Tag Archives: social media

My Curated Life. (curation courtesy of Amelia Bedelia)

26 Jun

In the unending assault on our regular-people lives, I’ve noticed that we are now expected to find the time, money, energy, creativity, and ideal lighting to lead not just a happy and full life, or even an organized life, but a curated life.

The goal of a curated life is beautiful simplicity – the reward of having been carefully intentional about who, and what we’ve allowed into the space we occupy. Everything is just so in the curated life; it’s clean and tidy, pastel and breezy, and somehow always in soft focus, with just the right amount of whimsy. Raspberry lemonade is served there.

Sure I’ve been sucked in to wanting this too. I would love to wrap myself in a cashmere blanket and drink Oprah’s new chai tea latte, and read the latest book club selection while bathed in the most flattering lighting that would make me look young, yet wise… pretty, yet approachable… smart and worldly, and the teensiest bit carefree. That moment’s the goal, man, it is. But alas, it’s just a moment. Eventually I would have to bring in the mail and clean the bathroom.

I flip through my photos, and they don’t look like the gauzy, aspirational snapshots that aim to demonstrate what a curated life looks like.  My photos make my life look like it has been curated by Amelia Bedelia.

No matter what filter I put on the pictures of my life, there are extra people in the background, or stacks of books and papers and wayward shoes, and the vacuum propped up in the corner. My kids’ clothes are wrinkled, or my neighborhood is stubbornly showing its dreary fog. My hair is messy, and my billowy top combined with the unflattering lighting, and weird slouchy way I’m standing makes me look five months pregnant. We’re not just talking basic photography mistakes – these images have captured the moments of what my life is really like. The people I love, in the place that I am, surrounded by everything else.

My husband John took this photo of our family walking down the street on a regular evening. Yes, my youngest is dressed like Indiana Jones, and as we noticed later,  “mob life” is written permanently in the concrete:

 


mob life

Here’s the photo I took of John and I at a beautifully scenic beach, before I thought to turn the camera around and include the ocean and Golden Gate Bridge:

beach

If you have somehow managed to curate out your long and boring commute to work, the cereal boxes from the top of the fridge, the stomach flu, and the pets who shed, congrats. Maybe you’ve placated your child with a charming handmade rag doll instead of 1000 pink plastic unsightly toys. Maybe you’ve somehow stopped accumulating mail, church bulletins, school newsletters, and annoying neighbors and family members. But probably not.

We all want the perfect moments, but let’s try to remember they are perfect, in part, because they are fleeting. Those Instagrammable vignettes are strung together by gooey, messy life stuff; stuff that is simply uncurateable, whether you are rich or not, glamorous or not, parent or not, lifestyle brand guru, or not.

Some days are loud and messy and packed with people, graffiti, and circumstances and surroundings we can’t style, or control. Those are the days that give us wisdom, and experience, and fun stories for cocktail parties. (Trust me, nobody wants to hear about that time you read a book and drank tea while looking amazing.) You will be thankful for the messy days, because when you’ve put them all together, they will have accounted for almost the entirety of your life, and realize we’re all closer to achieving the mob life, than the curated life.

 

In case you’ve forgotten, or haven’t stumbled on this gem from the 70’s, Amelia Bedelia is the hapless maid and star of the Peggy Parish children’s books of the same name. Amelia makes sponge cake from sponges, and serves corn kernals to Mr. and Mrs. Rogers as their “chicken dinner.” She is both hilarious and frustrating, but even after 40 years, her butterscotch cake still looks delicious.

Find more of my mob life phots on Instagram, @colleenweems, and on twitter @fulcrumchron

Words to Live By: Quoting our Way to Confusion

27 Mar

Image

We all need a little inspiration sometimes. We crave encouragement and reminders that everything’s going to be ok.

Facebook and Pinterest are ripe with quotes and sayings scrawled out in all the coolest fonts, like old timey typewriter, and ransom note squares, and curly cursive. The backgrounds are stark white, or beautiful sunsets; maybe you’ll find the silhouettes of a couple enjoying a Ferris Wheel, best friends talking on a pier, or a deep-thinking cat sitting in front of a rainy window.

Thanks to Pinterest, I’ve been able to hoard these gems, or “Words to Live By,” as I’ve unoriginally named my hoarding place. Other people call their collections “Quotes” or “Inspiration.” Maybe we save them because we need a kick in the pants, a giggle, and a gentle or not-so gentle reminder right now, or because we know we’ll need that stuff later. I share them because I can’t possibly be the only one who needs to hear this stuff, and because they balance out the 45 chicken recipes and cat jokes I’ve also just shared.

As thoughtful adults we contemplate and fret about all sorts of things: faith, love, friendship, exercise, prayer, joy, fear, determination, worry, hope, style, jerks, humor, loneliness, failure, success, perfection, perfectionism, action, inaction, creativity, dreams, forgiveness, competition, adventure, and kindness. And a lot of interesting people have said a lot of interesting things on every one of these subjects.

What I realized in perusing the collection of quotes I’ve amassed is that if we were to sit in a room with Walt Disney, Abraham Lincoln, Solomon, Dr. Seuss, Elizabeth Taylor, Paolo Coelho (whose work I’m now afraid to read because it might just overwhelm me with my how inadequate I’ve been in making the most of every day), Rumi, Marilyn Monroe, Unknown, Anonymous, Henry Ford, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Coco Chanel, we’d walk out knowing this, more or less:

We’re going to be ok, and we’re better than we think we are. We’re not imagining things, there really are legions of people out there trying to hold us down and tell us that we’re not good enough; but with a little gumption, we will prevail. Karma’s coming for our jealous, and surely wounded naysayers.

It’s paramount to care what other people feel, as long as we don’t care what they think, but really nobody’s thinking about us that much anyway.  

Don’t ever be afraid to fail, or speak your mind, as long as it’s kind, so be sensitive, but not too sensitive. Don’t be so hard on yourself, even though your mild laziness, self-doubt, and fear of the unknown are keeping you from realizing your dreams, which makes you your own worst enemy. Rectify that immediately because when it comes down to it, we’re in competition with ourselves, and with everybody, while at the same time nobody, because we all have our own path and should blaze our own trail, and maintain a healthy independence while keeping in mind that we are part of the delicate interdependence that is humanity.

Stuff is not important, though it’s possible for us to be best friends with jewelry. Outward appearances mean nothing, and style counts for a lot.

Time is short, so hurry up and slow down.

Don’t give up, but surrendering is ok, because that’s letting go. Take a nap, go for a run, smell the roses, climb a mountain, swim in the sea, clean the office, but leave it messy because that’s good for creativity. Pet a dog, encourage a child, have faith, and tell everybody you love them while you have the chance. Love freely, but protect your heart, and for goodness’ sake, get out of your comfort zone, because that’s where the magic happens.

Now go out there and show the world who’s boss…who’s a boss that is willing to be a cooperative, supportive, and equally important member of the team!

 

 

You can find me on Instragram@ colleenweems, and on Twitter, @FulcrumChron.

And just for fun, here’s a good one: “Everything’s going to be okay in the end; if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” — Paulo Coelho

Hey Internet, what have you got against my heartstrings?

6 Feb

heartsrings

What are you trying to do to me America?

Facebook turned 10 this week, and I spent a good part of the big day watching the Look Back videos Facebook created for us, their begrudgingly loyal users, highlighting years’ worth of our photos and status updates. There, set to the most perfectly inspirational, emotionally manipulative-but-I-like-it, nostalgic-though-I’ve-never-heard-it, instrumental piece of music, was a peek into my near seven years on Facebook.

I cried at the pictures of my kids from when they were little. I cried at the wedding photo I posted for our 17th anniversary, and at pictures from Disneyland and Christmas and our friends’ Nicaragua wedding and my dining room table.

Then, I cried at Melissa’s, Jill’s, and Pam’s Look Back videos too. I got emotional with Katharine’s, Tricia’s, Kirsten’s, Tim’s and Sheila’s – and that was in the first two hours.

We’ve read the cautionary tales about social media – linger there too long and you can be left feeling empty and depressed because your friends seem like they are having a better time than you, and to add insult to injury, you weren’t invited to their good time. You were already well aware that your own life wasn’t perfect, but then, blammo, there’s your life, set against that perfect piece of music – and you realize, it’s pretty magical after all.

I needed a break from all the Looking Back and turned my attention to what my 13-year-old was watching on ESPN – Super Bowl winners through the years, searching for their family members after the game, desperate to share their joyful elation with the ones they love.

“Who’s that?” I asked Jacob, already starting to tear up.

“That’s Jason Pierre-Paul. He plays for the New York Giants, and his dad is blind.”

Tom Brady looked for and hugged his sisters (I guess before he married the supermodel?). Dick Vermeil loves his wife AND his grandkids. Ray Lewis loves everybody. Big muscley guys hug their moms and dads, kiss their stunning wives, and cradle their babies, after a win OR a loss.  And it is beautiful.

“You are why they make these videos,” my husband tells me at the end of every one of these sports specials.  If I watch the pre-game show of a game I otherwise could not give two hoots about, I am suddenly pulling for the guy who overcame something terrible to get where he is today. I am now his number one fan, and anybody who roots against him has no soul. (Full disclosure – I may have also once cried while watching the ESPY’s.)

I left Jacob to his stats and analysis of a game that was two days in the books and retreated online only to find stories of a good Samaritan handing out $5000 checks to waitresses struggling to pay for their educations; a school custodian who completed his own higher education during his few off-hours, only to work his way up to teacher, and finally principal overlooking the same classrooms he had once cleaned. There was the 13-year-old with strong pipes and a dream crushing a Nina Simone song; a philanthropic couple picking up the cost of San Francisco going all out to celebrate Bat Kid; a dog and a cat being best friends; and God knows how many people saving other people from train tracks.

Thanks to the Superbowl, this week I’ve already watched, re-watched and re-wept at the (somehow controversial) Coca-Cola ad during which “America the Beautiful” is sung in different languages and the sweet Cheerios ad with the (somehow controversial) biracial family. Don’t even get me started on the puppy and the Clydesdale.

My heartstrings are all stretched out and exhausted…exhausted, but happy. Which reminds me that Pharrell’s appropriately named anthem for happiness, “Happy,” is practically guaranteed to play on the car radio at some point of your commute.

Goodness isn’t new, but I pray to God it’s just extra noticeable this week, and not simply trending.

Maybe we all just need a healthy dose of nice. Perhaps there is something in our DNA that seeks out good when overwhelmed by the icky, the bleak and the #RichKidsofBeverlyHills. Maybe we are all just collectively looking for the anecdote for the snarkiness, cynicism, grumpiness, injustice, and sadness we see in real life and whenever we turn on anything with a screen.  I don’t know, maybe we all just have a bad feeling about these Olympics.

It’s ok to admit that sometimes we want a good cry for a good reason. Being touched so deeply by something we simply see reminds us that we are capable of all kinds of feelings – not just anger, amusement, or “meh,” – but also forward-looking hope and backward-looking gratitude. There is still a lot of love out there floating around, and it’s ours to take, and share.

organization overload: getting it together is making us lose it

21 Feb

Let’s start with a quick quiz, shall we?

  1. Have you purchased a storage container for an item you did not yet have? “My new baskets will be perfect for those cashmere throws….I aspire to own one day.”
  2. Do you need a mild sedative upon entering/leaving The Container Store?
  3. Do you have a visceral reaction when you see those catalog pictures of well-stocked, organized pantries? You know the ones –the unseen homeowner has 16 bottles of Pellegrino, pasta sorted and stowed in airtight containers, and giant cans of Italian tomatoes, all perfectly aligned with nary a Ritz Cracker or Fruit Roll-Up in sight?
  4. Do you now, or have you ever, owned a ribbon caddy? Yes, a caddy for ribbons.  Or a caddy for anything, for that matter.

I get it.

If you looked at my room this very moment, you might not think that I get it. But underneath all that laundry, and the castoff sports stuff, you would find a baseline level of organization; so yeah, I kinda sorta get it.

I have the ribbon caddy, a recipe system, and a jar for cotton balls. My photos and movies are in order, and my kids know where to find the LEGOs. Well, one of them does.

Five years ago, that was fine.

It’s 2012 and suddenly, fine doesn’t cut it anymore.

Organized is the new rich. Or tan. Or maybe the new skinny. However you look at it, we want to be organized, and we want it bad. We’re no longer satisfied with knowing where stuff is, we’re looking for a new level of in-your-face, extreme organization that will make us the envy of our friends. We want our clutter so creatively and lovingly contained it ceases to be junk, and become treasure. We want every last possession in a basket, a tub, a bin, a repurposed bucket, or a mason jar, and there should be no rest until it is done.

We are a people out of control.

I especially get caught up in this after reading any article with “five easy steps to decluttering your way to a carefree life.” (Or worse, If I visit the house of someone who read the article, and is actually making it happen.) If I really wanted to be clever, says the Associate Editor of Clutter Control, I’d store my pony tail holders on a toilet paper tube. Heaven forbid, I just set the rubber band on my dresser, where I can pick it up again when I need it. “It needs to be on a TUBE!”

So this is how it goes: I get inspired and show the boys that their LEGO guys with heads still attached go here, and without heads go over there.  Movies with horses go in this box, and movies with aliens go in that one. They nod, knowing it will only be a week until I return to being satisfied with just keeping everyone in clean socks and underwear, until the next time I read an article and try to find a new system for storing paper clips in a beautiful way.

But then something happened to turn that happy cycle on its ear…Pinterest.

I asked my friend at work how she liked the booming site. “It’s a great way to collect everything you want to do or try or buy, or cook. But it’s depressing. I’ll never make that stuff.”

“Hmph, well I don’t want any of that,” I told her. The last thing I needed was to try to organize the Internet.

Two days later, I asked her to send me an invite.

Part of any organized person’s strategy is the list keeping. Through the years I’ve kept track of to-dos, to-buys, and to-think-abouts. When I was a kid I had lists of Esprit clothes I owned, people I knew, and states that I could remember without looking at a map. (Dang it, Delaware, how did I keep forgetting you?)

Now, with Pinterest, the list making is visual and easy, and there’s the fun social aspect of sharing ideas with your friends and glue gun toting strangers. It’s also immediately and dangerously addictive. It will likely suck you in and spit you out, bleary eyed and overwhelmed by clothes you don’t have, projects you won’t do, recipes you won’t make, houses you will never live in and organization systems you will fail at. It’s also by far the most convenient way I’ve found to combine sloth AND envy.

“What is THAT?” asked John as he looked over my shoulder to find three photos of braided hairstyles, two of cupcakes, two pretty necklaces, six pieces of furniture, a quiche, a DIY Easter Wreath, a DIY confetti lantern, a pair of boots, and a romantic black and white photo of New York City.

“Pinterest. It’s a way to organize projects, recipes, design ideas…”

“Um.”

“See, what you do is create your pin boards, then you categorize them, so you can organize your….”

“Colleen.”

“Wait, see, this one is just for hairstyles. This one’s dedicated just to mid century modern design, this one’s for appetizers, this one’s for jewelry,”

“Colleen, I love you, but I can’t even pretend to be interested in this.”

We’ve been married for 15 years so he can say that. I sure hope he can say that, because that’s what I say when we pull into the parking lot of an electronics store and I announce I’m waiting in the car.

My lazy Internet research revealed that 80% of Pinterest users are women (thanks ignitesocialmedia.com!). Over at Google +, they are running close to that equivalent, male.

I suggested he look into Google +.

Keep in mind, this is the same guy who, when I am in an organizing frenzy, comes up with this sage advice:

“How about we just have less stuff?”

  

*the label maker is fun to use! And The Dewey Decimal System doesn’t hold a candle to our video organization with categories such as “chick flicks,” “high brow,” “spies!” and “classics” where you’ll find anything starring Will Ferrell, Steve Carell or Adam Sandler.

don’t call that vintage:snaps

25 Mar

My designer friends would probably tell you that the resurfacing of the 70s and 80s aesthetic sensibility is so five years ago, but I am aware of it now, so I’ll just say that it’s “new.”  Maybe it’s because I realized my son is closer to the age of 21 than I am (oh, *&%$!) Maybe it’s because I visited a Swatch store on vacation, I don’t know, but I am seeing pieces of my childhood resurface in the oddest of places. Only now, the hipster at American Apparel is telling me it’s ironic, and fresh, fashion-forward, but still, gulp…vintage.

Every generation nods with a wink at a generation or two from before. I wore John Lennon glasses for a while, and for no reason. Maybe it’s fine for the kids who are enjoying it the first time around, but isn’t there some kind of rule preventing me from whole-heartedly embracing dingy bad photos and questionable shoulderpads, because I lived through them already? Maybe.

I’d like to welcome you to part 1 in my blog mini-series. “Don’t call that Vintage – I bought that new.”

I am about a year late to the hipstamatic party, but I am completely hooked on taking early 1980’s photos with my smart phone, which I realize is weird on about 7 different levels. I posted some of my work (may I call them “pieces?”) on Facebook, and almost immediately got a snarky remark, from a favorite snarky remark giver – a college freshman currently living across the country.

“Someone just discovered the hipstamatic app,” she wrote.

I had, and it was a problem, and I knew that.

I was lounging around in quarantine AGAIN with a flu-ridden kid when I downloaded the app to my phone. Hipstamatic takes what would be a perfectly good photo, and subjects it to vintage film, lens and flash effects. The kid with the flu was actually the one subjected – to me taking multiple photos of him sitting on the couch, taking a nap, watching tv, or pretending to take a nap in the vain attempt to get me to perhaps go away.

I showed John my results, and he nodded. After about the 10th oddly lit and grainy shot, he sweetly said, “They’ve made many advancements in photography, you know. On purpose. Pictures are much better now.”

“I know, I know. But look how gritty it is. It looks like the 70’s.”

“But why would you want it to look like the 70’s? The 70’s really didn’t look very good. We knew that while the 70’s were happening. And we were kids.”

When we met up with some old friends at a Starbucks (sure it was a Starbucks in Las Vegas) I showed them my handiwork. Megan was nice enough to play along with me. I’d snap one, and then we’d quickly look at it, critiquing each shot…the flash, the composition, and how our hair looked. Our husbands looked at each other, rolling their eyes the way only grown men and 12-year-old girls can, and went back to talking about basketball.

Other than the photo of a “Tigers Love Pepper” t-shirt, the rest of my Las Vegas photos were taken this way, as were the bowling photos a couple of days later when parents from our church went out for a high-brow night on the town. There is something about Las Vegas and bowling that seem to be the perfect vehicles for gritty, grainy images, and face-distorting lighting.

After 11 grueling minutes of Internet research, the dormant cub reporter in me was intrigued to find out that there is actually a backstory to the hipstamatic craze. (I will call it a craze, because I am currently very interested in it, though I don’t actually have any research to back up its popularity. Apparently, I am currently not that thorough of a cub reporter.) There is even a touch of controversy and a hint of burgeoning urban legend. Suppooooosedly, two brothers manufactured a handful of all-plastic hipstamatic cameras in 1982, that were inspired by Kodak’s instamatic cameras. The brothers were tragically killed in a car accident a short time later, and nearly all of their photos were lost in a housefire in the early 90’s. The story goes that a third surviving brother strives to continue Hipstamatic photography to cement his brothers’ legacies and further the artform that they loved.  However, conspiracy theorists boasting more than 11 minutes of Internet research claim that no such story can be substantiated, and that it is a clever marketing ploy designed specifically for suckers like me, and kids being ironic.

Whatever the story, I love these ridiculous pictures. 1980’s flash does wonders for my vintage skin.

Three of the four photos above are from my camera. The other one is legit. (Hint: my mom’s pants are also legit.) The one with the female humans (girls? ladies? moms? women? that’s a whole different issue) is me and my friend Megan (she’s the adorable pixie on the right). We’re waiting for the fountains at the Bellagio entertaining ourselves while our husbands rolled their eyes. Again.

friend to foodies

23 Feb

I eat food, and sometimes I cook it. I watch TV shows and read magazines about it. I even order it when we go to restaurants.

I was an aspiring food enthusiast and home chef for a couple of months until I realized it’s hard, and kind of a lot of work. It can also be pricey if you don’t know how to do it right, and even pricier if you do.

I think I’ve read and collected a thousand recipes in an attempt to lovingly categorize them and store them in these super-cute graphic-print 3-ring-binders I found at Target. I spent hours in front of DVR’d episodes of CSI: Miami, arranging the recipes in sheet protectors and everything. For a while I thought that yes, I would absolutely make every recipe in these binders, and I would jot down little notes about whimsical on-the-fly substitutions and possible wine pairings. The pages would be dog-eared and splattered with homemade tomato sauce when I would, in my old age, hand them over to my boys. The boys would of course accept them with reverence and a touch of awe.

