Caring for the Homefront

Woman must be the pioneer in this turning inward
for strength. In a sense she has always been the pioneer.

                                                                     --Anne Morrow Lindbergh

The Chrisman sisters, 1886. Lizzie Chrisman filed the first of the sisters' homestead claims in 1887. Lutie Chrisman filed the following year. The other two sisters, Jennie Ruth and Hattie, had to wait until they came of age to file. They both filed in 1892.

The Chrisman sisters, 1886. Lizzie Chrisman filed the first of the sisters' homestead claims in 1887. Lutie Chrisman filed the following year. The other two sisters, Jennie Ruth and Hattie, had to wait until they came of age to file. They both filed in 1892.

“These are challenging times in which to live.  But we are not the only generation of women to have known difficult days.  It is comforting to realize that others before us have persevered and prospered.  During the dark days of the Depression an editorial in the October 1932 issue of "Ladies’ Home Journal" encouraged readers to remember that “The return of good times is not wholly a matter of money.  There is a prosperity of living which is quite as important as prosperity of the pocketbook.”  But the magazine stressed that “It is not enough to be willing to make the best of things as they are.  Resignation will get us nowhere.  We must build what amounts to a new country.  We must revive the ideals of the founders.  We must learn the new values of money.  It is a time for pioneering—to create a new security for the home and the family….”

I wrote the above paragraph (which is today’s Simple Abundance meditation for January 22nd entitled The Prosperity of Living) over twenty-five years ago, at a time in my life when I was completely in the dark and struggling to know what my Divine calling and purpose was. I realize now, with the wry wisdom of the backwards glance, that I really wrote those words in an effort to console myself because I didn’t know if my words would ever be read by another pair of eyes. I was very discouraged; I felt such a complete failure at 44 and as if I’d achieved nothing. By then, I’d been writing for over two years a book that no publisher in America wanted to publish.  I needed a lot of comfort, consoling and encouragement and with no one to talk to except Heaven, which didn’t seem to be holding up their end of the conversation, I returned daily to my treasure chest of women’s periodicals from the late Victorian era through the 1950s, which I called “The Motherlode”, a personal vein of gold which I worked every day. The way I wrote was to find a quote to start and then see where the crumbs led me.  That day, I was back on the pioneer trail.  

I was always deeply moved by how “The Woman’s View” in periodicals changed every decade, especially from the Great Depression with its emphasis on home-making to abruptly taking the apron off for the factory floor during the years of World War II. But always, the goal was to spoon feed readers doses of optimism, hope, comfort or ways to find contentment, so they could continue on meeting the challenges of their daily rounds with courage and good cheer.  I particularly loved the home-centered rituals they inspired; drawing the curtains, turning on the soft golden lights, turning down the bed and slipping in a flannel covered hot water bottle to warm the sheets. If I could create and keep a safe place on the page like my illustrious, often anonymous mentors did for me, then perhaps I could create a refuge from all the hullabaloo of the outside world for other women.  

We read for pleasure or we read to quiet the pain from a deafening roar to a dull throb.  We read to forget who we are or discover it; we read to understand or be understood.  That is why I write as well.

What seems to have and continues to fall through the cracks of social and domestic history during the last 70 years is the very sacred need to keep up women’s morale on the Homefront through whatever social, political, economic turmoil or upheaval we are going through.  I have been blessed to have readers from around the world of all faiths, creeds, nationalities, political parties.  I’ve been astonished that the heart of Simple Abundance, a life style book based on the power of Gratitude has been loved and used in many ways: for a women’s Bible study, a women's executive retreat, stay at home mothers groups and by a United Nations economist when she wanted to explain globalization on a human scale.  From Colorado to Connecticut to Chile to Croatia to China, the pages between the pink book have brought comfort to women just like you and me.  If Simple Abundance often reads like a 500 page permission slip nudging you towards self-nurturance, that’s because it is.  Women have always cared for the world, one way or another, but we still don’t know how to take care of ourselves and if we can’t do one, then we can't do the other. I just love to share what I have sought:  Divine connection and the courage to go on, wherever the pioneer trails leads us.  We will not, cannot forget the legacy of love passed down to us, our daughters and granddaughters from generations of beautiful, brave and heroic women over the last century, who reach through the portcullis of the past watching over us and encouraging us to go on, further than they could even imagine.  But when I look at how far this week's homesteading pin-ups, the Chrisman Sisters went to achieve their dreams, well, just let me say, I don't want to be the one who lets these gals down.  

So I will celebrate and consecrate that indomitable spirit with every word in my cherished volumes of the Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus.  It seems as if I have been shown my purpose and job, at least for today.  If I’m going to be called to be a Caretaker, it is the most beautiful compliment and description of my work in the world that I can imagine.    

So let me leave you with a really provocative self-care morsel to mull over for the next week.

Babe, you’re worn to a raveling.  Courage takes a lot out of a girl.  You need replenishing and restoration. “Sleep is your first defense,” the editors of House Beautiful advised its readers in 1942.   “Your value as an American citizen [or civilized woman] depends on how you slept last night.  If you slept badly, it is very likely that you are discouraged and pessimistic about the future.  If you woke this morning unrefreshed, chances are you didn’t do very good work today, that you weren’t as efficient as you should have been.”

"House Beautiful," 1942

"House Beautiful," 1942

“You know all of this is so.  You know it the sure way—from the practical experience of observing that your good days are preceded by good nights.  So it is no stretch of the imagination to claim that sound sleep is our first defense.  For in the months, and maybe years, that lie ahead of us we cannot fall prey to fatigue.  The life that stretches ahead of each of us offers no place for pessimism, irritability or inefficiency.”

Usually women take to bed when the candle’s completely burned out or we’re dropping like a stone.  Changing the world takes a lot of physical, emotional, creative and metaphysical energy.  What we really should be doing is calling 9 p.m the “nighty-nighty” hour so that we can settle in bed with a little reading, our Gratitude Journal, some chamomile tea and cozy bedtime rituals.   Did you know that every hour you’re in bed before midnight provides more rejuvenation than 3 hours spent sleeping after midnight?

So please tuck yourself into bed two nights this week at 9 pm.  That means, lights out, no phone, no electric green beams of light coming from the iPad on to the ceiling.  And when you begin to fidget and fuss, just imagine Mother Slumber at the door, whispering, “Hush, there, sweetheart, you’re very weary and need a good night’s sleep.  Now close your eyes, brave, beautiful girl.  God bless you Baby...  See you when the darkness goes, darling.   No, I won’t close the door all the way…”

Sending dearest love, cherished pioneer girl.

Blessings on our courage,