The Importance of Responsibility

light-through-the-leaves-2          I don’t remember how old I was when feeding and watering our chickens became my responsibility; something tells me I was around eight. I also had to rake their droppings from the shelf beneath the rod they perched on. I didn’t really like this, however if I wanted my allowance, I had to. They provided us with eggs and occasionally meat. I didn’t care for eggs, and I wasn’t very fond of the live chickens, however I did enjoy roast chicken on a Sunday, (purchased, not from our flock) served up with the crimson jelly my mother made from apples, cranberries and quinces from my great grandfather’s trees.

My mother considered me irresponsible. Perhaps her expectations were too high for my abilities. Or maybe she didn’t start me off a little at a time, learning by doing small tasks. When children are growing up it is important to give them responsibilities. Even a small child can do simple tasks. If the child is forgetful or perhaps deliberately tests the parent by ignoring his or her duties, it is the responsibility of the parent to follow up on the discipline with reminders as well as consistent persistence. That’s part of the responsibility of parenting. It also helps with self-discipline later on when the child is grown.

As an adult I find there are times I have to make a decision as to what is and what is not my responsibility. When I see trash on the sidewalk or paper towels on the floor of a restroom, I wonder if it is my responsibility to pick up after someone else. At home do I put away my husband’s clothes as well as mine or leave them for him to put away? Who is responsible for what in a household is often divided along lines of familiarity. Growing up, who mowed the lawn, took out the trash, checked to see if the door was locked at night?

I remember my mother saying at a certain time in the evening, her father would wind the grandfather clock and that would be his signal for her current boyfriend to depart. We didn’t have a grandfather clock to wind, however my father was responsible for the houseplants and flowers in our home. All summer he would carefully arrange fresh flowers in vases, some from his garden, some from my grandmother’s. My mother was responsible for the cooking, for the purchase of food and for what and when we ate. She also carved the roast or chicken we had on Sundays because she thought she did a better job of it.

The word responsibility implies a response to something. If I am aware of a an important duty, like paying my taxes, being sure to vote, stopping at stop signs, or even washing my hands after I sneeze, cough or go to the bathroom, then I respond by acting. I take responsibility for that which is my personal obligation to society or to myself. However there is this gray area where I need to make decisions: do I try to help if my help may not be wanted? Do I act when my action may not be what is needed? Taking responsibility for what I do or do not do requires me to think and think again.

Tasha Halpert

Where Does the Time Go


Five minutes or more of waiting can seem to stretch forever, yet when I am engaged in something pleasurable, the moments vanish quickly into wherever time goes. When I look back over the years, they telescope, yet I remember three months in El Paso that while I was living through them, seemed like three years. It is quite beyond my comprehension, and perhaps that is appropriate because after all time is something human beings invented.

Did they do this because life as they were living it needed dividing up in order to be made orderly? Or was it because people needed to make appointments? Or even because there needed to be some sort of way to know the when of things? There are books that will tell you when calendars were invented, and who invented them, and others that detail the kind of clocks that first measured it. I haven’t read any that have told me why.

Sometimes to me time resembles a big clump of jelly like stuff. I try to hold onto it but instead it squeezes through my fingers and disappears. Finding time, using time, saving time…all these are illusions generated by my wanting to accomplish what I want to do when I want to do it. Perhaps I need to think of time differently. If I focused on what needs doing rather than trying to find the time to do it would I manage better?

To be sure, I keep lists of the tasks I hope to accomplish right now or in the near future: phone calls to be made, deadlines for submissions, household tasks to be done. Then there are other items on my lists that do not have a time consideration: letters to be written, information to be googled, piles to sort through. It is these that seem to revolve endlessly, making their way from list to list until I “find the time” to do them and finally cross them off.

Sometimes they fall off the list, never to be seen again. Because none of this type of task is actually necessary it seems more difficult to get done. It is also possible that they don’t matter, or else that I have given them more importance than they originally deserved. It isn’t always easy to know what is important and what is merely something it would be nice to do if there were time to do it. And there’s that word again: time.

Have you ever noticed that it can take the same amount of actual clock time to come home as it does to go somewhere, yet it seems to take much longer to go than it does to come home? This is just one more mystery I experience involving the passage of time. However, to be honest I usually find that I always have enough time when I focus on the doing part rather than the amount of time to do it. Perhaps that is because there really is no such thing as time at all.

Tasha Halpert



Muffins for Fall Munching

Down to her frillies 3



I once attended a weekend Renaissance Fair with some friends. Wearing a costume of a mobcap, a full skirt, blouse and a vest, with my similarly garbed friends I was having breakfast in the restaurant of the motel where we were staying. As I perused the buffet table a man came up to me. “There are no more muffins,” he said. I shook my head and assured him I wasn’t a waitress. “We need more muffins,” he said loudly. My similarity to the waitress’ colonial garb was too convincing. My friends were helpless with laughter. I giggled and joined them. To this day Stephen kids me about the incident.

While I like making muffins now, I didn’t learn to make them in my mother’s kitchen. She didn’t bake from scratch or even at all, and I was not encouraged to do so. Once married I tried to make them but my muffins were invariably heavy, flat and dense in texture. Though edible, they were not how I thought muffins ought to be. When I sought inspiration from more experienced cooks, I found out what I was doing wrong. Voila, my muffins rose nicely.

I discovered that muffins, unlike cakes, cookies and other baked goods did not need to be well beaten. Once I learned to fold the wet ingredients lightly into the dry ingredients my troubles were over. The source of my information was a column in the Boston Globe called the Confidential Chat. It ran several times weekly and was a wonderful source of recipes, advice and help as well as an opportunity to share for those of us who wished to do so. At the peak of my participation I wrote around fifteen or so letters a week, many of which were published, and in the process I learned to write succinctly.

Writers to the column used pen names, so publication was anonymous. However, letters answering you that were not published were forwarded bundled in an envelope you provided, and you could choose to answer any of them if you wished. In certain ways the Confidential Chat was part of the foundation for this column because it helped me learn to write precisely and convey information clearly. Long-winded or unclear letters simply were not published. Since I enjoyed seeing mine in the paper, I worked hard to write well. I also loved the recipes and shared many.

Here is a recipe I use a lot for Banana Chunk Muffins. You may substitute melted butter for the oil. If you do, be very sure to mix lightly. Ingredients: 2 eggs, 1/3 cup oil, ¾ cup any milk, 1 tsp vanilla, ½ cup sugar, 1½ cups flour, 1 tsp baking soda, ½ tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, 2 or 3 bananas cut into ½ to 1 inch squares, ½ to 1 cup optional chopped walnuts, ½ to 1 cup optional chopped dates. Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees, Mix fruit, nuts with dry ingredients, beat wet ingredients together well and lightly mix into dry. Use liners or grease 1½ dozen muffin cups or 1 8″ square pan. Fill ¾ full and bake for 30 minutes for muffins, 35 to 40 for pan. Enjoy!

Tasha Halpert