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I love looking at the links in my blogroll, so even though I’m neglecting my writing (a lot) lately, I’m still popping in here daily.  Maybe I’ll be back someday soon.

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If you know me, you know I haven’t been away from the computer much this Lent.  Here we are coming up to Palm Sunday and I really only made it a couple of days without email, Facebook, etc.  I decided right off that in this day and age, giving up the computer is like saying you’re not going to answer the phone for 40 days.  Whether cell phone or land line (and yes, my brothers recently made fun of me because not only do we still have a land line, but our phone actually has a cord), no one would do that.  Would they?

Well, I realized I’m not Jesus and can’t go off into the wilderness for 40 days.  At least not yet, maybe someday I will.  And while I completely and utterly failed at my quest in practice, in theory I did change the way I am doing things over the past several weeks of Lent. 

I have been more intentional about quiet time.  And about thinking about spiritual things.  And about looking my family in the eye for more of the day.  When I make breakfast and have tea with Rose in the morning, the computer is safely tucked out of sight and turned off.  When George comes home in the afternoon, I try to stop reading and talk to him.  And there are many hours in the day when I’m taking care of my daycare baby (soon to be, babies), or chatting with Elijah about books and other “educational” stuff. 

So that’s all good.

I’m also learning to do only what I really ENJOY online.  That is, not so much bad news and political arguing (always tempting and hard to resist but I got tired of the angry feelings that come with it).  And MORE time reading uplifting blogs, news stories and Facebook postings from friends and organizations I like.  I often say, I’ve always been a HUGE reader and before the internet it was novels, magazines (always tons of magazines) and newspapers.  Now, I get most of that with way less trees cut down for paper.  I’m trying to find the same “feelings” online that I felt while reading the hard copies of things–pretty pictures in magazines can now be found on blogs and certain websites, for example.  I’m searching those things out, instead of reading about the latest conspiracy theory (that got old during the Bush administration, didn’t it?  And now it’s getting really old under Obama). 

I am more interested in Facebooking than blogging these days.  I consider Facebook a briefer, more interactive form of blogging but boy would I be sad if all my favorite bloggers gave it up.  And that is to say, you may not see me here much but I’m still around.  And if you have a blog, I’m likely reading it!

Some bills will need to be paid, and bank accounts checked (for that tax refund), and I’ll try to read email once a week, but otherwise I’m giving this modern time-suck up for Lent.  Which begins tomorrow, February 17 and goes all the way until Easter Sunday (what day is that?).  April 4.  I’m expecting some major withdrawal symptoms for a week or so, and then quiet.  Quiet.  Quiet.  Quiet.  A think thing (Freudian slip, there) I used to have.

Quiet is a thing I used to be able to deal with.  Long stretches of quiet.  But in the last few years, I’ve noticed I’ve gotten as uncomfortable with quiet as the rest of America seems to be.  And I don’t like that.  I want my silence back.  I want my time back.  So, as much as I love my laptop, I’m going to try and find the silence again.  The long stretches of reading, or thinking, knitting, sewing, or just watching the kids at play.

So, for the next 40 days, please call me on the telephone.  Or email me but don’t expect a reply quickly.  And if you need to get a hold of me and don’t have my phone number, I’ll bet you can Google it.

Happy Lent!

I’ve been thinking about that question quite a bit lately.

My kids are ten and twelve years old, and now I find myself caring for a 4-month old baby most days as a way to earn some money.  This fall I advertised to provide child care for one infant, thinking it’s one job I know how to do and I can make some money at home while doing it.  Anybody would be happy to have their baby in my care all day, I reasoned.  I hold the baby.  I don’t let him cry it out, ever.  I feed him when he’s hungry, and I’m very attentive to when he needs a diaper change whether he’s wet or poopy.  And when he’s awake (which is sometimes all day long), we play and talk and bounce around the room.

