Monday, May 21, 2012

take back the night

I am a survivor.

Gathering my books I glanced outside and cursed the blanket of night unfolding across the sky. Crap. I meant to leave the library hours ago. A shiver ran up my spine, but I shook it off, steadying myself.

I packed my sociology textbook and note cards into my bright red book bag and rubbed the nape of my neck, warding off fears. It was the same fear that I felt each time. The fear that came with night. People who say there are no such things as monsters or ghosts should count themselves lucky to have lived among them in blissful ignorance. Trust me. They are there. But they will not keep me from living.

I straightened, wrapped myself up in my resolve and set out into the night in search of my car which, after hours of studying on campus, would be an issue locating. I flipped open my cell and dialed my girlfriend while digging my keys out of my purse.

No answer. Footsteps sounded behind me and I paused, missing the voicemail beep.

“Oh..uh..hey, Mo. It’s me. I…uh, got caught up studying and lost track of time…and my car, evidently. Hit me back later, k?” I disconnected, but kept the phone in my hand and at the ready. Just in case. Glancing around, I noted another student a few yards back. Just looking for his car. Hope he has better luck than me. I steadied my breathing and looked around, standing at the edge of the lot.

The parking lot lights were fireflies in the night, sporadic and dim. One deep breath in, and I ventured out into the darkness. My breathing quickened with my steps, an involuntary reaction that evened out the nearer I got to each light. Pulse pounding, I paused. It was a lot to manage. Fear crept in with each car I passed, but no one jumped out from behind the cars; no hands snaked out from underneath one to grab at my ankles. Daylight was easier to handle.

I fumbled with my keys, ensuring I could unlock my car door at a moment’s notice. If I ever found it. I followed the path along the outer edge, hoping to find it in my normal area. I’d been in such a hurry this morning I didn’t pay much attention. Add that to the adrenaline coursing through my bloodstream and short of a magnetic pull or sudden premonition, I wasn’t hopeful to find it on the first try. I cursed and sped up, glancing around a bit more frantic. I’d be fine, I knew that. No one was lurking, waiting for me. I just needed the security of my car; the safety of being out of the danger zone.

* * *

Ironic to be so fearful of something as docile as night. Night has never done anything to me. But I, along with so many other women, have an increase in anxiety when out alone at night. It’s true, there are monsters and ghosts. Not the same as the monsters that grace the big screen. No these are human monsters. Just as the ghosts are not the dead in non-corporeal form. The ghosts that haunt the night, and sometimes day, are the ghosts of the past; the ghosts of the terror women have suffered at the hands of others.

The narrative above captures an intimate glance into my mind at 19, while leaving campus alone. While I have never been the victim of a random act of violence at night, enough women have been, that I carry the fear with me. That fear is compounded by my own experience with being a victim of sexual violence, and, while not random, still worms its way into my subconscious where I am forced to struggle against the fear.

I am not alone. Many women are assaulted not by a random perpetrator, but one close to them. 
Between 15 and 76 percent of women are targeted for physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime, according to the available country data. Most of this violence takes place within intimate relationships, with many women (ranging from 9 to 70 percent) reporting their husbands or partners as the perpetrator. from  

I am a survivor. I am standing up. I am speaking out.

Everyone deals with life in their own way. Needless to say, women dealing with rape follow their own path in terms of how they handle it. I have chosen to learn an aggressive, defensive martial art. I have taken back the night by turning my hands and feet into weapons, by training my mind to react to unwanted sexual attention. Saying “No” should be enough, but history proves it is not. I deal with my past by using it to fuel my present. I use it to ensure I’m never a complacent victim again.

I am a woman. I am a survivor.

Please take a moment to watch the video above. It is powerful, and its message is needed. Also, as always, feel free to leave a message. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

inspire my muse

Readers, writers, friends...I post today to ask your help. The roller coaster of emotions that is rewriting has me struggling. I think it's natural to believe I'll make it as an author, that I'll be published one day. I also think it's natural in the next breath to question my ability. Rewrites have me bouncing back and forth on these lines quite frequently. So, I'm looking to boost myself more firmly into the I-can-do-this camp.

I have referred to the works of authors who I respect and admire, who have become my heroes and mentors. I have looked back at my own work to encourage myself. I have visited author and editor blogs. I have looked for inspirational quotes on writing.

Some of the advice I go back and read?

I love this reminder. Sometimes I am too independent and I have to remind myself that it's okay to ask for help, to allow others to help me work through things. I have the same problem in life. On any given day you can find me carrying a diaper bag and my purse (think Mary Poppins size) with the 2 year old on my hip, attempting to hold the door open for the 6 year old and whoever is directly behind her. Why? Why not let them get the door for me? I have no answer other than I have had no one to rely on in so long that I have gotten used to doing it all alone. Unfortunately, this is not good for writing. I see the story unfold in movie scenes in my head, but that's not good enough. I need my reader to be able to form those scenes from my words. This is where it helps to have others read and help. 

Okay, so worrying is good. I should worry. I'm okay with worrying, I just want to worry productively.

Rachel...nail on the head. Someone help pull me out of stage 4? I think I skipped a couple stages and went straight for this one.

All of my attempts at motivating myself have helped in some way, but I wonder if you all can help as well. Any advice? Words of encouragement? Muses for sale?

Writers: What helps you when you get stuck or start questioning your ability? (That is, assuming I'm not an anomaly and that many of you also question).

Readers: What is it that you love about fiction? What determines a good book in your eye from a DNF (did not finish)? What's your favorite opening line?

Monday, March 26, 2012

"Done" and DONE

You sit down in front of your powered up computer staring at a blank Word document. All it takes is moving your fingers around the keyboard and tapping keys in some order, forming socially acceptable words, to be a “writer”, right? Well, what happens when you finally get passed that? When you’ve gotten past the blank page, typed the novel and gotten so far as to type the last period.

There. Done.

Done? Most definitely not done. Not yet. Just as I tell my students, you are not done until you’ve read it, reread it and had others read it. You are not done until you’ve gotten content feedback as well as grammatical feedback and used that feedback to improve it. I use a lot of sports analogies in my classes, which would probably be more effective if I had a better grasp on sports. I know in basketball and football, teams have pre-designed plays they use. These plays work; that's why they are used. However, if they stop working in a game, continuing to employ them would be setting your team and yourself up for failure. Same goes with writing. There are certain things, crutches, that everyone leans on in times of uncertainty. Speakers who are unsure or nervous, will often overuse "um" or "like" as verbal crutches to get from the previous thought to the next. In writing it could be one phrase that a character overuses or a description that goes on and on when really what is being described is so trivial, the reader doesn't need more than a cursory understanding of the setting.

The point? It's hard to find these things when you read through your own writing. Having someone else you trust, who is knowledgeable in what you're constructing, read through and give you advice, guidance and/or feedback...that is just priceless. 

I’ve done all this. I have written the novella. I reveled in the finality of being “done”. I have stared at the “finished” manuscript and stared and stared. I follow enough authors on Twitter, read enough interviews to realize that being “done” and being DONE were two completely different steps. I was also fairly certain there should be some chainsaw action and Elmer’s glue involved in rewriting. With that in mind, I bravely sent my MS off and bit my nails to the quick while respected friends read through in order to give me direction...

…and direction I got. Lots of it. This is me now. Staring at all the ways I could fix, could better my MS. I am beyond grateful to my friends and the insight they provided me. Without that insight, my MS would remain forever in the “done” stage. As of now, it’s in rewrites. I’ve run to Home Depot to purchase my chainsaw and borrowed my daughter’s Elmer’s glue. There might even be a Jason mask lying around here somewhere…for effect.

I’m ready. Or I will be, as soon as I choose a path.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

kyla says goodbye to book blogging

When I started this blog, I had been reading 3-4 books a week, killing my TBR pile. Unfortunately, life changes and career choices haven't afforded me the time and dedication it takes to really maintain a book blog. However, having this blog, being on twitter and maintaining relationships with my followers on both has given me priceless experiences that are helping me to move forward with my new path.

The blog will focus more on my writing and, possibly, some editing as I hope to do some freelance editing in the very near future. You have all been extremely supportive, and it is because of you that I have the balls (brass balls, like on Police Academy) to attempt this next stage.

So, bye bye Kyla Novelista, hello unbind with words. The blog will be in transition mode as I work out the kinks, but I hope not to disrupt much in the process.

Million thanks to all.

cultivating my inner woman

Girls like pink. Boys play with guns.

Says who? Not, me. Nope. I like black. I play with guns. Okay, well, play is a rather inappropriate term. More specifically, I shoot guns. Thanks to Femme Fatale Finishing School, I have let out my inner sex kitten as well as my inner Rambo.

Femme Fatale Finishing School provides opportunities for women to enjoy a multitude of activities, allowing them to cultivate various aspects of womanhood. If you’re not familiar, the phrase Femme Fatale is French, meaning “deadly woman”, a rather fitting term for one such as me, who felt just as comfortable twirling around a pole as I did pulling the trigger on a 9mm.
My first class with FFFS was pole dancing. Pole dancing is a beautiful art and something I've wanted to try for many years, but never really had the nerve to do. As a passionate student of Krav Maga, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't out of my element in a less…aggressive surrounding. Even going with FFFS, I admit to nerves, but knowing that there would be other ladies with me, ladies who were experiencing similar feelings, helped to ease my mind. I was able to relax in that environment, an intimate group of women, two instructors and eight poles. It was an hour of fun, giggles, and a priceless experience I plan to repeat. Carolyn Cull, of Studio Rogue, broke the fundamentals down in a fun way, bringing them to a basic level that wasn't too difficult to grapple with. Beyond that, she made me feel comfortable with the sexy side of myself, comfortable in my own body.

Fast forward a week later and you find me pulling in to the Black Wing Shooting Center with just as much excitement. I did not go because I plan to buy a gun and apply for a Conceal and Carry permit. I went because someone someday may attack me with a gun, and I want to know my way around them. Ignorance about guns could be extremely dangerous. Andy, our instructor, broke it down for us. We learned about the different parts and how they work, where the bullets go and how to load them. Then, it was time to step up take a shot…literally. It was exhilarating. There is no price tag I can place on feeling confident and comfortable around such a dangerous weapon. I don’t plan to stop there, though. If I ride a bike one time, I’ll eventually figure it out again, but if I want to ride with confidence, I have to practice. The same goes for shooting, and I intend on practicing.

One of the most enlightening parts of these two experiences, for me, was discovering that I can be confident and comfortable in such seemingly different situations. Krav Maga is a very aggressive and physical activity that I thrive on, so I was not surprised at how much I loved the shooting range. However, it was refreshing to find that my aggressive side is countered by a sexy little vixen.

Menacing with my finger on the trigger, 
seductive with it on the pole. 
How much more dangerous can a woman be?
Femme Fatale? Oh, most definitely.

be. that. girl.

Working with Jason Holt and Peg McCort, Femme Fatale Finishing School founders, was fantastic! They helped make the experience exciting and rewarding. They were there to cheer us on, pat us on the back and keep our confidence up. You can reach Femme Fatale Finishing School on Facebook or by email If you are interested in learning more, check out their upcoming events. You can be sure I'll be trying my hand at a few more classes myself! 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Struggling with Body Image: Part 5

Kasia P (from  

Marquita Pring (from
Whether they’re in denim, lingerie or nothing at all, these girls radiate sensuality.

