does mint count as green?

I don’t own a ton of green in my wardrobe. I do love teal and turquoise , but as for real greeny green, I’ve only got a few things. I think the reason is because I have blue eyes, and I’ve always had this idea that green would clash with them. This is ridiculous, I realize, so I’m starting to get over it. And one of the pieces of actual green clothing I own is a pair of colored denim jeans in kelly green. And so, with St. Patty’s Day coming up, I made a mental note to save these jeans for today. It would figure, of course, that when I went to change after church yesterday, the pair I just happened to grab were these same jeans. And even though maybe three people will see me today who saw me yesterday, I just have a thing about wearing the same thing two days in a row.

So I was a bit stuck today. Until I remembered a recent purchase of mine. Ben and I were walking Allie through the mall a couple of weeks ago, when I made him let me duck into Aeropostale for a second. He then said to me, “I think you grew out of this store 10 years ago.” But I barely heard him, because I was drawn to a section with my name plastered everywhere! If you’ve been to the store recently, you may have seen the Bethany Mota line. She is apparently some YouTube sensation all the kids know about. But despite not knowing who she was, the kid in me was SO EXCITED to see my name on a product, I decided I had to buy something. Since some mint jeans have been on my list for a while, I picked up this color wash jegging. Normally I’m super picky about jeans, but these fit really well, and they HAD MY NAME ON THEM, so obviously I had to buy them.

Anyway, my question to you is: by wearing these today, am I off the hook for green attire? Or is it only the real Irish green? Either way, happy St. Patty’s Day! For my friends in DC/MD/VA, enjoy your government-sanctioned drinking—err, I mean—snow day! (And you’re welcome!)

six confessions about blogging

In 2000, I created a website (on Angelfire, remember that?). It was back before it was common to call them blogs. I would update the site every month or so with all the excitement of my teenage life (things like “I drove for the first time!!” and “Everyone has a boyfriend!”). This continued into college, near the end of which I jumped ship to create my first official WordPress blog. I went through a few different blogs in the ensuing years (part of my infatuation habit) before I ended up here.

Anyway, since rejoining the ranks of the bloggers, I’ve realized a few things. Time to come clean with myself and the world:

  1. I am not a designer: While I play with a lot of design on this blog, I am not a graphic designer and will definitely never come near all the beautiful design work I see on the professional blogs I follow. I’ve come to terms with the fact that this blog will always be just me expressing my ideas and experimenting with ways to share them, and lots of people do this far more beautifully than I do. But that won’t stop me from trying!
  2. I am not a photographer: I don’t think I ever even realized what a difference beautiful photos make on a blog until I tried to take them. While I was gifted a pretty decent Sony NEX-5 camera a while ago, I honestly have no idea how to use it properly. For the sake of people who read my blog, I try really hard to make the pictures I take look as good as possible, but I know. They’re not great. And that’s okay.
  3. I am not a fashion blogger: I totally love all my fashion blogs that I follow, and they provide me all sorts of inspiration. I have shared and probably will continue to share the occasional outfit post, but I will leave the perfect fashion sense and creativity to my blogroll.
  4. I refuse to pick one category for my blog musings: This is an outlet for me to share my thoughts, tidbits from my life, and various wonderful finds I encounter. As fun as it would be to focus on one thing—my family, shopping/fashion, food, or DIY/crafts, etc.—I just can’t pick. I love too many things. So there will be randomness and lots of it. But I’m a believer that content that comes naturally is always the best, so hopefully at least one or two people besides me will find entertainment or interest in what I write!
  5. I mostly blog for me: Okay, I know this sounds selfish. But a big reason I blog is because it feels good. It is a form of creative expression, and I love the idea of having a record of my life and my ideas. It also forces me to articulate thoughts that might otherwise come and go and never return. I feel smarter when I blog, because I follow through on my ideas, visions, and interests. I also get to document our lives in a format Allie (and future kids?) can return to one day and realize how young and cool I was! Right. 🙂
  6. I also blog for other people: I totally love the idea of connecting with others through blogs! It’s seriously so fun. Meagan of Because of Jackie posted yesterday about how blogging is like online dating, and meeting blog friends in real life can be a little nerve-racking. I’ve been thinking about it, and I realize it’s because making friends online is like the reverse of making them in real life, because you get to know someone before you ever actually meet them. And, I gotta be honest, that’s pretty cool. But of course I also have my beloved real life friends who I don’t get to see as often as I would like, and it is very convenient to be able to share our recent happenings through our blogs.

