Monday, May 28, 2012

Playing Wifey

My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding
I've become addicted to the docu-reality show, 'My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding'. The show has the winning combination of a totally fascinating 'fringe' culture, a set of very likeable characters, and some amazing outfits. Gypsy culture seems to be incredibly patriarchal and old fashioned, with uber-macho men and super feminine women. Girls absolutely don't drink or have sex before marriage, or even hang out with men alone. They tend to get married super young, around 16 or 17. As a wife, they are expected to cook, clean and raise the kids. They are not expected to work outside the home. Responsibilites and boundaries are very clear.

As a good feminist, this rings all my bells, and I worry about their freedom, safety, and threat of violence.  But I can't help admit that they do seem to be happy families, connected and loving. The clarity of roles and responsibilities seems to alieve some of the angst of modern partnerships.  I jokingly said to my friends when I left for England that I was going to go 'play wifey' to my sister for a week. While she's finishing her first book, I'm here cooking dinner, cleaning her house, doing a big spring clean... making her life smoother and more comfortable while she slogs through work.

Trying to do it all alone is hard. Having a career, keeping a house, eating well and exercising enough. Sometimes I think us career women really need a good old-fashioned wife.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Weight of Things

Donation of odds and ends.

My sister and I have been doing a major Spring clean in her tiny house. She's been here 2 years, and has accumulates the odds and ends from many well-meaning friends and family, off-loading their extra junk onto her. I am a perpetrator of this generous dumping, passing her bags and bags of clothes through the years that she could never said no to.

Room by room, we sort, we bag, we chuck. Only loved or useful items are allowed to stay. Everything else is going on to another life. We find forgotten floral dresses and sparkly leotards from time long gone. Clutter slowly starts to disappear, making room for this things she loves and treasures.

Objects have weight to them. They can bring us daily joy or they can sink us little by little. Incrementally, they hang off us, one by one, making our steps heavier and heavier. They are the should-haves and would-haves. My friend, Persephone is doing a year buying nothing new. She's interested in the environmental impact on consumerism.  I think it's also important to contemplate your relationship with the things you live with... what do they say to you when you wake up in the morning, and do you love what they are saying?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Green and pleasant land

I've been traveling back and forth between the US and UK my whole life. I asked my mum when the first time was, and she said she was breast feeding me, so it's been a while. Because I left England for good when I was 13, the country is powerfully nostalgic for me. The food, the smells, the idiosyncrasies, create this sort of constant nostalgic deja vu.

I think maybe when you grow up with a certain environment and then leave it, that environment becomes the prototype for you in later life. What you are always unconsciously looking for to feel at home. Yesterday we went for a walk a along the Norfolk coast, our go-to summer spot when we were young. All the neurons in my brain were shouting at once: "This is it!!! This is the most beautiful place on earth!" How funny to realize that the familiar is actually what our heart wants.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pack it

I love packing. I don't know what it is, but something about the compartmentalization, the excitement of the trip, and the challenge of efficiency really does it for me. After 3 years of travelling, I feel like I've got it down to a bit of an art form, so I thought I'd share some of my insights with you guys.

My first rule of packing is that if at all possible, I don't check bags. I've traveled to Asia for two and a half weeks with only a carry on.  So here are my tips for packing lightly, efficiently, and still looking cute:

Coordinate: This is my most important tip. Everything you pack should go with everything else. No odd men out!!!! I lay everything out on my bed, and make sure that I can wear everything with everything. This generally means that I'm sticking to a pretty limited color palette and a limited look.

Statement pieces: I make sure I have a couple wow pieces with me. For this trip, I'm bringing a mexican embroidered shirt and dress. I can dress them up or down and I've coordinated the rest of my outfits around these two pieces.

Pack only for what you know you're doing: Don't bring your prom dress in case you suddenly get invited to a prom.  You wont. Don't bring heals if you're going hiking. Pack only for the purpose of what you know you're doing.

Pack your trusty favorites: If you don't normally wear it, don't pack it! Just because you are in Thailand, doesn't mean you're going to wear that dress that's been hanging in your closet for 2 years. Pack your favorite, most worn clothes. The worst thing for me is carrying something around for 2 weeks and getting it home never having worn it. You don't have room in your suitcase for that!

Accessories are your friend: I'm not a big accessorizer, but I've found that if I bring a couple light weight scarves with me, I can make your limited wardrobe look bigger than it really is.

Layer your outerwear: If the weather is a question mark, I like to bring outwear that's layerable. For this trip, that means a light-weight fleece moto jacket, a puffer vest, a scarf and poncho (it's England after all!!!). This way, I am ready if it's hot or cold, rain or sunshine.

Bag it: I like to bring a couple light weight canvas bags, for things like undies and computer cords. As the trip progresses, I keep all my dirties in a separate bag.

