2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,200 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 37 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Blanket Drive for the Homeless

I’ve had a dream like forever, to collect blankets each winter and drive around town giving them out to the homeless. Being from Chicago, I always pictured Lower Wacker Drive, where many homeless used to congregate to be somewhat shielded from natures elements.


For likely over a decade, it’s been on my mind, but I reasoned my way out of it year after year, thinking of all the reasons it wouldn’t work if I organized it myself. But tonight something changed in me.

Tonight, I accepted that the idea didn’t necessarily come to me for me to do it on my own. It wasn’t until I mentioned it to a friend who IMMEDIATELY said, “Let’s do it” when I mentioned it to her last year that I even began to see it as possible. Tonight, that same friend told me she’s been collecting blankets, grabbing a few with her last few paychecks and told me she wants to do it on Thanksgiving! Why didn’t I think of that?

So, I’m extending the idea to you. I don’t have to do it by myself. AND I don’t have to do it as some grand organized event. There are homeless people in every city, likely in every nation. Why not add a couple extra blankets to your Holiday shopping list? Organize a simple and safe plan for dropping off with a couple friends, family, your organization, and maybe get tips from a local homeless agency or shelter, and just do it! — Marlene Dillon, author of I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! http://improudtobenaturalme.com/ 

I Overcame Bullying

1391619_720377891343742_2918921522263846905_nFor some time now, I’ve wanted to address bullying. As I host workshops, I always meet students/children, who are being bullied and teased, and it makes me feel that I must do something to add to awareness. In my girls’ mentoring workshops, I teach young ladies how their words affect each other and teach them how to communicate in healthy and effective ways. Today, in honor of World Day of Bullying Prevention, I am sharing the story of an amazing young lady, who was bullied and has overcome it. In her story, you will hear how teasing—what some call “just kids being kids”—can have lasting and potentially dangerous effects.

stephanie Hi my name is Stephanie, I am 18 years old and currently working at Meijer. Yes, I have unfortunately been bullied before. It happened all through junior high and slowly ended in high school. This always happened at school, either in class or at lunch in the café. I still to this day do not know why I was the bully target. I was the sweetest girl ever. I was very shy. Just for some reason the kids decided to target me.

Overcoming this was very difficult for me. My family was always there for me, though. I would also seek help from counseling services. I would tell my teachers and principal all the time, and their reply to that was “oh they are just being kids.”

 “people will not always be nice. They do not always care about you or the situation you are going through.” 
I have overcome it all for the most part now. I still worry about people bullying me to this day to be honest. I did learn that people will not always be nice. They do not always care about you or the situation you are going through. My mom always told me when people are mean to you then that means it makes them feel good about themselves. I find it so wrong!
I feel this has made me better as a person because not only did I live with being bullied, I can also talk to others who get bullied and give them advice. If only they knew how bad my feelings hurt. if only they knew every day after school I would go home and just cry… Cutting and crying seemed to ease the pain and words away. They had no clue how bad words hurt. The mean words I was called about cost me my life.
 “bullying is so painful, but you can be strong enough to not let it get you down.”
I want other kids who are being bullied/parents of kids being bullied to know you have to stay strong. Think about the bright future ahead of you. Please do not ever try to commit suicide. Think about all of those who love you. Yes, bullying is so painful, but you can be strong enough to not let it get you down.
Update: Stephanie was being bullied when she was 12 and 13 years old. When I asked about how she is doing now, this was her response.
“I just graduated high school and I go to college, and would like to be a nurse. I am doing great! Every now and then I get low self esteem because the words “fat”, “ugly”, and “stupid” will always be in my mind…. But I do my best to keep my chin held high and keep my beautiful smile on my face.”
Thank you Stephanie for sharing your story. So many people don’t realize how hurtful teasing can be, nor the lasting effects. I hope through your story and others, parents and children will learn that bullying is not a laughing matter.

The Truth!

