Measures (written in response to Creative Seeds)

Nov 21

I’ve been thinking a lot about measurement, measuring, measures.
Measurements of success and failure.
Measuring up.
The necessity of measures.
Inseam. Arm Cye. Waist.
Teaspoon. Pinch. Dash.
Quantifiable measures.
A larger paycheck.
Being published.
100, A+, 99th percentile
I have struggled with not being able to quantify my mind or my thoughts or my drive or determination, and thus have at times been obsessed with quantifying my parts. The ones that I can see. The ones that can be measured.
But I have started to understand how that feeds into the culture of measurement that I can’t understand, and don’t want to. I see how that makes me become the person that is easily put into boxes and placed on hamster wheels. I see that “success” is false, and that happiness can sometimes mean taking measures out of the equation.

Did I mention that I work in fundraising?
And that I’d like to be a teacher one day?
You see my dilemma.

Can we find a new word? Like, kittens? On a scale of one to ten kittens – one kitten is still really amazing and really cute, and you’d probably go a little crazy if you had ten kittens, so you’re gonna be just as happy with one kitten as with ten, and maybe even happier?
Can we all just take a day off from measures?
Then I guess here’s my conclusion:
Stop measuring yourself, if you are. And stop allowing others to measure you.
Measurements belong in recipes. Measurements belong to parts, that make up a whole, that is beyond the sum of the parts. Whether you ate organically grown kale in your salad, or iceberg lettuce, the beauty of the inner-workings of your mind are still the same.
One of my recent favorite quotes is from scientist and writer Jonah Lehrer.
It goes, “Like most great art, we exceed our materials.”

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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Review – The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost

Oct 06

Review – The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost

When I started this book, I had already heard the author, Rachel Friedman, read two excerpts from it aloud – one of which I completely connected to because of the way she described the feeling of de-boarding an airplane in a foreign country with no job and no place to live. I’ve done that – so I instantly liked her.

But reading further into this memoir of self-discovery through travel, I found her experiences to be way more varied and adventurous than mine were. And I found myself becoming… well, a little bit jealous.

That’s not to say I regret anything I did or didn’t do while living and traveling in foreign countries – I did what I could within my means. But there was that month when, after returning home from London, I thought of leaving for an additional four months in Australia, and ultimately decided not to. But Rachel did – and that’s where our lives diverged.

Rachel’s journey starts in Ireland, where she finds herself avoiding her life back home. Her parents’ divorce, pressure to go to graduate school right after undergrad, and the sea of voices saying “welcome to the real world” were the inciting incidents, telling her to escape. She found an Australian roommate, a job at a bar, and a climate that invited her to stay in on rainy afternoons and read – something she relished. But during this first third of the book, I really didn’t feel that she found her footing as a traveler – as an explorer. She was more focused on running away from her life back home – and less able to articulate where it was she wanted to GO and WHY she wanted to go there.

This all changes when she gets to Australia. It is on this wild continent (that does in fact inspire the most sloth-like of homebodies to HAVE A FUCKING ADVENTURE OR GO HOME) she finally ventures out alone. She views sunrises and sunsets over the red earth at Uluru, she sees dangerous creatures that she never knew existed, and she realizes that she is way more daring than she thought she was capable of being. And she likes it.

In the last third of the book, she really makes peace with who she is as a person – the good and the bad. The adventurer and the one who longs for safety. As her and her daredevil friend Carly traverse “Death Road” – you witness Rachel growing more uneasy with her journey and more at home with the fact that some things about herself will never change. But she’s still up for the ride.

I found myself feeling lots of… feelings while reading this book. Some of it was almost painful in that way that things you miss ever so delicately pull at your heartstrings and make you want to leap from your couch and GO BACK! I kept saying to John, “Really, we need to make sure we can travel somewhere cool and interesting at least ONCE A YEAR. Otherwise, we can’t live a happy life.” I was making inane, silly statements like that during the entire two-week period I was reading this book. John went along with it, of course, but even he could sense the odd desperation in my voice. Because one thing this book does make you want to do is go on an adventure. The way she describes the life she is leading in opposition to her friends back home in 9-5 jobs literally puts a lump in your throat and forces to re-evaluate every step you’ve taken since getting off the plane back to America.

I kept wanting her to come out on the other side of this journey and have some answer for me. Because those parts of myself I found while in London are my most precious parts, and I try desperately every day to hang on to them. And I was sure she would be able to tell me how to live a stable life and still have that sense of adventure – to keep her traveler’s mentality intact while saving for retirement. But she couldn’t. And I think it’s because no one can. The solace that she was able to provide me with was that it is the search – it is the adventure of life that you have to be willing to accept – and it is the everyday challenges that can sometimes be just as harrowing and exciting as riding a bike down Bolivia’s Death Road. It all comes down to how you decide to navigate it.

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Cruelty-Free Beauty – Favorites #1

Oct 04

Cruelty-Free Beauty – Favorites #1

Obviously, I am no beauty guru. I always have split ends, I don’t get mani/pedi’s, and on most days I tend to have eyeshadow bizarrely running down the side of my face by 11am (I really need to figure that out…). But, I do appreciate the IDEA behind looking your best and feeling your best, even if I don’t put it into practice all the time.

I am also not an animal rights “activist”. I may cry every time that ASPCA commercial comes on with Sarah McLachlan’s Angel underscoring pictures of beagles and kittens shivering in the cold, but you will not see me throwing red paint on a rich woman in a mink coat.

I am, however, a consumer, and most of the time I try to be a fairly responsible one. Within the past 6 or 7 years, I have gradually changed my spending habits to reflect the causes that I believe in and the injustices that I do not. Of course, things slip past me. Was the shirt I bought from Forever 21 two months ago sewn by a 9-year old girl in deplorable conditions in Thailand? I hope not. And if I find out that it was, I will make the choice to not purchase there again. In the meantime, I am trying to educate myself as much as I can about the issues I  care about – and one of those happens to be animal testing.

Now this can be shaky ground – because I think that many great things have been discovered and tested for safety on animals when non-animal techniques aren’t available. Vaccines, cancer research, treatment for terrible things like muscular dystrophy, HIV and the like have all required some form of animal testing. I think that until we can find ways to test these things for safety without harming animals (which people should be working around the clock to do – organizations like the ASPCA do raise money specifically for that type of research), then unfortunately we don’t have a choice.

But should an animal suffer to serve my narcissistic need to feel better about myself? ABSOLUTELY NOT. And when you think about it, that’s the only thing beauty products really do.

So, I am starting a series featuring “Cruelty-free” beauty products – so that as I learn more and make more educated choices, you can too. I will also be posting more resources that I find helpful in making informed decisions. Please feel free to point me in the direction of anything that you think I’m missing – or if you think I’ve been misinformed – I would really want to know.

So, my top three “Cruelty-Free” products for the week:

1. c. Booth Tea Tree Therapeutic Toner

This toner spray is non-drying, with the natural ingredients of tea tree oil and witch hazel to simultaneously cleanse and soothe your skin. I use it every night after washing my face. I spray it all over and then use a cotton ball to swipe off the excess. It’s extremely refreshing, safe to use on sensitive skin, and has really helped calm down my irritated, acne-prone skin. c. Booth brand products also have a helpful little symbol on all of their containers (basically a bunny with a no-smoking sign on top of it) that lets you know it does not test on animals. I wish more companies would use that! They have many more great products – some of which I will include on future blogs!

2. Benefit Creaseless Cream Eyeshadow

I love this eyeshadow. It comes in a pot with cute birds on the lid, it’s creamy and      soft on your skin, and you literally just have to stick your finger in the pot then stick it on your eyelid and you have done your eyeshadow. (I’m lazy.) What’s also really great about this is that when you aren’t feeling lazy (aka, you are going to a wedding or something and need to spice things up a bit) you can use this as a base for powder shadow so you don’t get the annoying oily crease in the middle of your eyelid only 2 hours after you have applied your makeup. I love it. It comes in several shimmery shades (shimmery, not sparkly – there are no chunks of trashy-lookin’ glitter here), and will last you a lifetime. The entire Benefit brand is great – their concealers are wonderful, (the industrial strength BOING concealer has gotten me through many a breakout) they do not test on animals, and can be purchased from their website or from Sephora.

