MAYD to Birth: At Your Doorstep

Promoting gentle, empowering mother journies…

I Reject You, Higher Standards

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Today I read a really interesting post by a blogger with spina bifida regarding what she shares or doesn’t share on Facebook. She said people often tell her they wish they had her life because of what she shares on Facebook, but there is so much she doesn’t share about her disease. She writes:

Because, God forbid I should choose the joyful family Christmas dinner in Puerto Rico as the venue for disclosing how I’ve totally slacked off on my neurosurgery stuff and am now desperate to schedule a follow-up with my neuro to find out the results of my MRI, which I had done before the holidays.

That got me to thinking about what I share, but more importantly, what I see other people sharing. This morning I got onto Facebook to check notifications. I almost never read my feed, because I feel like if I respond to one person’s post that doesn’t specifically name-check me then someone else might think I should respond to theirs. Of course, this is extremely self-centered of me to think people will care what I do or don’t “like,” but I don’t think I would know when to stop. I don’t *want* to spend hours on Facebook every day, and I don’t want to worry about whether or not someone liked my profile picture change or what have you. In that way, Facebook is too transparent for me. I don’t know who reads my blog from day to day, and I really prefer it that way. I don’t want to wonder if I offended you or you’ve just been trapped under three feet of snow trying to get through the day for the last week.

Today, though, I read my feed for about five minutes and immediately was happy and sad for people (some of whom I barely know) and felt like I should say all the right things and click the appropriate emotion buttons and I got totally overwhelmed and just shut down the tab, pretending like I’d never opened it.

Pinterest cake

Credit Image: Shards of Blue on Flickr

We share so much information now, and it’s overwhelming to me. I’ve been thinking about why for several years now, and it’s finally occurred to me it’s because I get the news when I don’t have time to process it. If I go to lunch with a friend and she tells me her dog died or she’s been diagnosed with cancer or she’s just in a slump, I’m already there, focused on her, with time set aside already in my schedule to talk. When I hear news, good or bad, I really want to respond immediately. I’m an extrovert and I really love being with other people. So when there is so much in the feed that there is no way on earth I’ll ever be able to keep up, it actually makes my stomach hurt. Thus I avoid Facebook, only checking in every day or every other day to see if there’s anything specifically directed at me, because I also have a fear of ignoring someone without giving them a reason why. Even then I find I’ve ignored invites to events or what have you because Facebook is the only place they were announced.

But that’s not all of it. Not really.

I was immediately relieved when I closed the tab, because I noticed that in the five minutes I’d been reading, not only did I feel sad and happy, I felt jealous of some of the announcements and photos I saw, even though I know damn well we all edit the selves we present in social media and because of it, the standards for what our houses should look like or the presentation of our home-cooked dinners or the outfit we wear to Target go up and up and up. The standards I once thought applied only to the landed gentry suddenly feel like they’re applying to me sitting here in my home office in suburban Kansas City with plans only to buy my daughter a new pair of tennies and maybe hit a family-friendly pizza place on the way home tonight. I used to feel really proud of myself for baking anything and this morning I felt guilty for making my daughter a Valentine’s Day breakfast of chocolate chip muffins because it was a mix and I didn’t put them on a cute plate and the muffin liner thingies had Christmas trees on them.

My fucking muffin liners aren’t even good enough.

I blame Facebook and Pinterest. I really do. The television was always there. The catalogs were always there. The magazines, same thing. I didn’t know if my friends were watching or reading those things, and if they dressed better than I do or cooked beautiful meals, I chalked it up to personal taste or income levels or interest differences. Now because I see everybody doing those things, I feel like it’s the new norm.

Are seasonal wreaths really the new norm? Why does everyone have such cute boots? When did I get left behind?

Is it okay I don’t care about a lot of those things? I mean, I care a little, but well, I still go to the grocery store in yoga pants and a hat All.The.Time. My cooking has improved dramatically since we started eating in as much as possible, but I’m really proud of myself just for using fresh vegetables instead of canned or frozen or God forbid insta-mealed. It doesn’t have to look pretty, too.

