January 21, 2013 § 8 Comments
While New Years is not my favorite holiday, I love the opportunity for reflection and reinvention brought by the New Year itself. With the upcoming release of my first book in June I have high hopes for 2013. This is going to be a year of transition personally and professionally and I have decided to take this year to embrace change and become the person I really want to be at this point in my life.
To do so I made goals for what I wanted to achieve this year. Unfortunately, they were really vague like, “Save money, get more freelance work, lose weight again, write more, change my life.” I started feeling daunted by how ambitious they were and I when I mocked myself for making them in a Facebook status and added I wanted to do all this without losing my mind on Facebook, my friend M. spoke up with a suggestion. She, like me, is a graduate of a management program, and encouraged me to make my goals S.M.A.R.T.
For those used to planning for a business or organization S.M.A.R.T. stands for “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely” goals. When you break your goals down into these criteria they become more possible to achieve.
One night I sat down with my Moleskine journal and changed my vague hopes for 2013 into goals that I can conceivably follow, with action steps and benchmarks in place. For maximum accountability I wanted to share my goals with you here (minus a few too personal details). So let’s see what 2013 will bring!
1. Save Money
If I’m going to change my life I’m going to need a financial cushion. And you never know what can happen in this economy. So it’s time to get serious about savings:
Up the bi-monthly transfer to my savings account
Put money I earn from freelance work into savings
Define and stick to a very limited weekly spending amount that includes food and extras, like clothes (so this blog will soon become a blog about being fashionable with what’s already in your closet)
Track my expenses
Pay off my credit card debt
2. Get more project and freelance work
I like the chance that freelance work provides to get involved in different types of projects and creative people implementing a vision. It also helps me sharpen different sets of skills:
Follow up with current clients
When my Portfolio website launches (soon!) make it clear I’m available for grant writing, project management gigs
Continue to talk with other freelancers and self-employed people I respect about how they go their start
Meet up with other freelancers regularly for networking, events and work sessions
3. Lose Weight (again)
I managed to gain 10 pounds since the summer and it’s no secret how it happened – I ate a lot of bad-for-me-food (pizza! burritos stuffed with French Fries!) and pretended it wouldn’t matter. Time for some accountability! I’m hoping to lose those 10 pounds by the time June rolls around by:
Track my eating everyday
Exercise 4 times a week
Go to Weight Watchers meetings at least once a month
4. Write more creative non-fiction
Finish a new issue of my zine Indulgence with at least three substantial essays by the Brooklyn Zine Fest on April 21
Update this blog weekly
Reach out to other venues and publications that publish nonfiction and present essay-driven work
Stay inspired by reading more essays and creative nonfiction
5. “Change my life”
I’m contemplating taking a year sabbatical from New York City in 2014 and spending the winter and spring in Los Angeles and the summer in fall in Paris. I’m looking for sun (in California), adventure, and a change of pace! But there’s a lot of logistics that I have to take care of before that happens!
Break down logistics: Research apartment prices, getting a car (or not) in LA, pare down possessions, look into subletting my NYC apartment
Have honest conversations with the important people in my life about what I’m thinking and feeling and how it impacts them
Be proactive: if there’s something on my mind talk about it, even if it feels daunting to do so
Develop a clear vision for what I want in my life and what makes me happy through journaling and focused self-reflection. As my friend Iris in LA told, “Manifest what you want, be specific.”
What are the goals that you hope to achieve this year? How are you breaking them down to make them manageable?
As a post-script, I’ve also launched a year-long drawing project with my friend Michel in Paris. To practice our drawing skills we will each create a drawing on a similar theme every week and post them on our Tumblr “One Week, Two Hands, 4,000 Miles” or 1w2h4m. Follow along with us and see if we can do it!
November 15, 2012 § 4 Comments
The last time I was in Wyoming I arrived in the middle of the night, having driven straight from Portland, Oregon on a compressed, cross country trip. To get there we drove through the Beartooth Mountains of Montana in August darkness, watching meteors streak down through the clear western air. I’ve joke that I am the penultimate East Coaster – that I walk and talk too fast and am too attached to the ocean to live anywhere else. However, chunks of my childhood summers were spent on the range and in the mountains of Northeastern Wyoming, visiting my Aunt, Uncle and two cousins in near Sheridan. I’d like to think that somehow, in some small way, that experience stays with me.
As a child and early teenager going to Wyoming was a dream come true. It is awash in wide open spaces to explore on horseback and was of pre-dawn mornings helping (however ineffectively) my uncle and aunt with the cattle they raise. Wyoming was freight trains, rattle snakes, sage brush, wild landscapes, and hours with my cousins playing Legos and reading Calving and Hobbes comics.
