Studly and I are planning to remodel our kitchen this fall. I found this buffet/hutch on sale so thought I'd get an early start. We're going to do white walls and cabinets, and I'm going to accent with red! Here is the old cabinet
And here is the new cabinet
Oh, and I got this ceramic pitcher
So, I was watching "Barefoot Contessa" on Food Network one day, and her florist was on, talking about how he arranges flowers for vases. I gave it a shot - and thought it worked pretty well!
I want to say first off that there are many things that have come out of the Feminist Movement for which I'm incredibly grateful! About 20 years ago, when I was the divorced mother of my two year old little Katiebug - I was incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to get an education and enter the lucrative field of practicing law. Coming out of a painful divorce, and vowing to myself that I'd never put myself in a position to rely on a man to support me, "I Am Woman" by Helen Reddy was my theme song! I can still sing it to you word for word!
And, I'm incredibly grateful that we have women in many different professional fields - women in nueroscience who are studying our brains, and those in women's health who are studying our gender specific hormonal balance (or lack there of :)! I am grateful the we no longer have to depend on men financially, I am grateful that we have become empowered!
But, as Conner Mead says in "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" - "Someone once told me that the power in all relationships lies with whoever cares less. And he was right. But power isn't happiness, and I think that maybe happiness comes from caring more about people rather than less!"
Which brings me to the thing that saddens me most about the Feminist Movement - and that is it's unintended consquence - the impoverishment of the feminine soul!
A year or so ago, Gloria Steinham was on Oprah, and said that back then (in the 60's & 70's) our fight was to prove that we could do it all. Now, our fight is to prove that we don't have to do it all.
And, I believe it is this intense pressure of feeling like we have to do it all that has left women stressed out, unhappy, empty, and lonely. It is what leaves us turning to "replacement needs" like food, shopping, and even sewing! A "replacement need" comes in when we feel that we cannot get what we really need (love, care, understanding, relaxation) - and rather than suffering the pain of not being able to get what we need - we tell ourselves "I don't really need that" - and find a "replacement" for that need that we can actually get. I may not be able to get the love I want from my husband or my parents- but I can get a Family Sized Bag of Lay's Potato Chips - or that new fat quarter bundle!
But, sadly, while these replacement needs give us short term satisfaction, the long term result is a painful self-loathing for our lack of discipline, and further impoverishment of our feminine soul!
John Gray speaks a lot in his books about a woman being on her "female side" and what that looks like! A woman connected with her feminine soul is soft, peaceful, relaxed, warm, loving, and caring. She's sees that there is a lot to be done, but recognizes that it doesn't all have to be done right now. She is able to relax, and to truly appreciate the little things in life that bring joy. Gray explains that "ease, comfort, effortlessness, security, fun, recreation, pleasure and beauty all nurture the female side."
But, women today are under more stress than at any other time in history. Women are expected to work all day in a very male way, to be psuedo men - we are expected to be competitive, goal-oriented, and to make decisions not based on relationships, but based on the bottom line - all of which bring greater impoverishment to the feminine spirit. And, when we come home - all of our feminine biological urgings are calling - the desire to provide healthy meals, to create a beautiful home, to love and nurture our children and our marriages. Add to that the chronic pressure from the media to be pencil thin and gorgeous - and it's no wonder women are so exhausted and empty - knowing that something is missing in their lives - but not knowing exactly what they can do to make things better!
To a large extent, that is what these Soul Food posts will be about - how do we find our way back to the joy that is nestled in our traditional femininity in a world that no longer fosters, values or supports it? What specific changes can we make in our lives to bring us greater joy and peace that is absolutely critical not only to our own well-being, but also to the well-being of our husbands and our children?
And that brings me to why I love aprons so much! Simply putting an apron on helps me to feel more feminine. It reminds of the absolutely B-E-A-UTIFUL thing it is to be a woman and just how important holding onto the traditional values of being feminine really is to me, to my family, and to the world!
