8 Stages of Your Twenties As Told by F•R•I•E•N•D•S

1. Blind Ignorance

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Finally – my twenties! These are going to be the BEST YEARS OF MY LIFE. I’ll have a career, a fiancé, a swanky apartment, and my very own 401k. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna’ go stock up on $80 pencil skirts because #adulting.

2. Adorable Optimism

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I didn’t plan on living at home this long – or, like, at all – but this is great. What a wonderful time to cherish kith and kin. Oh, Taylor’s getting married? Good for her! I’ll RSVP for two. A lot can happen in four months!

3. Quarter-Life Crisis

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Ohmygodohmygodohmygod. I’m already in my mid-twenties. What?! Conner just bought a house, and Jessica has the nerve to get pregnant – on purpose. Time for a change. Something bold and drastic. Something that says, “Despite all appearances I’m totally in control.” I’M MOVING TO BELGIUM.

*Skips dinner (again), browses Zillow for six hours*

4. Complete Apathy

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Belgium is a stupid country, anyway. Maybe I can just cash in my Beanie Babies. Didn’t Buzzfeed say the Princess Di bear was worth like $500? Next month’s rent: done.

5. When Netflix Keeps Asking If You’re “Still Watching”

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DID I STUTTER?

6. Attainable Goals

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Okay. So I wasn’t elected the youngest president of the United States at 24. Whatever. But maybe I could get a job working for a senator or something. Oh, that’s super competitive? Oooooooor maybe I’ll just start a political blog or something. Yeah, blogging sounds good.

7. Growing Up

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JK. You might have some goals now, but you’re still a hot mess.

8. Secret Happiness

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Your job’s a joke, you’re broke, and your love life’s DOA – but maybe it’s not so bad. You’ve got some pretty awesome friends, a paycheck, a new blog, and a lot of dreams left to dream. Looks like you’re doing alright after all, kid.

 

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DIY Olenna Tyrell Costume for Under $20

 

tyrell.jpgYesterday, my best friend co-hosted a Game of Thrones season finale watch party, which frankly is everything you need to know about my friends. In addition to a life-size Iron Throne made of aluminum foil and a wall of remembrance for the deceased, there was HoDoritos, direwolf (puppy) chow, deviled dragon eggs, and iced Cer-tea.  Seriously, I have no Ygrittes. (See what I did there? Don’t worry. The puns only get worse…)

Lady Tyrell has long been my favorite character on the show. She’s sharp-tongued, fiercely loyal, and admirably apathetic to the plight of her enemies. Plus, she wears a wicked cool hat. When I heard the party was “costume optional” (whatever that means), I searched Varys sites for an easy costume DIY to no avail – meaning, I had to get a little crafty.

The costume is essentially two pieces: the body (skirt + blazer) and Olenna’s signature Maid Marian-esque hat. With a quick run to Hobby Lobby and Goodwill, I was able to whip up a no-fuss costume in under an hour for less than $20. Even if you know nothing (John Snow) about sewing, you’ll breeze through this project. No cutting, no sewing, no stress. With Halloween just around the corner and the season 8 premiere a short 18 months away (LOLOL), I thought I’d share my Lady Tyrell costume tutorial with you today.

So what Arya waiting for? Let’s get started!

What You’ll Need:

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  • 1 yard of black chiffon
  • 1/2 yard of black spandex
  • 1 tube black acrylic paint
  • 1 circular Kraft box (small enough to sit on top of your head)
  • Scrapbook rhinestones
  • Hot glue gun
  • Medium-size sponge brush
  • Black, patterned blazer (I got mine at Goodwill for $3.99)
  • Floor-length chiffon or silk skirt (also Goodwill, $1.99)

Instructions:

1. Using the sponge brush, paint the Kraft box black using two coats of the acrylic paint. Note: You do not need to paint the lid, which can be discarded.

2. Once the box is dry, fold the yard of chiffon in half vertically (as if folding a blanket) to find the center. Place a small drop of hot glue on the inner wall of your box, and lightly stick the fabric in place.

