Monday, December 28, 2009

Colors of the Montana Winter

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I got a new camera for Christmas.  It was a gift from my hubby.

Now, I have to tell a little story.  Our friend Greg suggested my hubby be called Captain Vegas in my blog.  I like that name, since my hubby currently lives in Las Vegas.  But since he’s actually a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, he’s going to be called Col. Vegas. 

So anyway, I took my gift from Col. Vegas out on my walk today. 

Walks are supposed to calm and center people, but it took me a long time to calm down.  I was excited by my recent sales at my store and my head was full of sewing ideas.  The Crazy Canyon Trail system seemed like a fitting location.   

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I have been holing up in the house sewing and winding down from Christmas.  My fingernails are stained with fabric dye (see it?):  

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and I’ve been wearing the same three outfits for two weeks.

It felt good to be outside and breathing cold, fresh air.   But I wanted to get back to my wool and colors and thread.  Usually the winter landscape doesn’t start bothering me until about February or March, but today it looked colorless already. 

So I set myself the task of finding colors.  Here’s what I found. 

A sort-of color on a ponderosa pine tree.  I love ponderosas, which smell of vanilla on a hot summer day.  Okay, that’s one color.  What would you call it?  Burnt sienna? 

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And of course there’s pine-tree green, like you see in the background above.  Somehow, though, the preponderance of white and gray in the Montana winter makes my mind blank out the green.  From town, the wooded mountainsides just look black.  It’s only up close that you see the needles really are green.   

I found a few others.  Pale yellow…  

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Citron green…now that’s a real color! 

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More green… 

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Teensy little shriveled up rose hip…red! 

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And yet another cold-looking green…

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Finally, a little bit of blue.

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My Montana grandmother used to say that if there was enough blue in the sky to make a Dutch boy’s pants, the weather would turn clear.

What do you think?  What size is a Dutch boy?   


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Wishes for My Readers


“We shall find peace.  We shall hear the angels, we

shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.”

—Anton Chekhov

Season’s Greetings and Best Wishes for 2010. 

I appreciate you! 

love, Sallymandy

photo by CanadaGirl2000 on Photobucket.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dog Days of December

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November 14 2009 028  december12 033december132009 008

Whatever special day you may be celebrating this December—even if it’s just the coming of winter—remember the lesson of the doggie on the couch who doesn’t care what she wears. 


Monday, December 14, 2009

Trapped in a Jail of Love

64f7.jpg people in a boat image by nascarfanatic2488

My 12-year-old daughter and her friend are in the back seat talking about their futures.  About husbands.       

The rush-hour traffic is fierce, but I’m straining to hear.      

The friend says, “I’m going to be a scientist.  I’m going to have a  big house and one horse and one kid.”

My daughter says, “Nice.  I’m going to be a photographer.  But what about a husband?”

The friend (whose parents’ marital situation is stranger than fiction) says, “No husband.  I’m going to adopt.  Who needs a husband around the house?  Seems like it would just be easier.” 

I’ve been thinking about this all weekend. 

I have a husband, but he’s not around the house.  Once upon a time he worked at home, and boy, was he ever around the house.  And then he moved away because it was the only way to support his family.  That’s the kind of husband he is.  

Today I notice things he’s not here to do.  Sidewalk shoveling.  Decoration-box hauling.  Furniture moving.  Christmas tree putting up.  Car gas tank filling, running-toilet-fixing, doggie-poo scooping.  Being the heavy with an almost-teenager.     

Since he’s been gone, I’ve missed him and not missed him.  I wake up with an emptiness inside that’s tied to his silent office downstairs.  I feel sad, remember that this was the best choice for our family, then get up and feel grateful for the freedoms this change has brought to me—freedoms I could not exercise with another adult working in the house.      

One day when SeeSpotRun was four, I captured her on the couch and wrapped her in a bear hug.  I held her close to me until she yelped “Help!  Help!  I’m trapped in a jail of love!” 

Girls, if I told you something true, would you listen?  The you who wants to be free and the you who wants to be joined are going to lock horns forever.   

Marriage?  Husband?  Children?  They’re traps…in a jail of love.badwater



SSR and Sallymandy in Death Valley National Park, November 2009.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Speed Cleaning with Sallymandy

retronewyear60xmas.jpg retro vintage after party domestic kitchen man woman couple mess clean apron image by Nocturntable

So, today I came home from meetings and errands to a house that would make my grandmother

purse her lips.   