Forgive the very meta post today, but seeing all these other kinds of blogs out there, it’s important for me to define exactly who I am in this online space. And the verdict (a bonus confession, I suppose): I’m still kind of figuring that out. It will involve some design, some photography, some fashion, lots of variety, lots of me, and hopefully lots of you, too. And it won’t be perfect. Hope you don’t mind.

the daily balancing act

When I was in college, on a study abroad to St. Petersburg, Russia, a few of my fellow students and I were talking (in English, tisk tisk) one afternoon. We were discussing the idea of comparing your brain to a place. One guy said his mind was like Nevsky Prospekt, the main thoroughfare in St. Petersburg—busy and bustling at all times. I think at the time I compared my brain to a circus, but this was before I actually went to a circus and realized I hate circuses.

Last night, as I felt my mind scrambling in a million different directions, trying to sort out all my thoughts and worries and mental to-do items, I decided my mind is like boiling water. Or just water, and every thought is a degree of heat. By the end of the day, things are bubbling up all over the place and I feel like my brain might explode, but sleep resets the temperature back to lukewarm.

Forgive the philosophical escapade, but this leads me to the point of this post: sometimes I feel like there is just way too much to think about and do.

As I was thinking last night about all my priorities and responsibilities in life, I started to feel overwhelmed by all the things! Ben. Allie. My job. Friends. Family. Our kitties. Working out. Blogging. Cooking/eating. Reading. Sleeping. On and on and on. And these are just the parts I like! I know it’s a cliché that there just aren’t enough hours in the day, but I have never felt this so keenly until recently. When I think about all the things I need or want to do, I seriously need about an extra 10 hours each day to squeeze everything in. At the end of each day, I invariably feel like I didn’t do something I wanted or needed to do.

But maybe that’s just the way you grow as a person, when you’re forced to choose how to spend your time. I remember reading once that former Dean Kim Clark of Harvard Business School encouraged students to simplify their lives into just a few core categories, then prioritize. If I had to narrow things down to, say, five areas of my life and prioritize them accordingly—(1) God, (2) family, (3) health, (4) work, and (5) leisure—I could probably fit everything in a slot, but that forces me to confront the fact that a lot of the things I do are lower on my master list of priorities. Though maybe that’s where the daily sense of missing something stems from.

Maybe it’s time to throw out a few TV shows in place of more scripture study. Or sacrifice time shopping to spend time serving. It feels hard to do, but if I go back to my core priorities, it’s probably the right thing to do. I have to believe those sacrifices will make me happier and more fulfilled. But I do think balance is important. A little me time is important for my sanity! And that just brings me back to the title of this post: life is a daily balancing act of all our priorities. The older I get, the more I realize this. And the less sleep I get. Which, we’ve already discussed, will end up killing me in the end anyway. Only seems appropriate to close with this sentiment:

“The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache.”

– Marjorie Pay Hinckley, via Goodreads

Yep, pretty much!

books that changed my life

via tumblr

via tumblr

I think for most of us, if we’re reading blogs, we are the type who also love books. The feeling of becoming so enveloped in a story that it feels personal to you is something I learned to love early in my life. I’m not as well read as some of my sisters (like Julie, who asked for the complete works of Shakespeare for Christmas at age eight—yikes), but I do love books!

