Warrior of Diversity

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“Human diversity makes tolerance more than a virtue; it makes it a requirement for survival.” –Rene Dubos

“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one”
John Lennon, Imagine

“Whatever you are physically…male or female, strong or weak, ill or healthy–all those things matter less than what your heart contains. If you have the soul of a warrior, you are a warrior. All those other things, they are the glass that contains the lamp, but you are the light inside.”
Cassandra Clare

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It’s okay to be different.  It’s okay to be an individual.  It’s okay to be these things because there is no such thing as being completely the same as anyone else.  We all have similarities and things that we have in common with one another, but there are no two people on planet earth that are exactly the same.  Even identical twins have differences. We are, by nature of being human, very diverse. Each one of us is a complex combination of various traits.Yet, it seems deeply ingrained within humanity to attempt to categorize and label one another so that we know where each other fits within the puzzle of belonging. It tricks us into feeling safe and secure. I know who and what you are, therefore I know where I stand in relation to you.  Unfortunately, this always seems to result in an over simplification of one another and inevitably results in us deciding whether another human being belongs with us, or with them. We focus on the differences so emphatically which leads us to take sides, choose teams, we exclude, we ridicule and we reject, until we have separated ourselves from each other so efficiently, that we as people, loose the ability to see past the labels and categories to the essence of sameness that lies underneath.  The sameness, that is ultimately, our individuality and difference.  It’s a conundrum.  We are all different from each other in some way, yet our focusing on the differences instead of the similarities is what divides us and leads to separation at best and hate towards each other at worst.

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Let’s look at the past. If we look back throughout history to the beginning of humanity, we can see a pattern. People began living within small groups or communities with a basic set of rules and values that everyone agreed on and followed, until an individual had a different idea or opinion.  This created conflict within the group if one person, or a few people were not willing to conform.  Often, this led to that individual or individuals, being rejected by the community and they became outcasts.  Quite literally, they were kicked out, or they left of their own volition.  If their ideas were so different that no one agreed with them and went with them, they would often parish, and their ideas would parish along with them. If a few people agreed with them and were brave enough to leave the larger group, this led to the development of another separate community that represented new ideas.  This pattern has repeated over and over and over and created a diverse human civilization. When we look back at history, we can clearly see that the world is not the same as it was in the 1800’s, 1930’s, 1960’s, 1990’s, etc.  Every new generation has new ideas, new values and new dreams about how they want to the world to be.  If history has taught us anything, it is that the old ways die out and the new ways determine the future of humanity.  If you want to know where the world is going, whether you like it or not, look to the youth of your community. Look to the new ideas and values. Whether you agree with change and evolution or not, history has shown us that it is inevitable.

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When we look back at human evolution, it becomes clear where we got the idea that being different, or not conforming was bad. It often lead to conflict and separation.  It meant being rejected and having to survive on your own.  It meant having a tougher path and possibly death, yet we can also see how incredibly important it was to human development.  Each individual that challenged the status quo, lead to the evolution of the human race.  We now live in a time, where human diversity is so incredibly vast that it is becoming more and more difficult to label and categorize people. Yet, we still try our level best to continue doing so.  We sort other people constantly.  He/she is the same as me, he/she is different than me. Us and Them. Yet, it is almost impossible to know someone’s ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, political views, or basic values, just by looking at them. There were times in history where this was much more obvious and simpler to do, but it is far more challenging in today’s world. There are a few obvious exceptions of course, like clothing intended to signify someone’s religion, but generally speaking, we still make far too many assumptions about one another based on very little actual information. We also get very frustrated or even angry when we can’t easily put people into boxes, or if our assumptions based on appearance lead us to reprimand people for cultural appropriation, or mis-representation, without actually having the slightest clue what someone’s culture, life experience, or up-bringing has been.  Just when we think we have someone pegged, they surprise us with something we never knew about them.  For example, most people don’t know, that I have at least six different ethnicities in my heritage, one of which is Mi’kmaq (First Nations people indigenous to Canada’s Maritime Provinces).  You may just see a white girl with naturally blonde hair and blue eyes, and an Irish name.  The truth is, I am much more diverse than that.  I have also been asked on many occasions if I am Scandinavian because of how I look.  I have a diverse heritage, but Scandinavian, the ethnicity I apparently look the most like, isn’t part of it. Funny now, that I married someone who is partly Scandinavian, and so now my children are, so it has become part of my family’s culture. My story, is a common story, especially in Canada, and it is becoming more and more common with the globalization and integration of many cultures, religions, ethnicities, etc.  Inter-racial marriage, adoption, mixed families through marriages, not to mention all the people who live and raise their families within a culture that is not their culture of origin. Our ancestors fought for generations to allow the diversity and integration that is now common, to become socially acceptable. Lest we forget how it used to be, and the intolerance that previous generations had to endure.

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So, I ask myself, given the state of the world, what if we are at a tipping point in humanity, where a pattern that existed to focus on the differences between people in order to sort and separate for the sake of creating human diversity, is no longer in our best interest for our evolution?  What if, we have become so diverse and so separate now, that the only way for us to evolve further is to switch our focus to the sameness and oneness that is humanity?  What if carrying on in the same manner as we have been with a population as large and diverse as it currently is, will only lead us towards conflict and self destruction? I mean, how separate can we possibly get before it all falls apart? History has shown us again and again that too much separation makes us vulnerable. We know innately that we are stronger together, and I can’t help but notice that a shift in much of society has been occurring.  A shift towards inclusion and tolerance and in the allowing of each individual to just exist without a constant need to label them. This shift becomes quite obvious when you listen to the youth.

