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Hulk Smash and Detox Baths

The past seven days have been a challenge in the self-care department. It was a week where everything that could go wrong, did. A week where truly, one of the hardest things to do, was stay positive, no matter how much I tried to care for myself. On Monday, I had blood tests done (5 vials worth) to find out if I have indicators of an auto-immune disorder, thyroid problems, or Lyme disease.

They told me they'd have results in 3-5 days. I'll spare you the wait I endured. Indicators show I might possibly have Rheumatoid Arthritis. Turns out (I am told Mother's Day) that two people in my extended family history have had RA. This doesn't make me feel better, but it does. Now I wait a month to see a specialist to discuss the results further.

In the days of waiting for my results and post results...

I go back on my OTC, off brand allergy pill.

things I own break...like big things...my washer, and the stove is on its way out the door.

orders I made the previous week are incorrect so I have to reorder.

I develop a yeast infection (why I stopped taking the allergy pill to begin with) so I stop it. Sorry for TMI, but I'm practicing being an open book. Plus, it's a service announcement about cheap products.

I have lunch with family after hearing from the doctor and tear up at the table while on the phone with my husband who says everything's going to be okay.

I receive a care package from a friend that lifts me in a moment I'm falling.

I have a big hiccup in my business that I stress hardcore over fixing... because good business practice and customer service.

I manage to notice symptoms of and simultaneously eliminate a UTI (or bladder infection) by downing 8oz of water with thyme and lemon essential oils.

I spend a pleasant Mother's Day with family and good food...

...after which I return home and take a detox bath.

Late that night, I wake with a sinus infection (or a cold...with me, they pretty much go hand in hand nowadays...my third in the past two months) and chills. I sweat out a fever. I barely eat. My muscles turn to stone. My brain drains out my eyes. And I forget to breathe. This could all be a result of the detox bath (flu-like symptoms do happen if you have major yeast die off or other harsh toxins exiting your body) or I've really worked myself into sickness.

So now I'm angry. I want to HULK SMASH! until there's nothing left in me to Hulk smash anymore.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking, Yeah. This is exactly how you should treat your body if you possibly have an auto-immune disorder. I hear chronic tension and stress are super beneficial.

I remind myself that it's okay. Hulk smashing is a necessary step. Forgive yourself. Eat your greens, diffuse those essential oils, take your damn detox bath because holy shit you need it, word vomit into a journal, and write a list of a million things you're grateful for in the midst of all of the ugly.

Cry it out. Remember who loves you. And most importantly, remember it's only one week in a bajillion weeks. That little reminder can pull you out of Hell so fast you'll wonder why you even worried about anything in the first place.

Don't judge yourself. If you're trying, you're not failing.

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Healing the Self

I apologize for my absence, though I know it doesn't worry readers as much as it worries the writer. Simply, I've spent more time with pen and paper, journaling daily in my own private world. I only want to apologize because I honestly don't know what to do with this blog. Truthfully, I don't know where to go with The Body Project, if I'm going anywhere at all with it. I've questioned, since my last entry on February 27th about the mini gallery at UW-Waukesha, whether to end this blog and begin a new one centering around all thoughts, ideas, and projects rather than just The Body Project, maybe call it Love Body, Mind, and Spirit or Self-Love or Healing the Self. The Body Project brought me to a new place with myself and in life, which I expected (because everything always brings us somewhere), but didn't plan. It brought me deeper within myself and actually pulled me away from my shell, in a good way. To a certain extent, healing and self-love begins with accepting the skin you're in, but it's also about being aware of and present in the moment with who you are, what you are, the thoughts you do or don't have, the people to whom you're speaking and listening, and the way you treat yourself body, mind, and spirit.

As I stated in that last entry, being an advocate of love is difficult and doesn't come with an instruction booklet or a trainer. I'm left to my own devices to clamber about finding ways to advocate what I so strongly believe.

One thing I recently thought of is how stuck one can feel when they aren't wholly being themselves. So, I've decided to be myself with all of you, to let you know that:

1. I cry at anything having to do with love, especially if the music is moving.

2. I'm obsessed with murder mystery novels, particularly Tess Gerritsen's.

3. I write poetry mostly about quick glimpses into a person's suffering related to relationships, self-growth, and death.

 

Broken Strokes

 

She sweats paint

from wrinkled skin--

brush bristles frayed

like her split ends--

as she strokes the broken heart

on the empty canvas.

Her other half rots

beneath river bed rubble

as she glops moss

over rocks of unanswered prayers.

If only she could paint

the rabid bits of time

that devour her.

If only she could paint

the time he was red

and made her the moon.

 

4. I love astrology...a lot...and find it an incredible source for looking at people and situations in a way I may not have tried before for the sake of understanding more deeply.

5. I believe in the power of deep breathing and positive thinking because I am prone to anxiety.

6. I believe that honesty and communication are the two most important things to practice in every relationship, even if sometimes the truth hurts. Withholding truth hurts more.

7. Too many cloudy, rainy, or snowy days depress me, though I always try to find the beauty in them.

8. I am kind of a germaphobe, particularly when I know someone has had or was in contact with someone who had the stomach flu or even mentions that their stomach hurts.

9. I think making people work 8+ hours a day is bullshit.

10. I believe in the power of healthy food related to healing body, mind, and spirit.

11. I have wanderlust.

12. I wish getting high didn't make me anxious.

13. I am currently overcoming a fear of astral projecting after realizing that I was trying to do it without my conscious knowledge.

14. I believe that our thoughts are both our best friend and our worst enemy depending on how we respond to them.

15. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle tipped the awareness scale for me and opened my eyes to the power of presence in the now.

16. I believe that nature heals.

17. I like to swear.

18. I believe I once was or will come back as a cat.

19. I want to help others find peace within themselves.

20. I know that in the presence or absence of all these things, I'm still me.

 

So tell me, friends. What do I do with this?

 

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The Quest for Intimacy

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Last night, a friend asked me to go to Janesville with her, and previous to her picking me up, I had read an article titled, "To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This." Maybe you've seen it floating around social media, but if not, it's worth the read. It discusses how people can quickly fall in love with people via these 36 questions that accelerate intimacy. In my quest to being closer to my loved ones this year, I looked up the questions and did them with my friend in the car on our trek to Janesville. While answering them, I realized something: the more intimate the question, especially pertaining to complimenting one another, the more uncomfortable and giggly we became. This could be because we're new friends (about two or three years now) or perhaps saying five positive things about each other was hard for a few reasons:

  1. you're admitting something you like about that person that you may normally keep to yourself because it's a trait you wish you possessed
  2. you fear not being able to come up with five and appearing an asshole
  3. you think maybe it's silly to list things your friend may already know about themselves and thus finding it unimportant to express

But you know what? My friend did tell me a few things I thought about myself, but when she explained why they were positive, I teared up because sometimes, I ponder those qualities and wonder if maybe they annoy people or make me appear conceited or hold me back in life because maybe one is a quality I obsess over or feel like I obsess over. To see myself through someone else was incredible and made me sigh a breath of relief that who I am is actually seen and appreciated. Is this normally something I fret about? Not really, but it doesn't make it any less nice.

Imagine how many people don't ever get asked anything. AND think about how this friend and I are still able to learn new things about each other and how we perceive each other after three years.

I then did these questions with my husband, and he said, genuinely, "I think I'm falling in love with you all over again." We're celebrating our 11 year dating anniversary this April.

If these questions were asked in a silent room with you and the other person facing each other, paying 100% attention to one another, alternating asking the questions, I can conclude, whole-heartedly, that you will grow closer. What a beautiful place the world would be if we took time to slow down, pay attention, and keep ourselves open.

