Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Restoring Ourselves - A Story about Rescue and Reclamation

It was that time of the evening when things grow both restless and weary.The sun has dipped below the horizon, just enough light remaining to make out the forms of a couple of bicycles strewn across a lawn down the street, abandoned by children called in to supper. Piled up in the corner by where I sit and read are Abby is the pile of Abby's "stuffies" laying as if napping, where they will remain this late afternoon until she gently carries them to her dog bed at night, to sleep by her side.

As I get ready to go out for a quick jaunt around the neighborhood before dark, it's not hard to see the houses that have big screen TV's in the living room as they are directly evident if the windows are open, or providing that tell tale glare of light through the curtains. For many people, the TV is on as soon as they walk in the door, People come home, turn on the television, turn on the video games, draw the blinds, their view of the world that which comes through on the TV, losing imperceptibly their sense of the outside, of the world beyond a news anchor.

If someone walked past our porch at night, they'd see no such light. For we don't have a big screen TV. We don't have a TV at all, but for a small one in the in basement where we can get the weather with an antenna on the roof if we're down there due to Mr. Tornado.  If we want to watch a favorite show we have boxed sets, (cheaper than cable) from which to pick, watching on the computer monitor that can be turned to face the cozy futon in the office. Even that is something we only do on some weekends.
The crash pad where I lived after I got married, but before I was able to transfer to our Chicago facility, had a nice TV from my old house, but it was given to the young couple in need who are got all of the furniture, which we really have neither need nor room for up here.  They had lost everything in a natural disaster, and on a waiting list to adopt a baby, were anxious to be able to provide a furnished home.  They rented a small house, I provided all of the contents of mine, and they were finally at ease, that baby coming along in two months time from an unwed mother loving enough to give her child up to a good home.  Some things just work themselves out.

I'm fine with my smaller, older home. But anyone curious or casing this place to rob it would see hardwood floors, restored antique furniture, lots of leaded and stained glass and a Victrola, my service revolver in the nightstand and a few vintage LEO pistols of generation's past carefully locked up in the safe.
As big and beautiful as it was, I don't miss my old house.  It was your typical McMansion, those huge suburban  houses that are less home than monopoly game house squares of plastic and cheap lumber and wasted spaced.  What wood is there is usually laminate, the walls not thick enough to withstand a really good storm or the thump of a neighbors bass played too loud. They look OK now, but I can't imagine what it will take to sustain them 100 years from now, if they're even still standing.  But they are big  and "new!" with three car garages full of a lot of things that aren't paid for yet, the neighbors house so close you can't swing a tax assessor without whacking your next door neighbor. Some didn't even have furniture - the people buying them not having enough money after buying the too big house to properly furnish it.
Our house is old, it's small and it's sturdy.  There is no big mortgage, there is no credit card debt for the furnishings.  But for a small table that was a family heirloom, everything in our view we bought with cash, or picked from curbside trash, restoring it as best we can, those items that another found to have little worth.  I think the only things well under 50  years old in the house are the computer, the mattress, the frame of a couch we restored and the two beloved souls I live with, both two and four legged.

I've had a couple casual acquaintances look at the sagging porch that needs to be redone, the antiquated kitchen and a sun porch that makes the Green Acres house look upscale and make a subtlety snarky comment about it. They're not invited back. It's a work in progress, the whole house being a restoration project, much of the work on things you won't see on the surface. I look at it differently, I guess.  I don't see what still needs to be done.  I see what HAS been done.
The little village within the big city we live in is small, with a train station, a small grocers, a mom and pop pizza place and a couple of pubs.  The houses themselves are grey, white, brown or brick, no trendy Victorian doll house colors, no urban renewal shades of  yuppie reclamation.  The houses and porches are the shades of time and shadow and quiet murmured voices gathered between columns, as if time and breath had made them all one quiet color, a hushed vestibule where all is forgiven.

Within a short drive is a trendy urban area where people live in half a million dollar apartments, taking the train into the city, some not even owning cars as every bit of millennial spender and excess is within walking distance. We do go there as that's where the big home improvement store is.  That's where we bought all the copper pipe and wood for the house and a nice runner for the hall at a good discount, because the young man with the trendy haircut couldn't multiply $12.97 times 6 on a piece of paper when the calculator went missing.

