My Word! It’s 2017

fordfocus

No, this is not my new car. But Focus is a well-known member of the Ford Motor brand.

Drivers know that if they point their steering wheel in the right direction, four wheels will turn and the car will head toward a specific destination.

 

Announcing My Word for 2017: Focus

Focus is a Latinate word, which I don’t much like the sound of. It doesn’t have a pretty sound, like say, filigree or dulcé. But it does the job of describing my intention to complete my memoir writing this year.

Dictionary.com defines Focus – a central point, as of attraction, attention or activity; a target or point of convergence

In a way, “focus” complements last year’s choice, Wholehearted, a word which suggests passion and energy, all of which help fuel focus and concentration.

joyousnewyear

 

I am no longer young, but this lovely little girl is, pictured in one of Grandma Longenecker’s antique postcards (1912). Her body pulses with life and energy, just like this new year, my tabula rasa – a blank slate on which to write a fresh new story.

Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health even as thy soul prospereth.   III John: 2

 

Authorized by Act of Congress of May 19, 1898
The Postcard: Authorized by an Act of Congress of May 19, 1898

 

 

My Word Gift to YOU

Entelechy

I discovered this word on Rebecca White Body’s fine blog last year. Here’s what she says:

I recently learned the word “entelechy” from reading The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd. As I understand it, it’s the force that drives things to become what they were meant to be, the spirit that makes the acorn into the oak–or, more relevantly to my case, a tiny handful of seeds into a welter of burdock.

May you be all you can be in the new year, my friend!


You are the beating heart of this blog, responding as you do by reading and commenting here. For this I am deeply grateful – thank you!

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Are You Sensible? The Power of Touch, the Magic of Music

Did you know that touching zaps your immune system with positive energy? Similarly, your brain goes into party mode when you hear and/or play music – so say the researchers.

In this cropped photo, my sister Jan’s hand touches her Aunt Ruthie’s, who in turn is feeling the fake fur of a toy, who she may imagine to be her dog Fritzie.

touchjanruthiepet

 

Touch is Powerful . . .

Dr. Dolores Krieger, professor of nursing at New York University, conducted numerous studies on the power of human touch. She discovered “that both the ‘toucher’ and the ‘touchee’ experience great physiological benefit from human contact. It works like this:

Red blood cells carry hemoglobin, a substance that transports oxygen to body tissue. And Dr. Krieger found that when one person lays hands on another, the hemoglobin levels in the blood stream of both people increase. And as they rise, body tissue receives increased oxygen, which invigorates you physically and can aid in the healing process. What you’re seeing is the literal power of love in action. Loving is good for you” There’s nothing as rewarding, satisfying, or encouraging as loving others through your words and actions.

Quoted in James Merritt, How to Impact and Influence Others

 

Touch is Powerful and so is Music!

 In a TED/Ed lesson, Anita Collins reports that listening to music engages multiple areas of one’s brain, but playing an instrument is “more like a full-body brain workout.”

She says if listening to music produces a party in the brain, picking up an instrument and playing it amounts to fireworks, a real jubilee!

What is it about producing music that totally lights up the brain? Collins mentions the physical activity of using fine motor skills (plucking a harp, blowing a trumpet) combined with the linguistic and mathematical skills in other brain areas, strengthens the connection between right and left hemispheres.

She even makes a connection between musicians and good search engines, an analogy she further explains in this 4+ minute YouTube presentation:

 

Music is Touching

Babies, newly minted from nature, love lullabies and nursery tunes. Likewise, music soothes the elderly and those of any age at the point of death. Haven’t you heard that hearing is the last sense to go?

My sister Jean, brother Mark, Mother’s pastor and wife sang my mother into glory with old gospel songs. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it in time to surround my mother’s bed with harmony.

Groups like Songs for the Journey, non-denominational and volunteer, provide a benevolent service to loved ones and patients alike as they make the transition from this life to whatever lies beyond. Quoting from their website, “Our live music ministries provide comfort and guidance to those who are near death, as well as to those who love them.”

 


 

Light up my brain with your comments please!

Thank you for checking in with thoughts on the power of touch or the value of music. What about your pets? How has touching furry friends benefitted you?

 

Something Silly

musicianwashedup1965

 

 

Are You a With-It?

For years, my young son Joel thought I had an eye on the back of my head. Why? I told him so.

