The Way You Wear Your Hat, The Way You Sip Your Tea

Today is Valentine’s Day.

Yikes.

I feel like this is one holiday that people either really love or really hate: you are either beyond excited it’s Valentine’s Day, or you loathe its very arrival. Maybe that’s an exaggeration. But you know what I mean.

There are people who say they don’t care… but I have a feeling that in the deep recesses of their mind… even they care just a little bit.

Today, I think I want to talk to those people who HATE Valentine’s Day. I think. I’m not sure where this post is going to end up, but I know it will be worth reading.

Probably. :)

I used to identify with those Valentine’s Day haters… I felt like it was fake and commercialized and an excuse for those in love to rub that love in the face of those without love (what?).

But now… I have come to appreciate Valentine’s Day. Even love it. I love love, and Valentine’s Day, and all the mushy goodness that comes with it.

And let me clarify: I am most certainly single. I am not in love. I will not get flowers today, or chocolates, or go on a romantic candlelit dinner with my honey. No one is in love with me. And unless I am much mistaken, no one will profess their undying love to me with a courage that only comes with realizing today, this day made for love, may be the only day to do something so daring.

I won’t be getting any Valentine’s like this today:

I could be wallowing in self-pity over being single. I could be sad and think about all the things I could have today but won’t get because I am single. All of us single people could do that. So let’s have a wallowing party and be miserable and cry and throw chocolates at romance movies! That sounds like the best way to make ourselves unhappy I can think of!

Wait. No. Let’s NOT do that.

I think there are too many people who choose to make Valentine’s Day WAY more miserable than it needs to be. In fact, I think there are about a million reasons we should all LOVE Valentine’s Day. Allow me to share three of those with you now!

1. Memories

I have memories of people who have loved me. People who have bought me flowers, and taken care of me, and shared with me, and with whom I have had hours of fun and laughter. Boyfriends, guy friends, weird flirtatious acquaintances. And yes, I could be sad that at this very moment, right now, today… I probably won’t have a Valentine who does those things with me. BUT INSTEAD, I am cherishing those memories and realizing that someday I will make more memories like that.

2. Gratitude

Gratitude is good in all circumstances, and it definitely applies to Valentine’s Day. We should be grateful to be alive. Grateful we live in a country where we get to choose who to love (or who not to love). Grateful we have air in our lungs and a few blank sheets of paper… wait… I’ll get to Leo in a minute.

We should be grateful we know others who have love so we know it’s possible. We can be grateful we’ve experienced love and know what to look for again (or what not to look for). We can be grateful for the experiences we’ve had that teach us true love really is possible. Again… I’ll get to that in a second.

Gratitude, friends, is key to loving/enjoying/surviving (if you feel it’s that drastic) Valentine’s Day.

2. Hope

Hope is the most significant reason I love Valentine’s Day. And I think it’s the most important reason.

Sometimes, you see people who are so in love that it makes your heart hurt just looking at them. It makes you yearn for that kind of love and wonder if it’s possible. It makes you realize that you want to strive every single day to find, work your hardest for, and maintain the kind of love they have.

A few movie examples? Okay!

The Princess Bride. Good ol’ Wesley. How darling of him to come back from being pretend-dead, brave the Fire Swamp, and come back from being mostly-dead to be with Buttercup. Tender!

Titanic. You know me. I’m a sucker for this movie. I think I might watch it while I do my homework tonight… in any case, I chose THIS picture because they’re dancing (which is the way to my heart) and they are just so in LOVE in this movie. See this post for how much I love Titanic.

 The Notebook. More dancing. Love. ‘Nuff said I think.

I could think of about a million more movies that show how in love people can really be….. but I know what you’re thinking! These are all fake. Phony, contrived stories of things that can never exist. I have something for that, too! Let me share with you the people who make me believe whole-heartedly in Valentine’s Day. In its importance, in its possibility, in 100% real, honest-to-goodness-crazy-about-each-other love.

If you’ve ever been around these two, you know without a doubt in your heart that true love exists. That love is worth working towards, fighting for, protecting fiercely, and enjoying with all of you heart and soul. This is the kind of love that we all dream about.

They serve one another. They dream and consult and hope and dream some more with each other. They ask each other out on dates. They protect their family and their love from harmful forces that wish to destroy it. They take care of each other. They never call each other mean or hurtful names. They have been married for more than 20 years… and they are giddy in love with one another. Melody is crazy about Mr. Ross, and Mr. Ross is head over heels for Melody. Seriously guys…. it doesn’t get much better than this.

MY POINT:

Not all of us have a Mr. Ross. Not all of us have a Melody. Not yet, anyway. But I really hope you love YOURSELF enough to not wallow in today if you are single. I hope you love YOURSELF enough to know that you are worth loving, that you are never alone, and that you can choose to make today great if you want. I hope you love YOURSELF enough to believe in the kind and encouraging words others say to you… and if people don’t say them, believe the ones I am saying now.

YOU ARE LOVED SO MUCH MORE THAN YOU WILL EVER KNOW.

Or that Christopher Robinn said:

You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

I love you. I really, really do. And you deserve to have a very, very happy Valentine’s Day.

 

[And yes, I changed the name of the blog post. “Cupid’s Chokehold” was too negative! Ha ha…]

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My First REAL Photography Adventure & the Miracle of the “Liquify” Tool…

I somehow got it in my head that it would be a great idea to accept my best buddy Tiffany’s request to take her daughter’s two-year pictures… even though I’ve never done ANYTHING like that before!! I am soooo glad I did, it was a BLAST!

Isn’t she a BEAUTY? I love all these pictures, and chasing after her chasing geese trying to snap photos of her was such an exhausting burst of fun!

FlowerSomehow these fake flowers actually smelled good!

Abe Needs Food, Too!This is Abe, the teddy bear. We’re tight. He was Brock’s when he was six, and Emilee loved him…

PreciousLook at this!! Take LOTS of pictures and you find ones like this…. Oh, how I love this picture! This is my favorite one I took.

Kickin'Kicking leaves is the BEST…. I love the “Seventies” Photoshop action from Pioneer Woman

And now, here is the WONDERFUL MIRACLE that is the “Liquify” tool in Photoshop…

Yikes...

Before

See the car, and the cyclist? Not so great for a picture. I’m sure that guy on his bike is nice and everything…. I just didn’t want him in this picture!

Good Ol' Abe

After

Voila! A little crop, a LOT of “Liquify,” a pinch of “Stamp” and a dash of blur, what do you get? You get an adorable girl and a borrowed bear…. FREE OF CARS AND CYCLISTS!!

Isn’t Photoshop great? I think so.

Okay, more pictures:

Pink FlowerA different kind of fake-yet-mysteriously-scented flower… these ones I found in a fake bundle of wildflowers on the porch…

LeavesLeaves, leaves, leaves…

And how do you get a two year-old to do your bidding??

Weird candy: gummy insects.

GummyTwo year-olds are the best.

xoxo

Jeri Lynn

I AM BRAVE….

My new favorite phrase?

I AM BRAVE“I AM BRAVE.”

Because I am. I am brave. You are brave too, you just don’t know it yet.

I attended & took photos at the first-ever Brave Girls Club art retreat last week….. Let me start off by saying that week was the most magical, fantastic, wonderfully and spiritually incredible week of my entire life. Everything was so…. RIGHT and PERFECT and BEAUTIFUL that it’s very, very difficult to put into words. Every night I was there, I prayed to God, thanking Him over and over for how wonderful this all turned out, thanking Him over and over for putting me in this family… thanking Him over and over for making it so I was able to go… I feel so lucky to have gone, you have no idea…. I am crying a bit as I sit here typing this, thinking of how much I LOVE THESE PEOPLE, how much I learned about myself and how much more I want for myself and ESPECIALLY how much POWER choice has in our lives…. but I’ll get to that part later.

The whole experience is the dream come true of Melody Ross and Kathy Wilkins, sisters… positively phenomenal women. Melody is funky and artsy and soooo wonderful; Kathy is so incredibly genuine and sweet and sooooo wonderful too….

Brave Girls

Kathy and Melody

The website describes the Brave Girls Club as “Life-changing fun for women.” This could not have been a more apt description… Let’s start off with the FUN:

{The Food}

I start with the food, not because it was the best part of the retreat, but because I know it will make my fellow BRAVE GIRLS giggle a little. On the last night in the Brave Girl cabin, all the newly-brave girls sat in one giant circle and were asked to tell about their favorite part of Brave Girl Camp… a breakthrough they had, a new friendship, a project that made them especially introspective… and the first thing almost every tear-choked voice uttered was: “Well…. first of all, Kathy, the food was INCREDIBLE…”

In order to understand this, you simply had to be there. Pictures do these meals no justice…. Let me put it to you this way: I do not gain weight. I say this not to brag or make you jealous, but I just don’t. Or haven’t before, I should say. Before Brave Girl Camp, I weighed roughly 100 lbs. After Brave Girl Camp, after only four days of the best, most amazingly delicious gourmet food I’ve ever eaten, I weighed about 105.5 lbs. Yes, I gained five-and-a-half pounds in FOUR DAYS! And not even because the food was particularly fattening; it was so delicious you couldn’t stop yourself from going back for seconds…. or thirds…..

