Intentional Living: Switching the Lens

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My birthday is a gift in that it falls in the middle of the year. I use it to re-assess not so much what I have accomplished, but rather, where to steer life’s trajectory. With this framework, we look on the bright side of things while avoiding the guilt of not being where we thought we were meant to be. We are always where we’re meant to be. We just need the occasional shift in perspective, is all.

Retrospection is one of those practices that can be likened to a double-edged sword. In one respect, we need to be wary of the tendency to live in the past, the mulling of our histories which prevents us from living out the joys of today. When the retrospecting is on something not entirely good, it can put us in quite a rut. A reminder hence that sometimes, the best course of action is to live and let go. On the other side of the coin, however, is a warning against racing haphazardly onwards without direction. As freeing as that may feel, perhaps a moment’s pause would be beneficial, and also, necessary. As always, striking balance is just the stuff. Myself, I lean towards retrospection partnered with a ridiculous will for chasing what I want, so in that way, I suppose I find balance. Retrospection to me doesn’t require so much the mulling, but more so a switching of the lens.

In this re-assessment, I make a list of actionable steps. Minor tweaking of daily life practices, with deeper intentionality behind each one. For example, a desire to physically switch my camera lens from the standard one to a fixed 50 mm lens for the rest of the year. Reason being…? Reason being that the 50 mm lens forces me to switch my camera to a manual setting, thus avoiding the automatic point-and-shoot capturing of daily life. In this single action, I am inserting a forced habit of creativity. I make photographing a bit more difficult. I slow the process. I make the framing more intentional. I have to take the time to focus the lens on what I want to see. A method of mindfulness.

This and others. Here, a short list.

  • Switching the camera lens and turning the manual switch on (to instill mindfulness in creativity).
  • Spending the first thirty minutes of being awake writing, reading, or creating (for better mental health).
  • Applying moisturizer and sunscreen daily (as an act of self-care)
  • Plugging the cell-phone in once I enter the home (and leaving it there).
  • Keeping the lights turned off as far into the evening as possible (and substituting candles in its wake).
  • Read more (mindfully).
  • Sleep 8 hours every night, uninterrupted (like I used to).
  • Keeping clear surfaces around the house (for more clarity).
  • Switching to decaf … or no caff … during the week (now that I’ve cut the midnight shifts).
  • Carrying around a notebook (in the hopes of jotting down more introspections such as these).

How about you guys? Birthdays not required, what are some ways you hope to change trajectories for the rest of 2019? 

Intentional Living: Gift-Asking

Gift giving has been a difficult topic to approach these last couple of years. I’ve written previously about my thoughts on gifts and my no-gift-giving letters, all efforts to eschew the matter entirely. I’ve written gift guides that hopefully elicit mindfulness. I’ve written how we can change the way younger generations view gift-giving. But still, the separation between theory and practice has been hard to achieve. Despite efforts on my family’s side to comply and efforts on my side to be understanding and grateful, disparities can be quite discouraging for both.

I had an aunt once thoughtfully purchase bars of soap without the wrapping, only to hand the stack of them surrounded by a wad of the thickest cellophane I’ve ever felt and, I kid you not, a number of bows, all in the name of “proper presentation”. And so I wrote about alternatives. I’ve had cases where family members would hear in passing of my desire for an article of clothing, and in an effort to give me my wish, they bought me a knock off of similar variety without any history regarding the maker, the working conditions of, or the source of material, all of which I heavily research before choosing to purchase. Likewise, there have been gifts that people thought would add to my home, but which unfortunately detracts from the peace.

I liken the experience to my childhood, when I would sit in a corner to read a book and all the well-meaning adults would send the kids my way to ask me to play. A declined invitation attributed to shyness. Stillness mistaken for boredom. Solidarity confused with loneliness. A personal preference completely misunderstood.

