Living Room

Those simple words, Living Room, have taken on new meaning worldwide. As nation after nation imposed restrictions on free movement and social interaction, our circle of daily face to face encounters are becoming limited to those who share our living room. And without loosing a single inch, that living room seemed to shrink overnight. Like going from an ocean liner to a life raft, personal space was reduced to those closest to you.

As children, many of us were sent to our rooms as punishment for misbehaving or outright rebellion. When it was our turn to parent, we considered “time out” as a more evolved form of training. The most violent criminal offenders are often restricted to solitary confinement. Time and time again we have been trained and conditioned to believe the punishment hanging over our heads is isolation.

Now governments and media and so-called experts are telling us for the good of common mankind, we must avoid contact with those outside our immediate home for months. Sure, we have social media and an abundance of online platforms to connect via screens but face to face…that’s a small circle even for large families. Most of us are not alone. We are stranded on an island with our nearest and dearest.

So how do we honor our living room? How do we make space for each other while restricted to only each other? How do we redeem this time to deepen our relationships instead of avoiding them? How do we live in the same room?

In case you missed the millions of reminders to wash your hands, cover your cough and stay home, I’d like to use those 3 points as a way to survive not the current fear but the deeper fear…intimacy in life.

Wash your hands…from childhood we’ve been told to wash our hands. It often came with the second admonition to wash our faces. So before we reach out to those nearest and dearest, taking a moment to see if we have emotional, spiritual and mental clean hands can be more important than the physical germs and dirt we might pass on.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
    And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not lift up his soul to what is false
    and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
    and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
    who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

With clean hearts and hands we can reach out to each other in love and support. We can sit and talk. We can play and laugh. We can tell stories and really listen. We have nowhere else to be and, honestly, is there anyone else you want to be with?

Cover your cough… Anyone else remember the little catch phrase from the playground….”Say it, don’t spray it”? It has become so easy to “share” under the guise of information. The internet has become a party line on Russian Olympic steroids. If you don’t recognize either of those references please consult a Funk & Wagnalls for enlightenment. There seems to be a rush to publish, to break the story, to be the first to report or retweet or repost that leaves no time for due diligence, fact checking or even the most rudimentary spell check. Grammar, common sense and critical thinking have gone the way of the dodo bird.

It is important not to spread germs but isn’t it more important not to spread lies, gossip, shame, depression, gloom and doom, fear and hopelessness.

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 
What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them,
but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

Stay at home…You are grounded. Or are you blessed? To be able to shelter in place means you have a place. A place for your stuff. Now you have time to deal with your stuff, your physical stuff and your emotional stuff. The stuff you’ve been stuffing and the stuff you’ve been saving and the stuff you’ve long outgrown. No wonder people start to get edgy when they have to stay home. There is nowhere to hide or run from stuff when you are required to stay home. Some will take this time as an opportunity to take a good look at stuff and make changes. Others will deliberately turn a blind eye and ignore it. But, let me remind you…everything in your house is there because you ALLOW it to be. Everything. Want it gone? Get rid of it! Want it fixed? Fix it! Want it painted? Paint it. Want to sit there and keep complaining about it? Well, that’s your choice, too. But if your home is a reflection of you, are you comfortable there? Are other’s comfortable there? Or is this a good time to make some changes? After all, you’re already home. How content are you to stay there?

There are countless men, women and children living on the streets of our country. Without the shelter and confines of the four walls that surround you, without the limitations of a few rooms, without…

How are you living in the room you have? How are you living the days that have been given to you? How are you making changes because of the world outside your home?

The Black Death marked an end of an era in Italy, its impact was profound, and it resulted in wide-ranging social, economic, cultural and religious changes. These changes, directly and indirectly, led to the emergence of the Renaissance, one of the greatest epochs for art, architecture, and literature in human history.

It’s never too late for a personal renaissance. It must start where you live. It must have room.

I’ll put the kettle on…

If you watch much BBC you will hear a line repeated often…”I’ll put the kettle on.” Many times it’s preceded by “fancy a cup of tea?” For those not familiar with this social cue, it translates to “this conversation is going to need some time…time for the water to boil…time for the tea to steep…time for the tea to cool enough to drink and time to actually drink the tea.” It’s an invitation to sit and share what’s on your mind.

For the past 2 years, I have been struggling. Having moved to a new town in a new state and knowing only a couple of very busy people, making new friends has been on my list of things to do. My new town is a fairly old, established town. The house we bought is 120 years old. Most on our street are newer. They are right around 100 or so. The few neighbors we have spoken with have lived here most of their lives and are now much closer to the end than the middle of those lives.

