10 February 2016

Quadragesima: Penitential Cleaning and Bible Reading

Clip Art Courtesy of Microsoft

 Dear Ladies,

For the past several years I have shared with you my daily plans for penance during this forty days of preparation for Pascha.  That tradition continues; however, rather than making daily blog posts, I decided to put everything together in a document and post the document to my website. You may download your copy here.

For those who do not wish to follow links, please visit CynthiaBerenger.com, click on "Freebies," and click on "Quadragesima."  Follow the directions you see, for they will vary based on the browser you use.

May God heap blessings on you and your families during this time of penance and reflection.

Agape always,

29 January 2016

Femininity Friday: From Frumpy to Fabulous

Clip Art Courtesy of Microsoft
One of my students sent me the link to an article on the CBS news website, "Dressing Down a Culture for Refusing to Dress Up."  I enjoyed reading the article, and I perceived that the article brings home again the exceptionality of fascinating women.  If we fascinating-women-in-progress make a bit of effort, we can lift our spirits as well as those around us.  Eventually, we may improve culture overall.

How can one go from frumpy to fabulous?  The answer will vary for each women, but for me, keeping up with my appearance is a series of daily steps:  showering, styling my hair, applying skin care and a light makeup, and dressing in a cute housedress and apron start my day and changing from my housedress and retouching my hair and makeup when I leave home.  Exercising moderately and eating properly help to keep my health at its best, such as it is.  Perhaps the simplicity and "dailiness" of the routine make it seem boring, but I have found the simple beauty routine essential to keeping me as attractive as possible.

Do I always feel like taking these daily self-care steps?  Of course not!  But I found this quote recently that puts into words an intuition I have had for years:  "The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don’t like to do… They don’t like doing them either necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose." - Albert E.N. Gray from his book The Common Denominator of Success.

We ladies of "a certain age" have an additional responsibility because everyone looks at us!  In the Christian scriptures we learn that older women are to teach young women to live godly lives (Titus 2:3-5).  How can we expect young women to accept our teaching?  Young women usually expect women over forty-five or so to be frumpy, so we need to make an extra effort to look our best, whatever that means in our unique situations.  For example, coloring one's hair is not right for every woman, but keeping one's hair clean and attractively styled is every woman's responsibility (exceptions: women without hair or nuns who wear habits).

Today on the website of New York Magazine, I found a commercial featuring Sophia Loren, one of the world's most beautiful women, I believe.  Nobody else has been blessed with Miss Loren's unique genetic heritage,  true, but she could have chose to let herself go as she aged.  If you watch the commercial, you will see that all of her appearance and manner work together to epitomize femininity.  At the end of the commercial, a group of ladies enter the villa that Miss Loren and her crew have restored, and all of the women are styled in a feminine way (and most of them are dressed in a reasonably modest manner). I have embedded the commercial below; please note that I have no connection with Dolce and Gabbana and will not profit in any way from your viewing the commercial.


Agape always,

16 January 2016

Femininity Friday-ish: "Please Do Not Speak of My Husband in that Manner"

Aucassin et Nicolette - Stokes - Public Domain

Although, Deo Gratias, I am blessed with a fertile mind, sometimes I run out of ideas as I did this week.  I decided, therefore, to open my copy of Fascinating Womanhood to a random page to suggest a topic for Femininity Friday.  I opened to page 181 in the 2006 edition, and the first topic on the page is "When a Man Belittles Himself."  

When a man is not feeling good about himself and his achievements, he may have a tendency to speak ill of himself.  A man's speaking ill of himself is counterproductive to his feeling of appropriate manly self-esteem as well as being counterproductive to correcting whatever low achievement led to his speaking ill of himself.  In addition, a man who does not perceive that he has been receiving enough attention from his wife or courtship partner may engage in self-deprecation in order to elicit admiration.   This behavior may perhaps be what is known as "fishing for a compliment."

A woman may be tempted to rush in with an overflow of admiring remarks to counteract her beloved's self-deprecation, but doing so may create a negative communication loop in the relationship wherein the self-deprecation tends to be repeated rather than being solved.  Rather than offering a deluge of admiration, Mrs. Andelin suggests giving a compliment or two, then moving on to something else.  

