Overwhelmed

I received a rejection slip! Of course I’m disappointed, but here’s the catch: all creative ventures involve risk. I took a risk. It didn’t pan out the way I’d hoped, but I took it nonetheless. I am creating, and putting my work out there, and it’s a step in the right direction. This post just didn’t meet their needs at this time, which also means I get to post it here instead. Create, and recreate, and all good. What are you creating, and how’s it going?

Bristling like an electrical storm, Teen blustered into the house—door slamming behind him—and tossed his gangly body onto the couch beside his dad. “Hey, did you know the wage gap is a myth? That women get paid less than men for the same work is just not a thing!
 
We stared in response, so he kept spouting facts he’d heard in a video on social media. He thrust his phone in his dad’s face, insisting he watch it, too.
 
Parents want their kids to think critically. At eighteen years old and soon off to college, it is good for him to take account of the world and wrestle with his place in it. But a two-minute video by some guy not much older than he is cannot be his only information source.
 
I left the room, returning armed with a book—Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, by Brigid Schulte (2014: Sarah Crichton Books, Farrar Straus and Giroux, New York). Earlier that afternoon I had finished the section on Work.
 
Schulte offers solid reporting and not by any definition a feminist manifesto. Yet as I read one story after another, I felt affirmed and discouraged that sexism—in the workplace as one societal microcosm—still runs rampant. My kid may be right, that women and men with comparable education, experience and skills receive comparable pay for comparable work. But nothing is ever that simple.
 
For example, researchers at Cornell University put together four nearly identical resumes: half with male names and half with female; half signaling parenthood through PTA involvement and half indicating childlessness through charitable volunteerism. Nearly 200 college students ranked fathers as “best worker,” more employable and promotable and better management training candidates than men without children, while mothers ranked at bottom, considered significantly less competent, intelligent and committed than women without children (79). To test this “motherhood penalty” and “fatherhood bonus,” they confirmed their research by submitting resumes to entry and mid-level positions and found that fathers were called back at a higher rate than nonfathers, while mothers received half the offers of nonmothers (80).
 
As I tried to explain ‘my side’ to my ever-argumentative child (oh, the responsibility of speaking on behalf of the women he will encounter in life, begging him to trade grace for an arrogant hard line), he asked, “But Mom, when have women had it better?”
 
To which I replied, “Maybe they haven’t. But, Son, look at me. I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.”
 
Over a post-yoga iced tea with a girlfriend, I relayed this story. She gave up her hard-earned career to be a full-time stay-at-home mom who employs her work skills as PTA president. I have cobbled together full-time motherhood with part-time employment plus freelance writing. We each have made choices that feel sacrificial. Even at our best, we both feel we will never be able to do it all well.
 
Schulte defines overwhelm as “a product of lack of control and unpredictability and the anxiety that both produce” (280). Who can calculate how many factors in a women’s life fall into “lack of control and unpredictability”? On any given day, I can only control so much: what time I get out of bed; how I fuel and move my body; the ways in which I interact with others; the work or home projects I tackle before the interruptions come. Because the interruptions come, hard and fast, predictably unpredictable: sick kids; forgotten lunches, forms, homework; overlooked deadlines, and immediately-required answers; bad news, local and global, or worse, from loved ones.
 
No wonder we feel overwhelmed! So how to squelch the rampant anxiety? Schulte includes pages of suggestions in the “Do One Thing” appendix—working smarter, not harder; time chunking; practicing gratitude; remembering that play, too, can be useful. For those too overwhelmed to read a book on feeling overwhelmed, this appendix alone is worth perusing.
 
Thankfully, my friend and I have found our way to a straight path. Exercise and togetherness. Swapping stories and encouragement. Expressing gratitude that, though we may not do it all as well as if we only did some, we have opportunities that others have not. Cherishing the truly precious moments in the mess of parenting (that an eighteen-year-old wants to spend an evening discussing real-life issues with his parents is not to be taken lightly!).
 
And taking time to read good books.

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Create Beauty

Create Challenge Guest Post #2 – Mandi Diehl

2016 Wednesdays on this blog I will create a platform for friends to share their perspective on and experience of creativity.

Today’s guest post brought up a visceral memory for me: sneaking into my mom’s bathroom, friend in tow, at about age 8. My mom’s beauty cabinet beckoned with mystical glowing attraction. I snaked her Bic disposable razor up my dry leg, my friend aghast (clearly I was doing this wrong, but how I was I to know?). Next, I smeared 1977’s shade of blue shadow across my eyelids. I loved it, thought no one would notice because, Beauty! My friend obviously saw the difference, and maybe she wanted to shrink into the shag carpet…?

No longer sporting 70’s blue, I wear my daily makeup way more natural these days. My friend Mandi Diehl finds joy in makeup. She is a make-up artiste to be admired, maintaining her creativity and sense of play as she empowers women to feel beautiful and simultaneously serves her family. Please welcome Mandi!

“Beauty isn’t about looking perfect.
It’s about celebrating your individuality.” –Bobbi BrownMDiehl 1

Makeup isn’t always considered to be very “creative.” People tend to look at it as something necessary to cover a flaw, to conform to societal norms, or a mask to conceal yourself entirely. Makeup is seen as something for the vain, rather than the artistic. While I have those moments of, “Thank the good Lord for whoever invented concealer because there’s a volcano on my face,” makeup to me is so much more than covering up.

I look at a face the way I imagine a painter or sketch artist looks at a canvas: clean, clear, and open to creative influence. The difference for me is, while canvases are all the same, faces are not. Faces have so many shapes, textures, and tones. Eyes, noses, lips, and cheeks all vary person to person. Lines, contours, and wrinkles are all diverse. While an artist can shape a canvas with paint or charcoal into whatever they desire, I love that a face doesn’t work the same way. A face defines what the makeup does. It defines what shades work will with its undertones, what blush suits the color in its cheeks, and what eye shadow really makes those eyes shine.

I have done makeup for weddings, photo shoots, proms, and parties, on a variety of faces. My clients visit me for special occasions, give me an idea of what they’re looking for, and I create that. It’s always a joy to watch them look at themselves in the mirror and say, “Look at me!” I love that I get to be a part of something so empowering for them. Helping women feel so confident and so beautiful on the most important days is amazing.

Creating and experimenting with looks on my own face has also been incredibly inspiring. After I had my second baby, my husband and I made the decision that I would stay home with my sweet kiddos instead of going back to work. While being a mommy is my favorite thing in the universe, it can also be isolating. You can lose yourself in the day-to-day care of your household and little ones, you don’t have a lot of adult contact, and it gets easier and easier to put yourself last. The creative process of “putting my face on” helps me find myself. Makeup is that deep sigh of relief for me. It’s that thing that makes me, me.

MDiehl 2

Mandi Diehl is a wife and work-at-home-mommy of two. She loves Jesus, super hot lattes, Pirates baseball, and the Pacific Northwest. Contact her for makeup consulting at stylesbymandi.com or stylesbymandi@gmail.com.