One Year Later: What I’ve Learned About Blogging

blog anniversaryA year ago today I sat very ignorantly down (very ignorantly) and published my first post on VMMV. I had no idea how difficult, frustrating, fun, irritating, hilarious, ridiculous, silly, adventurous, and exhausting it would be. What I’ve loved though is how it’s changed the way I look at things and think about things. Blogging is intensely self-reflective and puts you in a rather vulnerable position. You’re choosing to let anyone who might happen across your space a look at your creativity, your writing, your thoughts, your voice… basically a journal of your life. And as you expose it, think about it, write it and then re-read it, you learn your own limits and realize parts about yourself (good and bad!) you never knew. I still have so, so, so much to learn and maybe tips and hints coming from a baby-blogger aren’t that significant but I think you can learn a lot from rookies that you can’t from the pros: We’re still in the trenches, still feeling the uncertainty of figuring things out, the trepidation of getting in over our heads, the nitty gritty emotions of learning, and throughout all those emotions you discover things pros probably already did, but perhaps have forgotten about. So, here’s eight things I’ve learned in my first year bloggin.’ They aren’t so much tips, but more of a look at the dialogue I tell myself everyday: the eight things I need to work on the most to hopefully become a better blogger:

one year later: what I've learned about blogging

Perhaps “stop counting” is a little ironic on an anniversary post, but especially in the early stages of blogging, counting is a sure path to discouragement. If you’re weighing the worth of your posts quantitatively instead of qualitatively…you’re gonna be over it really, really, really fast. So, stop counting views, subscribers, how many people “share” a post, “like” a post, and comment on a post. Stop counting how many articles you post, still need to post, or haven’t posted. Sure, have a schedule, a goal number of articles you want to publish weekly or monthly…or else count or not, your readership will be a big fat zero…but pay attention mostly to content instead of numbers. If you write it good stuff, they will come! (right??)

one year later: what I've learned about blogging

I was a slow learner on this one. It wasn’t really until I decided to re-design my blog and move to my own domain name when I discovered how important this was. When Jordan and I first started working on the design, she had me look at other blogs I liked so she could see where my aesthetic I had imagined was best represented in real life. Every blog I showed her that I was drawn to, I began to notice that I was drawn to them because they were so clean: They used the same lighting/hues in all their photography, used the same fonts throughout their posts regardless of how diverse their content was, and, on the whole, used the same design elements and layouts in all their collages. When I first started blogging, almost every single post I did I was using different design elements, different fonts, different photo layout, different lighting…ahhhhhh embarrassing! And I suddenly realized how disjointed it was looking. If you want your blog to be a brand, something about each and every post has to be recognizable even when your content isn’t directly connected to your blog (i.e. pinterest, tumblr, etc.). Choose a few design elements to use in your layouts, a few different fonts to spice up photographs, but then STICK TO IT. Keep your aesthetic cohesive…it will make your life a lot simpler putting content together, and your reader’s eyes will thank-you!

one year later: what I've learned about blogging

Seriously. WHATEVER THE HECK YOU WANT. When you blog, the whole real point seems like it would be readership…and it kinda is in some ways…so pay attention to what your readers like, and then give it to them. BUT, if your readers like something you don’t really like writing about, may I suggest (without offending anyone I hope) that you’re maybe attracting the wrong reader? If you’re writing for numbers instead of writing for yourself, you’ll reach burnout quicker than you’ll reach any kind of success. Eventually readers will be able to tell your heart isn’t in your post and will drift away…I mean, YOU will also be able to tell your heart isn’t in your content and feeling completely fake really isn’t that great of a feeling. Most blogs I read daily I don’t necessarily always love the outfits they put together, the recipes they make, or the DIY’s they create, but I read them because I love their writing voice, how transparent they are about their lives, their emotions, their dreams, and their fears. Reading their posts feels more like reading an excerpt of a really great novel or short story instead of a daily dose of superficial crap. Don’t be another poster of superficial crap!

one year later: what I've learned about blogging

When I started out blogging, I realized when I was asked about my blog or talked about my blog, I was kind of apologizing for it…What are you doing these days? “oh, you know, just working a little on my blog *awkward, dismissive laugh*”… What’s your blog about? “Oh, kinda everything, I’m just sort of figuring out what I want to do.” Why did you start your blog? “Ummm, just for fun, I wanted something creative to do.” Those answers where all true, but when I heard them ringing in my ears each time I said it, I thought, how stupid are you? You know exactly what it’s about, exactly what you want it to be, and exactly why you’re doing it so…SAY IT! Make blogging important, every time you sit down to do it, every time you talk about it, every time you think about it: make it a legitimate pursuit so when you set aside time for it, it’s also a legitimate use of your time…otherwise, if you think of it as a hobby or an excuse, that’s really all it will ever be.

