Wednesday, May 13, 2015

18 Tips for a Solid Creative Career

I think I've finally found my groove as a stay at home mom. There are still some rough days, and rough times of day, but that's true no matter what you do, right? Part of what helps me stay positive and enjoy my day-to-day routine is having a creative outlet AND a source of income, even if it's small. I've managed to merge my love of shopping, getting the boys out of the house, my desire to work for money, and personal hobbies, all in one venture - my Instagram vintage shop, Retro Riot. I'm still building it, and it's not my first priority in life (consistently devoting time to it is hard with kids and a home and school), but I think I can say that it's a success, and I love it!

I love the community of vintage lovers, I love the specialized knowledge I've gained, and I love how well it fits into my life right now. It makes me feel like I'm staying active in the work force in some capacity, and learning new skills so that I'll be in demand when the time comes for me to work outside the home again. This is especially comforting to me as I've noticed recently that I'm no longer on the cusp of what "kids these days" are doing (the slang, the music, the styles). I like getting older, but I don't want to become out of touch with what is current.

I'm by no means some business mogul that has all the answers, but I do read (ahem, skim) a lot of articles about entrepreneurship and profiles of businesswomen. I don't have a lot of free time in my life right now, so I want to make every minute do double time for me if I can swing it. For instance, I view my leisure time (browsing blogs and Pinterest, posting to my Instagram accounts, even "curating" my wardrobe and home) as brand building time.

I'm not sure what my brand is just yet, but having a firm point of view is good for creatives in business, and so I make an effort to build on that right now, because I can! I read a tip from some blogger one time about keeping your online presence in "notice-worthy" condition. I don't hang my hopes on being discovered by some agent who wants to help me get paid a lot for my artistic eye or opinion (not that I'd mind...), but you never know who's looking, and I do want to put my best face forward in case there are those connections waiting to happen around the corner. {image}

Of course, authenticity is important too, and if you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know I don't shy away from telling the truth. I even occasionally post an unflattering picture of myself to social media. ;)

So anyway, today I thought I'd round up some pointers that I've either read about or try and put in practice myself for being a good businesswoman - whether you're a stay at home mom wanting to sell some crafts on the side, or whether you're... anyone else! :)

1. You've never "made it" enough to let yourself off the hook from learning.

2. Always try new things, but stick to what you're good at. In other words, have broad interests, but focus on becoming an expert in something. {image}

This is a great exercise on several levels, but Joanna from A Cup of Jo asked her readers, "What have been your toughest interview questions? Douglas Edwards remembers being interviewed by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, [who said]: 'I'm going to give you five minutes...When I come back, I want you to explain to me something complicated that I don't already know.' He then rolled out of the room toward the snack area. I looked at Cindy. 'He's very curious about everything,' she told me. 'You can talk about a hobby, something technical, whatever you want. Just make sure it's something you really understand well.'"

Isn't that brilliant? What would you explain?

My dad (who is the HR manager of the company where he works) said one of the department managers in their office recently asked a prospective employ, on a whim, to tell him a joke. My dad said it was very telling to watch how the interviewee reacted. Were they able to roll with it, or did they become flustered and shut down?

3. Outsource components of your job that you're not an expert in - I will never be a seamstress or play an instrument. Not because I don't love those things, but because I will never have the time to be great at everything, and I've made my peace with that. I can pay someone else to sew stuff for me and use the time I would have spent frustrated at my own attempts (and not enjoying it) to do something I am great at!

4. Surround yourself with people who are different than you. Nothing gives you a more false sense of confidence than having a bunch of people who are just like you affirm your work. Challenge yourself and keep your worldview open.

5. Utilize peer review. Ask other people for input, and always get a second opinion if you're about to present a touchy topic and you're not sure about your word choices. Sometimes an editing eye can save you from saying something heartless, or just plain wrong.

6. Give feedback. When you take the time to help others with their work, they'll often return the favor.

7. Unfollow sources that you don't completely love. There is so much information and inspiration available to us these days, more than we can ever keep up with. Be very picky about how you invest your time, especially when it's time spent following rather than creating your own work. There are a bunch of people in my life who I know and love personally, but who I don't follow on social media because the information isn't noteworthy. I don't say that to be mean, but you know the kind of thing I'm talking about. Ten million pictures of your baby in the same outfit, links to your extreme political beliefs (see point 4), or invitations to play the latest phone game aren't things that are worth my time. If your baby has a different outfit on in every photo, well... that's another story. ;) I want to be strategic about my screen time, and strategic about my friendships (in that I want to invest in a more meaningful way), neither of which the bulk of social media friend-accounts helps me with. I don't feel guilty about this practice of mine, even when people ask me if I saw something they posted on social media, and I didn't. When that happens, it's a great opportunity to say, "no, I didn't! Tell me about it!" and have a more meaningful conversation than you would have had on social media anyway.

8. Be interesting, especially in interviews.You know when you meet someone fascinating who you want to be around all the time, and hear every story of theirs? Figure out what you like about those people and aspire to be that way!

9. Cultivate a sense of humor. Is there anything sexier than a funny woman? I don't know why we have two funny women (Tina Fey and Amy Pohler) and every other funny person on the planet seems to be a man. Seriously? Ladies, we can do better than that. I am so endeared when someone makes me really laugh (especially a woman!), and so I consciously develop my sense of humor (I hope it's not overworked). I feel more respected when people think I'm truly funny - maybe that's weird?

While we have Tina Fey on the brain, she happens to give great work-place advice, in addition to being funny.
My unsolicited advice to women in the workplace is this. When faced with sexism, or ageism, or lookism, or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: “Is this person in between me and what I want to do?” If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way. Then, when you’re in charge, don’t hire the people who were jerky to you.
10. Copy, copy, copy. No stealing, but the smart creative isn't ashamed of being inspired by great work. I try not to worry about creating something that no one else has ever dreamed of, but instead focus on improving and reinventing things.

14. Volunteer for projects, even if you don't know exactly what you're doing (yet). Take (or make) opportunities to work, even for small publications (or whatever term fits the industry you'd like to be in), and pick the brain of your boss/project-leader. The worst thing anyone can say is no, so there's no harm in asking for their time. I have received incredible (free!) advice when I've shown interest in other people's work, reached out to them, and then listened to what they had to say. I also say "yes" to some things I don't know exactly how to do, and that forces me to figure things out that I didn't know how to do before. However, I am honest with people when I'm not an expert at something.

11. Learn to say no. Especially when you do creative work, a lot of people (especially personal friends and family) will ask you to draw a tattoo for them or illustrate their idea for a children's book, or take family portraits for them. Although I'm often flattered by these requests, I do not enjoy being roped into a project where someone is dictating what I do (especially when they don't understand the creative process), often times without even being offered some sort of compensation. Of course, I do stuff for my mom or my grandma, but don't let the list of people you work for free for get too long! I've learned to be clear when I'm not interested in doing something. If I hem and haw about it too much (trying to be polite), they keep asking until I have to actually say what I mean, so I try and be clear right away. The three main ways that I get around accepting working I have no intention of doing is a) be honest about how busy I am with my kids, school, work, etc. This is totally valid and everyone understands it. B) Explain that what they'd like me to do is not the kind of art that I'm good at. A lot of people think that because you are a creative person, you are good at all kinds of art. I assure people that they definitely do not want me to draw a tattoo for them, because I do not draw well, I prefer to do abstract painting or cut holes in things, and I tell people that (see point 9 - somehow, honesty often manages to be funny in my experience). C) If I'm not willing or able to accept a project, I suggest a friend or acquaintance of mine who might be willing to take on the kind of project they are looking for. This is helpful for the potential client, and hopefully helpful for my friends who are looking for work. (Apparently, I've absorbed everything on this topic here).

