Thursday, October 15, 2015

An Open Letter to My Body

My Dear Body:

We need to have a talk. This has been a long time coming, and I think I will feel much better when I finally have this off my chest and out in the open. This, my one and only, is my sincerest letter of deepest apologies. I am sorry. I am sorry for the harsh judgment and criticism I spill on you every day. I am sorry for the terrible, awful, and rude things I have said to and about you. "Gross." "You are disgusting." "You are so fat." "Flabby-Mcflabberson."  This only scratches the surface of the scathing reviews I so willing give you. I would never say these things to or even about anyone else, yet I unrelentingly pour them out on you without reservation. I am starting to realize that this is not ok. Let me explain.

I live in a culture and time that constantly pounds into the conscious of women from the time we are young girls playing with dolls and watching princesses in movies that beauty is a size and shape. Measurements of waists outweigh the measurements of character. Statements like, "She would be so beautiful if she were thinner," fly easily from people's mouths. I am intimidated by every pound gained during a pregnancy because it might be the one I can't lose after pregnancy that makes people say, "She was always thin before she had babies." I compare myself to women in films and on magazine pages and catwalks whose entire existence is spending the bulk of their time working out and planning their meals because it affects their livelihood. (God forbid they gain a pound too much or they will lose their next role, campaign, booking, etc.) I fill my Pinterest boards, Instagram, and other accounts with images of women in bikinis, fitted clothes, or workout gear flexing toned extremities and washboard abs without an ounce of excess flab in sight under the hashtag #goals in an effort to confront myself with the images of perfection that I am not meeting but long to attain. Images like these make me despise myself for missing a workout and hate myself for any excess calories I might consume. Women on social media platforms body shame and judge one another without regard to the heart, soul, and mind of the person inside. I sit at tables and measure my food choices to those around me, silently resenting someone for eating the things I fear eating or for eating the way I wish I had the willpower to eat. I compare myself to others; hating myself for what I am and what I'm not all at the same time. I look in the mirror and perceive myself as too big, too flabby, too short, too pale, too plain, too imperfect. I apply an attitude of criticism and judgment to you and how you look each and every day.

The posture I should really take when I observe you is one of gratitude and awe. You have grown and given birth to two amazing, beautiful, healthy babies with minimal problems. You have sustained said babies' first year of life with super food that you freely and naturally create; a substance that not only gives them all of the nutrition they need but that also keeps them from getting sick and keeps me from having to mix and warm bottles in the wee hours of the night. You are constantly performing operations, even down to microscopic levels, that keep me alive and well...things you do without my conscious effort that if they suddenly ceased would suddenly cease me. You just had a wellness check that proved that you are in great condition: perfect blood pressure, great glucose levels, within the normal BMI range, and excellent cholesterol. How can I, in light of your stellar performance, continue to look at you with disdain and disappointment?

In 2012, I lost my great-grandmother, who had lived a long, active, and healthy life until she was diagnosed with cancer at the end of it. As she lay in the hospice bed, I don't believe that she was thinking, "I wish I had maintained a size six my whole life," or, "If only I hadn't had any excess weight anywhere on my body, my life may have been happy." And I can assure you that no one by her bedside was saying, "Good thing she always ate a perfectly balanced diet," or, "I will really miss how in shape she always was and how good she looked in her clothes." While she had lived a very healthy life, these weren't the things she focused on at all. She poured herself into her family and home and hobbies. I never once remember in my lifetime moments with her judging how she looked but thinking instead of how much I was enjoying working in her garden with her or playing Rummikub around her kitchen table with her or eating turnip greens, cornbread, and sweet tea with her or playing Wii bowling until the late hours of the night with her. It was the memories I made with her that I carry with me daily, not the memories of how she looked. In fact, I have failed to see a tombstone yet for anyone that says, "She was so thin - never missed a workout or ate a carb." I want my children one day to remember their mom laughing and smiling and enjoying life with them; not stressed out and unhappy, hating herself and beating herself up for what she wasn't.

