Sunday, November 23, 2014

When Your Name Means Princess

I grew up in a loving family who constantly reminded me that my name meant princess and that I was a "very special young lady." So the other day at work when an older gentleman called me princess and pointed out that it's the meaning of Sarah, I replied that I already knew and tried not to be totally creeped out. When a strange man randomly calls you princess and then compares you to his first girlfriend it is in fact not a compliment. Being called princess at the age of twenty-four seems to loose the magic it held when I was ten and my grandparents did it. The incident did however serve as a nice reminder to treat myself a little kinder.

Like many little girls, I was obsessed with Disney princesses and the idea of being royalty. I mean come on, being a princess meant you could possibly rule a country one day; you also got to wear amazing ball gowns and fall in love with a charming prince. These days I hear people diss the idea of little girls admiring princesses. Some parents seem to think that wanting to be a princess means wanting to be a "dumb girly girl who is so weak she needs a man to save her."

I on the other hand, grew up with the Little Princess notion of princesses, which taught me that every girl is a princess. Being a princess meant being yourself because you are pretty, strong, smart and totally capable of being hopeful even after you believe you're orphaned and penniless. It never mattered how much money you had or whether or not your hair was always perfect, but how loving and compassionate you were towards others. All people are special in their own way. We all have something to bring to the table. Also if you pray hard enough you may be blessed with a super nice Indian neighbor with magical powers who can give you and your bestie fur lined robes and a fancy breakfast (this was my ultimate. there was nothing better than dressy robes and food in my child like mind).

Just look at how awesome the princesses are on Once Upon A Time. Snow White can shoot arrows. She's also mastered being a kind friend and loving mother, as well as being a total bad ass. Belle sacrifices her personal happiness to save her family/kingdom and then saves the day with her intelligence. She also does everything in heels, which baffles me; I mean seriously she scaled a mountain in wedges. In my mind this is slightly unrealistic, but if she actually were capable of this that would certainly cement her as totally kick ass woman. Not to mention Mulan who was a freaking warrior and fought besides men to defend her country. None of these women are helpless or shallow or need men to live their lives.

Princesses don't have to be perfect or conventionally beautiful. Being vulnerable doesn't mean you're weak. Wanting to fall in love and marry a prince doesn't mean you necessarily need a man. Being a princess means you're strong and you rock because you're a women and all women are special in their own way. Be kind to your princess self.

-S

Saturday, November 8, 2014

That Time I was Actually Proud of Myself for Buying Milk

Guys it's sad how low my expectations are for myself. I mean I should not be allowed to be 24 years old. I don't know how I haven't died yet (well I do, it's because of my parents). Basically most days I feel like the farthest thing from an adult.

I started making Kraft mac and cheese tonight (yeah I'm super adult like) and realized after I began boiling the noodles that the only milk we had was expired. My immediate thoughts were: SHIT, shit shit shit... crap. The responsible adult person obviously would have checked to make sure she had everything before starting to make dinner. Instead I blamed my mistake on being distracted by a phone call from a friend. We were too busy discussing important things like Sephora employees' lack of customer service and the hot guys in my friend's crossfit class for me to notice the date on the milk carton.

In my mind getting milk seemed like SO MUCH effort. I mean there was a reason I was making food from a box in the first place (actually I think Kraft is delicious but that's beside the point). Leaving the house meant having to put on shoes and a coat and go out into the darkness. Plus my phone was barely charged and I don't trust my car. Basically I was being a baby.

Driving in the dark has always been stressful for me and I deal with that by avoiding it when at all possible. I also have a terrible sense of direction and recently got lost in my own neighborhood on my way home from work (it was raining and a road was closed).

So when I realized that my only choices were to eat noodles without the cheese sauce or go get myself some more milk, I was initially reluctant. Macaroni noodles can be good on their own, right? I'll just sprinkle some shredded cheese over it, I told myself. I'm very good at convincing myself I don't need what I need because getting what I need would take effort. As I was working this all out in my head as well as out loud to my friend, I was forced to face how pathetic I was acting. I mean it's not like I have to drive 50 miles to the store and back. Eventually we were going to need more milk. Why not get some tonight while my noodles were still salvageable?

