Topics: Episode 01: Intro | Episode 02: Food | Episode 03: Fitness
Thank you so much for following our family to our new projects. Our hope is that Mom Jeans and Dad Jokes cannibalizes Indiana Elsewhere one day, but for now we'll be dabbling in both spaces (here less often). We'd love for that site to be a fully fleshed out mom / dad blog (where we'll do occasional outfit posts, too!) as well as the hub for our podcast.
I never thought I'd live in the 'burbs or have a parenting blog, but really, I'm starting to like my new home, both here and on internet. Thanks for giving me the chance to change!
UPDATE [21 June 2015]: We will no longer be creating new content here on Indiana / Elsewhere. After an incredible first week of writing at MJ&DJ, we will be blogging there Monday - Friday (with a Saturday links post) and new podcast episodes on Wednesdays. Please update your bookmarks and readers accordingly! And I'd love it if you could spread the word!
It has come to my attention that my buddy Camp Patton has linked Caroline's birth story (Thanks, GP!), so I now have an influx of traffic to this oft neglected and sort of defunct blog. Hello, friends of the Camp! I love Grace and had the joy of meeting her in real life and can attest to her amazing mane and quick wit in person, too. I'm sorry my blog is so sad these days with no new content, but nonetheless, I'm glad you're here!
It's been over a year since I last read my own birth stories, and I read them in the car this afternoon whilst waiting for my eldest to buckle his own dang seat belt (which he insists on doing himself but it takes forevvvverrrrrr. Been there? Done that? Anyone else?). It was fun to reread them and I still enjoyed a hearty chuckle at my own expense.
Without further ado, here's all three of my birth stories in one place for your viewing pleasure. I recommend reading them in order.
- JUDE // first birth, precipitous labor (home birth), I lost my dang mind but not my modesty.
- CAROLINE // twenty minute labor (home birth), unintentional water birth.
- LUCY // crazy pregnancy, precipitous labor (home birth), gif and flow chart included.
As to what I've been up to lately... nope, I'm not expecting (although this recent photo of me on Instagram yielded FIVE text messages asking me if I was... and if I was sure that I'm not. Yes, I'm sure. Ha!).
Although we're not expecting a baby, we are pregnant with a podcast. Chris and I are launching a new project together (a site that's both a blog AND a podcast) where we will regale you with funny stories all the time. We're thrilled, we're proud, and we've named her already: Mom Jeans & Dad Jokes. We hope our first three episodes will be live next week. Topics covered in our inaugural episodes: Muppets, Competitive Eating, and Dad Bods. You're going to want to tune in.
As I wrote about last fall, I have a long and dirty history with the act of accumulating stuff. Having a style blog for a few years was a crippling blow to any efforts I made to keep this bad habit at bay. Because I primarily shopped at thrift stores and resale shops, I could justify my purchases easily with "What a deal!" and wanting new / different outfits for the fashion events and mixers I attended and... ugh... just for the sake of the blog itself. It all seems so petty when I put it down here in writing, but that's the truth of the matter.
And things got better-- much better! -- in 2011 when I wrote and published a promise I made to myself to start shopping more thoughtfully. Having a shopping philosophy, for the most part, has kept my spending and my shopping in check since.
But here's the piece of the puzzle that I haven't really written about: I'm having a lot of trouble decluttering. I still have a lot of stuff.
And for the first time in our 11 year marriage, Chris and I are forced to share one walk-in closet (first world problems, I know), and the thing is, we both have a lot of stuff.
I'm getting ready to write something that my dearest friends all know, but that my internet friends maybe don't. I'm not proud of this at all, but it needs to be said so you can get a grasp at how crazy the situation that I'm now in is. At our Texas house, I had my own walk-in closet, used the entire reach-in guest room closet, had a full rolling rack of clothes in the guest room, had sweaters in my office closet, and coats in part of a hall closet. My garage and car always had bags and bags of neglected clothes strewn about, too. I had a problem. (And this only touches on clothes, shoes, and accessories. We'll talk about office supplies and craft supplies some other time).
When we moved to Georgia, I got rid of a lot of it. Two entire truckloads of clothes and shoes and house goods, actually. I could have opened a thrift store with just my belongings on those trucks alone.