12. Know thyself. I'm an introvert. I prefer to work alone. I am most focused in the morning. I make most sense when I write, as opposed to speaking on the phone or in person. I'm easily suckered by the promise of free stuff. I'm too attached to my own work to be good at editing it. I tend to edit other people's work too harshly. I depend on lists to organize my thoughts and remember important things. When I'm aware of my own strengths and weaknesses, I can play to the former, and compensate for the latter.

I got a little crush on Lena Dunham when I read this confession of hers:
"I still go to a party and say something embarrassing to someone, and then write them a weird e-mail about it the next day, and then write them a text because I think they didn't get the e-mail. No matter what happens with your level of success, you still have to deal with all the baggage that is yourself."
I'm prone to doing that too! Since becoming aware of my tendency to apologize for everything, I try and remind myself that more likely than not, someone else is not obsessing over some little thing I said or did the way I am. I don't make a bigger deal out of my failures than I need to. {image}

13. Be honest. I think I've lost some interview opportunities due to honesty, but I'm cool with that. I once told Toys R Us that I didn't like children, which is probably not something you might bring up to a company dedicated to making children happy, but it was the truth. The way I see it, a shrewd boss would appreciate honesty and think to herself, "this person wasn't afraid to tell the truth, and because of that, they could be a perfect fit for such-and-such an position in our company." After all, ADULTS are the ones shopping at Toys R Us. I try not to offer up any information that I think will put me at a disadvantage (though I'm pretty bad at it), but I feel strongly that honesty is always the best policy. As an aside, I've come to learn that I don't like ill-behaved children, which does happen to be most of them, but I digress...

14. Believe in yourself, and your customers will believe in you. I know that sounds cliche, but seriously, which do you prefer when you're the customer: a firm handshake and direct eye contact, or a limp one, and mumbling? People are more likely to respect you and take you seriously if you act like you deserve it.

15. Break up with Jealousy. Again, I'm going to borrow from Lena Dunham, who says, "channel the energy you would have spent being jealous into your own to-do list. " There are a lot of women in my life who do certain things better than I do, or have a house that I wish I had, or who get complimented on something that I want to be noticed for too. However, I have to remember that the time I could spend sulking about all of that could be spent so much better by minding my own business - literally. The more I pour into being good at what I'm good at, the less I worry about whether other people are doing better than I am, and the more I feel like I'm becoming someone that other people want to emulate.

16. Set attainable goals for yourself. When I set myself a realistic goal, I often reach it, and that empowers me to set myself new goals, and progress further than I ever have before. Write yourself a business plan.

17. Get dressed, even if you're home all day. I'm really bad about this, but I notice the difference it makes when I force myself to do it. Similarly, dress the part, even if you're interviewing over the phone.

18. Allow yourself breaks from work, especially if you work from home. If you use your personal phone for business, like I do, try and designate time that is for business, and don't constantly check it when you're not working. I'm also pretty bad at this one. When it comes to my school work, I allow myself distractions at various intervals, and that helps me stay energized, even for the tasks I'd rather not be doing.

I keep a Pinterest board of articles with advice I want to remember when I rule the world. Some of my favorites are:

1. How motherhood prepares you for entrepreneurship.

2. How to email a busy person.

3. How to be in business with your significant other.

4. How to build your business as an introvert.

5. How to be a good boss.

There are lots more ideas on how to be a mindful boss, employee, and women, including reminders of certain words or phrases that are meaningless or weak ("I feel like..." instead of just stating something), the distinction between talent and skills, and a list of power words for your resume!

What are your best work-place tips or standards that you try and hold yourself too? How do you keep yourself sharp if you run a business from your couch? Please share your ideas with me! 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Met Gala 2015 - Chinese Fashion

The Met Gala is a party held every year at - you guessed it - the Metropolitan museum in NYC, for purposes that I'm not altogether clear on. Promoting the arts? An excuse to dress up? Money changing hands between rich people? I don't really know why they do it, but what I DO know is that it's one of the most fabulous nights in fashion of the year. This year, the theme is China, and I am on my tiptoes, so excited to see what people wear. 

Can you imagine how fabulous it would be to go decked out in king fisher jewelry?! 

However, when I googled it to find out when the gala is this year (coming right up, May 4) I came upon this article that is kind of scathing, but probably correct in that this could easily become a very culturally insensitive evening: "[The] smart [attendees] will likely honor the theme by wearing Chinese designers while resisting the urge to put chopsticks in their hair." I totally get this (in fact, I've written before about how culturally insensitive the fashion industry in the US can be), but I really, really want to see a lot of exquisite Chinese robes. But I agree, no chopsticks in anyone's hair. I have seen chopsticks-hair-of-the-90s on precisely zero Chinese people. At least one of the co-chairs for this year's gala is Chinese. along side all-American girl Jennifer Lawrence. Le sigh... (No hard feelings, J-Law). 

Just as an aside, May 4 is a Monday. You know what I'm doing this Monday? I have a jury summons and it's the first day of a new class I'm taking. And we wonder what is so captivating about celebrities...

So, what's a girl to do? Create a virtual wardrobe for Met Gala attendees to choose from, of course! Lest anyone think I don't know the difference between China and Japan (God forbid...), I DO realize that many of these photos have Japanese influences or would be all the things that the Jezebel article was talking about being bad, but a) can we please not be offended by EVERYTHING and b) they're just so pretty!

Without further ado, let me school you, oh Katy Perry, in what to wear to the Met Gala 2015. Feel free to toss a couple 1000 in my direction if you happen to see this. ;) 

Regal kaftans are always a yes. // Or how about an antique paired with some knock out tailored pants (not flares, because that would be too literal).

Gold is always good. Though it's too gimmicky to actually do (assuming you just got a sticker), how impressive would a full-back Asian-themed tattoo be in a backless gold dress?! // Linda Fargo at the 2012 Met Ball already nailed it

This look is clearly Japanese, but I love the whimsical touch of feathers, and that sort of detail could definitely be carried over to modernize that typical Chinese "frog button" dress. // Another way to spice up the classic Chinese cut dress would be to add a dramatic red veil.

Here's something we might actually see a celebrity wearing. // I can also imagine this red sequined gown being worn on Monday, but the choppy bob styling gives it a great edge.

This look would be on the costumey side (I never do understand why that's a bad thing in fashion), but I'm a goner for a good headdress. Paired with something monochromatic and sleek. // Then there's the a modern take, almost a sophisticated Lady Gaga.

To really get thinking outside the box, a Victorian outfit with chinoiserie details would be fabulous. // An outfit celebrating Chinese ethnic embroidery would be a true nod to Chinese art, as well.

And to complete the look, how about updated Beijing Opera (or in this case, Geisha) makeup? // I definitely want to see this Pucci clutch in someone's hand, too.

In case you want to know why I'm so enamored with this annual party, "educate yourself"!

What's your favorite look? What would you wear to the Met Gala? 

Monday, April 13, 2015

March 2015

Watched: Boyhood (cool concept, but didn't blow me away), Big Hero 6 (which I'm watching for the second time, as I type this - I want to live in that world!), Birdman (I understand the artsyness appeal, but it was not enjoyable to watch), Hannibal season 2 (continues to be the prettiest, most mind-bending show, season 3 is going to be amazing!!!).