Despite the general desire to avoid all things that will make me anxious, I managed to successful drive my car to the store (less than a mile away), pick up both the 1/2% milk as well as my almond milk, and make it back to my house without any problems. I got out of my car after the 10 minutes it took me to run my milk errand and felt a sense of pride building inside my chest. Heck yes, I successfully bought milk! How adult am I now? Hot damn I'm so good.

It really is sad what little I have to do to trick myself into thinking I am close to being a successful adult. My standards for adulthood should probably be raised a bit.

-S

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Questions In The Bathtub

As I was laying in the bathtub this afternoon feeling the steam envelope me in a warm hug and the firm pages of a library book in my hands, I was struck with a few thoughts. Firstly, is it appropriate to read a library book in the bathtub? After I started thinking about how many other people had held, touched, and read this same book and the countless people who will do the same thing after I have now dragged it into the tub with me, it all started to feel a bit weird and unsanitary.

Nevertheless I continued to read my library book in that oddly uncomfortable position that one assumes while trying to read in the bath (neck scrunched, body slowly slipping down while you try desperately to adjust yourself without using your hands or getting the book wet) when another thought popped into my head.

This would be a good time to note that I was reading the book Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. The book is a collection of drawings accompanied by stories from Brosh's life. It's pretty much an extension of what you get on her blog just presented in a different format. At this point I was smack dab in the middle of reading her chapters on depression. I had gone from laughing uncontrollably in the first few chapters to hitting this wall of deep understanding with a complete stranger. I felt like what Brosh was describing was exactly what I have gone through and struggled against in the past.

So my second thought was: how can I find a way to express myself through creative means such as this and be successful at it? But then my brain immediately began coming up with every sort of negative reason why I could never fulfill that idea. I thought, you can't do anything too similar because that wouldn't be original and no one would appreciate it. Plus what makes you think you have a better way of saying what would basically be the same things Brosh is saying? If you connect so much with her chapter on depression how could you contribute in any sort of original way? Your life is not interesting enough. You're not a good enough artist. You have no original ideas. You have nothing new to contribute and not enough talent to do it well.

And that's when I grabbed the emergency brake on my thoughts and said HOLD UP, there's something wrong here. When you think about it, everything we do is unoriginal. We all eat, sleep, breathe, and communicate. Some people communicate through talking, some signing, some singing, some by writing, some by dancing, and others by painting, drawing, or sculpting. There's a million and one ways to communicate our thoughts and needs but none of them are original. All art has been made before; just because one person has painted a flower doesn't mean you can't paint a flower.

The best thing about art is it's ability to show us just how differently we view the world from the people around us. I could draw the same flower as the person next to me, but I can guarantee it won't be drawn the same way. What I loved most about taking art classes is walking around the room and realizing how many different ways the same object can be represented.

Believing that you don't deserve to create something to put out there for others to see or that you aren't good enough to be an "artist" is just a way of preventing you from getting better. When I tell myself that I'm not good enough or that I have no original ideas it just takes away from the time I could be spending creating art. So who cares if you're the least original artist out there, at least you're an artist.

You can't let the fear of being unoriginal hold you back. You will never be creative if you don't start by creating.

-S

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Family Day on Mackinac Island

Earlier this summer my mom purchased a few tickets on UpNorthLive for the ferry ride to Mackinac Island. Because trying to find a weekend where five adults are all simultaneously free from any other plans is quite a challenge we couldn't find a weekend all summer that would work for everyone to go. Finally, last Sunday morning arrived and we all piled in my dad's truck and hit the road. Fortunately it's only about a two hour drive to Mackinaw City, so we didn't have to get up too early.

Mackinac Island has never been my favorite place to visit, but I promised my parents (and myself) that I would try my hardest not to complain or act unhappy to be there. I'm sure that sounds silly that I have to tell myself those things, but I can be annoyingly cranky for myself and definitely for others. I love my family and have always been grateful that spending time with them has never been a chore or something I dread. I always want to be able to appreciate the time we spend together and wouldn't want to ruin a good day with a negative attitude. And guess what? It was such a good day.



None of us had ever been to the island this late in the year so we were all pretty excited to see what it had to offer in October. Last weekend was actually the very last one of tourist season on Mackinac. If you've experienced the island before this is definitely the best weekend to go for a visit. In the middle of summer it can be super hot and smelly and packed with people (which is basically what has fueled my dislike for the place).



