Monday, October 27, 2014

Home is wherever I'm with you...

photo cred: Sara Moe
First Anniversary
Two years ago we said "Yes" to a life of creative messiness and leaps into the unknown. Not even a year later, we left everything and went around the world. Last year, we spent our first anniversary in India. We woke up and saw the Taj Mahal and then took a 9 hour journey on a train infested with cockroaches. We powered through way too many episodes of Breaking Bad  and when we arrived at Khajuraho it was pitch black and we were mobbed by tuk tuk drivers. We eventually got into one that ran us off the road and almost into a cow. We hopped out of that one and shared another ride into town. We found the only Indian Italian place in town on a hotel rooftop and had pizza and beer. This year we dropped off our puppy to get spayed.

I miss New York and our lives in Brooklyn, but the truth is it doesn't matter where we are as long as we are walking next to each other and laughing, a lot.
photo cred: Sara Moe
Happy anniversary, handsome. So many adventures behind us, so many more before us.




Thursday, October 23, 2014

Word

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How to Surrender to Life on Life's Terms: Picking up Dog Shit

Me in the Erg Chebbi Desert, Morocco / photo cred: Mike Bacchione
On the phone the other day, a dear friend told me about a speaker that came to her place of work and talked about how our goals most always be just far enough out of reach because we measure ourselves not by attaining the goal by by how far we've come.  She went on to say that Buzz Aldrin and all the men who came back from their landing on the moon fell into subsequent depressions - a little unknown fact that the history books do not detail. They had been to the moon, they had attained their life goal and when they returned the world they lived in what was no longer familiar. What tops landing on the moon?

I did not land on the moon and I have not made a dent in history, but I accomplished something that brought me the greatest joy and adventure and freedom I ever experienced in my life. It only makes sense for me to still not know what the hell is next for me. And yet, I know enough. And more is becoming clear.

My life has been about dogs lately. Maple, my brother's dog Wally who we watched for a week while they were on their honeymoon, Morgan's dog who needed a loving ride to the vet, and today, Lily Grace - a runaway that found her way to Mike and Maple. Maple gets her final shots this Friday which means FREEDOM. She can finally be walked outside. We try to socialize her with Wally and other dogs when we can but today, it was like the universe opened up and dropped a tiny gift for us. Lily Grace and Maple got a very active and friendly play date until her owner's contacted us back to come and get her. But it's been good to be around dogs. They don't care about anything but loving you and eating and pooping. Whenever I start to feel blue or take myself too seriously, I clean up the patio and pick up piles of dog shit and scrub it all down. (And I do this at least twice a day to give you an idea of how much shit we are talking.) Nothing humbles you like picking up feces under a blazing sun.

The other thing my life has been about is screwing up interviews - something I never had a problem with until coming back here. And part of the reason, I have to believe, is that my heart hasn't truly been in any of the positions I have interviewed for. For one interview I switched the time in my head and got there an hour late. I have only done that one other time in my life and it was for the SATs. My confidence was so shot I blew the entire thing. The latest interview I also screwed up by talking too fast and also accidentally asking "so is that the light at the tunnel?" when asking about the trajectory of the job. The truth is, I have been working since before I even left for the trip. I have worked freelance, consistently, and even now I am working full time freelance.  But I undervalue that work because it's hard for me to tell myself "good job." It's hard for to acknowledge when I'm kicking ass at just being me because I have this gaping blind spot where I actually seek approval from others.  It's also hard for me to value it since the pay is not something I can live off, yet. It's hard to trust that if I just really commit to this whole freelance thing, that the consistent work will come, the pay will come. But more importantly I could actually design a life and career that I want if I let go and trust. Surrender is a bitch. And for someone as stubborn as me, it seems to be coming with an ass-whoopin' to my ego. (Did I mention I got another candidacy rejection email today?) Surrender by beat down. But, my ego's not worth much these days and it's probably done me more harm than good in the scope of things.


It is only with the heart that one can see rightly....
--Antoine de Saint Exupery

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Teamwork

Photo credit: @smshanny / Posted by @the818
This past weekend my little brother got married. It was a fabulous affair in Palm Springs with all the glam and flare these two beautiful people deserve. I have come to love my new sister-in-law as a sister, indeed, and I was honored to stand with them as a bridesmaid and give a reading that was actually a writing taken from their own words. There were many toasts and lots of pictures and endless laughter and shared stories and memories. But my favorite picture of the night was taken in a vulnerable moment behind the scenes. Lauren's bustle had broken just before dancing was to commence. My mother had just given a toast that I felt conflicted about at best, but mostly just raw. I was leaving the bathroom and ran into my Aunt Gail, down on two knees trying to fix Lauren's dress. I joined her in the pulling and tying and fixing and just then, Scott, perhaps my oldest friend in life, (and really more like family than friend) was walking back into the ballroom and snapped this shot. My Aunt Gail was the woman in mine and my brother's lives who stepped in when my mom had to step out. So much of the kind of woman I became was shaped by "Growing up Guenther" - spending weeknights and weekends at Gail's house with her four boys, my cousins who are more like brothers. This picture captures all of us in our element, but most importantly it captures the kind of family values I was raised with - teamwork, service, and laughter. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

33 - My Jesus Year

Last year, Mike and I celebrated our birthdays on the Amalfi Coast. This year we celebrated the morning with a snuggle with Maple in California.  At 32, I felt more grounded than I do today and yet I was tethered to nothing except Mike. Now I am tethered to Mike and Maple and, as of recently, California. And yet, I feel more than ever as if I am floating, but not floating. More like violently jerking. Some kid's balloon in a strong wind.

I have gone crazy over this dog. I know it. I am pouring all of the motherly energy that has been bottling up for quite some time into this little life and while I never thought I would be a crazy dog person, suddenly I am. It's nice to know I still can surprise myself and that something can affect me on such a primal level. I have wanted a dog for a long time, but right now I need a dog for so many reasons. And of course, it was not great timing and didn't not make the most sense. But to me, it has been the only thing that makes sense for quite some time.

When I was 25, my old boss and mentor said to me, "Fear...." then he knocked on a table. "It's as real as this table." He went on to say it's the reason you go out and get wasted instead of sitting down to write or budgeting your Indie film. It's the reason you put things off for twenty years, pursuing a career everyone tells you you are good at, but one you know in your heart was actually the easier choice. There has been a lot of that lately, that fear, as thick as wood. So thick when I wake up I feel like I am walking, face first, into a closed door that makes me just want to go back to bed. But instead, I listen to music. Hozier, to be specific. And today, Feist.

