Monthly Archives: February 2016

[Traveling Tales] Serenity in the Sequoias

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With the sporadic influx of pseudo-Winter weather in Southern California over the last few weeks, a fresh blanket of snow had dusted over the local mountain ranges and springtime blossoms were peeking out with pastel colors against fifty shades of green.  Once I caught wind of the awe inspiring pictures of Yosemite’s fabled February Firefall, the itch for wanderlust had flooded back through my veins.  Twenty minutes and an excited conversation with Danny later, and we were scheming about what shenanigans we could get up to for the weekend.  Since the weekend before was a beautiful three day Valentine’s Day and President’s Day twofer, we realized that there would be very few people on the roads traveling about – which made it perfect timing for a quick weekend adventure.

A self professed ‘city kitty’ of sorts, I can easily count the number of times I’ve played in the snow on one hand.  So, the genuine prospect of an outdoors adventure prancing around a crystalline cloud makes me giddy, like a school girl crush on the first day of Summer. After consulting the map, we realized a 36 hour trip to Yosemite was a bit lofty – but the good news was that we could cut our travel time in half and finally enjoy the stunning scenery that Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have to offer.

After some quick research of the area, we devised what I thought was a genius game plan. First, we jotted up to Project Survival Cat Haven for a quick stop and a Caturday inspired tour of the big cat sanctuary and conservation center.  Between the gorgeous Lions, Bengal Tigers, Lynx, Leopards and more – the feline fanatic inside me was absolutely satiated. Then, we headed off to King’s Canyon to frolic in the snow and gallivant around Grant’s Grove.

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A full day of snow filled adventure later, and we were ready to turn down for a delicious meal overlooking the Kaweah River in the sleepy town of Three Rivers, right outside of the southern entrance of the park.  Once we found our cabin for the night, we nestled in and reflected on our incredible day, while memories intermingled with the rich aroma of a Winter night’s fire and laughter. The next morning as the sun slowly soared over the mountains, we found ourselves enraptured by beauty at each and every angle, from geometric reflections in the pool to the warm aroma of rosemary and lavender. After some hearty conversation with some of the locals, we were off, off and away – but this time, into Sequoia National Park and the Giant Forest.

Founded back in 1890, Sequoia National Park stretches to over 400,000 acres of land with topographies that range from 1,000′ to 12,000′ – including the highest point within the Great 48, Mount Whitney. The park contains 34 separately stunning groves of Giant Sequoia Trees, accounting for nearly half of the Sequoia groves in the world. A member of the Redwood family, Sequoias are considered to be one of the oldest living entities on Earth with it’s  oldest members dated at an awe inspiring 3,266 years old; for some perspective, the oldest living tree is an astonishing 9,550 years old.  Featuring fibrous, fire resistant bark – the Giant Sequoias rank in as the world’s largest single trees, and largest living thing by volume.  The world’s largest tree by volume, the General Sherman clocks in at over 52,000 cubic feet, stands over 280′ tall and is aged between 2,200 and 2,700 years old. The park also contains the next four largest trees in the world – including three additional Sequoias that lie within the Giant Forest.

Sequoia-44One of my favorite things (and there were a lot of favorite things) about the park is the varieties in the terrain, yielding a complex menagerie of landscapes within a small area. In addition to the incredible Sequoia themselves, the flowing Kaweah River was roaring with delight while wildflowers sprang out sporadically from behind bushes and gold dusted rocks. Waterfalls peeked from around each and every bend, with small off the beaten path hikes and trails, while incredible granite monoliths like Moro Rock and Hospital Rock towered above us like a watchdog.

Heading up the mountain one more time, we ascended in direct proportion to our excitement – with changes in elevation causing me to constantly bundle up in more warmth around each and every turn. Eventually, we arrived at Big Trees Trail – the home of the General Sherman, and you better believe there was a whole lot of tree hugging going around.  Their warm rich color paired with vibrant evergreen needles against the pristine white snow made for a nearly spiritual moment seeped in serenity.  Ravens and red tailed hawks flew to and fro while the trees beckoned to us gently in their stillness; standing in their shadow, a wave of humbling calmness washed over me as I finally felt like I understood the true gravity of the world.  Stuck within a moment of lucid beauty,  I found I’d lost track of time and couldn’t tell if we’d been standing there silent for moments, minutes or hours. I left the forest feeling transformed, transfixed on what felt like a life changing experience underneath the stunning Sequoia.

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Hands down, the National Park Systems is one of the best gifts that the United States Government could give back to the people and slowly but surely, the country mouse is coming out of me and I’m truly enjoying submersing and submerging myself within its ubiquitous beauty.  If last year I could find the time to work and play at a new music festival every month, this year I can certainly commit to a new national park every month.  And now, with this past trip under my belt, I have to admit that Sequoia now has a special place in heart and is my favorite park that I’ve visited so far, with Zion and Red Rocks coming in as close seconds.  If you have grandiose plans of traversing the park soon, be aware that Generals Highway is closed between Lodgepole and Grant Grove – and the depending on your proposed route, your detour can be an incredibly narrow and windy road (trust).  The closure will be reopening in Mid March.

What’s your favorite National Park and which ones are on your bucket list?

 

 
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[Traveling Tales] Packing The Perfect Weekender Bag

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“He who would travel happily must travel light.”
―  Antoine de St. Exupery

My entire life, I’ve been inexplicably drawn to the buzz and twinkle of neon lights and the industrial landscape of the heart of the city much like a bee to honey. The hustle and bustle of determined personalities paired with the high octane energy of any metropolitan area are enough to make my heart swoon – but lately, I’ve had this indescribable itch for whimsical wanderlust and awe inspiring adventure that I just have to scratch.  When I stop and think about the last few years of my life, each and every season – or more accurately, almost each and every month – consisted of a major, multi day camping music festival in some far away location.  From driving down the Pacific Coast to gallivanting to Arizona’s Gem and Jam Festival and all the adventures in between, I now have a handy list of the best iOS apps for roadtrips and some nifty tricks to help book your fun filled getaway.

Fast forward to now, and though I feel I’ve outgrown (most of) my need for festivals, I’ve held onto my insatiable urge to delve into the depths of nature and really explore the beauty that surrounds me. Cathartic and soothing, the open road and traveling tales have slowly but surely have evolved into two of my favorite things.  Some trips end up being more well planned, while others seem to happen at the spur of the moment – but either way they’re spun, it’s finally ingrained in my brain how important having the perfect weekend bag is.  Whether you’re roughing it in the great outdoors or heading to a new metropolitan area for the weekend, I’ve found a fool proof list to pack quickly and efficiently for your impending vacation.

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Wearables

Though we might not have traditional seasons in California – What is Winter, anyways? – we definitely have Fire Seasons, and each day can bring a huge swing in weather.  It’s always smart to query a site like Weather Underground or the like so you can get a more accurate scope of the upcoming forecast, just in case a surprise storm comes through.If you’re heading into the great outdoors, just remember – you’ll probably get dirty, make sure you don’t mind the clothes you bring coming back dirty as well. 

 In case of a heat wave, a swimsuit and towel are a must – and a pair of polarized or rose colored shades makes it an unbeatable trifecta. I’ve always thought it’s better to be prepared than sorry, so make sure you bring some warmer layers along for the trip – including a lightweight hoodie and a heavyweight jacket for cold spells; bonus points for mittens, a scarf , beanie – or my personal go-to: my spirit hood.   I always find it easier to layer when I have tank tops underneath, but you do you. Add in a pair of pants and either shorts or a skirt for each day, and double the amount of underwear and socks as the number of days you’re gone. (if you’re camping, potentially even triple – there’s just nothing better than a clean pair of socks and underwear after a long, sweaty day romping around in the best nature has to offer.) Last but definitely not least, make sure you have a comfortable pair of walking shoes with good tread, a pair of flip flops – and maybe a pair of boots or snow shoes to round out your footwear.  

Entertainment

Though I’m sure you’ll be heading out into the great beyond with your squad, that’s not to say you won’t find some down time – or even alone time. Beyond having ‘regular’ luggage, I try to always have a fun bag of things that I enjoy keeping near me at all times while on vacation, including a camera to capture the memories, a portable speaker to share the jams and a pair of headphones in case you just need a little lullaby to send you off to sleep for a midday siesta.  I always try to have a book on me because you never know what downtime you’ll find yourself in, but if you’re on the more artistic side – bring a journal and a set of colored pens or pencils, and get the whole gang in on some creative action.  Everyone loves toys so toss in a deck of cards, a football or volleyball (bonus points if it glows in the dark), and if you delve in the art of flow toys it’s the perfect occasion to bust out your poi, hoop or set of lights.

Toiletries

Last but certainly not least, the bathroom bag.  It’s so necessary, and chances are – if you’re like me – you always forget something important!  So, I’ve developed a top to bottom method where I literally start at the top of my head and work down to think about what I need to take.  When it comes to packing a parcel of toiletries, remember – travel sizes and sample sizes are your friends!  If you head to a motel or hotel, don’t forget to stock up! 😉

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The Short List:

Wearables: Multiply the following items of clothing by the number of days you’ll be gone

  • Tank Tops x 2
  • Hoodie
  • Jacket
  • Extra warmth: Scarf | Beanie | Spirit Hood
  • Pair of pants
  • Pair of shorts or a skirt
  • Underwear x 2
  • PJs
  • Socks x 3
  • Sneakers
  • Flip Flops
  • SpiritHood

Entertainment

  • Swimsuit
  • Towel
  • Sunglasses
  • Deck of cards
  • Cell Phone Charger
  • Camera
  • Portable Speaker
  • Headphones
  • Passport / ID / Wallet
  • Flow Toys
  • Fun Read

Toilettries

  • Hair brush
  • Hair ties
  • Eye glasses and/or Contacts + Solution
  • Ear Plugs
  • Tissues
  • Toothpaste + Toothbrush
  • Floss
  • Face Wash
  • Wash Cloth
  • Chapstick
  • Deoderant
  • Sunscreen or Lotion with SPF
  • Prescription Medication
  • Ibuprofen
  • Bonus Points: Midol – for the guys out there, the extra kick of caffeine helps with hangovers!

One last amazing thing that I’ve recently discovered is that Google Maps can be taken offline, so if you’re conserving your phone battery or you find yourself in a desolate area without service – never fear, the directions are here!  Gas Stations are your friend, and will more often than not keep you from peeing all along the highway and marking your proverbial territory….plus, yano, snacks and stuff. Even if you don’t think you’re hungry, snag some energy bars and water – you never know when the urge will strike!

What are your tried and true roadtrip tips?

Let me know in the comments below!

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”
― Jack Kerouac ―

[Oh, Snap] Project Survival’s Cat Haven: Lions, and Tigers, and Cheetahs – Oh, My!

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When I was three years old, I baffled my parents when I started mumbling the phrase ‘fully textured for cats’, when I was in 5th grade I did a report on the history of cats, I used to have grandiose dreams of owning a Bengal Tiger a la Jasmine from Aladdin, and yes, in fact, I have been to a cat show.  If you’ve been privy to this blog for more than a few months, then you most likely have seen the multiple barrages of adorable kitty pictures and know that I’m currently a proud owner of four little fur babies – Stella, Daisy, Loki and Marley.  Cat lady supreme? It’s debatable, but yes – big or small, young or old, fluffy, puffy, plush and everything in between – I definitely have love for all the kitties. So, when my fiance told me there was a large cat sanctuary near where we were vacationing this past weekend, I couldn’t help but squeal like a little school girl.

