Finding My Glorious and Beauty Again


I turned thirty-four on Monday, and I found my beauty again yesterday morning. I stood before the mirror in the bathroom, going through my morning routine before work. Done with brushing my teeth and washing my face, on a whim, I then divested myself of every stitch of clothing before pulling down my hair to comb it out for the morning. As I did, I found something. A few somethings.

I found a sultry tilt to my head as I combed through my mahogany hair, now long again.

I found the seductive tumble and fall of my hair over my shoulders, falling  over the left side of my face like Jessica Rabbit’s famous red tresses.

I found the curve from my waist to my hip, not as sharp or hour-glassy as it used to be but still there.

I found the line of my jaw still strong, though I had sworn it was disappearing, much to my chagrin.

I was plainly surprised to find these things, these parts of me–to find me— beautiful, to think myself glorious after months of feeling utterly to the contrary. I was very surprised.

I saw my own beauty.

I found my glorious.

And I smiled at me.

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Stones in My Belly


Today, I sat in the dressing room of my favorite store, surrounded by lovely dresses that I had tried on. Beautiful bold colors and lovely silhouettes. However, I wasn’t excited or delighted by these lovely frocks. Quite the opposite. Instead, I felt disappointed. Not in the dresses but in myself. Here I am, at the height of my purposeful activeness, and yet when I slipped on my favorite style of dress from my favorite store, in my usual size, I found myself going, “Umm…I don’t know how comfortable this feels. It’s a bit tight here and I thought I had more movement there before.” In other words, I had to go up a dress size today. Again. That was devastating for me. The number the on the scale has gone up rather than down, so much so that I have removed the offending appliance from the bathroom. I am doing all that I can outside of outright depriving myself, or at least trying to: eating better/more healthily, drinking more water and fewer sodas, and exercising regularly as well as increasing my overall activeness. Yet there I sat, utterly disappointed and not wanting to leave that tiny room even though I felt mocked by the dresses hanging on its walls.

All I could think was: Is this what hard work gets me? I understand that bodies have fluctuations and balances and blah blah blah. But I’m TRYING. I’ve been trying for the past year and a half. My weight has gone up almost five pounds since March and, when you’re 5’2, five pounds can make a real difference, believe me. What the $@#&?! I’m working out every day, cutting back on the stuff I enjoy but know isn’t wholly good for me, for what?! 

I was (and still am) pretty frustrated because all of this feels like a poor return for hard work. Since having my daughter 3.5 years ago, I have gone from 122lbs. to 139lbs., from a dress size 6 to an 8 to a 10 (today). I won’t lie. I am ticked off! And here’s the part that makes me even more upset. I had a wonderful workout time this morning. I pushed myself to heavier weights on the machines and I ran hard. I was sweaty but strong and I felt good. Then I went from warrior glorious and feeling proud of myself to wanting to hide behind hoodies and pajama pants and the walls of my house.

Now, I know a few things. I know that feelings are irrational most of the time. I know that going up to 139lbs won’t seem like much to some people, might still even fall into the “skinny” range in some minds, but it’s a big deal to me. I know that working with weights build muscle and muscle weighs more than fat. I am a human being who can think and reason and, rationally, I know all of these things. But I was devastated today. You are more than welcome to consider me overly-emotional, vain, basic, fishing for compliments, whiny, what have you. And, if that is what you think, here is something that you need to know.

I DO NOT CARE.

Part of the reason that I write this blog is because I am wanting to be more honest about how I approach and write about life. So here it is. I really don’t care if you think I am making a fuss over nothing. I am not asking you to fix this. I am not here asking you to make me feel better. This is just where I am right now, the place that I am trying to fight (and write) my way out of. One of the things that is sitting pretty heavily on me is that I will be visiting my childhood home in a month and, if I have gained weight/inches/whatever, I can guarantee you that someone in my family will notice and comment on it. My family members are experts at throwing out seemingly innocuous comments that bore right down in the center of me. As a dear friend pointed out, “There is a reason they [family] know how to push your buttons. They are the ones who installed them.” Jabs about weight and physical appearance have always been a thing in my extended family, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t hurt. It did. It still does.

It’s times like this that I try to recall the words of favorite authors, lessons that they have taught that I have tried to weave into my own life and mental/spiritual/emotional practices. Both of the quotes that came to mind today are from Lysa TerKeurst. The first is one that is threaded throughout most of her books and one that I hold close to my heart during my processes, particularly those physical and emotional. Getting healthy and strong is not something that happens immediately. It takes time and work and is often fraught with stumbles and failures. Perfection is not a thing that happens but progress is.

