February 4, 2016

Winter Playlist 2016

Whew, I have been neglecting this blog, and I'm sorry to say I hardly have an excuse for it -- except that we've been moving into our new apartment! So every spare atom of my personal mind-energy has been directed toward house furnishings. Arguments lately have centered around laundry hampers. Nightmares have involved swirling desks and complementary chairs. Reality has been a wash of questions and shrugs, considerations and dreams. I told myself I'd be zen about this, that I would breathe into each decision with the gentle contemplation of a curator. But when you find yourself agonizing over the pros and cons of various wicker basket storage bins, you realize that somewhere in the process that intention flew out the window.

Luckily I've had music to see me through this whole process, and I'm so excited to have found yet another season's gold mine of good stuff! I have to hand it to Spotify for opening me to the world of new music; I'll always love my oldies-but-goodies, but I'm pretty sure my license to recycle favorite Beatles songs into these playlists was fast approaching expiration.

As this set goes down a bit easier than my typical boppy pop-happy reserves, I'll be listening curled up in the company of my latest comfort-picks: lavender chocolate chip cookies, a cup of earl gray tea, and a Pendleton wool blanket. Listen below, and enjoy.



January 14, 2016

Finding Gratitude in Grieving


Just as I get my thoughts sorted on one celebrity death, what should happen but we lose another one of Britain's greats. Alan Rickman -- or the definitive Professor Snape, as he will always be to me -- left us at the same age and for the same reason as David Bowie. For a moment this morning I hoped it was a hoax, but I knew better when sources like BBC and The Times were offering their headlines.

It isn't a great start to 2016, to be sure. And yet, in the midst of all this heartbreak, I can't help but feel... gratitude. Grateful that personally I have lived to die another day. Grateful that I've been blessed with the privilege to lead a safe, healthy, worthwhile existence. Grateful that, if I manage to avoid rogue buses and dodge dread diseases, I just might have 2/3 or maybe 3/4 of my life left to explore.

It's important to log our gratitude whenever and however we can. The more dedicated among us might keep daily records in a gratitude journal. For those of us with less time on our hands, though, it's often easy to forget to count our blessings.

If you're anything like me, the last thing you hope to hear when you're having a crappy day is "Look on the bright side." Complaining, fretting, and objecting feel so much easier. But when it comes right down to it, these actions zap our energy. They may even push the perspective of those around us into bleaker corners.

Here are some methods I've found helpful in encouraging gratitude flow:

1) Surround yourself with positive people. This is something I've truly just come to understand in the last year, and it was only through meeting more positive people that I was able to identify the negative and/or toxic individuals in my life. Here are behaviors indicative of a positive person: They ask questions about your life, maintain good eye contact, honor others and celebrate their successes, and remain respectful regardless of their mood. And here are those indicative of a negative person: They talk exclusively about themselves, constantly appear bored or distracted, talk about others behind their back, and use their moods as an excuse to be an asshole. Not cute.

2) Engage your senses. This is going to sound kind of hippy-dippy, and that's probably because it lies at the root of most meditation practices. If you're able to engage in an active way with the world around you, though, happiness is constantly at your fingertips. Music bumping at the neighbors and driving you crazy? Give your cat a comfort pet and luxuriate in her soft fur. Feeling stressed and crunched for time? Pinpoint the overlooked fascinations of your morning commute -- like gargoyles and graffiti art. Trembling in the aftershock of a breakup? Redirect your passion toward painting or learning the guitar. With the right focus, these practices will awaken a curious joy.

3) Honor others. There are probably a handful of people in your life who are in constant deserving of a thank you card. Sit down and write them. If you don't have time, text them something genuine and appreciative. Remind them of an awesome thing they did. Ask if you can take them out to coffee. Tell them you love them. Tell them now. And when, in their cloud of confusion at randomly hearing from you on Thursday at 9pm (and with no apparent reason for such a declaration), they ask, "After all this time?" grant them with the only acceptable answer: "Always."

