[Self Discovery] Put the Social in ‘Social Distancing’

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re well aware of the way that the Coronavirus – also known as COVID-19 has been making it’s way across the globe in an international emergency event that most generations simply have never been part of. And if you have been living under a rock, I hope you’re keeping your rock 6 feet apart from other rocks.

First things first, let’s all admit – these past few weeks have been eye opening, scary, anxiety inducing, etc. Please remember to reach out and check in on each other. HOW ARE YA! How are your family and friends holding up? Have you been remembering to try and get outside, and hold your head up high? We’ll get through this, but we need to remember – the human condition is the necessity to connect, – so let’s connect! Any new books, hobbies, shows you’ve discovered? Any questions or anxieties other people can help answer? Anyone learned a new joke or got a funny meme to share?

Up in Seattle, we are under a Stay at Home order until at LEAST May 5th. It’s a ghost town, traffic is non existent and I’m anxious. But I’m reminding myself: I am healthy, I am okay. My friends are healthy. My family is healthy. We are okay. We will be okay.

But please remember: This is GLOBAL. As a people so are we – we are the human organism, the human condition. Are you healthy? AWESOME. Do you know anyone over 60, with a medical condition or pregnant? Then do your best to keep THEM safe. What is happening does not discriminate based on age, sex, religion or location. Everyone is panicking in their own way. Be kind. Wash your hands. Don’t cough on things.

This is not an excuse to not vote in the upcoming election, if anything this is why we need to mobilize and unite as a nation. The current administration seems to be doing their best to delay testing, from NPR’s reporting – if they can prove our numbers remain low (even if they’re low from lack of testing) they believe it can boost a re-election campaign.

With the decimation of vital industries with hourly workers and a reduction in both business and working hours – there’s a chance for unemployment to balloon again. We need economic safeguards in our communities and states that prevent families and small business on having to default on their loans, mortgages or their rent. We need legislation that prevents utilities from being shut off for non payment. We need UBI, Universal Basic Income, because the economy will essentially tip on its head once the only people who can afford ANYTHING are only the 1%. We need Universal Health Care. There are people, homeless, immigrant, that do not have access to healthcare currently – Washington has reopened their health care election coverage and I hope other states have; but many people still can’t afford THAT version of health care and the only way to truly stop this pandemic is to both test and treat everyone. If you’re for those points above, let me tell you about this guy, Bernie….but we’ll do that in a latest post.

For me: I got a “flu”-like bug twice in three weeks in in January, one time three days after getting the flu shot, I had a fever of 102, body chills, a headache and nausea, it lasted for 4 days; that was when this was all starting – I’m starting to think I had and then got over COVID-19, but without proper access to testing I will not know. I finally finished Walden. I stated a cool book on The Golden Ratio. I started making essential oil perfumes. I tried my best to not freak out.

Now, in the midst of all the ‘Stay at Home’, ‘Shelter in Place’ and ‘Safer in Place’ orders around the country – it’s becoming more imperative than ever that even though we maintain a safe physical distance, that our social nature – our human nature, stays in tact. Thankfully, living in the digital age there are an infinite amount of resources available that make it feel like you’re not so alone.

Keep Your Head Up with These Tips and Tricks

Join a Book Club: Even though reading is a singular activity, that doesn’t mean you can’t make reading social, get a profile on Good Reads. My latest – Walden, by Thoreau, was something I’d been trying to get through for over a year – but by it’s simple nature, and being written by the most famed Transcendentalist, I thought it would be weird to attempt to rush through it and I’m so glad I didn’t. It’s honestly the perfect pick for anyone who is negotiating with any sort of physical isolation from others, and ways we can dive into our own minds.

Step 2: Get your box

Create a Collaborative Playlist: Music is one of those things that has the ability to bring people together in a million ways, from when times are good to when times are hard. I’m a self proclaimed Audiophile, and I’m sure most of my friends are, too. I’ve been digging on Spotify for a million different reasons, whether is their end of year analytical roundup, their new artist discovery or the ability to dive steadfast into a band’s discography. Lately, one of my favorite functions in Spotify is the ability to make a collaborative playlist. A few years ago for my wedding, we had our guests get down in a collaborative playlist before the big day and let me tell you – it made our wedding party just that much more fun. In light of everything currently happening, I thought it would be a fun way for my friends to share their latest favorites – so go ahead, jam out and add one or two of your favorites, too!