Breakfast BuffetNot a single detail was spared when Kathy and Mel spent HOURS and HOURS planning this retreat. This was the breakfast buffet…

Napkins & Plates…homespun napkins and gorgeous dinnerware…

Glass Charms…beautiful glass charms, complete with name tags and little Brave Girls Club charms…

Yogurt & Pine Nuts…yogurt and berries and pine nuts…

Green Beans…green beans and asparagus, grilled a la Chelsea and Christy (you’ll see them in a second)…

IMG_8478…candles lining the window sill, waiting to be placed on tables during dinner…

Dinner Lighting…one of the aforementioned candles, giving a warm and special feel to every dinner…

Creme Bruleè…we even did our own Creme Bruleè, with the loving instruction of Kathy…

Yes, the food was PHENOMENAL. I mean that. Think of the best food you’ve ever had in your life…. picture the savory sauce or the delicious dish….. now multiply that taste by a thousand and you will have a small fraction of how excellent the food was. Enough about the food, how about those involved in the retreat itself?!

{The People}

This retreat wasn’t a catered, hired-out business venture…. the women who planned and cooked and set this whole thing up are FAMILY…. the love and care and attention they put into everything was so real and so genuinely true; you could feel the love in the air, quite literally…These are some great, BRAVE women (and a couple boys, too) that I think EVERYBODY should know:

BentleyIs this not the most adorable face you’ve ever seen?! Look at her stick her tongue out at the camera! This is Bentley, Chelsea’s daughter, and the youngest BRAVE GIRL at the retreat.

ChristyHere’s Christy, and she’s just soooooo hilarious! I got to know her at BGC and I love her.

ChelseaChelsea! Bentley’s mama. Brave Girl. I swear, these ladies really are classy and beautiful….. I used her camera throughout the retreat when Mel’s died.

KallieOh, Kallie….. They couldn’t resist making faces every chance they got…

Kallie, Chelsea, and Christy are the three funniest ladies I’ve ever had a chance to know. They absolutely have their own brand of humor, and I LOVE THEM!!! Chelsea and Kallie came up to me after I had just cried to the entire Brave Girl camp, telling how much LOVE I’ve felt since this family has welcomed me in so warmly and readily… they hugged me and told me how much they loved me… they are all three so great. I am sooooo thankful to have them in my life…..

Kathy

A GREAT picture of Kathy, mother of Chelsea and Kallie & mama-in-law to Christy. I love when she tells a story, her face lights UP…. She’s telling us her “Fake It ’til You Make It” story. You tell yourself you can do something long enough, you WILL be able to do it. (You will, BRAVE GIRL!!!)

This picture is sooo HER. She is always so happy and peaceful and hard-working and positively hilarious… she is also equipped with the most beautiful voice I have ever heard. Ever. I have listened to her sing several times, and EVERY SINGLE TIME, I cry. I cry like…. like I am hearing some truth about myself that I’ve needed to hear for ages. I’ve said before that her voice cuts straight to my soul. I think that’s why I cry every time…. My heart and soul knows that Kathy is such a wonderful, fabulous, TRUE woman that I’m overcome with love and affection. I have known since I first met Kathy that I would love her.

JacksonLittle Jackson! Kallie’s son… one of only two boys at the retreat…. everybody LOOOOOVED the babies… what’s not to love??

M&MMel and her husband, Marq, the other “boy” at the retreat.

These two are the most incredible people I know. On the last night, when we were all crying and telling each other how much we’d learned about ourselves and what we wanted for ourselves and how much we loved each other, Marq spoke the most basic truth about himself and his wife, other than how madly in love they are… “We would rather be living in a van down by the river, poor, helping people, than working a nine-to-five job, rich.” …that is ABSOLUTELY how they are… they put their whole hearts and souls into everything they do, and you feel it. You FEEL it down to your toes that these two would do absolutely anything for the ones they love. I am currently sitting on the Ross’ computer, typing this blog. I am in their house that they have so willingly and easily welcomed me into… I love these two with my whole heart, and am forever thankful to God for putting them in my life at the exact and perfect time I needed them… I will never forget the day I met their son. I will never forget how much I love him, and how being with him has helped me start this new, BRAVE life I am in..

