Reflecting on Texas Style Council

Texas Style CouncilIt’s been quiet here. It hasn’t necessarily been intentional or planned, but after what can only be described as an insanely fast trip to Austin for Texas Style Council, followed by no time to allow for an introvert hangover recovery time, I’ve needed a few days to collect myself.

I remember years ago, sitting at my desk in our bedroom in West Chester, waiting for the next part of my life to start, I’d sprinkled in some fashion blog reading throughout my normal online rotation. I always secretly admired the fashion bloggers for their zero effs given. They wore what they liked & weren’t afraid what people thought. Feeling vain and self-conscious never held them back! They had things to say and things to share and it didn’t seem like they ever doubted whether anyone cared about what they wrote. Not in a bad way — they just did it because they liked to. I thought I’d never be able to pull anything off like that.

I remember seeing them all head to Austin to hang out with each other at this thing called Texas Style Council, and wondered about how awesome it would be to have a crew of amazing, creative friends from the internet to hang out with in person once in awhile. So last winter, when Chrystina told me what an awesome time she had last year, it was a pretty easy sell to convince me to go to the last one there ever would be — an epic retreat of a weekend at a Girl Scout camp outside of Austin, where we’d be focusing on relationships and connections over numbers and stats.

There were new friends and old friends and friends whose faces I’d only seen on screens until that weekend. There were people I’d just met at Alt! Rather than frantically trying to figure out how to get more eyeballs on our stuff (which I kind of almost always feel sleazy and weird about), there were frank talks on things like making more connections in person, what to do when it feels like nothing’s working, the importance of finding (and being!) a “friendtor,” and how to take an honest-to-goodness rest when you need it.

But more than anything, this is what I’m taking away from Texas Style Council: There are people who care. There are people who want to read your words and hear your stories when this internet writing thing feels like shouting into a void. There are conversations that spark new ideas for projects, for essays, for photographs and collaborations. There are people to whisper things into your ear to remind you. Things like strong, beautiful, friend, talented, genuine, so that when you head back to the real world and things feel just a little too harsh, you have something to remember. There is enough for all of us, especially if we’re willing to be honest.

Huge thanks to Indiana and the whole team for the insane amount of work and resources they’ve put in to this event over the years. While I’m sad that 2015 was the last of it, I’m very grateful that I was able to attend. I’m coming away from it refreshed and challenged and intrigued by new thoughts. If you want to get a visual feel of the whole weekend, Chelsea captured it perfectly. There are also more recap posts over at TxSC.

I recently set up a redirect over here from my old url. If you haven’t updated your Bloglovin’ feed yet, now’s the time to do it!

Lunchtime Reads

Pablo HoneyIt’s been a little while since I’ve put together a Lunchtime Reads roundup, maybe perhaps because it’s been such an incredibly long time since I spent my lunch breaks hiding in my car, soaking in every minute of peace and silence while reading the internet. Ahhh, the (not-so) good old days.

Aside from tons of stuff about contracts and front-end style guides and Sublime Text, these are some things I’ve been reading of late. Enjoy!

I was so nervous-excited and starstruck to meet Erin Loechner at Alt Summit back in January. She’s been churning out such gems lately, and I’m super excited to see her again this weekend at Texas Style Council. Even though her life looks amazing online, like a total dream, she reminds us that if her highlight reel makes us feel inadequate, we can stop reading. Not out of annoyance, but out of mutual respect and admiration for the different paths we’ve chosen: The Apple Slice

She’s not the only heavy hitter who’s calling out the way the internet has changed us. Grace Bonney has now moderated over 200,000 comments, and shared what she’s learned: Negativity Online: An Essay Inspired by 200,000 Comments

Paige asks what would happen if we’d act as if it’s the real thing? I bet it’d make a difference for most of us.

You know those amazing Instagram feeds you see? Ever wonder how much time those people spend shooting? This was enlightening.

Today’s Pastry Box entry on burnout in the design & development industry is striking. I’m fairly certain it’s applicable to most industries. “We don’t want burnout, but we talk hustle. We don’t want burnout… and then we do.”

And! Congratulations to Brenda for winning last week’s giveaway of a spot in Prompt Club! If you’re still interested in joining us, it’s not too late to hop over and register!

