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

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Kristin is her own lady: Navigating a Big Move

Over the next few months, I'll be running a series about women who have embraced their own-ness by operating outside of the norm, namely by choosing not to have children, choosing to move far away from their support systems, or choosing to make a major career switch. There are many ways to be your own lady; here's to celebrating your path!

Kristin is my cousin and one of the moms I've looked to for guidance since I've had my first child. As her family has grown, Kristin has moved around the East Coast, in each place creating a special environment and always holding onto her hobbies (turned side business!) and family routines. Like the good millennial family that we are, we follow each other's lives on Facebook, and I am always amazed at the way she settles in and finds community in her new home. I asked Kristin to share her thoughts on making a big move. Whether you are moving for an obligation or of your own accord, there is wisdom here!

1. Tell us a little about yourself (where do you live, what do you, what is your family like, how do you enjoy spending your time?)
I'm a 34-year-old mom of three living in Laurel, MD. I work part time teaching online but my current passion is sewing. Honestly, it's probably my passion because it allows me to hide from my three kids in the basement now and then ;). Kids are 1, almost 4, and 5.

2. Tell us a little about the places you've lived. Which move do you consider your "big move"?
I have lived in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, and Maryland. All of them were big moves in their own way, but my first really truly adult move was uprooting our family of 5 from NC to move to MD. 

3. What was the reason for this big move? Was it a decision you came to on your own or were you subject to outside forces? 
Casey, my husband, had worked at his job in NC for 10 years and had been casually job hunting for at least half that time. While the job in NC had been an amazing career experience, as he'd completely climbed the ladder there, it wasn't ever what he'd intended to do as a career. So he went back to school for four long years, during which time he continued working full time and we both teetered on the brink of insanity having three babies, moving into four different homes, and more...and at graduation he was offered exactly the job he most wanted in his new field. In Maryland. So here we are. While I was not in any way excited about the idea - I really felt like we'd made a home in NC, including building our dream house - there was just no question in my mind that refusing to move for this job would mean crushing all of my husband's dreams and completely negating all the work and stress and strain of the previous four years. I couldn't trade all that for the relative security of staying in NC, so we made the leap.

4. What was your support system like before your move? What does your support system look like now?
I had built a great support system of fellow parents, the babywearing community (I helped establish a fast-growing local babywearing group and had just stepped down as president), and work colleagues. I had a fantastic and flexible job teaching college composition at one of the best programs in the country. I was constantly engaged and inspired by the work of my colleagues. 

Now, I am still working, teaching online for the same university. The difference in my motivation is depressing - without the renewing energy of faculty development workshops and casual interaction with an office full of people doing the same job, I feel kind of at sea. But it's a job and a clear connection to what I was doing before, and that is a good thing when everything else feels new and strange.

It's been hard to make friends here. I remember when we moved to NC, it literally took years to make friends. I think it would/will be the same way here, if we stay that long. At least I have the memory of how hard it was to make friends to remind me that it isn't me. I'm not a horrible person. It just takes a long time for a new person to become part of someone else's comfortable, established orbit. I already have met a few people through the same parenting networks I used in NC - the babywearing group, the local Facebook parenting groups. Thank goodness for Facebook - although some complain it makes relationships too disconnected and is used to avoid face-to-face meetings, my experience has been the opposite. Being home with small kids is ISOLATING. But I don't actually feel bereft of adult communication, because it's all right there: other parents in my situation, reaching out. And there are plenty of opportunities for meet ups; I've just had to get brave enough to show up and start the harder work of face to face conversation.

5. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to make a big move?
As these questions suggest - people are key to making you feel comfortable in a new place. Everything else (moving house, finding a place to live, a new job, a new daycare, etc.) is just logistics. Force yourself to go out of your way to meet people. You might join 5 new social circles to make one friend; don't give up.

Know it will take awhile to find your groove. That it may be actual months before you start feeling like you actually live there and are not just on some weird vacation. That your kids may do great or the one you were least worried about might also take months to adjust. But eventually, anywhere will become home.

Thank you so much, Kristin! You can check out the gorgeous bags Kristin designs while hiding in the basement at Chrysalis Designs Fiber Art (Shop / Facebook). Do you have any questions for Kristin? Tips for navigating a big move? 

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Be Your Own Lady Mission: Write a Summer Syllabus

My heart is heavy about the state of our world. I'm feeling more angry than I have in awhile. I am paying attention to my elected officials  I am trying to listen to the groups who deserve to have their say. And I am dealing with this the way I deal with most things: books. I am working on my summer syllabus.

I've done this twice now. I wrote about it for Book Riot. I barely ever never finish the full thing, but it's a rite of passage. A look ahead that lets me run through my whole summer. A list for those torturous moments where nothing looks appealing and I have no idea what to read next, an uncomfortable feeling that has been happening more and more lately. It's optimism in list form- sure, I'll really get through all these books! 

I've kept a bunch in mind while researching what I wanted to read this summer. In July our family is moving into a new house. We are planning for two family vacations (which means I'll turn to graphic novels). I want to read some of the authors I'll be seeing at Book Riot Live in November. I'm previewing a lot of middle grade books for the dream book club I'm hoping to get going in the fall. I'm also trying to spend some time resetting my mind. Tuning into the voices of people from different backgrounds and lifestyles. Thinking about how to use my voice on the internet and my role in the lives of my students as a place to encourage inclusivity and open mindedness.  Add it all together, mix liberally with iced coffee and sunscreen, and you've got my summer syllabus.

Books to Prepare for Book Riot Live
Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina 

Bitch Planet Vol, 1: Extraordinary Machines by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro 

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Books to Prepare for The Move
The life-changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo (for the move) 
*I'm nervous that this might just make me feel crappy. I've heard people rave about how much they've hated and loved it. It's worth a try.

Apartment Therapy: Complete and Happy Home by Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan and Janel Label 

Graphic Novels
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

Lumberjanes (the entire series) by Noelle Stevenson and a ton of other talented ladies
*This is a reread, but it's been forever since I've read the first, so I'm going to catch up

Teaching With Intention by Debbie Miller 

The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

Book Club Previews
The Girl In The Well Is Me by Karen Rivers

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

George by Alex Gino

Becoming Naomi Leòn by Pam Muñoz Ryan

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

So there's that sorted: my summer plan for reading to grow my mind, support my goals, and keep me happy in the sun. Here is my mission for you: write a summer syllabus. Add things you've been meaning to watch, listen to, or do. I wrote a how-to article about making your syllabus to help you get started. Whether it's one book or something more elaborate, I'd love to see what shape your plan takes. Feel free to comment here, and if you blog, use the hashtag #beyourownladymission so we can all read each other's work! 

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