Monday, February 18, 2008

Great Writers Steal

Back when I first started blogging I had a subscription to Real Simple, and would from time to time post interesting things from the magazine. It really is such an interesting magazine. I only got it for one year, but it was the crazy year where we were homeless for a summer and I was expecting Elspeth, and I suppose I was just to stressed out to read my magazine. My life was anything but real simple. So I have all the issues from that summer still in the plastic in which they were mailed to me. This morning I opened one to take to the Y with me and was so glad to be reacquainted with this publication that I had sort of forgotten about.

The first page (that was not an ad) made me actually laugh out loud. It is the opening page, which is always entitled "thoughts" and displays a single picture and a quote. In this particular month, May 2006, the chosen quote was "Either that wallpaper goes or I do." Oscar Wilde, last words. He was always so clever, always so Britishly brilliant and funny, why should we doubt that this truly was the last thing he said? I am a huge Oscar Wilde fan despite his shady personal life. I had a close friend in high school who introduced me to all things British and slightly scandalous, including Oscar Wilde, the Smiths/Morrissey, Gene, (the London) Suede, and all manner of unheard of Britpop. I think I would have missed a little chuckle and almost certainly and A+ in Modern plays at Auburn had it not been for him, so cheers, Andrew, wherever you are.

My favorite section of Real Simple is where the readers write in. Remember in YM where people wrote in to tell about embarrassing incidents or funny first dates? This is the grown up version of that. This month's question was "what's your favorite piece of advice from your mother?" I was surprised that so many people got such good advice from their mothers. I mean, I thought there may be some people who would look at some of them and think they were dumb or obvious, but I really appreciated each and every little gem of wisdom. Some of them were clearly born out of feminism or a sort of "be a good person" mentality, but put with a Biblical world view would still be great mantras.

The first one that really jumped out at me was, "A little will show what a lot will be." The daughter explains that what her mother was trying to do was to get her to pay attention to the little clues that show what a person's true character is. Wouldn't it be great to have known about that? Because of course, now you see it and you know it is true. I think of this mostly in terms of dating. There were always giveaways early on. Why did it takes us two years to see? Another quote that I appreciated goes along with this train of thought, "Men are just dessert." I love that. I was not raised like that at all. My experience was a little more along the lines of the Bennett girls in Pride and Prejudice, the objective was to get married or at least be in a meaningful relationship. I am not sure why. Really. But anyway, if it had been just the little extra thing that was neither here nor there, not at all necessary but very nice, I would've done so many things differently. All's well that ends well though, eh?

There were two that made me laugh out loud. First was a girl who said that her mother's motto is "But we're cheery!" I thought that was darling! She says her mother had guests seated for a dinner party and when she took the roast out of the oven, it fell and slid across the floor. Her mother said "But we're cheery!", picked up the roast, and served it to "unknowing guests." I love everything about that story. I may adopt that motto. Imagine laughing instead of cursing or crying! I had my mother-in-law over for breakfast one morning not long ago. I always kind of bug her with my um, we'll say "lack of punctuality," and I could tell she was getting a little annoyed. So I was trying to be all quick, pancakes, apple topping, whipped cream, sprinkled cinnamon, and I accidentally opened the wrong side of the cinnamon container to the pour side instead of the sprinkle side. Without looking first, I turned the container and dumped a good half a Sam's sized bottle of cinnamon all over a short stack. I was laughing so hard I was practically crying. But it was so strange that both George and his mom seemed really annoyed. Come on, what is not funny about that? See, if I had known to say "But we're cheery!" maybe I could've gotten a smile out of one of them! I cannot believe I haven't posted the recipe for those pancakes, by the way. Coming soon!

The second funny quote reminded me of my Nannie. The daughter explained how her mother grew up in the 40s when they got their hair done, wore dresses and always bright red lipstick, while she grew up in the 60s and drove her mother crazy with her very different choices. Her mother had been ill, I suppose, as the daughter explained that she knew she would be dying soon and was caring for her in her room one night when her mother called her to her bedside. She expected some sort of great piece of wisdom or secret and instead her mother asked, "Don't you need a little lipstick?" This is what Nannie said to my mother time and again. I distinctly remember sitting in the car in Nannie's driveway waiting for my mother to get her lipstick on before we could go inside. I look pretty washed out without lipstick so Nannie is with me in spirit often, reminding me to put on that lipstick!

The last two I thought were self help-y but very true. First, "Don't let other people rent space in your head unless you want them to." I totally need to take that advice. How often do I obsess over what someone thinks when I ultimately don't care. I was having a no one likes me attack one day and George challenged me, "who doesn't like you?" The only people I could think of were people that I don't particularly like either. I don't mean that I dislike them or there's anything wrong with them, but just that what on earth do I have in common with them or can I talk to them about. And I'm upset because they don't think I'm so great? No wonder they don't think I'm so great, they are totally different from me. Being all things to all people is so overrated. Oh, and impossible too.

Second self help-y thing, but something I have definitely found to be true, as long as you don't use it to beat yourself up or forbid you to feel, "Whenever you are feeling down or sorry for yourself, the best thing to do is something for someone else." I had an interesting talk with Amabel's teacher about the program at school that he oversees. He has a quail farm in an empty classroom that each student in the school has an opportunity to help with regularly. The eggs are sold at Straub's, the super swanky grocery store in St. Louis, and at the Clayton Dining (Diners? I don't know, it's swanky though) Club. And the proceeds go to support orphans in Africa. They are currently sponsoring three orphans with the profits, I believe. Anyway, I was being all hoity toity and saying how it is great to realize that there are people less fortunate, blah blah blah. And I'm sure her was like, "Yeah, tons of people are less fortunate than you. You poor poor child of Southern aristocracy." No, he's way too generous to think that. But he was very gracious to explain to me that the poor kids get handouts all the time and they start to feel kind of useless. This is a way for them to recognize that they are made in God's image and they have something to give! Well, he put it a lot more eloquently than me. I have so much to understand about generational poverty. But anyway, even just in dealing with temporary bouts of poverty, I can vouch for this. It does feel good to be able to do something, especially when you can't help yourself and people all around you can't afford clothes or tuition or their car broke down or they lost their job. These things are all around us, and it is uplifting when we can help in some way, even, as it is with the kids in Amabel's school, it is just to sanitize quail eggs.

And I'll leave you with this, a quote that is on the side of my refrigerator, cut from a Real Simple ages ago, just because I liked it. "The beautiful is everywhere; perhaps more in the arrangement of your saucepans on the white walls of your kitchen than in your eighteenth-century living room or in the official museums." Fernand Leger, painter. Oh, and "Great writers steal," is T.S. Elliot.

1 comment:

Olive said...

oh I LOVE Real Simple. I'm glad you like it. It's the only magazie I "subscribe" to. I also get B&HG and Cottage Living, but I got those subscriptions for free (random things), but Real Simple is the only one I pay for.

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