Go To a Digital Festival: Sign up for Youtube and Twitch and watch a live stream of a concert, Insomniac Event’s had to forgo their fabled Beyond Wonderland festival this year due to current circumstances; and as always, they turned a negative into the most positive of pictures by hosting ‘Virtual Raves’ for both Beyond Wonderland last weekend then Hard Summer Staycation this weekend. From the Brownie’s and Lemonade Squad, we’ve been treated to amazing sets from world renowned and up and coming artists through their Desert Mirage series and last but certainly not least, big big love to both Mad Decent, Beatport and the infinite amount of artists out there that are filling our spirits, warming our hearts, and letting us shake our groove thangs. Some of my favorites from this weekend have already been posted – check’em out!

Proximity x Brownies & Lemonade: Digital Mirage
Kaskade
Seven Lions
Gryffin
Insomniac: HARD Summer Staycation – Beyond Wonderland Virtual Rave-a-Thon
Valentino Kahn
Dr. Fresch
Jack Beats

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Foster a Floof: If you’re without a furry friend, or looking to add to your collection – this is a great time to try fostering a pet! It’s proven that having animals around can lower your anxiety while providing adorable stress relief, and plus, being altruistic and caring for others is one of the quickest ways to get out of your own head and into a healthy mental space. The pros at Petfinder have a great web-tool to find local shelters, or simply jump into Yelp or Google Maps and find your closest one. If you happen to have any free time, and aren’t under a ‘SIP’ order, volunteering at the shelter’s is also a great feel good activity!

Be Social with Social Media: In my personal opinion, as a society we are incredibly lucky that what we are going through with the Coronavirus has come at a time where we are vastly, deeply interconnected within our communities. With the Internet, streaming media and social media – we can maintain some semblance of normalcy while going through this strange transitory phase by reaching out to each other. I’ve never been much of a fan of FaceTime, or of Video Conferencing, but I’ve vastly changed by tune over the last few weeks. It’s been lovely to see my friends, cheers them over the phone, and really see them smile – even if we’re miles away.

Sprinkle Some Joy: The biggest takeaway for me is this – you can get through anything with a good spirit, so do things that bring joy, do things that make you happy and do things that make those around you in a better mood. Share a joke, hold back criticism, be gracious, ask questions, engage, laugh, and then maybe – just maybe, share a few memes, they’re honestly great ice breakers if there’s someone you haven’t chatted with in forever. I have a small collection that have been helping me through – maybe they can be just as useful for you!




How are you holding up during this chaotic moment? Any surprising ways you’ve found to be social even in light of being self quarantined? Let me know in the comments below and let’s get through this together ❤

[‘Tis The Season] For New Holiday Traditions

With Thanksgiving right around the corner and the impending Winter rush of familial holiday functions, the bombardment of imposed holiday cheer is here and ready to rear it’s seasonal head.  Maybe it’s the fact that I grew up splitting my holidays between two homes, or it could be that I wasn’t raised under any form of religious guise – but the holidays themselves essentially passed me over; the only thing I ever gathered from them was they were a great time to be with loved ones, reminisce about the year that was and postulate on what’s to come while not slipping into a glorious food coma with sports on (which, let’s admit, is still pretty damn fun). 

In the decade since I left college, I moved the opposite direction from home –  and spent half of that time living by myself re-establishing my baseline, and questioning much of the world around me, including the day to day moves we make and overarching traditions most of us have blindly followed for part, if not most of our lives.  Though my parents were raised Methodist and Jewish, they chose to raise me as as a scientist – to not accept the world at face value, and approach each situation with a childlike sense of wonder and an adult sense of amusement; where the world and nature were my church and the elders were my leaders. Now that I’ve moved up to a new state with my husband, we’re looking to make traditions of our own – which got me thinking.  

Though our schooling would have us believe a very different story, Thanksgiving was a construct of the pagans and the very first one was not at Plymouth Rock.  With Thanksgiving falling on a Full Moon for the first time in almost 71 years – I thought it was the  perfect time to explore the actual societal roots of the holiday. 

Unlike Easter and Christmas which are steeped in slightly more obvious Christian roots, stories and traditions with true roots in Pagan Holiday, Thanksgiving itself is one of the few secular holidays celebrated around the United States and it has an interesting, sorted Colonial history as well as a – you guessed it – Pagan based backstory.   

