Saturday, June 30, 2007

Martha Washington

Did you know that after the original thirteen states of the United States won independence from England, America's founding fathers and founding mothers were unsure just how to run the new government and the new society? After all, no one in modern times had tried a republican experiment on such a large scale.

Should U.S. officials take their cue from the royalty that still ran most European countries? Or, should they dress, behave, entertain, and live in some other manner that befitted the American experiment?

Our forefathers took these questions seriously. They were aware that they were setting precedents and customs for future generations of Americans. Plus, the survival of this new republic was not guaranteed. They wanted to give it the best start that they could, in the hope that it would hold its own among the more established countries of the world.

This meant crafting a government and society that other, older countries would treat with respect. Yet, at the same time, they wanted to clearly be a government and society that was of the people, by the people, and for the people. The founding fathers walked a fine line between being taken seriously by European monarchies and, yet, remaining true to their republican ideals.

Perhaps none were so affected by this dilemma as George and Martha Washington. We can guess from reading biographies of them that after the Revolutionary war, they would have loved to retire in privacy to their beloved Mt. Vernon.

Even during the Revolutionary War, George must have been homesick. He wrote to Martha, "I should enjoy more real happiness in one month with you at home than I have the most distant prospect of finding abroad, if my stay were to be seven times seven years."

But, George was called first to be commander in chief, and, then, to be the nation's first president. Both George and Martha put duty above their personal wishes.

Questions arose about what to call the new president and his wife, as well as the Vice-President and other officials. Several fancy names were put forth, but these were rejected as sounding too much like royalty. Finally, it was decided to call Mr. Washington simply "The President of the United States". Other government titles fell in line with this simple dignity.

Martha, herself, was known as Lady Washington. The term "First Lady" was not created until after her death.

Throughout it all, Martha remained devotedly by Washington's side. Martha had been a young, wealthy, beautiful widow with two living infants and two deceased infants at the time she married George. Apparently, though they both had suffered broken hearts in the past, they always remained quite content with each other.

A White House biography of her
reads, "From the day Martha married George Washington in 1759, her great concern was the comfort and happiness of her husband and children. When his career led him to the battlegrounds of the Revolutionary War and finally to the Presidency, she followed him bravely. Her love of private life equaled her husband's; but, as she wrote to her friend Mercy Otis Warren, " I cannot blame him for having acted according to his ideas of duty in obeying the voice of his country." As for herself, 'I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.'

"At the President's House in temporary capitals, New York and Philadelphia, the Washingtons chose to entertain in formal style, deliberately emphasizing the new republic's wish to be accepted as the equal of the established governments of Europe. Still, Martha's warm hospitality made her guests feel welcome and put strangers at ease. She took little satisfaction in ' formal compliments and empty ceremonies' and declared that 'I am fond of only what comes from the heart.' Abigail Adams, who sat at her right during parties and receptions, praised her as "one of those unassuming characters which create Love and Esteem.'"

So, in keeping with Emma's posts last week about personal presentation, we might ask how Martha Washington worked out the issue of dress and personal presentation.

Would Mrs. Washington try to compete with the ornately attired women of European courts? Would she dress even like some of the younger, fashionable women who were connected to America's fledgling government? Or, would she dress more in keeping with what she really was -- the happy, friendly, dignified, modest, middle-aged wife of an American planter?

Abigail Adams answered this question for us in something she wrote after spending time with Mrs. Washington in New York City:

"She (Mrs. Washington) is plain in her dress, but that plainness is the best of every article. Her hair is white, her teeth beautiful, her person rather short than otherways..Her manners are modest and unassuming, dignified and feminine, not a a tincture of hauteur (arrogance) about her."

Above, I've included images of Martha from different stages in her life. We here in the U.S. are accustomed to seeing paintings both of Mrs. Washington and of George Washington from their middle and later years. But, we forget that they were, of course, once young. So, I've included a couple of portraits of Mrs. Washington as a younger woman, as well some that show her as as the plump, grandmotherly lady we all recognize.


Finishing School News...

Didn't Emma do a lovely job with the subject of personal presentation? I have a lot to think about and to put into practice.

This week, we're taking a "semi-break", since it's Independence Day in the U.S. However, I will do some posts that contain snippets about different American ladies. Each tidbit will fit into the subjects of our "Finishing School Course." So, keep checking with me this week at the Merry Rose!


Friday, June 29, 2007


Did you see Emma's post about grooming?

Ouch! Why did I schedule Emma's week on personal presentation first! Of course, her articles are so sweet and gently put. And, it's fun to talk about these subjects.

However, this is one area where I really need to step up. Emma's posts are a good reminder for me.

When I was younger, I always kept myself in trim and neatly turned out. Now, amidst business and fatigue, I can let this slide so easily. I dress fairly neatly. But, when it comes to taking care of hair, nails, weight, etc., I need to get back on track. I can justifty this negligence with a lot of excuses, some of which even sound noble. But, the bottom line is that I know my husband and children appreciate it when I put a little more effort into how I present myself.

I also know that these statements from Beautiful Girlhood are true: "The proper care of her person and dress will make an otherwise homely girl good-looking. What is more distasteful than a slovenly, untidy woman?...Though she might have a kind heart and many other desirable qualities, yet her unkempt appearance hides them from view. But, a person who always keeps herself tasefully and tidily dressed and her person clean and neat is attracive and pleasing."

In the description of the Proverbs 31 woman, most verses are devoted to her inner character. But, there is one verse that gives us a clue to her outward apperance. It says she is dressed in fine linen and purple.

Now, here is a woman who obviously did not spend hours and hours primping in front of the mirror. With all that she had going on in her life, she did not have time to be vain or silly about her looks. However, it's apparent that did devote some part of her busy days to her appearance. She dressed with dignity.

Is this surprising? Given all of the remarks about her capable, industrious nature, can you imagine that she went around looking sloppy? Do you envision her as slumping or slouching?

Somehow, I can't picture her that way. I imagine her as having a classic and understated look, good posture, a smile on her face, and neat hair. I would suspect that since she was so in tune with detail in every other are of her life, that she carried some of this over into the way she presented herself, as well. I would also think that she managed this with great efficiency, so that it didn't take her hours and hours to groom herself. (If we follow Emma's suggestion to develop beauty routines, it won't take us hours and hours, either.)

I suspect that the noble woman's husband, who was an elder in the land, trusted that her appearance would represent him well. I also guess that her children, who called her blessed, were proud of how she carried herself. And, I have a hunch that she was a walking advertisement for her handiwork. I would think that someone could tell by looking at her that she was capable of turning out fine sashes and linen garments to sell.

As is said in Beautiful Girlhood: "Seek goodness and purity first, then strive to keep the body in harmony with the beauty of the heart." The focus of the worthy woman was not on her outward apperance, but her outward apperance was in keeping with her noble character.

In striving to be like her, I've decided to keep a little notebook in which I write a record of my progress. I'm going to start by taking some of the steps toward a feminine character, health, posture, and grooming that Emma has suggested. I plan to track this for six months to a year. I am looking forward to making some beneficial new habits.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Improve your Posture -- Improve your Health

Are you enjoying Emma's posts as much as I am. She is inspiring me to set goals to improve my health and personal presentation. Her post for yesterday-- regarding posture -- was especially helpful to me. (

Fortunately, good posture and good health feed into each other. If you feel well, you naturally want to stand straighter and walk with more joy in your step. If you work on your posture, you will likely feel better. That, in turn, will make you want to have even better posture. Isn't it nice when you get started on an upward cycle?

Several years ago, I had surgery to correct deteriorated discs in my neck and a pinched nerve. Though the nerve started in my cranium and neck, it ran a long way down my body. Thus, I had pain in strange places, which I never connected to the problem in my neck. Eventually, I began to lose the use of my right arm.

