Sunday, December 17, 2006

My Chicken's Christmas Gift

Here's a little personal story. We have 13 chickens, and my favorite has always been one that I was sure was a rooster, so I named him "Rooster Cogburn". Well, two days ago, "he" laid his first egg! What a surprise! I'm having a hard time getting used to calling "him", "her". I just thought I'd pass that along, for who knows what our children, whom we are sure are one way, are going to turn out like? We might be sure they're going to be turkeys!

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Magic Story

I found this story in my Grandma Hess’ scrapbook, between instructions for dipping chocolates and how to keep a pet rock happy. I hope you enjoy it.

The Magic Story

Once there was a poor beggar. He stayed in a pile of shavings at night between two buildings. He ate cheap food once or twice a day, every day promising he’d soon be able to pay. Some other fellows who were also down on their luck laughed at him as he sniveled and cringed, for they knew he had once been a very successful ship owner. Day after day he came in, seeming to sink lower and lower, cringing more, apologizing more.
Then one day he entered, walking briskly. He nodded to all his acquaintances and said, “Good Morning.” He walked up to the proprieter, asked for one of his better rooms, and thanked him for breakfast, which he said was very good. He then walked briskly out.
The next week he paid for part of his back meals and had better clothes. Daily he arose from his former condition and soon moved. Before the watchful eyes of his old companions, he soon was manager of the nearby shipyard. In more time, he owned it. His old friends asked him for money now, but mostly they were curious. How had he come back? His friends kept asking the man, and he would tell his friends it was some magic he had found. One by one his friends heard the magic story. One by one they moved up the scale from beggary to independence.
Finally the last man asked him to tell him the story, so he said he would, although he really did not have time.
“First,” he said. “There are some important items to remember:
Number one-Don’t be blinded by the opportunity at hand, take the opportunity and use it.
Number two- Fortune is elusive, command her, don’t wait and ask.
Number three- Failure is only in the grave. Man, being alive, hath not failed.
Number four- Seek comrades among the industrious. Unindustrious people sap your energy.”

He then related to his friend a special dream:
“I woke from a deep sleep and seemed to see beside me on my bed of shavings, a person. He looked very much like myself, but he wore a confident look, and an
assurance that had not been mine for a long time.
All day on my rounds of waterfront and places where I constantly asked for employment he was with me. For a week he stayed beside me. Then one early morning I awoke again and he was with me. He always wore a smile. Not a kind smile, or a smile of pity. but one of derision and scorn, which made me sting with indignation. This time I asked him, ‘Who are you?’ and it seemed to please him.
‘I am part of you’, he said. ‘Every man has a negative and a positive potentiality, but they can only live together if the positive power dominates. The positive power hates filth and baseness, therefore respectability cannot abide subjugated by the negative power. The positive power is always present, if fear, discouragement, and selfishness do not drive it out. I am the man you were once and the one you could be again. But your brain must welcome me and be ready to turn the other out.’
“The night had seemed strenuous, so I slept again. When I awoke and looked for the personage, he was gone, but in his place was a skinny, cringing fellow. I found a place to wash, brushed myself and my clothes the best I could, and went to the tavern where I had been eating. I asked the tavern-keeper for my old room back. I said hello to the men I had shared the warmth of the tavern with. I left then and went to the waterfront. Some workmen were loading kegs on a boat, so I stooped and started tossing the kegs over to the workmen. Then I walked into the office, and there was my old desk. The clutter on the top showed me no one was working there, so I sat down and began sorting and filing the material. Soon the boss came in, looking at me in surprise, but I just nodded, smiled, and kept working.
That was a year ago. Now I am part owner in the firm.
I wish every one had a copy of the magic story.

Thanks, Grandma!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Store Toys and House Toys

Here are some good ideas from the December, 1908 edition of the Mother’s Magazine

Store Toys and House Toys
The Best Playthings are Simple and Cheap

Many of the most useful playthings for a little baby are not to be bought in any store. They are the merest bits of wreckage flung up fro the household ocean.
A strong bottle with a glass stopper is a pleasure. A baby of four months will sometimes spend a full half hour putting that stopper in and taking it out again.
Our grandmothers knew that keys on a ring made a capital toy, and also spools strung on a strong string. A box of checkers of the more expensive king-more expensive because then the colors do not come off in baby’s mouth—also makes a good toy. But best of all, perhaps, is a drawer full of all sorts of knickknacks—an old mucilage brush, a little tin box, all sorts of rattly things with covers that can be put on and off.
Another joy is a clothes-baskets, bought for the baby and kept for his use. He can sit in this, be pulled around in it, keep his toys in it, and roll over with it. There is nothing about it to hurt him. It is light, and big, and strong.
Sometimes such things please the baby more than the most elaborate toys. Preyer tells about his little boy who sat for a long time trying to pick a piece of cotton from his fingers, the fingers being smeared with a little molasses. But this play should only come in when the child is over a year old, because before that he is not well able to focus his eyes, and the effort to do so may make him temporarily cross-eyed. Also he should not, as we saw last month, use the small muscles of his fingers so much as the larger muscles of his arm.
Nothing is plainer than that all children are delighted to play with water. Most mothers foolishly oppose this desire, and many children are punished because they get themselves wet. But this again is a natural impulse that must not be lightly thwarted. Because water is an inconvenient plaything, it does not follow that it is a non-educational plaything. On the contrary, the fact that every child, black, white, yellow, and red, that ever was born on the face of the globe, delighted in playing with water, shows us that there is some reason inherent in the human constitution why water should be played with. What we have to do, then, is not thwart this desire, but to arrange for its gratification in a manner the least troublesome to us adults.
One of the simplest plays is to let the youngster have a cup in his bath-tub. Often children who do not like the morning bath can be taught to like it by this simple addition. There are also little boxes of toy ducks and fishes which float around in the water and afford endless delight.
These same little toys may be used at other times during the day. With them usually comes a magnet, but a stronger one should be provided if the child is to be satisfied. Pour about an inch of water into the bottom of the baby’s bath-tub, put the little toys in this water, give him the magnet, and show him how to pull them about with it. If you have rolled up his sleeves and tied an old shawl about him, he will not get wet enough to do any damage, and he will enjoy himself for a good long time.
When he tires of this, give him a piece of soap and let him make soapsuds. This is simpler and even more delightful. At other times let him stand on a stool or bench and turn the faucets in the washbowl on and off. I have seen children’s hands spatted as a punishment for this performance till they were red. I have seen them cry and fret and struggle back to the forbidden attraction, and get punished again, and raise Cain generally. And I have also seen them, when they were blessed with a wiser mother, stand happy and contended by the hour, turning the water off and on, gaining control over the muscles of the hands and arms with every turn.
Among the more convenient toys to be bought at the shop we may mention that old stand-by, Noah’s Ark. The best arks are large and strong, at least two feet long, with animals showing good clear lines—even though these lines are not to be found in Nature! At least, a camel will have his hump, and the elephant his trunk, and the tiger his stripes, so that by these plain markings the child will be able later to recognize the animals themselves.
At the ordinary toy-shop, you can find bells of all sorts, and one or two of them at least you may buy. If the noise of the bell in the house is very distracting, it may be kept as a special outdoor delight. Some children have to be coaxed to go out of doors, and for these children it is well to provide a special set of toys which are kept for outdoor use, and which are never used in the house.
One of these toys may be fittingly a drum. It should be hung up out of doors in the woodshed or barn, and never brought inside. Whistles can be used in the same way. They are ear-piercing indoors, but quite endurable out in the open air. For his quieter moments, baby should have sturdy books, pencil and papers, blunt scissors (for those over one year old), and soft toys to transition him from his loud, rollicking play to his sleepy time.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

