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I received this in the mail from a very dear friend a few weeks ago.  I love it.  I love her.  I keep it on my nightstand.  It’s a reminder every morning that I am loved….that I have my own individual beauty….that I am enough.  Today (err..tonight) I’m sharing that love with all of you.

You. Are. Beautiful.  _MG_9965

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by Tiffani Michele

A bunch of my friends call February, “Sexuary”, and vow to have sex every day with their husbands. This has been going on for a couple years now.

Last year I ran my first half marathon and moved into a cute little house, and I kind of went under the radar while I focused, ran, and packed/unpacked my little heart out. I barely had any extra energy to feed myself, let alone spend any time texting/facebooking friends or thinking about sex. Plus, I didn’t have a boyfriend. So Sexuary came and went and I had no idea.

This year is a bit different. I happened to meet up with a bunch of these friends in Vegas and they spent part of the time talking about what they had in store for their month long sexathon…outfits they’d put together, toys they’d bought, and all the things they were going to try. Committing to a month of daily sex takes a bunch of planning and, aparently, alcohol. Also, the floozies were sexting up a storm with their husbands while they were living large in the LV.

There isn’t much I miss about being in a relationship, I think the divorce thing is still too new for me to harbor a strong desire to get back into something that still feels like going to jail…but I did feel sad that I couldn’t join in their girly games. And while I have no problems being alone, I did feel lonely for the first time in a while. I have no one to send pictures of my glittery cleavage too. Or my ass in fishnets. Or just me smiling into my phone, wishing the other person was there. My friends were nice enough to tell me I could sext them anytime and they would respond accordingly, but it’s just not the same.

I also started to opt out of all their Sexuary talk, since I’m not in a relationship nor do I have a dude for a booty call every day of the month. I also don’t have 28 dudes for a booty call one time each. I don’t have 14 booty call dudes for sex twice each. I, uh, have no booty call dudes, period.

But then I thought to myself, “Don’t forget about a little something called masturbation.”

I was raised with the belief that masturbation is wrong. To keep me from doing it, or anything bad, I was also told that God could hear my thoughts and see my deeds. And that, my friends, is a real ladyboner killer. I immediately felt sick to my stomach, and so knew I had to commit to Sexuary. Daily sex, oh yes, and with myself. I had some ‘hangups’. I had some nights I felt uninspired. I discovered that I also needed good planning and booze to pull it off.

I’ve invested in myself a lot this month. Some days I knew I didn’t feel in the mood, and did whatever it took to help myself out.

Me to me: “What do you need right now to get you to a happy, sexy place?”
Me to me: “Ice cream with hot fudge!”
or: “Baked brie with french bread!”
or: “new shoes!”
or: “something from a trashy store!”
or: “I need to dance!”
or: “I just need to find a quiet spot to chill and think. With wine.”

So far, so good.

Strike that.

So far, so great!

Actually…

So far, so amaaaaaaazing.

I shortly worked out how to get God out of my head by realizing that if he’s going to be listening to anyone’s scenarios in their head while they masturbate, they won’t be mine. Not that I’m boring, but I know a lot of highly creative people who I’m sure have a lot more twisted shit going on in their imagination that would be a lot more interesting than anything I’m whipping up in there. And with billions of people on the earth, I think my thoughts are flying under the radar.

And I don’t really give a shit anymore, anyway.

What I do give a shit about is learning how to use the most expensive toy I’ve bought for myself. All I can say is, before I didn’t know what to do with this thing that some amazon reviews claimed was “pretty and would even make an attractive sculptural decoration”…and now I can tell you it’s worth the money if you’re in the market.

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I’ve learned a lot this month. I’ve learned so much, I’m surprised. Maybe I’ll sum it all up when this Sexuary month is over. Some things have been fun to learn and some things have been profound. It’s been a lot of fun and it’s been a lot of work, too. It has taken a kind of commitment and devotion to myself that has been unprecedented in my life so far. I can only imagine that this same commitment and devotion is also present if you do it with a partner, and now I understand why my friends do this every year.

It is grueling though, so I also understand why they pick a month that only has 28 days in it!

By Jill Greenwood

Tiffani wasn’t joking about those crickets. It’s totally my fault, y’all. A while back, when Erik’s was buying her house, I took over our posting calendar. And towards the end of last month, we adopted a puppy, and that pretty much took over my life. So that’s a huge reason for our silence. But back to the good stuff…sex.