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To see just how complicated the world has become, just watch people ordering a coffee at Starbucks or buying a pair of jeans, there are so many options now, it’s overwhelming.  It is also overwhelming to try to constantly put people in boxes.  Gay? Straight? Bi? Male? Female? Trans-Gender? Religion? Ethnicity? Culture? Age? Liberal? Conservative? Rich? Poor?  AHHHHHHHHH?!!! Let’s not even get started on all the sub-cultures, sub-religions, etc. The diversity makes some people so frustrated, that they flatly refuse to even acknowledge some of the diversities that exist. They can’t even process more categories so they simply say, “There is male and female, that is all!  Blue and Pink.  End of story.” Well, here’s another perspective. If the complex diversity of people makes you feel threatened, or confused and overwhelmed so much so that you don’t even want to acknowledge it’s very real existence, why not stop trying so damn hard to label and categorize everyone, and just see other people as human beings instead? Admit it, trying to figure everyone out and sorting them into boxes gives us anxiety. So, let’s stop! Ask yourself, what is the point?  Why spend your time and energy doing that? To what end, and for what purpose? Why not take a load off of yourself and surrender to the simple fact that we are all Humans? We all live on planet earth, we all have a heartbeat, we all come from a woman’s body, we all have families and friends, we all feel love and fear and a multitude of emotions.We all breath air and look up at the same starry sky.  The sun rises and sets on all of us and we all move through our lives within the same 24 hours per day. We all are born, we live life and we die. We are also, each and every one of us, complex and diverse individuals.  This too, makes us the same.  We are one people. One race.  The Human Race, and our diversity is our strength.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

VINTAGE & THRIFTED FASHION: Fur hat, fur coat, mukluks, military-style cropped jacket, leopard print skirt, necklace, belts and rings.

CURRENT FASHION: tie-dye tights and faux septum ring from Urban Waves Winnipeg,  black military-style coat by Ralph Lauren.

Paris in The Prairies

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“She gave up on life as she knew it
to find life as it should be known…”

Niki Trosky (Winnipeg Author, from her book Love Life)

“Our life is composed greatly from dreams, from the unconscious, and they must be brought into connection with action. They must be woven together.” –  Anais Nin

“As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” – Amy Poehler

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About a year ago, I was having coffee with my Grandma and telling her about my frustrations and how I impatient I was feeling about life. Things weren’t happening quickly enough for me.  I wanted to be where I wanted to be already, I was tired of how it was, and I wanted change…now.  She smiled in that coy knowing way that Grandma’s sometimes do and said “bloom where you’re planted.”  When you are as impatient as I was at that particular moment, that statement is as irritating as nails on a chalkboard, but it was truth at it’s purest and so it sunk deep into my thick irritable skull for later when I was ready to receive the message.  It took a while, but I kept turning the phrase over and over again in my mind trying to grapple with what it really meant.

As we begin a New Year, I think I understand it’s meaning, not in the intellectual way I originally did, but in how to apply it practically to my life .  It resonates with me as a message to stop living in the future and be present.  To slow down mentally and stop looking for the greener grass somewhere else. To open your eyes to the beauty and opportunity and joyful moments happening right where you are and revel in them, for one day, they will be gone, forever.  We tend to be so trained by society to be goal oriented and focussed on our future ambitions that life is quite literally passing us by while we are dreaming of something bigger and better.  I am as guilty of that as anyone.  Dreaming big and having rich desires and hopes for the future is good, and healthy, and normal, but being so focussed on the star you are reaching for that you fail to realize you are up in the cosmos and really need to be present in this moment, with these people, in this situation, is a kind of tragedy.  This is what they mean when they say “don’t dream your life away!”.  Not that you should not dream, or that dreaming is a waste of time, but that you should not allow your dreams for the future to rob you of your present.  Life is happening now, and now is all there is.  Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never exist.

Necessity has had me firmly planted in the role of Mother and homemaker over the last few years and it’s been too easy to isolate myself and become too comfortable being alone and doing things independently. My shift in focus to my passion for fashion styling and now blogging has re-ignited my desire to connect with people, collaborate and be a part of a rich community of like-minded people.  Blooming where you’re planted as a creative person is not a difficult thing to do when you live in a city that is overflowing with artistic people.  Winnipeg has such a rich and diverse culture of music, art, dance, writers and fashion, that there is always something interesting to do and be a part of.  Even better than that, we are known as an extremely “friendly” city. This may seem silly or insignificant to some, but to someone like me who is looking to connect with people and collaborate, being surrounded by friendly, open and kind individuals who are more than willing to open their arms and hearts to you is such an incredible relief and also incredibly inspiring.  Not to mention that this is just the kind of positive and open attitude that gets shit done.  Inclusion not exclusivity.  Collaboration, not competition.

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I’m in love with Winnipeg and all the people here that inspire me every day! I have been incredibly blessed to have met and worked with so many skilled and talented people already it’s baffling.  And there are so many of you I haven’t even met yet, but I want to!  I’m so excited to meet you and create something together, and I’m not embarrassed or afraid to look silly by admitting that. I want to make cool shit! Not pretend that I’m too cool to approach you and too chill to get super excited about sharing inspiring ideas with you.  There are so many opportunities to co-create that have yet to manifest.  It’s a very exciting time to be alive!  The world is starting to figure out that we are so much better and stronger together and our reach is so much further and more potent when we can put fear and ego aside and realize that success for one of us is ultimately success for all of us in the same creative world.  A high tide raises all boats.  We can raise the tide together much more effectively and for the greater good if we work together, support one another and cheer each other on.

So, if you see me in the street, or at a coffee shop or an event, come and say hi!  If you have a great idea for a collaboration, let me know, whether we know each other or not. I don’t bite, and if you tell me you read my blog, my mind will undoubtedly be blown because I’m still flabbergasted when anyone I don’t know tells me they read my blog. Ultimately, if you have creative ideas that will improve the city that we live in, or the industry that artists work in, I’m in your corner.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams.  Hair cut and colour by Kitty of Berns & Black

VINTAGE FASHION: Chinese silk jacket from Ruby Slipper Vintage

NEW FASHION: Grey Triat Coat by Lennard Taylor (it’s impossible not to look chic in this universally flattering coat!); Black beret and skinny scarf from the Haberdashery (Winnipeg, if you need a hat, this is the place!); Black booties by A.S. 98 from Rooster Shoes (you won’t find this quality of shoes or diversity of unique styles anywhere else in Winnipeg); Faux leather pants, striped shirt, and fringe bag from H&M.

