Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Monday’s Memory, Tuesday’s Neighbor, and Wednesday’s Homemaking Tip

My little four year old neighbor calls me, “Neighbor Jane.” She greets me at the door and says, “Neighbor Jane do you want to see our kittens? Neighbor Jane do you want to see my new dress? Neighbor Jane watch this!” It’s pretty darn cute. Her name is Hannah Jane and my name is Neighbor Jane. 

The nickname comes from the weekly newsletter I sent out for several years.  Each newsletter was signed with “your neighbor, Jane.” Here is one of those newsletters (with some editing):

Dear Neighbor,
My neighbor, Emilie, had a full head of rich black hair and she laughed with a cackle. She was a funny combination of Snow White and the wicked witch.  Long before I’d met her she used to be a woman of means (occasionally she’d model her fur coat for us or show us pictures of her Rolls Royce), but when we knew her she was just a regular hard-working U.S. citizen trying to pay her bills.  Emilie lived on a few acres and had all kinds of animals on her place – most of them loose – rabbits, dogs, chickens, cats, ducks, geese, calves.  Because of experiences growing up, she strongly believed in being self-reliant.   

Emilie grew up in Germany in the ‘30’s and ‘40’s and lost “imperfect” family members during Hitler’s regime.  Her mother foraged in the woods for her and her sister during the lean times; likewise, Emilie learned to be resourceful and make do.  When we knew her she raised rabbits to eat, used leather boot straps as gate hinges and held everything else together with baling twine.

Emilie was headstrong and not everyone appreciated her.  Sometimes when people were rude or unaccepting of her or others that she loved she’d say to me, “It’s ok honey.  I’m gonna kill ‘em vith kindness.”  And she did.  She took food, rabbits, candy, groceries or offered her work-worn hands to help them.  One time I was helping her with some people who were especially cantankerous.  She again reminded me, “Honey, ve’ gonna kill ‘em vith kindness.  They von’t even know vat hit them.”

Emilie went home to Germany to die, but her words echo across time and sea.

Tip of the Week:   

Twenty reasons we should show kindness, respect and consideration to others:

1.                  They are older.
2.                   They know more than we do.
3.                   They know less than we do.
4.                   They got here first.
5.                   They have educational qualifications in the subject under discussion.
6.           We are in their house.
7.                    They once helped us financially.
8.                    They have been good to us all our lives.
9.                    They are less fortunate than us.
10.                They have achieved special status in the wider world.
11.                 We are serving them in a shop.
12.                They are in the right.
13.                They are our boss.
14.                They work for us.
15.                They are a policeman/teacher/doctor/judge.
16.                They are in need.
17.                They are doing us a favor.
18.                They paid for the tickets.
19.                 We phoned them, not the other way around.
20.                They have a menial job

(December 2005/January 2006 issue of Real Simple)

Recipe of the Week:

I would have liked to share a recipe of Emilie’s with you.  However, she was a “pinch of this and a dash of that” kind of cook.  Most every morning she fried her husband Bill eggs and chorizo sausages and served them with sourdough toast and a pile of beans.

Emilie lived about a half mile up a deserted road from our house – just the right distance for little kids to walk.  Often, to keep our kids busy, I’d send them with a plate of cookies or a loaf of bread to give to her. She was always glad to see them and give them a few chocolate or peanut butter chips to eat on their way back home.

So instead of a recipe from Emilie, I’ll share a cookie recipe:

Cookie Dough Brownies

1 cup melted butter
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup baking cocoa
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 cup flour

Mix melted butter, sugar and baking cocoa well.  Add vanilla and eggs.  Mix well.  Add salt and flour.  Mix well.  Pour into greased 9” x 13” pan and bake 28 minutes at 325 degrees.  Cool.

Cookie Dough Filling

½ cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
2 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
dash salt
1 cup flour

Mix all ingredients together well.  Spread on cooled brownies.

Chocolate Glaze

1 cup milk chocolate chips
½ tbsp. shortening

Melt together chocolate chips and shortening.  Spread chocolate on top of cookie dough filling.  Chill several hours before cutting.

Letter from the Trunk:

“I've heard that whenever you start feeling sorry for yourself you should go do something for somebody else.”

Dear Jane,

You should just see my house.  It's like we just moved in a day ago.  What a disaster.  A total and complete disaster.  We are switching rooms—all of us.  I got the girls’ room painted and the carpets of the two bedrooms shampooed.  I have everything that I had hidden under my bed, plus all of my dresser drawer stuff out, and all of the bookshelf items lying on the floor in my old room.  I have laundry in every corner of the house.  Some clean, some dirty, some who knows. 