I reject you, higher standards! I want to feel good about my not-matching wood and my non-mermaid hair. I want to feel like what I surround myself with can be just functional sometimes and doesn’t have to also be gorgeous and flawlessly maintained. I have no servants who live downstairs, and I’m TIRED.

I want to be good enough.

Rita Arens is the author of the young adult novel The Obvious Game & the deputy editor of BlogHer.com. Find more at www.ritaarens.com.

New Facebook Gender Settings and How to Change Yours

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Your body. Your definition. Now on Facebook.

Facebook added the ability to set your gender outside the binary male/female choices just in time for Valentine’s Day. Now you can define yourself with a choice more reflective of who you really are if the binary choices don’t cover it.

Facebook on phone, Image Credit: Shutterstock

Here’s How to Update Your Gender Settings

1. Choose Edit Profile. If you’re on the page with your News Feed, it’s under your name at the upper left.

choose edit profile

2. Scroll down to the Basic Information Section and click Edit.

Edit Basic Information

3. You’ll see a gender option. Use the pull down menu to select “Custom.”

Select Custom

4. Start typing in the input field. After you type the first letter, Facebook populates the list with options based on your first letter. I typed a “c” thinking that I would like to identify as “crone.”

The "C" options

As you can see, crone isn’t an option. I tried typing it in and saving, but got an error message. It will only let you choose one of the options offered. (There are about 65 choices in all.)

I typed a “f” in the box. Here are the options offered. As you can see, choices included options with “f” in many places, not just as the first letter.

the "f" options

5. Pick a pronoun. If you choose a custom gender definition, you have a chance to choose your pronoun.

Choose a pronoun

The pronoun choices are limited and don’t offer some common choices that people who don’t fit the binary prefer. Maybe Facebook will add to the pronoun options later. They need to do that.

6. Save

Virginia DeBolt from Web Teacher and First 50 Words and Old Ain’t Dead.

Is Wanting To Be Beautiful Vain?

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Audrey Hepburn said, “I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls.” I truly believe this. Beauty that is skin deep isn’t true beauty at all. When we decide to work on ourselves, to smile more often, to embrace self-love and to treat our bodies with respect, we begin to glow.

is beauty vain

Beauty Comes from Within, but it Doesn’t Have to Stay There

We’ve all heard this statement before. That beauty comes from within.

Audrey Hepburn said, “I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls.”

I truly believe this. Beauty that is skin deep isn’t true beauty at all. When we decide to work on ourselves, to smile more often, to embrace self-love and to treat our bodies with respect, we begin to glow.

Eat whole, natural foods. Get a good sweat in often. Laugh just because. Be silly. Make a list of the things you love about yourself. Do something because it makes you feel good. Tell someone “I love you.” And don’t be shy to reach out for help. We can’t always change on our own.

These are the things that make a woman truly beautiful. But, beauty doesn’t have to stay there.

I am the first person to tell you this. While one of my main priorities is self-growth and self-love, I’m as girly as they come.

I love playing with makeup, curling my hair and picking out a beautiful new outfit with the perfect pair of shoes to go with it.

I don’t call this vain. I call this an act of love.

Think of how you feel when you spend the day lounging around after throwing on an old pair of sweats, slopping your greasy hair into a bun and not bothering with any makeup. Maybe you’re more likely to reach for that junk food, as well.

Now, think of how you feel when you start the day with a hot shower. You massage yourself with your favorite scented lotion. You spend time blowing out your hair and putting on makeup to highlight your best features. Then you go into your closet and pick an outfit that makes you feel fabulous.

Chances are, it’s going to be a great day.

See, beauty comes from within, but it doesn’t have to stay there. As women, our body is a temple and femininity is an asset. We show appreciation by treating them that way. When we don’t take care of ourselves or take the time to feel beautiful we dampen our inner glow.

So I urge to you to donate or give away any clothes that you don’t make you feel great. Even if you want to lose weight, it’s important that you have outfits now that make you feel good.

When you treat your body with respect and show her that she’s worth spending time on, you’ll naturally care more about feeding yourself nourishing foods, feeling confident and having fun.