I’m doing, by my own estimates, a pretty good job with this little guy.  And, also to my own thinking, having him around justifies my “still” being at home now that my own kids are growing older.  (Never mind that I’m homeschooling my twelve-year-old Asperger kid, in the world’s eyes I don’t NEED to be doing that as there’s a school just blocks away.  He could be there all day while I go out and get a job like the rest of the world…or so they say.)

There is so little respect for a woman, or man, staying home and doing the domestic things.  The other night on 30 Rock, there was even a joke about this.  Southern boy Kenneth gave one of his usual witty sayings. “That’s about as useful as a mom’s college degree!” was the joke, implying a mom had no use for a college degree.  I laughed, thinking yeah, what did I get that college degree for?!  I can take a joke.  It didn’t offend me, but it certainly spoke to me of our culture’s general perception of homemakers and stay-at-home-moms.

All joking aside, I would never give up that college degree.  It’s as important to my life as raising my children has been.  I miss those days of studying and hanging out with friends 24/7.  I miss the intellectual conversations I could have just by plopping into a chair in my college house living room and engaging one of my housemates.  I miss being able to sit and read British Lit. or theology until tears streamed down my face from the eye strain.  I have often wondered why I ever left college!  It was my “glory days”, for sure.

When I look at my kids, both son and daughter, I picture them going to college.  I imagine Eli as an engineer of some sort, maybe designing video games, maybe presiding over a wood shop making bows and arrows all day.  I imagine Rose as the CEO of some fashionable company, able to boss people around and get things done, leading a life of continual busyness and socializing because that’s what she loves.

What I hardly ever take the time to imagine them doing is raising babies, or vacuuming the floors, or cleaning up dog vomit.  Those are just things we DO in life.  Nobody talks about them.  Nobody makes plans for them.  (Well, maybe the HAVING  the baby part gets planned, but after that who can imagine all the stuff you’ll have to do with those babies?)  And nobody seems to respect that they’re as much a part of our necessary life as all the college degrees and high-paying jobs we dream about.

Making and keeping a home and family take a lot of time.  It used to be that EVERYBODY was home.  Men, women, children, babies, animals.  Everybody was doing housework, whether out in the field or garden, or hunting/gathering in the woods, or tending the fire and soup pot.  The focus was on home, food, staying warm and dry and alive.  It wasn’t until the industrial age that men started leaving the home in droves, to seek jobs building the railroad or manufacturing goods.  And just a century or so later, women in large numbers wanted to “get out” too.

To my mind, that’s no surprise.  Our highly mobile society had cut women off from not only their husbands who were at work all day, but also their families of origin and even friends and neighbors they might’ve had a move or two back.  It’s lonely being the only adult around.  And once some women went out of the house to work, it got even lonelier for the other women “back home”.  I look out the window at my neighborhood and see almost no adult my age, male or female, during the hours from 9 to 5.  (I see no kids, either, much of the time because even at the day care homes on my block the kids are inside or in a fenced-in backyard.  When adults stopped being home, it seems kids lost a lot of freedom.)

When George and Rose were home for Christmas break last week, I enjoyed their presence more than ever.  They became more arms to hold the baby, and more smiling faces to entertain him.  I declared then and there that “one adult alone with a baby all day is insanity.  Babies are meant to be shared!”  It was like an epiphany for me, little good that it will do me.  I don’t see society changing any time soon, to make more of us at home (depending on how bad the so-called Great Recession becomes, though).  And now George and Rose are back at school and it’s just Eli and me home with the little guy all day again.  It will be fine, but it does seem over-bearing and I feel as if I’ve lost all freedom (the key word is “feel” there–I think it has more to do with cultural pressures than actual loss of freedom).

So to get back to my original question and the title of my post…Why don’t we think more about raising our children to be parents?  Why don’t we see it as the highest calling that it is, and get as serious about preparing them for it as we are about preparing them for the “real world”, aka school and jobs?