And then just to make it more exciting for myself I decided that whatever was underneath the carpet could NOT be worse than the actual carpet.  The hall was a safe choice, or so I thought.  I would rip it up and see for myself once and for all.  So, the kids and I ripped it up, ripped up the pad, etc... and found two inches of dirt and hard wood floors.  We cleaned it up as best we could so that we were finally down to the glue.  I borrowed a palm sander and we went to work on it.  We ripped up the tack strips (took forever), and everything else we could find to rip up, and then sanded.  We were all so proud of ourselves.  We got half of the hall done.  Then Bert came home......  He had the audacity to tell us it was the ugliest thing he had ever seen, we wouldn't be happy, it would cost a fortune to heat this house with a hard wood floor, etc, etc, etc.  He said we’d have to add baseboards, we would have to repaint, we would have to....Well the list just went on and on.  So there I sat.  A hall half sanded, torn carpet, books and clothes scattered to kingdom come. 

Yesterday morning as I slid against the wall to the floor, just about in tears...the kids walked in from cleaning stalls.  They wanted to know how they could help.  I was going to lose it if I stayed in the house one more second trying to find some order.  So I tiredly said, "Well I've heard that whenever you start feeling sorry for yourself you should go do something for somebody else.  So what do you say about going over to Mrs. Cain's house and cleaning up the orchard?" 


They wondered if I'd had a good look around myself lately.  In fact Cache said, "Do you think it will ever get back in order??" 

I assured them that I had looked at it only too much.  So we packed in the car, got a gas station burrito and headed over.  We got there at eleven-thirty and she was out in the rain trying to burn a haystack pile of sticks with a blow torch.  Funny, funny lady.  We put our hoods on and started clearing.  The mist was rolling in and it was very foggy.  We could all see our breath.  There were times when the fog was so thick everything was super silent except in one corner of the orchard and there was a whizzing sound from the windmill close by.  Maddie and Calder got to help Mrs. Cain by the fire.  She gave each of them tree pruning sheers and let them clip off edges to throw in the fire.  The rest of us worked for four hours.  We stopped once to go inside for hot chocolate, date cookies, and the bathroom.  The last hour it quit misting and became a real drizzle.  By the time we were finished (not with the job but for the day) we were soaked, and every step we sloshed in our shoes.  We still have half the orchard to go, but it was fun.  It was fun to work with my kids, in the mist, with Mrs. Cain and the blackbirds cackling over the fire in the center of the orchard.  It made me wake up and realize that I'm not the only one feeling overwhelmed at the moment.  Mrs. Cain is eighty-five, she has her lawn to take care of by herself, her house, and a ten acre orchard.  I felt like drying up my own tears and crying for her instead.  

We came home, got in dry clothes and then Calder and Jesse started more sanding in the hall.  They haven't given up the dream....    Tomorrow I’m supposed to go on a youth camping trip.  I hope the drizzle lets up by then, but if not I'm just going to follow Mrs. Cain's example.  At the moment I can't decide which one though.  Should I follow the one where I take one hour of each day at a time—along with some date cookies and hot chocolate?  Or should I just go get a blow torch...  

I'll check back between loads of laundry.
Love, Rachel

I hope you have a good week and that Emilie’s advice to “kill ‘em vith kindness” will help your week go smoother.

Till next week, your neighbor—


Darla said...

I miss Neighbor Jane newsletters.. You have touched so many lives.. you will never know what your friendship has done / meant to me..

Love you JANEY PAYNEY.... :)


melanie said...

I loved Rachael's letter. And this post.

Anonymous said...

Love the story of Emilie. I had a boss once who would tell us to do the same thing with rude
customers. It usually worked! Loye

Gail said...

Oh my goodness! I remember that week so well! Rachel kept coming in the office and asking my advice about refinishing the floors. I thought it was a great idea and then all of a sudden they carpeted the whole house. I never knew the reason and now I do!! Thanks for the memories, Gail

Danielle andre said...

Fit my life perfectly! I haven't read your blog in a while and wow I have missed it! And you. Hope to get a Jane hug when we come to Moses lake in July. Lots of love!!

Ande said...

I do miss the newsletter. I just thought you should know that.

I often think of Emili's advice to kill with kindness.

Mandy Belle McGinnis said...

Hi Jane, I don't know if you still remember me, or if your kids remebe me, but this is Mandy Milligan. My email is, or my blog is Mandy Belle McGinnis.

Mandy Belle McGinnis said...

My name isMandy Milligan an my email is or my blog is Mandy Belle McGinnis.