Why Facebook and I are taking a Break

I'm sitting here in my office, watching a sliver of a hazy moon slip behind the crest of Lookout Mountain. The crickets have started their evening serenade. It's beautiful, and peaceful, and so comforting. It's balm to a confused heart, and soothing to a racing mind. The moon is gone now, moving on to throw his silver light on some other tree top and some other soul.

Tonight I made the decision to take a break from my facebook newsfeed, and also to be really honest on my blog (which you will most likely find through a link I post on social media, just call me hypocrite, ok.), which I realize may seem a little counter productive.  But maybe it's not. Honestly, I love social media (I mean, so many CAT videos guys!). I always have. I have it to thank for some of my dearest relationships. It's an amazing tool, and very often has been the source of life, and goodness, and really great and productive interaction. However, lately it has begun to feel like an intellectual and emotional battleground, and I guess I might be one of the casualties.

Let me get this straight right now: this is not about social media, or it's various evils. I'm not about to start telling people to put down their phones, or frowning at you when you discuss facebook or selfies or turning up my nose when I see that picture of your dog on instagram (in fact, I'm pretty appreciative of you letting me live vicariously through you). Hell, I think the internet, and the social interaction that happens within its wide arms will be a HUGE part of our cultural and collective future. In fact, it may BE our future. I don't know. But the point is, this is not about the internet, or social media. It's about me. And maybe a little bit about facebook. But mostly me, although, I don't think I'm alone.

Lately, I have felt bombarded with opinions. And while the first waves felt like some annoying stings, I'm currently cowering in the trenches.

I have always been an issue engager. I remember discussing the virgin birth when I was eight with our family photographer (a progressive who had travelled on several archeological trips to the middle east), and finding it exhilarating. His views excited me, and challenged me, and made me hungry for more...more pushing and delving and disagreeing. It made me feel alive. Not because I enjoyed the conflict (I hate conflict. It took me two years of marriage to stop leaving the apartment every time an argument started), but because I enjoyed the mental and emotional engagement. I enjoyed the challenge. I'm a passionate person, and I care about the things I believe, even if I'm willing to let them shift and change and bend. I still care. And that became a defining feature of who I was, and am.

My whole life, the vast majority of discussions I've had with the people who cross my path have led to more intimacy, not less. We've left the topic with lots of emotions I'm sure, but one of them is not the feeling that enemies share. Rather, I have felt like comrades, two souls wrestling through the deep complexities of this life and the universe it inhabits. Disagreement does not always lead to decay, and sometimes it leads to life.

The entrance of social interactions on the internet have changed the way we do a lot of things, including disagree, and I'm not really sure that we've got it figured out yet. Of course, disagreements have always had potential to be ugly nasty beasts. They literally cary the blood of millions on their heads. Disagreements have murdered kings, and spouses and children and friends. I am not for a minute saying that dissension and pain are not the closest of friends. What I am saying is that social media has created a world where we can feel removed from the people we're disagreeing with, and a world where every disagreement or discussion is essentially a public forum. I'm not saying this is a bad thing. I believe it's probably here to stay. But honestly, I don't think I really know how to handle or interact with that world yet. Maybe none of us do.

Opinions are beautiful things. I love the fact that each of us is unique, with a story all our own, and perspective that adds color and texture and depth to humanity. But lately, opinions, and my interaction with them on facebook has led to far more feelings of alienation and pain than connectedness and love. Maybe it's because my opinions have changed. Maybe that hurts and shocks and angers people that I love. Maybe it's me. Maybe I'm too unsure and disagreement shakes me. Maybe it's that joe-blow and god-knows-who, who are friends of friends are constantly interacting with everything I have to say and suddenly it feels like the whole world is constantly angry and against each other. Maybe it's one of those things, or all of those things or something else entirely. But for now, I'm backing up. I'm taking a breath and reading a book and engaging with people who's breath I can see and whose voices I can hear and whose eyes I can meet.

Perhaps we'll reach the point where we understand how to use this crazy thing called the internet. Maybe I'll learn to handle the widening world. Maybe we'll all learn to be a little kinder, a little less sure, and begin to feel those fellow beating hearts pounding away our shared life breath through a keyboard.

For now I'm hanging out out here, watching the moon.


