Monday, May 20, 2013

Mindy Kaling & I, Chubby Writers For Life

I Love Mindy Kaling (Screenshot/YouTube)

Mindy Kaling, with her fine feminine fashion and farce, is my newest celebrity girl crush. And I'm quite confident she's going to reign with that title for a very long time. I first fell in love with her as Kelly Kapoor on The Office, but it wasn't until The Mindy Project caught my attention that my enjoyment of Kaling surged into the burgeoning desire to make her my BFF. Hey, she's practically my neighbor AND we kinda-sorta chatted on the phone this one time. With Instagram as my guide, I could potentially track her down and make her mine. But don't worry, Mindy. I won't do that. I'm too busy blogging about you. (I know she'll read this.)

My big friendship plans finally swelled into full-on love and adoration after one of my lady loves, likely equally as smitten as I, lent me Kaling's first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). She nailed it for me on so many levels, starting with the title. I had this exact fear growing up in York, PA, a place where activities are scarce and imaginations bubble over to avoid boredom, and those smart enough escape becoming racist homophobes.

As I turned the pages, I could hardly contain my delight upon reading the perfectly titled first chapter, "Chubby For Life." Hello, Mindy? Are you inside my head? Hardly, as I am nowhere near as funny (though I was voted Class Clown twice in middle and high school) and clever (I made Honor Roll; I had a privilege pass; I made Dean's List every semester but one; I missed summa cum laude by a point.) as she. But seriously. This is the story of my life. I have been struggling with my stomach rolls for as long as I can remember, and as I approach my thirties and the pressures of parenting, the likelihood of me weighing what my driver's license claims I weigh seems more and more unlikely. But I'm okay with that. And so is Kaling. She's so beautifully confident as a healthy woman gracing the spotlight. For that, I admire her beyond words. If you want clear out a communal space and get a sweet ab workout, you should read this chapter somewhere public, like the TOMS flagship store in Venice. That's what I did, and I couldn't help but notice the distracted bodies shifting as my cackles increased.

Aside from this first chapter, another section of the read really resonated with me, so much so that, as I'd done with many portions of the book, I excitedly read it aloud to my boyfriend, knowing he'd get it and we'd laugh together until we cried. That didn't happen. But I'm confident that other writers will. He's not a writer. He's an aerospace engineer. What does he do? I have no fucking clue. I like to think he's an astronaut of some sort. The "How I Write" chapter sings to my daily blogging routine. Because I just love typing so much, I'm going to clickety-clack up almost the whole chapter shortly, but this section in particular really killed me. Under a photo of Mindy fondling her laptop while sitting in bed, she writes:

As you can see, when I write, I like to look like I'm recovering from tuberculosis. I sit in bed, my laptop resting on a blanket or a Notre Dame sweatshirt on my lap. I got the sweatshirt when I was there doing stand-up in 2006. (Where I bombed, by the way. Those kids hated me and my long, matronly rants against low-rise jeans. I did a three-college comedy tour with my Office costar Craig Robinson, who is hilarious, and a pro at performing at colleges. He plays the piano in his act, incorporating medleys of hit pop songs and then does a rendition of an original song he wrote called "Take Your Panties Off." I don't need to tell you that it's very funny and all the college kids wished he'd partnered up with a different Office cast member.)

The blanket/sweatshirt keeps the laptop from getting too hot and radiating my ovaries, which everyone knows makes your children come out with ADD. I almost always write alone in my house. I never have music on, because I can't concentrate with Nelly Furtado remixes thumping, and, unfortunately, I have only dance music on my iPod, which is how I got to be such a great dancer.

She kills me. Writing friends, I know you can identify. What's my writing setup like? My appearance is slovenly, and I barely try to get it together enough to not horrify my neighbors while walking my dog, Bodhi. I spread my office throughout the entire condo, moving from the bed to the kitchen table to the couch to my favorite spot: the patio. And I do this all in silence, alone (except for Bodhi), with the company of my laptop—just like Kaling. I also added a few more writing habits to my "Things Mindy Kaling & I Have In Common List," per the rest of the chapter included below, like her Internet ADD, penchant for snacks and extreme procrastination skills. Of course, I'm only referring to my personal blog, which I continue to neglect with great guilt. As a blogger, I am unable to procrastinate. It's impossible. Fellow bloggers, you know exactly what I mean.

The main reason why I enjoy working on a writing staff is because of the social nature of the job. To put it kindly, I am a very talkative, social person. To put it less kindly, I'm a flibbertigibbet, which is what my frenemy Rainn Wilson calls me. It's always been incredibly challenging for me to put pen to page, because writing, at its heart, is a solitary pursuit, designed to make people depressoids, drug addicts, misanthropes, and antisocial weirdos (see every successful writer ever except Judy Blume). I also have a nice office at work, but I use it primarily as a messy closet.

The Internet also makes it extraordinarily difficult for me to focus. One small break to look up exactly how almond milk is made, and four hours later I'm reading about the Donner Party and texting all my friends: DID YOU GUYS KNOW ABOUT THE DONNER PARTY AND HOW MESSED UP THAT WAS? TEXT ME BACK SO WE CAN TALK ABOUT IT!

I've found my productive-writing-to-screwing-around ratio to be one to seven. So, for every eight-hour day of writing, there is only one good productive hour of work being done. The other seven hours are preparing for writing: pacing around the house, collapsing cardboard boxes for recycling, reading the DVD extras pamphlet from the BBC Pride & Prejudice, getting snacks lined up for writing, and YouTubing toddlers who learned the "Single Ladies" dance. I know. Isn't that horrible? So, basically, writing this piece took me the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Enjoy it accordingly.

I will, with great reluctance, be returning the book to my friend tomorrow, but I plan to purchase my own copy to read whenever I need a stomachache. And did I mention Kaling's second book is in the works? Hell. Yes.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

$30 Lunches & $10 Teas

I do not enjoy spending money. There, I said it.  I loathe shopping and only step foot inside a store, or worse, a mall, if I can't order what I need online. It's just not my thing. It never has been.

Growing up, my mother pressured me into countless mother-daughter trips with the promise of lunch. I usually caved, and the all-day retail hell usually ended with a few plastic bags holding clothes that didn't really fit and that I didn't really like, along with a CD I absolutely needed, one that would become my latest object of obsession, lyrics printed on a crisp sheet of cloud paper in a stylish font and taped to my congested bedroom wall. I bet if I traveled back to my adolescent closet and tallied the monetary total of never-removed clothing tags, Mama Lloyd would refuse to ever buy me a Christmas or birthday present again (Just kidding. My mother loves me and better continue to send me presents and cards on all future holidays and birthdays.). My thrift store clothes, however, I wore. I sported them until the holes grew too large and exposed my young, chubby skin, until the the previous owner's armpit stains mixed with my own and became intolerable. Yes, Sally and I spent many Saturdays combing the odorific racks of the local Salvation Army. Sure, she would buy me anything from American Eagle Outfitters, Deb Shop or The Limited, but I guess I didn't want to look like every other girl in school. Oh, and I was fat, too. So that kind of abolishes the fun element in clothing shopping. On top of my large frame, stepping out in size 11 feet doesn't make for a fun day of shoe shopping, either.

I Am Pure at Cafe Gratitude, Venice
Nowadays, still overweight but notably healthier, I continue to spurn shopping. But I do revel in buying presents for others, as well as consciously spending the bulk of my money (aside from rent) treating myself to healthy, clean food and purchasing eco-friendly, non-toxic products. The ways in which humans prioritize their spending fascinates me -- even my own.

Now, let's remember three things: I grew up in York, Pennsylvania, I live in Los Angeles and I'm a pescetarian. I'm not going to stretch my dietary label and deem myself vegetarian or vegan just to appear trendier, healthier and better than you. Yes, I eat fish, eggs and cheese. So no, I am not a vegetarian or a vegan, though the majority of the time I eat like one or the other. Please let this be a reminder to you, dear reader, to carefully label your eating habits. You're not a vegan if you don't always eat cheese or only consume seafood on special occasions. The same applies to you so-called "vegetarians." If you feed on fish, no matter how infrequently, you are not a vegetarian. *Steps down from soapbox.

