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For the Men: Appreciate Austen in your Quest for Fair Lady

The other evening I was conversing with ConvertKat at a social event. Topics naturally changing, it turned to literature, and – to my somewhat surprise – switching from his own conversation to ours was SearchingGuy. SearchingGuy and I are not friends, in fact I barely know him, except from a couple conversations during Sunday Coffee hour. SearchingGuy somewhat interjected and asked abruptly what literature I read. When I replied “classics, mostly”, CatechumanGuy joined the conversation as well. We talked on for a few minutes, and in a natural conversation pause, they both turned to me and pointedly asked “but really, what do you read?” I replied again, “mostly classics, Thomas Hardy at the moment.” SearchingGuy responded with an “ugh, that means you read Jane Austen” and CatechumanGuy chuckled with an affirmative comment I don’t remember. “Whoa! Do I hear tones of condescension?” I asked, in a somewhat louder and probably unintentionally disgusted sounding tone.

I have zero to no respect for men (particularly catholic men) who condescend and belittle females who read Jane Austen novels, and here’s why:

Austen’s work is such a clever and vibrant study of human nature & interpersonal relationships. Not only is her writing witty, but her ability to understand such a variety of characters and personalities is vastly under-rated. Unfortunately her work is painted as the romantic’s fantasy, which is such an injustice. Condescender’s (who have evidently not read her) often think Austen’s work is filled with “ideal men”, and if you read her, your head becomes filled with a type of perfect man that doesn’t exist (which, I gather, frustrates these catholic men because they feel this now excludes them from achieving respect and admiration in catholic women’s eyes).

But upon actually reading Austen’s books, one learns how imperfect her male characters (all her characters for that matter) are. Here is a brief outline of “perfect” male characters our Condescender’s hate on:

  1. Edward Ferrars: unintentionally plays with Elinor’s heart when he falls in love with her but is committed to another. After fostering a friendship which is obviously a bit more, he withdraws and isn’t heard from for quite some time. If it was a modern tale, he’d be a jerk-face at first glance. But then we learn the reasoning behind his behaviour, and suddenly there is an outpouring of respect for him. Do men not identify with this? For whatever reason, their actions are misunderstood, but when it comes to light, they are suddenly admired for those same actions?
  2. Captain Wentworth: after the heroine breaks his heart (eight years before the story begins) he does all he can to move on. Yet he comes back once circumstances change, and, despite still being deeply in love with her, he flirts away with her cousins, trying to both forget her, and pain her in the process. So he’s definitely not perfect, since if he were, his un-dying love would have brought him straight to her feet and begged for her love. But no, he doesn’t do that, because he has pride. Contrary to popular belief, we female readers admire men with healthy pride and self-respect. It’s the vengeance on Anne’s emotions that brings Wentworth lower.
  3. Fitzwilliam Darcy: could there be a more pompous character? Ok, granted, he wasn’t actually that pompous, it was partly a misinterpretation on Lizzie’s part and some mis-communications on both ends. Doesn’t this also happen to modern men? A girl they like perceives them incorrectly and so the story goes… Darcy & Lizzie knowing each other changes both of their characters for the better. But not without some major misunderstandings and verbal disagreements which included both parties expressing their dislikes of the other. This is  pretty standard mis-understanding etc. between men and women that Austen deals with in these two characters. Darcy is a pretty normal guy , striving for virtue, excelling in some, but falling short in others, just like every other catholic guy. Darcy & Lizzie’s relationship is an excellent example of working through mis-understandings & communications, bringing both parties closer & strengthening the bond between them. Contrary to the popular belief of this being a “perfect love story”, what we catholic females actually like about this story is the work put into this relationship on both ends, which blooms into a beautiful romance.
  4. Frank Churchill: Oh Frank. Such a fun, charming guy, who likes to hangout with friends and socialize. But on the flip-side, he gets jealous, and harsh flirts with another girl all the time, just to..what exactly..prove a point? I’m not even sure. He was just being an emotional fool. Something men and women alike fall into.
  5. George Knightly: We’ll just move on from here, since there’s literally nothing wrong with Mr.Knightly. At all. Ever. He is definitely Austen’s perfect man – albeit in a very human way. He reprimands Emma (in all charity) for her mistakes, expects more of her then her laziness sometimes allows, goes the extra length for other’s, not just those he is closest to. He gets irritated, even angry. He strives for self-discipline, and never takes advantage of others, or assumes anything. He’s imperfect in a perfect way. He is forever encouraging Emma in virtue, through friendship and fraternal love, which eventually becomes romantic love. She gets haughty with him at times, but because of his genuine care, character, and the belief that he only ever tries to do that which is good, she always accepts her mistakes, and tries harder the next time. And in turn, her feminine – though imperfect – nature encourages Knightly to be a better example, to be the best man in every situation, and always in genuine humility.

Of course these are all rather watered-down accounts of the various male characters shown such contemption by our jolly Condescender’s. It seems fitting to explain characters in simple ways to people whose simplistic attitude leads them to believe they know what they’re talking about despite never having read a single page of Austen. This sums it up rather quickly. There isn’t a single character in all of Austen’s work who is literally perfect. Her works aren’t about the “perfect romance” like some harlequin romance dubbed a “New York Times Bestseller”, or the latest of Nicholas Spark’s line of cookie-cutter “love” stories. Au contraire, Austen is a true love author. Her works deal with the true and good meaning of love and relationships, be they friends, family, or lovers. None of her heroine’s are perfect, they all have their strengths and weaknesses alike. The same goes for her heroes. Each story is an intricate web of characters, class, life styles, emotions, practicalities, attraction, virtue, vice, and everything else innately human.

(As a side note, I will also point out that Austen’s heroine’s have definitive characters. They have looks, a style of dress, natural virtues & vice, emotions, thoughts, sweet tongues or sassy tongues, every aspect of personality that makes a person individual and unique. Unlike many modern “heroines” who are intentionally written in a vague way, so as to allow any and every woman who reads said book insert herself into said character’s position, and “identify” with the character. I would think this would be appreciated by men, since they complain of this trait in modern stories.)

Appreciating such an authoress and the works she has written that provide momentous opportunity for contemplation, understanding and enlightenment on the subject of human relationships, shows a side of character that women find attractive. A man who shows the ability – or even the attempt – to understand and appreciate (and perhaps even learn to communicate a bit better) through a means that contains such insight into a vital part of the inherent nature of woman, shows himself to be a man who strives to go beyond himself, one who reaches past his own nature so as to form better bonds with one who is the opposite of his own, i.e. woman. I don’t believe men feel the same need to be understood by women, which is simply just a difference in our nature. But I know, personally, I have appreciated Austen’s insight into the male species as well. We won’t understand everything about each other, but the point is to understand what you can, so as to strengthen your relationships and grow in love.

By nature, women are more emotional creatures then men. We form bonds by sharing emotionally with one another, by conversation and a glimpse into one another’s hearts. This is what encourages and forms friendships and love between two people, be they men or women. Yes it comes more naturally to women (it’s a woman’s natural tendency towards nurturing & community, after all). And I’m not of the belief that men must always be in tune with women on a level contrary to their natural instincts. We are different creatures, God made us thus. But are men and women not called to form solid, healthy relationships, where both parties strive to understand and communicate effectively, with empathy and love? My point is that in the attempt at getting to know, appreciate, and have good relationships with women, catholic men would do well to give Austen a chance, and find out what it really is about her books that catholic women enjoy so much. Particularly if said men hope to find the right catholic woman someday. And maybe – just maybe – you’ll end up enjoying Austen’s books, and appreciating her insightful logic and reflections of the opposite sex.

 

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And now for a meme that I hope makes you laugh as much as it made me laugh…note to men: avoid being a Mr.Collins at all possible costs. 

Pause and do a Twirl

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Recently I was doing school lessons with my little niece while visiting with my sister-in-law and the kidlets. Reading lesson was over, and Fairy-godchild lifted up her catechism book onto my lap before flitting from light-switch to lamp to other light-switch, “getting some light in this place!” As she whisked up onto the couch to turn on the final lamp, she semi-reached, then had a split-second of thought before delightedly spinning a twirl with a dainty bounce. She then turned on the lamp, scrambled over to my side on the other couch, and sat down and to have her catechism lesson.

Being her “Fairy god-auntie-mother”, I naturally watch her every move without her being aware, and smiled as I watched her flitting about with a purpose to bring better light to read by. But when she paused mid-action to twirl and smile brilliantly to herself, I was struck by how right she was in pausing amid her necessary task to enjoy a twirl of gaiety before continuing her school work.

It never fails to amaze me how such simple lessons can be taught to us by innocent children. We all need to take a pause during the busy day and do a twirl of our own – stop and watch the sun set, take a deep breath and listen to the morning birds sing (yes, I’ve already heard morning song birds twice in the past week! Early spring? I hope so!), jump over a puddle, sprint down the sidewalk in a race with a friend while you’re out for a walk, or just do a little twirl as you’re cooking in the kitchen. It’s important to stop and remember to enjoy life, instead of being caught up in the hurried bustle of everyday without breaking to appreciate the simple and beautiful things life holds.

 

 

 

 

The art of Housekeeping

“Well now, there is one very excellent, necessary, and womanly accomplishment that no girl should be without, for it is a help to rich and poor, and the comfort of families depends upon it. This fine talent is neglected nowadays, and considered old-fashioned, which is a sad mistake, and one that I don’t mean to make in bringing up my girl. It should be a part of every girl’s education, and I know of a most accomplished lady who will teach you in the best and pleasantest manner.” 

“Oh, what is it?” cried Rose eagerly, charged to be met in this helpful and cordial way. 

“Housekeeping!” answered Dr. Alec. 

“Is that an accomplishment?” asked Rose, while her face fell, for she had indulged in all sorts of vague, delightful dreams. 

“Yes; it is one of the most beautiful as well as useful of all the arts a woman can learn. Not so romantic, perhaps, as singing, painting, writing, or teaching, even; but one that makes many happy and comfortable, and home the sweetest place in the world. Yes, you may open your big eyes; but it is a fact that I had rather see you a good house-keeper than the greatest belle in the city. It need not interfere with any talent you may possess, but it is a necessary part of your training, and I hope that you will set about it at once, now that you are well and strong.

– excerpt from “Eight Cousins”, by Louisa May Alcott

Currently re-reading this novel, Uncle Alec’s house-keeping ideals couldn’t be more true, or better said.

All through the centuries, keeping house was a recognized position. A woman’s worth was not measured by her income, it was measured by her accomplishments and temperament. The upper class had time to spend on finer accomplishments – languages, painting, drawing, needlework, etc. The lower class focused on practical accomplishments – sewing, cooking, house work, etc. One was encouraged to also be an attractive personality, and grow in virtues of charity, patience, understanding, courage, perseverance, etc. But for both upper and lower class, was the art of house-keeping. Whether you were married to the blacksmith, or married to the Squire, you had a job to do in keeping house.

I remember my mom once saying on the phone, when asked her profession, that she was a “domestic engineer”. This answer was readily accepted, no further questions asked. But would the same response have been given if she had answered with “stay-at-home mom” ? Perhaps it’s the connotation that comes with the phrase “stay-at-home”, which I suppose could sound like a leisurely past time you choose instead of going out to an evening party. “Domestic engineer” does sound more like a pointed purposeful position.

Position titles aside, both come with the necessity of keeping-house, which is a far more complex endeavour then given credit for. A home should be the sanctuary of a family, a safe haven, where all the cares and worries of the world are wiped off your feet on the front door matt, and you are free to be loved, encouraged, and cherished openly and without reservation. With this care and attention come daily necessities, such as food, cleanliness, warmth, beauty in things surrounding you, etc. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, comfortable and nice things, may sound rather trite and odious to some, but there is so much more skill needed in doing these things then is realized. If these tasks aren’t done with love and care, they don’t mean half as much. Anyone can prepare food if necessary, particularly when Costco’s frozen food section is filled with such a vast variety. But real cooking takes time, energy, and a certain devotion in learning how to do things. Anyone can pull out a swiffer mop, dust, vacuum and call it clean. But cleanliness isn’t in the larger things, it’s in the details; grout groves, door jams, polished glass – strong arms and determination. Housekeeping – the key ingredient to a home – is so looked down on now, is it any wonder houses are no longer “homes”, homes no longer the centre, families no longer the root of an individual, and the world is so full of people who don’t understand true love.

If proper care and attention went into teaching girls the purpose and beauty of making a home, there would be happier and more fruitful homes and families. Housekeeping isn’t to be scoffed at, or seen as inferior, or for those incapable or undesiring of a “real profession”. On the contrary, it takes a truly conscious effort and willpower, backed by love, to effectually complete the task of housekeeper. And a housekeeper  is rewarded with the best of all – the satisfaction of knowing and seeing you’ve made others happy and content.

 

 

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true that

 

 

 

A Gleeful moment to appreciate online shopping

 

Image result for online shopping meme moment of silence for all the clothes we put in the cart but never bought

 

Image result for online shopping meme      Online shopping is the greatest thing ever. Well maybe not ever, but as technology and I are not quite friends, nor do social media and I have anything in common enough to have even a friendly acquaintance kept up, the extent of my computer usage is kept generally to work, occasional binge-watching, and email correspondence. Except [insert cries of glory here] for online shopping. Not only can it be done in the comfort of my couch and pj’s, or from my desk during the quiet hours at work over the Christmas season, but in the process I avoid the much detested crowds of malls and loathsome big box stores, as well as the disappointment with said loathed big box stores not having what I’m looking for. Almost everything can be found online, and – unless outrageous shipping fees apply – with a click of my little finger it’s brought right to my front door! (Or, if outrageous shipping fees DO apply, I can stop at the store nearest me and pick it up upon arrival!).

      Amazon is wonderful, with books (which are, to be honest, the key focus of most online shopping I do) and so many other items often found for less expensive there then in the store. I know my figure well enough to be 95% successful at online dress/skirt shopping (happily having been given long legs and curves, I occasionally (very occasionally) look with slit eyes upon tiny girls who can pull off any set of trousers they fancy – which is a confession alluding to the fact that I avoid shopping for jeans and other trousers at all possible costs because of the frustration and disappointment at rarely finding some I am completely happy with). The only downside to online dress shopping is that most cute and feminine onliners come from the United States. Not only is the CAD bad right now but on top of the higher rate with exchange, we then have to pay duty to have it come across the border. I once paid the cost of another dress to have something shipped over. (Of course it was worth it because the dresses fit my sisters and I splendidly! Plus we would never have found anything as superbly feminine and classy at any local clothing store, so it’s worth the extra cost every now and then).
      My most recent glee towards online shopping stems from finding and ordering two of Louisa May Alcott’s books, “Eight Cousins” & it’s sequel, “Rose in Bloom”, and one of my personal favourites, “The Scarlett Pimpernel” by Baroness Orczy. Book stores don’t contain them, even the much-acclaimed-and-very-large-place-of-excitement used bookstore downtown (which is always worth the trek to get to!) didn’t have a decent copy of “The Scarlett Pimpernel”. But I believe I found a lovely, if not hardcover, copy of it, for a most astonishingly reasonable price, online!! After several attempts at finding these three novels online for a decent cost, I found them. And ordered them!! Hooray!! I read Alcott’s two as a teen, having laughed and cried I remember them fondly and would like to read them again, giving them their own spot on my bookshelf – and now they shall have just that. And, despite how much I enjoy the 1982 Anthony Andrews & Jane Seymour adaptation of “The Scarlett Pimpernel”, the book is that much better!! And now that, too, shall have a place on my bookshelf. How very exciting.
And there are my few words of praise regarding online shopping.
NB: Despite the enthusiasm of this post, my home is not filled with consumeristic items from obsessive online shopping.

Welcome Spring! Welcome Spiders!

With spring in the air I find myself drawn to the outdoors once again. Winter is so dreary – it gets dark too early, and the most appealing past time is to curl up with a mug of tea and either read a book or re-watch the latest Downton Abbey season. But alas! Spring has made it’s appearance – and rather early this year, too 🙂

With spring comes gardening. As I harvested the first crop of lemon balm this afternoon, I found the full plant was home to so many critters I couldn’t keep track! From black ants, to various sized wood-bugs, to slow snails, to teeny-tiny aphids, to big, juicy, brown camouflaged caterpillars that curled up into a loop as soon as you touch them. But the most intriguing of them all was a green, almost glowing, spider, with two very long front legs, and two thin red stripes down either side of it’s abdomen. Seemingly have come out of no where, he was perched on an old leaf I had just discarded onto my little pile of weeds. He was in no hurry to get anywhere, as spiders always seem to be. After hanging out on the leaf for a while, he casually made his way up the side wood panel of the garden and along the ridge, politely halting while I snapped a few photos along his way, and eventually disappeared into the second lemon balm plant I was not harvesting and uprooting.

God’s creatures never cease to amaze me – whether they are tropical dancing birds in the rainforests of the Amazon, stealthy wild cats in Africa, or little insects in my own back garden.

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Thanksgiving is a type of prayer not to be overlooked!

Thanksgiving is a good time to reflect on exactly what you’ve been given in life by God. Often times we can become caught up in what we don’t have, in our desires for something not yet come, in how we are going to achieve our long term goals, or even in the small things we should put more into perspective on a daily basis. But to take the time to truly appreciate and be thankful for what we do have, here and now, is an important life ability

And an “ability” it really is. Not everyone has the ability to easily see the view outside their own routine perspective. If this is the case, it is something to be tried at and worked at. God gives us so much, yet there is always something more we want – whether physical or spiritual. It is human nature to look to the future – and indeed it should be, for as Catholics we strive towards the future of heaven. But on top of looking towards the future things we hope God grants us, we also need to see and be thankful for everything we currently have. The only reason we have it is because of God’s goodness to us. We rely solely on Him, our very breath is dependent on His Love for us. And so we should acknowledge and thank Him for everything we have right here and now. The future will bring whatever He wills – but the present is what He wills at this moment, and we must thank Him for it.

The Perks of being Nimble

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Stay nimble, ladies – you never know when it will come in handy. It’s also very good for your health. Go for walks, workout, hike, just on a trampoline, play at the park with your nieces and nephews, go swimming, anything that makes you use those muscles and keep them in tune. Don’t ignore them or forget about them. One day you might need to bolt across the street to save a toddler about to be hit by a car, or carry a solid wood bookshelf since there’s no man to do it for you, or you might need to pull a heavy piece of equipment out of a trapped child’s way, or climb the roof and squeeze through a window to let yourself into your home because you forgot your house key and everyone else is gone and locked up behind them. God gave us our bodies for a reason, and you never know when you may need the reflexes and agility that come with staying in shape. So always be prepared!