Back when Beautiful You was debuting, awesome Kate (she just calls herself Kate, I call her awesome) from Thighs and Offerings featured me and BY on her blog as part of my blog tour. She asked me 20 questions that were really awesome and really made me think and today, I am sharing my answers here in case you never saw the Q&A from T&O. And play 20 questions along with me, will you, and leave your answer to at least one of the questions in the comments!
1. Do you have a go-to mantra? If so, what is it?
I’ve had some philosophies over the years that were really helpful in grounding or guiding me like “we too often love things and use people when we should love people and use things” and “life keeps handing you the lesson you need to learn until you learn it.” Those remain touchstones for me, but, probably, what I remind myself the most now- because it feels like I am always in the midst of some new frontier right now in parenting, professionally, or personally, is that I’ve never let myself down yet and that’s a good track record so just keep going.
2. What was your last dream?
Last night, I dreamt that I was with an Irish man (who wasn’t a romantic partner) in a market selecting a chicken for egg production. So random.
3. What song can you count on to always make you happy?
I am mostly a mournful song girl- I could listen to Anna Begins by the Counting Crows, Hallelujah by any number of artists, Wanting Memories by Sweet Honey in the Rock, Mystery by the Indigo Girls, Running to Stand Still by U2, You are the Everything by REM, Redemption Song by Bob Marley on repeat infinitely, and they do make me happy—because they so resonate. But two happier songs that fill me with joy are Blessed by Brett Dennen and There Were No Mirrors in My Nana’s House by Sweet Honey in the Rock. Every woman should download There Were No Mirrors in My Nana’s House.
4. Do you have any nicknames? If so, what are they?
Two that are most dear to me are Moli and Snoopy Friend. Moli is what my students called me when I taught high school (in lieu of Miss Molinary). Snoopy Friend is what my childhood best friend’s father started calling me when we were about six because I carried this red Velcro wallet with Snoopy on it and inside there was an identification card for me to fill out that was labeled Snoopy Friend (not Snoopy’s Friend). I’ve been Snoopy Friend to her family ever since.
5. What has been the biggest surprise in your life thus far?
On Friday, August 22, 2008, I woke up thinking about what we’d be doing for the weekend and went to bed knowing that I was the mother-in-waiting to a new born baby in Ethiopia. Life happens so magically and so swiftly, and, often in spite of yourself, it brings you exactly what you were meant to have.
6. What is your favorite smell?
The smell of cut grass when it hangs in the air on a bright spring night. It smells of promise and reminds me of springs of my youth that felt ripe with so much possibility.
7. What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done? I quit a job that I thought would be in for the rest of my career because of philosophical differences without knowing what was next—I just knew that if I stayed I was betraying my sense of integrity. I had no idea that I would start writing when I tendered my resignation but five months after my last day, I had gone to contract for Hijas Americanas.
8. Can you tell us about your most significant physical scar?
After breast reduction surgery in my mid-twenties, I had a setback with one of my sutures that resulted in a pretty significant scar. It is this scar that allowed me to first articulate my thoughts about body image in an essay titled “Giving Up Beauty.” Often, I have to write in order to discover what I know. In that essay, I came to fully understand that “scars show character” and ended with this realization, “Finally, I found myself looking at scars and seeing healing where once I looked at fullness and could not see myself.”
9. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be? Wanderlust would take me to Tahiti or Tuscany. My soul would take me back to Ethiopia.
10. What is the most meaningful compliment you’ve ever received?
As a second year teacher, I had a period in time where I was working so hard that I was near burn out. I shared with my students that I was really tired and a bit frayed and that I may not be at my best in the coming days and that I hoped they could find it in their hearts to give me some grace. They, in turn, secretly pooled money and sent me this incredible bouquet of flowers to school accompanied by a box of letters from each one of them. Those letters contained the nicest words ever spoken to me. And that is by far the best gift I’ve ever been given.
11. Can you tell us about a person whom you really admire?
There are so many, but one person I really admire professionally is Eve Ensler who wrote The Vagina Monologues and The Good Body and created V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls. I admire her creativity and how she uses her craft and talent to give voice to the voiceless and ultimately change the count on a global issue that affects way too many women.