Tara Lynn
People try to numb and dim their inner lights – try to not stand out and shine – out of fear of being different…and therefore disconnected.  Naturally curvaceous women starve themselves and obsessively work out to look like children.
Most of the women I know have body issues. Even the thin. Tall. Short. We don't see enough variety like we see in these pictures. How about height? Where are the models who are my height? Well, I googled and found some. Some very beautiful models. Who says you have to be tall to be gorgeous? Oh, right...that was my subconscious. These ladies disprove *that* misconception.
Jax 5'2"

Kat 5'2" from
There is such beauty in these pictures, in  these women. So much sensuality, so much beauty that radiates from these pictures. Why? What makes these women different from the average woman? The one who hates everything about herself? Who judges her reflection with ridicule? It's not size or height. What I see is:

Confidence. Acceptance. Love.

Each woman exudes these. Confidence in who she is. Acceptance of her body. Love for herself. It's not easy to accomplish this. The four previous posts have shown how body image issues are prevalent in most of us no matter our size, shape, height.

One of our biggest downfalls, in my opinion is lack of understanding of what is thought of as beautiful. We don't just tear each other down, we dress up to impress other women. Now this makes sense if you are romantically interested in women, obviously. However, if not...why on earth are you worried about what other women think of your clothing? Of your hair style? Your jeans?

On that the men care? Are we attempting to impress other women in an effort to impress men? I don't have the answers, unfortunately. However, I have chatted up a few men who graciously gave me some insight into their minds. These men do not speak for all men. There is no way they could. Every man has his opinions, likes, dislikes. There are most certainly men who feel all women should look like the models in magazines, to whom I would never be attractive. However, there are men who like short women...I most certainly qualify on that front. Some men love women with breast implants, the bigger the better, whiles others prefer natural breasts.

I am a firm believer that we cannot generalize people. No generalized statement I've ever read has been true for every single person, every single race, every single gender. Except, perhaps, that every one needs certain things to survive (water, food, oxygen...etc.). When we get into opinions, likes and dislikes...we are all entirely too different to bother with generalizing. So my point in sharing is not so that you'll take away from this post that all men think like these men. No. My point is that you see from a man's perspective, what he finds attractive in a woman. That you'll see the differences in the opinions. That you'll note the similarities. We often fight with spouses, significant others, friends because we assume. Well, I assumed that men wanted in a woman what I found attractive.

Oh, how wrong I was. And knowing that has helped me immensely. Some of the men are listed by name, others by Twitter handle, some preferred to remain anonymous. Chiming in are @herofankidd, @zombiegeekboy, Anonymous Guy 1 (44, Personal Fitness Trainer), Anonymous Guy 2 (39, Sr. Unix Engineer), Anonymous Guy 3 (40, Aggregate Industry), Jason Holt and Jeff Stalnaker (@jdstalnaked). A big thank you to all of these men for laying it out there for us!

Kyla: What is the first thing you notice about a woman? (Honest answers here, luvs. If it’s her breasts…please, don’t say eyes.) What is it about that, that really pulls you in?

@zombiegeekboy – Generally, I like very small breasts, but that is beside the point…Honestly I think it is an attitude. Looks yes, of course, but how confident is she? Does she look like she would rather talk politics, does she have a sexual nature about her, or is she just playful and flirty? Is she shy, does she look smart, and how does she move. These are things I look for, because they tell me what kind of person she is. Almost all the time, some basic aspect of her personality is wrapped up in how she carries herself.
 Anonymous Guy 1 (44, Personal Fitness Trainer) – First…If she is fit. I appreciate women who take care of themselves. Physically – 1…face & hair, 2…the butt, 3…breasts, 4…shoulders, back and arms. Fit women always have a sexiness to them. It shows they care about how they feel and look.
Anonymous Guy 2 (39, Sr. Unix Engineer) – The first thing I notice about a woman is her hair. I freely admit that I’m a sucker for women with beautiful long hair. The longer the better. Did I mention long hair?
 I’m not sure how to put this into words so be understanding on this point. To me, a woman’s hair is like someone’s kitchen in their home. You can tell a lot about a woman by how she wear her hair. Item’s such as if she’s feeling sexy, playful, pissed off and more are all right there. Add to this that I’m a very tactile person. I really enjoy the feel of a woman’s hair in my hands, on my chest, whatever.

Kyla: What do you see as the sexiest thing about women in general? Why?

Jason Holt – The come hither look. For all out bravado guys are still worried about rejection and being wanted. Nothing is as good as when the girl you are interested in, gives you the signals (not subtle) that says she is interested too. Forget all the games and fear and worries. Those bedroom eyes and come and get it look or just an interested smile that invites a hello.
Anonymous Guy 1 (44, Personal Fitness Trainer) – it’s really about how they carry themselves, the words they choose, the inflections. Also their image and confidence.
Anonymous Guy 2 (39, Sr. Unix Engineer) – Attitude and inner strength. I love mentally strong women who can stand on their own. I’m not sure if this is because my mother was/is that type of person, or if it’s a matter of just finding that aspect of a woman’s character simply irresistible, but a woman who can hold her own is worth the world to me.
Anonymous Guy 3 (40, Aggregate Industry) – I find her personality the sexiest thing about a woman….If a woman is outgoing and a bit flirty she will keep my attention.

Kyla: What do women complain about (in regards to their bodies) that you just don’t notice or care about?

Jeff Stalnaker (@jdstalnaked) – Makedup, dress. To me, women ALWAYS dress, not to impress men but to impress other women. My wife KNOWS that I prefer her in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt with little or no makeup on. That’s the REAL her. Jen didn’t come equipped with makeup. There is a natural beauty there that is HER and HER ALONE. Fell in love with Jen…not Sephora cover up. My focus is on her. It’s hard to explain to a girl, “you look beautiful” when they are lounging on the sofa in a pair of gym shorts and an old t-shirt. If you say that, the assumption is that you aren’t being sincere. ON THE CONTRARY. When she is content, relaxed, and happy she is also open. It’s easy. When a girls is “dressing to impress”…who ARE they trying to impress? Jen knows…it ain’t me. Mission accomplished. Did that several years ago.
@zombiegeekboy – Women always, always complain about being fat or about not being perfect. They are obsessed with it. And the absolute worst thing a woman can do is focus on what is negative about her body. Men aren’t pretty either, we have our problems. If they would just be comfortable and love what they have, they would make men love it too. No man hates any woman’s body. We are just programmed to love the female body. All we have to do is see you loving it too. Plus, despite what women tell each other, we really do love a woman who can talk shit right back to us. Not sound like a guy, but just show that she has a brain and isn’t afraid to use it. It’s all a game, play it.
Anonymous Guy 2 (39, Sr. Unix Engineer) – Women ALWAYS complain about their looks. This has been the case from time immemorial. This issue seems to have gotten worse in recent times. While an outside appearance is always one of the first things that people look at, and if I’m honest I have to throw myself into that group, it’s the inside that I focus on more. The least attractive looking woman in the work could be the most beautiful woman in the world if she cares about who she is inside. That is the ultimate sexiness right there.
Kyla: What do you see as the biggest obstacle to women having positive body images?

Jeff Stalnaker (@jdstalnaked) – Our over informed, critical, unrealistic mass media. Those people on the TV aren’t real. They are, most generally, idealized versions of what the powers that be BELIEVE we want to see. We are constantly bombarded by images of “perfection” that it’s actually inescapable. It’s fantasy. I don’t expect Jen to look like Kate Beckinsale any more than (I hope…) she doesn’t expect me to look like Daniel Craig. Just be you.
Jason Holt – Other women, you are all vicious towards each other and use it as a status weapon.
@herofankidd – The Media. With the plethora of anorexic models and role models it makes women too self conscious. A confident woman is a sexy woman.
Anonymous Guy 3 (40, Aggregate Industry) – I think woman are more concerned with trying to be something unreaslist for the way they are made. Take care of what you have and men will appreciate it. If he wants you to be something else, he’s a douche.

Kyla: Comment about anything you’d like to add that wasn’t covered. Or talk to our ladies about how you view them, how they should view themselves.

Jeff Stalnaker (@jdstalnaked) – Men don’t help here. I know it. We are pigs and love to look at pretty girls. (I know girls like to look at dudes too, btw) Women, for whatever reason, tend to take it to heart more than guys do. I catch myself looking at a girl in front of Jen or, WORSE…COMMENTING on a cute girl. I always walk away ashamed of that. I KNOW that, somewhere in the dark recesses of where Jen hides her insecurities, there is a little hurt. We as MEN, not boys, MEN, have to bear some responsibility to make certain that our girls feel like they are the most beautiful and important people in the world. Most often they are. We just have a really crappy way of showing it at times. There isn’t a starlet in Hollywood who I would trade for my Jen. I chose her. I love her quirks and idiosyncrasies, her slight perceived “imperfections”, her brains, confidence, natural beauty, and because she’s the best person I have ever known. (Yes, she is pretty damn hot too…) How could you not love that?
Jason Holt – Change the things you can and learn to be happy with the rest. Feeling fat? Workout and eat better. Feel like you are too tall/short? – tough, learn to love yourself and be comfortable in your own skin. If you are 6 foot tall, that isn’t something you can change. There is a 5 foot woman that would kill for your long legs while you are wishing you could shrink into her petit frame. Be you. If you do what you can about the things you can change then you will be amazing. There are people that like short, tall, busty, small chested, athletic, thin, curvy, blond, red head, brunette and everything else you can think of. There will always be guys that are not interested b/c of something beyond your control just like there will always be people that think you are their perfect type regardless of what you look like. You just have to be happy with you and find your match.
@herofankidd – I feel that body image is overrated for women, every guy has a different idea of what’s sexy. You shouldn’t worry, starve, and fixate over every little detail of your body because you are going to be perfect just the way you are in someone’s eyes. Just relax and be true to yourself, personality has a great effect on sexiness.
Anonymous Guy 2 (39, Sr. Unix Engineer) – I think I’ve covered my points in the previous questions. The only thing I’d add is that women, all women, are beautiful. No one can be perfect all of the time. Everyone has flaws. Women, like men, are only human. Be yourself, love yourself. Everything else will follow.
Anonymous Guy 3 (40, Aggregate Industry) – I’m not what society says is perfect, why would I expect women to be.

Thank you gentlemen! It's amazing to me that even the men pick up on how women pick each other apart. I hadn't really thought about that aspect, not until I started these posts. On, there's an article about women's body images, where women share their "body confidence" secrets.

95% of women said getting compliments from other women helps them like their shape.

That is amazing. 95%. Why we don't put as much emphasis on compliments from MEN, I do not know. But with a statistic like that, I have made a resolution to compliment more women. To make an attempt to stop "body snarking", even about my own body. Tearing my own body down only serves to hurt other women and myself.

In that same article, they suggest the following.  

When all else fails and you find yourself having a body-loathing moment, ask yourself this one simple question: What makes you feel good in your skin? Women who took our survey said:
  • “Good hair days!”
  • “A bra that fits, and sexy underwear.”
  • “A long, hot bubble bath.”
  • “Getting a massage.”
  • “Dancing, because it’s the one time when I confidently shake it all—the good, the bad and the ugly!”
  • “When my husband tells me he loves my little tummy.”
  • “Skinny-dipping!”
  • “A great pair of heels.”
  • “Kissing.”
  • “Knowing that every woman has something she doesn’t like about herself.”
  • “Compliments! Even ones I give myself.”
  • “Looking in the mirror and finding all of the positives—loving my body is loving myself.”
That’s a mantra we want every woman to say, repeat and, by the time we do this survey again, believe.
So take a moment to reflect. Do you compliment women? Do you snark about your body to other women or snark about their bodies. When's the last time you felt confident, comfortable in your own skin? Think about what was going on with you that made you feel that way. Maybe it was the look in your man's eyes. Maybe another woman, whose approval you seek. Maybe it was just that your damn hair did what it was supposed to do. 