I know there is a reason we landed here. I have to trust that reason will appear. But it's hard to keep face planting. I tell myself that my life is by design. I am not a victim here. I am an eager and willing volunteer. My life is out of order because I chose it to be. We got married and spent the nest egg because travel was our number one priority. This is what happens next - the messy unknown. But no matter what I tell myself, it doesn't make it any less isolating.

Over dinner at Dupars the other day, my Dad told me 33 was going to be a good year. I told him 33 was a big year for Jesus, too, but it still sucked. Another friend emailed me the same thing - "Happy birthday! It's your Jesus year!" The promise of great things ahead. In all honesty, I would feel pretty accomplished if I could turn water into wine. But turning my skills and interests into a job would be a nice consolation prize.  But then I think to myself, Jesus was a simple man with no money but a heart of gratitude and love. I may not have 12 disciples, but I have friends who would never betray me, a family who is thrilled to have me home,  a dog that loves me because I pet her belly, and a husband who surprised me with tickets to a Black Keys concert. So, shit, maybe 33 is shaping up to be pretty epic. I mean, who doesn't want puppy snuggles to start off your birthday?


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

All That Is Good

Maple the Pup
A couple days ago, I was nominated on Facebook by my cousin's girlfriend (whom I adore) to do a gratefulness challenge. Since a gratitude list is my first "go-to" when I am feeling blue, I decided I would rather have it here on my blog as a place I can always look at it when I'm down. This exercise could not come at a better time, so the first thing I am grateful for is.....

1.  Jessica Serrano, whose kindness comes through in every aspect of her life - with family, with her job working with children, with her dog, and especially with my cousin, Gilen, who holds a very special place in my heart.

Gilen and Shaun
2. My cousin, Gilen, who was born almost exactly ten years after me. I got to witness a lot of Gilen's child milestones first hand and because of that he became a great teacher for me, too. I can't ever remember hearing a complaint from Gilen. Even when he was eight and in almost an entire body cast during a summer in the San Fernando Valley with a glistening pool teasing him from his backyard, he never pitied himself.

3. My cousin Gian, and his awesome partner, Liz. Like all of the Guenthers, Gian is like a brother to me and I couldn't be more excited for him and his new path, a path that won't be easy but will be complimented by Liz, who has one of the most level heads on any person I think I've ever met. Gian teaches me to keep an open mind especially when called to a career that is meant to be completely selfless and of service. And I'm grateful for Liz who though she has a level head that I can connect with, she also likes to shake it like a salt shaker.

4. Gary and Kerrie and the four amazing little girls who embody the spunk, the athleticism, and the charm of their parents. I'm grateful that no matter how long I've been out of California and away from home, when I text Gary that I'm in need of car insurance immediately, he calls me back willing to help out (after he gets a few good razzes in).  Dependability is something the Guenthers are not in short supply of. And I'm grateful to Kerrie for her honesty and humor which often go hand in hand.

Lauren & Maple
5. Gret and Brandie for being more than family, but friends, and my godsons who make me laugh in a way that no one else can. I'm grateful to them all for giving me the best gig around town - the godmother who gets to take them to places like arcades and trampoline zones, but also gets to see their faces when a light bulb goes off and they put together an English sentence they feel proud of.

6. Gail and Guy - aunt and uncle extraordinaire - who are really more like another set of parents- the ones that believe in tough love but also that mama-bear-tribal love that teaches family is first, always, no matter what.

7. My brother, Shaun, and my soon-to-be sister-in-law, Lauren, who have been so supportive of Mike and I in our transition back. These two teach me all the time that there is always more room. The heart never fills up. There is always room for more friends, more puppies, more families, more wine, more Simpsons. They have opened up more than their homes to us, but also throw us invitations to their circle of friends all the time, and have trusted us on occasion with their greatest treasure of all- Wally!

Dee and Morgan
8. My friends, Morgan and Scott, and their little girl Dee,  and their three dogs. Visiting the Shanahans is a family affair in all the best ways. Morgan has not only given me work to help get me back on my feet, but also continually gives me faith that everything will work out. Scott, who shows me all the time that change is hard but necessary and also knows how to deliver sage advice right at the moment when I'm about to give up hope. Dee, who holds a special place in my heart from our days gallivanting around New York City. (Okay, so she was 10 months and it was just a couple afternoons, but they were awesome!) But Dee continues to give hugs just when I need them. And their dogs for encouraging me to get my own dog, something I have wanted for a long time but have been too scared to commit to.

9. My Maid-of-Honor who hates being publicly called out on social media. But for giving me patience and honesty and helping me talk things out like a damn professional. Her opinion really should be worth its weight in gold because she deserves a lot of money for the shit she comes up with.

Me and the Boys
10. Carmen and Vio and their hubbies, Eli and Francesco (respectively) and all of their amazing kids who, when I'm with them, make me look at life through a way more interesting and funny perspective. They are my New York and Philly families, without which, I would not be who I am today.

11. Mike's family, who teach me that there is always more room and there is always more food and more wine! The Bacchiones and Zellers love nothing more than to spend time with each other. They have a family bond that is infectious no matter how near or far I am from them.

12. Jeff and Erin, who I feel like have become some of Mike's and mine closest couple friends. I am grateful to them both for their humor and their temperament, but even more so their curiosity and zeal for life, something we all can get down with - whether it's dancing in a Turkish alley with a gypsy,  roadtrippin' across the country to help a brother out, or staying up late talking in an airbnb in San Francisco the night before big job interviews. I love these guys a little more deeply every time I see them.

Julie and Laurel
13. Songadeewin and NYU and all the people in between. Without NYU, I would never have had Songa. Without Songa I would have never had most of my best friends and my husband. I am also incredibly grateful that this year alone, I have been able to re-connect with friends from NYU, (even my long lost roommate, Alma!) Songa friends from New Zealand to New York, Philly to Louisiana, Vermont to California, and the conversation and love is always right where we left off. Megs, Court, Julie, Laurel - that shit runs deep.

14. The life I created in New York will forever be a part of me, as well as the friends, experiences, subway rides, and restaurants that come with it. I still have not said goodbye to you, New York, and I don't think I have to. I honestly feel it is just goodbye for now.