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3. Using a thin line of hot glue, adhere the fabric to the inside of the box until half of the circle is covered.

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4. Stick the already-adhesive embellishment to the front of the hat, using hot glue if necessary to secure the hold.

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5. Wrap the black spandex fabric around your face to cover your hair, using two hair pins to secure the wrap in place near the top of your face. Don’t worry about pinning the fabric together – the jacket will hold it in place! Wrap the excess fabric across your neck as you would a scarf, so the uncut ends hang down the back of your shoulders. (Sorry, I forgot to grab a photo of this step, but hopefully it’s pretty intuitive.)

6. For bonus point, give yourself some light wrinkles with a skin-colored eyeshadow. Trust me, you’ll look like a smoking hot Mandy Moore in This is Us.

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7. Party like it’s 300 AL.

Once you finish your Lady Tyrell costume, drop a photo in the comments below. I’d love to see your finished work! If you have any questions or hiccups along the way, I’m always here to help. Until then, dothras chek (be cool).

 

The Girl With Two Names

Monogrammed backpack: ✓

Windbreaker for recess: ✓

Flower-shaped eraser: ✓

Stale peppermints Grandma gave me in the car: ✓✓✓

Me

This was it, folks. My very first standardized test. Unaware that standardized tests are the kiddie version of the DMV, I was on the edge of my seat – literally. We’d spent weeks running drill after drill from our fearless leader, Mrs. Berkenbile (whom I will refer to as Mrs. B because Berkenbile sounds like a bad German caricature).

Tension was high. Our entire academic futures rested on this very moment. Okay, that’s a stretch, but we were seven. Cut us some slack! After hours of instruction from Mrs. B, the test administrator walked in, booklets in hand. The room fell silent, the pungent smell of the unknown looming over us like that time Brooke peed on the reading rug. (Fine, I peed on the reading rug. ONE TIME, guys!)

One by one, the administrator began calling out names as he passed around mystery papers. My pulse quickened with each name. Every second felt like forever.

“Laura,” the test administrator called. The other students searched the room in confusion. I chuckled to myself with a smug little grin. Idiot. we don’t have a Laura in our class. Where did they find this clown, Acme Falls? (I was big into Animaniacs.)

“Laura,” he repeated. “Laura Wilcox. Where is Laura Wilcox?”

I joined my peers in glancing around, waiting for this Laura character to stand up finally. How weird is it that we have the same last name?! Could we be related, you think? Mrs. B picked up the packet, walked over to my desk, and set the papers in front of me.

“Oh, no. My name is Ashlee,” I whispered, handing the papers back. I smiled nicely and wondered why my teacher hadn’t learned my name yet. It was May. Poor thing.

The test administrator just kept going, and I couldn’t hear over Mrs. B’s loud whispering.

“Right, but Laura is your first name. This is your test.”

Can’t she see I’m trying to listen for Ashlee?

“My name is Ashlee.”

“Yes, but it’s ALSO Laura.”

She left me alone with Laura’s test packet in my hands. Now, you wait a hot minute Mrs. B. You mean to say that my name is actually Laura?

*cue internal crisis*

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This was fresh news, folks. After a day of tremendous turmoil, I called an emergency meeting with Debbie immediately after school in the kitchen. She had just started on dinner, and I was sitting cross-legged on the floor probably letting our cocker spaniel lick the inside of my mouth. I’ve always been a dog person.

“Mom, I learned something interesting at school today,” I announced like the coy little turd I was.

“What’s that?”

“That my real name is Laura.”

“Well, your first name is Laura, but your name is still Ashlee,” she said without looking up. “Lots of kids go by their middle name. It’s pretty common.”

I chewed on this news over a fresh pack of Fruit Gushers, the cool mystery flavor kind.

“Yeah, I don’t like Ashlee. There are four Ashley’s in my class, and one always has a red Kool-Aid mustache. I’m going to go by Laura now.”

This is a 100% real conversation, FYI.