Given my eating habits and environment, I naturally take advantage of the many tempting vegan and vegetarian dining options at my tongue. Cafe Gratitude, Mendocino Farms, Seed, Veggie Grill, Native Foods and Real Food Daily are all located within close proximity to my Venice dwelling, and I will never forbid myself from enjoying said eats on a weekly basis, no matter my financial situation. I'm a writer, which translates to "I'm poor." But that hasn't stopped me from living, and one way I live is by enjoying good, clean, honest food. Sure, I'd suffer a pang of regret if I spent $30 on lunch somewhere that didn't offer local, vegan fare and that didn't ask me the question of the day, but my I Am Courageous, I Am Thankful and I Am Pure at Cafe Gratitude, paired with the priceless company of a good friend, was totally worth the money yesterday afternoon. I also have a healthy love affair with Daiya cheese. I buy $9 boxes of tea at Whole Foods. It's healing, organic, Fair Trade, sustainable and eco-responsibly packaged, and I reuse the tea bags because that's how I roll.

I make up for my heavy treat spending by rarely, and I mean rarely, buying clothes, shoes, gadgets and material possessions for myself. I'm 29, single and without kids, a car payment and a mortgage. I drive a 1985 BMW. It cost me $1,100 in 2006. I do what I want. I buy what I need. I purchase $30 face wash, $25 mineral concealer, $30 mascara and $10 bottles of shampoo and conditioner at Whole Foods. My eyeshadow costs $36, my eye tonic $70. The list of safe ingredients on the usually recycled packaging sits well with my conscience. These are the things I choose to spend my money on, to prioritize as most important to me -- aside from travel -- and I will never sacrifice my health for financial reasons again. It will only come back to haunt me years down the road. Again.

I choose to live simply, to be a minimalist, to indulge. I choose to laugh, to love, to eat. I choose to live in a land where property prices make me cry (literally). All of this because I choose to live. And you should, too, however you find fit. I think we'll both live a lot longer if we do.

Monday, December 3, 2012

No Hors D'Oeuvres in Hollywood

And it's been nearly four months since I've written in my blog. But you'll forgive me, right? I wrote this a few months ago by hand (that's right, people still do that) and had yet to make time to type it up. Until now. Thank you, wet weather, for forcing me inside to reluctantly face my growing to-do list.


I don't belong in Hollywood. Yes, I live in Los Angeles. I've lived in the great county for the past six, sunny years, but let's be clear -- I've lived in Long Beach and Venice, both far cries from the home of The Strip, the hustle, the industry, the tinseled town that beckoned me into a BA in filmmaking and a brief stint as a PA on several sunken indie films. I rarely make the 15-mile haul at will. I'm either forced for a professional engagement, desperate to see a friend or simply unwilling to miss an event.

In late August, I accepted a press invite to attend a swanky Hollywood bar, one which I'd never experienced but had been on my list for years (and will go unnamed), for a French-themed evening of wine, hors d'oeuvres and crepes. For Free. Even the valet was free. I RSVPed and invited one of my favorites to accompany me. As I don't wish to offend the lovely PR girl who extended the invitation or anyone else involved in the soiree, I will be intentionally obscure and have cleverly renamed the celebrities for whom I ate and drank that night.

On the day of the event, among the hundreds of other emails flooding my inbox, I opened and hastily closed several email updates bold-facing which celebrities would be in attendance that night (because I cared). Brandi Door, Jackie Bing, Geneva Ocurry and Betsy Downs are all going to make appearances! They'll be dressed in their press photo best, clad in big names and coveted labels, and huddle together in a small, exclusive, awkward group, careful not to touch the commoners, the peasants actually sampling the goods for which the entire fete was thrown. They'll later be ushered to the edge of the bar next to a prop, them acting as a props, then planted at various other planned photo op spots throughout the evening (which for them lasted only about 30 minutes).

I felt bad for them as I indulged, paying no mind to my waistline. As my sidekick and I stood in the romantic lighting, sipping and accepting and tasting, carefully plucking works of food porn from silver trays and ordering the greasiest, cheesiest of crepes, they politely (and swiftly) declined. Would you like to try...? No, thank you. Would you care for...? Elegant wave of hand. My wheels turned as I witnessed the underindulgence, the restriction, the wall built by the very town in which they stood and patronized: I'll eat for them, I thought. And I did.

My dress, shockingly a size or two too big, welcomed the extra calories. I delighted in knowing that while they were getting paid to appear, then just as quickly disappear, I was getting to eat and drink whatever the fuck I wanted. And that, my friends, is why I don't belong in Hollywood.

The next day I opened yet another email from the PR company noting gossip shared between the leading ladies, entertaining bits they'd delivered the previous night, along with the photos I'd watched being taken. The email asked if I planned on covering the event for LAist. I replied that I couldn't quite find the angle.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

How To Rule The World As A Woman

Why hello, little blog! It's been an embarrassingly long time since we connected. Though in my defense, I have been especially busy this year. I finally scratched my itch to volunteer abroad in May: My sharp, brave and endlessly fun friend Nikki and I—who now answers to Dr. McKinsey, for the record—and I traveled to Thailand and volunteered our hearts and hands at TCDF Eco-Logic, an eco-centric organization dedicated to supporting the Thai Child Development Foundation. My experience—one of which I highly recommend—has undoubtedly altered my life, refocusing my priorities and opening my eyes to real issues (no, not the devastating news that your favorite food truck no longer rolls along your route) as well as a simpler, more loving life. It took considerable time to prep for the month-long trip, and to recover and reluctantly reconnect with my American life. As a woman who usually assimilates relatively effortlessly when confronted with new worlds, the trip affected me so intensely, I spent all of June and most of July in a mild state of recovery. Photos of our journey can be viewed here, here, here and here.

But agreed, that's no excuse to abandon my personal blog. I have, however, been ferociously typing away at LAist, enlightening readers on various Los Angeles issues, news and entertainment goodies. This weekend marks one of the few free couple of days I've had since my return from Southeast Asia, and I've so far spent a healthy portion of it reading Anne-Marie Slaughter's engrossing op-ed in The Atlantic, "Why Woman Still Can't Have It All." Though I urge you to carve out some time to read the piece in its entirety, which can be found in the July/August 2012 print issue and, of course, online here, I feel compelled to share a few snippets that especially grappled my attention and warranted a highlight.

The piece, which owns pages 84 though 102 in the magazine, explores the current social policies and career tracks that inhibit women from serving successfully as both mothers and full-time career superpowers in the present and offers steps as to how women someday can "have it all" on an equal playing field with men. Having just turned 29 with a marital status of "single" and without children, I can't say I share Slaughter's shoes. But I can proudly ring the feminist bell while pondering how I will shape my life once I decide to start a family.