12. What book is on your bedside table? What CD is on repeat? What DVD is ready to go? On the bedside table right now is The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow. I am listening to I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman in the car and I am running to Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I listen to the album ‘August and Everything After’ by the Counting Crows a lot, almost every song speaks to me. I don’t really do DVDS, but I’ve got Grey’s Anatomy, Glee, Parenthood, Friday Night Lights, and The Good Wife set to record on the DVR.
13. What is your favorite sound? It used to be the sound of the ocean. My son’s laugh, it sounds like wind chimes tinkering, has taken first place, though.
14. What always makes you feel beautiful? Giving love.
15. I imagine each entry in “Beautiful You” feels a bit like one of your children. That being said, do you have a favorite? Three? Five?
Maybe not a favorite but there are some whose incorporation into my life made a significant, positive difference over the years:
Day 32: Celebrate Your Birth Day
Day 44: Embrace Your Passion
Day 117: Teach People How To Treat You
Day 200: Realize that You Should Be Cared For By You
Day 235: Set Limits
16. What about one that was most difficult for you to write?
The entries that were most difficult to write were the ones that were inspired because of a vulnerability I witnessed. Whether it was about a girl who confided in me that she thought she was fat or an ex-boyfriend who cheated, I had a hard time stomaching that I was using an experience with that person as a lesson for the book. I reconcile those things by trying to hide identifying details and focusing on the lesson, but it’s still hard for me. It is not like people who knew me years ago knew I was going to one day be a writer. In fact, I had a friend call me today worried that she was the person I referenced in one of my passages (she wasn’t), and that was just a humbling reminder of the discomfort that I can cause someone who is or was in my life as I try to provide comfort to others.
17.What do you wish for those who read “Beautiful You”?
I want for women to release themselves from standards that weren’t of their own imagining and that keep them from being their best selves—and anything that keeps you from thinking positively about yourself and behaving respectfully towards yourself falls in that category. I want us to take the time and make the effort to get to know ourselves and then to move forward from an authentic place.
We have to champion all women. As long as one woman is crippled by feelings of inadequacy, then the world that we have created is inadequate. Supporting one another and freeing one another from the limiting messages that we internalize can be revolutionary. We make the choice whether to internalize these messages. We make the choice whether to build up or tear down. We can have power in our lives by not taking in negative messages, and we can empower other women by not sending out negative messages. When we begin to see women in all of their dimensions, we begin to eradicate confining stereotypes and worldviews. We start to see all women as complex individuals, and not just as part of a larger stereotypical whole.
We can choose to create a society that encourages women to be healthier and more whole, a society that unites us in our commonalities while acknowledging the depth of the individual. The more we challenge the limits we place on each other, the more open the world will be to all of us.
18. What’s next for you? If I’ve learned anything, life happens while you are making plans. What I know to be true is that I want to be of use, I want to live as authentically as I can, and I want to help others do that as well. My professional work is an unbalanced triangle of writing, teaching, and activism through Circle de Luz (www.circledeluz.org, a nonprofit with a mission to radically empower young Latinas to pursue their possibilities through mentoring, programming, and scholarship funds to pursue further education after their graduation from high school) and I just move from corner to corner as each area has a need that must be met. I’d love to start work on another book—there are two proposals I am dying to “sell” although only one of them is currently being “shopped” to publishers- and I’d love for Circle de Luz to secure funding that would allow us (Circle de Luz is led by an all volunteer (force to be reckoned with) board and class captains) to hire staff and expand it in a way that would positively impact the lives of even more girls.
19. What’s your guilty pleasure? Fantasy Football. If I could spend every Sunday afternoon in the fall in my workout clothes, under a blanket on the couch, watching football and checking my fantasy football teams’ scores, I’d pay cash money for the indulgence. That is not how my Sunday afternoons look (there are glimpses of those moments here and there, though), but a girl can dream.
20. Truth or dare? Truth. Finding truth and my voice in my life and not being scared to share it has changed everything. Secrets paralyze us. Not every truth needs to be spoken to every person in our life, but releasing the power that secrets have over us is choosing life.