In 1621, the Pilgrims completed their voyage to the new shore – and after a tumultuous time at sea, and losing a menagerie of ship members, they gathered what they could in the cold month of November with the locals and had a winter’s feast; and so started Thanksgiving. 

Kinda.  That’s what we learn in school at least, and it’s basically completely wrong, starting with the erroneous fact claiming it was the “first” Thanksgiving.   Secondly, the Pilgrims were not the first to land in the new world – but this isn’t that history lesson. 

Fast forward to our first President George Washington and the formulation of America – there was a suggestion among the constituents that as a new country, it would behoove them to create a nationally binding yet seemingly secular holiday.  So, in October of 1789, Washington issued a formal proclamation that designated November 26th as a national day of thanks. And now, 225 years later – we have Turkey, Pumpkin Pie, and Football to celebrate with us. So where did Thanksgiving actually stem from…?

Believe it or not, but having a “Day of Thanks” transmutes almost all cultural walls, and essentially time itself; you can find an ode to it in essentially every ancient culture.  The Egyptians celebrated Min while the Chinese held holiday for Chung Ch’ui; the Israelites celebrated Sukkot, the Babylonians worshiped Marduk and the Persians had Mirthas; the Romans had Cerelia while the Greeks honored Demeter and Celtic Pagans took to Mabon. Each of these civilizations had a day designated as a Fall Harvest Feast where they would tend to the end of their crop season, and enjoy the bounty in communal celebration. 

After the Romans invaded Nazareth, the cradle of Judaism, in the 3rd Century, their civilization and culture began to seep into Israelite texts and traditions – including Roman Fall Festival Cerelia, which worshiped Goddess of the Harvest Ceres.  As the global power of the time, this transmuted the Pagan celebration across any and every culture they touched…which was a lot

A few hundred years later, Roman rulership had reached England and Cerelia evolved into the Harvest Home Festival under the Church of England.  Between the 600’s and 1600’s, the tradition transformed over and over, for both secular and religious groups – but over time, and catalyzed by the separation of the Church of England from Roman rule, many groups within the church splintered off and chose to try for a new life in America; the rest is history – but apparently very poorly written and researched.

And since we’re here – traditional Thanksgiving fare and lore also have cultural roots that you might not expect.   That Cornucopia, known as the horn of plenty, full of festively fall items?  In Ancient Greece – Amathea the goat broke off his horn, presenting it to Zeus to earn his favor – in return, Amathea’s image became transfixed in the sky as Capricorn.  Not to mention, that other things like corn, the Harvest Queen and poppies are all odes to the Roman Goddess Ceres, which the holiday Cerelia celebrates.


This year, instead of giving into a tradition that has been incorrectly hardwired into our brains, try one of these one-offs for size – or even better, use this as an excuse to make your own festivites. 

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Friendsgiving

Not only are the holidays a perfect time to reconnect and rekindle your relationships with those you hold dear – but they’re an equally excellent time to forge a bond over an amazing meal and delicious libations. For Friendsgiving, bring the whole squad with you – new neighborhood transplants that aren’t going back to their old stomping grounds, friends, coworkers and even their friends and coworkers.  Friendsgiving isn’t relegated to any particular part of the holiday season, but I definitely recommend that it’s on a Friday or Saturday so you can enjoy your food coma into a lovely, lounging Sunday where you can marinate in the memories of your family you chose for yourself just a little while longer. 

Green is the New Black

Raise your paws if you’re one of those people who has a timer on their phone for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.  Good, no one – and if you’re rocking with me, I honestly didn’t think so.  I always found it a bit untoward that one day we’re wrapped up in giving thanks, and then the next day we’re wrapped up in spending our money – it’s pretty anachronistic to me.  Anyways! A few years back, REI started their #OptOutside campaign – shutting down their storefronts, giving their employees the day off and encouraging them to enjoy the outdoors; I love the effect that it’s had on the world at large. Instead of giving into the urge to purchase, get off your cute little butts and get outside; not only is exercise one of the highest rated New Years resolutions, or most common Friday after Thanksgiving traditions – but it feels pretty damn good.  

Give Back

Altruism is by and large one of the best gifts you can give, because it really does keep giving.  If you don’t feel like having your own celebrations this year, or are looking for a way to make an impact in your community – find a local shelter to volunteer with, help in their soup kitchen for the holidays, donate your time to a senior center and spend the holidays with those who could use the support, or find an animal shelter to give our furry friends something to smile about. 