My grandmother lives in Wyoming now and so last weekend I caught (just barely) an early flight to Denver and then a propeller plane to Sheridan to visit her and the rest of my family. While the endless barbed wire fences, train tracks, range and sparse population are the polar opposite of where I live now, I felt a rush of familiarity and welcome when I arrived Wyoming. I love that place. I am a total outsider, but I feel a sense of awe and respect for the country there and the people who call it their home.
Maybe because we’ve just had a huge national election and the idea of what is “America” and who is “American” has been debated and thrown about ad nauseum I couldn’t help but think, “This is what people are talking about when they talk about America.” Here are hard working people who make a living from the land and another job to make ends meet. They drive sturdy American made trucks and cultivate a sense of Western independence. Native American history and contemporary culture is woven into the fabric of this place. This is where stories about the American West were made. And, yet. Wyoming cannot be reduced to a caricature. It is not a rustic idyll or a rural backwater. It’s a place as complex as “America” itself.
Wyoming is where I can have long conversations about the dangers of fracking with my Uncle, who is one of the toughest cowboys I’ve ever met. I remember he told me about what a bad idea it was 10 years ago, before anyone on the East Coast had really begun to talk about it. I wish New York State would take a cue from the experience of people in the west and see the havoc it wreaked on the environment there and how little benefit local people actually derived from it. It’s where I have out and proud gay family members, even though gay rights still has a long way to go there (and everywhere!). It’s where I can go out to lunch with my cousin I haven’t seen in 10 years and we can chat like we just saw each other yesterday. It’s a place I’m proud to know a little bit and proud to hold as part of my past and, hopefully, part of my future.
Below is a little look into my Wyoming past: wearing shorts, riding bareback on my Aunt’s Welsh pony, with awkwardly cut curly hair and in 12-year-old heaven
September 13, 2012 § 4 Comments
I was a moody, stubborn, impatient teenager. I had big visions and felt determined to accomplish something worthwhile in the world. I felt frustrated because I felt like I had not and that it was already too late. I was full of self-doubt and anger and all those other potent emotions that swirl around within us so intensely at that age. One of the biggest grounding factors in my life was, like so many girls, horses. I had taken riding lessons since I was eight and starting competing in horse shows when I was eleven. When I was fourteen I realized one of the biggest dreams of my life up to that point: to own my own horse.
Maybe So, aka “Ben” was an all-American mix, a Morgan Quarter Horse cross with a lazy walk and a white star on his forehead. He was as headstrong I was and so much of our relationship became a battle of wills: I wanted him to trot fast, he wanted to trot slow, I wanted him to jump over that log in the woods, he was sure it was going to eat him for lunch, I wanted him to walk calmly into the horse trailer and he was convinced that was the last place he ever wanted to go.
I put all my free time into taking care of him, training him and riding him. I even read him beat poetry. We were not champions, though we did win a lot of ribbons at shows as we got to know each other better. More importantly, he taught me the kind of things that it’s impossible to teach teenagers except through experience. He helped take all those raw emotions and channel them into something productive and focused.
He threw me off onto the hard ground more times than I can remember and I knew that unless I faced my fear and anger and got back up the fear would win.
I learned that I couldn’t hide from the emotions I was feeling: he could feel if I was nervous, angry, impatient or excited.
He taught me that hard work can win you ribbons and respect, but life will always be unfair, and that’s okay. There will always be someone with the more expensive horse, the better trainer, more natural talent, and true validation of your hard work will only come from within.
He taught me that it wasn’t always about my agenda. I could arrive at the barn convinced today was the day we would master a certain technique and he would show me that it was really about convincing him not to be afraid of the puddle in the riding ring.
He taught me patience and to look at the big picture. One show, one jump, one routine might have gone less than perfect, but if I looked at what we were working on over time I could see improvement. I learned very quickly I couldn’t blame him for my own mistakes, misunderstandings or shortcomings.
Even when I stopped riding and moved on to punk rock and New York City I would always feed him carrots and pet his velvet soft nose whenever I cam home. He always snapped to attention when I called out “Hi, Ben!” across the pasture and eyed me warily, worried I was going to make him work.
I had a premonition last Friday while I was walking home. I suddenly felt that he was gone. I knew it was time and he was too weak to make it through another Maine winter. Tears dripped down my cheeks as I walked through the early fall twilight. So when I got the call this week I wasn’t surprised. I understood it was the right moment and I’m glad he decided it was his time to go.
Ben was 31 years old, the same age as me. He was a part of my life for 17 years. 17 years later I’m still moody and headstrong and determined, but he played a big role in helping me grow up and move past my raw emotions. I feel lucky we got so much time together. RIP, my best friend.
September 11, 2012 § 2 Comments
It’s the perfect blue skies that always remind me of that morning eleven years ago now. The skies and the air feel the same and that’s always what takes me back.
