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Recommended reading

The Seat of the Soul - Gary Zukav


Bible verses for August

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." - Mathew 7:1-2


Saying of the month

Whilst August yet wears her golden crown,
    Ripening fields lush- bright with promise;
Summer waxes long, then wanes, quietly passing
    Her fading green glory on to riotous Autumn.
-  Michelle L. Thieme, August's Crown 


Bible verses for August


Saying of the month


Reading recommendation


MawMaw's Hairbrush.


Make beautiful beads from recycled paper


TV sit-coms - past and present.
"From scratch" recipe of the month  - Spinach Greens with Fruit, Cheese, & Nuts


I should preface this story with the fact that all of us are West Virginian’s – both sides of the family and for several centuries. My parent’s generation was the first to finish high school – at least I think they all did – and my generation was the first to finish college. Being from the Mountain State, we were mostly simple, honest and independent folks who were both hardheaded and hardworking. We were taught to care about family, and we generally enjoyed being with our relatives in all kinds of activities. We used to spend our weekends together and take our summer vacations with members of all three generations.

The story that I’m telling here is about my grandmother - my Dad's mother. She was born near the end of the nineteenth century and lived until the mid-1960s. From the time we were little children, my sister and I called her Mawmaw – Mawmaw V. to distinguish her from Mawmaw T., my mother’s mother.

Grandpaw and Mawmaw V. raised their children – four boys and two girls – to be honorable and loving people. I don’t remember Grandpa V. because he died a few months after I was born. After Grandpaw V. died, Mawmaw V. was left with two grown sons (one was my father), two young adults, and two school-age children. From the oldest to the youngest, her children spanned a quarter of a century. While Mawmaw didn’t have more than an elementary school education, she had a lot of common sense intelligence and more than a reasonable amount of spunk.

Mawmaw V. was known for her independence and never seemed to be without anything she wanted. She rented out rooms in her big house and bought and sold antiques and old furniture. Her house reflected her favorite pastime, filled to the brim with interesting and valuable things. She was also busy with other activities over the years including being for a time, a saleswoman at a local department store and even getting into local politics. Despite her many interests outside the home, she spent a lot of time on the “womanly arts”, including cooking, sewing, upholstering, crocheting and flower gardening. She did all these activities very well, and I never knew her to be other than happy and laughing.

Our Sunday afternoon family dinners were at her house, and many of her children and grandchildren took part. These were great memories for me. We ate huge quantities of food at these gatherings, much of which Mawmaw prepared, working many hours in her kitchen and beginning as early as Saturday noon. All the other women at these gatherings also brought main courses, side dishes, and desserts. After the meal, stomachs to the limit and with the plates cleared away to the kitchen, Mawmaw sat down at the piano. All the family members were expected to sing along to a collection of traditional hymns and romantic songs from the early part of the century. I, for one, liked this part of the afternoon, even more than the dinner, itself.

All this brings us back to the story of Mawmaw’s hairbrush and its importance to me over the years.

To start with, as a kid, I always liked to go up to Mawmaw’s bedroom when I visited her house. It was filled with ornate, old-fashioned bedroom furniture, and there were many little bottles of cologne and perfume on her vanity. Because I went to her bedroom many times, I knew about her hairbrush. It was an old-fashion boar’s bristle hairbrush with a varnished wooden handle. For me, the hairbrush was clearly a luxury item. I had read somewhere or been told by someone that this kind of hairbrush was almost indestructible, and that a woman could use the same one for decades. Although I knew that it wasn’t exactly good manners, I often picked up Mawmaw’s hairbrush and examined it. I even sometimes brushed my hair with it. I wished that I could have such a wonderful hairbrush.

Much to the sadness of the entire family, in her mid-seventies, Mawmaw finally slowed down. For the first time in her life, she had to accept help from family members when she struggled with cancer surgery and then had a series of strokes. I was away at college when she died and I didn’t get a chance to go to her funeral.

When I returned home after some months, I had the chance to go to my grandmother’s house. The house was being cleaned for sale, and only the bare essentials were left. All the treasures were long gone. It was a particularly sad moment for me because I hadn’t been present when she died, and this was the time when I would say goodbye to Mawmaw.

