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Cinderella: Heroine or Doormat?

Cinderella: Heroine or Doormat?Earlier this week, I went with my sisters and mom to see Disney’s Cinderella in theaters. I can’t watch anything these days without questioning what it is teaching my ten and eleven-year old sisters. I had heard various reviews of this latest princess movie and was eager to develop my own opinion.

The question is simple: is Cinderella a good role model or not? However, folks have been drawing various conclusions since the trailer for Cinderella first released last year. The first controversy I heard was over the size of her waist. Some people were offended that another female protagonist would succumb to the “skinny fever” that seems to run rampant in Hollywood, but I don’t see it that way at all. Cinderella is set in the mid-1800’s, a time period in which corsets were the custom. The girls are all obviously wearing corsets in the new movie (there’s even a humorous scene involving lacing a corset) and that is only historical accuracy. Cinderella looks healthy, lively and petite, not emaciated. So as far as the body type issue, I have no complaints.

The second controversy, which has surrounded princess movies of all types in the recent years, is of course: is she a strong, female lead? This is a loaded question, because “strong female lead” is not a Webster’s dictionary definition, but a matter of opinion. However, my blog is a place just for that, so, in my humble opinion…

Some movies cast an undoubtedly bad light on women. I actually refused to go see the latest James Bond for that reason. For centuries, woman’s main source of power has been seduction and I don’t want to support that idea for another decade. Women are immeasurably creative, resourceful and resilient and I would love for my little sisters to see that reflected in movies.

So let’s dissect!

(Spoiler warning for the 2% of the world that doesn’t already know this story.) The movie begins with Ella as a baby and young girl. She is full of joy and surrounded by love. From a young age, she is quite the conservationist, often caring for seemingly forgotten members of their household, especially the mice. True to the fairytale, Ella’s beloved mother falls ill and dies while Ella is still young. As she lies on her deathbed, she gives Ella this piece of advice: No matter what happens, always be kind and have courage. 

This simple advice becomes Ella’s mantra and a main theme in the movie. When Ella’s father remarries and brings the Lady Germaine and two stepdaughters into the home, Ella reminds herself to be kind and have courage and is able to treat them with kindness, even though they are rude and insensitive. The new “family” doesn’t start off seeming cruel or abusive, but rather like many real blended families start off. Things are awkward, the kids don’t get along well, everyone has to adjust to a “new normal.”

Ella and her father appear to have a mutual understanding that these three new family members are more than they bargained for, but are both hopeful things will smooth out. When Ella’s father leaves for an extended business trip, things take a turn for the worse. The stepmother starts to show excessive favor to her own daughters and begins to belittle Ella. When word comes that her father will never return, Ella is the only one who grieves him. All her stepmother seems to care about is the loss of income. The household is released and the work is left to Ella.

Is Ella submissive? Yes. Does this make her a bad role model? Not necessarily.

Ella evidently clings to the last wishes of both of her loving parents: to be kind, to have courage and to try to make this new family work. When it becomes clear that she and her stepfamily will never truly be a family, Ella continues to keep her promise to her mother, but she does not cower or give up on her own dreams. Ella continually makes the most of what she has, remains hopeful and goes to great lengths to improve her own life while still being kind to her cruel stepfamily.

Ella is submissive to her stepmother, not because she thinks she has no value or is too afraid to cross her. Ella’s courage is unwavering throughout the entire movie. She is submissive because she promised to be kind. She is submissive because she has the courage to love the unlovely people in her life.

I think what is really bothering people about having Cinderella as a role model, is not that she’s weak, but that she’s good. We’ve come to associate bravery with rebellion. I think many people want to see movies with main characters more like Lady Germaine than Ella. As Jo March says in the 1994 Little Women, “Women should have a vote, not because they are angels, but because they are people. Men do not vote because they are good, they vote because they are male.” Women are exhausted of feeling our only character choices are goodness and seduction. There is so much more to 51% of the people on this planet. And because of this, we’ve fled from “goodness” and replaced it with so-called onscreen equality.