15. Traveling around the fucking world. Even though I have been struggling to get back on my feet, I wouldn't change a thing.

16. My mom who teaches me to just keep moving.

17. My dad whose endless support in my life and especially since coming back has made my "struggle" more of an esoteric one than an actual struggle.  I'm grateful he has opened up his home for me and Mike and I'm so grateful for this time with my dad where we actually sit down and have dinner together as if we are making up for all the ones we lost when I was in New York.

Mike and Me
18. Mike, who I recently described to someone as "a man who is filled with joy and serenity most of the day, everyday." Where do I even begin? The man married me well after he knew better. And he continues to love me through all the snot, tears, crazy ideas, and transitions.

19. Maple - my pup. I have wanted a dog for a long time and I think this one actually found me. She is teaching me patience and humility, a much needed dose of it.

20. And lastly,  I am grateful for my health and my body, especially the latter which I so often like to criticize. I don't have the nicest bod in a bikini, but I'm stronger than hell.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

LA's Murals & Street Art

Lita Albuquerque Monument, artist: Kent Twitchell
One of the things that I have loved about coming back to LA is finally being able to see all of the murals that pepper the city's freeways. Many of the murals were put up for the 1984 Olympics including this one which was painted in 1983 as part of Kent Twitchell's 7th Street Altar Piece. The mural is of environmental artist Lita Alburqurque who is pretty bad ass in her own right. Public art is something LA has always done well and much like any city that has a booming pop culture, there is almost always resistance from the counter-culture.
Lita Alburqurque Monument with graffiti via fineartconservationlab.com
Artists: Haunted Euth & TFail (pic via colorsinla.com)
Underground art is also something LA has done well, unfortunately the two art scenes often clash when it comes to public space. Many of the Olympic murals were tagged and graffiti bombed in the 80s and 90s, almost completely destroying some of the Olympic murals like the Lita Alburqurque one above. Fortunately, the Mural Conservancy of LA has created a Board of Directors and an Advisory Board including strong figures from both worlds like graffiti artist, Street Phantom, and the artist of this mural here, Kent Twitchell. The non-profit has been restoring murals in the city of LA since 2012. This combined with LA's adopted no-tolerance graffiti laws (much like the one in New York City) have helped restore and maintain the beauty of these works which get plenty of viewing time (much more than they would in a museum) due to the very nature of LA traffic culture.



However, as I learned while researching this blog post and going further down the rabbit hole, the struggle between the two worlds still continues. (Although, I don't characterize "tagging" as art.)

A couple days after restoration of the Jim Morpheus Monument in 2011...

Jim Morpheus Monument, newly restored, newly graffiti bombed in 2011

Jim Morpheus Monument mural that looks opposite to Lita Alburqurque Monument on the 101 freeway
artist: Kent Twitchell


Monday, July 21, 2014

Global Eats Around the Valley & Beyond

Me, eating up the good life at Alimento in Silver Lake
I didn't intend for such a delightful weekend of global cuisine, but I'll take it!  One of the gifts that living in New York gave me and travel expanded upon was my appreciation for my very diverse palate. Going out to east is pretty much my favorite thing in the world, so why not share the love here and give you a few gems from LA.

Mo & Scott at Gyu-Kaku in the Valley
On Friday, I went to dinner in the valley at Gyu-Kaku with some of my oldest friends and their little four year old firecracker of a daughter where we enjoyed some Japanese BBQ. The trick to this little valley hot spot is someone has to be the designated cook (the table is the grill) and that someone has to pay attention to the clock. Thankfully, the gentleman of our crew assumed that role, and we all enjoyed some perfectly cooked Harami Miso and Spicy Pork topped off with some S'mores deliciousness.

Saturday was an awesome day of Silver Lake exploration. Tara and I met up for what we thought would be a beach day, but with the overcast clouds, we opted for the other side of Los Angeles and cruised along Silver Lake. We started with almond milk lattes at LA Mill where I proceeded to get all emotional in talking about this transition out here. Emotions which carried on to happy hour at El Condor where the waitress there was super awesome and suggested we try one of the best tequila reposados I have ever had.  Unfortunately, I can't remember the name. But, no matter. This is definitely a happy hour spot I will be returning, too. After some real talk and tough love, I shook the blues and we took our time getting to our dinner reservation at new Italian joint, Alimento. We were kind of full from the appetizer and drinks at El Condor, so we split three small dishes and opted for the chicken liver crostini, the lamb belly with chickpea pancake and the chopped salad. The chicken liver blew my mind. I will be back there, just for that. (I mean, not ONLY that, but truly, that liver was amazing.)

EL Condor Happy Hour
Sunday, I was headed to the zoo in the morning and I definitely needed my daily caffeine fix so I skipped the long lines at the very deservedly popular Aroma Coffee & Tea on Tujunga and went with the Gelato Bar & Espresso Caffe a couple doors down where they brew a delicious roast and make a mean cappuccino. After checking out some lions, flamingos and chimpanzees I ate a light lunch of fruit to save my appetite for drinks and dinner with friends passing through town on their cross-country trip. We tried some home-brewed lagers at BJ's Brewhouse and then headed to the Himalayan Cafe for Tibet-Nepalese food which brought back so many wonderful memories. Yak Momos, Thukpa, Lamb Vindaloo, paratha, Thalis! It's amazing how quickly traveling feels like it slips through your fingers, but having all of this Tibetan and Nepalese and Indian food brought a smile to my face and a deep sense of appreciation. If I can relive the trip through my tastebuds I am one very lucky girl.  




Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How To Take A Hint


When the blog post you were on the fence about ends up accidentally permanently deleting itself just before publishing it, that's the universe telling you, "Not this one." I'll give you the gist of it which was that I found myself surprised by an answer to one of those stupid quizzes that we all take - you know the ones that tell you what 1940's movie actress you are or what your 90's theme song is. A couple weeks after getting home from our 'round the world trip, having finished in New Zealand, one of those quizzes told me New Zealand is the country I should be living. The lesson here is take them all with a grain of salt. But, when I filled in the answers to the quiz, "What city should you be living in?" I felt like I was circling answers that reminded me of New York, like, "yes, I thrive in chaos."

