**Sharing the triumphs and missteps in my journey towards a healthier physical, emotional and spiritual life.**
For the next few Weigh-in Wednesdays I'll be doing a book study of Hallie Lord's Style, Sex, and Substance: 10 Catholic Women Consider the Things that Really Matter . You can read comments for Chapter 1 here.
Book Discussion Part 2: Chapter 2 - "Style: Balance, Beauty and You" by Hallie Lord.
When I first saw that this chapter was about style, I immediately thought that I wouldn't get much out of it. After all, I pictured "Ms. Betty Beguiles" to be the epitome of a womanly wife - feminine, flirty (to her hubby, that is!) and godly, all dressed in a cute dress and heels. I think we all have our own little vision in our head of what a "stylish" wife should look like. Maybe we fit the image or maybe, like me, you seem far from it.
My Style (or lack of it) - As I was reading Hallie's chapter the first time around, I couldn't help but think back to how my style has developed over the years. I have always been...what did they call it...big boned...pretty plus...yeah, whatever they called it, I was not wearing the cute little outfits my skinny friends were wearing. As I got older I loved stylish clothes but was very limited to what I could find that fit me well. I think I compensated for it by becoming an expert at accessorizing - jewelry, handbags, shoes. Those things I could find without worrying about size.
Slowly I moved away from that, though, and the other day I was trying to figure out why. In my late teens and early twenties I started exploring more of the world. I grew up very naive and somewhat secluded. I made new friends who had a big influence on me and I fell away from God. My friends were either into dark clothing, tattoos and piercings (long before it became mainstream) or they were into skateboards and punk music. At that point my mode of dress was plaid shorts, converse shoes (or doc martens) and a band t-shirt. My favorite colors were navy blue, army green and brown. (Sounds a little military.) I would have rather died than go out in public in something pink or frilly! That slowly changed (as I mention later) but even after marrying I have always gravitated towards being more tomboy.
When I first started reading Hallie's blog I loved how she embraced her femininity without seeming "prissy." Over the last couple of years, I have finally let go of that more "tomboy" mentality. I still hate wearing dresses or skirts and run from any shoe that has a heel more than ½ an inch but I can now say my favorite colors are red, orange and yellow - bright and happy colors. I like wearing pink and buying things that are less boyish and more "cute." I have definitely been influenced by Hallie and her website Betty Beguiles.com and have learned to better embrace my feminine side.
Okay, enough of my thoughts about Hallie and style in general, now I'll comment on the book.
Conversion and the "New" You - The beginning topic reaffirms what was discussed by Jen in Chapter 1. Speaking of her own conversion and the need to change Hallie says:
"But, of course, giving up our identity isn't what [God] asks of us, is it? Yes, we are called to constant conversion. Yes, we are called to become more Christ-like. But we are not called to jettison our personalities and passions."
Again, God is reminding me that I am my own unique person. Daily conversion doesn't require me to erase who I am; rather, it takes the essence of me and makes it better. It reminds me of a saying that my mom always said, "God loves you just the way you are, but He also loves you too much to leave you that way." The Holy Spirit wants to guide us and mold us into incredible women of God but women of God with our own unique quirks and tastes. I picture it like walking through a garden. Some flowers are stately and regal roses. Some are delicate orchids. Some playful daisies. Some sturdy but cheerful sunflowers. Each flower is different but equally beautiful in its own way.
Does Modesty = Prairie Skirts? - Hallie makes an excellent point in sharing that sometimes we can mistake being "modest" for being "dowdy." I know that when I was younger and my parents came back to the faith and started really practicing it, they made a lot of changes in the house. This was the same time I went through my own conversion so I agreed to make drastic changes. It was not easy for me to go from wearing shorts and converse to wearing long prairie skirts and ridiculously large pocket tees. But we thought that was what God wanted. Thankfully, we came to realize that we don't have to go from one extreme to the other. There is a happy medium and although it may take a little work, a faithful Catholic can marry style and modesty together.
Confidence Booster - Hallie talks about makeover shows and the power of transformation. She says:
"She is the same person she always was, but her new physical appearance brings forth elements of herself that were hidden before -- elements that have the potential to effect change not only in her own life, but in the lives of all with whom she comes into contact."
