Break out the good stuff

My mother-in-law told me that she only has a stem or two of her wedding crystal left. The reason for this is because not only has she been quick to organize a social gathering for any occasion but also because she believes in “breaking out the good stuff” – using her prettiest china and nicest crystal for holiday dinners and get-togethers. Her philosophy has always been, “What are you saving it for? If it gets broken, well, that happens sometimes; you might as well enjoy it now because you can’t take it with you.”

I like this philosophy but haven’t really used it. When my husband and I got married, the shop attendant at Hudson’s tried to talk us into registering for Waterford crystal, which truly is gorgeous stuff but at that time cost around $60 per stem. We declined and instead registered for Mikasa crystal, which is also beautiful lead crystal though not quite up to Waterford standards, but it only cost $30 per stem at that time. Because we went with the less expensive crystal, we ended up getting the full set from our generous guests – including the champagne flutes, water goblets, and wine glasses. Of the set, I still have 5 champagne flutes, 5 water goblets, and 8 wine glasses all these years later; when I broke one of the champagne flutes while cleaning up after Thanksgiving, I just smiled and cleaned up the broken glass and blood. I will always have the memory of my sister-in-law pouring champagne which she’d stored out on our deck to keep chilled into that glass. The glass itself means nothing, but the memory of our Thanksgiving together will be with me always.

Throw a party, invite your family, and break out the good stuff. Don’t get upset if something breaks or spills – things are meaningless but people and memories are priceless. Don’t cling to what is worthless and miss what is truly valuable.

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Twas the weekend after Thanksgiving…

The last of the crystal is finally washed…and I only broke one champagne flute and the resulting cut on my hand didn’t even require stitches! #winning

Washed Crystal

We always use the weekend after Thanksgiving to put up our Christmas tree. The year our eldest child was born, we stopped getting real trees and bought an artificial one because we were worried about pine needles getting stuck in a crawling baby’s hands or knees (yeah, like most first-time parents, we were a tad over-protective), but this year for the first time in fourteen years, we’ve gotten a real tree. And not just any tree, but a 12-footer:

Xmas tree

I won’t relate the foibles and muttered curse words that accompanied getting this thing into the house and upright in a stand, but I will just note that it involved my husband having to run to Lowe’s in Ann Arbor for sand bags to help stabilize it. But I will say that if you live in this area, the Dexter Lions are selling beautiful trees, the guys at the lot are hilarious, and your kids get to “pick” candy canes off one of the trees, plus you’re supporting a good cause:

Dexter Lions eager to move hundreds of Christmas trees this year

Dexter Lions Club member Jim Koch stands next to one of the taller trees available at the clubs Christmas Tree sale at Creekside Intermediate School on Baker Road. The lot opened Nov. 22 and will remain open until the 1,027 are sold. Each tree has a tapered hole cut in the bottom so a tree stand (for sale at the lot) can fit into it.

Wherever you are, rather than getting your tree from a big mega-chain, why not  get it from a local tree farm or a fraternal club? Keep your money in your own community while reducing your support for made-in-China artificial crap.

The Blessing of Extended Family

Thanksgiving was delightful; we had my husband’s mother, his aunt, one of his brothers and sister-in-law, and my father over.

DSC03796

The family gathers (that’s me in the grey dress with one of our daughters laying against me).

We just sat by the fire chatting and enjoying each other’s company. Oh, and we ate a massive feast, too, which I didn’t get any pictures of, but Philip took a few pictures of the pretty table my mother-in-law and I set:

DSC03798DSC03800

I had a surprisingly stress-free holiday despite all the cooking and cleaning I did, probably because my mother-in-law came over and spent the night on Wednesday and we stayed up late drinking wine and preparing food, but also because I remember reading some commentary from Vox Day last year that really put holiday preparations into perspective. Vox reposted it this year, so I’m quoting it here:

If you are a man:

  • Remember that the women are putting in a lot of work and are feeling a lot of stress. This is not the time to remember things at the last minute or lament how things were done differently when you were a child. Avoid throwing curve balls.
  •  Don’t tell her to relax. She’s not going to do so anymore than you are during a hard-fought basketball game. Holiday-hosting can perhaps be best understood as a competitive sport for women, even if the only competitors are in her mind.
  •  Ask her if there is anything you can do twice per day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Simply having someone willing to run out to the store once or twice, if necessary, can save her considerable time and reduce tensions.
  •  Pour yourself a glass of wine as soon as it gets dark. Offer her one. She’ll probably need it.
  •  Don’t let her get away with snapping at you or anyone else. The objective is to be helpful and considerate, not a doormat.

