Personal conduct code

               PCC. When I was a kid, it stood for Pensacola Christian College, a college my mother declared I was never allowed to attend based on her experience there.  These days, I use it to denote my personal conduct code, and it stands for all the little ways that I have.  There are so many things in life that aren’t right or wrong, but you have to make a choice in how to behave.  Today I was thinking about some of my “standards” and thought I’d pass along a few.  These choices I’ve made don’t make me better than anyone else.  Often the decisions we make in life are like choosing a chocolate milkshake over a strawberry one;  it’s not better, just different.  That said, I feel that the decisions I’ve made for my life are based on the intimate knowledge I have about both the subject in question and what is best for me.  I think it’s important that any well bred woman in progress gain the knowledge and wisdom she needs to make everyday decisions in a manner that best suits her lifestyle.  Here are some of mine.

               I don’t celebrate Halloween.  I would say it was because I’m a Christian,  but there are many Christians who have no such conviction.  However, I personally don’t like it and don’t see a way for me to participate that also brings glory to God.  So our family skips it.
               I refuse to hear gossip that doesn’t pertain to me directly.  Do I wish I could say I never participate in gossip? Sure, but that would be a long way from the truth.  But if someone begins to tell me something completely unrelated to me or mine, I interrupt as soon as possible and ask that they not fill me in.  It’s just not my “need to know.”
               I vet rumors.  The other day someone told me that they saw on Facebook there was a lawsuit in Tennessee against a public school in which kids had been forced to convert to Islam.  Thinking that sounded rather extreme, even for open minded America, I looked it up.  In a cursory Google search, I found not only no evidence of a lawsuit against a school, but also statements from school administers that sounded like students were, at most, learning about Islam along with other world religions.  So I wrote that rumor off as unfounded. (People lose sleep over the craziest things!)
               Once denied, never again invited.  If I invite someone over to the house, and there is a sincere lack of effort on their part to accept the invitation (even if dates need to be reworked or something), or if they outright turn it down, I don’t invite them again for anything.  It’s one thing to turn down an invitation because you were busy, but if you imply no interest in coming, I won’t keep asking.  That’s just my thing.
               I write emails old fashioned letter style with a “Dear” and a “Sincerely.”  And I hope my brain isn’t on autopilot when I write to the utilities company right after a relative…and wind up with a “love” in my signature.
               I don’t ever discuss my weight or my husband in a group of women or with non-relatives.  For the first topic, because I want to retain some mystery and not appear too easily intimate, and for the second, to show respect for my husband which also shows respect for myself and draws respect from others.
               I don’t share details about my children with strangers.  Really, do I have to give a reason for this?
               Which brings me to my last point:  I don’t give reasons to people who don’t need them.  Unless it’s law enforcement or someone who is specifically hired to vet my statements, like a loan officer, I don’t feel obligated to explain stuff.  I explain it on here because i try to use myself as an example to make the point of the blog.  But to all the Christians who think I’m too conservative, the home schoolers who think I’m too structured, the parents who think I’m too strict, and the crowd who thinks I’m too liberal, I just don’t owe them an explanation.
               Thank you for reading;  do share your personal conduct codes in the comments if you want!

Reflecting on regrets

               While I wouldn’t trade my current life for anything, until recently I couldn’t help but wonder how things might have turned out differently.   I married young in what I now perceive to be unnecessary cautiousness and dependence on my future husband’s income earning potential.   Having moved out of my parents’ home at 19 and run out of money to continue college, I saw a moment that I felt I had to seize and took it.   Even though things were going well, it took only three years before tiny seeds of regret began rooting in my mind:   was I too young? too desperate? too uneducated?   Had I greatly missed out by not living independently for a while?   Did I have too many kids?   Did I know how to raise them?

I was supposed to look contemplative here.

