One Suitcase. One Car.

And one long road trip to Canada. 

I know it has been a really long time since I have posted, but I think I am still living in the same story that started with a garbage bag full of clothes, so I hope you will want to stay along for part two. 

Where am I now?

Not in the Unites States.  I crossed the Canadian border two Thursdays ago.  The Canadian customs were alerted by the stack of 15 or so canvases in my back seat, so they designated me for a “random” search.  They took my phone, my kindle, asked me what I was reading, searched my car, and searched my emails! They were very nice and pleasant as they were invading my privacy and after realizing I was too painfully ignorant to to answer questions with a short and sweet, mostly truthful, answer, they let me through, realizing I was not such an interesting stop.Little did they know that by the time I walk onto American soil again I will have increased my interesting factor by at least 100%! Because I am on an adventure.

I arrived at my final destination nearly two weeks ago. It is the most picture perfect Victorian home in the woods, by the sea, I have ever seen.  You can see it here.  I came here to paint.  I came here to heal. I came here to remind myself that the order by which God framed the world is both essential to its beauty and all that it needs, all that I need.  

I hope to leave this place with a visual testimony to the beauty of limitations when maximized by the freedom within them.  I hope to sharpen my senses to see this testimony all around me. I hope to develop eyes to see this in myself. 

If you have been following this project over the last year, I hope this all sounds familiar.  Welcome to The Twenty Pieces Project II: Julie’s Adventures in Canada. 

Images to come soon!

The year is almost up!

Hey readers! I can’t believe you are still here! Our stats say you are still showing up, which is awesome! I got a shocked email from Cate a few weeks ago saying, “Did you know people still look at our blog!”  We were amazed! The good news is, in case you were wondering, we are still doing it, but we are having a heck of a time finding the time to write about it.

You all know that I have been on the run from a pack of jackals called “bills” for more than a year.  I pay them, oh you bet I do, but it is taking a lot of work and juggling.  Today I am cleaning my room (currently taking a pause!) because I am about to show a friend (and reader!) around who may be interested in renting the place.  I am excited about this.  There was a time some months ago when I thought the worst thing ever would be to have to leave my home, but at the moment, I am feeling quite good about it, excited actually!

And I think that is because there are some interesting things on the horizon for me.  I am trying to rent the place out so that I can have plenty of start up cash for a company a friend and I will be launching at the first of the year.  We have developed a kick ass product (if I do say so myself) to help people rewire their whole soul in the way they interact with food, exercise, and their bodies in general.  I am really excited about the good it will do in the world. In many ways it is not so different than this project, in that it helps people make little choices that rewire the soul and changes life in the long run in big ways

So what’s changed for me lately in the Twenty Pieces Project?  First, I currently only have 16 pieces! How did that happen?  AND, I didn’t notice until earlier today! That will come in handy when I move out of my house.  Friends from my church, a husband and wife, Bob and Michelle, have offered to let me live with them free of charge for a few months before I head to Canada for the summer! Did that come as a surprise?  It did to me too.  I have the opportunity to do and art show in Vancouver, so as long as nothing gets derailed, it will be happening sometime this summer!

I am grateful that this project has certainly trained me to be more than happy with my Twenty Pieces, if I up’d it to even 25, I would feel like a queen.  What has your year with less been like for you?  I would love to hear what you have learned over the course of the last year?

Treasure at the End of the Mystery

I hope to know how this relates to Twenty Pieces by the end of writing this article.  Right now, I just want to tell you a funny story.

So, when we were kids, my Mom used to write little riddles that would send us on hunts to find little treasures. I mostly associate this with Easter baskets, but I think she may have occasionally done this with birthday gifts or “first day of school” surprises.  It was the best! I just love the excitement and anticipation that comes with a riddle I have to figure out that I know, will most certainly lead me to something I will be even more excited about.

Last week, I was sitting in our department library with with about a half hour of free time, so I decided to hide a piece of candy in the library and text my brother with a riddle that would lead him to the prize.  For those of you who know where I work, you will especially get a kick out of this.

I’m bored in the Grove and what should I do
But make up a riddle just for you.

In the month after our cousin, you’ll find a surprise
With the name of a prince and a Ghost that is wise.

It might attract ants if you let it linger,
So hurry and find your… .

I just can’t stop being excited about these silly things.  My brother and I have now made it through three exchanges of riddle writing and I just can’t get enough! I am asking myself why I don’t do this everyday?

Aha! I do! That is what this Twenty Piece thing is.  I like it because I get to mine a mystery.  We created a riddle we don’t know the answer to.  I goes something like this.

Surrender your clothes, all but twenty                                                                  And you will find that you have plenty.

At times you will know, and at times you will doubt                                                    ‘Tis the glory of God to conceal a matter                                                                And the glory of kings to seek it out.

Everything is Scary and New

Last night I found myself telling my brother that Twenty Pieces, in my life, has been like the eye of a hurricane. I know this sounds pretty dramatic, but let me explain.

I have told you about the swirling realities of my life. Let me state them all in one place.  In the last year, I have lived significantly underemployed (sometimes), have been in the process of starting a company with a friend that is set to launch very soon, have financially survived through the sale of my art work, have have the privilege of being a part of the staff of the Institute for Spiritual Formation in several different capacities, have done consulting work for churches and non-profits, and I leave for Canada tomorrow to do some similar things in a far more corporate environment (which is a new and very exciting experience for me).  I also journey with several individuals as their spiritual director, a person who is a witness to their life and helps them discern God’s voice.

I have met amazing people in the last year: artists, producers, business people, fashion designers, fashion photographers, philanthropists, philosophers, and all kinds of quirky smart interesting people.  I have spoken to gatherings of MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers), curated the closets of some amazing women, and enjoyed meeting countless others that simply can’t be put into categories.

I started writing this piece with the title, “The Center of the Chaos,” but as I write, I realize it is not so much chaos that I am living in but an intensity of uncomfortable newness.  I wrote a while back an article called “Everything is Beautiful and New.”  Today, it feels more true to say, “everything is scary and new.”

In contrast, I am comforted in the repetition of my wardrobe.  Recently, as several items have been on the brink of death, as I have mentioned, I am mildly overwhelmed by the prospects of making new decisions and expending the resources to make them.  Nevertheless, I must make them.  I leave for Canada tomorrow and it is time for the shorts with the bleach stain on them to go and be replaces with a sweater.  Just let it go.  January first comes soon.  Then the Twenty Pieces commitment will have been fulfilled and I can buy a new pair of shorts when it gets warmer.

These are the kinds of things I think.  Having the faith that I will indeed be able to afford a new pair of short in January should I need them feels like a big risk.  If Twenty Pieces was about discipline and simplicity in the beginning, now it is about risk.

I will surely let you know what happens.

 

On Replacement Pieces and Crying at the Dry Cleaner

You all heard me fret about running out of clothes and fearing money.  Uggg.  It was hard.  Two weeks ago, my mind was playing some tricks.  It was nutty and you guys called it.  Here is what has happened since.

I have been busy! I was in San Francisco last weekend.  Just before I left, realizing that I didn’t have enough working pieces for a four day trip without doing laundry, I retired my too short shrunken navy blue slacks and replaced it with a dress.

Then, just before my trip, I took my favorite blouse into the dry cleaner.  I went back the next day and they told me that the blouse was hopeless.  They didn’t even charge me.  They said there was no sense in trying. I almost cried right there in the store.  I could feel my eyes getting glossy.  But as soon as I could feel my emotions on my face, I started to giggle just a bit because WHO THE HECK CRIES AT THE DRY CLEANER?!?!?!?

I walked home thinking about my lost and beloved blouse, about how I don’t want to spend the money on buying a new one, and then, I wondered… could things falling apart actually be a provision for me?  Could it be GOOD that this stuff is getting messed up and stained up and shrunken?  Could it be TIME?  Could that piece just be DONE? Could the opportunity for a new piece be a question asked afresh– What do you want?

