Sunday, November 2, 2014

the dirty word

Expectation.

It's a word of death.

Death to relationships.

A close friend spoke some hard truth to me seven or eight years ago, while I was living in California. At the time, my feelings hurt because she hadn't had much time to spend with me, and I felt like maybe I cared more about her friendship than she did mine. It's not a good feeling to feel like you're in an uneven relationship, is it? And in wisdom she warned me that those unspoken expectations I had in my mind about what she "had to do" if she was a "real friend" would kill the friendship quickly. She didn't stop there. She went further and warned me that she noticed I had placed expectations over relationships with everyone in my life- my parents, my family, my friends, my husband. All of them had certain unmentioned bars, so to speak, that they had to achieve or else I was convinced they didn't really love me.

I don't know where that came from....that scale I set that let me protect isolate my heart. I don't have traumatic stories from my childhood or bad breakup stories from my youth. But still they were there. Stealing relationships and threatening to cause me to become an island unto myself.

It's because those words convicted my heart so strongly that they have stayed with me through the years. I still see them creep into my heart, if I'm not guarding it vigilantly. And I see them in others. Because I'm looking for those ugly expectations.... the dirty laundry list of made-up tasks to prove a person's/relationship's worth.

And every time I identify them, they make me ANGRY. I would argue it's a just anger.

Expectations are so destructive! They take relationships and remove the grace. In the devastated ruins of expectations, there isn't room for understanding of busy seasons of life, or differences in how people relate, or favorite methods of communication. Instead there is a refusal to accept love that isn't being shown in just the right way.

Or not enough.

Or not in time.








But where expectations kill, grace breathes life. When those imaginary lines we draw in the sand for others to prove they value us are erased, there is understanding. Understanding for what? For busy schedules. For different love languages. For failed attempts, time after time after time.

What if, when the phone call doesn't come, we respond with a reiteration of our knowledge that they still indeed value us because years can't be erased by days. Or weeks. Or even other years.

What if, when they stayed late at work "again," we pointed to our hearts the love notes that were left, or the favorite candy that was brought home, or the broken drawer that was fixed? And we realize that we all show love in different ways.... and that one way isn't better than another.

What if, instead of assuming what they must do in other relationships, we look for the ways that our relationship is special and unique to us because we are unique and no two relationships can be alike... and different love doesn't mean unequal love.

Wouldn't that change things? Wouldn't that make the load lighter?

Every time I am greeted with grace in a relationship, I am renewed in my determination to replace expectations with grace.

I'm still horrible at grace. In every sense of the word.

But at least that gives me something to work on.


live to learn

I'm convinced that we'll learn a lot in this life if we just keep our eyes open.

I was standing in the Target checkout line. Henry was asleep in his carrier and the older two boys were at home playing a rousing game of FIGHT with Daddy. And as I wait for my turn with the cashier, I pass the time scrolling through my cartwheel app, trying to add coupons for my groceries that day.

As I scroll, I can hear the father in line behind me admonishing his boys repeatedly to stay behind me and give me space. But you see, I was standing in front of the candy bars and gum. Who can resist that?! And so "Boys, stay back! Give that lady space!" became the background music. (Side note: I've achieved "lady" status now!?!? Might as well give me a walker and admit me to the home, dude-guy! Thanks for that gift.)

My turn. How-about-that-weather chatter with the cashier. And then I lay eyes upon the candy-lovers. Two boys, 8sih and 12ish. "Um, excuse me. Do you need help putting the bagged groceries into your cart?" I melted a little bit, and started to thank them but insist I could get it. Girl power, and all that jazz. And then I stopped halfway through my "No, but th-"

I realized that if they were MY sons who were offering to serve someone, I would want that person to let them. It's easy to be strong and independent. It's hard to lay down your pride and let others help you. But if we don't give people the opportunities to surrender themselves to us, we take away the joy they'd get from doing it. It's funny..the way that works.... When someone offers to serve us, we can serve THEM by letting them serve us. And I'll be honest, it's that truth I clung to when I let those two little guys serve me. If I had said no, I would have robbed them of that service; of the joy they got from doing it.

And so the register beeped as it scanned each bar code, the boys lifted each bag into the cart, and the cashier listened in participation as the boys' father and I chatted. I had questions for him- because obviously he was raising boys to be admirable, and he was just a season ahead of me. I was taking mental notes furiously.

And when my cart was full (and my wallet was empty), I slipped the dad a $5 and asked him to let the boys pick out a treat from that darned wall of candy bars. And we exchanged parental looks of gratitude on both our behalves. His because of the opportunity his kids received and the small thank-you for a job done well. And mine for a very profound understanding of the road ahead of me. Because oh, how I'd love to turn those tables one day...how I hope to be the mom watching her boys serve the young mother in front of us.

To the father of those two boys, who made sure they offered to help: thank you. 

Thanks for preparing those two boys to be a gift to the world. To make the load lighter for those around them.

And thanks for showing me what it looks like to parent my sons well- with real life as a teacher.

I accept the challenge.

Friday, October 31, 2014

more on 2014-2015 style trends

So in the previous blog post, I talked about the biggest fashion trend right now: grunge. Distressed denim, flannel shirts, and lots of oversized anythings. BUT that doesn't mean that's the only option for those who want to be current in their style. It's just the biggest one! But there are also a few other options!

Instagrammer @TRUELANE wearing the trends: American (Aztec), grunge (oversized cardi and black jeans), 
athletic (baseball hat), and preppy (stripes).

Preppy. A classic. Always in style. Think leopard print, cable knit sweaters, and corduroy. Use bright colors in fun combinations or stick with the classics. It's all good here!

Athletic. As in baseball hats, but with a current twist. Think flannel or leather or monogram. Make it a little dressier and pair it with a blazer and pair of jeans. Hello, great solution to a bad hair day.... and yet it looks like you still made an effort.

American. Yes, kind of like American Indian. So: leather, fringe, aztec prints, moccasins, and the like. And the best part? It's sooooo comfortable!!!

Now here's where it gets interesting: mixing trends is a beautifully successful way to create your personal style. I love to mix grunge with American. Or athletic with preppy. For example, a camel colored cable knit sweater goes really well with a black leather baseball hat. And my fringe ankle moccs are fun to wear with a haphazardly-tucked flannel shirt....plus topknot and lipstick. So what is that? Three trends in one: American, grunge, preppy?

And the combinations are endless. So what are you waiting for?

Do YOU. :)


Friday, October 17, 2014

fall/winter 2015- the style issue

 

So listen.

I've been trying to simmer down the "must have" trends of fall/winter 2014 since InStyle's Fall Fashion Issue came out months ago.... and it's just hard because I don't need to re-write the issue and go over EVERY trend out there. If that's what you want, just go get the mag! But I also leave a lot out if I only tell you my favorites. So we are going to play a little game. I'm going to spew out words/trends/must-have items for this fall and winter, and then I'll try to attach a picture to it for those who are visual.

But really it all boils down to this: we are channeling the 1990's, folks. Sure, that means things like overalls, mom jeans, baggy flannel, Birkenstocks, and Doc Martins are back. And if that fits your style, then that's easy! But if it doesn't, you're going to have to work a little harder if you want to embrace the trends while staying true to your own style...which is what I would consider my ultimate goal for myself.

I find my favorite way to incorporate these trends is to mix the torn, worn, and oversized with preppy or uber-feminine. This keeps me from feeling like I need a bath at all times, YET I am able to stay current and wear things in a fresh new way for me since the first time they came around.

So, here is how I have translated that for my closet:


Distressed Denim. (i mean really distressed. think massive holes.)





Black Jeans (rock 'n roll, baby)




Boyfriend-style Pants (pants, cords, etc. because 1990's grunge is most definitely not fitted)





Oversized Chunky Sweaters (all the better for tying around one's waist when you get too hot)





Loose Flannel Shirts (you can still keep a great silhouette if you tuck the front, creating a visual waist)





Fun Baseball Hats (jcrew or forever21 have great versions of these!)





Floppy Hats (great for a red lip with a baggy sweater)





Stacks of Petite Jewelry (doesn't matter the metal. but put a ring on every finger and a stack up your arm)



Chelsea boots (pick black to go with your black jeans! grunge, ya'll.)




Loafers (of ANY kind- laces or penny.)




And your fail-safes: leopard, leather, fringe, and fur. On repeat.