Between sending a husband to live in Las Vegas, starting a small business, taking care of 1 cute daughter and 2 cute doggies, impending holidays and now being the only adult in the house, well…let’s just say my housekeeping standards have reached…

…a nadir!!     

I’m not complaining.  I’m not a neat-freak.  I love our lived-in house because it’s proof that a lot of exciting, nurturing, interesting things happen here.  But everyone has a limit. 

Looking around my kitchen with its corners filling up with piles, I felt a creepy anxiety.  I seemed unable to start.  All messes seemed equal in importance. 

frightened woman

What to do??



A friend of mine always starts cleaning with her sink.  I looked at mine, full of dishes.  I remembered a trick I used to use on myself.  I set the microwave timer for four minutes and challenged myself to empty the dishwasher.    

I whirled into action.  I stacked up everything that went in the same cupboard and staggered across my microscopic kitchen to unload.  I easily threw out details like putting the silverware handles the same direction and I just slammed the silver spoons into their compartment.  I scoffed at nesting the cereal bowls large-to-small as is my habit. 

Guess what?  In 2 minutes 45 seconds I was done.  I used the remaining time to stash the dishes from the sink into the dishwasher—foregoing my usual practice of arranging and rearranging until I use every last centimeter of space

I didn’t quite get the counter wiped down, but in four minutes, I had an empty sink.  woman-cooking-main_Full


how cool is that? 





Sometimes the smallest task can seem overwhelming.  That’s especially so when there are so many small tasks that they really do add up to one whopping mess. 

Here’s a very short list of other messes that frighten me: 

The mishmash of dog collars, hair tie thingies, Chapsticks, stamps, paper clips, pennies, batteries, and pen caps swimming around in a big white ceramic dish by my blender.

The National Geographics on the shelf that someone at a school or Girl Scout group could use for a craft and are too good to recycle.

The mismatched-sock drawer.  

The bag of papers left from SSR’s last school year.

The four-foot papier-mache dragon left from SSR’s last school year.

The styrofoam salt atom model left from SSR’s last school year.

What about you?  Do you have any really scary messes in your house?  How do you keep your quarters livable in a busy season? vintagewoman


Do tell! 

Love, sallymandy

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thought for the Day. I Had to Share This With You.


Not familiar with Jersey City, New Jersey?  A picture paints a thousand words.  

Have a great weekend. 



Monday, November 23, 2009

Mother/Daughter Support Squad to Las Vegas

See Spot Run and I have arrived in Las Vegas.  Nellis Air Force Base, to be exact, where my husband is starting a job managing airlift operations for a huge military exercise called Red Flag. 

We will be here through Thursday, and going home to Montana on Friday.  Would you like to come along and see some of what we’ve seen? 

First item the list of things I like:  The sunshine.  There is snow on the ground at home in Montana.  But here, we’ve had constant sun and days warm enough to wear sandals with my jeans.   

I also like that the air base where my husband is now stationed happens to have the largest solar power plant in North America.  It’s easy to find things not to like about the military establishment, but I’m proud of this fact.     

Here’s a picture of President Obama visiting the solar array at Nellis in June 2009. 

Moving away from the base, we have started looking around Las Vegas.  While I generally didn’t like the Las Vegas Strip at all, especially the people handing out pornography to my husband on the street, in front of my twelve-year-old daughter—which caused me eventually to walk in front of both of them and loudly tell the hawkers to leave us alone—I did like the ceiling at the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace.  Here’s a view of the inside of the shops taken outside Spago, which was not open yet when we arrived there.   

We did have delicious salads for lunch at a surprisingly elegant place at the other end of the mall.  Oddly, it’s called The Cheesecake Factory.  I liked our lunch, too.   

Today we visited Hoover Dam, about an hour to the east on the border of Nevada and Arizona.  I was especially taken by the bronze sculptures called Winged Figures of the Republic.  Whatever you think about the U.S. government damming the Colorado River within an inch of its life for the sake of “making the desert bloom as a rose,” it’s hard not to admire the engineering prowess inherent in this dam, and the artistic vision of the Norwegian sculptor Oskar J.W. Hansen, who designed these figures in the 1930s. 

