29 May 2013

Proactive Parenting, Part 1: What Is Proactive Parenting?

Dear Lissy,

Tucked away in the post queue for Dear Lissy are dozens of letters on parenting.  They would cause a ruckus if I published them, so I've left them there for your eyes only.  Daddy and I have the goal of raising what George Barna refers to as Spiritual Champions in his book Revolutionary Parenting.   We know we can't control what you become, but statistically we can have substantial influence if we choose to invest the amount of time and kind of effort the Bible asks of us as parents. On a much more mundane level, even Christian parents are struggling to raise well-behaved kids that respect authority and are thoughtful of others.  That's a topic I'm willing to sink my teeth into! 

Somewhere along the line a lie was thrown in that only people who luck out with the gene pool or those who smother their children's personality and beat them regularly have well-behaved kids. Nothing could be farther from the truth!  Parenting is a process of establishing connections that allow for direction and correction of the child's attitudes and actions. Punishment is reserved for very particular offenses, and is quite rare after 2 or 3 years of age.

What is proactive parenting?

Proactiveadj. Acting in advance to deal with an expected change or difficulty.
Parentingn. The rearing of a child or children, especially the care, love, and guidance given by a parent.

Proactive parenting looks ahead to see challenges or difficulties that will arise in the care, love, and guidance of their children, and takes appropriate positive steps to ensure their child's physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional safety and growth.

Example 1:  We moved into a home on a corner of Main Street when Nate was barely 2 years old and Matt was a newborn.  
Proactive decision:  With no backyard, we knew that anything but 100% obedience could result in their death, so we went to the expense to install a fence around the perimeter of our property and put special child proof latches on the gates.  

Example 2:  By about two years of age, we expected each of you to respond with immediate, complete obedience to a voice command to "go," "come," or "stop" even when you were at the park, grocery store, or church. 
Proactive decision:  When you were old enough to walk, we began a game called "Go, Stop, Come!"  In our (fenced!) yard I would say "Go to the slide!" and you'd happily run off toward the slide.  At some point I'd call out "Stop!" and if you stopped dead still instantly I would swoop in for a hug and spin you around.  When I called out "Come!"  you barreled into me as fast as your little legs would carry you, and I'd let you knock me over for a tickle time.  We played this game every day for months.  By the time you were old enough to want to let go of my hand and walk on your own in public, Go, Stop, and Come were second nature. 

Notice:  No yelling.  No threats.  No bribes.  No punishments.

Every parent already has some areas they're proactive.  They baby-proof for safety or make a special launch pad for school backpacks to ease a morning routine.  None of us can foresee every challenge or change and have to react instead of being proactive from time to time, too.  Parenting, like most areas in life is more about progress than perfection.

The problem is that being proactive takes consistency and hard work.  Teaching a child how to interrupt a conversation politely and practicing that skill before it's needed takes time and effort.  It's challenging to set up systems, routines, and rules for a house full of people and inspect them daily.  Asking questions to guide and direct a child's thinking and affect their heart is far more work than giving a quick course correction.

Ultimately, proactive parenting says my future goal is valuable enough that I will sacrifice now in order to achieve it. 

I will give up whatever God asks in order to have a godly influence not just on you three, but future generations.  My descendants.  I want to magnify Christ, and demonstrate the life of a believer as something beautiful and worth choosing.
What proactive parenting is not. . .
  • A guarantee of your desired outcome.  We deal with human souls, not vending machines, when we parent.  As children, your kids won't be "perfect angels" -- that's the arena of authoritarian parents.  They'll be great kids, though -- warm, funny, thoughtful, and a zillion other things that make you shine with love just thinking about them.  They'll make mistakes, some real doozies.  You'll make mistakes, too, and have to apologize and win back their heart's trust.  As Ted Tripp so aptly pointed out, we're sinners in need of change helping sinners in need of change.  This is long term, and gets messy. 
  • A source of pride.  Parents raising spiritual champions have one thing in common:  they see their own mistakes, struggles, and shortcomings foremost.  The stakes are so high, the mission so vast, that only God is capable of strengthening our hands for the work.   
    • My best friend from high school ended up mentoring me through most of my first three years of parenting with Nate.  I knew the Bible, and I knew my boy, but putting the two together required the quiet practical wisdom her mom passed on to her. 
    •  I have many years of parenting teenagers ahead of me, and I'm constantly in the Word and on e-mail with parents who have gone before me.  I'm not blind to the nearly 30% of kids from homes just like ours that have chosen to forsake Christ.
  • A waste of time.  Proactive parenting, just like proactive management, or preventative health care has statistically significant results. When we follow God's plan, we reap what we sow.  It's scary to sacrifice affluence, ease, and the natural intimacy that comes from default or trench parenting to pursue a revolutionary model.   Will it be worth the sacrifice?  Faith says yes.
I need to wrap this up, Sweet Potato!  Grammy is on her way over for a visit, and I've still got chores to do before tomorrow morning.  I love you bunches, and hope you have not just sweet memories of our family days, but also good times with your own family someday.  I have a great deal of work to do in the yard and garden during the next month, so it may be a while before I get another letter to you.  We're finishing up school the end of this week, too -- Hurray!  I'm looking forward to a long, full summer vacation with you and your brothers.