If you are a woman:

  • Try to remember that it’s a celebration, not a competition, and the world will not end if a particular dish is not served or something doesn’t go exactly the way you planned it.
  • The only person who can ruin the holiday for yourself is you. In fact, the only person who is likely to ruin the holiday for everyone else is you. Don’t be that woman.
  • If someone is taking pictures or video, just smile. Drawing additional attention to yourself by complaining and protesting looks far more ridiculous than any bedhead or lack of makeup does.

My father called me today to tell me what a nice time he’d had, and it made me start thinking about how much better I feel when our extended family is all together. Sure, we don’t see eye to eye on some things and sometimes we irk or annoy each other, but one of the great lies of modernistic liberalism is that blood is no thicker than water. The truth is that no one has your back like your family does; friends come and go, but the people you share kinship with are (or should be) your foundation and fortress. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to let the petty crap go and focus on how grateful I am for family, both nuclear and extended, especially extended.

On yesterday’s post, Mrs. Minter remarked:

You know, I got a little bit of confusion from co-workers this week when I declined to celebrate Thanksgiving with them in the form of a pot luck. I like my co-workers, but I simply am tired of celebrating holidays with people other than my own family on days other than the actual holiday. Was I being a grump? I guess. But, I am now having a fantastic vacation at home with the people I am meant to spend it with- with the extra energy I didn’t spend elsewhere. I know my family appreciates it.

I completely get where she’s coming from.

If you didn’t get to see your family this Thanksgiving, make sure to see them at Christmas. And if you can move closer to be with them, do it.

A point upon which traditionalists and anti-capitalist progressives can agree: Don’t shop on Thanksgiving.

My husband and I used to be liberal progressives back in our 20s when we were fresh from college indoctrination. At that time, we subscribed to a journal called Ad Busters: Journal of the Mental Environment, which is an anti-consumerist zine.  We are now very conservative traditionalists, but in some ways we still believe many of the same fundamental things about what life, family, and culture should look like as we did in our Ad Busters progressive days, even if we are no longer pro-abortion and pro-sexual deviancy. We were never socialists but always believed in some reasonable limitations being placed on capitalism; we still believe this but it stems from our Christian convictions now.

So what does being a traditionalist anti-consumerist look like? Well, in part it means you are disgusted by companies like Toys R Us having policies such as this one, recently posted at The Thinking Housewife: Thanksgiving: The Shopping Holiday:

What can possibly be so important at Toys R Us that they must remain open 24 hours over the Thanksgiving holiday, one of the few days a year in modern America when most families actually sit down and eat a home-cooked meal together? Whatever it is, it is to be scorned and mocked and then avoided.

I encourage you strongly not to engage in any consumerism whatsoever on Thursday. Buy nothing. In our 20s, Philip and I believed in Buy Nothing Day, which was practiced on Black Friday, but back then stores were not open on Thanksgiving. We will now stretch Buy Nothing Day over both Thursday AND Friday, but if you simply must shop, at least wait until Friday to do it. Don’t participate in the further degradation of family life by turning Thanksgiving into just another day for mindless consumption and sinful acquisitiveness.

Have a blessed, peaceful Thanksgiving with your family and friends!

Signalling liberal moral superiority, homeless in Ann Arbor edition

From MLive Ann Arbor:

Ann Arbor’s latest homeless camp is in my backyard

There are an estimated 20 people living in tents under tarps where my family and I walk in the winter, on the trail where my late dog used to run, just steps from where my own backyard ends at Burton Road.