But here I am in Georgia, coming up on six months in this new house, and my clothes cover every inch of floor on my side of the bed and are piled to the bar in my shared closet and take up the bed in Chris' office. I also use the entire guest room closet again. I got rid of two truckloads of stuff, but I still have another truckload I could stand to part with. In other words: I still have a problem.
And here's the kicker: I've been doing an undocumented capsule wardrobe for the entire six months that I've been here. (If a style blogger is doing a capsule wardrobe and doesn't blog about it, does her capsule wardrobe really exist? You tell me.) For nearly six months- October, November, December, January, February, March (except for at SXSW, TxSC, and Alt Summit) I've been wearing the same 15 items:
+ 2 pairs of jeans (one black, one dark blue)
+ 3 blouses (one cream, one peach, one gingham)
+ 2 sweaters (one gray, one cream)
+ 2 cardigans (one leopard, one cream)
+ 2 pairs of comfy pants (one black pair of yoga pants, one pair of gray joggers)
+ 1 skirt (tan leather)
+ 1 blazer (black and white striped)
+ 2 t-shirts (on short sleeved gray, one long sleeved black)
And up until March, I only wore five pairs of shoes:
+ TOMS wedges (tan)
+ Gray converse
+ Black Nikes
+ Brown DUO boots
+ Leopard loafers
That's 20 items TOTAL for FIVE entire months.
Before you applaud me or ask me to take photos of all the combos of those 20 items, please know that this was an accidental capsule wardrobe. These are the few fall / winter items that I packed to bring with me from Texas to Georgia (that were not on the moving truck) and / or items I purchased since moving here. I didn't do a capsule wardrobe because I planned to. I did one because it took me a really long time to unpack... and I'm lazy! Essentially, these were the clothes in my suitcase by my bed for all these months.
Was it hard? No. In fact, I mainly wore the jeans, cream blouse, and TOMS sweater when I'd go out to dinner or church. Otherwise, I'd wear the yoga pants and gray t-shirt and tennis shoes when I'd run errands. It was utilitarian at a time when I was spending most of my days at home working on TxSC stuff or just running to meet my buddy Sully at Target. It's nothing revolutionary.
This post is getting long. Golly! It was just supposed to be a simple outfit post, but I'm writing all this commentary off the cuff here. Stick with me.
ANYWAY! Back on topic! (That stuff is related, I swear!).
Marie Kondo. Not going to lie: I had to Google Marie Kondo when Caroline mentioned her on her blog. I didn't give Kondo a second thought until it came time to pack for my Texas trip. Then suddenly, there I was, sitting in a mountain of mainly chiffon blouses and polyester dresser, trying to decide what to pack for SXSW and TxSC, and I, once again, found myself asking why and how I came to own so many things. Things that I hadn't worn in months.
I was able to pack for Texas last minute (like I always do), but when I got home, we had to haul butt to ready our house for guests for Lucy's first birthday. I was silently berating myself as I dismantled the rolling rack in the guest room and tried to shove the clothes from it into the already stuffed closet. I resigned myself to not cleaning my bedroom, and just keeping the doors shut in shame.
I could desperately use a Kondoing (yes, that's a verb now!), but I just don't think that's going to happen. I have the tendency to try to do these home organizational things and then about 25% of the way in (after being full gusto with it initially) I slack off and throw in the towel. After a nice pep text with Sully (who is my complete opposite, and therefore one of the most reasonable people I know!), she said something that is still rattling around in my brain days later:
if you keep giving up, then it's not a true priority for you, and you're feeling external pressure to be or do something that isn't inherently "you"
So what is me?
If I reach back into my earliest memories, I think about all the shelves and stacks of books I owned as a child, my habit of collecting any and all Pez dispensers and baseball cards, my preschool memories of painting my nails hot pink and always wearing the loudest, brightest clothes I could get my hands on.
I'm just going to type it so I can stop trying to make it happen: I am never going to be a minimalist. Right now, I so want that Kinfolk aesthetic, I want crisp white walls, and spotless furniture, but it's just not me.