For indeed, most of us do become parents, college degree or not.  Most of us do end up vacuuming floors, cleaning up after pets, and doing what has been called the “hardest job of all”, raising babies.  Yet in today’s world we do it woefully unprepared and woefully short of respect, support and help.

I know there is a fringe culture, namely Christian fundamentalists of a certain ilk, who are raising their girls to be submissive wives and doting mothers and homemakers, and their boys to be providers and heads of household.  I have had many glimpses into this world as a homeschooler and a curious seeker into the lives of others through their writings.  A few blogs on my blogroll come from this fringe group, and there’s one I found recently, The Aspiring Homemaker, which is written by a homeschool graduate girl of 18 who calls herself a “stay-at-home daughter”, learning the so-called “gentle arts” of domesticity and waiting for her knight in shining armor.  (That sounds derogatory, “knight in shining armor”, doesn’t it?  Not a hundred years ago the majority of young women lived at home until they found a husband, doing exactly what The Aspiring Homemaker is doing.  It should certainly be her right to choose to live her life in that way and I don’t mean to put it down.)

But should it be that only fundamentalist Christians (and by no means all of them), with their limited views of gender roles, are the only ones raising up the notion of the domestic arts?  Indeed it’s not the only place you find it.  Martha Stewart gets much credit for doing this, for placing value *again* on so-called woman’s work of cooking, baking, sewing, keeping house, etc.  But she does it all, perfectly no less, while running a Fortune 500 company and sleeping four hours a night.  She presents a model of “having it all” that is all too common and all too exhausting in the current Western, particularly American, world.

I think there can be a middle ground between the submissive wife/homemaker that goes along with the head of the household husband, and Martha Stewart’s model of perfection and having it all.  We hear talk of there being “seasons” to our lives, time to go to school, time to work, time to have babies and raise them, time to pursue a career.  This can be a middle ground, but only if the time of being home doesn’t take a lesser place than the rest of it.  By no means do I suggest all women should again stay home, anymore than I suggest men do.  But I would like to find ways to elevate what I’ve been doing for nearly 15 years now, namely being home, and make it part of the conversation with my children.

I’d like to raise my children to become parents, and maybe do other stuff too…

How can we go about that?  I’d be interested in any ideas you might have.  But one way I’ve been thinking about it is to at least start talking about it with them.  At least as often as I say to them, “you must do this to get into college”, I’d like to say to them, “here is how you hold a baby”.  At least as often as I dream of my daughter running a company, I’d like to talk to her about establishing a housekeeping routine.  With at least as much emphasis as I put on her about making money someday, I’d like to show her how to balance a checkbook and budget for groceries.  At least as often as I imagine Elijah being some guy in the woods building his own cabin, I’d like to see him (and talk to him about) bundling up his baby and carrying him/her in a backpack through those woods.  And at least as often as I picture my son being a computer geek, I’d like to picture him making beds and cooking dinner too.

I need to start PICTURING my kids as spouses and parents, in order to help them get there.  And whenever I talk to them about it, I’m sure to add that this Grandma will want to help out as much as possible!  I’ll be there.

I adore the blog Clover Lane and read what Sarah has to write every day.  Even though I haven’t been blogging much lately, I’m still here and still checking out the blogs on my list.  Well, Sarah has inspired me today to write my own “Christmas Trivia” list, as she has done here.

1.  Best childhood gift from Santa–I got a lot of nice gifts, few of which I remember.  One I do remember and know I loved is my avocado green, metal kitchen set.  I loved it!

My cousins, brothers and me with the glasses and "muppet puppets" made by Grandma Marjorie Barber, Christmas 1982.(My cousins, brothers and me in the glasses–I thought I was so stylish!
Christmas 1982, with “muppet puppets” our Grandma Marjorie Barber made)

2.  Best childhood memories–baking cookies with Grandma June each year.  I remember once I became concerned because I had not washed my hands before starting to bake and Grandma calmly said, “that’s okay, the germs will bake out in the hot oven”.  I still think of her words anytime I realize I forgot to wash my hands before cooking (for shame!).  I loved to help Grandma roll out the dough and sprinkle the sugar.  We never frosted our cut-outs.  My favorite decorations were the little silver balls we put at the bottom of each bell, which you’re not supposed to eat but we did.  We also made Santas and trees and reindeer.  Unlike me, my Grandma had infinite patience with us kids when we baked and never cared if we made a mess.

