The Undeniable Ruth Rotating Header Image

November, 2015:

Thoughts about Fashion and Minimalism

Joshua Becker & Ruth Carter - Two Well-dressed Minimalists at Ignite Phoenix #16 (Photo by Tom Stokes, Creative Commons License)

Joshua Becker & Ruth Carter – Two Well-dressed Minimalists at Ignite Phoenix #16 (Photo by Tom Stokes, Creative Commons License)

About a month ago, a friend asked me to comment on Joshua Becker’s post 8 Reasons Successful People Are Choosing to Wear the Same Thing Every Day. This article brings up a lot of good points – if you have a personal uniform (i.e., Steve Jobs and his turtleneck and Mark Zuckerberg and his gray t-shirt), you save time and energy getting dressed in the morning. And you save money by not having an expansive wardrobe.

It appears the capsule wardrobe is catching on – a wardrobe of interchangeable pieces. Some people who are trying to be more minimalistic with their wardrobe do Project 333 – wearing a wardrobe that consists of 33 pieces for a 3-month period. I understand the concept of these ideas, but they’ve never appealed to me.

Being a minimalist has never been about limiting myself to owning a specific number of items but limiting myself to possessions that add value to my life. When it comes to the role of fashion in my life, I love this quote from Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists:

Now nearly everything I own is my favorite thing. All my clothes are my favorite clothes. All my furniture is my favorite furniture. All my possessions are my favorite possessions—all of which I enjoy every day of my life.

I love wearing clothes that make me feel good – soft fabrics, comfortable cuts, and items that make me feel beautiful. If I’m not seeing clients, my everyday outfit tends to consist of jeans, a t-shirt, comfortable shoes, and a hoodie or cardigan if it’s chilly. When I’m speaking, I’ll trade in my hoodie for a blazer. If I’m seeing clients, I may take my outfit up a notch to dress pants, a button-down shirt, a tank top, and dress shoes.

Here are two of the things I do to make sure I’m mostly keeping the clothes I love:

1. The Hanger Flip. At the beginning of the year, I reverse all the hangers in my closet. When I put a garment away after wearing it, I flip the hanger back to the proper direction. After a few weeks, I can see what garments I’m wearing the most. By fall, I can usually tell what I should get rid of because I can see what I haven’t worn through the previous warm and cold seasons.

2. Select the Day’s Outfit in a Vacuum. I don’t open a drawer or step into my closet in the morning until I’ve decided what I want to wear. I don’t use visual cues but rather my knowledge of my wardrobe and that day’s calendar to select my outfit. It forces me to go with my gut feeling about what I really want to wear instead of getting lost considering all the possibilities.

The size of my wardrobe has diminished substantially over the last few years and I love it. (There’s no reason to own 15 sweaters when I consistently wear only 4 of them.) I love that my wardrobe is simple and filled with mostly classic pieces and awesome t-shirts. It makes getting dressed every day so much easier. I know that everything I own fits, serves a purpose, and feels good against my sensitive skin.

When You’re Standing Naked Over Phoenix

I’ve gotten involved with various types of modeling since this summer and I’m really enjoying it. In the last few months I’ve gotten to do different types of bodyscaping, portrait work, silhouette work, milk bath work, and even an underwater photoshoot. I love the process of modeling itself and seeing the resulting photos.

Recently, a photographer friend invited me over to do a sunset photoshoot at his downtown Phoenix apartment. Sunsets in Phoenix are gorgeous, especially the way the light glistens against the tall buildings. He got some beautiful shots of me standing just inside the balcony door. Then I decided to step out onto the balcony to do some shots of me overlooking the city, channeling my inner Evita in the pink light.

Photo by Ben Ammon

Photo by Ben Ammon

One thing I learned from this experience was, when you’re standing naked seven floors above the city streets, nobody notices. No one on the sidewalk looked up and I didn’t see any eyes peering at me from the hotel across the street. I giggled knowing that there was a lawyer networking even in the first floor restaurant of that hotel – and not one of them noticed as far as I know.

Prior to this summer, I did some figure modeling for an artist-friend in Oregon who sketched a few portraits of me, but I had never done photography work. It’s really fun to see how photographers work with lights, angles, props, and editing. Given my abuse history, you might think that it would be uncomfortable for me to be naked in front of a photographer. That has never been the case. Every artist I’ve worked with has treated me with respect. There is mutual respect that we are collaborating artists, working together to create beautiful images.

The only time I’ve felt objectified as a model is from some of the responses I get when I post my photographers’ work online. Most people say the images are beautiful, but occasionally someone will say something that makes me feel like they’re treating me like a piece of meat instead of a person. Thankfully responding to those people with “Don’t be creepy,” is enough to get them to keep those thoughts to themselves.

