Lady Tip: You Never Know What’s Going on In Someone Else’s Relationship

Have I ever told you guys about my friend Dan? He is, truly, a fount of wisdom. He is a champion singer, a world-class hugger, and really good at creating joke Pinterest boards to cheer me up when I was stressed out about wedding planning (H’s and my wedding date was NOT INTENTIONALLY 4/20 and it was the subject of much hilarity for everyone).

But also, he gives some killer advice. A few years ago, he offhandedly said something that really stuck with me: You never know what’s going on in someone else’s relationship.

And what did he mean by that? Well, we probably all have a friend who’s dating someone we just don’t get. Maybe your BFF’s boyfriend is super boring, and you don’t know why she isn’t with someone funnier. Or maybe the most motivated person you know is married to someone who has seemingly no ambition. These are both made up examples, for the record. I’m not trying to out anyone’s relationship through my blog like a weirdo. Anyway, you might look at those relationships and think, “Why are they even together?”

But the thing is, you never know what’s going on in someone else’s relationship. Not everyone wants the same things as you! Maybe to you the most important thing in a romantic partner is a sense of humor. But to your friend, that might not matter at all. Maybe the most important thing to her is stability. Or, even though you might not ever want to marry someone who isn’t a hard worker, your friend might be way more concerned with marrying someone who’s good-natured. Or good-looking. Or rich. Basically, you’ll never understand what other people see in each other, and that’s okay. It’s easy to look at a couple and think, “Why in God’s name are they together?” I mean, I’ve totally thought that before. But love is strange, as the music of the past tells us.

Of course, this goes both ways. Sometimes the people you think have the best relationships actually have the worst ones. Something I’ve discovered is that the people who are the most demonstrative on social media are usually the one with the most problems. For example, I once knew a guy who was always writing over-the-top sweet things on his girlfriend’s Facebook wall. They were a totally cute couple, and I figured they had a perfect relationship. I even felt bad that my boyfriend didn’t write sappy things on my Facebook wall. But then one day I heard him arguing on the phone with his girlfriend, and I found out that he only wrote those things because they got in constant fights and she wanted public validation to make their relationship seem healthy. Which is, obviously, messed up. Facebook should be a place to post pictures of your pets and confuse your relatives with sarcastic statuses, not a place to stabilize your relationship.

Basically, you never know what’s going on between two other people. It might not make sense to you, but it makes perfect sense to them. And if you need any more great advice about relationships…get your own Dan. I’m not letting you have mine.

Creative Ladies: Kally Malcom


As much as I love featuring writers on Creative Ladies, I also really love to feature visual artists who work in a medium that’s totally unfamilar to me. I’m really stoked to feature photographer Kally Malcom today! You can check out her work on her website, She took the time to talk to me about her process, her inspirations, and the restorative power of naps.

What’s your main creative gig (this can be your day job, your freelance work, or both)? Describe what you do on a normal working day.

I teach photography at a small liberal arts college in Ashland, WI. I’m also an artist, and I’m typically busy in the studio when I’m not in the classroom. My normal working day is some combination of teaching and mentoring students, making images, researching, sourcing things for images, and looking for exhibition/publication opportunities.

What are your creative, just-for-fun (not money or career advancement) hobbies?

I’m one of those lucky people who has fun with my day job, but I have hobbies as well. I knit—though only rectangles (scarves). Typically, I hang out with my dog, read, look at other people’s photography, and spend time with friends. This area of Wisconsin has a surprising number of artists, writers and other creatives, so I get plenty of opportunities to attend events that highlight the work of others.

What inspires you? Feel free to be as literal or as figurative as you want.

Interests and inspirations are abundant, and therefore a bit illusive. I’m inspired by memory and experience, by music and literature, and by the fascinating lives of other people.
I recently realized I’m deeply affected by place. I’ve moved around quite a bit as an adult. Looking back at the images I’ve made over the years I notice distinctive shifts in style and content depending on where I lived, and my general sense of satisfaction while living there.

In three words, describe your creative aesthetic/viewpoint.

Flash and substance.

How would you describe your creative “process”? Does it involve a lot of staring into space, doodling, or candy eating?

Staring into space: yes. My process is multifaceted, not pretty to look at or describe, and shifts from project to project. Some artists work intuitively, and just see what they want to make, make it, and analyze it later. I am not typically one of those artists. My work is usually pre-visualized, intensely researched, and thoroughly planned. In the end, it is a coin toss if the image or series will shape up the way I envisioned, but they start with a concept and a plan.
When I’m working in the field I tend to shoot heaps and heaps of images…just in case. In these types of projects, I often cannot reshoot, so a focus on quality and quantity happens in equal measure. This work feels more visceral and unpredictable than studio work. When I’m working on one of my still life images in the studio, the process is typically slower and more considered. The objects I use are often suspended or otherwise manipulated, so that always requires some theatrics (and fishing line). Generally, these images are much more fussy and certainly more technical. I like both methods of creating and feel like I need both in my practice.

What creative accomplishment are you most proud of?

Earlier this year I was selected to present my images at a regional conference for my professional organization. All through school I attended these conferences and gleaned information and inspiration from the image-makers who presented their work. Being chosen to be a person at the podium was a tremendous honor and an opportunity to share my work and process with students, educators and other artists.

One of the photographs from Kally's Pictograph series, titled "Little Jimmies," made in 2013.

One of the photographs from Kally’s Pictograph series, titled “Little Jimmies,” made in 2013.

What’s a big creative challenge/failure/embarrassment you’ve learned from?

I’m a visual artist . . . I have small failures all the time. Make, fail, edit, and reshoot. Repeat if necessary.
Frankly, I’ve been turned down for exhibitions and other opportunities, which always hurts the ego. Every creative person who puts his or her work out into the world will experience failure from time to time. I do my best to learn from these disappointments and move on. The critique of “no thank you” from a gallery or juror can be an opportunity to edit, clarify, or stand by what I make.

Who’s your Creative Lady role model (this can be a person you know, a celebrity, a fictional character, etc.)?

My mother.

What time of day are you most creative? Are you a morning person or a night owl?

In terms of executing my ideas, I suppose I’m a late-morning to 10:00 p.m. creative person.
This answer has shifted over the years. In my twenties I was firmly in the “night owl” camp, and relied on the mixture of exhaustion and inappropriate levels of caffeine for creative fuel. The time between lying down and falling asleep each night is still a prime time for generating ideas and reflecting on works in progress, but I no longer work into the wee hours. I keep pen and paper close by to jot down my thoughts and wait for a more lucid time to clarify my ideas.

Being an awesome Creative Lady can be overwhelming. What do you do to relax?

Meeting pals for coffee and conversation is always relaxing. Also, napping isn’t just for toddlers—I enjoy a good mid-afternoon snooze on Saturdays. Generally, my relaxation activities are not especially noteworthy or interesting. I dink around on the Internet, catch up on social media things, or binge-watch Netflix.

What books would you recommend to other Creative Ladies?

Here is my list. It feels a little surface and random, but these are the books that I’ve found important.
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. All we need to know about life, human capacity and human failure can be found in that book. It is perfect. I’m not sure it will guide our creativity, but it’s my favorite novel.
Want to be inspired by a gutsy writer who had way more to lose by telling his truth than we do by telling ours? Read the text of Frederick Douglass’s speech “The Meaning of the Fourth of July to the Negro”. You can read it here:
Kurt Vonnegut and Sylvia Plath really knock my socks off.

What advice would you give to other Creative Ladies who want to do what you do?

