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January 31st, 2009 by stephanie

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

Eleanor Roosevelt

January 31st, 2009 by stephanie

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.

Helen Keller (1880-196 8)

American Writer


January 31st, 2009 by stephanie

So some of you have been wondering how my wilderness skills are holding out during my back to basics experiment. If Ma and Pa Kettle could do it, my motto this week had become “So Can I!” As you may know, I have attempted to try out my “worst case” scenario motif, to a certain degree of late. It was inspired by my friends and their current ice storm dilemma. (That darn global warming. At it again!)



All I can say is, boy am I glad there was a guy at the propane tank when I pulled in to fill up my little blue container before I headed home to pour it into my portable heater. (Those of you who know about these things already see where this is going.) Anyway, I had decided to dig out my kerosene heater and was ready for action.  So you can imagine my surprise when the attendant at the KOA put his hands in his pocket and just shook his head. “Ma’am.” He said calmly. “Propane won’t fit in that kerosene container.” Gulp. I was so into my new challenge I had completely forgotten that “blue” meant kerosene! Since my friends from the north (that had taken refuge in my home) were on the hunt for propane, in my mind I said, “And me too!” And off I went with my little blue container. 


Thank the Lord for propane men and people who speak “Container. (By the way, the red ones are for gasoline. I have no idea what propane is. Maybe it’s Green? But I digress…)


With a flushed face and a heart full of gratitude I scampered off to find a gas station that sold my much needed kerosene. Ironically, it was the Asian 20 something behind the counter, whose owner/father explained to me how to get the heater back into working condition.  I had placed it in my storage area and had completely forgotten how to even make it work. A few English translations by the son and wild arm swingings from the father later I got the message.  Clean it out first.


At home, I googled the model number and did some research just to be sure.  Why was I surprised they didn’t even make this little gem anymore? Hmmm. Just my luck.  The guy up near the Catskills convinced me in his review that I would blow my house up within the first 5 minutes of my attempts, while Mr. Maine assured me that I was the smartest girl alive below the Mason Dixon line.


So, funnel in hand, I poured the greasy fluid into the well and waited for the magic to begin. Within minutes the kitchen warmed up and there was a happy, fiery glow. My dog of course decided to head out to the back 40. (Never can be too safe when ole Steph is up to a new project is his M.O.). Having done a bit more research, I’d learned from Wise in Wisconsin that if you put a whistling tea kettle on top of the heater, you’d always have hot water ready to brew. Who knew!


It was then I wondered how we, the people, ever decided modern technology was the only way to go.  Now all I need is a pot bellied stove and a cold frame out back and I should be able to weather out the winter just fine. Anybody out there got any extra mason jars?


Toasty in Nashville.



Pioneer Spirit

January 30th, 2009 by stephanie

Learning is not compulsory…neither is survival.

– W. Edwards Deming

Survival Skills

January 30th, 2009 by stephanie

Innovation is the central issue in economic prosperity.

– Michael Porter


January 30th, 2009 by stephanie

A dear friend of mine recently made the move to the land of magnolias and mint juleps.  I was thrilled to have a kindred spirit from my past nearby, even if the drive was about 1.5 hours away.  Needless to say, due to life and circumstances, 7 months later, I still had not managed to make it up to see the new “place”.


So, schedules finally meshed this week and the great trek north was schemed and planned.  Oddly however, my friend, now a new Southerner, was greeted to a very lovely ice storm right before our grand visit. Trees snapped in half, electric lines were down, power and water went off, ice completely turned normal cars into molded popsicles and cell phones and land lines were found to be inoperable.


When the fated day arrived, she and her clan found themselves heading south to my house. Where I was more than happy to provide shelter, heat, lights and hot showers. 

Obviously, as we munched on pizza and caught up on the news, we chatted about the dismal economy and their newly acquired survival skills.  Bringing up water from the creek, boiling it, and more. Since there is a river at the end of my road, I proudly announced I had access to a water source too.  All I would need were those tablets to make it drinkable and a fishing rod to catch my dinner if worse came to worst.


As we navigated the aisles of the store to load them up for the days ahead, it appeared they were more planning a camping trip to the wilderness then returning to their newly built home.  While filling up their propane tanks and water containers it was all I could do to not go home and rethink my own “worst case scenario” battle plan.


Pulling back into my driveway after getting them on their way, I reached into the mail box.  Bills greeted me and I snatched at the one that was for my electricity. That little piece of paper had about put me in the poor house the month prior, and I was hoping it had all been a big mistake.  How on earth could one person, that is not even home, triple her wattage usage? It was beyond me. But a phone call to the utility company assured me rates had gone up and yes, I now owed them $700 plus dollars. The newest bill matched the last ugly one as well.  I reminded them I kept my heater on 65, if not off, and that, again, I wasn’t even home! But for some reason, they just wanted their money. Oy vey.


