Sunday School class. They have four children -- the youngest two are adopted from China. And as much as Mom desperately wants to be home with them, their new baby Caleb has a cleft palate and Mom's job is the one that offers insurance. So, they asked me to care for the kids in their home over the summer, instead of having to find a daycare or something.

I've already learned so much about how to raise a family and take care of a house with demanding little ones running around. No wonder many moms are tired! This is the perfect opportunity to work on my homemaking and childcare skills before our own family is underway.

I've had a lot of insights I've been jotting in a small notebook; I hope to share them here in the near future. When there is time!

Thursday, May 7, 2009


I just wanted to let you know, that today for lunch I ate a fresh salad that I grew on my porch! I've never had anything tastier! Store-bought spinach and spring-greens simply cannot compare. Yay! My rubber-maid boxes of dirt are working after all!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Saturday Morning Fun

I woke up Saturday morning with a bug to go yard sale shopping. I've never been much of a yard saler, but I was desperately in need of some more pots to put my plants in (it's amazing how big little tiny seeds can grow, I wasn't properly prepared). I also wanted some paintings if I could find them cheap because I live in a white apartment and am so bored of white walls.

So, with coffee in hand, my dear husband humored me by getting up early and setting out to peruse the near-by neighborhoods. It was May 2nd, a beautiful sunny Saturday that defines everything I love about spring. I was certain we'd find a yard sale on every block.

Except, we didn't. I'm not sure if it was the neighborhoods we chose or what, but I didn't find a single yard sale anywhere in town! We drove through several different neighborhoods without any luck. Then, right before we gave up and went home, a little sign caught my eye: "Public Auction Today." Shaune turned to me in excitement and said, "Let's Go!"

We got there a little bit before they started, so we got to wander around and see everything that would be up for sale. An older lady had passed away, and her family was clearing out her house. Some of the family members were around helping set up. I saw so much that I would love to own! So I registered for my number, sent my husband on to his meeting, and waited for the excitement.

The sale was one of the most exciting things I've ever been a part of. I've never been to one before. It was so hard to not stick my number up for every item -- but I guess that's exactly what the auctioner wants. I got some great bargains on the things I needed and then some: $22 got me about 20 flower pots, three paintings, two boxes of cooking and sewing books, a couple of decorative plates, and two little figurines for my mother-in-law's Mother's Day present. I've still only sorted through half of the books but the ones I've already seen are excellent! A Vogue book on fit and alterations, cookbooks from the 50's on how to be hospitiable on a budget (!), even one on inexpensive flower aranging to decorate the house. All my plants have new homes and I have pots left just in case I want more. All for $22...

About half-way through the auction, tho, I was hit by extreme sadness. Someone had spent years gathering all these mementos, books, craft projects, furniture, everything that was laid out for sale. And yet, when she died, it was left behind to be picked up for pennies by strangers. She had a lot of half-started craft projects that no one wanted -- the auctioner threw something like 5 boxes together as a single lot that sold for $3. I felt like crying. This auction made clear for me something I've read before but never internalized:

Matthew 6:19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal."

Luke 12:16-20 "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'
18"Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '
20"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'"

This auction set these verses firmly in my heart. They have become real to me in ways I haven't experienced before. It's not that we shouldn't have things in this life, but we shouldn't put our heart in them. Because, after we die, they could be sold for pennies or even thrown away. Material things have no eternal value whatsoever. So, let me encourage you to:

Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:20)