seasons: winter

It's really, really cold here. Like the bitter, damp cold that chills your bones. It's only November. 

When I get home the first thing I do is peel off my smart wool socks, boots, long down jacket and  jump in a hot shower because it's the only thing that gets rid of the chill. Then, I throw on my attractive (ha) nightly winter wear that consists of this, this, these and this.

In said fashionable attire the other night, Adam and I went through some boxes of Christmas decorations, holiday cards, and ornaments my grandparents passed on to us a few years ago. I pulled out this cherry wreath that always hung on my grandparents' door in Maryland and Connecticut. I delicately hung it on our door here in Wisconsin.

I looked through some old notes and Christmas cards they saved from family and friends because of a card's pretty design or a note from a friend too sweet to throw away. We figured if the weather is acting like the holidays are here already, we may as well get to it. So, we threw up some decorations, lit a fire, turned on some Christmas carols and were as merry as we could muster on a Sunday night in early November. 

With the holidays on the horizon, there can be a lot of merriment, but also a lot of chaos. We all know the meaning of Christmas, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day, but it is easy to get swept up in the gifts, to become overtired from the travel, and just feel fidgety because of the food, drink, and revelry overload. I hope, though, in the midst of all the distractions, I can be fully present and soak up the real moments this winter, pushing aside the frenzy. That's the plan and I'm sticking to it.

make a little trouble

"Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women."

 - Nora Ephron, Wellesley College, Commencement Address, 1996.

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I'm in the midst of year 3 as a married lady and I plan to break the rules and make a little trouble this year. For someone who has never been much of a rule-breaker, this creates quite bit of cognitive dissonance, but no matter.

As Emma Watson said so elegantly, we need to have some conversations for and about women. Sometimes you have to go against convention to live the life you aspire to live. When the vision of how you want to live is so clear, it's really hard to ignore it. The tricky part is the discipline, and the day-to-day check lists you create to get where you'd like to go, and all the little steps in between that lead you to your goal. This is the biggest challenge of course, but it is also where all the good stuff happens. 

How about you? Are going to make some trouble this year? It involves stepping stones and patience and perseverance...even when the biggest naysayer is yourself. 

jeans, the not-so-much love story

I recently bought a new pair of jeans and they were my first pair of actual skinny jeans (gasp!). I decided to take the plunge and buy my own after deciding to make a comprehensive inventory of my clothes: what I have, what I don't need, what I could use, and what I just want. As I slowly add pieces to the wardrobe, the jeans were at the top of my list. I also told myself that it is OK if I don't fit into my jeans from college anymore - that was, after all, 10 years ago now! So, these seemed perfect. The brand is well known for their good quality and design and I even found a pair on sale...

So, jeans. They have such a history. I love them. They go with anything, can be worn during all seasons with a sturdy boot, light pink ballet flats or classy black patent leather heels. They look so great on and can be so comfortable and flattering. However...

...they can also be a disaster if you don't buy the right pair or the right size (enter me, and my chronic jeans-fit-conundrum). Maybe I am a jeans snob or too sensitive and attached to my relationship with jeans. It is a multifaceted predicament and one that I can't quite put my finger on, but I always seem to get the wrong size or fit or design (!) I prefer to buy slightly more expensive jeans because I have found they last longer, but this makes parting with them so difficult (hence, holding onto them for 10+ years when it is clearly time to rotate them out and invest in a new, more flattering pair that is "with the style times"). The fact that I buy slightly more expensive jeans also makes me only want to buy them every 10 years. 

So, without fail, and on a strict budget, I did buy new jeans and they are too big and the derrière of the jeans is not flattering, according to me. They also cannot be returned. They can be worn and possibly shrunk in the dryer a bit, but these jeans will be with me for the next decade and I can't help but be bothered by my poor jeans decision making. My husband Adam can't believe I bought a pair of jeans with holes in the knees (he doesn't read Vogue like me). It may take another 10 years for me to get it right, but for now, it's me and "skinny" in it for the long run. 

seasons: fall

These past few days have felt like fall in Madison when the rest of the country is still enjoying the balminess of summer breezes and sunshine. I am only a little sullen about it because with fall comes cozy things that I look forward to all spring and summer. Like: warm fleeces zipped up, and hot tea in hand while admiring the leaves' colors on a sun-soaked but chilly fall day. Love this! And, Smart Wool socks inside heavy duty hiking sneaks worn with Adam's oversized beanie that I sleepily toss on my head in preparation for a frosty morning walk with Marlowe. Don't love this as much, but can still make it cozy and appreciate the stillness of an early morning walk when most are still tucked in their beds, sound asleep.

