Tuesday, March 31, 2015

S & F Series--The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Okay my little chickadees, I know I told you I was going to post on Mondays, and now it's Tuesday. And I said that I would talk about skin care. But so much has been happening that I think I will need to blog more than once a week. Also, a couple of days ago I finished reading Marie Kondo's the life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing (this is how the capitalization appears on the cover). I borrowed it from the library and have given it to my husband to read. While I have referred to this book frequently, it deserves a post dedicated to it. Skin care will have to wait. 

I am already experiencing the results of the KonMari Method. I pared down my spring/summer clothing, took what I am keeping to the laundry room, and bagged the rest up to give away. My dresser drawers have been completely reorganized, and my closet is well on its way. I am paring down so much that I might not even have to store my off season clothing!

Now, Jennifer L. Scott of The Daily Connoisseur blog, who I have also mentioned quite a bit, does not agree with Marie about not storing the off season wardrobe. I haven't decided yet, but I will give you my verdict by next week. At first it might seem to make the most sense to pack away items that you only wear in the summer or winter, so that what you see when you open your drawers and closet are strickly those pieces that you would actually wear.

Then again, I live in Ohio. This means that we have lots of transitional weather. I would never be wearing shorts in winter, and some clothing is way too heavy for summer. Or so it might seem... I'm beginning to suspect that my wardrobe could be considerably expanded if I didn't store anything away, and it would certainly free up my time. We shall see.

One of the wackier elements of Marie's book is that she anthropomorphizes material things. In other words, books don't like to be at the bottom of a pile any more than you or I would. Clothes can be happy or sad. In fact, she seems to suggest that our possessions reincarnate! This is entertaining, but strangely I am discovering that there is some mystical truth to all of this.

I don't want to spoil the pleasure you will get from reading her book by quoting from it or telling you too much about how the method itself works. What I can tell you is that the furniture in my bedroom told me in a very real way that it wanted to be moved. And some of the cardigan sweaters in my closet announced that they were unhappy hanging and getting saggy shoulders and wanted to be folded instead.

I am not joking. I have had very physical experiences and radical shifts in perspective from reading this book and implementing the decluttering process. The promise given is that we will literally figure out what to do with our lives once we have tidied our homes, all in one go. We will be different people. We will be our real selves. We will only have to do this method once, and we will be changed forever. I'm talking metamorphosis, baby! From worm to butterfly.

So just get your hands on this golden nugget of a book, and let's do this! I expect to be reading many comments from you as we go along in this together. It's time to dry off our wings and fly!!

Monday, March 23, 2015

S & F Series--What's Age Got to Do with It?

I am reading Tish Jett's Forever Chic: Frenchwomen's Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style and Substance, and so far I have mixed reviews to give you. The book starts out strong, telling us that in France age has nothing to do with beauty. I already knew this about the French, and of course I wildly applaud it. A woman of a certain age, la femme Francaise d 'un certain age, is considered to be sexy and alluring. She has that elusive mystique that comes from a combination of confidence, intelligence, charm, and personal style. An especially insightful idea from Tish is that the outward appearance cannot be separated from the inner substance of a woman. Therefore, the immense effort that a Frenchwoman puts forth to look stunning on the outside is part and parcel of her overall character. It isn't just empty vanity. And the Frenchwoman above all desires to look natural, to look like herself. Frenchwomen like themselves.

This is all wonderful stuff, but the "secrets" of the French allure include an arsenal of estheticians, dermatologists, and plastic surgeons, plus a giant slew of anti-aging products used at home. I once read that French women spend most of their money on skin care and lingerie, and apparently the first part of that is true! It's all well and good that French women wish to look natural and so do not go overboard with invasive treatments like face lifts and botox, but to me there is just something fundamentally insecure about having all of this work done in order to maintain the forty-year-old face until age 70. It reflects the same societal pressure that American women encounter to look forever young and smokin' hot.

 la femme francoise d' un certain age, Juliette Binoche

Tish does have French friends who prefer to forgo the plastic surgery and age truly naturally, relying instead on healthy lifestyles, including religiously wearing sunscreen, taking good care of their skin, exercising, eating well, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. The women who employ the help of plastic surgeons also do these things. They all have excellent habits. And I certainly agree with Tish's advice to have a yearly appointment with a dermatologist in order to have one's skin thoroughly checked. Skin cancer is one of the most deadly kinds.

Lucky for you all, I am a licensed esthetician. I worked in a prominent day spa in Columbus for several years, and I can give you the scoop on what you really need to maintain radiant, youthful skin, without breaking the bank.

My plan is to post a new article every Monday, although I may do so more often. The next topic up will focus on good skin care habits, because you must have this foundation set before you worry about makeup and everything else. Your skin is your largest organ, after all! So please sign up as a blog follower and to receive updates via email, and I would be delighted to hear of your own progress to simplify and Frenchify in the comments below.

