Monday, August 29, 2011

Earn a Million $ a Year Staying Home: The Value of Motherhood

On another soapbox today; however, I promise not to be so judgemental...a friend who reads my blog (may be just about the only one, besides my family!) pointed out gently that there are better ways to create change than yelling at people.  She's right.  In my own defense, sometimes the unfairness of the world gets to me and makes me want to scream, and what is a blog except a place where one can scream in public and not get arrested?!

BS (Beloved Spouse, and there's a story behind that which I'll tell you someday) and I had a dust up last night about the money - just about the only thing we ever fight about - and this morning I was grumping around, getting his breakfast, ironing his shirt, and making his lunch...okay, before someone yells at me for being a 50's housewife, I'll just add that he is handicapped, and long ago I made the choice that I would do these things because I wanted to....and fuming and entertaining a long, involved fantasy where I ran away for a month and let him find out firsthand how valuable I am.  Kind of an adult version of a kid running away so her parents will find out how much they miss her! 

So, I'm happily planning this as I'm slapping peanut butter on bread, and ran headfirst, metaphorically, into The Issue - money.  As in, what would I use for money when I ran away.  I don't work outside the home and don't have a money tree growing in secret in the closet, so how would I fund this little getaway?  And that led into some thinking about the monetary value of BEING a stay at home mom. 

When the girls went to college last year, he told me that I should not see it as the end of being a mom, but as a well earned retirement and do what I wanted, which was pretty darn nice and made me feel much better for a while, but then as our college fund continued to dribble away, the money worrying came back.  I can't work at a regular full time job due to medical issues, and most part time jobs are in retail, which mean being on your feet for hours at a time, which I just can't do.

But then it came to me...maybe on peanut butter fumes....I worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year from the time the girls were born.  It was all on me, as he can't do a lot of the things an able bodied dad could do to help out.  So I did some figuring, and this is what I came up with...and trust me - this will BLOW your mind!

24/7 times 365 is 61,320 hours.  Multiply that times $22 an hour, which was roughly what I was making as a teacher, and you get (hold onto your jaw) $1,349,040!!!!  That's over a million dollars a year! And that's just ONE year!  Multiply that times 18 and you get $24,282.720.  WOW.

Now, I'm sure it could be argued that I didn't actually WORK all those hours, and that's true.  However, I was "on call" all of that time, which meant that at any moment, awake or sleeping, I could be needed.  Think about it - all of those middle of the night wake up calls of "MOMMY!"  The call from the school that a child has a fever and needs to come home.  All those hours of volunteering - Girl Scouts, dance, Latin Club, book fair, tutoring, etc.  Think about it!  It really adds up to 18 years of always being there.

I certainly don't expect anyone to write me a check for 24 million dollars, and that theoretical value of what I did will absolutely not help send the girls to college.  But the next time someone says to me or any stay at home mom, "Do you work?" we can say, "Why, yes, I do work - right here at home - and it's a VERY valuable job."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Reminder of Reality

A Rajasthani woman cooking- © Photo Kisa Lala 2011

This picture is of a woman in India cooking.  The next time you're in Wal-Mart, thinking you need to replace your perfectly good but slightly old pots with brand new ones that match, think about this picture and imagine yourself cooking in that room...and then go donate that money to a charity.  My good GOD!  We have SO much.  People like this have so little.  Moral:  don't whine.  Be grateful.  No matter how bad off you are, if you're on your own computer looking at this, you are better off than most of the rest of the world.  That's definitely something to be grateful for.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I read a number of blogs, which often crack me up and even more often provide me with something really profound to think about.  I believe that's what blogs are best at.  Voices out in the internet wilderness, telling us things we really need to know.

However, there also seem to be a lot of blogs out there with their owners endlessly inspecting their own navels and whining about why their lives aren't what they though they'd be.  I don't mean the occasional whine that we all do.  I mean the non-stop picking at life like it's a scab.  It's a very destructive habit - picking at scabs leaves scars - remember?  Our moms always told us that.
These people, I think they've missed the point.  The life we get is the life we've got.  Sometimes it's up to us to change it for the better, and sometimes it's for that life to change US for the better.  The goal here is BETTER.  Not richer.  Not cooler.  Not more exciting.  BETTER.  Better for ourselves and others.  The way to do that is NEVER whining about what we don't HAVE.