To my surprise, the answer came back "Los Angeles." Then I went on to talk about how actually, yes, the chaos has always been in Los Angeles and how New York City was a reinvention and since coming home, everything is confrontation - old friends, old memories, old ghosts. I think I have probably written about it too much at this point. My husband did give me a "red card" for missing New York and I know it is not becoming to mope about on the internet about the place I miss when life here is pretty easy and pretty wonderful. The weather is better, the living spaces are bigger and in one day I can choose to snowboard in the morning and have happy hour on the beach (and yes, I have done this before!)My family is here and I am playing catch up and hanging out with my godsons and getting to know two of my oldest friends' amazing little girl. I am getting to know my mother and getting to help my brother bounce ideas as he plans for his wedding. I know that I am a very lucky girl. I have no reason to be unhappy, especially after doing what we have done. But in the words of Obama, change is messy, and right now, I'm just in the thick of it. So, I hope you will forgive me for talking about this transitional stuff so much! The post I wrote that got deleted also talked about a conversation I heard about the direct correlation between having no boundaries and having no fun. And I had a lot to say about it, but right now, I'm just tired. My eyes are practically closing, so I think I will take the hint and go to bed. Maybe tomorrow I'll write a more flowery post called "Finding Home" and talk about all that stuff, but for now, I am very grateful to be headed to a cozy bed. Goodnight. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Saddest Thing On The Internet

Photo cred: Mario Calvo
I'm not sure when it started, when Facebook became my feed for strange news stories, most of which boil down to lists of curated local events or news stories completely unfit to print. Facebook used to be a place where I kept in touch with my family and with my friends who have scattered all over the world. But somewhere in between my reckless use of the "Like" button and my laziness, my Facebook feed became the stuff Tabloid magazine racks are made of. At any point in the day, I can see a small puppy doing something cute, read about a horrific fatal car crash, learn about the latest suicide in the subway system of New York,  or find the best burgers, tacos, or happy hours in LA and all at the same time if I so desire. What this constant stream of lunacy and convenience has done has aided in the re-wiring of my brain and contributed to a type of ADD for me that for sure has not yet been diagnosed and for sure is caused by the internet and our obsessive, addictive-fueled culture. In other words: I have a hard time focusing sifting through all this shit. But beyond focusing, I also now have a hard time caring. I don't care about cute puppies or clever cats.  I do, weirdly, have a "bad accident"kind of fascination, however. When I see the tragic stories, I usually have to look. But I read the first paragraph or two and then I close the page. Rarely do I read an entire article on these weird traumatic events which leaves me saying this a lot, "Oh, yeah, I saw that headline...no, no, I didn't actually read the story." 

It's a plague, I know. A plague I have given myself. I am actually making myself stupider (and yes, I think I can use that made up word there, because this is the internet and anything goes!) I am contributing to the deterioration of my own mental health and most definitely my IQ. I am hardening myself with all the horror I consume in just a ten-minute casual sitting at my laptop while I eat a bowl of cereal. There used to be a time when it wasn't normal to check your emails and news blogs (because lets be honest, they are not online newspapers) before you brushed your teeth. There used to be a time when I scoffed at people on Facebook because I was sure it was just a fad and felt myself "above it" for some reason. I mean, I joined in 2008. Little did I know that six years later it would become my source for information for everything from political discourse in this country, to natural disasters in other countries, to where to buy tickets to Tacolandia to the thing Facebook is really meant for - a revolving slideshow of seeing all of my friends have adorable babies at what feels like the exact same time, or say, posting pictures from your around the world honeymoon (wink wink.)  And while we are on that note, I recently confided in a friend that I was ready to punch my Facebook feed right in its computer face when every single fucking time I scrolled down, there was some advertisement or "news article" about infertility or the risks of having children once you hit 35, which - NEWSFLASH, INTERNET - we all know! Every woman over 30 knows it, many fear it, and only a few I know are okay with it. For the love of God, cool it! But my brilliant friend responded, "Of course you're getting all that shit! Facebook reads 'Woman. Married. Over 30.' and then they think Let's get her!" 
A couple days later, that story hit about Facebook messing with people's feeds as a psychological experiment. The entire internet is a psychological experiment, as far as I am concerned. But Facebook, had did you manage to become such a focal point in my life? So influencing in my life that at 10pm on a Monday, while scrolling through my feed, which is for pure entertainment at this point, I find myself suddenly struck by what I have come to experience as the saddest thing on the internet I think I have ever seen. (And let me clarify, it is definitely not.) But, I felt almost moved to tears when I read Huffington Post's article on Raju the Elephant, who had been abused and enslaved with spiky chains that dug into his ankles for 50 years and how a group of wildlife rescuers freed him, and the elephant actually cried. That's right, a 50 year old elephant crying in India is what stuck. It so deeply moved me that I actually put my hands to my face. Something about this story, the idea of an animal crying after being freed made me feel something that the internet destroyed long ago. This idea of consciousness in a living thing that for 50 years nobody has noticed. Raju made me feel compassion not just for him and his fate, but for all of us. And maybe I am reading into it all too much. But it suddenly struck me that every story on the internet (minus the best cheeseburgers lists) is Raju's story. Every story is about someone trying to communicate something, sometimes for 50 years, that nobody understands. Every story is about getting free from that shackle. Every story is about trusting and distrusting, getting away from our pasts, and trying to find just that little sliver of hope. That's why we write blogs, and we read memoirs, and we create YouTube channels. We all just want to be heard and we are all so terrified of being forgotten. Could it be that the saddest thing on the internet is actually everything?

When I was in India, I saw an elephant tied up in the middle of a jungle. It was tied up, waiting for any tourists who may want a ride. I felt sad when I saw that elephant. Sad and amazed. Its size, alone, was breathtaking. But all I did was take its picture. 

I am rethinking this whole social media, Facebook, news blog, strange other world called the Internet. I don't know if it is the epitome of what makes us uniquely human - connection, nostalgia, hope -or the pinnacle of humanity at its worst - detached, voyeuristic, broken. Whatever it is, I think it best I resolve my own intention of what I want it to be for me and also what I want to contribute to it. I wonder if anyone reading this has any intentions of their own they could offer, maybe one I could borrow in the meantime.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

How To Get Patriotic

One of the most surprising experiences of traveling was finding a deep appreciation and love for my own country. I have always been grateful to be an American, but never as grateful as I was spending 8 months traveling further and further away from it. Do we have our problems? Yes. We are a gun-toting, GMO-crop sharing, fame-whore, nation fueled by capitalism, addictions, and religious zealotry that constantly threatens to destroy the very spirit of America that says we are ALL CREATED EQUAL.

