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My newest book, Writing Home, is currently available on Amazon.com. Proceeds from new book sales are donated to organizations serving the homeless in Oakland County, Mich.
Writing Home is also available at the Yellow Door Art Market in downtown Berkley, Mich.
Cindy La Ferle on May 14th, 2013
“It’s hard not to develop this 21st-century form of anxiety when one glance at your smartphone reveals a thousand awesome things your friends — and enemies — are doing.” — Martha Beck, “The Grass Ain’t Greener”
It’s no secret that I’ve carried on a love-hate relationship with social media for years.
Using LinkedIn as one example: I love how it connects us with colleagues and expands our career-networking potential. Using Facebook as another example: I hate how it tempts us to overplay our achievements or flaunt things that ought to be kept personal.
So far, I’ve been Facebook-free for more than six weeks. The last time I suffered social-media overload, I deactivated my Facebook account for more than three months. In so doing, I discovered I’d suddenly acquired yards of extra free time — simply because I wasn’t reading status updates on what dozens of “friends” had eaten for lunch, bagged at the grocery store, or watched on television the previous night.
At the same time, I’ll admit it feels weird (sometimes) to avoid being part of something that everyone else is doing en masse. Even my husband makes passing references – daily – to material he’s read on Facebook.
It’s enough to stir up an infectious case of FOMO – Fear of Missing Out. Life coach Martha Beck explores the perils of FOMO in her current O Magazine column (June 2013). As Beck explains it, FOMO manages to convince you that everyone else has more fun, more sex, cooler friends, better meals, bigger jobs, smarter kids, and fancier vacations than you have — and is so much younger- or better-looking than you’d ever be. Of course, FOMO rides high and fast on the wheels of social media, in all forms.
“A powerful way to fight FOMO is to recognize that the fabulous life you think you’re missing doesn’t in fact exist,” writes Beck. “When you feel FOMO coming on, remind yourself that practically every image you see on practically any screen is likely misleading.” To find out why, you absolutely must read the rest of Beck’s spot-on article. I promise, you’ll nod your head at every paragraph.
In the meantime, I’m following Beck’s advice and living fully in the ordinary moment – without posting photos of what I ate for breakfast. Seriously, you haven’t missed much.
Tags: Facebook fatigue
, Fear of Missing Out syndrome
, is facebook bad for culture?
, Martha Beck
, O magazine
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, why too much social media is bad for you
, Why you need to stop living onlineRead More Comments (6) Columns & essays
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Cindy La Ferle on May 8th, 2013
When I go into the garden with a spade and dig a bed, I feel such exhilaration and health that I realize I have been defrauding myself in letting others do for me what I should have done with my own hands.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Throughout my life, gardens have provided many spiritual lessons and moments of refuge.
Among them was the fern garden my Scottish grandfather tended in his back yard on Detroit’s west side — an oasis that restored his spirit during the sad summer my grandmother died. The essay I wrote about that garden was published in both British and American editions of Reader’s Digest magazine, and is included in my book, Writing Home.
Today, my own garden is so much more than a plot for herbs and perennials. Working the soil, I’m often mentally untangling one of my elderly mother’s health problems. Or, while preparing a bed for basil and rosemary, I might be digging my way through a stubborn case of writer’s block. Or just daydreaming.
As I reminded my husband recently, gardening is the best therapy I know. (The money I ought to save for a psychiatrist is well spent on garden gadgets and plants at the local nurseries.)
Along these lines, several authors have written inspiring books on gardening as soul work. Here are a few of my favorites.
Praised as a hymn to nature, Diane Ackerman’s Cultivating Delight (HarperPerennial Library) is a sensuous garden memoir. With the keen eye of a naturalist, Ackerman recounts her back-yard discoveries through the seasons, including the time she uncovered a tiny frog asleep inside a tulip.
“By retreating farther and farther from nature,” Ackerman warns, “we lose our sense of belonging, suffer a terrible loneliness we can’t name, and end up depriving ourselves of what we need to feel healthy and whole.”
“No matter how saddened I become by the events of life, when I see the world as a garden, I feel better,” writes author Julie Moir Messervy in The Magic Land: Designing Your Own Enchanted Garden (Macmillan). A landscape designer and consultant, Messervy also sees the garden as a perfect outlet for personal growth. Her book includes exercises to plan your own paradise, whether you want an elaborate storybook garden with a gazebo or a Zen-like oasis. I used many of her tips when I plotted my own Japanese garden a few years ago.
