Merry consumerism to you!

christianity, Everyday, Rant

Yesterday I went to the post office to buy stamps with a coworker of mine and we ended up having a conversation with a young guy in line ahead of us about the craziness that is the holiday season in America. He pointed out the amazing difference between celebrating what we are thankful for on a Thursday, then fighting over televisions and cheap toys on a Friday. And then shopping all day online on a Monday. Then maybe giving back on Giving Tuesday if you have spare change. That’s crazy, people!

Now, I’m not gonna lie. I definitely took advantage of the awesome deals I found at my favorite online retailers. But getting a deal is not the point. Getting a new TV is not the point. Those things are not inherently bad. It’s the attitude with which we procure those items that leads to a very dark road full of angry mobs and unmet expectations. It’s the fact that we often feel entitled to 40% off and free shipping. The fact that instead of spending time with family and friends on Thanksgiving, we line up at stores so we don’t miss out on products we can always buy later. The idea that we can actually get disappointed if we don’t get our favorite pie at Thanksgiving or the Christmas gifts we wanted or the right color or the right size, when we shouldn’t expect to get anything at all. Because frankly, we don’t deserve any.

For those who celebrate the religious holiday of Christmas like I do, they know that it is a time to remember Jesus’s birth and the fact that when He entered the world he paved the way for us to have a personal relationship with God by giving Himself up for us and dying on a cross for our sins. So no, we don’t deserve any gifts. That’s a pretty big gift right there.

For those who don’t celebrate the religious holiday of Christmas, that’s understandable. To be honest, the secular holiday has far surpassed the religious one and (let’s be real here) most scholars agree that Jesus was probably not born on December 25. So I get the love of all things Christmas without the Christ. There’s no War on Christmas, no hard feelings on my behalf that you don’t recognize the immense importance of the holiday (although, I would highly recommend you reading the full biblical account). But I also believe God’s gift applies to you as well. We don’t deserve anything, so we should be thankful and grateful for what we are given and take joy in giving to others.

Now to conclude this rather messy rant…I’m not asking for people to stop buying things. Honestly, it’s great for the economy. I’m not asking people to stop giving gifts to each other, because it’s often a great way to show someone you care. All I’m asking is for us to stop and think about our attitudes this holiday season. To really think about our expectations, our perceptions, and our preparation for a season full of temptations and indulgence and opportunities for selfishness. To find joy this season in the gifts we’ve already been given. And that is how you have a Merry Christmas.

This poem is carb-free.

Everyday, Poetry

No carbs. No sugar. No bread. No cheese.
Hold the salad dressing, please.
No cake. No fruit. Sugar-free gum,
I can’t eat that, it’s after one.
No thank you, I brought my own,
I only eat what I’ve homegrown.
Want to split dessert with me?
I only drink unsweetened tea.
Jenny, Watchers, Thirty Whole.
Another diet, one more goal.
Stripping out the extra snacks,
Only hundred calorie packs.
Skipping yet another meal,
It doesn’t matter how I feel.
Missing out on lunch with friends,
Dieting that never ends.
Counting inches one by one,
Never happy, never done.
Avoiding aisles at the store,
Pacing ‘cross kitchen the floor.
Always checking on the scale,
Feeling hungry, looking frail.
Breathing out and sucking in.
Barely living, but I’m thin.


Some of you know that I had an eating disorder in college. Others know that I still struggle with an unhealthy relationship with food today. Now you know both. Everyday I have to remind myself that I am not what I eat, what I weigh, or what I wear. I have to choose every day to see myself as Christ sees me: as a “beautifully and wonderfully made” child of God. But the struggle is real, y’all. And that is why my heart aches for my fellow humans who are bound by food, enslaved by society’s warped beauty standards, and battling against poor self image. So many women and men make their appearance the biggest priority in their lives, when in reality, our bodies will inevitably fail us. That’s a fact. I hope this post serves as a reminder that food is not everything, weight is just a number, diets shouldn’t control you, and your life is worth far more than food restrictions. And you are, too.

The Awkward Files #5

Everyday

I haven’t done one of these in a while, but not because of any lack in my awkwardness. So, let’s get started.

I was visiting home one weekend and decided to get to know my middle stepsister a bit more (she’s 15 and I live in Houston). She had a friend over and they were both being very friendly and hanging out in the kitchen while the rest of the family busied themselves making dinner. My stepsister’s friend (who we will call Natalie) was an eclectic girl, with dreadlocks and a very earthy, granola vibe. I was listening to their conversation, trying to find my “in” and I heard Natalie say she had Tourette’s. I saw my chance and took it.