And here is a Fall-Tip-Freebie: when you wear ankle boots, you MUST roll your jeans. Jeans should hit 2" above the top of your ankle boot. You don't want the jeans floating up in the high heavens, nor do you want them to touch the top of your boot!! 


Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand: GO!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

a game changer

I heard something several years ago.

It changed me.

It changed the way I have since lived, online.

Blogging...facebooking....instagramming.... the content I post to all of these places now goes through the filter of this advice: 


Every post/update/picture you choose to write will determine who your audience is. 


Let me explain.

It was a photographer friend of mine who said those words to me, and we were talking about her photography business- because this applies to businesses as well. And because I was blogging every day, trying to connect it with a season of my life where I was actively styling clients, she applied that concept to my blog. She explained that every post I chose to publish was a choice (and I have applied this to EVERY facebook status I have written since then, as well) that determined who my readers would be.
There isn't necessarily a right or wrong decision about who I wanted my audience to be, but it was worth knowing the effect each word was having. Every post about parenting would make non-parents feel disconnected. Every post about women's fashion would make guys believe they didn't have a reason to check in. Each post about Christ would potentially cause non-Christians to go somewhere else. So since then, before I post things in each of those categories (which is, collectively, juuuuuuust about every post I've ever written), I always stop for a minute and ask myself: "do I want to push ____ away?" It's a good system of checks and balances. It makes sure that what I want to say is THAT important to me. Do I want THOSE people connecting with me? Do I want to make THOSE people unfollow me?

Even on facebook.

I know it doesn't matter to some people. There are many who couldn't care less about what others think of their posts. They are going to say whatever they think because it's their page- and they can. But it matters to ME what others will "hear" from my fingers. Because I believe this is my testimony.

I want to change the way parts of my identity are stereotyped. I don't like the rep Christians get sometimes. I want to love others more than I love me, and I want to love God more than I love the whole lot of us. I don't like the way moms are sometimes portrayed. I can wear good jeans AND hold an intelligent conversation about the current state of global affairs. I want to change the way people think about those who like to get dressed in the morning. I'm not conceited, nor do I carelessly spend my money- nor am I rich and rolling in it. Et cetera. And if I can be those things but live it differently, then maybe people will disassociate some of the negativity toward "those types of people"- and that would be a win.

I filter what I say because I love people. And I want to make days brighter by being in them. And if I could say something funny instead of complaining, wouldn't it be nice to cause a laugh instead? Don't we all have enough to complain about anyway? I believe there is a time to be honest. I do! Sometimes I share "that article" even though I know it could ruffle feathers. But I believe there is a time to discuss controversial ways of thinking. But I don't believe social media is a very effective platform to do that, most times.

I choose what I SAY because it affects what I THINK. And I don't want to dwell on a bad day or a yucky point of view or a hard season of life. And when I talk about it, I stay in it. I don't want to stay there.

And I say certain things (and not others) because I want to inspire. And I like to believe that nuggets of inspiration can come from anywhere. I decided one day to only allow fb statuses/instagrammers/bloggers into my days that would offer me intelligence, love, appreciation, and inspiration. Everything and everyone else, I deleted or "unfollowed." Because I don't have time to spend with people who think they are the only right ones, or who want to spend their time talking about things that aren't working, or putting others down, or being careless with their words. And that decision went a long way to making me a happier person. And if I'm going to be so selective with what and who receive my time, I want to be those things to others in return.

And so I choose. I choose what goes out, and I choose what comes in.

Thank you for letting me in.

And thanks for being my "in."

I like to think we can change the world. 

_______
And this post was ironically supposed to be about something COMPLETELY different when I sat down to write. That concept was supposed to be the intro paragraph...... turns out there was more there to unpack. That's okay. There's always tomorrow.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

insta-faves

Okay, so I said it yesterday on facebook but I'll say it again: I LOVE INSTAGRAM. In my life, it's become a faster, more inspirational way to approach fashion and stay updated on the trends. I follow people of all budgets who provide links to the pieces they wear, I see pieces worn by those who have the same style I do, I find new ways to wear the pieces I have, and I get to filter it all: people with my style and my life-stage. Or not! And it's such a fun community. I have made insta-friends with several women around the world and it's always fun supporting each other: drawn by love of fashion or love of our sons or love of food!

I have a whole folder on my phone dedicated to screen shots of outfits I love- and when I'm in a funk and don't know what to wear in the morning, I scroll through those pictures to find something that rings my bell that day. And while I still poured over every page of the fall fashion issue of InStyle, I certainly find more success and more inspiration from those personal photo blogs of stylish PEOPLE.

Here are the girls I cannot get enough of: (you can click on their names for a link directly to their insta-page)

Curated Cool, my favorite Aussie:

shalicenoel, THE most stylish mama I can find on the world wide web:

Damsel in Dior, a style guru in L.A.:

aninebing, a mom slash model slash designer on the west coast:

marissawebb, the new fashion director for Banana Republic:

And last but not least is truelane, a stylist from Minneapolis:


There are others, but these are the handful of women that inspire me most of all.

These aren't the only gals out there, though! Need recommendations?

For those of you with a preppier style, I will send you to kerriemburke, moodygirlinstyle, amcates, and seersuckerandsaddles.

If you consider yourself to be a sleeker, less formal version of preppy, check out couldihavethat and hellofashionblog.

So listen, now that I have told you my favorites, shoot yours my way and help a sistah out! After all, one girl's favorite is another girls.....also favorite??

Lauren, out.




you can read this post AND MORE at my other 
Click on the title to go straight there!

those dang blasted oils

Soooooooo, I'm a little bit crunchy and a little bit not. I live somewhere in between the two often-times-warring schools of thought: embracing vaccines AND holistic/natural healing. I think medicine is necessary and great- but I also think we can do a lot to heal our bodies without it! And around May I made my first purchase of doTerra essential oils.

Since then, I've been testing their worth. I want to see what they're made of and whether they deserve all the hype they're getting. So I started by applying them topically. And every hit from allergies, bug bites and wonky cold bugs received a figurative "fist" of oils as I battled back. And... I'm pretty happy with them! They haven't proven to be miracle cures for anything in my life, but their effects certainly compare to the meds that can be taken for all the things we have tried them out on. So that's a win in my book. Of course the true test, in my opinion, will be this winter. Dear flu bug: please don't come here.

Along with applying the oils topically, they can be ingested (taken internally) or diffused into the air. About two months ago I had the opportunity to test out a diffuser from Sarah, a friend I have made in the online oils community. She is a Registered Nurse and mother of four- soon to be five! On facebook she goes by the name "oilRN" and always gives out helpful tips that I greatly appreciate. And as luck would have it, she was looking for people to try a diffuser at the same time I was looking for a diffuser to try! So I volunteered to give my honest feedback in exchange for the chance to try one of the most-recommended ways to use oils.



Working the diffuser proved to be easy! There are two buttons: the power button and the timer button. I can live with that. You can choose to either have it run continuously, which is what I did in bedrooms when I was addressing some symptoms, or set it to function on a timer that spans 24 hours, which I did in our common living area for a boost for our immune systems. 

I took my time before I reviewed it. I needed to see what I really thought of it. And I always enter this kind of stuff with a skeptic's heart. I expected nothing. But truthfully- I find the diffuser to be one of my favorite ways to use oils. During my trial run, I tested immunity boosts in our main living space: it took the cold that was going around and lasting for several days, and made them less-than-24-hour bugs. I used the Breathe blend and found it provided relief for allergies AND cold stuffiness every time. And when Roman got a fever, I put an antibacterial/fever combo in the diffuser and his fever left sometime during the night. And stayed gone.

So I'm pretty in love with this new black machine in my home. I liked it so much that I will be grabbing diffusers for every bedroom. Healthy family, happy mom.

When I let Sarah know that I felt I had enough experience with the diffuser to let you know what I thought, she offered the chance to get them on sale if you purchase them through her! Go to www.oilrn.com or email her at sarah@oilrn.com to take advantage of the discount. She is offering 20% off with the code "heels20" and that's mighty kind of her. I'm going to have to start adding to my collection now, I think.

Thanks, Sarah, for the chance to keep learning about oils, for your quick replies to my questions via email, and for the chance to find my way in the world of diffusers. I'm beyond thrilled with my discoveries.