For the plane: I always bring a pair of comfy leggings, toiletries, a change of undies and t-shirt and sleeping mask for the plane ride (and sleeping pills!). I change into my comfy-pants as soon as I board.  About 1/2 hour before we land, I change back into my jeans, new undies and t-shirt, and freshen up in the bathroom. This way, I'm not only comfortable on the plane, but 'm ready to go as soon as I land.

Wash it: I found these super travel-sized detergent packets at the drug store. I bring them with me, and then if i have the chance, I do a little load of hand-laundry while I'm gone. I always pack light-weight undies, so I can wash them if I need to. I love these lace undies from Aerie. 

Toiletries: I have learned not to skimp on toiletries. There's nothing worse that being away from home and running out of your favorite shampoo or moisturizer. I like to use these little tubes, that you can always get the very last drop out of. I also love these new q-tips, with the make-up remover inside them. Genius!

Business travel extra: When I travel for work, I like to travel with my own coffee, tea and mini-french press. Pretty much every hotel has a kettle, and that way I know I can always wake up with a good cup of coffee. If I'm going to be there for an extended amount of time, I also like to  stock my mini-fridge with healthy snacks, fruit, milk and cereal. That way I know I'm not going to break into the $5 mini-pringles at 2am.

I hope you enjoyed my tips for packing light and stylishly :)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Going with the flow

Billie's pissed I'm leaving again.
I'm not very good at going with the flow. I'm a worrier, a planner, an organizer. I certainly not a free spirit. It's been really interesting to experience this unstructured time, and to push myself to be a bit more of a wanderer.

I set myself some goals at the beginning of this adventure:
-no paid work until September 1, 2012
-be open to the possibilities
-write every day
-make time for loved ones
-stop buying crap
-any of the above rules can be broken

The rules have been pretty helpful and freeing. Every time I feel like I'm being silly or irresponsible, I'm reminded that I'm actually following one of the goals. On Tuesday, I was talking to my sister and trying to find a time this summer to get out to England to visit with her (She teaches at a University in England). I was ho'ing and huming until finally I said, "Why don't I just come now! " then I immediately had a nervous flinch that I was being too irresponsible, so I clarified it by saying "Only if it's not too expensive of course..."  Fast forward 5 minutes and I'm pulling up a Travelocity reservation for this Saturday. And the most amazing part of it was that it is cheaper than all the flights I'd seen for the rest of the summer. Next thing you know, my brother and family are going to be visiting too, and before you know it, it's turned into a family road-trip across the west of England.   

Making time for loved ones; check and double check.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Brain muscle

I had a breakthrough today in studio. I've been making many tiny little bowls for the past couple weeks, but today I decided to make a couple larger mugs. As I started making the mug, I realized something had changed... I'd made a big jump in my progress. I eased through every step, feeling a fluidity and confidence in my movements. My hands had finally caught up to my brain, or vice versa. I'm not sure which is in control.

Biologists call this the Neuromuscular Junction, the connection between our brains (neurons) and our bodies (muscle function). Ask any athlete, dancer, sculptor, painter or potter about the mind-body connection and they'll tell you that our body have their own intelligence. I think this sort of intelligence is so interesting because we don't fully control it or understand it. Repetition helps in gaining physically intelligence, but there are also points when we have massive leaps of understanding, where things seem to suddenly click.

The past couple weeks I've felt like my brain has woken up from a slumber.  I've been doing a lot of things recommended by Neurobics, like traveling, learning new skills, trying new activities, talking to new people. It's a funny name for a smart idea... that we need to work out our brains. From changing our route to work, to changing the hand we brush our teeth with, we actually grown our brain and keep it healthy in old age.

Sometimes you need to give your brain a work out.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Our Picture-Perfect lives

Last week, Jacob and I were woken up at 5am to a terrible crashing. I thought the sky was falling down, but it turned out that it was just the shelves I had diligently put up a couple days before. There is was, all my hard work on the floor, drywall screws gaping out of the wall, and the need to start all over again when I'd already put the tools away.

I'm posting the the fallen shelves as a reminder to all of us that not all projects (or lives) are as perfect as they seem online.  I read in an article somewhere that scientists have found a link between depression and time spent on facebook.  So many of us live with a public self, on facebook, on blogs, or even at work. We project our best selves, the one we wish we could be. Our facebook profile is a lot like living rooms in the Midwest- perfectly arranged but not quite true. Our lives look like they are one awesome get-together, the picture perfect family, or a glamorous life of travel. Most people don't post, "On my honey moon and have diarrhea."

How easy it is to feel like everyone else's life is picture perfect, but we still have to take out the trash.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dog's eye view

I picked up a book at the airport bookstore called, Inside of a dog: What a dogs see, smell and know by Alexandra Horowitz. Though it's not all that ground-breaking, I'm a dog-lover, so reading it is fun. The first chapter talks about a dog's umwelt, and I have to say that it feels pretty pertinent my own experience of life right now.

The concept of unwelt as Horowitz explains it is basically that our world (and every living creatures world) can be understood through the lens of the viewer, be they deer tick, dog, sea urchin or human. That our perception and actions largely define the world each of us live in, our own 'soap bubbles' with us in the center. A blade of grass is a very different universe to us than it is to a tick, and not just because of scale.  We, the ticks, and every other animal dovetail into our environment: we are bombarded with stimuli, but only very few are meaningful to us.

Coming home after a long weekend in North Carolina, I'm stuck by how good it is to inhabit someone else's world for a little while. It makes you realize how much of your own universe is constructed by your own perception. And how if we choose to perceive differently, we can burst our own bubble. Or at least shift it slightly.

Throughout the weekend, I just kept being blown away by how beautiful their town is. How warm and friendly their friends are. How wholesome and healthy life seems in her small town. I mean, Jesus Christ, they have wild horses!!! And what was interesting was that by the end of the weekend Jenny had started to see her life a little through my eyes, and she began appreciating things that through habit had become invisible to her.

I'm looking forward to getting home and looking at my life with new eyes.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Friday, May 11, 2012

Wild horses

There's a tiny island in the middle of the sound, where the towns-people once lived. About 100 years ago, they moved to shore and left their population of horses to run wild. This morning Jenny and I took kayaks and paddled out to the island. We paddled along the water, and came to the inlet to the other side of the island. Feeling the sunshine on our shoulders and the water under us.


As we paddled along we caught up about our lives for the past year. We talked about the highs and lows, and how we had both been dealing with stress. The thought of stress felt so far away out their on the water, almost unimaginable.  As we came around the inlet corner, Jenny spotted the horses at the far end of the island. Quietly we approached, hoping now to spook them. But as we came upon them, we realized that they weren't really bothered by us. The munched away on roots and grass, swashing their tails. We joined them for lunch and ate our PB&J's. Finally, one started running and the rest galloped away.

It's amazing to me how any place can become normal, and that stress can leak into our lives. Sometimes we have to just adjust our focus and take another look.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


On my way to N. Carolina.

I was at a party last night chatting to some friends, and mentioned that I'm traveling today to visit one of my best friends. My friend chuckled to himself about the description. I admit, the term does feels a bit 8th grade and makes me wonder if that descriptor seems a bit immature for a woman my age.

The name best friend does sound silly. (Sort of how boyfriend seems silly to describe a committed adult relationship) But how do you describe the female-female non-sexual relationship where you have a true lifetime bond? How do you describe the relationship that’s so strong that when it ends you feel like you’ve broken-up? (I have 2 ex-best friends, and it still makes my heart feel sad thinking about them).

Perhaps I should have said that I was visiting my female soul-mate? Or maybe I should have said I was visiting a friend who I knew before bras, my first kiss, sex, jobs, boyfriends, and responsibilities? Friend doesn’t really relate how important that person has been in my life.

I’m blessed to have had many best-friendships, and to still be forging them to this day. I see my girlfriends as my global posse, living as far away as England, Paris, California and Nepal.  These days they are concerned more with things like women’s right, environmental consciousness, grey hair and babies, than boys and grades. But the relationship is essentially the same; they’ve got my back, and I’ve got theirs.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


I think if I had a religion, it would be flow. In my life moments of flow have been those where I am most connected to some sort of higher energy and feel in-touch. There are a few places that I experience flow; swimming, running after the 4th mile, drawing from real life, pottery, designing and (of course) sex. I don't always get there, but when I do, it's magic and addictive.

As a mentor and manager, my holy grail was helping my girls discover their own flow-creating process at work. I think if you are a creative professional, finding the faucet for your flow is really important and something you can't abuse or take lightly.  When I lived in LA, I worked at a really high-paced intense clothing company. I usually worked 6-7 days a week and I was SO in the flow. I loved it and was what you might call a workaholic. One of my methods to stay there was that I made time for hiking in a nearby canyon for 3 miles, at least 3 days a week. This kept my flow open and kept my creativity 'fed'.

There are theories of creativity that suggest that the right brain is your creative center and your left is the analytical. Though breaking it out like this does sound overly reductive, I do agree with the idea of having the flow space and the analytical space separated. That's part of the reason why it's so important to create a comfortable, non-judgmental space to work in. Both externally and internally.

Make lots of stuff, you can judge it later.

Monday, May 7, 2012


Yesterday, I was talking about p.e.r.m.a, and I set today as focusing on achieving. Ok, I'm cheating a bit, as I'd just finished working on our home-studio yesterday. So, here it is; the before and after of our new home studio. I'm feeling pretty proud :)

A space to make.
Window to the backyard and hidden storage spot for sketch pads
We both have retractable desks for extra project space

Standard pegboard painted Benjamin Moore 'Forest Moss'

hot workspace on workspace action

Organizing spot.

magnetic pin board

Sewing corner
Can we go play now?

Now I just have to start making some stuff.