Tag Archives: USA

[Wedding Wisdom] Do You While Saying ‘I Do’

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Marriage.  It’s the magical union of two twin flames, the serendipitous soul chaining of emotional counterparts, an emotive, extrasensory adventure that tugs on your heartstrings – but for most millennials, it’s just another institution to avoid.  Almost exactly three years ago, my fiance proposed to me – it wasn’t planned, there wasn’t anyone to capture it on candid camera – or even just candidly, hell – he didn’t even have a ring, but we had each other, we had the moment.  The minimalists, pragmatists, and the hopeless romantics will all echo the sentiment that those things are far more than enough. But one thing I’ve learned by simply entertaining a wedding, is that everyone’s got their something about them: traditions, advice, warnings, must-dos, and the like – so while you’re busy saying ‘I Do’, don’t forget the most important tradition of all: doing you.

Traditions, by in large, are important familial and social constructs with a bevvy of history, and from what it sounds like: wedding traditions, doubly so.  Unfortunately, every time I see the word tradition, my mind instantly jumps to the opening scene of Fiddler on the Roof and nothing that’s actually useful for my big day.   With the big day inching closer and closer, I’ve found myself reaching out to family and friends to find out what the hell one is actually supposed to do at their wedding, and what traditions people threw to the wind in lieu of making their own.  And I’ve discovered this: weddings aren’t where you’re forced to embrace past traditions, but where you can forge new rituals – with your new family.  I’m not saying don’t listen to your parents, siblings, grandparents, best friends, Starbucks barista, gas station attendant or bartender – but what I’m saying is that what they want, for their special day, should have no reflection on what you choose to do.

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Three years ago when Danny proposed to me, he had no ring, and no pomp – just serendipitous circumstance in the Canadian forest.  It was our first trip out of the country together.  After a thousand miles in the car, a sketchy border crossing and being inducted into Shamb-fam – deciding to spend forever together seemed as natural as breathing. Merely hours later, as we danced under the full moonlight with new friends – a carpenter named Bruce reached into his pocket, toying around with a string.  A twinkle flashed in his eyes as he explained he only made five, was down to his last one and was hoping it would fit me.  Giddy to be receiving anything at all, I didn’t bother asking what, instead I put out my hand like a seven year old trick-or-treating through their first Halloween. It was a ring; a wooden ring that only fit my ring finger; a wooden ring that then became my engagement ring, which got me to thinking: why are there engagement rings and wedding rings?  The answer: De Beers.

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It used to be customary to only have one ring, the wedding ring, that is – at least, until De Beers came into the picture. From the early 19th Century, De Beers has a monopolized control over the diamond mines of South Africa – creating illusions of scarcity to drive sales.  Once our Great Depression of the 1920’s and 30’s hit, De Beers believed it had a genius marketing plan to get our consumer nation back on spending track: telling us that diamonds are forever; marketing the idea of love, not a brand – not a product – but the idea. Fast forward to now, and engagement rings are a booming industry, accounting for almost 20% of total diamond sales in the US, and bringing in a whopping $7 billion annually. Roughly a quarter of all purchases at Tiffany’s + Co are derived from wedding bands and engagement rings, while almost half the sales at Sterling Jewlers’ retailers like Jared and Kay are derived from engagement rings.  Overall, engagement rings actually represent about 20% of US diamond sales. All in all, those statistics speak more to a corporate level greed and an ostentatious, ego-maniacal society than they do a forever type of love, but that’s just my opinion.

The wedding registry happens to be another  trend that I’m all too ready to put to rest.  Yes, everyone loves presents – but, weddings are about presence, not presents.  As opposed to only 35% 15 years ago, almost half of all married couples in 2017 have previously cohabitated for an average of 22 months, or almost two years. Let me put it bluntly: you can accumulate a lot of shit in two years.  What was once just “my shit” and “your shit” has now collectively become “our shit”, and “our shit” comes with a lot of redundancy, and no one needs redundant redundancy.  Though wedding dowries have been of historical cultural significance for centuries, a registry and a dowry are two horses of completely different colors.  Much like the De Beers Diamond plot of the 1920’s, up until the Great Depression there was no such thing as a wedding registry – until Macy‘s came along, and other department stores were all too eager to jump on board.