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A year and a half are definitely “slow steps”. Many days when exercise and healthy eating are accomplished through determination over motivation. Slow transformations of my mind/thinking as well as my body. Imperfect progress is the perfect terminology for this, I think. I am not being very gracious with myself, I admit. I have had thoughts and ideas flit through my head that are definitely not healthy and could lead to a myriad of problems if I attempted them, which would only destroy everything that I am endeavoring to build in this (albeit temporary) temple of flesh and bone and blood. But I won’t do it. I won’t. I will keep going, step by step, day by day, decision by decision, small victory by small victory. Stones build a wall, not boulders, after all.

The second quote that I found popping into my head today was this one:

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So I decided to give myself some encouragement today, to try to shift my perspective from one of disappointment and criticism. So this is what I posted, sans all the details that I gave you above, because that wasn’t the point. This was:

Because the brain weasels are on a rampage and I’m feeling rather low on the body image spectrum today, it’s time for a perspective shift:

*My strong body can get me out of bed at night when my daughter needs me.

*My strong body can walk around all day and play with my girl with less back pain than it used to have.

*My beautiful body can hold and cuddle my daughter and husband close when they need me.

*My strong body can bend, stretch, stand, lift, and carry to help keep my home in order.

*My strong body can push itself to be stronger and better and has gotten to a point where I find myself saying, “I can do a little more.”

*My courageous body can help my girl avoid the pitfalls that I am constantly climbing up from and learn to love herself unconditionally, whatever shape/size/silhouette she is.

So, while I am disappointed, I will keep working. I will keep getting stronger. I will keep doing what I can to build up my healthy in body, mind, and spirit. I will keep the tags on my dresses for now (as they were bought for a specific occasion in a few weeks) and we will see if things change. If not, though, I will still wear those gorgeous colors and beautiful silhouettes and determine to strut my stuff as proudly as I may.

A Long Way from Home – Day 1: Bumping My Happy


Back again in my childhood home. Haven’t even been here 24 hours and already someone in my family has commented that I look like I’ve gained weight. Not “You look nice” or “It’s good to see your face”. Heck, I would have even taken a “You look absolutely exhausted”  after twelve hours of traveling today. But, no, I get “But it looks like you’ve put on some weight.” Thanks. Really, thanks a lot. Sufficed it to say, coming back to my childhood home is almost never good for my self-esteem and, unfortunately, I don’t think it’s ever going to change. It’s always been this way. It doesn’t make it kind or right but it’s been happening for as long as I can remember. People who really have no business  commenting on others’ bodies (and often no leg to stand on) make snide comments that are really expected to be taken as a joke when, at best, they are assuming and dismissive and, at worst, can be emotionally devastating.

I have told the story of how a favorite dress (a gorgeous maroon and black cheongsam) was left to fade away into obscurity in my closet because someone thought it was their place and job to thoughtlessly inform me that I looked fat in it. What I will never forget is how confused he seemed when I told him not to speak to me anymore and to go away. As if he just couldn’t grasp why I was so upset. I know I spoke to that young man briefly at least one other time after that, when I was in grad school. This time, he expressed his surprise that I had a boyfriend but wouldn’t explain just why it was surprising. I will admit that I most definitely unfriended, deleted, and/or blocked him on all levels and platforms after that. That was an energy and presence that I just didn’t need.
Energy. I hadn’t thought of it that way but it’s an almost perfect example. It’s very, very hard when you expend such energy on your life, on doing what’s good for your family, for your child, for your friends, and for yourself, only to have the only thing remarked on to be your physical weight. Your particular form’s relationships with gravity. Just as you pour your energy out, others pour their energy into you, and deciding what to do with it–to use it to make bricks to add to my path or to sit in it and let it suck me down further–is really hard sometimes. The struggle is so very real when my happy-with-myself gets bumped. I do my best to either reply nicely or not reply at all. This seems like a prime opportunity to practice grace, as well as salting my words and reminding myself of my glorious.

The Woman in the Mirror, Part 3


Author’s Note: If you do not want to think of me in any other context than my sweet, mild side, you may not want to read this. Fair warning!