A Few Novel Christmas Ideas

Some Christmas Ways, Mother’s Magazine, 1908

Finding an unusual way of giving Christmas gifts goes a long way toward making the day bright and holiday-like, and making the gifts themselves more attractive. Fun and novelty are two very helpful factors in carrying out any scheme of this kind.
Though the method of distributing gifts may not depend upon a tree, it is not necessary to banish to tree to oblivion. A dainty little tree, suited in size to an ordinary living-room, trimmed and lighted, decorates the house and suggests Santa Claus for a few days. Also, it makes a beautiful center about which to gather for Christmas Eve singing, or story-telling, or reciting of verses.
Having prepared the house and the family for a Christmas season, the manner of gift-giving may easily be varied. One family fond of secrecy and surprises uses as a receptacle for all the Christmas presents, a light-weight barrel covered with red and generously decorated with holly and ribbons. This is set into a corner of a convenient room and as one and another has a gift ready it is wrapped and labeled and dropped into the barrel. The parcels brought by mail or express or messenger are dropped into this receptacle without delay. When Christmas morning comes, father rolls the barrel to the middle of the room and with some show of importance and dignified curiosity takes out the packages as they come.
Another family utilizes the poster idea. Big red cards with holly and gay crape paper hang on the wall of the designated room, one over a capacious chair, another over a table, a third over a soft. At the “witching hour” of bedtime, on Christmas Eve, hurrying figures steal into the room and deposit packages under the various name cards. At a bell signal in the morning all enter the room and begin prospecting under their individual posters.
A third family assemble in the upper hall on Christmas morning, and, singing a processional carol, march down to the living room and take possession of various plainly labeled bags made to simulate mail sacks, and hung on racks simulating those used in the post office.
One father who loves fun sometimes “auctions off” gifts stacked on a large table. Ever one of the family is under bonds to bid when called on to do so, otherwise to hold his peace. Father begins at haphazard apparently, and goes along the row. When the right one has made a bid he shouts, “Gone!” Eager eyes and some high bidding over tempting-looking packages testify to the fun at hand. A pretty little house such as is sometimes used by Sunday-schools is brought into service in one home. A diminutive Santa Claus in cap and furs comes out the door of this house, bows low and calls in sweetest tones the name of a member of the family. When that one has gone forward and comes back loaded, Santa calls for another, and so on till al the gifts are distributed. The children particularly enjoy this, as it gives play to so much action.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Pass it On

This article is from the “Hearth and Home” Magazine, 1921. What a wonderful reminder to us all-

by Alan C. Stanton

If a blessing falls to you,
Giving life a rosy hue,
Brightening a dreary day
With its sunny, cheery ray,
Share it with your fellow men.
Pass it right along, and then
You will find it doubles up,
Overflows your brimming cup.

If a message you should hear,
Bringing courage, faith and cheer,
Through the shadows ringing true,
‘Tis not meant for only you!
Pass it on; another soul
Struggling hard to reach the goal,
Will find hope and comfort, too,
In the word that comes to you.

We thank the author of that bit of rhyme—both for writing it, and for sharing it with us all. It certainly rings true; and if we were all to put into sturdy, everyday practice the keynote of it the world would be a far happier dwelling-place for everybody. Suppose we make the resolve that we will do this; that we will share every pleasant word of smile, every kind action, every hit of good news that comes into our lives, radiating friendliness and cheer instead of ill-feeling and gloom. Not long ago we met an old acquaintance—a woman whose life has not been all sunshine. We remembered her as one who rarely smiled, whose mouth drooped at the corners, and whose forehead was barred by lines of care. Never was a greater change. Alert and fresh-looking, she paused and held out her hand in greeting. The mouth-corners turned up, the crisscross lines had lightened visibly, and her smile was radiant. With the freedom born of old time friendliness we asked her, after the first exchange of courtesies, what in the world she had been doing to herself. “I was sure you didn’t know me at first,” she said, the smile deepening to a cheery laugh. “Let me see- we haven’t met for more than two years, not since I returned from my cross-country trip. I was called to California, you know, the illness of a sister there. At the time I was really ill myself; my ear was a source of worry, constantly growing more deaf, and life seemed less worth the living than when I saw you last. Even I allowed myself to dread the journey, and wished with all my heart I did not have to take it, which is not the best way to set forth on any undertaking, you know. But on the train I met one of the bravest and dearest of women. She wore a little service-pin bearing two gold stars, so I knew of the grief that had shadowed her life. But not one word did she utter concerning her own heart-aches, when I poured my own tale of woe in her ears, dwelling with especial bitterness on my growing deafness.