Friday, July 11, 2014

For today

You know what? I spend a large part of every day being totally, 100%, wholly and completely overwhelmed with gratitude for my days. 

For my life. 

For the people with whom I spend my days. 

For the things I have which make the days more fun. For my profession. For the house I get to upkeep. For the money to pay bills and a little bit more. For, as cheesy as it sounds, the freedoms and life this country provides. For it all. 

Do you ever find yourself so smothered in gratitude that you think, "if anyone ever heard me try to express this I'd sound like a lunatic- or a liar." 

As I sit here watching a baby sleep and boys play, these are the thoughts that keep me company. 

And sometimes those blessings are so good, I am tempted to think, "It can't possibly stay this sweet forever. What horrible tragedy is going to strike that will squash this sweetness?" 

But then I quiet ugliness that threatens to turn my gratitude to fear. Necessarily. Because those things aren't for me to be concerned with. My "to do" list for the day is simply to be grateful. 

And so I am. 


Friday, June 13, 2014

to the weary mama

I see you sitting there, mama. I know your heart is weary and your body is worn. I know your days are long and you wonder briefly, though for the fifteenth time today, who is going to take care of you after you're done taking care of everyone else. I know you have wiped too many diapers to count and the number of times your name has been yelled through the house is driving you crazy. I know you wish someone would tell you that you look pretty today, or that your workouts are paying off. I know the thought of alone time makes you salivate more than the thought of the chewiest cookie, but the thought of a chewy cookie {now that you mention it} doesn't sound too shabby. I know you wish there was someplace you could curl up and someone would say to you, "Precious one, lay right here. Let's just spend time together. Let me fill your cup. Let me take your burdens and lighten the load. Don't worry about all the things on your list that didn't get done today- that's what tomorrow is for. Just come sit. Be still. Rest."

I know that because that's me, too.

And I know that reading those words makes you cry because writing those words makes me cry. Because that's what we both need right now.

I want you to know that God is saying those things to you. So go lay down your burdens. It's okay if a box of mac and cheese is dinner tonight. You don't have to save the world. You have only to rest. And I know just the One who can hold you.

Sending hugs, friend.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

the answer to "how's it going with three?"



Were you to ask, "How is it, being a mom of three?" I'd tell you it was wonderful. My heart is at peace. Our family feels wonderfully complete. And Henry is a dream. Really, truly, a dream. Having three sons is, for me, the marrow of life. It's one of the best, most valuable part. And I am setting aside every drop of expendable energy to ensure that I thoroughly soak in all of these moments of sweetness. 

For some reason, three makes me pause life with my heart. I'm no longer trying to plan our days, I'm savoring our days. I feel a big like a turtle who, if it were possible, desires to tuck her whole family inside her shell, wanting for nothing to invade.

I'd tell you I'm as exhausted as one IS with a newborn, but when said newborn only wakes twice each night between the hours of 11pm-7am, it could be MUCH worse. And even these sleepy, incoherent twilight hours are spent in quiet appreciation.... savoring. Taking mental pictures so that I can remember it later.

I'd tell you that the logistics of actually mothering THREE children has been....dare I say it??....cake. {picture me now, physically grimacing and waiting for the chaos to strike!! NO ONE is stupid enough to utter that, are they? ARE THEY!??!} But seriously, this is the easy part. It's a newborn. All they do is eat and sleep. Well, that's all this one does. And this is my third time doing this part. I know what the cries mean, we have seamlessly embraced a schedule, and he will sleep anywhere. Aside from the fact that it now takes me yyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrsssssssssss to go ANYWHERE, I feel like I've got this part. Now, that being said, ask me again in a year when Henry is now a walker who wants to keep sticking his finger in the electrical socket and won't leave my favorite decorative rhinoceros alone,(yes, that's a real thing) and I'm sure I'll feel differently. But this world we are in right now is beautifully familiar to me. So for this time, it feels simple. I will also point out that we are only 13 days into the journey, only 3 of which I've spent alone. Give it time for the exhaustion to truly kick in and the dirt to accrue in my house. I'm quite confident my answer will be different then, my friend. But had you asked, this would be my answer for the now.

On the practical side, I'd tell you my lower back is killing me and I have a sinus infection that WILL. NOT. go away. I haven't breathed through both nostrils for more than three glorious seconds in over two weeks. And I have a migraine that comes and goes. But aside from that my body is pretty well put back together, so it feels, and I think that's amazing. I will allow it these complaints. It has served me well.

I'd tell you that watching Roman and Liam love on Henry is something that never gets old. They honestly adore him. He is one of them, already. Welcomed instantly. And they tell me, daily, the list of things they can't wait for him to be able to do with them. Important things. Like eating corn on the cob and running and playing monster. 

And the way they love Henry is expressed in their own, personal way. Liam's love is haphazard and hazardous. Just like Liam lives life. Poor Henry James will be lucky to survive this brother's love. But it is even more special, then, that I have had {on more than a handful of occasions} to shoo Liam out of Henry's crib while the smallest babe naps because his big brother wanted to rub his head and watch him sleep. Roman's love is gentle and fiercely protective. And he is already, and rightfully so, the adoration of Henry's entire being. Where Roman's voice is, there Huck's face will be. Searching. Tracking. Bobbing, as if to say, "You're my hero forever, big brother." 

I've been really struck lately by the belief that a sibling is the best thing I can give to my boys. (And no, before you suggest it, they don't need more. haha!) Their brothers are better than any toy they will ever get. They will know them better in certain ways than anyone else ever can, simply because they were raised in the same town and house by the same parents and will have spent the same vacations together. And their brothers will stand beside them to walk life with them when I can be no more. I believe, in my motherly heart of hearts, that I have given them my best. 

I'd tell you I'm emotional.
SURPRISE.                
                       Ha.             Ha.              
I know. I usually have the emotional thing down pretty well on any given day. Pregnancy just exacerbates the fire and childbirth inspires the tears. It's all normal, postpartum. It's not that I'm even sad, per se. It's just that I get these glimpses of the days when Roman is driving, or Liam is too busy with his friends to want my snuggles any more, or Henry has moved out, and darn it all if that isn't just the hardest thing. It's so easy to be in a season of life and assume that the particular season is just "how it's going to be from now on." Except it will never be the always. Life is fluid; it's always changing. And even though those are sad days to think about, it will also be a season filled with more date nights with that man-o-mine, less spit up on my shirt, and much less to do when trying to simply get out the door to go somewhere. I'm looking forward to more face-to-face time with my husband and less side-to-side teamwork. I'm so very grateful that every season has its own sweetness to offer.

And I'd tell you, lastly, that I have hit an all-time low. I am a big, fat liar!! Let it be said that I place 100% of the blame of this moral collapse on the Athens Salted Caramel and Honey Greek yogurt that Target forced me to put in my cart. After the boys ate half the container yesterday, I pushed it to the back of the fridge and moved the leftover ziti to the front, assuming that they would forget it the way most children do. A little "out of sight, out of mind" action. Wrong. Today Roman asked me for some of the caramel yogurt, and out of my mouth I heard the ugly lie uttered. "It's all gone. We ate all of it yesterday." I squeaked, while all the saliva fled my mouth and left my tongue to fend for itself.

And as if that wasn't bad enough, during nap time, that precious time of day when I "should have been sleeping," there I was- feet tucked underneath my body while perched on the couch, knobby fingers clutching the tub to my chest, my own little Gollum peeking out from my loving exterior.

It just goes to show you that motherhood will destroy a girl, no matter how strong she may be. And today I'd tell you I learned one more thing about myself: I may share my uterus with a little person...... but apparently I will not share my yogurt.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Meet Henry James


Well, world, meet Henry James Becker. 
6lbs 11oz and 20" of pure squirmy goodness. 



Saturday, April 19, 2014

gratitude

I told you in the last post that I spend my days being overwhelmed with gratitude and that it's 100% the truth. And I've been rolling it around in my head.... and well, this is what I've come up with.

I'm no good at waiting for things. Generally speaking, I'm an instant gratification kind of girl. But it seems like because of that, the things I have had to wait the longest for are the things that I treasure the most. I mean waiting for children to grow in the womb, waiting as I save up for an item, and waiting for questions to be answered about life. All of it. And I feel like we are in a season of reaping right now... of watching dreams unfold and seeing longings fulfilled. Like owning a home.

