Kendal’s Elsa Costume Tutorial

Do you want to build a costume?

Seriously, I don’t know how I went from not even wanting to see the movie, to spending weeks making this costume. I’m such a sucker for a sparkly dress.

I made my dress in 2 seconds.
I made my dress in 2 seconds.

On about October 11, I started to make my Elsa costume for Halloween and for prancing around in Hollywood (what? The kids can do it….).  Since it’s been a large part of my life this past month, I figured I’d share the process here. It’s the most creative thing I’ve done in a while, so I’ve found it challenging and rewarding, and I’m proud of the outcome. Most of you regular readers probably won’t care and aren’t interested in making a dress for yourself, but this is for those wandering the internet who may want some tips.

It’s been a bit of trial and error, but I want to share what’s worked!

First! The supplies, and in some cases, quick links on where to find it.

Skirt material

Corset

Rhinestones – sorry, they were vintage. :-(

Shimmer Sheets

Quick shirt

DIY shirt fabric – I haven’t tried this yet but I’ve read that you should order samples, because the colours are different on the website.

Clear shoes

The easy shoes

Rhinestone strands, glue, Foamies, paint, etc, found at Joann Fabrics.

Now, step by step….

I purchased fabric for Elsa’s skirt on ebay (you can also find some on etsy.com), along with a basic white corset. I had a hard time finding the exact corset shape I wanted, and didn’t want to spend a lot on it, but what I got seems to work. It’s a bit difficult to sit in, and after putting all the shiny things on it I wouldn’t recommend driving in it!

First, I used a New Look pattern (6584) and modified it to create Elsa’s skirt. It worked well, fit great, but then the dry-cleaner kind of ruined the fabric (and I dripped super glue on it too….) and I got to make a new one. I lucked out and found patterns for $1 at Joann’s Fabric (OMG I found the master of all Joann’s…. it’s heaven…) right before making my new skirt, so now I’ve done it the “official” way. I do like it better.

$1? Gimme two! I've already ordered my tiara....
$1? Gimme two! I’ve already ordered my tiara….

 

My cat loves to help.
My cat loves to help.

For the corset, I began with hand sewing the same material over it, in case I had to use it before it was completed. It was a good thing I did that, because I’ve pooped out before finishing the back.

I bought some silver cord to lace it up in the back. I purchased blue as well, but it was too thick. I hope I can return that. Where is the receipt….?

I purchased some blue iridescent Shimmer Sheets and cut them into tiny little round-edged rectangles of various sizes. How many packages will depend on your size and how much of your coset you want to cover. To date, I’ve used 4 packs of them. Could use another pack or two, so I’m ordering that now! I tend to lose a few here and there and if I’m going to use it consistently I should have repair materials!

scraps

 

I bought a string of rhinestones at Joann’s… it’s actually 2 strands supposed to be some kind of trim, but I cut them apart. Later at the monster Joann’s I saw some beautiful rhinestones for $14.99 a yard. But even with the sale going on… I’ve spent so much on this. That will have to wait for the costume upgrade.

I used fabric glue for the “sequins” (what can I call these?) and superglue for the rhinestones. Though things still fall off if they’re in an area that bends. I’m wondering if there’s a solution to this? I thought of perhaps painting over the whole thing with some kind of clear, flexible protective layer but I’m not sure what will work. The glue seems to dissolve the colour on the sequins… I guess it would take some trial and error if I decide that’s the way to go.

I purchased the little rectangular rhinestones off of ebay, and alas, they were vintage so I can’t really point you to them. If you want to search for the exact things, the title was “Vintage 288 Swarovski Crystal Flat Back Baguette”.

This was the most time consuming part of my costume.

corset close corset front corset back

 

I confess, I cheated on the cape/train. Since I’d ordered the Chinese Elsa costume, I had that train available to me. I’d spent so much time on the corset and could see the train being a giant time-suck as well, so I used the pre-made one. If you want to do the same, you can find them on ebay from China (allow a month for shipping…) for about $60. Or less if you don’t want the same kind I got. It’s not bad, but the darn thing spreads glitter everywhere. It looks like there’s a constant party in my car, so be aware of that drawback to a glittered train. DON’T unpack it or wave it around indoors! Unless you like glitter. At some point I may make my own.