one year later: what I've learned about blogging

I read a lot of blogs and the first place I go when I discover a new blog is the “about” page. I like to see who the person is behind the blog. Usually, just like meeting someone for the first time, if “about” pages are written right, you get an instant connection or an instant turn-off to the writer and you know you’d like what this person has to say or…you just won’t. So many blogs I’ve read though (really successful ones too!) the ladies behind the blog always say how obsessed they are with blogging, how they would blog from sun-up to sun-down if they could, how they’re up to midnight after their full-time jobs working on posts, how they’re posting 24/7 on pinterest and facebook, how they’re instagramming every family vacation and every weekend activity and I think…no! stop! Their approach to blogging is probably a majority of why they’re so popular, and I’m quite impressed by their devotion. These ladies live and breath blogging, but if that’s the only way to get thousands of readers then I’ll stick with just my few because you know what? Blogging really isn’t that important. If it’s taking away your energy, your time with family, your privacy on intimate vacations, your every spare second and every spare thought…then it’s just too important. It’s hard not to let it be a time-sucker: social media is so fast, people want updates and insights, new content and constant entertainment and if you’re not keeping up, readers won’t really stick around. But figuring out how much time you have to give before you say no is a really important limit to reach. Set a limit and then just stop: Stop browsing online, stop taking your camera to every single event, stop logging in to instagram, stop pinning, stop posting, and give time to just normal, every day, blog-less, old-fashioned life.

one year later: what I've learned about blogging

Blogging is a pretty saturated field. As soon as I start thinking I’ve come up with a really unique point of view, unique content, unique titles and labels, images and layouts….I find about ten other blogs doing exactly what I’m doing…only better. And then you think:  well, crap, what’s the point? Be patient. Don’t just be patient about readership numbers, about blog traffic and how many people are re-posting and commenting, but be patient about your own creativity. You can’t force it. Even if you start out with what you think is a clear point of view, a clear voice, and a clear theme, it can always be more finely tuned, more focused, more creative…and all those “mores” take a lot of time. No, not weeks, or months….years. So, get over it, nothing big is happening any time soon, just keep going…

one year later: what I've learned about blogging

I wrote about patience in January, and then I think again in the spring, and the summer, and….get the theme yet? Yeah, it’s sort of my number one biggest problem. The good thing is I’m already to the stage where you acknowledge bad behavior (isn’t that pretty high up on the recovery ladder???). I resolve on changing and then a few weeks later I browse around my daily blogs and think ughhhhh how are they so successful and I’m no where near that? What could I possibly be doing wrong? And then I realize about 500 things I don’t know about blogging that they do–which seems like it would be reassuring–but in fact my ignorance is just an accelerant to my downward spiral into more impatience. So I start over, I write about patience, try to follow my own good advice, get impatient, fail, realize it, write about patience….

blog anniversary

While writing this post and thinking about the last year, I also looked forward to the next year because this next one is going to be so much different. I won’t have the time I had to devote to this space, to building content and trying to figure out more technical things about it, and I have to be open to changes: To maybe not doing some things I wanted to, and to start different things that fit better into my new schedule. It’s hard. With creative things, sometimes I latch onto an idea and won’t let it go until I force it to work. But being open to the idea that sometimes forcing isn’t as good as just letting go is something I need to learn. This next year is going to be incredibly busy, difficult, and exhausting. I need the change as much as I’m dreading it, and I suppose if I can’t learn to stop forcing things, to learn to be open to changes, beginnings, and ends, I guess they will just force themselves on me…oh control, how much you evade me.

If you’ve been on this year-long journey with me, I can’t thank-you enough for your readership and support, the readers who comment, who share content…thank-you! And, if you haven’t been reading long and just learned about this space, I hope you’ll see what happens in the next year of VMMV! Love to you all,

– <3 A. 

It’s Just Natural

vmmv modern viewsI like leading. I like being in control. Every group project I ever had in college I wrestled for the lead spot, and I usually got it–not because I’m bossy or a strong personality: I’ve got a voice so small, people in a one-on-one conversation with me often follow-up my statements with a side-lean and a “what?” I usually get the lead spot because I’m organized, a bit of an over-achiever, but largely because I’ve got a strong vein of fear for unpreparedness running through me that makes me, in most situations, over-compensate so I can feel controlled. I have high expectations, and I don’t really trust other people to help me to get to that level of expectation when I can just do it myself in my own way that I know works for me. I know what I need to feel comfortable while I work, so why not get myself to that position? I guess you could call it a pessimistic view of humanity, but I’d rather be surprised by someone as prepared as I am then count on them being prepared and be disappointed, stressed out, and joining them in looking the fool when it turns out they’re not. So, in short, it’s just natural for me to fall into taking the lead.

In one specific class project I vividly remember in my Senior year as an undergrad, we were broken up in groups of three and tasked to make connections between one of Jane Austen’s novels (Persuasion to be exact) and a romantic poet of our choice (Keats, Wordsworth, Coleridge etc.). If you’re not an English major, this probably sounds pointless, horrific, and dull, but there was a reason for the project which is, well, another post completely. The point is, my group broke up the project evenly into three parts and we agreed to reconvene a few days later, share our conclusions, and mutually agree on the ones we would present in our portfolio. A good plan, yes? Very “fair.” Hah. I went back to my apartment and happily charged ahead on the project–it’s no secret Austen is my specialty and my brain was already overflowing with connections. I came up with my conclusions I was assigned and then, well, I came up with all the rest too, you know, just in case. After four years of college I had had enough experience in groups to know being over-prepared is never a waste because there is always, without fail, someone to be made up for. Sure enough, by the first group meeting, three group members had fallen to two with no word from the third about the project, her absence, or her plan for getting her portion to us. “Ah yes,” I thought, “no worries at all, I’ve planned for this catastrophe.” The project was turned in with two names gracing the title instead of three, and our third “team” member concluded in creating massive drama—another story for yet another post. My point is, I led not because I necessarily wanted to lead, be the boss, or establish new, never-before-thought-of Austen connections (trust me, they’ve all been explored: Every. Single. One.) I led because I knew what I was good at: organization, planning, Austen. And I led because, well, there wasn’t much competition, so…it was just natural for me to do it.leanin.org

By now you’ve probably heard of Sheryl Sandberg…if not for her COO position at Facebook, but for her wildly popular book Lean in: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. What I didn’t know though was that “lean in” has become sort of a new catch phrase, a hot hashtag, and a whole .org site dedicated to what lean-in-ers describe as “changing the conversation about what we [women] can’t do to what we can do.” Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? But what is so very irritating about Sandberg’s message and all her women “leaning in,” is that they’re insistent upon this idea that if you’re a woman not leading, then you’re “fearful” of being a leader and damn those misogynists, WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOU? At a “BlogHer” conference earlier this year, Sandberg was re-wording some of her book’s urgings that many had criticized for being “elitist or critical of women who don’t have sky-high aspirations.” She admitted that perhaps her opinions had come off wrong and restated that “leaning in” wasn’t about every woman wanting to be a CEO but “about each one of us asking ourselves what we would do if we weren’t afraid and then reaching for those ambitions.”

It was meant to be “all-inclusive” she said, about all women, in every position, breaking out of their “fear” of…what? Being a woman? I don’t get it. I don’t get it at all. Why are we still making this about gender? If I’m “afraid” of something, I never think, “well, if only I were a man, I could do this.” No! For most things I don’t do, I’m not really afraid, I honestly don’t want to do them because I don’t think I would be good at them–not because I’m a woman, because those aren’t my natural strengths. And if I am afraid, it’s usually because I know I’m not good at it or I don’t know much about it yet. Never ever does it cross my mind that my femininity is holding me back. That group project I took control of? Sandberg would probably pat my shoulder and say “yay! Good for you for leaning in and taking control.” But I didn’t do it for that reason, I don’t want to be the boss, I just want to work to my own strengths. If a male team member had had better connections than I did for our Austen-to-Romantic-poet connection project, then I would have stepped down, held back, and given him a nod. Not because I’m suddenly afraid of the manly beast, but because hey, his ideas sound better. The content–not the producer–was better. But Sandberg? The article said she’s “concerned” about how we’re raising our daughters because “by middle school, in survey after survey, more boys say they want to lead someday versus girls.” Uh-oh, EMERGENCY!!! GIRLS ARE AFRAID!!! EMPOWER THEM!!!sheryl sandberg