Tasted: This melon agua fresca is num num! // I also enjoyed this quote of Anthony Bourdain's, "There's nothing professional writers like more than free food." True dat, even if I'm not a professional!

How amazzzzing, does this tropical fruit and ice cream tart look/sound?

  • I started back to school in order to utilize the "free money" available to me. It feels great to be making progress, but it is stressful to add to my daily schedule. 
  • I quit the Pampered Chef because it was becoming more stressful than helpful. I'm enjoying putting more work into my online shop, which I can do almost exclusively from home. 
  • I got to attend my friend Danielle's wedding shower, can't wait for her wedding!
Heard: New singles from Active Child (eeee!), Alabama Shakes, and a Sam Smith/John Legend collaboration, "Lay Me Down". Mainly, Jose Gonzalez's new album is great.

Boys: Ira was dedicated at church this month, began army crawling (sitting up? that's for babies!) and then for-real crawling!, and landed in the ER for stitches on his forehead after launching off the couch on to a wooden block. He loves to sit on people's shoulders and grab their hair - he gets the biggest grin on his face! He also tries to grab the water streams in the shower, which is pretty funny and cute. He's not nearly as interested in solid food as Ishmael was at his age, but he still does alright. He's not as interested in nursing as he used to be either.He likes to bounce to music, and tries to be louder than the blender, or whatever noises his brother is making. He enjoys clapping (sometimes while nursing), throwing things on the ground, and he really likes cheerios.

Ishmael is obsessed with the song, "the Tiki Tiki Room." The rest of us are less enchanted... He also likes "Pop the Wease" (Pop Goes the Weasel), "Under Sea-Sea" (Under the Sea), and he can sing "Twinkle Twinkle" fairly well on his own! His is learning left from right (?!!!), is crazy about trash trucks, and likes to go down the slide "on his belly button". At breakfast one morning, Ishmael asked me for some cheerios after he'd had fruit, milk, an egg, and toast. I said no, and he leaned his head back on his chair and said, "oh maaan!! why not?!" So yeah, the 'tude has already made an appearance. He also says, "I don't really want it..." when we put him to bed. He thinks many things are scary (he's quite sensitive!), and his favorite book is his encyclopedia. When you do something sweet with Ira, he informs you that, "he likes you". But more impressive than any of this... ISHMAEL IS POTTYTRAINED. We still have an accident here and there, but there have been periods of a week with no accidents, so that is pretty fantabulous.

Loved: Watching the little bird that runs across the fence in our backyard, that my car passed its smog test, and that for the first time, I was struck by how glad I am to have two kidlets. And spring colors. :) 

Monday, March 16, 2015

February 2015

Ugh, so behind! Here we go, February.

Heard: I love Diana Krall, and the new record is no exception. This song has been in my head a lot. I love to sing it while I drive. We also listened to the entire season 1 of the podcast Serial. It's worth a listen for sure, but I'm tense about there being no answer yet. Glad there's a second season in the works! I've heard reviews of it saying it's "revolutionizing radio" - betchya didn't think you were going to hear that from the millenials, huh? ;) It makes me very happy!

Tasted: Trader Joe's has this amazing new "fireworks" chocolate that has chili and poprocks in it. Everyone we've given it to has loved it so far, we can't stop gobbling it up! The best things I made were these easy baked scallops (I'm so nervous of messing up seafood, especially since it's so expensive, but these turned out great!) and chocolate dipped fresh oranges and kumquats. Oh, and a killer and EASY recipe for brownies from scratch, even for a baking dummy like me! Can't stop thinking about coconut chai lemonade either.

  • I plan to be a cool mom who builds Hogwarts out of legos
  • Last month I had a link for dirty car art, this month is snow car art!
  • Some of you know that capybaras are my favorite animal. Well, did you know that they like to soak in hot tubs?! EEEEeeeee, I can hardly handle the cuteness (and they're so blase about it!). 
Experienced: Let's see here...
  • I finally got to meet my highschool bff Manny when he and his wife Katya and brother Nick came to Santa Barbara. We had a wonderful time talking about all kinds of things, laughing at our baby boys, and we ate at Freebird's for the first time (YUM). I seriously forgot the beauty of reuniting with old friends, particularly TCKs. 
  • We celebrated Valentine's day at home with my parents, making a fun meal (fondue, my first time) and playing a "how well do you know your spouse" game which was really fun. 
  • Jonas turned 25 on the 20th! We didn't do anything too fancy because we spent monies on traveling this month. 
  • First, we went down to LA to visit OTIS as a potential school for J to transfer to. We stayed with our siblings in law, played an alcohol enhanced game of Cards Against Humanity (hilarious), went to a brewery, went to our first anti-mall (and you think WE are hipster!), met our new nephew Jude for the first time since he was adopted (we met him once a few years ago) and listened to a lot of NPR, as usual. 
  • Our car broke the night before we were going to leave for Oregon, so my parents very kindly lent us their van, which was a dream. We got to visit another brother in law in Oregon and met his girlfriend and daughter for the first time, too! I got some major thrifting scores in with Morgan (BIL's gf), and got to meet up with an old China friend, Lily. We made it to the coast for a few days to visit both of our grandparents (what are the odds that they live 20 minutes apart!?), and were in awe of the beauty continuously. 
Boys: Ishmael wants to do everything by himself and says, "I got it!" when you try and help him do things. Sorry I totally spaced on writing down more details about him this month. He seems to be kind of an emotionally fragile guy. Sometimes very cuddly and sweet, sometimes sort of terrifying melt downs, and sometimes end-of-the-world crying over apparently nothing. Maybe he got the sensitive artist genes? // Ira hit the 6 month mark, cut his first 2 teeth (bottom center), says "da da da", blows spit splutters, and does this great thing that I call "velocity face" where he braces his hands on something in front of him (his chair or your body) and makes this face like he's bracing for something. It's not a scared face, but I googled "worried scared face", and this comes closest. It's quite funny, but one of those things that only lasted a few days and I never got a great photo of. // I guess I keep posting articles about how to relate to your friends without kids because I keep needing help in this area.

Loved: Beautiful Oregon rain and trees and abandoned houses (though they break my heart too) and getting a breather from our normal life. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Style Icon: Jimi Hendrix

This time in my life feels like a blur. On the one hand, I'm confident that motherhood is going to be a lot more natural for me as the boys get a little older, but I'm paranoid that I'm ruining them right now due to the difficulty I have enjoying the time we're in right now. Jonas reminds me that I'm so focused on "getting things done", and really all I need to do right now is take care of the boys (but I want to do so much more in addition to that!). I don't think I have a category in myself for not getting as much done as possible. I go through this cycle every few months where I realize that I can't handle the amount of projects and responsibilities that I've signed up for, so I cut back, pare down, and simplify. I get my breath back.

But then I feel bored and unaccomplished, and start getting excited about new stuff with any amount of free time I find myself with. Before I know it, I'm wrapped up in so much more than I can healthily juggle again. On a similar note, I have so very many interests and so very little time in my life (relatively), that I never seem to master anything. As soon as I become proficient at something and have to focus on the administrative side in order to keep my creativity profitable, I lose interest and am on to the next thing. I am a proud quitter of many things, but I'm coming to see that quitting isn't a very profitable business to be in.

Despite craving time to myself, part of me is also lonely as a mom. When my mom gets home from work, I just follow her around the house, I think just so that I can talk with another adult. Sometimes I'm bitter about the fact that I'm technically busier than most people that I know, yet I rearrange my whole schedule to make hang-out time work with other people. I never thought I'd hear those words coming from myself as the biggest introvert known to man. I'm sorry that sounds so snotty. It really is hard for me to be so needy for other people's company.