 Love these sweet, sweet times,

27 May 2013

Getting It Booklet

Dear Lissy,

After I made the decision to transition from a teaching model to a discipleship model, I modified my First Light booklet into a 45 minute format that fit into a one-on-one mentoring session.  It's gone through a couple of revisions in the five years I've been using it, but you may find this more helpful than the more formal First Light booklet.  Daily personal devotions is the #1 area I have gals ask me to come along side them for accountability and mentoring, and it will probably be a passion of mine until I get to meet my Savior face to face.

All Rights Reserved.  For Personal Use only. 

 I got you, Sweet One!

First Light Booklet

Dear Lissy,

Many years ago I developed a 3 hour seminar for teaching ladies to have personal devotions using the acronym LAMP.  I don't have a teaching ministry any longer, but the booklet continues to be requested by those who have taken the seminar and by ladies who have seen it referenced in your letters.  I'm parking it here for them, and maybe someday soon you'll begin using it for your own quiet time.

All rights reserved.  This booklet is for personal use only.  Sale or use of this material for teaching purposes is prohibited

Booklet is designed to be printed front-to-back on two sheets of  paper.  Fold pages 3-4 inside of pages 1-2 and center staple.  

You are my sunshine!

17 May 2013

How to Camouflage Meaty Upper Arms

Dear Lissy,

One of my favorite memories is little two year old Lissy perched on the couch looking through clothing catalogs that arrived in the mail.  You'd ponder each page and then declare "Cute shirt!" or "I like DAT".  You've had a distinct fashion sense since you were itty-bitty, and I love seeing you express your own personality and creativity through your clothing choices.  I'm writing you this letter today because this is something I refuse to talk to you about while you're young.  Our body image can be marred for life by childhood impressions.

As you have probably discovered by now, you inherited meaty, shapeless limbs from both sides of our family.  Whether our women are size 6 or 16, we have large arms and legs for our size.  Even when we work out, we get very little definition in those areas.   Most American clothing brands have terrible cuts and shapes for this body type. Even the popular fashion shows on T.V. seem not to be aware that big, shapeless upper arms and legs drastically affect fashion choices. I'm often left wearing clothing that is far older and more conservative than my taste.

Enter Brit fashion.  The Brits are great at the art of re-directing the eye. I've finally learned why I can't find a skirt, dress, or pant profile that works with my shape, no matter what size I am.  Short legs and a high waist require very specific style choices, or you end up with a bum the size of the Disney parking lot. Ditto meaty upper arms.  The Fashion Rules from a popular Brit show gave me a whole arsenal of ideas to help downsize that problem area. The idea isn't to just cover the problem, it's to redirect the eye. 

A basic rule of portrait photography is that skin draws the eyeWhen you control where skin shows, you control where the eye goes!

Break up the large, rectangular,expanse of fabric at the top 1/3 of your body.
  • Look for deep vee, square, or sweetheart necklines.  Avoid turtlenecks, jewel neck, boatnecks, or high necklines which create an enormous expanse of fabric.  Take as much care of your decollete as you do your face.  Layer a tank or cami if needed for modesty.
  • Wear bolder earrings and longer, bolder necklaces or scarves.  
  • Halter tops with wide straps that fasten behind the neck to create a strong diagonal line are the only sleeveless tops that will work if your arms are a larger size than your body.  I prefer not to wear strappy or sleeveless styles at all now that I'm over 40.
  • An asymmetrical short sleeve hem created by pleats, gathers, or ruching is more pleasing than a straight horizontal hem.  Avoid sleeve hems that fall right at your bust line.
Keep your waist well defined.
  • Wear excellent undergarments that lift your bust.
  • Look for sleeves that end right at your waist or well past your hip.  Depending on the length of your arms and the height of your waist, that will vary.  If you're being photographed, long sleeves are almost always the best choice.
  • Look for sleeves with interesting details at the cuff.  A ruffle or trumpet cuff is particularly flattering.  Watch out for a-line sleeves that visually widen the upper arm.
  • A jacket, shirt, or cardi layer is an excellent choice to cover the upper arms and reduce visual bulk on your upper half, but  keep the waistline distinct, especially in the back of the garment.  Avoid having the bottom hem fall across the widest part of your hips and bum -- always check the fit in a full-length mirror.
  • If you choose to wear a suit jacket, look for sleeves with a feminine, unboxy silhouette, a narrow lapel, and a distinct waistline.
  •  Tops with vertical seaming, darts, and a nipped in waist are imperative.  Boxy shirt, dress, or jacket styles that fall straight from under the arm to the hip make you look like a refrigerator. 
  •  Shoulder pads usually don't work, but sometimes they give a better line visually if the shirt or suit has a closer, tailored fit.
Choose sleeves and jewelry that give the illusion of a properly proportioned arm.
  • A shorter sleeve can work if it's full enough to leave a visible gap between the cuff and your arm. Most knits can be steamed and blocked to add fullness.
  • Avoid wide, boxy cuffs that end at the widest part of your hip.
  • While it seems a bit counter-intuitive, delicate bracelets are more slimming than cuff-style. If you wear a watch, choose a delicate style that fits above your wrist bone.
  • Avoid very large or small prints.  A medium print or stripe can be very flattering.
  • Look for fabric with structure or enough fullness. Avoid thin, clingy materials.
  • A vest (when in style) works if the armholes are cut in to create a curve and the bottom hem accentuates the waistline.  Avoid puffy vests like the plague.
  • Shoulder seams that curve into the body of the garment or cut in at a diagonal are much more flattering than straight horizontal seams.  Dropped shoulders are an exquisitely awful choice.
  • A flutter sleeve can work if it's made from a soft, fluid material.  Beware of crisp cottons or denims that create an illusion of bigger arms.
  • Never, ever wear a top with sleeves that are snug or have a strangulating band/elastic at the hem.
  • Ask a friend for a second opinion on a shirt with puffed or full sleeves.  Sometimes they look wonderful and sometimes they're horrid.  As a general rule, chiffons, silks and softer fabrics are slimming, woven cottons and linens are not.
Mom's Note 3/22/2014:  We've recently had a lot of luck finding fashions at eShakti.  Most parts of any dress or top can be customized for a small fee (or even free), and all styles are available in sizes 0-36.  I've put an affiliate link in below for people reading along with your letters. 

Love that dress but wish it came with sleeves? CUSTOMIZE it to your style preference NOW! Shop www.eShakti.com
So what's the worst possible garment?  A man't T-shirt, with bonus points if it's snug through the arms and hips. The high neckline, dropped shoulder seams, boxy sleeves, and dead straight body shape are truly horrible for someone with big arms from any angle.  If you have any doubts, look through the 7 years of pictures from Cub Scouts when I was wearing the unit's unisex tee.  Ugh!

The best?  Try to buy tops that incorporate at least two of the design ideas above, and remember that a smile and sparkling eyes are always your best accessories.

Arms were made for hugging,

15 May 2013

Bee Bop A Roo Ba! Strawberry Jell-O Rhubarb Pie

Dear Lissy,

Our heirloom rhubarb is the first crop we harvest from our garden each year,This early season custard pie uses rhubarb and strawberry Jell-O for an economical treat.  Serve it with whipped cream or ice cream and a cuppa strong coffee. 
We garnished the pie with spring violets and lemon zest today.
Pie Crust
from Allrecipes.com
1-1/2 cups (6-1/2 oz.) flour
Pinch salt
1/2 cup lard 
3-4 Tbsp. cold water

Combine flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.  
Cut in the lard until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  
Sprinkle in water a little at a time until the pastry holds together.   
Shape into a ball and chill for 30 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface roll the dough to about 1/8" thick.  Transfer to a 9" pie plate and flute the edges.  Fill and bake as directed.  

Strawberry Jello Rhubarb Pie
from ManTestedRecipes.com
1-1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. water
2 beaten eggs
1 (3 oz) package strawberry Jell-O
2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 unbaked pie shell (see above)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl.  Pour into unbaked pie shell.  Use foil strips or pie shield to protect fluted portion of crust.
Bake for ~ 1 hour until bubbly and thick.   Remove from oven and cool.  
Serve warm with ice cream or room temp with whipped cream 
 This recipe was the closest I could find to the rhubarb pie Grammy Bea used to make for Daddy when he was little.  He's been missing her a lot lately, and sometimes a bit of nostalgia goes a long way.
Pucker up, Princess!

 Linked up at Homestead Barn Hop #112

14 May 2013

Scrap Quilting by Hand, Part 5: Photo Tutorial Preparing Pieces

Dear Lissy,

Transitioning from a pattern and fabric to pieces ready to sew is a fairly simple process.  This skill is easiest to learn when you see it, though.  This method is one I discovered on Candy Goff's quilting site years and years ago.  It's worked very well for me, so I'm passing it on to you.
Rotary cutting is the fastest and easiest way to prepare pieces.  RC requires special equipment and skills, however.  I recommend buying a good resource like Nancy Johnson Srebo's, Measure The Possibilities.  Even if you rotary cut, you still need templates!
Pre-made template patterns are common if you choose a block from a book or magazine.  If you draft your own template patterns, remember to include both a sewing and a cutting line. 
To make a pattern into a template, you need heavy template material (shrinky dink plastic is ideal), an extra-fine point Sharpie, and a straightedge.  Lay the template material over the pattern, and make tiny dots at the corners of the piece.  Place the template material on a flat surface, and connect the dots using the straightedge.  Lay the template back over the pattern to double-check accuracy. 
Now carefully add dots at the corners of the sewing line, and along the sewing line if desired.  These dots, not the edge of the fabric, provide accuracy when hand piecing.  Label the template with the name of the pattern and the name of the piece (usually a letter).  Finally, add the grain line.