Without the dam on the river, there would be no water for Las Vegas.  Would that be a bad thing?  I’m not sure.  Certainly I wouldn’t want anyone to question the worth of my hometown.  I’m doing my best to appreciate this one. 

Tomorrow we look at thrift shops and neighborhoods where my husband might find accommodations.  I have some work to do and SSR has homework.  The next day, we’ll visit Death Valley, California.  I’m looking forward to that, as well as Thanksgiving Dinner at Todd’s Unique Dining, a local restaurant that comes with high marks for its innovative young chef. 


After that, SSR and I will be on an airplane back to Montana, and my hubby will stay here until Christmas. 

As with all situations, there are things to like and not to like about this one.  Mostly we’re glad we’re together. 

With best wishes to all my American friends celebrating Thanksgiving this week, and international readers who have visited in the past weeks.  I’m thankful for you. 


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wardrobe Refashion Update

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It’s been almost six months since I took the Wardrobe Refashion challenge not to buy any new clothes for two months. 

With one exception—two pairs of Gap pants in July—I’ve done it.  It was pretty easy, and it made me really look with new eyes at old clothes.   

I’ve posted a few photos of my adventures refashioning my own clothes.  That was fun, but after a while I started feeling limited by not liking how my clothes looked on me.  And that’s another issue altogether.  

Still obsessed with Making Good New Stuff out of Old Icky Stuff, in August I found a book that set me on an entirely new creative path.  I posted about it:  The Sweater Chop Shop, by Crispina ffrench. 

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It’s largely Crispina’s fault that my blog has languished this fall, because I’ve found her approach to recycled sewing completely inspiring and fantastic.  I needed this diversion.  At the same time that I found her book, as most of my readers know, my husband was preparing to move to another state for a job—without, for the time being, me and our daughter.*

Since I can get pretty compulsive facing the Fear of the Unknown, I’ve chosen to throw myself headlong into Crispina-inspired sewing during this time, rather than eating or shopping myself out into trouble.  Yes, it pretty much replaced blogging, because…well, mes bonnes amis, I wanted to be really, completely selfish and mess around with fabric and colors and thread and shapes and textures and not show it to anyone, not feel a single bit of pressure, not feel like a Bad Girl for not visiting my blog friends…blah, blah, blah. 

Anyone relate to this?  I know the answer is Yes. 

My other favorite book (besides Sweater Chop Shop) is The Twelve Secrets of Highly Creative Women, by Gail McMeekin.  This amazing book has a whole section about how we women who want to create must do this:  shut the door, turn off the phone, Be Selfish! was hard, but I did that.  For the cost of a couple of therapy sessions, I set up own Chop Shop and gave myself time to try it.

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Here are some of things I’ve made.  Truthfully, I can’t believe how much time I’ve spent.  Like anything one loves, it can be all-consuming.  I’m thrilled with how much I’ve learned, and how excited I am to get out of bed and do this instead of write grant proposals for the non-profit group that employs me. 

If these items look like they’re being photographed for sale, it’s because I’m opening a shop on Etsy at the end of November.  This exercise in creative abandon is making me seriously question my current career path.  At the very least, to justify playing with wool as much as I want to, I’d like to get some monetary return for my time. 

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I’ve noticed that other blogger friends have also stepped back from the social obligations of blogging to devote time to other creative pursuits.  If any of you are reading, I’d like to hear how that’s going for you—if you want to say.   

*he left this morning, and here I sit, at three in the afternoon, in my pajamas, house torn up with my projects, sad/glad the waiting is over, and knowing good things will come of it all. 



Friday, November 13, 2009

World Kindness Day

compassion.jpg compassion image by piveapastor

Did you know that Friday the 13th is World Kindness Day? 

Neither did I, until my friend Ingrid at Fashion is My Muse told me about it, along with an offer to send me her copy of a book I’ve been coveting.  Isn’t that kind?  Yes, it is.  Thank you, Ingrid.

Here are some other kindnesses I’m thinking of today.  

There’s a family in my town whose mother got a brain tumor and died a few years ago.  She was forty, and left behind four children under ten.   Utterly devoted to them, she was a gentle, creative, and smart mother.  I knew her because our daughters went to preschool together.

The family’s father has a substance abuse problem and has been left the sole guardian of the four kids. He has a part-time job and few family resources. 