Anyway, that's a mini-blog on where my head has been in the last week or two. My social media and blogging presence has not made it on to the list of my top priorities recently. Well, actually I've been very present on social media, but I've been over in the shop at (there's a button on the sidebar too). I hope I can make my way back to blogging more consistently in the future!

I have been loving running my little shop. It gives me a completely valid excuse to thrift my heart out, even though that has opened my eyes to some obsessive compulsive behaviors of mine. I can hardly handle the thought of all the things I'm missing out on by not stopping EVERYWHERE, looking at EVERY THING. ALL THE THINGS.

Another aspect of the shop that thrills me is becoming a mini-expert on vintage clothing and items. When I started out, I wondered how you could tell if something was vintage, and now I hardly have to touch clothing on a rack to be able to pick out what's vintage and what's not. The terms and history and brands and trends that I'm gaining knowledge about are giving me some experience that I hope could bolster my credentials as a buyer someday - a job that I've always been interested in, and seems more feasible (income wise) than just blogging about stuff that I like.

Beyond having an outlet for my love of vintage and clothing and vintage clothing (and a really great excuse to buy amazing little girl clothes, even though I don't have a daughter!), I SO enjoy finding and selling vintage books. Of course, I keep a bunch of them for myself, too. ;) I've been so alarmed and saddened to realize how few of my peers are big readers or read very much to their kids. If they do read to their children (and everyone should be!!!), it's the same 10 classics across the board OR any number of terrible children's books that are available. The Bearinstein Bears are not great books, people. Anyway, people snatch up the books I sell faster than anything else, and that is so rewarding for me, even though I make the least money off of them out of everything that I sell. I get to be a very, very part-time librarian, and it makes me so happy.

I'm taking courage in the fact that I'm still young enough that I can afford to pursue a lot of interests and keep my horizons wide open, building on the categories that thrill me, and hoping that one or more of them pans out into a career later on, and I will have a little bit of work and knowledge and experience under my belt already! My vintage golden lion belt, I might add.

Believe it or not, I am getting around to Jimi Hendrix, which is what this post is supposed to be about. There is a tie in though, wait for it.... The 70s are making a big come back in fashion right now, and I am pumped about it! It's my favorite era to wear right now, and it's not so old that the pieces are impossible to find at thrift stores or too expensive to buy from vintage sellers.

If you take a look around, you will notice magazines and movie stars and the like wearing a lot of boho, fringe, and lace, and decorating with an updated macrame (ugh! I can't take it!). I have long thought that I belonged in the 70s (albeit, the idealized version, not the druggy, young deaths, and lack of responsibility version) and I think my style may stay attached to it even when the regular fashion world moves on again, but that is hard to say for sure. I've grown my hair out, to everyone's surprise (including my own), and it's not quite at Cher lengths, but I like to think I'm getting that vibe. I'm experimenting with some bouffants as well (though technically that's more 60s). I'm pulling my bell bottoms out from the back of the drawer, and stocking up on psychedelic prints (no one else wants them around here, so it works out great). Though I don't plan on being pregnant any time soon, a lot of 70s styles are flattering for maternity wear too, just a word to the wise!

I came across this photo compilation (images in this post are from this source unless otherwise noted) of Jimi Hendrix's wardrobe a while ago, and I'm so crazy about it. Like, teenage girls at the front of a Beatles concert crazy. I want it all! He is definitely a major style icon in my eyes, though maybe not so much of a personal role model. I do appreciate his music though, particularly "Foxey Lady", one of my favorite songs of all time. He was basically a fashion god.

I love his pattern mixing, his attention to detail with his guitar straps for each outfit, the costume rings, and the scarves around the thigh. You know that old favorite interview question, "if you could have dinner with anyone famous, dead or alive, who would it be?" Let's update that to, "if you could go shopping with anyone, who would it be?" JIMI HENDRIX.

Okay, play by play now...

The fur lining makes this outfit everything. But really, the whole outfit kills me. (source

Ruffled blouses, so much YES. His eye for color and pattern matching was just incredible. In fact, he didn't seem too hung up on making it "right" - there was no formula - and that's the best way to go. Looking at all these pictures re-excites me about a few pieces in my own wardrobe and how I can mix and match some combinations I hadn't thought of. I love it when inspiration strikes like that because you end up with 10 new outfits without buying any new clothes. My mom used to give me a hard time for never buying basic pieces that worked with anything else that I owned, but thank goodness I've hoarded all the one-of-a-kind things knowing I would find a way to wear them someday, because... Jimi Hendrix. (image source) I don't own any boots though, which might need to be remedied.

Look at all that belt jewelry... swooooon! (source)

This is my version of "if Anne Frank were alive today, I think she would have been a Belieber", but apparently, Jimi Hendrix was in to weird eyes too. xoxo (source)

Same shirt, but larger ruffle (always a yes). And his henchmen weren't too shabby on the style front either, I should mention. P.S. Bougainvillea forever. His world is perfect, minus the drugs and everything... (source)

Ok, this shirt is UH-MAZING. That is all. Here's a closer-up picture, too. 

I haven't found a picture of this shirt anywhere else, but it looks CRAZY good. I wonder what color it was?

People think I don't know what I'm doing when I wear so-called clashing colors. But let me just tell you... Jimi Hendrix. 

I can't even. Thank goodness I've kept all those kimonos I'm not quite sure what to do with. 

This is possibly my very favorite outfit. I also wish to point out that he's just a handsome guy. 

Those pants, hearts for eyes! But seriously, the whole ensemble is magic. Also, when are sheer shirts for men coming back? (Kidding, kind of...).

Necklace layering, Asian motifs. Yes, and yes. Winning so hard. And if this isn't an ode to natural hair, I don't know what is. 

Let's talk about capes and gold buttons. They're always the right choice. Ok, this has been a good talk.

If those are magnolias on that blouse, I would die. 

I'll leave you with this perfection. I hope you've been as inspired as I have been! Oh, and if you're not into the 70s look but have a bunch of items you want to get rid of, I'm your girl... ;) 

In case you missed them, see my previous style icon posts on Michelle Harper and Ulyana Sergeenko.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

January 2015

Listened: Kat Dahlia finally released her full length album. I wasn't stunned, but there are a few good tracks. I like her voice, but I wish she wouldn't rely so heavily on that guttural raspy thing she does, because it starts to sound gimmicky to me. Jose Gonzales is also leaking singles here and there, brilliant as always, so I'm anticipating a new record from him.

Watched: I wasn't really planning to, but I got sucked in to watching Nebraska when my dad put it on. It was better than I expected, despite it being critically acclaimed. Parts of it were very Nebraska-esque given my two trips there for friends' weddings, but what surprised me most was that it was sentimental, and actually wrapped up as a story. I expected it to be only a really harsh character profile. It reminded me of my favorite kinds of books to read, such as Ayn Rand's work.

Tasted: THIS. So easy, so delicious.

Next time you're tempted to write "wash me!" (or even better, "saving water!") on your dirty car, just challenge yourself a little bit with this.

The smell of rain, explained!

My favorite kind of dino is the sweet kind.

Zoo Tycoon is back, baby. I downloaded it just because it makes me happy. Nevermind that I will probably never play it due to the 20 other things that come first if I have any free time to spare.

This weather map of wind in the USA is mesmerizing.

Only in Japan. 1950s rockabilly gangs. So awesome.