Using a razor knife, mat, and straight edge or precision craft scissors carefully cut out the templates. Double check the finished template by overlaying it on the paper pattern.
If two pieces need to match, overlay the templates and make sure the match points are exactly lined up. See how they're a little bit off at the top?  I'll make a new match point with a different color Sharpie.  We need pin-point accuracy here.

Use an ice pick or awl to drill holes for the match points and sewing lines. 

Use the completed template to overlay rotary cut pieces and mark the match points.  Don't worry if the cut edge doesn't line up exactly with the template as shown above.  The dots, not the cut edge, provide the accuracy with this method of hand piecing.

To prepare a piece directly from the template you will need your template, fabric, a pencil, tailor's chalk (optional) and scissors.  This process is easiest on a sandboard, but any rough-ish surface will work.  

Place the fabric wrong side up, and align the grain with the arrows on the template.  Mark around the outside of the template with chalk or pencil, and then carefully mark the dots with pencil.  Very dark fabric requires a light colored pencil.  It often makes a nice effect to center a motif like I have above.  On this piece, I wanted the tip just a little bit lighter than the rest of the piece.  This is called "fussy cutting."  

Cut out the piece just inside the chalk or pencil line.  Mark the match points using the holes you drilled in the template earlier.  Don't mark the sewing line yet -- we'll be doing that as we go.
Store your pre-cut, dotted pieces in a clean, dry, organized fashion.  I usually cut 3-5 blocks worth of pieces at a time.  This is a placemat into which I've sewn several Ziploc bags.  I often store pre-threaded needles and a couple of pins inside the front cover, and a thimble and thread snips in one of the pockets.

Tied shut, this simple carrier is only as thick as the grosgrain ribbon I used to hide the seams.  It slides easily into my project bag.
My sandboard has a felt overlay that allows me to place a block into position to quickly sew it together.  I usually "stage" one block so that I can pull it out of my Omnigrid Travel Case and sew in odd moments.  It may seem silly for a block with only 8 pieces, but your baby quilt had 46 pieces in a 12" block, so I really needed it laid out in order not to lose my place.

Well that wasn't too bad, was it?  Be careful and take your time with the templates, and don't stress over the cut edges of the fabric.  Carefully mark match points, and store your pieces so you can sew in odd moments.  Unlike "designer" quilting, scrap quilting gives you the freedom to cut as you go -- there's no danger of running out of fabric.

Sew in Love with you,


Linked Up at Homestead Barn Hop #112

13 May 2013

Scrap Quilting By Hand, Mini-tip: Whack-A-Stash

Dear Lissy,

I belong to an online hand quilting group that passes around photos, tips, and links on a daily basis.  I recently discovered this neat trick which has made a huge difference in how often I'm able to enjoy piecing. I owe the uber-productive Bonnie Hunter a nod for introducing this system on her blog.  After adapting it for hand piecing and using it for a month, I'm sold on the idea.

Problems : 
  • I have a ton of fabric in my stash I love, but I'm not using it because it's stored in totes in the atticMy sewing area was swallowed up by home schooling materials.
  • I choose other activities I enjoy less than piecing to fill my minutes because I don't make the time to get fabric cut and marked for piecing.  Even a fat quarter is on the big side for marking or cutting on the go.
  • I save every scrap of fabric because "I might need it someday."
  • I buy a new fat quarter at a premium even though I know I have a similar shade or color somewhere in my stash because I can't find it quickly.

Solution:  Instead of just washing and pressing most fabric, I've started processing it into 4" squares.  

