• 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 January 14, 2017 7:48 am
    McCall Dempsey
    1

    It was adding up to be a perfect night: the hubs was out of town, the kids were bathed and starting to rub their eyes and this momma had her eye on a nice cup of tea and a new book. Okay, why lie, all I wanted was a glass of wine, my jammies and Bravo. Marjorie went down sweet and cuddly as usual. And then, 30-minutes later, I heard it. That cry that only a mother knows. That cry that says: something is wrong. I ran to her room, opened the door and knew smelled the problem. EVERYWHERE. Her dinner (I'll save you the graphics) was E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E. The walls, her bedding, her blankets, the carpet, her face, her hair. I sat there staring at her in shock. Where do I start? What do I do? Why isn't Jordan here? I want my mom! Marjorie stared back at me as if saying, "Mom, get your shit together and get me out of this crib." I jolted out of my vomit trance and sprung into action. Bath, yes, put her in the path. I put Marjorie in the tub and started to clean...and clean...and clean. I ran between throwing all blankets in the laundry to rinsing her in the tub. Sadly, we lost her beloved Minnie Mouse jammies in the Norovirus Battle of 2017. They fought a hard fight, but in the end did not make it and were sacrificed to the trash. Thirty minutes later, everyone was clean and the house smelled like a FeBreeze factory. Marjorie was happy as a bug as we waited for her beloved and sacred blanket to finish washing. 'Okay,' I thought, 'just an upset tummy. We are all good. Deep breath.' WRONG. Oh I was so wrong. All. Night. Long. My heart broke for my baby girl. Her energy quickly depleted and she rested in my arms all night. I sat watching over her and memories of cancer days floated in and out of my mind. Even though I was so tired, I was so thankful this was just a tummy bug. Perspective is everything. The next morning she seemed okay, so I left her with our sweet nanny as I ran some last minute errands for my upcoming trip. I was finally going to hear and meet my idol, Brené Brown. The trip was days away and I was already giddy with butterflies with the chance to meet her and thank her for her incredible work. And then I woke up early Sunday morning with a text from our nanny... 'SHIIIIT! It's contagious. It wasn't an upset tummy from too much cheese. (Marjorie takes after her momma - cheese is LIFE). 'Okay, deep breath.' I thought, 'That doesn't mean you are going to get it, McCall. Wait, do I feel queasy. Nope. Not at all.' I rolled out of bed with positive thoughts flowing like lava through my brain, willing myself to be well. 'I am fine. I am a mom. We don't get sick. I won't get sick. I am NOT missing Brené.' Sunday dragged along. It was freezing outside and Marjorie was still on the mend so we were sequestered  indoors - every mother's dream nightmare. My queasiness rose in parallel to the kids' cabin fever and by 4pm, I knew I was going down. I called my sweet mother-in-law for back up, but it would be over two hours before she appeared at my door. Those three hours were a defining moment in my motherhood journey. As the cold sweats kicked in, I limped quickly into my bathroom with two tiny humans trailing behind me. One crying to be held and the other with his costume box asking, "Momma, which costume should we put on first?" 'Come on, McCall, you can do this. You've got this. Single mothers across the country have to do this. You. Can. Do. This.' And thus began the Battle of Norovirus 2017. My sister, who is an infectious disease doctor at the NIH (National Institute of Health), told me this was a classic norovirus case. Then she proceeded to explain that it was a highly contagious passed along by microscopic fecal matter on our hands. I stopped her there, thanked her for her consulting and headed into battle. "Mom, can you tie my cape on? Be sure not to get it backwards. You need the shield to be out." Manning, clearly not phased by what was going on, waited behind me with the patience of a four-year-old for me to help with his costume. I turned around, dizzy and weak, tied on his cape (the proper way) while holding his baby sister. I'm not sure what happened the next few hours or even day, but now that I'm on the other side I've had time to reflect on the many lessons and, yes, blessings of the Norovirus Battle of 2017. Moms can do (and survive) ANYTHING. And I mean ANYTHING. Moms can multitask like a BOSS. Who else can be sick while holding a toddler and tie a Superman cape...the right way? Moms are THE smartest people on the planet. When I posted my Norovirus Day 5 Diary pic, I got more tips and tricks on how to clean the hell out of toys (READ: throw everything in the bathtub with bleach)    Moms are the FUNNIEST people on the planet. Sharing my misery with fellow mommas, not only made the situation better, it made it HILARIOUS. Life is going to throw us curve balls, rather than bitch and moan - call a girlfriend who will provide some 'Me Too' empathy and will make you laugh so hard your stomach hurts.    