Friday, August 5, 2011

American Duchess!

I've always wanted to be an American Duchess, so imagine my surprise that there already is one, and they're as gaga for reproduction clothes as I am!

Right now, their authentic Devonshire shoes are on pre-order, so hop on over and have a look!

From the American Duchess blog:

The Devonshires are a leather 18th century shoe based on museum examples from the 1760s through 1780s. They're made of top-grade dyable leather, with a beautiful, smooth Italian leather sole for dancing, and are hard-wearing, water- and mud-proof, for even the toughest of outdoor re-enactments.

Pre-Order the Devonshires through August 10, and get the special $100 price. We're only making 200 of these shoes, so don't miss the chance to own one of only a couple hundred pair on the planet! Visit to order.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Short - Jewelry

At Cloverleaf while looking through a display of gaudy jewelry featuring St. Benedict and Miraculous Medals as centerpieces. (Called "Pax Circles" and "Magdalena Charms")

Me: I don't know whether to be flattered or disconcerted that the symbols of my religion are being used in couture jewelry. 

Owner: I never understood crosses anyway. You think if Jesus comes back he wants to look at a bunch of crosses?

Me: Still, I have to wonder how many people wear these without any idea what they mean. 

Owner: I couldn't tell you what they mean, I know that. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Fortress

Once in Bavaria a great fortress stood, impenetrable even to great empires. Though the city within was surrounded on all sides, it could not be taken. Its walls could not be breached or broken, its gate would not yield.

Until one fateful day, when the powerful enemies of the city found the one opening in the wall, a defect in the foundation made at the first building of the city, which had worsened through decades of wear and weight and water.

Let's talk one-to-one a moment, girls. We all too often forget when daydreaming about the days when wedding bells will chime and baptismal gowns will be pintucked that marriage and family has a very important purpose, and that our special bond with our children charges us to protect them in a special way. Not to mention that unlike our sisters in the religious life, we are out in the world. And so are our children.

The purpose of marriage. What is it to us? An expression of mere love or attraction? The 'next step' after we've been with a person for a long time and it's started to get boring? An excuse to spend at least six months enacting a reign of terror upon our family and friends so that we can achieve the mythical "My Perfect Day?"

Of course not, you cry! But even among Christians there is contention about what the primary goal or goals of marriage is/are. Some would argue there are two main goals; the good of the spouses, and the procreation of children. But the good of the spouse is a secondary goal. The main goal in marriage is the procreation of, the upbringing of, and the good of children.

When a woman is thinking if she should marry a given man, she must, must, must step back and look past whatever her feelings may be for him. Perhaps he's ruggedly handsome...but he is not steadfast. Perhaps he is learned and well-read and brilliant...but he has no plans for his future, no prospects. Listen, girls. I know firsthand what it does to a child to have a father whose general living strategy is 'hand to mouth.' I cannot even list here the number of different and highly varied occupations my father has held over the years. He's been in his current venture about ten years, and he was claustrophobic after three!

Think, future Mama. Think about the little baby you'll hold in your arms. If you are like me and reject birth control, think of the multiple babies you will almost certainly have. Think of them as they grow. And think of this special bond you have for them, which charges you to protect them in a special way. For their sake, can you justify choosing for them a father who makes his car payments by crossing his fingers at the casino? Or a father who, for reasons other that reasonable difficulties, such as an intolerable boss or an economic downturn, is never satisfied with his career? Or who is even unwilling to choose a career? How can you confidently bring a child into the world when you don't know if, by the time that child is five and you begin to require more money to spend on resources for his upbringing, his father won't suddenly tire of being, say, an accountant, and suddenly decide to pursue a career in law, or management, or even something like underwater basketweaving?

What about a man who refuses to put down roots? Who will, for reasons unrelated to family matters or job transfers, or something else legitimate, insist upon the hardship of a cross-country move with lots of little ones?

Look at him now, girls. If he can't make up his mind now, he needs your prayers, or he probably won't be able to make up his mind in five or ten years, even if he insists he will.

And it's here I need to address a serious subject. After all, wives are subject to their husbands, but like all authority, she is only subject to it so long as it is reasonable. If what the man requires of her is sinful, she is of course loosed from following it. There is an unfortunate movement now that actually tells women that if a man is abusing his children, it is because Satan is testing the WIFE, trying to make her deny her husband's authority, and she must not give in, or even that the children belong more to the man than the wife, and as such she does not have as much of a say.

I can tell you right now that if my future husband, whoever he may be, ever laid a finger on my children to harm them (read: not to administer reasonable corporal punishment), it would be a nice, soapy cast-iron skillet to the skull for him. But on other matters, even, one must take care. Say you're recovering from the birth of your child, you've got a few animals around the house you care for, you have obligations at your Church, whatever. If your husband comes home from work one day having quit his job, contacted a real estate agent, and taken out a loan for an RV, which you and four kids and two dogs, etc, are now expected to move into at the drop of a hat so that you can traverse the country and "find work along the way".......

You may need to get the frying pan out again. The same holds true if your darling beloved comes home from his modest and necessary occupation, which may be a tad bit on the boring side, and has decided he's quitting to take up tightrope-walking. And yes, I'm exaggerating here to make a point. But it is a valid point to make; sometimes, even if you yourself are more than willing to follow your occasionally crazy husband anywhere, even when he decides to reenact Shackleton's Antarctic voyage, you must refuse for the good of your children. Even if your earthly lord just suggests something like the start of a home business, or a move out of town or out of state, you are still entitled to an opinion, and if it seems like something that, at the time, may not be best for your children, you have an obligation, a duty, to speak up!

But as a woman, you do have a duty to speak respectfully, and not angrily or contentiously when you do discuss it. We must be supportive and loving, and we must always believe in our husbands. After all, that out-of-state move, or that home business, might be wonderful for the family someday, perhaps when enough of the children are old enough to help with the littlest ones, or even when most of them have grown up and moved away. But if it is not what is best for our children, whose care and upbringing are a responsibility from God, then it must not be done. Prayer and the seeking of wise counsel will help clear up those grey situations wherein a consensus cannot be reached. If your household is just too close to the issue, trust me, there will be someone you know who can give you sound advice on whether or not an idea is a good one or not.

The world is all around us, ladies. It scratches at our door, it strikes at our heels, and it trickles through the cracks in the walls we place around our precious charges. It is our God-given duty to be brave, to be lionesses, in the face of such assault. And it is our obligation to assure that while under our care and in our homes, our children are as protected as they can possibly be.

To choose a husband who is unfit to be a father, or even one who could use a few years of growth before becoming one, is to shoot your horse in the foot before you even reach the starting line.

A marriage built upon this is like the Bavarian city, with its foundation flawed from the start. No matter how high or thick or strong  or well-guarded the walls of the city were, the breach in the foundation, which had begun as tiny, was enough to doom it. For when that crack became large enough for a small man to slip through, then he could from within open the gates, and the army could march in to lay waste to the fortress and all who dwelt within.

So ask yourself my fellow future wives and mothers, is it worth that risk? What do your future children deserve? And furthermore, and perhaps most sobering of all thoughts,

What does God require of you?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Future Posts

...I have a lot in the works. Mainly I haven't posted before now because I can't decide where to start! I do, however, have another one in the Year of the Empress Series, perhaps the most important one I'll post all year, and the start of a new, three or four part series involving my own experiences in religion.

Friday, February 4, 2011

I Don't Want This

December 7th, 2008. Washington, D.C. A newly minted 18-year-old steps out of the National Portrait Gallery from the G Street Entrance. A short cape is draped over her shoulders and hides a smart vest and blouse. A knee-length skirt hits the tops of her tall heeled boots. She has just spent two hours going through the halls that tell the story of America in art. It's a Sunday morning in the nation's capital, and the streets that were dead when she entered the building at eight are only just beginning to warm up. She makes her way to the corner of the street and hails a cab, as if she's done it a dozen or more times. She rides back to her hotel in the "Crystal City" of Rossalyn, VA, to spend a day relaxing before an evening monument tour. By the end of the trip she would've ridden in planes, trains and automobiles and dined everywhere from Ethiopian food-serving dives to nationally renowned restaurants.

Now let me tell you about another girl. It's the peak of the summer of 2006 on the flat and rolling plains of Washita County. This girl has unplugged from life for a week and decided to come learn a thing or two about those dying arts women everywhere used to know. With her grandmother's help, she makes herself a nightgown from a late 50s pattern out of ivory cotton dotted with clusters of Wedgewood blue diamonds. She picks and shells black-eye peas and helps make a meal of them, some fresh corn, some homemade bread and the best chicken-friend steaks you could ever imagine. And that corn was a hard-won delicacy, too; two days earlier she had gotten up at the crack of dawn to pick it and shuck it, and the next day sat around with her great-grandmother, great-great aunt, and grandmother in the shade of a storage shed and washed the cobs, listening intently while the three aged women reminisced about when they were the 15 year-old girl's age, sitting in the shade of a storage shed and washing fresh corn, listening intently while aged women reminisced.

If you asked me to list the top ten happiest moments in my life, I'm not sure the first scenario would make it on there. The second one? Would be near the top.

I wouldn't change a single thing that happened in my life. I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now and I know it's because of a million little instants in my past 20 years. And when I was ten, moving to the big city was all I wanted to do. Truthfully, I can't see myself moving back Custer or Washita way. I like the idea of being near my parents, and you couldn't pry me from my newfound Church family with the Jaws of Life. And being near enough to the city that trips to see friends, attend an event or take up some extra activities at Church doesn't take a two-hour drive one way is a nice thing.

But I ache for the country.

Every time I go to one of those big eastern cities I get claustrophobia. I can't stand not to see the sunset and the wide sky and the glorious tapestry of the stars spread out each night. I hate that ordinances and space constraints in my own city keep me from some of the projects I'd like to do, or animals I'd like to keep. It's bothersome that any home I could find in town would need major overhauls to be anywhere near off-grid. And running to the store for every little thing drives me nuts. My selfish reasoning makes me look at those around me who have gotten tangled up in thankless jobs that suck the life out of them and demand everything they've got, and I cringe in horror at the idea that I could face the same future. For my own good, and my own desires, I want to jump off this runway train called City Life. But it runs deeper than that.

Someday, Lord willing, I want to be a mother. And I don't yet know the faces and names of my children. I don't know who their father will be or what he will look like, which of our genes will be more dominant. I don't know if I'll have all boys, all girls, or a few of both. I don't know if they'll number one or twenty.

I do know that I love every one of them. I want them to have the best life possible on this silly earth. I want them to feel fresh air in their lungs, to taste apples off the tree and stain their fingers purple picking blackberries. I want them to know how to sew on a button, how to carve a roasted chicken, how to chop wood and how to swaddle a baby. To gather eggs and collect milk and harvest grain, to learn step-by-step how to take corn from seed to freezer. To feel the cycle of the seasons and see the wonders of God before their eyes. When they reach adulthood I don't want to have to step back and say I shielded them from hard work, taught them nothing they needed to know, and showed them by example to strive for nothing but status and success.

I wouldn't trade my life so far for anything. And I wouldn't trade those four fairy-tale days in D.C. for anything either. But when I remember Washington it comes to be in shades of black and white and grey, with the occasional muted blue. Even when I recall my days in St. Eugene, mealy tan walls and navy blue uniforms, dark red brick and grey autumn skies flood my memory. Nothing exciting, nothing offensive, nothing out of the ordinary.

When I remember that week in the summer, I see color all around me. The purple of my long skirt, the yellow of the corn, the lush greens of the plants around me, the red of my great-great aunt's dyed hair. The black grease stains on my Dad's white shirts, the rich brown wood doors and windowsills in his house. Red strawberries and purple currant jam, pink steak ready for the skillet. The faded teal of my grandma's 60s sewing machine.

And should my daughters ever sit, one day, in the shade of a storage shed, washing corn while a 15 year-old girl sits with them and listens intently, or should my sons ever sit back in a favorite chair to tell a story to a grandson, I want their childhood memories to be full of vivid color and taste and smell and sensation.

Of course, let's give my selfish heart it's due. Quite frankly, I'm a bit of a wild honeysuckle vine. And I'd much rather be wrapped around a tree by a creek than clinging to the side of some drab old concrete building.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Taking Dominion

My Nanny has a habit of saying to anyone whose thinking or behavior is out of line, "You need an attitude adjustment."

This didn't just extend to her children and grandchildren, but to anything, from dogs and cats to hogs and cows to plants and garden pests. If it wasn't doing what it was supposed to do, it received an attitude adjustment. Plain and simple.

I just so happen to have 80 square feet of earth that has needed an attitude adjustment.

I have pioneers and homesteaders on both sides of my family, so showing uncooperative clay soil who the boss is nearly qualifies as a birthright with me. From my earliest memories I can recall the lushness of Nanny's vegetable garden, where I would hide under the plants and pretend to be any number of creatures from a fox to a deer.

And my mother's thumb? It's as green as her eyes. To this day I really can't drive past our old house out West without feeling a twinge of sadness. When we bought that house just before I turned five the lawn was pure dirt. By the time we moved, just after I turned ten, Mom had turned it into a lush oasis full of thick shade grass and plants, roses, vegetables, and even a little bed of desert plants where she had left the clay soil as is. It doesn't look like anything when you drive past it now, and it breaks my heart. But that's another post.

The point is, I have quite the green pedigree. And this 80 square foot bed complex, you see, well, this last summer? Refused to grow much beyond tomatoes and basil. I like caprese salad as much as the next girl, but come on, bed. The pumpkins barely came up, the squash succumbed to pests, and when it was all said and done we left town for a weekend and came back to a dead garden.

Using vinegar I performed a highly unsophisticated pH test that revealed that my clay soil caused a reaction not unlike baking soda. It was unforgivingly alkaline.

Double digging in some cotton burr compost revealed that some of the manure from several years ago hadn't yet fully decomposed, so packed down was the clay. A lone earthworm dug around, as did a grub that quickly got cut in half by my shovel. What was dry on top was wet, wet and warm in November, down at the bottom and full of clay "rocks."

So I gave it an attitude adjustment.

My recent pH test revealed that my cotton burrs had lowered it down to neutral. But now it appeared the three most essential nutrients for plant growth, nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous, were almost completely depleted from several years of neglect.

So this morning, I gave it another attitude adjustment.

I hope by now this bed understands that I will have my way. I hope it understands that come Spring I'm going to expect it to grow things. Because if it doesn't? I'm going to keep adjusting it until it does.

Giving up? It's not really something my people do.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

On the Education of Empresses, Part I

It occurred to me, as I was attempting to find a way to begin this year's posts on the theme of Empresshood, that most of the time it all boils down to what an Empress knows. There are many things which an Empress must know how to do. Many of them apply across the board, some of them are specific to the particular type of Empress, but the fact is, an Empress, to be effective, must be educated. This idea that a lady can grow up learning only a few skills which amount to hobbies compared to the important things, with an incomplete education full of gaps in understanding, simply must be dropped. Especially if the lady intends to educate her future children herself.

However, we must view education with a proper lens. My lens is admittedly narrow, and because I understand the scope of a young woman preparing for marriage and homeschooling her children, that is the perspective from which I write. As we delve further into the education of Empresses practical ideas that anyone can use will be the focus, but for now I'd like to expound a little on my philosophy of education.

For some blessed few, an armful of books is all they need to understand every concept under the sun, but most of us have areas in which we are gifted, and areas in which we are weak. I, for instance, can soak up tidbits of history like a sponge made of reconstituted egg, and an appreciation for music, art, and literature, and an ability to put my feelings about them into words, comes as second nature. This isn't to say that I don't like learning from knowledgable people, but if I have to teach myself such subjects, I can, and I feel confident that with a little preparation I could teach them to a high-school level, which is important to me in particular, as I plan to teach my children, up to a high school level.

But on certain matters I'm downright clueless. I benefit greatly from having a knowledgable teacher to explain matters involving numbers, symbols, and formula. My brain is just far more intuitive and far less concrete. My time in college, therefore, has an end beyond studying subjects I enjoy. I owe it to my future Emperor and our subjects (children) to educate myself, and to make certain that education is complete. Do I have to filter through a lot of mud to find the nuggets of gold? Of course I do, it's a public University. But it teaches me to think critically and to examine everything I read in the light of Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and to a girl who intends to someday homeschool Catholic children, that is perhaps the most valuable skill I can pass on.

And there are many other possible scenarios. A young lady who would make a perfectly wonderful Empress may live in an isolated area far away from any University. Or her family may not have the money to spend on a brick-and-mortar education. Such a situation is most definitely one in which having built up a network of friends and family is of the utmost importance. If she's having trouble with a subject, let's say chemistry, it's more than probable that one of her friends at Church or elsewhere is a natural at it. And perhaps she is a natural at English, which eludes her chemistry-minded friend. It's a perfect trade-off wherein they can help each other excel at subjects that otherwise they have difficulty navigating on their own. If she has a large family, even greater is the likelihood that one of her brothers or sisters can help her in a similar trade-off.

But even so, an Empress cannot learn everything. In fact, every Empress is bound to have a child or two whose appetite for a subject exceeds her knowledge. What is she to do if she only has a survey knowledge of history, but all of the sudden her daughter expresses a profound desire to delve into the specifics of the history of Australia in the late 1800s? What if it was all she could do to feign interest in algebra, and her son is fascinated by vector calculus?

Well, that's perfectly alright. Even the most complete education will not be totally "complete" because no one human being can learn everything about everything. In many cases the knowledge an Empress has and the knowledge her Emperor has will interlock in such ways as to take up one-another's slack. If not, again, that's perfectly alright. As long as she is aware of the homeschooling regulations in her state and is confident she can teach all of her children what they would need to know to go forward and continue, whether at college, technical school, or independently, and has also imparted to them the values of her religion so that when they do go out they are prepared to defend their faith, she has done the on-paper job of educating her children well. I want to stress something.

The most important thing an Empress can do is foster in her children a love of learning. If her children love to learn, oftentimes they will take care of the problem of teaching them themselves when they reach enough of an independent age. A child, no matter the age, seeking knowledge on their own and working dilligently to gain it is a beautiful thing. In such a situation, a lady must only assure her son or daughter has the means, be it a book or a college course or a knowledgable friend to act as tutor, to gather sound knowledge on the subjects they love. Teaching a child how to learn is of the same importance as teaching them what to learn.

With my own personal philosophy of home education out of the way, we now can focus on specifics.

So what must an Empress know?

Frankly, a little bit about everything.

More to come.