As I did so many times when she was alive, I wandered up to her bedroom. The old-fashioned bedroom furniture was still there. I guess nobody wanted the heavy furniture that, as it would seem, had little or no sentimental or resale value. There were just a few items left on her vanity. The perfume and cologne bottles that remained were a sad, dusty collection and all the better things had been taken. But, there on the vanity, I found my grandmother’s hairbrush, the very same one that I had looked at lovingly on so many occasions. I picked it up and hid it under my shirt, with the handle end in my jeans. I was pretty sure that I wasn’t supposed to take anything from her room, but since I didn’t have any other inheritance… the hairbrush was going to be it.

When I got back home, I took the hairbrush out and examined it. It was really dirty, totally filled up with Mawmaw’s hair and scalp oil. No family member had cared enough to clean the brush in the months leading up to her death or even afterwards. I cried more than a few tears as I cleaned the hair from the brush and washed it with soap and water.

Back then, after her death, when I cleaned up my grandmother’s hairbrush, I felt a great sadness. To me, it was a sign that when she got old and sick, no family members helped her keep her personal things tidy. It would seem that it just wasn’t of so much importance to them. They did other things for her – like cooking meals, looking after her house, and taking her out for short outings as a way of keeping her entertained. She was dressed, sitting up in her chair and ready to go shopping with my aunt when she had her final stroke.

I used Mawmaw’s hairbrush for many years thereafter, until all the varnish was gone and most of the boar bristle had fallen out. And all that time, I felt, indeed, that I had received a valuable inheritance from my grandmother. I never had another luxury hairbrush after that. I’m not even sure where I could find one as nice as my grandmother’s brush even if I was willing to pay for it.

I swore back then in college, that I would always try to keep my personal things, and particularly my hairbrush clean. I didn’t want to die suddenly or after some untimely illness and leave my dirty hairbrush for other people to clean up (or more than likely to throw out). Unfortunately, there were periods in my life when I didn’t keep my promise to myself, as I should have. I, too, had other important things to do – like college exams and later on, working full time, and being a wife and mother. Whenever I noticed my hairbrush or some other personal item being especially dirty, I would make another promise to myself: that if I ever reached retirement age - when supposedly one would have time to take care of personal things - I'd be sure to keep all my personal items clean, including especially my hairbrush.

Today, I’m retired and I do my best to keep my hairbrush clean. I still have good eyesight, at least when I use my glasses, and I can see when my brush is full of hair and oil. So, I know when it’s time to clean my brush.

As a footnote to this story - I hope that there will be somebody around me if (and when) I get old and frail, and that this person will help me to keep my personal things clean and tidy. But then, again, I won’t put any bets on it. There may be too many other things that are more important. 


Jewelry beads, handmade at home from recycled paper, are beautiful, easy to make, and a great green idea. Here’s how you can make your first paper beads in just a couple of hours. You’re sure to be delighted with the results, and soon you'll be making beads in all shapes and sizes for different projects.

You don’t need a lot of materials, just pull out these things that you’re sure to have at home:

- Full color pages from magazines, junk mail or thin paper posters
- Scissors (regular ones or use wavy cut craft scissors for even more attractive beads)
- Regular black ballpoint pen
- Ruler
- Needle or plastic toothpick
- Paper glue
- Clear varnish, even clear nail polish or watered down white glue (2 parts water to 1 part glue) can be used
- Small paint brush, like the kind used for watercolors
- Fishing wire or plastic thread

To begin, take out some of your full color pages. The colors in your pages will be the same for your beads, so go for a predetermined color theme or let the beads be just any random combination - this, of course, according to your patience and supply of color pages.

Next, put the paper you’ve chosen on a flat surface and take out your ballpoint pen and ruler. Place the page vertically, like you were going to read it. Mark a long thin triangle this way - 1 inch-long base in the top corner of your page and a half inch-long point along in the bottom. Take your ruler and draw the 2 lines that connect the base and point. The triangles that you draw will be regular ones (the two sides have exactly the same length). The next triangle will have a 1 inch base at the bottom of the page and a half inch point at the top of the page. Continue making these triangles until you fill up the entire page. This way you will use all the paper and have only a minimum of waste. Cut out the triangles and lay them out flat.

