And when you have so many.... Sometimes I feel a little guilty about all the material blessings we have in our personal space when so many millions go without things that we take for granted. Like shoes.
This month, we are sponsoring a Shoe Drive for our community, and also for Soles 4 Souls. I was on the verge of doing this for our own overwhelming collection of outgrown shoes, and decided I would just make February a little more interesting by opening it up to the community. For several weeks, friends and strangers have been stopping by our store, or Sparky's gas station, with bags and bags of shoes. I'm overwhelmed by the generosity of our community. If you have donated, thank you.
Now, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, (Feb 15-17) we are opening the doors of our store to anyone in our community who would like to pick out a pair before I drive all those shoes up to Sheldon, Iowa, to the good folks at Village Northwest who sort them and prepare them for more good folks at Soles 4 Souls, who sort them again for distribution around the world.
If you, or someone you know, need (or WANT!) a pair of used shoes, stop by, and we'll see if there is anything in your size. [Limit of one pair per person per day, please!] All we ask in exchange is a monetary donation (ANY SIZE!!) to Soles 4 Souls and the work that they do. There is a wide assortment of sizes and styles, and you just never know what you might go home with. Of course, you may also browse the rest of our store, and enjoy some free coffee and hot chocolate.
If you still have some shoes to donate, bring them by our store, Singletree Emporium, by 5 pm on Saturday, Feb. 17, and I'll make sure they get to Sheldon.
Our hours are usually noon to 8 on Thursdays. This week only, we will also be open on Friday and Saturday, from 10 am to 5 pm both days. And for more information about Village Northwest and Soles 4 Soles, click below.
Just over two weeks ago, my college son texted me an audio file…. It was simply a recording of him playing the piano. There weren’t any words, but the tune conveyed his message. “There’s No Place like Home for the Holidays.”
And a couple days ago, my youngest daughter asked to hear TobyMac singing “Bring on the Holidays.” We looked it up on youtube and watched it together and within five minutes I was all teary-eyed.
(Try it for yourself by watching here.)
All of December, I’ve been trying to mentally solve a riddle. Why on earth would ANYONE want to come to a place that is littered with dirty socks and nerf gun darts and bins full of hand-me-down clothes and people who sometimes rub you the wrong way? It certainly isn’t to seek peace on earth – not here.
So what is it about HOME that causes people everywhere to go to great lengths (often MUCH trouble, inconvenience, and expense) to be able to share Christmas together?
I haven’t completely solved that riddle yet. I think it goes beyond FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out); I think it stems from a deep desire to truly be with the ones that we love – to share the joy of memories of Christmas Past, and to make new memories in Christmas Present.
And somehow, we are more likely to set aside our differences and arguments during this holy season. Which, in turn, causes all the family members to be more likely to enjoy each others’ company.
My job for today is to help our home be a little more ready for our Christmas Eve dinner tomorrow night. And to enjoy the moments of togetherness as we have all six kids back under one roof this Christmas. Home – where my heart is for these holidays.
May you be similarly blessed this Christmas season as we remember the birth of Jesus, our Savior.
My creative and talented friend Nancy recently put this on her facebook post and I asked if I could re-publish it on my blog. She happily said yes. [THANK YOU, Nancy] I continue to be intrigued with what aspect of my personality would compel me to save so many random and seemingly useless items, but since my friend Nancy seems to have that same "quirk," I really enjoyed these insights from her last week. I think it has something to do with REFLECTING on days past and what lessons can be learned from those who lived before. Anyway... the following words are from Nancy Jesser-Halsey, fellow educator friend from our former hometown of Siloam Springs, Arkansas.
Lately I've been rummaging through a lot of "stuff" looking for teaching material that I had stored away for what I assumed was the last time.
During the digging process I've re-earthed several interesting items. Really not the things I was looking for, but items that can distract and delay the search. This might be one of the major reasons I have trouble throwing away all things ephemeral. Finding a simple piece of paper from the past can do mighty things. I've found scribbled quotes that inspire me all over again. I've found church membership cards from my dad's pastoring days that have spurred me to find a friend I had lost touch with.
I know my friend Janie is right. My world would be so much easier, tidier, and calmer if I followed the "touch it once" rule. But as much as I love Janie, I cannot be her.
I have to touch things over and over and over. I have to clutch them to my chest, wallow in them, kiss them, spill coffee on them and sometimes a couple of tears fall on them too. Then, maybe, just maybe, I can throw them away.
That's a big maybe.