With that, I headed over to the heater, and turned it completely off.  Even though temps in my area are in the 30s (and under), I had been inspired by my hearty friends and their visit. I knew I too was up for that challenge.  So, heading downstairs, I retrieved my kerosene heater, wiped it down, and fired it up.  Why hadn’t I thought of that sooner?


So, now I sit here writing all toasty and warm in one room of the house.  If you don’t hear from me in the next few days, all I can say is, it might be the fumes.  (You might want to send out the posse. Just kidding.)


All in all, here’s to the pioneer spirit, and old American ingenuity. I might just fire up the hibachi in the morning and whip up some breakfast in the kitchen while my dog hunkers down in the living room finally convinced I have completely lost  my mind.






January 26th, 2009 by stephanie

Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you will help them become what they are capable of becoming.

– Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe


January 26th, 2009 by stephanie

There was that law of life, so cruel and so just, that one must grow or else pay more for remaining the same.

– Norman Mailer

A Word for the Wise

January 26th, 2009 by stephanie

 Have you ever said to someone, “That person needs a good talking to, or maybe just a kick in the pants.”  Perahps you are at a time in your life when you think that person might be you. Whatever the case, I came across the best quote this weekend. It’s been around awhile, but I had not been able to track down the entire wording.



I was on a plane going from somewhere to somewhere last year and didn’t opt for the $5 headphone charge to watch the movie.  I had work to do during the flight, so that trumped the entertainment choice for the day.  But as the movie started I questioned my decision. It was Rocky Balboa.  And was supposedly the final finale to the famed Rocky series.


Now, lest I lose you here, I must divulge that I am a huge Rocky fan, and even enjoy the Rambo films. (I know. Call me crazy.) In my humble opinion, however, Sylvester Stallone made some great, all-American style movies, and so has earned my appreciation.  But back to the words of wisdom.


It wasn’t until a few days ago that I came across one of the best quotes I have seen in a long time. If you saw the movie, you know exactly which scene I am referring to. Rocky is outside his restaurant with his son.  The son is letting his dad know that life has not been easy in his father’s shadow. It is then that Rocky lets him have it. And I have to tell you, this is some great script:


“…the time come for you to be your own man and take on the world, and you did. But somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you’re no good. And when things got hard, you started looking for something to blame, like a big shadow. Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that! I’m always gonna love you no matter what. No matter what happens. You’re my son and you’re my blood. You’re the best thing in my life. But until you start believing in yourself, ya ain’t gonna have a life. Don’t forget to visit your mother.”


Maybe today, you just needed a little fresh perspective. Or, you might know a friend that could use a word for the wise.  Whatever the case, I hope this will be an encouragement to you. As it was for me.





Rest on Sunday.

January 24th, 2009 by stephanie

Wash on Monday. Iron on Tuesday. Mend on Wednesday. Churn on Thursday. Clean on Friday. Bake on Saturday.

If you are not familiar with these daily chores of the week, you can do a little research at a site that references “a week in the life of” Laura Ingalls Wilder and her pioneer lifestyle. (

When I was a young girl, I attempted to embroider these sayings onto a set of tea towels. If my memory serves me correctly, I don’t believe I completed the task. I do still have one or two in my possession however. In case this little task is not familiar to you, it actually was once an Americana-style tradition. You may have seen examples of these dish towels in antique stores. They were rather common years ago, especially in the 1800s and 1900s.

Anyway, my grandmother has shared with me on a number of occasions how strictly her parents heeded the Rest On Sunday part of the week. They literally did nothing. Except worship and eat of course. They went to services, returned home, ate the food that had been prepared the day prior, and then literally rested. No chores. No radio. I don’t even know if they were allowed to read. (Although I do think they were allowed to read the Bible.) And too, it was pure family time.

As I was enjoying a Sunday afternoon recently , it dawned on me that I could not blame my great grand mother for holding firm to that resting part of the traditional Sunday. If you think about it, she must have been completely worn out and exhausted by Saturday night. Sundays were her only holiday to be sure. She just didn’t have the luxury of time to rest during the week. Vacations were not really an option to her working class level in that era. And if people think women back then had time to grab a cup of coffee and sit on the deck for a little quiet time, I highly doubt that was a feasible daily experience. (Hopefully, they were able to squeeze some in, but we don’t really know.)

All ponderings aside, I love Sundays. Like my great grandmother, I can’t wait for my special day of rest. I take it seriously. And I relish in it. It’s just something I have made a part of my life. I go to worship, I eat lunch with friends, I head home to nap, then walk the dog (when it’s not 6 degrees outside) and catch up on my phone calls for the week. It’s just a lovely day all around.

I realize a lot of people today do not have the luxury of that type of Sunday, and I am very humbled that I am fortunate enough to claim that kind of day. So I do. If you can make Sundays a bit more “restful”, may I highly suggest it. Remember, even on the seventh day, God rested.


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