#Bdaybus: A birthday party on a school bus

One of my closest friends, Haley, turned 30 a few weeks ago. Haley has this amazing and magnetic spirit to her and when she gets an idea, you can't help but believe it will work out because it's Haley and why not? So when she told me she wanted to rent a school bus for her birthday party to pick up as many of her friends as would fit, I thought "yes, of course. A school bus." And rent a school bus, she did.

(Some parts blurred out for privacy purposes)

Haley asked if I'd be willing to make some invitations for her party. So I got super excited and made invitations, itineraries, signs and goodie bags. Once I had created a little logo for her birthday, I couldn't stop. The bags and itineraries were placed on the bus seats so that when friends boarded the bus, they were greeted with all the necessary info and some childhood snack favorites. Fruit by the foot and Little Debbie oatmeal cakes, anyone?

Haley's friends from all over the Midwest met at her apartment in the city and chatted, mingled and met new friends. In attendance were some friends from high school, college, church, Mission Year, and her work. To have all these friends in one place is a true testament to the time and effort Haley continually puts in to maintaining her friendships.

Once the bus arrived, a few of us got to work decorating. We taped up balloons and streamers and signs and made that bus look less like a bus and more like a moving party. I have to apologize for the awful quality pictures. They came as an afterthought. Womp womp.

The night went amazingly well. We made a bunch of stops through out the city and had such a great time rolling around the city in the bus. Knowing that Haley is incredibly competitive, we gifted her six trophies to be passed out throughout the night for whatever she deemed trophy-worthy. On the bus, at the various stops and at the bar, Haley awarded trophies for dance moves in the freezing cold and false eyelash application while on a moving bus, among other spectacular feats. Her friend from high school kept the party going on the bus by DJing for us. Once we got to the bar, the DJ there was playing 90s favorites and Haley had arranged for pizza to be delivered to the bar and for the bartenders to offer fuzzy navels for $5 to her party goers. At the bar, there were separate areas so everyone could find a place they felt comfortable, from Jenga to dancing to beer pong. 

Suffice it to say, on the bus ride home, we were happy but exhausted. Julio, our awesome bus driver, dimmed the lights, played some Mumford & Sons and we enjoyed the ride back to Haley's.

Honestly, who would have thought you could just rent a school bus for a birthday party? I'm so glad Haley thought of this. It was such a great evening and a chance to celebrate this wonderfully vibrant girl.  

Next time. I promise.

I like to keep things mostly honest around here. Often I don't talk about the more sour moments of life because if it involves another person, I don't want to share a story that isn't mine to share. This one, however, for better or worse belongs to me.

A few days ago, I shared about the Valentine's Day boxes Adrian and I put together for some of my friends. While I love how they ultimately turned out, the process of getting there was less confetti and more tear-filled eyes. 

Adrian always says that in my professional life, I'm an entirely different Emily. I am this task-driven, organized, must-finish-everything-early woman that I think I would hardly recognize at home. At home, I'm more laid-back and easy with a laugh. I don't take things quite as seriously and I don't feel this constant drive to finish all the things. Emily-at-home often embodies the very characteristics that drive me crazy at work.

I have this awful pattern of leaving tasks for the very last minute at home and I dislike that so much. It's as if, professionally I have learned to complete tasks well in advance, but at home I just haven't learned yet. And it irritates Adrian and I know this because I know how that feels. And yet, I am so. slow. to change. With every project, photo shoot and party, I heavily underestimate the time it will take me to set everything up, put things together and put on the finishing touches. And every time, Adrian, sometimes happily but more often begrudgingly, comes to my rescue. 

And we know this. And every time, with frustrated tears in my eyes, I promise that next time it will be different. Yet, it rarely is. If only professional Emily would stop by the house every now and again, lending her ambition, drive, and focus to at-home Emily. 

Normally when I write about something like this, I like to wrap it up with a pretty bow. With some well-crafted sentence about how I learned this or that and turned things around. And so can you! Confetti floats down, everyone claps and we all go home, all the better for whatever wisdom I've imparted to the masses.

But I don't have a well-crafted sentence or the answer or even a suggestion, because I haven't figured it out. I haven't learned how to take the best of who I am at work and who I am at home and just become one decent person in both places. 