Here are some of my favorite points from the rousing read:
The best hope for improving the lot of all women, and for closing what Wolfers and Stevenson call a “new gender gap”—measured by well-being rather than wages—is to close the leadership gap: to elect a woman president and 50 women senators; to ensure that women are equally represented in the ranks of corporate executives and judicial leaders. Only when women wield power in sufficient numbers will we create a society that genuinely works for all women. That will be a society that works for everyone.
My longtime and invaluable assistant, who has a doctorate and juggles many balls as the mother of teenage twins, e-mailed me while I was working on this article: “You know what would help the vast majority of women with work/family balance? MAKE SCHOOL SCHEDULES MATCH WORK SCHEDULES.” The present system, she noted, is based on a society that no longer exists—one in which farming was a major occupation and stay-at-home moms were the norm. Yet the system hasn’t changed. 
I do not believe fathers love their children any less than mothers do, but men do seem more likely to choose their job at a cost to their family, while women seem more likely to choose their family at a cost to their job.
You should be able to have a family if you want one—however and whenever your life circumstances allow—and still have the career you desire. If more women could strike this balance, more women would reach leadership positions. And if more women were in leadership positions, they could make it easier for more women to stay in the workforce. The rest of this essay details how.
Still, armed with e-mail, instant messaging, phones, and videoconferencing technology, we should be able to move to a culture where the office is a base of operations more than the required locus of work.
Space for play and imagination is exactly what emerges when rigid work schedules and hierarchies loosen up. Skeptics should consider the “California effect.” California is the cradle of American innovation—in technology, entertainment, sports, food, and lifestyles. It is also a place where people take leisure as seriously as they take work; where companies like Google deliberately encourage play, with Ping-Pong tables, light sabers, and policies that require employees to spend one day a week working on whatever they wish. Charles Baudelaire wrote: “Genius is nothing more nor less than childhood recovered at will.” Google apparently has taken note.
These women [Hillary Clinton, Christine Lagarde, Angela Merkel, Susan Rice] are extraordinary role models. If I had a daughter, I would encourage her to look to them, and I want a world in which they are extraordinary but not unusual. Yet I also want a world in which, in Lisa Jackson’s words, “to be a strong woman, you don’t have to give up on the things that define you as a woman.” That means respecting, enabling, and indeed celebrating the full range of women’s choices. “Empowering yourself,” Jackson said in her speech at Princeton, “doesn’t have to mean rejecting motherhood, or eliminating the nurturing or feminine aspects of who you are.”
If women are ever to achieve real equality as leaders, then we have to stop accepting male behavior and male choices as the default and the ideal. We must insist on changing social policies and bending career tracks to accommodate our choices, too. We have the power to do it if we decide to, and we have many men standing beside us.

Monday, March 19, 2012

One Month, Three Interviews (And Counting)

As a writer in Los Angeles, I am never without assignment or idea. I recently interviewed four talented people and crafted three entertaining posts. In case you missed them on LAist, my Facebook page, The LL Times Facebook page or my Twitter, I've included blurbs for each article below, paired with a link.

After witnessing six dudes from Kansas rock out on The Hotel Café stage February 28, I had no choice but to track them down and find out how they became Quiet Corral and if they'd play my 30th birthday bash in 2013. Here's what we discussed: Musical Kansans Quiet Corral Rocked L.A., & Now They're Headed To The Moon.

I have yet to experience songstress Meg Myers live, but one look and listen to her "Monster" music video, and I knew I had to get to know this lady on a darker level. She's a playful one: The Fierce, Musical Meg Myers On Shitting In Her Diaper, Going Braless & Real-Life Monsters.

If you're an Angeleno, you've surely heard of YAS. Founder Kimberly Fowler helped the LA Roadrunners prep for Sunday's Honda LA Marathon by forcing them to kick off their running shoes and stretch into Yoga for Athletes - her signature workout. She details three yoga poses that are perfect for runners in Why Runners Should Be Yogis: A Talk With YAS Founder Kimberly Fowler.

Are you interesting or know someone who is? Let's chat.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Why Handmade Jewelry Is Worth The Pretty Penny

I wrote the below business feature for my Bootcamp for Journalists class over a year ago, and though my relentless pitches to various publications proved unsuccessful, I think this piece is worth a read, not only because I spent hours interviewing talented jewelry designers and researching the industry (plus the time and effort dedicated by the artists to answer my many questions!), but because I feel we should educate ourselves on products and buy with our brains. Ask yourself this simple question: Why would you choose to support corporations and sweatshops when you can support a friend, a neighbor, a local artist and score a quality product? If your answer relates to money, I understand. But I urge you to think beyond numbers and wrap your mind around industry - both global and local. I urge you to read on.

Buy Handmade: The Livelihoods of Local Jewelry Designers

Masses of jewelry consumers are running out to nab the latest $5 accessory offered at retailers like Forever 21, H&M and major department stores. These corporate bamboozlers keep their prices low by mass-producing their products using cheap materials and exporting fabrication to other countries, such as China and Bali. In these factories, underpaid workers man machines in substandard working conditions. Quite commonly these consumers will get what they pay for, experiencing the mediocre quality through broken rungs, chipping surface plates and disappearing charms. Creating handmade jewelry is laborious, time-consuming, technical and scientific - a complex yet artistically rewarding creative process. It is also an extremely difficult way to make a living.

As with any industry, responsibility lies in the consumer’s hands to research products. If consumers were better armed with the knowledge of handmade jewelry design, perhaps they would be more likely to buy it, more likely to invest in a work of art. David Posnett, jewelry designer and owner of Maidstone Jewelry in NYC, feels that generally “customers are totally ignorant of the pricing” and of the craft but happily answers queries, often referring them to his thoroughly researched jewelry blog.

Layla Niebrugge, jewelry designer and owner of Laylabelle Designs in Philadelphia, has received “every reaction you can think of” from customers. “I had customers that were astonished at the bargain they were getting, customers who just weren't willing to pay the amount I was asking for, and I've even had customers who said ‘No, that will be too pricey’ without even coming into my booth to look at the prices.” Interestingly enough, Niebrugge’s price range is $15-$75, one that is very reasonable but misunderstood by uneducated consumers. 

Earrings by Laylabelle Designs

Most designers create low-end and high-end pieces to accommodate a range of buyers. Melissa Glim, jewelry designer and owner of Melissa Glim Fine Jewelry, finds that customers follow a certain pattern whilst perusing art shows. Shoppers almost always initially reach for the expensive piece but are immediately discouraged by the price. Still attracted to the collection, they will opt for a less expensive piece, like a pair of earrings. “They just don’t have the money for that. It’s like buying the wallet since I can’t get the dress,” says Glim, who is based out of Washington, DC.

Pricing handmade jewelry is an art unto itself. First, a maker must be sure the costs of materials and labor are covered. But artisans also need to closely study their target audience. How much is a New Yorker willing to pay for 18K gold bangles? Will an Angeleno pay more or less? There are formulas to pricing, such as the “times 2, times 2” or the “times 3, times 3,” in which artists will start with the materials cost, double or triple for wholesale then double or triple again for retail.

Sandy Leong, a jewelry designer in NYC, works mainly with recycled 18k gold and conflict-free diamonds. The current price of gold is approximately $1,728 per ounce, so Leong’s pieces range from $100 to $250,000. Her 18k gold Charity Twist Bangles cost between $3,500-$4,000, depending on the type of gold and incorporation of diamonds. Because the price of sterling silver is so much lower than gold (just about $34 an ounce), she also offers the bracelet in sterling silver without stones for $125.

Materials greatly affect the creation process, determining what tools and techniques will come into play. An imagination, extensive knowledge of the craft plus a pair of impassioned and dexterous hands are the first set of necessary tools. Drafting a design may take minutes or hours. As fabrication transpires, the design can potentially change as the designer shapes the materials. Niebrugge’s 3 Birds on a Wire necklace, comprised of sterling silver and copper, is hand cut using a jeweler’s saw. She then files “every nook and cranny and along the edges.” The edges as well as the back and front of the cut-out are sanded by hand, starting with a lower grit then progressing to a higher one to “create a smooth edge without any filing marks.” She does the same for the copper backing, sometimes adding a patina to the copper. This process involves much preparation and is followed by customizing and attaching the wire chain. She spends about two hours on each necklace and sold approximately 20 of them last year. The necklace retails for $29.

Glim’s bestseller, Diana Hairband, takes approximately eight hours to complete and involves threading 300-400 pearls, crystals and beads to the band. She finishes the piece with metal rigs on the inside (so that a veil can be added if desired) and adds a strip of ribbon to avoid itch. The price tag for this piece is between $100-$125.

Golden Echo Earrings by Sandy Leong
Like Glim and Niebrugge, Posnett and Leong also work with metals, utilizing carving, molding, casting, forming and soldering techniques. Leong spends about a week total creating a new design for a pair of her Golden Echo earrings. She first carves new designs in wax, creating a mold, then casts it into 18k yellow gold, adjusts several times, hand polishes, adds ear wire, solders and applies the final touches. Her Teardrop and Oval designs require setting champagne diamonds, a step that she pays a professional stone setter to handle. Posnett also enlists professional setting help. Working on a new ring design, he has spent the last few weeks just perfecting the wax model.

