When talking about a girl’s body image, you have to go back. Waaaaaay back. All the way to the early years. Because a child will remember if people noticed her and whether they said nice things or a plethora of backhanded compliments. You know the ones.
“Oh she’s as skinny as a beanpole!”
WHAT THE HELL IS A BEANPOLE???
“She eats just like a bird!”
THAT’S CAUSE YOUR EGG SALAD HAS SHELLS IN IT, LADY!
Thankfully what I remember hearing is comments about my hair. I had long strawberry blonde hair and strangers would often comment to me or my mother how beautiful it was. They also commented occasionally on my freckles, which when you’re 6 are adorable. I can’t say the same at 28 because now I only have them on my arms and they’re called moles.
Back to my hair. On nights before big school days, my mom would often braid my hair in two pigtails. Then one or both of my older brothers would grab hold of the braids, making motorcycle noises as they “drove” me screaming around the house.
The next morning, my mother would help me get dressed in some sort of skort or jumper, as that is all my closet consisted of. Then she would take out the braids and begin brushing my hair.
Then she would brush even more…
and brush just a little bit more…
until my hair was the equivalent of one of those static electricity balls you see at science fairs.
And that is why I held the title of Miss Midwest Afro Queen, circa 1991.
Tell me your thoughts! What comments did you hear growing up?
What fashion choices make you happy instagram wasn’t around then?
Should my mother be allowed to touch anyone else’s hair?
It began as one of those mornings. Nothing was going to be easy. Still, I mistakenly started my workday by making what I thought was a simple phone call.
Me: “Hello, I’m calling about completing our SAM registration.”
Woman on Phone: “Certainly, first may I have your name – first and last – your email, and phone number in case we get disconnected?”
I spell out and listen to her repeat all my information back to me.
Woman on Phone: “And do you go by Mr. Witkins?”
Me: *silence* … “Um, I’ll respond to MS. Witkins.”
Really?? I know it’s early in the morning, but my voice isn’t that low?
Have you listened to my vlog? I sound like a Jim Henson muppet!
Me: “I need to complete our SAM registration.”
Woman on Phone: “Alright ma’am, and what’s your dunce number?
Me: “My DUNCE number?”
This lady is not making friends with me this morning.
Woman on Phone: “Yes, ma’am. Every organization has their own Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number.”
Me: “Oh, DUNS number. I have no idea.”
Shit. Maybe I should have a DUNCE number.
Woman on Phone: “No problem, I can give you the number to look up your DUNS number and you can call back here when you have it.”
Me: “So, I look up my DUNS number and then I can call back here to complete our SAM registration?”
Woman on Phone: “Yes, ma’am.”
Lies! She told me lies!
The next half of my morning was spent taking a variety of background checks and chatting on the phone with more women assuring me this was how I register our SAM account.
FYI, a SAM account is used for any agency that receives federal funding. It’s the registry that proves you are who you say you are, and funds are sent through that registry. My nonprofit employer needed to update our account, but the problem it seems is that our registry was logged under an employee who is no longer with our agency. So I was trying to access our account and update the necessary info.
These are the faces I made during the following process.
First step: Call 2nd phone number and ask for agency’s DUNS number. Get told they don’t give DUNS numbers out over the phone, but they’ll email me the website link to look it up online.
Second step: Go to the website which forced me to complete an online background check in which I was asked a series of multiple choice questions about my identity – not my agency – MY identity. What are the first two digits of my social security number? What county was I born in?
Third step: Now answer 4 more random security questions.
Fourth step: Pass the background check! Acquire DUNS number! Find out DUNS number was in original email requesting SAM registration all along.
Fifth step: Hit head on desk.
Sixth step: Call back to original SAM registration line. Give them DUNS number.
Seventh step: Become informed that I must create an account on the SAM registration website.
Eighth step: Do that.
Ninth step: Become informed I must submit a notarized letter signed by the head of my agency confirming I am who I say I am in order to be approved as the new agency account administrator.
Tenth step: Hit head on desk more.
Eleventh step: Write letter to be notarized. Get boss to sign it.
Twelfth step: Get letter notarized by a lady at the bank.
Thirteenth step: Discover the bank lady uses an embossed notary seal, not an inked one. So this will never show up when I scan it and send it to the federal government.
Fourteenth step: Scan letter anyway and email to government. Become informed I must create an account on a third website for that day.
Fifteenth step: Go home. The federal government hates me.
How was YOUR morning?
Hey Dudes and Dudettes,
It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged about my progress with the To Be Read Pile Challenge, so I thought I’d better “update my status.” You see I’ve been reading a lot about relationships lately, so I have three titles of love advice for anyone to enjoy.
And as a refresher, if you’re unfamiliar with the TBR Pile Challenge, it’s a reading contest hosted by Adam over at Roof Beam Reader. The goal is to complete in 12 months time 12 books that have been sitting on your bookshelf for a year or more. You know the ones, they linger in the ever-looming “to be read” pile. At nine months in, I’m just two books away from completing the challenge this year. Holla!
What have I recently crossed off my list?
Little known fact about me, or maybe it’s no secret, I love learning about sex and sexuality. I minored – and only because it wasn’t offered as a major at the time – in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. I’m passionate about women’s issues and rights, and I’m thrilled to be working at a reproductive health clinic in my town. Reading about the history and science of sex research was right up my alley.
The author, Mary Roach, is quite possibly the queen of nonfiction exposition on risque topics. Her other books dive into the worlds of human cadavers, the digestive track, and what happens when we die. For Bonk, the woman volunteered herself and her husband to be lab rats for sex research on orgasms. That’s dedication.
In Bonk, not only will you learn about the doctors and scientists behind the “G-spot,” the infamous Kinsey “attic sessions,” or just how artificial insemination happens in a pig, but so much more!
Alright, let’s tame things down a bit. For all you Downton Abbey diehards and regency era wannabees, I suggest you give Daisy Goodwin’s The American Heiress a try. My book club read this one and it was well enjoyed.
Cora Cash is an American debutante. She is wealthy, beautiful, and definitely high society. Her mother, opinionated at her core, has high plans of wedding her daughter to an English Duke, which would grant Cora the one thing she doesn’t have…a title.
It won’t surprise readers to learn that Cora is soon wed in the novel, however can Cora’s marriage last when she comes from a different world than her husband? So many unknowns!
Escape on a whirlwind love affair in Europe, walk the halls of the great English mansions, and go galloping with the finest – or are they – members of society.
By and far one of my favorite reads this year! I can’t believe I didn’t read it sooner! After all, the film adaptation by Alfred Hitchcock is tied for first place (with North by Northwest) as my favorite film of his.
Be very aware, young lovers, when falling head over heels into this tale. A young woman of unfortunate circumstance believes her luck has turned around when she meets and marries millionaire, Maxim De Winter, owner of the luscious estate, Manderley. But all is not well inside these walls. The great rooms of the house, the garden with its roses, and the forgotten cottage down by the beach – they are all haunted by Rebecca – the first Mrs. De Winter.
A shocking truth brings the honeymoon to a miserable end in this chilling story by Daphne Du Maurier. I can’t tell you what happens, just read it for yourself!
What have you been reading? Are you participating in the TBR Pile Challenge? How’s it going? Got any recommendations for me?
I had so much fun chatting with you all over my last post, Five Truths and a Lie. What a hoot watching you all guess which of the 6 stories were real and which one wasn’t. If you haven’t guessed yet, go ahead and click the link to submit your answer. I’ll wait!
Final submissions in? Good!
On to the fun and giggles! I decided to reveal the answers via vlog. And good news for you, I haven’t been drinking before this one, so it should make a lot more sense than my past vlog when I was touring the Beer, Wine, and Cheese Festival. Yaaaaaaah, good times!
So here’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it!
So how did you do? Did you guess right?
Are you shocked about my past life?
Nah, you knew I was scandalous! ;)
Thanks to the sweetest mother-daughter blogger duo, InionNMathair, I’ve been introduced to some awesome new bloggers via their post, The Sisterwives. One of these amazing women is Mandi of the fabulously named blog – Cellulite Looks Better Tan.
I’ll have to take your word on that, Mandi!
*stretches toes into ray of sunlight* Sizzle *withdraws immediately*
For now, this redhead is still sun-combustible. And my cellulite looks like a marshmallow.
Then again, Mandi prides herself on being a good liar. Perhaps this is true about sun-baked cellulite. I can’t be sure.
What I am sure of is that Mandi is a really funny gal. And she just shared five truths and a lie in her blog post, True Story…, for readers to figure out which thing on her list is the lie. Interested yet? You should be. After all she includes tuna, stitches, and dead people! What more could you want?!
Inspired to play along, I’m sharing five truths and a lie for all of YOU to guess which one is the lie about me.
Have at it!
1. I once won a year’s worth of chicken wings.
2. My first boyfriend collected horse figurines.
3. I quit smoking by drinking tea.
4. My parents’ backyard once kept 7 toilets, 1 urinal, a washing machine, a keyboard, and a caution – slow down – crosswalk person inside it.
5. I love to cartwheel.
6. I whistle by breathing in instead of out.
So, whatd’ya think?
Which one is the lie?
The past year has been a transitional one for me. I quit my job of six years, I was unemployed and financially broke for months, I wrote a full draft of my book, and I got a new job that I love!
It seems the winds of change weren’t done for me after just one year. I took on the task of planning an international wedding. I continued working on my book. I had a secret civil ceremony abroad. And then my family and I laid my brother-in-law to rest. Four days later, Joe and I had our stateside wedding ceremony and revealed our big surprise.
It doesn’t seem possible that I’ve undergone so many emotional extremes – some of which in one week’s time. I know I lived it. But I can’t believe it. I just knew it was time that I start taking care of myself. Mentally and physically.
The big push to get started came after reading Arianna Huffington’s book, Thrive. It’s amazing and well-researched. And I had the pleasure of meeting her at BlogHer14. In her book, she discusses the strengths and increased productivity from exercising meditation, getting enough sleep at night, and separating ourselves from technology for awhile.
I started practicing a few of her tips, like not checking social media an hour before bedtime – and going to bed earlier!
About a month ago, my best friend asked me if I wanted to do the 21 Day Fix challenge with her. It’s a daily workout and meal plan. I was in the midst of the wedding and decided not to, but when it came up again this month, I said yes.
And that brings me to all the green food I’ve eaten.
I’m eating a lot of green food.
Everything I’m eating is GREEN!
In addition, I also ate peas, green beans, and asparagus.
I started worrying that if I continued to eat so many green foods, I would eventually turn GREEN!
And then I’d look like an Oompa Loompa!!!
But I still crave junk food sometimes.
I’m liking how I feel so far. Taking care of ourselves is a luxury most of us don’t honor. But I’m glad I timed myself out and did this. My brain and body feel energized and are able to start processing the events of this past year.
What are you doing for yourself this week?
I was in Madison this past weekend visiting family when I drove by a rather peculiar sign on a highly trafficked street corner.
But then I thought, “Where can I find some large kidlets to sell? I could use some extra cash.”
And that’s when I looked schemingly at my niece and nephew. *rubs hands together*
My niece, who is 12, is only about 1 inch shorter than me, if that. She has taken on, with great gusto might I add, the goal of growing taller than several members of our family. I am the next name on her list.
Yes, she has a list.
When I arrived earlier that day at my brother’s house, I learned I was going to be sharing a room with my niece for the night. While carrying my backpack to the guest mattress they had laid out, she noticed a pair of shoes sticking out of my bag.
Niece: “Oh good, you brought the shoes I like!”
Me: “I like them too. That’s why I STILL WEAR them.”
Suffice it to say, after we arrived back to their house, having seen the sign for the “HUGE KIDS SALE,” my mind was full of ideas.
Ideas that raised my eyebrows when I saw my niece walk across the living room wearing my shoes – that fit her – on her 12 year old feet. I am almost 29.
And then when I saw her proceed to gulp down a glass of lemonade and eat several slices of banana bread smeared in butter, I may have uttered in a kind of creepy voice, “Good, good. Eat up, my pretty. I’ll make more at the market in the morning.” *followed by more hand rubbing*
My niece giggled at me and put my shoes back in my bag.
Now how come my brother has never asked me to babysit?
Well the cat’s out of the bag now and we revealed our big surprise to our wedding guests and you that we’ve secretly been married for a month now.
Surprise!!! *throws rice confetti and releases the doves*
Here’s what people are saying about it:
“It was the best wedding I’ve never been to!”
“Most fun we’ve had at a wedding in a long time!”
“It’s so romantic and beautiful.”
“How did you keep it a secret so well? We loved it!”
We are eternally grateful that everyone supported our actions and thought what we did was romantic and dreamlike. It really was.
I mean, look where we were! Can you blame us?
Our wedding day in Santorini was relaxing. Since our wedding wasn’t until sunset, we actually lounged the whole morning, swimming and hanging out in our private jacuzzi with glasses of Assyrtiko wine.
I’ve heard that every wedding day has its minor glitches and mine involved my flat iron.
While we had planned ahead and purchased an international adapter plug, Joe had warned me about voltage conversion issues. So far, things had worked out when it came to charging our camera and my laptop. While getting ready for the big event, I plugged my flat iron in to use it to smooth my bangs down and planned to curl the rest of my hair.
Yes, I know that sounds weird. I use my FLAT iron to CURL my hair. Just trust me it works, and I like how the curls turn out better than with a curling iron.
I had recently just purchased a new flat iron as well. It was so beautiful, a shiny new red handle and it worked really well.
I was straightening my bangs when I heard this little sizzling noise. And about 5 seconds later I dropped the flat iron to the floor because that sizzle I heard was the inside of the HANDLE burning up and scalding my palm. VOLTAGE CONVERSION ISSUE!!!
This day is not about my hair. This day is not about my hair. This day is not about my hair.
Those are the words I repeated to myself in the mirror as I stared at my straight hair. They were followed by gratitude to the gods for the fact that I had smoothed my bangs and NOT begun curling my hair or else I’d have ended up with some half-headed poodle-ized catastrophe.
And my new straightener…ended up in the trash. :(
In the end it worked out.
Joe also played a trick on me on our wedding day. We’d been talking the week before we left about our wedding vows and all he’d tell me about his were that he “had a good idea” of what he was going to say and he didn’t need to write them down because he didn’t want them “to sound rehearsed.”
Okay, fine. But know that I had stepped up my game when it came to writing wedding vows. When Joe and I first started dating, I was still in college and wrote a lot of spoken word poems. Some even, for Joe. It’d been years since I’d written one. As a meaningful gesture, I wrote my vows in a spoken word poem for him.
The morning of our wedding, we both had to rewrite our vows nicely on fresh paper because we’d only packed the rough drafts. So I wrote mine out on one end of our room, and he wrote his on the other. I finished rewriting mine, meanwhile Joe is still sitting there – slightly staring into the abyss, periodically writing something down.
That worm! Is he just writing his vows NOW?!!
So our wedding time came and I was unsure what Joe’s vows would be. I was half preparing for a bulleted list of nonsense.
So what the heck had he been twiddling with for so freaking long?
My twerp of a husband was messing with me. That whole time he was sitting there pretending to struggle with his vows, he was scribbling Bruno Mars song lyrics on the back of the paper!
I’ll get you for this, my pretty!
Everyone we worked with from our Grecian wedding planner’s company was wonderful. We had so much fun laughing with them, enjoying our happy moment of foreverness, taking in as much beauty as our eyes would let us, and sharing cake and champagne with them as well as our hotel staff, who felt like our long distance Greek family members while we stayed there.
Thank you to everyone who supported us and our big surprise!
We so enjoy sharing our 2 special weddings with you all.
Have you ever kept a big secret from your closest loved ones?
How did it go over when you finally told them?
When you look in the mirror, how do you feel about yourself?
And we’re being honest here.
Do you believe the only value it shows is what’s on the outside? Does the mirror, to you, amplify your flaws or acknowledge the human being that you are with phenomenal virtues inside and out?
Does the mirror reflect your worth?
This is the question that a group of women from Austen, TX came together to answer. But first, they started a band.
Their group is called The Mrs.
Unable to connect with the songs they were hearing on the radio, well past the years of the teenage heartbreak and club beats, they sought to create music inspired by their own lives as passionate – and busy – wives, mothers, and girlfriends.
The all-female rock band is comprised of drummer Andra Liemandt, lead vocalists/guitarists Mandy Prater and Jennifer Zavaleta, vocals/keyboardist Larissa Ness, and bassist Jenny Mason.
They wrote a song called ‘I’m Enough.’ And from that song, they gave birth to a movement.
They plastered stickers around every mirror and window they came across with messages like “You’re awesome,” “I’m Enough,” and “You’ve never looked better!” Then they took it a step further and concocted what some might dub ‘a magic mirror’, a talking mirror that surprised women all over the county.
At first glance, the mirror on the wall appears ordinary. When you walk up to it, all you see is your reflection.
And then a voice comes on.
That voice greets you, perhaps by name. That voice tells you you’re beautiful. That voice tells you you are loved. That voice tells you you’re enough.
The Mrs. performed at BlogHer live on Saturday, and their talking mirror was in the vendor hall all weekend. My pal, August McLaughlin, and I got to experience the talking mirror firsthand before we even knew what it was!
I went up to it first. I put the headphones on and immediately this friendly voice greeted me, “Hi Jess! Look at that gorgeous red hair!”
The person behind the mirror told me I was beautiful. She told me I had beautiful, clear skin.
I started crying.
I wasn’t making-a-scene-hysterical, I just genuinely teared up. I don’t tell myself my skin is beautiful.
As my 30th birthday gets closer, I’ve been battling some body dysmorphia. I wrote about it in To Conceal and Carry…My Muffin Top. Besides recent weight gain, I have trouble with adult acne. It began as “teenage” acne, then “college” acne, and morphed into adulthood “I’ve paid thousands of dollars on skincare and make-up” acne. I know my skin has changed and that it has improved. But when I look in the mirror, I see only the bumps, the redness, the scarring.
I knew my attacks on myself were really bad when I nonchalantly made the comment to my sister, “You know how people sometimes ask you ‘If you could have any superpower in the world, what would it be?’ Well, mine would be clear skin. That’s all I want. CLEAR skin!”
I immediately felt hurt when I said it. Hurt by my OWN words. I had always been the girl who wanted to fly. How had I let myself get so stuck?
Even on my wedding day, my biggest fear was my face. Not the hundreds of dollars we paid in legal paperwork for an international wedding, or traveling to a foreign country with my wedding dress, or that Joe had not written his vows until the day of (he actually had, but was messing with me for fun). No, I was freaking out over my face. I wanted perfect skin for my wedding day, and that was the one thing beyond my grasp.
I started a mantra, “This day is not about my face. This day is not about my face.” And I said it every morning as I put my make up on for that whole week before our wedding.
So yah. I started crying when the woman behind the mirror told me I had clear skin. And then she told me my writing mattered. That my words brought joy and laughter and insight to others. And I felt – this may sound silly – but I felt like I sprouted wings. Little baby wings that flapped and triggered my brain to say “Go after your dreams.”
And remember I’m enough.
Do you need to be reminded?
Follow more of the movement on Twitter using the hashtag #ImEnough.
This weekend I had the immense pleasure of attending Blogher ’14.
I can’t even begin to decompress and describe the mind bomb that is this conference. 4,000 bloggers, most of them women, in scenic California, partying it up, networking, and honoring each others’ voices.
I arrived in San Jose, CA on Thursday afternoon and was greeted by cupcakes (made out of lentils???) in a beautiful city. I ask you, does it get any better than that?
Who was on the list?
Jenny Lawson - who you may know as The Bloggess, and author of the hilarious memoir, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. I met her, and we talked about funny female authors, and we both just finished reading Nora Ephron for the first time, and she signed my book “Knock Knock, Mofo”. Isn’t she great?
Tig Notaro - the comedian best known for her stand up show discussing the humor and heft of having breast cancer. You can download free tracks of her stand up at her site here, including clips from her famous show, Live.
Arianna Huffington - as in the founder of The Huffington Post! Best speech of the keynotes; she was inspiring, charming, funny, and flawless. And you know what? I met her too, and I spoke to her in Greek! *seriously might faint just thinking how awesome that was*
Kerry Washington - the actor and activist. She shared behind the scenes stories from her show, Scandal, as well as why civil rights and philanthropy are so important.
BlogHer is drastically different than writers conferences, in my opinion. When you go to a writers conference, there’s a pretty strict schedule of classes to attend. It’s more about learning, networking, and deciding about indie vs. traditional publishing routes. It’s awesome and definitely motivating, but different.
1. BlogHer is basically a giant party.
No I’m not kidding. That’s how it feels. Everyone is smiling. Everyone wants to meet people. Everyone wants to know what you blog about and which classes you attended, and which yogurt you picked in the Yoplait #tasteoff challenge!
Shocker! We picked Yoplait.
That’s me and the illustrious August McLaughlin
hanging out with a giant spoon. #GoodTimes
The Expo room with all the vendors is fun to bum around. And for those looking to write sponsored posts, the connections are yours for the making!
2. The Keynotes
See above. Then wipe the drool from your chin. I can’t wait to see who’s on board for next year’s keynotes.
3. Voices of the Year Community Keynote
If you want to hear the voices that are groundbreaking in the blogosphere, attend the VOTY celebration. I was in awe of these women. And I want to share them all with you. Here are the 12 Voices of the Year that spoke at the conference. (All were phenomenal, but I starred the ones that spoke the most to me personally.)
*Parri Sontag ~ Her Royal Thighness ~ Leisure Suits, Braces, and Beanies: My Life as a Dodgeball Target
Kristin Vanderhey Shaw ~ Two Cannoli ~ More Than Words
Tammy Soong ~ World’s Worst Moms ~ First Reason Not to Get a Tattoo: Your Mom Probably Has One
*A’driane Nieves ~ Butterfly Confessions ~ America’s Not Here For Us
*Meredith Bland ~ Pile of Babies ~ 9 Awesome Things About Having a Physical Disability
*Janelle Hanchett ~ Renegade Mothering ~ We Don’t Start With Needles in Our Arms
Phyllis Myung ~ The Napkin Hoarder ~ Sometimes I Still Wish I Was White
Ashley Garrett ~ Baddest Mother Ever ~ It’s All One Life
*August McLaughlin ~ August McLaughlin’s Blog ~ My Big Brindle Heart: A Love Story
*Grace Sandra ~ Grace Sandra’s Blog ~ Letting The Stupid Little Ni**er Go
Jenna Hatfield ~ Stop, Drop, & Blog ~ The Bridge That is Any Bridge
Lisa Page Rosenberg ~ Smacksy ~ The View From Here
4. Networking and Friendships
There are 4,000 bloggers in one building and you get to hang out with them!!! I actually ran out of business cards.
Also, meet bloggers you follow online.
After using Twitter as a ginger beacon homing device, I met up with Aussa Lorens from Hacker. Ninja. Hooker. Spy.
You know who else I Twitter stalked?
Hege and Cotille from StitchFix! Photo coming soon as it’s on Cotille’s phone, but the girls will be sharing their photos from BlogHer and all the StitchFix fashionistas at the conference using the hashtag #StitchFixInTheWild.
*double squeeee* I even went out to dinner with them! And we leisured on Santana Row, San Jose’s trendy hot spot for restaurants and clothing boutiques.
But best of all was meeting fellow blogger, longtime friend, and founder of #GirlBoner radio – August McLaughlin!
5. BlogHer is literally a giant party.
The end of the conference is a big, outdoor party. And Rev Run from Run DMC was the dj. #ILoveThe90s
Do you need any more reasons than that?
So, will I see you at BlogHer next year?