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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What you need to know... and what I need to know.

Lots of silence. I've heard precious little about Tamir Rice from people in my community. Back when he was shot and killed last November, I didn't hear much. And now that we've learned that the people responsible for his death won't be indicted, I still haven't heard much.

I understand that white people aren't always equipped to discuss matters of race. People fear saying the wrong thing, many of us aren't raised with any level of comfort around talking about race. I get that. And maybe people aren't watching the news. Maybe you really don't know about what happened to 12 year-old Tamir and his family.

So here's what you need to know:

Last November, a 12 year-old boy named Tamir was shot and killed by police for having a toy gun on a playground.  The 911 call indicated that it was likely a toy and that he was a juvenile. That important information wasn't relayed to police and he was shot by a police officer within two seconds of police arrival. And there's a video of the entire incident. This week we learned that the two police officers involved in shooting 12 year-old Tamir Rice will not be indicted.

You need to know that although Tamir didn't die until the next day, no one offered him any aid for 4 minutes. Police officers stood around a 12 year-old boy they had just shot and did nothing for four minutes.

You need to know that when his 14 year-old sister came running over to help him, she was thrown to the ground, handcuffed, and placed in the back of a police car to watch her brother die. The same police officers who stood around and failed to render aid to the 12 year-old they had just shot, handcuffed his big sister. Audio from the scene reports that she was saying "He's moving! He's still alive."

You need to know that the the police officer who shot him had been identified by a former police force as having had a "dangerous loss of composure" during firearms training. He had been labelled as not being emotionally equipped to handle the stresses of the job.

You need to know that this happened in an open-carry state. So even if Tamir had been a grown man with a gun on the playground, there was nothing he was doing that was illegal.

You need to watch the video. I normally don't advocate watching violence. But this happened here. In our country. To a child. You need to see for yourself how quickly Tamir was shot, how his sister (also a child) was treated, and how long it took for anyone to provide any aid.  Citizens and all of our good police officers deserve better than this: no indictment means no accountability for police officers who act like this.

And then there are some things I need to know. Why would we stay silent when something like this happens? I don't understand how any of this is acceptable, how any of us could not be moved to tears, to anger, to frustration, to SOMETHING, to know that this has happened. Police officers, people we trust to protect us, not only killed this boy but the system isn't going to even try to hold them accountable for their actions. Supporting our police means holding them accountable when they go awry. Good officers know this. Good officers want this. This isn't anti-police by any means.

Christians... Jesus gave us the tall order to love our neighbor as ourselves. He said that's how we can show how much we love God. There's a mother out there who not only lost her little boy, but whose daughter was traumatized by seeing it happen. A mama who's daughter was thrown to the ground and handcuffed when she ran to help her little brother as he lay dying on the ground, shot by the people who were supposed to keep her safe. She is our neighbor. We need to stand with her and call for justice.

Christians... that same tall order calls for us to love those police officers. I don't know what has happened to them in their lives that brought them to the point that they could shoot a child and then stand around not helping him. But they deserve to be held accountable. Saying that their actions that day were acceptable is enabling a broken system and is no way to love them. We need to call for justice for them as well. They are our neighbors too. Give them justice and a chance to change, a chance to provide some kind of restitution.

And I need to know: if you don't care about this now, what will you say to me when it happens to my child? Will you speak up then? Because by then I'll have lost my baby. What Tamir did wrong on the playground that day was have the wrong color skin. The system that is failing to provide justice for Tamir is sending me a message: the life of one of my children is much less valuable than that of the other two.

Silence about this sends that same message.

I need to know if you understand how harmful your silence is.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Calling All Elf Parents!

from huffingtonpost.com 
Are you an Elf Mom? Or an Elf Dad? Welcome! We need to have a little pep talk!

If you are anything like me, you have a love/hate relationship with your Elf. Our Elf's name is Clark. And I love how much my kids love Clark. I love their excitement when they find him in a new spot. I dislike, however, that I never seem to remember that Clark exists until AFTER I've gotten into bed. If I had a penny for every time I said, "Dangit! I forgot to move Clark!" I could probably fund Christmas for everyone. I also dislike the crazy weirdness that Elfhood somehow sparks in parents when we compare ourselves to one another based on our Elf-selves.