Traveling to and from stone setters are not the only travel expenses incurred by designers. In addition to scouring the web for materials, they buy from wholesalers, individual stone sellers, local jewelry districts, mom-and-pop shops and trade shows. If displayed in stores, designers visit their work often, switching out pieces to test popularity and boost sales.

Etsy stores, websites and blogs require constant upkeep. Some find Etsy to be very beneficial to their business, though Niebrugge describes the shopping experience as “kind of like finding a needle in a haystack if you haven’t recently posted an item.” Posnett assigns tags to his items on Etsy, like “wedding,” “bridal” and “engagement ring.” His Etsy store receives about 10-30 hits per day, outperforming his blog and website (5-10 hits per day). He also converses with Etsy shoppers who “favorite” his items. “These are the people you want to talk to,” he says. The use of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter helps promote their businesses via posts featuring new items and events.

Diana Hairband by Melissa Glim Fine Jewelry

Promoting work at shows and fairs is highly encouraged but comes with a risk. Glim warns that designers must be ready for 10% loss due to theft at shows.

Some designers, like Leong, enlist the help of a publicist, which has served her very well. Her work has been featured in such glossies as Glamour and People. Actress Kristen Stewart was recently photographed sporting her Halo Stackable Ring with Diamonds. Sales and traffic to her website increased directly due to this celebrity exposure. Adding to the benefits of press coverage, Leong says, “It is a great arsenal to bring in with me when presenting my jewelry to potential buyers, too.”

Gold Ring With 4 Rough Diamonds by Maidstone Jewelry
Before this extensive process even begins, designers devote much of their time to networking, researching trends and hunting for clientele online. Attending fashion shows and subscribing to a slew of magazines and newsletters, they follow and are inspired by current jewelry trends. Glim will “sit for hours” Googling various keywords and reviewing photos of NYC runway shows on the New York Times site. She even plans vacations around inspiring exhibits. Posnett’s current focus is engagement rings. With the aim of building interest in his product and ultimately gain a new client, he surfs wedding sites and converses with brides-to-be. He loves working with customers and welcomes commissioned work. In fact, 50% of his sales are commissioned pieces. He’s a bride and groom’s dream.

A jewelry designer’s dream, like any artist, is to earn enough to support his or her livelihood, progressing his or her hobby into a career. Many designers supplement their incomes, some with completely unrelated jobs. Niebrugge, Posnett and Glim all work fulltime jobs aside from manning their jewelry lines. Leong is fortunate that her husband makes a good living so she can focus her energy on her craft, in addition to raising her two children.

An automated process operated by factory machines that handle the “grunt work,” as Glim puts it, cannot and will not deliver a unique, valuable piece of jewelry like that of a handmade jewelry designer. As Niebrugge so perfectly and passionately describes, “It's the little imperfections of a piece made by two hard working hands that give jewelry and any handmade creation its character.” Posnett adds, “It’s not an easy way to make a living. You better love what you are doing.”


If I'd crafted this piece more recently, I would've included Golden Plume as a resource, a new L.A.-based handmade jewelry line, created by my talented, dear friend, Nita Blum. Enjoy.

Hand Painted Jasper & Gold Plated Earrings by Golden Plume

Friday, February 10, 2012

Zack Galifianakis On Double Lives

Shortly before Christmas 2011, HBO gifted the show "Bored To Death" with an early holiday present. The networked canned the comedy series, leaving fans with nothing more than three seasons - 24 episodes - of funnymen Jason Schwartzman, Zack Galifianakis and Ted Danson. In my usual fashion, I'm late to the tube and just recently started watching the show. The plot lines are delightfully absurd, hugely entertaining, addictive and make me pine for New York City. Though I'm only two episodes deep into the eccentric world of pseudo private detective Jonathan Ames, I feel strangely connected to the program, perhaps because the main character is a writer, like myself, or maybe because j'adore Galifianakis. In fact, a line he delivered during the second episode of season one struck a chord in my think tank.

"We all lead double lives."

We do? I pondered the notion for a bit, thinking about my friends and family, wondering who's moonlighting as a sex slave, who's sneaking out to underground gay sex gatherings and who's cheating on their special someone. Okay, so I mainly thought about sex. But then I took a huge leap backwards to think about double lives on a less severe level, less deep into the separate distinctions of self. Who shows their true colors, and who masks the unattractive qualities of their personalities? There, that's a little easier on the brain.

Clark Kent & Superman. DC Comics.
Clark Kent lived a double life. So did Dr. Jekyll. These are extreme alter ego cases. "Bored To Death" follows the double life of Ames, who (hardly) works as a novelist/journalist and secretly as an unlicensed private detective. Richie Tenenbaum from Wes Anderson's "The Royal Tenenbaums" may have lived a double life, or maybe his story is simply a case of a risqué secret. Quietly in love with his adopted sister, Margot, Richie - a professional tennis player - expresses his love via paintings of Margot and abandons his tennis career for the sea and emotional break-downs once she marries. The two later enjoy a few make-out sessions then agree to remain secretly in love with each other. I suppose there's a distinct line between leading a double life and suppressing a heavy secret.

Here's another fictional example - Dexter: bloodstain pattern analyst by day, socially conscious serial killer by night. Speaking of serial killers, let's not forget about Patrick Bateman in "American Psycho." The affluent NYC banking exec slaughters women when the sun retires, sometimes in the midst of fornication. Note: Do not watch this film at night in a cabin in the woods. You will not sleep well.

But people who lead double lives are exciting, right? Of course, in reality, no one's supposed to know about the dueling existences. In fiction, the readers and viewers are let in on the closeted information, making for a common character theme in both film and television. The anticipation of the character getting caught is enthralling, injects anxiety and hooks the audience.

Although entertaining, is leading a mildly double life healthy? I highly doubt leading a true double life is good for the mind, body or soul. Shouldn't we just be who we are regardless of whether or not the doors are closed or open, the curtains drawn or lifted? I wish we as humans could be honest with and accepting of the truth. Maybe the gentle, benevolent girl rushes home at night to beat her boyfriend. Perhaps the well-educated scholar with a graduate degree nailed to his wall projects an image of intellect and enlightenment but is sadly unable to apply any of his skills in society - though he'll never admit it. Does the seemingly successful entrepreneur dispersing thick, glossy business cards day in and day out retire to her cramped abode to sulk over life's repeated failures? What if the homophobe sporting a penis slips under the covers to enjoy a penis peek on occasion (or rather consistently)? Are these examples of double lives or just normalities of being human?

The truth is, there is little truth in this world. So that makes the wonderful world of the arcane normal. Masks are common, and I think we all harbor a constantly evolving collection.

I posted the following query on my Facebook wall last week: "I'm curious friends. Do you think humans all lead double lives?" Psted below are the few comments, which tickled me.

"it's possible... Some of us may have been put on earth with a plan given by the higher ups from planet nebula.. i think I'm giving too much away." -Keri LaLena

"Each person has four within their brains competing and complimenting: anima/animus, persona, shadow and self. Maybe a person only manifests two and yields a double life, but often there are more. It seems to me people often have different lives for different social milieus." -GB Hajim

"Yes one with my kids and one without them!" -Monica Wagner

"You just made me wanna watch Confessions of a Dangerous Mind." -Erin Von Wompwomp

"No, I think some people really are genuine all the time. I do think, though, that everyone shows different aspects of themselves in different situations and for different people. The ones that do that and it all comes from the same place inside them, though - those are the real gems! :)" - Gabriela Worrel

Do I lead a double life? I'll never tell.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Lauren's (Tardy) Year In Review

Is it seriously 2012? Somehow, among a whirlwind, week-long trip to the east coast, a NYE wedding and then an abrupt thrust back into the real world, I missed this important fact. It's a new year. I should have my missions set. I should have pondered resolutions, stale and fresh, and defined my annual list. I should have laid off the treats during the holidays. I should have done a lot of things to prepare for the new year, like slept, but I did not. And that's okay. And that's why I'm finally publishing my first 2012 blog post. 2011 was an important year for me, full of change, knowledge, travel and growth. And I need to preserve all pivotal events somewhere more reliable than my own memory. So, I'm listing below my personal highlights of last year - gains, losses, life. You may not care about my life, though I promise I'm interesting. Warning: This is a selfish post. It's all about me. But please, have a read then overwhelm me with personal details of your top 2011 moments. I care about your life. Promise.