The woman who stares back out from my mirror, I have seen several sides of her. I have seen her soft and wise and feminine. I have seen her coy and coquettish. But, tonight, I saw a different side of her, one that I really like but don’t see as often anymore. As such, I am always struck when I do see it.

The woman who stared back at me in the bathroom window was raw and comely, absolute blood-pumping sex appeal. Goals and all of that set aside, she loves her body, loves to take care of it, sees herself as beautiful, desirable, and rather revels in it. I was taken aback a bit at the glance she gave me. That smirk pursed and curled her lips as she shook out her hair after settling the form-fitting black tank top over her torso, the fabric clinging in all the right places. It was almost as if she was daring me:

Say it. You know you want to. And it’s true besides.

What? That you’re hot and totally full of rawr (and other words that I probably won’t write down but definitely list off in my head and leave to others’ imaginations)?

 Yes. Yes, you are.

She just kept on smiling, even blowing me a kiss as she pulled on my favorite top, the black lace panels sitting cunningly off her shoulders. My shoulders?

Yes. You are.

Yes. I am.

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The Road from My Shoulder


John Milton: “A woman’s shoulders are the front lines of her mystique, and her neck, if she’s alive, has all the mystery of a border town. A no-man’s land in that battle between the mind and the body.” – The Devil’s Advocate

I have fallen in love with the curve of my shoulder. The gentle slope that my fingers travel from just behind my jaw down the side of my neck. They settle into the valley where it and my shoulder meet and join together, ball in joint, hand in hand. Beneath it, the terrace of my collarbone beckons, but only for a moment! There are other places to explore. The round of my shoulder pulls my fingers in a circle, tracing its sphere as if it were a small planet unto itself. I can feel the strength in it as the muscle presses back against my prodding fingertips, proving the work is worth it. There is also some tension there that bespeaks of some needed TLC, my body reminding me that care goes hand-in-hand with work.

I walk my fingers along the flat of my shoulder blade, up the back of my neck, feeling my spine press upward as my head curls forward. That beautiful sweet spot at the bottom of my skull calls, but that is not my focus for the moment. Forgive me, I get distracted sometimes.

I am slowly learning to love my body. To walk my fingers over its inches, feel my own skin, find my own strength, revel in my own softness and curves. There are days (and nights) that I just sit or lie in bed and run my fingers over my hips to feel the barely-there scars that tell tales of growth and blossoming. I knead them over my feet to relieve the weariness of a day’s coming and going. I brush them over my calves, pressing them under that muscle and deciding to work for more of a defined niche to hook them. I am finding what is beautiful in this body of mine. Or, rather, finding this body of mine and learning to call it beautiful. This is the only body that I will ever have, and I am rather liking that I am learning to love it.

BloPoMo Day 3, Part 2: Décolletagic Tales


Author’s Note: Yes, I absolutely made up an adjective for my title. I found the first portion of this story set in a post that I made a year ago today and was delighted by it all over again. So, today, I decided to write the story that goes with it. And what do you know? I ended up with a story format that I had never planned on or even thought of since I was in grade school. Here you go! Choose you own décolletagic adventure. And there shall surely be more.

= = = =

“You ready to do this?”

“You mean, are me and my boobs ready to do this?”

“You know, I had never thought of your décolletage as having an individualism of its own but, in that outfit, I think you just might be battling them for attention.”

Me being five-foot-something and a D-cup, my bust line could indeed be an entity unto itself since I refused to swath myself in turtlenecks year round. And her wit was as dry at the autumn leaves outside.

“Eh, I’m used to playing second fiddle to my breasts; they are the lead singer in this one-woman band.” So was mine.

Ending 1:

Just then, the doctor entered the room, a genial smile on her face. “Okay, we are ready for you,” she said to me.

“Really? You’re sure you’re ready? Many a man had those exact last words,” I quipped.

The doctor looked a little surprised but then chuckled and didn’t stop chuckling all the way down to the mammogram room.

Ending 2:

“Just…don’t steal the bride’s spotlight,” she reminded me with playfully-narrowed eyes as I settled her veil like gossamer wings down her back.

“Don’t worry. I will hide behind my bouquet,” I assured her, “Or under your train. No one will even notice.”

She laughed outright at that and I felt her butterflies dissipate. Achievement unlocked! Maid of Honor skills for the win!

Ending 3:

“If it bothers you, you could always take a header off the stage.”

“I could,” I agreed, “But then you’d have to transport my broken ass back home in a wheelchair through several international airports. Want to do that across a few continents?”

