Category Archives: women

Edith Schaeffer

Edith Schaeffer died today!

I only heard by just now reading this blog post, from a friend of mine whose mother and I are friends and fellow home-lovers. Edith Schaeffer through two of her books, What is a Family and The Hidden Art of Homemaking, helped me in many ways to develop my own style and philosophy of homemaking.

Several particular principles and practices, from the importance of caring for the sick to table decorating, became part of my being and contributed to the joy of being the woman of my home. She was the first decidedly Christian person I read who understood the importance of beauty in the home, and she gave many (I remember I thought almost too many!) examples of how one might create a home environment that was rich in all the important things, even if worldly riches were lacking.

I am very thankful for this sister in Christ. May she rest in peace, and may her memory be eternal.

Sorting lentils and words and….

A Woman Cleaning Lentils

A lentil, a lentil, a lentil, a stone.
A lentil, a lentil, a lentil, a stone.
A green one, a black one, a green one, a black. A stone.
A lentil, a lentil, a stone, a lentil, a lentil, a word.
Suddenly a word. A lentil.
A lentil, a word, a word next to another word. A sentence.
A word, a word, a word, a nonsense speech.
Then an old song.
Then an old dream.
A life, another life, a hard life. A lentil. A life.
An easy life. A hard life, Why easy? Why hard?
Lives next to each other. A life. A word. A lentil.
A green one, a black one, a green one, a black one, pain.
A green song, a green lentil, a black one, a stone.
A lentil, a stone, a stone, a lentil.

— Zahrad

I found this provocative poem on this blog post, and have been keeping it in the back of my mind until today when I read a comment by Celeste on this blog post, about her own need to “re-sort.”

The household and garden chores that I pile up around me every day, the practical love for husband and children and grandchildren, the worship of God in His Church such as I enjoyed this morning, the good books and blogs I read, the writing I am compelled to do — they all seem to be represented and connected for me in the images of these lines.

Here I am, once again in the middle of trying-not-to-be-frantic trip preparations, but God gave me an extra hour this afternoon, which meant I could eat some leftover frittata and read a comment on a blog, and look what happened! More sorting of thoughts and realities, with the unspoken urge to order my affections aright and find His peace and strength for the next few hours and days.

Suddenly a word.
A life.

Bird’s Open Heart

I am taking a tutorial from Bird on aging gracefully; she is graceful and gracious both. The two of us were talking about how we both are forgetful hostesses, never remembering to offer our guests so much as a glass of water, much less tea and cookies. But my friend never locks her door, and usually doesn’t even shut it all the way, because she wants visitors to come in without knocking; she doesn’t always hear a knock or the doorbell.

She is always so glad for company, and rarely talks about herself, preferring to ask about her younger friends and their families, and to hear other people’s stories. Her own stories are only told when they pertain to some matter that concerns her guest, or after emphatic prompting. Bird is almost 95 years old; is she ever going to become what I find to be the more typical elderly person, living in the past, and impatient with recent people and their doings?

When I had her for tea last week she was the guest of honor. I picked her up and drove her to my house, and on the way here in the car I showed her a list of topics we wouldn’t mind her talking about. She started laughing — I don’t know at which question — and said teasingly, “I am not going to come to any more of your tea parties!” But when the guests had all arrived she was willing to share of her past and her tales with them, and entertain us all with her humor.

There is the story about her novel, written in high school, about the Spanish dancer Juanita. It was a love story, but Bird knew nothing about “the kind of love you have when you are married.” At the end of the romance, when Juanita and her suitor have progressed in their relationship to the point where the ardor is intense, the novel closes with the line, “Juanita leaned.”

The photo here was taken when her 11th child was a toddler and Bird was about 35 years old. She looks happy enough to burst—serene at the same time. I think she must have been the best wife for her husband; she was apparently not contrary, but neither was she wimpy. She had to be strong and steady when he was depressed and couldn’t work for — was it three years? The kind of person who would keep doing her own job of running the household, waiting and praying for things to change.

