Wednesday, July 30, 2014

sam is her own lady

From time to time I feature ladies who are doing their thing. Today you're going to meet Sam! I met Sam when she was in high school with my younger sisters, and I've admired her evolving style for years.  I’m thrilled that Sam agreed to answer some of my nosy questions about her look.

Tell us a little about yourself!
I am twenty-two years old, and I live in a cozy little home in Tampa, Florida with my long term boyfriend and our Miniature Schnauzer. I currently work in a coffee shop but my real passion is taking pictures. Both my boyfriend and I are also total Disney geeks and annual passholders - we go to Disney World probably every two weeks, at least!

Do you have any words or a phrases to describe your style?  
According to my boyfriend, my style is hippie/classy/vintage/alternative.

It really just depends on what I am feeling like day to day. Sometimes I feel very punk, wear my hair messy and wear a denim jacket with feminist patches all over it. Sometimes I dress up in a polka dotted dress and put my hair in victory rolls. Some days it’s high waisted shorts and a crop top, and some days it’s a striped skirt with a Doctor Who tee that really doesn’t match. Some days I’ll do dark, defined eyebrows and some days just a pop of bright lipstick. It’s about whatever I’m going to feel comfortable and happy in, in that moment.

What influences your style?  Who are your style icons?
I wouldn’t say I have any specific style icon - I mostly just get ideas from people I see around town, or on television, or on Pinterest or Tumblr. I see trends that are popular and I try the ones that interest me. I first got bangs because of Zooey Deschanel, I tried stiletto nails after seeing Lana Del Rey’s.

Do you have a typical beauty routine?
I get up for work at 5:00 in the morning, so I really don’t do anything but splash water on my face and head to work during the week. In general though, I am a huge fan of coconut oil! I moisturize with it and I do hair treatments with it from time to time. I have an exfoliating brush from Sephora that I use on my face in the shower, which I love. And I take biotin supplements which I think make my hair grow faster, although I can’t prove it.

What is the wildest look you’ve ever experimented with?
That would probably be when I chopped all of my hair off! It was terrifying and unlike anything I had done before - but I loved it and I would recommend it to anyone who is thinking of it. Everyone always says it but hair really does grow back! And even the growing-out process was fun.

Style-wise, have you ever tried something you regret?
I wouldn’t say I necessarily regret anything, because you have to try in order to figure out what works, but there have definitely been things that did NOT work. And sometimes I don’t even realize they didn’t work until much later, when I see myself in photographs. But the point is that I liked how I looked at the time, I felt cute, and that’s the fun part.

What is your favorite thing about your appearance?
I really love my legs - they are long, and I like to walk and bike and run so they have always been pretty strong. I tend to have nice, clear skin as well, which I have always been thankful for. I used to hate my thick, curly hair but I recently have learned to really love and appreciate it. And I really love my nose ring, I don’t know how I’ll ever get rid of it, or at what point it is no longer age appropriate, or whether I care.

Is there any style-related thing you’d like to try that you haven’t yet?   
I like to think that my style is constantly evolving, and at the moment there isn’t anything I can think of that I want to try but haven’t. I tend to make a point to try new things whenever I want. Like as soon as I decided my hair was long enough and I wanted to try ombre, I did it the next day. Maybe I’m a little impulsive!

How does your look affect your relationships?  Are your family and friends supportive of your experimenting?  How does your appearance affect your professional life?
My mom used to always say that my style was “intimidating” to men and that I would have trouble finding someone who liked my septum ring and wild glasses. I told her I didn’t want a partner who didn’t like those things, so who cares! Fortunately, I started dating Danny who is supportive of just about anything I do, and who didn’t even mind when I cut off the long hair he loved. At my current job I am not able to express my style much - we have a specific uniform and hats and rules - but in the future I would like to work somewhere I can dress up nice and fancy.

What has helped you define your style? Do you have any advice for someone who would like to grow in their style, or even try something new with their appearance?
Trial and error. Really, just keeping your eyes open to what other people are wearing and doing, looking at trends you see online and in the media, and try whatever appeals to you! If you don’t like it, don’t do it again, change it, laugh about it. I guess it’s about taking the leap and knowing that you can re-dye over it, you can take out a piercing and it will heal, you can buy new clothes, use some nail polish remover. Even a tattoo can be covered up! When you find something that makes you feel good, keep doing it, make it yours, and don’t worry about people who might disagree.

Thank you so much for sharing with us, Sam! You can see Sam's pictures on her flickr account, or follow her on Instagram and Twitter. I want a tattoo of the logo from the tree nursery my father and grandfather owned when I was a child OR a nontraditional hair color. How about you? Any style trends you want to try?

