Love the Skin You’re In

I was not aware of this until late Tuesday night, but apparently there is a photo challenge making it’s way across the social networks at the moment. Depending on whose Facebook or other social status update you click on it may be called a number of things…the ones I’ve come across are “Zero Make-Up Challenge”, “Love the Skin You’re In Challenge”, and “All-Natural You Challenge” amongst others. Regardless of what it’s called, it’s always the same: take a photo of yourself without any kind of make-up or enhancements, do not modify the photo in any way (like using filters to make your skin a nicer color or something), and then post that photo for the world to see. The idea is to promote a healthy image of yourself and to show that beauty isn’t the result of make-up application or Photoshopping. After posting your own un-made-up, unaltered photo, you’re supposed to nominate others to take up the challenge as well. The whole thing is taking off like wildfire, and recently my cousin nominated me, so I shared this photo – taken first thing in the morning right after waking – on my Facebook feed:

I particularly like the big black circles under my eyes. :P
I particularly like the big black circles under my eyes that prove I barely slept that night. 😛

For myself, this challenge wasn’t a huge deal because I never wear a lot of make-up anyway. Every so often if I’m going to a party or a wedding or something I’ll add a bit of mascara and maybe some eyeliner, but for the most part I only ever wear lipstick, and only that because I find it detracts from how pale my skin is. It’s not necessarily that I don’t think I look nice wearing make-up; I’m just one of those few women who is way too lazy to give a damn. I like being able to be out the door in 2 minutes. Spending an hour in the bathroom meticulously working on my hair and face just isn’t how I like to spend my time.

Despite the “lazy as hell” part of that confession, I honestly think it’s a good attitude. After all, the fact that I’m not willing to spend time on things like make-up proves that I’m comfortable in my own skin, right?

But it is a difficult attitude to have, for sure, and I didn’t always think that way. I can remember back in junior high I used to obsess over the state of my hair. I always wore it in a ponytail, which you’d think would be pretty simple, but I couldn’t allow a single hair to be out of place. It would practically kill me if there was even a single little bump in the way my hair sat, so I would meticulously comb and comb and comb until every stand was perfectly flat against my head, and then I would hair-spray the crap out of myself to make sure it all stayed in place. When I would pull the ponytail out at the end of the day my hair wouldn’t even fall…that’s how much hair spray I would use.

Unfortunately when we’re younger and stupider it doesn’t really matter what anyone says…almost every one of us obsesses over our looks. One kid might sulk in a corner, insistent that they’re ugly and that there’s no point in even trying, while another will spend hours each day making sure that every little thing about their appearance is absolutely perfect. I think you’d be hard pressed to find many teenagers who can just get up in the morning, brush their hair, throw on some jeans and a t-shirt, and honestly believe that they look great. Even the boys I went to school with would spend all morning and half a bottle of hair gel to make themselves look like they’d just rolled out of bed looking gorgeous. No matter how much we try to convince kids that they’re all beautiful in their own way, they don’t believe it because that’s part of being a kid.

The bigger issue, I think, is when those attitudes follow you into adulthood. If you’re in your own place, with a career, possibly a spouse and some kids, and you still feel that you have to spend vast amounts of time and effort making yourself look “beautiful” every day, well…that’s a bit depressing. And that’s why I love this challenge. That photo of me up there might not be me at my best, but it’s me. The messy bun on top of my head is there because I’d rather snuggle with my husband for a few extra minutes in the morning instead of jumping right up and rushing off to the shower. The dark circles under my eyes are signs of loving my daughter enough to drag my butt out of bed at 2 am to go get her a drink. The lack of make-up shows that I have better things to do with my time than make myself “pretty” just to hang around the house. That’s me in that photo, through and through, and I have no good reason to try and be anyone else, thank you very much. 🙂

So how about it, ladies and gents? Are you willing to take the challenge? Post an unaltered photo of an unaltered you on your blog or social network site and link back so that I can see your commitment! 🙂

Cherish What You’ve Got

These days parents tend to be needlessly overprotective of their kids. They’re terrified of germs, they lose their minds if their child gets a cut or a bruise, and they refuse to let their children have any independence for fear of something horrible happening. To these people I point out that children are not, in fact, made of glass, and that making mistakes and getting hurt every now and then are important parts of childhood.

But this post is not about how kids are not as delicate as we make them out to be. This post is about how kids are not invincible.

When we become parents for the first time we take a lot of things for granted. We expect to watch our little bundles of joy grow and learn. We expect to see them start, and finish, school. We expect to someday see them find the perfect person, get married, and have children of their own. We expect that as long as we love them, teach them, encourage them, and take care of them that they’ll grow into happy, healthy adults. We expect that someday, far in the future when we’re very old, that we’ll pass on and leave our beautiful legacy behind us.

No one expects their child to leave them before any of these things can come to pass.

A little over a week ago I got some awful news: my cousin’s son lost his battle with sickness and passed away. He would have been seven years old at the end of this month.

I am not close with this cousin – in fact I very rarely ever see her – and I’d never met her little boy, but when I got word that he was gone from this world my throat went dry and I felt terribly ill. No parent should have to suffer the pain of losing a child, especially when that child is still a child. I can’t even fathom the pain my cousin is going through right now and I just hope that someday that pain lessens, though I know it will never leave her completely.

In the days following this terrible news I think I hugged and kisses my daughter a hundred times a day. I probably spent twice as much time on the floor playing with her, and when she was bad I couldn’t find it in me to get mad. I was haunted with the idea of what it might be like to lose her, because even when she’s pushing every single one of my buttons, she’s still my beautiful, precious little princess. But then I began to think: it shouldn’t take a tragedy to remind me of that fact.

I mean, come on…how precious is that?

As much as we wish it could be otherwise, our children are not invincible. Sometimes terrible, cruel, unfair things happen. Knowing this doesn’t mean that we should coddle our kids or make their lives miserable by being ridiculously overprotective. It simply means that we should cherish them…for as long as we are given the chance.

Kids will do wrong. They’ll be brats. They’ll be unreasonable and insufferable, and do things that make us want to pull our hair out. They’ll do everything they can to make us lose or minds, and we will: we’ll get mad and frustrated and we’ll lose our cool. That’s life and it’s part of parenthood and childhood. But beyond those moments, take a breath, look at your children, and cherish that they are in your life. They are the most precious thing in the world, and it should never, ever, take a tragedy like what my cousin is going through for you to realize that.

Hearts and Candy and Kisses, Oh My!

A "Text Me" heart...what has become of this world?
A “Text Me” heart…what has become of this world?

Yesterday, in anticipating of writing a Valentine’s Day post, I did a Google search on the history of the holiday. What I found is that no one really knows exactly how the celebration of love began. The general consensus, of course, is that the tradition came to life because of Saint Valentine (or Valentinus), but that’s where the certainty ends. You see, the Catholic Church recognizes three separate saints with that name, and all three were martyred in different ways that may have eventually led to the creation of a holiday in their honor. My personal favorite is that Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers and therefore made it illegal for young men to marry so that he could create a stronger army; but an understanding Valentine continued to perform marriages in secret, thus creating a name for himself as the Patron Saint of Love.

But, as previously mentioned, no one is sure if this is the real story of the creation of Valentine’s day. So, I started to think about Valentine’s Day as it is today. Sadly, the thoughts that first came to my head were, “Commercialized nonsense”, and “panicked men buying last-minute gifts for hard-to-please women”.

So then I started thinking, forget about all the cards and flowers nonsense…what does Valentine’s Day mean to me?

Valentine’s Day, while you can’t help but acknowledge it in some way, is no different from any other day because I love my husband (and my daughter!) every day of the year. Sure, I like the chocolates and candy, the thoughtful gestures that tend to come with this holiday, but there are so many other things that mean “love” to me.

The Turtles have it figured. I totally should have printed this card out for my daughter.
The Turtles have it figured. I totally should have printed this card out for my daughter.

Love is watching your loved ones sleep and thinking that they’re the most perfect person in the world. Love is making your significant other laugh deep down in their gut, even if it means embarrassing yourself to do so. Love is warm snuggles on the couch and the smell of your children’s hair. Love is letting your significant other know how beautiful you think they are. Love is cooking your family their favorite foods. Love is doing favors without being asked or looking for approval. Love is being warm and supportive of your loved ones’ decisions. Love is making time to play with your children and hang out with your loved one even when you have a hundred other things to do. Love is unconditional, even when you’re mad or upset; love is knowing that you’ll always forgive because this person (or these people) are more important to you than anything in the world.

Love is love, plain and simple, and relentlessly cheesy. 🙂

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Epic Fail

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

37. What to do if you’ve failed at the goals you set

Have you ever heard the phrase, “You’ve just gotta get back on the horse”? If you have, you should understand what I’m about to talk about. If you haven’t, what rock have you been living under for the past hundred years?

Everyone fails at goals. Maybe not all the time, maybe some more often than others, but everyone at some point in time fails at a goal they’ve set for themselves. It’s the nature of the situation that even if we have all the best of intentions, things will go wrong, other issues will intrude, and any number of problems will arise to keep us from reaching the end of the line. Maybe it’s something we can’t control, like the fact that our new job requires us to work 70-hour weeks and we can’t work on our goal if we want to be able to eat and sleep as well. Maybe it’s something absolutely controllable, like being just plain lazy. It doesn’t really matter what the reason is. It doesn’t make you a better or worse failure. Failure is failure.

But failure is also just a chance to start over again. Failure shows us what we’ve done wrong, which issues we failed to take into consideration, and what we have to change to do better next time. If you’re a really optimistic type, failure might even be motivation to try harder. If you’re the pessimistic type, things might be a little more difficult, but the same points still apply.

And excellent example of failure and moving on from it is rejection in writing. An author can put their heart and soul – and a ridiculous number of work-hours – into a manuscript, only to have it rejected by the publisher…and then rejected by another…and another…and another. Regardless of how good a manuscript may be, it is almost certain that the author will receive multiple rejections before (hopefully) receiving a publication offer. This situation really defines the whole “get back on the horse” thing because if these authors were to just give up, where would we be? Were you aware that J.K. Rowling received 12 rejections for the first Harry Potter book before finally getting published? We all know now that the Harry Potter books are well-written, well-loved, and have ultimately sold bucketloads. So why did she receive so many rejection letters? There are any number of reasons, but the point is that she had a goal set (to publish that damn book!) and she didn’t let failure upon failure stop her from continuing to try and try, getting back on the horse again and again.

It’s definitely hard sometimes…humans are naturally depressive and easily-discouraged creatures…but if the goal you’ve set for yourself is something that’s important to you, something that you know you’re not going to be happy just giving up on, then you have to press on. If you’ve done something wrong, figure out what it is. If outside issues are holding you back, figure out a way around them. And if the problem is just timing, situation, or reliance on others to react the way you need them to, you just have to keep trying, trying, trying, until all the puzzle pieces fall into place. In the end you’ll be better off for having to have worked for it, and the end of the line will be that much more beautiful when you reach it.

At least that’s what I keep telling myself, and I hope you’re able to hold on to that hope as well. 🙂

Back to Basics

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

33. Reviews of your favorite office supplies

A few years ago I probably could have made this post long enough that no one in their right mind would have bothered to read it all. Traditionally, I love writing in a notebook with a really nice pen, so I have a bit of an unhealthy relationship with office supplies. As I’m typing this there is an entire shelf on one of my bookshelves devoted to my notebooks, and about a third of them are almost completely empty…I bought them because I fell in love with them at the time, but only wrote a few pages before getting distracted and/or moving on to something else.

These days, as previously mentioned, I do the overwhelming majority of my writing on my laptop. It’s just quicker that way. That said, I do still have a couple of favorite manual writing supplies that I can say a couple of words about, for the sake of this post:

1. Cambridge City Vinyl Notebooks
I’ve used a lot of different notebooks, but this one has to be my favorite. The vinyl front and back covers feel almost like a supple leather, and the spiral binding is very tough and stiff so you don’t end up with those annoying bent spirals that constantly get your pages all caught up. The pages themselves are beautifully ruled, as beautiful as ruling can be anyway, and all in all the notebooks are a pleasure to write in.

2. PaperMate Capped Ballpoint Pens, Fine, Blue
You might think I’m kidding about this one because these are quite possibly the cheapest pens on the planet, but I’m totally serious. I’m a bit of a pen nut, and these ones remain, to this day, my absolute favorites. They write smoothly, they’re comfortable in the hand, and as previously mentioned, they’re quite possibly the cheapest pens on the planet. What’s not to love?