*Left my job at JibJab of 3.5 years to follow my dream to become a professional writer.

*The moment my orthopedist granted me permission to remove my big black boot and walk on my left foot again.

*The day my orthopedist released me from his care.

*Scored a full-time, work-from-home editing position with LAist, a fabulous L.A. blog I'd been contributing to since January 2011.

*Hudson bought a cabin in Running Springs, CA in March. From this acquisition, I got a taste of what it's like to be a homeowner, to tackle home improvement projects, to cultivate various flower gardens, to have a hideaway nestled in the San Bernardino Mountains, 100 miles from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.

*My nephew, Camden Ryan Lloyd, was born in April, and he's a true Lloyd - a gentle giant. He's the fattest and happiest baby I've ever met.

*Visited with my Mummy five times this year, a sure record since I ran away to California in 2006.

*Rocked the Virgin Islands (U.S. & BVI) twice - once with my mom and once for Hudson's 30th birthday adventure, where we chartered a private catamaran to guide us 'round the islands.

*Adhering to one of my 2011 new year's resolutions, I dropped about 40 pounds last year, though I may or may not have gained a few back in December 2011/January 2012. Don't judge me.

*Dusted off my skiing skills and am shredding the slopes again.

*Experienced Sedona with Grasshoppa.

*Two of my dearest buddies got married.

*Four of my dearest buddies got engaged.

*Three of my dearest ladyfriends are preggers.

*One of my closest ladyfriends gave birth to an adorable baby girl with a fabulous name - Liesel.

*My brother graduated from college.

*Enjoyed visits from a few of my favorite east coasters, including my mama, Crusty Peefart, Beekah, Samuel, Kara and Oggy.

*Reconnected with my crafty spirit via jewelry-making classes.


*I turned 28.

It's been real, 2011. 2012, we need to talk. What are you conquering this year, friends?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Plush Parade

Last November through January 2011, I took an online class via MediaBistro to bone up on my journalism skills - Boot Camp for Journalists. I absorbed a ton of new knowledge in just a few weeks and managed to sell one of my pieces and just recently revamped one to post on LAist. My first assignment was to craft a profile. Lucky for me, I know a lot of interesting people, a lot of interesting local artists. I chose friend and, at the time, coworker Trish Tatman. I never sold the piece, and it's lived happily on my laptop for the past year. Today I unleash it to you to enjoy. I really like this one.

Scraps of felt, bags of polyfil, spools of colorful thread and scattered sewing needles surround artist Trish Tatman as she lays out her latest plush creation. Currently gearing up for Zig Zag, an event for designers showcasing handmade crafts for children, she spends all of her free time churning out simple plush animals, foods and accessories as well as her more complex doll designs. At the ripe age of twenty-five, Trish is an impressive force within the plush community. She not only has the gift of craft but a keen business sense, too. Her dream – to have her own art gallery in five years.

Miss Melanie McMinn the Moose Girl

Plush toys, born in Germany in 1880, thrive among craft shows in Southern California and all over the world. If you are in the market for something cute and cuddly, look no further. These creations, typically made from felt, fleece or other soft fabrics, are stuffed with polyfil then stitched shut. Trish typically uses the running stitch as it leaves little evidence. Plush dolls are adorned with various materials, such as buttons for eyes, and also use an array of fabric to dress them. She also makes plush foods, like “KC the Carrot,” “Berkley the Banana,” “Chicken Wings and Drums” and “Super Plush Sushi Two Pack.” Her buyers really do eat them up.
If her next show is distant, she welcomes her design chops and sketches new characters at her worktable. Each year she develops about four new designs, along with modifications to existing ones. Next to her worktable is an inspiration board covered in colors, fabrics and interior design samples. A plush concept is born from a series of about fifty drawings, evolving through several different body shapes, colors, types of fabric, noses and sets of teeth and eyes. This is the most time-consuming part of her process. She then cuts the fabric, laying out/designing the doll. “Trish works extremely fast, and when she has an idea, she is really focused and can finish a doll in two nights if needed,” says Justin Parpan, an L.A.-based illustrator. Cutting and laying out/designing a simple monster, for example, takes about one hour. The next hour and a half are spent sewing while watching TV. Her larger, more complicated designs can take days, spaced out in two to three hour bursts. “My largest plush, a four foot long red squid, took two hours to cut, one hour to layout and nine hours to sew.” She shudders slightly.
Her favorite doll shape is “oval with long, dangling legs.” She grabs the sugar shaker from our table at Joe’s Main Street Diner in Santa Monica, illustrating this beloved build. Smitten with her favorite creation, Cyclops with hipster jeans, her hands explain the little bits that complete her precious one-eyed monster. Each doll is brought to life by Trish’s adoration, naming and photographing each one in unique poses and locations for her Etsy store, Plush Parade. Dolls also come complete with short biographies and detailed physical descriptions. Zelda Fitzgerald, a hybrid female human and deer, sits comfortably on a window ledge and is “great to have over for fine tea and finer conversation.” Who knew?
Cloff G Hoffernoff
According to Justin, Trish’s deer girl line is a big seller and a huge success. He notes that he knew the line would do well, adding, “The proportions and cute/jaded expression on the faces of the deer girls were really humorous to me.”
As a successful illustrator, Justin also juggles a full-time job, busy online store and frequent shows. Always coming to his rescue on the business side of art, the “extremely organized” Trish handles the money at all of his shows and helps manage his online store. He admits, “I'm a guy, so multitasking doesn't come easy!” Her ability to prosper in both the creative and business worlds is very rare for an artist.
Though currently based in L.A., Trish spent her youthful summers in small-town Indiana with her grandparents where her craft was born. Following the instruction of her grandmother, she first learned to fabricate sock puppets. “It was very simple, but I felt like I accomplished a lot,” she says of her first sock puppet. Using one of her grandpa’s white socks, she sewed on button eyes and a small squiggly line for a nose. The puppets entertained her for hours.
During her junior year at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida, Trish witnessed an inspiring illustration by a fellow student. After receiving permission to create a plush bunny based off the cute characters in it, she spent an hour with white linen and paint. Trish proudly displayed the finished product at school on her work desk. Another student requested her own plush bunny, and suddenly Trish was buried in orders. Holding up her hands to demonstrate size, Trish recalls that the dolls were small and sold for $5-$8. “I thought, oh cool, food money!” she remembers. “People basically forced me to sell them. I kind of fell into it.” Ringling’s art show organizers soon received news of these fabulous plush creatures and asked Trish to create some for an upcoming show. The word was out.
Super Sushi Plush Set
Flash forward two years, we find Trish describing herself as “lucky” and “grateful.” Picking off gooey globs of cheddar from her grilled cheese, she beams while explaining her busy schedule of working full-time and managing her Etsy store, blog and upcoming shows. Rising around 7am each day, she makes the time to fulfill her creative outlet and plush orders, and of course to eat breakfast. “Meals are very important to me,” she tells me, dipping a curly fry into dollop of ketchup. My assumption that she must rely on caffeine to power her through such long days is largely incorrect. She survives on her impressive, rare natural energy, a trait that most of us would burn down a Starbucks to possess. When a plush show is approaching, she spends her mornings doing inventory and preparing for the event. This woman has her plush together.
You might be helpless against grabbing your wallet while visiting Plush Parade. Ecstatic compliments in all caps fill the page, while pleased customers refer to their new plush dolls as “cute,” “amazing” and “wonderful.” Trish also welcomes commissioned projects and appreciates those who are specific in their orders. A great example, she says, is “a purple bear with big sharp teeth. I know exactly what to do.”
Plush Parade is featured on the event flyer for Zig Zag, which takes place December 5, 2010 in Encinitas, California. Having learned much about kids through her work, Trish incorporates bright colors, recognizable shapes, child-safe adornments, soft fabrics like felt and fleece, and plenty of “huggable items” into her parade. She will haul her entire stock to the show, about thirty-five dolls, as well as her smaller creations for the children. How many she will sell depends largely on the audience, but most times she sells between ten and twenty dolls.
Trish’s dream gallery would promote her plush dolls, foods, brooches, hair clips, key chains and also the work of other independent artists. Constantly researching this goal, she is well aware of where her money situation needs to be to bring her gallery to life. She has been taking the necessary steps, like saving, to organize and prepare her finances. Judging from the shredded napkin in front of her, Trish is equipped with the energy to do whatever she wants. And she has the right attitude, too. Amidst “felt, fabric, buttons, pen, paper and thread,” one of her favorite materials is “fun.”

