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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Inner Beauty Project 2012!

It's hard to believe that a year has passed since we started The Inner Beauty Project. And what a year it's been! Because of your letters and your feedback, I realized that we were missing an important aspect of discourse in our society. EVERYONE has trauma and trials that almost break them. Everyone needs to know that even in our darkest moments, we're not alone. Sharing is what makes us feel alive and part of something bigger.

This led me to start a magazine. On February 1st of this year, I decided to honor The Inner Beauty Project with a social revolution. We need a magazine that teaches us how to share our burdens and lift each other up. You will NOT see derogatory images and captions about celebrities. We won't teach you how to love him, or how to please your boss.

We will teach you how to love yourself and see your own beauty with value. We will show you women who have pushed past social taboos to talk about their struggles. We will lift you up and help you feel less alone.

We are also opening the letter writing for the second year! It's time to stop waiting for someone else to say the perfect thing you need to hear. It's time to be your own strength and say it yourself. For Valentine's Day we want you to be your own Valentine, put yourself first. Write yourself a letter acknowledging how amazing you are. Don't wait. Even if you don't submit it to us, write it for yourself, remind yourself of your triumphs.

The campaign will run through March 31, 2012. We have a panel of amazing women who have overcome their own difficulties who will vote and choose winners. Yes, that's plural winners!

Five lucky women will get a glamorous photo shoot with Iman and be featured in the May issue of Stark Beauty Magazine!

Other winners will win an empowerment package including a self defense class with Doris Rivera of Never a Victim. Desiree Galvez of Gaiam is donating a stunning handmade Peruvian necklace perfect for summer. Kate Hart is donating a haircut plus a color service at Arvada Hair Company. Donna Levan of Pure Romance is donating a $25 gift certificate with the option to double if you host a party. Danielle with Cheesecake Skin Therapy Mobile Spa is donating a Ultra-Senstitive RX kit. Melanie Piek of Vertical Fusion Studio is donating a three class pole dancing package. I'll update this blog as more donations come in!

Our greatest hope is that this feeling of sisterhood and empowerment grows as it is shared. So please share this project with the women you love. Change is coming and you can help make it happen!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cue dramatic drumroll...

I'm speechless. That's what has taken me so long to post this. I know there are many people out there on pins and needles. But, I'm at a loss for words. (Anyone who knows me may be slightly alarmed.)

When we started this project about a month ago, I had no idea that it would become a MOVEMENT. An action. Healing both the letter writers and the letter readers. I had only hoped that one person out there might benefit from me naming my own demons. The beautiful responses, the intention behind each letter and comment have warmed me to my core. You have proven that this world can and will change for the better. You've proven that inner beauty is alive and well across the globe. I'm so proud of all of you.

In the month of this project's short existence, we were published in two newspapers and mentioned in countless blogs. We've had over 2,700 visitors from over 30 countries around the world. We received over 1,000 votes! Seven hundred of those happening in secret during the last 12 frenzied hours of voting.

So please cue the dramatic drumroll! The winner of the Inner Beauty Project is Laurel P! Laurel wins our Empowerment Prize Package and I can't wait to actually meet her in person! (I feel like I already know her from her amazing letter.) Stay tuned for some beautiful pinup photos of her megawatt smile! If you haven't read it yet, book your adorable tushie over to her letter and read every word. And if you haven't written yourself a letter, please do! We will still be posting letters and sharing comments. I would love for this site to become a forum of strength and support.

In second and third are Des G and Elena C! And since I wish that everyone could win, I made the last second decision to offer both runner ups their own $500 pinup shoots!!! Please go read their letters as well and be inspired.

Hugs to everyone for making this experience so amazing. It would be nothing without your support.



Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Get your votes in NOW!

We are now accepting votes for the letter that you find most powerful, inspiring and beautiful!

Cast your votes by leaving comments on the letters that move you. The letter with the most comments by midnight (MST) March 21st will win the $2,000 prize package, including a photo shoot with Iman Woods.

Pass the link on to your friends, and keep the votes coming! You can vote as many times as you want.

PLEASE NOTE: We are still accepting letters for the Web site, so please keep writing. Any letters received now will not be eligible for the contest, but we will still post them on this site after the contest is done. That way, your words can continue to inspire other women.

PLEASE ONLY SUBMIT YOUR COMMENT ONCE. Comments are moderated and will be posted at the end of the contest. Thank you for voting!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lisa B

Dearest Lisa,

I love you so much, Wheesy. You have faced such a life….and I am proud of the way you are coming through the harder times.

Not everything is hard. You and I-- we know that. Some days are so wonderful. You wake up and go to the car to go to work and a man is sitting on the curb. Undaunted by his presence, you ask, “Are you okay? Do you need any help?”

He looks up at you and smiles, “No, I just came early for the show.”

“What show?” you ask. “Listen,” he says.

You listen. Birdsong fills your ears and heart and you know you are in the presence of many angels.

“Amen”….and you leave for work with a smile on your face.

But life isn’t easy, is it?

Marrying Phil at 19 years old---just a month before turning 20---you knew it wouldn’t be easy. He was the single father of two daughters. Jenny was 3 years old. Kelly was 18 months old.
Still, you married that broad-shouldered, gruff, tender, talented, difficult, wonderful man. For 33 tight-budgeted, difficult, marvelous, creative, growing years we lived together. Phil! You will never know how much I miss you!

Your cancer was so insidious. I never listen to a cancer diagnosis now and say anything like, “Oh, you will be okay. Cancer is beatable.” The truth is—it is not. It kills. Cancer provides slow and cruel death. It steals you. It steals love…..or tries to.

Your death started off as a hand—the hand I loved, the hand I knew, the hand that held me and loved me and was my companion.

The best thing was the wedding ring—the last thing I removed from his purple-mottled flesh.
Just when I thought I couldn’t bear another moment, when I was stuck between you and the wall on that tiny hospice bed. Just when I could barely move, or think, or sing another note—just then…you sat straight up, glared at my face with fury and fear and self-defense—you did not know me. I was your mother, the mother you loved, the one who had already crossed over.

What did I look like to you? Was I a skeleton? Was I angry or dangerous?

I know I lay there smiling a goofy smile—trying to soothe you, trying to placate you, trying to find the answer to your fear, and then you spoke, high-pitched, loud, fearful words, “WHO ARE YOU?” before your hands, those hands I have loved from the first time I saw them until I pulled the wedding ring off of your purple finger—those hands descended on my neck and squeezed.
No Phil, No, No Daddy, no,no, no.

I escaped to cry in the heat of the parking lot, where motorcycle Dawn, so attracted to you, soothed me. Where I rebuffed Dan’s placating embrace with my own turmoil, where I sat, so bewildered by this, by you.

It wasn’t you.

Then I went in and saw you, yellow-diapered and sitting on the side of the bed, hands holding your head as you shook it back and forth weeping, “I thought my wife was my mother. She looked like my mother.”

Well, it took time for the recliner where I slept to creep closer to you, but finally it did and I held your hand again. And I stroked your arms again, and I kissed you again. And then, one moment of clarity, one moment of clear and transparent sweetness arrived and you reached for my face with gentle hands and pulled me down to you once, twice, three times.

“I am going to miss you so much,” you said, and I squeezed out “I love you.”

Oh Phil, I do love you.

So often I have wondered why I can’t lean on you. Why I can’t call you and lean on your common sense…ask for your reassurance. Know that you are championing me; my life. Championing the lives of our four children and five grandchildren.

Oh I miss you.

And now I am marrying again. Dean. The man who came into my life a year ago and both enriched and complicated things.

Dean knows I am a find. I know I am too.

Dean knows he is a find. I know he is too.

In our mid-fifties, not afraid to be alone, not afraid to raise our children alone….we find solace in each other’s arms. We know that laughter, and walks, and dinners and silly TV shows are good. We know about balance and talk and listening and good embraces. We know we are each enough….and yet not enough.


Lisa, you are beautiful. Please keep loving your children well. Please keep loving Phil well. Please keep loving Dean and grow that love well. Please keep loving your grandchildren and siblings and your late fabulous parents and aunts and uncles and colleagues and friends well.
Be a good steward of your good life.

I love you so much,


Cheryl BW

My dear sister, friend, daughter, mother, beautiful woman,

All the negative voices have made you feel worthless, beaten down and spent. Fear of rejection or judgment made you always afraid to let your light shine. You've never felt like you were good enough, beautiful enough, strong enough or smart enough...until now.

You always felt different..and abandoned, due to your adoption even though you were raised by a family that loved you. They CHOSE you! They adore your unique personality and strength. You never felt connected to anyone, anything. You allowed yourself to be abused and beaten and kept the secrets because you felt it was all your fault. You didn't deserve it. Not one time. Not ever. And you know this now.

As you were growing up, you kept thinking that "One Day" you would wake up and feel that connection. That, and the love of your family, was the only thing that kept you from taking your beautiful young life. You thought too many times in your deepest sadness how easy it would be to just slip away because no one would ever notice. How truly wrong you were. And you know this now.

You always longed for acceptance by your friends and family but never let yourself feel it. You didn't let yourself feel the love you so deserved and was there for you. You made choices as a young adult that harmed your body and soul but you thankfully are still here to share your experiences and knowledge with your friends and darling daughters so that they may learn from your mistakes and experiences. You are stronger than you ever imagined you could be. And you know this now.

Your free spirit, endless energy and fierce loyalty to those you love is something to be admired. You put your heart out there over and over, only to get it crushed and played with, but yet you pick up the pieces and come back with a happy vengeance to put it all back together and try again. And you do this with a smile. You run circles around much younger people and they look at you with amazement. You make them tired! You are admired by your friends and family because of your contagious laugh and fun personality. And you know this now.

You have spent a couple years worth of time in bed, recovering from over 30 surgeries. Your body and an evil depression responded by doubling your body weight. Your normally small body was enveloped in a protective shell that made you feel safe. So you ate and kept that shell because then no one would expect you to do anything but be the happy, overweight girl or pay you any attention as the woman you so longed to show to the world. But, you decided you wanted to change this destructive cycle and you did! You are now healthier than you've been in decades and are as beautiful outside as you are inside. You aren't a perfect size 2, and are covered in scars, but you have a confidence now that spews out of you when you enter a room. People like to be around you. You radiate fun and positive energy. And you know this now.

Just because you have a failed relationship does not mean you don't deserve to share your life with someone. One day you will find that person who will love you for you and allow you to shine to your brightest level! They will celebrate you!! They will "get" your quirky sense of humor, be able to keep up with you, laugh with you daily, challenge your mind and soul, and you will be happier than you ever thought possible. You will make them feel the same. You will be able to drown out the negative thoughts and truly experience someones unabashed love and admiration for you. You deserve this! You will experience a beautiful, full life with them and they will always thank the moon and the stars you were brought into their life. You will feel the same about them. Always remember that you are a gorgeous and spiritual being. And you know this now.

With love and admiration,

Cheryl ♥

Erika W

Dear Erika,

At seven years old, you are my favorite version of myself. Strong, fiercely independent, with a mind as stubborn as concrete, complete only with scabby knees. My very own superhero. You got the highest grade on math quizzes and ‘wowed’ parents at the science fair. At twenty-four, you’re a little different. Buzzed off of anti-depressants and spending most of your free time in bed, counting the days as they pass by.

Dearest girl, what happened?

Do you remember the day they took your daddy away? You hardly blinked.

“I’m strong” you assured your grandmother as she broke the news to you.

Never mind that your daddy had slit someone’s neck in the woods. His face would be plastered all over the news, “Colorado’s Most Wanted”. You would be labeled an orphan. You were tough, sweet girl, you could handle it. You went out to submerge yourself in the French language, in music, and in God. Quiet whispers of judgment all faded to be background noise.

At age ten, the voyage to California took another stab at your strength. You would be away from your little brother indefinitely, your rock. Two days in the back of a crowded Toyota Corolla, passing the Great Salt Lakes and pushing a hundred mpg, you make it to a run down, white-trash destination, where dreams had seemingly had come to die. Abandoned hope and trailer parks; this was your new reality.

You didn’t blink an eye, love. “I will be above this.”

Sixteen. Your first broken heart. Feeling even worse after coming home to your mother with a needle in her arm. You had just graduated high school, two years before scheduled. You were a diamond in the rough, showing so much promise, earning straight A’s your first semester of college. You soothed yourself with tears and apricot jam. You fell asleep in the shower. Do you remember?

“It will get better.”

Eight years later, in an apartment overlooking the San Francisco skyline, you’ve lost yourself. Drunk, alone and disheartened, you’ve fantasized about plunging into the ocean for far too many months now.

Your little brother is lost. Your grandparents are gone. Your sister has cancer. Your dad is still gone. Your mother is still stricken with addiction.

It is in this moment that I dare you to find your seven-year-old voice.

I AM strong.

I WILL be above this.

It will get better.

Take your life back, my love. It is waiting for you. Happiness hides behind the corner, slightly out of sight. Without depression, we will never know exhaltion. Call on friends, call on Jesus, but most importantly, call on yourself. The precious gift of life has always been yours for the taking.

Your favorite version of yourself has always been inside you. It’s waited to surprise you again and again. Re-bloom, rebirth and experience all that this life has to give you.

I love you always and I will never leave you,

Erika W.

Marlene R

Letter to myself:

I’m telling you, Self, it’s time to take charge of your life again. Face the facts: I am what I think. So my mind is my own and I need to keep thinking on a positive path. My spirit is mine alone. When I start the slow slide into depression, it’s time to sit quietly and invite God’s spirit to fill me with healing and joy. Other than eating healthy food and exercising, my body takes it’s own road. And I have to learn to live with the results.

When that gray shadow of depression starts creeping into my self, I need to remember the past. So I say, Self, you’ve encountered a lot through the years. That horrid time in our late thirties when our marriage went through an emotional earthquake. Remember, Self, crawling an inch at a time out of the pit of depression and with God’s good help standing on the plateau. Remember how that turned out. We rebuilt stronger and better than ever. WE WON. And we proved the synergy that one plus one equals a hundred, a million, a billion.

Good years flew by and then came the devastating news that I had stage IV ovarian cancer. It took a year of tests to identify the reason for a small pain in my right side. I remembered back to 50 years ago as a surgical nurse assisting with an abdominal operation. The surgeon opened the woman’s abdomen and sighed. She was full of cancerous tumors. He grabbed my hand and thrust it into her abdomen so I could feel the hard balls of anti-life. Sadly he said, “Let’s sew her up and send her home to die.”

But that was fifty hears ago, and medicine now waves magic wands. My surgeon cut me from stem to stern and took out all my innards. He examined them carefully and removed all the cancer he could find. Four weeks later I started eight weeks of chemotherapy. I lost all my hair, but not my sense of humor. I felt miserable with aches and nausea, but daily slayed the dragon of despair. After six months I was cancer free. Whoopee, I WON. Then I worked like the devil to regain muscle strength and the joy of life.

Another six months and a new PET scan showed a cancerous spot on my liver. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I had cancer licked. There goes the old bod again, taking it’s own path. So another round of chemo, but not so harsh this time. Then another PET scan proving I was cancer free again.

I think the second round damaged my spirit. I think I lost trust that all will be well. Depression started creeping into my psyche again. I had no energy. I felt gray and useless. And now it’s time to slay the dragon again. So I sit quietly with open mind, heart, soul and let God’s healing spirit flow through me. I become my own cheerleader again. I turn mental flips and cartwheels. I say, Self, here are the facts:

You were born to be joyful, living, giving, loving. Now live in the spirit.
A month ago, I went on zip lines through a forest in Costa Rica. I whooped and hollered and yelled, “Thank you. Thank you.” Over and over again. “Thank you.”

The real me is back in residence. Halleluiah.


A poem by Marlene:


When you are lost, shaking inside,
wobbly and rudderless
somewhere will appear to show the way.
Once turned in the right direction,
you will magically arrive
to lead the way for another’s
dark night.
And so it goes, like a round dance.
Strangers come and go,
friends weave in and out.
Strangers become friends.
Believe in serendipity and
do not yet despair.