Despite all of this heartbreak, over the years, I’ve slowly learned. Not just on how to communicate better, but on how to re-frame all-together. Because at the root of all the misunderstanding is an honest desire to show love in the only ways people know how. I’ve found that sometimes asking for nothing isn’t the best course of action. This is because people are socially wired to give, with the act of giving tired to affection. So instead of saying, “Give me naught”, maybe the answer lies in the complete opposite. “Give me only one thing that is so specific it cannot be mistaken as something else.”

Case in point: last year Mike and I shared a joint birthday that was wildly successful. In it we requested that all gifts come in the form of a donation to an organization of our choosing. We wrote them a letter detailing the specs of the event, which you can find here. In exchange their donation bought them a ticket to a brunch at our house featuring the morning buns and croissants that would later become a favorite at the bakery. Together we raised enough money to feed 3,285 meals to Americans with food insecurity!

In a similar line of thought, this year I requested that loved ones support the bakery by purchasing baked goods. All profits will be put back into expanding the bakery in the form of buying utensils or ingredients, or paying for licenses and marketing. Although I took the month off to focus inward on my life journey thus far, I allowed for this one catered event to take place and am using the bakery as my way of thanking the ones I love most dear for being a part of my life. It’s a win-win system in that the guests get to take home something made by myself for their own families, and I feel as if my gifts are well-earned. Additionally, it makes it easier to sleep at night knowing that their gifts create a meaningful impact without harboring waste, impact which include the supporting of local farmers and projects preserving ancient heritage grains, as well as the spreading of healthful, gut-friendly bread.

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Which goes to show that maybe telling people how to show affection isn’t as effective as showing affection in return. With these last two birthdays in tow, I think we are finally moving the needle forward.

For other specific asking of gifts, try here.

 

Small Space Living

Tip 04// Having Bare White Walls

If you walk into our home, you’ll notice a certain spaciousness. Part of that spaciousness is helped by the lack of things, sure. Some may think the answer also lies in a vaulted ceiling, and yes, the array of bright California daylight streaming through the windows gives the home a bit more freshness that you can breathe in. But this isn’t what causes that feeling of space, for I’ve been in plenty a home with vaulted ceilings and bright windows, without feeling the peace. The subtlety that our home is plentiful in but which one may not recognize as serving a function, is the bareness of our plain, white walls. 

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I love plain, white walls. I love how fresh they feel, how they emit a sense of newness and emptiness, like blank slates full of possibility. When you move into a new home, the walls are white, to allow you to dream of what could be, rather than what is. I like to keep that door to creativity open, to live in a place where anything can happen.

I like the way that you can easily detect a smudge, and just as easily cover it with some fresh paint, without worrying so much about the layers blending in with each other, or achieving the perfect shade. White on white is simple, but painting gray on existing gray makes darker gray, and that’s too complicated. It’s emancipating how easily you could fix the problem. A can of paint is equivalent to the white out pen of adulthood, a magic eraser per say.

I like the way light reflects off of them, and how they can make a room feel brighter somehow, bigger almost. Living in a tiny home, that’s kind of what we need. I like how they accentuate the furniture, rather than hide them in their shadow. It’s almost as if it draws attention to the actual things that fill the home, rather than have the things hide the home itself. I like how they reflect the warmth of wood, and the coolness of metal. Dark walls wouldn’t do the same.

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I like them better when they’re bare. Have you noticed how picture frames suck you in, open shelving collects clutter, and anything else at eye-level distracts your attention? Have you noticed how rooms feel smaller when the walls are covered with hanging treasures … ever felt claustrophobic, or suffocated? I like that people walk in here, and open up just by being in the white wall’s presence. I like that they don’t stop mid-conversation to comment on a painting, or a picture frame. While it may be nice to walk into a home and comment on the childhood photographs of the inhabitants of said home, perhaps, as a means to start a conversation or reminisce, I also think it detracts from an ability to speak to each other of things far less superficial.  I am not saying this isn’t the way to decorate, for that’s a personal choice, but I am saying that when I stare out into space and regress into the inner workings of my own mind (as I oft do), it helps to achieve clarity when looking upon a blank space.How often do we get to converse, undeterred these days? How often do we get to think, without other inputs? It’s a gift, these minimalist walls. 