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Adventures in Raw Foodism

I love food. But I also love (and need to be) losing weight. I'm the type of overweight gal who goes on workout and diet kicks until an obstacle steps into my master plan and knocks me off my physique horse, setting me back for weeks. When I'm on, I'm ON. I keep up with the skinnies around me, sometimes outdoing them while spinning my ass off during an intense 50-minute spin class. I usually eat pretty healthy, shunning processed foods and animal proteins. But my problem is portion control. It's not that I'm stuffing my face constantly, but to maintain a healthy weight, you HAVE to watch what you eat and exercise. Unfortunately for me, there exist those times of the year when I do none of the above. Which is one of the reasons why I dream up extreme diet plans to kick my ass back into gear, back into health, back into happy.

On Monday, November 7, I embarked on my first raw eating adventure. For 5 days I would eat all raw. I would lose weight. I would feel great. That relentless bulge in my midsection would shrink. Those jeans wouldn't cut off circulation. My mind would clear. And it all did.

Eating raw, which involves only ingesting food and drink that has not been altered by heat in any way - uncooked and unprocessed - has a host of benefits. Raw Food Stylist, Melissa Henig, who I met at the Venice Farmer's Market and absolutely adore, describes these benefits on her website. "A diet containing raw food leads to more energy, clear skin, easy digestion, Alkaline body, less cravings for sugar or processed foods, more nutrients, vitality, and natural weight loss." Adding to those benefits, Henig includes a more detailed list of benefits in the "Why Raw?" section of her site, which I've pasted below for your curiosity convenience.

1. Energy

2. Improved skin conditions and healthy glow

3. Weight loss naturally

4. Enzymes- Great digestion and clean colon

5. Reduced risk of heart disease(a raw food diet contains fewer trans fats and saturated fats)

6. Full of anti-oxidants

7. Body alkalinity

8. Hydration

9. Fiber


11. Oxygen rich environment

12. Nutritionally dense food

13. Contributes to a healthy planet

I want to reap from all of those improvements, and I assume most of you do, too. Henig defines a raw food diet as "eliminating all processed and cooked foods and eating fresh fruit and vegetables, sprouts, nuts, seeds, avocado, coconuts, raw milk, raw bison and sea vegetables." I'm not sure about "raw bison..." Henig should be tapped for further explanation, but as a non-meat eater, it doesn't quite concern me. Heating food above 110 degrees "destroys the life in food," says Henig, including killing enzymes and depleting minerals and nutrients.

I told friends and family about my plan, most of whom claimed they could never do it. But seriously, folks, it was very simple. It was boring because I lacked creativity in my spontaneous raw diet. But I had two secret weapons that kept me going through the fruit and veggie salads - NUTS and AVOCADO. Stock. Up. I'm a pescetarian who rarely eats fish and hates salads, except those that are prepared for me by someone else. But slap on half an avocado and that salad will sing. Nuts were my prime source of protein - raw, unsalted cashews, pistachios and almonds. But plants also offer protein. According to Henig, spinach and broccoli are 30% protein. I did not thoroughly research nutrition specifics before starting my diet as it was short term, so if you plan on going raw for more than a week, definitely do your research to make sure you're getting all the proper nutrients. I probably should've taken a multivitamin, but hey, I forgot. I've never been much of a pill popper.

Day 1 began with a big fat fruit salad, a dish that I quickly became addicted to and kept very simple.
1 banana
1 apple
1 handful of mixed grapes
*Very tasty, very filling.

For snacks, I noshed on a 1/4 cup of cashews (yes, I measured my nuts), sugar snap peas and then a banana before heading to my spinning class. Surprisingly, this grazing method kept me full and energized without a heavy lunch.

Dinner time begged me to use the overwhelming amount of veggies I'd crammed into my fridge. Let's take a look at my first dinner salad:
herb salad mix (Trader Joe's) and baby spinach
micro greens
heirloom tomatoes
1/2 avocado
1/2 yellow bell pepper
sliced raw, unsalted almonds

Most store-bought salad dressings are not raw, so I made my own.
cold-pressed sesame oil
balsamic vinegar
apple cider vinegar

Oh, and I drown my innards with lemon water throughout the day. I peed A LOT.

I awoke on Tuesday sans the usual groggy weight pulling me back into slumber. I felt great. Throwing off my covers, I hopped onto my scale. The results were gratifying and motivating - down 3.7 pounds in 24 hours. Granted, a lot of this (maybe all of this) was water weight, but I felt the difference.

Below I'm sharing my treats for the rest of the week just in case any of you out there want to give raw foodism a go.

Day 2
Breakfast: Fruit Salad
1 banana
1 pear
1 handful of mixed grapes
1 orange

Snacks: 1/4 cup cashews, 1/4 cup pistachios

Dinner: Salad
herb salad mix and baby spinach
micro greens
heirloom tomatoes
1/2 avocado
1/2 yellow bell pepper
homemade dressing

Day 3
Breakfast: Fruit Salad
1 banana
1 pear
1 handful of mixed grapes
1 orange

Snacks: 1/4 cup pistachios

Dinner: Salad
herb salad mix and baby spinach
micro greens
*This time, in lieu of homemade dressing, I made guacamole (avocado, onions, tomatoes, lime juice from a fresh lime). AMAZING. I highly recommend this, especially on day 3 when stomaching yet another SALAD seems like cruel and unusual punishment.

SIDE NOTE: I'm constantly daydreaming about pizza, tofu and sandwiches.

Day 4
Breakfast: Fruit Salad
1 banana
1 pear
1 handful of mixed grapes
1 apple

Snacks: 1/4 cup cashews, 1/4 cup pistachio, 1 orange

Dinner: I snacked a little extra during the day, and after an intense yoga class, I (shockingly) wasn't hungry!

Day 5
Breakfast: Fruit Salad
1 pear
1 handful of mixed grapes
1 orange
*Ran out of bananas. They were sorely missed.

Snacks/Dinner: I decided it was time to reward myself on my final day, so I hopped over to the Venice Farmer's Market to visit the Raw Food Stylist. I scored a few Breakfast Balls, Kale Chips & Collard Wraps with Papaya Mango Chutney. I should've taken photos, but amidst my treating glee, I neglected to do so.

And that was it! I followed my raw diet into the next day while en route to Vegas to meet up with Mama Lloyd then indulged that evening. Everything tasted extremely salty to my tongue, and I was stabbed with a tinge of regret as a mouthful of pizza dumped into my happily cleansed tummy. "Sorry," I told my body as I reached for a glass of wine. I know what you're thinking: pizza and wine to break a cleanse? Let me explain. I didn't have much choice with dinner considering I was forced to select from a menu that offered one vegetarian option: pizza. I was pleased to find that my appetite had drastically decreased. A salad and two tiny pieces of pizza pie, and I was stuffed. Good. Great. Excellent. Keep it up.

