Walk With Me: Philanthropy and ArtPrize

September 29, 2014

You know my heart swells for my city of Grand Rapids with more pride than a momma bear for her baby bear. As one of the most philanthropic cities in the country (Google that shit!), Grand Rapids definitely fueled my passion for working in the nonprofit sector by introducing me to the spirit and potential of philanthropy. That's why I was so pleased this year to see so many pieces in Art Prize advocating for philanthropic organizations and humanitarian needs. What a truly unique way to present issues and raise awareness. Here are a few of my (so far) favorite philanthropic pieces in Art Prize this year. 

Also, this time I wasn't super lazy -- so you can click the hyperlinks to see more (professional) photos of each piece and hear from the artist themselves! 

ArtPrize Grand Rapids philanthropy

1. #U
This piece was sponsored by the Michigan Suicide Prevention Coalition. #U asks visitors to stop and think about what makes U special, irreplaceable and and beloved in this world.

ArtPrize Grand Rapids philanthropy

2. The Scarlet Cord
I am the first to admit that I don't know a thing about the depth or scope of the huge issue that is the sex slave trade. This piece was set up as a walk through shipping crate, where many of these captured women and children are kept. Images of women and children, starting at the beginning with images of fear and shame and ending with images of regained freedom and growing confidence, lead the visitor through the crate. Some of the pieces were red thread wrapped around nails to create 3-dimensional pictures (crazy talented!) and others were pencil. I give special props to this piece for including a concrete action step and poster of "What can YOU do" at the end. Every visitor was also given a matching red thread bracelet to raise awareness.

ArtPrize Grand Rapids philanthropy

This piece is also about finding the light in the darkness. A colonnade of 20, 30-foot columns is splashed with a rainbow of colors and inspirational quotes. Sponsored in part by the Salvation Army of West Michigan. I loved the joy and triumph in this piece!

It's still my favorite, and raises awareness for a local nonprofit working with inner-city youth. You can read more about my first stop by this unique, interactive piece here.

These stunning, stunning portraits were taken at a local homeless shelter. The artist's statement reminds us that these faces are so "common" and "everyday" that we would pass by them on the street without a second look, not thinking of the struggles they are going through. It's a really powerful portrait series, and especially pertinent as Grand Rapids struggles to reconciliate the growing city condos with the shelters that have always been there. With a clash of two people, this reminds us that we're all human underneath and we're all fighting our own struggles in this city. 

Which piece interests you the most?
Do you have a cause or nonprofit organization that you're passionate about?

Walk With Me

Currently, Grand Rapids is hosting an amazing, annual event called Art Prize. Art takes over the city, and they have some insane (300+) pieces of art of all kinds, sizes, etc etc. I'm not very art literate, but even I know it's cool. So on the (potentially) last nice day of summfall, I chose to walk to class and pop into every Art Prize venue I passed.

If you had taken a walk with me, these are what I would have pointed out as my favorites.

1. #56820 
I just love all things abstract and bright. This artist did a great job of explaining (and showing) why red is such a powerful color in Chinese culture. Red represents the warmth of human relationships, pulling you together while also pulling you up in excitement.

This might be my favorite. This artist works with inner city kids in a local nonprofit. She asked them to write down what inspires them to ruse above their circumstances, reach upward. The envelopes are arranged in an arrow mosaic to represent the message of rising UPWARD, and it's interactive so visitors can pull out the stories and read them. It was really touching.

I don't have photos of this one because honestly it was so large and so emotional, I didn't really know how to capture it on my phone. The man who put this together lived in Gaza as the only Western journalist for three years. He reconstructed a war zone in the upper level of a church, so when you walk in all the light is immediately shut out. There are concrete and plywood fragments jutting out in all angles, and then mounted onto them are captivating, illuminated portraits of individuals who live in Gaza.  It also has multimedia elements in different stations showing interviews from Gaza residents and videos of daily life. His goal is to show that amidst all this war, there is immense beauty and strength in these people -- people who just dream of an ordinary day and ordinary life.

This one depicts Lady Liberty as the National Security Administration, and is created to showcase the tension between civil liberty and civil protection. The globe she is holding has an iPad which flashes tweets that are tagged by NSA keywords. 

What piece of art sounds most interesting to you? 
Does your city have a similar art festival?

Top 10 Reasons to Marry My Best Friend

September 25, 2014

Where to begin? When I first met you, you were super quiet. But you were always down for hanging out, which I loved. And you had the healthy love for over sized floor pillows as me, so that was a huge plus. It was long after we rode an elephant together and hid your first alcohol water bottle in a closet that I knew we would get along well.

 Wittle babies all moved in together!

And much to my sheer fortune, good luck and #blessed, we were randomly assigned to live together in the house sophomore year. And I don't really know when we became inseparable or best friends and that makes me happy. And thanks to those formative, blissful years I happen to know quite a few of your best traits and skills that Mike is getting. Mike, your wife is incredible at:

-Locating tiny wine
-Vodka pong
-Wednesday night rules
-Sneaking quietly
-Dancing her face off
-Completing someone's half-finished crafts
-Dressing sexy, but professionally
-Surviving bitches who think they're Sarahleeza Palin-Rice, Jr.

And then there are some other things your wife is wonderful at, that are probably her greatest assets. 

Your wife is amazing at pillow talk. She is the best person to tell the minute details of your day to, and there is no detail that needs be spared. High, low, good, bad, boring...she just really is the best person to end the day with. And I know this, because she was my pillow talk buddy for three years. So cherish that, and know that at the end of a REALLY good pillow talk, she'll need an emergency run to McDonald's. 

Your wife is good to grow with. Amanda grows in steady and quiet ways, which is both comforting and encouragement. I remember walking along the beach with her when we were weighing taking jobs at Pi Phi, and she said "There's no safer place to grow." And there is no safer person to grow with. 

Your wife never does anything halfway. Whether it's running sorority finances or quilting or biology or... anything. She takes everything to the maximum in the most surprising, unforeseen way. So. You may think that you know what a loyal, devoted best friend for life you're getting, but if her track record shows us anything it's that she is going to take that and blow your wildest expectations. 

So. That's all. I adore one of you (Amanda) and tolerate the other one of you (gross, Mike). I'm just grateful I never had to create a Pavlovian chart to curb your psychotic, possessive tendencies (but it's never too late, is it?). 

Wittle babies all weady for mawwiage!

Anyways. Off to pack (jokes for days)! 
See you soon, my lovers. And happy wedding!

post signature

Things I Can't Not Buy (Splurge Alert)

September 23, 2014

Yesterday, I had to suck it up and do that thing that ruins your day because it just never works out the way you want it to: bra shopping. Specifically, strapless bra shopping (I know, my face was screwed up in a disgusted look the whole time too, I feel you girl). My motto: in and out. Get the first strapless bra I see and just beeline it to the register. 

So I ask the perky little shop lady where my size is. 

She looks skeptically. 

"Have you lost a lot of weight lately?"

"Ummm...not that I know of?"

"We need to remeasure you."

"Oh umm...are your hands warm? Are you a trained professional? Is that measuring ribbon made of satin, my ladies are sensitive." Or something incoherent came out. 

Turns out all those once a week yoga trips and rage running to rap music and eating lots of vegetables has actually been working, because this little bitch lost FOUR INCHES. At first I was all UNICORNS AND CELEBRATE and then I was all FUCK THIS SHIT, BRAS ARE TOO EXPENSIVE. For real. That's what PopSugar doesn't tell you:  Weight Loss Is Expensive. 

So I sucked it up and bought some new pairs (and a strapless that I begged for them to overnight because #wedding #helpme). But here are some things that I will drop serious dollars on and not complain:

1. Skin Care
One time, I saw those gross pictures of two twins next to each other and the left was all "she wore sunscreen and washed her face" and the other was "she went tanning and fake baking" and I threw up. The saleswoman at the counter was like "You can pay to keep your skin healthy now, or you can pay to try and correct it later." And now I always shell out ze money for quality creams. 

2. Large, abstract turquoise paintings
Yesterday my neighbor left her door open, and I literally ran into the wall because she had a stunning abstract, turquoise painting above her couch. I waited on my stoop until she came back up with her laundry and then I didn't even beat around the bush. I was all "WHERE DID YOU GET THAT PAINTING, I'M OBSESSED, THANKS FOR LEAVING YOUR DOOR OPEN."

And then I immediately went inside and bought the exact same painting. Creeper. 

It's coming in 3-5 days, thank you World Market.

3. Eating Out
This is the most frivolous of my expenditures, for sure. But I will literally never not shell out for good food. I. Love. Food. If I do not profess my love of a good meal at least once a day, something is wrong. I generally gchat my friends at around 9:30, 9:45 to start talking about lunch because FOOD. 

A good meal, in my opinion, is always worth it. Oh thrift spenders, I wish I had your appetite control. 

What areas do you always splurge on?
post signature

Move Over, Carrie: On Turning Heads

September 20, 2014

Move Over, Carrie is a when-I-feel-like-it series inspired by taking the wit, 
wisdom and discussion of SATC one step farther. It's your relationships, your life... today.
I was leaving a bar the other night when I caught a man staring at me. Just staring. He was about forty years old. Nondescript. Normal, suburban male. My reaction was immediate fear. I was clearly heading for the door, keys in hand and his stare stopped me in my tracks. Was it safe to leave alone? There were a lot of people between me and the parking garage... but was that enough?
I decided to keep heading out, but when I turned around to look both ways before crossing the street I saw that he had left to. I started getting anxious, really anxious. I quickened my steps, and was shocked when the man passed me on my left -- accompanied by two female friends. He slowed down as he passed and said, "That dress fits you like a glove. You look gorgeous." His two female friends smiled, and then they were off. 
And my first reaction was 
I forgot I could turn heads. 
And that made me sad. 
I felt sad for myself that I had forgotten I was capable of turning heads. That deep down, I had forgotten I was beautiful. There are so many things women think of now when they hear the word "beauty." 
Beauty is fit. 
Beauty is strong. 
Beauty is skinny. 
Beauty is natural. 
Beauty is healthy. 
Beauty is classic. 
Beauty is timeless. 
Beauty is trendy. 
Beauty is neutrals. 
Beauty is... you. 
And that's what we forget the most. I've read so many Pinterest quotes that I quite literally had convinced myself that I couldn't be beautiful because I wasn't fit or strong enough, and I certainly wasn't working on those two things so therefor I couldn't possibly be beautiful or on my way to beautiful. Other women do this unfortunate mind warp too, but maybe with other things -- not skinny, not curvy, not something. 
And I felt sad that a woman's first reaction to catching a man looking at her is to be scared. To instantly assume that another human is either going to hurt you or degrade you... that's sad. 
Wasn't that really one of the most important lessons of Carrie, after all? For all her crazy outfits... wasn't it about walking into a room and having the class and composure and confidence to know that you were possible of turning heads? Not in a conceited way, but a confident way of knowing your own skin and being comfortable in it. Of appreciating yourself from the inside out, in a way that radiates across the room. 
I hope I remember this. 

What distracts your from remembering the real definition of beauty? 

post signature

Frands, Sweet Frands

September 17, 2014

Finding a good wingman these days is impossible. Finding my once on-point flirting skills these days is equally impossible.

I ventured out with some most beloved cohorts/friends/classmates/actual friends for some drinks after class.
Let's start by saying, I was wearing some killer shoes. Snakeskin ballet flats with yoga pants? I was clearly at the top of my game and ready to mingle. Fortunately for us, we had a super hot waiter and I was instantly like "let me practice being back on the market with your fiiiiine flannel-clad self!"

 I turned to my friend Chris, desperate for a wingman.

"What do you want me to do? 
Drop the napkin by your shoe so he'll pick it up 
and start talking about snakeskin?" 
Ummmm if you think that will work...yes.
He told me this wouldn't work (but I still don't believe him). 
I even suggested maybe we could all drop our napkins at the same time 
(which would look super weird, but also help make sure I wasn't hitting on a gay guy again),
 but Chris still said no.

So I took it on myself.

He came over to fill all three of our waters, PERFECT time to catch him in some conversation.

"So," I said boldly, "busy night?"
"Uhm well it's a Monday so not really."

And then I faceplanted in my drink. Like literally did not acknowledge his answer verbally, just slowly slunk down to my straw until he walked away.

Except not at all. Not at all this smooth.

Hanna and Chris refused to speak. Chris literally spit his water out and just waved his arms. That bad. Guys, I am so bad at flirting.

But I have frands and I have snakeskin ballet flats and that's all a girl really needs, right?

Proof Good People Exist

September 15, 2014

It is known far and wide among Serverland that teenagers are the worst. The worst! So it was with a great big "oh, thanks so much ya crappy, vindictive hostess" that Friday night I went up to my booth of two teenagers. And instantly, I started judging the shiznit out of them. My initial thoughts were Well there goes my tips tonight, which as soon as he started speaking was followed by oh hunny, he has probably cheated on you nine times by now. You know the type -- overly ironed flannel, large diamond studs, talks just a little too loud and excited.

But we started talking. Because there's really not much else to do when you're boxing up people's food table-side besides either catch the glares of your other tables who are pissed they're out of their fourth coke of the night (even though they can see you're clearly occupied with something else) or ignore the rude glares and become completely absorbed in conversation with the table you're boxing up. So I usually choose the later. 

I couldn't help it, they won me over. They were just so genuinely excited to be there and so damn cute with each other. When I asked them if they were celebrating anything special they told me it was their anniversary. Again, instant judgement, I was thinking oh great, one month? Four years. Four. Years. They met in high school (so I was a little off on my age judgments, judge me back) and have been together ever since. 