These things aren't so bad - they can actually be great - but I have been saying to myself and to others for the past few days, "I am not ready for this." Translated: I am not ready for a short-lived fall that turns into another gloomy, polar vortex winter. I am not  ready to turn in my flip-flops for boots; not ready for the chapped lips, dry skin, cold shivers and the indecision that comes with not knowing what shoes will keep me warm and dry enough that day, and if I should finally buy long underwear once and for all. 

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The truth is that the fall and winter are coming; fall has clearly made her mark and sister is here. Summer is slowly slipping away and I am going to have to deal with the temperatures dropping and the glistening lake freezing into ice whether I like it, am ready, or not.

I've decided that the same goes for any type of change in life. Change is inevitable and can be hard  and certainly not always welcome. Change can also be so healthy and good. Moments of dramatic change are when I have grown the most in my life: it has been happy change where I was able to give my input, and it has been tragic change where I couldn't avoid it as much as I wanted to. I've met the most interesting people that have become dear friends, I've been introduced to novel things that have allowed me to pinpoint my strengths and new interests as well as my limitations. I even picked up a husband when I was smack in the middle of a lot of change, was pretty miserable at times, and didn't feel like myself at all. And, he agreed to marry me! 

So, as summer warmth turns into an early and cool fall (grumbles), I am going to try to think about the crispness in the air as a welcome change, a "I challenge you" change, that allows me to work through the discomfort to come out on the other end with more knowledge and awareness. And, to make the process of change easier, I am going to make sure to do things along the way to ease the transition a bit, like having freshly ground coffee beans ready the night before to brew a delicious cup of (decaf) hot coffee in the morning, and hot yoga as much as I can get my rear to the studio to keep my energy up and honestly to just stay warm! These little things that ease transitions can go a long way in pushing you deeper into the nourishment of change, making room for transformation, I have learned. How about you? Do you feel uncomfortable with change (and get the pre-winter blues!) too?

meet joan, mod girl of the month

I am starting a fun new series where I will highlight a new Mod Girl every Sunday evening. She holds the mod girl credo close to her heart and is a pioneering woman that leads her life with individuality and spunk (!) all her own. I'd love to follow up with these women in my podcast series coming this fall, Modcast. We'll see how this goes. This Sunday I am honoring my paternal grandmother, Joan Hanna Williamson (whom I named Nina at the age of three, and she is still lovingly known as Nina to me and my family to this day).

Joan in Frankfurt, Germany 

If I had to pick four words to describe my grandmother they would be: vivacious, thoughtful, elegant and silly. Nina was born and raised in Norwalk, Connecticut. Her mother was a tiny little woman from the French-speaking town of Biddeford, Maine. She was full of life and she spoke very little English. Nina met my grandfather, Craig (she calls him "Bud") at Norwalk High School in Connecticut when she was 15 and she was married to him by the time she was 17. They are 84 and 85 respectively and still married, happy, and healthy living in Florida. 

Nina has a beautiful voice and sings constantly. She used to be in community theater groups in the small Connecticut towns where she lived and raised her family: Cheshire, Dolphin's Cove and later, Bethesda, Maryland where my brother and I were raised by her and my grandfather (along with my parents) from the time I was born until I was five-years-old. 

Life is often not about what we do but how we live it, and Nina is the epitome of a life well lived and accomplished treating people with kindness. In 1944, Nina was 14 years old and she lost her mother, two days after her 43rd birthday. Her brother passed away in 1960. Both were tragic accidents.

Nina lives her life with humility and empathy for other people. She always made lunch and gave an extra tip to the painter, the mailman, the housekeeper. She has developed deep relationships with neighbors and friends and was always someone people knew they could count on. She makes up songs focusing on the uniqueness of her children and grandchildren (Michael with his ball of yarn; Matt and his baseball bat; Lindsay's song "Here Comes Little Gingersnap").

She used to stay up past midnight baking delicious chocolate cakes and brownies for our birthdays (and just because) watching old movies on the black and white kitchen t.v.; tickled our backs as we sat on the porch in the thick Maryland summer humidity listening to the peepers (frogs); worked hard in the yard to plant beautiful geraniums; helped my grandfather run his business; and she still writes beautiful letters and notes to friends and family despite her near blindness due to Macular Degeneration. Every night she retreated to her office to type up her tasks for the next day. I still remember the "click click click" of the typewriter. We would run around the neighborhood ringing neighbors' doorbells and running away and she has a very silly sense of humor that to this day leaves us in tears during our phone chats. 