We talk about our kids hating us if we leave a pile of crap for them to wade through when we die. Could it be that our children might need a little of that anger to help them let us go? Like a teen on the cusp of leaving home. The teen angst facilitates the break.
One of the things I found was a slender, red Russell Stover candy box filled with my father's report cards.
Since I can't ask for his permission, I'll just ask for forgiveness in heaven, where I'm sure forgiveness is standard practice.
I tried to find a picture of him that is pretty close to that particular year. I love the way his little tie is askew, and Aunt Mildred's clompers on those adorable little legs are just precious. Grandma looks pretty much the same always. She wasn't just doing the old-fashioned thing of looking serious in a photograph. She had a lot of sadness at that point in her life. She lost a baby in a horrible home accident and her heart never recovered.
My dad's grades that year weren't too shabby, mostly A's and B's. He was in the 5th grade in 34-35 in Montana. I remember him telling me about riding in the back of an old army-type truck used as a school bus and eating the first hot lunches at their school; buffalo burgers.
They lived in a one-room house and I think some grandparents lived there too at some point. Actually, school may have been an escape.
If you have time, take a gander at the inside and back of the report card. It made me laugh that the word "indolent" was on the behavior checklist; not for my dad, but just one of the possible descriptors.
Can you imagine if the word, "lazy" was on our report cards today?
It made me laugh that my dad got marked down in conduct for "Whispers Too Much". That was actually a category. I would've been ecstatic if my students just whispered.
I think we need to add the category "Inclined to Mischief" back to our report cards. Let's call it as we see it. Your.child.is.a.pill.
And I supposed my favorite part of the card was on the backside. The parents graded their children.
In case you didn't grasp it initially, I will repeat. The parents graded their children.
Parents only graded on appropriate categories, but my dad was graded in milking and gardening and care of livestock.
Some of the other categories were: ironing, instrumental music, care of room, and habits of economy.
Parents, if you still have kids in school, I think this would be great dinner conversation tonight. I'm constantly looking for conversation starters to use at supper when we are all captivated by food.
If you've made it this far in the post, thanks for joining and sticking with me. I hope you enjoy dad's report card as much as I did. If you have any interesting comments from your kids at supper, please share.
I'm glad I don't have to answer to the standards on this card today because I'm feeling pretty dang indolent.
So... I have this awesome friend named Jess who is skilled in many MANY areas, and is always an inspiration to me. She didn't answer the challenge (found at the link below -- "Your Homework Assignment") in a comment box, but sent me an e-mail instead. I asked if I could share it on my blog and she said, "Go right ahead." So the thoughts that follow are from the talented Jess (a true Iowan, by the way: originally from Boone, then college in Orange City, then some time in our area of Iowa, then Spencer, and now Ankeny).
Growing up I was surrounded by things from family. My mom's house is literally FILLED with family pieces! I guess I've become a lot more mindful of preserving my family history because I've seen what it's like to not have one and I know my parents and other relatives are getting older and their stories will disappear once they're no longer living. So I always make it a point to ask about the 'old days' when I'm together with my relatives. It's almost like I'm nostalgic for a time I never knew. Here are four examples of how 'ancestral artifacts' have a place in my home. (Scroll down for pictures.)
1. Unaltered everyday use: my Grandma Dorothy's 1930s Watt Ware pottery mixing bowl. The story goes that this was my (paternal) grandmother's bread bowl. Rarely a day passed that this bowl wasn't resting full of bread dough to be baked to feed my dad and his 4 siblings. I still use it (not every day) for making cookies, cakes, etc. However, the hairline crack continues to grow and one day I'll be forced to retire it.
2. Altered everyday use: my Grandma Audrey's mahogany veneer 1930s desk. Now on its 4th generation of use, I recently stripped and sanded off 80 years of paint and wear. Too rough to restore to its original condition, it's now a little bit old (original mahogany veneer) and a little bit new (grey milk paint). I hope my daughter Emma gets lots of years out of this and passes it on someday.
3. Repurposed decoration: Grandma Audrey's embroidery hoops. Mom just gave me a slew of her mom's old embroidery hoops (probably from the 60s/70s). I will NEVER do enough embroidery/needlepoint to ever need all those hoops so I kept a few and turned the others into decorative orbs.
4. Unaltered decoration: Great-Aunt Mildred's 1915 Kodak Brownie. Great-Aunt Mildred Moul (pictured below at age 35) was diagnosed as an 'epileptic' at a young age. She lived with her parents until their death, From there she lived with siblings, then at the State Hospital in Hastings, NE, (still attached to her camera is a piece of medical tape with her name and ward number for her time there), and finally a nursing home in Fairmont, NE, where she died. It's due to her and her trusty camera that the Moul family has so many family photos from that era. The camera is beyond restoration but I keep it on display as a sort of remembrance of my great-aunt 'Mert' (her family's nickname for her).