“Instead, she smiled as she laid one hand lovingly over mine. ‘My dear,’ she said, ‘what you need is a change of base. You need to think differently of yourself, to realize that you are “born of the spirit,” and not of the flesh—the real you, I mean. If I give you a little talisman will you promise to use it faithfully?’ She did not wait for my answer, but busied herself with writing on a card, and this she put into my hand when she gathered her belongings together at the next stop. ‘Don’t forget,’ she said, with that wonderful, sunny smile. ‘Keep this by you, and whenever you get downhearted, and blue, and feel that he world—God’s world—is going wrong for you, read it. It is every word true, even though you may not think so at first, and by persistence in its use you will come to realize its verity—the eternal verity of good.’ Not until she had gone, waving good-bye at me from the platform, did I look at my ‘talisman,’ which truly seemed to me the sheerest nonsense: ‘I thank God that I am made in His image and likeness—harmonious, strong and well. I thank God that I am subject to no material thing. All is MIND. I am given dominion. My word shall not return unto me void, but shall accomplish that to which I send it. My ear is WELL.’ Of course I knew it wasn’t true, because it couldn’t be; but it haunted me. Over and again I went back to it, reading it until I knew it by heart. Presently, as the train sped on its way, it occurred to me that there might be a grain of truth in it, and my heart was happier for even that admission. Made in God’s image and likeness—and that I had always been taught, and had accepted in a way that meant nothing—how could I be sick, or miserable, or have defective hearing? Well, to cut my long story short, that precious talisman had made life a beautiful thing for me. Today I am well, my hearing is normal, really better than ever, and I am never so happy as when passing the blessing that has come to me on to others. My only regret is that I cannot tell that wonderful friend I made on the train what she did for me.”

Let your light shine—do not hide it under a bushel or elsewhere. If anything has helped to make your life better worth the living, let it do the same thing for others. The seed you sow may sometimes fall on stony ground; never mind—the sowing is all you are responsible for. This does not mean that we are to force our ideas on another, willy-nilly; it does mean that we are never to let pass an opportunity to share that which seems good to us. Note how that slip of paper changed the tenor of a life, and how the influence set in motion circles on and on. Of course, it might have happened that this acquaintance of ours, after reading her “talisman,” tossed it out of the window, in which case it might still have fallen into the hands of one who needed it teaching—we believe it would have, because no good effort is ever lost. But it didn’t go out of the windows, and it is cherished today as a precious thing—a veritable magic-worker; yet not so, in the usual acceptance of the term, because its working is so exactly in accord with the perfect law exemplified by the Master’s saying, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” And it was given, as the best things always are, without money and without price, and out of the earnest desire to helper another as the giver had been helped.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Kicking Against the "Bricks"

I found this article the other day in the April, 1910 issue of the Mother’s Magazine. It was one of those “I just happened to open it to this page and it was exactly what I needed” moments.