No, I'll pass on all the "hip" places unless they have tools.  I'm perfectly happy browsing in an antique book store or standing in line at the grocer with elderly Polish women.  Dressed as if they are going to church, many of them have survived more than one war, holding our numbers and waiting for the deli clerk to slice meat that was roasted in the store, not unwrapped from cellophane, shaving the meats and the cheese and carefully wrapping them up for me with a smile. There's homemade sausages, salads, and potato pancakes, foods known well to the immigrants that settled in this place. I'll pass on the toaster strudel, and buy one of the real thing, made by hand, breathing in the scent of sugar and yeast as I head home with my bounty, driving past an ancient church and a small park which knows know only the shades of those first children that played there.
Am I just getting old - looking at the past as simply stories of youth and bravery, doomed to forgetfulness as I eventually pass, as we all will, those points of affection and regret into a fog that quietly dims the lights? Or have I simply changed what parts of the world are important to me based on how I have touched the world, and it has touched me in return?

I think it is the latter.  Getting to middle age is is some way, like surviving a war.  There are false truces and negotiations, retreat and reconciliation, triumph and treachery. In the end, if you are lucky, there is peace, your warrior's medals and ribbons being internal, only recognized when you look into the mirror and see those first lines around your eyes and smile because you know that despite it all, your sustained breath is its own little victory.
It's a peace I enjoy and as some of my peers rush around getting Botox and fillers, putting on enough makeup to make Krusty the Klown jealous. I'm perfectly content to put on sweat pants and tactical lip gloss and just hit the road, face bare and long red ponytail trailing behind me like those red warning flags you see on timber hanging off the bed of a fast moving little pick up.

So tonight, I'll  take a jog down through the village across the railroad tracks and down past the old church.  In the small graveyard there stands upon a grave site, a  stone angel, her shadow painting a canvas of dimming light as I move past.  She is a melancholy spirit, crafted in another century, her eyes closed as if in prayer, her mouth open as if she turned to stone in the moment she uttered her life's final secret.  Around the grave there is a garland of living flowers, grown wild, even as the rest of the small graveyard fades to dust, flowers reaching for one last bit of sun, there amidst the silent stones, the histories that live on in this place.
I wonder how many people have walked past her, with earbuds on, or their head down with texting, not realizing the significance of a forgotten grave - that one small thing, that soul - at one time, the most important thing in the world to someone, held through sickness and health, and cherished even as they grew old and faded as flowers will.

How many now, truly possess that which holds weight and value, something that when viewed, when held, lights up the eyes with the triumphs of all risks and renunciations. Or have we become a society of the easy and disposable, be it a product, a relationship, or worse, even a life?

As the sky begins to spit snow again, I hurry home, but not before lifting my closed eyes up to heaven, mouth open, catching flakes of snow on my tongue, a self-communion of one, as I say a blessed thanks for a long safe travel through life.
As I approach our house, the light dimming, I see the glow of the television sets in other homes, an unearthly artificial glow, as canned laughter seeps out of an open window. As I arrive home, climbing up the tired stairs unto the large porch, there is light inside from the wall sconces, rewired but decades old, bright as a spark, significant of human shelter and repose. As the key rattles in the door, there is a soft woof of an old Rescue Lab, her grey muzzle snooting me happily as I enter the house

A burglar casing the place would look through the front window and shake their head, seeing little for which they would give value. I look inside and see the riches of a strong house that shelters me with vigilant accord. It has stood for a hundred years, with an air of history and invincible possession, which will remain, long after I am gone.

I set my keys near the Victrola and my husband's Fedora.  As he calls out a greeting from the kitchen, I pat Abby the Lab on the head, looking at the small precious things that have been rescued and now live here, grateful for eyes that finally learned to see.
 - L.B. Johnson

Monday, February 19, 2018

A Pet's Dictionary

Abby Lab here.  Mom says I know quite a few words since I came to live with Mom and Dad 4 years ago, but I know a LOT more than I let on, many that SHE doesn't know.  For the rest of you felines or canines - I'll clue you in here on some of them.

