Working For Someone Else

So, it’s been a whole month working for someone other than me, working somewhere other than my house, and having clear physical boundaries between the place where I make money and the place I am creative and thoughtful. I am thoughtful at work too, but nearly 100% of all thoughtful energy is spent being awesome at my job and building a solid career. Building a career and charting an invisible path for myself into an invisible future where all things are unknown and unforeseen but I pretend like I can see them anyway is… fabulous.

So here is where I tell you how working for other people doesn’t feel like working for other people at all – it feels like working for myself. It feels like I made a decision just for me, just for my goals, just for the things I want out of life. And I didn’t settle for a job I just needed so I could pay the bills (and I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to NOT do that because up until this point any full time job I’ve ever had has been to pay the bills), and I didn’t feel rushed except for my own demand to preform, and I was patient, and in making that choice and doing something good for me (and not for the greater good of the family, or to please others, or to live up to expectations) it ended up being excellent for all the things outside of me.

I am more tired but I am also happier. I have to deal with some corporate annoyances, but I also get some corporate perks – like paid time off, and paid lunches once a month, and the chance to put on big girl pants and get off my mother-effing couch. I really do love Outlook, and notepads, and good inky pens, and emails that have a signature, and more than anything I really do love feeling like I am going somewhere and doing something and am actually appreciated for the contributions I’m making toward something bigger than myself. That part is really excellent.

I am lucky to have skill and education in an area that can be molded to what I need it to be. You want me to write about weddings? Done. You want me to write about mommas and babies? Done. You want me to write about hotels, yes please.

I know there is a big world out there and some of it screams at you to “get your 401k in order, lock yourself into a company with a good health plan and get yourself a house and some babies.” And there is the other side that says, “work for yourself! take charge of your own destiny, don’t be chained to a desk when you can work anywhere! Nothing is dependable and everything has changed from our parent’s generation.”

And I’ve fallen somewhere in the middle. I need some structure, I find investments and retirement plans to be comforting, having a regular paycheck is nothing to shake a stick at, and knowing what you’re working on every day and what your goals are from week to week is lovely. And to be honest, being able to work from anywhere means it’s incredibly hard to not be working everywhere, and I can’t live that life.

But do I feel chained to my desk? No. Do I have a house filled with projects and side-this and side-that? Yes. (Am I a little over extended – yes. oh YES.) Am I going to work for one company for 20 years? for 10? for 5? Probably not.

Work has to be something that’s bigger than just a paycheck in order to find joy in it. It has to be more than a means to an end. But it’s also, at the very same time, a means to an end. It’s all of those things when it’s a really good gig – it gives you the opportunity to travel or buy that house and invest those dollars, it gives you the chance to push yourself further into the things you love, to challenge yourself and take large leaps of faith. Is it always perfect? No. Was it the absolute right choice at the right time? This month I’m saying: Yes.

Small Happies: Play

Saturday evening we were invited over to a friend’s house for dinner and… Catan! In a world of lunch dates and happy hours and parties where only 1/4 of your guests actually show up, it was ridiculously nice to sit around, drink wine, eat strawberry licorice, play games, make voices, sing songs, be goofy and enjoy each others’ time. More of this please.

Saturday Edition: The Pizza Breakdown

Hey look! This is something new! A post on a Saturday?! Why yes, indeed, it is! The Saturday Edition is a post written by Kamel, about anything and all things. Even I am not entirely sure what most of these are about. Get ready…

I love Pizza. But there are three things in the world that can totally ruin the idea of Pizza for me.

1. Pineapple on Pizza. Why would anyone ever think this is a good idea? Do not try to convince me. I cannot be swayed.

2. Too many ingredients / fancy “gourmet” “Pizzas”. No, I don’t want my Pizza looking like a recently loaded compost bucket. I don’t care that it has 5 different types of greens, olives, black olives, pine nuts, salmon, thin slices of almonds, onions, pesto, and to make it even worse – all on a thin crust. I just see a goopy disaster that probably tastes nothing like Pizza.

