Thursday, December 14, 2017

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Moonlight and Serenade Edition

From this Side of the Pond

1. 'Hurry less, worry less'...what's your strategy for making that happen this holiday season? How's it going so far?

The biggest secret weapon I have is that (as often happens), I don't know till the last minute what we're doing or how many people or what we'll eat. That may not sound relaxing, but it least it means we don't focus too much on planning things like Christmas dinner; or flip out if plans change.

The other helpful thing is that we now live beside a store. So, aside from when it's closed on the actual holidays, we're pretty much covered for small emergencies.
That's me in the front.
(Illustration from The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel))

2. Do you have a list of to-dos that need accomplishing in order to prepare your home and/or property for the winter season? What are some of the jobs on your list? Are you a do-it-yourselfer or do you hire someone to accomplish these tasks?

You already know what the answer to that one is.
And it's a relief.

3. According to dietitians surveyed, the most popular health foods for 2018 will be -turmeric, sprouted foods (bean sprouts, breads with sprouted grains, etc), veggies in place of grains, dairy free milk, and pulses (lentils, chickpeas, etc).  What's the first thought that ran through your head when you read this list? Of the foods listed which one might you add to your regular diet? Also, can milk really be dairy free? Is it still milk?

The first thought that ran through my head was "that sounds like the big food book, you know which one, that I bought a few years ago at a homeschool conference and resold soon afterwards to someone else." I had friends who loved that book, but it just wasn't my thing.

4. The Pantone Color of the Year for 2018 is Ultra Violet. According to the Pantone site 'Ultra Violet communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking pointing us to the future.' What say you? Do you like the color purple? Did you see the movie or read the book-ha!?  Is purple a color you wear often? Describe for us one purple item in your home without using the word purple.  If you were in charge of such things what color would you select for 2018?
Good book for purple fans

Pantone's descriptions are a bit too mystical for me, but if they scaled back the hyperbole and religious overtones, I'd agree that purple is a nice change from all-things-green. I like the reference to the evening sky.
Moonlight 1915, Tom Thomson
I like purple (but not as much as Mrs. Carillon)

5. Favorite book read this year?

Until recently I would have said Renaissance by Os Guinness, but the sudden year-end out-of-nowhere winner is Soul Keeping by John Ortberg. The runner-up is maybe To Be Where You Are by Jan Karon.

On a practical level, probably Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

6.  Insert your own random thought here.

An interesting perk of our hi-tech age is being able to "stream" music. Recently we've had Andy Williams, Tony Bennett, Roger Whittaker singing German Christmas carols, and Bill Leslie's Mitford Christmas album (which I had never gotten to hear before). I'm hoping Mr. Fixit can find us some Finest Kind (Canadian folkies). Here's one of their songs.

Linked from the Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Morphing ornaments

Even in the same season, certain kinds of decorations can switch around, try on new personalities.

You've seen this jar plus fruit ring plus tray:
You've seen this set of candles and pinecone rings:
And you may even remember this thrifted basket, which has been holding napkins:

Last night I wanted something different on the table. I stole the jar from the fruit ring and the rings from the candles, and put them in the basket. (We have some of those plastic tealights, because they're safe and non-messy.)


Monday, December 11, 2017

Frugal Finds and Fixes: Paisley and Pantry Edition

Recent frugal finds:
A set of three vanilla candles and two fancy rings, half-price at Michael's. They're sitting in a yard-saled pie dish. I liked this set especially because the holiday rings can go away, but the candles can be used anytime.
I also got a frosty-berries pick for half price, and cut it up to put in Mr. Fixit's grandma's goblets. I was looking for some bagged greenery at the thrift store but didn't find any, so new-but-cheap was second best. The most frugal and ecological would be real dried plants, but we have to be careful around allergies.

Mr. Fixit's grandma made the cloth with crocheted trim, about fifty years ago.

