Sunday, June 28, 2009

A new week

Well, believe it or not, my amazing husband was able to fix the computer so I'm back - I sure hope it doesn't crash again anytime soon. Yes, being married to someone who understands all about computers certainly has some very special benefits! Now I just have to get busy making backups in case something like this happens again.

***

In the meantime, I'm going to continue the story of Becky, the modern teenage girl who unexpectedly landed in her aunt's traditional homeschooling family...

That's it. I'm doomed. Where do I start? With the worst, I guess. It turns out that instead of taking my clothes, I picked up Grandma's suitcase, the one where she keeps old scraps of fabric. My jeans and tops! The cute little strapless dress I only bought three weeks ago! My blue mini-skirt! Catherine, on the other hand, was very happy about getting Grandma's old fabrics and immediately set to making a patchwork quilt out of them.

Of course, I immediately wrote to Grandma and asked her to send my clothes along. But until the package arrives, I need something to wear. Catherine very generously offered me to borrow her clothes. I can just as easily wear a sack over my head, I thought. But as it appeared, she has more normal-looking clothes than the ones she usually wears. Her aunt, Uncle Ben's sister, often sends her packages of clothes that didn't fit her daughters. However,Catherine thinks that knee-length skirts aren't modest enough. I ask you! She usually wears ankle-length skirts and dresses. I thought her legs must look terrible, but no, she's just slightly crazy.

Let's go on. A short description of the house we live in. The first story consists of a large kitchen, a dining room, a sitting room, a laundry room, and Uncle Ben's working room which also functions as a library. On the second story we have five bedrooms (one of them is David's old room, and now Aunt Anne turned it into a sewing room) and two bathrooms. I, of course, was sent to live in the same room with Catherine. Until then she had her own room. I would be really mad if someone was placed in my room just like that, but Catherine acts as though she couldn't be happier.

The boys sleep in one room. Uncle Ben and Aunt Anne have a big soft rug in their bedroom for an enormous labrador named Corny. Rachel has her own bedroom, the smallest. But Aunt Anne said that they "hope to give Rachel a little brother or sister". They are crazy! In their age! They have too many children anyway.

The house is surrounded by a large garden of fruit trees, a vegetable patch and fields. A 15-minute walk will take us to our nearest neighbours - another homestead. What a miserable place.

I was happy about not having to go to school. I thought "home education" is for idiots. But it turns out that I'm not good enough to do the program that is meant for my age! I have to study together with Catherine. Of course, she was over the moon with joy and immediately volunteered to help me. She's so boring.

Studies begin immediately after breakfast. And prayers, of course. I forgot to say they pray every day. Catherine prays twice or even three times a day, it drives me crazy. I told Aunt Anne right away that I'm not going to pray, and thakfully, she let me off the hook. We study for only about two-three hours, but somehow, do more than we did in school.

After classes, there's still plenty of time until lunch. During those hours, Aunt Anne finds something to do for everyone. Uncle Ben (he's an engineer) is in town at this time, or if he's at home, he's working in his office and we have to be quiet as mice if we walk by his door. So Aunt Anne usually sends the boys to work in the garden, sweep the paths or pull weeds, or water the plants. Catherine volunteers (!) to clean up the kitchen after breakfast and helps Aunt Anne make lunch. Rachel follows as if she's glued to them.

Aunt Anne won't leave me alone either. Of course, I told her right away that I'm not used to housework and can't do anything (as if I ever wanted to!) - she didn't believe me. Later, when I broke six glasses in my one miserable attempt to wash the dishes, tried to wash the floor using fabric softener and fruitlessly wasted half a box of matches trying to start a fire on the stove, she realized I'm right. But she didn't give up, and gives me all sorts of boring jobs, such as sweeping the floor, dusting and watering the plants in the garden. I'm so glad my friends can't see me right now.

After lunch, as far as I know, normal people do normal stuff. At home, I would finish my homework as quickly as possible, and then I would go out with my friends or my boyfriend. We'd go to the mall or movies, and if it wasn't a school night, we could be out nearly all night long. Sometimes we'd have slumber parties with my girlfriends. Here, of course, there's none of that. These people don't even have a TV! Catherine explained to me that Aunt Anne and Uncle Ben believe that TV is a bad influence. And it seems she agrees. I told you they're crazy.