So I'm hoping that if I write it here and think about it, that next time maybe I'll be more cognizant of my habits and I'll think of this post and remember how for all ours sakes (namely, Adrian's and mine), I've got to start earlier. I've got to think through my plans and try them out and make sure they work. And if they don't, I've got to come up with a plan B. And then try that, too. But I have to start early.

Next time, Adrian. I promise.

Valentine's Day in a box

Every year for Valentine's Day, Adrian and I put together little gifts for some of my girlfriends. On Valentine's Day, we make a tour of the city and drop off the gifts at my friends' houses. I have loved doing this over the year and have enjoyed sharing my love of Valentine's Day with some of my favorite girls.

I couldn't share the contents of this year's boxes earlier because some of my girlfriends read the blog and I wanted them to be surprised. This year, I tried to put what I think of Valentine's Day into a box. I wanted it to be bright, festive, and celebrating love and friendship. I wanted my girlfriends to open their boxes and feel happy and excited.

So here's what I filled the boxes with (mouseover for numbers):
1 Confetti poppers  // 2 Custom DIY Printed Bags filled with candies (tutorial here) // 3 Custom Pencils that read "You are fabulous, Darling!" // 4 Champagne with straw and festive stirrer // 5 Coffee Mug (from Target) with Abuelita Hot Chocolate mix // 6 Nerds candy
I am so happy with how they turned out. When we delivered them, my friends were so excited! We brought them each a pink heart balloon along with their boxes and I just loved seeing them open the box and take a look inside.

To my girlfriends, thanks ladies! You are the best and you deserve more, but I hope these little boxes filled part of your Valentine's Day with love!

Custom pencils: You are fabulous, darling!

For Christmas this year, Adrian transformed our guest room into a guest room/office combination. He put up some shelves, bought me a desk, painted a wall fuchsia and bought me ghost chairs for the long desk. In short, he did amazing work and it was an unbelievable Christmas gift. (Photos to come at some point!)

The office/guest room is now pink, white, black and gold. And of course, I am in love. I do all my writing, dreaming, list making, and emailing from my new little office. So I decided to celebrate my new work space with some custom-engraved gold pencils to match my decor. And because why not? Right?

So what are my pencils telling me? "You are fabulous, darling!"

And of course, I plan on sharing these with friends when they are in need of a reminder of how fabulous they are.

The lost summer of 2013.

(Note: I've had this post in drafts for months, but for all that time, it just seemed too fresh, too close to share. Now that we are in 2014, I feel like I can let this go.)

At 29, I largely take my health for granted. I expect to wake up each morning, get ready for the day, work 8 or 9 hours, come home, enjoy time with Adrian and friends, call my family and eventually go back to bed. All without pain or fatigue. I never worry about how many stairs stand between me and my next class. Or if I will be in too much pain to even begin the day.

I recognize this as a gift, but I often don't realize just how valuable a gift it is.

This past Spring, I started seeing a doctor relatively regularly, for reasons I am not really comfortable discussing yet. I hadn't regularly seen a doctor since I was a child so having appointments every two or three weeks was a bit shocking. I tend to avoid medications about as much as I avoid doctors, so when my doctor prescribed three different medications at once, I was anxious and unsure. But I began taking them.

Unfortunately, one of these medications deeply effected my sleep patterns. For much of June, July and parts of August, I rarely slept. Days would pass and mentally, I felt beyond exhausted, but each night sleep eluded me. Of course, I tried everything. Over the counter sleep aids, melatonin, relaxing baths, TV, books, soothing music, anxiety medications. All with little to no change. Some mornings, I would wake Adrian for work and sob deeply when he asked, "Did you sleep at all?" I was so tired and frustrated.

But more than just the physical exhaustion, the mental exhaustion took the largest toll. During the day, I couldn't concentrate. Meeting friends for coffee left me feeling drained and detached. I felt like I was floating as they talked about their lives. Where I normally felt connected and engaged, this summer I felt alone and foggy. Slowly through out those months, I saw less and less of friends, I stopped blogging, I ignored phone calls and let go of some many activities and relationships I had once cared so much about. I knew it was the lack of sleep, but I felt absolutely powerless to make any changes.

I became afraid of the night, knowing that my darkest of demons came out in those midnight hours and that no one was there but myself. As I've written on here before, I've struggled with anxiety in the past few years and anxiety thrives on hours upon hours with nothing to do but think. In those quiet hours, as Adrian slept, I'd imagine only the worst of scenarios. The next morning he'd ask why I hadn't woken him up. But I just couldn't bear to wake him to share those terrible hours with him when I knew he'd have to work the next day.

