Another Bow to Hestia by Carol P. Christ

I am not big on New Year’s resolutions, but this year I have vowed to change one of my habits. I have always been house-proud and love using my artistic flair to decorate my home in beauty. I have had a cleaning lady most of the time for many years, so my homes have been relatively clean. The living room and dining room have always been ready to receive guests. But I didn’t always do the dishes or clean the surfaces in the kitchen right away, clothes I had worn often sat on chairs before I hung them up, and I didn’t make the bed every day.

Now that I think about it, this habit goes back to my childhood and teen-age years, when my not picking up things in my bedroom was a bone of contention between me and my mother. Joyce Zonana wrote recently about how she rejected her mother’s role as homemaker and “dutiful” wife when she was young. Only now during the Covid crisis, she writes, is she beginning to enjoy the traditional women’s work of cooking regularly and knitting.

When I was a teen-ager, I sewed all of my clothes (both because we didn’t have a lot of money and because, as I was very tall and very skinny, most ready-made clothes didn’t fit). I was a second mother to my baby brother. For me, those were the fun parts of women’s work. But I hated washing dishes and cleaning the house, and I did not learn how to cook. I suppose I recoiled from the repetitiveness of those tasks. I was also aware that my father ruled the roost, and though I would never have criticized him, I knew that one of my mother’s jobs was to please him. Laura Montoya’s meditation on her grandmother’s life in a recent blog reminds us that the failure of homemakers to meet their husbands needs or wants can lead to violence.

When I went away to college, I learned to disparage all of women’s work, including the parts of it I had loved. I was taught that the “life of the mind” was the highest pursuit and that the “life of the body” was secondary. I now see this aspect of university culture as brainwashing of the highest order. Continue reading “Another Bow to Hestia by Carol P. Christ”

Homebound by Joyce Zonana

When my parents left Egypt, they left behind everything they’d grown up with, all the objects that carried their deepest associations and memories. They taught me to scorn such “things”—what others value as mementos or souvenirs—rightly reasoning they can be lost in a moment. But while we have them, it is lovely, I’m learning, to let the spirits embedded within them, the memories and feelings they evoke, surround and comfort us. As I move through this house, I feel bound to my own and others’ histories, embedded in a rich and complex life that nurtures and sustains me. And as I sit still and knit, I sense that I am knitting (knotting) up the by now long, loose threads of my own life, shaping them into a coherent and satisfying whole.

Joyce ZonanaWhen I was growing up, home was the last place I wanted to be. It’s not that ours was an abusive or angry household: both parents loved me and my mother labored to create a calm, clean space to contain us all. It’s just that I felt suffocated.

Part of the problem was that we were immigrants. My parents were struggling to find their way in an alien culture, and, with little else to hold onto, they clung to their customs and traditions. I wanted to be “American,” to mingle with classmates, to venture into the vastness (New York City!) just beyond our door. The Middle Eastern culture from which we hailed had strict rules for women and girls, and my mother expected me to follow them. She herself was an excellent cook, a creative seamstress and scrupulous housekeeper, a devoted and dutiful wife. I rejected all of it, refusing to cook, ripping out seams, balking at my weekly chores of dusting and vacuuming and ironing. Instead I dreamt of life as a writer, a renegade, an outlaw. My role models were hobos and witches and gypsies; more than anything, I yearned to be free, longing to “walk at all risks,” like Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh.

Continue reading “Homebound by Joyce Zonana”

Cleaning and Cleansing: Rituals of Embodied Life by Carol P. Christ

While the world is falling apart all around me, I have been slowly engaged in a major cleaning and cleansing of my home.

It started when I began to move my summer clothes to my main closet in June.  Here in Greece we have no tradition of second-hand stores, Goodwill, or Salvation Army. This makes it difficult to get rid of anything: often the garbage can is the only option. Still, I began with my clothes, tossing out even some much loved and still beautiful things that no longer fit. My Greek-Albanian cleaning lady took all of them, and I didn’t ask her what she did with them.

Then I moved on to the kitchen. Continue reading “Cleaning and Cleansing: Rituals of Embodied Life by Carol P. Christ”

Peace Begins at Home by Gina Messina-Dysert

I began my career in the field of social services as a woman’s advocate for rape and domestic violence survivors.  The motto for an organization I was employed with early on was “peace begins at home,” a significant point that must be acknowledged. While much attention around women’s involvement in peacebuilding efforts have been focused at the macro level, there has been little consideration of women’s efforts towards peace at the micro level.  Certainly, women’s involvement in formal peacebuilding processes at the larger public level is crucial.  This being said, we must not undermine the leadership roles that women play in their homes, their families, and their religious and immediate communities, and how those roles can have an incredible impact on greater society.

I would like to start off by defining “peace.”  It is a word that we all use quite frequently and often with different meanings.  Some would claim that peace equates the cessation of conflict.  However, within our world conflict is inevitable; daily life is riddled with internal, interpersonal, intergroup, and international conflict. Thus, when defining peace, we must understand it as being able to deal creatively with inevitable conflict.  According to Jean Zaru, “It is the process of working to resolve conflicts in such a way that both sides win, with increased harmony as the outcome of the conflict and its resolution.  Peace is based on respect, cooperation, and well being.  Peace is the presence of social justice” (Occupied with Non-Violence, p. 81-2).

Zaru’s comments here are important in that she acknowledges a clear relationship between peace and justice.  In the words of Pope Paul VI, “if you want peace, work for justice.”  Because peace is not only the absence of war, but also the absence of poverty and disease, the access to clean water, the freedom from slavery; peace is the affirmation of the full humanity of every person. Peace is salaam, peace is shalom, peace is the well being of all.  Thus, there are many elements that come together in the word peace.  It is not simply government initiatives, it is not a patchwork solution to the conflicts of the world, nor is it submission or silent acceptance, rather we must understand peace as justice. Continue reading “Peace Begins at Home by Gina Messina-Dysert”

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