…..only YOU can care for you. –Advice from my great grandma to my grandma Suzi.
While visiting my Grandma Suzi this Christmas, I got to thinking about how cool she is, and what interesting female progeny she has inspired…….3 generations of, kind, smart, zany, strong women with strange quirks and a real zest for life.
I decided to do an interview with 4 generations of women on my mothers side, on the topic of beauty. Just to see if I could get some golden wisdom about what brings the beautiful twinkle into the eyes of these women. I asked them each the same questions about beauty, inside and out……Where they find it, how they hold on to it, and what they learned from their own mothers about it.
You can set your clock by my mother’s look. What a sense of security we all extract from my Mother’s dependable, clearly defined appearance! –My mother Ann, on her mother Suzi.
Here is my grandma, Suzi VanderStoep, formerly Margaret Sue Hayne, age 90, born In Seattle, to Scottish and English parents, by way of Nova Scotia. Raised in Aberdeen, Washington. Like Kurt Cobain. Mother, daughter, sister, wife, teacher, general badass. (Sorry about the cuss word, g’ma. ) We call her Grape Grammie because as Marley puts it “She is wrinkled up like a beautiful grape.”
Here is my mother, Ann VanderStoep, age 64, born to Scottish, English, and Dutch parents in rural Chehalis Washington. Professer, author, sister, daughter, mother, former Jane Goodall chimp co-studier. General sun-lover, should have been born African woman.
Here is my older sister Brook Celia Barajas, age 34, born to Scottish, English, Dutch, and Norwegian parents in Seattle, Washington. Mother, daughter, wife, sister, friend, clay figure maker, studier of tiny things, cutting edge cancer biologist lady at Stanford in Palo Alto, CA.
And here is my oldest daughter Marley Mae Apple Ames, age 7 almost 8. Born to Scottish, English, Dutch, Norwegien, Irish parents in Fayetteville, AR, in an inflatable tub on the kitchen floor. Big sister, 2nd grader, karate kid master, maker of everything, idea factory think-tank, enthusiastic dreamer, manifester of magic in Seattle WA.
The Twinkle In Your Eyes
To what do you credit the lovely twinkle in your eyes?
Brook-I try to spend time finding reasons to be grateful. There are so many, and if I count a few every day, I can always find something to make my eyes twinkle. It might sound trite, but there really is a lot of joy in the world, and I try to see it.
Marley- Using my lovely voice.
(boy that’s no shit. The girl has the gift of gab)
I eat a lot of carrots. Making pillows….Without any help. Doing a fun project, start to finish. My eyes twinkle when I am being creative, I feel like an artist…..Making beautiful things. Once I woke up with a real Artist’s Eye! Everything I saw was a masterpiece!
I feel strong when I am doing karate, I love to ride my bike or scooter around Greenlake. I am generally awesome.
Ann- For the twinkling eyes, I credit an appreciation for the ironies of life, big and small. I like thinking of each of our lives, mine and yours, as a canvas with broad brushstrokes and colorful details. The twinkle comes from appreciating the aspects that are common to all canvases as well as the humorous, wonderous, annoying details that enliven and personalize each individual canvas.
My eyes twinkle in appreciation of the simplicity and complexity in our days and in the creatures with whom we cross paths. I love the spark of connection that can ignite between any two of us and the warm flame of enduring friendship and caring that keeps us close over time.
Suzi- Maybe it is listening to others and interest in a new topic- A curiousity to learn new things. I try to see beauty in the common things of life and seek joy and peace around. ( Thanks grandma, for passing that on to me, your Filth and Beauty granddaughter.)
What beauty advice or words for general grace and happiness would you like to give to the generation below you?
Brook- All it takes to be beautiful is to realize that you are beautiful.
Marley- Always stand up for what you believe in. Never give up. Be creative. Live a long life, if you can. Try to have a positive attitude. Try to smile a lot.
Ann- Get as much sun as possible! But don’t tell Brook that:)
MOM!!! You are not supposed to say that! remember? The sun will make you die! Your eldest daughter studies skin cancer, jeez. Thing is, though, I too am a reckless sun lover too. Hopefully, I will just end up with a body covered in beautiful protective moles like my mom.