With love and beauty,

Alexis Signature

Want to embrace beauty and self-love?

Check out our Crazy Wild Love Signature course.

How (Not) to Change a Diaper

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It’s not hard to freshen up a baby’s undercrackers, right? The procedure is pretty basic:

  • Lie down
  • Rip, rip
  • Unfold
  • Gag
  • Wipe
  • Lift
  • Lower
  • Fold
  • Stick, stick

You can then stand back and admire your handiwork safe in the knowledge that there will be no poo-splosion on your watch.

Fast forward eight months and the picture isn’t so rosy.

How (Not) to Change a Diaper
Oh it is OHN!

Maybe it’s just my children — although the popularity of tie down change tables in public toilets tells me otherwise — but my babies don’t just lie still for nappy changes.

My babies delight in turning nappy changes into a bizarre ritualistic game, the rules of which remain a complete mystery:

  • Lie baby down.
  • Watch baby flip over.
  • Turn baby onto back again and pin with one hand.
  • Remove old nappy with one hand.
  • Ignore the slightly squishy feeling on the end of finger.
  • Reach for wipe with one hand, realize you forgot to take one out of the packet.
  • Try and pry a single wipe from packet with one hand using a flapping motion.
  • Give up when wipe decides to bring some friends for the ride.
  • Calculate that you can remove hand from wriggling baby, grab wipe with both hands and get back to baby before they flip over and crawl away.
  • Realize you have miscalculated as you watch the baby crawl away before the wipe is out of the packet.
  • Recapture baby.
  • Bribe four year old to come and wave a toy over the baby’s head as a distraction.
  • Remonstrate with son for lack of enthusiasm.
  • Grab baby as son wanders off to play.
  • Decide to try pinning baby with one leg in a strange sideways changing formation.
  • Give that up as a bad job as it doesn’t stop the baby flipping over.
  • Call two-year-old and give them permission to blow raspberries at will.
  • Sit back and smile at semi naked baby laughing hysterically at her big sister.
  • Sneak nappy under baby’s butt mid-raspberry.
  • Untangle baby’s fingers from screaming two-year-old’s hair.
  • Contemplate giving up on nappies and starting Elimination Communication.
  • Call husband over for help while pinning baby down by all four limbs.
  • Assume superior expression as husband takes over.
  • Watch as baby lies still, coos, and allows husband to change nappy without so much as a toe wiggle.
  • Call baby uncharitable name and try not to smile at the gummy grin.

This is not parenting, this is a full contact sport and I’m taking a kicking.

​ 

Mum, activist and parenting junkie. Passionate about empowering women and living a good life with my family. http://www.maybediaries.com/

Last-Minute Chocolate-Dipping Tips: Fruit, Nuts, Bacon and More!

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Chocolate Dipping Tips Here are some Chocolate-Dipping Tips (and a quick recipe) so you can create enchantment…

What to Dip

Fresh Fruit

  • Make sure it’s very fresh and ripe. Even the pricest chocolate can’t disguise the bitter taste of an unripe, midwinter strawberry.
  • Take the fruit from the fridge about 10 minutes before dipping in order to take the chill off and prevent the chocolate coating from cracking.
  • The fruit needs to be absolutely dry and free of moisture before dipping.

Nuts

  • Whole or halved nuts work best, but sliced or chopped nuts are great too. Put them in small clumps on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and spoon on the melted chocolate.
  • If you’re buying a large bag of nuts from a big-box store, taste them as soon as you’ve purchased them. If they taste stale, take them back!

Other Dip-ables

  • Pretzels, potato chips and other salty junk food can bring a delicious balance to the sweetness of the chocolate. If you’re buying these in a super-sized quantity, make sure they are fresh!
  • Bacon! Thick-cut bacon works best. Fry it until very crispy. Cool completely before dipping.
  • Marshmallows and cookies.
  • Dried fruit. Apricots, pineapple and apples are addictive.
  • Zucchini. I’m not kidding. Slice fresh zucchini sticks and dip them in powdered sugar… then into chocolate. Amazing.