My husband and I have shared a full sized bed for 22 years. I know, I know. A full sized bed is likely the bed that most children sleep in after they emerge from their cribs. But yet we sleep in that same size bed every night. Tight squeeze but we manage. And since we’ve been sleeping in the same bed for all those years, it’s not a stretch to figure out that we do other things there, too: read, laugh, have sex, argue, joke around, figure things out, cry. Arguably, it’s where we spend most of our time together. And when he’s on a business trip, I basically stick to my side of the bed, curl up into a ball, and go to sleep.

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But on vacations – like this weekend’s Chicago getaway – I get to revel in a king sized bed. Roll around in it. Sleep on my side and never touch my husband. Laugh. Figure out what to do the next day. And revel in vacation sex. Admit it…part of the fun of a vacation is trying to figure out if the bed is as much fun as your own.

Turns out this one is. Enjoy the long weekend!

By Tiffani “Let’s Talk About Sex” Michele

When discussing the topic for this month, all of us ladies of O+U decided it was only reasonable to assume that February would be devoted to love. All things love. Love love lovey love. We all have love, feel love, give love, receive love, love the love!

And then no one posted anything.

*crickets chirping*

And then we were all, “OK, how about love and/or sex?!” and that got us excited again! For a second. And then no one posted anything.

*more crickets*

Isn’t it interesting that the two things that drive our entire human experience are also the two things that are the hardest to maintain/have energy for/open up to/accept/give. Songs are sung, poems are written, facebook status updates typed out, tweets sent, love notes poured over, sex help books penned, porn posted online, and thousands upon thousands of wishes made for love and sex. Humanity spends a lot of time and energy and money in the pursuit of both these things.

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My first love note, 9 years old.

We all want it.
We all need it.

So why are both love and sex so difficult to nourish and keep around? How is it that these two things aren’t the easiest parts of our collective lives rather than the stress, heartbreak and complications they often become?

My married friends complain about taking care of all the errands/responsibilities/work issues/life problems in their everyday lives and then not having enough energy for sex. They talk in exasperated tones about having to give so much of themselves to kids/spouse that they just don’t get a break. They fantasize about getting away for a little bit all by themselves. I remember; I used to be there, do that.

My single friends complain about doing all the work of living life without the bonus of having awesome sex to make it worth it. They talk about having so much to offer but no one around to want and appreciate it. They fantasize about sharing some of their alone time with someone else that they can laugh/cry/share/eat/grind all over. I know; I am there, think that.

I remember being married and comparing notes with my other married friends…how often do you have sex, and for about how long, and do you really get into it or just do plain old vanilla sex…just to see if my twice a week/10 minutes/same old routine experience was the norm or not. It wasn’t unusual to mentally schedule a night (or nights) for sex so that I could prepare myself during the day and try to keep the stress/busyness at bay. And so I could shave and groom. And actually put on makeup and/or a bra. When it wasn’t those scheduled nights, I would get undressed quickly in my closet with the door closed so that there would be no chance for any exposed flesh to turn anyone on.

And now, with the reality that sex isn’t guaranteed or scheduleable, I am a sex maniac. I think about it. I dream about it. I vow that when I find a partner, we are going to have sex every night before bed and every morning before we get up. I want to cuddle while we watch TV together while rocking our bodies back and forth in a shared laugh. I promise I won’t be stingy with my girl parts and will not hide them behind a closed closet door. Mostly? I don’t want to just feel love, I want to share love. And in the cheesiest sentence I will ever write, I want something else: I want to make love. I’m not saying, “I want to make love again”, I’m saying, “I’ve never experienced sex as something people do together as an awesomely inadequate substitution for actually just wanting to get everything they are and feel and hope and want and fear and love into the same space as everything the other person feels and hopes and wants and fears and loves.” That. I want that.

Aren’t we a crazy lot. We wax poetic about finding true love, then when we get it, rant and rave on Facebook about how that person is driving us batshit crazy.

I don’t know the answer. Sometimes you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Like the grass is always greener philosophy, only sadder. Perspective is an enlightening bitch, and maybe that’s the key.

To my married friends, let me be the reminder that once sex isn’t a constant, it becomes really important again. Like, you’ll become like a raging hormonal 17 year old boy without any options. And once selfless and devoted love isn’t a constant, it becomes something worth more than any golden treasure. Life is still awesome without it, but it’s kind of like taking photographs at midday…it’s a little bit harsh and stark. Selfless and devoted love turns life into the golden hour…dreamy, sunflare-y, soft, and magical.

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And to me, and all my single friends, I’m reminded that it’s important not to get lost or defined by anything outside myself. That anything, no matter how great it is, will start to annoy me if I forget to take care and prioritize myself. And that it’s good to take some time out and just enjoy the silence of myself.