In my relationship with Braveheart, I found another way to help him to realize that speaking ill of himself was not helpful.  You see, Braveheart had spent the majority of his adult life either being shot at (by enemies) or yelled at (by superiors), so his self-esteem was quite low when we met.  He learned quickly that I gave people compliments when they deserved them, and he wanted his fair share, a completely understandable circumstance. While I verbally admired him and affirmed his masculinity in other ways, especially after we were married, every once in a while he would go off on a little rant about himself.  When he did so, I would say, "Please do not speak of my husband in that manner." The different perspective made him stop and think before continuing on his rant and usually made him stop completely because he realized that his words were distressing me.

As always,  I hope that my little "woman-to-woman" ideas have helped.

Agape always,

11 January 2016

Dear Gentlelady Followers of This Weblog (No, I Did Not Remove You.)

Waterlilies - Monet - Public Domain

Dear Ladies,

Looking at Monet's work helps me to feel serene.  I, for one, am going to need to wear my serenity hat this week, for life continues to be a series of twists and turns as evidenced by the following announcement by the lovely folks at Blogger, to wit:  

"starting the week of January 11, we’ll remove the ability for people with 
Twitter, Yahoo, Orkut or other OpenId providers 
to sign in to Google Friend Connect and follow blogs. 
At the same time, we’ll remove non-Google Account profiles 
so you may see a decrease in your blog follower count."

I noticed last week that a few readers had already disappeared from the "Gentlelady Readers" box , and now I know the possible reason. 

You may wish to sign up for a Google account, as I did several years ago, with a non-Google e-mail, but be sure to investigate thoroughly to see if the step is right for you. 

Alternatively, I am investigating an option to allow anyone to follow my humble effort via any e-mail address. I have hesitated doing so in the past because I believe that a former boyfriend regularly visits my blog, which--frankly--gives me the heebie-jeebies, but at least he has to visit the weblog rather than simply having my writings pop up in his e-mail. I mean, if he thought I was so fascinating fifteen years ago (!) why wasn't he "Mr. Husband" rather than "Mr. Mightabeen"?

Still, why should a long-ago "Mr. Mightabeen" interfere with my present activities and those of dear gentleladies who honor me and humble me with their interest in my thoughts and activities?


Agape always,

PS: To show that I've not completely lost my sense of humor, here is Mr. Louis Armstrong singing "Heebbie Jeebies"!


06 January 2016

A Blessed Epiphany!

Adoration of the Magi - Bartolome Murillo - Public Domain

January 6 is one of my family's favorite days of the year.  We add the three wise men and their animals to the nativity scene, assist at Mass, enjoy a festive meal, and have a play day.  Today, we went to the home of friends in a nearby county where the youngsters enjoyed a bouncy castle, games, and crafts.  Tonight, we are enjoying goulash for our main course and chocolate cake made in a crown-shaped pan for dessert.  Yes, my children love goulash! Laugh, if you like, for I think it's funny, too!  ("What would you all like for Epiphany dinner?"  "Goulash! Goulash! Goulash!"  You couldn't have paid me to eat goulash when I was a child.)

Here's another funny:  I keep the place decorated for Christmas until February 3, February 2 being the Feast of the Presentation.  

Agape always,

01 January 2016

How to Become More Fascinating in 2016

Courtesy of Microsoft
The new year is a seedling, ours to nurture and to grow.

The year of our Lord 2015 has, blessedly, drawn to a close.  The year was one of my most challenging ever, and those of you who know me know that that is saying something!  Still, living the teachings of Christ and His Church as well as living the principles that Mrs. A taught in her book Fascinating Womanhood helped me to cope with the many challenges I faced.

I have several suggestions to help us all to become more fascinating in 2016.  

If you have just discovered Fascinating Womanhood or if you have fallen away from living FW teachings, I suggest that you join my Yahoo! Group.  The group includes a monthly reading assignment from Mrs. A's book, a weekly action assignment based on the month's reading, and a daily prompt that repeats each week.  All of this is delivered to your e-mail box 100% free of charge.  (Yahoo! may place ads, but I do not receive any revenue from those ads.)  If you read and do all the assignments, you will almost certainly make great strides toward living the principles of FW.