A frugal find for Mama Squirrel: this paisley shawl from the thrift store. It can also be worn as a blanket scarf.
 Another frugal find that became a fix: a pair of grey bootcut jeans for a dollar, but they were too long for me, and I think somebody else short wore them first, because the hems were scuffed. I decided to invest a few dollars in getting them hemmed nicely at my favourite local cleaner/fixer shop. (Places like that are disappearing too fast these days.)
I've already posted about the hat, which goes with the shawl, which goes with the jeans (and almost everything else except bright red).

The storage room in our apartment is part tools, part storage, part pantry. The pantry part has been pretty random; things went wherever they fit. Adding Christmas baking ingredients and other holiday things was sending it into overload.

This week I did a KonMari-inspired cleanout, just on the pantry section. I sorted the food and other supplies into large boxes and bins that would fit on the shelves. Because the containers were so random, I covered the fronts of them with flowery giftwrap. It won't last forever, but it's a good-enough fix for now.

This was frugal for more than one reason! Besides using the boxes and paper on hand, getting more organized helps us make better use of our small space, and keeps us from re-buying things we didn't notice we already had.

Plus it makes me happier when I walk in there and see all the colour and flower power.

Christmas Countdown with Charlotte Mason, Week 11 of 12

Two weeks till Christmas!
Here is this week's passage from Charlotte Mason's book Parents and Children:
"...As a child becomes self-regardful in any function of his being, he loses the grace of humility. This is the broad principle; the practical application will need constant watchfulness and constant efforts, especially in holiday seasons, to keep friends and visitors from showing their love for the children in any way that shall tend to develop self-consciousness.

"Humility the Highest Counsel of Perfection––This, of humility, is not only a counsel of perfection, but is, perhaps, the highest counsel of perfection and when we put it to parents, we offer it to those for whom no endeavour is too difficult, no aim too lofty; to those who are doing the most to advance the Kingdom of Christ."
In the spirit of Charlotte Mason:
"A soul without a center has difficulty making a decision." ~~ John Ortberg, Soul Keeping
"The simple, rectified Will, what our Lord calls 'the single eye,' would appear to be the one thing needful for straight living and serviceableness." ~~ Charlotte Mason, Ourselves
How much would you pay for the perfect gift for someone special?

How far would you drive? How long and cold a line would you wait in? What else would you give up to pay for someone's dearest wish?

Here's the bad news: the best gift parents can give children demands all we have to give, and costs all we have. It asks more commitment and courage than nailing a Cabbage Patch Kid in 1983.

Here's the good news: the price is counted in love. And shipping is free.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends... (ESV)

Things to do this week:

Two weeks before Christmas, the 1977 magazine made a last-minute stab at decorations and gifts, before turning things over to food (that's for the last week). But seriously, why? If one found oneself sewing a baseball-glove pajama bag trimmed with baby rickrack this close to Christmas, or building a nativity-scene stable out of pretzel sticks with Snowy White Ornamental Frosting, it would be a clear sign that one had fallen over the edge of sanity. At least the brightly-coloured figures in the nativity-scene photo were Mexican handicrafts and not part of the pretzel deal; I was afraid they would also turn out to be something edible.

Simplicity blogger Courtney Carver recommends making choices by asking if an action or an object creates love. In Jan Karon's Mitford books, Father Tim often begins his daily activities by repeating the prayer "Make me a blessing to someone today." Charlotte Mason warns that we must guard against becoming "self-regardful." (Self-consciousness implies tripping over your own feet, so I think self-regard is a more useful phrase here.) In each case, our focus turns away from ourselves. We worry less about the externals, and what people think of us (so we do become, literally, less self-conscious).

And in that case, if we find ourselves even considering making a pretzel stable two weeks before Christmas, we need to ask why it matters. Do we have a surplus of pretzel sticks and desperately need a stable? Is this going to be a wonderful way to spend an afternoon with a young child who actually would enjoy sticking pretzels together? Will this set a precedent so that we will never be able to get through another Christmas without making a pretzel stable? Would we be better off spending that time outdoors together and just snacking on the pretzels? If the idea of building a stable (or something) carries the right spark, but the pretzels and frosting are too much (especially if someone thinks of adding candy or sprinkles to the stable; Jesus a.k.a Hansel and Gretel?): then maybe something created from natural materials would work better.