Because of our time in the military, we spent years wishing we could buy a house but never being in one place long enough to do it. We longed to plant roots. To be established. To drive past an elementary school and tell our children, "That's where you'll go to school when you're bigger."  We wondered whether we would have neighbors that we could stand outside and chat with across the fence. We looked forward to the day we had at least a handful of friends that weren't leaving every year, and for careers that we could invest time and effort into as we watched them grow and develop. So for 5 years of married life, we waited for those things with the longing for them in our hearts.

And then we jumped.

Getting out of the military was a huge, scary jump that created more question marks than answers at first. And as we watched the dust settle around the new life that emerged, I knew it was good and it was what I had been longing for, but I was afraid to grab onto it and claim it. I was afraid it was too good to be true.

Have you ever felt like life was so good, so sweet, that it caused you to be afraid? Because surely all good things must come to and end, right? And no one can live in a perpetual state of bliss. And pity the fool who is caught unaware? That's sort of the place I lived this past year. We had a house that I was smitten by, but I guarded my heart so I could function from a place that didn't care too much about it. I was afraid that "anything could happen and we might have to move again, so why get attached?" And Jerr had a great job that provided a good life, but why enjoy that? He could lose his job tomorrow, so I might as well be prepared. And that just continued. At night I'd lay in bed thinking up contingency plans in case the paychecks stopped coming or the house burned down or tragedy came upon our family members.... And it was exhausting. During the day I felt like everything was fine and good, but at night things got scary and there was no security and I needed to make sure I was prepared.

Have you ever been there?

Man, that's no way to live. Definitely not what God wants us to do with the gifts He hands us. But I also think it's part of the process. I can say that it was part of the process and not the landing strip because it's not the place my heart settled to stay. It was just a stop on a journey of major life change. And I think when something comes to fruition that you have longed for, it's natural that at first it seems hard to accept. I think it's normal to spend a few minutes rolling it around in your hands, inspecting all the corners, deciding whether it's as great and as sweet as maybe you'd hoped it would be.

And so that was the season. The season that found me grateful, but hesitant to get attached. Actually, I think a lot of that was connected to our leaving military life. I hadn't realized all the security I felt in the life we had lived. There was a house we couldn't lose with a career that was next-to-impossible to lose, and so I just never stayed awake worrying about those things. So I think that was another part of the transition- living life on the outside of the comfort of security. Where government closings now meant we didn't get paid, and where a mortgage bill came regardless of life happenings. Last year life was good- just as good as it is now. But I couldn't enjoy it yet.

Now it's this year. THIS year I can enjoy it completely. And you know what? I think the best way to describe life is this: I'm determined to steward what we have WELL. We have a house. Who needs a place to stay? We have food. Who can I bring a meal to? We have money. Who needs help? We have time. Who needs relationship? What do I have and who can I bless with it?

I think I just got to the point where I was done worrying about how long our blessings would last; I decided that for as long as *it* would be mine, it was also mine to give. And the determination to hold my blessings with open hands became my new song. Because clenching onto things with a death grip takes so much muscle that it wears you out. And living in fear robs you of joy. And I was even tempted a few times to feel like God was surely going to take back the blessings eventually, because "_____ just went through ____, and my life doesn't have pain like that. So when is it my turn? When am I going to be taught a lesson?" And it felt like life was too good to last.

But then I realized that understanding of God is soooooo beyond flawed. And that is never the way He would operate. God doesn't give us stuff just so He can take it back and make us hurt. I look at it this way: the reason He gave us the parent-child relationship is to better understand how He parents us, right? And so on a smaller, flawed and human level, I can understand the way He blesses me by the way I bless my kids. If I want to bless Roman I might give him a ninja turtle costume. Because he loves to pretend and he loves fighting bad guys. But if I want to bless Liam, I'll buy him a big dump truck. Because he loves things with wheels. And because they don't love the same things, I don't get them the same things. And I didn't give them the toy in the first place just because I wanted something to take when I needed to "teach them a lesson!" I love them! I gave it to them because I wanted to bless them- because it brought my heart joy to bring them pleasure! BUT, when I need to parent them and teach them, I will do that. Still with love, though sometimes in a way that grieves them and makes them feel yucky. But only because it's needed, and not because it feels good and I was waiting to pounce. And the way I can best figure it to be,that's how it is with God and us, too. And that's the way it is with His blessings, too. It's not that we deserve them, but that they were given to us: to steward well and to revel in, and to use for His glory.

So I'm learning that when you can hold those blessings on the open palm of your hand, and you hold them out in front of you, fingers wide open, you can really enjoy them. You can see them, roll them around, and you can even give them away. And if all this rambling is too vague and you're completely lost I get it, but man...if you can get it then I'm just saying it's going to free you. It's going to open your heart right up. And the fear is going to flee and the joy is going to grow. Because when the hands that hold your blessings are open, you get the chance to really be grateful for them. And gratitude is a great best friend for joy. And when there is room for both of them to exist, there isn't room for much else.

And so I will continue to posture myself in a way that holds blessings with open hands. And I'll be grateful for as long as they're around. And no matter what God is, was, and still will be good.

Friday, April 18, 2014

a catch up.

I have eggs cooking on the stove so they can be decorated tomorrow, a hot cup of lemon tea cooling by my side, and the house is quiet because nap time is grand. So I can ask you- How ya been? :)

It's been quiet after the spurt of blogging for February, I know. That's because third trimester hit and I've been using nap times to NAP, and by the time evening comes I only know I need to find a bed. And stat. And so my usual pattern continues, and the closer I get to due date the longer the radio silence becomes. But here we are.

Hi. :)

So let's play a game of catch up, shall we? "How's pregnancy?" You ask. "It's good." I cannot complain. Partly because I have pleasant-ish pregnancies, but mostly because I am very aware at how much of a gift it is to be able to grow our family inside of my belly, and so the last thing my heart desires is to complain about the honor. So I won't. But for the sake of honesty I will admit that my ribs are KILLING me these days, I'm super tired and pretty fabulously grumpy some days. And I would be lying if I told you I weren't counting down the days until Henry can join us. It always blows me away when I think about the little guy that is going to join our world and be loved so intensely that the thought of living without him is equivalent to the thought of not breathing...and yet, sitting here right now, I don't even know him. That's wild.

I'm excited, though. I feel like life with two is incredibly sweet, and most days I walk around feeling like I've got the whole thing handled pretty well. That's not to be confused with "I'm rocking at this parenting thing"- what I mean is that I'm not overwhelmed by my job. It's totally doable and enjoyable and I feel like things fall into place pretty well. It's these moments I am taking time to enjoy an extra amount, though, because if experience has taught me anything it's that I won't have this feeling again for a year or so. And this feeling of successful maneuvering through days is one of the things I miss most about two months in with a new babe, when all I long for is a house that is run as smoothly as it used to be in the days of old.

Dear self, you will return here again. Power through.

Other news: Jerry is out of the intel world and into the world of business as of Tuesday. :) Same building, same company, totally different career. This is in line with his masters degree he has been working on (he is going to school full-time to get an MBA in Marketing) in the evenings, and he is beyond excited that he is moving into the career that appeals to him so much. Intel was a good transition out of the military and into civilian life, but it wasn't his heart. I'm so impressed by his bravery- it takes a lot to leave your comfort zone and a career that you love and leap into something with many questions and unknowns. But I married a brave man. And I love watching him go.

The boys are doing well. They are best friends and would be lost without each other, and genuinely love being inseparable until they don't, about 3% of the time, and then you can find them pounding on each other the way real brothers roll. It's all part of the game. But their hearts- Oh. Man.

I told you my ribs have been hurting, and that's kind of a massive understatement. Monday I didn't get out of bed except to feed children, and then to spend the afternoon in the ER making sure all was okay. (It is.) But during that time it was my oldest who made tylenol runs by his own offering so that I didn't have to move to get it on another floor. And it was my youngest who never sits still who spent HOURS by my side in bed, snuggling and tucking his feet into me so that I would be loved and comforted. You guys, being loved by sons is unlike anything I have ever experienced, and it makes my heart explode into little tiny pieces. It's a given that as a parent, I'd shoot the moon for them. It's amazing when that love is returned. I blame their dad. They watch their father and the way he treats me, and they copy it. That's the only way to explain the phenomenon that occurs when your 3-yr old notices that you don't have a seat and so he gets up to offer his own. Without anyone drawing attention to the fact that I had nowhere to sit, let alone asking him to surrender his cushion.

What men I have.

So when you ask me "How are you?" and I respond by saying, "I'm great. Life is good...." That's the real answer. Life is good. It is sweet. I love my family. I have more precious friendships here than I have ever had in one location previously, and that is coupled with being close enough to see friends from days past for important moments. And I spend my days being overwhelmingly grateful.

But that's another blog post. ;) Come back for tea tomorrow.

Monday, March 24, 2014

the day-maker

Today was Monday: grocery day. I have become an avid Aldi lover, so we always start there to get the basics and slide over to another store to grab whatever specialty items Aldi didn't have. It needs to be said that if you have never been to an Aldi, and there is one anywhere near you, YOU MUST GO!! NOW!!!! It's a sister company of Trader Joe's and can always be counted on to be found in the most ghetto shopping center around, but golly. The produce rocks my socks and the basic staples are so cheap you'll think it's a joke. I don't buy my meat or coffee there, but everything else is fair game!

I digress.

So we just pulled in, I handed Roman the cart-quarter, and I reviewed our plan of action with the boys: be good helpers, walk beside the cart, please don't ask for things that aren't on our grocery list. And for the love of all that is good, PLEASE DON'T RUN. And between there and the time he gets unbuckled, he lost the quarter. Twice. Three times. So I dig out the secret Aldi quarter stash in the ash drawer and explain that money is to be handled carefully and since he lost it that many times, he would have to wait for another turn next week. Mother translation: I don't have any more quarters in case things go south again, kid. Sorry.

Cue Lady Awesome.

She sees that Roman is distraught as I pull out our cart, and she smiles at me saying, "If it's okay with you, mama, I'd love if he got my cart out..." Shh! Lady, I'm teaching a lesson here. "...And it's been a long time since I've had little hands to help me with my chores." Dang it. So you want to bring joy to a sad little kid while reminiscing your days gone by, and I'm going to keep you from that privilege? Okay, fine. We'll teach the lesson of manners and thank yous today instead.

Lady gives quarter to kid. Kid gets cart. Kid smiles. Mother reminds kid of manners. Kid says "thank you." Into the store we all go.

Five seconds later, I have said "no" to at least five things, and Liam is in a dead sprint down aisle one.

Remix.

So I take a deep breath, and in the calmest voice I can muster, (Because kids are kind of like animals in that way. When you're angry and just need to get your hands on the little buggers, you have to let the pretend-sugar ooze from your voice in order to override the common sense that is screaming in their head, telling them to flee from danger and run for their lives!) I gather them quickly to my side. And there, kneeling on the floor on the right side of aisle one, and four feet into the door, we review our rules for the grocery store that day.

Take two.

Lady Awesome is now reaching for eggs as Liam grabs the milk and lugs it over, met by my celebration and encouragement. Meanwhile, Roman is giving himself props for getting the mayo into the cart like I had asked him. She leans over to me and quietly says, "Keep going, mama. I know it's hard when the days are long and it's inconvenient, but putting in the time now will make things so much better when they're grown. Remember, you're building helpers." I glance over through my tear-brimmed eyes to see her two teenage daughters standing with her cart.

Grateful, I utter some sort of inadequate expression of thanks and offer a trademark crooked smile.

It is some time later, around the cheese case, that we meet again. She approaches me and, in a hushed voice, explains that she and her daughters are buying some oyster crackers to feed the seagulls that are gathered in the parking lot outside. And, if I'm okay with it, would my boys and I like to join? Of course we do. We agree to meet over by the birds after putting our groceries into our separate cars, and she hands my boys the sacred bag of crackers to hold and bring over.

So I have the boys standing in the back of our SUV while I load the groceries from cart to car and barely finish explaining "Okay, boys, stay right there. I'm just running the cart over to the return and then we'll head over. Don't push buttons and don't hop out." And there, coming up to my right shoulder, is her oldest daughter. She hands me a quarter back and says, "I'll take your cart back for you."

Stunned. I am stunned. As if this lady hasn't already been kind enough, she has thought of every step I have to organize to make this happen.

Some people really know how to love on other people. 

It is among the flock of seagulls that we all meet up, passing the bag back and forth while making small talk with each other. We throw our crackers high in to the air and out in front of us, occasionally taking pause to laugh at small boys who prefer to eat many of the crackers that we expected would be in bird bellies. And we continue the dance until the bag is filled only with crumbs.

We exchange the expected pleasantries, me making sure my boys each look them in the eyes and say "thank you" and myself explaining how kind and thoughtful they were. And how much that made my day. She smiles and says, "I just really love when I see a mom with young children who is taking the time to do things the hard way- the right way. We are all in such a hurry these days, that we miss the big stuff. You're doing a great job, Mama. You need to know that."

And it was there in the Aldi parking lot that I cried.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Beanies



I cannot stop wearing beanies these days. Call it lazy hair days, call it winter, call it love of an accessory- I don't care what you call it. I just know I'm going to keep wearing it! Leave it to this gorgeous gal from my insta feed to make me keep coming back for more... 









Sunday, March 9, 2014

fin

Well, I think we have reached the end of the beauty series. I think I have covered the topics on my heart, as well as the ones good friends have asked to hear more about. There are a few more questions on my radar that I may cover later, but I think this is a good stopping point.

So I just want to say "thanks."

Thanks for reading.
Thanks for coming back.
Thanks for hearing my heart.
Thanks for being brave. Brave enough to believe you are truly beautiful.
Thanks for the way you chase after life- trying to make each day better than the last.
You inspire me.
You touch my heart with the comments you leave.
You make my day with your private messages, exposing your struggles and trusting me with them.
You challenge me to keep pushing, making each of my days better than the last.
YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.
I hope you know that by now. Like, really know it. Deep in your bones.


And so it is with this post that we go back to regularly scheduled programming. If you know what the heck that means, please let me know! haha

A post is coming tomorrow with a regular It's Becker Style blog post. But for tonight, I just wanted to say thanks. I needed the closure. [And for those of you who are wondering what the HECK I am talking about, you can do a search in the bar on the top left hand corner of the blog under the topic "the beauty series." There are about 8 entries there that talk about some stuff.]

Thanks, you guys. I sure do think you're great. 


Monday, March 3, 2014

i hope you know

You know this blog- and the instagram and fb page attached to it- is only a puzzle piece of the picture, right? One small, edited, selected part of the whole.

You know that the outfit my toddler is wearing was taken before the spaghetti sauce dumped down his shirt and the booger slid out of his nose and onto his lip. Right?

You know that story I shared when Jerry made me feel loved is totally true, but what you don't see are the times we are duking it out, working and praying hard so that this marriage actually IS as sweet to be in as it sounds like it is. Don't you?

You know that new sofa looks nice sitting in front of the window, but there is no picture that lets you see the time we have taken to save up for it, or the thing we didn't buy in order to get it.  I hope?

So why do I share these things? Why do I post pictures of the time I actually got dressed, when I am currently blogging in my sweats with no make up? Sweet friend, I feel like you need to know that I have no interest in being disingenuous. My heart isn't to make my life seem glamorous- in fact, I can assure you it feels like nothing of the sort. So why choose to share that thing?

Why do any of us choose to share the things we do?

I keep thinking of this quote at the beginning of the book by Donald Miller, "Blue Like Jazz."

"I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn't resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes.

After that I liked jazz music.

Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way."

I share outfits, room décor, and kid pics because I have a heart to inspire others. To help. To create. To enjoy. To create beauty in life around me. And because one of the things I love most in life is sharing things I love with others. Ask Jerry. If we go out to eat together, you will be forced to try a bite of that entrée I got at the restaurant that made me roll my eyes in sheer bliss, because I want you to taste something, too. If you are doing life with me, I will beg you to read the article that I just read and that touched my heart, because I want your heart to be touched, too. I will excitedly tell you about the amazing price I just got my new coat for because I want you to enjoy the sale with me if you need a new coat, too! You see... I just love living life beside people. I love savoring it.

I'm the girl who genuinely chooses to spend her time counting her blessings and not focusing on what she doesn't have. I believe life is beautiful and God is inspiring and our days should be embraced with a conquering yell in our lungs and wide-open arms. I believe life is sweet. It's a joy. It's a privilege. I believe in living with open hands- that the blessings I have may be counted a such, but to also be ready to give at the second they are asked. I love to look at the homes/outfits/food my friends [and cyber friends!] post to insta/pinterest/fb and be inspired by it. And so I add my "noise" to the bunch in hopes that others will be inspired and will, in turn, inspire me right back!

I don't believe a person's value is attached to their outfit. I don't believe a home needs pretty things in it in order to be filled with joy. I don't need validation from others to know that my life is an honor and a pleasure to live- I only pray I live it well. And I hope you are living yours well, too.

So if you have ever walked away from a blog post wondering if that's all I cared about, know that it's not.
If you have ever questioned whether I shared the picture of my home trying to impress you, know that I didn't.
If you have been tempted to think I use superficial means to define the worth of those around me, know that I don't.

I just want to suck the very marrow out of life. And I want to enjoy the beautiful things and precious moments in it. I want to celebrate the victories and process through the trials and remember the lessons. And I love to share them with you.

Thanks for walking life with me.     ----/--@

Friday, February 28, 2014

rules to wearing color

I've done a few color posts before:

But recently a girlfriend of mine told me she had all of my "closet top ten" items, but was looking to step outside of the basics, and was I so inclined to write a post on that. So, I got to thinking... what are the "top rules of color wearing?" I don't promise to be infallible, and we all have our own feelings on color, but I'll give it a stab. Keep in mind, rules are meant to be broken. And color is SUCH a personal thing, that you may completely disagree with everything I say. The beautiful thing about color/self-expression/style is that it's totally okay!! We all decide for ourselves what we find to be beautiful and pleasing to the eye. 

1. The color wheel is your friend. You know that kaleidoscopic circle from elementary art class? Get to know it!
Everything I've read about mixing color agrees that it's safe to use side-by-side colors or across-from-each -other colors. (artists: insert technical terms for this phenomenon here.) So blue and green or blue and orange are great color combos that you can be sure of.

2. Mixing tones of the same color is as beautiful as it is easy. Vibrant kelly green with a pastel green. Bright, kingly purple with a pale lavender. All good! You've probably played with this using a black and gray or chocolate brown and tan, so now just take it a step further.

3. Look outside. I find God is a pretty good user of color. ;) So if a fish in the ocean can be coral and turquoise, why can't your outfit? If a bird can be a lemony- yellow and lime green, why can't you? If an eggplant can sport the purple and green color combo, it's already been established that those colors are a good pair. So look at the food you eat, the scenery around you, and the creatures that move to get inspiration!

4. Any animal print goes with any color. Pick one of each and let them hang out! And when you're ready to take it further, the next step is to use the animal print as your neutral and pick another two colors to work with it. Or heck, throw a pattern in there, too! Like a blue-and-white striped long sleeved tee with a military-green skinny jean and pointed leopard flats. Yes, and a red lip....and a big statement necklace with clear crystals.... haha. Sorry. I'll come back to you. Look, all of that works, but if a leopard print feels dangerous to you, one color with your leopard flats is still a great plan.

And after having personally experimented with color the past few years, this is what I've started to realize: any color matches any other color. You can pick literally ANY two colors and as long as they each have a partner, you're good.

5. Give each color a partner.  A sure-fire way to make two colors look like they belong together is to invite each color to play- twice. Yellow shoes, purple jeans, and a scarf with both colors in. Or yellow shoes, purple jeans, purple necklace, yellow earrings. When we see it happen twice, we assume it was on purpose. Abuse Use that!!!! **The exception to this rule is a colored pant. In my opinion, you can wear a colored pant and not have to use it again. You obviously didn't accidentally choose that pair of pants, and it's such a large chunk of that color, that you don't need to see it again.

An example is my outfit yesterday:

 Why it works: See what I mean about the pants being enough of a statement to hold down that fort? I don't need more red to make them belong. (Though had I wanted to add it again, a red lip could have been the perfect way to do that. Eye shadow is also another great way to use your makeup to be the second dose of a color.) But if I had worn the blue shoes by themselves, or just the necklace, it wouldn't have been as cohesive. I think it's a more completed combination when the two blues have a partner. (I also love that the Stella and Dot Peacock necklace- haha! shameless plug- also has greens and purples. It made it a little more exciting.)

6. Stick with two or three colors. When wearing color, sticking with two or three colors max will prevent you from looking like a kindergarten classroom on legs. And to me, "colors" are any colors other than your black, white, tan, and chocolate brown. These are commonly-accepted neutrals in my book. **The exception to this rule is when you're wearing a fabric that has more than two or three colors. When that's the case, you'll obviously be sporting more than that. But I would still stick to drawing out only one or two colors from that pattern.

7. Walk like a believer and others will believe with you. That simple truth is THE secret to color mixing. Heck, it's the secret to dressing, period! If you walk around believing that you are wearing is a great decision, others will come along for the ride with you! You know that person in life that you've identified as the "fearless dresser?" That person who seems to be able to rock anything and look grand? You may have even told them, "You can pull off anything! I could never wear that." Well, here's a secret: they are probably just doing whatever the heck they want. But because their choice is flattering to their body, it looks good. And because they walk confidently in it, it works. The lesson: you can be that person, too! :)

Now, get out there! Go and conquer color, my friends! It's really very hard to go wrong.



Monday, February 24, 2014

but i'm not the size i want to stay

It's by this point that I assume the thought has been had, if it's going to be asked: But I don't want to buy new clothes because this isn't the size I want to stay.

Listen, as someone who went through the weight loss of several size changes in college, and who is currently navigating her third time through the whole "pregnancy weight gain then loss" extravaganza, I feel like I have some understanding on the matter. And I understand not wanting to spend money (and the time/energy to shop!) on something you hope not to fit in three months from now. After all, money doesn't grow on trees.

But what if it's worth it in the big picture? If you don't work the way I do, you're on your own here. However, for those who ARE like me, let me tell you what I've learned to be true about Lauren Becker: When I feel good about myself, I'm much more motivated to continue the good eating choices and exercise. A good outfit makes me feel like I can get a lot accomplished that day. But when I feel bad about myself, I want to give up and feel like it's all pointless. For those shouting a mental "Hallelujah! I understand"... keep reading.

It stands to reason, then, that budgeting $100 or so for some new CHEAPER pieces would be a far greater gain in the long run, if you have it. Now, that's assuming you're headed to Forever21, H&M, Charlotte Russe, Target, etc to do your buying. If you're a thrifter, you can set aside much less. Regardless of where you're headed to spend your money or what your budget is, I think we can all agree: now is not the time to be shopping at Barneys. But now IS the time to grab some pieces to change up your wardrobe to make it feel fresh; now IS the time to get some pieces that make you feel good about yourself so that you can get through to the next station.

I'll tell you what I do when I'm walking my way down through sizes. For pregnancy, I have about three different wardrobes: stage 1: "no belly but bloated and my jeans won't close," stage 2: "whoomp there it is" (the bump, that is), and stage 3: "I don't even think I have feet left, it's been that long since I've seen them."
And I have a set or two for post-pregnancy. (It helps here that I was heavier in college. I held on to some of the classics like tees and jeans from those days, and they are what gets me from labor and delivery to regular bod.) Now, before you go assuming the term "wardrobe" means an entire closet of clothes to choose from, let me clarify. One of these sets of clothes contains something like the following for me: one pair of blue skinny jeans, one pair of colored skinny jeans, one pair of non-skinny jeans, a pair of trousers for teaching lessons, two or three tees, a sweatshirt, and two sweaters. Because it's winter. In the summer, this would either be a few more tees or some tanks. But you see the theme. Super basic. Super simple.

Then we add the pieces that span multiple sizes easily. [You know it's good when I can wear the same thing at my non-preggo size AND at 35 weeks pregnant.] These are things like cardigans, blazers, leggings, flowy silk tunics, and long tanks. These are the work horses for now. And you make them look special and feel different with accessories that love you no matter the size. Scarves and statement necklaces don't judge. ;) And hey, cute booties never hurt anyone, either!

[These same lists can be applied to someone who isn't pregnant but isn't the size they hope to be throughout this next year.]

