O Pakistan

To Pakistan. To the country the great Jinnah gave his life for. To the soil of the motherland and to finally understanding the love for the mitti1 as our elders used to say, that overwhelming feeling as you step out of the airplane and the airport. Through the smoky air, through the very Pakistani smells, you can almost feel it. These are your people, this is your land, your language, your history. This is your home, my home.

To Pakistan. To home. Because more than anything, that is what it will always mean to most of us. Wherever we will go, whatever we become, the one place where we will always be welcomed, will be this. Like they say, you can take yourself out of the land, but never the land out of yourself.

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all photos from our time in Bahawalpur in December 2013.

To the people, the land, the food, the beginning of our stories. To all that is good about it that we can never forget. To the country that continues to survive because of the hundreds and thousands of nameless everyday heroes that work for it and get forgotten amid the stories of the many that malign its name. And to the resilience and the courage of its people, to continue in the face of turmoil.

And to all of us that began our stories there, from its cities and its colleges and its universities, but then moved on to greener pastures, may each of us from our corners of the world, find something we can do for its cause and its people. We owe it to it’s mitti.

A very happy Independence Day2 to all the Pakistanis from around the world.

Thanks for reading and much love.

THIS IS ANOTHER REPOST FROM MY PREVIOUS BLOG


FYI

1Mitti is an Urdu world that means the soil.

2Independence Day observed annually on August 14, is a national holiday in Pakistan, commemorating the day when Pakistan achieved independence and was declared a sovereign nation, following the end of the British Raj in 1947.

Waking up in Trump-land.

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What a week it has been! Just a few days ago, even on the day of the elections I thought about how exciting it will be for my little girl to see a woman president. Despite the fear  of what the opposite happening could mean, I think most of us felt THAT sure of the outcome. And then on Tuesday night, it felt like the ground under our feet was taken away and everything we knew about this adopted country was wrong! Could America really elect someone who had spewed so much hate throughout the last year, who had uttered unimaginable things that many of us could not even repeat to our families? Waking up the next morning was terrible, knowing what had just happened the night before. Living in a blue state Alhamdullilah, we might have been a part of our own bubble and it was even more unexpected for us!

As parents, I think most of us worried about breaking the news to our children. Because whether we had explicitly included our children in our conversations about the election, our kids got that one of the candidates was a bully and a bad guy, and they wanted ‘Hilary to win’. We had to wake up that morning, put our shock and our fear aside, and tell our children calmly that the ‘Bully’ had actually won! Right after breakfast I told Anya that I had to talk to her about something and broke the news to her. My little girl was so disappointed and sadly told me ‘ But I wanted Hilary to win’! I explained to her that we did too and we were sad too but it was okay, that we can give him a chance and after a few years we get to choose a new President again. I told her what is great about America is that there are laws and rules which will prevent Trump from doing any scary things that he said he would do. And that satisfied her! Somehow it also felt like the perfect time to remind her just one more time that it was even more important to choose kind over mean, in words and actions. And that if she sees anyone teaming up against a kid because he/she was different, one should always stand up for them! She proudly replied, ‘Yes, that’s what we should do!’

For months, Anya has been excited about the elections, following the debates alongside us, and playing “dabates” with her dolls. ‘Mister Trump again!’ became her favorite thing to say as she overheard his name in the news almost every other day as a new controversy sprang up.  I think most of us specially us immigrant/minority citizens of this country have been left wondering what these results would mean for our children and specially for our daughters…

On Wednesday night, I showed Anya HRC’s concession speech, specially the part where she addressed all the little girls and Anya was so proud, eyes shining! I especially wanted to show her how gracefully she took the loss. We talked about that , that even though she must’ve been so sad that she didn’t get to be the president how kind her words still were and how she was still smiling 🙂 Anya spent the rest of the evening pretending to be Hilary Clinton, carrying around Chelsea Clinton (her Dora doll was Chelsea for the evening) and their pet bunny!!

As Immigrants, as Muslim-Americans, of course we are scared of what this election result can mean.. but fear is just what we don’t need. In fact on many levels it was fear that lead people to put their trust in an untrustworthy person and we don’t want to walk down that path! America has a lot of greatness in it and us immigrants have witnessed enough of that in our time here to get disheartened by recent events!

For our kids sake and for ourselves, we have to work even harder than before for our children’s better future in this country! People fear the unknown. I personally have realized that we need to be even more active in our communities, talk to more people, share and listen with an open mind! We can all start in our own circles with friends / family / neighbors who have different views than ours. Let’s be kind, let’s speak and listen to understand! On social media since the day of, it has been so disheartening to see all the negativity! To the extent that I even witnessed working moms blaming stay-at-home-moms for not supporting successful women which lead to Hilary’s loss! This is exactly what we do not need!

In HRC’s words ‘Let us have faith in each other. Let us not grow weary. Let us not lose heart. For there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do.’

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There will be a better day!

Let’s start in our own houses and in ourselves to counter hate with love!

Thanks for reading you guys!

PS: I have missed this space and it feels good to press ‘PUBLISH’ on this.

ALSO FROM EARLIER ON THE BLOG: Hate cannot drive out hate // This country we call home

Thoughts on ‘Ho Mann Jahaan’

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I was so excited when I found out Ho Mann Jahaan, was coming to our area and last weekend I took my little girl along and we went to see it.  (Over the summer while in Pakistan, she went with us to see a few of the Pakistani movies that were out and knowing this would be kid-friendly too I thought it would be fun). Because of the mixed reviews I had read, I went in with low expectations and 3 hours(!) later left with a good feeling!

Since Khuda Keh Liye, there have been a number of movies made on social issues that have been absolutely amazing, the best of which include Bol and Dukhtar, there is still a place for commercial, lighter movies that can be more widely enjoyed. Movies that also stay true to Pakistani Entertainments’ roots of being family-friendly, the way Pakistan’s cinema and TV entertainment were in the old days and that we have heard about all of our lives.

(Pakistan had a flourishing cinema industry till it’s decline began in the late 70’s. Pakistani Television produced classics that are still remembered in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and has again boomed in the last decade or so)

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Ho Mann Jahaan was a visual treat much like most of the movies I saw over the summer with my family. Beautifully shot, it made Karachi look picture perfect. From the beach to the Railway station scenes and the beautiful tree lined roads as the characters sped on that scooter with the pop of red helmets! I loved the styling, from the bohemian inspired interiors especially the house belonging to Mahira‘s character layered with beautiful art and textures (I saw Khaadi’s name in the sponsors and their presence really stood out) and well as the beautiful rooftop scenes were such a treat to watch!

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But then most of the recent movies have been really pleasing on the eyes (including this and this) and I liked this one a little better because despite the simple story that it was, it tried to convey a few messages in a non-preachy kind of way. The underlying message of letting our children dream their own dreams is an important one for our culture, where wanting to be an artist of any kind is seldom encouraged by the parents whether they belong to any class of the society.

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I liked that the main focus of the movie was the friendship between the three characters and because of the chemistry between the characters, it was very relatable. I loved each of the parent-child relationship that was shown and how each had glimpses of so many Pakistani parent-child relationships. Like the dad who spends his lifetime’s earnings to send his son to a top university because he himself was never able to. And the parents who emotionally manipulate their son because they think they’re doing what’s best for him by not letting him pursue his dream of becoming a musician.

The music was a big plus for the movie. I like how our movies are not trying to do ‘filmy’ songs and instead giving us such a beautiful variety of a soundtrack to remember for years to come. Over all for me, it was a simple, feel-good kind of a movie that was not perfect but enjoyable.

I do feel that they could’ve done better in many ways, specially a stronger story-line, and better editing. I know Bollywood does movies of that length but I really feel 3 hours is just too long to enjoy a movie.

