Monday, November 28, 2011

Chop Chop!

Ok, y’all, here’s a few pics of me and mah hurr.

ash ashnyc







It’s about the length of the first photo, except the layers are mostly non-existent at this point so I’ve got a lot of triangle-head action going on. Time for a cut! Friends have coined the term “going A-Ray on yourself” from me cutting my own hair. It comes out cute about 75% of the time and I’ve done it for years, only making it to a real salon once a year or so.

I’m going to the salon for my next cut because I don’t want feel like messing with it, and I found a great lady at Hair Cuttery so it’s all kinds of inexpensive.

This is what I’ll be going for – actually very similar to the cut in the middle pic above, but no bangs, stacked in the back and maybe even a little asymmetry! For the last couple of years I was working on growing my hair out, but that just never turns out pretty, so I finally gave it up with my last cut, and now want to go even shorter. Especially during the winter, I love a short ‘do because it’s easy to straighten, and straight hair (for me) doesn’t get very messed up under winter hats, the way curly hair does (for me).

ashstraight Me with short, straight hair. It starts out way straight but curls at the ends, always. My hair straightens very easily (yay!) but also reverts back to curls with even invisible amounts of moisture, like the amount that’s on your hands just by . . . being alive.

My hair doesn’t have the same curl featured in the pics below – my curl is more spiraled and tight, especially when short – but the basic cut and shape is what I’m after.

When I actually get around to having it done, I’ll share pics with you so you can ooh and ahh. Please ooh and ahh. Don’t tell me if it’s ugly!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Shopping You Can Feel Good About

Don't forget, in my shop now through Monday, 11/28, you get free shipping on every item and 20% off when you use coupon code: NOVEMBERHOLLA !

Get yourself a cup cozy or headband - they're great a stocking stuffers, Secret Santa exchanges, paired with a cute mug or necklace . . . gifts for you or someone you love.

10% of each sale is donated to the Emergency Fund, which helps low-income folks in the Chicago area with immediate financial assistance during a crisis or transition. I use re-purposed materials in my items as much as I can - you can feel good about this purchase!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Charitable Businesses to Check Out!

I love the opportunity my Etsy shop has given me to benefit my community – via financial donations, in-kind donations, volunteer opportunities and networking. I’ve met some incredible people and organizations through the charitable endeavors of my shop and I want to share some other businesses who give back! When you buy their awesome stuff, you’re not just supporting an independent business owner, you’re supporting a good cause as well!

Jewelry By Design – Philip Voetsch is the owner of Jewelry By Design and is also the designer of this gorgeous Blackberries cluster pendant. I know of this store in Kansas City through my friend Carrie who works there and has her own jewelry shop, Zarily, at Etsy. You can shop in the store or you can shop online, but whichever way you do it, purchasing something from the Blackberries collection means a donation will be made to Harvesters, the Kansas City area food bank! Jewelry By Design has a really active Facebook page where you can see customer testimonials. Jewelry By Design designs, creates and sells their jewelry and they can help you re-create old jewelry that you don’t wear any longer. If you’re looking for unique, high-quality jewelry, this is the place I would go!

Holly Knitlightly – Holly is a Twitter pal of mine, and dude – check out the awesome knitted stuff in her shop! She’s got a collection of cowls right now in a variety of colors and what I love is that she styles them on her models in a offbeat way. I would have just thought to hang that sucker around my neck! For EVERY ITEM sold in Holly’s shop, she donates a knitted square to the charity Knit-A-Square, which puts them together to make blankets for orphaned children in South Africa. Go Holly!!

Jac and Elsie – I got to know Jaclyn when we worked together on a blog post for the Handmade With Purpose blog earlier this year. Jaclyn’s shop offers a great variety of items because she works with new, repurposed and vintage jewelry and accessories! Certain sales in Jaclyn’s shop go toward Autism and Cancer charities, like this customizable necklace that will benefit Autism Speaks, which is the United States’ largest organization dedicated to the research, treatment and cure of Autism. Love to see handmade artists who give back via their shops!!

Sweatshop of Love – I’ve written about taking a knitting lesson from Allyson before. I just love her. She’s so funny and unique and is a knitting FIEND. She is what I point people to when I say, “Knitting isn’t just for Grandmas!” Well – Allyson has been working on a project for a friend who is establishing an organization called WORK+SHELTER that will help women who live in the slums of New Delhi, earn money to improve their lives. Allyson created 4 of the CUTEST patterns, which have been donated to her friend’s organization. The women in New Delhi will use those patterns to create knitted beautimousness that can be sold. Additionally, when you purchase one of Allyson’s WORK+SHELTER patterns (so you can knit them up yourself), 50% will be donated to the WORK+SHELTER organization! Thanks Allyson!!

Now, if all that shopping has worked up a hunger . . . and if you’re in the Memphis area, stop by Mama Mia’s Pizzaria and grab a slice! Ok, maybe they don’t sell by the slice – I mean, it IS Memphis . . . but you can get a whole pizza! Because you’re really hungry! From all that shopping! And supporting communities! Word on the street is that Mama Mia’s donates to local sports teams as well as the Special Olympics – I’m telling you, when I know a local business supports their community, I get loyal, FAST. So take note, all the rest of you pizzarias – give back to your community!

