I Woke Up Like This

Last Spring, a friend brought to my attention the existence of a photography project called I Woke Up Like This and suggested that I consider participating in it. Conducting some research, I learned that the mission of the project is to remove criticism from the perception of our bodies by witnessing the vulnerability, beauty and imperfections of other bodies. As a social experiment, the project strives to weave individual stories with the narratives of these photographs, connecting viewers and participants on a mutual journey to find empathy, self-awareness and self-love.

I was happy to discover that Jillian Powers, the project’s creator, was traveling to Denver to meet participants who were willing to strip naked and expose their most vulnerable selves, sans makeup or fancy hairdos, for the camera. Of course, I immediately expressed my interest. A chance to further the fat-positive cause AND be a part of a social project pioneered by an award-winning portrait photographer? Yes, please! Where do I sign up?

I knew that by participating, it would mean removing all of my clothing in front of strangers. I also knew that there would be conversations surrounding body image and self-esteem. What I didn’t anticipate from the experience was having to face my own vulnerability; I am imperfect, I am fat, I am covered in stretch marks and cellulite and dimpled body parts. Being stark naked in a photo shoot with doors and windows wide open and strangers nearby managed to push a few unexpected insecurities to the surface.

Yet, despite those fleeting thoughts of self-doubt, I remained positive and uplifted. I gleaned something extremely valuable from that afternoon spent in front of Jillian’s professional camera lens: the realization that I am, without apology, a perfectly imperfect human being. Every single one of us is. And it’s crucial, absolutely crucial, that we remember that.







Interview with Jillian Powers


What level is your self-esteem at from 1-10?

That’s awesome!
I worked to get here.  It didn’t come easily.

Are you nervous?
Not as nervous as I thought I’d be. I was more nervous thinking about coming here, then I got here and it feels more exciting. More exciting than nervous.

Why did you want to participate in this project?
It’s an important project. I believe in positive body image, spreading the word of respecting yourself and loving yourself. That includes me. I’m still a work in progress myself. This project is an opportunity to be a part of a bigger picture. To be able to spread this message to the world.

With all the blogs, social media interaction, and so on…body positivity is important to me.


What is your self-esteem level now?
Nine point five.

How did the shoot affect your self-esteem?
It definitely lifted it, because I don’t look at pictures of myself naked. I don’t even own a full-length mirror. I’m not afraid to be naked, or see myself naked. It’s just fascinating to see myself through your lens.

How has your body affected your self-esteem throughout your life?
By third grade, I was wearing a bra – not because I wanted to, but because I needed to. No one else in my grade was wearing a bra at that point.

How did that make you feel?
Very self-conscious. I felt like a bit of a freak. I definitely felt fat. I was already getting the curvy hips, the belly. And most of my friends were thin. Limber. Athletic. All my friends could do cartwheels. Everything I tried to do in respect to that with my body just wasn’t on the same page. My body was holding me back from doing physical things.

What did that teach you about being fat when you were little?
I started finding other parts of satisfaction in my life. I turned to creative paths, things that didn’t require my physical body to be limber and fit and accomplishing physical tasks. This doesn’t mean that I wasn’t active; I participated in physical games and sports and ran around with friends. I was a very active kid. I just always felt like I couldn’t get to that level of athleticism that others could reach.

How old where you when you first began negative self-talk?
I would say sixth grade, eleven or twelve year old. It was my first year attending public school, and I didn’t have to wear a uniform. I felt out of place. I didn’t know how to dress right. I wasn’t popular. Boys only liked me because of my boobs. Girls didn’t like me because of my boobs. It was the first year I experienced bullying.

You run a body positivity blog, tell me how that began?
I went through a divorce about five years ago now, and my marriage had been very emotionally damaging to me. When I finally made the decision to get out of the marriage, I found a renewed sense of self that I had not experienced for decades, and I wanted to express that.