So, be real with me.... how hard are you shaking your head right now? I imagine you to be shaking your fist in outrage and rolling your eyes.  Look, I know money is precious and I am not in the habit of casually throwing it away. But for the few months it usually takes to bump down a size, and the few items it takes to help you feel good as you go, it's usually worth it to me. If for nothing else than for the motivation it creates/continues and how presentable I feel I am. And that way, if it takes you longer than you wish it would to actually go to that next size, you are able to be happy with your closet. Call me a freak, but that means an awful lot to this girl.


In case you are a list person, here is the above information in a different form:
Pieces that are temporary
one or two pairs of blue jeans in different styles
a pair of colored pants
dressy trousers
one sweater
two sweatshirts
two or three tees
a tank or two for layering

Pieces that can span several sizes
cardigans
blazers
leggings
flowy tunics
extra-long tanks

Accessories to add spice and variation
scarves
statement necklaces
cute shoes
fur/jean/etc vests

Saturday, February 22, 2014

i pinned it, now what?

It was sometime in the fall of 2006. A handsome young lad had asked me to marry him (on stage, right after i finished singing at my senior recital, in front of my college faculty and friends. so dreamy, right?!) and I was happily purchasing every wedding magazine I could get my hands on. Oh, the days before Pinterest..... it's like that is our technological equivalent to "back when I was a kid, I walked to school barefoot, in the snow, uphill both ways...." And I tore out the few gowns that made my heart stop and my mind dream and slipped them into the page protectors of my wedding notebook, saving them for the day I would shop for the one. The gown, not the guy. I find guy-shopping to be a rather unfruitful endeavor. You just can't find good ones off-the-rack. What's this? A fashion joke? Oh, Lauren, you slay me.

[It's at this point I'm beginning to wonder if I don't need to edit my thoughts before they become typed word.]

Anyway, finally the day came and my sister and I walked into the first boutique, right up to the saleswoman. I was a determined woman! "Hello. I'm looking for my wedding gown for next fall and I brought my notebook and I was wondering if you could help me find the perfect gown. Oh, by the way, it has to stay in the three-figures." And so she smiled, entertained by yet another wishful bride full of psychotically-specific hopes and dreams for a gown. And she flipped through my five-or-so pages of gowns. And what came out of her mouth next changed the way I went about understanding my personal style for the rest of my days. "Oh," she said. "I can see you like the mermaid silhouette, lace, and unique details. All of these dresses have those things in common. We'll start there." Or something like that. You should know I can't quote anything to save my life. Paraphrasers of the world, unite! *fist bump*

 ("THE ONE"- both man and gown)

But guys!!!!! That's when I realized it!!!!!!! It's a fairly common problem to not know exactly what our style is- and so our closet ends up being a conglomeration of a million different styles, making it hard to make one cohesive wardrobe that all works together. BUT, I think most of us can easily identify when we like an outfit or when we don't. SO what if we took the pictures of the outfits we liked, printed them, hung them on our closet door, and used that whole big group to identify our specific style!?!? All of a sudden, we realize what silhouettes we are drawn to, what pieces we just like time and time again, and what colors we continue to find beautiful... and we go buy those!? Oh, the things that can change!

So you pinned it/taped it/printed it...now what do you do with it? 1)find out what all of your outfits have in common and 2)make that your shopping list!

And yes, I'm dead serious. Go clothes shopping with a list. I swear by it. All of a sudden, you aren't in a store trying to decide whether you have anything at home that will work with that piece. All of a sudden, the money you are spending is going to pieces that you need. So you can stop thinking "I wish I had ____" only to get to the store and go, "Now what did I need???" I hate that feeling so much.

So print, tape, and analyze those pictures! Make that list! And sound your mighty "Yawp!" [Dead Poet Society fans, anyone?? Bueller?] For today, we plan. But tomorrow, WE SHOP!





P.S.If anyone else immediately noticed that "We shop" 
sounded a whole lot like the previous "Yawp" reference, 
and found joy in that...call me. 
We are clearly soul mates.


Friday, February 21, 2014

finding inspiration

So what to do when you aren't sure exactly what your style is? If we were men, I'd tell you to "go to the mattresses." (Making a reference from The Godfather normally makes a girl irresistibly hip and cool around men... but if you're like me, what you really squeezed in is a reference from You've Got Mail. Thanks for that, Tom Hanks.) But since we aren't, my advice is this: go to the magazines!

I remember trying to figure out my style for the first time in college. It began with my just trying to copy the outfits of an uber-fashionable, gorgeous friend of mine piece-for-piece,(sorry about that, again, Leslie) but fortunately became me trying to figure out my own style, not just copying someone else. And a disclaimer: I went super old-school, but it worked. It's not very techy, it's not very impressive, but listen- you grab a roll of scotch tape and a few magazines, and the closest pair of scissors to you....and you go to work. You dismember those magazines, a page at a time, cutting out pictures that inspire you in ANY way. For some, it may be literal- for some, you pull out a picture of an outfit with every intention of wearing that very thing. Other pictures will be for inspiration only. Maybe you don't want to wear the outfit, but you never thought of mixing those colors together. Or perhaps you spot a great way to wear a scarf that you want to try out. One may even find- egad!- THE way to wear knee-high boots that doesn't make one look like Pirate Harry. Grab that picture, I say! Grab it now! And tape the sucker....to the back of your closet door?

Told you this was impressive and high-tech.

And what you'll end up with, once those poor, beautiful fashion magazines have been torn to shreds, is something that, on its best day, looks like a history day project gone wrong. But! You will have inspiration and ideas right where you need it- with your clothes, where you get dressed, and somewhat close to a mirror.

But what about all of those Pinterest pictures you have dutifully filed away? Why not print them out and tape those, too? After all, you have them! A word of caution: the danger with Pinterest is that no one is helping to censor. That's great...and not so great. You see, no one was there to tell you that the outfit you loved was a good idea, or is flattering. Or is current. But therein lies the dilemma of fashion-meets-style: there comes a point that it doesn't matter one iota what is in fashion, currently, if it's not first of all flattering to one's body, and second, pleasing to one's personal taste. To say it differently: if it doesn't look great on you and you don't love it, what does it matter whether it's on-trend!? Am I right? AND YET, I think it's worth noting what is in style, currently. Add that factor to the decision. The best outfit is one that combines all three: current trends, that you personally connect to, and look fabulous on your specific body. Ah, the holy grail of fashion.

Okay, I'm getting wordy. Quickly, a few more tips:

IF fashion magazines aren't your cup of tea, that's okay. You can also achieve this same kind of inspiration by selecting some hollywood stars that are your age group and life station. (Google-->images) For me, I love Gwyneth Paltrow, Nicole Richie, and Rachel Bilson. They are my age-ish, and two of the three are fellow mothers. And since they have the personal stylists and money to be well-dressed, I always pay close attention to the things they choose to wear. My mother loves the style Diane Keaton and Barbara Walters. Who do you relate to? Who inspires you? And use them!!!

And if you're not sure which magazines to grab, because let's face it- they don't leave everyone with the warm fuzzies when you think of fashion magazines- I'll help, before I go.
Lucky: affordable pieces, every day style. slightly cutesy/preppy but realistic suggestions.
InStyle: the most well-rounded magazine, in my opinion. Something for every style, age, and budget. highly recommended.
Glamour: eh. more political and human-interest focused than fashion but some decent fashion tips.
Cosmopolitan: just no. Unless looking like a Victoria's Secret Angel is your goal.
Harper's Bazaar: a literal translation of the runways. all about the art, little about the practical day-to-day wearing. this probably isn't the one to choose unless you're really good at interpreting trends from the runway into the everyday. if fashion is your hobby, this is great! if not, there are better publications for you.
Vogue: see above.

Also worth owning:
Secrets of Style:InStyle's Complete Guide to Dressing Your Best Every Day. Click HERE for the link.





Tuesday, February 18, 2014

closet top 10

Today I'm giving you the "top 10"- the 10 things that everyone of every age and every style should have some variation of within their closet doors. Tomorrow, I'll talk about how to find your personal style to fill in the rest. :)

I will add that these 10 items are THE ITEMS I would encourage you to buy right, and buy well. Don't settle easily on fit- be picky. And if it costs a little more than you usually spend on a piece, that is okay. Spread out these purchases. But when it's all said and done, you are looking for timeless pieces that are going to be in style and age-appropriate for as long as they last. So if you go ahead and get the "good version," you only have to do it once.