That is so true! It can be something very simple or something drastic. I remember a year or two ago my sister came back from the hair salon and she looked fabulous. I was again complaining about my hair using such terms as "rat's nest" and "brillo pad." She laughed and said that we had basically the same type of hair and that I should get it professionally cut instead of using the kitchen sheers to hack off a couple inches every 6 months. I conceded but it wasn't easy.
I don't know why (and I laugh at it now) but I had the hardest time doing it. First I didn't know where to go. Second, I didn't want to spend the money. Third, I just felt stupid trying to fix myself up. (Maybe that was some of the tomboy residue in me.) Finally, I found a convenient place with a sweetheart of a stylist who understood my crazy, curly hair and I worked it into our budget to see her on a more regular basis. I remember coming out of the salon trying to remember when was the last time I actually loved my hair! I told that to Brian when I got home and he gave me that smile that men give their wives that says, "I don't get what the big deal is but if you are happy then I am happy too." Feeling good about yourself will definitely affect how you relate to yourself, your family and those around you.
Vanity of Vanities - Hallie gives some excellent points in regards to the difference between caring for yourself and getting caught up in vanity. Although I could not relate to her need to dress like June Cleaver (I break out in hives at the mere thought of wearing heels) I could definitely relate to the need to examine our motives. As women, I think this is especially important. Whether we are tomboys or divas, there is always the potential for doing things for the wrong reasons. Whether it is working out in the gym to the extreme so you will look hot in a two piece bikini at the beach. Or maybe it's putting on some extra makeup to impress the cute dad who frequents the same park or play group. Or maybe it's in the opposite direction and letting yourself look tired and frumpy so your husband won't make any physical advances at you that night. Okay, these examples may seem far fetched in our particular situations but we are all guilty of doing things for the wrong reasons and if we ask God he'll enlighten our hearts to let us know if we are on the right path or need a little work.
Balance - I love Hallie's explanation of having different seasons in our lives. For me the most trying season is with a newborn. On those days getting in a shower every other day was a cause for rejoicing. That would be what she calls a "survival season." (Now that the baby is one year old my season has eased up considerably.) I love this paragraph here:
"I think I understand balance better these days. It's a constant struggle as seasons of plenty and of want come and go, as hormones fluctuate, and as life throws new challenges in my direction. But this much I know: We women have got to find a way to be merciful toward ourselves without completely throwing in the towel; to surrender to the hard times while still fighting for our ideals; and to remain open to God's grace while accepting that sometimes that grace isn't going to look and feel how we might hope. So how do we do this? With a whole lot of prayer and a few good habits."
Perfectly stated. I also liked Hallie's recommendation of doing one small thing for yourself each day to boost our well being. On some days my treat is still to let Brian watch the kids so I can take an uninterrupted shower. Or it will be to drive to Costco all by myself with the radio blaring. Other times it is having a half hour to post on the blog and clear my head through writing. My biggest struggle is maintaining that balance. There will be days I give and give and give until I am about to lose it. Other times I rationalize that I need some "me time" and go on the internet only to find that two hours later I haven't done the laundry, washed the dishes, changed diapers or started dinner. So for me, I work on balancing getting my responsibilities done and still having a little break for myself.
A Healthier Me - Hallie stated:
"Every woman's physical needs are going to manifest themselves differently. At a bare minimum, though, we ought to be striving for four things: healthy eating, regular exercise, adequate rest, and occasional peaceful pampering."
This is the area I reeeally struggle with! It is hard to make time to exercise! Even this morning as I was getting the kids ready for school I kept arguing with myself that I should skip my exercise this morning because I have a,b,c,d,e,f,g... to accomplish before the day is over. Yet, I knew I had to keep exercise a priority and not automatically shove it under the bus. I was tired and wasn't in the mood but I persevered and got it done. As usual, I felt much better when I was done and somehow managed to still complete the other things I needed to do. (Or, at least came pretty darn close.) I am still struggling with the healthy eating but I am slowly making progress at making better choices. After all I used to consider ketchup and apple pie as two servings of fruits and vegetables. (Oops, did I just admit that out loud?) So I've come a long way but still have a longer way to go. But one step at a time. ;-)
Well, this took a little longer than I anticipated to write down but I am glad I did it. It helped me sort it out in my head. But the kids are now tugging at my feet so I better sign off. Have a great afternoon! (And xoxo to sweet Hallie. ;-)