Likewise, when I walk into a home teeming with things, I immediately feel a difference in my ability to breathe. Never you mind whether said things are stuffed safely in a closet, or organized neatly into stacks on a shelf, but it’s almost as if I can smell the mustiness (things DO have a smell). In smaller living quarters, the quality of air more poignantly matters, and I like breathing in the emptiness. The walls bleed a sense of calm that I cannot explain but can within my bones feel. 

So if you ask me about small space living and a means to make them feel less small, start with these havens of white. My mantra of ‘do nothing’ stands. Allow for these sacred walls to elicit more by having less: more meaningful conversations, more in-depth thinking, more breathing room, more living space, more freedom, more possibility. 

Does any one else feel the same?

For those wondering, our walls are painted this Sherman Williams shade of egret white.

 

Recent Reads: And Books on the Shelf

I used to never give up on reading books that I’ve started. Call it stubbornness or pride. The thinking was two-fold. Firstly, I didn’t want to stop reading a book because I would not be able to add half-finished books to my list of ‘Books I’ve Read’, and what a “waste of time” that would be. Secondly, I didn’t want to be known as someone who didn’t have the GRIT to see to the finish line something I started. I wasn’t so concerned about knowing the end of the story as I was with the reflection of not finishing the book. Now that I’m older and a much different person, less concerned with other people’s perception, I have an easier time with letting these things go. My perspective has changed on the matter. I find that finishing a book for the sake of finishing is now what I consider a “waste of time”. I am more concerned with time well-spent over a list of accolades to brag about. I recognize the value in enjoying a book (perhaps only for the first half) and allow for the entertainment or the education that that book provided to be worthy enough of the time I spent reading it. Once things lose my fancy, there’s no use hanging on. And so I say farewell to Anna Karenina. 4 books of appreciation, but my heart is now elsewhere, and there’s nothing wrong with listening to your inner workings and abandoning all else. Anyone feel the same way?


Whenever we travel, I can’t help but be attracted to bookstores and libraries. It seems that whenever we walk by one, there is a lustful calling and I just have to step inside. Our recent trip to Seattle was no different. Out of it came a list of books that I am dying to read. Hence the need to thank Anna Karenina, let go, and move on.

Books On The Shelf:

      

Gift Guide: Self-Care In Your 30’s

It’s June first. Can you believe it?
We are on the cusp of entering summer time,
I am on the cusp of leaving my twenties behind. 
And while my body has carried me through all these years,
It’s time to return the favor and think of ways to care.
On self-reflection of my current state,
I wish to focus on space to create.
In preserving bodily health,
A list of gifts that signify wealth,
In things that matter most to me,
Longevity of life that exists to be.


 

Travel: City Guide to Seattle, Washington

Seattle has been on our radar for a very long time, so it was nice to finally get away for Memorial Day Weekend after experiencing an unintentional traveling hiatus the last few months. As usual, we were able to get plane tickets for free, and if you’d like to do the same, here’s how! If you frequently fly Southwest, learn how to fly for free AND take someone with you (also free). The getaway consisted of only two days and to save on travel expenses, we’ve decided not to get a car. This meant that we got a lot of walking in (steep hills in the city resulted in sore (STILL!) calf muscles … but great exercise!) and this also meant that we were stuck in Downtown Seattle proper. For the length of our stay, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but this trip IS a bit different from our other ones which are usually filled with nature and outdoor hikes. This trip was mostly about eating, and drinking, and mild site-seeing. If we were to return, I think that a trip to Mount Rainier would be the thing to do, seeing as how we pretty much saw and ate our way through Seattle. Regardless, I hope you enjoy this city guide, and may you go to Seattle hungry!


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Not worth the time.

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Good, but ordinary.

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Great. Worth a visit.

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Exceptional. A must-do experience.

