I had a camp recap (PS, why haven't I been calling them "recamps" all this time? DAMN IT.) post all ready to go, and then I somehow closed out all of my photos without saving them, so then I cried, and now here it is 9:00 on a Wednesday evening and I have nothing to show for it. So, here are some feelings and emotions.

First of all: Today the police came over for a little visit, because I walked through the house from the back porch to the front porch to check the mail, and the front door was wide open. Which it never is. Ever. So, like every dumb girl in every dumb movie, I grabbed the knife from my desk -- the exceptionally dull one I use to open mail, because I am smart -- and went to CHECK THINGS OUT. And that was when I heard the back door slam shut. OH OKAY THAT IS NOT SCARY HI I AM PUSHING THE POLICE PANIC BUTTON ON THE SECURITY SYSTEM NOW AND HAVING ALL OF THE FEELINGS.

Y'all, the police came! And they were very nice! And they walked into my house with their guns drawn! And they yelled, "MONROE PD!" And it was all very exciting/scary and there was no one in the house and nothing was missing, so that was good. Except now I would like a lobotomy.

Also: Next week I am getting in my car and driving to Washington, DC, to live there, because long-distance relationships suck, and I am having one right now, for, oh, eight-ish months or so? Just thought I would mention that. So... what's the deal with DC? Do you live there? Do you like it? Do you want to be my best friend?

I have some thoughts about moving: 1. I'm really sad to leave my house, and the people/animals inside of it. 2. I'm excited to see what life is like outside of Monroe. 3. Can I hire someone to parallel park for me? 4. I am concerned about the seafood situation. 5. I do not own any pantsuits.

Other concerns: What are the best neighborhoods? Where are the cutest places to get coffee? How does one use the Metro? Do you call it the Metro, or some secret slang term like "the trainway"? I need to know these things, because in Louisiana we get mad if you don't understand how we say "muffuletta," or "Tchoupitoulas." 

Most importantly: We are keeping the house, so don't be trying to get all up in my front door and get your mitts on our belongings.

PS: Hank, the alleged Rottweiler, did not bark once. Not even when the policemen were all trolling the house, looking for intruders. He was all, "Hello! Would you like a tour? I can show you some very nice wallpaper here in the hallway!" Jerk.

To recap: Our home contains no burglars. Security systems are awesome. I am moving to DC. Hank is dumb.

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Hey, did anything interesting happen in the past few days? Heh. Just kidding.

I want to thank you all from the very bottom of my everything for the sweet, supportive, overwhelmingly positive responses to my coming out post. It is really scary to basically flay your chest open and expose your soft, delicate insides for the world to see, and every one of you made it clear to me that it was worth the risk. I cannot thank you enough, and I will never be able to explain properly how much that meant to me.

One exceptional side effect of last week's post -- and one I didn't at all see coming -- is how many of you would write and open up your own fragile selves to me. Your words were a gift I wasn't expecting, and the honesty with which you shared your stories laid me out. We are all in this together, and as much as y'all have got my back, I have yours just as hard. I'm holding you all in my humbled, grateful heart. Now let's go out there and kick some ass, shall we?

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I am suffering from a major case of the bittersweets right now. We moved our girl into her new college digs earlier in the week -- and it was SO MUCH FUN to start fresh with an empty room to help decorate. Two days of cleaning and scrubbing and re-assembling furniture and styling and running out to the store for more Sonic drinks and molly bolts? SIGN ME UP. But before that happened, I found myself standing alone in that empty bedroom in our house, weeping as if my heart had been broken. By "weeping," I mean "ugly crying." On the floor. Like some sort of scenery-chewing soap actress who's just been told that her husband was actually her grandmother. (WHAT A TWIST!!!)

And now, she's all moved in. It's exciting -- there's an entire new life beginning, for all of us. But: the house is quiet. Nobody is bemoaning the lack of Pizza Rolls in the freezer, or asking for a few dollars for grapefruit face wash, or leaning against the door of my office in cutoffs and a ponytail to giggle and chat about how ridiculous friends/boys are.

I keep texting: "Are you ok?" "How's it going?" "Do you need anything?" "Can I come spend the night?" And the responses come back: "Yes." "Great." "No." "NOOOOOOO." Y'all think I'm kidding about that last one, don't you? I ain't.

People wiser than me -- who have gone through this many times over -- keep telling me that at some point you have to let them go. They have to learn to be independent and make their own mistakes and learn that one cannot fry bacon in a non-stick pan if one does not own a proper spatula. A few pans have to be ruined, maybe, before that one sinks in. I'm not ready. It's too soon. I want more time. LET ME BUY YOU A SPATULA.

On that note, everyone have a great weekend -- and if you feel like it, hit me with your bittersweet stories. I'll be right over here on the edge of my seat, ready for the next thing.