Lady Germaine is clearly a hurting person. She has been widowed twice and is greatly disappointed in her stupid daughters. She is afraid of her penniless future and obviously harbors a deep envy of Ella. In order to feel she has any standing at all, she must continually put Ella down. At one point, she actually cracks a little and rails at Ella for being young, beautiful and good. She cannot stand Ella, purely because Ella is everything she wishes she was. She particularly hates Ella because Ella does not hate her back.

But, of all her strengths, this is Ella’s greatest. She is perhaps the bravest of Disney princesses because she does not give in. She does not begin to hate or even to flee. The world may very well not be able to see her as a role model, but as a Christian, I think she’s a heroine. She loves, she serves, and, in an extremely touching scene toward the end, she forgives. Lady Germaine scarcely seems to comprehend the words, “I forgive you” but they make quite the impact on the audience.

Does the prince save Ella? In a sense, he does. But the future he is able to provide Ella with is more of a reward for her good heart and hard work than an avenue of salvation from another hero. “Kit” (as the prince is called) is dazzled not only by Ella’s beauty, but the ways she contrasts with the other girls. She is humble, brave, has a mind of her own and isn’t afraid to speak it. Kit clearly marries Ella because he loves her, not because he pities her or wants to promote himself.

In the midst of her trying home life, we see Ella blowing off steam (which is when she meets Kit) and defying her stepmother’s wishes (attending the ball.) She does not decide that this is her lot in life, or resign herself to “her place.” She is tempted to believe the things that are said about her, which we can all relate to, but she chooses to believe what the people who loved her said about her. 

When Kit finds out who she really is, we don’t have that awful fifteen minutes of miscommunication onscreen love stories usually give us. She comes clean completely and boldly approaches him as “Cinderella,” as if to say, “I know what they say about me, but I’m not afraid of that identity. My life has not been easy, but it has only made me stronger.” She asks if the prince would take her just as she is, and he asks the same of her. If that’s not equality, I don’t know what is.

Finally, Ella does not seek revenge on her stepfamily on any level. She forgives them and moves on with her life. Justice is served outside of her hands. The “happily ever after” feels like a fitting reward for a resilient, brave, and yes-good-woman. And Cinderella feels like an anthem for the virtues movies seem to have forgotten lately: quiet courage, bold love, firm perseverance and humble happiness. It’s a reminder that we really do want the good guys to win and we really aren’t tired of happy endings.

Cinderella provides everything your little sister is hoping for: glass slippers, fairy godmothers, animate mice and a dashing prince. What they might not expect is to be inspired not only by the ballgowns, but also by the morals of this famous princess. As a sister, an equality advocate and a movie-goer, I give Cinderella five stars.

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a month since meggie

EP phoebe and meggie in my bed

It’s been a month since Meggie left, a month since I penned a teary letter to her. The adoption process is hardly moving. It reminds me of a spider, dragging it’s prey up a wall. If you’ve ever witnessed these efforts, you know what I mean. If not, I’ll just tell you it involves a lot of struggle, a lot of falling to the ground and starting over, a lot of patience on the part of the spider as well as the paralyzed victim.

To tell you we miss her would be redundant, but life goes on. As a matter of fact, amidst the absence of our baby sister and the wintry weather and the constant stress of trying to build a house with our bare hands while still keeping our “real” jobs, things have been quite joyful. I spoke briefly with a good friend on Sunday with whom I’d really like to catch up, and I found myself wanting to grab lunch with her just so I could reassure that I am quite happy and content in this season.

I appear to be getting singler and singler, which is apparently the most prevalent cause of discontentment in young women today, but I am also becoming wiser and wiser, stronger and stronger, less and less susceptible to every passing wind and therefore, in generally better spirits. As much as I loved being very young, it’s kind of a relief to just be “young” now. Growing up is hard work.

To conclude the personal update, I love writing more than ever and I am rekindling my love of visual art. The desire to create visual art is perhaps just as strong as the desire to write, but the craft is much more difficult for me. I’ve been writing in my journal and preparing this and that for various blogs and sketching and piddling with watercolors. I think I need to share more of my illustrations, but it still makes me uncomfortable. It’s taken me long enough to become confident as a writer. Sharing a sketch is like starting all over again in first grade.