Make things. Spend the time you need to perfect your ideas and your craft. Be a self-editor, and find a circle of people you trust to critique your work. Offer your critique of their work. Get the education you need to do what you want to do. Pay attention to history, current events and the condition of others. Outward awareness and the ability to connect (at least intellectually) to the experiences of others will help you understand yourself and how you can contribute creatively or otherwise.

What’s your Creative Lady motto?

I don’t really have a motto. I could find one, but that seems like cheating.

Wednesday Link Party!

Happy Wednesday, guys! I hope you’re all having an awesome week. I spent my weekend shopping with my parents, listening to the weird jams on my dad’s iPod (there’s so much Katy Perry on there), and stress-baking a peach/coconut crisp because I got freaked out about all the work I had to do. Typical weekend for me. Let’s get on with the links!

Megan McCafferty, author of the beloved Jessica Darling books, is hosting a new web series in partnership with Smart Girls at the Party! And her first guests are Sarah Dessen and Laurie Halse Anderson! So many of my favorite things combined in one web series.

I don’t have a problem with Sheryl Sandberg’s “ban bossy” campaign, but I also don’t really think it’s useful. I totally and completely agree with Ann Friedman’s thoughts on the matter. I also like that she mentions “Bossy” by Kelis, because my friend Dan used to quote that song all the time in college and it’s a serious jam.

I’m in love with this makeup tutorial from Creative Lady Akilah Hughes.

FYI, I’ve had Easy As All That by Miniature Tigers stuck in my head for, like, three months. It’s cool.

Danielle Henderson writes about those ubiquitous trigger warnings and how they might not be doing some people any favors.

H. and I’ve been binge-watching Community lately. Here’s the best of Troy from season 1!

I’m reading this book for my book club, and it’s pretty great. PS, did I ever tell you guys that I’m in a book club, and this one ISN’T just me and Alex reading books and being the second most famous book club started by a Winfrey? Well, I am.

And lastly, I’m working on giving myself more small writing challenges, so I entered this Columbus Creative Cooperative flash fiction contest. You can vote for my story if you want! But we’ll be friends no matter what, promise.

Lady Inspiration: John Waters

life is nothing if youre not obsessed

I’m well aware that John Waters is not a lady, but ladies can find inspiration all over the place and I find him extremely inspirational. This is probably the closest thing to a motto that I have. Why even bother with anything if you’re not going to fall head over heels for it?

PS: Role Models is a perfect book, and if you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for? I may have mentioned this before, but listening to it on audiobook is a delightful experience.

Image via Lisa Congdon

That Time I Had My Tarot Cards Read

tarot card palm reading
A year ago, when my BFF Cat was planning my bachelorette party, she kept everything about it a super secret. “We’re doing something I’ve never done at a bachelorette party before, and I know you’ll love it,” she told me. So that ruled out a lot of things, including anything scary or embarrassing. We weren’t going to a strip club or taking pole dancing lessons, because I would very much NOT love those things. But then she said something that really threw me off: “When I told the girls about it, one of them said, ‘I’m really excited, but I’m also scared.”

Jessie Spano allusions aside, this threw me for a loop. What in the name of inflatable penises could we be doing for my bachelorette party that would unnerve my friends, most of whom are significantly less terrified of life than me?

Guys, it was tarot cards. Cat set up tarot card readings for all of us.

I’ve been interested in weird, new-age-y, woo-woo, “hippie bullshit” stuff for basically my whole life, so this was like a dream come true. Sure, some people in my life were concerned that a tarot card reading would upset me because I’m “exceptionally vulnerable” but WHATEVER. As one of my friends pointed out, it wasn’t like the tarot card reader was going to use my bachelorette party as a chance to drop a load of bad news on me. That wouldn’t be a very good business model. Sure, I was a little nervous, but mostly I was excited.

On the day of the party, the tarot card reader was late because she got lost. Cat’s place is, to be fair, difficult to find on a map. But, and I don’t want to make too obvious a joke here, shouldn’t she have been able to find it on her own…?

