I wrote this blog post a few months ago, but never posted it. I feel like now I would like to share it.
INTRODUCTION: My grandmother was a truly extraordinary woman. Today my family will be attending her funeral mass. While my heart aches because I am not able to be there, I am truly grateful for the time I was able to spend with her the week before she passed away.
Growing up I have had my fair share of tongue lashings from my grandma. She was never one to mince words, or let you get away with bad behavior. She had the sharpest tongue, the quickest wit, and the most sage advice. I have many memories of my grandma scolding me for being unladylike or gossiping or saying stupid things. But for every one of those I have 5 memories of her beaming at me with pride, holding my hand, defending me, encouraging me.
Our family is grieving a terrible loss, but in the face of this loss we are all able to smile and find peace because Jane Longo lived her life and her vocation as a mother well. She is a beautiful example of Christian motherhood. She instilled in her children and grandchildren a love for the Catholic faith, a deep respect for life, and a strong family bond that will never be broken.
With that being said, here is a post about some advice she gave me.
If you know my husband you know that he is a well dressed man. He never leaves the house in gym shorts, unless he is working out. Not even for a quick trip to the gas station! He takes pride in his appearance. When we were dating I asked him why. I remembered him freshman and sophomore year sporting t shirts and sneakers all the time…why the change? He had found different blogs and articles that talked about the presenting yourself in a way that reflects how you see yourself and how you want others to see you. A lot of these blogs used the term “man-child” to describe the way men dress today, Travis was ready to move away from that, to be seen as the educated and professional man he was working towards becoming.
If you know my grandma, Jane Longo, you know that she is a woman who is not timid when it comes to speaking her mind! She will tell you like it is. Once my dad told me: “it used to drive me crazy when she was always telling me what she thought and what I should do…but after a while I realized she is always right…so now I just do what she says. You can’t even get mad…because you know she is just right.”
The woman has never steered me wrong. She has always been there with a quick witted (often smart mouth) response for every question you can throw her way. She raised 8 children, she has seen it all.
Last night I called her and asked her if people ever made comments about the number of kids she had and what did she tell them.
Well, talk about opening a can of worms (read: treasure chest of wisdom and wit).
She told me that when people said “how many kids do you want?” She responded, “None.”
When people asked “why do you have so many children?” She responded “Joe told me having another baby would cure my headaches. He said it would make me beautiful. He said it would make me smarter. He said we would be rich….so I believed him. But I never got prettier, and we never got richer, and I still had a headache!”
My grandpa, so tricky!
But let me tell you. She is beautiful. She is so wise. And although her 8 children, and 36 grandchildren still give her many headaches, she wouldn’t have it any other way! She never let the haters dictate how she should live. She lived out her vocation as a mother with style and charisma.
She gave me some very good advice, she told me that a mother should always take pride in her appearance.
I have been searching for some saintly insight on this subject, and I have mostly found saints who encourage wives and mothers to dress nicely for their husbands. But my grandma thinks it goes further than that, and I agree.
Motherhood is hard. If you are a mother, I don’t need to tell you…you know. Whether you have one child or 12, you know that being a mom sometimes feels impossible. Some days seem like they will never end. You don’t always have the luxury of a shower each morning before you have to run out of the house to do a million things. You throw on a shirt that you hope looks clean (is the smell of spit up coming from this shirt or just stuck in my nose?), tie your hair into a messy bun, round up kids and shoes and keys and head to Target or the grocery store or the library or the park.
Sometimes the last thing we think or care about is our own appearance. We dress our kids in cute clothes and matching hair bows, but we take no time to give our own clothes (what makeup?) any thought.
But I think that we need to take the time to dress well. We need to find a simple skin care and hair routine that looks nice and can be done on the fly. We owe it not only to our husbands and ourselves, but we owe it to motherhood! We need to give motherhood a good name! We need to encourage other young girls and show them that being a mom isn’t all spit up and poop and tantrums…but even if that is the day you are having you don’t have to do it in sweat pants and a nursing tank! We need to let our outward appearance reflect our inner dispositions…we need to reflect the love we have for our vocations.
I know what you are thinking…shut up, Tricia. Take your own advice! Call me when you have 5 kids.
I am not saying it is easy! Believe me, I (and the 10+ postpartum pounds I am carrying around) would much rather do everything in a loose t-shirt and leggings. But, let’s be honest…that is basic.
When I started my freshman year at Ave they gave us a talk on modesty during orientation. Dean Dentino told us that pajamas are not allowed in the classrooms. He explained to us that you have to dress for success. If you wear pajamas to class, do you think your professor will take you seriously? When you are in your cozy jimmy-jams you want to do cozy things…watch Netflix, eat ice cream, sleep. Dentino told us that if you want to be successful you have to dress for success. You get dressed for class to reflect your respect for the professor and your integrity as a student.
I think we can apply this to motherhood as well! If you look frumpy, you feel frumpy. Every girl knows the power of a nice sweater or a good pair of jeans! That simple, pretty scarf that you throw on can make you feel like a million bucks! Wearing a little mascara and lip gloss can give you confidence!
Basically, I think moms owe it to themselves, their families, and the image of motherhood to look nice, dress well, and take care of ourselves. I am not saying you have to get all glammed up to go to the grocery store or to pick your kid up at school. We can’t all run around looking like Kourtney Kardashian or Gisele every day! I am saying that taking time to dress yourself in a simple, clean outfit, fix your hair, maybe throw on an accessory, will not only make you feel better, it will give motherhood a good image.
Lastly…I know this has gotten long…I think the most important look we can wear to reflect our dispositions is JOY! Smile! Laugh! So many times I see moms walking around and I think, “Do I look like that? Do I look that unhappy?” I try to make a conscious effort to smile and be joyful. Because while motherhood is tough, it is also the most amazing gift!
Little Orphan Annie said it best, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile!”
A day will not go by that I will not think of you and pray for you, grandma. I hope that I make you proud and live up to your example.
May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand