Sunday, November 23, 2014

Winter Hibernation

We've had just the coldest week so far this season and winter is officially here. There's been snow! I am getting ready for winter hibernation and as crazy as this sounds, I am actually excited. The reason is because I get a lot of writing done when I am hiding away in my house. I am definitely very eager to continue working on my baby story. Here are some pics from the last week...

My little painter boy. Just like mommy!
Painter 2
The crazy artist at work.
Snow day
Fall left without a goodbye and winter has dawned!
Snow day
It's rather pretty when it snows and the leaves are still on the trees.
Winter 2014
We've all sorts of snow. One day we had hail.
Snow day
Edward was so excited for his first snow day that he put on his boots on his own and ran outside after school one day. It didn't matter that he didn't have anyone to play with. He was simply delighted with the snow!
Snow day 3
Phase two of playing with snow was eating it.
Snow day 3
"Momma, take this pic of me!"
Cooking for mommy
I made lentil soup mid-week and topped this bowl with bruschetta from Trader Joe's.
Cooking for mommy
Edward is learning to cook. He made us baked pasta for dinner one night.
Cooking for mommy
Sprinkling some cheese on top before it goes into the oven.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

My favorite pics in the history of EVER.

I've been getting together a professional portfolio and wanted to include some pictures from my photography days. It was very hard to choose from the tens of thousands of pictures I have taken in the last eight years but I did and here is the brief story behind each one.

Favorite pictures
The pictures are all printed and ready to be assembled into a binder.
This was an impromptu photo session at UCLA with the first high-end and super-fast lens I bought for myself. I was still using my Rebel body but I was so proud I was able to upgrade to a lens series that the big guys use. My sister was in town from Northern California with a group of high school students who were on a college tour. I asked the kids to jump around for me and they were all really excited to pose for me. I got some really fun shots that I still consider one of my favorites to this day.
A coworker from my first corporate job asked me to do a photo session for her family. I love this picture because her oldest son (who was probably the age Edward is now) gave really good stares into the camera and I was able to get a glimpse into his old soul. Plus, I am a sucker for siblings.
Another coworker had a teenage daughter who wanted some modeling shots for a magazine competition. Candice and I styled her and the above shot was such a win for me. Her eyes and skin literally glow off the page and I love what this girl was all about. She was artsy and wanted to start a rock band, a younger version
Another pic from her shoot. Her skin came out so porcelain that I decided to Photoshop everything else around her black to make her face stand out more. LOVE.
This pic comes from our very first wedding. I used my long lens (70-200mm which I am obsessed with) and I love how creamy everything looks. Best, of course, is how adorable the kids are and their nervous but excited expressions as they walked down the aisle. Almost looks like there were the ones getting married!
My college roommate has been a longtime model of mine (her profile is too flattering) and I love this picture because it represents who we were at the time: New college-grads who were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to experience the great big world.
A coworker was getting interviewed by the L.A. Times and gave me the opportunity to shoot his picture for the spread. He didn't like the pictures I got for him even though I knew the above picture was what the newspaper was going to use. We did another session he was happier with and he submitted ten of our pictures. When the newspaper came out, they used the picture I knew they would from the start. My friend apologized for his fussiness and told me to always trust my creative intuition.
Definitely one of my favorite pictures. This coworker wanted pictures for online dating and she was so prepared (hair extensions, professional makeup...) that it was effortless to get good pictures for her. It was nice to be respected by the client and her enthusiasm for the process made me feel like a real photographer.
There is a grittiness to this picture that I just love even though it may not be the most flattering of the subjects. I don't always go for perfect skin and angles, just a feeling I get from looking at the picture. A grandmother holding her grandson...what can be better?
I got this shot when attending a photography workshop. I posted it on my blog and the very first comment was from my father. He said, "When I see a picture like that, I feel like you have already made it."
Another wedding we did. I love me a tatted-up bridesmaid with mascara dripping down her face. Lots of FEELS.
My brother and his girlfriend came to visit us in LA from NorCal. We were walking around our neighborhood when we literally stumbled upon a TV show set (it seriously happens all the time in LA). We jumped in as extras and because I had my camera with me, I took some pictures of the fake wedding. This was just MONEY. I was in the right place at the right time.
My best friend from high school's wedding. This shot was unintentional but when I scrolled through my camera I just loved it. She and her husband are beautiful and tall like models and I can totally picture this in an ad campaign.
My sissy's wedding. I love this pic because she is just so smug and cool like she always is as she demands a kiss from her new hubby. And the wall color is so amazing. That's what my next house will be slathered in.
The best part about being a photographer is all the interesting people I get to meet. This is Velvet, a producer in Hollywood who is also a psychic. She is larger than life and the contrast between her hair and eyes is stunning. She told me I was a warrior in my past life, this is my last life on earth (gulp), and I will have a successful career when I'm older (something about having a gift for communicating to women).

