Home Maker

These last few weeks have been a strange mix of emotions.  I yo-yo back and forth between terror, acceptance, denial, anger, disbelief, and so on.  It has been so difficult for me to return to normal after the election and pick back up with a chippy attitude on social media and here on this blog.  It’s almost as if I suddenly feel that the things that used to interest me have lost a bit of value in recent weeks.  What difference am I making in the world by choosing someone else’s furniture for them on Pinterest?  What does my future as a luxury service provider look like if the economy tanks?

I know that is not the way to look at things.  I know that what I do matters – if not to everyone, it matters to the people who I do my work for.  Now more than ever, I think the idea of staying home is appealing to me – and it’s not just the colder temperatures.   And making this home of mine one that I am happy and comfortable in is increasingly important.  I can’t imagine I’m the only one.

For now, I will keep working, and do what I do as best as I am able.  I make my home the one I want to be in.  I help others create the backdrop to the stories of the lives they want to lead.  Whether it’s their first home, a second home, or an update, this is something that will always be important, no matter the state of the world outside.  To be at ease in a safe and comfortable space is a feeling that is sought after again and again.   I have been living in the same apartment for 4 years and constantly rearrange the items on my shelves, moving plants from one room to the next.  Every now and then something crashes to the ground and I start all over again.   My home is more than the rooms I inhabit.  It is a state of being, a reflection of both who I am and who I hope to become.

 

Strong, Independent, Beautiful

file_000-10
Once you hit the bottom, you can only go up.

When I was in college, we had a system called ROLM Phone.  It was basically the phone system that you could dial directly to anyone’s dorm room – this is back before it was a given that everyone had a cell phone, though most of us did.  Like a hotel phone, you could pick up and punch in your friend’s room number down the hall and it would ring like you put in the whole phone number.   It was extremely easy and convenient.  (So easy, in fact that a local pervert figured out the formula, and called all of the girls in my dorm, one by one down the hall. Those who picked up heard nothing but heavy breathing.)

Anyway, once a week, we’d get voice messages from our college dean about upcoming events on campus to be aware of.  She had the nicest, sweetest voice, and began every message the same way.  “Hello to all of my Strong, Independent, Beautiful Barnard Women… ” and “Good MORNING to all of my Strong, Independent, Beautiful Barnard Women…”  It was a self-image they tried to hammer into us.  As Barnard girls, we actually did face some minor adversity on campus, though most of it were from girls across the street at Columbia, who viewed us as second class citizens.  Many girls went to Barnard because they didn’t get accepted to Columbia College (which has a much larger pool of applicants), but still wanted to be a part of the university system.  Columbia girls made fun of this fact despite it not being true for all of us.  They saw Barnard girls as a threat because we tipped the male to female ratio out of their favor.  Almost all of the Barnard girls I knew thought that the rivalry was stupid, though I recall meeting girls who admittedly only came to college to find a husband, rendering the general angst about us somewhat valid.

I could be remembering all of that totally wrong, but that’s not the point.  The point is that despite how we may have felt, or how others may have wanted us to feel, almost all of the Barnard girls I knew repeated the phrase “strong, independent, beautiful Barnard woman” more often than they probably realized.  It was a joke in a way, but it was our joke.  We said it to each other in moments of joy, congratulation, stress and encouragement.  Yes, it was almost always said in jest, but we still said it.  We didn’t have to believe it for it to be true.

Continue reading “Strong, Independent, Beautiful”

A New Season

az1
March 2016

Back in early March, I was sitting on my sister’s couch, crying my eyes out in the middle of the night.  Things were horribly, yet inexplicably wrong at my job (my dream job!) and the anxiety of returning to a toxic workplace had ruined the end of my week long vacation in Phoenix.  The feeling crept up on me, until it had totally overwhelmed me and stopped my ability to enjoy a single moment of the day.  Imagine Sunday Anxiety x 1000.

Earlier that day as we wandered through the aisles of a Native American Market, I felt lost and hopeless, touching every stone and asking what they meant.  Where was the thing that would purify my soul?  Where was the thing that could protect me?  I allowed my mom and sister to dawdle at the booths and rushed ahead of them so they would not see that I was crying.  Something in me had cracked and broken, but I did not know what it was.