My grandmother has taught me the importance of not taking life and myself too seriously, being kind, working hard and loving life. She is big motivation behind Mod Girl Coach. 

be where you belong

Yesterday I turned 31. Yow-za. I know it's not old and I am not old, but I do feel that way, slightly. I started getting gray hair when I was 29 (and my grandmother told me recently that she didn't get gray hair until she was 80 so I've decided genes are the darndest things). I definitely have to work harder to stay in the physical shape that I want to be in now (like 526 crunches per day if I were up for the challenge). I don't use on a daily basis - nor have I heard of for that matter - all the latest social media apps that I used to be familiar with that the younger kids are using (so, no Tinder and Hinge for dating and meeting new people b/c I am a married lady and have been for almost 2 years). The first time in my life that I really felt "older" was when I started working with students in 2008 as a graduate student living in Chicago. Until then, I felt young, because I was 23-years-old and had nothing to compare my age to. I always nannied for younger kids in high school and college but I never felt mature or "old."

So, is it a bad thing to get older? No, I know that. But, a part of it makes me sad because I really love my life and the people and experiences in it. Birthdays can have a poignant way of reminding you that nothing is permanent. The other less downer side of me admires the aging process. You grow into yourself every year that passes, hopefully learn to be a little gentler with yourself as you've come to realize where your strengths and weaknesses lie and that you're not perfect and that you have a lot to offer. You become more self-assured (for the most part). You have gone through all the bumps of the 20s to be able to realize what it is you'd really like to put all of your energy and focus into in your 30s (whether you know it or not). You have a newfound confidence, but you couldn't have gained this wise perspective without the experiences, decisions, sorrows and triumphs of all the previous years. For that, I look forward to birthdays and I am grateful for the happy and healthy 31 years that I have lived thus far.

"Be where you belong" is what REI broadcasts at their checkout counter in a bold sign above their registers. This is a lifelong journey to tap into: your purpose and where you belong. Where do you belong?  How do you figure THAT out? It's a big question...seemingly impossible even. All I can say is cheers to birthdays and the possibilities they remind us that we have ahead of us, and to continuing our individual journeys of tuning into ourselves even more to figure out what makes us feel strong, confident, and like we belong. 

sanna annukka

Sanna Annukka has the prettiest designs and, what I've seen firsthand, cards. We recently moved into our friends' sweet, little house and they left us a card that had "welcome home!" written on the inside. My friend lindsay has always had astute and graceful artistic taste, and it has taken me over a month of admiring the card every day on our counter, contemplating framing it and envisioning the perfect frame, to see if there was a website with the artist's work and (hooray!) there is.

Sanna is from Finland and she currently lives in Brighton, UK and works as a textile designer and printmaker. A brand she does design work for is the well-known Marimekko. Her cards can also be found at this cute website that features various artists. 

Don't you love thank you notes? I can't get enough of them. My grandmother taught me the importance of writing thank you notes when I was a little girl and it somehow was ingrained in my brain, with no turning back. 

study in lipstick shades

Today is National Lipstick Day. I didn't know there was such a thing. Did you? Of course I started clicking around and googling to see if it was an official holiday (it is) and what the hype was all about. I found a myriad of lipstick facts - more than you'd ever want to know: it was born  in the prehistoric ages; Cleopatra preferred the color red; George Washington wore it; it was a status symbol and was almost banned in certain societies and created upheaval to and fro. It's amazing how something we all put on our faces so haphazardly stems from such a rich and turbulent history.

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Lipstick is something I rarely put on my lips. Blame it on my Midwestern casualness, my deep resonance with summer camp and soul-sisterness with the outdoors, I am a chapstick girl, through and through. Aveda, Burt's Bee's, way back in the day it was Vaseline and Lip Smackers (do you know what Lip Smackers are, you Millennial Mod Girls? It's super-sweet-tasting chapstick...usually tinted in hues of Pepto-Bismol pink, red, deep purple). Driving by a boy I had a crush on in 8th grade, my aunt said, "Quick! Put on your chapstick!"

I own approximately 5 lipstick shades (most a bright pink number that I purchased for our wedding 2 years ago, and one nude shade that I wear most often, when I wear it). So, I'm into the bare, the natural. That's my schtick. Sometimes I wish I was more daring, less traditional when it comes to what I wear, how I act, what I put on my face, but this is me. I think the pinks, the reds, the purples are such gorgeous colors on the other girls out there, and it is so easy to compare myself to them that I have to make a conscious effort not to. The thing is, I am my own lipstick shade (yes, I am drawing an analogy between lipstick shades and people). We should all embrace our own beauty, our own style, and our uniqueness, while also testing ourselves and reaching beyond our comfort zones (in other words, sometimes wearing that bright pink, just for fun, even if it feels weird or out of character). It's so important to tap into our own uniqueness and embrace it. You are different from everyone else in the world and have something completely unique to offer. Different from the person you sit next to on the bus, from the person next to you on their yoga mat, the person you smile at as you walk by to go grab a mid-morning tea. With this, you also have a responsibility. How are you going to harness your uniqueness and show the world who's boss? 

What's your thing?

What are your 'things'? You know, those things that make each day a little happier, calmer, more fun in the middle of the work week grind? These things are the most important things in our days after all as they bring us joy and make us feel like our true selves. They touch us at our core and that in itself deserves our utmost attention. What does the joy these things bring to our lives say about us?

A few of mine are below and they scream "Lindsay time!" and how I need down time to reflect, to create beautiful, comforting spaces (with flowers) to live and work in to be inspired, and somewhere outdoors to exercise my body and my mind (preferably the beach!). I need good food to put in my body (enter: the morning smoothie) as dairy makes my stomach churn and caffeine makes me feel like I am zooming around like a crazy lady (makes me sound so frail!). I also need time with my family and friends, Marlowe (my dog), and a comfortable bed! I'm an old soul. 

So, what are your things? Tap into that. Maybe make sure they're around at all times (or at least more often) in your days so you can focus on what's most important: your health and what you value the most in your life. They're those things that make you feel at peace, confident, fulfilled and happy. Joie de vivre! 

A dog, fireworks and a big lake: part II

With the first loud crack of thunder, Marlowe made a beeline for the bed, throwing herself under it until the next morning. As we groggily woke up, we could feel the cooler temps the storm brought in and it was crisp and cozy. Even better, the sun was back! Marlowe had inched her way out from under the bed and seemed to be calming down. We got up, showered, got dressed and sipped some coffee as we plotted the day on the porch. We had heard so much about Door County and were ready to explore.

As a neighbor passed by to say hello, Marlowe  bolted toward the door punching out the screen with one forceful swipe of her paw. She just wanted to reciprocate the hello. I said hi to the neighbor, apologizing for our hyperactive dog, as Adam reprimanded her. Marlowe immediately proceeded to jump on the guest room bed to pee on the pretty quilt and down comforter, showing us that she was not OK with this situation. 

The Fourth of July was the next day and the firecrackers started early in the morning and didn't stop until the grand finale that night. Needless to say, Marlowe was a mess all weekend and we quickly realized why it wasn't a good idea to bring a little puppy to a new house (over 4th of July weekend, mind you) with new smells, people, fireworks and 3 epic thunderstorms...especially after moving across country from Colorado to Wisconsin with her less than 8 months prior. 

We spent the remainder of the trip researching where the local hardware store was to replace the screen (for a while we thought we had to replace the door, but 3 different hardware guys assured us we didn't need to go that route). We found the Sturgeon Bay laundromat to clean the quilt and comforter and learned that tennis balls come in handy when cleaning comforters. 

We are lucky enough to be going back to Door County in a few weeks, and Marlowe will be at camp with her buddies, her favorite place on earth. 

A dog, fireworks and a big lake

A couple summers ago Adam and I went to Door County for a 4th of July long weekend get-away. We have a dear family friend that generously let us stay at her house in Gill's Rock, a quaint little unincorporated town. The house is perched right on the rocky shores of Lake Michigan, complete with a long, woodsy road to the house that is reminiscent of my summer drive to camp when I was a kid. The house is a sweet, little yellow bungalow that could only be made so cozy by Marianna with candles, pretty rugs, comfy pillows, a long barn-like kitchen table and books galore on the inside of its quaint quarters. Bunk beds are scattered upstairs that were once used by her three daughters, and are now used by them when they are home, and by friends like us. We were pinching ourselves to be able to visit such a beautiful and serene refuge.

As we wouldn't think twice about taking a trip without our 1-year-old dog (a Vizsla), Marlowe, Marianna, a "dog person", gave us the A-OK and we packed her up in the VW Jetta sportwagon we got in Colorado along with our weekend-er bags, and began our trek to the great outdoors of Northeastern Wisconsin. We were off!

There are other cabins surrounding Mari's house filled with neighbors she knows that come from near and far at intermittent times throughout the summer, and the ocean-like awesomeness of Lake Michigan you can see, on sunny days, glistening from the screened-in porch off the back. Our first night there, we got settled, unpacked our bags and checked out the lake view. As the sun began to set neighbors walking down the trail would wave a hello with a glass of white wine in hand, barefoot or in Birkenstocks, heading back to their porches to take in the view on their own or with friends and loved ones. We breathed in the fresh, cool air and let out a sigh of relaxation.

The first storm approached timidly enough. The lightening flickered in the distance, and the low  rumbles of the thunder flowed like the lake waves. As nightfall surrounded us, the rain started coming down at a rapid pace and the lightening and thunder was not a safe flicker and a serene roll anymore. The eye of the first storm was right over us. 

To be continued...