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I am not in control.

I actually didn't get many pictures from Halloween (bad mommy--I know!) so I wanted to post about something else today. Last night, after a particularly emotional week, I looked at Steve and said, "I can't wait for this year to be over." You see, while I maintain a happy-ish domestic perspective on this blog, we've had many many ups and downs this year that have proven to me time and time again that I am not in control. Of my life. Or anything. Let's start from January, shall we?

Well, we actually need to start from October 2011 to get the full picture. That was when I moved from Los Angeles to Rochester, NY. From the moment we saw our house to when we moved was about a month. It was crazy fast and I made a huge life decision based on delusions of what my new suburban lifestyle would be like without really thinking it through. It took less than a month for me to realize (after we were already here and after we bought our house) that this was 100% the wrong decision for me and we had to get back to California, PRONTO. Unfortunately, Steve didn't agree and there were times when I still thought MAYBE this was what I wanted. So we did what any smart and logical person would do: We threw more money at the house (because if we put up a really pricey deck I will surely love NY more) and re-financed our mortgage (because if we can now pay off our house in 15 years instead of 30 we are getting SO AHEAD being here). Bring on the closing costs!

Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way (as I've been known to do with all matters in life) that throwing money at things and digging yourself deeper in a hole only compounds the problem, not relieve you of it. The universe was trying to show me over and over how I was in the wrong place by making everything here an uphill battle for me. Lots of small things in my life fell apart in NY and no doors were open for me. In Los Angeles, there were times when I felt I was the luckiest girl in the world, that things just came together in ways I couldn't have predicted. Here, everything went black.

By the end of last year, I resolved I couldn't stay here any longer, that every minute I was here was an opportunity cost for being somewhere I should be. "We are not doing well here and we must leave," I told Steve as we rang in the new year. In January, I found a house in Glendale, CA (where we used to live) that was in our price range (pretty much nothing is in our price range in SoCal). The house was older but the pictures on Zillow were luscious and I was already picking out the paint colors I would use before we even had a chance to find out more about it. My godfather had a realtor contact in SoCal so I reached out to the realtor and less than a week later my sister went to the open house with the realtor. 

"Chris, this house is not good at all," my sister said through the phone after she drove an hour from her place in Orange County (with a newborn baby nonetheless!) to see this Glendale house. "Steve would hang himself here. There is just too much work that needs to be done before you guys can even move in." I was very disappointed (and I am not afraid of work) but I knew this would be too big of a compromise for Steve so we dropped the house and I went back to my novel-writing.

In March, my sister and her husband called with good news: "We found a house in a new development in Orange County. It's great except to be able to afford it, we probably need to take on renters."

"What if," I said, "What if Steve and I moved in with you guys?" All of a sudden the sky opened and THIS WAS GOING TO BE MY SALVATION. My sister and I have realized in the last few years that we are not happy without each other around and merging two households in one house would be our solution. We knew this was a crazy idea but our equally crazy partners jumped on board and we reserved a lot and started picking out finishes for our new house together. But something still didn't feel completely right and when the day came to officially sign for the house, my sister brought the deed back with no names on it. We didn't know truly how sharing a house with another family would work and the uneasiness of all the details (let alone buying at the peak of the market) left us all running for the door at the first chance to back out. I was sad, again, but knew we had to move on.

I spent the rest of the spring and summer working on my novel and in August, after a particularly fun business trip to Los Angeles, Steve came back and said, "Find a realtor in Burbank (a city close to where we used to live). I'm finally ready to move and I agree we need to go." So we hooked up with his boss's realtor and we majorly upped our house budget so we could buy something in the hills overlooking city lights. Our timeline was moving spring of 2015 and we would spend the rest of the year cleaning and packing up our house. We even found a few houses we both LOVED and would have put an offer on if they weren't already pending (the LA market moves fast!). It was nice to finally have a plan in place, an exit strategy, and I was able to spend a month working on my novel in peace without continuously getting sidetracked by that awful feeling that we are not where we should be.