Take a minute...when you're feeling whiny...and do a gratitude list.  Start with "A" and find something in your life that you're grateful for that starts with "A".  Then do "B".  And keep on until the end.  I guarantee you will feel much happier when you are done.  Because you've looked at your own life and found things to be grateful for.  Gratitude is the ultimate anti-whining tool!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Class Wars

While watching London and other parts of the world burn over the last few months, I'm sure there are a lot of complacent people who insist that "that could never happen here!" as if somehow we are morally superior to the rest of humanity.  Make no mistake - it WILL happen here.  All it will take is an incident to provide the flash point, and our cities will ignite faster than they did during the race riots of the Sixties.  Why?  Because the government, like Nero of old, fiddles while the economy goes up in smoke. 

The ink on President Obama's inauguration speech wasn't even dry before opposition leaders were publically vowing to make his a one term presidency.  And amid the mud slinging and name calling and blame assigning, one thing is clear - a failed economy is a victory for the opposition.  Because if the economy can't be fixed, everything can be blamed on the president (even though the seeds of this debacle were sowed during several opposition presidencies...) and that could lead to a change in the White House in 2012.  The big wigs claim they are working on the problems and that it's the debt that keeps all from being well, but that's just a front for what's really happening - they're waiting for this presidency to fail.  If they can just bluster and obstruct long enough, a fickle public will do the deed for them and they can sweep into the White House in a blaze of glory in 2012. 

But here's the rub - that won't fix the economy.  For one thing, the losing party in this farce will turn around and do the same thing, thus ensuring that the problems are never fixed.  And while all this happens, the unemployed and uninsured and disenfranchised population gets madder and madder.

We'll burn.  I have no doubt.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Heavenly Days

I often think about Heaven.  I have some definite ideas about it.  I believe that when our mortal bodies give out, it frees up our minds and we can access some of that huge mysterious part that scientists are always telling us we don't use.  With no physical restrictions, and the awesome brainpower that is now available, I believe that we can jump the constraints of time and space and go wherever and WHENever we want.  And I know exactly where I will go first.

Of course, before I go whizzing off, I'd like to think there's something of a welcome station where we start.  That the white light and the tunnel lead us to a celestial train which is pulling into the heavenly depot, where all of our family and friends are waiting to say hello.  Over there is Grama Nelle, with Grampa Loris puffing on his cigar...and there's my brother Steve, golf bag over his shoulder - he took time from his daily golf game to come and welcome me Home.  Oh, and there's my mother-in-law, Fran, saying, "Hello, hello, hello!" as she always did every time we arrived.  There are a lot of other faces, too, whom I don't recognize but I know instinctively are the ancestors who came before.  And frisking around getting under everyone's feet are the cats - Emily and Pooky and Charlie and Booger and Lady and Tigger and Tiger and little Jack.  

I've always thought that coming home, wherever home is, is one of the most wonderful feelings we experience on earth, and that makes me think it's God's way of showing us a little tiny taste of what we will find at the end of all things mortal.  You know what I mean?  The way your parents' house smells - even if it's not the same one you grew up in?  The way it feels to get out of the car, or off the train, or walk down the jetway towards those people you love best in the world.  It's His way of telling us that the best is yet to be.

And then...?  After we've caught up and eased those sore places in our hearts that have been there since these folks left us?  Then...we GO.  Wherever and whenever.  For me, it's a cottage just a little way out of a small town in Ohio, filled with love and laughter, and lots of children.  And I'm there - and I'm slender (a girl can dream, can't she?!) and there's my Scott and he can walk now and we can dance while the kids laugh and clap their hands.  And then the days just go by...the seasons turn... the world is never ugly and the kids never leave home and we just enjoy life as it ambles by.