Last Sunday was slower and felt more secluded. Half the restaurants were already closed and the other half closed later that day. All the shops had sales going on, so it made for the opportune time to check out the cute stores and get some great deals. I even bought some books because, you know, I need more books. They were 30% off and I can't resist a sale, especially when it comes to books (God help me).

I felt like we were in on some sort of secret being able to witness all these people packing up and saying goodbye to their friends. There I was waiting in line for coffee and people are shouting their farewells and sharing hugs. Friendships truly do change with the season. I like being a witness to other people's lives.



It was a gorgeous day. The past month has been on/off rain and cloudy skies with increasingly colder temperatures, but last Sunday was actually pleasant on the weather front. It was windy and chilly but not in a miserable way; plus the sun brightened the skies and warmed you right up. 



Another plus about making the trip in October is the colors. Everything in nature takes on a whole new dynamic in the fall. When you looked over a hill all you could see were rows of trees in reds and greens and yellows and orange. The island was so peaceful and we were able to walk around relatively undisturbed. Usually navigating the paths between the carriage tours, the horse poop, and the crowds of people on bicycles trumps being able to stay next to the people you're there with and often hinders conversation flow. Now that I've discovered the joy of the end of season emptiness I never want to visit at any other time. So much beauty all for us. I can't wait to visit the island again during future fall excursions. 



We left the island at five (right when the last shops were closing and it was all starting to get a bit depressing). I didn't even realized how tired, or hungry, I was until we got back in the car and started to head home. After much deliberating we decided to stop in Charlevoix for dinner at the Bridge Street Tap Room. My dad and brother had seen the restaurant mentioned in a local magazine and it looked like a cool place to try while we were passing through. I ordered a pumpkin chai beer (which was excellent and subtle) as well as a grilled mac and cheese (which was literally mouthwatering). If you're in the area I would definitely recommend checking it out.

So there ends another great, fun-filled family adventure. I hope you all have days like that with people you love!

-S

Monday, October 20, 2014

Boot-iful Desires

Fall officially welcomes boot season. To celebrate I thought I'd share a few of my favorite boots that I've seen on the internet lately. Shoes can really make or break an outfit and finding the right shoes can make all the difference. The best shoes are versatile, unique, and well made so they'll hold up through multiple seasons (also comfortable because if they hurt you're less likely to wear them).

Frye Patty Leather Riding Bootie

Royal Rush Wrap Boots from Free People

Leather Bootie with Sole Detail from Zara

I love trends as much as the next fashion obsessed woman, but I view shoes as an investment. I value a shoe based on what I've liked over multiple years rather than what's on point for that season. If you prefer a chunky heal commit to it and let everyone know that's part of your personal style. Do however, let shoes surprise you. I've tried on shoes I thought I would hate and absolutely loved them and vice versa. You might think a certain shape or design will or won't look good, but you won't be certain until you try them on. Another point to remember is that you can find quality, stylish shoes on any budget. A shoe doesn't have to cost over $100 in order for it to be worth purchasing. Pay more attention to fabrics and stitching.


WELLYPRINT Women's Print Rain Boots Wellies from Joules

NAYA Harlin Hidden Wedge Boot from Free People

Early Bird Ankle Boots from ASOS

I'm not saying you have to follow the same rules as I do or that you can't buy anything that might go out of style, I'm just sharing my philosophy for buying shoes on a budget. If you have more money to spend or prefer to buy several new pairs of shoes every season then you do your thing and don't listen to a word I'm saying. Besides I haven't tried any of these shoes on or seen them in person, so I'm in no way endorsing these as the best boots on the market. All of these boots were chosen based on esthetics, but if anyone owns or has tried on any of the boots listed above, please let me know what you think of them! Are they worth purchasing?

-S

Sunday, October 12, 2014

It Feels Like The First Time

You know when you hear a record and it's like the first time you're hearing those songs? Maybe you've heard the same song ten times before, but you never really felt anything until that moment? That happened to me recently.

When I was in Kalamazoo for my great grandma's birthday party my dad, brother, and I went to the local record store, Green Light Records. I wasn't there for anything in particular and was just browsing the shelves when I happened upon The Gaslight Anthem section. Gaslight was a band that I became interested in around Freshman year of college (right around The '59 Sound). I was discovering all this new music at the time and really expanding my tastes, so it wasn't long before they got lost in the pile.


