Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Mood Swings

It might seem completely harmless to be "in a bad mood." I used to think this excused foul language, insults, bad behavior, rude remarks, pouting, not answering when spoken to, or lashing out in anger. After all, it is "just a bad mood." But, in home life, consider this: everything we do has an affect on others in the home, sometimes for life!

Our moods can rub off on others, and create problems for a long time. As a teenager, I used to think it was okay to "express" my moods and go the distance with a "bad mood," not realizing the damage it was doing to my relationships--relationships that I would desperately need to for support, many years later!

I discovered when homeschooling our children, that mood swings would have to be dealt with and controlled if we were to thrive as a family, being thrown together in every aspect of life. We ate together, were active together in mutual interests, and interacted conversationally. We would not survive as a cohesive family if mood swings were to controll us. If one person was "in a bad mood," the rest of us would end up catering to him, tip-toeing around him, trying to to "set him off", and so forth. The one with the bad mood would be controlling the atmosphere of the home.

My vision was not just for a temporal peace at home while the children were in our care. I was concerned about our future relationships as adults; the children with their own marriages and children. I did not want them to carry their mood swings into their next life as adults, affecting their children and creating despair in their own homes. I could just imagine their little children's sad looks as they said, "Daddy's in a bad mood. We can't ask him to take us fishing today," or, "Mother is in a bad mood. We can't talk to her."

To eliminate the effect of mood swings, I challenged our children to research and study the concept of "self-control." I emphasized that there is less control exercised by others over you, when you take charge over your moods and control them so that they don't impose on others. Mood swings can create havoc in families and go on to harm your future marriages. When children grow up with parents who have mood swings, they develop the same emotional reactions.

We learned so much from the study of self-control, finding poems and literature even from the 18th and 19th century, which helped boys and girls "school their feelings," as it was termed. Love and consideration for others became a priority. If someone was "in a bad mood", their best recourse was to go away to their own room and do it in private, rather than impose their anger and their "funk" on the rest of the family. They weren't allowed to plague everyone else with their bad mood. Consideration for others meant that we would not create a gloomy atmosphere in the home, at the table, in the car, or anywhere else, with pouting and resentment. If a person was to feel that way, he could go back to bed until he felt better.

Researching moods meant that we often got to the bottem of the bad mood, discovering the things that created bad moods, and correcting them. Sometimes a foul mood came from unrealized goals, lack of accomplishment, a disorganized room, unfulfilled obligations, unfinished tasks, disprespect to parents and siblings, or unreconciled relationships. Lack of worthwhile things to work for, can also result in frustration and create moodiness. Everyone should have something they are intensely interested in, or different things that have a noble end, to work for.

We also discovered the physcial aspects of mad moods, such as low blood sugar from not eating often enough or poor nutition, lack of sleep, worry, depressing movies or reading materials, too much attention to daily news broadcasts (where they loudly tell the public over and over of some assault, crime, or failure of mankind) unwise spending, lack of good use of time, dressing in a depressing way, or despressing decor. As we corrected these problems, we bgan to have the kind of rapore in our family that other people, peeking in, wanted to duplicate in their own lives.

As a child, it was a curiousity to me how some adults always seemed to be "the same" or even-tempered. When I asked someone once, "Aren't you ever in a bad mood?" she said, "Of course. But I would not impose that bad mood on you. I go somewhere private and do it." I used to admire certain women who didn't ever seem to be emotionally distressed, but I learned when I grew up that they were being careful not to let the cat out of the bag, so to speak. It was a generation that would not have imposed their problems on others, for the world. It was also a matter of propriety and politeness that they did not make the whole family suffer if they were in a bad mood. Of course, families should share one another's griefs, but bad moods, pouting, and that sort of thing that has people feeling jumpy and distraught, amount to a completely different thing.

Back in the 50's, and some of the people I knew were born in 1900. They were from the old school, where they were taught to harness their emotions and bring them into subjection. They knew what "taking captive every thought" meant. It meant you didn't lash out at others, among other things. Those who let their moods control them, and those around them, were considered rude and angry, and we were warned not to go with an angry man.

Today the talk shows and even the web encourages "rants" and letting it all out, no matter who it hurts. Are we any better for it? Are we more at ease, less upset, for "venting?" People do great damage to others and then claim, "I was frustrated." While this is understandable, we can still be frustrated and "sin not." We can feel angry, moody, pouty, and so forth, but we don't need to foist it on the rest of the family. This kind of rudeness seeps into our government and our court system. People get away with horrendous crimes because they were "in a bad mood," or "frustrated."

One wonderful avenue of expression is prayer. Another is those God has put in our lives, such as husbands, sisters and friends. These poeple provide wonderful listening ears without being judgemental. If we have them in our lives and our moods don't damage the relationships, this is good. I found it valuable to remember that mood swings can be caught by your children, and just as the mother is moody, so will the daughter be. There are some things that can be controlled in our lives, and moods are one of them. I'm not talking about grief, deep concern, and that sort of thing, but moodiness. I"m sure everyone has experienced calling up a friend, and hearing that her husband is "in a bad mood today." I think immediately of how the children will perceive this. Will a "bad mood" be an excuse for behaving angrily, and wounding the feelings of others?"

One test we took, while learning to "school our feelings," was to do something, some task, or attend some social function, even serving our own guests, in spite of our mood. It had an interesting effect. The more we did what was on our list of daily duties, in spite of our moods, the more in control we became of those moods. I attended a wonderful course on how to become more organized at home, when I was in my 20's. There, I observed that the women were learning to control their moods by controlling their homes. Instead of waiting til they were "in the mood" to clean out the refrigerator, they would wait until the date came up in the card file they had created, to clean the fridge. The mood was set aside, and the task was done, even if they didn't feel like doing it. When I learned this lesson, my moods stopped dominating me and depression failed to control me as much.

Another thing that really helped was the philosophy that life consisted of disappointments as well as happiness, and often the disappointments made happieness more enhanced when it came. Life was part good and part bad, and not always to our liking. However, we could eliminate a lot of problems just by controlling our moods

Studying the pioneer women and our own mothers and grandmothers was a great benefit to us. I learned that my mother suffered a lot of hardship when we were growing up, but she did her daily work anyway. She had responsibilities and there was no getting under the covers and burying her head while the family and the house were neglected. Many people did that, and I wonder if it was the best therapy. I still know these people, now in their 80's, and they seem stronger than ever emotionally.

To improve their moods, many women of that time would wash their hair, put on a dress, or serve tea. I never understood the washing hair thing, but one day I decided to try it. It had something to do with the way the hands engage the mind, in rubbing the head, while the head is tipped down into the sink. That sounds hilarious, but it works. It improved her mood. She then went outside and finished the process by drying her hair in the sun. This required her sitting somewhere pleasant and taking time to think. There was after that, the matter of styling her hair and putting clips to secure it, all part of improving the mood.

Mother had catologs she enjoyed looking at and always had a book to read. She had many interests and hobbies to distract her. She wrote stories and poems sometimes and wrote long letters to her mother. She found all kinds of things to improve her children's moods, as well, without money.

I think it is unwise to develop a reputation of being in a bad mood, or being moody. As I said before, it is not a matter of having shock or grief in your life, or intense worry. These are different than ordinary moodiness, which can be controlled. It is hard on others when they don't know from one day to the next where they stand with you. The moods that determine this can be controlled in childhood, and if not, good behaviour can be learned.

Looking for a poem called "School Thy Feelings," I found this beautiful poem on the web.

My message today is to let the only swing you have, be the kind in the painting ;-)

Our Life's Message

Our life is like a flower, from a little seed it grows.
Whatever will become of it, no human ever knows.
It’s fed and nurtured, given love and care;
Then as it blossoms, we’re suddenly aware
Of just what that life was meant to be,
For it now is made plain for all to see.
Yes, our life is a message that others will read,
And hopefully what’s read will meet some need.
So may our morals be high and our character strong,
Doing what’s right and avoiding all wrong,
For the time is short, it’s fleeting by
And like a flower, we fade and die -
But the message we leave for all to see,
Shall remain forever, through eternity.

"Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works,and glorify your Father which is in heaven"(Matt. 5:16)

Connie - May, 1996 (from http://www.inspirationalpoetry.com/faith1/ourlifesmessage.shtml)

Painting: Young Girl on a Swing by Francis W. Topham

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Harmless Housewife

I don't understand what all the furor is over a woman staying home to take care of it, "keep" it, guide it, guard it and rule it. Is it not her very own domain? If it is not, whose is it?

The critics may do well to observe what it would be like when the home is neglected. The state agencies regularly remove children from houses where filth is prominent and conditions are unhealthy and unsafe for them.

People who have had their children removed from them by the state, have been ordered to take a series of parenting classes in order to get their children back. (I don't think the state should have such authority, nonetheless, in such cases it is a cue to us to step in and help women learn to keep house, possibly preventing state intervention).

Do you ever wonder how it is that something so basic as the house/home, can come to be so neglected? There are some excuseable reasons where the home will be temporarily out of function, such as illness or moving, or other upheavals, but I've only recently learned that many girls getting out of school and getting into their own place, do not understand the basics of cleanliness and order. It is a pity that they had to spend 12 or more years in institituions which gave them few real life skills.

The homeschool girls, and those who observed mothers that were full time homemakers , seem to "pick up" homemaking by daily association with it. They know what to do, almost automatically. They love their homes, are familiar with the kitchen, and always keen to find ways to make it function just right. Their sewing skills, often absorbed at home by watching their mothers sew, or learned online in the comfort of their own homes, are above and beyond anything I have ever achieved, and I've been sewing since I was a girl. This leads me to the proverbial conclusion that good habits are taught, as well as "caught."

I once met a woman who had by all accounts a hopeless background in homemaking. Her mother was not interested in it, and neglected her own home, causing her children to be removed and put into foster care. Years later, through studying good books on the home, and visiting around to different women whom she admired, she lives in such a way as to remove all doubt about her background.

Her house is clean, orderly and beautiful. She loves her home, and values her life. She hosts others in her house for simple things like afternoon tea. She uses her home for good. she isn't just "sacking out" as we used to say--meaning laying around and letting filth and clutter accumulate.

She is watchful for things like unpleasant smells, laundry that needs doing, floors that need cleaning, and dishes that need to be washed and put away. Her life is orderly unless she is not feeling well or has just returned from a trip. If her house is ever neglected, she has confidence that her goal is to get it back in order, even if she can't do it at the moment.

Although she has a small dwelling, she has managed to put precious things in it that have meaning to her and are beautiful to look at. I've often said that if you must be focused on the home, you can surround yourself in beauty.

Why do we like visiting certain shops that give us delight? Why do we smile when we walk into a shop full of beautiful things for the home? Because they are presented in a way that "sells" to us. We can do the same thing inside of our houses by the way we arrange things, by their color, by the scents, and the shapes. ( I particularly like ovals, because it gives a relief from squares and rectangles, in pictures, tables, dishes and mirrors. I find it softens the look of a wall and gives the home a friendly feeling.)

If a woman's "Place" is not in the home, then whose place is it? Is there a danger of having this wonderful arena for teaching, creativity and building family bonding, removed from us and being replaced by agencies outside of the family? My feeling is that the more you care for your home,
the more you win the war that is being waged against the home and the family. Your example alone is a great encouragement to many lost young women who don't understand the potential of the house and the family.

History books in the U.S. used to applaud 17th century Holland, because, although it was a tiny country, it was made to look spacious by the neatness and cleanliness, which was attended to in large part by the women who stayed home to manage the house. They swept the areas of the streets just in front of their own houses. Their motto was "cleanliness is next to godliness." Now, we know that is not in the Bible, but it was simply their national way of glorifying God and honoring the home.

The Pilgrims that came to America, first went to Holland and stayed a few years while their ship was being built. As a result, they adopted some of the customs of that country, including the famous saying, which they passed on to the generations that they would produce in America. This national hertitage of Holland is now only viewed in history books, as so many women today seek full time careers and barely have time to keep house. One man who visited Holland recently said, "I don't even know if they remember that phrase used to be a source of pride to them."

The culture of the home can be restored even if just one woman took up the challenge to be responsible for making it a healthy and safe environment for all those who enter. She should think "what would this house be like if I were entering for the first time?" and work towards making it pleasant. This might include cleaning, removing items that do not belong, and placing a vase of flowers in the foyer. Think of the way that a beautiful hotel "greets" you. It is competing with many other establishments for your business. Upon entering, the guests have to be impressed with the scents, sounds, sights and over-all "feeling" that envelopes them,

If such feelings can calm, refresh, or inspire us, then all the more essential to develop it in the home that you will spend so many days in. Make it the best. Make it better than any place you've ever seen. Make it work in such a way that you don't want to go "somewhere else" to get away from it all. Make it a place of order, beauty and relaxation. Home-keeping and home making is so vast that volumes could be written on the subject, as well as four year classes presented in Universities. The best training, of course, is growing up in a functioning home, but, failing that, there are many ways to learn. Just observe what you like in various homes and adopt them for your own.

The housewife is not only completely harmless to society, she is a great asset to its function. If it weren't for her, many businesses would close down. The homemaker is the one who determines what household items will be purchased. She has more power than she thinks, in the market place. It is her buying power that determines whether many products will thrive. What possible harm can come from a housewife's diligent attention to the home? Many women have discovered that it is such an important job, requiring apt attention, that they cannot afford to work outside the home because it divides their attention from the important matters at home.
Happy Homemaking.

Happy homemaking.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Honoring the Home

We can reason around the word "honor" and come up with our own reasons for rudeness or the spirit of dishonor in our lives. Some folks may, by their own reasoning, give excuses for mis-treating the house, leaving a mess, or damaging furniture. Others may find fault with those who appreciate good attitudes and manners, deliberately attempting to undermine these values. We've all had our share of people who rail against the house, the family, and the concept of the home. Yet, in spite of it, the home still stands as the bulwark of society.

Our homes and families are the most important asset of our nation. Rebellion in the home is actually a threat to our national security. Those who seek to conquer a nation will first seek to break down its strongest unit: the marriage and the family.

Keeping your house the most beautiful and peaceful that is possible within you, is well worth the cost of the backlash you may receive in our times of ridiculing mothers and undermining fathers, or running down the homemaker and dishonoring her role as teacher and homemaker. Emulating as closely as possible the Titus 2 woman, in whatever stage you are in, brings the most fulfillment. What else is there, that is better?

Arguing with people about the importance of the home as the center of society, is a waste of time. What we DO know is that the home was always intended by God to be the facilitator of values, of learning, of business, of religion, and of talents. Other institutions can claim to take over, but the home will always be the center of these things.

We recently had a ladies Bible class in which the Titus 2 example was discussed. Many wanted to find out if it was "okay" for women to leave their children and pursue careers. They had a lot of scenerios that seemed impossible to apply these scriptures to.

I finally concluded that I could not in good conscience teach that it would be wise for a woman to make her home second in importance, but that I COULD without hesitation, say that the Titus 2 example was a safe authority. "One thing we know for certain," I said, "Is that we CAN teach the roles and duties of older and younger women according to Titus 2.

We KNOW this is a safe guide." There will of course be less than ideal situations that occur in life, such as divorce, widowhood, or rebellious children. But, in all these, we can still lift of that standard of the woman as guide and guard of the home, or get as close as we possibly can to that standard.

There are some women who are wise enough to admit that although they did not do things that way, they will promote the good and right thing to do for others, and use their mistakes as warnings to other women. This is indeed honest and good, and they can only be blessed for doing this.

There are many people coming from more "enlightened" areas of society, such as the workplace or the universities, who seem to think they have a better plan for the family, but in spite of all their lofty talk, the ancient, tried and true way, is the only ideal that has and will withstand the test of time.

And so, if your life is sometimes in a turmoil, you have at least got your housekeeping!! I've found that in stressful times, I can easily bury myself in this, and come out cleaner and more organized than before. The organizing can truly settle the mind and give you creativity and ambition to do things like painting a picture, writing a book, organizing a tea society or a poetry group, or creating your own little business of encouraging other homemakers. The backlash against homemakers is really strong these days. Sometimes a cruel word can debilitate them for days, and they cannot function as well as they can. It is reassuring to them if they can have a friend who will come and encourage them in what they do.

I've just returned from nearly a month at my daughter's house, who is expecting her 4th child. She is in the early stages and not able to lift her head off the pillow sometimes, and I remembered how sick I was in the early days and I had little or no help. Sometimes just a clean kitchen and laundry that is caught up can help a sick person feel better. When she was able to sit, I would bring her drawers from the dressers and have her tell me how to sort them or what to take out to get rid of, and so forth. In a little less than a month, we have nearly sorted through every single closet and drawer and cabinet in her house. I felt more confidenct leaving her to come home, knowing that she would have less clutter to bother with, that her pantry and fridge were clean and organized, that her laundry room was functional, and that her children's toys and clothes were in order.

As in most things, it is always more interesting to clean up and organize someone ELSE'S sewing room or garage (by the way, her husband still has to clean the garage. I hope he surprises me!), but cleaning it all gave me the momentum to return to my own house and do the same.

The only difference is that she will not be sitting in a chair or reclining on the couch answering my questions about what to do with this or that, or whether to send it to the yard sale or the Goodwill. I will have to make all those decisions myself, and it was such fun to work together with her, even though she is ill. Some people are quite grouchy when they aren't feeling well, but she is so soft spoken and even tempered. It is such a good balance for my personality and I appreciated working with her, so much!

I see even more now, the need to have the home dignified. It is the most important place in society. It should be even more well-structured, neat, clean, beautifully arranged and decorated than any place in town. The functions of the home as a place where family members can develop good, sound principles and high values, should be honored. Idle talk and finding fault should not be permitted. Mothers especially need to be honored, so that their workplace does not become a hostile environment.

There is also a great need to reinforce those who are staying home and creating that family haven that was missing in the previous generation. Many of these women are doing it without moral support of their own families. Sometimes comments they receive can grieve them terribly and make them feel demeaned. It is always good to reinforce these women, because what they are doing is building the moral fibre of our nation.

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