Coming Home

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This summer we moved out of our old home – the one Fox was born in, the one Braid was built in, and the one Jeremy and I were married in. I thought I would be a little more nostalgic as we moved out – I had this idea that I might walk through our empty home and shed a single tear in each room as I recounted all the life we had lived in that space. But just hours in and I was already settling in to our new home – a midcentury modern split level with a mint green kitchen – as Jeremy handed off the keys to our old home to our new tenants.

Moving homes this summer didn’t make any sense – financially or otherwise. We were still sorting out up from down after bringing a tiny person into our lives. But when this house became an opportunity – even through my postpartum haze – I had a vision and this home was the backdrop. A vision of becoming the mom I want to be – of creating new traditions and rituals that would bond our little family together like Gorilla glue. A vision of finally coming home. And now here we are.

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A big thanks to Greer for capturing us, just as we were on any given rainy Saturday morning.

Power Lady Posse

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I’ve always been a girl who likes girls. In fact, I came out as a lesbian to my entire family when I was 13. And then when I finally hit puberty at the ripe old age of 17 I realized that I most definitely preferred making out with boys. And for the girls who have always been “the girl that gets along better with guys” – well, I’ve always been equal parts jealous and suspicious of those girls… until we become friends, that is.

So anyway, one of my favorite parts of Designer VACA is the amount of generosity, transparency, and friendship that is openly offered by a bunch of women who may or may not have at one time been the kind of girl who gets along better with guys. And instead of exchanging business cards we exchange ideas.

This was my third year to attend Designer VACA. And every year it feels more and more like summer camp for grown-ass bad-ass women with killer style. Actually, I never went to summer camp so I can’t really even compare it to that – but what I do know is every year towards the end of our pool-side time together we say things like “Oh my god, let’s get together before next year!” and “Oh my god, I love you so much! I miss you already!” and every year seems to roll by a little faster and we can never believe it’s been a year since we’ve reunited.

Towards the end of Designer VACA one of the new attendees commented on how cool it was to hang out with so many other women – technically competitors – she said that she realized finding her tribe is important. And she’s right. Because it’s not just about the work you create, the blogs you post, or the beautiful vignettes you share on Instagram. It’s about meaningful connection. It’s about friendship. It’s about creative women supporting each other to be our best selves– lifting each other up instead of dragging ourselves down by playing the comparison game – or worse tearing each other down with snark.

The opening night of Designer VACA Jessica Hische talked about her experience in LA vs. NYC – she said in NYC she was “one of the guys” busting her ass through the weekend. But that in LA there is a Power Lady Posse of women who are badass and pretty much refuse to work on the weekend. She said she’s all about the ladies these days. Me too, Jessica.

P.S. My friend Jane captured her experience at Designer VACA with loads of vulnerability and beauty in her post here.

And here is my new friend Kyla Roma’s take on Designer Vaca.

Salvation Mountain

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Leonard Knight created Salvation Mountain – located just 1.5 hours outside of Palm Springs, California in Niland, Califoria – with what started as a failed attempt to spread his message of God is Love with a giant hand-crafted hot air balloon. The fabric of his fantastic balloon rotted before he could ever successfully launch it. So then with just half a bag of cement he decided to make a little monument in the desert before fleeing from his failure. Well, half a bag of cement and a little bit of paint turned into Salvation Mountain. But not without another failure – this mountain you see here is actually his second attempt after his first mountain collapsed. (source)

So when my family had the opportunity to take a little excursion out to Salvation Mountain after kicking it in Palm Springs for Designer VACA I knew we had to take it. We made the drive out to Salvation Mountain with our friends Star and Jamaica – we chatted about app development and game design – something Jeremy has been interested in doing lately. About 45 minutes into our drive, as we were passing the uninhabitable Salton Sea, Fox started to lose it. When no amount of books, toys, plastic bottles (his favorite thing), or Itsy Bitsy Spider would calm him down I unbuckled myself and contorted my body and managed to reach what felt like an itsy bitsy boobie to his mouth to finally pacify him. The border patrol didn’t seem to mind as they waved us through – surely they have children too. We drove past a man with a long beard and blistering red skin walking barefoot down the road. We stopped at a cash only gas station, complete with a horse-maybe-donkey hitched to a post, with a dirty bathroom tucked behind a meat counter.

And then we finally made it to Salvation Mountain. It felt kind of magical and kind of insane. And perhaps even a little post-apocalyptic. You can’t experience a piece of work like this without being moved. And I was moved but I can’t quite pinpoint how. It’s kind of like a not-quite-scary but very odd dream where you can’t quite remember the narrative but you’re left with a funny feeling all day after you wake up – that’s what Salvation Mountain was like.

Getting Back to Work

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Late last week I spoke at the Circles Conference to a packed (and quite stylish) audience full of designers. And now I’m nursing what my friend Brené Brown calls a vulnerability hangover.

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My talk was about how painful it can be to be a working creative because of The Fear. But that if we can just do a few things – like get specific about what both the worst case scenario and the ideal day look like, get clear on what we really want to be doing all day, and maybe make a mantra to remember what that is – then maybe it won’t be quite so painful to put your heart into your profession. I didn’t really get serious about my talk until two weeks ago. I had written out what I wanted to say – and when I read it out loud it sucked. So I recruited my speech writer and voice coach (that would be my sister and business partner, Tara) and we spent an entire Saturday afternoon out at my parents lake house writing my script – word-for-word. Then I spent the next week memorizing my cues and designing my slides. The night before my talk in the hotel room I practiced forgetting the script so I could sound casual. As if I was going to walk up on that stage and give a story that had just come to mind – like lunch with a friend. Then I practiced walking (the stage strut – not quite a model stomp) and talking at the same time without forgetting that words were supposed to be coming out of my mouth.

Oh. And that was all only after getting my snotty and over-tired baby to sleep on the hotel bed – two hours after his normal bedtime. Which for a baby, and a new mom, is kind of a big deal.

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After my talk I felt high. I had a quiet, humbling moment of gratitude when I found myself backstage. And then when I was sure nobody could see me I pumped my fists in the air – like a dorky protagonist in an 80s romantic comedy who just scored a date with the homecoming queen. I know it’s probably not cool to admit that I was proud of myself … but I was proud of myself.

I made my way back to the conference lobby buzzing with inspiration and energy. And that’s when I saw my sister talking to my creative girlfriends – my tribe from all over the country (and even Canada!) – and my baby crawling around on the floor at their feet … and for a minute I felt like I had it all. And that I could actually do it all. But today. Today, I have fears, my self-doubts, and my vulnerability hangover. And now I’m getting back to work.

P.S. You can watch the talk here. 

Talk notes drawn by Terence Tang.

Nice Nails

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I’ve been biting my nails since I can remember. And biting is probably the most tame way to describe the kind of masochistic destruction I was doing to my digits. Nothing felt better that biting down at the edge of a nail to get the process started and then proceeding with my available fingers to rip the rest of it off. Even the smallest bit of white that would begin to appear was a reminder that I had work to do and a little bit anxiety to relieve.

At some point I truly believed that I was incapable of nice nails. Just like some people are born with thick, straight manes and moms with access to fancy stylists – others are born with curly nests and moms who feel confident DIYing bangs on the back porch with a comb missing a few teeth and dull scissors. Some people are born with nice nails and others are born nail biters.

The worst side-effects of nail-biting never seemed to deter my bad habit. Infected fingers, picked at cuticles, irritated hang nails, and that burning sensation when you get salt on a fresh bit of exposed nail bed. Pain usually serves as a red flag to STOP but my addiction held strong. I bit my nails on the bus to Elementary school. I bit my nails in between sets of marching band practice. I bit my nails through boring gen ed classes in college. I felt extra fancy when I got fake acrylic French manicured nails for my first wedding. Not long after I vowed “Forever, I do…” I managed to pop and rip my acrylic nails off my fingers, one-by-one, before the honeymoon was even over. After I got my first job I remember being self conscious about showing designs-in-progress to my account executive … I would fold as many fingers as possible into my palm when pointing out various elements of the art I was presenting.

It wasn’t until Britney Spears went crazy and the tabloids started relentlessly picking on her that I stopped biting my nails. I remember a particular article detailing everything wrong with Britney – from her Cheetos and Frappucino addiction, to her bad hair extensions and inability to wear shoes in gas station restrooms, to a close up, zoomed-in view of her hands (carrying two cell phones, a Starbucks drink, Cheetos, her wallet, and a baby on her hip) pointing out her mangled nubs of fingernails. So that was that. I immediately stopped biting my nails and started treating myself to weekly manicures to stay accountable to kicking the habit. I also stopped reading tabloids … except at the nail salon.

P.S. Stacked rings by Moulton