They have a computer and internet, though. But each of the children has a one-hour-per-day limit of using it. Not that I would have time for more - there are seven people in the house, and Uncle Ben uses the computer for work. Anyway, after lunch there are still many, many hours until evening. Oh well, I thought, at worst I could stretch out on the couch reading a book, sleep a bit, paint my nails or listen to some music. But no. Can you guess Aunt Anne's motto? "Children should always be occupied!"

So Sam plays the flute, Nathan plays the violin, and Catherine plays the piano. They do this about an hour or two after lunch. Later the boys and Rachel have play time until dinner. Catherine has all kinds of weird hobbies to keep herself busy during that time - sewing, knitting, crocheting and embroidery. My Grandma would have been proud of her. Later she helps Aunt Anne make dinner and set the table. I have nothing left to do but read. But it's not like I have too much to read, either. There are plenty of books and magazines in the library, but no juicy love stories or good detective stories, or anything interesting at all. They have shelves upon shelves of holy books, biographies, art books and classics. Believe it or not, I'm so bored that I'm getting through the works of Tolstoy.

Twice a week, Catherine visits the neighbours and gives their children piano lessons. They pay her a bit for that. I forgot to mention children here get no allowance, not that we'd have anywhere to spend it.

After dinner, we're left alone perhaps for an hour or two. After that it's bath time and bed. We're sent to bed early, at about ten. Which is about now. Good night!

PS: I hope my clothes arrive soon!

18 comments:

Mrs. White said...

Mrs. Anna, I am so glad you are back! I missed your writings!
Blessings
Mrs. White

E. L. Fay said...

Definitely picking up, now that you're starting to really get into it. The part about the fabric softener was funny! I'd like to see more back-and-forth between Becky and her relatives in regard to the cultural differences. For instance, how do they react to her? How does she learn about why they do things this way?

Shannon said...

Haha! It sounds like Becky is in for a few surprises! I look forward to reading more of the story.

Rose said...

Wow! Is Israel so much like America?

Rachel said...

I am very much enjoying this diary of yours, Mrs T. Please, continue!

And I am so glad that your husband was able to fix the computer for you--I had a hard drive die a couple of months ago, and it was awful until we were able to get a new one installed (something my husband is able to do). He is still trying to see if he can download the things I had stored on it, but it is slow going...

GL getting it all saved elsewhere!

Mrs. R said...

Hi Anna!
What a joyous surprise to find a post from you today!! And then to find it is a continuation of your lovely story, this is such fun.

Backups are SO important, don't put them off thinking you'll "get to them later", for later never comes, but the next computer crash will! I can't tell you how many people I know who have lost many years of photos because they never backed them up.
Blessings,
Mrs. R

Mrs. R said...

Oh, and Anna, check out my blog:
http://www.honeyfromflintyrocks.blogspot.com for my post on a new technology being used to thwart abortion!
Blessings,
Mrs. R

Miss Kelsye said...

I have been reading your blog for a couple of months now and I absolutely enjoy it!! I love your writings and I really enjoy reading about Becky. If you have time check out my blog at http://dedicateddaughter.blogspot.com/.

Thanks ,
Kelsye

Bailey said...

I remember a comment made on one of the previous journal entries about Becky being too shallow. I regret to say, if Christ had not saved me, I would probably have been as cynical and rude as Becky is. I once ripped out a page in my diary where I had belittled my relatives for being "crafty people." So. ;) But I don't think I've ever washed the floor with fabric softener....

I'm not a typical teenager, but I do recognize the diary-type attitude I used to have. You're on the right track. Can't wait to see the turn-around! :)

Anonymous said...

Rose- the story most clearly doesn't take place in Israel...or at least, I don't think it does. There are no 'homesteads' here, or at least no homestead culture, and homeschooling is extremely rare. Usually those who homeschool in Israel are secular individualists. Again, there are exceptions, but on the whole, the religious community here contains very, very few homeschoolers. Probably most religious people hardly know it's an option.
Other hints - most conservative ultra-Orthodox Jews do not keep 'house dogs' (they may keep them outside though). Certainly conservative religious Jews would not be sleeping with a dog in the bedroom (it's considered an 'impure' animal). Yes, there are more modern religious types, but it doesn't seem like this family is one of them.
Also, the hobbies are not really Israeli. Unfortunately, most Israelis, certainly of the ultra-orthodox ilk, do not learn music in depth. Definitely the boys don't. And most ultra-orthodox families would consider Tolstoy too corrupting for their kids....again, unless they are more modern, which doesn't seem to be the case here.
So either this story takes place outside of Israel, or this family is truly individualist.
Tammy

Anonymous said...

