Saturday, January 30, 2010

Joy in Suffering: A Paradox?

For as long as I have been a Christian (and certainly much, much longer even before I was aware of it) it has been my experience that the most common response when hearing of bad news (dire prognosis from the doctor, car accident, marital troubles, etc.) is the request to pray for God to quickly heal. Quickly resolve, quickly bring reconciliation and quickly comfort.

There is certainly nothing at all wrong with that, since our God is indeed the Great Physician, a God of comfort, mercy, reconciliation and restoration. Especially during the most difficult times in our lives, we find a tremendous amount of comfort and strength in those truths, and we find ourselves under the shelter of His love a great deal, praying for those very things.

However, I read a quote the other night that really stood out to me.

"I read of great men of God in the past and realize there are two common elements in their lives: suffering, and a love of the contemplation of God's attributes and works." - Dr. James White - The Forgotten Trinity

The more I thought about this statement, the more I realized just how true it is even in my own maturity in Christ. While I would never measure my own suffering with that of others (I know of so many Christians that have suffered far beyond anything I have experienced) I can say that there have been some very difficult battles in my life.

I had to ask myself, would I be where I am spiritually if every time a difficult trial came my way God would have just spared me of all suffering and smoothe it all over?

- If He immediately healed my damaged neck 18 years ago in the head on car accident?

- If instead of so many people I know and love rejecting Christ, they all embraced Him?

- If I had never fallen horribly into sin and suffered deep conviction to the point of weeping horribly for nearly 5 months non-stop?

- If instead of watching my first husband battle and lose the fight with cancer, God just took it all away and restored his health?

- If instead of suffering the pain of losing friends over something so monumentally petty, God just glossed over the whole thing and made it all better?

It's a rather rhetorical question because the truth of the matter is, these difficult and painful and heartbreaking things in our lives cause us to drop to our knees in prayer to seek His wisdom where we have none, His mercy where heartache or physical pain does not stop, His guidance when we feel utterly lost and His strength when all we want to do is give up, give in and stop pressing onward. It's in the praying for these things that we do in fact take great delight in contemplation of God's great attributes and works, exactly as the quote above states. We know He is more than able to give us the answers we lack, we know He is more than able to bring us direction and comfort, and we know that even if what we might be praying for is not His will for us at this present time, that He will also give us the grace to handle whatever it is we need to handle.

As we go through the suffering, we experience a great love for contemplating how amazing our God truly is. I can honestly say that were it not for the suffering of extreme pain I experience when I have my tummy troubles, I'm not entirely convinced I would have ever considered spending hours on end praising God for His goodness and His mercy in my life. While I certainly do not look forward to times of great physical pain, it's in those times that my heart and mind stay firmly fixed on God. I never think about tv shows or laundry or vacations or anything temporal, but I think about how Christ suffered far more than anything I will ever experience first hand, and how I have access to the Father because of the Son, and what He did. Truly, in suffering I find great and overwhelming joy.

When I think about some of the most mature, wise, full of grace and compassion brothers and sisters in Christ that I know, the above quote by Dr. White rings true again. Each of their lives have been marked with a great deal of suffering in some way. No, they are not the kind of people that have lived relatively comfortable, priveledged lives but instead they are the people who have suffered emotionally, financially, spiritually, physically or some combination of all of those. Those are the people who put their trust firmly in Christ and depend 100% on His grace to get them through whatever it is they're going through. When that trial is over they are richer for it, when they have spent time dwelling on the goodness of God, and they have grown far more than they would have, were it not for that trial.

James 1:2-4 says this:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Of this passage, Calvin had this to say:

"We certainly dread diseases, and want, and exile, and prison, and reproach, and death, because we regard them as evils; but when we understand that they are turned through God’s kindness unto helps and aids to our salvation, it is ingratitude to murmur, and not willingly to submit to be thus paternally dealt with."

I don't know about anyone else, but for me that's a hard truth to get my head around. I tend to murmur quite a bit when I'm afflicted with a trial, even though I know it's something that God will use to strengthen me. It's interesting to me how on the one hand I know full well that trials produce a stronger faith, and yet I will still find time to complain about being IN the trial.

I guess that's my flesh (and emotions?) rebelling against what I know is good for me.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

New Stuff - FREE Stuff - Store Stuff

So, what have I been up to this week? A couple of fun things in the "store stuff" category - a major change and a VERY cool Reflections Giveaway! Read on for details:

What's New at Reflections?I made the decision this week to cancel the Reflections Apparel weekly e-flyer I'd been sending out for the last 5 years. I made that decision because I found something better. Better, faster, easier and just like the weekly e-flyer, completely voluntary on the part of the reader.

Much easier for me, because there is absolutely NO coding involved on my part. Tweaking the code each week for the e-flyer had become something I really didn't look forward to anymore, so it was time to do away with that. Instead of the weekly e-flyer, I've opened a page at Facebook. Some of the great benefits of having this page:

Daily or as it happens notification on new products, sales, giveaways, and more. This replaces the very outdated once a week e-flyer that was limited to cafepress' once weekly ability to contact subscribers. The improvement allows us to notify you immediately if we've got a special, time sensitive coupon code, or any new goodies in store.

A fun, Happy Customer - Reflections Gear photo album! Do you have a favorite Reflections product? Send us your picture and we'll include you in the photo album as well!

A much broader range of products to choose from. Reflections brand is available on A LOT more gear than what you may have realized. Be sure to click the INFO tab on the page to see where you can purchase Reflections brand.

Updates weekly on our most popular products across all our fulfillment partners. This will replace the PopTee of the Week (because what's hot this week may not always be a Tee!)

Product notice interaction. We love feedback and we'd encourage you to leave a comment any time. We'd encourage you as well to share any link you see at Reflections FB with your friends, so they know where to get awesomely cool, family friendly gear!

And now, for something cool... and FREE!

To celebrate the fun, new changes, I decided to have a Facebook FAN giveaway!

Giveaway details:

1. You must be a fan of Reflections Family Friendly Gifts.

2. When we reach 100 fans, there will be a random draw from all the fans (so be sure to tell your friends!)

3. The chosen winner will have their choice of any one of our amazingly soft & comfy unisex value tees from our cafepress shop (there are over 200 great designs available on the value tee, so browse now to find your favorite!)