The motivational speakers who have impacted me the most are those who have shared their story, but I… honestly, don’t want to share my story. It hurts… and the story I’ve told myself is that if I share it, it may hurt others… 

… the question everybody asks me more than any other once they meet me and have learned of my book is, “What motivated you to write I’m Proud to Be Natural Me!?” And I always graciously smile, think for a second, then give them an answer that is definitely true AND missing some critical parts. 

My answer to the question usually goes something like this. “Well, I wrote I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! because I have always had a problem with the way people of color—particularly Black people—place value judgments based on physical characteristics such as skin tone and hair texture….” Depending on how talkative I am feeling at that particular moment, I may add another personal truth… that I wrote the book because I feel like our generation and the one before us (the “say it loud, ‘I’m Black and I’m proud.'” generation), have “missed the boat,” and left our children with a really distorted sense of self. A lot of us don’t know who we are, don’t accept who we are, or just discovered who we are somewhere in our thirties, and I just felt that the kids needed a fighting chance. By starting at such a young age, I can give them a firm foundation of healthy self-esteem from early childhood, rather than spend their teenage years trying to repair damage that was done likely before they even turned 6. 


Anyway, I digress… the point is that although the topic and motive for desiring to write this book came from those desires for change, the urgency came from an unexpected life transition….

I wrote I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! because I was desperate…. I was happy as a stay-at-home mom, to my beautiful one-year-old (at the time) and decided that if I designed natural hair t-shirts and inspirational products online, I could work from home. The products in my online store became the original I’m Proud to Be Natural Me product line. (Most of these products are still available in my store http://www.zazzle.com/mdillondesigns.) Well… without disclosing all the details, I will say that two days after I opened that store, I went from stay-at-home mom to single mom.995049_904412206240060_3211499269042872400_n

Without a dime to my name, set to be evicted from our apartment in less than a week, I turned to my family and they graciously took me and my little girl in. The photo of us that is posted on many of my social media pages was taken just weeks after this major transition. I put on a brave face, went to the now closed Sears Portrait Studio in River Oaks, and did a photo shoot with my daughter to celebrate her turning 2 years old and us being alright no matter what… At a time when I could have broken down and decided to be depressed and not be there for my child, I pulled it together and “kept it moving.” I stayed up late and got up early, working many nights with my daughter sleeping across my lap, and even more nights with her cradled in my arms as I designed the little girls you see displayed in my book and on my products. 

For a year I stayed up creating these items in my online store, that in my head would be our ticket to independence. I would post products constantly on social media thinking to myself, “People know I’m a single mom. They’ll buy my products. We’re gonna be alright.” Ha! No such luck. Well… we are alright, but the products didn’t sell…. yet. AmazonLookInside

When I finally completed the book, self-published it via CreateSpace, and saw my “Look Inside” preview on Amazon, I KNEW we were about to take off! But that didn’t really do it either.

So, I said to myself maybe I’m not giving back enough, promoting enough, doing enough and began to fill in those gaps, of course, while working a “regular” J-O-B. And finally, I thought to myself after listening to many of my personal development CDs, I think I know what’s wrong. I have negative energy around my book. I need to revise it and add the missing pieces that are causing me to put out a vibe in the Universe that no one should buy it.  I was desperate. Did that. Sales? About the same.

So now, I’m here, it’s 2014. I’ve raised the stakes. Tired of being in my momma’s house, although I am grateful I have that option to do so (many wish they did), I have promised my daughter that we’re getting our own home. I am motivated. That’s one thing I have not lost through all of this. I am actually more motivated now than ever. Sometimes seeing a glimpse of your dream, or in my case seeing another “impossible” dream come true is motivation enough to keep on pushing, toward that big thing that you want. Honestly, I’m sitting up right now typing this, praying the light from the computer doesn’t wake her up. We need a space of our own… with our own separate rooms. A place where we can bake cookies together in our own kitchen, have a dog and a cat (her dream), … a space where a thirty-five year old mom, can think and regroup, read and watch shows like Scandal without having to flip to Sprout every time there’s a love scene. I want my little gymnast to have room to practice her forward rolls, and when she watches her ballet DVD to have room to twirl… (sigh)…  