Dear Anna
you are really a talented writer when you blog and write about theological and daily life issues. I always admire the way you can inform and entertain at the same time.
Therefore I hope that you are not cross that I critisize your fictional writing a little bit.

It seems to be a little bit of an advertisement story for homeschooling. The message of the whole text is so obvious, so strong, the things you describe stereotype that the value of the text itself, the story of the text is almost boring. After reading the first two fragments everybody knows the storyline: the little worldly girl (spoiled by a secular and feminist culture) refuses the conservative atmosphere, the prayers, the homeschooling and behaves more than disgusted and silly. after some pivotal events and experiences in her life she will realize that this kind of lifestyle is the most blessing alternative to her earlier life...

I hope you do not despise me because of my frank words. I actually love your blog and your articles but this story is a littl bit thin.

Sincerely
Rosa

Michelle at #!/usr/bin/mom said...

Anna, your story is getting alone nicely! I enjoyed reading about Becky's domestic mishaps. I don't know if you intend Aunt Anne's family to have a dishwasher and a microwave, but in case you're interested in other ideas for ways a person can screw up -- I once blew up a microwave by trying to a boil an egg (uncracked) and twice flooded the whole kitchen by using the wrong type of soap in the dishwasher (it took me forever to reliably remember which soap was for the dishwasher and which soap was for hand-washing!) I also caught a toaster oven on fire, but that was from not cleaning it out between uses.

PS, a quick editor's note. You said that the house had four bedrooms, but you listed five:
1. David's old room / sewing room
2. Catherine's room that she's sharing with Becky
3. The room the boys share
4. Uncle Ben and Aunt Anne's room
5. Rachel's room

Country Mouse said...

This is such an interesting concept!! You are so talented :). Just a suggestion, (please do not take it the wrong way, your story is great without any suggestion from me!) Maybe Becky could go more in depth on her emotional feelings of things, she's had alot happen and suddenly, it just seems odd that she hasn't really addressed from an emotional standpoint any of the issues shes facing, such as the death of her parents, the move to her aunt and uncles, and how this has affected her on a deeper level. She seems very matter of fact about everything, almost as if she is writing a letter and not a journal.

I don't intend on being a critic here, so I apologize if I come off that way! You really are a terrific writer, and your story is very interesting. Good luck, and I cannot wait for the next installment! :)

Mrs. Anna T said...

Tammy,

You're right, the story does not take place in Israel, and even not in a Jewish community (later I intend to expand on the challenges for a religious family living outside a community... such as no minyan, etc).

Rosa,

In fact, the storyline is not as "obvious" as you might think it is...

Michelle,

Thanks for the correction!

Country Mouse,

As you will hopefully see later, these issues will be addressed. From my perspective, Becky simply finds these issues too painful and disturbing, so she's trying to suppress them until urged to face them.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Also, Tammy, I've always wondered why people in Israel don't learn music more often. In Russia, if you saw a boy playing the violin, you'd know with a certainty of a 95% that the boy is Jewish...

Anonymous said...

And in Israel, if you see a boy playing the violin, you can be 95% certain his parents are Russian...:)
But seriously, religious Jews here don't encourage their boys to learn music in depth because it requires a lot of time. This time is taken away from Torah studies and is thus considered 'bitul Torah'.
Luckily not everyone here is of that mindset, but you'd be hardpressed to find an ultra-conservative family like the one in your story where the boys practice musical instruments everyday.
Tammy

Susanna said...

Please, please, please!!! Keep posting! I am really enjoying the story!

Barbara Bauer said...

Hello Mrs. Anna!

I've been following your story and I have some constructive criticism to offer. You have a clear and readable writing style, but you often use cliches ("I could dance with joy!" "over the moon with joy") that distract from the text.

The story concept itself is also heavily cliched: secular girl placed into devout household that she hates (but will doubtless prove to be a worthwhile way of life). You describe Becky's love of fashion and thoughtless scorn for homeschooling culture, but you don't give her any sympathetic traits. Instead she complains about everything. She comes off as annoying--certainly not a person I'd want to spend 200+ pages listening to.

I'm worried that Becky will continue being a straw-man character meant to show the foolishness of secular life. I suggest you flesh her out some more--give her some career aspirations, give us readers some reasons she likes her boyfriend, some details about her old hobbies and interests. Becky needs to be a real person with good/bad traits--not simply a two-dimensional parody of a teenage girl.

Just my two cents.

-Barbara