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Ushering In a New Year

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It's a new year, and with that, we tend to feel like we have to be new people or try something new or lose weight or start a good habit. My focus fell on cleansing--body, mind, spirit, and home. Did you know that it's believed that if you sweep the area by your front door daily, you will allow more blessings to flow in and out of the house more freely, and in turn, into yourself? Or that decluttering a closet or drawer helps declutter the mind? Even something as simple as throwing away one piece of mail gets rid of some junk inside us. Try it. It's quite freeing. Especially with the mindset of letting go. With these things in mind, and due to the extreme cold, and the sudden cut from the busyness of The Body Project, I decided that I wanted my brain filled daily with inspiration and positive words. Practice means progress. I'm tired of feeling slothful and unmotivated to kick major butt in my personal and external life. The holidays, though filled with family and food and abundance, can exhaust us and make us lose sight of ourselves. So, here's a list of thoughts that fire me up and make me think. Maybe one speaks to you.

1.

2.

When you are in a state of nonacceptance, it’s difficult to learn. A clenched fist cannot receive a gift, and a clenched psyche grasped tightly against the reality of what must not be accepted cannot easily receive a lesson.
— John Roger

3.

4.

The need for approval, the need to control things, and the need for external power are needs that are based on fear. When we experience the power of the Self, there is an absence of fear, there is no compulsion to control, and no struggle for approval or external power.
— Deepak Chopra

5.

6. 

Life is a creative process, not a journey of discovery or a school of learning. You’re not discovering yourself, but recreating yourself. So don’t try and figure out who you are, but establish who you want to be. You create your reality every minute, probably without realizing it. You can be, do, and have whatever you can imagine.
— Neale Donald Walsch

7.

8.

Experience life in all possible ways —good-bad, bitter-sweet, dark-light, summer-winter. Experience all the dualities. Don’t be afraid of experience, because the more experience you have, the more mature you become.
— Osho

9.

10.

This body is not me. I am not limited by this body. I am life without boundaries. I have never been born, and I have never died. Look at the ocean and the sky filled with stars, manifestations from my wondrous true mind. Since before time, I have been free. Birth and death are only doors through which we pass, sacred thresholds on our journey. Birth and death are a game of hide and seek. So laugh with me, hold my hand, let us say good-bye, say good-bye, to meet again soon. We meet today. We will meet again tomorrow. We will meet at the source every moment. We meet each other in all forms of life.
— Thich Nhat Hanh, Chanting and Recitations from Plum Village

11.

12.

He who binds himself to joy/Does the winged life destroy/He who kisses the joy as it flies/Lives in eternity’s sunrise.
— William Blake

Who gets you thinking and fired up? What's your inspiration?

 

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I promise I'm not afraid of showing weakness.

Journaling with the rising sun.
Journaling with the rising sun.

A friend of mine and I like to exchange writing prompts, and last month, she gave me this prompt: "Write about why you have a hard time being vulnerable. Not saying that you aren't, but just reflect on what vulnerability means to you and why you may or may not express vulnerability." She sensed that I was holding something back in a conversation we'd been having over lunch, and felt that perhaps I had chosen not to be vulnerable.

So, I've been reflecting on this ever since, and I really did go through a deep thought process--am I not vulnerable? Do I not open myself up to people? Have I not shown who I really am? And then I went through lots of thoughts about my past and why I may have ended up not being a vulnerable person. I wrote this huge thing that sounded like such a mess a crap that was fake and forced in order to try to come to terms with some unconscious energy at work.

Then, I came to realize (through conversations with my husband, another friend, and a deep self-reflection) that it isn't that I'm not vulnerable, it's that I don't often have things that upset me or trouble me or sit on my brain for a long time that require me to reach out to people for advice. And I often come to people once a conclusion has already been made. So, it's more of a recap of my vulnerabilities and how I've solved my situation.

To those who are closest to me, I'm truly sorry. I don't mean to leave you out, that's just how I've always lived my life. My grandma put a journal in my hands when I entered third grade, and I've never moved away from that space for self-reflection. The journey of life is so incredibly important to me that I savor that time with myself to figure it out, feel those emotions and gut wrenching twists and turns in any situation, and ugly cry. Because ultimately, I am the only person, with the help of solitude, that pulls that all out of me. I promise I'm not afraid of showing weakness. I promise I'm not hiding. I promise I'm not cold. I just don't talk about it with you because I likely have yet to realize something's wrong or I've already figured it out.

So, to those of you out there who lean on yourself for advice, I feel you. Sometimes it's isolating because you'd like to reach out to people, but ultimately, you trust your own intuition more than anyone's. I get it. It doesn't make you cold, and it doesn't mean you don't give of yourself to others. So, go ahead and ugly cry alone in your room, because chances are, someone else somewhere is doing it with you.

 

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We All Deserve A Voice

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” ~Lao-Tzu~
“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” ~Lao-Tzu~

There's a heaviness to my mood today that wasn't there when I woke up. I started reading news reports about yet another white cop cold-bloodedly killing a black man when the cop wasn't even attacked. I have avoided writing about this, and hell, even thinking too deeply about it because it boils my insides. My heart aches for everyone--the families of the fallen men, those cops that clearly walk with fear in their hearts, those who've been convicted or hurt due to protesting.

What is happening to our nation? Is this the "rock bottom" before we start climbing again? Wasn't that already hit during the Civil Rights movement? Shouldn't we be further along by now? These are questions everyone asks, I know, but they're on repeat in my head.

My god, people still fear those who look different than them! I would say that's so childish, but even children don't act this way because most children walk with love, acceptance, and curiosity in their hearts before they're heavily affected by their parents or society. Shit, this isn't even about black vs. white anymore! It's about love vs. hate and always has been in all aspects of life. We love white skin over black skin, tanned skin over pale skin, straight hair over curly, thin vs. fat, healthy vs. unhealthy eating, sobriety vs. drunkeness, children vs. no children, married vs. single, conservative vs. liberal, etc. etc. etc. This list is so endlessly tiring.

When I think about my tiny footprint with The Body Project, I realize that, though it's so small in a vast sea of projects, movements, and protests involving body acceptance, it most certainly represents a little voice in the larger statement of halting the fear, judgements, and hatred of people who are different than oneself and the beliefs, opinions, theories, and even material possessions that are different than what one has.

So, if you find yourself moved by the message of body acceptance and self-love, stop and think if that carries over into all areas of your life.

It's okay to question authority.

It's okay to fight against outdated systems.

It's okay to love yourself wholly and love someone totally different than you because way deep down, we're all trying to live life the best way we know how.

Stop harming yourself.

Stop harming others.

And remember that we all deserve a voice and the space to project it.

Love Is A Verb
Love Is A Verb
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Rerouting the Meaning of Beauty

A friend recently shared this article with me: "Pretty Unnecessary" and many parts of it really struck a bad chord with me, and I'll explain why. It started here: "While I’m in favor of encouraging women to feel confident and happy, I worry that today’s body positivity focuses too much on affirming beauty and not enough on deconstructing its necessity. Spreading a message that everyone is beautiful reinforces the underlying assumption that beauty matters."

I want to clear something up about my own advocacy for body positivity. I did not have these women pose in front of my camera simply to affirm that their bodies were beautiful. Honestly, if anyone sees it like that, they aren't paying attention. Think of the vulnerability that comes first, with opening up to other women about anything and everything in the world, communicating, and relating, and second, with exposing yourself to a photographer after years of being told that your specific body type is unacceptable--taking action against norms for future generations. Women are finding their worth on the inside while simultaneously finally giving a shit (or not giving a shit for once) about the outside. As has been proven, visuals wake people up. The more bodies we put out there that don't fit the current standard, the more people will see that all bodies are normal, and perhaps we can get to a point where beauty isn't tied to bodies anymore, at least with regard to consumerism.

