Monday, November 10, 2014

The Coolest Thing Happened...

Over the years, I've done a few different jobs that I've liked, but they were always to support the one thing I've wanted to do since I was very young: Write. I actually have a small card I carry around in my wallet: "Support your art, don't expect it to support you." But, I always hoped that one day I'd get that job that allowed me to write full-time, and that card would be gone.

Over the years since college, freelance work was there, but for full-time work, it was another story. I've been the writer who worked as an accountant, or the writer who worked as an organic chemistry manager, or the writer who worked as a social worker (great book material). Then the coolest thing happened a couple weeks ago: I became just the writer - except it isn't just anything. It's actually rather amazing.

My official title is Creative/Content Writer. I feel honored, and frankly, quite blessed. I get to write, edit, work on webpages, do some photography, work with some great people - and all at an innovative, tech savvy company. One word: Yay!

There's also the matter of appreciation. Things changed a lot and got pretty tough over the last couple of years - there were back surgeries for him, job changes for me, the loss of a couple good friends and family members. Plenty of time to be humbled a bit, and I learned a lot - making me all the more excited to do well.

But, who knew? And isn't that exactly one of the reasons it's interesting being a writer in the first place?

My original plans may have taken a few turns here and there, and I guess it just wasn't supposed to happen when I was twenty-five. But, it's funny that even with all the twists, I've still reached the right place going in the right direction. 

This one is, quite simply put, a keeper. It must be time to throw that card away.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Scarf Season

Let's face it, for scarf lovers, it's always scarf season. But, sometimes it's a little too warm to pull it off in the summer months - even in Minnesota. I prefer to wear mostly solid colors in shirts, dresses, and skirts, which usually means black or jewel tones, and the occasional crisp white. The patterns and textures are most often in the scarves and the other accessories I choose to put with my outfits. That usually means long necklaces, big hoop earrings, and lots of bracelets in silver, wood, or leather. I've always had that bit of a boho vibe.

I've lost count of how many scarves I have. There's the section on the front of my closet door that are my favorites - super long and easy to wrap around while still leaving some length in the front. Then there is the inside closet wall which has an IKEA Komplement hanger with scarves looped through all the spots, and then there is the collection of smaller silk scarves that have their own special drawer. To me it's the scarves that add the bright colors, shiny beads...and always lots of fringe.

I may not like what follows autumn as much, at least not after too many months of winter, but I love fall and I love pulling out my scarves and wrapping them around my neck, leaving them hanging long, or braiding them in my hair. But, there is just something so merveilleux et chic about scarves that makes me feel like I've really put an outfit together. Besides, they're warm, soft, and comfortable - and just plain fun to wear. 

So, as autumn approaches us and turns into colder weather, one of the best parts of it is having my favorite accessory to add to any outfit. Because whether it's a great little black dress or a t-shirt and jeans, a scarf adds that extra layer of chic that just pulls it all together like nothing else does. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Piccadilly Prairie

A couple of days ago my twentieth publication came out, and it just so happened to be a really fun interview at one of my favorite shops in Minneapolis. I was also fortunate to do the photography on this assignment, and the owner of the shop is so talented and unique. As stated in my article in the Southwest Journal: 
When you walk by Piccadilly Prairie at 50th & Xerxes, a charming feeling invites you to come inside. Nestled on a corner that is filled with antique shops, this store stands out as a unique place with its own distinct vibe.
Opened three years ago, it has built a customer base that loves to see what has found its way to the shop. Store owner Lacey Brooker is proud her shop is different from everything else in the area. She considers it to be more of a vintage or occasional store, but it’s actually much more than that.
Besides all the vintage finds offered in the store - everything from furniture to jewelry - Brooker also does custom work. She works on sewing and painting projects for customers, as well as building furniture with her father-in-law, Art.  

“I do the designing, he does the building,” says Brooker. 

They use reclaimed materials and buy very little new. They find old wood to use, and even repurpose old hardware to put a design together. It gives even newly designed furniture a very unique, vintage feel that ensures that you have bought a truly one-of-a-kind piece. Says Brooker, When we build things, we want to keep their authenticity, right down to the chains and hinges. It keeps that history to it.”

Her creations have a real richness to them that make them truly exceptional. Whether it’s an old piece or a designed one, there’s a story behind it that makes the furniture not just beautiful, but very intriguing as well. It can make decorating a home that much more interesting by mixing in vintage pieces with your current or new furniture - adding a touch of history and soul to an already established room. 