               Since 2010, I’ve alternately wallowed in and denied these regrets–until I fully gave in to the what if’s and made an important discovery.   Last week I found myself once again reflecting on my fate, destiny, and circumstances.   As I went through “what if” scenarios in my mind, I realized that having done things differently in the past may have led to a very different physical outcome but that the internal transformation I’ve been undergoing would likely have been the same.   I realized that my choices led to my destination.   That means that presently, even if I’ve made some decisions I could regret, I actually have great power because the ability to choose is still mine.   I’m not resigned to let whatever happens happen because in the past, I jumped on a hamster wheel of no further change, metamorphosis, or control over the future.   Of course, some things are fixed now, commitments made must be held onto, but some things are easier than the alternative would have been, especially when it comes to being financially stable.   I must stop looking at this life of mine as a series of undetermined, uncontrollable events that now occur like dominoes just because I made hasty decisions as a younger woman.   Indeed, I still have much power over my day to day life and most definitely over my future by the decisions I make each day.

               In my imagination I can picture everything, from one’s exercise and beauty routine to what one eats to how one pursues religion and spirituality to one’s moral principles and character to what transferable job skills one acquires, potentially affecting the course of one’s life five, ten, and twenty years later.   I think a lot of people read lifestyle blogs and self help books looking for a prescription formula of how to lead the perfect, ideal, best, fulfilling, or otherwise desirable life, but since the ideal outcome varies for each person, so should our choices.   We don’t need others to dictate our choices;   instead we need to recognize that we each have more power than we think to choose our way to our desired outcome.   I believe most people are already innately aware of their true desires, preferences, opinions, and comfort levels, although for some like me raised in strict families, churches, or schools it may take a few years as a young adult to fully acknowledge one’s inner self and personality.   But as a person discovers herself, she should make every decision based on her best true self, her own characteristics, the part of herself that knows what she needs and wants.   Like a muscle, the more one gets in touch with one’s innate self, the easier it will become to choose wisely across the entire spectrum of life’s activities.   One doesn’t have to follow a certain skin care routine, for example, or buy this makeup or that fashion item, attend this religious group or parent a child that way, just because of the opinion of someone else.   While there are scientific facts supporting a lot of emotional, mental, and physical health issues that I think each person has a responsibility to study and apply, there is a lot of room for leeway in personal dietary requirements , the type of relationship style that suits one, or how introspective or not one wishes to be.   The internet is full of information but it is even more full of copy cats who emulate their favorite blogger or celebrity without thinking about the fact that it is their own life, not the blogger’s, that they’ll be living twenty years down the road.   Living with the then current product of today’s choices, all the time and energy spent making these daily lifestyle decisions now won’t be recoverable if it didn’t lead the way they wished it to.

               So my challenge to you is to consider the power you have to direct your future, besides current unavoidable commitments and responsibilities.   If you’re unmarried, I cannot emphasize enough to know yourself before making a marriage commitment.   If you have regrets about the past, that isn’t bad;   it’s better to feel them and even give in a little to the “what if’s” than happily deny them, because eventually they’ll explode from your subconscious to the possible major upheaval of your current world, such as a midlife crisis.   I found thinking through the “what if’s” of my decisions from college onward–mentally exploring as many roads not taken as I could think of (along with a tiny bit of Facebook creeping on ex-boyfriends or boys I was too shy to approach)–to be mind clearing.   That is, in my imagination I still found myself developing mentally and socially in much the same way as I have over the last decade, although perhaps a bit more legally independent.   I realize hindsight is 20/20 and for some this exercise may seem foolish or a waste of time, but for me reflecting on the power of one’s choices seemed like a breakthrough.   Perhaps it can help one of my readers, as well.

               In closing, Shannon of one of my favorite blogs, The Simply Luxurious Life, touched on this topic in last week’s newsletter.   The gist of her thoughts were that we can imagine our future life developing all we want, but passivity will merely render us sitting on the sidelines assisting others in their dreams.   To make the life of our dreams, we must proactively make the decisions needed to carve out our future.   Might I add, no matter the past.

The well managed life

               So many blogs I read nowadays have a self deprecating tone.   After bemoaning her frantic or disorganized lifestyle, a writer makes a wishful comment about being more organized, less cluttered, more relaxed, less stressed, better at time management, and less hurried.   But then she states that oh well, who really does have it all together, since we all know that’s not possible.

