Beginning & Ending with Joy

Starting with Joy

This past month, I intentionally began and ended my bookchats with joy.

First up was Dr. Joy, herself, and her book Joy Works: 8 Lessons for Educators. This book is special to me because I helped contribute to the chapter on reflection. Dr. Joy has become a close friend throughout the last few years and I’ve watched her live out her message. She is real, she is thoughtful, and she continues to learn and grow. She is someone I can count on for truth and support. Her work reflects all of that.

Such a special bookchat with Dr. Joy & her latest release!

Finishing With Joy

The last bookchat of 2022 was with my friend Jillian DuBois. Jillian has also been on my bookchat a few times. But this time, it wasn’t about a book she has written or published. She designed a beautiful card deck about joy. Each sentiment is from one of her many journals throughtout the years. I can’t imagine allowing others in on such private thoughts, but Jillian has a courage that inspire. Each card holds a precious thought from her life and artwork that goes along. As she shares her soul, she encourages us to do the same.

My BookChat with Jillian DuBois about her latest release.

The Importance of Joy

Talking with both Dr. Joy & Jillian DuBois, we addressed what it’s like to protect joy, how hard it is to maintain, and lastly, how worthy the mission is for us. Regardless of your career or your roles, joy is what helps us get through the muck of life. It fuels our hope. The holidays aren’t merry for everyone. That’s okay. But there is still plenty of joy to be found, through the grief, gritty work, and triumphance. We hope these stories resonate.

Take Me Home: the story for these times….

Watch my bookchat with guest author Andrea Bitner!

Have you ever thought about what it’s like for immigrants to come to our nation? What the journey is like? What their feelings are when they first step foot on our land, in our schools, in our communities?

I wept reading this fantastic book, Take Me Home. Andrea Bitner dives right into eleven stories of former students and how they came to the United States of America. Together they faced tragedy and success.

It’s a short but powerful read.

Something that Andrea said in our chat is still in my mind. She shared that everyone, regardless of the language they speak, or their orgin, are hoping for three things: respect, acceptance, and admiration.

In today’s world, could you imagine how our society would be if we could repect each other’s differences, accept each other for who we are without trying to force our beliefs on them, and lastly, if we could find one thing about another that is worth admiration?

Her words are encouraging and her message is powerful.

Back To School Prayer

“Dear Lord, as teachers, students, and families begin this new season, please grant them patience, wisdom, and protection.

Patience among the chaos,

Wisdom to see all as whole people,

And Protection against anyone seeking to harm.

Amen.”

I wrote this prayer a few nights ago. A part of me wanted to go into more detail, but I decided to leave it simple and broad because I know we can trust God with the details.

Patience Among Chaos

While this season can be fun and celebratory, it’s also a challenge to get back to routines. For some, new routines are just beginning.

The first time parent sending their child to kindergarten comes to mind. The parent who has multiple chlidren at multiple schools, trying to balance new schedules.

Educators are also enduring chaos. The first weeks of school set the tone. New students, new procedures, making sure all kids have lunches, a way home, and making sure their own children are off to a good start.

So many forces are coming together and chaos ensues as everyone struggles to find their equilibrium in the midst of it all. Knowing we each play a vital part in our school communities makes patience so important. We often run short on sleep and energy. That’s why this prayer request was on my mind. I know what it’s like in both roles and how easy it is to snap.

Wisdom to See All as Whole People

You and I are not one dimensional. We are not just teachers. We are not just parents. We are not just students. We are humans with interests and skills. We bring in worries. We bring in joy.

We are also scared… sometimes more often than we’d like to admit.

If we can keep this perspective in check, we know that our connectedness is paramount. We know that we can offer insight into solutions needed to help our community.

We know when we hurt each other, we are hurting those attached to us, as well.

Protection Against Those Seeking Harm

More than ever, we enter a school year with the pain of how the last one ended. We are nervous to send our babies off, knowing that some parents have endured their morning goodbyes as the final one.

Lord, protect us all. Stand in the gap and keep those wanting to hurt our loved ones away. Stop the plans from being carried out. Allow our children to learn with joy and not fear. Let us have each new day with our loved ones.

Keep In Mind

Four years ago, as a public school teacher, I entered into a new grade level after a summer where my husband had life-altering surgery and our youngest was still breastfeeding. I remember dreading back to school. I remember wondering how I would serve everyone in my life, my family and my students.

