There are many things I love about springtime.
For when the spring season settles in, it not only brings with it warmer and longer days dressed with the renewed lushness and greenness of nature, it brings many “firsts” along with it, too. “Firsts” that are unique and exclusive to the last moody days of March and the arrival of April, May, and June in all of their fragrant, floral fertility and pastel-colored promises of sunny days, grassy picnics, and blue skies to come.
I look forward to the firsts of springtime. And if I had to narrow it down to five things specifically, it would be as follows:
- The first dip into a swimming pool. And the way the chlorine feels on my hair and skin while I float on a fat, neon-colored inner tube, watching the brilliant blue sky above with white clouds scudding along like ships under full sail skimming the endless blue ocean.
- The first trip to the beach, and all of the firsts contained within it like the first wave to break and wash over my toes on an endless, sunlit afternoon. And that feeling of being sticky with saltwater and sand and potato chip crumbs and not caring. Because to me, if you don’t leave the beach with some sand in your hair and bits of Baked Lays on your bathing suit, you’re not doing it right.
- The first backyard or poolside barbecue with coolers of coke and frosty beer cans and rainbow colored Popsicles. Fresh-cut watermelon cubes and extra salty tortilla chips with bowls of cold, chunky salsa for dipping and pitchers of lemonade and tea — these are the tastes that make the season so good and so sweet, and make for the perfect first springtime cookout.
- The first suntan of the season. I’m ready for bubblegum pink, sun-kissed shoulders, peach-colored cheeks, and waking up the morning after a day on the water or in the grass with a hazelnut glow and not seeing any need to pat my nose with powder or worry about make-up. A sparkly suntan, a soft, cotton sundress and strawberry toenail polish are the only cosmetic accessories I need in the spring.
- The first evening spent on a porch with a glass of ice-cold raspberry tea or water with lemon or any other chilled libation of choice, watching the sun shining brightly as it sets — its playful, beaming rays bathing in puddles leftover from the rain or backyard sprinklers. A good book, good company, or nothing but the sight of the swift, swirling, luminous clouds of the evening sky and the feel of the warm twilight breeze are additional (and recommended) delights.
Those are just a few of the springtime “firsts” I am looking forward to most as I hang up my winter coats and sweaters in exchange for flip-flops and frayed denim. And to celebrate, I’ve got a playlist ready to punctuate the many golden afternoons of springtime to come.
As always, there is no order or pattern here. Some old stuff & some new. Happy Spring!
1. The Beach Boys – Good Vibrations.
2. Simon & Garfunkel – April Come She Will.
3. HAIM – If I Could Change Your Mind.
4. Nicolas Jarr – With Just One Glance You.
5. Frank Sinatra – Brazil.
6. The Mama’s & The Papa’s – Go Where You Wanna Go.
7. Hellogoodbye- Everything Is Debatable.
8. Phantogram – Fall In Love.
9. Washed Out – It All Feels Right.
10. Lykke Li – I Follow Rivers (Magician Remix)
11. Disclosure – Latch.
12. Ed Sheeran – I See Fire (Kygo Remix).
13. Vampire Weekend – Mansard Roof.
14. Beach House – Lazuli.
15. Otis Redding – Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.
16. Phil Collins – One More Night.
17. Paul Simon – Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes.
I woke up to the golden warmth of the dawn washing over the soft blankets on my bed this morning. It took me a few minutes to remember that today is Easter and once I had processed it, I closed my eyes again to pray with the few spare minutes I had before needing to get dressed for church. But it wasn’t easy. I struggled for words that felt reverent, raw, and real. I knew how I should pray and what sentiments were most appropriate for the holy occassion but it did not come naturally to me. There was nothing flowing from my heart that felt worthy enough to be presented as “prayer” to the creator and author of life. Anything I did think of and consider as an offering of praise or adoration felt phony and fake. So as I lay in bed trying to communicate from a place that felt wholly honest and humble and not forced or scripted in an effort to score “points” with God, I simply whispered “thank you.” And that was all I could pray. Because that was really all I had to say.
I got up and made coffee and ripped apart a cinnamon roll from a batch I made last night and nibbled on it’s gooey center while I waited for my coffee to cool. After a few minutes I moved to the living room where I sat in my favorite spot for coffee-sipping in our big blue recliner chair by the window where most of the sun shines in, illumnating the morning hours with tangerine and champagne hues. As I drank my coffee and planned what I might wear for church, the sun felt pale and pure, like an egg cracked in two by the horizon, spilling out light over my tired body.