Check out the Handmade With Purpose blog. It hasn’t been active for a few months (it’s activity was concentrated in spring 2011) but there are still links in the sidebar to all kinds of shops that donate to their communities in some way. Plus, in the blog posts you’ll see specific items for sale in shops that give back. Get to clicking and see if anything catches your eye!

What businesses do you low that support their communities?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cool Shops Gift Guide

For today’s gift guide, I’m going to introduce you to some of the truly cool shops I’ve come across in the last year. Remember to include handmade items in your holiday shopping!

Mano y Metal is a shop in my Etsy team, the Chicago Style Crafters. Desiree has a variety of metal goodies, from stamped accessories like the bracelet above (which reads, “It has to get ugly before it turns beautiful – you know, like most newborns”) as well as other metal jewelry. One thing I love so much about this shop is the creativity of her photography.

Do Bats Eat Cats – another shop from my Etsy team. Darlene’s shop is mostly goth-inspired jewelry, which is not my personal style, but I love that it’s unique and serves a niche customer. She also has some pieces like the HOT bracelet above, which can work with almost any design aesthetic.

Blue Order – I got acquainted with Scott from Blue Order around a year ago, I think, after I selected one of his items for a Joy Division-themed treasury. I love the music and technology themes of his work as well as the way he makes art into items for practical use. I basically want to fill my house with all of his stuff, forever and ever, amen.

Spoonier – Spoonier is another shop from my Etsy team, run by Josh and Mike. They turn vintage spoons into rings and you can watch this cool video to see how. How freaking cool is this Washington D.C. ring? I’ll answer that: REALLY FREAKING COOL.

Cicada Grove – Cicada Grove is a shop in Iowa City run by my friends Alicia and Tony. They have a collection of prints that show up on tees, cards, posters, postcards. They have the best dang anthropomorphized State of Iowa I’ve ever seen! **Cicada Grove is launching a new shop in the next week so the Big Cartel shop I featured isn't open at the moment, but they are excited to email you when their new shop opens so you can check out the new digs! You can email them at and you won't be placed on a mailing list, no worries!**

Ododo Originals – I recently “met” shop owner Arimah on Twitter via a mutual friend, just a day or two later I am certain that I saw someone on my train wearing one of her gorgeous beaded hair clips! Definitely check this shop out!!

Remember when you’re shopping online this weekend, use these search terms in Etsy: Black Friday Etsy, Free Shipping Etsy, Cyber Monday Etsy – to find all the best deals offered! And don’t forget to shop at Big Cartel, too – they have sales just like the other sites!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Ready? Set? SHOP!

I decided I didn't want to wait for next weekend's Black Friday madness, so I got all crazypants in my shop today! That's right - today, all the way through Cyber Monday (11/28), you can get big discounts in my Etsy shop!

You're already going to find:
20% off your order when you use coupon code NOVEMBERHOLLA
Super cute cup cozies and headbands

And all throughout next week you'll see:
New items in the shop!
Including discounted packs of items!
And some new things I've never sold in the shop before!

Remember that 10% of all my sales will be donated to the Emergency Fund here in Chicago, which is an organization that provides immediate financial assistance to low-income folks who are going through a crisis or transition. The Emergency Fund helps cut through the red tape and can provide someone a bus pass to go job hunting or mattresses for their new apartment - the essentials that can make a huge difference in people's lives. I'm excited to think about what my small donation will be able to provide for someone in need . . . maybe they'll tell me and I can tell you!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

This, That, a Little of the Other

So last week I was all EIGHT BLOG POSTS A DAY and this week . . .


Sorry, y’all! How about a general update?

Well, last week was my big birthday blowout, aka The 2nd Annual Sara and Ashley Joint Birthday Extravaganza! It deserves it’s own post, and that will happen, but I’m waiting on some photos from other people. I was too busy having the time of my life to take many. Expect a lot of foolishness.

We are, for the most part, settled into the new house. There are still some things that need a “home” and I still need to put away most of ok, ALL of my clothes. I’m living out of bags right now. I will scrub and paint and hammer and tear down and sanitize and dig and all that but PLEASE don’t make me put things away. I don’t know why I hate it, I just do.

2011-11-04 20.46.20-1My husband and daughter preparing dinner one evening. She’s as tall as me and 12 years old. I’m over-the-moon about this because I stopped growing at 14 (I’m 4’10”) so she will likely get another inch or two before she stops, which means SHE WON’T HAVE TO HEM ALL HER PANTS AND SKIRTS HER ENTIRE LIFE!!!

I’m trying to get myself into the Etsy shop groove because we have now entered my busiest time of the year. I think I’m going to have to push a little harder because normally I’d have some sales already and so far, nothing. Eh. I love it but man, I am wiped out, you know? I know I’ll regret it come January, if I sit back and do nothing. Life is so hard.


This is a cup cozy I’ll be putting in the shop soon. I have a few colors – this green, a mottled brown, purple, a mottled cream. Each will have a different set of fabric covered buttons.