Suzi- To feel beautiful? Take a walk outside rain or shine, breathing deeply. Get regular sleep. Different people seem to need different amounts of sleep, just make sure you keep it regular.
What beauty advice (or general advice that really sticks out) was given to you by your own mother?
Brook- My mom was a general vortex of beauty advice. I would say that she led by example, and really was so unconcerned with the outer parts of beauty and that is what made her so beautiful to me.
By osmosis, she taught me all about the beauty that comes from strength and confidence. Also she is the only one who ever really loved me for being such a furry mammal covered in body hair – I’m still trying to love that about myself the way she does.
Marley- Mom taught me that Beauty means strength. She taught me that my heart and brain believing in something enough can make it real, most of the time. But that you still have to work hard and take your time to do it right. And she taught me to braid my hair and that once you can do a regular braid, then you can start making up all kinds of other braids!
Ann- My mother’s guiding principle was, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” I have heard her repeat this mantra many times over the course of 60 years. For the first half of my life, I internalized it as a moral teaching, as if it was more holy or laudable to give than to receive.
I was to sanction “selfish” impulses and replace them with acts of other-directed generosity. In so far as I could do this, I’d get a higher grade or more brownie points. This is a tall order for a child, adolescent, and young adult.
A turning point came in my mid-adult years, I realized that giving didn’t mean self-denial, that giving was intrinsically rewarding. So instead of giving and receiving lying at opposite poles, they were, in fact, on the same side of the equation. “Blessing” meant rewarding to self and other. The whole was more than a sum of its parts.
Suzi- My mothers advice to me when I was busy raising 3 active children and a husband, and tending the house and yard was this “only YOU can care for you” No one else can tell you what your body needs so pay attention and be sure to care for your own needs.
What defines beauty to you, in a woman?
Brook- I seem to keep saying the same things, but as I grew up the women I always found the most beautiful were the women who felt beautiful. When a woman is not just comfortable with herself, but actually loves her body, not because other people tell her she should but because she enjoys being in her own skin, you can’t help but notice.
Ann- Radical self-acceptance, the willingness of a woman to take who she is and run with it, is awesomely beautiful! I find self-doubt to be sad and unattractive. Warmth exuding from eyes that reflect a keen appreciation of another is beautiful. As far as clothing and jewelry go, I like it when a woman puts it all together with humor that invokes a heartfelt laugh and a “Wow! I never would have thought of that…good eye, good instinct!”
My mother was tall, 3 inches taller than me. I gravitate towards tall women.
Suzi- Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.
What do you swear by, product-wise for your general beauty and health needs ?
Brook- Old Spice Pure Sport Deodorant. It’s the only deodorant that seems to work for me, plus it smells like sexy man. I love that musky man smell, and my husband isn’t into scented products, so I just cover myself in it instead. I have been using it for years, and I still love smelling it on my clothes.
Marley- I love my liquid soap. I mix soap and water in a ShamPHree bottle. I use soap that I make myself or soap my friend Kiki makes. I let it sit a while, and then give it a shake before I use it.
Like my mother, I used to apply Oil of Olay face cream daily. About 15 years ago my daughter told me that animal experimentation was part of production of OoO, so I switched brands. Applying a bit of face cream each morning is important.
Like my mother, I use Dial Soap. We both have pretty strong body odor, and we are both convinced that unscented Dial serves us well. I take a bath in the tub every morning. After applying Dial, I rub a wonderful, rich, lavender or verbena-smelling bar of soap all over. Yumm…makes me feel as if I am luxuriating and that I will bring pleasure to myself and others (particularly to my granddaughters!) throughout the day.
There is one perfume I love. I discovered it in 1978. It is called, “Je Reviens” and it comes from France, made by a perfumer called Worth. I can conjure up the smell in my mind’s eye. I wore it daily for 5 years or so. I haven’t worn it or any perfume in 25 years, but I still think of Je Reviens as “my perfume!”