Wait, what? Why? I don’t take that statistic that way, I take it that, for the majority, boys naturally have the desire to lead, that’s why even when they’re young (oh hey, in middle school) they’re already showing this tendency. Does that make me afraid? No. It’s not a rule, it’s just a majority. Some girls naturally have the ability to lead, and they will, without all of this obsession. Try and get a naturally disorganized girl to lead and you’ll have a leader who wasn’t meant to lead. That’s not forward-thinking equality and woman-empowerment, that’s a waiting disaster. My boyfriend recently asked me if I ever wanted to see a woman president. I thought about it for a long time–I knew what he was asking, if, like most women, I wanted to see a woman president because she was a woman. And I said yes, I would vote for a woman to be president, but I wouldn’t be voting based on her gender, I would be voting based on who the heck she was. How offensive to her to vote for her just because she’s got boobs. Come on ladies. Men usually get hired as high school teachers faster than women…I don’t take that as women are afraid to lead, take charge, and go get that job, I take it as school districts knowing that perhaps for the age group, men are just better at handling a room of 30+ teens. The reverse usually occurs with elementary school though, women are better at connecting with younger children…you know, just naturally. The dumbest idea employers ever had was to have rules on the types of people they had to hire. I would be more disappointed if I knew I was hired to “lead” just because they had to meet their female quota than if I was turned down because a man just did it better than I did. It’s not about being afraid, being brought up differently, or having different gender expectations…it’s just natural: Leaders are personality types, not gender specific and if we try and even out the ratio based solely on which bathroom we use, we’re going to have a really, really big problem…starting right at the top.

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– <3 A. 

Labor Day On Holiday

vmmv photographyvmmv photographyvmmv photographyvmmv photographyvmmv photographyvmmv photographyvmmv photographyvmmv photographyI always forget about the Labor Day holiday, but I won’t be forgetting after this year. I honestly think it was thrown in the vaca-mix for teachers completely shell-shocked by post-summer-traumatic-school-onslaught-syndrome. It really comes at precisely the right time: just a few weeks after the start of the school year, it’s sort of like a glorious little cat nap to refresh before the real Fall grind. I spent my cat-nap day re-visiting a few of my favorite spots from my undergrad years. It wasn’t nearly as chilly as I had hoped, but that didn’t make drinking coffee on the beach, lunch in the sun (btw blackberry, pomegranate, and ginger is NOT a good beverage combination), and dinner under twinkle lights any less wonderfully relaxing. That town is marked at every inch with memories good and bad and an annual trip never gets old reliving a few crazy years.

I sucked it up and paid my tuition a week early yesterday. I had to pick up my last textbook for the quarter and decided, hey, why not pay all the ridiculous overpriced fees all at once? (no of course not, I’m not harboring any kind of resentment.) School is getting way way more real now. My difficulty in accepting it I think is more astonishment at how I made this decision. I distinctly remember as an third year undergrad saying I would hate to be a teacher and be stuck in the school-year-schedule my whole life. What a nasty bubble apart from real life that life must be I thought. And here I am, going back to school to be a teacher and remain, forever more in one way or another, in school. But, I’ve got other plans up my sleeve that makes this step in no way a final one. I have aspirations that, once achieved, will let me continue my obsession with occupation roaming in a little bit more of a focused fashion. I think the need to explore is a creative’s biggest fail yet greatest success: being incapable of really settling into one path. There’s always new things to try, new interests to examine, and that ever present itch of being capable of much more. It’s dangerous if you let it distract you from a healthy sense of reality, but very powerful I think if you let it mix with your reality, pushing you to make real life better and when life isn’t all that great, letting you escape until perspective tells you sure, real life is, well, real, but it’s also not forever, most things aren’t that important, and even in the midst of the worst days, days like Labor Day…days that let you cat nap, daydream, and doze…will come again and THAT is worth going back to school for. 

 – <3 A. 

Who’s on the Pedestal: Gender Morality Inequality

vmmv opinionsAusten wrote about it in Persuasion when Mrs. Croft, the Admiral’s wife, defends her decision to follow her husband on all of his sea-faring expeditions. She wonders why women are a sex often held aloft of or apart from “normal” everyday life. She hated to hear women talked about “as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures.” For “none of us (women)” she says, “want to be in calm waters all our lives.” Woolf wrote about it too in her essay “A Room of One’s Own,” believing that “anything may happen when womanhood has ceased to be a protected occupation.” But it’s not just novelists, any romantic poet who ever put lyric to paper wrote about it: women have been placed on pedestals since the land before time. We’re the “good” ones. The muses, the moral guides, the innocent. So when women “go wrong” oh how the fingers start pointing. When men mess up, they often get the “oh, well, they didn’t know any better” defense while women? We get the “how could she?” attack. It’s almost as if the male gender (sorry guys) has so many bad apples that one more falling into the mire just gets a shrug of the shoulders, but when a tainted rose falls from the perfectly pruned female bush–everyone notices.