See!

Google Image
Google Image: “Four-eyed Monitor”

To keep this mischief-making, dangerous pranking boy surviving beyond childhood, I kept alive the delusion of a third eye until he grew old enough to catch on to my trick. “God gave you a smart Mommy,” I declared. “I have to be ‘with it.’ Otherwise, you’d be dead!” And I meant every word.

 

What does “With It” Mean?

Malcolm Gladwell in “Most Likely to Succeed” from The New Yorker (Dec. 15, 2008) discusses the value of “withitness” in several fields: sports, education, and business. About teaching in particular, he notes: Educational researcher Jacob Kounin, used the term “withitness” to define that hard-to-pin-down quality of intuition and smarts which helps one sense the behaviors, intentions, and motivations of those around her/him and act accordingly.

Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker staff writer
Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker staff writer

“Test scores, graduate degrees, and certifications—as much as they appear related to teaching prowess—turn out to be about as useful in predicting success as having a quarterback throw footballs into a bunch of garbage cans.”

Perhaps no profession has taken the implications of the quarterback problem more seriously than the financial-advice field, and the experience of financial advisers is a useful guide to what could happen in teaching as well. There are no formal qualifications for entering the field except a college degree. Financial-services firms don’t look for only the best students, or require graduate degrees or specify a list of prerequisites. No one knows beforehand what makes a high-performing financial adviser different from a low-performing one, so the field throws the door wide open.

 

Our Experience

In the last six months we’ve had the opportunity to rub shoulders with a few bankers, realtors, and multiple tradespeople who did home repairs or renovation during our move.

Here in a nutshell:

The Good

Mr. Painter: His eyes surveyed the kitchen walls as he spoke, “I can do this in two hours and include your paint in the price. I’ll even leave some paint for touch-ups.”  He fulfilled his promises. We were pleased.

Ms. Realtor: “I’ll call you in two hours with an update.” She did and we felt confident.

 The Bad

Mrs. Banker: “I’ll be right on it.” She wasn’t though, and we spent days and weeks feeling frustrated. Later, however, we found she was covering for the ineptitude of support people in the business.

Mr. Realtor: “Look at my credentials! I have a 5-Star rating . . . yadayadayada . . . !

However, credentials don’t always translate into performance. We frequently had to prompt him to act in our favor. Why can’t he be “with-it”? we wondered.

withitnotcartoon

 

The Best

We had lunch recently at Mimi’s restaurant. Our server Kristie performed perfectly without hovering. Before we left, she boxed up an un-eaten blueberry muffin and left-over dinner rolls in separate containers. Without prompting, she labeled each box.

withitmimicafebox

Item + Date + merci on the lid . . . certainly appropriate in a French restaurant á la New Orleans style. This server was definitely a “with it” woman!

 

* Ruth Garber Rohrer, a 93-year-old subscriber to The Mennonite magazine, read my September 2016 article in tribute to my Grandma Fannie Longenecker printed in this post.

Then I found Ruth’s editorial comment in the October issue.

Letters to the Editor, The Mennonite Magazine, October 2016, page 5
Letters to the Editor, The Mennonite Magazine, October 2016, page 5

Serendipitously,  I had discovered a link to my Grandma through one of her pupils in Sunday School at Bossler Mennonite Church, one I never knew existed. Ruth Garber Rohrer also has a presence on Facebook and socializes in the digital world.

ruthgrohrerfbscreenshot-copy

Ruth is “with it” indeed!

 

How I Define “With It”

* Keen perception through the senses: Seeing, hearing, “reading” a situation beyond mere facts.

* Ability to evaluate situations and/or scan people’s expressions and connect with them personally in a significant way.

* Ability to follow-through when action is needed.


 

What is your definition of “With It”? What qualities would you add to the list?

Did examples from your own life pop into your mind as you read this post. Here’s where to reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly or  – the best!

Aunt Ruthie: Birthdays to Remember

The Longeneckers think birthdays ending in 5 or 0 are special. At a Longenecker family gathering in Florida in 2003, we celebrated the birthday of my brother Mark, who turned the big 5-0.

Brother Mark's 50th Birthday 2003
Brother Mark’s 50th Birthday 2003   (Tim Kulp, spouse of grand niece in background)

And also of my Aunt Ruthie who celebrated her 85th birthday at our house at the same time.