$
Frugal friendly

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Reasonable

$$$
Pricey


Starbucks Reserve

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♦♦♦♦
1124 Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101
$$

I take the liberty in speaking for Mr. Debtist when I say that this was by far our favorite experience on our trip to Seattle. Before coffee snobs start to turn their noses up at the name Starbucks, may I just mention that Starbucks was historically the company that paved the way for third generation coffee roasters and allowed them to exist. They made it socially acceptable to pay $5 for a cup of coffee. Additionally, to this day, they source only coffee beans that are scored with 80 points or higher. I cannot say the same of other third wave coffee shops. As much as you’d like to look down on Starbucks as being heavily diluted, mass-produced coffee, you cannot fault them in the actual quality of the bean, from which everything starts. As I finish up that rant, I want to say that the experience at Starbucks Reserve was definitely not the same as the experience in a regular Starbucks shop. I would skip visiting the original Starbucks which is reminiscent of any Starbucks you’ll see around the world, and I would even suggest you visit this twice if you had the choice. My favorite part about this place was the bar that serves cocktails mixed with coffee and tea. Our first ever experience in drinking a cold-brew coffee martini was at a five course dinner at a restaurant called Roots in New Zealand. The taste was so clean and the drink went down so smoothly, it was like a moment of clarity. Until this past weekend, no alcohol paralleled that drink. At Starbucks Reserve, there were two that compared. The first was the Boulevardier, which is made up of barrel-aged vanilla syrup, Campari, sweet vermouth and bourbon poured over freshly ground Starbucks Reserve coffee, finished with lavender bitters. The second was a shot of whiskey barrel-aged cold-brew coffee. At $80 a pound, we only brought back 1 pound of beans to experiment with at home. The cold brew was reminiscent of root beer, without the carbonation, and with a hint of a caramel-y, vanilla-esque whiskey coffee. Obviously, it’s enough to inspire word invention. It has no alcohol content, since what little is obtained from the barrels goes up in smoke when the green bean is roasted and cracks open. Two other mixology drinks that we tried included the Whiskey Cloud (Pressed Starbucks Reserve coffee, Amaro Averna, orange-piloncillo syrup, local single malt whiskey and chocolate bitters. Served hot with shaken cream and nutmeg) and Cold Brew Spiced Rum (Teavana Dosha Chai rooibos tea, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, cold brew coffee, white rum and black lemon bitters. Shaken and finished with fresh cinnamon). In the hot afternoon heat, the affogato (espresso with a generous scoop of Mora’s locally made ice cream) was a delight! However, I prefer the affogato being served at Patricia’s in Melbourne. Either way, this isn’t a stop to be missed. I would skip the trinkets (famous last words of a minimalist), and head straight to the counter. Also, be prepared for the crowds.

Pike Place Market

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♦♦♦♦
85 Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101
$-$$

This is definitely a must-see, even if you do not buy anything from here. They have many stalls that showcase a number of products with samples. Walking around and tasting everything was a lot of fun – most samples use wooden sticks to taste. It helped that the weather was lovely. The market is by the water and you can walk along it down to the pier. There are also many eateries and restaurants, as well as vintage shops and artisan crafts. It took us about two hours to walk around, three if you include the pitstops we made. See below!

Ellenos Greek Yogurt

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♦♦
1500 Pike Pl, Seattle, WA 98101
$

I would love to give this more stars, but unfortunately, I think this place is over-hyped. I am not even docking it for the fact that everything comes in plastic. While I would agree that the yogurt has a unique, creamy taste, I think that it was short of anything memorable. We split a marionberry pie yogurt, and it was really OH-KAY. Not worth the plastic waste, though.

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese

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♦♦♦♦
1600 Pike Place, Seattle, WA 98101
$$

Get the World’s Best Mac and Cheese! The grilled cheese sandwich was a bit sub-par (unfortunately, I judge most sandwiches by the bread, and it made the taste of the sandwich a bit less than), but the mac and cheese was deemed BEST by Mr. Debtist. And he is a true mac and cheese fan! You can also sample a few cheeses, and buy any of their pre-packaged flavors. The line may be long, but the mac and cheese is worth the wait. Meanwhile, you can watch through the window the cheese being made, or in our case, listen to the two toddlers behind you driving their parents a little insane.