“Thank you,” I prayed quietly.
“Thank you, Jesus,” that was still all I could pray.
But I wished I felt more than that. It’s Easter Sunday, after all.
My experience with the Christian faith has been messy. It still is messy. I strive each day to try and make sense of that mess and live a life that is pleasing to more than just myself, but to Christ and the people whom I interact with daily, but more often than not I fail. And I don’t just mean “oh, rats! I made a mistake! Better try again,” kind of failing. I mean, sucking back tears of anger and regret and sadness in light of how broken and dysfunctional my heart, thoughts, and actions can be sometimes and yelling at God for turning me into a such a trainwreck, kind of failing.
But as I sat this morning with my coffee, searching for words and an appropriate kind of prayer, I was reminded of how in the book of Lamentations in the Bible, it is written that God’s mercies are new every morning. And so for every time I fail, His mercy is made anew just as surely as the sun rises at dawn, spilling out light over my tired body. No matter how much of a mess I make of things and how grossly I screw up the good things in my life, His mercy, faithfulness, and grace are new every day.
I meditated over these truths and still, could only say “thank you,” in my prayer offering.
But you know what? I think it’s okay to pray simply like this sometimes.
It is easy to get caught up in the “spiritual expectations” we have for holidays like Easter and Christmas, believing that we must pray, act, and spiritualize things in a certain way to make sure God knows we love Him and so that others “see” our faith demonstrated. But that totally misses the point. God isn’t interested in us paying Him lip-service. He is interested in our hearts and who we are in the first moments of morning when we sit in the quiet, waiting for the “right” words to come. And when those words don’t come, that’s okay. Because He sees what we don’t see and knows what we don’t about the condition of our hearts. And loves us anyway.
On this Easter Sunday I am thankful for that kind of love. I did nothing to deserve or earn it, and yet, He has made it available to me.
This Easter Sunday I am thankful for how He turns our ugliness and broken shells of being into something of infinite value and beauty, in the same way that the winter turns into spring and new leaves dress the formerly bare and brittle tree branches, signifying new life.
And I am thankful that in Christ, death has lost it’s sting and sin and evil have lost their power all because of this day – the day that Jesus Christ of Nazareth rose from the grave and defeated darkness and death so that we may know Him and have life.
That is love. And there is no greater love than this.
Happy Easter, dear friends.
There was a time in my life when I would weigh myself every day. I would step on the scale each morning with hopes of a number popping up that was smaller than the number from the day prior, and whatever that number was would determine how I felt about and treated myself that day. I placed the scale in my bathroom outside of the shower so I could not forget. Because like brushing my teeth and bathing, I saw it as a necessity.
My fixation with the scale began in high school. At 16 years old, I bore a heftier set of thighs and a heavier frame than most of the other girls at school. I hated that I didn’t fit into Abercrombie jeans and cute tank tops. Even more, I hated hiding my body behind blouse-y tee shirts and jackets. I desperately wanted to lose weight. And after one particularly grueling and humiliating incident, I would have done anything to shed the pounds.
It was a dewy summer day in the Florida town where I grew up, and I was standing in the a la carte lunch line in my school’s cafeteria. As I awaited my turn to choose a bag of chips to pair with a sandwich, a group of several girls with perfectly developed and toned teenage figures dressed in name brands I could never afford and blue jeans I could never fit into, stood ahead of me whispering and giggling. The line moved along and the girls grabbed packages of cheese crackers and granola bars and I grabbed a bag of Doritos. One of the girls looked back at me and quickly turned away upon catching my eye. I heard more whispers. And then one of them turn toward me.
“Ummm…” she began, glaring at me and my chips. My heart began to beat in such a fury I was sure every thump was audible as a fist banging on a door.
“You probably shouldn’t be eating those. Don’t you, like, count calories or anything?” She said in a voice not much unlike “Cher” from Clueless. Just a lot snottier. (To put it nicely).
I didn’t know what to say. I was humiliated. With no confidence or courage to come to my own defense, I actually answered her question.
“No, I don’t do that.”
“Obviously! Ha-ha-ha-ha!” She laughed. And her friends followed suit.
I turned into a puddle. I was humiliated and ashamed.
I threw my lunch away that day and didn’t eat. Then once I was home and “safe” inside my bedroom, I binged on chocolate ice cream and Ritz Bitz to numb the pain and the shame.
If those girls had considered the type of home life I had they would have known that I was well aware of my unhealthy size. Because if it wasn’t coming from school, it was coming from home. I had an alcoholic step-dad who took pleasure in “mooing” at me like I was a cow or calling me degrading, vulgar names when he was wasted, which was most days of the week.
That shaming insult from the girl in the cafeteria coupled with the verbal abuse at home caused me to start buying into my own shaming thoughts. The “I’m fat” reel started repeating itself in my head, and rather than motivate me to change, these thoughts only drove my hand further down into the bag of Cheetos I would hide in my closet in an attempt to self-medicate, until every last orange-dusted cheese doodle was gone.
For the rest of my time in high school I chained myself to restrictive yo-yo diet programs, including an all-broth liquid diet in which for six days out of the week I could only have chicken broth and then on the seventh day, I could eat whatever I wanted. And when that seventh day came (if I made it without cheating which probably only happened once) I would eat until I physically could not eat anymore. Whole boxes of cereal, foot-long subs with all the fix-ins and cookies and chips on the side, entire packages of Chips Ahoy — I ate until I couldn’t feel anything but the food anymore. And like an alcoholic who relapses and goes on a three day-long bender, the “hangover” I felt the next day was absolute hell.
Internal fat-shaming became a way of punishing myself, believing it to be the “tough love” I needed to whip myself into shape. But in fact, all this did was further sabotage every effort I made to lose weight.
I went away to college after high school and for the first time in my life, I felt free. Free from my step-dad’s abuse and the four walls of the high school cafeteria that housed the taunts that ate away at my self-worth. I could finally take control of my weight and get healthy. And I could think of no sweeter revenge against those who had humiliated me.
So I threw out the scale and vowed to stop weighing myself. I also vowed to eat healthy and exercise. I started going to therapy on campus, too, for help with my body image and internal weight-shaming. And though my thoughts were not perfect and I still struggled with self-degradation at my own hand, I found the strength to fight back rather than believe the ugly lies.
I was 20 years-old at the time and in a little over a year, I went from a size 22 to a size 8. It was the hardest work I have ever had to do but I did it the right way and looked forward to the rewards I would reap, chief among them being: finally being seen for more than my size.
But I was wrong.
The reactions I received from people were mixed. Many people applauded and praised me. But there were some who questioned me and suspected I had an eating disorder. This baffled and blind-sided me. When I tried to defend myself I was dismissed and met with the response of: I’m just worried about you, that’s all. Hearing this from my mother or my doctor or my best friend would have been one thing. But hearing this from random people who never tried to forge some sort of friendship when I was overweight was another. And most of the time that is where this came from which made me think: Really? You’re just worried about me? That’s funny, because you showed no worry for me when I was binge-eating and had very few friends. Would have been nice to have known you cared then.
There is a difference between genuine concern, and baiting questions disguised as genuine concern. And it was never hard for me to spot the difference.
Other phrases I became accustomed to hearing when I lost weight (and the responses I should have given at the time):
What are you a size zero now? (Nope. Size “6.” What size are you? Oh, too invasive a question? Doesn’t feel good, does it?)
You’re so skinny. Do you ever eat? (No I don’t. I starve myself all day long. Isn’t that sad? That’s what you wanted to hear, right?)
You’re too tall to be that skinny. (Oh, thank you for reminding me! I almost forgot about that. How dare I be so tall!)
Shedding almost ninety pounds made me feel confident in the body that for years I loathed and mistreated. And I wanted to show off that confidence. I wanted the reward of acceptance. But acceptance should not have to be seen as a reward. Acceptance is something we all deserve and should never be denied someone based on how they look. Yet all too frequently, it is.
I felt like I couldn’t win. If I was overweight I was ignored, shunned, and pitied and if I was thin, there were people who questioned and scrutinized me for my thinness. It is likely that that was only the case because the transformation was drastic and maybe too hard for some to believe. But that didn’t make it okay. If you are concerned that someone may have an eating disorder, find a gentle way to approach the issue. And establish some level of trust, first. Otherwise, you may be inadvertently feeding into their struggles with their body image and/ or food. And that damage is hard to undo.
I can not tell you how painful it felt to be laughed at by kids in the cafeteria in school for being overweight. Or how worthless I felt when my step-dad compared me to a whale. And then after losing the weight in college, how frustrating it was to be asked if I had an eating disorder. Or whether I started using cocaine. (Yes, I was really asked if that’s how I lost weight). This frustrated me because it felt like a blow to all of my hard work. Instead of being recognized for doing something incredibly difficult and laborious, I was branded by some as having gotten that way by starving myself.
I am 26 now and finally at a place where I feel comfortable talking about this stuff. It’s not easy. Being “too big” and then “too thin” is not an experience many people endure — it’s typically one or the other. But for those like me who have experienced being called both, it is a cruel and unusual beast.
When I was overweight I wanted to be seen for more than my size, but after working to repair the confidence that years of weight-shaming damaged, I now realize I can not control how people see me or what they see me for. The lens through which I am reflected to others is a lens that was fashioned after the circumstances of their own life and perhaps, their own battle with self-worth. That’s not something I can control.
Weight shaming of any kind is dangerous. It hurts. It leaves invisible scars and can bruise an ego beyond repair. And because we live in a society in which eating disorders and obesity are largely misunderstood, stigmatized, and ignored as serious mental health conditions or potential precursors to one, the language we use when addressing them is key. Furthermore, our preconceived notions and personal judgments about the nature of these disorders must be left out of the conversation. If someone has an eating disorder, that disorder is about them and their experience and may be too complex for even the sufferer to understand, which means it is not a subject for casual conversation or fodder for jokes.
Looking back on that day in high school when I was teased by the girl in the lunch-line, I might have taken the suspension from school as a consequence for punching her right in the nose. And then shoving my sandwich in her face for good measure. But for her and anyone else who ever shamed me for my weight, whether it was for being too fat or too skinny, I think I have chosen a better kind of revenge: not caring anymore.
Because at the end of the day my health is what matters most, and being healthy is and should always be the goal. The definition of beauty does not include a single-digit dress size. Or any size for that matter. That’s because beauty is not defined by what you choose to eat for lunch. It is defined by the person on the inside. And that person has an appetite that calls for more than just food, but for love, self-care, and confidence.
For a long time I felt that I couldn’t win. But when I look in the mirror and see how far I have come from being the sixteen year old who was laughed at in her high school cafeteria to who I am now, I feel pretty victorious. And that victory belongs to me, for who I am and always will be behind the food on my plate and apart from the number blinking back at me on a scale.
Beauty shouldn’t be about changing yourself to achieve an ideal or be more socially acceptable. Real beauty, the interesting, truly pleasing kind, is about honoring the beauty within you and without you. It’s about knowing that someone else’s definition of pretty has no hold over you.
― Golda Poretsky
Just another busy week over here, doing my best to juggle and manage it all without going loco — always a challenge, but not always a bad thing. Sometimes I thank God for the busy days just as I would for the slow, easy ones. The busy days (busy without crisis or bad things happening that require extensive damage control, of course) help me to be thankful for a full life. I am employed, have a vehicle, health care, doctors I can visit when I’m sick, a debit card with money on it so I can buy coffee and toilet paper at eleven o’ clock at night as I did yesterday, and a good, humble, and goofy man who would lay down his life for me, and a couple of the best girl friends in the world whom I certainly don’t deserve, but who adore me, as I do them, anyway. Oh, and Fruity Pebbles and Lucky Charms were on sale at the store this weekend and I have two unopened boxes begging to get inside my belly on top of my refrigerator. I can’t wait.
So for today, on this ho-hum Tuesday, I give thanks for these things. For they are my sustenance and sanity when everything else seems like it’s falling apart. Yes, even the Fruity Pebbles.
For those of you who are interested or have been following the very recent development of “The POP Project,” don’t be shy…find me on Instagram @thepopproject and follow the account for updates and cool pictures and pass the word along to your friends! Also, right now I am hosting a fun giveaway for the first five people to post a photo with the hashtag #thepopproject I will randomly select one winner whom I will mail a copy of a stellar book by one of my favorite writers and thinkers — Augusten Burroughs. The book is called This Is How and it is an honest and extraordinary read. So if you like free stuff and want to be a part of the POP project, make it happen. I will also re-post (with permission) all photos uploaded by users in these first few weeks. I’m excited about this, can ya tell?
For the remainder of your Tuesday, here are some great, mind-gripping quotes about life and writing (for fellow writers out there, or whomever).
Have a beautiful day, friends.
We have the right, and the obligation, to tell old stories in our own ways, because they are our stories.
- Neil Gaiman
A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.
- Richard Bach
Our greatest fear should not be fear of failure but of succeeding at things that don’t really matter.
- Francis Chan
The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.
- Amelia Earhart
Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it.
- Madeline L’Engle
Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.
- Hannah Arendt
We have some happy days and some unhappy days, some great loves and barren spaces. We have this life, this instantaneous blossoming. Will I ever learn not to choose among its moments, will I ever learn to walk both its hollow and hilly lands?
- Ellen Gilchrist, Starcarbon