Thoughts on Storytelling

I was sitting in the line at Starbucks this morning scratching my head to remember a quote from a James Baldwin book. My inability to remember the book title left me nostalgic for the days of academia, reading handfuls of books each week, and tucking away beautiful lines in my little sketchbook. The effort to remember the James Baldwin title reminded me of the effort it takes these days to discipline myself to read. I never want to lose sight of the importance of stories, but lately I’ve felt my love for stories slipping away. I’ve wrestled to find my  answers to this shifting dynamic, and I’ve spent time contemplating the impact of technology and social media on the storytelling landscape. Storytelling has evolved over time from oral traditions, to chapter books, to the overwhelming collection of stories housed on the web through news sites, blogs, or social media. There are stories all around us, buzzing by as fast as our fingers can click. Yet, in the midst of so many stories, I find myself jaded and growing increasingly uninterested in the stories of others and, unfortunately, my own story.

Eventually, with a little help from my pal Google, I was able to find the lost book title, Sonny’s Blues, and the quote I was searching to remember.

For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness. -James Baldwin, Sonny’s Blues

Stories. Baldwin equates our “tales” to light in the darkness. I’ve always believe this to be true regardless of story context. Even tales of suffering can bring light to others perhaps wrestling in the same darkness. Stories of triumph can help snatch others from even darker places. That ability to connect with each other and to know that one is not alone is a spark of light in the darkness that surrounds us in this world. The stories are never new. We, as humans, are creatures of the same sins, the same loves, and the same desires as our ancestors. As new generations grow and change the landscape of storytelling, should we fight for older days or embrace the changes for the sake of stories?

Fear. I have no doubt that my life story should be told. I have no doubt that it would bring light into dark places of suffering. I have no doubt that my story would help others, and I bet that yours would as well. I thought on these ideas, the quote by Baldwin, and my own history as I sipped my latte and ventured into the day. I kept coming back to this concept of fear and how it relates to our ability or inability to tell stories. I reasoned that it is indeed fear that has hampered by love for storytelling and left me frozen in my tracks. I’m daily working through my tendency to balk when it comes to storytelling, standing on the mound pretending to throw the ball only to retract it back to its home in my hand. The truth is, I worry too much about the reader’s perception right now to dive deep into the stories of my life. And, while I so badly want to let my stories be known, I feel that I must wait until I can do so with confidence and without being crushed by negative feedback. On the same hand, I must also be able to do so without puffing up with pride.

So, I wait. For now I am making an effort to read books instead of constantly browsing the internet or social media. I hope to return to the simplicity of words on the pages without advertisements flashing in my face, emails popping up, and a world of comments (people say some absolutely crazy stuff) streaming down the page. The world needs stories, all of our stories, but I am yet to a place in this modern era where I am ready to dive deeper. I’m circling back to reading memoirs and even fiction books, and I am slowly feeling my heart swell once again for the stories on the pages. I’m not sure what the storytelling landscape will look like in the years to come or what my own journey with storytelling will become. What I do know is that within each of us, we must not let the joy of storytelling die and, in a way, my storytelling adventure is currently in ICU.

Safer Beauty Spotlight

I became a consultant with Beautycounter in April, and it has been an amazing experience. The company continues to roll out new products and push forward in the personal care and cosmetic industry. I want to update you all on a few products and provide some reviews. I honestly don’t use many non-Beautycounter products these days. This has helped simplify my routines and saves me much time and money. Without dragging on any longer, here are a few new products I want to share!

Ocean & Pacific Palette 

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Anyone else love the connivence of a makeup palette? I do! Beautycounter occasionally decides to give customers a treat and roll out a limited edition palette. The most recent one speaks to all my heart strings. I was a little nervous about the blue tones at first, but they actually were great for my eye color. The blush? Beautiful! I also appreciate that the palette includes a highlighter and bronzer. It’s a one stop shop! Lately, I’ve been wearing just the Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer and the selection in the palette. They will not restock once it sells out, so I recommend grabbing one ASAP! Click here!