Monday, March 16, 2015

To Simplify & Frenchify--S & F Series Introduction

I'm so excited this morning, because I just received Forever Chic: Frenchwomen's Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style and Substance by Tish Jett. I've been wanting this book for a long time, which is geared toward the 40+ woman. I've also had an idea for a blog series brewing in my mind, and spring is the perfect time to get down and dirty in the pursuit of a simpler, more meaningful life. Ladies (and gentleman if you are reading), it's time for a merciless decluttering! But we aren't going to think in terms of "spring cleaning" or getting rid of stuff. We are going to pull focus instead on the idea of keeping in our homes and our lives only those things which bring us joy.

The weather is supposed to warm up to the low 60s today, so windows may be opened! I have both my front porch and upstairs balcony already cleaned out and ready for sitting. It's time to live al fresco, but with the protection of screened spaces. A porch can serve as an outdoor cafe. The cafe, in Paris, is the place to see and be seen. In my case, the passersby may not be incredibly chic, but I can be a role model nevertheless, and so can you. Bring up the chic factor in your own neighborhood! This includes walking to as many destinations as possible. Walking is tres French.

Spring is wardrobe transition time. Before you put your winter clothes in storage, go through each piece of clothing you own, actually touching it meditatively in the way of Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I began with the tops and bottoms in my dresser drawers and have moved on to the closet. After tops and pants will come sweaters, skirts, dresses, and jackets. Right now I have enough transitional pieces that I don't need to pull my warmer weather clothing out of storage yet. When I do, I will immediately pare down to only those items that warm my soul. We are going to declutter by categories, and categories within categories, as Kondo strongly suggests. And you start with your own belongings. So your own clothes first!

If you don't have good feelings when you handle a particular item, no matter what the reason or for no discernible reason at all, off to charity it goes! If you are currently a size 12 and believe that you will soon be a 10 but know that you will never realistically see a size 8 again, get rid of the too small clothing. Those pieces that you love but that don't fit quite yet can be tucked away for a time but should not remain with the clothes in current circulation. Sentimental items are sorted last, so put pieces that you don't wear but that tug at your heartstrings aside for now. (That's a relief, huh?)

Voila! You have a place to begin. But you must begin it. Today. Throughout this series, I will share with you where I am at in sorting my categories of stuff, and we will explore Tish Jett's Frenchy wisdom. We will be chic--simply, beautifully, and substantially chic--in every area of life. Are you ready to finally meet the real you?

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Many Paths of Relaxed Homeschooling

 What steps must I take to reach the cat?

Have you ever had the experience of reading an article about homeschooling, seeing a post on Facebook, or talking to another homeschooling mother and feeling like you don't quite measure up? And then maybe you have the impulse to suddenly overhaul everything you do in order to be as awesome as someone else seems to be? There is that fine line between being inspired and feeling inferior.

I remember reading a blog post once that implored home educating mothers to be real on their blogs, to give a more balanced view of what homeschooling is really like, not just the Pollyanna version. I didn't quite agree with this. As a blogger, I want to be encouraging and inspiring. Who wants to see pictures of the messes and bad days?

But now I get it. For example, I received an invitation in my inbox yesterday from Lori Pickert for a master class on project-based homeschooling. I have Lori's book. I think project-based homeschooling is a great idea, and oh dear, I had forgotten all about it! I had the sudden urge to entirely redo Beezy's arts and crafts area and then remembered that I was simply not up to it physically, and I'd have to wait. I was thinking that I'd better finish reading Lori's book and make sure everything in my home is perfectly arranged to optimize the doing of self-directed projects!

But let's hit the pause button and reflect on this for a moment. Beezy has an ongoing self-directed project of writing daily in her diary, sometimes several times a day. She regularly creates drawing projects and likes to invent potions, mixing together various lotions, perfumes, shampoos, etc..., which can yield interesting chemical reactions. Recently she redesigned her desk area in her bedroom. A couple of days ago she assembled a few of her Monster High dolls and created a store where they were buying and selling things. And of course when Beezy gets together with a friend, the projects do not cease unless the girls are sleeping. Do we really need a master class?

In Lori's blog post she made the point that children learn by doing. She said that if you walk into a classroom and you see children copying notes from the chalkboard, what they are actually learning to do is to copy notes. Reminders such as this keep us on our toes as home educators. We must leave enough space to allow children to learn how to learn, to think critically, and to create in organic ways. There is a place for formal lessons, but we need to be careful not to spoon feed. And even in those formal lessons, nothing should be wasted or done just to check off a box.

Beezy loves to do work pages. They might seem like busy work to me, but she intuitively knows that they facilitate her learning in a way that she needs. She also knows when her mind is not being fed. She announced one day that she hates math because it's boring and too easy. Too easy! So I realized that she doesn't have to do a thousand math problems when she learns a new concept. We can skip what isn't necessary in the workbook and move on.

Thinking in terms of relaxed home learning, that restful schole that I wrote about recently, reminds me that homeschooling takes on a unique form in every home. And those pictures of perfect homeschoolers on Facebook? I have been in some of those homes, and I know better. Those perfect moments are about as brief as the time it takes to snap the photo. The beauty is in the reality of life.