Reflections Value Tees Giveaway!

That's it! If you're not a fan yet, be sure to do that now and then tell your friends too so we can hit 100 and give away a cool t-shirt :-)

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Technology: Is Your Site DDUD Friendly?

For those like myself that suffer from DDUD (Degenerative Dial Up Disorder), life in our high-speed, high-tech world can be a real frustrating experience (and you may nominate that for the understatement of the decade, if you like). Folks who left the world of DDUD years ago, honestly have no idea what it's like, and can't understand why you can't just download a 958 mega-snazillion-byte file in 90 seconds, the way they do. Back in the day when everyone was a DUD (before it became degenerative), it was just about the same for everyone but it's become much, much worse since virtually NO ONE remembers us DDUDs, when preparing files, creating sites, or using internet technology in general. To add insult to injury, it becomes worse all the time as more and more sites out there completely neglect sufferers of DDUD.

The closest comparison I can think of to help non-sufferers understand, would be picking up your phone to make an important phone call, and not getting a dial tone. So you hang up, pick it up again hoping this time for a tone. Repeat that process 50-100 times, and eventually you might get a dial tone, and the connection might even hold long enough to make the call. Or, it might not (in which case you repeat the 50-100 efforts all over again, or just give up and send smoke signals).

People who do not have DDUD seem to think the solutions are simple. Why not just get DSL? Why not just move? Have you considered satellite internet? Are you kidding me? If DSL were available in 100% of geographical areas, DDUDs would no longer exist. Move? ROFLOL, that's the funny one. Sure, all DDUDs everywhere can afford to just pack up their homes and move to another place where DDUDhood isn't a factor. Satellite internet? Oh sure that's the simple solution, for a mere $399 install + $399 equipment (on a 24 month term) you too can have satellite internet! I don't know about you, but I know lots of people that have 800 bucks laying around.

No, none of the solutions are simple or inexpensive. So I have a suggestion for those who own websites and prepare files for download by the general public.

Please, please PLEASE remember us DDUDs. There are actually still quite a few of us left, and we're essentially locked out of your sites. We can't see your graphics, we can't watch your videos, we can't download your audio files and we can't interact on your sites if you're using the flashy bells and whistles type applications. Those things just do not work with DDUD. If at all possible, please make your sites DDUD friendly! Specifically, if you have audio for download, in addition to your super-duper high quality file, you might want to consider creating a secondary file at a lower rate (trust me, it sounds fine - us DDUDs are quite accustomed to lower rate audio) that is much smaller in size and much more reasonable to download. Us DDUDs cannot download 40mg audio files, unless we want to lock up our entire system and tie up the phone line for the hours it will take to download it. A 15mg file on the other hand, is a fairly reasonable file size and doesn't take all day to download. A DDUD's time is just as valuable as anyone else's, amen?

Just a thought for your consideration.

(I have to give a tremendously large hat tip to brothers James and Rich with Alpha and Omega Ministries who do realize not everyone is enjoying highspeed internet)

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Rarely a day goes by that I don't sit here at my desk and design something. Inspiration for design comes from many places, and one of those places believe it or not, is through dreams. On a very regular basis, I will see a poster, t-shirt, bumpersticker or some other type of product in a dream, that I created. In reality of course I have not created it at all, but in the dream I have and it looks wonderful! I generally make an effort to recreate the design I've seen in the dream, and sometimes it works out quite well (and even better than what I saw in the dream) and sometimes it doesn't work at all.


The dream world is where this latest design comes from. In the dream I saw this poster on the wall above my desk with the other posters I have similar to it. I especially liked this one because of the dual message and scenery, and for the way it brightened up the wall with the seascape coloring.

So when I had the time yesterday, I made the effort to recreate it. It turned out even more vivid than it was in the dream, and I'm quite pleased to offer it on a very limited line which includes a poster, calendar print, fridge magnets and postcards. You can see that new line here.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Saturday, January 23, 2010

This, That & Some Other

None of this is really worthy of an entire post of it's own, so it's another miscellaneous ramblage of stuff:

• Celebrity Christians

I know it's been hashed & rehashed, but today the thought occured to me that we (Christendom) have this horrible tendency to esteem certain people over and above others, in the household of faith, especially when it comes to prayer requests that come our way. Now before anyone gets all defensive and stuff, let me just say that I'm sure I've done it as well, without even really thinking it through. Example: I get a prayer request for Joe Famous Christian, and a prayer request for Joe Obscure Servant. Both need prayer, but for whatever reason my thoughts are focused on the Joe Famous. Why? Well, I think it has a lot to do with our culture that tells us famous people matter more than every day people. Somewhere in the back of my brain that message is there, whether I want it there or not. I see examples of this all the time on blogs, twitter, etc. I'll see a prayer request for someone no one knows, and never see it mentioned again by anyone. Then I see a prayer request for someone we all know, and see it mentioned over and over again, in various places. I certainly do not wish that we not pray for Joe Famous, but it seems to me we certainly ought not be respecters of persons, among the household of faith.

• Facebookery

Seems like as good a word as any to describe reactivating your FB account, updating your pics, clearing out your friend's list and that sort of thing. That's what I did yesterday and a great big hat tip to Kim for walking me thru all the new privacy controls. FB has changed quite a bit since I was last there in August of last year. Its kind of funny to me that I've had FB for years and I still don't know how to use all the different features. Some I just never cared about, some never worked due to dial up, and some were just stupid in the first place. However, it's nice to see so many family members there (and all their pics). The weird part is seeing so many people I grew up with (on other people's pages) and how much they've either changed, or stayed exactly the same.

• Product Review!