Life somehow seems to workout when moms are involved. Needless to say, I was devastated when I had to cancel my trip to meet Brené Brown. However, I knew taking care of myself comes first and I also did not want to expose Baton Rouge to the plague. Despite her fun/tough exterior, my mom gets nervous and she knew how much this meant to me. Little did I know, she spent the day rehearsing what to say to Brené. She knew her time would be limited and wanted to tell Brené everything about me. My mom did great, even though she said I speak on 'body imaging' instead of 'body image'. So I'm pretty sure Brené thinks I'm a x-ray tech now. I didn't care. My mom's effort to still make the evening special from a distance had me bawling. It is not every day you get a video of your parents with Brené giving you a personal get well message. Cue. The. TEARS.   So, yes, I did not get to meet Brené. Yes, my entire house now reeks of bleach and so do I (Pretty sure I've lost sensation in my finger tips). Yes, I continue to go around with a bleach sponge, wiping everything down. But after it is all said and done, a little norovirus can't get my spirits down. There is something hilarious about dunking 3,987 legos, hot wheels and train tracks in bleach. Above all else, there is something beautiful in the gift of perspective. The day I felt human again, I received a letter in the mail. It was a card from Zoe McGowan's mother. I opened the small envelope and tears filled my eyes as I saw sweet Zoe's picture. It was the prayer card from her funeral. (Read more about Zoe) Tears rolling down my cheeks, I looked up as Manning and Marjorie gleefully played in the bath tub. Rather than spend my days asking God, "Why?" I embrace the perspective that comes my way daily from my own experiences and from my fellow eating disorder warriors and cancer moms. Life moves so fast and it is totally okay to bitch and grumble when life throws us curve balls. If there is one thing my recovery and Brené has taught me, it is that life can be both. We can be both flustered, annoyed AND grateful. We can have perspective AND still wish away the  laundry and lego piles (especially when you step on one barefoot, ouch). Let your heart feel both. Find perspective and humor. Reach out for empathy. Let yourself cry. And remind yourself, you will survive. Thanks for the lessons Norovirus, until next time...

    Brene Brown, Family, Motherhood
  • Posted on December 28, 2016 2:03 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    4

    When I was in middle school my sister and I fought like cats and dogs. Actually, that's not true. We were worse. Way worse. We fought like two bridezillas at a Vera Wang sample sale. We were vicious. One afternoon my sister and I were verbally abusing each other as we climbed into my mother's suburban, likely headed to piano, volleyball or another extracurricular activity my mom constantly chauffeured us to. There's no doubt in my mind we had probably been fighting for hours on end. Suddenly, our mom had enough and said, "Sometimes I wonder why I even had children!" My sister and I stopped dead in our tracks, our claws retracted and our jaws dropped. Did our mother just say that? Wasn't she supposed to love us unconditionally? How could she say something like that? A few minutes later my mom profusely apologized to us, telling us over and over how much she loved us. She explained how tired she was of hearing us yell and fight. The guilt of her snap statement was written all over her face. Nearly 23-years later I look back at this memory with a much different viewpoint. Now being a mother of two myself, I would've high-fived my frazzled mother, poured her a glass of wine and said, "ME TOO!" Because good LAWD, mothering is hard y'all. I have that same thought daily during holiday/summer breaks. Yesterday I found myself sitting in the middle of Marjorie's room in tears. The house was a wreck (despite my scrubbing it yesterday), my phone kept binging with emails, the kids were loud and I had just received my fifth knee to the face that day. Why do children think their moms are automatic jungle gyms when we sit on the floor? And where can I teach my giant son about spatial reasoning? He is like a great dane that thinks he is a yorkie, always wanting in your lap or on your back. It was one of those parenting days where I threw my kids in the car and went to the car wash even though it was raining. Yes, I looked crazy to the car wash people, but little did they know this is my favorite parenting hack. The car wash guarantees me with at least 20-minutes of personal space and partial silence (thank you to ear phones). I wanted to push the opt out button of motherhood yesterday and knowing we still had a week of Christmas break left made my chest spill over with anxiety. This inevitably caused my Bad Mom Gremlins to creep into my brain and belittle