The best thing of all?  That's MY heaven, but yours will be what satisfies your soul the most.  Only you, and God, know what that is.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Made in....Where?

Younger Progeny had to have minor shoulder surgery recently, and when I stopped by Walgreen's to pick up some supplies, I spotted bags of fall mallow candy - you know, candy corn and those fun and tasty shaped ones, pumpkins and moons and so on?  Anyway, both girls thrive on this stuff in the fall, so as a treat, I picked up two bags and as I was standing in line waiting to check out I happened to notice something on the label.  It said....Made in Mexico. 

What?  Okay, since when?  Has it always been made there and I just didn't know?  But Brach's is an old, old American company, right?  Since 1906, right?  (Okay, so I didn't know that 'til I looked it up on the website, but I knew it was old.)  Turns out they were purchased a few years back by a huge conglomerate called Farleys and Sathers, and they have five manufactories - three in the U.S. and two in Mexico.  I suppose it makes sense that we would get product made in Mexico because this little slice of boiling hot ick we live in is so close to it.

Look, I don't have anything against Mexico or Mexicans.  What I DO seriously hate is that practically nothing is manufactured HERE.  And, yeah, that means that we can go buy a lot of fun cheap crap, then give it away, then start over, on and on, ad nauseum.  But it seems to me that we, as a country, can't do that forever.  We're already way over our heads in debt, unemployment is still an ugly part of a lot of people's lives...and for WHAT?  CHEAPO CRAP? 

We need to bring our companies back.  Then pay decent living wages to people - not crazy wages, because that's how the unions shot themselves in the foot in the first place.  Honestly, people pushing brooms in auto plants making $30+ an hour?  Please...  And why did the unions feel they had to force the crazy wages?  Because we are all DAMN SPOILED.  We want our three t.v.'s, our two cars, cable, fast internet, cruises....  Insanity!

Look, people.  I remember my 95 year old father-in-law telling me once that he had just two books before he went away to college.  They went to the library to get books to read.  He had one good suit for Sunday and special events and he had a mishmash of hand me downs and second hand stuff for everyday.  Now, I'm not saying that we have got to start living like that again, but we could rein ourselves in a lot more than we do.  We need to be saving our money, bringing our factories back home, paying for things in FULL before we start playing with them, living in houses designed for one family, not eight families...EP's science teacher did an exercise one day where they had to tell what square footage their house was.  We live in an 1800 sq. ft. house.  Most of her class lived in 2500 sq. ft. or more.  According to this teacher, if every family on Earth lived in our sized house, it would take the equivalent of THREE additional Earth's worth of resources to build and sustain them.  For the bigger houses it was anywhere from four to fifteen Earth's worth of resources.  Incredible waste!

We in the U.S. live better than 95% of the world's people.   And here's the saddest and scariest fact of all.  Even if the rest of the people on Earth could come up with the money to live like we do, they still COULD NOT because we've used up way more than our fair share of the resources.  What's going to happen to us when the rest of the world starts figuring this out?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Seasons and Paths and a Diver Figurine*


When I graduated from Ohio State, with my newly minted teaching degree, some 5000 other people graduated with me.  Yet, I got a teaching position right out of college, and taught for ten years with a great deal of success.  I believe that it was the path God wanted me on at the time. 

Ten years later, I resigned and became - by way of a pair of twin girls - a full time mom.  Though insanely busy, I was often restless and wanted something besides mothering and housewifery, so I tried varying things.  I painted country wooden stuff and made wonderful cloth dolls, and sold them at craft fairs, but I was never very good at forcing myself to make a bunch of the same thing, so I wasn't all that successful, financially.  Then, when the girls were in kindergarten, I got a sub certificate and tried subbing...HATED that.  Nothing like being in a room with 25 or 30 kids you don't know, with at least 3/4ths of them trying to drive you nuts. To me, it didn't feel anything like being a real teacher (my apologies to subs - I know there are some really amazing ones out there and you ARE real teachers!)  Then a full time position opened up at a local crafts big box store.  I LOVED that job, but it was the wrong time - too many hours away from the children I had fought for almost seven years to conceive.  Finally, I became a Stampin' Up! demonstrator, and while I love teaching classes, the selling part just isn't my thing.  When our girls went to college, I kind of floundered, wondering what was next for me.