25 Days of Gratitude

Like I mentioned in the beginning, being thankful and gracious aren’t only applicable to the holidays, though they do allow a wonderful time for pause and reflection, as I’ve found a good memory is kindling to the fire of the heart – especially on a chilly winter’s night.   As a kid, I loved those little you games you got on Thanksgiving that counted down the days to Christmas with candy. 

This year, ditch that Advent Calendar, which may as well be called the Countdown to Capitalism as an incredibly Protestant Christian ideal that has been transmuted into the public arena without much thought, make your own ‘Gratitude Calendar’. Grab a notepad or old scratch paper, a few favorite pens and a jar – something you can decorate and want to look at.  Each day, instead of taking something out – write down one thing that you’re grateful for, date it, and toss it in.  When Christmas arrives, spill the jar out and read through each note one by one, you might even be surprised at how many presents you already have in your life. 


I have to admit that being in a new state for the Holiday, and married, I’m incredibly excited to start some new celebrations with my husband and my family.  With Thanksgiving falling on the Gemini Full Moon, I’m eager for the hearty conversation and lively company for the day.

Whatever you celebrate and whoever you celebrate it with, make it memorable – always

What new traditions are you excited to start this year?

Let me know in the comments below – I can’t wait to read how you’re spending the season.

[Self Discovery] Falling for Autumn

 

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Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower 
– Albert Camus –

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As of this past weekend, Summer officially gave way to Autumn and up here in the Pacific NorthWest, we’re experiencing all the Fall colors in all of their glory.  There’s a cornucopia of shades springing out from all the flora and the fauna; flowers, trees, bushes, ivy – you name it, it’s changing – and essentially right in front of your eyes. Sunflowers, Rhododendrons and Roses are shedding their vibrant petals, much to the late season chagrin of bees and hummingbirds.

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With our recent move up to Oregon, some of the top comments we’ve heard across the board are about the abundance of unfavorable weather and consistent rainy, grey skies;  neither of which I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing yet.  Instead, I’ve taken full advantage of the sunshine, with the Canon 6D in tow and gotten to know the new neighborhood.  Not to mention, Fall is an excellent time for letting go and turning into oneself to rediscover what makes our inner fires burn brighter. watching as leaves descended in a dizzying dance to the ground, it felt like I was letting go of my past, and shedding my seasoned skin for a chance to refresh the soul and hibernate the spirit, only to emerge refreshed next Spring.

Here are some of my favorite snaps of the change in season; can’t wait to share more!

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For more on the beauty of Fall, or just Corvallis, check the Flickr Album!

 

[Traveling Tales] Finding Magic on the Emerald Coast

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By and large, the best thing about living in California was the not just the proximity to, but vast amount of National Parks and National Forests within a stones throw.  From Southern California’s  Anza-Borrego  Desert State Park in San Diego to the Antelope Valley Poppy Fields, Joshua Tree and the Angeles National Forest up to Big Sur, Sequoia and the Redwood Forest of Northern California – the state is rich with magical nooks of nature and luminous landscapes.  But – I no longer live in California!

Last year at our wedding, Danny and I promised each other that within a year, we’d be making our way up through the Pacific NorthWest and into the wonderful state of Oregon. Like many good thoughts, it sat on a shelf of our minds that we would dust every so often with life changes, epiphanies and our growing love for each other. A few weeks ago, we realized that our time in California felt like it was slowly slipping from us. We wrote lists for pros and cons, rights and wrongs and then we realized: there will always be something to second guess, and hold you in place – there is beauty in calmness, but there is growth in chaos; there is no perfect time for your next big adventure, because the time will always – and forever will be – NOW. So, one year to the date of our wedding – we looked, and then we took a leap of love and moved ourselves, and the kitties, up to the wonderful town of Corvallis, Oregon where my father grew up and now resides again.

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While we were living in Los Angeles, even though nature was just a hop, skip and a jump away – that hop, skip and a jump came at a cost: crowded roadways leading to overpopulated parks, where each nook and cranny was taken over.  Up in Oregon, it’s a horse of a very different color.  Just the other weekend, we took to the Emerald Coast, paying visits to Newport, Devil’s Churn, Thor’s Well and Yachats; up and down the beach, you could take in the coastline for miles and miles – and barely a soul was there to share it with us.  Traveling the beaten forest paths, we would run into a small group of family maybe every other mile – if that.  Not to mention, the Oregon Coast is what happens if you merge the majestic coastlines of Big Sur with the sprawling forests of Sequoia – it’s just that beautiful!

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Nearly every beach boasts a bevvy of tide pools, full of technicolor sea anemones and itty bitty crabs.  Crawling over the porous coastline near of Yachats with Cape Perpetua in the background, Danny had a hunch that we were frolicking over a volcanic vein – a little bit of GTS later, and low and behold we were!  As if the sprawling landscape of the Oregon Coast wasn’t enough to make one feel infinitesimal it turns out, Cape Perpetua is a now dormant volcano, last active over 50 million years ago! Growing up, I had a favorite beach in Yacahats – Bob Creek Beach; my family would flock there from early morning to sundown, picking blackberries along the way.

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Some of my favorite memories of being with my grandmother and her family involved skipping down to the shoreline during low tide and browsing the wares the ocean waves had brought us.  The beach itself is famous for its agate hunting, and combined with the idea that an old volcano slumbers sweetly nearby, it makes all the more sense. We came away with so many goodies, and I can’t wait to start including them in my crafts and jewelry up here!

When we weren’t up to our wrists and ankles snagging promising rocks and scoops of sand off the rocky shoreline, we were adventuring as far as we could see.  If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I’m a sucker for a great reflection shot – and living in Oregon is going to be this kitty’s photographic dream. 

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 Another apt lesson that we learned is while in Oregon: if you want an adventure, go on an adventure; if you’re going to sit there and worry about the weather, maybe just move back to California.  The weekend we went out to the coast, the forecast was 60 and scattered clouds with sprinkles; good news, we didn’t actually check until we were already out there.  Instead of checking on the chances of rain or shine pre-trip, we simply packed for a weekend of whimsical weather where we took all the options into consideration: sandals, hiking shoes, sweaters, tank tops, swimsuits, the works.  It looked like we were leaving for a week vacation even though it was just a few days, and I’m proud to say that for once my overpacking worked in my favor.

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UntitledThe first day on the Coast boasted salacious sunshine, only to be slowly overtaken by the marine layer during the evening, the next entertained patchwork clouds and a light mist, while the last was one of the most beautiful days I’ve ever experienced.  Clouds danced along the horizon expediently, taking shape after shape in front of our eyes and crafting eerie shadow pockets into the water.  Cruising over to Devil’s Churn, we could see the tide had overtaken the shore we’d been sitting on the day before, bouncing waves off the sides like a handball game of epic proportion.

Image may contain: 1 person, food and outdoorAs we gathered our things to head home, we had to make two last pivotal stops.  First, we were on a mission for some of the freshest fish and chips and oysters a kitty could eat.  Heading out to the coast where Highway 20 canoodles with the Pacific Coast Highway, the main town – Newport proper has an incredible arrangement of restaurants, including a personal favorite Local Ocean; but, we’re ballers on a budget and were looking for something a little more ‘hole in the wall’ – and let me tell you: we found it.  Just a little south of town, across the bridge and close to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, you’ll find the South Beach Fish Market.  Featuring fresh catches from the day, whole Dungeness Crabs and oysters as big as your face, we stuffed our mouths to the brim and kept our pockets full.

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As we lingered longer, we realized we were in no rush to actually hurry home – so instead we kept our eyes on the Corvallis-Newport Highway.  Lined with thousands of shades of green on millions and millions of trees as far as the eye could see, Highway 20 contains a lot of little loops through the forest, into a land far more wild in Western Oregon than I’d ever seen, including unpaved roads and covered bridges that brought me back to the days of the Oregon Trail.  The scenic way seems to be the only way for me, and I’m very okay with that.

The more time I’ve spent in Oregon, away from highway interchanges, bustling crosswalks, and the dense vivacity of California, the more I’ve realized this is where my soul truly resides: somewhere lost in the forest, full of wonder.

What are some of your favorite spots of hidden nature?

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[Oh, Snap!] Dive Into DSLR Photography

You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself.”

― Alan W. Watts

Serenity in the Sequoias

Being a photographer is a bit like if you give a mouse a cookie:  if you give a photographer a point a shoot, they’ll want a dSLR; give them a dSLR and they’ll want a prime lens; give them a prime lens and they’ll want a wide angle and a zoom lens; then they’ll want studio lights, a professional flash…and well, you get it – it becomes an addition of the best sort.