“Okay,” Mom said, no doubt thinking it wouldn’t last – like the two days I refused to eat from anything other than a dog bowl. Again, dog person.

But my mind was made up.

At school the next day, when Mrs. B took attendance, I didn’t answer. I told her that I would be called Laura now, in a very matter-of-fact way. From that day forward, I acted deaf whenever Mrs. B or another student called me Ashlee. In hindsight, it is an absolute miracle I had even one friend in grade school. Shoutout to Lindsay for tolerating my presence.

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This photo of “Laura and Lindsay” was taken by Mrs. B at recess. We are still friends, FYI.

Much to my surprise, it stuck. Soon Mrs. B started calling me Laura, and eventually so did my friends. When I started at a new school the following year, I took every opportunity to introduce myself as Laura. It was in the second grade that my parents realized in full that their child had actually changed names and gotten away with it. Thankfully, the same cannot be said of the dog bowl.

And although I’m still Laura today, I’m Ashlee too.

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A note my mom wrote yesterday.

Many people don’t realize that I went by Ashlee exclusively for the first seven years of my life. Honestly, I forget myself until someone new pops in for a family dinner. You know the saying “old habits die hard”? Well old names die even harder. Eighteen years later, and my family still calls me Ashlee. It is an extremely fun game to play with unsuspecting newcomers.

“Why is your family calling you Ashlee?”

“What? No, they’re not. My name is Laura.”

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But in reality, having two names is actually super cool.

Over the years, I’ve been asked a lot of really weird questions about my name(s). Do you feel like you have two identities? Do you answer to both names in public? How do you sign cards? 1. No. That’s weird. 2. Somehow my brain knows when and where to answer to which name. Ask science. 3. Really hesitantly and usually with no consistency whatsoever.

I love that my family still calls me Ashlee, even though it’s bizarre. It’s like an adorable nickname that also happens to be on my birth certificate. I love that my friends only know me as Laura, because it makes me feel like I have (well, had) an ultra secretive covert alias. I love that my pen name (L. A.) somehow manages to capture all the parts of me, past and present. I even love when people smash them together, like I’m on The Beverly Hillbillies. I’m also glad my parents let a very willful child differentiate herself from the crowd.

But above all, I’m glad no one will confuse me with Kool-Aid Ashley ever again. That’s what life is all about.

Stitch Fix Review

First things first: I’m not a fashion blogger. I rarely cover fashion topics because A. My personal style is best described by the Target clearance rack and B. That’s a TOUGH market if you’re not a size 2 Mac consultant. That being said, several of my friends and coworkers have been talking about a site called Stitch Fix, which is an online stylizing service that sends personalized clothing to your door. I’d heard pretty mixed reviews, so I decided to investigate for myself.

The following is my honest and *regrettably* unpaid review. If you know someone who works for Stitch Fix, feel free to mention that I’m not above paid posts. Thanks in advance.

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Stitch Fix is an online styling service and personalized shopping experience. First, you fill out an online Style Profile, and then a personal stylist will hand pick pieces to fit your tastes, needs, and budget. They get mailed directly to your door in a little box containing five items of clothing, shoes and/or accessories for you to try on at home. You have three days to decide what you like. You keep what you love and send the rest back in a prepaid USPS envelope. Shipping and returns are free—even for exchanges.

You can make specific requests of your stylist to customize each box. For instance, with my first box, I asked specifically for casual summer clothes because my collection of Disney T-shirts just aren’t cutting it. I also mentioned that I did not want any work clothes, which is why you won’t see any in this post.

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Before you get your first box, you must complete a style profile. The first half is all about the fit. You will be asked to enter your height, weight, body shape, problem areas, shoe size, bra size, etc. The second half centers around your personal taste. You will rank four outfit collections, eliminate styles you hate (goodbye, bootcut), define your budget per item, and tell your stylist which areas of your body you like to hide/show off. I would say the entire profile takes roughly 15 minutes if you complete it thoroughly. My advice is to be as specific as you can. I noticed a lot of my comments were considered in this box.