Forever and Ever

 
Every now and then, a celebrity death strikes you as terribly personal -- and when something gets personal, I can usually be counted on to write about it. While a great many greats have left us in the meantime, the last moment I felt such an impulse was on hearing the news of Robin Williams' passing. Before that, it was probably the death of John Hughes -- an event which to me felt so deeply personal that my reflections on it remain tucked in the confines of a private journal. 
 
At 6:00am Monday morning, while toasting a bagel for breakfast, I heard a tiny buzz from my boyfriend's cell phone. Confusing own phone for mine, I picked it up and was greeted with an unexpected notification from the New York Times, bearing the jarring headline: "David Bowie Dies at 69."

Several thoughts raced through my head, all boiling down to one essential impression: This man was seemingly immortal. As I scrolled through countless statuses and articles relaying individual reactions to the news, I discovered I was not alone in this thought. In reading through them, I felt comforted. However, it took me until nearly lunchtime that day to recall my on Bowie story -- and why this news hits so hard.
 
One winter day, at the impressionable age of almost-fourteen, I found myself on a holiday shopping trip to Costco. After half a decade of exclusive listening to our hometown Golden Oldies station, I had recently unearthed my parent's Best of The Bangles cassette. This was the year I also discovered the simple thrills of small-town thrifting. Cyndi Lauper and Molly Ringwald were on the cusp of becoming my forever-heroes. I was at the onset of a three-year 1980s high, and on this particular day, what should fall under my nose but a Best of the Decade 3-disc collection
 
It was unjustly encased in an era-inappropriate burnt orange and beige box, clearly begging release of its synth-infused, neon sparkle glory. I picked it up, a holy grail revolving in my palms, and found a small inset photo on the back cover. It featured a peroxide-haired man in a light-tone blazer and undone bowtie, snarling into a microphone: "David Bowie," the caption read. 

This was my first glimpse of a world that would forever shape my personhood. My progressive obsession with the 80s lent me the confidence required to dress the way I wanted, find the friends I needed, and liberate my puberty-stifled wacky personality. I'm sure I didn't understand this man's power until long after the first time I played (and re-played) "Let's Dance" on my portable CD player. Perhaps not even after I bridged the link between the name on that caption and the one in the opening credits to my favorite movie, The Breakfast Club. Today, however, I know I have him to thank for helping me "turn myself to face me," for inspiring me to dance, and for granting me permission to reinvent what no longer seemed relevant.
 
Thank you, Mr. Bowie, for simply being you.

January 10, 2016

Winspirsession 2016

2016, you guys!! 2016?!! Where did the time go? Is anyone else still in the mindset that 2006 wasn't that long ago and 2011 was, like, yesterday? I kind of thought people were exaggerating when they said time speeds up as you get older, but there's no use denying it anymore: we're on a roller coaster here.

I thought I'd pull together a little inspirsession post, since I haven't produced one since... last winter? Eeps. Anyway, I guess I've been tracking my inspirations and obsessions via other modes (Bloglovin', bookmarks, and mood boards, to name a few.)

Anyway, without further adieu, here's what's been keeping my head a-spin and my heart a-flutter this season:


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This past year has been mostly transient for me. Since moving out of our Seattle apartment, J and I have transitioned from one temporary home to another, and now we're more than ready to settle into something more permanent. Interestingly, I've noted this feeling of transience in my psyche as well. It seemed to be a year of examining and observing for me, rather than playing and teaching.

This removal manifested itself in my sudden embrace of a neutral, normcore wardrobe, an embrace of minimalism with almost zero shopping allowance and a by-proxy movement away from vintage and thrifting. I have always viewed getting dressed as "putting on a character," and it only makes sense that a year without acting should align with a personal style hiatus. Though I'm ready to reintroduce secondhand shopping, dinners out, and auditioning back into my life, I do think this was an important process for me; it highlighted what I needed to let go of (grudges, habits, "stuff") and also illuminated what I actually need in my life (family, writing, a regular exercise routine...)


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All J has been able to talk about lately is getting a kitty. My own excitement increased tenfold when I found this picture.

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I recently became the proud owner of a KitchenAid stand mixer. It's red and shiny and pretty much the best thing ever.

