Not picture perfect, but real

LogoOur culture has long bombarded us with unrealistic, unattainable and deeply problematic images of women. Pornography objectifies women and gives men a warped idea of love, sex, and relationship while advertising aimed at women creates poor self-image and leads to unhealthy behaviours including eating disorders. Sadly, social media has followed suit with online lives portraying unrealistic perfection in all walks of life including body image.

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Last week as I sat in my doctor’s waiting room, I picked up a magazine that reminded me of a post I wrote last year about a company that chose to use real women with “imperfect” bodies, women with visible stretch marks and cellulite, as models. The current issue of popular Canadian women’s magazine, Chatelaine, is a swimsuit edition with a difference. Unlike the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, which could legitimately be classified as soft porn, Chatelaine chose to use only unretouched photos of all the women who appeared in the latest issue, including those shown in the swimsuit feature. I admire the seven “Everywoman” models who were willing to be photographed in swimwear knowing that they would appear in print exactly as they really are.

Unfortunately, there are other women who are part of the problem. I realize that many of those who appear in porn are not there by choice. In fact, many of them are the victims of human trafficking, but that’s not true of those, including supermodels and female athletes, who have appeared in Sports Illustrated. When a male athlete appears on the cover, he’s dressed in performance gear, but a female athlete appears scantily clad. Why is that? Simply because, unlike the other issues of the magazine, the Swimsuit Edition isn’t about celebrating sport and it certainly isn’t about honouring women. It’s about making money. Plain and simple. That issue alone accounts for 10% of Sports Illustrated’s overall revenue. One out of every ten dollars comes from people paying to see nearly naked women. Are their bodies beautiful? Of course, they appear to be, but they aren’t genuine. Just like most of what we see in magazines, they’re taken by professional photographers using strategic lighting and filters and then edited to remove every imperfection. That’s why, according to the Dove Project #ShowUs, 70% of women don’t feel represented in the images that they see every day in media and advertising.

I truly appreciate the fashion bloggers that I follow who take their own photos or recruit friends or husbands to act as their photographers and who don’t then retouch the photos before publishing them. I’m committed to doing the same; to being authentic.

So, here are a couple of my own makeup free and totally unretouched swimsuit photos taken at Banff Upper Hot Springs earlier this week on a special outing with our oldest grandson.

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I know I’m pale, but that’s the real me, especially this summer when we’ve had so little sun!

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Jami’s special day

If you read my last post, you already know that we gave each of our two grandchildren who had birthdays in the spring a special day on their own with Gram and Grandpa instead of adding to the abundance of toys, games, and books that fill their home. Today was 9-year-old Jami-Lee’s day.

Jami is an animal lover, so our day started at Butterfield Acres petting farm on the outskirts of northwest Calgary. She was most excited about going for a pony ride and even though we thought that the single lap around a small track was a bit lame, she was delighted. So much so that Grandpa surprised her with a second ride before we left the farm!

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There were a wide variety of typical farm animals, but also a few more exotic ones like emus, llamas, peacocks, and even a yak.

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The baby goats were adorable and I think this is my favourite photo of the day.

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We also went for a tractor-pulled wagon ride and ate our picnic lunch in a tipi on the grounds. After finishing at Butterfield Acres early in the afternoon we drove about 15 minutes to Bowness Park, a beautiful 30-hectare urban park on the Bow River. There we rented a pedal boat and explored the lagoon where we’ve skated in the winter. Jami loved the duck families that shared the water with us.

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After treating her to a giant ice cream cone, we found cover and waited out a sudden rain shower before taking a ride on the miniature train.

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As the afternoon wound down, we went for a walk along the river. Rocky breakwaters at regular intervals slow the river’s flow and keep its banks from eroding. Jami decided that climbing the rocks would be fun, so we spent some time doing that and then found a playground.

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She still had enough energy left to swing like a monkey!

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Our day ended with a delicious dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory. I think both Jami-Lee and her brother would agree that spending time together and making memories were great birthday gifts! I hope we can do as well next year!

Drew’s special day

Our grandchildren have been blessed with an abundance of toys, games, and books so when two of them had birthdays this spring, we decided to be creative. Our gift to each of them was a special day on their own with Gram and Grandpa once school was out for the summer. Yesterday was 11-year-old Drew’s day.

