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Friday, April 27, 2012

   Happy Friday, my loves!

  I'd planned to end the week of here at Sweetness Itself with a fun post - I was going to tell you about my new favorite nail polish, how I did a couple DIY projects this week, and maybe even demonstrate (per request from Mandy :) how to do "beachy waves" in your hair. Those things are sweet, fun and I love them - but, they've been pushed to the back burner tonight...because I want to share with you something more important I've been thinking about. Kinda like when you sit down for a long-awaited coffee date with your close friend, and instead of starting off with small talk about the weather, that gorgeous top she's wearing, or the amazing latte you've got in your hand - you dig right in to the deep stuff - the stuff you've been dying to tell her but just can't bear to over the phone or a text, the thoughts that have kept you awake at night as they mull over in your mind.

  So if this were our coffee date (and I wish it were!) I would take a sip from the big mug on the table as you ask me "So, how's life?"  and I'd jump right in. Because, you see - that's the kinda friends we are. Sadly, though, since we aren't at a little wooden table with steamy cups in our hands, go make some tea and come back. I've got stuff to spill, girl!

... I would tell you that I've been thinking about beauty lately.

  How I stumbled upon a news article earlier this week that featured before and after pictures of famous models and celebrities - the before shots: natural, the after shots: airbrushed. And how it got me thinking about the daily, hourly conditioning of our minds as to what "beauty" is.

   I would tell you that I realized something - I realized that if I were to take a 10 minute slice out of any given day in your week, there's a very high chance that you encountered the world's idea of "beauty" in those 10 minutes. A TV commercial, an advertisement, a billboard flashing past the car window, a sign up at school or work, a magazine cover you don't even intend to look at but are faced with as you stand in line at the grocery store, or an advertisement on the sidebar of your e-mail account. And I would tell you that I realized something else: that many of the images we see and unconsciously compare ourselves to - as women - are nothing more than painted-over pictures. Like this one, for example:

Kourtney Kardashian released this photo - 1 week after giving birth
to show how much OK Magazine photoshopped her cover photograph. 

  I've found much more graphic (and clothes-less) versions of before/after airbrushing pictures, and you've probably stumbled upon them before. But I just share the above photo to remind us of the truth - that many of the pictures we see depicting "beauty" are not even real. (By the way, does anyone else notice? They even made the baby look better and smaller - that's just wrong!)

  These images of beauty flash at you and me constantly - and without even knowing, we slowly but surely file them away in our hearts and minds... until they jump out to haunt us at unexpected times. They pop up in the form of little whispers in your mind and heart as you stand in front of the mirror each morning. Whispers of little lies that haunt you - "Your skin is not clear... You're fat. Your chest is the wrong size. Your eyes don't sparkle. Your nose is huge. Your hair is an awful color. Your eyes are too small. Your lips are too thin and your waist is too thick." You try your best to push the thoughts away, to erase them with a little concealer, to cover them with lipstick. But they linger there, over your head like a cloud, following you throughout your day.

  They whisper lies that trigger thoughts from the past. Thoughts you don't like to think about, reminding you of things you wish had never happened. The way they treated you. Those words she said that stung and haven't gone away with the passing of time. The way he dumped you, the words he spoke that cut you down, the way he treated you.
And the whispering lies just get worse.

Lies that say:

"You're ugly, worthless, and no one will ever love you."
"Your ideas are silly" 
"He left because you did something wrong"
"Nothing will ever change"
"Your dreams won't come true"

I know these kinds of lies. Their whispers in my heart haunt me sometimes. They tear me down. And I start to feel really bad. They make me feel like I just want to crawl under my down comforter in my bed and cry in the darkness. They make me feel worthless and like I will never belong.

  But, sisters - I am here to tell you something - something that nobody really wants to say. Something that seems like mere words on a page, but in reality - is as powerful as lightning.

God doesn't say those things about you.
Those whispers are not His.
Those whispers are LIES... lies, I tell you.

   And if we were sharing a coffee date, I would tell you that I want to remind you and me of truth. Of what is real. These reminders I am going to share are rather simple and not all that glamorous. But the Lord put them on my heart this week, in light of my thoughts on beauty and concerns about how the media and culture influences our way of thinking... and I want to remind you (and me) of simple truth. Truth that is beautiful.

God says inner beauty - our hearts - is what lasts, what matters.

 "Charm is deceptive and beauty does not last,
but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised."
- Proverbs 31:30

He says He loves us.

"I have loved you with an everlasting love...
I have drawn you with lovingkindness."
-Jeremiah 31:3

And He says....

You are beautiful.

You are not alone.

You are special.

You are forgiven.

You are loved by God.

You are a precious gem.

And you can fly.

    People can try to tear us down, the media can strive to make women feel worthless with airbrushing efforts to make models look a certain way. But they can never steal truth away from you or me. So hold onto that, girl. They cannot take away your confidence, your voice, or your true beauty. And no one can change what God says is true. And ya know what my favorite thing He says about us is? That we are princesses to Him. And that He is enthralled by us.

"The King is enthralled by your beauty,
honor Him for He is your Lord."

-Psalm 45:11

  If we were having a coffee date, I would probably be wiping away a few tears right now, as you took the last sip of your latte. We'd hug and exchange "Call me"s and "Have a good weekend"s.

 And with that, you'd get in your car and I'd get in mine.
 And as you drove away, I'd send you a little text that said,

"Girl remember... He's enthralled by our beauty. True beauty.
 Let's go honor Him for HE is our God. Love you!"

Don't forget it, k?

Hugs and Happy Weekend, you beautiful soul.



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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Happy Thursday, my sweet friends!
I am so excited to be sharing something new with you today -
it's a wonderful opportunity for all of us to link up and meet some new, amazing friends we would not have otherwise run across. And I am thrilled to be a co-host and excited to share it with you. Check it out!
Thanks for Laura for hosting!

{I'll be back tomorrow with a special end-of-the-week post to encourage you all}



It's the official Meet & Tweet
Twitter HOP!

Follow your host:

This week's co-hosts are:
Melissa @ My PB&J

The Rules
1. Follow your hosts
{They are the first 7 in the linky.}

2. Follow at least 5 new people via Twitter
{Or more! Introduce yourself... Its a great way to make new friends!}

3. Spread the word!
{The more the merrier! Grab a button and add it to your blog, 
Tweet or Facebook about the link up.}
Our Reflection
<div align="center"><a href="" title="Our Reflection"><img src="" alt="Our Reflection" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

One lucky link up person will WIN a FREE
solo guest post on Our Reflection blog!

Drum roll please....
Last weeks Meet & Tweet winner is Miranda & Jamie from The Pinterest Project
Congratulations! You have 48-hours to claim your prize.

Please link up your Twitter account below... 

{not your blog}

Want to be a future co-host? Email me at

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Monday, April 23, 2012

    After a few days of rainy cold weather here in So Cal, the sun confidently decided to take charge of the cloudy skies and brilliantly burst forth in warm, delightful sunshine at the end of this last week, ushering in the weekend with the brightest and warmest rays that called out to me - "Go get your sunblock, slip on sandals, make some iced tea, and throw on a pair of last year's shorts -  cause, girl - it's time for summer!" And so of course, I happily obliged. Spending Saturday with three of the best women I know - Mom, my Grandma Dot and her best friend Sharon (who might as well be my second grandmother) at the California Poppy Festival.

   The day proved to be almost 100 degrees (the sun sure doesn't mess around!) yet we walked for hours around the grassy park, meandering in and out of tents filled with an array of crafts and stands offering mesquite bbq and big ears of corn on the cob.  Mid-way through the day when I felt like I might pass out from the heat, an icy tall lemonade screamed my name and I, once again, obliged -  and walked away happily sipping a strawberry  lemonade that hit the spot.