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Introducing: Be Your Own Lady!

If you've stopped by over the last week, you may have noticed that things look a little different around here. I'm basically beaming with pride to be revealing a new look, a new name, and a slightly more inclusive focus for this little corner of the internet.  Introducing: Be Your Own Lady.

This phrase first entered my head a few months ago when I was at the mall.  I was browsing in one of the fancy women's stores where each item of clothing costs several hundred dollars and all the housewares look like they were just shipped in wooden crates from a French farmhouse.  The kind of place that I am drawn to but always seem to trip while pretending to seriously consider paying $42 for some decorative pencils.  I happened upon a book called How to Act Like a Lady and snatched it up.  Perfect!  I love nonfiction and I love books that promise me a better life. I held this slim little tome and imagined that when I was done, I would be cured of bad habits like wearing the yoga pants I slept in as a reasonable weekend outfit, or buying birthday cards for people and never sending them.  

Steps from the check out, I heard a voice very clearly in my head.  "This book is going to make you feel like shit."  I froze.  I'm educated and I know how a lady acts.  I can draw one for you, list their characteristics, write a short story about several ladies sharing lady-like experiences.  A book about how to act like a lady can't magically make me one, and might possibly turn into a hammer, slamming me over the head with Things I Am Not. I stood in the middle of the store, feeling proud of that smart voice and a little sad to be losing the belief that the right book could teach me how to be BETTER and LOVELY and FINALLY RIGHT.  Then the voice spoke again.  "Be your own lady."  I grinned.

I wish I could say that day was a turning point, but I still stumbled on the cobblestone on the way out of the store (why is the entryway of your store cobblestone, Fancy Women's Store?) and I still struggle with my own ladyness.  I haven't let go of the troubling thought that everyone else is doing it better, being more creative, getting more manicures, raising more well-rounded children, buying nicer clothes, thinking more profound thoughts.  When I feel less than, in any way, and the pressure to measure up to someone else is poisoning me, be your own lady is a powerful tool that helps me make my best choice, which is often to wear something comfortable and read young adult literature.

My hope is that this site can be a place to share the things that make me feel like lady, everything from admiring tattoos and adoring Little House on the Prairie to missing going to church and hating Paris.  Not just about my motherhood and my family, but reaching out to check in with other ladies that are blowing my mind in the best way.  I want every girl I know to be encouraged to do whatever it is that makes her shine, whether it's red lipstick of potter's clay under the fingernails or staying in tonight, thanks.  This is a spot that should never make you feel bad for doing it different.

I'm doing a little giveaway to celebrate the launch of Be Your Own Lady.  In exchange for leaving a few comments, you will be entered to win a $25 Ikea gift card!  In my experience, ladies tend to like Ikea.  Guys, too.  Don't bring your kids and don't go the weekend that college campuses open back up, but otherwise, it's golden.  

You can get one entry by commenting here and telling me what you do to be your own lady (or be your own guy or be your own person or be your own typing rabbit, if you are one). You can get another entry by visiting any of the pages under the header at the top (about, frequently asked, favorites, the birthday list) and leave a comment on one of those.  Make sure you click the giveaway form below and show that you've entered!  The giveaway will close Friday, August 1st, and I will announce the winner!

I'm always super humbled that anyone is following along with the ramblings I post on the internet.  Having this site is a true joy and I really appreciate each person who takes the time to read what I wrote and share or respond.  Thank you so much!

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Coffee and Blogs No. 7

Ben and I took this weekend off of adventuring.  We're focusing on errands: upgrading our phones, getting the boys bike helmets, clearing the back porch to prepare for a  remodel this week.  We had ice cream for dinner and Elliott is fighting a fever.  We're bumbling along at our own pace.  It's one of our only obligation-free weekends for the rest of the summer, and I'm loving taking it slow.

Here are some things to check out if you find yourself on the couch with strong coffee, buckling a helmet on your pajama'd son and feeling an early morning chill cool enough to pull a blanket over you lap.  Real life can start in an hour.

My friend Cait is my mama soul mate.  We did theater in college together and her son Vedder is a few months older than  Milo.  I love her thoughts on why she lets her son play with toy swords and guns.

"The kids aren’t eating enough vegetables. I’m not eating enough vegetables. I can’t remember the last time I actually scrubbed the bathroom floor. There are tiny balls of my hair in every corner of the house. I always say I’m going to organize all the papers on my desk but I never, ever do."  I love this writing, and how it could absolutely be a page DIRECTLY FROM MY LIFE.  Urine smell and grocery store parking lots included.  Blog added to reader, check.

