Happy Thanksgiving: Free Printable

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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and despite my best efforts to ignore it, it seems that the holiday season is in full swing. I’m thankful for so many things, and you, my friends, are on the short list. As a small token of my appreciation, I have a holiday printable for you: Dala horses! I’ve always loved this Swedish holiday motif, and I doodled some up and thought they would make sweet tags/cards. Here’s what the whole sheet looks like, printable on 8.5 x 11″ paper:

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I still haven’t mastered the whole downloadable/printable thing, so if you run into any issues, please let me know, yes? I believe the file seems to work best when downloaded onto your computer rather than trying to print directly from the window…

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If you are celebrating turkey day, I hope it’s filled with loved ones and enduring, good memories. And if you’re not celebrating this All-American holiday, well, I still hope it’s filled with loved ones and enduring good memories.

I’m taking Friday off to party like rockstars with my little nuclear family, and I’ll see you back here on Monday, with a giveaway. xo!

Monday Outfit: We’ll Call It A Muslin

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Good morning! I hope you had a fantastic weekend, friends! I spent a good chunk of it making a puffy coat. Or at least attempted to.

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After a hackneyed research process, I stumbled upon the Alpine Wonderland Puffy Coat pattern, and it was exactly what I wanted to make for K. But wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t have quite enough of the fabric that K picked out of my stash, so I nixed the hood and improvised with the collar a bit. It’s a take on the chinese collar, and I quilted the piece just for the heck of it, but the whole vibe is whispering “construction worker” to me. I was striving for Parisian chic, but missed the mark on this one.

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I don’t love it. One of K’s all time favorite coat that I’ve made is the Cadette Coat, but she outgrew that one in a nanosecond so I went up a size for this pattern (I cut the 10). So yes, she’s drowning in pseudo-puffiness:

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On the plus side, this is a seriously toasty coat. I used wool batting and thick fleece for the lining, and with so much room to spare, K can layer about seventeen articles of clothing and still button this coat on top of ‘em all.

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“Homeless…..I look homeless,” she started to sing while wearing the coat, which leads me to believe that she is not in love with the coat either, though she likes the snuggly blue lining:

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We’re going to call this a muslin. The outer fabric is twill, I think, and it has some sheen to it. Though the screen makes it look a blah beige, it actually has more peachy undertones to it and I can see why K likes this color so much. The collar and sleeve cuffs are a taupe-y stretch polyester blend of some kind, and I think this wasn’t the best overall choice. The coat is quite easy to assemble, though it’s tricky to get all those layers through the sewing machine — I had to push and pull a lot while sewing. I am, however, pretty keen on the pockets and the vintage gold buttons (from my mom, of course — and you should ignore the pink chalk marks I used to quilt the pieces):

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Ah well. At least she has a truly winter appropriate coat now, and winter is definitely here in Seattle….Plus, I flexed some sewing muscles and I’m confident that the next one will be awesome. More than anything, where in the world did K get the “homeless” reference from? So mysterious.

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Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! A truly random bit of info: almost every Sunday, M has what we call “DDT” or Daddy Daughter Time. He started this tradition when K was about a year old, and takes her out on a date each week. Their time together ranges in activity: bike riding or a scoop of ice cream or just lounging around. It’s a win-win all around because while they bond, I get to sneak in some extra work (or fun) time. And almost every Sunday, I go to the same coffee shop and every once in a while, there is a little girl enjoying her own DDT. She’s about three-years-old with big sparkly eyes and a little bob, and she goes around handing out stickers to all the cafe patrons. I’ve gotten about six stickers to date and I stick them in my journal. So charming.

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K is super into making jokes and we thought this was a keeper:

Q: Why are singers always in charge of fights?

A: Because they have the opera hand.

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Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

There’s no school next week
Thanksgiving is upon us
We might eat Chinese*

*A few years ago, we went to a Chinese restaurant for turkey day because I didn’t have any time to cook anything (and we have no family in Seattle), and it turned out to be surprisingly festive and fun. We just may have a repeat performance since I’m in deadline mode…

 

 

Sewing for Me: Simplicity 1538

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If you had told me last year that I’d be able to get the print of plaid fabric to match up for a button-down shirt, I would have laughed you out of the room. As it turns out, if I cut each pattern piece individually, I can get very, very decent results (i.e. cutting every piece from a single layer instead of folding the fabric to get two sleeve pieces at once, say). Not perfect, mind you, but pretty darn good.

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This is Simplicity 1538. And the cotton fabric is from Drygoods – I hear this beauty of a plaid sold out in record time. If you follow Kelly, who is so incredibly prolific and also one of the nicest people I’ve met, you may have seen this same fabric on her instagram feed. I contemplated being twinsies with Kelly and sewing this up into an Archer too, but in the end, the much less labor intensive Simplicity pattern won out. I love love love this shirt. I especially love that I cut the back yoke on the bias:

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The pattern promises to be easy-to-sew, and overall it delivered on its promise. I liked view D and opted for one pocket rather than two, just because. The only part I just couldn’t get right was the sleeve cuff opening bindings (now that’s an inelegant way of describing it — what is that called?). The instructions weren’t difficult or anything, but the binding piece refused to lay flat so it’s a little scrunched. But like my other button-down shirt from last week, I don’t ever anticipate wearing the shirt without rolled-up sleeves, so I didn’t lose any sleep over it.

s1538-plaid-shirt5Here’s a little modeling for ya — but let’s be honest, it looks like I’m remembering the whiplash I got from a car accident years ago and am thinking, “Man, that crick in my neck is acting up again…” Here’s another attempt at varying my usual unimaginative poses:

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Ready to start square dancing: do-si-do, anyone? The Ford modeling agency won’t be knocking on my door any time soon.

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Anyway, back to some more info about the shirt. I added the same metal buttons I used for K’s rain jacket, and I still have a couple dozen left so you’ll probably see these buttons again. I cut the size 12, and this one is a slimmer fit than last week’s grey polka dot shirt. Definitely preferring this fit a lot more. And this was major for me: the bust darts were in the perfect spot without any modifications. So nice to have bust darts that don’t aggressively point northward…you know, the kinds that highlight the the inevitable pull of gravity on my non-spring-chicken body.

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I’m making slow but sure progress on my fall sewing plans. Two down, two to go! I got a few skeins of merino wool/cashmere blend (in grey, of course) ready to be cast onto knitting needles, but I have a feeling the jeans are going to take a loooong time to materialize…onward and upward!

 

 

 

 

Monday Outfit: The Scarf Sweater (by Bachan)

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Good morning! We had such a lovely, lovely weekend filled with friends and good times, but alas, that meant I couldn’t squeeze in any sewing. However, the Guy Fawkes party alone was well-worth the sacrifice (I have a good friend who is a Brit), and I indulged in a little mulled wine and quite a few “Sticky Parkins”, which tasted a little like gingerbread. A cozy group of us bundled up in winter gear and gathered round a fire pit with techno colored flames. Fun, fun.

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So instead of a sewn project, today I’m sharing this clever little sweater that K’s wearing. My mom made this last winter, and it’s got its own built-in scarf, which I think is brilliant. She knitted it during her visit along with this other one I featured before, and you can see the similarity. At the time, this particular scarf sweater was much bigger than the one with the button, and now K is nearly outgrowing it.

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After last winter, my mom stopped producing her normally outrageous amount of knitted and sewn objects. In fact, when she came to visit this past summer, she didn’t make a thing. Sadly, this is because her eyesight has been steadily declining, and by October, her left eye was significantly compromised and her right eye was nearly blind.

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It turned out to be cataracts, and after a successful surgery last week, her vision is back to 20/30! She’s still recovering from the procedure, so we’re not sure if she’ll be able to make it out to Seattle this winter, but it’s looking promising.

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It’s been a wake-up call, bringing to the forefront the realities of aging parents. Surrounded by the youthful energy of K and her friends as I am every day, it’s easy to forget the other end of the spectrum. And it makes me treasure my mom and all of her creations that much more.

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The good news is that as part of a preliminary check to make sure she was fit for the surgery, she underwent a full physical exam — something she hadn’t done in 35 years! My mom is a big believer in natural healing and she’s avoided hospitals and doctors like the plague. Well, she must be doing things right, because her results were pretty stellar. When we see her next, I’m planning on grilling her to get her healthy living secrets. You better believe that I’ll be documenting her methodology.

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So for today, a little tribute to my amazing Mama. I hope there will be many, many more clever sweaters and handmade delights!

Happy Friday + Randomness (a grey polka-dotted shirt)

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Happy Friday, friends! I try to be a stickler about my blog schedule and meant to post this on Wednesday, but you know how it goes. Though I had a completed shirt, with the waning light situation (and oh, it’s so frigid these days), I didn’t have decent enough brightness to get photos until yesterday morning — I jumped out of the shower and snapped a few quick pix while I toasted a couple of slices of bread for breakfast.