In case you needed another reason to adore Gemma Correll, she has made a January paint palette that is the very best thing.

My parents got us tickets to see the Peking Acrobats for Christmas, and they were so awesome! And awesomely Chinese. Some of the feats were truly harrowing, and I was not at all convinced that they were going to survive the act. I did get to "talk" with some of the performers before the show, but my Chinese has gone down the toilet even more than I suspected, which was pretty sad. Even so, I loved having an evening that was very Chinese, in many ways.

We went on a family day out to Morro Bay which was SO fun. I made some great thrift finds, saw an amazing sunset, and had dinner in SLO where we met up with friends for the farmer's market. It was just a perfect day, and it got me thinking about how expecting Christmas to be a perfect day so often leads to Christmas being easily ruined by any little thing.

Jonas and I celebrated 3 years of marriage on the 14th, and 6 years of being a couple! Our schedule got messed up on the day of our date and we had to cancel reservations at our favorite dinner spot, but we ended up having a great evening anyway, even though Ira through up in the middle of dinner.

Boys: Ishmael is humming right along with his sentence building. Some of his favorite phrases are, "I found mew!" (his combination of me/you), "One second..." (particularly if he doesn't want to do what you've told him to do", "Actually, ...", "I'll get it", "'Hine you" (behind you), and "Dats... crazy!" He has a funny cadence to his speech where he often pauses between compound words, as in, "hot... chocolate". Not exactly sure why he does this. He continues to be Ira's favorite person, but is beginning to have trouble sharing and understanding what sorts of play are dangerous or painful toward Ira. He "dances" with Ira and pokes his cheeks, and somehow Ira loves it, though it drives me crazy because I'm not sure when to discourage him (the line is so fine between Ira loving and hating it). Ishmael doesn't listen well at this point (on most days), even as I step up my disciplining game to let him know I mean what I say. He getting more crafty with disobeying, and I often find myself at the end of my rope with him. // Ira started his first bites of solid food this month! Avacado was his first solid food. He loves to suck on oranges, too. He's a very manipulative cryer, and my dad calls him "light switch" for his ability to cease his crying the instant you pick him up or give him what he wants. He's a champ at sitting up, which I think has made him significantly more agreeable as he is probably much less bored now and content without being constantly held. It's amazing to watch him reach for deliberate things within his arm span. He is cooing and spluttering. // Both my kids belong on the NYT 3 under 3, wouldn't you say?

Loved: Warm summer nights. There weren't any in January, but I was thinking about them and loving them none the less! 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Instagrammies 02/15

Welcome to round two of the Instagrammies (good timing, amiright?!), in which I share a few of my favorite accounts that I follow on my personal IG @weird_eyes. Did you follow any of the accounts from my first set? Which were your favorites?

1. DapperLou. It's funny - I was going to share this as "my favorite style account", but as I looked through the feed as a whole, there aren't as many style posts as I expected! Either way, the photography is great and the vibe is spot on. I love it.

2. BambooYang. I originally found this guy under #copicmarkers when I was posting some of Jonas' work before Jonas had his own account. His copic marker skills are out of this world, but he's also a talented tagger, though most of his work looks commissioned. It doesn't hurt that he posts pictures of the food in Taiwan (?) where he's from (?) and lives. Most of his captions are in Mandarin, and I'm bummed I can't read them, so I'm piecing together what I "know" about him. He has some buddies who he works with (as far as I can tell) and they seem to have a lot of fun goofing off/working together.

3. JenGotch. I'm crazy about this gals' cynical-glitter lifestyle. By that I mean the feed is full of pink hair, glitter pills, amazing donuts, neon "girls girls girls" signs, foster kittens (eeeee!) and disco-ball filled bathtubs (Jen runs a business of girls' accessories called, but she has a hilarious, self-deprecating sense of humor which make for some of the very best captions in my feed. She makes being in your 40s look way better than your 20s.

4. NatGeo. Sometimes IG accounts for household names like National Geographic are impersonal and clearly just for PR, but every one of the photos on this account (and they post a LOT) is fascinating, not to mention absolutely top-notch, visually. Duh. Doesn't this baby and baby joey just make your eyes bug out from the cuteness?

5. EmilyBlincoe. I'm a sucker for well organized, color coded things, and the subject matter for Blincoe's photos found object collages (pickles, mexican candy!) are right up my alley. Hearts for eyes.

6. SliceOfPai. Even if I love an account, sometimes I have to search through a lot of shots to find my favorite or a particularly strong one to share here. Not so with this account - ANY image could be plucked from her stream and win an award. Eye candy to the max. I always like a clever play on words, so her handle just tickles me every time I see it. This account is a combination of incredible food and travel photos, mostly with moody and rich colors, my favorite! I seriously want to show you every photo on this account, so just go follow it already.

7. TeenBug. This account features a really cute baby, but really, it's all about the captions. Every one just makes me nod my head for a long time. Here's an example (though it doesn't go with the photo I chose):
TEARS BECAUSE... My baby boy is turning 5 weeks old tomorrow and his newborn onesies don't fit him anymore.. Tears because said baby "could-not-would-not" fall asleep. Tears because I feel like I'm getting worse at this motherhood gig. Tears because I'm definitely worse at this wifedom gig. Tears because my super-gifted Xmen baby lifted his head up during tummy time today. I MEAN. Really. Lifted. It. Up. (Watch out Harvard.) Tears because I miss the little things like driving, drinking a hot beverage and chillin' in a dry bra. Tears because I caught husband dancing to John Mayer rocking our babe to sleep. FOR THE LOVE. Tears because I don't feel like myself anymore. More tears because I couldn't tell who I was before or who I want to be in the future. Tears because I should be sleeping instead of writing this. Tears because deep-deep down, I know I'm the luckiest girl in the world. TEARS BECAUSE. Just because. xoxo #welp

8. NYPL (New York Public Library). Librarians are my heroes. F'realz. NYPL has several great series, like old questions people asked of librarians before the internet, and using book covers to alter real faces (go see for yourself what I mean). I'm pretty new to following this account, but they seem very engaged with their audience, which is fun.

9. PaleyPhoto. This is a photographer I found via they Nat Geo account (they're great about tagging individual photographers!), and he caught my attention because he has a lot of images of people who live in the Pamir mountain range, which is where I grew up. His photos are of those living on the Afghanistan side, and we were on the China side. This little girl looks so lovely to me, though her cold-chapped cheeks break my heart!

10. WeNeverMet. If you like Humans of New York, you might like this account! It's all photos of strangers backs, captioned with made up details about them. Charming, and often funny and/or poignant. This guy's caption wasn't particularly great, but I'm obsessed with his sweatshirt.

That's all for this installment! Which is your favorite? Who have you been following lately that is worth sharing about? 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Darkest Hour

I keep thinking I'm going to write THE POST where I solve parenthood. And the problem of sin. It's like how I used to start every new journal as neatly and epicly as possible, because I was sure that upon my untimely young and tragic death, every word I put to paper would be collected, hoarded, and turned into a best-seller. Humility is one of my stronger suits.

But lucky for you (I know, I flatter myself), I'm back to the drawing board.

Parenting (ah yes, this again. Shocking. All my posts are the same these days) is a lesson (beating?) in extremes, and I am not a fan of the extremes, at least the difficult ones and how frequent they've become. It reminds me of that carnival ride with the ship that goes back and forth, like a swing, you know the one. One of my friends was proposed to on something like that, except more of an actual swing. Her now-husband refused to release their swing to fall back down until she answered the proposal. With parenting, I feel like I can't even resolve one extreme before being released, screaming and occasionally throwing up, to the other extreme. I don't get the chance to agree to any of it.