“Wow, you have Tourette’s? That’s very cool that you are so open about it.” She looked a little confused, and I instantly tried to cover myself in case I embarrassed her by talking about her syndrome in public. So in classic Haley style, I talked about it some more. “I minored in psychology in college and I find Tourette’s really interesting. How long have you had it?” The poor girl, still struggling, said “oh just a little over a year.” My response: “Oh wow, has it been hard?” “Uh, not really,” she said, “You just kinda get used to it.” Me: “How courageous! I had a friend in high school with Tourette’s whose tic was barking. What’s your tic?”

Then, bless her heart, my stepsister looked at me and said “Haley, STOP. We weren’t talking about Natalie having  TOURETTE’S. We were talking about her DREADS.” Apparently it takes a year to grow dreads of her length. And I am very poor of hearing. So, now my stepsister and poor Natalie know a lot more about Tourette’s than they probably thought they would.

Am I relevant? And does it matter?

Everyday

In the advertising industry, the word “relevant” is right up there with buzzwords like “content” and “engagement”. It’s important to brands that they are relevant to their consumers and their target audience, otherwise they fail to grab the attention they need to get their point across. Relevancy is increasingly becoming the golden egg when writing content or developing strategies. What’s relevant to athletic teenage boys? How about households with an annual income of $125K+? 30-year-old stay-at-home moms of kids ages 2-4?

It’s easy to roll your eyes at things like this, but these are serious conversations people in my industry have on a regular basis – and I’ve been the initiator of many of them. And it’s happening outside of advertising, too. Is your resume relevant to the job you’re applying for? Is your hashtag relevant to the tweet you just posted? Are your clothes relevant in light of today’s fashion trends? Is your anecdote relevant to this conversation? Are you relevant? Am I? Does it matter?

Yes. And no. I think it only matters if you’re willing to move past relevance and into a relationship – in the loosest form of the word. Being relevant is a way we make connections with people and places and things. It’s a way we relate with each other. But if you don’t take that connection further, then the whole effort is lost. If you don’t commit to a relationship with that person or audience or target market, then it’s just a one-sided conversation where you are just showing off, a decorative mask with a mannequin behind it.

And I fall into that a lot. Sometimes I want to be relevant for the sake of being noticed – Look at me! I’m relevant! – but unless I’m using it as a tool to connect with someone, it’s really just a waste of time and kind of narcissistic, to be honest. Brands do this, too. They think if they use a certain color that tested well or show a certain scene because millennials will like it, that the campaign will be a success. But unless they offer to go deeper than that, to truly connect with the consumer on a deeper level, then they will always lose. And risk looking incredibly stupid.

So what’s the answer? Authenticity. Just because your audience likes chocolate ice cream doesn’t mean you have to like chocolate ice cream. Find something else to talk about, something you actually have in common. Stop trying to be something you’re not. And people will like you more for it.

The Freedom of Structure

Everyday, Ponderings

I’m a structure person. Always have been. But recently I’ve noticed that most of my peers are most definitely not. They hate the idea of having structure because it seems more like “restrictions”. They don’t want to adhere to a certain set of rules or a specific schedule. They hate the idea of being tied down, having limited options, being “forced” to do something. Spontaneity is seen as freeing, open-minded, non-commital. You’re more “chill” if you just go with the flow, while structured people are just uptight and rigid.

I agree that too much “structure” can be, well, too much. When I was younger I had crippling anxiety in part because I wanted complete control over the structure of my life. Turns out that just can’t happen. I let my love of structure limit me. Later, during a performance review in college, I was told that I needed to learn to “plan to be spontaneous.” At first this irritated me, but in classic Haley fashion I decided to try. I started training myself to be flexible, to work within a frame that allowed for more movement.

Today, I see freedom in structure. Now that I’ve begun to give up my need for control, I have recognized that spontaneity isn’t always stifled by schedule, but can actually benefit from it. Just as an artist is free to create after mastering the set standards of line, color, and space, or an actor can improvise within the set rules of a particular scene, I find that structure provides a foundation from which to be spontaneous.

In the end, I think we all need to find a balance between the two, which might look different for different people. The main thing is to give yourself a sturdy foundation, something you can tether yourself to, and then trust it enough to take a leap. So that’s what I’m trying to do.

A reader’s dozen.

Everyday

For the past two years I have challenged myself to read at least 12 books a year, preferably one book a month. Initially, I thought my “challenge” would be easy, but I soon discovered that I am BUSY and a book a month can take time, dedication, and some sincere scheduling. That said, I have successfully completed my second year of reading 12 books a year. And, like last year, I will give my book report of sorts below. Enjoy!