Love is in many forms. Sex is in many forms. Together, alone, with and without.

It’s messy and crazy and brings out the best and worst in people.

Let’s see what this month in O+U brings!

by Jill Greenwood

Seriously, I truly am a simple woman. Give me a cold beer and some hot wings for a meal, and I’m happy. Books? I’ll read anything as long as it has a good plot and your main character doesn’t come off as a grade-A douchebag (I’m looking at you, Eat, Pray, Love). My children? Do your best because I’m doing my best. My students? Go back and read what I wrote about my own children.

But my goals? I make them so convoluted that I never achieve what I’m setting out to do. They are so lofty that I know I’m bound to fail. And I fail spectacularly. Finish all my knitting works-in-progress? Ahh, that goal gets made every year, and I only seem to add to my WIPs. However, if I set that bar at a more manageable level (say 25% with no more than two projects added), I would probably be successful. Write a novel? Half sounds good. Hello, graduate degree? Where are you? This is the year . . . I can feel it.

But with grading last-minute items before the end of the term has a way of preventing goals getting started. Thankfully, good friends have a way of reminding you that your ultimate goal has nothing to do with knitting or novel writing or finishing your graduate degree. Yes, the ultimate goal is to meet the vice president. And if sitting on his lap and snuggling is on the table, so be it.

Jill and the Veep

I am a simple woman after all. But here’s the deal I’m willing to make with you, oh lovely O + U readers: if you can make that last goal happen, there’s a nice hand-knit something-or-other in the making for you. I do have that two project addition rule in place for a reason.

i’m a list maker. rather, i’m a to-do list maker. i would forget half of the things i need to get done in a day if i didn’t write them down.
however, i’ve never really sat down and made a list of my goals before. mental checklist, sure. pen and paper, not so much. i know that i am terrible at planning and working on that isn’t going to end up on any list of goals (it isn’t high on the priority list of things i’m concerned about with myself). so, when i learned that the topic for the month was going to be ‘goals’ i wasn’t sure what i would write about. i suppose that many of my goals aren’t that unusual or even interesting (be patient, eat healthier, get off my ass more, spend less time on social media, blah blah blah, et cetera).  but, i did come up with a few goals that might sit a little more comfortably under the title “notes to self”.

1. be more of a hard ass & less of a sissy.
i let things bother me when they shouldn’t. i internalize things (for long, far too long periods of time), this is a message to myself to stand up and have the courage to deal with things as they come at me.


2. trust myself.
trust
lately i find my self second guessing everything i do and being in a state of constant doubt. the internalizing plays a big part in this, i’m sure. time for that shit to stop.

3. get organized.
just kidding. that’ll never happen.
some things in my life are just going to be a mess (like my closet and my desk). if those things get organized it means somewhere else more important things have fallen into serious disarray. i’m fine with this arrangement.

4. experiment more with photography.
i leveled off with my photography sometime last year. it’s time to shake things up, try new things,  step up my game and grow as a photographer. my goal with this years 365 is to come up with different ways to push/improve myself each month. whether it’s trying new edits, finding new subjects, using camera settings i’m not comfortable or familiar with or just giving myself a theme to work within.
also, repairing the shutter on this girl falls into the “experiment” category since i’ve never attempted to repair a camera on my own. internets, please be good to me with your how-to advice.
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5. be someone who doesn’t take everything so seriously.

 

 

Every year, I come up with about 20 or so goals. Most of them have to do with “personal growth” – not biting one’s hang nails is personal growth – and come mid-February, I’m left scratching my head, beating myself up yet again for having set the bar too high. What’s a girl to do? Contact a  friend who knows a lot about setting goals and getting the job done and ask for some help. And I’m figuring that we all could use a little help in achieving our goals. But I’ll speak to my own goals next week. For now, I’ll pass the blog over to Beverly Army Williams. Her post has concrete steps to help set yourself up for success with personal and professional goals.

Whether or not you’ve ever written a grant, and whether it was a little or gargantuan grant, there are some lessons to be learned about personal and career goals from grant writing.

Each and every grant comprises at least six parts: Need, Goal and objectives, Plan of action, Evaluation, Key personnel, Budget

Wait! What does this have to do with finally completing a 100-mile bike ride (one of my recurring goals)?  Here’s a look at how the grant sections can help you focus your goals.

Need: the grant writer explains why the project must be undertaken. What problem or opportunity has presented itself? What will happen if it doesn’t change?