Hair Care Collection

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The most challenging part of my transition over the past few years has been the search for safer hair products. I’ve tried countless cleaner and safer brands, but I always go back to products I was using before. It has been extremely frustrating. My husband also deals with eczema, and we’ve struggled to find solid shampoo options for him. I was beyond excited for Beautycounter to launch their hair collection. We’ve been using it for a few weeks now. It definitely performs as well if not better than top salon brands. There are three different lines & all are safe for color treated hair. You can also mix and match between the different lines. I highly recommend giving these products a try if you are in the market for some new shampoo, conditioner, or styling products!

  • Repair & Nourish
    • For dry and/or damaged hair
    • Shampoo + Conditioner + Split End Serum
    • My take – Love this line! It’s the one I use most often. My hair is usually on the oily side, so I make sure to apply the conditioner just to the ends.
  • Smooth & Control
    • For taming frizz and/or hard to manage hair
    • Shampoo + Conditioner + Hair Oil
    • My take – My second favorite line in the collection. The hair oil is definitely worth investing in. I like to use it just at night on the ends of my hair. If you have more dry hair, you can definitely use it after/during styling.
  • Volume & Shape
    • For fine hair
    • Shampoo (currently out of stock) + Conditioner + Volumizing Mist
    • My take – This is my least favorite shampoo and conditioner in the collection, but I also do not have fine hair. Someone with fine hair would love it. I do use the Volumizing Mist before blowdrying my hair, and it definitely helps add some poof!

There you have it! Those are my two most exciting updates on the beauty front. I’m always happy to help connect you to Beautycounter products or answer any questions you have. You can shop via my link by clicking here or feel free to email me at beautycounterwithjess@gmail.com.

Hidden Paths

“Still round the corner there may wait

A new road or a secret gate

And though I oft have passed them by

A day will come at last when I

Shall take the hidden paths that run

West of the Moon, East of the Sun.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

I grew up filled with wanderlust, dreams the size of the moon, and my imaginary bags packed for a life on the coast. There was nothing I felt like I couldn’t accomplish and, if you asked me then, I would’ve had no problem telling you that I was going to “be someone someday.” I’ve thought long and hard about that girl—retracing my steps, counting backwards, spinning in circles to find my own line of demarcation. Where did I leave those imaginary bags? At what point did the moon begin to feel so far away? When did taking risks begin to feel so unsafe?

College.

I bounced out of my dorm the first day of school my freshman year. Super short blonde hair, a pair of blue and white shorts, an oversized Guy Harvey t-shirt with some sort of fishing scene on the back, and a sparkling white North Face backpack. Welcome to 2008. I felt a sense of panic as I walked down the sidewalk to my first class. I regretted my outfit choice, my short hair, and even the decision to come to this school. This was not south Georgia…no one knew my name or my high school GPA. I was determined to just survive and make good grades so I could get the degree and move on. I truly loved learning and school, but I did not find college life very rewarding or inspiring. There were bright moments of adventure scattered here and there but, overall, the moon was beginning to disappear and the coast was too far of a drive. I swerved into the far right lane, cruise set at 55. Safe and sound and waving at cars passing me by.

Safe and sound. 

I’ve followed what many would consider a “golden path,” and I’ve had a successful career in the event world. I’ve worked hard, led teams, put on countless events. I’ve done everything you feel like you should do after college and as a young adult. I’ve always loved my work, and I never imagined a day when I would step away from my identity as a young, professional woman. Then, I became pregnant and everything about my life took on new meaning. Safe and sound suddenly didn’t feel so right.

Change is here. 

Today I swerved out of the right hand lane and took the car off cruise control. It was my last day in my full time professional role, and the beginning of a brand new chapter: The Mom Chapter. I’ve decided to stay home with our little one which, while it may seem perfectly normal to most, is a huge step in a new direction for me. My success will no longer be defined by the type of report I put together or the feedback I get on my work. My days will be filled with a new routine, new challenges, and new fears. I’ve cried and slobbered and joked about eating ham sandwiches for the next few years. Nothing about this feels safe to me, not financially and not in terms of knowing what is next. We are taking this step in true faith and looking to my main man Jesus for guidance. Sadly, it has been a very long time since I gave Jesus a chance to step in and completely guide me along his path. It’s time to give him back the show and allow him to guide me in a way like never before.