Barkroom -that small dark closet I go to when it thunders
Ballderdash -  a mad chase across the dog park to fetch the ball.
Floordrobe - that pile of clean clothes that makes the best place to nap when pulled off the bed
Slowbber- lazy drooling
Peticure - getting my nails trimmed
Hairaphernalia - all the grooming stuffs Mom has to keep me looking nice
Napcident - accidentally falling asleep while watching for squirrels
Overtoyed - being SO excited from all the new things to play with
Foodiness - when I sulk because you haven't fed me yet
Vettlement - what Mom ends up paying the vet after the pet insurance settles the claim
Fooditarian - the ability to eat anything that's found on the kitchen floor
Infilthtrate - when I come in the house with muddy paws
Toppleganger - knocking something breakable off the table with my tail
Peeography - mapping out the neighborhood one bush at a time
Incendairy - that time I got diarrhea from eating too much cheese
Naptivating -  something that just makes you want to sleep
Carioki - when I howl to the radio on a drive
Intoxicat - when someone's had a little too much catnip
Petrofried - what happens to me when there's big storms
Meanderthal - people that walk me too slow
Shoeberries -  The little decorative bits that are all that's left of your new shoes
Bathroam - following my Mom wherever she goes
Sockrifice - eating just one sock out of a pair
Peeoccuppied - not paying attention to Mom when I'm doing my business
Cattitude - you know what I'm talking about
Carpolepsy - being all excited about a "drive" then immediately going asleep
Phonundrum - barking at the doorbell when it's really Dad's phone
Mytopia - when the walk to the dog park is longer than it looks
Chillenged - Not wanting to go out and potty when it's 10 degrees out
Fartunate - what you are when someone else in the room gets blamed
Bathing Snoot - putting your cold nose to your owners backside as they get in the shower
Puffalope - a square puffy creature that comes through the slot in the door that's so fun to kill
Petrol - checking every corner of the yard for squirrels
Blamestorming - making it look like the cat did it
Toilert - when I bark because you get up at night to pee
Suppervise - when I have to watch every bite that goes in your mouth
Catsnip - getting Mittins neutered
Shedlines - when Mom realizes she needs to vacuum up the hair today
Abdicat - when you renounce all claims to be head of your kingdom when you get a feline
Travelsty - having to commute to the veterinarian
Nocra- not liking vegetables as "treats"
Mouse Potato - the cat that just sleeps all day
Fartland - a great open expanse of the couch that you suddenly have all to yourself.
Bonecall - something you just have to respond to
Askinine - when humans ask "do you want to go out?"
Stuffiecate- How you dispatch the plush squeaky toy before disemboweling it
Epoophany -  I will know the secret of life if you just let me out one more time
Interwet- when I knock Mom's coffee over on the keyboard with my nose
Treat and Great - saying hello to my pet sitter
Lawndry - pulling the clothes off the line is fun!
Reciprocat - taking the neighbor's "free kitten" because they took one of yours
Defence - what the neighbor put up to keep their dogs from getting loose
Affleasement - when I just have to give in to the urge to scratch
Furloin - if I keep licking myself there Mom will give me food to distract me
The Collar Store - where we go to get cheap pet toys
Toester - laying on Mom's feet to keep them warm
Catacombs - where the kitties go hide in the basement when it's time to go in the cat carrier


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sunday Black and White

 For this Sunday Black and White some pictures that are actually NOT black and white but unedited color photos, simply shot against a monochromatic background that is a 103-year-old village on an overcast and snowy day.





Saturday, February 17, 2018

Into the Night With Me - In Memory of CP Commander Paul Bauer

In Chicago this week, we lost a well-loved and respected police Commander, Paul Bauer, to a criminal's bullet.  His colleagues were helpless to stop it, but they are there now to honor him.  When going into battle soldiers know who has their back. In Law Enforcement, it is much the same. But in the day to day life, we often find out who is around us that would take that literal bullet for us.

