Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Good Wife

I received an email from a good friend. It was supposedly an article from Good Housekeeping Magazine from 1955 entitled "The Good Wife's Guide." While of questionable origin, it is interesting to reflect on. It was comprised of 18 bullet points, the main gist of each one being how to treat your man to keep him happy. We've come a long way since 1955. Some of those changes have been good, but in my opinion, not all.

GOOD CHANGES I almost have to laugh reading bullet #18, "A good wife always knows her place." Are we pack animals? I come in right after Larry? I could make some semi-nasty comments on "position," but I'll refrain here. My grandma used to say that the man is the head of the household, but his wife is the neck, and the neck turns the head. It's by no means an original, but leads me to believe that even in 1955, women had different ideas about their place.

Bullet #17: "Don't ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him." Hello? I guess I'd be raving mad at this one also were I not busting a seam from laughter. When Larry was going back and forth with the grad school question, he always wanted my opinion. I never felt it was my place to give one because I was not the one having to attend school and do the work, and it was determining his profession, not mine. From Larry's point of view, although he is the one working, he's doing it on behalf of us as a couple and a family, and therefore didn't feel right about making that major a decision with out my input and mutual agreement. We have indeed come a long way.

UNFORTUNATE CHANGES If this were slightly altered, the same article could be called "The Good Spouse," and the information would be invaluable. I suppose it could be argued that it is precisely because if the one-sidedness of the suggestions that the article is shameful. I could see that point. I think as a society however, many of us try to drop the expectation on wives rather than extend it to husbands.

The end of bullet #6 reads, "After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction." Someone (not, I believe, my friend) had incredulously underlined this statement. But it is true. And unless you have married a total jerk, catering to his needs with be rewarded by his catering to yours. That, my friends, is the basis of a good marriage. If I do all I can to take good care of Larry and he does all he can to take good care of me, both of our needs are then met in a very unselfish, giving way.

Bullet #3 reads, "Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him, His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it." Guess what, my day needs a lift, too. If I am fun and interesting, Larry will be, too. I've heard it said that people who are bored are people who are boring. There is a lot of truth to that. I married my best friend for, among other reasons, companionship. If I am a lousy companion, what was the point?

Bullet #12: "Your goal: try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquility where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit." Wow. That should be the goal for the benefit of us all! Easy to manage? Uh--no. But a good goal none the less.

Bullet #8: "Be happy to see him." Do I even need to say "duh?"

I am sad that our world becomes increasingly unconcerned with manners and respect, with kindness and selflessness. I think of an extreme case of a miserable person I know who feels that he is never shown enough love. But it's because he doesn't know how to show love himself. He only looks at what he thinks he's not getting, never at what he's not giving. It's a pitiful situation. Many of us, I'm sure all of us at times, could do wonders to increase our happiness by looking outside of ourselves and giving more. The Savior said that those who lose themselves for his sake would find themselves. I think that general sentiment applies to Christians and non-Christians alike. There is great satisfaction to be had in being a good wife, husband, mother, father, friend, child, citizen of the world.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Studio

I love art. I am relatively artistic. I have some talent. However, I lack discipline and focus. So I think it highly unlikely that I'll ever elevate myself to the category of "artist," a title I covet. And now that I live in a community brimming with true professional artists, my dream seems less attainable than ever. I would quickly be identified as a fraud.

When we moved to the mountains, I was fortunate enough to have a room assigned just to my junk and me. In our previous home, my "sewing room" was housed in half of our gargantuan master closet. Better than nothing, but it often spilled out into the master bath, much to the chagrin of my better half. In this home we have a whole extra bedroom, and since Larry has the office/recording studio downstairs, my sewing machine and fabrics, crafting and art supplies have been housed there for two years in varying stages of semi-organization and chaos.

With the bigger room, I inherited storage possession of our family photo albums and other memorabilia. This also became a waiting station--a place to put trash before I was really ready to part with it, give-away items on their way to the Help Center, and storage items which had as of yet no assigned location. There were empty boxes, half-finished projects, mending, Halloween costumes, plastic hangers, fabric scraps, pattern pieces, manzanita branches, wrapping paper, raffia, Christmas cards, school work, and as of last November, a beautiful sewing machine in a cabinet that had belonged to my great-grandmother sitting hidden by junk in the corner. "It's somewhere in the sewing room," became a common response in our home to the infamous "Where's the ______?" question.

Four events spurred me on to a cleaning and decorating spree. First, we visited my brother- and sister-in-law in Idaho. Not only is Kim more minimalist than I in her beautiful decorating, but she has been on an organizational binge herself lately. Their closets were gorgeous and I was inspired. Second, we came home and Larry went to work on his studio-office. It's not perfect, but it's looking pretty darn good and I was envious. Third, I made some note cards to sell in my mom's Holiday Shoppe here in town, and then I had vision. Because of the lack of any clear surface area at the moment in my sewing room, I'd made the art for the cards on my kitchen counter. At that moment my sewing room changed form in my mind, it was now an art studio.

Finally, Larry allocated a certain dollar amount to "home improvements," put me in charge, and I had funds. Larry requested only that I use some of the money to get window treatments for the solarium. This is important because during the winter the sun beats in and is fading our furniture. The most cost effective way to do this is for me to make custom roman shades, virtually impossible to accomplish without an accessible sewing space. So along with an order of 17 yards of home dec fabric for the shades, shelves and baskets and a table were purchased. Periwinkle paint I'd acquired over a year ago for this purpose was rolled onto the walls. Several trips were made to the dump. Et voila: functional studio, complete with two sewing machines and a serger.

Whenever I redo a room, even a bathroom, I want to spend all of my time there. This is no exception. I am ready to tackle all of my unfinished projects and start on new ones. It's exciting. Like Paul McCartney's girl and her driver, I have a studio, and that's a start.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I Love Lucy!

One of our neighbors has a license plate frame that reads, "A True Lucy Fan is Driving." This has taken on new meaning for me this past week. I get a smile on my face every time I pass that car on my morning walk with our newly acquired Golden Retriever, Lucy. Truly, I am a fan.

Lucy lived next door to Larry's parents up until August 1st, when she became a mountain dog. She's about 8 months old, so she still acts a little like a puppy, although she looks more like an adult. Lucy, however, is one of the calmer puppies I've met, at least now that she is getting used to lots of attention. She loves people, and every visitor to our home is a new friend. She is smart and eager to please, a great combination for behavior training.

Anyone who's owned a dog knows what an ego booster one can be. Lucy loves me. She loves the whole family, but it's been clear from day one that I am her main care giver, and I therefore instantly earned a special place in her heart. She follows me everywhere, lays on the floor beside me while I work, and gives me lots of kisses and paws and snuggles.

The kids all love Lucy, at least now that #1 and #4 are no longer afraid of her! Larry loves Lucy and will even comment unsolicited about what a good dog she really is. And I love Lucy, too.