Every photographer I know is also a big nerd. The upside to this is they are almost bashful about working with models and they’re never presumptive about their ideas. I think it’s really sweet when my photographer friend sends me ideas for photoshoots. They always come with the vibe of you-can-say-no-but-what-do-you-think-about-this. It’s cute; and he’s never asked me to do anything that made me feel uncomfortable. At my last shoot, we did some bodyscaping where he spread oil on my torso and then dripped water on me. The water droplets stuck together on top of my skin. The resulting photos were gorgeous.

Too Much To Do - Photo by Ben Ammon

Too Much To Do – Photo by Ben Ammon

This may sound weird, but even when I’m doing nude modeling, I don’t feel sexualized or even particularly sexy. I’m thinking about the body line, angles, and portraying emotions. There is a lot of freedom in photo work to channel different types of energy. The slightest shift of the head, the eyes, or a hand can make a big difference in the final image.

Being a model is a lot of fun too. There’s almost always music playing at the shoot so there are usually a few photos of me dancing around and being silly – regardless of what I’m wearing.

Gardening with a Black Thumb

I’ve never said I have a green thumb, or any other green body parts. If anything, I have a track record of killing plants – including a cactus.

My Little Urban Garden - November 2015

My Little Urban Garden – November 2015

Nevertheless, I decided I wanted to get into urban gardening – just a few herbs and edible plants on my patio which mainly serves as Rosie’s sun porch and stick chewing area. A few months ago, I started a little garden – 6 pots of peas, cucumbers, green beans, broccoli, and parsley. It had a good start with little sprouts were coming out of the ground. And then I went on a trip to a conference and I was concerned that they got too dry while I was gone so I soaked them water upon my return – and drowned some of the plants.

I warned you I have a black thumb.

I think I had to replant all of the peas and some of the green beans. The second plant times were outside the optimal planting times so we’ll see if these plants produce anything edible. So far, I don’t have a lot of hope for the cucumbers or the broccoli. They’re growing, but I don’t see them producing anything that looks like food. Conversely, I think I spied the start of my first bean pod the other day.

Oh yes, I’m still a big science dork when it comes to my garden. I’m out there every morning when I get up and every afternoon when I come home from work, looking for new growth.

Other people have said this before, and I definitely agree, that maintaining a garden is therapeutic. Unlike other aspects, gardening is something I can never and will never do perfectly. All I can do is provide sun, soil, and water, and hope that my plants will grow. And there’s something calming about working in the dirt. There was at least one night this fall where I felt extremely agitated but 15 minutes of gardening (replanting seeds after the accidental flood), I felt so much better.

I’m looking forward to seeing if I’ll get any crops to harvest and applying the knowledge from this experience to my winter plantings. I wonder if squash and peppers will be more resilient to neophyte gardener mistakes. My patio doesn’t get as much sun as I’d like so I may expand part of the garden to the area just outside my patio wall that gets more direct sun – especially if I want to try to grow raspberries and cantaloupe.

Lunch with Jeff = Change in Writing Plans

In my last post, I told you about my plans to write two new books next year.

Then I had lunch with Jeff, and now my plans have changed significantly.

Partners in Crime (Photo by Jeff Moriarty, used with permission)

Partners in Crime (Photo by Jeff Moriarty, used with permission)

Jeff Moriarty is one of the most creative people I know. He has a gift for developing and executing ideas. He is the founder of Ignite Phoenix and a co-founder of Improv AZ. I often refer to him as my partner in crime. (Note: We are partners in crime, not partners in life. I have no idea how his wife puts up with all of his puns.) Jeff is also a talented writer and has substantial knowledge about indie publishing. He and Evo Terra ran a company called ePublish Unum that helped indie authors (including me) write and release their books.

I told Jeff about my ideas to write two books next year, and he made the brilliant suggestion that instead of writing two comprehensive books, I could write several shorter ebooks where each one tackles a smaller subtopic within social media law. This would allow me to create and release more book-quality content throughout the year and delve into specialized topics for niche audiences. After releasing several of these short books, I could create a compilation of material from several books and release that as an ebook or in print (most likely print-on-demand).

This idea makes perfect sense for my ideas. I have been struggling with how I was going to fit so many different topics into two books – especially social media law for small businesses because there are so many different groups within that audience I want to help.

In listening to Jeff, my brain was already cranking out ideas – like using a similar cover design for each book, but in a different color, much like what ePublish Unum did with their books about indie publishing.

Originally, I thought I wanted a traditional publisher for my next books, but now I’m thinking of going back to my indie publishing roots. I will still have an editor and a graphic designer; and I may hire a company to format my books. But beyond that I can release my work myself, on a schedule that I set, with total autonomy regarding the topics I cover. And if I don’t have a traditional publisher, there will be no question or debate about who owns the copyright (me) and I can set my own prices. (Translation: I can charge less than what a traditional publisher would charge because I won’t have to share the profit with them.)

So now my next step is to decide what topics I want to cover in my next batch of work, and start figuring out how many e-books I will be writing next year as a result. I have a feeling this means I’m going to have a wall covered in sticky notes in the near future.