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The Simple Joys
It doesn't matter where you go on the first floor of a hotel in Regina, Saskatchewan, it is still cold.

The business centre is just off of the lobby, and everytime someone enters or exits, a blast of -20 degree air comes in. I suppose I shouldn't complain; I don't live in this all the time. We get down to -20 in Ontario all through January and much of February, but it starts so early here. You have to hand it to the prairie folk. They're hardy stock, on both sides of the border.

I've spoken in the morning and in the evening for the last few days, but the afternoons I've had free. During these spare moments I've been hibernating in my hotel room with some luxurious, yummy cashmere yarn I bought this summer. I'm knitting fingerless gloves that are unbelievably soft. It's like carrying around an angora rabbit on your hands. They're so warm, even though they're relatively thin, and the yarn is just delectable to work with. It's been bliss.

What hasn't been as blissful is the offerings on the television. Even though 60 channels are available, there really is nothing on. We don't live with a television; we do watch movies, but more often than not I'm on the internet or just knitting in the same room as my husband does his hobby. I do enjoy watching television when I travel; it's a bit of a treat. But this weekend there's been nothing on. I deigned to watch CSI Miami yesterday, and I found I couldn't watch much of it. I just don't want to see dead and mutilated bodies. I know many love the show, but I find it so dark.

This afternoon I surfed to see what was on and the only show was Hoarders. Looked like an interesting concept (I thought about it more like a decluttering show), but boy was it depressing. I only lasted five minutes before shutting it off, because these people have honest to goodness mental illnesses. It seemed wrong to watch them, like they were in a zoo.

Instead I checked what movies were on, and settled for Julie & Julia. I really enjoyed it. First, it was so complimentary of marriage. Both women received their greatest joy and support in their lives from their husbands, and in turn realized that they were to support their husbands, too (and feel convicted when they do not). With all the marriage bashing going on, it was refreshing to see something that treated it well.

But the food in it was almost as delectable as my cashmere yarn. I love cooking, though I'm definitely not a French chef. But as I was watching it occurred to me that the appeal of someone like a Julia Child is that we women, even if we lead mundane lives, want some beauty there. And food can be so beautiful. In our lives we can settle for drab, or we can take that extra step to make the everyday stupendous.

Julia Child made it stupendous. And as Julie, the modern day character, immerses herself in these recipes, she feels a thrill that was so lacking in her life.

Many homeschooling curriculum publishers offer curriculum on the wifely arts of housekeeping, and I have to admit to finding it mildly amusing, and at times a little off-putting. It is not that I don't appreciate cooking; it is only that the curriculum seems so intent to slot our girls into a certain mold. And yet I think these books have a point. Generations ago these things were concerned "art": cooking, decorating, homemaking. They were not drudgery. Women made beautiful art out of scraps of fabric in the form of quilting. They knit rag rugs. They created masterpieces for dinner, even if they didn't know how to cook the French way.

Today we try to take shortcuts in everything. We don't make rag rugs. We don't cook from scratch. We try to avoid what seems like work. And yet isn't art also work? And can't work also be art? We have substituted the art that used to be a part of everyday life and instead carved out the time that would have been spent on that art and busied it up with watching television, or running even more errands, or driving our children to gymnastics.

Maybe we need a touch of art in our lives. Maybe we need a foray into French cooking, or into Christmas decorating, or into knitting cashmere fingerless gloves. We need more art in our lives.

I have been speaking this weekend about the pressures that we women put on ourselves to achieve certain things at Christmas, and I don't mean to put more onto us. But as with most things in life, the problem is not the THING. It is the ATTITUDE. This year I want to bake cookies. Glorious, yummy sugar cookies, with real butter, no matter the fat content. I don't want to do it because I feel pressured to bake for my family and neighbours. I don't want to do it so that I can be a proper mother. I want to do it so that I can have the thrill of making my own cookies.

Maybe you need such a thrill in your life, too. Watch the movie, and let yourself dream a bit. What can bring beauty and art into your everyday life? Is it cooking? Is it crocheting? Is it writing? God Himself creates; I think He smiles when we do, too.

So this season, find the joy in making something beautiful out of what is just a simple part of life. And feel your heart thrill in the process.

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At 6:43 PM , Blogger sarahe said…

I feel much like you about the Tv shows--i don't like to watch dark dramas or things where people get killed. i do watch hoarders sometime b/c it inspires me to get off my butt and clean b/c I definitely have hoarding tendencies. I also LOVE the "wifely arts" and bake like crazy as well as knitting, sewing a bit, and just looking for different ways to be creative and work with my hands. They are arts that are too devalued in our culture's desire to have everything right now.


At 11:18 AM , Anonymous Tami said…

I loved that movie! DH and I don't go to the movies very often, but that was one show I 'planned' a date around. Of course, cooking is my go figure :-D

I agree that the 'wifery arts' have lost some of the value they deserve, and watched the family dinner table disappear as society pointed to things that had 'greater value' than time in the kitchen. I love to share shortcuts to making 'homemade meals' that even the kids can make. If we get the kids in the kitchen, then these skills will be passed down to the next generation as we reinforce them in ours.

As for the knitting thing...I've tried...really I've tried :-D... but I guess that is one skill my sister will always be better at!

Oh ya...and about the Julie / Julia movie. I was even inspired to recreate some of those dishes on my blog...with a few shortcut ideas to make them more 'doable' in the life of a busy mom.


At 4:41 PM , Blogger Stacey said…

First of all, just because one lives in the Prairies, doesn't mean we like it! I think I'm getting more whimpy every year. I live in southern Manitoba, by the way, and I'm ready to pack my house and move somewhere warm!


At 8:55 PM , Blogger Nurse Bee said…

Personally, I think there is nothing like throwing a party to bring out the domestic side. We had a Christmas party last weekend and it involved quite a bit of decorating and cooking.

But I have to tell you, I am not really an "arty" person. If given some free time, I would rather read a good book or take a walk than learn to knit or something along those lines. (I do cook, mostly for function, but I enjoy baking too).


At 9:33 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Thanks for your comments, girls!

Stacey--I hear you about the prairies. My mother grew up in Winnipeg. I guess I was just worried that it sounds rude to show up in Regina and then complain nonstop about the weather to the people who have to live in it, you know? It's like insulting their home. But I'm starting to think that complaining about the weather is their favourite topic of conversation.

Nurse Bee--I hear you about reading. But, if you think about it, if you're reading a GOOD book, like not trash or anything, then you are appreciating art. I picked up a new P.D. James book at the airport and I just love her descriptions. It quiets my soul somehow (even if the book is about murder). Brilliant writing is beautiful, and I think appreciating it is starting to be a "lost art" with all the quick entertainment on television.

Glad to hear the rest of you enjoy some of the wifely arts! I think I'll throw a neighbourhood Christmas party this year. We don't even really know our neighbours, which is pathetic. That'll inspire me to decorate some more!


At 5:56 PM , Blogger Stacey said…

I suppose maybe we do complain a bit too much about the weather :) I'm not really sure how to be thankful for it though. Any ideas, after freezing yourself out this way?


At 3:56 PM , Blogger Lou Ann said…

Thank you.My sentiments exactly! I want to make the handmade ornaments, lovely foods and celebrate the gift of the season. Christmas lets us do that.
I haven't watched the movie, Julia & Julia, but wanted to check it out.


At 9:10 AM , Anonymous Kristine McGuire said…

I loved Julie & Julia for the very reasons you state. I love to cook for my family. I rarely do anything as fancy as French cuisine, but all the meals I cook, the cookies I's all done with love. I think the movie helped to impart this notion beautifully.

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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