I wanted to write that I have started this post 1000 times in the last few days, but I'm prone to exaggeration. So I thought that instead I'd write that I've started this post at least 10 times in the last couple of days, but that still wouldn't be the truth. So... the truth is this: this is me, writing off the cuff, without much thought or measure, and I'm blogging for the first time since January. And here's a photo of me right now, blogging from the oh-so-glamorous workspace of my bedroom floor, while eating straight from a pint of ice cream, naturally:
I'm not very good at writing off the cuff any more. And I'm not very good at being completely honest, either.
It's because I had allowed the blogging machine to eat my soul.
As of this month, I've taken a year off from Indiana / Elsewhere (this personal blog) and more than a year away from Texas Style Council (the bloggers' conference I founded). I'd like to say this year long break was intentional, but it wasn't. In the last 12 months I dabbled in podcasting, tried my hand at Snapchat and Periscope, and did some long form on Instagram. In that same time frame, I desperately needed to get my health under control, my house in order, and I needed to be intentional with the friendships and relationships I've finally begun to build in this not-so-new-anymore place. I homeschooled my son this year, and I even started working for my church. The blog accidentally fell by the wayside.
But the truth? I miss blogging.
This comes with a HUGE disclaimer:
I do not miss what blogging has become now, but I very much miss what blogging used to be.
I can't put my finger on when it happened exactly, but I do want to say that 2010 seemed like a really fun time in the blog world. I had made some really great friends (holla at the D12!), I about peed my pants when Modcloth featured me on their Tumblr and sent me a scarf, and the first time a brand paid me money for a sidebar ad (Hi, Accessorize!) Chris and I went out to dinner to celebrate and I stayed up late and made business cards with my blog name on them.
But somewhere between 2010 and 2015, blogging became this strange business model where bloggers were expected to be striving toward making it a legitimate way to earn a living. Then, because of the conference I founded, blogging became this thing that I had tethered a part of my identity to.
How can I explain how nutso bananas being a blogger is?
Here are things that this weird "blog world" expects bloggers to do:
- To make money. "You ain't a 'legit' blogger unless you're working with brands."
- To not make money. "You should be writing for the art and heart of it all. Not for your affiliate dollar$! How dare you make a 2-5% commission off the product you introduced me to!"
- To take professional looking, editorial photos every single day. "Because if it's not Pinnable, it's not post-worthy. And if you're not writing daily, you're not a real blogger."
- To not take professional looking, editorial photos ever. "Because, dangit, life isn't a photoshoot and it's important to portray life how it really is!"
- To write about your kids and family in funny or endearing details. "We need to know the human-side of who you really are."
- To never write about your kids or family! "Because what if they grow up and they wish that you hadn't blogged or Instagrammed them?!"
- To write easily consumed posts. "Lists! Photo dumps! Keep the posts short because who has time to read all the things you wax poetic about? And besides, who really cares about anything other than the pretty pictures?"
- To write thoughtful content! "The web has enough drivel. Contribute quality writing."
- To stay exactly the same! Even if you've been blogging for a decade, be the same person you were when I started reading your blog because that's why I started reading your blog to begin with!"
- Evolve! "Blogging is changing. The world is changing! I am changing! Don't be the same old boring, immature hack you were when you first started blogging a decade ago. Get with the times, lady. I'm growing up, why aren't you?"
This stuff? I don't miss.
This week, a blogger told Mommy Bloggers to eff-off. To give up the ghost. To get lives and do something better with our time. In, what I'm sure is just a timing coincidence, Natalie Jean, a much beloved and long-time blogger, did just that.
So am I crazy for jumping back ON this bandwagon that seems to be stalled in a ghost town these days?
I hope not.
Here's the thing: I know I've touted my triumphant return to blogging before. But if this year's hiatus has taught me anything, it's that I need to take better care of myself and spend more time doing things that I enjoy. Blogging is a hobby that I enjoy.
Here's the plan:
Indiana / Elsewhere will be my personal blog. I'll mainly write about life at home with three little kids (which will include homeschool), and I'll cover my personal style and home decor struggles (a decorator I am not). I'm not a photographer and neither is my husband, so the pictures are going to be what they are, and I'm done beating myself up over that. I'm wordy, so the written content will be longish, but probably not super serious.