Dreaming Again. 

Tonight as I write, there is a gentle breeze blowing against my cheek and the sound of crickets getting ready to welcome the night. My heart feels open and ready for this next chapter. I feel excited to let go of control. Sure, it will not always be easy. There will be trials and things to walk through, but I know that he will always be with me just like so many years ago when I started college. I walked on that campus in 2008 and left many dreams behind. Today, I walked off that campus, almost ten years later, thankful for my journey but excited to open a new page. I’ve decided to take the hidden path that will fill my life with wanderlust, dreams the size of the moon, and my bags packed for a life on the coast. Only this time, I hope they’re not imaginary.

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The Melon Heart

I see him clearly when I close my eyes and occasionally, if I am lucky, in my dreams. An old blue Ford, navy blue pants, a red striped shirt with stains fading down the front, and those same ole tennis shoes he liked to call “Willy Scratch-Its.” My papa was the hardest working and most simple man I’ve ever met. Even the late stages of Alzheimers didn’t stop him from going to his farm supply store to work. I’ll never forget the day we poured imaginary seeds and built invisible fences. His brain wanted him to stop while his body only knew one path: keep going, work harder, don’t be lazy. We were all able to let him continue for a while, but eventually even his body started to forsake him and down he went into the recliner and then the bed to live out the rest of his days — everyone taking turns sitting by his side and squeezing his hand. Trying to imagine life without our papa. Everyone gathered around as he took his last breaths and floated into eternal rest on a scorching July day. I went home, closed my eyes, and willed myself to remember the man in the navy blue pants with the crooked smile rather than the man who slipped from our hands on that day.

Memory is a tricky beast. The threads of my life story come untied daily as new memories are formed and life races in a forward trajectory. If I’m not careful, the trajectory will wipe my memory bank clean. Perspectives will change as I fly higher and higher away from my early years. I will leave the stories somewhere down below, never purposefully, but as a result of the candles on my cake. And, believe me, I never want to leave the stories without letting them unwind from this ball of yarn I hold in my hand. I don’t want to wait until I’m 50 years old to look back upon my life. I want to remember the stories now.

I eat a lot of watermelon. You probably wouldn’t believe the amount I eat on a weekly basis. I love the taste, but I also love the nostalgia. During the summer months, my papa always had a watermelon waiting at his house. Farmers would drop them by the farm supply store throughout the summer and papa would gladly buy them. They weren’t these weak seedless melons you see in the grocery store these days. These melons were huge, impossible for a little girl to move or even roll sometimes. He would take out his old pocket knife, give it a few wipes on those navy blue pants, and cut the melon open. If it started to crack, I knew I was in for a real treat. He would then take that same old knife and cut the heart of the melon right out. The best. The sweetest. The most desirable part of the melon. We all wanted the melon heart, but papa always knew who loved melons the most. The #1 melon lover gathered around would get the first heart and the #2 melon lover would get the second heart. The melon was never cut into slices, instead we all gathered around with a spoon in hand…scooping out pink chunks like eating a bowl of cereal. These were some of the happiest moments of my childhood. The people I love gathered around, the joy on my papa’s face as he cut the melon and passed out the hearts, and the best relief for hot summer days in South Georgia. Of course, I was usually melon lover #1 and, to this day, sit and eat entire melons all by myself.