Goal and objectives: in grant writing parlay, a goal is an overarching aim. What is the big idea? Objectives are the what of the grant: what will it take to reach the goal? Think of this as the stepping stones that lead to the destination. The classic litmus test for a strong objective is to see if it is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time Referenced)

Plan of Action: this is the blueprint, the if-you-leave-the-job-and-the-grant-gets-funded-we-can-still-run-the-program part of the grant. It is the how to the objectives’ what. Write down every little thing it will take to make the project (or goal) happen. In what order do all these actions have to occur? How long will they take?

All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein

Evaluation: no one gives you money without a way to assess if it has been well spent. Strong objectives lead to effective evaluation. Questions to ask are how will I know I achieved the objective? What questions will help ensure that I stay on track?

Quality of Key Personnel: grant writers need to prove to funders that the right people are in place for the job. While some goals are achievable on your own, in some cases you’ll need support—a cheering section, an expert to guide you, a coach. Who is needed to make this a success?

Budget: grants are about exchanges. Here’s a project that will alleviate a problem or take advantage of an opportunity. Here’s what it will cost. Does that balance out? Is it worth it? How many people will feel the impact of the project? What is the cost, in terms of money, time, and other intangibles, of your goal? Is achieving the goal worth that cost?

Free writing on each section can lead you not only to concrete plans to achieve a goal, but also help evaluate whether or not a goal is worthy of your efforts and how you will know that you’ve made progress even if, like my 50-mile apex ride of 2012, the goal hasn’t quite been achieved.

 Beverly Army Williams is a writer and fiber artist. She teaches grant writing at a small public university in MA and blogs at www.pomogolightly.com and runs a writing consulting business at www.openroadwriting.com. Follow her on Twitter @Beverly_Army.

Once upon a time, I was a task master.  I was a vigilant list maker.  I set goals and held tight.  I was a warrior with a spreadsheet.  I was relentless.  Also?  I missed out on a good portion of my life.  I was so busy placing check marks in my daily planner that I missed out on living and connecting with the people IN my life.  It’s taken me years to unwind and let go.  I worried I’d fall off the edge…shrivel up…fade into nothing.  Do you know what happened?  I came to life.  Color came back into the world…I reconnected.  And do you know something else?  My personal growth continued in a much more meaningful way.  It’s been, undoubtedly, my most important life work.  I still have multiple projects going on, I still make lists (just not as rigid and much more realistic), and I still have goals.  The difference?  I now see these goals as simply guideposts.  I remember to leave room for change, for tweaking, for the unexpected beauty that life sends our way.

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Shortly after New Year’s Day, I pulled out my iPhone to take note of some project ideas rumbling around inside my head.  Additionally, I added a few practical tasks that need attention.  ie: clean up external hard drive, update software, catch up on Getty paperwork (I can hear the collective groan of waiver release forms).  I jotted down some new things I’d like to try: The Color Run and, most importantly, I left room for life.

What are your guideposts/goals?  Are you adding a little adventure in 2013?  I’d love to hear about it…

By Tiffani “sprouting like a chia pet” Michele

Ah, 2013. For the first time in a long while, I wasn’t so anxious to get rid of the previous year. 2012 was pretty good to me, so you’ll understand why I’m not clinging to you like the last life vest available on a stormy sea. It’s not that 2012 was any better or worse than what I’m sure you’ll throw at me…I don’t love it any more or less. I think the key was that I had very little expectations for awesome last year. 2011 almost killed me with piles and piles of shit situations. By the time I limped into 2012 I felt a certain amount of depressive symptoms without being depressed; apathetic, numb, pretty meh. I gave up…not on life, otherwise that would totally be depression, but on control of life. Que sera, sera, bitches. I was done with expectations and goals and control.

2012 was about letting what happened, happen, and accepting it. Growing from it, learning from it, being with it. I extended this same laissez faire attitude towards myself. Fuck improving myself. Fuck self help books and Oprah lightbulb moments. I had exactly one moment of clarity, and it was this: Relax and get real comfortable with yourself…the good and the bad. Stop being such a judgemental asshole to your own existence and just go with it. Don’t change it, don’t wish you were different, just be.

Turns out this was just as much work as trying to change everything and make everything better. But it was much more fulfilling and fun than my usual uptight self. Not giving a fuck really makes a difference!

By the time December rolled around, I decided to stop shaving and embrace myself in all my natural, hairy glory. I’d never done that before. Ever. And then, at the end of the month, I’d shave everything…including my head. I felt very happy about all of this, especially all the time I saved in my shower routine NOT shaving every nook and cranny.