Or this part: "Today’s body positivity has gotten stuck trying to 'fix' beauty from the inside rather than moving beyond it. Between the 'real women have curves' memes and the furor over un-photoshopped cover girls, we’re fighting to push the margins of beauty an inch in any direction, while reifying the concept itself—struggling to revise the standard but never presuming to overthrow it entirely. In her essay 'The Beauty Bridge,' Jia Tolentino, an editor at Jezebel and the Hairpin, says that such surface-level concepts of empowerment 'push women around each other on the narrow, precarious beauty bridge rather than suggesting we just howl like animals and jump right off.'"

While I get what she's saying, it actually just suggests that we simply get over it. Not everyone works like that. People don't just get over things. Society can't be changed by people just getting over something that has taken a bajillion years to instill itself within us. So yes, beauty does need to be fixed from the inside. There is so little self-love in this world. Wouldn't you think any kind of positivity, whether it's body positivity or mind positivity begins with self-love? So, if that means that we need to start with "surface-level concepts of empowerment," than so be it. It isn't "surface-level" when it reaches inward and grabs someone by their gut and knocks the wind out of them and reminds them that they are worth it, whether it takes looking in the mirror and starting with, "God damnit, I am pretty" or by smashing their mirror and thinking, "Fuck looking at myself. I have better things to do."

Oxford dictionary (oh, I'm going there) defines beauty as, "A combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight" AND "A combination of qualities that pleases the intellect or moral sense." Our society has moved so far past the second meaning of the word beauty that many people, such as this writer, it seems, assume that beauty only stands for something aesthetically pleasing.

It didn't all frustrate me, though, because she did a good job sharing other opinions that ended up describing exactly the way I feel, such as this:

"The Body Positive is a nonprofit organization that works directly with individuals and communities to support positive body attitudes. Its cofounder and executive director, Connie Sobczak, says that 'beauty is an amazing thing if we can reclaim it,' and rejects the idea that the definition of beauty must exclude anyone. 'If I say that I can see my own beauty, it doesn’t take away from anyone else’s. It just means I’m a whole human being and I can see my own value, and because of that I can see so much beauty in everything in the world.'"

Mmmmhmmm, that's yummy.

And this: "And of course, claiming beauty in a culture that has historically denied it can be genuinely empowering."

Yes. It absolutely can.

So, because society is always slow to make changes, it's only natural to begin where they began: changing the literal face of beauty we are constantly bombarded with. As my friend stated while discussing this article with me, "...an intersectional approach is needed. There's a lot of work that needs to happen to have racial inclusion, inclusion of trans or genderqueer bodies, different ages, etc." Agreed.

Then, step two: reroute the meaning of the word beauty back to "A combination of qualities that pleases the intellect or moral sense" and show that it's more more than skin deep. The women of The Body Project may have shown you their bodies, but they did so with reminders like this:

  1. More than 302lbs.
  2. Accepted Outside. Improving Inside.
  3. Let go of your imperfections.
  4. Riots. Not diets.
  5. Everlasting [stretch] marks for everlasting love.
  6. Align. Atone.
  7. More than just a body, I am the soul within.
  8. Dedicated to me.
  9. Peace and Love Abide.
  10. Indomitable spirit.

Don't get me wrong, though, I am not against anyone focusing on the aesthetic portion of the definition of beauty. There's room for both in this world. It's when we start tying our worth to it that it gets dangerous.

Then, step three: Do good in the world and express that beauty deep within all of us whether it's love, acceptance, compassion, patience, kindness, or more advocacy.

But you already know this. :) Because you're awesome.

 

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An Inspiring Gallery Opening and A Grand Entrance Into My Thirties

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Pano pieced together courtesy of Carlos. Sorry for the blurry middle pic. I moved. ;)
Pano pieced together courtesy of Carlos. Sorry for the blurry middle pic. I moved. ;)

Wow. The gratitude I feel about The Body Project exhibit and all the support and donations received fills my heart with so much joy. Never before has something so wonderful come together so beautifully and smoothly (though my wedding may be able to compete ;P). The turn out last Saturday was amazing--the steady trickle of people with their smiling faces, humbling comments about feeling inspired, and their tears left me in awe throughout the whole night. When I entered The Black Sheep for the private after party with close friends and family and the women of the project, I was greeted with claps and the chant, "Speech! Speech! Speech!" but I couldn't do it. I couldn't give a speech because I am honestly speechless. Know that, though I don't have words, my heart is full.

As many know, not only was this past weekend the Opening Reception of the exhibit, it was my thirtieth birthday, and I have found myself reflecting on what exactly this all means to me. Since this weekend, I have realized that for the first time ever in my adult life, I'm content. I truly struggled to identify the feeling that settled over me after last weekends festivities, and I had to have a friend tell me the word after I described how I felt. Content.

At one point in my life, my calm, cool, and collected exterior didn't match my inner boil of emotions and desires. I yearned for something that wasn't what I had, but I didn't know what that something was. The conflict between my inner and outer being felt chaotic and exhausting. And then, I think I stopped reaching for the unknown and started touching what was in front of me. I appreciate any chance I get to remain that way, and try hard not to fuel the fire of my old ways. It's not worth it, and it kept me from taking risks like starting a huge project like this one. I'm learning that, even if presented with a situation that fuels the fire of my old ways, I should remind myself to breathe and tell myself that it's all truly okay. I think I'm finally realizing how to be without attachment to an outcome. Everything that happens just is and I just am in the midst of all of it.

This project has helped me understand that my life is truly in line with who I am and what I believe. I no longer feel the need to prove myself. I feel whole. Though, I wonder, what the hell happens next if I want for nothing? What a strange feeling! With the yearning gone, I'm left feeling full and unencumbered. I'm left feeling in love with life. And that's a beautiful thing.

I want you to know, though, that I am still quite a private person. There are resolutions I've made for my thirties that I don't care to share, perhaps because too much pain was involved in the process of finding a resolution, but one thing I do want to share is that I want to look you all in the eyes and see you for who you are just as you have done for me. <3 Thank you for making my entrance into my thirties magical.

To view a slideshow of images from The Body Project Opening Reception, click here.

To see an album of images, click here.

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Dear Happy Brains

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This is a unique story from a unique woman. I appreciate the awareness she works to create and her strength in having to endure the slow loss of a parent while simultaneously perpetually smiling, singing, and acting goofy and light-hearted. <3 Karen, you're awesome.

 

My story is probably different than the others. At first, when I was thinking about what part of me to highlight for this project, I had a few ideas of body parts that I am somewhat self-conscious of, and I know exactly why I am.  Instead, I decided to take a very different route. The body part I chose is my brain. And here is the reason: 
A handful of years ago, my sisters, dad and I started realizing that something had changed with Mom's ability to remember small things. At first, we just brushed it off. Then, paired with her chronic dizziness, her memory issues seemed to get worse. After many doctors appointments, a couple years ago we found out what we had been fearing - she has Alzheimer’s.
I feel that there isn't a lot of awareness in public about the disease. Society is catered to a young, fast-paced life, and that's really hard to keep up with if you have Alzheimer's. It's hard for my mom to make a decision on a menu at a restaurant, and oftentimes waitstaff gets impatient. It can be very isolating when you feel like no one understands you.
I am making it my goal to spread the word about Alzheimer's. I know that I probably have more of a chance of getting it than other people might; not only does my mom have it, my maternal grandma did too. I also know that Alzheimer's is a minimal concern for most people my age. However, this is a very real disease that affects too many people, and something needs to be done about it as the number will just keep growing.
I chose the words "I Remember" for my affirmation, because that's what I want to do - remember. I obviously don't want to get the disease myself and burden my loved ones, but more than that; I want to remember my mom on her good days. I want my memories to be of smiles, laughter, singing, and love, not of confusion and helplessness. I want there to be a prevention, treatment, and cure for this disease so that others won't have to go through what my family and so many other families have had to.
So here is to healthy, happy brains of women (who are at the epicenter of Alzheimer's) all over!

