#BOAW2015 FAQ, Update and Prizes!

Hi Beauties!

I hope you’re enjoying the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest IV as much as I am. Once again, I’ve been blown away by writers’ insightfulness, bold sharing and uniqueness. Thank you for bringing light to real beauty, and inspiring so many—me included. The fest collectively reached well over 1,000 people on day one. BRAVA!

Since the fest is carrying on here, I thought I’d pop into my blog living room and share answers to your questions and a bit more on our fantabulous prizes!

FAQ:

Q: What if I can’t comment on a  post?

A: Two or three of the blogs either don’t allow comments, or have technical kinks to be worked out. If you’re going for maximum prize points, by commenting on all posts, simply comment on all of the posts you can! Then tweet the posts you can’t seem to comment on, including the hashtag: #BOAW2015.

To simply share your (respectful, of course!) thoughts on those posts, feel free to find that writer on Facebook, Twitter or their own website. You can also post comments on the #BOAW2015 Facebook event page.

Q: I’m running behind! Can I still enter as a blogger?

A: You sure can! Just make sure you follow the remaining guidelines detailed here. (Commenting on posts that appear after 2/23 won’t be required for full points in the prize drawing.)

Reminders:

♥ Don’t forget to enter the raffle! Doing so supports our prize sponsors and could land you a stellar prize. Enter through the fest page, or through the Giveaway tab on my Facebook author page. Bloggers and readers can enter through March 1.

♥ Support fellow festers! Participants supporting one another is one of the best parts of BOAW—and the more we do so, the more people we reach. Huge thanks to all of you who are reading and sharing others’ posts. You rock!

♥ Post your #BOAW2015 selfie! For a fun way to keep the conversations going while bringing added light to the fest and your fine work, post a selfie with the hashtag, letting us know what makes YOU feel most beautiful. Here’s mine, as an example:

#BOAW2015 selfie

Prize highlights:

#1: Rayne, of Style by RayneVirtual Personal Styling by a Hollywood Stylist + a Bathing Suit From Sunsets Inc + Corpus Dei Perfume by Natalie Bolton   Value: $395.00

#2: #BOAW2015 Original Artwork, created by A’driane Nieves and Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson + #YouSparkle affirmation sticky notes  Value: $250.00 each (2 prizes)

#3: Organic Intimacy Products from Good Clean Love: 2 oz. Restore Moisturizing Personal Lubricant, 1.5 oz. Cinnamon Vanilla Personal Lubricant, 4 oz. Indian Spice Love Oil, 2 oz. Spicy Orange Body Candy  Value: $64

#3: Highly-Textured Original Contemporary Arylic Paintings by artist, Stephen Vanek, donated by Jan Morrill

#4: Rekindle Your Desire Workshop Pack Includes a 60-minute audio track, a companion workbook, access to a live Q&A, and lifetime access to a private FB page, led by clinical psychologist Dr. Megan Fleming. Value: $79.00

#5: Professional Manuscript Evaluation, from Jenny Redbug  Value: $600 – $1500
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#6: Filmmaking Q&A + a Signed Women Kick Ass Postcard, from Melanie Wise, founder of the Artemis Film Festival! Value: $300.00

Learn more about these prizes here.

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Any additional questions? Or thoughts to share? Let me know! I always love hearing from you.

Inspiring Beauty Quotes: A #BOAW3 Wrap-Up, Part II

Last week thousands of folks visited The Beauty of a Woman BlogFest 3, no doubt finding inspiration. I joked with one participant that the fest could be called The Beauty of a Woman’s Goosebumps, as that’s precisely how the incredible posts affected me! Each blogger exemplified beauty in a unique way, making us laugh, think, smile and even shed a few tears. THANK YOU for making the BOAW BlogFest III a truly beautiful event!

True beauty is timeless!

True beauty is timeless.

Rather than share more of my own thoughts on the fest, I decided to pull clips from the posts that most struck me (of the many!). If you’d like to quote one of the participants in a blog post, article or elsewhere, please attribute and link it up properly.  To view the full post a quote derives from, click on the sayer’s name. Thanks for the support!

The Beauty of a Woman BlogFest 3: Inspiring Quotes!

“Despite their lack of what the world tells us is beautiful, these women were beautiful to me.” — Kathryn Chastain Treat

“Let’s continue to show what a beautiful anthem can be heard when women raise their voices as one!” — Patricia Sands

“To me, the real marks of beauty in a woman are courage, character, kindness, and personality.” — David Walker

“So what is the main ingredient? It’s confidence!”— Kassandra Lamb

“If I could give any message to my younger self, it is that simple truth.  There is beauty in your change.” — Barbara McDowell

Butterfly-Metamorphosis

“Show off your inner activist!” — Jess Witkins

“Wisdom and kindness can make someone more beautiful than someone who is physically gorgeous.”— Susie Sylvester

“For too long beauty required a number on the scale and a specific size of clothing. Now I see how my clothes fit, I feel how my muscles move, and I think this is beauty.” — Kourtney Heintz

“Kat has had a lot of floods in her area of Australia and battled through those times, helping out and staying strong. The embodiment of a strong woman.” — Catherine Johnson

“As long as we continue to put forth the effort in believing in our own beauty, the positivity  becomes lasting aspects of our lives.” Ashley

“This is true beauty: a connection to the universe that transcends the physical, emotional, and intellectual limitations of humanity.” — Audrey Kalman

“Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I catch a glimpse of the inner beauty behind my eyes, and I smile because life is good and life is beautiful, even in the midst of this broken world.” — Lynn Kelley

I Love Me

“There is beauty in a woman’s strength. We wield our strength with a gentle hand. We use our weaknesses to forge new successes.” — Marcia Richards

“There are days when I still have trouble saying, ‘I love you,’ to the woman standing in the mirror, but thank Goddess there are many, many more where I can say it with passion, mean it, and sometimes even throw out a wink.” — Kate Wood

“My mother always said the eyes were windows to the soul, and that old canard was true in Kathryn’s case.  There were depths of pain and wisdom in them, but her wit and kindness also shone through them, pure and blue as the sky after a snowstorm.” — Elizabeth Mitchell

“If you take a moment, you’ll notice who around you is in touch with their inner joy. It can be seen in the sparkle of  someone’s eyes. The lift in their step. The glow of their skin that no amount of makeup or creme could ever replicate.”  — Ingrid Schaffenburg

Joyful woman.

“I’m sticking with my personal claim that selfies are fun, selfies are fearless, and selfies are fabulous. And the girl in that photo? Well, she’s beautiful.” — Kecia Adams

“I’ve realized that you don’t just look for the beauty of a woman. You have to listen for it, feel it, and experience it as well.” — Scott Moon

“If you’ve got your panties in a twist, stuck in an uncomfortable crack, or if they’re flat-out ugly, it’s unlikely you’ll achieve maximum sparkle for the day.” — Jenny Hansen

“From our life experiences we create paintings, prose, sculptures, you name it. But on rare—and awesome—occasions, art can create life.”— Mike Sirota

“Living a beautiful life means sharing your God given talents and leaping out of bed in the morning because you can’t wait to get started with your day.” — Marla Martenson

young woman waking up

“Real beauty can’t be bought, won’t fade, smudge, or decrease with time.  It doesn’t wear out or have to be re-applied.  It has wrinkles, callouses, stretch marks, scars and sometimes loses its hair.” — Dana Myles

“Living life the way we choose, on our own terms, whatever our ages, is beautiful. My  surfer-headed boy with his triangle of freckles and treasured Pinkie Pie pendant? My daredevil diva with the dancing eyes and impudent tongue? Perfectly themselves. Perfectly beautiful.” — Shan Jeniah

“Our dreams are expressions of our inner beauty. I’ve learned that it’s completely okay to want whatever you want.” — Sheri Fink

“YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!  Now tell that inner critic to sit down and shut-up!” — Dana Myles

“For me, there is no “most beautiful” woman, unless she is the woman I’d just met and the one I might meet next.” — Eden Mabee

Many hands together: group of people joining hands

“How I live and how I love are what make me beautiful. So I’ll continue to try to convince myself of that fact and not suffer over days long gone.” — Katy Brandes

“Some divas have captured my heart, but maybe not the medal they sought.” — Eli Pacheco

Gift card winners:

I love you all so much, I did MATH for you! 😉 After tabulating people’s entries for reading, posting in and sharing the fest, I did a drawing for gift cards. To find out who won gift cards and radio time in the Girl Boner category, check out Monday’s post.

  • $50 Amazon gift card: Kathryn Chastain Treat
  • $10 Starbucks gift cards: Kassandra Lamb and Lynn Kelley

Congrats, ladies! You’ll receive your prizes via email today.

I hope you all enjoyed the snippets and the whole fest as I much as  I did! I also hope you’ll join us next year for another round.

In the meantime, what did you think of the quotes? Which post or quote most struck you? Any thoughts on the fest overall? I love hearing from you. ♥

Announcing: The Beauty of a Woman BlogFest III!

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”  — Philip Pullman

Love for book

Like many writers, the preciousness of words and story led me to become one. They were my escape from difficult times in my youth and helped pave the way to my recovery from anorexia. As many of you know, Sam Levinson’s poem, The Beauty of a Woman, holds a special place in my heart for that reason. It found me at the seemingly precise right time, becoming somewhat of a mantra when my battle with ED (my eating disorder) seemed futile.

When I shared a story of my personal turning point with ED two years ago, I was so blown away by readers’ support, I decided to launch a celebratory fest that had ended up reaching thousands. Each one of you who’s participated is a tremendous gift! Not just to me, but to countless readers. We never know who our stories might reach, becoming the friend/inspiration/sunshine/cheerleader another so desperately needs.

Without further ado, I’m beyond thrilled to announce the third annual Beauty of a Woman BlogFest. Woo hoo!!! I hope you’ll consider joining us. 🙂

An exciting change!

Because we’ve had such awesome participation in the past, the fest will take place over a full week, participants’ posts appearing on my blog on two separate days. As a blogger, you can opt to participate in the original Beauty of a Woman BlogFest or the Beauty of a Woman, Girl Boner Edition. What’s the difference? While the original fest will address beauty in general, the Girl Boner segment will address beauty and sexuality, however you so choose.

Of course, everyone will be welcome to read and celebrate both!

How to participate as a writer:

1. Go to the signup page (using the link below or the tab above) and post a comment to reserve your spot, letting me know if you’d like to join the original or Girl Boner edition.

2. You’ll then write a post related to the fest theme to publish on your blog the day before the fest you’ve selected or by 7am PST the day of. Include the appropriate fest logo and a link to my blog (https://augustmclaughlin.wordpress.com) in your post, inviting readers to check out the fest for fun, inspiration and chances to win groovy prizes!

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3. This year, you must email me a link to your post the day before the fest day—Sunday, February 23rd for Girl Boner posts (for the fest on the 24th) and Wednesday, February 26th for original theme posts (for the fest on the 27th). If you schedule your post to appear by 7am PST on fest-day, please still email me the link in advance! Write BOAW in the subject line so I’ll be sure to spot it.

4. Throughout fest week, visit my blog to read and share others’ posts and potentially win prizes! Readers and writers who participate will have chances to win gift cards (up to $50 in value) and more. Seriously, it’s a lot of fun!

A special prize: To celebrate our very first Girl Boner BOAW edition, I’ll choose two posts from that fest to read on Girl Boner Radio on February 24th! 

If you have any questions, please post it below or send me a Tweet (@AugstMcLaughlin), email or Facebook message. To read Levinson’s poem, check out BOAW writing prompts, sign up and nab the logo, visit the BOAW III Registration page. I can’t wait to celebrate beauty with you! Remember, this fest is open to ALL—women and men of all ages. Feel free to invite your pals!

Lots and lots of love,

August ♥

Any thoughts or questions about the fest? Post them below! I love hearing from you.

Empowering Facts About Beauty: A #BOAW Wrap-Up

Dior quote

If I had any doubt in Dior’s assertion before, the Beauty of A Woman Blog-Festers wiped it full out. I can’t express how grateful I am to everyone who participated. Your stories, remarks, interaction and exponential, far-reaching support lit up the blogosphere, inspiring thousands. If you haven’t yet done so, please give yourself a huge hug, tell yourself how freaking beautiful you are and know that you done GOOD! I hope you enjoyed it at least a tenth as much as I did.

Before the fest, I shared thoughts on Miss Representation, a powerful documentary that explores the media’s portrayal of women. The starting statistics I posted struck me as sad, eye-opening and motivating. We can’t make positive changes if we fail to recognize the problems, or take pride in the differences we’re making (by for example, telling stories) if we’re unaware of their significance.

Fueled up with gratitude, I’ve decided to highlight positive facts regarding beauty today. Rather than see the glass as half full or empty, I prefer to consider it no longer empty, and rich with potential. Focusing on uplifting facts and positive changes underway instills hope. Without hope, there’s no glass at all.

glass

5 Empowering Facts About Inner/Outer Beauty

1. Happiness breeds beauty. Happiness makes us vibrant inside and out. “When you’re happy your skin will appear healthier, and your hair and nails can actually grow faster,” says dermatologist Richard Fried, M.D., Ph.D. Positive folks also tend to stand taller, he says, and take greater measures of self-care. Studies have also shown that emotional fulfillment and confidence make us more attractive to ourselves and others. So happy people are not only more kind, energetic and grateful, but hot!

2. R&R beautifies. Spa days, vacations and therapy  arguably go further than makeup or chic clothes in terms of beautifying. Stress contributes to everything from low-moods and relationship turmoil to skin problems and unhealthy weight shifts (gains and losses). Real beauty, as so many blog-festers pointed out, relates to personal spirit, gratitude and inviduality. Don’t let stress taint those.

3. Self-acceptance increases sexual satisfaction, making way for increased attractiveness.  Multiple studies indicate that embracing our bodies as they are enhances sexual desire, ability and pleasure. A happy sex life facilitates inner and outer beauty in various ways, by reducing stress, increasing that healthy post-sex “glow,” boosting energy and improving hormone levels.

4. Smiling helps us feel and appear lovelier. “When you smile, even if you’re upset, it feeds the brain signals that make you feel more positive,” explains Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., a happiness researcher at the University of California, Riverside. People who appear happy are more likely to be perceived as beautiful by others, according to her research, and exhibit happiness physically, which cultivates more of both.

5. People are standing up for real beauty and speaking out against demeaning media. And there’s tremendous power in numbers. Over 87,500 people have signed the Miss Representation pledge, supporting fair, empowering media. All over the world, people are tweeting harmful media, using the hashtag #NOTBUYINGIT—and you can, too. Our voices can be heard. What’s yours saying?

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We teach and attract what we believe and reflect.

Last but not least, the winner of a Kindle Fire or Amazon equivalent gift card is…. *drum roll* Jess Witkins! If you missed her uplifting post on what makes a woman “REDHOT,” be sure to check it out. Congratulations, Jess!

How do you celebrate or perpetuate inner beauty? What makes you feel beautiful inside and out? Any highlights or thoughts to share on the fest? I love hearing from you, and am crazy grateful for your support. ♥

Announcing: The Beauty of a Woman BlogFest II!

Words, stories and music… I struggle to think of entities more powerful. When I was enduring the darkest time of my life, the eating disorder I shared in my last post, this poem struck me like a dart between the eyes, pinning me to a wall of “What if?” What if its words hold true—not just rationally or solely for other people, but in my heart, soul and beliefs? What if we’re all beautiful and the truest, deepest beauty has little to do with shape or size? What if the “something more” so many of us long for exists inside of us, waiting to be unlocked and cherished? What if I wasn’t afraid of being large, but living large? And in doing so, missing out on the most remarkable beauty of all?

The Beauty of a Woman

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge you’ll never walk alone.
People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; Never throw out anybody.
Remember, If you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm. As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.
The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.
The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows, and the beauty of a woman with passing years only grows!”

Authored by Sam Levenson, quoted often by Audrey Hepburn

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Eating disorders, like many addictions and fixations, have little to do with aesthetics. Whether we’ve had such an illness or not, most of us are not strangers to insecurity or harmful attempted ways to cope. We try to diet away our lack of self-esteem, drink to douse our pain or party, sex, eat or shop our way to fulfillment. Sadly, these efforts only mask and stunt the authentic beauty we’re capable of while the underlying issues grow deeper.

The answer? There are no simple ones. But life has taught me that sharing our thoughts, beliefs and stories, expressing ourselves creatively and joining forces with like-minded others has the power to uplift, open eyes, bring healing and even turn lives around.

Last year, over 40 writers shared touching, honest, poignant and laugh-out-loud funny posts in the first annual Beauty of a Woman BlogFest. Thousands collectively enjoyed the submissions, turning that day and numerous following into a beauty-celebrating extravaganza. Thanks to everyone who made last year’s event successful, I’m THRILLED to announce the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest II.

What: A blog-fest designed to celebrate beauty, however you define it. BOAW 2013

Who: YOU! The fest is open to women and men.

When: Friday, February 22nd

Where: Right here!

How: Sign up on the blog-fest page. On fest-day, stories will appear in order of appearance, so the sooner you sign up, the better. You’ll post your installment on your blog on Thursday, February 21st, along with this year’s badge. On the 22nd, submission links will appear here. Participants will then read, comment on, “like” and share everyone’s posts throughout social media.

Why: To have fun, be inspired and entertained, inspire or entertain others, gain exposure and blog readers and, potentially, win a Kindle Fire or equivalent Amazon gift card. (All participants and commenters will be entered into the prize drawing. The more blogs you visit, the greater your chance at winning becomes.)

To signup and for blog post prompts, head over to this link: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest 2013. To check out last year’s fest, visit the BOAW BlogFest 2012. If you’d prefer to participate as a reader only, please do.

Did you participate in the BOAW blog-fest last year? What was your experience like? Any questions about this one? What words have struck you at a particularly important time? If you have questions about the fest, please post them in the comments below or email me. (The BOAW tab is intended for signups only.) I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!


Make Like Dorothy: BOAW BlogFest Wrap Up

Dorothy: Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?
Glinda: You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas.
Dorothy: I have?
Scarecrow: Then why didn’t you tell her before?
Glinda: Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.

This scene from Wizard of Oz that seems dandy to many of us as kids, grows profound with maturity. In fact, the entire story has been picked apart, analyzed and celebrated by philosophers, psychologists, grad students and celebrities alike due to its powerful themes and messages. And does it ever suit the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest.

While the BOAW stories are as unique and varied as their authors, every participant shares an attribute with Dorothy: You’re all beautiful.

Why Dorothy is Beautiful (And You Are, Too)

1. Even in the face of horrendous storms, she dreams BIG and lets her dreams carry into a magical world.

2. She chooses to embark upon a journey through the unknown.

3. In times of duress, fearing “lions and tigers and bears—oh my!,” she sings, dances and moves on. Even her sassy red heels can’t keep her stoic. 😉

4. She sees past the differences in others, befriending everyone from a man made of tin to multi-colored munchkins.

5. She’s kind to animals. (Some philosophers have theorized that Toto represents her intuition.)

6. As that “little voice” within grows louder, she listens to it, investigates and responds.

7. She brave enough to confront witches and an overbearing man hidden behind loudspeakers.

8. As she moves closer to her destination, she and little Toto are captured. But she never stops hoping or searching. No matter what.

9. Against many odds, she’s the heroine of her own life. (When Frank Baum’s novel first came out in 1900, female heroines were unheard of.)

10. Dorothy discovers that her power lies within; it has been all along. As she learns this, her world fills with color. She awakens, having bid farewell to the “old her,” and shares her newfound brightness with others. (Sound familiar??? It should… ;))

When my instincts suggested I share my personal story then invite others to celebrate real beauty, my internal naysayer-voice whispered, “Are you sure you want to? Do you even know what you’re doing?” There were reasons behind my inclinations, I figured; whether I knew the specifics or not didn’t matter. So with perspiring palms, I typed forward. And lordy, have y’all ever made it worthwhile. More than that, you created something incredible.

While I’m still learning to listen to and trust my inner voice, your responses and support are affirmations that I’m on the right path. THANK YOU for sharing of yourself and inspiring so many—me included.

The more we hone in on our instincts, the stronger they become, turning coarse, dusty bricks into gold. The naysayers become the creepy dude/dudette behind the curtain. And the proper path becomes a no-brainer.

May we all ‘make like Dorothy’ and know that all the beauty, growth and confidence we seek lies within. Once we access it, even our wildest dreams become practical.

Now…on with the prizes!
Based on this morning’s name drawing, I’m thrilled to announce the following recipients!

Signed copy of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone from Coleen Patrick
Winner: Audrey Kalman

Enrollments to Simply Creating Fictional Characters, a 2-month creative writing class instructed by Sharon K. Owen
Winners: BoJo Photo, Kristine Parker, David (FiveReflections), Jessica O’Neal & Nadja

Amazon.com gift card ($15) & 1 – Starbucks gift card ($10) from Kara Flathouse
Winners: Amazon.com—Sulthana; Starbucks—Diane Capri

Week of Animal Training via Email from Serena Dracis
Winner: Karen McFarland

Hard or E-Copy of The Golden Sky from EC Stilson
Winner: Katie (Oracular Spectacular)

Enlightening Stories Tele-class/E-course: Discover the Power of Writing from Julie Jordan Scott
Winner: Sheila Seabrook

10-Page Critique from best-selling author/social media guru, Kristen Lamb.
Winner: Debra Eve

E-book copies of The Bridge Club, from author, Patricia Sands
Winner: Julie Jordan Scott

BOAW mugs filled with whole grain blueberry brownies
Winners: Marcy Kennedy & Susie Lindau

Body image coaching session via Skype or phone with Karen R. Koenig
Winner: Sharon Howard

Kindle Touch (or $99 Amazon.com gift card)
Winner: Lynn Kelley

What Dorothy-like quality do you possess? Which do you admire? What aspect of the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest surprised, touched or thrilled you most? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts. 🙂

Beauty of a Woman BlogFest

I first read Sam Levinson’s “The Beauty of a Woman” during a dark time in my life and repeatedly as I journeyed out. In honor of the poem and its message, I’m thrilled to welcome you to the first ever Beauty of A Woman BlogFest!

Since the posts began rolling in yesterday, it’s felt like Christmas and Valentine’s Day combined; each love-filled post is a gift as unique and insightful as its author—to all of whom I’m in awe. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself lost in the words and stories, shed a few tears and laugh until your belly aches. I hope you find them as inspiring, hilarious and thought-provoking as I did.

To participate, simply click on the following links—all of them or whichever strike your fancy. Then pop back here, post a comment and share this page via Twitter, Facebook and/or your own blog. I’ll put your name in a drawing for each shout out (maximum of 4) and for commenting and announce the winners on Monday. Prizes include a Kindle Touch, gift cards, books, body image coaching by Karen R. Koenig, dog training, a 10-page writing critique by Kristen Lamb, healthy sweets, e-classes and BOAW mugs. For more details on the prizes, click here.

Without further ado, let the fun begin!

Emma Burcart: What Is Beauty?
Serena Dracis: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest
Cynthia Cheng Mintz: Beauty of a Woman or How I Came to Accept My Petiteness
Cynthia Cheng Mintz: Beauty of a Woman: Trying to Embrace My Cinderella Feet
Louise Behiel: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest 2012
Kara Flathouse: Dear Daughters, A Beautiful Heart is Yours
Shannon Esposito: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest! 

Ginger Calem: Dear Thighs…We need to talk.
Julie Hedlund: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest
Sharon Howard: What is Beauty?
Amber West: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest
Kristine Parker: The Beauty of My Mother
Susie Lindau: Reflected Addiction
Karen Koenig: Why Can’t Our Bodies Be Okay?
Tamara (FitNitChick): The Last Time I Felt Beautiful 


Nisha (NM): Discovering the Joy of Mascara and Other Fun Stuff
Write On, Jana!: What Makes a Woman Beautiful?
Kecia Adams: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest: The Beauty of Aggression
Coleen Patrick: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest
Marcy Kennedy: The Lie of Helen of Troy
Debra Kristi: Defining Beauty of a Woman
Lena Corazon: Discovering My Beauty Through Writing

Prudence MacLeod: Beauty of a Woman
Myndi Shafer: I Am Beautiful…Just The Way I Am
Liz: the beauty of a woman.
E.C. Stilson: What is True Beauty?
Alicia Street: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest
Sheila Seabrook: The Beauty Within
Ingrid Shaffenburg: Love Thy Temple 

Julie Jordan Scott: You Are Beautiful—From the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest
Debra Eve: Unearthing the Beauty of a Woman
Sharon K. Owen: The Beauty of a Woman
Shanjeniah: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest 2012
Patricia Sands: You’re Beautiful, Just the Way You Are
C. Nicole White: Secret Envy
Mollie Player: I Can’t Admit I Like Chubby Girls

Proud2BMe: Everyone is Beautiful!
Katie (Oracular Spectacular): Beauty of Being a Woman: BlogFest 2012
Kristen Lamb: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest—Making Peace with My Thunder Thighs
Stephanie D: New Dimensions – Beauty of a Woman BlogFest
Samantha Warren: Just As You Are
Audrey Kalman: Tribute to a Different Kind of Beauty
Julia B. Whitmore: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest: Dye Baby, Dye

What did you think of the fest? How do you define beauty? Have a quip or tale to add? Share your thoughts as a comment below for a chance at the fab prizes!

Thanks for making the BOAW BlogFest an uplifting success!
You are all beautiful butterflies.

Special Announcement: Celebrate Beauty & Win Fab Prizes

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is beauty? What does it mean to you? When do you feel beautiful?

Though I’m a big fan of getting gussied up on occasion, even my most “glam” days in the fashion industry can’t compare to the beauty I feel now. (No makeup required for this kind of beauty. See??? ;))

The Em-meister, as I like to call him, was right. Beauty isn’t something we can buy, apply, chase after, whittle ourselves down for or attract. It’s within each of us and grows when we seek, accept and embrace it.

If you’re so inclined, visit my blog this Friday, February 10th to participate in the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest. Tour the links to over thirty fantastic blog pieces, composed by some of the most talented writers in the blogosphere. Then post a comment on my page for a chance to win a Kindle Touch, gift cards, books and more.

For additional chances at prizes, promote the fest via Twitter, Facebook and/or your blog. For each promotional shout out (between now and Friday) and comment (on Friday), your name will be entered into the prize drawing, for a maximum of 4 chances. For 2 more chances, enter the fest as a blogger. (Today is the last day for signups.)

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”  —Maya Angelou

Hope you’ll spread your wings and party with us! Any questions, drop me a note. 🙂

Does Dirt Have Calories? — My Story

I awoke that morning as I did most mornings while living in Paris—woozy, exhausted and determined. During what should’ve been a pinnacle in the modeling career I’d held dear, I was enraptured and controlled by an eating disorder. Where logic would’ve told me to get some rest, nourish my body and tend to the day’s work responsibilities, E.D. commanded I wake up and run! Breakfast, castings, agency meetings and photo shoots would have to wait; my sole priority was the upkeep of my disease.

My emaciated body had been surviving on carrots, sugarless ice tea and Coke Light, yet felt gigantic and punishable. If I could eat as little as possible and burn far more than I chewed, I might finally reach thinness—i.e., happiness, success and perfection. I had to run.

I slipped my feet into my worn out, blood-stained sneakers, stepped out of my tiny Parisian flat and headed toward the Seine. The Eiffel Tower came into full view atop the pastel haze of the sunrise—a living, breathing Monet. It’s beauty could’ve taken a blind man’s breath away, I wrote in my journal. I didn’t deserve it. 

The dewy earth squished beneath my feet as I ran to the rhythm of calorie-counting. Forty-five plus six plus ten… Plus five plus ten plus three… I estimated the ‘damage’ from the day prior then plotted an itinerary of exercise and occasional food bits to compensate. So accustomed to ignoring the dizziness and fatigue accompanying me, anything else would’ve felt foreign. But this time was different.

I observed that the dip in the ground ahead looked like an adult-size cradle. Perhaps I knew what was coming.

I ran with increasing dizziness and pain, as though a metal clamp squeezed my brain. Run! Don’t stop! You can’t. Tears stung at my eyes as I tried to outrun the inevitable. I fell to the ground, as though in slow motion. And for a brief, savory moment, I felt weightless.

I awoke later, lying in the grassy cradle, the taste of blood and dirt in my mouth. Rather than wonder how long I’d been there or if I’d been hurt, one thought filled me with terror: Does dirt have calories? 

I don’t recall who found me or how I made it to the medical center, only the words of the British doctor: “You have anorexia. Do you understand what that means? You could’ve died. You could die.”

Her words blurred together like fog on a windshield as my thoughts went wild. She’s crazy! I can’t have anorexia. Please don’t make me eat… I felt neither thin nor “skilled” enough to have a disorder characterized by starvation. Sure, I had problems—the “cancer in my soul” I’d journaled about. I felt physically and emotionally rotted and weak, but couldn’t make sense of anything. I only knew I had to go home.

The week after I arrived in Minneapolis, I began treatment and fought harder to remain ill. Once I accepted my diagnosis, anorexia seemed the one special thing about me. If I let it go, what was left? The word ‘recovery’ seemed synonymous with ‘fatness,’ ‘failure’ and ‘mediocrity.’

As my starving measures increased, my emotional and physical self tolerated them less and less. My therapist repeatedly threatened in-patient treatment. I lied, promising I would eat more and gain necessary weight.

Finally, one of my worst nightmares came true. In a moment of despair, I gave in to my longing for a single bite of chocolate ice cream. As I placed the dollop of creamy cold sweetness into my mouth, my entire body trembled. I felt intoxicated, a sense of danger, head-to-toe orgasm, temporary relief. But one bite turned into two, then six, then all that remained of the half gallon. The fatty cream sat like a putrid rock in my shrunken stomach. I’d never felt so ashamed.

The bingeing/starving roller coaster that followed was the most excruciating and important occurrences in my recovery. At its worst, I entered what my therapist called a “bulimic trance.” The bingeing took over and I had little awareness of all I’d consumed until I found myself sobbing amidst wrappers and crumbs.

As weight returned to my body, friends and family told me how healthy I looked.

“You’re filling out so nicely!” The well-intended comment haunted me for months. Desperate to stop bingeing, I decided to take my treatment more seriously.

“I will do anything to stop this,” I told my therapist.

“Good,” she said. “It starts with eating. After you binge, don’t skip your next meal.”

Anything but that. I resisted her instructions, holding staunchly to the belief that if I were just strong enough, I could attain the thinness I desired and stop bingeing at once. It sounded Utopian. Meanwhile, I mourned the loss of my anorexia like a lost soulmate.

One night, after a fast ended in a gargantuan binge, I hit bottom. I considered gulping the poison I’d used on occasion to vomit, aware of the life-threatening risks. I didn’t want to die, but I couldn’t bear life as I knew it. In a fury, I scavenged the house for the tiny bottle. When I couldn’t find it, my heart raced. I struggled to breathe.

Then something remarkable happened. Incapable of purging in any of my viable methods, I calmed down. Calmness brought clarity. Rather than plot restriction strategies for the coming days, I began plotting a future free of ED.

I walked with trepidation to my wall mirror and looked not at my hips, belly or thighs, but into my eyes. The head-on stare punctured the swollen balloon of hurt inside me, releasing sobs.

“You can’t live like this anymore!” I told my reflection. “I won’t let you hate yourself so much. This is not who you are.” I didn’t know what I was fighting for, but my instincts said, don’t give up.

My anger at ED and proclamations in the mirror were the first signs of self-love I’d displayed in years, the light switch in the dark cave I lived in. If I managed to turn it on, I knew my life would change.

I threw my “skinny clothes” and scale in a dumpster and removed the size tags from clothes that fit. I told myself that for one year, I would not diet, starve or make any other attempts at weight loss. If I gained weight during that year, so be it. The next morning, with trembling hands and tears flooding my cheeks, I ate breakfast.

Though I wanted to forego my commitments frequently over the subsequent weeks, I held fast. The bingeing continued at first, as did my weight gain, until I nearly doubled my lowest weight. If I have to start over every day, I will, I wrote. And start over again and again I did. I had nothing to lose by trying and everything to lose by not.

Months later, I was no longer dieting, starving or bingeing and my life was beginning to feel like a life. I was in college, making friends, writing songs and even, on occasion, laughing. But my recovery had reached a plateau. I felt awkward eating around others, anxious about eating too much or too little. The slightest pangs of hunger or fullness put me on edge. I saw plates of calories and felt guilty when I indulged. And though I resisted, I longed to diet. ED hadn’t left. He’d only grown quieter.

One day over steaming cups of Indian tea, my mom handed me a CD with a song she and my dad wanted me to hear: Lee Ann Womack’s, “I Hope You Dance.”

“It’s time to find joy,” she said. (And here I’d thought I had everyone fooled…)

The song’s message about “dancing,” which I took to mean many joyful things, hit me with profound force.

That evening I sat at a park watching a group of friends picnicking, captivated by a woman around my age. After a bite of her hearty sandwich, she closed her eyes, tipped her head back and said, “This is so good!” I longed for an ounce of her joy.

I’d been eating because I was “supposed” to, promised others I would and never wanted to go off the bingeing/starving deep end again. In order to fully recover, I had to manifest joy around eating.

I knew it was possible because I’d experienced it. My childhood love affair with food seemed insatiable. Family photographs portray a bubbly, smiling girl holding an ice cream cone, sitting before a luminous birthday cake or about to take a chomp out of a fresh red apple from our backyard tree. Before bed, I often asked my parents what the next day’s breakfast would entail, “so I could dream about it.”

Food for my family meant togetherness. Birthday celebrations, picnics by the lake, nightly home cooked meals—a special bond and a clay we used to build memories. Until fear and ED had creeped in. No more, I decided.

I began studying food with a velocity I’d only previously applied to treadmills. I wanted to discover its goodness and stop dreaming of ways to avoid it. What did particular foods do for me? If not for managing weight, why did people eat them? How could I eat healthfully, and not by diet book standards of what that was?

I began addressing a self-compiled “I’m afraid of” list. Eat in public. Eat at a restaurant, alone. Eat a meal prepared by others without demanding particulars. Eat the ice cream that triggered my first binge—one serving at a time.

I traded my diet books for medical and dietetic texts that defined food as fuel, a necessary means of nutrients, and obtained my certification in nutrition. I cooked, experimented with foods I’d never tried and volunteered at soup kitchens. I stopped aiming for dietary perfection. Multiple studies had convinced me that such increased my risk for bingeing, obesity, anxiety, depression and sleep problems—pretty much everything on my “No, thank you” list.

It took numerous attempts of arriving at an upscale restaurant alone before I dined there and several more before I enjoyed the food without heavy perspiration or heart palpitations. I wept over a homemade candlelit dinner for one, served on my grandmother’s china. I stocked my kitchen with food until it felt warm, loved and lived-in. Rather than cold and frightening, it felt like home. I took a Buddhist philosophy course and applied its principles to my meals. Eating slowly and without distraction soon went from mortifying to pacifying. On difficult days, I asked myself what I’d feed a dear friend then treated myself to just that.

*****

On a cool spring evening, I sat at my kitchen table with a bowl of spicy chili and fresh-baked corn bread. An unexpected breeze blew through my apartment window, carrying a flower from outside into my bowl. Plunk! As the pink petals swam amongst the diced tomatoes and cannelloni beans, I laughed. Struck my own amusement, I realized that nothing but goodness sat at my table. All anxiety, shame and feelings of inadequacy had dissipated, leaving me with a palpable sense of peace.

I returned to Paris that summer to celebrate my recovery. Near the grassy patch I’d fallen in I buried a capsule filled with cards from loved ones, photographs, under-sized clothes and copies of my songs and journal entries. ED’s funeral, I called it. A memorial service for my SELF. I ran along the Seine, this time grateful for the strong legs that carried me, the absence of pain and my second chance at a happy, healthy life.

*****

What does ‘beauty’ mean to you?
One of the BEST parts of my recovery was the growing ability to use my brain and energy for pursuits unrelated to diet or exercise—writing, reading, singing… Sam Levinson’s poem, Beauty of A Woman, inspired me on numerous difficult days. In honor of all the poem stands for, I invite you to join me in a beauty-FULL celebration on Friday, February 10th. To learn how you can participate as a blogger or prize sponsor, visit Beauty of a Woman BlogFest.