Our students might have had wonderful summer breaks or the exact opposite.

The tired parents on Meet The Teacher night might be doing their best to put aside grief and be present as much as possible.

When we see each other as humans, not just a label, we are filling this universe with love. It helps us to be more compassionate and empathetic. We even end up modeling that for our chilren and students.

I wish you the best this new school year. I hope you feel plugged in to a supportive community. We all need to feel like we belong. Our faith can help us with the details.

Amen.

Melody’s Makeup Musts:

For Beginners Like Me….

How It All Started

One of the worst experiences I had with makeup was at a middle school dance. I had too much foundation on and when I went to the bathroom to wipe the sweat off my face, I took all of the foundation off as well. We didn’t have YouTube or Instagram tutorials when I was growing up. All I knew was lipstick went on the lips, blush was for cheeks and so forth…. I’ve never felt confident about my makeup skills.

When I turned 39, I treated myself to a Vegas trip where I spent the day in a spa. Besides getting a pedicure and my hair styled, I made an appointment to get my makeup done professionally. My skin had been breaking out for months at that time, from my nose, around my mouth, to my chin. The esthetician covered all that up and I felt so beautiful! She suggested I get some facials when I went back home, to help heal my skin. I took her advice and after three facial treatments, a month apart, my skin was healed. In fact, three years later, I may get a few tiny little pimples during PMS, but they are barely noticeable and are gone in less than two days. My skin looks better than it has in years. 

A selfie I took that I used as my professional headshot. This was taken after getting my makeup done in Vegas!

During the pandemic, there was no one open to get my makeup professionally done again. So I started watching Instagram reels about applying makeup. I learned about contouring and smokey eyes…and the more I watched, the more I played around, and the more confident I felt about how I apply my makeup. 

I like showing the Before & After because I love myself even without makeup! The transformation that takes places is pretty epic, I think!

My favorite makeup tutorial influencer is Ashley Steading. I was following quite a few people, but her tips felt the most doable. Also, I just like how she is not over the top. She seems to be for every woman. I really admire that. Plus sometimes she even checks out my Instagram haha! That always makes me feel good. So if you are looking to learn from someone, check her out first. She uses Seint makeup. It’s cream makeup and one of these days, I’m going to invest in her brand and buy from her. But before I spend some serious cash on makeup, I wanted to see if cream makeup was even for me. That’s why I bought a basic cream kit off Amazon. 

Regardless if you buy the brand she sells or not, she still has great tips. I no longer use eyeliner, which is great because it always made my eyes itchy. She shows how to use eye makeup for liner and even though mine is not cream, it still works. She also shows how to use different makeup brushes to be able to do that! She knows all the hacks!! FOLLOW HER! 😉

This is NOT perfect placement, but it all works together when I blend. I can place the different shades in less than two minutes.

I’m sharing my makeup musts in this post. Everything is pretty inexpensive. You can get most of the items from Walmart or your preferred drugstore/pharmacy. (If you do decide to purchase from my Amazon shop, to be completely transparent, I do make a tiny commission that does not increase the price.)

Almost in same place in this before and after. Lighting is not different and I’m not using a filter. Makeup can enhance features and this photo really highlights that!

Here are my steps:

  1. Moisturize daily, I prefer Oil of Olay Regenerist.
  2. Prime your face (I use a pore minimizer primer) so the makeup stays! 
  3. Use the Youngfocus cream as your contour/foundation. It comes with a pamphlet to show you how to apply color, but short tutorials from Ashley Steading will help you, too.
  4. Apply Bronzing pearls all over with a large blush brush. 
  5. Use the Wet ‘n Wild Ultimate eyebrow kit to enhance or fill in your eyebrows. Use the lightest shade to apply right under your brow. The directions come with this kit as well. 
  6. I use the lightest taupe color from the eyebrow kit as my bottom eye liner, using a very fine makeup brush, on the end of the brow brush. 
  7. Apply makeup. I learned a hack from Ashley how to make it smokey. Darkest color goes on edges, then middle color, and the lightest (and most sparkly in my preference) goes in the inside corder to middle lid. Blend like hell. If it’s crap, start over! Or add some lighter shades. 
  8. Use the darkest color (I use black) as your top lid liner. 
  9. Add a heart shape of your favorite lip color to your apples or cheeks for blush.  
  10. Add lip color, if you use the matte, apply a gloss if you don’t like it to be so matte. 
  11. Finish with a setting spray. 

Practice Leads to Confidence

It’s okay if you make a lot of mistakes! I do it all the time, but I love the process of transformation! A good hype song always makes it more fun, too. Right now, Lizzo’s “About Damn Time” on repeat gets me going.

I listen to this on repeat when I’m getting ready!

After some practice, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can do this!!! 

Someone DMed me after I posted a reel that I didn’t need to wear makeup and I know they had good intentions, so I’m not mad. But I don’t wear makeup because I need to…I like to! It brings me joy! That may sound silly to you, and that’s okay, no one is forcing you to contour! LOL!! 

In fact, no one needs to wear makeup. I’m sharing because as a forty something, I’m just now feeling confident about my makeup skills. I’d love to help others like me get that confidence, too, and it’s not as hard as you think! 

I love a good selfie! I use the Lensa App to give me that soft lighting with the shadows. I do not feel the need to correct my face or take away my wrinkles. Filters can be fun! I was getting ready for date night to see Top Gun: Maverick. I felt so hot that night, Ladies!

Let me know if you want to learn the basics!

Email me or comment on this post: mjmcalliwrites@gmail.com and use heading “Melody’s Makeup Must Haves Basic Tutorial” and I’ll make it happen!! Let’s just have some fun!

DISCLAIMER: I still consider myself a Beginner. I can teach you basics to help you grow in confidence.

Traveling While Plus-Size

Feeling more confident in my own skin helps me make myself and my needs a priority, especially when flying out of my comfort zone.

Traveling can be hard on any body, but on a plus-size body, it can be even more challenging. So I pack for comfort and confidence.

Packing with Comfort & Confidence in Mind

Here are some things I do that make it more comfortable:

Upgrade my seating for more leg room, I am worth the investment. 

If an extender seatbelt is necessary, I ask right when I step on the plane. The attendants are very discreet and understanding. Pick seating before flight. Knowing what to expect always brings comfort. 

Here are some things I do that ensure I feel confident:

I only pack clothes that help me feel more confident and comfortable. We all have those outfits that are adorable but need extra under garments. If I choose to do this, I try to keep it at one. When I’ve taken more than one of these “extra” outfits I usually regret it. Otherwise, I pack what I know requires less squishing of any body parts. 

When packing new outfits that might show off more skin, I wear them a couple of times before a trip so I know how it feels to wear them and take note of my comfort level. When I wear it on my trip, I feel more at ease. It also helps me to realize when a particular outfit is fine where I live but not necessarily for me if I’m away from home. I abhor chafing! I like to know if I need to prepare for chafing and wearing new outfits before I go away helps me plan for that. 

Jewelry & Shoes Think “Lite”

I love jewelry and I used to pack too much. Jewelry can definitely weigh your luggage down. Now, I only take the jewelry that I coordinate with my outfits. 

Shoes that are uncomfortable, no matter how cute, do not fly with me. Shoes can make or break a trip. If they can’t stay on my feet for the duration of my job or outing, they do not go with me. This is always a painful lesson. At 41, I have decided no matter how cute a pair of shoes may be, it is never worth breaking this rule. I keep shoes to a minimum of three pairs. 

Travel Days

For days that I will be flying, I wear cute, lounging pants. NO jeans! Leggings with an oversized top or dress also feel comfortable. During the winter, I layer with a sweater and pack a travel blanket in my carry-on. My shoes are slip-ons and require no tying. 

Regardless of body-type, having a lounge pass for your main airline is worth the investment and usually helps lay-overs feel more enjoyable. I also carry a small backpack with sturdy and comfortable straps instead of a purse for my carry-on. 

What do you do to make flying more comfortable? 

#travel #plusize #confidence #comfortable #professional #packingtips #traveltips #jewelry #shoes #outfits #airplaneseating #loungepass #upgrades #rules

Aunt Carol 1951-2022

Aunt Carol with my oldest children Madi & Ben.

Carol Jean Inscho was welcomed into this world on February 8, 1951 in Kansas City, MO to Dorothy Mae and Elza Lloyd Inscho. Her entrance was a bit more kind as she was delivered by a doctor, but as the story goes, the doctor was gone when they realized she had a twin brother who was also ready to be delivered! Back then parents had to wait for the delivery date to find out gender and if they were having twins! I can’t even wrap my mind around my grandmother carrying twins and not knowing it! 

Even though Carol was a twin, in a world with eight siblings, she was in the “little kids” group along with her younger brother Rex, younger sister Della Gale, and youngest of all siblings, James. She and Gale were each claimed by an older sister to share a bed and some duties. Carol was Team Shirley. 

Shirley fondly shares this about her little sister, Carol:

Carol was a lover of cats, Elvis Presley, and dark chocolate among others. She gave me my first kitten, the last one of her precious Elvee’s litters. I was with her at two Elvis concerts and felt the joy she experienced seeing him perform live! I will treasure these memories of Carol.

Her big sister, Orpha, shares this:

Carol loved her nieces and nephews. She was our live-in child care with Kerry and Mike. We were blessed that she was available until the next nephew arrived at Daryl’s home. They had her promise to be their child care person upon arrival.

What a blessing she was to us!

She may not have spoken up as a young person, but she did find her voice later on and she was not one to back down from her beliefs. She believed complaining how awful life was certainly was a waste of time.

Carol, like all of her siblings, attended Washington School and was a graduate of Lafayette High School in St. Joseph, Mo.

Aunt Carol truly did love her nieces and nephews. She’s got a lot of them, and a ton of great nieces and nephews, and now even great-great nieces and nephews. From 2008 to 2019, Aunt Carol was part nanny and aunt for my children, her great nieces and nephews, Madeline, Benjamin, Lela Mae, Elizabeth, and Whitman, who lovingly referred to her as Aunt Coocoo. Madi gave her that name and it stuck with the others. 

For many of those years, she lived in our home and there were things I learned about this incredible woman:

She truly did have a bad case for loving Dr. Pepper. However, she’d fast from it for two years, completely give it up for a time. But when the time was up, she drank it like it was water. She had Dr. Pepper when she pleased and did not care if it made absolutely no sense. But then she’d give it all up again and the cycle repeated. 

She found Jesus as an adult. She knew about God and went to church faithfully, but it was as an adult when she realized she had never truly invited Him in. She understood what it was like to have doubt, what it was like to live without God, and then what it was like to pray and know someone was there to listen and love her for every need she had. 

Aunt Carol was a walker. She was independent. She moved to Dallas, TX when she was 30 and she never got a driver’s license. She knew the bus and train schedule and how to get herself around. She wasn’t afraid to walk at any time of night. She seemed fearless to me, but it was just her way of life. Getting hit by a car did not fill her with fear or stop her! 

Aunt Carol worked in the hospitality industry for decades. She worked some seedy and some ritzy places. She cared about others and when she was promoted as a manager, she vowed to not treat her colleagues as some of her managers had treated them. Did you know she was tipped one time by Della Reese? When she shared that story with me, she also said, she was given a dollar bill for her trouble! But Aunt Carol didn’t hold grudges and smirked when she told that story. She left the hospitality industry when the economy tanked in 2008 and came to live with us after our first child was born. 

When you think of Aunt Carol, you might know she was a lover of Elvis, Roy Orbison, and Dwight Yokam. She really thought Dwight was the sexiest man she’d ever seen. You might know she loved cats and had an incredible collection to show for it. You might know she worked in hotels and then took care of her niece’s kids as she retired. 

But one of the best things about Aunt Carol is how she lived life on her terms. She was an independent woman who knew what she wanted in life. She wasn’t a gossip, she forgave easily, and always gave people the benefit of the doubt. She wanted to live and she did. 

Thankfully, her siblings were with her at the end. Her little sister, Gale was with her in her final moments as they listened to gospel music being sung by her favorite icon, Elvis Presley on March 5th, 2022 as she slipped quietly from this earth around 10am. I don’t know how Heaven works, some say we immediately go to Heaven if we believe, some say we will sleep until Jesus comes back. But I am certain when she meets Him, He will say, “Well done, good and faithful Servant.” I know that we will be reunited in Heaven and I am certain that the pain of cancer is gone and her spirit is free. 

Carol Jean Inscho is preceded in death by her father, Elza Lloyd Inscho, mother Dorothy Mae Inscho, and oldest brother Gene Inscho (Shannon Inscho). She leaves behind sisters Shirley Inscho, Orpha and Garry Peek (Kerry, Mike, and Jeff), Twin Brother Daryl Inscho (Darrick, Jeremy, Tabitha, Lillian, Gabriel, and Grace), Rex Inscho, Della Gale Sipe (Faith, Joshua, Melody, and Megan), and James and Ronda Inscho (Cody, Angela, Alisha, Trisha, and James). Aunt Carol also leaves behind many great and great-great nieces and nephews and friends whom she treasured.

Her memorial in Texas will be March 10th at Christian Center Family Church

13505 Josey

Farmer’s Branch , Texas 75234

Another memorial will be held in St. Joseph, MO and that date is still to be decided. 

Just Breathe

Today, I had to remind myself to just breathe. I don’t know what kind of day you are having, but maybe you are also feeling overwhelmed.

I invite you to just breathe. Take a moment and and inhale deeply through your nose (I’m a mouthbreather so this takes focus) and exhale slowly.

Repeat.

Next, focus on what is right in front of you. What is it that you need? I let my husband know I was overwhelmed. It felt so good to share this with him. Maybe you need to call or text a friend, someone you know who will encourage you.

This gave me the clarity for the next step. Sometimes looking ahead and thinking of all the to-dos is enough to keep me under the covers or frozen in place. When I stopped, shared, and took deep breaths, I was able to get to that next step. This might help you, too.

But maybe, you need to just breathe.

Hugs.

Like, LOVE & Listen Without Agenda

I have been on a long journey. On this journey, I constantly reflect. I examine my bias. I analyze why I feel defensive when others disagree with me. I question my emotions and intentions.

Sometimes, to be quite frank, my thoughts and actions come from a very selfish place. Knowing that helps me move beyond the superficial and keeps me from making some very bad decisions that would harm those I love.

Sometimes, to be quite frank, my thoughts and actions come from a place of indoctrination. Those are the scariest thoughts. When I explore them deeply, they seem absurd, judgemental, and self-righteous. They often come up when I don’t understand someone’s differences. I’ve learned to truly examine these thoughts and question the origin. Most times, after much reflection, these ugly thoughts are thrown away because they are garbage. They keep me from accepting others or loving what makes a person unique, and I don’t accept that anymore.

Learning how to like, love, and listen without agenda has been one of the most challenging journeys of my life, but also it’s been the most liberating.

Seeking Peace

Love this message from TobyMac’s social media that showed up in my Facebook memories a few days ago. The older, and hopefully, wiser that I grow, I realize that my peace means more to me than being right.

You know, some people are never going to follow you. Some people are never going to LIKE you. Some people are never going to accept that you have changed. And maybe the most painful is that some people will be your people until one day they decide that you’ve changed too much for their comfort level. You might not even see the breakup coming, but when it does, it shatters your heart.

All I can offer is wish them well and keep moving forward.

If you can, work on forgiving what you can’t change, that which has caused you grief. Remember that your peace is worth fighting for, but winning an argument, or trying to keep someone in your life who doesn’t want to be there anymore, is not.

Learning From [my] Example

Usually when I blog, I try to focus on the great stuff I’m doing! But, truthfully, I probably get it wrong more than I ever get it right. When I’m getting it right, it usually comes from being wrong, A LOT. That’s okay. That’s real learning. But when raising children, it really sucks when we have to look in the mirror and realize we are falling short, and our kids are imitating us.

This quote from James Baldwin doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy. It challenges me to my core.⠀

It’s hard to own up to something you’ve done that was super hurtful to another human being.


Recently, my oldest child confronted me with something I had said to her that she was holding on to, and it was truly a mean comment. I don’t remember saying it, and first reaction in my mind was denial, but it definitely sounded like me when I’m being sarcastic. Quickly, I made the choice to apologize.


I’m ashamed that I hurt her. The very kind of comment I’m trying to help her not to say to her siblings was something that I said to her. I am guilty of modeling ugly comments, but I hope I’m just as guilty of modeling sincere apologies… and changed behavior. There is no quick-fix here. ⠀


Not one of us is perfect, but we can do better and we can help others heal when we face our mistakes with sincerity. ⠀

Every, new day we have the choice to grow and do better. I pray my core beliefs of loving others without agenda and standing up for what is right is something my children are learning from me the most, but I know I can’t hide my flaws from them. They see it all… my attitudes and words are just as much a part of their thinking/learning as they grow, learn, and decide to be who they would like to be. ⠀

For those of us who are doing the best we can for our children and students, thank you! We are making this world a better place, and it’s not easy! But the whole piciture demands the truth, the good and bad. We may not always get it right, and that’s why I thank God for forgiveness. ⠀