Like A Spirit in the Night

When I was eight years old I saved up enough money to buy my first horse. I remember working so, so hard. I obsessed over the ledger that I kept, ticking off each little drop in the bucket as I neared my goal. When my horse finally arrived on my parents farm I felt like my future was stepping off the back of that trailer. That. Big. Of. A. Deal. For me, my horse became my freedom. I was a raging, longing little kid, who just ached to be big, and wild, and free. My horse was all of those things, and for a few hours he could just sweep me away to a world where grass waved in the wind like a sea of emerald green and his hooves didn't pound the ground so much as they nearly flew. We were a funny couple, he and I. Me, with my gangly, late blooming body and inability to shut up, ever, even to him. And he with his kind of arabian, quarter horsy grade look and stumpy legs. But we were best friends. I had to put him down when I was seventeen. I stayed with the vet and held his head through the whole process. There's a part of me that wishes I hadn't. I had watched a lot of animals die (I grew up on a farm guys. It happens), but I had never watched something that had a piece of my heart leave this world. Afterwards, I stood in the shower, cried a bit, and basically never mentioned it again. I only told a few, and barely admitted that I was upset. It's life. This shit happens.

I mentioned in my last post that this has been an emotional month. I've seen and experienced so much loss, and so much joy, that I feel as if my heart will explode at times. Something I've realized through it, and it's been nagging in the back of my mind for a while, is that I don't think I really know how to handle loss. I don't know if that's a cultural thing, or if it's just me, but the following are a few thoughts I've had as I've processed, and I really don't have enough motivation to put them into a cohesive post.

- I experience the world in a deeply emotional, spiritual way. It's just who I am. I recount my life as series of incredibly detailed memories, because those memories are like tiny treasures holding my past. Unlocking them, browsing through them, and sometimes healing them, is important to me, because for me, the past is not in the past. I carry a part of it with me all of the time. When a good friend of mine left this world last year I longed to go back and unlock his memories. To share them with people who carried pieces of him too. To ache together that a piece of the vivid patchwork of our lives was no longer there, and could no longer enter our lives again and make us something other than we were before. That was the first time I began to realize that culturally, or perhaps just personally, there was very little space for that.

- Death sucks. It just does. It doesn't matter if a person dies in the womb, or at the end of 95 years, someone still aches for their departure from this world. It doesn't matter if you believe in a afterlife, or Jesus, or heaven or hell, you will still ache. It will still hurt. And it should.

- Death also makes me thankful. I look at my loved ones more often, and want to make a conscious effort to remember them well. I guess one of the things that connects us all in our sorrow, is that if we're close enough to see someone else's, it doesn't take a far stretch of the imagination to realize that "that could be me." To realize, just for a moment, that their pain could be our own, and how then can we keep from mourning with them?

- Why them, and not us? That thought plagues me. Why did your baby stop breathing and never recover and mine was resuscitated and sits with me now? I weep because my joy and your loss are so similar and yet so far apart, and so unfair.

- Life is also beautiful. It holds so much. So much vibrance, and love, and beauty. Those memories I hold, those are worth keeping close to my heart. They remind me of the immense power of even a short life, and I wouldn't give anything for them.

I'm going to leave it there. I believe in honesty, and openness, and while I try to be real in this little piece of the internet I haven't often shared my questions or my aches. Bear with me.


Crazy, lovely, mess

I love boxy tees with a small passion...and if it's boxy and silky it's just a double win. I find that my summer go-to tends to be dresses and cut offs with some sort of styled up basic top. I love pieces of statement jewelry and building a basic palette allows the detail to shine. Wearing a top from t.j. maxx, Gap jeans that I cut off, my beloved Wolverine 1k Samantha Pleet  boots, vintage cuff that was a gift, and Ayala Bar earrings that I have on a simi-permanent loan from my mom.

I know I've been more than a little MIA this last week or so. I've found that while writing brings my soul rest, going through the process of photographing and posting a blog sometimes does not. The last two weeks have held more emotion than my heart can hold and sometimes solitude is what my busy mind needs. I lost a dear cousin to a tragic car accident, celebrated four years of marriage with my guy (a couple weeks early), and simultaneously had one of those weeks where you look at your spouse and think "what the heck are we even DOING??" Life is messy, and crazy, and beautiful and good.

Confessions of a Tired Mom

Jane Shenandoah, my daughter of the stars. 
This is you, at two years old,
Wearing vintage glasses and being totally silly.
You're sassy and wild, deep down.
You've got a will like steel. 
You're learning to shape it, and care for it.
And it's hard sometimes,
I know.
But someday, it's going to take you to places,
That are wild, and free, 
Like you. 