Aunt Ruthie Longenecker's 85th Birthday, 2003
Aunt Ruthie Longenecker’s 85th Birthday, 2003

This month on October 4th, Ruthie reached her 98th birthday. That called for two celebrations: one among residents of the home where she receives nursing care and the other with her family at the same facility.

 

What she said at the first celebration:

It came suddenly and it left the same way . . .

 

What happened at the second:

The preliminaries: Tao from Viet Nam, one whom Aunt Ruthie sheltered as a young woman, beautifies the table with an autumn bouquet. Her children think of Ruthie as their grandmother.

taoflowerbouquet

Then –  family meal with dessert . . .

No 5’s or 0’s appeared on the birthday cake in front of her, but there was a huge number 9 in the calculation – not 98 candles, but close!

marianruthie98

She had her drowsy moments during the party, but slowly awakening once, she looked around the table and observed, “It can’t be denied that women outnumber the men here.”

birthdaygroup

My sisters Janice and Jean, two grandnieces, and a nephew

She didn’t have enough wind to blow out the two candles at first. Neither did I. We all sent her good wishes after 4-5 puffs, extinguishing the two flames.

blowoutcandles

 

Special Report: Ruthie Reaction

I promised to give you a postscript to my post Aunt Ruthie Longenecker: Her Life in Pictures.

Earlier in the week, Ruthie with her perky pony tail leaned in, looked intently at my computer screen with eyes wide open.

ruthieperkyponytail

When we came to the vintage photo of the 1930s family reunion, she began identifying a few relatives she remembered – her aunts, uncles, her father, her mother (“My, she was thinner then, if you know what I mean,” she said with a wry smile, viewing her mother.) Her left hand moved steadily if quavery across the family photo – speaking names of relatives long dead: “Grandma Martin, Grandpa Sam, Uncle Frank, Uncle Joe, Mattie, Bertha, oh, and my brother Ray.” Long pauses often punctuated the name call.

I was thrilled to observe the foggy memory mists lifting and blowing away for a few precious minutes . . .

Remember my promise on the October 5 post? I did show her the post of her life in pictures, including your comments.

They made her smile, smile real big!

ruthiereaction

“Thank you,” she said.

Madeleine L’Engle’s birthday sentiment:

The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.


Given a choice, what age would you choose among the ages you’ve been?

Heart on Fire: Guess Who’s Voted for President!

Outrageous.

Unbelievable.

True.

These are the words author/researcher Ann Malaspina uses to describe the legal practice of denying women the right to vote in 1872. Even though women could own property, pay taxes, hold a job, and raise children they could not participate in elections.

When Susan B. Anthony challenged this practice, she also used three profound words to state her intent: “Failure is impossible.”

In a juvenile book with gorgeous illustrations by Steve James, Malaspina details the amazing life of the founder of the women’s voting rights, Susan B. Anthony:

anthonycover

* Because of a new law, the 14th Amendment to the constitution, all persons born in the United States have the same right as citizens. She told the men at the registration table she is a person and citizen. Therefore, she should have the right to vote.

* After arguments with inspectors, she finally registered to vote.

* On Election Day, November 5, 1872, Anthony raced to the polls and cast her vote at seven a.m. She had voted for a president!

Illustration: Steve James
Illustration: Steve James

But trouble was brewing . . .

* On November 18, 1872, a deputy federal marshal stepped into her parlor intending to arrest her. She demanded that she be arrested properly, but he wouldn’t handcuff a lady.

* In January 1873, Miss Anthony was ordered to pay one thousand dollars or go to jail until her trial.

* She refused to pay. She didn’t want to give the court a dime.

* As the trial grew closer, she argued her case all over the country: Washington, D. C., Philadelphia, Chicago. She visited Kansas, Oregon, and California.

* At the trial, the judge pulled a paper from his pocket: “The fourteenth Amendment gives no right to a woman to vote,” he argued.

*But she persisted.  The next day, the judge allowed her a final word. She rose to her feet and delivered these words with a punch:

“You have trampled under foot every vital principle of our government. My natural rights, my civil rights, my political rights, my judicial rights, are all alike ignored.”

* The judge banged his gavel and ordered Miss Anthony to pay one hundred dollars plus court costs.

Illustration: Steve James
Illustration: Steve James

* Finally, as a person and as a citizen, she told the judge, “May it please Your Honor, ”I will never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty.”