COFFEE: Parlour Coffee

Merry Little Christmas

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Santa Claus Is Back In Town

Well, it’s Christmas time pretty baby
And the snow is falling on the ground
Well, it’s Christmas time pretty baby
And the snow is falling down
Well you be a real good little girl
Santa Claus is back in town
Got no sleigh with reindeer
No sack on my back
You’re gonna see me comin’ in a big black caddilac

-Elvis Presley

This was my favourite Christmas song growing up. No really, it was!  I listened to it over and over and over again.  It may in fact have been the first time I was exposed to old-school rock and roll, and it blew my mind. You really have to listen to it to appreciate it’s magic, because the lyrics leave something to be desired.  Full on rock and roll, groovy Christmas, with some subtle sexiness on the side (which Elvis did oh so well), oh and an amazing jazz piano solo.  Now I rock out to it with my own kids. Tradition.  It is not something I would have guessed would become so important to me, but it is.

Christmas means different things to different people. During a really difficult time in my life when I was at the tender age of 20 and planning to move out on my own for the first time, I really started thinking about what the holidays really meant to me.  It was a tumultuous time on my Mother’s side of the family with an immense amount of change being imposed on me and for the first time in my life, I was an adult, living on my own, paying my own way, and I was in a position for the first time ever in my life to choose for myself what I wanted. So, out of a really difficult situation that hurt me deeply and left me feeling really alone, came a really wonderful opportunity (as often happens).  The opportunity to really do some soul searching and decide who I was and what I believed in and valued. I was extremely fortunate to have a really solid group of friends around me and my then boyfriend who was later to become my husband and partner for life.

After digging into my own heart for answers, I realized that what hurt the most about everything I was going through with my family was the loss of history and tradition.  I realized that the real glue that holds a family together are the things that we repeat. Our rituals. We have all kinds of new experiences every day, but tradition allows for a regular check-in on our roots and they become the milestones for the passage of time.  All you have to do is look back at old photos.  Before the era of smart phones, people only pulled out their cameras during special occasions (a.k.a. traditions).  Most of my childhood photos were from Christmas, Easter, Summer Holidays and Birthdays.  Our traditions are our culture. It is the fabric that holds us together.  It is the music we listen to, the food we eat, the sayings and expressions we say, and all the rituals we carry out together in bond.

So, I started over.  I began again from scratch and I built my own traditions.  I dug in my own roots, deep and wide, and made my own glue, thick and strong.   At first, Gregory (then my boyfriend) thought it was all a little too much.  I insisted that we go and get a real Christmas tree on the first weekend of December, every year without fail.  I made sure we blasted Christmas carols in the car on the way.  I decorated every square inch of our apartment and made a Christmas list of all my favourite classic Christmas tunes, which I played constantly until New Years.  I trekked down to the other end of the city every year to get fresh  perogies made by local Ukrainian ladies.   I learned how to make a turkey and wrap gifts like a champ. I was an epically annoying Christmas elf that Gregory learned to tolerate!  Then we had children.  Then, Gregory got it!  I had been nesting.  Digging in the roots and building a strong foundation of tradition.  When he saw how much joy they got out of it, and how much more magic was created by their knowing expectation of all the fun and magical rituals that were awaiting them as the holiday season approached, he understood. It’s about belonging.  When you know the rituals and are part of the traditions, you belong, and the bond is strengthened. This was what I was building.  Every year, my sons know what to expect and we all take comfort in the traditions that bring us together and strengthen our connection.  We drink eggnog, sing carols and decorate the tree.  We eat together, we laugh together and we build memories together.  So, what does Christmas mean to me?  Christmas is about traditions that stand the test of time and ride the waves of change unscathed.

Merry Christmas everyone and the most joyful and prosperous New Year from our family to yours!

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams.  Hair cut and colour by Kitty from Berns & Black

VINTAGE: Shoes from Buffalo Exchange, Beret from Ruby Slipper Vintage, Blouse from Value Village Thrift.

NEW FASHION: This incredibly adorable and insanely perfect for the holidays Velvet Colorblock Mini Dress by Tony Chestnut Design (An amazing Winnipeg designer who is rocking my world these days! You need to check out her work!) Knee-high socks by American Apparel.

Be a Queen

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“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” –  Oprah Winfrey

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You’re the type of woman a man should never let go of

you’re the type of woman men regret losing

nothing about you is ordinary

choose someone who knows this…

never settle for less than you are…

– r.h. sin

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She has the mindset of a Queen and the heart of a warrior

she is everything all at once

and too much for anyone who doesn’t deserve her

she is you

-r.h. sin

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Being a Queen is a state of mind. It’s about hearing all the noise around you; the opinions, the criticisms, the suggestions, and considering them all without allowing them to sway your truths and values, or rattling your core.  A Queen makes difficult decisions every day and understands the flow of give and take to maintain balance and order.  A Queen knows that she is ultimately alone and responsible for her own happiness, and at the same time she is a part of everything and everyone. A Queen knows her worth and holds herself in high regard so that others may do the same. She understands that a deep respect for herself and unwavering values commands the same from others.  She is all women.  She is maiden, lover, mother and matriarch.  She is goddess, and servant, and witch and warrior.  She is your screams and tears and fear and anger.  She is your love and compassion and tenderness and joy.  Through all things, she is serene.  Although the depths of her heart may rage and churn like angry waters through all that she must do, and the choices she must make, the surface of her soul stays calm and clear like glass.  She does not shatter.  She is strength and peace personified.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams.  Hair cut and colour by Kitty Berns of Berns & Black.

