Friday, June 24, 2016

Happy Birthday To Us!

Hey there, beautiful! Guess what day it is?

You got it... Grab a virtual hat and get ready to party because Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots is turning one today!


WOW. It's hard to believe that just one year ago today I sat down at a computer and signed up for the first blogging program that popped up from my Google search. I didn't know a single thing about blogging. I didn't know what I would call it; I didn't know what I would say. I just knew that my friends and family were nagging me to death about writing something they would be able to read.

For those of you who know the story behind this blog, you know that I had no intention of being well followed. I had no intention of creating a platform around anything, especially beauty distortion. When I began this blog, I was strictly a private writer. Few people knew I could write at all, but I wrote a lot. And those who knew that there was always a journal in my purse and a story in my head were livid that they weren't allowed to read what I had scribbled onto paper. I was too protective of it.

Why can't I read this? Why won't you publish? Why don't you blog? 

On June 24, 2015, I sat down and created Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots as a way to get those supportive friends and family members (whose intentions were golden) to shut up. Named after my top three obsessions (New York City, the children I teach on a daily basis, and all things beauty/fashion), the goal of Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots was simply to write some things that I didn't mind being read by those who cared enough to read it.

So much else has happened since then. Seriously, I don't even know where to start. Let's get a brief of rundown of the year in review, shall we?

My First Blog Post. 
I published I Believe in Fairytales on June 24, 2015, back when my writing was truly chaotic and disorganized. Thank goodness I've matured on that front. The content, however, remains the same. It was important to me that my whole self be reflected on this blog; I didn't want a single part of me to be held back, especially my faith.

If you look hard enough (and you believe, of course), you can truly see God in everything. Personally, I've always had a huge obsession with all things Disney. I mean come on, what little girl doesn't want to be a Princess? But I think my first realization that my faith linked to fairytales when I began binge watching Once Upon A Time, because they kept calling the hero (though Emma Swan was clearly female and nothing like Jesus) the "Savior." And for all my readers who aren't OUAT fanatics: in the first episode, Snow White and Prince Charming live in a perfect fairytale kingdom where the Evil Queen is jealous of Snow, and destroys their happy endings by sending them to a fallen world: our world. Sounds vaguely like the fall in Genesis to me. From there, I realized Snow White was poisoned with an apple (Adam and Eve, anyone?), and their new world, Storybook, requires the "child-like faith" of a young boy named Henry.

I know, I know. If you don't believe in God, you'll find a million flaws in my theory. But if you do believe in Him, you'll find a million and one ways that biblical faith relates to fairytales. And I don't know about you, but I'd rather have the hope of a happy ever after than have nowhere to place my hope and eternity at all.

Regardless of my readers' faith, I do not hold mine back. Christ is present in many of my posts, specifically the ones in my self love crusade. It is, and always will be, a primary goal for me to treat my readers (and myself!) as the princes and princesses we are in Christ. They are not to forget they are royalty, and they should take care of their bodies and love their soul accordingly.


The Blog's Remodel.
If you remember my terribly designed, horribly contrasted, frighteningly disorganized blog layout, then you have truly been here from the beginning. Bless your heart. My page used to be purple with white polka dots, with thick white font that hurt your eyes. My header was nothing more than the picture of a bulletin board with the words "Taxis, Tots, & Polka Dots" tacked up with virtual pins. It offered no place to contact me or read about me at all. I was basically a phantom blogger to those who did not know me personally.

It probably wasn't a month into blogging that I discovered my blog did not look like the other successful blogs I read and followed. I shut the site down for a week and remodeled the whole thing. It now offers a clear description of me, multiple ways to contact me, and separate pages to read about the various aspects of my self love campaign. It is so much easier to navigate. And perhaps most importantly... Now you can read it!


Introducing The Family.
My family is something else. Always a subject for humor and inspiration, you can count on my family to always give you something to write about, but I had never featured them on my blog.

My granddad retired a little over a year ago and didn't even last a month before he got bored and went back to work. Typical. I couldn't believe it! I don't even have a degree yet and I've already got things I want to do when I retire. Like travel. And craft. And read until I can't read anymore. But he was actually bored without his work and all the people in it, which prompted me to research the differences between his generation, my generation, and every generation between. This lead to the publishing of The Generation Gap: Those Who Won't Work and Those Who Won't Quit

This was the first post that gained a substantial following. Even those who weren't reading my blog on a regular basis seemed to buy into the post, especially those from Northwest Arkansas. Because if you live in Northwest Arkansas and have ever shopped at the Joyce Street Walmart, you know my granddad.

After writing about my granddad, I didn't seem like a bad idea to include the rest of my family. Since then, I've also written posts about my grandmother (The Pioneer Woman of Springdale, Arkansas), my dad, and more. After reading the responses of those who knew my family, I decided that for the first time ever, I wanted to write for a blog with a decent following.


Social Media Promotions.
I hadn't taken a single business class in my life. I had no idea how to market my own blog. So, like any young entrepreneur, I turned to the Internet. I had no money to promote with and no knowledge to pair with other companies. You could pretty much say I did absolutely everything the wrong way. The only thing I knew how to work well, and work effectively, was social media. I'm a personal fan of Instagram myself, but you can follow me and my blog on any of the following.

Facebook: Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots
Twitter: @ttandpd
Instagram: @taxistotsandpolkadots
Pinterest: Bethany {Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots}

I know, I know, my blog doesn't have a Snapchat... I'm so bad about using it that it would be a real waste of your time. Trust me.


Our First Viral Post.
When I first began blogging, I was careful to never offend or get controversial. But one night I was on a bus with the high school guard I teach, headed home from their competition, when I began thinking about the life of a director from the director's standpoint and the student's standpoint. You see, I was a band kid who grew to be a guard director myself. I get both sides. But I get a third side that everyone neglects; the side of the band director's family.

I published Sincerely, The Band Director's Daughter on January 5, 2016, honestly believing that no one would relate. It was far more of a therapeutic post for myself, but it was shared on Facebook a thousand times in the first hour. It was shared at the same rate for a solid two weeks! I had a side of an extremely popular activity that no one had ever talked about before, and I was overwhelmed with how much band directors and their families were able to relate.


The First Published Partnership.
About a week after publishing that viral post, I got an email from Palen Music Company, wanting to feature the article in their Quick Note Newsletter. I couldn't believe it at all. A blog that I had started simply because my family wanted to read some of my writing was being noticed by people all over the world. I hadn't partnered with anyone. I hadn't been published or featured or even asked to write a guest post before. But I jumped on the opportunity, and it was published again on their page in two weeks time, allowing an even wider audience to read and share the blog.

Since then, I have written multiple other articles regarding the teaching profession; the most popular being MYTHBUSTERS: Early Childhood Education Is Easy and The Importance of Integrating the Arts in Academic Classrooms.


The Beauty Distortion Ban.
After all my personal thoughts about the world of education went viral, I figured there was nothing to lose. If you're a regular reader, you know I have an opinion on just about...well...everything. But, like any girl in college, I started to struggle immensely with body positivity. I had gained a little weight, changed my hair, and was still short enough to almost be a legal dwarf. People began commenting on my body, more positive than negative, but what bothered me was that people were talking. Which was strange. Because other people's opinions have never consumed my thoughts before.

Then I began to notice how photoshopped advertisements were. How plus sized models were a size eight, and looked like every girl I knew. I began to see how judgmental people were on social media, and how body shaming was more common than complimenting people on their style, intelligence, talent, and heart.

It bothered me. Thirteen years of public school. Even more if you were involved in early childhood programs. At least four years of college. And no one taught us to love ourselves.

I had that power. I could teach it. I could write about it. I could promote it.

When I launched the Beauty Distortion Ban, it was a way for me to speak out about my own insecurities without seeming like I was begging for attention or throwing a pity party. It was an attempt to remind women that all girls are silently struggling, and all girls are captivatingly beautiful.

It was not a failed attempt. Since then, my blog has gained a substantial following from body positive bloggers, retired models, fashion designers, anxiety warriors, eating disorder survivors, and regular women who hate what they see in the mirror. I am so humbled and honored that my own stories and thoughts can reach so many people, and point them towards confidence and self love. The Beauty Distortion Ban began running features via the #beautydistortionban, and quickly became my biggest platform.


Our First Feature.
No one was more surprised than me when one of my best friends in college turned out to be a pageant girl. My first feature was written to promote Carolyn Koepping on her pursuit of the Miss Missouri crown. While she is undoubtedly pageant material, Carolyn was a prime candidate for the Beauty Distortion Ban because she values talent over appearance, promotes education, and teaches young children to work hard for their dreams in their entitled generation with her #DreamitWorkitDoit campaign. Carolyn's Journey to Miss Missouri was shared multiple times from the day it was published until the Miss Missouri pageant had ended, and is still a favorite on the blog today.


Collaboration Emails.
I started getting questions. People wanting features. People wanting to start their own blog. People wanting me to write for them, pair with advertisements, stuff I never even thought of considering. It was getting too cluttered in my inbox, and people's inquiries were getting lost amid sales at New York & Company and restaurant coupons. taxistotsandpolkadots@gmail.com was set up for that very reason, and still exists today as a place to ask me anything, however personal or professional, you feel it may be.


Our First Post Targeting Men.
Bikini season hit, and men were hanging out their window to yell out their comments on my body. I was not amused, and decided to write a little tribute to all the arrogant men who thought they were doing me a favor. Whether their intentions were to boost confidence or objectify me, I wasn't sure. In my mind, it didn't matter. But it was important for them to see where I was coming from, even if those two men from the red pickup never got around to reading it.

The Bikini Challenge: For Men was posted for all men of positive and negative intent, kindly reminding them that they were to compliment us, not flatter us. They were to invest in us, not spend money on us. They were view us properly, not merely as their property. They were to love over lust, and never forget that they were not God's gift to women. In fact, woman was God's gift to man. I wrote it to the men I couldn't stand as a way to tell them off. I wrote it to the men I loved as a way to show our point of view. For the first time, Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots was reaching a primarily male audience. Again... Something I never thought I'd do.


The #StraightenYourCrown Movement.
I wanted a segment of the Beauty Distortion Ban to have the primary goal of encouraging young women on their most difficult days. I was just trying to figure out what to call it. The #YouMatter movement? No. The #YOUnique movement? No. The #ItGetsBetter movement? How pathetic. No.

I love fairytales, and I hate beauty distortion. It's as simple as that. It didn't take long for my mind to remind me that I was a daughter of the King of all Kings, a Princess in Christ, and that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And the rest was history. This branch of the Beauty Distortion Ban centers around the quote, On the darkest of days, when I feel inadequate, unworthy, and unloved, I remember whose daughter I am, and I straighten my crown. 


Whole-Group Participation.
On May 30, 2016, I sought the opinions of my most loyal readers with the Selfie Survey. The goal was to shatter body shaming in social media by encouraging female and male selfie takers alike. I wanted it to be clear that you were not vain to take a selfie. Nor were you selfish, conceited, or demanding attention. Your confidence was to be admired, even though it was often judged. The post took an interesting turn when the results found that male selfie takers were usually encouraged and complimented while female selfie takers were usually judged harshly. On June 6, 2016, I published the results in Love Yourself(ie), joining the #SelfiesforSelfLove movement by making a personal vow to never withhold a selfie from social media strictly because I feared what other people might think or say.


A Sturdy Vessel.
After that, I was talking so much about physical bodies and appearances that I feared I was sending the wrong message. Yes, you should love your body. Yes, you should feed it healthily, rest it often, and exercise it accordingly. You should compliment it. You should adore it. But it should not define you. 

Your soul is more important. Your heart is the loveliest thing about you! You are so talented, so intelligent, so kind, so funny, and so unique, that you should never be defined by your shell. A Sturdy Vessel was published as soon as this fear became evident, reminding women to love and take care of their bodies mostly because it is what their captivating soul lives inside of. After all, a beautiful soul needs a sturdy vessel. 


The Fingerprint Project.
Let's get one thing straight... I'm not particularly crafty, I'm just obsessed with Pinterest. When it came time for my mom's birthday, I wanted to give her something sappy and sentimental. You know, something to make her cry. Something to make her relive a memory. Something that would give her a part of me.

Even when I was a little girl, self love was very important. Inevitably, I would struggle with body positivity as I grew older. All girls do. But I had a reminder of my uniqueness at the tip of my fingers. Literally. My mom would tell me every day, "Your fingerprint is the only one like it in the whole entire world."

I've never forgotten it. I decided to jump on The Fingerprint Project myself, blowing up my own personal fingerprint to an 8x10 portrait. I didn't stop there. Using the outline, I wrote a concrete poem about everything my unique fingerprint had allowed me to do in my life. Many tears were shed. It was a huge hit, and I have been so excited to see my own readers' personal spin on the fingerprint projects. Share your own on social media with the #fingerprintproject, because I want to see it!


Shhh... It's a secret!
In the past couple of weeks, we've gained our first model for a specific project in the Beauty Distortion Ban. We have so many surprises in store for you in the upcoming year, so stay tuned for guest bloggers, more features, more projects, and of course, more posts. If there's something you'd like to see more of, please drop it in the comments or shoot me an email! Seriously, nothing's off limits. I love to talk.

Looking to the future is so exciting because honestly, I have no idea what will happen either. In the blog alone, so many unexpected things have already happened. Like I said, my intention for this blog was to keep my family quiet about me publishing my writing. Instead, I've marketed and promoted my own blog, gone viral, and started two social media movements. Not to mention my own personal life... This time next year, I will have graduated college with a degree in Early Childhood Education with an emphasis in Arts Education. Fingers crossed for a job, a new home, and a new adventure. My anxiety is telling me I better get my life together, but I'm fighting to remember it's all in God's strong hands and good timing.

The point is... Who knows what wild things I've never considered will happen in another year, and I can't wait to share it all with you.

Well... I'm about to chow down on that cupcake pictured above and celebrate the completely unexpected success this blog has had in the past year, all because of amazing readers like you! I'm signing off for the weekend, but I will see you Monday with another post. Catch ya later, beautiful!


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