               With everyone having a voice via the Web nowadays, a person can communicate with thousands of strangers at any given time.   We all have something to say and we all want to be heard. But we shy away from appearing like a know-it-all, proud, an expert, or even experienced much of the time.   It is like an unwritten American law that we have to constantly undermine our own efforts, whether literally or figuratively, so as not to offend anyone by—our opinions? our success?   I think we may overestimate how much other people care about our lifestyles, as well as overestimating our responsibility in whether or not someone else chooses to become offended when no offense is given.

               I think it is possible to have it all together if we wish.   For some people the thrill of completing projects last minute, scrounging for lost items in a sea of junk, wondering where unbudgeted money will appear from to pay the bills, and generally flying by the seat of their pants may be the life of their dreams.   It may be a reaction to an overly structured life in the past or may simply be the environment in which they thrive the most (or may be a current condition that, for whatever reason, they are simply unwilling to change).   But it is oversimplification to state that no one really has it all together, and it is a bit judgmental to imply that, simply because so many people have too many loose ends, that no one should be able to be put together.   It seems among women on the web that the unspoken code to post online is that the room only looks like this for the photo, taking time out of my day to be online cuts into one’s “real life,” we all have at least one overstuffed closet that we dare not open the door to, and we all secretly struggle with at least one if not a dozen direly stressful situations that are ever on the verge of spinning out of control.

               Perhaps the reason the web has been flooded with empathy nowadays is a backlash to the generally held idea that society expects people, especially grownups, to act and be put together or perfect (or at least, we think society expects this).   Obviously that’s impossible, especially if you believe in entropy or original sin.   However, to read the self deprecating tone of thousands of blogs on the web, it seems we’re fighting windmills in the battle against society’s supposed impossibly high standards because the opposite appears to be true:   one writer after another justifies this, defends that, and generally dismisses attempts at living a meaningful, productive, well managed life.   The patting each other on the back and efforts to love ourselves as is, excusing all our faults and idolizing the most stressed out, delicately juggled lifestyles as the only possible and moral end to all one’s striving for order has, perhaps, swung away from merely acknowledging imperfection and gone into the realm of saying that not only is it impossible to have a reasonably managed, content lifestyle but also that it is proud or vain to strive for such a thing.

               However, you can certainly find a rhythm that works for you if you wish it.   For most of us, childhood memories recall a simpler time.   If we give it a minute’s thought, we quickly realize that it was due to not having major responsibilities such as working for pay, maintaining a home, and managing money, not to mention caring completely for oneself and possibly others.   Since we cannot do away with the responsibilities of adulthood, we can try to find ways to minimize our efforts while maximizing the outcome.

               Some of the ways I try to “have it all together” are as follows:

1. Cultivate a consistent schedule.   It seems like the simplest thing, and perhaps it is, but having a set time to get up each morning, allotting time for meals, commute, self care, chores, and free time will open up time and lessen stress considerably.  For people who dislike the rigidness of an exact schedule, set the time slots wider apart and put more activities in between;   that way you can switch around the order of at least some tasks to break monotony and suit your present mood.

2. Write a budget.   I have seen some advice that having a budget is bad because it’s constricting, but it has worked well for me.   I write up all our monthly expenses, many of which are the same from month to month, and set up as many bills as possible on auto pay to free up valuable time and avoid late payments.   The rest of the bills I put into my tablet’s calendar a few days ahead of time.   I budget for spending money, too, so we’re never guessing how much we have to spend.

3. Clear clutter.   I know, everyone’s on the anti-clutter bandwagon nowadays.   But we really do live in a nation of stuff-aholics;   I have spoken with many friends who have expressed concern over having to go through all their parents’ stuff someday because there is just so much.   What I have found about de-cluttering is that it is best done in layers and made into a way of life.   That is because going back through things several times may bring a fresh perspective, and over time items that once made the cut no longer do and need to be purged.

4. Have a place for everything.   Again, seems like it should be simple but it’s amazing how many people do not have a place for everything.   If you are blessed enough to have a permanent dwelling place, take the time and invest in the storage systems needed to have a place for everything.   Then, put everything in its place.