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After you complete your online style profile and fill out your budget parameters, you will schedule your first box for delivery. The delivery date signifies the date it ships from Stitch Fix, so anticipate an additional 2-3 days for your items to arrive. All five items arrived in a single box, which also includes a prepaid return mailing package, a style sheet with customized tips based around your box, and an itemized price sheet.

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Underneath the descriptions, you’ll find photos of the five items from my Stitch Fix box, paired with items from my closet and staged (rather obviously) around my house. If you’re wondering why they all have Instagram filters, it’s because I’m not as good at photography as I initially thought. Spoiler alert.

Blush Shorts

A super cute pair of blush-colored shorts with a worn look. Extremely stretchy and VERY comfy. I also like that they’re a good length, cute and flirty without being inappropriate.

Status: Kept

Orange Dress

The fit was really flattering on my body type! It was a comfortable dress, and because it was petite there was no need to hem. Because I didn’t love the floral pattern, I decided to return the dress despite the good qualities.

Status: Returned

Gold Earrings

Although these look like standard fringe earrings, the fringe is actually connected to the earning back. It made for a super cool effect when you tried them on! It was a little too punk rock for my style, though, so I sent them back.

Status: Returned

White Top

I fell in love with this airy summer top instantly because it reminds me of Greece for some reason. Unfortunately, it was too short on the stomach and a little tight in the bust. For this reason, I had to return.

Status: Returned

Green Tank

The ornate neckline on this top grabbed me instantly! I also love how comfortable the loose fit is! Although it was a little more than I like to spend on tops, I simply couldn’t send it back.

Status: Kept

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Once you determine which items you love and which you can live without, simply head to the website to pay for the clothes you intend to keep. When completing your return form, you will be asked for feedback on all of the items in your box. How was the fit? Did you agree with the price? Was this your style? It’s good to be as specific as possible because your stylist will consider your feedback when building your next box.

Once your payment is complete, just drop your returns into the pre-paid bag and deliver to any USPS store. Remember, you only have three days to make a decision! Otherwise you will be charged for all of the items. If you want to keep it all, there is a 20% discount that applies even if you need to exchange for a different size. This would be ideal if you had asked your stylist to build a complete outfit, say for a wedding or special event.

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After getting my box, I wore both items I kept the very next day to meet up with a friend! I liked that they were extremely comfortable, perfect for summer, and fit just right. Because the items were priced a little higher than my typical wardrobe, I don’t plan on signing up for scheduled fixes—once a month, once a week, etc. HOWEVER, I definitely plan on scheduling another one-time delivery in the future.

In my opinion, Stitch Fix is a great way to shop for specialized items (like casual summer wear) or get yourself out a shopping rut, but it would likely be too expensive to replace your day-to-day wardrobe. I loved that all of the items were all things I couldn’t buy locally, and I got the opportunity to try on items I never would’ve picked for myself in-store—like the blush shorts! All in all, it’s a great way to treat yo’ self once in a while.

For those of you who have also tried Stitch Fix, what was your experience? Did you end up keeping any of your items, and did you ever order a second box? For those who have specific questions about the process or experience, feel free to ask in the comments below!

A Letter to My Working Mom

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Before we begin, I’d like to say a few things about my mom. First, I adore her. I admire her, cherish her, and ultimately hope to be her. For those of you who have never had the privilege of meeting Debbie, she is kind, creative, brilliant, beautiful, wildly capable, and an absolute riot – in the good way. I think the world of her, but I don’t always get the impression that she feels the same way about herself.

After 25 years, I think she still feels guilty for being a working mom.

To be clear, Debbie is now retired and sailing the high seas as a Carnival junkie. So, I guess she is a former working mother if you want to get technical. Whether it’s a self-imposed burden or some strange, unspoken societal pressure I’ll never know, but I want to make one thing incredibly clear. I am who I am because of my working mother. Plain and simple.

I wouldn’t trade Debbie for five stay-at-home moms.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Stay-at-home moms have an indescribably important and undervalued job, but being a working mother offers its own set of unique experiences too. I think we forget that. Take sick days, for example.

As a kid, I got to go with my mom to work when I wasn’t feeling well. Maybe it’s rosy retrospection, but I remember loving it. I had my own tiny office connected to her, complete with a phone (used frequently to pester her), a Windows 98 computer freshly stocked with Disney PC games, and a hand-drawn name plate for my desk to match hers. Although this disappointedly does not involve Disney PC games (spoiler alert), I remember wanting a career because my mom had one.

I realized I could be a successful, professional woman because my mom was one.

Beyond the sheer capability, there was a passion. I think I noticed this for the first time when my mom spoke at my middle-school career fair. It was a lot of dads – firemen, salesman, etc. – with a few ladies mixed in. The exact words are lost on me, but I remember one thing above all. My mom loved her work, and that made me proud. She didn’t just work to pay the bills; she thrived in her field. She held her own with the best of them.

She took pride in her work, and I took pride in her.

**Note: For the record, my dad also had a cool job and attended his fair share of school functions. That’s a story for another day.**

Of course, it wasn’t always a bed of roses. There were times when I unknowingly and unnecessarily broke her heart with incessant phone calls, begging her to come home simply because my sitter wouldn’t bake me cookies for breakfast (which was a real conversation, FYI). And I’m sure I asked her to play hooky just because I missed her – and, honestly, who wouldn’t want to spend all day with Debbie?

But in the end, I’m really grateful for those caregivers and the time I spent with them. They are now my friends, my extended family so to speak. Somehow, every single one has stuck with me for 25 years. They’ve attended multiple graduations, band concerts, and I was even the flower girl (yes, flower girl) at one of my babysitter’s weddings in 2015. It takes a village, right?

Sitters aside, I never once felt short on time with my mom. Growing up, she used to curl my hair every day before school. She would play Barbie’s after a full day at the office, write napkins notes in my lunch, sew costumes for the school play (not just mine, literally every costume), and magically serve as a serial homeroom mother. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it. But now? It’s beyond my comprehension. Sometimes I can barely remember to feed my dog. At any given moment she had approximately two billion better things to do, and yet she chose me.

It’s beyond comprehension because it’s a love beyond comprehension.

As I wrote this post, I struggled with exactly what I wanted to say, what I hoped to accomplish with these words. Why even bother? It’s because I’m willing to bet a lot of working moms feel just like mine, and that breaks my heart. To all of the working mothers out there, but especially my own, I hope you get the opportunity to see yourself the way your kids see you. I hope you know that your kids don’t see the exhaustion because they’re busy having fun with you. They don’t mind the long hours, because they only feel your unconditional love.

Originally, my mom never expected to have children. She wanted to be a career-woman until she had me. I suppose she may have felt torn between two worlds, but I never viewed it this way. I hope she doesn’t either. To me, she will never be anything but perfect. I don’t resent my mom for being a working mother – I admire her for it.

I like to think she had it all because she deserves it all.

The Pros and Cons of Buying a Fixer Upper

It’s been a little over a year since I bought my first house, and what a whirlwind it has been! I’ve learned more about electrical wiring, grout removal, and interior paint than I ever dreamed possible. Although I haven’t fully finished my list of home improvement projects, I have made quite a dent – new countertops, fresh baseboards, and a retiled bathroom, among other things. It’s been an exhausting, expensive, and very rewarding ride, but I can honestly say fixer uppers are not for everyone.

For those of you seeking a new adventure, here are a few pros and cons to buying a fixer upper from a first-time home owner.

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1. Lower Monthly Mortgage Payments

Unlike buying a starter home, fixer uppers obviously have a lower list price – which means lower monthly payments for you. This is more money you can put in your pocket or save towards your renovation list!

2. Complete Customization

In a way, fixer uppers are like building a house from scratch. You have the rare and beautiful opportunity to hand-craft your home from the ground up, and there is a lot to be said for ultimate creative freedom.

