• Posted on April 2, 2017 3:31 pm
    McCall Dempsey
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    Lorelei splashed in the tub as I gently washed the shampoo from her curly hair. She is the first born of one of my dearest and oldest friends, Katherine. I spent the week with them during my Chattanooga speaking tour. "My curls are tiny!" Five-year old Lorelei exclaimed. "Some people have bigger curls and some people don't have curls." "You are absolutely right," I said. "I used to have tiny curls like you, Lorelei! They are so beautiful and they make you so special." She nodded in agreement and we went on to talk about other things that make us different. "My friend has dark skin and doesn't need sunscreen, but my skin is really white and needs lots of sunscreen," she said proudly. We talked about tall/short, curly/straight, dark/light, large/small...all things that make us each uniquely different and beautiful. After bath, Lorelei, her mom and I snuggled in bed watching a quick cartoon before bedtime. Lorelei happily chomped away at her night snack before her mom turned off the TV. She kissed me goodnight and headed upstairs for her final bedtime routine. I went into the living room and began thinking about my night with Lorelei. Suddenly, my heart sank. In a few years, Lorelei will start questioning all of those wonderful things that make her uniquely beautiful. The world is going to tell her that her hair should be straighter, longer. Her skin should be tanner. Her body taller, smaller. While we can't rid the world of these messages, I know we can and will do everything to protect Lorelei's ears from these unwanted messages. Luckily, Lorelei was born into an extraordinary tribe of women. First off, her mama is one of the most ferocious, compassionate, sensitive and bright women I have ever met. Her aunt, Charlotte, is always there, along with her tribe of Green Cove aunts - ready to remind Lorelei that what she hears from the outside world is noise and we don't listen to it. We measure our worth by what is inside and how we treat others. My time in Chattanooga was closely followed by my annual camp reunion weekend. A weekend filled with yoga pants (no yoga, just the pants), wine, cheese and mountain sunsets. It is a weekend where my tribe comes together to laugh and refuel our tired spirits. We are all so very different, living in every corner of the US. We love different partners, we believe in different faiths, we are tall, short, big, small, dark, light, curly and straight. No matter how different we are, we stand together, lift each other up and support each other through life's trials. I'm fairly confident I would not be alive today without these women. Established in the 1980s, our bond runs deep. In a few years, our children will run and hike the same paths we did as children. Marjorie, Lorelei, Cecilia, Kate, Harper, Woods, Ramsay and many others will find their tribe. Marjorie and Lorelei will remind each other that their curly hair rocks and they can be girly AND strong. So while my heart momentarily broke for Lorelei, I quickly realized my heart should rejoice. Because Lorelei will be forming her tribe soon that will help her tune out that outside noise. Lorelei will forever know and be reminded that tiny curls are amazing and porcelain skin is beautiful. We are all beautiful, in every way, every color, every body. So to my sweet Lorelei, never listen to the haters - find your tribe and know you are beautiful and amazing just as you are. It is never too early to start talking to your little ones about what makes us different. Knowing that we come in all different colors, faiths, bodies is a wonderful thing. Start embracing these differences before they hear the world tell them otherwise! Who knows, you might learn something! Sometimes our biggest lessons come from the tiniest messengers.  