Chocolate-Dipping Tips

  • Water or moisture in your chocolate will cause it to “seize.” This means it will get hard, crumbly and grainy.
  • Chocolate that gets too hot will also seize. That’s why you need to melt chocolate slowly and at the lowest possible heat until smooth.
  • If chocolate seizes, blend in 1 tablespoon shortening for every 4 ounces of chocolate and stir constantly until the chocolate is smooth again.
  • Chocolate bars and squares are best for melting. They put additives in chocolate chips so the chips will keep their shape. You want the best and purest chocolate you can afford with only these ingredients: cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin (an emulsifier) and vanilla.
  • Chocolate should be warm (not hot!) and have a thin consistency so it gently coats what you’re dipping. If it’s too cool it will be thick and ugly.
  • Use a potato masher to dip fruit, pretzels or cookies in hot melted chocolate. 
  • Don’t waste the last bit of chocolate in the pan! Spoon the remaining chocolate into a plastic resealable bag and seal. Snip off a tiny piece from the bottom corner and drizzle it over anything still left to dip!
  • Cool your dipped items on a tray lined with parchment paper.
  • After coating the goodies, tightly wrap the chocolate and store it in a cool, dry place. You can also refrigerate for up to 2-days.

Decadently Delicious Chocolate Dippers

prep: 10 minutes
cook: 10 minutes

you’ll need…

2 cups (16 ounces) chopped chocolate (semi-sweet, milk or dark)
fresh and dried fruit, candy, cookies, pretzels or nuts

On top of the stove
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Place the chocolate into a heatproof glass or metal medium-size mixing bowl.
Fill a medium saucepan half full with water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat.
Place the bowl of chocolate over the water to melt.
 Stir until completely melted and smooth.
Remove the bowl from the saucepan and place on a cutting board or trivet.
 Dip the fruit, candy, cookies, pretzels or nuts into the chocolate and place on the lined sheet pan. Refrigerate for 15 minutes or until set.

In the microwave
Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe container.
Heat on medium power (50%) for 1-minute. Stir chocolate.
Continue heating on medium power (50%) for 1-minute intervals, stirring afterwards each time.
Repeat as directed until completely melted and smooth.
 Dip the fruit, candy, cookies, pretzels or nuts into the chocolate. Place on the sheet pan. Refrigerate for 15 minutes or until set.

Cooking know-how: 
Make sure your bowl is completely free of moisture before beginning… and don’t let water as it boils get in the melting chocolate.

more great recipes, kitchen gadgets and ideas at: http://www.mamashighstrung.com

mama@mamashighstrung.com
http://www.mamashighstrung.com
 

Existing in a World My Dad Doesn’t

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Fourteen years ago today my daddy died. The years go by but the story remains the same.

dad 001

He was admitted into the hospital on a Monday early evening, diagnosed and he died seven days later of end-stage liver disease. No one knew he was sick. An alcoholic, yes. On his death bed, no. I was twenty-four years old when I held his hand as he took his last breath and died.

It all happened so fast.

daisy

Credit Image: orangeaurochs on Flickr

The admitting doctor was flabbergasted by our decision not to bring him in sooner. How could we not notice the long list of warning signs that oh, by the way mimic those of a drunk man?

Was it my fault? Should I have seen the signs earlier? If we did something sooner, could we have saved his life? The answers to these questions didn’t matter. We were faced with the situation at hand.

As the oldest child, I had already been forced by default to give up my childhood to help raise my brothers and sisters after my mom up and left. And now, by default again, I was forced to make all medical decisions for my daddy.

The doctors didn’t think he would make it through the night. He remained in the hospital for seven days. Doctors, nurses, social workers (my baby brother was still a minor), hospice care workers and family members all had questions and needed answers, from me.

I wasn’t allowed to process the gravity of the situation. He died, and I wasn’t given time to mourn. There were more decisions that needed to be made.

I had to figure out which funeral home to use, reserve the church to hold the funeral, pick out a burial spot, decide not only on a tombstone but what to write on it.

