Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention. 
Be astonished.
Tell about it.
--Mary Oliver

Ready to spill some dirt.

Let's talk, y'all. Actually, I will do the talking -- all you have to to is listen. Ooh, am I nervous about this. I feel like poor old Jerry Maguire handing around his mission statement.

But, if you've read any of the camp recaps, you know that the first thing I tell my campers is: BE BRAVE. In fact, part of my decision to write this was informed by my experiences at design camp: something happens there in which genuine connection and community is built in a really short amount of time, which phenomenon is truly astonishing to see and be a part of.

I also tell my campers that design can change your life. And, OH HELL YES IT CAN. I believe that with my whole heart. People need a little more pretty in their lives. And a little more pretty helps to burnish those ragged edges of real life.

With that said, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the direction in which I want this site to go, and what I want it to be. I've been writing online for over ten years now, and this blog has gone through so many iterations I can't remember them all. Once upon a time, this was a personal diary, where I talked about my feelings and emotions and what chapter books my first-grader was reading. Then that little girl grew up and this space became a design blog, and I feel like somewhere along the line it lost its voice.

The thing about design blogs is that they often give the illusion of perfection: that every single detail of life is under control; that everything is shiny and beautiful and styled just-so; that there is no dirty laundry shoved behind a closet door. We all do it, of course -- it's human nature to want to present one's best self (or one's best table vignette) to the world. And it is one of my greatest pleasures to present a lovely, aspirational world to you. As I said before, this positive skewing of life is a great counter-balance to the pressures of reality. But this ginned-up perfection also comes with its own set of problems.

Perhaps you are thinking, “What in the damn hell kind of problems might you encounter while taking photos of outfits and jetting off to parts unknown every week or so?” And you'd be right to ask: to the casual observer, my life seems easy, and simple, and my job seems kind of not like a job. But there is a funny kind of pressure that comes with pretending everything is wonderfully perfect all of the time. It's not honest, or brave, or authentic, and frankly, it's kind of exhausting. There are many, many people out there who are great at this kind of job, and I have nothing but the utmost admiration for them. Sometimes I feel like I'm scrambling to keep up. But maybe I don't need to keep up. Maybe I need to bring it down a notch. Maybe I need to bring some of that true, authentic, camp-type connection right here to this blog.

So while abchao.com is still going to be entertaining and delightful and inspirational -- I'm still going to post pretty things; I'm still going to hold super-fun design camps; and I am certainly not going to stop posting headless photos or painting things white -- I want to reset things a bit. Let's just put it out on front street: this site is no longer about the mere superficial. My grand plan is to co-opt the space where, interspersed with all of the pretty things, I share personal things too. Where I show you more of my real self again. Where I get some dirt on my hands. Where things maybe get a little sloppy, because sometimes, you know, life is fucking messy.

I also want to get back to that place where I write in a meaningful way. Through all of this site's transformations and permutations, I was and always will be a writer first. Mary Karr, memoirist extraordinaire, once said, "I believe a writer makes a contract with the reader to tell the truth." I'm going to try to listen to that voice. Maybe it will invite criticism, or complaints, or comments and suggestions I am afraid to hear. But I've learned recently that if I can't take responsibility for my own words, I'm probably the asshole in the scenario.

So, let's recap: I'm tired of hiding. I'm tired of pretending that everything is perfect when it really ain't. I'm tired of falling back into the same old easy patterns of posting. I'm tired of being a headless cipher with a one-note voice.

I do have a head, y'all. And I aim to use it.

That this new blog philosophy meshes up with the major changes happening in my life is no coincidence. Madeleine's graduation isn't the only thing on our minds, although obviously that has been the main event -- but now it is over. And my beautiful, nearly-grown daughter will soon be off to college, where she will begin forming her own story to tell. But that hasn't been the only thing going down, of course. Life still happens to you while you are busy ordering caps and gowns. The last year, and more specifically the last six months, have unfolded like some ridiculous screwball comedy (of errors). And the next few months are sure to serve up even more challenges as we all settle into our new places in life. I want to tell you those stories, and I will, in time. Don't be thinking I'm vague-blogging here: I am going to get to them all, and I hope you'll be patient as I ease into it.