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We left his Calgary home early in the morning and headed for Banff National Park where our day started with a hike in beautiful Johnson Canyon. Drew was beyond excited when we spotted a black bear crossing a hillside shortly before we arrived at the trailhead. The bear was too far away to get a good photo, but the entertaining little ground squirrels (like the one shown above) and red squirrels along the trail certainly weren’t!

Catwalks affixed to the limestone cliffs make the canyon easily accessible to everyone and the 1.1 km trail to the lower falls involves very little change in elevation.

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At the lower falls, a bridge crosses the creek allowing both an excellent spot from which to view the falls and access to a water-formed tunnel through the rock to a closer viewing platform.

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The crowd thinned out a little as we moved on toward the upper falls, another 1.5 km up the trail. Spectacular views continued to surround us as we climbed.

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We knew that the water level was much higher than when Richard and I did the same hike almost three years ago, but I didn’t realize how much until I compared photographs. Considering how much rain Alberta has been getting this season, I guess it shouldn’t be surprising.

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August 2016

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After reaching the spectacular upper falls, we stopped to enjoy our picnic lunch before continuing our adventure.

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As we started back down the trail Drew announced, “This is the best birthday present ever!” It was then that I realized that the day was as much a gift to ourselves as it was to him! It definitely filled my heart to overflowing.

In addition to the hike, Drew had been eagerly looking forward to relaxing in the Banff Upper Hot Springs. I love this photo of his “floating head”!

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After soaking our tired feet and muscles in the hot pool, we made a quick stop at the Bow Falls Viewpoint then ended our day with a delicious restaurant dinner and a browse through a few gift shops before bringing a very tired boy home!

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Tomorrow we have a completely different agenda planned for his 9-year-old sister’s special day.

Too busy for fashion!

LogoI haven’t had much time to think about fashion this week. In fact, I wore the same bright blue t-shirt every morning. It identified me as one of the volunteer staff at Vacation Bible School at our church. Every morning I’ve taken kids from kindergarten to grade 6 on Wild Bible Adventures, telling them the Old Testament Exodus story and teaching them about God’s goodness through interactive, experiential storytelling. I made 24 pounds of playdoh. I created the Red Sea and the Jordan River with sheets of blue plastic and other bits and pieces. I converted the kitchen door into the entrance to Pharoah’s palace and one of the church teens into Pharoah. I scrunched up bits of paper until my hands hurt making hail for the kids to throw at Pharoah. You can bet that they loved that part! It’s been fun and it’s been tiring and it reminded me that even after twelve years of retirement I still love teaching!

Yesterday was a particularly long day. Richard and I snuck out of VBS a bit early and drove two hours to the city to meet with my doctor and discuss possible options for dealing with Cancer #3. Once again, Dr W assured me that papillary thyroid cancer is usually slow-growing and non aggressive. After using ultrasound to determine that mine has not changed noticeably since he last looked at it three months ago, he suggested that simply monitoring it might be the best direction to go. I love the fact that he sees me as a whole person though and that he wanted me to have a part in the decision making process. He was perfectly willing to go ahead and schedule surgery if living with another, different cancerous growth was going to freak me out too much. Since I assured him that it wasn’t and that I trust his judgement, we’ve decided to leave it for the time being and look at it again in three months.

After running a few other errands in the city and stopping for supper on the way home, we were back at the church later in the evening setting up for our final day of VBS today.

So, since I really haven’t had time to write a proper fashion post this week, I’ll simply leave you with a thought provoking quote from French fashion designer, Coco Chanel, who passed away in 1971 at the age of 87, and next week I’ll do my best to get back to writing something more substantial!

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Do you agree? I’d love to know what you think.

Wardrobe building with neutrals

LogoTo an interior designer, neutral means without colour and is used to refer to shades of beige, ivory, and taupe as well as black, white, and grey. In fashion, we expand this list to include all those great colours that don’t compete with anything else; colours that can be worn with pretty much anything in the closet. No wardrobe is complete without them.

Earth tones including shades of brown, tan, olive and khaki can be added to our list of fashion neutrals as can navy blue. If you’re not sure about navy being a neutral, just ask yourself where most of us would be without blue jeans. One of the reasons for their popularity is the fact that a dark jean goes with absolutely everything. Like the other neutrals, they make getting dressed easy.

Just because neutrals can go with any other colours doesn’t mean that every fashion neutral looks good on every woman. It’s important to identify which ones work best with your colouring. For most of my life I hesitated to wear black or white, especially close to my face, because they washed me out. Instead, I gravitated toward the warmer earth tones. As I’ve aged and my hair has greyed, I can get away with wearing black and white, but when I do I still need to add a bit of colour near my face or amp up my makeup a bit. A bright lip helps a lot.

