Cooking is full-body immersion: the rich contemplation of the beauty of food; the feel of it in my hands; the sound as it splutters or bubbles in the pan; the smell of it all.Nigella Lawson, Cook, eat, Repeat
Author Archives: alivingpencil
That’s a Wrap
I finally organized the spare room closet. Yikes! For shelving, I put a small bookcase the same width of the closet at one end, perpendicular to closet door. This photo was taken facing the open closet and looking left.
I am ready, apparently, to wrap a present of any size, any shape, any color, or any dimension at any time.
Resting on top of the bookcase is a lifetime supply of tissue wrap (not visible in photo). Congregating on the top shelf are raffia, twine, jute?, tulle, wire-edged ribbon, and thirteen colors of crimped curling ribbon. Ah, how jubilant I was sometime in the 1980s when I snagged all the curling ribbon at a going-out-of-business sale! Does anyone recall a gadget that you ran the ribbon through to not only curl the ribbon but divide it into tiny strands? The result matched an 80’s perm.
In one basket I have bows, in the other plugs of ribbon remnants. My reputation for gathering up silk ribbon at the end of Christmas to re-roll and re-use is as eye-rolling as an exasperated teen. What can I say? My parents both lived through The Depression.
Gift bags are stuffed into the space to the right. On the floor is a jumbo roll of black chalkboard paper and a tall box of assorted rolls of wrapping paper.
And my favorite gift to give? A gift card to recipient’s favorite store!
Have I Died and Gone to Heaven?
I’ve returned after a long absence from blogging. [Is blogging to podcasts what CDs are to Spotify?] In brief, I retired from my accounting job, my mother-in-law died in May of 2021, the grandchild count is at nine, the garden is green, and raspberries are on. Wonder of wonders, I find myself wanting to write.
Always ten years behind the times, my new joy is clearing out space, beginning with my kitchen sink. I’m certainly not minimalist, but midway between slob and minimal. For years this photo would have shown a mug filled with brushes and magic erasers, various drinking vessels, and two quarts of kefir “brewing”.
I filled the empty soap dispenser, found homes for the rest, and now revel in the serenity of the suburbs of my sink.
Last night, we were prepping for a family dinner to celebrate my father-in-law’s 86th birthday. My husband placed a dirty dish on the counter. No! I barked. Nothing left unwashed!! That’s why I bought that dish wand!!!
He looked at me in surprise, a smile developing in his eyes. Have I died and gone to heaven?
Hand Over Your Coat
January 28, 1958
My Dearest John,
I’m going to town this morning and want to get this into the mail, too. I thought that I would write on Sunday, but I seemed to have a ‘let down’ after Mother [my Dad’s mom] left, and then yesterday I was washing all day. I’ve about decided that I like to get all the washing done that I can on Monday and then just do some loads during the week if we need it. Usually baby things and a couple of other loads to tide us over. I counted my trips up and down stairs yesterday — close to 30 trips — from fixing the furnace in the morning to tucking Danny in at bedtime. That is the up trips, not counting the down ones.
John, we are still getting these letters [a nasty collection letter from INTERNAL CREDIT CONTROL BUREAU about a past-due bill]. As you can see, this one sounds serious. I looked up the article in the Reader’s Digest, and it may be that since we didn’t return the books, we do have to pay it. It is not as though we didn’t acknowledge them at first. And though we didn’t want them and asked to have them stopped, they sent us one last week. Last night in our Bible reading we were in Matt. 5, and when reading vs. 40 [And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.] I thought of this and decided that perhaps we should pay this. Cheaper to pay than to neglect it and have trouble. So I guess that I will send it in.
Al Lindeman asked me to give a flannelgraph in the opening of Sunday School next Sunday and I agreed. Then afterwards I began to wonder. Seems sort of funny to be up in front of a mixed meeting [men and women] like that, giving a lesson. Not many here in Sturgis would have any scruples about it, but I just have been wondering.
We are trading youngsters with the Goodpasters this afternoon, so I had better close and get this sealed up. I want to get back from town in time to get lunch ready when they get home from school at noon. Better dispositions if they eat soon after getting here. They have been having fun in the snow that we have.
What Worries Me
Mother [Dad’s mom, Margaretta Harper] called about 30 minutes ago that she was still coming on, so while I’m waiting for her I’ll get something written to you. Your letter came today and I’m very honored that you took time this busy week to write — and ashamed that I haven’t written.