Last year was the big 10th anniversary of September 11th 2001 that also marked my ten years in New York that inspired more lengthy reflections. My feelings about the political and emotional circumstances around this day have not changed much since last year and the same feeling are echoed even further back. I’m tired of war and tired of patriotism and ready for real critical reflection, justice and peace. Searching in my old files, I found this piece I wrote about September 11 in 2003:
“On that morning language failed… In those moments of not knowing, not being able to articulate what was going on on a massive scale, I knew that never again could I believe in a narrow idea of “truth.” No singular narrative could ever capture that, or any experience. Of course, since then I’ve witnessed many attempts to manipulate these diverse and disparate narratives into one master narrative. A narrative that believes in an idea of “America” as benevolent while at the same time baying for vengeance…
Remembering September 11th is a reminder to me of how the damage done by violence of any kind is permanent. Whether that violence is an act of war, abuse, police brutality, or not having food, housing or medical care, or is emotional, physical, sexual, or psychological. These types and acts of violence are not the same, but the systems that perpetuate them are similar and inter-related… Because it continues to haunt me I know I need to oppose domination and oppression, and the acts of violence that feed them, everywhere. I feel I must do this in order for healing to be possible. Healing is possible, even though the effects of violence stay with us. I believe this because I feel everyone’s life needs to be about more than just survival.”
Reading this now I still stand behind the politics and emotions expressed in that piece. However, I think, I have found a way to heal by slowly, deliberately and stubbornly building a life in this city. I have worked hard to find health and creativity and to inspire that in others. I still struggle with how best I can help contribute to a city that’s a just and beautiful place to live for all and how I can support and engage my own creativity, but I feel my small daily contributions and actions strive towards these ideals.
My life, and New York City, is obviously so different than it was eleven years ago. I had no idea how to picture myself at 31 at that time. Being an adult seemed impossibly far away with such a looming and intense event in the foreground. Looking back today I can say that the 20 year old me who witnessed those tragic events from my 6th floor dorm room in Union Square would be pleased with the 31 year old I have become looking at two towers of light rising into the sky in remembrance and tribute from Brooklyn.
August 17, 2012 § 3 Comments
It’s a cliche to say it, but can you believe how fast the summer goes? All around me I see announcements for “the last (your summertime activity here) of the season!” Already? I’m still sorting through my photos from France and there will be a myriad of posts coming soon, but in the meantime, here’s a little review of my summer activity so far. Enjoy and bon week-end!
August 13, 2012 § 4 Comments
Sometimes you just need a good, straightforward portrait. Despite having a hard drive full of obsessive documentation of my personal style, I realized I have very few photos of me looking somewhat… serious. When my photographer friend Andrea Patton offered to take my photo I jumped at the opportunity.
We got up early to catch the good, diffuse morning light on a Sunday morning and met at 8 am at Green-Wood Cemetery so we could have a nice background of vegetation. We also strategically positioned ourselves to block out the gravestones (as much as I love Green-Wood I didn’t want my portrait looking so morbid). I did my own makeup, but the day was so humid I am afraid most of it may have melted off! I always feel very awkward posing for photos, but I think I managed to look sort of “natural.”
I’m so happy with the results and while they are not “fashion” or “glamor” photos, if you must know, that’s a J Crew top, a BCBG skirt, and Swedish Hasbeens shoes. What do you think?
July 19, 2012 § 2 Comments
While I am still in France, when I come home I will go directly upstate to Liberty View Farm to celebrate a wedding. It is the same farm we visited earlier this spring for another lovely celebration. This spring was the definitive kick off of wedding season for us. For the record, we are not getting married, but our friends sure are! Our refrigerator door currently has six wedding announcements for this year alone!
The best part of it is, though, that we are looking forward to all of them and each celebration will be unique and reflective of our friends who are getting married. That was especially true in late May when we piled into a rental car with a bunch of friends and headed upstate to the aforementioned Liberty View Farm for the marriage of R. and S.
Liberty View Farm is not far from Poughkeepsie and New Paltz, but sits nestled in a valley surrounded by apple orchards, making it feel serene and otherworldly. It is a working farm that grows apples, eggs and edible landscapes and also hosts weddings and events in a down home, relaxed environment that feels personal, elegant and comfortable.
I admit I’m a little short on ideas when it comes to new outfits for farm weddings, but I think this gingham and lace dress that I bought from Brooklyn Industries for a farm wedding last year does pretty well, don’t you? And besides, it matches the beehives!
July 5, 2012 § 1 Comment
June 24, 2012 § 2 Comments
For the first time since I was sixteen and used to compete in horse shows, I got up early on a Sunday morning for a sporting event. The event was the fourth annual Punk Rope Games, where teams of punk ropers competed in events like the chicken toss relay, as well as more “traditional” jump rope events, in addition to performing a fight song to show off their skills.