In conclusion, (trying to sound scholarly 😁) the place in one's home for 'ancestral artifacts' really comes down to a) its value to the owner and b) its current condition. This is how I have found a place in my home for pieces at different levels of value and function.
Here is my daughter's analysis of Everyday Use by Alice Walker.
(Click the link below if you didn't even know that you had a related homework assignment.)
Feel free to weigh in with your comments again.
Heritage in Everyday Objects
Throughout the short story “Everyday Use” written by Alice Walker, heritage through tradition is shown as being important to the characters. However, it’s possible and advantageous to look at this story with more than the characters in mind; with thought and insight, this story can be interpreted as an analogy of the two main types of people when it comes to handling heritage and family heirlooms. Traditions and heritage are not only closely related, but also highly prioritized in many cultures. However, as the years go by, some traditions are lost and heritage isn’t passed down to the future generations. This doesn’t mean that family history simply isn’t valuable or relevant to our lives in today’s world. “Everyday Use” reminds readers that heritage is important.
The story “Everyday Use” is not only about a mother raising two drastically different daughters; there is a deeper meaning hiding between the pages. Heritage, tradition, and culture are so intertwined that it is often difficult to distinguish between them. However, Walker shows that although they are closely related, they can also be as different as the two sisters in the story were. By characterising Dee as being exuberant and Maggie as being practical, Walker has also personified the two major views when it comes to family heirlooms.
From the perspective of a person such as Dee, the quilts were meant to be looked at only from a distance and serve as a reminder of the history woven into them. For someone like Maggie, however, the quilts were meant to be used as intended and for the people using them to be affectionately reminded of their ancestors while enjoying the objects they made. For Maggie, it wasn’t just about the quilts. It was also about the personal memories she had of the quilt: the many hours helping her grandmother piece together and hand stitch the fabrics to create something more than just a bedspread.
For many other people too, it is not so much the piece itself, but the memories that come with the piece. This is why Maggie had no problem using the quilts as quilts instead of as decor. She cared more about what the quilts represented than the quilts themselves as shown in her statement, “She can have them, Mama … I can ‘member Grandma Dee without the quilts” (pg. 303). This very idea appalled Dee as exemplified by her outburst when her mother suggested she take some of the other quilts, “But, they’re priceless! … Maggie would put them on the bed and in five years they’d be rags. Less than that!” (pg. 302). Dee was less sentimental and more worried about being able to pass on the quilts to future generations, and thus was more concerned about preserving the original artifacts.
It wasn’t just the quilts that Dee wanted to preserve -- she listed other items that she planned on taking back with her as well: “This churn top is what I need,” and “I want the dasher, too” (pg. 301). At first Maggie also seemed hesitant about these items also, most likely for the same sentimental reasons as the quilt. These items had been whittled by a family member, and by the way Maggie responds, it’s clear that her ancestors are the first thing that comes to her mind. She immediately states that, “Aunt Dee’s first husband whittled the dash … his name was Henry, but they called him Stash” (pg. 301). Her remark makes it evident that she sees value in the pieces because of the people who made them, not just because they are good pieces.
Although the two daughters have differing opinions, they each believe that their own view is right and they refuse to consider each other’s perspective. Dee is too stubborn and egotistical to think anything Maggie has to say or think could matter at all. Maggie, on the other hand, is very reserved and too passive to stand up for herself. The scene describing the girls’ exasperated mother snatching the quilts from Dee and giving them to Maggie is symbolic of the choice that must eventually be made one way or another with all heirloom and heritage pieces. Either they will get used, or they will sit still and become the “sacred” artifacts displayed in the family room.
Nevertheless, the importance of heritage is shown in “Everyday Use” by the different representations of the daughters; although they held their value in contrasting interpretations of the quilts (and other family heirloom pieces), both Dee and Maggie wished to carry on tradition. They refused to let the memories of their ancestors depart from them. It was important to them for different reasons, but the fact that there are different reasons suggests that heritage should be meaningful to people even in today’s world. A person’s heritage can be as simple as hearing stories about the past or as detailed as a collection of specific items handed down through each generation. No matter how one’s heritage is acquired or defined, it is relevant to future generations because it allows for pride within the family tree, relationships between family members, and the carrying on of culture from generation to generation.