  • I already process the fabric by washing and pressing it.  It only takes a few more minutes to cut fabric into squares with a rotary cutter.  A fat quarter nets 20 squares. I can store hundreds of them in very little space.  I also purchased an ARDCO window template years ago that allows me to mark and cut odd shaped scraps from dressmaking and crafting into squares easily.
  • I rarely used my stash for crafting or fashion sewing, but I often used crafting and sewing scraps in quilts. 
  • My ongoing quilt project is an antique pattern for a reversible quilt that requires all 4" squares and no yardage.  My other favorite go-to quilts are 9 patch variations and Irish chains, all of which take 2" squares in abundance.  I can quickly cut 4" pieces into four 2" squares for those quilts.
  • The 4" square is a nice size to work with on my lapdesk if I want to create other pieces.  Quarter and half triangles, rectangles, diamonds, and hexies are all very easy to mark and cut from a square. 
  • 4" Charm squares are easy to sell and mail if you need a bit of extra cash.  
  • Any piece of fabric smaller than 4" square gets passed on or tossed.  That is my minimum "keeper" size.  Yes, it hurts! But I'm actually using my fabric.  Using most of it is much more satisfying than dreaming about all of it. 
  • I get almost all of my fabric for free.  Once machine quilters know you're a scrap quilter, you get gifted with contractor bags full of fabric.  That means that cost isn't an issue.
I haven't cut up yardage of background/backing fabric or border/binding fabric.  I have enough fat quarters and leftovers from sewing and craft projects that I've saved the big pieces.  But who knows?  If I haven't used them in a year or more, I may just whack the yardage into squares, too.

I haven't chosen to pre-cut any other sizes or shapes -- yet.  The 4" square is so versatile for me I haven't considered any other shape at this point.  If I do, I'll pop it into this letter as a p.s.

I'm tickled pink that I'm sewing almost every day now. I love the gentle rhythm of hand work, and find creating much more refreshing than just sitting in front of a screen.  The totes full of 4" squares ready to go (or sew!) regularly call my name.

Sew in love,

10 May 2013

Scrap Quilting By Hand: Part 4, Supplies

Dear Lissy,
You and the brothers are sacked out watching old "Bonanza" episodes with Daddy, so I'm going to squeak in a quick letter on the supplies you'll need to begin hand piecing.  You've already picked a block, a style, and we've discussed fabrics, too.  Now you'll need a few supplies before we start the actual process.

A sewing caddy keeps notions tidy and accessible. 

 Absolute Essentials
Thread: I prefer 100% cotton Mettler thread in 40 weight because I can get it locally.  It has the word "quilting" right on the spool.  I use it for both piecing and quilting.  Because I quilt in a wide variety of colors, I use primarily gray or tan thread.  I also keep white, black, red, and navy on hand. 

Needles:  I use a #10 between for both quilting and piecing.  I prefer English needles like John James or Richard Hemming.

Scissors:  You will need a pair of sharp fabric scissors as well as precision craft scissors for template material.  A pair of thread snips is also handy, but not necessary to start.

Template Material & Pen:  Shrinky dink plastic is my hands-down favorite template material.  I place the rough side against the fabric and draw the template on the smooth side.  A fine point permanent marker is necessary to mark on the plastic.

Pencils:  A very sharp #2 or an 0.5 mechanical pencil works well for most fabrics.  A crayola colored pencil in silver, yellow, or white works well for darker fabric.

Pins:  Just a handful.  I prefer silk pins, which are very fine.

Thimble:  My hand piecing method requires a thimble.  I like the clover ring thimbles made of plastic with a a perforated leather band around the exterior.

Seam Ripper:  Sadly, you'll still need this. Sigh.

Sand and felt board:  This is a piece of equipment unique to hand piecing.  A 13" square lighweight board with a piece of sandpaper firmly adhered will hold fabric steady while marking with templates.  A felt overlay allows it to be used to stage blocks in order until they're pieced.  I purchased mine, but they can be made quite inexpensively, too.

Advantageous Extras
Rotary cutting supplies: Even for hand piecing, most blocks can be rotary cut saving a great deal of time.  

Tailor's chalk/chalk wheels:  Tailor's chalk makes marking around templates a breeze.

1/16" hole punch or Perfect Piecer:  I use the dot method, so I like the ability to punch a fine hole.  The perfect piecer from Jinny Beyer is a little faster and works well with rotary cut blocks.

Needle threader:  Yup, my eyes are aging.  I prefer the clover threaders, either the double-sided or the pack of three little square threaders with a thread cutting knife included.

Thread Heaven:   Run the thread through the cobalt cube, and then run your fingers over the thread to remove static and prevent loop knots.

Project bag:  A clear plastic bag with a zipper top allows you to take a few blocks with you.  I usually sew in my lap while on the road, so I bring thread snips on a ribbon I can wear around my neck, a finger pincushion with a couple of needles and pins, a spool of thread (make sure it's locked!), and pre-cut pieces. If you plan to sew on the go often, wind a bobbin of thread on the machine, holding it against a block of Thread Heaven while it winds so it's "pre-treated".

Notions have always been a favorite of mine.  I'll try to update these choices again someday.

Linked up at Homestead Barn Hop #111

08 May 2013

Rub A Dub Dub. . .Spring Clean Your Tub!

Dear Lissy,
Remember our motto:  Let the Cleaner Do the Work!
Era laundry detergent is my best friend for tub and tile cleaning.  The enzymatic cleaners make fast work of all the yucko stucco.  When you were little and taking baths I used this system every couple of months.  Now that we all shower, it's only needed a few times a year.

