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Sunday, June 29, 2014

I Feel Pretty: Family Origins

My mom had a very short window to pick outfits for me. As soon as I was cognitively possible of having an opinion, I had one about what I wanted to wear. And it was never the cute thing that matched. Never. So my mother, full of wisdom, filed this under Battles Not To Fight. And I'm glad she did because I think that decision probably encouraged my artistic nature even more than the dozens of formal art classes I took growing up. Unfortunately, another battle she chose not to fight that I wished she had was making me brush my hair. Kindergarden through, oh...8th grade were ROUGH ya'll. Hashtag cowlicks. Thank God the flat iron was invented by high school. But all my growing up years my mom pretty much let me wear whatever I wanted. Certainly I was given boundaries in regards to modesty and age appropriateness, but as far as style was concerned I had complete freedom. And I'm sure there were days I came out of my room and my mom thought what in the name of sanity is my daughter trying to pull off SOMEONE SHOULD TELL HER. 

But she never said it out loud.

As I reflect on girls and clothes, I think our mom's have a bigger stake in all this than we like to think as independance craving succubi also known as teenagers. I think our mom's are on the front lines of instilling either confidence or insecurity. And I think mine helped instill me with confidence because the things she ascribed praise or value to in me weren't related to the way I looked. In fact, talking about one's appearance- the clothes you wore, the shape of your body, the state of your face or hair- these things were never a narrative in our home. My mom has never said anything derogatory about my body, and I've also never heard her say anything negative about her own body. I think this was a trend in our house because of the influence my grandmother had as well. 

So lets take a Generational Fashion Recap:

June Saling.
Thespian. Mother of 10 CHILDREN. Kindergarden teacher. Free Spirit.

This is her with her girlfriends on the beach. Aren't they adorable?!?!

This is her on her wedding day. Also adorable.

This is her from my childhood.

So obviously after all the kids, fashion is maybe not a Top Shelf Priority. Also basically anything of value my grandmother ever had she gave away if you needed, wanted or were even mildly interested in it. She held on loosly to all things of this world. So while I wouldn't initially describe her as one of my style icons, I think she had a huge influence in my self expression. She was a storyteller and actor and never batted an eyelash if I wanted to go out with her dressed as an absurd character (who also insisted she call me by my character's kroger...) One of my huge debts of gratitude to my grandmother is that I feel like she gifted both my mom, and then me as a by product, with our weddings being exactly what we wanted. My mom carried a bundle of wheat down the isle for crying out loud. I've observed many times the opposite happens: mom didn't get the wedding she wanted because her mom wanted things a certain way because her mom wanted things a certain way etc etc... With June? Free Spirit + TEN CHILDREN= oh! you're getting married to a great person? Spectacular! Ask me how many craps I give about what color your bridesmaids dresses are.

Karen Lasley.
My mom has always been a pretty trendy lady.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit C 

But she's also incredibly practical and frugal. Pretty much everything I wore growing up was a hand me down or from a consignment store. She still shops a lot at Walmart even though she could afford more expensive clothes because why pay more money if you don't have to? I didn't even know what a name brand was until middle school. This has been huge contribution to my personal style because I spent all my time trying to create a certain vibe rather than having to have whatever the IT thing was. I remember when Abercrombie and Fitch was the place to shop. When I finally made it in there I hated it. I could not bring myself to like these boring overpriced clothes. Not to mention the smell.

My mom has always styled her hair and worn make up, and I observed her doing these things growing up, but it was never our main source of bonding because I was a comfort loving tom boy who wouldnt sit still to let my hair be brushed. I never felt like "this is what you need to do to be a lady". So my mom's greatest style influence on me is that clothes and make up are fun, but not the primary thing that defines who you are.

Megan Shaffer.

I really liked Annie and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang a lot as a kid.  So I spent most of my time trying to look like a homeless orphan.

 You know how children's clothing no longer has tags? That's because I threw such colossoal Hulk Smashing fits about tags torturing me within an inch of my life that it was heard the world over. If only jeggings had been a thing in 1987 I would have LIVED in those elastic waist bands. Not very far into my Homeless Orphan Phase I discovered that there were homeless people who got to wear layers and layers of scarves and long necklaces and buckled boots and way too much eye liner and carried tambourines and went on adventures. Thus began my Gypsy Pirate Homeless Orphan Phase.

This style evolution was timely with the 90s and my adolenscence because along with a bad attitude, feeling of no one understanding my plight as a teenage female, and the background of being inspired by fashionable homeless people- now I had Stevie Nicks, The Cranberries and Empire Records as inspiration. So I transitioned into the Grunge Hippie Phase. Velour sweatshirts, dozens of necklaces- long AND short- chucks, and way too much eyeliner. I just wanted a boy with a butt cut and skateboard to like me. (sidenote: at the time my now husband was rocking socks with Tevas, basketball jersies and sport coats. So glad we didn't meet in middle school)

High school was pretty uninspiring. We wore uniforms, I felt insecure, and so I played it safe and basically wore boring average trendy stuff. In college I went to music school and felt a renewed excitement in getting dressed. I discovered fashion photography. I lived in Nashville. I performed a lot. It was a great environment to be experimental with your attire. It was a ton of fun. I wore a lot of different stuff. And hair colors.