I felt much lighter during my raw cleanse, both physically and mentally. Typically, the mornings are my enemy. It takes an embarrassing amount of energy and bitter taps on the snooze button to yank me from my dreams. I love sleep. But I was a changed woman during raw week. I awoke each morning with ease and a happy tummy. My skin felt smooth, though it did break out a bit more than usual. This may have been a side effect of the cleansing combined with me being a woman. Additionally, the mucus that usually plagues my body and disrupts my workouts vanished by the third day. I realized how much cleaner my sinuses and lungs felt during a spin class when, to my delight, I wasn't constantly clearing my throat and wiping my nose.

As for weight loss - drum roll please - I lost a grand total of 9.2 pounds in 5 days. Sure, I was netting way too few calories due to a low caloric intake paired with daily spinning, which burns around 500 calories per hour, but I felt like a million bucks. The above is not a long term diet plan - far too boring and not researched - but I highly recommend it if you need a good cleanse or want to drop significant weight in a short amount of time to kickstart permanent weight loss. I'll do it again, and when I do, I'll be a bit more creative with my raw recipes. And I'll buy that juicer I've been eying for years. If you want to go raw for long term, do it! Just make sure you know what you're doing to stay healthy.

Post-raw diet proved to be the hardest part: keeping the weight off and losing more. I know exactly what to do. It's common sense and simple: diet and exercise. But that's much harder than it sounds. Once I master that beast, I'll let you know. Until then, let's just be healthy and tune in to our bodies. Stop to listen. You'll be surprised what that stomachache, headache, joint pain, etc. is telling you.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lucky in Love

Hudson and I celebrated our five year anniversary on October 2. We spent the day sweating - no, no, not from heavy petting - from slaving in the backyard of our cabin in Running Springs. Though it's more so Hudson's cabin, as he's the investor, he granted me permission to call it "our" cabin. As I forced my shovel into the rocky, impossible soil, I watched Hudson as he climbed on the top of the shed he and his father were building. A dude project at its best, they worked on it for three days straight. Hudson is a doer, and that's one of the reasons I love him. He doesn't waste time. He lives. He dreams for a short time then acts. Not many people do this. They think and they dream and they plan and they make lists but they never really accomplish, well, anything. On the morning of our anniversary, I slept in while Hudson and his parents drove down the winding mountain highway for more shed supplies. I opened up my laptop for the first time that weekend and embraced the crisp morning air, the back porch - breathing deeply, watching birds dart among the treetops. And I wrote the below blog post with the intent of posting it that morning. But the Internet failed, and I allowed weeks to pass before finally spilling my heart and mind into the blogosphere. Here we go.


Five years ago tonight I kissed a boy at a Yeah Yeah Yeahs concert who has since then tolerated my deviant behavior and loved me despite knowing me better than anyone, even myself. Happy half decade, Hudson B. Wise. 

I consider myself lucky in love, and I hope many of you out there echo this feeling. I’d never been in love before I met Hudson, hardly even dated. I’d move into the entertaining details of my elementary and middle school flames, my intense high school crushes and my reckless college interests, but my mom or your mom could read this, and I’d rather spare them the horror that once was Lauren Ashley Lloyd.

I love me at 28, and for that I partially have Hudson to thank. He is the most genuine, kindest person I’ve ever met, and I’ve learned from him that sometimes dissecting people and zeroing in on their strengths and faults only makes for a very agitated, unhappy social life. However, this is very difficult for me given that I’m a writer and excel in people-watching. He’s also taught me a thing or two in the kitchen – recipes are not always needed to create an incredible dish. From Hudson I’ve also learned to surf, and although I will never be great or even good, I stood up on the board twice for a nanosecond each a couple weeks back in San Onofre and am still feeling that rush of excitement and calm of accomplishment. And he’s taught me how to love.

John Lennon was spot-on when he penned “All You Need Is Love.” C’est completement vrai. Hudson and I have had countless high highs, minimal and forgettable low lows and often enjoy that comfortable middle ground that develops once you’ve been in a relationship for a considerable amount of time, once you see and love the same extraordinary being almost daily for years.

Sure, we’ll probably buckle down and succumb to societal tradition and marry, have children and buy a house along a California shore. Okay, so that last step is just a fantasy combined with the narrow possibility of winning the lottery. But for now, I love to love, and my left ring finger is content sans gem. Weddings are, in my world, a waste of time and money. Keep it simple. Save your money. Go see the world instead of inviting a drove of family and friends - some of whom you may not even love - to see you. To me, typical diamond engagement rings, while undoubtedly gorgeous, are just pieces of overpriced jewelry, advertised to society as the material item necessary to prove your love and commitment to someone. I don’t need a ring. And I especially don’t need a gem that originated in a land of corruption, slavery and murder. I’ve seen “Blood Diamond,” I know. 

I just need an honest compadre, someone with whom my guard is down and being "on" is unnecessary. Someone who will love me for me, who will disagree when I call myself "fat." Someone who makes me feel at peace, at home, at ease. That someone is the man who became my first friend in California, my first love, my Hudson. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Activism on Wheels

A couple weeks back I was pedaling along 7th Street in Venice on my way to Whole Foods. Focused on my mission at hand, I wondered what types of Pinot Grigio they were carrying and if they'd have any of those cute wine gift bags in stock. Suddenly, something stopped my important thoughts. A sign. Not a metaphysical sign - an actual sign, finger painted in black on a white piece of paper and affixed to the back of a rugged RV. As bare at the visual was, the frank message prompted my fingers to clamp down on my handlebar brakes. Stopped. Staring. Feeling bad about life. The sign read, "STOP VIOLENCE AGAINST THE HOMELESS."

What a simple, smart way to make a statement. Activism assumes many methods. And this handicapped SoCalian decided to post signage on his/her own home (presumption). I studied the handmade sign and the belongings tied to the bumper. A ladder, a folding chair, a blue box and other random items were fastened to "Lindy." Every single tangible piece of this person's life exists in this cramped space. Several rooms in which to pile useless things and meaningless stuff are not available to this person. He has his home on wheels, and that is probably all. Of course, I'm making assumptions, but judging from the countless mobile homes parked along the streets of Venice, or as some say, wrecking the streets of Venice, I think I'm fairly spot-on.

I wondered who lived inside. A man? A woman? Multiple humans? A family? Did they own pets? Did the inside smell? How long had they lived in Lindy? And are they staring back at me through the small back window? I then recognized my blatant disrespect, my cheeks warming slightly. But honestly, I had so many questions. I speculated the proceeding events should I knock on the door. I just had a few questions. This would make such a compelling, unique story that I could post on LAist the following morning. Thousands of readers would absorb my words, inciting a revolution for homeless people everywhere. Thoughts of Kelly Thomas, the mentally ill homeless man who was beaten to death by the Fullerton police in July, flipped my stomach. I sat back down on my padded, worn bicycle seat. I shouldn't impose.

I remained impressed by their activism, no matter how small the signage, the message was bold. Stop. Violence. Against. The. Homeless. Remember now, humans, homeless humans are humans, too. But I think that fact is one that we often neglect to retain. We're all the same race. We're brothers. We're sisters. It doesn't matter if we live in a camper with dirt staining our skin. It doesn't matter if we can count our possessions. In my opinion, life's better that way - simple. Yet we commonly treat homeless people like dirt. Not all of us and not all the time, but we do. I've done it. I still scowl when I see "bums" littering my front steps. I admit, I see them that way. At first. Thankfully compassion quickly awakens and floods my temporarily brainless mind, pumping blood back into my skull, reviving the knowledge that those are people. Those are people who live rough lives. They know what it's like to be starving. Don't ever say you're "starving" when you're hungry. Most times you are not. And you never will be. And you waste food and take life for granted. Life is hard. We know this. But there are ways to lessen the strain, the stress, the long faces.