"Women are the custodians of love, family, and relationship. When women stop being women and are too stressed to carry out these functions, we are all lost. Women remind men of what is important in life. Women hold the wisdom of the heart and inspire men to act from their hearts. Men can have great vision, but women provide the meaningful foundation. When women are not happy, no one is happy." John Gray (Why Mars & Venus Collide).
For me, the challenge is not to prove that I don't have to do it all - the challenge for me is remembering that each day my focus is to do things that nurture my feminine soul - and that this is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I can do! The challenge for me is to remember in a world that says love, joy, peace and beauty come in a distant second to success, looks, power, achievement, accomplishment and contributing to the GNP - the challenge for me is to remember - that in doing those things that nurture me as a woman (taking time to rest and relax, talking with my friend Carol on the phone for a couple of hours, being warm and loving, truly connecting with my hubby and kiddos, cooking, cleaning, decorating our home . . .) - it is remembering that I did the most important things - I did what really matters!
Now, reading and learning something is one thing - but life application is what brings real change in our lives! So each time I do a Soul Food post, I'll have some fun excercises for you to feed your soul!
Your Soul Food Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It is:
1. Journaling - Write out a list of all of the expectations you have of yourself. Yes, you have to write it out. When these expectations come bit by bit in your head, they seem pretty reasonable! But, I really want you to see just how unreasonable your list of expectations for yourself is - so write them all out - what do you expect of yourself as a career woman, as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter, as a sister, as a friend, as a homemaker, as a quilter, as an individual. What do you expect of yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally - write them all down! Now read it! Is it reasonable? Do you expect your best friend or your daughter to live up to all of these expectations - and berate them when they don't? I want you to start talking to yourself like you would talk to your best friend or your daughter - speak kindly to yourself, be compassionate, be patient - and most of all - be realistic about your expectations!
2. Really Living - Make a list of the things you can do to really nurture your feminine soul, which will usually involve what psychologists have dubbed "tending and befriending" activities - these are the activities that women have used to destress and find joy, peace and love since the Hunter/Gatherer days. Tending would include things like cooking, organizing, gardening, decorating your home, doing your nails, getting your hair done, journaling, excercising, etc. and Befriending has to do with cultivating and nurturing our relationships - connecting with your husband, children, extended family and friends through talking/conversation (this is a MUST) and doing fun things together.
As you make your list, be sure to watch out for those "replacement needs". For example, you may think "I love to sew", but you may find that sewing has become an escape/a replacement need. The question to ask yourself is - long term, does this leave me feeling nourished, connected, full, joyful, does it make me feel better about myself, does it make me relate more lovingly to my family and friends - or does it leave me feeling empty, lonely, and pressured to accomplish more and more?
Now, once you have your list (replacement need free) try to make one or two of these things a priority each day - and do them.
3. DVD - Watch "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past." Notice how Conner has replaced his need for love with a need for power. While Conner is able to protect himself from the pain of being hurt, he also has shut himself off from the joy of experiencing intimacy and love. In what areas of your life have you tried to protect yourself from being hurt - and (unintentionally) cut yourself off from what you really desire in life?
4. Recommended Reading - Bachelor's Degree Version - read "Why Mars & Venus Collide: Improving Relationships by Understanding How Men and Women Cope Differently with Stress" by yourself. PhD Version - read "Why Mars & Venus Collide" with your husband if you are married or, if you're not married, find a friend who is also struggling with stress, to read it with and chat about it. The John Gray books are not just about the marital relationship - they are a great way to help you not only to better understand how to relate with all men (your son, your father, and co-workers), but will also really help you to better understand yourself!
5. Sewing Project - Dig out your favorite apron pattern and fabric from your stash or buy them and make yourself an apron. As you sew, contemplate your feminity, the things you admire about women and the feminine spirit, what you're learning in John Gray about being a woman and how to deal with stress - and the ways you can bring more joy and less stress into your life! Wear it proudly!
It is my sincere hope that these Soul Food posts and the exercises will help you to find more joy and peace and love in your lives - not only as a woman who is the custodian of love, family and relationship - but as a sister in womanhood for whom I wish all of the best things in life!