What do you want, Julie? What do you want? I get this feeling that there are a lot of things in my life right now that are coming to their moment of undoing.  As I anticipate that moment, I am scared, but I am forced to live and move forward anyway.

I don’t know what is going to happen to me, my home, my job(ish) things I have going on. I have put so much effort and energy trying to plan for this moment, but as I sit here with tremendous uncertainty, I know I need a few more replacement items.  One needs to be a sweater, the other probably a blouse.  I need them for another work related trip that is coming in a few weeks to Vancouver, BC.

Wish me luck on finding some efficient, beautiful, inexpensive, yet good quality replacement pieces.

Uniform

I’m becoming convinced that everyone has a uniform.

I am privileged to work with a series of high-powered business cat ladies who change up their look every day, but even they always use the same fundamentals. Pant suit in a variety of colors (this is Texas, after all), heeled shoes ranging from sensible to not-so-much, floaty blouse. Sometimes they mix it up with a calf-length skirt, but not often. I’ve no personal experience with their closets, but I imagine they’re jam packed with a bunch of other styles they never wear. When you have to maintain a certain degree of sophistication for your job and you don’t consider fashion a hobby or have the time to mess around with it, it’s inevitable that one will fall back on one’s staples.

Young moms have a uniform too, though it will be different. Yoga pants or jeans, tshirt or tank, skirt for church, sensible shoes. Nothing too expensive since it might get ruined. School teachers swap out the yoga pants for slacks and the tshirt for a button up shirt or a sweater.

Despite what you have in your closet, I am convinced that most people fall back on their uniform: that cross section of clothes between comfortable, personal, and communicating who you think you are and what you spend your day doing.

My roommate has a TON of clothes. But when it comes down to it she always wears a variation on a theme. Silk blouses, good jeans, shift dresses, wedges. She might branch out here and there, but if she’s got a big meeting, a good party, a date, she’ll fall back on her uniform.

So here’s a way to think about Twenty Pieces: Most of us really only wear a small percentage of our clothes, and we probably want to wear even less. What if you put real time and effort into your “uniform” and left it at that?

I know my uniform. Black pencil skirt, black linen slacks, a couple black t’s from JCrew and tanks from Gap Body. Two silk, high-waist patterned dresses, two LBDs, a blazer and four cardigans. That’s what I like to wear, that’s what fits my job and habits, so that’s what I have in my closet.

What’s your uniform? And why do you have anything else?

The Greatest Good and January: Questions on Discernment

Twenty Pieces is a discipline of saying yes and saying no.  I am at this moment yet again.

Last night I was at my bi-weekly meeting of creative entrepreneurial women.  We call it The Live Group ( I occasionally call us the Livers because I think I’m so funny.) There are four of us in our group and we talk about everything from finances to dating to deep soul stuff.  A part of what we do for each other is help each other discern growth steps for our lives. It looks something like this.

Hi, I’m Julie, I have a scarcity mentality.

This shows up all over the stinkin’ place! As a result, I have developed skills of maximization that should have landed me my own reality show by now.  But it also lands me in places of feeling stuck, lonely, fearful, apprehensive, and insecure.  As I was sharing some of the specific ways this manifests in my life with my group, one of the members said, hey, I wonder if your discipline for the next week is to go out and buy yourself a dress.  I looked at her like, huh?  Haven’t you heard about this amazing blog called The Twenty Pieces Project.  Yeah yeah, I know, she said, but I wonder if the greater good would be you going out and buying a dress.  This came out of a desire to see my treat myself kindly and feel beautiful.  Really?  I thought I was doing Twenty Pieces to break the habit of seeing clothes as a means to feeling beautiful.  I am not convinced that the suggestion is the best course of action, but she asked me to sit with it, so I am, and I am going to do this with you all, the Twenty Piece readers.

Here are some details I am pondering.