My stories are pieces of growing up in the south, a big family, my papa, and faith found. Threads of tradition, smiles around something as simple as watermelon, and the love of a tribe. Sounds lovely, right? Not so fast. There is another thread unwinding, the darker thread of my early years and the issues currently plaguing the place where I grew up. This thread has equally made me who I am today: my dad’s addiction, a family torn apart, and my desire to give myself a different set of life experiences. The juxtaposition and dichotomy of my early years still leaves me spinning in circles at times. But, underneath it all is still the little girl waiting patiently for the watermelon heart, grasping for the memories not to slip away, chasing balls of yarn because someone somewhere needs these stories. So, just like papa, I find joy and healing in cracking open the melon, cutting out the heart, and passing it along to you.

Confessions of a First Time Homeowner: The Yard

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I looked through the front door to see my husband covered in clay, stomping around in his brand new boots in the front flowerbed. We had the grand idea to remove everything in the bed and then revamp it without doing any research or knowing anything about plants for that matter. Lucky for us, the days after we purchased new plants were filled with more April showers than you could imagine. The flowerbed slowly turned into a slip and slide of clay and rocks as the rain continued day after day. By this point, our flowers were beginning to wilt and, thankfully, the rain finally came to an end. We waited a few days for the bed to dry, which never really happened. So, Jarred went for it…straight into the slip and slide. He emerged covered in mud and exhausted, but those plants were finally in the ground. And, guess what? They didn’t even make it to the next spring.

My family owns a farm supply store filled with plants, seeds, and sprays that not bug can survive. My family is also full of famers who grow countless acres of peanuts, cotton, and even blueberries. Somehow, though, I know very little about growing things. My husband is also in this boat, so we spend our time doing yard work like circus monkeys learning new tricks. We refuse to pay someone to do our yard work. Instead, he pushes our electric lawnmower around the yard like a hero (it seriously looks like an awful time). I seriously feel like we could spend every spare minute of our time in the yard, and it still would need more and more work.

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One of my favorite things, throwing out wildflower seeds and watching the flowers bloom.

I’m probably the queen nester of all pregnant women right now. Unfortunately, that has carried over into the yard. I spend a lot of afternoons trimming bushes, pulling weeds, and brainstorming new ideas. Our neighbors probably think that my husband has enslaved me and forces me to do yard work. Jarred doesn’t even try to stop it anymore. When I suggested we plant some new flowers in the back flowerbed and put down new pine straw, he didn’t say a word. He just said he would meet me at Home Depot after work. We worked well into the darkness to finish that project…sadly, some of the plants may already be dying because that is just how life goes.

No, our yard doesn’t look like as good as the professionally maintained ones in the neighborhood. No, we will not buy another house with a yard this big or with this many trees. No, we will not be hiring anyone to take over the yard work anytime soon. But, here is what I’ve learned through all of our silly and crazy yard adventures…

Things don’t always work out just like you’ve planned. Sometimes flowers die. Sometimes the rain pours. Sometimes you think you want a big yard only to realize that you actually prefer a smaller one instead. Most importantly, we would be without several very funny and important memories if we had just hired someone to keep this yard instead. So, for now, we are the crazy kids out in the yard at 9:00 p.m. doing all we can to learn, make our way, and keep this yard in decent shape so the HOA doesn’t come after us. We don’t really know what we’re doing, but that is half the fun.

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Brimmed hats – a total necessity for yard work


Shop my favorite hats here & here

Shop the Beautycounter Sunscreen (the best!) here

June Product Reviews

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I ordered a box of five new goodies in early June (I seriously love mail a little too much), and I am finally ready to share with you my thoughts on each product! 

brighteningcleanser_indielee_608819407210_front_copy_grande-2Indie Lee Brightening Cleanser ($32) – I first used this cleanser several years ago when I switched to safer beauty products. I loved it then and love it equally as much now! The smell reminds me of  fresh strawberries! It has an awesome texture when it comes out of the bottle and lathers onto your skin with ease. The glass bottle packaging is also beautiful. My preference is the use this face wash only in the morning. I don’t love it as much for removing makeup, but it’s lovely for giving you a glowing start to each morning! It can also be used as a mask if you let it sit for 5-10 minutes on your face. Be careful, though, the product comes out of the bottle super fast!

