Why I marched for women, and why I don’t care if you wanted me to

One week ago today I took part in something historical – the largest protest in the U.S. – and possibly worldwide. On Saturday, January 21, more than three million or more people across the globe marched for WOMEN.

The truth of the matter is this: with such a widespread movement, it’s hard to put into words what we marched for and what it meant to all the individual people who stood up and made their voice heard. Some did it for unity; some did it for LGBTQ rights; some did it because they were pro-choice and some did it because they don’t like our nation’s leadership.

For me, however, I didn’t march to “bitch about Trump” or because I want to “kill babies.” I marched because despite having “equal” rights, things aren’t quite as equal as people think they are; I marched because I am terrified for the next four years and what it could mean for women’s rights; I marched because I am tired of hearing people excuse “locker room” talk; I marched because I am an intelligent and capable human being, regardless if I have a vagina or not, and should be responsible for deciding what happens to my body. But most importantly, I MARCHED BECAUSE I COULD.

I have a loving husband at home who understands that women are not equal to men; he listens to my tirades about the fact that women still aren’t paid the same as a man (and I’m not saying I should get the same amount of money just because I’m female, no, I’m saying I should get the same amount of money as a man if I’m just as qualified and experienced).

He listens to my grumblings about the fact that tampons and pads are taxed, while Rogaine isn’t. He understands why it upsets me that a woman has to jump through hoops to have her tubes tied if she’s under a certain age or childless – because we’re women, right? We can’t possibly NOT want children, so it’s good that doctors are there to tell us we shouldn’t have our tubes tied. Meanwhile, men, can walk in and have a vasectomy without receiving the third degree about their marital status or child quota. How is that fair? How is that equal?

He listens to my frustration as I try to figure out why so many people – women included – are AGAINST women.

And I get that my rant probably makes me look like a man hater, but I assure you I absolutely am not. I love my husband. I love my son. I love my brother, my father and many of my friends’ partners and husbands. I’m not saying it’s all the men in the world ganging up on women. I’m simply saying somewhere along the way, society has decided what’s proper for men may not be proper for women, and well, that shit just ain’t right.

So there’s a lot of wars being waged. People blogging about how they marched for other women, even the ones who don’t get what the women’s march is about; people blogging about how they don’t want women to say they’re marching for them and how they don’t support the movement at all. 


So now is probably the time where I am supposed to tell you that I was marching for you, even if you don’t understand or support why we’re raising a fuss.

But ya know what, I’m not going to do that. Part of why I so strongly believe in the women’s movement, is because it awards you – as a woman – the power to make your own decision. So if you don’t want me to march for you, then I’m going to assume you’re a strong, intelligent, capable woman who has considered her options and decided you don’t agree with the women’s movement. And while I may not get that, I RESPECT your decision to do so.

But I will tell you this. As a woman who does support this movement and does believe in the cause, I won’t march for you, but I will march for your future daughter, granddaughter, niece, sister, mother or any other female in your life. I will march for them because while you may not understand the movement or support it, they one day might, or heaven forbid, they one day might need someone to stand up for them because their rights have been taken away. So whether you want me to march for you or not, I’m going to keep marching for all those other people in your life, because even though you “don’t need to march for rights you think we already have,” not every person in your life may agree with you or feel the same way you do … and if nobody else will march for THEM, then I will.

But trust me, I promise, I’m not marching for YOU.

These reasons, and so many more that I didn’t delve into, are why I marched for women. And pardon my language, but I don’t really give a fuck if you wanted me to or not.

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Parent teacher conferences and my increasing anxiety

It’s that fabulous time of year again … the time when teacher’s send happy, pastel-colored papers home and ask you to check off what blocks of time are best for you to come in and talk about your precious offspring.

I always get a little excited for parent teacher conferences. It’s the perfect time to get that rare insight on who the heck my child is when she’s not with me — you know — when she’s out in the real world being her own little person.

And that excitement lasts for about three minutes because then I remember what happens during parent teacher conferences — you find out exactly who your little sugar muffin is when you’re not around — but sometimes, they’re not little sugar muffins, sometimes, they’re downright assholes, so then you spend the rest of the time leading up to these conferences trying to figure out if your kid is THAT kid.

So I basically spent the past week quizzing Pearyn on all the hot first grade gossip her classroom has, things like who gets the most «yellow» or «red» days (signs that they’ve been making trouble for the teacher), if any of her teachers have had to talk to her about anything and if she understands the different stuff they’re learning.

I, of course, get the typical sixTEEN year old response of «I dunno mom, yeah … and can I have my iPad?»

Thanks babe for all that deep reflection (said no parent ever).

My anxiety was in full-throttle for this year’s conference, as last year’s had a few surprises I wasn’t ready for. Our bright, inquisitive, never-shuts-up little girl was struggling with reading. And by struggling, I mean she had no desire to do it whatsoever and so she went through the literacy support program her school offers to catch her up.

I know, I know, she’s still so young, what’s the big deal. I think it just shocked me because if my kiddos get any part of my intelligence, I always assumed it’d be my love of books, words and writing. I mean that stuff is basically genetic, right? Not so much.

We did learn however, that even though she was in kindergarten (AND despite that she was learning common core, barf, yuck, yarf, did I mention BARF), she was actually excelling way past in her math comprehension.

So how’s that karma for ya folks? I, the book-obsessed,  math-loathing chubby vegan mom, managed to birth a tall, lean, not-as-interested-in-books but is a math-loving machine.

Cray cray, right?

So the good news is I went into last night’s conference ready for whatever that teacher had to throw at me. I was armed with all our knowledge from last year, all the books we read and read and read again this past summer, and her own little workbook we’ve been doing at home since school let out.

And are you ready for the big «thing» my daughter needs to see improvement on this year?

ORGANIZATION.

Much to my relief, our little sugar-and-spice-and-everything-nice baby girl is doing gloriously in reading this year; her math skills are still ahead of where she should be; she’s a social butterfly and respectful little girl; but she may or may not have a tendency to lose her folder and leave her coat lying around for all to walk all over.

Gee, I wonder where she got that from.

Seriously though, I wish my Pear Bear had gotten some semblance of organization from her father, because if her room and my housekeeping skills are any indication of what her future holds for her, I have a feeling that little «well organized» box on her report card is NEVER going to be checked.

But ultimately, I’ll take it, as long as she doesn’t become the little asshole.

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4 things I learned when my husband was gone for two days

I’m back! I’m alive! We’re all alive!

Amazing, right?

So finally, I’ve set aside my work (which I sometimes spend far too much late night «me» time on), I’ve carved out a little niche of time so I can delight you all with my inner musings (and by delight you all, I mean so this stressed out mom can get some real life things off her chest.)

It’s almost October. I still don’t really know how that happened. It seems like just a few weeks ago the kids were dragging me to the pool we joined; I was sitting on my yellow softball bucket calling pitches; we were at Disneyworld living an adult hell.

And all the sudden — I blink — and it’s the end of September. And the end of September means it was time for my husband’s work to have their two-day convention. That means two days of full-blown only mommy parenting the kids, trying not to damage their fragile little psyches while hiding the fact that I’m basically losing my shit.

And so last night, at 10:11 p.m., when both my sweet bundles of joy closed their very heavy eyelids, rested their sugar-addled bodies on my legs and chest, I finally sighed in relief … well, that or sheer amazement that I didn’t pull all my hair out.

Don’t get me wrong. I adore my children. They’re blessings, they light up my life and honestly, they really are all that cliche crap people drone on about. But what they also are, which not many people are ready to admit, are soul-sucking tiny spawns who know every little button to push and rather than simply pushing it a dozen times over … they leap on it, stomp on it and dance a little jig until momma’s ears are bleeding from listening to the 300th video about Minecraft and my hands are ready to fall off from making 795 vegan cheese sandwiches as a bedtime snack.

Cause, I mean, who gets hungry at dinner time, right? That shit is for the birds (or adults, rational people and basically not any child ever).

The thing that makes this difficult is my husband. He’s a keeper that’s for sure. And because we don’t adhere to those gender stereotypes of what a mom and dad should do, when one of us is gone, the other one feels it. Like, a lot.

With that being said, here are the four things I’ve learned while my husband has been at his convention.

I am literally the messiest human being alive

I mean seriously, guys, by the time the night was over there were at least eight paper plates dotting the living room couch, floor, table, fireplace mantle (keep in mind only three of us ate one meal … so I’m not sure where the other five plates mysteriously came from), there were five juice boxes lining our living room table alone, toys here, toys there, toys everywhere, and don’t even get me started on the kitchen. I didn’t even COOK and there were vegan cheese wrappers decorating the counter like I just hosted a party for 20 small vegan children, 10 empty kids cups and to make matters worse, I’m pretty sure I fed our dog cat food.

So I think it’s safe to say my husband DID NOT marry me for my housekeeping or wife skills. Hell, he’s lucky if I remember to make the bed in the day.

Bath time with one parent means nakedness everywhere

So I’m normally in charge of bath time for the kiddos, which is totes fine with me because it gives me a chance to read some trashy teen vampire novels or play some Candy Crush. Usually I do all the cleaning and hair washing of said children and then when they get out it’s daddy’s problem to wrangle the wild beasts and attempt to clothe them. We don’t bother to dry them, that would take too much of their precious time away from picking their noses and making fart jokes, so instead we throw giant t-shirts on them, call it pajamas and let them air dry.

But when there’s only one parent for bath time, that means once I get one child out, they wander the house in total nakedness while I finish washing the other. Which would be fine, if I didn’t have to hear my daughter ask why the dog keeps trying to lick her bare ass all while comforting my son who is convinced I’m trying to poison him when I attempt to wash his hair. And then, once he’s out of the tub it’s basically a naked free for all, which includes blocking my son in a room so he can’t streak through the house and slip on the wood floors, while trying to put my daughters «favorite» pajamas on from when she was three, because you know, they still fit now that she’s SIX.

I lose my shit a lot less when my husband is home

And it’s not just because someone is there so I’m on my best behavior, oh no. I would lose my shit a lot less if Mary Sue Ellen from across the street was there with me, ya know why? Because someone else is in the trenches with me. I mean sure, I certainly prefer my husband to be the one waging toothbrushing and technology-restricting battles with me, but ultimately, I’ll take any semi-living, breathing human being at this point, just SOMEONE. Someone to see that I’m on the edge of losing my shit and give me that look, you know, the one that says «I’m going to lose mine too, so let’s not and we’ll be in this together.»

I could do it by myself, but I never, ever want to

It’s true, life is better when you’re together. Today marks my last day that I’ll be without my husband in our humble abode, and while it’s been secretly kind of nice to have them all to myself, I can’t wait for him to walk through the door late tonight and resume his role in our family bed as the heat source for my daughter and son.

And sure, it was fun to order pizza for dinner and give zero fucks about planning anything out, but I’m pretty sure I’d eventually get tired of vegan pizza and my children would revolt and fashion some sort of shooting device out of their pizza crusts with their leftover black olives.

At the end of the two days, I made it through my one-on-two time with my kiddos. I mean sure, the dogs may be dehydrated and the floors might be a lot stickier than when my husband left, but we’re all alive and unscathed as far as I can tell. Except for Silver, our cat. He’s seen far too much nakedness and I think we might have scarred his one working eye.

But ya know, that shit happens.

When daddy goes away, everybody gives up something … a small piece of their soul, the gift of eyesight … clothes …

It’s whatevs.

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30 things I’ve learned by 30

Well, it’s happening again.

My birthday is tomorrow.

And while 31 doesn’t seem quite as epic as 30 did, it’s certainly been meaningful in its own way. So now that I’ve been living, breathing and making oodles of mistakes for the last 30 years, I thought it might be worthwhile to jot down the things I’ve learned in my one-day-shy-of-31 years old.

  1. I’m always going to be a work in progress — and that’s completely OK, acceptable and actually a wonderful thing. 
  2. Fall in love — as many times as you can. It doesn’t matter if it’s puppy love, friend love, love for a parent, just fall in, headfirst. You might get some scrapes and bruises along the way, but I promise you, nothing is ever, ever lost by loving.

  3. It’s OK to not know what you want to be when you «grow up.» I have always had a passion for words, for the way you can construe them and twist them to imply and mean things, so I’m completely enthralled in my current profession. Will I be a managing editor forever? Who knows?
  4. Friends doesn’t always mean forever. This one has taken me a while to really embrace, but it’s true. It seems sad in a way, to think the people important to you may not always be, but that’s the way life seems to go, and it’s OK. Shedding people you used to be close to (whether it’s due to distance, life changes or simply parting ways), makes room for new people in your life you might need right now.
  5. Some people, however, do mean forever. I have had the same best friend for over 10 years now, she’s not going anywhere, I’m not going anywhere, and if she or I tried to, we’d probably hunt the other down. Because I love her, she loves me, and somedays, she’s the only person in this whole world I want to talk to. Not to mention my husband. The crazy guy who decided to settle down and raise a family with me. I wouldn’t let him go anywhere if he tried. 
  6. Becoming a mother has changed me forever. Every day I learn something new, my children blow my mind with their love, wit and enthusiasm for the small things. When you become a mother, you see everything through your children’s eyes. 
  7. The small things really do matter. Sure, the old adage is true, «don’t sweat the small things,» but more importantly, enjoy the small things. Savor your tiny bowl of ice cream you treat yourself to, smell your kids hair when they can’t seem to stop clinging to you, save that text from someone that makes you feel happy. The small things in life add up to the bigger picture, so don’t be afraid to soak them in. 
  8. Do things for yourself. Whether your working out at the gym, treating yourself to coffee or trying on a killer pair of heels, don’t be afraid to give a little to yourself. Even if you’re single, live with a cat and have no other responsibilities in life, make sure treat yourself to something special every now and then. 
  9. Own a killer pair of heels. OK, so maybe this one is for the ladies, but it’s true. Whatever your definition of «killer» is, own it. They can be four-inch stilettos, one-inch wedges or simply a kitten heel, either way, own a pair. When you’re having an «ugly» day, a killer pair of heels can take you right out of that mood. 
  10. Learn how to cook one super awesome meal. Even if somewhere down the road you don’t get the itch to host a dinner party, you’ll feel like the super-est adult in the world after making an awesome meal all on your own. 
  11. Find a cause and care about it deeply. It doesn’t matter if it’s ending worldwide hunger or world peace, find something to care about, something you can contribute to and I guarantee it’ll make you a better person. Cause that’s what thinking about a bigger cause does for you, yo. 
  12. Make someone a mixed tape. OK, by now it’s probably a mixed playlist for their iPod or maybe a CD if you’re still old school, whatever it is, make one. Anytime someone sees it they’ll have fond memories, and it’s meaningful. special and wonderful to impact someone that way.
  13. Get to know your parents. Sure, they may seem annoying in your teenage years, but one day it’s really going to hit you that they won’t be around forever, and it’s going to scare the crap out of you. So once you’re able to, get to know them. Find out what they loved before they became your parents. Hell, play Nintendo games and visit them on Sundays if you want. Either way, enjoy them. 
  14. Every girl should have a spare pair of shoes (ones that are easy to walk in), panty hose and a jacket in her car. Seriously, it’s sounds silly now, but when you’re on your way to the airport and you rip your only pair of hose getting on the shuttle, you’ll be ecstatic to have another pair. 
  15. Eat real, 100 percent, unadulterated maple syrup. Screw the calories, it’s amazing. And you’re worth it. 
  16. Find your favorite book and read it every couple of years. You’ll be shocked at the different things you can take away from the same 500 pages after a few years have passed. Chances are, you’ll fall in love with it all over again.
  17. Make goals for yourself. They don’t have to be big ones, they can be something as simple as waking up every day and having breakfast … or walking four times a week. Make goals so you can achieve them, which will give you something to be proud of.
  18. If a boy likes you, he’ll call or text, because he won’t be able to stand not doing it. 
  19. Write real letters (the kind with a pen and paper), send birthday cards (not just texts) and remember thank you notes. These are the little things that make people smile. 
  20. I promise you, you do not need that extra shot of tequila. Sure, it sounds like a great idea at the time, but you will NOT miss it the next morning. I repeat, you will NOT miss it the next day. 
  21. Lend a hand whenever you can. Something as simple as baking muffins for your best friend after she has a baby to getting dairy-free ice cream for your mom at the store, be as helpful as you can when you can. You never know when you’re going to need someone. 
  22. Hate less. Trust me, this one is a hard one for me, as I can be queen of the grudges if you really, really upset me. But the older I get, the more I realize how dumb it is to stay mad. When you hate something, you chain yourself to it. When you accept it, forgive it and move on (or away from someone if they’re detrimental to your well-being), you’re free. And I’m serious about that. Not giving a damn about something is about as free as you can get when it comes to negativity.
  23. Speaking of negativity, be more positive. I know, this one is so hard for me too. I have a tendency to see that darn ole glass not only half empty, but also full of like curdled almond milk or something. Trying to find the good in everything isn’t naive or unrealistic, it’s a healthier, simpler way of living. So seriously, start looking for the good in every situation, even if sometimes you have to look a little harder. 
  24. Spend more time with people you admire. Maybe it’s a family member, a friend or an old college professor, regardless who it is, make time to be around them. Spending time with people we admire gives us a boost in the way we feel about ourselves. Because seriously, you’re probably a pretty awesome person, which means the people YOU admire are probably just as amazeballs. 
  25. Don’t be afraid to start over. Sometimes, starting fresh is exactly what we need in life. Maybe it’s your career; maybe it’s your house. Whatever it is, decide you don’t like things the way they are anymore and MAKE a change. Starting over isn’t giving up, it’s simply opening your life to new and better things. For realz though. 
  26. Learn the lyrics to your favorite song. You know that song you always jam to with the windows down and on full blast? Instead of just «hmmm shh muh huh-ing» your way through the parts you don’t know, learn the lyrics to your favorite song. They just might bring a little cheer your way when you need it. 
  27. Try new food. I’m SO serious about this one. Do you know how many people I know that have never had Indian Food? Heck, even Mediterranean food is considered oddball by some people in my life. Try a new cuisine, try a new vegetable, just try something new. Maybe you’ll hate it, but maybe, it might just become you’re new favorite.
  28. Try to understand more and judge less. It can be super duper hard, but more often than not, we don’t know what battle someone is going through. 
  29. Wear red lipstick. I know, again, this one is more for the ladies, but don’t ever doubt what an awesome tube of red lipstick can do for your outfit. You can feel fancy and it’s a great way to break your old routine!
  30. Learn from others … 

No seriously, learn from others. People have amazing things to say, which is why I’m leaving that last one open, because I want to know what YOU’VE learned in your XX amount of years you’ve been alive!

The truth about Barbies, bodies and blame

Today was a fabulous Saturday. I was actually sitting here perusing Facebook because we’d already done a jillion things in the morning and I thought, «eh, it’s OK to kill some time on social media for a few minutes, we’ve accomplished a lot.»

And then I saw an article about the new line of Barbies coming out. They’ve got good-ole-fashioned regular Barbie (with a whole new assortment of hair, ethnicities and activities to choose from), petite Barbie, curvy Barbie and tall Barbie. If you haven’t seen the new models, take a peek at the photo below, it’s one example of each one side by side, but keep in mind you can find them in all sorts of different skin tones now, with moles, bright red hair or even shorter, edgier hair.

 

Now, here’s the thing. Some of you might be thinking «hm, big deal, it’s a doll, who cares,» while others, like me, are thinking «hey, this is a pretty forward move for Mattel to make, good for them.» Seriously, that’s what I thought. I thought, wow, cool, they’re expanding their options, and left it at that. Well, I was going to leave it at that, until I clicked on the comments below the article, because I guess I’m a glutton for punishment, that or just sheer stupidity. 

Before you stop reading, let me throw this out there. Yes, I’m a feminist, yes, I’ve read probably too many books on the topics of not just female body image, but male body image and emotional stunting. So I’m not just a bra-burning (I can’t burn that, I NEED my bra), armpit-hair-growing (more power to ya if you are!), ready to point the finger at everyone else and cry wolf, type of feminist. I’d like to say I’m a modern feminist, which in my opinion, means I think there’s a whole hoard of reasons I’ve got a fucked up body image, ranging from my own head to all those crappy teenage magazines I read as a tween. 

Here’s the problem with the comments I was reading. While there were a few «hey, cool, new Barbies,» statements scattered about, for the most part, more of them read like the following: 

«Great, you’ve ruined Barbie by trying to be politically correct, once again,»

«We’re too sensitive. What’s next, super heroes with beer bellies and cellulite?»

«I never thought about Barbie’s body while playing with them. I just thought they were pretty.»

«It’s the parents job to PAY ATTENTION to their children and to instill the right values. Not some doll.»

OK, I get it, and to some degree, I can see where people are coming from. Of course we don’t want to perpetuate an unhealthy role model for children. We don’t want them to think it’s OK to be curvy. Right? No one wants a fat kid.

WAIT. WHAT?

No one wants to say it, no one wants to admit it, but that’s exactly what they were beating around the bush about. If my kid plays with a chubby Barbie, they might think it’s OK to be that way too.

Yeah, that’s the thing about ‘curvy’ Barbie. She’s NOT fat. AT ALL. She’s got a thicker waist and a butt, good for her, but she’s not equipped with back fat and a second chin. (And for that matter, so what if she was. While being overweight might be unhealthy, I can’t argue on every overweight persons wellness or health, it’s not the WORST thing a person can be. I can think of several things I’d rather my child NOT be; a killer, a liar, a criminal, a CRUEL human being).

So maybe you see where this rubs me the wrong way. The majority of people weren’t complaining about there being different Barbies, I saw very few comments screaming «political correctness» at the tall or petite Barbie, but the doll with an hourglass figure, well, she’s about to bring down the whole doll industry if you ask some people.

Which leads me to my favorite statements of them all; the ones that talk about how they played with Barbies as a girl and never paid attention to her body. Well ya know what ladies, GOOD FOR YOU. But I’ve got some news for you, not everyone who played with Barbies did so in complete and ignorant bliss.

From a young age I recognized there was something special about Barbie. Her shiny blonde hair, sparkling blue eyes, ample bosom, tiny waist and legs for days were something that I noticed, even at the age of eight and nine. Sure, I may not have been lusting after those things then, but somehow, when I closed my eyes at night during my preteen years, I dreamt of waking up one day and having that blonde hair, that tiny waist and those giant boobs. I mean seriously, all of my middle school friends and I wanted nothing more than a larger bra size. Maybe that made us shallow, maybe it made us immature, maybe you want to scream that our parents did nothing and allowed us to seek the wrong things. Maybe they did. But ultimately, we wouldn’t know what to have lusted after, what to have secretly hoped for, without all those images and idealizations around us when we were younger. And truthfully, a parent can only instill so much confidence into their children before they stop caring what they think anyway.

So no, maybe Barbie didn’t make me hate my body. Maybe it was the magazines I read, the ones that never called girls fat, but did proudly proclaim their «plus-size fashion sections» in bold letters. Maybe it the models or the actresses. Maybe it was the marketing and clothing stores. Maybe it was me.

But I can tell you what it wasn’t: It wasn’t my parents; they never once critiqued my body, in fact, my mother tried to get me to wear a two-piece bathing suit in my teenage years. It wasn’t my friends; they came in all shapes and sizes, from petite to tall, thin to thicker, athletic to feminine. SO who was it then? Who failed me? Who let me hate my body?

Maybe you think I’m being dramatic. Maybe you don’t see the bigger picture. Maybe you think I should just get off my lazy ass and exercise, eat better and lose some damn weight if I want to love my body. But that’s the problem with having poor body image; no amount of weight, no breast size, no leg length will make me feel beautiful. In fact, achieving these goals simply acts as a catalyst for something new for me to hate, to fix.

Still don’t get it? Scroll back up through the collages I’ve placed in this blog, pay attention to the photos I’m about to post. All of these photos range from the year 1999 (age 14) to 2015 (age 30). We’re talking 16 years of life under my belt, 16 years of knowledge, a college degree, a softball scholarship, a hall-of-fame induction, a husband, two babies and countless ups and downs through life.

Do you want to know what all of these pictures have in common (other than my hair color NEVER being the same, ha!).

At the time every single one of these photos was taken, whether 15 years ago or 15 minutes ago, I FELT FAT. I felt ugly. I felt like I wasn’t worth as much as a human being, simply because someone could point at me and see love handles. Someone could look at me and see that my thighs touched.

And the most absolute absurd thing of all? In all of these photos, I’ve never weighed the same thing. At 5’8″ tall, I’ve weighed anywhere from 140-190lbs in the photos appearing on this post. And I felt FAT in every single one of them.

Again, maybe you think I’m being dramatic, maybe you think «now you just want attention. You just want everyone to come on and comment that you’re not fat or that you’re pretty,» but truthfully, that’s not what I want. That’s not what poor body image is about. If someone telling me I was pretty was enough to cure it, I would have been rid of it long, long ago. Poor body image is something dark and twisty that literally stains the way you see every single picture, reflection or glimpse of yourself.

Consider for example this photo of me on the right, taken my freshman year of college during our spring break softball trip to Florida, where we crammed way too many softball games in a week’s time. I’m on the right, this was pre-tattoo me. I weighed 145lbs. I remember, because it was the lowest I’d been since my sophomore year of high school. Guess what? I used to look at this photo and cringe (now, however, I’d kill to have that body and that metabolism)! My thighs were still too thick, my neck wasn’t long enough and I had virtually NO curve. Do you know how hard it is to be a «curvy» girl without any actual curves? I was cursed with a short, wide torso, so even at my smallest weight, I never got below a size nine over my gigantor-feeling hips.

But that was just college me right? All girls in college want to change something about themselves, right? «Poor body image» isn’t really a thing, it’s just an excuse to whine, right? Let’s fast forward eight years, to when I was the mother of a rambunctious toddler and was getting up at the crack of dawn every morning to go to a spinning class, kickboxing class or just for a run.

I was determined to get healthy and feel better and I got down to 160lbs. I was pretty pleased with myself, albeit my still-size 12 jeans (what can I say? Childbirth did an even bigger number to my already big hips). I should feel proud and excited here, right?

When I look at this picture, I don’t see my accomplishment. I don’t see the joy in my daughters face. I don’t see my pretty, long hair. I don’t see my ample bosom. I see that tiny bit of pudge still protruding above my daughters head. I see that hard-to-get-rid-of pouch that I developed after each child I birthed. I see creases in my shirt that make me zoom in to see if I had upper arm fat or not. I see that short torso which makes it nearly impossible for me to have a curvy, feminine figure.

Still think I’m just wanting attention? Still think I should just get off my lazy ass and exercise? Eat fewer cupcakes?

The last photo is one that makes me the saddest, not because it’s a particularly bad one, but because it displays how long I’ve loathed my body and how absolutely ludicrous it is to.

This was taken in 2012 (yes, the same year as the one above it). I was at nearly my heaviest, but would go on to gain about seven more pounds. And six weeks after this photo was taken, I would give birth to my 10lb, 3oz bundle of baby boy.

I was 34 weeks pregnant in this photo and I still didn’t feel good enough.

The one time in your life people tell you it’s OK to gain the weight, it’s OK to have the extra cupcake, it’s OK because you’re growing a human life, I still felt fat.

My friends commented on my photo «I wish I was that skinny when I was pregnant.» Or, «Oh you’re so tiny!» But it didn’t matter. I didn’t see that. I saw my too-thick arms. I saw the stomach which now surpassed my bust, I saw my love handles, which now blended in with the butt I never had. I didn’t see a glowing mother; I didn’t see a happy, pregnant woman; I didn’t see someone growing, nourishing and carrying a human life; I saw someone fat. I pictured the stretch marks polluting my stomach under my shirt. I pictured the tiny bit of flesh that just barely stuck out over my regular jeans I wore that far into my pregnancy. I saw ugly.

I’m now 30 years old and responsible for raising a little girl. I feel helpless in this battle we’re going to be fighting, because even with an amazingly strong mother and network of friends growing up, I still loathed myself so much. Sure, I look back now on these photos and I realize how irrational I was being, how crazy I am. I’m a relatively intelligent human being; I realize all those thoughts are in my head. And at this age, I realize I’m generally the one putting them there.

But the question still begs answering, what put them there to begin with?

Maybe it wasn’t Barbie. Maybe it wasn’t the media. Maybe I would always feel this way even if I’d never been exposed to those things.

Maybe not.

But if you REALLY think Barbie doesn’t have any impact on how a little girl grows up to feel about herself, then what’s the big deal if they make one with a little extra junk in her trunk?

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Vegan Kentucky butter cake

It’s no secret I have a small obsession with cupcakes. There’s just something utterly magical about tiny little cakes with fluffy frosting piped on them, what can I say? However for a recent family gathering I decided to think outside the wrapper … and let me tell you, it was a smashing success. And by smashing I mean we ate every last crumb of this delicious little dessert.

Some of you may already be familiar with it, but I wasn’t prior to making it this time – the Kentucky butter cake. I stumbled upon a recipe for it on Facebook one morning and saved it because it looked simple enough AND you make it in a bundt pan, which I’m always looking for ways to use that forgotten kitchen item.

So here’s the dealbreaker when it comes to this recipe. It’s “butter” cake, which means a primary ingredient is – you guessed it – butter, so you cannot afford to skimp on the good vegan butter with this recipe. I used Earth Balance buttery sticks and the results were absolutely phenomenal.

If you’re on a diet or looking for some lowfat dessert ideas, just go ahead and exit this post right now (and probably my blog), because you are not going to find that with this recipe.

The beauty of this cake is it’s relatively simple and “plain jane,” so you can bake it and bring it along for any occasion!


 

Kentucky butter cake

(makes one bundt cake)

Cake ingredients:

3 cups all purpose flour

2 cups white sugar

2 sticks of vegan butter (or 1 cup)

1 cup cashew milk

1 cup vegan sour cream

1.5 TBS vanilla extract

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

dash of sea salt

dash of cinnamon

Glaze ingredients:

1 stick of butter (or ½ cup)

1 cup white sugar

2 TBS water

2 tsp vanilla extract

powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 325 and grease and flour your bundt pan, set aside. In a large mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, sea salt and cinnamon. Stir in softened (not melted!) vegan butter, cashew milk, vegan sour cream and vanilla extract. Combine until fully mixed. Pour batter into your bundt pan and bake for one hour. (You may need to bake an additional 10 minutes depending on how fickle your stove is). The cake should pull away from the sides a tad and spring back when you touch it.

Using a skewer, poke holes all throughout the cake. (We want to let all the buttery glazy goodness soak in)! Set aside so you can get started on the delicious glaze.

In a medium sauce pan on medium-high heat, mix your butter, water and vanilla extract. Once the butter melts, stir in white sugar. Once dissolved, pour the glaze over the cake and allow it to cool completely. Once it’s cooled, place your serving plate over the bundt pan and flip it over. Gently tap the pan to ease the cake out of it. Dust top with powdered sugar.

Serve to your favorite family and friends and listen to them rave how delicious this amazing cake is!

 

A letter to my teenage self

Dear Amanda (you giggly, think-you-know-it-all teenage girl),

Let me start off by saying I get it. I get how hard it is to be a teenage girl. And even though I’m 15 years your senior now, I remember how it feels to feel out of place. I remember how it feels to not know what the heck you want to be, what on Earth you’re supposed to be doing with yourself and how hard it is to put eye liner on.

And while you’re still not going to master eye liner for a good 10 years (in fact, your college bff is going to spend most of her time putting it on FOR you), you’ve got a whole lot of awesome coming your way. Really, you do. So stop worrying about everything so much.

I know it’s easy for me to say that now. At 30 years old things seem a lot different than they did when I was in high school. And while I’d like to tell you that you finally lost those pesky pounds you always thought you needed to shed and you’re rich and famous (OK, you never really wanted to be famous), that hasn’t really happened quite yet.

But it doesn’t matter to you quite as much anymore, because you’ve learned a lot. All that pressure you put on yourself to be perfect, well, it’s still there. It’s just now, you realize life isn’t quite about being perfect, about making others happy or losing 20 pounds. It’s about you, what you want to do with it and how happy you are with yourself. And those 20 pounds will fall off in college, but, you’ll have two babies and fluctuate a lot between pants sizes. The good news is you’ve stopped thinking of yourself as a project to be completed as quickly as possible, and you now realize you’re a work in progress, and that’s perfectly OK. In fact, that’s exactly what you should be.

So please stop obsessing over your love handles, they’re really not as big as you think they are. In fact, go out with your fabulous self and wear a bikini and smile. Toss the jeans aside in the summer and buy some high heels, because you have killer legs. (Don’t worry, you’ll figure the legs part out a lot sooner than you figure out that eye liner trick).

And right now, you’re really loving chemistry, biology and all that dorky science goodness. You’re actually going to take more science classes in high school than you’ll ever think possible, just because you enjoy experimenting and documenting. You’re pretty sure you’re going to major in this in college, and well, you still go into college wanting to, but something else is going to happen. You’re going to fall in love with one of your first passions all over again and guess what? You’re going to be an English major. (I know, the science geek you is totally throwing up in your mouth at the thought of being «just» a book nerd). But trust me when I tell you this is an awesome decision you make, and one of the first you make truly for yourself and not anyone else. So enjoy all the genetics and ionic bonds now, because you’re going to be falling asleep with Charles Dickens’ «Bleak House» on your face sooner than you know it. (Seriously, you still don’t like Charles Dickens, even now, but you do strike up quite a love affair with Leo Tolstoy).

I wish I could tell you all your best friends will still be your best friends in the next decade, but that’s just not the case. It doesn’t make them any less important, of course, you just learn sometimes not everyone is meant to stay in your life forever, and that’s OK. You’re going to make new friends later in life, new people who become your rocks, your right hands and your best friends. And you’re going to enjoy them for even longer. So go to Steak and Shake until midnight, sleepover at each other’s houses and giggle about boys; go to all those girly movies and ENJOY your high school BFFs.

Be kinder to your high school boyfriend. Seriously, be kinder. He’s just as clueless as you are about this whole teenage puppy love thing and it’s a lot easier if you can go through it together. You’re going to be each other’s first loves one day, so make sure you soak that up and leave each other with good memories (not over-jealous phone calls and lunch periods of the silent treatment). ENJOY him. But still don’t have sex, you can do plenty of that when you’re older.

Now here’s the hard part. You’re going to go to college one day and you’re going to get your heart broken. I’m talking the obliterated, smashed to what you think is beyond repair, never going to love again, broken. And I won’t lie. It’s going to suck, a lot. Like a super lot. But guess what? Even though you think you’re nothing but an assortment of broken pieces, you’re going to find someone who doesn’t put them all together for you, but loves them as they are, broken or whole. And that, teenage Amanda, is what true love is. (You’re going to marry this dude and have babies with him, so good choice there).

Even though you’re still a few years away from college, remember to soak up your time there. Your first few roommates may not work out too well, but once you meet the next one it’s all going to make sense. Appreciate her more. She’s the one who puts up with you sleeping in your underwear in awkward positions (don’t worry, she documents this constantly), she’ll push the beds together so you can lay in the same big bed and watch Sex and the City when aforementioned boy smashes your heart and you’re even going to get matching tattoos and countless piercings with her. So seriously, appreciate her more. And support her more. And do a better job of staying in touch with her. Because her family becomes part of your own when you’re in Cleveland.

I know you’re tired of softball. I know somedays you think you want to quit. You’re burnt out and you just can’t find that tenacity you use to have. (After 5 a.m. conditioning sessions in college you’re going to brainstorm with your best friend how both of you can get out of running, things like throwing yourselves down stairs and getting knocked up, don’t worry, you don’t go through with any of that). You’re going to regain your passion in college. You’re going to go on to do really awesome things with your softball team. So seriously, be extraordinary. Be a force. And enjoy your senior season a lot more. Because one day, you’re not the one on the mound anymore, and that’s a really hard feeling to get back.

Now, this one is important, so listen up. BE CONFIDENT. And don’t you sneer at me and tell me you’re already confident, because I’m you, the older you, so I know all about your wily ways.  You’re pseudo-confidence you throw out there so the boys think you’re cool (wow a chick who doesn’t obsess about her weight!) and your softball opponents think you’re tough, well, it’s just that, PSEUDO. Quit putting a tough guy image out there and actually believe in yourself. Know that you’re beautiful (even in your most awkward stages), know that you’re a phenomenal athlete (even if you didn’t go to a division one college), know that you every bit as amazing as you pretend to be. KNOW it, don’t fake it. And for goodness sake, don’t be afraid to let the right people in. A little honesty goes a long way with the right ones.

You’re going to spend most of your teenage years wanting to be older and now that you’re older, I can tell you, there are some really awesome things about being an adult. But there are some even better things about being a teenager, so seriously, soak it all up.

And if I didn’t say it before, you’re going to be OK. Really, you are.

Xoxo,

Your future, adult self.

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Squashing unhealthy views on motherhood

Here’s the thing about being a mom that people tell you, but you never really, really understand until you become one.

Motherhood, is seriously hard. In fact, it’s the hardest thing you will ever, ever, EVER do in your entire life.

Of course, it’s also the most rewarding, beautiful and amazing thing you’ll ever get to be.

One of the hardest things about motherhood are all the feelings you don’t expect to have — and I’m not talking about watching your child fail or have their heart broken for the first time — these feelings come with the territory.

I’m talking about all of the internal interrogation you subject yourself to, time and time again. Often, these feelings of self-doubt are completely unfounded, completely made up in your head and exacerbated by your own mind, by that constant feeling that you’re somehow not good enough.

I bet if you gathered a room full of mothers and asked them to raise their hands if they ever felt not good enough, felt like they were somehow failing their child, every.SINGLE.one of them would not only raise their hand, but stand up.

It’s not something we’re proud to admit, us moms, that maybe we’re not strong enough, not patient enough, not kind enough — in our weakest moments, some of us might even question if we love enough.

But we all have those feelings. And while it’s not fair to place blame on any particular thing for those feelings, I think it’s time we start calling out the things that make it a lot worse.

Facebook. The internet. Parenting magazines. Blogs. Friends. Twitter. Family. Other women. Other mothers. Instagram. Advice columns. Stupid memes. Pro-this-and-that groups. Doctors. Professionals. Television shows. Oh, and did I mention, SOCIAL MEDIA.

The other day I was perusing my Facebook timeline on my lunch break. I came across a motherhood meme from a new mother friend of mine. And I read it, and it made me mad. So I read it again, I tried to with softer eyes, less feminist, mother lion, hear-me-roar eyes, and it STILL made me mad. Because while the message seems all sweet and lovey dovey, there’s so much hatred the mother I was three years ago feels because of that meme. And I don’t like feeling that way.

«You can tell a baby is being well taken care of when they are full of joy.» 

Seriously? Whoever made this can go shove it. I have taken care of my babies for well over six years now, between growing them in my body and worrying about every drop of caffeine I put in it or if I had enough veggies while I was nourishing them. And once they made their ways into the world, I continued to care for them. My daughter was a «difficult» baby. She struggled to latch, I had to either wear a shield to nurse her without both of us ending in tears (although sometimes, we still did) or pump for days on end. She went 10 days without pooping once (with plenty of wet diapers), which was «unheard» of for breastfed babies. She cried a lot. Sure, she smiled too, but those first four or five months of motherhood, my baby wasn’t full of joy. She struggled with gastric issues, she couldn’t sleep unless on her tummy (which is a huge no-no) and she was stressed out. But you know what? I took care of my baby. I LOVED my baby. I smiled and cooed at her. I lived on her giggles, even if they were few and far between. She may not have always exuded joy, but she was loved. And cared for. And I’ll be damned if some stupid meme is going to make me feel like I didn’t take care of my baby, don’t take care of my baby, because she’s not a bundle of fucking sunshine.

I know, I know, I’m allowing myself to get all wound up because of some meme that meant well. But isn’t that how a lot of things we end up beating ourselves up over start out? As well meaning? Nowadays, the pressure is really, really heavy on mothers, suffocating at times, because it seems like no matter what we do, it’s not good enough.

You’re a stay-at-home mom? Awesome! You’re dedicating your life to your children, you gave up a career so you can be there for every little moment, that is a blessed and beautiful thing. Except now, you’re lazy. Now,  you’re an insult to women everywhere because you’re «just a mom,» «just a housewife.» You know, you’re just THE single most important person to your family, how dare you not want to work a 9-5 job in the name of women everywhere to raise your babies?

You’re a working mom? Awesome! You’re showing your children that women can have whatever they want — a family, a marriage, a career — ROCK on sister. Except, don’t you feel guilty that you’re not there to see your child pull themselves up for the first time? Take their first step? Are you even really a «full-time» mom if your children spend 40 hours a week in daycare? I mean seriously, you’re going to let OTHER people raise YOUR kids. What kind of monster are you?

See what I mean? The list goes on and on. And in this day and age, you can’t win, no matter what you do.

So here’s the truth. I don’t know what the answer is to all these stipulations, all this pressure we feel to be everything to everyone.

But I do know this. We need to build ourselves up, build each other up, embrace your decisions with confidence, because even if no one else in the world agrees with what you’re doing (co-sleeping, bottle-feeding, raising your kids vegan), if you make your choices based on what YOU think is best for your children, you’re going to start to feel a lot better about those decisions. So bottle feed if that’s what works. Let all 5 of your children sleep in your bed. Instead of looking at another mother and thinking «I would NEVER do that,» let’s look with loving, open eyes, «That might not work for me, but kudos to her.» Let’s accept that there isn’t one magical right way to do everything, and instead of offering critiques, let’s offer support.

Once you stop listening to all those other voices,  you’re going to be able to hear another one a lot better — your own.

And when you’re raising babies, your voice is the most important one to listen to.

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Vegan apple-cider glazed pumpkin cakes

I wish I could take ownership of this amazingly simple recipe I’m about to throw your way, but alas, one of my friends shared it on Facebook and I decided, «wow I have to try this.» And then, after I tried it and our friends declared it the most delicious cake they’d ever eaten, I decided I had to put it up on the blog in case the rest of you haven’t seen it.

We’re talking serious yum factor here and minimal effort.

You can find about a million different recipes for this on Pinterest or your Facebook too, so I’m not sure who to link to or where to place credit. But whoever you are that created this, well, you’re awesome.

I chose to use a square cupcake pan to make these, so they’d have the appearance of personal mini cakes, which makes everyone feel special, right? That, and I haven’t used this pan in over a year when I bought it for Brae’s birthday and so I felt the urge to dust it off. You can do this in a regular rectangle cake pan or in a good ole fashioned cupcake pan, whatever your heart desires!

Vegan apple-cider glazed pumpkin cakes
(makes 12 square cupcakes)
Cake Ingredients: 
1 box of vegan yellow cake mix
1 can of pumpkin puree (15 oz)
1/4 cup water

Glaze Ingredients: 
1.5 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup apple cider (you can use a little less if you like your glaze thicker)
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375.
Mix together cake mix and pumpkin. Grease your cupcake pan. Add in water and whip with hand or stand mixer. Once whipped together (mixture will be thick and a nice heavy fluffy texture), scoop into square cupcake pan (or whatever you’ve got). Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cakes begin to pull from the sides. Once cool, transfer your mini cakes to a large plate or tray.

In a medium bowl, mix together powdered sugar and apple cider. Once fully blended, stir in pumpkin pie spice. With a fork, stab holes in the mini cakes, about 6-10 per cake. Pour glaze over mini cakes.

Savor. Savor some more. Share if you must.

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Super duper easy vegan fried ravioli

A few weeks ago we did our annual «find all the pumpkin drinks in Ohio and consume them with friends» evening. We just started this a few years ago and it’s basically an excuse to indulge on my favorite pumpkin beers while stuffing my face with some vegan goodies. And hosting. Because I love hosting.

So instead of scrounging up a bunch of pumpkinish foods to go with this extravaganza, I decided to make whatever my little heart desired, and by heart I mean stomach.

Fried ravioli. It’s something I’ve had VERY few times since going vegan because who wants to fuss around with all that pasta and breading and making tofu ricotta? I mean right? So I decided to dress up one of our favorite vegan frozen raviolis, and holy moly was it amazing.

We’re talking minimal effort, but a serious reward. These fried raviolis were delicious, prep was super fast and the presentation was pretty sweet if I do say so myself.

AND they were a hit with our nonvegan friends (which is 99% of our friends)!

You can probably use YOUR favorite vegan ravioli, but I’m going to throw out the products we used because they came out stupendously.

Your next football party thanks me.

Vegan Fried Ravioli
(makes around two dozen fried raviolis)
Ingredients:
1 12-oz bag of bite-size Tofutti «cheese» ravioli
2 cups of your favorite vegan marinara sauce
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups vegan bread crumbs
2 cups plain almond milk
1 TBS Ener-G egg replacer
Italian seasoning
Go Veggie vegan parmesan cheese
Vegetable oil for frying

Directions:
First off, keep the raviolis frozen. Don’t do anything crazy like thaw them. Grab medium-size bowls or containers and pour the milk in one, the flour in one and the breadcrumbs in another. In the bowl with the milk, use a fork and blend 1 TBS Ener-G egg replacer until fully mixed. In the bowl with the flour, add 2 tsp Italian seasoning and mix it up.

In a large frying or saute pan, heat about 1/2 inch of vegetable on medium heat. While this is heating up, it’s time to start breading our raviolis. Make sure to have a large plate to place them on. I set my assembly line up like this: flour container first, then milk, then breadcrumbs, then plate. So you’re gonna grab a frozen ravioli, dip it in the milk mixture, then the flour mixture, then the milk mixture, then the breadcrumbs mixture. Place on the plate. Repeat 23 more times.

Once your raviolis are breaded and your oil is hot, it’s time to start frying. Grab a plate and place some paper towels on it to help soak up excess oil. Have your parmesan ready to go over there, too. Gently place these bad boys in the oil and cook on each side about two-three minutes or until a golden brown color. (I was able to do 8 at a time in my gigantic pan). Using a spatula or whatevs you want, take them out of the oil and place on paper-towled plate. Sprinkle parmesan on while still hot, add some more Italian seasoning if you want to get really wild and crazy. Repeat until they’re all done.

Let them cool and then serve with your favorite marinara sauce and listen to everyone rave about how they can’t believe it’s vegan!

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