It did not take me long to accept that this would not likely happen. My binders, as cute as they were, were not grounded in reality. Nowhere in my binders had I lovingly clipped and mounted the instructions from the side of the macaroni & cheese box or Trader Joe’s fish nuggets. There is the strong possibility that it might actually be the binders and the sheet protectors that I love, and not the 40 recipes I have for mushroom soup. Perhaps my boys will accept the binders one day with reverence and respect for my one-time love of organizational systems.

I set about to make my collection useable. Out went all the recipes that required fish sauce, quinoa, lamb, curry, eggplant, shellfish, whole fish, or whole chickens. Also the ones where the food would need to rise, rest, or take an ice bath. The food could not at any point be required to look like pea-sized gravel, as this usually requires a food processor or a stand mixer…my great white whales of kitchen appliances. I know what my family will not eat. They’ve vetoed polenta, fresh tomatoes, and if it were up to Zach, anything that is not “noodles with butter.” There are some dark moments in my culinary past that have made me gun shy enough to disqualify even more recipes. Fried chicken is out, and I don’t want to talk about that batch of sugar cookies. If you’re interested, John will happily recount the tale of the “ham ring” from our first year of marriage.

We threw a dinner party years ago. I was at Whole Foods ordering a $100 piece of meat, I think a standing rib roast. I asked the butcher so many questions about how to prepare it, that he came out from behind the counter to give me a hug and tell me that everything was going to be ok.

Because we’ve lived in the Bay Area for so long, we’ve known and befriended our fair share of legitimate foodies and home chefs who can point over their shoulder to Berkeley and say “Alice Waters started it all over there.” They could also easily brag about how every burrito place, pizza joint, and hamburger hovel feature the freshest and ingredients…and usually with the obligatory “twist” or “kick.” “It’s a taco, but with a twist!”

Over the years, the cool ingredients spent time in everybody’s pantries. Pine nuts. Sun dried tomatoes. Feta. Endive. Leeks. Wild Boar. (No? That one didn’t make it? Shocking, the weird meat with the three-day aftertaste was sure to be a winner.) Aioli. Truffle oil. Yes, I know these are still around, but each enjoyed their 15 minutes as the darlings of California Cuisine.

But alas, foodies are indeed everywhere. And now, thanks to social media, I get to hear what all of you food enthusiasts are up to, which is like 90% cool, and 10% annoying because you make it sound so effortless, like you are lazily sipping on chardonnay, throwing together ingredients from your garden for your adoring friends and loved ones…who will clap as you plate the food. You know, without Googling, the difference between baking powder and baking soda, because apparently there is one. The fun flipside, is you get to read my diverse and revolutionary food musings:  “Football’s on! Clam dip time!” or “Basketball’s on! Where’s the clam dip?” or “I love the Giants! And I love clam dip!”

It’s a guilty pleasure, reading what you home chefs and foodies are up to, a sort of culinary voyeurism, peeking into your world as you homemake everything from pizza, bread, cakes and pie crusts to pickles, jam and chutney (whatever that is). I picture you strolling through the farmers market with a hand woven basket or a shopping tote made from reclaimed prison jumpsuits, hotel curtains, or the 8th grade graduation dresses of female freedom fighters. You could probably tell me whether or not that’s a good turnip, and if this is a good price on star fruit or kale. You might look at pomelo and say, “Fantastic! I can go home and throw together the perfect little pomelo margarita, pomelo salad, sea bass with pomelo salsa, and my signature pomelo granita for dessert. Just another typical Wednesday.”

I’ve been to many a farmer’s market, but have been known to find the experience so completely overwhelming that I will leave with nothing more than a sausage sandwich from the sausage guy.

So if I’m not a foodie, what am I? a bookie? That doesn’t sound good. A wordy? Um, I suppose that already applies, especially if you’ve made it this far into this post. I like TV – how about a showy? A winey?  Let’s see what we have so far: a showy, winey, wordy bookie. Perhaps I’ll dust off the binders and give foodie another shot.