Thursday, November 03, 2016

The Quiet Moments

I a home in California after nearly a month traveling. My itinerary included New Mexico (Valencia County and Albuquerque), Texas (Houston and Austin), and Mexico (Playa del Carmen and Tulum). The trip was filled with moments of excitement and energy, but also lots of quiet time. I so appreciate my solo reflective time while on the road. It's what gives me perspective on my life "at home" and allows me to reconnect with my internal North. Here are some visual captures of some of those contemplative moments:


While on the road I turned 35. This blazing sunset was taken on the eve of my last day being 34. I was in the parking lot of Bodyshock Fitness, a gym in Los Lunas I discovered on this trip that was my salvation while in New Mexico. After a particularly hard workout, I was rewarded with this fiery sky. I thought about the past year and all the change it has brought for me, the wild ride my heart and body have endured, and what I want from the next cycle - be it a day, a year, or a decade.


This snapshot was taken at sunrise on my 35th birthday, taken from the ditch road that runs behind my dad's house. I was feeling very proud of myself, as I'd managed to go to a 5:30am body combat class to start my day off right, an intense bout of movement before getting on a plane and heading to Houston later that day. I could hear the soft sound of water flowing through the irrigation ditch some doves cooing in the distance. I kept my ears and eyes alert for signs of sandhill cranes (they migrate to New Mexico every fall, often arriving on the day of my birthday) but didn't hear/see any although I knew they were out there somewhere.


As part of the Texas leg of my trip, I decided to drive to Austin for a night and experience the last place I called home prior to moving to Mozambique. I haven't been back since I left in 2005. I decided to visit the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and journal for a bit amid the greenery and bronze figures. It was hot and humid, but the scenery was so perfect for reflection that I found a bench in the shade and wrote for about an hour, trying to ignore the sweat dripping down my legs. What a strange experience to revisit Austin after 11.5 years. So much has happened in that time, yet in many ways it feels I'm back in the same psychological place I was in when I left Texas and headed to Africa. The end of one major chapter and the start of another, tumultuous at times but full of promise and adventure.


In the Mexico leg of my trip, I enjoyed reflective time while swimming in cenotes (freshwater swimming holes that dot the Yucatan Peninsula and were considered sacred by the Mayans). This one pictured here is Cenote Azul. The water was clear and refreshing, and the jungle scenery all around made it feel like the garden of Eden. Swimming here felt like hitting the reset button on my life, which may be a bit dramatic but it really did seem that way in the moment.


Finally here is a moment from the women's wellness retreat that brought me to Tulum. We did a clay treatment and then went into the ocean to wash it off. I am the person on the far right. This was the start to me swimming far out into the water, what I wrote about in my previous post. I felt very calm here, at ease with myself and my surroundings.

My hope is that I can carry these feelings from my trip into my California life, especially as I gear up for the busy holiday season with my jewelry work, and continue to navigate the up's and down's of my personal life transition. Starting my day today with blogging was a good way to reconnect and reflect, for sure.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Tulum Reflections




Today I swam into the ocean, going further out than I ever have before. I used to be afraid of the water, afraid of the waves, afraid of being at the mercy of a force so much greater than my own strength. Previously I refused to get in the deep water unless I had a companion to cling to. But today I was at ease. The water was warm and clear, and I let myself drift out beyond the breakers. I made sure to periodically check if I was being dragged further out to sea or if there was a lateral riptide, using a large rock outcropping and the distant view of our beachfront hotel as landmarks. To my relief I seemed to have found a spot without a strong current and I stayed more or less stationary. I felt calm, treading water and occasionally submerging my head under the swells. With each dive I would invent a mantra: This is for letting go of the past. This is for embracing the future. This is for being in the present moment. This is for all the loss I have endured. This is for all the love that is yet to come.

I am in Tulum, Mexico right now. I came here with a group of women that I know from Hipline, the dance studio I go to in Oakland. We are on a wellness retreat that involves dancing and strength training and journaling and relaxing. I have been on the road for about three weeks already, and this comes as a welcome opportunity to slow down and reconnect with myself. I am grateful that the format of this retreat is opt-in/opt-out, that each participant is invited to do exactly that which feels right at the moment, nothing more and nothing less. Letting go of the should's of life and instead seeking out what we want, what we need. I have been opting out a lot, foregoing dance class in favor of solitary beach walks. Relaxing in the hammock. Reading Solo Africa, an account of a filmmaker's journey across the Sahara, Sahel and Congo in the late 1980's. Observing the ocean. Drinking mezcal cocktails. Reflecting on the past three weeks I have been traveling, on this year of transition, on my life of habitually moving from one place to another.

I feel compelled to travel, if for no other reason than it brings out my very best self. The person that is aware that moments are fleeting and change is the only constant. The person that is up for spontaneous adventures and road trips and solo yolo salsa dancing under the stars. The person that says yes to what feels right and is unafraid to take risks. The person that had no regrets. The person that cliff jumps and goes skinny dipping and takes long-distance buses and makes friends in an instant over a shared smile and a familiar song.

I don't want to veer away from this path. I don't want to sacrifice this feeling of freedom and endless possibility. I am aware it is a privilege to be able to travel and be self-employed. I hope to do it justice. I hope to move forward with courage. To get in the ocean and swim beyond where it seems reasonable and realize that I am safe there, that I am at ease in the world, that everything is as it is meant to be.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Valencia County Observations


I'm in New Mexico for a week, enjoying some time observing life in the place where I grew up. Here are some of the moments that have stood out to me about Los Lunas and Valencia County, the place where my dad calls home:

This is a rural area about an hour south of Albuquerque. The scenery is serene and classically New Mexican: wide open fields of hay and corn, grandiose cottonwoods whose leaves have started turning yellow with the changing seasons, chile roasting on street corners, and dusty mountains in the distance. In the middle of this all runs the Rio Grande, currently a small trickle because so much water has been diverted into the irrigation ditches that criss-cross the landscape. The people here are connected to the land, to family, to tradition.

Driving around I am struck by the billboards along Highway 47, which fall into a few main themes:

- DWI (You can't afford it!)
- Anti Domestic Abuse (Elders and children are our heritage, our future!)
- Pro-Life propaganda (My heart beats 18 days after conception!)
- Personal Injury Lawyers
- Military Recruitment
- Indian Casinos

Tells you a lot about the problems people face and the values they hold...

As I write this I am sitting in a café in Los Lunas (the main town around these parts) that is part coffee shop, part Christian bookstore / religious supplies, and part guitar store. It is the closest wifi to my dad's house (he has no internet and my cell signal is practically nonexistent) so if I want to check email or blog or do some work, I come here.

Culture shock is an understatement. Not only is there all the religious paraphernalia and "church people" vibe from the staff and patrons, there is the political aspect. The people here like their guns. Next to the coffee creamer is an advertisement for Concealed Carry Training. I just overheard someone talk about how Obama was the best thing ever for gun and ammo sales, that they skyrocketed because of him. Another table over there is a guy loudly voicing his support for Trump and calling Bernie Sanders supporters "sheeple" for now supporting Hilary. He's all about the government conspiracies, too, talking about 9/11 being an inside job and how he just bought a $2,000 end-of-the-world survival kit because shit is going to go down.

The scary part to me is that everyone who walks in and overhears these conversations in progress jumps in and is in agreement! Guns and Trump and anti-Obama and God are the anthem over here! It makes me reconsider where I am spending my $7 for coffee and a breakfast burrito, but then again there's no guarantee that the owner of Starbucks on the far side of town (the other wifi option) is not cut from the same cloth, even though the corporate aspect of the place might suggest neutrality.

I don't identify with Valencia County as being home (I lived with my mom in Albuquerque from ages 5 to 15), but my dad has always been here so it is familiar and full of memories. Since my mom moved to California over a decade ago, my dad's house is now my base when I come to New Mexico. While I appreciate the hospitality he and his wife extend to me, I am struck by how anthropological these visits feel. I am definitely an outsider, observing "the other," gaining heightened perception of my own views and values as a result of the contrasts.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

My Dance Story


All I want to do lately is dance salsa, bachata and kizomba. It's definitely been my remedy these past several months, the activity that has allowed me to find myself and connect with others amid great transition in my life. 

There is something uniquely special about partner dancing. You are given the opportunity to connect physically and energetically with another person (often a complete stranger). You have to relax into each other and find a common language of movement and flow. It's spontaneous and intuitive, expressive and intimate. It is an exercise in trust and vulnerability and being in the moment. And at its best, dancing feels like falling in love - a euphoric suspension of space and time, where all that exist are you and this other person moving together through the world.

I first danced salsa when I was in college in Albuquerque. We would have these glorious house parties attended by friends from all corners of Latin America. Someone would throw on a mix cd and we'd all dance into the wee hours of the morning. I didn't exactly know what I was doing, but it was always a damn good time.

Then I got a boyfriend who didn't enjoy dancing. He was also a jealous type, so I shifted from partner dancing to taking cardio-salsa classes at the gym. I got in shape and met many incredible women in the process, but didn't really register that I had abandoned something that sparked great joy for me.

In the time between college and now, I had the strange luck become involved almost exclusively with people that weren't into dancing. Rather than push someone to take up an activity they found akin to pulling teeth, I dove deep into the world of solo dance to satisfy my passion. I discovered Nia in Austin, did samba de passarela in Brazil, learned all sorts of fun moves in Mozambique, and eventually found my home crew of ladies at Hipline in Oakland. Dance has been a constant in my life, but moving your body solo (albeit in a room full of other people) is a different animal from dancing with another person.

It took me fifteen years to return to partner dancing. Fifteen years!!! Better late than never, though, right? Actually I returned somewhat by chance. At the beginning of this year, as I was planning a trip to Gorizia, the small city in northeastern Italy where my maternal grandmother was from, I had a strong desire to do something different, to meet new people. I've been visiting this place of my roots since I was a child, but always the trips were centered around my grandmother: who she knew, who she wanted to visit, how she wanted to spend her time. I have some childhood friends in the area who I enjoy spending time with, but I really wanted to break out of my family's circle of influence and find an expanded social scene.

I randomly googled "zumba Gorizia" thinking I'd find a gym with some cardio dance classes. I came across Arte Dance Studio and messaged them to see if I could take a bunch of different classes for the two weeks I'd be in town. They were super receptive to my request and welcomed me with open arms. I took zumba, modern dance, pilates, piloxing, and something called Latino Base. I showed up to the latter imagining a class akin to zumba; instead I found myself smack in the middle of a salsa and bachata dance course with no partner, no knowledge of the moves everyone had been practicing for the past several weeks, and sweaty palms.

It didn't matter. The instructors Marco and his wife Mikki welcomed me with open arms. They allowed me to jump right in and made me feel like part of the group despite my language and dance limitations. With them I was introduced to cuban-style salsa and moves like dile que no, enchufla, setenta, and all manner of variations on the vuelta (turn). Classes were a funny mix of Italian and Spanish, with students a mix of Italians and Slovenes. I felt as if I'd finally found my people.

About a month after that experience, I found myself in Playa del Carmen, Mexico with my best friend Angel. We were looking for a spot to grab a bite to eat and go dance, and a local friend recommended La Bodeguita del Medio, a Cuban restaurant that has apparently franchised in other locations (I went to the original location in La Habana with my mom back in 2000). It was pretty quiet when Angel and I arrived, but there was a live band with salsa music and I ended up dancing with our server for much of the evening (I guess dancing is part of the job description?). I had tons of fun, and vowed to find some lessons and keep dancing upon my return to the Bay Area.

The first time I went to Allegro, a dance school in Emeryville, was with Rico's mom. Sort of strange to go to a dance social with your ex-mother-in-law, but we are friends and enjoy hanging out, and she was interested in taking a salsa class. So we hit the beginner lesson, then I stayed for the intermediate one and the open dance afterwards. Honestly it wasn't the best experience - I got stuck dancing with a creepy, overly-touchy dude and sadly was not practiced at setting boundaries or making the great escape after one dance - but live and learn, right?

Despite the slight trauma, I knew I'd be back, and this has been my go-to place for dancing for the last five months. I've gone way up the learning curve in salsa, and added bachata and kizomba to my repertoire. Actually kizomba has become my favorite - it's a dance originally from Angola that is slow, sensual, and deceptively simple. You basically embrace your partner, with chests and belly buttons touching (no contact below the belt, though!), and then proceed to "walk" in very close proximity to different rhythms. There is no clear pattern to the steps, which makes it impossible to predict what's next - and therefore as a follower it is impossible to back-lead.

That's one of my main objectives in dance, actually: to be a good follower. It means relaxing, connecting with your partner, and not anticipating or forcing any of the moves according to your own agenda. Harder than it sounds, especially after so many years of dancing by myself. It's quite different from the ultra-independent role I have in my "regular" life, and the balance and lessons to be gained are not lost on me.

My 35th birthday is in a couple weeks and as a gift to myself, I got private lessons with Isabel, one of the instructors from Allegro. I want to be sure I have good habits and know my basic footwork before proceeding much further down this dance path. Much better to build on a solid foundation as opposed to one that is flawed.

I have plans to dance salsa and kizomba in Albuquerque, Houston, and Mexico this coming month as I embark on yet another travel adventure. Here's to meeting more lovely people and learning some new moves. See y'all on the dance floor!
 


Monday, September 05, 2016

Lines and Curves

Lines and curves, about to get on a plane. Headed to Italy but Niemeyer on the brain. //

Linhas e curvas, indo pegar um avião. Rumo à Itália mas com Niemeyer na cabeça.

 

It has been such a long time since I wrote a poem. My dad is an incredible poet. I found that out a few months ago.

Now, apparently, the inspiration has passed through to me. In a rhyme, which typically I hate. But I was thinking of poetry after a particularly time-warp evening of dancing, and then upon seeing my reflection with the piano and multiple doors and books, the words came to me.

I am traveling later today, to Italy, with my mom. We will be working on my grandma's house and affairs. And I will dance! More soon.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Try-On

 Quality assurance try-on before delivery of a client's heirloom necklace and earrings I built out with gemstone drops.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Pop-Up Recap

Carolyn and I had a great pop-up on Saturday, attended by friends, family, and lots of new faces. Thank you to everyone who came out.

I'm emerging from a period of severe burn-out, and it's a welcome feeling to want to be in that space again, to want to show my work again. I am particularly excited about how the gallery is looking these days. Lots of color and flowers and patterns and texture. And finally the mix of paintings and jewelry is making sense. A final bonus is that Carolyn's jewelry mixes in so well with my paintings, and complements the assortment of wearable pieces that I have in stock as well. Yay all around.

Here are some photos from the beginning of the pop-up, with everything nicely displayed and ready for visitors.







Friday, August 26, 2016

Road Trip to Arizona and Nevada with My Mama

A couple weeks ago my mom and I took a road trip starting in the Bay Area and passing through some of the most beautiful deserts and mountains in the Western US. We needed to clean out a storage unit (of unknown contents) that my grandmother had in Flagstaff, as well as take care of some of her affairs there, so we decided to make an adventure of it and take the scenic route. Here are some highlights:


The Colorado River appears like an oasis along the California-Arizona state line, with the Needles mountains in the background.


My grandmother owned an apartment building in Flagstaff and at some point the property manager commissioned a local artist to paint a mural to ward off vandalization. I love the imagery and colors.


So far the mural strategy has worked, because there is no tagging and people have respected the art.


Here is the storage unit we had to clean out. My mom was hoping it would be empty (fat chance knowing what a packrat my grandmother was!) and I was expecting it to be full...but not exactly *this* full. What a nightmare. Stuff was all jumbled up, in various states of damage (there had been water, bats, and rats in the unit at some point from the looks of things), and most of it wasn't "worth" hanging onto in the first place. Happily we did find a few family treasures, and there were a lot of throwback items to my mom's childhood...but mostly it was books and old clothes and a lot of junk. My mom and I spent a lot of time sorting what to keep, what to donate, and what to throw away. Sadly in the end the charity shop rejected the donation pile so everything we didn't keep went into the landfill. What a lesson...


At least we got in some quality outdoor time while in Flagstaff. There was a walking path right outside our hotel room that crossed through ponderosa pine forests and open meadows full of wildflowers and lava rocks. Beautiful!


There's nothing quite like the clear air of the mountains. Big sky, sunshine, and the afternoon monsoon. Made me miss my homeland of New Mexico (although I'll be there next month for a visit, yay!)


On the way from Flagstaff to Tonopah, Nevada we passed by the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. Really stunning scenery to see that big body of water amid such an arid landscape.


We walked across a highway bridge to get a view of the dam, which was worth it despite the 106 degree weather and strong winds.


A convenience store and rest stop in the middle of nowhere in Nevada. There was a brothel behind this building, by the way. No big deal, business as usual!


In Tonopah we stayed at the (supposedly haunted) Mizpah Hotel. I didn't experience any ghost encounters but the place was definitely like being in a time warp.


I had fun sketching one of the big chandeliers in the lounge while waiting for our dinner.


From Nevada we crossed back into California and drove on some very hilly highways and over some major mountain summits. It was a massively scenic stretch, including Mono Lake (above) and Monitor Pass (below).


It was a long, hot, tiring but fun trip. Definitely the kind that is better with company, and I'm happy to report that my mom is an excellent road trip companion. Maybe we'll do another one next year (although without the storage unit!!).

Monday, August 22, 2016

Invisalign Day Five

After five days of wearing invisalign, I feel slightly better than I did on day one. The hardest part is the social aspect of not being able to go out for extended eats and drinks. I also miss nursing a coffee in the morning, and having snacks throughout the day. Although in some ways, invisalign is the willpower I never had regarding food, so I am developing better habits and eating when I'm truly hungry as opposed to when I'm bored, lonely, anxious, procrastinating, or simply because it's there.

My mouth is a bit sore and my tongue is a little cut up, but nothing compared to the agony of metal braces. I've been really diligent about brushing and cleaning both my teeth and the aligners, so no complaints there (some people have issues with the trays becoming cloudy or gross). I've been using Dawn dish soap to scrub them, which seems to work quite well and is cheap and easy. My final complaint is that I still lisp a little bit, but it seems like others don't notice it the way I do.

To compensate for the self-consciousness of having weird stuff on my teeth and a small speech impediment, I got a haircut and have been ramping up the workouts and taking the time to do my makeup (no lipstick, though!! NOT compatible with invisalign). So I'm feeling fly and also feeling like such the ugly duckling. A funny combination, for sure...

Here's hoping I get more and more used to this.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Invisalign Day One

Today I started treatment with invisalign. My dentist recommended it not for aesthetic reasons,  rather for functional/health reasons(although I do have crooked teeth because I didn't properly wear my retainer after braces as a teenager). The main culprit is a lower incisor that juts to the outside of my top teeth, a classic cross bite. My bite doesn't align properly, my teeth are starting to get ground down in weird ways, and I was having TMJ issues. After hearing my dentist's speech about how these symptoms will evolve in the long term, I was convinced.

I am set up with 32 aligners (clear trays that progressively move your teeth), each of which I should wear for 22 hours a day. I will switch to a new aligner every two weeks, bringing with it some soreness as my teeth adapt to their new position. So best case scenario I'm looking at about 16 months of treatment.

By far the hardest part of invisalign will be wearing the trays for 22 hours a day. You only remove the aligners to eat and drink, and no snacks or coffee or gum or anything between meals. You also have to majorly step up your oral hygiene game and brush and floss your own teeth, and as well as clean the aligners after each removal.

My dental visit today was a bit traumatic, as they had to shave down about 10 of my teeth in order to open up space for them to move into their new position. On my top teeth they had to create .3mm gaps, and on my bottom teeth they had to create .5mm gaps. Half a millimeter is a huge amount to shave off a tooth. Because dentists and jewelers use many of the same tools and processes, I not only was very familiar with the rotary drill and diamond disc, I could imagine exactly what was being done to my enamel because it's exactly what I do to metal every day. I really think this is a case where ignorance is bliss. It also hurt, but I am a baby with very sensitive teeth.

I also have 18 attachments (also called buttons) on my teeth now, basically little knobs of tooth-colored material that helps the plastic trays grip your teeth and get them moving. Some people require no attachments and no tooth filing...I got "lucky" and was prescribed a pretty heavy dose of both. What's worse is you can totally notice them, especially with the trays in, so my invisalign is far from invisible.

My initial feeling when seeing my mouth with the aligners in was regret. I feel ugly and awkward and have a little bit of a lisp (they say it gets better after a few days once your tongue adjusts to the aligners). I am dreading being in social situations that call for removal of the trays. I can't even contemplate dating with these babies in the mix, although that's not on my radar at this point anyhow so I suppose cross that bridge when I come to it. I am trying to keep the long-term perspective that this is a sound investment in my health, and that a little bit of suffering now will be worth it to avoid serious problems down the line. But today I just feel blah.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Hands and Meteors and a Song



This song just hit me hard. Driving up the hill in Point Richmond after spending the evening at the gallery with my friend Carolyn and brainstorming jewelry stuff for our show, and for our lives. It felt good to be there, in that space. A welcome coming-round of sorts after being very burned out.

Life has been full lately. I've been traveling like mad, spreading my work wings broadly, dancing. Sorting. Measuring and evaluating. 

One exciting thing is I believe I've started to "cure" my chronically cold, clammy hands. (A standout memory from 10 years ago is a salsa partner telling me that my hands were like eels, slick and hard to hold on to.) Beyond sweaty my hands also "loose their blood" periodically and become numb and white in patches thanks to Reynauds Syndrome.

Anyhow, after decades of avoiding people's touch but also really, really wanting to do things like dance and hold hands and safely grip onto a subway pole when when the train lurches, I've been searching for a solution. Over the past 3 months I've been doing a mix of acupuncture and herbs to treat circulation and digestion. Over the last 2 weeks I've been shocking my hands in water (a therapy that seemingly works for many people). And over the last week I've significantly modified my diet to be very low sugar and low carb. 

I don't know if it's a mix of these things, a coincidence, or whatever but my hands have been totally different these past three days, maybe even week. They are not sweaty or cold. I lost a bit of circulation this morning, but it was cold and foggy out and I went running at Tilden without gloves on, so to be expected I guess. 

But I danced on Saturday and Sunday and pretty much had warm, regular person hands. This seems like a miracle, and I'm almost afraid to believe it.

In other news, Carolyn and I drove out to the middle of nowhere outside Antioch the other night (madrugada, really) to see the Perseid meteor shower. I miss the dark, dark skies of the Sandias. We saw several dozen meteors but even way out in the Sacramento Delta there is still so much light pollution. And it was cold and windy as shit. But absolutely worth the effort.

Here's the sky from earlier that evening. No meteors in Point Richmond, though. Too much fog later in the night when the moon was gone and the shooting stars visible.

point richmond sunset the night of the perseid meteor shower

It's a Pop-Up!


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Leaving Home


Last week I house sat for Rico while he was in India for business. It was wonderful to spend time with the cats (he has all three of them, which makes me feel like a bad cat mom for "abandoning" my babies but it's the better situation for everyone...except possibly Rico, who still has to deal with Pria waking him up at 5:45am demanding food). Anyhow, it was a relaxing few days of sitting on the couch binge-watching Weeds, eating ice cream, and snuggling with the cats.

It was also quite strange to be back in the place that once was my house, our house. Rico and I continue to be on very good terms with each other (I am truly grateful for our drama-free split) but being back there, in what is now His house, was emotionally difficult. Everything is still so familiar. I know that house intimately, I could navigate it with my eyes closed. I know where the light switches are, how to jiggle the downstairs bathroom door so it opens without sticking, where to find the Lysol and extra toilet paper, how to turn on the tv and the stereo. It is all so comfortable, like slipping into an old skin.

Except certain things are different (and, of course, I am different...the slow metamorphosis into my identity as a single person becoming ever more noticeable). I am clearing out my stuff bit by bit. The contents of drawers emptied, paintings removed, closets vacated. I notice Rico got new drinking glasses and cutting boards. There is "man brand" lotion and soap in the bathroom. And the smell of the house is subtly changed. I can't describe it, really, but suppose what I notice is the absence of myself, of my perfume and sweat and cooking and tears.

The closest thing I have for comparison is when I returned to my mom's house in Albuquerque after spending my junior year abroad in Brazil. The house was nearly exactly the same, but not quite. Home but not home anymore. Familiar but no longer fits. That was also a big moment of transition for me because I had decided to skip my senior year of high school and go straight to college. So it was more than just a re-entry after a year of international living. It marked a major chapter change, the start of a physical move as well as a shifting identity and a breakup of sorts. Much like now.

Being in Rico's house last week led me to process through a lot of emotion surrounding our split. Which is good, because I don't want to find out five or ten years down the line that I didn't adequately feel or deal with all this stuff. But still, not easy. Not easy at all.

Mostly I feel sadness, but not in the regretful "I-wish-I-could-go-back" sort of way. No, sadness as in mourning. Sadness as in acceptance. Sadness as in realizing that two people and an ocean of love are sometimes not enough to "make it work." And a strange, quiet happiness in understanding that despite all of that I am okay. Rico is okay. We are okay.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Nice

 

News out of Nice is horrific. I can feel myself becoming tragedy-saturated, and with this comes a numbing of the senses, dulled reactions, a sick feeling that it's all too far away and nothing we can do anyway to stop the hate and violence and death.

This is not the state I want to exist in, of detatchment and apathy. So I will reconnect and affirm our common humanity in baby-step ways today. I will smile warmly at strangers and hope it's contagious. I will hug my people and pet my animals. I will work fearlessly on my creative pursuits, and put my next travel plans into action.

Do you need some loving words in these difficult days? Let me know - I'll tell you something I adore about you. Just reach out, in the comments, in a private message, in a text, on the phone. Let's spread the love.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Finding Sri Prem Baba


Yesterday on social media I came across a post by my acquaintance Carolina Bergier that really resonated with me (interesting aside: I met Carol because she is part of Casa Soul, the organization that made Casa Rosa its headquarters when we sold the place several years ago). Anyhow, she had a quote by someone called Sri Prem Baba that majorly hit home. Here it is in Portuguese, as I originally saw it:

"Quanto mais freneticamente você busca por algo e mais esse algo parece fugir de você, maior é o seu não inconsciente para isso que conscientemente você deseja; e mais é a sua inabilidade para lidar com esse não. Ao tomar consciência desse não, você inicia o processo de compreensão e transformação dessa dificuldade. Então, talvez você descubra que isso que você quer não é exatamente o que você precisa; talvez seja somente um capricho do seu ego; uma obstinação para satisfazer uma vaidade."

Here's a translation on the fly:

"The more frantically you search for something and the more it seems to escape you, greater is your unconscious 'no' to this thing that you consciously desire; and greater is your inability to deal with this 'no'. By becoming conscious of this 'no', you begin the process of understanding and transforming this difficulty. Then, perhaps you discover that what you want isn't exactly what you need; perhaps it is just a whim of your ego; an obstinacy to satisfy vanity." 

Boom. That so incredibly incredibly resonates right now. Ufff.

After a bit of research this morning, I've learned more about Sri Prem Baba, the Brazilian-born spiritual master and humanitarian leader. Sometimes you find exactly what you need at the precise moment you most need it. This is how it felt to come across Sri Prem Baba in general, and in particular these words.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Back to Bay Life

My freeform pattern painting from last week. I never know what direction these pieces will take...

I've been back in the Bay Area for about a week now and am enjoying the particular pleasures of my life here, namely:

- Painting group. Every Tuesday I go to the house of my 87-year-old neighbor to paint for several hours. He is a retired architect, originally from Colombia, who could easily pass for 15 years younger (he has no wrinkles, is totally mobile and independent, and has a great sense of humor). Each week he opens his garage to me and a few other local artists and we paint, drink wine, share stories, and listen to music. This past week we had a turntable out and listened to Spanish records from the 1960's. Our host taught us to play the castanets, although none of us were particularly successful - they are way harder than they look.

- Cooking and eating fresh, simple meals. After three weeks in Italy and Slovenia, one of which was intensely spent doing wine and food tourism, it feels really good to be back to my regular routine. Since being home I've enjoyed making/eating white beans, roasted potatoes, arugula, radishes, zucchini, nectarines, bananas, oatmeal, cottage cheese, eggs, and almonds. Not all together of course, but this is the base from which I create salads, frittatas, and bowls. There have been some treats, too, of course. But it feels good to detox a bit from all the alcohol and sugar and fat of my trip.

- Running. I ran while traveling, but there's nothing like being on my home turf. I am privileged to have a beautiful place to run right outside my doorstep. I can do an easy 3 or 5-mile loop along the water's edge, through a park, and into a marina area...or I can go the other direction and do some intense hills through the residential heart of Point Richmond, admiring architecture and gardens and killer views as I go along.

- Dancing. Perhaps the thing I most love about my life in the Bay Area these days. Be it cardio-fitness with the lovely ladies at Hipline in Oakland, salsa/bachata/kizomba at the dance school I've been going to in Emeryville, or most recently forró with live music in San Francisco, dancing is what keeps a smile on my face more than anything. I'm getting better at following, too, which makes the experience of partner dancing all the more enjoyable. 

- Studio life. Currently I'm trying to clean out my studio and get back to the minimalist state of being that makes me feel at ease. I see the light at the end of the current clutter tunnel, though, so hopefully tomorrow I will resume actually making jewelry instead of just organizing and purging stuff. I am looking forward to soldering again, I've got the itch to make some chandelier earrings. Plus I have some client work lined up, which isn't always glamorous but I'm grateful it's part of my life here for sure.

- Hanging out. I've been doing a fair amount of taking it easy these days, which feels good. Hanging out with my mom and her cat, Tuxa. Drinking lots of tea. Re-reading "Como Agua para Chocolate" and wishing I was eating all that divine food and living a love story of my own in Mexico. I'm hoping to sunbathe at some point, although the weather has been quite foggy which has me wearing slippers and snuggling with the electric blanket rather than reaching for my bikini. Hopefully I'll have a chance in the coming week...

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Racist America

Last week I was having lunch in Ljubljana with my Slovene friend Marjana and two American girlfriends. Marjana asked if we have a problem with racism in our country, and we replied that sadly yes, it is most definitely the case. 

We told her about all the police killings of African Americans for no reason at all, and the institutionalized racism people of color face every day, and the prevalence of white privilege. She had the impression of the US being this super tolerant land where everyone is free, where the American dream reigns supreme, where hard work can make everything come true.

Not the case, we told her. It's the myth, but not the reality.

Every day we see more and more sickening examples of police brutality and systemic abuses against people of color. I know this violence and discrimination has been going on since our country was founded, and that the only thing different is that now there are cameras. But truly, it must stop. It has to change. We must stand up and demand accountability and justice.

It is beyond fucked up. 

Words fail.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Munich-SFO

The last time I was on this flight from Munich to San Francisco I sobbed silently at takeoff.  Not because of fear of flying, which I definitely suffer from, but because I was hit with a wave of emotion and in that instant I knew my relationship was over. No more pretending an alternate destiny was possible, no more head in the sand. I had gut-level certainty that the next step was a breakup, a chapter change, and the pain that comes when a love that once flourished must be laid to rest. I was grateful when the seat belt sign was turned off and I could go to the lavatory for a real ugly cry, with nobody around to witness my scrunched up face or hear my wailing.

That was in March, nearly four months ago. Now it is the last day of June and I am on the same Lufthansa flight headed home from spending some time in Italy at my grandmother's house. I cried again, but only because I watched an inspiring film (Joy with Jennifer Lawrence). It's amazing how much has changed in this short period, how different I feel.

Unlike the last time I was on this flight, I am not dreading coming back to California (even though I know divorce papers and the slog of moving my things from one space to the next await me). I also don’t wish I had stayed in Italy, although it was tempting to extend my trip after a successful beta experience of organizing wine and culinary tours with a childhood friend and a fabulous group of ladies as guests. It’s nice to feel a balance of saudades for the place I am leaving and the place that is my next destination.

I see myself coming into a new phase: one of being single and independent, having multiple jobs I create for myself, and with no clear primary residence. I’ll be bouncing between the Bay Area (the work-live artist space I’ve created in the basement of my mom’s house), the Italy-Slovenia border region (where my grandmother was from and her big, uninhabited property awaits its destiny), Houston (where my best friend lives), New Mexico (my dad’s place), and who knows where else in between. I envision lots of geography, lots of change, wearing lots of hats. Just how I like it.

I am trying out the elevator speech about my life as I meet people on the plane: “I am a jeweler, artist, translator, traveler, writer, and dancer.” Yes, all of those things together in one complex ball of self-employment and creativity and travel. Interdisciplinary, interconnected, international. Untitled for the time being. Following my gut. Seeing where the road takes me.


Monday, June 20, 2016

BFF

This girl and I have been traveling around the world together for 15 years already, and I hope we never stop. This time I brought her to Venice as a surprise. So far it's been pretty perfect.

 



 

Drawing to Overcome Fear of Flying

  

For as much as I love traveling, I am a fearful little flyer. Last week on the Lufthansa regional jet from Munich to Trieste, I could feel myself freaking out during takeoff.

My involuntary reaction when I think the plane is about to drop out of the sky is to throw my arms up in panic and then grab onto the armrests for dear life. I'll white-knuckle it for a few seconds, get my shit together and release my grip, take a breath or two, and then sit on my hands or fidget with my hair or something until I feel like we're about to fall of the sky again and the whole flail-grip-regain control routine repeats itself.

My row companion was pretty nice about it, but I felt supremely awkward grabbing all over the place and wanted to get my behavior under control. So I took out my sketchbook and started a weird mix of nervous doodling and contour drawing of the inside of the plane. It worked quite well to manage my phobia, as I could concentrate on reproducing the lines and objects in front of me to distract myself, and then just let the pen go crazy in the moments of acute stress.

You can see the balding head of the guy in front of me, the window, the seatbelt/no smoking sign, the overhead bins, the curtain separating first class...and me intermittently losing it, translated into shapes and squiggles.

In all, a useful exercise I'm sure to repeat on future flights and in other moments of fear and uncertainty - of which we sadly have an abundance of these days. At least I have a funny drawing and a story to share as a result, a concrete transformation of negative emotions into something positive. 

What do you do to cope with fear?

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Amici di Ballo

Tonight I went out with a group of new friends to a salsa, bachata, and kizomba party. It was in a town about 40 minutes away from Gorizia, and we caravaned there in the pouring rain. It was super fun to go to a party and have an adventure, even cooler to be doing so as part of a crew.

My friends - miei amici - are the people I've met through the dance school I found on my trip here back in February. It's called Arte Danza and they have a bit of everything - latin ballroom, zumba, pilates, breakdancing. It's been a lot of fun going to classes, and good exercise too.

Dancing salsa, bachata, and kizomba with a bunch of Italians has been an interesting experience. Most of them have learned at dance schools/courses and are firmly familiar with a set of patterns and partners. My observation (both from being a sometime student in said classes, as well as on the dancefloor tonight) is that this tends to cause weaker male leads and lots of female back-leading. Consequently, it can be hard to follow if you're not part of the in-crowd...but still a ton of fun. Also contributing to the challenge is the fact that most people here are learning Cuban-style salsa (as opposed to salsa de linea), which for me is way harder to follow and make flow.

In all, a very worthwhile experience. I imagine at the end of the month I'll feel a lot lighter on my feet, more in sync with my dancing friends, and more like I know what I'm doing.

And then, likely, I'll come back to my Bay Area salsa/bachata/kizomba scene and feel a little off! Hahaha...

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

My Airport Style

For the first time in my life I just spent 3 hours in an international airport and bought nothing. Why? Because I came prepared. 

Empty water bottle to refill at public fountains? Check. Snack of two boiled eggs and red grapes, carried in an empty cottage cheese container (recyclable and easy to leave behind)? Check. Books and mints brought from home? Yep. 

What else could a girl need?

Ah yes. Free wifi to complete the SFO experience!

And I'm off, headed to Italy and Slovenia for a much-needed month of decompressing and wine and good food. It's been a rough ride these days even though I am happy and feeling on the right path. Nothing like travel to make it all better. 

ETA: I've arrives in Munich airport after a smooth but long flight over the top of the world. With all that cash I saved by bringing my own everything at SFO, I was able to indulge in a lovely welcome meal here, essential to pass the 4-hour layover till my flight to Trieste.

 

I sat in a cute cafe and tried to get a cappuccino, alas the coffee machine was broken so I was "forced" to have a prosecco. My meal, not pictured, was a salad assortment where I chose marinated octopus, seaweed, and peppadews stuffed with goat cheese. It was fabulous, but now I need that coffee. For real! I can feel the jet lag creeping in already.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Where I Started and Where I am Now

Getting ready to cross the bridge-less Rio Lucite in Manica Province, Mozambique. 2005.

I started this blog in 2005 while living in Austin, Texas. I was about to move to Mozambique to work as a freelance consultant with some friends I'd met while in business school in Brazil. (There's a lot of geography in my life story!)

Initially my blog was a way for me to keep in touch with family in friends while in Africa, but it soon became much more. I met hundreds of people through my writing, many of whom were also moving to Mozambique and looking for support, many of whom became friends.

Over the years I chronicled my work in international development, my growing passion for making jewelry, my marriage in 2008, our move to California in late 2009, my decision to apply to art school and change careers, my experience starting my own business, and now the most recent chapter: my life as a single person, with many exciting unknowns, lots of travel, and a heart full of love to share with the world.