 

It was quite perfect timing to post Karen's story for this week's blog entry because she'll be participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer's this weekend. :) She's taking donations through the end of the year here or read more about Alzheimer's here. Donate if you're able or send out all kinds of positive vibes that a cure is found for this disease and peace and patience are found within family units.

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The Body Project Session #17: Progressive Journey

This last full group session was intense and open. The women shared their stories so readily and with such interest in absorbing each others histories. We talked of rape, molestation, and abuse with the clarification that one doesn't need to remain the victim, but grab their experiences by the reins and take control of their own growth and success beyond definitions and pity. I'm amazed, constantly, at the shit people go through and rise above. One woman kept repeating in various ways that's it's time to move past all the garbage, whether that garbage is something that happened in your past or whether that garbage is the negative words on a loop in your head or your personal trainer telling you you're not trying hard enough. You do you for you and no one else.

It felt so perfect that the overall tone was acceptance of what is and the steps we all take to continue progressing through our varied journeys with positivity. And though some days are harder than others, it's important to remember that it's another day and another step, and (I know I've said it before) it begins with love.

The Body Project has helped me on my journey of happy. I have had some bumps in the road, but that’s life. I am happy with my body and self. This was a way for me to show myself that and maintain my happy journey.
 Throws like a girl.

Throws like a girl.

 Strong. Girly.

Strong. Girly.

 
The Body Project has helped me feel better about myself. It’s amazing how a few stories can make you feel so empowered . I am definitely a lot more comfortable in my own skin! I’m so happy to see these women leaving their insecurities at the door. Every woman should do The Body Project!
 It's all about the journey.

It's all about the journey.

 
The Body Project has forced me to let go...let go of all my self-hate and find all my self-love. Being here with all these different, amazing women has helped me, empowered me, and has given me inspiration to keep loving me!
 Faith heals all.

Faith heals all.

 
Body projects have erupted around the nation, and I’m elated that it’s bloomed in a smaller area like Whitewater where women may not have received the message that your body is yours and we’re all in it together. <3 Katy, well done. No matter where you are, body positivity is essential to healthy living. Keep going!
 In progress.

In progress.

 In progress.

In progress.

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I didn’t know fat was something I should feel shame over.

The Body Project has given me the chance to explore why I am so great and the opportunity to share it with the world. I feel connected to a community I didn’t have access to before.
— Nicole

I have known Nicole my whole life. She was that zany girl with the biggest laugh I’d ever heard in the choir room in high school. We weren’t close friends, but we were friendly. She’s just as genuine today as she was then, and I am incredibly appreciative of the fact that she squeezed in a private session with me (she was supposed to join this Sunday’s session) before moving out of state this Friday.

As she stood in my bathroom doing her make-up while I pinned up her teased hair into a mo-hawk, she explained how she wanted to capture her quirkiness: her bobby-pinned mo-hawk she’s always looking for an excuse to wear, her sexy, sequined black dress, her awesomely adorable two piece lingerie, her glittery eye makeup, a light-hearted pose and a strong pose…simply, HER.

The session was peaceful and full of gratitude. Not only did I LOVE the way the photos turned out, but then she sent me a story that seriously kicks ass. Like Nicole does. :) Enjoy.

I was 24 years old the first time I realized I am supposed to be ashamed of my size. I was in graduate school, participating in an advance listening course. I was having a discussion about women and their bodies with six of my peers, all of whom were between sizes 2-14. I was the last to share. I listened as each of my classmates shared about how advertisements, men, friends and family members had led them each to believe they were too big to be attractive. When it was my turn to share, I felt like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Should I lie to fit in with the group, or be honest and admit I didn’t know fat was something I should feel shame over?

I do not remember what I said to my peers, although I know it included the truth:

I have never felt shame for being me, and I have never defined myself by my size.

I give all the credit to my mom for my long-lasting naivete. I wish I could share the secret of how she raised a large, loud, and proud woman, but I am not sure there is only one answer. Here is what I have learned since becoming aware that “they” be ashamed of my body.

I am a lot of things.

If I had to pick fifty words to describe myself, not one of them would include fat, big, large, fluffy, or plump. They would include fierce, independent, happy, head strong, funny, witty, pretty, and smart.
Smart. Funny. Sassy. Independent. Confident.
Smart. Funny. Sassy. Independent. Confident.

If you needed me to describe my physical appearance, I would probably tell you I am solid, strong, and have beautiful eyes. I have a smile that serves me well in my profession, putting people at ease and allowing them to open up to me. I have arms that easily lift my 40 pound dog and 35 pound nephew. I have legs that let me climb, run, walk, and travel. I would not describe parts of me that jiggle and shake. Those do not add up to my sum.

Around the same time I learned that I am supposed to feel shame when I look in the mirror, I also learned how to express my feelings about the topic. I love me, I appreciate me, and I know I am constantly striving to be the best me I can be. I am confident and capable as I am. However, I have no confidence that men, specifically date-able ones in my age bracket, will ever appreciate me. On the rare occasion that a man tells me he thinks I am attractive, it is usually accompanied by the phrase, “I like big girls,” or some variation.

I am not a fetish; I am Nicole.

One well-meaning friend suggested I try to find an online dating site for blind men because they might appreciate me more. The only man I ever loved told me he was the only person who would ever be able to love me. Comments like these reinforce my greatest fear—that no one will be able to look beyond what society and advertising says about my size and appreciate me for me. Lucky for me, though, these comments and situations have not changed the value I see in myself. I am a woman, a sister, daughter, and aunt. I add up to so much more than the number on the scale.

More than 302.
More than 302.
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Three Positives a Day for Seven Days

It's happened. I've been nominated. You've likely seen this challenge spread all over Facebook, and if you're not an active user, it is essentially this: post/write down three positive things in your life that you're grateful for/appreciate each day for seven days. The point is to help one reflect, spread some love and positivity throughout Facebook, and simply to send more positive vibes out into the world. Well, now's the time for honesty. I hoped beyond all hope that no one would nominate me for this challenge. This isn't because I'm a grinch. This isn't because I'm not a positive person. This is because I am a deeply private person (this may be a shocker...not sure...) and throwing my private appreciations out there makes me feel like I'm standing naked in the middle of rush hour.

I want you all to know that I write in a journal almost daily, and not once does a day go by that I don't write a few things I am grateful for and appreciate. This challenge will be cake, but when it comes to the publicity of it, it's not so much cake anymore.

SO. I've decided to stretch this challenge a bit and bring it to this blog (which feels like a safe haven and offers a more permanent space to document such personal thoughts rather than the quick-passing Facebook newsfeed) where I will not only open myself up a bit more to my readers, but bring more attention and awareness to The Body Project. After all, I firmly believe that our minds and our spirits need to be loved and strengthened as much as our bodies. They belong to our body. This is a beautiful exercise in taking those first steps to truly loving yourself. The more appreciation you show the world, the more positive and healthy you'll start to feel.

Without further ado, here goes.

DAY ONE

First and foremost, I appreciate and deeply love my family with special mention to my hubby, mom, dad, and brother. They are, without a doubt, my biggest supporters in life and have never once made me feel like I couldn't do what I set out to do. They've let me rise and fall without judgement (maybe some nudges of I told you so's now and then ;P) and embrace who I am whole-heartedly. I love you all so much.

Second, I appreciate and deeply love my friends who bring so much color to my life (and the world!) it's ridiculous. You all constantly remind me how beautiful and crazy the world is and you bring me down from the clouds I often find myself sitting on.

Finally, I appreciate The Body Project. It has released so much within me and makes me smile on a daily basis to see how many women (and men!) it has touched. I love, beyond words, the women who've opened themselves up and allowed themselves to be vulnerable for this project. You all inspire and uplift me daily. The project feels like a solid foundation for which to build a new layer of my business. I am incredibly grateful to all involved and all who support us.