If there's one word that describes my last few weeks it's this: tired. I've been using an app called Stop, Breath and Think the last week or so and every time it asks me how I'm feeling today I spend at least 5 minutes searching for that word under all of the options (it's not there, by the way, but I still look for it every single time. Slow learner maybe?). Almost exactly a year ago I was having some scary physical issues, which ended up being diagnosed as stress induced. I was exhausted all of the time (a sharp contrast to my normal self), experiencing heart palpitations and pain in my chest, and having a hard time breathing. I've taken a lot of steps to take better care of myself since that time, and I'm much better, but there's still a lingering "crash" that happens when I allow myself to get too stressed out about too many things. These past few weeks I've felt the remnant of that, and I've had to remind myself that even the things I do for myself, like this blog, can find themselves on my mental list of things that "need" to be done, and things that need to be stressed over when they're not accomplished. So I've been a little MIA, and I'm learning to be ok with the fact that it's simply a reality of this phase of life from time to time. Sometimes the necessities in life eat up all there is of you, and while that isn't healthy for long periods of time, I'm beginning to understand, and be ok with the fact that it's just how it is for me, right now, at this little point in time. 

Also, age two is hard, guys. Maybe it's not hard for everyone, or maybe "hard" looks different in different situations. And maybe, if I weren't trying to accomplish some of my own dreams at the same time that I'm trying to mostly stay with a two year old at home, it wouldn't be as hard. I don't know. But regardless, the last several months have added up to a constant level of underlying exhaustion. Jane Shenandoah is the most beautiful little thing to enter my life. I lay with her at night when she's asleep and tell her that I'm sorry for not knowing what the hell I'm doing sometimes. For telling her I have to work instead of play (and then she says "PLAY?!" in her sleep) sometimes, and for being frustrated with my and Dirk's hearted headed, strong will, manifesting in her. I still find that I have so many expectations for who she is and who she will be, instead of learning who she is as we go along. My parents took my siblings and I everywhere with them when we were growing up (business meetings, EVERYTHING), and I have fully expected to be able to do the same. But this girl, this girl isn't me. Or my husband, or my siblings. She's different, and I've been pushing against some of that since the day she came into this world. 

Jane came into this world with a plan about how things should go. I still remember my sweet friend Jenny Anne holding her the first time she met her, and watching her fight to do everything herself as a squirming one month old. She looked at her and said "oh my, you're so strong, and you know exactly where you want to go in this world, don't you?" no truer words have ever been spoken. To spite all of that, I've still hung on to the idea that if I just parent well, stay firm, be consistent, she will be able to function the way I want her to. Sure, things will blow up occasionally, but we will still be able to sail into a meeting, clad with an ipad, and get shit done, at least part of the time. It took the last consultation that I tried that at, going exactly the opposite of how I had planned it, for reality to really hit me hard: this is not my failure as a parent, or her failure as a child...this is who this child IS. If I'm honest, I've seen it all along, and I probably should have come to terms with it a little sooner. 

We took Jane on a three week European vacation with my whole family through four countries, traveling entirely by train, when she was 4 months old. Given the circumstances she did incredibly well. I, on the other hand, was kind of a basket case. I was breast feeding exclusively (TMI, I know. Just wait, it gets better), partially because I believed that was best for my baby and partially because this was how my mom did it and it worked for her and she fed us wherever and when ever and all was right in the world. However, like I've mentioned before, Jane has always had her own plans for things, and at this particular point in time her view on the situation was that she needed to be fed every three hours (exactly every three hours. No sooner, no later), oh and by the way, everything needed to also be completely silent. Little old french man over there talking? Yes, you, please shut up. Her view was also that if everything couldn't be completely silent then she would not be able to eat, and would then proceed to scream at the top of her lungs. So here Jane and I were, battling all through Europe, on an endless string of awkward feeding situations, with both of our stubbornness fighting it out. Until Italy. When I undressed for the third time in the last 10 minutes, on a train that was literally shoulder to shoulder full of loud italian commuters, my child screamed at the top of her lungs which translated to "SHUT UP OR I WON'T EAT" and I'm pretty sure we spilled milk on our neighbor, I finally had the thought "why am I doing this?" Why am I fighting her. Why don't we have a bottle. Why don't we try something else. Why am I about to lose my shit just because I wan't this child to be someone she's not. Let's get real. 

If I'm honest, there's also a lot of me that's afraid of what people will think. I cried my eyes out the day I decided to wean Jane. Partially because it hurt to give that up, and partially because I felt like I was failing in everyone else's eyes (for the record she literally didn't care. At all. She stopped in one day and never looked back). And I know that plays a part in my ongoing struggle. I know what the old ladies in the grocery are thinking when my child screams and pitches a fit, and I desperately want them to know that they're wrong, sometimes even at my child's expense. I want them to know that my will is strong, and that I have literally NEVER given into her when she acts like this, yet, her will is strong too, and she still does it. Over, and over again. But here I am again, making choices based on someone else, and keeping myself from being able to actually get to know my daughter because of silly expectations and a sometimes crippling need for approval.

I had a really beautiful talk with my mom this week. I told her that I loved how they raised us, but that I also had inadvertently come to view it as the standard, and that I finally realized that I felt that something was wrong if things didn't look exactly the same. I've realized this before, and now I'm just facing it again, in different place, and a different time. I'm remembering to love this girl for who she is, right now, and accept the person she's going to be. I want to give her an image of life, and freedom, and grace, instead of my crushing expectations that need to be lived up to. 

Here's to getting to know these little people we bring into the world, in the same way we want to be known ourselves. 

In which going to the playground is high school all over again, and I still wanna be Avril Lavigne

This is me, without my filter, in real life, telling Jaime that this is my "eff frumpy mom attire outfit." Jaime is really fast with a camera, and I was having a real moment, so this showed up in the end. It's here mostly because I'm tired of pretending like I do have a great filter and don't actually say things like this in real life. I do. I mostly just whisper them.

A few weeks ago I took Jane to the park. It was one of those random 70 degree Southern spring days, right in the middle of a week of 50's and rain. I'm pretty sure our entire neighborhood had the exact same idea we did, because the park was absolutely full of moms, and a few dads, and about a million children. I was dressed just like I always am, except that I was also wearing leggings, which I felt were a little more "mom" appropriate of me (not saying anything about leggings here!). But still, I'm the girl with all the jewelry, and the makeup, playing on her iphone, and trying to overhear what the two moms close to me are talking about as they look and me and say things about "societal norms" while my two year old catapults off the end of the big kid slide at about 50 mph. The bottom line is, I left the park feeling like I was just walking out of high school all over again, and I was still  just the kid that looked different from everyone else and wanted to be Avril Lavigne. Since that time I've thought about it a lot. Mostly because Jane asks to go to the park just about every day, and I can't help but dread it a little bit inside.

Now to be fair, a big part of my issue is me. I still feel judgement and just about wilt beneath it. And let me tell you, in the world of parents, judgement is not doled out slowly. There are the helicopter parents who think I should be watching my child more, the outdoor lover parents who wander what the hell I'm doing to her dressing her like that, and the live-simply parents who wander what sort of an example I'm setting for my child by feeling the need to wear makeup every day. I really should be able to be ok with that. I know, because their opinions really don't have the power to define me or my well being. And I also know that they feel that way because different things are important to them. I can respect them for that, and I know that they love their children just as much as I love mine. But can I just tell you the mom at the park on her iphone-wearing three layers of free people and heels-and makeup perspective for a minute?

I wear what I wear because I love it. I wear dresses and makeup and fix my hair because I think it's fun, and because it's important to me. I want to feel beautiful for me, and for my love, and yes, even for my daughter, because I believe it's important to show her that motherhood doesn't have to rob me of my personhood. I wear lacy bras with no padding because I look like a pre-pubescent boy under there and I don't fucking need a real bra. Not because I'm trying to be scandalous and get your husband to look or to tell my daughter that it's ok to show off her boobs all the time. If she happens to get some gene from somewhere other than her family that gives her some real boobs we'll cross that bridge when we get there. But the future isn't looking hopeful for her. I wear heels because I love the way it makes my legs look, and I just have a real thing for shoes and the perfect pair makes me really happy. I play on my phone because it's half of my job, and my child is not my only focus, and because I use it to capture these memories of her. I watch my kid catapult off the slide, and fall down the stairs, and trip over the rocks because she is the most independent little thing I have ever met, and sometimes when you run really hard you fall a little harder too. That's going to be life for her, and I want her to learn it now. I want her to know that falling isn't the end of the world, and that she's going to be just fine (and to the employee at the jump gym last weekend, who dove from the OTHER SIDE of the building to catch my child and keep her from falling into a PADDED WALL [did I mention that it was padded? Like, with foam? Ok cool] right in front of me...I didn't catch her because I knew she didn't need it. Thanks for the help though).

We all see things a little differently. That's ok.

I love that diversity creates a picture that has color and life and longing.

In these pictures Jane looks like she had a run in with a bear. Really, we were playing ball in the back yard and I got a little overly zealous, and literally kicked the thing right out from under her. She ate an entire face-full of dirt and rocks. I felt pretty terrible, but guys, it's real life. We all make mistakes. Sometimes my outfits are too much, I have massive fashion fails, I forget that my kid is two and kick a ball out from under her, and sometimes I'm checking my phone because I'm lazy, and addicted to instagram, and I'm trying to escape the discomfort of social situations. All of those things are reality. Life is messy and rough and full of mistakes. But for me those things don't mean that I have to change my whole philosophy. I'm going to wear it anyways, I'm still a rebel at heart. And I'm becoming more ok with that.

So the other day when I put this outfit on, contemplated going to the park, and immediately thought "everyone is going to look at these shorts and judge," I texted my friend Jaime and said "I look like a bum, but I also don't look like a stereotypical mom. We should take pictures." And because Jaime is the most amazing, real, fun person you'll ever meet, we did (you can, and should, check out her photography page, Our Ampersand Photography, and the kick ass style blog she runs, She Wore it Anyways. This girl is killing it guys). And then we had the brilliant idea of putting a two year old in a drainage ditch, and Jane thought it was the BEST DAY EVER. The last picture of her is immediately after she found the only foot deep pothole in the entire ditch and managed to fall face first into it. Which she thought was the most incredible experience ever. Pretty sure she's winning at life right there, and we could all take a few tips from her. Dress up. Get dirty. Be real. Splash in puddles.

(Wearing Free People top, Urban Outfitters Bra, H&M shorts, Wolverine 1000 mile boots [Samantha Pleet for Wolverine], Earrings from World Market. Jane is Wearing H&M top, overalls, and hightops)

(edit: I obviously can't spell. Even when I'm desperately trying to get it right. Avril. NOT Averil. FML)

Thigh High to the Rescue

Today it was snowing, while the sun simultaneously shone, and the fresh green pollen was blown off the trees. It was one of those freak of nature, Southern spring days that just doesn't have a category for my brain to put it in, and obviously doesn't need one. Thankfully my American Apparel thigh high socks arrived today, so I could get away with dressing like a big cozy bum and still feel completely cool and hip. This outfit is my manifestation of "my brain is confused, I don't know if it's winter or summer" situation so if you don't like it, I'll blame it on that. If you do like it then I was totally going for this look. I didn't actually leave the house today, but if I had I would totally have added the riding boots and this draped coat. And probably some lacy nylons under the thigh highs, but like I said, going out was purely theoretical today. I spent the day staring at a computer, drinking coffee, reading toddler books, and trying to get a 2 year old to stop yelling at me every time I don't respond to her the first time.

Speaking of two year olds, this girl is growing up so so fast. Every now and then I have a moment where I realize how much she's changed and today was one of those days. She called her daddy to try to talk him into taking her to get a chocolate milkshake after dinner, and it just about made me melt. I wanted someone to call just to be like "oh my gosh, she just had an ACTUAL conversation on the phone!!" Her newest thing is pretending to be a doctor and wanting to fix my "boo boos." She always "finds" one, and then says "OH NO! You have a BOO BOO!" because you know, drama and all. Then she has to kiss it and go get a "bam bam" (bandaid, guys). Best. Thing. Ever.

  Wearing H &M shirt, Gap cutoffs, American Apparel Polyester blend Thigh High Socks, Rockport boots, handmade vintage coat. Necklaces from Fredonia Provisions for women, J. Crew,  and gift from my family from India. 

The Style Rut Diaries

I'm over layering clothes, and I'm tired of the clouds. I'm dying to wear my spring dresses and I want to bear my arms. I'm in an official style rut. So I bought this hat. Because I thought it was cute, and I'm about 2 years late on the trend, and somehow I felt like it would help things. I don't know if it really has or not, because now I'm just stuck in a "I'm going to wear this hat EVERY SINGLE DAY" rut. Which is probably not any better. Spring, come soon.

These photos are shot inside our bedroom, which is quickly become one of my favorite rooms in our home. We painted one wall this really deep charcoal, and added hints of texture in textiles and prints and airy white. This room has begun to tell a story of rest, and rejuvenation, and creativity and long talks and friendship. It lends its self to dreaming and peace, without ultimate perfection, and I love that.

Wearing Free people top, Forever 21 hat and jeans, and Anne Klein booties. Necklaces via Anthropologie, J. Crew, Blue Skies Chattanooga, and Etsy (I can no longer find the artists store).