Working for Yourself: Month 8 | Working On It

I think the interesting thing about being in a creative business is that you’re always in flux. An office job, in my experience, is the same thing, day in and day out. There are definite ebbs and flows to this business, and right now my email is insanely still.

It’s slow. Slower than molasses.

It’s hard not to think that this is some sort of slight on me. It’s the nature of the season, the nature of weddings; the fact that people are getting married now, instead of planning their weddings.

There’s a little voice inside of my head that says, “No one likes you!” And you know what? I know it isn’t true. But sometimes it’s pretty loud.

kiss in zilker park

I’ve been doing this as my full-time job for about 8 months now, and yet I haven’t really stopped criticizing myself long enough to really take a look at what I’ve accomplished. Everything I do, I feel I can do better. I shoot something and I’m proud of it, and then a few weeks later I start to nitpick. I should have stepped back, I should’ve tried a wider lens, I should’ve come in closer, I shoulda, I shoulda, I shoulda.

Walt tells me I’m too hard on myself. I know I’m too hard on myself. But I don’t ever want to become complacent. I don’t want to be like, “Yeah, this is good enough. I can stop learning. I can stop trying new things. I can sit on my laurels.” I’m always hustling, always trying, always thinking.

I just need to get better about giving myself some slack, and to celebrate the stuff that I’ve done.

I’m working on it.

Books | 2013 So Far! #2

Let’s continue on with a second 2013 book post! (See 2013 books #1 here.)

This past month, I learned how to check Kindle books out from the library. It’s been revolutionary! I love learning little ways to save money, so checking out e-books for free is one of my new favorite things. There’s always a way to circumvent paying for the price of new books — going to Half-Price or just checking books out at your local library branch are great alternatives — but when you have a to-read queue, and there’s a specific title that you want, and there’s no library in town that has it, and you’re thisclose to buying a copy, sometimes checking to see if there’s an e-title available can help! I still do buy books — Amazon sometimes has older titles available used for 1¢ and you just pay for shipping! — but this has been great. :)

That being said, some links in here are affiliate links to Amazon, just so you’re aware.

book jackets

I actually picked up A Thousand Splendid Suns  from Half-Price Books a few months ago, when I was perusing their $1 shelf. I’d read Khaled Hosseini’s previous novel, The Kite Runner,  a few years ago and thought it was amazing. This book didn’t disappoint. It takes place in Afghanistan over the period of about 30 years, from the perspectives of two different women (one older, one younger). Of course it’s a work of fiction, but the circumstances surrounding the women’s experiences, together and apart, are led by Afghanistan’s current events and its history. This book is beautiful, but it’s also heavy. When I finished it, all I could do was set it down and try to digest all of it. I’d recommend it.

On the flip side, Zoli: A Novel  by Colum McCann was a terrible disappointment. It’s sad because I read Let the Great World Spin,  also by McCann, in 2010 and loved loved loved it. It was the one book that I would recommend to people to read that year. So I had high expectations for Zoli, and while the subject was interesting, the storytelling itself was slow and boring, which was the opposite of Great World. The novel follows the life of Zoli, a Romani Gypsy poet. After the Communist party exploits her work for their own gain, she’s cast out of her tribe. What I found disappointing was that McCann did a lot of telling, instead of showing. The chunks of the novel that had dialogue were great; the long rambles of Zoli walking about were very dull. I’m still interested to read a few of McCann’s other works (maybe this was a fluke?), but I don’t think I’d tell people to read this novel any time soon.

And another book, written by an author I’m familiar with! Last year I read 1Q84, which was wonderful — Haruki Murakami has a way with gorgeous prose, weird ideas, and is very quirky-supernatural. Sputnik Sweetheart,  which was published about 8 years before 1Q84, seemed to take on a lot of the same qualities. It almost felt as though Sputnik was a blueprint for how he wanted to write 1Q84. There were similar elements: alternate dimensions/realities, characters obsessed with jazz music, the main female protagonists in both novels have very similar personalities, etc. I haven’t read enough Murakami to find out if this is normal — kind of like how Quentin Tarantino’s works all circulate around in the same universe, and lead back to each other — or if these two are just like sister books or something. So I guess it’s time to get my hands on The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle or Kafka on the Shore.