This woman had many friends.  Today a group of them have taken on responsibilities of caring for the children.  They call themselves the Aunties.  Through an email network and daily check-ins, they figure out what the kids need every week and do all they can to make it happen.  They take care of nitty gritty needs like dental appointments and clothing, as well as simple kind actions like  hosting birthday parties, paying for dance lessons, and taking the little ones to the movies.

The Aunties all have families, jobs, and struggles of their own.  Yet they’ve embraced these children, all the while respecting that the dad, whatever his problems, is still the dad.

Soon, the father will be going to court-ordered treatment for his addiction problems, and the children are being taken in by the Aunties and some extended family. 

This month, I decided to join the Aunties.  I’ve always been a little nervous about getting involved with other people’s lives like this, and I don’t know yet what exactly I’ll contribute.  But geez, with kindness like this looking you in the face, it’s hard to sit on the sidelines and watch.

Yesterday a lady at the fabric store let me go in front of her at the check out because I was late for my daughter’s parent-teacher conference.  I told her about World Kindness Day, and how much I appreciated her small gesture.   

Kindness can be large, like what the Aunties do, or small, like the favor the lady in the store gave me. 

Either way, we all need it.  Don’t we? 




Saturday, November 7, 2009

Flowers de la Semaine and Doggies in Winter White


Clover and Riley/Vanna White Dog are here to say hello and we have not forgotten about you!   

The flowers in this photo cost me practically nothing at the florist down the street.  They have a fantastic deal in which you get six free roses if you go in wearing your bike helmet.  I love that they promote and reward sustainable transportation this way.  Aren’t those peachy-pink roses great? 

(Clover and Riley think so, too.)


The rest of our family are busy getting Hubby/Dad ready for his impending move to Nevada, which is happening in two weeks.  Much scurrying about and travel plans being made.  SeeSpotRun and I will spend a week there at the end of November. 

Do you think they have good thrift stores in Las Vegas? 


In the meantime, I’ve been indulging in a purely selfish creative pursuit that involves lots of second hand wool sweaters, hand sewing, and wardrobe refashioning.  It’s keeping me sane to have something in my hands to stab and poke with a needle, something I can control, something colorful and natural and recycled to throw energy into when everyone else is asleep. 

More about that in the future, but for now, thanks again to all of you dear friends in blogland who left kind comments to my last post. I’m slowly getting around to visiting all of you and enjoying all your news and thoughts.




Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Posting Plan for Next Six Weeks


Dear Friends,

I’m taking a break from regular posting for the next several weeks. 

As some of you know, my husband has taken a three-year job in another state and is going to move there in mid-November. 

My daughter and I are not moving with him at this time, as we’re uncertain about many parameters of the job.  He may be sent overseas.  

We want to spend as much time together as possible before my husband leaves.  Then, SeeSpotRun and I will be traveling to where he’s moving to help him get settled.  After we return, we’ll be working on ways to stay connected to him and figuring out our own routine here. 

I have slacked off my blog quite a bit in the last couple of weeks as we get closer to this change.  Instead of trying to keep it going in a half-baked way, I’m going to let it go of regular posting for now and see how I feel about it when my husband has gone. 

I expect that either I will want more than ever to connect with my blog friends and have the distraction of writing, or…I will need to rest and focus on things closer to home for a time.  Or maybe some of both will happen. 

In any case, I may post from time to time, and then I hope to reconnect with you all in some fashion by December.  In the meantime, know how much I appreciate you all.  I continue to send my encouragement and support for you in your blogging!



photo by R.W. Behan

Thursday, October 15, 2009

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be (a Pole Dancer?) Like Mommy

WhenIGrowUp.jpg When I Grow Up . . . image by NebraskaHick57

Looking for a photo to go with yesterday’s post, I found this funny story and picture on Photobucket (here). 
“When asked to draw a picture of what they wanted to be when they grew up, second-grader ‘Sarah’ turned in the lovely drawing shown above. 
Needless to say, the teacher was a bit surprised – Sarah’s mother had always seemed like such a conservative woman. So she sent a note home to the girl's mother asking for clarification as to the picture's meaning.
Here's the reply the teacher received the following day. 
‘Dear Mrs. Jones,
I wish to clarify that I am not now, nor have I ever been, an exotic dancer.
I work at Home Depot and I told my daughter how hectic it was last week before the blizzard hit. I told her we sold out every single shovel we had, and then I found one more in the back room, and that several people were fighting over who would get it. Her picture doesn't show me dancing around a pole. It's supposed to depict me selling the last snow shovel we had at Home Depot.
From now on I will remember to check her homework more thoroughly before she turns it in.’
Sincerely, Mrs. Smith”

Thank you, Miss Sarah, for the comic relief. 


