Unless you’ve spent the last 20 or so years living on a deserted island, you would be familiar with the name Martha Stewart. I was thinking "unless you’ve been in prison" but that wouldn’t make much sense since this might make you a Martha fan considering her recent activities.
I must admit to viewing the occasional Martha show and I do flip through her magazines in waiting rooms from time to time. As I’m writing this review Martha is making pumpkin place cards and obsessing over cute canine costumes. It’s hard to watch the show and stay focused on the crafting steps since I keep rolling my eyes. I imagine that most women have thought about or taken on one of the domestic diva’s recipes, crafts or household tips. Am I right? I’m definitely guilty as charged.
Over the summer months I happened upon a couple of television interviews of Canadian bestselling author Janice Wells. I was eager to read her book called Definitely Not Martha Stewart: Domestic Tales Of Starting Over. The author is a down-to-earth woman who writes a newspaper column in the style of Erma Bombeck. In Definitely Not Martha Stewart, Wells compiles a group of her columns into a wonderful read that’s full of witty thoughts, friendly neighborhood gossip and name dropping. Reading her book is like spending time chatting with a good girlfriend. Wells would be the first to point out that she has a love/hate relationship with Martha even though she tries like some of us to hold up to her impossible domestic standard. Wells contemplates, "deep in the heart of every woman lives a Martha Stewart. It doesn’t matter how liberated or non-traditional we are, the only differences in any of us are the circumstances of life that have nurtured or sublimated or completely eradicated our nesting instincts."
After the author’s twenty year marriage ends in divorce we see Janice Wells start over from scratch. Through the pages we follow the author and her two daughters across a dizzying number of moves schleping between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Wells considers herself to be somewhat of a gypsy in practice but tends to hunker down and give in to her nesting nature when she feels for the comforts of home. Picture a woman whose decorating style includes hanging a hammock in her living room. Wells gives her readers tips on how to furnish a home with yard sale deals and dressing in fashion finds with thrift store style. With an indomitable spirit and drive to renovate, time and time again, Wells laments over household projects gone awry and invariably makes do with her humble abode. One tasty tips recommended by Wells is, "To loosen a rusty bolt, soak a rag in Coke, wrap it around the bolt, add the rest to a couple of ounces of rum, drink, then try the bolt." This reminds me to read the author’s bestseller The Gin And Tonic Gardener. The author goes through a few stints catering to boarders and gives us her best Thanksgiving culinary tip. Stressing the importance of gravy she insists simply that we "make lots of it." Practical and to the point much like the author herself. When it comes to Martha inspired crafts, Wells ends up cajoling her friend into making their own concrete planters. The author reflects on her failed planter and quips, "...if the feeling ever comes over me again, I should just lie down until it goes away."
Wells credits her good humour for getting her through life and basically laughs through her tears. In her columns the author writes her stories making sure not to take herself or her circumstances too seriously. I’m sure we could all take some advice from Wells and try to focus on the positive things in our everyday lives instead of stressing over all the nitty gritty details. Maybe Martha herself should take a break from all the fuss and bother and read Definitely Not Martha Stewart. I dare say Martha could use a tip or two from Janice.
Something to think about...
Wanda Lynne Young
"It's A Good Thing" We're Not All Martha Stewart was published in the November '07 issue of Real Women Magazine in the Reader's Corner column.