I have been a shampoo chaser my whole adult life. I use one for a while (usually about ¾ of a bottle’s worth), and then it seems to “wear out” and leaves my hair limp. I’m then on to the next brand. What’s up with that? The beauty industry cranks out appealing sounding shampoos at a fast pace. I could never keep up at my 4 month/shampoo pace. So, although a bit curious, this habit is not stress-inducing.
Mom…..You know you could go ShamPHree right? But maybe that would be like admitting that Whole Milk is not the only key to having strong bones. Ha! gotcha. Let me know when you are ready and I willshow you the way.
Suzi- I use Oil of Olay lotion on my face because my daughter Jo supplies me with it. Our local drug store sold my lipstick, Revlon Persian Melon (no longer available!) Now my favorite is #575 (I LOVE that pink) but I can seldom find it!
I use Dial Soap, because I heard once that surgeons use it on the job.
Do you have any beauty routines that you stick with?
Brook- I feel beautiful when my body is strong. I do a lot of running, and if I can I swim or do a little yoga. After struggling for years with my body image, I have found that if I am fit and am taking good care of myself, I feel good in my body no matter what my weight or size.
Marley- I love to have my mom Rag Curl my hair at night. It is fun to look different sometimes by changing my hair. I like to play around with pretending to be different people by changing the way I look. It feels exciting. I like to braid my hair at night too, after a bath. It makes my hair all wavy.
Ann- As with my mother’s mantra, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” I have found great reward in healthy pattern that includes a restorative 7-8 hours of sleep every night, preferably riddled with thought-provoking dreams that I can remember, meals with lots of fresh raw vegetables, hearty breads slathered with creamy butter, and seafood, and a daily morning run at Green Lake! When I stay up too late, eat too much meat, miss a morning run, I don’t feel my best. And I love to feel alert and alive and ready to indulge in a meaningful, productive day. The taking care turns out to be more “blessed” than the not taking care.
I love to bathe in deepish pools in mountain streams, particularly where the bank is dappled in morning sunlight. Backpacking, I take a bit of soap and a ½ of a small towel and relish my refreshing daily “ablutions” where dust disappears, fingernails get cleaned, face and body relinquish the organic sleeping bag odors.
I pin curl my hair nightly. I don’t like to have it roll around my face when I sleep, and I love a little curl in my naturally straight hair.I had a few perms as a young woman, but I didn’t like them. They were the ones that attached you to a machine.
I only recently discovered the magic of having a good hairdresser. Although I seldom use their many services…just the chopped off hair cut…but I think lots of people benefit lots because they help their spirits.
I used to paint my nails but since I cook 3 meals a day and do dishes with steel wool, I had to give it up.
What are the most beautiful things to you about your mother, inside and out?
Brook- My mom has this wonderful combination of serenity and infectious enthusiasm and joy that makes her so incredibly beautiful. I feel like the serenity comes from having weathered so many painful and difficult things and realizing that she is strong enough to get through them, and the joy comes from never learning to fear those painful and difficult things still to come. So her appearance and personality have both exuberant youth and graceful age. To me that really sums up her inner and outer beauty.
Marley- My mother is very nice. I like her tattoos and her freckles. She is so strong, too!. She is so good at sewing! She is good at playing, she helps me with projects. She teaches me to be clever.
Ann- I love my mother’s outside. At 4 months shy of 90, her looks are 100% predictable..no radical or even minor changes from her becoming hairstyle, her sun kissed face, her natural fibre wools, cottons, linens.
I love my mother’s inside. She is strong in every way…physically, emotionally, intellectually. There is a wonderful irony about Suzi that absolutely delights and inspires me. While she has a strong, fixed opinion about everything, big and small, about which an opinion can be held (for example, she strongly dislikes sentences that end in prepositions), she will ALWAYS bend to meet up with a person she loves. . While she has strong loyalty to all of those zillions of opinions and preferences (i.e., Pringles potato chips are incontrovertibly better than Tim’s), her loyalty to all of the wild and disparate people she has spawned and chosen as friends is overriding.
Thank you too all the mothers, grandmothers, sisters and daughters out their for the gifts of beauty that they give.
Beauty, as we know, comes from inside first and foremost. This is the where the soul of beauty lives….The genuine laugh, the free, wild true-ness of us. This inner beauty is reflected through sparkle in our eyes.