Despite being exposed to a fair amount of untimely death in my life, I struggle deeply with knowing what to say or how to act when people I love or even like are grieving.  These tips on long-term support of people who have lost love ones were helpful to me.

This is definitely aimed at people who live in New England, but I found a Boston Globe article explaining the situation with the Demoulas family and the infighting over the control of the Market Basket grocery stores.  I've heard that there could be protests or walkouts by employees!

My all-time favorite clips from Mr. Rogers include a trip to the peanut butter factory and this video about how crayons are made.  I've honestly pictured this in my adult mind yearly when I fill my classroom's shared crayon bucket.  

I'm super into creating a mission statement right now, especially where my life is shifting from full-time-survival mode into a slightly more free place.  Here are one, two, three resources for being intentional and crafting a mission statement.  I'm hoping to gather more on my be your own lady Pinterest board.

I've done next to nothing to work on writing (outside of blogging) this summer.  I hoped to pitch articles to blogs and magazines, or at least to flesh out fiction stories that I'm always narrating in my mind.  I need to use this thoughtful schedule for people who freelance, which gives some structure to creative endeavors.  

Speaking of writing, here is some word craft for you: emotional vs. academic words, and commonly misused words (with explanations for correct usage!)

The Psychology of Colo(u)r is so interesting.  I believe this is used for marketing, but I like thinking of the effects in a paint color, or blog design.

This is what I was blogging about one year ago, two years ago, three years ago, and four years ago,  and five years ago, and six years ago.  Holy shit.  I have six years of July posts to look back on.   Blogging is a weird mirror to look in, and a pretty cool gift.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

How To Survive Summer Vacation

Before I say a word, let me go on record and say that I am ridiculously lucky to get a summer vacation. Eight weeks to have little to no work obligation and plenty of family time is a beautiful thing.  The only problem is that it's killing me a little.  And it is totally my fault.

I tend to cram every second of every day with Activities.  Because I'm scared that I'll default to zoning out in front of Kids Netflix and refreshing my Instagram feed, I plan for us to go places and construct art projects and agree to too many play dates.  I run the kids hard and pray they'll pass out so I can have some quiet.  We all end up grumpy and exhausted, existing on road snacks and putting off potty training, and it's not the good life.  I sometimes feel like I'm not emotionally equipped to handle mothering them 24/7, and then I feel guilty because stay-at-home-mom is a thing, and most people don't have the return of a work schedule to look forward to.

This is a crappy way to feel all summer, so I'm working on reframing a lot of it.  Being stressed from constant kid time only reinforces that I am making the right choice to be a working mom, and teaching is a perfect career for many reasons, not the least that I get to hang with the boys during the summer.  In an ideal world, I would definitely have a few days a week where they would go to camp or daycare, but it's not financially possible right now.  Instead, I'm saving up to pay a sitter for a few days of mama adventures later this summer, and treating myself to a medicinal iced coffee every damn day, because I'm worth it.

Here are a few more steps to help you come out of this alive:

1. Stop Calling This Vacation
If you are sole caregiver of one or more children, you are not on vacation.  You may be facilitating someone's fun, or even relocating to a vacation destination, but you are not on break.  This is what I need to shout at myself in the mirror every morning.  Set a routine (even if it's different from your usual, school-year jam), eat your vegetables, follow through with normal rules, and stay on top of necessary chores.  This may make me seem like a killjoy, but what really kills my joy is searching for clean clothes while crunching through snack crumbs in the carpet while my sugared-up kids fight and whine and beg for another episode of Power Rangers.

2. Be Realistic
Know what your family can handle and plan accordingly.  Last summer I had an infant and a toddler, so a season pass to our local petting zoo/splash park was doable- I could chase Milo and keep Elliott safe in our stroller.  This year, with two walkers runners, I didn't feel safe taking them to the farm by myself.  If you have two kids who can't swim, don't try to take them to the pool alone.  If you have two kids who struggle with sleep, don't go away overnight without a lot of reinforcement.  When Milo was really small, I could do almost anything because he was lumpy.  When Elliott was really small, I could still swing most things as long as he would sleep through whatever Milo needed help with.  Now that I have two sentient, mobile kids in my home, what we can do is changing, and needs to be evaluated pretty regularly.

3. Schedule Rest Days
If you teach or your kids are usually in school, summer is a fun time to do all those things you picture stay-at-home-moms doing during the year: classes, story times, and play dates.  Without fail, I dive in and fill our calendar, and I always start out feeling great about our "productive" summer.  Even as an extrovert who loves to be out in the world, it doesn't take long for my pride to turn to absolute exhaustion.  A good friend had this great tip: schedule something every other day.  On the off days you might get a chance to do a load of laundry and let your kids actually play with all those toys you bought them.  It's so hard to turn down offers to get together with friends or pass up the free day at the kids museum, but it's so important to not become burned out and hate your kids and yourself.  I've been there.  Give yourself a home day.

4. Embrace Simple Pleasures
This one is really difficult for me to remember: your child is as happy playing with the hose in the backyard as they will be at the shiny new water park.  When kids get older, their demands get more sophisticated, but if you have younger children, know that they don't care where you take them.  I like to take Milo and Elliott on day trips because I like day trips.  Yes, they are having some cool experiences, but if it comes down to nothing more than their happiness, they would be just as pleased with a popsicle on the steps and their own bubble wand.  I will not stop visiting museums and beaches, because this is a way for me to enjoy my summer alongside my kids, but I've had to stop and realize that there is nothing wrong with a day or a week of hanging in the backyard.

5. Give Yourself A Break
Don't beat yourself up for sometimes hating what is supposed to be the pinnacle of joy in the calendar year.  This is hard, and you're doing an awesome job.  Let the kids binge on Netflix, buy two iced coffees in a day, spend a little too much on a pedicure, call your sister and bitch for a little while.  It can be very hard, but try to find some time for yourself, even if you have to pay a sitter for a few hours of quiet.  No matter how you swing your summer, know that if you're thinking about your family and not pressuring yourself based on any other expectations of what summer "should be," you're doing everything right.

Most of this is just an open letter to myself, but if you're feeling any of the above feelings, I hope you show yourself some love over the next five weeks.  Summer doesn't need to be a nonstop party or a boring stress-fest.  Find yourself a spot in the middle.  Good luck!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

ashlie runs a 5K

So, I did it.  I ran a 5K.  It's just the latest in accomplishments that I'm crossing off my birthday list, but this one is a little more special.  It represents all sorts of weird things for me: getting healthy, and reaching a goal that I've blabbed about for years, and doing something that doesn't come naturally to me, because running does not come naturally to me.  And I think about that sometimes, if I get a compliment about writing or having patience with young kids, that it's almost like cheating because those are natural gifts that I'm somehow lucky enough to have, but it's not something that I really created.  It doesn't exist out of sheer will.  Running 3.1 miles on a July morning at the weight I am is something I could only do out of sheer will, and for that reason, I'm seriously proud.

I remember being whatever age you are in 4th grade (9?) and having to do the Presidential Fitness Test, which, for a girl like me, was truly a course in humiliation.  We had to try to do pull ups and push ups and sit ups and then, oh my god, the mile.  At the risk of painting a pathetic picture, I'll admit that I was easily the worst at every single section and I dreaded gym class with a passion.  It might have been the reason I tried to go home sick every single day of elementary school- I'm not sure.  But I remember huffing and puffing and HATING myself and hating the stupid mile around the stupid track, and always being the last one.  I remember- will never, ever forget- the kindness of my patient, encouraging gym teacher, who I doubt wanted to force little bookworm girls with glasses to run a mile four times a year (thanks, President Clinton), and who always clapped, and told me I could do it, and kept impatience out of his voice when I was still going, still the last one on track.  His name was Mr. Howard, and I think he might have been friends with my dad, and he is always the teacher I think of when people ask about the pivotal figures from your childhood, even though he taught my least favorite subject of all time.

So today, when I ran 3.1 miles of my own volition and crossed the finish line and grinned at the strangers who told me good job and felt like a rockstar when Milo patted my leg a good five minutes after I was done and said, "You did a good job, Mama," it was really Mr. Howard that I was thinking of.  I don't waste time worrying about the kids in my class who were bored waiting for me to finish.  I think about Mr. Howard talking to me like an athlete, telling me to pace myself and cautioning me to keep walking, even after I was done ("Are you kidding, Mr. Howard?!) to ward off muscle cramps, and never letting me feel less than any of my classmates.  I realize that I extended that same kindness to myself today, when people would pass me or I needed to walk or wanted to sip my water- I knew I could take those breaks and still treat myself like a serious athlete, because I had been taught how to be kind by a serious athlete.

Today I did a run that is shorter than most people's rest day workouts, but I feel like I won the Boston Marathon.  I said I would do something, stuck with the training, and beat the imaginary goal time I put in my head.  I'm not going to lie and say that I'm a runner now- it's not my favorite form of exercise.  My knees hurt.  But I'm so happy that I took this THING that I've been remembering crappily from my childhood and then obsessing over in my adult years, and finished it on my own terms.

