So You Want a “Political Revolution?”

So you want a political revolution melissa jenna

A political revolution doesn’t start from the top. Look back at comparable history, and see that it just doesn’t. In fact, our democracy is structured exactly to prevent that kind of thing. A “political revolution” (and I’m hesitant to even refer to it that way, due to the very radical connotation of the word “revolution”) can only occur through sustained, consistent, diligent advocacy, starting at the local level (which hardly sounds revolutionary at all, does it?). For “revolution” to happen, you (and many others like you) have to have a little skin in the game, and you have to keep it there day in and day out, in perpetuity. (“Committed citizen advocacy” is the least sexy campaign platform ever, which might be one reason why you never hear about it.)

Any candidate who is telling you otherwise—that your best effort at inciting a political revolution is electing them as President—is taking advantage of your naiveté (at best), and straight up lying to you (at worst). It’s manipulation, regardless of the intentions of the candidate’s heart.

Before I go further: yes, I’m obviously thinking of Bernie Sanders as I write this, but he’s not the first, and certainly won’t be the last. The peddlers of this “revolution from the top” fantasy come from all backgrounds and affiliations (I’ve voted for them!), and I truly believe that in their hearts, they have positive intentions. But I’m not here to talk about intentions. I’m here to talk about reality, and what it takes from normal people day-to-day to incite the “revolution” we appear to so desperately desire.

It’s partially our fault that Sanders (and others before him/after him) have/will peddle this fantasy. I’m speaking in general here, but we’re a people who believe in quick fixes. We believe the results earned from a truncated process can be just as good (if not better!) than results achieved through committed, continual effort. We dishonor process, and venerate outcome. We (again, generally speaking) are lazy in our political efforts, and would really love it if we could just vote for a surrogate to do the hard work for us. But like I’ve mentioned, our democracy is structured to prevent any one person from having too much power. The strength of our democracy—and your ability to be pleased with its outcomes—is directly tied to your own effort, which then becomes the cumulative effort of our people.

Wealthy people have understood this for literally ages. Our current political landscape is the result of years and years (generations, really) of focused, organized advocacy from people, families and organizations. Unhappy with the outcomes? Look to the people and organizations who are doing/funding this advocacy. They are harvesting the fruit of their effort, and the effort of their great-great grandparents. You cannot simply elect a President to untie this knot for you. The President, without thoughtful partners in the Senate and the House, is totally powerless to administer their own agenda. (Which is why, if you feel the need to participate at the bare-minimum level, I’d suggest getting really into your state elections. Stacking the House and Senate with your people is a better bang-for-your-buck.)

So what if you’re not wealthy? (That would be most of us.) Without the advantages that often come with wealth (time, money, education, “influence,” etc.), how does one assert themselves in this process? The first step is to stay informed. Personally, I’d start locally, since you have way better chances of making meaningful change on a local level. (Sometimes it can even come quickly!)

So if your primary concern is your local schools (just for example), start there. Learn when/where meetings are held, read the agendas in advance, do your best to understand their current circumstances, and apply pressure where you need to. This can be as easy as making phone calls and sending emails, which you can do regardless of your work schedule. Tell other parents at your children’s school about your concerns. See where they stand. Get their support when you can. You can even draft suggested correspondence and share it with other parents, to better enable them to get engaged.

Sometimes phone calls and emails aren’t enough. Sometimes you need to band together with other likeminded people to better make your voice heard. That’s where local advocacy groups can be very effective. So if your concern is small business growth in your town, join your local Chamber of Commerce, and make sure you get to know their governmental affairs representative. Learn what issues concern them and their membership, and speak up when you have time to do so. Bring others like you into their fold.

Sometimes there isn’t an advocacy group for your particular interest, so you have to start one. This requires more effort, but is totally within your grasp. (I ran across this paper called Community Organizing: People Power from the Grassroots, and I really like the “10 rules of community organizing” outlined in it.) Look at neighboring towns for examples, and if you can’t find any semi-local examples, look statewide, and nationally. I can guarantee you there is a model out there for you to emulate/be inspired by. Contact the leaders of those organizations and get their advice on first steps.

You get the idea. It takes effort. Bernie Sanders isn’t going to drive to your town to make sure your children get adequate outdoor recess time, or make sure there’s affordable housing for young families in your community, or well-maintained bike trails, etc. But if you engage locally on issues that matter to you, and support the candidates who align with your interest, eventually, you’ll see change. The reason you’re not happy with the current outcomes is because the current outcomes haven’t been influenced by your voice, and the countless other voices like yours.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that you can take a pass on engagement, and the President of the United States of America will do the hard work for you. They would if they could, but they literally can’t. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the ultimate expression of your power is your single, solitary vote for President every four years. Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking you can upend the political establishment—built on generations of committed citizen advocacy—as easily as casting a ballot. There are no shortcuts. Your “I Voted” sticker does not get you off the hook. You will only get as much out of a “political revolution” as you personally put in.