Growing up my big brother was my protector. If you've read my first two books you know our story well. He was my best friend and guide despite the age difference.  I still thank him for when he sent the "live toad in a gift box" to the snooty girl down the block that made fun of me for wearing hand-me-downs and home sewed clothes because my Mom chose to be a full-time mom rather than return to the workforce as a Deputy Sheriff for Multnomah County when they adopted the two of us late in life.

When Mom died, and Dad briefly checked out emotionally, my beloved brother off in Submarine Service, I left home young, having started college at age 14, fleeing not simply because I was fleeing, but that the absence was the only argument I had at 14 to employ against the losses in my life. I was alone until I was not, then a pregnancy in college and my daughter's subsequent adoption made me realize I needed family around me again, even if not related by blood. So there were friends, and there were toasts and tears and healing as I got past the sound that goodbyes made.
When I graduated and was accepted into flight training to become a pilot I had much the same support system. Our Crew Chief, who often looked at us like something on the bottom of his shoe, honestly was our biggest fan, but using Crew Chief etiquette wasn't allowed to show it. Crew Chiefs were like that, finding the occupation of keeping their emotion steeled against the worst so captivating, that they had no other emotion available. He wasn't scared, but thinking everyone under his charge was such an idiot that we would never see another sunrise, he remained firm in his resolve that what was to be was predestined.   The ground crew was won over by homemade chocolate chip cookies even if they weren't quite sure what to make of the first female Commander in the unit.  My copilots became family, even the one that used to spray the whole cockpit down with Lysol because he was a germaphobe which followed with me puking into his flight bag due to a late night out and a fighter pilot breakfast (you'll have to google that, this is a family-friendly blog).

We'd launch, whether we were ready or not, listening to the sounds of the ground crew (clear on 2) with that listening attention that meant we were ready to go out and confront whatever those words meant. In the distance, a knot of men, moving with deliberate movement, offering a wave as we taxied out, their roles unclear as the wind amped up a slow vibration in the air, but their support unwavering,

But later in life, when my flying was behind me except for the occasional inverted romp in an aerobatic Decathlon, my support system was not so structured. There were friends I thought I could rely on that disappeared like smoke when there were clouds on the horizon. There were those that wanted to be friends simply to build their fan base. And there were those that were like the walls of my house - quiet, not always saying anything, but always there to keep me warm and safe.

My team at work has always been a constant. I've worked with gruff curmudgeons who held evidence in their giant paws of hands like the most tender of playthings even as they busied themselves with matters of life and death that brooked no delay. And I've worked with the young probies, so bursting with ambition and testosterone that they always upheld a state of lively satisfaction no matter the amount of deeply questioned bloodshed.

I've been covered in gore, and I've been shot at, ending my day wet, tired, and stiff in every joint, with that momentary hallucination of vision that comes to the insanely exhausted, where like a drowning man reviews his life, I realized that not only did I not find the smoking gun, I left the coffee pot on this morning.
But I always had my support system.

Today, I'm management- more likely to be felled by a paper cut than a bullet. My team still visits, but in doing so I'm "Ma'am" not  "L.B" as I'm high up at Secret Squirrel Central and no longer a field investigator. Times change, time slows. But I do know that there are those around me I can count on, both personally and professionally, in that enlightened compression that dwells upon the approach of a storm.

Yet, on those nights I'm stuck in a hotel room, the bed linen cold and soundless under my hand, clinging softly to that hand in the quiet air as breathing vaporizes in the faint light as I wait for the phone to ring, I'm aware of something.
I still have those that watch my back, even if they are only friends and family, strong in my life, even if their numbers are as a shadow is larger than the object that casts it. They are there in those mornings where the red dawn crests in the sharp light as if beyond the horizon lay hell not heaven. They are there in those soft nights, where ice cubes tinkle and the air carries on it only the scent of mint and soft lemon verbena perfume as small children chase fireflies in the yard.