Since then, I've been fortunate to have occupations and environments that lend themselves to bringing back that little girl in love with gypsies and spies. Now that I have two children I don't typically spend much time thinking about what I'm wearing other than can I nurse in this, and how well are my bangs covering my bald spots? But the themes of endless patterns and a love of eye liner and an aversion to matching have hung in there. I rarely wear jewelry anymore cause its forever getting broken or chewed on. Thankfully I have a nose ring and tattoo as permanant accessories. I have finally after almost 30 years added foundation to my make up routine because I think your skin just dies and turns green from the lack of sleep and nutrition you recieve while your children are young. If I've been particularly sleep deprived or am feeling particularly sassy I might even throw on red lipstick. These days you will most likely see me in varying forms of this outfit depending on the season.

If attempting Especially Fancy I'll switch the denim for floral. Note: extra level of fancy employed by adding belt just for blog/vanity purposes 

By retirement age I aspire to become some combination of Emmylou Harris and Robert Plant. But that would probably involve wigs due to my insufferably frail hair so realistically hoping to land at Judi Dentch.

Ireland Shaffer.
Climber. Lover of anything bedazzled. Surprisingly great in heels at a full on sprint. Totally into swords.

One of the things my heart dearly longs to pass on to my daughters in regards to their interaction with clothing and makeup is freedom. A freedom to use it out of their own imaginations and a freedom from it. I pray they would know the are perfectly created and are in no need of any improvement. My prayer for myself is that I would not hold tightly to my preferences- which I am already being forced into since my first born only has eyes for pink and purple and sparkles. For this week's photo shoot I let Ireland choose the entirety of her wordrobe.

Not a great variety of color. High emphasis on accessories. Teddy Bear Slippers. But my favorite was the make up. She gave specific instructions as to what colors went where. My favorite is the purple on her nose. She even said "momma don't use black on my eyes like you do, I don't like black." And while I'm not planning on letting my 3 yr old put on make up to leave the house, I'm totally not offering any corrections to her vision. So if you see a 15 year old Ireland rocking out a purple nose, I hope you give her a thumbs up.

If you want to perruse the interweb for more imagination based make-up tutorials I highly recommend checking out I mean, there's a post on how to do your make up like Smaug from The Hobbit. It doesn't get much better.

Next up: Found in Nature

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I Feel Pretty: Intro

 Someone asked me recently if I could live in any time period in history, what era would I choose? Admittedly my first thoughts were of many good options...but my immediate next thought was- there aren't many years over the course of human history that a woman was viewed as more than property. And even after men decided we could be educated or marry who we want, there still are even fewer years where women were considered more than second class citizens. Lord help them if they weren't rich white girls. So my answer was now. I want to live now; I have access to all the clothes I could imagine but I can vote and get paid a fair wage. (Most of the time)

 Before I had children, before I got married even, I prayed for sons. Boys just seem more straightforward. Girls? Riddled with complication. Maybe my anxiety comes from an awareness of my own complicated existence in this world. Raising women definitely tops my list of anxiety triggers. But a theme of my life is God forcing me to face my greatest fears and meeting me there with faithfulness.

So of course I've birthed two girls.

And obviously, I'm mad about them. I don't want to hand them back in for boys. They are so lovely and interesting and unique. But as I ponder their future...this world in which they will grow and learn how to become women...sometimes I freak out. Of course there are a myriad of topics lining the Freak Out Shelf. But one word I keep honing in on is identity. Who is Woman. What does it mean to be her.

Knock knock. Who is it? Oh hello, its the neighborhood courier handing me the list of the 3928746598367918275698 different things the world at large tells us what it means to be female.

How to dress, How NOT to dress, Hair, Make up, Body type, Occupation, How to interact with men...Between the reality tv, self help books, and Oprah spin off shows its enough to make a girl wanna quit.

(throws list at Freak Out Shelf, runs for the hills screaming, burning ill-fitting Target bra on my way.)

 That could be the end of the story. We could all hide in the forest of feelings holding hands and rocking back in forth in a catatonic state until someone actually figures this all out. No? I'm the only one who likes to rock during panic attacks? Thankfully we have something more helpful than avoidance or escapism. We have Jesus. And he didn't give us a dress code, or a 5 step plan to thigh gap.

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
Psalm 139:14

 This reminds me that I can raise my daughters with hopefulness. And joy! Because they are wonderfully made by a super creative and expressive and colorful God. The shape of their cheeks and the twists in their hair, the timbre of their voice when they tell a great story, the flexing of their muscles when they climb a tree, the (eventual) wrinkles beside their eyes when they smile widely- all these things make the world we live in a more beautiful and interesting place. And they cause me to rejoice in my God. These are some of the things I want them to celebrate about their womanhood the most. And my prayer is that it too will cause them to worship the God that made them and find their worth and approval in Him alone who finds their worth imessurable. But these things are a lot more difficult to communicate. Its a lot easier to put a pink dress with ruffles on them, and a bow in their hair and say "oh you are SO PRETTY!"

