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Category Archives: Smart

Jane Austen’s Principles of Good Conversation

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Jane Austen as painted by her sister, Cassandra

Jane Austen as painted by her sister, Cassandra

In the novels of Jane Austen, being able to carry on a pleasant conversation is a mark of a virtuous character. (Although not a sufficient one—the villainous Misters Willoughby and Wickham are enchanting conversationalists.) But most of the best conversations in her novels—and in our own, twenty-first century lives—assume the same six principles, all of which stem from intelligence and thoughtfulness. By following these principles we not only make conversations more enjoyable, we can also become better, wiser people. Read the rest of this entry

Why Everyday Politeness Is One of the Best Gifts of All, Part One

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Allegory of Virtue by Simon Vouet
During the Month of Self-Giving, I’ve put a lot of thought into the gifts that really matter–the acts of sacrifice that really change us.

For example, when I give make my husband an elaborate brunch (one of his favorite treats), I often expect some relaxation time in return. Even though I’ve worked hard and given him something he really enjoys, I haven’t really made myself more generous spirited. How do I go from doing something generous to being a generous person, who makes sacrifices for others without thinking about them and without feeling self-righteous or resentful?

I want to strengthen the virtue of generosity within myself. Read the rest of this entry

Lessons in Wifery from Gift from the Sea

Young Woman with a Red Umbrella by the Sea by Alfred StevensWritten during a beach vacation in the early 1950s, Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea is a series of thoughtful essays about what it means to be a woman in the modern world. My three favorite essays, “Double-Sunrise, “Oyster Bed,” and “Argonauta” reveal important truths about the journey through love and motherhood toward transcendence. Read the rest of this entry

History’s 10 Greatest Love Letters from Wives to Their Husbands

The Letter by Alfred StevensMen and women have used writing to express their feelings to one another since the dawn of recorded time. Most of those heartfelt words are lost to the press of history. Even from what survive, there may be more beautiful and earnest love letters. But these 10 letters demonstrate the qualities that make a love letter a moving tribute to the beloved—and provide some guidance for writing beautiful love letters of our own.


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Zombies, Hope, and Living with Depression

Death and the Maiden by Adolf HeringI recently finished reading Warm Bodies, the 2011 “zombie romance” novel that inspired the recent number one box office hit.

R, the first-person narrator and protagonist, is one of the Dead, victim of a mysterious curse plaguing most of the world. He’s happy with his brain-and-essence-eating self until he meets and rescues Julie, a rosy-eyed, Living human. Their budding friendship—and romance—slowly returns R’s desire to live, his conscience, and his empathy. Other zombies take notice, wondering whether the same can happen to them, too.

Great literature it is not. But this story about the things that separate the dead from the living did have something to teach me about myself, my life, and my depression. Read the rest of this entry

“On Virtue”

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Allegory of Virtues by Antonio da Correggio

Sometimes the virtues we strive for seem like they are impossibly out of reach. No matter how hard we try to make ourselves patient, wise, or forbearing, we constantly fall short of our expectations.

Part of self-reflection is learning to know our own short-comings. To recognize the things that try our patience the most. To predict the times our tempers are likely to flare.

But knowing that we are flawed doesn’t excuse us from trying to be better. Virtue is closer and more attainable than we might think. Phillis Wheatley, a black slave and the first African-American woman to publish a book, writes a beautiful allegory about just how easy virtue is to find for those that go looking for it.

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Wifery in Action: Dolley Madison

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Dolley Madison by Gilbert StuartFirst Ladies of the United States are important—and usually popular—figureheads and participants in their husbands’ administrations. (Today First Lady Michelle Obama is one of the only political figures with a positive approval rating.) Dolley (sometimes spelled Dolly) Madison, wife of the fourth President of the United States, helped defined the role of First Lady as hostess to the White House and national mistress of ceremony. Her practicality, social graces, and quick-thinking make her a worthy example of Wifery in Action. Read the rest of this entry

Lessons in Wifery from Anna Karenina

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The Unequal Marriage by Vasili PukirevLeo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina famously begins, “Happy families are all alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Tolstoy weaves together the storyline of one happy family and one unhappy family through the protagonists Constantine Levine and Anna Karenina. Through Levine (and his eventual wife Kitty) and Anna, Tolstoy shows us what love can add to—and take away from—an ordinary, human life. And through both Kitty and Anna, we see how each choice a woman makes leads to her eventual happiness or downfall. Read the rest of this entry

Experimental Wifery’s Guide to the 100 Films Every Woman Should See

Great stories change lives, whether in print or on screen. The stories of other women affect the ways we dress, speak, behave and the expectations we have for our own lives. Experimental Wifery’s Guide to the 100 Films Every Woman Should See is a list of those stories that will help us become better women and wives. Read the rest of this entry

100 Films Every Woman Should See, Part Four

We strongly recommend you start with Experimental Wifery’s Guide to the 100 Films Every Woman Should See. You can find a complete list of all 100 films in chronological order, as well as recommendations by phase of life. Read the rest of this entry