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mothers Being True to Themselves

Deborah at The Temptation of Words asked on a recent post: Can Mothers Be True to Themselves?

What a thought-provoking question.  I’ve pondered it all week. 

Mothering is an awesome and humbling responsibility. We know from our own mothers and Nancy Friday that how we understand ourselves is deeply attached to our mothers’ definitions of themselves.

When you get right down to it, what else do we have to offer our children but ourselves?  Whether or not I feel adequate, my daughter has her roots planted in who I am, and how I live my life.  She will learn her first and most lasting lessons about how to be a woman by watching me do it.  This is basic psychology. 

If I want SSR to value her own life and take it seriously, hadn’t I better take a stab at that myself?  If I abandon the sacred ground of the life I’ve been given (my own)—tell myself it’s “selfish” to attend to it—I’ve essentially abandoned the soil that contains her roots.

There’s also this.  It’s tempting to think that only I can give my daughter all she needs to be an adult; that I must forgo my own growth to tend to hers.  But that’s giving myself too much credit.  Many, many people will influence and teach and love her.   

It’s also, maybe, a way to avoid taking responsibility for my own life.  It can seem so much more noble to assign myself the keeper of hers.  To hold on to that feeling of being needed as long as I can.

Being needed is a powerful experience and painful to release.  Motherhood is the most profound thing that’s ever happened to me.  I adore being a mother.  I don’t want the active part to be over.  I crave and yearn for more children. 

Yet, life is what it is.  I have one precious daughter.  For SSR to grow into an adult, she needs me to get a life.  If I cling to being her everything forever, she’s going to need serious therapy.

“Being true to ourselves” can tend to carry a connotation of turning our backs on loved ones—charging off into the sunset alone to follow our bliss. And you know, I’ve done a fair amount of that.  I’ve been racked with guilt and self-doubt.  But it it’s meant to be, those resistant feelings will diminish. And if it’s revealed that I’ve made a mistake, I can make amends. Few decisions are irreversible.

Today, as SSR approaches teenager-hood, I don’t feel the need so much to get away.  I want to be with her more than ever.  I know I have something she desperately needs:  a loving guide in how to be a woman.  In other words, a mother.  No one else can give her that.   



Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Quick Hello from SeeSpotRun


Hi, this is SeeSpotRun. As Sallymandy may has told you on Wednesday I was informed that I have H1N1 (swine flu), and I’ve been out of school for four days, and I’ve been the sickest I have for a long time.  I just wanted to say a quick hello and I hope you stay healthy this fall, and here are some quick ways to keep healthy!

  • Wash your hands often.
  • If there’s a person near you who has the flu, don’t get too close to that person.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Eat healthy meals.
  • Get enough sleep.

I hope none of you are sick, and have a great weekend!




Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Days of Swine and Noses. Please Stay Tuned and We'll Talk More Later.

I'm so pleased and grateful for the comments and discussion that my last posts on Women and Happiness have generated. I've spent the weekend thinking about all you've shared, and reading more about these topics.

For instance, here are two titles well worth looking for. "Between Ourselves: Letters Between Mothers and Daughters," in which such creative notables as Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, and Karen Blixen/Isak Dinesen tell in intimate detail the workings of their minds and hearts as regards being a woman in a world largely defined by non-women. "Twelve Habits of Highly Creative Women," is an outstanding and thoughtful study--rather superficially named--useful to both genders, of cultivating true freedom of expression and satisfaction in living by one's own lights.

But this week, my daughter, whom some of you know as my guest poster SeeSpotRun, is ill. We're hoping it's not H1N1, of course, but seems like it might be.

I'll be posting again soon, but for now, I'm choosing imbalance in order to throw myself into mothering.

xo, Sallymandy

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Final Thoughts on Women and Happiness

2666724429_d1ec11b825.jpg Happy women image by ShelbyHays

Knowing what I’ve been writing about lately, my father sent me a link to this article about What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently.  It’s a piece by Marcus Buckingham highlighting findings from his recent book.   

I had seen this article last week.  My first reaction had been “What does a person named Marcus know about women’s happiness?”  But when I got past this resistance, I realized the author has some very good information.   