Prompt Club & An Interview with Jennifer Snyder

Prompt Club

Courtesy of Jennifer Snyder

If you’ve ever had a conversation with me about writing, journaling, or creativity, I’ll bet you’ve heard me talk about morning pages. So when Jennifer Snyder, writer, editor, consultant, and podcaster, asked if she could interview me about my journaling practice for her upcoming ecourse, Prompt Club, I was pretty psyched.

Prompt Club is an eight-week journaling course that’s designed to feel more like a club. It’s for anyone who considers themselves a writer, keeps a journal, or doesn’t keep a journal but wants to start! I really enjoyed chatting with Jennifer about my history with writing and journaling, so I thought it’d be fun to ask her a few questions, too, to revive my very inconsistent Interviews With Interesting People series. And! She’s offering a free spot to one of you to join us. Get to know her a little bit below, and read on to find out how to win a spot in Prompt Club.

What’s your favorite type of work to do? Your favorite type of non-work?

This is such a great question! I tend to do a lot of different types of work, but I think what really gets me going is the act of sharing stories. Whether I’m writing a very personal nonfiction essay, interviewing someone for my podcast or writing an article for publication, my heart is happiest when I’m sharing a story that matters. If rounding up my favorite spots in Sacramento helps someone plan their trip, I’m happy. If chatting with a maker and airing their story on my show helps their business in some way, I’m happy. If I share something about my own journey that offers up a “me too” moment for someone else, I’m happy.

As far as non-work goes, get me outside. I feel a very strong pull toward nature and the more time I spend outside exploring (preferably with loved ones!), the better I am at life. Truly—I’m no good if I’m cooped up for too long. Ask my husband!

What prompted you (tee-hee) to create Prompt Club?

Good one!

Well, to be frank: writing is hard. So often we can get in our own heads about things—life, work, etc.—and journaling really helps clear out that mental clutter.

That said, sitting down with a pen and paper can be downright intimidating. I have trouble getting out of my own way every time I start to write. So, I wanted to create a course that offers a bit of guidance for those of us who sometimes need a little push.

Journaling has become a place where I can unpack all of things that life throws my way, but as a writer I tend to self-edit before I even begin. I’ve had to be very intentional about giving myself the space to write badly. My journals (and word documents—I often use different mediums to journal) are full of terrible entries. Sometimes, however, tiny bits of great writing shine through. Then, I can use those bits for a larger purpose. Other times I just work through whatever is on my mind and then tuck it away, never to be read again.

What are you most excited about regarding Prompt Club?

I’m really excited to see how others respond to the prompts! I don’t necessarily expect people to share their entries, but I’m curious to see how they decide to approach each prompt. Will they love it? Will they hate it? Will they take it in a direction I never thought was possible? I think that will be the most rewarding part for me and for others taking the course.

What are you most excited about outside of work right now?

To be honest, I’ve been sort of structuring a lot of my life around the work I’m doing. It isn’t always the healthiest thing to do, but I’m pretty passionate about my work at the moment and that line is a bit blurry.

I think taking my podcast on the road is going to be a really wonderful experience. I love to travel, so combining the two is pretty perfect.

I’m also pretty excited about the bits of time I’ll be spending with family and friends this year. I don’t always get to spend enough time with loved ones who are spread all over the country, but even a small amount of time can create pretty stellar memories.

How would you spend the perfect day?

Oh gosh. This is a tough one! I think the perfect day would include copious amounts of caffeine, a solid breakfast and several hours spent hiking someplace beautiful with my husband and pups. Again, get me outside and I’m a new woman.

Thanks, Jennifer! If you’re interested in joining us in Prompt Club, be sure to register by March 20. She’s also offering a spot for one of you to join in for free! If you’re interested in entering, let me know in the comments what you’d be most excited about in the course, what your history with journaling has been, or your thoughts about the ecourse. Be sure to include an active email address so that we can get you added to the course if you win! I’ll choose a random winner next Tuesday, 3/17.

EDIT: Congratulations, Brenda, and thanks everyone for your comments! I hope to see you all over in Prompt Club in a couple weeks!

Philly Women in Tech Summit 2015

Philly Women in Tech Summit

Credit: Gloria Bell for Philly Women in Tech Summit

Last year’s Philly Women in Tech Summit was my very first speaking gig — the kind where you have to submit a proposal & wait by the phone (or your inbox as it were) to find out whether the organizers think attendees will want to hear what you have to say. The panel I participated in was all about how career paths look different for everyone. It was a pretty big deal for me to be up there talking about that topic, as I’ve experienced more career-path angst than almost anyone I know. I learned a lot, and it helped me reinforce to myself that not everyone has the same goals, does things in the same order, or sticks to a predictable, linear road.

This year, I wanted to do something a little bit more technical, but not so technical that I’d get flustered live coding in front of an audience (though I have done that & it wasn’t a disaster!). I’ll be leading a workshop on Sublime Text, a text editor. I’ve been using it for years, and I know that there’s a bunch of really great, life-changing (for me, at least) things it can do that I’m not taking advantage of. So, I’m going to spend the next month and a half finding out what those things are, putting them into practice, and then writing a workshop to share them with others.

Do you use Sublime Text? Do you have favorite tips or packages that you use? I’d love to hear about them, and I hope to see you there on April 18! Tickets sold out already, which is crazy, but if you’re still interested in attending, hop on the waitlist.

Slather Yourself in Oil: The Oil Cleansing Method

oil cleansing methodThis winter is the coldest of my memory (although, maybe all of them feel like that). It’s the first winter we’ve lived in this apartment, with forced air heat. And while I’m grateful for heat at all with how cold it’s been, the forced air is probably the driest way to heat a place. Between the bitter wind outside and the dry air blowing on me at home, my skin is taking a pretty severe beating. I’ve been on a straight oil regimen for a couple years now, but it’s been even more key this season.

I had been on antibiotics and really harsh prescription acne stuff for years, but for various reasons had to stop taking it. Followed by a trip to sticky, humid Costa Rica on our honeymoon five and a half years ago, my skin was a disaster and I don’t think it really recovered until I started slathering myself in oils a couple years later. Counterintuitive, right?

So, here’s the idea: All the harsh, alcohol-based cleansers we use for broken out skin are drying our skin out even more. So our skin overcompensates by producing more oil, creating breakouts on top of our super dry skin. So, by using an oil cleanse, I’m no longer stripping my skin of natural oils. Instead, I’m hydrating it, but also treating it with more antibacterial oils, like tea tree oil.

oil cleansing methodBack when I started doing it, there wasn’t nearly as much written about it online as there is now; I think most of my info came from theoilcleansingmethod.com (I just checked it out again — it’s still an excellent resource). Since then, I’ve tweaked my recipe and just used what I’ve had around the house at any given time. Usually, this consists of about half castor oil, and half jojoba, walnut, or grapeseed oil, with a few squirts of argan oil, and several drops of tea tree oil, depending on the season and what my skin’s been like. I put all of it into a little glass spice bottle & shake it up.

The castor oil is pretty thick, and it’s the oil that’s mostly responsible for drawing out blackheads and dirt. The jojoba or grapeseed or whatever other oil of your choice should be thinner than the castor. This thins out the castor oil and helps it get into your pores a little more. The tea tree oil is antibacterial, and when I started using argan oil as a moisturizer, I began adding a little bit into my oil mix, too.

A couple times a week, depending on the season, I pour some oil into my hand and massage it into my face. Then, I run a wash cloth under hot water and drape it on my face so that the heat and steam open my pores a little more & release the junk (which I can actually feel under my fingers when I massage the oil into my face — ew). Sometimes I repeat the steamy wash cloth step a couple times. Then, I’ll be sure to wipe all the oil off of my face with the washcloth, and splash some cooler water on myself. It really feels great, and my skin feels so soft when I’m done.

Aside from my face, I’ve been slathering the rest of myself in coconut oil every day. It’s like giving my parched skin a drink, and it feels so good.

There is a disclaimer: The oil cleansing method has worked really well for me, but I do know a couple people who’ve tried it to not-so-awesome results. If you have skin that’s super dry, but that also breaks out relentlessly, it’s definitely worth a try. But if you’re not dry, or have mostly oily, broken out skin, at least be warned that it might not work for everyone.

Have you tried it? Did it work for you?