Herbacin Hand CreamI have what I call PC elbow. No, my elbow is not politcally correct. It's computer elbow. In the winter months I almost always wear a fleece sweater in the house, and while I have my sweater on I do what I always do at my computer chair, and tend to lean on my left elbow a lot while I'm designing. The combination of the cloth against the skin and the skin against the arm of my chair causes my elbow to get really irritated. I've used all kinds of creams and lotions for it but nothing really makes any difference. Until NOW, that is. The new product that I found is a German product called Herbacin hand cream. I suppose it's the combo of the ingredients but whatever it is, after using it the first day (I've been using it for about a week now) the skin on my elbow is completely healed, and even softer than my other elbow. This stuff is amazing, and I heartily recommend it. Go to the site here for all the info, and all their other products. I just love it when I find a product that does what it claims. :-)

• Elliptical Illusions

Okay, so I have determined to get into shape. We bought an elliptical, brought it home and Kev put it together. This past Monday was my "start date" and every morning at 8:30 am I get on the machine. I keep track of my time, distance and calories burned, so I can chart my progress and make an effort to increase my time at least a little each day. We have the tension setting set the to the lowest tension, because we both figured working our way up, would be good. I was a little dismayed at first when I discovered I could go no more than 2 minutes without feeling like my legs were going to explode, but I just chalked that up to 27 years of having kids, raising kids, being out of shape big time, and needing to start really really slow. Imagine my surprise then when yesterday we discovered that when Kev put the machine together he didn't calibrate the tension correctly at all! I have no idea what setting it's really on, since all settings feel like the same exact tension. He's going to take that apart on Monday and fix it, so it's accurate. It may turn out that tension 1 is still really hard for me, but that's okay too. As my friend DK reminded me the other day, it's one step at a time. That's my only goal right now!

• Babyface

Several friends commented to me privately after I posted the picture the other day of myself and my oldest daughter Caryn. They all said pretty much the same thing, and wondered if I was about 12 when I had her. It never really occured to me how young I look in that picture, until I looked at it again today. In case anyone was wondering, no I was not 12, I was 18. The grand age where you think you've got it all figured out, know what you're doing, where you're going and how you're going to get there. Twenty seven years and countless detours, pit-stops, failures, successes, changes and maturity make you laugh at that silly little 18 year old girl. While becoming a parent at such a young age did indeed cause me to grow up a lot, and very quickly, I had no idea how much I didn't know at the time. It would be an awesome thing to go visit that very young lady and tell her what I know now, but of course we can't do that. We can however make every effort to impart life's wisdom to our kids, and hope they listen and learn without having to make their own countless detours and pit stops a long the way.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Friday, January 22, 2010


The other day I received an email from Windows Live, thanking me for being a hotmail user for 10+ years. In the email were a few snippets of what was hot/trending 10+ years ago. Windows 98, Spice Girls and cell phones being mostly an annoyance. I never had 98, never liked the Spice Girls, and just recently bought my first cell phone. I've never been much for hot trends.

I like to look back though, and I do it often. Today marks a very special day for me, because today was the day twenty-seven years ago, that I became a mother. You have to say it really slow, like "t w e n t y. . . s e v e n. . . y e a r s" and with a scary movie announcer voice, to get a fuller affect of what it feels like to be a mom to a 27 year old. In so many ways, it's just a very surreal feeling that my oldest child is 27.

Carla and Caryn, a very long time agoI remember the day Caryn was born like it was yesterday, and it was nearly 3 decades ago. It's very odd how time and memories seem to stand still, no matter how much time has actually passed. When Caryn got married last fall, I was determined not to cry at all at her wedding, but as I approached the reception line and saw my beautiful daughter in her gown, my throat started to hurt, my nose began to sting and I couldn't stop. Was that my baby-muffin-head-sugar-bug-plum standing there, a grown woman, getting married? Yes, it most certainly was. It doesn't seem to matter how much time has passed since she was a baby, she is still my baby.

Happy birthday Caryn! The calendar might say you're 27, but you're still my fluffy sugar bunny. I know, totally sappy. :-) Some things never change.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Okay so, I'm a LOST fan. If you're not, or hate LOST or have some kind of issue with television shows in general, this post is not for you.

If on the other hand, you're itching to know what in the world really happened to Claire, if Benjamin Linus is really as twisted as he seems to be, and if Locke is in fact really Locke (and how Richard stays the same age no matter what year it is), then this post is for you!

Recently, one of the fulfillment companies I use for my t-shirt designs (cafepress) announced a pretty sweet partnership with abc television. Minus all the technical jargon, I now get to create fan gear for LOST! So, I have and I'm quite pleased with the results so far:

Driveshaft t-shirts and gifts Lucky Numbers t-shirts and gifts

Oceanic 6 t-shirts and gifts Flight 815 Survivor t-shirts and gifts
LOST - Hurley t-shirts and gifts LOST - Jack t-shirts and gifts
LOST - Kate t-shirts and gifts LOST - Locke t-shirts and gifts
LOST - Sayid t-shirts and gifts LOST - Sawyer t-shirts and gifts

Whether you're looking for LOST t-shirts, stickers, mugs, hats, or bags, Reflections has a large collection of one of a kind LOST gifts to choose from, for any true fan!

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

May 21, 2011: International False Prophet Day

Harold Camping has done some pretty wild mathematical gymnastics once again and set the date for end of all things as we know it, for May 21, 2011. This isn't the first time he's done this. Last time it was a pretty sure bet that it would be September 6, 1994 but that he concluded after the fact that he may have made a mathematical error. May have? He seems to think the silly Mayans had it all wrong when they calculated 12/21/2012, but that instead he alone has cracked the Biblical mystery and nailed down May 21, 2011 as Judgement Day. His website even boasts the little graphic that says that very thing. He's not at all shy about his prediction.

Really, it is unthinkable that any rational minded person would follow this man's teachings, but the sad truth is that many do and those followers are worldwide thanks to his Family Radio broadcasts that span the globe. Reading this article yesterday a particular section stood out to me:

"Employees at the Oakland, Calif., office run printing presses that publish Camping's pamphlets and books, and some wear T-shirts that read, "May 21, 2011." They're happy to talk about the day they believe their souls will be retrieved by Christ."

May 21, 2011 seemed like as good a day as any to declare international false prophet day. A friend suggested that I create a line of t-shirts to counter Harold Camping's wild claims, and I have done just that. You can get yours here.

May 21, 2011 may very well be judgement day. Hopefully, on that day when the sun comes up then sets again just like any other day, Camping's worldwide followers will wake up and judge him to be the false prophet that he is, and put their hope and their trust in genuine Biblical Christianity.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Friday, January 15, 2010

Liberal Warning

What would it look like if people walked around with content warnings the way tv shows and movies have warnings about their content? I think for some of us, it might look a little something like this:

Liberal Warning!


