Sunday, November 27, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge ~ Books #45 and #46

One of the things I like best about Allan Carlson, the author of Conjugal America: On the Public Purposes of Marriage, is his ability to write substantial, well researched books for the layman. This is a book that a person of average intelligence can read with reasonable ease. In Conjugal America, Carlson traces the importance of one man/one woman marriage with resulting children~what he likes to call the "natural family"~ throughout the history and therefore national identity of America. He demonstrates how, contrary to the typical ideal of the rugged individual as the basis for American settlement and expansion, America was built by and for families in a way that the Old World never was nor could be. He traces the fortunes of the family through the Pilgrims up to the modern day. He overthrows some of the misconceptions many of us hold regarding marriage and the family. For instance, young people in early America tended to marry younger and have more children than their European counterparts because abundant, cheap American land meant that it was easier for a young man to get an economic foothold, thus encouraging him earlier in his life that he could support a wife and family. Young men in Europe may have wanted to marry sooner but thought they couldn't because they couldn't afford it until they had spent more years establishing themselves economically. Carlson's book is chock full of historical and sociological support in the fight for traditional marriage.

Carlson also encourages what he calls the "child-rich family" and helps the reader to understand that marriage is the union of the sexual and economic. He writes convincingly about the community's interest in promoting and aiding strong marriages, and most interesting of all, he shows how some political ideologies such as fascism and communisim/socialism undermine the family as a de facto component of their systems of government. He claims that the traditional family is the necessary basis for nations who desire "ordered liberty."

Another thing I like about Allan Carlson is that he makes the case for traditional marriage from a non-religious standpoint, though he is a practicing Christian and can very likely make the case from the Bible. For the simple reason that an increasing number of people in our country give the Bible little or no credence, I think it's important that we defend man/woman marriage without referring to religious doctrine, etc. This book (along with The Natural Family) is very helpful in that task.

I was so busy before Thanksgiving that I didn't even get to update my sidebar to show that I read Arnold Bennett's How to Live on 24 Hours a Day last week. I picked this book up for a pittance at an antique store's going-out-of-business sale after being pretty sure I remembered the Deputy Headmistress refer to it once. Not knowing Arnold Bennett, I looked him up and learned that he was an English novelist and journalist who did pretty well for himself back in his day. This is one of his most popular books. I'm astonished to find it in a 2010 edition on Amazon. My edition is from 1910. Though far from agreeing with all he had to say, I can see why Bennett was popular: he writes with much energy and wit. He had me chuckling during the preface and at regular intervals throughout. Despite what the title may lead a person to think, this book is not about maximizing every minute of your day to cram in as much activity as possible. You will not find time-saving hints and suggestions for increasing your efficiency or reducing your waste of time. Rather, Bennett's main idea is to encourage the reader that he can improve his mind by setting aside a specific amount of time for reading and thinking~what Bennett calls "living." Now, I love this idea and it's one I would love to implement in my own life (that's part of what this reading challenge is all about), but Bennett's plan would take quite a bit of overhauling for twenty-first century American life, beginning with cutting out most outside activities and obligations for children and adults alike. Despite its many impracticalities for today, the idea of deliberately and purposefully setting aside time to cultivate the mind is intriguing and worth pursuing. Plus, it was a fun book to read, plain and simple.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I've been more negligent than usual this week in posting. Man of the House is taking his first vacation week from both pastoring and teaching for the first time since April, so we've been busy doing nothing. Well, that's not exactly true. He has taken some time to catch up with some things, and we went Christmas shopping yesterday. After tonight's Thanksgiving vespers (he's interrupting his vacation for it) we will be traveling. But we have spent time in extra sleep and some much-needed goofing off, including watching our way through the Harry Potter movies. But before I sign off for the rest of the week, I wanted to share two things my vast reading audience, a link and a prayer.

The link is to an article from the Ludwig von Mises Institute about the Pilgrims failed attempts at socialism in the early years of Plymouth Colony. I'm posting it as a matter of interest and a little poke in the eye of the Occupy Wall Street mob . . . I mean, crowd. Ahem.

The second is a prayer in honor of Thanksgiving Day.

A Prayer of Thanksgiving by Robert Louis Stevenson

Lord, behold our family here assembled.
We thank Thee for this place in which we dwell;
for the love that unites us;
for the peace accorded us this day;
for the hope with which we expect the morrow;
for the health, the work, the food, and the bright skies,
that make our lives delightful;
and for our friends in all parts of the earth.
Let peace abound in our small company.

Purge out of every heart the lurking grudge.
Give us grace and strength to forbear and to persevere.
Give us the grace to accept and to forgive offenders.
Forgetful ourselves, help us to bear cheerfully the forgetfulness of others.
Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind.
Spare to us our friends, soften to us our enemies.