   As we sipped and walked, passing adorable vintage aprons, not-so-adorable old, empty bottles of whiskey turned upside-down, glued onto a tray and labeled "bird feeder" (My thought? They're playin' it fast and loose with the idea of a bird feeder, but okaay! To each his own, right? Ha) and hand-painted wooden yard signs in rather obnoxious colors shouting-out to various NFL teams, with offensive sayings scribbled at the bottom directed toward opposing teams (and my mom leaned over to me, knowing my love of football, and said - "Please don't ever get one of those for your yard!" - she needn't worry, there.)

   I thought about the women I strolled around the festival with - they've raised me and loved me and I've always been thankful for their presence in my life. Yet as I'm getting older I realize more and more, each time I spend a day with them, how full of wisdom they are. How strong, capable, grace-filled and smart. And how much they've overcome.

    Sipping my lemonade, lyrics to a song carried through my mind "A little sugar's all it takes to make lemonade" (I can't remember for the life of me who sings that song though!) And I thought about how life has certainly thrown quite a few lemons at these strong women. But through the years, I have watched as they picked them up, dutifully squeezed the juice out, and added a little sugar - making something beautiful of the bitter.

     Earlier on Saturday, I excitedly received a special book in the mail, and the inscription written inside further caused me to think about taking the "lemons" in life and adding a little sugar.

"If you look for the good, you will find it"

   I am learning that a perfect, flawless, and comfortable life doesn't make us grow. It doesn't push us toward trusting God. Perfect lives do not show us how strong, beautiful, and capable we can grow into being. Life may be hard, and sometimes it can be a little more than bitter - it can seem unpalitable. But I've seen these women take the bitter, and the worse than bitter... and come out stronger and more beautiful.

 And so, the rest of the weekend... I sought to look for the good. And I found it in.....

..feeling like a country girl in summer - nachos, boots, and grass.

..and dancing it out, in the car with the sister.

 ..Dot finished the special family quilt that was begun by great-great grandmothers, featuring all scraps of fabric from dresses and baby clothes. Isn't it beautiful? Family heirloom right there.

..Sunday spent in the sunshine at home with the family...smelling the bbq & hanging out on the fresh-cut grass with the family dogs.
excuse the wet hair & no-makeup look! ;)

And making a little fresh-squeezed lemonade of my own. Recipe here

 I'm inspired after this weekend, to embrace balance - it's the balance of loving the sweet things in life - while making the best of the sour things. Mixing them all together to make something delightful. I hope someday I can be as strong and capable of looking for the good in life as these women I love are. 

 After all, what would lemonade be like without the sour taste of the lemons? It would be rather plain, too-sweet sugar water...and sugar water may be nice for a sip or two, but it will eventually make you sick. That sour note, though - the kick of tartness is balanced by the sweetness, making lemonade just how we like it.

   So I encourage you, go - look for the good this week.
Take those lemons and squeeze some lemonade, making something sweet.
And I know - regardless of how hard things may look, how bitter they may seem -
 we will eventually come out stronger.... and sweeter.
Because, you know... a little sugar's all it takes.

Be blessed, my lovely readers.




Friday or not! iPhone Photo Drop
{from instagram, to follow search: erin_sweetnessitself}