Does an activity create love? Is it a blessing to someone? Is it egoistic, or altruistic?

See, now we're cooking.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Quote for the day: Second Sunday of Advent

"The exciting quality of Christmas rests on an ancient and admitted paradox...that the power and centre of the whole universe may be found in some seemingly small matter, that the stars in their courses may move like a moving wheel round the neglected outhouse of an inn...And it is extraordinary to notice how completely this feeling of the paradox of the manger was lost by the brilliant and ingenious theologians, and how completely it was kept in the Christmas carols." ~~ G.K. Chesterton, "The Christmas Ballads," reprinted in The Spirit of Christmas 

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Something to read today (it could change your Decembers forever)

In Defense of Advent, by Greg Wilbur, on the CIRCE blog.

A sample:
"Imagine the difference this type of celebration makes. Instead of endless gatherings, fighting traffic at the mall, retrieving the daily stacks of catalogs from the mail, and the family pressures and stress, these four Sundays and the weeks in between are intended as a quiet and reflective time to examine your heart, make peace with God and your neighbor, seek reconciliation and repentance for sin, and make room for Christ."

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Could you get along without one?

From this Side of the Pond

1. What title would you give this current chapter of your life?

Midlife Reboot.

2. December 6 is National Microwave Oven Day. Who knew? Besides popcorn and coffee reheats, what's the most common thing you microwave? Could you get along without a microwave?

We got along till about ten years ago without a microwave; then we were given one and found it handy for a few things. When we moved this year, we intended to lose both the toaster oven and the microwave (and it conveniently stopped working just before the moving date).When we moved in, we did a lot of stovetop and oven reheating, and it was a bit inconvenient for our small-family small amounts. One day Mr. Fixit noticed that the discount store next door had small microwaves on sale, so we went over and got one.

I don't microwave popcorn or reheat coffee, but I do reheat leftovers and melt chocolate and cheese. Sometimes I make cake or apricot treats or hot fudge sauce in it.

3. If you could insert yourself into any Christmas carol and experience the lyrics in real life, which Christmas carol lyric would you choose and why?

I've always thought it would be nice to be one of those looking for "a stable room lit by a star" in "How Far Is't to Bethlehem?" 

And when I was searching for a link to that, I realized that I answered the same question last year in exactly the same way. Nice to know I'm consistent.

4. Describe the most beautiful drive you've ever taken.

Not mean scenery-wise, or because it was a happy event? 

Some Christmas-week mornings have been a bit of both, say when we were on our way to visit family, and the weather was clear, maybe some snow, and the way there included quiet back roads.

5. What's something on your Christmas list this year? (an actual list or figuratively speaking, either one)

I asked Mr. Fixit for a wristwatch, because the one I have is quite old and the leather band has been replaced several times. Recently we were looking at some family photos, and one of the Squirrelings commented, "oh look, you were wearing that same watch." Yeah. It's time. 

Also a mirror for the bare spot over the cupboard that used to be in the front hall. It could use something, but we have enough pictures already.

6. Insert your own random thought here.

Yesterday I was working at the thrift store, and I overheard someone saying, "People say they go to the thrift store to find something. I don't think it works like that. I think things find you."

Well, they might have a point!

This hat "found me" before I left.the store. It had a couple of decrepit-looking feathers stuck in the band, which I discarded. Otherwise, I like it very much.

In fact, I liked it so much that I pulled off the price tag and wore it home, and then wore it to the pharmacy in the afternoon (on a very windy day, I had to hold onto it) to get a flu shot. A woman stopped me in the parking lot to say "nice hat." Which made me feel better about getting my arm stuck.

Is that random enough for you?

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Quote for the day: Poetry needs the soul

"Self is a stand-alone, do-it-yourself unit, while the soul reminds us we were not made for ourselves. The soul always exists before God. So soul is needed for deep art, poetry, and music...Innately we know that the self is not the soul, even as we do everything we can to preserve it." ~~ John Ortberg, Soul Keeping

From the archives: Christmas chapters

First posted December 2005. (The links have been removed.)

What are your favourite non-Christmas books, adult or childrens', that have good Christmas chapters or scenes in them?

Here are a few that I thought of, beyond the really obvious ones like the first chapter of Little Women, or the Little House books (addition: or The Wind in the Willows):

Almost anything by Jean Little: she practically made it a trademark to end her novels on Christmas (or in one case, on St. Nicholas Day). From Anna is one of our favourites and, I think, one of her best Christmas chapters. (There's an excerpt from the beginning of the book at that link.)

The Middle Moffat, where Rufus gets a letter from Santa saying, "Sorry, all the ponies are at the war."

Five Little Peppers and How They Grew

The Fairy Doll, by Rumer Godden. This book could be called a Christmas book anyway, but it's not all set at Christmas time.

Ballet Shoes, by Noel Streatfeild

The Ark, by Margot Benary-Isbert. This book actually has two good Christmases in it, and I'm not sure which one I like better.

Anne of Green Gables, but also Anne of Windy Poplars, where Anne reluctantly takes her grumpy co-worker home with her for the holidays.

Last but not least: Father Christmas's appearance in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Other ideas?

2017 Additions: The Four-Story Mistake; The Dolls' House, by Rumer Godden (warning that it has sad parts too); Roller Skates, by Ruth Sawyer (ditto). For grownups: several of Jan Karon's Mitford books, including the latest one, To Be Where You Are.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Things to do today (photos)

1. Wash, dry, and fold a small load of laundry. Mr. Fixit says his drawer for socks et al has never looked so good (thank you KonMari).
2. Go out with Mr. Fixit to pick up some meat and perogies at EuroFoods, and do whatever other errands we have to. Tomorrow's errand is a flu shot, but I won't think about that.
3. Wait for a package to arrive. (It did.)
4. Post today's Christmas Countdown.

5. Make dinner with whatever we get at EuroFoods. Just two of us tonight since Lydia has robotics practice.

6. Finish making the Christmas cards I started last week.
7. Search vainly for a bar cookie recipe from a Walmart magazine that I linked to but that has disappeared.

8. Pre-read a couple of books for our church library.
9. Hand-wash the dress I wore to church and to the Steve Bell/Malcolm Guite concert last night, because I am that kind of fussy about that dress. At least now I know how to pronounce Guite. (It rhymes with night.)
10. Re-read a little of Shepherds Abiding, the first Mitford book I ever read, ten years ago, and still a favourite at Christmas.

Christmas Countdown with Charlotte Mason, Week 10 of 12: Streams in the Desert

Three weeks till Christmas!

Here is this week's passage from Charlotte Mason's book Parents and Children:
"So, too, of that other fountain, of  justice, with which every child is born. There, again, the stream may flow forth in either, but not in both, of the channels, the egoistic or the altruistic. The child's demand for justice may be all for himself, or, from the very first, the rights of others may be kept before his eyes.  
"'It's not Fair!'––He may be taught to occupy himself with his own rights and other people's duties, and, if he is, his state of mind is easily discernible by the catchwords often on his lips, 'It's a shame!' 'It's not fair!' or he may, on the other hand, be so filled with the notion of his own duties and other people's rights, that the claims of self slip quietly into the background. This kind cometh forth only by prayer, but it is well to clear our thoughts and know definitely what we desire for our children, because only so can we work intelligently towards the fulfillment of our desire. It is sad to pray, and frustrate the answer by our own action; but this is, alas, too possible."
In the spirit of Charlotte Mason: 
"My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. " ~~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Charlotte Mason concludes this section with a strong warning, particularly about training children in their rights and duties, but applicable to other areas of teaching (academic and beyond), and also to our own inner struggles. It is this: don't say you want something, even claim that you are praying for something, but then sabotage the work of the Holy Spirit..."by what we have done, and what we have left undone."

