Cast Your Care

Lost in everything and nothing, this time blends together like a Delaware gradient sunset and I’m left turning the calendar pages and wondering how we got here so quickly. How disappointing to live to impress others, when the ones you really want to impress have loved you all along.
This afternoon I was talking with two of my girlfriends…we were discussing the role of makeup in our lives, and their daughter’s lives. Their daughters are both only 11, and seem to be wise beyond their years (homeschool, thanks…) and eager and ready to grow up and look more feminine like their own moms. But why? What does wearing makeup actually DO for us? Does it serve us? Or are we trying to impress people we don’t even know, or trying to impress people we don’t even like? It’s a scary thought, especially in today’s haphazard, unpredictable world. I related it back to myself, hoping to help these girls see that proving your worth is difficult as well as confusing, and in the end, not worth it to “need ” to prove yourself.
I started thinking about it one day after I was applying a full-face of makeup. I’m talking under-eye concealer, foundation, eyeliner, shadows, the works. As in, all of it. War paint. A mask. Is this usual for me? Um, no. You’d actually be hard-pressed to find me in anything more than liquid eyeliner and two swipes of mascara. I don’t like wearing makeup. I prefer myself with a tan, oil on my eyes and lips and…that’s it. Seriously.
I know, I’m Italian and I’m supposed to look like I’m going to the opera (or IN the opera) at all times, but I’m not. Don’t even get me started on the chemicals that are lurking into all the things that you’re slathering on your face…that is a whole ‘nother story. Ugh, anyway.
I was trying to illustrate a point where there was an event we were going to, and I put on my “war paint” and spent quite a bit of time plastering my face with skin-tinted mastic, trying to hide every blemish, trying to make myself look the part.
I thought to myself–what if I just showed up looking like I do every other day of the week? I could do that but then I tried to rationalize the makeup frenzy of:
* I never see these people so I have to look good
* I need to make a good impression on the people I haven’t met yet
* I need to look good so that it will reflect that my husband has a pretty wife
* I want to distract him from looking at other cute girls (duh)
* I want to (try) to be the most put-together-looking girl there (false)
* I want my husband to show me off because I’m so GD cute
* I want to feel “ready” and not intimidated by anyone (read: left alone)

What if I left this alone for a day. Or even a month. What if I showed up to any event, big or small, family or professional, with just my real-live face? No hiding, no wishing, just real authentic me, with a new outlook on how I’m to be perceived. Not proving. Not showing off, not giving you a visual resume.
For someone that has been wearing makeup alllll her life, and has enjoyed the ease of genetically applicable liquid eyeliner, this might be challenging.
I’m not saying that anyone shouldn’t wear makeup, especially if it’s her fun thing, or if she loves doing it, especially if it’s something they’re talented at. I know quite a few girls (and dudes!) who have made a lucrative career from applying makeup. That’s not what I’m getting at here.
I’m having my own issue with authenticity. If I don’t wear this every day…why should I on certain occasions? Is this another all-or-nothing deal? Is it real and authentic if I wear makeup say…seven days out of an entire year? Or am I fooling myself? What exactly am I trying to prove? Why can’t I just present myself the way I am every day of the year? What am I afraid of? What more can I bring to the table that people will like other than blemish free skin with smoky eyes? It’s just not me.
It’s not my fun thing, my hobby, or even a remote talent that I’m good at. I have to admit, my smoky eyes make me look tired, and I can’t apply blush to save my life. Contouring? No thanks dude…I cannot handle all the blending. Bronzer? My lucky Guida skin can sit in the sun for one hour and get a bronze. I cannot, however, live without chapstick.
I’ve made more steps to live more minimally and authentically. I’ve given away almost all my makeup to my girlfriends simply because it wasn’t being used. You know that stuff has a shelf life. It was also taking up precious space in my bathroom that I need for my 10 bottles of Infusium 23. I want to be done, but I know this process won’t happen overnight. I only want to prove myself to me, but that’s not an easy thing to own. I want to stop wasting my time.
If you have to try hard to prove your worth and show someone what you offer, you don’t need them in your life. What do you bring to the table? You ARE the table. You are a human, with life, with value, in and of itself. Otherwise, God wouldn’t have put you here.

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Experiencing Confidence

It’s not supposed to be easy. It’s not something that’s here to stay. Confidence. Getting Secure in yourself.

We spend over half our life just trying to figure out “who” we are. At the young age of 18, we’re expected to know enough about ourselves to actually choose an education path for a career. Most of us don’t even know what our true hobbies are, what our likes and dislikes are, and the most important question of “What makes you tick?”

Finding out what makes you tick requires a lot of trial and error. The only way to know if you truly love something or finding a passion is to try it. Finding something that didn’t make you tick is seen as a failure, when it should be seen simply as a “check-off” on the list of things to try and move on from.

How will you know if you never try? How can you equate failing and moving on if you tried? We’re so quick to say “fail” instead of just saying “it wasn’t what I expected, so I moved on”. How many situations can you say this about? How many people do you know that could benefit from this different frame of mind–including yourself? Often we turn out to be our own worst critics.

It’s a monumental task that sets a lot of us up for failure and disappointment. Many of us change majors and jobs or careers several times well into our 30s, and only now are people realizing that this is perfectly fine, and even something desirable.

Everyone has their own career story to tell. I know people that graduated with their BA only to go work at UPS because of the awesome benefits and great paycheck. I know people who graduated with a BA they didn’t even want just to apply for their commission. I know women who got their Master’s and walked away from their job to stay home with their kids. I know moms that returned to school to go after a better job to support their families.  Everyone’s story is vastly different from others, but there is one common thread–and that is that there is no “right” way to do this.

A short ten years ago, right at the start of the changing college scene, everyone was in such a hurry to graduate to get the best job possible. We were motivated, energetic, and worked like mad people. We quickly learned that the job market wasn’t what was promised. We would have a much harder time finding a job, let alone one we were passionate about, let alone with all the daydream aspirations of paid benefits, full pension, ect. We were basically on our own.

For some of us, this was a huge blow to our egos. We had strong, clear goals, and didn’t want anything to stand in that way. Our ego. Our confidence. Our young ages. Our educations that we wore like badges of honor. To look back and tell my 20 year old self that this isn’t all bad, that things will work out, and that you’d be so incredibly surprised, and that new things will always come your way.

You are so much more than your job, your career. You are a friend to your co-workers. You’re the person who others look forward to talking to you in the break room. You are a person, not a machine.

We try new hobbies, and make new friends. We lose interest, or have a falling out. No one ever sees it coming. No one ever sets out to make a new friend and keep in mind that they could end in a blowout and not speak anymore. People have an inherent good, and naturally seek out other like-minded people to share their time with. Friendships and relationships can be messy, we are flawed humans that have feelings that are delicate, no matter how tough of a facade you can build. Even though you may have been hurt in the past, your heart keeps you pushing forward and trying, because you know deep down you are capable of being a wonderful friend and are worthy of friendship in return.

It may have taken you a long time to get to where you are. You may have had to start over multiple times. Obstacles like job loss or malicious people could have stood in your way, but you persevered. Each small win adds another facet to your personality, and bolsters your confidence.

In my early 20s I was massively confident, remember being joyful and energetic, and through life’s changes and punches, flowing along with the tides of pregnancies, weight gain, weight loss, depression, anxiety, relief, success, achieving independence, job changes, career changes, income loss and gain, seemingly innumerable events that shaped my personality to who I am right now. I only say “right now” because I have no idea what the future holds. The only thing I can be certain of is that this will change many times over throughout the course of my life. I’ll have highs and lows, and now I can realize that confidence isn’t something that you have–it’s something that you experience.

Confidence ebbs and flows with time, with your life lessons, your situations and surroundings, and the experiences you travel through.

Baby steps. You will get there.

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I’m Alive for You

My favorite memories…are the ones where I’m with you.

Not alone…my “precious” alone time. That’s just to unwind and relax.

Not working…pursuing my “passion”. Because I’ll tell you at the end of the day working with a majority of the people in my industry can be draining. And a huge letdown.

Not learning…furthering “my dream”. YOU are my dream. A dream is a whole, not just a job that people can do well, even if they excel, what is it for? A dream is for a person.

These “striving towards” just stand in the way. These passions and dreams are just means to make money. Money to pay the bills, heat the air that you live in, fill the fridge you eat from, flow the water out of the faucet, clothe you and fill the gas tank. I hate to say it but…at the end of the day I need to make cold, hard CA$H. Dammit. It’s a fact of life. Even artists can’t perform without eating. Especially if they have kids. Not going to happen.

I always dreaded telling you that I was going to work the long hours, the long days, the overnights. The “I’ll kiss you good morning!” that I tried to sound chipper about, but felt awful, missed you, wondered why I was gone, wondered what was so fckin important, wondered how new world I could get, and why I couldn’t figure out a better way to earn a living without being more involved in your life. I hated this.

Please know, that even thought I got my big-bad BA (from a real-live university) that I wish I could have had a more prominent major. I wish I could have graduated with better grades. I wish I could have headed to law school, or even med school like I wanted, but it didn’t work out academically because BIOLOGY AND TRIG. Thanks, people that don’t approve of apprenticeships anymore. Awesome. Please know you’ve done yourself a huge disservice by being so by-the book. Go cry over your cold, inhumane, dry pages and your inability to properly do anything, sincerely, a mom that had her kid at the best hospital in the state, and sent home with NO diagnosis what-so-fuckin-ever. A lot of good that did you. Sleep well. (Satan!)

ANYWAY. GADDAMN.

Good Lord, do I have the ability to ramble. Anyway for real, what I was trying to get at is…I worked so much, your father and I worked all the time trying to get on our feet, get our house financially set, get our finances comfortable, that we sacrificed our mental health and our stress level. Don’t make this mistake! Our best memories are with you. We both talk about how you taught your little bro how to ride a bike on your own. Your daddy actually cried on the porch when he watched, he was so proud and enamored that you were able to help him so much. We were touched when you ask your older brother if he’s ok when he’s sick. You’re so sweet and thoughtful that it makes our hearts melt. We’re so glad we’re here to witness these moments now, instead of working insane amounts of overtime, or three jobs to make ends meet. In the end, it was worth it, but we wish we could have done it sooner.

But now is a good place to start. When you were six and four, we started our lives over. (HOW good are you with dates??? 3/14) The stress and toxicity weren’t working, and we knew we were missing out on much more than a life–being together, knowing each other, having an actual relationship. We turned our lives upside down on purpose, and didn’t look back. I don’t ever want to live like that again.

We decided, since neither of us could hack the doctor/lawyer/ field, that instead of making more money, we’d require less. We wouldn’t drive luxury cars. Fine. We wouldn’t afford a hummer-home with a two story entryway (because all the heat is in the ceiling…) and a garage and separate bedrooms, ect. But what we do have is a family that is together all the time, and awesome, organic food prepared by an almost-chef and never out of a box, Family Movie Nights, a Lego Room that doubles as a bedroom, a “day off” every day, learning done from anywhere you like, reading and vocabulary done over ice cream two counties away, and two brothers that are so inseparable that friends ask if they’re afraid to take up too much room on the couch b/c they sit SO close together. You’d think they were conjoined. We get the twin question a lot, actually. A weird amount…I don’t see it at all, but there are so many people that think they’re twins. I just make really beautiful kids 😉 YOU’RE WELCOME.

Where was I going with this? Right…my best/favorite memories. They are always with you little guys. My tiny minions. My little wolves. Little bears. You are so wild, but I still want to curl you up and kiss you while you’re not big enough to push me away. You make things fun. In honesty, there have been some events I’ve been invited to, and if you hadn’t been there, I’d have been bored out of my skull.

You are my best memories. You have made everything in my life better. You’ve brought me into new interests, new genres, new ideas, new thoughts, and aspects of thinking I never even considered until your sensitive self brought them up.

You have enriched my life. You’ve made it worthwhile, and whole, and hilarious, and unbelievably entertaining.

I want desperately to live by that Buddhist saying, “Give them wings to fly, and reasons to come back”. I want to give you a background that you feel confident in, and go explore, and go adventure, and then be excited to tell me about it. Dream up all those cool adventures, go get ’em, and show me the photos. I’ll let you borrow my camera…I want to hear all about it. I want to hold you close, just as you are now, and run my hand through your fluffy golden hair and tell you how proud I am and that you can do anything you put your mind to, as long as you want it badly enough.

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The Hurting Creative Brain

So I wrote a completely different blog post today, but I’m holding off on sharing it. It’s kind of dark and sad, and on a rainy day like today, that’s the last thing anyone needs.

But that’s the paradox of being creative. You have things you want to say, but HOW do you say them without sounding like a menacing banshee flying out of hell? You can’t. So you don’t say anything.

And that’s the effect of your creative brain. You feel and experience so much more. There will be another person that went through the exact same thing that you did, and will be able to walk away and just say “Eh, some people are just a$$h0l3$,” and be done with it. You find yourself incredibly jealous of these people and ask for lessons on how to not care about things so much.

I wish I could be cut and dry. I wish things were easier to process. I wish I wasn’t so GD emotional and that I could just forget about people that have treated me badly. I know they’ve forgotten about me–or they wouldn’t have treated me that way in the first place. But still, here we are, resurrecting old hurts and trying to figure it out. Answers! Well, there won’t be any answers. Maybe that’s the hardest part. No justification.

After a while, the sting will wear off. Let some time pass. You’ll stop checking their social media. (You might even give up social media for a time!) You’ll stop wondering if they’re still talking about you. You will have a better grip on how much to let the hurt take up space in your mind. You might even be able to hold a conversation with them when you run into them at the store, even if you do cry as soon as you get into your car. Baby steps. This won’t happen overnight. This is so much easier said than done. You’ll be stronger for just letting yourself take your time, when you’re ready. This creative brain can’t be forced. Rest easy knowing that just because you cried over them today, doesn’t mean you will cry everyday, this won’t last forever. Look forward to your stronger, clearer self. It will take time to get there, but it will be worth the journey. You’ll stand tall, unmovable, and strong.

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Backwards Inspo

“And that’s the effect of living backwards,” she said. “hahaaaa!”
Who? The White Queen. In Alice in Through the Looking Glass. It’s just a movie in a complete fantasty-style-story, but that line has stuck with me for quite some time.

So many times, we frustrate ourselves simply because we end up working backwards, but we don’t figure it out until we’re finished. Not every job you do will have the outcome without hiccups and detours and new finds along the way.

I learned this the hard way while shooting weddings. My beautiful bride was sooo excited to get into her gorgeous gown, skip down the isle, and snog her cute fiance-turned-husband. Someone always had other ideas. That someone came in the form of another female family member with ideas on how she should be spending her time on her day. Sometimes there were tears, sometimes her bridesmaids would stick up for her so she didn’t have to…and sometimes she walked out to get some air. Whatever the case, this was hard for me to watch. I’m naturally defensive of anyone I like, but it was my job to just keep my mouth shut and take the damn pictures. For someone like me, it can be really hard to sit back and bite my tongue while a bunch of chickens are clucking at my bride with a bunch of different opinions on what she should do with her hair, what color her lipstick would be, ask prying questions about their bedroom life, tease her about weight loss pills, what she was wearing for lingerie, and whether or not she SHOULD wear the Spanx they are trying to convince her to put on–that she doesn’t actually need–but that’s not my business.

OK so I kind of derailed myself there–I don’t mean to fly off the handle about rude control-freaky people or who you should let into your dressing room on your wedding day. But the point I’m trying to illustrate is that we can all have experiences where the result will be the same, but the route will be different. At the end of the day, my bride DID get to kiss her cute boyf-turnd-husboo, but not without some significant tears and unnecessary
(read: P E T T Y) arguments over lipstick colors and other thing that simply don’t need to be addressed by anyone but yourself. Seriously.

With our construction business, sure the kitchen gets put together, it looks gorgeous, everything works like a charm…but not without significant hiccups and detours. I’m talking things that need to be rearranged because of 1/4 “off”. A chimney that throws off the entire measurement of a wall. Running out of three subway tiles. Having to redo and redo and redo the 1920’s hex tile over because the black tiles aren’t lining up right with the white tiles and your eyes are now crossed for an hour. These things happen. The end result is the same, but we didn’t get there without some significant setbacks, re-planning, new decisions, and a lot of “we’ll do this instead”.

For me at the moment, the inspiration works backwards because inspo hits when I’m least expecting it. I used to get out my camera and just BE inspired. I’d hear one lyric from a song that would trip a whole cluster of ideas for photos and writing.

Now…not so much. Ideas fly in and out of my head like they never existed in the first place. I’ve become so long winded that I don’t even realize what I’m writing about until I’m done. Probably the thing I’m saddest about the most is that inspo will hit when I have no pencil and paper or even a phone to jot down notes and ideas. They just have to stay in my brain and I try to make mental notes so I can revisit it later. But it really doesn’t happen. I have to work so much harder to remember what seemed so profound to me six hours ago. Then of course, it’s gone. Enter: Getting up earlier.

Getting up before I actually haaaave to is hard. I worked my a$$ off for this lifestyle that is so unusual. Partly, because I don’t have the desire for the typical lifestyle, my desire IS freedom and my desire IS doing what I want when I want…even if it means a lower paycheck that doesn’t come every other Friday at 3:00pm via direct deposit. This outweighs the desk-banishment and the falling-in-line EVERY TIME. Every damn time. Promise. ANYWAY. (Sorry, I just feel the need to justify my lifestyle with all of the “must be nice” comments I hear all the time. I should probably write a post about this.)

So I don’t have to, but I want to get up early. It’s true time alone. I discovered that spending time alone at night was when I was the most tired and UNinspired. No inspo is awful for someone with a creative brain. After the trial and error during the day, the school lessons, the work, the cooking, the cleaning, ect forever, my inspo was nil. I didn’t write, I barely even read. I just netflix zoned, because that’s all I had energy to do, and further sucked creative energy from my mojo.

Coming full circle (finally, I know lolz) I found that reevaluating where and how I spent my time made a big difference. I have the same result, but I got it a different and better way. An easier way, something that allowed me to have a true flow instead of forcing the ideas to come back to me like they had earlier that afternoon. Reevaluate. See where you can make changes. See where things can be easier for you. Small changes can lead to big results.

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Resurrecting Routine

Look back and think…”what was your favorite part of the day?
Not: “what is your favorite memory?” Because those don’t usually come as planned.
Not: “what brings you joy?” Because there can be too many to choose from.

So many of us are trying so hard to find “happy ” that we are actually working backwards. We’re giving ourselves decision fatigue in “what brings you joy?”
We try to plan out things we think will make us happy, and can end up disappointment.

Happiness is a habit which comes out of….routine.

Look back on parts of your day, and see which part makes you feel the most peaceful, the most relaxed, the most satisfied. This can be any part of your day where you personally feel at your mental and spiritual best. Simple, short, energy boosting, mood lifting things.

If I’m totally honest, it’s taken me 8 tries to get to this paragraph. EIGHT TIMES. Why? Because I’m trying to practice what I preach, and still find myself having to live at the same time. We’ve got the weirdest lifestyle of anyone I’ve met (in person). My husband and I both work from home, and we have two young handsome boys that we homeschool. We are together all the time. I bet the last two sentences have perfectly illustrated that it’s an understatement to say “It’s hard to find alone time”.

I’m kind of a night owl, but that doesn’t really work for my household. Sure, I can sleep in until 7:00 if I want, but that doesn’t equal a smooth morning at all. Last night I resolved to fix this by getting to bed “early” at 10:30. This morning I thought that getting up at 6:15 would be early enough, but quickly found out I was mistaken as my husband also jumped off the bed and into the shower, and the little guys got up and immediately started throwing legos at each other. This usually happens around 8am, not 6am. Coffee, please.

For some people this might be normal, but for people with the choice and ability to sleep in…whyyyyyy aaaaarrreeennnn’t yoouuuuu? I guess you could just say that we are incredibly in sync with each others rhythms. Which now that I think about it…is pretty heartwarming. Aww ❤

In the process of writing this blog post (yes, just ONE post) I’ve:
* Made oatmeal for the boys, complete with bananas
* Found the egg roll wrappers that were “hiding” on top of the case of Yuingling
* Made the coffee (extra grounds today)
* Made the bed and tidied up the bathroom
* Diffused a fight (over the all-important legos, duh)
* Talked with my husband about friends who’ve ditched us (hurtie)
* Set the ricotta to drain for the cannelloni he’s making
* Finally finished a cold cup of coffee (try to laugh ok)

Which…brings me back to what was to be the original point of this post! WHEW!

You need a little quiet time at some point in your day to reset and recharge your batteries.

For me, that was always the time when way back in the day, my husband would leave for base at 5am, and I’d get up with him, have coffee, and write. The house was quiet and dark, and it was just me alone with my thoughts and a keyboard. I’d collect my thoughts while jotting down feelings, dreams, and things I learned. At one point, I even had a weekly post on Fridays. When I was done, I did really feel peaceful, like I’d done something that served my brain and spirit, my mind was clearer, and I was ready to greet the boys when they woke up.

Why did I stop? Life happened. Wedding photography took over. The boys both started a brick-and-mortar school (the best private school in the area, but that’s not important). My husband’s job became super stressful. Let’s not even talk about deployments. Well, we can, just not right this second. The point is–I put the one small thing I liked to do for personal enjoyment on the back burner, and my emotional/spiritual self fell by the wayside along with it.

So many things changed. So much can happen in a frighteningly short amount of time. I lost myself, and I lost something that grounded me and kept me from having thoughts mull around in my head hundreds of times, which isn’t good for anyone. Repetitive thoughts can quickly downward spiral. For me, getting them “down and out” helped stop the negativity and just made a better day. Down on paper, and out of my head.

Today’s lesson has been long (approx. 3 hours long, honestly) it has been wordy, and it has been in pieces over the course of this morning. It’s almost 9am now. I’ve learned that Maybe a little earlier would help out my cause–early enough that the little wolves are still in REM and won’t wake up at the sound of one footstep. A little earlier would have my husband check the time on his phone and say “faaaah that” and pull the covers closer.

Routines are an evolving and changing thing. They, like habits, take time to build and form. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Things didn’t go today like I thought they would, but there’s always tomorrow. The important thing is: I tried. It’s a start, and a step. Baby steps. Any step is better than no step at all.

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