I had to provide the church with reading selections and songs. I had to select a prayer and picture for the little pamphlet thing.

I had to chose pallbearers and arrange transportation to the church, the burial site and back home.

I was in charge of putting pen to paper and writing an obituary for a man I refused to believe was really dead.

I had to chose the casket and buy the outfit my daddy would be buried in.

Oh the angst of realizing inside a Dillard’s that it didn’t matter if the bottom of his pants weren’t hemmed because no one would be viewing the lower half of his body.

psalms grief

Every year around this time, my range of emotions are in constant conflict with each other. I am left sad and confused.

I want to remember him for being the amazing daddy of my memories. The one who raised five children as a single dad.

The one who handed down his passion for the game. The one who gave all of his amazing wisdom in the form of sports analogies.

The one who instilled in us the importance of discipline, hard-work and respect.

The one who was unashamed to bust a move on the dance floor and play the drums like a rock star on the steering wheel of his car.

The one I credit with for  all the good I have inside in me.

The one who I desperately wish my kids could meet and have in their lives.

Instead every year on the anniversary of his death I am filled with rage. I am so damn mad at the man who drank his life away. The one who was consumed with addiction.

The man who embodied the definition of functional alcoholic, excelling at a well paying job for more than twenty-five years but drinking until he was drunk Every. Single. Day.

People often ignorantly say it gets better with time. They are wrong. It has been fourteen years since my daddy died, and I miss him more today than ever before.

I think this scene from Grey’s Anatomy titled the Dead Dads Club says it best.

Like George, I don’t know how to exist in a world where my dad doesn’t. Lucky for me, I don’t have to. When the anger subsides I am left with the truth. My daddy lives through me.

So on this day I will embrace the anger, the rage and the sadness but I will praise God for his legacy.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  {Jeremiah 29:11}

*It On Took 38 Years {On feeling worthy of  being celebrated}

*12 Years Ago Today [On the void left after his death}

*13 Years Later {On keeping his legacy alive}

 **********

For a behind the scenes glimpse into our everyday life outside of the blog you can follow me on PinterestFacebook, Twitter and Instagram.   

Is it Really Possible to Love Your Children the Same?

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I have a unique bond with my middle child and yesterday (chronicled in “My Dance with my Sugarplum”) made me really think about it. I’ve always thought that the closeness we have and the love I have for her that is different from the love I have for my other children developed over time as we struggled through her infancy (more about that in “The Scream Heard Around the Neighborhood.”) But I realized yesterday that it’s always been there, before the screaming, before the fits, before the worry, before it all.

It started the moment I first saw her. I vividly remember scooping her out of the water after she was born and pulling her to my chest, saying, “my baby, my baby! I love, love, love, love, love you!” And I did. And I have.

Is it Really Possible to Love Your Children the Same?

It’s not that I love her more than Honeybun and Doodle, because I don’t. It’s that I love her differently. I truly love each of my children equally but in their own, special way yet there is something unexplainable with Sugarplum. Perhaps it truly did start in those first moments, when maybe we were both taken by surprise by her unexpectedly speedy arrival (which I liken to her shooting out of me like a cannon).

I think it is natural for people (that includes mommies) to have favorites. As a teacher I’ve always maintained that is was fine to have favorites so long as I treat everyone the same. And I’m not saying I have a favorite child, and I’m definitely not saying it’s Sugarplum, because honestly, a lot of the time she pushes me to the edge (like yesterday). It may not be more than my other two, but it is definitely more intense.

She pushes me to a point of exhaustion, frustration, and even questioning everything I believe in as a mommy. With the other two, I’m confident. I can hold my own, I can justify, explain, and believe in my choices but with Sugarplum I often feel helpless, useless and completely inadequate.

It’s no secret that every child is different, but Sugarplum is like no child I’ve ever known or experienced before.

Outstanding Entertainment Choices for an UNromantic Weekend

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Romance, schmomance. We don’t need to watch rom-coms or love stories today just because the first three aisles of the drug store have been aggressively pink and red since December 26th.

