Maddie is one of those people I knew about because we have a bunch of close friends in common – for one, she’s the managing editor of A Practical Wedding (and a damn good photographer) – but I never got to sink my teeth into her properly until I went to California and Elizabeth and I drove down to see her. She and her husband rent a house on a horse ranch that has a huge field in the back.
I asked to take her photo for my Faces project, and then she wanted to take MY photo, too. Then we started doing our hair, and then she said, “do you want something more fun than a tee shirt to wear?” so I raided her closet and came out with a fantastic dress, and then we played with makeup before heading to the field behind her house. This is what happens when you put two photographers together in a California sunset.
A “production note”: Patrice was over while I was packing for this trip, and I held up my 50 mm lens before putting it in my suitcase. “I’m only bringing this and ONE camera!” I announced, and she laughed and said, “Wow, you’re REALLY going on vacation, huh?!” I usually want to pack two or three cameras and a few lenses when I go somewhere. It was a fun limitation to impose on myself, and all of my vacation shots are either with this lens or my iPhone.
If you follow me anywhere on social media besides here, you’ve probably seen this goofy photo of me making the “OMG” face with straight hair; the photo on the left was taken in unrelated circumstances less than a week earlier, to show how perfectly round my hair was that day, and there it is on the right wavy, smooth and totes glam. (You will also notice I upgraded to an iPhone 5 after an unfortunate Water Bottle Incident in my handbag with the 4).
There’s a new, amazing salon in Oakland called Spruce. Elizabeth was invited to their grand opening and I was able to tag along to the party that included a sign up sheet for free spa services. I put myself down for a massage, and while sipping champagne and admiring their new space, Hillary, the owner, approached me.
“You only signed up for ONE free service! Not ok. What else can we do for you?”
I shrugged, because let’s be real. “Free massage” is just about the best thing you can say to this big-boobed migraine sufferer. But she insisted, and when I didn’t know what else to do, she figured she had just enough time to give me a blow out.
“Ok, but I don’t think it’ll work. My hair is too curly!” I said.
As a late teen I chemically relaxed my hair for a while, until it felt like a burden. It was the late 90′s, and hair care companies had started to make products specifically for bi-racial women like me, making it that much easier to give in to my natural hair texture. It’s been curly since, and I didn’t think anything would work without a bunch of chemicals in my hair.
But Oh. It worked. When she finished, I felt like a curvier, freckled Olivia Pope, and got kind of teary eyed at how pretty I felt. It was amazing. While I’m all about accepting who you are and rocking what you have, this was an amazing, sexy change, and one I plan on employing again when I need a jaw-dropping look for a special occasion.
Elizabeth opted for a massage and a makeup application, and then we were literally all dressed up (and wonderfully relaxed) with no where to go. We considered going to dinner or to a bar, but ultimately opted to go back to her house, sit on the patio, and open a bottle of champagne. We gave her new outdoor party lights a test run, and I snapped a these photos of her in the soft glow.
I have pretty friends.
After sixty years of living in the same house, my grandmother moved. It is my house technically; in 2008 when she was selling it, I bought it to keep for “someday”, and she opted to live there in the mean time, but now “someday” is here and I live in New York, and that’s not going to change any time soon. So she had to move, and she’s excited for a change, and I’m excited to be unburned by a house I don’t live in – won’t live in – but it’s still been super hard.
There’s a lifetime of memories in that house for me.
I dial my grandmother’s number for the… what? Three thousandth time in my life? Four thousandth? Ten thousandth? Maybe. It is the first phone number I learned to dial; it has been the same since years before I was born, when the phone companies started using seven digits instead of five. A disembodied robot voice tells me the number is invalid. Invalid?
I double check to see if I’ve mistyped it, which would be weird because I never have in all the years I’ve pounded it into various phones. And I haven’t; my iPhone says that I’m calling “Gram”, but I am not. I’m reaching nothing.
I dial my aunt, who says, “Oh, yes, she has a new number now because she moved.”
She gives me a series of numbers to reach my Grandma that I don’t know by heart, that I haven’t dialed at least once a week since I was old enough to make a pointer finger and lisp a “Hello?” to whichever grandparent picked up the phone.
2, 6, 8, 4; a perfect diamond of a phone number I’ve been doing for so long that I usually opt to dial her phone number manually rather than look it up in my contact list, because it’s faster. It is one of less than ten numbers still committed to memory. It is – and I’ve never told anyone this – what I’m pecking out over and over when you see me nervously tapping on bar counter top; on the table right before the interview for my first job, on the desk in high school before midterms, on the bus seat in front of me en route to first grade.
