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. 


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wordless Thursday, Because the Doggies Will Always Help Out on a Busy Day




photos copyright The Blue Kimono.  2009. 

Patch-worked Levis: Haute Recessionist Style or Post-Hippie Weirdness?

Opinions were mixed the other day on The Sartorialist when these photos of cut-and-pasted Levis on Swedish model Filippa Berg appeared. 

Comments ranged from “Love the jeans!” to “Eeeesh! Are people really trying to bring back the 70s?” 

What do you think? 


photos used with permission by Scott Schuman. 

Monday, September 14, 2009

“We have not come here to take prisoners…”


“…but to surrender ever more deeply to freedom and joy. “

“Run my dear

from anything

that may not strengthen

your budding wings.” 

“For we have not come here to take prisoners

Or to confine our wondrous spirits

But to experience ever and ever more deeply

Our divine courage, freedom, and Light.”

…The Sufi poet Hafiz

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lizzie Miller: “This body is her dulcimer.”

By now you’ve likely seen this photo. 

It’s the model Lizzie Miller, published in the September issue of Glamour MagazineAccording to press sources, it’s causing a “stir” because of one thing:  Lizzie’s tummy.  

I saw this first on The Sartorialist, where 500+ readers commented. Up to now, I’ve never seen more than about 175 comments, tops, on any Sart post.  

Several thoughts came to my mind after reading the press.     

Number one.  Twenty-year-old Lizzie works as a “plus-size” model.  At five-foot-eleven (1.80m), she wears a size US 12 or 14 (British 16 or 18, or European 46 or 48).  

Lizzie states that

“It’s sad. In the industry anything over size six is considered a plus-size. Pretty much every picture in a magazine or ad is airbrushed... I don’t think the public understands how much smoke and mirrors are involved in making women look like that…I’m not trying to promote obesity, and I’m not obese, but I’m also not stick thin.”

So why are women her size called “plus-sized?” 

Number two.  Public comments about Lizzie’s photo have been overwhelmingly positive—people shouting, “Finally, someone who looks like a real woman in major fashion magazine.”

But other folks complain that such imagery encourages obesity.     

So on the one hand we have photos everywhere of women who appear anorexic.  Now we have Lizzie, who appears real but is labelled, basically, a fatty. 

I acknowledge that Americans, including myself, are wont to overindulge, and our average weight has crept up dangerously in the past thirty or forty years. 

Still, is there gray area in the media between “thin” and “obese?” 

Number three.  For the title of this post, I paraphrased an ancient poem by Kabir, a 15th-century Indian poet.  The original reads:

“Listen, friend.  This body is his dulcimer.  He draws the strings tight, and out of it comes the music of the inner universe.”   

Can a body’s strings be drawn tight, even if one’s tummy is not? 

Look at Lizzie’s smile.  Do you detect her inner universe?   


Saturday, September 12, 2009

La Main de Madame Hugo and Other Photos of Women in History

Two women fencing by George Eastman House.

Two Women Fencing, Unidentified Artist, ca. 1885. 

Le main de Madame Hugo by George Eastman House.

La Main de Madame Hugo, by Auguste Vacquerie, 1853-4. 

These images are from the collection at the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, New York.  This collection is in the public domain—not copyrighted.

Being a lover of art and women’s history, I had to share some with you.  Although the online collection spans years up to the mid-20th century, I picked out nineteenth century ones because, to me, it’s exciting to see photographic images of a time that far gone. 

I’ve done a little online detective work to learn about who the subjects and/or photographers represented here were.  That information is below in the large fonts.   

The photo above, taken by the French photographer Auguste Vacquerie, must be of the hand of that Mme. Hugo—wife of Victor.  Vacquerie was connected to the Hugo family through his brother’s marriage. 

The image below by the English photographer Henry Peach Robinson supposedly depicts Viola from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.  I found that out in a book about nineteenth century photographic theory and feminism, but…I was too tired really to understand what it said. 

She Never Told Her Love by George Eastman House.

She Never Told Her Love, by Henry Peach Robinson, 1858.

The two photos below are by John Thomson, a Scottish pioneering photographer whose work among street people of London was a precursor to the field of photojournalism. 

Being the passionate thrifter and clothes recycler that I am (I still have not bought any new clothes since last February), I was really fascinated with this one of the old clothes shop.  I’ve never seen anything like it.

An Old Clothes' Shop, Seven Dials. by George Eastman House.

An Old Clothes Shop, Seven Dials, by John Thomson, 1876-7. 