Here's the tension that I live in: I am no philosopher, but just as an observer of my kind...we like to decorate ourselves. There is a wide variety in the way we as people and particularly women like to decorate ourselves- but its a thing. And while there are certainly perameters of propriety in regards to age, culture, etc...there's no reason to moralize things like: color. Or fabric. Or pattern. But we DO. All the time. We are constantly making concious and unconsious declarations about what is good or not good for girls to robe themselves in -even well outside the issue of modesty. So lets take a deep breath and look at the world around us. Look at bird feathers. Or water. Or a sunset. Look at the freaking human eyeball IT'S AMAZING. There is such a variety of expression of the beauty we see around us and yet we are all freaking out about the same Target T-shirt and what that says about our value as a woman.

So here's my present plan: I want to explore this big wide world of fashion, art, and accessorizing. And I'm going to do it with my older daughter. She's 3, but she already has a strong opinion about what she wears and an interest in make up. So we are going to go on scavenger hunts, and look and paint and fashion photography and play dress up and take pictures and just see what turns up in our imaginations. Then we will document our findings and share our thoughts with you. Hopefully on a regular basis.

Stay Tuned. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

On Food Righteousness and Generosity

I have to warn you. This post will not be written in list form. Nor will it contain any hyperbolic memes nor gifs of Benedict Cumberbatch sardonically tying his shoelaces. (although lets be honest, the latter probably makes any blog post better right?)

So if I've already lost your probably need to read more novels.

I would like to talk about food. I would like to talk about how talking about food, particularly on social media is STRESSING ME OUT. If I see one more article talking about how I'm poisoning my children unless I move to Canada and start letting woodland fairies bring me all I consume I will probably have a panic attack. Maybe I already have.

Its important what we put in our bodies. We are image bearers of our creator and our bodies are sacred places for his spirit, meant to be treated with care. Its important to understand how what we consume affects the economic welfare of farmers and the earth we call home. I'm thankful to live in a time where I have easy access to lots of research on how to take care of my body, and farmers and the earth and all its inhabitants. I'm glad to know who Monsanto is. I want myself and my loved ones (and the world at large really) to have the best quality of life possible and reduce health care costs and take care of the environment. I deeply care about all these things. And true talk? It has made me a little self righteous. It has made me turn my nose up at people in the McDonald's drive thru. It has made me speak with condesention to others when trying to share this elitist knowledge I posses about food. And its not ok.

For the whole first year of my daughter's life she was breast fed, ate no grains or sugars and was given a great variety of only organic fruits and vegetables. During her second year of life my husband had major back surgery that effected his ability to work and I got pregnant with our second daughter and our financial world sort of came crashing down. We could no longer afford to buy all the local organic foods we once did. In fact, we couldn't even buy enough fruits and vegetables to last thru the week if I didn't ration our portions or just choose not to eat any myself. The first few months I had a lot of anxiety over how our diet was forced to change. There was a lot of toast. And peanut butter. And peanut butter on toast and various combinations of the above. But you know what? Never once did we go hungry. Never once did I not have food to feed my family. We have eaten a lot of stuff we didn't necessarily want to, or that wasn't particularly healthy, but never in our lives have we experienced the pain of hunger. Much of that is due to the generosity of friends and family sharing meals with us. Were all those meals hormone and antibiotic free? Definitely not. Did some of them involve processed foods? Absolutely. But the Lord, very lovingly and very painfully rearranged my heart and taught me and my family gratitude and generosity. Even in a year of great hardship we have experienced so much generosity and had the opportunity to be generous. I hold onto what I have much more loosely. I don't feel the need to impress people with my culinary credentials.

I keep thinking about the apostle Paul and the culture clashing fires he had to keep putting out about food. And his were probably harder and more sensitive a topic because they involved food and religion interacting. He talks about it in I Corinthians 8.

1"Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know"

We think we're all experts on food. Paleo, Vegan, Westin Price, etc... And it puffs us up, and yet we don't know as we ought to know because the funny thing is we're lacking in the quality of omniscience. And in our quest to discover a "perfect" dietary dogma to adhere to we will continue to come up short because all is touched by the curse. Not even that 200 square mile patch in Canada where the fairies live is completely untainted. We all are gunna die regardless of whether we ate animals or not. Or saturated fats. Or chia seeds.

Back to the part about love building up... Certainly we can love people well by helping them live healthy lives. If you have a friend who eats Cheetos round the clock it would be totes loving to buy him a bag of apples. But sometimes our incomplete knowledge that we arrogantly forget is incomplete distracts us from serving/loving others well by opening our table to them without judgement. 

Are you passionate about food? Cook an awesome organic local fair trade meal and invite some poor college students to your house. Are you a poor college student who only has access to a microwave and a mini fridge? Grab an extra pack of Easy Mac and share it with somebody. Are you a Christian? Blessing people with a meal is one of the most significant ways you can share Christ's love. And just maybe, while we sit at a table together, a conversation will spring up organically (see what I did there?) about how if we all chipped in 5 dollars we can move in with the fairies in Canada.