Well, what was next was selling on Ebay.  I have loved vintage stuff - 40's and 50's mostly - for quite some time, and the day came when I realized that I had too much stuff, but I kept running into fantastic deals!  The logical outcome?  Sell the stuff!  However, I was quite prepared to fail, since I haven't had any appreciable luck in selling in the last 20 years.

What a surprise I was in for!  I found a Gay Fad decanter and glasses at Goodwill for around six bucks - and they sold for over $50.  Ditto a set of canisters, a tray, and several other items.  All of a sudden, it seemed that God had opened the door for me.   I believe this is how I am going to be able to help the girls pay for college.  I'm sure there are challenges ahead - times when nothing sells - but for now, I enjoy the feeling of success.   To everything there is a season...

*The figurine?  I bought it for a quarter at a garage sale in Harbor Springs, Michigan, and sold it for over $63 dollars this week.  Thank you so much, Lord!

Saturday, July 30, 2011


I love to eat raw tomatoes.  As a child, growing up in Ohio, summer meant long, hot days playing with my friends under the big green trees out back, running through the grass with dirty, bare feet, then coming in to dinner to ice cold milk, and, if I was lucky, fresh picked tomatoes and hot corn on the cob.  Sometimes, that was all we had, and it was plenty, because a hungry child could eat all she wanted.  No one needed anything else to distract from the incredible taste of butter dripping down the chin, the sweet, crisp taste of the corn, and then, as a lovely counterpoint, the icy, salty, tangy tomatoes.

Unfortunately, though we go to the midwest every year, Beloved Spouse's current school calendar insists on us being home by the end of July so he can go back the first week in August.  Those of you from the midwest know that the good, local corn and tomatoes don't show up until (at the earliest) the first week in August.   That leaves us, every year, coming home too early for corn and tommy-toes feasts (as my dad would say!)

Fortunately, this year a farm near Petoskey came to the rescue with locally grown hothouse tomatoes.  They were AMBROSIA.  I am not exaggerating.  I couldn't wait to get back to the cottage and slice one up.  Plus, they looked so pretty in the old pottery bowls in the cottage!  See for yourself:

Doesn't that make your mouth water?  It sure does MINE, though I'm also starving, waiting for Elder Progeny to make homemade spanish rice and pollo asado, from scratch.  She is COOKING this summer.  All the time.  I have the hips and butt to prove it.

I've heard that some of the organic farms around here are now doing heirloom hothouse and garden tomatoes.  I'll keep you posted, though somehow the idea of eating them in February or March isn't quite the same.

Friday, July 29, 2011


One of the things I love about life is how little delights pop up when you least expect them.  Case in point - we emptied the van the first night we were home and I immediately started unwrapping bundles and rediscovering all the neat things I found this summer in Michigan and Indiana.  I really found a LOT this year, so once it was all out of the paper and wrap I separated it into "sell" and "keep" and began the process of cleaning, weighing, photographing, and listing the items on eBay. 

The next day we went to the grocery to stock up and when we were unloading back at home, I looked across the expanse of the cargo area and noticed some bags slightly under Elder Progeny's seat.  Thinking they were trash left over from the trip, I grabbed them up to pitch them...and nearly dumped a solid, tissue wrapped object onto the garage floor!  Upon investigation, the bags turned out to contain a lovely vintage figurine I had purchased at a new thrift in downtown Richmond, Indiana, and a delicate, gold painted, porcelain tray with daisies which I found at a Goodwill...somewhere!  Perhaps in Bloomington, Indiana....

Anyway, I thanked the good Lord that either hadn't ended up smashed on the concrete, and took them inside to clean them up and decide what I was going to do with them.  I have a cheerful, blue and yellow daisy-spangled tablecloth - mint! - I got on eBay last spring on the kitchen table right now.  It represents summertime to me - makes me think of Black Eyed Susans and the wonderfully fragrant stretches of verge alongside the woods and fields at home...don't get me started, or I'll be crying over my keyboard and messing up my laptop....

I don't have a matching napkin holder for this cloth, nor a set of salt and pepper shakers, so on a whim I grabbed up the tray, plopped the figurine and our plain old shakers, and set the whole shebang in the middle of the table...and stood there, happily surprised by how great it looked together!

Serendipity: (noun)  luck, or good fortune, in finding something good accidentally 

Yep, that sums it up.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Home Again

We're home from our annual five week trek back to the Midwest to see family and friends, and boy, do we have a LOT of junk to deal with!  One of the highlights of the trip for me is all the wonderful garage sales and thrift stores in Indiana and Michigan.  You can still get amazing vintage collectibles for a quarter back there!  I came home with a pile of stuff to try and sell on eBay.  So, am I taking pictures and putting things up?  NO!  I'm writing to you!  But it's been a long time and I hate letting so much time go by.  We don't have internet for most of the trip (something I'm determined to rectify next year). 

I found an adorable 17" hard side suitcase, probably 50's or 60's, at a garage sale and it reminded me of this tabletop tableau I set up last spring.  I have a LOT of vintage travel stuff - I'm trying to get a plate for every state, for instance, and I was running out of room for some of the extras.  I had a table free in the living room, so, as part of my quest to leave no surface uncovered (ha!) I set this up.  I think it's pretty cute, myself.
I found everything here at garage sales or Goodwill except the photo albums.  My mother-in-law called those "Kodak books" and she had them for each child, chronicling their growing up years.  These are the traditional black paper, b & w photos, and pen-inscribed captions.  Last year Beloved Spouse went through and re-stuck-down all the pictures (using up at least four of my tape runners...grrr....) and now we can look at them without pictures falling out left and right.

You can't really see the London tray - here's another picture:
I believe this may be pre-WWII, or maybe just after.  On the back there's a sticker which states that  " is better not to put hot vessels such as aluminium teapots directly on to the tray."  Such a HOOT - I love it - alu-MINIUM.  So British!  Plus the irony is that someone quite brainless or forgetful, like me, obviously did exactly that, as you can see by the perfectly round heat stain in the center of the tray....  That's one of the things I just love about vintage stuff - it has history
Okay, enough dinking to get some things up on eBay.  If you're interested, my "name" is niftiefifties.  Don't laugh.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Grace of Completion

The other day I went shopping with a friend and I seemed to see cranky children everywhere we went.  Little ones yanking on mom's legs, big ones mouthing back....endlessly irritating.  And I realized that God was showing me something important, because with every one I was silently saying, "Thank you, Lord, that's not ME". 

I loved, passionately loved, being a mom, through all the stages - and still am loving this amazing job of mine.  And for the longest time there was a little voice that would hope, every month, that another small person would be added to our household.  I would wish on stars, wishing wells, candles...and when nothing happened, the desire quietened to just an occasional, "Gosh, I wish...".  Finally, I got to the point where I was hardly ever thinking of a new little one.  Then, that "time of life" caught up with me, and I expected to feel at least somewhat mournful that now there was no chance of  a new child.  Instead, this moment of grace occured.

I realized that I have had my time, and, oh, what a time it was.  I got every drop out of it, and savored it, but I don't want any more.  I'm content. I'm happy with young adults, and excited by the adventure of life that is awaiting them.  I'm also tired, so tired that I'm grateful that I'm not chasing small ones around.

We are told to expect seasons of our lives.  In Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, v. 1 - 9, we are told that "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:  a time to be born, a time to die..."  God has shown me that my season of motherhood is coming to a close; that although I will always be a mother, that my active mothering is no longer as needed.  Instead of being sad, and trying to hold on to this, I should be joyful and expectant - what will He bring into my life now?  What season will this be for me?  I don't know yet, but I do know one thing.  It will be blessed, because He will bring it to me.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


I've had cats my whole life.  I really can't imagine life without them...though I don't have to imagine it because I lived through it for four years.  Spouse is allergic to the long haired type beast and we thought that meant he couldn't tolerate any type beast in the house.  I loved him so I was willing (or so I thought) to do without something that had been a major part of my life since I was five.  Bad idea.

