Finding My Aesthetic


I’ve been singing the phrase “finding my aesthetic” to the tune of REM’s Losing My Religion for days. It’s silly. It’s just a funny thing that resonated with me. Let me explain.

A while back I was snooping through Bug’s secret “spam” instagram account (that I have reluctantly let her have like the overly-indulgent parent that I am) where she communicates with her friends and I came across one of her buddy’s accounts. It was a series of nine photos from a rainy day. Each photo was gray and minimalistic but completely beautiful and artfully taken. A vase of dead flowers on a windowsill. Raindrops on a windowpane with soft pastel foliage in the background, a cup of tea steaming… it was moody and amazing.  I couldn’t believe a twelve year-old captured them. And then on top of that the captions were even better.They were riddled with cuss words that I don’t want my kids saying at all but I had to admire their succinctness and the hilarious juxtaposition to the zen-like photos they accompanied. It was cute and brilliant.


Of course I had to have a talk with Bug about her friend and how much they cuss. Done and done.

But I had to admit I admired her friend’s aesthetic. That’s a thing these days: aesthetics. They talk about their “aesthetic” all the time like it’s their personal brand and style guide. These kids use their instagram accounts like I used to sell graphic design to corporations. They have distinct styles and rules and they stick to them like they were launching a company. It’s kind of amazing.

The kids use their instagram accounts completely differently than I do. I take a ton of pictures and document my life. They use it as a personal portfolio to hold their place on the internet and share their brand with their friends or maybe even sponsors if they blow up and become influencers someday. They curate nine photos with a color scheme and mood and then delete those photos and replace them with new when they are ready to move on to the next theme. Instagram is more of a visual place holder to advertise who they are and then everything else is done through stories and instant messages. It’s funny and weird but probably pretty smart since the real meat of what they are doing on the internet is hard for a parent like me to track and control because it automatically disappears after 12 hours or so. Kids man. Always outsmarting their parents.


Anyway. I think there is a positive to every negative. I know there are a zillion things wrong with letting your kids have social media and I am fighting a war with mine. Believe me, I am in it and involved and fighting my head off.  If I could go back in time and take back my decision to give them phones I would. Phones are ruining our brains.

But on the other hand I am pretty impressed with their skills both creativity and socially. They adapt so quickly.  They create amazing things!  Will this someday help them in a world that is getting more and more virtual? I have no idea. What I do know is that I am impressed. More and more I am letting go of control and often I’m pleasantly surprised with their actions. They do remember the values I’ve tried to instill in them. They do use the internet with respect and draw boundaries where they should. Who knew! Kids aren’t always trying to be bad!! Not that I’m going to make great claims but I don’t want to judge too early either.


Anyway I’ve been singing “Finding my Aesthetic” and thinking about curating my nine photos. Of course I’m not going to do that fully because I don’t really care that much AND I like to take a million photos AND NOT delete them but it is fun to play around with. Since my background is in graphic design and art it’s something I’ve always done on some level anyway. It’s just been fun to talk about out loud with my kids and they don’t even laugh at me.


Bug has been wearing this gold sweatshirt for days (too many and not showering—ew!) and borrowing my old red knitted hat. Then I got a new gold knitted hat myself and I’ve been wearing this really old but warm red flannel quilted jacket. We visited my parents and went on a hike with my dad in the early morning hours and Bug and I joked about how our new *aesthetic* was gold and red. And it is! I love gold and red right now. Add in a little early morning blue sky and the graphic designer in me is jumping up and down for joy.


Pretty, right?


And of course you have your minor notes of blue and gray chiming in. I love this old owl lantern that my mom has had forever. I remember playing with it when I was a kid so it made me super happy to see it in their new home in the desert. Have I mentioned how much I love their new place? Yes, I have. It’s very much *my aesthetic* as the kids say. (insert eye-rolling here)


Bug and I had a great time hiking and taking pictures. I love that I have an artistic child who gets me. Sometimes I miss the crazy eccentric artistic-ness of my ex (that was something I really admired about him) but guess, what? It showed up in my kid! So that is really nice. And she doesn’t smoke or get grumpy when I chew too loudly so win, win!


My dad took us to see the maze stone that is nearby his house. It’s a landmark protected by the state. It’s this really cool maze carved into rock by the Native Americans who used to live there. Sadly, because people are idiots and like to spray paint rocks it has to be protected with a bunch of ugly fences.


But it was definitely worth the hike in the early morning air. I love that there are still places to explore.

I’ve explored my own neighborhood to exhaustion and I’m starting to get bored of it. Lately, I haven’t been able to take the dogs on walks on the nature trail by my house because Whiskey is allergic to something on the path (Wheatens are allergic to everything). He keeps licking his paws until they are infected and it’s become a very expensive problem. So we’ve had to stay inside and it’s the pits. When he gets better we’ll be able to walk again but we might have to stay away from the nature trail. And invest in some fragrance-free baby wipes to clean his feet after every walk. Note to self: never get a Wheaten again. They are so so so loveable but high high high maintenance!


But back to my kid. That’s her hat now. She’s stealing more and more of my clothes lately which I take as a compliment.  She looks pretty good in gold and red. I guess she can stay in my nine curated photos. Just kidding! I’m not kicking anybody out of my instagram feed if they don’t match.


But I’ll definitely take more photos of you if you do!

(skips away humming REM)

Happy December!


Hooray! It’s December and YES, I am working on the 2019 SAJ calendar. I’m up to April. I should be done this week.

As someone who suffers from entertains anxiety regularly, I really love to plan. It is calming and fun to daydream up good things and then work them out on paper so that they have a better possibility of happening.  Of course things don’t always go to plan and that causes more anxiety but I really enjoy the planning part.  Let’s just focus on that good part.

I love the beginning of December (pretty much August on, if we’re being honest) because it’s prime planning time. Whenever Bug or Payam moan about Christmas music playing in November I tell them it’s a good thing because then it doesn’t feel like Christmas time rushed past us and we barely got to enjoy it. Start early and make the best of it, I say!

I put my pink Christmas tree up in my office on December first. I LOVE it. This tree has so many good memories attached to it.  Remember when I bought it way back when Bug and I were living in my Grandpa’s trailer in the sticks? It was such an extravagant purchase back then. I remember emailing Bethany and asking her if I was being foolish to buy such a silly thing. Money was tight. But it made us happy. It was sort of a strike for independence.

Before I got divorced I would never ever buy something so flashy and synthetic but now that I didn’t have anyone to tell me it was stupid, I could. It took me a long time to detach myself from my marriage and the decisions that we would make together. I remember thinking, it doesn’t matter what I’m going to do and what he’s going to do. It’s not a chess game.  So I bought it and Bug and I loved it. It really wasn’t stupid at all! Kind of like listening to pop music in the car. Freedom is a wonderful part of a fresh divorce but it’s also very scary. Just like navigating your computer problems for the first time when you are used to having an IT guy living in your house…


Anyway, I digress. Christmas! Happiness! So many fun traditions! I didn’t grow up with Christmas so it’s taken me a while to develop my own traditions but I can safely say that in the last three years we have some solid ones.


We always go to Descanso gardens to see the lights and the girls and I dress up and see the Nutcracker. We decorate the tree and play music. I think we’ll do a time lapse video this year. That seems like a fun thing to do. I really love this time of year…


My crazy pants had to make an appearance. We haven’t put the big tree up yet but I think we’ll do that tonight.


But we have done our annual Christmas Time Public Relations effort and they are due to be mailed this week. Woot!

I’m so excited for our New Year’s Eve party. I learned a funny thing about myself while I was designing this year’s invite. It was kind of a breakthrough.  I constantly judge myself from other people’s points of view. Duh. This has been a problem of mine since forever.

It’s probably a side effect of the way I grew up.  Something about having a lot of parental figures telling you what to do all the time and having your own will quashed OR maybe it has something to do with being a type-A first born. Who knows! Anyway, as I was making the New Year’s invite I kept changing it because I imagined what my different friends might say… should I take off the “We’ll bring the drinks” part because they’ll think we are alcoholics? Should not put the “kids are welcome” part because they’ll think it’s a kiddie party and not come?  I walked around feeling super anxious about it until I finally decided IT DOESN’T MATTER! I’m not playing a chess game!  I am fun and people will come or they won’t come and I need to stop applying the Friend A filter!! So that’s my thing now. I’m not applying the Friend A filter. Or B or C or anything but the Brenda filter. Is this what I would like to do on New Year’s? Yes, it is!


So yeah, back to the public relations photos. I love them. Payam and I are getting fatter and the girls are getting more beautiful. Time, man. It happens. I hope we keep this up as we get more and more gray and frail. I’m really into embracing my grandma style. I know! I’m not a grandma! But when I am I want to look like this.


Sometimes when I hold my head a certain way you don’t see my double chin and I look super fierce.


As we were wrapping up our photo session we walked by a laundromat and for fun we took some laundromat shots. If you’ve followed Bug and I since the way-back-days you know how sentimental laundromats are for us. Remember Judy, the older laundromat manager woman who died? She was the first person who died in Bug’s life. It was a huge big deal for us. Sigh…

Bug and I really loved doing a laundromat cart racing shot. I looked through my old photos and I couldn’t find one of me racing with her in the cart but you know we did it. I just didn’t have a professional photographer following us around back then.


And then I found this one:


Oh sweet napping Bug with her pahs… I love the flood of memories!