Back in 2004 after I had my fourth baby my husband bought us a really nice camera and began snapping away. That's when life changed for us. He has always had a love of photography and as a child use to enjoy watching his Grandfather take pictures. He bought lighting, and backdrops, and invested time learning photography. He stocked up on film and batteries, and brushed up on his photo editing skills. Things got serious.
Prior to this we had just been taking pictures, just shooting casually. But in 2004 we kicked it up a notch. We began doing our own photoshoots and Lisa C the model was (re)born. To date, we have taken over 20,000 pictures and counting. During that time however, something else was taking place within me that I wasn't prepared for, something that would rock my world. I had hit an all time high in weight gain and I was usually unhappy about it.
Being pregnant and having a belly is one thing, not being pregnant and having people ask you, “When are you do?”, is another. (Damn how I hated that question.)
Even though it was a struggle for me each and every time to get in front of the camera, I did it anyway. I pushed myself through the tears. I knew that my healing was there. My husband knew that my healing was there and he didn't give up on me for one second. When I wanted to quit he wouldn't let me. He knew that deep down this was what I wanted to do and what I needed to do. I use the camera to express myself, my sensuality, my sexuality, and I need it like I need air to breathe.
"Whatever feeds your sensuality / sexuality, please continue to eat." ~Lisa R Charles
He wouldn't leave me alone about it. Everywhere I turned there was a camera in my face, especially when my clothes fell to the floor. This was when I felt most vulnerable. I would be pissed off and he would smile and say, “You’re beautiful!". So through the frowns, tear drops, and steam coming out of my ears, he would snap away. I couldn't stay upset too long because I knew he was doing this out of his deep and passionate love for me. (And maybe out of guilt too. After all I didn't get pregnant by myself). Bottom line, he believed that this was necessary for my freedom. He believed that this would help me to feel beautiful and confident. He believed that this would help me to embrace my changing body, remain open in my sensuality, and confident in my self. Eventually, so did I.
It's been several years since I've been pregnant and breastfeeding a baby. I miss it, but not enough to venture down that path again. I was blessed to have had that experience and all that came along with it, even the weight fluctuations. I can say this with the utmost gratitude now. My weight has fluctuated up and down since then, but now I don't have the excuse of pregnancy. And as life goes on it's getting harder to maintain a certain weight unless I am very conscious about what I eat, how much I eat, when I eat, or not eating at all. It kinda sucks, really, but it is what it is. I have to respect that or else I'll be miserable. I made a promise to myself to do what it takes, to eat healthier, to get my rest, to go after what I desire, to accept what comes along the way, and to love on me more than I ever could dream possible.
These pictures and all the others that I share are inspiration for me to continue to love my body just the way it is, just the size and shape it is. I've been told by other ladies that my pictures do the same for them as well. I'm grateful to hear this because I know the struggle and if I can help inspire someone to overcome their shame, guilt, or reservations, then that's what I'm here to do. I’m proud of myself for having the courage to pose regardless of not being the "perfect" size. What is that really? And, who says what's perfect? When I see my beauty marks I know that they represent my journey of motherhood. I appreciate how confident I feel in my sexiness as a mother of five children. The truth is, I am a beautiful Goddess and it would be a shame if I forget that. My sensuality is mine and how I choose to express it is also mine. That goes for you too.
So, who are you when all your clothes come off?
Have you struggled with feeling good about your size or shape? Have there been moments of tears shed because of it? I understand your struggle. I understand how frustrated you become when you see other women and or men in a body size you would like to be in. I understand your pain when you see images on t.v., in magazines, or online that make you feel like you don't measure up, like you don't "qualify". Just know that you are not alone.
Here are some tips that have helped me, and continue to help me along the way.
Having a support system helps tremendously. However, if that is not something you have access to then begin by being your number one fan.
First, you need to stop comparing yourself to other"s. You have to start minding your own "business" when it comes to your body in order to focus on what you need to do. It's hard enough to stay motivated, happy and pleased with your body without comparing it to other's. Everything about you can be compromised by your own self if you are not careful with how you treat yourself. If you are already weak in the area of body loving then you must stay away from things and or people who have the potential to make things worse for you, period.
Second, no matter how difficult this may be for you, you must be able to drop everything (your clothing) and face the mirror. Even if you start off with as little as 5 seconds a day, standing in front of the mirror completely undressed, appreciating everything that you see will make you (eventually) feel wonderful. You can then take this wonderful feeling into the world and create more wonderful feelings for yourself and others. People can tell a woman or man who feels absolutely wonderful about being in the skin they are in and it's contagious. You want to be contagious. And you want to be contagious in a delicious, most exciting way. People will be able to breathe in your excitement about your life just by the way you make them feel. So the way you feel about your reflection could mean the difference between a happy or unhappy you. And I know you would rather be happy.
