December 16, 2014

Eight Maids-a-Milking from the Twelve Days of Christmas



(Eighth Day of the Twelve Days of Christmas)

Family Tradition



With various and frequent moves and the ordinary changes life brings I’ve found it difficult to maintain holiday traditions. However, one Christmas tradition started more than 40 years ago is our Christmas card tradition. Each year we—usually me—designs and makes an ornament which serves as our “card.”

Through the years I’ve taken ideas from the song the Twelve Days of Christmas, in which each gift has a secret Christian message.

Realizing I am one of 8 sisters I decided to do the 8th day, the maids-a-milking, in 2014. My one older sister, Nancy Lee, nudged me on, concerned serious health problems might reduce the number in future years.

Nancy Lee, Sister 1

Nancy Lee, Sister 1

The eight maids a-milking addresses two of the major themes of fifteenth and sixteenth century English celebrations and parties during the Christmas holidays – food and romance.

Typically, the work of milking cows (and goats) was a woman’s job. Although milk was not a common beverage during this pre-refrigeration time (it spoiled too quickly), milk based products did not spoil so rapidly. Cheese, sour milk, and custards—which were prized treats for celebrations.

And the word maid? It’s a shortened form of maiden, a young, unmarried woman.

This combination of milking and maid lends itself to the idea that a gift of eight maids-a-milking might have more to do with romance than with cows.

During this time period the term go a-milking did have strong romantic connotations. Men used the term when they wanted to propose marriage (or a sexual encounter) with a woman. It was a kind of a code word to test a woman’s response—if she reacts negatively, he can always say he thought she might like to help him with the cows, and they could laugh.

Remember, the gifts in the popular Christmas song The Twelve Days of Christmas each signify a Christian message.

So what do the maids-a-milking signify in the popular Christmas song?

Interestingly enough, it is a code word for the eight Beatitudes that introduce the greatest sermon ever preached: the Sermon on the Mount—Matthew 5:1-12. I could find no information on why maids-a-milking was chosen to represent the Beatitudes. So I still wonder…

Jane: sister 6

Jane: sister 6

In designing the ornament I wanted to incorporated the 8 sisters (including myself), and so connected them, in age and Beatitude order, as follows:

  1. Nancy Lee Cornell Chase:   v. 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit
  2. Carolyn Cornell Holland:   v. 4 Blessed are those who mourn
  3. Pam:   v. 5 Blessed are the meek
  4. Kitty Cornell Duda:   v. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
  5. Darlene Aslam:   v. 7 Blessed are the merciful
  6. Jane Lipsius Driver:   v. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart
  7. Cynthia Lipsius:   v. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers
  8. Sally Lipsius Kilgore:   v.10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.

While making the ornaments I thought about the Norman Rockwell family picture: loving parents seated around a holiday table with their offspring, laughing in a close-knit camaraderie. This scene was truer of (more…)

April 18, 2011

“All My Children:” Susan Lucci & Erica Kane



     Erica has been “the other woman” in my husband’s life for almost forty years.

     In spite of the fact that he does no more than occasionally glance at her soap opera episodes—especially now that she is entering her eleventh valid marriage—I’m sure he will miss her beauty and pizzazz.

     He’s unaware that Erica Kane will disappear from our television set after September 2011. I only caught the news as I was about to put our computer to sleep for the night: ABC network is canceling both All My Children (and One Life to Live).

     Lest you conclude that I lounge on my couch all day in my comfortable ‘jammies with my hair up in rollers, nibbling on Reese’s peanut butter cups and indulging in an array of chocolate candies while I watch soap operas, I want to tell you that neither Monte nor I are fans of these programs.


     My memories of soaps goes back to my childhood, when my grandmother listened to Stella Dallas on the radio soap. As I grew up, graduated from high school and college, held jobs, and married, I never expected to be an avid fan of a soap opera.

     Both All My Children and my daughter, Sandy, celebrated their (more…)

April 4, 2011

The Church Role in Child Abuse Issues



With The Rev. Monte W. Holland

     The trend of modern times is toward specialization in dealing with life issues. If there is a physical ailment, go to the health care professional, and further, to a specialist in the specific type of ailment that is exhibited. If there is a spiritual problem, go to a pastor or pastoral counselor. If there is a family problem, go to a family counselor or therapist.

     This has its advantages in many cases, because the expert has a deeper knowledge of in a very small issue. Yet there are disadvantages. Many physical and relationship problems cannot be boxed into a narrow category. What ails one segment either emanates from or affects another segment. It can take a well-rounded, multi-knowledgeable person to see the interconnections and resolve the issues. Secondly, persons are often reluctant, or financially unable, to go to the specialized person for help—at least over the long term. Thus, the generalist has a strong role to play in resolving many family issues.

     The first line of encounter with family problems is the lay person—a friend and/or a neighbor. The church’s first role in dealing with a troubled family or individual is one of preparing (more…)

April 2, 2011

A Theological Perspective on Child Abuse



With The Rev. Monte W. Holland

     Some important questions arise when speaking of theology and violence, abuse of children, spouses, family and friends. Below is an attempt to answer some of them.

  • Children must be MADE to OBEY (their parents, their caretakers), right?

Obedience IS important. Ephesians 6:1-4 and Colossians 3:20-21 instruct children to be obedient. But this directive does not stop there. It goes on to instruct PARENTS not to PROVOKE their children (to wrath). Implied is a mutual RESPECT: respect that begets respect. “Nobody ever hates his own flesh, but rather nourishes and cherishes it just as Christ does for the church…” (Ephesians 5:29) Our children are born out of our love, part of a continuation of our flesh. We should not treat them with hate or hateful actions.

  • Does not the Bible state that to spare the rod is to spoil the child? (Proverbs 13:24)

     Nowhere in the New Testament—the “new law”—is abuse justified. Rather, the opposite is expected, that you love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:12) The Great Commandment directs us You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-40) Our family members—our spouse, our children, and sometimes our parents—are our (more…)

March 28, 2011

While Doing Adopton Home Studies: Part 2



To read the first part of this story, click on While Doing Adoption Home Studies: Part 1.


     What does the color orange signify, I asked myself.

     I had just toured the home of a couple hoping to adopt a child from the agency where I held a part time job doing home studies. What impressed me was their use of the color orange—splashed throughout their modest home—the deep shade of pumpkin skin to the soft shade taken from an evening sunset. Orange on walls, furniture, carpets, window hangings, accents. Not unattractive, but a statement about this family.

     So what does the color orange signify? I researched the subject, and learned orange is the color of warmth. And, interestingly enough, the couple I had interviewed were warm people.

     Working for an adoption agency during the time my husband, Monte, and I were undergoing the adoption process, was a rewarding experience. I  recall several of my experiences.


     One couple, I’ll call them Roger and Diane, were so petrified of the home study that I couldn’t get them to talk with me. I understood—after all, I was going through the same process. We viewed home study interviewers as (more…)

March 26, 2011

While Doing Adoption Home Studies: Part 1



 Part I

     My input on three adoption home studies was influential.

     My husband Monte and I had had to withdraw our application for adoption from an agency in the city where we lived because we were relocating to a new jobsite.  About a month after moving to our new community Monte and I submitted our application to a local adoption agency.

     At the same time, I responded to a classified ad seeking part-time help at an agency that needed to catch up on their adoption home studies. The job was located in an adjacent county.

     During the interview with Sonya, the agency director, I stated two conditions. First, I gave notice—when a baby was placed in our home (which could be three days or three years), I’d have to leave the position immediately, without warning. Second, I emphatically stated that I would recluse myself from (more…)

March 19, 2011

Returning to life in the past lane



     January 18, 2011. The holiday season is ended, cleaned up after, recuperated from. Winter is here wearing its glorious, pure, white coat. It’s my time of year.

     My plan: write a chapter a week in my novel, Intertwined Love, set in the 1790s. Parts of many chapters are written. Now is the time to work in consecutive order. The day bodes well as the letters hit on my keyboard form words on the current chapter—three. By the end of the day my accomplishment has energized me. I retire, looking forward to completing this chapter in perhaps less than a week.


     January 19, 2011. After my morning coffee and my meds (I am a CAD, cardiac artery disease patient), I dress for work, and after spending a half-hour picking up the house, I sit down at the computer.

     A second good day. This week will lead me to chapter four next week. I have a feeling of accomplishment, a satisfied feeling of being on track.

     About seven o’clock in the evening I open my e-mail. There are three comments, one on each of three posts:

          I’m not sure HOW I found you and not sure where to write this, but PLEASE CONTACT ME. My mother is adopted, and I recently helped her get her REAL birth certificate (she was denied in earlier ears) and we JUST got her REAL birth certificate

     “Someone is spamming me,” I said to my husband, Monte, who was sitting working at his desk. I expect the next lines to read and my mother is stranded (in some remote country) and needs money to get home. Her wallet and all ids have been stolen. Send money.

     I continue reading. The message is different from what I expect. It includes (more…)

February 21, 2011

To Reclaim a Family Farm—Or Not


Feb. 22, 2011—3:22 a. m.:

Carolyn clicked  the 90,000th hit

on Carolyn’s Compositions!


     After moving to Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, I learned that one branch of my ancestors were from Hempfield Township, and that one of their sons, Michael Rugh (married Elizabeth Raymer/Reamer) and moved to Blacklick Township in Indiana County (same state) (see link in ADDITIONAL READING below: You Mean This New Englander is a Westsylvanian?).

     It wasn’t long before I arranged, with the current owners, to visit the farm where Michael and Elizabeth were raising their eight children.

     The current day farm is merely a piece of the original property. It was obvious that modernization had taken hold. As I stood in the front yard, overlooking Rte. 119, with the cars zipping by, I could see the towers of the (more…)

February 11, 2011

My Mother’s Secret: An Adoption Story


MY MOTHER’S SECRET: An Adoption Story

I’m certain my mother would have strongly opposed SB335 as it progressed through the New Hampshire Senate and House in 2004. The Bill, which became law effective January 1, 2005, concerned access to records available to adult adoptees who were born and adopted in New Hampshire. These adoptees now can gain access to their own original, pre-adoption birth certificates…

 Why would she have opposed this law?

Because she had a secret.

Her secret was revealed to her family on January 19, 2011. (more…)

January 25, 2011

Oprah and I: Adoption Reunion Experiences




     I was nine years old—just eight days short of being ten—when my mother gave birth to a daughter she placed for adoption. Oprah said she was nine-years-old when her mother gave birth to a daughter and gave her up for adoption.

     I was living with my mother. Oprah was living with her father.

     Neither of us realized our mothers were pregnant. This was more understandable with Oprah, who wasn’t living with her mother. It was less understandable for me, living in the same apartment with my mother and sister. But back then, what did I know?

     Both adoptees spent years searching for the identity of their bio-mothers. My sister Darlene discovered her bio-mother’s identity on (more…)

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