What makes me sad is how much less I read these days. No doubt due in part to all the time I spend reading stuff online. I also sometimes feel overwhelmed by all the books out there! So many choices! And committing to a book is very different from committing to a blog post or, say, a Buzzfeed article. You want to be sure the book you pick is worth your time.

With that in mind, today I’ve decided to share a few books I’ve read that were worth the read. My taste in genres is pretty varied, and I’m definitely not a literature snob, but I do require that a book have the following qualities:

  1. Decently well written
  2. Not excessively cheesy
  3. Characters you really get to know
  4. A story that makes you see life differently, even if just for that day

My most favorite books changed my perspective on life or awakened an interest or passion in me that I didn’t feel before. I’m sure some of you who are much better read than I could add pages to this list, but here are just a few of the books that have affected me most and why:

unbrokenUnbroken by Laura Hillenbrand: I’m pretty sure every person who has read this book would call it one of the best books ever. For sure the most amazing (and true) WWII survival story ever. This story completely changed my perspective on life—I felt so completely grateful for everything I had and so completely heartbroken for people who have had challenges worse than I can imagine. If by some slim chance you haven’t read this book, you must!

RUSSKARusska by Edward Rutherfurd: I have been fascinated by Russia since I was young, and, knowing this, my sister gave me this book to read when I was 16. It’s a captivating piece of historical fiction that essentially gives you a complete history of Russia by tracing the stories over the generations of several (fictional) families. This is the kind of book that when I read the last line, I exhaled and said aloud, “Wow.” I can only describe it as epic.

coming-homeComing Home by Rosamunde Pilcher: This is a coming-of-age story of a girl growing up in pre-war and WWII England. I think it made such an impact on me because I read it as a teen, and I kind of lived through the main character. It has the lovely combo of history and romance, and it just sparked in teenage me a passion to live and dream and do amazing things. A line from it is also the inspiration for the name of my blog.

the-count-of-monte-cristoThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas: Many of you have probably seen the movie (also one of my favorites), and I was interested to find how different the book is from the movie, but I love them both. I think what I love most about this story is the feeling of vindication you get on behalf of the main character, but the book dives deeper (and with more major characters) into the true natures of people and how they deal with circumstances. Without spoiling the end (if you haven’t read the book), I will just say that takes a different and darker turn that the movie does. This one offers both an exciting story and complicated themes you could discuss on multiple levels.

phantom_kayPhantom by Susan Kay: I think this one qualifies as cult fiction. Not very well known, but most who have read it are obsessed. It’s the story of the phantom before (and after) he became “of the opera.” You don’t think the musical is shallow until you read this book and understand things from the phantom’s perspective. It is a beautiful book that adds so much depth and intrigue to the original story.

his-dark-materialsHis Dark Materials by Philip Pullman: Remember the whole fiasco over The Golden Compass movie? People calling it anti-God, etc.? This is the full series (three books) of that story. As someone who does believe in God, I can see how others might call this anti-religious, but I don’t think it was meant that way. For me, it was such a unique and compelling world that Pullman creates, it just sets your imagination on fire. Any anti-God themes for me were just part of the fiction and completely outweighed by the other fascinating concepts and characters in the series. I find myself wanting to reference elements of this story regularly in my daily life!

I would love to hear other awesome book ideas if you have them. A personal recommendation always carries more weight for me than a bestseller list, and I’m in the market for a new book to read!

why adulthood is hard (but also survivable)

SONY DSC

More of a serious post today than I usually do, but it’s stuff that’s been on my mind!

One of my all-time favorite books is Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss. It’s one most if not all of us have probably read at some point, and, like other Dr. Seuss books, it manages to convey all sorts of deep messages through simple little rhymes. This page of the book, in particular, is one I think of often. Because, as it turns out, being a grown-up is hard. Being a mom has made me keenly aware of this fact, and never in my life have I felt so lost! Not necessarily in a sad, despondent way, but definitely in a how-on-earth-do-I-do-this-parenting-thing-right way.