As I return from my travels, the taxi taking me from the airport, the old bungalows of Chicago pass by the window in grays and browns, lighter than dust and laid lightly upon the earth, as if one good hard rain would wash them away, I smile. I am simply another suit and a laptop, trying to make a little difference in an insane world, where those that work for me, risk their lives for what is right and good. This is not the life I planned, and it is not the life I imagined, but it is the only life I want, here with those who would walk into the night with me. - L.B. Johnson

Friday, February 16, 2018

Prayers for Crystal

Many of you may have heard the news story of the young Texan Special Education Teacher, wife, and mother of five that got both strains of this season's flu, that turned into pneumonia, sepsis and a serious MRSA infection (it's resistant to many antibiotics).  WFAA-TV has coverage. Crystal Whitley got a flu shot early on as she just had a baby and wanted to be healthy and strong to care for all of her children.

But she ended up on life support.  She has turned a corner towards recovery, her feeding tube removed and her being able to walk a few steps but she is not out of danger and all prayers are welcome as she continues what will be a lengthy hospital stay. We've been praying for her as we have friends and family in her area and have the permission of one of her loved ones to post this fundraiser which is on her Facebook page that one of them is maintaining with updates.

Please consider buying a T-shirt to help her family with some of the medical expenses.  Even as working parents it will be more than they can handle.  I plan on donating more when I get my next royalty check - normally all my book sales go to the animal rescues, but some months, there are families in need that also get a check s I cover the dog's monthly sponsorships with my own funds.  That's part of being a community, as you all are to me.

The link to purchase is below in pink.


Thank you for your continued kindness.

The Johnson Family and Abby T. Lab

And in Today's News. . . .


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Thankful Thursday

Today, while dreaming of warmer days to come, we're taking part a challenge from Hailey and Zaphod's Mom over at

which was to list 3 things every day she is grateful for, we are going to join the blog hop of
For Thankful Thursday.

The month is half over so here is our daily "thankful for" items.  I'm going to list just two per day since I'm late getting started on this, but feel free to add your own.

1. Being married to my best friend
2. Abby the Rescue Lab
3. Our 102-year-old Bungalow
4.  Faith and forgiveness
5.  My church family
6.  Our pastor (having a pastor that can do a muppet impression during Bible Study is a find).
7.  Daily conversations with my 97-year-old Dad
8.  A daughter that grew up safe and happy with her adoptive parents
9.  Memories of cookouts with my late brother and Barkley (hey bro - where did the marshmallows go?)
10. Listening to my husband play the violin
11. Salt Water Taffy from Bruce's Candy Kitchen in Cannon Beach
12. A job that pays well with a nice boss.
13. Friends and family that love me just as I am.
14. My 2007 truck  that's reliable with no car payment
15. A big recliner to read all of my books in
16. Watching it snow
17. Homemade bread
18. The physical ability to workout every week, even when I don't want to
19. Single Malt Scotch
20. Pancakes, backgammon, and dominoes Saturdays
21. Macaroni and Cheese
22. My acupuncturist
23. A quiet neighborhood with nice neighbors
24. Being a guest author at a book club
25. A hot bath before bed
26. Our dog walkers, Jan, Lou, and Jane
27. Bible study mornings
28. The Piano Guys - Love their Music and being a guest producer on one of their videos
29. Central air and heat (a lot of homes in the village do not have)
30. A husband that doesn't snore (he just occasionally dreams he's a tractor)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Postcards from Paris Blog Hop

Abby Lab here. My fella Frankie Furter and I have jetted off to Paris with our fur-ends to celebrate Valentine's Day in the most romantic city on earth. The Postcards from Paris blog hop is hosted by Arty, Jakey, and Rosie at:

and


Our paw-rents told us to write so we did. I couldn't find a postcard so I did an old-fashioned letter.
But it has a special STAMP!~

Frankie and I are standing in front of the Louvre art museum.
I liked seeing the Mona Lisa with Frankie Furter at the art museum, but I think she would have smiled more if she had a dog.


Monday, February 12, 2018

Monday Morning Moochers

After the storm, Monday morning dawns serene and beautiful.
Hey lady, where's my peanuts!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sunday Eats - Home Ec Memories

How many of you that visit here remember seeing or taking  home economic classes in school in 70's and early 80's? After that it became gender neutral "bachelor living" where one learned how to make dip out of Velveeta and use Velcro. (I had to figure out Southern biscuits with peppered bacon gravy on my own).

The whole "home economics" idea, which in my day was only for female students, was not intended to make women a slave to the kitchen but rather came about from a change in how women shopped for their family.  Before the 19th century, except for the most privileged of the wealthy, women were producers of household items, including food and clothing, rather than consumers. So the early home economics classes focused on education for purchasing decisions, as well as health and hygiene in the home. What actual knowledge was imparted was often  limited  though, by school budgets and the quality of the teachers.  I have friends of my same age group that learned nothing more than how to make things out of hamburger and cans  Not in my home ec class. We learned to make things the way generations ago did.
I had the grand dame of home economic teachers, Miss Heidenreich. She was in her sixties, never married. She was sparsely thin and about 7 feet tall but perhaps that was just my recollection in 7th grade.  At first, we were all sort of afraid of her, she was so tall, straight and stern, she just loomed at the front of the classroom, there in a grey dress.  But then we watched, at least I did, as she moved as she talked, gathering raw materials of food or cloth, coordinating the efforts.  Then, when she demonstrated the finished product of what she wanted us to do, the look in her sparkling blue eyes was one of not just joy, but quiet triumph.

I recognized a bit of that.  Most of us were lucky in that we were raised by Mom's themselves raised in the 40's and 50's when money was tight and things were made to last. My Mom came through lean times in the Depression, her Dad killed in a logging accident, with no insurance, leaving a widow and three kids to feed. My grandma somehow got my Mom through college, unheard of in that day, wherein Mom got a job that paid enough to put her two younger brothers through, while Grandma worked full time as well.  She and my grandma both then, learned to work with that same efficiency of movement,  that might be considered detached would you not recognize it as simply being the beautiful efficiency of machinery.
My grandmother would not even recognize a grocery store of today and my Mom would be appalled at the quick and cheap clothing made that falls apart within a few months of wear.  She made all of her and my clothes herself, except for jeans and T-shirts, my sweaters hand knitted as well as an assortment of scarves and winter hats.  There was also an assortment of 70's crocheted vests that looked to be more for hanging a houseplant, than for wear, but that was the fashion.  Those clothes did not wear out but were cleaned, pressed and handed down to a younger cousin (except for that one dress that ended up with a bicycle tire track up the back, and no, don't ask).

If an item of wear, needed repair, Mom knew how to do it.  I, however, wasn't too keen on learning.

You see, I liked to cook, because, I like to eat.  I'd spend hours with my Mom, helping prepare the meal, if only to set the table while I watched her work. To me, cooking was like playing with the chemistry set, how fun to see how things are formed, how ingredients interact and take on whole other forms, and even better if you can eat the results.   But I had no interest in sewing, crocheting or knitting, making decorative pillows or embroidering a tea towel. I'd rather be out in the shop with my Dad or playing with model trains or control line aircraft. To say that I discovered that if you don't FEED your Betsy Wetsy Doll, she doesn't wet, gives you some idea of my mindset with "girl stuff".
I did make a valiant effort to knit a winter neck scarf for my Dad. But that was just because I loved him.  After several months, ripping inferior work out and starting over again, and again, I had a piece only 3 x 5 inches square.  I gave up, knitted the edges together and it became a tube dress for someone's Barbie.

Let's just say I was not too excited about Home Ec. that first year, though I respected my teacher as I was taught to.  I just kept quiet and sewed my silly pink apron with my name embroidered on the pocket.  I did buttons and hems, though I got a D in "snaps" just because I was obstinate.  I learned how to darn a sock.  I sort of giggled at that, as in my home you said "darn" instead of "damn".  Actually "damn" would have been the more appropriate word to what I did to those socks.

But Miss Heidenreich taught us all of the basics. Unlike other classes, we weren't learning how to make casseroles with soup or 101 ways to use canned Crescent Rolls. The cooking was not anything out of a can, and there were some things we learned to make that were not very popular with us.  What 8th grader wants to make and eat stewed prunes or unseasoned boiled chicken for meat and broth.  What about brownies and pizza? But later, many years later, caring for the elderly, such things came in useful.  I could cook for restricted diets, I could make bread, I could make a white sauce instead of an expensive can of cream soup. I could make a variety of economical dishes with just a bit of meat or eggs or beans for protein.  I could make a cake missing key ingredients, butter, milk or eggs. (but not all three, that is known as a hockey puck).
Miss Heidenreicht would watch constantly, bright but insulate, letting us make our way, only stepping in when flames were involved, or there was a need to staunch blood.  But she was not popular with all the students as she was a stern task-masker, expecting you to work hard, to listen and to apply what she had taught you. She taught like my parents taught, but not all kids had the benefit of that experience.