Likewise, with my clothing, I'm not very happy when I'm sporting gray joggers and a cream blouse for the fourth time that week. However, something that makes me even more unhappy is the amount and mess of my stuff. It overwhelms me.
Kondo writes from a positive space and says that each belonging should spark joy. Therein lies my problem: I am the girl who has liked every job she has ever had. I try to legitimately befriend nearly every woman I have a conversation with. I am really, really great at glossing over the bad and holding up the good. So in that same regard, almost every single item of clothing I own makes me smile because I've attached a memory to it or I at least remember why I bought it (or how it came to me) in the first place.
My biggest takeaway from the book summary was not so much the mantra that every item should spark joy (because do possessions spark joy, really? Or is it the memories attached to those possessions and therefore the PEOPLE associated with those items? Because honestly, PEOPLE > BELONGINGS!), but rather if you need to declutter but you're having trouble doing it, it's because you're stuck in one (or in my case both) of two places:
1. The past // the nostalgia of it all and the value of your sentiment is misplaced on the object itself rather than the memory (or in my interpretation the people)
2. The future // if you hang on to things because you think that you might need them one day, you could likely have a scarcity complex (this is the case with my craft and office supplies, for sure).
I don't like how Kondo personifies belongings. She essentially says of the decluttering process: "Thank your items for their service to you and honor them by releasing them from service", which I think is a little hokey. I do, however, appreciate the sentiment of it. I needed to adjust it a little for my own life.
At SXSW Bethany Joy Clark gave me a Giving Key that says GRATEFUL on it, and I worn it every day since. It's a small thing that reminds me to be thankful for everything.
I'm at the tipping point here with my belongings. I am grateful that I've had them, but I know that I'm going to be more grateful to have a cleaner house-- a house where I can host gatherings, a house that I'm not embarrassed by its mess inside. I am grateful for the people in my life more than any item of clothing or jewelry that I own, and I want them to have a comfortable, clean place to stay and to enjoy my home.
Plus Chris and I have been pricing dressers online, and wowzers! They ain't cheap (for a solid wood one for as large as we want. This is the one I can't stop thinking about)! Rather than plopping down $1700 for a dresser, wouldn't it be much better to commit to only owning as many items as will fit in our shared closet and the small Ikea dresser I already have?
Man, that was a lot of commentary for what was just supposed to be a simple outfit post. I haven't done one in ages (because I've been wearing a very bland accidental capsule wardrobe), but for Jude's Easter party, I let him pick my outfit. This is what happens when your four year old picks out your clothes (he specified that he wanted me to wear a bun on the top of head, too, which I happily obliged):
KEEPS // jewelry, hat, shoes
CLUTTER // dress, sweater
THE DRESS // This dress is the nicest thing I own, but I have only worn it one other time: during the TxSC March Mixer at Neiman Marcus. I was gifted this dress for hosting the event, which was a crazy surprise that just dumbfounded me. It reminds me of the incredible community I was a part of for so long and being able to zip it up last week made me do a victory dance around my bathroom. I like it because Jude loves it.
SENTIMENTAL VALUE (on a scale of 1-5): 4
RETAIL VALUE (on a scale of 1-5): 5
NEXT DESTINATION: will sell online (I hope it can be someone's summer wedding rehearsal dinner dress or departure / honeymoon dress).
THE CARDIGAN // The sweater, first seen here, is now worn and pilly on the elbows. It was one of the very first courtesy items I got from a brand after I adopted my I Shop With Heart guidelines. It came to me at a time when other two brands I had worked with for over a year severed their ties with me after I decided to focus on shopping more thoughtfully (which was a big blow to the ego). I know it seems like something so small an insignificant, but at the time, this sweater was a little symbol of "It's going to be okay. Your blog is going to be okay if you do this thing!". Plus bright yellow is my favorite color to wear.
SENTIMENTAL VALUE: 4
RETAIL VALUE: 1
NEXT DESTINATION: Goodwill
I don't know if this SENTIMENTAL VALUE / RETAIL VALUE / NEXT DESTINATION thing is going to be a thing I do here (what do you think? Yea? Nay?) but like PurchaseMyLife[dot]com, I'm ready to let go of my stuff. Plus I'm saving all my pennies (489,500 of them) for this leather sofa from Restoration Hardware, so maybe if I sell absolutely everything I can stand to part with I can make a downpayment on one in a couple years? How many used dresses do you think it will take?