Those four years were difficult - two very VERY different people trying to come to grips with marriage and home ownership and careers and all the little landmines those things entail.  Then, as if all that wasn't hard enough, we started trying to get pregnant and within three years of "I do" we were on that wonderful roller coaster called infertility treatments.  Maybe you've heard of it?  Get something done, chug up that long, long rise waiting, waiting, scared but excited, reach the top, have a test, and ... BAM you're whizzing down into tears and misery.  Then you get another treatment, start chugging back up the rise...well, you get the idea.

Somewhere in the middle of that, a friend and I were at a garden center.  A little black cat trotted out from behind some bushes and my friend said, "There you are!  This is the one I've been telling you about.  He's SUCH a sweetie!"  The little cat came right up on the tip of my shoe, meowing as if I was his long lost cousin from Nebraska, and when I scooped him up in my arms - because he WAS so darned sweet - he rubbed his face against my breast and started to purr...and I was lost.  Then, I literally could not put him down, because each time I tried he would start climbing up my leg. I stood there, my heart breaking because I knew, KNEW I could not bring this little stray home.  That's when fate intervened in the person of a nasty young worker walking by who said, "You guys want that cat, you better take him.  I'm dumping him in the desert tonight.  Can't have him hanging around here, we'll get in trouble."

Well, long story short...Pooky came home with me that night, and I held on fiercely.  If I couldn't have a child, I was at least going to have a cat, by God, and no stick-in-his-rear-end husband was going to stop me.  Spouse didn't talk to me for three days, and it was touch and go for a while after that.  Then one day I came home and found Pooky curled up on the bed next to him as he watched t.v. and I knew the battle was over.  Not by any stretch of the imagination could you say he enjoys the cats, but he does tolerate them.

Pooky was my child all those years I couldn't have any human ones.  God found a way to give me something to hold on to until He could give me the children He had waiting in heaven.  .

My most recent beast - one of three - is fidgeting behind the laptop, trying to get a pen to play with her since her human is falling down on the job.  This one is also a rescue beast - a friend found her, three siblings, and her mom starving in her woodpile two summers ago.  Mine is the runt of the litter and what she doesn't have in brains (we think the summer sun cooked them out) she makes up for in sheer curiosity.  I pray daily that she has her full complement of lives because she is going to need them! And she is a daily reminder to me that God is always taking care of me, in one way or another.

And now we have three new kittens in the house.  Foster children, in a way.  My daughters are taking care of  three motherless darlings until they are ready to be adopted out.  There are two marmalade kittens and one breathtaking beauty of black and grey tabby-hood.  We'll take care of them; God takes care of us; the cycle of life spins around and around.  And all is well here at the cottage.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