Daily Dozen Doughnuts

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♦♦♦♦
93 Pike St #7, Seattle, WA 98101
$

If one thing surprised me, it was these doughnuts. When you walk up to the stand, it seems like a dingy little thing. A green pushcart was all it was, and a small machine was making doughnuts behind a sneeze guard window. As someone who just recently delved into the making of doughnuts using a brioche dough at my bakery, I honestly was not expecting much. There were only six flavors to choose from, all mini-sized doughnuts, including the special for the day which was bacon topped maple. Since we were feeling full from lunch, we ordered six mini doughnuts with some repeats. We skipped the chocolate sprinkle doughnuts and instead ordered 2 powdered sugar, two cinnamon, one maple and one maple bacon. They were delicious! I liked the maple bacon least, followed by the maple and then the powdered sugar, with the cinnamon doughnut being the best. Reason being? The cinnamon and plain doughnuts were freshly made, and still warm! They grab fresh doughnuts and toss in a bag with cinnamon and sugar. The other doughnuts were already pre-made and have cooled slightly. If I could have a do-over? 4 cinnamon and 2 powdered sugar. But that’s just me. This doughnut cart totally took me by surprise, but it was one of my favorite stops during our trip!

Rachel’s Ginger Beer

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1530 Post Alley, Seattle, WA 98101
$$

As much as I’d like to say this place was great, I think it was another case of being over-hyped. Firstly, may I clarify that neither of us drink soda. And while Mr. Debtist can appreciate ginger beer once in a while, these flavored drinks were similar to Fanta flavors. We just couldn’t be appreciative of it, especially for the cost. If we got the boozed version, maybe it would have been different. Joking aside, this is the only place on this trip that I gave such a low rating for.

Pinball Museum

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♦♦
508 Maynard Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104
$$$

I love pinball. If I was born in another decade, I would probably become one of those pinball addicts. The type who stands by the machine so as not to lose one’s spot and refuse to eat or drink for as long as my body stays upright? Yeah, that’s me. So making this pit stop was definitely in the books for us. I did dock it in rating because it’s fairly pricey ($15 per person)  and unless you are planning to spend your entire day there, I am not sure it is worth it. There are about 30 machines, a few of which were broken. There are two levels, and plenty of people, so sometimes you’ll have to wait patiently for a pinball machine that you’d like to try if someone is continually using it. The plus side is, after the entry fee, all machines are free (except one). So if you played more than 60 times, then it was worth your fee. Since we got there a bit late, I doubt we reached 60 plays. But! If you are a pinball fan, it was absolutely cool to see the difference in handling of the machines. Some were very old and only had two plastic flippers that lagged when you pressed the buttons. Playing pinball back then must have been extremely frustrating! Others were seizure inducing. Overall, though, I had a great time and would go again. PS: There’s a sweet labrador who walks around and greets you right when you walk in. Make sure to say hi to him!

Ramen Danbo

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♦♦♦
1222 E Pine St, Seattle, WA 98122
$$

Not one of my top five ramen, but still, really good! We got the white sesame seed oil ramen, and it had a lot of flavor. What we liked most about this place was how customizable the ramen is. You can choose from noodle thickness, noodle firmness, thickness of broth, richness, and the level of umami spicy sauce. As customary, I ordered Kaedama (extra noodle) and a side of egg. Also, the service was fast, but the wait time was pretty long since it’s a popular place. Our wait time was thirty minutes at around 7pm on a Sunday night.

Molly Moon’s Ice Cream

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♦♦♦
917 E Pine St, Seattle, WA 98122
$$

It’s not Salt and Straw from our Portland City Guide, but it was still good ice cream. I got the Earl Grey ice cream, which the guy behind the counter very accurately described as tasting like the left-over-milk in a Froot Loops bowl. I would say it is worth swinging by just to try, but then again, I am heavily biased towards ice cream consumption.