5. Deal with emotions.   We all know there’s more to life than appearances, and the most organized, financially savvy, running on schedule home will be in discord if emotional and spiritual issues go unnoticed or acknowledged.   More than any sort of outward appearance of having it all together, families and individuals should be striving to cultivate unconditional love, deep friendship, and an atmosphere of encouragement and growth within the home.   Saying “I love you,” going out of the way to do something extra for someone, giving help when needed, and listening sympathetically will never cease to be the most important way a household can truly have a well managed lifestyle.

               How do you lead a well managed life?   Share in the comments below, and as always, thanks for reading the Well Bred Woman in Progress!

How to doubt yourself

               There has been much writing on confidence, certainty, and holding one’s ground;  visit the right internet forum or blog, and you will find no shortage of people willing to back up any and every decision you think best.  In every corner, American pop culture champions individuality and self confidence.  While confidence is a trait that many people excel in (for some, it never clicks with their personality, not at all to their detriment), we seem to have less experience as a society in knowing when and how to doubt.  The extreme viewpoint of self-doubt and questioning everything to the point of immobilizing one’s life contrasts strongly with the cavalier attitude of never once looking back or reconsidering, and the well bred woman finds herself in the middle trying to find a balanced view of the subject.

               “If it’s doubtful, don’t do it.”  As a child, I heard this saying often.  Uniting experience and intuition, the words ring true for both those who have ignored their intuition to their detriment in the past and those who would avoid doing so in the future.

               But how far to apply this principle may sometimes cross the mind of a well bred woman in progress;  after all, life can be uncertain even in the best of times, and it is rare that a decision presents itself with such perfect clarity that not a shadow of a doubt crosses one’s mind.  How seriously, then, should one consider the creeping thoughts of doubt;  how far should one second guess one’s decisions?

               While part of the answer undoubtedly lies in knowing how to be certain, the other half is knowing how and when to doubt.  Even the most prepared person may not always be able to uncover every pertinent fact in a situation or control external factors.  It is then that the reasoned hum of experience, coupled with the insistent whisper of intuition, will cast doubt over a decision that ordinarily one would have felt within her powers to make.

               How should a person doubt?  The process begins long before the need to make a decision occurs.  The three factors that will enable a woman to doubt when necessary (and most likely avoid a serious error of judgment) are

Knowing herself
Not yielding to peer pressure
Continually advancing her knowledge and wisdom

               Were any of my readers raised in such a structured environment that everything from the daily schedule to your clothing choices was decided by an authority figure?  While structure is great for kids, during the teenage years a young woman ought, ideally, to be given increasing freedom to make everyday choices on her own, thus fitting her for adulthood.  If such opportunity is not granted, a young woman accustomed to the decisions of others may struggle with knowing herself compared to one who was granted more flexibility and freedom.  As a seventeen year old, I recall something as simple as a light jacket color and size being chosen for me: blue over pink, and an enormous size medium over the well fitting size small.  Though I disagreed in spirit, eventually I found it easier to say no to my preferences and easier to give in to the opinions of others, a habit I have recently begun trying to break.  So while I cannot speak with too much authority as one who successfully knows herself, I can attest to the ideal frame of mind it puts me in each time I trust myself and pursue my own unique talents, abilities, and inclinations.

               That leads me to the next point: not allowing oneself to be swayed by the opinions of others or yielding to peer pressure.  Ah, family and close friends:  we love them so!  Blind in our love, perhaps, we accept treatment at the hands of relatives and dear ones that we would naturally be offended by from a stranger!  Whatever the reason, I believe that it is both easy and common for relatives and close friends to exert their influence over a person, to the point that one may feel that one should follow every suggestion received in order to make the best decision.  In smaller things, such as cooking or home decorating or fashion sense, it is easy to see that such matters are individual;  but during major life decisions, one often craves the advice of others, especially trusted confidants.  However, seeing life through the perspective of foolish choices, soured risks, unfulfilled hopes, or broken dreams, others can often be quick to cast doubt on a plan based not on reason or logic but solely their own emotions or opinions.  Therefore, someone may end up doubting herself solely because of the influence of another, even though that person may not have the past experience, present knowledge, or future vision that she does. That is not to say that the advice of others should never be considered when making a decision;  it has often saved many an inexperienced youngster from an unwise turn in life.  However, one must learn to distinguish between doubting based on wise counsel and doubting everything merely because someone out there expressed hesitation about it.  As with supporters, one can always find an army of naysayers to every subject possible if one looks for them.  And too many women have allowed another’s negativity to talk them out of what would have been an appropriate choice for themselves.

