Reflections on Thirty-Three


Author’s Note: Today, I turn 33 years old. It has definitely been an interesting three and a half years since my daughter was born and life changed in a big way. I think that I have learned more about myself in these few short years than in many others combined throughout my lifetime. I see myself differently, am taking better care of myself, am learning to love others better, and live my faith and purpose more honestly and, I hope, effectively. I do more than like myself at 33. I truly believe that I have finally learned to love myself.

= = = =

My form is a thing of beauty.

Take all your definitions of allure

And weigh them in your hands,

As I make mine my own.

Breasts, waist, hips, legs,

Arms, stomach, shoulders, back.

All I work to make strong.

This I do for myself,

For the good of my body as well as my soul.

To be strong enough in body to hold the skies on my shoulders

But soft enough in soul to hold joy in the sway of my hips

And grace in the reach of my hands.

My mind is a work of art.

Growing and challenged still,

Deeply considering and intense.

My intelligence has not been silenced by time,

But continues to grow and refine with new challenges.

My art is a meeting of thought and feeling,

Pulled together, chiseled, and shaped.

I share my art with a desire for hope,

Encouragement, uplifting, and joy.

I write to challenge to love, to kindness, to compassion.

I write to create refuge, worlds in which to escape,

To send out words that my own voice might find difficult to speak.

I sing to birth joy. I dance to proclaim free. I dress to cry beauty.

I write and post and mail to connect and pull threads together.

In life. In community. In love. In friendship. In chosen family.

I am a being made unqiue and becoming uniquer still.

The older I get, the finer I am becoming.

You should rejoice. I’d love for you to rejoice.

If you don’t, though, that’s your choice.

But, most of all, I just want you to smile with me.

Sinking into Me


Fierce, fearless, confident.

Come and get me if you dare.

It’s sinking into myself

And being happy with what I find there.

Happy enough not be afraid,

To be boldly

And unabashedly

Me.

I will look at myself in the best possible light,

Just be me,

And be happy with me.

It is my constant goal,

A light I grab at on the path I walk,

And it is wonderful.

Life's enjoyment

Life’s enjoyment

Inventorying Your Beauties


  1. What color makes you feel beautiful when you wear it?
    1. A color that makes me feel beautiful is yellow. I feel sunshiny yet poised, and it feels like my own personal light is shining through the cracks. One of my favorite dresses is a lovely, 60s-esque yellow, white, and grey striped pencil dress with a belted empire waist. Love the way it makes me look and feel!
    2. I also love basic black and grey. They are understated and elegant and they give me the chance to be creative with my hair, shoes, and accessories. A little pop of the right color can do wonders for a look and for this woman’s head-holding and hip-swaying.
  2. What is one of your physical features that you think is the most beautiful?
    1. My hands. They are small and petite and delicate. I love it when they are held, caressed, and kissed. A friend in high school used to exclaim over how small they are and say how a man was going to fall in love with me for my hands alone.
  3. What is it about your heart that is beautiful?
    1. I have a deep-seated desire to help the hearts of others. I want them to know that they are thought of and cared for even when all they feel points to otherwise. I want to be able to give someone’s horrible day some life, light, and a silver lining.
  4. What is your definition of true beauty?
    1. I will be the first to admit when someone is physically beautiful and to call them so. But, for me, what makes someone truly beautiful in the deeper sense of the word is how they treat others. I am not saying that a beautiful person is calm and graceful all the time and lets everything just roll off. No, we are all human. A person of true beauty is one who lovingly holds space for the hearts of others, speaks truth and life, and does their best to treat each other as well as they can in every situation, even if it means stepping away from said situation. I cannot tell you just how much people like this have done for me in my lifetime, how they have saved and buoyed up my heart and spirit. I am truly thankful for the space they have held and the beautiful souls they have shared with me.

One of my favorite Scripture verses

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.

5d58759b112bbaf3c8fd77adba7cb809

I Don’t Exercise to be Healthy…


Author’s Note: This is a post about my weight, self-esteem, etc. This is entirely personal and more than a little of what people would call vain. Just be warned, in case you aren’t interested in reading about it.

A few nights ago, a dear friend posted a version of that picture (*points off to the side*) on her Facebook page and I had to be brutally honest with myself and admit, “Yep. That’s right.” It may be totally vain or selfish or whatnot but it’s the total truth. I eat as well as I can to be healthy, but I can do better. Always. I exercise, I bellydance, walk, etc., however, to look good, to feel beautiful and proud about how my body looks. Yes, only one person is going to see me naked but I want to look good nevertheless.

I have fallen away from my normal habits of exercise of late, with the change in the weather and the holidays and all that. But I cannot only blame those circumstances as that would be unfair and lazy on my part. I haven’t been as disciplined as I should be and that is on me. I have gained enough weight since the summer to now rate as overweight on the BMI scale. I don’t like that. I don’t like feeling like I don’t look well in my clothes. I miss the curve in my waist that I envied in my mother as a teenager and worked hard to get. I miss the tone that bellydance and daily walks pushing Elizabeth’s stroller uphill gave me. I miss the feeling of being beautiful as I danced, with pride in my technique and stage performance. I want that all back.