    Body Image, Motherhood
  • Posted on March 8, 2017 4:27 pm
    McCall Dempsey
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    Today is International Women's Day. And I feel fat. Gasp. How could  McCall Manning Dempsey, a positive body image speaker, feel fat? Oh the horror! Well, folks. We all have our days. But here is the difference. I know that fat isn't a feeling and that when I start thinking and having anxiety about my body, I know it is really about something SO much more (i.e. stressful move, work, tiny humans and cramps). As women, we are programmed by society to go to war with our bodies. Our bodies are seen as the solution to happiness and world peace. If we can whittle down to the perfect size, then we will find ultimate happiness. When I realized it was International Women's Day, I thought 'Hell yeah'. I thought about my personal she-ros: Ellen, Brene, Glennon, my mom, sister and countless friends. I thought about my daughter and nieces. I thought about my friends who are stay-at-home moms. I thought about my camp tribe, my therapist tribe, my high school tribe and my college tribe. I thought about the countless women who have shaped my life into what it is today. So many extraordinary women in my life. How blessed am I?! But no matter how awesome they are - each and every one of them knows what it means to feel fat - aka feel less than. It really isn't about feeling fat. I mean, seriously, how amazing is my body? How amazing is YOUR body? For me, it is about feeling less than. Because as a woman I am split into a million little pieces and jobs: the mom, the maid, the working mom, the carpool lady, the speaker, the writer, the wife, the dog groomer, the accountant..the woman, the myth, the legend. Being a woman is hard y'all. So damn right we get a day. I know everyone reading this can relate to being divided into a million pieces and feeling like you are so split you can't do one thing right because you are doing it all half ass. Well, today is about embracing our half ass(ness). Today is about holding up our countless jobs and responsibilities and shouting, "I am good enough. I am woman. Hear. ME. ROAR. Damn it." Today is about giving the middle finger to society's standards and saying, "I am awesome just as I am. My body is miraculous. My mind is exploding with intelligence and I AM WORTHY." I refuse to go to war on my body any more. I did that for years and guess what, I was a size perfect and I was MISERABLE. I was dying. I'll never forget feeling inferior when I was in my teens and twenties by men who would comment on my body as if it were some inanimate object, like a toaster. I was too ashamed to speak up. I wanted so badly to talk back to the sexist comments, screaming that my was not some new shiny convertible car they could comment on. Sadly, I didn't have a voice so instead I focused all of my energy on changing my body instead of changing the world like I was born to do. Well, not anymore. Today, my voice is strong. It may shake from time to time, but it shakes with passion. It shakes because I am using it. A voice can't shake if it is silent. I speak up and stand up for women today because I was once that silent girl, muted by society's standards. I'll spend the rest of my life speaking out for that girl. I will never stop screaming back at the gremlins in my own head who continue to tell me I'm not good enough. Because I am. I am not perfect, but I am worthy. Worthy of love, of belonging and worthy to have a voice and take up space on this planet. If you are at war with your body, if you are confused about women's day, then let me set the record straight. You do not have to be a civil rights leader or international activist to mark your place in history. You are marking your place right where you are by being who you are. You are cementing your place by standing up for others and yourself, wherever you are. Talk back to those gremlins, look in the mirror and say I am worthy. Because that is what International Women's Day is all about. Always remember you are WORTHY, valuable and loved just as you are. I no longer waste time feeling fat or unworthy because I'm too busy changing the world to change my body. Oh Happy day ladies!  

    Advocacy, Authentic, Body Image
  • Posted on February 22, 2017 8:02 pm
    McCall Dempsey
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    My current state of mind is similar to that of six years ago when I leaping from treatment back out into the 'real' world... Journal entry (2.23.2016) "I am feeling lots of things. I am worried about work. I am kind of angry. I want to cry. I want to fall apart. I want to scream. I want to feel competent. I want to feel my age. I want to breathe. I want to feel like I haven't been forgotten. I don't want to be lost and behind. I want to stop this voice in my head. I feel scattered."  