Old Furniture. by George Eastman House.

Old Furniture, John Thomson, 1877. 

The photo below is titled “Petipa.”  I’m quite certain the dancer is Mariia Surovshchikova-Petipa, who was prima ballerina to the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres in the late 1800s.  She was married to the choreographer Marius Pepita. 

Interesting that in the fifth and sixth shots her arms are kind of at half-mast; not a true fifth position, and an unusual way to hold her hands (by today’s ballet standards). 

Petipa by George Eastman House.

Petipa, Andre-Adolphe-Eugene Disderi, 1862. 

The image below is by Julia Margaret Cameron, a British photographer from the Isle of Wight who found her art when she was 48 years old. 

Ophelia Study No. 2 by George Eastman House.

Ophelia Study, Julia Margaret Cameron, 1867.

Girl with dove by George Eastman House.

Girl With Dove, Oscar Rejlander, 1860. 

The hand-tinted image below by early Japanese photographer Shin-E-Do looks like it could have been taken yesterday. 

Shin-E-Do was known for depictions of Japanese life during the Meiji period (the last half of the nineteenth century)—a time of modernization and increasing status in the world. 

I know little about how kimono and obi were traditionally worn, but I find it interesting that her obi is down around her hips, as in most of the images I’ve seen, it’s worn farther up the body.  Maybe that was a style of the period?  Or maybe her own personal style?  Or…?

Japanese woman with mirrors by George Eastman House.

Japanese Woman With Mirrors, Shin-E-Do, 1890. 

Aren’t these photos wonderful? 



Friday, September 11, 2009

Vintage Shoes and Boots on Etsy

Ultimate Vintage Leather Patchwork Boots With Stacked Wood Heels 8.5 9

Vintage leather patchwork boots, size 8.5 or 9 US.  MotherMidnight.  $150 USD.  How cool are these?  And they don’t match—even better!  If these fit me, I’d be all over them.   Sadly, they don’t fit me. 

Beautiful Black Leather PRADA Shoes 37  1/2

Beautiful black leather Prada chunky heels.  Size 7 or 37.5.  Noellerodrigues.  $125 USD. 

FREE SHIPPING Armani Vintage Platform Heels Black Leather 39 / 9

Vintage Armani black leather heels.  Size 9 US.  Heatergirlie.  $75 USD. 

GUCCI BOOTS size 35 or 5

1960s Gucci Boots.  Size 35 or 5.  BackThennishVintage.  $195 USD.

Vintage BRUNO MAGLI Lace-up Granny Boots

Vintage Bruno Magli lace-up granny boots.  Size 6.5 or 36.5.  Thegreedyseagull.  $68 USD. 


1960s yellow suede ankle straps.  BackThennishVintage.  $34 USD. 

RARE Vintage NORMAL KAMALI Sculptural Wedge Shoes

Vintage Norma Kamali leather wedges.   Size 8.5 US.  Traven7.  $145 USD. 

Balenciaga Vintage 70s Green Patent Leather Heels Size 7

Balenciaga 1970s vintage green leather sandals.  Size 7 US.   Longagomemories.  $49.95 USD. 


1970s skyscraper snakeskin shoes, never worn.   Size 7.5 US.  CosasRaras.  $90 USD. 

70s Go-Go RETRO SHOES spain sz 8B

1970s retro leather heels.  Size 8B US.  RetroLane.  $70 USD. 

Vintage 80s NEON Lime Green GUESS Pumps Size 10 - Euro 42

Vintage 1980s neon green kitten heel pumps by Guess.  Size 10 or 42.  Retrothreadz.  $65 USD. 



Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Teenagers and Cell Phones II. Texting Acronyms I’d Like To See.

texting-while-driving.jpg Texting while driving image by amhirschman

As a follow up to yesterday’s post, I figured it’s time parents had some of our own texting acronyms.  We don’t need many to make our points.  Just a few effective, succinct phrases like:      


(Because I said so!  You sent how many texts in one day?!  This is absolutely the last text message I’m going to send;  I mean it.  You’ve got to be kidding; in my day, we were happy with a stick and a rock.)

Do you have any others? 


Teenagers and Cell Phones. Learn From My Experience.


So, I promised my twelve-year-old she could go back to school with a cell phone.  That was six months ago, and we are still navigating the waters.   If you are new to this situation, too, maybe we can help each other.

Now, it’s not that I want to hide from cell phones, television, or computers altogether.  I want a door that shuts on them from time to time, to protect sanctuary in my home. 

