Saturday, September 24, 2016

Design The Life You Love by Ayse Birsel: Book Review

I absolutely loved this book, Design The Life You Love: a Step by Step Guide to Building a Meaningful Future by Ayse Birsel. 

I am all about redesigning one's life. That's exactly what I did after I had my kids, only I call it reconstructing my life. That's what this blog is called, right? You can see why I was attracted to the title. 

Anyway, my life as an artist and special needs mom really resonated with the following four principles that Birsel lays out in the book: 

1)Turning a constraint into an opportunity 

Ayse says, 

"Life, just like a design problem, is full of constraints—time, money, age, location, and circumstances. You cannot have everything, and if you want more out of it, you have to be creative about how to make what you need and what you want co-exist." 

Hello! that's actually the premise of my upcoming book, where I talk about how I crafted my creative business as a special needs mom.  


Using soup as an example Birse talks about the idea of deconstruction/reconstruction. Birsel lays out the ingredients of chicken noodle soup so we can see what it is made of. She then goes on to say, 
"what I like so much about deconstruction is that looking at the parts, I feel like I have complete freedom to change them" 

I adhere to that same concept when I remake my clothes, I turn them over and see where the seams lie and figure out how I can change the shape by shifting seam lines. 

Continuing to use soup as an example, Birsel then shifts the ingredients and makes a new "reconstructed" soup. By shifting seam lines, I do the something similar when I reconstruct clothing. 

The same idea is then applied to life, deconstructing elements of your life and then shifting your perspective to reconstruct a new one. 

3) Heroes/Icons

Birsel has a chapter on heroes, in it she says,

 "we are inspired by people - real or fictional - people we know personally or not    at all. These heroes ell us something about our values, beliefs and the kind of life we aspire to live." 

Hello again! If you have been following me on this blog or social media, you know that this is the entire premise of my t-shirt line, Nelesc Designs. I screen print Latina/African American cultural icons onto slightly re-consructed tops, aprons, and cuffs. 

She asks the reader to list their heroes and qualities that endear these icons to them. "Then", she says, 
"cross out their names and put yours as the values you recognize and admire in your heroes are your values"
I have experienced this myself in my own journey to reconstruct my life as I also own the same values and principles as my screen printed icons. 

4) Metaphors

Last but not least, Birsel mentions metaphors as her favorite creative tool! I love metaphors too. She invites the reader to think about a metaphor to define the present and one for the future. This also helps the reader shift perspective towards the life they desire. She offers different examples of metaphors to help the reader along. 

These four points are just a little taste of this 254 page book.  The tome also contains many creative exercises and lots of blank space and templates to get you thinking and started on the journey to design the life you love! 

I enjoyed this book and recommend! Go buy it! 

Big Ups to Hand-Me-Downs: Clothes, Connection, and Memory

Soon, Dan's name will be crossed off when he grows out of it, and we give it away 

I grew up with two sisters so, hand-me-downs were the norm. I was the middle child so I didn't have it so bad, my little sister, not so much! Lol. 

But a couple of months ago, Dan was wearing a shirt that used to be his brother's, pants that used to be his cousin's, and a jacket handed down by my hubby's friend's son. He was a walking hand me down machine and he looked great! (In all the hand-me-down excitement, I forgot to take a picture!) 

There is no shame in this. Micah saw the shirt and immediately remembered it was his, it put a big smile on his face. When I saw his cousin's name in the waistband of the pants, I remembered that I had to make sure I planned for babysitting. We would be attending his High School graduation ceremony in two weeks, we're so proud of him ! And when I took the jacket out and saw that it belonged to the boy I mentioned earlier, I remembered what a wonderful time we had when his parents invited us over to their home. His kids had a tree house and a swing set, my boys, Jon and I enjoyed ourselves so much that day! 

Hand me downs are about helping to preserve the planet so clothes don't end up in land fills, it's about creating connection and memories, and yes, let's be real, it's also about saving money, nothing wrong with that, right? 

But there's still that little embarrassment that people feel about admitting that their kids are wearing clothes that were previously owned by others. I still have a jacket that belonged to my mother, and when I wear it, I think of her. It's time we remove the stigma of hand-me-downs. If we can envision what we wear as connection/memory symbols rather than status symbols, it would change the way we relate to clothing.

So, yes, big ups to hand-me-downs! Feel free to comment and share your hand me down stories!