3. COLD. PIZZA. ew.

Pizza is supposed to be hot, but not too hot. You have to let it sit when they first bring it to you so the cheeses can settle. Eating it too hot will burn your tongue and invalidate the rest of the pizza. Or the cheese will be too melted and slide right off of it and you end up eating all the cheese first, it cannot be stopped. But when you eat it at just the right temperature, pizza is a magical food. So, why would anyone EVER eat cold pizza?! I didn’t even know it was a thing until I was an adult.

A long, long time ago. I had just moved to San Francisco. I was 19, about to turn 20 and it was the first time in my life I was living away from home and with roommates. To celebrate my first night in the new apartment, we had all ordered Pizza!

Two of my roommates ordered the wacky pineapple kind and the fancy kind from points 1 and 2 above. (ew as discussed before.) But my other roommate and I just got the classic pepperoni and cheese kind. It was from Mr Pizza Man and it was glorious. But none of us could finish it all. So away the left overs went to the fridge.

The next morning we were all hanging out and hungry. They decided to have left over Pizza. What I saw next was shocking! They had taken their slices out of the fridge and began eating it! Without heating it! Barf! Why?! I don’t get it?

At the time, we lacked a microwave, so I was unable to re-heat my pizza (Lauren Edit: because the stove was also broken? Oh no! What are 20 year old men to do without a microwave! Carry on…) so I was out of luck. But hungry, so I took a little nibble of a cold piece and it was just as nasty as I thought it would be. But the rest of my household noshed away, saying crazy thing like “MMM I LOVE COLD PIZZA!” and I was all poker faced and pretending to agree as I went back to the kitchen to figure out how to re-heat without a microwave.

In the end, I just threw it away. They finished theirs, and that same day I went to Best Buy and bought a microwave.

Problem solved for next time. The End.

Flashback Friday: And So Are You

Sometimes on Fridays I take a break from thinking up stories and interesting tidbits to share and delve into my currently unpublished blog that goes all the way back to Nov of 2006.

This is from January 26, 2007. With all of my past lives talk this week, this is so incredibly perfect, and I am very grateful I found it on my first try while reading through archives. I want to print this out in big letters and tape it to every wall in every room of my house… although that would probably be a tid bit creeps. So maybe I’ll just keep it here and make it easy to reference. Key words: Bad day, hope, worth, joy, beauty, female form, love.

On my way to bed tonight…yes at 10 o’clock… yes I feel like I’m in high school…. I saw myself in the mirror as I was brushing my teeth. My hair in a bun, all messy from watching greys anatomy on the couch, the left side of my face red from the pillows, my shirt all wrinkled and my completely swollen and very sore breasts (from pms) staring at me through my two t-shirts (yes I said it). I also saw that I didn’t floss today and that I’m unemployed and when people ask me what I did today I say nothing and mean it. And I hate when people ask that question. I see anxiety. A person who is sometimes difficult to be around, who shuts people out and needs to be alone when at the same time desperately needs people. I see a girl who is still insecure even though she fakes it as much as she can, someone who lives inside her own head most of the time, who is creative and sometimes misunderstood. I saw hips and stomach and arms that she has always thought were too flabby of all things.

And I saw someone absolutely 100% worth loving. Worth making babies with, worth traveling across the world for, worth flowers just because and sticky notes on the mirror in the morning, worth long drawn out messages from her friends just because they just had to tell her blahblahblah, worth an education and worth the opportunity to really show what she can do with her life.

I’m worth that. Me. With all of my flaws.

And you know what else? So are they. And so are you. Every single day we worth giving and receiving that.

Sometimes its just nice to be reminded.

*Thank you 2007 me

Fooding With Flo: Making Ze Mallows

(beauty shot)

You guys said it was easy peasy. You said everyone was doing it, “Lauren… c’mon… you’re gonna love it!”

(Just look at all that sugar! And did you ever think you could actually up and buy actual corn syrup? To use in your house? Like delicious, delicious crack?)

“Just try it once!” you said.

(It said to oil and sprinkle powdered sugar evenly on the pan, I don’t have a sifter so I attempted this method… meaning no method at all.)
(… and then I got wise.)

And then Jenn, my supplier, sent me gelatin because it was the one ingredient I was seriously weirded out buying. Which later I realized was dumb because … hello… j-e-ll-o. (It’s aliiiiive.)

So, as it has been quite a hiatus in the kitchen, I figured a no-bake item was up next. And marshmallows it was! (The crowd goes wild!)

I used the mallow recipe from smitten kitchen. And, I have to admit – the only thing I do pre-mixing/chopping/dicing/slicing is read the ingredients list. If I have most of it, if I know what most of it is, then we’re good to go.

This meant I spent a lot of time running back and forth between the kitchen and my kitchen hubub, to the dining room table where my computer sat, primed on the recipe page.

(thank you for the apron Sarah!)
(Corn syrup….blllopp)

This is the most scienc-y thing I’ve ever made. I mixed, I used a thermometer, I mixed something until it turned into something else, AND …. I made meringue by hand.

Well, I attempted to make meringue by hand (because I don’t have a hand-held mixer and my kitchen aid was busy making… mallow). Which meant whisking…

and whisking…

and whisking…

and asking Kamel to take turns whisking lest my arm fall right off.

It didn’t get to the full on meringue state, but fuck. I did the best I could. This is one of the things I may have done wrong… it was supposed to be able to hold “peaks”… and, well, no. But it was white and fluffy?

Continue reading “Fooding With Flo: Making Ze Mallows”

Past Lives

Maybe it’s Melvin still bouncing around in my head, or maybe it’s my bus rides around San Francisco, driving past old jobs, old (regular) haunts, seeing people I think I know.

The rain, the fog, the city.

Maybe it’s the quiet moments alone I have now. Maybe it’s the difference between working alone for so long and then being thrust into a world with so many people – even the people pretending to still be alone.

I’m not sure what it is. But it has me thinking about my past lives. Not the ones I had before I was born, the ones I’ve had since then. All the ones that live inside me, that I remember as if I could maybe be that person again, because I once was.

Like the time I was working so hard. So much harder than I am now – though I hate to admit it. Working 40 hour weeks and going to grad school full time (How did I ever do that? How were there enough hours? How did I sleep or eat or play? But I did… somehow I did.) and after work I would walk across the street to the Safeway because if I could get my grocery shopping done before I went home it meant I could spend the rest of the evening studying without having to leave my room. I had my purse, with the books and the papers and the snacks and the pens shoved into it so that it weighed down on my shoulder like an anvil, and my bags of groceries, also stuffed full in an attempt to make it all fit into two bags. And there I was, struggling the 4 long city blocks to my car, in the rain, (it’s always in the rain, or the wind, or the cold, or the heat so you sweat through your clothes) struggling to keep my purse from slipping off my shoulder, my finger tips aching from the weight of the groceries, and praying I’d get to my car before the bag ripped. I did this countless times, and it was always the same. The same street I walked down, the same struggle with the bags, the same threat of ripping and spilling all over the sidewalk, and the same thought.

“Sometimes life is so much harder than it needs to be. Sometimes life is so hard.”

Years before that, I’m in college in Illinois and I’m standing on top of the Krannert Center and I am desperate, so so desperate, for him to love me back. He is telling me he loves me, but he is also refusing to kiss me. He is playing a game, one we are both taking seriously. One that is ripping me into tiny pieces so that I blow away with every puff of his cigarette. It takes me a long time to find all of me after that. That girl, thinking she knew what love meant, knew what was good for her… that girl is sometimes me, sometimes I get a flash and I am her. But mostly I am not. Mostly it’s like watching a movie of myself. A memory I’ve replayed so many times it’s almost like a story I once wrote and I’m remembering the tragic plot. It feels familiar, but so far away.

Or my first job after moving to San Francisco. How powerless I felt. How much I needed the money, and how horrible they treated me. How embarrassed I always was, how self conscious I felt being a girl and having to ask permission to go to the bathroom, to have to walk across a big warehouse every time I needed to use it. Having my 10am routine pee commented on daily. Having my work scrutinized so much that I made stupid mistakes. Feeling like I had no way out until one day I was pushed too far and I quit. And the overwhelming relief I felt, and the power to never let myself be in that situation ever again. I still remember the way the desk felt, the way the room smelled, the way you needed all the lamps on because there was never any natural light in the office, the way the numbers on the phone felt when I dialed. It’s all there, but it’s not here.

We go through so much, we do so much. And it all piles up behind us. Big chunks of space and time. Sometimes I think, “This moment, this moment will be one of those moments I remember forever. This, right here.” But then the next day it doesn’t even occur to me to remember. I have been so many people, and yet I am always me. I have gone through so many times that, in the moment, felt epic. Now they feel like the travel time before a really great destination. Just the travel time.

Even my wedding, even engagement. That girl who got married 6 months ago was so saturated with feeling. She felt everything, absorbed all of it. Will never forgive some things, will never forget others. She simultaneously wanted to get through it and wanted it to last forever. But it was just a day and it was just a moment in time, a past life.

How many more will I have? Will there be ones that last ten years? Will they last 2 weeks? Will I remember them all? I want to write them all down like chapter books and line them up in chronological order on my book shelf.

Book 1, Chapter 1: Lauren realizes that if she doesn’t lighten up she won’t make any friends. She makes real efforts to be open minded and accept people for who they are. Sometimes this means she decides not to like people, no offense to them.

Book 2, Chapter 7: Riding in a speed boat around a lake in July, at sunset, listening and singing to John Mayer. It’s 2002, Lauren is with her best friend and her first real boyfriend. It’s the perfect temperature even with the wind from the boat, and she thinks that this is possibly the happiest moment of her life.

Book 3, Chapter 2: Pink pajama pants, a light blue camp t-shirt, a wooden desk chair that smells like all wooden desk chairs do. Lauren faces the wall while she studies, her roommate is behind her a foot, facing the opposite wall. They both have headphones in and are IMing each other. This is absurd, but also incredibly convenient.

And so on…

Goods & Services: Betsy Ann Paper, Valentines Edition

You know me and artists, right? I mean… seriously… the folks who are out there making beautiful things get me all hot in the biscuit. I want to champion for them, I want to buy out all of their stock, I want to wave a big “YAY FOR THE ARTISTS AND CRAFTSMEN AND VISIONARIES!” flag above my house and draped off the back of my car. So, when Liz started featuring her beautiful paper goods over at betsy ann paper (lower case for branding), I was fascinated, and I held my breath for quality. I wanted them to be unique and thoughtful and fabulous.

And Liz didn’t disappoint (obviously, of course). Betsy ann paper’s first big release was for Christmas 2011 and I gobbled up her cards to send to friends and family. My only complaint? I wanted more! More styles, more events, more reasons to buy and send. If my wedding taught me anything at all, it was the joy of hand written notes, the quiet thoughtfulness that writing to someone else (by hand) brings.

So, shortly after the holidays (very shortly), I started bugging her about valentines. I wanted in, I wanted to showcase, I wanted to send a bunch of happy notes around the world to friends and family and I wanted them all to be from betsy ann.

And let me tell you – you should too. There is kindness here, and love. Small notes for the kids at the office. Sweet reminders that tell people they are loved, remind them to smile, remind them they are special, and tell them you you took the effort to pop a note into the mail just for them. Sometimes all we need is a little reminder.

The one thing these cards are not – high fructose corn syrup. You’ll find none of that here.

Because, although the cards are sweetly made, and the messages are kind, Liz still has a strong hold on reality. Thank god. And that sensibility comes through in her work.

I really appreciate quality work. These cards are on beautifully textured card stock, with Liz’s unique hand writing, careful watercolor artwork and embossed labeling. I love that they come individually wrapped, it drives home that these cards aren’t pumped out by hallmark, they aren’t mass produced, they are little works of art and deserve to be handled with care.

So if you’re interested in sending out love notes, while supporting Liz and besty ann paper, check out her store. Buy individual cards, or packs of little gems (or both). And take a few minutes out of your day to spread the love. Even if romance is barf-y (sometimes it’s totally barf-y), sending out notes filled with happies is the bestest. Receiving them is a close second.

This is a sponsored post and follows the guidelines outlined in the Goods&Services tab. No money was exchanged for this post, but besty ann paper did supply the product for review. Only quality, Better In Real Life approved items make it into Goods&Services. Because awesomeness matters and I never recommend anything that isn’t totally awesome.

Friday Video: DanceDanceDance

I saw this video last weekend and it was ALL I COULD DO to wait until Friday to share it. Eeeeee!! Here are the things that happened while watching this video:

Me, covering my mouth with one hand and smacking Kamel with the other hand while saying, “I love it I love it I love it I loooove IT!”


“Why didn’t you do this for me?!!”


“Oh thank god you didn’t I would have died. I. Would. Have. Died.”

So yes… This is awesome. Trust me. Wait until 00.36 and you will NOT be disappointed.

I just… I can’t even handle it. It’s too awesome. CAN’T HANDLE.

Adventure-ing: Accessorize Part 1

We have discussed my fashion issues before. I’m struggling to not dress like a camp counselor 24/7. I’m struggling to feel fully dressed and not like I’m simply playing pretend, walking around in my mother’s pumps. I’m struggling to make my dream fashionista (the person who lives inside of me and says, “oh, that looks lovely… don’t you wish you could pull that together? be that cool? have that hair? pull that off? Hmm… too bad.”) a reality fashionista. And I’m trying to do it while keeping my closet from overflowing.

I’ve taken to giving away a lot of clothes. I’ve taken to living with less and less stuff. I enjoy feeling light on my feet. And apparently, I’ve recently taken to the long necklace.

(This is a splurge I found on sale at Nordstrom, and I couldn’t resist. A talisman of sorts.)

And why the long necklace? (Why the long face?) Well! Let me tell you! It’s super easy and it appeals to my lazy nature, while being quite en vogue. Or something.

(This little doozy was only $7. Yes, that’s right… seven smacks.)

I don’t have to clasp anything, or remember to take something off before I get into the shower (it’s nearly impossible to forget … I play with the necklace all day long, so I am very aware that it’s there), or worry that it will give me hat hair, or that it will make me too warm, or worry about whether or not it’s appropriate.

(My Christmas present from the Maris)

Because… it’s always appropriate. It adds some class and it doesn’t make feel self conscious. In fact, rocking the long necklace makes me feel even more confident, and shouldn’t that be the sole purpose of a fashion risk in the first place? Maybe it takes a little more effort than you usually put into what you throw on your body for the day, maybe it takes an adjustment of your shopping budget, setting aside $10 here or there, maybe it’s a little thrilling – as trying something new can be – but ultimately, when it’s a real success, it’s the icing on the gravy, the creme de la creme, it’s the one thing you were missing in order to stomp down the sidewalk on your way to the office.

(The surprise Kamel had planned, on super sale from Anthropologie)

More than being edgy or fashion forward, I want to feel put together. It’s the little things that do that: the dangly earings, the hair accoutrements, the scarves and little jackets.  The items that say you put that extra moment of thought into how you present yourself. Clothes and fashion can be frivolous, but self expression – creating your own personal narrative – can always be what you make of it.

(Rammy again (i couldn’t resist) – with Kamel and the camera in the reflection)

What are you saving for? What are you rocking fresh in 2012? Where is your secret (don’t worry, you’re among friends) shopping place for cheap finds? For unique finds? For fashion that makes you go oo oo oo? Here’s to hoping we all stomp down the sidewalk this year… again and again and again.

Accidentally On Purpose

There’s this thing that Oprah says… she says God starts by throwing a pebble at you and then the rocks get bigger and bigger until he throws a brick at your head. Or something. Basically, if you were just paying attention from the beginning, the universe would have told you something without having to knock you over. Being knocked over sucks.

I’ve taken a lot of cues from Oprah over the years – the biggest being my enthusiasm for yelling out random words a la Liz Lemon – and I do my best to catch the pebble on the first try. That’s my goal anyway. I believe that when something you’re attempting is ridiculously hard and feels like your trying to break through a steel wall with a plastic fork, maybe it isn’t the right path… maybe if you look to your left there might be a grassy field, with a paved road, and giant neon arrows with words underneath them that blink “COME THIS WAY.” It’s amazing how you didn’t see all of that from the beginning…

I also believe that sometimes life puts people or opportunities right in the middle of your path for a specific reason. Sometimes it’s to learn something, sometimes it’s to learn something that you’ll use 50 years from now. Sometimes it’s to get you to slow down and take a minute to be quiet for once. And sometimes you miss them completely, they whiz past your head and they’re lost to time and space. But, I’m in the business of trying to catch pebbles, so I do my best.

On my first flight back from Michigan it was snowing. It was snowing on my second flight too, but that didn’t matter as much. On my first flight it was snowing and I was on a tiny tiny airplane. All I could think about was getting home. I was exhausted and looking forward to zenning out, watching the evening turn to night from my window seat and having a quiet moment before running through the Detroit airport to catch my next flight. All my energy was spent on making sure the plane flew steady and straight to Detroit. I had no other mental energy left for anything else. But then Melvin, a tall 58 year old hardware IT guy from tiny-town Wisconsin, plopped down next to me and immediately began sweating… as you do when you’re Melvin. He said hello to me and from that moment forth never stopped talking.

Before we even took off I had already learned that Melvin was in town for a training, a training he did not pass because he made it more complicated than it should have been… but gosh darnit he did, in fact, learn something. He used to work for HP but now works for a company I’ve never heard of, where they treat all of their employees like people instead of a serial number. He has two grandchildren, a boy and a girl, both 2 years old, born three days apart. One is his daughter’s kid, the other is his son’s. One of them they call GeGe, and the other one I don’t remember.

Now, during all of this time I was doing my best to act as uninterested as possible – because I was. I was also hoping that every pause Melvin took to breath was actually the point where he would stop talking for the rest of the trip. This was never the case. I looked out the window I did my best non-committal “mmhm” and “oh, nice.” I did every social cue except physically turn my back on the man. And I kept thinking, whhhhyyy? Why is this man sitting next to me? Of all people? Gah.

And then he told me that his dad had died on Christmas eve in a car accident when Melvin was 10, leaving his mother alone with 6 kids from age 1 to 11. It turns out that my mother’s father died on December 20th, his funeral on Christmas Eve when I was 5. So I know how death changes the holidays, and my ears perked up. Maybe this man had a story worth hearing, maybe I needed to be a little more patient. Melvin said that for a year after his father’s death, he still expected him to walk through the door and say, “Got ya!”

He told me how being a grandfather was the best thing ever because he got to really appreciate his grandkids as babies. When his own kids were that age he couldn’t truly appreciate it because he was too busy working, focused on his own crap, and being a dumbass. He told me how he went to rehab when he was 29 for alcohol and coke and how a 17 year old kid shot himself and died while he was there. He told me about another guy who huffed propane and how after he was done with rehab, overdosed on the stuff and died. He told me how he’s been with his wife for 30 years, how is mom remarried when he was 17 and how he had inherited his step-father’s tractor. The tractor, he said, was just as temperamental as his stepfather used to be and Melvin got a big kick out of that. He told me about how is mother had died of cancer last year, but not before being able to hold her two great-grandchildren and attend 3 of her grandchildrens’ weddings. He told me how incredibly happy he was, how fabulous his life had turned out, and how grateful he was for it all.

When I finally stopped willing him to shut up and started actually listening to what he was saying, Melvin taught me that 1 person can go through a hell of a lot of shit and come out the other end intact. He taught me that life is long and life is short. You have time to do the things you want with life, so slow down and enjoy it. But don’t waste it focused on stupid shit that doesn’t matter. He taught me that life has stages and that I don’t have to do everything I’ve ever wanted to do before I’m 30. Melvin showed me that bad things can happen, you can have bad decades and make really stupid mistakes and go through really terrible things, but that in the end life is pretty great.

There was no time for a pebble to grow into a brick. I spent a maximum 90 minutes in that plane with Melvin and I don’t think I’ll ever forget some of the things he said. He can’t wait to take his grandkids fishing. His son lives just a ways away from a lake… it doesn’t have much fish in it, but there are some things about nature you just can’t learn from a TV. And Melvin is hell bent on showing them a thing or two.