     My paternal grandmother was Nelle.  Nelle Madeleine Winans Clark, to be exact.  She was born on May 18, 1897 in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.  When Grama was born, there were no airplanes, no cars (except for interesting experiments), no rockets, no radios, no televisions, no computers.  Electric lights were still somewhat of a novelty, as was the telephone.
     Her father was a brick layer, who didn't have much work in the winter, and as there were 11 children in the family, there wasn't much money to go around.  They ate a lot of potatoes, which Grama always said was the reason she was a bit heavy.  Too much starch, she said. 
     When she graduated from high school in 1915, she went to the Normal School at Valparaiso, Indiana, to learn to be a teacher.  She taught for a year or two, and then found that being a secretary brought in more money.  Strange how some things never change...
     She met a young man named Loris with a devilish smile and a tall pompadour and they fell in love.  He took pictures of her and pasted them to a notebook, which he kept all his life in his World War I army foot locker.  They were married in October of 1923, and in that same foot locker is a kewpie doll with a bridal outfit that stood on the cake.  On their invitation it says that they would be "at home" to visitors by December, in Dayton, Ohio.
     It wasn't an easy life they had.  My grandfather had left school in the 10th grade to help his family survive.  He was a genius at "tinkering" - could build and rebuild engines and had a knack for industrial design, but he had no formal education.  He worked numerous jobs, trying to find something that fit his unique talents. Once he started his own business, only to have his partner vanish with the proceeds.  Nelle got a job at Wright Field, in the steno pool and he got a job in the fledgling air conditioning business.
     They wanted children, but the years passed by so did the stork.  Eventually, a doctor told her she would never be able to have a child, so she threw herself into her work.  She started at the bottom of the steno pool at Wright Field in 1924 making $960 a year.  The years went by.  They wanted to build a house, but by then the Depression was in full swing, and they knew it would be a challenge.   And then - a miracle happened.  At 37 years old, she was pregnant.  My father was born on July 3, 1935. 
     Despite her dream coming true, Nelle still had to work, because Loris was still struggling to find a full time job.  She had worked her way up to Senior Clerk (CAF-5, making $2000 a year).  Then my grandfather was offered a wonderful job in Silver Springs, Maryland.  Even though it meant losing her place at Wright Field, they made the move to Maryland.  Four months later, the job disappeared.
     Nelle started back at her old job, Jr Clerk/Steno 2 on Sept. 13, 1938.  Loris found a job at Master Electric at the very bottom of the business, pushing a broom, doing odd jobs, sorting and filing.  But they were the generation that bred the men and women who would fight WW II a few years later, and they did not give up easily.  By 1945, when she was finally able to quit and stay home to raise my dad and be a housewife, she had worked herself all the way up to Administrative Assistant, making $2900 a year.  Loris had worked his way up to a full fledged position, dreaming up new ideas and getting patents on them.
     This was the last generation that could do this.  This was the American Dream in the late 1800's and early 1900's - the self-made man and woman who started with nothing and ended up with a house, a garage, a family, and a roast in the pot every Sunday.  Nickle paperbacks told the stories a hundred different ways and kids believed, truly believed, that you could become whatever you wanted with hard work and a good attitude.  Magazine articles, sermons from the pulpit, stories in schoolbooks - all told the tale.
     Nelle passed away in 1970.  The upheavals of the 60's had already swept away that bright and shining generation and replaced it with anger, sarcasm, cynicism, and greed.  While I'm not sorry that discrimination against women and people of color also fell by the wayside, I do feel like we're holding a collective bathtub and wondering where the heck the baby went.  Where did the good stuff go? 
     GIGO.  It's a computer term.  It means "garbage in, garbage out".  An easy concept to grasp - shovel garbage intoanything - a machine, a computer, your soul, and garbage will spew back out.  However, I think it could also mean "good in, good out".  Read those writers who have good, uplifting things to say, and your world will come out uplifted.  Magazines in Nelle's era were full of articles that taught a clean and steady way of being, and a clean and steady world existed. 
     People ask me why I live surrounded by things from the past.  The answer is - they make me feel good.  They evoke that era gone by, and help me to be better at living up to Nelle's world.  I hope when I see her again someday, she'll be proud of me.
Grandpa Loris wrote "A Flower Among the Flowers"  ca. 1921

Loris mustering out in 1920.  The war ended before he could get "over there".

Donovan Lee Clark, my dad, about 18 mos.