Once you get your system rolling, through trial and error and experience, your family will find its natural rhythm. You'll roll with the changes as you observe your children, and you will provide them with exactly what they need. In trying to meet Beezy's desire to make potions, I checked out a gigantic book of such recipes from the library and was promptly overwhelmed by all of the ingredients I would need to find. Where the heck would borax be in Wal-Mart? I sent the book back and kept thinking about how to do chemistry at home. Then it hit me. I went on Ebay and found a kit with all of the stuff already included for 16 edible experiments, for only $13 with free shipping. Huzzah!

It's good to read blogs and books and to share ideas with other homeschoolers. Just don't get caught in the comparison trap. Don't imagine that what you are doing isn't already wonderful. Because I assure you, it's the bees knees!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Traditional Catholicism and the Novus Ordo Mass

What is tradition? Here are some definitions from Merriam-Webster:

a :  an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious       practice or a social custom)
b :  a belief or story or a body of beliefs or stories relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable
:  the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction
:  cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, and institutions
:  characteristic manner, method, or style <in the best liberal tradition> 

There is a new group on Facebook called "Novus Ordo Traditionalists".  Isn't that a contradiction in terms? Didn't Vatican II and the new form of the Roman Rite do away with traditional Catholicism?  That is precisely what you would think if you spent enough time searching the internet for just one good word about the Novus Ordo Mass.  But about all you get is a barrage of venom from "traditionalists" and sedevacantists.  Haters, consider your label officially hijacked! 

As a convert from Protestant Christianity, I fell in love with the Catholic Mass.  I didn't know there was a Tridentine Mass in Latin at all, except for my RCIA director mentioning that someone she knew drove an hour on Sundays to go to one, and she couldn't imagine why.  But I knew nothing about the debates on the subject; I just thought the Mass was beautiful.  I had found the fullness of the Christian religion.  I now knew what had been missing (the Real Presence in the Eucharist), and I was finally home. 

The How-To Book of the Mass by Michael Dubruiel provided the catalyst for creating the Novus Ordo Traditionalists group.  This inspirational guide through the Novus Ordo Mass features where to find the prayers of the Mass in Scripture and shows how the parts of the Mass trace back to practices of the early Church.  I got this book as a Confirmation gift.  I hadn't read it much, because I thought that I already knew all about the Mass.  Alas, there is always more to learn.  Grumblings over various aspects of the Mass were threatening my faith, and this book was the shot in the arm I needed to more deeply understand and be filled with the graces of the Mass. 

I hadn't realized that all of the prayers and responses of the Mass are based on the Bible.  And check out what St. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote about receiving the Eucharist in A.D. 350:

"In approaching, therefore, do not come up with your wrists apart or with your fingers spread, but make of your left hand a throne for the right, since you are about to receive into it a King. And having hallowed your palm, receive the Body of Christ, saying over it the amen. Then, after cautiously sanctifying your eyes by the touch of the Holy Body, partake, being careful lest you lose anything of it."

So in the 4th century Catholic Church, Communion was received in the hand! It is not a less reverent way of receiving than on the tongue, and it certainly isn't less traditional. Here's the thing, peeps. We have big "T" and small "t" traditions in the Church. Tradition with a capital letter refers to the deposit of Faith handed down from the apostles of Jesus, both the oral and the written teachings. In matters of faith and morals, Tradition does not change. Tradition includes belief in the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, the transubstantiation of the Eucharist, and the four Marian dogmas. It includes the Church's stance on abortion, artificial birth control, marriage, and the priesthood. The seven sacraments of the Church represent Tradition that is permanent. The canon of the Bible is Tradition. These things will never change.

At the same time, the Church has changeable traditions. Notice the lower case letter there. Receiving the Eucharist either in the hand or on the tongue is a small "t" tradition. The use of Latin in the Mass is a long-standing tradition. A newer tradition is the praying of the Mass in the vernacular (and in fact, it was originally prayed in the local languages). In the Novus Ordo, the priest faces the congregation, whereas in the Traditional Latin Mass, the priest and the congregation face the same direction. Only boys could be altar servers at one time, but now girls can too. Women no longer have to wear head coverings at Mass, though they can if they feel called to this devotion. Gregorian chant is the traditional music used in the Tridentine Mass. Other types of music, such as traditional hymns that the congregation can sing in English, are used in the Novus Ordo. 

Those Catholics who attend the NO Mass can be every bit as traditional as those who attend the TLM. Traditional Catholics are loyal to the Magisterium of the Church. We believe what the Church teaches and trust in her authority. We appreciate traditional practices such as the Rosary, novenas, devotions to saints, the wearing of medals and scapulars, May crownings, processionals, the use of incense and bells, etc...  There is no such thing as the "Vatican II Church" in opposition to the pre-conciliar Church.  The Church is the Church is the Church. That's not to say that there are never liturgical abuses or that everyone receives perfect catechesis.  But let's erase this petty line in the sand.

As we move forward, I advocate for focusing on the continuity of Church Tradition.  The Church isn't perfect.  She never was.  She has from the beginning been full of sinners; she wouldn't exist otherwise.  But she is full of saints too.  We are all joined with God, the Virgin Mary, the communion of saints, and the angels in the Mass, in both the Tridentine and Novus Ordo forms.  Both are valid.  Both are good.  Either way, what we experience is literally a meeting of Heaven and Earth.