Mom Jeans & Dad Jokes will be content that Chris and I create together. It will go back to its roots as a weekly podcast centered loosely around parenting and our blog content will be local reviews (to include date night and kid activities around suburban Atlanta). I'm in the process of moving the fashion-y and family posts that I wrote solo on MJ&DJ back here to I/E for consistency's sake. We're not sure if home improvement stuff and funny things our kids say will go on I/E or MJ&DJ. We're still ironing that out.
On tap, to be completely up front, I already have some sponsored content and brand partnership stuff in the pipeline. It's crazy, but even though I'm wasn't actively blogging, these kind of partnership pitches did not cease. My promise is to write these thoughtfully and honestly. I feel like over the years I've done a pretty good job at this, and it has been a huge perk to be able to bless my family with some of the earnings these blogs give me. Plus I really like introducing others to things I'm in to! I think that has always come across in my sponsored posts.
I have an outline of an editorial calendar, and I'm excited to start writing again after I take care of some not-so-fun back end clean-up stuff on my sites. They've been neglected and it shows!
When it comes down to it, I've missed the community around blogging, but I also really miss the "fun" writing that blogging is. I have had a blog since 1999. And before that, I had an opinion column in my high school paper for four years. Before that? I kept a daily diary that my friends and I would take turns reading and re-reading to each other. Before that? In elementary school I recorded a fake radio show with my cousins and wrote plays for us to perform.
The blogger who implored all mommy bloggers to quit wrote:
Quit because your mommy blog [.......] sucks. And it’s not going to get better. There are probably a dozen things you are actually good at. Find what you love, and what you do better than anyone else, and do that.
This is what I do. This is what I've always done. Am I better at it than anyone else? No. Not by a long shot. Will I be the best? Absolutely not. But nonetheless, I'm thankful for this weird blog world, and I'm ready to get back to it.
This post took me one half carton of ice cream. Or was it the other way around? This half pint of ice cream took me one blog post?
An announcement from Indiana . . .
I love blogging. I've been doing it as a hobby since 1999 and over the years I've met hundreds of fellow bloggers at various conferences, including TxSC (rest in peace, my little blog conference!).
But for the last couple years I've noticed that Instagram seems to be where the party is at. I don't feel pressured to make it look perfect all the time, the short-form content makes it easy to read on the go, and the engagement is still there with "likes" and comments. In the seasons when my blog is quiet, I'm still active on Instagram (under @indianaadams), and sometimes when I want to write something thoughtful that isn't quite long enough to be an entire blog post, I do a micro blog in my Instagram captions. Although I'm not ready to quit blogging altogether in favor of being exclusively a 'gram rat, I do have loads of fun over there. Instagram, much like earliest blogging days, is rich for camaraderie.
As always, I've been scheming. For a long time I've been trying to come up with an easy, fun, and community-centered project to do with my friend Jen Loves Kev, and I think we've finally got it: say hello to #MomPrompts.
My Instagram feed is probably 25% junk food, 25% style, and 50% life with kids, but every once in a while I find myself Insta-stumped. Just the other day I stopped myself before I posted yet another photo of Lucy looking cute in her high chair! Not again!
So see? Some days, I need a prompt. There's all sorts of monthly Instagram challenges out there. Fat Mum Slim got this thing started with her Photo a Day Challenge, Jenny has one for Hand Lettering, and Courtney does one for artists. But is there one that can help me to think creatively about photographing family life? Is there one that I can browse through that makes me smile and feel a kind of fellowship? Is there one with prizes?
I think #MomPrompts could be that happening hashtag. Huge favor: It's always daunting to start something new. If you're a mom on Instagram, would you please help promote #MomPrompts by posting our January photo (above) and by participating? That would mean the world to us.
What's in it for you, you ask? Well besides offering you ideas for your own feed and the possibility of finding new-to-you Instagram friends to follow (and perhaps get some new followers yourself), you could win something fantastic!
We didn't want to do one of those dastardly and long loop giveaways, but we did want to give our participants a shot at something for joining in the fun. So each month, we'll pair up with someone rad for a giveaway. For our inaugural month, Betsy Farmer Designs will choose one random participant to win a something from her amazing shop, and Jen and I will choose a winner to also win something! Basically, the more days you do the #MomPrompts, the more chances of winning you have. No need to find the end of the loop. Just follow @BetsyFarmerDesigns, @JenLovesKev, and @IndianaAdams (that's me) to be eligible. Or just do the #MomPrompts without following any of us if you don't care to win a prize... but you may as well try to win a prize, right?! [note: photos must be public on Feb. 1 to be considered for the giveaway].