Now, how about the wedding party? Though some people elope, and many do keep it small – it also feels like some people invite everyone to the West of the Mississippi to their big day.  Obviously, the more the merrier and who doesn’t love love, but at a certain level it becomes all sorts of impersonal and not meaningful; almost like you’re getting married for show, not for yourself.  A large party, now sure – count me the fuck in; but a wedding, the bonding of two souls and binding of two lives is such an intimate idea that to me, it begets an intimate ceremony. In my seemingly biased opinion, large weddings more than force you into employing a bridal party – of elevating those closest to you, and imposing stratified levels of closeness.  On the other hand, at a small wedding – you can flip the script.  Our wedding, a destination wedding of sorts, will be small, the kind of small where I have to use small as an adjective to emphasize an adjective – but that’s just the way I like it.  One of my favorite perks to having a small ceremony, is that everyone at the wedding is part of the bridal party; everyone is a groomsman or a bridesmaid, because everyone there is equally important to us.  But, do you know the history of bridesmaids and groomsmen? Confarreatio, a form of wedding from the Ancient Romans, required 10 witnesses for the ceremony to legally binding; these witnesses evolved into the modern bridal party.  The groomsmen and bridal party were also tasked with warding off evil spirits.  Back in antiquity, the maid of honor and bridesmaids wore identical outfits to trick the spirits out of targeting the bride, while the best man was a literal wingman – warding off other potential suitors while the groom whisked away the bride-to-be.

Last, but certainly not least: the wedding dress.   Growing up, I was taught that the white in a wedding dress was a symbol of purity – but as it turns out,  because of the (a) lack of soap and (b) levels of general filth, up until the 18th century there weren’t many white wedding gowns.  In fact, the white aspect of the wedding dress is primarily associated with well to do Western culture, where many Eastern traditions actually involve a red dress in lieu of the white.  In all honesty, the white wedding dress is one of the few wedding traditions I’ll keep, though it’s definitely not for the sake of my purity.  However, what I find do find ridiculous are people that think a wedding dress is anything other than just a white dress, worn on the wedding. Some dresses range into the thousands, others into the tens of thousands…and to wear…once?  Dios mio! I would rather get a down payment on a house or a car. After spending a day at the mall struggling with the idea of a “wedding” dress, I found the perfect white dress in under ten minutes once I got out of the mindset that it had to come from a “bridal” store. So, now you might be asking – are there any other traditions that you’re keeping?  Yes, duh.  We’re getting married, exchanging vows and rings – and that’s as much of a tradition as I need.

Love isn’t just an idea, it’s an action – it’s a verb, it’s something you do.  Despite what Department Stores want you to believe, your love isn’t a commodity and your marriage doesn’t need to be monitized. Your wedding is a collection of beautiful moments rolled into one glorious day, celebrating with those you hold nearest and dearest to your heart – don’t sell yourself short, and don’t do anything you don’t want to do because fingers crossed, this is the only one you get.  So enjoy, indulge, drink champagne and get excited; say Yes, say I do but most importantly – do you. 

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[Get Political] Be The Change You Want to See In The World

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Throughout my childhood, it was implored on me that there are three things you don’t discuss with strangers: sex, politics, and religion.  I don’t know about you guys, but those are three super interesting conversations that I’m always itching to have with anyone who will participate.  From what I can tell, previous generations weren’t just closed off about what others thought, nor were they closed minded – they literally never had the opportunity to engage with other viewpoints and have their opinions changed, nor change anyone else’s. In just the last twenty-four hours, I’ve engaged in discussions in the waiting room for the doctor, in line at the pet stores and during a work luncheon – and no one has shied away; if anything – they’re enthralled. Throughout each of these conversations, I continually question why this wasn’t okay for my parents before me, and their parents before them. Were they worried they were on the wrong side of history and scared of change, facts, and knowledge?  Or, were they right in the idea that certain feelings and ideals be kept private, for a select audience of our peers?

At the good ol’ age of 31, I’ve been around to see several elections now.  When I first left the Bay Area for college in Santa Barbara, I distinctly remember how anxious and nervous both Bush campaigns made me; I was determined, albeit slightly jaded, in the idea that I could effect a positive change in the world.   Then, I remember being part of history: I remember voting for Obama twice and bearing witness to a monumental moment with our first minority president. At the time, I remember thinking at those times how important it was to be part of the electoral process and if I could, I would double down on that sentiment today.

government of the people.  From the get-go, it was clear that there was a struggle looming ahead of us – but no one was privy to just how hard it would be.  I was, and still am, a proud Bernie supporter – hell, I even wore my ‘Feel The Bern’ shirt to the polls yesterday (and to that token, Los Angeles – you’ve got your election fashion on lock). Watching the election results come in reminded me of a disappointed parent:  it’s not that I didn’t know America was steeped in racist roots or had a slightly misogynistic flair.  But in all fairness, I was hopeful.  Hopeful that people had enough personal experience to negate any external bigotry, hopeful that people could see through the terrible charade of Trump and align more with Clinton’s character, but that’s not at all what happened. Clinton by in large is considered a member of the old guard, and for all intensive purposes – it’s the reason that Gary Johnson garnered up to 3% of the vote in pivotal states – taking necessary votes away from Clinton and ensuring Trump would take the lead. Trump, though bombastic, eccentric and politically incorrect, is not.  He’s made of his families money, can speak straight to America’s diminishing, white middle class – and make minorities cringe when he says “Make America Great Again”.  But he’s different, he’s anti-everything we dislike – and there isn’t a Bernie anymore, so what’s a misguided, poorly informed country to do…right? Sigh. 

The further we push away from the election, the easier it becomes to assign blame.  If the Democratic National Committee hadn’t sabotaged their own party and conspired against the genius that is Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Party could have had a chance in the election.  If the media had pulled back on their liberal bias, the public could have had an unadulterated look at our actual political climate.  If the Republican Party could have gotten their act together under a solid message, then an anti-establishment bigot wouldn’t have ran away with the election.  But, I also believe that the fault is equally mine.

As a blogger, as a writer, as a multicultural female, as an American – I deliver information in concise packages with flowery, verbose bows on the outside. It’s my duty to get the facts and information into the eyes, ears and minds of everyone around me and to that token – I feel that I’ve failed.  I didn’t get ahead of the issues, I didn’t delve into the policies or research the politics – for the most part, I had discussions in person, but I didn’t use my influence, my creative prowess, or my passion to push the message further.  So now, I have to hope that this isn’t falling on deaf ears.

More often than not, I’m met with the incorrect (il)logic that ‘One Vote Will Not Change Anything’. The fundamental flaw with that logic is dissuading people from engaging in our current political process.  One voice in a crowd is relatively quiet, but the voice of the crowd can echo far and wide. For minorities, for women – it hasn’t been an easy road.  We’ve been fighting tooth and nail for the right to be part of this process, which makes it all the more infuriating when people choose not to vote.   Unfortunately for those of us that participated, there’s a large percentage of the population that either didn’t vote, chose to vote third-party, or wrote in some asinine shit like Harambe or Hennessey as a protest vote. Granted, Snopes outed everyone’s claim that 15,000 actually wrote in Harambe – but if half the country truly did vote for Trump, it’s not that hard to believe.  Not to mention, voting for a Third Party candidate in such a divisive election, or otherwise even, is a selfish symptom of socio-economic privilege. If you’re one of the people willing to give up your vote, why not think of giving your voice to someone who can’t vote – including anyone in the penal system and undocumented workers; those options are real, and they give a voice to the people instead of taking it away from them.  It’s a right to vote, it’s a freedom – and to be quite honest, I personally wish it was rule of law.

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Beyond the President, there were several key races in California, as well as throughout the United States that I was keeping an eye on:

California

Medical Mary-J: Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em! California has joined states like Colorado, Washington, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada in their approval of recreational weed; voters in Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota voted in approval of medical cannabis and forever a black sheep of American politics – Arizona voted against.