VINTAGE FASHION: fur hat, wool coat, fur stole and boots all from The Ruby Slipper Vintage Shoppe.  Purple sari from Value Village Thrift.

NEW FASHION: Indian mirrored vest and tunic top from Shakti, layered necklace (VEGAS & MAX) from Mirina Collections (USE CODE: “tara” at checkout when you purchase anything from the site and receive 20% OFF!!!)

 

The 90’s Influence

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“The duty of youth is to challenge corruption.” –Kurt Cobain, Nirvana

“Just A Girl”

Take this pink ribbon off my eyes
I’m exposed and it’s no big surprise
Don’t you think I know exactly where I stand
This world is forcing me to hold your hand

‘Cause I’m just a girl, a little ‘ol me
Well don’t let me out of your sight
Oh I’m just a girl, all pretty and petite
So don’t let me have any rights

Oh…I’ve had it up to here!

The moment that I step outside
So many reasons for me to run and hide
I can’t do the little things I hold so dear
‘Cause it’s all those little things that I fear

‘Cause I’m just a girl I’d rather not be
‘Cause they won’t let me drive late at night
Oh I’m just a girl, guess I’m some kind of freak
‘Cause they all sit and stare with their eyes

Oh I’m just a girl, take a good look at me
Just your typical prototype

Oh…I’ve had it up to here!

Oh…am I making myself clear?

I’m just a girl
I’m just a girl in the world…
That’s all that you’ll let me be!

I’m just a girl, living in captivity
Your rule of thumb makes me worry some
I’m just a girl, what’s my destiny?
What I’ve succumbed to is making me numb

Oh I’m just a girl, my apologies
What I’ve become is so burdensome
Oh I’m just a girl, lucky me
Twiddle-dum there’s no comparison

Oh…I’ve had it up to!
Oh…I’ve had it up to!
Oh…I’ve had it up to here!

No Doubt, Gwen Stephani 

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I was a teen of the 90’s.  I went through puberty; graduated high school; used the internet for the first time; fell in love (twice), and moved out on my own.  I went through some of the biggest and most informative changes of my life during that decade.  The 90’s left a significant mark on my character and it still resonates with me today in 2016.

It was in the 90’s that I accepted my interest in fashion and style as a legitimate part of who I was.  I cared about it, and I put time and energy into it. If I wanted something I couldn’t afford, or it seemed unavailable to me (remember this was before on-line shopping), I bought second hand and altered it, or sewed it from scratch. I laugh now to think of what a strange experience it must have been for my parents to have a teenage daughter during the 90’s grunge era.  I imagine it must have been a combination of relief at the blatant lack of overt sexuality being displayed in the popular youth fashion of the time, and a touch of horror at my shabby, oversized, somewhat masculine style sense. Not to mention the very cheap price tag that went along with my almost entirely vintage wardrobe, which would be a relief to any parent. My style fell somewhere between your Grandpa’s closet in the 70’s, and Kurt Cobain’s, with an ever so tiny sprinkling of Charlie’s Angels. There were a lot of chords, bell bottoms, ripped jeans, 70’s big-collered button-downs and my most favourite pair of army pants bought at the local Army Surplus store.  I later regretted trading those beloved pants to my friend Ian, for his tie-dye sarong scarf. Although I do still have and use that scarf today.  Hey Ian, if your reading this, I want my pants back!

I jokingly laugh with my Husband and our male friends now about how they were ripped-off at the lack of skin and female bodies being put on display during their teenage years and twenties. The truth is, we all know how good it was for us in reality. The following generation of Brittany Spears/Christina Aguillera look-alikes made that abundantly clear to us. I feel lucky that I became a woman at a time in history when popular youth culture wasn’t embracing overt sexuality in women’s fashion.  That experience powerfully informed my opinions of how sexuality and the female body is displayed in fashion and it comes through in my taste now and how I dress myself daily.  I wasn’t even conciously aware of my tendency towards modesty in my style until another fashion blogger Miss Mellalina wanted to feature me on her blog as an example of a modest fashionista.  It was an interesting realization. My style is definitely bold and out-there, but it’s not overtly sexual. It’s true that most of the outfits I put together cover up most of my skin and don’t show off too much of my body.  Any skin I do show is typically a result of contextual function (e.g. wearing a bathing suit at the beach or cabin, shorts in the summer), or it’s balanced by a very contrasting counter-style (e.g. plunging neckline paired with oversized men’s trousers or all other skin completely covered up).

That said, I am fully aware of the effect that showing off even the tiniest portion of my body has had on my viewers.  Don’t think I didn’t notice the significant increase in the amount of attention my last blog post got for it’s slightly more provocative nature. It’s both totally predictable and yet completely astounding to me, the effect that a plunging neckline and seeing nipples through a top can have on people.  My likes, comments, and general traffic on all my social media accounts increased instantly and substantially.  Hmmm.  What does that say about us as a society?  It certainly shows why there are so many women and girls showing off their bodies and being provocative and seductive on social media.  The world has told us quite clearly and effectively that that is what it likes and wants, so that is what they keep giving to us. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly appreciate every like and comment that I get, but, here’s the thing,  you won’t see me posting any overt ass or boob shots on the internet simply for more “likes”.  You can be sure that the well established grunge era influence on me will be ever present in my choices to display my body.  Everything I do with fashion, I do for a reason and I can guarantee that if sexuality shows up in my posts, it will be to tell a story or express an idea or as an intentional art piece.  I have no intention of using my sexuality to get attention or gain more followers. The truth is, in my opinion, it’s too easy, superficial, and boring.  It’s also being done to death!  Not to mention it leads too many women down the path of attaching too much value to their physical appearance and then losing their self-worth in their later years, when showing off their bodies no longer gets the attention it once did. Hollywood’s substantial list of women over 35 who have had botox or plastic surgery is proof of that. Now, does that mean that my social media climb will be longer?  Likely.  Does it mean that the followers I do get will be more genuine? Indeed.