When Mike and I came home, exhausted and culture shocked from our trip, there was a lot to be sad about. A lot to complain about. A lot of different perspectives to acknowledge. However, when Mike's family asked him what his favorite country was, his answer came without a second thought, "America." We laughed, but there was a lot of truth to it. Could we be happy living in Italy, Southern Spain, New Zealand...OF COURSE. But for as liberal and well traveled and "cultured" as we think we are, deep down our blood runs red, white, and blue, baby.

Am I pissed off at this country most of the time? YES. I have a bone to pick with the Supreme Court, and the Tea Party, gun lobbyists, and people who shit all over women's and civil rights. But, man, there is also a lot to appreciate, to honor, and to be grateful for. It is easy to get wrapped up in the constant stream of criticism and debate, political fodder, and downright lunacy. But I reckon it is even harder for a liberal to say how much they love this country, because let's be honest - "patriotism" has been co-opted by the right and to be pro-America somehow evokes GOP. But, I'm here to take back my own version of patriotism, because the truth is, I have been a practicing patriot for a long time and that includes dissent, exploration, and disappointment. But I love this country because, well, everything. This blog. My right to prosecute when someone has hurt me. My right that I am innocent until proven guilty. My privilege to drive a car, to eat at nice restaurants, to turn on the tap and have clean water. My access to doctors and especially now with the Affordable Care Act. My luxury to have a choice, all the time, every time. My right to bitch about this country and do what I can to help it continue to progress. The fact that as a young girl I was allowed and encouraged to play soccer, a sport that quickly became a passion of mine and on that note, I do believe I will see the US Men's Team win the World Cup in my lifetime! And on a completely separate note, I have mad respect for the US soccer team because they don't get into all that "flopping" stuff. For the most part, they have little drama on the field and for that I am so grateful.

But on this fourth of July, I think Mike and I will appreciate it more than perhaps we ever have before.  Happy Fourth, y'all!





Saturday, June 28, 2014

Dinner With Friends: A Discussion About Art & Instagram

Morgan, Neal, Me & Matt at NYU, 2001
Last night, Mike and I carpooled with Morgan and Scott and their daughter, Dee, out of the valley and into the hills where we had dinner at Neal and Jodi's house and spent some time with their new baby. Aside from how amazing it is to watch friends become parents, it is damn near breathtaking to see the gorgeous little creations that they have put on this earth. I can't imagine how I will feel when it is our turn because I feel such instant love for my friends' kids. (And they are all kicking butt at this whole parenting thing.)

One of the things I have loved about coming back to LA is reconnecting with these dudes. (Well, not Matt just yet, but soon I hope!) It's not that we were ever disconnected. We were just living our lives and they were making people and I was making my way. But, like with any solid group of friends, the conversations never skip a beat and the years and time we weren't in touch as much don't really seem to matter, especially when you can connect over laughter and homemade berry crumble with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. We talked about blogs and writing, the horror that can be Facebook and the disconnect with Instagram. At this table were some of the smartest people I know, but their smarts are not what impress me. It is their ability to communicate their ideas and thoughts that impress me.

At one point Neal was talking about the problem with this idea of "curating the image." We talked about so many Instagram shots that focus on, lets say, a beautiful table setting with eggshell linen and porcelain dishes and glistening silver with glowing amber candles littering the table. He said something to the effect of Just because you have the ability to buy nice things doesn't make it art. This idea of "Instagram art" as classist is something I have both fallen for, engaged in, and been turned off by. But the clarity of that thought was what struck me. Yes! Instagram promotes classism, as LinkedIn promotes discrimination, as Facebook promotes false story as all of this constant "social" connection truly fosters loneliness under the guise of fostering friendships. Then again, having lived on the East Coast for six years away from my family, it was because of social media that I was able to watch my godsons win trophies and my father get engaged and my friends have children. Facebook has fostered friendships for me, just as Instagram has inspired me and Twitter has informed me. But it has come at a cost - the cost of disconnecting from the present moment by spreading my presence too thin. It has taken my need to hear "Good Job" and blended it with my fear of losing people, my fear of missing out, and my NYU-style ambition and turned into this adapted new piece of my personality.  I can't remember the last time I was with a big group of friends or family that I didn't feel the need to take a picture, to capture the moment, hang on to it for future proof, validation, memory or some deep-seated need to be relevant, liked, even loved. But, what I find so interesting is that because of the life I have curated and shared on social media, at least when I am with my family, there is also an assumption that I will take that picture, shoot that video, post that moment. And they are not wrong, I usually do. Sometimes more compulsively than others and yet those are the posts I respect even more because I don't think about editing or polishing them, I just hit "Share."

Jodi & Neal at my wedding in New York, 2012 Photo cred: @saramoe and @graceroth
I try to start my day with some meditations and prayer (if you will), one of which asks the universe to help me "divorce my thoughts from self-seeking motives." But what I am finding is that my thoughts and my actions are not even truly connected at this point. My brain has been rewired in the last six years. My actions untethered. My needs are not as secretive as I think they are. They are, in fact, somewhat transparent, as are everyone else's. What am I truly putting out in the world that is art? And what am I putting out there that is really a need? And the bigger question: so what if it is a need?

How do we continue to grow as artists and as people? Parents? Wives and husbands and friends? How do we separate the self from the masses? The art from the product? The moment from the Instagram feed? Hold onto the sacred while exploring the inescapable truth that in 2014, we live in public?

What I loved most about traveling was coming to a new place I had never seen. Not in books, not in movies, not on "Google image search." What I loved the most was truly experiencing something, whether it be a food or a place or a person, for the very first time with absolutely no knowledge about it. And then I loved to take a picture of it and share it with whoever was watching. I wanted to pass on that awe. Share the inspiration. Tell a story. Traveling gave me new eyes and one of the gifts I have taken home with me is seeing my hometown with these new eyes. It  has recently made me rethink about what I put up on my Instagram feed or post on Facebook or even write about on this blog. And yet still at the end of dinner tonight, I said, "Shoot! We should have taken a picture!"