Third, appreciate where you are today and why you are where you are. The reasons vary from person to person so your reason is your reason and you have to appreciate it for what it is. No matter how you got there, appreciate it, understand why you arrived where you are and give thanks. Then, move on. Move on to what you need to do in order to get where you desire to go. And if you need help in figuring that out, then get help. Appreciation helps you to get over the hurdle and past it so that you can move on to a better place.
It's time to move on and begin creating positive thoughts around your body and the image it portrays. This body, this capsule is all that you've got so it's got to be the best. It's your temple that's surrounds a beautiful soul. It's time you reflect that. Begin to see yourself looking the way you desire to look and feel your way into it.
I wrote this post as a tribute to the See Body, Love Self birthday bash celebration. Ivy LaArtista is celebrating her birthday month by having a "Global Body Love Party" where she is inviting some of her favorite bloggers to contribute their body love stories as a gift to her!
Ivy helps spread the word, uplift, and encourage women and men to embrace their bodies just as they are and deem them beautiful beyond measure.
Atlanta was good to us. Our trip to and fro was easy breezy. Being back as a tourist / visitor made it even better. Everything looked and felt different. There was no need to rush, no major obligations to fill, no responsibilities of home life. It held all of the good stuff you get to experience while traveling away from home. Not to mention, D and I were flying solo, kid free.
To our pleasure within the few days and nights we were there we got to experience so much. And, accomplish the very thing we went back for - quality time with my Dad and Mom, but mostly, my Dad.
Just a little while ago he was diagnosed with Dementia, a type of Alzheimer. His memory lapses are accompanied by bouts of heightened frustration for him and Mom. When I would speak to him on the phone I could hear his cry for help when reaching for things he's trying to remember. It's not an easy thing to experience a once strong, confident, and brave man be overtaken by such a thing. The last time we spoke on the phone which was a couple of weeks before my trip, he didn't sound well at all. I knew that I had to go see him, now. If I could have it would have been that night. But two weeks later, I was there, in his presence, and that meant everything.
We surprised him. On Saturday afternoon I walked into my brothers kitchen and stood in the doorway and just smiled until he realized I was actually standing there. Heartfelt moment, I tell ya. It was filled with emotions that ran through the both of us at once. It was just me and him in that moment, like many moments before that I remember from my childhood. We sat in silence just staring at each other. You would think I'd been gone for years. It's just been a few months, but I understand to him, it may seem like years.
I began writing when I was in junior high school. Then in high school I began to really understand my interest in writing. I struggled in all other subjects except literature. I was an “A” student. When I was studying Shakespeare during my 9-10th grades it was one of my happiest times in my life. I remember conversing with my teacher on things none of the other kids would understand. It was a moment to shine in something I had an immense amount of pleasure doing. I would run home to share with my dad, a literary major and educator of literature himself, all that I was learning. We would study together. Me, equipped with my study book from school, he equipped with his study book from many, many, many years ago. We would laugh, smile, play different characters as we recited Julius Caesar. There were also intense moments when he would push me to rise above my comfort level to grow into a greater understanding for this art.
When we discovered that not much had changed in the books he and I both held, we agreed that I should take his to school with me and use both just so that I could have an extra weapon. (We both believe that books are weapons of creation to world of imagination. Isn’t that brilliant! I pass this knowledge unto my children now.) It did give me an advantage, one that I was grateful for.
Do any of you remember the movie Poetic Justice starring Janet Jackson? Well, that movie had a major part in me discovering my gift of writing poetry. It was because of that movie I started my first poetry journal, and became, once again, an “A” student in my literature class during my 11th year in high school. This was during my private school years when my Japanese teacher was also my literature teacher. I loved them both - the teacher and the classes. I spoke a little bit of Japanese really well. I don't know where all of that knowledge went. I chuckle at myself when I'm trying to regurgitate those memories by making a sorry attempt to say something in Japanese. He was another one of my teachers that I had a special connection with. We had a we had a language that no other student could relate to. I believe it had to be my love and passion for my studies that allowed this to happen. I was eager. I was willing. I was teachable. I was light. I had fun. I was open. (This is exactly how I flowed with my Dad.)
I was on a roll, flowing freely with my newly discovered passion, and then something went awry. It happened during my 11th year in school. Things started to take a turn with me and my Dad. We weren’t flowing as I would have liked and needed. My grades began to slip, and I became very distant from everyone. I also became distant from my writing and literature studies. Looking back on it now I understand what was happening. My father had played an integral part in my literature life. He was my life line. He was my supporter and number one fan.