On Saturday morning – or as I prefer: Caturday morning – we packed our bags and hit the road to the gorgeous and awe inspiring Sequoia National Forest but before we did we made a special pit stop in a sleepy town called Dunlap to prowl around Project Survival’s Cat Haven.  Sitting on 100 acres of sprawling wilderness, the PS Cat Haven has been working diligently towards large cat conservation and education since 1993. Founded by Dale Anderson, the site is host to a wide variety of cats – from Lions, Lynx, Amur Tigers, Cheetahs, Bobcats, Servals, Lions and a stunning White Bengal Tiger

If you feel anything like I do about Seaworld and most Zoos, than you’ll understand that in the beginning it might be hard to see the animals in the size of cages that they’re in. But, please know the cages are held to regulation and there were several decommissioned areas based on the same principal.  Not only that, but the animals receive daily enrichment – a fancy word for boxes, treats and toys – hunks of meat and have an outdoor playpen to roam around in, and for a few of the litters of animals – potentially even a playmate.Now, I wasn’t able to get too close to get a picture (and rightfully so, with the cages and barriers), but these are some of the beauties that I fell whiskers over paws for.

Rose and Samba were a pair of Jaguar sisters, and completely playful and adorable – their only competition was Nacho and Libre, who turned out to be their brothers for a little a few years later! And of course, I loved the White Bengal tiger!

For being a tried and true cat lover, I actually learned a lot – but there were two fun feline facts that stood out to me…

For all us cat lovers that sit there and talk to our cats, did you know: cats that purr can’t roar, and cats that roar can’t purr.  Your felines vocal proclivities are driven by a bone at the back of their throat, the more rigid the bone – the more of a Roar!

Secondly, the Panther is a misnomer – Panthers are melanistic leopards and jaguars. Melanism is a recessive genetic phenotype that occurs in a small variety of animals, and is why we get the elusive black flamingo, black wolves, black snakes and black squirrels and ‘black panthers’.  In most cases, this was an adaptive trait to help the species survive over time.

In large cats, this happens within the ‘Agouti Gene’ and results in various species – like leopards, bobcats, servals, and jaguars – presenting with darker pigment in the normally orange areas.Though they look black from afar, the result is that deliciously chocolate brown coat with even darker markings that “Black Panthers” are known for.   On the flip side, this gene doesn’t present in domestic cats – meaning your elegant black house cat really is black.

For more about Project Survival Cat Haven, head to their website or socials:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Yelp

To Donate to their cause, head here! | Adopt a Cat from PS Cat Haven

[Work It] Ramp Up Your Resume

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From the moment we’re thrust into the world of academia, there’s a lingering air left over us that we’re destined to pursue our dream career and land our dream job.  For some of us, that’s a tried and true reality; but that reality comes with sacrifices that tend to not be talked about: the fiscal rewards seem inversely proportional to the facets of our life that we sacrifice.  Friendships, from familial to romantic, are thrust onto the back burner while deferred dreams evolve into the norm.

But then, on the flip side, there are others like myself included that are still passionately prowling for what makes sense to them. We’ve watched as hobbies and skills learned vocationally have developed into tangible career path, and our academic degrees have signified less and less, eventually fading away into obscurity on a wall in your home office as resolute proof of a life once lived.  Regardless of your career choice, one truth I’ve learned about the working world is you should always be open to the variety of options out there, because you simply don’t know what doors of opportunity you might be knocking on in the future.

Over the last month, I’ve migrated roles in my part time position into a interim Human Resources guru and I’ve seen a lot – I mean a – LOT – of resumes fly my way.  Some are stellar and some not so much, but it’s made the wheels of my mind work in new and different ways.  I’ve found that whether it’s a do or a don’t, each and every resume has valuable insight – from elevating my syntax or word choice, adjusting my work history, delving into my skill set or omitting prior experience that has little to nothing to do with the new role. Beyond now owing myself an actual resume refresh with some of the new skills I’ve learned while taking in the hiring process, I finally have some wisdom to impart on the topic. Whether you’ve had your job for a month or a year, having an up to date resume that you can send out on a whim is clutch – and could land you the opportunity of a lifetime.