I am so grateful to have smart, talented friends that have welcomed me back home with dinner parties and twilight summer nights sipping wine at a table overlooking pink skies and silhouetted palm trees. I am so grateful to have friends who have hooked me up with jobs and family who have put absolutely no pressure on me while they support me and my husband through this transitional time. I am so grateful that Jodi reads this blog and that she called me out on my sad "I miss New York" post telling me that it seemed like I was possibly in limbo and possibly headed back. (Thanks, Jodi!) And I'm so grateful that I have a full life in New York and here in LA, and out there in the world and its not because of where I am, but who is in my life. From the friend reading a short story on a porch in Vermont that texted me with a line from it that made her laugh out loud, to the other friend trying to put her baby down for bed while hosting a dinner party downstairs, to the friend in Philadelphia posting a picture of her daughter taking her first steps, to the friend I actually just had a phone conversation with in San Francisco, the world we live in now is not different from the one we nostalgically remember, its just the way we communicate it that is.  It's the way it keeps all of our touchstones right there before us so we are never just one feeling but all feelings sometimes in all the same minute - love, fear, envy, grief. I am heartbroken over leaving New York and grateful to be back in LA. I am terrified of my future and so envious of others' present. I miss the feeling I had with me everyday when traveling and also welcome the comfort of a soft bed, home-cooked food, and dinner with some amazing friends.

Friday, June 27, 2014

This Face: Grant

To know this kid is to know that he cannot sit still for one second and because of that it is almost impossible to get a candid shot of him or just a shot where he is not making a silly face. He loves to ham it up.  BUT, I caught this moment in between 10 blurry shots of these two messing around and it felt like a "Eureka!" moment.

I don't think I have ever met a kid as rambunctious as he is a cuddle-bug. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

E.Z.L.A., It's Another Beautiful Day

Los Angeles, CA (Taken from The Getty)
One of my favorite songs about Los Angeles is an old song by Folk Implosion called, you guessed it, E.Z.L.A.

Without the seasons will I know how to change
Are we helpless to the wind?

Along with an unusual beat and disarming yet haunting melody, the lyrics have always stuck in my head as this beautiful portrait of the culture of this city. But just before he gets too dark, he pulls out with a very light and easy chorus, much like the weather here, "It's another beautiful day."

If life is stranger than fiction, then LA is as mythical as you want it to be. And although it is my hometown, I have always felt a bit like a stranger in this land, which I can only guess is exactly what a native Los Angelino feels like. I am home, but I don't remember anything. I can't remember the freeway rhythms or the street shortcuts or which canyon to take to get to which neighborhood. And yet what I do remember is everything all the time. That house where I slapped the kid on Halloween for pinching my butt when I was fifteen. That driveway when I saw a strong wind come by and blow my friend's mother's skirt up and I learned what a thong was when I was twelve. That dirt track at Van Nuys Sherman Oaks where I ran so many miles around. That offramp that used to make me shutter whenever I passed it. That street my grandparents lived on that used to bring me such joy as a kid, fear as a teenager, and now such deep regret and sadness.  

Feel the ground, it's always moving
Down a mountain through a valley
Watch it all collide

When we first landed here, I felt two earthquakes within a week of each other. My world was spinning and then the ground was trembling beneath my feet. I panicked and woke Mike up. Got him ready in case we needed to run to a door jamb, no wait, you are not supposed to do that anymore...a table...no wait, where the fuck do you go in an earthquake?!" I couldn't remember. So I sat up frozen, heart beating, waiting for the walls to come crumbling down. 

Two weeks ago, a guy was running around my neighborhood with an assault rifle while I decided to work with the door open to get some fresh air. My friend posted it on facebook about the same time the news picked up the story. But that's not why I closed the door. I didn't see the news and I hadn't checked facebook, but I finally noticed the helicopters circling and circling. I remembered what that meant in LA. It meant OJ Simpson was fleeing. It meant there was a shoot out at a bank in North Hollywood. It mean car chase. It meant guns. And without knowing the news, I felt the news, and closed the door. 

Hear the other ocean churning
Helicopters up above


Sometimes I think that I might never feel at home here- that part of being home here is the discomfort, along with the awe of it all. Today, I had lunch in a glass restaurant high up in the hills above this strange land. I reconnected with a family member I never got to really know and we talked about family and place. How the scent of the air here brings a flood of emotions for her, just like the cadence in her speech can bring about my own flood. In New York I feel strong. In LA I feel vulnerable. In New York I feel at home. At home I feel a stranger. But from atop of the hills, I feel neither. I just feel open. 




The Birds


Santa Barbara, CA

Friday, June 20, 2014

Late Spring Cleaning

I'm cleaning up my blog, folks! Thanks for reading and please stay tuned! You can also Follow my blog with Bloglovin which is my favorite of blog reading platforms. You can get all the blogs you love delivered to you in one snippet of email and then click on what suits your fancy!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Gavin

A couple of weeks ago, Mike stood as the only New York Rangers fan in a house full of LA Kings fans during The Stanley Cup Finals. It was decided that if the Rangers won, my cousins would toss Mike into the pool. If the Kings won, my cousins would still toss Mike into the pool. Getting thrown into the pool at my Aunt Gail's house is a sort of baptism in my family.

This is my godson, Gavin, who has always had a very intuitive and sensitive nature. He pulled Mike aside and whispered, "If the Rangers win, you can throw me in the pool, Mike."

I love this kid. 

Stealing Thunder


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Move Over Iggy Azalea, We Want Fancy Jean Baker!

Chris Farah as Fancy Jean Baker at the Hollywood Fringe Festival 2014
The world is now a better, happier, sexier place because Chris Farah, an amazing talent, has given us Fancy Jean Baker, a seasoned prostitute with Southern Belle charm, a voice like Liza and boobs like Dolly, answering all of our #realtalk questions via live tweet like "Does using tinder make me tacky. I am gay though"  or "which soap should I use to clean my dildos?"

Fancy: Secrets From My Bootydoir playing NOW at the Hollywood Fringe Festival 2014 is one of the best pieces of comedy theatre I have seen in a long time. Chris Farah's Fancy is a mixture of cabaret-musical-comedy with a live pianist (whom Fancy lovingly refers to as her penist) showcasing Farah's dynamic vocals with modified show-tune favorites cut with sharp improv enticed by audience participation and a wicked but fresh humor peppered with all the naughty things we theatre lovers live to applaud for.  The show has a "loveyourselfie" message promoting love of self and love for each other since that is what it really is all about.