Contemplating what's next while on the ferry from Isla Mujeres to Cancún, Mexico. 2016.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Spending in Check

Before traveling to Italy earlier this year, I took the steps any savvy traveler does and cleaned out my wallet. I removed all crap I usually carry around (multiple cards, memberships, coupons) and pared it down to one main credit card (with no foreign transaction fee), a backup credit card, and a debit card.

I distinctly remember removing my business credit card and placing it somewhere "safe" in our house, thinking, "I'm going on vacation and have zero intention of doing anything professional, so I won't need this baby for sure," and then putting the card in a drawer or something. Upon returning from that trip, I scoured all my usual hiding spots to no avail. I couldn't find my card anywhere.

Part of me thought I should call the bank and report it lost, but the task of updating all my saved payment info and linked accounts seemed too daunting at the time. I was fairly certain I'd find it, and there had been no strange charges that might indicate the card was in someone else's hands, so I just let it be. 

That was about three months ago, and my business credit card still hasn't turned up and I still haven't requested a replacement. Why? It's been the absolute best thing ever to reign in my spending. The card is still connected to my most essential vendor sites, so I know I can purchase jewelry supplies if I need to. But it's not available in-hand for impulse buys, and the effect has been astounding.

My average monthly spending used to be in the thousands, and I would frequently carry over a balance (and pay interest, booooo). The past three months my balance has been zero, zero, and $16.85. Granted I have a good inventory in place and lots of extra supplies lying around...but it's incentive to use what I have and only buy that which is really, truly necessary - using cash.

I won, baby!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

On Movement

A quick poem I wrote in a parking lot after class at Hipline, about a month ago:

Dancing feels like freedom,
I can move any way I want.
My decisions,
my body.
Feeling grounded for the first time in ages.

In leaving I am growing roots,
solid,
to secure my ankles and support my feet
and allow my heart to explore from this base.

Keep moving,
clear the mind.
Don't ignore the body's message.
There is no need to fear the outcome
when following the gut-compass.

Spring sunset as seen from my studio in Point Richmond, with Mt. Tamalpais in the background.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Mexico with my BFF

My best friend Angel and I took a girls' trip to Playa del Carmen a few weeks ago and it was pure magic. Here are some highlights:


Long story short, Angel and I ended up going to one of those timeshare presentations where in exchange for sitting through a sales pitch you are offered a series of "thank you gifts". We also had to pretend to be a couple, which added a very amusing dimension to the experience (only couples with both members present could qualify for the bonus stuff). Lemme tell you, those timeshare people have mastered the art of not taking no for an answer, but we were strong in our refusal to spend thousands of dollars to get the deal of our lives. After saying no to about eighteen different people and their managers, we were finally out of there. Our compensation? Ferry tickets to Isla Mujeres, a golf cart rental on the island, a bottle of tequila, and a major discount on a tour of Chichén Itzá the next day. 


The ocean at Isla Mujeres was unbelievable. I was fascinated by the distinct color lines in the water. What causes that? A sudden depth change? 


Speaking of water, check out this cool outdoor chandelier we spotted at a bar. It is made of lightbulbs filled with water and was suspended from a big palm tree. Totally up my alley, especially because so much of the art I'm making these days is inspired by chandeliers.

A quiet, contemplative moment on the ferry heading back to Cancun. I distinctly remember this moment. I was starting to feel like myself again after many months in a tough emotional state. Something about sun and sand and saltwater cures everything, not to mention adventures with your best friend.


On our second day we took a bus tour to Chichén Itzá, and along the way stopped at a Mayan village to have lunch and swim in a cenote. The Yucatán peninsula is made of karst limestone and is full of sinkholes, caves, and underground lakes and rivers. Swimming in this cenote was just what my body and soul needed. I was one of the first people in the water and had the luxury of swimming around in peace. Being in the fresh water under that beam of sunlight was transformative.


Here we are dying of heat at Chichén Itzá. Back in college I took a class called Mesoamerican Art History and never imagined that I'd actually get to visit the ruins in person one day. We had a fabulous tour guide who was half Maya, and the information he gave us really enriched the experience. We learned about the absolute genius astronomical and mathematical understanding the Maya had, how they developed the concept of zero, had complex hieroglyphics, made paper, recorded information, had a calendar, understood everything about the celestial bodies and seasons. So sad that most of that knowledge has been lost over time...


This wall of carved stone skulls was pretty impressive. Blood and ritual death were major themes in a lot of the temple imagery. I was also intrigued by the Maya's skull deformation practices.


After Chichén Itzá we visited a colonial town called Valladolid. This church in the center plaza was built by the Spanish using many stones from Maya ruins. You can even spot some hieroglyphics on some of the pieces. What a complex, complicated history this region has...


I'm always a sucker for old tiles...these were in the center of Valladolid. Love the colors and pattern, and my running shoes blended right in. 


After visiting the ruins, we finally went out salsa dancing in Playa del Carmen. It was a most memorable night. I danced my heart out on the floor, and even went up on stage for a no-fear YOLO solo with the Cuban band. This is who I am. This is who I want to be, always. Alive, spontaneous, and fun. A free, adventurous spirit. So good to be back to my roots.


I love these cute little birds and the rich colors of the algae and water. Sadly it was a short trip to Mexico, but so refreshing and totally worth it. I am dying to go back. I left a piece of my heart in Playa del Carmen for sure.