When I had signed up to be one of the room moms for Jude's class Easter party, I had all these grandiose ideas, mainly thanks to insomnia + Pinterest (which is a terrible combination). This is as fancy as it got, folks:
Peep Kabobs // Surprisingly sticky and not at all easy to stack without squishing. I've since determined that Peep sugar is worse than glitter. Not only does it shed everywhere, but it's also sticky and leaves a grainy residue in its wake. My kitchen table may never recover. Parents of Jude's classmates, I'm sorry. [inspiration]
Bunny shaped sandwiches // You haven't truly lived until you've cut thirty slices of bread with a dull rabbit shaped cookie cutter at midnight. I do think the marshmallow tail was a cute touch, though. It's just too bad I had to buy an entire bag of mini marshmallows to do these, when I literally only needed eight. [inspiration]
My friend Ansley, the super mom to Jude's best friend busted this out, though:
Peep center piece // It's incredible, isn't it? And GET THIS: she had the hindsight A YEAR AGO to save packages of Peeps to make them stale since stale ones are easier to work with than fresh gooey Peeps. A YEAR AGO. #RoomMomGoals
My kid's teachers don't read my blog (that I know of) but I do want to take a moment to sing their praises. Ansley and I were only in the class for an hour (one singular hour) and in that short time, we cleaned up an epic mess, broke up a for real fight between two brawny four year olds, comforted a child crying for her mommy, and defended the take-home Peep Kabobs with our lives. We left exhausted. I do not know how teachers do it. I stress ate a bag of Cadburry mini-eggs when I got home.
I still think it's nutso how I didn't foresee how this could make such a crazy mess:
Tissue paper crosses // This craft may seem innocuous at first glance, but don't let it's sweet appearance deceive you. I foolishly gave each four year old a tiny cup of glue that I added pink food coloring to (so they could see where they were gluing), a paintbrush, and a large plastic cup full of thousands of tissue paper squares. Once one child discovered how fun it was to blow into the cup of tissue paper, thus causing all the feather weight squares to fly up up up and then land all around, it was over. It looked like Times Square after the NYE ball drop. Sorry, Jude's teachers. [inspiration]
I do enjoy how one student glued her paper doily to her cross. I'm 90% certain I was that kind of child in preschool, too.
Jude reports that he had a nice time. I let him pick out my outfit and hair-do, and he dressed me like a 13 year old girl, so duh. I'll post a photo of that tomorrow. In the meantime, look at this handsome little gentleman:
How grown up does Jude look lately? Seems like only yesterday I was holding the washcloth of modesty over my bum.
If you know a teacher, give her a hug, okay? Teacher life ain't no joke!
You know your popularity is waning when you get your fashion bloggers' card taken away from you. Or at least that's how it felt when I was recently unceremoniously "let go" from rewardStyle.
Admittedly, I haven't been creating regular blog content for quite some time now, but 2015 has been a banner year for me in terms of my so-called influence. I was invited to speak at Alt Summit (the superbowl of young lady bloggers' conferences) on the brand / blogger panel, offering the influencers' POV in brand partnerships. I spoke at SXSW, arguably the most respected tech conference in the country, in a packed out / standing room only dual presentation with TOMS, speaking about how brands can work with "small bloggers / lesser known influencers", and I just wrapped my fifth Texas Style Council conference, where I encouraged hundreds of other creative entrepreneurs to be intentional with their online lives and to approach brands if they want to work with brands.
So, yeah. I'd say I know a thing or two about this weird spot between brands / bloggers. There are more eyes on my personal site than ever (hi!), and now that TxSC has wrapped, I am gearing up to get back into the habit of writing regularly again... as well as launching a gift guide blog. As a "small blogger", I do pretty darn good. It's hard to call myself an expert, but if my resume and experience were to speak for themselves, I would venture to say that I'm seen as a leader here.