The Sanctuary Garden (Fireside) reminds us that any garden can be a place of reflection. Authors Christopher Forrest McDowell and Tricia Clark-McDowell are founders of the Cortesia Sanctuary for Natural Gardening and Healing in Eugene, Oregon. Their illustrated guide provides tips on attracting wildlife as well as ideas for creating space for prayer and meditation.
“One of the most powerful examples of our relationship to the land came to me when witnessing the end of the war in Bosnia,” writes McDowell. “I was touched to learn that the first act of many of the citizens of Sarajevo was to till and plant their gardens.”
So what are you waiting for? Dust off your garden boots, grab a trowel, ditch your bad mood, and dig in.
– Garden photos (copyright) by Cindy La Ferle –
Cindy La Ferle on April 29th, 2013
Excuse the mess, but we live here.” — Roseanne Barr
When we moved into our first apartment in 1980, my architect husband and I rarely discussed the delicate issue of housework. Newly married and devoted to our business careers, Doug and I left early for work every weekday morning, tripping over mounds of unfolded laundry and dust bunnies as we headed for the door. We rushed through domestic chores on Saturdays, never quite sure who was responsible for emptying the trash or disinfecting the toilet bowl.
All of this came tumbling back last summer, when I discovered some old books on housekeeping at a second-hand bookstore. Blowing layers of dust from their covers, I was rewarded with some fascinating glimpses of early Americana.
First published in 1924, Good Housekeeping’s The Business of Housekeeping, by Mildred Maddocks Bentley, was a veritable textbook on the domestic arts. Its mildewed, yellowing pages reminded me that household management was once taken seriously. Speaking to young brides, the book covered such topics as “Managing Servants and Housekeepers,” “Dishwashing Three Times a Day,” “Sprinkling and Folding,” and “The Chemistry of Washing.”
As the book’s title suggested, Mrs. Bentley meant business: “The good housekeeper must bring to her task of housekeeping every one of the qualities that make for a successful executive in the downtown business world.”
Another artifact, Housekeeping Made Simple (The Homemaker’s Encyclopedia, Inc.), was published in 1952, two years before I was born. Editor Miriam B. Reichl revealed that, after WWII, women had lightened up a bit and were looking for labor-saving methods. The average housewife, after all, no longer employed domestic help.
Reichl’s book contained some amusing black and white photo-illustrations. One showed a woman smiling broadly (and, yes, wearing high heels and pearls) as she demonstrated several ways to use a vacuum. Another shot featured an attractive woman doing laundry in a satin evening gown. Male models were conspicuously absent.
Back in the late ’70s, when I was single and rented my first apartment, books devoted to home economics (or “Home Eck” as my girlfriends called it) were rare — although my friends and I could have used a few tips on stocking a pantry or planning balanced meals. We left housework to the cleaning fairies.
Even today, few men or women admit they enjoy doing anything remotely domestic, unless it makes them as rich as Martha Stewart. Homemaking is messy business, after all — something we’d rather hire someone else to do if we can afford it.
“You keep a house, but you make a home,” observes anthropology professor Mary Catherine Bateson in Composing A Life (Plume/Penguin). “As we free the ideas of home and homemaking from their links to old gender roles, we can now also draw on metaphors of home to enrich our perceptions of the world.” Home, after all, is where everyone begins.
Of course, I’d never welcome another era in which women have few career options beyond vacuuming. And I’d hate to see ironing raised to an art form. But I agree with Bateson when she suggests that we lose our sense of place — the foundation that keeps us grounded — when we neglect the home front. The driveway becomes a mere parking lot; the house exudes an atmosphere as impersonal as a chain motel.
Lately I’ve noticed a new crop of home-care guides in local bookstores. These books are saturated with a deep yearning for the comfort of roots and shelter. Unlike their predecessors, they’re refreshingly devoid of sexism, though women will most likely buy them. Whether or not younger Americans will embrace a homemaking revival remains to be seen. Right now, we’re still arguing over whose turn it is to clean the bathroom.
–Part of this essay is excerpted from my column collection, Writing Home, now available in Kindle and print editions on Amazon.com —
Tags: Composing A Life
, domestic arts
, family life in Royal Oak MI
, history of housework
, Mary Catherine Bateson
, sexism and housekeeping
, vintage housekeeping books
, women and chores
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Cindy La Ferle on April 17th, 2013
To the people who love you, you are beautiful already. This is not because they’re blind to your shortcomings but because they so clearly see your soul.” — Victoria Moran
It’s barely spring here in southeast Michigan, but magazine editors are positively frantic about Bathing-Suit Season. My god, there’s not a magazine cover on the stands that isn’t warning me to tighten, tone, and self-tan my ugly winter-white thighs. And of course, I won’t “look hot in that bikini” unless I try another new diet. Right now.
This still scorches like a bad sunburn.
In high school, I spent hours poring over Glamour and Seventeen magazines, desperately seeking validation for my own looks. I never found it. In the early 1970s, the coolest cover girls – Cybil Shepard, Cheryl Tiegs, Patti Hansen – were as blonde and leggy as the Malibu Barbie dolls I’d barely outgrown.
I was never blonde enough, tall enough, or tan enough to pass for a California Girl. My face was too freckled; my dark auburn hair was too thin; my legs were too short. Given my genetics, I could have posed as a back-up singer for the Irish Rovers, at best.
Trying to mirror what I saw in fashion magazines, I began experimenting with Summer Blonde, which, given my Celtic heritage, turned my hair bright orange. I sunbathed without sunscreen, burning my freckled skin to the point where I’d eventually develop basal-cell skin cancer.
Not surprisingly, the real me got lost under layers of costume and make-up. It took years to find her again.
In her new book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, sociology professor Brene Brown devotes several pages to the topic of women, shame, and self-image.
Listing what she describes as the 12 categories of shame — including addiction and money — Brown lists “appearance and body image” right at the top. “After all of the consciousness-raising and critical awareness, we still feel the most shame about not being thin, young, and beautiful enough,” she writes. While women in our culture are expected to be perfect, Brown adds, it’s also shameful to look as if we’re “trying too hard.” We can’t win.
These days, fashion and beauty editors give lip service to the concept of “aging gracefully.” But who’s really buying it? If there were nothing shameful about wrinkles, under-eye bags, and sagging skin, there wouldn’t be countless products marketed to “fix” them.
Now, in addition to worrying about how we look in our bathing suits, we’re advised to conceal every hint of experience on our faces. (Pantene even has products to correct “aging hair,” for crying out loud.) Periodically, fashion editors throw older women a bone by featuring a “mature” model with silver-streaked hair, or a gorgeous grandma in plus-sized clothing. For the most part, however, even the older models in magazines geared to my demographic rarely look my age.
But the self-assured woman defines beauty on her own terms, insists Victoria Moran. Writing from personal experience, Moran is author of Lit from Within: Tending Your Soul for Lifelong Beauty (HarperSanFrancisco). A rarity among beauty advisors, she reminds us to look beyond mirrors and magazines to find our radiance.
Moran claims that miraculous things happened when she finally stopped obsessing about her weight and wardrobe. “To my utter amazement,” she writes, “I started looking a whole lot better – and worrying about it a great deal less. I started thanking God at night for the good in my day, and although I stopped asking to be thin and gorgeous, I sometimes asked if I could be strong and helpful.”
Moran reminds us that authentic beauty, at any age, requires depth of character and a yearning to live in grace. It demands that you spend more time revealing your truth than shopping for a plastic surgeon or a better eye cream. It’s all about respecting your inner worth.
Take a dive, Malibu Barbie.
Tags: Baby Boomers issues
, bathing suit weather
, Brene Brown
, Daring Greatly
, how women's magazines damage our self-esteem
, Victoria Moran
, women and body image
, women and shame
, women's fashion magazines
, women's midlife issuesRead More Comments (5) Book reviews
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Cindy La Ferle on April 8th, 2013
Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.” — H. Jackson Browne
Feeling like your second chance is long overdue? From time to time, everyone “burns out” or gets stuck in a familiar rut. As I learned several years ago, a midlife career crisis can be an opportunity for personal growth or a chance to explore a hidden talent.
My new column in Michigan Prime magazine also includes tips on reinventing your life from Birmingham life coach Betsy Hemming. To read “The Art of Reinvention” online, click on the Oakland County edition, then flip to page 6. Click here to get started.
If my column inspires you to dig deeper, look for these guides on burnout recovery and career reinvention at your favorite bookstore or public library:
Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live, by Martha Beck. (Three Rivers Press)
Fried: Why You Burn Out and How to Revive, by Joan Borysenko, Ph.D. (Hay House, Inc.)
Getting Unstuck: A Guide to Discovering Your Next Career Path, by Timothy Butler. (Harvard Business Press)