3. Work at Your Own Pace

Unlike buying a new home, you can work and pay for a fixer upper at your own pace. You determined when each improvement is done and how much it will cost, which  means you can tailor your home to fit your current lifestyle.

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1. Choices Can Be Overwhelming

Do you want brushed nickel, bronze, silver, or black drawer pulls? Ogee, bevel, or demi bullnose on your countertops? You really don’t realize how many detailed decisions go into creating a cohesive home until you start calling the shots!

2. Require Lots (And Lots) of Time

Fixers uppers are extremely time-consuming. Even if you opt not to DIY the majority of your renovations, you’re looking at hours spent researching options and meeting with vendors. You’ll also be required to take PTO from work during any installations, which can last up to 4+ hours per project.

3. Older Homes = More Repairs

Buying a fixer upper means buying an older home, which comes with a fair share of challenges. Don’t be caught off guard if you encounter faulty plumbing, outdated electrical wiring, or random holes in the wall (don’t ask).

Have more questions about buying an older home? I’d love to offer any guidance I can, so feel free to ask away in the comments section below.

6 Songs When You Just Can’t Adult

No one told you life was gonna be this way. Your job’s a joke, you’re broke, your love life’s D.O.A. There is a time for ROTH IRAs and black coffee and tax wizards and sadness, and that time is 100% not today.

Turn your speakers up, kids. It’s time to grow down.

1. Stressed Out

Billing Address: Treehouse in Backyard 👌

 

2. 1985

Sorry to all the tax wizards out there ✌️

3. Grow Up

“I’m a princess, I don’t want to be the queen.” That sounds like a rib tattoo in the making.

4. Dancing Queen

Current Mood: Villager at 2:36

5. Here’s to Never Growing Up

Too much eyeliner ✔️ Teen angst ✔️ Unnecessary necktie ✔️

The gang’s all here.

6. I’ll Be There

I think we can all agree this hasn’t been our day, month, or even our year. #bye2016

If you don’t mind some vulgarity, check out Jenna Marbles’ hit single “I Hate Being a Grown-Up” for a stirring encore performance.

7 Christmas Lyrics That Make No Sense

1. There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glory of Christmases long, long ago.

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Nope, that’s Halloween. Good try, though.

2. Gee, the traffic is terrific!

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Excuse me, sir, what is your stance on traffic? It’s terrific? Get this man an Uber, he’s obviously had too much egg nog.

3. Little Drummer Boy (The Entire Song)

Did your Pottery Barn nativity set come with a little drummer boy? Exactly. *insert conspiracy theory of choice*

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4. In the meadow we can build a snowman and pretend that he is Parson Brown.

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Is parson a title, an adjective, a nickname? Should Parson be capitalized or lowercase? Have we met? SO MANY QUESTIONS.

5. On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ten dancing ladies.

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If she’s your true love, why do you need ten dancing ladies?

6. Mary ,did you know that your baby boy would heal the blind with his hand?

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Does the name Gabriel mean nothing to you? Yes, Mary knew. She always knew.

7. Oh, bring us some figgy pudding…we won’t go until we get some.

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AKA I won’t go home until you feed me this fiery dog turd.

 

 

 

 

 

13 Oklahoma Artists, Startups, & Small Businesses You Should Shop This Christmas

During my brief 24 (almost 25!) years on Earth, I’ve had the great fortune of meeting countless wickedly talented self-starters in Oklahoma. These are a collection of friends from high school, fellow artists, former and current colleagues, and even a few of my own business partners. As someone who has dabbled in (way too many) for-profit self-ventures (knitting, novels, design, you name it), I know how invaluable the support of community can be. It’s tough to dig your heels in and build something out of nothing.

That’s why, this Christmas, I’m urging you to do something a little different.

In addition to your normal go-to stores, consider shopping with one of these Oklahoma startups or small businesses. When I say small business, I do mean small! Most of the following are run by an individual, small family, or at most a staff of five. Through personal relationships with each maker, artist, go-getter and business owner on the list, I know with confidence that your purchase will undeniably be appreciated. You can also feel good about keeping a portion of your holiday spending in-state!

So without further ado, I give you 13 (and growing) local startups to shop this year.

Sunshine & Sparkles Boutique

Adorable goodies for just about everyone in the family. Tumblers, thermoses, onesies, and bumper stickers, Allyson makes original pieces and is always up for custom orders! You can message her through the shop’s Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/sparkleandsunshineboutique/

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Honey, I’m Home Door Designs

A burlap wizard, Alison can make pretty anything you throw her way. Trust me, I’ve thrown some wild ideas her way! You can browse her selection on her Facebook page or send her any Pinspirations you might find online.

https://www.facebook.com/honeyimhomedoordesigns/

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Jak’d Up Tees

Based in Edmond, this screen printing company (run by a close family friend) sells at an unbelievably good price. Luckily they have recently expanded online, so you can shop from the comfort of your own home!

http://jakduptees.com

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Respire Photography & Madalyn and Cameron Photography

I have had the privilege of working with both photographers extensively, and each time it was a smashing success due largely to the amazing talent behind the lens. With extremely affordable mini-sessions, both photographers are perfect for holiday photos.

http://www.respirephotography.com/#welcome

http://cameronandmadalyn.com

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Bison Brew Coffee

An absolute favorite in my house! Bison Brew offers five distinct blends, each one mirroring a different ecological region in the state of Oklahoma. You can grab a bag at the Norman farmers market.

https://www.facebook.com/BisonBrewCoffee/

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Me!

Shameless plug warning! Did you really think I could leave myself off the list in good faith? As always, you are invited to indulge in any or all of my creative whimsies, whether it be a book, Puppicon, or custom Christmas cards.

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Crooked Roots Design

Thinking of sending Mom or Grandma a bouquet this year? Let the lovely ladies at Crooked Roots whip up a modern, elegant arrangement you most definitely won’t see at Homeland. Until their website is done, you can contact them on Facebook or Instagram.

https://www.facebook.com/crookedrootsdesign/

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Steven Thorn

A friend of mine from our time spent in Oxford, fellow author Steven Thorn knocks it out of the park with his Phoenix Guardian series. This book (or entire series!) would be an unexpected delight for any young bookworms in your life.

https://www.amazon.com/Steven-Thorn/e/B004X35RLM/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

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Mixed Madness Apparel

Edgy designs and quality products, Mixed Madness blends a variety of styles in a really cool way, making each piece unique from anything you’d find in stores.

http://www.mixedmadnessapparel.com

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Resume Reactions

I realize no one wants a resume critique as a Christmas present, BUT this startup is still extremely relevant as hundreds of people search for extra work during the holiday season. If that’s you, let Lori brush up your resume first to make sure you get the job!

http://www.resumereactions.com

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The Baron’s Custom Glassware

Whether you’re into merlot or martinis, cabernets or Cokes, Aaron’s got you covered. This custom-cut  glassware makes an excellent drinking cup and a gorgeous votive (for you ladies out there).

https://www.facebook.com/Baronscups

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Decorate the 918

Calling all Tulsans! Among many other creative ventures, Andrea designs and creates stunning nail art for the home (like my amazing Disney quote shown below!). Check out some of her portfolio and give her a shout on Instagram.

https://www.instagram.com/decoratethe918/

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Do you know of an Oklahoma artist, entrepreneur, or small business you’d like to add to the list? Shoot me a link in the comments! It’s Christmas time, and that  means the more the merrier.

 

The Problem with “Marketing Yourself”

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I’ve sat on this topic for quite some time, mostly because I am guilty of everything mentioned below and because it has great potential to be taken out of context. But no matter how many times I abandoned the draft, a tiny tug inside brought me back until the words were simply gone. After many weeks, I have decided to publish my thoughts come what may.

It is a post that needs to be shared, for better or worse.

As many of you know, I’m in the marketing/PR industry. Shouldn’t I be telling you how to market yourself instead of warning you not to? Maybe, but that would be doing you a disservice. Because no matter how competitive the job market may be, no matter how many of your friends seem to have it all together, and no matter how many awards you’ve won since college, I believe there is one thing that should never be marketed.

You.

Before I elaborate, I want to take a moment and explain. When I say that you should never be marketed, I don’t mean your hobbies, pet projects, side businesses, blogs, or employers. Otherwise this post (and any subsequent sharing) would be totally hypocritical and useless. I’m specifically referencing the internet’s increasing demand to curate our lives in an unnatural way, the craving to be seen and impress on both a personal and professional level. Not the sharing of your thoughts, but the sharing of your soul. I’m talking about your daily life.

But before we dive in, let’s go back 20 or 30 years ago. You would call your closest friends to share the news of your engagement. Your growing list of professional awards would be read only by your next employer. If your boyfriend surprised you at the office with roses, you would gush over a cup of coffee with your best friend. Life was shared in community, a place where good news could bloom in stride with the rise and fall of life. A few years ago, you never had to compare yourself to the world.

Sounds relaxing, right?

Today, the social landscape is a little different. We are encouraged to promote ourselves for better jobs, better dates then better spouses, better houses, better lives. I especially feel the pull in the PR industry, where it’s common to brand yourself as an industry expert gain credibility (which is a joke at age 24), and your personal brand is almost as important as the work you produce. But the reality is, marketing yourself is an unhealthy practice spiritually, emotionally, and physically because – no matter how you feel – you are more than what people think of you.

“We’re all human, aren’t we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving.” – J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Due to the public nature of social media, we are constantly branding ourselves – whether deliberately or not. When good things happen, we broadcast it to the world not because we want them to share in our joy but because we feel like we are supposed to. We want to keep up, stay in the game. I know I do. And with this mindset, it is impossible not to live for achievement instead of experience.

Today we have the power to control the message of our day-to-day lives through LinkedIn updates, Facebook posts, Tweets, Instagram photos, Goodreads updates… The list goes on and on. Nearly everything we do in 2016 is public information, and that’s dangerous. What happens when we are suddenly given the power to influence our public perception like a brand? We reduce ourselves to advertisers and goods, and we lose our purpose.

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” -Psalm 139:14

When we begin to see ourselves and others as commodities instead of souls created by a loving, intentional God, we become susceptible to unhealthy competition, resentment towards those who appear better, and low self-esteem when we fail to impress. We are blind to the bleeding heart behind the sterling resume or the anxiety weighing down the new mom. When we value ourselves only as much as others do, we lose sight of our own potential and the God-given worth of our friends and family. Because when the camera is always on, it’s hard to be genuine.

When there’s no room for error, it’s hard to just be human.

Of course, it’s never wrong to celebrate the joys of life with friends and family – the little moments and the big. Life is about love and community. But there is such a fine line between celebrating and bragging, and I know because I often tow both sides of the line. I think this is an increasing struggle for my generation. When our lives are so easily broadcast, it’s hard to know the true motivation of our hearts and even harder to keep our pride in check. We no longer recognize the beauty of humility, a trait that has been revered throughout the Bible and history. It is so easy to mask our insecurities in self-promotion, which can only breed arrogance. When we choose to market ourselves, we choose not to humble ourselves.

But there is wonderful news.

We don’t need to market ourselves to be thriving, joyful people. Noah wasn’t chosen to build the ark because of the blueprints he uploaded to LinkedIn. Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t a successful national leader because of his influential Instagram quotes, and Galileo never published a DIY guide on how to chart the stars. These people accomplished amazing things through humility, by engaging with others instead of marketing to them.

So whether it is for a day, a month, or even the next year, I challenge you to turn the camera off. Continue to promote your art, your business, your blog, but save some moments for yourself. Choose humility over a fleeting sense of pride. Do things because you want to do them, not because you want to be seen doing them. Have secrets. Chase humility. Choose to see human needs instead of filtered photos and job promotions.

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” – Proverbs 11:12

Let’s choose to pursue wisdom. After all, if we all take a break from marketing ourselves we might just enjoy being ourselves.