What I will do with these thoughts and words and lines and dots, I am not sure. I am praying diligently and practicing, and I think that’s obedience for this season.

Another thing that has kept me busy and happy is The Serve Team. This team was started by the college ministry I’m involved in last semester. The idea is that a group of students gathers each week and goes and meets the physical needs of those in our church community, primarily senior adults. I really look forward to this throughout the week. We do anything they need help with: pull weeds, wash windows, vacuum, make repairs, trim trees, organize, move furniture, etc. The best part is getting to know the older generation, hearing their stories and gaining wisdom from them. They’re also typically sweet and appreciate, so we all leave on a high.

I woke up a couple of weeks ago with an idea in my head and the leaders in our church were kind enough to bring it to life. On Sunday, about seventy widows received a Valentine’s rose after church. It was a memorable time for me.

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My older sister and her husband have now been living with us for almost eight months. Everyone has been a trooper, squeezing in and making due with the little room and privacy we have to offer. The men in the family are literally building the house by hand, so it isn’t any wonder it’s taking a…while. They all toil at it in their minimum spare time, and it slowly makes progress. It does look like a house now…just not a very warm, safe or comfy house.

I leave you with an recent excerpt from my journal and a promise to come back again soon to write more:

“My world is swirling with robins. The extremely low temperatures have graced us with a massive migration of birds. Jays, sparrows, juncos, doves, cardinals, wrens, titmice, crows, chickadees and more, soar and dive across every window’s view. This seemingly long Winter will soon melt away and Spring will be here in full force. I am looking very much forward to sunshine and wildflowers and cheerful, uncomplicated clothes. However, I also have appreciated this frosty, feathery season.”

everly

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8 Fair Trade Stocking Stuffers

8 Fair Trade Stocking Stuffers

“Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.”

O Holy Night by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure

Christmas is a time to celebrate and be joyous, but that leaves no excuse for trampling anyone, despite what Black Friday shoppers seem to think. During this season of Advent, we should be particularly conscious of the needs of others. ‘Tis a season of giving, not grabbing. This year, many people will spend Christmas on the farm or in the factory where they are enslaved. They will have no time off for the holiday and no Christmas bonus. Remember these people as you celebrate with your friends and family and think of them when you do your shopping.

Fair trade purchases ensure that the money you spend goes back to the laborers, helping them to support themselves and their families. What better way to show your kids or friends that Jesus is really the reason for the season than by giving them gifts that seem to say, “truly He taught us to love one another”? What better way to give back this year than by being a part of breaking the chains of our slave brothers and sisters?

That is why I’ve come up with 8 Fair Trade Stocking Stuffers. I hope you enjoy this list of ideas!

1. Theo Holiday Chocolate Bars

These cute and tasty fair-trade treats are available at Kroger in the organic section, on Amazon and at theochocolate.com. The chocolate industry is a huge battle ground of modern-day slavery and buying products that use ethically produced cocoa is important.

2. Justin’s Chocolate Hazel Nut Spread

Justin’s products are not certified fair trade, but I believe they use fair trade cocoa. Stuff a stocking with these easy-squeezy packets of Nutella-alternative or a whole jar for that crazy fanatic! Justin’s various delicacies are available Kroger, on Amazon and at justins.com

3. Gorgeous earrings from Noonday Collection

Noonday Collection is a huge fair trade company with lots of beautiful products, but their earrings strike me as a particularly nice thing to pull out of one’s stocking. Gift these to a sister or friend and they’ll be impressed with your excellent taste. ;)

4. Ornaments 4 Orphans

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To quote part of their mission statement, Ornaments 4 Orphans stands to: “empower indigenous artisans through the fair-trade purchase of their products, invest in the holistic care of orphaned children with our profits and provide customers with a seasonal opportunity to purchase items that bless others.” We bought one of their glass beaded stars this year. Really lovely!

