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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lunch :: Join Me in #Loud27 From Thanksgiving to Christmas (A New Paleo Journey!)

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Last year, I participated in Whole9's Whole30 for the first time and it changed my life. Since I'd been pescetarian for years, I created a modified version (which I wrote about here, here, here and here). Now that I'm a full-on omnivore again, I'm ready to take the plunge and get my pre-pregnancy body back.

Whole30 is based on the paleo or "caveman" diet. The main food groups that you're supposed to cut out for 30 days are grains, dairy, alcohol, sugar, and legumes. I was planning on saving my next Whole30 month for January, but I didn't want to wait that long to start eating healthier.

Instead, I'm going to do Loud27, my own paleo journey for 27 days!

Why 27? Because that's how many are between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I refuse to miss out on holiday food. I believe in treating your body with kindness and respect, which means eating both healthy stuff AND indulgent goodies. I also believe that we're all beautiful just the way we are, but you need to do what makes YOU feel that. I feel best about myself when I'm exercising and eating right.

Also, let's be honest -- I'm sick of wearing my maternity clothes!

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That's me, above, before and after the Whole30 I completed in September 2013. I tried again in January 2014, but I had just gotten pregnant and it was hard for me to stomach anything other than crackers and soda, so I didn't finish. Then, during my pregnancy, I totally gave in to my cravings -- Nutella, pizza, ice cream, jalapeƱo cheese taquitos from 7-Eleven, you name it.

It was fun and carefree, and I don't regret it. Every gal should have a 9-month stretch where she gets to stuff her face and not worry about gaining weight. But now, it's time to lose it.

I know that weight isn't everything. It's not the only indicator of health, but it's one of them and something I take into consideration, along with body fat percentage and pant size. I lost 20 pounds over the course of 2013, then gained 60 during my pregnancy. Since having my son I've lost a little more than half that, without working out or watching what I eat, unless you count walks around the block and trying not to drink too much beer. I love my body, but I need to SHOW it more love. You know?

I hope you'll join me this holiday season, starting Black Friday. If you do, feel free to use the hashtags #Whole30 and #Loud27! (And check out my post on tips for completing it successfully, at Equally Yolked.)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Lessons :: Do You Ever Think You're Not Good Enough?

I was at Target a couple weeks ago and, for some reason, got in line behind a woman buying way too much stuff with way too many coupons. (I even took a picture. See?) (By the way, significant situations always seem to happen at Target. Either I go there a lot, or it's just a magical place. Maybe both.)

Anyway, it was one of those things where I didn't know whether I should move or not. I was already behind her when I realized this was going to be a VERY long transaction. Have you experienced this dilemma? People were getting in line behind me, and then moving. I didn't know if I should move or not. If I moved, would it take even longer? I didn't know if I should risk it. I had already committed.

I didn't know what to do, so I just stood there. I stood there with my four items, and waited, looking like an idiot. Whatever, y'all were just jealous that I was trying some new eco-friendly baby wipes.

A lovely little woman who looked a little older than my mom came to stand behind me, and for some reason, she didn't move. She was only buying a few items, too, but she decided to stay.

Everything she was buying was Christmas-related, ornaments and stuff. I was like, whoa, you're on top of things. I'm really last-minute with that shit. And she told me she was going through a sad time in her life, and getting into the holiday spirit as soon as possible was really helping her. I complimented her green sweater, partly to help her feel better and partly because it really did bring out her eyes.

Finally, it was my turn. The cashier, a young guy who looked barely of age to buy a drink, started ringing up my toilet paper and laundry detergent and antibacterial hand foam and baby wipes. I told him he needed a raise for the 15 minute coupon-checking process he'd just completed.

The total ended up being a dollar more than I had. Embarrassed, I told him I was short and was about to ask him to remove the antibacterial foam (it's not like it's strong enough to fight off ebola anyway), when the nice lady behind me reached for her wallet and started pulling out cash. I quickly told her not to worry about it and before she could respond, the boy behind the counter took $2 off the transaction.

I thanked him profusely and we all wished each other a happy holiday.

I learned a lot from that night.

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I learned that there is still goodness in this world.

I learned that good things happen when you least expect them.

And I learned that being good at something doesn't necessarily get you anything.

I didn't get that $2 because I'm a good Target-shopper. Sure, I was patient and polite in that line, but I didn't get that discount as a reward. I didn't ask for it, and I didn't earn it. I got it because I was in the right place, at the right time, with the right people. And I wouldn't have gotten it if I had chosen a different store, on a different day, with a different cashier. It all happened as it was supposed to.