A month ago, my sister told me that she doesn't think she and her hubby want to stay in the SoCal area. "It's too hard with kids," she reasoned, "And we don't have any family support here." I understood (because three years ago I jumped ship as well for many of the same reasons) but it did temper my plan to be in Burbank because what's the point of moving back to SoCal if my sister wants to leave it? "We are thinking of Seattle," she said. Hmmm, ok. Yeah, I can actually get on board with Seattle. I want to live in a city (LA is more of a sprawl) and if we can get both families to move there, Seattle makes a lot of sense with the lifestyle we want and the types of people we are.

When Seattle came into the picture was also when I received rejection after rejection for my novel. I didn't expect to publish it out of the gates but I thought I would get a little bit more interest than I was getting. I'm not giving up on this book and I am not giving up on writing but it was beginning to look like I needed to find an alternate source of income besides pinning all my hopes on making it as an author. So I looked online for random jobs in Seattle and found a description of a job that sounded so perfect for me. And lo and behold, it was the same job title as the last full-time job I held: Technical Writer. I created a LinkedIn (something I never thought I would need) so I would look more legit to the employer and applied for it. Just for kicks. Because I'm never going to hear back, right?

A week later, I did hear back. Oh, and did I mention this company is retail giant AMAZON? I was completely shocked they were interested in little ol' me but also excited that things could finally start happening for me. The recruiter moved me along very quickly and a week later, it was looking like I had a real shot at this position. It was more money than I've ever made (times two!) plus Amazon offers a very generous relocation package. I sent in my writing test and samples of my work. I was feeling great and then....the dreaded email that they are moving forward with another candidate.

So that was last night, the email, and I just had to throw my hands up and say, "I give up!" This year has been just an emotional roller coaster of one letdown after another. I am so beat from going through the wringer so many times. I. Am. Tired. 

I'm really envious of the people who know who they are going to marry, how many kids they want, which city they must absolutely live in at any cost, and what job they can be happy doing for the next 30-plus years. I never had a sense of who I am and who I am supposed to be. I feel I've been navigating through life blind-folded, that I am working from less than zero. I feel rejection is my middle name and I need to fall a thousand times before I get a half-way chance to take a step forward.

So why am I writing this post? To throw myself a pity party and dwell in the utter confusion that has seemingly always marred my life? No, I am writing it because I BELIEVE one day I will look back on my twenties (and this year in particular) and laugh at how meaningless my worries were. I will look back and wish I could tell this girl that I'm going to make it someday, just not in my timeline. That someday things will make sense and I can finally trace the constellation of moments in my life when my course was altered, but for the better. My perspective is so limited now that I can only look at my life with focused lens that magnify how messy and uncertain everything is. But ONE DAY this pain will prove meaningful so Universe, I surrender. I clearly know nothing about anything except that I am not in control. I've waited my whole life at the gates but I am ready. Please, take me.

Young, free, and happy in the city with my soul  sister (circa 2009).

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Getting Ready for Halloween

Fall has come and gone too fast. This pretty display lasted all of a week before a big storm blew all the leaves away.
Crisp air + bright colors = bliss.
Senior center
Edward went trick-o-treating with his friends at an assisted living center last week.
Carving pumpkin
Carving a pumpkin with daddy!
Carving pumpkin
Pumpkin guts!
After several costume fails, we finally found one that works. Edward will be Iron Man this year. I'll post Halloween pics after the weekend!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Encounters of the Coffee Bean Sorts

A repost from seven (!!) years ago. I can't believe I've been blogging in some shape or form for that many years. #wheredoesthetimego #old

