Listen. I hear you. You’re a few pounds heavier than you like (or a 100 lbs heavier than you like). I completely understand how you feel. I get that same blah feeling about myself when I think about booking new head shots or long overdue pictures of me and Justin. Precious, I even picked a career that has me permanently behind the camera rather than in front of it. Seeing myself in pictures actually produces the faintest sick feeling in my stomach. Isn’t it amazing we can see the beauty in our best friends, sisters, mothers, and aunts without the slightest thought to their flaws… but can obsess for hours on our own imperfections? We fixate on our flaws to the point we shirk at any documentation that our round faces and curvy bodies ever walked the earth. No pictures to show how we LOVE, how we laugh, how we are treasured by our families. How is it possible that a double chin can overpower the beauty of a mother cuddling her child? How does arm fat distract from the perfect shot of a spontaneous hug? I swear y’all… how is it that we can put more value on a TUMMY ROLL than the captivating way you throw yourself into a roar of laughter during a shoot?
In our warped minds pictures become frozen mirrors that we can stare at as we pick apart our features over and over again.
I know girl. I know.
My personal duck-and-cover (or signature “make a funny face”) approach to having pictures of myself changed completely when I had a serious car accident last year (and started over). In the flash of a second (or a flash of the text message the young woman was reading) my entire life changed. I nearly left this earth with no physical evidence of the goofy, wide open and loud love I have for my life, my husband, my family and friends. I haven’t had professional pictures done since our wedding in 2006… always waiting for this elusive moment where I would be thin enough (pretty enough) to have such a permanent record of me. Because, you know, HEAVEN FORBID there be any proof that I look the way I actually look.
So here is the harsh truth y’all. Listen good. Our vanity is no longer enough of a reason to avoid the camera. Life doesn’t wait until you “get thin” enough to capture it. Life is happening… it is happening right now and the only moment we are guaranteed is the one we are living. I shudder at the thought of leaving behind no pictures of my life with ME in it. My mom says of the accident she is “just glad that we’re still a whole family.” My gift to her this Christmas was a family portrait showing just that, nine months post-accident… a whole family.
Do you know what my mom sees when she looks at this picture? Her beautiful family all together.
Do you know what my husband sees? The family he gained the moment he met me (and how much he looks like my dad…)
Do you know what my dad sees? The happy family he has worked for every day of his life.
Do you know what my brother sees? That he got away with wearing shorts…
Shocker: No one is looking at how fat I look.
Can we agree to put the value of family over the value of fat? Can we just accept that the weight you’ve been trying to lose for 5 years might actually just be a part of what you look like… and that if this magical day does come when you’re acceptably thin you’ll STILL regret not having any pictures of you with your kids from ages 5-10? Can we acknowledge that the insecurities we have in our heads will never be a part of how our children, husbands, and friends see us? Can we just please let our loved ones remember the YOU they love?
Your children want pictures with their mom.
Your husband wants pictures with his beautiful wife.
Your mom and dad want pictures of the happy, successful, amazing woman they raised (OK, and more pictures of the grandkids while you’re at it).
And if you’re thinking that high school friend on Facebook will say to herself (“wow she has gained weight”) then… news flash you DID. You gained weight. Shed a tear. Read a book. Drink a sweet tea. Watch Oprah. Whatever it takes. Accept this reality… YOU GAINED WEIGHT. The truth is you’ve gained a lot of other things too (a career, a family, some kids, a house, a love for travel, the ability to coordinate your separates…) and that girl from high school is going to spend a lot more time hating on those things then she ever will on your double chin.
So you’re feeling too fat to be photographed? OK… but you’re the only one who notices. The rest of us are too caught up in loving you.
Teresa is a photographer and blogger. Her work can be found at myfriendteresablog.com.
I don’t know much about Alzheimers/Dementia – in fact, I know nothing more than how difficult it is to watch and experience alongside someone you love…
I am blessed to have close relationships with both my immediate and extended family. My parents, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and I have spent a number of memorable and amazing vacations, holidays, events, and visits together throughout my almost-28 years and I can say with complete confidence and conviction that my family, both immediate and extended, takes number one in my life: my number one blessing and my number one favorite thing.
I have two grandparents here still (and wonderful-solid memories of the 18-25 years with the two that are doing their thing in heaven now).
My grandparents, Granne and Pop / Anne and Ray, have been married for 61 years; they have 3 children, 3 married-in-children, 6 grandchildren, 3 great grandchildren, and a Katie (a beloved Shih Tzu / dog-child). These facts have been my grandmother’s favorite things to tell people. Whether they be new friends, old friends, pastors, nail technicians, receptionists, waitresses, bartenders, or janitorial staff; if they’ve crossed paths with my grandmother, they know she has been married for 61 years… has 3 children, 3 married-in-children, 6 grandchildren, 3 great grandchildren, and a Katie.
Growing up, I have to admit I sometimes shrunk from the long family rundown she’d do for strangers… but now my grandmother is starting to forget… and thinking on it now, on her repeatedly listing us as the first thing she wanted someone (anyone, everyone) to know about her… that love… I can’t help but want that repeat-rundown back…
Granne, I can’t even imagine what you’re going through right now. I know you’re forgetting some things and, it seems to me at least, you’re starting to forget them faster these days. I know that the things happening in your life don’t make sense to you; it’s hard to keep track of events, people, and timelines and as a result, some of your behaviors aren’t “you” anymore. I know you fight them. I know you want to be strong; to be yourself and to be who you’ve always been for all of us. I know you’re scared, Granne. Who could blame you?
Here’s the thing though, Granne… you don’t have to be scared (and as I’ll explain, neither do we).
You married an amazing man 61-years ago; our beloved Pop, a man who, no matter how hard it gets, no matter the challenge, no matter the drama or the controversy, chooses you; who never wavers on the words, “she’s my girl” in the face of the fight.
You brought three people up in this crazy world; taught them to work hard, to care for one another, to love other people, to have faith, to be strong, to laugh at themselves, and to give back… and they married three people who do the same.
Your three (turned six) people, brought more people into the world and taught them (us!) to work hard, to care for one another, to love other people, to have faith, to be strong, to laugh at ourselves, and to give back.
You see Granne, you created and trained your own team; a team of people who were taught the qualities that a good life requires; the qualities that are especially required now. These people… your people… love you, will take care of you, look out for you, cheer you on, and fight for what’s best for you.
Here’s the other thing Granne, you also taught us to do all these things for each other. We’ll travel through life loving each other, taking care of each other, looking out for each other, cheering each other on, and fighting for what’s best for one another.
You don’t have to be scared for you and you don’t have to be scared for us – because you gave us the gift of each other – which, I have to say, is my very favorite thing.
As you start to forget, Granne, we don’t want you to worry; we won’t. We’ll hold on to the memories that you may not always be able to recall.
We’ll hold on to Charleston, Folly, Seabrook… your “pink house and purple car,” your shrimp and grits, your giant Christmas tree, your mac-n-cheese recipe…
We’ll hold on to the recitals, concerts, tournaments, games, graduations, and weddings you were at… the dances we’ve danced, the games we’ve played, the fun and laughs we’ve had…
We’ll hold on to your strength, your determination, your southern sass, your protective nature, your family-focus, and your ability to chug a frozen margarita in 3 seconds flat…
We’ll hold on to the memories and stories of the parties you had, the friendships you cultivated, the people you helped, the places you’ve seen, the support you’ve provided, the amazing wife/mother/grandmother you’ve been, and the endless love you continue to give… even as life changes around you.
Granne, it’s going to be different, but it’s going to be okay. We are a forever-team. You are not alone. You don’t have to be scared… we’ve got this… because we’ve always had you.
So much appreciation, respect, and love forever and ever and ever.
I’ve let time pass again. I don’t know where it goes! It seems to just rip by me lately.
I recently came across this (beautiful) Eulogy written by Curtis Christiansen, whom I actually don’t know. We’re just barely connected, as he wrote the below about one of my sorority sister’s husbands who was recently called home.
It struck me.
I didn’t personally know Jimmy, only the beautiful soul he planned to share forever with, though reading about him the last few days, I wish I had gotten the chance.
Here’s some soul-food, some food for thought, and a continuous prayer request because there will surely be a void in many lives without this man in the world…
Later today we will celebrate the life of Jimmy McLaughlin.
But I would like to share with you now my favorite Jimmy story.
Most evenings when the weather is nice, you will find Kim and me out on our deck unwinding from the stress of the day and catching up with each other. If you are not familiar with where we live, our yard backs right up to the Herndon High School athletic fields. There is a fairly thick wooded area between our yard and the more elevated fields, which are enclosed by a chain link fence that is probably a good 7 or 8 feet tall. Because of our close proximity, if we are on our deck, we are hearing whatever game, practice, or band event that is occurring on the fields.
