Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Mustard Seed Sessions: Britt Douglas

I'm so excited to be sharing this interview with you! Britt is a hard-working, inspiring, beautiful woman who is the voice behind Gallery No. Eight. Hailing from Toronto, she creates and designs websites, prints, and the girl can seriously do her nails. Check out her instagram and make sure to follow along as she and I are hosting a fun giveaway to go along with this interview!


MSCo: What's a day in your life like?
BD: I usually try and wake up between 6:30-7, have a little quiet time, then breakfast, and then get my bum over to my desk usually between 8-9am. Lunch is usually around noon, and after that I'll work again until around 3-4pm. I like to step away from my computer in the evenings, but after dinner I will occasionally pop back over just to finish up a few things. Every day is different in terms of what I'm working on, but it's always a mix of client work, blog work & so many emails!

MSCo: What prompted you to start your business?
BD: After starting my blog, I started playing around with it's design & found I really enjoyed it. Design has always been a love of mine, and blog design was the perfect mix of art & 'science' for me. I helped a friend out with her blog, and it grew from there. I now offer branding in addition to web design, and am thinking of opening up a little print shop in 2015 :)

MSCo: Is your business your full time job? If not, what else do you do? If yes, how long were you doing it before it became full time?
BD: Yes, I work for myself full time. When I graduated university, I'd already been working at this for a few months. I did apply to other jobs & even internships, but never heard back from any of them. I took that as a sign to continue doing what I was already doing & just grew it from there.

MSCo: What would you tell your 20-year old self? 
BD: To work hard at what I want, and to take more chances. I remember discovering the youtube beauty scene in 2009, and was thisclose to starting a channel. I'm still kicking myself for not!

MSCo: What's the worst job you've ever had?
BD: I can't say that I've had too many bad jobs in my life (so far!), and even the ones I didn't enjoy I definitely learned from, so I try & look at it from that perspective. (Boring answer I know!)

MSCo: What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten?

MSCo: What's the hardest part about pursuing a "non-traditional" career? The best part?
BD: I think the initial reaction from family & friends was the toughest - they just didn't see it as a 'job' and didn't understand what I did. And that frustrated me for a while, but I started 'inviting' them into my process more, and talking about my work & what was going well, what wasn't, etc, and I think they slowly began to 'get it' :) The best part is definitely my work environment. I work by myself, in a nice quiet space, and that is absolutely my best working condition. I know that isn't the case for everyone (and some just won't understand! To those I suggest reading 'Quiet' by Susan Cain :) ), but I really do my best work alone, in a quiet space.
MSCo: What or who inspires you?
BD: Gosh - tough question! I think people who constantly explore and push and discover new methods and ideas and designs - that's incredibly inspiring. And I think genuine authenticity is beautiful - not hiding behind perfectly styled shots (although I must admit to be guilty of that!), but people who are so able to open up their hearts & share, that always gets me.
Thanks so much, Britt! Make sure to check out her blog, and join us on Instagram to enter to win one of her gorgeous Love Deeply or Psalm 23 Prints!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

And Then 24 Hours Later.

// Let me tell you about this day.

It was so chaotic. An early start, freezing cold weather, my phone going off seemingly nonstop. I was trying to answer every single text and call, my hands shaking with frustration, my head ready to explode. A ton of subway rides uptown and back downtown. So much to do, so much pressure. An audition where I was recording take after take after take convinced I was sucking so hard. A meeting where I was convinced I worse than suck, I'm boring, and ugly, and all sorts of painful thoughts. Even more texts and calls. Walking home, tears falling out of my eyes, the phone glued to my ear, and words tumbling out like "it's too much, I'm so overwhelmed, I'm so frustrated".

It was an ordeal.

// Let me tell you about this day.

It was filled with lots of awesome. An early start, chilly weather meant lots of layers, and my phone going off nonstop. I responded briefly with boundaries and non-negotiable sentences. I did what I could and ignored the rest because they could wait. A ton of subway rides up and down town, thinking about how cool it is that just two stops apart can feel like a whole other world, and how different the financial district feels from uptown. So much to do, so much excitement. An audition where I recorded take after take after take thinking that they really like me, enjoying the variety and getting to play with text. A meeting where I felt light and easy and made the other person laugh, enjoying their company and conversation. Being authentic to who I am and asking questions that matter. Walking home, hot chocolate in hand, laughing over how cold I am and praying for the people and animals stuck outdoors tonight, thanking God I had a home to go to.

It was an adventure.

Day 1 was yesterday. Day 2 was today. No difference other than a state of mind. I had an audition and a meeting on both days. I had certain other identical tasks on both days. You get to choose every day which route to go, ordeal or adventure. It's not based on the circumstances or the other people. Other people and lots of circumstances can suck, they just do. It doesn't mean you have to let them take you down.

Lately, more and more I hate the phrase "choose to be happy". Fuck that shit, most people have no idea how to actively choose to be happy. Moreover, I think it's insulting and frustrating to people who honestly cannot choose happiness, making them feel like less of a person because they think others can wake up and simply say "and today I'll be happy!", when they are fighting a war daily just to get out of bed. But here's what I fully support: choose to learn how to choose happiness. Learn how to navigate your state of mind, and know the navigation tools are different for everyone. Some people need a learned practice, some people need prayer, some people need exercise, some need all three, some need none of the above. Find out what you need and learn how to utilize it to your advantage so you can make the choice to have the adventure every day, so you can choose this day, so you can choose yourself, so you can then choose happiness. Fight like hell to learn what you need so that you can go from day 1 above to day 2 above in less than a handful of hours. Fight like hell for your right to be happy. The ordeal is bullshit, the adventure is real.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

You're A Sponge (Soak Carefully)

I woke up this morning kind of blah. Not sad, nothing was wrong, I had gotten plenty of sleep, but just blah. I spent a bit of time figuring out what happened and within minutes I got it.