What caused that new sense of self?
When I was married, my husband was a negative, dominating personality in the relationship. Emotionally, he was overbearing, belittled me, made me feel stupid. Verbally, he made little jabs that consistently put me down. He never outright complained about my weight, but we did not have a close, intimate relationship like a husband and wife should have. It wasn’t satisfying, and it wasn’t loving. He didn’t treat me like he desired me, there was no romance between us. Eventually, the verbal and emotional abuse wore me down.

How did that make you feel about your body?
Prior to the divorce, I did not like my body. I liked myself as a person but I was ashamed of my body. I sort of retreated into myself, wore baggy clothing to hide all the rolls and the curves. I just didn’t want to acknowledge my own body. When I left the marriage, I realized that I wasn’t actually the person he’d manipulated me into believing I was. I was better than that. And I knew that I could love my whole self, body and all.

Do you have children?
Yes, I have a son, he’s sixteen. Before this project, I sat down and told him what it entails – that it’s going to be online, in a book, etc. The first thing he said to me was, “GOOD! We need more of that.”

What is the biggest struggle you’ve faced in your life thus far?
Being comfortable in my own skin. I think I’m almost there. My biggest hope is to inspire people to be comfortable in their own skin. It opens up a whole other pathway to happiness. Discovering your own inner and outer beauty is the key. I’ve had many friends through the years tell me they look up to me because I don’t come off as someone with low self-esteem. I don’t worry about what other people think about me, for the most part. I don’t make decisions based on what other people might think of me.

Are you a feminist, and why?
Yes. I know that there are a lot of women who claim not to be feminists because there can be negative attitude surrounding it – that feminists are aggressive, man-hating, don’t want to be mothers, etc., and I don’t think that’s it at all. It’s making sure that all women are seen as vital people in this world. Women have just as big a part in this world as men do. I’m not a man hater, and I’m not afraid of being sexual. Femininity to me is being strong with who you are, embracing who you are. It’s being a mother, it’s being a businessperson, it’s being whatever you wanna be. Whoever you wanna be. Not letting anyone tell you you’re not good enough or don’t have the right skills or that you’re not smart enough because of your gender.

Any last words for the readers?
My mantra is that I try to live an extraordinary life, even through ordinary circumstances.


For more information on I Woke Up Like This or to participate in the project, visit http://www.iwultproject.com/join-the-movement/




Filed under A Touch of Inspiration

Toward a Theory of Poetic Investigation



Oil on canvas 48×48″
2014 Peter Illig


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Filed under Visual Delights, Zafig Art

Resolution Rebuttal

In this first Enchanted Zaftig blog post of 2015, I have no intention of going into a lengthy dialogue of what my personal resolutions are – not because I don’t believe in them, but because I think every day should incorporate the same resolution: make each day the best damn day it can be.

No matter how earnest you may be in the beginning, when you make New Year’s resolutions and don’t follow-through with them, you’re left with heavy disappointment and a sense of failure. To some degree, you may even experience self-loathing.

In my opinion, life is too short for that kind of negative thinking.

It’s absolutely crucial to have personal goals, and to pursue activities, friendships, studies, travels and cultural experiences that will further nurture our all-too-short time together on this earth. But to admonish yourself for not getting to the gym twice a week or not losing those extra pounds you gained at Christmas or not saving enough money to buy that certain something you’ve been wanting is contrary to living a harmonious life. Inner conflict robs us of a peaceful existence and affects our relationships with others.

When New Year’s Eve rolls around every 365 days, I find myself not drumming up resolutions, but rather reflecting on the activities of the past year – not for what I didn’t accomplish, but for what I did.

For instance, in 2014, I

  • celebrated my 8th-year work anniversary and further expanded my position there, which I have continued to do every year since I started.
  • applied at a local community college to begin taking courses that will supplement my knowledge of business administration and marketing.
  • continued to nurture my relationship with my teenage son, encouraging his personal interests, keeping him on track academically (which can be a challenge) and being a present and caring parent.NYE1.jpg
  • dove even deeper into a loving, fulfilling relationship with a man who possesses everything I could hope for in a life partner, including intellect, compassion, good looks, artistic abilities, strong sexual appetites and the propensity to treat me like a queen.
  • purchased a 1997 mint-condition Mercedes Benz C-class sedan (granted, this may seem trivial, but it is, in fact, the first car I have ever owned that was not a hand-me-down vehicle or a get-me-by clunker, and that brings me joy.)
  • participated in an authors’ reading event to help raise funds for a friend’s fight against invasive breast cancer, which was nothing short of inspiring.weddinglaughter.jpg
  • obtained a Certificate of Ministry in order to officiate my brother’s wedding, for which I also penned the ceremony script; it was a beautiful day.
  • added to my personal art collection, including the purchase of “Gratitude”, a bronze sculpture by Adam Schultz, which exemplifies how I’ve felt all year.
  • created The Zaftig Papers, an online platform where I am able to share some of my more obscure and spicy writings, in conjunction with the Enchanted Zaftig website.Curves_2.jpg
  • stayed connected with friends, both near and far, and made some new friendships along the way.
  • enriched (hopefully) and inspired those who have seen or read Enchanted Zaftig content via the internet or in person.
  • continued to encourage everyone to Embrace Your Curves and love yourself where you are.

Although not all major accomplishments, these points exist to remind me of what I contributed to 2014 – to my own life, as well as to the lives of others. Even the pitfalls come back into focus. Reflecting on moments of tragedy, conflict and struggle, whether personal or worldly, allow for progressive healing and growth. “Challenges are what make life interesting, and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” ~ Joshua J. Marine

My personal mantra for 2015 will continue to be the same mantra I’ve held since 2010, when I finally broke free from my shell and came into my own:

“Strive to live an extraordinary life, even through ordinary circumstances.”

Additionally, I’m going to make each day the best damn day it can be.

Happy New Year to you all.


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Bringing on the Heat

Last night, I read an expanded version of my short vignette “Pheromones and Fornication” at an author’s event in Denver. The theme of the evening was “heat” – and I made sure to significantly raise the temperature level in that room.



Pheromones and Fornication

There is something invigorating and remarkable about going for a walk, waiting for a latte, browsing through a bookstore, even pushing a grocery cart down the aisle and feeling an inexplicable aura of sexual energy emanating from me, prickling my skin, exuding from my pores like steam rising from a radiator.

Moist. Sizzling. Persistent.

A luminous, palpable heat that glides through the air in waves, enveloping unsuspecting passersby in a blanket of pheromones.

A second glance, a lingering gaze, a brief locking of our eyes, and he is entranced.

Unconsciously drawn into my intricate, mysterious web of seduction.

Wordless flirtations dance in the air between us, expressing all that is silently implied.

A mere few seconds of unspoken innuendos and the world is transformed into a temporary landscape, occupied by only two people:

Me… him… and the smallest fraction of a possibility for fornication that will never come to fruition but which feels enticingly delicious to consider.

Sometimes, if this passerby and I are standing close enough, the sexual energy resonates between our untouched flesh like invisible currents, causing the hair at the nape of my neck to tingle with static electricity.

Even, occasionally, triggering moistness to gather between my thighs.

I am ripe for the picking…

Ready to be plucked…



And although the moment is fleeting, the experience leaves me vitalized.


Alive in my own skin.

It is a reminder of my abundant femininity.

My female prowess.

My deep, sensual spirit.

And as I walk away from my spellbound passerby with my cup of coffee, my new book, my cart full of groceries, I am aglow, resplendent, in glorious harmony with the inner seductress traveling through my veins.



Photos courtesy of P. Illig and M.B. Lewis


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Filed under A Touch of Inspiration, Poetry and Prose, Sensual Servings

I Am Not Fat, I Am Me

Call me delusional, or call me in denial, but I do not think of myself as fat.

Of course, I AM fat. I wear a dress size that can’t be found in most specialty boutiques or clothing stores. I have folds of flesh that encircle my body – a mid-section that’s hefty, breasts that are heavy, arms that are flabby, hips that are beefy. I have flesh-colored stretch marks that arc across my belly and ripples of cellulite that dimple my thighs and buttocks. I sport a double-chin and chubby cheeks and a body shaped like an apple. When I bend over to pull weeds or work on something at ground-level, I often find it difficult to breathe because my belly pushes up against my breasts, which push against my diaphragm, which cuts off my oxygen intake. Sometimes, my back hurts. Sometimes, the pain is in my feet or my ankles or my hips. I’m not always 100% comfortable, even in my sleep. Although this can be attributed to my weight, it can also be attributed to physical exertion and the slow aging of my body, which is inevitably creeping up on me.

But still, I do not think of myself as fat. Let me rephrase: I do not think of myself as ONLY fat.


In my every day life, being overweight is irrelevant. I am an active, involved, fully capable woman who chooses activity over laziness (except for those moments when I’m feeling lazy, and then I indulge in that laziness, because I can, and I have a right to.) I work full-time at a rather demanding job, raise a teenage son, tend to a house and a yard, go to arts and cultural events, find interest in the creative endeavors of others, participate in social gatherings, visit with friends, explore the city where I live and get involved in the community when I can. I also spend quality time nurturing and caring for my interpersonal relationships and showering my partner with lots of love and sex.

Recently, I overheard a woman at work complaining about her personal weight gain and how life has become more difficult and uncomfortable for her, because she can’t find any clothes that fit right in her closet, and drinking a beverage while sitting in a recliner is even a challenge now because her breasts get in the way. In her griping, she said, “I don’t know how Holly does it.” Meaning, me.

My immediate, though unspoken, response was: “I just do it.”

No one can call me a couch potato. It’s rare that you’ll even find the television on in my house. Yet strangely, I experience frequent twinges of guilt when I do sit quietly with a notebook or my computer, because I feel that I should be up and about, cleaning, gardening, walking, being productive in a more physical, tangible way. As a result, I don’t write or post blogs often enough, and my creativity suffers. For instance, right now, as I type this, my mind is thinking of a dozen other things I should be attending to – a dozen other things more important than this, which is false.

So, you see, I don’t think of myself as fat. I am much more than that. I am the woman with a body and a mind that allow her to  accomplish tremendous feats, even in the everyday – planting perennials, visiting galleries, writing poetry, taking walks, cooking meals, indulging in sensual pleasures.

My daily mantra has always been this:

“to live an extraordinary life, even through ordinary circumstances” 

So you see… I don’t have time to ponder my weight.

How would I get anything done?





Filed under A Touch of Inspiration

Without Fear of Judgment

It was because I needed a break, some time away from my job and my everyday obligations, that we ended up in Salida, Colorado for the weekend. It was a chance to not only indulge in romantic interludes but also to relax and breathe in the fresh air and remember why I love being in the mountains so much, no matter what time of year.

The weekend getaway also gave me an opportunity to try out my new bathing suit.

After waffles and huevos rancheros on Saturday morning, my boyfriend and I gathered up our swimsuits and beach towels and headed to the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs in the small town of Nathrop, just outside of Salida, nestled in the majestic Collegiate Peaks. The weather that day was perfect for early springtime in the Rockies: sunny and warm with only a handful of clouds in the sky. Although the following day we were hit by a springtime blizzard that blinded our path and rattled our nerves the entire treacherous drive home, our one day at the hot springs was perfectly perfect. And exactly what I needed.

The Mt. Princeton Resort offers mspringsultiple soaking opportunities, from man-made mineral pools of varying degrees to a natural creek that flows both hot and cool year-round. A somewhat surprising and pleasing aspect of these hot springs is the absence of sulphuric odor. No stench of rotting eggs that you often smell at bubbling mineral pools, and no trace of chlorine you encounter at regular swimming pools. The only scent in the air was pine resin and a hint of sunscreen. I could not wait to sink my tired body into the warm waters and allow the natural mix of lime, magnesia and potash to soothe and cleanse me. As I anticipated, perfectly perfect.