 Bey Bey can have her Drunk in Love and keep it to herself and what’s-his-if-I-do-say-so-myself-name. There are a million reasons to hate Valentine’s Day, or to not care about Valentine’s Day, or just to hold it in distant disregard, and the world has our entertainment needs covered today, too. 

True Detectives HBO
True Detectives Image: HBO

1. Power + Intrigue

Netflix is your one true love. By releasing the entire Season 2 of House of Cards they are ensuring that you have 13 hours of superb television to binge on this weekend. Fierce, spiteful, in-charge hours with Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright at their absolute finest. 

If you haven’t seen Season 1 yet, fix that, and don’t go to this link offering a quick recap of the first season. Seriously, do not skip ahead. It’s that good. 

2.  Crime + Mystery

As part of the record-breaking Kickstarter campaign that is bringing the Veronica Mars movie on March 14th, Amazon Prime is streaming all three seasons of the television show.   Whether you are new to the Marshmellow fandom (get ready to get obsessed) or want to relive the awesomeness that is Kristen Bell in one of the best-written, snarkiest hero’s journeys to appear on television, you have a month to watch three seasons and to score advance tickets to the movie. 

3. Drama

January and February fortunately brought a blizzard of great DVD releases, including some absolute must-sees from last year: Fruitvale Station, The Butler, Dallas Buyer’s Club.

Those are all sure things, and you’ll want to see them before you place your Academy Awards bets.  Up for taking a chance? The Counselor is out, which people either tend to love (I think I did) or absolutely loathe. In other words, perfect for an anti-Valentine’s Day celebration.

4. Television Catch-Up

Use the weekend to catch-up on some of the outstanding television the winter season is offering.

True Detective on HBO is my new obsession, and the slow creak up the rollercoaster of the first few episodes is, according to the author, about to send us on a freefall. The last few minutes of the most recent episode were breathtaking. Catch up so you can talk about this one right now as it unfolds.  True Detective feels like something new and wonderful is possible in television. 

In other “I can’t wait for a new episode on Sunday!” news, you can catch up on Shameless. Holy cliffhanger last week, I don’t even know what to say, except that I wish more people would watch the exploits of the Gallaghers. Shameless portrays working class family, child neglect, drug-addicted struggles with a cutting blend of humor and pathos.  I think Showtime has marketed Shameless wrong, because no one seems to know that it features an amazing ensemble including a luminous Emmy Rossum and the brilliant Joan Cusack. William Macy is outstanding, but he’s only part of the show. I’ve been holding my breath all week to see where the next episode will lead, it’s that good. 

Do you have any other non-romantic screen plans for the weekend? Share them with us here. It takes a village to avoid the onslaught of today’s the pink-and-red blizzard.

 

Eight Ways to Get LEGAL Images for Your Blog Posts

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Blog posts without images? It’s very rare to see that in this day and age.  Of course, you also know that it’s illegal to grab any old image off the Web and use it on your blog…

I used to be guilty of not using photos in my blog posts. I would also have no problem writing 1,000 – 2,000 (or more) word posts without a single infographic or photograph to break up the paragraphs! At the very least, I did use paragraph breaks, however there were no images to tie my thoughts and stories together. These days, I’m actually my own resource, nearly all of the time. As a professional photographer, I don’t generally put other people’s photos on the walls of my home (unless I’m in them), so I don’t generally put other people’s photos on the posts of my blog (again, unless I’m in them).

However, I realize it can be challenging to find appropriate, and very importantly, LEGAL images for your posts.

Why do you need images on your blog?