The Death Penalty: This is why California can’t have nice things. We had a majority vote to approve Prop 66 to expedite the death penalty – but the majority also voted no on Prop 62 to repeal it.  I’m sorry, but killing someone for killing someone to prove that killing is wrong will never make sense.  In good news for the penal system, California did agree to allow parole consideration for non-violent felons.  It’s a small win, but it’s definitely a win – especially compared to Nebraska where they voted to repeal the repeal of the death penalty.

Other key California measures that passed include Prop 59 which recommends California push to overturn Citizens United, Prop 64 which requires the legislature to put bills online for 72 hours prior to a vote and Prop 63 putting background checks on purchasing ammunition, creating one of the strongest anti-gun law states in America.  Last but certainly not least, congrats to Kamala Harris for becoming California’s first African American Senate Representative.

Massachusetts

Minimum Size Requirements for Farm Animal Containment – In an effort to battle intensive animal confinement on farms, Massachusetts is joining 11 other states with bans on confinement.  The new law prohibits methods including the use of battery cages for hens, veal crates on baby calves and gestation crates for pigs.  On top of that, Massachusetts is going the extra mile – barring the sale of meat and eggs produced via these methods, regardless of their point of origin.

Washington DC

What’s better than 50 states? Well, according to the residents of Washington DC – 51.  With overwhelming support, DC voted to ratify themselves as the state of New Columbia.  The decision is now in congress’ hands.

Colorado

Last night, Colorado became just the sixth state to endorse assisted suicide in conjunction to consultations with two different physicians.

For the next two years we’ll be dealing with a Republican Senate, a Republican House and an anti-establishment President who caters to the conservatives that will be electing justices to our Supreme Court. Meaning – we have two years to get our shit together as progressives; two years to undo all of the undoing that is about to occur. Two years until the next midterm elections and four until the next presidential cycle.  As a minority, a female of color who will eventually raise a child that is also a minority, this country makes me nervous. As someone who wants to have a family in the next four years, I’m beside myself at the social climate and culture I will be raising them in. But I refuse to be anything but hopeful…adversity creates strength and resolution, and this election has sent a powerful message:

The sun is still shining, the world is intact and we’re going to get through this…together. It’s easy to throw our hands up, search for ways out of this mess and get frustrated – so instead, get educated, get active in your community and actually BE the change you wanted this election to be. Find an issue you’re passionate about, volunteer on a campaign, join a committee, organize a rally, raise your voice and be heard. 

Let this propel you to passionately pursue what drives you, use this tumultuous energy to create instead of destroy, try to understand the other instead of demonize them and we can get through this better than before. 

PS. Obama, I miss you already.

 

 

[Traveling Tales] Marinating In Minerals at Tucson’s Famed Gem Show

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“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
Augustine of Hippo

There’s no doubt about it, music is my catharsis – catalyzing an emotional exploration of my ego while I put my psyche to rest; salaciously permitting me to adventure inside myself, a sort of mental manifest destiny if you will. In that sense, traveling might as well be musics equal and opposite, passionately pursing novel locations and external adventures at every turn.  Even though festivals are the primary ‘why‘ to my ‘where‘ of recent road trips, it doesn’t take much of a rhyme or reason to figure out that there’s so much else to do beyond  the music. On our way to Red Rocks, we made some beautiful and necessary detours through Zion and Bryce; while chugging along to Shambhala, we had the chance to take a gander at the amazingly lush topology of Oregon and Washington (well, until you reach the Washington Desert – which is definitely a real thing). Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

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Before Danny and I departed for Tucson, my dad doted a bit of fatherly advice for the trip and doled out some great sight seeing destinations – including the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Mt. Lemmon, the Tucson Botanical Gardens and the Saguro National Park.  All amazing suggestions and but as it turns out, absolutely none of these were actually in that close of a proximity that we could pop over and back to Gem and Jam in the span of a day; meaning we humorously tackled absolutely none of these.  However, one thing we did get to experience was the internationally acclaimed Tucson Gem Show.  Drawing in over 50,000 personalities from across the globe – The Gem Show is the premiere destination for gem, mineral, crystal and fossil lovers alike.  For about an entire month, hotels are essentially turned into giant warehouses – with each room playing host to a different pop up shop.  From Africa to Israel, India to China, Alaska to California – you could seriously get your rocks off a thousand ways to Sunday – and for those of you that think I’m exaggerating, trust me – if anything, I’m actually understating how many vendors and locations there are!

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)Starting at the end of January and running through February, for three weeks a year – Tucson is transformed into the largest Gem and Mineral show in the United States, while eager observers become transfixed on the glistening, gleaming and gorgeous gems that it has to offer.  Between ornate Quartz Skulls, towering fossil reliefs, gorgeous – and gigantic geodes – and magnificent pieces of Carborundum, Malachite and Azurite – we were whimsically wowed and humbled to gallivant throughout a few key hotels. In the last few months, my interest in gems and minerals has piqued – leading to extensive scavenging on ETSY, plus some good ol’ research and homework to truly understand what I’m looking at. Between their chemical composition, geometric patterns, crystalline building blocks, and rainbow array of colors -they’re a number nerds dream dipped in science and beauty. Instead of paying full value, we paid discounted, warehouse prices and for good reason – this is where ETSY shops come to stock up!

Though the Tucson show is in it’s last leg, you don’t need to fret if you missed out – as it turns out, there are a considerable amount of traveling gem shows and chances are they’ll be coming to a city near you! Just in Southern California, The Gem Faire will be cruising the coast – starting in Santa Barbara from 2/20-22, heading to to Costa Mesa the following weekend, then Del Mar and finally the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Northern California from 3/13-15.  If you’re not keen on traveling but you’re located in the Los Angeles area, the Natural History Museum downtown is home to a vast collection of Gems and Minerals, held in a stunning exhibition hall.

Perhaps time’s definition of coal is the diamond.  

Kahlil Gibran

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Wednesday Watercooler: Election Edition

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One of the many great things about being an American is the right to vote and the freedom of opinion; yesterday, we got to exercise that right. From President to Senator, and right down to using condoms in pornography and labeling genetically modified foods – there were plenty of important measures and ideals on the ballot.  For some, today is a day of excitement and joy, for others – maybe not so much; but to me, today is two very important things – first, it’s the end of our quadrennial slew of grotesque political advertisements (amen!) and secondly (and of moreimportance to myself) there’s only one month left until my birthday!    More about the later at a later time – let’s get down to political business.

Go-BAMA: 

First, we elect our first black president – next, we reelect our first black president! He delivered one hell of a victory speech last night – and I have to say, Mittens’ concession speech wasn’t half bad either.  Sure, it was a little – erm – short…and potentially something he hadn’t prepared for – but I appreciated lines like the following: I believe in the people of America. And I ran for office because I’m concerned about America. This election is overbut our principles endure.

Puff, Puff, Passed:

Last night in a historic vote, Colorado and Washington both passed laws yesterday that  tax and legalize the use of marijuana and Massachusets voted to become the 18th state to okay it’s medical use; Arkansas’  ballot measure, not surprisingly – but unfortunately, did not pass.

Legalize Love:

Marijuana laws weren’t the only sign of progress on the ballot last night. Three states – Washington, Maryland and Maine – voted to approve same sex marriage, and Minnesotans voted against a same-sex marriage ban.  This brings the number of states that allow same sex marriage up to 9almost 20% of the union for you math people; America, fuck yeah!

We’re #51!:

If Puerto Rico and the United States had a Facebook relationship status, last night’s vote pushed it from “It’s Complicated” to “In a Relationship.”  Last night, Puerto Ricans voted on a two part referendum to evolve it’s 114 year relationship with the USA and become the 51’st state. Before the election, President Obama gave the nod that he would support this decision in case of a clear majority.  With a 61% vote for statehood, 33% vote for sovereignty and a mediocre 5% vote for independence it looks like we should start planning for a revised American flag.