“I try really hard to show people how to incorporate vintage pieces in with what they already have of their own,” says Brooker.

Traveling around the world in her twenties probably helped give Brooker her sharp eye for great merchandise. She’s always looking for fun pieces, often taking trips out of town to find them. Perhaps that is why Piccadilly Prairie almost makes you forget you’re in the middle of South Minneapolis. It’s very reminiscent of a New England or European flea market, complete with a comfy couch and pillows right inside the front door. The fresh scent of soaps and candles, with Frank Sinatra singing in the background, adds to the atmosphere of a different era, complementing the unique pieces. Everything about the store is very intentional, adding to the overall experience. Brooker wants it to feel comfortable, homey, and quaint.

The store also hosts different events throughout the year, including a Paris Flea Market that lets people mingle, shop, and socialize while they sip wine. The next event coming up will be the Piccadilly Paint Party in late August. Brooker will have paint stations set up so customers can do a little creating themselves. Using the Cottage Paint she now sells, it will allow people to try out the special paint that gives furniture a vintage look with minimal preparation time.
Piccadilly Prairie is also another great way to shop locally, and to shop small. Instead of buying at a large conglomerate, the money spent at a small local shop goes back into the community. The customer also purchases something that not only has that history to it, but a sturdiness and personality that goes along with it. 

“I really love vintage,” says Brooker. “Pieces are made better with more character. They’re made to last a long time. Now things are made to be disposable. We also like redesign and upcycling, taking really classic lines and updating them into a modern vintage look.”

Piccadilly Prairie has a very fitting motto that fits the feel of the store quite well: “Yesterday's Materials. Today's Designs.”

“Vintage stores and occasional stores are basically the new antique store,” says Brooker. “It’s where antiques are headed.”
For some great little pieces of history, a feeling like you're in a different place and time, and interesting character, this store is just the best shopping experience!

 Brooker Sits in the Front Window of the Store. (Photograph by CY Hunter)

Monday, June 16, 2014

She Will Always Be Missed...

One of the things about losing someone close to you is that you really never stop thinking about them or wanting to share things with them. When my big sister called on what would have been our mother's 85th Birthday, it made a sad day better. And we talked about the things we just had to tell Mom.

I wish my mother could have lived to see today, and many years beyond. I wish she would have been healthy. I wish I would have seen her before she died. Those thoughts will always be there, but they're there along with the memories of a remarkable woman that I got to call Mom.

My sister and I have matching silver glass candle holders. We get them out and light a candle for special occasions in memory of our mother. As my sister and I hung up the phone tonight, I pulled my holder out of its little drawstring pouch, placed a new tealight candle inside of it, and lit the candle.

Lighting the candle produced a large flame that blazed above the candle holder, framed by a circle of dark smoke. A strange picture, but it needed to be captured. Besides, it might be that Mom just wanted to be a part of the conversation - and maybe even have the last word.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Being Really Young Doesn't Last Forever

I have friends of all ages, and when I worked in social services in the past, I had clients in their nineties. I see age as nothing more than a number. I'm no longer twenty, but I'm not old either. I find that for the most part, if you are an intelligent person and keep learning, you'll get smarter as you get older - and hopefully wiser too - which is a whole other matter. But in America, we are obsessed with youth. In film, in magazines, in fashion...even more so if you're a woman. It's actually all quite silly because why does it matter?

Once you get into your forties, there's a peace that comes with it. You get to know yourself better. You are more outspoken where you used to be more shy. You drive your life less by what other people think. You know your style and what works for you. You know what your strengths and talents are. And your friendships become stronger and deeper.

I am consistently guessed to be many years younger than I am. It might be my long hair, it might be because I was lucky to get my mother's skin, it might be my free-spirited attitude, it might be because I have a passion for life and an upbeat attitude. It might be a combination of all of the above. I don't hide my age and I'm glad I am where I am now. I make a point of being open-minded and staying current with music, with fashion, with computers - not because I want to stay young forever, but because I'm naturally curious and interested and want to keep learning. I know people in their sixties who seem younger and people in their twenties who seem older. So much of it's about the attitude.

I loved Europe when I was there a few years ago, and plan to go back again sometime soon. The history, the beauty, and the architecture in Europe is wonderful...but, France, in particular, is a huge draw for me. Since I used to speak fluent French as well, the idea of someday living in Paris or outside the city is something I plan to do when I'm older. One of the many cool things about the French: They think women of all ages are beautiful. They always have. They don't fight to stay young, they celebrate the age they are at. 