DAY TWO

 1. I am so so SO grateful to past, present, and future clients of my business, katy daixon photography, particularly those clients (and non-clients!) who've stuck by me through every step of the (likely awkward) way. You know who you are, and I hope you know how special you are to me. Without your constant support, appreciation, help, honesty, and willingness to share my work with others, I wouldn't be where I am right now. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Truly.

2. I deeply appreciate and love Dr. John Hicks and his wife, Betsy, for leading me on a new path toward healing. For the first time in seven years, I feel like all will work out in the end. I have faith that I won't need to deal with chronic pain and physical irritations for the rest of my life. You may have also incidentally made me a foodie. ;) I am forever grateful to you and for what you put out into the world.

3. Beyond my immediate family and husband, I appreciate and love my additional siblings (Tiff, Ric, Roy, and Alex). All of you bring incredible humor to my life and have lifted me out of darkness more times than I can count. Your honesty, unconditional love (even though you don't have to be honest or love me! ;P), intelligence, and determination are beautiful. As my mom always says, "You're not an inlaw. You're an outlaw, because outlaws are wanted." <3

DAY THREE

Today was light-hearted. So my three positives will follow suit. ;)

1. I appreciate my cats something fierce. If I couldn't smoosh my face into their beautifully fluffy (Loki) and silky (Ziggy) hair, I don't know what I'd do to bring myself into the here and now. I am grateful for the conversations we have throughout the day (seriously) and for their adorable little faces putting a smile on my face every single day.

2. I appreciate kids' ability to be totally absurd and dorky with no fear of judgement. Today, I trekked down to Whitewater Lake to take photos of people hanging out on the beach for the Whitewater Tourism. As I took a photo from behind a mom watching her daughter play in the water, the daughter grabbed her mini-tube, slammed her body down on it, and posed with her arms and legs in the air. Lol! Then, as I was walking back to my car, I heard this conversation loud and clear:

Little girl: "Who was that lady you were talking to mom?"

Mom:, "A photographer. She's taking pictures for brochures and stuff."

Little girl: "So, I'm going to be in a magazine?!"

Ah...love it.

3. I appreciate the pleasure that comes from uninhibited dancing, especially the sways, jumps, booty shakin', dips, jerks, and fake ballerina moves one does while alone in their room. ;) It's glorious.

DAY FOUR

1. I appreciate so so much CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) that I signed up for through Regenerative Roots, located in Jefferson, WI, not only because the owners kick ass and love providing organically grown food to local people, but because the fruits and veggies are beyond delicious and make my body feel a thousand times better than many store bought items.

2. On that note, I ADORE and am grateful for fermented veggies. The amount of nutrition/probiotics packed into those veggie-filled mason jars on my pantry shelves and in my fridge have done amazing things to my digestive system. I am definitely moving in a healthy direction. Get recipes here and start fermenting. Seriously.

3. I love this weather. After so many days of stifling 80-90 degree humid heat, I am reminded of how much I love scarves, sweaters, and snuggling up next to my hubby. Oh yeah...and not sweating profusely. Both of us. ;)

DAY FIVE

1. I appreciate chocolate avocado pudding because I don't need to eat much to feel full and incredibly satisfied. For realsies. MAKE. IT. Recipe here.

2. I am truly grateful for the fact that I have time to do journaling and self-reflection in the morning. I can't even count how many times I have come to realizations about my mind, body, spirit, and life in that hour I spend alone with my thoughts.

3. I love video games. Seriously. If you want anything to take you out of your own head, go shoot stuff on your TV. ;)

DAY SIX

1. I appreciate sessions with kind-hearted, easy-going people. I love the way the sessions turn out and how natural the people are with each other and me.

2. I LOVE big mugs. They make me feel warm.

3. I am truly grateful for nights like tonight with beautiful late summer weather, my husband and his brother playing guitar and singing, while I write and read and breathe.

DAY SEVEN

This was technically due yesterday, but I was gone all day shooting a wedding, so today is just as good. ;)

1. I greatly appreciate the time my husband and I had today to purge our house of any excess. I seriously believe that cleansing your environment cleanses your mind.

2. I LOVE that gay marriage is accepted in Illinois because the two women I photographed yesterday with Capturing Photography so deserve to be married. They were an incredible couple with beautiful, happy families which made for incredible pictures all day. <3

3. I whole-heartedly appreciate this project, blog, my photography business, and the ability/chance to be creative every day. They all fulfill me so deeply I can't even imagine what I'd rather be doing. Life is awesome.

 

I challenge you ALL to write (OR say to yourself) a few positive things you're grateful for/appreciate every day for always. It truly is important for your health and the health of the world.

 

  • Contact katy@katydaixon.net if you’d like your story featured on the blog!
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My Name is Lesley, and I Am Better Than That

She is full of fire and it's about freaking time I share her story.

We all do it. We look at other people. We look at their hair, their faces, the way they apply their makeup. We look at their clothes and the way they style themselves. We look at their fat and their bones and the way their body is structured. We look at their expressions and the postures they stand with. We look at their muffin tops and the gaps between their thighs. We look at these things and think about them positively and negatively or sometimes we simply observe. Observing similarities and differences is human nature. Making judgements about those observations, whether positive or negative, is a reflection of our own selves.

My name is Lesley and I am skinny.

My name is Lesley and there is much more to me than my body. There is much more to my life than my body type.

Referring to something someone posted in the Facebook group--the article on Thin Privilege [you can read it here] --it's possible I misunderstood, but I read it over and over again and could not bring myself to feel comfortable with what the author was saying. I felt that she made a lot of generalizations and assumptions about thin people based on her own experiences. Is it fair to reduce our experience and struggles by assuming they were because of our bodies?

One thing she said stuck out to me in particular: "And while your internal struggle is real and significant, the point is: You might hate your body, but society doesn't."

Again, I may be taking this the wrong way, but I will tell you that I hated my body for two reasons: because when I looked in the mirror, I didn't look like the pretty people (others told me so) and because other people said I was ugly and that my body was gross. These people are a part of society. I very much think that society and the collective group made up of the modeling industry, media, and celebrities, are two very different things. The latter is extreme and disconnected from reality. The former may be influenced in part by the latter, but that does not excuse their actions.

The unrealistic standard that advertising creates does not just affect fat people. That unrealistic model has also had her skin airbrushed, bony parts smoothed, boobs inflated, facial features perfected, hair perfected, and has been photographed at a great angle in great lighting by a photographer. I remember seeing pictures of myself after senior prom and what did I see? I saw my collarbone, my lack of breasts, my hips jutting through the material of the dress, my shoulder blades that looked like they could cut a person, my big dumbo ears sticking out because my hair pulled back was too thin to cover them, and the fact that the full length dress I'd loved before I saw the photos actually only came down to my ankles because I was too tall. I looked ugly compared to the models on the cover of teen magazines, plain and simple, and being skinny didn't help.

And for all my life I was bullied for many things including being skinny, the media's obsession with women being thin had less to do with it or my reaction to it than what I was experiencing first hand. So, here is something I wanted to say that I didn't feel comfortable posting in the group:

It does not matter why someone is telling me my body is ugly. It does not matter that I am thin. It does not matter if their action is influenced by society, by the media, by fat-shaming, by their own personal experiences. Their action does not have a damn thing to do with any privileges I may have as a thin person. My internal struggle is real and significant. Period.

I did not think I was beautiful for the first 20+ years of my life. I was too skinny. I was scrawny and awkward, and I had a long face, a gummy smile, and big ears. I didn't develop any curves until a couple of years ago. I didn't know how to put makeup on or make my hair pretty. I wore ugly clothes I found at thrift stores. I had terrible self-esteem, low confidence, and because of past bullying, I was extremely shy in most situations. I picked my nails down farther than they should be because of severe anxiety. Great, I was skinny. How awesome. Here's the truth: People went out of their way to tell me how ugly I was, to point out how thin I was, to make fun of my long face and my big gummy smile.