               Knowing when and how to doubt incorporating the advice of others introduces the last point, perhaps the most influential: adding to and relying on one’s knowledge and wisdom, the tools needed to discern and properly navigate periods of decision making and doubt.  Everything from experience interacting with people to knowledge of budgeting can provide one more mental connection, all of which come together in aggregate when one faces a final decision.  When that doubt creeps up, it may not be obvious what the exact problem is, and it may not be until years later, if ever, that one fully realizes what alarmed her.  But a solid and increasing knowledge of everything applicable to life, from people skills to practical skills to common sense, will be the untiring voice of reason that may cause a person, at the last moment, to decide against something if the doubts simply cannot or should not be reasoned away.  They say intuition is something women seem to possess or pay heed to more than men;  not ever having been a man myself, I cannot speak from full experience.  But over the last few weeks, as my family has been in upheaval after an interstate move to a vastly different location (the Northeast US, coming from the South), it has often been nothing more than a nagging feeling I could not shake about a person’s character that has steered us through the complicated set of decisions required for establishing new lodgings and business relationships, storing and managing our belongings, etc.

               How do you doubt?  When have you listened to your doubts and withdrawn from a situation, and when did you ignore them but later wished you had not?

Everyday elegance

               Stop.   What is one thing you can do right now to increase your elegance?   Often I write about lifestyle, habits, and underlying character in such a way that it might seem a person has to be…to be.   A teacher once told me that your beliefs shape your actions, but if you act contrary to your beliefs long enough, your beliefs will change to endorse your actions.   So how to jump into the cycle of thought-action-thought-action-ad infinitum?   Here is a list for starters.   By the way, these are areas I struggle with daily because they are everyday actions, so doing them requires constant application of myself.   But everyday situations have the uncanny habit of recurring, graciously affording the well bred woman in progress the chance to practice elegance, poise, and good breeding again and again.

1.   Think before you speak.   I suspect that the moments of time spent contemplating one’s words before speaking are directly related to the effectiveness and goodness of the final result.   Keep up with the conversation, though.

2.   Breathe deeply.   Do not worry if you find yourself breathing too shallow;   just begin breathing deeply again whenever you remember to.   The more you do it, the more naturally it will come.

3.   Stand up for yourself without arguing.   According to an article I recently read, femininity “means knowing how to have an opinion without appearing to be opinionated.”

4.   Cultivate a pleasing facial expression.   A lady does not need a plastered on smile through either a contrived expression or excessive makeup.   Rather, her face should reflect her elegant thoughts and could range from a gentle moodiness, to contemplation, to joyful memory, to desire, to love, to ecstasy.

5.   Carve out a few minutes each day to pamper yourself.   You need it.   I warn against the phrase “You deserve it” being used in conjunction with women’s pampering routines.   Taking care of one’s physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional health is vital to wholeness.   It has nothing to do with merit or self-worth and is not something that can be deserved or undeserved, i.e. “You didn’t get all the laundry folded today so you don’t deserve a bath.”

6.   Eat your slowly and thoughtfully, enjoying each bite.   If you are not enjoying it, stop eating.   Science has proven that such actions will lead to greater satisfaction, affording one the ability to eat less, as well as better digestion and absorption, curbing cravings and reducing bloating and weight gain.   Banish the terms splurging, cutting back, treating yourself, and / or dieting from your vocabulary;   focus purely on the sensual, enjoyable act of eating.

7.   Practice elegant posture.   There is a right and wrong way to posture oneself in every single position, from standing to walking to sitting to lying down, so take the time to learn to do it properly for your health and image’s sake.   A helpful tip from Anne Oliver’s Finishing Touches reminds one to imagine a helium balloon is attached to the top of her head, always pulling it straight up and lifting the whole body away from slouching.   As with the breathing, do not despair for falling back into bad posture; simply straighten it out when you become aware of it and it will gradually become second nature.

8.   Develop and stick to a daily beauty routine.   Mine goes like this:   In the morning, wash face with soap and warm water, cold rinse, and moisturize with olive oil.   Brush teeth after each meal.   In the evening, shower, wash face again, cold rinse, and moisturize with shea butter / argan oil.   Moisturize eye area with castor oil.   I have a separate routine for my hair.   Beauty routines do not have to be complicated or expensive but the key is to be consistent.

9.   Sincerely thank at least one person per day, and go out of your way to help at least one person daily out of kindness.

10.   Accept compliments with a simple, sincere “Thank you” and accept thanks with a “You are welcome.”

Seven well bred habits to develop in children

               In parenting my young children, I often marvel at the life lessons they teach me in my pursuit of mindful, mannerly living.   After noticing several recurring incidents in which my children showed a tendency toward well bred behavior, I compiled the following list of ways that well bred behavior burgeons in small children and how adults can develop these inclinations.

1 Critical thinking

               It has been said that “early to bed, early to rise, makes one healthy, wealthy, and wise”;   while this is part of it, I believe that being able to think well is also critical to acquiring and maintaining good health, wealth, and wisdom.   After all, one needs to be able to filter through all of the information that they hear, applying it to their beliefs and experience of what they know to be true.   Thinking about why one does things a certain way is a good habit, although it is often neglected among adults, particularly in the US where peer pressure is a kind of god.   However, children do far more of it than adults might realize.   Their naturally curious disposition leads them to ask “why” about nearly everything, as children’s care givers know.   Though the question comes a hundred times a day, the child is not trying to annoy;   he really wants to know the reasons behind actions.   As for me, I tell my children as often as I can why we do things for two reasons:  one, I don’t want them to view me as an arbitrary parent who dictates unreasonably and sets no basis for my authority, and two, I want them to learn how to make decisions on their own someday by modeling the thought process behind my decisions.   It is very simple as in, we wash our hands to keep dirt out of our food because we do not eat dirt.   Or we do not stare at other people because it makes them feel uncomfortable.   Instead of viewing a child’s habit of constantly asking “why” as an annoyance, consider it an opportunity for coming up with age appropriate explanations as often as possible, though there will be some times when one has to say, “because I said so.”   But taking the time to satisfy a child’s curiosity will build rapport with him and increase his respect for his caregiver, parent, or educator, as well as giving the caregiver insight into what exactly she is doing and why she does it.  For example, doing things out of fear, habit, obligation, greed, necessity, peer pressure, or mindlessness is not the proper motivation, but all too often it is the underlying reason.

2 Honesty

               Children are honest;   they blurt things out.   In public, they repeat the bad words they hear at home and the closet opinions their parents have of such-and-such or so-and-so.   And as soon as they do their mother gasps in terror and contradicts them:  “Mommy didn’t say that! Mommy doesn’t think that!”   as if she can fool them…and thus teaches them to lie.   Or maybe the child says something hurtful, although innocently, such as calling a handicapped person “funny looking” or “weird.”   It is certainly not appropriate speech, but mother quickly intervenes:  “Oh no, they look normal! Just fine! Stop saying such ridiculous things!”   But the child knows that there is something different about that person, and in the parent’s embarrassment to cover for her child’s thoughtlessness she does not validate the honesty that was behind the remark.   It would be better to have a conversation in private shortly thereafter explaining why the person looks different and that one should not make comments about other people’s appearances.   Another example:   children know when people are sad or upset;   when they mention it, a parent who does not feel like dealing with it may deny it:   “No, no, mommy’s fine”–again teaching the child that it is okay to lie and mask their feelings.   In this last case I have found it best to acknowledge that yes, mommy’s sad, but I will be okay again soon and I still love you, or something like that because for a child, a parent is their whole world, and any signs of trouble in paradise will make that world seem very shaky.   However, instead of denying the trouble, showing them how to work through it with a positive attitude is best.

3 Dressing up

               Children love dressing up and being “fancy.”   A small girl loves to watch her mother put on her makeup or fix her hair and dress herself.   Boys admire outlandish outfits, shiny gold buttons and braid, and bright colors.   But some parents dress their children in terrible combinations, like infinitely immature combinations of trucks and lizards or pinks and hearts, or t-shirts and jeans for every occasion, or they always make the boys wear browns and blacks and navys.   They scour thrift stores or yard sales for old stuff with just a little life left in it (thinking that they cannot buy nice clothing for a child because he will not keep it nice).   Or they let the child lead in dressing himself, because he “wants” to, resulting in terrible color and pattern combinations, instead of capitalizing on a child’s inclination for the beautiful by teaching him how to dress and behave properly.   One can start early to point out things like coordinating colors and patterns, while gently taking the lead in picking out the child’s outfits.   While it is good to have a lot of easily washable cotton clothing for daytime play, it is not a bad idea to dress the child in nicer items for events such as eating out, church activities, holidays and occasions, and meeting relatives, taking the necessary precautions such as using bibs or banning outdoor play in certain outfits.   Children love feeling fancy and dressing up, and this love can be applied to owning and wearing a few real life nicer outfits instead of merely satisfying them with gaudy dress-up sets of pirates and princesses (of course, many children will love this, too, but it is my opinion that a well bred woman does not bring her children out in public dressed in “dress-up” clothes).   My preference for my children’s clothing is the mini-adult look, where they mostly wear smaller versions of the same things their father and I wear, such as button down shirts, wool suits or velvet dresses, patterns instead of graphic prints, and a sensible range of colors (as opposed to all black, blue, or pink).

4 Attention span

               What?   Children have an attention span?   Here in America, it is often said that they do not, or that it is very limited.   If that is so, why do children always want their parent’s attention, seemingly never tired of a word or look from Mommy, or a cuddle and a bounce from Daddy?   The truth is that they do crave our attention and often we find ourselves modeling the limited attention span, pushing them away in favor of our phones, computers, paperwork, housework, or adult conversation.   While those things are necessary, setting aside a designated amount of time and devoting it to our children can not only increase our attention span but theirs as well.   Also, it teaches them the well bred habit of focusing on one thing at a time and making time for what is important to us, which will gradually lead to an increased attention span over time.   Along these lines, helping a child to finish what he has started also increases an attention span by placing importance on following through with a task.

5 Orderliness

               When they are very small, children have a black and white view of morality, and along with it a natural tendency toward putting things in their place.   Especially with babies who were raised on a schedule or rhythm, children crave order and stability and often tend to put things back where they belong or “fix” broken things.   This inclination can easily be lost if a parent does not diligently practice the habit of helping the child tidy up regularly.   Teaching the child by example from an early age how to properly store and care for things, eventually inviting him to help in doing so, can go a long way toward establishing the well bred habit of orderliness and tidiness in a child.

6 Reading

               Small children love to be read to, and the earlier and oftener a parent begins reading to a child, the more enthralling he will find it.   Indeed, it is better to have established reading as a regular habit before introducing children to the television.   I began reading to each of my children around 9 months old, or right past the point that they would grab the book and try to eat it. 🙂  Like a small child voraciously gobbling the knowledge of storybooks and picture books, the well bred woman will be ever reading, pursuing the knowledge needed to create and maintain the life of her dreams.   In addition, the mental stimulation that comes from reading will keep a woman’s intellect sharp, her wit keen, her dialog interesting, her mind open, her sensibilities stable, and her personality vibrant.