From as long ago as I can remember, my step-mother would always have a camera attached to her hip. She captured poignant moments of an awkward childhood, from gleefully following my dad and I on our beach adventures or feeding ducks, and capturing birthday parties and basketball games; as I grew older, I found myself in awe of her keen eye – finding the simple beauty in nature, exploring minimal architecture, capturing the first bloom of a rose, or creating a mood with striking black and white imagery.   At least once a month, the three of us would wander down to Stanford Shopping Center for an afternoon outing to the now defunct One Time Photo, enjoying some sorbet from the ice cream shop next door while we patiently waited for the film to develop.  Wandering back through the photo store, I let my fingers unknowingly explore film from different ISOs as the printer that took up almost two-thirds of the store whirred with excitement. Then, I started stock piling disposable cameras – with a quick flick of the wrist, and the wind up flash, they became my quick introduction to pre-digital photography.

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Finally, when I was in high school, through a combination of technological advances and parents caving to their teenage daughter: I was given my first digital camera.  Within the photo world, there’s an ever present debate between the merits of Canon versus Nikon, with both the Sony Alpha and Panasonic Lumix lines not far behind.  But in my family, there wasn’t ever a choice – we’re a Canon + Mac family, through and through; so it began: first with a Canon Powershot, and then a Digital Elph.  Fast forward to now, and the technology for your cell phone’s camera has caught up to the most basic point and shoots, and your most basic iPhone or Android has the rudimentary functions of a camera. How-the hell-ever, in a sense you’re still dependent on your technology to do most of the heavy lifting.  Enter the DSLR.  I had my first real introduction to them in college – when I worked in retail to make some extra cash, some of my coworkers were attending the Brooks School for Photography.  I eagerly lapped up every iota of information I could as I sat in through product shoots and photoshoots; truth be told I moved to Los Angeles because of my love of modeling but it wasn’t until recently that I’ve learned how much I prefer being behind the camera, versus in front of it.

 

As I forayed my way into the Music Industry five years ago – I realized cell phones and point and shoots simply can’t capture the depth and detail the way the professional cameras can; not to mention, with DSLRs – you can go from capturing a moment to creating a moment.  Leaving your camera in Auto relegates each camera function to its internal camera, meaning that even though you’re pressing the shutter to capture the photo – it’s actually the camera’s AI that determined the richness of color, depth of field and focus.  Conversely, in Manual, when each camera function now relies on the user’s aptitude and emotion in the moment, twenty photographers could take the same photo and each produce a very different image.  I’ll admit that for the longest time, the DSLR scared me – it was intimidating, clunky, with what seemed like way too many buttons but after almost four years of watching Danny make magic with the 6D, I’ve finally mustered up the courage to carry it around for the day and get a few pictures that I’m happy with.

Back in the Spring two years ago while we gallivanted through Sequoia – there was something in the air that was so inspiring, it lured my creative nature out of hiding and brought it out to play.   It was frustrating trying to understand settings on the fly, adjusting for almost each image to get it the way my mind’s eye saw it, but as is the thing with life: you can’t get better at the things you don’t try.  Every once and a while for the next months after, I’d pick up the camera, fire a few images I was unhappy with and politely place it back where I’d found it – until I found the right resources, books and mentors to help me get my bearings.  In the time Danny and I have been together, he’s gone from a self taught amateur to a contributor for Getty Images; it’s beyond impressive. What he always tells me is that everyone – every single one of us – sees the world through their own unique prism, and it’s only through the exploration of your own creativity that you can convey those images to everyone else.

Getty VillaRegardless of whether you’re surrounded by gear heads, mentors or photographers, the best thing you can do is get some real hands on experience while stocking up on excellent resources.  I started on Canon 6D for Dummies, which was a great introduction to all things DSLR from the bottom up: lenses, features, menus, camera set up and some more intermediate functions like HRD and Multiple Exposure images, setting up the WiFi and adjusting the White Balance manually.   Even though making your way through the manual page by page might seem like a bore – after reading through Canon for Dummies, it also felt absolutely necessary to learn the core tools of the trade.  Next time you pick up a camera, do yourself a favor and just play around with the settings, comparing images to fully understand what each button can do.Related image