Thanks for putting up with Facebook updates and Instagram pictures and my years of saying, "I want to do a run!"  I don't care if it sounds silly, but the encouragement that I get from old friends and far-flung family members on the internet strengthens me, and I'm so grateful for all of you.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

gray day

This is my third day home from Florida and the 16th day since school let out for the summer.  I honestly have very little grasp on the reality of what it felt like the go to work everyday, but at the same time, I'm feeling frazzled with our calendar of play dates and travel and commitments.  I'm emotionally exhausted and my kids are acting weird.  

We have a good little schedule: we wake up and our mornings are a bit lazy.  Sometime around 8 things get frantic and we start rushing around, tossing sunscreen at each other, trying to find clothes.  There was this idea that we would spend every morning going for a family walk, and it's only happened one time so far.  We have morning errands to run, or play dates, or meet ups. We're usually in a hectic, exasperated rush and just bottlenecking out the door and spilling on the porch and trying to hush our snapping as we load up the van and Ben might get a few seconds silence before he has to head to work.  I'm always telling him, "I'm sorry.  I'm so sorry."  These few hours used to be his chance to write out the bills and apply for loans and work on his personal projects and now they are full of negotiating and time outs and battles over pooping on the potty and begging for more Netflix.  "I wanted to get out of here and give you a break."  He looks at me and says, "You don't get a break."  He's wrong, a little.  I do get a break.  Whatever makes my soul tired, a lack of naps is not included.  Both boys have slept at the same time after lunch every day this summer.  If our day trip is particularly long, they sleep in the car.  There are moments of quiet and moments of peace.  

Still, I keep reaching this point where the noise is too loud.  My noise, from deep inside.  I don't know if it's texting and Facebook or the lack of work or spreading ourselves too thin.  It's a bone-deep undercurrent of worry about preschool (should I have waited another year?) and potty training (why does his cry sound sad and not impatient when I make him try?) and Elliott's milestones compared to Milo's milestones compared to my friends' kids.  I worry about sustaining weight loss, keeping in touch with my family, getting freelance work, being a better friend, being a better wife.  I fret about the thank you notes I didn't send out at Easter.  I remember the way I was so cruel to a friend in 6th grade, because she got some new clothes and I was jealous.  These are all legitimate thoughts, nothing fabricated; these are the things that would keep me up, if thoughts kept me up.  Instead, they run in the background, like a whisper, all the time.  Like how applications are running, hidden, on your phone until you double click the home button and slide them all away.

Whatever it takes to shake this slump is probably something small.  I might need a little less screen time or a daily to do list to dump my guts onto paper, slash out the "silly" things, and bring some order.  I might need to go out for ice cream more often- it's almost been two weeks.  A good book could snap me out of it, or even a classic movie-and-blanket-spread-on-the-floor session with the boys.  Any of this stuff could reroute me.  Writing this out, as always, was a giant first step.

Summer vacation is a gift, and so is getting to go to work.  Play dates are precious, and quiet time needs to be guarded carefully.  Chores keep life moving, and ignoring them (from time to time) makes life worth living.   I've wondered why I even bother acknowledging moods, when they change so quickly, but giving something a name is the first step in trying to understand it.  Today I'm gray.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

vacation all I ever wanted

I spent the holiday weekend in Florida, and it ended up being a vacation I didn't know I needed.  I stayed with my little sister who just had her first baby.  I spent a lot of time snuggling my new nephew, who has my dad's first and middle names, and dressing him in clothes I brought that used to belong to Milo and Elliott.  I'm Aunt Lili, and it's really terrific.  I completely forgot how much work having an infant is- that maddening cycle of bottle, diaper change, snuggle, swaddle, and then the whole thing starts again.  Julianna is such an amazing mom.  It's so weird to stay in my baby sister's GUEST ROOM.  I was bursting with pride.

I also got to hang out with my mom and Ray, spend time with my sister Emily, see fireworks from the best vantage point I've ever had, go to this ridiculous all-you-can-eat sushi place (REALLY), go to the beach, swim in the pool, get a pedicure, get my nose pierced, go to the movies, sleep in every day, and fly by myself both ways.  Decadent.

So far this summer we've already had many fun day trips and parades and celebrations, but this little getaway with no kids was really special.  I loved having and giving full attention to my Florida family, and it made me miss my boys at home so much that coming back was actually a treat.  Huge thank you to Ben, who spent his holiday weekend solo parenting, and his mom, who pitched in to help out, too.  I'm back now, diving right into laundry/playdates/Target runs, but I'm drawing from this weekend that totally filled my cup.  

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