Thursday, January 29, 2009

Broom closet

I grew up with a very nice broom closet. It was in the kitchen, or the entrance to the kitchen, across the hall from the phone. In the broom closet were: the broom, the dustpan, the wastebasket, the vacuum, hooks with dustcloths hanging on them, the pencil sharpener and a supply of used but reusable grocery bags (which were made of brown paper back then). There may also have been glue, tape, and cans of dusting spray on the shelf, along with--I think--a pile of scratch paper for doodling.

We used the broom closet approximately as much as we used the kitchen sink.

When Shawn and I moved to New York and then started to look for a house in 1989, of course I wanted a broom closet. I'd been two years or more in apartments, which do not have broom closets.

Neither, apparently, do houses in New York.

As the realtor showed us houses, I wondered at the lack of broom closets, but refrained from complaining. I figured it must be our price range and did not particularly want to draw attention to it.

In 1995, when we moved up to a bigger and better house, I thought, "Now, certainly, I will get a broom closet. Now I will be able, finally, to put my vacuum away."

The houses in this round did not appear to have broom closets, either. I asked one realtor and she gave me the oddest look. "Broom closet?" she asked, "Do you mean you want a pantry? Here is a lovely pantry," and she opened a narrow door in the kitchen to reveal a stack of shelves. No vacuum was going in there. And anyway, I am not big on the idea of storing my vacuum next to my bulk flour. I find that idea rather repulsive.

I said, "No, I want a broom closet. You know, where you put your broom, and your vacuum."

She looked at me blankly.

"Well," I said, "Where do these people keep their vacuum, anyway?" I was beginning to feel a little panicky. I remembered seeing the stupidiest rag-doll cat costume in which you could dress your vacuum and set it in the corner, and I wondered if I had discovered that here in New York there was indeed a need, no, actually a demand for such a thing.

"The vacuum goes in the front hall closet," she informed me.

"But isn't that where you hang guest coats?"

"You move it when you have guests." She was getting irritable. I decided not to inquire about the location to which one would move it to accomodate the guests.

I switched realtors, but in the end, I still didn't get a broom closet. So I have spent the past thirteen years moving my vacuum around-- to the corner in the dining room, the corner in my bedroom, the hall outside the kids' bathroom, the mud room, the basement.

Besides the fact that none of these places offers a good storage solution for my vacuum, when you have to keep moving it like that all the time, you can never find it when you need it, either. (For thirteen years!)

Guess what my #1 priority is if we ever get around to building a house on our land in the country? Yep. I want a broom closet.

Monday, January 26, 2009


This is Shannon in the reading chair in front of the fireplace at my parents' home.

I love the way my parents still live in the same house I grew up in, and so many things have not changed.

I read many a book at home in that chair.

One Christmas vacation while I was in college, my brother came home for Christmas from the seminary in Canada where he was teaching New Testament, and he asked me, "Have you read any good books lately?" I was majoring in English, so I handed him Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, which I had recently completed. He sat in that very same chair and read it to the end. Then he looked up, and with uncharacteristic emphasis he said, "That was a terrible book."

Well, it is. Really. It is about social Darwinism, specifically the non-survival of the non-fit. It's depressing and hopeless and bleak.

I think it is totally ironic that the very same liberals who want to tout atheism, denying the existence of God and cramming evolutionary Darwinism down the throat of every public school child they can reach, these exact same people are out to thwart social Darwinism with a welfare state. They are, after all, the Darwinists.


It makes about as much sense as believing in evolution (the survival of the fittest) and also "scientifically" arguing for the existence of a homosexual gene. (I do not mean this as a slam on homosexuals--it is just that a gene that is contrary to the support of the reproductive viability of a species would never have evolved. It would have had to be so recessive that it would have receeded into oblivion after BILLIONS and BILLIONS of years.) Personally I believe in neither evolution nor genetic homosexuality. But the fact is, you can't possibly believe in both, not if you have any sense of logic. They are mutually exclusive concepts.

I digress.

Home is a nice place to be. A gift from God. A place of warmth, love, memories and traditions. A place of unconditional acceptance, provision and care. I am thankful for the home I grew up in, and the one I am homemaker of right now.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Today we inauguated Barak H. Obama as the 44th president of the United States of America.

I actually watched it.

Aretha Franklin sang "My Country Tis of Thee." Which is slightly odd, seeing as that is a British tune, originally known as "God Save the Queen." But it was nice, a nice gesture.

The crowd booed a few of the Republicans as they entered in the processional. I thought that was pretty poor.

I do have to give Barak Obama credit for taking office with dignity and poise. It doesn't leave the bad taste in one's mouth that the Clinton administration brought. There was a real attempt to make this a classy occasion. There was even an instrumental quartet that played: a pianist, Yo-Yo Ma on cello, Itzhak Perlman on violin, and an African-American (? well, African-something...) on, of all things, clarinet. He was good, though. I wondered how they felt about subjecting their instruments to the outside air in Washington D.C. in January, which was near freezing in the low 30's. The crowd seemed confused and disconnected, but polite, during this splash of culture.

