Life

Have an Epic 2017

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Gertrude is making a comeback in 2017.

It’s cliche and overwrought now, the idea of telling 2016 to not let the door hit it on the butt as it disappeared into history. It was a hard year no doubt, with the loss of so many familiar and famous faces, an unsettling presidential election, and so much tension worldwide. 2016 wasn’t an entirely bad year, though. I had a couple of significant personal highs, my brother getting married and the birth of my first child being tops of the list for me. But the year is over now and we are just a few days into 2017. I’m not one for resolutions, but for some reason this year it feels important to set a course. My life is dramatically different as I embark on a new year. 2017 Nicole is a very different lady than 2016 Nicole so I’ve taken a couple of days (most of them spent dealing with a fussy, post-shots baby boy) to figure out what direction I want to steer my new year in.

Guys, I’m planning to have an epic 2017.

On Friday I go back to work, but I am in a sense going to a whole new life. My job is amazing and I’ve been able to take on a different job role which in turn gives me a schedule that pretty much lets me be a stay at home mom while still earning a full-time income. This schedule change means my precious baby J is only going to be in childcare one day each week (and right now we’re lucky enough to have a family friend watching him.) It also means that I will actually have the flexibility to pursue some of my creative passions, like writing. Like makeup. Like everything. In 2017 I’m going to be working on my makeup and stylist side gigs, but also combining them with some other pursuits to create a whole image service. I’m also going to be working a bit with Rebecca Lassiter Photography and I am so excited about it. Rebecca took baby J’s first photos and I am obsessed with her work. I can’t wait to see where my creative pursuits take me.

I’m also focusing on my health and well-being this year. Last year was the year of finding out what was going on with myself emotionally and while mental health is always a work in progress I enter 2017 knowing my diagnosis and having a coping plan. What I need to focus on now is my body. Having a baby is hard! Being a mommy after the difficult physical process of birth is almost as taxing. I’ve already lost weight since having the baby, but I want to get myself to a healthy body weight. I’ve started doing Weight Watchers to help me towards my end goal of being literally half my size. It’s not about looking good (though I feel like I will be happier with my appearance) it’s about having my body in the best shape possible as J gets bigger and gives me a run for my money.

And speaking of money…I’m definitely trying to be more financially responsible this year. Expect to see more of my Target exploits, still unsupervised but perhaps a little more savvy. I have killer Target Style. Now I just want to do it on even more of a budget, which of course makes it even more awesome.

2017’s going to be awesome. It’s going to be epic.

What are your plans for 2017?

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Life, writing

Finding words.

I used to consider myself a writer. When I was in high school I spent a lot of time scribbling in notebooks and, eventually, writing away on computers as I tried to fashion the Great American Novel as well as become the next great American poet. I had some early encouragement. A well-connected teacher gave me an incredible opportunity with a serious publisher, but seventeen-year-old me choked and choked hard. Instead of accepting opportunity I let myself walk away from it, having somehow convinced myself that I wasn’t ready to be part of the literary world. I went off to college and kept writing as part of my academic world, ended up doing some work in journalism, went to graduate school for writing and even wrote most of a novel for my thesis but never made my way back. I tinkered and wrote and shuffled chapters and ideas into binders and desk drawer coffins. I stopped finishing things I started. It took me five years to actually complete the most difficult poem assigned to me in graduate school (I had turned in a watered down version, which did well-enough. I ended up telling my professor via Twitter that I had finally finished the full version. I still need to email it to her.) I think I just gave up.

Tonight, while looking in a dusty email folder for something I had saved, I ran across an email I wrote to a graduate school professor asking her to fail me. She had graciously allowed me extra time to finish some assignments due to the various things going on in my life at the time because she believed in my skill and talent. I ultimately ended up asking for the failing grade. This is, in part, what I wrote to her:

I need this failure.

All of my life I’ve been given second chances and opportunities I don’t deserve.  I’ve been allowed to skate by on the promise of my talent and skill and it resulted in the development of a sense of laziness on my part because I’ve always known I could get away with minimum effort.  Ridiculous things have been blamed on outside forces when it all boiled down to my not being disciplined, me not working hard enough, me just phoning it in.

I don’t want to be a person who compromises her skills, her talent, her dreams for the easier road.  I want what I do to matter for something and if that is going to be the case I have to learn that I can’t float by on a smile and a promise.  I have to work for things like everyone else.  A lower grade isn’t going to reinforce that for me.  I have to fail.  I have to have the sting and embarrassment of failure, a permanent and glaring mark that says to me this is what happens when you coast.

I need to be accountable for my laziness.  I need this if I am ever to succeed.

I wrote this six years ago. My professor did fail me as I asked and I ended up coming back to retake the class in the fall. I passed with a B+, but nothing really changed for me. I continued coasting. When I found the email tonight I realized that the message I was sending wasn’t ever really meant for my professor or for that summer. It wasn’t meant for the student I was then. Those words, that message, was meant for me now.

I don’t want to be the person who compromises for the easier road. I want to be the writer I know I am.

It’s actually Tuesday night as I write this. I’m sitting up far past when I would like to be in bed. Usually as I approach the deadline for a blog post I’ll just get up and slap it together while the coffee brews. It’s good enough and it works. That’s coasting. So instead I’m sitting here with some tea thinking and writing. I just did some work for the site I write for and I’m trying to plan out my piece for next week as well. I’m making the time. I’m finishing something I start.

This is how I will find my words again.

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Life, Year of Making it Happen

NaNoWriMo

Day one of NaNoWriMo yesterday and I wrote just shy of three thousand words. To be very exact I wrote 2947 words. I think this is a first day record for me and I hope I can keep the momentum going. I decided to give NaNoWriMo a try again this year and entered the fray without a plan. At all. Like, I had no idea what was going to come out of my fingers when I sat down in front of the keyboard yesterday morning. I just knew that I wanted to push myself to write two thousand words and I did so in under an hour. The words kept flowing and a general idea was just there. It felt good.

I know that I’ll hit a wall at some point. Somewhere in the story I will reach a place where I need something to help me along or my plot will wear thin (this assumes I even have a plot at any point.) Right now, though, it feels good to just be writing again.

Last week was rough. I don’t really want to talk about why, but it’s enough to say that life hit me hard with two mega reality checks, neither of which I know what the outcome will be for. I’m working my butt off for them both to be good and I’m going to put good energy into the Universe. And to be fair I needed the reality check. It doesn’t make it any easier, but it does give me renewed purpose. Being serious about getting things done is always a good paradigm shift. For me, NaNoWriMo is part of that.

So here’s to November.

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Life, Year of Making it Happen

Breaking it.

Just in time for my own personal Spring Break (I’m going to my hometown for Easter for the first time in about a thousand years, y’all) I’m starting to feel forward motion with the inspiration that began taking hold of me in Chicago. Since I’ll be out of town for a handful of days I’ve decided that I’m going to work with some of my projects and get things into a nice rhythm. Here are some of the things I’m going to be working on.

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excitement t-rex is stoked about spring break, too

1. A novel. Legit, I am writing a novel. I recently read an old friend’s book and it set fire to the material that began piling up in my mind in Chicago. I bought a Moleskine and have been making a list of ideas for the story in it. I’ve also divided the notebook into sections for characters and for outlines. Right now I’m just dumping out thoughts and questions I have. I hope to get a rudimentary outline going over break.

2. An inspiration book. Think like an artist. This is something that was repeated in basic school and I’ve been taking that to heart. I’m purchasing a blank (unlined) Moleskine of some kind with the intention of using it to paste in the visual things that inspire makeup and art ideas in me. The world is full of color and I want to capture it.

3. Gluten free baking. My mom bought me a bunch more coconut flour. I’ve also had some questionable medical stuff. The two things conspire together to make me give more of a damn. I also miss grilled cheese like whoa so there MUST be some magical bread recipe out there so I can have a grilled cheese.  I’m determined to find it.

4. Moar posts. I’m getting some things outlined and figured out. Oh yeah, it’s going to be epic.

Man I love Spring Break.

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Life, Year of Making it Happen

Chicago

When I changed makeup lines I knew that I would have to start all over. I wouldn’t lose the knowledge that I had worked so hard to gain, but I would have to learn all of the basics of my new brand and every makeup line does things a little differently. For me that jump was even larger because I was shifting from a skincare oriented brand to an artistry brand so when my manager told me that they would be sending me away to Dallas for three days of training I was excited. I started working in December so training school didn’t happen right away. To be honest I forgot about it. I just went to work at counter and tried to learn as much as I could from the people around me. One night in February, though, my manager called me: they had a date for my basic training class and instead of Dallas they would be sending me to Chicago.

FullSizeRender(5)I don’t have the best and happiest history with Chicago, though to be fair when your entire experience with a city is a diverted flight into O’Hare and all you really want is to go home you do find yourself annoyed with everything. To say I wasn’t exactly giddy about Chicago would be a fair statement. I was excited to go to school and learn, but it was cold outside, winter hadn’t been super kind, and I was having subtle flashbacks of just how much I hated O’Hare. And I was flying out on my least favorite airline at a very early hour. The location of my hotel definitely softened things for me (who doesn’t want to stay on the Magnificent Mile?) but I had no idea what to expect.

FullSizeRenderMy departing flight was delayed, delayed, delayed and then cancelled. An ice storm in other parts of the country had really messed with flights into Chicago and since the commuter flight between Kansas City and Chicago was a regular thing killing the early one made strategic sense. My contact was able to get me rebooked onto the next flight out, but I was still stranded at the airport for several hours and was going to be late for my first day of class. I eventually departed and had a flawless flight into the Windy City. They didn’t lose my luggage and the ground transportation was right there waiting. My driver was amazing and took me a creative way to my hotel, explaining the city and telling me stories the whole way. She also gave me a quick tutorial on how to use the mass transit systems and a list of food suggestions and service people to look for. Weaving our way from the airport to downtown I could feel myself opening up to the city.

FullSizeRender(4)I’d been in a funk and a rut for awhile. Writing was hard. Staying on task with the things that made me happy was hard. I felt low energy and uninspired, almost as though I was trudging through life and I had hoped that getting out of town would help. I prayed (literally) that Chicago would inspire me and that whatever was that was missing inside of me would be found. Training class filled my mind with so many new ideas and perspectives. I met amazing people and learned wonderful things, but every afternoon as soon as we dismissed for the day I found myself rushing out into the cold and the city with arms open to embrace it all.

FullSizeRender(1)Walking up the street to Lake Shore Dr where I could get a view of Lake Michigan had been high on my priority list. When I actually set sight on Lake Michigan smack at rush hour and in the dying light of day it was as though everything that had been missing inside of me flooded me all at once.  Maybe it was the colors. Maybe it was the sharpness of the cold and the energy of everyone going somewhere. Maybe it was the scope of the city but in the midst of rushing cars and students at Northwestern hurrying about I felt the perfect stillness of being exactly where I was supposed to be. I felt at home.

FullSizeRender(2)I walked back to my hotel and met up with a classmate deeply inspired. We decided to do a little bit of shopping (again, who wouldn’t want to go shopping on Michigan Avenue?) and I found myself buying things that fed the inspiration: a handful of Inglot eyeshadows selected to match the shifting tones of the Chicago sky, a pair of burgundy oxford-style heels as rich as the tones of sunset, a spiffy blazer with architectural details that reminded me of the buildings. A shamrock shot glass, just because. I’m certain that words and stories started to wedge themselves into my brain, though they haven’t blossomed just yet. When things feel full and right sometimes it’s more about impressions of the moment than the fully formed thoughts.

FullSizeRender(3)On the last day I was reluctant to leave. I felt a sense of longing already starting as ground transportation carried me back towards O’Hare and by the time I sat waiting for my flight back to Kansas City I could feel some part of me unraveling. My prayers had been answered: I was leaving Chicago better than when I had arrived, my heart and soul full again, my mind on fire. I’m already anxious to go back. I’m already planning a return. And in the meantime? I have my spark back.

I love Chicago.

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Life

Here’s to Brave

 

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be brave (not a real tattoo)

If I were going to get a tattoo I think that this would be it: an awkward little arrow and the words “be brave” scrawled above it.  I’ve gone back and forth more than a few times on the idea of getting a tattoo and for years I thought that the one that I wanted most was a physics equation for the change in potential energy.  I do love that and I would probably get it if ever I got ink on skin, but as I get older the thing I need most reminded of regularly is simple: to be brave.  What is it that is said about arrows?  That they are the only things that succeed by being held back and then let go?  It’s a concept that is lingering in my mind as of late.

The move is more or less over.  All of my worldly possessions have been transferred from the old apartment to the new one.  I have not managed to unpack everything yet, but even with all the boxes piled everywhere there is so much more space.  My bedroom is a thing of wonder.  My new office is an incredible luxury.  The walls are all white and blank and ready to be decorated or covered in things.  My idea whiteboard is ready to hang once I resolve where precisely I am going to put it.  Things are starting to feel so much more grown up and with that there is a great deal of excitement.  But I am also full of fear.  Now there are no excuses for not writing, not getting up early, not doing the things that I need to do to enhance my life and make for myself the future I desire.  No clutter, no cramped spaces, nothing to keep me from just doing it except fear.

That’s why I need to just be brave.

It’s a holiday weekend here, though I work parts of it.  I have mornings off, generally, so I am going to try to use that over the next couple of days to settle myself into a routine.  I’ve re-joined a gym.  I have some writing ideas.  I have some makeup ideas.  With a few mornings off I have the time to work and plan and, most of all, to be brave.

Here’s to doing it.

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