Our oldest daughter is in her first few weeks of college. She wrote me an e-mail the other day asking me to look over an essay that she needed to turn in for a class. I thought her essay was great -- I gave her a few suggestions, but the subject of her essay really interested me. Her reading assignment was titled "Everyday Use" and the topic of her related essay was how the story shows the contrasting opinions on how we use objects to remember our heritage.
I was fascinated. I've never really tried to analyze why I'm sentimental, and why objects from the past seem valuable to me, even if they aren't. So the debate is.... should objects from your ancestors be used as decorations in your home (and somewhat preserved in the process) or should they be used as intended in your home (and possibly ruined in the process)??
My daughter said I could have permission to post her essay on my blog, and I will do that in a few days, but first, a homework assignment for you, my blog readers. The short story (only eight pages) can be found at the following link. I challenge you to read it and weigh in on the debate in the comment section below.
"Everyday Use" by Alice Walker (author of The Color Purple)
She was born 100 years ago in Germany. She’s passed on, but the artifacts of her life still remain – a testament to someone who lived and loved and lost.
She lived just eight miles from me as I was growing up, but I never met her. It took me until now, as I’m looking for items to sell in our new antique store, to come across her things and wonder… is everyone as interesting as she must have been?
There weren’t many people in Odebolt, Iowa, her hometown for the last few decades of life, who knew who she was or what she had accomplished.
As a young woman, she performed in a concert hall for an audience that included Hitler. She was musically talented and artistic as well; this is evident as I sort through the dozens of oil paintings (see below for a sampling) left in an upstairs bedroom, all signed by her. She sewed all of her own clothing, as witnessed by observing the worn sewing machine in the living room and the countless garments which remain hanging in closets throughout the house.
Her first husband was from Poland. He had been held in a Nazi prison camp, detained for speaking out against communism. He was brilliant -- he spoke 12 languages and was inducted into the US Army so that he could be involved in the Nuremburg trials.
He subsequently moved to New York with his bride Lotte. When he realized that he was dying, he picked out her next husband for her – a Lutheran minister who had moved to Iowa to serve the German Lutheran churches in this area.
Lotte never had children of her own. There were step-children living on the East Coast who remained a part of her life, and there was a next-door neighbor in Odebolt named Bob who became as much like family as anyone could. When her second husband died, Bob helped out by checking up on her and writing out her checks – ways that good neighbors still try to help out all across Iowa.
And Bob also had the privilege of befriending a truly remarkable woman. One who loved dogs. One who forcefully answered “Nein, Nein, Nein” to any suggestion she didn’t like (paying homeowner’s insurance, for example). One who didn’t particularly care for housekeeping, but had quite an eye for the beautiful. One who faithfully kept up with childhood friends from Germany.
As my friend Brenda (the current owner of Lotte’s house) and I go through Lotte’s things and put prices on them, I wonder about this woman that I didn’t get the chance to meet. And I wonder about the people living in my community right now.
When I don’t take the time to get to know them, what am I missing out on? Each person is unique. Each person has stories to tell and talents to admire.
How can I live so that I don’t pass them by unnoticed?
Lotte's paintings are for sale at the Singletree Emporium in Arthur, Iowa.
Four of our children sat on the sidewalk by our newly-purchased building, staring across the street as they munched on turkey sandwiches and grapes. The demolition of an old grain bin was fascinating and they didn’t want to miss a minute of the action. As the wrecking ball swung back and forth, they cheered and speculated about how long the destructive work would take.
The ironic thing about this picture is that they were sitting on orange upholstered chairs rescued just an hour before from the basement of the Ida County Courthouse. The chairs were free to us, just for the trouble of coming to pick them up. The ad in the paper had said that they would be “disposed of” on September 1. Instead, they are in our antique store, ready to be used by our customers who visit our Grand Opening on September 2.
So what is worth keeping? That’s a personal question, if you get right down to it. When the person who owns the property in question finds that an object has outlived its usefulness, they have the right to give it away, sell it, or dispose of it in any way that is legal. The grain bins are being disposed of (and that event has been providing unrivaled excitement to the citizens of Arthur, Iowa) but the chairs have found a new purpose here. (They are actually quite comfortable if you can overlook the 1970’s color scheme.)
That’s where I have high hopes for our little venture, the Singletree Emporium. I want our store to be at the intersection in life where objects find new purpose because they find a new owner.
We invite you to come see us, and find out for yourself what we have that is worth keeping.
(Limited hours, please call before you come!)