As a women who is approaching her 40’s now, I’ve lived some life, explored my sexuality and it’s effect, and I’ve been lucky enough to land in a place of self-worth and confidence that holds me true to my values without compromise.  If you ever find yourself in a place where you are allowing society to define who you are or what you have to offer, take a moment and determine if what others are saying they want from you is in line with what you want from yourself.  If your opinion doesn’t match theirs, I implore you to choose yourself over them. Our current focus on instant gratification, external approval and quick fixes has driven so many down a path that is not sustainable or satisfying in the long term.  In the end, what you create will be for others, at your expense. Gwen Stephani’s lyrics still resonate today as if it was still 1995…

“I’m just a girl, living in captivity
Your rule of thumb makes me worry some
I’m just a girl, what’s my destiny?
What I’ve succumbed to is making me numb”

If you stay true to yourself, you are patient, and you don’t succumb to society’s rule of thumb, you will find that there are many others who share the same values and tastes as you and they will find you, stick with you and help you to achieve the things that are important to you, because they are important to them too.  Everybody wins, no compromise.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

THRIFTED FASHION: Jeans (altered by me), militarty/faux leather sleeve jacket (altered by me with addition of ethnic textiles).

CURRENT FASHION: Hat and purse by H&M, sequin skirt and plaid shirt by Forever 21, boots by Dr. Martens, faux septum ring from Urban Waves Winnipeg.

Let Fashion Transform You

“Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.” —Bill Cunningham

“Fashion is what you’re offered four times a year by designers. And style is what you choose.” —Lauren Hutton

“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” —Rachel Zoe

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn”
― Orson Welles

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One of the most satisfying things about fashion, is how it enables us to transform ourselves over and over again.  In a chameleon-like way, we can express all the different sides of our personality by shining a spot-light on a specific part of ourselves through the clothes we choose to put on.  We can visit different eras in history and through styling the fashions of the time, we get a taste of the energy of that time and get to experience the feeling of that moment in history. We can also mix and match eras with our fashion and create a new energy and feeling that is all our own, or try on a lifestyle we don’t have just to see how it might feel. The clothes we wear can also allow us ease in manoeuvring through the variety of places, people, and circumstances we find ourselves in. I have found that my ability to adapt my style to the company I’m keeping, places I visit, or events I attend has been invaluable to me, and it’s also half the fun! Fashion allows us to wear our feelings on the outside if we want to, or to change our mood when we start the day in a funk and want to turn that around.

You can almost always tell how I am feeling or what type of mood I am in by what I’m wearing.  The process of getting dressed in the morning is so much more than just covering my body with coordinated clothing.  It is about tuning into how I’m feeling, or how I’d like to feel, checking in with myself and becoming aware of what traits of mine are feeling amplified.  I dress to the dominant characteristics that come through with the mood I’m in each day.  Some days I’m subdued and all I want is comfort and ease.  Some days spike heels and a push-up bra feel like my second skin. Sometimes I’m wacky and contrasting because I’m feeling artistic or counter culture.  Some days I’m just in jeans and a t-shirt, although admittedly, this is pretty rare for me. Some days I like to push the bar with a provacative attitude that says, “just try and question me on this look!  I dare you!”

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I think that it’s important for people not to get too attached to a specific style or look that they identify with, or they may begin to feel uncomfortable when they aren’t wearing it.  What I mean to say is, are you wearing your clothes or are your clothes wearing you?  Is your comfort so tied to the style you’ve adopted that you are no longer expressing certain sides of yourself?  Is your inner vamp being stifled by your black skinny jeans and t-shirt?  Are you afraid of colour or contrast because you are afraid you’ll attract too much attention to yourself? Are you becoming less adventurous in life because every time you go out you wear your little black dress instead of trying something new?  Does our lack of adventurousness in life cause a lack of adventurousness in our style, or is it the other way around?  Hmmm.  I would hazard a guess that if you took more chances with your style, it would positively impact your life.  I’m going to take the plunge and even suggest that being more adventurous and allowing your style to better reflect your feelings on a daily basis would have a dramatic positive effect on how you feel about yourself and that it will translate into a more positive life experience.  The clothes you choose to put on every morning can empower you tremendously and transform your life, or they can drain you and sap you of your motivation.  You have to admit that you feel exceptionally different in sweat pants and a hoodie than you do in a dress and heels, and I’m not talking about physical comfort.  I’m talking about the energy created by how you feel about yourself in one look versus another.  One of these looks leads to adventure and who knows what, and the other leads to Netflix and chips.

Sometimes you just need to push your own boundaries and step outside of your comfort zone. Even the simple addition of a scarf or other accessories to a very basic outfit can be an incredible energetic mood boost. Each one of us is made up of all kinds of personality traits, and moods that are equally a part of us.  If you aren’t already, I strongly urge you to play with your style and express some of those sides of yourself, if for no other reason than just to have FUN!  That is what fashion and style is really all about in the end.  It’s not meant to be intimidating and serious.  It’s about creation and exploration and self expression at it’s core.  It’s a tool.  It’s the paint and your body is the canvas.  Have some fun, get creative and let those hidden sides of yourself shine forth. It’s so simple, yet so incredibly liberating!

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

THRIFTED FASHION: Traditional Scottish wool plaid skirt from Ruby Slipper, Boots from The Goodwill Store.

MODERN FASHION:Gold body suit and tights by American Apparel, feather earrings from The Haberdashery

VINTAGE: Faux fur leopard print jacket

 

 

The Spectre of Self

Spec*tre

a ghost.