We have been watching for Mother since Wednesday evening, although she called Tuesday evening and said if the roads were bad she would stop overnight in Detroit. They weren’t bad then, but they are terrible tonight. Danny got up on Thursday morn, mad. “Where’s Grandma?” “Grandma gone already?” After I persuaded him that she was still coming he cheered up a bit. He’s so comical when his dander’s up.
Finally this afternoon I put through a call to Buffalo. They had line trouble and it took a couple of hours before the operator called back to say that Mrs. Harper had left this morning for California. Got the information I wanted anyhow. [We carried this tradition into our marriage. After a trip, we would make a collect call to family, and they would not accept it. It was a free way to let them know we made it home fine.]
Incidentally, our phone bill came today. $20. [With inflation, that would be ~ $180 today]
I’m going to stop and sweep the steps; the snow’s getting deep and it is still snowing.
Wolcotts were out Monday evening. I asked about [for privacy, I’m not including her name.] Her husband’s divorce was not legal so their marriage was annulled and she is expecting soon. She has a job of housework and caring for a little boy now. Her folks are hard up as her Dad is sick in bed for sometime now.
So she is not going to keep the baby, but go home to live, get a job and help her folks out. What worries me is that baby. Is not keeping it the right way out? Am I wrong? It seems to me that she’ll regret that later. I’ve stewed and prayed over it long enough that I’d be willing to take it for her until such a time as she could keep it. But perhaps, living in the same place, she wouldn’t hear of that. With your consent I think I’ll make some inquiries.
Mother drove in as I finished these two pages. You know how we talk and work around when Grandma’s here. She was tired and slept awhile after lunch. So did Danny so we could give the record player a rest.
I went in town this a.m. and bought enough dishes to make a set of ten. Had to take turquoise and yellow as I didn’t like the tangerine, etc. Your phone came: how good it was to hear you. As I said, I got Jimmy p.j.’s, overshoes, a shirt and mittens — all 1/3 off. I was so glad to get these things and so was he.
Mother has to leave early in the morning and it is late now, so I’m going to send this with her and start over on Monday.
Love from us all, me especially,
Got Stopped By a Cop
I’ll slip in a note with Margaret’s. All the children went to school today. Whatever caused the stomach cramps made the rounds and we are all getting back on our feet today. Dorothy was really sick Saturday night.
Got stopped by a cop Saturday on the way out of town. My front license plate was gone. I don’t know when that happened. Also I didn’t have my car registration. He let me go with a warning. I came home and looked up the title in order to go get new plates … and found the 1957 registration in the envelope with the title. Been there since we bought plates last year, eh? Now when I get some money I’ll go get plates.
Carol’s cold persists. The fan stopped completely and the house got cool last night and she is worse. Mr. Hawkins is still gone so Millimans will have to care for it.
Beautiful sunshine today – it has been most of the week and I really like that.
I am wondering about next Sunday, if you are at Norwood again or not. I suppose I’ll hear when you write. According to Mrs. Wolcott Daddy has already gone to Champaign. Maybe you got to see him? We didn’t. I hope Mother stops because the flannel board is here. The bill came – 40% off – $12.90. How about you sending the money and writing him? If you’d rather not, let me know right away so he’ll not be kept waiting.
Now I must close. Danny says to tell you he loves you and to put the record player right there (pats the desk top!). I love you too – without a record player even! I am wondering about that house and the auctioned one. Now I’ll close or miss the carrier and Margaret would not appreciate that.
Like a Deflated Balloon
January 9, 1958
Uncle Sam really outdid himself and got your letter here on Thursday. And it was so very good to get it. I was wrapping books [it’s a thing we did – cover books in plastic to protect the covers] when the mail came, so I went downstairs and got the one that you wanted and wrapped it. I sent Betty [my Dad’s sister in South Africa] her books and am returning the one to Gene Bollinger that Daddy sent ot me.
When your check came I went to town as soon as the youngsters came home to get a vaporizer. Carol’s cold has been worse since Saturday night when we were at Damer’s. Today she was coughing and choking some which means that she is not any better. I hate to spend the money, but still it will be used plenty in our size family. Dorothy has a cold too, so she is sleeping downstairs with Carol tonight. Or with the vaporizer, I should say. I bought a $9.00 one and now am wondering if I was penny-wise and pound-foolish. It has a glass container for the water and the $14.00 had a metal container. With care it should not break, but so many accidents seem to happen in our household. I also got another case of Similac. I have been using the Olac that Jennie gave me and Carol does not spit up with that at all. I am going to ask the Dr. about that. It is certainly nicer to not have her spitting up all the time.