An excellent conversation starter for sure! Also available in hoodies, bumperstickers, tote & zippered bags and mugs . See the full line of Liberal Warning! right here.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Two Things in 2010

After many many years of making and not keeping New Year's Resolutions, I decided several years ago to stop making them. It always seems like a good idea to start a new thing at the beginning of a new year, but for whatever reason, I just can't seem to stick with it.

It's not really a NY resolution, but I have determined to do two things in 2010.

First thing I've determined to do, is be less negative. Whether that means critical or just plain nit-picky about something someone said or wrote, whiney and complaining about the cold winter weather, or whatever else it happens to be. It occured to me not long ago that I just complain too much about too many things. I honestly don't think Christians should be like this. I think we should be looking for and rejoicing in all the good and wonderful things all around us every day. Now I don't mean to say we should stick our heads in the sand and go all Joe Ignorant about what's going on in the world, the church, and that sort of thing, but I do mean to say that being critical and complaining about things ALL the time isn't right either.

The second thing I've determined to do in 2010 is to improve my health. Turning 45 at the end of 2009 caused Kev and I to take a little stock of how we're doing health-wise (we'd like to be around to see all the grandkids and future grandkids grow up) and we decided it was time to be pro-active. We decided back in November that when he received his vacation pay out for vacation time he didn't take in 2009, that we'd spend part of that money on an elliptical machine for us. Well, yesterday the elliptical arrived and he put it all together.

He had me test it after he was finished, and after spending less than 2 minutes at the lowest tension setting, I can see that this is going to be a lesson in endurance training. I don't have any crazy goals to set, but I'm going to just get on the machine every day for a very short period of time, and try to work my way towards increasing the time spent on it. It's going to be really hard because I'm dreadfully out of shape, so if anyone would care to volunteer to be in my cheering section, I'd be more than happy to hear from you once in a while.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Fashion Crisis Anyone?

The other day at the grocery store I noticed a woman who really motivated me to think about growing up.

It wasn't as if I was looking for motivation or anything, but it was next to impossible not to notice this woman. The way she walked with a real bounce to her step and a swing to the back porch was extremely unusual. The clothes she was wearing were the next thing that screamed out "notice me NOW". Skin tight jeans and extremely low cut top (the kind of styles you might see on a 20 year old) covering a somewhat overweight body that most assuredly should have never been allowed to wear skin tight jeans and a low cut top. The next thing about her that demanded attention was her platinum blonde bleached hair, that had seen the bleach bottle so many times the damage was extensive. Along with the way she walked, the way she was dressed and the shocking blonde hair, was the kind of make up she was wearing. Applied in the style that might inspire some might say "painted up like a clown" this lady had on more make up than what would ever be considered normal for any setting, other than a circus. What made her makeup appear even more unnatural, if possible, was the fact that it was clear this woman had to be at least 65 years old.

Bouncing through the grocery store chatting with the lady she was with, this lady appeared to be rather enjoying the attention she was drawing from everyone who passed her (I assure you, it was impossible not to notice her).

Now, I don't want to go down the road as to all the possible reasons this woman was dressed this way, but she really caused me to think about my own appearance and the impression I might give by my appearance. When I was about 14 my best friend and I had a conversation about the way "old ladies" dress. I suspect at 14, "old ladies" might have been anyone over the age of 40, which places me in the category that we once discussed. During that conversation we agreed that we'd never dress like old ladies, but that we'd still be wearing t-shirts and jeans until we were 80. We also once had a discussion about how we'd let our kids do whatever they wanted. Fourteen year old girls say a lot of things that do not always have a basis in reality.

Well, the older I get and the more into "old lady" status I get, I think I finally understand why us old ladies dress the way we do. At least some of us, anyway. Jeans have not been a part of my warddrobe for at least 10 years, since I had child #5. After five kids, jeans just don't fit or feel the way they once did, and life is lived much easier in pants that have a little give to them, if you know what I mean. After kids #6 and #7, it was pretty clear to me that "comfy pants" would be my new best friend. It's still possible that some day I'll lose all this baby-weight and wear jeans again, but I doubt it. In a matter of 10 years I had 4 kids and put on a grand total of 250 pounds. I've lost most of that weight but have never seen my pre-baby weight since, and likely never will. Having seven kids is most definitely not kind to the body. For all those women who've had a small herd of children and DO get back in shape right away, I admire them in gigantic ways. I am not one of those women.

So what about wearing t-shirts until I'm 80? Well, yes, I can see that happening. I design t-shirts, I wear t-shirts, I own tons and tons of them, and I love them. Perfect in the winter under a snuggly hoodie, and perfect in the summer with a comfy pair of shorts and flip flops. They're the perfect all-weather apparel, literally. Over the last couple of years though I've had sort of a fashion crisis though. I really don't want to wear t-shirts exclusively, all the time - but - it's really hard to find tops that work for me.

When I go shopping I see 2 categories: young, trendy, hip and tight and grandma tops with giant floral prints. I wouldn't be caught dead in young and trendy, and I wouldn't be caught dead in grandma floral tops either. Where is that category for me that is "not really old, not really young, keep the floral prints please"? I know it exists because I see other women my age wearing really nice tops that aren't in either category. When I have asked them where they shop, it's quite often one of those stores I can't even afford to buy a pair of socks in, let alone a shirt. I just have a really hard time locating that department in the stores that I can afford (like WalMart), so I tend to resort back to my gigantic supply of t-shirts and wear only those.

So, if you're reading this and you know where that department is in the local stores, would you please point me in that direction? My only other option is to move somewhere that I can go barefoot all year round and wear hippie dresses every day. I'd much prefer that, but I really don't see it happening any time soon.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cat Diapers

I really don't know what it is with me these days, but I can't seem to get it together to save my life. I try, really I do, but as soon as I think I've got it together, I realize I don't and *poof* there goes my feeling of accomplishment.