She told us over tea that decades ago, when some of us used to see the couple walking “together,” Bird ten yards behind, that Mr. Bird had needed long walks to help with his “emotional problems.” He would be in shirtsleeves, and she was wearing a sweater, and he told her he was embarrassed by her wearing the sweater, and asked her not to. She replied that she needed the sweater because she was cold, and suggested that he walk by himself if he was embarrassed. And he said, “But I need you to talk to!” This was funny because he was way too far ahead for them to be able to carry on a conversation. When one of their adult children later died, the priest told her husband, “Now today, you walk beside your wife.”

Bird seems to have walked as close to her husband as he allowed, as long as he lived. She has been a dear and encouraging companion to me, as we both try to walk with God. My prayer is that He would give me a measure of her spirit.

(I wrote the piece above several years ago; more recent posts in which Bird appears are here and here. Now she has reached 100 years, and is as young as ever. She still keeps her door unlocked and her smile bright.)

Journaling about footling

When I’m writing in Word, the program often tells me that I am spelling a word wrong, or that it doesn’t exist. So I head on over to and check it out for myself. Today it was journaling, which even they tell me doesn’t exist. Oh, yeah? Just look at my blog and you will see that it does indeed exist, though I of course did not invent it. Even can’t keep up on everything.

While I was on that page, I noticed their Word of the Day on the left sidebar, and footle seemed to me a curiously cute and appealing word (which Word also does not know), so I took the time to read about it. This is what I read:

footle \FOOT-l\ , verb: 1. To act or talk in a foolish or silly way. 

noun: 1. Nonsense; silliness.


Sometimes, on a good day, I would go upstairs with my duster and footle around the parlor, adjusting paintings and straightening cushions, knocking them into shape with such military precision that even my mother would have saluted them.
— Marion McGilvary, A Lost Wife’s Tale: A Novel 

“I say, Charlie, for any sake do play up tomorrow, and don’t footle.”
— Rose Macaulay, Abbots Verney; A Novel
Footle has an uncertain origin. One candidate is the French se foutre, to care nothing.” Another possibility is the Dutch vochtig, “damp or musty.”

Not much to go on here, and it’s confusing. What the narrator in McGilvary’s book (I wonder if she is the Lost Wife…that might pertain to my discussion.) is doing doesn’t seem to me either silly or foolish. It just reads like housework, done with energy.

I don’t quite know what “play up” means, in the other quote given, so how am I to infer the meaning of what is given as the alternative behavior?

(One thing is clear, that people who add the subtitle “A Novel” to their book titles are more likely to use the word footle in the text.)

This all matters to me, because I’ve long been on a quest for a word for what some of us housewives do sometimes, on those days when I’m not under a deadline or working doggedly on a single big project. Instead, I do a little of this, a little of that, one thing leading to another; I am not in a rush, nor do I have urgent goals for the day, but I end up accomplishing quite a lot.

Do we just call this “housework”? I used to call it puttering, until I learned that there is too much of aimless, ineffective, and loiter in the definition of that word. When I am engaged in the behavior I am trying to find a word for, I am never aimless, and if I am not getting any physical work done for a few minutes, I am at least thinking hard or praying. And another question: As my computer and word processor are in my house, shouldn’t I consider the work I do using those tools “housework”?

It gets complicated. Keeping the housewife healthy and able is part of the maintenance of the house, just as taking care of tools is a necessary part of the work of a carpenter’s shop. So all those things I do that restore my soul are also housework. Voilà!

Once I was discussing this issue with my friend Herm, and told her about a word I coined to describe my style of puttering. It is serendipping. But it hasn’t proved terribly useful to me, since only two of us in the world know it. I don’t often need the word anyway, do I, if I am busy doing it?

Anyway, it appears that footle will not yet be of any help. Discovering it was part of my serendipping today, but did it accomplish anything? It gave me something to think and write about, and whether it was work or play, it was not aimless and it was fun!

Soul-nourishing gift from Mr Glad