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Friday, April 20, 2012

photo credit: cris mendoza & josh telle

   If you were to fly back in time and search for the little Erin, you would find her in a tiny house set in a small town in California, growing up under the shade of a cotton wood tree where days were spent blowing bubbles, playing Barbies and making homemade play dough with her sister Mandy and their mama. When I look back at my very earliest childhood years, there are those unforgettable representations of being a kid that stand out in my mind - things like singing along to the Aladdin soundtrack (right, 90's kids??), slap bands, Pogs (remember those?), dozens of Barbie dolls (some headless, some hairless due to a run in with my Fiskar kid's scissors), water baby dolls, and my ballet slippers. At age 6, I trailed behind Mom as she walked me into Danskins in Los Angeles to pick out the perfect ballet shoes. My Sis and I were starting ballet class and it was a big deal. I remember just how those pretty pink leather shoes slipped right on my feet, their tiny string bows tied perfectly at the toe, and how I felt like I was a real ballerina when I wore them. Dance class proved to be a highlight and soon I was enrolled not only in ballet class, but tap and jazz as well. I couldn't put it into words then, but as an adult I now look back on those sweet dance class days and see the reason I loved dancing so much - because not only was it fun, set to music, and we got to dress up in cool costumes... but it also gave me confidence, it helped me to realize I could express myself, that I was free, that I could fly if I wanted to, that I could soar.

  I still love to dance. But, I must admit -  after my initial golden years of the love affair with dancing, when I became a teenager, then a college student... when disappointments came into my life, some dreams were dashed, and my heart broken a time or two ... I lost my love for dancing and didn't think about it at all. Until one day, right after I graduated from college and I worked as a nanny for a few months. As I prepared the two little girls' mid-day snack, I fought tears while I cut up carrot sticks and spooned peanut butter onto plates. I felt like my heart would never recover from the brokenness I felt. Life threw me about 4 curve-balls immediately post-graduation, and I must admit - I was honestly grieving over the loss of some dreams, plans, and things that had been close to my heart. Loss overtook me, I felt overwhelmed with sadness over changes that were happening in my life, over people I lost in sudden circumstances, and over the unexpectedness I was suddenly and harshly experiencing. Tears stung my eyes when one of the little girls noticed. "Ewin?" she asked innocently, "Why are you cwying?" Trying to recover the situation and not scare the toddler, I explained, "Aw sweetie, Erin's just feeling a little sad. It's okay to feel sad sometimes. But I'm okay!" And I forced a smile. Her older sister who was about 5 years old, ran over to the TV and turned the satellite radio on to "Kidz Bop". She took my hand - suddenly and purposefully - and led me to the middle of the white carpet  in the living room and exclaimed, "Well when I am sad, you know what I do? I dance!!" And with that, both girls started busting out some moves, holding my hands and giggling. And I remember in that moment ... as I freestyled along with two toddlers wearing tutus, how fun and freeing a little dancing can be. I remember how hard I laughed that afternoon - dancing along to some Hannah Montana song - laughing so hard I cried, and I remember consciously thinking "I haven't laughed like this in who knows how long." And ya know what? It felt so good.

busting out some moves with my precious friend in 2009.
we can dance with the best of 'em!

   Those two sweet toddler girls reminded me of something important. I've told you before that rockstars take life and rock it out. Well, you know what else they do best? They dance it out. Oh yeah do they dance. They dance like nobody's watching. They dance like crazy.

  And in life, only the brave dance. It takes courage to dance after loss, heartbreak, and in the midst of pain. But it's oh so worth it. I look back on those years when I experienced severe pain, heartbreak, loss, and uncertainty. When you lose people you love, it feels like you'll never dance again. I never thought I would. But I did, darling. And you will too. 

"You will lose someone you can't live without,
 and your heart will be badly broken,
and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved.
But this is also good news.
They live forever in your broken heart that doesn't seal back up.
And you come through.
It's like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly -
that still hurts when the weather gets cold,
but you learn to dance with the limp."
-Anne Lamott

Learning to dance with the limp. That's what we rockstars do.

   A couple months ago, my sweet friend Heather got married and I was honored to be a bridesmaid. She's a real dancer (while some of us, like me, kinda fake it!) so of course her wedding included some awesome dancing. And I realized again, kinda like I did with my toddler girlfriends when we danced like crazy on the living room carpet - dancing it out is good for the soul. Dancing it out with a big group of your old, close friends is one of the best things in life.