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There’s also something else that makes me excited about this revival of cinema. You know how because of Hollywood as well as American TV shows that are literally watched all over the world, American culture is not that much of a mystery to people who’ve never even been to the States. In an ideal picture in my head, one day Pakistani cinema like this might find a way in the Foreign movies category on Netflix and those people who only get to see Pakistan when it happens to appear in shows like Homeland, will be able to experience a first-hand version of it. Thoughtfully made cinema can tell you so much about a culture, the good, the bad, the thinking, the relationships, the expectations, the lives, the hardships, the people and maybe giving others a better understanding and hence maybe more empathy? Art has a huge quality to be able to connect worlds and to bring together people in ways that politics never can and I would hope one day in the future, Pakistani cinema could bridge the gap. As my daughter grows up American with Pakistani roots in a world that tells you there is so much negative about that part of the world, I hope Anya is always able to see the other side. Maybe one day cinema from Pakistan will help her connect to us, our culture and where we come from a little better. Maybe through them, our kids will know us a little bit better!

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And for all of these reasons I feel so passionately about supporting the movies that are coming out, and despite the many flaws just making an effort to go see them! I have been a little put off by some of the movies that I saw in the last year but it feels like since the revival of Pakistani cinema of the last 2 years, we are slowly heading towards our own niche. One where we are not trying to be like Bollywood, and instead merging the strengths of our flourishing music and TV drama industry and using it to give our cinema a beautiful feel!

Have you seen Ho Mann Jahaan yet? What did you think?

#144stories

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#144Stories

Today, let’s look into their eyes as we look at their beautiful photos and as we read their stories another time. Today let’s imagine what they went through before their young lives were so brutally cut short. Today let’s think of their parents’, the state of their hearts. Think of each minute, each hour, each day and then 365 very very long days that have passed without the lights of their lives, with that trauma heavy on their hearts. Today let us think of all the ones who lived to tell their tales, the things they have seen that no words can even describe. Today, for another time, feel for them, weep for them, pray for them but also more than ever, think! What can we do? Because today is a reminder that we are truly failing our children! #neverforget #144stories #APSpeshawer

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We were in Bahawalpur at my mother-in-law’s place last year, and vividly remember the eerie stillness in the air, in the days that followed. Shops remained closed, banners hung high all over the cities, eyes wept endlessly, hearts prayed, people stood in candlelit vigils to show their solidarity with the affected families. In a country that loves its conspiracy theories, it felt like for once everyone was united. It felt like this time they had hit where it hurt the most. On this day, they pierced through the hearts of a whole nation and left such a hole that even time can’t fill. Hope with all of my heart that these children’s lives were not in vain and that never again do we have to see such a dark day in Pakistan’s life.

Urainge us aasman mein;

(We’ll fly in such a sky)

Rahainge aisay jahaan mein;

(live in such a world)

Jahaan dard ka koi maara na ho;

(where no one quivers in pain)

Akaila na ho be-sahaara na ho;

( no one is lonely or left alone)

koi maa say bichara dulaara no ho;

(no mother would live without her child)

siva ishq kay koi chaara na ho;

(nothing to choose from than love)

Listening to this right now and remembering all these beautiful children and their teachers today.


FYI

Read about this tragedy, about the heroes of this horrific day, all the young lives lost in this heartbreaking dedication by DAWN. Also read this for the heartbreaking journey behind collecting these stories

A little history about the Army Public Schools here. Specially personal for me because my mom studied in these and recently was in the management too. The Pakistan Air Force schools that I studied at were also similar.

Also can’t help being reminded of the 3 year anniversary of the Newtown Shootings in Sandy Hook. This is a senseless world and we really have failed our children all over the world!

Hate cannot drive out hate

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Since the Paris Attacks and now the San Bernardino Shootings , and even more so, since finding out the killers happened to be Muslims with backgrounds from Pakistan, our hearts have been extra heavy. Cannot write in words, how very sorry we feel for the lives cut short and those forever affected from such tragedies. These people that kill in the name of the same religion that I love and practice, in the name of the same Prophet who I wish to emulate in my life, have also killed and injured scores of Muslims all over the world (like this horrific incident just last year). Yet to the rest of the world, they are us and we are them!