Continue reading “A New Season”

New Specs

 

When I was nine years old, I started having trouble seeing the black board at school, and discovered I needed glasses.  It was most likely, my mom told me, the result of reading in the dark at night under my covers when I was supposed to be sleeping.  Whoops.   Back then, there were no trendy plastic frames to choose from, and being the kid in class with glasses was just really something I did not want to be.  When I got my braces two years later, I blossomed completely and irreversibly into a full blown awkward pre-teen.   Now would be an appropriate time to share a photo, but I’ve done my best to destroy them all.  

As I grew up into my teens and early twenties, the glasses on my face changed with me, but they were always there.  It became a part of my identity to be the slightly off beat girl with glasses.  People likened me to Daria, and I didn’t necessarily correct them.

file_002-1
Summer 2004.  In addition to my glasses, my daily look at this time also featured smudgy raccoon eyeliner and a lip ring.

Sometime during college, I converted fully into a contacts person, and aside from the few times I’ve run out and been too lazy to order more, I’ve stayed that way.   Until lately. Continue reading “New Specs”

Permission to Create

 

This weekend, I texted a good friend of mine from way back in college and asked, “Is there any reason I need to keep the boxes of notebooks and binders of short stories I’ve written?”  I’ve had it on my list for a while to clear out my  home of unnecessary clutter, and my notebooks and writing starts from undergrad make up a huge part of it.

He responded with a series of questions to get me to determine for myself their current and future value, and before I knew it I was moaning to him (can you moan via text message?) about how I’m not an artist anymore, I’ve lost direction, I have no purpose, I have no idea what I’m doing sometimes…

My friend Andreas is one of two people I still keep in touch with from my writing program.  He has sat through years of writing classes with me – often multiple classes a week.  He’s read countless stories of mine centered around directionless characters that were really just thinly veiled versions of myself.  We even took a class together where we literally had to transcribe our dreams each night as they came to us. So yeah, this guy knows me.  And it is not totally strange that his gentle line of questioning unleashed such a roaring out-pour of emotions.  Questions I have about myself past, present, future.  What am I even doing and does it have meaning?  Is everyone laughing at me?  It was a full on cathartic dump.

When the conversation expired I had to move on to handle the rest of my duties I’d outlined for myself that day:  go to the gym, go grocery shopping, take the dog to the park…  I had LIFE to do, and it was all Very Important, and so I got in my car and went on my dutiful adult way.  While I was dripping from my post workout shower waiting for the elevator back to the parking garage, I noticed here was a big hub of activity happening in front of the Michael’s craft store (70% off Halloween stuff for any holiday decor nuts out there), and so I wandered in.  I aimlessly walked the aisles, poking around for something to draw my attention.  I ended up in the yarn section, and before I knew it I was checking out with two skeins of chunky wool.  I have not picked up my knitting needles in years, but something compelled me to get a new project going and so I listened to the voice.

Later that evening as I was finishing up my project, I listened to an episode of Creative Peptalk called Breaking Through Anxiety .  Andy talks all about giving yourself permission to create for the sake of creation, to allow yourself the opportunity to do something that has no purpose just because.  My day had come full circle. I think I was looking for advice from others because I felt stagnant and wanted permission to create.   And then I realized that only I can grant myself that permission.   So I created.  Who cares what value my knitting will add to the art world?  Who cares what other people are doing or might have to say about what I’m doing?  (Ok, I care a little but I’m working on it!)

My hands were busy and my mind was clear and I was happy.  And I realized that just as much as I need to find time to work out and meal plan and juggle my 5,000 jobs, I also need to find time to create things for me.  For the sake of creating and emotional release.  (Yes, knitting can be a emotional release!)  Obviously I know its easier said than done, but I’m starting to finally understand how important it is to schedule time for everything – including fun.  

For everyone out there who may also be struggling to get started on something, I totally understand.   But if there is something holding you back from feeling happy, and that thing is yourself, you have to let go.  I constantly worry about what others think, to the point where I have had this blog for who know how long, and only just this week added a link to it in my Instagram profile.  For some reason the act of putting myself out there is a terrifying leap into an unknown void – I am making myself vulnerable to criticism on purpose??  But the voice inside that compels me to do this is not going to go away.  And if I want to be free, I have to let go of the anxiety and worry and just be myself.  The people I love most on social media are very truly themselves, and I follow them because of their genuine personalities and unique perspectives.  They post heartfelt, often personal messages that resonate with a wide audience as if it were the most natural thing in the world. They are real people being their real selves.  They are free.

I am realizing lately that I am also a real person, who is capable of being myself.   I am also capable of being free.  I am edging (slowly) toward the ledge for my leap.

img_4813

img_4819
Upon presenting MJ with the finished product, he inspected it and said “Wow, I had no idea you could knit…”
 

Writer’s Theater in Glencoe, IL

The other day while I was out doing some site visits in the suburbs, I stumbled across the brand new Writer’s Theater in Glencoe.  When I say it’s brand new, I mean it’s not even done yet, but that didn’t stop me from rushing in and taking photos.  The gallery catwalk is protected by the wooden slats to prevent birds from crashing into the windows. The firm even labels the project as bird safe on their website.

As someone who just recently had to rescue a frightened bird from the jaws of my cat, I can definitely get behind some bird-safe windows – especially if they look like this!  (Side note: the bird was fine, but it will likely never come near our windows again.)

img_4380img_4389img_4393img_4397img_4399img_4406

img_4408
The catwalk was closed, since it is still under construction, but I tried to press as close to the glass as humanly possible without getting it dirty.
img_4410
Even the ceiling is a work of art.

img_4412img_4414

Sadly  I did not get to tour the inside of the actual auditoriums, but I guess that just means I’ll have to come back for a play!

If you are not familiar with Studio Gang’s work, please take a moment to peruse their portfolio, and then book the next flight out to Chicago.  Jeanne Gang is a certifiable genius, and her work was a constant source of inspiration for me while in design school.   Everything she touches becomes beautiful.

At Home: Kitchen Update

When MJ and I first moved into our apartment over 3 years ago, we saw it as a HUGE fixer upper.  We even started a blog to document our updates, and proudly shared the little things we did to make the place our home.  At that time, I was working full-time and going to school at night.  All of the juicy bits of progress happened while I was out of the apartment, making it difficult to document and blog about our experience.  The same thing happened when we got a puppy, and now I suddenly have a dog.

So when we moved in, we had a list of improvements we wanted to make, and first on my list was figuring out the kitchen.  From the very first post on our defunct blog:

The kitchen is huge, but has about 12 inches of usable counter space, 50% of which is being taken up by the coffee machine, and the cabinet placement makes using the sink nearly impossible.

Kitchen Counter

Yeah, WOAH.  It’s crazy to me to think that I saw this photo on craigslist and thought “I want to live there!”.  We didn’t have a plan for how we would address the kitchen but we just knew we had to.  That summer, we started hosting on AirBNB for extra income, and by the fall we had enough money to do a big overhaul.  We turned the kitchen into this:

c4c2fb5c_original

We tore all the old stuff out and replaced it wth Ikea cabinets and added a backsplash of 2×4 subway tiles behind the sink.  We added infinitely more storage and increased the quality of our lives in the kitchen by 10,000%.  The old sink cabinet literally disintegrated and fell to pieces as we carried it down the back stairs. So gross.

What’s also gross is that for the last 3 years, we have been cooking in a kitchen without a hood fan.  At a recent lunch presentation at SubZero, I learned that every month, you create 1 pound of airborne lard from cooking, and when you don’t have a fan to filter it out, it lands on all of your cabinets, pots, pans, the top of your refrigerator… the list goes on.

ONE POUND OF AIRBORNE LARD.

Combine that with floating pet hair from 2 cats and a dog and you can now imagine what we’ve been dealing with.  (Read: My life is a nightmare and I’m being only a little bit dramatic.)

IMG_4260

The wall that the stove was on held all of our spices, pots, and pans, and was positioned directly above the lard factory.  Every time we wanted to use a pot that wasn’t in regular rotation it had to be scrubbed first.   I have to say I honestly never really looked at this wall before, but holy cow, it is full of visual clutter!  We also had very poor lighting above the cooking area, so we snaked a plug-in pendant through all of that and hung it above the stove.

After making the decision to stay in our apartment for another 2 years, we decided that enough is enough and a fan needed to come into our lives.  We picked up a chimney style range hood (on sale at Ikea for $199!), and immediately set to tearing everything down.

Then we opened the wall, ran the electric, patched, painted, and installed the fan.  (Yes, we rent.  No, we aren’t worried about getting in trouble.) Since we weren’t going to deal with ductwork, we have the fan set to recirculating through a filter.  It’s less than ideal, but since what we had before was worse, the decision sort of made itself.

IMG_4294

And voila!  Pots and pans live elsewhere, making the whole space a lot cleaner and less terrifying.  We still have to figure out what to do with the other spice rack we took down but for now, we can deal knowing that we are no longer spewing grease all over our kitchen.   Hooray!


Note:  I sometimes get shy about sharing bits and pieces around my home because it isn’t magazine beautiful.  It’s my home.  The place where I live.  I take not so great photos of it with my iPhone.  In a way that seems more personal than if I were to post photos of myself because of how imperfect it all is.   But anyhow, I’m trying to get over that, and I hope you can, too.  

Summer Sixteen

It’s not over yet but it may as well be, with all of the back to school ads and pumpkins I’ve seen popping up in my social media feeds.  And while the shortening days depress me, I’m also really excited for the cooler days of autumn.  Specifically, I’m excited to wear pants again without wanting to die.  I don’t know about anyone else, but dressing for extreme heat is exhausting to me.

But before it goes away completely, I thought I’d do a brief recap since summer sixteen held some pretty great moments, and it’s fun to revisit the days through photos.

  • We got married!
  • I turned 30!
  • I learned to ride a bike!
  • We went to Traverse City, and I fell madly in love with Michigan!
  • We got free tickets to Lollapalooza and saw Radiohead on MJ’s birthday!
  • And lots, lots more.  It went fast, but it’s been a fun and lovely summer full of adventures with good friends, tasty snacks, and beautiful skies.

firehouse-chicago-wedding_0012firehouse-chicago-wedding_0126294713116078000361328769062-account_id=1File_0006File_000 (10)File_000 (9)File_000 (8)5

 

 

 

 

 

How I Get Motivated to Work

 

A few weeks ago, I put out a wish into the universe that I would get more work and just a tiny but busier.  It’s been really nice having a flexible schedule during the summer, but when things slow down too much – that can get scary.

Well, the universe has responded!  Suddenly, I am busier than I’ve been since I started this journey, and it happened all at once.  My head is spinning, and I’m starting to get that excited feeling like “I can do this!”.   But also that terrified feeling like, “How is this going to get done?”.  So I’m thinking of the little things I do to keep myself motivated to stay on task, since working from home comes with a lot of distractions and juggling a bunch of different projects for a bunch of different clients is not easy, no matter where you are.

Get Dressed.   (Ok, at least put on a bra…)  Something about going through those motions of washing my face and changing my clothes helps me wake up and feel prepared to tackle the tasks ahead of me.  It’s so easy to stumble out of bed and sit down at the computer and start looking at email, but taking the time to “get ready” really helps me wake up and feel more alert.  Taking my glasses off and putting my contacts in is another thing that helps me feel more awake.  Preferably before I eat a breakfast burrito slathered in hot sauce…

Make a list.  Seeing all the things I have to do is sometimes a little overwhelming, but it really helps to prioritize tasks.  Anything that requires asking a question always comes first, followed by time sensitive things (showrooms close at 5), and then all the rest that follows.  Sharing lists with others is also a really good way to keep everyone up to date on what I’ve done, and what I still need to do.  I use Wunderlist for that, and it has been great – it’s so satisfying to mark something complete, and it syncs to my phone, so I always have it on hand for reference.

Wfh2
Here’s me, pretending to make a list for the photo.

Take Breaks.  Remembering to eat and drink water and listen to the things my body is telling me it needs is a must.  I have a hard time sitting still for too long and it helps me to get up and walk around for a minute.  When I return to the task, I have cleared my head of distraction, and feel more prepared to re-focus.


I’d love to hear your input!  What things help you to stay focused and motivated to work throughout the day – whether at home or at the office?

Black and White

I’ve moved my sleeping spot from my bed to the couch to the floor back to the couch.  I finished my book.  I did the measured breathing.  I listened to my meditation timer.  I lay awake in the darkness, listening to the hum of the air conditioner.

And every time I feel myself about to drift off, the itching begins and then I’m wide awake in an instant.  I read that the itching is a test your brain sends to your body to check if you’re really ready to sleep, and if you can ignore the signals and allow your consciousness to slip away, you can lucid dream – since you’ve now mastered the art of controlling your mind.  I don’t know if it’s true, as I can’t ignore it and it keeps me up instead.

And so, another sleepless night ending in a 5 am Pinterest hole.  Today’s theme: Black and White.