She frowned on idleness and those girls that wore jeans to school, instead of neat slacks or dresses.  She dressed plainly, her dresses unadorned but for a bit of lace or a small necklace of pearls, the fabric starched into submission.  But she was not unkind, not even batting an eye when one jean-clad girl came in with green hair from a "let's add some ash blond highlights at home" disaster, only offering her extra praise for her strudel to keep her from crying.  Based on Miss Heidenreich's age, I only understood as an adult, what hardships she may have seen as a  young woman, Depression-era families sometimes starving, only the strong, resourceful and skilled surviving and thriving. It made me think differently of her home economics class, and what I came away from it with.

She was my teacher just that first year, retired and replaced by Mrs. Potter, of whom I have no real memory but for a friendly smile and the "Dante's Nine Circles of Hems".  By Ninth Grade, I'd learned enough, I thought and put in a bid to take Auto Shop instead of Home Ec.  That was met with a resounding slam of a car door.

I made my case, I knew how to make dinner, I needed to know how to change my oil and pack a wheel bearing. I was told I needed to take the "girl" classes. Shop class was only for boys.  I was told I was stubborn, I believe the term "as a mule" was heard (to which I pointed out to the administrators that unlike a horse, a mule is too intelligent to break its leg for glory running in a brief, pointless circle).  I was shot down, though there was one female friend and classmate, now an engineer, like her father, who won out and got to attend the agriculture class where she castrated a calf in a moment which gave me hope for the next generation.
So I dutifully sewed my outfits, made taffy and tarts and finally in the last sprint for independence, opted out of most of my courses, taking them at the local college, going full time in the summer.I wasn't old enough to drive but I made it there by bike and by bus or Dad's trusty steed.  I was indeed the only college freshman in a "training bra" (don't get me started on how that term started, it's not like you train them for tricks or anything "Sit",  Stay!", though getting older, they do know "roll over").

My days of home ec were over.  At the time I was happy for that, yet now, I wish I'd paid more attention, as more skills of prepping and preparing as well as knowledge and the economies of the kitchen would have served me well as I entered my 20's and 30's.

This Sunday morning, I'll be lighting the fire of a 70-year-old stove that's DIY maintenance and upkeep. The house will be cold, extra blankets used at night instead of bumping up the heat.  As the stove puts heat into the back of the house, activity picks up as if propelled by the increasing warmth. After worship, prayer and thanks, there will be a plumbing project to finish, bread to be baked, and somewhere, a sock or two that needs damning.  Outside, branches scrape and rasp against the house, the frost on the window a portent to how cold it can be for the unprepared, as winter light lay upon the ground like a pale scrap of starched grey cloth.
But like many things in homes I've lived in before, I could afford to pay to have someone do all of this, buy all this. But I choose not to. I and my family would rather do more for ourselves, with minimal help from others, putting our money into tangibles which will keep us housed and safe, where days of struggle to survive, of sparse broken meals, do not threaten.  I  find such great satisfaction in saying "I made this"  or "I saved this much",  making something out of nothing, building not a house, but a home with pieces of the past, carefully mended, and always treasured
I look at all the blogs out there, many on my sidebar, of men and women, resourceful people, who have learned how to grow, store, can and prepare healthy meals for themselves or their family; manage land, tend a farm, some with help of other family members, some completely on their own, even as they teach these skills to others. Their skills aren't limited to the kitchen but include the field and the workbench. I have learned a lot from them, to add to what skills I grew up with.
Taking care of your family, your needs and safety, with no handouts and your own resources and skills is something to be admired.  All are things I wish were still stressed in school now.  Those that learn themselves, the men and women that do so and then pass on that knowledge to others, give me hope for the future.  I do think Miss Heidenreich would be proud.