So I drop their check off, not expecting much but at least grateful the little buggers were cute and talkative. And here is your proof that good people exist: those adorable little teenagers left me $25 on a $30 bill. Do you know what I normally get from teens? $3. These kids. Gah. They blew me away. And sometimes (all the times) you need that as a server. You deal with people who expect you to be more servant, less server and then they tip you 17% and go on their way. So this little reminder that there are good people in the world (and teenagers who tip!) was so pleasant. 

Turns out we even go to the same school! I hope I see them around so I can stalk on their creepy couple cuteness. And if he ever does cheat on her for the first time, so help me God... #truelove #puppyloveforlyfe #youreabirdimabird

What was the best part of your weekend?
Have you seen any proof that good people exist lately? 
I'd love to hear your story!

Kittens and Kids and Coincidences, Part 2

September 10, 2014

If you miss Part One, catch up here. Basically: my niece's kitten died and she found comfort in a piece of advice that I had written to her on a school projects months and months ago. And it made me super emotional. 

I don't often talk about God on this blog, or my faith...but sometimes when He smacks you in the face so hard with such a clear message...Well, you gotta give credit where credit is due. And most often, He smacks me in the face with Emma, my little guardian angel. 

This past weekend was a big one for me. A deadline, a time-mark, an anniversary, a much anticipated, awaited thing. And that's all I'm going to give you there. But suffice to say, I've been waiting for this weekend for a long time. Wondering how it would feel when it came. Wondering if this particular anniversary, this particular loss would knock me off my feet. 

I've been waiting for This Day, right, but in the waiting I kept wondering if it would ever be possible to stop waiting. Or if once this day passed, I would just start waiting again. For 365 days to pass, and to see where I would be at the next point. Would my life be back on track? Would I be back on track? Would I still lose whole days to thinking about this day? Would I be okay? That's all I kept asking -- would I be okay?

That's a whole lot of nothing. I know. But for those of you who have experienced deep loss, or unexpected, life-altering things...then picture that. Picture a source of anxiety or tension or stress or unexpectedness that pushed you to re-evaluate everything. You picture your thing and I'll picture my thing, and then this post will be relate-able, deal?

Basically, what I'm trying to say is this (sort of). I've been waiting for This Day for a long-ass time. Hoping that by the time This Day came, I would be OK. Or I would be not OK. But not somewhere lost in between. I wanted to judge my particular growth (or lack there of) by this time period. And I was faltering, stumbling, mumbling my way through, not really getting the clarity I wanted. 

So I called my niece, to check on her and her little kitten heartbreak, and I got that smack of God-given clarity that comes once in a blue moon but reminds you that He is King and all things come in His good time. Because as she recited the words back to me once again, I realized the positions hadn't really switched at all. She really was still giving me exactly what I needed, one word at a time. Through her, He was giving me my answer to this much anticipated Day and Question. 

Everything will be ok in the end; if it's not ok, it's not the end. 

"So it's not the end, right? Because ok is still coming."
"You're right, Emma. It's not the end."

For either one of us. It's not the end. There's forward and there's up and there's down and there's a whole lot more to come, but there's no more of This particular heartache for either one of us. We are not stuck here, stagnant. Either way, we're going through and on to the next day. To the next OK. Which will come, because it's not the end. So we have that to look forward to with hope and joy and faith. And most importantly, with eachother.

Because the Next OK is coming.
post signature

Kittens and Kids and Coincidences, Part 1

September 9, 2014

I almost put "Koincidences" so it would be 3 Ks but then I realized that this is a serious post so I should spell correctly, and also that no one should try to aim for 3 Ks because that will probably attract the wrong type of page views and comments, if you know what I mean. 

Way, way back in May, my darling (and most favorite) niece took me to school for "Special Friend Day," which was really Grandparents' Day plus two Aunts. It was adorable and she read a really special poem she had written for me about all the embarrassing things I do (like making up semi-sexual songs about her cat). Then, we had to fill out a workbook about "The History of Us" or something. You know the type, all your favorite things and favorite memories so you can look back in 20 years and say "wasn't your handwriting big and atrocious and third-grade-cute"? 

We're best friends, we hold hands.

The last question I was supposed to answer for her was "What piece of advice do you have for me?" So I wrote something down. And she asked me what it meant. And I said I can't really explain, but one day you'll just understand. You just have to have faith, that everything will work out in the end. 

So speed up. To Saturday morning. When my darling (and most favorite) niece woke me up with an early(ish) phone call of some 9-year-old devastating news about finding her new baby kitten dead. She was a trooper through that phone call. And as if I wasn't broken up enough about this adorable kitten and my poor, sad niece she just really had to take it to the next level. "Do you remember when I took you to school? And we filled out that book together?" she asked me. "Of course," I said. "And you wrote down that quote that I didn't understand?" "Mmhmm." "Well I understand it now, and it's really been helping me today. So I just wanted to say thank you." 

And then she repeated it back to me, that advice that I had written down for a 9 year old who I thought wouldn't understand for some time. 
Everything will be ok in the end; 
so if it's not ok, it's not the end.
Cue the waterworks. 

First of all, you should know that Emma is pretty much my guardian angel sent by God to protect me. That child has given me more then I could ever hope to give back to her. Ever. I try hard to be a good Aunt, but she seriously gives me so much support and grace and encouragement that I frequently feel like our roles have been reversed. So to be able to have finally given her something in return, made me crumble into 9 million pieces of blubbering Aunty mush. Just the idea that in the midst of that sadness something had gone off in her brain to remind her to look for something I had written months ago at the bottom of a school project...to take the time to go and find it and read it and take comfort from it, was too much for this emotional Aunt Autumn.

So now we skip to the Coincidence part...tomorrow, with Part Two.

post signature

My Fall 2014 Goals

September 8, 2014

I know "fall goals" is broad, but I like to set generic goals without specific timeframes so that I can feel better when I accomplish them. Also, I'm still in the student mindset where everything happens in a semester timeframe. Anyways... lately that I've been getting a lot more down and depressed then I care to admit. I'm frustrated with the lack of steady 9-5 job (though I know that won't solve all life's woes) and I think it's because without that title and official-ness, I feel like I'm not accomplishing anything. So, I thought...maybe setting my own personal goals will help me get out of that rut a little. Here are some things I want to accomplish. I'm looking to not only hold myself accountable, but for advice on what you've found helpful as well! 

+Create: I feel better about myself when I'm creating something. In St. Louis, that meant blogging 5 times a week. Anything. Creating blog posts, school papers, editorials, crock pot recipes...something. 
+Celebrate: I get down and out on myself far, far too often. Depression has become a far too constant, and willing, companion. I'm hoping that by stating something I'm grateful for every day, I can start battling those dark thoughts and making more light in my life. I still haven't decided if I will do this via a journal, twitter, or monthly-round up blog post list. Any suggestions for me?

+Exercise. I want to be healthy, and I want to form healthy habits. Grad school (and three jobs) make for an insanely hectic time, and I know that exercise is a great way to process that and ease stress (and the stress hormones that make you fat). I also would like to look attractive for my roomsicle's wedding wink wink. I struggle with this because the gym turns into "one more to-do" on my really long, long list. How do you combat that? I'm hoping tagging along with Not Entirely Perfect's monthly goal setting link up (fitness themed for September) will help this one get off to a good start!

Not Entirely Perfect

What type of goals have you set lately?
What's your best tip for holding yourself accountable and tracking progress?

post signature

Happy Sunday Funday!

September 7, 2014

Since it's the kickoff weekend for all things lovely and enjoyable and fall (i.e. football football football), I had to share this video. Get a good giggle in your morning, and rock those fantasy leagues tonight!

post signature

What would you teach?

September 2, 2014

Yippee, yippee it's school tiiiiiime! That means that crunchy leaves and football games and dry shampoo are right around the corner! I'm taking three classes this semester, which is considered "full-time" for my program. This results in 9 hours of class time per week (which sounds low, but somehow....it just ends up eating up your evening/day). This semester I'm taking:
  • Nonprofit Finance
  • Strategic Planning
  • Organizational Theory
Am I the only one who just loved the long course titles? I swear you could have convinced me to be a Timbuktu Studies major just by cleverly worded course titles. Hyphens in the title? Even better. Multiple adjectives? Sign me up. I still have the course guide from undergrad and get a good laugh out of all the juicy, juicy titles they came up with. We had courses like French Lit 440: Humanity and History in French Holocaust Literature, The Role of the Feminist Psyche in English Literature, 1920-1935 and The Religious Landscape of America: 100 Years. Mmmm long titles.

If I could teach any class, I think I would teach:
  • Phil-ing in the Blanks: The Role of Philanthropy in American Exceptionalism
  • From Carrie to Mindy: The Sociology of Modern Dating in TV-driven, Multi-cultural America
  • The Anthropology of Marketing: Sell Your Story, Not Your Soul
Slash heyyyy those all sound like some book titles. Maybe I should start writing them and make some money, honey. Unfortunately, grad school has very short, straight-forward course titles. C'est la vie. 

What was your favorite class in school?
If you could teach any class, what would it be?

post signature
Hayley Larue Design