So call me vain if you so wish. It’s your opinion and that’s fine. It’s also fine that I want to look the way I want to look and feel the way I want to feel. That is my goal for this new year and I am looking forward to it. I know it will be hard, I know I will have to give up some of the things I really like. I will have to make time to get to Planet Fitness and bellydance class, even if it is inconvenient or I am tired after a day with Elizabeth. It will be worth it. I will be able to fit comfortably into the dresses and skirts that I love, and, hopefully, I will come to enjoy the exercise again, find a new happy spot in my soul, and give my daughter a run for her money in the energy department. Maybe I will even start performing again. And, just maybe, my heart – with all its little vanities – will once again smile to hear shouted across a room “I hate you, Ben!”

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.

Striking to Think


I caught sight of myself in the mirror as I finished my shower last night and was rather struck by my reflection. My cheeks were rosy, lips pink, eyes dark and long-lashed, and my ponytail in a curling coil over my shoulder. It was one of those moments that it felt like seeing myself for the first time and not recognizing who was looking back at me. Even odder and more striking to me was to catch myself thinking, “Beautiful!”  Let me say that for you again. In that moment, I thought myself to be beautiful. Part of me sorely wished to take a picture but I realized that no camera was ever going to catch the way I saw myself in that moment. Yesterday, I spent most of the day catching up on “The Borgias” so I was looking at Holliday Granger all day, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful young women I have ever seen. So, to consider myself as beautiful and graceful as “Lucrezia Borgia” herself for a moment was a pretty big deal to me. When I finished and came out into the living room, I gave my husband quite a kiss, one that made him asked, “Are you…trying to tell me something?”

I smiled and replied, “Just that…I feel beautiful right now.”

Stranger in the Mirror


My most recent article published by The Well Written Woman:

“My aging was very sudden. I saw it spread over my features one by one, changing the relationship between them, making the eyes larger, the expression sadder, the mouth more final, leaving great creases in the forehead. But instead of being dismayed I watched this process with the same sort of interest I might have taken in the reading of a book.” – Marguerite Duras, The Lover

I have a few friends who have sometimes exclaimed to me that I haven’t changed my looks since I was seventeen. Heavens above, but I hope I have. And I think I have, too. Looking at myself in the mirror, I often have to push past the tendency to see myself at seventeen, the first major changing point in my life: when I went off to college. That image of me has stuck rather stubbornly over the past fourteen years. But, if I can look past it, I can study my reflection for quite a long time and find subtle differences.

I think back over the critical points of my life and how my body – my physical form – has changed and transformed with them. I gained eight pounds my freshman year of college and no one at home had the heart to tell me until I wore my favorite dress to my friends’ high school graduation. Afterward, I was told by a young man that I had known from my church’s youth group that I shouldn’t have worn it, that I “looked fat”. I don’t think I ever wore that dress again, nor spoke to him beyond what was polite.  That dress, formerly beloved and the very same one that, only a year or two prior, I had been proclaimed “beautiful” in by another young man (can’t tell you how many times I read that email), the poor thing faded away into obscurity in my closet. Don’t know what happened to it to this day. What can I say? Words have power and the social movement for self-love in young women was at least another decade off.

In my first semester of graduate school, with the stress and a myriad of changes in my life, I lost almost twenty pounds in quick succession, my rapid weight loss finally slowing to pause around ninety-seven or ninety-eight pounds. It was corrected with a visit to the doctor, some meds, and conscious efforts to relax a bit more the following semester. However, that didn’t stop the comments of “You look great! You lost so much weight!” when I went home for the holidays. Unfortunately, they weren’t as much of a compliment as those giving them probably intended for them to be, as I knew that I was currently unhealthy. But, eventually, I found a happy and healthy place again.

I am a late bloomer as far as my looks and physique go, at least in my opinion. My skin has never been perfect but I can keep it fairly under control. My body never really settled into its shape until after I got married. As I entered my thirties last year, I found that I began to notice a more mature look to my eyes, the curve of my cheeks, and the turn of my mouth. If I tilt my head, I find the line of my jaw. I trace it with my fingers and find it still strong, still defined but without all the softness of my youth. A softness is still there but of a different sort, borne of a deeper understanding of love and life. Sometimes I hardly recognize myself. I see a new depth of experience in my eyes and wonder, “Where did that come from?” Smiles and laughter have begun to imprint themselves in the corners of my mouth, moments that I cherish and am thankful for hiding there along with Mrs. Darling’s kiss. I read, with my fingers, the slope of my neck into my shoulder and find it strong from burdens borne. The way I hold my hands is permanently influenced by my years in belly dance. I’ve lost a bit of my curve since having my daughter, my waist coming out to meet my hips a bit more. There’s more of a fullness here, a roundness there. A scar where there was none before. The landscape of my body has changed over the past fourteen years, and that’s all right.