Now, you know I'm not promising a college-length essay every day, or even every week. Sometimes I might just show you a photograph. Sometimes I'll take you along as I attempt to cross something off that big old life list. Sometimes it will just be a sentence or two. But it will be my sentence, and it will be real, and it is my fervent hope that you will jump in beside me for the ride.

Whew. That was a lot of words. Let's call it a day. Be brave out there.

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AuthorAB Chao
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So, my very first month of independent sponsorship went quite well! But I'd love to have more of you interesting people/companies around, so I am offering a special holiday rate for both premium and regular ads. If you are a nice person and think you might be a good fit for AB Chao(.com), email me for a rate sheet. AND, I have some exciting things happening in November/December, so it's a great time to join in the fun.

And yes, I totally know it's already November, so I'll give all newcomers an extra few days in 2012. I ain't no cheater. Hit me up here: hello@abchao.com.

Thanks, y'all! And happy November, the month of my birth. I mean, not that that should sway you or anything.

 

Posted
AuthorAB Chao
CategoriesUncategorized

Y'all, this week, I am this:

and this...

and this.

(Weeds, Asian style?)

What I am saying is, I am buried in so much work I can do no better than to find and steal three pictures from the Internet. So, to make it up to you, I am going to make the end of the week a fun time. Ask any question in the comments, and I will answer it on Friday.

GO!

PS. In the weeds.

Posted
AuthorAB Chao
CategoriesAdvice
31 CommentsPost a comment

Internet, I'm hard at work on your number one request -- "Dewit: Accessorize Your Objects" -- and you'll see that tomorrow.

But first, I'd like to direct your attention to my right-hand sidebar, where, after a whopping 10 years, I have finally begun to accept advertisers. And what a fabulous group of sponsors to start with. Let's take a look:

Etsy Stalker: Beatrice and Violet, the curators of Etsy Stalker, are committed to promoting professional artists and handmade goods. Their site was created to highlight the best of these on Etsy. Also, they just find some real cute stuff.

 

Shop Furbish: Don't you know who Furbish is, son? Well, I will tell you. It's Jamie Meares, buying up sofas and tables and all manner of sad old furniture, and re-covering that shizz to turn it into decorating gold. Also, she has super awesome pillows, jewelry, and accessories. So go there. Buy things. Tell her you sent me, so she will give me these chairs for free.

 

Alphabet Concepts: Ann Burr's initials are also ABC, which means she is already cool. Her site is, quote, "a place to house ideas, thoughts and creations." Now, although Ann Burr doesn't embrace the serial comma, I can tell you that her site is still great. And also, Ann Burr is a video whiz: whatever kind of life you lead, she can document it, creating a video that you will want to watch and keep forever. She also sits near President Obama from time to time.

 

Wantist.com: Wantist is the site you wish you had known about that one time you needed a gift for your father-in-law who doesn't like anything but Barcaloungers and bologna sandwiches. The site helps you search by person and/or type, and it is adorable to boot. So, you are searching for a practical, quirky, engaging, outdoorsy type? Wantist can help. (PS, that person I just described is annoying.) Oh, and not only will Wantist help you find the perfect gift, they will give you suggestions on how to WRAP IT. Take that, bologna sandwich!

 

Tomato Nation: Sarah Bunting, aka "Sars," aka "Hateful Buntsy" around these parts, has been writing online since you could smoke cigarettes on an airplane. She is also: a) my former editor at Television Without Pity; b) a grammarian without peer; c) able to match me glass-for-glass in any sort of drinking contest; d) a pretty lady; e) a brilliant writer; and f) a nice friend who bought an ad because she loves me.

 

iSockit by Blythe King: Blythe invented iSockit in 2005, when she needed a simple pocket to protect her computer from scuffs and scratches. She hand-crafts her iSockits from only vintage materials, mostly collected from the great states of Louisiana and Virginia. Aside from the padding, no new materials are used in the making of the products. The cases will fit your iPad, iPhone, MacBook Pro, and more. Blythe cuts, stitches, packs, and ships every order by hand, and someday she will go blind.

(Full disclosure: Blythe's main man George Washington Hardy IV has been one of my best friends since time immemorial. He taught me everything I know about mint juleps.)