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I called it “the Reforestation of Tiff” and I rocked my hairy shit like no one’s business. I took my hairy legs and armpits to clubs in Las Vegas. I showed my bushy crotch at pools and beaches all around town. Speaking of bush…I love mine. I LOVE MY BUSH! In fact, it’s never been a bush before. It’s been a manicured lawn. It’s been a closely trimmed green at a golf course. It’s even been completely barren like a hairless cat. But never, ever, ever have I understood where the term “bush” came from. Until now.

I showed my legs off to my kids. “Look at this!” I’d say. My 13 year old son was actually really impressed. “Wow, mom, I didn’t know ladies could do that!” And honestly, neither did I. But I bluffed. “Real ladies, son. This is what real ladies look like! Look at all this hair!” Open mouthed, he said, “You have just as much as I do!” and yes, yes I did. I felt proud.

I had a moment of self doubt when it came time to shave it all off, including my head.

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But then I said “Fuck it!” and did it anyway. My leg hair was so long I ended up using clippers to mow it down. I was really happy to see it go…and now it’s halfway grown back again. Not shaving is a luxury that I’m OK taking advantage of now…no shame is compelling me to get rid of it. I also left my armpits and arms unshaved. And after a month it’s clear that the reforestation of my bush is only halfway done, so I’m letting that do it’s thing down there. It’s pillowy soft and when I see myself in the mirror I’m reminded not of some 70’s style porn (why oh why is female sexuality always described in terms of porn?!) but more like of countless paintings of women since art began. My bush, it is art!

My shaved head is amazing and makes me very happy indeed. So simple. So humble. So badass.

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I cannot stop rubbing my own head. I like when other people rub it, too. I like putting hats on it and taking hats off of it. I like the feel of wind/water on my scalp. Delicious is the best word to describe having a shaved head. I think it’ll be short for a while. The rest of 2013, at least! After that, who knows.

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Que sera, sera bitches!

-Erika “Digging Deep” Ray

I love this time of year.  People are aiming to do and be better.  I love that buzz.  If you were a bad friend who flaked on your other friends, you vow to be present in the circle a little more.  If you ate shity ass fast food, you vow to fill your tummy with fresh greens or at least stuff not sold with a side of salt and a toy.  If you changed the channels on the tv more than you changed into your running shoes, you start to get up.  Call these a resolution or just call it a new leaf, I don’t care.  But deep down, every single person vows the next year will be a little different.

I do it every year.  I also do this at my birthday.  I don’t do it because I think I’m an awful person, I do it because the blank page of a new year allows it.  This year, I figured I’d pick a word.  A lot of solid people do this yearly tradition.  They find a word and promise to live their life honoring those letters.  I’ve never done it because I’ve never wanted to be that deep.  And when I make my new year vows, it’s just a general Be Nicer kind of promise.  Because that’s the Lazy Comfy Gal way.  This year, I’m smacking myself around a bit and I’m getting deep on my ass.  I’m picking a word: BRAVE.

I am a Lazy/Comfy Gal.  That doesn’t necessarily mean I lay on the couch and have my kids get me stuff.  To me, those words means you accept your life and think, “This is good and I’m happy with it.”  We’re not wealthy, but we pay our bills and occasionally go out to dinner.  I watch what I eat, but I could be better.  My kids are content, but I could push them a little more.  But I shouldn’t be so lazy or comfy.  I need to be BRAVE.  Push back on life and see what it throws back.  Maybe it will shoot back with some fantastic Life Glitter.  Or maybe it will puke back some Life Shit.  But at least I was pushing and living.

First step in being BRAVE, give back and don’t worry about the outcome.  “Why would you worry about the outcome, Erika?”  I hear you saying…  Easy.  Will people buy them?  Will someone have a fit about the funds?  It’s a ton of work, do I have the time?  What if we screw up the ordering process?  Where does the money actually go?  What if it isn’t enough money?  How much time will it take from my family? It’s going to be so much work.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.  That’s all shit.  That’s the Lazy Comfy Gal speak.

The BRAVE girl speak is: I don’t give a flying poo about any of that.  People need money and I can help give a few dimes.  You give because it’s the right thing to do.  The details are so important.  Only the doing.

You can help give a few dimes too (If you’ve already given, share this blog post!).  And when you give, you’ll receive a beautiful notecard set: the following 6 4×6 blank cards for only $12!  Please helps us (6 fabulous photographers), help the families of Newtown, Connecticut.  I can only imagine how brave those families were when the kids had to go back to school this week.  Let’s help make it a little easier for them.

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Images (left to right):

Top: DeAnna McCasland :: Kristin Zecchinelli

Middle: Suzanne Gipson :: Carmen Farrell

Bottom: Erika Ray :: Breanna Peterson

fund info here