445199815 445194603This is an ear warmer headband I knitted and have been wearing on my bike rides to and from the train station. Yes, I’m still riding! I’m going to keep at it until the weather forces me to stop. Right now I’m doing a daily dance between bundling up enough not to give up and not being so bundled that I sweat like crazy (there are some big hills I have to climb on the way to the train in the mornings). I will likely put some of these in my Etsy shop as well. Instead of having a knitted/crocheted flower like the popular ones I’ve seen, I think I’ll do a little arrangement of fabric-covered buttons.

What else? Home is good, work is good. Vincent and I are going to begin working out to Bob Harper’s workout video. You know Bob Harper, right? The trainer from The Biggest Loser? This thing looks like a monster, I’m telling you. We watched it the other night (while sitting on the couch – I’ve also watched Jillian’s workout while knitting) and even the people he had doing the exercises with him couldn’t hang! They were dying and giving up. Vincent got 21 minutes into the hour-long cardio workout and quit. I’m excited for it to kick my butt.

I haven’t given up on Couch to 5K but I’m gonna shelve it until the warmer weather returns.

What are you up to these days?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Dance Party Friday: Karaoke Version

Tonight is the night, y'all! I'm going out with work friends for my birthday, in a joint celebration with my girl Sara. She's the one who is gaga for George Michael with me, the one who does the dance this guy does at 0:23, the one who shares a birthday week with me.

We're going to hit a few bars, grab something to eat along the way, and then - AND THEN - KARAOKE!!!!!

So for today's dance party, you get a glimpse inside my secret daydream life - being a karaoke star. Well, actually, it's notsomuch just a karaoke dream. I just daydream about being somewhere - a talent show, open mic night, karaoke, etc - getting up to a mic and BLOWING EVERYONE AWAY WITH MY AMAZING MOST MAGICAL VOICE.

See, I have an ok voice. Nothing special, nothing horrible. I'm actually a technically proficient singer - I've been in choirs and musical theater all my life until the last couple of years. I can read music, sight-read, I can harmonize and I can memorize easily. If only I had a kickass voice to go along with all of that, dangit!


Instead, I just have a mediocre voice - always in the chorus, rarely getting a solo. THUS ENTERS THE MAGIC OF KARAOKE. I don't need you to give me a solo, I'm gonna take one. And I'm gonna shine. Ok, maybe I won't shine, maybe I'll just be very nervous and sick to my stomach all night trying to figure out what I can sing, while everyone continues drinking and having fun. So tonight, I'm not out to blow anyone away. I'm just gonna have fun. But if I did have an incredible voice? I'd sing these songs:

This is one of my favorite daydreams. I'm onstage in a silvery dress and the lights are low. The band is behind me but you can't see them. At about 2:35 in the song, you can tell something is about to happen, and then BAM!!!! at 2:47, the spotlight turns on full power and my dress sparkles and my mouth opens and you can't believe the beautimousness coming through my vocal chords into the microphone and into your ears. YOU CAN'T BELIEVE IT ZOMG. And then at 3:35 I get even more amazing. I looooove this daydream.

So. Um. I never realized that this song, which I love so much, has a video that shows you my daydream from the Celine Dion song, rock version style. WOAH!!!! I so, so love Brandi Carlile and the way her voice just RIPS on "all of these lines across my face" at 2:54 just slays me. I love how her voice is all weebly wobbly like Patsy Cline's.

I want to sing this, and I want to scream and have enough air to do the entire section from 3:11 - 3:40 without losing it: ONE LAST THING BEFORE I QUIT I NEVER WANTED ANY MORE THAN I COULD FIT INTO MY HAND I STILL REMEMBER EVERY SINGLE WORD YOU SAID AND ALL THE SHIT THAT SOMEHOW CAME A LONG WITH IT STILL THERE'S ONE THING THAT COMFORTS ME SINCE I WAS ALWAYS CAGED AND NOW I'M FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!! I can't believe Dave Grohl doesn't like how he sounds.

I don't think I really need to say much about this song. I don't have an elaborate daydream for it. Adele is getting a little played but that's because she is phenomenal!! I sing this loudly when no one is home. The video is beautiful.

Raised on this band and Mama Cass - oh, to sing like Mama Cass.

I once sang "Just a Girl" and my friends thought I rocked it, but I'd rather sing this one. I love it so!

Ok - now this isn't my favorite Beasties song, but it's great, on my favorite album of theirs, and the last verse? MCA's? INCREDIBLE. I was at a party once when this came on and I began rapping along and after I did MCA's verse, people actually CHEERED! I felt pretty awesome after that. I think the likelihood of doing a Beasties song tonight is pretty high.

Ain't No Way - For me to siiiing this song . . .


Really, I'd love to be able to sing anything that Glen Hansard sings or writes, but this song is just awesome. It's even better in the scene from the movie (Once) where they perform in a recording studio. He can just WAIL.

Oh yes. Singing hard all the way to screaming! I actually can't scream, did you know that? I mean, I can't do a high-pitched shriek, and I can't make my voice do that scratchy, ripped sound. As soon as I get close, it's like God mutes me or something. No sound comes out. I would love to sing this part but you just can't do it without the screaming, you know?