People asked me to my face if I was anorexic, they asked my friends, they asked my brother. They told me to eat. They shoved food in my face and said, "What's wrong with you?" because clearly there must be something wrong. I once overhead a guy tell a group of mutual friends how disgusting it must be to sleep with me. They thought I had gone to bed. I was sitting in the dark crying. One girl stood up for me. That was 2005. I'll probably never forget it. After that night, I tried to stuff myself as much as I could with food. At the end of the summer, I had hardly gained any weight.

 I am better than that.

I am better than that.

My name is Lesley and my spine sticks out and I have a gap between my thighs. Is that all you see when you look at me?

 

I was also born severely pigeon-toed; I had to wear corrective casts at 4 months old. I had to live with terrible pain for several years when we were trying to correct the way my feet and legs were growing. Sometimes, it hurt so much I'd fall to the floor. I'd make my mom squeeze my feet as hard as she could to offset the pain. If we hadn't corrected them, I probably wouldn't walk well, much less be able to run easily. I'm thin and terribly out of shape. I used to have gorgeous posture until I hit my growth spurt in middle school and was made fun of for being tall. I slouched to fit in. Most things don't fit me right. 1/5 bras are carried in my size and even my size doesn't fit half the time. Pants are a bitch to find. Just-above-the-knee dresses that look beautiful on shorter women hit me about or above mid-thigh. Shorter women look classy. I look like a slut. On the other hand, I assume this is a problem big-bosomed women have with things my smaller chest can get away with.

I was diagnosed with tachycardic syncope because I was blacking out several times per day and passing out when I stood for too long, something common with tall, thin adolescent women. I couldn't even stand in choir to sing through our repertoire some days. I once went to the doctor for a cough. She did nothing for my cough and spent the appointment trying to make me confess I had an eating disorder. She made me do a follow-up appointment a week or two later. I was underweight (more than normal). She made me so angry, I stuffed myself and managed to gain ten (ten!) pounds in time for the next appointment. The look on her face when she weighed me after accusing me of lying...well...that made me feel better.

My name is Lesley and here is what I think: we need to stop defining and separating bullying into categories. Fat people and skinny people have much more in common than people think. That collective group I mentioned earlier that is made up of the modeling industry, media, and celebrities influences fat-shaming AND thin-shaming. It also convinces people that skinny people and non-skinny people must be separated. Why?

No body type gives us the right to make assumptions about that person's life simply because it makes us feel better. We need to learn to be okay with flattering ourselves and taking responsibility for things we don't like, and when there are things we can't change, accept them. When there are things we don't like that we can change, whether we do or don't, that falls on us. Not other people. Not on society.

And when we think someone is pretty, we should tell them. When we make negative judgements about someone’s body, we should keep them to ourselves and remind ourselves that the negative judgement reflects us, not them.

My name is Lesley and I am a photographer. I am a musician. I play the piano and sing.

I love animals, and someday I want to work or volunteer at a rescue center.

I majored in writing and minored in graphics and photo.

I was just certified as an EMT.

I've played softball for 17 years and I hope I'm still playing when I'm old.

I became an Aunt a few months ago.

I started dying my hair when I was 13 and didn't stop until I was 26. I haven't dyed my hair in two years, and I finally like my natural color.

I've never gotten a tattoo and maybe never will, but I have 9 piercings.

I love camping and being outdoors.

My favorite kid's song is Baby Beluga, and being by large, seemingly unending bodies of water calms me.

I usually (and awkwardly) can't seem to detect subtle flirting from the opposite sex.

I love pretty much every genre of music except the ones I don't. I played the French Horn for 8 years and I still remember how, although it probably wouldn't be pleasant to listen to.

I seem to remain pretty naive to the idea that some people are just mean for no reason (or maybe for reasons I'll just never know).

I love the way my legs feel freshly shaved. When I wear a swimming suit, sometimes I feel attractive, sometimes I don't.

Sometimes I do or say really stupid things. It can take me a while to forgive myself.

I am not perfect, but after several years of experimenting with makeup, hair, and clothes, I can say (although not publicly), I think I am more beautiful than I used to be. Not always, as I am still very picky about the way my clothes fit, and some days, my face and hair just seem terribly off. I don't think I'm very stylish and I do get frustrated when I see women who are. I own a lot of plain comfortable clothing, and some clothing I've bought because I saw something similar look cute on someone else and then never wore for one reason or another...often confidence related.

I am a woman who wants to feel beautiful and will put the minimum time it takes to accomplish that. I am a woman who wants to be woodsy, free-spirited, and full of life—and often I find myself fighting anxiety and bad habits to try to reach these. I am a woman who is tired of hearing people dehumanize thin people, just as I am sure big women are tired of hearing people dehumanize fat people.

There are still many physical things about myself that I don't like, but I have come a long way. I am generally a private person, so sharing all of this was a bit hard. I have a hard time opening myself up to other women and being vulnerable, but I think that my being a part of this project is worth it if it means I can clarify misconceptions people have about being a thin woman and break down some walls.

  • Join The Body Project Facebook group.
  • Contact katy@katydaixon.net if you’d like your story featured on the blog, have questions, or want to purchase a magazine or book of the project!
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The Body Project Session #16: Together, we make one.

This is another one of those sessions that I wrote about in my journal immediately following the session because the thoughts wouldn't stop coming. It goes like this: What a beautiful day! The love, respect, and compassion Viveca and Vainca have for one another is one of the most beautiful sisterhoods I've ever witnessed. They have struggled together, risen together, live near each other, play together, and are so in sync that I (and my right-hand lady for the day, Stacy) mistook them as twins. It was such a purely joy-filled afternoon.

Back story: Both women have not seen me since I was a baby and possibly since I was a toddler. They were good friends with my mom in the 70s (oh my god, those stories are hilarious) and both friended me on Facebook within the past year or so. Now currently living in California, they started following this project with great sadness that they couldn't join. As the project was coming to a close in June, they realized they'd be coming to Wisconsin at the end of the summer and asked if they could "do a sitting in support of strong sisters coming to terms with our middle aged bodies."

We instantly connected the moment they walked in the house, and we proceeded to talk about everything from the project, to sisterhood, to our collective of hairy legs and pits, to tattoos and piercings, and their intense history growing up.

I finished setting up as my mom made her surprise entrance and the three women hugged and laughed and hugged some more, catching up after years of not seeing one another.

 My mom. :)

My mom. :)

We all came up with two poses that perfectly capture the two main attributes of Viveca and Vainca's relationship: humor and love. I couldn't be happier with the way these two embraced their session and each other. Thank you, ladies. You're both beautiful and have incredible spirits.

Thank you, Stacy, for the beautiful candids. <3 Here's their story:

 

In Her Shoes. If you want to know about our sister relationship... watch the movie In Her Shoes. It's our mirror. Our lives. Our story.

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 GO BIG or GO HOME!

GO BIG or GO HOME!

We had never seen this movie before, and while struggling with how to tell our story for The Body Project, there it was--in our hotel room on television during our annual sister trek to the homeland--our story unfolding in front of our eyes. This movie is about the lives, paths, hearts, and healing of two sisters who relied on each other... sometimes together and sometimes apart. Really... this movie was written about us.

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Maggie, played by Cameron Diaz, sums it up by saying to her sister Rose, "Without you, I don't make sense."

That's it for us. We complete each other in a way that only sisters can understand. We know each others thoughts, finish each others sentences, and can share our deepest secrets and know we are safe.

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Ying and yang. Peanut butter and jelly. Coffee and cream. Together, we make one!

She is me and me is she.

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At the end of our movie (forever a reference for us. Yup... our movie), Maggie reads this poem to Rose at her wedding. It's our poem. It speaks us.

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

BY e.e. cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)

                                                      i fear

no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want

no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

 Connected by the heart.

Connected by the heart.

We are connected by our hearts.

Vainca and Viveca forever!