“What happened to your phone number?!” I bellow into the phone, and then check myself and soften my tone. “You could have kept it.”
“Oh, it was an extra money to keep it, and I didn’t care.” she says, ever practical.
“But what about me?” I sigh, ever sentimental. “I care.”
She laughs. I laugh, too, because I know I’m being ridiculous, and we talk about her new house, which she loves, and I am excited for her. But then we hang up, and I dial the old number again, for the last time (bar stools excepted), just to check. It still doesn’t work, of course, and I wrinkle my brow at my phone. It’s all wrong.
But she’s still here, which is the important part, of course, and I’m glad.
There’s so much to share about my trip to the Bay Area, but first I wanted to talk about something I realized there. I’ve been saving up for a while for a much larger, glamorous trip solo. The destination was always TBD, but I was leaning towards southeast Asia. Every time I research far-flung places to go to explore on my own, though, I got nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I think it’s time to accept that going somewhere alone is just not my cup of tea. At least, not now.
Do you have stuff like that, stuff you think you “should” do because that’s the type of person you want to be, only you don’t actually want to do them? This is a first for me. I want to be the girl that packs her bags and goes to Thailand to stomp around without a travel buddy, but I got lost on the BART, which is almost universally agreed upon as the easiest public transportation system to navigate in the United States. Thailand might be a little beyond me.
I’ve also always had a mentality that I wanted to travel and explore interesting places more than I wanted to buy nice furniture, and it’s a sentiment I believe in… just not for me. I spend a LOT of time at home, and buying a good pull-out couch to host overnight guests makes more sense than traveling right now.
Have you struggled with any of your priorities? I’d love to hear how you handled it.
photo lovingly stolen from Gavin
Heather Armstrong wrote a post about her longing to simplify and getting her bearings after living so long in a suspended state. Even though our circumstances aren’t exactly the same, they’re similar, and it made me feel less alone. It’s why people like us blog about our lives in the first place. (To the fellow bloggers that routinely bare their souls: a fist bump. To everyone who has written me saying “Thank you for sharing”, you are welcome. Thank you for reading.)
When I wrote about the process of “building” a life , it was a metaphor I came up with on the spot for the sake of blogging, but it’s one I keep thinking about. There was a big hole in the ground where my entire existence used to be, and in the past year, I’ve had to clean it up and rebuild on the same spot. New foundation, new walls, fresh paint. Bigger windows; the better to see with. It’s been a long road with some tough decisions.
My saving grace has been my tendency to aggressively make time for joy, even during busy times. I’ve cut trips “deal with real estate issues in Connecticut” in half, and instead of spending the entire day getting work done, I’ve slipped over to Jen’s house to have lunch and quote Finding Nemo with her toddler. Long commutes get filled with fun music and podcasts. Saturday nights are strictly work-free zones that I usually spend having a bottle of wine on the couch with my gentleman friend.
I have some major order to create, yet – Hey you wily ducks! Get in line already! – making this the perfect time to absolutely not take a vacation, right?
Except airfare was a good deal, and I miss a whole bunch of San Francisco-based friends, so I’m heading to the west coast for a few days to find some more oranges, drink wine, get lots of hugs, and have a nap or three. My timing might have been better, but fuck it. I’m going to California.
I’ll be back in this space next week, but in the meantime you can keep up with me on Instagram.
Each week, my business account pays my personal account a salary for paying household bills and buying gin, shoes and cheese, which keeps me on a set budget since my actual weekly earnings can vary dramatically. For the past month or so I’ve waned a raise – cheese is expensive – but there’s a need to impress “my boss” with my time management skills first.
The tricky bit, of course, is I’m my boss, and performance reviews – conducted once weekly in the shower where I have time to think quietly – can lean either too stern or lenient. It’s challenging to find the honest answer to the question, “Are you working hard enough, and to the best of your ability?”
“Uh, maybe?” I answer myself.
“What about this week?” I say sternly, shampooing. “You weren’t very focused, now were you?”
“That shoot? I got it done… eventually.”
“Eventually! What about all that in-chair twirling you did first?”
See, this week I had a particularly challenging shoot to edit. I wound up having to force myself to sit until it was done, but not without staring at the ceiling, the wall, unbending a paperclip, patting a dog, and spinning around in the desk chair a few times.
Does that mean I am to be proud for digging in and getting it done, or annoyed it took me so long? I think the former because, frankly, I’ve been working like this for 25 years, and probably won’t stop any time soon, but I can’t help but feel like I need to be more on the ball, too. GROWN UP FREELANCERS DON’T TWIRL!*
This was on my mind this week, and if you have any excellent small business books that address time management, especially in the face of challenging projects, I’d love to hear them in the comments.
*Memoir title. Nailed it.
When Google announced they are discontinuing my beloved Google Reader, I panicked, and it wasn’t just me; a collective groan was heard from the small-but-devoted group of users of the RSS service across Twitter and Facebook.
The scramble for an alternative was on. Most of the tech and design bloggers moved to Feedly, but I felt like he was the hot new guy at school that everyone got a crush on except me. I just don’t get it; it was very confusing to navigate, and after a few days I quit. You might love it, though; many seem to. Then someone introduced me to The Old Reader. He’s cute and indie and works the way I want. You guys, I think he might be the one!
There’s an option to import your Google Reader feeds into The Old Reader which involves downloading the whole OPML file from Google Takeout and then extracting the .xml bit that you need, which seems like A HUGE WASTE OF TIME. Just give me the .xml file! If you read that and are now breathing into a paper bag, don’t worry: I was able to do it over a gin and tonic, and I didn’t even need to call Jesse in a panic. The step-by-step instructions are easy.
The problem with that method is that, as of writing this, there are 17,041 users ahead of me waiting for their files to be downloaded (when I started the process, there were 25,000+). It’s like waiting to get Mailbox on my iPhone all over again! (That’s a whole other blog post, but I’ll say this: in the two weeks I’ve been using Mailbox, it has dramatically streamlined the way I handle email, and I’m thrilled.)
In the meantime I’ve been adding my very favorite blogs by hand to test it out and I’m happy so far.
Have you found a good Google Reader alternative yet? Do you use RSS?
When I was 13 my mother was really into going to Goodwill which always had a stack of romance novels – “bodice rippers” – in the book corner. They would automatically fall open to the juiciest parts, their spines broken open to paragraphs about “heaving bosoms”, “satiny love sheaths”, and “rigid manhood”. I would read them when I thought she wasn’t looking.
To celebrate turning 31 – the inverse of 13 – I hosted a “Heaving Bosom Birthday Party”. The local used bookstore was raided, and I came away with dozens of trashy romance novels. My friends were invited to flip through and find the saucy parts to read out loud.
I surprised myself by being prudish! I was giggling uncontrollably almost the whole night, and had to bury my face in my hands a bunch of times. But it was awesome; even some of my generally shyer friends stepped up and read passages that made me blush, and it was hilarious and fun to be a little bit scandalized.
My good friend Eva Blue from Montreal happened to be in New York City over the weekend, and she took all of these amazing photos that show just how shocked I was! Eva, thank you for your photos – I’m so glad you were here. The entire set is on Flickr.
Me and Netta at a Christmas party, dancing around.
Everything was fine until the very end of the going away party. I went to hug Netta goodbye, and then I started crying onto her shoulder.
That’s the hazard of living in a major city: people move away. Too bad it’s not the people I don’t like! Why does it have to be Netta and Sean-paul?
Last year, there were moments when my soul was so broken I couldn’t hold it anymore for all the sharp edges, and Netta was one of the folks that held it up for me. She let me cry, made me laugh, doled out thoughtful advice (and glasses of wine), and cheered with me when there was something to celebrate. From her I learned business tips, networking skills, and a whole bunch of killer dance moves.
I’m going to miss her a ton. Thankfully there is plenty of room in their new house in North Carolina for me to come visit. Slumber party, y’all!
1. “In like a lion” sounds dirty, right?
2. For me, March is my real “new year” since it has my birthday, and for the past few years I’ve used it as an opportunity to get back on track with New Years resolutions that might have slid by the wayside. This makes it my favorite month.
3. My February photo-a-day project kind of keeled over and died around day 19, but I’m ok with it. I learned a lot about thinking outside of the box, and felt inspired, so it wasn’t a waste.
4. It’s getting warmer, and, aside from my backyard being covered with an entire winters worth of dog poo to clean up, I’m excited for the spring weather. For weeks now I’ve been eying my sundresses longingly and daydreaming about sandals.
5. This months projects: finish a redesign of this site (yay!), restructure my invoicing system (zzzzzz…) and turn 31 (omg.)
6. I need a new Monday Music song for next week. Normally I have one by now. Any suggestions? Leave them in the comments.