3. Smashbox!!!!

Full Disclosure: The only product I own from Smashbox is this Blockbuster Palette that John got me for Christmas last year. And I love it. There is just SO MUCH in this palette – two blushes, a bronzer, a highlighter, 49 eyeshadows, 8 lipglosses, 6 eyebrow powders, 8 gel eyeliners, and a brow wax (don’t be fooled, before I got this palette I thought the only time you would have wax on your brows is when you were getting them waxed). I was a little overwhelmed by it at first, and I have definitely had many failed “experiments” that induce looks of horror in whatever poor waiter has to witness them on date night. But, I’ve learned to have fun and shed my antiquated notions of “only neutrals can look classy” and “blue eyeshadow = Debbie Gibson” – and I have learned to embrace that any color can be pulled off with a light touch and some serious blending. Smashbox does not test on animals, and has a wide range of products that can be purchased on their website or at Sephora.

Here are some websites you can peruse for lists of brands that do and do not test on animals:


Paula’s Choice – Beautypedia

Leaping Bunny


Happy Cruelty-free shopping!


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Honeymoon in Costa Rica

Sep 30

Honeymoon in Costa Rica

As John and I were considering where to spend the first week or so of wedded bliss, many different locations crossed our minds. Our first choice was Iceland, which we both thought seemed exotic and different and unexpected. And then we looked for flights – Iceland wasn’t going to happen on our budget.

Our thoughts then fell to locations in the Caribbean (therefore cheaper to get to), so we could splurge on accommodations, which was super important, because when else in our lives will it be totally acceptable to book a room with a private jacuzzi AND full size swimming pool on our patio? We looked at Jamaica, Bermuda, St. Lucia – all the regulars. But nothing really stuck out. Costa Rica arrived as a thought, without either of us knowing what was appealing about it. Neither of us had been there before, and we didn’t know much about Central America. But we saw pictures of people flying through rain forests hooked to nothing but a cable the size of my pinkie, paired with amazing beaches and monkeys swinging from trees – and we knew we had found our honeymoon location. We had 7 days to spend there – and we decided to divide our time between the sunny, beachy Manuel Antonio on the Pacific Coast, and the rainy, green Arenal/Monteverde area in the northern central part of the country. Our flights from Orlando to San Jose, and then back to Los Angeles, were less than $400 each – which allowed us to focus our budget on the perks of fancy resorts.

Once in San Jose, we rented a car from Budget for the entire 7-day trip – all total about $500 – and completely and totally worth it. We had to do ALOT of driving to get around in Costa Rica, and I don’t think that we would have experienced the country in the same way if we were on a tour bus. And from what I’ve read, public transportation in Costa Rica is not something you can rely on. We didn’t do anything in San Jose – by the time we landed we had been in wedding-land for 3 days straight and we were ready to be either on a beach or in a bed – or in a bed on the beach…

So, we picked up our car and headed out of the capital city on the teeny, tiny, confusing roads taking us to Manuel Antonio. Oh, and a GPS is really important there – because the roads do not have names. Not kidding, the roads actually don’t have names. You look at a map, it’s lines. There are no names. I cannot emphasize this enough. The mainland part of our trip to Manuel Antonio was slightly tedious, but the payoff came when our route made a sharp turn and all of a sudden, there was the glistening Pacific to our right. It’s akin to the PCH here in California, but untouched, serene, and so much… wilder. We passed through groves upon groves of palm trees, farmed specifically for an oil that is then used in a wide range of cosmetics and beauty products. They are called African Oil Palms, have a very distinct smell, and apparently have proved quite a profitable and controversial industry in Costa Rica. While they do create many jobs, these trees aren’t native, and are thought to threaten the biodiversity of the land.

We passed through Quepos (the town just outside of Manuel Antonio), got lost at least twice on the one-way roads big enough for about three bikes, and started our ascent up to Issimo Suites, about a quarter of a mile from the entrance to the National Park. Issimo Suites, along with Tabåcon, where we stayed later, is the product of HOURS of internet searching and comparing amenities and prices, mostly by John. Issimo Suites rests on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, is about a 10 minute walk from the entrance to the nearest beach (by entrance I mean a barely discernable pathway through the woods), and about a 3 minute drive to the entrance to the National Park. It has less than 10 suites, meaning that you feel like you are alone there all the time, which is WONDERFUL.

The staff of 3 does EVERYTHING, from bartending, cooking, cleaning, working the front desk, and making repairs. And they are so incredibly friendly. Our suite was, of course, the Honeymoon Suite, and featured a bathroom that looked like it had been carved out of an ancient grotto, a full kitchen and dining area, floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and an enormous patio complete with a full sized pool AND hot tub. It was, in one word, heaven. Once we saw the inside of our suite, we pretty much decided that we didn’t need to go anywhere else for the remainder of the trip, and we really didn’t need to return to the United States… ever.

But we did venture out the next day, after a refreshing dip in the pool, to explore the rocky beaches and swim in the Pacific (I swam while John watched, he’s seen too much Shark Week). We also spent an entire day at Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, where we walked 3 miles along the coast and through the forest, saw white faced monkeys, iguanas, and what can best be described as crabs that looked like satan.

When our time drew to a close in Manuel Antonio, we were sad to leave, and wary about the next destination. What if it wasn’t as great as Issimo? Should we have just stayed here the full 7 days? How could anything possibly top the luxury we had just immersed ourselves in for the past 3 days?

The answer, Tabåcon. On the trip from Manuel Antonio to Arenal (about 5 hours, but really entertaining since you think you are going to either die or kill someone else around every curve), we kept trying to psyche ourselves up for our destination by repeating a chant that goes like this: “Tabåcon, Tabåcon, everybody Tabåcon!” As if Tabåcon was something someone could actively DO, or a state of mind that we recommended everybody else get on board with. We were determined that it was going to be amazing, and that it was going to TOP Issimo. The happiness of our honeymoon depended on it!

And it was, and it did. Tabåcon is a FIVE STAR RESORT, and when I put that in all caps I mean to say, “I have never been anywhere this fancy and probably never will be again because this place is the closest to perfection that ever existed.” The resort is in the middle of the rain forest. It’s quiet, green, and spread out over about 3 acres of land. The rooms are modern and luxurious, with fluffy robes & slippers, hot tubs in your living room, and again, the floor to ceiling windows.

Perhaps the coolest part of Tabåcon is the spa – complete with pools upon pools created by natural hot springs buried deep in the jungle, and a full-menu spa featuring massages, facials, and mud wraps. John and I swam in all the pools at least once, some 3 or 4 times, sat behind the waterfall and people watched through the crashing wall of water coming down over our heads, and ordered cocktails at the swim up bar in the large pool with the view of the Volcan Arenal – the active Volcano about a mile away from Tabåcon. We also participated in a Temezcal – an ancient ritual descending from Mayan culture where you sit in a small mud hut with volcanic rock having water poured over it while you breathe in the steam. You are supposed to go four rounds of this ritual, with only small breaks in between, while the whole ceremony is lead by a Shaman. I wimped out after two rounds because I started to hallucinate and thought I might die. John pridefully made it all the way through to the fourth round, after which he and the other two participants (an older couple from Wisconsin) emerged from the hut and collapsed to the ground in wet heaps. The Shaman and her assistant seemed completely unfazed.

We took one “adventure trip” while staying at Tabåcon. Early one morning we stumbled into a van with a motley crew of other folks from the resort, including a 70 year old man from Mississippi and a very young girl who spoke no English and appeared to be his Colombian mistress/escort/prostitute. The van climbed a dirt road to Volcan Arenal, and just at the base of the volcano, we were strapped up and sent to zip line through the trees, over a huge lake that appeared to go on for miles. Many of the cables were over 400ft in the air, and it was exhilirating and scary, but probably one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done. I looked to my left as I was careening through the trees, and I could see the sunlight breaking over the water, and the vast landscape that went beyond it. The view was breathtaking from up there, and if I could have let go of my cable and taken pictures and videos without dying, I would have. But the image will be imprinted into my memory forever.

We caught an early flight back to Los Angeles the next morning. Exhausted and weary, but SO HAPPY with our honeymoon, and SO HAPPY that we had just had the wedding of our dreams, we stumbled back into our apartment, resolving to take an anniversary trip back to Costa Rica. The thing is – although I am sure the rest of the country is beautiful and amazing – I would want to go back to the two spots we visited first and foremost. They were perfection, and I don’t think that it’s because I was looking at them through honeymoon-colored glasses.

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Summer in Fowler – Redux

Sep 30

Summer in Fowler – Redux

I was asked to write a blog for my theater company – and this was the post that is going to be featured on our website. Thought I’d include it here!