7 Love

               Children have big hearts full of love.   They love animals, their toys, certain foods, really all kinds of things;   as they get older that love transfers to people, too.   Likewise, a well bred woman allows her heart and life to be filled with all kinds of love, not just the love of children and spouse.   It is good to love things too, and to love experiences and feelings and situations, such as art, fine eating, nature, craftsmanship, music, talents, hobbies, friendship, and industry.   Such love of life will lead to a pure enjoyment not unlike that of a little child, who sees joy and beauty in everything around him.   Children miss the big picture because they admire the detail;   adults focus too often on the dismal aspect of the big picture — it is so big and full of what if’s and why’s — when a closer look at detail might reveal lovely intricate happenings in life that are nothing short of miracles.

               Learn from a child, whose well of love and wisdom is bottomless.

Dowry thoughts

Trousseau: the clothes, linen, etc, collected by a bride for her marriage (source)
Dowry: the money, goods, or estate that a wife brings to her husband at marriage (source)

               To begin with a trite saying, you never know what you have until it is gone. That could be said for the young woman who suddenly finds herself grown up, married, perhaps with children, and on a tight budget. Everything that comes in seems to go to necessities, and while she rejoices that her family never goes without basic needs, she often wishes she had more wherewith to feather her home. The dowry or trousseau of a bride has undertaken various forms over the centuries; what is most common nowadays among American women and surely those of other countries is for a woman to enter marriage with items that she has collected and set aside over the years.

               As I hunted and gathered mismatched tea cup and saucer sets for my recent tea party, I thought about how few “nice” things I own. When I was younger, I had quite a bit of money come in through holiday spending money and odd jobs, yet I always felt obligated to spend it, sometimes splitting it 50/50 between a spending envelope and a saving envelope. Having always dreamed of marrying, tending my own little nest, and raising a family, I have been interested in acquiring things for my future home since I was small, but I had no idea what kinds of things to collect. What I did save mostly centered around cutesy home decor trinkets that I did not necessarily still love after I married and moved into my new home. Looking back, I think of several things that I wish I had collected, acquired, or made. Mind you, I was very crafty and loved fancy stitching and sewing crafts; from multiple latch hook pillows and rugs to innumerable cross stitch and embroidery pieces, with a few woven potholders thrown in, I crafted all sorts of objects that now adorn my parents’ and grandparents’ homes. Instead of spending so much time making “kid” or “little child” type of crafts, I wish I taken the time and acquired the knowledge to use my creative talents to make things for my future home, things that an adult would be proud to own and use. I could have purchased materials for and stitched or made linen tablecloths and napkins, lace curtains, monogrammed towels, lace doilies, rag rugs, and quality pot holders. I would have absolutely loved to have acquired a trunk of nightclothes, lingerie, etc. Additional items I would have liked to acquire would have been quality cookware, baskets, books and bookends, silver, crystal, china, and art, to name a few. All those estate sales and yard sales that bored me at the moment could have been treasure hunts, if I had possessed a bit more developed sense of style and appreciation for the classics. And I do believe an older child, and definitely a young woman, has the potential to do such things.

               I hope every young woman who is free to spend her money as she pleases will do the research to find items she might want to own and use someday. Remember, classics never go out of style. Too many newlywed brides I know go into marriage with nothing but leftover mismatched hodge podge stuff (or the mismatched hodge podge of brand new wedding gifts from a registry far too massive for all of their wedding guests, friends, and family members to purchase in its entirety). After the bills start rolling in, then women do not want to spend money on getting nice things. Unfortunately, so many of them bought fast food and sodas and cheap costume jewelry and nail polish and other personal things for years during their teens, disposable purchases they can never get back.

               If I could go back to the teenage me and give myself some advice, other than advising myself to get to know me better and develop a sense of style, I would suggest budgeting a portion of my income pre-marriage or pre-adulthood for items to be used “someday,” with the rest to be spent immediately. I would tell myself to choose wisely and only purchase, make, or keep items that I really love because I do not want to be stuck with something unusable someday. If I had bothered to find out, I would have probably found that my tastes were pretty well established by my teen years, especially if had been bold enough to discover my own style and preferences and not let myself be easily influenced by peer pressure (including that of my parents).

               Any thoughts from my readers on this topic?