   Dance it out, sister. Dance til you have a collision on the dance floor with an old friend. And you both stand silently laughing hysterically, holding onto each other's shoulders so you don't fall over into a heap of laughter...for the rest of the song. Whether you're dancing it out alone to a little R&B on your iTunes, or you're doin' the Cupid Shuffle with the people you've laughed with, cried with, lived with, and loved.... just dance.

  You're a rockstar, sister. Let's embrace life's heartache, unexpectedness, loss, pain, and the things we can't control -  and make the best of them. Loving people we still have and moving forward after loss - as we learn to dance with a limp.

One of my favorite bloggers said this once -

"the unexpected in our life is really an opportunity....
you cannot control the things that happen in your life,
but you can certainly control the way you spend your life...
embracing all that life offers,
grief included,
and making something grand of it."

  I think your tile kitchen floor is just dying to be called a dance floor tonight. Turn up the hip hop and dance it out while you do the dishes.

 We can choose to dance, with our limps of grief and the unexpected things life offers... and we can dance it out.
 We can take the craziness of life and make it beautiful.

And maybe we'll even laugh so hard we cry while we do it.

Be brave, sisters.




Remember, the reason we have this freedom to embrace all of life .... God gives it to us.

"Call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you,
and you will honor me."
-Psalm 50:15

"...For you who love my Name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in it's wings.
And you will go out like calves leaping from a stall."
-Malachi 4:2

"Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He,
I am He who will sustain you, have made you, and I will rescue you."
-Isaiah 46:4

PS - for those of you on Hello Cotton,
I'm now on there -
go follow me to keep in touch!

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Monday, April 16, 2012

    When I was in college, a friend of mine made a journal and gave it to me as a gift when I graduated. She mod-podged pretty cut-outs from Anthropologie magazines on it's bound cover, and on the cream-colored pages inside she wrote special little notes throughout, funny prompts and quotes to get me thinking. I filled that journal with memories, prayers, and lists several years ago and slipped it into my bookshelf. But the other day, I found it and took it off the shelf, cracked it open, and my eyes fell upon a page somewhere near the middle of the journal, highlighted to me by the green ribbon holding it's place. On top of the page, my friend scribbled these words: "Write down 20 things you want to do in your lifetime here..." I wrote things I dreamed of doing. Big dreams that sounded silly, dreams that seemed like impossibilities. Things I've wanted to do since I was a little girl, places I dream of going. They're all there, in no particular order, but they are numbered, from 1-20. And they're all scrawled over the page in different colored ink, because I added to the list whenever inspiration hit, over the span of two years. It's a bucket list, of sorts. And sometimes, when I am overwhelmed and begin to forget who I am and what I want, I open the worn pages of my old journal and read over my dreams. The list makes me smile. #2 is: "Go cliff jumping in Greece", #4 - "Learn how to make perfect cappuccinos at home". "Spend New Year's Eve one year in New York City" is #17. And #20? "Visit Prince Edward Island someday". There are dreams on the list only I know. There are simple things, small things, and huge life-altering things. And I wonder if some of them will ever come true... or if they will forever be unfulfilled. My list does have a few lines crossed off, but not nearly as many as I would like. And the other day as I held that old diary in my hand, I thought... "Some of these...I can make these happen. Why haven't I?"

The reason is, you see ... because I am being a wishful dreamer.

"Some of us are wishful dreamers -

Lacking the will to do,

Without the magnitude of soul

To make our dreams come true."

-Claude John Cheek,  from "The Simple Things and Other Poems"

   Dreaming big is something close to my heart, and if you've followed along with my journey on this blog, you know it is something I've shared with you, my dear readers. But lately, I've been thinking about putting "feet to my dreams". Getting out there, stepping out of fear, and being passionate about pursuing my dreams and goals. I realized, I often find myself wishing for dreams without ever trying to pursue them. I often "lack the will to do", as the poem says.

And in my effort to enjoy life, make the most of each and every day and opportunity, and have a big, beautiful fabulous life - I want to be fearless and work to make my dreams come true.