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Details, details:

Pattern: Pattern m from Basic Black Book

Fabric: Robert Kaufman Grey Cotton with White Polka Dots from here (they only seem to have the black available)

Size: M

Modifications: Before machine stitching, I hand-basted the collar, cuffs and front plackets. This makes for a much cleaner finish, I think.

Do you remember the black Franklin dress I made a few weeks back? This is the same fabric in the grey color way. I should have invested heavily in the grey because it has the perfect weight and drape.

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I’m liking princess seams in lieu of bust darts more and more – I think the shape is a lot more flattering. Here, I’m tossing the camera remote and pondering about what I can scrounge up in the fridge to put in K’s lunchbox (pomegranate seeds, sunflower butter, string cheese and pita crackers as it turns out).

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I’m not a fan of the sleeve cuffs, but it doesn’t really matter since I’ll always wear the sleeves rolled up. What you see above is how the sleeves look sans rolling. And I think the collar might be a little too big for the overall shape. I’m also of the opinion that the buttons should be smaller; to my eyes, the current size is throwing off the balance — what do you think? I didn’t have enough of any other buttons and these were grey so I said “design element!” and called it good.

Don’t get me wrong, I actually like the shirt a lot. It’s neutral and it has polka dots. That’s sufficient to earn my approval. A word of caution about the instructions though: they’re super sparse. In fact, I had to fill in the blanks on many occasions and I suspect I put the collar on incorrectly as it didn’t fit very well, but the beauty of fabric is that it stretches and careful hand-stitching can hide many a flaw.

I’m wearing the shirt as I write this in a coffee shop late in the afternoon and it’s so comfy. A man sitting next to me complimented me on it — not something that happens often. Actually, he saw the photo of the shirt on my laptop and asked me if I’m a photographer. I said, “Er. Uh. Um. Sort of.” Awkward. He was very friendly and when I ‘fessed up that I sew and that I was actually wearing the shirt in the photo, he told me about a time he tried to sew pajama pants in college (it didn’t go so well). “Your shirt is incredible!” he effused, which prompted more  ”Er. Uh. Thank you. Um.” I need to learn how to accept compliments more graciously. And here K and I are, pow-wowing over whether she should wear that uber bright pink top to school (she ended up nixing it):

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I wouldn’t call this the easiest shirt to sew, but it was a gratifying project and I know I’ll get a lot of wear out of it. I have another one already to go with a different button-down shirt pattern, and I might be able to share it next week…we shall see.

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The winner of the giveaway is Mirabilys. Congrats! So so fun to read all the awesome/suh-weet/killer/lovely comments, yo.

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Have a delightful weekend, all!

It’s that time again
Advent calendar planning
My mind is churning

The ones from last year and year before have been huge, huge hits in our household. I may have set an unsustainable standard for myself…

 

 

 

Little Kunoichi: The Ninja Girl

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I have some exciting news today…my children’s book is in production as I type this! Although it won’t be officially on bookshelves until May of 2015, it’s available for pre-sale on Amazon!!!! To say I had a freak out would be the understatement of the year. I don’t think I actually believed it was going to happen until I saw that little thumbnail on the Amazon page. I’m thrilled that I’m publishing through Sasquatch Books, the publisher for the Pacific Northwest with a stellar staff that made (and is making) my whole experience in book publishing joyous. So many people have been generous beyond belief already — my hair stylist ordered two copies and my endocrinologist got one for her son, and I don’t know how many my mom snagged, but I’m guessing all our relatives in Japan will be receiving the book next Christmas.

Since the official publication date is so far away, I won’t be doing the promotional routine quite yet, but I wanted to share the happy update. For now, just an image of the cover. Initially, I planned on digitally illustrating the book, but I ended up going the traditional route and hand painted the whole shabang. I’ve had a variation of this story in the back of my mind for years and years and years, even before I had a child. “Kunoichi” means “female ninja” in Japanese and the story follows Little Kunoichi’s adventures as she learns about hard work, practice, and teamwork with a dose of whimsy and (I hope) humor. My editor and I started calling her “Little K” even though that moniker doesn’t show up in the book, and you can guess who the inspiration is. I’m so very proud of it, and I’m eager to share more sneak peeks and process info with you in the coming months!

 

Monday Outfit: Small Fry Skinny Jeans

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I did it! I made skinny jeans! For K!

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This was a labor of love folks, because let me tell you, these jeans required some sweat, blood and loss of sleep (I am very protective of my sleep). Well, okay, mostly loss of sleep. And only because I decided to start sewing this in the late afternoon and once I got going, I was having too much fun to stop until I was done. I opted to go with the no zip, half-fly option, and that was a good move since trying to install a zipper might have meant no sleep at all. Doesn’t that look like some kind of jeans ad up there? I’m swooning a bit.

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I reviewed all the recommendations I received from you lovely readers and purchased patterns for both the Small Fry and Peek-A-Boo skinny jeans, and decided to start with the Small Fry. The results are grade A professional, and I love how Laura added so many authentic details like the top stitching on the sides, the way the pockets are constructed, etc.

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K harangued me the whole time I was making it, asking every few minutes, “Are you done yet??”

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I was nervous when I started prepping this project because the thin denim fabric with supposedly 3% spandex that I wanted to use didn’t stretch at all. I finally figured out that it stretched ever so slightly up and down (along the grain/selvage) and not side to side the way most woven fabrics do. So all the pieces are cut cross-grain — I called upon the sewing goddesses so that K would be able to shimmy herself into them without losing blood circulation.

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The instructions are detailed and excellent, and I found the photos to be immensely helpful. Though this was a major time commitment due to all the pieces and top stitching and whatnot, the elements came together easily. Based on the measurements, K was between a 7 and 8; since I wanted these to be snug, I went with the 7.  As you can see, the fit is fantastic (whew). Do you like the wonky butterfly on the back pocket? K specifically requested one butterfly on one pocket. I aim to please.

We tried a variety of tops with her new favorite jeans. Do you recognize some of them? The stripey top is still going strong, and I just recently found that orange cashmere hoodie buried in the back of K’s closet. I’m pretty sure my mom thrifted that from somewhere and is actually an adult size small that must have shrunk. That jacket is from almost two years ago! We should really retire it, but it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever made. The bolero sweater is so, so old and ratty but she adores it.

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K wants me to make a pair of skinny jeans in every color possible. I’ll need to recharge for a while to start on the Peek-A-Boo version, but now that I’ve entered the jeans-making realm, I’m feeling like I might be able to sew up a decent pair for myself. I’ve got these and these and these ready to be prepped. Stay tuned for the skinny jeans pattern comparison!

 

 

 

Happy Friday + Giveaway! [CLOSED]

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Here in Washington, grocery stores and many retail stores charge five cents per bag if you don’t bring your own to carry out your produce or miscellaneous household items. A pragmatic and environmentally sound move, but I’m constantly forgetting to bring my handy nylon eco bags because they’re always filled with library books. Between the accumulating nickel charges and overdue library fines, I’m sure I’m frittering away enough money to feed a small country.

I’ve been thinking that I need to really make my own eco bags, and it’s as though Tuttle Publishing sensed my thoughts and sent me this lovely book:

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Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics has 60 (!!) ideas and patterns and also comes with a couple of extremely detailed and picture heavy “lessons”. When I saw the eco bag on the cover, I knew that I had to make one right away. Well, I ended up making two because it’s such a quick sew. My favorite part of the pattern is that the bag folds itself into the front pocket (you attach a button on the backside of the pocket and a loop for closure on the opposite side — steps you could easily skip and still have the transformative effect). I’ve had this robot Kokka fabric for so long, it’s practically an antique. It underwent some mishap and was dyed pink when I accidentally washed it with something red. Until now, I wasn’t sure what to do with it.

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My first bag took less than an hour, and the second one took less than half an hour. The blue and grey striped fabric is cotton from here. The french seams make the insides look nice and tidy, though I should point out that the instructions for creating a french seam are incorrect in the book. There’s a section in the back of the book that provides mini tutorials on various stitches and methods, and the technique shown under “french seams” is actually for a turned-and-stitched seam. This is a well-done tutorial for actual french seams.

Another unique aspect of this book is that it’s intended for hand-sewing. There’s an abundance of running stitches required. Of course, I ignored this and used my machine, and there’s no shame in that.

Minor issues aside, this bag is great for scrap busting as are all the bags in the book. Would you like to see a sampling of the projects?

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So many sweet ones! And as always, I love the styling of Japanese craft books.

Now, I’m a big believer in paying things forward, and it seems silly for me to keep this book in my possession when all I really needed was an eco bag pattern. Which, by the way, isn’t too big or too small and will fit perfectly in my purse when tucked into its pocket.

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Are you interested in the book?