Untitled_design_81_grandeCommon Goods Lavender Linen Water ($7) – Ironing is one of my least favorite chores (can I get an amen?), but this linen water makes it so much more fun. The smell is subtle and just enough to put a smile on your face rather than making you want to seek cover from some sort of fragrance bomb. I spray it on our clothes before ironing them, on our sheets a few times a week, and often on my clothes I wear for the day. It’s a happy, delightful way to spring some lavender into your life!

Untitled_design_26_a5f6b5ef-12b0-46ae-aad3-b7e9a38c23e6_grandeOne Love Organics Cleansing Sponge ($10) – This is a product I could take or leave. My biggest issue is consistently using a cleansing sponge. I’m definitely in the routine of using my hands to wash my face. This sponge dries hard but softens as your run it under the water. It does a good job when it comes to removing makeup and leaving your skin feeling super clean. If you love sponges, this is an affordable and decent one to try! And, seriously, the heart shape is a cute added bonus!

mediterranean_largeVapour Mediterranean Artist Eye Palette ($46) – I’ve used individuals eye shadows
from Vapour, but this is my first palette. I love the color combination and the texture of the eyeshadows. The palette is a little smaller than I expected, but the shadows seem to last a long time. It’s also super easy to pack when traveling. My favorite thing about the cream eyeshadows by Vapour is that they are basically foolproof. You can have zero skill and make these shadows look great! The colors are subtle once applied and last most of the day. The pink shade is definitely my favorite out of the three colors.

CC_2016_Product_grandeConscious Coconut Oil ($16) – I’m going to be completely honest here…I will not be purchasing this product again. It’s likely user error, but I’ve had the toughest time with the coconut oil in the tube. I am sure it’s wonderful for people who travel a lot or don’t like the idea of dipping into a jar. For me, I really struggled to use the tube. I ran it under hot water, squeezed it, and a forceful amount of coconut oil came out and ended up all over my bathroom. I decided to give it another try and the exact same thing happened. I haven’t been able to get anything out of the tube without warming it up, but I fail each time to warm up the entire amount inside, which create a strange amount of pressure in the tube. I love the company and the idea of the product, but it’s just not for me!

Questions? Feel free to comment below!

-Jess

Giveaway Time

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June 15 was a super exciting day for Beautycounter. A brand new product was released — the Countermatch Adaptive Lotion. This lotion, using Bio-Mimic Technology and harnessing the unique life-giving properties of plants, adjusts hydration levels throughout the day for a smooth look and a radiant glow. In short, it gives your skin precisely what it needs and nothing it doesn’t! This breakthrough beauty product SOLD OUT before the day was done. Due to the overwhelming popularity, I’ve decided to host a product giveaway for one of my lucky customers. Luckily, I ordered an extra bottle just for this purpose 🙂 Here’s what you need to do to be eligible for the giveaway:

  1. Visit www.beautycounter.com/jessicadeems 
  2. Make a purchase of any amount by June 30 and email me a copy of your confirmation to –> prettywellblog@gmail.com. 
  3. I will hold a drawing on July 1 to select the winner of the Countermatch Adaptive Lotion & then send it your way! 

I want everyone to try this awesome product but, for now, I will get to connect one lucky person to it! Feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

image1 -Jess

The Charcoal Craze

Charcoal beauty products are popping up all over right now, and there is a perfectly good reason for it…CHARCOAL WORKS! It’s wonderful at absorbing, cleaning, and detoxifying. For these reasons, I cannot deny my love for charcoal based products. Even some of my friends and family most resistant to cleaner beauty products have jumped on the charcoal train! Here are some of my charcoal favorites…

pdp_charcoalcleansingbar_selling-shot_528_613Charcoal Cleansing Bar: If you told me I would be stuck on an island for a few months, this is the one beauty product I would grab. I LOVE IT! It’s the best at removing my makeup at night and cleaning my pores. It’s also my best selling product as a Beautycounter consultant. If that’s not enough proof, even my husband uses it now as both a face and body wash.