I haven’t received the money from the Chapel. But I won’t need it this week at least since you sent this. However, I’m not counting it until it is here. While they have never failed to send it, I still am looking to the Lord for our needs and not human sources.
The information about a house interests me. I was quite surprised about what you had to say about the apartment house. I have been praying that the school could get it so we could live there! And here you told them to count you out! And the house you looked at — did you mean 6 room house or 6 bedroom house as you wrote of? We can get along in that size house if there is some place for storage and a basement or place for the washing. As far as repair and redecorations are concerned: every place we have lived in has needed that and we seem to manage without getting it done. So that shouldn’t hinder us. Not that we wouldn’t like to have it done, but we just don’t do it. When I think that we have lived over two years here and have done nothing about the wall at the foot of the stairs…I think we overlook a lot of dirt and it doesn’t worry us.
I started cleaning the basement today. But I hardly know where to stop and start. I want to clean it enough so I can put what is left of the linoleum in the girls’ room down there and put that new roll in their room. By using the sweeper on the floor in the basement occasionally I think the boys could play down there with their trucks, etc. when others come. I know they would be happier some place where they didn’t get pushed around by all the big kids and grownups. And we all would be happier with their things out from underfoot. It is O.K. when I’m here by myself, but when more come it gets congested. The basement is warmer than their room. I did get the plastic up in their room and it helps to keep the drafts out.
After this vacation I can better understand some of the problems your folks have had. Remember several years ago when we talked about their adjustments, or I guess we called them maladjustments? I find that after just this long of running things myself here, it is hard to adjust to doing things smoothly when we are both home. Hard on us and hard on the children, for they feel they have two masters so to speak. Of course, the root of it goes deeper. Keeping our hearts in constant tune with the Lord, so whatever happens we can take it in stride. But with the situation now, there is the waiting and anticipation, building emotions for you to come home and the let-down when you leave with a lot of frustration in between. I’m not satisfied to have you home only occasional weekends, but it is too wearing on both of us the way things are now. I wonder if it is worth your coming home so often. You can’t get your work done and that gets me upset. And you see all the work here that needs to be done and you get upset. Personally, I always end up feeling like a deflated balloon: a mess of a housekeeper and Mother. I’m not asking for sympathy, nor do I expect you to even be able to understand. Just chalk it up to me being a woman. I can only imagine what you feel like – but is it much better? It must not be, or you would not talk about leaving school unless things improved.
I hadn’t meant to write all that, but perhaps it will help to clear the air. I’ve been trying to keep up on the daily Bible reading on the calendar. Reading it carefully and spending time in prayer. Dr. Culbertson this morning asked Does the Lord Jesus feel at home in your heart? That is the core of the matter. And by more time in the Word and in prayer, I’m trusting to get the heart cleaned up so He will feel at home there and perhaps He can then show me how to keep the house cleaned up. [Handwritten addition: Don’t expect any change – I always fail.]
Now I must close. It is drawing near the midnight hour and that is too late for me. Six comes early and I usually have to get up then to fix the fire and the baby and the lunches. I love you dearly, and pray that our circumstances will not draw us apart but closer together. And I’m not sure in my own heart which it is now. Last year I was sure. Perhaps I’m still tired and depressed from the vacation activities, but I wonder about it all now. I think that is one of your troubles, too. Tiredness, I mean. The Lord can give us what we need for this next semester and perhaps your teaching will be easier in another year. I know you have a heavy load now. Don’t try to come home for just a Saturday. That is too hard. We pray for you several times a day here and know that He will help you with your work there.
All my love,
Diving into the Laundry
Wednesday, January 8, 1958 [first letter of 1958!]
Time flies by and if I don’t hurry you’ll not get even a note this week. Really, no news. But I suspect you’d like to know that things are normal. Cold out — the house is comfortable when it is calm. Did blow one day, however.
Still haven’t got the Christmas tree down. I dived into the clothes on Monday and yesterday. And today I have had a relapse and can’t get started. After all that work the baskets are still full. I suggest we move south or all wear blue jeans seven days a week.
Carol’s cold is worse, so I cancelled my appointment for Tuesday. I’ll go next Tuesday.
I suppose it takes a long time for answers, but I’d like to know how the auction on that house turned out.
Dorothy made her brownies for 4H. Very good. She’ll make a good cook. [That prediction came true!] She usually does a beautiful job of cleaning the kitchen on her turn at dishes.