 

 

Style

 ‘Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.’
– Rachel Zoe –
Granted, I don’t think Rachel Zoe was referring to reviving your resume – but for all intensive purposes, for now – let’s just pretend she was.  Even though the proof of the pudding  is your content, the style and formatting of your resume are the first impression, and you know what they say about first impressions: it’s best to make a good one.  Your resumes style should say as much about your personality as the words on the page, not to mention – it’s your first foot in the door with an employer.
I’ve found that a resume with an elegantly simple yet beautiful style will get passed on 9 times out of 10 over a plain text resume, while a standard plain text resume with proper margins and headers sounds ideal compared to a one haphazardly strewn together, without margins or any form of structure.  But let’s back up a bit and get to the basics of resume formatting.
Traditionally, your resume should have the most important information on the top and left side, while the less important information is left for the right side and the bottom.  This is because of two schools of thought – one, is that only the first few words of each line are even read – so those need to be the most important; the other is that resumes tend to be folded in half, and sometimes they stay that way – meaning anything ‘below the fold’ goes unseen.
The crux of your resume itself should be single spaced, with a 12 point font for the body.  Mind your margins and as a general rule of thumb, leave at least .5″ on the right and left sides, and you can go down to .25″ for the header and footer margin.Keep in mind that too much text is overwhelming and  having some white space is pleasing to the eye.  Bullet points for positions and professions should be limited to two lines maximum, but one if possible.  Whatever you do, please use proper case for your resume – take it from personal experience, a resume in all capitals is anxiety inducing and can basically guarantee that your resume will be sent to the bottom of the barrel. When it comes to style – consistency is key, make sure the body of your resume is all in the same font, size and color.  And last, but certainly not least – use spell check and be careful not to jump between tenses.
Like your Cover Letter, your resume should stick to one page – if you’re a creative, you can use the second page for projects and publications, but for your resume itself – it shouldn’t be one page and a paragraph – not even one full page and a trailing sentence on the next; one page, and one page only.  If you need a place for overflow information, try an online supplement like an About.Me page or LinkedIn profile. For those that consider themselves slightly more web savvy with a lot to say – try your hand at building your own webpage, not only is it a phenomenal reference point for any future employer but now you’ve already added new skill sets like Website Development, Search Engine Optimization, Google Analytics and Google Adwords. visual resume
Benefits of a Visual Resume
For anyone who’s pursuing a more creative avenue like  Graphic Design, Photography, Public Relations or Videography – you know how to best represent yourself, and it’s not in the old humdrum way you’re used to.  You deserve pizzazz, you deserve some pomp and a you deserve nothing but the best of circumstances. A visual resume is incredibly befitting and will show employers that you’re prepared to bring your A game to the table at a moments notice.

 

If you’ve got a friend in graphic design, grab’em – because their resumes are honestly instantly more creative and competitive than the rest of us. From simple additions like adjusting the flow of information or using columns to organize individual sections to more complex ones like including graphic images, social media icons and infographics to represent quantitative data – I’ve been blown away by how crafty some applicants are.  Word to the wise though, always save these types of resumes as a PDF – that way, the text doesn’t run  a muck and lose formatting when it’s uploaded to your employers website.

Content

Now that we’ve got your resume looking good and feeling great, it’s time to conquer the content of your resume – because when you get down to brass tax – the content is the product. For your resume less actually is more: with less fluff you give the reader a chance to focus on what’s important.    Let’s start at the top of the resume and work down to the bottom.

HeaderYour full address isn’t necessary, but your city and state are valuable to the employer – as is a link to a variety of different digital media profiles, from Twitter to Facebook and LinkedIn.  Just remember, these will be checked – so best to keep them clean!

ObjectiveUnless you’re making a drastic career shift or have just graduated from college or university – the ‘Objective’ statement on the top should either be eliminated or simply moved over to  your cover letter.

Work HistoryAfter a certain point in your career, you don’t need to tell your collective work history – you can start piece by piece, picking and choosing –  including only the professions that apply to the new job.  Move anything that’s not pertinent to a ‘Master Resume‘ that chronicles your entire job history, including remedial internships and part time gigs.  However, for the resume you ship around to prospective employers, it’s best to keep off any short term job that spanned for less than four months.

Each employment experience should have between 2 and 4 key notes, including key learnings, moments of growth, and acquired skills – all driven by powerful verbs. If possible, use numbers to drive your points home – not only are they a simpler way of determining value, but quantitative figures will make you stand out. Your history doesn’t necessarily need to be in a linear order – this segment should tell a story and read with your strongest applied skill set for the job at the top, then descending on downwards by rank of importance.  Omit your salary history – that’s a conversation for later down the road.

