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Archive for the ‘Woman working at home and outside the home’ Category

Grandpa Longenecker and his racer

The above racing team consists of my paternal grandfather, George Washington Longenecker (1864-1951) and one of his American Standardbreds.  Grandpa George may be considered an obscure poet; but he was far from obscure in Neillsville, Wisconsin where he served for decades as a preacher in the 1st Congregational Church.

Along with “pastoring” (actually Congregational preachers* are called “Reverend” rather than “Pastor”), Grandpa George raised American Standardbreds and competed in sulky races at local fairs.  This activity raised a few legalistic eyebrows in the small Wisconsin community—probably due to the possibility of spectators gambling on the races.  But Grandpa’s recreational passions involved horses and poetry, not money.

Having made poems ever since I can recall and pursued a lifelong study of poetry as fine art, I need to mention that most literary poetry aficionados would consider my grandfather’s verses to be doggerel.  Although Grandpa was raised on classical literature, his course of study was theology—not the fine arts.  Like many Congregational Reverends in his era, he graduated from Ohio’s Oberlin Seminary.

Grandpa George loved the Lord Scripturally, with all his heart and mind.  His poems reflect his love, and that’s good enough for me!  My grandfather also loved music, specifically the great hymns of the Christian faith which he played on his violin.  Much of Grandpa’s poetry contains the cadence and meter of a hymn.

In 1947 Grandpa self-published a book of his work titled SUNSET POEMS—named after my grandparents’ home, “Sunset Point”, on a bluff overlooking Wisconsin’s beautiful Black River.  Here is one of the poems:

Grandpa's Poem

George W. Longenecker

No feature concerning Grandpa George would be complete apart from mention of his beloved life partner, Emma Rosina Ernst Longenecker (1866-1952), my grandmother.  In past blog entries I have celebrated Grandma Rose who was known for her abundant garden produce, homemade bread, and frequent litters of kittens generously shared with people around town.

Here is Grandma Rose when she was a young, Victorian era girl:

Grandma Rose

*A contemporary novel, GILEAD by Marilynne Robinson, centers on three generations of small town Congregational Reverends from the Civil War to Mid-20th Century.  I was riveted to this book and want to read it again, as it reflects my roots.  Potentially classic, GILEAD is a quietly-powerful piece of fiction.  Marilynne Robinson’s storytelling gift is poignantly beautiful.  Two more of her novels, HOME and LILA, form a trilogy with GILEAD.

Margaret L. Been — April 6th, 2016

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Yesterday my friend, Karen, and I had our annual Christmas tea and gift exchange, at my home.  It was a special treat, as last year at this time Joe was in the hospital—and Karen and I met at the hospital cafeteria for the festive occasion.  What a joy to gather with friends anywhere, but especially at home! 

I have always loved setting a table, as this was my job as a child.  I was free to arrange the settings and decorate the table however I wished.  My mother imbued me with her passion for quiet elegance—candlelight, pretty dishes, attractively presented food—and best of all, the joy of sharing leisure time with family members and friends.  My parents entertained frequently, and even when it was “just family” we valued slow paced ambience at our table.  Nearly every evening meal was a lovely occasion.

At our tea party, Karen and I observed that gracious entertaining is not so common among people today as it once was.  How unfortunate!  The rapid pace of 21st century lifestyles may play into this dearth of ambience.  Yet our mothers were far “busier” than many women today—even some of the “working women”.  Our mothers worked hard and diligently at home, without a plethora of the time and labor saving appliances so common in contemporary homes. 

Now technology has largely replaced elbow grease.  In many instances, an attitude of “Let’s get the jobs done as fast, mindlessly, and mechanically as possible” has replaced that wonderful sense of creative accomplishment and pride in the home arts which motivated women in the past—the same wholesome pride that my friend and I continue to experience today. 

I do not believe the current disregard for loveliness can be traced to economic factors.  My mother entertained during the Great Depression, sharing whatever she had—as elegantly as if she were a queen.  (Indeed she was a queen, in our home!)  A lovely table is not a matter of “what we have” so much as how “what we have” is arranged!  Pine cones in a humble wooden bowl are as beautiful as glass fruit in a crystal compote.  Mismatched tea cups and plates, culled from rummage sales and resale shops, can be as charming as a set of matching bone china dishes when arranged with an innate love for beauty.  Most certainly, it is not the “What“; it’s the “How“!

Some women may be deterred from entertaining due to a concern for “What will people think?”  That pointless, ridiculous question has no place in my life.  It cannot even be imagined when we focus on creating a pleasant setting for people we love!  I’m thankful to have lived many decades without ever worrying about what someone else might think of my home activities! 

Apparently leisurely entertaining and elegant family meals are simply non-priorities in a number of homes today.  The lack of ambience has created a glaring deficit in our culture.  A vicious circle twirls in perpetual motion:  when people fail to create a slow lane atmosphere at home, that failure adds to the frenetic tempo of the fast lane. 

A dearth of gracious dignity and decorum is evident in many other areas as well as homes:  in the careless attire, loud public behavior, and rude manners which prevail.  A case in point is the sloppy attire seen everywhere (even in fine restaurants and in churches!)  Dining out has been rendered pedestrian by the ringing of cell phones.  Somehow, an entire culture has forgotten a basic fact of civilization:  that most forms of gracious behavior are ultimately a matter of respect for other individuals.  In this “Me” generation, respect seems to be a dying virtue—no longer regarded as essential!   

Meanwhile, a little ambience would go a long way toward restoring the soul of our nation!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

Note:  The ruby footed goblets on the luncheon plates await servings of trifle.  Easy, attractive, and so-o-o yummy!

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Recently I read an article in Time Magazine titled “Chore Wars”.  The piece began by describing something most of us recall:  how when large numbers of women began working out of the home, they would come home at night and have to do all the home and family duties as well.  These were the “Super Women”, and many of them were understandably frazzled until their husbands realized that keeping a home is not only “woman’s work”. 

When a woman is away from her home for many hours each week, she does need help—especially when there are children to care for.  Fortunately for me, my husband has never been uncomfortable with helping.  At various periods when our children were growing up, I did the bookkeeping and office work for our family business.  My office was at home, so I could always be on hand.  Yet the work was time consuming, and vitally important.  Joe often pitched in and fixed a Sunday pancake breakfast, or a yummy supper of Swedish meatballs so that I could take a “time out” during those busy years. 

Joe continues to help me a lot, even now that we are retired with lots of leisure.  He cheerfully vacuums and folds laundry when needed—which, given my chronic spinal issues, is quite often.  But formerly many men of our generation (and older) would have considered their manhood compromised—and wouldn’t have been caught dead doing “woman’s work”.  It was a blessed break-through for women with outside careers, when their husbands began to carry a share of the jobs at home.  When a husband and wife share their duties, “home” can always be a place of refuge and refreshment.

Meanwhile, back to the “Chore Wars”.  Even though I’m an analytical reader, I found nothing in that magazine article with which I could take issue—except for a “vibe” that I picked up on my “attitude radar”:  a sense that the writer of the article puts most aspects of homekeeping in the category of drudgery.  I was annoyed by the author’s subtle inference that homemaking is a burdensome “chore” rather than a precious privilege to be savored and nurtured in a spirit of creativity, with the priorities of providing comfort and a creative quality of life. 

As I read the article, I recalled those years when I worked as an office person.  I remember the tremendous relief that swished over me whenever I finally finished balancing the ledger for the day.  (Yes we had ledgers where, just like Scrooge, we entered the Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable and balanced each page with our head math rather than by calculator—while detecting and correcting even the slightest discrepancy, be it only 7 cents.) 

How liberating it was when I could close the huge ledger, leave my office, and go for a walk with a child.  How refreshing it was to prepare a meal for the family and guests, wash my china and polish the silverware, make a batch of soap, putter in the garden, or hang the clothes on the line outdoors.  How relaxing and soul-satisfying to iron vintage tablecloths and pillowcases—while inhaling the fragrance of line dried linens, steamed and pressed. 

I was blessed to have a husband who was willing to help when necessary—and I was thankful that, in the later years, I could hire a cleaning lady to assist me on occasion.  But my home has always been my sanctuary—the only place on earth where I consistently want to be!

How do we view our work?  It’s a matter of attitude!

Margaret L. Been ©2011

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