She set up her stuff in the kitchen while the rest of us waited in the living room. We were all at various points on the “I Believe in Tarot” spectrum, from “This is Clearly Bullshit” to “My Heart is Extraordinarily Open to Anything.” Guess which one I was? I just want to take a moment to say, guys, I’m not stupid. As much as I make fun of myself on this blog, I’m a pretty rational, logical person, and I would never make a decision based on anything in my horoscope or psychic reading. That being said, I do take a lot of joy in being open to any and all possibilities when it comes to that sort of thing. Also I do tend to refer to the “universe” a lot, so clearly I was into this.

When I had my turn to go behind the curtain and into the magical realm of Cat’s kitchen, I’ll admit, I was pretty anxious. What if she told me something I didn’t want to hear, and then I couldn’t get it out of my head and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy and my life was ruined all because of a deck of cards? I didn’t know if it was the champagne-based bachelorette cocktails or the promise of my future, but I was feeling woozy.

The tarot card reader wasn’t judgmental, and she had on some very fuzzy shoes, so I felt safe. She told me that my husband was a good person (once again, duh, what else was she going to say at my bachelorette party?) and things were pretty much going according to plan until she dropped a bomb on me. Basically, she referenced a very specific conflict we’d been having regarding wedding planning, the one thing that we’d disagreed about the most. Granted, this was a pretty common dilemma, so she could’ve totally been making it up. That is possible! Then she told me that even if H. tried to fix the problem, he wouldn’t be able to do anything about it, so I might as well stop bothering him about it.

Did I think for a moment that H. had paid off this tarot card reader just to get me to stop bothering him about this? Of course I did. I’m only human, and who hasn’t suspected their betrothed of bribing a tarot card reader with cold hard cash?

She went on, telling me some generic things that I pretty much forgot about right after she said them. I think I’m supposed to follow my heart in my career, or something. Who can say? But then she told me that H. and I would find a new house quickly, possibly within two months. She also said that we would find the house ourselves, and that if someone else (a relative, a friend) pointed out the house to us, then that wasn’t the one.

Really, that could not have been more wrong, since it’s a year later and we are still living in the same apartment. But it’s possible that the move she was referring to could have just been me officially moving into H’s place. I realize I’m giving the tarot card reader a lot of leeway, but much like a certain roguishly good-looking fictional FBI agent, I want to believe.

She told us all that we should keep our readings to ourselves for 24 hours, to let them…I don’t know, sink in or something? I don’t necessarily understand what this part was about. It felt a little, “If you tell anyone your birthday wish, it won’t come true!” Regardless, we basically all broke that rule and shared our readings either immediately after or by the end of the night. I can’t remember if I told anyone about the house thing that night or not, so maybe it’s my own damn fault that it didn’t happen. I really shouldn’t blame the tarot card reader; I should just learn to keep my mouth shut.

Would I get a tarot reading again? Yes. In a heartbeat. It was deeply enjoyable, especially if (like me) you like people paying attention to the extremely boring aspects of your life and asking you personal questions while telling you nice things about yourself. I’ve mentioned this Rookie article before, but it pretty accurately sums up how I feel about psychics/tarot/horoscopes: “I think of such readings not so much as blueprints, with super specific directions, measurements, and plans, but more as maps: They give you a lay of the land but don’t tell you which roads you will choose to take or exactly what will happen to you while you’re there. I then use them as motivators and guides to help me get to where I want to be. If a psychic told you that some outcome you’d been really wanting would come to pass, would you go home and just sit there waiting or it to fall into your lap like a bag of Doritos your friend threw at you from across the room? I wouldn’t be happy just sitting around waiting for them Doritos—I’d want to help ensure that this prediction came true.”

What about you guys? Have you ever had a tarot reading or any other kind of psychic reading? More importantly, DID ANYTHING FROM YOUR READING COME TRUE? Please let me know; I’d love to hear all about it!

Image via Flickr