How disappointing, then, to discover the somber mood in the women’s locker room. Entering the changing area with a bag over my shoulder and a skip in my step, I encountered a scatter of women desperately trying to dress and undress without being noticed by each other. With an open design similar to most locker rooms, this rustic mountain dressing area had benches and mirrors lining the walls, leaving nowhere to hide unless one chose to wrench in and out of clothing in one of the cramped toilet stalls (which some did.) Because of this, every female in the room was forced to undress not only in front of one another but also in front of those imposing mirrors, which kindled feelings of self-doubt and body insecurities so thick, the negative aura hung across the room like a shroud.

No one seemed happy in that dressing room, despite being at one of the most beautiful, relaxing resorts south of Kenosha Pass.

Call me naïve, but I was not aware of how insecure women can become around other women, especially when placed in the vulnerable position of being naked together. Unfair comparisons are made: “She has a flatter tummy.” “She has bigger boobs.” “She has less cellulite on her thighs.” “She has prettier hair.” How sad. There should be more camaraderie. More forgiveness. An irrefutable bond that ties our gender together.

I won’t lie and claim that I don’t also take notice of similarities and differences between body types in such situations; it’s human nature to observe and compare. But I guess I’ve learned over time to appreciate the differences. Every body is completely unique – no two entities are alike – and I embrace that crazy, beautiful aspect of life.

So in that locker room, I removed my clothing and got naked without reserve, without fear of being judged and without placing judgment upon myself. My large breasts wiggled, my fat stomach jiggled and my flabby arms rippled as I clumsily slithered into my new bathing suit. Yes, I saw my own reflection in the mirror, and yes, I noticed the eyes of others looking my way and then averting, but I was not ashamed. I WAS NOT ASHAMED. My new bathing suit has a built-in bra feature that requires clasping in the back, and I must have looked quite a sight trying to make it all work and fit correctly without assistance. If anything was embarrassing, it was that, but I smiled at my own clumsiness and moved on. I also smiled at the other women in the room who looked my way, because nothing helps clear the air of misery better than a shared smile.

And when I exited the locker room and met up with my boyfriend, who had undoubtedly been ready for the last 10-15 minutes, I was met with a wide smile and the words, “Wow, honey, you look amazing.”

We found chairs in the shade to lay our towels upon and dipped our toes into the soaking pool. The temperature of the water that day was 105°. Rather than needing to carefully step in on tiptoes for fear of freezing, as you might at a regular swimming pool, we were able to simply wade right in. The sultry heat of the water rolled upon us, enveloped us, hugged us close like a soft blanket that immediately began to work its magic on washing our cares away. There could have been nothing better.

Moving in water is a weightless experience. For someone who carries an abundance of body fat around with her on a daily basis, feeling such weightlessness is an incredible sensation. In the soaking pool, I had the pleasure of floating effortlessly, with limbs as light as feathers and a torso that bore no weight, and I thought to myself: “This must be what skinny feels like.”

I do not long to be skinny. But I did like that feeling for a moment, to experience what another body experiences that is unlike my own. If a thin woman was given the opportunity to carry around 2-3 times her own body weight for an afternoon, would she appreciate the experience? Perhaps she’d at least gain a better understanding of the struggles we face. That is what I long for: a better understanding of the myriad of differences that we embody as individuals.

I also long for women to uplift other women and for body shame to be cleansed from our psyches. I long for deeper connections and more love and a higher purpose. Is that too much to ask for..?

I don’t care to be skinny. I don’t care to be fat. I just want to be me. EZ. Wiggles, jiggles and all. Here I am – no judgment.

“Once you’ve accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you.” ~ George R.R. Martin




Filed under A Touch of Inspiration, Musings and Thoughts

You Are Not Fat / You Are Not Fingernails


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March 30, 2014 · 6:33 pm