Elysian Brewery

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♦♦♦
1221 E Pike St, Seattle, WA 98122
$$

On the way home from an extremely long day of walking and eating and drinking, we stopped by this brewery and ordered a flight. They showcased a number of different types of beers. I ended up liking a Gose that Mr. Debtist ordered, as well as an Elderflower IPA. They also had pub food which looked very good, but we were not able to try after all the ramen and ice cream! I would go back to this brewery though! Very lively, a great place to meet up with friends.

Elm Coffee Roasters

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♦♦♦
240 2nd Ave S #103, Seattle, WA 98104
$$

Our second day began with coffee from Elm Coffee Roasters. The decor of the shop was just my style. Located in an assuming part of town, the inside was bright, and there were surprisingly not many people. Those who did stay seemed to be enjoying their Memorial Day off, reading newspapers and typing on laptops. The crowd seemed to be slow livers who preferred enjoying their coffee, rather than quick passer-bys taking their drinks to-go. They roast their coffee in the back three days a week. My favorite part of the menu is the flight version of coffee. You can order One & One (espresso and machiato), One of Each (espresso and brewed coffee), and One of Everything (espresso, brewed coffee, and a machiato). Plus they house pastries from Macrina Bakery and Cafe, so it’s a one stop shop if you also were trying to try their pastries!

Salumi

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♦♦
404 Occidental Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104
$$

Another sandwich place, getting another mediocre review from a baker. I am judging the entire sandwich as a whole, but the salami was mediocre. I got the Salumi Salami which is a cold sandwich with peppers and cheese, and Mr. Debtist got a hot sandwich with pork belly, which looked too greasy. The upsides? The servings were pretty big (we should have split!) and the cold sandwich kept well until the next day (refrigerated) and I was able to eat it for breakfast. But I wouldn’t say I’d rave about this place after the trip.

The Elliot Bay Book Company

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♦♦
1521 10th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122
$

This is the Seattle version of Powell’s Bookstore, or so they say. It’s much smaller and resembles the size of a Barnes and Nobles, but with a better book selection and book features. We enjoyed perusing the shelves and even sat down to read. We spent probably an hour and a half here. I ended up finishing this book, and collected a long list of ones to read. This would be a good stop for book lovers, or if you are trying to kill time. Not exactly a must-see.

The Pink Door

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♦♦♦
10662 Garden Grove Blvd, Garden Grove, CA 92843
$$

We ended our trip with a dinner at The Pink Door. Close to the Pike Place Market, this restaurant repeatedly showed up in all the reviews. The food and drink was better than average, but not outstanding. There was an aerial performer and we stuck around for her first show. If you come for the show, do ask to sit at the bar rather than on the patio. It happened to be a very sunny weekend in Seattle (which the locals never failed to comment on) and so sitting on their rooftop patio would have been lovely too. I would likely come back, for the food more than the vibes. We ordered the Tajarin (prosciutto cotto, asparagus, sugar snaps, green garlic, organic egg), the Linguine Alle Vongole (baby clams in the shell, pancetta, garlic, chilis and white wine), and doughnuts which reminded us of the Ableskivers in Portland.


For those who are interested, what I packed:

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Curating Closets: Buying the Funky, Old, and Unloved

I have always been a proponent of finding beauty in the unwanted. To a fault. It goes hand-in-hand with my tendency to be a voice for the unheard, a lover of the unloved, et cetera. With this comes a weakness for all things old, musty-smelling, faded, and used. If you’d like to glam the imagery up some, you could call it ‘vintage’. The list includes books with yellowing pages, wooden furniture with chips and nicks, and thick, woolly sweaters amidst retro clothing racks. So this past weekend, when one of my favorite coffee spots, Daydream Surfshop, announced a 40% off Sale on all items, with part of the proceeds being donated to Planned Parenthood (see last post), I knew I was going with the intention to support, and, well, purchase.