What do you like to sing when you go to karaoke? Do you have any karaoke daydreams?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Build Your Resolve Now

I’m angry about Penn State and boys being raped and molested. I know you are, too.

I’m angry at the man who did it, and the men who knew about it and didn’t make it stop.

I think that anger is completely justified. I also think that it’s easy for us to say what we would have done, if we’d been in those circumstances. Now, hear me out – I’m not about to excuse anyone’s actions. No way. But I do understand the pressure to keep quiet about something bad, in order to protect others. I also understand that when faced with a trauma, people make mistakes. They make small mistake and they make huge mistakes. People make decisions and get embroiled in things that they wish they could get out of. That they regret and feel indescribable guilt over for the rest of their lives. And they can’t take it back. They’d give their lives to take it back, but they can’t.

Making mistakes when lives are on the line is something many people do. It is a normal thing. It is a human thing. Being scared shitless when faced with a huge, life-changing decision, and being frozen, that is also a normal, human thing.

Because of this, I can understand what all went down with Penn State and it’s horror show.

The thing is, all that is still not good enough. “I was terrified and I had enormous pressure on me to not bring scandal to the lives of many” is JUST NOT ENOUGH when we’re talking about lives, about children, about rape.

I suppose what I want to say is – you and I, the ones who are outraged and sickened and who have sobbed over what has happened to those children – we are human and capable of making those same huge mistakes as the Penn State guys did. Yes, we are. You may want to think you’re not capable of it, but we are all human and we all have the capability of FUBAR – fucking up beyond all repair.

Stuff typically tends to go FUBAR in the heat of the moment. You take that grad assistant coach and sit him down in a comfortable chair and read him a story about a kid getting raped. You tell him “What would you do if you walked in on it?” Bet you anything he says he’d walk right over and stop that shit. He’d rescue that child. Then he’d take the kid to the hospital or the police station or at the very least home to his parents. But he would stop it from going any further.

In the moment, that is not what happened, is it? And we say, “How could anyone, especially a 28 year old person in grad school, just walk away from that child?” I don’t know how he did it. I don’t think I could, but you know what? It didn’t happen to me.

NOW is the time we have to say to ourselves – NOW, when we are in our comfortable chairs and we’re reading the story in front of us - "When the traumatic thing happens in front of my eyes, I will not back away from it. When I come upon a situation where someone is being harmed, I will step in and do something. When I’m faced with telling the truth and possibly bringing a big mess down on my head for being honest . . . possibly destroying careers, organizations, reputations – I will do the right thing. I will do the very, very hard thing. I will do the courageous thing." We have to say this to ourselves now so that it won't be so hard to do, then.

I would like to think I am a better person than the Penn State people who turned the other way when they knew children were being raped. I would like to think that incredible success and wealth and pressure would not keep me from doing something so horrible. But I am human. I am capable of being just as evil as the next guy, if I let myself be. I don’t want to be that way. I’m guessing you don’t want to either. So today, we have to tell ourselves that when it’s in our face, we will do something about it. We have to build resolve, NOW. Because when the situation IS in our face and we have to make the right decision, our fear can ruin everything.

The American Dream and Education: My Plans as a Parent

I don’t believe that bigger, or better is truly better. I think it’s deceptive and doesn’t really fulfill us. So I’m not pushing my kids to live a “better” life than I have, at least not in terms of material accomplishments. Instead, I’m pushing my kids to learn about themselves, to learn about the world, to learn about service to others and to learn about hard work.

And – I have a plan!

My kids (ages 12, 10 and 4) are already learning to work hard. They have homework and chores. They are learning to cook and to do their own laundry. They are learning to manage their money. I take them with me to volunteer because I want to instill that value in them, and I want them to be comfortable with people in need. I want them to get to know what causes people to be in need and I want them to understand that it is a normal experience. EVERYONE needs something or someone and I don’t want my kids to look down on someone else for being in need. I also don’t want my kids to feel bad about themselves when they are in need.

As they get older, they will have to get jobs. They might start out with something like babysitting, but before they leave high school they need to have worked someplace where they have taxes deducted from their paycheck. I will encourage them to work in food service. I will send them to temp agencies so they get a variety of work experiences and so they can receive job training. I will take them to work with me and have them help me with filing and other office tasks. I can’t tell you how valuable office experience was to me in finding better-paying jobs than my peers during college! I want my kids to have manual labor jobs, too. Landscaping, construction, hospitality, cleaning, etc. I want my kids to learn how to WORK. They need to experience crappy bosses and crappy pay and crappy work conditions. They need to learn how to not give up just because their work sucks. Because guess what – all those things exist even when you work in prestigious, high-paying jobs. Those things exist whether you work in a traditional industry or when your work is on the cutting edge.

We will push them to get very good grades and to be involved in a variety of activities, not so they can get into the best school – so they can get money for school! They will apply for as many scholarships and grants as possible. I hope that we can finance their entire college education that way, but if those things don’t happen, then my kids will work to pay for their schooling. If they need to go to school part-time so they can work more hours or to accommodate a better-paying job, then that’s what they’ll do. If they need to work for a year or two after high school before starting college, fine. They will hopefully enter college more mature and with a better idea of what they want out of college. We will consider letting them live at home to offset their expense, but they will work and they will contribute at home. Sure – 4 years away at a great school would be a fun and enriching experience for them. But that is NOT the only way to “do” college, and it’s not the only way to have fun or to be enriched.