Next up, I migrated to the more  advanced Canon 6D: From Snapshots to Great Shots, which was more of a top down approach to the settings based on epic images, along with some informative asides on F-Stops, ISO and Shutter Speed while diving into each function of the camera; and let me tell you: this is the most important thing to understand.  The Shutter Speed is the length of time that your lens is open to absorb light,while the aperture – or F-Stop, controls the depth of field that the camera focuses on.  Finally, the ISO controls the cameras sensitivity to light and the ways the camera processes detail. I just got my paws on The Photographer’s Playbook  which has a menagerie of photography exercises for anyone, amateur to professional. Here’s the thing – you can read books til the cows come home, sit in on photo shoots as the second shooter or an assistant, or pull up Youtube tutorials to walk you through the basics but the best experience will always be true experience.   If you’ve been itching to pick up a camera, just do it – you’ll be surprised to find your mind working in new and creative ways to capture a moment, and trust me – you’ll be just as hooked as I am.  For anyone looking to jump in – Best Buy has amazing Open Box deals, as does Amazon, while F Stoppers has a great online repository of resources.

If you’re in the market to take your photography to the next level, F Stoppers is a wonderful online resource as well. Not to mention,

Photo bugs – what are some of your favorite pieces of gear? Let me know in the comments below!

[Adulting 101] Tax Season 2018

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Seasons here in Los Angeles are an undependable and drastically different monster than anywhere else, Summer can last half the year, while Winter might only last a few days; but the good news is that Tax Season typically comes pretty standard.  Now that we’re almost a month through the new year and you’re working on removing the last one from your lexicon, your finances can finally do the same now as the IRS has begun to accept tax returns for 2017.  Last year, I dolled out the 411 on all things tax season – but this year there are some updates, some new tips and tricks as well as the latest changes to the new tax codes that have rolled out for the year. As the world turns and as your personal world turns, so does your financial world – children, new employment, marriage, and legislation can put a world of change onto your tax returns. With a few life adjustments under my sleeves and a whole lot of personal growth, I have ample new information to share.

Before we dive down the rabbit hole, let’s back up for a second.  Every time we get near April I tend to ask myself why the hell we even pay taxes anyways – but there are ample reasons that it’s a necessity.  At the most basic level, a government and a governed society can only work properly if everyone is participating – money is one of those forms of participation, as are things like voting, working with your local city council and so on.  Social and community functions like hospitals, national parks, schools, roads and the salaries of certain city employees and officials are derived directly from the taxes we pay – whether the money comes directly out of your paycheck, as with a W-2, or as an annual residual if you’re an independent contractor and go by 1099.

Documents on Documents.

Last week, many business and companies began to roll out both their electronic and paper versions of your W2 or 1099, depending on your type of employment. In addition, fiscal firms have also sent out a 1099-DIV form with instructions on investments.  The easiest way to keep yourself organized is either an analog filing cabinet, or a secure digital folder.  As soon as you have the basics, you can begin the filing process – and if you acquire more documents after you’ve filed, never fear: there’s a very simple process to amend your Tax Return, however that must be mailed in.

2018 tax brackets

Filing

When I was a kid, my parents would assist with my taxes – and by kid, I mean 20 year old. Now that I’m old enough to figure out my own way, I defer to e-filing Intuit’s Turbo Tax, but H&R Block also offers a comparable service if you’re looking into other options. For those of you that need a lot of itemizations, deductions and or exemptions – your best bet is turning to a tax professional.  With the advent of the internet they don’t necessarily need to be local, however you will want someone that understands the state laws for where you lived in 2017.

 

Fast Facts

A few tax basics for your lexicon: a dependent is a person that you’re not married to that fiscally depends on you, and only you. Most adults, whether single or married, only claim 1 – but more on that later. Depending on your gross income for the past year and the federal assistance received for health insurance or social security, you might not need to file taxes at all.

Married with Taxes

Now, this to me was – and still slightly is – the tricky part. Just hitched last August, this is the first time I’ll be able to file my taxes as a married lady and I had a lot of questions, but rightfully so.  When you’re married, there are two ways of filing – you can file ‘Married and Jointly’ or ‘Married and Separately’.