The night before:   
  • Remove all toys and toiletries.
  • Draw the bath as full and as hot as possible and THEN swish in 2 cups of detergent.  Don't put detergent in first, or the bubbles will take over your whole house.  
  • Mix1/2 Era detergent and 1/2 hydrogen peroxide (about a cup of each) and use a nylon scrub pad or cleaning brush to apply thickly to all of the waterproof walls, shower door and tracks, and the top of the tub where the other solution doesn't reach.  Don't forget the chrome!  Don't rinse anything.  
  • If necessary, tie a bag of vinegar onto your shower head to break down hard water deposits.  Otherwise, just coat with the era/peroxide mix.
  • Run your washing machine full of HOT water.  Add 1/4 cup ERA and 1/2 cup bleach, let agitate to distribute through water.  Put in shower curtain and liner and allow load to finish running.

The next morning:
  • Drain the tub. Remove the soaking bag from the shower head if used.
  • Use the shower to wet down all the walls and shower door, but don't rinse off all the cleaning solution.
  • Use a deck brush or other soft cleaning brush to give the whole surround and tub a quick scrub.  The whole tub should FEEL clean and shiny.  Trust your fingers, not your eyes.  If needed, use an old toothbrush to get the shower door tracks clean.
  • Rinse thoroughly, and dry walls and top of tub with a soft cloth.
  • If desired, use car wax to put a protective, waterproof layer on the surround, sides of the tub, faucets, knobs, and shower head.  NEVER use it on the bottom of the tub.  Make sure product is dry and buffed before using shower.
  • Re-caulk between tub and surround or tub and floor if necessary.
If you have a porcelain tub with stains on the floor, a nice thick layer of Easy-Off Oven Cleaner overnight and a quick scrub in the morning will remove almost all stains.  Don't try this with a fiberglass tub!
Ewwww.  Even after an overnight soak in the Era solution the bottom of the tub looks dirty from stains.

After Easy-Off the spots are nearly indistinguishable from the rest of the tub. 
Even though this was a 2 day process, hands on time was less than 20 minutes.

Enjoy a nice long soak,

07 May 2013

Found! A Great Alternative to Google Reader

This is not a Dear Lissy letter, but a quick note for those who subscribe by RSS. . .

If you're looking to replace Google Reader, give Inoreader a try.  It's fast, light, and oh-so-easy to transfer all your subscriptions.  I've been using Feedly, but it had a clumpy feel after the sleek, simple Google Reader I knew and loved.

Have a wonderful day!

06 May 2013

One Quick Tip: Cleaning Hard Surfaces

Dear Lissy,

Spring cleaning time is here.  It's tempting to use elbow grease, but that's counterproductive.

Let the cleaner do the work!
  1.  Remove any loose debris with a brush, rag, or vacuum attachment.
  2.  Saturate the item with an appropriate cleaner
  3. Let stand 3-5 minutes.  The cleaner will do the work chemically so that you don't have to use elbow grease.
  4. Use a nylon scrubby, toothbrush, or nylon scraper to remove any stuck on areas.  Use a deck brush on non-wood floors.
  5. Rinse well.
  6. Wipe dry.   
  7. Restore finish protectors if desired.
 This method works equally well to clean a trash can or the pancake batter spattered kitchen counter.  I've done baking dishes this way since I was a newlywed.  I draw a sink of hot, soapy water and drop each dish, cup, or utensil into the water as soon as I'm done using it.  More often than not I can simply rinse in hot water and place on the drainboard without even using the sponge.

Don't use this method on:
  • Fabric or carpets
  • Wood
  • Electronics
  • Appliances
  • Vintage or delicate glass and china
  • Delicate stone surfaces like marble
Happy cleaning, my little energizer bunny!

04 May 2013

An Anchor Sure: Peace in the Time of Storm

Dear Lissy,

I wrote a couple of days ago giving you a little practical help for the drowning times when the storm sweeps over and threatens to wash away your sanity.  My copy of Isobel Kuhn's In the Arena is almost as dog-eared as my favorite cookbook, and so much of what I've learned is knit with that book, I'd be remiss to publish these thoughts as my own.  I'd also encourage you to re-read Sunfish, Piranhas, and Sharks, the letter I wrote about the different types of trials God sends into our lives.

The lessons God teaches us over the course of months and years often are cumulative, building one upon another.  He sends these difficult lessons to each of His children in different orders, though.  The type of trial we face isn't indicative of our growth in Christ or spiritual maturity, since every life is custom designed by One who loves our soul.  We grow rich in God through trials, not strong. 

Following are a few of the more important things I have learned during extended trials.  I've included extensive biographical snapshots here in hopes that it will allow you to learn better than simply telling you.

