Tuesday, July 12, 2016

To the next people who live in this house

To the next people who live in this house,
You don’t know me, but I am the last woman to live in this house. I wanted to tell you a little bit about the place you’re about to live.

When I first came here, seven years ago, I was a child. I was married, had a career, but I was spoiled and young. So much younger than age can measure. I had known sadness, but not hardship, and I had no idea what I was getting into. Seven years can change a lot. This house is where I stopped calling myself a girl. I’m not sure if it’s these walls that did it, but that realness will stay after I leave.

The kitchen was the first place we changed, and financing the floors was how we learned what “six months no interest” really means: if it’s not all paid by six months, you’re going to face ALL THE INTEREST. That was hard to swallow. The living room walls are blue, but that’s not the first color I picked. We bought three gallons of Tea Time Beige, and after only a few swipes on the wall, I instantly hated the color. The paint is still in the basement. I promise we’ll get rid of it before we close. Anyway, that’s when I learned the importance of testing your color before you stock up.

The hallway outside of the bathroom is where I read the pregnancy test that turned me into a mother. I took it on a whim, on my way to work, and I called into the back bedroom where my husband was sleeping. I told him to put on his glasses, and he looked and it and said “REALLY?” and gave me this side hug. The only light was coming from the sconces over the vanity. It was the last carefree moment we ever had.

The window in the corner of the living room is where I sat down hard on the couch the day my mother called to tell me my grandmother died. The couch was always there; it’s where I was sitting when I called my Papa to say goodbye, when I was stranded in a snowstorm and he was dying in Florida. In the backyard, which I never tamed, I used to think of my long-dead father when I tried to dig or landscape. He must have been laughing so hard at me. Our whole family has watched the birds in the hedge next door for years now. It feels a little lame, but we can’t help getting thrilled when we see cardinals or blue jays. There are wild raspberries in the hedge on the opposite side. They’re thorny and the neighbors hate them, but they are our favorite part of every year.

I wrote my first novel on the back porch, bit by bit over several years. This is also the first place I ever called myself a writer. I was sitting at the kitchen table when I got the news about my first paid writing gig. I jumped up and down and cried in disbelief. Some of the happiest moments of my adult life have happened at a little desk pushed up against the left back window, before sunrise, with a hot cup of coffee at my side.

Last October, my sister threw me a giant surprise party to celebrate my turning 30. I stepped onto the back porch and saw our backyard full will a huge tent strung with gorgeous lights and a crowd of people cheering for me. I was so stunned, but later, when I watched a video of myself stepping onto the porch, I noticed my son holding up his arms and pronouncing “all Mama’s friends!” That’s what I will forever think of when I think of that night, and all the campfires we’ve had in the backyard. How lucky we are to have these friends.

This doesn’t cover all the memories of this home: sitting on the front porch steps eating popsicles, dance parties after dinner with sauce-covered boys, greeting trick or treaters, shoveling our little driveway, naming strays, walking to the dinosaur playground, birthday parties and Easter brunches and a million nights of takeout on the couch with a good movie. But I need to stop because I know the most important thing is that none of this matters. This is not our home to make memories in anymore. It’s your turn now.

You don’t have to keep anything the same. You can paint the siding or tear down the raspberries or demolish the little back porch. This house is yours now, to make perfect for you and the family you plan to raise here. And I want you to know how special that is to me, to know that a family is coming here. To know that you will be layering more messy fabulous family love onto the messy fabulous family love that has already happened here.

I’m not giving you my blessing, because you don’t need it. You are already scheming, I’m sure, where you’ll put the Christmas tree and what color your children’s room will be. Your touch is already flooding the walls. I hope you have the same profound transformations that I have had while you call this place your home. And if you ever choose to move on, I hope you can have the same peace that I do, saying goodbye.

Here is the post I wrote sharing pictures of our brand new house in 2009. It's amazing how much has changed.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Feminist Sticker Club Giveaway Winner!

Thank you to everyone who participated in the challenges I laid out last week in the Glorious Bod post, I absolutely freaking adore seeing all your selfies. It drives me over the edge of happiness. So many gorgeous smiles and sun kissed ladies and summery feelings- KEEP IT UP please don't stop. I plan to keep posting all summer long- break the internet, ladies.

I was pumped to see so many people enter the giveaway for the SIX MONTH SUBSCRIPTION to the Feminist Sticker Club (the July sticker should be here any day and I can't wait!). Alas, there can only be one winner, so a big congratulations to....

Blythe Henderson Freedline!

Hooray! But I can't let the sticker love stop there, SO, if you have posted a selfie in the last week with the hashtag #BYOLSummerOfSelfies (hint: you can go throw that hashtag on any selfie from the last week RIGHT NOW), leave a comment here or privately message me with your address, and I will be sending you your very own copy of the Beach Body sticker. EEE! I can't wait to see where you slap these stickers. Thank you again to Kelly at Feminist Sticker Club for donating this badass prize.

