Monday, September 22, 2014

Inspiration

So I was thinking about this week's post, and I was having a little trouble being inspired. But then I actually starting thinking about inspiration. I tend to think of inspiration as sort of an artistic lightning bolt, or like Isaac Newton and the apple; it suddenly hits you and you know exactly what to do or say. While it is true that inspiration may sometimes come in that manner, I have decided that inspiration often comes quietly through the things and people we love, and for that I feel we don't give them enough credit.

I had to laugh when I looked up the word "inspiration" in the dictionary. It is so intangible a concept that in order to define the word, they had to use the word itself. "1. An inspiring or animating action or influence. 2. Something inspired, as an idea." As badly as they defined the word, I actually found their definition oddly compelling. It is only fitting that the name given to so undefinable a feeling should also essentially be undefinable. But then that begs the question, how shallow am I that I actually expected it to be defined? Part of the abstractness of the concept is that inspiration is relative: it is different for every person. Now for people of strong convictions and morals the thought of anything being relative is unnerving. However we aren't discussing truth, so just bear with me on this for a minute. If you break this down further and look up the word "inspire" you get this, "1. To fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence. 2. To produce or arouse (a feeling, thought, etc.)." This whole definition is describing feelings and emotions. Different things cause different emotions in different people (take cats or wrestling as examples). Therefore inspiration is relative. Something that brighten one person's day may be found entirely repugnant by another.

Another thing that caught my attention in our original definition of "inspiration" is that it was identified as a noun. In my mind I had regarded it as a verb; a process. But I think a more accurate view of it would be that the inspiration resides in the object that does the inspiring, rather the object doing the action of inspiring. I realize now that that we are really just arguing semantics, but I also believe semantics can change a lot in our application of some things. So what exactly are we saying here? I'm simply saying that everything and everyone inherently hold the potential to inspire anyone. When that potential reacts with the personality of the right individually, you get an inspired person.

So pulling myself out of the philosophical quagmire, I began thinking about what inspires me. That things that inspire me are the things that I love: fall, anything pumpkin, shoes, good food, nail polish, coffee, jewelry, dessert, designer clothes, gardens, small fluffy pets, music, dogs, roses, cooking, and the list goes on. So what is my bottom line in this? Make your love and your life part of your creative process. If you feel stuck then turn to the things and people that make you smile and make you want more of them. When you find ways to do what you love and you surround yourself with the things and people you love, you're looking at your inspiration. So stop sitting around waiting for the lightning. Go live your life, and the inspiration will find you.

"I was never really insane except upon occasions when my heart was touched." - Edgar Allan Poe

Monday, September 15, 2014

Imma Imma a Diva!

So last Sunday at church my pastor called me a diva and meant it as a compliment. I'll be honest; it caught me completely off guard. If you're a Gleek then the diva-offs and Diva Week are firmly implanted in your brain. You remember how all the girls turned into complete witches and were willing to turn on each other and their friends. I think when we hear the word "diva" we automatically interpret that as nightmare and terror. But I think Chris Colfer as Kurt pegged it, "You're a diva because you're talented and ambitious, and because no one else in the world can do what you . . . can do. That's what being a diva's all about. Being an original. One of a kind. So hold the nightmare but bring the diva." Being talented and ambitious was never a bad thing. In fact, our world could use more ambitious women who realize that they bring something to the world that no else can. The problem arises when you're willing to trash your friends and throw anyone under the bus to gain what you want.

Being a mean person is a vicious cycle. When you are unkind to someone, or vernally shove them because you think they're in the way of your trek to the top, then most times you create an enemy. The more enemies you leave in your wake, the more people you have trying to stop you. Then you feel thwarted and feel like you need to trash and shove more people. Actually the contrary is true. When you are a kind person, people love you and they will be willing to go out of their way to help you succeed. It is exactly as the old adage quips, "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."

And let me debunk another misconception that being nice and kind means you are weak. To that I would emphatically say au contraire. In fact, it takes far more strength, confidence, and character to be nice to everyone than it takes to be heinous. Being mean is easy, and in fact comes quite naturally. Doing the right thing is typically not the same as doing the easy thing. If being a diva is about being one of a kind, then I would argue that it would follow naturally that it means being nice. Mean people are everywhere, but truly nice and genuine people are much more difficult to find.

Another huge part of being a diva is knowing what you want and what you stand for, and also demanding respect from those around you. No one is more respected than when they stand up for who they are and what they believe: even when their beliefs are controversial. Never apologize for having standard and beliefs, even if it gets you in trouble. Anyone can change to fit the culture or the situation, but it takes a strong and determined person to stick by their guns when it's difficult. That's a diva.

The last part of being a diva is never underestimating yourself. You can accomplish anything you set your mind to. If you are convinced you will succeed, then you will quickly convince those around you. You should be pushing yourself harder than anyone else is pushing you. A diva is self-motivated.  You can achieve so much more than you even think you can. But let me clarify: there is a huge difference between being hard on yourself and being down on yourself. It's the difference between challenging yourself to succeed and be great, and beating yourself up because of how you look or because you failed at something. If you don't like the way you dress or act, then change it. Don't criticize yourself, look for a solution. Don't get in your own way. There is only one of you in the world so embrace it. Be weird! It is our individual eccentricities that make us who we are. So seize the weird and use it to push yourself to the top.

So from my perspective being called a diva is a high compliment. It means that someone else noticed that you are strong, opinionated, original and not afraid of yourself. I think we could most definitely use more people, especially women, like this. Politely demand to be noticed. Hold the nightmare and bring the diva!!

"Well-behaved women seldom make history." - Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

"A true diva has dismissed the drama. A true diva's heart is open and she's ready to play by her own rules - rules that are gentle and kind." - Jenifer Lewis

Friday, September 5, 2014

Hows and Whys of Perfume

" A woman's perfume tells more about her than her handwriting." - Christian Dior

I saw this quote and it made me start wondering, when did we trade the honesty art of perfume to the commercialism of body sprays? Somewhere along the way we lost Chanel No 5 to Japanese Cherry Blossom. While I enjoy having an allergy attack in Bath and Body Works as much as the next person, I have begun to realize that the scent industry has become highly overdone and impersonal. It used to be that you had a handful of classy scents to choose from. You picked one, took it home, and proceeded to pour it into a work-of-art bottle and set it on your dresser. Perfume was part of the normal morning beauty ritual; right after bathing with soap-scented soap. Today we barely pause to admire the decadent bottles on the glass counters at the department store, and then we go home and everything that touches our skin is a different flavor. Each morning we end up leaving the house smelling like a fruit salad. There is no artistry or honesty or mystique in that. I would equate it to ladies being stuck in the LipSmackers stage and missing out on the all of the gloriously beautiful and expressive colors of lipstick.

Perfume tells a story about the wearer. It comments on her personality; expresses how she sees herself, and thereby can expose hopes and dreams; and is her signature on life and the air around her. We are so ready to put written signatures on emails, texts, letters, and other documents, but for some reason it is intimidating to put a signature on one's self. In my opinion the culprit is our phobia of labels. We are careful not to label anyone else and we fear them labeling us to a degree that we are afraid to do enough internal digging to label ourself. As esoteric as it sounds, one must know themself to pick a true signature scent. Unlike cheap body sprays and scented lotions, perfumes are an artistic combination of flowers or musks or powders and other scents that react with the body chemistry of the wearer to produce the final scent. Each one is distinctive with it's combination of layers. Whatever scent you choose should fit your personality but also set you apart from everyone else. People should smell it and think of you. Ladies, your man should be able to find you blindfolded using only his nose. Clean Linen won't really help out a whole lot.

So how do you pick something that is this important? It will be a process, so don't expect to waltz into a department store and leave with the first pretty bottle. Honestly, sometimes it seems the fancy bottles are over-compensating for the evil-smelling potions they contain. Also be prepared that the perfumes will smell differently on you than they do on the little sample paper strips. They're a good starting place, but always test it on your arm before you make the investment. Before I explain the choosing process, you have to decide what you're looking for. You can either have one year-round scent or a lighter scent for summer and a darker scent for winter. Two is the maximum though, because if you have more than that, you are missing the point and seriously just wasting money because they will go rancid before you get the chance to use them. Yes, perfumes go rancid and when it does it becomes an atrocity worthy only of Snape's potions class. That's why it really is better to skip the "discount scent" stores and go straight to places like Ulta or a department store. Often the product is discounted because it is close to rancid or already there. Just a side-bar between friends.

So now to the choosing process. Before you can really start, you have to decide if you're a floral, a citrus, a musk or a powder. If you have absolutely no idea what that is or how to do that ask for help. I know it's shocking, but that's actually why there are ladies behind the counter. Normally the darker the skin tone, the muskier the scent. So once you decide what you're looking for, start sniffing! I'll tell you up front that you won't be able to tell a single thing about a perfume by spraying it into the air. Start by smelling the bottle around the liquid ejection hole. If that piques your interest, spray some on one of the paper test strips. Let it dry before you smell it, otherwise you will merely get a noseful of alcohol and propellant. If you still like it, spray some on the inside of your wrist. Again, let it dry. If you still like it, wear it for a couple of hours and then smell it again. Perfumes will change with the air and your body; especially if you're glistening. If you still love it, then you've found the one. In case anyone else was seeing the parallel, perfume is a little bit like a man, and the whole choosing process is similar to dating. So be patient.

So you bought your signature. Now what? Application is very different from a body spray. You can't just spray it all over because you will gag all you are around. Neither can you spray a cloud and just walk into it. That will do nothing. Application must deliberate and careful. Whatever you do, do not get it on your clothes or it will take the color out of the fabric. I definitely learned that lesson the hard way. I think Coco Chanel explained this best. "Where should one use perfume?" a young woman asked. "Wherever one wants to be kissed." If you're an affectionate person and this confuses you, this simply translates into the inside of the wrists, behind the ears, behind the knees, and the sternum. Don't use all the spots. Pick two or three, apply one spray in each place and you're ready to go. So ladies, let's ban the body sprays and and embrace the honesty and femininity of perfume.

"A woman who doesn't wear perfume has no future." - Coco Chanel