Christmas 1987, with my Mexican exchange sister Anglica, cousins, brothers and Grandpa and Grandma Adams.

3.  Favorite Christmas cookie–Grandma June’s sugar cookie cut-outs, of course, which now my husband or I make because Grandma is 92.  I like them really thin and slightly over-browned.

4.  Icky Christmas memory–this one stumps me because I don’t recall any really bad Christmas memories.  I’m not sure if the time we brought our new 3 and 4-wheelers to Grandma and Grandpa’s farm was at Christmas, but I think it might have been and that’s a bad memory.  I got going too fast on my little 3-wheeler and put my foot down to brake, like on a bicycle.  Of course that motored thing was not a bicycle and my foot got stuck between the tire and the foot rest and my brothers had to run for my dad to come help me get it out.  I don’t remember if it hurt, but I was scared.  I hate ATVs and have never ridden once since.

5.  It’s not Christmas without–many people say snow, but growing up in Minnesota I’ve learned never to depend on any particular weather because it’s so variable here.  We are as likely to have snow at Easter as at Christmas.  For me it isn’t Christmas without a nativity set with the baby Jesus and, now that I’m an adult, an Advent wreath with three blue candles to light on the first three Sundays of Advent, one red for the last Sunday, and one white for Christmas Eve.  My husband grew up putting the baby Jesus in the nativity scene on Christmas Eve and having the Wise Men move closer and closer across a room to the nativity scene each day from Christmas until Epiphany, so we do that now with our kids.

6.  Our Church service–my parents were not big churchgoers and neither were my grandparents.  As an adult, I like to attend church each week but fitting in a Christmas service is sometimes hard.  We are going to the 2 p.m. service this year and hopefully that will become a tradition, because we can make it before the drive to dinner.  Many years, we also like to attend a wonderful choir concert/worship service put on by my alma mater, Augsburg College’s Advent Vespers.  Having been part of it for the four years of college, it is very special to me, as is Velkommen Jul, the first Friday in December chapel service at Augsburg.  The kids and I will drive down to Minneapolis on Friday morning to take part.  They’re there for the treats St. Nick will put in their shoes outside the chapel, and the “little lunch” of Scandinavian goodies afterward–krumkake, lefse, kransakake, rosettes, etc..  I’ll be there for the memories, the tradition, and the gawking at all the beautiful Norwegian sweaters!

7.  Christmas pet peeve–feeling obligated to spend a certain amount on gifts for others, and trying to figure out what to get people who have everything.  I prefer spending time with people to giving gifts, but I do like to pick out small and special things to give.  My kids’ gifts from the Dollar Store mean the most to me (often they involve chocolate!).

8.  Favorite Christmas CD–This seems silly because I’m not that into Christian contemporary music, but I love Amy Grant’s CDs because she has a low voice and I can sing along.  Same with Ann Murray–remember her?  I like the beautiful Christmas music my husband brought to our marriage, which is more formal choir and orchestra music.  And I adore the hammered dulcimer recordings of our dear friend Paul Imholte.

9.  Real or fake–It was always fake growing up, but a few years into our marriage I got rid of my husband’s fake tree because I couldn’t stand storing a giant tree in my house.  We now get a real tree every year, and I love it.

10.  I spend Christmas Eve–with my husband and kids, my mom and dad, aunt and uncle, Grandma June, and brothers and cousins at my aunt and uncle’s house in Plymouth, Minnesota.  Christmas Eve was always our big family night, and Christmas Day is quieter (though if we could afford it we’d always fly to Virginia to see George’s family Christmas day).  My aunt and uncle cook us a big meal complete with lutefisk, Swedish meatballs, turkey and ham, lefse, potatoes, Grandma’s scalloped corn, green jello and more.  Then we open gifts, chat, and eat some more in the form of cookies, including the sugar cookie cut-outs and Norwegian krumkake, and ice cream treats.  It is simple and nice.

Now it’s your turn!  What are your Christmas memories?  It seems this year, the kind of snow around our house in the photo above, may be just a memory!

Rose is growing up so fast.  She’s in 5th grade now and usually she is up and ready to go for school without any help from me.  But this morning she was so tired, I had to wake her up.  Sitting on the edge of her bed, trying to rouse her, I took a long look at her angelic, sleepy face.  I realized with some shock that when she’s sleeping her face still looks like it did when she was four years old.  The baby comes out when she’s at rest…it was bittersweet for me to notice that.

Rose age 4 or so, in front of her play house

Rose age 4 or so, in front of her play house

Because I really miss that sweet little girl with the apple cheeks.

2004-2006misc 006But I really love the big girl she’s become, too.

Rose age 10, spending morning tea time finishing homework

Rose age 10, spending morning tea time finishing homework

She’s beautiful, and sweet, and I find so much to admire about her.  She’s smart and athletic and talented at so many things.  She makes beautiful art and has been putting together the most amazing, flattering outfits for herself since she was two.  Some days, I wish I was her.  In fact, she’s so many of the things I’d like to be.  While I grew up with Garanimals and still find it hard to purposely not match my outfits, she’s got this style and flair so naturally.  She’s strong and strong-willed and never afraid to speak her mind, while at the same time being polite and kind.  She’s far from perfect, but I think she’s great!

The Home Tour is over.  We are breathing sighs of relief and enjoying our sparkling clean house.  And I do mean sparkling, like a Mr. Clean commercial.  It will not likely ever be this clean again; for now I’m just relishing it.

This morning I wrote up a magazine article which I hope to have published in the new Urban Farm magazine, and I don’t feel like writing much more.  I’ve decided to just show you a photo or two taken on the day of the tour.  Nearly 200 people visited our house on Saturday–200!  I’ll show you more photos in coming days.

Home Tour! 023

I won a blog giveaway!  I can’t believe it.  My prize arrived in the mail yesterday, the Blogging for Bliss book by Tara Frey.  I really enjoyed browsing this book at Barnes and Noble a couple of weeks ago, and so was overjoyed when April Cornell (the woman herself! isn’t that exciting? I’ve long admired her designs in women’s and girl’s clothing and housewares) emailed me to say I’d won the prize from her blog giveaway.

april cornell book prize 002

I’m so delighted to have Blogging for Bliss on my book shelf now.  It even came all wrapped up in this pretty bow.  Thank you, April Cornell!

Another Minnesota blogger, ArtsyMama, is hosting a blogging party today in honor of Tara Frey’s new book, Blogging For Bliss.  I found ArtsyMama, in fact, by reading through this great new book the other day at Barnes and Noble.  I’ve never been part of a blog party before this, but I decided to join in the fun today!  Since I’ve been so busy (who hasn’t, right?) and really neglecting my blog this summer, I thought I’d use the party as a way to “jump-start” a new chapter of blogging–one in which I’ll hopefully post more regularly again.  Life around our house is starting to calm down a bit so I have no excuses anymore!

bloggingforblissbutton

So let’s join the party in progress…Here’s what Kari over at ArtsyMama has to say about Tara’s book Blogging for Bliss:

“In the book, Tara brings together “creative bloggers” of all types- art blogs, quilting blogs, sewing blogs, vintage ephemera blogs, and more. She empowers the newbie to give it a try and dig deep where “you’ll find your voice, and learn how to connect with others around the world.” Tara also goes through the nuts and bolts of how to create a blog, how to make it beautiful, how to get traffic to your little corner of the blog-o-sphere, and even the ever-important etiquette. The book also features over 50 inspiring blogs in a “Meet the Blogger” section at the end of each chapter.”

blogging for bliss book cover

She’s also giving away a free copy of the book so be sure and stop over at her blog today (just click on the title, ArtsyMama), leave a comment, and maybe you will win it!  I really enjoyed browsing through it the other day at the bookstore and hope to buy it at some point soon.  As ArtsyMama stated, all kinds of creative bloggers are featured in the book and I got the most out of reading about them, their stories and reasons for blogging.