How to find moderation with a teen or ‘tween, and cell phones?  If you can learn from my experience it will make me happy.  And then share your insights with me.  Here are some of my hard-learned lessons.       

1.  Buy time.  Not cell phone minutes, but as much time as needed to get informed about cell phones and teenagers.  If your child is pressing you for a phone, set a date that’s reasonable for you, and then stick to it.     

2.  Get informed.  Learn about phones, services, and payment plans.  Learn about your provider’s parental controls.  Don’t assume that because you have a cell phone, you know the needed facts.  Assume that your child knows way more than you do. 

3.  Ask what boundaries seem reasonable to your child.  Try to discern what he/she thinks cell phones are for.  Sit down, and prepare to be educated. 

4.  Decide what your boundaries are.  Do you mind the cell phone being used first thing in the morning?  At midnight?  At dinner?  On family outings, hikes, bike rides, movies?  Your child will have seen atrocious cell phone behavior by the time she’s potty trained.  She can’t be expected to follow reasonable boundaries unless you make them conscious and clear.     

5.  When in doubt, start with a strict boundary and ease up later.  Explain that this is a work in progress.  Allow yourself to evolve.

7.  If your child is young enough, start an early rule that a phone at school belongs in the locker.  High school teachers report that the cell phone habit is nearly impossible to control in the upper grades—even though schools have rules against them, they are hard to enforce.  Discourage the habit of carrying it to class. 

8.  Let your child have a say in which phone to buy, but pay for it yourself.  Ownership = tiny shreds of control.  Your child can pay for services if you want him to have a financial stake. 

9.  Finally, when it all seems too much, look for comic relief.  You might try learning some texting language to try out on your partner or mother.  Beyond the ever popular “WTF,” there are phrases like: 

YRYOCC:  “You’re running on your own cuckoo clock.” 

SSEWBA:  “Someday soon, everything will be acronyms.”   

RUMCYMHMD:  “Are you on medication cuz you must have missed a dose.”

Do you have any wisdom about teenagers and cell phones? 


photo cartoon from www.photobucket.com.  Click on photo for link to page. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Thought for the Day September 8, 2009


 ”Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.”

Kahlil Gibran

Saturday, September 5, 2009

“Be Not the Slave of Your Own Past…” Words for Meditation

cool-pic1.jpg art ocean escape image by iamanerd121

Be not the slave of your own past.

Plunge into the sublime seas,

dive deep and swim far,

so you shall come back with self-respect,

with new power,

with an advanced experience

that shall explain and overlook the old.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thank you to Lynds at LandofLynds for posting this quote on her blog, where I found it.  Photo from www.photobucket.com; click on photo to see photographer’s information.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Beautiful Creations from Recycled by Hyena

 Le temps des cerises


Hyacinthe - Recycled top by MlleHyena.

Cecile at Recycled by Hyena is taking clothing recycling to new heights.  I’m just smitten with these beautifully designed and crafted pieces. 

I love Cecile’s ethic and aesthetic of recycling clothing into something better than the sum of its parts.  Here are some of my favorite RBH pieces—some for sale now on Cecile’s website or Etsy shop, and some that have already been sold.  

(Today, I’m the happy owner of one of Cecile’s pieces.  Keep reading to find out which.)

Robespierre - Cropped Sweater


On her Etsy site, Cecile writes of her design philosophy:

“My clothes are made from scratch but not from new materials. They are made with fabric from clothes I purchased in Goodwill stores and non-profit thrift stores.

“I ‘believe’ in the craft revolution and I think it is our future. The handmade and eco-friendly life is the only alternative to the consumerism destroying our planet and the living beings surrounding us.”

Gentiane - Recycled Gown



I don’t know about you, but these designs are not what I usually envision when I hear the word “eco-friendly.”  That they are both very desirable fore wearing, and good for the environment, and handmade, makes me really excited about Recycled by Hyena

Plus, regular people like you and me can afford them.  In times like these, that makes a difference.   

Dejante - Wristwear

Corsetage - Neck Corset

Mitaines - Fingerless Gloves

Cecile also creates these gorgeous pieces of fiber jewelry. 

The last one, the red and cream cuff, is now living in my dresser drawer (when it’s not on my arm).   

Go visit Cecile at her Etsy shop or blog! 

Sallymandy   ♥

all photos are the property of Cecile at Recycled by Hyena and cannot be copied from this site without her permission.