ariel levy

September Book Suggestion- Part 1


While I know it’s only September 6th, this month I have a goal of reading at least two books. It seems like a small, easily achievable goal, right? Unfortunately, this thing called “adulting” is so time-consuming that it’s hard to allocate time to do things other than complain about how hard it is to adult. 

I spent most of my summer reading essays; the shortness of each “chapter” made reading seem entirely achievable and not some crazy, unabashed goal. 

While browsing Amazon the other day, I came across a memoir titled “The Rules Do Not Apply”.  There was something about the cover, the way the “box” doesn’t exactly fit the bold text, that was alluring, so I ordered it and gave it a try. 

Holy shit, this book did not disappoint. Ariel Levy weaves you into the tapestry of her story the way an old yiddish woman tells you the story of her early days while knitting another blanket for the cold winter. Her words are not repetitive, her feelings are human, and yet, told to the reader like a true reporter. 

One of my favorite aspects was how she described her journey with pregnancy. While most women complain about the aches, pains, annoyance of carrying a human, Ariel made it seem like it was superhuman. Like it was the most beautiful gift ever given to another human. The way she talks about her son in the womb with such joy and pleasure, it changed my perspective of pregnancy in so many ways. (and, no I am not looking to get pregnant any time soon. We do not have baby fever, we did not convert a bedroom to a nursery, we use protection, we do not want to be parents right now. Capeesh? good.)

Unnerving, inspiring, enlightening. It was so human, and so easy to read. You will go through every emotion with Ariel through this book and you will finish it before the weekend ends. 


What are some of the books you’re reading? 



The First Day


It’s the first day back to school for a lot of people today, including Mark, who after 3 months, is getting back into the groove of his life.

The house is still. I am writing to you from my antique desk; a desk passed down from me from my great grandfather. It’s old, tired wood still maintains its dignity, while the surface has marks from its’ past. I imagine my own grandpa sitting at this desk; going over his bills while his 5 young daughters ran around his house. I imagine each of my aunts and mom sitting at this desk, doing their homework, quickly, so they could take their dog “for a walk around the block”. A ruse they used to meet their boyfriends. As I sit here, it’s almost as if I can feel the history of the small chips; a timeless piece that somehow, gives me peace.

Emmett’s soft breathing echoes in the office as a car drives by the front of the house. Admittedly, the street can be noisy at times, but, no noisier than my upstairs neighbors who, I swear to you, definitely used their apartment to practice bowling.

After a month of living in this home, it does finally feel like I’m beginning to get my routine back. Something I felt I lost over this summer. From entering a contract, to not knowing if we would get a mortgage, to moving quickly because our lease was almost up, it felt like we, as a family, were never quite settled. We felt nomadic, in a sense. Never quite knowing where would land until the day we finally closed.

It was during those 12 weeks of angst and anxiety that it took us to close that we spent time envisioning what this house would be like. At night, we would sit on our couch in our tiny apartment and talk about all the stuff we would finally be able to use; our stainless steel pots, for example, that we used Sunday to cook family dinner. We looked at furniture, beds, and talked about our ideas. In my head, I knew what I wanted each room to look like. The office a warm blue that felt like it was giving me a hug as I worked. As I peak around, that warm blue we finally settled on is doing just that. I imagined the living room to be warm, inviting with straight lines and pieces to give it a softness. A neutral palette that we can change as we change. For the last 4 weeks, we have made our vision a reality; or, at least, we are getting to that reality.

Now, with Mark back at work, it feels only right that I, too, get back to work. In the past 4 weeks, along with moving, I have been hard at work building my photography portfolio, again. Having spent so much time over the last few months attempting to figure out what I was missing, a random text from a stranger, who was recommended to me by a friend, helped clear everything for me. There are too many times in this world where others see our talents before we do. It’s unclear why we are our own harshest critics; standing in front of our life mirror nitpicking every aspect of everything we do. Perhaps we should all spend more time looking at our reflection in other people’s eyes.

Revisiting this blog today, for the first time in 4 weeks, had an interesting affect. Re-reading my musings, I was proud of the words I spewed, however, looking at the pages gave me a different feeling. A feeling of trying too much. It was as if I had been running on this hamster wheel trying, and trying, to move forward, and I just stopped and realized this wasn’t the way.

I have always been envious of those who know their path; They have this resolute feeling in them that this is what they will do, this is who they’ll be, they’ll make a nice living for themselves, and that is that.

My feeling is much different. From a young age, I carried a journal around writing everything down. An observer of the world around me. A young woman with feelings, thoughts, ideas, and a pen- just looking to share my perspective of the world. Soon, I stole my brother’s Kodak camera’s and just took pictures of everything, much to my mother’s chagrin. I can still here the echo of her voice saying “Leanne! These cameras are not cheap!” when I am behind the lens, a memory that makes me giggle when I think of how much my own camera costs. The amount of shoeboxes my mom has of my random pictures of Matt’s room when it wasn’t clean (evidence I would use when my own room wasn’t clean), or of our dog, Buddy, digging a hole in the backyard, is plentiful.

While I used my Kodaks as evidence against my own incrimination, I never realized that they served a greater purpose; evidence to my future self that taking pictures is sort of what I do.

In January, I had my palm read, as well as, my natal chart.  Since January, I have used this reading as a map to decide what exactly is “next”. To clarify, I am not unhappy where I am, but, my goal has always been to have something of my own, and if we forget what our goals are, we may never get there.

There were two poignant points that I cannot seem to forget. One, that I am an observer. I watch people when they think I’m not, and if I see a shred of evidence that they follow the same ethos as me, I wrap them in my bubble and do anything I can to support them. But, I do this in a quiet way where people do not realize that I am watching, observing, analyzing, because I am “warm” and “welcoming” to just about everyone. The second, is twofold; I have two destinies that always align and eventually will deviate from one another, and, that later in my life my job or world will be something creative.

After the first text from a stranger, I received 3 more.

“I saw so & so’s family pictures and she said you did them! Can we please book a shoot?!”

“I saw so & so’s engagement pictures. My daughter want’s to be a model- can we book a shoot?”

“So & so recommended you to us. Would you be willing to shoot our wedding in Minnesota? We love your work!” 

A week later, I was in a meeting at work where I was told I would officially (after 2 years of begging for it) have Sunday’s off. “A perfect day to book photoshoots” the thought crept through my head.

This isn’t to say I’m quitting my full time job and only doing photography. But, it is to say that while I sit here, on the first day back to school, it feels like my first day off the hamster wheel. I can finally stretch, rest for a minute to recover from burning myself out, and embark on the path that has been right in front of me for over 20 years.

A Mantra to Live By

I’ve written quite a bit about how I had felt like I was in a funk a few weeks ago. I have found that when you’re transparent about yourself, you’re able to work through things more clearly. And, since this is my internet space, and I still believe that no one reads this, it felt right to write about it. I also think it’s important to acknowledge funks- we all go through them and it’s not something to be ashamed of. To me, it’s your subconscious telling you something, and it’s you’re job to figure out what that is.


One of the ways I’ve attempted to re-center myself is to use Mantras. Each day, I receive a daily affirmation from an app on my phone. I decide if it resonates with my heart, and write it down.

However, something very interesting happened yesterday; I received two, conflicting, mantras. I heard the first one early in the morning and it sung to my heart.

How other’s treat you is a reflection of them

How you react is a reflection of you.

One of the best parts of the book “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office”  ( I swear to you, this book has shifted me in ways I didn’t know needed shifted) is that is has taught me how to react to situations better. In recent weeks, I have found that because I am more aware of how poorly I tend to react, I am much better at thinking before I speak, centering my thoughts, and not reacting off the cuff.  It’s such a positive reflection of who I want to be, so you could imagine how much I loved that mantra.

Later in the evening, a customer intentionally came in later at night to talk to me about something she witnessed last time she was there. One of my co-workers was disrespectful to me, and, she was disappointed in my reaction to it. She has always seen me as a strong woman, and in her eyes, in that moment, I should have been more assertive. She could be right on her observations. She is a woman I respect, admire, and aspire to be like. Not only is she wealthy, but, she has found a way to merge her creativity with her own computer software company. Listening to her talk about programming like an art form can inspire anyone. Whenever she comes in, I tend to have a piece of paper and pen handy because I always find solace in her words. Last night, she said this:

The way people treat you is a reflection of how you see yourself. 

Completely conflicting to the mantra I resonated with earlier the same day. After she left I grabbed my journal (my co-workers all know when I take that out at a shift that something is tripping me) and I sat at the bar to write what she had said into it. I looked up at one of my co-workers, and read to him both mantras. Having heard most of the conversation the woman and I had, he saw just how conflicted I was. And, then he said something that made so much sense:

Well, that’s the thing about mantras, right? We have to find the one that works for us.

The thing is, both of those mantras are right. The customer is right in the sense that people shouldn’t feel like they can be disrespectful, especially in front of customers. However, this employees behavior isn’t a reflection of me, but rather, a reflection of a person trying to seem bigger than they are. It’s why I don’t react to it. Because, that’s exactly what they would want. Rather, I focus on the people who are worth it. The people who bring out the best in me because they’re the ones that I want to reflect off of.

Life isn’t always perfect. It can’t always be summed up in cute, sage packages of words. And, that’s okay. We each have to take our journey and hope that we can continue to learn and grow.

What are some mantras you live by?