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13 Aug

carlsaganexistence

There’s a little town called Brookfield, nestled in the outskirts of Milwaukee and it’s where I am from. I point this out because lately bad news seems to be de rigueur and in trying to navigate past all these sore subjects, I’ve realigned myself to where it all started, to what really matters and to making sure life moving forward walks the right path.

Too often we move along at such a quick pace, we forget to breathe in a couple of steps and enjoy the ‘now’. Everyone is so elbows deep on their phone or stuck in traffic or just tired in general, that reprieves of fresh air along the way get missed. This is not new or earth shattering. I am far from the first blowhard to think it necessary to put it down in ink but each time I’m reminded, it’s usually by way of great joy or cruel reality. Why let it be that way? Lets retrain our brains to slow down and be grateful for those around us, what we have and how we got there.

As we all know, life is unpredictable. Why let ego or assumption force you to carry heavy words left unsaid? Remind others what they mean to you and do it often. After recent news from back home surfaced, I’ve been having a hard time with the adage, that everything happens for a reason. Debatable. Some things suck and are simply meaningless. Unfair, too soon, and tragic feel more applicable.

Everything is too easy now. Communication doesn’t require human interaction. Instant gratification and the ideal that ‘we are what we share’ has completely taken over. I’m starting a movement of remembering that curating the relationships with the people who mean something to you is worth the calories burned. Pick up the phone, send a card, write the email, text, show up… whatever it takes to stay close. Unfortunately time is not for sale, don’t learn the hard way.

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Life moves too fast. I blinked and I’m 34 and a mom myself. My precious memories of my childhood spent in Brookfield are in the awkward phase of becoming a long time gone. Forever 16 in my head, the realization has truly sunk in that the world keeps going; regardless of what or who you lose or how badly you wish to go back and do things a bit different. My roots are tied and twisted around so many of you who helped shape me into who I am today. Family, lifelong friends, acquaintances and even those who taught me by example without knowing or meaning to; I tip my cap to you. Thank you for digging in long enough to leave an impression.  Indelibly you’re a part of me. Hope I’ve been able to afford some of you the same.

As Chris Pureka writes,

Life is cruel and it’s clumsy
I wish I could say that it’s better than that
but this is our time
this is all that we have ’til we turn out the lights…

Luella says… honor your coordinates.

With that being the benchmark – here are a couple tenets I am forcibly applying to life moving forward.

  • spend time each day not judging anyone or anything. Only allowing kind, decent and positive thoughts to course through. (this includes judging yourself, we’re our own worst critic)
  • live one day at a time, hour by hour, moment by moment
  • reconnect or re-affirm those relationships who mean the most to you
  • compromise more – in the end what do you win if you’re the only one satisfied?
  • communicate what others mean to you – go there – even if it’s awkward at least everyone knows where they stand.
  • practice appreciation, patience and forgiveness

Please note, this is all hard. Letting go, moving on, staying present, living for today, not judging, being thankful are all beautiful but not always attainable. I get it. This is perfect world scenario and some days it’s just not going to happen. It’s simple to sit behind a computer and wax on about how important this all is but the practice and application is where it gets real. I am hoping by setting the standard (for myself) of getting even half way, some of the time  – I will be successful. We shall see – To be continued…

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Dear Laura.

22 Feb

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*** I wrote this 4 months ago and never posted. Hmm…must’ve been busy. Anyway I think it’s still pretty true – so here you go.

I so appreciate all the lovely feedback I received from my last blog post. I’ve even read and referenced it myself a couple of times since I posted it. Anyway lately I’ve been feeling a bit lost, personally that is, with what my new status means. As I mentioned in GRAY, the feeling of Who am I? What have I become? still lingers a bit at 3.5 months in. I’ve gone back to work and feel torn between the adult interaction I so desperately need and the idea of being there for every moment of Stella’s formative years. I don’t want her to prefer anyone else to me but need a break. I feel inspired at work but cry each morning when I leave. Life has become one big dichotomy.