 The recent scandal surrounding Virginia Governor Bob Mcdonnell has interestingly (surprise, surprise) found its epicenter on his wife. Sure, he’s being asked to step down, acknowledge the errors in (everyone decries, mostly his wife’s) judgment, and apologize to his Virginian constituents. But his wife? She’s been called an “awkward Cinderella” trying to fit into a political “castle” and “the ills” that have befallen “the House of Mcdonnell,” are mostly pushed upon her. The Washington Post was quick to announce that these “ills…are all about vanity. Most specifically, the vanity of the state’s first lady.” She’s been characterized as a sort of silly sixteen year old: swept away by the luxe life she’s gained through her husband’s work. A sort of late-in-coming sweet sixteen she is reveling in. A former Redskins cheerleader, the media was quick to pin on her all the stereotypes that come with that occupation. Now, don’t get me wrong, she’s been pulled through the mud mostly for good reasons: the things she did with public and privately acquired money are pretty disgusting. The interesting thing is though, that throughout all the stories about the scandal, there’s an underlying assumption as if, while we expect these sort of things from a man, (especially a political man), from a woman–well no way. How could she?

I’m not saying we’re all not disgusted when a man does something disreputable, but they have an uncanny way of  still makin’ it back to the top: Clinton bounced back quite nicely I’d say from his indiscretions and near-impeachment back in the 90’s. The man gave a speech at the 2012 National Democratic Convention for goodness sake–all to rousing cheers and gushing crowds. Now there’s a turnaround. The more recent scandals involving former Senator Anthony Weiner, while he definitely has endured setbacks during his own bouts of eyebrow-raising activities, the guy just won’t really go away, and, chances are, he’ll still find his way back into some position of power. Some are comparing he and his wife’s, uh, tense relationship to the Clintons, and they turned out just “fine” didn’t they? But Lady Mcdonnell? Think we’re ever going to see her again in a good light? No way. Women are the ones who hold out, take the high-ground, pull out the morality card and “just say no”…right? So when we do fall, it’s hard, and the road back is pretty steep. Remember Sarah Palin? She wasn’t even VP yet and her daughter’s teen romance turned pregnancy “oops” started the avalanche of political woes for Palin. Governor Mcdonnell? I’m sure he knew what his family was doing while perched in the State’s house, but his wife gets most of the smackdown. Governor Palin? She perhaps could have kept a closer eye on her teenage daughter, but she was the one who fell under the volley of “bad mother,” “bad woman” attacks. There wasn’t a chance she could resurrect her career after that slip. So, who’s really on that pedestal anyway? Literature says women, but I’m beginning to think that politics and society give a vote for the man. When women slip, there’s no hope for a re-mount, but when men slip? Everyone’s ready to give ’em a boost back up–besides, they didn’t really mean it anyway…right?

**In case you’re confused, most of VMMV’s opinion articles are usually all about gender differences, but as far as expectations of morality are concerned–equality is always expected, yet rarely returned**

columns via | silhouettes via

– <3 A. 

Sneak Peak: Blog Makeover

moodboard

moodboard

I’ve been letting little snippets and hints out all summer about a blog makeover in the works and a few weeks ago you might remember me mentioning my blog designer and I were working on creating a cohesive palette for VMMV’s facelift. But perhaps I haven’t quite made clear just really how extensive this project is and just how completely EXCITED I am for the launch to be officially a week away!!! Nothing is going to change about how you access the blog, if you’re used to finding it a certain way, keep doin’ it! Everything will be rerouted to VMMV’s new home and I hope all of my darling readers will enjoy the new place as much as I will. I was only blogging for about 8 months when i contacted my blog designer. That’s pretty early in blog world to be jumping to the next level but my visions for what VMMV could be had already outgrown my own personal abilities so I needed to call in the troops or risk frustration and burnout by doing it all myself. And how thankful I am that I did call in at least one troop: Jordan Brantley, the brainchild of Create Like Crazy, my brilliant blog-designer, and such a fun partner to work with. How I stumbled across her I still can’t remember, but I have a feeling we were linked up for a reason especially considering after a little investigative work on my side (I was creepin’ on you Jordan!) I discovered we had the very same theory about where all our creativity comes from and what we should be using it for. She’s a kindred spirit that one.

She and I worked to create this moodboard as a way to get me to focus my ideas for the blog and make sure both of us were on the same page for my vision of what I wanted VMMV to be. Jordan had me find images and take pictures that represented what my visions are of the VMMV brand and put them into a few categories (style, design, color, texture, layout, vibe etc.). It was such a fun and slightly challenging project to pair concrete images to foggy design ideas! I sent her my photos and she hand-picked through them to create a finished moodboard with cohesion and direction.