My challenge to all of us, Elf Moms & Dads, is to remember the cool stuff about the Elf tradition. Elves, much like the moms & dads behind them, have different personalities, different energy levels and differing amounts of buy-in to this whole ordeal. I love that every family does their Elf-thing differently. In my family, although we do believe in Santa, we don't teach our kids that Santa only brings toys to good kids. It just doesn't jam with our parenting style to use Santa for behavior modification. And it's so nice that our Elf falls in line: we don't read the book, and Clark has become more like a liason between Santa & my kids. They send Santa notes through Clark sometimes but there's nothing about being good or reporting on behavior. It works for us.

All this diversity in the Elf community also means that some Elves will be a little more lazy. Some will insist upon good behavior. Some will be over-the-top. Some will be creative and some, like Clark, will never intend to move every single day anyway. And all of that is okay.

We love to hate each other on the internet, don't we? I admit I have gotten a little eye-rolley over some particularly fabulous Elf photos I've seen on social media. And I've nodded along as I've read articles about how parents need to keep their Elf-mania in check.

But you know what? Someone else's fabulous Elf-skills really aren't hurting me and my family. That comparison & judging is all in my own head. My kids have come home and said, "So & so's Elf brought them money!" Or "So & so's Elf had elf-sized donuts for breakfast and has a new outfit every day!" It's tempting to think that the Elf Mom or Dad behind Super-Elf is making me look bad. But they really aren't. I can calmly say, "Hmmm... why don't you leave some of your cereal out for Clark for tomorrow?" or I can even just say, "How cool!" and leave it at that.  It's okay for kids to see that life looks different for different people sometimes. It might even build character or something crazy like that.

So let's stop judging and comparing one another through our Elf-selves. If you have pheomenal Elf-skills and have decided that it's worth your time to do amazing Elf-antics, I applaud you! I'm glad there are fun people like you out there in the world. I do actually enjoy seeing the pictures of the over-the-top stuff you do.  And I promise not to roll my eyes at you this year. Are you a lazy Elf or a forgetful Elf? Have you decided that amazing Elf-scenes just aren't worth your time? No worries. Solidarity, friend - I'm in this camp. And I bet the amazing Elf Parents will promise not to roll their eyes at our lackluster attempts at Elfhood.

And I have a Christmas present for you: some Elf Printables! Just print these cards & cut 'em out. Now you have a fun little card to stick in your Elf at 2 am when you've woken up out of a deep sleep haunted by the sudden realization that you forgot to move the damn Elf. I always plan for my Elf to stay in the same spot a few times so that it doesn't seem weird on the days I forget (planned laziness: it's an acquired skill). I also included our "Minivan Express" tickets. I have our Elf bring them every year on the morning that we were already planning to go drive around & look at Christmas lights. And, of course, feel free to use these cards to create a flawless Elf scene involving your children's toys and some flour. Or something.

I love y'all. Parenting is hard. Our Elves don't have to make it harder. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.





Monday, November 30, 2015

Holiday Buying Guide

A few weeks ago, I posted a challenge to get all your Christmas shopping done by December 1. That's tomorrow. Are you done? I'm not. But I'm close!

So if you aren't done yet, here's your rescue! Finish up your holiday shopping at these amazing places!

For Kids:

Kiva Loan -

Give your kids a Kiva Loan! www.kiva.org. This is a loan based on the Grameen bank principle (learn more about this Nobel Prize Winning idea here) to give people in poverty a loan so that they can buy what they need to start up their business - this empowers them to be self-sustaining. The way Kiva works is really cool: your kiddo gets the gift card (minimum of $25) and then he/she gets to go online and look at all the people/projects to invest in. Kiddos pick who they want to lend their money to and they will receive regular updates on how that individual is doing! The loan is then paid back and your kids can choose to take the money for themselves (it has to go into a paypal account) OR they can choose roll it over again to invest in another person.

Connected in Hope - www.connectedinhope.org or check them out on FB: www.facebook.com/ConnectedinHope


Connected in Hope has two adorable kid-sized scarf options. See their Kid Collection here! A fair-trade scarf that helps a mama in Ethiopia earn a sustainable wage, free from the abuse, stigma, and trauma of carrying heavy loads down Mt Entoto. They also have a super-cute scarf & book bundle - you get "My first book of Amharic words" with a pronunciation sheet and a scarf!


Self-promotion alert:
My fundraiser tosend Rob to Swaziland next year is still going on! I have some great kid stuff on my Facebook Album: personalized ornaments, paint-your-own-canvas kit, bag tags for backpacks, bracelets & earrings for girls. You can check it out here!








Jewelry & Accessories:
oh so many amazing options!