In full transparency, most of my money comes directly from brands that approach me for partnership, but a not-to-be-denied portion comes from my affiliate links. Any time I link a product, I use an affiliate link and receive a commission off of that if a reader clicks and makes a purchase. I've always been up front about it (both online and in my talks), and I am sincerely thankful for any income that my blog generates for me and my family. We shop thoughtfully, and I will not apologize for making money from what was, essentially, a part-time job.
The tool that I used most often to help generate those affiliate links was rewardStyle (or "rS"). I've been a member since November 2011, since Amber herself reached out to introduce it to me. rS was a sponsor of TxSC in 2012, and Amber was a speaker at TxSC in 2013. We have history. Good history.
I've been a quiet champion of rS over all these years. I've personally referred over 40 other people to rS. The money I've earned from rS has never been jaw dropping, but despite my sporadic blog posting, I did recently reach my minimum threshold and received a payout. I know for a fact that there are many people enrolled in rS who have never reached the payout threshold, so it's mind boggling as to why I was given the boot.
I emailed rS to see what was up, and I know it's not personal-- that there very well could be some cool algorithm that makes these decisions. The algorithm determined that I was no longer up to snuff. I got a kind, but canned email back from Alex:
I see that your account was flagged and frozen due to inactivity, either in use of our tools or commission earnings. This action is not necessarily a reflection of the quality, value or traffic of your Web site.
I encourage you to keep publishing and reapply at a later date. At that time, we will be able to determine if your site is the right fit for rewardStyle, or if it is best that you continue to work toward fulfilling the criteria we look for in publishers. We hope to welcome you back to the rewardStyle network!
Was it my lack of earnings? Or my refusal to adopt their arsenal of tools? If my exclusion is not based on my traffic, quality, or value, then what is it based on, exactly? It's a mystery.
Something in that email that gave me pause was that word "tools". rS has sent me a lot of (automated) emails encouraging me to sign up for LikeToKnow.it (an Instagram monetization tool), and I just never got on that bandwagon. I love Instagram. In fact, I feel more connected to people more than ever thanks to the incredible Instagram community, but --for me-- using LTKI seemed so ugh. I have really great readers (friends!) who have supported me for years by reading my blog. I figure that in the rare occasion that I do post an OOTD to Instagram, if someone was really that curious about what I was wearing, they could see the brand tags or visit my blog and follow the links there. I'm not wholly against monetizing my Instagram, but using LTKI just seemed so against the authentic "voice" that I've been able to maintain in the 16 years I've been blogging. Plus I'm just not there, yet. Can't I have just one place on the internet where I'm not trying to wring money out of it? I digress...
Now I have a bunch of other questions: who now gets the referrals off my links that are still out there on my blog? Should I replace those? What about the $50- $80 balance I had in my account (below the $100 payout threshold)? Do I really want to reapply after I get back into blogging in the chance that this could happen to me again?
I respect Amber as a business woman. The product she and Baxter created has a slick UI, helped me to quickly and easily link products for my readers, and even helped me earn a little bit of money over the years. I am thankful for that.
But I am perhaps even more thankful for the lesson my exclusion taught me. The lessons I learned is this: don't depend on an invite-only club where the "membership" can be taken away from you without warning and without explanation. If you're serious about making money from your blog, perhaps don't entrust the monetization part of the equation to something that you don't have a say in. Work directly with Commission Junction, ShareASale, and Linkshare, and learn how to use the backend. Exclusivity stops feeling special when you realize it actively excludes others.
If I sound miffed or whiney, please know that I'm not. I feel like I need to spell it out here since tone can be so hard to convey on a blog: I'm not mad at rewardStyle. They're a privately owned business that has the prerogative to run their business how they see fit. My purpose in writing this little ditty is to serve as a warning. We bloggers have a lot of tools and options at our (literal) fingertips now. This was not the case four years ago. Post consistently, post thoughtfully, but just as importantly, choose your monetization tools wisely... especially if you're not posting consistently. If you want to be a part of a club, you've got to nod in time with their beat, you see what I'm saying?
