Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The power of "Owning it"

More times than one, I've had girlfriends say, "Oooo...I love that but I can never pull that off." Which to I reply, "no, you can pull it off, you just have to own it! Work it!" Sure, there are rules to fashion and no matter how much you "own" a potato sack it just won't work. But once you have conviction within the confines of the forgiving rules of fashion, you can make it work by...yes class, owning it! Allow me to demonstrate:

Too much Plaid you say? It works! For one, he owns it! This is what I like to call Geeky Chic, and the glasses, the Mac all hint to us of a secret or not-so-secret life of a geeky profession or a hobby, but he's so completely chic and cool. It's because he follows the rules; it's clean, he has his buttons buttoned up all the way up to his neck, his jacket is fitted just perfectly and his shirt tucked in. Not only that, his hear is short, clean and facial hair all at bay. Can you imagine this look on a man with mad scientist hair and a catfish mustache? He'd look like...Einstein. If you notice, he's also wearing plaid pants! He's head to toe covered with pattern, but what bravery and gall to go out on such a limb of the cat walk! This is also why we (me and the Sartorialist) think he's HOT! He has the conviction and the confidence to put on an extreme amount of plaid and smile! The extremity of it is what makes that statement. (And can I just say that his smile is the most essential accessory? The look is playful and if he took himself too seriously, it would just be ridiculous.)

This is "Casual day in Fancy Pants" and I'd like to think this is a Tuesday or Wednesday or even a Saturday and she's going on a morning coffee run. I love the haphazard bun and the loose fitting tee she just threw on to go over her fancy pants. The casual supplements is what makes this acceptable during the day on any given day. Anything can be dressed down, your power-suit blazer with a loose fitting white tee, cropped jeans and heels, your glittery mini skirt with a cotton button up and Chuck Taylors. As long as your attitude is kick back, your clothes will follow. It's important to be appropriate for occasions, and this will not be the attire on Easter Sunday, but incorporating your fancy pants in everyday life can add spice to your day. Why keep those pretty pieces for the rare up-do occasions?

"Oh Professor~" is what I'd like to say to this man, but in a flirty manner, because he's obviously the flirting type. Playful, casual, and right now, he's telling a funny story I can tell. He smells good and his nails are clean. Someone with a well fitted suit, the arms that go right to the wrist, shirt peeking out underneath but all this with sneakers is someone that's owning it! And did you notice the handkerchief, not to formal, cotton I imagine, and love how he's wearing white cotton socks with his suit and bow tie. This is the twist to the fancy pants woman from above.

The idea to these looks is not to one day show up like it's your special fashion outfit, but treat it like it's the uniform of life. It's everyday, just another day on the catwalk, just another statement, conviction...another day of Owning it!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Paul's Quandry

I think Paul in the New testament speaks for all of us, when he says, I do what I don't want to do, but don't do what I want to do. The words that have been swirling in our heads are verbalized just right, and we know what he means without really delving too much into the Hebrew or Greek translations. Our dual nature, the little angel sitting on our right shoulder, and the little demon sitting on to our left, they fight for our attention. We are torn between them. Even secular Psychologists confirm this contention between our head and our hearts, our will and our physical bodies. As I say this all of us have our vices appearing before our mind's eye. Like the time you ate a whole box of girl scout cookies instead of eating the recommended 24 almonds and an orange as a snack. How about the time you spent a whole Saturday afternoon reading trashy gossip magazines instead of doing something constructive with your afternoon, like feed the poor perhaps? or even something good for yourself, like running a mile...just one. But didn't. We want to do the good things, the right things and don't we all want to be the best self possible? To be fit, healthy, smart, beautiful inside and out? But why do we resist the things that make us these good things? Must we also wage this war against our bodies and our own will forever? Or can we declare peace once in for all?

Unfortunately, the world is fallen and we live in broken bodies. We must declare war against evil and fight to be good. Oh how slippery the slope! But we don't have to declare war with the same region of sin all the time. I don't fight to speak with lady like elegance like I do, instead of talkin' street with colorful "French" interjected in between. However, I also did not sprout into the world with a fully loaded arsenal of sophisticated and graceful phrasings, my parents, my teachers, my pastors corrected me along the way. A rule in the discipline of Physics can attest that all things are prone to fall apart, not fall together. In the natural default state, things of the world, waste away and or into calamity. For example, your room, without constant maintenance, it's a mess, an apple eventually wastes away and if you're not herding a classroom full of first graders, calamity!

It's the fight and the wrestling process the makes us different from the rest and makes us stronger. Once you're standing still, you're falling behind. It's the inertia of movement and once you have decidedly begin to move, the next step is a lot easier to take. You are one foot farther than you were a moment ago! It's the moments of "thinking too much" causes my inertia to slow down and ultimately stop. Why do I have to exercise all the time? Why do I need to work at this relationship constantly? Can't I just rest?

I may be on a "writing inertia" right now, and I must now come to a halt and leave you with this.

Romans 7:18-21

18I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Satisfaction in Meaning

I recently posted an entry called 10,000 hours and mentioned a theory posed by Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers. It's an interesting read (or listen-if you're listening to it on MP3) but one particular phrase stuck out to me, and I wrote it down immediately. "Hard work is a prison sentence only if the work is meaningless." For some reason, the phrase spoke in behalf of my frustrated, unfulfilled heart. It occurred to me that nothing I'm doing right now, is work that I have chosen, it's not work that has meaning to me. So every task becomes like digging a hole, and I have no idea what the hole is for! If it were planning a tree, creating a garden, I think I can bear it. The work of digging in these cases is part of the process of an end goal, but when the hole is just a hole, it's meaningless and the dirt becomes too heavy to lift. Then after further reflection, all of the work I'm going is for a higher calling, a purpose that is for good and for justice, but why am I not fulfilled? Could it be that the position I hold can be fulfilled by the next in line? The shoes that are fit for anyone to walk in? Maybe it's just not that special. I don't have an answer, this entry might also be like digging a hole without anything to dig up.

Fashion! (turn to the left) Fashion! (turn to the right)

For a long time I assumed that my mother was always just my mother. As if she dreamed of being MY mother since she was a little girl, but it dawned on me one day (I think at the age of 30) that she may have possibly wanted something else in life. So I asked her, "Mom, what did you want to be when you were younger?" She had given me an answer that would fit all the puzzle pieces together about her and even about me. "I wanted to be a fashion designer." Looking through old pictures of my mom, she was always impeccably dressed. Clean lines, lady like purses, and just the right amount of push toward the new trends, even though they were 70's trends. Looking through them even in the year 2009, she still looks attractive in those photos. She was timeless. For her wedding dress, she chose a can-can inspired dress with tiers that channeled a French bride and for her honeymoon, she chose high-waisted, wide-leg pants with a pretty flowy blouse. When pictured with my grandmother, she wisely chose a pencil skirt, with a high collared blouse and he structured purse. She pinned up her curly hair only on one side with a stylized hair pin. Naturally, mother had dressed her little girl appropriately, and when I came of age, she allowed me to choose my own pieces (mostly from the Gap, but nevertheless, I composed my own). I was decisive about the clothes I chose, even though they were not high fashion or even popular at the time. But then, in college, I had chosen what was popular. Abercrombie. If it wasn't of that label, I passed. It was only in my third year at Purdue that I began to have my own way of stylings.

I'm sure all of this talk of scarves, purses, gap, and Abercrombie seems frivolous and indulgent, I know and I even thought that myself! I sat myself down and had a good talk with me, "Susie, why do you love this so much and why is it such an important part of being you?" In all honesty, everyone wants to look good, but more importantly, it's a form of art to me. Fashion has a deep sense of tradition and rules dating back to the beginning of time when Eve had to make her first mini-loin cloth. Keeping those rules, breaking them, juxtaposing them as well as mixing and matching those rules is what makes fashion a tricky art that not everyone can abide by. It is a careful composition of each piece like any discipline of art, but at the same time, it is also a thoughtless and natural expression of a woman or a man. There's craft in stitching, hemming, the curating of materials, fashioning of cuts, frills, and of structure, all of this is what draws me. Sure, it's easier and more comfortable to slip on some jeans and throw on an old tee, but even in that, you chose to say, "I don't care, I'm above this and I will express that through a slipping on of jeans and throwing on of a tee." Even the low maintenance of all low maintenance do their best to match and not clash.

There's a reason why women like Miroslava Duma (pictured above) and Carine Roiteld (Vogue Paris Editor in Chief) are IT girls (like she's "it" and not like the guy that fixes your computer). People can't stop raving about their fashion sense and their interpretation of what one piece could express. They are chameleons of fashion, mutating from lady of the house to Rock girl glam then back to boho chic and back again to preppy and pretty. They can create any look or feel and dress to impress at every occasion. Being fabulous is harder than you think!

"Style is conviction, that's the secret" -John Galliano.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What your branches are connected to

Ravi Zacharias recently wrote an entry in his facebook about the current American culture that we live in and described a deep seeded vexation. He quotes Saul Bellow from his 1976 Noble Laureate Lecture; "There is a vacuum at the heart of our culture. The intelligent public is waiting to hear from art what it does not hear from theology, philosophy, and social theory and what it cannot hear from pure science: a broader, fuller, more coherent, more comprehensive account of what we human beings are, who we are, and what this life is for. If writers do not come into the center, it will not be because the center is pre-empted; it is not.”

Although the great melting pot of America offers free thought, action and speech to natives and immigrants alike, we as a culture, do not have a culture. There is no common story that over arches over all of us to connect us or root us firmly to the ground. It is true that many countries have fallen slain to the idea of post-modernism where there is no absolute truth and what the individual feels is what is real, but here, it's especially true because we don't even share a common racial tradition.

It's ridiculous to think that we have "come to" all on our own, without any influence from the forefathers before us.

At times I feel like an ethereal ghost who is not connected to anything on earth, where my soul is not even properly attached to my own body . I attributed this feeling to moving from one place to another in my childhood, never really investing in relationships because it would only be temporary. Some days, I've dismissed it as having an old soul and judging from my high horse that no one really quite understands me because everyone else is completely happy being their own person ignorant of origin or heritage. I felt just as Ravi Zacharias says, "The challenge, as I see it, is this: How do you communicate to a generation that hears with its eyes and thinks with its feelings?"

I relished in moments when my father shows me the origins of my family, where my name comes from, who I am connected to. "I am the 78th generation of the Confucius family," I'd mention to anyone that would hear me. Some don't believe that I am, some dismiss it as boast and some are impressed to meet a descendant of the great philosopher. I don't broadcast my connection to him because I'm proud, but I am desperately trying to grasp the earth, to connect to someone that has been in existence far before I was ever a twinkle in my father's eye. I need to be part of someone, part of a group or purpose and not roam free and be tossed around by whatever winds that blew. Even with this knowledge, I still felt invisible.

In August of 2007, I attended an Empower conference, where the Pyong Yang revival of 1907 was highlighted that year. While watching the slide show presentation, I scanned through the pictures with tear-filled eyes, as if I could almost recognize the faces. I remember my grandmother wistfully reminiscing about the days of her youth, running about in the missional compounds and learning English from the missionaries there. I’ve found my roots, place I am connected, it was my Christian Heritage. The gospel is the overarching story for all believers and I belonged there.

10,000th hour. Hour One....

I recently received over an AIM chat, a folder containing Malcolm Gladwell's book on tape called Outliers. It talks about how "Outliers" like, rock stars, genius', famous computer programmers became who they are and how they became to be who they are. He speaks about a theory called 10,000 hours, where with the foundation of initial innate talent, what separates the great and the mediocre are the 10,000 hours put into practice the passion they have. When he asked two groups of musicians, the teachers of music and the truly great musicians (not to suggest those who can't, teach) how many hours they practiced in their childhood, not much was different until they were 8 years old. The difference was after that age when the truly great increased their practice hours and by the time they hit the 10,000 hour mark or approximately 10 years, they became the celebrated musicians of society.

This made me think about something I can practice for the next 10 years. Not to become a luminary of some sort, but to master a skill, an art, that I can call my passion. I wanted to practice writing and I felt a little bit weary of this because I understand that I only began writing a year ago when a sudden urge welled up in me that I could not contain. It was after we had buried my grandmother and I just had to write about it, but since then, I hadn't been inspired unless I was in depths of utter desperation of boredom, anger, sorrow or depression. My husband and my brother had urged me to write more, something new, something else, but nothing sparked my inspiration to write. Then Gladwell's book on tape made me think, do I practice even when I don't feel like it? Even when my forced hours logged in writing only produces mediocre utterance on paper, or virtual paper? The answer is yes. Thus my blog entry today, hour ONE of practice....maybe not hour one, maybe hour thirty, counting all the hours I logged in writing about my grandmother, but nevertheless, only the beginning...