52 Thoughts | Unbranded

You are a person, not a brand.

With the wave of social media has come the notion of branding yourself. Are you a vintage loving surfer mom? A corporate climber who embraces a minimalist approach to life? Are you bohemian? Classically prep? How does your blog capture this persona? Is your Instagram properly curated? Have you maintained consistency with which filters you use? Are these things algorithm friendly?! Who are you? Which boxes do you check? Choose now or forever hold your peace. 

Can we back track a little? Let’s start with branding - actual branding. It’s a searing hot piece of metal pushed onto livestock for the sake of assigning ownership. This is my cow, not yours. 

In a commercial sense, a brand encompasses a product or services. It’s a set of colors and fonts and logos. Maybe a mission statement. This differentiates our product from yours. Our box is blue, yours is brown. We are not the same. We are better. 

So we’re at livestock and products. When did people become brands? Why is this desirable in social media? Because much like the college freshman asked “what do you want to be when you graduate?” the question of WHO ARE YOU? has a different answer everyday. You do not need to become an elevator pitch. The essence of you should never be boiled down into 140 characters. People are not brands. We’re not meant to fall into black and white lines of this or that.

I’ve been decidedly off brand in the past few months. Or at least what makes for pretty fashion blogger posts (I really don’t see myself as such anymore). Posting videos at bad angles, in bad lighting and without makeup. And ya know what? I feel more myself than ever before. And I’ve gotten better feedback than I have in years. Because the real, ever changing version of myself IS the best version of me. And the real YOU is the best too. 

So can I offer an alternative to the perfection and curated posts that are so popular on social media? 

Do whatever possible to avoid boxing yourself up into a pretty package. Imagine yourself instead as a tree. Let your roots dig deep. Establish a strong sense of character. Follow the path that feels right in your gut. Instead of polishing your external attributes, challenge yourself to refine your inner truths and morals. Let yourself stand up and be strong as you grow into the woman you were meant to be. Stretch your arms upwards and outwards. Giving thanks and seek the light. Let yourself unfold and blossom. And when the time comes, be open to changing colors and blowing in new directions. Hibernate and be reborn. And do it over and over again. For all thats good in the world, let yourself share the shiny and the ugly. The joy and the disappointment. The reality of life! 

Forget being trapped by box of being a brand. Darling, you’re so much bigger than that. 

The Edge of Everything

Old Jess

Old Jess photo from 2009. 

You know when you can feel yourself on the cusp of a big change? That’s how I feel right now. There are some obvious changes of course - I have a new baby and I’m now the mom of two children. Over the past year my body has gone from not pregnant, to full and round, to recently giving birth and now nursing. The weather is changing. The light shines longer. My newborn is now a baby and my toddler is becoming a kid. Nothing is static.

What I’m feeling now is the same under current of a time from my past. When I’m feeling really good, I correlate it with what I call “old Jessica.”  The hey day of Old Jess was right when I met Adam, I quit my job, started doing WIW full time and got a book deal. Scroll back 830 pages and you’ll see what i mean. In short - the stars were all aligned and things just kept going right

This was also a point in my life of great confidence. It wasn’t just the way I looked (but of course that factors into it!) but gut feeling that I was moving in the right direction. Maybe you’ve felt that way before too? 

Everything is starting to synchronize. And it’s not just “surprise  - here’s a random good thing for you!”, it’s when you expect goodness. It’s bigger than a coincidence. And right now, I feel it! - whatever it is! I feel more whole as a person, I love my husband more deeply, I feel more connected to my children. I take pleasure in the smallest of moments - my daughter’s velvety skin, my son’s pudgy arm, splashing my face with water or laying down to bed under crisp cool sheets. I am awake to the beauty around me. I feel alive. 

With the internal changes I also feel like it’s time to shed some of my skin and by skin I mean the boxes and boxes of clothes I’ve been holding onto for years. I may feel the same energy from the Universe as I did when I was 26, but newsflash, I’m not 26 anymore. I favor jeans over dresses and flats over heels. It’s a mix of utility and comfort, but I’m also ready to reenvision how I see myself on the outside. Also, nothing fits. ;)

There’s a little piece in the back of my mind that says “wait! hold onto that for Bea!” If anything, I’ve got the photos of the clothes and the words that go with them. The garment isn’t the memory, it’s just what I wore when the memory was created. 

Drawer by drawer and hanger by hanger I’m washing and folding and passing things on to make literal new room for new Jess . And it feels pretty amazing.  

The Day I Stopped Caring About a Perfectly Clean House

The Day I Stopped Caring About a Perfectly Clean House

When I was pregnant with Felix, I remember having a chat with a wise friend of mine. I brought up how I just couldn’t get around to housework and how I was so tired and on and on and she said “we don’t spend good days on cleaning… we’ll do that later.”

Growing up, every Saturday morning was reserved for cleaning the house as a family. For at least two hours, we would vacuum under the couches, polish the wooden furniture and dust behind the picture frames. In short - it was like spring cleaning once a week. And it wasn’t as if we didn’t do housework through the week as well! We rotated between the kids on dish night and we swept the floors, put away laundry and kept our rooms clean too. There was no ‘later’ for cleaning up a mess. If you see it, put it away. Clean it up now. Clean. Clean! Clean!!

As you can imagine, having a very clean home was something ingrained into me as a kid and I went on to believe that you couldn’t really rest or relax until your house was spotless.

I’ll be the first to admit I have some obsessive qualities and creating order at home was important to me. But to what end?

When I lived on my own after college, I maintained the same sort of structure. On Saturday mornings (pending I wasn’t massively hung over), I’d do the same routine on my 400 square foot Brooklyn apartment.  Four years later when I moved in with Adam, I was appalled that he didn’t see all of that dust on the floors when the sunlight came through the windows!!! Or the streak left on the counter tops! WERE WE LIVING IN A BARN? 

It wasn’t until I was pregnant with Felix that Adam sat me down and told me that something has to give. I’ll be the first to admit I have some obsessive qualities and creating order at home was important to me. But to what end? I was massively exhausted we both agreed that the state of tidiness in our home wasn’t where we wanted to expend our energy. 

So we hired a cleaning lady to help us out twice a month with bathrooms and mopping, something neither of us care for much. Slowly by surely, I changed my expectations of what my house needs to look like day in, day out. It’s not photo shoot ready, but it’s clean enough

For me, the best my house is ever going to look is right before I have company over. Or right before I take photos of a re-decorated room for the blog. The clutter will be off the counters, the toys in their bins, the pillows fluffed, the massively overflowing coat rack thinned out.  And while my main floor looks tidy and cute, you better believe half of that crap is shoved into my junk room (which is currently my sewing room upstairs). Rest assured that no one’s home really looks like a Pinterest page. 

Taking care of the stuff in my life is never going to be as important than taking care of the people in my life (including myself!) 

Having a toddler in the house is messy. There’s a blueberry stain I won’t get out of the rug. There are crackers crammed into the couch. Little toy trucks and cars hiding under chairs. And it’s not freaking me out like it would have a few years ago. Those kinds of things do not matter.  I’m not going to spend my Saturday mornings rattling off lists of what needs organized and cleaned. Because it’ll get done later. When I have a little extra energy, or when I’m tired of seeing a pile of stuff. On a rainy day next week or on a snowy day 6 months from now. 

Obviously we don’t live in filth. We wash our dishes and put away our toys. We clean the litter boxes and take out the trash. But getting the cat hair off a chair no one sits in, in a room we rarely use, will not take priority over playing blocks. Or walking to the library. Or honestly, watching the Bee Movie for the 48th time. My children will take away playtime memories more dearly than visions of an organized kitchen. Taking care of the stuff in my life is never going to be as important than taking care of the people in my life (including myself!) The day I figured that out, was the day I stopped caring about a perfectly clean house. 

52 Thoughts | What the Cuss?

Curse Words, Cursing, Cussing, What the Cuss?

When I was in fourth of fifth grade, I remember hanging out during recess with a group of my little friends. We asked each other what we’d be willing to say or do if we were the lead actress in a movie.

“Would you smoke a cigarette?”…. “Would you say the F word??”

We all nodded out heads in solidarity and agreed that under absolutely no circumstances would any of use ever smoke or curse. While I’ve still never smoked a cigarette (really!) I have dropped plenty of F-bombs. I don’t curse like a sailor, but I do pepper my speech offline with a cuss here or there. Usually “Oh hell!” or “Sh*t!!!” 

Now that Felix is a parrot, I’m really working hard to correct those. He has repeated me saying “Shoot!” so it’s only a matter of time if I keep it up. My toddler repeats things like “pool! park! ball! hat!” repetitively and there’s no way I want him marching around the house saying “shit! shit! shit!”

The reason I sat down to write this post is actually because of what I heard all afternoon long. I was at Little 5, which is a huge bike race at Indiana University and it’s amazing and I love it and Felix had such a great time. It was awesome. But I kept hearing people screaming the F word left and right. And it was coming out of the mouths of babes (college kids… who seem like children to me!) and it just felt… gross? But like I said above… I cuss too! 

Maybe it’s because I have my own son or maybe it’s because I was sober (and a lot of attendees are not), I just felt like hearing the mother of all curse words in public makes me never want to say the F word again.

UPDATE: As a lot of parents jump into this conversation, I think it’s also worth bringing up that I never heard curse words in my home growing up. I don’t think I’ve EVER heard either of my parents use the F-word, and I’m really greatful for their example. One time my dad did say he was “pissed” and then apologized for the language to me (I was maybe… 10?) There are just some things that children should not be exposed until they can understand. That said, we’re not saints or uptight parents either - it’s just that I relish my son’s innocence and I want to protect it while he’s small. Eventually he’ll learn these words and we can explain them, but not yet.

Part of it might also be seeing something about myself that I don’t like and it taking the example of a pretty young girl, by all means probably a very respectable woman, shouting obscenities, for me to realize my own fault. We’re all kind of blind to the things we need to change in ourselves. More often than not the things that bother me about others that are my own greatest opportunites for change and self growth.

Am I done cursing forever? Probably not. Trust me. When I stub my toe or burn a pie, I will most definitely mutter colorful language under my breath. But I’m going to try very hard to clean up my language (even though it’s not that bad!)

I realize I don’t talk like this online, so you might have never thought I’d bring up a post like this. But I’m curious… do you curse? Never? Sometimes? Left and Right?