Danny just heard one of “your” song’s “record” on radio and is in ecstasy. **
I hope you are catching up on your sleep better than I am; but knowing you, I doubt if you are. The children are getting caught up, but both Jimmy and Danny have turned into bed-wetters.
Mail man is coming so I’ll close.
All our love,
** Danny became a tenor who sings professionally. Here on YouTube is a recording of him singing O Holy Night about twenty years after this letter was written.
Putting the Tree Up
Just a note that I should have written several days ago. I’m busy as a bee and still a lot is going undone. I can’t remember what we decided about your folks’ gifts. I got the things off for Washington (her relatives) and Wheaton (his relatives) and sent a check to Harold’s.
Mrs. Grif. told me that Gertrude was operated on and they found a malignant tumor and just had to sew her up again, and in their tests they also found that she has Hodgkin’s disease. She doesn’t know all this. I took time to write her a letter.
We got our tree and put and lights on this a.m. Changed furniture around some. Danny is so happy — children will put other decorations on tonight.
Don’t stop to buy groceries on the way home. I bought considerable to stock up and we’ll need the money. I’ve been paying bills and getting gifts—goes so quickly. Afraid the Lord will not get His rightful share of this Christmas.
Now I must close. The mailman comes early. What shall we get David? He wants a horn or a watch. I have got most of the other children’s gifts. Clothes from us and trucks, etc. from what Grandma gave us.
P.S. I’m busy but want to tell you again how much I enjoyed the banquet and appreciated you bringing me home. Hope you get back O.K. and get ready for Monday’s classes. The banquet was such a treat – from beginning to end.
The Stress of Christmas
How good it was to hear your voice on Sunday night. I should keep a notebook by the phone so if you call I can refer to it and ask the things I always forget in the excitement of getting a call.
Mrs. Wolcott heard from Daddy [I only know one or two people who call their father-in-law Daddy. Was this a common habit?] that they would probably be through here on Tuesday or Wednesday. So I’m trying to hustle around and get things ready in case they come today. If they don’t, I’ll have to do it all over tomorrow — you know our house. I’m washing. Yesterday I fixed up a Christmas lesson for Mrs. Rose and in the afternoon took the children to the chapel for a combined CEF (Child Evangelism Fellowship) class where Miss Beverly Saunders spoke. She is going out to Venezuela soon. Then in the evening I took David into the chapel for basketball and practice for their part in the Christmas program. Randy promised them a malt if they would all come to practice. They got it at Fenners. I took Dorothy to Sunnyfield Road for a 4H meeting or party. Hesper went after the girls then.
Danny has learned the art of using scissors. He sits on the floor and cuts everything available. Have to teach him how to pick it up!
The coal bin is empty and I don’t want to order more when two tons are not paid for as yet. So I’m asking the Lord to send in money for these bills before I make any more. I added it up last night and we need $200 to pay bills and take the Lord’s money out of, i.e. $160 for bills and $40 for the Lord’s portion. That doesn’t include anything but due bills and no groceries. That is the doctor and dentist, too. I haven’t heard from the Red Cross yet so I don’t know if it will be more than $50 or not. I would like to pay it ourselves as the chapel is low on money, too. I think that is one reason that they have been having local brethren do the ministering lately.
I don’t imagine that you have been able to do anything about Christmas gifts for the folks since you haven’t had any money either. Should the Lord see fit to send in some gifts this week, I’ll send down things for Bob and Ruth with Nita when she comes down on Friday. Marion called me last night to see if I would have anything I would like to send down to you with her. I may also send some clothes to the PGM (Pacific Garden Mission) if she doesn’t mind taking them. She could give them to you and you could deliver them on your way home next week.
If we get out any cards this year I’ll be surprised. I don’t think that I can get around to it — at least the way things look now. Part of my trouble is that I’m disappointed about not getting any pictures taken and I just don’t feel like sending out the same old things that I have sent out for two years. And I don’t feel like buying new cards when there are so many of the old ones upstairs yet. Wonder what folks would think if we didn’t send any?
Well, Carol is waking so I’ll close. She isn’t much good as an alarm any more – sleeps too long. I got up at five this morning to check the time and was afraid to go to sleep again as I knew I would oversleep then. It is almost dark when the bus comes now so I can’t wait until it gets light to wake up.
I’m praying for the banquet and for the speaker. I have to ask the Lord to keep me from being jealous of Nita and Ruthie as I would so much like to be there. But I am happy that they can be there. I’d just like to be there, too! May it be more than just a good time: a real blessing to all, the speaker included! Would love to hear you…
Carol is being insistent, so I’ll run.
Love all of us, me especially,