Southern Pride

“You will not reform it. You cannot make it mean something else. Let it go.” Sallysmart has written the words that have been trapped in my soul this week and as a sister-southerner, it’s my honor to share them here.
I’m proud to be a Mississippi girl and I’m aware of the burden of history that’s juxtaposed with my pride – and willing and able to carry it. I have a responsibility to embrace both in a way that befits my upbringing, my raisin’ and I intend to. Thankfully, Sallysmart just got me over a rare, speechless hump.

I do love me a smart girl.

Sally Vardaman

In a short time a sweeping change has taken place in the Deep South.  Sentiment for removing the Confederate flag as a present day representation has never been so strong.  But detractors remain.  The ones I know personally are also people I have known to be deeply compassionate and kind.  This is my letter to them.

When one flies this image, what does it celebrate?  The only defense I hear is that it does not represent racism.  But what meaningful value worthy of our pride does it symbolize?  I’ve asked and gotten no response.  How can we cling to a symbol by shouting only what we claim it ISN’T?

It’s time to let it go.


I am thankful to be from the Deep South.  Living in the Midwest for 14 years has only strengthened my understanding of my heritage.  There are beautiful parts of Southern culture few people see…

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Shit Happens

“You know, Mom, at times like this I really admire you.”

So much about what we’d like to achieve as parents can be summed up in this one statement. Love that dear friend, SallySmart, shared this moment with all of us. Let us remember to not overlook them, when we are so gifted by our own children.

Sally Vardaman

This past year was one of great professional stress, and I determined not to carry it into 2015.  When I did find resolution in October, it came in a better manner than I could have imagined.  While I made some contributions to the outcome, I assure you luck was the prevailing factor.

When the dust settled, I was stunned to find my life relatively drama free for the first time in years.  My kids are at great ages in which they are relatively dependable, responsible and communicative, but haven’t begun to hate me.  Life still has plenty of stress, but a bit less overwhelming.

So I have been thinking to myself often, I really need to enjoy this.  Really.  And I dare not feel entitled to its continuation.  Sometimes we get to a good place and assume it to be a part of a long and steady trajectory.  We…

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Teaching Kids About Consent: Yes means yes

Yes means yes. And that’s that.

Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

Last week I taught a series of classes on Helping Children Thrive at ACU’s Summit. As we talked about thriving, we moved into a conversation about sexual self-efficacy. When someone has sexual self-efficacy, she is able to see herself as a person who can make decisions about what happens to her sexually. He knows how to say yes and no to sexual behaviors and relationships. He knows how to ask for consent from a partner before engaging in sexual behaviors and how to demand that others ask for consent.

In order to help children thrive, parents need to connect with them through talking often and openly, build competence by providing kids with information about physical development and facts about sex and sexuality, and encourage confidence through helping kids think through specific scenarios that might cause difficulty and making a plan to handle them.

  • Parents can use popular media depictions to start those conversations. Television…

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All About Katrina

This is the moment I remember most vividly.

He rode up from nowhere, set down his bike, and filled the empty street with song. After collecting a meager tip, he rode off into the day, leaving nothing but the echoes of a voice I’ll never forget. A voice that demanded to be heard.

I felt so thankful for that moment with my husband, children, and parents.

We were in the middle of a cross-country drive, a family trip to my hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. This stop in New Orleans was a highlight … on so many levels. Delicious Bloody Mary’s, plates full of every culinary form of Crawfish imaginable, a first taste of Oysters Rockefeller for my children and, ohhhh! The beignets and cafe’ au lait from Cafe Du Monde! It was a feast for the palate and the senses, an experience with family that remains unrivaled, and a life-moment that stands firm in my memory.

It must be mentioned, it was also the time my son saw his first “lady of the evening”, albeit, it was ten o’clock in the morning. Framed in a peeling-painted doorway on Bourbon Street that Sunday, she was a vision. Dressed in a filmy, white peignoir, cigarette in hand, long dark legs crossed just so. My twelve year old boy was mesmerized, as was I. She was a canvas of haunted loveliness that seemed, at once, out of place and also right at home on that historic street still holding the sights and smells from the previous night’s bacchanal.

It’s surprising anything else could rival that first sight in NOLA but a riverboat excursion across the great Mississippi River, a tour to see old Mardi Gras Parade floats, loads of silliness with street performers, and our day was almost complete. The final act was performed by a man whose name I’ll never know and whose fate I’ll always dream about.

From nowhere he came and in an instant, he owned our attention. I didn’t recognize the song but I remember how it made me feel. It filled that empty street with it’s raw power and I was humbled in its enormity. With his remarkably soulful talent, why was this beautiful gift of a man living so tattered a life? Why was he not performing at Carnegie Hall, on Broadway? Why was the tip of a few dollars enough for him? Most importantly, why did I let him leave after only one song? It was the blink of an eye and he was gone.

It’s as if he was almost never even there and because of Katrina, I’ll never know his fate.

Less than one month later, Hurricane Katrina horrified the French Quarter and much of New Orleans. It was the day after my son’s 13th birthday. I remember standing speechless in front of my television, watching news of the waters taking over the city we had just left. I felt it in my gut and in my heart. I worried over my family and my friends who were directly impacted. I watched it all, riveted. We were so far away and there was so little we could do.

By the time displaced NOLA residents were arriving in Phoenix, we had joined in to collect and deliver basic health and wellness items and were rallying ongoing support. Such contributions were helpful and appreciated by those in need but the fact was, it couldn’t rewind the clock. The losses were huge and the memories became sacred. For us and for everyone affected by the wrath of Katrina and the destruction of a city that was so very loved.

For a long time, as computer-saved photos would cycle on my screen, it seemed that more often than not I would look up to catch the photo of this favorite memory from New Orleans. The man who sang to us on an empty street. At some point, this man I never really met became my association to Hurricane Katrina. He represented all of the complexities of that moment in time. It was raw and it was complicated but it all meant so much. And so did he.

With the 9th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaching, along with my son’s 22nd birthday, I’m feeling the need to finally share the story of a man who has become a part of my consciousness. A man I’ll never forget from a city I’ll always love.

When I go back to New Orleans, and I will, I’ll have his song in my heart.



Thank You To The Today Show & Cosmopolitan UK!

Chapter Two — it got even better!

It’s been a privilege to watch this journey of self-discovery unfold so organically. We’re thrilled to have met Victoria via The Manifest-Station and so impressed with how this young woman has added to the conversation about body image and self-acceptance. Couldn’t be prouder if we birthed her!

It’s certain we’ll hear more and we can’t wait!

The Manifest-Station

This is exciting! A post I published a week ago called “I Like This Picture of My Cellulite: A 19 Year Old’s Journey To Self-Acceptance” has gone viral. It’s been picked up by Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan and now The Today Show. Congrats to Victoria and yay to The Manifest-Station. The readership is through the roof! Here is the video!

click the picture of Victoria Erickson to watch The Today Show clip. click the picture of Victoria Erickson to watch The Today Show clip.

I will be doing my workshop in London on July 6th so please let your UK friends know… I cannot wait to see so many of my UK readers. There are a few spots left. Click here. No yoga experience required. xojen 

ps, send submissions in to

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