These posts, while meant to be helpful to you, while meant to spread the word and make a difference for SOMEone, ended up helping me. I am not perfect. I am still trying to be the best me, physically, sure, but also inside. I have lost 25 pounds since April. Not dieting or running 6 miles every day. I am doing what I love. In doing Krav Maga, I have found a passion I didn't know I had. It has also given me confidence in who I am. And, as an added is helping to get me in shape. While I work on my body, by eating better (okay, I need to work harder on that one) and being active, I am also working on loving the me I am now. 

Thank you for stopping by my post. I'd love to hear from you. Comment to the men, comment to me, comment to other women, just know that your comment could help someone. A small comment can be a powerful tool. One little tweet started these blog posts. Less than 140 characters that touched some of my women followers and spurred me to create this 5 post series. I can't even find the tweet anymore, but I remember I was out shopping for new clothes and tweeted "I love my body". That's it. But the responses I got...blew me away. Women who were shocked. Women who were envious. This led me to start tweeting positive comments to other women.

Spread the word. Spread the message. How we view ourselves doesn't just affect other affects our children. As a mother of two young girls, I vow to work at viewing myself in a better light so that they won't grow up and loathe their bodies. Seeing what our parents obsess over or what our parents affects us. It affects them. And I am going to do my best to ensure they have a healthy body image.

Thank you.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Struggling with Body Image: Part 4

Dove "real" women campaign 
I have two guests for today's post. Two women who, when approached by the concept I was working with, felt compelled to provide more than what I had asked for. While I'd asked for just a picture and a line about what they loved about their bodies...they took it upon themselves to give me more. In honor of that, I'd like to turn this post over to the two of them. 

First up, is Jess. Welcome and thank you for helping me!

First off, I want to thank Kyla for including me in the discussion of such an important topic.  I think it is such a great idea and I just love her to pieces for thinking of it and putting this all together.  That being said I have struggled with confidence and body image since high school.  The strange thing is that I had loving and supportive parents at home who told me how beautiful I was only to hear me say, “yeah whatever” or “no, I’m not!”  At over 5’ 7" in high school, I was 130 lbs and thought I was fat.  If I could go back in time I would smack myself for ever thinking such a thing.  It was when I went to college and joined a sorority and made Taco Bell my favorite place to eat that I actually had an issue with weight.  I didn’t put on the freshman fifteen, I put on the freshman thirty five!!  So that, coupled with "choose what you want to do for the rest of your life", only made me really self-conscious and miserable.  My weight and body image was something I struggled with until I hit my thirties.  It’s as if some switch kicked-off and instead of looking in the mirror and thinking “ugh, I have a pooch and my thighs are too big and damn that beer I drank has left me with love handles”,  I started to think "I really like my smile and my dimples.  I have an awesome rack that women pay big bucks to have.  My eyes are an unusual shade of brown and I love that and man, those squats I’ve been doing have really started to define my quads."  Do I still have days where I look in the mirror and blow raspberries at myself, sure.  For the most part, I have taken on the attitude of “This is me!  If you don’t like it, don’t look!"

Thank you, Jess! It's nice to hear from someone who's come out on the other side of that dreadful tunnel of self-loathing.'s nice to know that other side exists at all. See, ladies? It's not a myth!

Next up is Isalys. Think women who are thin with a great rack don't have body image issues?? Pay attention. Isa?