As I see and contemplate the remaining word ‘connected’ still black on my arm, I am reminded of our photo shoot for The Body Project. Being surrounded by family, friends, and the lasting love we have for each other brought to my surface not only a wonderful reunion, but, the ability to feel at home and at peace with me... the fundamentally and physically bare me. I am happy ‘connected.’ Thank you so much for opening your heart and home to my sis and I, and providing a foundation for women to explore, and ultimately learn and love themselves! The surprise reunion was the frosting on the cake!
— Vainca
The Body Project is a reminder that we all have the power to reconsider our doubts and dislikes about ourselves. When posed with the opportunity to confront myself and my inhibitions head on...I find ...it’s not that bad! I am what I am, and when I can get comfy in my skin, I can be content. Thanks for the opportunity to reach in...dig down...and settle into a bit of comfy. It’s easy to focus on what’s wrong, but it’s so much better to think about what’s right.
— Viveca

 

  • Join The Body Project Facebook group.
  • Contact katy@katydaixon.net if you’d like your story featured on the blog, have questions, or want to purchase a magazine or book of the project!
  • LIKE katy daixon photography for updates on projects, new blog posts, and sneak peeks of sessions.

The Healing Powers of Love and Health

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I spent the most beautiful few days with my husband in Los Gatos, CA last week at the home of my holistic doctor and his wife-- both very much an inspiration in my life, not only through physical health, but mental as well. All of our nights were spent eating the most delicious home-cooked meals prepared with fresh everything...and wine. Always wine. Happy food. Happy body. Happy mind. The Body Project came up on our last night there (likely I was bragging about the award and the gallery and the...shhhh...chance to do a gallery night/book signing at a local plus-sized boutique in the near future), and I decided not to hold back the burning question. "Do you and your daughter want to be in The Body Project?" My friend's face turned a bit red and she suddenly became quite shy. With a sheepish smile, she said, "Yyyyyyeess? Yes. Let's do it."

She and her daughter began plotting their "problem areas" and affirmations, toeing a line they perhaps had never crossed before. It was precious and humbling to be in the presence of a mother and daughter learning each others insecurities while simultaneously talking each other up. The daughter said something that struck me, "I feel like all an affirmation is going to do is remind me of the part of me I can't stand." Little did she know that within less than an hour, she would change her mind.

"Appreciation is the highest vibrational energy. Appreciating our bodies heals and enlivens our bodies."

A lot of love came from here.

 

"This project has opened my eyes to the fact that your insecurity is part of who you are and that you are not the only one that has issues with yourself."

European Beauty

 

Afterward, while indulging in bowls of chocolate pudding made from avocados (oh my god, so yummy), we fell into deep conversation about bodies and health and love, gaining male insight from our husbands into the struggles men face (more on that at a later date) and came around to the conclusion that we should let go and love. Period. My friend's daughter quickly jumped from her chair to grab her laptop so we could see a music video she couldn't stop thinking about the whole time we did the session and talked. I'm sure some of you have seen it, but it's so beautiful and worth watching over and over:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXoZLPSw8U8

Of course, my friend and I cried, and she said, "You know what the most special thing was for me? My daughter writing my affirmation where I carried her." <3 What I love about these two women is that they love themselves regardless of these insecurities by taking good care of their bodies through natural healing and natural foods that truly have made tremendous differences in their lives. I hope to share some recipes in the future.

Talk to your kids about bodies and health and insecurities and loving themselves regardless. It's so important and so powerful.

 

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A Part of Me

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"First, I'd like to say thank you for giving women a voice to empower ourselves and others through The Body Project. I think this is a beautiful portfolio of strong, intelligent, and gorgeous women inside and out." <3 R.B.  

I've forever had a love hate relationship with food. At the age of seven, I developed bulimia and have struggled with it on and off throughout my life. I always felt like my body weight was the one thing I should be able to control in life. Accepting me for me was the hardest part of overcoming my food addiction. A dear friend said to me, "Just let the food become a part of you." And it clicked! If I only ate what I really wanted to become a part of me, everything would be fine, and there would be no guilt.

 

Healed by Spirit

 

So I put my horticulture degree to work and started growing my own food and volunteering on an organic farm. Through my yoga practice and vegan lifestyle, I feel closer to the earth and at peace with my body and mind.

I'm proud of my body and how strong it is for birthing two lovely children, one of which was a home birth. And though my breasts aren't like they used to be, I'm grateful, for they have provided nourishment for my babies for a total of three years.

 

Peace and Love Abide

Rock on, Body Project!

 

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Attempting to Reconcile Gender and Sex

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I love this story for multiple reasons: 1. I love this woman--who she is, what she says, how she acts, and most importantly, because she's my friend.

2. It's pertinent to the recent surge in hearing from the LGBT community.

3. It's honest, and as you'll see, a story still in progress. <3

"I can remember a time before I developed, when I was still a kid, before all the experimental identities I would go through, at the age of seven, marveling at the fact that sometime soon, my flat-chested body would be that well-developed figure that my family members on both sides share.

I don't remember exactly when it happened, but by sixth grade (as evidenced by field trip pictures) I was already hitting puberty-- well-endowed, having periods. I always wore baggy t-shirts, sweatshirts, and pants-- partially the tomboy I always had been, partially to hide the body I didn't know what to do with yet. I was a smart kid, and my identity in school always focused on being 'the brain.' I didn't think about my body too much, even though it was already beginning to wedge into my circle of (male) friends. Educationally, my mother was only too happy to get me some training bras, a book on changing bodies, and let me figure it out myself.

By the time I hit high school, my body affected the way I dressed in a kind of dual personality. Half the time I still wore over-sized t-shirts and pants, and I blended into the art/anime crowd dressed androgynously (where being different was cool). The other half watched marathons of the early seasons of America's Next Top Model (wondered why my body would never be as good as theirs), read Cosmo, and wore fishnets and skirts. By dying my hair strange colors, wearing heavy makeup, spikes and chains, both of these identities could be reconciled in the alternative scene I found myself in.

The body that had begun to develop in middle school continued to develop in high school. It wasn't long before my breasts (I think DD's at this time) made it so I didn't feel comfortable wearing anything feminine-- not because I didn't want to, but because nothing in the sections I used to shop in would fit me without feeling exposed. 'Juniors' now signified the tops I couldn't wear without huge gaps or plunging necklines. I was already known at school as "that girl with the saggy boobs"; I felt trapped in a double standard society that worshiped large breasts and put so much value and attention on them, and bullied me for not having 'the right shape' of large breasts. I would later come out as a lesbian (and even later, as a pansexual), which gave me an excuse to dress even more butchly-- I wore suits two years to Homecoming (though I wouldn't dare to Prom).

Later, in college, I questioned my gender identity and started experimenting with gender presentation. My biggest obstacle in appearing the way I wanted to was my breasts. Even through binding (the process where trans/genderqueer individuals use sports bras or compression shirts to minimize or eliminate breast appearance), I felt that I couldn't 'pass' as masculine as I wanted to be, and the process of binding was painful and constricted my breathing. I suppose this would be some kind of similarity to corsets when they were in fashion-- same reason, different goals.

Now, a few years out of college, my feelings about both my body and my gender exist in a kind of grey area. The breasts that kept me from feeling masculine enough are still there; I've thought about reduction surgery, or even more radically, removing them completely. At the same time, there are times I don't mind them, even like them-- a kind of high femme drag. Since my identity is malleable, still a big question mark for the most part, and changes day to day, my feelings are mellowed with a kind of acceptance for what my body is: attempting to reconcile gender and sex. It's a lot of contradiction. I can't bring myself to edit my body in such a way, when I'm not even sure what I would like it to be. (That, and I have people I love that like them!)"

MORE THAN THIS
MORE THAN THIS

"It would be a lot less lonely to see other genderqueer people like myself in the media at all; even when androgyne is portrayed, it's almost always in the form of skinny women with boyish, flat chested figures 'playing' male fashion model, thin wisps of fantasy.

My thoughts may be a bit different from the norm, but they are still a response to the same images and messages. While I might not feel the need to be 'pretty', the need to feel 'attractive' as who you are is universal, and vulnerable to toxic messages.

I'm just trying to take it day by day."

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My thoughts before winning Best in Show award...

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I kissed my husband (on his way out to celebrate his mom's birthday) goodbye and said, "Have fun! I'm off to win a photography competition!" in that overly confident way that really means, Oh dear god, please let me win because it would be such icing on the cake that is this amazing project. And then I got there and was overwhelmed with the number of submissions! Many of the photographs were abstractions of nature, gorgeous landscapes, and animals, which echoed, quite nicely, the work of the man the competition was named after--Fran Achen. I, very literally, was one of maybe two or three photographers who had humans as subjects, and that made my stomach drop. Had I entered incorrect subject matter? I wandered, admiring the beautiful work done by local photographers, and voted on one of them for the Viewers Choice competition the Whitewater Arts Alliance also runs toward the end of the month when the exhibition is almost over. And of course, like a giddy child with their artwork on display, I had to sneak a photo of my exhibit.

Fran Achen Photography Competition: The Body Project Exhibit, Whitewater, WI

When the ceremony began, the gentleman introducing the winners of each category (Youth, Teen, Adult Amateur, and Adult Accomplished) explained why each photo was chosen: interesting compositions, leading lines, fun shapes, framing with natural subject matter, great use of all the grays in a black and white image, etc. I kept going back and forth in my mind, You're likely not going to win. You didn't photograph nature (as Fran Achen would have perhaps preferred). Your work simply captures a person, dead center, with absolutely no other interesting photography techniques involved. Yes. Professional photographers worry their asses off, too!

As they set out the three winning images for the Adult Accomplished category, my heart sank. I hadn't won. I checked my phone for the time, wondering if I could slip out and be on time for meeting with a client to deliver her images. Instead, I decided to stay to support the final winners. Obviously leaving would be incredibly rude. So, I texted my client that I was in the middle of a photography awards ceremony and would be a little late.

When all was said and done and the butterflies had subsided with my acceptance of not fitting this particular competition, the gentleman said, "And now for the Best in Show award, which goes to Katy Wimer," as he set one of my seven photographs on the easel.

Oh my god, my whole body is numb. I can't believe that just happened. Is this real life? I forgot about the Best in Show award!

The gentleman explained that he and the other judge chose my photograph separately before sharing with each other which photograph they wanted to award Best in Show! They both agreed it was visually and conceptually grabbing. They loved the pose, the simplicity of the black and white, and how the affirmation "More than just a body..." had depth to it and said so much with so little.

Best in Show award winning photograph-Fran Achen Photography Competition: The Body Project, Whitewater, WI

He asked me to come to the front of the room to explain the project to everyone, which I was happy to do, but I was so excited I was shaking and overly smiley. Lol! The best part was the intense nods from everyone when I finished with, "The Body Project is for positively affirming ourselves in a society that most certainly has too many stereotypes of how women should look. We're trying to change that." <3

OH SO EXCITING!

Best in Show Award happy face!

Moral of the story: be humble. Always be humble. I am so grateful to everyone for your love of and support for this project. Good things are happening, and good things will continue to happen because this is all about love! I plan to put my winnings toward our gallery night and reception/party in the fall! So this one's for all of you!

Best in Show Award-Fran Achen Photography Competition: The Body Project, Whitewater, WI

<3

 

 

 

 

 

Please show your support to the Whitewater Arts Alliance. Pop into their exhibits if you live in town or visit the area. They feature great stuff! This is where I'm hoping to have The Body Project gallery, as well, so show some love. :)

 

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What's Your Superpower?

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One of the most precious things about this project to me personally is how much better I've gotten to know a handful of my cousins, and this next cousin's story is honest and so very fitting to the woman she is as a mother to three boys. :) Moms, you'll enjoy this.

"When Katy started this project, I was eight months pregnant with my third baby. Another boy. A baby I was told I would never have, because I was broken (which is easier to say than the medical mess of words). Already having two boys, I found myself blessed and devastated at the same time. After a deep depression, faith, and soul searching, I found acceptance. I put on my cape, my big girl pants, and decided to suck it up buttercup.

 

See... I have been through more in 38 years than most will see in a life time. I have been a survivor of abuse, an eating disorder, defeat, depression, and so much more. I made a choice a long time ago to be a survivor, not a victim. Most people have no idea what path I have walked. So, as I wanted to support my amazing cousin, I could not figure out my place in this project.

 

Would I focus on my identity? After all, I am an identical twin. I have fought to be my own person since birth. At 38 years old, I am still “The Twins”, “The Girls” or "Mark’s Twins." People say, "What’s it like to be a twin?" I don’t know, what’s it like not being one?

 

Would I focus on overcoming an eating disorder and the daily struggles I still have twenty years later? Or how about the abuse? Or the chronic pain I live in? Or my body? After all three kids, it is in desperate need of a good ironing.

 

I decided to focus on me. I found one thing that makes me proud, keeps me grounded, and is my superpower. I am a mom. I grew life three times.

 

Growing life is my SUPERPOWER!

I don’t live in the past. I am thankful for my past. SAY WHAT?! My past made me a really great mom because I could become the mother I always dreamed of. It truly was a gift. Everyone can have a superpower. It’s discovering it through your life’s journey that makes it uniquely your own.

 

Put on your cape, stretch out your arms, and fly…"

 

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If I had the chance, I'd ask the world to dance.

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This woman's story rocks. It's bold. It's honest. Many will likely relate. As an added piece of awesome to this story, listen to the song (Dancing With Myself by Billy Idol) she danced to during her photos as you read:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FG1NrQYXjLU

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My entire life, I've been comfortable in my own skin. In school--as girls around me listened to the media, saw the magazines, and had their own internal and external battles--I could never relate to them. Sure, there were times when I changed my clothes because I didn't like how my body looked in something. I've looked in the mirror and recognized my breasts were saggy. I've worn spanx. The truth is, it just never got me down. I was able to easily brush off anything that was less than perfect and never dedicate much sentiment to it.

DYNAMIC

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I think I owe this to my mom. She's demonstrated comfort with her body for as long as I can remember. She would walk around the house naked after showering. I'm sure she could list off several things she disliked about her body, but it never stopped her from owning it. She was imperfect but open. She let herself be natural and led by example for her three girls.

 

The only guilt I've ever felt about my body was when my friends were struggling with self-acceptance and I could not help them. Encouraging words came off as arrogant. I found myself pretending to dislike my body and make self-depreciating statements, just to fit in.

the-body-project-katy-daixon-photography-118As I began reflecting on my past experiences and planning for The Body

"You deserve to proud of what you created. All women deserve to feel this way."

Project, I found myself manufacturing insecurities again, in order to fit inside the box. I thought about writing affirmation "xyz" on some body part that has made me change clothes in the past, all to remotely connect to a group of women and a project with a mission I adore. I'm sharing my truthful experience instead because I realized, just like there is no cookie cutter version of what women should look like, there is no cookie cutter way women should feel. Not all "pretty" women are confident and not all imperfect women are self-conscious.

the-body-project-katy-daixon-photography-117I'm honored to be part of this group of women who are exposing themselves, physically and emotionally, and trust that my honest experience will be accepted. I will not be an outsider because I am comfortable on the inside.

COMPLETELY NATURAL

It's certainly time to stop being self-conscious about being confident. Let the quote on the back of The Body Project t-shirt forever remind you, "You're allowed to fall in love with yourself. I promise." And seriously. If I had the chance, I really would ask the world to dance, completely natural, open, and free and hope that if that did ever happen, I'd be dancing, too. <3

 

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