As I was getting older fear started to set in for him. Daddy's little girl was growing up and my interest for boys was becoming known. His fears started to grow as a result (which was one of the reasons I ended up in private school during my last years of high school. Private school was supposed to somehow "save me"). Fear began to seep into our relationship. He was afraid of losing his little girl. At the time I couldn't see this, I didn't know. We studied less and less together. We spoke less as well. There was more yelling, slamming of doors, and sometimes plenty of silence which hurt the most. What I didn't know, what I missed completely, what could have saved me from things unseen that I wasn't able to see was my ability to write through the pain. If I wouldn’t have put down my pen, my books, my journal, all writing tools because of the hurt, I would have had an outlet to release my hurt. I would have been able to pour out all of my confusing feelings, thoughts, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. I would have had someone to talk to even if it were the blank pages in my notebook. I wouldn't have been so alone. I would have always had a friend. (Do you writers call your journals your friend as well? Boy oh boy, how dear to me they are.)
"What I've learned since then is that healing through the use of my pen is REAL for me."
Now when I'm hurting, I write. When I'm joyful, I write. When I need to remember something, I write. When a song comes from the fire within, I write.
I write poems, short stories, pages of my books, letters, blog posts, emails, articles, proposals.
No matter what, I'm going to write. If and when fear arises, I write.
Sadly, my Dad and I never did recover. We spoke but could never speak clearly to one another again. Our relationship suffered and became tense. We spoke a different language. Every now and again I would pick up my Shakespearean literature and secretly smile to myself as I pictured my Dad playing Julius Caesar, falling down on the floor after being stabbed by Brutus (also played by Dad.) He was the best at it all.
Memories are bitter and sweet. Memories help me to create beautiful masterpieces as they are fuel to my soulful writing. I'm a writer, and as a seasoned writer I know now to keep on writing no matter what. Some of the best writing a writer will ever do in their lives is the writing that is motivated by pain. At least this is how it is for me.
I've had the privilege of getting to know this amazing and talented woman who's writing has inspired me to become better at my own craft.
In this interview you'll learn who she is, what fuels her fire as a writer, and why writing is not only a passion but a way of life.
Writers, be prepared to be inspired.
Meet, Alisha Sommer.
Would you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do and where we can find you online?
I am Alisha Sommer, wife to my husband, and mother to my three children. I drink coffee and wine. I love fresh-baked bread, a golden sun, and the smell of the sea. I am sensitive but strong. I believe that almost any ill can be cured with a good hug. I am in love with art and the creative process.
When I am not knee-deep in laundry and lunch-making I write, write, write. I also edit and publish the literary magazine, BLACKBERRY. (www.blackberryamagazine.com)
What’s a typical day like for you? Allow us to walk in your shoes for a moment.
I wake up every morning at 6:15. The day is usually full of chasing small children around with socks and shoes so that I can transport them to and from school, playdates, and errands. I finally accepted that I am the typical suburban mom. But in between those harried moments, I steal away small chunks of time to journal, work on my writing, and catch up on social media for myself as well as the magazine. Somewhere in there I eat, share the highlights of my day with my husband, and get some sleep. It’s a tightrope, but I am learning how to balance my responsibilities as a mother and wife while also nurturing my own needs for creation.
Share with us what your #badpoetry series was about that you shared on Instagram. I’m a huge fan of your writing and this was an amazing series of writing to have experienced.
Thank you so much! The #badpoetry series was the result of me truly submitting to the Muse. I had been feeling a creative block; I knew that I needed to write but I kept avoiding this subject of love and relationships. I remember telling a friend that all I wanted to do was write really bad love poems to get them out of my system--the perfectionist in me fought this idea tooth and nail. There was also this fear of revealing too much, of being too vulnerable. But with some deep reflection I realized that this is what art is about: letting go, being vulnerable, honoring truth.
So I had a choice to make: I could either write the poems, push through the fear, let them be “bad,” and honor the stories that needed to be told, or I could not write the poems and suffer through the creative block.
I decided to risk it and press publish.
By labeling the project as “bad,” I gave myself the space to create with freedom. I was no longer worried about the poems being “right” or “perfect” or “good.” They were allowed to be whatever they wanted to be. I let myself go and allowed what needed to be written to flow through me. And I believe it was one of my most successful experiments as a writer.
Tell us about Blackberry: A Magazine, how it came about and, what someone can expect if they desired to participate as contributor.
BLACKBERRY: a magazine was something that I had wanted to create for a very long time but talked myself out of for years. During a trip to New Orleans a few years ago, I visited the art museum and was struck by a painting of a black woman nursing her baby in the sugar cane fields. I thought to myself, “what does this Dutchman (the artist) know about a black woman’s experience?” It was infuriating to me that someone else was telling her story. I was also tired of not being able to find other platforms for writers and artists who looked like me. So I decided that it was finally time to create the magazine--and I couldn’t be more happy with the response and its growth.