The things I’ve described aren’t outlandish. You know what they are? They’re what working class and poor people do to survive and to attain success. More and more, these are the things middle-class people are going to have to do. And I think there is a lot of value in those experiences. I want my kids to learn how to live on less, to value experience over things and to be able to handle difficult circumstances without crumbling. So I don’t buy the American Dream anymore (at least I’m trying very hard not to) and I’m trying not to teach it to my kids. Our culture will teach it to them plenty, but my kids will at least have been armed with the ability to survive and thrive when the bottom falls out of the dream for most others. Here’s hoping, anyway.

Read the first two posts in this series:

The American Dream and Education: Wanting Better For Our Children

The American Dream and Education: College Without Debt

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Adam Braverman Saves the Day

On last night's episode of NBC's Parenthood, there was a scene that gave me happy chills. I was sitting there with my hand up over my mouth, on the edge of the couch, staring at Adam Braverman (Peter Krause's character) with such love . . . ;)

See, in the show, Adam and his wife Kristina recently had a baby - a very unplanned baby. They already have a teenager and a younger son. Adam and his brother just bought an old recording studio and are trying to turn it into a profitable one. They also hired an assistant who is super crazy young and SMOKING hot.

Kristina is dealing with the I Just Had A Baby And Feel So Incredibly Not Hot And Self Concious stage that most women go through during the weeks & months after giving birth. It takes quite a while for the body to "bounce back" to its old self, and the truth (sorry, y'all) is that for most women, it never does bounce all the way back. Especially after having more than one kid. On top of all that, your body's hormones are still trying to regulate themselves, so your emotions are just all over the place and heightened. You feel gross and your body is healing from birth, so even if the Dr. has given the ok to have sex again, you may not feel ready. You might be scared of pain, of not being attractive, of not enjoying it. Your hormones are trying to tell you "Slow down, you just had a baby" so you may not even be interested in sex. Still, sex is important for most relationships so going weeks and months without it can strain the relationship. And it's like - your husband is giving you space because he knows you're not ready yet, but the fact that they aren't trying to get it on makes you feel like you're not desirable.

It's a tough time to be a chick, I'm telling you. I've been through it 3 times. I remember one day on maternity leave after our last child was born, watching something on tv that prompted me to go look in the full-length mirror. My husband came home and I was sobbing on the couch about how horrible I looked and how I was never going to be hot again and, well, he had to do a lot of encouraging so I wouldn't totally lose it.

So in the scene below, Adam's recording studio is having a big launch party. Kristina is in the red dress, the smoking hot assistant is in the black jacket, and Adam is the guy who totally blew me away with how sweet and loving and real he is when talking to Kristina.


Watch it and sigh with me.

The American Dream and Education: College Without Debt

I work at a private, VERY expensive graduate school, and most of the students have come to our school straight from undergrad. Many of them haven’t worked full-time and the work they’ve had has been low-paying work – retail, babysitting – not something one can make a living off of – at least not a middle-class living. You know there are people supporting entire families off of retail, right?

TOO MANY of these students aren’t prepared for the rigors of graduate school, or life in the workforce after graduation. And it’s not that these aren’t good candidates – these students are great on paper. They have high grades, an interest in serving their communities. They want to make a difference in the world and they have brains. But so many of them have had a very nice lifestyle given to them by their parents, and their parents have held their hands through much of life (you know, helicopter parents). They were raised by parents who didn’t ask them to get jobs in high school and college because they believed that their child should be allowed to focus on school and personal fulfillment/development. I don’t think that these parents were lazy or didn’t care about their kids – in fact, I think they care very much and worked very hard to provide a happy life for their family. But I think their parents bought into the American Dream, just like most of us have (including myself). Unfortunately, many of these children became adults who struggle mightily with the pressures and hard work it takes to survive in this world.

Me? I went to a junior college on scholarships and grants, so I got two years of college for FREE. I then transferred to a state university. Much less prestigious than the schools many of my friends went to, but a solid education nonetheless and at a fraction of the cost. This was funded via grants and small loans. I didn’t finish my bachelor’s degree. I got pregnant with our oldest child, dropped out and joined the work force. I wish I had finished because that degree could have helped me at times, but I have earned a good living even without it.

How did I do such a thing? I developed good work experience during high school and college – it wasn’t that well paid but it taught me a lot. I developed skills, learned how to navigate the workforce, and built a resume. It was that experience that got me into my first full-time job and from there, each job added to my marketability. Now? I’ve been working full-time since 1999 and make a good living, in a good job – and I still don’t have my bachelor’s degree! I waited to go back to school until I had tuition reimbursement, and until I found a degree I was willing to invest in. I finance my education with a mixture of tuition reimbursement, grants (finally pays to be working class with kids, woo hoo!) and a very small amount in loans.

I know quite a few people who have master’s degrees and are unable to command the salary I can because they simply don’t yet have the experience and skill I’ve developed. I also know people with graduate degrees who can’t find work, not even crappy work. The economy right now is a tough and very competitive place, and that is really unfortunate for those who have invested so much in expensive educations – especially if they did it with loans that aren’t paid back yet. Now, I do want to finish my bachelor’s degree and I’m considering getting a master’s degree. But I won’t do it if my only option for paying is loans. I have seen over and over that loans are crippling the young adults who have been told that prestigious degrees are their ticket to success.

Read the first part of this series, The American Dream and Education: Wanting Better for Our Kids.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

True Success and True Failure as a Coach

I’m sure most, if not all, of you have heard about the child abuse that took place in connection to the Penn State football program. This hits particularly close to home in my family as my husband is a high school football coach and has also coached little league football (middle school grades). Abuse like this can happen anywhere – through an organization like a school or a church, within a family or neighborhood. It can happen at the hands of a stranger.

And you know what – I can understand why people turn towards a cover up. If someone I knew well and respected, whose success was tied up with my own, was rumored to have been doing something horrible to a child, I wouldn’t want to believe it. I would think, if I call the cops and it’s not true, everyone’s reputation will be tarnished, people could lose their jobs, they’ll be branded forever as a monster even if it turns out it wasn’t true. I can understand the pressure against making that call.

But that’s where we see people’s strength and character, right? When a child’s safety – when unknown children and their safety is at risk – you must, you MUST put those concerns aside and do what is best for the children. Shoot, it doesn’t it even to be children, it could be adults.

Besides the horror of what was allowed to happen, including university administration not alerting ANY authorities (what?!?!), it makes me so sad to see coaches and other people who work with kids, tarnished that way. My husband coached a group of boys for 3 years in a row, starting with their 6th grade year in little league football, through their 8th grade year. He became very close to those kids, some of whom came from pretty disadvantaged situations. He was a major mentor for some of them. He chaperoned parties, went to parent-teacher conferences when parents had to work. He took them on trips to tournaments, had them over to our house for pizza parties. He counseled them, required them to give them progress reports from their teachers. We got to know the families and life situations of these kids. For one boy in particular, he was seriously a father figure.

Then we decided to move to Chicago and we had to step out of their lives. He felt such guilt over leaving some of the boys. They depended on him. Some of the boys did well in school and football (and other sports and activities) and some of them didn’t. Some of them got into major trouble, including jail time. At one point we considered seeing if one of the boys could come live with us in Chicago, because he wasn’t getting the guidance and support he needed at home, but that didn’t happen.

Since then, my husband has coached at the high school level, as a freshman coach. Every year, his freshman want to move up to the next team but are sad to not have my husband as a coach any more. My husband is about fundamentals and developing a love for the game. He has a special connection with a couple kids each year. Just recently, a player on the varsity team was featured in a Chicago Tribune article and you know what coach he talked about? His freshman coach, my husband.

He’s kept in touch with the little league kids – who are now men, actually (which is so hard for me to believe!). They’re college aged. Some of them are in college, some are working, some are fathers. One of them played football at a junior college and just received a football scholarship to a well-known university in our region, and he’s asked my husband to go with him on a campus visit next month. My husband has stayed in touch with him all these years, coaching him over the phone, watching game tape and sending him feedback, talking to him about life. When we visit my family, my husband visits his football kids and their families, his fellow coaches who are still in town.

THIS is the good a coach can do. This is how a coach should be. A person who is given access to children is supposed to enrich them, not damage them. They should not be above reproach. If anyone ever suspected my husband of causing harm to a child, damn right they should look into that, even if it means a heap of trouble for our family. Even if it meant my husband's chances of coaching again were ruined, I'd hope that the matter would be investigated fully until everyone concerned was satisfied that he hadn't done anything. The safety of our kids is too important to do anything less.

I am so proud that my husband does it the right way . . . and I am so sad for the children who were harmed by that sick, twisted man. I am so sad that a group of coaches and administrators put their jobs and their salaries before the well-being of children.

The American Dream and Education: Wanting Better for Our Kids

I have a friend on Twitter, @blackgirlinmain (you can read her blog at who I have some of the best conversations with. Recently she was talking about the part of the American Dream that tells us if we go to college, we’ll get a good job . . . and how that really isn’t true anymore.

One used to be able to earn a good living as a tradesman, and college was for those going into professional work. A bachelor’s degree was something to shoot for and now it’s often the bare minimum expected, even in jobs that didn’t require them in the past. A bachelor’s degree is almost the new high school diploma!

Part of American Dream is that you should/must go to college, and that you want to shoot for as prestigious a university as possible because of how it looks on a resume and the high caliber education you’ll get there. Of course, the “better” the school, the more expensive it is.

One of the ideas that has become part of our American culture is that as parents, we should want our children to have better or more than we had ourselves. We want them to do better in school, make more money, have better jobs, have a better/bigger house, live in a better neighborhood. There is the idea that wanting this for your children is what good parents do. It’s become so accepted that no one really questions the virtue of these values. They aren’t seen as optional perspectives to hold – OF COURSE everyone wants their children to have better than they had.

I was discussing this with someone once – someone who is undeniably upper middle class. He has a Ph.D. makes a VERY nice living (so does his wife) and lives in a posh area in a gorgeous, expensive home. We were discussing the economy and he made an offhand remark that he wants his lifestyle to stay the same. I told him I wanted to stay “working class”, and he was surprised to hear that. People are surprised every time I tell them that. Shouldn’t I want my children to have an easier life than I have had?

The truth is, I don’t. I think that just like the idea of being “colorblind”, the idea of wanting more/better for your kids was probably well-intended, but has had a negative impact on our society and culture. There are only so many steps up the proverbial ladder one can climb, and as more and more people try to crowd onto the ladder, the harder it becomes to move up to the next step . . . yet we’re still taught that we should fight to get up that ladder.

Additionally, I think the idea that we should always be trying for more, for better, leaks out into everything we do. We must have a better car/house/phone/wardrobe/etc – why? And if you can’t get better, what happens to you? How many people were raised in middle and upper-middle class families, who have struggled to attain that lifestyle as adults, and feel ASHAMED because of their struggle? Ashamed to live in an apartment instead of being able to buy a house? Ashamed that they could only finance an education at a state university? Ashamed because they had to buy a used car? How many are ashamed at the idea of living a more working-class lifestyle, so they go into incredible debt to finance a “better” education, home, car, lifestyle? And where did it get them? Do they feel “safe” that no one will figure out how broke they are? Or are they always worried that things will crumble and they won’t be able to set themselves up the way their parents did?

I know that not all people who came from middle and upper-middle class families go through these struggles, and I know that everyone who struggles doesn’t feel shame over it. I see it quite often in my peers, though – and I don’t want that for my children.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Wall of Beautiful Sound

The below is from a friend - I want this!

"We went to a Quaker song circle last night. It was at this old farmhouse of this lady who used to teach at a Quaker school and we had a little potluck before hand with about 10 people. Most of them were in their 50s, but also two older ladies and a few people our age. The lady has a big culinary/medicinal herb greenhouse and has books all over her house about tinctures and "witches gardens" and Mother Earth news magazines and whatnot. So we ate and then sat in a big circle and sang out of a songbook. Everything from camp songs to Irish ballads to protest songs to hymns to Beatles. And everyone was really good at harmonizing and it was just lover-ly. Everyone was extremely enthusiastic and... present. A wall of beautiful sound."

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dance Party Friday: Don't Go, Summer!

Today's theme is all about summer. I know - we're solidly into fall and headed toward winter - why am I doing a summer Dance Party? Mainly because someone told me to. But the point is to say, "Goodbye, summer. You rock and where I live you only show up for like 2 weeks a year which makes me cry, so here's your very own dance party because I. Just. Can't. Let. Go."

Or something like that.

Anyway - it's my dance party, I do what I want! These are all songs I've rocked out to over various summers in my life:

Hmm. I think this was either a late high school summer or a college summer.

Early childhood summer - '83, '84, somewhere around there. Love, love, love the Go Go's.

Summer that Karate Kid came out! Wikipedia says it was 1984. Do you know which scene the song shows up in? Bonus points if you do!

Summer 2011! I know I was late but that's when I got into this song. All summer long, every day, several times a day.

Summer 2011 - Dude, this chick is such a bad example for young girls, but I am not a young girl and will not be influenced to drunkenly run around in ripped tights with leaves in my hair.

Summer 2011. I really wasn't into this when it was first released but then it won me over.

Summer 1998, before I met my husband, driving around with the roomie in the How I Met My Husband story, playing this over and over and over. Loudly.

Summer before sophomore year in high school! My friends and I drove around all summer listening to it. We were all packed into her old school station wagon - it fit us all and she was the only one with a license.

Summer before junior year in college! 1998 - listened to this in the early part of the summer before I transferred schools. I mainly remember it so specifically because I was dating a dude before that move & we both loved the song(s).

I think this was summer before my junior year in high schools, so...1994. This had come out a few years before and I was (and still am) in love with the entire album, but my friend Katherine (who I share a birthday with) and I listened to this song over and over and over. Are you sensing a theme??

Also summer before junior year - driving around with MANTA - My, Ashley, Ngan, Thy and Alicia. Oh, and Kelly, Ebony and Chris. EAST HIGH SOCCER ROCKS!

That's right, y'all, I listen to country, too! OOH - I need to do a country dance party! This was the summer before my sophomore year in college, so 1997. I listened to this and a lot of country that summer when I worked at a 4-H camp.

This was summer in my early childhood years - 84, 85, somewhere around there. I listened to this on my little Walk and Play. Similar to this one:

ZOMG THIS SONG. Another Walk and Play favorite. Can't Slow Down was a great album. Penny Lover, walk on by . . .

Man, this song still kills me. I love every bit of it. I'd graduated to a pink and grey walkman by this time and had a tape where I recorded this song from the nightly radio Top 10 countdown over and over until I filled the tape. With just this song. It was #1 FOREVER.

Alright, y'all. Any good summer songs you love?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

It’s Mah Buurrrrthday!

So far, I've received some chapstick from my husband (much needed - we can't find ANYTHING in our house right now), a bunch of Doughnut Vault scrumptiousness from my boss (shared with co-workers), a scarf/earrings set/candle from Ten Thousand Villages (a fair trade craft retailer) from a co-worker, and lots of Facebook happiness from friends & family. Tonight I'll have a yummy dinner and evening with the family, probably talk to my Mom and Dad on the phone. Next week I'll be out for dinner, drinks and karaoke with friends.

I also wanna share the love with you: any sales in my Etsy shop today come with free shippingAND a special surprise in the package! Just use this code when you check out: BirthdayHolla


Yay, birthdays!

2011-11-03 09.22.432011-11-03 09.12.12 2011-11-03 11.51.01 2011-11-03 11.52.50 2011-11-03 11.53.55 2011-11-03 11.55.50 2011-11-03 09.15.08

Also, I’m wearing my favorite socks today. :)

2011-11-03 12.02.07

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Our New House

As mentioned in an earlier post, my family needed to move – I say needed rather than needs because we’re all done – we found a place and moved in this weekend!

It’s a 2-minute (if even that) drive from our old house, a 10-15 minute walk (depending on which route you take), and keeps our kids in the same schools so they didn’t have to leave their friends. They can walk to our old neighborhood to see their friends and they already have school friends that live in our new neighborhood. Our townhouse division is right next to a big park with a few playgrounds, soccer tournaments, a bike & jogging path and a water park that we’ve already learned to enjoy (my favorite feature is the Toilet Bowl of Death). We were very fortunate to find this place – it was the only one that met our 3 important requirements: kids stay in the same schools, we can afford it, it has the same amount of space. In fact, this place has MORE space because now we have a small patio and back yard!

Wanna take a look? I know you do!


A look down one end of our street. We live in a townhouse subdivision that looks a lot like an apartment complex because there are so many cars, the houses are close together, etc – but we live down on the far end of the division, next to a big park, and on a U-shaped street off the main road, so we have much less car & foot traffic. Each townhouse has a 1-car garage so the 2 you see side-by-side belong to the 2 townhouses that are side-by-side.


Our front door, closet, stairs and our 4 year old. The walls throughout most of the house are this gorgeous gray/aqua color, and our black, white and red furnishings go perfectly – it’s like the owner new my most-favorite color combination and painted the place just to suit me. Unreal! (I bet @fertrue, my friend who is helping me brand my Etsy shop, will get a kick out that – and the rest of you, just wait til all my branding stuff is done – you’ll see what I mean).


Downstairs half-bath, in dark green. And just inside the bathroom is a utility closet which contains . . .


Our very own washer and dryer!! Throughout our married life we’ve had just about every type of washing machine situation – we’ve had building machines that took quarters, shared “free” machines with other tenants, we’ve had to use the laundromat – but this is the very first time we’ve had a washer & dryer ALL TO OURSELVES. At the moment, this is my most favorite thing about this place.


Walk past the half-bath into the living room and on the right is our kitchen, painted a sunny yellow. I love that there isn’t a full wall, and love that there isn’t just a chopped-out pass-through window.


Look, a pantry!


Here’s the actual kitchen.


Standing in the living room, kitchen to the right, and look – our patio! WE HAVE A PATIO, Y’ALL!! Oh – one thing I love is that our windows face very private areas so we can leave them uncovered and no one is going to be walking by and looking in. We’ve battled the privacy/sunlight thing for years as we always end up living in places that have windows in areas with lots of foot traffic.


Ok – upstairs landing area. We think a tv w/videogames & DVD player will go against that half-wall – it will be the kids’ area.


Our room (door open on the left), 4 year old going into our daughter’s room (yellow, like the kitchen), upstairs bath on the right, I’m standing in the doorway to the boys’ room. Our room and our daughter’s room look out over the back yard.


Our patio (that’s the neighbor’s patio with the picnic table). Our yard extends to the left behind the building, where there is another wooden fence stretching back to about where that tree is. Right behind the tree, the lawn slopes down to that brushy area, where there is a small creek. On the other side of the creek is a massive field, then a tree break, and on the other side of those trees are single-family homes and the big park/waterpark we like to go to, and the junior high the older kids will go to in the next 2 years. I’m really excited for next spring/summer, to plant some flowers and maybe something edible, for the first time. The patio/backyard/view is my 2nd most favorite thing so far about this new place, even though we’re headed into winter. I can’t wait to explore the creek area with the kids!

Vincent and I have spent the last couple years hanging out on our front porch/lawn, talking about re-doing the tiny garden area with pavers so it could be like a little patio, wishing we had a more private yard. We like to chill outside with a drink or some food, a book, music, friends, family. We like to watch the kids run around and play. Our last place was the first place we had a front yard area (it was our first non-apartment home) and now? Now we have a nice front yard but ZOMG LOOK AT THIS BACK YARD!!! We get our own small patio & yard but we get to look at this beautiful field, and trees. The location of our townhouse in the division is so awesome – 95% of the other townhomes have backyards that face other backyards. Ours is on the edge and next to the park so we really lucked out.


A view of the big field from an upstairs window.

So yeah – we’re very happy with the move. A month ago when we received the notice that we had to move, we never expected to end up in a place this awesome. We are very, very fortunate.

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