Halloween: love it or hate it?

This post originally ran on October 28, 2011, but it still perfectly captures my thoughts about this season.

Halloween: love it or hate it?

Nobody I know is lukewarm about Halloween:  they either love it or they hate it.

There is a lot about Halloween that I don’t like.  Its got a shady past, for starters.  And all the scary decorations my neighbors have in their front yards—which have been on sale at Target since August 1—have me driving home with my kids in a weird, fuel-inefficient, zigzaggy pattern so I can bypass the seriously scary yards in favor of the relatively innocuous ghost trees and giant inflatable black cats.

Costumes for kids are generally cute and fun. But costumes for adults range from the objectionable to the awkward (I am shocked at the number of people coming to my site searching “matching girl and dog Kate Middleton costumes.” What does that even mean?)  Top choices for women this year include “sexy queen bee,” “sexy pirate,” and “Jersey Shore.”

And the candy! My kids have a fair number of food sensitivities, and I’ve spent hours answering questions like “Why can’t we have twinkies? Why can’t we eat skittles?” Am I really going to send my kids out to canvas the neighborhood for smarties and laffy taffy by the bucketful?

Well, yes. Yes I am.

Because Halloween is the one day of the year where our neighbors come to our doorstep, and we visit theirs. And I love that about Halloween.

We don’t live in a real tight-knit neighborhood. We know all (well, most) of our neighbor’s first names, but not their last.  I only have a few phone numbers.

But on Halloween, the kids love to don their costumes. They’ve been planning for months—this year we’ve got a football player, Little Red Riding Hood, a princess of some sort, and a puppy dog. We’ll ring the doorbells and take it slowly and chat with the neighbors, and we will make sure we visit the families who’ve only recently moved in. It’s tricky—because we try to avoid the super-scary decorations—but we’ll do our best.

And at my house, we’ll be ready and waiting with our porch lights on and good candy (or glowsticks) in our bucket.

Because there’s only one day a year when the neighborhood comes to our doorstep, and it’s Halloween.  I love that about Halloween and I don’t want to miss it.

Where do you stand on Halloween?  Love it or hate it?

photo by Halloween Haunt

Books so gorgeous they just might turn me into a collector.

In Bloom collection Rifle Paper Co

I love books, but I’ve never been much of a collector.

Until now.

The universe is clearly conspiring to turn me into a collector of gorgeous classics.

folio

Of course—like so many book lovers—I’ve always admired beautiful collections of classics. I adore the Penguin clothbound collection, and their Drop Caps series. Barnes and Nobles puts out a lovely classics collection, and I’m over the moon for anything from The Folio Society.

I could never decide on which series to start with, so I never did.

But recently, I’ve discovered several smaller collections that are so drool-worthy I had to snatch them up. Or at least add them to my Christmas list.

Anne of Green Gables Carmichael's

It started with this beautiful edition of Anne of Green Gables I saw at our local children’s bookstore. I was overcome with Book Lust.

Then I found out it was part of a small collection of classics done by Anna Bond of Rifle Paper Company.

I came home and ordered the whole set.

Puffin in Bloom stacked

(After all, Jack was about to start Anne of Green Gables in school, and Sarah was about to start Heidi. We were already halfway there….)

Anne of Green Gables flyleaf

the inside cover of Anne of Green Gables. Anne and Diana! little picket fences for Josie Pye to walk! Gilbert Blythe!

But then.

Then I asked the library to send me The Blue Castle, because my copy is AWOL and I was itching for a re-read. (Two words: we moved.) The library fulfilled my request with this gorgeous new edition.

I was intrigued.

I did some digging, and found out the cover was done by Canadian artist Jacqui Oakley. She’d been commissioned to do new covers for The Blue Castle and several other L. M. Montgomery books, and they were released last April.

Montgomery covers

I want them all, but I only ordered Jane of Lantern Hill. My justification: it was the one book of the series I hadn’t read, even though several fans I know cite it as their favorite Montgomery novel. Despite their devotion, it had been out of print until these editions rolled off the presses last April. I’ve never read it, and the library doesn’t have it.

(Sometimes, a book nerd has to do what a book nerd has to do.)

I also discovered that Oakley was commissioned to do new covers for all the Anne books (well, all but Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside, which is a shame: I would love to see how she would draw Rilla!)

Oakley Anne of Green Gables

I’m still swooning over these, but I haven’t ordered them—yet. I’m still waiting for my Anne books to turn up. If they don’t, and maybe even if they do, I’m snatching up this collection for my personal bookshelves.

I would tell you I’m not really into “stuff,” and I’m not much of a collector, but reading—and displaying—these gorgeous classics has been all kinds of delightful. I’ve always said I’m not a book collector, but maybe that’s because I hadn’t met the right books. These small but perfect collections are making me change my mind.

Luckily, Christmas is coming. Because my wish list is filling up fast.

I know many of you are book lovers, and some of you are collectors. I’d love to hear your thoughts about collecting—the good, the bad, and the ugly—in comments. 

“The future belongs to the super-techies, the conscientious, and the thick-skinned.”

"The future belongs to the super-techies, the conscientious, and the thick-skinned." | Modern Mrs Darcy

I’m fascinated by cultural trends and generational shifts. Will knows this, and brought home this highly quotable line from a recent conference he attended.

The topic was the future workplace. While it would be foolish to take one proclamation from a single presenter on a conference stage as gospel, I think it’s an interesting theory, and worth exploring.

The future belongs to the super-techies.

We need dreamers, but we also need do-ers: skilled workers who can bring ideas to life. Coding and design work are in high demand these days, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon—especially for the specialized, high-skill work that’s difficult to outsource.

If you (like me) couldn’t code your way out of a cardboard box, take heart: being able to put technology to use is almost as useful as being able to design it yourself. (Phew.)

The future belongs to the conscientious.

Simply put, conscientiousness is the ability to regulate and direct impulses. The famous Marshmallow Test measures conscientiousness; it is one of the traits in the Big 5 theory of personality.

Conscientiousness is largely innate, though it can be cultivated to some degree. We would all do well to cultivate a bit more of it, because numerous academic studies show it to be a top predictor of positive outcomes in all facets of life

Conscientious people are good at getting things done. They are reliable and persistent. They plan purposefully, and follow through. Conscientious people live longer and are happier at work.

Innovation takes a good bit of dreaming, but somebody has to give those ideas legs. The conscientious will be the ones to do it.

The future belongs to the thick-skinned.

This is the trait that is most evident to me, and the one that comes the hardest.

Innovation is hard, and is inevitably linked with failure. Those who seek change make themselves vulnerable to questions, criticism, and outright contempt.

Because our world is moving online, this means innovators are subjected to censure in that same public, unfiltered sphere.

Most of us are vulnerable to critic’s math, the formula that says 1 insult + any number of compliments = 1 insult. I certainly am. This makes having an appropriately thick skin even more important.

The solution is simple, if not easy: keep your head down and do the work. The future belongs to those who do.

Making My Traditional(ish) Office Job Work

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Today we’re continuing the How She Does It guest post seriesToday’s post comes from Victoria Easter Wilson. Join me in welcoming her to the blog! 

My entry into the traditional workforce was just that, pretty traditional.

A new college graduate, I assumed the world to be my oyster. That is, until I began submitting resumes. The first job I landed felt a bit more like sand inside the oyster’s shell: small, gritty, and mundane. It was a major reality check.

Months into that first job, however, the department where I worked downsized, giving me the perfect opportunity to find a new position. Not long after, I was hired on at a nationally prominent online marketing firm. My employer took a chance hiring a fresh graduate, and I wanted to give them no reasons to regret their decision.

The company I work for is unique in that we exclusively provide web marketing services to law firms. It may sound odd, but the niche is actually thriving! Marketing law practices is a bit of a creative challenge, but the work has sharpened my mind and taught me diligence. What I love most about my job is working alongside top-notch colleagues. Our culture is one that builds teammates up and, so, the entire company flourishes. I can honestly say I leave the office each day feeling a bit more accomplished than when I left.

Several months into my shiny, new career I got married. And several months after that, I found myself unexpectedly pregnant.

Reality check #2.

I worked until the day I had my daughter, literally! I reported for work on Tuesday and delivered my daughter on Wednesday. (Talk about cutting it close!) Following a 9-week maternity leave, I returned to work full time.

One of the first challenges work-outside-the-home moms face is childcare. Through a few Facebook status updates, my husband and I found a wonderful in-home babysitter for our daughter, a local mom with a background in childhood education, whose fees were comparable to surrounding daycares. For those seeking alternatives to more institutional forms of childcare, I highly suggest reaching out to your network for recommendations. We couldn’t be happier with our arrangement.

Though pickups, dropoffs, and leaving work early for the off-sick day require some juggling, keeping the commitment to breastfeed my daughter has been the most challenging. Since my body apparently thinks I gave birth to a village of ravenous babies, I must adhere to a rigorous pumping schedule! The work I do is time-sensitive and fairly demanding. It can be frustrating to interrupt my workflow to pump. Thanks to my iPhone, I usually catch up on emails or do some industry reading during the downtime. At my office, I lock myself away in a back bathroom. I can easily set my breast pump on the sink, next to an outlet, and not worry about unexpected interruptions.

Several months after reentering the workforce, I decided that a full-time schedule didn’t jive with my personal goals a mother. Anne’s helpful book, How She Does It, was truly a guiding light as I navigated post-baby career moves. Standing on the solid reputation I had built at the company over my two-year tenure, I approached my employer and asked if I could take up a part-time schedule. The company was happy I wanted to maintain ties, and I was happy I could spend more time with my daughter while continuing an income stream for my family. My job still bears the hallmarks of traditional, corporate America, but with the flexibility that I wanted.

At the time of writing, my daughter is 9 months old and we are thriving on this part-time arrangement. I could see myself returning to full-time work once my daughter and any future siblings are school-aged, but for the moment our family is comfortable taking my career one step at a time. It is such a gift to continue sharpening my job skills, but invest the bulk of my time parenting through the little years. I am deeply grateful for an employer who is willing to change with me, even as my daughter changes.

Yes—my work life has moved away from tradition, but that works for me.