One day can encompass productivity, excitement, joy, contentment, wonder... but also intense frustration, anger, disappointment, exhaustion, bafflement, hunger, depression, guilt, inadequacy, resentment, and despair. The ride makes me sick. Legitimately sick, like sores breaking out in my mouth from lack of control. Sometimes I go to bed feeling totally whooped, other times I'm able to work myself back to the middle somewhere so that I have a better place to start in the next morning.

I only like the boat to rock if I'm the one rocking it, and I'm not even sure I'm in a boat anymore at this point. I don't do so well with emotions, let alone extreme ones. Parenting manages to encompasses both the best (some truly movie-like moments that I would otherwise think myself incapable of feeling or experiencing) and the worst moments of my life. The in between parts feel boring and hard and I feel guilty for just wanting to get past this stage, because what if the next stage is like this too, and I just go through life wishing for something else and never experience life?

Guilt is another theme I'm working on in my life - not guilt over what I've done or am not doing, but guilt over how I'm not living up to what I think other people expect of me. I've come to see recently that I might have a slight "thing" about control. I seriously wish I was a drinker sometimes, but I can't bring myself to get drunk or smoke or take [even prescription] drugs or throw things or scream because "I don't want to lose control of myself." I've always thought of being in control of myself as a virtue, but it's a very tiny step from trying to control everything, and I definitely don't see that as a virtue in other people. In fact, I have an arsenal of names for people like that. Being in control of my life is beginning to feel nothing more than hard-headed, though. Maybe I'm just not that good at taking it all on by myself. Actually, I am kind of good at it, but there's just no off switch, and that's where the issue arises, I suppose. (here's a picture for you, in case you're getting bored of me trying to self-soothe at the end of every single paragraph)

I've also been thinking (jeez, where am I getting all this time to think from?!) about parenting as an introvert. I've become a little less extremely introverted as I've grown older, but I think I'm reverting. Lately, I just want to BE. ALONE. For like a few hours. Or maybe a whole day (attainable goals only, here, people). I think the last time that happened was like 8 years ago. For real. I'm becoming a compulsive showerer (totally against my nature) because the bathroom door has a lock on it and people generally respect that they can't barge in on an occupied bathroom.

I'm about to get PG-13 here, so consider yourself warned.
This whole being-alone obsession is a little rough on the ol' marriage. I was crying in bed about my total lack of romantic or sexual interest recently (recently being since getting pregnant with my second a year+ ago), and really no light at the end of the tunnel. I've been holding out hope for the LST's (Longest Shortest Time) parents-and-sex podcast series, and installment 1, which came out the very next day after my little sniffle fest, did not disappoint. I always get in to trouble when I compare myself, and I'm especially vulnerable to comparisons when it comes to my love life (aren't we all? Please say yes.).

I've had this impression that healthy couples can't even wait the doctor's recommended 6 weeks to have sex post-baby. Seriously, I congratulate you if you're in that camp (I'm not being sarcastic, though maybe a bit bitter). I was so relieved and validated to hear that complaining about your sex life isn't even allowed for the first YEAR after a baby, according to the LST. I still feel kind of sad about the state of things, but it at least takes a weight off my shoulders to know that my complete lack of interest is normal and not shameful. Seriously, listen to the podcast (very, very NSFW) if you've had a kiddo in the past few years. There are some gold nuggets in there, such as: "sex" should not be defined as vaginal intercourse or mutual orgasm. Childbirth leaves you with physical (and sometimes other kinds, too) wounds. That's kind of a huge topic on its own, but I include it because it's a very real part of the overall struggle I'm engaged in with my life right now, and as usual, I think we all benefit when we're able to talk about real things that we have in common, but too seldom have the invitation to commiserate on or the encouragement of knowing we're not alone. (Just call me super-run-on-sentence girl!)

Anyway, another point he (guest Dan Savage, that is) makes is that some parents are being clung to and sniveled on ALL.DAY.LONG, and when you get to the end of the day and have even the opportunity for some private time with your significant other, the last thing you want is to be touched in any way any more (see also, correlation between breastfeeding and lack of libido). I find myself exhausted of being needed so much. Yet how can I say no to little arms reaching out, and my husband needing a hug? I don't really want to say no, but I do slide into patches of burn out. I feel stretched too thin at just about all times. I disappoint myself by finding affection so very undesirable.

I find motherhood to be a relatively thankless job (except on Mother's Day, which I freakin' love), and to be honest, I like to be recognized for things. I'm really working on training myself to care for my sons with no feelings of being put out or like I'm not getting paid enough (hahaaaaa) OR (and this is a mega biggie) resentment over division of labor between Jonas and I. I'm joking about this because I know you guys know that I truly love all my guys, but somehow the soft, cuddly, selfless me makes herself pretty scarce.

I beat myself up for being a "stone cold fox" as my sister Annelise says. Out of desperation, I googled "INTJ parenting" tonight. I know that Meyers-Briggs isn't the end-all-be-all by any means, but sometimes I just need to hear someone else describe exactly what I'm feeling to make me feel less like a floundering failure, and this google search provided it for me. I won't bore you with the whole assessment (I know you're just going to look up your own type, anyway), but it includes phrases like, "will likely never be able to deliver the sort of warmth and coddling that stereotypes say they should", "will take a clear and conscious effort on their part to curb and adapt these qualities to their children's needs, especially in the younger years", "heavily invested in rational thought, logic, and analyzing cause and effect...often unprepared for dealing with someone who hasn't developed these same abilities who they can't simply walk away from" (I said almost those exact words in a previous post!), "struggle to manage their own emotions in a healthy way, let alone others'", "tend to avoid 'unproductive' emotional support, instead taking a solutions-based approach to resolving issues".

There's a good side to this too, but I quake at the image of myself as this dictator, and my boys unable to feel warmth or approval from me, especially since I'm the stay-at-home-parent at this point. It's an encouraging assessment in that there's not something wrong with me for how I see the world or how difficult it is for me to connect with children, but I worry that I'm seriously handicapped when it comes to classic motherliness and I don't want to crush their spirits with my inability to communicate raw emotion and my frustration for childishness, even in children. I'm very much still learning what parenting is going to look like for me, but I can already tell that it's pretty different than what a lot of people think parenting should look like, and the weight of that criticism is no small thing for me. (here's another visual reward/representation of my psyche for you. Cheery, isn't it?)

One of our dear friends is a social worker. His main job is to teach parents how to play with their kids. Everyone who hears him say this thinks that's the saddest thing in the world, but I find myself really in need of that because it certainly doesn't come naturally to me. I watched my sister playing with Ira when she was home from school and she stood him on her knees and used his hands to mimic dancing to some music that was playing. He LOVED it, and I've since done it with him myself, and he continues to love it. This thrills me, and although so simple, it is something I probably never would have come to on my own.

In the last few years, I've been really proud of myself for becoming a happy person, which I really would never have guessed I would be - not because I've had a dreadful life, but because I fixate on heavy things. I've been spending a lot of time being miserable lately, and I'm determined not to lose happiness because I'm in a stage of life that is extremely challenging for me. I am trying to deal with the fact that the next few years might be consistently challenging for me as I try and shape myself into a woman who is not only less self-focused, but one who is focused on something (children, parenting, etc.) that is so irrational. I think this is an excellent goal, but it is really beating the tar out of me.