On this particular evening, if I remember correctly, it was a Powder Puff game that was taking place.
So there we were, on the deck just talking and sitting at the table under the umbrella. That’s when it happened.
All of a sudden there was this great commotion in woods behind our house. We could hear bushes and leaves rustling loudly; branches snapping and cracking…..and I mean cracking, these were obviously no small branches being broken.
What the heck could it be?
We were startled…was it a huge deer? A Big Foot?
What could possibly be snapping large branches like tooth picks and causing all that commotion?
Should we go to safety inside the house?
Seconds later, we saw it.
It wasn’t a giant deer. No and it wasn’t Big Foot either.
It was a human.
It was a human wearing only a Speedo.
And it was Jimmy.
As Jimmy emerged from the trees and the underbrush he quickly bolted across our back yard. As you would expect with Jimmy, he very respectfully acknowledged Kim and I on the deck with a greeting, never losing a step as he raced across the yard. We watched in confusion and disbelief as Jimmy crossed the neighbor’s yard, then the common area, and finally disappeared around the tennis courts.
Later I would learn that in the moments just before the commotion in the woods, Jimmy had streaked across the Powder Puff Game field and had a couple of adults in hot pursuit as he scaled and leaped the high chain link fence and went crashing through the woods.
For Kim and I, left looking at each other thinking what’s to disbelieve?
It was Jimmy in his Speedo crashing through the woods and running through the yard.
And we laughed.
I recently read a book by Elizabeth Gilbert called Big Magic. You might be familiar with Elizabeth Gilbert because she wrote Eat, Pray, Love; which was pretty popular. In Big Magic, Gilbert introduces the concept that inspiration is a living thing. And as a living thing, inspiration is constantly looking for a place to live, a place to develop. Left idle, that inspiration would move on looking for someplace else, someone else, where it could continue to live and grow.
That may be hard to imagine, but I believe inspiration found a home in Jimmy. Jimmy was inspired to do great things with his life. After college something motivated him to leave his comfort zone and join the Navy. But not just the Navy, he took on Navy Seal training and ultimately became a Medical Navy Diver graduating at the top of his class.
Something in Jimmy drove him to want to take on the most challenging and be the best at it.
And he succeeded.
I propose this to you, because I want you to consider that what if Ms. Gilbert’s theory has merit? What if the inspiration that found its home in Jimmy, is now idle and looking for a place to live?
And wouldn’t it be an honor and a privilege if the inspiration that was alive in Jimmy, found its new home in one of us.
But maybe we think that is a bunch of crap and don’t believe that inspiration is a living thing looking for a place to grow.
Maybe we don’t need to. Maybe we just need to consider Jimmy’s life…. not his death, but his life; and maybe that would be enough to inspire one of us to strive to do something we have never done before, something outside our comfort zone, and be the best at it.
And do it with the same good nature and passion that Jimmy would have done it with.
I think so.
And for Jimmy, who did all the hard work to provide that inspiration for us, that would be an honorable way to be remembered.
But for now Jimmy, rest……. in peace.
Love out, prayers up.
It’s been two full years since I totaled Sally-Civic (Phew! Statute of limitations is up!). Two full years since a very sweet lady pulled over on the side of 95 and helped me out of my car. Two full years since the nicest state trooper I’ve ever met sat me in his squad car and talked me down from passing out while we waited for the ambulance. Two full years since five firemen sweetly knelt down around me and bandaged up my (later stitched-up) knee while very likely (but surely accidentally) looking up my dress. Two full years since I limped around on a date with one of those firemen who seemed dreamy and charming. And a little less than two full years since I went on a second date with said-fireman and learned that he was (definitely) not (though, I guess he had already looked up my dress and I should have known better).
At the risk of being dramatic, I might should have died that day – at least gotten a lot more hurt. I wrecked during a rush hour on interstate 95 in the far left lane and somehow drifted, briefly unconscious and surrounded by airbags and that awful airbag-smoke-smell, across three lanes where my car stopped on it’s own 50 yards down the road on the far right shoulder. How I wasn’t hit as my car made it’s way across those lanes and so far down the highway can really only be attributed to God looking out for me.