What do I mean by that? Well lets see if this rings any familiar bells with the ladies:

I go to the kitchen to wash the dishes. On the way, I notice some dirty socks and a hand towel in the mud room, so I grab those and head for the laundry room. I stop in the bathroom on the way and grab another dirty towel and the pajama pants someone left on the floor. Because clearly, that's where they go. I scoop those up and notice two plastic cups and grab those as well. I deposit the plastic cups in the kitchen and grab the scattered hand towels and make my way to the laundry room, again. I get in there and realize the wash needs to go in the dryer and the dryer load needs to come out before I can start another load. I do that, then sort the laundry and start load #3 that will need to be folded that day. As I scooped the small kitten sized lint sheet out of the lint filter in the dryer, I noticed the laundry room trash needs to be taken out, so I do that. Then I remember the bathroom trash needs to go too, as well as the kitchen trash. I head to the bathroom to grab that bag and notice the counter top is messy and the floor needs to be swept. I take the bathroom and laundry room trash out and head to the kitchen to get a fresh cloth and the broom. I notice the kitchen floor needs to be swept as well. After I finish the bathroom and deposit yet another hand towel into the laundry room, I notice that floor also needs to be swept. I sweep that floor and head back to the kitchen to wash the dishes, but realize I need to fold the laundry sitting on the guest bed in the laundry room, before the next load comes out and the next load goes into the dryer. I decide to go wash the dishes first.

I clean the tables and wipe down the counters, then sweep the floor. I notice the coffee is low in the pot and make another. I don't feel like washing the dishes just yet, so I head into fold the laundry first. On the way, someone shouts "mom, the upstairs toilet is flooding again!" so I grab every freshly washed towel on the guest bed in the laundry room, and take off running upstairs. I shut the water off, plunge the barbie head or hotwheel or whatever it was my genius child decided to flush, then lay down all the towels to soak up the water. One by one I wring them all out into the tub and toss them in a pile to take back down to the laundry room. On the way, I notice a shirt here, some pants there, more dirty socks and pajamas. I gather all the laundry I see upstairs and head back down to the laundry room to sort it again. Dryer load #2 of the day comes out and onto the bed, washer load goes into the dryer and the freshly toilet water soaked towels go into the washer. The load that should have gone in next, will have to wait. Maybe till tomorrow. Or the next day.

I go back into the kitchen and smell that freshly brewed coffee. My, but it smells nice doesn't it? Okay, just one cup while I sit down for a minute and check my email. Wait a minute, what did I come into the kitchen for in the first place? Oh thats right, the dishes. Those will have to wait until later. As well as the living room, dining room, upstairs bathroom that desperately needs a cleaning (or a bomb, which would be easier), my room, and the kids rooms that look like they haven't seen a vaccuum since 1946. And the cat's litter boxes, those definitely need to be scooped. Why can't they just wear cat diapers and why can't someone just show up once a day to change them? Who's brilliant idea was it anyway, to have cats? Oh that's right, it was mine and I love my kitties. I will need to repeat this often as I scoop. Oh, and the hardwood stairs. Since when did we have carpet on those stairs? Wait, that's dog hair. Why do we have dogs, and why is their hair on my stairs and not not their bodies where it belongs? Dogs were certainly not my idea, I know that for a fact. Gotta sweep those stairs immediately, this is disgusting... but nope, those will all have to wait, because I still need to do the dishes, and I'm now terrified to get up again and head to the kitchen.

It might be a good time for nap instead, and pretend this wont happen again tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Who's in the Tree?

Last evening daughter #2 messaged me and told me she'd been on our family tree site. She had some questions so I had to log in to get the right links for her, and that was where it all went downhill.

If there is one thing that will divert my attention from just about anything, it's genealogy. I find it absolutely fascinating to read about the people I come from, who they were, where they lived, what they did, and all of that. I can literally spend hours on end doing research, and I will completely lose track of time, every time I do it.

Some of the things I find are just plain funny. For example, finding out I'm related to Thomas Bacon and Elizabeth Mayo. No wonder I love bacon sandwiches, it's totally in my DNA!

Other things are just strikingly cool, such as the names of the some of my kin: Electa, Lochiel, Azubah, Zebina, Mehitable, Bland (who does that to a child anyway?), Honorius, Euseby, Solomon Saul, Chewyt, and Mary of Bedfordshire. Its probably a very good thing I didn't have access to geneaology sites before I started having kids, or they'd have some seriously funky names.

One of the amazing things is that with the internet, research into family history has become so much easier than it ever was before. If you have the basics about someone such as their first and last name, date of birth and spouse's name, it's incredible what you can find through the posted research someone else has already done, who is also related to that person. I've found so many incredible stories that I'd love to share, but I know this stuff is like vacation slideshows to most people, so I won't bore anyone with those.

It's not at all uncommon to see first cousins who married, sisters who married brothers, and long, long lines of men who gave their first sons their own first name. In some lines this went on for 5-6 generations, skipped a generation then the grandson picked it up again. Also quite common (and not even that long ago) were families with upwards of 15 kids. My grandpa's mother had 11 of her own with two different marriages, and some lines further back had as many as 20.

One of the fun things I very much enjoy doing, is finding a "blank spot" and doing the detective work. Blank spots can be missing names of spouses or parents where the line just doesn't give any real answers. Right now I'm working on Samuel Jordan born in 1578 in Wiltshire England, and died in April of 1632 in Beggars Bush, Prince George, Virginia, USA. The blank spot for him is both spouse and parents, so he's more of a challenge. His name caught my eye since he bore the name of 2 of my own children, which I thought was kind of fun. It can be tricky using google because not all folks who do the research are as meticulous with dates and locations as they could be, and you might end up with a lot of false info.

In any event, if you've ever thought about doing a family tree, I would really encourage you to just go for it and get started. There is a ton of information out there, and I think you'll find it quite fascinating where you come from.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Monday, January 4, 2010

Christian Parenting According to Susannah Wesley

Recently some friends and I were chatting about the different types of Bible software that folks use. The one I use is the same one I've used for many years now, and it serves me quite well. After that chat, I opened the software up and decided to browse through the library to find some things to read that I either hadn't read in a while or had never read before. There are a large number of things in the library and plenty of things I've not read yet. One of those things is entitled "(A Letter to John Wesley) By His Mother". I tried searching for that via google but came up emtpy handed. I've copied and uploaded the full letter here if you would like to read it.

As I read the letter and for a few days since then, it really disturbed me. My initial reaction was that John Wesley's mother, Susannah Wesley was quite similar to a spiritual drill sergeant toward her children. That may sound harsh, but initially I thought if all I ever knew of Susannah Wesley's parenting skills were what I read in this letter, it seems like a fair assessment. However, I want to be as fair as humanly possible because I realize that I may be the one in error here.