When we first began brainstorming, I told her I didn’t want the vintage to feel like an antique store, more like an eclectic boutique. I still wanted a fresh, modern feel because that’s what VMMV is all about, integrating vintage inspirations into the modern world. She hit the balance just right…wait and see! The new blog will be so much easier for all of you to navigate, and will also be completely customized thanks very much to Jordan’s talents.  Like I said, the launch is officially set for August 8th so stay tuned! This moodboard is only a tiny peek into a beautiful new space.

– <3 A. 

How Women Work

play the gameFrom kindergarten through high school, teachers and administrators spend their days catering to different learning styles. There’s post-graduate degrees about it, there’s studies on it, volumes and volumes of ideas to assist it, there’s seminars for it, and there’s real truth to it: Some kids learn slower, some need a quick run around the lower left play-field before they can settle down to math, some need to work on their own, some need you right there to guide them. It’s openly acknowledged that boys are slower to develop, (they officially reach adolescence at age 12 while girls reach it at 10) and, generally, most teachers would probably admit that their gentlemen students need more frequent breaks to blast out some energy on the playground. So, boys and girls are different. Yep, got that. It’s not that expectations of the end goal are different, it’s that the paths that students take to reach a level of achievement can be, and are, very diverse–and educators are all about meeting these needs. Yet, after we all move on from elementary, middle, high school, and perhaps careen through college, we arrive at the workplace where everyone is expected to work in the same way. More then that, expected to want to work in the same way.

In her article “Women are at the Table, so Now What?” writer Anand Giridharadas asks the question, “how would everything in the world be different if the female half of humanity had not been more or less locked out of its design?” Focusing on the workplace, she’s in essence asking how work, meeting structure, and office-life would be different had men not been the main imagineers behind its infrastructure. In the next breath however, she describes the premise behind her question is a dangerous one, for, “to suggest that women have a distinct way of thinking  is…to flirt with the kind of logic that held them down.” Its interesting that though “distinct ways of thinking” are celebrated, catered to, and studied among children, once we sign on as employees of a workplace, our gender differences are supposed to be ignored, probably sued if acknowledged, and frowned upon if exploited–at times for very good reasons. Yet, the differences remain. Boys and girls are different, and so are men and women, and somehow acknowledging the distinctions behind our genders is nothing to be celebrated, noticed, or examined. Now that women have generally been included where we were once excluded however, Giridharadas proposes that though women are late “in coming…to the modern work force,” perhaps we are better “able to see what’s amiss” with it with our fresh (and might I add uniquely female) perspectives. The idea that something is “amiss” is not just a female perspective however, though women may be leading the search for a more balanced life within and without of the office. In her article, Giridharadas notes that last month, a number of high-powered female (and male) executives met in New York to discuss this idea of a new sort of workplace. Among the meeting-goers, the overwhelming thought “was that the culture of work in general is in a bad way, and that women’s struggles to find balance are only glimpses of a larger problem…there was widespread agreement that the culture of…white-collar American professionals bathing in the pride of being ‘crazy busy’ are pervasive and harmful” notions. Further, that “technology, in bringing the office calendar and whiteboard into bed with you, only worsens things.” In short, Giridharadas exposes what has become a burgeoning new feeling that, since women have arrived at the “table” of corporate America, we don’t really like what we see.

This whole “new” movement is almost humorously ironic. Historically, that’s why women were shut out: because, on the whole, women have been labeled as more emotional, we have more ups and downs, and we have never been able to shake the stereotype of the fickle, female heart and never being satisfied. I guess we could have seen this coming then. But all that aside, now that women are here and we don’t like what we see, how do we propose to change it? Giridharadas says that John Mackey, co-founder of Whole Foods questioned that exact thing in the Manhattan-meeting-of-the-corporate-minds. Mackey says that “men’s metaphors for business have tended to derive from sports, war, and Darwinian ideas,” so what would women’s business metaphors be? How would we re-imagine it? Maybe it doesn’t need to be re-imagined though, maybe women just need to be able to be women, not to strive to “make it in a man’s world” but to “make” it how they define it and let men have their world if they let us have ours. Differences: its ok, they’re a good thing. In any good sports team, coaches and managers know to play to the unique strengths of individuals players. Sure they’re a team, but distinctions are just as important. Pitchers can’t play as often as a first baseman. Their shoulders need rest and days to recover or else they risk injury and burnout. Shortstops have to be quick, catchers usually are strong and stocky. They train different, work different, and perform to their unique strengths. If that’s the business metaphor we’re working off of then, how come we’re all trying to be pitchers?