1139 Oakdale Dr., Dayton, Ohio, around 1940.  My very best memories of childhood are from times in this house.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Parable about Irons

     My husband and I have been married for almost 27 years, and in that time we have been through five toasters, five irons, and five vacuum cleaners.  They call this "planned obsolescence".  It allows companies to make cheap products - usually overseas where they pay their workers a fraction of what an American is paid for the same work...oh, except we don't HAVE very many of those jobs left because they've nearly all gone overseas.  And because the products are so cheap in price, they're also, well, CHEAP.  They don't last.
     So recently, on one of my vintage treasure hunts, I came across an iron made in the late 50's.  I paid five bucks for it at Goodwill.  The cord and plug looked to be in great shape, so I took my courage in both hands (I'm a real chicken when it comes to things that heat up) and plugged it in.  It heated up in a fraction of the time my most recent one took, and got truly hot, so that starched cottons got that wonderful crisp feel and look.  I've been using it for about a month now and I'll keep you posted.  A friend of mine has one that was her mom's and she's STILL using it, after all these years.
     I looked irons up in an old Montgomery Ward catalog (1958 - 59) and found my same iron.  It sold for $9.95 then.  With the change in monetary values since then, that same iron would sell for about $75 now.  An iron - any electric appliance - was an investment in those days.  You saved your money, you waited, and you bought when you had the money in hand.  And here's the important point - that item was WORTH the money you paid.  Now people can - and do - argue what's the difference between buying one iron at $75 and five irons at $15.  The difference?  It's that the $75 iron would provide a living wage for an American.  It would last 30, 40, 50 years.  There'd be less waste.  Less discarded junk to make our garbage dumps overflow.  We MUST rethink our values.  And this is why, beyond all other considerations.
     Someday we're going to have to fight another big war.  The last really big war - World War II - was won for a lot of reasons, one of which was that we had the factory infrastructure available to change over to war materiel.  We produced an unimaginable amount of STUFF in the five years of the war.  Where would we get that STUFF now?  China?  What if we're at war with China?  Think they'll sell us the stuff to beat them? 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I Love to Iron

     I really love to iron.  I know a lot of women consider it a task to be avoided whenever possible, but I actually love to do it.  Mostly only when I'm ironing cotton, though.  Anything else is not nearly as much fun.  I guess it's because I LOVE starch.  I love the way it smells.  I love how the heat of the iron smooths down the cotton and makes it crisp and shiny.  I love how starch and an iron take a wrinkly piece of fabric and turn it into a thing of beauty.
     This is my iron.  And my starch.
I found my iron in a Goodwill store for $5.  More about that tomorrow.  I found the same iron in a 1958 Montgomery Ward catalog, so it's from "my" era (1935 - 1960, which is, curiously, the year I was born...I'm sure there's some philosophy in that...)  It works like a dream, despite already being at least 53 years old.  Certainly works better than I do, at 50. 
     I was ironing because I have so many wonderful vintage linens, and until now, I didn't really have a way to display them unless I was using them on my kitchen hutch (more about THAT another day, too!)  Then I found this wonderful old quilt holder, on Etsy.

The cat is Socks, my daughter's "baby".  She's four years old and weighs over 20 pounds.  But, BOY, can she love and purr...  Anyway, I found this great piece and decided to iron up some of my linens to display them.

     This is how it came out.  I love it!  I looked for the "Kitchen Parade" towel forever before we found it at a local flea market.  I love all the great designs with faces - the tablecloth underneath is another find and the veggies have faces.  I'm also a sucker for those "days of the week" designs.  You have to really admire all the work that went into this simple things.  And the work ethic behind it - don't spend money on stuff, make it yourself.  Makes sense - not much t.v., you had to go to the movies, and during those days at home while the kids were at school, doing needlework in front of the radio had to have been a special time of the day - get off your feet and take time for YOU.      I found another iron at the same flea market, but this one had a box, so I used it as part of a display.  I got an old wooden ironing board, years ago, and I have a little collection of vintage washday stuff.  I adore the graphics on this stuff.
I thought the "Monday Washday" cloth underneath went perfectly!  I found the Fels-Naptha bars at a garage sale in Indiana for ten cents each.  I also adore garage sales.  Especially back East.  You can still find prices of ten cents and a quarter there.      A wonderful book on vintage linens is this one:

It's not a price guide.  It show lots and lots of wonderful old linens, with stories from the women who made them and the women who collect them.  It is a wonderful resource, but it's also an homage to the women who made our homes wonderful.
     Well, that's it for today.  I hope you'll stroll down the cottage path again another day and join me.