And Susan B. Anthony never did.


At her 86th birthday celebration in 1906 in Washington, D. C. Anthony remained determined to secure women’s right to vote. “Failure is impossible,” she declared.

A new generation pushed the movement forward and finally Congress passed The Nineteenth Amendment on June 4, 1919. “That November, twenty-six million women cast their vote for president.”

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

 


Brief Biography:

Born February 1820 to a Quaker family where women were considered relatively “equal to men,” Susan B. Anthony left her stamp on history.

Courtesy of National Women's History Museum stamp exhibit
Courtesy of National Women’s History Museum stamp exhibit

 

Also, her image is imprinted on a dollar minted from 1979 – 1981.

An energetic, self-disciplined teacher, she was refused permission to speak at a teachers’ convention and at a temperance convention, prompting her to focus on women’s rights. Early on, social injustice galvanized her to action.

In 1890, she led the National Women’s Suffrage Movement.

Determined and focused, she traveled far and wide to champion voting rights for women: Kansas, Louisiana, Georgia and as far west as Oregon and California.

Called “The Napoleon of the woman’s rights movement,” she moved to Washington every winter to lobby Congress. Later, Ms. Anthony rallied for international efforts for women. Even Queen Victoria asked to meet her.

She died in 1906, regrettably fourteen years before women were officially given the right to vote, 1920.


I hope you will exercise your right to vote this November election. It’s a privilege we dare not take for granted.

If you live in another country that extends voting rights, you can exercise this right as well.

* * *

Bonus: Remember Geena Davis from “Thelma and Louise”? She is letting her voice be heard in another arena. Check here to find out more.geenadavisinstitute

 

Your thoughts and opinions are worth more than the 3-cent postage stamp pictured here. Or the dollar on which her image appeared.

Thanks for sharing in this column.


 

Coming next: Aunt Ruthie Longenecker, Birthdays to Remember

Aunt Ruthie Longenecker: Her Life in Pictures

Yesterday, Tuesday, October 4, my Aunt Ruthie celebrated her 98th birthday. Born in 1918, she is a towering figure in my life and, and along with Mother and Grandma Longenecker, my strongest mentor. And she has been mother/teacher to many.

* * *

ruthage3

See the determination in that little girl’s face!

Her mother, my grandma Fannie Longenecker, replying to my sister Janice’s questions for a sociology-class interview assignment, mentioned that “Ruthie was industrious, a busy-body, a tomboy who would take risks.”


Education

The blurb in her Elizabethtown High School yearbook photo acknowledged her brilliant mind. (She skipped two elementary grades.) The description below also foretold her teaching career and hinted at the math skills she used in her long career as tax collector for West Donegal (PA) Township. She was so young when she began college at age 16, she required a chaperone.

ruthie-l_hs-yearbook_layer_3x2-copy

Ruthie attended business school near Elizabethtown and earned a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Mennonite College in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She earned a master’s degree in education from Temple University in Philadelphia.

Teaching Career

Country children in rural Lancaster County usually did not attend kindergarten. Aunt Ruthie created kindergarten for me as a 5-year-old at Cherry Hill School, close to Milton Grove, PA. I remember bouncing up and down over hills and dales riding in the back seat of her brown Hudson on the way to Cherry Hill. Two or three days a week I learned the alphabet and numbers sitting along side first graders. In the one-room classroom with eight grades, I loved singing: “Good morning merry sunshine, how did you wake so soon? You scared away the little stars and shined away the moon.”

ruthieschoolphoto1940s-copy

Hundreds of students remember Miss Longenecker at the age pictured below at Rheems Elementary School where she taught sixth grade and served as principal. Earlier in her career there, the school board (probably all male) refused to acknowledge her true function as principal and condescendingly referred to her as “head teacher.”

1975-ruthie-schoolphoto-3a_small-copy

It galls me even now to disclose this awful truth, and so I ask:

What title goes to the person (man or woman) who approves the curriculum, supervises textbook orders and presides over faculty meetings, responding to parental complains. It’s the PRINCIPAL I tell you!

 


Host to Refugees and Immigrants

This 1979 photo below shows Grandma Longenecker, Aunt Ruthie and Phuong Le, a refugee from Vietnam, a young girl they welcomed into their home as a daughter. Phuong was the first among dozens who sought shelter from war-torn countries. She made the most of Aunt Ruthie’s mentoring from 1976-1982, later succeeding in a career as a computer programmer and raising a fine family.