In addition to that, Ralph and I were super social. We live in a Peter Pan-esque community that truly lives by the credo you’re only as old as you think you are; which is fantastic when you have no responsibilities but a bit difficult when you move to Baby-ville. Is it me or does everyone appear to be on their way to a party we didn’t get invited to?? The social transition from pre-baby to baby is shocking. Let’s talk truths here. You don’t know until you know and when you do, a small part of you wants to hide under the bed until your child becomes a little less thankless. Is it blow hardy to discuss this? Is it pointless to want to understand the transition? As the days post partum turn to weeks and the weeks turn to months, the other side; (AKA your former life) seems a distant memory as the “new normal” settles in and starts to feel comfortable. How do you socialize with a baby? How do you go out to dinner? Have people over? Travel? Exercise? or do anything that bears a small semblance to life before. Truth is you manage and figure it out as you go. What’s the worst that can happen? Really ask yourself that and mean it. The answer is nothing. If she cries, she’s being a baby and people understand.

Now that I loosely have a small footing on this motherhood adventure, I keep thinking to myself, what would you say to you, if you could go back for a day before Stella came?

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Luella Says… remember how lucky you are.

Dear Laura,

When you look in the mirror you’re not going to love what you see. You just had a baby and major surgery, the scar will be there forever but the excess weight and bloat will not. Breastfeeding burns 800 calories but don’t give yourself a license to eat whatever you want. Stay focused on your green & clean living tenets and exercise as much as you can. You gave up your gym membership for the time being and running with her in the stroller, walking up hills, sit ups, even bouncing her will give you a little bit back.

You’re going to feel bored sometimes, feel as if you’re clock watching to get to the time Ralph comes home or help arrives; it’s ok and totally normal. To be fair, you’ll also relish in the moments with her that are small but intensely perfect. Like when she finally falls asleep on your shoulder after many attempts to get her to stop crying or at night, (yes 2,3,4,5 am) when she’s finished nursing; the house is dark and quiet and all the people who matter most are off in dreamland and you get to take a moment to be grateful. It really does get better and easier every day and you’ll surprise yourself with how natural it comes to you and the want to be good at it more than anything else.

People will show how important they are to you. Meaning – wait to put anyone on a VIP list until they’ve helped/been there/proven they want to be. You’re going to be alone a bit more often but it’s ok and temporary. Your marriage will shift a bit as the focus becomes solely on your new creation but you’ll adapt and steal moments together more often as time goes on. You will become a Stella pro fairly soon and eventually regain a small part of who you used to be. Best part is, that coupled with MOM is a pretty fierce combination. Cue the Star Spangled Banner as it plays at your medal ceremony for winning the gold in multi-tasking.

In closing, be excited. It’s the hardest, most amazing, hysterical, crazy, lovely, scary and profound experience you will ever have. You have been gifted with this little being, so head up, stay the course and know you’re going to choose wrong sometimes. Carpe Diem – seize EVERY day.

Love, me.

Gray.

7 Sep

Having a baby changed my life. (bet you never heard those words uttered before.) The irony is it’s totally true. I hate clichés in prose and in life and although there are different interpretations and some experiences are easier than others; the baseline remains constant. It’s the hardest thing you will ever do…period. Every inch, every second spent since June 9th has changed me into a different human being. The world’s brighter, experiences feel richer, emotions run deeper (if that’s even possible for me) and I’ve made it out of the fray and lived to tell this tale to you.

The first couple weeks were so difficult, it’s almost hard to discuss. It sucked in short and even though I love Stella more than I could ever imagine possible, I felt so unprepared and unqualified. I kept looking for a time out button somewhere to just take a 2 minute break but alas this person I worked so hard to get was here, my number was called and I was out on the field indefinitely. Overwhelming simply doesn’t cover it. I felt blue, exhausted, awkward, ugly and not able to live in the moment. Who was I, what had I become? I kept thinking “but the books and the people I talked to used words like amazing, blissful, simple and easy when it’s yours.” My expectations were so far off it’s not even worth detailing. Each day felt like a year and the nagging feeling of failure was a constant companion. I had met my match, motherhood was here and I wasn’t sure it was for me. But then I woke up one day around 3 – 4 weeks in and felt better; albeit the leap was small and low to the ground but it was progress. Miraculously the proverbial light appeared. She cried less that day, small victories were attained and dare I say, I began to get the hang of it.

Which brings me to my long-winded point. Life can be spent living in the notion of black and white, good or bad, 1 or 100 but there is a middle; a gray area if you will, that exists and boasts good weather and yummy cocktails. As of late, I am allowing myself to visit this area more often. To be a constant work in progress, to not have all the answers, the control, the perfection is not only ok, it’s necessary. Up to this point, I always told myself, don’t let anything you do define you. Keep reaching, never settle, always give 500%, think out of the box, practice first in, last out and follow your shot. Now I’ve embarked on something I want to be known for. A great wife and a “show and tell” worthy Mom. The highs and lows are higher and darker than anticipated but the every day is pretty damn amazing. Yep I went there. The word that eluded me for so long in my new world of mommy-hood has landed and been assigned. I get to mold this little human and teach her what I can, while she still wants to listen to me. My husband and I get to watch a mash-up of ourselves navigate the world hopefully with my rhythm and his charisma.

I felt compelled to write this down because in my obsessive googling whilst still pregnant and in the first couple days post partum, if I had stumbled upon this little blog and known there really was someone out there feeling just as I did, potentially the light would’ve appeared sooner. I would’ve been able to handle how awful I was feeling knowing it was fleeting and concretely things were going to get easier. Women lie to each other, everyone puts their best foot forward and perception is hardly often reality. Consider me the attendant behind the customer service desk at Mommy World, telling you I know how you feel and can whole heartedly promise it gets easier and better each day. (keep repeating that to yourself at 2am when they still won’t sleep or stop crying for that matter) I worried about the difference between “baby blues” and post partum depression and desperately hoped this too would pass. If you can get out of bed and don’t feel like harming yourself or your child, most likely it’s the former. Be diligent about chatting with your OB about it regardless but eventually it leaves the building. It did for me and now I can share some pearls I gathered with you.

First Month Musts:

1. Wake up and shower if even for 2 minutes. Bring your baby in the bathroom if you have to but SHOWER to start your day.

2. Get a calendar and cross off each day at the end of it with a big X. For some reason it helps build confidence knowing one more day is in the books, accomplished and done.

3. Watch HAPPIEST BABY ON THE BLOCK, the 5 s’s are your friend.

4. Ask for help. Ask for help. Ask for help BUT also spend enough time doing it yourself. If you farm everything out, your only prolonging the rookie period.

5. Have no expectations for anything, your birth plan, your baby, yourself, your partner or your family and friends. People will let you down and you might let yourself down as well. Set the bar on the lowest rung.

6. Know your bump will go down eventually. I’m at 3 months and it’s still around. Each week it gets better.

7. Talk to your spouse, boyfriend, partner or friend about how you’re feeling and be brutally honest. Also chat with your baby about it. I told Stella many times, Mommy is feeling rough today but know I love you and we’ll get through this together.

8. Try to ease back into your old social routine as early as possible. Take them on walks and meet up with friends. Even if it’s for 5 minutes, you have to start somewhere.

9. Go on food adventures. Ralph and I would put Stella in the car and she would scream cry until she fell asleep and we’d go to different food institutions around Los Angeles. We always got it to go and brought it back home to eat but just the excitement of semi doing something social felt like the best, booze filled dinner party ever.

10. Go on multiple walks a day. Even if you make it around the block it’s a victory.

11. Colic is bs, it’s likely acid reflux. Check the infant GERD checklist and if your baby has a lot of the symptoms ask for a prescription of compound PREVACID. It worked wonders for us. I hate medicine and we waited 2 months to give it to her but she was in pain.

12. Stock up on BIO GAIA probiotic drops at Walgreens. They’re expensive but they work so well on their tummies for gas and overall discomfort.

13. You will not feel like this for 18 years. New problems arise just when you figure out answers to the former but nonetheless you’re better, smarter and faster than you were yesterday.

14. Know your baby is going to scream, wail, cry and turn purple. Don’t think this means you have to stay in your house. Get out, it also always seem louder to the parents.

15. Try to keep it light. Babies work off your energy, try not to get too worked up. (self grade: F for me on this point)

16. Burp them like a heartbeat. Pat pat, Pat pat, Pat pat. It works.

17. Set up stations around your house and use those every day to entertain or placate your baby. Do them in different rooms if possible. Station suggestions: Activity Mat, Swing, Mirror, Crib, Mat/blanket on the floor, Pack n Play, Bouncer, Your lap, Lounger, Changing Table cushion.

18. The uglier the better when it comes to mobiles or hanging toys. This one is hard for my design aesthetic but it’s true so embrace it.

19. If you’re breastfeeding start pumping and storing milk right away. I didn’t and playing catch up when they’re eating more is difficult. Use the rule of 2’s. 2 hours at room temp, 2 days in the fridge, 2 months in the freezer.

20. Know it’s normal for your baby to: cough, sneeze (multiple times), grunt, growl, choke while eating, snore, make weird noises in their sleep, drool, chew on their hand and feet, cry when you change or dress them, have crossed eyes.

21. Babies have a crying language and it actually is pretty true for Stella. Neh means I am hungry, Oww means I am tired, Eh Eh means I have a burp, Eairr means gas.

22.Sing, talk and read to them as if they completely understand from the first day you bring them home. Get real close to their face while you’re doing it so they can see your expressions.

23. If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, introduce a bottle by 4 weeks. One a day filled with pumped milk is a great way to get them acquainted, allow your husband or someone else to bond through feeding and if you don’t they won’t take one when or if you go back to work.

24. Cry when they cry, sleep when they sleep, laugh when they laugh.

25. Buy the BREST FRIEND and wear it to feed at night. It serves as a shelf and lord knows that helps when you can barely keep your eyes open.

I would love to connect with any of you soon-to-be or new moms. I told myself I would never be a stroller strider or go to parties and only talk about my kids but I get it now. I am one of you, we are all in this together.

This is not a black and white world

To be alive I say that the colours must swirl

And I believe that maybe today

We will all get to appreciate The Beauty of Gray 

LIVE – The Beauty of Gray

And so it Begins.

13 May

It’s been a long time since I’ve written. I had the intention to start again a million times but alas life happened and time got away from me. Now here I sit, 9 months pregnant and on the precipice of the biggest event of my life and I finally have time. How hysterical is that? Such is life right?

Anyway, where did we stop, where do we start again? The premise will stay the same, fashion, life, art, music, food, beauty, design; essentially anything and hopefully as much as possible. For this post though, I am going personal, so proverbially strap in.

I am not re-inventing the wheel chatting about pregnancy; there are a million mommy blogs that do such an amazing job at preparing, teaching, explaining and offering much-needed advice, so I won’t step in that arena. I will speak plainly at the highs and lows of our experience and hope if you’re one of the many who are contemplating, trying, succeeding, failing or landing somewhere in between this will speak to you.

Rewind the clock to last April when Ralph and I found ourselves pregnant for the “first time.” It was an overwhelming experience that unfortunately was short-lived. I can remember the moment of going into the first ultrasound only to discover there was no fetal pole development which meant blighted ovum, which meant miscarriage. An intense feeling came over me and my only mission at that point was to focus on not crying in front of the Dr. I am not sure why, for those that know me it may come as a shock, but I kept it together. In thinking about it afterward, it was the one thing I could control and it became my mission. Going through the process of our miscarriage was extremely humbling for me. This wasn’t merit based, it wasn’t something you could buy, talk your way in or out of, dazzle or charm into working; it was science and simply put, it failed. We were officially a statistic and that for lack of a better word, sucked.

I felt shame, failure and embarrassment. It was hard to relate to others when I kept fixating on why me? why us? It’s funny because no one talks about it. When I felt comfortable enough to share it with a few people I was amazed to learn just how many had similar experiences and I found solace in knowing we weren’t alone. In truth, I think when it comes to this subject, we could all use a dose of open book syndrome. Yes its intensely personal but strength lies in numbers and having a community to work through the dark times, makes the reality a little bit easier to get comfortable with. (ok, I will speak for myself)

After feeling sorry for myself for a couple of weeks or so and after much-needed tough love from two of my best friends; I made the decision to control what I could and launched into a “my body is a wonderland” state of mind. (thanks John) I laugh sometimes when I explain my story to people because I feel like I cheated. I did everything in my power to create a pristine environment for our hopeful baby to flourish in. Here was my routine:

  1. I gave up coffee. Straight – cold turkey and started (begrudgingly) drinking Red Raspberry Leaf Tea, which was said to be used in folk remedies as an elixir used to strengthen the uterus. (who knew?)
  2. I began getting weekly acupuncture from an amazing Dr. who specializes in Women’s reproductive health.
  3. Ralph and I began juicing every morning. Spinach, Kale, Celery, Cucumbers, Ginger root and Green Apples.
  4. Ralph and I both took Fertilica Ultra Greens powder in a glass of water each morning.
  5. I took Fertile Garden herb supplements given to me by my acupuncturist.
  6. Ralph and I both committed to 3 days a week of intense Bikram yoga and at least one other day of cardio at our gym.
  7. I drank wine, enjoyed evenings out, tried to be carefree and live in the moment and not obsess. This proved to be the toughest challenge of all of them.

They say in Chinese medicine it takes three months after an “event or tragedy” to be back to normal again. We had our procedure last June 9th and three months later we were pregnant again. It felt different this time. I told Ralph when I first found out, (at 4 weeks) that this was our baby, I could feel it. The first trimester went by so slowly, each day felt like a year. I was so panicked something was wrong and I’m embarrassed to admit the lengths I went to, to assure myself things were ok. If hackers checked my google history, I might run away and not come back. It was beyond, even for me. Again the concept of control, deep-rooted inside of me, kept rearing its head and I did my best to chill out and enjoy the process. Self Grade D+.

Then I hit 12 weeks, 3 months and a light appeared. I outwitted, outlasted and outplayed myself and for the first time confidence appeared. Since then, each milestone has been marked with a mixture of trepidation, excitement, panic, wonderment and gratitude. Being pregnant is a very “present” experience; it’s a waiting game with emotions, hormones, body changes and relinquishment of self and ego. It’s scary and amazing all rolled into one. Ralph and I don’t know what to expect, we just know, we don’t know and to be ok with the expectation that anything can happen and most likely will. It is what you make it.

If you’re reading this and are having difficulty, please steal some of the ideas listed above. We’ll never know for sure but at the end of the day, I knew I was doing everything in my power to help my chances. My lucky number is 9, it has been since I was in grade school and it was my friend Josh’s soccer number. Ironically he introduced Ralph and I and even more strange, our new baby girl is due this June 9th. What a difference a year makes.

Luella says… Without wine – Design.

Stella Vivienne’s Nursery

I am not nor have I ever been a major baby person. When it came time to register, I was completely overwhelmed. (yes, tears were shed more than once) If you would like a copy of my must own lists just let me know. Another great resource is this list from Joy of Oh Joy & Oh Baby.

If you’re pregnant or just had a baby, I would love to connect with you. As I said, everything is better in numbers.

Design Credits:

Crib by Wayfair . Mattress by Serta . Paint Colors: Mustard – Solar Fusion by BEHR  Gray – Cathedral Gray by BEHR  Cream – Splendor by BEHR

Photos over crib: 3 Fashion sketches reprints by Sandra Suy . Floral by Amber Alexander . 9 – DIY . French Chic – reprint from Harper’s Bazaar Russia March 2010

Kraft paper flowers, Tissue paper flowers & Cardstock paper fans – DIY

Curio bookcase – Craigslist DIY . Changing dresser – thrifted DIY

Tissue garland by Everly Lane Design . Pear print by Fine Little Day Shop of Sweden . Vintage baby dress by Kasi Found This . Dried Craspedia flowers by Maison de la Croix

Swan & Floral prints by Leah Duncan . Vintage Great Gatsby cover – reprint . Velveteen Rabbit end papers 1922 – reprint

Vintage daybed – Craigslist DIY . STELLA vintage marquee letters by Junkie Trunk

Vintage nightstand – in the family DIY . Vintage mirror – thrifted DIY . Ginger jar lamp & shade from ccaappp

Chandelier – DIY . Rug by Wayfair . Vintage rocking chair – in the family DIY

Invictus print by Eva Juliet . Stella is an actual photo taken of a storefront on a street in Warsaw, Poland by Mio . Moon & Back – reprint.

Eiffel Tower & Chapel birdcage – thrifted DIY . Vintage dresser – in the family DIY.

Keeping Up With the Tradition(ians).

8 Dec

Family traditions are an important part of our culture. They tie together generations and allow us to pay homage to those, amongst other things, we can’t sit with at the dinner table.

From a very young age, my mother taught my sister and I to hold on to traditions, create some of our own and value atmosphere. (not necessarily in that order).

For example, every night, no matter how busy we were with school, sports or dance, we lit candles, put on some music and ate dinner together as a family even if it was for five minutes.

These are the things I will carry on with me as I start a family of my own.

Specifically for the Holidays, she took decorating our house very seriously and instilled in me the need to continue that in my own home.

As you know, I grew up in the Midwest where space and square footage reign supreme, so although my heart wants to buy the same 12 foot tree we get during Thanksgiving at my parents home every year, reality says 3.5 feet it is.

This is quite a change from my childhood but now my home is where my husband is. So my decorating remedy for our “tiny dwelling” is to fill it with Christmas accents and adorn our tree with family keepsakes.

Ever since I was small, my Mother has given my sister and I an ornament in our stocking. They varied each year in size, shape and significance but the point was she was helping us a create a timeline of all of our Christmas’ spent together as a family.

Growing up I didn’t take it very seriously, as I was much more interested in the mountain of gifts under the tree, but I realize now just how special they are.

Each year when I decorate our tree, a part of me gets to revisit those moments and remember that family, friends, love and time are the most important aspects of life.

These ornaments tell the story of where I came from. When my husband and I have children, I will carry this tradition on for them. After all, it is the small things that remain the most meaningful.

Luella says…Confessions of a Christmas Tree.

I would love to know what some of your family Holiday traditions are?

What do you treasure the most during this Christmas season?

Just a reminder that Christmas and New Years go by so fast . In this economy, when not everyone can give what they are used to, take a couple of moments to recognize what you are truly thankful for.

It is more important to be present rather than to give presents.

 

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Be Present.

24 Nov

 

I love Thanksgiving. I might even argue it is my favorite holiday. I love Christmas too but there is something less complicated about Thanksgiving time. With no need for presents, it becomes a holiday based around time being spent together.

It truly combines all my favorite things to do. Celebrate with family and friends, eat a delicious home cooked meal, drink fantastic wine, visit with old friends I haven’t seen since last year at this time, play games, stay up late, not worry about work, the list goes on and on.Lately time seems to be flying by. I find myself grasping and holding onto moments in an attempt to control and slow it down. It has proven to be fruitless and I realize the older you get the faster it goes.

My only recompense is to enjoy each and every day. Be present and thankful even when that seems impossible.

Thanksgiving is a perfect reminder of this. Let’s all take advantage of it.

Below are some beautiful Thanksgiving home accents and table decorations. I hope they will inspire you to enjoy decorating before the guests arrive and then relish the time you spend with whomever is coming over to celebrate.

I am thankful for many things this year and am going to make a list and refocus on what I do have instead of concentrating on what is missing. I suggest you do the same.

Luella says…Make a “Thankful” List and Check it Twice.

 I hope your Thanksgiving holiday is exactly as you wish it to be. It might not be as perfect as the accents above are but that is half the charm.

As Dave Matthews sings, “Eat, Drink and be Merry.” (feel free to insert a lot after any of those) 

And It Was All Yellow.

28 Oct

I went on a walk today and it was so sunny that for a split second I allowed myself to believe it was July. I came home and was sitting at my desk when I noticed the beautiful lemons my mother in law gave me fresh from their lemon tree in the yard.

They look as beautiful as they smell.

There is something soothing and peaceful about yellow. Even in all its variations it still stands out to me.

With that said, today I pay homage to this brightening and uplifting color.

 

Luella says…What Represents both the Sun and the Stars?

 

What does Yellow conjure up for you?

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