The idiosyncrasies of pregnancy

So, recently I shared that we’re expecting another child (woop!), and how awful I am about sharing big news with people. (See, like how I shared it just now. Plumb awful.) Now I thought I’d take a minute to jot down some of the idiosyncrasies of this pregnancy.

  1. I simultaneously have the skin of an a) 14 year old girl, and b) 45 year old woman. No one should have to use anti-blemish treatments and anti-aging treatments concurrently. What a joke.
  2. Ummm, I forget this one because I now have the short-term memory of a goldfish.
  3. I’m waddling like I’m due tomorrow, except I’m actually only 13 weeks along. My body is ready already.
  4. I’m craving every single Mexican candy I grew up eating as a kid. Lucas (but not the sweet kind; no, I want the kind that was eventually banned from the USA because it contained too much lead), Pulparindo, Rebanaditas, Saladitos and oh my goodness CAMOTE.
  5. My body’s response to everything is nausea. Standing up for too long? Feeling really happy? Feeling really sad? Too cold? Too hot? It’s like a terrible choose-your-own-adventure book: IT ALL LEADS TO NAUSEA. You lose, sorry.
  6. I haven’t worn a bra for two weeks because heaven help me if I feel the slightest bit squeezed in any way. (See #5) Same applies to anything with a waistband. If I’m wearing pants at all, they’re riding Christina Aguilera-low. (I honestly don’t know a more contemporary pop culture reference. Sorry y’all.)
  7. I can’t stand the taste of coffee anymore. This is the craziest one of all, because HELLO. I freaking love coffee. LOVE. Well, I did. Now I drink a cup of black tea (with a teensy amount of sugar and cream) in the morning, and even that can be too strong sometimes.
  8. I’m exhausted. This goes without saying, except that I didn’t expect being pregnant at 32 to be so much harder than being pregnant at 26. It doesn’t get easier, I’ll just say that.

Here are some things that are deeelightful about this pregnancy.

  1. Sharing it with Ellie! This is so much more fun when you have a little one to share it with. Ellie is 5 now, and totally seems to understand the changes that are happening. She’s been to every prenatal appointment, and loves suggesting silly names for the new baby. She’s going to be an attentive and loving older sister, I can tell.
  2. Sharing it with friends. I was so anxious last time around that I really couldn’t enjoy it as much. This time, for whatever reason, I’m much more relaxed, and have really enjoyed sharing the news with folks (even though I’m abysmal at it—as previously mentioned in my last post).
  3. I am way more comfortable in my own skin nowadays than I was last time around. (This feels like it’s loosely related to the whole not-wearing-a-bra-for-the-past-two-weeks thing.) It’s not that I don’t care what I look like, it’s just that I don’t care what other people think about what I look like. I almost never wear makeup anymore, and it’s awesome.

Anyhoo, I don’t intend on my blog becoming like all-pregnancy all-the-time, but I want to do a better job of jotting this stuff down while I’m thinking of it, before it all gets lost in the fog of a newborn baby.

For those of you who’ve experienced pregnancy: was it anything like you expected? What was your strangest symptom? And for those of you who’ve been around the block more than once: were your pregnancies at all alike? The more I chat with women, the more it sounds like each pregnancy is totally different.

NEWS! (I’m the worst at sharing news.)

I’m the worst at sharing news that actually matters. I don’t know how to do it without coming off as flippant or cheesily over-sincere, so when I have big news to share it’s just awful.

Like two weeks ago, I walked up to my friend Rachel in the courtyard of our church, thinking “yay! I’m going to tell Rachel!” but when I reached her, I just, like, stared into her eyes for a while. Without saying anything at all. And so she’s looking at me, waiting for me to say something, because I had marched all the way across the courtyard obviously for a reason. But I just keep on staring at her. Why? I DON’T KNOW, YOU GUYS. (Because I’m the literal worst at sharing news.)

So after WAY too long of my staring at Rachel, my eyes get all shifty, and I blurt out “So…WE’RE HAVING ANOTHER BABY!” And of course she smiles and hugs me and is super excited, but really all I can think of is how gracious she is with my awkwardness.

So that’s how I’m telling you all.

The literal worst, am I right? You should see me when I have bad news to share. It’s a di-sas-ter.

So that’s the big news. I’ll be 13 weeks on Tuesday, with an estimated due date of June 21, 2016. (I think it’s June 18, based on my calculation, but I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.) We couldn’t be happier, but unfortunately that doesn’t make me any better at sharing the news. Awkward is as awkward does.

More details to come later! Mama’s gotta go put dinner in the oven.

How To: Rotating TPT Header

How to make a rotating tpt teacherspayteachers header by melissa jenna godsey

Background

This time last year my husband and I opened up shop on Teachers Pay Teachers (a marketplace for teacher-created educational resources). I’ll spare you the big long story; in a nutshell: our shop has been more successful than we ever would have dared to dream, and as a result we have some financial flexibility that we didn’t have before. In less than 9 months our shop is ranked in the top 100 secondary sellers (that’s high school, for you non-education folks), and we’ve gotten tons of great press about our (extremely niche) product.

It’s a crazy blessing. Like, one of those things where I imagine what’s possible, and God goes and blows my pathetic little vision up, like he’s showing off or something. Like “oh, you think you know abundance? HA. Watch what Imma ’bout to do.” I get teary-eyed just thinking about it. Anyway, that’s not why we’re here. We’re here so I can save you some time, and hopefully support you in your growing TPT effort. Let’s get to it.

First: What’s a “Rotating TPT Header?”

Okay, so at the top of your TPT store, you have the option of including a quote, but using some easy HTML, and a tiny bit of design, you can swap the quote for an image, or if you’re feeling fancy, a series of images that will automatically cycle, like a slideshow. Click over to our shop if you want to see it in action.

Second: Why do I want one of those?

Lots of good reasons! First, it differentiates your storefront, and gives it a more thoughtful, profesional appearance. It’s evident that you care. Secondly, it’s prime real estate, perfect for a strong call-to-action, which could be lots of things. Here are a few examples:

  • Promoting a specific product
  • Announcing a sale
  • Building an email distribution list

Since you’re able to link this rotating banner to one specific thing, I suggest picking one CTA for all your images. Right now ours is set to drive people to join our email list. Later I might swap it out to promote a specific product. It’s really up to you how you use it. Think of it like your virtual boutique window.

Third: How do I make one?

Before we get started, here’s a list of what you’ll need:

  1. An app like Keynote, or Powerpoint, or my personal favorite Canva.com which free, and glorious. Tons of free design templates, which is beyond helpful if you are not design-minded.
  2. A free Photobucket account
  3. Maybe an open doc to paste in some of the URLs you’ll be creating in the following steps. I have a cool plugin installed that remembers the last 10 things I copied to my clipboard. Here’s a link to it if you want. (It’s for Mac; sorry PC friends.)

Okay, let’s get started. It’s going to look complicated, but it’s really not. Baby steps, okay?

Designing your header

  1. First things first: decide on your call-to-action. Do this before you start designing, because your CTA will inform your design.
  2. Launch Keynote/Powerpoint/Canva. Set your slide/image size to 450 x 150 (pixels). If you don’t know how to do this, Google it real fast.
  3. If you want your background color to match TPT’s greyish background, set your background color to F1F1F1. Again, if you don’t know how to do this, a quick Google will set you right.
  4. Add your text, and any images. I’m not going to suggest designs because that’s a whole ‘nother how-to. If you’re not feeling designy, Canva will seriously take care of you.
  5. Okay, so if you only want ONE single graphic, you’re done! Skip to step 1 in the “Uploading to Photobucket” section below. If you’re the fancy type and want a rotating header, continue on, brave one.
  6. Once you’re happy with your design, duplicate the slide/image, and change the text/images for the next slide. This enables you to swap out text without having to reformat everything. Keep doing this for as many slides as you want (I tend to do 3).
  7. Once you have all the slides you want, save/export them as high quality JPGs or PNGs. Don’t let those file extentions scare you: this is easy. As usual, a quick Google will help you if you’re stuck. (“How to save as JPG in Powerpoint.“)

Converting your header to a GIF

This couldn’t be easier. Head to GifMaker, upload your images, and set the animation speed to something like 3000 milliseconds (= 3 seconds). Click “Create GIF Animation,” download the GIF, and you’re done with this step. And guess what? You are so close to the end!

Uploading your GIF to Photobucket

You can upload your GIF wherever you have web space; I suggest Photobucket becasue it’s free and simple.

  1. Log in to Photobucket, click upload, locate and upload your GIF that you just downloaded.photobucket direct link
  2. Once it’s uploaded, click on it in Photobucket, and copy the “direct” link. Boom. Done. You’re almost done.

Shorten that Photobucket link

TPT has a character limit in the quote section of your profile, so you’ll have to shorten this link. Fortunatly, this is easy. Head to Bit.ly (or your favorite link shortener, and shorten your Photobucket link. Copy your new shortlink. Give yourself a high-five.

The moment of truth: Update your TPT profile!

You’ve made it! Let’s get that fancy new GIF playing on your shop page.

  1. Log into TPT and navigate to your store profile. Click “edit” down on the bottom.
  2. In the “Personal Quote” field, paste in the following HTML code: <a href=”LINK“><img src=”SHORTENED GIF” /></a>Tpt personal quote
  3. Replace the LINK with the URL of whatever it is you’re linking to: the product you’re promoting, your email sign-up form, your blog, whatever.
  4. Replace the SHORTENED GIF with the shortened GIF link you made above.
  5. Click “Save” down below.
  6. Head to your store page, and admire your effort. You did it! You’re an Internet Champion!

Final thoughts

As with anything, this first time you do this, it might take a while. But that’s okay! That’s part of learning, right? The next time you update your banner it’ll be so much faster, and before you know it, you’ll be teaching others the same. Want more TPT Tips and Tricks delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for free! You won’t get more than one email a month, promise.

Shortcuts

Here’s a Keynote template I made that’s already sized to 450 x 150, and colored F1F1F1, so you can just jump right in. If you have Keynote ’09, here’s that version. Enjoy!

Who’s getting your best?

For months I was haunted by the question “what would your life look like if you gave the best of yourself to the people you love, instead of the people giving you money?” And now we’re taking steps to figure that out.

How safe is your makeup bag?

Melissa Jenna Godsey Beauty CounterSo if you’ve known me for a while, you know that I’ve had a love/hate relationship with skin care and makeup for years. You’ve seen me go through my product-whore phase (back when I was hosting at iFixit), then I went through my no. makeup. EVER. phase (because I was ashamed of my troublesome skin, and I was skeeved out by the ingredients), and now we enter a third (and I think final) phase: the “holy grail” phase. It’s like this: I’ve found Beautycounter, and I love it, and it loves me. (We’re in love, you see.)

If you love the play factor of makeup, but don’t want to slather untested grossness on your face, you’re in a bit if a bind here in the USA (the United States hasn’t passed a law regulating the cosmetics industry since 1938). And if you have difficult skin, you’re probably using a lot of different products to cover it up, and you don’t have skin that you’re proud to walk around barefaced in. I was both of those.

But then an angel appeared to me in a dream and shared Beautycounter with me, and I swooned, and now here I am with peachy keen skin, and a makeup collection I’d feel comfortable sharing with my daughter. (Actually the angel is my friend Susan, and she appeared to me at barre, but whatever, that’s not the point.)

Here’s the point: Beautycounter’s has a list they call the “Never List,” which is full of the untested stuff I didn’t want to put on my skin. They’re committed to putting clean personal care products in everyone’s hands, and I just love that. It makes my heart sing. You CAN have awesome, high-perfoming makeup/skin care/sunscreen without the sketchiness. And it. is. AWESOME.

So here’s what I suggest: replace one thing at a time. Next time you run out of cleanser, swap it for something clean. If you’re feeling iffy, I have a complete set of the skincare line that I will happily give you to try for a few days (if you’re local). Same goes for the makeup. My collection is your collection.

I would love love love to chat with any of you about how you can clean up your skin care routine, create a safe makeup collection, and perhaps even start a little Beautycounter shop of your own. Direct sales companies usually make me very uncomfortable, but what can I say? I love my new skin, and how could I not want to share that with people I love? If you’re interested in trying any products, playing with the makeup, or learning more about how you could be making safer choices in this realm, please don’t hesitate to reach out and let me know! You can reach me here in the comments, or via email at melissagbeautycounter -at- gmail -dot- com.

And if you feel like learning what makes Beautycounter wonderful and different, click through to read more about their mission and their products.

The Ugly Side of Grit (and the Virtue of Leaving)

To my detriment, I’ve never been a quitter. In all things there is an end, but for most of my life I’ve rejected/ignored/pushed way past those natural endings. I fundamentally don’t believe in giving up, and while this sounds like a virtue, those of you who have carried the weight of a dead project/relationship/responsibility on your back know just how self-destructive a belief it can be. It’s stubborn, and simultaneously disrespectful and self-righteous. It says “I don’t need anybody or anything to make this happen. I can carry this relationship/project/responsibility on my own,” which—while possible for a time—is no way to live your entire life. (There are better uses for one’s time and talent than slogging through an unworthy situation.)

Primarily my attitude has to do with how I self-identify as someone of exceptional grit and determination. I grew up in very rough circumstances, so my whole life I’ve known myself as an uncrushable force, an overcomer. I’m grateful for that identity as it got me through a couple of challenging decades, but somehow, even though my life is entirely safe and healthy now, I hadn’t shed that primary identity as bulldozer of adversity, and what used to be my saving grace slowly became the single biggest drain on my life.

This is a recent realization for me. It came to a head a couple of months ago, when I found myself in a situation at work that summoned my grit/determination response, except this time I had an epiphany: just because you can make it through a circumstance doesn’t mean you should, and you certainly aren’t obligated to do so. Not every circumstance is worth the expense of resources and energy it takes to make it through the other side. (It helps me to think in terms of value exchange.) I had to ask myself “am I getting enough value from this experience to make toughing it out worth it?”

And for the first time in my life, I chose to respect myself enough to do the healthy thing and remove myself from the situation, rather than grit my teeth and bear it, and oh my gosh was it uncomfortable…at first. Like I said, I fundamentally believe in never giving up, but now in my ripe old 31 years I’m beginning to see the shades of grey between the healthy assertion of grit, and the cowardice of bring ruled by one’s own self-righteousness.

So 40 days ago I chose to swallow my self-righteousness and honor my time and talent by resigning. It was one of the most uncomfortable circumstances of my adult life, and I am so grateful for having gone through it. I won’t go into the details, but I want to take a moment to recognize some of the good the came out of the ugliness:

  • I had the opportunity to grow an already beautiful friendship with a coworker. She’s a light in our world, and during this time of stress she came right by my side and supported me. I don’t have a sister, and for all intents and purposes I don’t have a mother, but this woman shows me what a sister and mother can look like in my life. She’s a beautiful human. When I read that we’re made in God’s image, I think of people like her.
  • I had the opportunity to know what it means to need fellowship with God. I was so messed up about this situation you guys. I don’t like to dwell on the negative, so I tend to understate it, but believe me when I say that I was a wreck. I wasn’t sleeping, I couldn’t eat, I had an ulcer. It was eating me up from the inside. And you know what’s awesome? I got to experience firsthand that if you cry out to God in your need, and in your fear, and in your pain, he will meet you with a more than matching portion of his strength and mercy and grace and sweet relief. You can trust him.
  • It made for an amazingly seamless transition to me running our home business (which I haven’t told you about yet). More on that another day.
  • I have bandwidth that I never would have carved out for myself. In my first week off I built a raised garden bed, and now we have a bountiful vegetable garden! And I’m reading for pleasure, simplifying/organizing our home, cooking six meals a week…I can’t even believe this is my life.
  • We can keep Ellie at her amazing school! (Ellie goes to a hybrid classical homeschool. She spends three days a week at SLOCA, and two days homeschooling with me. It’s THE BEST!)
  • Our marriage is the best it’s ever been. I’m so stinking in love. We’re disgusting, y’all.
  • I grew. Thank God, I grew. I’m a nasty combination of stubborn and self-righteous, but I’m changing.

There’s a ton more, and a ton more to the story, but for now that’s that. I’m officially a work-at-home, classical homeschooling mom. Can you believe it? (My 21 year old self thinks I’m THE WORST, hahaha.) You’ll be seeing me around these parts more often beginning next week, which is exciting. I have some changes I want to make around here, and I’m looking forward to talking them through with y’all.

50 Shades of Cultural Confusion

50 Shades Melissa Jenna GodseyBefore I go any further, it’s worth mentioning that I’ve been criticizing 50 Shade of Grey since before it was cool. Given the recent release of the film adaptation, several of you have suggested to me that I repost that original post, and I would, but the fact is that I’m not a huge fan of my tone. You can read it, but hear that I’m sorry for my tone.

So this time, I’m less interested in whether or not Christian women should consume 50 Shades (we ought not to), and more interested in this question:

In a culture that is increasingly sensitive to sexual violence, while also championing female sexual empowerment, shouldn’t the very story of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele be offensive?

If you’re not yet familiar, 50 Shades is about two characters: Christian Grey, an self-professed sexual dominant who maintains a room in his home devoted to BDSM practices, and Anastasia Steele, a naively innocent young women; literally a virgin. That’s all you really need to know to make sense of the rest of this post.

When I survey our cultural landscape, here’s what I see:

  • A society that has elevated female sexual “empowerment” as a value, placing it above the development of actual personal character
  • A society that has effectively disconnected the sexual act from its emotional and spiritual ramifications
  • A society that increasingly misunderstands masculinity, and attempts (actively or passively)–even from boyhood–to feminize men

Could the popular reception of 50 Shades be a (misguided) reaction to America’s sexual climate, and our unadressed issues with masculinity?

I struggle with how to explain the popular reception of 50 Shades in a culture that at once proclaims “Men: It’s On Us,” and also venerates the Beyoncés of the world. Why would women lust for a sexually violent man (Christian Grey), and place themselves in the role of the naive, innocent virgin (Anastasia Steele)? It just doesn’t make sense.

Most of you will not like where I’m going with this, and trust me, intellectually, I understand where you’re coming from. (For starters, you probably don’t agree with the three premises I’ve outlined above.) I think you’re wrong, and you can think I’m wrong, and that’s okay. Just be decent and respectful in the comments, is all I ask.

Is it possible that enough women yearn for their sexual innocence, that they align themselves with Anastasia Steele? That they–even subconsciously–feel like they’ve been sold a bill of goods?

Is it possible that women long to be in a relationship with a “powerful” man, and that Christian Grey is just a warped caricature of our idea of masculinity?

Could the success of 50 Shades be directly aligned with the fact that deep down we sense that something is wrong with the way our culture treats sexuality? Could E.L James’ work be a ham-fisted response to what’s wrong with our perception of masculinity, as it relates to female sexuality?

If you know me personally, you know that I don’t have any answers. There are a few books I’ve read that have helped me identify what I’m observing around me; one of them is John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart. Another is Dannah Gresh’s What are You Waiting For? Both of those books are written by believers, and neither are perfect, but I found them really helpful, and maybe you will too.

What do you think? Any resources you’ve found particularly helpful? Do you think I’m way off base? I always welcome respectful discussion.

The Lesson I Keep on Learning

all of the things melissajenna

You can’t do all of the things, all of the time. It’s simple, but it’s so so hard for me to remember.

Typically, I’m a fast learner, but with this lesson, it’s like I’m stuck in a repetitive loop. The majority of it has to do with the fact that I have not yet made peace with my newish reality. I’ve been living this life of working parenthood for about a year and a half now,  and I just can’t get down with the idea that I’m going to have to let some things go. I still feel like there’s a trick I’m not aware of. As if someday I’ll read a post about “5 things working parents can do optimize their efficiency,” and BOOM. The problem will be solved.

But my brain knows it doesn’t work like that. My brain has a firm understanding of timelines, and workloads, and resource availability…but my heart? My heart has not let go, and I’m not sure that it will.

I was wondering to myself how the writers I admire do it. How do they work full-time(+), remain engaged with their spouse and children, give to their community, maintain their spiritual and physical health, AND maintain their awesome blog and social presence? It was a mystery to me. Until I realized that they don’t.

Of all the writers I read and admire, none of them do what I just described. Some of them are stay-at-home parents, but for many of them, their writing is their job. Many of them even have assistants! People to answer their emails, manage their social, and do their design. There isn’t a single prominent blogger in my world whose full-time job isn’t related to their blog. In a way, that’s comforting. But also, it’s another reminder that you can’t do all of the things, all of the time.

Somehow, that’s a relief.

So that’s where I’m at, and where I’ve been since I went back to work full-time. What I long for is alignment between my brain and my heart. That I can have peace in the circumstance, and enough grace for myself to take me from day to day.

And it would be pretty tone-deaf of me to not openly acknowledge and celebrate that I live an amazing life, full of love, and inspiring people, and beautiful experiences. I’m endlessly grateful. I have more than I deserve, or would ever have dreamed to ask for. My angst has nothing to do with my beautiful life, but everything to do with my heaven-high expectations for myself (which, strangely, I never asked for).

 

Young Men, Sex, and Urge Ownership (And Why It’s Not The Girl’s Problem)

Loved this quote “Sometimes, doing what’s right toward someone, even needs to transcend their attitude about themselves. If a girl you know shows too much, advertises too much, and offers too much, it doesn’t mean you can take too much, because it’s about the value you assign to her, and to yourself.”

john pavlovitz

GuysWatchingGirls
Young men, I need to tell you something; something that maybe your fathers, or your coaches, or your uncles, or your buddies never told you, but something that you really need to hear.

Your sex drive? It’s your problem.

I know you’ve been led to believe that it’s the girl’s fault; the way she dresses, the shape of her body, her flirtatious nature, her mixed messages.

I know you’ve grown-up reading and hearing that since guys are really “visual”, that the ladies need to manage all of that by covering-up and keeping it hidden; that they need to drive this whole physical relationship deal, because we’re not capable.

That’s a load of crap.

You and me, we are visual.
We do love the shape of women’s bodies.
We are tempted and aroused by their physicality.

And all of that, is on us, not on them.

You see, we actually live…

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Dove Recognizes that Fathers are Not Inept, Mouth-Breathing, Man-Children

Join me in having a cleansing, happy-cry at your desk, won’t you?

This is such a beautiful advertisement. I don’t know about you, but as a wife, and mother, and human being, I am sick to death of seeing dads (and men in general) portrayed as inept, mouth-breathing, man-children in media. The ad above? That’s more like it. And it’s sad that it should stand out so much, don’t you think?

Is it possible that maybe (just maybe) our culture is ready to acknowledge fathers as true partners in parenthood, and not inept babysitters of their own children? Gosh, I hope so. It’s about time. Round of applause to Dove for once again pushing advertising in a more positive, healthy direction!

Don’t Call it a Comeback

No, seriously. Don’t.

I’m out of practice, and who knows what kind of garbage I’ll write before this gets any good again. But that’s the thing about consistency, isn’t it? Getting the ball rolling? HARD. Keeping the ball rolling? A little less hard. (You’ll know this is true if you’ve ever fallen out of your workout routine, and then tried starting up again. It’s not pretty, folks, let me tell you.)

But guess what? Somehow between a very demanding job (lots of travel), being a wife, mother, and keeper of a home, going to board and committee meetings, and recently moving into a new apartment, I’ve managed to make time for spin class, and barre class on a regular basis. And if feels so good. So why not write some more?

The honest answer to that question: I don’t want to do this if I can’t absolutely crush it. I love this; this is my thing. And there’s this somewhat pathetic, petulant part of me that wants to pick up my ball and go home because I can’t do this my way, on my timeline. Because the present season of my life doesn’t have room for this.

Some things (cooking, gardening, sewing) I’m okay dabbling in. The skill I’ve developed in those areas, though I’m a dilettante, brings me pleasure, and enhances my life. But not this. It hurts to dabble in writing. Literally, deep in my chest, there’s a pain when I consider how much I miss being in practice. It’s similar to the pain I felt the one time I was truly heartbroken, and gosh, does that make me a crazy person?

The reality is that I won’t be able to practice here as much as I used to, or with as much dedication, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try. Even though it hurts to do this halfway, I can’t not do it, because I’ve tried that, and that feels worse. This is where I need to be, even if it hurts.

So, no. This is not a comeback. I will not be bringing the fierceness. But I will keep at it, even though (in this present season) I can’t reallocate the time I would need to really crush this thing.

So please bear with me as I do my best to remain in practice, and I hope you still feel comfortable enough around me that you’ll tell me what you think, good or bad.

Thanks for hanging in there, and motivating me to get the ball rolling again. Tip of the hat to Toni Hammer for saying some kind (but challenging) words to me that really got me thinking. It was the nudge I needed to swallow my pride, and get back to work.

LoserKids

When I was in high school, I had this friend Maria (who I often called Mimi, or Meems). Maria is Korean (“Maria from Korea”), and is one of the few Korean females I know whose name isn’t an old-timey American name (shout-out to my friends Eunice, Esther and Hazel!).

Meems and I were friends from the start, which is unusual for me (and for her also, as I would later learn). I have a vivid (and sometimes wild) imagination, but it’s almost always kept tightly under wraps, not on purpose, but because it takes a special kinship to share and enjoy that kind of thing, which is a shame, because it’s really so much fun.

Effortlessly, Maria and I would riff on situations, creating entire characters,  experiences and scenes out of thin air. She’d observe the same details in people and circumstances that I did, and without even exchanging words, we would laugh about it until our faces hurt. With Maria, I felt like I was my truest self. Unfiltered, totally open, and always understood.

We had a special name for ourselves, which we felt perfectly explained our marginalized yet massive existence. We were “LoserKids,” and our weirdness, brokenness, and resourcefulness made us exceptional.

Maria grew up in the Bronx (and was forever telling me how great it was, but would hit me when I called it “the block”), and I grew up across Southern Orange County (sometimes living with my grandmother, homeless for a little while, but eventually settling into a Mexican project across the street from where rich people kept their horses).

Maria’s family was very hard on her. I never got the details, because she’s Korean, and I  knew not to ask. My own family was a mess. I never knew my dad, and the men my mom brought around were abusers, drug addicts, or misogynists. Maria and I were intimately familiar with brokenness from a young age, and though we never acknowledged it outright, I believe that’s one of the causes for our immediate and unquestioning friendship. Amidst all the darkness in our lives, we offered lightness to each other. I feel like Maria and I laughed so much together because until we met, we really hadn’t laughed at all.

What strikes me as interesting nowadays, is how totally at home I felt with her, and how much our friendship taught me about belonging. Neither of us had the advantages that many kids do (a stable family, reliable meals, etc.), and I think subconsciously, other kids understood that, and it scared them, so they shunned us, and all our lives, Maria and I were outcasts. But throughout that time of disconnection and loneliness, each of us learned how to bury ourselves inside our imaginations, and protect ourselves with a thick layer of curiosity that kept each of us too busy reading and learning to notice how miserable we actually were. And when our paths finally crossed, words didn’t have to be exchanged. I accepted her, and she accepted me, and it was like all of our hidden greatness was given permission to reveal itself.

Maria is the only LoserKid I would meet in high school, but in the 12 years that have passed since then, I’ve met several others, and here’s something I’ve noticed: LoserKids get stuff done. LoserKids are innovative, and hilarious, and sensitive, and above all things, they’re brave. They’re used to being the weirdos, so they’re not afraid to stand up and speak against injustice. Their disadvantages growing up turned into their super powers as adults. LoserKids set the bar high, and they achieve, and when they’re done, they celebrate, and laugh, and prepare to do it all over again. LoserKids know how to work. Hard.

So here’s to my friend Meems, who I haven’t seen or heard from since high school. I miss you, and I hope our paths cross again someday. Your friendship not only kept me afloat during some of the more difficult years of my life, but taught me that there’s a tribe for everyone, and not to shun my “otherness” in favor of pretending I’m something that I’m not. LoserKids are for life. <3

On Rock Hunting, and People-Tumbling

Rocks I collected south of San Simeon

Rocks I collected south of San Simeon

Lately, I really suck at having hobbies. Gardening has been reduced to sometimes remembering to water my succulents; writing has been reduced to tweeting on an (almost) daily basis, and cooking? Well. I made some instant oatmeal this morning. Let me say this, in no uncertain terms: having a full time job, and a family, is hard. (Duh.) So, that’s basically what’s kept me away from here lately. (There’s more I’d like to say about that, but it’ll have to wait for another time.)

The one hobby that I can stick to, with my demanding schedule, is rock hunting. (Bonafide dork status, right there.) I’ve been into rocks since I was a kid, and last year, for my 29th birthday, my husband bought me my very first rock tumbler (because he is a dear). So I’ve been collecting rocks, and tumbling them, for the past few months, and every time I’m doing something rock-related, I think of you guys. Rock hunting (and tumbling) takes time, and I’ve come to realize there’s a few reasons I enjoy it as much as I do, and I’ve been wanting to share them with you all for a while.

Here are the real basic-basics about rock hunting.

The best place to find rocks, in my area of California, is at the beach. Specifically, just south of San Simeon, where the creek dumps into the ocean. You want to go there after a good storm (which we don’t get often), and at low-tide, for the best pickings. So step number one in rock hunting, for me, is head to the beach. Once you get there, you survey the landscape for the most promising-looking piles, then set yourself down, and…well…just start looking for the good stuff. With all the sights and smells of the ocean, and the warm sun on your back, you could easily spend a few hours, looking for the best specimens.

If you’re new to rock hunting, here’s how you tell which rocks will polish-up nicely: get them wet. If you don’t have a bucket of water handy, you can just use your own spit. Don’t worry about how silly you look, because, hello, you’re sitting on the ground, playing in rocks. You already look pretty silly.

Once you’re satisfied with the amount of rocks you’ve collected (hint: you’ll never be satisfied with the amount of rocks you’ve collected), it’s time to go home and get them into the tumbler, along with the coarsest grit you have. Over the next few weeks, you’ll continue changing out the grit, until eventually your rocks are polished up to a glossy shine. What you do with them after that, I’m not so sure. I mean, that’s not really the point. Not for me, anyway.

Now let me tell you why I actually enjoy rock hunting.

There’s something exciting about looking at a shore covered in dusty (some would say ugly) beach rocks, and knowing that buried amongst them are agates, and jaspers, and moonstones, and quartz. Precious stones that, after a little TLC, will shine with an effortless beauty reserved for nature’s pure creations. But what moves me even more is that even the plain rocks are beautiful, once they’ve had their dust and rough edges worn away.

It’s hard to collect rocks, and tumble them, and not think of the people who’ve “tumbled” me over the years. And not think of the people I’m “tumbling”/will “tumble.”

It feels good to be chosen, doesn’t it? For someone to see the value in you, underneath the grime and the rough edges, and think to themselves “this one. This one could really shine, with a little help.” And it feels good to be the one doing the choosing. To have the vision to see the beauty and opportunity and potential in someone, and to continue to invest in them with no alternative motive, other than to leave that person better off than they were when you first met them.

Now let me tell you what we’re going to do about this.

I’m asking you to do a few things. First, take a moment to identify someone (or a few people) who have “tumbled” you over the years. Do your best to remember some specifics about that experience. Then reflect on how grateful you are to have had their influence in your life. Next, if you’re able, reach out to that person, and say thank you, in whatever way you can muster up. Sometimes this can be hard, but it’ll mean a whole lot to them, so take the time and do it right. Lastly, take a moment to identify someone in your life that you could use your influence, and commit to doing something to act on that. Could be just taking them out for coffee and asking them how they’ve been. That’s always a good start.

I would be nowhere if people in my past hadn’t taken the time to see something inside me worth surfacing, and gently assert themselves in bringing that change about. It’s my hope that by reflecting on the people who have influenced your life, you walk away with a renewed sense of gratitude, and perhaps a new desire to invest in others, the way you have been invested in.

Whaddaya think? Is it a worthy exercise?

xoxo, mj

3 Secrets to Squashing Vacation-Envy

Image Credit: Melissa Godsey

Image Credit: Melissa Godsey

(I’m delighted to be guest-posting over on ShareSLO.com today! This is just an excerpt, so make sure you click over and get my 3 Secrets to Squashing Vacation-Envy.)

I can tell it’s really summer when celebrity vacation photos are splashed all over the covers of magazines at the grocery store. While waiting in the checkout line, you see pictures of Rachel Bilson skipping along a beach in Barbados, Heidi Klum in Hawaii, and Jessica Alba in St. Barts, each of them tan, smiling, and glowing with a radiance that only comes from a jaunt to a far-flung locale. But before you’re overcome with vacation-envy, I have a trick that just might put some glow back in those office-weary cheeks of yours. I call it “Vacation Living,” and it’s my number one weapon in combating the 9-to-5 blues.

The idea behind Vacation Living is pretty simple: put your tourist glasses on, and rediscover your hometown. Approach your free time with the same gusto you have when you’re on vacation.

For most of us, the simple act of being on vacation brings out our adventurous side. With some distance between yourself and your routine, you’re suddenly tasting new foods, seeking out new experiences, and sometimes even trying your hand at a new language. There’s something about being away from home that gives us fresh eyes for the world around us. How would your quality of life improve if you had the same adventurous spirit at home that you do when you’re away?

Routine is the enemy of Vacation Living, so to help you expand your horizons, I’ll share a few challenges I’ve given myself, to help push you out of your bubble, and into your new Vacation Life. Click on over to read the remainder!

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Let’s be friends!

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