In an introduction to her short essay in Marie Claire, "Boiling Down That French Sense of Je Ne Sais Quoi," Garance Doré has a great quote that I just love: "Beauty comes from living an interesting life, not trying to freeze time."
"The 40s are when we grow into our real beauty, which is what we've earned by allowing ourselves to not worry too much about our appearance. In fact, I would say knowing herself is the biggest strength of the French woman. These are also the years when we become more precise with our beauty routines—perhaps a richer lotion, a visit to the dermatologist, a few Pilates classes or brisk walks. Next come the decades of being fully yourself, and your most desirable.
 And maybe that's the ultimate French beauty secret: We don't freak out too much about age. Wrinkles and little shadows under our eyes don't really count. Of course, if anything bothers us, we'll take care of it, but never within the fantasy of getting back to an age of innocence and naïveté—we just enjoy what we have without questioning it too much. As long as each day is lived to the fullest, we have nothing to regret—only to be thankful for the beautiful women we've become, inside and out."
How can you not appreciate that? Who cares if you have some wrinkles or don't look exactly like you did when you were twenty. I love my friends and family that are younger - and older - but, the obsession with youth is both limiting and boring. Just as diversity in race and culture makes things more interesting, so does diversity in age.

The truth of the matter is that youth is fun and free - and it seems like it will go on forever. But, it doesn't. And to fight to stay young forever doesn't offer up much for growth either. If you chase after youth like many Hollywood actresses do, it really limits your potential to grow into the person you are meant to become.

Maybe if we all accepted the fact that we'll age right along with everyone else and follow France's example a bit more, we'd be happier and more content - and much less worried about society's idea of what the ideal woman looks like. It just isn't reality. And I, for one, am quite thankful for that.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Book About Being Saved by Gracie...

As a writer, I'm always thrilled to support other writers. Standing behind another writer and cheering them on is just the way it should be done. When Jan Dunlap asked me to read her new book, Saved by Gracie, which will be released in April, I was excited to get an advanced copy. When I read what it was about, it interested me even more.

I've always been an animal lover and was raised with dogs, so I'm particularly fond of them. I had the opportunity in my former career in social services to work with service dogs as well, so I know the difference they can make in people's lives. When a housekeeper who worked with a former client of mine refused to enter the house when she saw the client's little Miniature Pinscher, we worked with her gradually to help her to see the dog was actually very sweet. I admired her for her courage because people have fears for a reason.

After a short time, the housekeeper and the dog were the best of friends - and her entire attitude changed. She was so proud to overcome her fear, make a new furry friend, and work with a great client in the process.

When I saw Jan's book was about not only getting over her fear of dogs, but beating an anxiety she had, I was even more intrigued to read it. As she states on her website:
"My first humorous memoir, Saved by Gracie, will be published in April 2014 by Authentic Publishers. It’s the story of how our adopted rescued dog helped me overcome a growing anxiety disorder, which was really quite a surprise, since my fear of dogs was one of my biggest anxieties to begin with. I wanted my publisher to subtitle it “How an unwanted dog dragged me kicking and screaming back to health, happiness, and God, and why I blame my husband and daughter for making me one of those people who talks for their dog,” but he said we could probably shorten that up a bit."
So, here's to Jan, her new book, her new outlook, and dealing with anxiety on top of it...and doing it all with a great deal of humor. After writing several murder mysteries that involved birds and now writing about a dog that changed her she said: "So now you might say that while my mysteries are for the birds, my career has gone to the dogs. Life is just full of surprises, isn’t it?"
Photo of Book Cover Courtesy of Jan Dunlap.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Getting that Novel Out of Your Head

One of my favorite writers, Jenna Blum, had a great blog post I looked at today about writing and getting that book out of your head. A lot of writers definitely do this - we walk around with a book in our head pretty much all the time. It seems it has to get out, but it won't come out, for whatever reason. It can be blamed in part on the distractions of life, but it doesn't go away.

I've started two books that are sitting in a drawer, and although I've written a lot of smaller pieces, I know someday those books will have to be completed - along with the newer one that is constantly running in my mind. I have characters, plots, the ending, the city. But, often when I sit down at my desk to write, I end up checking my e-mail, reading, surfing - having fun, but wasting time and not getting done what's really important to me.

Jenna's advice in her blog post, Motivation Time, is solid. Because we truly do bring our fears to the writing chair every time we sit down. A book is a huge task and can be very daunting. The old advice of sitting down and just doing it - well, that's nothing new, but it's still good to hear again from a successful author. And, I like her additional suggestions of getting the worries out in her post:
"So here’s what I suggest: Make yourself sit in the writing chair, for x amount of minutes a day. Start with an hour (or, if that seems too threatening, 25 minutes). Then maybe change the medium! If you’re used to writing on a laptop, write on paper. If you’re used to writing on paper, write on the laptop. I do find that when I’m writing by hand–my original, beloved way to write, all the way from childhood–there are whole scenes that knit themselves together out of one scrap of a sentence. So again, the work is there. We just have to figure out a way to get out of our own way.
My agent suggested something else: buy a box (she knows I like to shop, so any suggestion with “buy” in it will get my attention) and each day, before you write, write your fears and obstacles about whatever it is you're writing about on slips of paper. Put them in the box. Close the box. Then set yourself a daily word count and hit it."
After all, sitting down in the chair is half the battle. The other half is just getting started and putting words down...and doing it every day that you can. It is a commitment to yourself as a creative artist that needs to be expressed - and, seriously, it's the only way it's ever going to get out of your head.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Fashion as Art

Fashion can be art too, especially when it's something so unique made with luxurious fabrics and an inspired idea. To hang it in the closet seems to be hiding something away that just needs to be seen. 

This wonderful piece of artwork designed by one of my favorites, Kotomi Yoshida (some of her work can be found at  Studio Yoshida), needed a place on a pretty, ribbon hanger on the front of the door. Not only is it too beautiful to keep in the closet, it is hung up for inspiration to keep up with the workouts and lose those extra pounds from last year.

It is a one-of-a-kind work of art...and she's a sweetheart on top of it. I am fortunate to have a few of her wonderful pieces, but this one is one of the most treasured.

Thanks, Kotomi. This is one of the first photographs I took with my new camera - and, whether it's with my writing, photography, or just exercising, you continue to inspire me in so many ways...

Saturday, January 25, 2014

New Visions

I'm not very materialistic, never have been. I prefer to live simply, have some quality things that I use, live in a cozy house that puts a roof over my head, avoid clutter and added junk I don't need, and travel as much as I can. I've been known many times to buy things and then give them away to someone who needs it - or to a friend who it just suits better.

But, I received a gift this morning that blew me away. It was a belated birthday gift from my partner. His generosity made me tear up, but it didn't make it any less appreciated. In fact, the gift is one of those gifts that will not only support a passion that has been with me since I was a teenager, but it will help me expand into it even more as I do freelance work. Because, you see, he bought me a beautiful, professional, digital camera. A Nikon D3200. One I've wanted for a very long time.

I've been writing since I was three, but I've always liked taking pictures too, and I started seriously getting into photography when I was in high school. My father bought me an Olympus OM-1 film camera, which I paid off for $20 a week while I worked part-time at a grocery store. It was a manual camera because my photography teacher at the time said I had talent, and needed the flexibility of a manual camera to use my own creativity.

My father, ever the wonderful woodworker who can build anything, also built me a little darkroom in the basement. We bought a used enlarger, trays, chemicals - all the old-fashioned things you needed at the time to develop photographs. I bought a few filters as I needed them - different types like colored filters that made clouds stand out, a starlight filter that made candlelight burst, and spent time with slow exposures and sepia-toned images to experiment and grow in the art. And it always complimented and meshed with my writing.

Then digital photography came around. And I bought a small digital camera that I take with me everywhere. I've always had to carry a bigger bag to be able to carry both a writing journal and a camera...and I'm known for just having to write a line down or whip out the camera whenever the mood strikes or I see a visual picture in my head. I often just stop and say: "That would make a cool picture!"

I've done quite well with the small camera, and my old camera (which is now displayed on a shelf), but this new one opens up so many more possibilities for me. Since Photoshop came out a few years back, I've seen it as a digital darkroom and have enjoyed perfecting my skills and playing around with it as well. Although I'm proud to say that the majority of my photography doesn't take much other than occasional cropping, it's still fun to experiment, be creative, and work a different effect with images.

As much as I love writing, my other big passion has always been photography. So, my tasks this weekend are fun ones. Read the manual. Check out the new camera. And start playing around with it on an even more creative level, and see what it can do. Because this is a gift that truly keeps on giving. And I love my guy not only for who he is and what a great person he is, but for his generosity, and enthusiasm in what I love to do. And, as much as I believe in him and his talents and abilities, it makes me think of my mother and how she always believed in my writing...and I love him even more for his own belief in me.

The old camera as decor.