5. Wood Block Stamps from Connected Goods

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I had a really hard time deciding what to share from Connected Goods. They have a huge selection of beautiful products. However, these stamps struck me as unique and special stocking stuffers, so I’m displaying the hummingbird stamp. I also love the goldfish!

6. Toys from Come Together Trading

Come Together Trading started right here in Texas! They have products from all of the world in their Tyler store and also sell online. One thing I love from them is their toys. The wooden toy tractor, the miniature animals and the finger puppet nativities are all adorable. I gave my mom a set of their bird chimes last year…very cute.

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7. Fair Trade “Reese’s” Alternatives

I don’t know about you, but there’s just something about the combination of peanut butter and chocolate that brightens my day. We are no longer buying our beloved Reese’s because they are likely made with unethically produced cocoa, but we’ve found some delicious alternatives. Try Newman’s Own (they’re not just for salad dressing anymore) or Justin’s. Buy them in the organic section your grocery store or online.

8. Punjammies!

PRIYA Capri Front

I really can’t say enough about Punjammies. Adorable pajamas made by women who have been rescued out of forced prostitution in India…well, I wrote a whole review of them for Adornabelle! The girls in my family love these. I would not be opposed to pulling another pair of these out of my stocking on Christmas morning!

How about you? Have you found ethical stocking stuffers this year? Please share!

Other Resources:

“All’s Fair” (my Pinterest board for all things fairly traded!)

Gifts that Give Back shopping guide at rageagainsttheminivan.com

Ethical Shopping Guide at theartofsimple.net

Products Everly Loves

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the one about allume

IMG_0684Last month I had the pleasurable opportunity to attend The Allume Conference in Greenville, South Carolina. My mother accompanied me after rescheduling our family reunion (which includes about fifty people!) so that I wouldn’t have to miss it while I was gone. We had never taken a trip together, just the two of us, and it was odd traveling that way, but also very fun. I should give a shout-out to the nice man who brought our luggage up and down from the overhead storage during our flight. We may be independently minded, but we aren’t very tall.

First of all, Greenville was wonderful. The conference was held at the Hyatt in the middle of downtown and it was the perfect location for two women with no vehicle. We walked from the hotel to an underground coffee shop and a few lovely cafes and shops. We even strolled through Anthropologie once. The area is thick with history and sprinkled with lovely artistic touches. I really loved it and could have spent many more happy days exploring. There is even a natural spring-fed waterfall right in the middle of everything. You should go sometime.

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The conference was a bit intimidating for two (very) introverted women, but I wasn’t at all nervous the way I had been about She Speaks the past two years. The first year it was my first ever conference, I was only nineteen and all alone. The second one I pitching a book for heaven’s sake. I never knew I could be that nervous.

This time, however, it was just fun and relaxing. I had no special agenda there, just learn and make new friends. It was lovely connecting with a few women from my mastermind blogging group. I loved chatting with Shannon on multiple occasions and getting to meet the lovely Kalyn, Christin and September!

The speakers were really wonderful. Some of them I had really anticipated, others were new to me. I saw many faces I recognized and met new people I wish I had known all along. It was lovely to hear Ann speak again, but my favorite session of hers was the Pure Charity panel when no one was scripted and everyone shared the mic. It was so good, I clung at my throat and thought, “I will retain this wisdom if it’s the only thing I do this weekend.”

Ladder Bloggers, Unite!

Ladder Bloggers, Unite!

I am not paid to say this, so please know I am genuine. The conference was spirt-led. I had put on my armor and prepared myself for a commercialized, made up world of blogging bliss. I had imagined the speakers in their white jackets bringing the good word and then disappearing behind stage and onto their plane home. It was not like that. The speakers, who were not told what to speak about or what anyone else was speaking about, had so many common threads, it was amazing. The messages we truly needed to hear were there (sometimes to the surprise of the speaker) and there was no fakey-fakey.

ann and i

The worship leaders all brought some kind of prophesy or gem of wisdom that tied into what God was already teaching me. The teachers all helped me in some unique way. They didn’t stick to the schedule when they felt that God could use their time differently than planned. One of my favorite things is that there were no pedestals. The speakers and worship leaders and presidents of organizations were in the buffet line with me, sat at my table for lunch, roomed next door. They too walked the streets of Greenville and grabbed casual cups of coffee. There were no celebrities. We were all on the same page and with the same goal in mind.