  • something widely feared as a possible unpleasant or dangerous occurance

e.g. “the spectre of war”

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“We all have a social mask, right? We put it on, we go out, put our best foot forward, our best image. But behind that social mask is a personal truth, what we really, really believe about who we are and what we’re capable of.” – Phil McGraw

“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask.” – Jim Morrison

It can be the most difficult thing in the world to honestly be yourself.  Being who we truly are begins to be socialized out of us in early childhood.  We learn how to please others because we are taught that pleasing others is more important than pleasing ourselves.  We are taught that we are better people if we put ourselves aside and present to the world what the world wants us to be.  We learn how to wear masks to suite the people, places and situations in our lives.  We learn that being ourselves can be excruciatingly painful, because being ourselves makes us vulnerable.  If they see our true colours, they can criticize us, laugh at us, or reject us.  We are social creatures, so we begin to believe that fitting in and being the same is safer and more comfortable. The truth is, it causes more damage to us and those around us than being ourselves ever will.  When we are our truest selves we have so much more to offer the world that only we can give.  Wearing masks to protect our vulnerability dims the powerful light that is within each of us and weakens our ability to let it out and benefit the world.

So we suppress our truest spirit.  We put on a brave face when we are scared, a happy face when we are sad, an agreeable face when we are angry.  We pretend that we like things that we don’t, we compromise when we are fundamentally opposed to something that’s important to us, and we tell ourselves that we are being nice, and keeping the peace.  We wouldn’t want to rock the boat now would we?  But is it actually being nice and keeping the peace, or are we just trading the potential conflict with others with a very real and very immediate conflict within ourselves?  We are so afraid of what others might think of us, that we have given them all the power and have placed more significance on what they think than what we think of ourselves, and it slowly eats at our spirit.  In reality, we end up more lonely, isolated and insignificant by letting that fear rule us, than we would be if we just allowed ourselves to be authentic.

I am not saying that we should all air our dirty laundry, or go around telling everyone the details of our exceptionally crappy day when they ask how we are.  You can be real without being negative, complaining or wallowing in self pity. You can look your unhappiness or discomfort in the face, admit to it, talk to a friend or loved-one about it and then, put your energy into a solution. I do believe in the power of positivity.  I do believe in looking for the good in all situations, and I do believe in compromise for the greater good.  I don’t however, believe that these things should be done when they are in direct conflict with your truest self.  If the foot you put forward for the world to see requires you to lie to yourself about who you are and how you really feel, you do the world a great dis-service.

It’s time to throw off the veil.  Time to come out of the shadows and let the world see you.  Time to take off all the different masks we wear and be brave enough to look criticism and conflict in the eye and realize that avoiding it is not more important and less painful than being honest with yourself and finding your true place in the world.  The world needs you.  The authentic you.  The most beautiful part of this is that all we really want is love and belonging and the more of us that throw off the veil, the more authentic people there will be in the world to have real and meaningful relationships with.  The more we allow ourselves to be known, the more we allow others to be known.  Freedom and authenticity are contagious.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

MODELS, HAIR & MAKEUP: Leanne Sanders and Tara Cole-McCaffrey

STYLING: Patron of Dreams

VINTAGE: White dresses, shawls and scarves from The Goodwill Store in Winnipeg

CRYSTALS and STONES: Shakti in Winnipeg

HOBO CHIC

Down around the corner
A half a mile from here
You see them old trains runnin’
And you watch them disappear
Without love
Where would you be now
Without love…

Where pistons keep on churnin’
And the wheels go ’round and ’round
And the steel rails are cold and hard
For the miles that they go down
Without love
Where would you be right now
Without love
Where would you be now

-The Doobie Brothers, Long Train Runnin 

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“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” -John Steinbeck

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Each and every one of us is on a journey.  A journey away from where we have been, towards some kind of unknown future.  In this we are the same.  No matter how organized, well intentioned or thoughtful you are about planning the course you want your life to take, the truth is none of us really knows how our life will unfold.  We have plans, wishes, desires, dreams and many of us have plotted out a course to achieve all those things. But life often has a different idea about where you’re going doesn’t it?  Life seems to direct us all over the map, throwing up obstacles and curve balls and even sending us in what appears to be the opposite direction from our goals.

When I was in my 20’s, I had my life very clearly planned out. In fact, most of it was set out in my mind as a teenager. I was more than a little bit Type A and a bit of an over-achiever, but still far from a perfectionist thank goodness. I knew what I wanted and I was adamant that I be one of those people that accomplished everything that they set out to do, instead of someone who just talks about things but never gets around to doing them.  The truth is, I was rather effective with this approach to life.  I fell in love, started a career in Environmental Science, bought a house and a car, got married, travelled to exotic locations, got a dog, and was pregnant with my first child all before the age of 30. I had accomplished everything I set out to do in record time. Some call this success.  But I wasn’t completely satisfied, and I was only moderately happy.  The key thing that never sat right with me was that the road to get there was really difficult, and somehow I always felt that if I was on the right path, I would find more ease in the process.  If I am completely honest, it was a real slog.  I was exhausted and drained and getting where I was going felt like an up-hill climb against the grain.  I had proven to myself that whatever you put your mind and focus on you can achieve, but what had I put my mind and focus on?  I was completely focussed on all the typical milestones that society has deemed worthy goals.   I put all my attention and focus on the things I thought I was supposed to do. Things I knew people would approve of and encourage and praise. I was following the path of millions who came before me and I was looking for external gratification and approval instead of following my own passions and dreams.  In doing so, I landed precisely where I aimed.  The middle.  I was completely successful at landing right smack dab in the middle of mainstream mediocrity, and it was a slog to get there.  I had created a perfectly average, middle-class, working for a pay-check lifestyle.  Life was ok. Life was beige.  I had very few lows, but I had almost no highs.  Every day was just “meh”.  Rise and grind, sleep, repeat. I was taking very few risks and as a result, was completely un-inspired!  I feel exceptionally blessed that I had a wake-up call in my early 30’s. The road I was on came to a screeching halt when my first son was born.  Not to be cliché, but it truly opened my eyes! I think it saved me from a fate too many experience. The all too common mid-life crises.  At 30 I looked at my life and all my accomplishments and said “what now?”  Is this really all there is?  Is this really what I’ve been working so hard for?  I was bored and stressed out all at the same time.  Something was seriously amiss.

