don’t let the door hit ya, 2016!

img_7657

Fresh start to the year with a fresh organizer! {similar}

Oh hey there – it’s been a while! We have officially said goodbye to the shit show known as 2016 and there’s A LOT to reflect on. So let’s reflect, shall we? This past year was a doozy.

It was this time time last year that I started this blog as a warm and fuzzy little project where I envisioned writing about our home renovations and lifestyle, under the umbrella of honesty and authenticity. I wanted to pull the veil back a bit from the ever-present idea of attaining perfection and boy, did I ever! A year later, I absolutely still think that there is a sweetness in embracing the imperfections of life and finding joy in the mess – maybe more than before. I also still enter each day with a heavy dose of sparkle, but this year changed me a bit. I felt a general heaviness or heightened awareness of things happening in the world, and I couldn’t push it aside in my personal life and that came through in my writing.

For better or worse, I opened up myself online and I got some criticism and a lot of questions about WTF I was thinking. Some people ultimately pushed away from me, but others pulled closer. I learned that it’s easier to play the “everything is AMAZING!” game, in an effort to fit in and not make any waves. Apparently, my subconscious had other ideas about the importance of not making waves. Funny, or actually not funny, that even in my mid-30’s, I’m still playing little games with myself to make sure people like me. If I learned anything throughout this last year, it’s that the status quo doesn’t work for me anymore. I decided to face {mostly} every messy, confusing and uncomfortable thing head on.

The events of 2016 became a flashpoint of connection that created new or more substantive friendships. It highlighted the importance of meaningful relationships and mended some old friendship fractures and strengthened already strong bonds. Because I was so open, casual friends reached out and shared their own experiences with me. Those connections have turned into some of my most treasured friendships: the neighbors I didn’t know very well, the friend from middle school whom I haven’t seen in two decades, colleagues and more people than I can count on two hands. Other close friends offered a different perspective on the things I wrote about, which broadened my outlook.

2016 also drew a line through some relationships; like a line through the middle of a shared bedroom with a sibling – your side/my side. You can still live in that same space, but you’re always aware of the division that creates a comfortable distance. I’ve talked to a lot of people who have lost friendships and relationships with family members, due to dormant issues that bubbled to the surface. Now that they are out in the open, those issues feel like a fundamental game changer. That is a difficult thing to process. Like a teenager, I definitely noticed when a few friends stopped “liking” my photos on FB or Instagram. It took a while, but I finally learned to stop second-guessing myself for just being… myself.

2016 hit my marriage too. There was a moment when I was really worried. That worry was straight out of one of our favorite writings that we have hanging up in our home. The Desiderata poem has been an important work for both of us since before we met, and somehow I completely missed a major point and how it was impacting our relationship.

“But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.” – Desiderata

 

img_7647

The print of the Desiderata that we had made, emphasizing specific phrases, even though we love every single word of the piece. This is hanging in the most high traffic spot in our house, with the idea that we should be reminded of it every time we pass.

I was most certainly distressing myself with imaginings. It turns out that 2016’s effect on our marriage was to bring us even closer and show us our strength. For the 13+ years that we have been together, I thought I was somehow tricking my husband into thinking I was an unblemished version of myself. This summer, I learned that he knows me far better than I ever gave him credit for and even better than I knew myself in some cases. I had a few epiphanies and thought “WOAH. That makes total sense now!” but when I told him, expecting shock and awe, he responded with something like “Ummm… yeah? Duh. I’ve known that about you for years!” I married the right guy. I married my best friend. What excellent foresight I had 8 years ago!

None of this was my resolution for 2016. I can’t even tell you what my resolution was last year. But, I think it’s important to continue setting goals and checking in with ourselves as we make our way through each year. None of us know what challenges, successes, heartbreaks and joys 2017 will bring in each of our lives or in the world and we can’t control it. What we can control is how we respond to those things and how we choose to begin each day. For now, I’m going to continue down this road of authenticity and see where it takes me. I’ve cleaned my desk, and I have a few things up my sleeve that I’m ready to set into motion. If I see something I want to accomplish, change or be a part of, I’m going to get after it!

So, I guess this year didn’t change me so much as it provided a choice: stay safe and take the path of least resistance or not. I chose the latter and it was uncomfortable. Last year I dug deep, and analyzed lots of experiences and how they have influenced who I am. It was intense. It was lonely, but it had to be lonely because it was work I needed to do by myself. At times, I felt like I had a first class ticket aboard the Hot Mess Express, but I was reminded by a few amazing friends – old and new – that I wasn’t a mess. Life is messy.

Sending everyone a heavy dose of New Year sparkle.

xo

an open letter re: my soul

Segrada Familia, Barcelona


Last week, I voted early and then posted a photo to Instagram and my personal Facebook professing support for my candidate. The next day, I received a private message calling my vote into question on religious grounds. I took a few days considering if I should reply at all, reading relevant information, crafting a response and seeking insight from a handful of friends who are more pious than I. 

“I was really surprised to see you voted for Hillary. I thought you were Christian…”

This message was from a friend of a friend with whom I had not spoken in about a decade. I was definitely a bit taken aback, but I’m always up for a healthy conversation about deep issues with anyone. I sincerely appreciate being challenged, especially considering that I’ve been known to challenge others. I have decided to write about this, not to call anyone out or dig in my heels, but because I value discussions that can help us all to more deeply consider our own points of view and those of others. 

The note continued, “I’m sure you have your reasons, however I wanted to share this with you. All the best. By the way, I don’t support Trump, and I don’t send this to you with ill intent.”

What followed was a 20 minute video of a Catholic priest delivering a homily to his congregation regarding the upcoming election. If you don’t want to sit through the sermon, here are the highlights that I took away:

  • While neither party fully aligns with the Catholic church’s stances, one party is an unacceptable option because of its pro-choice platform.
  • Throughout the video, I found several inaccuracies and misleading statements, not to mention a tone intended to instill fear and shame.
  • He felt compelled by his position to state to his congregation that a vote for a candidate who is pro-choice will put “your soul in grave danger.”
  • He compared abortion to capitol punishment and casualties of war.
  • He even drew similarities between abortion and issues like Affirmative Action and immigration. 
  • He stated that a vote for the Democratic Party would “jeopordize the well-being of your soul,” make you “unworthy of holy communion” and that “you will be a source of scandal for others.”
  • He asks his congregation for the same outrage toward the pro-choice stance as is shown toward priests who sexually assault children. 
  • Finally, he demands the support and “admiration” of his people for speaking on this issue, “rather than resistance and criticism.”

Frankly, this sermon is precisely the type of thing that has kept me from attending church outside of special occasions. That and sentiments fueling the firestorm surrounding Jen Hatmaker, a prominent Christian voice who is currently being skewered for speaking in support of the LGBTQ community, but that is an entirely different blog post.

My religious and spiritual beliefs have evolved since my days with Young Life and Campus Crusade for Christ. My great grandfather was a Jewish man who married a Catholic woman. I am the granddaughter and daughter of Catholics and Protestants. I was baptized in the Methodist church and my children were baptized in the small Presbyterian church that has been home to generations of my husband’s family. In a college debate class I chose a pro-life stance and fiercely argued with my pro-choice counterpart. I am now unwaveringly pro-choice. I am still deeply spiritual, though I can’t claim any one denomination. My approach to religion is complicated at best. 

By the time I had finished watching the sermon, I felt as though it was sent to me out of concern for the “well-being of my soul,” but I was also a bit rattled. I stuffed down my feelings of offence and started viewing this as an opportunity for an honest discussion on opposing points of view. Thus, my open letter in response to the sender.

Hi,

I hope you and your family are well.

While there are many reasons behind my vote, as a matter of math, either the Democrat or the Republican candidate will be elected. Though I was a single issue voter 10+ years ago, I am no longer a single issue voter and the unbelievably high stakes in this election have only reinforced that stance. My conscience won’t allow me to either directly or indirectly support Trump and I believe that anything other than a Democratic vote in this election is doing just that, aside from the fact that I am a Democrat.

“In a speech delivered at the Vatican just three days before the U.S. presidential election, Pope Francis urged social justice activists from around the world not to give into the politics of fear by building walls but instead work to build bridges.

“Because fear—as well as being a good deal for the merchants of arms and death—weakens and destabilizes us, destroys our psychological and spiritual defenses, numbs us to the suffering of others,” he said.”

American Magazine 

I have to say the sentiments in this sermon are not reflective of my relationship with God or that of many other Christians. In fact, it is my understanding that what this priest did is both strictly forbidden by the Catholic Church as well as illegal, as a tax-exempt religious entity.

“Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy said in a statement…

“It is contrary to Catholic teaching to state that voting for a Democrat or Republican automatically condemns the voter to hell,” the statement said. “The Catholic Church does not endorse specific candidates, use parish media or bulletins to favor candidates or parties or engage in partisan political activity of any kind.””

Reuters

I encourage you to read the entirety of the Patheos piece I link to in the excerpt below. It is a thoughtful and well-researched article that addresses the points made by the priest in the specific sermon you shared.

“Using this homily, as imprecise as it is, for or against some political trend or candidate or party, knowing its flaws and understanding that more accurate teaching is available, seems insincere, an abuse of Priestly authority, and disrespectful of the Holy Mass.

In the end, Father’s homily lacks much that is easily accessed in other teachings on voting from a Catholic perspective and is not recommended for guidance.”

Patheos

I appreciate that we all have our own views and values and I know that you meant no ill will expressing yours. In kind, I hope you will appreciate my confidence that my soul is not in grave danger because of my support of the Democratic Party or my vote. 

Wishing you nothing but the best,

Lauren

not okay 

Fall is in full swing and I haven’t written a blog post since August. This summer was particularly intense for a lot of us, with the election and so many social issues catching fire. I have been in a season of serious soul searching and have mostly steered clear of my blog of late. But right now, I need to write and share about an important subject that has recently gained traction. I need to connect.

We all heard Donald Trump boasting about his fame affording him the ability to do whatever he wants with women and “grab them by the pussy” and I’m not sure many of us were shocked. Appalled, disgusted and angry, but not shocked. I’ve heard a number of people, including the offender himself, repeatedly say that these are “just words” and they have assigned it the charming label, “locker room talk.” As many of us know all too well, these are not just words.

We are talking about real actions of assault and violation. It was real for me when I was grabbed in the “pussy” by a famous baseball star.

{Using this word absolutely makes me cringe, but let’s be consistent with the language that triggered this discussion. As I’ve said before about other topics, getting uncomfortable with the things we discuss is the best way to change the status quo, so I guess that’s true of the vernacular within the discussion itself.}

I was a 22 year old waitress and college student. I had just moved to Chicago from my small town roots and was still finding my footing but thought a job at a sports bar in my well-lit, populated neighborhood was a safe bet. Like every other young woman I knew, I regularly secured my keys between my knuckles when I walked home alone – I thought that was the most likely time and place for an assault, so I was on my guard at all times.

I’ll never forget that night the Cubs clinched the division and the infamous slugger who thought it was okay to do whatever he wanted with my body, as I served him the drink he’d ordered. I shot him a horrified look and hit his hand away from between my legs. Without flinching or skipping a beat, he did it a second time, this time even more aggressively. I hit his hand again and bolted.

This is where the story gets even better. I went straight to the manager, a nice guy who always looked out for the waitresses and bartenders when customers got aggressive or inappropriate. How quaint and naive of me to think that he would be equally horrified and kick him out, because guys had been kicked out for much less in the past. But this wasn’t just any random guy. The manager said, “there isn’t anything I can do because he’s a celebrity.” And there you have it.

Men in power think they can get away with whatever they want because they CAN.

This power doesn’t just apply to famous men. Men can gain power over women in other ways. For instance: The college professor who regularly ogled me and touched me inappropriately while I was seated at my desk or handing in an assignment – but he was my teacher and elder. The former boyfriend who sexually assaulted me and left both physical and emotional bruises – but he was my boyfriend. Sure, I could have filed a complaint against the professor or broken up with the boyfriend much sooner, but I felt powerless and afraid. I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers or make the situation worse. The idea that women do not have agency over their own bodies is rape culture. Sometimes rape culture is actual rape and assault and other times it’s an unwelcome touch or demeaning language, whether in or outside of the presence of a woman. This culture leads to offenders like Brock Turner and those who justified his actions and lightened his sentence.

Rape culture goes further, with the overwhelming emphasis on making oneself desirable and sexy in the eyes of a man. There are entire magazines devoted to teaching young women and girls 27 ways to blow his mind and a step by step guide to make sure you successfully transform yourself to fit his idea of what you should look like, what you should wear, how you should act and who you should be, because only then will you have value. For your convenience, 45-51% of those magazines are ads for the products that will help you to achieve the goal of desirable vixen. It took me years to deprogram myself from that mentality. What’s more, because my husband never asked me to change anything about my appearance and never expected me to fit this mold that I had learned, I thought something must be wrong when we were first dating.

Watching this campaign has been difficult for many of us and has elicited a visceral response in me. That response has only grown more intense as the insults and “othering” have compounded, but it wasn’t until I read a piece about domestic abuse victims being triggered by Trump and his campaign, that it finally hit me: for months, this has been a trigger for me as well and I didn’t even realize it. I just thought I was going mildly crazy. Watching him has made me feel raw, vulnerable and absolutely terrified. It’s made me angry, it’s made me want to hide and it’s made me want to fight back. I’ve had panic attacks and one utter meltdown.

There was a 33% increase in calls to the National Sexual Assault Hotline with domestic violence and sexual assault survivors being triggered by Trump during the second presidential debate and the onslaught of media coverage of the Access Hollywood tape. Liz Plank with Vox, posted an excellent video {highly recommend!} that went viral on social media last week. Plank concisely illustrates why Trump isn’t actually a bully, as he is often described, but that he has consistently exhibited many classic traits of an abuser, such as gaslighting, humiliation, deflection and making threats.

Writer, Kelly Oxford asked women to tweet her about their first assaults 10 days ago. She has since received millions of tweets from women, describing their experiences with sexual assault.



There is now widespread acknowledgment for this broadly defined culture of disrespect and abuse, that we have been taught to shrug off because it’s just the way things are. Women are voicing their outrage with the realization that it is not actually their fault. Men share in this outrage, but several men have associated their outrage with the chivalrous need to defend their wives, daughters, mothers and sisters. Rather, shouldn’t men be outraged, not for the sake of women but for the sake of human dignity? Not outrage on behalf of women, but also on behalf of men. Last night, my husband said that it is easy for a man to be outraged when thinking about this culture and its effect on his own loved ones, but the next step is to go beyond that personal scope and feel that same level of outrage when considering the impact of rape culture on society at large. Further still, to feel outrage for the boys who are taught these behaviors in the first place.

The resounding message from so many voices telling their stories, is that it is no longer our burden to carry this shame. Let the shame fall to those who perpetuate rape culture and those who deny dignity to women. It is not okay. We can and MUST do better.

 

If you are a survivor of sexual assault, please visit RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) for support.

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800.656.HOPE

get over it: anxiety

IMG_1794.jpg

Flying: one of my biggest sources of anxiety. Panic attack level anxiety. I absolutely love to travel so I don’t let it keep me from flying!

More than 20 years ago, I was formally diagnosed with anxiety. When it got really bad in high school, I felt broken. I worked very hard to overcome it and I came out on the other side feeling like a stronger and much more complete person. That’s it, right? Buh-bye anxiety!!! Not so fast, honey.

A few months ago, I realized that I never really “got over it.” Struggling with anxiety is one of those things that once you start talking about, you quickly realize you’re in good company. That said, it doesn’t come up often and can be a bit of a taboo topic, but apparently I like writing about taboo topics, so why not!

I think anxiety is something you never really get over but that you learn coping mechanisms, whether or not you’re conscious that you’re doing it. My coping mechanisms have taken a hit since I became a mother, so my anxiety has been sneaking up on me a bit more than usual. Thanks to my two littles, I am waaaay too tired to stay up into the wee hours cleaning the house, organizing and reorganizing. Taking time for yoga has also fallen by the wayside. The internet says that getting enough sleep is important for keeping anxiety in check, so it’s probably safe to add that to my list! Combine these changes with some environmental stressors and you have a perfect recipe for your pot to boil over.
Anxiety manifests itself differently for everyone and it’s a perfectly normal response to stress. However, for some people it can color even neutral experiences. Some days, I feel anxious about the normal things that everyone feels anxious about and other days, it doesn’t feel so normal. Each person has different anxiety triggers. For me, it seems to be connected to the ability to control my surroundings and being in environments where I feel comfortable enough to be myself.

My husband brought up a really interesting point the other day – I have built my career around what can be one of the most stressful times in life, but planning weddings isn’t an anxiety trigger for me. One would think that my nerves would be through the roof with the responsibilities of a wedding planner, but I’m cool, calm and collected. Now the stress over work/life balance is another thing entirely, but the actual wedding planning process is almost relaxing. I think that’s because it’s my job to plan, to organize, to control what can be controlled. {All the love, pretty things, creativity and the warm and fuzzies probably don’t hurt either!}

Writing this blog has been helpful, for a few reasons:

  1. The writing process, in and of itself, is therapeutic, especially when I write about things that feed my anxiety.
  2. Posting those writings in a public forum is a great way to connect with people who can relate or who appreciate my perspective, so there’s no longer room to feel alone with my thoughts. It gives me a voice when I feel my voice is lost.
  3. Writing publicly and putting it all out there keeps me accountable to myself. It keeps me from floating back to my old habit of trying to be someone else in an effort to fit in and be liked.
  4. Writing about things that I love helps me to focus on the fun adventures in life and give those things emphasis.

So, for anyone who has ever wondered why I write publicly about personal things and touchy subjects, in addition to the fun stuff, there you have it. Life isn’t all fluff and prettiness for anyone. Part of being real is acknowledging and learning from the less than pretty. When I started this blog, I set out to keep from falling into to the look-how-fab-my-life-is kind of trap. I wanted to be sure I was open and honest, so writing this post is important for me to stay authentic.

This video popped up in my newsfeed via Upworthy {if you don’t follow them you should!} as a repost from The Mighty. It’s excellent and totally with the minute and a half. {No sound needed.}

Even though I sometimes try to convince myself otherwise… Having anxiety doesn’t mean that I’m weak. It doesn’t mean that my voice isn’t valid. It doesn’t mean that I’m not capable. It doesn’t mean that I’m not good at my job. It doesn’t mean that I’m not driven and focused. It certainly doesn’t mean that I am not a happy and bubbly person. {Because I am super bubbly, sometimes maybe to a fault!} Having anxiety just means that sometimes there’s a lot going on in my head and it’s harder for me to turn the volume down.

Understanding my triggers is essential. I know that if I’m approaching a situation that I can’t control, like flying, I need to do certain things to help me manage and get on with my travels. In that same regard, I’ve learned that it’s imperative to surround myself with people who bring the positive vibes so that I don’t sink into my own insecurity and defensiveness – I mean, who wants to hang out with Debbie Downer!? I certainly don’t want to hang with that girl, let alone BE that girl. Positive vibes and support are key.

I know I’m not perfect and I’m okay with that, but I think I’m finally done trying to be perfect.

xoxo

impromptu DIY kitchen reno

I’ve obviously put blogging on the back burner the last few weeks, because life. And also wedding season (#weddingplannerproblems). Oh, and also because we lost our minds and started a completely impromptu DIY kitchen renovation a few weeks ago. Nothing like a little demolition and drywall dust to throw a wrench in the wheel of functionality!! If you follow me on social media, you may have noticed my updates on our little project and I wrote this post in the thick of it, so you might want to skip back to that post if you want to see how we got here. {Follow me on Instagram!}

I have never been in love with our kitchen. When we bought our house, it was something I knew we’d update eventually, but it hasn’t been a high priority because the bones of the kitchen are decent. My hubs pointed out that the gateway project was when I decided to paint a chalkboard wall to help me be organized with projects and menu planning for the week. He’s right – the chalkboard wall really did open Pandora’s Box.

Chalkboard Insta.jpg

Sunday, 5.1: A simple enough project that lead to something much more intense!

A few weeks after the chalkboard wall happened, I decided to paint the walls in the kitchen white, to help brighten up the space and we even tossed around the idea of painting the cabinetry for a hot minute. One thing lead to another and we were quickly taking down cabinetry and planning open shelving with reclaimed wood. Then we fell down the renovation rabbit hole and took out the soffit. Mind you, the hubs and I are entry level handy. We definitely do not have the knowhow that some of our friends have when it comes to DIY renovations. We’re adventurous, willing to learn and put in the elbow grease, so with a lot of help, advice and encouragement from our more seasoned DIY friends, we made it through the experience relatively unscathed. I have to say, there is something uniquely satisfying about looking at the finished product and knowing that we did it.

IMG_1953

Monday, 5.16: Before – The wall-o-cabinetry and soffit. Cabinetry in country paneled glaze and walls painted with everyone’s favorite shade of dirty olive. Kitchen perfection.

IMG_2137

Thursday, 5.19: “This project escalated quickly” – me

If you’re thinking about removing a soffit, do your research. We knew what we were getting into because we had read a lot about it, but don’t go into this lightly. {Suggested reads on soffit removal: here & here.} What you’re looking at in this picture is close to a best case scenario in what you’ll find after bringing down a soffit.

Now what?

IMG_2169.jpg

Friday, 5.20: Re-wiring, with the help of a professional/friend.

One of our friends happens to also be an electrical contractor project manager and his dad is an electrician, so he was definitely the guy to call. There were several lines of romex that were just dangling in the soffit – not up to code. Whoever installed the recessed lighting in the kitchen was probably the same person who rigged the plumbing in the basement full bath to drain into the sump pump pit. Awesome. So our friend, Brian, and the hubs brought the romex situation up to code by drilling holes through the middle of the beams, disconnecting the romex wiring, threading it all through the beams and then reconnecting them again. Do not attempt this without someone who knows what they’re doing, like Brian. You don’t want to screw up electrical work. If you don’t have a Brian in your life, call a pro.

IMG_2176.jpg

Friday, 5.20: Putting electrical Humpty Dumpty back together again.

This party went until 1:30am, but they were committed, while I was asleep on the couch because I didn’t want to go to bed in case I could be useful. I’m sure I was a lot of help! So the next morning, this is what I woke up to!

IMG_2183.jpg

Saturday, 5.21: Drywall up and waiting for mud.

After the hubs did the first pass at the drywall, I took over. Apparently drywall is a job for someone who has a strong visual attention to detail. It would not be an understatement to describe drywalling as an art. I now have a new respect for the guys who did the drywall in our mudroom in no time, without sanding. {I’ll do a separate post on the tools one would need to venture into this kind of a project in a few weeks and break it down step by step. FYI – for an amateur, drywall definitely needs several passes of mudding and sanding and does not go up in a flash like I had hoped it would.}

IMG_2233.jpg

Saturday, 5.21: Drywalling 101, not for the faint of heart.

We did things out of order a bit… Because the soffit and therefore, drywall, was kind of a last minute decision. With the craziness of summer schedules upon us, we took a pause on the drywall, so we could take advantage of the kind offer from another set of friends to install the open shelving brackets with us. We didn’t want to venture into that one alone, because we wanted to make sure we were doing this perfectly so the shelving would hold all of the weight we planned to put on it, and then some. Who better than to assist with this project than my friend Stasi, from the previous post, who works for the Army Core of Engineers and her husband, Adam, a physics teacher. Check and check. Bonus, my mom, who is a recently retired physics teacher as well, was on hand to not only watch the kiddos but to lend her expertise… and talk me down off the ledge when I was getting nervous about amount of weight that would go on the shelves.

IMG_2190.jpg

Saturday, 5.21: Initial install of brackets for shelving.

There was a lot of math involved, weighing our dinnerware to come up with an estimate for the amount of weight that would be sitting on each shelf, plus estimates of the shelves themselves. We had weight limits for each of the brackets, so we were able to figure out the minimum number of brackets needed, and then we added more just to be safe. We marked out the options for bracket placement with tape, making sure that every option had the brackets going into the studs. Once we landed on a layout, we opted to use screws meant for installing cabinetry, rather than the screws that came with the brackets, just to make sure that they were extra secure. One note: The shelves are pieces of reclaimed wood from an old brownstone in Lincoln Park, so they’re not completely level in all places. We used a level but ultimately eye-balled it.

IMG_2200.jpg

Saturday, 5.21: Shelving dry fit installation + unfinished drywall.

IMG_2204.jpg

Still Saturday, 5.21: Get by with a little help from our friends…

With the brackets in place on the walls, we took the shelving down again, to be screwed into the brackets a few days later. Back to the Everest of the project: drywall.

IMG_2240.jpg

Sunday, 5.22: Mud, wait for it to dry, sand it down, repeat.

IMG_2248.jpg

Monday, 5.23: Mudding and sanding. Ensemble on fleek.

IMG_2255.jpg

Monday, 5.23: Drywall dust is no joke.

I’m a pretty clean/organized person, so you can only imagine how I felt about the effing dust from all of the drywall sanding. As if drywall mudding and sanding isn’t tedious enough, you get the added bonus of dust that never ends.

IMG_2259.jpg

Monday, 5.23: Finally time to touch up the brackets and paint the wall.

I’ll get into this more on Friday’s post this week, where I’ll talk about this week’s Friday Fave, gold spray paint. But, note the brackets have paint smudges around them on the walls. Installing the brackets to the wall and then drywalling around them caused the brackets to get scuffed up a bit. I could have sprayed a little paint into a lid and touched them up with a small brush, but instead, Adam gave me the idea to just spray the brackets right there on the wall. I just had to angle it upward to make sure I didn’t inadvertently spray the counter. Easy Peasy.

IMG_2272.jpg

Tuesday, 5.24: Shelves secured to brackets and organization started.

IMG_2982.JPG

Open shelving fully stocked with our most used dinnerware and a few sentimental keepsakes.

And DONE! Shelf styling complete and fully functional. We’ve had it up and running for about 3 weeks and it has been so wonderful! A few observations on the switch to open shelving from wall-o-cabinets:

  • It has really opened up the room and added character and charm, which I love.
  • We adore our dinnerware so having it out on display makes me happy.
  • The shelving is actually far more functional than the cabinetry in that space and we have more things out than we did before, rather than keeping some items in a closet for parties only.
  • When friends are over, they don’t have to ask where they can find a glass because it’s just right there.
  • I feel like this has helped the space to feel less dated from the paneled cabinetry and there’s even an old farmhouse vibe that feels fresh.

New switches/outlets and covers are on the list along with some details on the other side of the kitchen. Until we venture into a major kitchen overhaul, this has made all the difference and we couldn’t be happier or more proud of the finished product.

Upcoming posts on this project… the brackets, reclaimed wood shelving, styling the shelves and future kitchen style tweaks.

xoxo

on rape culture & parenting

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably read some of the think pieces about the recent sexual assault case involving a Stanford freshman athlete. I hope you’ve read his victim’s impact statement in its entirety. If you haven’t, please take the time to do so – it’s moving, gut wrenching and perspective changing. I am now joining the cacophony of angry voices. I can’t keep my thoughts to myself with this one, though it’s not exactly “on brand” for my fledgling lifestyle blog.

My heart is racing right now, as I write. Partly because I’m so angry at the system that has failed in stopping our society’s metastatic rape culture, yet again. And partly because this hits close to home for me. Though my story is nowhere near as jarring as this, I have my own history with sexual assault. It took me years to even acknowledge it and understand it and honestly, I still grapple with it to this day… more than 15 years later.

Thank GOD I wasn’t found behind a dumpster, unconscious and barely clothed like this young woman. That, I cannot begin to comprehend. What I do know all too well, is that rape culture is something that needs to be addressed and NOT the “drinking culture” that Brock Allen Turner, his attorney and his father have all emphasized. Let’s not forget the judge who handed down a laughable and infuriating sentence of 6 months in a county jail, as opposed to the 6 years in a state prison that the prosecution was asking for. To be clear, Brock Allen Turner was convicted on THREE FELONIES, by 12 unanimous jurors. He was stopped in the act by two passersby, who chased him when he ran and held him down until authorities arrived. It doesn’t get any more red-handed than this. Yet, here we are with the old boys club banding together, protecting him from the consequences. Not only that, but he doesn’t even have to acknowledge what he did. This is the part that infuriates me the most, the utter lack of accountability. The “drinking culture” and “sexual promiscuity” clearly lead to this misunderstanding and it certainly wasn’t the rape of a woman who was unable to give consent. Sorry for the inconvenience, Brock; our mistake.

Rape culture might seem like a crass term or even something you may not have heard before, but it’s a very real part of our society and I am one of many women who can speak to this personally. So let’s talk about it.

Rape is not limited to the violent, back alley experiences that we are all familiar with from TV and film.

“Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration, perpetrated against a person without that person’s consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or against a person who is incapable of giving valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, has an intellectual disability or below the legal age of consent. The term rape is sometimes used interchangeably with the term sexual assault.”

Wikipedia

Rape culture is the normalization of these actions. They are normalized every day through advertising, TV, movies, music {hello Blurred Lines}, jokes, even laws and more. It’s the sexual objectification that is rampant in our society, the trivialization of sexual assault and the impact on its victims, the glamorization of sexual violence and sexual coercion. It all seems so normal because we’re bombarded with this influence daily. It’s just a fact of life, right?

“Rape culture is 1 in 6 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Rape culture is not even talking about the reality that many women are sexually assaulted multiple times in their lives. Rape culture is the way in which the constant threat of sexual assault affects women’s daily movements. Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you’re alone, if you’re with a stranger, if you’re in a group, if you’re in a group of strangers, if it’s dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you’re carrying something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you’re wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what jewelry you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people you sleep with, what kind of people you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who’s around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who’s at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert always pay attention always watch your back always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be sexually assaulted and if you are and didn’t follow all the rules it’s your fault.”

Shakesville

I couldn’t relate to the above statement more and these are all lessons I was taught at a relatively early age. In fact, the “it’s your fault” piece of this statement hits a special kind of nerve for me, as it’s something that I still have trouble shaking. It was my fault. I put myself in the position so it’s on me. But why isn’t it on him? What are boys taught when the emphasis is put on girls to mind their p’s and q’s?

don't rape

As a mother to two boys, this is something I’ve thought about a lot before now. I feel a strong sense of responsibility to raise boys and men who do not filter into this cultural disgrace. I think about how I’ll teach them and what I’ll tell them. Do I tell them of my own experiences to help make it real for them? I’m not sure. But I do think this type of education needs to be addressed proactively and directly. The rape culture in our society is much too strong of an epidemic to just assume that raising good kids will be enough for them to not pick up on the social cues that this culture has fueled.

I think this starts at a young age. My boys are 4 and 18 months, but this is in the back of my mind, particularly when the 4 year old is asking for something he wants. Usually he demands something and I tell him no, so he’ll ask politely, but the answer is still no, then he gets more demanding and goes off the deep end. I know this is typical toddler and little kid stuff, but if he learns at 4 that this is how you get what you want, then who’s to say that this won’t turn into a behavior that he carries into his teenage years and adulthood? If you put enough pressure on, eventually you’ll get what you want. You can see how this mentality could be a slippery slope in relation to sexual consent.

There’s a lot to unpack about Brock Allen Turner’s father, Dan Turner’s statement to the court. Read the complete statement here.

Dan Turner Letter.jpg

Excerpt from letter written by Dan Turner. Via.

Ultimately, we are looking at an excellent example of how rape culture is perpetuated by parents. Parents who are no doubt, well-meaning and just want to fight for their child’s best interest. However, is it really the best thing for anyone to have people who don’t accept responsibility for their actions? People who don’t admit fault? People who sweep under the rug, explain away, water down and spin their own choices, actions and behaviors so that they are not expected to hold accountability? The verdicts didn’t break and shatter your son and family, Mr. Turner; your son’s “20 minutes of action” did that.

Several people I know and care for have a negative connotation with the word feminism, because I think they don’t fully understand the meaning of the word. But I think it applies here in a way that is tough to dispute. Among other women’s issues, to be a feminist means to support the protection of women and girls against sexual assault, harassment and domestic violence. I want my boys to be feminists. To speak up and be part of the change. I’ve said this before in a previous post about another heated subject, but I’ll say it again: I want my sons to fight for causes that aren’t necessarily their own. This isn’t just a women’s issue, but it’s an issue for all of us. For every mother, sister, daughter, wife and friend, it’s our responsibility to do better.

I don’t know her name, but to the brave young woman who fought for justice: You have been that lighthouse just standing there shining and a great many of us have been moved. I hope that your light is the one to ignite a blaze that will lead to change.

 

Good Reads:

I Blame Brock Allen Turner’s Father

25 Everyday Examples of Rape Culture

 

the snowball effect: one week kitchen makeover

Have you ever started a project that seems relatively simple and then it takes on a life of its own and turns into something completely different, entirely? That has definitely been me this week. On more than one occasion every day since Monday, I have said, out loud, “What the hell did I get us into?” And my new favorite, “What kind of fresh hell is happening in our kitchen?”

When we first moved into our house, the only thing that we didn’t touch with paint was the kitchen because we just weren’t sure what to do with it. We I really have never liked our cabinets. The word hate would probably be appropriate. It’s some kind of paneling from the 60’s that was painted and glazed with an antiqued vibe. The paint and glaze wouldn’t have been my choice regardless, but on this paneled cabinetry it just isn’t working for me. A particular pebble in my shoe has been this wall of cabinetry. We definitely don’t need quite this much storage, considering everything on the other half of the kitchen and it’s all of that terrible paneling right at eye level.

IMG_1953.jpg

60’s era paneled cabinetry, reimagined with glaze. Also, note the charming shade of olive and it’s patchy paint job near the ceiling. Perfect world, I’d be tearing most of this wall down to create a bigger opening into the dining room.

I’ve been daydreaming of a massive kitchen overhaul since we moved into our house five years ago, but that’s definitely not in the cards. After completing our mudroom project this past fall, the contrast between the kitchen and the mudroom, as well as the rest of the house, for that matter, is even more pronounced. Thus, I wanted to come up with a DIY fix that would be a good placeholder until we can do a full kitchen reno.

Slate-blue-cabinets-with-gold-hardware-587x894.png

The daydream: future kitchen inspiration. Via.

Ideas we tossed around:

  • Painting the cabinetry. While this seemed like a viable option for a hot minute, ultimately painting doesn’t change the paneling of the cabinets and would be a considerable amount of effort considering the amount of cabinetry we have. NEXT.
  • Refacing the cabinets. Apparently our 60’s situation comes with weird sizes so this would be a quite costly, custom job.
  •  Painting the walls regardless of the cabinetry decision. Because, that shade of olive.

We decided last weekend that we were going to paint the walls white and then take it from there. So we bought a couple of gallons of Simply White, by Benjamin Moore, because I felt that shade of white would be a good middle ground with the warm tone of the cabinetry and the more crisp look that I’d prefer. We didn’t want a stark white, because I didn’t want to pick a shade too bright that would make the cabinets stick out even more. The goal is to make them fade away.

Monday morning, I apparently had too much coffee because I must have thought to myself, “Hey! I don’t have childcare today, my four year old is under the weather and there’s a mountain of laundry to tackle, so obviously I should start painting the kitchen!”

IMG_1969.jpg

Our kitchen in all it’s olive green glory.

IMG_1998

After: light and bright!

IMG_1978

When your kiddo wants to help you paint, but you don’t want to pause to get him appropriate painting attire. And then he asked why I wasn’t taking my shirt off to paint. #motheroftheyear

IMG_1988

This is the moment when my coffee buzz wore off and I realized what I had gotten myself into. That and the baby woke up from his nap so that made things interesting!

So, you would have thought that I would have learned my lesson and quit while I was ahead. Painting that entire kitchen in 1 day, without childcare was quite the feat in and of itself. And I even responded to emails and did a little work on breaks from painting! I must have been cocky after all of that accomplishment in one day. But it dawned on me. We didn’t need to repaint the cabinets, because we didn’t really need them. We need open shelving.

IMG_2085.jpg

I somehow convinced my sweet sweet husband that we needed to remove the uppers on this wall and replace with two large pieces of reclaimed wood for open shelving. I then went shopping for said reclaimed wood with one of my besties, who further solidified this plan in my head!

IMG_2043.jpg

Stasi talking to Todd at Reclaimed Wood Chicago about a few particulars with the two pieces we selected.

So we were on our way to our scheduled DIY open shelving install date of this Saturday, yes 5 days after I painted the kitchen. I have my list of things to do before Stasi and her husband come over to help us with the install: patch the wall after the cabinets have all been removed; prime and paint; sand the wood and seal with polyurethane. Manageable with a few late nights this week after the kiddos go to bed.

And then I got this text…

IMG_2086.jpg

So now we’re entering into serious kitchen overhaul territory. I’ve read about soffit removal and I know about the insane undertaking that it is, but he’s right. Removing the soffit would make a huge difference. So we checked it out to see if there was any duct work lurking behind the soffit and to our chagrin and excitement, no obvious or major detractors. With some encouragement from friends and neighbors and A LOT of help and pep talking, it looks like this soffit is coming down.

IMG_2119.jpg

I knew it was a lot to take on in a short amount of time, but our summer weekends are already completely full between now and late July and I love a project. There’s something kind of cathartic about this kind of project for me, so I’m not as crazy as people think I am. I actually enjoy it! But seriously, this all started because I wanted to paint the kitchen and now here we are. Please send wine.

xoxo

friday faves! kate somerville

Today I’m launching a new series that will celebrate Fridays with a focus on some of my favorite finds. Kicking it off, we need to talk about how I’ve been unfaithful. I have full on cheated and replaced some of my favorite skincare staples. I felt a little guilty about it, but ultimately, I found something that was a better fit and fulfilled my needs in ways that I didn’t know I was missing.

I think Kate Somerville is my new BFF. {Okay, and also the blogger/interior designer whose coffee table book has a prime spot on my shelf and with whom I’ve had a few Insta exchanges lately. I’m convinced we are now friends. Don’t judge.} A couple months ago, I stopped into the wallet vortex that is Sephora intending to grab a new bottle of the cleanser that I’d been using religiously, but instead I scooped up two items from the ExfoliKate line on a whim. The result: my skin hasn’t been this soft in years. Glory, Hallelujah!

exfolikate

ExfoliKate, Kate Somerville

I am pretty loyal to products that I love, evidenced by my praise singing of the GLAMGLOW masks here and here. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a soft spot in my heart for them, especially the SUPERMUD, but this little gem has changed my exfoliation game. My results from this exfoliation treatment have been very similar to the results I get from the FLASHMUD by GLAMGLOW – my skin is super soft, brighter with a bit of a glow {which is also highly dependant upon how much water I drink and how much sleep I get}, my fine lines are less intense and my pores are clear. But you see, Kate Somerville figured out how to deliver all of this magic in keeping the treatment on for only 2 MINUTES compared to 20 minutes. I don’t know any mama or busy working gal who can’t appreciate that! I actually haven’t used any other masks in at least 6 weeks and I love a good mask. Sorry FLASHMUD, but we have to break up.

Another thing that I love about this product is that it’s available in a small size from Sephora, so you can get your hands on it without dropping a ton of money. This is the size I have been using for the last 2 months and I still have plenty. Once I do run out, I will for sure be getting the full size though!

exfolikatecleanser_tubecarton

ExfoliKate Cleanser, Kate Somerville

The ExfoliKate Cleanser is not the kind of exfoliating cleanser that has little granules as you wash your face – you get the granules in the exfoliating treatment mentioned above. It has a great, creamy texture so my face feels really hydrated but fresh at the same time. It uses other ingredients, like lactic and glycolic acids along with fruit enzimes, to exfoliate gently. It also removes my makeup without requiring a separate step before I cleanse, which is key for me. I think that this has been a step up from the cleanser I had been using, which I still love and choose to be the partner with my Clarisonic a few times a week. But the ExfoliKate Cleanser has taken things up a notch – my pores feel and look better and my skin has been in excellent shape without breakouts or any reactive irritation.

I’ve found that the treatment and the cleanser pair really well together and have noticed a difference in my skin, which is saying a lot from a girl who has super sensitive, dry and reactive skin. One thing that I have learned over the years with regard to exfoliation, is that is great to pair the two types of exfoliation both through physical/mechanical and chemical in your beauty routine. This combo of products does just that and it packs a punch. A gentle punch.

Note: This post has not been sponsored and this is my 100% unfiltered take. This whole blogging project is certainly not a money maker whatsoever, but even if it ever does evolve into something bigger, I promise I will only write about something that I have tried for a considerable amount of time and feel strongly about. Especially when it comes to beauty products. I feel like you need a minimum of 2 weeks to see how it’s working with your skin, so I wouldn’t feel good about singing praises of a product if I haven’t tried it for at least a month.

Happy Friday!

xoxo

 

perspective

IMG_1456.JPG

This isn’t the first time I’ve cried for a stranger, but this one hit me hard. Through Instagram, I saw bits of myself, or the version of myself that I aspire to be, in a fellow wedding planner 2000 miles away. Her two littles are the exact same age as mine – 4 and 1. Yesterday, she passed away from the cancer that was diagnosed, as her baby was born, not much more than a year ago. I am heartbroken for a complete stranger and her family. I am shaken to the core. And… I feel a little ridiculous about how I have been impacted by someone I never knew.

It’s no secret that social media is typically a carefully curated and filtered highlight reel that can often gloss over the realities of life. {I am certainly guilty of posting pictures that conveniently crop out the giant pile of laundry that seems to reappear immediately after I get it under control.} There are several people I follow on Instagram and I glance at their photos thinking that their lives really are just one constant highlight reel. Even though I know that’s far from the truth, my mind’s eye tricks me into seeing a perfect photo as a representation of overall perfection, giving me major life goals. In Tori’s feed, that’s exactly what I saw, with the added bonus of seeing slight parallels between us in our careers and children. Until I read about her illness. All of a sudden all of those perfect images that I’ve been re-scrolling through have a different meaning. I think about what she must have been thinking as she held onto her babies, made sure that she was in front of the camera with them, creating something for them to look back on.

When I think about the struggles we all face each day – laundry, stress, money, work, etc. – it all pales in comparison to the struggle of someone fighting to just live. Fighting to be there as their children grow. Fighting for the ability to carpe diem. Our lives are already beautiful, no matter how much they actually line up with the images we post. Even in rubble, there is beauty simply because we woke up today and have breath in our lungs. Right now, I have tears in my eyes for the emotions I’m feeling, joy in my heart for my children, stress for my to do list, a pile of laundry that needs to be folded and a splinter in my foot. It’s just a standard, unremarkable day, but I’m here.

What do I hope to accomplish by writing this? I want to put it out there as a reminder to myself to really live and be in the moment. I want to hold my children so close that my heart might burst. {Because just writing this now it feels like it could burst in the form of tears all over my laptop, so a group hug seems like better use of that feeling!} I want to tell my husband all of the things that he means to me more than I tell him about the things we need to do around the house. I want to make sure that the people I care about know that I love them, even the people that I’ve drifted from. I want to have more adventures, travels, explorations and experiences and not let the weekly monotony envelope me.

90890024.jpg

One of the moments that put my life into perspective. Jen Lynne Photography

So, #fortori, I promise to take advantage of the now; to not wait for a more convenient time. I promise to remember, no matter how rattled I might feel or how much coffee I may need, each moment is fleeting. I promise to live each day with purpose and to fill my moments with zest and light.

https://www.gofundme.com/helpingthehendrixs

 

fifty shades of grayish blue

IMG_1132.jpg

Throughout our home, it’s clear that we love gray in all it’s forms: neutral greige, barely there gray, moody charcoal, glossy graphite. I like to play with pops of color in home accents and the occasional bold paint choice, but the one color that makes an appearance in almost every room is some shade of gray. Inspired by the blue washer and dryer we bought when we moved into the house, we immediately zeroed in on the type of palate we wanted for the new mudroom. So, we were off to select our perfect shade of grayish blue.

Here are the factors that we considered when making our selection:

  1. Our washer and dryer are a shade of blue that’s between sapphire and navy. We didn’t want the hue on the wall to be too close to that of the appliances.
  2. We were obsessed with the gray tile for the floor that we selected and again, we didn’t want select a paint color that was too similar.
  3. The one source of natural light is via eastern exposure. After some research and experience with the paint choices in the rest of our house, we’ve learned that rooms with eastern exposure tend to read a little cool. We wanted to pick a shade that had a touch of warmth to it, so that the space didn’t feel cold or stark. I love this piece on how light affects color.
  4. It’s a space that gets an extreme amount of action every day, so we wanted to pick a color that would feel welcoming.

Side note: When we moved into our house 5 years ago, we painted every single room, but for the kitchen, including all of the trim. I am a firm believer in painting swatches on multiple walls, so you can see the way light hits the color options differently and how it pairs next to trim, flooring and other fixtures.

IMG_7552.jpg

I probably should have started this blog when we were in the thick of our mudroom project and garage addition, but alas, it was just a vague idea at the time. So of course, this is the best photo I have of all of the swatches.

Mineral Alloy

Mineral Alloy, by Benjamin Moore

I am IN LOVE with this color and totally want to use it somewhere else in our house – perhaps on cabinetry or a piece of furniture? It’s the perfect calming yet welcoming tone, which is ideal for the space that is our primary family entry and full of chaos. It feels grounded and not too cool, sophisticated and upbeat but not in your face. Mineral Alloy for the win!

IMG_1142.jpg

On a somewhat related note, per request, I want to touch on how the herringbone tile connects to the hardwood in the kitchen. The mudroom used to be the spot for my hubby’s car in our former garage.

To keep our costs as low as possible, we didn’t mess with the ceiling that was already in place from the garage. That did tie our hands a bit, thus the mudroom is one small step down from the kitchen. It took about a day to get used to it and our one-year-old got the hang of it in no time. In response to a reader comment: I think the junction between the two flooring materials would have been totally fine even if there wasn’t the step there. There’s other tile in our house that meets flush with the hardwood and it works because the tile defines a separate space.

IMG_8008.jpg

Entry from the mudroom into the rest of the house, after the door was removed.

IMG_1141.jpg

Small step connecting the two flooring materials.

Next up for this space, open shelving next to the upper cabinets. Stay tuned!

xoxo