First, and probably most important for me to get my head around, is that the letter is dated for July 1732. This letter was written by a woman 278 years ago, in England. Times were different, culture was different, raising children was different and childhood itself was much, much different 278 years ago, than it is today, and in my experience. While it is impossible for me to know first hand what being a Christian mother was like in England in 1732, I can only speculate that how she raised up her children wasn't really anything out of the ordinary for Christian parents at that time. In our time if it seems excessively harsh (to me) then that's because (to a large degree anyway) I'm from a completely different era. A good friend reminded me that childhood itself was a much different experience for most children "back in the day". Kids were expected to contribute far more to the running of the household in past centuries than they ever are today. In our day, we have this idea that children should play, act like children, do silly things that children do, and have that "childhood experience". In days gone by, kids were helping plow fields, hunt, cook, sew, build, tend to the sick and more by the time they were 6-8 years old. This is a completely foreign concept to me in 2010, and probably to most everyone else as well. Six to eight year olds today are watching Sponge Bob and playing xbox. Most of them couldn't help do most of those things I mentioned, and most parents would never expect it of them, or even consider teaching them such things at such a young age. Granted, I know there are some kids who can do some of those things, but they are certainly the exception to the rule.

I think it was important for me to try as much as I could to first put my thoughts into the context of the era, to understand Susannah Wesley's mindset of raising her children. Equally important I believe would be for a modern reader to know Susannah's spiritual convictions and her own religious upbringing as well. We're all a product of our environment in one way or another.

I will only quote the sections that really stood out to me, but I would encourage you to read the whole letter as well. I would also quite gladly welcome your thoughts on this, as I attempt to understand Susannah Wesley's thoughts on raising up her children.

Susannah writes:

"When they turned a year old (and some before) they were taught to fear the rod, and to cry softly. By this means they escaped abundance of correction they might otherwise have had. That most odious noise of the crying of children, was rarely heard in the house. The family usually lived in as much quietness, as if there had not been a child among them."

Maybe it's just me, but as a mother of seven kids I have a hard time with the idea of a one year old baby (or younger) being taught to fear the rod, or to cry softly. Susannah's reasoning for this she points out was so that far more correction wouldn't be needed as they grew older. An honorable and good motivation to be sure. Maybe she just had really good kids, or maybe God was merciful to her and her family? While I have swatted many a tiny 1 year old hand for reaching for something dangerous, I could never spank a one year old baby, nor could I even begin to comprehend how you'd teach one to "cry softly". In my way of thinking and understanding the way toddlers think and understand, at a year old they are just too little to really process the discipline of a spanking (the rod). Most kids can barely walk at that age, and most aren't even speaking more than mama or dada. How then can they process "you disobeyed me and now you have to suffer the consequences via this spanking"? A swat to the hand and a firm "no" is simple enough for them to connect, but a real live spanking? And crying softly? I just can't get my head around that one.

Susannah writes:

"At six, as soon as family prayer was over, they had their supper. At seven the maid washed them, and beginning at the youngest, she undressed and got them all to bed by eight. At this time she left them in their various rooms awake. For there was no such thing allowed of in our house, as sitting by a child until it fell asleep."

I've read this very small passage several times. I believe her reasoning for this (as she states later in the letter) was to avoid any kind of indulgence of the child. However, I cannot imagine sitting by a child as they fell asleep being viewed as indulging the child. My mom did it with me at times when I needed her to, and I have done it with my own kids when they needed me too. In my mind it's a comfort and assurance to a child that just may need that extra comfort. For reasons I can't really put my finger on, this very small section of her letter really bothers me.

Susannah writes:

"In order to shape the minds of children, the first thing to be done is to conquer their will and bring them to an obedient spirit. To inform the understanding is a work of time, and must with children, proceed by slow degrees, as they are able to bear it. But the subjecting the will, is a thing which must be done at once and the sooner the better. For by neglecting timely correction they will be overcome with stubbornness, and obstinacy. This is hardly ever conquered later and never without using such severity as would be as painful to me as to the child. In the esteem of the world they pass for kind and indulgent, whom I call cruel parents, who permit their children to get habits, which they know must be later broken. Indeed, some are so stupidly fond, as in fun to teach their children to do things, which a while later they have severely beaten them for doing. When a child is corrected it must be conquered. This will not be hard to do if he is not grown headstrong by too much indulgence."

There is nothing here I disagree with at all, and in fact find great wisdom in it. However, just after this she writes:

"When the will of a child is totally subdued, and it is brought to revere and stand in awe of the parents, then a great many childish follies, and faults may be past over. Some should be overlooked and taken no notice of, and others mildly reproved. No wilful transgression ought ever to be forgiven children, without chastisement, less or more, as the nature and circumstances of the offence require. I insist upon conquering the will of children early because this is the only strong and rational foundation of a religious education. Without this both precept and example will be ineffectual. But when this is thoroughly done, then a child is capable of being governed by the reason and piety of its parents until his own understanding comes to maturity and the principles of religion have taken root in the mind."

I've read this several times and have to wonder where she left room for the Holy Spirit alone to be capable of changing the will of her children. While I will agree it is critical to teach your children a healthy respect for authority (mom & dad first, as well as other adult authority figures), and while I will agree that it is very important to teach your children the principles of religion as she put it, it seems as if she put a great deal of emphasis on the works of man (parents, in this case) being the effectual catalyst for changing (subduing, conquering) the will of a child. I must respectfully disagree with this entirely. You can teach and train and discipline until you're out of breath and out of energy, but until or unless the Holy Spirit performs the supernatural work of changing a child's heart, that sinful, self-centered will of a child will most certainly still be there and with only "horizontal" repentance as they say. Repentant toward the parents (only because they do fear the rod) but certainly not repentant toward God. A parent can certainly shape a child's will with good and moral instruction, but it is the Holy Spirit alone that can truly change that will. Countless Christian parents can testify to the fact that "raising them right" doesn't always mean they will truly serve the Lord as they mature. Some do, by His grace, and some sadly do not. I think it's a dangerous thing to lay that responsibilty on the parents when it isn't the parents that have the power to inwardly change that rebellious will of a child.