Bless us, if it may be, in all our innocent endeavors.
If it may not, give us the strength to encournter that which is to come,
that we be brave in peril, constant in tribulation, temperate in wrath,
and in all changes of fortune, and, down to the gates of death, loyal and loving to one another.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, everyone.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} ~ November 17, 2011

It's time for {phfr} already! Didn't I just do this two days ago??


For my birthday, Man of the House took me antiquing in a semi-nearby town. Things I look for particularly are books and blue and white transferware. Sometimes I hit the jackpot and sometimes I come up with nothing. This time the pickings were pretty slim, but I did find a dinner plate for $6.50. Since we use these dishes every day (and decorate with it too!), I won't spend a lot. It's fun to mix and match, and transferware does set a pretty table. I saw a lot of gorgeous red/pink and white transferware, which makes me think maybe I ought to broaden my color horizons. :-) Even though I found only one piece, we had a good time hunting!


See my birthday present from Man of the House? He has an mp3 player like it and thought I'd enjoy one too. He was right!


What's so funny about a cemetery, you ask? Take a closer look at the sign . . .

I guess they thought they ought to tell us just what is buried in this cemetery, though I would have thought it was pretty obvious. Actually, we later found out that it is pronounced "bode-y," but without a pronunciation guide, who would know? lol


One of the best things about this house is the number of bedrooms (4) and bathrooms (2). With just one child at home, we have two bedrooms to spare, and one of them is slated to become the guest room. Right now, it's storage for boxes still to be unpacked, but all that changes this Saturday. It'll be cleared out and well scrubbed, the bed will be set up and new bedding put on, pictures hung, etc., etc. Thankfully, the paint color is acceptable. (I keep forgetting to take my pictures during the day! The walls are really not as drab as they appear in this photo.) There's even a bathroom next door. I think it will be comfortable for guests. Girl Out of the House and That Boy will be here just after Christmas, which is our incentive to get moving on this project. But I didn't want to wait until the crazy busyness of December. I'll share pictures when it's finished!

Thanks for visiting! :-)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

From My Commonplace Book

I like to do these little posts from time to time. They make me look through the quotes preserved in my commonplace book and remind me of ideas I want to ponder. I hope you find them food for thought as well. I try not to repeat, but I suspect I have and/or will. That's okay. All these things are worth a second look. :-)

"The chief aim of the Christian order is to give room for all good things to run wild." ~ G.K. Chesterton

"The real way of mending a man's taste is not to denigrate his favourites but to teach him how to enjoy something better." ~ C.S. Lewis

"Homeschooling forces you to see your home as a place where more than just consumption takes place. It leads you back to the traditional view of the home as a place where something was produced. It keeps you from seeing home as just a place where you sleep and eat before you go out into the rest of the world to do the really important things. It keeps you from feeling dependent on experts to do the serious teaching of your children." ~ Rod Dreher

"The person who has stopped being thankful has fallen asleep in life." ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

"A general state education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another: and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, a priesthood, an aristocracy, or the majority of the existing generation; in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by natural tendency to one over the body." ~ John Stuart Mill

Sunday, November 13, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge~~Books #43 and #44

I'm caught up! I had fallen a little behind during September, but as of now I'm back to an average of a book a week. Now if I can only maintain it through the end of the year . . .

Finishing The House at Pooh Corner was like saying good-bye to an old friend, one you don't want to part with but know you must. Maybe that feeling is so strong because of the way A.A. Milne brings the stories to an end with the departure of Christopher Robin, who is growing up and out of his old friends, Pooh & Co. It's a poignant ending and one I've known to bring tears to the eyes of at least one tough ol' codger. But before that last chapter, there are many laughs and much insight into life. Reading these stories makes me realize how impoverished modern childhood can be if parents are not careful. There is too much noise and distraction coming from ubiquitous electronic gadgets, including the television, and from endless activities, organized by adults for children, to allow them to engage in the long hours of doing "Nothing," as Christopher Robin puts it. What is Nothing? "It means just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering," says Christopher Robin. I could go on for a long time along this vein, but I'll spare you that. I'm sure I will continue to make forays into the 100 Acre Wood from time to time. Not returning for brief visits is a prospect that I cannot countenance.

Little House on the Prairie continues the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder's childhood growing up in a frontier family. As I'm sure you are aware, in this book her family moves from the Big Woods of Wisconsin to Indian Terrority forty miles west of Independence, Missouri. I'm always amused that Pa decides to move because the Big Woods are getting too crowded. What's his definition of too crowded? Seeing one wagon passing their house a day. So they move to where the only neighbors are American Indians and couple other settlers a few miles away. I'm always impressed with the Ingalls' grit and resourcefulness. Through the literal sweat of their collective brow they produce practically everthing they need, and what can't they can't make or procure themselves they get through barter. Their life is not easy, but they are happy. They are without almost every material good that we in the 21st century think essential, but they feel blessed. Spending time with the Ingalls family reminds me to pursue contentment and to be thankful for the advantages of modern life. I'm also reminded to weigh carefully the hidden costs of those advantages. The hardships the Ingalls faced ~ though I doubt they would have considered most of them hardships ~ also knitted them together with a common goal and unity that most modern families are lacking. I first read the Little House books so long ago that I can't remember a time when they weren't part of my consciousness. Even after so long a time I still find it satisfying to re-establish my old friendship with Pa and Ma, Mary, Laura, Carrie, and Grace.

I think it's time for me to return once again to the grown-up world of literature and books. I had considered continuing the Little House series and re-reading Beatrix Potter, but my vacation in children's literature has come to an end for now. I'm sure I'll return sometime, though. :-)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} ~ Nov. 10, 2011

Joining Like Mother, Like Daughter for {phfr} . . .


My birthday was this week, and Girl of the House made my favorite cake: red velvet cake with cream cheese icing. Yum! Didn't she do a good job?


We had a spontaneous discussion about math at the dinner table! Those of you who know us personally know just how astounding that is. We tend more to the literary/musical/philosophical side of life than the scientific/mathematical, but this discussion arose of its own accord and was sustained for some minutes, long enough to incorporate diagrams on the blackboard! I don't know what got into us. Of course, we couldn't discuss math without working in some Greek and a bad joke, and I recall there being a literary allusion or two also. Still, it was a first for us.


Girl of the House is not thrilled that I am posting this picture, but what else are parents for if not to embarrass their children? Here she sports a bow from one of my birthday presents.


I don't have an actual picture of {real} because I'm not good at taking pictures of pitch black, which is what we have at 5:00pm since the time change. And it's only Nov. 10! We are on the edge of the central time zone, and we are considerably farther north than we used to be, so by 4:30 ~ 4:30!! ~ we are well on the way to darkness. What will it be like by the time the solstice is actually here??

Sunday, November 6, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge ~ Books #40, #41, and #42

Yes, three reviews in one week! That's because I never managed to get reviews posted for last week, alas. I'll try to keep it short.

This is my second read-through of Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry. Read my first review here. I loved it as much this time as I did then. Berry is a master prose writer. As someone who has spent her entire life in "fly-over country," I so appreciate Berry's portrayal of the people who live there~ the majority of Americans, after all~ with fondness and respect. Hannah is no unsophisticated bumpkin who does not and cannot grasp the larger issues of life. She is intelligent and wise. I wish she lived next door; I could learn so much from her! Berry is a Christian and this book is a product of his faith, but it is not Christian fiction in the traditional sense. There are no tidy and convenient religious conversions that clear up everyone's problems. Hannah weaves biblical allusions naturally into her conversation, but she is not preachy. (I wonder how many people read Berry's books and miss these? There was a time when that would have been unthinkable . . .) Hannah suffers and endures trials always with courage and sometimes without relief. She is of the last generation of pioneer stock.

Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne is always a pure joy and delight. As a child, I was only familiar with the Disney-fied version (take pity on me), so discovering the originals when Girl Out of the House was little more than a baby was a real excitement. These stories are classics of childhood for very good reason. Milne understands a child's world. As for the adults~ well, we all know that the best children's books are also engaging for the adults who will be reading them to children, and Winnie the Pooh is certainly that. I love re-entering Christopher Robin's world where there are no Gameboys or Nintendos to distract from the real work of play and where the sources of amusement are Christopher Robin's own wits and resourcefulness. I always feel like all's right with the world after a visit to the 100 Acre Wood.

I've mentioned before that I love pioneer stories, and the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder was my first introduction to them when I was a little girl. I've read my copies until they are falling apart, but I still own them for I couldn't throw them away! I have spent hours of my life crossing the Mississippi with Laura and Mary, huddled in log cabins during bitter blizzards, and blazing trails across the prairie in covered wagons. I think these books have such appeal today because children intuitively realize (or maybe it's not so intuitive) that there was a time when children directly and actively contributed to the physical survival of their families. A time when if they didn't help to make hay or tend the garden or care for livestock their family's very existence was in jeopardy. Now if a child forgets to take out the trash, no one is going to starve. Or if he misses school for a time, the livestock are not going to perish. Children were an integral part of the work necessary to keep everyone alive. I think readers of (or listener's to) these books recognize the difference and long to fulfill some necessary role in their families. I also think this loss of crucial work for the American housewife contributed to the discontent of young women like Betty Friedan and gave rise to the feminism of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, but that's another post for another day.

I'm going to continue my foray into children's literature for at least the next week. I am enjoying myself too much to stop!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

{Pretty Happy Funny Real} ~ November 3, 2011

I just have {pretty} this week . . .

Morning mist rising over adjacent backyards~

Morning frost over our own backyard and a nearby school~

Moonrise over our frontyard~

Visit Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {phfr} entries!

Around My House

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