Giridharadas questions if women can “simultaneously argue for their ability to work as hard as men and suggest that no one should work that hard,” but I wonder why it has taken this long for us all to figure out that while women can do it, maybe doing it isn’t the best thing for women, men, or our families, and doing it in the way that men established for themselves is definitely not the right way for us. Ability is not in question here, it’s health, happiness, and using individual strengths and natural gifts in the proper way. Giridharadas ends her article by mentioning some strategies that the Manhattan corporates came up with as new visions for a future, better workplace. The ideas (flex hours, “digital detox days,” etc.) are labeled as “performance enhancers,” strategies that strive to appear, above all else, to be “gender-neutral.” But I have to wonder if they’re missing the exact thing they almost uncovered: that is, that we’re DIFFERENT, that neutrality won’t work just as much as workin’ like a dog man hasn’t worked for women. So why skirt around the primary issue? Why not celebrate “that women have a distinct way of thinking,” and thus can work in distinct ways? Why does distinction suddenly bring out the less-than symbol? And why is removing all distinctions the answer? “I’m very definitely a woman and I enjoy it” (Marilyn Monroe) and I have no interest in making it in a man’s world, nor do I have any interest in both of us working in a gender-neutral environment. If men want to work like men, let them, and let women work like women.

image inspired via | article

– <3 A. 

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A New Version of Freedom

new version of freedomEmily Matchar, writer for The Atlantic and author of the just-released book, New Domesticity recently wrote an article about a surging revival of interest in traditional  family life where the children of Baby Boomers (us “doomed” Millennials) are leading a subtle rebellion against the world our parents created by beginning what she describes as a “tangible shift in the way educated young women” are approaching issues like family, work, and homemaking. In her article, she explores the complex reasons why she says “Feminists [are becoming] Housewives.” She’s quick to point out this movement is nothing like traditional ideas of, well, traditional (cue June Cleaver image), nor newly created stereotypes of the Stepford Stay-at-home-wife/mom. These women who are choosing to return to a “housewife” label aren’t wealthy white girls who came from money, perhaps married into even more money, and are strolling around at home working out in LuLu Lemon, dropping the kids off in an Escalade, and struggling only to choose a gel manicure color. Instead, Matchar says that “across different social and cultural groups, there’s been a collective return to domesticy” for a variety of reasons. This movement isn’t about women not wanting to work outside the home, about masochist husbands who want to leave a list of chores at home and return after 5:00 p.m. expecting dinner on the table. “It’s about the grown children of harried Baby Boomers who, having seen his (or her) parents work 60 hour weeks to climb the corporate ladder, decides to lead a slower, more home-focused life.”

quoteThe underlying reason for this shift? Matchar says that in her interviews with numerous different types of women who had chosen to stay home for a variety of different reasons was that, in the end, they all hoped to “create smarter, healthier, gentler children.” If you read between the lines of all these quotes and data that Matchar gathered from Millennials, what Millennials are in effect saying is that we don’t really like ourselves. We don’t like what the Baby Boomer’s “careerism and materialist values” left us as individuals or left to us as a culture. Point to the resurgence of the coined “hipster” label, or the vast number of goal-less 20-somethings that make up a large percentage of the “Millennials,” and it becomes rather obvious that this generation is really not a huge fan of the shoes our parents were wanting us to fill.  We don’t like what that mindset created: us. We don’t really like that the Baby Boomers gave up experiencing much of their children’s lives in order to lead their own “successful” ones. And that’s nothing new, every generation spurns the one before it, but Matchar says that despite the vast range of reasons people were choosing to give “the finger to corporate America…what they all shared was a conviction that America was messed up.” And who had messed it up? Without digressing to a blame game, or giving any one group too much responsibility in the current state of the American family, but Millennials naturally look to, and blame, our Baby Boomer parents. Of course, the volley of attacks could be made on Millennials: a generation described as one of the laziest generations, a generation crippled by our inability to choose a path from the myriad of opportunities 20 and 30-somethings have today. And who gave us the ability to choose these opportunities? Of course, the hard-working Baby Boomer parents Millennials are rebelling against and often mooch off of as we casually decide what opportunity to “choose” all while safely tucked in the nest egg of our perhaps aloof, but stable, parents. But that is what is so ironic. The Baby Boomers worked so hard to create an America that the Millennials see as “messed up.” A way of life that the new “adult” generation is choosing to turn away from and essentially do it over themselves in a more traditional way.

quote Matchar points to this DIY subculture and broad distrust in institutions as why blogs are so popular, why many are attempting to grow their own food, to homeschool their children, to cook from scratch, and essentially live much simpler lives. It is “in this context,” Matchar says, that “domesticity is reinvisioned as a valid, creative, politically powerful, even feminist choice.” In essence, a woman’s decision to choose domesticity is more of a decision to gain a new version of freedom from a world our parents worked hard to get but at a cost too high for the consequences of their ambition (their children’s unhappiness) to take with their own future, or current, families. Instead of a choice of bowing out of the “race,” domesticity is more of a way of taking control. Matchar didn’t say this, but I think there’s enough evidence to conclude that as the guinea pigs for the Baby Boomer’s experiment of “all or nothing” for career and personal power, we Millennials are choosing to not have our children become what we are now. We want to make homes, families, and a new life the old way.