I am finding that I am growing happier and happier with myself. I have managed to lose most of the baby weight after fourteen months and I am getting back into toning again, little by little. But, most of all, I am learning to appreciate myself for just that: myself. That is hard work in and of itself, an exercise of the mental and the emotional as well as the physical. I cannot pretend to tell you how it’s done; I don’t have a secret, I don’t have an answer. Just a fortunate turn in years of difficulty with self-esteem and body image. It catches me by surprise sometimes, me looking at myself and smiling. When did I become so chummy with myself? I don’t really know, but I like it.

The Ache of Being Wanted


Vulnerability alert!

I got dolled up yesterday for Pretty Lipstick Day (random self-esteem booster days established by one of my best friends) and took my picture. Admittedly, it was rather good. I looked rather good. I was very surprised and even more so at the number of likes and comments that it got after I posted it. For the rest of the day, I felt an ache in my gut. And, if I am completely honest with myself, then I know what it is. It’s the ache for being admired, being wanted.

Oh, yes, I’m admired. I’m wanted. My husband adores me and I him. He shows me how much all the time. But, in the interest of honesty, I have to admit that it’s pretty awesome to be admired by others. My self-esteems was never really the best growing up, as you probably know, though it got a bit better in college as I became more comfortable with myself. However, it has never stopped my amazement and giddiness at being admired by others, both known and strangers. When I am told that I am beautiful, or mesmerizing (that was a bellydance goal for me), smiled at, flirted with, or lingered on, I admit that it feels good. Extremely good. It’s great when I am dressed up and trying to look really nice, and even more so when I’m just…well, me. And it makes me hungry for more.

We all have that ache for approval, that hunger to know that we are deemed “good enough” in the eyes of others. It’s not easy to admit because we are afraid that it might reveal us to be self-serving, arrogant, or even narcissistic. But that is not necessarily the case. It’s a very human ache to be wanted, to know that there is something about us that others find attractive, desirable, and good, and, moreover, to be told so, shown so. It’s the craving for the blush, for the warmth, the swell in our chest that come from being being admired. It makes us feel pretty or handsome, it makes us stand up straighter and walk a little taller, maybe even strut a little. And there is nothing wrong with that. No, we should not place our self-worth solely in the compliments of others; that would be unhealthy. But to deny that we, as interdependent creatures in a highly social environment (introvert or extrovert aside), do not desire admiration, to be wanted and desired, would be a lie.

Yes, I’ve been feeling that ache lately and also working to convince myself, not just you, that it is indeed OK. My self-esteem wars with my reason very often – forcing me to weigh out whether or not I have a right to the emotions that I feel – and, therefore, I do not feel like it is OK a lot of the time. So everything that I’ve just told you goes double for myself.

So, if you feel the ache, do not despair. It’s OK. I do, too. It’s not necessarily fun to feel that way but we can own it, admit it to ourselves, and realize that it is human and it is all right. We all feel that way and we can help each other out, make the ache a little less. Tell a friend, or someone that you just think it of, that they look nice today or that you miss them or enjoy being around them.

An Unfair Comparison


Author’s Note: This blog post is not aimed at anyone, nor is it an exercise in shaming persons – man or woman, great or small, or what have you. It is simply a post born of a thought and worked through into a premise as I work through my own issues with self-esteem and comparison. You are under no obligation to read it.

= = = = =

Dear You,

Now, I know that you have read the letters and blog posts that tell you not to compare yourself to others, to not look at their bodies and think yourself fat or unfit or unattractive or what have you. They tell you to remember your power, that you are great/beautiful/handsome/wonderful just the way you are, man or woman. You shouldn’t compare yourself to anyone else; you are individual, you are unique, you are special. Comparing yourself to someone else is unfair to you. And I agree.

But what about me? Yes, me. That one, whether nebulous or specific, that you’re comparing yourself to.  It’s unfair to me, too, you know.  Just as it’s unfair to you when people compare themselves to you. When you compare yourself to me, you not only undo your individuality, you undo mine, too. Such a comparison, at its heart, presumes against the individuality of both the comparer and the compared. It assumes that you and I, or you and someone else, are the same in all things. When you compare yourself to me and wonder why you don’t look this way or do this or have that, you aren’t allowing for one very fundamental detail:

We are not the same person.

Between you and me, there is a plethora of differences – differences in body type, health, family history, maybe ethnicity, life developments and changes, jobs, particular emotional stressors, children or no children, and on and on. So it’s not only unfair to you when you compare yourself and hinge your self-esteem on someone else, but also to the person to whom you are comparing yourself. We are all in this together, but we are all fundamentally different people and far too individual and unique to be comparing ourselves to each other. I am not like you and you are like no one else. So let’s be fair to ourselves but also to others and let them be the special, unique, wonderful people that they are, too.

Thanks, Me