Besides finding Kari at ArtsyMama, which I was excited about because she lives kinda near me, it’s been fun to find new blogs like Tongue In Cheek, over at which an American in France, Corey Amara, is right now taking us on her motorcycle journey through the mountains of France, on to Prague–my favorite city in the whole world–and today she’s in Budapest.  What a treat to see her photos and hear the stories of her trip!

The blog world is fun, in general.  It’s addicting.  It’s enlightening.  Sometimes it can be comforting, or challenging, and it’s never dull.  I started blogging just as a personal journal, then opened it up to friends and family, and then over at my original blogs, The Zahn Zone and Herbalist Lisa Zahn, I found I was getting a lot of readers and had conflicting emotions about it.  Mostly, I was delighted that people were actually reading what I had to say.  I’ve made so many friends this way, and so many connections around the world.  I think about my readers all the time, and love to follow them on their blogs.  Some of them I worry about, or rejoice with, or am marveled by.

I love all the people I’ve met through blogging.  Yet at times having readers can feel overwhelming, too.  And sometimes I get embarrassed over revealing “too much” of myself.  On The Zahn Zone I sometimes got political, and/or afraid, and in hindsight I didn’t really feel good about that.  It’s out there, it’s okay, but I started Lisa Zahn Writes in order to get away from some of that.  My favorite blogs are ones that might challenge me, but more so they inspire me.  I’m not sure that Lisa Zahn Writes is or will be an inspirational or challenging place, but I wanted to start over and think harder before I “put pen to paper”–which seems like an old-fashioned euphimism now–and publish it for all the world to see.

Because if you do blog, the world can and will find you!  Especially if you “blog network”, reading and commenting on other blogs and linking back to yours.  It’s considered good manners–something Tara Frey talks about in Blogging For Bliss–to visit the blogs of those who visit you.  So that’s where this whole amazing network gets going, and it can be so much fun!

I blog for the fun of it, for the networking–generally with other women, moms, like me–and also for the practice of it.  I have discovered a love of taking pictures, trying to find the right angle and lighting and making something that others will look at and think is lovely.  (Because I love to look at the lovely photos on other blogs.)  I love the practice of writing each day, and thinking up things to share.  I love noticing my daily life more in order to blog about it.  I also like to put up recipes and ideas that worked out for me in case they help others.

Basically, I like to share with others what I have found interesting and inspiring myself.  I also, simply, blog to let far-away family and friends know what we’re up to.  We’ve had an interesting couple of years, expanding the garden and the pantry, acquiring hens to raise in our urban backyard, working on the house, homeschooling and sending one child back to school and you know, life is never dull when you have kids around and projects to do.

I also blog because I’m starting to write more as a freelancer and this is a place people can see how and what I write about.  It clarifies for me what I’m interested in writing about.  And it gets me writing most days.  That is good practice.

I’m not sure how many readers I have out there yet, since I’ve been away.  But for those who’ve stopped by as part of the party, welcome!  And for my long-time loyal readers, thanks!  It’s been part of my bliss, blogging.

Just a brief update–I had a parathyroid removal surgery for my (former) hyperparathyroidism at Mayo Clinic last week.  It all happened so quickly down in Rochester, Minnesota and then my husband’s parents came to visit from Virginia over the long weekend, and now I’m just trying to recover and get my brain to think straight…

I’m missing the blogging and the blog world and can’t wait to be back.  I hope someone’s still reading!

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