Jenna Marbles says you're officially an adult when you start getting excited about kitchen appliances. I feel like the goddess in the photo above each time I operate this unicorn of a culinary device, so I guess I'm all grown up now.





A recently-discovered, new favorite view of Manhattan... Lord, I love this city. Every time I step out onto the streets after work, it still takes my breath away.

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As I've explored my sense of style more deeply, I've come to realize that the deeper colors I typically gravitate towards (in clothes, decor, etc.) are actually favorites handed down from my mom. While my mother is a very important part of my life and style, and while I'm blessed to have much in common with her, our tastes are also quite different. Only in the past few years have I grown more comfortable embracing softer, more muted palette, rather than the bold, fiery ones she taught me to love. I can't wait to see how my new apartment reflects both these sources of inspiration.


Enjoy your winter, wherever ye be!

xxo,
Rachel



December 31, 2015

Looking Back on 2015


There's always been something special about the number 5 to me. I loved being five years old (which just so happened to be in 1995.) 2005 was a particularly special time of my life, in terms of love and friendship. 2015 only carried on the tradition, bringing with it adventure, personal growth, new experiences, forgiveness, and regeneration.

Between the Work Away adventure, a period of unemployment, and my recent relocation to one of the world's most expensive cities, this year demanded some serious financial attention and flexibility, and yet it worked wonders on my anxiety-driven, miserly tendencies. It's an interesting phenomenon; that the process of putting money toward new experiences and other people (rather than hoarding it for my own sense of security) should make me feel more at ease and, in some sense, all the richer.

While I currently have less to my name than I did this time last year, I feel more generous and less materialistic than ever before. As anyone close to me can confirm, I still spend a lot of energy worrying about my budget, but I'm finding it easier to let go of these concerns in exchange for living a fuller life. If similar financial anxiety is preventing you from following your heart -- whether it's traveling, moving to a new city, or enrolling in those music lessons you've always wanted -- I encourage you to raise your third finger to it and take what comes in stride.* The inner fulfillment that comes out of the experience will negate any stress that comes from making it a reality.

As you may have noticed from more recent entries, I am also becoming increasingly invested in a minimalist lifestyle. To me, this does not mean dressing in black and white, embracing Ikea furniture, and throwing away all my old love letters, but rather being more mindful of the information, people, energy, and physical objects I welcome into my life. In the past six months I have forgone new books for library cards, forgiven a three-year grudge toward a lost friendship, gone vegetarian, and donated one half of my wardrobe without personally purchasing any new clothes. I'm not trying to pat myself on the back about it (after all, there's always more to do), but I bring it up to illustrate: (a) you can make huge life changes in a comparatively little amount of time, and (b) one small adjustment is liable to inspire several larger ones. The simple choice to go on a trip prompted a total transformation to my lifestyle, from the way I process anger to how I shop at the grocery store. Ultimately, it has helped redirect my focus from how others perceive me to who I wish to be at heart.

Whatever you do, do it for you. I'm a firm believer that we can all change the world, but it begins in our own hearts. If you can radiate the best version of yourself, you stand a better chance at helping others find theirs.

I'd like to close with a few shout-outs to some groups of people who have been particularly inspiring and/or helpful this past year. If you hosted J and me on our trip through Europe, I so appreciate your hospitality and hope I have the chance to repay you with an open door in the year ahead. If you are a Spokanite friend who helped me feel welcome again in my hometown after six years of absence, I am grateful to you. If you are my brother or my parent, I am thankful for your accepting me as an ever-evolving person and for not tethering me to an outdated version of myself -- particularly when we all wound up under same roof again! If you live in (or visited) New York and chatted/walked/shopped/wined&dined/laughed&cried with me in the past three months, bless your heart for giving me buoyancy in this stormy, sublime ocean of a city.

Finally, if you are reading this now, I am graciously indebted to the time and attention you've provided me and Inspirsession. Every time I feel silly, fearful, or pointless in the process of typing out these posts, I am reminded of the kind words people like you have shared with me, and I am reignited once again.

*Take this with a grain of salt, obviously. If your dream is to own a San Francisco penthouse and you can't afford to feed your cat, you may need to put that dream on ice for a while.