OR: Forget all this measuring, make your first triangle, cut it out, and roll it. If you like the result, make a heavy carboard template of the same triangle for all the rest of them. That's what I finally had to do because I ran out of patience. If you don't like the shape of the first one, try making another triangle with different dimensions. The one that looks best for the project you have in mind will be your template.

The beads that you make with these triangles will be oval shaped and slim. If you want a longer oval bead, simply increase the length of the base of the triangle to 1 and a quarter inches or more. For a smaller bead, decrease the base of the triangle to 3/4 inch. If you want a small rounder bead, you need to draw the width of the base and point to be 1/2 and 1/4 inch, respectively. (The smaller beads are harder to roll.) You can choose any combination of widths for the ends of your triangle strips, just remember that they'll look better if the base and point differ by at least a quarter inch. (Tube beads can be made using completely rectangular strips, instead of triangular ones).

Start rolling the paper strip tightly around the needle or toothpick beginning with the base of the triangle. Use your nails to hold the paper firmly as you roll. Put a tiny bit of paper glue at the end of the rolled strip. (A little brush might help you to avoid too much glue, which can have bad results.)

Hold the end of the strip firm for a few seconds to dry the glue. Make as many beads as you need for your project.

The final step to the process is stringing and varnishing the beads. String your beads on the wire or thread. Once fully strung, start varnishing carefully with the little brush and give them at least two coats of varnish. Be sure that the varnish doesn’t leak in and block up the holes. Leave the beads drying for a day or two.

Use your paper beads to make some beautiful pieces of jewelry. You can find lots of interesting bead projects with an Internet search. These projects tend to be simple and are great for gifts.

The first project that I did was to make a beaded safety pin brooch. Here's how I did it. All you need for a brooch is one large-scale metal safety pin (usually called blanket pins), some smaller safety pins, a few dozen small paper beads, needle-nose pliers and a flat-head screwdriver.

Depending on the size of the large safety pin, you may need 8 - 10 or more smaller, beaded safety pins. (For variety, I used the beads first mentioned above in a mostly beige and yellow color and some shorter ones in a black, green and red motif. I cut out the shorter beads with the same template as the longer ones, using the same point but a truncated base and starting with the page in a horizontal rather than a vertical position.)

Open a small pin, slip all the beads on - whatever number that fits, and close the safety pin. Use the needle-nose pliers to pinch the end of the safety pin so it will not pop open later. Keep doing this until all the safety pins are beaded. (I alternated the longer beads with the shorter ones).

Now you are ready to put your beaded pins on the larger safety pin. Open the large safety pin and use the screwdriver to pry open the coils at the end of the pin.

Slip the loop of the first beaded safety pin onto the large one. Pull it down to the loop at the base of the large pin. Pull it around the loop and up the backside of the pin. Repeat this until all the beaded pins are in place.

Use your pliers to tightly close up the loop. You can now fasten your beaded safety pin onto your shirt, hat, purse, etc.

I use my safety pin brooch to hold together the front and backsides of my over-sized shopping bag. By the way, I made my own reusable shopping bag and carry it with me in almost all my outings. That way I'm not tempted to come home with plastic bags. The shopping bag is another easy handmade project that I’ll tell you about at a later date.



I just read a New York Times editorial that I want to comment on. The column is titled: “The Flock Comedies” and it’s written by DAVID BROOKS (October 21, 2010)

David Brooks, the columnist, writes about the history of television sit-coms and how they've changed over the years. He calls what we used to watch and enjoy on TV, family situation comedies. Those sit-coms included Mom, Dad, and the children. They had a small cast of actors who represented lifelong relationships between family members and their good friends and neighbors. They worked their differences out because they had a great sense of responsibility and love for one another.

But times have changed and our TV sit-coms with them. We’ve moved from the old themes of “All in the Family” and “The Cosby Show”- featuring parents and kids - to newer shows based on one-generational happenings. Instead of seeing loving families, the new sit-coms often show tension or open conflict with family members and particularly with their parents' generation.