In surveying women, Buckingham found that the “happiest” among us strive not for balance but imbalance—in other words, leaning toward moments that create happiness while letting go of those that drain us.  As my friend Shannon once told me, “Do what makes you strong.” 

This is simple, yet not easy.  To do what makes us strong means knowing what makes us strong.  To know this, we have to commit to finding out.  This, I believe, is our path to contentment and connection to others.         

A thoughtful and generous blogger friend brought another idea to mind.  She commented on my recent posts about how cultural norms can harm us.  Then she pointed out my inconsistency in posting, last week, a list of ways French women stay slim.  Was I contributing to the problem by bolstering the importance of thinness?  

This is a good point.  On the one hand, I want the world to take women seriously.  On the other, I’ve absorbed many messages about what I think we’re supposed to be.  The list includes pretty, thin, and accommodating.  As long as I hold myself to these expectations, it follows that I will continue to pass them around.     

Twice this week I’ve observed how I unknowingly devalue the “feminine” in myself and other women.   At a social event at our house, I found myself taking a much greater interest in the husband’s academic work than the wife’s business selling cosmetics.  Why did I?  I don’t like it when that happens to me.  Now, I think I’m genuinely more interested in history than cosmetics, but still…why didn’t I ask about her work to take an interest in her life? 

A couple days later I got my hair cut.  In the salon, I became aware that I quietly look down on “women’s” talk about clothes, hair, food, and their husbands, such as I heard in the salon.  This time, I allowed myself to join in.  My jaws flapped and I laughed freely.  In the process, I found that the subject matter was just an entry to the heart of talk that was not shallow.  We were sharing, in a way that’s maybe uniquely “female,” how we make decisions, relate to others, and solve daily problems.  This is the stuff of real life. 

It felt good to let myself join a sisterhood that day.  It didn’t matter, really, what we talked about.  What mattered was that we were women listening to each other and being kind.  I had a good time.  I felt part of a community.   

I felt happy. 


Click photo for link to Photobucket.   

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thoughts About Women and Happiness

The Heritage of Motherhood by George Eastman House.

The Heritage of Motherhood, Gertrude Kasebier, 1904. 

Jane Ussher is a professor of women’s health psychology at the University of West Sydney, and author and editor of several studies on women’s health and psychology issues

Prof. Ussher believes that the social norms and expectations of being female can program women to become depressed.  To put it bluntly:  

“…female unhappiness is often an understandable response to the realities of women’s lives…” 

She describes a familiar scenario in which we expect ourselves to juggle a partner, children, job, homes, and extended family responsibilities—happily.  When we find ourselves in an unhappy funk, we seek help…only be told that we are experiencing a problem that’s probably caused by our bodies.  

While many causes of depression undoubtedly are physical, seldom are we encouraged to ask larger questions of the world in which we live, and the myths we’ve picked up about what it means to be a woman.   

When I was an Air Force wife in Alaska, I naively visited a military psychiatrist about my post-partum depression.  He told me it was my responsibility to support the mission of the Air Force.  To do this I needed to parent without putting pressure on my husband.  This was my role.  If I “failed” I would need to be medicated.  If that failed…well, he sort of raised his hands in a hopeless gesture while mentioning electric shock therapy. 

This was only twelve years ago. 

Another time, when I was a young and single, a woman therapist told me I should slip out the back door of her office at the end of an emotionally draining session.  You see, they had a young single man working at the reception desk.  She felt certain I wouldn’t want the handsome dude to see me weeping. 

Years later, a different woman therapist told me I needed to get a grip on my depression because my husband deserved a happy wife. 

Another time, a woman therapist told me I would feel better if I gave more to others…that I should do some volunteer work. 

What did all these experiences have in common?  People, undoubtedly well-meaning, communicated that I wasn’t being a proper woman.  Through my depression, I was failing men and failing other people.  Shame on me. 

I listened, and I did not get better.  

Fortunately, the statistical incidence of depression in women tends to fall off in middle age and later—say, after menopause or thereabouts.  Professor Ussher’s research suggests this is because these are generally the years that women can finally leave behind the myths about what it means to be feminine—if we want to; if they’re no longer working for us.  It’s the time when we can finally risk saying no if we desire; experiment with being who we are; and figure out what we need. 

Whether we come to this place out of desperation or liberation, I believe we need to get there. 