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One of life’s little synchronisities.  Me and ‘ol Chimney Top had a moment.  He gets me! 

So here’s what I’ve learned since.  The more you try to control every experience in your life, the smaller and more mundane your life becomes.  Control is based in fear. The fear that if you let go and leave it up to anyone or anything else, all hell will break loose.  When you live like this, the energy and passion and purpose you are here to fulfill gets sucked out of your experiences and life becomes an endless series of to-do lists.  Life only started to get interesting for me when I started to let go.  I mean really let go. It was an act of loving kindness towards myself when I began to surrender to the twisting, turning, strangely winding road of life with trust and faith instead of trying to control every twist and turn.  This has been exceptionally difficult for me at times, but oh so necessary.  The word surrender has always had terrible connotations to me.  It was something that the weak did when they had no more fight in them by waving their white flag and giving up, whereby ending up a prisoner in someone else’s kingdom. The feisty warrior woman in me was repulsed by this idea.  I’d rather die fighting than surrender!  But life isn’t an action movie and I’m not on a battle field.  The truth is, I’d rather live than die fighting. I had to re-define surrender for myself. I realized that my definition was holding me back.  Surrender really means letting go of the need to control every situation, and by doing so, releasing all of the resistance you create as a result.  I was a ball of tension and I needed to let that shit go!

So, I gave up!  I gave up my average, mediocre, safe little life in the middle.  I started living with passion.  I started taking risks, I started focussing on things that really mattered to me, whether people approved and praised it or not. I gave up on average and started shooting for the moon, so even if I fall short, I’ll land among the stars.  When I started doing this, an amazing thing happened.  My life started creating itself.  I no longer had to force things into place by exhausting myself trying to control everything.  As I took one step towards my goals, things just started to unfold and one positive experience led me to the next.  This is what people mean when they say follow your bliss.  You have to let go and trust and move in the direction of your enthusiasm and excitement. This is where the magic happens and the momentum begins to pick up.  This is where strange twists and turns you could never have planned out lead you to the most incredible people, situations and opportunities.   The second I begin to tightly clutch at life or try to make things happen instead of allowing them to unfold, all the obstacles show up and life gets really difficult again.  This is not to say that life will ever be easy, but there is a big difference between physical exhaustion from the hussle, and mental and emotional exhaustion from just trying to get through your un-inspiring day with no flow whatsoever.  I’m still learning and growing, but I know I am moving in the right direction. Life truly is a journey after all, and there really is no destination.  I know now, that you never really get there.  We are all just travellers passing through and having experiences at every stop.  So trust in the journey.  Let go, surrender, and allow this crazy train to take you on the ride of your life. The life you are supposed to lead.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

VINTAGE: Hat, blouse, vest, jackets, backpack (I’ve had since I was 17.  It came to Europe with me), wrist warmers, rings and pipe.

CURRENT FASHION: earrings from Urban Waves, skirt by Nygard, velvet boots by Shellys London , from Hudson’s Bay Company.

 

Mirror Mirror

Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who in this land is fairest of all?

It answered: You, my queen, are fair; it is true.
But Snow-White is a thousand times fairer than you.
The queen took fright and turned yellow and green with envy. From that hour on whenever she looked at Snow-White her heart turned over inside her body, so great was her hatred for the girl. The envy and pride grew ever greater, like a weed in her heart, until she had no peace day and night.

-Snow White, Grimm’s Fairytales

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“Nobody sees anybody truly but all through the flaws of their own egos. That is the way we all see …each other in life. Vanity, fear, desire, competition– all such distortions within our own egos– condition our vision of those in relation to us. Add to those distortions to our own egos the corresponding distortions in the egos of others, and you see how cloudy the glass must become through which we look at each other. That’s how it is in all living relationships except when there is that rare case of two people who love intensely enough to burn through all those layers of opacity and see each other’s naked hearts.”
― Tennessee Williams

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 It is staggering to think that even still in the year 2016, so much of a woman’s sense of worth and identity is deeply connected to her physical appearance.  It is so much a part of our culture and heritage, that many of us women are not even aware of our imprisonment to a value system that is as ancient as the first human civilizations.  Throughout the history of humanity, woman of countless cultures and generations have found themselves living in a world dominated by men, where they have had very little power or influence.  As a result, their appearance was often the only thing that gave them any sense of significance.  Women used their beauty and sexuality to manipulate, compete and control as a basic survival tactic in a world where their intelligence, compassion, resourcefulness, creativity, and all other assets were not recognized or valued by society.  I believe this has had a profound impact on every woman that is alive today.  We carry this history in our DNA.  We carry those experiences of our ancestors and we still have difficulty breaking free of it and not basing our self worth on what we see in the mirror.  The saddest part of this is how our diminished self worth and  has made us behave towards other women, who ultimately are suffering from the same lack of self love, whether they know it or not. We have come so far in our move towards feminism and empowerment of women, yet we still have so much further to go.  We still grasp desperately to youth and beauty and go to great lengths to reverse or stall a process that is inevitable and the most natural part of being human.  We desperately cling to something we can never keep, and place impossible standards and requirements on ourselves and others.  It’s insanity really.

