Thursday, April 2, 2009


One thing my mother was very good at was figuring out how to entertain four kids without spending much money. She knew every food manufacturer in town that offered tours with free samples at the end. She knew where all the best parks and playgrounds were. Most importantly, she knew how to make the most of our neighborhood library. When we were very small, it meant taking us to the library for story time, and checking out picture books for us. When we were a bit older, and could read on our own, we waited with keen anticipation for the big day when she finally decided we were ready for our very own library card.

On one of our weekly library forays, when I was about eight years old, I happened to pick up a book called All-of-a-Kind Family. I started reading it that evening after supper, and kept at it until my eyes grew heavy, then I put it aside and got ready for bed. That's when it happened. The book actually spoke to me! I was lying in my bed, trying to get to sleep, when suddenly I heard the book calling my name. I tried to ignore it, but it was very persistent. It kept tempting me by saying things like "Aren't you curious? Don't you want to know what the kids in the book are up to now? Aren't you dying to know what will happen next?" Eventually I gave in, and got up out of bed. This became a regular occurrence from that point on, and a bit of an irritation to my parents, who had to keep returning to my room at night to turn off the lights. Some of the books were memorable, some were not, but I will never forget that one. The very first one that actually called my name.

Back in those days, it never occurred to me that I might run out of time before I ran out of books. So, for most of my life I have felt obligated to finish every book I started, unless it was really and truly terrible. It is just of late that I have begun to question that practice. The stacks of books that I want to read are beginning to take over my house, and there just isn't time for them all. When I get mired down in a book I don't particularly enjoy, and have to drag myself back to it each time, the piles seem to mushroom as they wait for my return. Finally I had to ask myself "Why?" Who says I have to waste my time finishing a book that's just OK, when there are still millions left that are fabulous? So, just last week I made an addition to my rules for good living. I will give each book a fair shot at capturing my attention, reading at least a quarter of the way through, and then I will set it aside for a bit. If, by that point, it hasn't spoken to me at all, if there is no voice calling me to please, please come back... Well, then I must admit that our relationship is over and done with. It is time to go our separate ways!

P.S. Many thanks to for the above image.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Now that I know you all a bit better, and considering the winds of change that are headed this way, I've decided it's time for a confession. I want to tell you a deep, dark secret - one I have struggled to keep hidden for many, many years. My name is Becky T. Lane, and I...was a Home Ec. major. There, it's finally out in the open. Whew, what a relief!

For years now, any time someone asked me what my major was in college, I usually mumbled something about "merchandising", then quickly went on to add that I later went back for a degree in horticulture. Which is true, but the first degree was actually a B.S. in Home Economics, with a specialization in Clothing, Textiles, and Fashion Merchandising. Why did I keep it under wraps? Well, because when you tell someone you were a Home Ec. major, at the very least you can expect a condescending grin or a derisive snort. Usually it's followed by a comment such as "Ah, I see! You were working on your M.R.S., huh?" So, why then, have I suddenly decided to "out" myself? Well, the times, they are a changin'!

In her wonderful book Depletion and Abundance: Life On The New Home Front, or One Woman's Solutions to Finding Abundance for Your Family while Coming to Terms with Peak Oil, Climate Change and Hard Times, author Sharon Astyk wrote "We often believe that work done for money in the 'public' world is more valuable than work done to avoid needing money in the 'private' realm. This is one of the reasons that we tend to devalue homemaking and other domestic labor. And such devaluation is deeply bound up in industrial capitalism...When we decide something lacks value and power, we demean it. For a long time private labor was demeaned in part because women were considered secondary and inferior, and much private subsistence labor was done by women in the home. When women began to work more often in the public realm, they, for the most part, accepted industrial capitalism's diminution of the importance and meaning of home-based labor, deciding that working 'out' was a way to achieve political and social power. Women came to see abandoning 'women's work' as means to power. So some of it we stopped doing (gardening, canning, much cooking and sewing); other parts (childcare, housecleaning, food preparation) we contracted out to low-paid, often non-white workers of low status. So while women's status in society rose, domestic, private work fell even further in cultural value, and so did the status of 'private life' and its practices."

Now, however, people are waking up to the fact that industrial capitalists may not have our best interests at heart, nor has rampant consumerism made us quite as happy as we thought it would. And so, the pendulum seems to be swinging in the opposite direction. Just the other day I read a post over at the blog Down To Earth, entitled The Return of the Homemaker. In it she discusses the many women who are returning to private life, either by choice, to raise their own children, or perhaps because they were laid off. They are discovering that there is much they can do to contribute to their family's health and well-being there at home. And, as we are forced to deal with wars, peak oil, global warming and assorted natural disasters, financial crises, foreclosures and lack of work, plus water and food shortages, more and more will discover that they can gain independence by learning to look after themselves, grow food and reduce their debt as much as possible. They will also find that there is joy to be found in living a simple, green, frugal life.

So, finally, a woman who can knit, sew, mend, alter, plant a garden, can and preserve food, cook meals from scratch, bake bread, raise chickens, milk a cow, make cheese and yogurt, build a solar oven, make compost, catch rain, re-sole shoes, home-school her children and keep them entertained and happy using her imagination and little else, well, this woman is becoming something of a commodity. Skills that we have been keeping under wraps since we were "liberated" back in the early 70's are once again being brought out into the open.

Seeing this trend in the blogs that I follow has got me to thinking about the movie Gone With the Wind. Sure, Scarlett had her faults, but you have to give credit where credit is due. When the going got tough, and women such as the precious Melanie were turning into sniveling piles of uselessness, that Katy Scarlett O'hara hitched up her skirts, straightened her spine, and did what needed to be done. She dug those potatoes, whipped up dresses out of curtains, learned about birthin' babies, and kept her family together in spite of dire conditions. She was a woman of spunk and determination, and I hope the same can be said of me, should the occasion arise.

What about you? If the going gets tough, which will you turn out to be? A Scarlett, or a Melanie?

P.S. Many thanks to for the above image.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


After The Muses and I attended that county commissioner's meeting back in February, hoping to fight the approval of yet another dense housing development that would suck this aquifer dry, I felt compelled to write my very first letter-to-the-editor. In it I simply asked why, if we are all as concerned about dwindling water supplies as we claim to be, we haven't enacted any mandatory water restrictions here in Wimberley.

Surprisingly, my letter was published in the very next issue of The Wimberley View. Then, a week or two later, there was an article in the paper announcing that at long last, after months and months of fighting about all the nit-picky details of a restriction plan, the commissioners had voted unanimously to "get this puppy" enacted. Upon reading this, I jokingly said "Ha! You see this, John? I bet it was my letter that finally made them get their rears in gear and do something!" Then we both had a good belly laugh over the absurdity of my statement.

Funny thing is, I have these google alerts set up, that tell me whenever my name, or the name of my blog, gets mentioned somewhere on line, because it's fun to see when something you write gets quoted somewhere else. Well, right after I made that ludicrous declaration, I received an alert telling me that my name was mentioned in the minutes of a recent city council meeting. When I followed the link and read further, I discovered that one of the commissioners got up and read my letter-to-the-editor aloud at their last meeting, right before they took the vote that finally passed their water restriction plan. Well, what do you know? Unbeknownst to me, I must have sent out one of those little ripples we have talked about. Cool!