And that's it, folks. I'm so happy to introduce you to all of these great companies + sites, and I hope you will enjoy them just as much as I do.

And to you, sweet sponsors: We're in love. You know it. Thank you all.

Posted
AuthorAB Chao
CategoriesUncategorized
8 CommentsPost a comment

Friends, it's been quite a week and I am feeling kind of lazeballs. I can't tell you specifically how many trade applications I found, printed, filled out, scanned, and emailed, but it was somewhere in the neighborhood of EIGHT FRILLION. Also I did some design work. Also I made cookies and got mad at my hair. Also I tried begging friends and acquaintances to buy ads on my site, like some sort of sad old begging beggar. I only need TWO MORE, DAMN Y'ALL.

Anyway. Right now I am drinking a nice rose and ordering fabric samples from all of the various places I applied to get into. That's right, kids. Decorating is like college, except you have to have a big old bank account, three references, and a resale certificate. But, you know, then they send you pretty stuff. Shout-out to my lovers at Designers Guild.

What else? OH. I am so excited about my boyfriend Ryan Adams's new album (dropping October 11) that I can't stand it. There are a few preview songs in various places online, but this one gives me the chills real bad. Right now Chris Huff is rolling his eyes and varminting simultaneously, but Big Boozie's (this is my nickname for Chris; I am Li'l Boozie, of course.) lifelong hatred of my man Ryan moves me not. After all, I don't really care that REM broke up, and I'm sure he finds that equally truly outrageous.

Here is a picture of me right now, on my porch in front of the cat food table.

Please note hideous pigtails, old-timey sweatshirt, and Target scarf coupled with for-realz Waterford crystal + pricy wine. High and low, y'all. It's the only way to live.

This entry is super-weird and disjointed and feels like I'm writing from 2001, or something. Hey, do y'all want to hear about my emotions and whatnot? No? FINE.

I haven't even gotten to the point of the whole post, which is that I wanted y'all to tell me what kind of Dewit to do next. So far I've done art-hanging and bed-making. What do you want to see now? I'm game for anything. So, you know, tell me. Dewit.

Farewell, nice people. I hope your weekend is filled with naps and hamburgers.

Posted
AuthorAB Chao
Categoriesdewit
27 CommentsPost a comment

FADE IN:

INT. RIBON HOUSE - DAY

PAMELA RIBON has an idea for a blog post. She texts her friend, AB CHAO, to tell her ALL about it.

PAM
What about an entry on how to make a stranger a best friend? You have a gift for making someone feel they need you in their lives, even when they are Greg Berlanti.

INT. CHAO HOUSE - SAME

AB CHAO hears her phone ding, checks it. She responds. A furious back-and-forth ensues.

AB
Um, I don't know how that happens.

PAM
Hahahahahahahaaaaa! HA HA HA. HAHA.

AB
For serious, I don't! I never contacted Greg before he wrote me.

PAM
I thought he asked you for the TWoP interview.

AB
I did, after he emailed me a bunch of times.

PAM
Oh.

AB
Besides, what am I gonna say? "Use straws as chopsticks." "Introduce yourself." "Hate rocking chair stores." "Be mad at Wayne Brady."

PAM
Actually, yes on the first two.

AB
Send me a list of five things that made you want to be friends with me, and I'll try to figure out some kind of theory. The first two are already done.

PAM
...and that would be an example what I am talking about. I'm busy, lady! I can't do homework.

AB
I HATE YOU.

PAM
FORGET IT.

AB
(Waits 30 seconds)

PAM
FINE. "Dewit and dewit right." When you write it up, don't forget that "I hate you" is step 4.

AB
Obviously. I'll expect step 5 by the morning.

FIN

Posted
AuthorAB Chao
3 CommentsPost a comment

I enjoy how there is a feature in our local newspaper this morning about how I am a decorating blogger, and then the top post on this page is about the West Memphis Three. I promise I talk about decorating sometimes, y'all! Don't look at that murder post. Here, go watch this.

Thank you so much to Hope and Arely and Cindy at the paper -- it was great having you over and the article is so, so nice. I don't know how you pulled it off, but you made me look almost not like a huge dork. A feat in itself, I'd say.

Posted
AuthorAB Chao
5 CommentsPost a comment