Finally, my one really random book choice: Ready Player One  by Ernest Cline. This is such a nostalgia kick! In the future, people are almost always jacked into a virtual world called OASIS, a kind of MMORPG/Internet hybrid. When the founder of OASIS dies, he leaves behind an intricate puzzle for all players to try to solve, and whoever solves it will inherit his massive fortune. Because the founder has an obsession with the 1980s, all of the pieces of the puzzle lead back to that decade, and so the book is just ’80s factoids and trivia and other throwbacks mixed in with intrigue, mystery, and violence. It was an easy read and one that I’d probably recommend to gamers and other ’80s kids. It might be too weird for people who are younger than 20, though.

* * *

There were some bad books in this batch, too. Books I couldn’t finish. And it pains me to say it, but Jane Austen was one of them.

Mansfield Park… what was this?! I usually adore Jane Austen — see my obsession with Pride and Prejudice, my appreciation of Sense and Sensibility, my Romola Garai fangirliness after she was in Emma — but Fanny Price was such a tedious character. She was so pious, timid, and unlikeable. Actually, all characters were unlikeable. At least with P&P you have Lizzy’s wit to counter Mrs. Bennet’s irritating tirades, or you could enjoy Mr. Knightley’s level-headedness when you thought Emma was being a brat, but no one in Mansfield Park has any redeeming qualities. It felt like reading a high school book assignment and I quit halfway through. (I did find out later, in looking at other people’s reviews, that Fanny stands up for what she believes in, etc., but a little too late, in my opinion. There was nothing holding me to that novel 50% of the way through, so why would I stick it out til she does something in the last quarter?)

The Wind-Up Girl by Paulo Bacigalupi: the idea behind this book was awesome. The back of the book even made it sound amazing: “What happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism’s genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution?” It won a Nebula Award and a Hugo. I was excited. I started to read. The writing was terrible! Here’s a photo I took of one page, the page that made me close the book and throw it into my “nope” pile.

written badly

How many times does Kanya grimace or make a face on page 170? Maybe if you could get past the repetitive writing, you could learn to enjoy the story. There are a lot of people I know who did like this, including my mother-in-law, who normally has excellent taste :) However, I could not.

It’s been a few weeks since the last book post, so what are you reading now? Any new recommendations??

How-To: DIY Dyed Ombre Hair

A few weeks ago, on one of my Saturdays off, I settled into my favorite stylist’s salon chair and asked her to work some magic on my hair. After several years of growing out the dry, damaged hair that came from constant bleaching, dyeing, bleaching, and self-pinking, my hair was back to being healthy and strong, and I was ready to risk it again with some unnatural coloring. I wanted purple ombré, and I was so excited.

…Until seven hours later, when she unveiled a very distinctly brown mop of hair on my head. Don’t get me wrong; the new cut was gorgeous, but the purple was the color of mud. I can only guess that she was used to working with thinner, lighter-colored hair, and the way she tackled my stubborn black Asian hair was ineffective.

I was so sad, and went home in low spirits, and then decided… I’d done it before and I’d do it again. I could dye my own hair.

And here’s how you can do it too.

dyed ombre hairdiy ombre hair tutorial image

Photos by Whitney Runyon. Used with permission.

What you need to bleach:

• * Asians or others with thick, dark brown or black hair: Volume 40 developer — I picked up a bottle of Salon Care
Everyone else, Volume 30 developer (unless you are already white-blonde; then you probably only need 20)
• 1 packet of bleach — I’ve always used Quick Blue
• a pair of vinyl gloves
• Dye Brush — I just picked up whatever was at Sally Beauty
• various household items — a plastic cup you don’t care to drink out of again, sheets of foil, old plastic grocery bags, old clothes you don’t mind ruining, 2 mirrors (ideally so that you can see the back of your hair by using both), a comb, duck bill hair clips

What you need for dye:

• Bottle of hair toner– I swear by Special Effects
• Bottle of hair dye of your color choice — for me, I picked a bottle of Special Effects Deep Purple, and when I used to dye my hair pink I used Special Effects Atomic Pink. If you’d like to check out real people’s dye jobs with various Sfx colors, check out Amphigory.

Getting started:

Get dressed in your ratty old clothes and spread out your bleaching tools on the counter. Separate your hair into about 8 different parts and use the comb to tease it heavily, clipping the finished parts out of the way with duck bill hair clips. What you want is for the hair to not be straight when you apply the bleach because if you apply in a straight line, it’ll just look like you dipped your hair in the bleach and you’ll have a line right across. When you tease your hair, the line of bleach you paint on will turn into a soft fade after you’re done and you’ve straightened your hair out again.

You’ll want to mix half of the bleach packet with the developer, with ratios as instructed. I usually let the mixture sit for a minute or two and let it foam a little. People in salons always paint the bleach on the hair with their brush, then fold the hair up with foil, but I’ve found that really ineffective. Foil leaves air pockets or something, so the bleach dries too fast for my thick hair to really get the benefit of the chemistry. I always wrap my hair in pieces of plastic grocery store bags so that the hair and chemicals stay wet. I then put foil around my entire head to keep the hair from falling out of place. I look like a crazy person waiting for the Martian landing, but it gets the job done.

Check on your hair while you’re bleaching. The thinner your hair, the faster it’ll lose color (and the faster it’ll break if you’re not paying attention!).

bleaching to get a ombre fade

For me, since I have stubborn Asian hair that is very dark and very thick, I did three passes with bleach. (The first pass took about 1/2 the bleach packet; the second pass took 1/4 and the third pass used the last 1/4.) This took about a week.

Pass #1 was an overall bleach job from around my temples, down to the tips. When you’re done with this first pass, your hair should be a lighter brown or a brassy orange.

Pass #2 was around my ears down to the tips. When you’re done with this second pass, your hair should be brassy orange or yellow.

Pass #3 was on the tips only. When you’re done with this third pass, your tips should be blonde and feeling really horrible and dry. Yes, I am advocating that you damage your hair like crazy for this to work.

If you’re a lighter brunette,I’d recommend only 2 passes — you’re already starting with a light brown color so you don’t need to lighten it up like I did. And if you’re blonde, you probably only need to do the tips to get them white.

Imagine getting an awesome purple crayon. You have a white sheet of paper and you start to color on it. The color is vibrant and gorgeous! Now imagine that the paper you’re drawing on is a sheet of brown construction paper. The purple is muddy on the sheet, right? You want your base to be as bright white as possible to get the most vibrant color. By making the tips of your hair blonde and the rest of it light brown, you’re setting up the dye (which will be applied uniformly) to show the brightest at the tips and fade out as it meets your regular hair color near your scalp. You can see the result below (sorry for the Samara impression in that left image):

diy ombre tutorial picture


After you’re done with your bleach job, apply Toner with your cleaned brush to dry hair. Toner can hang out for a while until you feel like washing it out. Sfx Toner is oddly purple colored in the bottle and on your head, but it’s basically stripping the yellow from hair to get it closer to white as possible. This is a step you can probably skip if you don’t feel like buying any extra accessories, but for me it was a big deal because it’s so difficult to bleach my hair to white. It’s just that stubborn.


Wash the toner out, but don’t!!!! condition. You want your hair to be as damaged as possible to soak in the dye. Apply your dye to dry hair. Deep Purple is so dark — almost blue-black — that I cut it with some of the Toner so that it was a little less rich. I used to do the same with Atomic Pink so that it was more of a frosting-pastel-pink than the shocking electric pink that it is straight out of the bottle. Soak your hair in the dye for a while (I usually wait 30 minutes to an hour) and then rinse with cold water.


The bad part about dyed hair is that you track color everywhere. My towels, pillowcases, doorknobs, and keyboard have little tints of purple on them. It’s difficult for me to wear white or light shirts and I can’t get into pools for fear of leaking dye everywhere. But after a while and a few washes, the constant dye-bleeding will slow down and it’ll just be a part of your life :)

I feel amazing with my purple hair. I missed having funky-colored hair! I feel more like myself :)

The great thing about ombré is that it doesn’t take a lot of upkeep. With a full head of hair, you’re always re-bleaching and re-dyeing the roots, but with a fade like this all you have to do is make sure that your color isn’t too weak, and Special Effects is so long-lasting I can’t see myself worrying about a color reapplication for a while yet.

hair flip action shothair flip yeahhh

All the beautiful photos of me were taken by Austin photographer Whitney Runyon; posted with permission. (If you poke around her site a little bit, you’ll see a full session of me on her blog, with more shots of the hair, if you’re curious!) All of the gross photos of me were by me and my iPhone :) Links to Amazon are affiliate links.