Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Beautiful Woman Photo Challenge

Today, I was challenged by a dear friend to the Beautiful Woman Photo Challenge. The goal is for each participant to share five photos they feel most beautiful in.

Yep. That's it.

Isn't there more to it, you ask? Well, not really... Why five photos? I don't know. Who started this project? I don't know that either. What's the goal of this project, anyway? Well, I'd assume it's got a little something to do with self love and self esteem.

But here's what it means to me:

It has to be five photos because most women won't be able to find three. Not that they feel truly beautiful in. And the goal of the project is to help you rediscover the personal, unique beauty that is within you. The same beauty that has always been within you. The beauty you weren't focusing on (and were probably even critiquing) when you snapped the photo.

I'm going to be real honest with you. I accepted the challenge with the hope to prove a point. I'm prettiest when I'm happy! I wanted to say, or I'm prettiest when I'm teaching! or laughing! or reading! But the five photos I found could not be more different, and I had an extremely difficult time searching for a universal statement like the ones I listed above.

So without further adieu, I present to you the five photos in which I felt most beautiful.

Photo #1
I love this photo because it is so me. I'm in a sweatshirt (my staple clothing item for November, which was when the photo was taken), and it's a Disney sweatshirt nonetheless. What you can't see is me wearing my favorite dark jeans and my killer polka dot sneakers, but I can assure you I was wearing them.

As you can see in this photo, I wear very little makeup because I think there's so much elegance found in being natural. With that being said, I think girls should take enough pride in their appearance to wear it whenever they want to (not when someone else tells them they should).

This was also my first selfie ever posted on social media, which I posted just after analyzing your survey answers in Love Yourself(ie)


Photo #2
This photo was taken around 9 p.m. in my car after a three hour guard rehearsal my senior year of high school. I snapped it quickly because I still managed to look decent after a night full of running, dancing, sweating, and performing my heart out.

I chose this photo for this challenge because it features me in my natural habitat: in my car (probably running to go eat somewhere), in an all black wardrobe (a signature colorguard outfit), a straightened ponytail (despite humidity's best efforts to curl it), and a smile on my face after concluding a full night of doing what I love most. Though it's an old photo, it seemed wrong not to include it because I've carried it in the camera roll of my phone for four years.

Also important to note... I took this photo four years ago and never posted it until now because I feared being viewed as conceited for posting a selfie. Now's a good time to go read that post linked in Photo #1 if you missed it before.


Photo #3 
 As much as I wanted to say that I would only include photos of me naturally, sometimes a girl's gotta feel prettier than she does on an average day. This photo was snapped at the banquet concluding a long, hot week of hard work in the sun, allowing us all a chance to put on a nice dress, fix our hair, and actually put some makeup on our face without the guarantees of sweating it off.

I also received a trophy and a medal for my marching skill this night (I won a drill down, for my readers who understand band. For those who don't, just don't worry about it). The point is, I felt confident in my talent. I felt valued as a team member. And I felt beautiful because I had the chance to represent myself with the style that is uniquely my own: classy, elegant, and signature stamped with a t-strap high heel.

Because of this style, I've been nicknamed the "First Lady" of the Pride Color Guard. And as you can see in this photo, I was workin' it.



Photo #4
Ignore how old this picture is. I was a freshman in high school. Eight years ago. Probably evident by my pig-tailed hair and Christmas painted nails.

But I included this photo because it is important. In this photo, I am pictured doing one of my favorite things.

Eating.

Is it the healthiest meal in the world? Nope. It's Chickfila. Did I gain a little tummy pudge after this meal? You bet. But did it make me any less beautiful?

No.

No, no, no. If anything, my choice to fuel my body the way I deemed acceptable rather than the way society told me to fuel it (or starve it) is a testament to my confidence and self love. And to me, those are two things that define beauty the most.



Photo #5

This one is my favorite. I'm in a pretty dress, I've got some pretty hair, and I was having way more than a pretty good time. When this photo was taken, I was watching my prom date climb into the arms of every other guy in our prom group for a photo, only to have them accidentally drop him smack on the ground. I was laughing so hard, which is one of my absolute favorite things. I love to laugh. And I love this picture. What a candid photo capturing my happiness bottled in this evening.

The other thing I find important to note about this photo is that there were at least thirty other people present in this vicinity (50+ if you count all the family members who came to take pictures), not to mention the ridiculous scenario occurring that had me laughing, and yet, the photographer focused on me in this moment. This is more than a picture where I feel beautiful. This is a picture where someone else noticed I was beautiful.

I suppose it could've been the dress. Perhaps the hair, or the accessories I put in it. But this picture doesn't focus on the dress or the hair or any other accessory. It focuses on me. On my essence and happiness in the moment.

That's what beauty really is. And we can dress it up and accessorize it all we want, but no dress, headband, or matching shoe could possibly parallel the captivating beauty of a woman's soul; the one revealed in a smile. In a laugh. In this photo.


As I mentioned before, the photos I found were the furthest thing from what I expected to post, but my goal was a to prove a point, and that I still intend to do.

Some of these photos picture me posed, but most of them are candids. Sometimes, I'm wearing makeup, and sometimes I am not. Sometimes I am sweating. Sometimes I am eating. Sometimes I am laughing.

But I am always me.

That's when it hit me. I'm not prettiest when I'm happy. When I'm teaching. When I'm reading. When I'm laughing.

I am pretty because I'm me.

I am pretty every day. I am pretty every way. I am pretty in a car. I am pretty near and far. I am pretty in a box, I am pretty with a fox! {Sorry, I'm getting a little Suessical...}

But I am pretty here and there.

I am pretty everywhere. 

And so are you. So don't you forget it, beautiful.


Monday, August 29, 2016

The Self Love Encouragement Playlist

Music has always been an extremely important part of my life. And I don't just mean that in a my-dad-was-a-band-director sort of way.

The childhood memories are flashing through my mind as we speak. Running around the living room with maracas at age three, contributing to Mannheim Steamroller's version of Deck The Halls. Forcing my dad to let me stand on his feet so we could dance to sappy love songs by Chicago. And every time we climbed in his truck, it was time for a two-person Broadway show. The soundtracks of Lion King and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat still get stuck in my head to this day.

I still have to turn on my music before I buckle my seatbelt; I'm a creature of habit. When I am cleaning, I've got iHeart radio blaring through the TV. When I am writing, I have a relaxing playlist floating in the background on Spotify. Shawn Mendes's acoustic track is gracing my presence as we speak. I can't even walk to class without my earbuds in. Music isn't just an escape for me; it's background music to enhance the life I live in the moment.

I've said this before, but I'll say it again. I don't write about beauty distortion because I've conquered it. I write about beauty distortion because I struggle with it. I have a playlist for when I'm working out, when I'm angry and frustrated, and even when I'm sad and lonely. Why would I not have one for when I am feeling inadequate?


