This past weekend, I watched my favorite movie, Love Actually for, oh, probably about the bazillionth time. Every time I watch it, I tear up during the opening monologue, where Hugh Grant talks about seeing love all around (but especially at the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport). I love the wedding scene, when the choir starts singing. The whole Liam Neeson story line is, of course, a heart breaker. The part where Hugh Grant finally finds Natalie? Water works.
If you haven’t figured this out yet, I’m a romantic. A sap, really. So when I was interviewing grandmothers for How to Sew a Button, in addition to asking them about cooking and entertaining,I made sure to also ask them about love. Since Valentine’s Day is only a few weeks away, I collected their best advice on how to make love last. Here’s what they told me.
Bottom line: If you’re lucky enough to find love, hold onto it. Oh, and if you have any love advice to share, please type your heart out below.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
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Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited on The Today Show to talk about How to Sew a Button and demonstrate some of the simpler tips in the book, which were previously excerpted in Self magazine in a story cleverly called, “Learn to Dance and Eight Other Things Every Woman Needs to Know.” SELF’s editor-in-chief, Lucy Danziger, presented with me. In case you missed it, here’s the segment. (Notice how I’m wringing my hands in the beginning. Nope, not nervous at all.)
It all went so quickly, but I had so much fun! I even got to hang out with the lovely Ann Curry for a little while after my bit. (Also, got to say hi to the other hosts, Matt, Al and Natalie, too!) When I got back home, my Sweetie took me out for a delicious champagne brunch. (I’m so lucky!)
I had emails from old friends from high school and college, who found me on Facebook. My Twitter friends were so happy for me. And then, I noticed a few tweets that honestly sort of surprised me. They said, “GE/NBC’s @todayshow wants 1950’s gender roles – ‘9 things every woman should know.’” Wha? Really?
I guess I need to address this, even though I’m more of a learn-it-do-it-enjoy-it type, rather than a talk-about-it type. So, here goes: There are 110 tips in my book, including everything from how to make a pie to how to brew your own beer, from how to speak out at a town hall meeting to how to build a fire, from how to dance a waltz to how to defend yourself from danger. Yes, I firmly believe that women could benefit from knowing how to do all of these things. And you know what? Men could, too.
One of the grandmothers I interviewed for the book, Lucile Frisbee, told me something interesting. She said, “During the Depression, there was no men’s work or women’s work. There was just work, and anybody who was around was expected to chip in.” When the laundry needed to be done, whoever was available did it. When the fire needed to be stoked, whoever happened to be closest to the wood pile would split the logs. They knew how to do these things because their lives (or, at least, the quality of their lives) depended on it. I sensed from my interviews that the gender divide–and the subsequent devaluing of so-called “women’s work”–came a little later. And, evidently, it still persists. If there were really a sense that “women’s work” was as valuable as men’s, would we even be having this discussion?
Equality stems from having the ability to make free choices in your life. Learning a new skill, whether it’s sewing a button, unclogging a drain or learning how to negotiate a better price, can only empower you, right?
Anyway, I think I’ll leave this discussion to the theorists. I’m going to go bake a pie, or maybe hang some drywall, or go snowboarding, or whatever the heck I feel like doing. I hope you all do whatever you want to do, too!
This past weekend, The Washington Post ran a sweet story about How to Sew a Button and one of the ten grandmothers featured in the book: 94-year-old Beatrice Neidorf, who lives in the DC area. Here she is at age 26 and at present day. Love her style! Oh, that clutch!
On the morning the piece ran, my phone rang. It was Bea. Her first words to me: “You’ve made me a personality! All of my friends are calling!” She was really happy, which made me so happy, too. She, like so many other grandmothers, has lived an extraordinary life, and yet this is the first newspaper story about her. I mean, she’s been volunteering at the Kennedy Center for thirty years! Thirty years! Can you imagine?
All of this is absolutely thrilling, of course, but the reviews I’m most proud of came in the form of handwritten notes, delivered to my mailbox. Over the holidays, I sent each of the grandmothers I interviewed a hot-off-the-presses copy of the book, and much to my delight, some have written back.
Sue Ransohoff, who just turned 90, typed her letter and said (hilariously), “I’m sometimes fed up with ‘how to’ books, as though no one could make a decision on her own. But yours is different; it’s light hearted and it doesn’t run on and on. Well done!”
Alice Loft said, “I thank you so very much for sending me your (our?) oh-so-delightful book. One is inclined to read and enjoy the chuckles, instead of cooking. What fun! Love, Alice”
And Beatrice signs her cards (I’ve gotten three of them now), “Love, Bea xoxo”
While seeing my name in print in major newspapers or on new friends’ blogs makes my heart beat faster (OMG, what did they say?), seeing my name in carefully penned cursive on an envelope makes my heart fill with joy. There is a lesson in this correspondence. As 95-year-old Ruth Rowen told me, “Sending a card makes people feel good. There is such a thing as doing something just to make someone feel good.”
So, this is my first resolution of 2010: Buy stamps. Send cards. Most importantly, do something everyday just to make someone else feel good.