The magazine’s mission is to highlight the work of black women and is published 4 times a year, with each issue representing a different theme. We accept poetry, nonfiction, and fiction as well as photography and art. We are also seeking spoken word and flash fiction pieces for our blog. Submissions for the December issue are currently open. More information can be found here: http://blackberryamagazine.submittable.com/submit
When did you first become aware of your gift and, what was that like for you?
I have been writing since I was a child but despite support from teachers growing up, I don’t think I realized that I had a gift until well after college when I started blogging and began to receive comments from strangers about how my words moved them. You know, it really is amazing how blind we are to our talents. And in fact, most days I still think I’m a quack! I keep a folder in my inbox of comments and and emails from readers to remind myself that this thing I do--this writing thing--is something real that I am good at.
As a writer do you experience writers block and if so, how do you overcome those times? And, what advice would you give to someone desiring to be a writer / author someday?
I experience writer’s block almost every day! The only way around it is to just keep writing. I know it sounds cliche, but it is the truth. Occasionally I will sit back and think about why I feel blocked. Sometimes it’s because I feel like I don’t have anything to say. Sometimes it’s because I think no one will be interested in what I have to say. Sometimes it’s the fear of my own words. No matter the reason, I know that the only way to stay sane is to keep writing.
My advice to the aspiring writer: Read a variety of books and write what you want to write. Reading exposes you to many different writing styles and voices from which you will develop and craft your own. And when you focus on writing the stories that you really want to tell, it’s destined to be gold because your passion is felt through the words.
Since following you online I’ve come to love your Instagram photos. Would you care to share what type of camera / apps you use to bring out the beauty in your shots.
Thank you! I LOVE Instagram. It has become another way for me to experiment with media and has allowed me to connect to so many other amazing people. I have always just used my phone’s camera, first a Samsung Galaxy and now an iPhone 4. A few months ago I downloaded the VSCOcam app and it has transformed my technique. It has so many different filters and ways you can manipulate the characteristics of images. It is by far my favorite!
Last but definitely not least, please tell us about, “The Den”.
The Den was born from my own selfish need for community. (Though I suppose there’s nothing selfish about community!) I had read Women Who Run With the Wolves while pregnant with my third child and it transformed me in so many ways and I had no one with whom I could discuss it. A little over a year ago I saw that many of the women in my circles were also reading it so I decided it would be great to have a group of women with whom I could dive deep into the stories and have soulful conversations.
We just finished our 3rd book and I am on the search for our next one. It has been such a gift to be able to hold space for women where we can talk about these important issues surrounding womanhood.
Any last words…?
I’ll leave you with this quote from Women Who Run With the Wolves, words that keep my internal fire aglow:
“A woman must be willing to burn hot, burn with passion, burn with words, with ideas, with desire for whatever it is that she truly loves.”
clarissa pinkola estes
It's been a busy weekend for us! D. and I took a quick trip to visit my Dad and Mom in Atlanta, which was great. It was so good seeing them and spending all of that quality time together. I miss them and I needed it. More to come about our visit to Atlanta in another post. For now I want to share with you some pictures from the day our littlest girl, Victoria, turned 9.
My two boys, both practicing their photography skills. The picture above taken by David and the picture below taken at the same time by Joshua. You can see him holding my phone up above. When I saw these two shots I was in awe. I'm hoping to be as good as them one day.
Victoria loved her new dress and shoes, a surprise from her big sis, Tanisha.
David will stop and meditate anywhere.
They take their interest in photography seriously. It runs in the family I tell ya.
D. met us later on that night and we spent the evening hanging out at City Walk.
It was a beautiful night. The weather was perfect.
I have no idea who Tanisha is throwing shade at, lol. Just joking.
He such an awesome hero! Always combating something.
At last the end of the night. This picture captures the love of a son for his mama. I was pooped emotionally. His Dad noticed and told him to come to me and ask me how I was feeling. His question alone took weight off of me. We held hands for the rest of the night while I shared with him what I was experiencing.
As you can see from the pictures D. didn't join us until late in the night. By that time I was tired. I was emotionally tired. I missed him. I wished he could have been with us all day. It's not easy having to tell your children Daddy has to work on their special day but we have learned how to make it work for us. We have to. Through the years we've figured out other ways to make up for his time away but I still feel the reality of it every now and again.
D. was minding our very active Joshua and couldn't come over to me so he sent his son. This was a moment where a husband / father knew exactly what to do. I felt his presence through his son. (Thank you my Love)
Victoria had a blast and that feels great. Next up, mine and Joshua's birthday coming soon in November. I'm excited.