I am sorry for treating you so badly after all that you have done so well. I am sorry for eating disorders I thrust upon you during my lifetime. I am sorry for the awful things I have thought and said about you even to this day. I am sorry for trying to make you something you aren't. And I am mostly sorry that I haven't realized these things sooner. I will try to get better. I will work out and eat right not to be a certain number on the scale or a certain size in clothes but to make sure you are as healthy and strong as you can be so that we can enjoy the life with which we have been so abundantly blessed. I will try to remind myself of these things I have written here (and in a blog post before) to be sure I view you in the proper light. I promise to do my best to look at you and see you for what you are - the beautiful life giving and sustaining system that was perfectly crafted by The Creator stitch for stitch and moment for moment - because life is too short to be overly focused on the externals, and when we come to the end of this life, it won't be those things that people remember of us. (At least I pray it is not...woe to us if it is...) Maybe if everyone was more focused on his or her heart and The One who makes it lovely, the whole world would be a more beautiful place. I promise to try to be one of that everyone...

All my love and gratitude,

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Labor and Delivery Nurses' Gifts

Hey, friends!

I hope that you all are doing well. We are steady plugging away at trying to prepare for the impending arrival of Baby M #2. Things are so busy between work and church and other obligations that it sort of feels like I am moving through mud trying to get things done, but they are no less getting there. One way I have tried to keep my sanity during this phase is by completing the to-dos on my checklist that I can get done entirely on my own. My hospital bag is packed (post to come soon), and I have finished my nurses' gifts for my upcoming hospital visit. 

If you followed my last set of blog posts during my pregnancy, you got to see my nurses' gifts I made for my nurses during my last labor and delivery hospital stay. Having nurses as very close friends and family, I am all too aware of the long hours, hard work, and sometimes personal sacrifices that their job requires, and it brings me such joy to be able to express to them a small token of my gratitude for the care they give to me and my family during these exciting times in our lives. These gifts are nothing extravaggant, but they are heartfelt and (hopefully) useful. I tweaked the gift slightly this time, keeping some of my favorite bits from the first go round, and made a few extra from last time to ensure I don't leave any nurse out. (I had no idea my first go round just how many wonderful nurses would be taking care of me and my family.) Below is a picture of the items I used to create my gifts.

The vessel I chose to use this time was a cold drink tumbler. I was able to buy these in bulk from Amazon, so each tumbler was around $3. Because I had the drink tumbler, I also went ahead and got some mix in water flavors to include in each gift. There is a mix of teas and lemonades for each cup. I also threw in some dark chocolate, some mints, a pack of tissues, a couple of hair ties (I figure even if I have a nurse whose hair doesn't require this, he or she probably knows of a nurse who could use one.), a click pen (my nurse sister says nurses can always use more of these), and a Burt's Bees lip balm. I ordered all of these items from start to finish from Amazon in bulk, so each gift ended up costing me around $6 to make. Here is a picture of what the gift looked like all put together:

Everything fit perfectly into the cup, and the box the cups were shipped in is a perfect vessel to move these items to the hospital when the time comes. Each cup is accompanied by a handwritten thank you note that simply expresses my gratitude for the nurses' service and lets them know that our family is thinking of and praying for them.

It always makes my heart happy to hope that these small tokens of my appreciation for someone will truly brighten their day and make them feel special. I certainly hope that all of the wonderful nurses at our hospital will feel that way. I also plan to have a couple of dozen mixed donuts delivered to the nurses' station at our hospital after our arrival. However, if Baby #2 chooses to make a planned entrance instead of a surprise one, I may make a batch of homemade cookies to take with us. This is one of those things that I can't really plan ahead for because it isn't up to me. :) Be on the lookout for my post on my hospital bag for Baby #2, and you can check out my post about my hospital makeup essentials on my blog, too. Let me know if you have any thoughts, questions, or ideas for great nurses' gifts to add!

In Christ Alone,

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Mommy Hospital Makeup Bag

Hey, Beautiful Blogosphere!

I wanted to do a quick post for you all about what I am taking to the hospital this time around in regards to makeup. Let's be honest: childbirth isn't the most glamorous thing you will ever do. But take my word for it- it is WITHOUT A DOUBT, ABSOLUTELY ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL! No matter what your tired, bloated, red-faced condition, you are bringing forth life, and there will be few moments if any in life that you are in a more genuinely beautiful condition. Glamorous- no...beautiful-yes.

Still, a little bit of makeup never hurt anyone. (Particularly when there are pictures involved.) While you will more than likely be in a state of overwhelming, exhausted, incredible bliss at the site of your baby, you will be moments away from friends and family snapping pics of you and your little one. I made sure my first time around to wear waterproof mascara during delivery because my blond eyelashes are basically nonexistent without something on them, and I put on a touch of concealer before the family came into the room. I brought along a makeup kit last time, too, for the days after delivery in the hospital with visitors (and their cameras), and ended up using only a few basic essentials. Quite frankly, while you want to look presentable in person and decent in pictures, it isn't the first thing on your mind are bonding with a little human who relies on you completely for everything. So, you are a little preoccupied.