Really, my only beef with rS is with their algorithm. As the rS door hits me on the butt on my way out, I want to have some words with their robot: fix your dang algorithm. That same criteria that booted me from the program should also update the rewardStyle mailing list. Imagine how ragey I got this afternoon when I got an automated email asking me to update my mailing address so that rS could be sure to invite me to exclusive events in my area. Yes, rS robot, I know, I know. I'm not actually invited to that party. But you know what? That's okay. I would have been the weird girl stuffing her face in the corner, anyway.
UPDATE 1 // 6 April 2015: Alex (who maybe isn't a robot?) from rS emailed me a form, unprompted, where I can submit to withdraw my $82.97 commission balance. So that's great! That's $80 in my new couch fund!
Texas Style Council is over! I have been sitting here for thirty minutes trying to write a gushy recap post, and I just can't. It's mainly because I'm 100% sad that it's done and dead as well as 100% relieved that it's done and dead.
I think I said all I needed to say in the printed program, in my recap TxSC email (drafted and coming tomorrow!), and at the farewell talk last week. I guess that's why the words are failing me now. I do want to take the opportunity to answer the three questions that keep coming up, though:
1. WHY WAS THIS TxSC THE FINAL ONE?
Because there are so many online resources out there and so many other (better!) conferences now, TxSC no longer answers a need or fills a void. I cannot find an answer to "Why do TxSC again" other than "Rah rah, sisterhood, hooray!". I actually think this is a good answer, but I don't think it's a good enough answer, all things considered.
From a production stand-point: TxSC was never intended to be this giant thing that it became, and even scaled back to a more manageable 200 campers (over the 400 attendees we had in 2013), it still takes an army of unpaid staff and overworked volunteers to put it on. It's a lot of work and a lot of stress for an event that nets us little to no profit. We found ourselves in a catch-22 the last couple of years: raise the prices and the people who we want to be there can't afford to be there -or- make it affordable for all and we can't do the kind of elevated production we want to do. Finding that sweet spot and working with sponsors to help offset the cost of the conference is a herculean task.
On a personal note: when I started TxSC five years ago, I had no kids. Now I have three children ages four and under, and my priorities have shifted in a major way. Chris and I want to add to our family (more on this some other time!), and I want to work on my own blog again (and my two new projects!). I just cannot do it all, and I certainly cannot do it from Georgia. I told my family that this TxSC would be my last TxSC, and I want to honor my promise to them. I want to go to other conferences instead of spending months and months planning my own.
I'm (somewhat) open to someone else taking TxSC over, but I'm also extremely protective of what TxSC "stands for", if that makes sense. It would be really hard for me to trust the namesake to another individual and trust she won't just turn it into a ladies who lunch networking thing, use it to only bolster her own brand, or try to turn it into a gathering where monetization is its major focus.
2. SO... WHAT'S NEXT?
We all left CAMP with a spark, and 10 days out, I know that mine is already starting to flicker and fade. Anyone else? It seems like such a shame to watch this incredible network / sisterhood wither away. My hope is that we can do a TxSC reunion for our Texas locals in the fall and help promote events that other TxSC campers host. I want to create a TxSC mailing list and send out periodic updates, and I'll keep the Instagram active (and syndicate that content to Twitter and FB) that way relevant news can still spread.
I'd also like to do a SECRET SUMMER SISTER thing (kind of like Secret Santa, but you'll be assigned one other person to surprise and delight through August). And if it goes well, we'll do another round the next season through Christmas.
For me, personally, I plan to amp it up here on Indiana/Elsewhere (dude, it feels so good to write here again!), and I'm starting two new projects: (1) a gift guide service that I hope to turn into an app next spring (any leads on a tech co-founder?), and (2) a faith-based contributor-centered site (similar to Hello Giggles). I'm actively looking for an advisory board, weekly / regular contributors, and content editors. I want this to launch soon, so let me know if that sounds like something you'd be into.
3. BUT... WON'T YOU MISS IT?
I will. More than you can imagine. There was this moment, laying on Megan's bed at 3 a.m. and chatting it up with her, Liz, Jen, and Julie for the second late night in a row, and as we laughed over something ridiculous, I could feel the tears stinging the inside of my eyelids. I was so thankful for their friendship, as well as my friendship with Linda, Kelsey (you were missed!), KV, and scores of other creative and dear women I had met over the years through TxSC. Some of us "grew up" in this weird world together, others I only just met (Erin, Kelly, BJC, Esther, etc) and recently grew close to. I swallowed the lump in my throat and wondered, "When will I see these fine folks again?". I don't know the answer to this, but I hope it's sooner rather than later.