In the name of trying to preserve happiness (or grow into new kinds of happiness), I'm getting better at playing with my kids and seeking after endeavors that help me move forward in some direction, though I'm not sure what that direction is. It's taken 3 years, but I've finally succumbed to listening to children's music, despite the questionable theology of some children's praise songs and gender stereotypes in regular children rhymes, or downright bad advice. "Miss Lucy put the baby in the bathtub to see if he could swim?" Really? Miss Lucy is fired.

There's this one tape (yes, cassette tapes, people) that I have on heavy rotation (because it's the most tolerable and interesting) called Wee Sing Around the World. You can listen to a sampling here. I remember most of these songs word for word from when I was growing up, although somehow over the past 20 years, "mi burro, mi burro has a headache" became "mi burro, mi burro, mi rockin' rockin' burro." I'm finally realizing that listening to children's music is not about me liking or not liking it, but for the sake of doing something that my sons like. I really didn't believe that they would enjoy it so much more than regular music, but somehow they do, and an added bonus is that they enjoy our new morning playtime so much that I can almost accomplish half-a-thing while they play. Unless I get sucked in to creating the tower of Babel out of duplos (admittedly entertaining) or keeping Ishmael from pushing Ira over for fun or poking his cheeks or sitting on his lap. Ai, mi burros!

Childhood is so foreign to me, as children are little blizzards of being, encompassing contradictions, continuously changing, enjoying or hating things for no rational reason, saying and doing things I have absolutely no way of interpreting. I was never very good at being a child, even when I was one. Beyond the human-to-human aspect, I am the equivalent of a luddite for children's... things. I find myself at other people's houses or around other children and thinking, "if only I had gotten one of those baby round play walkers, if only I had known about hands-free pumping bras, if only....".

Before having Ishmael, I just thought, "what more do you need beside food and clothing and mud to play in?", and while I still hold that to be fundamentally true, it turns out that I am not a great playmate or storyteller or any of that, and so it could behoove me to take advantage of all the inventions for making children happy. It's pretty much out there if you can imagine it, you just have to ask Google where to find it (hellooooo, bra extensions!). Even proofreading this paragraph though, I realize that it's not about finding the right set of children's toys or activities that will make my relationship with my boys - or parenting in general - wrapped up in a box. This business does not fit into any boxes, and I have to come to terms with that.

I think I seriously am burnt out on my life. I just ignore phone calls and bills and stuff because I #canteven. I dread everything because I can't accomplish anything satisfactorily. I do pay the bills eventually, but I work several small jobs from home and sometimes I just let those go for a few days while I get a grip on things and have some more energy or even a shred of will to devote to them. I can't give up, but I also can't win. I will never have less to do in my life, I will never become organized enough that everything is accomplished satisfactorily. I will never find every answer, and I will never survive if I make that my aim. 

I was recently reading this excellent blog, Not Without Salt, whose writer published a cookbook of date-night-in recipes. You should watch the short book trailer (oh 21st century, you!), because her reasons for the book are SPOT ON and will resonate with so many of you who are parents, as it did for me. In a recent post on her blog, she talked about being exhausted from all the work with the book and having to let herself be the one coming to the table and needing to be fed, rather than the one always doing the feeding. Yes. Yes. Yes, on every level. Yes to needing to be filled back up again while things are constantly being asked of you. Yes to the love of cooking being the love of bringing others simple joy. Yes to the fear of losing that joy or that special time creating in the kitchen (ahem, past tense - lost) because it's all I can do to shovel microwaved hot dogs into their mouths. Yes to feeling like my husband is more of a room mate than a lover, thanks to life with little children, and just, life. Yes to that needing to change. Yes to that process feeling overwhelming and like one more thing that I won't be able to accomplish properly.

I have built part of my identity around the love of good food - making is, sharing it, searching for it - and I've had to abandon that to a degree since going from 1 to 2 children. Everyone says that going from 1 to 2 is the hardest jump of all (even more than from 2 to 3, and on up), and I don't know why, but I think everyone might be right. Dan Savage mentioned on the podcast that having two kids is not twice as hard as having one, it's 10 times as hard. The fact that both of my children are napping at the same time right now makes me an jedi master. You parents know what I'm talking about.

Maybe I'm just alarmed at how many bad days there are now. In between the extreme highs of parenting, which do happen occasionally, there's a lot of, "this is the worst day" and the next day,"no, THIS is the worst day!" My friend Heather assures me there will come a time again when things are less extreme, and I have the opportunity to do anything, and am not just be running around, crazy eyed, pj bottoms inside out, yanking drum sticks out of kids throats. I will again be able to wear headphones without taking them off every 10 seconds because I'm worried that one of the boys is suffocating in bed and I can't hear their squeaks for help. Someday, I might go somewhere by myself again (although this seems cosmically unlikely). Someday I might open the door to the JW ladies and not look like this. All the JW ladies want to tell me is about how the end of the world is eminent, and I think they're pretty sure the state of my life is the cause of this. Someday, I will get back in the kitchen and create again, perhaps even with two little sous chefs along side of me.

Heather assures me of these things, but I think she might be lying so keep me alive. 

I hear myself saying over and over as I write this, "I can't do this!". And the truth is, I can not do this. As a person of faith in Jesus Christ, I believe that I need his help, but I don't know how to accept it most of the time. I treat this relationship as a transaction: If I surrender, everything will turn out like I want it to. Even I know that that's not what surrendering control truly means. I'm not quite sure how things will get done if I can't do them and God isn't going to literally accomplish my daily to-do list either. There have got to be some in between options, but I have difficultly thinking in those terms.

One of my favorite songs we sing at Element from time to time has this line, "where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Chains are broken, eyes are opened." Last time I heard it, I kept repeating, "where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom," all week to myself, because I feel so very confined. Aaron (our pastor) recently did a few sermons on the prodigal son, and put the story in a completely different light for me. The older I get, the more I realize that I don't have everything worked out as well as I thought I did, which is both a sign of growth (I hope), and somewhat discouraging. I realize that although I know what grace is, I do not know how to receive it, and I think I can not have a meaningful relationship with Christ if I can not grow past trying to work my way to him.

I don't question my salvation, but I question whether I know at all what it means to truly follow Christ. Aaron used an analogy for grace that really struck me - he told the story of having had someone pay his bill at a restaurant once (which has happened to me before too), and how helpless it made him feel. It is useless to try and argue with the waitress that your debt is not paid or to try and pay it again a second time, and you have no way to thank or repay the person who paid for you.

I am well aware that trying to be good enough (aka "works") as a person to achieve what I want is a task that I can never do well enough. My natural desire is to try and pay my own way and rely on my own strength, but I am more and more sure that I can never be good enough. What is both amazing and frustrating is learning that trying to live in grace is even harder than trying to be good enough through works. The urge to take control of my own destiny is so powerful that I constantly fail to truly grasp the grace that is given to me. Never, before this past week, had it occurred to me that I might owe my God an apology for even trying to repay him for salvation. The concept of repaying is not only futile, but a slap in the face for someone who is simply giving you something out of love.

I love free stuff, but even when it's a transaction between me and another human, I don't consider anything to be truly free. If its a friend who has given me something for free, I remember it and want to return the favor at some point. If I get something for free from a stranger or a business, or even if I find money on the sidewalk, I feel [happily] like I got the longer end of the stick than someone else did. Being an INTJ is totally exhausting.

