Womanhood

What I really want to talk about right now is books, but since a recent current event (concerning national library boards and Laura Ingalls Wilder) has upset me and I doubt I can discuss it on the level I usually strive for, I will focus on another topic near and dear to my heart.

Womanhood is a characteristic of my life that I have often dissed, much to my own misery. Many times I wanted to be a man, because they seemed to get all the breaks (I know better now). I disliked my physical appearance: I went from woefully skinny to morbidly obese, with all the health complications that accompany such conditions. It took me a long time to actually carry a pregnancy to full term, and then those were c-sections, and I felt horribly inadequate as I grappled with the challenges of life from within a hopelessly false bubble of self blame and disrespect, not to mention ingratitude. I have since come to celebrate my womanhood, not as better than manhood, but as a great part of being me, myself, and I. Here is an LDS talk that resonates with me on a regular basis. Since I was just revisiting it I thought I would share it here:

The Joy Of Womanhood

Here is the short bit that sticks to my brain:

“Women of God can never be like women of the world.

The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender.

There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind.

There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined.

We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith.

We have enough greed; we need more goodness.

We have enough vanity; we need more virtue.

We have enough popularity; we need more purity.”

Truly, these are characteristics I want to be known for, to recognize in myself, to have deeply woven within my every fiber. I want to be a blessing to other lives, not a blight. I want the highest standards that do not shift on a weak and sandy foundation. I want to feel the real strength of self respect when other voices ridicule or undermine my efforts to be my best. So as a repeat, I want to be:

  • A woman of God
  • Tender-hearted in spite of the evil around me
  • Kind in healthy ways
  • Refined by the refiner’s fire, that I may lose my dross and shine more clearly
  • Faithful to my eternal heavenly Father and to causes that are worthy of my effort
  • Good in thought, speech, and deed
  • Virtuous, which is a word meaning strong in keeping to true standards
  • Pure, in that I avoid the pollution of the world and fill my being with cleaner, purer, more nourishing sources of food, emotional health, and spiritual capability.

So what did I not say?

I did not say that I want to be perfect now, or that I want to be better than you, or that I will live barefoot in the kitchen in a homespun dress which honestly sounds wonderful anyway because I hate shoes. Having high standards is not the same as having impossible standards. So read into my sayings at the risk of revealing your own deeper self. However, I do enjoy discussion, even out here in the nether regions of the Net where I enjoy talking to myself so much. Because oh, dear, I do talk to myself. And I like it.

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Great Sayings From My Fridge #2

I love Wendell Berry. I have some of his books and have read many more. I especially enjoy falling into his deeply humane fiction, but his essays transport me like no high school reading assignment ever did. His approach to life would solve many world problems if more people adopted it on deeper levels than they do now. He has wise things to say about humanity, our planet, story telling, and all those wonderful and significant things that make life awesome and glorious.

The odd thing is, I was surprised to realize how many people I know aren’t even familiar with his name. I mean, the guy gets quoted in newspapers! Check him out online. So here’s my shout out into the Void:

Wendell Berry Rocks!

And here is the quote from my fridge that has added stability and clarity to my choices in life. This is the quote I cut out of the newspaper many, many years ago because it resonated so deeply with me:

“Protest that endures, I think, is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success: namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one’s own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence.”

-Wendell Berry “A Poem of Difficult Hope”

Because even my attention span can waver on my own blog, I’m going with bullet points for the rest of this article:

  • Have a set action, not a reaction, that drives your decisions
  • Develop safe boundaries for how you will allow others to treat you.
  • Accept others.
  • Accept yourself.
  • Know thyself.
  • School thyself.
  • Make time to listen to yourself, value that insight, and trust yourself to follow through.
  • Grow closer to God, and make the sacrifice it takes to stay there.
  • Read Wendell Berry. His Port William series of novels details the lives of people in a small southern town who have love, loss, war, trials, thigh slapping fun, mystery, and universal human experiences that make the reader a better, deeper person than they were before they read the book. Or at least, lets the reader tap into their own better, deeper self that they may not have recognized was living in the same house they were.
  • And that is all I have to say on the subject. Any search engine will bring up his name, his book list, and many samples of his exquisite writing.

Chickpea Salad and More

So in the last nine months, I have taken to a seriously vegetarian lean in my diet. It’s been great! I never would have believed that I could love zucchini. I never would have believed that a person could feel so much satisfaction from a great meal of vegetables, beans, and quinoa. I also never thought that taking more time to prepare a meal might actually be good for my well being. I had no idea I would fall in love with chickpeas.  So here are a few links to chickpea salad recipes, because my yammering is NOT going to convince you. These recipes will do the work for me. The first one is my favorite go-to for vegetarian delights, Forks Over Knives. More about them in a minute.

Forks Over Knives

Spend With Pennies

Allrecipes

There are plenty of other varieties as well. Whether you want a bowl of salad or something to roll into a wrap, these work well. They are light, easy, healthy, flexible, cheap recipes. Just recently while making the first one on the list, I replaced the crunchy onions and celery with zucchini and summer squash. I also wanted a little more creaminess, so I added some ranch dressing. Then I threw in some sweet peppers and garlic. Then I absolutely shredded my pocket bread trying to get it open in order to stuff it with my cool original meal. I ended up tearing up the bread and serving myself a bowl of salad with bits of pita all over it. Under it. The bread made a bottom layer. Which it should have done as a sandwich, but oh well.

Forks Over Knives, for whatever reason, has become my main resource for vegetarian eating. I love the recipes, I have learned how to adapt them to my po’ man, lazy butt, attitude- filled perspective on cooking. I like washing dishes, but I often have this innate resistance to cooking with them in the first place, probably because I hate feeling chained to a hot stove, the inability to hold a book and stir at the same time, that whole cry-of-“Freeeee-dom!” thing. So prepping a chickpea salad sandwich and taking it out to my desk just makes me happy on a lot of levels. And Forks Over Knives, who now that I think of it came to me by word of mouth from a friend who faithfully prepared me for this change for a few years before I was finally forced to step into the vegetarian abyss due to health reasons (HT: Teri!), has seduced me with their astounding photographic attention to the beauty and joy of a well prepared dish. Why does that matter? It matters because I have learned to take better care of myself. It matters because I take time for myself. It matters because I spend less time in virtual shades-of-reality and more time feeling the crunch of a carrot as I make fun ribbons out of it with my mandolin, or smelling the crisp seedy smell of zucchini, or listen to steam frying chickpeas turning golden, crunchy, and delicious with no fats or oils added to the pan.

I recently received the latest FOK magazine from same said friend. I probably spent as much time hovering over that magazine as I would a good short novel. I adored the photos, absorbed the personal stories, and highlighted the recipes that most appealed to me. I have since made all of the ones I highlighted! It’s been fun, not too hard, and never did I feel chained to a hot appliance of any sort. Every page of that magazine had been written and photographed for me, personally. That was an enriching feeling.

I have had to adjust in two ways as I learned vegetarian living: first, learning to make recipes that are often longer or have more steps than I was used to. I still balk at this, but I have also found ways around some steps and I completely ignore ingredients I don’t feel like buying. These recipes are flexible above all. They have to be, to be so forgiving of my cooking, er, strategies, heh heh.

Secondly, I also have learned to rethink nutrition, portions, and my perception of hunger. Hunger, it turns out, can be good for you in healthy amounts. Whodathunk? It clears the palate, resets internal metabolic drives, and whets the appetite. Hunger is no bad thing anymore than water is. I mean, both can kill you. But both can save you, as well. Try a little hunger, and see what it can do for you. I started out hungry all the time when I first began making vegetarian meals for myself. Portions shrank, familiar foods dropped from my menu, timing became essential. Now I only experience it at certain times of day, and it does what it’s supposed to do: it reminds me that I’m hungry. No more of this ‘Oh dear, I haven’t eaten in two hours’. That wasn’t hunger, that was fearfulness. Also gluttony.

Vegetarian diet takes some planning, even more when you’re not used to it. This serves to make life a more mindful kind of living, adds sensory detail to routines like washing, cutting, and arranging vegetables, and clears out the body from fatty deposits and many toxins that interfere with energy, emotions, immunity system, and the whole body/spirit connection. Yeah, I just said all that. I tell you, I never would have believed that a year ago. That was for other folks. That was not bacon. That sounded so involved. Heck, yeah, I am now involved in my health! Think about it! Then try it. Once a week, or a chickpea salad for those hot summer days, or a greater appreciation for portions and self control. Do yourself the favor.

Noah Webster 1828 vs. The World

Many years ago when my kids still submitted to public school, and still attended elementary school, my oldest broke my heart into little pieces of fierce bookish momma love when she hauled home a bunch of books the school librarian had given away. The librarian admitted some would be thrown away, which had startled the little bookish girl into saving what she could. She sniffed about the ones she had let go, saying they weren’t ‘very good anyway’. Which is quite possible. The ones she brought home caused some interesting changes in our lives.

One in particular was The New World Dictionary of American English, third college edition, apparently the 1991 publication. It is also the “Deluxe Color Edition”. Yes, with her school books, and with her other rescued books, my sweet, sweet apparently strong elementary-aged daughter brought home…a massive dictionary. It has its cool thangs going on. It’s hefty, fat, big, and a dignified dark blue. It has these incredibly cool inserts with pictures: weather patterns, anatomy, aircraft of the world, flowers…there are also some of those little sketches that add their subtle vibe to random pages. It’s kind of a cool dictionary, like I said, in some ways. But we don’t use it as a dictionary. We have flowers pressed in there, postcards, and a graduation announcement, among other things. We keep it as a contrast to The Other Dictionary, which I will get to in a moment. But as I paged through this dictionary, I became vaguely concerned at something I knew I was witnessing even if I couldn’t determine what exactly I was witnessing. I simply found the definitions unsatisfactory. I flipped here and there, reading bits and enjoying it too, but feeling that something was not quite right. I put it aside and avoided using it as a dictionary without really knowing why.

Of course, our technological access to internet dictionaries made the unwieldy book less likely to be used, as well. But the same problem can be found there. The definitions were somehow often lacking…they felt downright untrustworthy. I started to see what some of the issues were, but I hadn’t found the way to put it in words, as yet. And with a dictionary in front of me, no less!

A few years later, a home schooling friend put me onto Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language. She had bought a paper facsimile, or a reprint if you will. We found it fully accessible, and free online as well, here:

A bit harder to randomly shift through delicate pages of knowledge, but the search bar is quick. You can see there what my copy looks like, too. It’s big and fat and hefty and a dignified green. Plus the golden eagle on the cover is a neat detail. That newer Webster’s has a tree on it, which is nice and symbolic, but also it was kind of simplified to the point of looking like a government agency logo.

So I got the 1828 edition for my birthday and sat down with both books in my lap…no, that would have been tricky. On a table, let’s say. And my eyes started to be opened. Let’s compare the 1991 edition with the 1828 edition. Let’s pick some words that carry a lot of weight in our lives, or they should. Words such as these shape thoughts, actions, and potentials.

The word ‘meek‘ (skipping the pronunciation, word origins, and word type):

1991 edition:

“1 patient and mild; not inclined to anger or resentment.

2. too submissive; easily imposed on; spineless; spiritless

3. gentle and kind”

And now the 1828 edition:

“1. Mild of temper; soft; gentle; not easily provoked or irritated; yielding; given to forbearance under injuries. ‘Now the man Moses was very meek, above all men.’

2. Humble, in an evangelical sense; submissive to the divine will; not proud, self sufficient or refractory; not peevish and apt to complain of divine dispensations. Christ says, “Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls.” ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.’ “

See a difference? Feel the difference?

What have we lost in our language usage from 1828 to 1991? Maybe some depth of thought, richness of feeling, and strength of character? Maybe in the push to use language as a transmission of information (after all, that’s what computers do, so it must be scientifically clean, technologically right, and the best form of modern living possible, a somehow moral value call) we have lost ready access to some valuable traits of our humanity. I think we have.

Here’s another one, the word ‘humble‘:

1991 edition:

“1. having or showing a consciousness of one’s defects or shortcomings; not proud; not self-assertive; modest.

2. low in condition, rank, or position; lowly; unpretentious /a humble home/.”

1828 edition:

” 1. To abase; to reduce to a low state. ‘This victory humbled the pride of Rome. The power of Rome was humbled, but not subdued’.

2. To crush; to break; to subdue. ‘The battle of Waterloo humbled the power of Buonaparte’.

3. To mortify.

4. To make humble or lowly in mind; to abase the pride of; to reduce arrogance and self-dependence; to give a low opinion of one’s moral worth; to make meek and submissive to the divine will; the evangelical sense. ‘Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you’. ‘Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart’.

5. To make to condescend. ‘He humbles himself to speak to them’.

6. To bring down; to lower; to reduce. ‘The highest mountains may be humbled into valleys’. 

7. To deprive of chastity. To humble one’s self, to repent; to afflict one’s self for sin; to make contrite.”

I looked up faith, hope, and charity. The same pattern showed: a rich and Christian series of definitions were stripped down to secular understandings of words. The loss of layers was obvious. There was a strong sense of morality being removed from words that we use to express moral thought. The loss of meanings caused a shift, or reflected it, and along the way a meek person became a weak person.

Given, the newer dictionary has many words that did not exist in 1828. The latest ones have even more, while other words have dropped out of usage. That alone would make a fascinating blog post as far as I’m concerned. What I want to focus on here is true loss, or the attempted loss of real meaning and usage of words we need today. The dictionaries reflect their times, this is true. They also shape them.

I believe that the purposeful shaping of our language has become more pervasive, and more blatant. Make a list of all the words you can think of that used to have multiple meanings. How many have been dropped from usage because they became burdened with sexual innuendo that made it difficult to even use them in regular conversation?

Homeschoolers may want to take note of this, if they haven’t already caught on. Enthusiasts of older reading materials may do the same. Everyone else should probably know that dictionaries are not quite the authority they used to be. This is similar to acknowledging that not all judges are dispensing true justice, and that not all schools teach to the child.

I took time out of my Sunday School class to teach the adults about this principle. We had been discussing translation, or how a specific word in some scripture had changed for us, or some such thing. Several parents took note and went home to think about this regarding their children’s education, at the very least. I am sharing the idea here. Noah Webster knew what he was doing. He should have his own holiday!

Great Sayings From My Fridge #1

I’m introducing a new segment to my erstwhile blog. Some days I can write gloriously, and some days I can only quote somebody else. But those quotes are ones that have infused my being and linger on, unnoticed, sometimes unfelt. Their influence lives on even if their little paper copies in the kitchen have faded. So, today’s Great Sayings From My Fridge:

Robert Louis Stevenson

“A faculty for idleness implies…a strong sense of personal identity.”

I have often reflected on what this could possibly mean. The socially guilty part of me automatically wants to reject a quote that appears to endorse laziness, for isn’t that what this is about? NO! IT’S NOT! First, it helps to know that Stevenson was sick a lot of the time. He had to find ways to engage himself in solitude. He had to face both his boredom and his creative drive. Secondly, It is the strong sense of personal (shall we say divine?) identity that helps us throw off the shackles of social expectation and useless shaming. It’s nobody’s social business if I sit on my porch for two hours watching the trees. Or write. Or write on my blog while watching the trees. It’s just me, being me.

When I can toss aside the false notions and crazy-making shame that somehow washing dirty things is more important than writing creative things, I can use those behaviors considered ‘idle’ by society (writing, being in nature, sitting still and just being in the moment, not counting every minute by dollar signs) to be the greatest sum of my parts possible. The big trick here is being of a strong enough personality to disregard social norms and expectations. The bigger trick is weeding them out of ourselves, where so much of the damage to creativity is done by ourselves, to ourselves.

So naturally, when I came across this quote years ago, it resonated with me when I wasn’t sure I understood it very well. I trusted that resonance and posted the saying on my wall. I might even one day research it more fully for greater understanding, particularly where those three dots are, hinting at something more…

Disclaimer: I lied. These many quotes I have, including this one, are no longer on my fridge. But Great Sayings From My Dusty Bulletin Board just didn’t flow for me, ya know? This and all the other sayings used to be on my fridge. My fridge died. I moved all the sayings to the bulletin board so that the old dead fridge could be removed and the new shiny (smaller, more affordable) one could be brought in. And somehow the quotes stayed on the corkboard where I can’t quite see them as well, especially since many are twenty years old, which means, ahem, that I am twenty years old-er. I plan on rewriting them in larger print so I can see them away there on the wall over the flour bins and the crockpot.

My challenge to you: find the sayings that speak to you. Post them on your platform of memory and inspiration. The fridge, the bathroom mirror, social media, write them on your wrist, get them in front of you. Absorb them the way you do your vegetables, so they can heal your center, build new growth, energize your thoughts, actions, and personality, and so that even when you have no idea they are even there, they can do their work in deep and meaningful ways. Choose wisely! Your being is in question, here. What will you be? What will being do for you? What will doing be for you?

 

 

Guest Blogger: AESOP!

Here at this small place in the universe, we enjoy the occasional guest blogger, favorite guest blogger, and only guest blogger: Aesop, former slave and all around clever fellow! So here goes:

A Fox That Lost His Tail

There was a Fox taken in a Trap, that was glad to compound for his Neck, by leaving his Tail behind him. It was so uncouth a Sight for a Fox to appear without a Tail, that the very Thought on’t made him e’en weary of his Life; for ’twas a loss never to be repair’d: But however for the better Countenance of the Scandal, he got the Master and Wardens of the Foxes Company to call a Court of Assistants, where he himself appeared, and made  learned Discourse upon the Trouble, the Uselessness, and the Indecency of Foxes wearing Tails. He had no sooner said out his Say, but up rises a cunning Snap, then at the Board, who desir’d t be inform’d, whether the worthy Member that mov’d against the wearing of Tails, gave his Advice for the Advantage of those that had Tails, or to palliate the Deformity and Disgrace of those who had none.

from Aesop: Fables

Not Ants On A Log

Recipe time! This one is Carrots And Cream!

I always appreciated recipes for young kids and we still use a couple of them on a regular basis. What I never appreciated was ‘ants on a log’ because bugs. Because celery. Because mixing bugs and food never appealed to me, though sometimes it did to my kids. Though not often.

So recently my daughter developed her own recipe that we so far call ‘carrots and cream’. This may appear to be a disappointing let down when you learn there is no actual cream in the recipe, but at least there are no bugs, either. But then, finding out there is no cream, and finding out there are no bugs, may elicit entirely different reactions, and therein lies the one fault of our recipe. The rest is just easy and delicious.

Ingredients:

carrot sticks

cream cheese

sunflower seeds

pepper or other spice

Directions:

Basically you make carrot sticks and make sure they have a flat side. On that flat side you smear on some cream cheese. Then you add some sunflower seeds, and pepper it up. There ya go! A more adult version of a simple snack good in hot or cold weather. Now with my new dietary restrictions, I have very little cream cheese. My daughter slathers it on some of the carrot sticks for her own enjoyment. I’m not quibbling at this point. All I know is that someone made a snack and they made some of it for me. ❤