1. The Illustrated Man (Ray Bradbury)

One of my favorite books I read this year, this is actually a collection of science fiction short stories. If you’ve never read Mr. Bradbury, this is a great place to start. Each story is only about 10-15 pages and all are riveting and mind-stokers in their own right. My favorites were The Man, Kaleidoscope, and The City.

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2. Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell)

My YA read for the year, this cute but serious novel follows a girl during her first year of college who write fan-fiction for this universe’s version of Harry Potter. More than that, it tackles topics like drugs, alcohol, suicide, depression, and budding sexuality. The main girl is also a twin and deals with growing apart from her twin sister, which I found particularly upsetting. I also dabbled in a bit of fan-fiction in high school, so this was a fun, mildly relatable read for me.

3. The Worthing Saga (Orson Scott Card)

As a huge fan of the Ender-verse, I didn’t know quite what to expect from Mr. Card when he ventured out of it. But boy was I impressed. Spanning several generations, this begins with one man’s challenge to populate a new world using several hundred people who have just accidentally had their memories washed. The rest of the novel spans the several hundred years that follow and how the legend of Mr. Worthing and his “children” affects this new world. Overall a fascinating look at human nature, and what it would be like to truly play “God”.

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4. Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery (Eric Metaxas)

Last year I read Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, so I decided to continue on to his biography of Mr. Wilberforce. A very compelling history of the fight to end slavery and the slave trade in England. I most enjoyed how much Metaxas included Wilberforce’s spiritual side, which was the main driving force behind his campaign. A great, historical read.

5. The Time Machine (H.G. Wells)

Ah, the classics. I threw this one in here so I could check it off my list of books I should read as a human being. It was a charming read, not super engrossing, especially since I already knew most of the story either from films or hearsay. But I guess you can’t really judge Wells too harshly since he was one of “the greats” of science fiction.

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6. Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission (Tim Chester and Steve Timmis)

I read this book as part of a summer Bible study with my new church plant. Although we had yet to find a space to host our Sunday morning services, we wanted to meet together in groups leading up to our “launch date.” This book served as the core of our discussions as we worked to develop a church that lives outside of a building and is lived every day, not just on Sundays.

7. Foundation (Isaac Asimov)

If you haven’t guessed yet, I have been on a science fiction kick this year. To further my love and appreciation of classic science fiction, I chose to read what is often considered to be the best syfy trilogy of all time written by one of the top three syfy authors of all time. Needless to say, I enjoyed it immensely and found the concept intriguing and the story compelling, especially since this first book spanned several generations. However, I still constantly confuse some details of this series with those from The Worthing Saga.

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8. Foundation & Empire (Isaac Asimov)

After finishing book one in the series, I immediately bought the second one and it was awesome. Seriously, read it. It continues the story of the Foundation, a civilization that began as a small group of physicists sent by a master “psychohistorian” to help shorten the time it would take between the destruction of the original empire and the next empire. The Seldon Plan takes into account actions by masses, not individuals, and helps guide the Foundationers through a series of sociopolitical crises. In the sequel, a mutant called The Mule totally messes up the plan, since his actions couldn’t have been taken into account. Sound confusing? It’s awesome, trust me.

9. Rendezvous with Rama (Arthur C. Clarke)

I took a break from the Foundation Trilogy to read another classic science fiction author. This novel is on a lot of people’s lists of best syfy books, so I gave it a go. This fascinating narrative follows a spaceship that intercepts an enormous alien space-ark (Rama) as it prepares to pass by earth. Although no aliens are ever discovered/seen, the description of the spacecraft itself is amazing and really makes you think about the implications of discovering the remains of an alien culture. Ultimately, the reader is left to determine for itself the purpose of Rama and if any lifeforms still exist.

har

10. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (Claire North)

A recommendation by my sister, this book is about a man who is a kalachakra – someone who, upon death, is born again to the same family in the same place and in the same time. The world in which he lives is the same, but he can choose to live his life differently each time. But, someone is changing history, and in each new life, the world is ending sooner and sooner. Who is changing history? Harry August knows.

11. The Meaning of Marriage (Timothy Nelson)

My boyfriend I read this as part of our pre-engagement prep – yes, we are doing pre-pre-marriage prep. We think it is important to do as much preparation as possible for something as serious as marriage. Anyway, this came highly recommended as the best book on biblical marriage. And it was both challenging, encouraging, and inspiring. Tommy Nelson gave biblical principles on how to prepare for marriage and practice marriage once married. Ultimately, I found it very profound and life-changing.

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12. Second Foundation (Isaac Asimov)

To end this year, I finished reading The Foundation Trilogy. Set 400 years after the Seldon Plan started, and 50 years after The Mule seemingly messed up the plan, this novel covers what happens when Seldon’s second Foundation comes into play. Again, awesome. Seriously, read this series.

An Introvert’s Perspective (In Graphs)

Everyday

I spent most of my life thinking I was an extrovert. Perhaps it because of the years I spent doing theater or tagging around with my very extroverted twin sister, but I was thoroughly convinced I was one of the most extroverted people around. Boy, was I wrong. It wasn’t until college that I made the discovery that I was introverted. This realization led to a miniature identity crisis during which I had to battle my own negative perceptions of introverts, embrace my introverted ways, and learn how to live in a life I had built with extroverted bricks.

So what makes an introvert an introvert? Introverts aren’t all that much different from extroverts. We just get our energy in different ways. Extroverts are fueled by spending time with other people. Introverts are fueled by spending time alone.

photo (1)Some things to remember about introverts is that they like to talk (Introvert Myth #1: Busted), but they prefer talking with small groups rather than in large groups. We won’t typically offer up information about ourselves, but that’s not because we’re antisocial (Introvert Myth #2: Busted), we just need to be asked. We also like to do crazy, awesome, borderline dangerous things (Introvert Myth #3: Busted), but might need a day (or two) to recharge afterward.

One of the things that made me realize I was, in fact, introverted, was when I thought about what I liked to do for fun (things that didn’t drain me of energy).

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But my life tends to require a lot of extraversion. So I implement a trick I call “faking extraversion.” I simply act like I’m extroverted and go about my activities as such. This comes pretty easy for me since I’m naturally outgoing (Introvert Myth #4: Busted). It works so well that I actually have to convince most people I’m an introvert.

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But this can only go on for so long. Like most introverts, I have a limited reserve of social energy (“fake extraversion”) and I run out of it eventually. If I don’t ration it off properly or give myself time to recharge, I crash. And I crash hard.

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At this point I have to become a temporary hermit and will spend anywhere from a few hours to a whole weekend “recharging.” I call my temporary sanctuary (or recharge station) my “hidey-hole,” and it can be an assortment of set-ups as depicted by the formula below:

imageExample:

Tea + Blanket + A Good Book + My Apartment = Perfect Hidey-Hole
Hoodie + Socks + Movie + Dark Movie Theater = Perfect Hidey-Hole
Hot Meal + Sofa + Board Game + Boyfriend’s Apartment = Perfect Hidey-Hole

There’s a lot of stuff going around the interwebs about how amazing introverts are and how people should treat introverts better, on and on ad nauseam. And although I agree that our society’s standards should change to be more understanding of the benefits of introversion, I don’t think that introverts are any better than extroverts. We have different strengths and weaknesses, different preferences and different pet peeve’s. Some of the best teams come from mixing extroverts and an introverts – like my sister and I. Ultimately, introverts are just people who need time to observe, reflect, and introspect. And I’m proud to call myself one of them.

 

 

 

 

Childhood Dreams Come True

Advertising, Everyday

When I was younger, I had a dream of writing greeting cards for a living. Although that dream has since faded, it doesn’t make having a greeting card I wrote actually published any less awesome. That’s right. I wrote a greeting card and it’s getting published!

A year ago my friend and work partner, Alan, and I entered a contest on Threadless, a crowd-sourced t-shirt design website, to make a greeting card. Our birthday card design was selected to be part of their collection and will be exclusively sold at Target starting June 16th. Yes, that Target.

This is what it looks like:

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Some of you might cry, “Heretic! Haley doesn’t drink! Why is this card about drinking?” And that is true, I do not partake in the drinking of alcoholic beverages and am a complete teetotaler. I wrote this card on a whim and never thought it would actually make its way into the aisles of a store – or the hands of a person. That being said, I’m not against alcohol. I just don’t support drinking in excess. Alcoholism runs in my family and after 3 years of being an RA I know far too well the negative side of drinking. That being said, moderation people. Moderation.

So if you’re too lazy to make your own card and wanna get your bud one that is clever and quick to the point, hop over to Target and buy one of mine. Or buy fifty. Because I get to split 20% of the profits with Alan and we wanna roll around in wads of greeting card cash.

Doing Things For Me

Everyday

If you have spent at least five minutes with me then you’ve heard me say “I’m a words of affirmation person.” If I haven’t said it to you yet, just give me another five minutes.

You see, I’m very big on personality assessments and understanding myself better so I can better understand others. So it was a revelation for me when I took the Love Languages test and discovered that the number one way I receive affirmation is through words. I crave sincere words of gratitude, praise, or affirmation. This doesn’t mean I beg for compliments. It just means that I am motivated and feel loved when people verbally affirm me.

This is great in a lot of ways because I am easily motivated by notes of encouragement and little things like being told by a teacher that they think I’m smart or the “chips” affirmation program at my office. But it is also a big reason that I am a Pathological People Pleaser.

People Pleasing is basically constructing your life around what others think. Although I am very independent and don’t really care what people think about my personality, I can care so much about what others think of my competence, intelligence, achievements, or niceness that I am often paralyzed by even the possibility of receiving negative words – or no words at all. But I want to change that. And I know where to start.

Last year, I had moderate success with my Daily Doodle. I got lots of compliments and “likes” and requests. So I began to shape my doodles around what I thought people would like to see. Obviously, the words of affirmation I received grew. That isn’t inherently bad. It’s a smart way to generate content. But now I’m working on my 2014 project: a 365-sentence story created by writing one sentence a day for a year. And you know what? It’s not always the most interesting to read. It can be slow for people who are used to constant information – or who like to read stories more than a sentence at a time. I’ve also discovered that a sentence isn’t as fun to look at as a doodle. Am I right?

So for the past five months I have struggled with contributing to a project with almost no words of affirmation accompanying it (Note: I am truly thankful for my friends who are following along!). But then I realized something important. Like this blog, I didn’t start this project to get attention or get famous or have people hang on my every word. I started it because I wanted to stretch myself as a writer. I wanted to see if I could create a full story with living characters while being shackled with intense time and creative restrictions. I wanted to test my patience.

I’ve decided to stop caring about what people think. My story could be the worst story in the history of stories, but as long as I complete it I will consider it a success. I’m doing it for me, and that’s all that should matter.

I objectify women.

christianity, Everyday

Some of you know that disordered eating is part of my story. For those who don’t know, I had an eating disorder in college. What started as my attempt to actually start working out turned into a daily battle to fight the gnawing hunger in my belly. In six months I lost over thirty pounds (which is impressive for my already small frame), stopped menstruating for what would be a year, and permanently altered my relationship with food and my understanding of what it means to be beautiful. 

But this post isn’t about my past experience with an eating disorder or the fact that I still struggle with negative food thoughts from time to time. This post is about the harrowing realization that, although I’m a strong supporter of true beauty and healthy choices, my inner life actually perpetuates the messages I actively try to combat.

Every time I get stressed because I haven’t worked out, I accept the lie that my calorie-consumption directly affects my worth. Every time I read a fitness blog and sigh because I physically cannot ever attain a thigh-gap (ladies, some people just aren’t made that way), I assent that there is a physical norm we must adhere to. Every time I compare and contrast my appearance with that of another woman God has created, I choose to reduce them to an object. In short, I objectify women, because I objectify myself. And that’s pretty disgusting.

Don’t worry, I’m not giving myself all the blame. It’s well-known that women are forced-fed unhealthy beauty standards by the media. (I work in advertising, so I know far too well the messages that are being propagated, though I actively fight against it.) But we cannot blame media for our eager acceptance of their lies, for our willingness to swallow their images, for our crazed appetite for the next beauty line or fashion magazine… because the lie has been revealed.

We know the images we see aren’t true and that they don’t portray femininity in its full beautiful spectrum. We know that the media has skewed society’s perception of what ladies are supposed to look like. And that knowledge, borrowing from our friends at School House Rock, gives us power. We have the opportunity to change that, and some ladies already have. Whether it’s submitting petitions to magazines to include non-photoshopped photos in their publications or supporting products like Dove and their Campaign for True Beauty, there’s a lot that we can do to stop the objectification of our fellow women.

But it has to start with us. All it takes is some action, no matter how small. And that means starting to see ourselves – myself – differently. For me, that means finding an accountability partner to help me love my body the way God made it, and catching myself every time I judge another woman on their appearance instead of their character. For you, it might mean throwing away your scale. Or enjoying food because it’s healthy, not because it’s low in calories. Or removing the phrases “shedding for the wedding” and “summer body” from your vocabulary. Or just saying affirming things to yourself in the mirror in the morning when you wake up (I went through a time when I had no less than 10 Bible verses written in expo marker on mine).

It’s true society isn’t very helpful, but we can help each other. It doesn’t have to be some huge social campaign. But it has to be something.