God doesn't do triage.
If I ever write an autobiography, the chapter covering my early thirties will be entitled, "My Left Foot". A year of severe plantar fascitis followed by the same tarsal bone being broken twice in six months time left me gimpy and limpy.  It was the hikes and long walks I missed most. I often comforted myself by comparing my situation to that of a lady in my church who was wheelchair bound.  "It could be worse," I thought.

I tease that "I don't speak Whinese," but the truth is, I'm often cold-hearted when people have "trials" that are definitely first world problems.  I receive weekly updates and a monthly magazine from Voice of the Martyrs, and as Americans, we simply don't have any idea of the trials facing many/most of our brothers and sisters in the 10/40 window.  We are commanded to be soldiers and athletes, and instead we're acting like 5th grade girls at a sleepover.

One of the hidden joys of working with elementary kids is getting to hear their prayer requests.
Kid 1:  "I fell off my bike, and took ALL THE SKIN OFF MY KNEE."  He lifts his pant leg to show us an impressive scab the size of a dime.
Kid 2:  "I was helping my dad, and a tree branch SLICED MY ARM."  She lifts her shirt sleeve to reveal a 4" scratch.
I smile, and dutifully pray for these mini-wounds, wondering if I just allowed prayer request time to morph into show-and-tell.

Do you see the problem with all of the scenarios I shared?  I'm thinking like a human.  I'm ranking the trial a gracious Heavenly Father has chosen for me, or a friend, or that precious soul in my Junior Church.  He, Who knows every hair on our head, uses every trial to grow us into His own likeness.  I may not be wheelchair bound, but having every step bring excruciating pain for almost three years is still a trial!  It forces me to grow in grace or wallow in the flesh.  I choose grace!  I found it interesting in Isobel Kuhn's book that God chose to give her the Platform of Taut Nerves much later in life.  Making an ocean crossing with a rambunctious toddler was every bit as much of a trial for her as crossing the high mountain peaks into Burma on foot two skips ahead of the Communist army.

At some point, we'll all face trials that we say:  "This trial is way harder than anything anyone else around me is facing"  If -- when -- that happens, I am tempted to resent my brothers and sisters who are facing smaller trials if I have a triage mindset.  It isolates me if I feel that no one could possibly understand my trial.  2 Corinthians 1 makes it abundantly clear that any suffering allows us learn God so that we have the ability to comfort and counsel any other Christian who is suffering.  Our comfort and counsel comes from the Word, not from experience. 

God's love comes near, and earthly loves take their proper place.
Our commitment to the work is often challenged during seasons of adversity.  We soldier on, determined not to let our trials undermine our service for the Lord.  God pours out his grace and strength to meet the ever-increasing demandThen, either with a quick jerk, or so slowly we scarcely recognize it at the time, the Lord asks for that commitment to become surrender.  Our love, determination, and willpower fueled with His grace is entirely replaced by His boundless love.  We become the channel through which He works rather than The Little Engine that Could.  Outwardly little changes, but inwardly a revolution is taking place.  Like Paul, the love of Christ is constraining us.  If you haven't been asked for surrender yet, this part of my letter will seem confusing.  Once God makes the exchange, you'll say, "Ahhhh!  That's what momma was talking about."  Most missionary biographies include this transition if you're interested in reading more about it.  Has God asked this of you?  Read Philippians over and over until it becomes part of your soul.

The Word takes on new life and light in the Wilderness.  Far from home as a newlywed, I was placed into position as a college food service frontline manager.  My boss suggested I read in Proverbs for my devotions during the beginning of my life as manager, and verses glowed with meaning as I spent time with the Lord.  Problems I faced were directly addressed by the Word of God on a daily basis.  It was like having a whole new book of the Bible.   The illumination didn't stop with Proverbs, but continued throughout the 2-1/2 years I held that job.  Every day since, in every storm, no matter what Christ was teaching me, the Bible spoke His love in new and fresh ways.

God gives us special tokens of His love only He could give.  Most missionary biographies give numerous examples of Christ working miraculously and providentially on their behalf.  I've seen many of the same such "love tokens" in my own life, but I'm not prepared to speak of most of  them yet.  I will share one instance, though, that you may remember.  I had been suffering from a massive sinus infection that stripped me of all my energy for almost 12 weeks.  Nothing I tried could overcome that infection, and I was exhausted.  Two days before Easter Sunday, Daddy excitedly informed me that the Gleason family from Scotland was scheduled to be at a church more than an hour's drive from our home.  Could we possibly head up after our Easter Sunday morning "marathon" (Sunrise service, church breakfast, Church service with special music -- and now a picnic lunch instead of lunch at my Mom's!) and spend the day with them?  Of course I said yes, but I'm sure I  had to deal with hurt feelings that he would ask it of me.  The Saturday before Easter, Daddy and the three of you helped me shop for the annual church Easter Breakfast and decorate and set up the church basement.  After three hours I was d.o.n.e.  I didn't have the energy to make dinner, let alone get up at 4:45 a.m. and spend an entire day away from home the next day.  Daddy took us out to dinner, a rare treat for our family.  Over the course of the evening I managed to get together clothes, special music, and my Junior church materials.  I fell into bed around 11, wondering how on earth I was going to survive Easter.  "Lord," I begged, "could you give me just enough of that resurrection power to make tomorrow a blessing instead of a burden?"  I awoke healed.  Not healing --  healed.  My energy was restored, my sinuses were as clear as if that infection had never occurred.  We enjoyed a wonderful Easter Sunday with our church family, ate a picnic lunch, and spent one of the best days of our lives so far with the Gleasons.  That complete healing in just a few hours was a once-in-a-lifetime gift from my King.