me: You aren't cut out to be a mom. You should be crafting or baking cookies with the kids. You should be enjoying these precious moments they go by so fast. How do those moms do it? They craft and take their kids to cute activities in town while looking blissful all the while. Hell, I always find out about community activities the day after and every outing with my wild spirited two and four year old inevitably result in some type of meltdown (parental meltdown included). Take them to the park, you say? Nope. No matter how long we stay or how long we swing, Marjorie insists it isn't long enough. She screams and arches her back while I attempt to buckle her in her carseat. I can feel the stares from onlookers' judging eyes, knowing it's a matter of time before someone calls CPS based on Marjorie's guttural tantrum cry. I once heard my best friend say, "I love my children...but I don't like them every day." A-freaking-men. Can I get a HELL YES. Part of me feels guilty for admitting out loud that some days I don't like my kids. I can't stand the constant whine or ninja moves that inevitably result in a foot to my face or the dog's face, poor Lilly. Then guilt comes over me as I think about mothers who would give anything to hold their babies again. Or I remember those friends who would give anything to just have a baby and the chaos that follows. I think about how this was the normalcy I prayed for during times of heartache. And then I remember that this is motherhood and life. I can feel empathy for others while also feeling frustrated (and exhausted) at the chaos of my own life - it doesn't have to be either/or. Motherhood isn't always blissful or filled with gratitude for my tiny humans. It's messy, annoying and a constant juggling act. Most days I'm terrible at the juggling act. My mind spilling over with work and emails that I forget the nuggets are in the oven (side note: it is literally impossible to burn frozen nuggets and for that I give a massive shout out to the powers that be at the nugget factory.) Yesterday I found myself fighting tears and saying, "I wasn't meant to do this. I don't have what it takes to be a mom." Then I remembered something I once said in defense of another mom: "The only requirement to be a good mom is to love your children. Fiercely." Parenting is a crazy thing. One minute you want to freeze time so your babies never grow and the next minute you are praying for the day they can regulate their emotions and intellectually understand that chicken is chicken, no matter if it is in the shape of a dinosaur, circle or God forbid an actual chicken breast. You find yourself checking out from whining and bickering only to glance over minutes later and see your babies cuddled up watching a movie. In those moments, life suddenly makes sense again. On those days when my nerves are gone and all I want to do is cry, I pour my glass of wine and call on my tribe. Where would I be without my tribe of imperfect moms? They remind me every day that I don't have to have color coordinated kid cubbies and daily activity charts to be a good mom. And if you are the Pinterest wielding-cubby mom then I bow down to you. And if you are a stay-at-home mom, you are like a unicorn to me and I totally bow down. Thankfully, my own mother is one of my go to tribe members. She laughs and empathizes with my messy tales of motherhood, never judging and rarely giving advice because that's not what I need. She gives me a good, "Yep. Been there. Survived that...and so will you." And above all else she reminds me that I am doing a great job and that I AM a good mom - actually a great mom. Being able to give myself a little extra grace on the not-so-graceful days is my best tool. Calling my tribe to say, "Motherhood is hard" and reminding myself that I'm not alone helps ease the mom-anxiety. The fact that my two munchkins are so irresistibly damn cute helps too. So yes, it is true. I do not like my kids every day, but, oh my goodness, I love them so much it hurts. No matter how tough the days are I will never stop loving them. My love for my munchkins is bigger than they will ever know. And no matter how many ninja kicks I take to the face or how many boogers end up on my shirt, I would throw myself in front of a hundred buses for them. Every. Damn. Day. Because isn't that motherhood? Messy, loud and unconditional love. So to my fellow imperfect mommas out there, who are counting the seconds until schools reopen (and possibly considering dropping the kids at school tomorrow and pretending like you thought school had started), take a minute and read this parenting manifesto written by Brené Brown, my best friend (okay, so we actually haven't met yet, but know we'd be besties). It is a perfect reminder of what parenting really is all about: loving unconditionally, worthiness and truly, deeply seeing our precious, snotty, lovable tiny humans. Deep breaths mommas, take care of yourselves...we are in this together.  

    Family, Imperfection, Motherhood