Now the question is, how do we do that? 


click here to see the article on Jane Ussher’s work that I used and quoted in this post. 

Friday, September 25, 2009

Why Are Women Unhappy?

As reported by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times, “Blue is the New Black.” 

woman_crying_1.jpg sad image by leighaaxann











What she’s referring to, in case you haven’t heard, is the series of studies covering most of the developed world, showing that as a group women are less happy than our counterparts were thirty years ago. 

The freedom to choose that our mothers earned for us has not, apparently, gained us the “happiness” it was supposed to.  Even with our greater educational opportunities, careers, and husbands who change diapers, too many of us remain dissatisfied and exhausted. 

Why and how did this happen?  Commenters blame everything from lack of adequate child care to the incessant media messages to look young.  Others with a more philosophical bent cite unrealistic expectations:  that young women were, in a sense, sold a bill of goods telling us we could “have it all.”  The promise has often become a burden and an impossibly high standard. 

In addition to Maureen Dowd’s post, I checked in with Arianna Huffington (“The Sad, Shocking Truth about how Women are Feeling”).  Readers of both articles are leaving much food for thought in their comments. I was especially taken by what men had to say, namely that men are “happier” than women because they have mostly known they can’t have it all—that life is a series of trade-offs. 

Hmm.  Really?  It has appeared to me—often—that [white] men could in fact have it all if they wanted.  On the other hand, I know from men I love that stellar careers with much advancement aren’t often aren’t compatible good marriages and family lives. 

Could it be that for decades we women have been telling ourselves a pack of lies about what we can achieve, and struggling against the reality?  I myself have bought into the story line that women could should devote ourselves to significant, sustained professions, while also raising families, while also maintaining households, and remaining happily partnered (oh, and by the way, while also eating right, staying toned, and wearing Manolo Blahniks).


When I had my baby twelve years ago, an old friend told me I could have it all in my life, but probably not all at once.  Today, finally, I think she’s right.

What do you think??   Could we give ourselves permission to stop this searching and striving?  Could we stop apologizing to ourselves and the universe for not measuring up? 


Sunday, September 20, 2009

French Women Don’t Snack. Words of Wisdom for the Weight Gaining Season.

svFRENCH_wideweb__470x3520.jpg French Women image by brideincalcutta04

Welcome Fall (in the northern Hemisphere), the season when many of us begin to slow down, eat more carbs, and maybe gain a pound or two.

For inspiration and encouragement, here is a list of habits that reportedly help French women keep their weight down—and this, within a cuisine based on butter!  The list has been around a long time, passed around from friend to friend.  Mine’s stuck permanently on my refrigerator.

I think it’s pretty clearly aimed at American women, pointing out many of our really unhealthy habits. 

French women don’t: 


Graze by the light of the fridge

Eat lunch at their desks

Keep a stash of food in their office

Eat huge portions

Have breakfast for dinner

Use bottled salad dressing

Drink sodas—diet or regular

Buy “fat-free” or “lowfat” versions of real products

Eat on the run

Drink alcohol, except wine with meals

Refuse to eat what’s served

Eat popcorn and candy at the movies

Count calories or fat grams

Say no to dessert

Eat cheese before a meal (only after)

Go to all-you-can-eat buffets

Have croissants for breakfast every day

Buy in bulk

Eat in front of the television

Ask for seconds

Eat bread before meals

Is one or more of these a special problem for you?  If you could say goodbye to one bad habit on this list,  which would it be?  (For me, snacking and eating at my desk). 



Friday, September 18, 2009

Check Out This Nifty Free Planner From Esther Coombs


I found this cute weekly planner page free at Modish, a great site with resources for people growing creative businesses.  Sorry, I can’t figure out how to show you a full size version, but if you click the Modish link above, you can download the planner (free), then print and just write on it. 

(It’s especially fun that she’s made “Nap/Coffee” after lunch each day a permanent feature.)

Here’s a sample of how I’m using the planner this week.  The colors and graphics somehow encourage me to think I get to do these things rather than I have to do these things. 


London artist Esther Coombs, who created this, is an artist after my own heart.  That’s because she refashions old stuff into beautiful new stuff.  In her case, it’s vintage china and tableware upon which she works her magic.  Check out her site here

NYC Plate

DIY plate

Thank you, Esther!  I love your calendar and your work.