Saturday, June 24, 2017

Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots Turns Two!

A year ago today, I sat at my computer writing my first post celebrating my blog's birthday. It was a blog that I had never even imagined existing, so it felt remarkably strange when I picked up party hats, confetti, and a batch of cupcakes for a photo to commemorate the occasion.

I spent the next few hours reviewing all that had happened in our first year. After a virtual re-model, social media exposure, and publishing partnerships, we had gone viral with a post that came straight from my diary and started an entire movement dedicated to fighting beauty distortion and insecurity in today's toxic society. And all of it happened because my friends had annoyed me just enough about publishing things that I had privately written.

Quite a revolution began after that. I was reaching people who struggled with the same things I was struggling with; supporting them and helping them through their time as a body positive warrior. Inspiring confidence became the main goal, and suddenly I had a purpose for writing because I had an audience who was listening. But it wasn't just for the readers.

It was for me, too. Suddenly, I realized that I wasn't alone in struggling with insecurity. Turns out, the number on the scale holds a lot of people captive, and many people question whether or not they truly have anything worthwhile to offer the world.

It's amazing what can happen in a year.

Since then, I had another a revolution in my life, which was ultimately reflected in my blog. If you had told me this time last year that within twelve months I would have reunited with my high school sweetheart and began teaching kindergarten in Nashville, Tennessee... I would've laughed in your face. Yeah right, I'd roll my eyes, like I'll ever see Dylan Roth again. Or Like I could ever land my preferred grade level as a first year teacher. Or Nashville?! Seriously?! 

And yet, here we are. And here you are, whether you're a brand new reader or have been here from the beginning... We're in this together.

So buckle up for our second recap, dear friend. We've made it to year #2!

The #CrayonsToConfidence Movement
If you were a regular reader last year, you probably remember our Beauty Distortion Ban. It was awesome, and completely necessary, but it gave you a snapshot of a lot of my struggles. Not a snapshot of me. Of course I didn't mind sharing the struggles I dealt with every day, but I didn't really feel like my passions were being reflected, and therefore, that my voice wasn't being heard to its fullest potential.

This year, I sought to find a way to combine my struggles with insecurity and my heart for education. Thus, the birth of the #CrayonsToConfidence Movement. How beautiful it is to be a key ingredient in a child's self-confidence; not to mention their curiosity, creativity, and ultimately, their learning! This movement is aimed at fostering confidence in young children the most authentic way possible: by teaching their role models to love themselves first.

If you've ever been around a child...well, know that they are extremely observant. They will model what they see. This does not just include the actions they will do and the words they will say. It also includes the ways they will think. We can't let our four year old daughters see us skipping meals and beginning and ending each day on the scale. We can't let our five year old sons see us degrading other people, whether they are male or female. By struggling with these insecurities in front of our children, we are instilling these insecurities in them. But by fighting these insecurities in front of our children, we are instilling a warrior in them.

Our First Vlog
Seeking a way to celebrate my own birthday after the blog turned one, I turned to YouTube. I wanted a virtual celebration that everyone could be involved in! This eventually translated into our first vlog, where I announced that I would complete a 21st birthday challenge where I would answer 21 of my reader's questions in 2 minutes and 10 seconds. I gave readers one month to submit questions, and on August 23rd, I answered 21 of them!

First Apparel Partners and Giveaways
Just after my birthday, I was contacted by Mieroglyphs to partner with their brand. They offered a line of accessories fit to personalize with encouraging words of the fashionista's choice. They even thought you guys were so awesome and positive that they agreed to give Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots readers a discount code on all their products, and we hosted our first sponsored giveaway that September.

First Guest Writer
For the first time, readers were so moved by our mission that they wanted to take an active part. We welcomed my dear friend and loyal reader Darsha Dodge to the blog last summer with her post All You Need Are Some Chacos & An Adventure. Since then, we have featured other guest writers like Darsha and even shared personal testimonies from our most avid readers like Kristen Arata.

First Post Written For Former Generations (Ages 40+)
I was having a conversation with a bunch of adults. Real adults; like adults from former generations, not adults like me. "So you write for a blog?"

I answered yes, that is was my blog that targeted beauty distortion, self confidence, creativity, all that jazz... And a 45 year old man looked me in the face and said, "So why's all that important anyway?" Here's why. 

First Major Project with Volunteer Sponsors
Seductive, air-brushed models were all over the mall. All over facebook. They were even staring at me in the check-out line at the grocery store and I, like so many others, was fed up. So, after months of partnering with models and photographers, we gave our readers a little Christmas present. The Photo Recreation Project was published on December 25th, showing readers what real women looked like in both their whimsical state and their amorous state. We really are beautiful creatures...all of the time!

First Post Touching On Politics
Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots has a mission to remain positive in all aspects it covers...which is why I steered clear of politics for the longest time. After all, one mention of the past presidential election is sure to guarantee a comment war on all forms of social media, so I never mentioned it. But readers were asking, so I published something from my private diary, reminding readers that we are all entitled to our own opinion, and that if they didn't like what I had to say (or felt convicted in any way), they didn't have to read it.

Gained Support of Skincare Lines and Dermatology Clinics
Sometimes the only inspiration needed for a viral post is a mother's facebook status asking for dermatology recommendations for her teenage daughter. Scarred by my own experiences, I made my recommendation public and it was published online by the heroes of my success story, Premier Dermatology. 

Hip, Hip, Mary Kay
Ironically, not long after my skincare post was published, I needed a way to make money. Something with flexible hours that I could do while student teaching and performing my last year of guard in college. Something that could aid my transition to wherever I would end up next, and something to still be available when I reached my new city. But it had to be something I believed in.

It wasn't long before I stumbled upon the mission of Mary Kay; inspiring women to be their most beautiful self by taking care of their body. Next thing I knew, I was standing before groups of women regularly, teaching skincare classes and hosting facials, slowly but surely making women's smile grow as they recognized their own beauty.

Celebrating Life As A Single Woman
Somewhat comical now because I am so secure in a relationship, but it wasn't always that way. In fact, less than a year ago, I was struggling with how to handle life after not dating for a couple of consecutive years. A Lady In Waiting was published as I discovered confidence in myself when it is hardest for women to find it: when we are on our own.

A Walk Down Nostalgia Lane
If you could tell your former self anything, what would you say? I needed my high school self to know she was pretty awesome, so I wrote her a letter. I'm not sure if she read it, but a lot of other people certainly did. Including my high school sweetheart, Dylan Roth.

His acknowledgement of the post startled me, probably as the post itself had startled him. Only a few months later, we would be having coffee, going to La La Land for the third time in theaters, and planning my move to Nashville so that long distance wouldn't be an obstacle for long.

I was so busy planning my new beginning, that I had forgotten to enjoy everything that was ending. Suddenly, I found myself aging out of winterguard (a sport I dedicated ten years of my life to) and graduating college to enter a profession drastically different than anything my loved ones were involved in. My posts continued to document my transition as I moved to Nashville, and the blog published its first series this summer.

The Suitcase College Grad series was published during my highest time of anxiety, after I'd graduated but before I'd been hired. The trilogy followed me as I moved to Nashville, fought to pay my rent, and eventually got hired as a Kindergarten teacher.

Life in Nashville
Once again, the blog required an update. A slight remodel. At least a new author bio, since the girl the past six months has made me is drastically different from the girl that existed this time last year. And you followed the metamorphosis first hand this year.

So if you just joined us here in blog land... Hello! I'm Bethany, and I'm a blogger who sees many more years in my future of inspiring confidence and creativity in young children, one crayon at a time.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Today Is The Day!

It was a Monday afternoon when I sat with my head buried in my hands.

Lord, you made it so clear that I was supposed to move to Nashville. It was a prayer I'd prayed a million times. You brought Dylan back into my life with perfect timing. You brought my attention to the perfect apartment so suddenly. You made it so clear that I was supposed to move to Nashville, and continued to prove this was the right choice as things just kept working out... 

I'm sure even God could sense the "but" approaching. After all, we can't just be grateful for all that we have. We always need something else.

But couldn't you maybe help me out with a job to pay for that apartment? Couldn't you give me a purpose in Nashville, aside from simply being here with Dylan? 

I was so frustrated. God knew what I wanted; everyone did. I wanted to teach kindergarten. I wanted to be in Nashville with Dylan, living in my first apartment all to myself, surrounded by a city that appreciated performance art the way I did. God knew all of that, and He had managed to give me everything except the thing I wanted most.

A job.

"Maybe I should start applying to Williamson County schools," I told Dylan when he rounded the corner. He didn't even try to hide his skeptical eyes.

"I thought you wanted something in Nashville."

"I want a job in Nashville, but I need a job."

"Okay," he shrugged, knowing that once I have decided something, there's really nothing he can say to change my mind.

I was shocked. Not even a minor protest! "...okay?"

He shrugged again. "I just think it's a little early in the game to be giving up on what you really want."

True. Patience is a virtue; one that even Dylan knows I don't have.

Never settle, my mom's voice rang out in my head. You should never have to settle. And while I'm pretty sure she meant that regarding the men in my life, I was so prepared so settle for a job. I wanted kindergarten, but I'd teach anything I could. My license is Pre-K through 3rd. I could do it. So maybe I'd teach another grade, or drive a little longer to teach outside the city.

My anxiety was kicking in, and I was giving up on God when He had time. He never promised I would have everything I ever wanted, but he certainly hadn't promised anything based on my schedule. He had instructed me to obey Him. To listen. To trust Him.

And I'm not very good at that either. So it took a lot of will-power to close my laptop.

"Okay," I told Dylan, "but if I haven't been called for an interview by July, I'm applying outside of Nashville."

He shrugged again. "Deal."

I woke up the next day and noticed a sign beside Dylan's door. Today is all that matters. That sign had been there for months, but today, I needed it. It mattered. And in a strange bout of positivity, I went on about my day fairly relaxed. ...Until one of Dylan's friends came over and the anxiety started right up again.

"So Bethany, I hear you live in Nashville now!"

"Yep! Been here three days."

"Wow, what are you doing here?"

"Hopefully teaching kindergarten."

She didn't say anything.

"I'm still looking for jobs. It's still early."

It was much more of a reassurance for me than it was for her. But by the time she waved goodbye and went home, there was an email in my inbox.

Hi Bethany, 
I was wondering if you were still looking for a teaching position. Bellshire is looking for a dynamic Kindergarten teacher. Let me know. 

I had sent out emails to 76 different elementary schools in Nashville the second I noticed a vacancy. And out of 76 emails over the span of three months, one had responded. One. 

You know you really shouldn't be so picky, a voice in my head rang out.

Hey, God. I know. But I sent over 70 emails and it's ONE response.

Well you only need ONE job. 


Yes I am! I emailed back. Kindergarten is my ultimate passion. I would love to meet you and look at your school. When would work best for you? 

I'm actually in Florida right now. Can you do a Skype interview? 

Sure that sounds great! What time? 

How about tomorrow at 8am? 

Sounds perfect. See you then! 

The next morning, I talked to the principal for an hour and was offered the position on the spot.

All that worrying. All that anxiety. All of those plans, and for what? For nothing! Because God had it. He'd always had it. And sometimes all you need is to realize that you don't have it on your own, and all He needs is for you to ask for His help. Trust Him. Believe Him. Obey Him. And He will take care of you.

So after two weeks of waiting for contracts to be signed and authorization by the Metropolitan Nashville Public School System, I am so excited to OFFICIALLY announce that I will be teaching Kindergarten in Nashville next year at the Bellshire Design Center. They believe in reading every day (like me); not because the teacher told you to, but because reading is something to be enjoyed. They believe that the best gift you can give a child is an intrinsic value of self worth, and the curiosity to foster creativity. (And in case you're new around here...that's kind of my deal.)

It is the absolute perfect fit, and it had very little to do with me.

All this to say... This "happy ever after" did not come without anxiety, fear, and a whole lot a tear-shed prayer. If you are struggling with something today... Or waiting on something... Or praying for something... Don't give up. It's too early to give up, because God does things on His time, not on yours.

This is part 3 of the Suitcase College Grad series.
For part 1 of the trilogy, visit The Suitcase College Grad
For part 2 of the trilogy, visit Madly In Love and Broke As Hell.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Madly In Love and Broke As Hell

I remember the first time my Aunt Beth ever spoke of her glory days.

I had no job, she told me, I sold jewelry to get my first apartment, and I had rent-to-own furniture. 

I did not know what rent-to-own furniture even was.

I'd go in once a month to see my furniture, she told me, I'd wave at it and tell it how pretty it was. Then I'd turn in my payment once a month until it was paid off and I could take the pieces home. 

As a product of my fortunate upbringing, I could not understand such a thing. I mean, what did she sit on for all those months?

Lawn chairs. 

It puzzled my anxious heart even then, as I have always been a planner in desperate need of as much control as possible. How did my Aunt Beth even get by?

Well darlin', she shrugged, You just do what you gotta do. 

I've probably lived my entire life by that statement since that moment. You do what you gotta do. Never a word so true. And we revisited the story of her furniture the night before I left for Tennessee; the night before I was to embark on my "glory day" part of my story.

"I'm a little anxious," I admitted, "Excited. But anxious."

"Oh darlin'," she smiled again, "I think you're about to experience the best part of your life."

It's strange to think of what my life was like only a month ago. I had a routine. And I was comfortable. I was celebrating the end of student teaching with my cooperating teacher's baby shower and 21 incredibly enthusiastic five-year-olds, all wound up and ready for summer. I was tossing my hat in the air, receiving a diploma from Missouri State University and praying that I had passed my teacher certification exam. I was looking forward, never backwards; excited to move to my first metropolitan area, excited to have my first apartment completely to myself, and excited to be able to go out with my Nashville music man whenever I wanted.

I was applying to jobs every day, updating my resume at every turn and anxiously awaiting phone calls for interviews. Any time anyone called from a 615 area code, I would mentally prep myself for the tone I was to answer the phone and the things I wanted to make sure I said before meeting the principal in person.

The 615 calls always ended up being a telemarketer, or my apartment calling to say they'd fixed the locks on my door, or the pharmacy up the street telling me my prescription was ready. I always ended up more stressed than I was before. Go figure.

But nearly a week ago, I was cooking out of an electric skilled plugged into my living room outlets via extension chord (since my kitchen outlets didn't work), when my boyfriend walked in with a surprise. I froze when I saw the little round Kate Spade box in the corner, attached to a small envelope with my name on the front in Dylan's handwriting. A designer gift from my music man who was, while more established than I at that present moment, was by no means in the most comfortable position to afford such a thing.

The envelope contained a letter explaining that I was worth a little extra money, a little extra time apart, and a little extra struggle from a long distance relationship. It was a letter to remind me that we had made it five months through the most transitional part of our lives, and that there was certainly no intention of giving up this time around since we had already lost each other once. It was a letter to remind me that if we had reconnected after five years and done all this in only five months, there was no way to to fathom all that could happen for me, and for us, in the next few months. Or the next year. Or the next five years.

And so I found myself sitting on a blanket atop a cold apartment floor, adorned in golden spade earrings, eating chicken and rice with the love of my life. One small lamp was on because my electric bill came with a start up charge, and a bottle of champagne was poured into coffee mugs to splurge and celebrate my move since we saved money by eating last week's dinners together. I made no money that week, and I didn't know where rent would come from if I didn't get hired soon.

But I was hopeful.

And years from now, when my music man has won a Grammy for his productions... or when I am recognized as an educator who established schools in third world countries... or when sparkling wine can be more of a regular occurrence because finances are comfortable... I will still remember this night over all.

No fancy Italian restaurant can beat this. No five-star vacation can beat this. You do not make these memories employed. Or on a comfortable budget. Or in a furnished apartment with your electricity on.

Apparently you have to be madly in love, and broke as hell.

So here's to my new adventure: to everything it does and doesn't entail. Here's to my romance: full of spontaneity and more joy than I thought could ever come from another person in my life. Here's to my past identity as a failure: the suitcase college grad with a Bachelor's degree and a teaching license going unused; and here's to my identity as a present victor: the girl who will never stop fighting to care, to love, and to teach. (And to pay her rent.)

Would I have a job earlier if I had stayed in Springfield, Missouri? Maybe. There's no way now to know. But one thing is for certain...that particular life was not meant for me. Oh yes, it has been made very clear that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Madly in love.

...and broke as hell.
This is part 2 of the Suitcase College Grad series.
For part 1 of the trilogy, visit The Suitcase College Grad
For part 3 of the trilogy, visit Today Is The Day!