Metals including gold, silver, pewter, copper, and bronze are also considered fashion neutrals. They most often appear as jewelry, but they can also work their way into our wardrobes as other accessories such as shoes and handbags, and sometimes even as clothing for special occasions or holiday dressing.

Patterns that are made up of neutral colours are also considered neutrals in the fashion world. Animal prints in black, white, grey, brown, gold, or tan are a good example of this, but stripes, plaids, and geometric patterns can also work as neutrals.

Neutrals can be worn year round, though the lighter shades tend to be more common in summer and the darker ones in winter. Off-white, tan, beige, brown, olive or moss green, and dark navy are particularly on trend this season, but you can never go completely wrong with any neutral. They have the advantage of being timeless colours. Because they go so well with everything, they’re also great wardrobe multipliers allowing you to create many different outfit combinations. This makes them especially valuable for building a small but versatile travel wardrobe.

A good wardrobe building tip is to choose two or three neutral colours that you like and that look good on you and begin by collecting fashion basics in these colours. Wearing only neutrals is very conservative, perhaps even boring, so you’ll probably want to add some brighter colours to wear with them. Unless you have an unlimited clothing budget, though, it’s a good idea to spend the bulk of it on neutrals.

Eulogy virtues

Don’t worry, I’m not planning my funeral just yet!

Earlier this week I read a short devotional that really resonated with me. It quoted New York Times columnist, David Brooks, who said that there are two kinds of virtues: those that look good on a résumé and those you want mentioned at your funeral.

A résumé outlines educational qualifications, work experience, and pertinent skills. It points out a person’s strengths and outlines what they can do, but a eulogy describes what kind of person they were.

So what are those eulogy virtues? What do I want to be remembered for? More importantly, what character traits do I want to exhibit now in in my responses to what life throws my way and in my day to day interactions with people?

Colossians 3:12-14 immediately comes to mind. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love. I would add wisdom to that list. None of these would likely appear on my résumé, but if I’m successful at being the person I strive to be, perhaps they’ll be mentioned in my eulogy.

What virtues would you want to be remembered for?

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The China conundrum

LogoIf I was to empty my closet of every item that was made in China, there wouldn’t be much left. 70% of the clothing, shoes, and accessories that I’ve purchased in the last year and a half (since I started keeping track) were made in China. None were made here in Canada. Why is this a problem, or is it?

As I’ve mentioned before, I want to be an ethical shopper, but it isn’t easy. Until now, my concern with purchasing items that were made in China has been the fact that it’s very difficult, often impossible, to determine whether or not they were manufactured in factories that are socially and environmentally responsible or sweatshops where workers are exploited and forced to work in unsafe conditions. Quite a few of my clothes are purchased through direct sales as opposed to retail environments. In those cases, the stylists or vendors have assured me that they sell only ethically produced garments. I hope they’re right, but I haven’t found any way to verify that and having lived in China for a short while, I know that you can’t always believe what they tell the rest of the world.

Now I have another concern. Following Augustine isn’t meant to be a political blog, but Canada is increasingly at odds with China and I have to ask myself, should that affect my spending habits? Should I avoid purchasing more items that are made in China?

For those of you who are not Canadian or who haven’t been following the news, here’s a bit of background information. On December 1, Meng Wanzhou, an executive with the giant tech company, Huawei, was arrested in Canada at the request of U.S. authorities who want to try her on fraud charges. She’s currently under house arrest in one of her mansions in Vancouver awaiting extradition to the U.S. China immediately warned of repercussions and there have been a number of those. Days after Meng’s arrest China responded by detaining two Canadians and sentencing another to death. The men have not been allowed access to family members or lawyers while in custody. Since then, China has placed trade bans on key Canadian products including canola. On Tuesday of this week, the country announced that it would halt all meat exports from Canada. Our country is one of the world’s largest agricultural producers and our farmers depend on exports. Needless to say they are hit hard by these developments and some are urging Canadians to stop purchasing Chinese goods.

So, back to fashion. Obviously, I’m not going to stop wearing the items that I already have, but should I refuse to buy anything else that’s made in China? I’m sure that I, one lone Canadian, won’t make any difference in the big political picture, but should I support a country like China with my clothing dollars? That’s a very tough question!

What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinion.