W+W Greatest Hits: 2013

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I love a greatest hits album. My favorite greatest hits albums belong to the likes of Biggie, Jay Z, Thin Lizzy, James Taylor and The Eagles. There is something awesome & metaphorical about cutting through the mediocre & the bullshit & focusing in on the best of the best. In life, we should only play our own greatest hits on repeat.

Weird & Wonderful Willinghams is celebrating a year of blogging this month. The first year has been better than I expected…I’ve been able to work out some things in this space, share with people who I think “get” me & Cory. This blog has also served as a starting point for some interesting conversations about money, relationships, career and what it means to be a woman, or a woman in a relationship,  in the thick of it all.

Whether you’ve followed along because you love me & what I have to say, or because you hate my guts & you’re creeping hardcore: thank you. Thank you for making this space not just about me, but about us & the relationship between writer & reader.

Here are the blog’s 2013 Greatest Hits, according to the stats.

blog post you couldn’t get enough of: Fixed Up (all about style & shopping – top post of the year)

blog post you creeped hardcore & I got a million texts about: Let’s break up (on shitty friends & how to dump them, 2nd top post)

top post about marriage: 12 Months, 12 Answers (a Q&A, 3rd overall post)

top post about career: 6 months (on insecurities, identity & addiction to the accolades, 4th from the top)

top advice post: Money Talks (on money & marriage, 5th top post of 2013)

Bonus Tracks

blog post that pissed off some people: Stars, Cars & Boys (& by “some” people I mean the super churchy crowd who secretly creeps this blog…I see you. & if you think me not in church on Sunday is bad, you should have read Brazilian Bravery!)

advice post you didn’t read, but should have: Hair of the Dog (on bad days & how to get over them, sans copious amounts of alcohol. Although, that works sometimes, too.)

blog post you should read if you want to get to know me better: Childhood Dreams (on feminism & the heart of who we all are)

best blog posts for all my creative readers: Imitation vs. Inspiration (like, is one even possible without the other? Discuss.)

 

That’s it, crowd. Thank you for being a part of this blog with me.

What was your favorite post of the year? The most helpful? The one you keep reading? Which one made you certain I was absolutely batshit crazy? (kidding, don’t tell me that last one…)

xo

J.

Christmas in Review

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Christmas 2013 was a whirlwind. Cory counted that we had hit up 6 separate Christmas celebrations in the 6 days we spent home in Oklahoma. As happy as we were to see everyone, we were thrilled to finally return to our little Texas apartment. I am ready for a weekend of recovery, which begins promptly at 4:20 today with a couples massage.

Speaking of feeling pampered…2013 gift highlights included all things luxurious: sheets from the Comphy Co., Bomber boots by Ugg, Sigma  makeup brushes & the most deliciously woodsy, faux furr throw from Shop Good in OKC. Christmas Eve, my sister & mom & I sat in the floor doing make up with all our new brushes. After obsessively combing through this girl’s  Youtube channel, I can now say I can successfully contour & am one step closer to looking like a civilized, modern woman of 2014. Kinda.

As always, my family & friends gifted me wine, wine stoppers, wine & more wine. They know me too well. I also proceeded to get incredibly toasted on incredibly expensive wine Christmas Eve Eve, to the delight & slightly embarrassing amusement of my family & favorite cousins. There’s always “that” family member…

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But enough with Christmas  – 2014 is almost here. I’ll be posting this blog’s Greatest Hits 2013 on Monday. What was your favorite blog post of the year? Tell me in the comments!

XO

J.

Christmas Confession

I have a weird complex about the nativity scene.

Not the story, but the actual scene people put in their homes, yards & on Christmas cards. Here’s my problem: in 99 percent of the nativity scenes you see, Mary is not holding baby Jesus.

Who in their right mind would not hold baby Jesus. Or heck, any baby on a theoretically cold night after giving birth alongside a dozing ass. In most scenes, Mary is piously gazing upon the face of her Savior & son, all dewy-eyed… and cold, naked little baby Jesus is exposed to the elements. I’m not buyin’.

I know the Bible says that Mary laid him in a manger. I’m almost certain this does not translate into chuckin’ him into the hay post-birth. I mean, I’m no theologian, but I’m going with my gut here: Mary, after a less-than-ideal labor, cuddles close to her baby & thanks God they both made it alive & they both have an earthly father & husband to walk through this crazy experience with (s/o to Joseph! Way to step up!) I mean, if we are being really real: post-birth Mary was probably breast feeding…but who wants that scene front and center on the dining room table.

So, historical accuracy slightly aside, I’ll settle for a compromise. Mary’s gotta be holding baby Jesus. Thankfully, after years of loudly proclaiming my objection to the popular Christmas scene, Mom gifted me the nativity set below. It now sits close to the Christmas tree as a reminder of the “reason for the season” but also as comfort that, yes, Mary held baby Jesus. And Joseph held Mary. And together and with God a couple of scared kids pulled off the Earth’s greatest gift in quite possibly the least ideal location. ‘Cuz that’s how God rolls. & that’s crazy cool.

Merry Christmas.

J.

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Christmas Cards

card22013 will go down in my autobiography as the Year of Design. I got a job in April. I grew the lady balls to open CS6 & learn some stuff. And learn, I did. I began designing for real.

In my learning, I’ve just begun to work print jobs. I am working on a huge informational poster for a business right now. And in my free time, I’ve been designing this little gem: The Willingham 2013 Christmas card.

If it found it’s way into your mailbox, I hope you found it to be as witty & wonderful as I intended. The front features month-by-month snapshots of what happened in Willinghamland this year, everything from jobs to birthdays to appendectomies. (No worries, I didn’t go into detail…and I swear I’ll stop talking about it in 2014)

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On the back, you’ll find pics of us (in case you forgot what we looked like, were interested in how huge we’d become since marriage, etc.) Of course, Mack’s headshot is included. I am his Momager – feel free contact me for his modeling work.

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As much as I loved designing them, I love sending/receiving them more. It is a small thing (total, I spent $50 for printing & postage for about 100 cards) but it says that, hey, this Christmas me & mine are thinking of you & yours. It’s snail mail – takes forever to write out addresses, lick, stamp, repeat. But the act of sending cards helped me slow down for a moment & really think of the people I was sending them to. I got lost in thoughts of what families were doing what/going where for Christmas, how big kids had grown, which friends were newly married or pregnant this season & how exciting that must be, who just graduated & was off to somewhere new to begin jobs & lives.

It’s easy to thoughtlessly blow through other holiday chores. But sending cards is exempt from the holiday rush we seem to default to…Of all the holiday season, from organizing parties to baking and gift wrapping, I think lovingly designing and sending our Christmas card has been my favorite task.

In other news:

  • Cory & I will be in Oklahoma for the holidays, beginning this Thursday!
  • Jay Z concert on Saturday…In my daydreams, Queen Bey appears to duet “03 Bonnie & Clyde” & I die.
  • Ya know the Angel Tree? Ya know, how you can “adopt” an underprivileged child for the holidays & buy their Christmas presents. Unbeknownst to me (until Cory told me), you can also adopt & buy for elderly persons in nursing homes, often without family to buy them basic needs like sweatpants/sweatshirts, socks, toiletries, etc. If you see such a tree, think of adopting from it or even buying some of these basics & dropping them off at a nursing home.
  • Cory & I take sick pleasure in buying things for our nieces that they probably do not need. This year, Cory’s present ideas for Hialeah (who is 5) included a guinea pig, a puppy &/or a paintball gun. We settled for a remote control snake (!) and a 51 piece set of toy animals. Next year, I think it’s time to graduate to fireworks &  a ferret. Kidding. Kinda.
  • It’s book club tonight….Bonfire & wine. I can’t wait.

xo

J.

Santa’s Wonderland

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This is my “Oh my Santa, it’s Christmas!” face

So, I imagine my readers are just like any other blogger’s…eventually you wonder if my life is just always this awesome or I’m totally bullshitting on the internet. Answer: sort of both. (Kidding)

I would never bullshit you. So in the spirit of honesty, I can say that this post is days on days late, I have an extreme lazy eye in all these pictures & this double date had me feeling kinda down.

Josh & Cory work together for Luminant Mining, & have formed a bromance of sorts. Josh is an engineer, and while I had met his girlfriend, Hailey, once, we all as a group had been fairly unacquainted until the recent weeks. I’ll say this is my fault…I’m still not over Jonathan’s move. Jonathan was our best & only friend in TX for months. He was over every day, loved to drink wine & stay up late with me. I cried when he left & have been a sour puss about making friends since.

But Cory peer pressured me into double dating at Santa’s Wonderland on the coldest night of the year. Josh & Cory bought tickets for a hayride with us girls through the 3 million light light-show. Santa’s Wonderland is a huge Texas attraction, with tons of food, live music every night, snow, a petting zoo, an outdoor theatre, shopping & wine tasting. You can pet a longhorn & eat cobbler from a chuck wagon. It lives up to every hype.

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The wine was fantastic, & I love the Christmas spirit of Santa’s Wonderland. But as we loaded onto the hay trailer for the big show, I started realize: Hailey & Josh are really, really, REALLY newly in love. Like, holding-hands-everywhere, snuggling, nuzzling, whispering in love. It didn’t bother me at all, it’s adorable really…But I started to think, when did I last look like that? That newly infatuated, over-the-moon in love? I was 16, 17…& Cory & I had just met each other. Six and a half years later, we let it all hang out. No matter how untoned, untanned, hairy or harsh “it” should so happen to be.

Love, over time, can really lose its shine. But if  you spend some time in the light of others, like Hailey & Josh, you’ll probably get a little bitter before you turn sweet at the memory of what that time in your life was like. & you may even be inspired to laugh & share like you did way back when it was your first turn around the sun.

Love like that will always lift you higher.

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“What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word & I’ll throw a lasso around it & pull it down.”

– It’s A Wonderful Life

Money Talks

I’m sick of all these “I’m 25 and it’s okay to not have my shit together” posts. Because guess what? You’re 22, 23, 25, and you have everything you need to do & have awesome shit, right now. Don’t sell yourself (or the rest of your generation) short by thinking you can’t succeed, today. All you have to do is start.

Have more friends by starting that one conversation, or sending that one invite. Have a better (or hell, just an existent) love life by starting with one encouraging comment or outgoing gesture. And for God’s sake, begin accumulating wealth NOW by saving & being smart with your money. Let’s talk about that.

I am a penny pinching, greedy, cold-hearted tight ass. And Cory is a generous, giving, lets-just-have-a-good time liver & lover of life. We are opposites in everything, even money. But when we got married we made saving a clear priority, and after a year, I can say (in the words of Cory) “we got stacks.” Of our take home pay (think, after retirement, social security, taxes, etc. = what actually winds up in the bank account), we have managed to hoard 33% of our annual earnings in savings. It comes as a shock to people, because society is so used to living beyond it’s means. Specifically, the generation ahead of the millennial – those who taught & raised us.

But now it’s our turn, & opportunity, to do better. I want to share with you some general tidbits that allowed Cory & I to pay two tuitions out of pocket, rent, bar tabs, to give to others, travel & save aggressively.  And here’s a spoiler alert: it has nothing to do with our salaries. 

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1. You married? Joint account. Many money gurus argue over this, & Suze Orman would have my ass for typing it. But here’s the thing: Cory & I have two shared accounts: checking & savings. Errbody has access to each, which means neither of us have an excuse to not know what is going on financially. With money, ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is broke. 

(Feminists: For the record, I do have an open account in only my name & my mothers. It has about $20, which I keep just so that it remains open & active. So if I catch Cory in the sack with some hussie tomorrow, I have access to both accounts and can protect myself from him leaving me broke & pissed by transferring over. I mean, girls gotta do what a girls gotta do. Kidding. Kind of. Really, it acts as an emergency account that my parents could funnel into in the event Cory & I got drunk & robbed in Bangkok or something.)

2. Emergency Fund. We keep a set buffer amount in our account in the event of an emergency. We immediately need flights to OKC for a family emergency, Cory needs an emergency appendectomy, etc. Do NOT dip into this for any reason. You don’t need it until you NEED it, and if you don’t have it, you’re up a creek.

3. Retirement. This is non-negociable. Both of us have aggressive retirement savings set aside each month in 401ks, matched nicely by our companies. Guys, it doesn’t even hit our account so it’s like we never had it in the first place. As pleasant & friendly Cory is, the dude doesn’t want to be a Wal Mart greeter at 92 so he can continue to eat. People are outliving their retirement savings, you don’t have to be one of them.

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 4. Drive a piece of shit. If you just got your first big kid job & blew it on a dually with leather seats, I judge you. You don’t look cool, you look frickin’ broke. Rich people don’t drive Maybachs, rappers do. Why in the name of our sweet Lord would you spend money buying a new car every year, or driving a gas guzzling army tank? It’s a money pit.  One of Cory’s co-workers, our age, is currently making 1k monthly payments on his new sexy truck. ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS. His salary may be impressive but I can guarantee you his bank account is pathetic at best. Rich people drive 2001 Jeep Cherokees, laughing all the way to their fat bank accounts. You aren’t fooling anyone in a new shiny car. Drive it until the wheels fall off & enjoy your years of no car payments.

5. Home sweet apartment, or trailer, or whatever….for a bit. So many young couples jump into buying a home. Which, may be a great investment if its marketable & reselling is an option. Or if you plan to live & die on that farm. But for Cory & I, we chose to make a calculated decision about whether to buy or continue to rent…And we chose to rent. But that’s the thing: we made a calculated decision. We crunched the numbers, weighed the odds of moving & reselling. And I know it was the right decision (for now) and our bank account reflects that. Sometime down the road, we will invest in property. But not until it financially makes sense. And I’m sure as hell not buying a home to impress people I don’t really like anyway.
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6. Give. I say I’m an asshole, but not about causes that matter to me. This year, we are giving to The Education & Employment Ministry, which helps those who have fallen on hard times receive job training and resources to secure and maintain a job. It’s in Oklahoma (my home state, my love!) and not a day goes by I do not thank God (and my parents) for my education & job. Giving back makes me feel good about our money, what we have & even what we don’t have. You’d be surprised at how fulfilling it is to write that check for people who really, really need it. It makes you feel rich in ways your bank account can’t.

7. Invest in you. Invest in yourself & your education, and again, you’ll begin to feel good about what you have & even what you don’t. Spending on vacations, our education, hell, at the bar with our friends…Or even just a date night. It makes us happy. Let’s say your budget it really tight & date night means Redbox & popcorn on the couch…then do that. It still matters & it’s time & relationships that are worth your investment.

I am going to break down 2013’s finances (courtesy of Mint.com) and hopefully share those with you soon. Some people say money is rude to talk about, but let’s get real: it’s too important not to talk about.

So tell me, how big a role does budgeting play in your life? Or saving? What are your 2014 financial goals? Let’s talk about it!

Love (& Money),

J.

Photoshoppin’

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Oh, Photoshop. It’s a delicate art, y’all.

My degree program, Agricultural Communications, was designed to make us jacks of all communications trades: journalism, photography, video, layout & design and public relations. Jack of all, master of none. Nothing intimidated me more than CS4. I would play around in my free time at home, and did just enough to squeak by in my design projects for school, which were mostly InDesign based. I told myself, “I’m not technical enough or detail-oriented enough to be a designer. I’m just a writer. Yeah, that’s me. I’ll stick to that.”

Plus, y’all know how awful Photoshop gone wrong looks. BECAUSE IT’S ALL OVER FACEBOOK. I told myself, I may not have skill but I do have taste. And if I can’t execute Photoshop to an acceptable taste level, I’m not going to go there. You know, classic “if I can’t win, I’m not playing,” type-A neurosis.

Flash forward to April 2013. I have a big girl job and EVERYONE in my office can design the shit out of anything in CS6. I feel like a complete loser. I told myself to buck up, start reading, start asking questions, and start kicking some ass. 

Now, I design for social media and the web. I’m just starting to really pick up editing photos. I helped my BFF Devon with these pics her aunt shot over the weekend. Her aunt is brand new to photography and her camera, so these shots were experimental & so a little challenging on the editing end. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the transformation & excited to continue learning & practicing.

Here’s what I have to say to creatives, or creatives-at-heart: Don’t sit on the sidelines of something you’re interested in. Get immersed, read about it, study it, ask lots of questions. Then get out there & play ball. Don’t sell yourself short by jumping in too soon, or worse, not jumping in at all. Timing, and preparation, is everything in life.

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(okay, these shots were hard to edit…lots of red tones in the originals. I was hoping for warm but not orange-y…Not sure I nailed it.)

 

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