  • Not only do they help tie your thoughts together, they also evoke emotional responses. 
  • In the blog world, looks matter, and blog posts with images get 94% more page views. 
  • Not only that, they get more comments. I know that when reading posts with images, I like to start my comment on how a photo or graphic makes me feel, and then build from there. 
  • Not only do images do a better job at conveying instant feelings and messages than words alone, they also help with Facebook and Google+ clicks and likes! I often take great care to choose which thumbnail I will display on both sites with my blog post links. 
  • Using photos and graphics also help with SEO keywords, and they add color and vibrancy to your blog.

snowball

Here are eight unique ways to get high quality images for your blog posts:

1. Free Photo Sites: Wylio and Dreamstime have large collections of free photos. Fotolia is a popular site, as well. Then there is Flickr, a Yahoo site that offers free images that are uploaded by professional photographers and other users. You can look under “Creative Commons” to find photos to use legally. You can also use free Google images to yield a large number of results, however, just because you can download an image does not mean you can use it legally. If you click on the “advanced search” option and change the usage rights to read “free to use or share, even commercially,” you will find properly attributed and legal photos. Every Stock Photo is a search engine website for free photos, and it will tell you the source that each photo originates from. Many are from Flickr and StockxChng.

2. Paid Photo Sites: Another option many bloggers use is to skip the free stock photo sites, and use paid sites for professional quality photos. Using paid sites will save you a lot of time as there are more choices. A main reason to go this route is that there is a clear licensing agreement by paying for these high quality images.  Many bloggers use stock photography that is either free, or available for a small fee. iStockphoto is a popular resource in which images cost between one and 150 credits, based on size and collection.

3. Friends: You can also ask a friend or family member who is good with a camera, or who has images you like, to take photos for you or give you photos to use. This is a great option for your headshot.

4. Professional Photographers: Speaking of headshots, a professional and flattering looking one is vital on websites. People want to see what you look like, and not just what you post. You can hire a professional photographer to take your headshot and also to take photos of your work/craft/DIY, etc. You can also search websites of photographers you like to ask to use an image they have already taken. I have been approached a few times for my work to be featured in articles. There is often some sort of exchange mentioned, if not money. Do you have ad space you can give? A guest post? Exposure for their photography business/website/Facebook page? Try it. You will never know until you ask.

smile

5. Old Photos: I cannot tell you how many times I have gone through my own archives, or had my parents scan old photos for me to use on my blog. They are often conversation pieces and can add a fun and warm view into your past. It’s also fun to add a vintage look to your story-telling. Sometimes I use old Polaroids or photos I took with disposable cameras because after the scan, you can doctor up these photos with a basic and free photo editing program such as PicMonkey, Paint.NET, or GIMP.

6. Craigslist or other Local Classifieds: Once I needed a photo of a non-local storefront, and I could not find one on Google images that I could legally use. I contacted a photographer under the creative services section of Craigslist for that city’s page and was able to arrange to pay for photos. I was very detailed in what I was looking for, and in this case, it worked out very well.

7. Art Museums: In recent years, many art museums have been able to provide high resolution, free and copyright-safe images from their collections for anyone asking:

8. Your Own Photography: Both PicMonkey and Canva are easy-to-use resources for those looking to spruce up photos and graphics for their blogs. Read tips, tutorials and forums for how to best use your camera, or even your smartphone for better photography.

What are your favorite sources for free or small fee photos or graphics?

Why I Didn’t Share My Urinary Tract Infection on Social Media

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Earlier tonight, I put on my casual-dress-professional-cold-weather attire and went to an exclusive preview tasting at a chocolatier.

I sipped great wine, ate fine chocolate, and mingled with friends, old and new.

We exchanged lighthearted conversation about our blogs, and weighed in on other recent events many of us have attended.

I exchanged hugs, social kisses, and sincere thanks to the people who hosted and invited me.

And I did it all with the utmost sincerity. Of that, you can be sure.

No one knew that, for about a week, I’ve been dealing with a persistent, painful bladder infection that has me cringing every time I pee. (A.K.A. “self-cath,” but whatevs. Peeing is peeing.)

No one probably imagined that, every night for the past three nights, severe bladder cramps have kept me up late and have almost brought me to tears. (Well, not really close to tears — but only because I have a pretty high threshold for pain. I’ve grown “accustomed” to it, if that’s even possible.) 

No one could have known that, just this afternoon, I was on the phone several times with my urologist’s nurse, scheduling what will be my first appointment in years with him. I’ve been in a urology limbo of sorts, because he is a pediatric urologist, and while technically, he is supposed to see patients until they turn 21, I am a “special case,” because I have spina bifida and an augmented bladder. He performed my bladder augmentation surgery — my most invasive and dangerous procedure to date — when I was 10, and I trust him with my life.