Education: Now that we’re finally out of college, our GPA and graduation date don’t matter as much as our degree itself, the honors and awards we received and the organizations we belonged to.  Did you go Greek? Work on the school newspaper? Have an hour segment on the radio station? Graduate with honors?  Volunteer at a local shelter?  All of these qualities are foundations of well rounded employees with a variety of brain stimulating hobbies.

 

Skills:  In 2016, there are some skills I just hope you have under your belt and believe you me – I’ve seen it all: Myers Briggs Personality Types,  ‘Fluent in English’, ‘Smart Phones and ‘Googling’.  Though I’m actually a fan of the first, what I realize is that all of these facets can pigeonhole an employee, or even prevent them from moving along in the hiring process.   USPS isn’t difficult to navigate, neither is Facebook.  But Facebook Page Analytics and Insuring International Shipments are two completely different stories.As a general rule of thumb, if you have to ask – you should probably just leave it out.

Posting and Hosting 

Before you save your resume, convert it to a PDF and preserve any creative or graphic elements.  Save the file  using your name + ‘Resume’ and the Date, and save it into a master directory  with all of your old resumes. That way, you’re ready to send on the fly moving forward.   As far as posting your resume online, there are several free options – including Monster, Indeed and LinkedIn; or, store a text version of your resume on About.me and a graphic representation on Visualize.Me – the possibilities are endless!  Now go on,  get out – and get hired!

[Oh, Snap] Eagle Rockin’ and Eagle Walkin’ v9

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Over the last few days, the air has been vibrant with floral fragrances and the coquettish dancing of birds, bees and butterflies while temperatures have sky rocketed back into the 90s.  No, Summer isn’t quick on our heals and Spring isn’t exactly just around the corner – it’s simply another mid-February heat wave in Los Angeles.  Half my mind is wrapped up in the sheer beauty of nature right now, while the other bemoans the fact we haven’t had a good rain in quite some time.

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The year itself is accelerating at a rapid pace, while a proverbial bullet train of emotions, feelings and thoughts trace geometric patterns in my mind.  I’ve had friendships ebb and flow as trust has been simultaneously instilled in and and removed from those who have one way or another, proven themselves to me.  I refuse to be sad or remorseful over the loss of people in my life – while intentional or not, the lessons that I’ve learned and the mechanisms that have inspired my maturity and growth are tantamount to my self understanding in the same way that the love, support and friendship of others have lifted my spirits.  As with pulsating tidal waves on a brilliant seashore, the push and pull are one in the same and it’s the totality of myself that I’m truly in awe of at this point.  The resilient, bounce back of personality and perseverance of passion – it hasn’t left, instead the flames have been fanned higher.

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[Write On] Listen Up and Get In Formation

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We’ve started the year with two cultural schools of thought, on one hand there’s the loud and slightly ridiculous Stacey Dash phenomenon and on the other, we have the #OscarsSoWhite. So thank goodness that the Queen is back to shake things up and push us forward, Queen B that is. This past weekend, just the day before her highly anticipated Super Bowl collaboration with Coldplay and Bruno Mars, Beyonce dropped the world on it’s head with the release of her latest empowered single,’Formation’.  More than just a song, ‘Formation’ is a statement – ‘Formation’ is a movement;  ‘Formation’ is an ode to the rise of Black Feminine Energy – and it’s time to get in line.

Let me back up for a second.

After 31 years on this pseudo-green Earth, I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t admit that the ideas of race, ethnicity, cultural adversity and then diversity run rampant in my veins. If you are who you surround yourself by, I’m socio-culturally middle class, with a multicultural twist. Minority Report, Oreo, Chocolate Sprinkle. My nicknames say it all, but it runs deeper.  When standardized tests were distributed in school, I always took longer than everyone else figuring out which box to check for ethnicity – what if I didn’t see my box? Does that mean I didn’t matter – do I not count? Can I check more than one box?  Where do I fit in here?

The multiracial, only child of a split family, I always had issues reconciling my ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and the notion that they might invariable be two different identities were always kept at bay.  Remember Sun In? That shit turned my hair bright orange, not to mention warnings about sunscreen never seemed to apply to me.  When my dad remarried to my step mom and the three of us would go out together, people would infer I was adopted; fast forward twenty years later, and they mistake my fiance for their son.

Spot the Amanda

 

Silicon Valley born and raised, I grew up in the tiny and incredibly educated suburb of Menlo Park with my mom, and Palo Alto then Los Altos with my father. They were nice areas to be raised in and all that jazz, but let’s get one thing real for a second, they’re not the most diverse areas of the country; in fact they’re pretty monotone, sometimes painfully so. Whether it was with family, or in social endeavors, I always felt like the technicolor sheep of the family – never fitting in and always standing out.

Mentally, sonically, emotionally, I grew up in a boombox, self-identifying with Hip-hop and rap, including Janet Jackson’s anthemic Rhythm Nation 1814; but academically and socially, I attended programs where, in one way or another, I was the diversity. Whether it was attending Castilleja Middle School during the academic year, or their BRIDGE Program over the Summer, I wavered between a drop of milk in oil and a drop of oil in milk; an ever ebbing cascade of racial complexities that arose from a bi-cultural background that up until that age hadn’t been explored. Then, by the time I transferred back into Public School as a Junior in High School, Menlo Atherton High School had gotten national recognition with a center spread in ‘Teen People” as the most diverse yet segregated High School in America.

Serendipitous to consider it now, but it was around that same time that Destiny’s Child came out with their debut, self-titled album.  In a moment where I couldn’t find a cultural footing, somehow, with them, I found resonance, a voice, a mainstream media identity – or in my eyes, hope.  At 16, while away at an out of town basketball tournament, I walked into the room while several of my teammates were discussing their disgust with interracial relationships.  As I slowly sulked into the shadows, shuddering at each syllable, I faintly but distinctly overheard the words “…they shouldn’t be allowed to marry, and definitely shouldn’t be allowed to have children.”  My heart and ego sank in time as my head hung low for the duration of the tournament.  After, in an effort to reconnect to my roots, my aunt escorted me to a seminar in Los Angeles for Young African American Women; around the same time, I became a camp counselor in West Menlo Park and was quickly adopted under the wing of East Menlo Park’s more diverse subset of counselors where I became a master domino player, learned the proper way to eat fried chicken, not to mention the difference between sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie.  And in whatever down time I could muster, I buried my head in multicultural literature from James McBride’s The Color of Water to timely tomes from Danzy Senna, Caucasia and Symptomatic.

Combined, the ideas drilled in my head lead me to believe the next large sociocultural revolution would be a mixed race revolution, and we would be leading at the helm. But invariably, the events themselves, made me feel even more alone.  It was then, that the idea was finally and formally drilled into my head that there was a difference between being genetically ‘African American‘ and culturally Black.

Beyond the entertainment value, viral witticisms masquerading as lyrics and a host of regal outfits – the video  contains a not so subtle history lesson delivered with a passionate one two punch in under five minutes.  Starting with  emotional imagery and vocals that ask ‘What happened in New Orleans‘, Formation’ delves into the modern Black experience,  exploring the nuanced variety of genetic variability. Cascading through Southern cityscapes and landscapes, including estates and plantations, ‘Formation‘ offers a bevvy of emotional imagery: a cop car – and city -underwater,  a breakdancing toddler stalling a line of police with their hands in the air, ‘Stop Shooting Us’ haphazardly spray painted on an otherwise barren wall and coordinated feminine empowerment.

Imagery that grew only stronger with her performance the next day at the Super Bowl’s halftime show; decked out in gear halfway reminiscent of the 1970’s Black Panther movement spliced with Janet’s Rhythm Nation video, Beyonce urged a generation to mobilize and get in ‘Formation’.  The end result was a provocative performance of a ‘visual anthem‘ sure to live in cultural infamy.