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Piperwai Natural Deodorant: This deodorant contains super-absorbent activated charcoal. It rubs in clear and  doesn’t discolor your clothes. I’ve tried more natural deodorants than I care to admit, and this one excels as my favorite. The only downside is having to apply it with your fingers. It’s a small price to pay for a safer deodorant, though.

bc_bc_3-balancingfacialmist_selling01_webBalancing Facial Mist: Another favorite! This mist preps skin, sets makeup, and refreshes throughout the day. Specially formulated with charcoal powder and kaolin clay, it absorbs excess oil, refines skin texture, and helps calm redness. I use it both morning and night to keep my skin fresh!

high-res-coloured-single-image-pic--510x510_grandePearlbar Charcoal Toothbrush: A 100% biodegradable charcoal-infused bamboo toothbrush! The charcoal infused bristols help absorb toxins in the mouth, reducing the growth of cavity-forming bacteria that may cause bad breath. Plus, charcoal naturally whitens teeth your teeth!

bc_bc_3-balancingmask_selling01_webBalancing Facial Mask: Can all my charcoal mask loving friends raise your hands? Charcoal masks work wonders, especially if you have issues with large pores! This mask contains activated charcoal, which helps minimizes the appearance of pores, and salicylic acid, which stimulates exfoliation. I use it 3 times per week.

10 Safer Beauty Favorites Under $30

Beauty and personal care products can be pricey, but you don’t have to break the bank to begin making changes. I’ve rounded up 10 lovely items from two of my favorite places to purchase safer products– Fig & Flower and Beautycounter.

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Pinkerton_480_1024x1024_f1a28e5d-4dac-40cd-b056-88e51806be6c_grande100% Pure Creamy Nail Polish ($12)

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Indie Lee Blemish Lotion ($26)

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Suntegrity Mineral Sunscreen for Body ($24)

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BC Hydrating Body Lotion in Citrus Mimosa ($24)

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BC Body Wash in Citrus Mimosa ($20)

 
 

Maternity Fashion Favorites

Maternity clothing has been more fun than expected. I’ve looked at my former wardrobe with sad eyes a few times, but I’ve been able to find great replacements for those pieces and even experiment with a few new styles while pregnant. There are several options out there and, like anything these days, sifting through the options can be overwhelming and expensive. It’s also a little more challenging for me because I am petite (which is just a nice word for short). Here are my favorite places to shop for cute, affordable, and, most importantly, comfortable maternity clothing!

LOFT: Prior to becoming pregnant, most of my closet was filled with items from Loft. I LOVE their maternity selection, too. New styles are added constantly, and you can pretty much always find a deal. The pieces are timeless and fit well. The shorts and white shirt pictured above are from the maternity line. Shop Here!

Stitch Fix: I order this clothing subscription box from time to time, and I recently discovered their maternity service. I was super excited to have a few surprise pieces arrive at my door. It’s always so much fun…like receiving a birthday gift every month! My favorite items from the boxes have been the shorts and pants. It’s definitely worth a try for a few months while pregnant. The jeans pictured above are from a Stitch Fix. Shop Here!

ASOS: This is a great option for super trendy maternity clothes. I hop on their website when I want a wardrobe shakeup. They also have petite (amen!) and tall sizing options for several of their items. I have a few new fun pieces on the way that I can’t wait to try! Shop Here! 

Poshmark: If you don’t know about Poshmark, you should grab your phone now and download the app. If you don’t mind gently used maternity clothes, then this is an awesome resource. It has also been a useful way for me to clean out several clothing items that I know I will not use after having the baby. I will also post several of my maternity pieces once I do not need them anymore. If you signup with the code “GFNED” you will get a $5 credit. Shop Here!

I also have a few great pieces from Old Navy, Motherhood, and a few items that aren’t maternity at all (although those are quickly coming to an end). I encourage you to shop around and checkout a few of the places mentioned above.

Where are your favorite places to shop for maternity clothing? I would love to hear what works for you!