Our support system of family and friends is removed so that we can learn to trust only Him.  One of the defining components of a wilderness experience is that God removes our earthly support, or renders them ineffectual for the trial we are facing.  Hannah Whitehall Smith refers to it in Hinds Feet in High Places as "pulling out the plant called Natural Affection, root and branch."  We don't love people any less, but after a season of drowning, a wilderness, we learn to depend on God instead.  Our church, family, and friends will still be used of God to support, pray, and love us, but we'll see His hand guiding their help and not grow frustrated when it doesn't come in the time or way we think it should.  Daddy and I have a far better marriage now that I've learned to depend on God instead of heaping God-sized expectations on his shoulders.
Our prayer life flourishes. 
He teaches us to commune with Him, friend to friend  I am not a very good or faithful pray-er.  The vast majority of my prayer during the quiet seasons of life is intercessory.  I have a difficult time talking to God about the everyday even though I spend an hour (minimum) on the phone with my sister or mom.  It's something He and I are working on but I'm not ready to write about  it yet.  When the seasons of trial come, I am an A+ pray-er.  I'll wake in the wee hours of the morning and talk through my upcoming day until I drift back to sleep again.  I'll enjoy his company while I fold laundry or prepare and clean up meals.  I love to meet Him in the garden, too.  When in His Word, we share such sweet, sweet times of conversation.

He teaches us the power of prayer -- and patience.  Seeing God work providentially is exciting and easy to share.  Seeing him change a heart or life is beyond the power of speech.  Both are a regular part of seasons of distress.
George Mueller was in the habit of recording the number of days between prayer and its answer.  Very often years would roll by before his request was fully answered.  Praying develops a spirit of quiet patience in us during trials.  We don't just endure, we are schooled by prayer to learn to wait quietly and confidently upon God.

Peace and joy are from God as a result of continued obedience.
It doesn't matter what the season of trial holds -- illness, interpersonal woes, money troubles -- peace and joy are in abundance as long as we continue to obey.  God, and God alone, multiplies those two precious commodities in our lives.  Philippians and 2 Corinthians both cover these concepts so well and in such detail, I'll leave this section of my letter short.

Do you see what all of these lessons have in common?  I have learned Christ.  I can count every future season of trial as joy, because I know He is there waiting for me. 

I'm going to end this long, long letter with a quote from In the Arena that I alluded to in the beginning.  It is one of my favorite paragraphs ever written outside the Bible.  It is found at the tail end of Chapter 10, Between The Scissor's Knives.
These platforms, or struggles in life, do not necessarily make us stronger Christians.  I want to be sure this is understood.  Many victories do not make a stronger Christian.  It does give us an experience of Christ's ability to help us, so the next time it is easier to trust Him.  But it is fatal to think we have become strong. . .Platforms do not make us stronger Christians or better Christians but they do make us richer Christians.  Rich in our inner fellowship with Him.  Rich in our confidence that He will be our Rock and our Deliverer in the future.  Rich in the relaxation of the little child who leans back on his father's breast, confident, secure, and satisfied.
Rich in His Love,

02 May 2013

Practical Solutions For When You're Drowning

Dear Lissy,

God has given me three opportunities over the past few weeks to listen to mommas who were in a season of life that had them overwhelmed.  One was dealing with a new babe and toddlers, one had preschoolers, and the other was moving their aging parent into an already busy house.  I admire all three of these women -- they're loving, intelligent, diligent moms and wives.  They didn't need advice, they needed someone to listen, love, and reassure them that topsy-turvy households were pretty normal for the transitions they were making.

But that got me thinking -- what advice would I give you for a time of upheaval, weariness, and a little chaos?  I've been there in spades.  We took responsibility for Daddy's grammy with Alzheimer's when you were a toddler and I had just started home schooling the boys.  Matt was diagnosed with life-threatening asthma during this time, too, and I came to know the ER staff well.   I made some good choices and some bad choices.  My home management had good days and bad days.  During the most stressful times, I let a lot go.

I've written before about a variety of ways to adjust your schedule for tough times, but sometimes life becomes so overwhelming, it's not possible to even keep a minimum level.  What do you do then?