The stories that followed that accident are mostly funny – knowing those firemen really did probably see up my dress as a sat on the guardrail hyperventilating (I actually told them I was going to faint – as you know, I don’t do well with blood. They all jumped up and freaked out thinking I meant I had hit my head or something. I had to calm them down and say it was just the blood issue… and they laughed at me) and going on those two dates with the one (who I’ve bumped into around town a few times since – once sleepily, makeup-less, in my pajamas, with my hair on top of my head as I evacuated my apartment building for a fire alarm at 3 o’clock in the morning).
But really, it reminded me, and continues to remind me, of our power to encourage, comfort, support, and affect one another. In the days following that accident, I was overwhelmed by love; all of the strangers who had been so sweet to me, one of my best friends – Alex (previously mentioned) leaving work and getting stuck in the traffic that I had caused to pick me up because I desperately did not want to ride in the ambulance, and everyone who checked on me and sent their love. I still think about all of that kindness regularly.
I’m obsessed with the power we have to impact each other’s lives, and incredibly blessed and thankful that people repeatedly use that power to positively affect me.
That’s all. 🙂
Dear Future Husband,
Here’s a few things that you should know… if you’re going to be my one and only all my liiiife… (just kidding).
Really though… I miss you. Is that strange? To miss someone you haven’t met yet? It probably is but I do. I wish I could explain it.
I don’t really know where to start in writing this to you – only because there are so many things I want to say, so many things that have happened, so many things that make me who I am, so many things I want to share with you. Really I want to be with you now. I want to hear your laugh (warning, I’m pretty hilarious). I want to feel at home simply because you’re around.
Right now, specifically, I want to be comforted by you.
What about that, is that strange? Haha, wanting to be comforted by your future person?
You should know that I write this to you a little heartbroken again -okay, like pathetic can’t eat, can’t sleep, sick-feeling as soon as I open my eyes, “little” heartbroken. I’ll bounce back, of course, but dating is so hard, isn’t it? Do you hate it as much as I do? I hate it, hate it. I’ll never understand why it can’t be easier… more honest, more reliable, more genuine, more intentional, more selfless. I’d love that; I like you – you like me, let’s watch TV and bake cookies or something equally lame and sweet and be in complete fearless bliss.
I’ve “wasted” time (the future me who knows you will say, “it wasn’t a waste, I understand now!”) dating guys who haven’t been nice to me, who have led me on and let me down. I’ve dated guys who have made me question if I’ll ever find you, if you’ll ever find me, if you even exist at all.
I’ve done a pathetic and embarrassing amount of crying through it all (you’ll learn I’m a crier)… and agonizing and worrying and stressing and doubting… I’ve been impatient and I haven’t trusted God the way that I should. Honestly, I guess I haven’t trusted you the way that I should and for that, I’m sorry.
At the end of every “relationship”/dating disaster, I’ve begged God for you. “Where is he? Why do I have to wait so long? Why does my wait hurt so bad? Send him to me! Make this stop!”
At which point, I’m sure God laughs at me; knowing exactly who you are, and where you are, and what you’re doing, and at what point our life paths meet, and why they haven’t yet.
I know He’s working on you like He’s working on me. And if you’re anything like me… well, I just know He’s had His work cut out for Him with me…
I’ve given Him hell, kicking and screaming, to learn important lessons. Slowly but surely though, with a lot of backup from a lot of amazing people, I’m learning them. I imagine that by the time we meet, they’ll be a solid part of who I am and I guess they’ll be a part of the reason we work. And I get that.
I’m learning how to be more resilient. I’ve been kind of a wimp leading up to this point.
I’m learning not to take anything for granted.
I’m learning how to really appreciate other people; their time, love, dedication, needs, and spirit.
I’m learning how fast time goes by, and to embrace the people and things in it before it’s too late.
I’m learning that family is what really lasts.
I’m learning that there are some things that you just have to let go of. And that that’s okay.
I’m learning how to put my self-worth in real things instead of tangible ones.
I’m learning not to put my happiness at a finish line.
I’m learning that I like a little space – but I like to have a little reassurance in it.
I’m learning that I’m a hand-holder. Sorry.
I’m learning how to be patient. Okay, honestly I don’t know if I’m actively learning this one or being forced to learn it but I’m learning it. Very reluctantly.
I know that there is value in my wait, in your wait. I know that God has planned you for me and me for you and that He has us on specific, intentional paths that will one day join. I like to think that you wonder about me and that day like I do sometimes.
In these tough parts, when I’m craving your presence, I remember that you’re out there… doing your thing, becoming who you’re supposed to be, working your way towards me. I’m comforted by the idea that when I meet you, all the feelings I thought I had for others won’t even compare and that I’ll appreciate you even more for it… and that that whole, “everything happens for a reason” thing will prove itself true.
I hope that during your tough days, it crosses your mind that I pray for you. I pray that you’re happy. I pray that you’re healthy. I pray that you’re surrounded by good people. I pray that you’re enjoying your life. I pray that you’re proud of who you are. I pray that you’re strong and resilient. I pray that you pray. I pray that you know you’re not alone. I pray that you have faith and confidence in who I’ll be to you one day. And I pray that you can fix things… because I can’t fix anything and I’m always breaking stuff!
I don’t write any of this to nag you or rush you or worry you. I guess all I’m trying to say is that I’m excited to meet you. I can’t wait to tell you how amazing you are. I can’t wait to make dinner with you (because you know, I only learned how to cook in my last couple of years) and buy you Christmas gifts (I love Christmas) and fight with you (sorry, I’ve never really fought with anyone so it might as well be someone I know is going to stick around) and meet your family (oh my gosh, you’ll love my family, they’re the best)… I can’t wait to laugh with you, and cry with you, and learn with you, and grow with you… I can’t wait to finally know you and to turn to God and say, “Okay, okay, I get it! This is why I had to wait a while, I’m sorry I gave You such a terrible hard time. It was so worth it.” And I know it will be.
(ps. I think it’s adorable when grooms cry. Just sayin.)
This one’s a little personal, which I’ve avoided doing because I don’t know who in my life is reading this badboy but… carrying on…
Part of who I am is this cheesy person who has written down random things about my life; prayers, thoughts, stories, etc. since I was in the 4th grade. Haha, at that time it was in a Winnie-the-Pooh diary and the majority of my entries were about a little-player-boy named Peyton. Somewhere between middle and high school, I started a private LiveJournal. My first entry there (as I have it opened in a tab right now) was on January 18th, 2004 and it looks like I was really really pissed at a boy. Haha, I was 15 years old.
I kind of retired writing anything personal in that format only about 5 or 6 years ago (that’s a lot of writings) but it was then that I picked up writing down my prayers. I find that my mind wanders when I pray – I’m working on it, my God deserves better – but writing them down has always kept me focused. It’s also been kind of life-changing to be able to go back and read the things I was talking to God about; asking Him for, thanking Him for, begging Him for, whining to Him about, praising Him about, crying to Him about… I’d suggest it really; writing them down.
A lot of these past prayers make me laugh, some of them make me a little embarrassed, some make me thankful that I didn’t get what I wanted, a number of them are a comfort in reminding me that life goes on, and a few of them I can still feel strongly enough to make me cry. The number of times I’ve been lost and then found, lost and then found… lost and then found… is dizzying. I guess that’s the story of our lives… it’s certainly the story of mine, at least.
I’ve been unhinged lately. That’s the best word for it, “unhinged.” I’ve a little forgotten who I am; forgotten all the things that make me up and the amazing number of people who pour into me. I’ve not been the person other people need me to be. I’ve not been the person I need me to be; or the person I am. I’ve let undeserving things and unnecessary worries shake my world up and I’ve repeatedly given things up to God only to snatch them right back. What’s that quote? …
I turned to previous written prayers to find a little balance. These are all kind of old. Haha, which makes me laugh a little, because it’s such proof of life’s way. To be clear, these are the “selfish” portions of my prayers but this is what I need now…
God, please help me to remember my life; the life You’ve given me. To remember every part and role. Help me to not get wrapped up in small portions and to trust that everything is a part of Your plan for me. Please help me to leave things in Your hands and to enjoy the little things in life. God please help me to show appreciation, to shine Your light, and to be the person other people need. Thank You for planning my life and walking me through it. Thank You for Your unconditional love, when I very rarely deserve it. Thank You for the people in my life- an abundance of people who I can turn to and rely on.
God, help me to be better. Help me to be more faithful, more confident, more relaxed, more trusting, more “cool and calm.” Help me to be myself; my very truest self. Help me to enjoy each moment of the day, each person in my presence.
God, please calm my crazy heart and anxieties.I KNOW that You have a plan for me. We go over this all the time. I know that everything that happens in my life is leading me toward something You have laid out for me. I know that You will not leave me or let me down. I know that I am on Your path. I’m confident that Your plan is better than anything I could imagine.