Archive for October 31st, 2006

Meaningful Work

October 31, 2006 @ 11:27 am | Filed under: , ,

Musing about the "meaningful work" part of my Rule of Six, Jove writes:

By observing how [my daughter] has been participating in household work over the
past little while, I have come to see that when there is no list of
"chores", the work itself can become meaningful. It produces something
that the worker desires — tasty bread, a tidy environment, etc. It
also produces a feeling of fully belonging to the household. That pride
that she can empty the dishwasher is at least partly about
recognizing an additional way that she is able to contribute, even if
she doesn’t empty the dishwasher every time. And household tasks do not
just produce goods (bread, dinner, clean laundry) and services (dinner
served to the table, maid service), they also produce relationships.

Doing these things for others as a member of a household is a way of
tangibly caring for people.

(Emphasis mine.)

Jove, that is so beautifully put. Yes, yes, yes: household work cheerfully and reverently done builds warmth and cameraderie within the family. I use the word "reverently" deliberately; I really do mean it. If we approach tedious domestic tasks—or any task—with an attitude of reverence, a sense that this work, however mean, however mundane, can bless our loved ones (or even perfect strangers), the work itself is changed. Cleaning toilets need not be drudgery; it can be as loving an act as buying a gift for your spouse or reading a special book to a child.

There’s a lovely passage in Thyra Ferre Bjorn’s book, Papa’s Wife, in which Mama sits down to her favorite task of the week: polishing the shoes of her seven children. Seven pairs of shoes! Imagine! She spent all day each Saturday cleaning and scrubbing and baking and preparing her home for the Sabbath—"Papa" was a pastor—and at the end of that long, hard day, she had to face that pile of shoes. Except there was no "having to face" the task in her attitude. She took joy in the job. Each shoe called forth the image of the child who wore it, and as she worked, Mama would smile over the thought of a funny or endearing thing the child had done that week. (Last year, when I re-read this book for the dozenth time, I thought of Alice during the shoe-polishing scene—and months later, when I read her "Spring Soup" post, I thought of the warm-hearted Swedish mama.)

Jove’s post also describes her recent decision to begin baking bread with her daughter. She links to a recipe Wisteria uses daily. This is perfect timing for me. I’ve been hankering to bring breadmaking into our lives ever since Elizabeth shared her enthusiasm for the task on the CCM list years ago. All these years, I’ve been biding my time, which is to say, waiting for Jane to be old enough to be in charge of the job. And she IS old enough now. I have already promised her we’ll work more baking into our lives now that we’re sort of overhauling our daily rhythm.

I’d love your input on recipes for beginners, dear readers. I have to admit Wisteria’s recipe (which sounds wonderful) intimidated me a little with its use of the words "adjust accordingly." Jove DID adjust accordingly, and I’m mighty impressed. I can "adjust accordingly" with the best of them when it comes to, say, educational method and materials, but with baking? Not so much. I need the Baking for Dummies version.

And we can make do without a mixer and dough hook, right? For now? Since this is likely to be a once-a-week endeavor at best?

News and Views (as the DHM Says)

October 31, 2006 @ 7:24 am | Filed under:

Just a reminder that the new edition of the Carnival of Children’s Literature is scheduled to appear today over at Scholar Blog, so keep your eyes peeled! ("Eyes peeled" always makes me think of the bowls of peeled grapes people used to put out at Halloween parties, and you were supposed to feel them with a blindfold on, and your host would tell you they were eyeballs. Ew.)

Speaking of ew, there’s a disheartening piece of news over at Farm School today. Becky links to an article in the Edmonton Journal about a publisher’s plans to create a "prequel" to Anne of Green Gables. The book will tell the story of Anne’s early years:

The new book, Before Green Gables, will focus on the young girl’s
hard-luck life with a string of foster families and at a Nova Scotia
orphanage in the years before her momentous appearance as an
11-year-old adoptee at Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert’s farm in
turn-of-the-century Avonlea.

No, no, no. Don’t do it! So wrong. Such a bad idea.

Now hold on a minute, some of you are saying. What are you doing up on there on that high horse, Melissa Wiley? Don’t you write prequels to another beloved children’s series?

Here’s why a "new" Anne book is different (and wrong, wrong, wrong). Anne is fictional, an author’s creation. L.M. Montgomery made her up. She gave us Anne’s backstory in her own books. In a few short paragraphs, Montgomery paints a vivid picture of the misery of Anne’s early years, and it’s a finished canvas, albeit a small one. No one needs to come along and try to repaint it as a mural.

Martha Morse and Charlotte Tucker were real people. The Ingalls/Wilder family archives contain letters about them, birth and death records, marriage records, the names of children they gave birth to (including babies who died at birth). Where the records leave gaps, I have had to fictionalize, and that’s why the books I have written are historical fiction instead of biography. But the women were real. Laura Ingalls Wilder did not create them out of her own imagination. By all means, someone write a book about Lucy Maud Montgomery’s young life! Or her grandmother’s, for that matter. But leave her made-up characters alone.

I don’t think of my books as "prequels," though of course that is what
my publisher calls them. A few years ago, my editor asked me to consider writing a book about Mary Ingalls. I declined. I didn’t think the "lost years" book (Old Town in the Green Groves) should be written either, at least not in a format that placed it within the series. If someone had wanted to write a biography of Laura that focused on the Iowa years, that would have been different.