{My Projects}

Another fabulous part of this whole experience for me was the projects. This retreat was not, not, not about the art, at all. That’s not what Brave Girls Club is about…. we USE the projects to tell ourselves things we didn’t know how to say otherwise… things we may not have known needed to be said until we read all the little messages we had to work with… collage art is soooooo therapeutic and healing for a reasons unknown…. but it works… and the best part is that Mel stood in front of us and explained ONE WAY to do the project…. and everyone’s turned out SO DIFFERENT AND UNIQUE TO THEM!!! I love it.

BecomingDear Jeri Lynn, You are becoming who you were always meant to become, dear girl. If there are parts of you that are afraid…hug that fear, kiss it, tell it thank you and that it can be on its way now….you don’t need it anymore.

“Tin of Truths” was the first project we did…. we were asked to think about the person who knows us the most, who loves us and loves us and loves us some more no matter what has happened, no matter what we’ve done… they know us better than we know ourselves. For me, this “person” was a little bit of God and a little bit of my heart, telling me things I didn’t even KNOW I needed to hear until I read the messages…. Mel wrote hundreds and hundreds of tiny little messages that she imagined her “person” telling her. The first time I read these messages I got tears in my eyes, thinking about how much I needed to hear them all… “Your wings are unfolding, can you feel it?” “You are so much braver than you think you are… you are so much more beautiful than you think you are…” “You don’t have to settle for things that make you feel small and powerless… you always have a choice.” “Be brave.”

Free BirdieJust look at my birdie. That birdie is me. That birdie is a BRAVE GIRL. Really, that’s what a Brave Girl does….. she kisses her fear, tells it thank you for making her realize what she had to do despite how hard and terrifying it would be, and she BREAKS FREE of the nasty, wretched, painful wire tether that FEAR had on her……

I PromiseI promise

This was such a great exercise… we each made promises to ourselves in this gorgeous butterfly album… promises to continue the thinking we’d entertained during Brave Girl Camp, promises to “choose the people who bring out the best in me”…. promises to “stop and think about what I really really really love”…

BoundariesI promise I will create boundaries to protect and respect myself.

This one is so special to me…. boundaries are SO important when it comes to our hearts…. people don’t even know they shouldn’t necessarily let just anybody into their heart… I certainly didn’t until I learned it from Mel….. I promised myself to make VERY CAREFUL CHOICES about who gets in my “driveway,” and my “front gate,” and my “yard,” and my “porch”…..


If you would have told me a year-and-a-half ago that I would feel the way I do today, I would have called you a liar….. I was so sad, thinking I just had this crappy life and no choices and I had to live in that life no matter what. I made bad choices and told myself things that were such terrible lies… this past year with this beautiful family and now Brave Girls Club had taught me so, so much…. You always have a choice. LET ME SAY THAT AGAIN: you always always have a choice. Terrible, terrible things happen, I know…. but you can let those things cripple you and break you apart and kill your hope…. or you can make the CHOICE to LEARN from the terrible pain you feel…. learn from the horrible things that are happening… maybe those things are happening to you so that, someday, when you meet someone who is so broken and sad and alone, you can help them. You can teach them what you know, teach THEM how to make the choice to overcome the things holding them back….. teach them how to BE BRAVE.

www.bravegirlsclub.com

Life-changing fun for women. This could not have been a more apt description… I promise, the fun here WILL change your life.

STAY BRAVE, SISTERS.

xoxo

Jeri Lynn

P.S.- Here are some extra pictures that I thought were great!

TuckThis is Tucker, Chelsea and Kallie’s brother, Christy’s husband. He’s real funny….. as you can tell by this picture….. He came up for the tear down of BGC.

Chels & BentleyI love the lighting in this picture! Beauties.

Flowers“Uh, the flowers are on fire.” The poor little vase got fake flowers melted to it…. all was well, though, Marq saved the day!

LadiesMaria, Gail, Mel and Tamara. Great ladies…

JeanneJeanne! She was laughing the whole time we were at camp… I love her.

LightsInside the art tent….. there were lights EVERYWHERE!!!

WAOW!Like I said, every chance they got….

BGCAll the bags our supplies were in had this cute little Brave Girls symbol stamped to it…

GrillinYeah, these girls grill.

Myrna Jean's BirdieThis bird is the creation of Myrna Jean, mother of Kathy and Mel. She didn’t like it so she stuck it out on the electrical transformer (I didn’t even know what that was… Marq just told me). To ME, though, this picture says she set her birdie FREE and let it fly around camp. Doesn’t it look like it’s flying?!??

I MEAN IT–STAY BRAVE, SISTERS.

LOVE ALWAYS,

JL