Reconciling with Stepping Outside the System

So how does one who keeps a minimalist closet allow for a vintage item? I will admit that these pieces don’t neatly fall into the SYSTEM typically established by a ‘minimalist’ (referring to black and white color schemes and streamlined shapes), but there is still an intentionality about them. Let me remind that first and foremost, minimalism is defined by the owner, and the term does not equate to having as few items as possible. It boils down to being mindful of what you allow to take space in your life. That being said, I find that a few unique pieces that fall outside of your system add character and, dare I say, F-U-N, to one’s clothing line. Sure, too many such pieces could cause a disconnect with your outfits, and would impede the wearability of said piece which may limit its use, but a handful of funk never hurt anyone. Plus, if you love it, you love it. There are minimalists whose closets are filled with articles of clothing in every color of the rainbow, yet daily use of said pieces make it a successfully curated closet. The goal of any clothing curator is this: let no piece go forgotten, or unworn, for a long period of time. In other words, let no piece be left unloved.

Buying Something Broken

The thing about buying vintage, or just plain used, is the fact that someone else loved that item before you. Which means, it probably suffered from daily wear (or at least, that’s the hope). When I was perusing through the clothing racks, I was drawn towards a few items, including chunky cable-knit sweaters (it WAS a rainy day in May, after all), Levi’s denim, and white linens with the occasional crochet. All of which happened to have a defect — a stain on some white sweater, a rip in the jeans, a snag in the wool or fine lace. Every item had a mark that seemed to scream to the world, “I’ve been around since the ’80s!”

At first, I was hesitant to purchase. As a frugalist, where I spend my money really matters, and buying broken things seemed very anti-frugalist, yes? But as a person, I also believe that our purchasing power is a statement, a vote cast towards the future we want to see, and choosing to buy used and broken meant preventing yet one more thing to enter the land-fill, meant loving something that most people don’t, and meant being just a tad less focused on vanity. I went through a number of items with strong consideration for each, and rationalized the purchase of ONE piece with the help of Mr. Debtist. ONE because I am still curating, after all! I ended up choosing a thick wool sweater that made me want to isolate myself in a wood cabin in the middle of winter, with a mug of coffee, a bread oven, and a book. Mayhaps I’m not as ready for the summer as I once thought… This particular sweater had a hole near the bottom where I could stick two thumbs through. Due to its knitted nature, I knew it would be irreparable and that gentle care would forever be granted. The purchase was made to support a rad local coffee shop, to stand as a vote for an individual’s right to have a say about how to treat their own bodies, to be an effort to create a closed loop system when it comes to fashion, and to remind myself that a snag in a sweater, and any consequent judgement caused by it, is irrelevant to its worth. 

Standing Up for the Unloved

I walked out of the shop wearing my new (old) thick, cable-knit sweater on my back, and headed to my parents house for the rest of the one day off. When we arrived, my mom commented on the “nice” sweater as she went in for her customary hug hello. I proceeded to tell her that I had just gotten it that day from a vintage store, and as she pulled away, she asked me aghast, “You mean it’s USED?! EW!” Instead of being offended (long gone are the days when anything my mom says would offend me), I used it as an opportunity to talk about the importance (to me) of trying to create a more sustainable fashion industry. I started to show her the hole, wherein she interrupted and reprimanded me for foolishly buying something so ‘unfixable’. To which I suggested, perhaps, it does not need fixing.

I wasn’t commenting in order to start an argument or to defend my pride. Instead, I like to use these moments to start conversations. Standing up for the unloved is a hard thing to do, especially when your “life decisions” are being judged as questionable, usually by people whose opinions you most value. But I find it very easy to stand rooted in the confidence that every action I take is right by me. That’s all we can ever do. So, although my mom didn’t seem convinced that the sweater rightly belonged anywhere other than the next dumpster, she did hear me and my stance, stopped her berating and moved on to happier things.

Intentional Living: Regaining Tidbits of Our Power

Amidst the chaos surrounding the recent announcements regarding limiting abortion in particular areas of the United States, there surfaces this topic of maintaining our individual rights in decision-making and control over our own bodies (read as: lives). And while it may seem as if we are powerless in our ability to do so, wrangling against governmental institutions, societal norms, and even local community judgement, it is important, now more than ever, to acknowledge our own innate capabilities (women, especially). Instead of worrying about the goings-on of our surroundings, may I suggest starting from a place of here-ness, with our individual self in the very center. Instead of focusing on the things we are told we cannot do, let’s focus on the things that we know within ourselves that we can. Let us regain tidbits of our own power, and trust that in doing so, the world begins to move around that tiny action, regardless of what our society dictates.