Watching Farah perform her one-woman show was inspiring on a personal level. Her confidence and magnetic personality truly radiates onto the audience, bringing everyone along for the ride. Her humor is also driven by positivity as opposed to picking an audience member or antagonizing hecklers as so many comedy shows tend to go. And while Fancy does not hold back on the sex talk, she also never dips below the line into the crude or worse - the sensational.

I loved this show and look forward to seeing more of Chris Farah around this town. If you are in LA and headed to the Hollywood Fringe Festival - go see FANCY!!!

Monday, June 16, 2014

What They Don't Tell You About Traveling The World


Upon seeing an old friend recently, he reminded me that I knew exactly what I would be dealing with when I came home from traveling the world. These were my decisions: take our nest egg and spend it on world travel. We knew it would be difficult coming back and getting back on our feet. We knew it would be difficult to stop traveling. We knew we would be different and not.

Except that we didn't know anything.

Before we left, we researched our trip by reading a hundred different excerpts from blogs and articles about traveling the world. We had pack lists and pinterest boards and guide books and maps. We had excel sheets and several jobs and bank accounts that reimbursed ATM fees around the globe. We had jobs lined up for when we returned. But the one thing we didn't have was an apartment to come home to. We had try to sublet and after a couple people who were interested and then fell through, it got down to the wire and we gave up our beautiful big apartment in the best damn neighborhood in New York: Park Slope. I was heartbroken to leave this home, this home that we had worked so hard to get. This apartment with its beautiful big windows facing 7th Avenue, streaming light into our blue-walled bedroom. The open kitchen, the huge living room, the tiny office with the fire escape. The neighbors who were all cool. The kind of people you really could borrow a cup of sugar from. We had a crazy deal on the place and the minute we gave it up the rent went up. It was the first place I lived in that I really felt was my home. Everything in it was a creation, a collaboration, a symbol of me and Mike. We had put so much love into that apartment and then we gave it all up for another dream - a bigger dream.
Me trying to talk with a bunch of kids in Tibet. They followed us around shouting, "Hallo!"

I panicked when our move-out day became official. I doubted everything. We were at a crossroads. Travel or Stay here. Enjoy this sweet little home, unpack our wedding gifts, host dinner parties, repaint the living room a different color, start a family. It was hard to give up the one thing we actually did not have in place for our return - a place to live. And somewhere in my heart I knew this would come to mean much more than a roof over our head. It was the true anchor to New York. It was the carved out real estate we had made for ourselves in a city that elbows the weak out and rewards the strong by giving them roaches and rats as pests and hurricanes and Nor'Easters  as seasons. It was home. But I convinced myself that this was the universe's way of telling me that there was a better home out there. I never in a million years thought we would come back from traveling and head west.

View from my old apartment office
When we came back, something had shifted for us- that was certain. We wanted a change. We couldn't go back to the jobs we had left. We had spent a long time away from family. And for me, the years away from my family had seemed to really add up while adding more miles further and further away. While traveling, we had two days of rain in 8 months and the times we experienced the cold, it was bone-chilling cold, as in no indoor heat, as in you are cold every single hour of the day, taking cold showers, shivering at all times. In fact, when we flew out of freezing Tibet and into 80 degrees Thailand, the trip took a noticeable turn. Where Europe felt like a honeymoon, and Morocco, India, Nepal and Tibet felt like an adventure, Southeast Asia and Australia and New Zealand, felt like an adventure-vacation. Our moods lightened. We kicked our lingering colds and we got rid of our wool hats in exchange for flip flops and sunglasses. We were so happy simply because of the good weather.


We came to California, and I felt like I always do when I come here. LA is so pretty. There are gardens year round. Everyone has a dog and a tan. There are parking spots for electric cars and farmers markets every day of the week and artichokes and avocados. There is family and kids. We decided this was the change we wanted. And then we went to New York and after one of those great New York City nights where you roll with a group of friends from their apartment to a new bar that just opened up in that gritty neighborhood that is opening their doors to new pubs and artists and we laughed our way down a long cold avenue with scarfs flapping and noses running, I turned to Mike and said, how can we leave this place? This is home!

And he said, I know.


With friends at a friend's wedding the day before we left!
And we still left. But not until last week after weeks and weeks of arguing and apologizing and job searching and resume sending and coming home to a collapsed closet because we are trying to squeeze two people into a spare room meant for a child, the child we are not having because we made our choices and now we need jobs to get out of debt before x - y - z....and it all came. I miss my life. I miss my home. I miss my unpacked wedding gifts and my bed in pieces stored in a basement in New Jersey. I miss my East Coast friends. I miss the coffee shop down the street. I miss the summer concerts at Prospect Park. I miss rooftop films. I miss the fucking subway.  I miss comfortability. I miss a home of my own. I miss my sweet little marriage when our biggest fights were about me discarding my winter layers all over the living room or his aggressive driving. I miss our weekend getaways to Vermont. I miss that canoe we never really used but it was still ours and represented this piece of us that was still wild, adventurous and accessible. I miss my friends' kids so much that watching a two minute piano recital clip can bring me to tears. I miss late night walks along those long gritty avenues that by now are starting to steam up and release the roaches. I miss what we worked for and what we cherished. And yet, I feel like a complete asshole expressing any of this.

Poor me, right? I traveled the world and spent all my money and boo-hoo, now I have to get my shit together in another fabulous city in the United States of America where I have wonderful friends and awesome family, an abundant support system and sunshine all the time. I know, I know. My misery does not deserve any company and this could be seen as the most grotesque pity party ever. I am so damn lucky. I have a great life. Even now. I am not a girl in India fearing for my safety or struggling for justice. I am not freezing my ass off in oppressed Tibet wondering when the next time the Chinese police is going to harass me. I'm not a young woman in Vietnam who can't give birth because I'm suffering the effects of a war that happened over 40 years ago. I'm not a girl in the Moroccan desert trying to schedule out how much clean water I have for the rest of the week. I have perspective for it all. I'm a privileged, educated and wealthy citizen of the world with experiences beyond my comprehension and about fifteen pounds of extra weight solely gained by excessive eating of delicious foods. And yet, sometimes, it feels like the trip never even happened.

That's the bitch of it all. In a blink, it was over. And sometimes, it really does all feel like it was just a dream.