I remember driving up CA-99, with fellow Institute student Mary by my side, attempting to answer questions about Cornerstone and what she should expect over the next four weeks. Having worked for Cornerstone in various capacities for close to four years, one would think I knew exactly what kind of situation I was walking into. And I did know what the Institute looked like from the outside – a 4-week crash course in Cornerstone’s community-based methodology in the form of both formal classes and actual production work. But I wasn’t sure what the relationships between the 15 students would grow into, or how involved the students would be in producing the actual show, or how integral we would be to the actual process of making the play happen. I had never even been to Fowler – though I had passed the sign on my way to Yosemite a few times.

I want to be honest about how positively spoiled the students of the 8th Annual Institute were. Usually, students are lodged in makeshift arrangements in a school or church in the community. This means mattresses on the floor, 4 or 6 to a room, and showering in a literal shed with a bag full of water that you have to heat in the sunlight. Not kidding. Housing became a particular headache to arrange in Fowler, and because the folks at the local La Quinta wanted to offer a generous discount, we were able to stay in brand-new rooms with queen beds, new linens, a gym and a pool. We were not roughing it.

But the sense of camp-like community felt within the student and staff group was palpable. Every morning I walked into the Buddhist church youth hall to have my mismatched mug of coffee, my bowl of Kashi “go-lean” with coconut milk (picked out especially for me by Ensemble designer and summer chef Nephelie Andonyadis, since I have lactose issues), and conversation with one of the 14 strangers I was joining on this adventure. After breakfast, we would have group warm-up (led by a different student each day) followed by class until lunchtime. Our classes ranged from Community Engagement, to Playwriting in a Community-Based Context, to Design in a Community-Based Context. We were asked hard questions, and were invited to pose even more challenging questions to the artists who are actively participating in this work. We were welcomed to disagree.

As I got to know the town, and the people, I began to develop an affinity for a few specific locations. My favorite spot was definitely the library, not only because of the air conditioning and water fountain, but also because the folks working there were so supportive and excited about the work that Cornerstone was trying to do. If you walked into the library and announced that you were from Cornerstone, they would literally hand you the keys to the copier, the archive room and microfilm files, and send you on your way. We asked if we could use their front room to teach a theater workshop for kids – they asked how many chairs we needed, said the room was ours for the entire day AND placed an ad in the paper about the workshop. We asked if we could create a huge lobby display about the play – they immediately displayed it in front of all their other lobby material so that it was the ONLY thing you could see as you entered the building. We attended a “Friends of the Fowler Library” meeting to pass out flyers about the performances – they immediately asked if we had enough food and offered to bring by crates of peaches, nectarines and raisins (there was a lot of that going on in Fowler – people would just appear at our door with boxes full of fresh produce several times a day).

Panzak Park comes in a close second. Really, it’s almost a tie. The park is a shady spot of green, quiet and peaceful, with park benches, a picnic area, and a jungle gym. The park is also 10-degrees cooler than the rest of the town at any given time. A Man Comes to Fowler was performed there, and watching the park transform into a performance venue over the course of those 4 weeks was particularly incredible. Risers were built, along with scaffolding at least 40 feet high that held the light and sound booths. The small stage that already existed became puppet-land, where Master puppeteers maneuvered paper cut into tiny shapes that, when placed on an overhead projector, became awe-inspiring cityscapes and spooky graveyards. We maneuvered huge raisin bins and crates onto the concrete slab in front of the puppet-land that added dimension and weight to said slab. Amiya, our lighting designer, hung strands of light bulbs around the entire perimeter to create that state-fair kind of feeling that you might have if you lived in the pages of Anne of Green Gables.

Every night before the show was to begin, as Nikki called “places,” I would step out of my costume tent and look across the park to Fowler Baptist Church, aka the greenroom. As the actors spilled out of the church and made their way through the grass, I joked with Michael that it looked like a scene from “Children of the Corn.” They were emerging from the darkness, all 36 of them, in period costumes, backlit by the streetlamps on Merced. But on the last night of performances, as I watched this same routine, I was struck by how stunning the image actually was. There they were, the cheerleaders with their ribbons, Kurt in his overalls and straw hat, Lucy in her vibrant purple dress and slightly crooked wig (which was actually my fault, since I was in charge of wigs) – there were all of these people from Fowler, most of whom don’t think of themselves as “actors,” walking quietly to the stage that had been created just for them to shine. Walking into the world of a play that honored their history, walking into a celebration of their community, as their friends and families laughed and cried and cheered them on.

It was picturesque. It was everything it should have been.


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