Now, we are not building robots, or training dogs. Children are individual persons, and are not to be brainwashed, coerced, or tricked into particular behaviours. But we may not just wring our hands (even prayerfully) if there is action that needs to be taken, or enabling that needs to stop.

Don't work against the grain of the brain. Don't pray for hea─║th but continue in poor lifestyle habits. Don't pray for money but waste what you have. And don't say you want children to be loving, or fair, or honest, or diligent, or generous, and then not offer, first, early training in these things as habits; and then guidance in furnishing the conscience, and equipping the Will to choose what is right.

And does this relate to Christmas, or Advent?
"Lest we should think this a hardship, this kind of good begins on a level far above the creatures, for God Himself, as Son, from all eternity renders back to God as Father by filial obedience the being which the Father by paternal love eternally generates in the Son."~~ C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
God's holiness and justice, plus his outpouring of grace and mercy, is fulfilled in the Incarnation.

Things to do this week:

In the 1977 world of Family Circle Christmas Helps, "Three Weeks Till Christmas" didn't expect that you'd have the whole gift thing, um, wrapped up. This week gets only one double spread of photos, but they range from a "quick-to-sew door pull" and an ice-skate punch-needle stocking, to a star made from toilet paper tubes and a candle ring of pinecones and nuts. Actually the candle ring is the nicest thing on the page, and it inspired this:
Don't give me too much "Christmas Helps" credit for that one: the ring of fruit was a gift several years ago, and I just added the glass hurricane jar and put it on the tray I found at the thrift store. We use what we have.

One thing that the magazine seems to time right, though, is the suggestion that you round up and decorate any baking containers or gift boxes that may be needed in the coming weeks. It's also handy to have semi-disposable containers if you are going to potlucks and worry about leaving a favourite food carrier behind or having someone else accidentally pick it up. (Ask me how I know.)

Coffee cans used to be common recycled packaging (and even baking tins); but what we often have more of here are plastic tubs from salad greens and baked goods. But if you're a less-plastic shopper in the first place, you might prefer canning jars.
And here's something to put in the containers. The recipe was originally published in Vegetarian Times.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

First Sunday of Advent

"During the long days before Christmas, he could scarcely wait to put the Babe in the manger, and often made the trek to the silver drawer of the sideboard to peer at the infant resting safely in tbe bowl of a gravy ladle. At a time when his friends had stopped believing in Santa Claus, he was still believing in the powerful reality of the small tableau..." ~~ Jan Karon, Shepherds Abiding

Friday, December 01, 2017

Let's talk about holiday clothes (I am not Red Riding Hood)

Christmas clothes in my olden days
Christmas clothes now
"Ooh, are you going to be Red Riding Hood?" asked the thrift store cashier.

Umm, no...but it's December and this red, buttoned, fringed cape was trying to get my attention all during my volunteer shift. Hello, see me hanging over here? I'd look good with grey clothes, you know? I'm very festive! But warm too!

So when I was done sorting books, I tried on the cape, and bought it along with a navy scarf (photo) and a Frederick Buechner book.
You can always wrap a cape instead of buttoning it.

It will go with pretty much all my skirts and pants, and a couple of dresses, since they're mostly medium to dark grey (plus blue jeans). I won't bother with photos, because all you'd really see is the cape.

What else do I have to wear to church, to a concert, or to a not-too-fancy dinner out? (We are not anticipating "cocktail parties" or anything like that.)
Revolve Dress from Encircled, with a scarf and the heels I thrifted last week
The dress becomes a top to go with the maxi skirt from the thrift store. I would add some beads to this.
And I could add a grey poncho on top of that. Or make it grey dress pants or cords insead of the skirt.
The wine-coloured maxi skirt again, dressed down a little with a pullover and beads

Well, that was fun! And better than "The up-dated Peasant Look [that] features shape-keeping bonded acrylics." (Ghosts of Christmas past, for sure.)