1979grandmaruthie-phuong_small-copy

Lutheran Social Services acknowledged Ruthie’s magnanimous contribution to refugees and immigrants with The Salt of the Earth Award, a plaque which recognized “her exceptional commitment and warmhearted compassion in welcoming the stranger. ‘Ye are the salt of the earth’ Matthew 5:13” (script from plaque)

1990s-saltofeaward-copy


Love of Family

“You are always welcome here,” were Aunt Ruthie’s words after my sisters and I married and moved away from home. She labored in the kitchen when her nieces from Florida and Michigan nested in her home during vacations.

1990s-ruth-in-kitchen-2_small

In a small way, we returned the favor and relished her enjoying the citrus we bought from our orange and grapefruit trees in Florida.

ruthiecitrus-copy

 

Appreciation for Music

A music lover, Ruthie played the piano vigorously. If the apron is any indication, she is relaxing here after over-seeing meal making, her grand-niece Crista in the background.

1989ruthiepiano_small-copy

Into her early 90s, she played dinner music for the elderly ( ! ) at Rheems Nursing Home. “They don’t have anybody doing much for them,” she said.

ruthiepianorheems-copy

Playing the dulcimer – wholeheartedly!

1996ruthiedulcimer_small-copy-2


Animal Friends

Through the years, her Schnauzers, Fritzie I, II, III, and IV have been her ever-present companions, protecting her by day and warming her feet at night in bed.

1998ruthiefritzieporch_small-copy

ruthiedogpiano-copy

The last Fritzie, # IV, has found a dog’s paradise, adopted by teen-age Jason and his family.

Love for Learning

Books, magazines, and the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal/New Era have kept her curious mind informed.

ruthienewspaper-copy

During most of her stay at Landis Homes, she has whizzed through Word Finds puzzle books.

ruthiewordfinds2015


Hands in the Soil

A life-long gardener, Aunt Ruthie has always had her hands in rich Pennsylvania soil. She was my hoeing companion in the 4 1/2 -acre tomato “patch” in Bainbridge, PA in the 1950s.

Aunt Ruthie with scarf and I hoeing in tomato field
Aunt Ruthie with scarf and I hoeing in tomato field

At home, she kept a large garden, the envy of passersby on old route # 230 that borders her property.

All summer long until Aunt Ruthie was almost 90, she mowed nearly an acre of grass on her land near Rheems, preferring outdoor work to household duties.

ruthie_lawnmover_5x4_180-copy

For decades, she kept a strawberry patch and a vegetable garden, bordered by flowers. Now the flowers come to her.

Niece Jean brings knockout roses for Aunt Ruthie now living at Landis Homes.
Niece Jean brings knockout roses for Aunt Ruthie now living at Landis Homes.

 


She has had a goodly heritage

The Martin-Horst-Longenecker Freindschaft, circa 1938 Both in back row: My dad Ray Longenecker with zippered sweater and Aunt Ruthie on right with cape dress and white covering strings
The Martin-Horst-Longenecker Freindschaft, circa 1938
Both in back row: My dad Ray Longenecker with zippered sweater and Aunt Ruthie on right with V-necked cape dress and white covering strings

 

Gutes Leben, her high school yearbook blurb concluded.

Yes, Aunt Ruthie, has enjoyed a good life.

 

Happy Birthday, Aunt Ruthie!

Ruthie after enjoying a birthday lunch at Oregon Dairy near Lititz, PA a few years ago
Ruthie after enjoying a birthday lunch at Oregon Dairy near Lititz, PA a few years ago

 

 

Coming next: Heart on Fire, Guess Who’s Voted for President!

School Daze: They Ain’t What They Used to Be

Flop – flop – floppity – bop bop! That was the sound of grandson Ian’s heavy plastic bag of supplies bouncing off his left leg walking into orientation last week at Mandarin Oaks Elementary School.

IanSchoolSupplies

I didn’t pay too much attention to its contents until I helped him place supplies into wire bins at the back of his classroom: Purell germicide, Clorox wipes, Ziploc freezer bags, even multiple boxes of Puffs tissues.. The only item I recognized as a school supply was a ream of paper to print pages from a classroom computer.

On the first day of class, Ian, now a third grader, carried an aqua-blue lunch zippered pouch and a black backpack no doubt stuffed with notebooks and crayons. As a first grader at Rheems Elementary School, I wore a dress and carried a plaid book-bag with a plastic handle and a metal lunch box, probably plaid too. In the 1940s, plaids or checks were in.

Google Images
Google Images
Second Grade: Rheems Elementary School
Second Grade: Rheems Elementary School

I didn’t learn the alphabet until I was five. But learning is speeded up these days. Students are pushed to advance. Ian and others in his age group probably have memorized their letters by age three or four. The curriculum in his particular third grade class includes reading twenty-five chapter books out of class during the school year. Peering into his book bag today, I spotted Madeleine l’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, and Kate DeCamillo’s Because of Winn Dixie. Reminiscing, I remember reading aloud and silently during class, simple books. Our teacher read to the class after lunch as we rested our heads on the desktop. Instructors then encouraged but did not quantify the number of books to read until junior high school.

Teachers nowadays may teach spelling, but do not issue students textbooks such as The Common-Word Spellers like this one below published in 1921 by Ginn and Company.

SpellngBook

Nor do grammar book titles these days warn students about getting tangled in English problems, negative wording that educators today would probably nix.

EnglishProblemsFinal

This antique practical English text by Easterbrook, Clark, and Knickerbocker bears a copyright date of 1935. Quaint but exquisite pen & ink illustrations announce various chapter headings, which also depict social skills needed for the business world, especially preparing for a career in journalism. Thanks to this gift from friend Carolyn, you can catch a glimpse below of what curriculum planners and textbook authors thought students needed to succeed in the 1930s.

The technology depicted here is mostly obsolete, yet it feels like a novelty because we are eighty years removed from this era.

SalesTalkVacuum1935

Hat in hand is a tip-off that the gentleman running the vacuum cleaner expects $$$ from his sales presentation, not a huge hug from an appreciative wife. Is the woman at the desk examining the manual? writing a check? Housewives then did not hesitate to open their doors to the Fuller Brush salesman and their ilk.


RadioProgText

iPods with ear-buds have replaced the big box with knobs enjoying pride of place here on the table. How about you?


CharacterConversationText1935

In an age when Facebook posts, text messaging and Snapchat often constitute communication, leaning in and maintaining eye contact suggests that face-to-face conversation can reveal character. Does this scene recall meaningful conversation with a loved one?


LibraryCardCat1935

For some, hand-held Kindles and Google searches have replaced library bookshelves and the card catalog. Remember those? And careful notes written in ink on index cards?

 


Jenna and Patrick Dalton on their first day of school at Mandarin Middle School, book bags de rigeur (2016-2017 academic year)
Jenna and Patrick Dalton on their first day of school at Mandarin Middle School, book bags de rigueur (2016-2017 academic year)

“School is hard. It’s a job. But instead of getting paid in money you get paid with knowledge.”  ~ Jenna after her first day of school, August 15, 2016

* * *

Your turn: Do any of the pictures above ignite a memory or spark a story? What is your take on current technology? What ways of communicating should be preserved?

 

Paring Down, Tidying Up – Some Tips

“Listen to this” I said to Cliff as I began reading the page on sorting papers: “Rule of Thumb – Discard Everything. ” As I continued reading the chapter on sorting papers in Marie Kondo’s New York Times best seller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I saw my husband’s eyes bug out, his jaw go rigid. I imagined his next move would be grabbing the book from my bare hands. (He didn’t.) Even though papers accumulate in our house like snowdrifts, he was having none of it.

It’s hard to dispute the dictum of a Japanese cleaning consultant like Kondo who claims that none of her clients have lapsed – and who has a three-month waiting list. She insists that if you organize your house properly, you’ll never have to do it again.

At the heart of her message is this: Keep something only if it sparks JOY in your life. And related to this: Give it away, if you think it will inspire joy in others.

So, I have divested myself of possessions I’ve held onto for decades.

Ribbons and sewing notions have gone to a church friend, Donna, seamstress extraordinaire, who has connections to talented women needing supplies.

RibbonGiveaway

Like my friend Carolyn, I have passed on items of fine dining. My wedding crystal went to my hair stylist and super hostess Jackie. Originally, I intended to donate my crystal (from The Susquehanna Glass Factory in Columbia, Pennsylvania) to The Community Hospice Thrift Shop. But before I ever got to the donation center, Jackie took a look, fell in love, and the crystal sherbets and glasses became hers.

Crystal

By far the hardest thing to divest myself of is MY BOOOOOKS! They are part of my self-hood, my identity for the decades of my long teaching career. I am not the only book lover who wrestles with such impulses. Summer Brennan writes about the heartache of such a task here. Like her, I feel torn by the lure of Kondo’s promise of the magic of recycling and my impulse to embrace William Dean Howell‘s advice, “Oh, nothing furnishes a house like books.”

I’ve given dozens of books to Angel Aid, a charity for women and children. But I feel just as good when they land in the hands of young scholars, like Matthew, who can appreciate the nerdy translation of my Chaucer texts from Middle to Modern English, pre-digital translate days.

ChaucerTranslation

­­­­Matthew took my Milton text too, and two Survey of English Lit texts. He exclaimed, “I appreciate this. I can’t thank you enough,” followed by a smiley face and book emoticon.

ChaucerMilton

I feel a certain lightheartedness at getting rid of stuff, especially if I can pass them on to people who appreciate their worth.

Grandma Longenecker can relate to such a feeling. She told me so in a letter from Rheems, Pennsylvnia in April 1975.

GrandmaRidStuffLetter

“They are busy at the shop, selling a lot of new equipment, I turned the shop over to Ray and house to Ruth, so I’m rid of that stuff.”

In other words, Grandma divested herself of two properties by deeding them over to my father and aunt. I’m guessing that she was immensely relieved of responsibilities for either property.

She continued to live in her lovely Victorian home until the day she died.

1989RuthieHouse

Coming next: A rollicking review of Marie Kondo’s book and a glimpse of the shop Grandma deeded to my dad. Neat versus messy? You decide.

Your tips for paring down and tidying up are welcome here.   🙂

 

My purple hat - Out the door!
My purple “Downton Abbey” hat – Out the door!

 

What Lights Your Fire?

My mother wore many hats both literally and figuratively. Most of her head coverings were prayer veilings worn every day. As a young woman, her coverings were large, decreasing in size as she got older and church rules had progressively relaxed.

Mom+Marian_2 mos_5x9_300

 

Mother wore a sunbonnet in the tomato patch in Bainbridge, PA. As far as I could tell, Mennonite women in the 1940s and 1950s, paid no attention to Coppertone ads. (Remember billboards with that sneaky cocker spaniel pulling on a little girl’s swimsuit bottom, exposing her pale cheeks?) No one that I knew then wore sun tan lotion regularly, except maybe to the shore at Atlantic City or Ocean City. Country women, including my mother, wore bonnets in the garden and fields to protect their skin.

MomBonnetTOMATOES

The details are fuzzy here because this photo is another movie “still” captured from Aunt Ruthie’s 16 mm camera (circa 1955).

I look at this image of Mother’s sunbonnet worn in the tomato patch with two lenses, viewing the blurry film now and remembering the scene vividly then as an eyewitness:

I’m looking at a film clip of Mother in rows of the tomato patch just now, humped-over body bending toward a flush tomato bush facing the camera, her blue and white speckled sunbonnet sewn with three tiers of matching ruffles, a row along the bill, a row at the crease, another row near the crown of the hat—come to think of it now, headgear much fancier than her everyday prayer cap.

 

Figuratively too, she wore many hats:

Sister

Wife

Mother

Friend

Gardener

Tomato Picker

Cook/preserver

PTA/Treasurer

Dresser of chickens

Sewing circle seamstress

Volunteer – MCC Gift and Thrift

Volunteer – Choice Books in Salunga, PA

Mother particularly enjoyed her last volunteer job, stamping the Choice Books logo onto inspirational books for display on kiosks in stores around the country. During her “morning away,” she got to see her niece Dotty Metzler Martin often, met her friend Bertha, and ate lunch with other friends. She always sounded thrilled to describe this excursion when we talked on the phone Saturday mornings.

MomChoiceBooks

Even in her early nineties, she got excited about this bright spot in her life. I thought about her experience and examined my own passions when I read this verse from Psalm 39:3

My heart grew hot within me . . . and as I meditated, the fire burned. (NIV)

If someone asked Mother, “What lights your fire?” She would probably answer, “Serving others,” a motto she lived by.

The 16 x 22 inch poster created for her 90th birthday party and later, displayed on an easel at her memorial service, shows flash points of service, including her stint at Choice Books.

PosterMom2008

 

How would you answer these burning questions?

  • What lights your fire?
  • What burns “hot” within you?

“When God gives you an 11-by-17 mindset, you’ll never be happy living in a 3-by-5 mental framework.” Daily Devotional: The Word for You Today, April 10, 2016

 

Hearing from you lights my fire. Thank you for commenting here!

 

Coming next: All Creatures Great & Small: The Power of Pets

 

Any Hats in Your History?

Little Mennonite girls could be fancy before they became plain. They could wear hats. Their mothers may have worn flat, black bonnets on top of their prayer veilings (coverings) at Easter, but they couldn’t wear hats with ribbons and flowers. At least not in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in the 1950s.

My sisters and I are standing here in front of peony bushes wearing some cast-off hats Grandma Longenecker’s friend, Mame Goss, brought from a millinery shop in Middletown, Pennsylvania.

Marian, Jean, and Janice in front of the peony bushes
Marian, Jean, and Janice in front of the peony bushes

I recall this scene through the lens of memory:

I’m looking now at a snapshot my mother took of my sisters and me in these hats, the three of us holding hands in front of a peony bed. The magenta peonies are in bloom, so it must have been May. The double whites mingled among them have ruby flecks in their ruffled centers. My sister Janice, three years younger, is standing at one end, with blonde hair fluffed into curls, hands obediently at her side. Jeanie, a tiny tot of two or three, appears to be looking down at the grass, her burst of tulle brushing light brown hair. I’m staring straight at the camera, two thick braids trailing down my back. Our dresses are all bedecked with ruffles and bows, embroidery or smocking, dresses surely made by our plain Mennonite mother.

I wore my first adult hat ever, a pale blue clôche with a blue chiffon dress one spring when Cliff and I were dating.

At Crista’s 5th birthday party I was wearing a knitted skull-tight cap, typical of the 1970s.

Hat1977redStocking

In the 1990s I bought a white hat trimmed in black ribbon and feathers, probably for Easter. I don’t wear hats anymore. I have already taken this one to Angel Aid, a charity for mothers and children.

Hat1999KillarneySteps

My sister Jan and I wore British-style hats to Downton Abbey events sponsored by our PBS station in Jacksonville, Florida. Each of our hats adorned with feathers, a flower and seed pearls cost $ 5.00 at Roots’ Country Market near Manheim, PA. We didn’t tell anyone at the gala how much our gorgeous hats cost.

JanMarianDownton

Sisters with friend Carolyn Stoner
Sisters with friend Carolyn Stoner with her fascinator hat in black and green

Hats have mostly gone out of fashion in recent decades, except among the trendy young. NAACP leader Roslyn Brock makes a style statement with her wardrobe of about 200 fashionable hats, expressing her love for her Grandmother Leona Pittman who “believed a woman was not properly dressed for church without one.” Brock emphasizes that

I’m following in the legacy of female civil rights leaders who completed their Sunday go-to-meeting clothes with fashionable hats.

 

Hats are the centerpiece of Roslyn’s wardrobe. She admits that she’ll buy the hat first and then find a matching suit or shoes. For Roslyn, who enjoys couture creations from Philip Treacy, Queen Elizabeth’s designer, wearing hats “keeps our history and culture alive.”

How a hat makes you feel is what a hat is all about.  ~ Philip Treacy

HatAARPrarticle

 

In June it will be two years since my mother died unexpectedly. I still miss her terribly. Grief occasionally comes over me in waves. Now less often, with less severe impact. Still . . .

On my dresser I have kept three mementoes of Mother, one on top of the other: the two-quart Ball jar with bubbles in the glass, emblematic of her love of cooking and canning. And her last Mennonite black bonnet and white prayer covering veiling made of bobbinet fabric, a see-through, hexagonal mesh. Symbols of her constant faith and hope in God, each piece of headgear is less than half the size of those she wore in her youth.

CoverBonnetMOM

Any hats in your history?

What did it look like? Where did you wear it? Do you still wear a hat? Comments are warmly welcomed. Don’t be shy.

Coming next: What Lights Your Fire?