But even apart from mom stuff, I’ve just been thinking lately about all the confusing, unclear, “darked” aspects of adulthood that have become more apparent in my life as I get older:

  1. You realize the people you always looked up to and trusted are imperfect and perhaps even totally wrong about major issues in life. Thus you question every decision you made with their advice.
  2. On that note, there is pretty much no right answer to any of your questions (unless you’re doing math problems or something). Many people will tell you with great conviction what they believe is the right answer, and it will completely contradict what another person tells you. All you’ll want is someone to tell you exactly what is best to do, but you have to decide for yourself. And you might be wrong.
  3. Degree in hand, maybe even several years of work experience under your belt, you suddenly become aware that present you has the primary responsibility for taking care of retired you. So you feel guilty about every dime you spend but also hold on to this belief that *everything will just somehow work out*—but secretly ask yourself… what if it doesn’t?
  4. Your kids’ future self-confidence, skills, academic success, and conduct will be heavily dependent on what you do now. While you’re sleep-deprived and unsure and stressed and trying minute by minute to do the right thing but often failing miserably. No pressure or anything, but don’t screw this up, or your kids will end up in therapy. Or jail.
  5. There are lots of weird, messed up people out there. And there are lots of people who would think you are weird and messed up.
  6. The whole world is falling apart! Death, disasters, deception—everywhere, all the time. It’s heartbreaking and unfair and seems to make no sense at all.

I would hate to end this without some hope, because I am a very optimistic person for the most part. So I guess these are the things that help me find the light in all this darkness:

  1. The knowledge that every human has had to face this uncertainty, and many manage to deal with it and come to the end of their lives feeling content and happy.
  2. Belief in a higher power who will eventually make everything right. Mostly just faith, but sometimes a stronger sense of peace. It helps.
  3. The realization that without the hard times, the good times wouldn’t feel so good. Opposition in all things, right?
  4. Knowing there is a lot of good in the world, too. A lot of selfless, kind, charitable people to balance out the selfish, mean, and greedy. Not to completely nerd out on you, but I’ve always loved this Gandalf quote from LOTR: “There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil.”
  5. Feeling empowered by the one thing over which we always have control: how we respond to challenges. Even if you feel like life is totally a mess, turns out you can actually have a positive attitude. But it’s way easier said than done, I’ll admit that.
  6. Remembering that while it’s easy to feel alone in our fears and frustrations, there is always someone out there who either understands or wants to help. Sometimes you just have to ask. And other times you just have to offer.

And this is where I insert the “We’re All in This Together” video from High School Musical. Kidding! (But seriously, you can watch it here.)

all the thanks

Let me tell you what: It is kinda hard to feel thankful when life isn’t perfect. At least it is for me. I have spent a lot of time over the last few months wishing and wanting—for more sleep, to get answers to all my parenting questions, to eliminate the uncertainty in our future, etc. But then I hear basically any story on the news, and I realize that I am the most ungrateful human alive. Because I have it good compared to SO many people in this world. And that just makes me feel so sad.

BUT it’s also a reason to be incredibly thankful! I remember feeling this way after reading Unbroken (a.k.a. most amazing story ever). My daily troubles and frustrations feel so small when I stop and look away from my own life. And all I can feel is so heart-wrenchingly grateful for every single blessing. Thanksgiving to me is about finding the happiness in our less-than-perfect lives. Thus, in lieu of writing a list of things for which I’m thankful, I just want to include a visual of some of the things that make me so happy:

happythings

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! May your meals be yummy and abundant in pie.

rain, rain, it’s okay

allumbrella

It has been rainy, snowy, cloudy, and cold for several days now. Pretty much constant grey. It’s hard to feel cheery and warm in such conditions, but, balancing our love of dryness with our need for outside time, Allie and I decided to grab an umbrella and brave the elements for a walk around the block.

