As part of my personal accountability plan, I have listed on my project page all the rooms of our house that need a deep cleaning. Okay, so every room in the house is on that list – this whole place needs some attention! But at least I have a starting point. . .
In an effort to stay on task and clean one room this month, earlier this week I recruited Don to help me bring some order to the food room. As I finished up today and admired the neatly stocked shelves, I began to muse about this underground room in the far corner of the basement.
Our food storage room is not a pretty room; the gray cement walls are set off nicely by the gray cement floor covered with orange shag and yellow sculptured carpet pieces left from another decorating era. Cobwebs collect dirt in the corners, and the ceiling is accented by metal heating ducts. The only real color comes from the labels on all the canned goods, so of course nothing matches. And it’s cold in there! A screened vent to the outside allows the room to be cool in the summer, but really nippy in the winter.
The shelves sport a little graffiti – phone numbers or addresses engraved with a ball point pen by my youngest brother Tom. When all the family was home, and his bedroom had been given to a married sibling with children, Tom pulled a roll away bed into the food room and set up housekeeping for the duration of the family visit.
Because of its remote location in the far corner of the basement accessible only through the laundry room, I often neglect or completely ignore regular cleaning and maintenance of the food room. Flour spills commonly adorn the orange carpet, evidence of restocking the kitchen canister from the big buckets downstairs. Sacks and boxes of groceries dropped just inside the door may create an obstacle course through which we carefully maneuver to retrieve a can of tomato sauce. One lone and sprouting potato could be resting on the trunk of Christmas decorations. It’s very easy for me to pay little attention to a room that we only dash in and out of, one that never hosts a family gathering or sees a visitor.
But in spite of its lowly status, the food room is central to our household. It is the foundation of many family meals. “Go get a can of chicken broth from the food room.” It is cold storage for Christmas goodies. “The Special K bars are in a Rubbermaid container on the right side, middle shelf.” It’s our own convenience store, conveniently located in our own basement. “You forgot green chilies for the enchiladas? That’s okay. They’re on the left side, middle shelf.”
I’m certain that our kids have their own memories of that cold, simple room. When they were younger, I know they used to sneak treats out of an infrequent stash of junk food. Occasionally the room was stocked with cases of soda or candy bars that had been on sale, and I would find evidence of their not so discreet pilfering in abandoned wrappers on the shelves or floor. Brittney tells about talking to Peter on the phone while they were in high school and hearing him ponder what canned food would taste best cold, right off the shelf as he anticipated an evening snack!
Although the kids have left home and our choices of food have changed in the last 20 years, our food room continues to provide peace of mind and encourages us to heed the counsel often repeated by our prophet. Because of its design for a specific purpose (my parents were genius to include a cold storage room when building this house), with shelves lining those gray cement walls, we are able to buy in bulk and maintain a supply of food right here in our own home.
“. . . I wish to urge again the importance of self-reliance on the part of every individual Church member and family.
None of us knows when a catastrophe might strike. Sickness, injury, unemployment may affect any of us.
We [the Church] have a great welfare program with facilities for such things as grain storage in various areas. It is important that we do this. But the best place to have some food set aside is within our homes, together with a little money in savings. The best welfare program is our own welfare program. Five or six cans of wheat in the home are better than a bushel in the welfare granary.” Gordon B. Hinckley, October 2002 – complete talk here
Our inventory revealed that we’re doing okay on vitamins,
but we’re a little short on toilet paper.
Home to lots of good food, plenty of memories, and (unfortunately) a rare mouse, our now clean and organized food room is a little corner of happiness to me!
One of my projects for the new year is to clean, purge, and organize the many and varied files in our office. Because if I’m going to research and preserve family history in the manner I envision, I’ve got to have an organized work space. A big project to be sure, but the kind of thing I can really get behind when I’m in the right frame of mind.
Today that mind set took over!
So armed with these:
I tackled these:
It’s more work than I anticipated.
and I’m not done yet.
Not even halfway.
I’ll be sorting and shredding for days.
But I’ve uncovered some treasures and a lot of trash.
For the past 2 1/2 years, Don and I have been attending the Spanish Branch of the Church. We have been welcomed with open arms and warm hearts, and we have really learned to love our Latino friends. Many of these members have lived in the United States for a long time and speak English proficiently. From time to time we realize that culturally we all hold on to “our” ways, but a blend of the two usually means success.
Last Sunday in Relief Society, the President, Guille Bugarin, announced the upcoming Enrichment activity on Thursday afternoon. She showed a couple of projects that would be offered, and fielded questions about what each entailed, what we needed to bring, etc. Because this discussion was in Spanish, I missed a lot, but I could clearly see that we could learn how to crochet edges on dishtowels or do something with a tote bag. I couldn’t follow the discussion well enough to know if we were going to make a bag or decorate one, but since I didn’t want to do that, it didn’t matter. I decided maybe I’d go for some instruction in crochet.
Thursday morning, 8 a.m. – telephone call for me:
Buenos días, mi amiga. How are you?
I’m muy bien, gracias.
Sister, today at our Enrichment meeting I want to show the sisters how to make a cover for the pills. I have most of the material that I need, but I wonder if you have some small pieces that I can use to finish. I am making one for the boys and one for the girls. Do you have any material in light blue or white?
I’m pretty sure I have some. But what are you making? a cover for the pills?
Yeah, you know – a thing to cover the pills.
Yeah, you know – a thing to cover the pills.
At this point I was racking my brain trying to figure out what she was talking about. I’m used to brief lapses in understanding during our conversations, but usually one or the other catches the drift and we continue! However, this time I could not begin to connect what I had seen regarding either the dishtowels or tote bags with “the pills.”
I don’t know what you mean. But in a few minutes I’ll come up to your house and see what you’re doing to make sure I have what you need.
Oh, thank you so much. You can come when you finish your breakfast.
When I got to her house she showed me some fabric that she wanted to make into pillowcases.
Oh, pillowcases! You’re going to teach how to make pillowcases!
Yes. I think the sisters need to learn how to sew and when they see a cute cover like this they will maybe want to make one. And I don’t think it’s too hard.
Oh, no. They aren’t hard to make. That is a good project to start with.
And can you please bring your [sewing] machine?
So we discussed what she needed and I told her I would bring some fabric that would work for the wide hems on the cases. We chatted for a while, she showed me a lot of family pictures, we talked about her kids, and about 45 minutes later I returned home. I went to my fabric stash and found a couple of pieces of fabric that would work to complete the pillowcases.
The meeting was supposed to start at 3 p.m., and Don had assured Guille that he would be at the church to unlock the door. I reminded Don that mis amigas have no concept of starting on time at a somewhat informal meeting as this one is, so I was not planning to go before 3:45.
When he called me from the church at about 3:35, Guille had just arrived and one other sister was there. He said he’d be home to pick me up in about 15 minutes. I had my sewing machine and fabric ready to go.
In that 15 minutes, my “American former Relief Society President” thinking kicked in, and I dashed downstairs to gather a few more things that I realized she might need for a sewing class. If she needed my machine, perhaps a few other tools would be helpful as well. Soon my pile at the door consisted of my cutting mat and rotary blade, several pairs of sewing scissors, iron, and a couple of pieces of coordinating fabric that I thought were big enough to make a pillowcase. In addition I took some banana cake from the freezer and arranged it on a cute plate as my contribution to snacks. When Don pulled in the driveway, we loaded the car and returned to the church.
The sisters had congregated in the multi-purpose room next to the kitchen and were chatting while setting out some food. One sister was setting up her sewing machine, and we discussed where to plug mine in, as I wasn’t sure how she was going to do her instruction. Then Guille turned to me:
So now you will teach us how to make pillowcases?
Wait, I thought you were teaching how to sew . . . I was going to learn to crochet . . . I’m not prepared to teach this class . . Fortunately – or due to divine intervention, because of my conversation with Guille earlier, I had done an internet search and emailed instructions for making a pillowcase to Maddie as a possible beginning sewing project. Sowithout missing a beat I took charge, set up shop, pulled fabric out of my bag and taught the women how to make a pillowcase. None had ever used a rotary cutter, and they were fascinated with the ease and accuracy of that little tool. Marsha had never used a sewing machine, so she sat down at mine and cautiously sewed while her little boys stood at her elbows fascinated with her new skill.
“What would happen if I put my finger in there where that pointy thing (needle) is?”
“Mom, when you get really good will you make it go faster?”
“Tyler, you’re standing on the material so it won’t move!”
By the time the clock struck 6 and it was time to clean up, we had completed 3 pillowcases and had a great meal of tostadas, beans, chicken, salsa, watermelon and cake. It seems that at these functions, food just appears as if by magic – plentiful and delicious! And we’d all had a good time.
Later that evening I realized that I had just taught an Enrichment sewing class with no advance notice, no preparation, no handouts, no centerpieces, no sign up sheets and no stress.
. . . you buy a squirrel trap to use in your back yard.
Each summer we have noticed an increase in the squirrel population in our back yard, and this year we’ve felt like we’re being taken over by the little rodents. Some afternoons our yard looks like the word got out on the squirrel hot line, “Party at the Butler’s,” and every bushy tailed rodent in the neighborhood has stopped by to play. We’ve got nothing against squirrels, but they are damaging the trees, playing in our garden, AND eating our strawberries – a precious commodity.
Since we don’t have dogs to scare them away, and we don’t have guns to eliminate them, Don found a solution at Home Depot and came home with the Havahart squirrel trap.
Poor little guy got tricked! And he was not happy about that.
Don took him for a ride way out in the north country and set him free.
Do you think he can find his way home?
Have you ever heard of a homing squirrel?
Three trapped – probably 5-7 more to go.
But no squirrel stew around here. We’re not that rednecked!
Spring means planting, and since we’ve discovered the ease of square foot gardening we love digging in the dirt. So in the course of my birthday/Mother’s Day weekend, we made the transformation from neglected winter mess:
Monday I savored a few hours working in the front yard. The sun was warm – almost hot, the air was clear, and I felt exhilarated to be out of the house eagerly anticipating spring. Winter has seemed long, cold and dark, and I was excited to enjoy a few hours of sunny warmth as a harbinger of brighter days to come. I particularly enjoy working around the lilies, because the contrast between winter and spring is so dramatic.
As I cleaned away the dead leaves and remains from last fall, the strong, bright green leaves of this season’s growth stood straight and tall, ready to brighten my front yard and my spirits.
Initially, I considered the dead leaves and stalks from last season useless, and just something to get out of the way and into the trash. But on further consideration, I’ve realized that even though their summer beauty is gone, the dead stalks have continued to nurture the plant by providing protection from the cold and snow of winter. They have carefully surrounded the new shoots until they are strong enough to stand alone. And even as I pulled them away and threw them into the wheelbarrow to be taken to the compost pile, I realized that they will continue to serve as fertilizer, rich soil nutrients to be added to flower and vegetable gardens in years to come.
What a clear analogy for my life! I’ve had some periods of cold and dark days this winter, and like everybody else, I will continue to experience ups and downs in daily life. I’ve learned that as I clear away the dead, brown, and seemingly useless stalks and leaves from previous struggles, they can go into my personal “compost pile” and continue to enrich my life through the lessons they have taught me.
As I anxiously await the arrival of spring and summer, I look forward to the bright yellow blooms that the lilies will produce. And I happily anticipate the opportunities ahead of me.