Ann Arbor homeless encampment image source

This story is interesting for several reasons. First, a very long time ago, my husband and I lived across the street from a church homeless shelter in Ann Arbor. The biggest issues were drunkeness – one night we watched a very drunk homeless man pounding on the shelter door after hours, yelling to be let in, then urinating all over himself – and petty theft – you couldn’t leave anything of value laying around and had to keep first floor windows and doors locked at all times. We never had any trouble with violence or intimidation but frankly I wouldn’t have wanted to chance having children there.

Homelessness has been an ongoing debate in Ann Arbor since I moved there at the tender age of 19 to attend the University of Michigan. It’s been called a “good” city to be homeless in because there are a lot of kind-hearted people willing to hand out a buck to a guy down on his luck, there are a lot of shelters and public services available, and people generally will tolerate the presence of homeless people there rather than driving them off. This has had the predictable result of increasing the population of homeless people.

When I lived at Black Elk Co-op, we tried allowing homeless “crashers” who missed out on getting into the shelters by curfew stay in our basement. We were about as liberal and leftwing and “Housing is a right, not a privilege!” as you can get, but eventually even we got tired of having our stuff ripped off; purses, wallets, even textbooks left in the morning with our “guests”. I also had a summer job working for U of M Grounds, and many large lilac bushes on campus had homeless people either camped out in them or using them as toilets, which was pretty unpleasant to clean up.

The issue right now in Ann Arbor is small tent cities of homeless people that are popping up. If you know anything about A2, you know that people there are well-educated, very liberal, elitist, and painfully competitive about signalling a “holier and more liberal than thou” stance. This combination creates a real paradox for these folks when it comes to the issue of homelessness because they (quite understandably) really, really, really do not want these dirty people who tend to steal your stuff, leave a lot of trash around, and poop in your bushes camped out in their backyards, but they can’t say so without looking like they might be less liberal than someone else. Consider this comment under the news story I linked to above:

uneven999: They need a place to stay and Id like to think we have moved beyond paupers prisons, but if you asked republicans to vote theyd say bring them back
, or slavery

So what they have to do when they talk or write about this issue is find linguistic ways to signal their liberal moral superiority while still trying to get someone to do something about the mess that is being created in their backyards.

While my neighbors and I will be accused by some of Not In My Backyard Syndrome, many others in Ann Arbor convey relief that they don’t have to deal with it.

I’ll argue the NIMBY slurs as shallow, given how long many people actually lived in that camp during warmer months with full knowledge of neighbors. And I’ll challenge anyone in the city who expresses relief: Nobody wants to live next to the piles of trash and human waste that a tent city can generate, but it shouldn’t be celebrated if you don’t.

Beyond that, though, I keep coming back to the complexity of homelessness. I’m grateful that this community has the Delonis Center shelter, and enough volunteers to make a visible difference toward feeding and sheltering people in need. I also just can’t imagine the need ending. And that makes me sad.

Well, if it makes her sad, then that’s okay then! She (entirely understandably) is asking for someone to get these people out of there, but since she feels bad about it, we know that she is a good liberal and should not be judged.

If you want to play along at home, here is my handy how-to guide for signalling liberal moral superiority when what you really are after is conservative (i.e. common sense) in nature:

1. Make sure you audience knows that you have a personal connection to the issue (It’s right in my backyard!).

2. Do some intellectual probing of the issue to prove your educated, elite status (cite statistics, interview an expert).

3. Show case how much empathy you have for this issue and people (I’m just worried about them out there in the cold. How can we help them?)

4. Leave unstated that how you want to help them is by helping them away from you and into someone else’s backyard. If you can’t leave it unstated, make sure to turn it around onto the other person (You wouldn’t want poop in your hydrangeas either! Don’t judge me! I voted for Barack Obama, too, you know!)

Men taking care of their families and communities – just another good thing about marriage and family.

I had started this blog with the intention to write on it regularly, but boy have I been busy. I started a new full-time job recently – I’d not thought to go back full time, but this one was too good an offer to refuse, and there happens to be a 10+ acre chunk of land across the street from our land that’s for sale….The thing about buying land is that once you start, you want more and more of it!

But I came across a news story today that was one of those that just seems like a little light of hope in an oft-bleak world. It also showcases one of the many things I admire about men – how they take care of their families by any means necessary, even when doing so involves a tractor

Anthony Marchioli is the father of a new baby girl after one crazy day in Buffalo, New York.

Marchioli, like most people, was cooped up in his house – – stuck after the massive snowfall–and looking for something to do.

“One of my neighbors shouts across the street ‘I called the rental place–I want to get one of those tractors and start digging people out’,” said Marchioli.

He and his neighbor were focused on others.

Marchioli walked three miles to a friend’s house to get a ride to a Home Depot, got the tractor and started driving it home. But when he got close to the house, there was a surprise waiting for him.

“There’s my wife in the middle of the street. I said, ‘what are you doing, you’re insanely pregnant– why are you even out of the house?'”

Her water had broke.

“Only one thing in my mind… my cousin lives three houses down, they’re watching the kids and we’re getting on the tractor,” said Marchioli.

That’s because his cars were buried. Marchioli said he put his wife on the tractor and went full speed to the hospital.

Loxley Storm Marchioli was born 11 hours later. She now joins her two older sisters 4-year-old Imogin and 2-year-old Athena.

This precious baby is so blessed to be born into a family with a father in the home to take care of her.

I’ll bet his wife is particularly glad to be his Mrs.

The pleasure of a quiet evening at home with family and a few thoughts on prioritizing family formation.

Last night was cold, rainy, and windy, so after the day’s activities and chores were finished, we gathered for a cozy dinner en famille. This kind of weather is definitely a breakfast-for-dinner kind of weather, so we made homemade sausage gravy and buttermilk biscuits.

biscuits and gravy

 

The girls can handle biscuit-making pretty well on their own now, and Chef John from Food Wishes’ recipe for buttermilk biscuits is our favorite:

Beautiful Buttermilk Biscuits

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into thin slices, chilled in freezer
3/4 cup cold buttermilk

Chef John is very entertaining to listen to and has a sharp sense of humor, so his cooking videos are fun to watch:

After dinner, we gave the fireplace its maiden fire – the previous owners never seem to have used it, so I think this may be the first time in the nine years since this house was built that the fireplace has actually been used:

 

first firelight

 

Eldest daughter eventually broke out her guitar and sang to us, while my husband Philip stretched out to read. It was such a quiet, pleasant evening at home with our family.

So the little lesson I’d like to impart in this post is the importance of family formation and taking this seriously when you are still young. I find it sad that young women are pushed hard by society to delay family-formation and preparing for being a competent, helpful wife and perhaps mother and instead pushed to focus solely on education and career. I believe this is backwards thinking.

Of course young women need to study and work, but they should prioritize learning how to cook and care for a home and should definitely take seriously looking for a suitable mate when they are still young. Women have all the time in the world to earn college degrees and money, but we have a limited period of time when we are still young and attractive and easily able to find a good man to marry while still able to have children without costly fertility treatments. Consider this:

Apple, Facebook to pay for women to freeze eggs

Facebook said it offers egg freezing for female employees up to $20,000. The company also offers adoption and surrogacy assistance and “a host of other fertility services for male and female employees,” the company said via e-mail.

Apple also offers egg freezing and storage, extended maternity leave, adoption assistance and infertility treatments.

It sounds very nice, like a young woman need have no thought of family formation until she is 35 or 40 or older. But what is the reality?

Women whose…eggs were preserved before age 30 had a greater than 8.9% likelihood of implantation per embryo which declined to 4.3% for embryos from eggs frozen after 40.

So the data shows that even if a woman has her eggs frozen in her twenties, she’s only got about a 9% chance of those eggs being able to form an embryo that implants.  And I would guess most women don’t go the egg freezing route until they are well into their 30s, which means that this is not a good strategy to rely upon if a young woman wants to have a family of her own one day. Also consider this, from Pew Research:

Nearly one-in-five American women ends her childbearing years without having borne a child, compared with one-in-ten in the 1970s.

If marriage and children are important to a young woman, she should prioritize them while still young. This doesn’t mean she can’t go to college, but it does mean that she should skip the partying while she is there and focus on finding her spouse while earning that degree.