I learned that the neck is one of the first places to wear out, as we use it so much. Hence, middle age and a long-ago car wreck were the biggest contributors to my disc/nerve problem. But, I learned something else as well. Poor posture, especially when sitting at the computer, probably
added something to the mix, as well. Mom was right all of those years that she gently urged me to attend to my seated and standing posture!

There are a number of ways that poor posture can contribute to poor health: It crowds your internal organs and puts unnatural pressure on them. It causes some of your muscles to become habitually shortened and others to become stretched out, which in turn leads to poor muscular support of the spine. It can compress nerves and vertebra. Emotionally, poor posture can signal to yourself and others around you the emotions of depression, sadness, overhwhelming fatigue, and defeat. Thus, if you slump because you are tired, you may end up feeling more tired.

Good posture allows you to breathe properly. It holds the body in the way it was designed to function, thus giving your organs, nerves, and bones the proper room they need in order to function. Emotionally, good posture signals to yourself and others a positive outlook, dignity, grace, and energy. If you make the effort to stand and sit correctly, even when you are tired, you may find that you begin to feel better than you otherwise would.

If you have allowed yourself to form bad habits with regard to your carriage, changing these will take a good deal of energy. At first, you may feel more fatigued and even sore. You may wonder if it's worth the effort. Keep persevering! Your muscles will adjust to better habits, and, when they do, you will find that sitting, standing,and walking take less effort than they used to. You'll wonder how you got along with poor posture for so long without realizing the toll it was taking on your energy level.

Good posture is natural and efficient, thus leading to energy. Poor posture is unnatural and inefficient, thus leading to fatigue.

It's possible that poor posture contributes to headaches, breathlessness, fatigue, certain types of back and neck and chest aches, carpel tunnel syndrome, and other ailments. Do not, however, attribute any of these ailments to poor posture without checking with your doctor!! There are many different causes for each of these symptoms, and it would be both dangerous and foolish to try to sort this out on your own.

However, even as you seek medical help, maintaining good posture can't hurt. Better yet, nip certain ailments before they even start by practicing good posture while you are young and healthy.

Here are a few posture tips that I find helpful, when I use them. (Again, thank you Emma, for reminding me to tend to this!)

1) You may unknowingly carry a lot of stress in your neck, shoulders, and upper back, as well as in your facial muscles. Even when your day is filled with happy and delightful things, you may find yourself hunching up your shoulders, tightening the muscles around your eyes and mouth, and feeling fatigue in your neck and upper back. During a busy day, take a few breaks to consciously relax these muscles and let them return to their natural position.
2) Remember, our bodies were designed to move. In modern times, however, we sit or stand in one position for long periods of time. If you must sit for some time -- such as when on a plane, at the computer, or at a sewing machine -- take frequent breaks. Do some ankle circles. Get up and walk about a bit. Stretch. If you are embarrassed to do this in an office or on a plane, retire to the ladies room. Perhaps, you can stretch there. But, even if you can't, the act of walking to and from the washroom will provide allow you some movement. Regarding a plane ride, doing a few ankle circles every hour and stretching or moving every hour is not only good for your posture, but for your circulation, as well.
3) When sitting or standing, do not duck your chin or head forward unnaturally. If you wear glasses or have worn them in the past, you might be particularly prone to this. Find ways to read and do other tasks with your head held in correct position. Do not slump, round, or hunch your shoulders. It's not necessary to hold your shoulders tightly in perfect military posture. If you are positioning your neck and body correctly, your shoulders should fall easily into a straight, yet relaxed place. Stand perpendicular to a mirror and look at how your head and shoulders are positioned. Adjust accordingly.
4) Make sure your purse and other bags that you carry are not too heavy. Also, try to carry purses in a way that balances the weight. Obviously, the purses that look like backpacks do distribute the weight easily. I don't particularly like the way those look on me, so I just try to switch the arm I carry my purses with from time to time. Carrying all of the stuff that goes along with a baby is a challenge. But, do the best you can to watch your posture. Also, avoid jerky movements as you pick up baby's car seat, stroller, or diaper bag.
5) Check your breathing. Sometimes, in a misguided attempt to achieve straight posture or flat abs, a person will breathe more from his or her chest than from the diaphragm. The same is true if someone has recently recovered from a respiratory ailment, has chronic sinus or allergy problems, has a rushed schedule, is under stress, has had recent surgery, or other otherwise has experienced an interruption in their normal breathing cycle.
Our upper chest muscles are designed for emergency breathing -- such as when running from a burning building or competing in the the 50-yard dash. If we use them for everyday breathing, we may begin to hyperventilate on a chronic, low-level basis. Or, we may even have episodes of severe hyperventilation. This is not generally dangerous, but it can make you feel awful!
According to respiratory therapist, Dinah Bradley, in normal, relaxed breathing, the diaphragm does about 70 to 80 per cent of the work. The lower chest muscles do about 20-30 per cent. The accessory muscles in the neck and shoulders are merely on standby in case a need for quick oxygen should arise.
Chronic over-breathersreverse this ratio. Thus, they put undue strain on muscles that are meant to be normally at rest. They also take in more breaths per minute than are needed. A range of ten to fourteen breaths per minute is fairly normal for adults. Some people breathe up to twice this rate!
If you notice a healthy baby at rest, the baby naturally breathes from the diaphragm. The baby has not yet experienced any traumas that might interrupt his natural breathing cycle. Nor, has he been told false information about how to stand and how to breathe. So, he naturally breathes the way his body was intended. Healthy toddlers do the same.
How do you know if you habitually breathe from your chest or diaphragm? Lie down and place one hand on your chest and one on your stomach, just below your diaphragm. Take a natural breath. See which hand rises. If the hand on your chest rises first, you may not be breathing as your body was intended to. If the hand on your stomach rises, good for you! Note: You may breathe correctly when you do this test simply because you are thinking about it. That's ok, as it reinforces a good habit. Just keep checking from time to time to make sure that you are maintaining this beneficial habit.
If you think your breathing needs some gentle correction, there are many books and Internet sources that offer information about how to improve. One of the best resources is Dinah Bradley's book, Hyperventilation Syndrome. If you read about this subject on the Internet, use caution. There are a lot of medical myths floating around on the net. Be sure that the article you are reading is written by someone with identifiable credentials.
Please note that there are a very few health conditions in which normal breathing cannot be attained and should not be attempted. If you are in poor health, check with your doctor before trying to correct your breathing. Otherwise, enjoy how much better you'll feel when you breathe correctly!


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Classes Are Underway!
Personal Presentation

Emma started us off today with two lovely posts about personal presentation. In the first one, she asked us to think about whether we project feminine loveliness and strength. In the second one, she talked about health as an important building block to our personal presentation. I'm so glad that Emma reminded us to think about these things.

I especially needed a little prodding when it comes to taking care of dh's and my health. We set out at the beginning of the year to work on our health. For various reasons, including a severe illness in our extended family, our usual routine has gotten knocked a little off course, and, if anything, we have gone backwards! So, I need to be creative and disicplined in thinking of ways to help us eat more healthfully, to exercise, and to get rest and relaxation.

It's not too late to jump in! Here's Emma's link:

Next week, we'll take a little break due to U.S. Independence Day. In keeping with our subject, however, I will do some posts regarding ladies from American history.

Then, the next week, since it will be Bastille Day in France, I will blog about how French culture has influenced art, house styles and furnishings, etc. I'll also talk us step by step through preparing a simple French meal. And, I'll talk about why it was so imporant in Finishing Schools of the past for women to learn about other languages and cultures, particularly French. So, join me back here during July 8-14 for our second "class".

Our third teacher will be none other than Julieann, who will teach us how to bake some romantic and feminine little goodies. We'll give you further information about how to find her blog and the rest of the teachers' blogs.


Monday, June 25, 2007

A Litle Late for Class:

Well, I confess that we're getting off to a late start here. But, do check Emma's blog tonight or in the morning. The first class is coming!


First Day of School!

Well, really, it's more like summer camp. So, get ready to have fun and learn some things in the process!

Today is the first day of our online Finishing School. Emma tells me that she will have the first post of our school published by this evening! So, if you visit her site today, but you don't see anything up yet, do not worry. Just check back tonight.

Again, here is the link to Emma's site:

Emma will start us off with a discussion of our personal presentation -- grooming, posture, etc. Those of you who are familiar with her site, Charming the Birds from the Trees, know that she has a passion for bringing loveliness into our homes and into our daily lives.

I can't wait to read what Emma has to say, as this is one area where I need to spruce up a little.

In the meantime, I have it on my to-do list today to tend to give myself a pedicure (It's sandal time!) and to curl my hair. I have been letting my hair go. I have sort of a "wash-and-wear" do, which is ok, if I make the effort to fluff it into place. But, tonight, I want to look a little special.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

The time has come!
Announcing the beginning of the first annual
Online Finishing School for Ladies....

As promised, our first annual Online Finishing School for Ladies begins on Monday. Emma will start us off with a discussion of personal presentation, posture, grooming, etc. Here's a link to her blog:

If you missed our previous posts about this idea and would like to know what this is all about, please read the following:

Here's how it will work:

Each week for twelve weeks, one "teacher" will blog about a particular subject. She will post at least five times that week. Emma, for example, will do five posts about a woman's personal presentation starting on Monday.

Any of us who are interested will read the "teacher's" blog that week. We students can leave comments on her blog to encourage the "teacher" and let her know what we're learning.

Additionally, any of us who choose can post our thoughts about that same subject on our own blog, as well. If we are already experienced in subject, we can share hints that others might enjoy. Or, if we're new to a subject, we can post what we're learning as we read along with the "teacher".

Don't worry if you don't have a blog. You don't need one to participate. All you need is access to the Internet in order to read the blogs of the "teachers".

We'll gather all of the posts into one blog especially dedicated to the Finishing School. We'll give you that link in a few days. After a subject has been covered, the "teacher's" posts will be archived on the Finishing School Blog. That way, you can catch up if you have been out of town or had a busy week. You can also use it to refer back to a particular subject.

Please note:

1) This school is for fun and to provide a resource for those who have an interest in these topics. There will be no homework, no tests, and no pressure to accomplish certain goals. The teachers will suggest practice exercises. You can choose to do them or not, as you have time and interest. (You are also free to use this as part of a homeschooling project, of course, in which case you would set your own expectations for your children.)

2) We won't be able to cover each subject as thoroughly as it would be covered in a real finishing school. Each teacher will list resources you can use if you would like to learn more about the subject on your own. Essentially, we are providing a taste of different topics, and you can choose which ones, if any, you want to pursue in more depth. If we all enjoy this, we might do a Finishing School, Course II at some point.

3) These are subjects that can add beauty our lives. They will also be of use as we strive to live out our faith, to love others, and to make a home for our family. HOWEVER, you can be a loving, faithful, and capable woman without ever taking a course in any of these subjects! So, please take what you find that is interesting and useful to you, and don't worry about the rest. The last thing we want to do is to make busy wives and mothers feel that they have to fit some human-made ideal of the "finished lady". All we want to do is to have fun and to learn a few things in the process.

4) We realize that many of you may be just as versed in a subject as "the teacher" is, or even moreso. We invite you to participate along with us. Some of us will know very little about a subject to begin with, while others may know quite a bit. But, no matter what each person's current skill level is, we can always grow.

Here's our projected schedule. We may tweak this as we go along. Each week, we'll give you the name of each teacher, along with a link to her blog. We'll also provide a little introduction telling why she is interested in this topic.

Week I: June 25-30 Personal Presentation, Part I. posture, grooming, health, clothing care, etc.

Break: July 1-7 – Independence Day in America – We’ll give our teachers and readers a semi-break. However, we might do some posts about American customs/culture during this week.

Week II: July 8-14 Bastille Day in France -- How French culture has influenced decorating, fashion, cooking, etc. How to prepare a simple French meal. Why it was considered important for finishing school students to learn about other cultures and how that can still be useful in today’s world. Simple French phrases that you might come across when reading books in English.

Week III: July 15-21: Baking: A romantic cake. Tea goodies.

Week IV: July 22-28 – the culture of Central Asia, what we can learn from Central Aisian women.

Week V: July 29-August-4 Creating a lovely needlework pillow.

Week VI: August 5-11 Flowers, flowers, and more flowers!.

Week VII: August 12-18 Correspondence and Etiquette – particularly modern etiquette: email, cell phones, etc.

Week : VIII August 19-25 The best things we can learn from various cultures, customs in European countries

Week IX August 26-Sept. 1 – How to sew a pretty handkerchief (or nightgown, we're still deciding), ribbon embroidery – a woman can choose to purchase something ready-made on which to do the ribbon embroidery.

Week X: September 2-8 -- How to set a pretty table for various occasions; the correct way to set a table for a casual lunch, a buffet, a dinner, a shower, etc.
Week XI September 9-15 Another week on personal presentation, keeping our bedrooms pretty and organized

Week XII September 16-22 Gracious Living on a Budget

See you at Emma's for class on Monday!



Friday, June 22, 2007

Calling all gardeners -- 411?

I planted some four-o'clocks at the same time this spring that I planted some morning glories.

I grew morning glories sucessfully last year and am intrigued with how they really do bloom in the morning. I've heard people rave about four-o-clocks and how sweet they smell when they open in the evening. I thought it would be neat to plant both this year, so that one would bloom in the morning and one in the evening. The morning glories are in the front of the house and the four-o-clocks are at the back.

Well, my morning glories are not quite as glorious this year as last year, but they are pretty and are blooming. I couldn't find the pretty blue color I had last year, but do enjoy this year's white with slight red stripe. It's been a tough year here keeping everything watered and fresh, as we've had a little drought -- so my poor morning glories sometimes get the last attention in the yard.. The four o'clocks are green and growing, but they are moving very slowly. They are just now ready to begin twining up something, while the morning glories have reaching the top of my mailbox. There are no flowers on the four o'clocks yet.

It's odd that the four o'clocks are growing more slowly than the morning glories, as they are growing just outside my kitchen window, and I run out to water them more frequently. I have them in containers placed so that they will wind up the deck fence and railing. Is it ok to have them in big pots?

Do four o'clocks bloom later in the season than morning glories? Or, am I doing something wrong?

Thanks in advance for your advice.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Proper Use of Mrs. and Miss

When I was a little girl, most women were called either Mrs. or Miss by all except for family and close friends.

Unless you were obviously someone's peer or someone's elder in age, you did not use someone's first name unless he or she invited you to do so. If someone wished you to call them by first name, they would say, "Please, call me ______ (the woman's first name)".

In certain situations, a woman might be called Miss or Mrs. even by her peers, unless she specifically invited someone to do otherwise. This was especially true if a woman visited a doctor's office or other place of business. Even if she worked for a company, she was likely to be called Mrs. or Miss by others, particularly if she were older or held a superior position in the organization.

Certainly, few children ever referred to adults by their first names. Even once a child reached adulthood, he continued to call his or her parents' peers by Mr. Mrs. or Miss. The exception might be for someone especially close to the family, who might then be called by a special name -- such as Aunt Louise.

By the time I married at age twenty-five (in 1980), Ms. had generally replaced Mrs. and Miss. At the same time, culture and business were becoming increasingly casual. The use of first names in all types of settings became more common. Some bosses invited their employees to call them by first names. Telemarketers even began referring to the people they phoned by their first names in an effort to draw them into conversation.

Most of my personal friends took their husband's last names when they married, as did I. A very few of my friends and acquaintances kept on using their maiden name as their surname, even after marriage. None of my daughter's friends kept their maiden name as a last name upon marriage -- or at least none that I can think of. All seemed to have taken their husband's name.
Of course, we live in the South, where we are a little slower to part with some traditions. Just when we finally get around to changing something, the rest of the country has changed it back again!

Now, I'm just describing my observations of a cultural change in how names are used. It's not my intention in this article to comment one way or the other about whether this trend has been a good one or not.

I leave it entirely up to you to decide how you want to be addressed by others. I also leave it up to you to choose your own signature.

However, I have noticed that there are a number of younger women would like to return to using the title, Mrs. ___ ____(Mrs. and their husband's first name and surname.) Since this represents a revival of a custom that has all but disappeared, I thought some readers might enjoy hearing what Mrs. Post had to say about the correct usage of Mrs. and Miss in her 1950 edition of Etiquette. Whether or not you agree with the old rules or not, it's not bad to know what they are. That way, even if you choose to do something different, it will be a conscious choice and not merely an error.

This first section has to do with how you write another woman's name or how you sign your own name in both personal and business correspondence.

"A married woman should always sign a letter to a stranger, a bank, business firm, etc., with her (birth) name and add, in parentheses, her married name. Thus:

Very truly yours,
Mary Jones Smith
(Mrs. John Smith)

If for all general purposes her writing paper is marked with her full name and address, her signature, Mary Jones Smith, needs no explanation.

Never Sign a Letter "Mrs."... A Lady writing to another lady, or to a gentleman, should sign her name this way to every friend and acquaintance who perfectly well knows her married name:

Mary Jones

To acquaintances who may not know which Mrs. or possibly Miss Jones she is, she signs her name

Mary Jones
(Mrs. John Jones)

An unmarried lady signs her name

(Miss) Mary Jones

Those who fear to sign their names "Mary" because they think someone might then feel privileged to call them "Mary" can write clearly beneath their signature, " "Kindly reply to Mrs. John Smith." And, they can moreover sign their name "M.J. Smith" instead of "Mary Jones Smith."

Never under any circumstances sign a letter with Mr., Mrs., or Miss as an unseparated part of one's signature unless one is willing to be considered both ignorant and rude."

(Please note that Mrs. Post was writing during an era where the rules about using Mrs. and Miss were more generally known than they are now. I will not think you are either ignorant or rude if you fail to sign your correspondence according to Mrs. Post's directions!)

So, on which occasions did Mrs. Post think a woman should sign her name as Mrs. ___ ____? According to Mrs. Post, she should do so when signing something like a hotel register or when sending a business telegram. Obviously, few of us send telegrams anymore, but I gather that the modern usage might be that you would write your name as Mrs. ___ ____ when signing anything that might be of public record.

Here is one quote from Mrs. Post that I do feel strongly about. This concerns how to address a a letter to a widow:

Correctly a widow keeps her husband's name. According to best taste no note or social letter should ever be addressed to a married woman, even if she is a widow, as Mrs. Mary Town. Correctly, a widow keeps her husband's name always. If her son's wife should have the same name, she becomes Mrs. James Town, senior, or simply Mrs. Town, if there is no other with the same name. Of course if, in a certain community, it is customary for widows to prefix Mrs. to their birth names and they themselves have no objection, their names are certainly their own to use as they choose. But to those of you who want to keep your husband's name, best taste and truth agree that the man gave his name when he gave the wedding ring -- both were for life, or until the woman marries again.

The reason I feel strongly about that is that there are many widows living today who married during the time when people still adhered to certain ideas about how to Mrs. and Miss in both correspondence and conversation. Addressing a widow who learned etiquette in the nineteen forties, -fifties, or even -sixties as Mrs. Mary Town, instead of Mrs. James Town, implies to her that you think she was divorced, rather than widowed. It also sends a message to her that you have forgotten or care little about the years she was married.

An older woman, who cherishes memories of her husband and of her marriage, could be greatly hurt by this. Perhaps, she will allow for the fact that today's etiquette is less precise than it once was. However, it's always better to show respect for an older woman and for her late husband than it is to be too casual in this particular matter.

So, if you do send a card or an invitation to a widow, please address the envelope thusly, Mrs. James Town. (the widow's late husband's first and last names.) Inside the card, use whatever name you normally call her. For example, if you truly are on a first name basis, it is OK to say Dear Mary. Or, if she happens to be her grandmother, of course, you would write Dear Grandma or Dear Mimi or whatever name you generally use. If you are not a relative or her peer or elder in age, and she has not asked you to call her by her first name, it is best to say Dear Mrs. Town.

In Mrs. Post's Day, the old rule was that a divorced woman used her maiden name and her husband's name. For example, if she was Mary Smith before she married and divorced Mr. Smith, she would sign her name Mrs. Mary Simpson Smith. In today's world, fewer people would recognize that rule. At any rate, I'm not interested in calling attention to the fact that a particular woman is divorced, but I do think it's important to honor widows according to the manners they were taught.

In Mrs. Post's day, the custom of calling the eldest daughter of the family Miss Smith and her younger sister Jane Smith was still around. Jane Austen fans will recognize that this point of etiquette goes back for centuries. However, in Mrs. Post's day, the custom was beginning to change. Originally, this tradition was developed to show respect for the elder daughter's position in society. However, it came to be associated with unflattering stereotypes of "spinsters". Therefore, in Mrs. Post's Day, it became more common to address envelopes to unmarried girls or women in this way, "Miss Alice and Miss Jane Smith".

Now, even though it was not considered proper to sign your own name as Mrs. ___ ____ in the signature of a letter, it was considered proper to address an envelope to another woman by using her married title, Mrs. _______ _______.

In the salutation of a letter, you might write Mrs. ________. At least this was true unless the two women were both peers in age and friends, in which case they would naturally write salutations to each other using their first names.

If Mary Jones (Mrs. Oscar Jones) wanted to write to Mrs. Marks, and she was not on a first name basis with her, she would word her letter this way:

Dear Mrs. Marks:

Julian Gibbs is going to Buffalo on January tenth to deliver a lecture on his Polar expedition, and I am giving him this note of introduction to you. He is a very great friend of ours, and I think that perhaps you and Mr. Marks will enjoy meeting him as much as I know he would enjoy knowing you.

With kindest regards, in which Oscar joins,

Very Sincerely,
Mary Jones

Note that in the example above, it's obvious that Mrs. Marks knows enough about Mary Jones to know that Oscar is her husband. The Marks and the Jones are well enough acquainted that Mrs. Jones feels comfortable referring to her husband by his first name. She also does not feel the need to add Mrs. Oscar Jones in parentheses below her signature, since Mrs. Marks already knows she is Mrs. Oscar Jones. But, for some reason, Mary Jones does not assume that she can address Mrs. Marks by her first name.

Perhaps, Mary Jones simply does not know Mrs. Marks well enough to assume a first-name relationship. The two women obviously live in different towns. Perhaps, Mrs. Jones visits relatives in Buffalo from time to time, and, thus, she has become acquainted with their dear friend, Mrs. Marks. Yet, they are not direct friends.

Or, more likely, Mrs. Marks is older than Mary Jones. Mrs. Marks might even be someone who is of the same generation as Mary Jones' mother.

In another scenario, let's assume Mrs. Oscar Jones is writing a business letter to Mrs. Marks. In this case, the two women have never met. Mrs. Jones might word the letter this way.

Dear Mrs. Marks:

Your bed and breakfast was recommended to me by Mrs. Arthur Norman.

I would like know what accommodation you can offer me for the weekend of August 21st. I need one double room with a bath for my husband and myself, as well as a double room for my daughters and a single room for my son.

Please send me a brochure containing your floor plan and prices, and I will let you know my decision by return mail.


M. J. Jones
(Mrs. Oscar B. Jones)

Mary Jones could use Mary instead of sighing the letter M. J., particularly if she anticipates forming a friendship with Mrs. Marks.

Also, Mary Jones would need to add the Mrs. Oscar B. Jones only if she is using stationary on which her married name is not already engraved or printed. If you would like to use your married name in correspondence, you might consider having some personal and/or business stationary made. Please note that business letters are generally typed (nowadays on the computer), while social letters are handwritten. As much as those with horrible handwriting, like me, would like to type personal letters, they look impersonal to the person who receives them. Of course, emails must, by definition, be typed.

If, as explained above, Mrs. Jones would prefer that Mrs. Marks not address her as Mary, she could write underneath M. J. Jones or Mary Jones, "Please reply to Mrs. Oscar B. Jones".

Or, Mrs. Jones might write a letter this way:

Dear Mrs. Marks:

Thank you for your interest in my home sewing business. Yes, I do have a collection of mother/daughter apron patterns, and I will be happy to make an apron for both you and your daughter according to the pattern and sizes you select. I have enclosed a brochure and price list for your information.


Mary Jones
(Mrs. Oscar B. Jones).

As far as conversation goes, here is a little of what Mrs. Post has to say:

"Every child should at least be taught never to call a grown person by his or her first name -- unless told to do so by that person. In many cases, really intimate friends who are devoted to the children -- those who do not like the formality of Mr. and Mrs. and yet do not want to be called by their first name -- suggest nicknames for themselves. Otherwise, everyone is of course called Mr. and Mrs."

Mrs. Post argues that it is not fair to a child to fail to teach him to address adults properly, as those who overhear the child might criticize his lack of manners. By that same logic, encouraging a child to call you by your first name might also place the child in an unfair situation.

"In speaking about other people, one says "Mrs.", "Miss," or "Mr." as the case may be."
that Mrs. Post is speaking in this instance when the listener is not on a first name basis with the person in question.

Here are two examples:

You speak of a woman -- Mary Jones (Mrs. Oscar B. Jones) in conversation with Susan Brown (Mrs. Daniel Brown). Susan either does not know Mary Jones personally and/or is much younger than Mrs. Jones. So, you say, "Mrs. Jones is heading up the PTO project this year. She's asking for volunteers. Would you be interested in helping?"

On the other hand, if you and Susan both know Mary Jones well, you would say, "Did you know that Mary (or Mary Jones, if you both know more than one Mary) is heading up the PTO project this year. She's asking for volunteers. Would you like to help?"

"On the telephone, a lady says to another whom she knows socially, but who is not a "first-name-calling" friend, "Hello, Mrs. Smith? This is Mary Jones." Mrs. Smith answers, "Good morning, Mrs. Jones!"

Now, have I made all this as clear as mud! LOL! If you have any questions, leave them in the comments. I'll try my best to answer them.


Monday, June 18, 2007

The Bold, Adventurous Man

Have you ever known a man who seemed ready to take decisive action from birth! He is bold, adventurous, and a natural born leader. He may have a consuming passion in life or a sense of mission. Whatever he's up to -- for good or for ill -- you have a feeling that he will succeed.

Some time ago, we talked about the strong, silent hero, a male stereotype which is often portrayed in books and movies. This stereotype came about because many men in real life are strong and silent, quiet and thoughtful.

Similarly, some men are bold, active, and adventurous. This has lead to another common movie type: the dashing and brave hero.

Suppose we go to see a movie featuring the bold, adventurous man. Unlike the strong, silent type, this man does not have to be pushed into leadership. He already either is in charge or wants to take charge.

In fact, if our hero is very young and hasn't yet learned a lot of life lessons, he may have a higher opinion of his ability to lead than is warranted. He may ignore the advice of older, wiser men to his peril. Iin a movie, which is always tidier than real life, our hero generally learns his lesson without bringing too much injury upon himself and others. After he learns his lesson, his natural leadership qualities become a gift.

Just as the strong, silent hero and the vivacious, outgoing, high-achieving heroine often end up together, the bold, adventurous man usually has a quieter, more thoughtful woman around who adores him. He may not even notice her at first. He's too busy learning how to fly jet planes or hitchin' up the wagon to move west or conquering new worlds in space to notice our quiet-spoken heroine.

However, as the events of the movie unfold, the strong, silent type notices our kind, quiet heroine's true worth. In fact, her quiet courage and her undying loyalty become essential to his success. At the end of the movie, he not only realizes how much he loves her, but he also realizes that without her by his side he would have failed. (I hesitate to use Jerry McGuire as an example as it has some questionable elements in it. But, the character of Jerry McGuire is an ambitious, high-powered, creative man who, after much trial, comes to love and appreciate his quietly loyal wife.)

So, what happens to our bold, adventurous hero and our more quiet-spoken, thoughtful heroine after they ride off into the sunset together? We'd like to believe that everything flows smoothly from that point on. However, we know that there will likely be a few bumps along the way to building a beautiful partnership.

So, what is our quiet, thoughtful heroine to do? If you're married to a bold, adventurous man, here are some ideas you might try:

1) Remember, your bold, adventurous husband counts on your loyal love for him. Once he has wooed you and won you, he may feel secure in your commitment to him. So, he may dash happily off to other adventures -- such as his career or a sport or a mission that he feels strongly about. Meanwhile, you feel neglected, and you may feel that he is neglecting your children, as well. The key in communicating with the bold, adventurous man is not to take his driven nature personally. It's not that he doesn't love you anymore; he's simply an achiever by nature. Once he sets his mind on a goal, he pursues it full bore, and he may not realize the cost this brings to others. Gently and calmly get his attention and talk to him about your needs. (Take note of the examples of Esther and Abigail. They both plead their cases to high-powered men.) Nagging and pushing will be sure to make the bold, adventurous man run in the opposite direction. So, do prepare yourself to speak the truth in love. Also be prepared to discuss this topic again, as you move through different stages in life. If you and your husband cannot solve such dilemmas on your own, seek the counsel of a wise, older couple. Look for a couple who can help you both set your priorities in order. Take heart: a young man who is extremely driven generally becomes more sensitive to his family's needs as he matures.
2) Be thankful that you are married to a man who will accomplish much for good and who will be full of life in the process. Learn how to be a teammate with him. You two will draw closer as you overcome obstacles and bear good fruit together.
3) Your bold, adventurous husband can be a valuable resource as you pursue goals of your own. For example, he will believe that you can start that home business you've been dreaming of, when you, yourself, feel too timid to try. Or, he may be of help if you find yourself in charge of some kind of committee. Learn from your husband's courage and from the fact that bold, adventurous people generally don't fear failure. They see failure as an opportunity to learn, rather than as the end of the world.
4) Watch for the effect your bold, adventurous man has on others. Likely, he will inspire and encourage many, many people. On the other hand, he might bowl over some quieter, less vocal people. If he is a goal-oriented man and you are a "people person", you can be invaluable in helping him understand how other people think. Telling him when he has been inspirational will be easy, but it may be harder to talk to him about the fact that he has hurt someone's feelings. In broaching this subject, be careful not to come across as his mother or to nag him. Simply offer a gentle hint when needed. Also, your husband may pick up on this strength in you and he may ask for your opinions in this area. Be prepared to answer, again speaking the truth in love.
5) The bold, adventurous man may enjoy sports and pursuits that scare you. Sometimes, you may prefer to cheer from the sidelines. That's OK. But, your marriage will benefit if you try to do some exciting things with him, as your physical ability allows you to. Your bold, adventurous husband will appreicate your compaionship, your support, and the fact that you continue to gow and to be an interesting person in your own right. Who knows? You might end up enjoying something new. Your bold, adventurous man will help you develop as a person.
6) The bold, adventurous man is always full of ideas. Remember, that just because he brainstorms about something doesn't mean that he will follow through on it. So, don't over-react every time he makes a suggestion. Listen. Appreciate the merit in what he has said. If nothing else, focus on the positive fact that he is always thinking of ways to improve situaitons. Consider the pros and cons with him without putting him down.
7) The bold, adventurous man may want to move or to start a business or to make some other life change that scares you. Again, don't reject this out of hand. A new challenge might prove to be just what your family needs. Calmly consider the options with him.
8) The bold, adventurous man may be vigorous physically. He may not need as much sleep, rest, or family time as you do. He may unwittingly fill up your mutual schedule with more activities than you can handle. He may expect you to soldier on when you are tired, just like he does. He is not a mind-reader. So, if you want him to understand your needs, you will have to verbalize them. It may take more than one try before he understands that you (and/or your children) simply must have more rest. Gentle words will go farther than getting angry with him or nagging him will. Again, here is where the counsel of a wise couple can help you understand and adapt to each other.
9) In the same vein, the bold, adventurous man may run a lot on the energy of his personality. He might overestimate just how vigorous his body really is. He may need more sleep, more relaxation, and better quality of food than he admits to himself. This is true of my dear husband, and I am currently seeking ways to help him in his efforts to become more thoughtful of his health. (Suggestions, anyone?) Anyhow, this type of man is the famous "Type A" man who goes and goes and goes until he suddenly drops. You can't force him the Type A man take care of himself. But, you can respectfully discuss any concerns you have for his health with him. You can also create an environment in the home that will support him in the decision to lead a healthful life. Fix nutritous meals; ask him if he would like you to pack nutritious snacks for him to take to work; ask him if he will take a relaxing stroll with you after dinner. Give him a back rub. Bring him a glass of tea. Be creative in your endeavors to watch out for his health -- and yours, as well.
10) The bold, adventurous man may not know what to do during those times when he feels vulnerable and weak. He may, for example, be impatient while recovering from a broken leg or devastated when laid off from work. Such times may be hard, but they can also be good for a high-achieving man. They can drive him to seek God rather than to depend on himself. At such times, you can be a great support and comfort. He may not open up to you readily; he may not even understand enough about what he's feeling to put his emotions into words. But, if you continue to support him, he will learn how to voice his vulnerable feelings to you. Don't try to take away his feelings of weakness and vulnerablity; you can't and probably shouldn't. Instead, show him that you love and respect him even in times when he comes face to face with his own humanity.
11) Remember, the bold, adventurous man needs your support. Such a man often cares little what the crowd thinks, but he usually cares deeply what his wife thinks. (Read the story of Michal and David for an example.) Even if your husband gets a lot of attention from others for his achievements, that praise may mean nothing to him unless he knows that you also respect him. Also, if he has not yet acheived his dreams, he needs your continued support to continue to strive for the good. The spiritual danger that presents itself to a high-achieving man is to think more highly of himself than he ought, rather than to be humble and faithful in heart. Thus, a wife may mistakenly try to correct this by withholding the deep respect that he needs from her. Yet, in doing so, she, herself, is violating the Word, and trying to fight wrong with wrong always backfires. In withholding her respect from her husband, such a wife is actually producing the opposite effect than she desires. She is tempting her bold, adventurous man to become even more prideful in his attempts to win her respect. Or, he may give up trying to win her respect and focus more on the encouragment he gets outside of his marriage. Needless to say, this is not healthy.
12) A wife who knows how to give the right kind of support is a high-achieving man's treasure. Though the following saying is true of every man, it's doubly true for the bold, adventurous man: Beside and behind every great man, there is a great woman!


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Emily Post on Charming Speech -- Otherwise entitled, "Why it's dangerous to for the Merry Rose to read books on etiquette"

"No speaker who searches for words is interesting. Beautiful speech is like a brook that ripples on and on. Irritating speech is like the pufing o a locomotive, each puff broken with er-er -- and-er, the listener in sharing in the search and also sharing in the effort which which each word is pronounced." EP

Mrs. Post has me on this one. When speaking in front of a group, I nervously add "er" or "uh" or "you know" between phrases. Perhaps, I even do this in one-on-one conversation.

I must change this. However, it seems that Mrs. Post is not merely chastising me for saying "er".

She is also giving me permission here to babble on and on like a brook! I have it in writing!!

Of course, I do know that's not what Mrs. Post intends to say. That's fortunate for my irl friends. They know that the last thing I need is encouragement to talk too much!

Quick to listen, slow to speak...Quick to listen, slow to speak...!

If I just keep reminding myself of that...


Monday, June 11, 2007

Emily Post's Etiquette Book -- 1950 Edition

I brought home book from my dad's house. It is the 1950 edition of Emily Post's book, "Etiquette", which was originally written and published in 1922. My mother consulted this book on some rare occasion when she had forgotten some finer point of etiquette, and I remember reading some of it a a young girl. Since the book is older than I am, it is of interest to me historically, as well as concerning manners.

A few of you may remember that Emily Post was once considered one of the foremost experts in American etiquette. Her first works predated even those of Amy Vanderbilt and Letita Baldridge, who also became well-known etiquette experts in the twentieth century.

A few more of us will have some memory of Mrs. Post's daughter, Elizabeth. She took up her mother's mantle and became known as an etiquette expert in her own right.

Emily Post lived from 1872 to 1960. If you would like to read about her story, follow this link:

In the 1940's, Mrs. Post founded an institute devoted to manners -- The Emily Post Institute. The Institute still functions today, with her great-granddaughter-in-law serving as its current spokesman. You can find their web site if you do a search of Emily Post's name. Her geat-grandson also writes about manners.

Mrs. Post's descendants have continued to revise Mrs. Post's Etiquette book. Thanks to her great-granddaughter-in-law, the latest edition even deals with e-mail manners, a consideration that I'm sure Mrs. Post could never have foreseen.

I haven't had a chance to read much of the 1950 edition of Etiquettesince I brought it home. But, just from glancing through it, I'm struck by how often Mrs. Post refers to "the modern woman" and "the modern world". In her mind, she was living in a new era in which manners had changed to accommodate the equality and independence of the modern woman. She offers much advice to men and women about how to conduct themselves in this brave new society. That's fascinating to me, since the 1950's are so often portrayed as a repressive time for American women.

It seemed to me when flipping through Etiquette that if the only source of etiquette advice you had on hand was the 1950 edition of Mrs. Post's book, you wouldn't stray too far afield in your manners. Much of her advice still applies.

Admittedly, some of Mrs. Post's advice might sound quaint -- or at least quaintly worded -- to our even more modern ears. Some of her advice might even be truly obsolete. Still, there are many gems hidden within the pages of the 1950 book.

Here's one gem that Mrs. Post wrote:

"The secret of popularity is unconsciousness of self, enthusiastic interest in almost anything that turns up, and inward generosity of thought and impulse outwardly expressed in good manners."

Mrs. Post directed this advice toward young girls, who were taking their first few steps into the adult world. She warned girls not to measure their success by superficial standards of popularity. Instead, she advised them to focus on being a true friend to others. She deemed it better to be liked for one's lovely character than to be the prettiest, showiest girl at a party.


Friday, June 08, 2007

Tip for the New Mother #4 -- Your Health in the First Year

Ideas about when a new mother should return to her normal activites have varied throughout history. According to the culture or the time in which you give birth, a mother is given particular advice about this matter. Also, this depends on the mother's individual state of health, as well. So, given all of these variables, one woman may follow different counsel than another woman -- past or present.

When I had my babies back in the early eighties, the American ideal was to get Mom and Baby up and out of the house as soon as possible. It was often pointed out that in some societies, women give birth in the field and then keep on working. The implication was that we should do likewise. I have met a lot of moms from a lot of different cultures, but I've never personally encountered anyone who got right up from childbirth to harvest peas. So, if you actually have done this, please let me know!

My peers and I thought nothing of taking our babies to church or even out shopping before two weeks from delivery was out! I knew one very faithful mom -- a preacher's wife -- who conducted a woman's Bible study from her bed the next day after giving birth! A few women came over, including one who was interested in becoming a Christian came over, and she taught them right in her room! I still appreciate her heart to help others.

When I was born the thinking that both Mom and Baby would benefit from staying in and resting for a month. I think things are swinging back in that direction, now. The latest I hear is that some doctors are advising moms not to bring Baby to church for about four weeks.

When I was born, women stayed in the hospital for at least a week after a normal delivery. When I had babies, three days was the norm for a normal delivery. A few years after that, women were sent home within hours of giving birth. Statistics came out that these quick hospital stays endangered the mother's health, and hospital stays went back up again.

Of course, when my father was born in 1919, women gave birth at home, with doctors in attendance. But, I don't think women were rushed out of bed very quickly. Many people enjoy home deliveries today.

I think I've mentioned this before in an earlier post, but it bears repeating: It takes about a year after childbirth for your internal organs to knit themselves completely back together. Throughout the first year, no matter how great you may feel, you must be mindful of this fact.

This bit of advice was given to me after the birth of my second child. How do I know this advice is true? I ignored it and suffered some unpleasant consequences. This wasn't too bright on my part, especially since my babies were only fourteen months apart. Overall, I felt fantastic. Yet, my insides still had a lot of recovering to do, as I found out.

Here's what I learned after ignoring this point to my detriment: It's fine and even beneficial to ease back into your life's routine as your doctor or midwife approves. Once you have your doctor's or midwife's ok, the right kind of exercise will do wonders for you. But, please be careful. In the first month, avoid any quick and jerky movements and unnecessary bending. Move slowly and gently. Do this in addition to following any precautions your doctor or midwife has advised. Throughout the first year, avoid lifting heavy objects. Of course, you will be lifting Baby. But, when it comes to things like re-arranging the furniture or setting out to become the world's weight-lifting champion -- don't!

Throughout your childbearing years, watch out for things like anemia, cavities in your teeth, a cold that lingers on too long, allergies, corrections that need to be made in your vision, etc. I know how it is to be so busy taking care of everyone else that you neglect your own body. And, I know how expensive it is to keep up-to-date on all of your health needs. But, think how much more effective you can be in loving your family if you take care of little things that can easily be treated.

Regarding your iron level: Men and post-menopausal women don't generally need supplemental iron. Nor, do they need a diet heavy on iron-rich foods. In fact, there is some evidence that this can be harmful. Iron can build up in your arteries and cause heart problems. That's why you see many multivitamin formulations now that do not include iron.

However, women of childbearing years often have low iron stores due to menstruation and childbirth. Many, if not most, teen girls and women of childbearing age sit on the borderline between having a normal blood count and being anemic. I know that my daughter and I both have experienced this. So have several of our friends.

Watch out for these signs of a low blood store: unusual fatigue, feeling winded easily, palpitations, feeling cold, heavier than usual periods, etc. The unusual fatigue could be the only symptom that you feel, so don't dismiss unwarranted fatigue without finding out the root cause. Talk to your doctor to make sure that you are truly low on iron; diagnosing yourself would not be wise. Also, don't fall into the thinking that if you need to add a little extra iron to your diet, that a whole lot must be even better for you. Too much is as harmful as too little. And, don't assume that if you need extra iron this year that you will always need extra iron; have this checked periodically so that you don't overdo. But, if you truly are low in iron, it will do wonders for you if you add iron-rich and Vitamin C rich foods to your diet or if you take a multi-vitamin with iron.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Hints for the New Mom -- Part III

1) Appreciate and savor this season of life. We are always moving into a new season, to which we must adapt. For example, right now, my father is in a health crisis and is staying with us. Naturally, this has altered our household's normal activities. It's hard, especially to watch my father suffer! But, even so, I treasure the moments I have with him. In the same way, a new baby alters the schedule of a married couple. Savor the moments you have with your new baby. When you are constantly changing diapers, feeding a baby day and night, and laundering baby clothing, each day can seem long. But, when you look back at the end of your baby's first 365 days, you'll realize just how fleeting the year really was. So, enjoy!
2) When people offer to come over for an hour or so to help you, let them! It is okay to accept help! Sometimes, people may offer to do something for you, but they won't know exactly what you need. If they ask, offer a concise, non-demanding suggestion. You could say something such as, "Thanks for asking. I'm so behind on the laundry. If you could throw in a load for me, that would be such a comfort to me."
3) Make every effort to grow in your relationship to God. "But women will be saved through childbearing, if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety." I Timothy 2:15 NIV
The process of being pregnant, giving birth, and beginning to raise a child is a wondrous and profound experience. Provided that you keep a teachable heart, God will use that profound experience to show you his glory and his love more deeply. He will also use motherhood to refine your character. I admire single women who have the gift of devoting their life to God without marriage and children. But, I think God knew that I needed to be a wife and mother to force me to confront and crucify my natural selfishness.
I remember that when I had my first child, DH and I were urgently seeking a deeper relationship with God. I propped my Bible on my knees while I nursed my baby at night. I still treasure those quiet moments when it was just God, my baby, and me. I'm sure my physical eyes were bleary from lack of sleep, but God still used that time to open the eyes of my heart to so many things in his word.
4) Write scriptures on cards and carry them with you or place them in places where you will see them as you go through your day. Jot down on a card things you want to pray about. That way, even on the busiest day with Baby, you can make use of small amounts of time to take God's word into your heart and to pray.
5) Whether you are a naturally scheduled person or you are someone who finds it hard to be scheduled, you may be surprised by how many interruptions to your days that a new baby brings. This requires that you learn how to alter your activities when your baby needs you. Yet, you will need to maintain a certain amount of routine to your life so that you can function. Some mothers adapt easily to this balance between being scheduled and flexible; for others of us, this balance doesn't come so easily. I know that it wasn't easy for me. Here's where prayer and, also, the wisdom of a godly older mother are invaluable.
God is a God of order, and we are made in his image. Both we and our children will thrive best if we can establish some routine and pattern in our lives. On the other hand, we must not get too uptight about our personal idea of how our day should go. Though Jesus was intensely focused on his mission while on earth, he was also approachable. He stopped to bless babies, to touch a leper, to heal a blind man, to call a man down out of a tree and have lunch with him.
Knowing how to meet baby's emotional and physical needs, while at the same staying close to God, meeting the needs of Dh, taking care of your health, and helping others is a delicate balance that requires much prayer and advice. It also requires fully surrendering your day to the Lord.
6) When you have a new baby in the house is not the time to do deep cleaning or spring cleaning. If you can keep things reasonably picked up, the kitchen sanitary, the beds made, and the bathrooms wiped, your house will have a feeling of order and comfort. You can tackle dust bunnies, closets, bookshelves etc., later on. You're not trying to get into House Beautiful right now. Your goal is to maintain a reasonably comfortable and pleasant haven for your family.
7) When you have a new baby is not the time to try out a high maintenance hairdo or to acquire clothing that needs a lot of maintenance, as well. As I said in an earlier post, develop quick and easy personal care routines that help you feel fresh and pretty. Note: Use a burp cloth and also be prepared too change tops often!
8) Accept the fact that you may not feel like everything is perfectly done or completely finished right now. That's ok, provided that you are tending to what is most important in your life. Pray that God will show you what He wants you to accomplish and trust that he will give you the strength and ability. Also, check with your dh to see how he feels about how things are going. (If your dh has what you feel like are unrealistic expectations for you right now, talking with a godly older couple can help you both sort things out).
At the end of each day, be thankful for what you did get done, rather than allow yourself to feel gloomy about what you didn't get done. It is wise to take stock at the end of the day to discern how you can improve. And, if you have been lazy, of course, it's time to repent. But, if you get in the habit of berating yourself over things that you failed to accomplish with your day you are setting yourself up to spiral downwards emotionally. This will drain you physically, making it even harder to accomplish important goals. The result is you will feel worse about your days. Thankfulness, by contrast, will lead to happiness which can lead to more energy, thus creating an upwards spiral. A thankful outlook is essential to your emotional health and will be good for your baby, as well!
9) You may have been used to being on the go as a single woman and, also, as a married woman with no children. Yet, now, you must learn how to operate more of your life from home. So, look for little opportunities to be of service in your neighborhood. Bake a batch of cookies for a new neighbor, for example. Within boundaries that protect your safety, wave to any people who are out in their yards and get to know them as you take your baby for a stroll. Take time to talk to children who are interested in your baby. Be espeically kind if an elderly person expresses an interest in your child; perhaps, you might be the only person they talk with all day! A happy mom with a happy child can be a great encouragement to an entire neighborhood.
What if you live in a neighborhood where no one is home during the day? On warm nights, ask Dh to stroll with you in the later afternoon or early evening, just as people are getting home from work. Also, reach out to other mothers you might meet at the park. You can even have an encouraging conversation with other mothers you see in the waiting room of your doctor's office. Also, you can encourage someone else and receive encouragement yourself if you make it a point to chat with one person for a short time on the phone every day. Don't let phone time get out of hand. But, a short call each day can help you stay in touch with others.
Or, you might write notes that encourage others. Read Jane McWhorter's book, "Special Delivery", which is a course in letter writing. You will find good suggestions for writing letters that will bring joy or comfort to people in many different life situations. Who knows what good you can do if you take five to fifteen minutes at least once a week to dash out a heartfelt, short, impactful note to someone and take it to the mailbox. If you do this once a week, you will have made at least a small difference in the lives of 52 people by year's end!
As you feel like it, have someone over for lunch. Or, let a teen come over and help you one afternoon, while you share an interest in her life. Take baby to visit someone in a nursing home, if that is allowed. Elderly people often are greatly cheered by babies.
If you are creative, you will find many ways to be of service, even when you have a baby under the age of one.
10) Sometimes, you may need to rest when baby rests -- especially in the six months. It may be hard to take time to do this when you know you could get so many things done while Baby is asleep! However, a little investment in your health now will pay off later on. Look at this as a way to maintain your stamina throughout your childbearing years.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Help for the new mother -- Part II

Some of my most precious memories are of holding my babies and feeding them. I could fill volumes describing how much I loved nursing my children.

Of course, in today's world, we're all aware of the benefits of nursing. Some of these are as follows: hormones are released that bond the baby and the mother; colostrum and mother's milk are specifically created by God for the human infant and thus provide the most complete nourishment; colostrum and mother's milk provide antibodies that protect a baby's immune system; mother's milk is an always available source of food for the child; if a mother nurses completely, nursing does seem to space out conceptions somewhat; and nursing is comforting and relaxing to both mother and child. Beyond that, nursing adds to much to the happiness of the mother and the baby.

As wonderful as nursing is, not every moment will go smoothly. Here are some tips I hope will help the process:

1) A few women simply cannot nurse for medical reasons. This has been true throughout history. In the old days, if a woman could not nurse, another mother was found to step in for her and to provide her baby with the needed milk. Later on, bottles and formula were invented, and a mother who could not nurse could feed her own baby via a bottle.

I have a friend who had her heart set on nursing her child. However, it turned out that she needed to take some medicine which could pass into her milk and, thus, might harm her child.

If you find yourself in a situation where you absolutely cannot nurse, there is no need to feel guilty or to let this mar the joy of having a new baby. While mother's milk may be ideal, your baby will thrive on formula.

Since our mothers were sadly discouraged from breastfeeding, there's a whole generation of us baby boomers who have already lived forty to sixty years after being bottle fed as children! And, we're still going strong. (My mother did nurse me for six weeks, but I think that was about as long as anyone ever nursed back then. Most mothers did not nurse at all, but were prescribed medicine to dry up their milk).

Remember, the most important nourishment you give your child is your love. You can give that whether you nurse or not.

2) On the other hand, I've known mothers who were able to nurse, but who found it hard to get the whole process started. Many became frustrated when their nursing experience didn't fit the perfect picture they had formed in their mind. Some have told me of being sorely tempted to give up.

In the main, nursing is an instinctive process for both baby and mother. However, some babies are slow to follow their instincts in this area. They may have trouble at first with some aspect of nursing, such as latching on. There are many reasons for this, most of which are correctable.

Or, a tired and nervous mother may psyche herself out of being able to nurse. If she lets her mind and body stay tense, she may find it hard to maintain a good milk flow.

If you and your baby find the nursing process difficult, yet you really want to breastfeed your baby, do not give up too soon!! It just takes some mothers and some babies longer to get the process down. But, once you do, the rewards will be great!

The most important thing you can do in this situation is to relax. Instead of worrying if you're doing everything right when it comes to nursing, focus more on enjoying your baby. If you keep an optimistic, peaceful attitude, your baby will sense it. Eventually, nursing will fall in place for both of you.

In the meantime, consult an experienced mom or a lactation specialist for help. Also, let your physician monitor the baby's growth to make sure he or she is thriving.

You may want to purchase an old book by the La Leche League. Be forewarned. The La Leche League takes nursing very seriously. Perhaps, this is because they were formed at a time when they had to defend nursing against a culture that was used to bottle feeding. I found that reading some of their literature and talking to a mom who was a member of LLL was a great boon to me. At any rate, don't feel obligated to live up to every aspect of the organization's teaching. Just know that some of their books -- such as the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding -- do provide helpful information for the mother who needs help with nursing. Any nursing mother will benefit from LLL advice. But, when you need encouragement to keep on in the face of problems, that's where they really help. Take what works for you and don't worry about the rest.

3) Remember, women have been breast-feeding for thousands of generations. By this time, people have found solutions for most of the little problems that may crop up with nursing. From what to do when your baby cuts his first tooth to how to cope with mastitis to what to do for after cramps with a second or third baby -- someone's discovered an answer. So, once again, stay relaxed and optimistic. If you should encounter a troublesome question, it probably won't be insurmountable. Just consult an experienced mother or a good book on nursing.

4) Nursing seems to bring out strongest opinions of any subject in infant care. Should you nurse or not? If you do nurse, when should you wean the baby? When should you first introduce foods along with nursing? Should you give a newborn some water or only mother's milk? Questions like these provoke much discussion.

As we mentioned in the last post on infant care, don't let conflicting advice confuse you. Most of all, don't let it unnerve you. Stay humble. Listen. Honestly ask yourself if the advice you are being given is true and sound. But, in the end, your husband and you (and quite possibly your doctor) will have to decide what is right for you and your baby.

5) If you are a nursing mother, take care of your own health. Also, find simple personal care routines that will help you stay feeling fresh and pretty, yet won't sap a lot of your time and energy. This is helpful for you, for your dear hubby, for your new baby, and for any future babies you might have.

6) Nursing moms get a lot of their needs for cuddling and attention met from holding their babies so much. Enjoy nursing, but keep your priorities straight. Your baby will thrive best in an atmosphere where you keep God first in your heart and in your life and where you continue to build a solid, happy marriage with your dh. Don't neglect your marriage while you are nursing! Find little ways to let your husband know that you care. Also, resume a physical relationship as soon as you are medically able to do so after childbirth.

Of course, caring for a nursing infant (or any infant) does require a lot of time, energy, and attention. Nursing mothers do get tired. And, a nursing mother will not be able to do all that she did when she was single or married without children. We must find creative ways to be fruitful and happy in whatever season of life we find ourselves. You will need to be patient with yourself as you nurse. Your husband and any older children in the family will also need to be patient.

However, the best thing you can do for your nursing baby is to order your priorities rightly now in your heart and to find creative ways to put your priorities in action as you can. Getting off to a good start now will pay off as your child grows to be an adult.