Okay, so maybe I'm not feeling everything I did six years ago today, but certainly can relate to the anxious, scattered and breathing part. Life is changing. Again. Sigh. Unlike my anxiety six years ago, today's anxiety comes with a big slice of confidence and joy. How is it possible for one person to feel so much joy and anxiety at once? I'm not sure. But it is where I am and I'm rocking it. Recently, I shared the news about my family's upcoming move. It is beyond bittersweet. But with this move come chaos. And I mean capital C-H-A-O-S. Our house will hit the market next week. Showings will begin and so will the inevitable scenario of putting the dirty laundry in the dryer, gathering the scattered toys in a box and putting them in the car as you drive around with shoeless kids in their jammies, as well as a dog and and rescue cat who thinks she is a dog. Since returning home from our amazing vacation, sleep has been hard to come by. Jordan and I wake at all points in the night. We talk and toss around, while we remove our son's foot from our face (ah the joys of sleeping with a five year old). We are taking a huge leap of faith with this move. It is scary. It is unknown. But it is necessary so we rise up and march on. As I am rising up and marching on, I am also inundated with the growth of my beloved Southern Smash. Walking upstairs to my office every day, makes me the richest person on earth. Certainly not monetary rich, but rich in the greater since - the one that makes your soul burst with joy. I pinch myself on the daily. I am doing the exact work God put me on this earth to do. And because of that, I know that no matter what curve ball life throws again (and again) my family and I will be okay. I will be okay. Because look at how far I've come. When I think back to six years ago, I am in awe of how brave I was - probably because I, at the time, had no idea of my courage and inner strength. I felt so many emotions and marched on. I knew recovery was out there and I wanted it. Bad. I knew I just had to keep marching falling forward to get there. Today, I feel so many emotions as I march on. This leap of faith (like all leaps) is scary. But I rely on my perseverance was born six years ago. I rely on the solid relationship and friendship I have with my soul mate and best friend. We have gone through much worse. Jordan and I can literally conquer anything together. In the past few weeks, I have talked with more people struggling than I can count, guiding each of them (and their families) to professional help. This evening I spoke with a young group of women gravely concerned for their best friend. They listened so intently and laughed as I cut a joke here and there. But what they didn't know is the tears that fell silently down my cheeks. I was once their friend praying for someone to tell me I needed help - that I deserved help and treatment. That my life mattered to them. I cried because I feel so damn blessed to be a listening ear and sounding board. I cried because I am so alive. I cried because I am so scared of what is to come. I cried because I love life and my family so damn much it hurts. I cried for the young woman six years ago who had no idea the extraordinary path God was laying before her. I cried because I was brave enough to walk that path. I cried because I get to pay it forward and help others every day. Life is terrifying and also filled with such joy. When I started Southern Smash, never did I imagine it would grow to this extent. Never did I see myself in an office where I spend hours on end and still never finish the job. My job will never be done because it isn't a job! Jordan asks me every morning, "What do you have to do today?" My response, "My job doesn't come with a to do list." My work is led by my calling, my fire and passion. We all have a fire. A calling. I found mine. Don't be afraid to chase yours. It is that fire that stops you in your tracks. A fire that hurts because you feel it so deep. A fire that can never be extinguished, no matter what leaps you take or where you move. Walk your path. Open your heart to others. Take leaps of faith. Life would be pretty boring if we all sat in the comfort zone. [Insanely gorgeous photo cred to the extraordinary Ileana of Attimi Photography]

    Authentic, Eating Disorder, Pay It Forward
  • Posted on February 7, 2017 3:43 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    2

    A guest post originally written and posted on Project HEAL's Blog Dearest Lady Gaga’s Belly Roll, You are causing quite the stir in the social media stratosphere after Sunday’s spectacular Super Bowl Performance. But, if I’m being honest here, I didn’t notice you. I’m so sorry. I completely overlooked your big debut because I was entranced by the performance. To my shock and dismay, Monday’s news headlines were not about the overall extraordinary Halftime show, but your appearance. Seems odd, right? Especially, when everyone I know has a belly roll. So what makes you so different? I mean, don’t get me wrong. You are beautiful! You’re a great looking belly roll. But we all have belly rolls, some smaller, some bigger, some with stretch marks. You get the idea. My belly rolls have actually become my favorite part of my body. I used to despise my belly rolls. Like, really, really hate them. I would lie on the floor in agony, pulling at my rolls wishing to rip them off my body. I would tear and scratch and my belly, taking all my mental anguish out on it. I thought if my belly rolls would disappear so would the monster in my brain. Turns out, no surgery, diet pill or diet would heal the war in my mind. Thankfully, after years of hard work in recovery, I have made peace with my beautiful belly. My belly helps me stand tall and it carried my two precious babies. I love my belly rolls more than I ever thought possible. Last week, I went on my first vacation with my husband to celebrate our ten-year wedding anniversary. As I laid on the beach, I looked down at my belly rolls and smiled. There is such peace when you no longer have to hide or hate your body. I snapped pictures liberally, without fear. I took a selfie from below and immediately thought, ‘Oh, gosh, this is going to be bad. Such a horrible angle.” I clicked on the photo app to see what I knew was going to be a ‘bad’ picture, and laughed. I loved it. I suddenly realized, I no longer had a bad angle. My belly and