After this latest incident, the next morning as I woke up Anya and got her ready for school, I couldn’t stop thinking about raising a Muslim-American in today’s times. It’s scary. As is becoming more mainstream after every such incident, the cycle of hate keeps growing. And it breaks my heart. Will this girl of mine be hated by some around her as she grows up for the color of her skin, the faith she practices or because her parents were immigrants? This girl of ours, who loves asking questions about God who she calls Allah, who loves to link all the beauty she sees around us to Allah and who loves talking about Him, this girl who once made a song about Allah and was singing it loudly as I shopped and tried my best to not let my nervousness show. Is that day coming sooner than we thought when she will realize she can’t publicly do that anymore? My proud little American-Muslim, at what age will she realize we have to be careful about certain aspects of our faith in public because of the misrepresentation and how someone else might take it? (eg: AllahoAkbar a common phrase used by Muslims and a part of the daily prayers has been used by militants before attacks and hence has become one of those phrases we try to avoid uttering too loud when we’re in public even though some of us were used to casually saying it in conversations) Will someone around her one day tell her to “go back to her own country”? She loves her America. How will it feel if one day it doesn’t love her back quite the same? It saddens me beyond measure as I imagine a world around her that is fearful of her very presence, where she could possibly be required to carry a ‘Muslim ID’. Where because she is Muslim she possibly can’t dream of being the President of her own country. Just last week she spent the whole evening pretending to be president so she could ‘rule’ us!

I watch her these days, her confidence, her talkative, proud little personality, and I pray for a better, more peaceful world. Where the voices of love are louder than those of hate. Perhaps that is exactly what is wrong with the world, what is required to end this cycle of hate. That we respond to hate with love. In our own little worlds, in our surroundings, in our interactions with people, lets all respond to any hatred we get however hard it can be at times, with love and break this cycle. Like they say what goes around comes around and maybe one day just one person at a time, this might be a better world for our kids.

Reminiscing about my mother-in-law and Bahawalpur

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From our first visit after we got married, in April 2008 when Bilal’s father had been very unwell and mostly resting, I always saw my mother-in-law on the go and completely in charge of her house and specially her kitchen. At 70+ years she still cooked herself and I can never forget the tasty aloo-matar-keema (minced meat with potatoes and peas) she used to make for Bilal’s father. She hardly rested her head at all in those days, worried that he might need something from her and if she slept she wouldn’t hear his voice. She would be sitting in her chair, reading her newspaper or her rasalay (magazines) if she wasn’t in the kitchen. They lived on their own then except for a few years in between when their grand-daughter was studying in the university and living with them. We stayed in the guest room that was outside the house in the back, the same room that belonged to Bilal when he was in A-levels. My eldest sister-in-law, Rahat apa (who had passed away from Cancer 2 years before we got married) was fondly remembered and talked about and her kids were in Bahawalpur and visited often. Their visits were always a highlight for the whole house. That was my one and only trip in my father-in-law’s lifetime. He passed away in June 2009.

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After his passing the transition began as changes were made in and around the house. My youngest sister-in-law’s family moved to Bahawalpur so ammi did not have to live alone. They temporarily moved into the drawing-room turned into a guest room. The room we had stayed in the previous time, had been demolished to make space for my sister-in-law’s own house which was being constructed. We stayed in my father-in-law’s room on that trip and i remember how weird it felt as we entered that room the first time. He loved calendars and I specifically remember how all the calendars in that room read June 2009, the month he passed away. It was November 2009 by then. Despite the sadness, the house felt happily full with my sister-in-law’s family in it and the kids’ activities and gupshups kept us entertained. The days were spent around ammi and evenings were spent with cricket and badminton marathons.

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In our trips in the years that followed, the mornings were spent with Ammi in her verandah, herself eating her typical ‘daliya (porridge)’ and sometimes a boiled egg for breakfast, as the sun poured in. Her typical way of asking ‘posti uth gaya hai?’ (literally, has the druggie woken up, lol) when I would walk in in the mornings. She was such great company and loved sharing stories of her parents’, her childhood and her children’s childhoods. She specially loved recounting her memories of partition and her voice would get full of emotion as she’d say, ‘yeh sab bhool gaye hoenge lekin aik aik lamha hamari ankhon keh saamne hai’ (They might have forgotten but each single moment is still infront of our eyes). I can never forget her namaz, how she would immediately start getting up to do wuzu as soon as she heard the azaan. Her long Isha prayer that was quietly said in the verandah if there was too much going on the house. Her dua after the Isha prayer was especially long as she would mention names of each person that had asked her to pray for them. Another routine was Bilal’s and ammi’s discussions on politics and religion. My husband loved teasing her and trying to pull her into arguments and she would get irritated and try to get him to leave her alone.

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In December 2011, when we visited with Anya for the first time, my sister-in-law’s beautiful new house had been completed and a new phase of life had begun, with changes in ammi’s house and routines as new systems developed. Over these years, Rahat apa’s kids had moved out and moved in, except for the youngest. Ayeesa apa as Anya called her when she was younger, remained in Bahawalpur and all of us happily waited for her visits.

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In early 2014 when she moved to Canada too to study, only the eldest and his family (He was married by then and had a little boy too, Ammi’s first great-grandson)remained in Bahawalpur. When we visited in December 2014, their visits were looked forward to. By this time Ammi had gone from walking around and hardly resting to falling continuously despite using her walking stick and ultimately almost completely bed-ridden. Saddest to me was watching her even pray in bed lying down if at all as she forgot the rakaats for namaz or even the namaz itself at times. As kids had grown, they were now mostly busy with their own things, no more badminton marathons in the evenings. No more mornings with ammi in the verandah and the bed that was ammi’s usual spot there had been taken away to make space. No more arguments between ammi and Bilal on religion as she faced problems with her memory. So much that was… remained no more.

Still I distinctly remember feeling like we should celebrate all that still remained.. My mother-in-law and her loving smiles, the way her eyes would light up at the mention of Anya and Yousuf (her great-grandchild). The house that Bilal grew up in and that despite all the changes that it had seen still held so many memories in so many corners, the garden despite a total upheaval still remained as a legacy of Bilal’s father and his love for plants and his garden. The house still remained a place of getting together and the kids and the grownups that were still connected to it, reminisced and remembered as they got together in it. Yousuf’s visits reminded them of his dad’s childhood when he was little and visited with his loved mother. On that visit last year, I strongly thought about how despite all that changes in our lives and however natural it is to keep looking at the past and reminiscing of it, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the present, and all that still remains if we continuously kept looking back. In a way we are always living the best of times.

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My mother-in-law passed away in August this year while we were on our way to be with her. And though we never got a chance to meet her one last time, her glowing face, her sweet determined voice, her warm hugs and kisses on our foreheads, her adoring love for Anya, her advice, her stories of her family/life/partition will always stay fresh in my mind. In a culture that is full of stories of bad intentioned mother in laws from all socio-economic levels, I only ever felt warm love and concern from her. Her love for books, education and passing on knowledge made her different from the other women of her generation. Her love for Allah and her faith, kept her heart pure and kept her away from petty issues. Despite facing many challenges in her life, she seemed like such a content person who was never dependent on others for her happiness. Just being around her gave one a chance to learn so much from her.

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Walking through her house on this trip felt so empty and cold without her presence in it. As we said goodbye to her, all of our goodbyes from our previous trips kept passing infront of my eyes.. Her walking us out to the taxi cab waiting for us after my first trip… Always coming along to the ride to the airport with Bilal every time I had to fly back to my parents… Always getting convinced by Bilal to come all the way to Islamabad to see us off for the flight back and staying up till we left for the airport.. And every single time seeing us off with tears shining in her eyes, a big smile on her face as she kissed our foreheads and hugged us off, the last words out of her mouth always Fi Amanillah.

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Fi Amaanillah ammi. May Allah bless you and fulfill all the dreams you had for your children and grandchildren inshAllah! You are deeply missed by all who knew you!

Please say a little prayer for her and our families when you read this.

Thanks for reading. Lots of love.

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All photos from my in-laws house in Bahawalpur, the house where most of my husband’s childhood memories were made. These photos were taken over a course of 7 years.


Fi Amanillah: In Allah’s protection.It is a way to wish protection and safety of Allah to someone. 

On Clothes and What We Wear

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Remember when I used to do the What We Wear series on the blog? You might be wondering what happened with that, (or you might not be but anyways), here is a little ramble on that. I started that as a still-new mom and thought all moms including myself need some motivation to take time out for themselves and feel better about themselves through the way they dress. I noticed it was common to lose yourself for a while when you became a mom, and realized I felt so much better when I put a little thought into what I wore. I wanted to inspire other moms but I have to admit, I was uncomfortable doing it. I may write about a variety of things, but blogging about style or what we wear is definitely not something that lies in my comfort zone. For me, What We Wore, was more about experimenting and looking at our wardrobes another way. Somewhere towards the middle of it though, I wasn’t sure how it was coming across and ultimately I guess I just lost interest in it.

Recently, I’ve felt a bit differently towards it all. In the past couple of years, I’ve loved browsing through stores randomly (in-person and online) whether I needed something or not. It felt exciting to find something I loved on these spontaneous shopping trips. At some point though, it started feeling a bit pointless. I mean, we have limited time in our days (and our lives for that matter) and is randomly browsing through stores for the slight chance of finding something great, really how I want to spend the free time that I have? I realized I want to curb on this urge to randomly browse through stores/online ones too for that matter, and instead maybe use that time more productively. Time spent randomly shopping means lesser time (and energy) for family, experiences, friendships, passions and hobbies, and appreciating all that we already own.

As a mom, I want to teach my daughter, ‘You matter, the kind of person you are, not what you look like’ and to teach her that, I first have to live like that. In the past year or so, Anya has really started noticing what she wears, and has already started looking for people’s approval. One day we had a handyman coming over and as soon he entered she looked at him holding her skirt and asking him, how do you like my skirt? And I was like WHAT? I realized that even though we all say we dress up for ourselves, and maybe to an extent we do, when our focus shifts on clothes and what we look like too much, we do love hearing people’s compliments. We love looking at ourselves from their point of view. And what do you do if you don’t’ get that? I want to teach my daughter instead that you are beautiful because of the kind of person you are inside, and that you don’t need every single thing you want in order to look and feel good. You can learn to be creative, love what you own and creatively express yourself through your clothes without always wanting to buy more. That style is from within, it is yours whether you are always wearing the trendiest of clothes or not, it is in the way you pull the outfit together even if it consists of items you have owned for years.

During the time that I did that series, I noticed what people wore a lot more, even cringed at moms that seemed to be in mom-jeans or yoga pants all the time. It’s hard to admit this but I began to judge people by what they wore and whether they had made an effort into their outfits or not. And that’s not what I want to be. I want my mind to be occupied by better things, by people’s personalities, their stories, not the clothes they put on day in and out. And I want to teach my daughter that too, that at the end of the day, her mind and her heart matters much much more than her clothes and what she looks like.

Let me just say it like this, I’m not saying I close my eyes to beautiful style and trends or shopping anymore; my pins on Pinterest will speak for themselves. I just want to be more thoughtful about random splurges and not let shopping for clothes take over more of my life (and mind) than it should. Instead I do want to have a list of items that I really need, and only go focused on those items. I absolutely love being able to creatively express oneself through your clothing choices and I looooove the power of makeup. I always feel better about myself when I have made a little effort before getting out of the house. But I don’t want clothes and shopping for them to take up more of my life and mind than they should.

This is kind of a ramble and all over the place, but I just wanted to get these thoughts out.

Thanks for reading and lots of love.