Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Tale of Two Post-Pregnancy Photos

A Tale of Two Post-Pregnancy Photos
MariaKangWhatsYourExcusePhoto credit: Body Image Movement | Facebook 
These two post-pregnancy photos have been all over the media lately. The first photo of Maria Kang with the caption "What's your excuse?," has been in the line of fire with people labeling her a bully.
The second picture, along with others, have been posted by an Australian woman, Taryn Brumfitt, largely in response to Kang's photo. 

Brumfitt wants to paint a more realistic picture of women's post-pregnancy bodies, saying, "I’m on a quest to redefine and rewrite the ideals of beauty. Women have been brainwashed into thinking fat, wrinkles and cellulite are bad. They’re not. It’s just a part of being a human being."

Team Kang or Team Brumfitt?
After reading about the two women on Fox 8 WGHP, which seemed to be very pro-Brumfitt, I was unsure at first whether I was Team Brumfitt or Team Kang. While I haven't had a baby of my own yet, Kang and women like her give me hope that I can look great, even hot!, post-pregnancy. And, between the two, I know which photo I would rather have.

Ultimately though, I am Team Brumfitt, for this reason: in a world full or Photoshopped, Facebook pictures and glamorous profiles, she had the courage to be authentic. 

My Take
I don't know about you, but if I'm having a bad day, when I'm feeling fat or unattractive, I try to avoid Facebook, because I don't want to see pictures of people dolled-up at parties, the selfies of people in their workout clothes with six-packs and the beach-bikini photos. 

As much as we know it's wrong to envy, sometimes social media makes it particularly hard, because it preys on our insecurities. The internet is rampant with photos like Kang's, that show people looking their best, but few like Brumfitt's that draw attention to their flaws. 

Social media sites like Facebook allow us to project an idealized image of ourselves to the world, and I know I'm just as guilty of this as anyone. We are able to weed-through unflattering photos of ourselves and only post the best ones. We can share statuses of our accomplishments and success stories, while keeping our not-so-proud moments quite. But the problem is, our lives are much more than just the highlights. We can't be perfect every second of the day!

Maybe we should be alright with sharing some of the darker times. Maybe, like Brumfitt, we should post an unflattering picture now and then.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Have Yourself a Stress Less Christmas

Have Yourself a Stress Less Christmas 

The countdown to Christmas has begun. Tis the season for holiday music, mistletoe, Christmas shopping, waiting in line and stress!

On Black Friday as I stood in line, one that went from the very front to the very back of an Old Navy store, I asked myself, "Why do we do this?" By this, I don't just mean the Black Friday shopping, which is a tradition for the females in my family, but all the holiday stresses and pressures that we go through each year.

While the holidays should be a time of celebration and enjoyment with friends and family, I often approach the holidays with a great deal of anxiety. We tell ourselves to plan ahead, to get things done early, and say things will be different this year. But, almost inevitably, Christmas Eve rolls around with presents still to wrap, recipes to make and shopping left to do. A stress free holiday seems just about impossible, but here are some suggestions for reducing seasonal stresses.

Be the Early Bird
I once knew a family that had all of their presents wrapped and under the tree by Thanksgiving. I am honest enough with myself to know that's never going to be me. But, I think that having all the presents purchased and wrapped a week before Christmas is doable. 

Another upside to starting early is you can keep a lookout for good deals. Black Friday is usually the best time to shop, because things are drastically discounted. While, the closer you get to Christmas day the more likely things are to sell out.

Savor the Season
There is pressure from society and retailers to get the perfect present. There's pressure from kids to get the it toy of the year. And there's pressure from family members or friends to throw and/or attend parties and functions.

But, ask yourself, what does Christmas mean to me? Think carefully about what your favorite things are and what you want to prioritize. I always enjoy going to see A Christmas Carol. Even though I've seen it so many times, something about a live performance makes it new every time. It's a great story that always puts things in perspective.

Whether it's an old tradition from when you were a kid or one that you start, it's important to take the time to do things that you can't do other times of the year. Preferably something that involves giving or reminds you of charity, peace and the positive messages of Christmas.

Take Care of Yourself
During the holidays more than ever, it's important to treat yourself and your body right. According to "The 'Merry Christmas Coronary' and 'Happy New Year Heart Attack' Phenomenon," an article from the American Heart Association Journal, there are significantly more heart attacks in December and January, specifically around Christmas and New Years, than any other time of the year. The culprit? Primarily, stress.

In terms of heart-health, the article advises avoiding "excess physical exertion...overeating, lack of sleep, emotional stress, illegal drugs, and anger...excess salt and alcohol intake." Does any of this sound familiar? Because, this pretty much sounds like my Christmas, minus the illegal drugs.

Avoiding these may be easier said than done, but it's a good idea to minimize these factors as much as possible. Think before you add that extra item to your plate, drink a little less alcohol and a little more water and get those extra Zs when you can.

Even if you're not immediately concerned with your heart, taking care of yourself overall will make you feel less stressed, grumpy and agitated. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Graphic Design Portfolio


Graphic Design Portfolio

Here's a little video I put together of my graphic design work thus far. It doesn't include everything but has most of the highlights.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Making Art without Selling Out

Making Art without Selling Out
Thoughts Inspired by the Documentary Seduced and Abandoned

During my hiatus from blogging, I've said goodbye to neighboring friends and family and relocated to a different state. It hasn't been easy trying to navigate a new area and put down roots. But on the upside, I've had plenty of time to practice guitar, read and catch-up on my T.V. time!

As I search for a new career opportunity, I am faced with the daunting challenge of finding something I enjoy doing that can also pay the bills. It is the constant struggle of an artist to make meaningful art in a commercial world.

My inspiration for this post comes from Seduced and Abandoned, a documentary I watched on HBO, which is doing a Fall Documentary Series. It follows actor Alec Baldwin and director James Toback at the Cannes Film Festival as they pitch a Last Tango in Paris-inspired film to star Baldwin and Neve Campbell. It is essentially a movie about making a movie.

The documentary is both comical and disheartening as the duo pitches their film to investors, who dub Baldwin a "T.V. actor" and counter their proposed $200 million budget with a $4-5 million budget. There are many interesting  and pithy interviews along the way as the two meet with a slew of who's who in Hollywood, including Ryan Gosling, Diane Kruger, Roman Polanski and Martin Scorsese.

While the overall tone is light-hearted, it takes a sobering look at the film industry, which is after all an industry. On one side are the idealistic directors, who have a vision for the film they want to make, and on the other side are the producers and backers, who are looking at the numbers, reducing actors, directors and scripts to mere digits in an equation.

The film starts with a quote by Orson Welles:

"I look back on my life and it's 95% running around and trying to raise money to make movies and 5% actually making them."

The documentary suggests many filmmakers are going with independent film companies or finding individual investors who share their vision. It is becoming necessary to avoid making concessions like using a certain actor, changing the plotline or various sorts of nepotism.

For me, this film raises many questions about art and commerce. To what degree are these concessions okay or even necessary? To what degree should an artist fight for their vision? And at what point are they just selling out?

These are not questions that are easily answered. I find that I keep running into these questions in my own life. During my time working as a freelance designer, I was sometimes caught between trying to make clients happy, while also trying to stay true to my aesthetic.

Is it possible for an artist to succeed at their craft without making some concessions along the way? While I'm not going to say it's impossible, it is at least very difficult. I guess it's up to every artist to ask themselves how far they are willing to go.

Sources: FlavorWire, HBOWatch

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Day 9

My Favorite Fall Foods

Pumpkin Seeds

For the past couple of years, my husband and I have carved pumpkins together. And when we clean them out, we save the seeds and roast them in the oven.

  • Put seeds in a pot of water and bring water to boil. Let water simmer for about 10 mins. Then, drain water. 
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Then, coat a baking pan with olive oil.  
  • Season seeds with whatever you desire. Some of my favorite varieties are seasoning with Cavender's All-Purpose Seasoning, garlic salt, or brown sugar. Really, you can use whatever seasoning or flavor you like. Get creative!
  • Then, spread the seeds out on the pan and roast for about 10 minutes, or until done.

Grilled Squash and Zucchini

Frankly, I'm not a huge squash or zucchini lover, but somehow grilled they taste so good! Just slice, coat with olive oil, season with Cavender's or lemon-pepper seasoning and grill! Either grill in foil or a grill basket. You can also add onions, if desired.

Pumpkin Muffins

Use Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bread and Muffin Mix. Simply follow the directions. They are so easy, even I can do it. And, whether you decide on the muffins or the bread, they taste great. If you want to get a little fancy with the muffins...Add chopped nuts to the mix and top with chopped nuts and brown sugar, or simply top with regular sugar. Yum!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Day 7

What One Leaves Behind

One of the scariest thoughts when you leave a place is that you'll be forgotten. Tomorrow, I will be training someone to take my place at work. It's uncomfortable to think of someone replacing you.

When you start to settle in somewhere, you can begin to think you're the only one who can do what you do; which most of the time isn't true.

I guess the best we can really hope for, is that we leave something good behind. Just maybe, something we did to help a colleague, a word of encouragement, or a smile on a bad day, left someone's soul slightly better than before.

A photo I took of some leaves on the ground.
I just love all the colors! Photo by Alyssa
There is the chance that we'll soon be forgotten, or worse, spoken ill of. But, hopefully, something we did will be passed on. To use my fall metaphor (which I hope isn't getting too old by now!), we shed our leaves in hopes that they will be used to enrich the lives around us. 

Fall Lawn Tip:

Now, in light of this is a practical tip I found about how to use fall leaves to compost your lawn. It's a free and eco-friendly way to use those pesky lawn-leaves! I don't have a lawn yet, but whenever I do, I will probably do this:

Tree Leaves as an Organic Fertilizing Agent

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Day 6

Moving in Slow Motion

I'm sorry to anyone who may have checked in yesterday, I was unable to post yesterday. It was alumni weekend at my Alma Mater and there were people to see and things to do! But, I do apologize and am going to try not to skip any more days. So, we are going to skip to Day 6.

My thought for today deals with moving and patience. I'm gearing up to make my move, but right now there's only so much I can do to get ready. Most of it will have to wait till moving day. A good deal of our stuff has already been put in storage. So, it's mostly a matter of getting it all loaded up. But what do I do in the mean time?

I also feel a bit stalled in the way of a career path and many aspects of my life. I've been trying to put myself out there more, both professionally and personally. But, so far, it doesn't seem as though I'm getting much response. And I've had to deal with some rejection.

As it is so often the case, I think things are probably going to all happen at once. But what do you do in during the waiting period?

I am going to trust that God has a plan, even though I don't always see the whole picture.

But, if any of you have any advice on how to gear up for a move, or do while you're waiting for something to happen, your comments are always appreciated!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Day 4

Changing Expectations

One theme that's been on my mind lately is the idea of being true to yourself, no matter what others think. I'm the kind of person that likes everyone to be happy and like me. I've been pleased with the response I've gotten from many people I work with as they've discovered I'll be leaving them. People for the most part have been very sweet and tell me they'll miss me.

It's a great thing to hear. But truth be told, I don't care as much about these opinions and acclamations as I used to. Because the older I get, the more one truth hits home:

There will always be someone out there that won't like you.

It doesn't matter if you're the sweetest person in the world--someone will think you're too sweet, or being fake. It doesn't matter what you do, because you can't please everybody.

And in the attempt to please everyone, sometimes you can become a watered-down version of yourself.

In addition to the 31 Days' writing challenge, the new challenge I'm giving myself is to be authentic, even if it makes someone upset and even if it might change their view of me. Because, I often shy away from fully expressing myself and my opinions out of fear.

I challenge you to do the same--to be authentic.

Say what you think.

Allow yourself to be weird or be quirky.

If people are going to judge you, when your being true to yourself, are they really the kind of people you want to be around anyway?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Day 3

Saying Goodbye to Summer

I find I always get a little sad when summer ends. I think it goes back to those carefree days as a kid, when you could play all day and didn't have a care in the world. And then it was time to go back to school--back to full days of classes and homework.

I still cling to the happiness and warmth of summer, wearing flip-flops, even when it's too cold and putting on those summer clothes I ought to put away.

But fall has it's perks, too. It brings pleasant days without the blistering heat. It brings the smell of bonfires, carved pumpkins and warm apple cider. The surrounding landscapes transform into lovely shades of gold, orange and scarlet.

As with summer, I find myself in the midst of this move clinging to the familiar. Like a child who is afraid to part with their blanky, I find myself holding on to what's comfortable and familiar.

Although I've been wanting this move for a long time, when the news came, I found myself feeling a little hesitant. I was sharing my anxiety with my husband, who said to me, "But, you wanted this. We've been working on this for a long time."

As a kid, instead of a blanky, I had a t-shirt from soccer camp. It was old and worn out. I'd had it for about seven years. I knew I should get rid of it, but it was so hard to let it go! I don't really know why. It didn't make any sense--I guess it was because of the good memories.

It's funny how we can do this. We can cling to the familiar, the comfortable, because it's safe. And even though we know it's time to let go, in the face of change, we start to glorify our past experiences. We forget about the sweltering days of summer, the time we got knocked down playing soccer, or maybe the reasons we called it quits in a relationship that didn't work out. We think only of the good times.

But change is something we have to accept, because it will happen whether we like it or not. I do believe their is value in reflecting on your past experiences, but not to get stuck there. Because, although the season ahead will be different, it will have new things to offer.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Day 2

3 Ways to Change-Up Your Everyday Routine
Routines can be a good thing. They give a feeling of comfort and consistency and help you manage your life. But routines can become monotonous and stale.
For me with an 8:00-5:00 work week, sometimes it can feel a little like the film Groundhog Day, where you wake up and do the same thing over and over again.
If this is the case, it’s time to shake things up. Here are some ways I like to spice up my week.
1. Try a New Place
Whether it’s a restaurant you’ve heard about but haven’t been to or a bakery you pass by every day, make a point of stopping in. As simple as this may sound it can be a scary experience. You always know what to order and what to expect from your go-to places, but what if you don’t like what you get at this new one? You may not like what you get, but then again, you might love it! Sometimes it’s worth taking the risk.
2. Search for Inspiration
There are many times when inspiration just hits you, like a beautiful song or a majestic sunset. But then, there are other times when inspiration seems hard to come by. In those times of inspiration famine, you have to hunt for it.
When I’m feeling particularly starved for creativity, I like to flip through a book of poetry. I also like to search for good songs or quotes by my favorite writers online. Of course you can always peruse on Pintrest too!
3. Dress-Up Your Dinner
Pour a glass of wine, put on some Sinatra, sing along and cook some Italian. If that's not your style, put on whatever you enjoy and helps you unwind. This may not be the kind of cooking style you can do every night, but why not create your own fancy dinner and have some fun doing it.  And, why save it for the weekend? Why not do it in the middle of the week?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Day 1


31 Days of Changing Seasons:

I have taken the 31 Day Challenge from the Nesting Place. Every year the blog’s writer does an event, where other bloggers link-up on the site and write about a topic of their choice for 31 days.
Starting a blog, where I can share my thoughts, is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. So, I’m taking this opportunity to kick-start my blog in hopes that the 31 Day Challenge will give me the accountability I need to write every day.
It is only fitting to start this blog during the fall, when the seasons are changing and I’m experiencing many changes in my own life. Just yesterday, my husband and I gave our two weeks’ notice and we’ll be moving to a new state!
In light of this, my 31 day theme will be Changing Seasons. I will be exploring topics from seasonal staples like pumpkins and cider to the many changes that lie ahead for me. Besides keeping up with the move, I will also be challenging myself to change in other aspects.
I hope you will join me in this journey of change and exploration. And it is my hope that any changes I make will inspire you to make some of your own!