After five!? years of blogging on Tumblr (at least three of which I spent planning to move away from Tumblr) I have finally updated my blog!
I actually started the process a few months back, but it's taken me a little bit to figure out those last little pieces I needed to wrap it up. A wise person once told me that it's the last ten percent of a project that takes ninety percent of the effort. I have absolutely found this to be true in my quest to finish more things than I start this year.
On that note, I'm very happy to introduce the brand new version of elizabethramos.com!
I spend too much time feeling restless, looking for what’s next, being uncertain about where I’m going and why I am where I am. I think it may be a creative thing — these phases of doubt and the desire to always do/be/make something better.
But I don’t feel that restlessness right now.
Last week, we relaunched our Indie Craft Parade organization as The Makers Collective. I don’t think I’ve ever had this much clarity about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. It’s a great feeling.
At this moment, I am sitting alone in the middle of my city. It’s the perfect weather in my book — a breezy 86°. The sun is shining, my to-do list is waiting patiently on the sidelines, not pushing or pulling.
The city is literally growing around me. Construction behind, a shiny new plaza in front, green growth everywhere I look. It’s a good time to live in Greenville, SC.
I sit in a space that many people probably had a part in planning. I’m grateful to them for their thoughtfulness and for each decision that turned this into a place I want to be. This space was not the work or the vision of one person.
It makes me think about the small army of people who surround me, fulfilling their own roles and in the process, reassuring me that I’m where I am supposed to be: Alissa, who cares for Ella two days a week (and sends me pictures while she does it). Andrew, who is the best partner and co-parent I could ask for. Friends who also happen to be coworkers, who share the list of to-dos. More friends who are willing to pitch in and share their talents to make up for my lack of skill and/or energy. Parents and in-laws who watch Ella, wash dishes, and generally make themselves available. A community who supports good things.
I know the feeling may not last, but for now it feels good to take a deep breath, knowing that — without a doubt — I’m where I’m supposed to be.
The eve of my 32nd birthday seems like a great time for some reflection. Apparently this season of life is all about finding my limits, which includes the difficult lesson of learning how to say “No”.
Being a people pleaser at heart means I’m pretty bad at saying no. And you know what’s even harder, is saying no to good things that just aren’t right for me at this moment.
We’re in the middle of re-focusing and clarifying the mission of Indie Craft Parade. As a result, I’m having to come to terms with my own personal goals and motivations. To say it’s been healthy is an understatement.
Here’s what I’m currently saying yes and no to:
YES to creating more margins in our lives. Intentional negative space. YES to a more flexible definition of productivity with a (now crawling!) baby. NO to more stuff. Feeling the need to purge and clean house of all the excess. NO to more commitments and projects. This should just officially become my life motto: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”. NO to wanting everyone else’s lives, houses, clothes, etc. NO to perfection at the cost of real relationships.
For the past three years, our organization has hosted The Makers Summit, a business conference for artists and entrepreneurs. The 2015 event was this past weekend and so many good things were said!
The week was a blur for me. Nonstop work followed by crazy amounts of information and inspiration, all of which I’m still processing. Mostly, I’m writing this down so I don’t forget.
From Jeff Shinabarger: “We will be known by the problems we solve.” “The number one challenge in decision making is fear.”
From Nathan Bond: “A great product is the best marketing.” “You’re never and always ready.” “If you’re selling a product and it doesn’t make you money, the product is broken.”
From Jeni Britton Bauer: “Your quality is what you decide to make it.” “Entrepreneurs will change the world.” “Creativity is work.” “An entrepreneurial mind is different than a business mind.” “Creativity is impatient. Do the work when you’re inspired.” “I only found success when I involved others.” “I prefer the word "company” instead of “business” because it means you’re not alone.“
Eric Dodds on Productivity: Create more than you consume. Use social media with discipline. Group similar tasks together. Research shows it takes an average of 23 minutes to get back on track once you’re distracted/interrupted.
Will Shurtz: Trends are today’s form of peer pressure.
Matt Moreau on hiring help: Hiring an employee in investing in yourself. Stop trying to find your clone. Chances are your clone is out there looking for someone to hire too.
Typically I stick with tangible, measurable goals if I’m going to make a resolution. But in 2014 (and probably every year before that if I’m being honest) on my unwritten list of wishes was a vague ‘Read More’.
Not long after (last) New Years, I had a conversation with some literary friends who told me about Goodreads.com. I liked the idea and joined (it’s free!) in January.
A smattering of books I read in 2014
Without stressing about it or feeling pressure when I didn’t have time to read, Goodreads was helping me accomplish my goal and I didn’t even realize it. I was surprised to log in last month and find out that I actually read 12 books in 2014. Of course, I didn’t finish as many books as I started, but averaging a book every month in a year that also brought a baby into our lives feels like a huge feat!
Along the way, I rediscovered the amazing resource we have in the public library. Of the books I read, I own only five of them. Five were borrowed from the library (I later purchased one of them for myself and as a gift). And two books were borrowed from a friend.
The complete list of 2014 books.
For me, the biggest advantage of the Goodreads service is that book recommendations now have a place to live. Previously my system for keeping track of books I wanted to read included notes or emails to myself, to-do items, and post-it notes. Having a place to keep these suggestions ended up being a game changer.
If your list of 2015 resolutions includes ‘Read More’, I definitely recommend this as a tool you can use to make it happen. They even have an app, so you can add books you want to read on the go.
These peppermint patties have become a tradition in our house at Christmas. Every time I make them I think that if I could, I would send these to everyone I know. This year, the best way I know to spread Christmas cheer is to share the deliciousness with you in recipe form.
This recipe is as simple as it can be, given the chocolate dipping process. If you’re like me and only have time for one or two homemade treats, trust me, this one should make the cut. Also, they’re technically gluten free if you use GF chocolate chips.
Enjoy, with love from me to you.
Homemade Peppermint Patties
1 (14 oz.) can of sweetened condensed milk 1 Tbsp. peppermint extract 5 ½ c. powdered sugar + additional powdered sugar 2 (8 oz.) bags of chocolate chips
Step 1: The Inside In large mixer bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk and peppermint extract. Add 5 ½ cups powdered sugar slowly. Beat on low speed until smooth and well blended. Dough will be extremely thick, so this works best if you have a powerful mixer. Turn mixture onto surface sprinkled with a little extra powdered sugar. Knead lightly to form a smooth ball. The texture should be very similar to play-dough. If your dough is too sticky, add additional powdered sugar.
Use a teaspoon to measure out 1-inch or smaller balls of dough. Place 2 inches apart on waxed paper. Flatten each ball into a ½ inch patty with the bottom of a glass. Let dry in the fridge 1 hour or longer, then flip and let the other side dry for at least an hour.
Step 2: The Outside Melt chocolate chips (some, not all) in a microwave or double-boiler over low heat (I’ve had better luck with the stovetop method). With fork, dip each patty into the chocolate. Draw fork lighty across rim of pan to remove excess chocolate. Place dipped patties onto wax paper and refrigerate to harden chocolate. These are enjoyed best right out of the fridge but can sit out for a short amount of time.
“Kenneth Tuchman, founder of TeleTech, defined his own form of discipline in a recent interview. "I’m a finisher in a society of starters…I have this vision that is constantly evolving in my head.” (Adrienne Sanders, “Success Secrets of the Successful,” Forbes)
— from The Millionaire Mind, by Thomas J. Stanley
This phrase “a finisher in a society of starters” has stuck with me since reading it a few months ago. New ideas and projects are exciting, but I’m realizing that finishing them is much harder (and maybe even more important) than starting them.
My resolution for 2015 is to follow through.
I mean this in the most practical sense. To finish: books I’ve started, craft ideas I bought supplies for, home improvement projects that are 95% there. I will make a conscious effort to finish what can be finished, or decide to abandon the project altogether instead of letting it hang around half-done.
I guess I can start by finishing the book that inspired this post.
My husband, Andrew, is a lifelong learner. Using his graphic design degree as a foundation, over the past few years he has taught himself web and app design, he voluntarily hired a math tutor (for fun), and just this year, he’s learned to code for the web, is studying app development, and taking German lessons. This constant desire for learning has been both admirable and frustrating at times.
I am not wired this way. In fact, I once took a personality test that said something to the effect of ‘you avoid tasks you’re not good at’. This is absolutely true: I like being good at things. Which makes it hard for me to learn new things because I know I’m going to be really bad at them for a while. It’s a risk I haven’t been willing to take very often.
I’ve come across several articles lately about this very topic, both citing research by Carol Dweck of Stanford. One references a ‘growth mindset’ and a ‘fixed mindset’. Another terms it ‘learning orientation’ and ‘performance orientation’. The basic idea is that some people operate under the assumption that improvement and growth is always an option. Others approach life believing that talents and skill are fairly fixed, and it’s better to stick with what you know. For whatever reason, I’ve always fallen into the latter category.
A few months ago when Andrew started learning German, I decided that I would give it a try too. I’ve always wanted to speak another language (and I might be just a little bit competitive). Andrew is taking lessons through his work, and I’m using the Duolingo app. We practice our limited vocabulary on each other. Already, I’ve been pretty excited about the basic terms I’ve picked up and genuinely excited to keep learning more.
At the same time, I’ve finally started reading some of those books on my ‘to read’ list. Maybe it’s Ella’s arrival and my determination to not be simply defined as ‘a mom’. Or maybe it’s motherhood itself: the knowledge that just a few short months ago I knew nothing about raising a child, and now I’m literally learning something new every day. Either way, I’m starting to climb out of this rut of being content with what I know. It feels really good to stretch those muscles again and realize I am capable of learning more.
People say our education system is broken and I absolutely agree. I spent my formative years earning good grades and being a good student instead of developing a true love for learning. Thanks to people like Andrew with a ‘growth mindset’, I’m starting to see it’s not too late to change that.
A new season of life is beginning at our house, and it seems only appropriate that outside the weather is making a corresponding shift. Cooler days and nights have ushered us into a season of apple picking, boot wearing, and cider drinking.
About the time the weather began to change, our little Eleanor Angelene Ramos was born. She came just two days after we wrapped up this year’s Indie Craft Parade.
Somehow, that was four and a half weeks ago.
If I had to describe the past few weeks, I would use the words surreal and unhurried. It’s a very strange season of quiet and yet unrest. We’ve had to slow down drastically to accommodate the needs of this new little one. But that means enjoying our house more: sitting on the front porch and getting to know our neighbors, enjoying more walks and a new definition of family time. We are not typically routine people, but I’m already beginning to crave consistency in this new normal (especially when it comes to sleep!).
Thankfully, we’ve been supported by amazing friends and family sharing food and advice. Everything is new and I don’t know of another month in our lives where we’ve learned so much so fast!
For now, I’m ready to pull out my sweaters, eat some pumpkin muffins and enjoy this amazing season.
- yoga (for the second time in my life) with friends
- a little kitchen reorganization with my mom (nesting?)
- a wonderful dinner out with Andrew and a night full of great conversation
I have no photos to prove these things. No selfie to show off the eye makeup that I never wear.
But I am very sore, very rested, and I woke up to a clean kitchen. Days like yesterday are good for the soul. Things accomplished, but also time spent ‘just being’ (in the words of the yoga instructor).
Doing some reading and research about Greenville’s textile history and came across an article about Mary Putnam Gridley, someone I’d never heard of before today.
What a legacy wrapped up in this single sentence: “A tiny woman, under 5 feet tall and weighing about 90 pounds, she nevertheless was able to organize people and get things done.”
Mary influenced so many various facets of Greenville (the library, a farmer’s market, hospital, chamber of commerce, etc.) that the most likely reason for her notability almost pales in comparison — she was the first female mill president in the South.
Some days I can really appreciate beauty more than others. Maybe every designer feels this way, but there are days like today when I look at dribbble and am truly amazed and appreciative of all the work that’s being produced in our industry.
And then there are other days when the talent I see there is amazing in a really depressing way and I’m consumed with thoughts of self-doubt, and wonder ‘why am I not that good?’ 'why do I bother calling myself a designer?’, etc, etc…ad nauseum.
I’m not sure what makes the difference, but I’m really grateful for days like today when I can genuinely admire and appreciate others’ work for what it is. Without comparison or jealousy.
Here are a few things that I’ve found completely and totally inspiring lately.
I’m five months pregnant, so people tell me this is my first Mother’s Day. But for all practical purposes, I am not a mother. I haven’t experienced the labor, the sleepless nights or the constant care for another human being, so I don’t feel I have the right to claim that title just yet.
Pretty Mother’s Day flowers from our yard.
To be honest, choosing motherhood was actually fairly difficult for me. Possibly because it seemed to be a foregone conclusion most of my life. In church as a young girl, I always got the feeling that education was good and all, but really, every girl was supposed to become a mom. Unfortunately, I can’t say we’ve come all that far in thirty years. Even in the past week, I’ve heard things like ‘you’ll never know true love until you have your child’ or 'now that I have children, my life has true meaning’.
I know these things are said with good intentions, but I don’t think people realize the importance they’re placing on a single (albeit all-encompassing) aspect of their lives and the message it’s sending. I’m curious how my feelings about this topic will grow and change in the next year, when I have a little girl standing in front of me. But one of the things I want to teach her is that her value does not depend on other people.
And wouldn’t those 'other people’ include children?
I want her to know that having or not having children does not make her more of a woman. Somehow, even in our Christian communities, this is not a message that girls hear loud and clear. This time last year, a friend wrote on Facebook as part of a Mother’s Day post “You don’t have to be a mother to be a valuable woman.” It stopped me in my tracks and it brought me to tears. This was the core issue I had been wrestling with for the past few years: Did God really create women just for the purpose of bearing children? If I don’t have a desire to have children, does that make me a bad person? If this is supposed to be my purpose in life, is something wrong with me for not wanting it?
Me, with my mom and my grandma.
Today I want to honor my mother, grandmother and all the women in my life who have cared for me over the years. I will wish a Happy Mother’s Day to women who are caring for the children in their lives — their own or not. I think the true sacrifices of motherhood deserve to be honored, not idolized.
I’m so grateful for a good friend who asked me hard questions and helped me work through some of these issues. And thankful that in spite of our hangups, God can still make truth clear — our value does not depend on other people.
It’s a lesson I think motherhood (ironically) will continue to teach me every day.
Along these same lines, I really appreciated this article by Anne Lamott yesterday. Very similar to what I’m trying to say, but much more articulate.
“The art of busyness is to convey genuine alarm at the pace of your life and a helpless resignation, as if someone else is setting the clock, and yet simultaneously make it clear that you are completely on top of your game. These are not exactly humble brags. They are more like fretful brags, and they are increasingly becoming the idiom of our age.”
“The answer to feeling oppressively busy, he says, is to stop telling yourself that you’re oppressively busy, because the truth is that we are all much less busy than we think we are.”
Life has a way of running everything together, so that before one thing is completely done, another has already begun. I suppose this is how weeks and months can pass by unnoticed, and somehow we realize that it’s almost April.
This collision of timing is exactly what happened when — in the middle of planning for The Makers Summit (which was a super inspiring, beautiful, wonderful day!) — Andrew and I learned that we were expecting a baby.
In the past few weeks, we’ve finally been able to tell friends and family. And while it’s early on this road we’ve never been down before, it’s already been full of surprises.
So far, I’ve been surprised:
· that as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I immediately wanted to only think/talk/pin about baby and pregnancy things. This is a very strange thing for someone who hasn’t spent much time thinking about having children of my own. And difficult because we couldn’t tell anyone for a little while.
· about how absolutely exhausted I’ve been
· that I haven’t had more compassion for my pregnant friends in the past
· that I’m not too concerned about eating healthy just because I’m pregnant. Most of the time I find myself just trying to find something to eat that sounds decent, which has begun to include cheetos and pop tarts.
· by the overwhelming support and encouragement from friends and family. I have to admit that as our friends without kids have dwindled over the past nine years, there were times I felt like new babies meant somehow I would lose a friend. A ‘loss of solidarity’ is how another friend put it. And while I know in my heart that it’s silly, I also know that I have friends out there who may feel the same way. Andrew and I have felt so much support from our friends — both parents and non-parents — and it’s meant so much to us.
We’re in go mode again, this time getting everything ready for this weekend’s Makers Summit.
In the back of my mind, I’m still thinking a lot about rest and balance and what that means — especially in times like this, when there’s just so much to be done. I’m more convinced than ever that rest does not mean doing nothing. Some days, it’s truly more relaxing to get things off the to-do list than to ‘relax’ in front of the TV.
One of the most helpful things I’ve read about the topic comes from the famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) book by Sheryl Sandburg, Lean In. She argues that work-life balance and the idea of 'having it all’ is a myth. And it’s actually a pretty harmful one. She says 'having it all’ undermines the realities of give and take that are required to live life every single day.
Sacrifices come in all shapes and sizes, and we’re constantly choosing to set one thing aside in exchange for another — maybe it’s healthy eating, maybe it’s sleep, work, or having a clean house. But setting priorities are a necessary part of life, and something you don’t just do once. The more I think about it, a balance where every aspect of life holds equal importance at all times seems both tedious and precarious. I know that I can’t do everything well all the time. And I’m setting myself up for failure if I try to convince myself I can have it all.
For today, give-and-take means that I spent more on groceries to buy myself flowers and enough prepared meals to get us through Saturday. I may not be cooking from scratch this week, or cleaning my house, or being Wonder Woman, but I’ll be able to spend a few minutes with my family, get a decent amount of sleep, and get everything checked off the to do list. And that’s what is important for the moment.