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Let's talk some more: how I ended up with fewer but better clothes, and had to re-do the page

I had fun with Project 333 this fall, in spite of the fact that I broke all the rules, kept finding new things all season at the thrift store (volunteering is bad for that), pulled out half my summer clothes again in a burst of KonMari, and figured I was finished with tiny wardrobes since I was obviously not very good at sticking to minimalism. The fall/winter page here was also a mess since I kept crossing things out and adding other things.

So I changed my mind and added a just-winter page. The clothes aren't new; but the list is cleaned up and easier to read. Strangely enough, I don't have many more items on it than most respectable "tiny wardrobes."  It may not look like anybody else's version of what people "should" have, but it's working for me.

I don't know how most other people go about "thrifting" wardrobes, but here's what I do. Take what you can use.

I've seen articles online talking about which things you should snap up at thrift stores, and which ones are not usually worth your time. I'd say, make up your own list based on your experiences. I've read that it's impossible to buy used pants (because of fitting issues), and that t-shirts and sweaters are usually worn beyond bothering. But I take a pretty standard (although petite) pants size, and if I see the magic number on a label, it usually fits. As for tops and sweaters...well, you have to look past the poor ones to find something you do like. So figure out your own must-visit categories, those you'll look at only if you have time, and those that are a no-go for you. My quick-looks are the bargain rack, for obvious reasons; shoes, because although I rarely find any that fit, the odd exceptions make a regular look worthwhile; and dresses, because I like them and they're often more interesting than the tops and pants. If I have time, I look at the accessories. Anything else just depends on what I don't have much of; maybe I really need pants, a new purse, or whatever. Is there anything I wouldn't look for at all? I rarely look at athletic clothes, yoga pants and things like that. I also don't spend time looking at very fancy dresses. Jewelry was another section I used to skip, but this fall I've started looking at necklaces again.

The point is, your must-try list will be different from mine. It depends on what you love, what you do, and what you need. And one other "what": what you would like to try, or change. Maybe you have never ever worn jeans, or dresses, or high heels, or anything bright red, and it's just time. Maybe your secret wish is to be Rhoda Morgenstern. Thrift stores are the perfect place to try out new things.

Watch for colours you like but which may be hard to find in the average mall store. One idea I've seen online, but haven't tried, is to buy a too-big t-shirt in an interesting colour, cut the body away from the neck and sleeves, and wear the resulting big loop as an infinity scarf.

The last bit of advice is an obvious one, but...thrift stores vary. Donors, merchandise, and prices vary. I used to visit one store that always had great books, but horrible clothes, because the donors were mostly frugal older people who wore their clothes to shreds. Some stores sort things more carefully than others do. Some places smell better than others. If your only thrifting experiences have been bad ones, remember that better things may be hiding in another neighbourhood, or the next town.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Let's talk minimalism theories (and a bit of clothes stuff)

How to Get Dressed, a book by a show business costumer, says that you should hang every possible piece of your clothing, to keep everything visible. You can even pin small things to muslin-covered hangers.

Japanese organizing expert Marie Kondo's advice is to fold almost everything. No muslin-covered hangers, but you can decorate the few hangers you do use with old hair ties and keychains.

Project 333 and similar capsule wardrobe plans tell you to keep only a limited number of items out for use at one time, and no shopping is allowed during the three-month period except right near the end when you're thinking about the next season. This is supposed to make your getting-dressed decisions easier (here's my hat and my scarf, not plural), and may help you to think less about appearances and more about big ideas. A tiny wardrobe can also be a source of more-with-less creativity; or an opportunity for absolute uniformity (t-shirts and jeans). (One thought I have is that the three-month experiment, like a Whole 30 month, may be most effective if you do it only once or twice or occasionally, and follow the rules exactly, rather than trying to follow it longterm but haphazardly.)

On the other side, Marie Kondo recommends doing a major closet purge once, but then keeping most of the joy-sparking remainder available to wear year-round...because clothes, like Toy Story characters, don't like "going in the box." The final amount is up to you, your needs, and your drawer space. One blogger suggested that this approach is perhaps more honest than storing non-capsule clothes in boxes, because you are not just delaying a decision on what to do with them.