So let’s break this down.  Filing ‘Married and Separately’ is exactly how it sounds, you submit your spouses name and social security number along with yours but the only taxes you will file are your own. On the other hand, filing ‘Married and Jointly’ combines your gross income as a couple into one umbrella group, if you notice in the chart above – the income intervals for ‘M & J’ are double the intervals of ‘M & S’, and coming with that is also a fairly nice tax break.  When does each one make sense? Now, that’s the trick – and each year, it could be different depending on types of employment and each partner’s salary.  For us cats over here, I computed both – the Married and Separately as well as Married and Jointly, and compared the results to myself before I believed what I read – but now I can indeed verify: filing Married and Separately makes the most sense for partners that make nearly the same amount within the same tax bracket, while Married and Jointly seems to be the most beneficial when there is an exponential disparity in income.

Filing Deadline

Officially kicking off Tax Season yesterday, you can file your taxes any time you’d like between now and the April 17th (yes, 17th) deadline.  I’ve discovered a little trick, where the sooner you submit your tax return the sooner you can reap the sweet rewards. Last year, it only took a week and a half for both my state and federal return to be processed, so I like sending mine out as soon as possible.  But in case I made a mistake I can file amended 1040-X anytime over the next three years. And yes, Tax Day is technically on April 15th, but that’s also a Sunday – with the observed ‘Emancipation Day’ holiday falling in Washington DC on the Monday, making it a federal holiday, thus the deadline is now Tuesday, April 17th.

IRS | IRS E-File

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[LA Life] In That Moment, I Was Infinite: A Trip Through Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors at The Broad

Yayoi Kusama x Infinity Room

My last few years in Los Angeles have elicited a mountain of personal growth and emotional change.  In a grand sense, I’ve finally discovered myself and understand my innate needs and wants – and in the most basic, I’ve fully enjoyed being myself within each and every moment.  Forever a city kitty by nurture, it turns out that I’m actually a little mountain lion by nature but the trick has been learning what keeps my soul level and balanced – a little bit of sunshine and landscapes here, some graffiti, city lights, music and art there.  The most amazing thing about living in Southern California, and especially Los Angeles, is the immediate access to both – sometimes even in the same day.  Just the other weekend, Danny and I took a cruise through the Angeles Crest Forest and grounded ourselves in the scenic beauty and amazing views, and this weekend we balanced it with now my favorite art exhibit I’ve ever been to – Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors at The Broad.

Yayoi Kusama x Infinity Room

Art does a lot of things for me, but above all it provides me a new, askew and different lens to observe the world through.  Whether it’s sculpture, watercolors, immersive art or sculptures – the best art forces me outside of myself to view the world from a birds eye view while diving further inside of myself in personal discovery; and I would absolutely include the Infinity Mirrors in that category.  A playful experience with color and perspective, Yayoi Kusama’s excellent creative eye has created a handful of unique environments that meld your minds and opens your eyes to a vibrant, multidimensional universe.

Yayoi Kusama x Infinity Room

Hailing from Nagano, Japan, Yayoi began playing with color and shapes when she was ten and it’s obvious that her love and creativity have only grown exponentially since.  Considered a forerunner to the Pop Art movement that cultivated  Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, Yayoi calls her unique process “Self Obliteration”.  An artist that’s as multidimensional as her work, Yayoi has foraryed from painting and watercolors to writing novels and poems, dabbling in fashion design and film direction.  Since 1963, she’s been recognized for her hypnotic and mesmerizing Mirror / Infinity Room environments.  Featured at international museums as both a traveling and permanent exhibit,  fans will be excited to know that the Yayoi Kusama has officially opened in Tokyo, Japan – if you’re up for the adventure.

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For now, Yayoi’s current works are being featured in a 50 year retrospective that’s on rotation between several museums across the United States.  Originally at Washington DC’s Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum + Sculpture Garden, the exhibit then traveled to the Seattle Art Museum over the Summer before landing at Los Angeles’s Broad Museum.  In March, Yayoi’s works will travel to the Art Gallery of Ontario and then finally land at the Cleveland Museum of Art in July of 2018.

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For me, this was an experience I absolutely had to document – from room to room, I was moved phenomenally and entranced by my surroundings.  But, I also put my phone down and just was wowed by it all – and I highly suggest both for you, too. Due to a high volume of interest there are no more reserved spots for the Infinity Mirrors – but the Broad Museum does offer standby tickets for those willing to wait.

For more about Yayoi Kusama‘s Infinity Mirrors, the Broad Museum and their contemporary collection of art, head to their site and socials –

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

 

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Yayoi Kusama x Infinity Room Yayoi Kusama x Infinity Room