I remember trying to keep up with the band, listening to their newest records as they were released and playing some of my old favorites every now and then. American Slang passed me by quickly and I just wasn't interested in that kind of music at the time. Then came Handwritten in 2012. I remember the release mostly because a couple of tumblr blogs I followed were run by really cool chicks from the UK who loved the band. They made me want to love the band again too, and I really tried to become captivated with Gaslight's sound again. Anyway, after listening to 45 and Handwritten a few times I once again gave up. I liked the songs, but just couldn't seem to connect to the album.

That's why I found it so strange that once I put my hands on Handwritten in the record store, I couldn't get it out of my mind. I knew that I liked a few songs on their newest album Get Hurt and it would have made much more sense for me to buy that record. Even the guy at the counter commented about not getting the newest album. It's hard to explain, but something about it just felt right. It's like the album came back into my life to help me. To create this perfect moment. To remind me that there are other people out there who love music the same way I do.


The Handwritten vinyl has this great packaging; the liner folds out and the lyrics are on the inside. Plus the record itself is blue vinyl. It's the type of quality that sets the record apart and something I was disappointed in when I purchased the Get Hurt record. Yes what I really care about is the music, but quality packaging should be a priority as well. While I sat listening, I discovered this note by Nick Hornby printed on the inside cover. His words are a reminder that although The Gaslight Anthem's sound might be clearly influenced by bands of the past, they are a talented composition of all those influences.

"And the second is this: you think, write, play and sing as though you have a right to stand at the head of a long line of cool people - you recognize that The Clash and Little Richard got here first, but they're not around any more, so you're going to carry on the tradition, and you're going to do it in your own voice, and with as much conviction and authenticity and truth as you can muster. And if you can pull that off, you'll be amazed at how fresh you can sound."

The picture is kind of small but you can read the whole thing here.
"And the Gaslight Anthem sound fresh. Anyone who has ever been frustrated by anything - a girl, a boy, a job, a self (especially that) - can listen to this music and feel understood and energized."

As the record begins to spin there's this moment of anticipation before 45 starts playing that just sucks me in every time. The Gaslight Anthem has this raw vintage rock sound that begs to be played on vinyl, or blasting from a car radio on a dark night drive. There's something magical and transformative about their music. Sometimes I imagine myself going back in time. Other times I just picture a different life in the here and now. I picture myself lying under the stars on a warm summer night next to this guy that loves me, someone who understands how music can make you feel so many things at once. I'm sure that sounds crazy, but it gives me hope that maybe there is someone out there waiting to share those moments with me.

I love this acoustic version of Mae.

I know that The Gaslight Anthem isn't for everyone and that's okay. You don't always have to like everything all the time. Like I said, when the album was first released I didn't even like it all that much. You never know what might make you feel differently in a week, a month, or a few years. When I listen to Handwritten now I feel this part of me connect, like something latching into place. It's like the music is there to keep me going. Part of me wants to scream along, sing those words with every bit that I have, but part of me just needs to lie there listening. It's like needing a good cry, or going for a run, or just listening to the songs on repeat until something inside of you is finally healed. Often you don't even know what it is inside of you that needs fixing, but there's a realization that this music is what you needed all along.

Part of me feels like the record is meant for some angsty teenager, but I'm just a hopelessly lost human being. One who is floating around in her mid-twenties desperately trying to find the door that will let her out of this mess and onto something better. God knows I've never been good with directions. Too often I get stuck running in circles, getting no where fast, just going over the same thoughts again and again.


Maybe all of this sounds silly to you. Maybe I'm weird for thinking music can hold this much power. But for me music is like a religion. It's the one thing I have total faith in. It gives me hope, it keeps me going, it's there when life is good and when it's bad. Sometimes it's the only thing that makes me feel alive. It makes me feel like I have a future and a purpose. It's records like Handwritten that reinforce my faith in something bigger.

And I'm not saying all music has to have meaning. Like all forms of art, sometimes it's just there for you to appreciate. There doesn't have to be a story behind it. There's no need to analyze every detail until you can figure out what the song is about. A song can have however much meaning you want it to have.

Just take a moment to listen, feel your heart beating, and remind yourself that you are alive.

-S