As someone who has struggled with body image for most of my life, I encourage girls and women to find the self-confidence to combat the unrealistic standards set by society.  You get teased if you're fat, you get teased if you're skinny...well, I'm damn tired of it!
 I have always been skinny!  It's not something I work at.  It's purely genetic from my father's side of the family. Sometimes I feel lucky, but most of the time I don't.  I am constantly reminded "OMG, you're so tiny!"  Well, no shit!  I was mercilessly teased all through middle school and high school (my formative years).  Being told things like, "have you reached three-digit numbers yet?", "does it hurt to be so skinny?" and my favorite, "I'm going to call you A for Anorexic" has a way of scarring a young girl.  Even at nearly 32 years old, people still feel the need to comment on my weight as if I was some sort of circus freak!
 Since I was 12, I've been to doctors, had shots, done muscle-building exercises, even taken medications in an attempt to gain weight.  It has taken me a very long time to accept that this is who I am, whether society thinks it's great or not!
 When I was 19, I met the man that would become my husband.  He was charming & good looking.  I honestly didn't think I stood a chance in hell because I wasn't "pretty enough" to be with someone like him.  He surprised me by asking me out within a month of meeting.  We have now been together for 11 years and he is hands out, my best accessory!  It was with his help that I found the courage to "fix" the things about myself that bothered me most and finally start respecting myself.  It still stings when people make cruel comments about my weight and I suppose it always will but I finally found the strength to not let it cripple me like it used to.
To be honest, there are still a lot of things I would change if I could!  My booty could use a bit of stuffing, my thighs don't touch and I have noodles for arms.  I do love my cleavage, but I had outside help with that ;-) Seriously though, I've always loved my lips and my smile which I got from my mom.  Overall, I know I'm not perfect but I'm finally at peace with myself.  Even though, I have occasional bouts of frustration when I can't find jeans that fit right or everything on a rack is size: large.
 I think the key to finding happiness with your own body really is just accepting it for what it is and more importantly, respectingyourself by taking care of yourself.  Whether stick thin, voluptuous, or heavy we all need to eat right, do some sort of exercise, and dress appropriately for our body type.  (For ex: If you weigh 200+ lbs, please do not go to Walmart wearing a sports bra and Juicy sweats because you're just asking for
  I am woman, hear me roar!
And, adding a little more to the fire, Laurielu and Janice are my final women to add their pictures and blurbs.

 Body image is a difficult subject for many women to discuss about themselves. I know that it makes me uncomfortable. And I think the degree of discomfort comes from the idea that if you like something about yourself and are not afraid to admit it or show it off, you are conceited, bragging, arrogant, phony, narcissistic, etc. Plus, why is it easier to wax poetic about our shortcomings when it comes to how we feel about our bodies? I don't know. I am trying to overcome that, because being proud of your body is healthy and it does not mean you are conceited. I will take a deep breath and tell you that I like my smile, my neck, my breasts and my ass. There. That felt good. @

You ladies are wonderful! Thank you for taking the time to share with us, to share with me. You are inspirational to me. And, to continue with the theme we've had going...

I love my shoulder. No, not both of them. I love my right shoulder. My right shoulder bears my one and only (for the moment) tattoo, the Chinese characters for mother (top) and daughter (bottom). I got the tattoo to represent the bond between me and my daughters. It is always there. No matter how I feel about my body that day, I always feel like that shoulder is sexy. Not just because it's inked. But because of how significant it is to me. The deep-rooted significance of it is tattooed on my soul, the shoulder is just easier for people to see. ~Kyla
You women are gorgeous. Stare at yourself in the mirror and work at seeing the positive parts. In fact, there is a fantastic article at Our Bodies Ourselves by Sarai Walker that you can read about how to help you improve your body image. 

My favorite line from that article, by far: 
Kill your inner supermodel.  If you have an image of perfection in your head to which you’re constantly comparing yourself, get rid of it. You think your nose is too big? Compared to whose? You consider your stretch marks “flaws”? Where is it written that our bodies should be free of lines or marks or scars? Such bodies do not exist in real life.
If you would like to read more, please take a moment and hop over to the first three posts. The final segment, Part 5, will be posted Wednesday, January 11, 2012. Thank you to everyone who has read, commented and spread the word. 


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