As the school year neared, I became increasingly anxious about my ability to work in such a state. I was beginning a new role at work, one I was quite nervous to begin, and my insomnia merely compounded my anxiety.

In the beginning of August, after a few weeks on a prescription sleeping pill, I decided that no matter what, I would no longer sleep at all during the day. I forced myself to stay awake, accepting invitations with friends, beginning work meetings, doing anything I could find to get me up and out of the house. Eventually, as my body became accustomed to the pills and as I wore myself out day after day, sleep found me once again.

And as life returned to some semblance of normalcy, I realized just how unlike myself I had become. I began calling friends and family more frequently and thinking of new projects and work to throw myself into. All those little loves I had missed all summer long.

Truthfully, I am not entirely sure why I feel so compelled to write about this. Maybe to have a record of it, to remind myself of what happened to that lost summer. Or maybe to process through that time and how it effected me. Or maybe to connect with someone else who has struggled with insomnia and the shell of a person you become.

Or maybe to remind myself just how lucky I am to be waking up each morning, knowing that when the night comes, I'm no longer afraid. I am so thankful to be in a better place, to be sleeping and to feel like myself again. I am lucky to once again be healthy and thoroughly happy.

The confidence to stand on chairs.

I love the artistry that goes into making photos. I love walking around the house and imagining how things I already own could fit together to create this perfect little vignette. And then I love pretending that I'm shooting this in a small perfectly lit studio instead of in my living room with my curtains drawn, leaving my neighbors to inevitably ponder what exactly is that odd white girl doing today.

Because when others see my photo, they don't think of me climbing on my step stool or draping white wrapping paper over a chair or asking a friend to hold a reflector or Adrian cutting little confettis. All they see is this one tiny moment that we created. And none of the longer moments that went into making it.

For me, that moment signifies being bold. Having the courage and the confidence to say that yes I can make the visions in my mind come to life in front of me. It means taking chances and probably making mistakes. It's putting myself out there in a way I'm not always comfortable with. And it's asking others to have confidence in me and my ideas as well. Even when they have no proof that it will work. 

It's this dream I had years ago when I first started blogging. 

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in blogging culture. In the pins and the stats and the "is anyone even out there?" that I forget that three years ago, I had none of this. I had a point and shoot camera that never did what I wanted it to. I had jumbled thoughts and fleeting plans. And I never took out my camera in front of people for fear of drawing attention to myself.

So even if no one is out there, this blog has given me a place to experiment and write and plan and dream and grow and learn and find out who I am. It's given me the motivation to find a camera I love and to learn how to use it well enough to create images just how I saw them when I first envisioned them. It's given me the confidence to stand on chairs and desks and step stools, even when the neighbors can see. And it's encouraged me to go out there and make things happen.

And I do want to say thank you especially to my dad, my mum, my sister and Adrian for reading these posts, even the mediocre ones. Especially the mediocre ones. And for all of the ways they have helped me create images.

Here's a year of being bold. Cheers!

Weekend Reads: Cabin Fever

Photo by Adrian!

Friends, this winter has been rough by Chicago standards and most everyone is coming down with some serious cabin fever. Adrian and I have been battling against the very tempting forces of Hulu Plus and trying to develop some hobbies instead of just vegging out on the couch. Adrian's been cooking  and baking while I've been writing and photographing. On Sunday, Adrian wanted to learn about using a DSLR camera, so we set up a shot and practiced with different manual settings on the camera. I loved the photo he got and asked if he wouldn't mind me sharing it on the blog. In his words, this picture is "so Mexican." So true, friend. So true. But what can we do? We're a Mexican family.

So happy Friday! I hope your weekend is filled with confetti and piñatas and drinking responsibly. My friend's having what is sure to be a pretty epic 30th birthday party. She's rented a school bus and we'll be driving around the city and stopping in a few bars. So much better than trying to find parking in this snow-covered city!