Cappadocia, Turkey
We rarely talk about the trip. And with each time we have another argument over what the hell we are doing about our future or each time we discuss whether we need more almond milk or every time we figure out something else that "we need" like hair product or a bikini wax or a newer, faster phone, the trip slips away just a little bit more.

One thing people tell you before you leave to travel the world is "Take lots of pictures!" But only when you return will you realize why. It's not for anyone but you. And when you look through your pictures, only then will you be able to feel just a piece of that fearlessness, a piece of that adventure, a piece of that part of you that made the best or stupidest decision of your life.

When you come home, your pictures will be where the trip lives while you wade through the current of consequences stirred from the bravest thing you ever did.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Twenty Things I Learned From My Father

My dad at my wedding
1. Tell the truth. 

2. Do the right thing. If you are not sure what that is and are presented with two choices, choose the more difficult one.

3. There's always room for gelato. 

4. Don't let anyone rob you of your name. They may take your money and your business, but never let them take your good name. 

5. Dance.

6. Never make a threat you don't intend to carry out. 

7. Keep it simple. 

8. It's not your business what other people think of you. 

9. Always send a card. 

10. Every day we have is a good day. 

11. "I'm right where I'm supposed to be." On that note, "It's when we lose everything we have the most hope."

12. How to tell a story. 


13. When you go camping, don't put the kids in the van where you've packed all the food.

14. Camping part two: always bring a compass.

15. Plan an exit route. 

16. Choose your battles carefully. But if the battle chooses you, give 'em hell. 

17. I am not perfect. 

18. When people we love end up in the hospital, go visit them. 

19. You have to work for it- all of it. 

20. Remember to turn the iron off. 

Happy Father's Day, Dad. 



Thursday, June 12, 2014

"You Play Soccer Like A Girl!"

The Thighmasters, 2009

Today was the kick off to the World Cup 2014!!! This means two things:  Number one, I am busy until July 14th. Number two, not having full time employment right now is looking up! I first put on a pair of cleats when I was five years old. I did this alongside seven of my cousins and my brother. My aunt and uncle ran the referee tent, my father was a coach and a referee. We spent every weekend - all day Saturday, all day Sunday  - at the fields hopping to and from each other's games.

Growing up, playing soccer was an identity for me. Towards the end of high school I decided I wanted to try out some other identities, but soccer is what I have always come back to. And nothing gets me pumped like the World Cup!!!

In 1994 when the World Cup was in the USA, my dad took my brother and I to a semi-final game - Sweden versus Brazil - where towards the end of the game we saw a Brazilian fan TKO a Swedish fan. I have always rooted for Brazil not because they are usually the best but because they play the game more beautifully and passionately then any other team out there. (Minus the dives).

Today was Brazil versus Croatia and although the ref totally favored Brazil - even gave them an undeserved penalty shot which resulted in their second goal and took away Croatia's second goal - Brazil deserved to win. Dear readers, are you ready for World Cup recaps and heated debates?!

To the bar! #becausefutbol

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Children Are Our Only True Markers Of Time


Today I got to watch my godson graduate from fifth grade. In addition to racking up a ton of "Certificates of Merit" in subjects ranging from Math to Dance and French, he also got to make a speech since he was the Student Body President of his elementary school. I think I was most impressed by this because he spoke clearly, calmly and with such confidence. I had a nostalgic moment seeing him standing up there all tall and poised. When I came home from backpacking around Ireland and Europe after college at the end of 2003, my first job was to babysit this kid who was all of 10 months old. I still remember this as the most exhausting and rewarding job I have ever had. But I can remember helping him balance, holding his hands so he could stand on his own and then letting them go to see how long he could hold his own. 

To see him today, a little over ten years later, standing strong and giving a speech to a filled auditorium took me by surprise. It feels like he grew up over night. But I guess that's the thing about kids. They are our only true markers of time. 

Congratulations, Garrett!

Monday, June 9, 2014

How To Flip A Bitch: Left-Hand Turns in LA

Santa Monica Pier

Perhaps one of my favorite things about returning to LA is the freedom of flipping a bitch. I didn't realize this was "a thing" until I told my husband from New Jersey to just "flip a bitch" and he was like, "what the hell is that?"

It never occurred to me that his East-Coast-jughandle-left-turns-that-are-really-right-turns experience was exactly that. I pointed out that in LA, unless otherwise posted, you can make a left turn anywhere and we call that flipping a bitch. Likewise, when at an intersection in LA, waiting to turn left, the rule of thumb is "Two on a red, sometimes three." Pay attention to the Lefties, LA!

I never realized this left-hand turn chaos was something unique to my hometown. But I do remember cursing the gods when stuck on any goddamn road in New Jersey and I was forbidden to make a left hand turn, instead forced to make a right and go around on these ridiculous jughandles and then wait at a light to cross the street. I especially cursed the gods when I did not know about said jughandles.

After Mike successfully made a left-hand turn across four lanes and we parked at our destination, I informed him that, "Here in LA, we flip bitches and get fro-yo."

(Drops mic.)  For more on the crazy history of the madness we Los Angelenos call "left-hand turns," you can actually check out the history of flipping a bitch in this awesome article from Los Angeles Magazine. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Happy Birthday To My Cousin Gret

Today is my cousin Gret's birthday. When we were kids, my friends called him my "Brad Pitt Cousin."

From top to bottom: Gret, Me, Shaun, Gian, Gary
There was a time when my parents didn't have it figured out. Divorce snuck up on them the way all life's heartbreaks do - slowly and suddenly. My parents's split snuck up on me the way my brother and I snuck up on Gret. He was sixteen - the oldest of my Aunt Gail's four boys. While my parents tried to navigate custody battles and alimony debates, my Aunt Gail invited us over to her house every night for dinner, homework and video games. We were two more pre-teen bodies invading a sixteen year old's space and I'm pretty sure we were too shell shocked to ever realize what that meant. Gret was suddenly given the task of picking up two more kids from school and soccer practice, babysitting two more kids when our parents were working, and keeping two more attitudes in check when typical kid fights broke out among the ranks.

Needless to say, he was a pretty important person in my life when I was growing up and continues to be, especially now that he is a father and I get to enjoy watching him play the same tricks he played on us with his three sons.

Happy birthday, Gret. May your humor always be wicked.

Gilen and Gret