Another quick note:

There is no July pick for Be Your Own Book Club- my family is moving and I'm taking a writing class, so I have no time to give it the love I think it deserves. If you're hankering for a July suggestion and didn't read You Don't Have To Like Me, our June pick, definitely check that out. I adored this book and will be rereading passages all summer. It's a feminist, body positive, gushing confessional about lipstick, rape culture, bulimia, fashion, female friendship, periods, abortions, and the ridiculous task of being a woman in today's society. I especially love the way she discusses her mistakes and missteps- incredibly validating to me. I'll be writing up my review and some discussion questions in early August.

Keep cool, sweet ones. All the love in the world!

(image credits: 1 / 2)

Monday, June 27, 2016

Three Ways to Celebrate Your Glorious Bod (Yes. It's Glorious.)

Self love is kind of an exhausting concept. We all KNOW that we're supposed to love ourselves. Pinterest boards, internet memes, and annoying coworkers like myself are constantly reminding you to love yourself. Sparkly t-shirts and soap advertising and yogurt companies are demanding that you love yourself. The message is developing that you're not a REAL woman unless you LOVE YOURSELF, DAMMIT. Add in the pressure of loving your BODY, a mission fraught with baggage and insecurity, and most people would rather get a root canal than have an honest discussion about their positive qualities. So let us address the elephant in the room: loving your body is painful work. It's undoing hurt and embarrassment, it's letting go of impossible expectations, it's facing possible rejection. Loving your body feels like all the things we've been told to eschew: pride, vanity, self absorption. Loving your body is not an end game. It's something you just keep working at.

Below I've listed some actionable tasks that can help you celebrate your bad ass body- especially timely as we in the northern hemisphere are headed into the summer season. Like all work worth doing, there are tangible rewards involved, so read to the end to enter a giveaway that I am so, so excited about! Without further ado, some summer body love tips.

1. Look at yourself in the mirror.

ASHLIE, I already do that! I can hear you sighing. Some of you have already clicked out of this window. Buzzfeed lists about TGIF shows are better than this (fair point). But I'm not talking about the glance you give yourself when you're washing your face, the critical eye you use to check your outfit for stains/rolls, the careful study you make if you apply eyeliner (HARD SHIT). I'm talking naked, chicky, and for more than a second. Here's something that happens when you're bombarded with messages about what you're supposed to look like: you forget what your body ACTUALLY looks like. You sort of separate yourself from your physical shape, and when you do  look and see yourself, if something doesn't meet that particular body shape you're always striving for, you look away, quickly.  You should not avert your eyes from the actual thing that carries you around.

Really check yourself out. Admire the shape of your body. Find parts to become enamoured with. Maybe it's your collarbones or the swell of your breasts or the way your butt looks when you stick it out and look over your shoulder. Wear your favorite underwear (I'm really into these lately) and give yourself a twirl. Catalogue your different body parts. Know yourself. I have two different sized breasts and a large pouch of belly fat that hangs. I could lose 100 pounds and still have this shape, so I look at it and familiarize myself with me. I really love my overall silhouette, the way my hips flare out, my calves. I wouldn't see these things if I didn't spend a good amount of time staring at myself naked.

Bonus points: Take a nude picture of yourself. Do not panic if this makes you panic. Some of us are there. Some of us are not. Consider where you are. We have villainized nudes in every way in this culture, because...the naked body is gross? The naked body is currency? No. Your naked body is yours, and looking at it, in the mirror, on a camera, by yourself, zero judgement, is an excellent celebration of the flesh and blood that houses your soul.

2. Load up your social media with glorious babes.
This has been extremely powerful for me. When I was a young mom, I was a deep observer of the mommy blogger scene. I read their updates and followed their Instagram and Twitter accounts and I could not figure out how real people with tiny children kept their houses so stylish, their white sofas so white, their children so occupied with only three wooden toys, etc. The more I saw what these other families looked like (strangers, far away, who did not give a shit about me) the more I panicked about my failures. This is the great drawback of social media- the comparison factor. It can be as bad as photoshopped models in magazines, except these are somehow real people. I know a lot more now about photo staging and using filters to make your sunlight look *that much* brighter. But I also know that who I follow directly affects how I feel.

Armed with this knowledge, I have filled up my feed with women who are powerful and lovely to me. Because I have often felt bad about being a fat person in our culture, I follow women who actively identify as fat or plus size and post pictures of themselves. I am normalizing, for myself, fat bodies in bikinis, shorts, on the beach, traveling overseas, having good days and bad days, being real and lovely people. And it empowers the hell out of me. Whatever you're trying to normalize for yourself, search out Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat accounts that are honest about this particular thing and join the community! Poke around, follow and unfollow, find accounts that make you pump your fist in the air.  We're scrolling through our social media accounts constantly, so be a picky curator of what you're constantly exposing yourself to. Some of my favorites include The Militant Baker, Aarti Olivia Dubey, Virgie Tovar, Tess Holiday, Tara O'Brien Illustration (omg her art), and actually a ton more so I suggest checking out who I follow.

Bonus Points: Participate in a Follow Friday on one of your social media accounts. On Fridays, people use the hashtag #followfriday and highlight accounts they think their followers would appreciate. Keep it from being spammy by tagging an account you truly admire and adding a short sentence about why you love this feed and why you think others would, too.

3. Take pictures of yourself.
A lot of pictures. Outfit pictures, selfies, pics in your bathing suit, pics of your dinner, with coffee and books and and drinks and every prop you can think of. Casual snaps and elaborately posed portraits, all made up or the way you woke up. Take a lot of pictures of yourself and post them EVERYWHERE.

I try to be open minded and come from a place of no judgement, but I am still infuriated when people have something to say about [teens especially] who post a lot of pictures of themselves. The worst are socially liberal people who understand that we shouldn't judge other people's lives but turn around and make snarky comments about the content or quantity of THE PHOTOGRAPHS A PERSON POSTS. I take some good natured ribbing about the amount of pictures I share, and I post everything- tub pics and arty photos in the good light from the driver's seat of my car and pictures of myself looking a little rough. I used to feel self conscious about it, but I'm kind of past that point. Now if someone says something, I try to smile and reply with "Thanks, I love that shirt!" or "The light was so awesome!" I recently showed up late to a party and a ton of my friends made fun of me for posting a picture of myself reading in a bubble bath. I shot back, "You're at a party, get off your phone!" Don't. Let. People. Give. You. Shit. For. Your. Selfies.

I was so deeply inspired by the above video. Fabulous fat role model women talking about their lack of limitations, celebrating the way they buck the traditional attitudes fat people are supposed to have: constantly trying to shrink, endlessly apologetic.  At one point, you hear this quote as you're seeing clips of fat women absolutely slaying: "It's really up to us to change the narrative, and to share photos of ourselves, follow each other, and show each other that this is what women look like...we are breaking the internet." I took that as a personal challenge.  Because of my devotion to internet role models I've been collecting from the corners of the internet, I have completely changed the way I allow myself to dress and operate as a person in this world. Think of it this way: your selfie will hurt no one, but it might save somebody.

Bonus points: Take a picture of yourself every day for the whole summer. I've started and I will not stop.  I'm using the hashtag #BYOLSummerOfSelfies and I would love it if you did, too. I want your selfies. I'm greedy for them. Flood the internet with pictures of your gorgeous self.

Extra bonus points: Work on posting pictures of yourself that you don't 100% adore. I'm focusing on my thighs and stomach, things I've lived at least 25 of my 30 years trying to hide- this summer they are on display. Some of my pictures are filtered to the hilt and I look like a porcelain doll and I love that, but I'm trying to make sure that some of my pictures honor the non-fantasy version of myself. You don't always have to wait for the perfect shot. On the other hand, there is zero judgement if you take 76 pictures til you get the shot you like. I do that, too.

*If you hate selfies, that's okay, too. Just don't make fun of anyone else for loving them!

So there. Three tiny challenges. This is not a magic bullet or a fail-safe prescription-  the final product of an never-doubted, perfectly-loved body is a unicorn, but it's a NOBLE goal to keep working towards, even if it's a little bit at a time. Some of this will put you outside of your comfort zone. If you are ready, do the work. It is so valuable, and if you share it, I can promise you at least one cheerleader who is already so damn proud of you for even considering.

I did promise rewards, and this one is FABULOUS. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you know about my current love affair with Feminist Sticker Club. This monthly subscription service promotes indie artists, supports feminist charities, and has the best customer service I have ever encountered. I've spent most of this year's summer days toting around a water bottle with my beach body sticker prominently displayed, and I get so many compliments, not to mention the little thrill of body pride I feel every time I catch a glimpse. The chance to share this bad assery with you ladies makes me swell. Kelly, the braintrust behind Feminist Sticker Club, has generously donated a SIX-MONTH SUBSCRIPTION for me to giveaway. You want to win this.

How? Check out the Rafflecopter below! You can win entries by following Be Your Own Lady and Feminist Sticker Club on Facebook and Twitter. You can win DOUBLE entries by posting which body love challenge you're going to try, sharing one of your own, and posting your selfies with the hashtag #BYOLSummerOfSelfies. I told you, I'm greedy for pictures of you. You can rack up entries until Friday, when I will pick a winner!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Image credits: 12 / 3 (my own) / 4