Ok before you go out for the weekend, here's some reading for your Friday afternoon:
  • This video of a baby girl laughing in the rain is the greatest video. Ever. Ever. I melt into a puddle of joy every time I watch it. Seriously, do yourself a favor and start your weekend right. (Found via Alicia at Jaybird Blog)
  • Osheta Moore's Oh, Honey! Come here, I think your privilege is showing. A couple weeks old, but I just came across it and it is a powerful piece on the importance of discussing race, racism, privilege, diversity and reconciliation on our blogs because we need this conversation.
  • James Poniewozik's piece on Coca Cola's "It's Beautiful" Superbowl Ad because America is a nation of so many languages and cultures. I loved his explanation of how we come from other places and, yes, we speak English but we speak other languages as well. Adrian and I both speak English and Spanish. English is the language of our "how was your day" and "pass me the salt" but Spanish is the language of our jokes, of our texted love notes, of our nicknames. And that is what Coke understood when they made that ad.
  • Betsy's Pause/Reset post on her thinking behind taking a month-long break from blogging. There is a great conversation on the state of blogging going on in the comment section. 
  • Lastly, Alicia's Banish overwhelm and just. get. through. this post has some great tips on how to stop being so overwhelmed. Again, lots of great conversation happening in the comment section, too!
Lots of great reading there! I'd love to hear your thoughts. Enjoy your weekend!

Around the House: His & Hers Mugs

Hers & His, obviously
When Adrian and I had been dating awhile and I began thinking about getting married someday, I thought sometimes that Adrian was not much like who I had imagined I'd marry. I'd figured I'd marry someone calm and bookish and maybe even a little boring. Someone who loved to read and listened to Ray Lamontagne, like me. 

When Adrian first heard a Ray Lamontagne song, he asked me why Ray was crying. And I thought, you know it does sound like that, doesn't it?

On our very first date, he took me to Hard Rock Cafe. Having grown up in Mexico and loving American rock music, he thought that that was the place to go. He figured I'd love it. I hated it. I went home that night and told my roommate I didn't think I could ever date him.

Adrian has a little fauxhawk and wants a motorcycle and a tattoo. I enjoy the finer things in life, namely heart doughnuts and confetti and flats in every color. I thought for sure this could not work out.

We laugh about that first date. He says if he had known then what he knows now, he would have taken me to a quiet little coffee shop and saved himself about $75. 

But I like that he's so different than me. And I like that he's nothing like the man I'd imagined I'd marry because what did I know then anyways. I like that I am continually surprised. This man that wears a skull ring and has an earring is the same man who puts my boots next to the heater every morning so that they're warm when I leave for work. And he's the same man who doesn't mind spending a couple hours making tiny heart piñatas. And he's the same man who has taken a liking to pink button downs and pink skull socks. I love that he's this odd blend of Mexican and American and rocker and preppy and intimidating and adorable and probably intimidatingly adorable. And I love that he'll watch Sons of Anarchy and then Gossip Girl without giving it a second thought.

So when I come across a brass knuckle coffee mug, you better believe I snag that for my husband because while I love a set of adorably matching city mugs, I love my husband in all his uniqueness even more.

Be Bold.

For the past couple years, I've been playing along with Ali Edwards' One Little Word, where she selects a word that will be a focus point for her throughout the year. I love making lists and having specific goals, but I also love this idea of allowing one word to guide you and inspire you during the course of the year.

For 2014, my word is bold.

I want to try things before I'm ready and have the confidence to know that it might not turn out perfectly but it will turn out. I want to make mistakes, learn from them and do it better next time. I want to spend hours making beautiful photos because I like to and it makes me happy. I want to start to see myself as a creative, as an artist, as a writer, as a photographer, as a boss, as a teacher. And I want to be comfortable in all those labels without thinking "but I'm not good enough yet." 

In 2014, I want to believe that I can. That I will. And that I should.

So these past few weeks, I have. I've seen in so many blogs and on instagram and pinterest and everywhere all these photos that I love. Photos that clearly took a lot of time and energy and planning to create. And I always thought I didn't have time to devote hours to one single image and that even if I did, they'd never come out how I saw them in my mind because I'm just not ready. So I took photos of what was around me instead of what I envisioned because I convinced myself I couldn't.

This year, I'm convincing myself that I can. And so far? I've have been so overjoyed with what I've done. I'm bringing to life these images that have bounced around in my head and my heart. And seeing them come together in front of my eyes has been amazing.

These photos I created beginning with photoshop. I picked out my fonts and decided how I'd fit the words together. From there, I cut the words on my cricut. Then I placed them on a white background, arranged the confetti, asked a friend to hold up a reflector and snapped away. In a few hours, what I'd seen in my mind came to life.

So this year, I'm going to continue being bold. Believing that I can and that I should. 

Blogging tips