Anyway…. I hope that through my story you may gain some hope for your own journey. Doing the thing that is in you to do is not always easy, but sometimes these unexpected transitions help us discover our gifts, realize our passions, and give us the boost we need to pursue them. Wanting my own helps me press forward toward making my book a best seller. Needing to ensure my daughter has an easier path motivates me to press through when I want to give up. No matter what I’ve been through, I have always returned to the belief that “all things have purpose.” Had I not experienced all I did, there would be no I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! So, if for no other reason, my rough spots have allowed me to produce something that is helping children come to embrace the truth of their beauty, a realization that alters all aspects of life.

Have you learned from a life challenge? Have you come to learn your purpose through a perceived setback? I’d love to hear from you below! 

If you are interested in any of the products/services I mentioned, here are some links.

My passion for sharing the message that “we are ALL beautiful as is” has not changed. I’ll be speaking at a daycare this evening on Chicago’s South Side. I am not discouraged by a long shot. I know things are coming together and… my child eats everyday. 🙂 I will continue to visit daycare centers and schools looking for opportunities to empower children with the message I believe with all my heart I was sent to teach. I am also planning a multicultural parenting workshop to be held in the Hyde Park area, to addressing the challenges of instilling healthy self-esteem in children of multicultural heritage…. It’s just that while continuing with my purpose I am also ready to live my life full out… to tell people “you can live your dreams” knowing that when I step down from the podium, I am a very clear example of how true that statement is. 


Me & Mini MeMarlene Dillon is the self-published author of the empowering children’s book, I’m Proud to Be Natural Me!  She is a single mom on a mission to inspire others by living fully and purposefully, and by sharing her gifts and her story openly. Through powerful workshops she mentors young girls, and teaches parents and children how  to build healthy self-esteem and confidently pursue their passions.

If you find value in what Marlene is doing and would like to make a monetary donation, rather than purchase products, you may do so securely via PayPal by clicking the “Make A Donation” button below. 

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I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! VIRTUAL BOOK LAUNCH!!!! September 1 through 7th!

I am SO EXCITED about the I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! Virtual Book Launch! I’m even more excited that you’re here!

Order I'm Proud to Be Natural Me!

Order your book right now and receive a special gift for your little one! *While supplies last.

I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! is the book I wish I had as a little girl. I didn’t realize that I was beautiful naturally until I was in my 20’s! That’s a long time to not love and embrace myself. I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! is my attempt to save our children some years (my daughter included)! Imagine who and what they will be when they start out believing in themselves… when they at 3 and 4 can look at themselves in the mirror and say, “I love what I see!” Click the picture to buy now!

I am so eager to get a copy to your little one. Fill out the form below, with the name of who you’d like me to autograph it to, and the simple mailing info then click “Buy Now.” There you will securely order your autographed copy via PayPal. That way your information is safely processed and I simply sign and mail your book. I’m so excited. Go ahead. Order now. Your child is going to LOVE it! 


To purchase a copy of I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! simply fill out and SUBMIT the info form below, then click the “Buy Now” link.  *For larger orders please fill out the form on our Contact page.

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Scared Great

For the month of September (2014) I will be doing my Scared Great challenge, again! 30 Days of “feeling the fear and doing it anyway.” I am confident that at the end of this I will be well on the way to achieving my major goal for the end of this year. How exciting! If you’d like to do the 30 Day Scared Great Challenge with me, please do! And share your growth in the comments! YouTube Earl Nightengale’s 30 Day Challenge and you’ll gain insight on a great way to maximize this time. Blessings to you, Marlene Dillon, author of I’m Proud to Be Natural Me!

Just Real 'n Honest

“Always do what you are afraid to do.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have spent most of my life paralyzed by fear, making choices based on what others would think, what I felt I was expected to do, and what I believed I could do perfectly. I rarely challenged myself to go outside of my “box” for fear of failure, criticism, rejection, … you name it. Well, yesterday, as I read my Facebook friend’s status, I realized her month of gratitude had come to a close. For the entire month of November, she posted a status each day of something she was grateful for. I thought it was an awesome idea and a real challenge. I mean, it’s a lot easier to gripe via Facebook than to be positive and find thirty things that you’re happy about, much less to commit to doing it publicly. So I thought to myself…

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I AM PRO-SHRINKAGE! I don’t even call it “shrinkage.” I think it’s one of the coolest traits of my natural hair. I call it “springiness.” I love how when I pull on my twists, they bounce back. It is a personal pet peeve of mine to see the shrinkage shots. You know the pics where a beautiful natural woman, with the most amazing curly hair, is tugging at one of her coils to show how disappointed she is with the hidden length of her hair?

It only bothers me because so often women of color, well Black women, place a lot of value on hair length. It doesn’t matter how beautiful, healthy, bouncy, hydrated the curls are, if it shows 5 inches and it’s actually 12, she’s pissed and hates her hair. I just wish we would embrace all the awesomeness of our hair. This is not just true for Black women. I see the same with women of other “races.” I’ve had so many friends with hair down their back that complain that their hair grows too fast. “Ugh… I just cut it!” Or women with the natural curl pattern that many of us attempt to mimic with a twist out (yeah, I said it), complain about just wanting to straighten it.

I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! is my attempt at teaching children that however we came out is fine. That God, The Universe, The Source, the Creator, or the atoms that combined did not make a mistake on you. You are amazing AS YOU ARE! The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can teach our children to love themselves and those around them. If you hate what you see in the mirror, how can you truly love anyone else? If you are disappointed in what you present, how can you avoid “hating” on the next person? If you feel that you are ugly, isn’t it almost “natural” to want the person you see as pretty to feel your pain? What we often don’t see is that bullying and self-esteem walk hand in hand. This is why I mentor 4th through 8th grade girls. It is crucial that we teach our children that “we are ALL beautiful as is.”

*If you are in the Chicagoland/Northwest Indiana areas, click here contact me about my empowering girls’ mentoring workshops. I would love to visit your institution! 


Me & Mini MeMarlene Dillon is the self-published author of the empowering children’s book, I’m Proud to Be Natural Me!  She is a single mom on a mission to inspire others by living fully and purposefully,  and by sharing her gifts and her story openly. Through powerful workshops she mentors young girls, and teaches parents and children how  to build healthy self-esteem and confidently pursue their passions.

If you find value in what Marlene is doing, and would like to  support her efforts, please use the link below to make a secure donation via PayPal. A gift of any amount is greatly appreciated.

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Guest Blog – Flying Turtle Publishing’s Virtual Book Tour!

I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! is pleased to announce that our site is the first stop on Flying Turtle Publishing’s Virtual Book Tour! 

by Flying Turtle Publishing
August 4, 2014

Marlene Dillon, my host for this stop on Flying Turtle Publishing’s virtual book tour, has done wonderful work empowering children with her I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! book and workshops. Thanks for hosting Flying Turtle, Marlene.

There’s Power in Peace

It’s not easy being a kid. There’s so much to learn and everything is new. As soon as they learn one thing, there’s another challenge looming just ahead. Is there any wonder that kids feel stressed?

Good or bad, stress is a by-product of trying — trying new things, trying to meet demands and obligations, trying to find our place in the world. Our stressors are frequently caused by outside forces. But inner stressors are no less potent. Trying to be what we think we should be.

Fuelled by our media-driven culture, our children begin their indoctrinations, almost from birth. They’re pushed to want things, to be thinner, bigger, faster, smarter, prettier, and stronger. Children as young as three years old grasp the concepts of “pretty” and “ugly.”

As parents, we’re often so preoccupied with managing our own stress that we may not recognize when kids are stressed out. Recent behavioral changes such as acting out, changes in sleep patterns, or bedwetting can be indications. Children may complain of stomachaches and headaches or suddenly show drastic changes in academic performance.

Younger children may revert to old habits like thumb sucking, or develop new ones such as hair twirling, or nose picking. Nightmares, clinging and overreactions to minor problems are common.

Our everyday lives are so filled with busyness. Like adults, kids need time to rest, doodle, read for fun or just daydream. It is important for children (and their loved ones) to learn a variety of ways to master self-regulation—ways to calm and focus themselves.

peace place

In My Peace Place, children can explore different techniques for calming and centering themselves. The book is written with an easy rhyming scheme to be soothing to young minds, but the ideas for stress reduction are good for all

Parents can help by giving kids lots of opportunities to practice the techniques presented in the book. Reward them with praise and encouragement when they show competence in calming themselves. The self-confidence that results will help when children approach other challenges. As they grow, children will continue to benefit from knowing they have the power to direct their thoughts and feelings. They learn that they don’t need to look outside of themselves for comfort.

The last lines of My Peace Place summarize what we hope all readers will achieve:

I promise myself that all will see: my peace place helps me choose to be


me and teaMari L Barnes writes for children under the pen name of Mari Lumpkin and for adults as ML Barnes. Her books, Parting River Jordan and Crossing River Jordan are proof that church can be funny. Mari’s company, Flying Turtle Publishing, specializes in books that families can share.

Click here to find out how to get a Flying Turtle Publishing’s Blanket Fort Club certificate for your child. PLUS, subscribe to Turtle Talk and you’ll automatically be entered to WIN a $10 Amazon Gift Card in our monthly drawing.

Even My Scars Are Perfect

It is a blessing to be loved… an even greater blessing to be loved as is. I have the most amazing friend who taught me the most valuable lesson of self-acceptance. See, I have this scar on my foot… it almost appears to be like a bunion (gross, I know) and it bothers me. I look at it… stare at it.. hating it, EVERY DAY, several times a day. Whenever I wear sandals, I hope by some act of God or the alignment of the Sun and the planets, he will not notice this disgusting, discolored, blemish on my skin. I know, it’s such a silly thing, but it really bothers me. After all, I have always prided myself in having the most beautiful feet. I even remember a time when a guy I was dating in college, looked down at my feet one day and referenced a scene from the movie Boomerang, (where Eddie Murphy inspects his date’s feet to see if they are beautiful, or not). After taking a gander at my feet, he pretended to wipe imaginary sweat from his brow, with a “Whew!” like he was happy to have dodged the pretty-girl-ugly-feet bullet. lol

"Hammertime Feet" scene from Eddie Murphy's movie Boomerang

Anyway, my point is, I have always adored how perfect my feet are—no corns, all in proper height order, and definitely no blemishes. Well, that is no longer the case. And this new truth has brought me much frustration. I have done homemade sugar scrubs, rubbed my feet with lemons, Bio Oil and everything under the sun to return my feet to the beauty they once knew. However, today, I finally got to understand why with all my efforts, the blemish has remained. There is a lesson in my scar that I need to grasp.

A few years ago, I was living in “poverty” in a sense. I had no money, no income, and no real home of my own. We were staying in a transition house in Georgia, where a very kind lady offered temporary housing in her home to couples and singles who needed to get on their feet. While living there, I only had two pairs of shoes and one pair of flip-flops. The shoes I had were very uncomfortable, but I still wore them everyday because I didn’t have a choice. And the continuous rubbing of those shoes against the joint of my big toe formed a large dark scar. Yesterday, as I was talking with my friend, I shared with him that although I am generally pretty confident about my appearance, the blemish on my foot is something I am very insecure about. His response was both shocking and hilarious. He texted, “You are such an IDIOT!!!!! Your imperfections are perfect.” His words completely caught me off guard. His acceptance of the thing I attempted to hide from him constantly, his total acceptance of me “flaws and all,” helped me to see how silly something like that really is. I mean how many guys (worth my time) are going to look down and say, “Dang. You were the perfect catch ’til I saw that dark mark on your foot.” lol It’s silly, but we do this to ourselves. We pick a random unique trait and make it bad.

Follow Garcelle on Instagram. She posts and is doing amazing things!

So let’s fast forward to today. Spending time together, he discovered something that very few people know about me. I have two auburn strands of hair. My natural hair color is black and has never been colored, yet I have always had two strands of red hair. He saw them today, I guess because the light hit them in a new way. He was so fascinated, tugging gently at them to see how long they are. I, of course, begged him to “be careful” and not accidentally yank them out. I told him that they are “two cool, unique things I like about myself.” He smiled at me, and sounding like Sherlock Holmes, sarcastically replied, “Ah… an imperfection.” I rolled my eyes…

When I thought about his comment later, I said to myself, “What does he expect me to do, look at this thing on my foot like it’s my cool, unique, thing?” Then I thought, “Hey. That’s not such a bad idea. What if instead of secretly hating my right foot for not being perfect, I choose to look at this blemish from now on as an awesome imperfection?” I could  practice what I preach and … drum roll please… accept myself “as is.” This “blemish” can forever (or at least ’til I find the right fade cream) serve to remind me of where I’ve been. When I look down and see the callous, I will remember that I am a survivor, that no matter how challenging things may be at the present moment, they are nothing compared to being homeless. Having only thirty dollars in my account now, pales in comparison to cutting receiving blankets into triangles so my baby could have diapers. Having only a quarter of a tank now, is not the same as running out of gas while driving uphill in GA, and having the gas station attendant take $2 out of their own pocket to buy enough to get us home, since I had already spent our literal last penny the day before. Our “scars” in life help us to remember times we’ve overcome. Maybe you have some scars that up ’til now have caused you much pain when you look at them. I challenge you to give your scars a new, empowering meaning.  When I look down at that blemish, I will now remember that every state of life is temporary and the rough times don’t last always. Even my imperfections have a purpose… and so do yours!


Marlene Dillon is the author of I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! a children’s book that promotes healthy self-esteem, by teaching that “we are ALL beautiful as is.” Order your autographed copy here, today!

Your Inner Critic is Your Frenemy

A good friend of mine called me out, today. Told me that I am WAY too hard on myself. That I am definitely my “biggest critic.” And I was half listening, and half letting it go out the other ear, until these words were spoken, “You would never even let someone like that be cool with you.”

And I thought about it. That’s true. I don’t let negative people in my inner circle. You can be as cool as hell is hot, but if you are a Debbie Downer, Negative Nancy (no offense Nancy ), or one who constantly criticizes others, we will never be close. That’s just a MAJOR turnoff for me.


So it seems really… messed up…. that the character flaw I won’t allow in my inner circle, is residing… within ME! I have come to a horrible discovery. I just realized that the person I listen to the most is my FRENEMY. That’s simply unacceptable. It’s full on Crazy Town! I have to do something about this. So, I decided she has to die. lbvs

So I’m breaking up my inner critic. She’s not my friend. She doesn’t deserve all the time and attention she gets. She has no right to even speak to me. She’s mean. She doesn’t even like me. She never has anything nice to say. No matter what I do right, she always points out the one thing I did wrong!

So it’s over between us. I know she’s not gonna go nicely so….. I’m gonna attempt to starve her to death. She loves attention, so I’m not gonna give her any. When I catch myself listening to her, I’m just gonna stop her mid-sentence, and tell her how awesome I am, and maybe even remind her of what I’ve done RIGHT! Eventually her voice won’t be the loudest one I in my head. Eventually, thoughts of my awesomeness will overshadow her criticism. Eventually, she’ll be nothing more than a faint whisper in the background of my thoughts. The voice I question, rather than automatically accept as truth.

** Our inner critics will likely never stop talking, and that’s actually a good thing, if we train ourselves to listen for the tips on how we can better prepare and fine tune our life strategies. #Proud2B #NaturalMe http://improudtobenaturalme.com/