If you would like a more concentrated study of Mrs. Andelin's book, I invite you to join the next live class I am  holding, which--Deo Volente--I plan to commence the week of January 25.  You can read more about my classes at CynthiaBerenger.com. Participating in the live class allows you to have your questions answered as part of the class.  I also offer an advanced class and have four openings available.  Once these four openings are filled, the next opening will not occur until July when two students are scheduled to graduate.

My major suggestion, though, and the one I plan for myself, may be more geared toward women who have lived--actually lived, not just assented to--FW principles for at least several years.  That suggestion is to concentrate on one aspect of Fascinating Womanhood for the entire year with a dozen or so sub-goals designed to reach the larger goal.  

An alumna just today wrote to me of her plan to concentrate on being happier within herself and on being more affirming of others this year; to that end, she listed several ways that she plans to accomplish her goal.  

Although I have not yet decided on the aspect on which I plan to concentrate, I have it narrowed down to three possibilities:
  1. Radiant Health
  2. Domestic Goddess
  3. Serenity
I hope to choose soon and will post my plans here when I do.  I also have plans to open a little online shop to sell some things I have made.  I would deeply appreciate your prayers for its success, DV.

Have a fascinating new year! 

Agape always,

PS: Would you please do me the favor of voting for my 2016 homemaking slogan?  The poll is on the right side of the blog...

29 December 2015

Relationships Equal Happiness?

Courtesy of Microsoft

Dear Ladies,

I read the transcript of a lecture on a topic that interests me greatly:  happiness. I believe that God wants me to be happy.  I know that Braveheart would want me to be happy even without him here, just as I would have wanted him to be happy if I had been the one to die first. 

The lecture, specifically, shared the findings of a seventy-five year longitudinal study, conducted by Harvard University.  One of the problems with the study is that it focused on people in one geographic location, the Boston, Massachusetts, area.  Another problem is that women were not included in the study for most of its duration.  Even with these concerns, however, I believe that the results give us a helpful "take home" message.

The lecturer, Dr. Robert Waldinger, said the following in summation of the research findings, "So what have we learned? What are the lessons that come from the tens of thousands of pages of information that we've generated on these lives? Well, the lessons aren't about wealth or fame or working harder and harder. The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period."  Dr. Waldinger goes into more detail about relationships and their effects of health and happiness, and I encourage everyone to read the transcript of view the lecture (links below).

My thoughts about the study?  Like many of these types of studies, this one seems to confirm common sense.  Wealth can evaporate in a moment; material possessions can rot or be stolen.  Healthy relationships, although imperfect, can survive almost anything.

My thoughts about relationships?  
  • The first relationship I believe that we need to have is with God.  Every other relationship pales in comparison.  Every other relationship fails us at least to some degree because we are dealing with other human beings and they with us.  
  • After that all-important relationship, for those blessed with marriage,  comes the marital relationship.  Every effort, every sacrifice needed to bring about a happy marriage should be undertaken, it seems to me, anyway.  
  • Good relationships with our children--again, for those so blessed--are of  high importance; for most of us, our offspring remain our greatest contributions to society, and our children are the ones likely to be holding our hands when we die.  I have found that the best way to a close relationship with my youngsters is to win their love and trust and to be the best woman I know how to be.   Being the best woman I can be occurs through two things:  my relationship with God and my adherence to the teachings of the Bible and to the principles of Fascinating Womanhood.  
  • Good friendships proceed from being my best and giving my best.  I try to be the kind of woman that people want to have around them and I give of myself spiritually and emotionally to the friendship.  Most of my "friends" dropped me when I no longer had a husband, but my real friends stayed by my side, even when our relationships changed because I could no longer participate in some activities due to financial issues.  One of my online friends went so far as to contact me before Christmas to let me know that she was praying for me, even though she had a significant health issue at that time.  Mrs. S is a real friend! 

Deo Volente, may we all have better relationships in the years to come.

Agape always,

Interested gentlelady readers may read the transcript of the lecture or view a recording of the lecture  by following these links.

Link to the transcript:   http://www.ted.com/talks/robert_waldinger_what_makes_a_good_life_lessons_from_the_longest_study_on_happiness/transcript?language=en

Link to the lecture recording:  http://www.ted.com/talks/robert_waldinger_what_makes_a_good_life_lessons_from_the_longest_study_on_happiness?language=en

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