Note that this hasn't addressed issues such as fast fashion, polluted rivers, overseas labour, poverty, and shopping addiction. And we haven't even gotten to the rest of the house, the dishes, books, vacuum cleaners, and guinea pig bedding.

So what's a confused home organizer to do?

Michael Pollan's famous food advice is “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” It's a principle that can be translated into practice. It also opens up discussion. What is "food?" How much is too much? What is "mostly?" What kinds of plants? Where should they come from? But you start with the principle.

So here's an adapted version of Pollan's motto: "Wear clothes. Not too many. Mostly low-impact."

How you hang or fold them is up to you.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Christmas Countdown with Charlotte Mason, Week 9 of 12: Love is a light that rises in the darkness

4 weeks till Christmas!

Here is this week's passage from Charlotte Mason's book Parents and Children. It's one very packed paragraph, which I've broken up for readability.
"The Altruistic or Egoistic Direction––This [previously discussed idea], of the sensations, is only one example of the altruistic [concerned for the welfare of others] or egoistic direction which the various operations of a child's complex nature may receive. 
His affections, again, are capable of receiving a subjective [self-focused] or objective [other-focused] direction, according to the suggestions which reach him from without.
Every child comes into the world richly endowed with a well of love, a fountain of justice [justice will be discussed next]; but whether the stream of love shall flow to the right or the left, whether it shall be egoistic or altruistic, depends on the child's earliest training. 
A child who is taught from the first the delights of giving and sharing, of loving and bearing, will always spend himself freely on others, will love and serve, seeking for nothing again; 
but the child who recognises that he is the object of constant attention, consideration, love and service, becomes self-regardful, self-seeking, selfish, almost without his fault, 
so strongly is he influenced by the direction his thoughts receive from those about him." 
In the spirit of Charlotte Mason:

Miss Mason's passage can be used, of course, as advice on the training of children.
"When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. It was true, too...She never remembered seeing familiarly anything but the dark faces of her Ayah and the other native servants, and as they always obeyed her and gave her her own way in everything, because the Mem Sahib would be angry if she was disturbed by her crying, by the time she was six years old she was as tyrannical and selfish a little pig as ever lived." ~~ Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
But remember that she began the chapter as a lesson also to the hearts of adults. We take inspiration from the lives and words of others, real and fictional. Yesterday our pastor preached on Paul's letter to the Philippians:
"2:25 Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants...

"2:28 I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful." (KJV)
How beautiful to be called someone's "companion in labour" and "fellowsoldier!" When we turn love outward, we also share in others' joy. How fortunate children are who grow up knowing not only that they're loved, but that they can love. But like Mary Lennox, starting badly does not mean we are doomed to practice tyranny and selfishness for the rest of our lives. Growth can come a little at a time.
"...if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday." (Isaiah 58:10, ESV)
Things to do this week:

Even if you prefer a slow start to Christmas planning, it seems legitimate now to go buy candy canes, pull out the old CDs, or do whatever you do at the beginning of December. Church concerts are happening; a couple of cards show up in the mail; Advent devotionals and Jesse Trees begin.

In the 1977 world of Family Circle Christmas Helps, "4 Weeks Till Christmas" was a week to be painting cookie jars, screen-printing cushions, turning Styrofoam cones into the Three Kings, and baking salt dough into "whimsical angels." Obviously the problem of trying to keep up with Pinteresty over-expectations is not a new one.

Here are a few less complicated ideas. Make a pot of potato or split pea or vegetable soup (a stone is optional), and invite someone to share it with you. Make holiday origami or cards from upcycled paper; or buy some beautiful new paper or cardstock, and use it with imagination and love. Drink some tea that smells interesting and seasonal. Work on a holiday letter, if that's your thing. Spend time with someone who's not having such a good time. Contribute in whatever way makes sense to a homeless shelter, sock or coat drive, or other project that keeps people warm and fed.