Quick note about Betsy: First- how awesome is she to pair up with us on a new project where we have no idea if it will be well received. Props to a brave lady willing to give it a go! Secondly: Betsy Farmer is the real deal, guys. I met her at TxSC last spring and I bought each of my staff and keynote speakers a bar necklace, customized with a guide word I prayed for for them. Betsy surprised me with a necklace of my own, with all three of my kiddos names on it, and I've worn it almost daily since March:
I would love for you to win a piece of Betsy Farmer Designs jewelry of your own. Mine is so special to me.
What are you waiting for? Get your #MomPrompts uploaded!
Some years you make a big to-do about your Christmas cards. Outfits were coordinated, a photographer booked, cards were printed, envelopes were addressed, stamps were affixed, and heart felt notes were written.
Other years you do a quick snapshot in the backyard and hurriedly send the file off to a one-hour photo and hand them out to family on Christmas day.
Other years you rush your family in front of a hastily erected tripod just as you're headed out the door to Christmas Eve brunch and you opine, "This year, a social media digital photo is gonna have to do. I hope great grandma has email!"
We'll let you guess which year is this year for our family.
May your Christmas be filled with the love and laughter this Christmas, no matter what kind of year you've had.
-Indiana & Chris
& Lucy, Caroline, & Jude
A Christmas post from Indiana . . .
Even though we don't do Santa Claus (i.e. presents left under the tree from Santa on Christmas morning), we do take our kids to the mall every year to take a photo with the guy dressed as Santa.
This year's picture did not disappoint. I'm calling this work of art "Lucy Isn't Having It".
This year the kids were joined by their baby cousin Clover (purple shirt on Santa's lap- R), who is six months younger than Lucy (white shirt on Santa's lap- L). I'm not sure if Clover is frightened by the man dressed as Santa or if she's empathy crying for lil'Lu who is freaking her ever loving freak.
This picture joins an incredible line-up of Santa photos from years past [click photo to view larger on Instagram]:
Visiting mall Santa, at least for the next couple years, is going to remain one of my favorite family traditions.
Speaking of... if you meet a family (like mine) who isn't doing Santa, don't assume we're kill joys or that we think your family shouldn't do Santa. We do celebrate Christmas in other ways --big ways! fun ways!-- but we decided that the whole leaving presents from Santa and using him as a behavior modification tool just wasn't right for our family. We've told Jude that Santa Claus was real and that some families have a tradition of pretending to give gifts from Santa Claus. We've told him that some families like to pretend the mall Santa is real (kind of like characters at Disney World or in movies) and if he wants to pretend too, he can because using our imagination is fun. However, it was important to me that he knows that the presents our kids get on Christmas are presents from people who love them and know them and thoughtfully chose each and every gift and wrapped it just for them.
And because we mentioned it on our most recent podcast (returning soon, I swear!) and said we'd publish it on the blog, here are the want / need / wear / read gifts we got (or will get, belated) for our children this year:
- WANT | Jude told the mall Santa he wanted a nutcracker, and it's the only thing he's consistently asked for. So cute. Maybe this will be a yearly tradition.
- NEED | We haven't purchased this yet, but embarrassingly, Jude is still sleeping in his crib. I mean, the toddler rail is installed and he fits just fine, but it's time for us to re-do his room and get him into a big boy bed. He's been asking for a bunk bed, but we're unsure. We think a loft bed or a day bed may be a better choice. Pictured: Land of Nod Tall Order Loft Bed.
- WEAR | He used to wear his NASA cap all the time, but it got lost shortly after our move. I ordered a replacement.
- READ | Chris got him a Narnia box set for them to read together at night.
- WANT | She told the mall Santa she wanted a "new kazoo". She has a perfectly fine kazoo, but we'll indulge her. I love that she always asks things like this. For her birthday, the only thing she wanted was a pointed, cardboard birthday hat.
- NEED | She has outgrown her hand-me-down bike, so we've upgraded her to this and Lucy will get the hand-me-down bike. Do you know how hard it was to find a girly bike that didn't have cartoon characters on it and / or wasn't all pink and purple everything?
- WEAR | She has outgrown the fluffy winter hat she wore all last year. Because she loves leopard, I ordered a similar hat but in her favorite pattern.
- READ | Every time we go to the library, she checks out a bug book. Now she can have her own.