As for the giveaway question…hmmmmmm. Yesterday, K told me that a classmate of hers instructed his grandma that the word “awesome” is essentially passe, and updated her lingo. This hip grandma now likes to say “I’m rad”. I think that’s rad on so many levels, not the least of which is that she refers to herself as awesome and rad (relates to my post from earlier this week, no?). These words actually feel like throwbacks from the nineties, and it’s fun to see them in active use now. I remember my college roommate liked to tell me how “stoked” she was about everything — do people still say that?

“That’s cool” has always been my go-to phrase, but what about you? Is there a particular slang that you tend to use to describe something interesting/great/delightful? Or one that used to roll off your tongue when you were younger and is no longer in general circulation?

I’ll keep the giveaway open until next Thursday, November 13th and will announce the winner the next day! Go for it, international folks (those of you in the US are always welcome to participate, naturally) – I love to learn about colloquialisms and slang in other countries. Good luck!

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Happy weekend to all!

It’s wicked awesome
to be part of this cool world
of groovy people

To be Shiny

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Last week, when I shared the Hudson pants, I was surprised by the number of people who commented on how harsh I was being about my (let’s face it), um, strong calves and other body parts. Of course, I appreciated how kind and encouraging the commenters were being, so I’ve done some thinking about that since then, prompted also by a conversation I had with K a few days ago. Here’s how the conversation went:

K: Mama, when you were a kid, did you have certain characteristics that you thought you would have when you grew up?

Me: What do you mean?

K: You know, did you think you would become beautiful or talented or something? Can you name three characteristics?

Me: Hmmmm…I don’t know…what do you think are yours?

K: Funny, musical and smart!

Isn’t that amazing? No hesitation whatsoever. And did you notice that I paused and deflected answering the questions? When pressed, I finally said, “smart, nice and creative”, though honestly, I wasn’t half as introspective as K is at her age so I was probably thinking about looking like Barbie. I noticed that something inside of me balked when I listed those descriptors. I’m sure it’s my Asian upbringing and general societal mores that frown upon tooting one’s horn, but I had a really hard time declaring positive qualities about myself.

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At the same time, I find it second nature to point out my less than perfect attributes. Though I am much more comfortable with myself now than I’ve ever been and therefore can openly talk about any “deficiencies” with what I consider gentle mockery, I’m also aware that it’s a sort of preemptive shield. If I say it myself, I keep my fingers crossed that no one else will.

All this reminds me of a moment from a few months ago, when K saw a book I’d checked out from the library titled “Shiny, Beautiful” or some such (it was about hair — my tresses could use some boost in the shiny, gorgeous department). She read the title aloud and said, “I feel beautiful all the time, Mama.” I hugged her and laughed with delight at her confidence but a teeny tiny part of me thought that she shouldn’t go around saying that in public.

But why?

She is beautiful. She should feel beautiful all the time. We’re all beautiful in our own, unique ways. We know this deep down, but we’re not allowed to say it, really. I’ve been thinking about how scared I am of standing out, of being shiny. I sometimes wonder if I’m reinforcing in K the same withholding I’ve absorbed for decades. I’m an old hat at ameliorating and I try to quickly utter something negative about myself, believing that it will put others at ease. It probably does though sometimes it has the opposite effect, but it feels like it chips away at an important part of me. Does that make sense? That tenuous line between self-deprecation (not good) and self-acceptance (good). The ubiquitous Marianne Williamson quote holds steady because it rings so true:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?

And this is endemic among women. We’ve become masters at downplaying. We get fearful of envy and jealousy. Of outgrowing or losing friends and loved ones. Of not being able to handle “success”, however we deem it. Or, most terrifying of all is that we will embrace the belief of the brilliance, the gorgeous, the talent, the fabulous, and discover that it was all a self-help, mumbo-jumbo sham and that we’re less than we’d ever assumed. Somehow, I don’t think that’s the case though.

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All the people — women especially — that I admire are the ones who are shiny and unafraid to be shiny. Not in a gold-plated-veneer way, but in a truly luminous and complicated sense, like the multi-layered sunrise I caught in the nick of time after climbing Mount Fuji all night (a pretty entertaining tale that I’ll share at some point). Brassy, bravado-infused glitter that doesn’t seem genuine tends to make me feel uncomfortable, and I do end up feeling inferior or somehow competitive. But the ones that really shine? They don’t go around announcing that they feel beautiful all the time, but you sense it in their word choices, their energy, the way they reach out to people unafraid to be exactly who they are. When someone is unapologetically themselves and I’m around them, I feel a little bit shinier too. Thoughts to ponder. I don’t have any solid answers on the how of achieving this luminosity, obviously, but I like to ruminate. And in the future, I will be much nicer to my calves.

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