Susannah writes (still speaking of the child's will):

"So that the parent who studies to subdue it in his child, works together with God in the renewing and saving a soul. The parent who indulges it does the devil’s work, makes religion impracticable, salvation unattainable, and does all that in him lies, to damn his child’s body and soul for ever!"

Again it appears she puts the emphasis on what parents do or do not do, as to whether that child will eventually come to serve the Lord with saving faith. We (none of us, child or grown) attain salvation by works or lack of them, it is the gift of God.

Susannah writes:

"Taking God’s name in vain, cursing and swearing, profaneness, obscenity, rude, ill-bred names, were never heard among them."

I don't mean to sound flippant at all, but as I read this the first thing I thought was "were never heard BY YOU". Unless Susannah Wesley had the most obediant, tender hearted, compassionate, sensitive children in the history of all children, I just cannot believe this. Maybe they had enough good sense and respect for their mother's sensibilities to never let that kind of talk be heard by their mother, but I would suspect they did speak this way even if in part, and on very rare occasions. Children are immature, and as such creatures do not have the wisdom or the self control in the area of taming the tongue, that a more seasoned, adult believer would have. Children fuss and argue and call other kids (including their siblings) rude names, they grumble and snarl when they have to do something they don't want to do and when they get angry sometimes they even say words they know they shouldn't say. When I read this I couldn't help but think of all the times I've heard parents say "my son (or daughter) would NEVER do that or say that". Then six months, a year or five years down the road their son or daughter is doing or saying the exact thing that parent said they'd never do. Sometimes we have this very unrealistic idea of what our kids are really like, partly I assume because we really want our kids to be good and respectable and honorable people that we can be proud of. Every parent wants that I think, but some just put on blinders as to what their kids are really like.

Susannah writes (speaking of the time of the fire that burned down their house):

"For some years we went on very well. Never were children in better disposed to piety, or in more subjection to their parents until that scattering of them after the fire into several families. In those families, they were left at full liberty to converse with the servants, which before they had always been restrained from, and to run abroad and play with any children, good or bad. They soon learned to neglect a strict observation of the sabbath, and got knowledge of several songs and bad things which before they had no notion of. That civil behaviour which made them admired when at home, by all which saw them, was in great measure lost, and a clownish accent and many rude ways were learned, which were not reformed without some difficulty."

I couldn't help but think about the first time my oldest daughter went off to kindergarten, when I read this. You raise up your child a certain way, and they learn their manners and develop good habits, and then the minute you expose them to a different environment where good manners and good habits are not the norm, they pick up on them so fast it'll make your head spin, if you had no idea it was coming. I had no idea it was coming, and wondered what in the world happened to my smart and well mannered little girl. For whatever social, sinful, psychological reason you can come up with, kids are just incredibly easy to influence, and especially by other kids, and even more so in bad ways. You don't need to coax and teach and train a kid to lie, tattle, talk back or fool around when they're supposed to be paying attention. These things actually come quite natural to children and if they are in a setting where lots of other kids are doing it, they feel right at home! Now of course this is not to say that all kids are like this all of the time, but all kids are quite naturally sinners and it doesn't take much to influence them to indulge in their natural desires. It must have broke Susannah Wesley's heart to receive her children back into her care and see that they'd learned all kinds of bad things that were common in other households where strict and rigorous routine in spiritual upbringing was not the order of the day.

I wonder, if I wrote a letter to my adult child about the way I brought up all of my children, if 300 years from now someone would read it and be completely befuddled about how Christian parents raised kids in 2010. Truth be told, the more I consider this letter overall, I'm truly in admiration of the way Susannah Wesley raised her kids. I think I'm even surprised at myself for coming to that conclusion. Obviously I disagree with some of her thought process and her application, but there is no question she'd disagree with mine as well. It would seem (from this letter anyway) her heart was in the right place, and her motive was to bring up her kids with a fear and admonition of the Lord.

I certainly can't fault her for that.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

January Status Report

I'm sort of stumbling (fumbling?) through something I read the other night, and I was going to post about it today but I'm not really sure I'm ready to articulate my thoughts well enough to do that just yet. The subject of that article is Christian parenting, and it honestly reads (to me) like basic training in boot camp, more than anything else. Its really unnerved me but I'm not ready to really "take it on" so instead of that, I'm going to copycat Lisa from Lisa Writes and her status report:

Sitting... at my desk, listening to Ruth play the Sponge Bob xbox game. The dialog on the actual show is quite clever, but on the game they just repeat the same phrases over and over. Its rather annoying, but the kids love the game. She's already done with her lessons for the day, but we had a short morning. I don't like to load her down on the first day back from a vacation, but instead sort of ease her back into a work routine on day one. Tomorrow it will be all the regular things, plus a science lesson outside, if I can stand the ridiculously cold temps.

Drinking... coffee, french vanilla style. I lost count of how many refills I've had already. Up since 6am sharp, so this must be at least #4. Maybe 5.

Thinking... about what room to tackle first, to get my house back in order. I love decorating for Christmas, and we never take anything down or put any decorations away during the Christmas break. I start doing that the first Monday back to work/school, and that's today. I should have my non-Christmas house back by Friday. Except for the miniature village, that stays up year round.

Loving... getting back into my usual routine. I love vacation and days off as much as anyone, but I don't function well without a set routine in place. I get very lazy very quickly and that's never a good thing for a mother of 900 kids.

Anticipating... exciting news from daughter #4 as she returns home from school today. Today is her first day at a brand new school so she should have lots of exciting things to tell me. Her new school has a very comprehensive program in place for developmentally disabled students, and she struggles with academics so much they put together a wonderful educational plan for her. After meeting her teacher and seeing the classroom, I think she will do quite well there, and we're all pretty excited about that.

Dreading... the next 3 months. I have privately determined not to whine and moan and groan about the cold, the snow, the ice, the shovelling, the freezing kitchen and all that sort of thing I've been known to do for the last 8 years in this drafty old farmhouse. Instead, I will focus on the fact that the extreme cold will only last for 3 months or so, and that's really not so bad. I'll spend these three months being crafty instead of being a discontent. (someone please email me and remind me I said that, when I whine about the cold, okay?)

Starting... my own version of Extreme Home Makeover. I'll call mine Subtle Home Makeover instead. First thing is getting rid of tons of clutter, then I'll decide what to do after that's done.

