Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Life :: Everything is an Experiment / Indiegogo Campaign Conclusion

They say life is like a box of chocolates, and you never know what you're going to get.

The thing is, I really like chocolate. I don't always like what happens in life.

It's been a stressful year, to say the least. If you've been reading at all, you know this. And only making $96 out of a $3,000 goal in order to fund my projects for next year isn't exactly the cherry on top. Actually, after Indiegogo fees, Paypal fees, and RAINN donations, the final take-home was $78.91.

If that's not a big fat failure, I don't know what is.

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I enjoy reading stories about failure. That might sound mean, but hear me out. It's not that I want people to fail, but I love knowing that I'm not alone. I crave that commiseration. Even if I don't personally know someone, I feel more of a connection with them when I find out that they've been in my shoes before. It's like, okay, if someone else has gotten through this then I can too. I obviously know that everyone experiences tough shit, whether or not they talk about it -- but when they're open enough to do so, especially in a public forum such as a blog, I really respect that.

That's why I adore bloggers like Bon and Shanley, Fenn and Kristie, Kate and Kerry. Beautiful words? Yes. Beautiful lives? Maybe. Beautiful honesty? Absolutely. And that's why I'm writing about this now -- because I, too, have a need to express the reality of my life. I've felt a calling, deep in my soul, ever since I was a little girl. That calling compels me to connect with others through my writing, even if I never get more than 50,000 views in a month, even though I can only get 5 contributions for a crowdfunding campaign. Because one of those people viewing, one of those people contributing -- my work could change her life, maybe even save it, and that makes everything worthwhile.

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It would be so easy for me to give up. After all, everything's been pointing to that. My business hasn't exactly skyrocketed. In fact, it's been a fight -- a fight to work harder, a fight to create better, a fight to remain positive when I feel like a loser. It's easy to run out of steam when you're running at a hare's pace but your career moves like a tortoise. I started this journey so excited, so exhilarated, so motivated, and now there are moments when I'm tempted to agree with the naysayers who said this was all stupid idea behind my back or through the veil of a computer screen.

In fact, I feel like I've been fighting my whole life. And, you know, I'm sick of fighting. Maybe that's the secret. Maybe I need to just give it up -- surrender -- like my idol, Oprah, said. Because God placed this desire in my heart for a reason, and if something's meant to happen with it anyway, why not just let it happen? Why keep pushing through the waves when I could just float and enjoy the ride? That's hard for an overachieving perfectionist oldest-child Aries to do, but that's the lesson that keeps pouring down on me, over and over and over again.

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I could look back and wonder what I should've done differently. I could come up with a list of what-ifs and ideas for a better, stronger campaign. But I won't. Instead, I'm going to be grateful for the experience and move on. Using Indiegogo, like trying out anything else in life, was an experiment. And though it's worked for others, it didn't work for me. That's okay. I'll find a different way to fund my ideas, and until then I'll focus on what I can do -- not what I can't, or what I could've.

I was hoping today would be a day of celebration, but instead, it's a day for growth. And, actually, maybe that's better. Maybe more growth means more opportunities to celebrate in the future.

I'm willing to take that risk.

As promised, a special shout-out goes to Kelly, Victoria and Jess for donating over $5 each. And thank you to everyone else who has shared, read, supported, believed.

*First two photos found here and here. Third photo shot by Liz Shar, words added by me.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lessons :: On Marriage and Sons

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Usually when you move in with someone, people start asking when you're going to get married. And then once you're married, people start asking if you're going to have kids. Our order of things has been a little different, but we still get asked about our future plans from time to time.

Before meeting Brandon, I was not a "kid person" (and I'm still not, to be honest, though I already love mine). I wanted to get married someday, maybe, but I didn't care about weddings (unless they were the weddings of my friends, because hello, free booze). My life has completely changed within the past year and a half, and so have my plans and priorities. Don't worry -- it's all changed for the better.

B and I knew we wanted to be together forever, pretty early on. But with a kid on the way, we probably won't be getting married for awhile. I thought I would want to elope in Vegas or just go to the Justice of the Peace, but B is a little more traditional than that. And the more we talk about it, the more I'm looking forward to celebrating with all of our friends and family someday. It's just going to take a lot of planning that we don't have time for right now.

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And, yes, we've talked about more children too. I'm limiting it to two (which I think I have the authority to do, since they're coming out of me) but as we've learned, God has his own plans. We definitely don't want to have another until we're married and have our own place and have our debts paid off and money saved.

I also want to wait until Baby Loudmouth is old enough to wipe his own ass because chasing around two babies sounds like a nightmare (just ask my poor mother who had to deal with my sister and I). When B said "we should wait awhile, like two years" I laughed in his face. Sorry, I'm thinking more like 5. People say that's too big of a gap, but I'm selfish and want a built-in babysitter. Until then, we're going to use about 7 forms of birth control (if that many exist, of course) or stay celibate. Wish me luck.

I've also been asked if I'm excited that we're having a boy, and the truth is yes, yes, praise Jesus, yes. My sis and I have a brother much younger than us, and even my parents agree that he was the easiest to raise. I'm still waiting for him to mess up because, come on dude, you're making the rest of us look bad. If this fetus magically ends up being a girl, I'll love her anyway, but I'll be a lot more scared. I'm already an emotional firecracker, and trying to get along with a mini-me sounds downright terrifying.

So before the ultrasound, when people asked if I wanted a boy or girl and I said I didn't care, that was a flat-out lie. I've wanted a boy from the beginning, and I kinda had a feeling that that's what it was, but I didn't want to jinx anything. And now we're less than a month away, and I'm so happy.

*Photos shot by Michael Almeida on August 23, 2014 and edited by me in Photoshop.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Life :: 2 Things I Wish I Knew at 22

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I was super honored when the talented Sarah Von Bargen of Yes and Yes asked me to participate in a blog crawl to help spread the word about The Post College Survival Kit. She asked me to share some advice that I would give my younger self, and to be honest, I thought I'd have a lot more to say. My 20s have been pretty rocky, but I don't think I would change anything. I wouldn't take back any of the mistakes I've made, because they've made me who I am, and I like me. I'm the type of person who needs to learn things the hard way, and even if I'd been given the following two pieces of advice, I probably wouldn't have listened.

But I hope you do, because they could save you money, time, and trouble. Unless you like getting into trouble, in which case, go do your thang. Here's me at 22 -- with family on my graduation day, and a few weeks later after getting my hair done. Blonde makes my nose look bigger, apparently. (No, that is not one my grand epiphanies, but I just noticed it and my mouth doesn't have much of a filter.) Moving on!

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1. It's okay if you don't know everything, but you should act on the things you do. There's so much pressure on young adults to graduate college, have it all figured out, and jump into a perfect life. No wonder we have such high expectations! Dream big, but go easy on yourself. It's good to plan for life, but life doesn't always go the way we plan. Therefore, it's totally fine if you're not sure about something. Sometimes it's good to just sit back and enjoy the ride. On the other hand, if something doesn't feel right, you totally have the power to change it. Don't let yourself get stuck with a job or boyfriend or city that isn't satisfying. This may all sound contradicting, but it's about balance. Do what you can with what you have, and go from there. Good things take time. Don't stress.

2. Stop feeling obligated, learn to say no, and live your own life. Growing up, I was always a people pleaser. I aimed to please my parents and teachers. When I got older, I switched my focus to making my friends and boyfriends happy. I hated the thought of hurting anyone's feelings and was constantly taking everyone (but me) into consideration. I totally forgot about my own needs while constantly striving to meet the needs of others. This caused me to be easily let down and taken advantage of. I wish I would've done more for myself but instead I allowed the fear of not being "nice" enough control me. But in 2011 I left my first full-time job, broke up with my long-term boyfriend and lost a bunch of friends. I was forced to become independent and take care of myself. I realized that I'd been missing out on so much self-love. The thing is, your friends, family, and significant other should want you to be happy, and therefore they should want you to think about yourself and do what's best for you. You don't need anyone's approval for anything. You're an adult now and it's about time you used that power!

Thanks for letting me share! You might also be interested in my pregnancy story, my business journey, or my e-book: 7 Steps to Living Loudly. Feel free to contact me about anything, anytime.

*Top photo provided by Sarah.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Look :: Maternity Photos / Griffith Park Romance

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Outfit details:
Sunglasses - Bonlook
Dress, flats - Target
Heart ring - gift from my sis
Silver bangles - gift from my mom
Gold bangles - InPink
Earrings, necklace, silver ring - Ann Taylor

We took 160 photos and this post started out with 20, so I'm pretty proud of myself for getting the set down to 7. Even though I loved them all, I didn't want to overwhelm you and it's also nice to put some aside specifically for our personal collection. Not everything needs to be shared on the internet.

However, I will tell you this: I felt less than good about myself that day. I wanted to get my hair and nails and eyebrows done, but it didn't happen. I also wanted to get a nicer dress, but this plain one was the only thing I could find that fit me. I was hot and swollen and cranky and, for once, didn't feel like being in front of the camera. Of course, we did the damn thing anyway, and I'm glad we did.

I'm not saying all this to complain, but rather, to let you in on what goes on behind-the-scenes sometimes. The internet is full of pretty pictures without stories, and sometimes it's comforting to know that the lives of others aren't as perfect as they seem. At the same time, I'm grateful for my life, and oh-so-happy that we got these shots. Brandon cares about pictures just as much as I care about cars (meaning, he doesn't give a shit) but he cares about me enough to do things like this.

What I'm trying to get at is, I didn't edit these at all. Not only is the golden light already beautiful, but I wanted to show you us in our natural state. I hope that, above all, the love we have for each other and our excitement for the coming months shines through.

*Photos by Michael Almeida on August 23, 2014 in Los Angeles, CA.
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