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– <3 A. 

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Ring of Fire

july 4th vmmv

july 4th vmmv

july 4th vmmv

“I fell into a burning ring of fire, I went down, down, down and the flames went higher, And it burns, burns, burns, the ring of fire, The ring of fire”…that was my Fourth of July…not that I slipped into some relationship of unrequited love like poor Johnny, but just because it was seriously THAT HOT: Burning ring of fire hot, never stop sweating from 8:00 A.M. to Midnight hot, instant melting popscicle hot, the air with the thickness of lava hot, straightened hair instantly transformed into lion frizz-mane hot…but despite all of that, I had a pretty perfect day because all of my favorite people were within eyesight and earshot and I will never grow tired of BBQ and sparklers, stained asphalt feet and too much watermelon, firecrackers, fans, and California summer. There’s something profoundly nostalgic about the Fourth of July, and I hope it never changes.

– <3 A. 

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June: Highlights

june vmmv highlights

june vmmv highlights

1. | 2. | 3. | 4. | 5. | 6. |

 I am honestly becoming really rather worried about the state of these months. I hardly even get used to the idea of being in one and it’s over. June has been a month for gaining some satisfaction for long-made plans: I’m two-thirds of the way through my annoyingly difficult tests for my new adventure, I finally got admitted to my program (for all of modernity’s speed, Universities still like to kick it old-style and snail crawl every move), my blog has begun to do some behind-the-scenes shifting (yay, yay, yay!) in the very capable hands of someone you will hopefully learn more about in the near future, and I’m beginning to see little light glimmers at the end of some tunnels I felt like would never reach fresh air again.

Even though I think I put on a pretty convincing facade, I’m really not a very patient person. I want things done and I want them done NOW and I will plan and organize and work hard to get them done unlesssss those things that need to be done are out of my hands and then the oh so helpless feelings of relying on other people begin to gnaw away at my (I admit it!) control-freak self. Thankfully, while I was patiently desperately, tearfully, and whining-ly waiting pacing this month, I did seem to have some excellent time with my wonderful dad, made a few treats, tried a few projects, and had a good stiff drink (sort of). I also began to come to terms with a new path even though sometimes things slip a bit, and in the end was reminded for the 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 time that I should probably not worry so much?…yeah, it’s a good idea at least, isn’t it?

– <3 A. 

When Things Start Slipping

watermelon cake

watermelon dessertThere is a point between control and out of control when things just start slipping. Nothing too terrible has really happened, or isn’t likely to happen, but you have that uneasy feeling that life has slipped a bit. When your head is so full of dates and deadlines, of people and problems, of mundane to-do’s and big wishful thoughts that everything begins a slow-mo slide down from the control tower of your brain.

This “cake”? It became a metaphor for that emotion: I tried to make that beautiful and brilliant watermelon cake for Father’s Day, have you seen it on Pinterest? It looked so refreshing and so easy and I was super excited to give it a go for Dad’s day. But about ten seconds into icing the watermelon with my cool whip frosting, I realized this was not going to be a very merry dessert. Nothing sticks to watermelon, did you know that? I really want to know how other people do it because from the moment I began frosting to the moment I realized I was NOT going to serve this guy, my icing did a slow, sad, soggy slide down the sides of my melon and concluded in creating a watermelon-juice-soggy-moat at the bottom of the fruit dome. MMmmmm, now doesn’t that sound delightful? I did try to regain control, in fact, all things considered it was a fairly heroic attempt: I added the raspberries I was going to decorate the top with to try and give the icing a bit of a grip, but this only succeeded in quickening its descent downward. Then I thought, well, why waste the sugar-coated walnuts? That might add some much-needed crunch to the mess so I threw those on as well, and, because the walnuts I guess wanted to add to the whole effect of the fail, they decided to be rancid and that at last concluded my attempts of cake-salvation.

I guess if metaphors give us morals then the moral of this one is, if things are slipping, something’s gotta give because if you don’t choose to throw something out, trust me, it will slip all by itself, despite your best struggles to save.

 – <3 A. 

Other VMMV Recipes (that worked!) 

header  DSC_0701-002  lemon cheesecake cocktail

    Coffee Squared               Lemon Raspberry Cake       Lemon Cheesecake