She eyed me for a moment before smirking. “You’ll do great,” she said, “Go get your damn Nobel.”

Wonderfully Made


She wears her body like she is proud of it.

Like it is something fearfully and wonderfully made, and it is.

She holds her chest high, unembarrassed by its perkiness.

She lets her hips sway, honoring their curves.

She works to bless and please the body she has been gifted with.

She eats sumptuous foods and waters her body liberally.

She stretches and challenges her body to make it stronger.

She pampers her body and rests it.

Rather than denying her body’s beauty, she allows the compliments in with gracious acknowledgement.

She wears her body like she is proud of it.

Like she is fearfully and wonderfully made.

Because she is.

I am.

You are.

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The Space at Center Stage


For those of you unfamiliar with me, body image has been a fairly constant struggle of mine for most of my life. This struggle has intensified at several different point in my life, the most recent being with the up and down weight bouncing I experienced post-baby. Almost three years later, my weight seems to have settled for now, I work out just about every day, I’m adjusting my eating habits bit by bit, and, this past week, I felt pretty darn amazing. I can now see the changes in my body, feel the differences as I develop more muscle and strength. It’s a relief, in a way, to see that almost eight months’ worth of consistent hard work is paying off. That might not seem like much to some, but it is quite a big deal to me. I hated doing conventional exercises, I hated the very idea of running, and the gym? Yeah, no thanks. But I made a decision and have pushed myself to stick with it, constantly reminding myself to be patient and keep working.

“It takes time,” I would and still say to myself, “It takes time. Be patient with yourself and keep working.”

A good many things in life, we work at for a long while before we see any results, and we are told that the best things do not come with instant gratification. Instead, we must work and work and work some more and wait to see what comes to fruition, if it comes to fruition. I have stuck with this and worked and worked and worked and I am seeing the fruit of my labor, not only in curves and tone and heavying dumbells but also in finding satisfaction in the work itself. It’s an odd, odd feeling to actually crave working out, to crave the heightened heart rate, the burn in my muscles, the sweat on my brow. It’s not just odd, it’s downright weird sometimes. But it is also beautiful.

It is beautiful to see the changes in myself, not just in my body. It’s beautiful to again feel the desire to be me, fully and boldly, and to do something about it. It’s beautiful to not be afraid of being beautiful and acting like it. It’s not just body image, it’s a sense of self that I am regaining. For a long time (longer than I would like to admit), I have felt like I needed to tone myself down, step back out of the spotlight, stick to my corner, etc. As if, if I were too much ‘me’, then there wouldn’t be space for someone else to be ‘them’. I don’t understand that idea; I didn’t then and I don’t now. And, honestly, I am damn tired of it. Me being me does not threaten anyone, nor should it. Each and every one of us is completely different. We are unique and glorious all on our own. Me being me does not mean that someone else has to be any less them or vice versa.

This does not mean that we need to shove everyone else out of the way. It doesn’t mean that we cannot work behind the scenes to help someone better their own sense of self and their own lives. It doesn’t mean that we cannot wear the roles of mother, daughter, sister, girlfriend, or wife and be a support and helpmeet to someone else. What it means it that we can do all those of things, but that we mustn’t forget ourselves and the role that we play for us. Your first role: you. Don’t forget you. Don’t forget your strength. Don’t forget your spirit. Don’t forget your glorious. Don’t forget your beautiful.

A friend once said to me: “I think you could leave yourself a bit more space in the center of the stage.”

And you know what? I think they are right. It’s time for me to reclaim my space. Maybe we all could leave ourselves a bit more space in the center of the stage.

Why I Walk Around Naked


11150479_630544590414714_184724744336153178_nI frequently walk around the house naked. I know. Big deal, right? Well, for me, it has become quite a big deal. First things first, though: cards on the table. I am 32 years old, a wife of almost a decade, and the mother of a rambunctious two-year-old girl (remember her, she’s the lynchpin here). I am 5’1 and my weight is currently hovering at 135 lbs. Is my body perfect? No. It’s why I work out at home just about every day, try to eat better than I have in the past, and hit Planet Fitness with a friend a few times a week to run and strength train on the weight machines. No, my body isn’t perfect, but it’s healthy and getting stronger as I continue to work. More importantly than even that, I have a daughter to whom I want to teach a positive body image and comfort, as well as healthy habits. I want my girl to grow up at ease with herself, to find her body strong and capable, to find herself beautiful. Who will she learn that from but me? Whose voice will battle all the others that will bombard her from society, television, movies, toys, etc.? Mine. Mine is the voice she hears all day. Mine is the body she sees working, playing, exercising. Mine are the reactions and self-talk she will learn from. Therefore, accepting, working on, and speaking kindly to myself are not only for me for but for my Elizabeth as well.