There are two ways in which I think people can start regaining tidbits of their power. The first involves being mindful about what we choose to consume. I’ve always been of the mindset that if you are not happy with how you feel about something, change the contexts and the inputs that are coming in. It’s that law of theory that whatever you focus on, you attract more of. Start by making your inputs positive. Be intentional about what you choose to fill your feed. Make them things that connect you to like-minded people, or things that inspire, or make you happy. We need to be more selective about the inputs we are allowing into our life. We are in control of making the situation worse (or better).

Following people who make you feel bad (even those who do so unintentionally) by whatever they are “selling” is not really what you need. Likewise, by following news such as abortion laws and by following Instastories of other people protesting against such news, you are allowing all that negative energy into your world which does not really have a direct effect in your life. In reality, we know what is possible and regardless of how you feel about it or which camp you sit in, the choice is ultimately up to you and if you think a location can prevent you from accessing that, then you are already succumbing to a little bit of the control that you are trying so hard to escape from. On the flip side, by removing those inputs all together, by ignoring the goings-on in that system and trusting in your OWN system which is led by your inner guidance, we are creating a place that is ultimately uplifting, and may I say, more applicable, let alone real. As a true believer in our realities being shaped by our own minds and belief systems, I don’t spend my time or energy wasting on the rest.

The second way to regain our power centers around how we react to what we do end up consuming. Some have a difficult time dissociating from the external goings-on of the surrounding environment, or some simply choose not to (which is by no means an incorrect way to live but rather just a different one), and for these people, the second way to regain power involves the following advice.

You have ultimate control over what you choose to infiltrate your boundaries and give your power away to. If you think about the colleague or friend that is continually putting you down, pointing out your flaws, or instilling some insecurity, you have two choices. You could make what they say or do mean everything to you, or you could make that mean nothing. We need to start empowering women by having them visualize how many people currently hold some of their power in this way. How many people (and places and things) holds little bits of power – where you are waiting for THEM to change and respond differently, to make YOU feel better in your body? And when you think about it like that, you realize that YOU have given all of this power away, to people who YOU have decided has a right to a say. With this really simple visualization, you can call it back in. You need to take the dependency that is scattered among other people, those little bits of yourself that you’ve allowed other people to affect and control, and reel it back in. We need to remember that NO ONE is going to ever change enough to get the anxiety out of our own bodies. This is how we’ve been keeping ourselves powerless, in a way. Able-bodied woman have choice far beyond other people and so we need to look for where we’ve intentionally given that power and where we can easily call it back.

And so I guess, in much the same way, the latter advice follows the former.

As you can see here, worrying about what someone says we can and cannot do is yet another way we give away our power. Interestingly, as more and more people “stand” up against the injustice of this recent abandonment of women’s rights, more and more people are giving up their own power by acknowledging that it is so, and by assuming that we can’t do differently, if we wanted to. In essence, our acknowledgement is actually what is causing the very things we wish to change to be. What our minds believe to exist, does, and likewise, the opposite is true.

I’ve been told that I tend to live in my own world. Which is partially true. I refuse to partake in keeping up with the news or choosing a political party or what have you, because as far as I am concerned, none of it affects me. And people have resisted this notion, calling this mindset privilege, which it possibly is, but I simply believe in an individual’s ability to do as they please. That’s always how it’s been for me. Some may call that courage and others ignorance. But by being even a tiny bit involved (emotionally, physically, mentally) in the government systems that are in place, we are ultimately following THEIR system and allowing them to do what they had set out to do, which is to have power and control. Instead, I just ignore it and live my truth. I follow only one system, and that’s my inner guidance system. If more people did the same, there would be no need to stand up to a government that does not have the power to control anyone. We regain our power by beginning with ourselves, and living life with our self in the center. I trust that the world will move around us.