Heart for Africa - if you live here in Greensboro, I have a box full of Heart for Africa jewelry you can check out! 100% of the proceeds go to support Heart for Africa. While HfA has a Children's Home for abandoned or relinquished children, they also work to support moms who want to keep their children. Khutsala Artisans can live on the farm, receive training to learn how to make the jewelry and then work in the Khutsala shop to earn a sustainable wage. And their children get to attend school at Project Canaan Academy for free while they live & work on Project Canaan. Amazing.
Not local? Check out their online shop here (free shipping Monday & Tuesday too!): https://squareup.com/market/heart-for-africa



Connected in Hope - looking for the perfect leather bag this Christmas? Ethiopian leather is among the finest in the world and Connected in Hope has fair-trade leather bags. Y'all - they are gorgeous! Connected in Hope also has amazing jewelry and scarves (I own a lot of their stuff and I get compliments EVERY TIME I wear something of theirs): http://www.connectedinhope.org/shop/.  Not only are their products fair-trade (providing a sustainable wage for their workers so that they can provide for their families), but they provide free education for the children & grandchildren of their Artisans. Our family sponsors one of their preschoolers and it has been such a blessing for us to get updates on that sweet boy and his family!



Clothing
One of my favorite places to buy clothing is Elegantees. They have fair-trade clothing, sewn by women who were rescued out of the sex trade in Nepal. I know buying clothes for others can be tricky, so I'm so excited to see that they offer gift cards. I have LOVED everything I've ever bought from them - it's all comfy (a requirement for me) and cute. And I've found that their sizing runs true-to-size
http://elegantees.com/products/gift-card



Stocking Stuffers 
I love buying stocking stuffers from Thistle Farms. They are based here in the US - in Nashville, TN, with women from hard places. Women survivors of trafficking, addiction, and prostitution can live in their therapeutic residential program and then find employment in one of their storefronts or in making the lovely bath & body products!


Ten Thousand Villages is another fabulous place to find gifts & stocking stuffers. And if you check out their website before midnight tonight, they have 12 items on sale for 70% off! And the Artisans still are paid their full-wage.


Donations:
What do you give the person who has everything? A donation in their honor. The gifts I remember most are the times when someone has donated in my name to an organization that I care about and then given me a small token to remind me of the gift (for example, one year I someone donated a flock of chicks to heifer.org and gave me a little chick beanie baby).  Looking for great places to donate? I gotcha covered:

Did you know there are an estimated 30 million people entrapped in slavery today? Say that out loud: "TODAY, there are THIRTY MILLION people in slavery." That's insane. Slavery isn't part of our history - it's part of our present.  I'm participating in Dressember this year - I'll be wearing a dress every day for the entire month to raise awareness about human trafficking. You can donate to the International Justice Mission and A21 - two amazing organizations that fight human trafficking both here in the US and internationally through my Dressember page:
https://support.dressemberfoundation.org/fundraise/team?ftid=62329
A donation to Dressember along with an ornament in the shape of a dress would be a fantastic gift!


Consider a donation to a local organization. My favorite agency in my city is the Interactive Resource Center. They work to fight against homelessness in so many ways: empowering individuals AND advocating for better services for people experiencing homelessness. How to make this a gift? Donate in the name of your loved one and give them something small & cozy as a token (mittens, a small blanket): a reminder that your gift will help keep them warm AND keep someone warm who is experiencing homelessness this winter.

So there you go... happy shopping!

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Homeless Vets Argument



I might step on some toes here. I'm not calling out anyone in particular. I've seen the "Homeless Vets" argument again & again on social media. And trust me, I wholeheartedly believe we should help homeless veterans. I often find myself sitting across from a veteran when I'm volunteering at our local day center for people experiencing homelessness right here in my city.

But here's the problem with the argument: Unless you are one of the few who are already actually working to help homeless veterans, this argument falls really flat.  Intended or not, this is a distraction tactic. Life is complicated, economics are complicated. We can, in fact, help both homeless veterans AND continue to accept the 10,000 refugees from Syria that our country had pledged to accept.  (Side note: there are an estimated 3 million refugees... the US pledged to accept 0.3% of  them. France, by comparison, is about the size of Texas and has just increased their pledge from 24,000 to 30,000. Just so you know.)

Why can do we both? Because right now, this is a made-up issue. There is no organization saying, "Hmmm... should we help refugees OR should we house homeless vets? What to do? What to do?" There's no government committee right now agonizing over a decision, or even being forced to choose between those two groups of people. The tension between refugees and homeless veterans exists NOWHERE outside of Facebook right now.  The reality now is that we do need help with better programming and resources for homeless veterans AND we also should be part of what's going on in the world and do our part to help refugees. Because we would hope that other countries would help us, should we ever need to flee our country, right?

In addition, this sentiment places value on American lives over the lives of those born elsewhere. Maybe you are okay with that. I'm not. And, I'm speaking to Christians here: God clearly doesn't do that. Our Bible never says, "America first!"  Nowhere. The message of Jesus was never "Take care of you & your own first, then consider others." It's just not there. I've looked.

But guess what. If YOU want to choose, you can! Want to do more? Here you go:

Are you concerned about our veterans who are currently experiencing homelessness? I am SO glad. Go get involved. Did you know there is a staff member at the Interactive Resource Center here in Greensboro dedicated to working with our veterans? Call him up & see how you could help. Maybe the gift you want to give someone for Christmas is a donation (or even better, a recurring donation) to help our homeless veterans or to eradicate homelessness in general. They sorely need it.  Check out http://gsodaycenter.org/.

Or maybe you are an advocate - get involved in the cause and connect with the VA here to see what they are working on to help end homelessness for our veterans: http://www.va.gov/homeless/.

Are you wanting to be more involved with refugees? Let me tell you, the organizations working with refugees need some serious support right now. They are fighting crazy amounts of misinformation (tossed out by some of our trusted elected officials, sadly), they are dealing with threats, they are comforting refugees who are already here who have been targeted in the past week. If you live locally, go check out World Relief of High PointChurch World Service, and North Carolina African Services Coalition.

You can advocate for Syrian refugees as well - tell Congress to welcome them here: http://bit.ly/1WZxoqB.

There are so many ways to get involved and be of service. I promise you, any hour you spend helping your fellow man (or woman!), is an hour well-spent. I have yet to regret any minute of time I've spent voluntering, even on the frustrating days.

And if you aren't going to do either of those things, please at least educate yourself on the topic. Most of us know nothing about refugees, or asylum seekers, or even the reality of homelessness for our veterans right now. I get it - it's easy to share a photo or a meme or a link. But it really helps if you get the facts straight first.

Here's a link to an admittedly very long Facebook post from World Relief of High Point. Please take the five minutes it would take you to read it. It will make your life better than a puppy video, I promise:
https://www.facebook.com/WorldReliefHighPoint/posts/10153225113733803

So let's do this, folks! Go DO something. Help out our homeless veterans - they need you to stand with them.  Help our refugees - they are citizens of the very same world we live in.  Go be the change, my friends. We can do hard things.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Advent Conspiracy - a CHALLENGE!

I have a hard-and-fast rule: no Christmas decorations until Thanksgiving is over BUT that doesn't mean we aren't already getting ready for Christmas. Our church participates in Advent Conspiracy every year and we have found that it s a really meaningful way to stay focused on the true meaning of Christmas instead of getting bogged down with materialism and holiday stress.

You can learn a little more about the Advent Conspiracy here: (I seriously can't watch this without tearing up!)



Advent Conspiracy is summed up in four parts:

1. Worship fully -Christmas should be the seasons when love wins, peace reigns, and a king is celebrated with each breath. When we let go of the materialism and the stress, we can focus on the true meaning of Christmas... and truly celebrate!

2. Spend less - It's just that: We spend less! Don't buy something for the sake of buying. Stop buying crap for your people. And don't spend so much. The dollar sign on the gift you bought says very little about you, your life, or how much you love the recipient.

3. Give More - Give of yourself. Give your time. Give an experience together instead of a thing. Spend time making a gift instead of purchasing something. Or it could look like the opposite of #2 - spend more on a gift because it's fair-trade, making your purchase benefit someone else.

4. Love all - That money you saved by spending less and giving more? Give it to organizations that make a difference (our church gives to people experiencing homelessness and to Heart for Africa). We can use our resources to give gifts that truly honor Jesus.

Simple. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy, friends. This has made our past three Christmases pretty amazing.

And here are the new things the Cassells are doing this year. I challenge y'all to join us!

1. All Christmas shopping done by Dec 1st. Figure out what you need to buy now and spend the next three weeks making your purchases. Then you are free to truly enjoy the Christmas season in December.

2. For your kids, stick to this little rhyme and buy them only four things!

Something you want, 
something you need, 
something to wear, 
and something to read.  

We try SO hard every year to keep Christmas day under control. The last thing I want to do is to teach my kids that Christmas is about all the stuff they get and unfortunately I think that is exactly what we do. I understand that Christmas is fun... I enjoy buying cool stuff for my kids and love seeing their faces when they open a much-desired gift. But at the end of the day, I want them to learn that Christmas is about celebrating the gift that is Jesus and focusing on what it means to truly follow him. There's no room in there for ridiculous amounts of toys. Especially when I know come February they won't even remember what they got for Christmas and probably can't find all the pieces if they do.
Confession: we still do Santa, so those four things will be from us and Santa will bring one more thing per kid. I still think five gifts per child under our tree is MORE than we need. Our Santa has only been bringing one gift in the past, so I didn't want to suddenly have him bringing more! Plus, I kinda hate giving Santa all the credit for the cool stuff. Santa at our house tends to bring the less-desired toy. Heh.

What about you? I'd love to hear the ways that you've made Christmas less about stuff and stress and MORE about Jesus.

And because I love to be crafty, I made up a few fun tags for your four gifts! Feel free to print these out & use them!
You can download them here:

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Better Boo - Third Edition

I post a variation of this post every year and watching this information spread, seeing my friends DO something about it, has been one of the most amazing blessings of my life. Truly.



Confession: I used to buy the big bag of Halloween candy as soon as it shows up in the grocery store and hide it from my family. I pretended that I was hiding it for Halloween... but then I'd sneak a piece every once in a while a few times a day and long before Halloween arrived, I'd have to buy another bag.

And, of course, I had to buy the "good candy." None of that cheapo chocolate for us. I insisted upon buying the bag that had Twix, Kit Kats, and Reece cups. Oh and then the other bag because it has Almond Joys in it.  Because, you know, I really care about the children in my neighborhood and I wanted to be remembered as a house that had good candy. Plus... see above paragraph.

And then a few years ago, I was shocked to learn that the vast majority of American chocolate was farmed by children.  In slavery or close-to-slavery conditions. I thought to myself, "The companies must not know!"

I'm naive sometimes.

Turns out, the major chocolate companies here in America are fully aware that the farms where they buy their cocoa use child slave labor. They were told back in 2001. And they've done very little about it, other than to rally together to prevent legislation that would have required a label to tell consumers which chocolate was produced without slave labor (you can read more about this here). A few, including Nestle and Mars, signed something saying they'll work towards total eradication of child slave labor by 2008. That was SEVEN years ago and it's still happening. I think Mars at least has signed a new one with the new goal of 2020. And Nestle plans to buy 150,000 metric tons of sustainably produced cocoa by 2017. While that's great, the global harvest is 5 million metric tons... so this is a drop in the bucket of overall harvested cocoa. Supposedly there are some fair trade Kit Kats out there right now somewhere... I need to go check! Let me know if you have seen one!
Photo from The Dark Side of Chocolate

Our children's Halloween chocolate comes at the expense of another child.  This is happening y'all. 

This is happening so that we can dress our kids up in fun costumes and eat yummy chocolate.

This is happening because we just really love Kit Kats (and I really do love them - I get it.)

This is happening because our chocolate companies are continuing to use forced child labor.

It's happening because we are letting it happen.

Americans buy more chocolate for Halloween than we do for Christmas and Valentine's Day. Over 90 million pounds of chocolate. 90 million pounds of chocolate, mostly harvested by children who are beaten and starved, not allowed to go to school. Whose still-growing bodies are suffering because of the hard physical labor forced upon them before their little bodies can handle it. Many who were stolen from their communities and trafficked. All this for my chocolate fix. All this for "trick or treat!"

I want to blame the chocolate companies. Okay, I do blame the chocolate companies. But you know what? They sell chocolate because someone is buying chocolate.  If we refused to buy it, the companies would be in a pickle, wouldn't they? 

What if we supported fair-trade companies? What if this year for Halloween, we gave out responsibly-sourced chocolates? I don't know about you, but I would feel a million times better about Halloween candy if  I knew families were choosing not to give out chocolate that was produced by child slave-labor. As much as I love chocolate, it just no longer tastes good to me when I know that children the same age as my kids had to farm it in horrific conditions. That takes the sweet right out of my beloved Almond Joy.

And I've told my kids. Not all the gory details, but I want them to know. Riley loves Twix (since we only buy fair-trade, he's had just a few when he's gotten them at school!). I don't blame him. But when I told him about how Twix are made, he was pretty upset.  And he and I have searched the internet to find our own Twix recipe so we can make our own using fair-trade chocolate. He's happy we can do something to rectify the situation (and still have our sweet treat, of course).

Want to join us and do something about it this Halloween? Oh, good - I knew you would! :)

Here are some ideas:

Order your Halloween chocolate this year from Equal Exchange. I've gotten their chocolate minis to hand out and have ordered baking chocolate from them. They have fabulous stuff! And there's usually some kind of free shipping or coupon closer to Halloween. I'll update if I hear about it.

Go Chocolate Free. Be part of the Teal Pumpkin Project this year. Find something else to hand out: stickers, pencils, tattoos. And put a teal pumpkin by your front door to indicate that you are handing out something other than food (SUCH a treat for kids with food allergies).

So now you know... and you can DO something. Be the change. Let's teach our children about chocolate and let them help us decide what we want to do differently this year.  I've seen this happen in my family and my friends' families as this information spreads.

We can have a Halloween that wasn't produced by child slavery.

Good news! We don't have to give up chocolate! You just need a list of slave-free chocolate companies. And I aim to please:
http://www.slavefreechocolate.org/ethical-chocolate-companies/

Friday, September 18, 2015

Healthy

Deep breath. I've been trying to get up the courage to post this.

Okay, folks. I need to tell y'all something.

I'm healthy. And I don't look like this:

from: www.womenshealthmag.com
Funny: I googled "healthy woman midriff" and this was the first image that came up.

I am pretty sure I'm healthy. I exercise regularly. I finally managed to get in an eight mile run this week (although if you are friends with me on FB, you know it didn't quite go how I planned). The physical health benefits are nice, but I honestly exercise for my mental health. I finally found the thing that helps me fight depression, feel good about myself, and spend time doing something I enjoy that's just for me.

And I think I eat pretty healthily too. We eat real foods most of the time. But I eat chocolate when I want to need to. And I drink wine with my friends. I don't count calories or even know how much I weigh. I'm not saying those things are bad. But I know myself and I know that, right now, I don't need any extra pressure or standards to try to measure up to. I get enough of that from external sources without doing it to myself.

So I'm healthy. And here's why: I'm taking care of myself: physically and emotionally. I think I'm beautiful. Not physically - I still find myself fighting the battle against our society's standards of beauty. But I love my heart. I fell in love with Jesus and am doing my darndest to be more like him and I know my inner beauty comes from God. Life has given me so many opportunities to act like a beautiful person. I am so thankful for the times I've actually followed through. And more thankful for grace for the times I haven't. When I look around me, I realize my friends are amazing. They push and challenge me when I need it and help me pick up the pieces when I need that too, all while living their own beautiful lives... I figure if they want to be friends with me, there must be something to that, right?

So maybe today your Facebook or Instagram has a "motivational" picture of some perfect abs (along with beautifully styled hair & makeup).  Here's my contribution. This isn't a BEFORE picture. It's not an AFTER either. It's just ME.  No makeup. Hair how it decided to be this morning. This is what healthy looks like. This is a body that's almost 37 (eek!). This is a body that can run. This is a body that eats well, runs around with kids, grocery shops, volunteers in the community. See the stretch marks? This body birthed two babies, one with an epidural, one without any pain meds; both good choices. See those arms? They carried a frightened, sick toddler out of an orphanage in Ethiopia. See the wrinkles? Laugh lines from laughing with friends over glasses of wine. Or maybe a little from caring about politics and frowning at the internet. The bags under my eyes? Oh man, I stressed over that part of this picture almost more than anything else. I just don't get enough sleep, I guess. Right now, motherhood is winning over pretty eyes. Messy hair? I got to snuggle with my husband for a few moments before the kids woke up this morning instead of jumping up and taking a shower. And, you know... hair. Maya Angelou said it's our glory. I'm not always sure.



Social media gives us the chance to put forward only our "best selves" or sometimes our "imagined best selves." It's pretty easy to create a perfect persona. I'm guilty of it too. We all do it.  So here's some REAL for today. I didn't even know how to take a selfie in a mirror - this was an almost impossible task (what's the secret, folks?). And I had to clean the mirror first- see the cleaner bottle in the corner? I kept that in there for y'all. Oh and the scar on my belly-button from that great decision to pierce it when I was 18... lovely.We make such good choices as teenagers, don't we? Keepin' it real, mamas.

So be YOU today. Do something that makes you happy. Love that body of yours - I know it has done great things. Find the opportunity today to be a beautiful person AND find grace for the opportunities you've missed. Beauty has lots of shapes and sizes. But mostly, it's about the shape of our hearts. We've got this.