Indeed, no one, save for my parents, would have known any of this, because, simply put, I haven’t talked about it. 

And why would I talk about it?

Since the holidays, I’ve been to numerous blogger events, celebrated birthdays, weekday happy hours, workshops, and the like.

My posts on Facebook have often been the trigger for playful, harmless jealousy. Friends often comment, wishing they had my life. From what I usually post on my Facebook profile, I can’t say that I blame them. By all accounts, I seem to lead a pretty fabulous life. 

I’ve got news for you, though.

Everyone omits on Facebook. 

Yep, that’s right. From the bitchiest posts to the statuses that are downright inspiring, we are all guilty of carefully vetting and considering the content that we post on our social media profiles.

Why would anyone assume I am an exception? 

In fact, if anyone has good reason to filter her output, it’s me. 

Because my girlfriends don’t want to hear during our ladies’ night out about how my urine stinks of ammonia and looks as murky as swamp water.

Because, as bloggers, while we all over-share to an extent, no one wants to hear at a professional gathering of social media influencers how Miralax isn’t doing the trick for me just yet.

Because, God forbid I should choose the joyful family Christmas dinner in Puerto Rico as the venue for disclosing how I’ve totally slacked off on my neurosurgery stuff and am now desperate to schedule a follow-up with my neuro to find out the results of my MRI, which I had done before the holidays.

Because God forbid I be more human than people can actually bear. 

Laura Tellado

Unsurprisingly, the issues I just described above (and many more) are very common topics of discussion on many of the private online groups and forums I’m a part of that pertain to life with spina bifida.

You might find it odd, but I actually don’t share too much in these groups. Don’t get me wrong: I’m eternally grateful for the love and support many of these people show me and others with spina bifida. I’ve forged many great friendships with parents of children with SB and with adults with SB all over the world.

I guess that I don’t feel the need to share everything about the spina bifida part of my life with them. Heck, they majored in this, as did I!

But I want to share it with you. 

And I want to be able to share honestly and openly with you — without any of the following responses that I’m dreading right now, and that I always dread:

1. Pity. Please, absolutely NO ”I’m sorry you have spina bifida” talk. It makes me feel as if you believe that living with spina bifida is pitiful and shameful. And trust me, I don’t need that. 

2. Discomfort, awkwardness, squeamishness. I’m sorry if I slip up during lunch and casually mention I have to go cath. Usually I say “pee,” but occasionally I will slip up and make some allusion to the fact that I use a plastic tube to urinate. Obviously, I overlooked the fact that you are not as used to this as I am, and any remark that you make along the lines of “ew” and the like will only make you come across as a jerk. Please, grow up and get over yourself. Call me when your pee is prettier than mine.

3. Holy talk. You know what I mean here. I consider myself to be a religious/spiritual person with my own faith and personal relationship with the Creator. And if you say you’ll pray for me, I’ll gladly accept your prayers, good vibes, etc. But please don’t attempt to make yourself feel better about my ailment by saying that “everything happens for a reason.” It’ll upset me, and will only serve to make me wonder why this “everything” doesn’t seem to be happening to you. 

Simply put– I don’t expect everyone in my life to relate to my struggles, anymore than you might expect me to relate to all of yours. If you can’t relate to the situation, that’s perfectly fine. I think admitting you can’t understand what it’s like, is actually the first step towards putting yourself in another person’s shoes.

The ugly truth about life is that permanent chronic conditions like spina bifida can’t be cured, anymore than you can bring your deceased loved one back from the dead or force the cast of F•R•I•E•N•D•S to do a reunion.

It’s just not going to happen like that.

We all go through difficult, challenging, brutal stuff. So from here on out, I promise to try to level with you. I’ll try to be honest.

Are you willing to try to listen?

“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”  

–Albert Camus 


Twitter: @Laurita86, @HoldinOut4Hero, @EspressoYLeche