Everyone appreciates beauty. Beauty is a gift of nature and it is a wonderful thing that should be celebrated. I am a fashion blogger/stylist after all!  I love beautiful things, people and aesthetic.  I admire and appreciate a beautiful woman as much as anyone else, but are we so superficial that that is as deep as it goes?  Does a beautiful women truly deserve the level of praise, attention and admiration that we place on her just because she was blessed with exceptional  DNA?  When did we start to value a woman’s beauty more than a woman’s accomplishments?  It’s scary to say, but I think it has always been this way.  I think we are still stuck here, and it is more than time to break free of these shackles ladies!  It is time to look a little deeper!  It is time to see each other for who we truly are and what we have actually accomplished in life, and praise those things. By all means, embrace beauty and celebrate it in yourself and others, but let’s not put it above all else. Let us not praise beauty above character and integrity.  Unfortunately the list is way to long of women we as a society are putting up on pedestals for their beauty alone, even when their character and integrity are questionable at best. This is incredibly sad, when there is a plethora of women in history that have accomplished incredible things, yet most of us have never heard of them because they were not notably beautiful and their accomplishments were undervalued simply because they were women. When someone mentions Audrey Hepburn, what comes to mind?  Like most people you probably think of her exceptional beauty and fame as an actress.  Did you know that she was an accomplished ballerina as well as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF (United Nation’s Children’s Fund) since 1954?  Did you know she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her incredible contributions to UNICEF?  Neither did I. We need to turn this around.

Ladies, I’m asking you to celebrate each other’s accomplishments and find who we actually are as people.  And for goodness sake, let’s please stop comparing and competing with one another and putting each other down!  Need I even say it? Confident women raise each other up and support one another.  This is how we build a better world.  This is how we encourage the next generation of girls to want to be more than just beautiful. This is how we teach the next generation of boys to value women for who they are, not for their appearance. #WomenSupportingWomen is not a fad or a trend.  It is a way of life and it is here to stay.  Get on board.  Join the tribe.  I’ve got your back, have you got mine? We can accomplish so much more if we work together and support one another.

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<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/164028819″>Mirror, Mirror</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/electricmonkmedia”>Electric Monk Media</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

MODELS, HAIR & MAKEUP: Leanne Sanders and Tara Cole-McCaffrey

STYLING: Patron of Dreams

FASHION: 

Leanne’s Look: Cheetah print bikini by American Apparel, vintage dress, mask by Rampant Design Leather

Tara’s Look: Vintage boots, vintage belt, embroidered jacket by Nygard, mask by Rampant Design Leather

SUMMER 1978

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It was the height of the Disco era and the birth of Rap music growing on top of a solid foundation of psychedelic rock n roll and earthy folk melodies. Rollerskating, skateboarding, and arcades were all the rage. Women were burning bras, getting educated and fighting for equality. The top movies were Grease, Saturday Night Fever and Close Encounters of The Third Kind.  Sony introduced the portable Walkman (first portable stereo), and Maya Angelou released her book And Still I Rise. The shorts couldn’t get any shorter, pants couldn’t get any wider, and the sunglasses and cars couldn’t get any bigger. It was 1978!  The year I was born and the world had been shaken up and forever changed by the Hippie movement from the previous decade. The people had been given a glimpse into another way to live. It was a significant time of adjustment and transformation.  The Hippies had grown up and the reality that the world they live in was not entirely ready for their ideas yet had driven many to disfunction, and resulted in truckloads of cocaine coming across the border into North America.   The older generations were staunchly tightening their grip on solid family values, religion, and hard work. Racism and sexism were still firmly in place, but the youth were resisting hard and breaking down those walls one brick at a time, while trying to have a little fun along the way.

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As a new born baby, oblivious to the woes of the world, I could not have known that the youth of that era were setting the stage for a new kind of world, and that one day, I would pick up their torch and continue to fight the good fight for their cause.  The fight for a better world with broader perspectives and more freedom of choice. The fight that is fought through the choices we make each and every day.  Imagine a world without judgement, where a woman could choose to stay home to raise her children or go to work, a Man could love and marry another Man, schools filled with many mixed races of children would be unaffected by their differences.  Sadly this world still does not exist without much push back and judgement.  But we are getting there.  One generation at a time.  So I say THANK YOU!  To all the generations before mine who set the stage.  Oceans of gratitude to all the older folks we butt heads with now, who in their youth, were the agents of change.  Always remember that there is a time for everything, and everything in it’s time.  Your Parents and Grandparents had their own fights to fight and resistance to the status quo of the era they were born into. There were few that just accepted it as it was and that is why our world is different than it was in the past.  We are evolving and it takes time and patience and perseverance. In time, your children, and the youth in your life will challenge you and resist the world that you have created.  Smile when this happens, because it is the way of the world and necessary for our growth.  Help that next generation any way you can instead of standing in their way.  See yourself in them and all the young idealists that came before.  They are a pain in the ass, but it’s a very necessary pain. Growth is painful. They will better the world with our without your help.  Just remember that they are not fighting a different fight, they are picking up the torch from your youth and carrying on your work within a world that has changed. The packaging is different, but the fight is still the same.  The fight is for something better.  The fight is for growth and evolution of humanity and a better world.  What could be more important than that?

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

MODELS, HAIR & MAKEUP: Leanne Sanders and Tara Cole-McCaffrey

STYLING: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

FASHION: 

Leanne’s lst look: shorts and knee-high socks-American Apparel; t shirt- Junk 98, sneakers-Puma, belt and sunglasses – vintage.

Leanne’s 2nd look: jeans-H&M, blouse-vintage

Tara’s 1st look: tube top and sunglasses-vintage; culotte pants-vintage Jones New York; sneakers-vintage Adidas.

2nd look:jeans – H&M, blouse-vintage

Special thanks: to Leanne for always being willing to play dress up with me! To my Brothers for lending me treasures from their vintage record collections.  To my Father in Law for the use of the vintage treasures found in his garage and his rad 8-track still in use in the Gazebo. And to my ever supportive Husband Gregory, for wrangling the kids while I played set-up and dress-up!