I have lots to celebrate today. For one thing, its the first monthiversary of the blog! It seems both much longer and much sooner than a month ago that I began. Thank-you to everyone who has been reading along and commenting, its so great to hear feedback of what you’re enjoying most.

It is one of my main intentions with this blog to offer to all of you some examples of women who embody the definition of a classic woman: one who is graceful, kind, seeks to lead by example, is able to love and be loved, supports, inspires, is ambitious without being aggressive, and selflessly nurtures when called upon to do so.

It’s easy to pick out muses like Grace Kelly and Sandra Dee for their impeccable style; to quote authors like Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf; or to point to fictional characters like Mrs. Gigglebelly, Kathleen Kelly, and Mary Poppins for their life lessons.

Perhaps you say though that this still doesn’t prove it can be done in the modern world; that this style and way of life is archaic. That the modern world necessitates that we re-think how women dress, act, achieve, and live. You even may say that the era of golden girls like Grace and Sandra is long gone, and Mary Poppins’ lessons are fine and dandy for when you’re five years old, but what about when you grow up and its 2012? What then?

It is possible though. I am convinced because I see it acted out everyday. The muse is a real woman; in fact, she’s a modern woman, and I offer her to you as a perfect example of what it means to represent femininity at its best.

My Mom.

She’s my real life Grace Kelly, my Mrs. Gigglebelly, my Mary Poppins. Everything that fills my life with joy and beauty, I first learned from my mother:

I learned about Jane Austen from her copy of Pride and Prejudice, placed always on the dining room bookshelves and read so often the binding was falling to pieces. I learned that reading the entire children’s section of the Beale Memorial Library was not impossible. I learned that writing was fun; that Doris Day and Cary Grant are the best on-screen couple. I learned that the most powerful job you can have is being a wife and mother; that showing love is not measured by dollar signs but often by a handmade gift, always (willingly) showing up to every dance rehearsal, putting someone’s hair in the perfect bun, or racing home to fetch the forgotten essay. I learned that arguments are settled by conversation, and that there won’t be arguments if there is conversation. I learned that you don’t have to know what you’re doing to decorate a room, you just try it and love it or hate it and change it and have so much fun in between. I learned that being selfless makes you the most precious, that laughter is the most beautiful sound in a home, and what reliability looks like.

Most of all though, what I learned from my Mom is how to love. How to show someone that they are your whole world, that you cannot imagine a life without them, and how you never regret anything that is for them. So, thanks mom, for being a muse far better than any other woman, real or fictional, and for effortlessly acting out what it means to be a wonderful woman. Oh yes, and happy birthday.

– <3 A. 

Practically Perfect in Every Way

Did you do this today?

Hope so.

In honor of Election Day, I thought a good muse for this week would be Mary Poppins. If you don’t exactly see the link, don’t worry, it’s easy to forget the subtle hints to political activism that Disney drops along the way.

Emerging in 1964, the film version of Mary Poppins added an interesting twist to the character of Mrs. Banks. While only a rather scatter-brained wife and mother in the book, Mrs. Banks is a rather militant “Sister Suffragette” in the on-screen version.

Often portrayed as shirking her motherly duties off onto Mary Poppins and the other servants, Winifred Banks is as distracted from her family by her personal ambitions as her banker husband is his own career. Interestingly enough though, the movie positions both she and Mary Poppins as the reformers of the film. While Mrs. Banks is involved in reforming gender equality, Mary Poppins reforms the seemingly more trivial duties of the nursery.

It is Mary Poppins though that emerges as the most respected hero. A character brimming with traditional feminine qualities, Mary Poppins is nurturing, firm yet extremely thoughtful, kind, devotes herself to meeting the needs of the family, and has essentially no “self” other than her role as the beloved nanny.

So, if Disney was including Mrs. Banks’ character in order to call attention to the need for more equal gender representation in the voting booths, and motivate women into activism, why does the most traditional woman, Mary Poppins, seem oh-so-much-more capable than the ridiculous Mrs. Banks?

Perhaps in 1964 Disney was a bit of a prophet. Perhaps they could see the dangers of an entire generation of women forgetting about being women and instead running headlong into doing everything the way a man does it.

The picture the film paints is pretty black and white: be involved in personal goals at the complete destruction of one’s duties as mother and wife, or, be an emblem of a perfect mother-figure with no interest in the broader world or personal ambitions.

That’s pretty ridiculous. Obviously, women should be able to vote, have careers doing whatever they desire, and be able to have a voice that is respected in the realm of politics. However, the characters of Mrs. Banks and Mary Poppins pin down a very interesting battle in the modern woman’s heart: faced with career-goals, family obligations, and the feminine heart’s natural desire to love and be loved, how do you bridge the dichotomy of being an aloof Mrs. Banks or a Mary Poppins—devoted to servitude? Which do you choose?

Perhaps what Disney was really trying to point out is that by positioning Mary Poppins as the most memorable heroine of the film, her character shows that whoever is in your home and nursery will be the audience who remembers you best. If you want your “daughters’ daughters” to “adore” you, and “sing in grateful chorus, Well done! Well done!” (“Sister Suffragette” song in Mary Poppins) then I suppose you had best tend first to your nursery.

– <3 A.