Not too long ago, I watched a video from my belly dance class that my teacher had posted in the class’s Facebook group. We were drilling portions of choreography and my posture was wrong, terrible even. And I told my husband:

“I hate the way I look in this video! I look like I’m still pregnant!”

I immediately regretted and kicked myself for the unkind statement, as Elizabeth was sitting nearby playing with her toys. I maintain that, though she’s only two, she understands everything that is said to and around her. So I have to check the negative self-talk, both inner and outer. If I want my daughter to learn to accept herself, love herself, and see the beauty in every curve, line, and angle of her unique body, I have to do the same. She won’t learn or develop a sense of body comfort if she hears me constantly bad-mouthing my own body. My unique, maddening, triumphant body.

So I walk around the house naked, and I let Elizabeth run around in her diaper, especially now that the weather is warm again. Together, we work on her learning that everyone has a body beneath their clothes and that it is nothing to be feared but everything to be respected and appreciated. At the same time, I am working on my own comfort level with being naked around her and explaining the differences between my body and hers, even at her young age.

“Yes, those are Mommy’s breasts; some mommies feed their babies that way. Yes, you have nipples, too.”

We teach our children to name the parts of their faces, their arms, legs, fingers, toes, and tummy as a necessary benchmark of their development, but I think that it is also important for children to see, from their parents, what those bodies will look like as they grow. I want to be comfortable enough with my daughter and her with me that she can ask me questions about my body and her own as she grows older. I want her to see her body as beautiful, no matter what the voices around her might say. She is strong and brilliant, energetic and curious. I want her mind and body to exist and work together, not against each other.

When I was a girl, I marveled at my mother’s waist. She had a stunning curve to her waist that her A-line dresses gorgeously accentuated. I would trace my hands over her silhouette and hope to be as lovely as her when I grew. When she’d let her hair down, I would hold its weight in my hands and stand in awe. I saw my mother’s beauty, even when she couldn’t, but I struggled for a long time to find my own. I would dearly love to protect my daughter from that uncertainty and for her to always be assured of her unique loveliness and brilliance. Even better if she will then, in turn, remind others of their own.

So I stand naked before the mirror, deny the negative self-talk, and call myself beautiful. My little girl comes to stand beside me, as tall as my thigh, and leans smiling against my leg. I hug her close and call her beautiful, and, somewhere in that little child brain full of all things new and amazing, I think that she thinks so, too.

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The Moment My Glorious Faded


Yesterday, I went shopping with my mother. We ducked into Victoria’s Secret to see if they were offering a special that she had heard advertised (she wanted the tote bag that came with the purchase special). I started looking around the underwear, as it was 50% off, and found a few cute pairs. But, then, as I rounded the display, two men walked up and one started looking through the underwear. His friend commented on the prices and the man looking said, “Well, then, she can get two.” So I can only assume that he was buying Christmas gifts for his significant other.

I, of course, went about my business silently (they could spot the 5 for $27 deal for themselves), as I dislike inhabiting close quarters with strangers, much less talking to them. Then, the man’s friend suddenly burst out with, “If I see another girl in tights with a washboard butt, I swear I’m going to throw my phone at her ass. Tell her to stop ruining the tights, man.”

It was that comment, as if that woman’s – or indeed any woman’s – body was his to comment on, that suddenly made me not feel so much like buying cute underwear. I didn’t feel cute and far from glorious. So I put the pairs down, walked away to my mom, and contented myself with nose-nuzzles from my daughter. It is a bit difficult to explain exactly how I felt in response to the comment but it felt as if I were the one being judged, as I had indeed been judging my own self all day (there are extenuating circumstances that I acknowledge but they are neither here nor there). I have fitness, nutrition, and weight goals to work on, yes, and I will get there, I know. But, in that moment, I found myself feeling objectified in place of the girls to whom he was referring and my spirit felt low under the added burden. It didn’t last for long but it was poignant enough that here I am writing about it a day later. If something is still on my mind after a night’s sleep, then it is something worth discussing. And body image and acceptance, by ourselves and others, always is.