A measly $2 may not seem like a big deal, but let's say that $2 is your big dream.

Let's say it's the pregnancy you've been trying for, the promotion you've been working toward, the future husband you've been dreaming about, the business you've been saving up to start.

But being good at baby-making doesn't mean you're going to have a baby, and being good at your job doesn't mean you'll get the promotion. Being a good future wife won't make you meet your man, and being good at planning your business doesn't make your business successful.

This might sound negative, but it's actually an epiphany that's made me sigh with relief.

Because, you guys, the pressure's off.

After you've done all you can, you can let go. Because it's not just about putting in the time and having the talent. It's about what's meant to be. If it's meant to happen, it will. As Vanessa said at her blog, you're exactly where you need to be, even if you're not where you feel you "should" be. You don't have to worry about it, so just stop stressing. I believe in God, and I believe in meeting God halfway. I'm a control freak, so knowing that I don't have complete control is a huge weight off my shoulders.

You might not believe these things, loves, but I do. They keep me emotionally stable. They get me through life. Depending on myself and my own abilities is exhausting. And sometimes, I just get sick of it.

I get sick of putting pressure on myself to be good so that I'll receive good.

Good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. Karma isn't real. And that's GREAT, because it means that just because we're not perfect, doesn't mean we won't get what we want.

Do the best you can. That's all you can do, and that's enough.

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I had a few rough days last week, friends.

I usually feel most insecure when I'm most excited about a big project. You may or may not know that I'm working on something new for 2015 (and you can sign up to be notified when it launches). As soon as I started planning and preparing, my creative juices flowing like tequila -- one shot, two shot, three shot, four, the ideas slamming down, hitting paper, one after another -- The Voice creeped in.

And I ain't talking about the TV show, people.

The Voice is what I call the all-encompassing emotions of my mental illness. The anger, the hurt, the frustration, the confusion. The depression and anxiety I've battled on and off since fifth grade.

Sometimes I feel like a broken record, spinning round and round, writing and talking about the same old issues, and then I get better and worse and better again. Because these things aren't curable, though, thank God, they're manageable. I've learned what works for me and what doesn't. But even though I feel that, for the most part, I have The Voice muted, it tends to pop back on when I feel most confident. It tries to bring me down when I'm happiest. It tells me I don't deserve it.

It tells me I'm not good enough.

I know it's lying, but sometimes, it's hard to ignore.

And that's why I want to help women with their problems. Because I have them, too. I know how it feels. I know what it takes -- to survive, to thrive, to make it through each day without feeling like a failure.

Because you're not a failure, and I'm not either.

And whether or not we DESERVE it, we are ALLOWED to be happy.

We are allowed to love our lives and love ourselves.

We're allowed to get loud. Together.

*Photos found here and here.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Life :: Blog Tips / Stop Trying to Be Pinterest-Perfect

The site address to Pinterest might as well be the bomb dot com. In my eyes, it's a great resource. I love pinning recipes I'll never bake, crafts I'll never make, and hot black guys I'll never date. But in all seriousness, I snag a lot of pictures for my posts (with credit of course), and if I didn't have Pinterest I'd be stuck filtering through good ol' Google. So, if pinning is both fun and functional, what's the problem?

As much as I adore perfectly curated photos of home tours and holiday dishes, I also enjoy seeing the messy side of life. I've written before about bloggers that get real and shared tips for how you can do the same. I'm not the only one who yearns to read about true life scenarios and see what actually happens behind the scenes: Bonnie recently wrote about why she thinks Pinterest is ruining Halloween and, a year ago, Kate said that Pinterest gave her unrealistic wedding expectations.

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Here's the thing, friends: Pins are just pins. They don't tell the whole story. There was probably a lot of work that went into that one photo, but not everyone feels comfortable sharing those details (and, let's face it, we don't have time to read every back story). So we need to just enjoy Pinterest for what it is -- pretty pictures and inspiring ideas. There's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with "perfect" pictures and there's nothing wrong with the blurry, low-light, off-center, "bad" ones either.

What matters is what the photo means to you. Cameras were created to preserve memories. Some of my favorite pictures break all the "rules" of good photography, but because they captured me laughing with friends and family, or a meal I really enjoyed during a special time, or a vacation I was grateful for, they're beautiful to me. There's no shame in posting those photos. There's also no shame in taking the time to clean your house before shooting a home tour, or putting on makeup before an outfit pic. Do what you can with what you can. Do what you want to do and don't feel like you have to do what others are doing.

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Loudmouths, your photos and your blog and your life do not have to look like a Pinterest board. Love your life and blog your blog and pin those pins. They're different things and separate entities and you're allowed to enjoy all of them in a multitude of ways.

You're not perfect, but here's a secret: no one else is, either.

They just might not have the balls to admit it.

*Photos found here and here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Life :: Secrets to Getting a Head Start on Your New Year's Resolutions

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For the past couple days, I've been thinking about the future.

As mentioned over the weekend, I love listing goals, but sometimes I don't plan thoroughly for them. I agree with my friend Alysia who said that you shouldn't wait until the new year to make a resolution and you need to start where you are, but I also believe that there is usually some preparation involved. Of course, it depends on the goal itself, but in many cases you may need certain materials or supplies. You might need to budget appropriately or do some research before you dive in.

And that's what I'm going to talk about today.

First, I'm going to be totally transparent and share what I'm working on with you. Since releasing my first e-book in June, 7 Steps to Living Loudly, I've been craving more community here. I want to get to know you better, I want you to get to know me better, and I want you to get to know each other.

The book provided a slightly deeper connection, but words on a page (or screen) never compare with face-to-face conversation. Right now I'm hosting a gratitude challenge over on Instagram, and that's just a small taste (a drop, really) of what's to come. I mentioned a few new projects that I was brainstorming during my Indiegogo campaign, and one of them has become my main focus...

Starting in 2015, I will be hosting a yearly interactive program with YOU, my readers!

I've been really inspired lately by women like Molly Mahar (Elevate), Sally Hope (Wildheart), and Sarah Morgan (Badass Babes). They have found ways to have one-on-one interaction with their readers and cause powerful change in the lives of many women. I considered joining one of them myself, but noticed there were certain things I liked about each offering, and others that I wished I could change. I realized that I could do something similar, but in my own way; not better, just different. There's a quote that says "I'm not interested in competing with anyone... I hope we all make it!" That's how I feel, loves.

That's how I feel about blogging, too. If I'm reading blogs and I feel like something's missing, I go back to my own and add it to the blogosphere. But that doesn't mean I don't want other bloggers to be successful!

And speaking of success, let's get back to the point of this post. If you're still around, thank you. Just wanted to give a little background, because I'm going to share my process with you as it pertains to this big dream! Here are my 4 secret tips for starting your resolution successfully...

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1) Do your research. First things first, y'all. Over the past week I've listed all of the different components that I want to offer within the program. I've also listed the different ways that I want to advertise, market and promote it. I want to get new professional photos done and maybe even film a video, so I need to contact my pal Megan. I'm also going to be making some tweaks to my website and I want some new graphic design work done, so I'll need to e-mail Bobbi. I'm going to start sending out a newsletter, which is something most bloggers do but I've never tried, so I need to find out how to do that and which site is best to use. I have to figure out how much money these tasks will cost, and how to come up with that amount, which leads to my next step.

2) Set concrete numbers. Saying something like "eat better" or "work out more" never works for a resolution -- trust me, I've tried. A better goal would be something like "eat paleo five days a week" or "work out three times a week". For my situation, I can't just say "cultivate a Loudmouth community" or even "create an interactive program". I need to decide how many readers I want to accept into the program, how much it will cost per person, how often we'll have an online meetup, etc. Then I'll have to do even more research to see how the pricing compares to the industry standard, what I can afford to ask for and what others can afford to pay.

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3) Decide on deadlines. I want enrollment to start December 17, which is less than a month away. Yikes! Deadlines are definitely in order. I'll need to decide which date I want to have certain parts of my project done so that I don't get overwhelmed by it all at the end. Coming up with bite-sized to-dos is key here. I have to work on a small piece of my goal each day to create the whole pie. Living in the moment is hard for me, but if I get impatient and dwell on the end result too much and how far I still need to go, it'll be counterproductive and I'll get distracted.

4) Take breaks and reward yourself! Be sure to give yourself a night off and award yourself with little treats along the way. If you have a lot of work to do, it's easy to get so involved that you become burned out. Don't forget to have one big party before the year officially begins -- you'll deserve it!

*Photos found here, here and here.
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