When all my Coffee Bean stories involve either ridiculously gorgeous A-listers or repulsively smelly and aggressive bums, it is easy to forget that the majority of customers I deal with on a day-to-day basis are remarkably ordinary. For every celebrity that I serve a cup of coffee to (hold the sugar and cream, please), I make a hundred more drinks for college students, medical staff, and desperate housewives. While most people come into our humble little store dab in the middle of Westwood Village in a hurry to get their caffeine fix, we do get people who like to linger around our open patio with their steaming cappuccinos in hand, recounting the good ol’ days with friends…well, kind of but you get the idea. We get families who take a refresher break from their Sunday strolls, high schoolers who all meet up after class to gossip and hold hands, and of course we have the couple and first-date types. I mean, a coffee store couldn’t be a better place to have a first date-- it is an outdoor public area for that extra personal safety insurance, it is a mutual meeting spot so neither party need feel obliged to take the date any further, and if things get awkward during the conversation, you can always take another sip from your latte or pick at the grounds in your coffee, swirl them around, whatever.

That’s probably what Samantha had in mind when she and her date chose to meet up at Coffee Bean late one afternoon when the weather was being indecisive, hovering somewhere between the most beautiful autumn day to the darkest of winter storms. I was the manager on duty that shift, you know, doing my usual important manager duties like bad mouthing a customer whom I didn’t know was still in the store or hiding the tip jar whenever a bum would come in, when she called our store.

“Coffee Bean on Westwood this is Christine (I’m sorta important) speaking how can I help you?” I say it just like that in one breath.

“Um, I am supposed to meet up with someone here today but I am stuck in traffic and I don’t have his cell phone number.” Wha? What era where you born in? Is this a first date? Better yet, you guys met on the Internet, bonded over late night sessions on AIM, and this is the face-to-face meeting that will change everything. I totally get it now.

“Can you please just let him know that I am on my way? That I am really coming but will be twenty minutes late.”

“Yeah, sure,” I say because I am nice like that. “What does he look like?”

“He is middle-aged, Iranian… His name is Rahaaj.”

“Ok well, why don’t we take down your name and number just in case and I will make sure to let him know that you are going to be here.”

So that was more or less how the conversation went down and I spent the next few minutes scanning the store for a Rahaaj. Being a Middle Eastern forty-something doesn’t say much about this man I was looking for because we have a lot of people like that here in L.A. and I never have quite figured it out—are Iranians supposed to be the ones with light skin or dark skin? Man, the things they don’t teach me in college. I nonetheless went back to doing my very important manager duties (actually, steaming milk for a cappuccino if you must know) when this guy comes in. He was rather dashing with his black leather jacket and meticulously groomed facial hair, definitely qualifying him as a Rahaaj contender. He looked around the store with quick eyes and proceeded to walk the perimeter of our complex, pausing only to check his cell phone for missed calls. As I continued to steam the milk, he walked back into the store and I just knew that man was searching for a Sam.

Um, sir… this lady called for you just now. She sounded very nice and pretty and she just wanted to let you know that she is coming. I could barely choke those words out. I was afraid of how awkward things could be if he wasn’t looking for a Sam and I panicked. Plus the milk was almost reaching its peak temperature of 160 degrees and couldn’t be left unattended. No, Sam had my word and she must see him tonight. There he was looking for someone he may have waited all his life for, that special someone who makes your hiney tingle and your face blush incessantly, that someone who will always be the one to say you’ve done alright, that someone you recognize in a white see of eyes (name that song!). And there I fully knew where Sam was and that she was coming so Gosh dang it I will tell Rahaaj! That she is lovely and can’t wait to see you in person. That she has been stuck in traffic all afternoon but it didn’t matter. She just wants to be with you. Forever.

And then, just like that, he walked out of the store and disappeared into the hazy bustle of the city, never to come back. I thought Dang it, I hesitated just a moment too long when a moment is sometimes all you have and while I felt silly for involving myself into a customer’s private life, it was my business. I don’t know if Sam ever did make it to the store, but I know I failed her. She trusted an intimate part of her life with me and it was in my hands to make things better, to give her peace about this man she has been so patient to meet.

Rahaaj, I am so sorry. I should have ran after you with such a vengeance as if you were THE man that God has been preparing me a lifetime for and say to you, The wait is finally over, sweet love. I am here and you’ve found me.


Monday, October 13, 2014

An Announcement

Let's start with the not-so-good news. I've sent out close to 30 queries for my book and have received 8 rejections. But today I received a nicer rejection that was a bit more than the usual "No thanks, not for me" email people get. The agent said my query was well-written and even though she doesn't have the band-width to take on my book, she thinks other agents will request pages from me. I'll take that as a sign I am at least headed in the right direction. As I've said in my last post, this is going to be one heck of a ride for me. I've felt up and down about the process but overall, I feel okay. It is actually a huge relief to be done with the book. I am able to spend more time being domestic. I've been cooking and inviting kids over...things I haven't been able to do for a while as I was wrapping up the book. I can just sit back and enjoy life for a bit. It's...nice.

So on to my "announcement." Four years ago, I started writing a story about the whole roller-coaster ride that was being pregnant with my son. I posted my chapters as they came on my old blog but stopped after fourteen chapters because of internal and external chaos I was dealing with in my life. Back then, I wasn't strong or persistent enough to follow through on things I really wanted to complete. What the last few years have given me is a groundedness that has allowed me to accomplish a huge dream of mine: write a book. Yes, I've completed a 78,000 word novel that I am pretty darn happy with and it took every ounce of will-power and self-motivation to get there. As I continue on this journey to *hopefully* publish it, I am ready to take on a new adventure. Lo and behold, I am still drawn to this crazy amazing therapy I call writing and I still want to write. So...I AM GOING TO FINISH THE BABY STORY ONCE AND FOR ALL. And not just finish it, I am going to rewrite it from the beginning and extend the story beyond our Los Angeles lives to when we moved across the country to upstate NY. I will start writing it on November 1st and my goal is to finish it by King's Edward's fifth birthday next May. I am still deciding on whether or not I want to post chapters on this blog as I write them like I did for my last blog. Whatever I end up doing, it's going to get done. It's time. I need my closure. I need to move on.

Small harvest

Sunday, October 5, 2014

I keep going to the river to pray.

I'm sort of obsessed with Ella Henderson's song, Ghost. Yeah, I know. I'm a bit late to the party. Moving on...

On October 1st, I started my agent querying process. What this means is I have written a one-page letter begging asking agents to give my manuscript a chance. The best thing that can come out of this step is an agent will email me back wanting to read a portion of my manuscript or the whole thing. From there, said agent may or may not like the book. Let's say said agent does like the book and wants to represent the book. Then we will probably spend many more months doing more editing on the book before said agent will try to sell it to a publisher. Let's say a miracle happens and a publisher wants the book. A year or two may pass. I'll probably edit even more while the people at the publishing house work on marketing and book cover ideas and all the other literary stuff that those people work on. So if by the grace of God I somehow land an agent for this book, we may or may not (remember, the agent can't always sell the book) see it on the bookshelves in 2017. So how are my chances looking? Pretty good, right?

I've queried twenty agents since October 1st and have received two rejections. I don't take the rejections personally but the one I got tonight did throw me for a bit. The whole I've-spent-the-last-two-years-working-on-something-that-may-never-amount-to-anything reality is starting to sink in. I've been pretty delusional ever since moving to rural NY and giving big cities and corporate American the middle finger. I've all but disappeared from social media and the like minus my miniscule and quiet presence on this blog. No, I don't hate people and I am not hiding from the world. I am actually more in love with life than ever but I couldn't get here without getting here independently so no one and nothing can ever take my happiness and purpose away from me again. I've been on a path for the first time in my life finding my true self and purpose without the influence and noise from all the commotion around me. I needed a lot of space to reset and recalibrate, to find meaning in my journey without bringing along my past or the ways I've been conditioned. So even if nothing comes from my book, it wasn't for naught.

Because in the patient ritual of writing, I've found answers I didn't know I was looking for. And in those answers, I've found my peace and salvation. I am healed. Sometimes we just have to be that delusional to break free from what's been holding us back so we may take a huge step toward the one thing most people don't fight hard enough to keep: our dreams.

Fall is in full swing here in our neck of the woods.
Fall 2
After the rain, a tri-color sky.
Fall 2
My babes and I are still going to yoga on Sundays.
Stretch those toes out!
Fall 2
Babes surprised me by decorating our house with vinyl Halloween stickers. The stickers should have been sticky but they are a few years old so babes found some tape and taped the stickers on our windows all on his own.
Fall 2
My fall dinner tonight: Chicken French and rooted vegetables.
Apples 2
A picture I forgot to share from apple picking last week--MAGIC!