As sappy as it may sound, start with a smile - it has a lasting, powerful impression that can lighten even the darkest of souls. I'm not saying smiles will end homelessness. I'm saying it's a start to elevate not just yourself but everyone around you. Then educate yourself. Research the homeless population in your neighborhood. How many shelters are available? Is there anything you can do to help? Surely there's an upcoming volunteer event that would love to have your helping hands. Share your mind muscles and experiences with others. Dig and uncover the violence that taints your neighborhood. What can be done? My hope is that once people can wrap their heads around what it's like to be without, well, anything, that they'll own a warmer heart, grow a bigger brain, wear a wider smile and widen their embraces.

Monday, August 29, 2011

"Neighbors Share!" Declares The Drunken Seaman

Last weekend Hudson and I lathered up our sea legs (with SPF 45, of course) and set sail from San Pedro to Two Harbors, Catalina Island. Battling the chilly, choppy Pacific for nearly 4.5 hours, we reached our destination in impressive time. And I only yakked once. Friendly tip: Come armed with Dramamine no matter how tough you think you are.

We moored on a stringline in The Isthmus' shallow waters, surrounded by fellow boaters, the sea and the shore. I expected several things from this trip: sunburn, dehydration, tasty grilled eats, QT with the man, hikes along the steep cliffs of Two Harbors, run-ins with native animals (fingers were crossed for buffalo), day drinking, ample time to read an entire book (almost finished with Naked by David Sedaris), relaxation and disconnection from the world. What I did not expect was a lesson in neighbors.

Friday afternoon encouraged a lazy victory over our sail paired with my recuperation from a violent tsunami of seasickness. Just as I was giddily settling into my read, a ship of presumed fools glided towards Hakuna Matata and snatched up the stringline to our left. Several middle-aged men - free from their mundane lives at home with their wives - shared playful jests and stories, guffaws exploding from their crowded deck. I studied the overwhelming display of manly bonding, my jaw dropping slightly when a bottle of 1800 Select Silver Tequila appropriately appeared among the camaraderie. These men are clearly excessive and cutting more than loose this weekend, I judged. 

On a normal day I would've leapt from Hakuna, landed in the dinghy, paddled the few feet to their vessel and joined them as they took turns swigging from the bottle. But Friday was far from normal. I felt strangely anti-social, wishing we'd moored in our own private cove. This was probably due to the fact that I'd just endured three hours of Hell and wanted nothing more than to press rewind, gobble a few pills of Dramamine, and restart our crusade. This not being possible, I decided to just ignore the rowdy bunch until they made it impossible to do so. And they did this within a matter of minutes.

"Want some tequila?" one of the men asked. We politely declined. "How about some beer?" We turned them down again. After all, our cooler was packed full of icy Simpler Times Lager.

And then the revelation hit.

"We're sharing! You know, because that's what neighbors do. They share!" explained one of our new neighbors as he took a seat on the edge of the average-sized, blue and white fishing boat, wiping liquor from his chin.

Neighbors share. Neighbors. We have neighbors. How silly and reserved of me to regard these gentlemen as strangers. Leading a cynical life, in my opinion, will direct you into a seclusive, sad world of bitterness, darkening any light that once warmed your soul. Neighbors.

Sure, we have neighbors in Venice. Fourteen units comprise our courtyard-style building. Are any of these people my friends? No. Have I ever shared with any of them? Actually, yes. A recently departed couple lived next to us for a year and a half, and I offered them two of my prized Halloween cupcakes last year as well as a tupperware brimming with fresh CSA produce that we couldn't finish before Hudson's birthday trip this past July. I share with my neighbors, sure. But these connections were, unfortunately, few and far between. I admit, my cheeks reddening as I type, that I don't know the names of any of my neighbors. There's the Bimmer enthusiast, entertained by my 1985 325e, with whom I greet in passing about once a week. But his name I have failed to retain. And I think the new girl's name might be Lindsey. I hardly see or hear from anyone. 

The fisherman stirred within me a longing for companionship, a self-inflicted accusation of selfishness and pointless privacy of which I planned to shake myself free at that very moment. 

We're all human. We're brothers. We're sisters. We're friends. We're neighbors. Awkward moments need not occur between us. We make them awkward by telling ourselves, "That man is a stranger! Don't look him in the eye! Don't break your stride, or you'll be forced to talk to him! Oh, the horror!"

My advice to myself and to you is to embrace those in your life who are friendly and genuine. You can never squeeze your arms around too many friends, too many neighbors or too many bottles of premium tequila. That last bit is extremely false, but I'm just making sure you're reading.

Won't you be my neighbor?

Rows of neighbors at Two Harbors, Catalina Island

Friday, August 5, 2011

28 Going On 28

Universe, say it ain't so! Am I really turning, gasp, 28 tomorrow? Have I actually reached my late twenties? It's okay. I'm feeling good about this one. My twenties have treated me quite well so far, besides the occasional "what am I doing with my life???" crisis. I've set a wealth of goals for myself over the last few years, and I can happily say I've conquered many of my major missions.

But I'd like to refrain from discussing my goals today, as I have quite a few more before I turn the dreaded 3-0 (I don't think it's particularly healthy to set goals by age, but hey, it works for me!) I want to talk about what I DO NOT want to accomplish before I turn 30. Here's my list.

Marry - We have our whole lives to get married, settle down, build a life, start a family. Why rush? I have zero desire to plan a wedding at this stage in my life. If I had to plan a wedding right now, it would be the simplest, most laid-back wedding in history. Then again, it will probably match this description no matter when I plan it. This desire to not marry in no way reflects my feelings towards Hudson. If he asked, I'd jump up and down and comply, under the condition we maintain our engaged status for a ridiculously long time.

Breed - I know my biological clock is ticking, blahblahblah, but I'm not ready to shoot out a being who will depend on me for the next few decades. I'm still figuring out me. Let's not bring another me into the equation just yet.

Buy Property - Seriously, who am I kidding? Graduate to California Homeowner? Hilarious. The only places I could afford are places where I would never, ever want to live. Plus, I'm not trying to grow residential roots just yet.

And I guess that's about it. Those are the biggies. If you ever hear me claiming to have baby or diamond rang fever, please slap me in the face. Twice.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Scant Concentration

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm back. Back on land. Back in L.A. Back to the grind. It's a fulfilling grind though, creatively fruitful, challenging and overdue. I'm drilling into my noggin's word bank, massive word Word doc, typing skills and tech-savviness. A common realization slapped my apples when I returned home from my trip at sea and immediately, without flotation, dove into a new writing/editing job. It might've even hit me as early as powering on my cell phone in St. Thomas after several days of digital dearth.

The Internet strips humans of the ability to focus and ultimately enjoy life's essentials. Certainly, the meaning of life and its values differ for every individual, but I'm even referring to life's basic necessities: food, shelter, water and air. And love. Let's be honest. Without a little love, your inner scrutiny could seize your soul and swallow you, completely.

While at sea, happily unplugged besides the occasional iPod track selection, my mind was at rest, soaking in the island scenery. An incredible flush unclogged my noodle. Never have I acquired such a peaceful sense of clarity. I reunited with nature, marine and land creatures, humans and myself. I connected with the weather in a way I'd never imagined. I truly tasted and enjoyed food (and drink). I breathed deeply. I devoted my full focus to every moment of my travels. I wrote in a journal. I used a pen. I inked on paper. My thoughts wrapped themselves around individual musings, not around the hundreds of emails and social media feeds vying for my undivided attention.

Shortly after reuniting with the digital world, these coveted feelings vanished instantly. My head, once poised upon my loose shoulders, grew heavy, sinking into my body, luring my shoulders to my ears.

Admittedly, while writing this blog post, I'm bouncing back and forth between Gchatting, checking two email accounts, posting on Facebook, people-watching, beefing up my Google Reader and, of course, sharing my thoughts via this post.

I lack substantial weapons to combat this dizzying disarray. How do you maintain clarity in a world that commands constant mental, physical and emotional overload? Riddle me that, readers.