1) I don’t believe the greatest good is my living outside the Twenty Piece commitment and ground rules.

2) I wrote an article a while back about all the stuff that’s falling apart.  There are at least two items I could justifiably replace.  It would be a risk to replace them with a dress as one of the items is a cardigan and the other is a maxi dress (you know the one I sometimes wear as pajamas? That one.)

3) I am tempted by wanting something new.  This makes me suspicious.

4) I am enticed my the season change and thinking it would be a great time to make any replacement purchases. We locked in on January 1, which is just about the worst time to make clothing choices given the kinds of clothes out and their non-sale prices.  Made me cringe!

5) I still have money, but don’t have money.  Like I said, in my last article, I broke even last month, but that happens about half the time.  I mostly dip into savings.  I get worried when I think about January, but I know that it is a sin to think about my bank account in January.

6) I think I am avoiding replacing because I am now so much more in-tune with quality and what works for me, I would not be content with a cheap dress.  That means that in replacing a piece, I am throwing down some significant cash that I might need in January!

7) Ugg, did I mention January?

Love to hear your thoughts.

 

10 Sort of Important Updates from Cate

So, here’s a question. What do you do when you care tremendously about several important projects in your life, most of which are your job, one of which is not. Answer: you neglect the project that doesn’t pay the bills, no matter how much you love it. Sorry, Twenty Pieces.

I’ve thought a lot about giving up on the blog (not the project, just writing about it), but when it comes down to it, I can’t and I don’t want to. I really believe in a lifestyle of minimalism and beauty, and I think Twenty Pieces is promoting that combination in a way that no one else is, and starting a discussion that is really important. And so I’m just going to have to manage my time better (surprise surprise), and figure out a way to keep this blog going. Because I believe in it.

On to the updates:

1. I live in Houston, Texas now. That’s weird right? It feels weird. I’m surprised every time I look at my facebook and it tells me that that’s where I live. On the other hand, after six weeks here, I think I actually love the city. Los Angeles and I always had a troubled relationship, and Houston mends many of LA’s problems. It’s affordable and leafy, but still has wonderful cultural opportunities. There’s much more opportunity for success for a great diversity of people here too, which is something I always thought might be missing in the City of Angels. If you weren’t a starlet or a genius, things were going to be tough. The weather’s not nearly as bad as I thought it would be either.

2. I miss my friends and family so much it’s like having a constant stomachache. This is one way in which Southern California will always win out: it contains my favorite people. And I really love my favorite people. Making new friends is hard, guys. I know you’re supposed to get over that feeling in, like, kindergarten, but even in my 20s making new friends is a kind of torture that probably only other introverts can truly understand.

3. People insist on calling my homeland “Cali” when talking to me. NO ONE IN “CALI” CALLS IT THAT. Stop.

4. I’ve rolled through Spring and Summer with my primarily black wardrobe and haven’t regretted it at all. I have two dresses, one pink patterned silk, and one red, grey, and blue silk that are bright for whenever I feel the need to lay off the Morticia Adams stuff, but so far, I’ve been perfectly happy in my basic black.

5. When working in a professional environment with a limited wardrobe, black pieces and good hair and jewelry are, I think, essential to people not noticing that you wear the same thing over and over.

6. I love my new job so much, guys. It’s perfect for me to an extent which is a little frightening. It does, however, take up a lot of my mental energy, so learning how to still write on the side after thinking hard all day is a new thing I’m learning (slowly).

7. I’m doing a fitness challenge that is slowly but surely changing my life. I can’t wait to tell you more about it, and why it matters to Twenty Pieces.

8. I get manicures now. Like a fancy person. It’s mostly to make up for my too long, to undone, too blonde, California hair.

9. I still can’t get over it every time it rains here (which it does a lot). I want to just stare out the window at it all day and night. I love rain like only a drought-ridden Californian can.

10. There’s no way IN HELL I’m doing 13 for 13. But I’ve got some plans. Oh yes, good plans.

 

10 Very Important Updates from Julie

Yep,  it has been a horribly long time since posting on this dear website of ours.  We are both swamped.  Our lives are crazy.  We only know this from the occasional email or missed google chat message we get from each other.  Here is a quick rundown of my life.

1) School started.  I teach 3 units this semester.  I am in the midst of solidifying schedules and figuring out when to do what.

2) I am doing some closet curating. It has been fun! I have one lined up where I can take pictures and share the process with you all. It has been really fun.  Investing in a $200 closet curating session could save you thousands in the long run! … and you will like your clothes better!

3) I watched The Hunger games.  This is getting it’s own number because I am forcing myself to humble myself from my elitist pedestal.  I mocked the books and the movies for years.  And now I have to say I… ugggg… liked it.  I hated the gore, HATED the violence, but it got me thinking and I may have a post coming soon on what we can learn about fashion from The Hunger Games. HINT: When we start looking inhuman, we might start acting inhumane.

4) I sold another painting! This one was a commission and at least one of the owners was really happy about it. I look forward to hearing how the other owner likes it.

5) I’m going to San Francisco in a few weeks.  I get to meet up with several of my dear friends.  I am slightly concerned about my Twenty Pieces being workable in the San Francisco weather.  I know it is cooler up there, but there is also wind and fog.

6) It looks like I am also going to Canada soon! I will be headed up to Vancouver, BC to start some preliminary work on a project that has been on the back burner for some time.  It seems to have suddenly moved to the front burner which is very exciting.

7) Today, I felt a bit depressed about being single.  I hadn’t felt that way in a few months, but today, it felt… lonely.

8) I broke even this month! This means that I am taking in as much money as I am spending.  This happened while “unemployed.”  I guess the truth is I am under employed most of the time.  I still work, quite hard actually, but mostly still in the sowing stage instead of the reaping stage.  I hope the reaping stage is coming soon.  I could really use that.  Want to help me out? Buy a closet curating session. I promise you won’t regret it!

9) A few days ago I realized that I have probably only worn 7 or 8 items of clothing all summer.  Crazy!

10) Dare I put this in print?  I am thinking about doing 13 items for 2013.  GASP! Did I just say that?

 

I think that dress just flipped me off!

Pixelation is a result of poor quality reproduction.  Someone takes a picture of a flower.  The flower is now a digital image, then it is printed repeatedly on t-shirts that show up at Forever 21, then on the Forever 21 sale rack, and then (should you decide to sell this fall season, on the racks at Crossroads Trading Company, and then, in no more than a year, this digitized daisy shirt, will be used for a rag to mop up the mornings spilled coffee.

I was taking a little stroll through South Coast Plaza the other day and there was a window that caused a shocking reaction in me.  I was walking with my brother and I ended up on a rant that lasted a good twenty steps. I was mad at the digital print.  I was mad that someone had the nerve to put it on a beautifully crafted, silk dress, a dress that literally retailed for several hundred dollars.  Why would someone degrade such a fashion sculpture with a print that looked like it came off of my 1998 ink jet printer?

It’s a statement, but what was is saying and why was my response so… dramatic? Why did I feel like I was being flipped off by a dress?

It seemed like an ultimate juxtaposition of artistic craftsmanship and the junkiest junk of the age of branding.  The print looked like a lovely watercolor made digital, then printed as if to intentionally distort and pixelize the intended beauty. What a tragedy.  Digitization is the reality of technological age.  For a long time we have been on the trajectory of trying to make the digital image look more real.  In the past few years, fashion has been playing with the pixel and in doing so, making jokes out of otherwise lovely garments.

In complete contrast, digitization (Photoshop) is making humans look less real in the opposite direction.  Faces are not made to look pixelized, but pore-less and smooth to inhuman.  Either way you look at it, the organic world is looking more plastic.  Could culture really be moving to where we prefer fake to real.  Do you really want to see the image of a pixelized design over a quality print?  What is this saying about our culture?

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