Even though the past couple of weeks have had me thinking that marketing and promotion are not my gift, that mainstream publishing is not my goal and that blogging may not ever be my primary source of income, Allume continues to inspire me. I’ve had some snide remarks and funny looks since I’ve been back. “A blogging conference? Is that like a Pinterest conference?” They ask laughingly. I feel a little fire rising up in me because the men and women I had the privilege of meeting at Allume were straight-up world changers.  There is nothing hokey or selfish or silly about what they do.

And I want to be like that too.

(psst! Super early bird registration for Allume 2014 starts on Black Friday!)

Everly

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the art of silliness

“Do a loony-goony dance
‘Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain’t been there before.”

-Shel Silverstein

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I have recently come to the conclusion that people who don’t embrace silliness forfeit a huge percentage of the joy life has to offer. Silliness is essential to happy days upon happy days. The mundane becomes delightful when you understand the art of silliness.

All my life people have asked me how I get along so well with my siblings. Everyone knows we’re not perfect, and some of us have closer relationships than others, but in general, we’ve always worked well together and been friends. When I was seven and eight we lived on a ranch out in the middle of nowhere. During that time, we had few friends and were only able to see them sporadically. The four of us (there used to only be four, if you can imagine) were not only siblings, but great friends. We did our lessons, chores, adventuring and make belief together. It was lovely.

One of the greatest things we’re still nurturing from those earlier years is silliness. It is also, in my opinion, one of the keys to getting along with one’s family. Silliness isn’t just acting dumb (though a lot of times it is dumb) but intentionally finding humor and joy in small, ridiculous things. I’ll give you some examples.

  • Whenever one of my sisters is sick or has some sort of physical ailment, we always rebuke them for “not making plans like the rest of us.” (Which everyone knows is the reason Beth March had to die.)
  • Making up goofy songs about people or places we pass while driving.
  • Birdie going up the escalator like Buddy the Elf in Macy’s while strangers stared.
  • Looking for the piece of broken sidewalk that resembles a turtle.
  • Pretending to be on Iron Chef while baking cookies.
  • Doing random, annoying things like silently grabbing the elbow of the person sitting next to you at the dining table. Just hold it as you continue to eat.
  • Knocking on the bathroom door and using a fake voice and name when the occupier asks who it is.
  • Leaving funny pictures in surprising places (like that terrifying thumbnail of Dwight Shrute, or the hilarious-looking dog from the shelter ad.)
  • Always singing certain songs together no matter when or where they come on. Our main one is I’m Gonna Be Strong by Cyndi Lauper. You have to have a “microphone” for this (we’ve used kitchen utensils, hair brushes, and yes, tampons.)
  • That time we watched Tombstone and started quoting it for weeks, replacing one word in each quote with the word “stroganoff”=hilarious.
  • Patting a baby’s open mouth as they cry (this makes a funny sound, and usually makes them laugh instead!)
  • Singing background vocals to songs that don’t have background vocals.
  • “Collecting” purple cars (we always tell each other when we’ve seen one.)
  • Nicknames galore.

You get the idea! Any of these things could just be plain irritating if both parties are not using the art of silliness. The art of silliness, at it’s core, is a willingness to find humor or joy in any and every situation. It makes time pass quickly, strengthens relationships and makes you laugh, which is really, really good for you. Being silly turns an ordinary, boring, sad, frustrating day into a day that you’re sad is over. Sometimes I just lie in bed and smile, thinking of all the funny things that were said, the dumb games we played and the way my family made the best of each situation. I think if more people allowed themselves to be silly and allowed others to be truly silly in their presence, their world would be opened up to a million more opportunities for daily happiness and humor and our world, as a whole, would be a brighter place.

“Be silly. Be honest. Be kind.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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