- WANT | Every time I ask her what she'd like for Christmas she says "Dah". "Dah" can mean "dog" or "doll" so I had to make a guess. This doll is good because she can practice buttons, snaps, and ties, which means she can be on her way to dressing herself... which means she's only a few steps away from dressing crazy like Caroline.
- NEED | We have second hand Tripp Trapp chairs for Jude and Caroline, and Lucy so desperately wants to sit in them at the table with us instead of being relegated to her high chair. Thankfully we scored one on Facebook from a local garage sale group last week!
- WEAR | Lucy is obsessed with wearing other people's boots. Sadly, Caroline's frog boots (originally Jude's, originally someone else's) bit the dust, so Lucy doesn't have rain boots in the pipeline for a hand-me-down. I'm eying these cuties since Lucy loves animals so much.
- READ | I can't remember where I saw this book (maybe on Oh, Joy?) but I saw it today at Barnes & Noble and grabbed it for Lucy. I love how cute and simple it is.
It probably isn't at all helpful for me to publish our gift list with just one shopping day between now and Christmas, but maybe you'll be like me, braving the crowds tonight and tomorrow morning or giving a few belated gifts with only a moderate amount of shame.
Or maybe you can use this next year and check back in to see if we'll have a "Lucy Isn't Having It, Part Two" photo. Sound good?
A Thoughtful Closet post from Indiana . . .
There are two types of people in the world: 1- people who are good at giving advice, and 2- people who are not. But you've got to beware of people who are not good at giving advice because many of them are delusional and think they give good advice or many of them try to give advice anyway, so they masquerade as a good advice givers.
This surprises a lot of my friends when I tell them this, but when it comes to fashion, I am a person who does not give good advice. However I'm savvy enough to know this about myself and to not even try. This is why I'm not a stylist and why I'm uncomfortable when stores ask me to come in to style people for events. Some days I can barely dress myself.
That's why it's been a little befuddling that since I've been tackling my Thoughtful Closet experiment that a fair amount of people have contacted me to help them make their own capsule collection or pared down wardrobe. That is so flattering, y'all, but it's not at all within my realm of capabilities. In fact, this is me laughing at the thought of styling other people.
But because people have reached out to me about it, I know it's a real want that's out there. I just sort of winged it when I started and for sure have some mistakes that I'll share another time, but for next season / my spring experiement, I've been test driving Cladwell's new site (still in beta!) called Capsules. They're calling it "a destination that helps you create a simple, minimal wardrobe with only clothes you love." For $15 per season ($5 per month), they'll help you build your own capsule wardrobe based on your lifestyle, color preferences, and more. It's way more affordable than a personal stylist (my stylist friends charge $250 - $500 for this service), and I think it's really rad and easy to use.
If one of your new years resolutions is to start shopping more thoughtfully or to try a capsule wardrobe, may I suggest trying Capsules? As a bonus, the first 50 folks to sign up with my link can enjoy the service for $10 this season (instead of $15). It's a small price to pay to avoid bad fashion advice givers pretending to be good fashion advice givers, am I right?
A Thoughtful Closet post from Indiana . . .
I am so not a hat person. I used to think I was a hat person, but then one day I realized that I have no idea what to do with said hat once I enter a building. Or when I drive. Or when I eat. And it doesn't make sense to wear a hat just hanging at home, me and the kids... so the question begs to be asked: when does one wear a hat?
I'll tell you when one can wear a hat: when one is invited to a tea party. And that, my friends, is why I'm wearing this hat:
date: 10 Dec. 2015 | occasion: tea party with my Northside squad
CHRIS: For someone who claims not to be a hat person, you sure do have a lot of hats.
INDIANA: I don't have a lot of hats!
CHRIS: What are you talking about? You have that very hat in yellow and gray!
INDIANA: Oh. You're right. But I'm still not a hat person.
CHRIS: How do you figure?
INDIANA: I guess since I own more than one hat, I'm technically a hats person.
I'd like to show off my gray one again. Who has another tea party they can invite me to? It's the only place where I can wear a floppy hat in the winter without feeling completely ridiculous.
I've mentioned this on Instagram, and since then I've been trying to figure out how to write a post about it without making is a "feel alarmed or sorry for me" kind of post. So up front, don't be alarmed for me! Things are under control.
It's been quiet here and with the podcast because I've been working very hard this last month to get my health in check. Some background:
In 2008, after being misdiagnosed with Lupus in college, I finally got a handle on my health with a correct diagnosis of Hashimoto's Syndrome.