What I Loved About Becoming

becoming-michelle-obama-review

Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming was the first book I read this year, and I’m so glad it was because her story is truly uplifting and inspiring. It makes you feel like you can change the world, or even just your situation, for the better. The book is broken up into three parts starting with her humble beginnings in the south side of Chicago. She then takes us on her journey from Harvard Law School to a top Chicago law firm, and her career pivot into the non-profit world. After her courtship with Barack, we’re given a glimpse into their family life and the stresses of his political career and campaigning for the presidency. Once in the White House, you find out how Michelle put her unique touch on the role of First Lady.

I know we’re all supposed to be impressed by her academic accolades and amazing accomplishments while in the White House, but to be honest, the parts of this book I enjoyed most were the moments when she opened up about not having all of the answers. Like when she talks about her relationship with Barack and learning not to resent him for dedicating himself to his political career. Or when she realized practicing law didn’t make her happy and that she had been checking boxes up until that point of her life. The sections on her reinventing and re-imagining her career are some of my favorites.

Reading Becoming felt like talking to a close friend about everything from relationships to careers to parenting – oh yeah and living in the White House! That was my next favorite thing. I loved reading about what it’s like to ride in Air Force One or have secret service agents follow you everywhere, and most importantly, the snack situation in the White House kitchen.

Living in the White House isn’t all perks, though, as Michelle makes abundantly clear. She recounts how every aspect of her life, from the way she dressed to her mannerisms were subject to scrutiny while at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. How she and Barack couldn’t even go on a date without a fleet of security personnel, causing road closures, traffic, and commentary. That’s another eye-opening aspect of this book. You get to see how she learns to block out the noise and find her focus as First Lady. The story of her rising above her critics while staying true to herself is a common theme throughout the book and one I found to be a great example to learn from.

4 Ways Georgia O’Keeffe Inspires Me

During my last visit home to Cleveland, I got the chance to attend the Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern exhibit. It was the last weekend of the show, unfortunately. Before seeing it, I never knew much about her other than she lived in the southwest and was famous for her big flower paintings. I’m embarrassed to admit, it wasn’t a must-see show for me. As a Cleveland expat, my home visits are planned down to the hour, making sure I spend time with everyone. I have to choose my extracurricular activities wisely. But after seeing a clip of it on the news featuring some of her handmade dresses and repurposed clothing, I changed my tune. The show went into much more detail than just her famous flower paintings. It showed how her approach to life and art were very much the same. The minimalist aesthetic you see in her paintings is a reflection of her everyday sensibilities, from the way she dressed to the way she designed her home. Her modern approach to life still seems relevant today and left me feeling inspired and ready to follow her cue.

Here were just a few of my favorite takeaways:

1.    If you can’t find the clothes you want, alter what’s available, or better yet, make them yourself.

This really spoke to me. I’ve had the desire to make my own clothing for a long time. It’s only because of lack of time and skill that I haven’t. I have altered or repurposed clothing I found at the thrift store, dying something to make it a more pleasing color or having something hemmed for a better fit. Either option is much more sustainable than our current state of fast fashion.

Silk dresses she made herself.

A button down shirt that she altered to have a straight collar.

2.    If that doesn’t work, borrow from the boys.

This is something every style blogger and fashionista can relate to. We’ve been borrowing from the boys for a long time: boyfriend jeans, oversized button downs, hats, shoes, etc. But, O’Keeffe seemed to be one of the first. The difference, of course, is she was doing it during a time when it wasn’t in vogue. Such a boss!

3.    Find what works for you and stick with it.

In a time of capsule wardrobes and uniform dressing, this is another area where she was ahead of her time. Toward the end of her career, she had two outfits she wore when being photographed: wrap dresses and pant suits. When putting together my capsule wardrobe for spring, the guide I was using said, “Identify some of your uniforms.” Because there is efficiency in knowing what looks good on you. You don’t have to waste time or money obsessing over what doesn’t, giving you more time to do everything else. O’Keeffe clearly reveled in this.

4.    Nature is a great source for inspiration and materials, especially home décor.

This is probably my favorite photo from the exhibit. During her time in the southwest, O’Keeffe let its nature and landscape inspire more than just her art. Animal skeletons were used as subjects, but also as home décor. I feel like faux skulls have become really popular recently. Finding the real ones in the wild seems like a much cooler story and a lot cheaper.