Fast forward to three days later, and you’ll meet exactly what’s wrong with this country and could invariably elect someone as ignorant as Donald Trump; In light of the controversial dance ‘Formations’ and dress during her performance invoking the Black Panther Party, Malcolm X and supposed dissent against the police -not to mention a display of their own cultural ignorance – protesters are heading to NFL’s New York Headquarters on February 18th . Not only have people willfully avoided history textbooks or contextualizing social issues like the suffrage and civil rights movement, but on top of that their ignorance has become ego driven arrogance; and I’m not sure what frustrates me more – an echoed rhetoric that minorities, especially women, are only here to entertain and not educate, or the idea that people are more offended by the message of the song than the actions that drove the creation of this performance.

I’ll be the first to admit that I never paid much attention in my European History classes and found most of my United States history courses beyond boring; but when it came to the Civil Rights Movement, I had an uncanny desire to devour all available knowledge. And I know this: The Black Panther Party was made of revolutionaries that fought for a culture that had been undermined for their entire cultural history to be recognized as equal.  Yes, they were born out of the failed non-violent Civil Rights Movement of MLK Jr and Medgar Evers but the movement didn’t promote violence, it promoted fairness while protecting the community from the racist behaviors of others while simultaneously pushing citizens to police the police – an idea that is still echoed in today’s society.

To the calls of it’s Football and not Hollywood, last time I listened to Sportscetnter I got a whole earful about girlfriends and wives, houses and style; things that invariable have jack all to do with competitive sports.  And now, we’re taking a critique to a traditionally all white variety of Halftime Entertainment.  So for a second, let’s talk about the NFL.  Let’s discuss the amount of sex crimes and prostitution rings that are cracked down on during high profile games every year, the egregious amount of drunk drivers that get into accidents leaving games or the fact that from start to finish, NFL games are riddled with advertisements parading the US Military as a revered enterprise. Yet a five minute segment that gives weight to a population more often misrepresented and underrepresented in mainstream media receives a bevvy of backlash? It’s time that people get their priorities in formation

[LA Life] Downtown Goes Dapper For A Night On Broadway

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Last weekend as the threat imminent downpour loomed over the quite literal horizon, we decided to throw caution to the wind as we got dolled up and dappered out for a ‘Night on Broadway.‘ A party with a purpose, the second annual event sprawled through the stunning cityscape of Downtown Los Angeles and into the historic Broadway District.

Commencing back in 2008 under the guidance of L.A. City Council member José Huizar, Bringing Back Broadway set its sights on reinvigorating the entire outlying area, from the preservation and display of the old school neon signs to re-opening doors to awe inspiring theaters, bringing back the fabled streetcar and even the relatively new facade lighting brought onto Broadway in 2013.  A chip off of the ‘Bringing Back Broadway’ initiative block, the second annual ‘Night on Broadway‘  is designed to restore a variety old theaters in the fabled Broadway district and reinvigorate local interest in the art, music, culture and community of the area.

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Revelers are encouraged join in the shenanigans surrounded by the amazing architecture and interior design of theaters from The Palace to The Los Angeles Theater, The Ace Hotel and The Globe.  Festivites included a brains to brawns chess and boxing match, a wide variety of interactive street art, comedy from Reggie Watts, my personal highlight, Rebel Bingo, and last but most definitely not least live music and entertainment and even some of the local talent, like Skrillex from both the OWSLA and Mad Decent imprints, plus hourly performances from city’s very own electric and eclectic avant garde performance troupe Lucent Dossier Experience (which was a serendipitous treat in itself considering a friend of mine had landed himself DJ duties at the same stage for the night).

Don’t fret if you missed out on all the fun, because one of my favorite things about the city of angels is there’s simply always something stunning to do about town, and half of them are free! But, if you’re feeling the festive FOMO, make a calendar reminder and don’t forget to catch Night on Broadway next year in Downtown Los Angeles when it returns on Saturday, January 28th 2017.  For more about the city’s famed ‘Night on Broadway’ event or Bringing Back Broadway initiative, head to their website or socials –

Night on Broadway: Website

Bringing Back Broadway: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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