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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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An important part of this balanced breakfast.

A while back, I asked y'all to comment on a post and ask me any question you wanted. I got a ton of responses, and I'm hoarding many of them for later use. But I thought it might be fun to answer some of the personal ones today, for your enjoyment and edification. Ready? Go:

How old are you? Eeeeep! Don't be mad at me for asking. I'm just dying to know!

I ain't mad. And I feel like I have mentioned this before a bunch of times? Maybe not. I turned 37 in November. My mother introduces me to people as “almost 40,” which is weird and so, so wrong. STOP IT MOM. Anyway, I was born on November 25 and share my birthday with JFK, Jr. (RIP) and Christina Applegate. Trivia!

How did you manage to become a successful blogger and Internet Famous after the challenges of pre-teen motherhood?

I became a successful internet writer by impressing Sarah Bunting with an unsolicited writing sample. I had already been blogging for a year or so, but TWoP was my first actual paying internet writing job. Which led to my stint in television writing in 2007, a thing that gave me the courage to do all manner of dumb things (quit my job, quit my job again, become a full-time blogger/decorator/camp director) But really, a lot of it was just work + luck + an appalling lack of good sense. I also have a great network of friends and family whose support allowed me to quit my job and take this leap.

As for doing this all after pre-teen motherhood, many of you know that I was just in my second year of college when Mad was born. So, you know, after her pre-teen years I was still in my early thirties -- plenty of time to work on successful blogging and internet fame.

If you can't answer all [of my] questions, I would appreciate you answering this one. My husband and I have one awesome 3 1/2 year old son who has high functioning autism. He is the cutest smartest little guy I know! I'm 38 and thinking about whether or not we want to have another child, so here goes my question(s):

Did you make a conscious choice to have one child?

Well, it was sort of decided for us : Vince and I experienced secondary infertility and weren’t able to have another child. It was very painful, of course, but each consecutive year has been easier, and has revealed a larger light at the end of that particular tunnel. And we are so grateful that this particular girl is the one we get to share our lives with.

FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS, Y’ALL!

What are the pros and cons for you having one child?

There are no cons, in my mind, but that may be a function of Madeleine’s personality. She likes being an only child. She likes that our house is always quiet. She likes that she has two rooms to herself in which to watch TV and read and play her weird XBoxes.

Also, I sort of like that we did all the hard parent stuff in our 20s. Our friends are having babies right now, and we are helping Madeleine fill out college applications. That shit is AWESOME. I can’t wait to send her care packages next year, for her to come home from school so I can wash her laundry, to get frantic texts for twenty dollars TO EAT OMG PLS. Bonus: I never have to attend another Christmas singing program.

Will you help your daughter decorate her dorm when she heads off to college?

Hells yes. She really has no choice in the matter.

What does your perfect day look like?

Coffee, SportsCenter, shrimp po-boys, Bloody Marys, hours of television, dinner out, good wine, lots of dancing. At the beach. With my dog. And books.

What other artistic or intellectual interests do you have beside interiors?

I love photography of all kinds, I love writing, and I also love the graphic design aspect of blogging. But really, I have many outside interests, and they change on a daily basis, so ask me again tomorrow and I will tell you something different. Also: Competitive ping-pong.

Will you answer a yes or no question?

No.

How did you know when to take the leap and leave your day job? Were there doubts? 

I didn’t know when to take the leap; I just did it one day. See above, re: no regard for self-preservation or common sense. I discussed it with my family, of course, but it wasn’t a long-term planned thing. I definitely had doubts, such as my concern that we would all end up in a beautifully decorated cardboard box, but my very wise friend Eliza said to me one day, “Here’s your new motto, AB: Leap and the net will appear.” And it did.

Why do you hate eggs?

Because they are super gross. I can offer no other explanation.

What is your favorite joke?

Q: How does Snoop Dogg keep his clothes so white?

A: Blee-atch!

Aaaaaaand, scene. I hope you have all enjoyed this little trip down memory lane and into my mind. And I hope you all have amazing weekends. Please don’t eat any eggs.

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AuthorAB Chao
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Today was maintenance day on this here website, which is why there is no new and/or fabulous content for you to enjoy. I fixed some stuff, and re-wrote some stuff, and re-designed some stuff, and unsuccessfully tried to decide on a new bio photo since the current one is so old I actually have short hair. I hate all of the new prospects, and now that Ben Corda is gone, I am in a real pickle and look like this:

Aw. That is real sad. So y'all know what that means, right? It means it's time for Ask AB: Anything Goes Edition. The last time we did this was almost a year ago. It was pretty fun. So, what do you want to know? Beauty, hair, clothing, decorating, personal? Ask, and you shall receive. To the comments!

Photo: Ben Corda *sob*

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AuthorAB Chao
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