Of course, sometimes God's plans are bigger than our dreams and sometimes, we must wait on His timing and there is nothing we can do to pursue certain dreams. And that's okay. One of my favorite Scripture that I've shared here before is:

"No one has ever seen a God like ours,
who works for those who wait for Him."
-Isaiah 64:4

I used to interpret that verse as - "Okay, I can just sit here and wait for the Lord to open doors, and I don't have to do a thing." In a way, this is true - He holds the Universe in His hands and He is the one in charge of my life. Yet He asks you and me to use the gifts, talents and abilities we have to do all we can, partnering with Him and allowing Him to direct us. Do you ever feel down, thinking about all you want to do, all you dream of, all you want to accomplish? I do. And I end up just sitting on my hands and wishing. This weekend, when I picked up my journal and thought about my bucket list, I decided to go out there and do all I can do pursue my dreams.

I want to be a passionate dreamer, not a wishful dreamer.

And, okay I'll admit - I got a little excited about the whole thing this weekend. On Sunday afternoon, my sister and I wandered through Abbott Kinney lane, a street in LA in Venice Beach. It's lined with unique, vintage shops and cool cafes. We strolled along the streets in the sunshine, and near the end of our time we needed to find a ladies room. We ducked into the nearest coffee shop - a hip place, with hip music, a hip menu, and even hipper people (including a Ryan Gosling look-alike I noticed standing in line) And as we walked out, I realized it was a popular coffee shop I've been dying to visit for months and months.  "Ughhh, I can't believe we don't have time to stop here!" I said to my sister as we walked out, sad we missed the opportunity, when I noticed one of the famed wide-mouthed cups of coffee sitting on a rustic wooden table outside the front door. It was just perfect - you know those beautiful cups of coffee that might as well be art? The ones with little swooping flowery pictures magically drawn into the foam? I whipped out my camera, dropped my purse and began shooting photos of it.  Because blossoming in my photography skills is on "the list" and my camera plays a big role in this whole dreaming big thing. And honestly, I just thought the cup of coffee was some kind of advertisement outside the shop window ...which doesn't really make sense now that I think of it - but it wasn't. Just as I'm leaning down, hair blowing all around, my head twisted to one side as I'm struggling to get the perfect angle for this shot, Mr. Ryan Gosling look-alike is suddenly standing next to me, staring at me with a puzzled look, taking the cup of coffee into his hands!!! "Uhhhh..." he mumbled... as my poor sister rolled her eyes and quickly began an explanation that went something like, "Oh my gosh, I am sooo sorry for my sister. She's a blogger...and photographer, and she just does stuff like this, artsy stuff, we totally didn't know this was your coffee!!" And of course, in true Gosling-like fashion he graciously said, "Oh, hey go for it." So, I stood there, awkwardly taking a picture of a stranger's coffee mug, thinking I'd taken this whole "dream big" and "let's pretend I'm a photographer" thing too far. It was kind of like one of those blogger moments (have you had them?) when you've asked you're twisting the arm or begging a family member or friend to take a photoshoot of your outfit in a park or your neighborhood, and the people walking by are staring and wondering if you somehow, suddenly got signed with some kind of modeling agency. We laughed about it, my poor sister shaking her head, probably thinking I've lost it and the Gosling look-alike wondering what kinda crazy girl would try to take a picture of someone's coffee mug sitting on a table..but hey, got a pretty good shot, huh?  

Being a passionate's not always easy. It requires faith. More faith than just wishing does. Because when you put yourself out there and chase your dreams, there is a possibility they may fall flat to the floor. But... there is also a thrilling possibility....that they might come true. And that you could be the happiest you've ever been in your entire life.

I loved this pretty mirror

this was a huge poster outside on a brick store wall

Oh, and I've added a #21 to my bucket list: have the magnitude of soul to make my dreams come true.

And ya know what? I am continuing my list on the back side of the page - because, 20 things is just not enough. You should make one too, my friend.... who knows where our dreams will take us.

G'nite, dreamers.
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