Something about the rain makes me feel all thoughtful for whatever reason. The following occurred to me as we walked:

  1. Never underestimate the importance of a sturdy umbrella.
  2. Nothing calms my baby down like being outside. You don’t really think about it when you’re indoors, but outside feels SO different—and not just because of the temperature. It’s unbelievably rejuvenating, even on a cold and rainy day. How do we handle staying indoors all the time? Do kids even still play outside anymore? Granted, it’s near freezing and super windy out here, but I have many fond memories of playing in the rain with my friends as a kid.
  3. I wonder if anyone remembers that show “Under the Umbrella Tree” from childhood. Not sure I even remember it. Maybe it’s on Netflix. Or maybe not.
  4. I think parenthood is God’s/life’s way of trying to cure me of my control issues. Basically, every time I think I’ve established a routine or have a handle on things, everything falls apart and I have to start from scratch. I have this feeling that’s just going to keep happening forever and ever. Super.
  5. It is probably not a good idea to wear leather boots on a walk in the rain. Especially when said boots apparently have a hole in the heel.
  6. I do miss all my coworkers in DC and the perks of working full time, but not even close to enough to give up being able to take a walk with Allie in the middle of the day. I freaking love my company for letting me work part time from home.
  7. Oh look, there’s the sun coming out, as it always does inevitably, after the rain.

And when I got back I realized how many pictures I’ve pinned or tumbled with umbrellas.

I love the idea of a bit of pretty shining in the dreary.

to my eighth-grade self

Some of my blog stalkees have a weekly “Friday’s Letters” post, and I like this idea but want to try a slightly different spin today. A letter to myself of sorts. I don’t really have a ton of regrets in my life, and I believe that the choices I’ve made—right or wrong—have led me to the happiness I have now with Ben and Allie. But occasionally I reflect on what I might do differently if I could do it all over. At the same time, there are a few things I would want to make sure I do again. I feel like a lot of the choices that put me on the path I’m on now began in high school, so here are a few things I would tell my eighth-grade self to either redo or repeat:

REDO

  1. Get really good at math and science. It will be hard, and it will feel like you’re not cut out for it (especially in your physics class), but find a friend who’s good at it, check out books from the library, or hire a tutor until you are comfortable. Knowing this stuff well will open a lot of doors for you.
  2. Enjoy college and TAKE YOUR TIME. Believe it or not, this will be the easiest, most carefree time of your life. Never again will you get to fall asleep in a hallway, have easy access to learn any subject, get two weeks off at Christmas, or find more opportunities for self-discovery. So don’t rush to graduate in three years like it’s some big achievement!
  3. Hang on to that old flip phone. Eventually you’ll have to join the smart phone bandwagon or risk social ostracism, but don’t rush it. You will miss the simple days of monophonic ringtones and actually using your brain to remember information.
  4. Don’t lose your Russian! Once you get back from St. Petersburg (see #2 below), commit yourself to speaking Russian with someone at least once a week. For the rest of your life. You feel fluent now, but after a few years you’ll be racking your brain for the Russian word for fork.
  5. Take the GRE! Or the GMAT. Or the MCAT for all I care. Just do it while all that knowledge is fresh in your mind. Otherwise you’ll talk yourself out of grad school and be faced with the task of doing it while you have kids (which, future Bethany expects, will be a lot harder).

REPEAT

  1. Treat high school like a job. Move heaven and earth to get good grades, get involved, and apply for every college scholarship under the sun. You will thank me later!
  2. Sign up for that 8 AM Russian 101 class your freshman year of college. And stick with it, clear through the Study Abroad to St. Petersburg. This experience is essential for your personal growth! Also, see #4 above.
  3. Don’t join Myspace. It’s just going to turn trashy and weird.
  4. Treasure your college friends. A handful of them will still be your best friends 10 years later.
  5. On December 5, 2008, be in Springfield, Virginia. Go to the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party thrown by some girls in the singles ward. Look for the guy in the white turtleneck and ridiculous red vest with retractable mistletoe. When he comes up to you—trust me on this one—stay and talk.