Today, whether we like them much or not, we watch non-functional family comedies, based mainly on the “flock”. Brooks calls them flock comedies because they represent groups of loosely connected friends, mostly young or young-ish who live in proximity, but not necessarily together. Flock-friends don’t seem to accept much responsibility for themselves and much less for other people. Today’s shows highlight people who have the time to lounge around - homes, coffee shops, workplaces, even bars - exchanging the most light-hearted types of remarks, cynicisms, and quips. The underlying foundation of these comedies is “no-sweat-needed”. This says a lot about our "do-nothing" society - doing as little as possible to get by for yourself and even less for your family and neighbors.

The popularity of the more recent TV comedies reflects what has happened in our present-day society. Young people delay marriage until around 30 years and, during all those years between high school and marriage, most are outside of traditional families, creating a youthful tribe or "flock". Many other people get divorced after a very few years, and they, too, look for the “flock” to replace the close family attachments that no longer exist.

So, this flock-friendship mentality becomes the background for a new kind of comedy of manners. This trend began with ‘Seinfeld,’ ‘Friends,’ and ‘Sex and the City.’ Now we have ‘Desperate Housewives,’ ‘Glee,’ and ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ Instead of spending time with family and lifelong friends, these comedies, according to columnist Brooks, whirl around a kind of "friendship machine" - almost comic-strip chronicles of unrelated people, bonded together in intimate contact, but often demonstrating irresponsibilty with one another.

Since a lot of people don't want or haven't been able to experience total commitment, one-on-one, they prefer to live, or at least contemplate in their viewing hours, low-density networks featuring a large array of friends. These same people tend to avoid any kind of emotional proximity in their own lives because of fear - too often they've seen close relationships turn to anger and avoidance. For them, it's a lot easier to dwell on (and idealize) shallow and dispersed connections to a "flock". While aimed primarily at the youth - as is almost everything in our consumer-ridden mass media, the flock sit-coms also appeal to many older people who want to continue fantasizing about those early friendship-bonding experiences. It so happens that that these middle- and golden-agers, for any number of reasons, have never been able to replace the intensity of their early friendships (and romances) with successful marriages or good relationships with their children.

The central point here is that the main-stream population a few decades ago or, at least, their former sit-com heroes, always had time for family and friends and a strong commitment to working out their differences. That's just not so, today - working people, singles and couples alike, have to be working two and more jobs (if they're lucky enough to find them) to pay the rent and put food on the table. There just isn't enough time to work through problems that arise with family and friends. Also, unfortunately, some unknown - but probably substantial - part of the population is incapable of dealing with life's real problems due to alcoholism and dependence on mood-changing substances, both legal and illegal. So, both youth and older folks turn more and more to substitute relationships in Facebook, Twitter networks, and other kinds of low-commitment interaction - trading temporary convenience for lifetime loyalty.

Frivolous group friendships don't tend to threaten us like more traditional societal values based on mutual responsibility. Low intensity relationships side-step the necessity of working through interpersonal problems and, sometimes, being forced to accept compromises. It's no wonder that today’s comedies are hollow. They parallel our other TV obsessions with violence, casual sex, confrontational politics, and highly biased news reporting. If we have any trace of traditional values left, then we need to understand that what's being fed to us through the mass media - conspired or not - is a lot of highly digested gibberish. The garbage being served-up is aimed at replacing real considerations about such topics as family life, common sense, and a commitment to making things work.  


Spinach Greens with Fruit, Cheese, & Nuts

4 cups finely chopped spinach (about 6 ounces, washed in two rinses of water)
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped toasted almonds
1 sweet apple, cored and diced in 1/4-inch pieces
2 ounces medium cheddar cheese, diced in 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon mustard powder
Salt to taste
1 garlic clove, puréed
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
One-half cup of toasted bread cubes

Combine the spinach, almonds, apple and cheese in a large bowl.
Whisk together the lemon juice, salt, mustard powder, garlic and olive oil. Add to the salad, and toss well. Then sprinkle the bread cubes on top. Serves four to six.  

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