When Supreme Court Cheif Justice John Roberts went to swear in President Obama, there were a couple of mix-ups and it didn't flow very smoothly. The press blamed it on John Roberts. It seemed to me that Obama jumped in and interrupted him before he had finished giving the first phrase to be repeated. I remember thinking, "My but he is eager to be president." I guess that's a good thing. I can tell you, I wouldn't want to be president of this country right now.

Best selling author of, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren, gave the opening prayer. I thought that was really weird. I have never known quite what I think of Rick Warren, and I still don't. It was a pretty good prayer, but people clapped, once in the middle of it, and then again at the end. I may be an old stick-in-the-mud (probably), but clapping for a prayer seems inappropriate to me. I wonder if the angels in heaven were clapping? I wonder what God thought as He looked down on all this. Were we talking to Him, or was it just a vehicle for one more political message?

Former President Bush and Laura were gracious and respectable throughout (helped by the fact that poor G.W. didn't have to say anything--he is very skilled at looking gracious), and the most touching moment of the whole thing was when they got into a little plane and flew off until they became a tiny speck in the distance. I felt sort of sad and frightened, and bothered by the "good riddance" attitude of many of the bystanders.

Then I made bread and did laundry. I made a recipe of dinner rolls, and then I started a loaf of herbed cheese bread in the breadmaker. I did this because we are out of bread and the kids had my car so I couldn't get to the store. We were so out of bread that I had to make pancakes from scratch for breakfast this morning, and then make Jonathan a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich on leftover pancakes for his school lunch.

When you don't know what else to do, make bread. And pray, of course.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


My dad was a great dad. I was nuts about him, and he was nuts about me. He made me feel so special. I remember spending many evenings cuddled up next to him on the sofa, he studying his Bible or a theological book, me studying chemistry or reading a novel for an English class. He was a person who really listened, who asked about your day and cared about your answer. He was my rock, my security, my standard of excellence, the one I would never want to disappoint.

Shortly before I got married, my sister told me, "Prepare yourself. Dad will not be the same with you after you are married." She is eight-and-a-half years older than I, and she had been married for 6 years. I suppose it made her a little envious to watch my close relationship continue with my dad after she had "flown the coop." But she was right. After the wedding, Dad pulled back. He was not my main man anymore. Shawn was, on the good days... and on the days that were not so good.

The night before the wedding, my dad told me, "I think you are getting a good husband. I think he truly loves you, and he will work hard to support you and do right by you. I am happy for you." That endorsement was better than any wedding present we received. That was a priceless gift.

Shawn and I have enjoyed a pretty good marriage. We are both believers, and neither of us has ever rebelled against the Lord. Faithfulness and duty have always graced our relationship, even during the times when there was not much else. Shawn has never cheated on me or gone out carousing, and he has always had a good job, working hard to keep us in the black. I, in turn, have put my all into raising his children, and I have been a careful spender. I also try hard to make sure he has clean clothes and decent meals.

But, to be totally honest, there have been tough times. We were young when we got married. We were (and still sometimes are) selfish. We have been slow to learn to put the other person's needs ahead of our own--both of us. Although an outward observer might think we have a charmed life, on the inside it isn't always so magical. When the kids were little and demanding and Shawn was working on advanced degrees... then later when he was travelling extensively and I was often left home alone for a week to deal with a colony of stomach flu or with basic care of four children while my my back and neck were in spasm... there were times when I honestly would have quit this marriage.

Except for my dad. And my mom. I knew that I would not be welcomed home (to their home) if I gave up and quit the hard work of being a wife and mother. I would be given one night's lodging and a fierce admonition to go home (to my home) and do the right thing. So I saved myself the price of every plane ticket I ever fantasized about purchasing.

Over Christmas we met a young couple who have been married for about six months. When the husband found out that we have been married for 21 years, he asked, "What is the secret to a long, successful marriage?" I told him, "Don't quit when it gets tough. You have to set your mind to work through the hard times. There's no such thing as a storybook-perfect, every-day-is-happy marriage. You have to live with the intent to persevere, and in the end you will find joy."

I stand behind that statement. Also, I am thankful to my parents for being more concerned about whether their children did the right thing than whether we were happy every day of our lives. I hope I will have the courage and strength to give my own children the same gift where their future marriages are concerned.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Cultured or common?

I knew there was a place where I had smelled Earl Grey tea long before I ever tasted it.

I KNEW it was a familiar scent. Bergamot.

A few years ago, I planted monarda (bee balm) in my perennial bed, and that smelled like Earl Grey's bergamot. Still, I know that I never smelled bee balm in my childhood, any more than I had smelled Earl Grey tea.

Last week, when we got home from Minnesota, I was taking inventory on what food was in the cupboards, and I found a box of Fruit Loops (not the real ones, the Aldi ones). I opened it to see how much was left and got a whiff of...


That's it. That's the bergamot I remembered from my childhood days.

Earl Grey tea will likely never taste quite the same again.