belly rolls are beautiful from EVERY single angle. I put my phone down and continued to bask in the sun. Maybe it was because I just had this experience, I didn’t notice you. I’m sorry for the hurtful things people have said to you. I pray they can look at their own bellies one day and love their rolls. These people don’t understand the impact they have when they body shame others. The damaging ripple effect runs far and wide. When I was in my eating disorder, if I read the things people wrote about you, I would look down and question my own belly, “If they think that about Lady Gaga’s belly, what would they say about mine?” Thus, catapulting me further into self-hate and self-destructive behaviors. None of us are the same – not our skin, our beliefs and definitely not our bellies. Why can’t we all just raise our shirts and love our bellies? And ourselves for that matter? For what it is worth, I think you are beautiful and I am so thankful you were brave enough to show up and be seen on Sunday. You and Lady Gaga rocked that performance! Give Lady Gaga my best. With love and warm [belly] hugs, McCall Dempsey

    Body Image
  • Posted on December 24, 2016 11:47 am
    McCall Dempsey
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    I had my first holiday break down this week. The shopping, the cards, work piling up, kids home from school...it all got to me. I resorted to wrapping presents until early morning hours to calm my frazzled nerves. I thought wrapping the mountain of gifts would make the stress go away. Nope. I woke up yesterday with a knot in my stomach. What is it with this time of year? What was wrong with me? Why couldn't I just be present with my kids and spread joy and cheer? I did everything I know to do to calm my anxiety: yoga, shopping, quiet time, a long (really, really long) shower, food, distraction, friends. Nothing helped. The chaos of the season and my to do list were getting to me, until I saw it: .PERSPECTIVE. And not just any perspective...a perspective that hits really close to home and is probably a big culprit of my holiday angst. "My newsfeed is blowing up with everyone so excited and grateful that the elf shenanigans are over tonight.... and all I can think about is how much Ari loves Jewel... and how this might be our last night with Jewel.... and it makes me so overwhelmed with sadness... #Perspective  #LoveYourElves  #StupidCancer" Meet Ariana Farragut's elf, Jewel. Santa and Jewel are praying for Ariana because she is fighting a rare brain cancer (Atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor: AT/RT). Last week, Ariana went in for what they were praying would be clear scans, but received devastating news instead. The cancer had spread and the new tumors are inoperable. Heart. Shattered. Ariana's sweet mother, Jenna, posted this picture of Jewel sitting with a bible. Have you ever thought to pose your child's elf next to a bible? Maybe you have. I usually throw the elf in the tree as I am running to beat my kids to the living room every morning. I'm not the most creative elf mover. But it isn't about creativity - it is about the joy that we have right in front of us. Right now and in the present. There's one thing I always say to others (and often to myself): We are all doing the best we can with what we know. Rather than beat ourselves up for complaining about the elf after seeing Jenna's elf picture and post, we should be aware. Aware of our thoughts and mindfulness this holiday season, reminding ourselves what is really important. No matter if you are the most creative elf mover or a tree thrower like me, let's work together to be present with ourselves and our loved ones. Life moves and changes so fast. It can be shattered in the blink of an eye. Trust me. Last night, I rocked Marjorie a little longer than usual, even dozing off with her heavy on my chest. My precious baby girl, healthy and thriving - something we hold so precious. We almost didn't have her home with us on that first Christmas. She was discharged from the NICU in the nick of time and I sat up all night staring at the most beautiful Christmas present I had ever received. I remember a Christmas when I was in treatment and only had six hours with my husband. Then just two short years later, I was in full recovery watching my precious baby boy crawl to see the magic of Christmas. This Christmas I experienced my first bout of holiday anxiety. I am so thankful to brave mommas like Jenna, who share their heartache and perspective with us. I have shared my fair share of perspective and I am thankful to now be on the receiving end of it. But no matter how many years pass by, the memories of being in treatment during Christmas and the fear of cancer still lurks. My heart still aches with my fellow cancer mommas. My soul is dented with them. My spirit sinks thinking of those in treatment and it aches knowing so many families who will spend their first Christmas without their child. Maybe we can all take a lesson in perspective from Jenna and Ariana. We can work to be present with our loved ones rather than expend energy on stressing to create a perfectly decorated Christmas table. There is no shame or guilt in getting caught up in Christmas chaos, as long as we can take a step back and remind ourselves about what is really important: faith, family, love and kindness. Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Happy Holidays. Sending you all love, peace and light, McCall For those interested in praying, supporting and staying up to date on Ariana, check out her website: Ariana's Fight Against Brain Cancer

    Cancer, Eating Disorder, Faith