Reading... nothing right now (other than the Bible of course). My reading habits have taken a back seat for quite a while now, and even though I love to read, I can't seem to get back into the habit. Part of it is, I always feel guilty just sitting there doing nothing while there are things around the house that could be tended to. Even when all the daily chores are done, there's still more that could be done, and sitting with a book makes me feel lazy. Maybe that will change next year when all the kids are in school full time, and I have more time to do such things.

Liking... my new carpet cleaner that I received as a belated Christmas present. If I had my own way all of the time, my house would look and smell like a house to be featured in a Better Homes and Gardens photoshoot. Of course I don't have my own way. I have kids, and dogs, and cats, and messes, and spills and stains and all that kind of thing. At least now with this awesome new carpet cleaner, I can attack those spills and stains immediately and keep the carpets looking and smelling nice. I know, I'm so boring it's somewhat disturbing, isn't it?

Nervous... about pending dental work I need done. Back in August I had major surgery done and the only thing I really remember about the actual procedure (I praise the Lord for medication) were the 2 freezing injections I received in the roof of my mouth. I was sedated but even with that, the pain was beyond words. I wont have to have anything else like that done again, but it does take me a bit of psyching myself up, to call and make a dental appointment.

Planning... a New Year's Savings budget and a trip either out west or down south, for next summer. It all depends on various circumstances which direction we're going, but we're excited about both/either trips.

Stopping... coffee consumption for the day. I've had too much already and I'm starting to feel sorta sketchy. I think I'll go do some laundry now.

Have a fantastic Monday!

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Friday, January 1, 2010

Color Your World

I don't recall where I read it, but it was about a year ago an article online caught my attention. The headline was something along the lines of a question, asking if you suffer from SAD and offering some self-help types of ideas if you do. For those who don't know what SAD is, it stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder, or winter depression. I honestly don't know how much credible science is behind the disorder, but apparently there are a good number of people that suffer this type of depression only in the winter time. Brought on by a lack of sunlight and shorter daylight hours during the winter time, it can be a very miserable existance for those who do suffer from it. Those affected often require medication and many even use simulated sunlight lamps to bring the "sunshine" into their homes to help them cope with it. While I don't suffer from this kind of seasonal depression, things like this tend to catch my eye and my interest.

bright, cheery colorsOne of the things mentioned in the article that may help for some people with SAD, is adding a lot of color to your environment and even your warddrobe. Even though I don't have SAD, this really caught my attention because I live where winter seems to stretch on forever, and I do get rather anxious and irritable after months of snow and cold and generally miserable weather conditions. In this article the writer said to brighten up your surroundings by just making some minor changes in what you see every day. In doing that, you sort of balance out the gray and dreariness of the outside with a nice splash of color on the inside. That really made a lot of sense to me. Suggestions for doing this around the house were really simple things like putting fresh flowers in a place you'd see them every day such as the dining room table or the kitchen counter. Another simple change was to replace the throw pillows on your couch with a light or pastel color floral pillow, or even bright primary color pillow with bold patterns such as stars, stripes or any other shape. Other suggestions were painting your bathroom in contrasting pale yellow (or bright white) and carribean blue colors (I've seen that color combo and it really does look like a beach bungalow), replacing your lighter drapes or curtains with a lighter color, adding real or silk plants (large ferns or palms were the suggestions) to an empty corner of the room, and adding bright outdoor type framed prints (such as a field of wildflowers or beach/ocean scenes) to your walls. The goal was to get away from the darker, earthy colors like browns, greens and dark blues and replace them with more summery colors that actually make you feel cheerful and invigorated. The large plants give a type of breezy, outdoorsy feeling to the room as well.

The same idea was given for changes to your warddrobe, and it applies to both men and women who suffer from this. I don't know if you've ever really noticed, but since its winter time, the next time you go to your local clothing store really pay attention to the clothes they have for sale. You'll see a sea of browns, dark reds, dark blues, greens, black and so on. Winter clothes are primarily dark colors for both men and women. Oddly enough, kids winter clothes come in a huge variety of bright colors. Taking a cue from kids clothes, men can replace the darker colors with lighter dress shirts and ties, brightly colored hoodies or sweatshirts or polo style shirts. The lighter and brighter colored clothing is not as easy to find in the winter as it is in the late spring or summer, but if you look around you can find it. The same idea applies to women, but of course we have a bigger selection to choose from if you include all the accessories we like to use, such as scarves, purses, totes, jewelry, and various hair accessories. Getting away from the darker colors and choosing softer, pastel colors or bright vivid colors is the whole idea. Instead of the dark colored hair scrunchies, grab a package of scrunchies that have bright orange, hot pink, bright yellow or turquoise, and find a few tops in your closet that will go nicely with those colors (that you might only wear in the spring or summer months). If you live where it's very cold, put a white or light colored long sleeve tee or turtleneck under your bright colored blouse to keep you warm, but make sure that blouse is a nice bright or pastel color.

I know this may sound somewhat silly to a lot of people, but last winter I decided to try this to see if it made a difference. Long story short, it really does make a difference. I have several bright colored sweatshirts and buy scrunchies to match. I'm a big fan of thick winter socks too, so I make sure I also have some brightly colored socks as well. I also really love what my sister in law and I call "comfy pants". Whatever they're called where you are (pajama pants, lounge pants, etc.) this is what I wear when I'm home all day, instead of jeans or sweatpants. Every single pair of my comfy pants are LOUD and bright. Pink stars, yellow sunflowers, purple stripes and more. I try to stay away from black or dark browns in the winter and instead choose bright blues and oranges and pinks, because it just makes me more cheerful.

I've also slowly begun to replace the darker colors in my living room with brighter ones. The changes have been small so far with just some contrasting pillows. It's not quite how I want it yet, but as I change things up a bit, it becomes nicer all the time to go in there and sit and enjoy being in there. Next up for that room is replacing the curtains, throws for the couch and chairs and the prints on the wall, and I've got my eye on a few inexpensive ideas for that.

Whether or not you suffer from SAD or just get really tired of seeing a blanket of snow or another day of rain clouds, making some of these minor adjustments in your day to day surroundings will really help. As an added bonus, your family will really enjoy it as well when you begin brightening up a room like this. The change may be small at first, but it really is noticable.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe