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.