1. I saw a musical last night that was sort of emotionally overwhelming. It was a lot of sad situations and a lot of talking about wondering about the 'what-ifs' in life.
2. The last conversations I had last night and the first this morning were of negative context. Not anything bad just the regular eye-rolling type of stuff.
3. I had a phone call to make that made me a little nervous. Again, nothing serious, something great actually, but the fear of the unknown was there.

1 + 1 + 1 = oh no, let's go back to bed!

We MUST be careful with what we take in. We have to be (bonus points if you hear Tom Hanks in You've Got Mail saying "she has to be! she has to be!"). You are your own advocate for your life. What you read, watch, say, think, talk about, hear, and absorb directly affect you.

It's often easy to forget that the people we encounter daily affect us the most. It's definitely easy to forget that griping or complaining or finding common things to sigh over, is not acceptable. And here's why that's tricky: the general consensus of society is that it IS acceptable! And you better join in! No. No, no, no. If the people you deal with are bringing you down, do something about it. If they're super important people so you can't just peace out on them (you know, family, friends, loved ones, etc), then start changing the way you speak and allow to be spoken to. If the agreement you have going is that you both listen to each other talk about all the harrddd things in your liiiiffe, make a new agreement. Shoot, you don't even have to tell them. Just start talking about different things, be positive, give compliments, share what you're excited about. They'll step up. You are a sponge. What you soak up, gets in. Soak carefully.

You were not put on this planet to be upset. You were not given this gift of a new day to complain or feel bad for yourself. Figure out what's causing your wah-wahs, do something about it, and choose to make today amazing. Okay, ready? Go!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Words That Matter

Some recent testimonials from clients. Every time an email like this shows up in my inbox, I'm blown away. We're in this together, friends. Spread kindness, help where you can, use your gifts, believe in each other, let's go, let's go, let's go.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dogs In Church

When I got to church yesterday, there was a massive St. Bernard pup sprawled out on the floor leading up the aisle I tend to sit off of. If you know me, you know this made. my. whole. day. I wanted to curl up on the floor with him (or her), but I felt like the owners might not be into it so I sat a few rows up.

It reminded me of something I wrote last summer, which I am copying and pasting below. Also it gives me an excuse to post photos of my babies ;)

Lastly, make sure to enter my current giveaway with Instead of Ashes! Girl is super talented so enter to win her beautiful art.

Without further adieu, I present to you A Black Lab Teaches Me Everything In Church:

I slid into the pew about ten minutes after mass had started. I'm a late person. I just am. When I left the apartment almost at the time church started, I figured I'd be much later than just ten minutes, so actually I was delighted with myself.

There was a homeless person in the pew in front of me, laying down, asleep, so there was a massive amount of seating open in that area. An invisible bubble of nonsense protection from whatever it is that people think they'll get from homeless people. For the latecomer here, this was great news, because it meant that I got a seat.

When I sat, I saw it; the flash of a long black tail whip up and around underneath the pew. And then my ears heard a familiar jingle of collar tags knocking into each other. And then out slid one paw, followed by the other, and bang, she was licking my feet. A beautiful black lab hanging out under the pew while her family took in the service. My kind of people. Her mom apologized profusely, but I shook her off. The only thing I could possibly think of to make a relaxing Sunday morning at church better, would be if there were dogs in every pew.

Every time she let out a little whimper, or thumped her head by accident, or jangled, or did one of the many other things that pups do, various people turned their heads, trying to place what the noise was. Add to this, the various screaming children who are either very upset, or are praising god in a way that adults somehow forget after age six. Parents who are shushing and hushing and rocking and reasoning. And then add the many other shuffles and sounds that come with a large amount of humans - jittery, cell phone having, busybusybusynewyorkers - all gathered in one quiet place. And I noticed something: the heads turning, the comments made, the stares and eye rolls and judgements. One couple got me, in particular. They were the first to whip their heads around when the sweet dog made a noise, every time. Yet they maintained a conversation between the two of them the entire mass. And this got me thinking.

Why were they here? To fulfill an obligation? Or because they wanted to be? Were they just punching in and out each week in order to earn enough star stickers to win extra good karma? And then ever further: Why do we do the things we do? Why do I do the things I do? What's the impulse? Reasoning?

I was speaking with a friend last night who mentioned they were considering making a decision based on filling their savings account. Now, you don't have to tell me about money. I'm an artist, for pete's sake. There are many moments where I'm like 'shoot I would be down to do that just to make the money'. Anyway, my answer to this was 'What do you want your life to look like? if you want to be in new york city, then be in new york city. If you want to feel secure knowing you have this check coming in and money being saved, then do that. If you want to move to, like, Atlanta, then move to Atlanta.' If she wants to make money right now, then she should absolutely do that. It's not for me to understand, it is only for her to do. Actively choose and do, based on what she wants for her life. Now, if the answer actually is that she wants to become a deep sea diver off the coast of some island but she's just too scared to pursue it.. well, that's a whole other thing. But if there's no fear, just an actual decision, then boom. There you go, do that.

I think this is one of the biggest blessings and curses of modern day living and freedom. We can literally choose anything that we want for our lives and then make it happen. Sure some choices come with a lot of hard work, a lot of money needed, a huge change, etc, but it's up to us. And there are so many choices, it can be overwhelming and much easier to stay where we're at, doing what we're doing, exactly as we are.

I'm rambling. I do this. I guess what I mean to say is: why are you doing the things you're doing? What do you want your life to look like? What would it look like if you took out a notebook and wrote out everything you want for your life, how you want it to look, where you want to be, heck even what sights and sounds and smells you want (or don't want) - what would it look like? And are you checking in with those ideas?

As for me, I've got a puppy friend here, and a blank notebook, and I believe it's high time to go sit by the water and check in with what I want, what I'm doing, and why I'm doing it. And then mayhaps enjoy an iced treat because holymoly it's hot.

Happy Sunday, friends.

Originally posted here.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mustard Seed Sessions: LAUREN of INSTEAD OF ASHES

Up next in my interview series is Lauren, the founder of Instead of Ashes! First, let's start with her beautiful tag line: "Bringing beauty to the world through paper". How awesome is that?

Here's the thing about Lauren: you can feel her heart in everything she does. The way she describes parts of her life, her instagram feed, her thoughtful emails, and of course, her beautiful handmade items. In the short time I've gotten to know her, I can tell that she puts her heart into everything she does and has a kind and gentle spirit. I definitely encourage you to check out her shop, or get to know her through her instagram feed or facebook page.

Now, on to the interview! (Make sure you get to the bottom as there's an exciting giveaway waiting for you!)

MSC: What's a day in your life like?

IOA: Right now, a day in my life looks different than it ever has at other points in my life. My husband Seth and I got married about 4 months ago, and moved 6 1/2 hours away from Atlanta, GA to Durham, NC so that he could attend Duke for Law School. Since then, I have been setting up our first home, exploring the Raleigh / Durham / Chapel Hill area. We had the blessing to have a summer where I did not have to immediately find a job, so I had some more time to dream, plan, and create for Instead of Ashes.

Generally, I will start by checking my business email, especially if I am working on a custom project for anyone. I have not advertised much for custom projects, it mostly started with friends asking me to make something. If someone asks, and I have the time, I will take on a custom job though. After that, I will check stats for my shop and see how the traffic has been doing. If it is early in the week, I may set up advertisements via HootSuite. Orders usually get shipped out on Tuesdays and Fridays. But other than those few things, every day is pretty different. I will focus on different products for a while, and then move on to another.

Some days, I will work on creating new products, like the prints that I just listed in the shop, or the bunting that is coming soon! I may restock items that sell well- usually the card sets. That means printing, folding, and packaging, sometimes accompanied by Netflix or an Anthropologie playlist on Spotify. Recently I have been working a bit more on stocking up holiday items like Christmas cards and gift tags. I am hoping to attend a craft fair or two before Christmas this year, so I want to get a head start on having product ready.

All that to say, each day really is different!

What prompted you to start your shop?

I started a different Etsy shop in college, Laurkon Designs. I made "Printables" which, if you don't know, is basically just a design file that you download and print on your own. It was great to have during college, because I would make a design, and I just had to email the file to the buyer. Since then, Etsy has actually made selling digital items even easier, giving the buyer the ability to immediately download from Etsy.

It was fun, but I started to want to make actual, touchable, physical things. I don't remember exactly what drew me to paper goods then, but I have always loved making cards. I have no idea how many handmade cards I have made over my lifetime. Whenever a cousin or family friend was having a birthday, my Mom would be in my room at some point asking me to make a card to send them (very often the night before!). When I was little, I would play dollhouse, or would create a little world with Playmobil and Littlest Pet Shop bunnies with my sisters and friends that we affectionately called "Bunnyville". Among the little pieces of our world, there was a desk with a computer on it. If someone else hadn't beaten me to it, I would have this computer in my house, and my bunny would have the job of a Hallmark Card Maker. I thought that would be the perfect job then... and I'm doing something very similar now!

I had the idea for the shop for a long time before opening it. I wanted to write Bible verses and quotes in beautiful and fun lettering,  and put it on cards and prints. Then, I started spending some time in Isaiah 61. Then I saw it mentioned on Instagram, in my devotional, and at church. That is one of the ways I have discovered that God speaks to me. Through repetition. Through different people and places, but repeating the same thing. The phrase "beauty instead of ashes" stuck out to me for a while. Then one night, after a girls gathering at church where, surprise surprise, someone had read Isaiah 61, I walked back to the car with a friend of mine and told her my idea for my new Etsy shop. She was the very first person I shared this idea with and I couldn't have picked a better person- she was so encouraging and thought it was an amazing idea. So I went for it.

Is your business/shop your full time job? If not, what else do you do? If yes, how long were you doing it before it became full time?

Instead of Ashes is not my full time job, but I hope it can be someday! I work as a Design Assistant at Design Lines in Raleigh, NC.

What would you tell your 20-year old self? 

Well, I am currently 24, so my 20 year old self was only a few years ago. I would encourage myself to do more of what I love and not just what I think I am supposed to do.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten?

I'm not sure if this exactly counts, but in the early days of my sophomore year of college, I saw a pretty picture on Pinterest. It was simple and aesthetically pleasing. It said "Do what you love." I was starting to embrace the fact then that I wanted to do something with my life that I enjoyed, and was beneficial to society, while also maybe paying my bills! That would be a great plan. While this might not exactly qualify as the "best advice I've ever gotten", it was definitely a launching point for my creative identity.

What's the hardest part about pursuing a "non-traditional" career? The best part?

Right now, I find the hardest part being that it has to be accompanied by another job. Don't get me wrong, I am excited to have an Interior Design job using the degree that I worked hard for and do enjoy, but balancing that while creating this non traditional job as a side project that I want to get bigger  is hard because it takes a lot of time.

The best part is getting to make whatever I want!

What inspires you?

I think I am inspired by places I like to be. I love how Anthropologie smells delightful and just has a beautiful eclectic atmosphere. A recent discovery I have made is the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. There are a few different garden styles represented here- it's a lovely place to walk around and relax in. I also dream of getting to go back to London and Edinburgh- the architecture, the streets, the weather, the shops, the colors, the sounds, the museums, the people, the tea :) I feel the adventure rushing over me just thinking about it.

I am also inspired by people and their love. I love being around people who truly love others and want to brighten their day, see them succeed, and see them grow. I love being in the homes of families who truly love each other, and who really welcome you to be a part of it. I am so inspired by people who so extravagantly love other people.

Thank you so much, Lauren, for your beautiful answers! Not only has Lauren been kind enough to grace us with her words, but she's also put together a fun giveaway! Head over to instagram and follow the instructions on the giveaway post (it's super simple to enter). You'll be entered to win the three beautiful items you see in the photo above!

Keep your eyes on her shop for more of her beautiful work!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Loudly, Bravely, Fully

This week was - oof. It sat on my chest until it felt like I couldn't breathe. Nothing was specifically wrong, and I find that's the worst. When something is wrong, specifically, it's easy to identify it and attack it head-on. When I just feel like everything is crashing in, that's when I feel sunk.

Which isn't to say I didn't have a hell of a week. Actually, I had the most fun I've had in awhile, out late nearly every night, seeing incredible art, keeping incredible company. I had a blast at silly auditions with girls who had zero sense of competition (the best) and at home recording funny dragon voices from my kitchen. Lunch dates, and dinner dates, and spending way too much money. Coaching artists and writing, planning, learning. Monday, in particular, I just did. I went to a dance audition with bravery in my eyes (and in my shoes), saw girlfriends I hadn't seen in awhile, went to SoulCycle after a month away, bought myself roses and sweet treats, and put on a fancy dress and heels to attend a wonderful one-night only event at Lincoln Center where it seemed like my entire industry had popped on their best bow-ties and shoes and showed up to say hi to a few hundred of their closest friends. We ended the night with drinks and snacks and conversation, and I came home and felt full in that delicious way. I took the whole day to just love myself loudly, bravely, fully.

Feelings can get tricky, can't they? We can be wildly happy and aching in pain within hours of each other, sometimes even at the same time. My heart doesn't stop aching with fear of the future or worry for someone just because I'm enjoying a concert or laughing with friends - all the layers live together. Feelings aren't mutually exclusive. Which is a long way to say don't believe the part of you that says just because you're sad, you can't be happy. You can be all things at once, feel all things at once. You're magical that way.

I wrote this on Instagram the other night and it seemed to really resonate with a lot of people. But I'll tell you a secret: as much as I am writing to you, I am writing to me. So I'm going to post it here, too. So I don't forget. So you don't forget.

Look, we might as well be real with each other, right? I think transparency and authenticity are incredibly sexy. Like, shaking the ground you walk on sexy. In a social media filled world, it's easy to cover, filter, or all together change yourself. But I think who you are - I mean, really and truly who you are - is absolutely delicious. Messy topknot, face mask slathered on, swirling thoughts, in bed with a book before 9pm, and all. The stains on your shirt, and the lines on your face, and the thoughts that you have are what make you, you. Don't hide it. Embrace those things. Fall in love with your own quirks, your mistakes, your questions, your chipped nail polish, your secret dreams, the way you snort when you laugh, and cry over commercials. Love all of it with everything you are. Meet your authentic self for tea every morning, and dates once a week, and in the mirror while you brush your teeth. Meet yourself so much that eventually you recognize the person staring back at you, in the same way we squint as an old friend comes slowly into view and then jump up and down in excitement when we realize it's really them, they're here, this person we've missed for so long. Get messy, get transparent, get authentic. The world needs you too much to hide.

p.s. that beautiful bracelet is compliments of Compliment. use code 'KERRY' at checkout to save $5 on anything in their shop.

p.p.s. one of my paintings is in an amazing auction that ends today. check out the items you can bid on here.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Disappointment, Party Hats, and Nasal Spray

After fighting it off the whole weekend, I woke up this morning and my first thought was, "well, it's official, I'm sick". Here's a fun fact, in case you don't know me in real life, but I don't get sick. Truth. The last time I was sick was November of 2012 (it's so infrequent that I know dates off-hand). Cue the soup and the pity party of one. See, after a relatively low-key last week, I finally had about five days worth of awesome planned and I was excited.

An hour from now, I'm supposed to be joining a friend at a movie that he's lent his voice talents to, to celebrate and support a massive achievement of someone I love.

This week, I've got auditions, class, clients, and I'm scheduled to shoot my next acting gig on Wednesday. (If you're an actor, you know booking a gig is a big deal and to potentially miss it can be heartbreaking.)

And instead of these kick-ass life plans, I'm holed up in bed with netflix, soup, goldfish crackers, and nasal spray? Not cool. Needless to say, I'm disappointed.

But on my way back from the pharmacy, right before tears could make their way into my eyes, I felt like God was telling me that I need to rest up, because what's on it's way to me is even bigger, even more awesome, than the things I'm most likely going to miss this week. Instead of lingering on what I may miss, I'd rather keep my eyes fixed on the incredible possibilities that may happen. The things I just don't know about yet.

More over, I immediately found myself trusting that I'm being protected from something. What if, say, on the way to one of these planned activities, there would have been a terrible accident? Or perhaps I would have run into someone I didn't want to see, or cross paths with someone horribly upsetting. What if I'm being kept in my bed to keep me out of harm's way? What if all the times we're certain we're missing out on something, we're actually being guided safely to something even better?

And it does not go without saying, that if one considers all the things others are facing at the moment, health wise and otherwise, that one's itty bitty sickness that one faces every two years or so, well, it ain't no thing. Let me praise this illness in that it's the only one I have to face.

We simply do not have any idea what is going to happen or why something is happening. The best we can do is look it in the eye and immediately start to give thanks for it, allowing it to shape into something that's for our benefit.

If you're feeling disappointed about something right now, I hope you can find some comfort in these words. We are going to be let down by our bodies, by the people we love, and by our own expectations about how life should go. There's no avoiding that. But maybe, just maybe, we also get to decide if it's something to be bummed about or something to celebrate. I don't know about you, but I'm reaching for the streamers and glitter over here.

Plus, if you're already in party mode then you'll be all set to keep celebrating as the next wonderful thing rolls in. Party hats on, friends. And take care of yourself, would you?

p.s. make sure to enter my giveaway on instagram! you'll be entered to win something awesome from Compliment. enter now thru 9/30 at midnight EST!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lessons in Listening and Soup

I've been speaking with a client about a potential move lately. There's really no "reason" for her to spend time in another place, and many are quick to point that out. There's really no "reason" for her to leave where she is, and many are quick to point that out. There's also no "reasonable" way any city could be better than the one she's currently in.. you know the next line, right?

But what if the fact that she feels the urge to go is exactly the right reason?
What if the annoying nagging voice that tells her to do it is the only reason?
What if just wanting to go is the best reason she could ever have?
What if she just feels called?
What if that's enough?

I can't tell you how many times I'm working with clients who are struggling to make a decision and without fail, each and every time, they already know what they are going to do. They already hold the answer in their hands, like a bowl of soup that makes them feel like they're slightly on fire or hot with desire. Instead of seeing the soup in their hands, they're running around, sloshing soup out the sides of the bowl, trying to figure out why they are suddenly feeling so hot. And with each person they run to and ask what to do, they spill just a bit more soup until all they have left is the bowl and they can't figure out why, why, why they have an empty bowl in their hands, so they put it down to start trying to figure that out and get completely distracted and walk away from it.

Two days later, the whole thing repeats.

Aside from the fact that this is one of the strangest metaphors I've ever written (and also that now I want a bowl of soup), it's exactly what happens to all of us.

Friends, that gently nudging you feel, that soft calling, that idea that dances through your head sixty-five times a year (or day), is enough. Trust that whatever, or whoever, or wherever it is leading you to will have something very important waiting there, just for you. Trust there is something on the other side of that feeling. And that the feeling alone is worth pursuing.

Find the bowl of soup you've been running around with, the answer that is already in your hands, and go. Run as fast as you can toward that calling. Go.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Lessons In Being An Accidental Wedding Guest

I accidentally found myself at a wedding on Saturday evening.

To be fair, this was not entirely my fault. Since it's fashion week here in new york city (there is a post coming on this, friends. oh is there a post coming) I figured the chairs being set up were for an outdoor show. But as I turned the pages of my book and sipped my peach green iced tea and watched guests arrive, I started to put it together.

In the photo above, you'll note I was about four feet behind the third row of chairs. I mean, I was AT this wedding, you know? (As were many other people, including fashion week attendees in full on nyfw garb, and many tourists who took photos of the wedding as though they knew the groom and bride. and yes, okay I took a photo, too, but it was for you guys. So that makes me exempt.) So I'm sitting there, wondering if I should leave, or stay, and wondering why I felt the need to come back to this place at this particular time when I had already been there earlier.

And then it hit me why I was here at this exact time.

This massive declaration of love was about to happen in nearly the exact same spot where my love broke earlier this year. We're talking less than a handful of feet apart. And it hit me in that way where it was being told to me. And I started to laugh: here we go again. More lessons, more growth, more being poured into my soul.

Yet again, I was being told that the massive undoing of me was for a reason. The breaks and cracks were for a reason - so the broken places could be filled back in with light and love and lessons that God knew I needed. He had tried to get them into my thick skull and stubborn self so many times but I pushed right back, refusing them. So He went ahead and used the human that I've learned nearly all of my important lessons through to get these through to me. Of course (well played, God, well played). And let's be clear here: it is not about the other person. Just like the people and situations that are used in your life to teach you things are not the actual issue. It's all about what God is trying to teach you, and your growth on your specific path. I would have never let any of this in if I wasn't first broken down. There was no room for it to get in unless I was cracked open.

The wedding, as it turns out, was actually a renewal ceremony. Which felt even more appropriate for this particular situation in my life, and made me laugh again, as God really does speak directly to us if we're willing to listen. The renewal was for 1.5 years of marriage. Have you heard of anyone doing this? I was thinking 5, maybe 10 years in. But 18 months? And this was already their third ceremony. Before my judgmental little voice could pop up, all I could think was how fucking awesome that is. These people are so in love that they are choosing each other, in public, in front of loved ones, yet again. That's how much they choose the other. And isn't that what it's all about? The choosing, every single day. Picking that person, over and over, even in times where they drive you nuts or hurt you or do stupid things. Knowing that person is choosing you, too. I've spent a lot of time circling the idea that the loving can often be much easier than the choosing. If you love someone with everything you are but you don't understand that you must actively choose them (and yourself), you're cooked. Choosing is the action that makes Love a verb. I choose you. I'm with you. Every day. And friends, this goes beyond relationships. The same thought can be applied to our careers, passions, and callings.

These lessons are coming in layers. In this perfectly timed way that is surely not my doing. There is no way that I could have understood what was being taught to me before this exact moment. My range of responses would have been to hate the couple for choosing someone and being chosen, to judge their intense amount of spending on weddings, to feel annoyed they were interrupting my reading time, or to just ache. But my lessons have been built, one on top of the other, in a way that is very meant. The messages are sometimes very clear and sometimes require a slow unwrapping, but all are equally important in carrying me from one point to the next on this path.

I can't fully sum up in words all of what was put into my being then, but I can start with this:
the places and pieces of you that feel the most pain, will slowly but surely wind their way back to being all about Love. If you let them. If you keep going on with your fingers sticking in your ears singing la-la-la-i-can't-hear-you at the top of your lungs, then it's going to take a hell of a lot longer. But if you stop thinking you know what's best, and let in each layer of healing, regardless if it's something that seems insignificant or something thrown at you like a lavishly grand vow renewal service in the middle of manhattan on a hot september day, you start to recognize they are all intricately designed pieces of a path that is sending you directly back to Love. Go to those literal and metaphorical painful places, and sit in them. Be present in them with your eyes and heart wide open.

Even a place you felt was broken will eventually be covered in Love again, rose petals on the ground, smiles on faces, and the freeing knowledge that the weight of pain can never come close to touching the joy of Love.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Lessons In Loving Yourself (& a 30-day challenge for you!)

This year, unbeknownst to me, God signed me up for a life class in Loving Myself. God's funny like that, He has you enrolled in activities and lessons long before you realize you're in them. Many times you find out you're in them when everything comes crashing down around you. If everything around you feels like it's being destroyed, keep an eye out. It may just be the start of a new class.

Anyway, last February, right after my world went poof and crumbled into pieces, my best friend texted me an image (she's a quiet motivator, that sneaky girl). Those words are above, but let's write it out here, shall we? Great: "The fact that someone else loves you, doesn't rescue you from the project of loving yourself."

That's some good shit, right? And potentially very obvious to some of you, but it wasn't to me. I have this love that is bigger than me, and it seemingly seemed to fill me up fully because it's just so freaking big. I never knew what to do with it, I'm really little and it is much, much bigger than me. And I guess, in a way, loving this person so much allowed me to trick myself into thinking I was loving myself just as much. Spoiler alert: nope. Wasn't. Not even close. It's incredible to have someone love you. But when you don't also love yourself in that gigantic kind of way, it's painful. It creates thoughts like: Why should they love me if I don't? Why does this person love me? When will they find out I'm not worth loving? How long before they leave? That's an ugly place to live, friends. And it's even worse to feel that massive love from another person, to know how much they love you, and not be able to accept it. That is a post for another time, but I will say that two people who love each other so, so much, who both do not love themselves fully, is a really fascinating thing to experience. It's also worth saying that the more I love myself, the bigger my love grows for that person, when I thought it would be the opposite. Turns out, when you think you can't possibly love someone more, you actually can. And that begins with you.

So how do we start? What does loving yourself look like? I know it's not a one-size-fits-all thing but I can tell you that loving myself looks like this:

It's the act of tugging on workout clothes, lacing up my sneakers, and going for a run despite feeling like I'll never really be a runner, that I'm out of shape, and that this is stupid. It's going anyway.

It's allowing myself to sleep in when I need to and loving that my career and lifestyle support that, instead of feeling guilty.

It's making a fresh juice even though cleaning the juicer is sometimes very annoying. And I'd rather have a donut.

It's brushing my teeth at night even though I'm really cozy in my bed already. It's that sigh that comes with plopping my feet on the floor and grabbing my toothbrush.

It's using under eye cream when it, too, is so very far out of reach from my sweet, sweet bed. And doing all the other things that are involved with literally taking care of your self, your being.

It's saying no to plans that don't feel right. It's saying no to people that don't feel right. It's saying no to jobs that don't fit right.

It's cooking a meal for myself and feeling proud that I did it, instead of ordering or microwaving something.

It's about only saying yes to things I can actually commit to, which continues to be really hard for me to do.

Loving myself looks like forgiving myself when I don't do all or any or some of the things I've listed so far. (Sorry teeth, my bed is just so darn comfortable!)

Loving myself looks like talking out loud to myself, telling myself that I'm proud of me, saying "good job" literally out loud, in public, after I do something that's hard or scary or, shit, after just an every day thing because sometimes I need a lot of encouragement and if I'm not celebrating myself, who will?

It looks like dancing and singing in my room, in my kitchen, while on a run, because I love music and it fuels me.

It looks like being M.I.A. in the world on lots of days because building my love for myself, my confidence, and what I am working toward, sometimes takes more than I have, and I have nothing left over. It looks like still choosing to love myself when I do this.

It looks like accepting compliments, without thinking someone is lying, and letting people be nice to me without assuming they want something from me. It looks like being nice back instead of snarky or defensive. This is hard.

It looks like working on being myself instead of being what I know will get more followers, clients, or admirers. Being myself instead of creating a self to present to the world.

It looks like actually working toward my dreams, in a way where I know I'm worthy of them and will achieve them, with confidence. Instead of doing every other possible thing that mostly made me feel like I was sort of doing what I wanted, or would give me some sort of notoriety.

It looks like keeping an eye on what I read, listen to, or watch. This means ditching a lot of my favorite blogs because I realized I was constantly taking in words and images of women who are younger than me and seemingly "further ahead" in life, with husbands and babies and houses and yards. It's about realizing that I can't be in that place because I'm in my own place and it is fucking awesome (and it doesn't include changing diapers so, I mean..). Loving myself means being okay with getting there when and if I get there. End of story.

It looks like painting and reading, because I love painting and reading.

Loving myself looks like putting away the computer and the ipad and the iphone and spending time with the iperson that I am.

It looks like not taking into account what I think people might be thinking about me, and not taking anything personally when said or done to me. It looks like not guessing what someone wants and asking them instead, because guessing and thinking you know best for them can get real tiring and time-sucking, and mama is busy, okay? We do not have time for guessing other people's needs, friends.

Loving myself means looking at the things I assigned to my future, my "adult life", and recognizing that there is no "adult life" there is just life, and it's right now. If I think at some point I'll be the type of person who works out every day, then today is a fine day to start that. Going to church, and not getting totally trashed, and committed relationships, and stretching, and praying, and not eating crap, and taking in art, and doing the things that terrify me, and fully being present in the moment are not things to wait on and assume I'll master at some point because, like, don't people do that? No, it's about identifying and going after the things I want in my life right now. I will not wake up one day and have magically mastered any of those things, but I will if I practice them daily and start before I'm "ready" or before I feel old enough (I'll probably always feel like a little kid, so no point in waiting).

There's much more, as we all know. But these things stand out to me. I can vividly remember being absolutely certain that I loved myself, that my happiness was a totally inside job, that I really was going after what I wanted. No I wasn't, no it wasn't, no I wasn't. I'm sure these will continue to grow. I'm sure I'll look back at this time and think "shoot, you thought you knew something about happiness, you had no idea". And that's really beautiful, this growth that we get to experience.

So what about you? What does Loving Yourself look like to you? To help you get going, I've created 30 days worth of ways to Love Yourself. Play along by posting on your own blog or instagram account, and share the link here, or on my instagram. Use the hashtag #30LovingDays. Join in! xo

so, you in, or what? :) #30lovingdays

Friday, August 29, 2014

Mustard Seed Sessions: The Creative Porcupine

I can't fully remember how or when I stumbled onto Amanda's instagram, founder and owner of The Creative Porcupine, but I can tell you I immediately recognized her as someone I wanted to know. Her spirit and excitement are contagious, and her work is splendid. Amanda has been gracious enough to partake in my interview series, and her heartfelt words are below.

 Mustard Seed Co: What's a day in your life like? 

The Creative Porcupine: I am big on creating your ideal day, but every day varies, which I love. I try to get up between 5:30-7 and cook breakfast. I make a cup of coffee and sit down to eat while I read my devotional. Once I finish eating breakfast I take a moment to write in my prayer journal. Starting my day with this quiet time starts my day off on the right foot. After my quiet time I get ready for the day and around 9:00 I sit down at my computer and answer emails and then switch to design work, social media, etc. I am still trying to nail down my work flow because some days I am more focused than others. Most days around 2:00 I seem to hit a wall and have to get up and either go grab a cup of coffee or make another cup. It really refreshes me so that I can sit down for the remainder of the day with a renewed mind. I think I have come to accept that I am not good at the typical 9-5. Some day I will work till 2, step away from work, and then get back at it around 6 or 8 that night. 

MSC: What prompted you to start your business?

TCP: Well The Creative Porcupine did not originally start off as a business. It originally started off as a blog that began when I graduated college and suddenly found all this free time on my hands after working three jobs and working to make good grades. Over the years it has evolved into what it has become and it is still evolving. The blog was established as a place to find joy among the riffraff and to this day The Creative Porcupine remains a place where I work to do things that fill my life with a lot of joy, as of right now those things are branding, design, and stationery! 

MSC: Is your business your full time job? If not, what else do you do? 

TCP: The Creative Porcupine will be my full time job in October (hooray!). I currently work three days a week for Puddleduck Paper Co., hence the 5:30 wake up call on some days for The Creative Porcupine.

MSC: What would you tell your 20-year old self? 

TCP: Oh man, there is just so much. I would tell her that hard work will pay off, just keep moving forward. I would tell her that God has got her so quit worrying so much. I would tell her to quit waiting for life to be perfect and focus on the good now. I would tell her to invest in relationships more. I would tell her to do more things that bring her intense joy.

MSC: What's the worst job you've ever had?

TCP: I was a server at a country club when I was in college. I worked every weekend and holiday for two and a half years. It literally sucked my soul, but it paid the bills. There are seasons of life where you just gotta do what you gotta do, but it was a pivotal couple of years where I learned that money didn't buy happiness. 

MSC: What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten?

TCP: Feel the fear and do it anyway. When I was leaving my full-time job and paycheck to make the leap to work for Puddleduck part-time and have more time to spend on The Creative Porcupine I remember being terrified, but I felt the fear and did it any way and it truly made all the difference. I am not sure where I would be if I had let fear paralyze me.

MSC: What's the hardest part about pursuing a "non-traditional" career? The best part?

TCP: At this time right now the hardest part of pursuing a "non-traditional" career is being the only one behind it. I am the designer, the marketing director, the social media person, the accountant, etc. That's just the stage of life my business is in right now, but I hope one day to grow beyond that. 

The best part is being my own boss. I create my day and the things I fill my day with and that is ultimately so fulfilling to me. 

MSC: What inspires you?

TCP: Mattie of Puddleduck Paper Co. taught me a lot about inspiration. I used to not be sure how to even "be inspired", I know that may sound weird, but it was true. Now everything seems to have an opportunity to inspire me. It's almost like I see the world through a different set of lenses now. I notice patterns in furniture now or fonts in a magazine. Those are things that inspire my designs, but people inspire me too. People who are working to create a life with purpose and a life worth living. I went through the motions of life for so long and now I finally feel alive. I finally feel like I am actually living. 

How inspiring is this girl?! And how beautiful is her word? After you're done cruising her new site, make sure to check out her Facebook page, and follow along on her twitter, instagram, and pinterest accounts. She's someone you'll want to keep an eye on :) Thanks so much, Amanda!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lessons In Leaving Facebook

Out of all the "crazy" decisions I've made lately (and Lord help me, there have been many), the one that seems to really shock people is when I utter the following words. You ready? Sitting down?

"I deleted my facebook."

While there is a fair amount of shock, the most common reaction I've gotten is intrigue. The person I'm speaking with gets a glimmer of excitement in their eye, moves in a bit closer, and asks me what it's like, why did I do it, and other questions that could easily make a passerby assume we're talking about something truly illicit. 

So what have I learned from this little experiment in the past few weeks? Many things, but here are my top five for your reading pleasure:

1. My confidence level has massively increased. This is the one I really didn't see coming. To be fair, my confidence is increasing from a handful of other tactics, and just, I think, as a result of the place of life I'm in. Facebook allows us to see what everyone else we know, or sort of know, or maybe once met, is up to. Thus allowing us to compare where we're at to where we're inferring they are at. Except, as we all know, everyone puts their best social media foot forward. I'm guilty of this myself. Without the ability to scroll through my newsfeed, obsessing over every career, relationship and life success, I'm able to get back to focusing on what I'm up to and feeling good about it. Thus, confidence.

2. I'm reading books and plays. Last year, I read approximately 1.5 books in total. In the past three weeks, I've read 4 books and 3 plays. As it turns out, I really love reading. I have this vague memory of loving to read for, you know, my entire life but reading my social media somehow started to take the place of reading. Oh and puzzles! You guys, doing puzzles is so fun. I like to call it "puzzling", as in "oh I'm just over here, not on facebook, puzzling away".

3. People are calling and writing to tell me things, to share things that are important to them, or invite me to do something. Without facebook, they can't just write on my wall or send me a message. Having to take actual time out of one's day to spend time communicating with people that matter to you is important. Making an effort in one's relationships matter. Facebook allowed me to be lazy about this, and in turn, made it okay for everyone else to contact me in the same manner. There's a real thrill in hearing someone call to tell me something exciting that's happening in their lives, and one that's missed when it comes via social media.

4. I'm using my computer way less. If you know me in real life, you know I've basically been attached to my laptop for the past full year. Apparently, there's some sort of connection for me with checking facebook and using my computer. Like checking my social media became my version of taking a break, except, as you probably know, that ain't no break. Also, without that pesky comparison, I don't feel a heightened sense of need to go accomplish yet another thing for that day. I can take an actual break, and go sit outside with one of those fancy books I like so much.

5. I'm more relaxed, happier, no longer feel lonely all the time, and am much more engaged in my own life and experiences. When something exciting would happen to me, even just a really cool day, I liked to share it on facebook. In a weird way, it allowed me to affirm that things really are moving forward and happening in my life. If I wrote it down, or other people acknowledged it by reading, liking or commenting on it, then it was real. Now I get to just enjoy the experiences of my life as I'm experiencing them. I decide what they mean and how I feel about them, and I don't necessarily weigh them as meaning something, but just something to enjoy. I take time to just be (again: books! who knew?) and relaxing doesn't mean I'm laying down while still working, it means I'm actually relaxing. I'm not having to see random news stories, political opinions, or scary images that would be all over my newsfeed so my stress level stays lower. I'm happier in general but removing facebook has upped that even more.

To be fair, I did not delete facebook, but deactivated it. This means I can return at any time and it will be as though I never left, all things exactly as they were. FB is straight up creepy when you leave it. First, you have to tell them why, then they send you five photos of friends, noting that "Katie" will really miss you on facebook, and so on. Then they tell you roughly 60 times that you can come back at any time. Then they send emails. I'm like, "facebook, I get it, you don't want me to go, but I really need a little time apart".

Due to work obligations, I needed to be able to access two pages. I created a work account, using a different email and different last name, yet when I logged on to that account, my entire newsfeed was filled with posts from friends on my now deactivated account. People who I was not 'friends' with on this account (I have zero friends on it) and would not know their information was showing up on my newsfeed. CREEPY! Eek.

I will be re-activating my account at some point. I like to have it for industry connections and opportunities, not to mention the fact that I run my own business and social media accounts for other people. In short, I currently do have a need for the networking opportunities, however I do not "need" it. And neither do you. When I return, I plan to keep my work account active and use that during the week, only using my personal account once a week. Will I be able to do it? Who knows, but I hope.

What about you? Would you ever leave The Book? Do you think any of these changes would happen in your life? Share please :)