I love punk rope because it combines fitness drills with serious fun, absurdity, music and team spirit. Tim and Shana, who run Punk Rope, are the most giving and energetic people who make the idea of fitness accessible to those who whose first impulse is not to be active.
My bandmate Marisha signed me up to participate in the games and after some brainstorming we opted for the surreal and based our look and name our favorite internet video of the moment of Henri, the depressed French cat.
This being our first games, and the fact we hardly practiced at all, meant that we manged to not score any points. I do think we nailed our 75 second “fight song” routine, which we did to that enduring 90s classic “Jump Around” by House of Pain. The downside of this is that song is now stuck in my head. And the lyrics are way worse than I remember.
We also managed to heckle and cheer the other teams in bizarre, not quite French accents using odd expressions that proclaimed the superiority of the French culture and lifestyle (you all know I love France and I love to laugh at it too as much as I like to laugh at my own country).
The teams performances and costumes made the event like a mash up between gym class and CHERYL, my favorite arty, off the hook dance party.
The eventual champions, Phat Positive, also put together a video to show off their skills even before the games. They have raised the bar for next year, and next year, my teammates and I will be ready.
However, my favorite part of the games was the after party, where we got to revel in the camaraderie that is Punk Rope. Of course, I had to change my clothes and put together a relaxed, sporty outfit for the occasion.
What gets you up early on a Sunday morning?
Thank you to Felicity Hogan for the great shots of Team Henri in action!
June 18, 2012 § 6 Comments
I love my life in New York City. It’s full to bursting with happenings, friends, and new ideas. I love that there is always a corner of the city I have not yet unexplored and new places to check out. However, this year I’ve also made a commitment to focus on my own practice as a writer and to finish a book project by September.
With a full-time job and full roster responsibilities and interests, I found that the book project was not getting done. It’s too easy to put off the really important, creative projects and focus on the less important. Watching my time drain away and my deadline approach I decided, “I need an artists residency where I can focus and get this done.”
Here’s the problem: most artists residencies cost money. I don’t have money to spend on that kind of getaway right now. Many of them also require you apply and have work samples, which I’m still working on developing. So I thought, “What do artists residencies provide? Ah, space, time and a chance to focus.” Then I realized: the book I am writing is about do-it-yourself culture, so why don’t I take my own advice and create my own residency?
I took a week off from my day job and friends of my family were nice enough to let me stay in their “chalet” – an A-frame cabin they built in the 1960s in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. When I was younger I went there with my parents, my parents’ friends and their kids. We would all pile in to the house for days of skiing and sledding and spend evenings cooking huge communal meals and playing board games. I loved returning to a place I knew as a child and rediscovering it.
Embarking on my “self-imposed writer’s retreat” made me nervous at first: could I take my creativity seriously enough to devote my days to it? To allay my fears I needed a plan.
I created a menu of healthy, easy to prepare meals so I wouldn’t be tempted to spend hours in the kitchen or only eat junk food. I made a list of the writing tasks I needed to complete and a schedule for accomplishing them. I know I work best in the morning, so I made sure to get up by 7:30 and be writing by 8. I also know that I get really tired after lunch, so instead of forcing myself to keep working when I’m not going to be productive, I took a two-hour hike up a mountain behind the chalet, and wrote for four more hours when I returned. Finally, in the evenings after dinner I did smaller writing tasks, such as blog entries, correspondence and article drafting.
At the end of my four days in the mountains I had completed a first draft of my book. I also rediscovered the fact that writing, especially writing well, takes intense concentration and is hard work. It’s about sitting in a chair, focusing your mind and putting one word after another, even if it feels painful. I was proud that I mustered the creative self-discipline to pull this off. I also am pleased to confirm that I can, and want, to write for eight hours a day. Next step: make that possible more often.
I also found this: as a teenager I wanted nothing more than to get away from the woods of the northeast, but I’ve fallen back in love with this environment. I’m incredibly fond of the mountains where I spent childhood weekends and it was hard for me to leave the chalet after only four days.
I loved my days of solitude, where my only human interaction was with the clerk at the New Hampshire State Liquor Store where I went to buy a bottle of Cotes du Rhone one evening. When I arrived at the chalet I felt emotionally on edge from all my running around New York City and constant engagement with so many different projects. Waking up to dappled June sunlight, the sound of the river, and feeling like I spent my days in a tree house slowly helped me gain back perspective and I left feeling emotionally grounded and creatively accomplished.
I might just make my “self-imposed writer’s retreat” an annual event.
And lest you think I’ve become a monk thanks to four days in New Hampshire, on my way out of North Conway I succumbed to temptation, outlet shopping, and that state’s lack of sales tax and bought my first pair of Minnetonka moccasins since the 1980s.
One more caveat: after reading this entry are you surprised that my favorite book as a teenager was The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac?