Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Switching Blogs

I'm confused. A few months ago, I killed the email address associated with this blog and the blog seemed to die, too. So I started a new blog, connected with a different email address. Now this old blog seems to have been resurrected, associated with still another email address.

Anyway, if you want to read more recent posts, go to http://dianajill.blogspot.com

The new blog is also called Housewife's Eye. (Just to make it even more confusing.)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dressing for a Gallery Opening

When I was an art student, it was exciting to attend gallery openings. We'd dress up the way we thought art students should look --- black tites and dangling earrings were a must. And although we hadn't been specifically invited and were certainly not potential art buyers, we mixed with the crowd, drinking wine and feeling awfully sophisticated.

At a recent Art Walk, it was interesting to see that 50 years later, black tites and dangling earrings are still a classic, especially when paired with black form-fitting, long-sleeved T and a black mini-skirt, though more of the younger artists favor an eclectic look: puffed sleeves with denim and combat boots, or satin with retro wool plaid.

Of particular interest to me is the uniform of middle-aged "arty" women: dark, drapey clothing --- cloaks, capes, shawls and the like are popular --- necklaces with BIG beads, often of semi-precious stones or silver, and carefully tousled hair. Oh, and dangling earrings.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Stepping In

My sister-in-law and I were comparing notes about the things we do at church. We're both old hands at church life, and in addition to being involved in official ways --- serving on committees, singing in the choir, holding office, and the like --- we also find ourselves stepping in when we see things that need to be done that no one else is doing: watering flowers, washing choir robes, dusting pews, putting fresh water in the baptismal font, turning on the coffee maker.

I've been thinking about this, and wonder if we see the things that are amiss because we've been keeping house for a long time, no longer have kids to distract us, and are still physically able. Is this a phenomenon that happens to women of a certain age? (To be fair, there are men that take care of small repairs around the church, change light bulbs, carry out trash, mow the lawn, and the like.)

However, I'm getting tired of doing these things and am beginning to realize that feeling put-upon is a consequence of competence. If I continue to take care of these little tasks, and do them easily and well, no one else will bother to pitch-in. A good example are the potted poinsettias people donate at Christmas to decorate the church. They require almost daily maintenance --- too much water and they rot, too little water and they droop, and even with just the right amount of water, they continually drop leaves and bracts. In the past, I've made a special trip to church once or twice during the week to take care of these exacting plants. This year I ignored them and several people murmurred, "What happened to the poinsettias?" In the next Worship Committee Meeting, I'll suggest that if we want to have flowers, someone needs to be in charge of them.

When I was younger, I wondered why some of the older women who didn't work, didn't have kids at home, and were still active didn't volunteer for jobs at church. Now I know; they're tired of stepping in and they're leaving it someone else. Now I, too, am ready to retire from stepping in.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Stepping Stones

Each morning, while making toast, I brush all the crumbs off the counter, but I know they'll soon reappear. The first sip of tea tastes so good, that I drink more. It's good, too, but not as good as the first sip. After eating breakfast, I rearrange my book and the other things that lay on the table, so they're straight, but I know they won't stay that way.

In these very small ways I create islands of order and peace in my day. I think of them as stepping stones, places to set my foot securely for a moment as I am propelled though a day of deadlines, lists, bumping against the needs of other people.

Maybe this is what Jesus meant when he said, "Peace, be still" in the middle of that storm on the Sea of Gallilee. Our lives will never be as peaceful as we think we want them to be --- if they were, I suspect we'd be bored. It's enough to be aware that we can pause for an instant on a stepping stone.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hanging Out

I'll be looking after two grandsons for a few days while their parents are away. Since they're 8 and 10 years old, "baby-sitting" doesn't quite seem like the right term. So I've decided to say I'm "hanging out" with them.

Hanging out, as I understand it, means spending time with other people, but without a definite schedule or agenda except for being together and talking. This past-time can take many forms. My kids' generation hung out at the local mall or recreation center. After complaints from teen-agers of my generation that there was nothing to do (which I never understood), teen centers were created to give them a place to hang out. At other times and in other places, people have hung out in pool rooms and pubs. I suppose you can't really hang out at a library (one of my favorite places to be) since patrons are not supposed to talk.

I've been transcribing a diary my mother kept, starting from the day she graduated from high school in 1930. She lived in a small town where there wasn't a lot to do. There were certainly no teen centers, and I don't think there was even a movie theater. (Though watching a movie may not qualify as hanging out since there's a time factor and a specific activity.) Her version of hanging out was "going up-town". She must have walked the mile several times a week, sometimes to buy some small thing, but often just to have something to do. At least she got some fresh air and exercise.

Now people hang out virtually. That's what social networking websites are all about. We slump down in front of our computers and check in to see who else has checked in. We make brief, often trivial comments, just to make a connection. Crafting very brief, cryptic and intriguing posts can rise to an art form, but multiple reports about people's status in the virtual world of game apps is just annoying. I may eat my words, though. I saw one game app that looked interesting, and I could get sucked in.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Reading at Random

We don't have a TV and I seldom go to movies, but I read a lot, often two or three books a week.

When go to the library, I try to choose a variety of books: one whose author I've heard interviewed on the radio, one someone has recommended, a mystery (for relaxation), fiction, history, biography, art. But I may also pick up at random a book that catches my eye as I walk through the stacks. (The enormous value of open stacks!) One thing leads to another. When reading one book, if another book is cited, I may write that down and look for it the next time I'm at the library. Thus I often read a short sequence of related books

This summer, "The Fifties" by David Halberstam, was the last unread book in the batch from the libaray. It is very thick, and looked like it might take awhile to read. But once I got started, I couldn't stop. The decade of the 1950s is the first decade I remember well. For the first time, the book provided me with a context for all the names, events, trends and fragments from my teenage years. It verified what I'd vaguely felt, that life in America changed a lot after World War II.

Many aspects of our present-day American culture had their beginnings in the 1950s and are still with us: consumerism, corporate greed, the credit economy (more realistically called the debt economy), energy consumption. Other aspects of the culture have changed a lot since then: much improved (but still not perfect) gender and racial equality, information technology, ecological awareness.

Once started on this sequence, I also read "The Feminine Mystique" by Betty Friedan, "How Rich is Too Rich" by Vance Packard, and a biography of J. Edgar Hoover. Then I was ready to change to a different topic, so I picked up "Acedia and Me" by Katherine Norris, a book relating one aspect of medieval spirituality to the author's life. But a funny thing happened. This book had a surprising relationship to "The Feminine Mystique". Friedan felt that all educated housewives should get out of the house, and engage in a demanding, professional career for the good of society. Norris found spiritual nourishment in the daily routine of household tasks. Each author represents an extreme view, formed by opposite personalities living in very different life circumstances.

All this is fascinating to me and provides a certain perspective, but I've lived long enough to feel comfortable with having lived my life on my terms.

Now I'm reading about the Cranbrook Academy, a community of artists, architects and craftspersons whose design philosophy influenced the arts education I experienced in the late 1950s. So I'm inadvertently back to mid-century!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Can You Read Cursive?

As a summer job, a bright college student friend of ours has agreed to type a handwritten diary from the 1930s into a digital file. The old handwriting looked quite legible to me, but the student remarked that she didn't read cursive very well. I was surprised, and even more surprised when I remembered that another bright college student friend who had done the same work for me last summer, had made the same remark.

I'm in the process of transcribing some old German church records, written in old style German handwriting. This style was taught in German schools until about 1920, so anyone educated after that has a hard time reading this cursive script (meaning not many living people can read it easily.) I can muddle though the records I'm transcribing which consist mostly of names and dates with a few other notations.

Will my grandchildren have the same difficulty reading my handwriting as I have reading the old German handwriting? I asked my grandson about it. He has just completed fourth grade and told me he learned cursive last year in third grade. The students in his school are required to form their letters according to a set pattern and they are graded on the quality of their handwriting when they turn in homework. Apparently, his school (a charter school that emphasizes traditional standards --- everyone takes Latin, for example) is in the minority. Many schools have de-emphasized handwriting skills and the students, even in the lower grades, use computers for their assignments.

When I was a student 60 years ago, we learned a cursive alphabet called Zaner-Blosser. It may have been a variation of the Palmer Method of handwriting. Spencerian script was the predecessor of the Palmer Method. The alphabet that my grandson wrote out for me was a simpler version of Zaner-Blosser, minus all the little loops that I always thought were ugly and silly. Some calligraphers have advocated teaching children an italic hand, drawn with a chisel-shaped nib.

We'll see how the bright college student friend does with the 1930s handwriting. And time will tell if my grandson in his old age is one of the few people who can still read cursive.