"Do I need all of these items even if I'm a stay-at-home mom or other vocation that allows me to work from home?" Yes.
"Do I need all of these items if I live in a warmer, more casual climate?" Yes.
"Do I need all of these items even if I don't get dressed up often?" Yes.
Because in all of these scenarios, there will eventually BE a reason you need to dress up: church, baby baptism, funeral, wedding, etc and being inappropriately dressed to these events is unacceptable. (she says with love....) Obviously, though, the person who goes to a business for work every day will have more pairs of trousers and the mama who stays home will have more pairs of jeans, due to the nature of the job and quantity of time spent at certain locations. That's why this is a list of 10 items. You need one of each of these. More than one, only when it is necessary to you.


nude heels.
    why? because a pair of heels in the same color as your skin tone elongates your silhouette, creating the illusion of height and long legs. These heels are especially great when paired with skirts,  dresses, ankle-length pants, etc.  that show ankles and leg. Plus they go with every single outfit you could ever put on. Who doesn't want that quality in a pair of shoes??
   what to look for? a color close to your natural skin color, patent or matte, round or pointed toe, in a heel height you are comfortable with.
 

black blazer/black cardigan.
(a cardigan is listed for those of you in tropical climates who can't hang in a long-sleeved blazer.)
   why? To go over dresses, with jeans, or anything else you can think of. They are timeless and classic and can be as dressy or casual as you want them to be. Good for a grocery run or for work.
   what to look for? hip-length with sleeves that hit right at your wrist, arm holes that aren't too baggy, and a tailored waist. You want some good structural lines so they slim your waist visually and sit right at the top of your hips.  It creates structure for those with curves and can create curves for a boyfriend figure. If you are small-chested, thin lapels and two low buttons are just fine. For a larger bust, look for a more substantial lapel (the fold of fabric along the sides) and at least three buttons that come up to your bust line.


white button-down shirt.
   why? because they work with jeans one day and with a formal satin floor-length skirt the next. They work on every age, every style, every climate, and every outfit. Wear it with the sleeves rolled, a pair of jeans, and a statement necklace to almost any weekly-scheduled outing and you'll be put together and appropriately dressed.
   what to look for? no gaping between buttons, especially at the bust, when you move your arms back behind your body (this is a pipe dream for most of us. the most cost-effective way of dealing with this is to get some cheap beauty tape meant for such things or to use a safety pin and pin it sneakily from the inside.) Also, a fitted waist that hits at your hips, is able to be tucked in but not hanging down further than mid-buttox, and has a lapel width that flatters your build. (small frame, thin lapel. larger frame, larger lapel.) 


good pair of jeans in dark wash.
   why? a dark wash is dressier, therefore making one pair of jeans as versatile as possible. And a well-fitted pair of jeans can lift the bum, slim the leg, elongate the silhouette...are you in love yet?
   what to look for? POCKET PLACEMENT IS EVERYTHING. In an effort to keep this as brief as possible, I'll tell you to google it or shoot me a private message if you need further advice on the matter. Also, try to keep the fading to a minimum. That's generally not flattering on many legs and will put a fashion time limit on your jeans. Also, please see the note at the bottom regarding length. One more thought: bootcut is the most universally flattering cut of jeans. If you are not attempting to be trendy or don't feel confident in the choices you make yet, stick with these and you won't go wrong. Skinny jeans (and a good wide leg) can work on almost any silhouette, for almost any age, but there are lots of "rules" that go with them to successfully pull them off.


statement jewelry.
   why? these take any outfit and "crank it up a notch." It allows you to make  even a pair of jeans and a tee look stylish and fashionable.
   what to look for? I suggest having many of these, since you can get beautiful necklaces for $10 that look just as good as those that were $60+! Ebay and Etsy are great websites for these, and every store in the local mall has options. Grab them in several of your favorite colors and make sure they live up to their names- they should make a statement and be large/bold enough to grab visual attention.  My advice: only one statement is needed, between your ears and neck. Please don't wear large, colorful pieces at both places unless you're on a stage.

 
good "house clothes."
   why? because we all hang around the house during our "off times." snow days, sick days, weekends, evenings.... it's time to put away your lover's oversized items or old ones that don't match and get some that fit you well and are made to be flattering. Yes, flattering sweats (or yoga pants) exist. But they usually cost $30-40/piece unless you can catch a good sale. I think this is the hardest money to spend. Who wants to spend as much money on a pair of sweats as they do for a good sweater?? Let me ask you this: which will you wear more? I'm willing to bet you wear house clothes at least once a week- some of us, every evening. Can you point to anything else in your closet you wear as often? You know I'm all about cost-per-wear, homeslice.
   what to look for? These days we have sweatpants in a variety of fits, leggings in colors and prints, and yoga pants galore, which means you have many great options! Just find the style that fits your personal one, and is flattering, and pair it with a hoodie/sweatshirt that FITS. (this doesn't mean tight.) To know whether a sweatshirt is the right size for you, look at where the shoulder seam hits your natural shoulder. It should be the same place. Also, pay attention to sleeve length (it should hit right at the wrist just like your other shirts) and the arm holes should be just right. Not too small, not too large. Oversized hoodies are beloved, I know, but they just aren't flattering.

 
well-cut trousers.
   why? because there are situations that just call for a good pair of dress pants. Date night, church services, and life ceremonies will all take advantage of this item in your closet, even if you don't have to wear them to work in Monday through Friday.
   what to look for? Just like a pair of jeans, pocket placement in the derriere region matters! If your pants don't have back pockets, that's fine, but make sure that's flattering on YOUR body, and please be sure you have the right underwear. There should be NO visible panty-line. That is my biggest tip for any pair of dress pants: the right undies underneath! They should also just hover above the floor when you have shoes on. (read: NOT the top of your shoe, the top of the floor.)

 
a colored (NON-NEUTRAL) purse.
   why? because technically, one shouldn't wear a black purse with brown shoes, a brown purse with black shoes, etc., and who has time to worry about changing which purse to throw their keys into when you're running out the door?
   what to look for? A purse in a color you love! Easiest item on the list! If you have a colored coat, just make sure the two don't look like a holiday when paired together, and you're good to go.

 
black shift dress.
   why? because this can be appropriate for any event (holiday party, birthday celebration, dinner out, wedding, etc) when paired with the right accessories. You can even add layers like blazers or cardigans during the cold weather to make it a year-round piece.
   what to look for? I am posting a picture of the most universally-flattering style below. Look for a neckline and sleeve style that flatters your body (either buy a book that helps you figure out your body shape and the way to dress it, become besties with google, or shoot me a private message if you don't know what this means for you!) but most importantly, it's the tailoring of the dress that matters. You should see darts around the bust line in most styles, and ALL should have a tailored waist and hit an inch or two above the knee.

 

 
black pumps with a medium heel height.
   why? because your nude pumps are great for every situation that leaves leg or ankle showing, but what do you wear with jeans or dress pants? These!
   what to look for? a medium heel height is the most universally flattering. If you prefer 4" heels, you go, girlfriend!! And if you're a kitten-heel kind of gal, do what you need to do BUT know that those ballet flats and kitten heels come with a set of styling rules, or they can turn into your legs' worst enemies quickly. For the safest move, stick with a medium height (2") heel. Toe shape and heel thickness will change with the times, so stick with something that pleases you and go with it. My favorite will always be the pointed toe with a pencil-thin heel.
 

**SOME TIPS.
-don't give up on your shoes when they have had better days. They can be re-heeled, re-soled, re-tipped, etc. Cobblers are still around and easier to find than you think. I have put heels on shoes 4-5 times until the upper part of the shoe gave out. And it generally costs around the price of a pizza.

-EXPECT TO HAVE PANTS AND BLAZERS ALTERED. To say it nicely, you are a freak if you can buy these items perfectly-fitted "off the rack." In many stores (Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, Nordstrom, Seven For All Mankind, etc) they offer free or reasonable in-store tailoring. If they don't, a good seamstress in your town can hem a pair of pants for $10-12. Many can even recreate your original hem!

-in a perfect world, if you can afford it, you will have two perfect pairs of jeans and two perfect pairs of trousers as they are listed above: one hemmed for flats and one hemmed for heels. If you are wearing the same pair of pants for both, it is safe to say they are the incorrect length for at least one of those pairs....maybe both! Eek!

-I also recommend having a classic, tan trench coat for spring/fall/rain. They are classic, timeless, and flattering. Bonus points to those with one in their closets!