This time around, I am bringing a small bag with just those necessities that I found myself reaching for in the days after delivery. These are items that are quick and easy to apply, look very natural, and helped me feel pulled together during my hospital stay. Here is my makeup survival kit for my hospital stay round 2.

I am using one of my Ipsy bags (awesome $10 to spend each month) because it is small and compact. Last time, I brought a BB Cream by Garnier that I loved for my face. I don't want a full on foundation routine in the hospital, so I find that a lighter, moisturizing alternative is easier. I am a little pale for that product now, so I have a tinted moisturizer by Sonia Kashuk (pick it up at Target). This one feels great, evens out my skintone, and gives a refreshing dose of moisture to the skin. It is a light to medium coverage, but it will help things settle out well. To cover the undereye area that will inevitably start looking dark from lack of sleep within the first 24 hours, I am bringing elf's maximum coverage concealer. This stuff has great coverage, a blendable consistency, and a little bit goes a long way. I may even use this to spot cover if needed. For a natural eye look, I have the NYX eye pallette in natural, BareMinerals Flawless Definition mascara, and a Sonia Kashuk brow pencil in taupe. For lips, I will use an elf lip balm tint in grapefruit, and I will also use this as a blush if needed. I will have a couple of elf brushes in the bag to apply shadow with, but otherwise, most items will be finger application.

Overall, the look I achieve will be simple and natural, and that is just what I want. I am not one to feel the need to look like Miss America post-birth. (Not that there is anything wrong with do whatever makes you feel best.) Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions. Have a wonderful day, and I hope to hear from some of you soon!

In Christ Alone,

Thursday, March 5, 2015

My Authoring Journey...Update 1

Hello, family and friends.

My how time flies when you are having fun! (And when you are 35 weeks pregnant...also fun.) And when you are in the process of having your first book published. So many exciting things are happening with the development of my children's book. The process has been more time consuming and involved than I ever would have thought it would be, but I am soaking up every minute. This has been a long time dream of mine, to be a published author, and while the journey isn't always easy, it has so far been wonderful. Before I fill you in on the current status of my book, let me tell you a short story. This is the story of how I got to this point in the first place with writing a book at all.

When I was in junior high, I was extremely insecure (that is probably an understatement) and was the victim of bullying. To say that I experienced growing pains would be putting it lightly. I was awkward, angry, confused, and depressed. It was difficult for me to put myself out there in most circumstances, and that was certainly true of the day to day interactions I had with my peers at school. I found myself spending a lot of time in the library and reading library books. Writing became a natural companion to that, and it is something that gave me an outlet for all of the thoughts and emotions I was dealing with during that time. Don't get me wrong, I had always been an avid reader; even in elementary school, I loved getting lost in the worlds of Nancy Drew and Laura Ingles Wilder and The Boxcar Children. In middle school, I put all of my efforts into advancing through the accelerated reader program in my free time by reading anything and everything I could get my hands on. Each new story gave me a new world to get lost in, a new character to meet and know, and a haven to escape to when things were hard. While I (thankfully) outgrew a lot of the social anxieties and issues I had in middle school (thanks to a loving family and very good friends who came into my life), my love for reading and writing remained with me.

I have always known that I couldn't wait to read to my own children, and when sweet Eli-man was born, I was ready to tell him stories, sing him songs, and teach him nursery rhymes. While I started out with the classics and love to read him his favorite books again and again, I started coming up with my own twist on the stories, and that is where my first book was born. It is a tribute to him, and even if it never turns a dime in profit, I can't wait to have it published so that he can one day say that it is the book his mom wrote for him.

While things are moving along, there have already been some set backs and disappointments. There was a short while that I thought a friend of Prince Charming's mom would be able to illustrate the book for me, and I was very excited about the possibility that someone I knew and had a connection with would be able to take this journey with me. Unfortunately, after a few talks, she decided that illustrating a book would just be too much of an undertaking for her at this point. While I was disappointed, I am thankful for a publisher that is so involved in my journey. Ampersand immediately stepped in and asked an artist they routinely work with if she would be willing to illustrate my book for me. She said yes, and we are now in the process of working out what that will entail. I am also, at the recommendation of a successful author at Ampersand and with a very kind attorney friend, currently working on setting up an LLC for the book to be published under to safeguard our personal lives from my publishing life.

I have also begun working on the setup needed to launch my Kickstarter campaign that I will be running in the next month or two in an effort to raise funding for the first publication of the book. While exciting and awesome, the first round of publishing is also expensive between set up fees, illustrator fees, etc. Kickstarter is a great way to open up a creative endeavor to include others in the creation of a product. Whether you contribute $5 or $5,000, it all goes toward helping to reach a goal that is needed to make something happen. Be on the lookout for those posts to come soon.

The journey is far from over, and while there are certainly uncertainties that still lie ahead, I am excited for what all of this means. There are moments of fear even now because while things are moving along, nothing is guaranteed. But even if everything suddenly fell through and none of it worked out, or if the book gets published and doesn't move, I will know that I chased a dream and gave it all I had. I will know, as I try to remember in all things, that God has a reason and purpose for everything that happens, and that is the ultimate comfort when things are good or bad.

Thanks for taking this journey with me!

In Christ Alone,

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I will be a Published Author in 2015!!!

Hello, family, friends, and Blogosphere followers!

I have been so looking forward to writing this post for the past couple of months, and I am thrilled that I can finally share this exciting news with you. I have been very blessed to be given the opportunity to have my first children's book published with Ampersand Inc. This is the same publishing company that published children's books such as Goodnight NOLA and Goodnight Tigers. While there is still a lot of work to be done, and a lot of details to iron out, I am officially in the process of working on publishing what will hopefully be my first of many books. I want to share this journey with you guys, and I figured that my blog would be the best place to land all of the thoughts and details that go along with what is happening on the way.

The book will be called Fry 'Em Up, Fry 'Em Up, Beignet Man. It originated from my changing the words to the classic Mother Goose Pat-a-Cake nursery rhyme to include a NOLA theme for Eli. The story emerged from around that little song and basically centers on the experience that is eating beignets in New Orleans, from the sights you see to the sounds you hear. It will feature shout-outs to some local businesses, including Progressive Barge Line, Inc. and (hopefully) a popular local New Orleans beignet spot. ;)

I was put in touch with Ampersand through a connection enabled by a co-worker, and I was fortunate enough to meet with the owner of the company this past Saturday to discuss the future of Beignet Man as she was in town from Chicago to visit family. She is awesome, and I am very excited about working with her and getting the benefit of her many years of expertise in the publishing world as I go through this process.

Ampersand is a private publishing company, and this is very different than going the traditional publication route or independently publishing your work. (I will try to explain this to the best of my ability, but please note that I am still very new to this world and my vocabulary and vernacular may not be spot on.) Independent publishing is exactly what it sounds like. You author the book, illustrate it or have it illustrated, have it printed on your own, and take the book around to get it into the market. In traditional publishing, you typically get an agent for your work. The agent then presents your work to publication companies on your behalf in order to sell them your work. Once picked up, your work is owned by the publication company and you take a small commission on what is made from the book once printed. Private publishing sort of works the opposite way of traditional. Your work is presented to the publisher directly, and they can choose to accept or reject it. If accepted, they work with you on editing, illustrating, printing, and putting the book into the national market (Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.). The major difference is that the author is still the owner of his or her work and the publication company makes a commission off of what is sold. In addition, because I still am the owner of the work, it will be my responsibility to pay for the printing of the book as well as get it into local businesses and markets.

After meeting with the publisher and as I move forward with this process, I am getting more and more excited about what is happening. We have finished the final edits and pagination of the manuscript of my work; we are working with a local artist on possibly illustrating the story; and once that is done, we will finalize the costs of publishing and begin that process. As a first printing can be quite expensive due to illustrator fees, print set up, and initial orders, I am planning on running a Kickstarter campaign to help offset the cost of the first publication. You can learn more about what Kickstarter is by clicking HERE! It is a terrific way for projects and products to get the financial backing they need to come to life. A local toy company called My Town Toy Company ran a very successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the launch of their first toy, the New Orleans Food Shapes puzzle. I will be sure to let you all know when that is up and running.

Please be praying for me in the coming weeks and months as things develop. 2015 is going to be a busy, wonderful, exciting year! God is doing some amazing things in my life, and I hope to glorify Him in all things, no matter the outcomes. Baby #2 on the way and a book in the works...I am very blessed!

In Christ Alone,