- - -
I'm having trouble coming up with a strong and witty conclusion here, so I'll end with a few of my favorite words and phrases that others gifted me with in the tunnel of tears (i.e. our final activity of "Gifts of Words"):
Mother to all. Light. Unicorn.
I am humbled. I am grateful. I am inspired by each of you. Thank you. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart.
Bottom line: TxSC has been life changing, and although it's ending, in many ways, I feel like I've only just begin.
Also... here's other people's recaps:
Let's get real here, okay? (Jokes. It's always been real here, amiright?).
I haven't blogged since October, yet I just led a talk at Alt Summit providing the influencers' POV in the blogger / brand relationship panel. And I'm getting ready to lead a talk with TOMS at SXSW on the same topic. On top of that, I head up a pretty freaking awesome conference aimed at bloggers and business owners.
The irony is not lost on me.
I just... *shrug* don't understand (style and mom) bloggers these days. I feel like the old, unhip lady in the room when I say this, but I just don't get it anymore. Do you know how many women I met at Alt who literally hire professional photographers on a bi-weekly or weekly basis to take photos of their outfits and families? These aren't, you know, bloggers on the Cupcakes and Cashmere upper echelon of blogging... these were emergent bloggers who have yet to step over the threshold of "professional / making a living blogging" bloggers. And these women would say things like, "The photographer is only $100 an hour and can shoot four or five outfits in an hour." or "The photographer comes over after the kids are fresh from naps and we set up a sweet scene where we're playing or eating a cute meal or something."
If this were just one woman saying this to me, fine, but nope. Nope. I met oodles of these women, and I just sat there, dumbstruck. Who are we? What have we become?
What in the world? What the what?!
I really don't understand when and why and how and WHY this is the "norm". And I just can't keep up in this race or even try to dance to that beat. For me, blogging has been about sharing my stories and my life with others; I simply don't have the time or energy to make my entire life a set in a photoshoot. It's great that some women do have time for that and want to elevate their personal blogs to that level, but you guys, I barely have time to shower, let alone prep my life for a weekly or bi-weekly professional photoshoot with outfit changes, you know?
I have a lot of girlfriends (not bloggers) who can't do Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest any more because it makes them feel inadequate as mothers, wives, and humans, in general. I try to tell them that this façade, this thing that bloggers do to paint themselves as having time to home school, make elaborate crafts, make every dinner from scratch, and dress like a perfectly put together magazine editorial is a carefully crafted narrative. No one is going to blog the laundry that's been sitting on the dining room table for days or the guilt that comes with serving their kids yogurt and breakfast cereal for dinner. The internet often gets the best versions of ourselves, with the dirt and mess and serious drama pushed just out of the camera's frame.
For months now, ever since I've moved to Georgia, I've been chiding myself for not doing better: For not being a better blogger and housekeeper and mother and wife by being able to balance it all. I keep going over Work + Life + Balance advice I've heard over the years, and finally I've just come to realize that life is not about balancing it all.
Life, for me, is better this way: When I feel that my load is too heavy, I stop trying to balance it all. When I'm trying to balance it all, I'm making very little progress on all things, and the burden feels too heavy. But when I can put things down and prioritize the things that are the most important to me, I feel like my sanity is saved.
So, my blog has been set down. For now. I have to run at Texas Style Council really hard for the next six weeks and focus all my free time into making my final TxSC the best its ever been. (And have you seen the schedule? It's pretty incredible).
I have a new project I'd like to launch after TxSC and I'd like to revamp this personal blog with the same vigor with which I'm dedicated to TxSC right now. I feel like I've gingerly set Indiana/Elsewhere down on the sidewalk to lighten my load, but I've given her a big hug, looked her square in the eye, and said, "I'm coming back for you. I will be back for you. You believe me, don't you?"
And when I come back, I will not have a professional photographer following me around everywhere.