This is going to sound silly, but just as I had this post mostly written, I watched an episode (season 3, episode 2, in case you're wondering ;)) of Call the Midwife with my mom and sister Julia, and the in one scene, Jenny runs through the symptoms of postpartum depression and mentions that it can last for a year after having a baby. I have battled depression at various times in my life, which leads me to think that depression is not out of the question as a component of why I'm struggling so much, but I'm so wary of calling myself depressed because I feel it could be an excuse to wallow in a situation that every parent faces. Maybe we just need a cat?

They say the darkest hour is always right before the dawn. That's all well and good, as long as you believe the dawn will come. Sometimes I fear it won't. For my own sake, I can't help but try and rend on a faintly hopeful note, and all I can muster sometimes is the remembrance of one of my favorite promises, "His mercies are new every morning". I need em all, every one. every day.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

That Thing You Do

With the whole two-small-children thing, our anniversary wasn't a big deal this year, but just so ya'll know, we just had our 3rd. Anniversary, not child. Lord help me. (Incidentally, today is also my parents' 25th anniversary, holla!!!) 

In light of that little milestone, I was chuckling about the timing of this post on pet peeves. I like to ask couples what habits they have that drive one another crazy - not to be divisive, but just because the answers are so funny. As I looked back at the little list I'd been keeping of my own pet peeves (particularly about things that Jonas does), I was happy to see that some of them aren't even an issue any more. 

Don't get me wrong, I still hate seeing the toilet seat up, but I've finally decided to be the bigger man and let him have it his way (I can say stuff like this because he doesn't read the blog). ;) Did you hear that Jonas??? I STILL NOTICE, and I'm just not saying anything anymore because I'm that awesome. Although honestly, I have noticed that now that I'm not making a point of chastising him for always leaving the seat up (and absolutely refusing to concede why I find it rude or gross), it doesn't needle me so much. I think I've more or less let it go. I'm patting myself on the back right now, for reals.

(I know the hate-the-same-stuff sentiment is a little cynical, but it's so nice to be on the same team as your husband or wife, isn't it?!)

Of course, I've moved on to being irritated by other habits. I promise this will be interesting, because not all my pet peeves are generic. The other day, my pastor talked about what it would be like if we tried to live a whole day without complaining about anything. BORING, I say! ;) I would have almost nothing to talk about. 

I'll start out with the generic spouse stuff - leaving drawers and cabinets open, leaving the shower curtain open and towels on the floor, not unbunching his socks before they go in the wash, etc. Then there's leaving pot and pan handles facing into the kitchen (as opposed to the side or back of the stove), which I find so dangerous, not to mention difficult to move around. That's pretty much the worst of it that I can think of when it comes to Jonas, so that's really not all that bad. Except when he finishes some special food in the fridge without consulting me. That really makes me sulk for a while. 

He used to leave the butter dish in the microwave and I would lose my mind because I could not find it ANYWHERE. As it turns out, he does that because his mom did that growing up, and she did it because they had a cat who always wanted to eat the butter. Strange as all get out, but made sense once I figured it out. 

To be fair, he goes crazy over some of my habits too, including leaving 20+ tabs open on our laptop, and in our old apartment, I never put the toaster away in the morning because I knew I would just have to take it out again the next day. My brother Bradley has a cow whenever I burp loudly, and growing up, my sister Annelise hated nothing more than listening to me clear my throat in the morning (I blame it all on Chinese polution). 

I asked an engaged (now married) friend what she and her fiancee found strange about one another's routines. She said that her husband always wants to rip the foil all the way off the yogurt container, and she leaves it on. For my parents, it's my mom leaving the microwave door ajar after she's used it. That is exactly the kind of thing that makes marriage so interesting, and sometimes challenging. A few months in to living with someone or seriously combining your lives, you start noticing little things and thinking, "who does that?!" It's weird how we assume that the way we do things is how everyone must do them. The little weirdnesses add up and then we have to put aside ourselves and learn to love someone for who they are, right? I know, I know, I'm getting a little Kumbaya here.  

I heard or read somewhere once (and I feel like I've blogged this before, so, sorry!) that in a good marriage, you fight about the same things over and over, and in a bad one, you find new things to fight about. Of course that's not true on every level, but I like that it acknowledges that we all have petty struggles. It makes sense that there are some issues that remain bothersome because simply by virtue of us not being clones, there will be deep-seated differences that butt heads in any relationship. On the especially deep seated issues, that same argument may come up forever. I think the secret must be to find middle ground or simply not let that issue eat away at all the good things we may have going for us in the larger picture. 

Ok, now here are my very particular pet peeves. 

1. Maybe my very biggest one is when people use the phrase, "great minds think alike." To me, nothing is further from the truth! What makes an idea great is that it stands out from the rest. A bunch of people have the same thought at the same time makes that idea obvious or a necessity, not some meeting of great minds. But I digress... (this one is particularly irksome because it's usually said as a compliment, but it only makes lava bubble up in my heart and almost out of my eyeballs). 

2. Salad forks (and tea spoons). I hate them. They feel so miserably inadequate for real food in terms of both length and weight, and I hate them. 

3. The way the radio ques some supposedly regionally appropriate ethnic music after any story that is well, regional. For example, tribal drums or chanting for Africa, twangy stuff for the American south, etc. It just seems so patronizing to me. Like I need a little melody to help me place my thoughts in a certain part of the world or something? I think it feeds into stereotypes in an unnecessary way. Individuals are more than where they are from. 

4. Oooh, this is another really good (and self-righteous on my part) one. People making their social media profile pictures photos of their kids or pets!!! This is both confusing and silly. Unless the account is all about said other creature and simply run by you, it's okay for your picture to have you in it. We're not all thinking you're vain for showing your own picture, and simultaneously, we also know you're proud of your kids without changing your photo to theirs whenever they do something especially great. I hate to say this (not really), but the cool-parent code strictly prohibits this practice (although it is acceptable to have your child in a photo with you as your profile picture). 

5. While on the topic of children, why does anyone with a faint interest in art and design and a not-terrible (but then again, sometimes terrible) idea think, "I should make this idea into a children's book, it will be easy!". That's why there are so very many abysmal children's books in the world. Please, spare us all and stop that thought process right now. Children's books are not easier to write - in fact, they're probably harder because you have to try and get across a solid idea that a child will understand in so many fewer and clearer words than you could get away with talking to an adult. Kids aren't stupid, but they are easily bored. And also, stop asking my husband to illustrate your children's book. He won't even illustrate stuff for me.... 

(one of my all-time favorite children's illustrations, from an unknown vintage book) 

6. I haven't looked this up, but I'm pretty darn sure that you use "a" before a noun beginning with a consonant (A kite) and "an" before a noun beginning with a vowel (AN airplane). That is all. 

7. Similarly, the word "especially" does not have an X in it. One need only read this word in print ONE TIME to realize it is not pronounced "exspecially". And yet, sadly, the english-speaking human race seems to have much better things to do than notice this small fact. 

8. And last but not least, please do not pick your skin or nails while sitting on the couch with other people. It doesn't matter how small the movement is, other people on the couch can feel the incessant quivers throughout the entire piece of furniture. Do not ask me how this is possible, it is simply true.   

All joking aside, I do prefer to spend my time being grateful for things. But don't we all love the occasional bug-eyed revulsion-fest we get to indulge in when we discover a shared pet peeve with someone (like our friend Greg sharing my belief that Iron and Wine is the WORST musical act). When you have a very particular stance on something, it's always kind of nice when someone else agrees with you. 

What crazy things get under your skin? What habit of your significant other surprised you when you started living in the same place? I'd love to hear, truly, I would... 
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