I have been on the lookout for opportunities to connect with like minded people. I love reading and thought the library was a natural place to start. The day I walked in to get a library card, the woman at the desk asked me if I had my state issued driver’s license. I said I didn’t. As she turned her chair away from me to go back to reading her magazine she said “come back when you do.” I guess having the actual deed and title to the home we own 4 blocks from the library and a wallet full of ids wasn’t going to get me a library card.

The next attempt was reaching out to the historic society. After all I have a 120 year old Queen Anne Victorian house. I thought Renaissance Wife would be a natural corporate sponsor for the historic museum in town so I filled out the application and sent in a check. Crickets…. but the check was cashed. On their Facebook Page and website, they listed a book club. “This has to be my on ramp,” I thought. I bought the book. I read the book. I went to the museum the night of the book club. No one was there. Not even a sign on the door saying it had been canceled or moved. Nothing. I posted my experience on the Facebook event…more crickets. And, the book was about manners holding polite society together!!!

A couple of weeks ago, I tried a women’s Bible study group. I went on line, created an account, registered for the group, paid the $13 for the book and was excited. These had to be my people, right?

Not so much. When I arrived there were 5 women all focused on their cell phones. One looked up and asked me if I was new. When I replied I was, she told me to sign the sheet on the clipboard because she sends out an email with information each week. Ok. Signed in and sat down. Over the next 10 minutes or so 12 more women came in and sat down in the circle of chairs. Not one said hello to me. When the women who sends out the emails started the study, no one offered to share their book. After an hour and a half, she closed in prayer. I stood up, put on my coat, picked up my purse and made my way to the door passing 4 women on the way. Not one said a word to me. Nothing….

A week later, having heard nothing from the email lady, I emailed the church and asked for a refund for my registration. They processed it very quickly with no questions asked.

All this to say, I am confused about how to connect with people in this day and age. I admit freely that I have some old fashioned ideas when it comes to hospitality. I believe in making people feel welcome when they enter my environment, in being where I say I’m going to be and that a women’s Bible study should be the most gracious place for a new person to find themselves. I believe in putting the kettle on. I can’t believe hospitality is dead. It can’t be.

While I have been writing, I have had a cup of Daily Beauty Blueberry Lavender tea. You see, even if we are not in the same room, when I write I feel like we are having a chat and you are so kindly listening to my heart. Having a cup of tea with you is a very deliberate action. My tea kettle in on the first floor of our home with my office on the third floor. I waited for the kettle to boil, brought the mug up two flights of stairs, and logged in to talk to you about my heart. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you taking the time to “listen”.

Now, it’s your turn to talk. I’ll put the kettle on…how do you take your tea?

The Kitchen: The Heart of the Home

Make it special

Holidays seem to come with the expectation of home cooked dinners, desserts and specialties reserved for once a year. Perfecting creations without someone to teach you and opportunities to practice can put added pressure on inexperienced or under trained cooks. Many times the tradition was passed on but the knowledge wasn’t.

Years ago, I tried to make divinity fudge. My grandmother had made it every year for Christmas. She passed away without teaching me her secrets. Last month, I spent an evening teaching my grandson my recipe for Cowboy Chili. I sat on an old red kitchen stool and talked him through each of the steps. When every step had been completed and the chili was simmering, we sat at the kitchen table and talked through it again as he wrote the recipe in a Moleskine Recipe Journal. From memory, he was able to list the ingredients, amounts and process for each step. At the end of the evening, he told me how much he loved cooking and spending time in the kitchen with me.

Make it fresh

When I think of Renaissance in the kitchen, my friend Misty is one of the women who come to mind first. A single mother raising sons in the beauty of North Carolina, she has built a company literally from the ground up. Growing her own produce to supply her products and provide for her family, she relies on her knowledge of gardening, weather, and preserving with skills most have lost or never had.

Make it your own

Maybe you know how to make divinity. Turns out my grandson does and is going to teach me! Maybe you know how to make Cowboy Chili. If not, I will be doing an instructional video soon. Maybe you know how to make jam from the produce of your own garden, if not you can order it from Misty at Ma’am’s Hot Jam. My favorite is the Blueberry Seven Pepper Jam. It’s so good on fresh hot biscuits or pork chops or goat cheese with crackers.

Don’t be afraid of your kitchen. If you don’t have a grandmother or mother to teach you, it’s ok. You can still learn to make special dishes and memories. Look around our kitchen for ideas and inspirations and links to learning. Then get creative and make something new!