I have one, dear sister, and it's been private until now. But if I'm being completely honest with you, this playlist has accompanied me all week as I dealt with the stresses of school, work, life, and more. It has rocked me to sleep when I was weary with exhaustion, and has soothed me as I took a much needed self-care weekend. Don't get me wrong, these aren't songs to empower, or even to get you built up in confidence. They're just songs to encourage you on your darkest days, and remind you that you are beautiful, worth love, and certainly not alone.


iTunes, Spotify, whatever you use... Go download them right now. I know they're getting me through my week, and they just might be able to help you get through yours. Besides, everyone can use all the help they can get on a Monday.

Have a great week, beautiful. And remember... No matter how stressed, overwhelmed, or lonely you might feel, you are taking on life exactly the way you were designed to: in your own way, on your own time, in your own skin.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Dear High School Me,

It gets better.

Just had to start with that because it's important that you know. Because you don't even know what awaits you. Because six years ago today, you were getting ready to start high school.

I'm writing to you because you never listen to anyone else. I know you probably won't listen to me either, but I do know you better than anyone else. Wanna test me? You're fifteen. You just broke up with the first boyfriend you swore you loved. {Don't get too down on yourself, there will be plenty more situations just like that}. You just received your first journal from your mom because she was worried that you weren't channeling your pain productively. You just finished the worst two years possibly imaginable: Jr. High. It was brutal. It was so awful that you sought to make yourself someone you weren't. But there's no need for that honey, and this is your chance to start over.


Don't get too excited. This chapter of your life will hold plenty of other disappointing scenarios. Sure, you'll grow from them. You'll make some much needed mistakes. But you'll make some stupid ones, too. So I'm here to keep you company. To try to prevent some of those stupid mistakes, and to be there for you when those needed mistakes happen. I could tell you what they are but it wouldn't do any good. You wouldn't listen, and experience will teach you more than I ever could. It's a harsh teacher, don't get me wrong.

But you learn.

So settle down with that plate of french fries and a can of diet coke. {Seriously, do it. Because your jeans won't allow many late night french fry snack runs when you're my age.} Flick your lamp on and don't forget the ceiling fan. Then, set aside the journal I know you're writing in, and let's get those future questions answered.

Like most other experiences, the first few months will seem beautiful. A whole new worldddd.... if you will. You're cute, you're fun, but most importantly, you're new. So don't be fooled when those older boys hit on you. It's probably not because of your kind heart or your quick wit or your fiery mind. Honestly, it's probably not because of your body either. It's because you're new.

You're going to take a brutally awful history class for the sole reason that it was blocked with AP English. I'm not going to tell you not to take it, because you didn't listen to anyone else and you're not going to listen to me. So when you're crying in the shower because nothing makes sense, remember that there are more important things than Reconstruction and Alexander Hamilton. A hit Broadway musical is going to come out in about five years to teach you all about him, anyway.

There will be teachers who will tell you that you're stupid. You're not, and by the time you're my age, they won't be teaching anymore, anyway.

There will be counselors who tell you that you should keep your options open when looking into colleges. But your gut feeling was right. Go where you want and never look back. You belong.

There aren't words to describe the power of breakfast at midnight. Fry the bacon, girlfriend. Just fry the bacon.

Definitely take Drama over Spanish III. It changed my life. I met some amazing people in that class and haven't had the urge or need to speak Spanish once.

PreCal is definitely a waste of time. I haven't used it once and you won't even need Calculus for your major in college.

Stop. Looking. For. The. Next. Man. To. Be. Your. Boyfriend. You're pretty cool on your own.

The number of times a guy cat-calls you in the hallway doesn't diminish your self worth or credibility at all. It diminishes his.

Quality over quantity. Please. Friendships, boyfriends, makeup... Quality over quantity.

Never, ever, underestimate the power of a late night phone call with your best friend / sister at heart. Just because you can always feel her there with you even when you don't talk for weeks doesn't mean you shouldn't fill her in on the totally stupid thing you did when you were hormonal. She deserves to laugh at your expense, just like you laugh at hers. And even though what you did was totally stupid, she'll somehow make it seem totally normal.

She'll also tell you how much of an idiot your crush is for several months and then console you when you realize it for yourself.

While we're on the subject... Boys are stupid.

Girls are mean.

Life would be so much easier if everyone else were just like you.

You can, and will, be best friends with a guy. Don't get me wrong, you'll fight with him more than you breathe. You will drive him up the wall sometimes and it will irritate you beyond understanding when he ends up being right about basically everything. But in exchange, he'll never make a move on you and he'll protect you like you're his little sister. You need him.

You've always wanted to cut your hair. So just do it, okay? It looks super cute on us, and the quicker you cut it the quicker you'll be frustrated that it doesn't go into a ponytail and you'll grow it out again.

Your mom was right all along. So stop trying so hard to prove her wrong.

Speaking of mom, she totally had a type. She loved the dark haired, dreamy eyed, musician guys, just like you. And once she stopped settling, she got to marry one of them! So don't settle.

Oh yeah, and when you're my age? There will be girls from your graduating class already married with kids. There will also be some who had huge dreams to get out of your hometown and never made it out of McDonald's. So relish in that happy middle-ground your dad was always talking about.

Dad. Hahahaaa. You and Dad aren't meant to get along right now. You're just starting to date, you cry for no reason, and you have to use tampons. He isn't fond of any of it. Just cut him some slack. You may never stop the eye-rolls, but you two become a lot closer later and you definitely share the same sense of humor. {I know, I never thought it would happen either.}

Unlike your parents, you will totally lose contact with every single one of your high school sweethearts. If they weren't God's plan for you, you shouldn't try to hold on. So when it's time to let them go, just let them go.

Now you're probably wanting to know what God's plan is for you in the love department. Good question. When I figure it out, you'll be the first to know.

Enjoy babysitting. I know you want a "real" job, but I've had several now and still babysit. It's my favorite job to this day.

You love kids. So be prepared... Some kids don't have good home lives. Some of them haven't even hit double digits in age and have already been through hell and back. You can't take them home with you, but you can love them as your own. You will have the power to be the parent they never had; their first hug in the morning and their last high five when they walk out the door. Just remember that the kids who need love the most will often ask for it in the most unloving of ways. Never lose sight of your primary job. Teaching and care-taking isn't it. Loving is.

Don't stop writing. People dig it.

One day, you're going to be a beauty distortion blogger. And you will have girls you knew from high school contacting you because they were dealing with an eating disorder. Because they were suicidal. Don't think you have to be a blogger before you help them see the truth. You aren't the only one struggling with inadequacy, so take the time to notice others who are.

You're not fat. I know you think you could lose some weight, but soon you'll be in college where you actually could lose some weight and you'll realize that you never needed to lose weight.

And if there's only one thing you're going to take from this letter... Let it be this:

There's really nothing "high-school" about high school. High school, like college and marriage and parenthood and retirement, is just a necessary chapter of life. If you don't cry too many tears, laugh too many hours, and work harder than you've ever worked before, then you're doing it wrong. Don't let people tell you that you're young and naïve because you're in high school. I've come to learn that youth and naïvity is so relative. My parents' friends still think I'm young, but the preschoolers I teach every day think I'm the oldest and wisest woman alive. You're not too young. You're not too naïve.

You are exactly where you need to be.

I wish I could tell you that you'll miss it when it's over. You'll miss parts of it, yes. You'll miss meeting new people in classes, but you have another four years of college to do that. You'll miss spinning around in a pretty dress on prom night, but you still have your wedding night to do that. You'll miss those guys you swore you once loved, and you have every right to, but you've got the rest of your life to love the man God has in store for you.

So take your time, high school Bethany. Enjoy it while it lasts. Because the bad parts will be over before you know it, and the good parts are only a small taste of what the rest of your life has in store for you.

Xoxo,

The Real Me
{The Future You}

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The #beautydistortionban Mieroglyph Giveaway!

Happy hump day, beautiful! You're halfway through your busy week and I'm halfway through my last first week of classes EVER! That's right... This time next semester I'll be starting student teaching and this time next year I'll {hopefully} have a job! {Prayers welcome and personally requested...} And in honor of our reigning victory to conclude the week, I've got a special treat for you.

Drumroll please...

It's Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots' first GIVEAWAY! 

Allow me to be blunt... I don't often accept affiliate partnerships because I run the risk of making my blog a pretty spammy place, which is the last thing I want for my site and my readers. But when Mieroglyphs contacted me with a potential partnership, I simply couldn't pass it up. {And no, I'm not getting paid to promote or write this post for them.}

The first thing that caught my attention was their mission: Goods for the good of this world. Wow. Now there's something you don't hear very often in today's twisted society. But what did they do? What did they sell? And most importantly, what did they really stand for? Were they actually promoting positivity or was it a nice little surface mission with the primary intent of growing a big business?

I contacted a brand specialist and was absolutely blown away. Mieroglyphs is a cork-leather products company, dedicated to retailing sustainably made, socially-conscious bracelets and dog collars. Each product features a unique pattern and custom made quote on the inside of the band. I love this idea, because what can be perceived as a cute little fashion statement to the rest of the world serves as a personal daily reminder for the wearer him/herself. If you struggle with beauty distortion, script the bracelet with a quote regarding self love. If you struggle with anxiety, customize it with a gentle reminder. Especially as a teacher and a writer, I don't look at a single place more often than my hand/wrist, and the daily reminder that I am more than enough for this world would be just enough encouragement to get me through my academic-stressing, gossip-hearing, coffee-spilling days.

I immediately ordered two.

I was going to customize it with my own quote (because that's another featured option that doesn't add a single cent). But when I read their stock quotes, I realized I didn't have to. One bracelet serves as a reminder for me: Be you, the rest of the world will adjust. The other serves as a reminder for my young students: Imagination is more important than knowledge. 

I did however take the time to add another bracelet to the order with the mission of my blog. I now have another bracelet that reads Song of Songs 4:7 #beautydistortionban. 

The order was processed, made, engraved, shipped, and received in a matter of only 5 days, and all information/communication regarding the order and shipping updates can be responded to via email and Facebook. Truly a brand after my own heart... I am not good at checking my personal email, but I'm always on social media.

Since receiving my two Miero bracelets, I've used them far more as a ministry and encouragement tool than anything. Yes, they're cute accessories, and yes, they go with my outfits exceedingly well. But there's nothing cooler than when someone says, "Hey, I like your bracelet!" and I can say, "Thanks! My students love it because it reminds them that creativity and imagination is more important than school and scantrons," or "Thanks! I love it because it reminds me that there's a uniquely shaped space in this world that was made just for me."

Conversation takes off. I've talked about beauty distortion. I've talked about education. And I've talked about God's love. My top three passions have been given more attention in the past few weeks than they have in months, but Mieroglyphs aren't just being gracious to me. They're being gracious to my readers.

Mieroglyphs is awarding 10% off all products on every order using the discount code TTPD10. That's right, they're giving you 10% off for the simple fact that you're a regular Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots reader. Once you've selected and customized your products, just enter TTPD10 into the promo code text box and you'll automatically be discounted 10% off your order.


In addition to Mieroglyph's gracious offer, I've got another one to add on top of it. For every product you purchase using the TTPD10 code, you'll be entered into a drawing for a FREE GIVEAWAY of a Mieroglyph band of your choice (in your size!) with the Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots custom inscription Song of Songs 4:7 #beautydistortionban. All you have to do is share, retweet, or repost Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots' giveaway photo (pictured above) along with our discount code via social media and tag us!

Facebook: Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots
Twitter: @ttandpd
Instagram: @taxistotsandpolkadots

Too good to pass up, right? Right! Let's review to make sure you've got it...

What You Do. 

  • Click here and order as much product as you want using the Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots discount code TTPD10
  • Share // Retweet // Repost Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots' giveaway photo and tag me on social media. {Make sure to include our discount code TTPD10 and the #beautydistortionban!}

What You Get. 

  • 10% off any and all orders using discount code TTPD10
  • One entry (per product!) into a drawing for a FREE GIVEAWAY of a Mieroglyph band of your choice (in your size!) with the Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots custom inscription Song of Songs 4:7 #beautydistortionban. 

Click on our discount code below to start shopping, and stay tuned for Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots free Beauty Distortion Ban Miero giveaway. The winner will be announced September 15th!



To learn more about the Miero brand, click here. 
To learn more about various Miero products, click here. 
To get your Miero shopping on, click here, and don't forget to use Discount Code TTPD10 for 10% off at checkout! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

21st Birthday Challenge Vlog!

Good morning, beautiful! 

Guess what happens today?! That's right... I'm turning 21, and you know what that means! It's time for the Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots Birthday Challenge Vlog where I attempt to answer 21 of your questions in 2 minutes and 10 seconds!

Was your question included? Did I make the time limit? Can't tell ya... You gotta watch to find out!



SOCIAL MEDIA SHOUT-OUT: Come find me in all corners of the internet!
FACEBOOK: Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots
TWITTER: @ttandpd
INSTAGRAM: @taxistotsandpolkadots
PINTEREST: @ttandpd

MUSIC SHOUT-OUT: Special thanks to Kevin McLeod from http://incompetech.com/ for permission to use his royalty-free music!

Thanks for watching! I'm signing off to complete a 2-day birthday celebration complete with fancy dinners and piano bars. Was there ever a more Bethany way to spend a 21st birthday? I think not!

Catch ya later, beautiful.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Get The Look: Tan Lines & Pencil Skirts

It was 4:30 p.m. when we finished practice. Hair knotted into a sweaty bun, sunglasses trapping moisture above my nose; my shirt suctioned to my back due to the heat of the afternoon rehearsal block. I could feel the dirt on my skin, and upon undressing for a shower when I got back to my apartment, I was so sweaty that salt fell out of my shorts.

I had to be at a fancy banquet in two and a half hours.

I'd mentally planned this outfit for weeks. A stylish lavender blouse paired with a grey and white pattered pencil skirt. Silver heels practically mimicking glass slippers would tie it together accented by silver hoops and a silver hair piece. And I was going to be tan. Lavender looks exquisite on a tan.

I showered. I curled my hair and styled it accordingly with the silver piece. I took the extra five minutes to complete my makeup with careful detail. And I put on my stunning, mentally prepared outfit only to realize it didn't look the way I'd envisioned. 

Tan lines. I had considered the tan, but hadn't considered the tan lines. This lavender blouse had straps like spaghetti noodles. My workout tanks all week had been at least two inches wide in the sleeves, and don't even get me started on the sock tan line. My feet were the color of a hotel bed sheet in comparison to the rest of my legs, and my silver glass-slipper heels were drawing more attention to it. Not less.

Great.

I thought about changing but I didn't have the time to put together another perfect outfit. And besides, I didn't want to change it. I'd had my heart set on that one for weeks! I considered a blazer, or perhaps a different hairstyle that concealed the pale straps on my shoulders. I even considered covering my feet and shoulders with foundation. But my foundation isn't cheap, not to mention liquid. I was not about to ruin my lavender shirt. I huffed and grabbed my purse, out of time to fix the situation.

No one said a word about my tan lines. Instead, I was asked to include the fabulous outfit in a Get The Look segment on the blog.

Before I do that, though, I want to make a point. I was headed to a band banquet for band members after a week of band camp. Everyone had tan lines. Tan lines were suddenly more frequent than even skin tones and yet, something told me that it wasn't okay to have them. We all know tan lines show up on any person who wears clothing while out in the sun (and I sure hope that's everyone...). So why did it seem so wrong to have them?

Tan lines are normal. So is acne, cellulite, thick thighs, fat bundles, and curvy middles. None of which have ever been pictured on magazine covers, billboards, or advertisements of any kind. The images we are fed more often than what we see in the mirror trick our minds into telling us that normal displays of physicality are flaws. With this in mind, I rocked my super-cute and thoroughly complimented outfit with white feet and all.

Because I am not flawed. And neither are you.

So if you want the outfit for yourself, I'm here to help.

The Outfit 
Lavender Blouse {similar}
Patterned Skirt {similar}
Silver Heels {similar}
Silver Hoops
Hair Piece
Bow Ring 

Sorry I had to include some similar pieces rather than the originals, but a lot of the pieces were seasonal and I wanted to make sure you could buy them. So be sure to enjoy and wear confidently. Your body is not flawed, and you can still rock a lavender tank with extremely defined tan lines.


Friday, August 12, 2016

Getting to Knowww You...

{Sing title as Julie Andrews from The King And I...}

The cashier looked at me like I was insane. And why wouldn't she? I was coming through the check-out line with a package of M&M's, a double pack of post-it notes, and a Disney princess bouncy ball. And then she asked the dreaded question: "What's all this stuff for?" 

Explaining color guard to a normal person is hard enough. Explaining why these materials are crucial for a group of high school girls is even harder. But, just as community is important in blog-land and educational classrooms, a team cannot thrive without community.

Every coach and extra-curricular instructor has seen this battle. Do I expect all my girls to be best friends at the end of the season? No. Do they have to hang out with each other outside of practice? Quite frankly, I don't care if they do or not. But they are required to perform together, as one complete team rather than several individuals. They are required to converse respectfully and humorously during rehearsal, and these things would be impossible to do without first getting to know one another.

When I first began coaching color guard, I made the mistake of making rehearsals about color guard. Yes, the end product will be color guard. Yes, the judges are scoring color guard. But rehearsals are not about color guard. Rehearsals are about the girls; about instilling strength, endurance, teamwork, and motivation in these young women that they can use later in life, wherever their future may take them. These skills are not molded by technique and choreography. They are molded by community.

Taking an hour out of camp days to do nothing but play games was the smartest thing I've done since I began coaching. From the outside looking in, it seems anything but productive. The directors were laughing as girls were getting whacked in the face by bouncy balls and raced to shove countless M&M's in their mouths. The girls and I were laughing, too. But by the end of the season, no one was laughing because we had molded and recruited some of the most dedicated, hard-working individuals I've had the privilege of coming to know.

So today, I had my girls vote on their favorite team building activity; the activity I would share with my beautiful readers. Naturally, we had a tie. So, if you're a teacher, coach, director, or camp counselor, today I'm clueing you in on two of our favorite team building games: The M&M Quiz and The Question Ball.


The M&M Quiz
What You Need:
--Instructional Index Card / Card Stock
--Packets of Fun Sized M&M's

What You Do: 
--Give each member their own packet of fun sized M&Ms. {Tell them they can't eat them...yet.}
--Review the Instructional Index Card. It should cover what they should mention for each color of M&M's they have.
--Go around the circle. The members have to answer the information corresponding to their M&M colors as fast as they possibly can, eating the M&M's as they answer the questions. The one who answers the questions and eats their M&M's the fastest wins!

Some Ideas for Color Prompts: 
RED: A skill you've already mastered
ORANGE: Something you do well.
YELLOW: Something you're obsessed with.
GREEN: Something you watch / listen to.
BLUE: A goal for the upcoming season / school year.
BROWN: Something you can't live without.


The Question Ball
What You Need: 
--1 oversized beach ball / bouncy ball
--full package of post it notes
--Sharpie / permanent marker
--Tape

What You Do:
--Write one question per post-it note.
--Cover the ball with post-it notes, taping the notes on so they don't fall off during the game.
--Start the timer and choose the first question you see. Answer the question as quickly as possible before passing it to someone else.
--Whoever catches the ball chooses the first question they see and answers it as quickly as possible.
--Keep passing the ball until all the post-it notes have been removed and answered.

Some Ideas for Question Prompts: 
What is your favorite song currently?
What is your favorite book and/or series?
If money/salaries didn't matter, what would you do for a living?
What is your dream car?
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
What's one food you can't live without?
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Are you left or right handed?
Do you have a job? Yes = where do you work? No = what's your dream job?
Who is your favorite actor / actress?
If you could live in any era, what would it be?
What is your favorite music?
What is your favorite quote?
Name your absolute favorite dessert.
What is one article of clothing you can't live without?
What is your favorite animal?
What is the best gift you've ever been given?
What is your favorite scent / smell?
What is your best subject in school?
What is your favorite candy?
What are your favorite colors?
What's your favorite beverage?
What are you looking forward to most this year?
What emoji defines your personality?
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
If your life was a movie, what would the title be?
What is your favorite season and why?
What is your favorite holiday and why?
Who was your preteen celebrity crush?
Name something you do to relax.
Who is your favorite superhero?
What is your favorite sport (to watch or play)?


Feel free to put your own spin on these activities to make it fit your team even more, and I want to hear your awesome, creative team-building ideas, too! Email me at bethany@taxistotsandpolkadots.com or drop a comment to share what you do for your team/class!

Have fun!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Power of Positivity

There aren't enough words in human existence to explain how much today's society irks me. I wasn't even ten minutes into my day before turning on the news and watching our country fall apart. I wasn't thirty minutes into the next hour that I heard my first shred of gossip. Within the next twenty minutes I'd changed outfits twice (fearing that my original two weren't adequate for the job I was still trying to prove myself in), re-fixed my hair four times (it was not cooperating...), and spilled a cup of coffee all over the countertop. Great.

All of which happened before I walked out the door for work. Remember, I work with small children, quite possibly the most perceptual humans on the planet. Good moods are crucial for teachers and nannies, and when children perceive a bad day they're bound to ask, "What's wrong?" Except they usually word it something like, "Why is there a stain on your shirt?" or "Miss Harper, you have two different earrings in!" Laughter usually erupts and I usually take a breath to remind myself that children make the most considerate statements in the most inconsiderate ways. They notice when my life isn't as together as it normally is and it worries them. They just don't understand that it's more polite to pretend they don't notice. 

In our best attempt to speak out about things that matter, we've become brutal towards each other.

Yes, the things that happen in politics matter, and the things our politicians stand for matter, and the things we support matter. But that does not give us the right to diminish, attack, or fight with people who stand for other things. Everybody has an opinion on everything, these days. And we get so offended when someone else disagrees! But if no one can change your mind on the issues you feel passionately about, what makes you think you'll be able to change their mind on the issues they feel passionately about?

Likewise, the way we look and present ourselves matters, but that doesn't give us the right to comment and judge those who look different than us, whether it be weight, style, or simple accessory choices. And yes, the way negative situations affect us matter, but that doesn't give us the right to shove our negativity onto others. Just because you're having a bad day doesn't mean you have the right to infect someone else's good one.

I've started following a few new blogs. I've unfollowed some of my old ones. And there's two things I've noticed since making this change:

1) I don't share my own struggles and experiences half as often as other bloggers do, which not only hurts the personality in the post, but also diminishes the realness of the point. 
I leave my writing bluntly professional, using vernacular that I know my readers will respond to rather than the tone and vocabulary present in my more private pieces. That's a fine thing to do for personal essays, but the goal of this blog was never for you to read a post and say Oh yeah, that's a good point, only to forget about it three minutes later.

The goal was for you to see a person behind the words. Somehow, I've created a beauty distortion platform where my readers think I'm some sort of expert on this stuff. I'm not. I'm no therapist, no psychologist, no dietician, and certainly no doctor. I don't work in the fashion industry, I wouldn't know the first thing photography, and I can assure you that there's no one on this Earth who would feel more uncomfortable modeling than the girl typing this post.

I don't write about beauty distortion because I'm an expert at conquering it. I write about beauty distortion because I'm a victim who is fighting it. Just like you.

2) My life has become significantly brighter. 
I can't tell you how many posts I used to read about the "right" way to do things. The right way to lose weight. The right way to start a blog. A "quick and easy confidence booster." Or "5 guaranteed tips to fight insecurity!"

Let me save you the time. Those five tips don't work and I didn't learn anything about myself except that I haven't done a single thing the "right" way. In an effort to improve myself, I wound up feeling more and more inadequate. I'm guessing you've felt that way, too.

So let me tell you what I do know:

There is no quick and easy confidence booster. Confidence takes time.

Nothing is guaranteed when it comes to insecurity. That'll take time, too.

There's not always a "right" way to do something.

After reading all these articles, I was reminded of a recent debate I had in a classroom full of other teachers. There is no one correct way to teach. To learn. To play. And no, there's no one correct way to look. To love. To live. Standardization is not, and has never been, the answer. Not in school, and not in beauty. Just as different children learn in different ways to accomplish different goals, women look / act / think differently to fulfill different purposes. We've got to stop tearing each other down for the sole reason that our friends' / mother's / daughter's / etc. plans look differently than ours. Those women were designed for other things.

I stopped reading posts about the right ways to do things because I'd come to accept that I was never going to do it "right." I was never going to complete life the way other people wanted me to. But I wasn't called to fulfill their plans. I was called to fulfill God's plan. And I was designed perfectly for that.

Now I'll be the first to admit, God's plan was the last thing on my mind when that cup of coffee splashed across the countertop. After a huff and a silent curse, I was convinced my day was ruined. And over what? A cup of coffee.

It's amazing how quickly our gentle, quiet spirit can be turned into brutal negativity. All it takes is a cup of coffee. Not that I wake up ready to sing and make my bed with the birds like a Disney princess or anything, but once that cup of coffee spilled, my ears were steaming. I was out for blood. And it wasn't the cup of coffee that had done it, it was was everything leading up to the cup of coffee. The feelings of inadequacy that rushed through me when I couldn't get my hair to straighten. The frustration that consumed me when I realized I had a closet full of nothing to wear. The eye rolls that accompanied the newscaster's speech about the current presidential election.

I wasn't even an hour into my day and I was ready to escape from it. And that's no way to live.

I'll never forget the day I met my dad for breakfast at a local restaurant. I had just returned from a doctor's appointment, certainly not my preferred way to begin my day off; I can't stand doctors. Especially ones with needles. But after three tries for blood work and a full physical, it was time for breakfast and that restaurant was packed. Grouchy old men complained about the wait time, old ladies were fighting to hear the cashier over the commotion, and middle aged women were struggling to keep their parents in high spirits while entertaining their kids. Realizing the poor host was already having a terrible day and it was only 9:30 a.m., I waltzed up with the biggest grin on my face. "Hi!" I said in my perkiest voice, despite how my morning had gone, "There'll be two of us, but take your time."

The man looked stunned. Speechless, actually. But he regained his composure quickly and said, "It's so nice to have a smiling face around here."

We were seated right away.

I'm not going to ask you to imagine how much better the world would be if we could all remain a little more positive. That sounds so stupidly cliché. But I am going to ask you to imagine how much smoother your day would go if you were met with half as much positivity as you were negativity. You never know how much one smile means to you until no one is smiling. You don't realize how much you enjoy laughing until you haven't laughed in awhile. You don't realize how blissfully joyful it is to be happy until your circumstances are robbing your happiness.

And what I've learned more than anything? That smile, that laughter, and that happiness has to start with you. I can't tell you how many times I've heard my parents and roommates tell stories about the pessimists involved at their jobs. Half of them work in a hospital. The others work in public schooling. I'm sure you can only imagine some of the venting sessions that have taken place in my living room. It's hard to slap a smile on your face and react with genuine kindness when the rest of the world is meeting you with hatred. But someone has to start it, and it might as well be you.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Why Is This Stuff So Important?

The question threw me. For the first time in my life, I didn't even know what to say.

A middle aged man (with golden intentions, don't get me wrong), had found my blog and thought it necessary to ask. Why is all this beauty distortion stuff so important? First, I was angry at him for obviously not empathizing with the struggles my readers and I deal with every day. Then, I was angry at me, because I obviously wasn't completing my mission very well.

Since taking a moment to process the situation, I understand where the man was coming from:
1) He's a man. 
And while men undoubtedly deal with masculine distortion in the media today, it is not as obvious, nor as viscious, as the beauty distortion and objectification women receive on all ends.
and 2) He's middle aged. 
Not that middle aged men and women can't empathize with the situation. Not that they can't understand the struggle, but this is far more than a Daddy-you-just-don't-get-it cry from a hormonal teenage girl. The reality of it is, previous generations often don't understand the struggle. Because they never had to deal with it the same way.

So today, we're going to take a break from attacking beauty distortion. We aren't going to talk about social media. Or advertisements. Or photoshop, or objectification, or even self esteem.

We're going to talk about why we talk about all those things.

And we're going to do so by answering some {very realistic} questions from our baby-boomer readers. So here we go.



Why did you choose beauty distortion as a platform? 
It is present in absolutely everything. I can write about whatever I want, and can inevitably relate it to beauty distortion.

But more than that, it makes women seem weak. We have always heard that the photoshopped advertisements, airbrushed models, and enhanced social media filters contribute to low self-esteem, eating disorders, depression, and anxiety in young women today, but we instead choose to blame these young women for being too naïve to notice the difference between distortion and reality.

My question is... How could we not be too naïve to notice the difference?

Bullying has been around forever. So has beauty distortion. The generations before us dealt with these inconveniences too, but they were also able to escape from it. They might have endured fights and prejudice at school or work, but they were able to return home to parents who loved them as children. They were able to choose friends who valued them for who they were. And those friends and parents were the only people they saw outside of school and work.

Today, teenagers return home to their phones. Their computers. Their iPads. They return home to the same world they endure at school and work; the same world where they are gossiped about, objectified, disrespected, and bullied. Bullied. What a harsh word, you say. It is harsh. It's also true. Today, our young men and women are convinced that everyone else's life is brighter, everyone else's body is prettier, and everyone else's mind is smarter because of the way their friends and classmates are portrayed on social media. They don't realize they are viewing a false self of the profile they have open, so they inevitably feel forced to portray a false self on their own profile. Not to mention, the comments, critiques, criticisms, objectifications, and bullying they endure in real situations follow them (often more viciously) onto their Instagram feeds, Snapchat requests, and direct messaging inboxes.

Baby boomers can say they experienced these things when they were our age. But they did not.

Not in the same way. And they won't experience them in the same way until they have their own child they are fighting desperately to save.

You don't struggle with beauty distortion. Why are you blogging about it? 
Alright friends, it's time to get vulnerable.
--I weigh myself at least once a day.
--I pull at my extra fat on my thighs, stomach, and arms.
--I check my body from multiple angles in mirrors, store windows, and dressing rooms.
--There are days I think about how easy it would be cut down my calorie intake.
--I buy the lowest calorie, lowest fat version of each grocery I have.
--There are days I hate the clothes I once loved because they don't make me look skinnier than I am.
--I have to force myself to not read articles about the fastest ways to lose weight.
--I hate myself a little more every time I sit down and have to pull the waistband of my jeans over that last little fat roll.
--I compare my body to others every single day.

Still want to say I don't struggle? Let's validate it even more.
--I have never once purchased a magazine containing weight loss tips.
--I have never once used a photo-editing program to alter a picture (except to prove a point in my post Kick Starting the Beauty Distortion Ban)
--I have removed my business from many objectifying and technologically altering companies such as Victoria's Secret. (Email me about that if you have any issues, because it's one of my favorite stories to tell.)
--I have never taken diet pills.
--I have never participated in a strict weight-loss diet plan.
--I have never participated in a strict gym schedule.
--I am very active.
--I am within a healthy BMI.

You can't say that I'm naïve, because I have not bought into distorted culture. In fact, I've done my best to remove myself from it. If you've read some of my previous posts, you've probably noticed I'm a little outspoken. Yes, I am strong, but I still struggle with "this stuff" as it was previously called.

Contrary to popular belief, the Beauty Distortion Ban and other self-love crusades are not just a ploy for fat girls to feel validated, nor are they strictly a recovery tool for eating disorder survivors. They are for any man/woman with a heartbeat who lives in this toxic society. Just as you do not have to be diagnosed or on medication to experience anxiety or worry, you do not have to be laying in mental health rehab facility to struggle with beauty distortion.

Who is your primary audience for the Beauty Distortion Ban? 
I wasn't kidding. My primary audience is anyone with a heartbeat who is living in today's toxic society. If they are anxiety warriors, kudos. If they are struggling with an eating disorder, then I hope I can help (at least a little bit). But I'm writing just as much to the 12-year-old girl crying in the dressing room as I am to the model who was fired because her BMI reached the normal range.

If you're so passionate about all this stuff, why are you going to be a teacher? 
Good question. If I'm this passionate about beauty distortion (and all the other creative, beautiful, performing arts topics), it makes a lot more sense for me to go into the fashion industry. Perhaps modeling, makeup design, or even skin care. Or what about the psychological industry? I've had friends tell me I should look into being a therapist or a social worker. And I do have so much respect for individuals in these professions. We need them now more than ever. But my personal issue with these professions regarding beauty distortion is that they all operate on the back end. The fashion industry has too many guidelines and limitations to make any real immediate progress, and psychologists and social workers alike both work to save individuals after they have fallen victim to such toxicity. I wanted to work on the front end.

It's not that I seek to put therapists and social workers out of business. It's that I hope less and less people will grow to need them. Teachers have a choice: they can create a factory out of their classroom, where students learn to read, write, solve equations, and memorize facts. Or, teachers can create a community where students feel valued, respected, intelligent, talented, and given attention for their abilities rather than their disabilities. A teacher is one of the few people left in society who has the job to enhance the personal gifts that each child is given while also developing some new ones. A teacher's primary job is to turn discouragement into faith, hope, and success. The more a child grows up knowing they are valued for everything they are rather than judged for everything they are not, the less we'll have to fight this toxic battle.


So why is this stuff so important? 
Because it affects everything we do. It affects our health: how much we starve, how much we diet, how much we work out. It affects our wallet: how much makeup we buy, what gym membership we upgrade to, and the medical/cosmetic treatments we splurge on. But perhaps most importantly, it affects our mindset. There are more important things in life than losing five pounds, but I know I forget that every day. There are more important things to do than make yourself "pretty." And there are more important things to remember... Like the fact that God made you the way you are in this very moment for a reason, and He doesn't make mistakes. I'm not saying you shouldn't treat the body He gave you with healthy care. But the more you try to alter it from its natural state, the more you're telling Him that you don't like the life He gave you. And He worked so hard on you...

It's important because we're beautiful, and we don't even know it.

My prayer for you, dear sister (or brother), is that with each and every post in the Beauty Distortion Ban, you will begin to know it. Not only know how beautiful you are, but that you will begin to love how beautiful you are. Because you deserve it.

You deserve to be completely and unapologetically you.

Friday, August 5, 2016

D.I.Y. Announcement Board

Sometimes we all need a little mind detox. Like most people in today's busy world, I forget about one of the most critical aspects of self care: taking a break.

While most of my breaks consist of taking a much needed nap or reading a book by the pool, occasionally I'll get a crafty bug. Since I was needing something special to share new blog announcement with you guys, I decided to use up some old craft supplies to whip up an announcement board. Since receiving several compliments on it via social media, I knew it was time to share it with you guys!


This is one of my original crafts (as in, it's one of the first things I haven't stolen and embellished from Pinterest), and I am so proud of how it turned out (considering it was made almost entirely out of scraps)! It's quite possibly the easiest craft you'll ever see on the blog, so if you're looking to make your own and you're not super crafty, don't fret! It's only three steps, and I have full faith in you.


What You Need

-- 10x12 Wooden Pallet 
-- & Decor Accessory
-- Wooden Clothespins (3)
-- Rhinestone Decal Packet
-- Teal Paint
-- Purple Paint
-- Large Paintbrush
-- Detail Paintbrush
-- Hot Glue Gun
-- Glue Gun Refills (you'll need a good amount of glue!) 
-- Newspaper / Plastic 





What You Do

Paint. 
Place the pieces on a layer of newspaper and/or plastic wrap. The wooden pallet receives teal (color #1). The accessories receives purple (color #2). 


Bedazzle. 
My favorite! I glued on a few rhinestones because nothing is complete without a little sparkle. 


Glue. 
To hold everything together. Easy enough, right?


That's it! 

Whether you're showcasing student profiles in a classroom, pinning a recipe up in the kitchen, or announcing something for your own personal blog, it won't disappoint. Enjoy!


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Cross Has Made You Flawless

If you follow me on social media, you caught some pictures of the Jeremy Camp and MercyMe concert I attended over the weekend. If you follow me on Twitter specifically, you caught some amazing quotes from them that I simply couldn't help but share. But these two artists did so much more that evening than give a couple of quotes and sing a couple of songs.


I honestly wish I had more faith than I do. Some of those audience members in the same crowd at the same time came to the concert fully prepared to worship and minister; fully prepared to feel God's presence and experience a shift in their relationship with him. I was among the population who bought a ticket to hear some good music and raise my hand in worship a couple of times.

Two songs into the evening, Jeremy Camp decided to pray. I bowed my head and closed my eyes with the rest of the crowd. After all, it wasn't particularly unusual to do such a thing at those concerts. Contemporary Christian artists often pray and preach briefly between songs. We'd be concerned if they didn't. And this was a pretty generic prayer. Lord be with us, and fill this theatre with your presence, and allow something great and impactful to happen this evening for each and every person in this room, yada yada yada. Every Christian and non-Christian church go-er has heard that prayer at least once a week.

So there I am sitting in the third row thinking yeah yeah, save the poor soul in the back who's going through more pain than I am and needs you tonight, God. Nothing too tragic was happening to me as far as I was concerned, so that prayer could be used for someone else. I hate that my prayers become so lethargically fabricated, but I can guarantee I'm not the only one who's sat down praying a cookie-cutter prayer out of obligation simply to move on with the sermon or activity on hand. I expected people to come to Christ. I expected some to rededicate their life and vow to read their bible more. I expected to hear about faith and salvation and righteousness and saving grace.

I didn't expect to hear about beauty distortion. And I certainly didn't expect to be brought to tears over the verbal truths spoken by the band and the quiet reassurances of the Spirit.

Jeremy started talking about our fallen world (again, not a particularly uncommon topic with the fabulous politics, kindness, and basic humanity present in today's society), and I was only half listening. I had sat down and almost tuned out when I heard it. And I quote:

"Today, we are told that there is a certain way we have to look and a certain way we have to be in order to be happy. And I am here to tell you that that is nothing more than an absolute LIE from the enemy, because you have the unfailing love of Jesus Christ and nothing should make you happier." 

It was gut-wrenching. And I don't mean that in a graphic, narrative, God-saved-my-soul sense. I mean I could feel my stomach churn. The pang in my heart wasn't masked one bit. That statement was meant for me, and I knew it.

Turns out, the girl in the third row who thought she was fine was struggling more than she knew, and in that moment, she was reassured that she was not alone. Not only was someone (not just someone...but her creator) right by her side to help her through healing, but there were friends and readers who were silently struggling right there with her. She was anything but alone.

We Christians talk a lot about spiritual gifts. I always thought patience and teaching were just about all I had to offer. I'm quickly learning that communication is one of mine as well; that my thoughts are easily turned into words, which are easily turned into journal entries and blog posts. I wasn't going to waste this moment. I was at a concert in one of the largest music pavilions in the local area, taking notes about the relationship between beauty distortion and salvation on my phone because my thoughts were coming too fast to wait. God was speaking right then, and I couldn't miss it.

Now, let's make sure we go back to that quote. {Seriously. Go re-read it. Right now. I'll wait.}

Let it sink in for a second. Everything we hear in today's world about the way we should look and act and simply exist are not merely lies, but are lies from the devil. Why have we not thought about this before? It makes perfect sense to me now. The devil is angry because he was originally the angel of beauty. He was the most beautiful creature up to date... Until God created woman. 

He got angry. Very angry. Even poisoning woman with fruit to ruin her happiness (sound anything like Snow White, anyone?) wasn't enough. He didn't seek to make her fall. He sought to make her miserable. And since she was the crown of creation, specifically designed to be the most intricately beautiful creature on Earth, the only way to take her down was to convince her that she was not beautiful. 

Let's all gasp together. How dare he! But more disquietingly... How did he? How did he even manage to accomplish such a diabolical sabotage?

How could he possibly convince someone who was literally designed to be stunningly captivating that she isn't even pretty? 

Well, dear reader... He changed the definition of "pretty." He distorted beauty and deceived reality. He introduced sex icons, made objectification appealing to our men, and created a one-size-fits-all definition of beautiful rather than flourishing in the intricate diversity of beauty so that comparison literally killed the soul of the victim. Killed the soul of women.

Killed the soul of you.

"God knew you before you were in the womb," Jeremy continued, "When you feel alone and unlovable, you are not alone, and you are loved beyond compare. You can trust God with your heart. You can trust Him to break down those walls you've built too high for anyone else to climb. He will find you, He will heal you, and He will save you." 

I couldn't breathe. There was no place to go for fresh air; we were outside and I had all the air in the world. And yet, I felt as though I was living in a vacuum. How was it possible that I was at a concert with thousands of other people and this message was for me? 

How could a contemporary Christian artist I'd only heard on the radio know that I never trusted anyone? Because I don't. Not with my plans, not with my heart, and not with my life. But Jeremy didn't know. God knew. Those walls I've built are too high for anyone else, but not for him. Not for my Father, the King of all Kings. I might be a Princess in a tower, but the Prince of Peace has come to save me. He already has saved me.

So what the heck am I doing, still allowing myself to hurt from my mistakes? Still allowing myself to hurt from mistakes others made against me? Why do I allow myself to nurse old wounds? Why is it so hard to move on?

Because the devil doesn't want us to.

It's as simple as that. Why else would we cling to our past when it holds absolutely no power over our future? I know I'm not the only one who does that. And I'm not saying it should be easy to move on, or that we are failures for guarding our hearts as we were commanded to do. But if we don't open up a little, if we refuse to let people in, we won't be able to empathize. We won't be able to heal. It would become literally impossible to love and support and witness to others, and that's our primary command. To love others as He has loved us. 

That's pretty hard to do when your heart is boarded up with wood. And bricks. And chains and nails and monster glue... I know my heart is sealed up pretty well in a solid effort to avoid getting hurt. But that fear and insecurity is holding me back more than potential pain ever could, and that's exactly what the devil wants.

Nothing will hold you back more than your own insecurities. Don't give them that power.

I took a breath. I'd realized more about myself and my struggle with beauty distortion in those fleeting moments than I had in the past year. Surely it was over. Surely that was enough.

It wasn't.

Ten minutes passed while the stage transitioned from Jeremy Camp to MercyMe. Five songs in, the band had a similar message. I tried to decipher it. I tried to make additional connections. But it was so straight-forward and self-explanatory that I couldn't. There was no point in seeking to elaborate or embellish it any more. It had to be a message straight from God, smacking me upside the head in the middle of a concert because I wasn't taking the time to listen in my everyday life.

"I spent a lot of time dwelling on everything I did wrong, and all the pain I'd experienced, and every way I was falling short. But here's the deal. The Father of the universe chooses to forget your sin and love you, so maybe you should give it a shot." 

Self love at its finest, I thought to myself, God worked so hard on us. Why is it so hard to enjoy the life and the body and the world he gave us? 

"It's hard to love yourself when the enemy is right behind you whispering in your ear, telling you that you're disqualified," MercyMe continued. 

Oh. Well thanks for answering that, God.

"You may look in the mirror and hate what you see, but God is right there behind you telling you that you are the most beautiful thing he's ever seen. Not because of what you haven't done, but because of what he already did on the cross for you. The cross has made you flawless." 

Let's all read that again together.

The cross has made you flawless. 

This ministry opportunity led them straight into one of my all time favorite MercyMe songs, and I sang every single word. I'd always loved it. I'd always related to it. But it held a completely new meaning now, so I'll leave it with you before I sign off for the day. Because you are treasured, you are sacred, you are His. You're beautiful. 



I want to personally thank Jeremy Camp and MercyMe for giving me and the rest of Northwest Arkansas an amazing, life-altering, and confidence-instilling concert at the Arkansas Music Pavilion on July 30th, and for allowing me to share this song for all my readers who couldn't be there.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Rejuvenating Community

Hi there, beautiful reader!

I have several amazing announcements today, so listen up!

As most of you know, I did not set out to become a blogger, much less one that was followed by readers I did not even know. Because of this, I'm 99.9% sure I did everything the wrong way. I never researched hosting sites. I didn't develop a niche until seven months into my blogging endeavors, and I never considered marketing or advertising my blog. When my first post went viral last year, I was exceedingly unprepared. 

Since then, I've started to figure some things out. I chose beauty distortion as a niche for two reasons: it affected my life every day, and it was broad enough to still include everything I enjoyed writing about. I learned how to gain partners and interact with readers via social media, gave my blog a remodel, and really started taking a writing schedule seriously. But there are still a few aspects of blogging that I totally fail at; Reader Interaction falling at the top of that list. 

I'm a teacher and a coach who recognizes that classroom communities are essential for bonding, motivation, and success. I'm honestly not sure why I thought a blogging community would be any different. In my chaotic attempt to write eloquently and market elegantly, I strove to represent myself professionally rather than personally. Which is fine, until you guys are stuck reading my opinions without knowing a single thing about me at all. 

This August, I'm setting 3 goals, all aiming to improve the community of Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots for the better. I want you beautiful souls to know my beautiful soul, and I want to know yours too. I know I'm busy, and I know that beauty distortion is important to you and it's crucial that you hear something positive regarding your body, your heart, and your life at least once a week. You wouldn't be a regular reader if it wasn't. So I want you to know I'm not taking any of that away. We're just taking a break for a little while; a little mental health time to work on...us. Because our relationship is important, too, am I right? 

I want you to help me out this month. Yes, I want to help you out, too. That's why the blog exists; so I can share my thoughts and personal stories and endeavors to remind you that you are beautiful, special, and certainly not alone. But my life gets crazy, too. Blogging is not my job. I have three jobs (student, intern, and coach), all of which require time, effort, and extraordinary patience. While some writers wake up each morning to write, converse, promote, market, etc., blogging usually winds my day down. My laptop sits on my lap while I cozy up in bed under a blanket, already in sweatpants with wet hair from a shower, and I compile some thoughts from my journal or my class notes. There's usually a cup of coffee or hot chocolate present, too. The bottom line being...blogging is not always easy for me. There are days I've had a post lined up for weeks, but there are also days I sit down Sunday night before a post goes out on Monday with absolutely no idea what I'm going to say. 

All I know for sure is... it's you guys that keep me going. I love getting your emails. I love reading your comments, tweeting answers to questions, and sharing my life with you via social media. These little moments of virtual interaction make my bad days good and my good days great. I'm setting up these goals for us, for you and for me, so don't let me achieve them alone! I want to hear from you every step of the way. Deal? 

Alrighty, then. Let's get started. 

1) Part-Time Blogger
I am returning to my original posting schedule! That's right, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. No more waiting all week for me to get a post out to you! I originally made the shift to a Monday-only posting schedule when my planner was becoming more inked than the pages of my journal. I was too busy to write, too busy to think, and even too busy to sleep. 

Don't get me wrong, I still have a lot of stuff to do, so if I happen to skip a day I've said I'd write, just bear with me. Hopefully, we can all understand that sometimes life gets crazy, and the more I take care of myself, the more I can live fully and write happily. But we're going to give my 3x posting schedule another go, so make sure you start visiting again more than once a week! 

2) A Weekly Newsletter
I want to get to know you better, but I realize it has to start with me. Someone's gotta open up first! And despite how little I trust people and how high I build my personal walls to avoid getting hurt... I'm going to give it a shot. (Good thing I love you guys, right?!) I have installed a sign-up form in both a pop-up window and the blog's sidebar, and each week I will send out an email updating you with all the exciting happenings (or lack-thereof) in my life and in blog-land. So make sure you sign up!

Unlike other newsletters, though, you have opportunities to send something back. You won't receive an email with fine print telling you that you are unable to respond to the message. In fact, you'll receive the opposite. I want to hear from you. And I expect to hear from you, too!

The perks of signing up for this newsletter soon is that you get to be my guinea pig. (Okay, so maybe that's also a pitfall...) In other words, I'm going to shoot for emailing a newsletter each week but certainly realize I might totally fail at those deadlines. We may have to switch it to a monthly occurrence, but let's not panic yet. Let's give me some time to get completely overwhelmed before I change my mind! 

3) Our First VLOG! 
I'm giving your eyes and brain a little break for the rest of today... There's nothing more to read; just something to watch! So grab a cup of coffee and head on over to my brand spankin' new YouTube Channel for Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots' first ever VLOG!

Today is August 1st, and we all know what that means... It's my BIRTHDAY MONTH! {wut, wut!!!} August 23rd is my birthday. And it's not just any birthday; it's my 21st birthday! So, I am presenting myself with a birthday challenge. As much as I love hearing from you guys and answering questions via email, I hate that I never get to know you personally! So here's what we're doing:

Step One: Watch the video. 
Step Two: Submit a question by August 20th. 
Step Three: Report back here (or to my YouTube channel) on August 23rd for my birthday challenge! 



Yes, I know my birthday is a Tuesday and I just said I'd only post on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, but I'll make an exception just this once... Because it's such a special occasion! We all need a break from life to celebrate on occasion, so on August 23rd, we'll take a break from attacking beauty distortion so you guys can get to know me a little better and I can get to know you! I am so excited for these news things that will {hopefully} strengthen our bond and relationship with one another.

Let's get started, beautiful!

To submit your question, please email taxistotsandpolkadots@gmail.com with the subject "Birthday Challenge Question." I can't wait to hear from you guys!