“Kicking Against the ‘Bricks’” by May C. Ringwalt

“Mother,” questioned Dorothy, after the sermon, “what made Paul kick against the ‘bricks’? Didn’t he know that it was naughty?”
Dorothy’s prattle echoed through my thoughts long after the nursery days were over, when one Sunday afternoon, a little friend came to pour out her woes.
She had been forced to give up a cozy home to accept a clerkship in a dry goods store. I had not seen her for several months, and the change in her shocked me. Her girlish prettiness and vivacity were gone, her face was haggard, her bright eyes had a sullen expression, and the gentle tone of her voice had become sharp and irritable.
“My poor, dear child!” I cried, “is your work so hard?”
“Oh, it isn’t the work!” she retorted. “That is easy enough. But I hate it so! I’m kicking inside all the time!”

How is it with you, little mother, weary and worn? Have you tired yourself out honestly with good, hard work, or have you wasted strength and nerves kicking against the “bricks”?
For every life has a brick laid upon it: disappointed ambition, a lack of personal magnetism, a tongue-tied timidity, the want of executive ability in you who long to be a leader at your club, in the sewing-society, at the church entertainment; poverty-the grinding necessity of turning over a penny when your generous heart would spend lavishly, bestowing rich gifts upon friends, stretching out a helping hand to the needy everywhere; household drudgery-the scrubbing of a kitchen floor, the washing of dishes, pots and pans, when you have an artistic temperament, musical tastes, a soul for the beautiful.
Again Dorothy flashes in to mind. And as I picture the little one with the golden curls and mischievous baby face, her cunning red dress “grown shorter” since the before, I hear myself sigh:
“If mother doesn’t want to lose her little girl, she’ll have to put a brick on her head!”Perhaps thus, little mother, God has laid his brick upon you-to prevent you from growing up to arrogance, selfishness and sin; to keep you a little child in faith and loving dependence-the little child who alone can inherit the kingdom of heaven.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

The Complete Home

My first post comes from the preface of Mrs. Julia McNair Wright's book, "The Complete Home", published in 1879. There is much wisdom and food for thought in this one page alone.

Between the Home set up in Eden, and the Home before us in Eternity, stand the homes of Earth in a long succession. It is therefore important that our Homes should be brought up to a standard in harmony with their origin and destiny. Here are "Empire's primal Springs;" here are the Church and State in embryo; here all improvements and reforms must rise. For national and social disasters, for moral and financial evils, the cure begins in the Household. In no case could legislation and commerce lead back a day of honesty and plenty, unless the Family were their active co-worker. Where souls and bodies are nourished, where fortunes are builded, and brains are trained, there must be a focus on all moral and physical interests.

Is it true that marriages and American-born children are lessening? Does the Family fail in fulfilling its Divine intention? Why should young men fear to marry, and by undue caution deprive themselves of the joys and safeguards of domestic life? Why should young women, having but little instruction in the duties, dangers and possibilities of the married state, wed in haste, and make the future a long regret? Why, when the final step is taken, should the young pair not know all that it is needful to know to secure their Home in its integrity, that it may be happy, orderly and beautiful, that they may know how to preserve health, train children, make, save, and spend money? . . .Every day has its full share of troubles, but, by troubles well met, we grow stronger. We rise- "By stepping stones Of our dead selves, to higher things."

How then shall the Home fulfill the great duty lying before it-the day of restoring confidence and energy, of eradicating evils, of bringing much out of little, and affording to every Family in the land an assumed competence? The answer to these questions, the indication of the means of reaching an end so grand, will take hold on Moral Principles and their practical out-working. . . .

There is no thought more beautiful and far-reaching than this of the solidarity or oneness of the Family; here, man is indissolubly bound to his fellows. The individual is solitary, but God setteth the solitary in families. The stream of time is crowded with the ships of Households, parents and children, youth and infancy, age with its memories, childhood with its fancies, youth with its loves, maturity with its cares. A beautiful picture represents such a life-scene. The Household bound for the same eternity, trying the same fates.

"In childhood's hour, with careless joy
Upon the stream we glide,
With Youth's bright hopes, we gayly speed,
To reach the other side.

" Manhood looks forth with careful eye,
Time steady plies the oar;
Wit Old Age calmly waits to hear
The keel upon the shore."