I purchased some tiny little nuts at a hardware store and glued them to a few points at the bottom of the train, to try and prevent it from just crumpling at my feet, and perhaps flow a little nicer behind me (but not outside, it gets so dirty if it touches the ground).

Speaking of my feet! I had a pair of silver shoes I’d used for Halloween but really lucked out the other day when I stopped into a Crossroads Trading Company. I found THESE!

 

Can't get much easier than this.
Can’t get much easier than this.

And what’s great is that they aren’t discontinued yet. I found them on Amazon! (click me, click me!)

OK, so they aren’t exactly Elsa’s ice shoes but oh my gosh, they match so well, and the shape is so close.

If you want heels, however… well, I can advise on that as well. :-)

While I was at Crossroads I also happened to find a pair of nude coloured heels with open sides, and an ankle strap (which seems like a good bonus to me). So I bought them too, so I could try my hand at making Elsa shoes worthy of a photoshoot. Heels always look better with long dresses….

So back to Joann’s, where I finally learned what Foamies are. I bought a blue Foamie for 99¢, some Foamie glue (which is kind of useless and I might return) and a bottle of FolkArt Metallic Acrylic Paint in Ice Blue.

Looking at the various pictures of Elsa’s shoes online, there are a few ways you can go. In the poster, they’re quite transparent, and you can find some clear shoes on Amazon (for $50+….but they aren’t pointed at the toes, and I like that look…. it’s also difficult to know what size to order when you can’t try them on…) or model them after her shoes in the film, which seem more solid. So that’s what I am going for. As much as I love the glass slipper look.

Take a close look at what we're dealing with here.
Take a close look at what we’re dealing with here.
Magical shoes!
Magical shoes!

I feel as though they have a bit of a greenish iridescence to them, I’m not sure if I will imitate that or not. I’ve made mine a little more likely to stay on my feet (not a fan of shoes that are hard to keep on, as these might be, plus, I didn’t feel like cutting the existing leather). I also made the design a little thicker, since I wanted it to be a little stronger and less likely to bend or rip/break off. I really can be a perfectionist, and I still wonder if I’ll redo it at some point…. most likely, yes, if I wear them out. It’s foam. It won’t last long.

If you want to take the long way...
If you want to take the long way…
Shine, make 'em wonder whatcha got....
Shine, make ‘em wonder whatcha got….

So far, I like the Foamies. It conforms well to the contours of the shoe.

After hot-gluing the Foamies to the shoes, I painted them with about 4 layers, and then decided to spray some sparkles on them as well. Then I sprayed seriously about a dozen layers of a clear protective spray (not sure where it is right now) to make them shiny and maybe tougher. They did last through a photo shoot, but there was some cracking. :-( I’m thinking another product I recently re-found (from my jewelry-making days) that says it’s more flexible might have been a better choice. Next time.

My feet are too smaaaaaaall.
My feet are too smaaaaaaall.

Elsa shoes

 

Backing up a bit to the sleeves/shirt. This also proved frustrating. I couldn’t find a good material for it at Joann’s, and I kind of dislike going downtown for things. So after making a temporary top from a non-stretchy mesh, I took some photos to a highly rated yet affordable seamstress I found on Yelp. The first draft was horrible. A right itchy mess. They also chose a non-stretchy mesh, covered in glitter which I found in my shoes a day later. I told her that it couldn’t be so itchy and glittery and I needed to be able to move my arms. So…. please try again. The next version was better… A blue sparkly (but not glitter-shedding) mesh on top of another skin-toned mesh… anyway to cut a long story short, she needed to extend the sleeves, cut the neckline down farther, and then I finally called it a day. By that point I’d found this on Amazon. So yeah, I ordered it. Because I’m a perfectionist and it’s the closest I’d seen. If it’s made for dancers, I’m pretty sure it’s made so that you can move your arms above your head. Like this girl.

dance shirt

 

Someone else had pointed out a good shirt on ebay that was slightly more off-the-shoulder, but they were all sold out and never plan on being in stock again. So forget that.

It arrived quickly, and I have to say, it was REALLY bright blue. So off I went to Joann’s for some Design Master Colortool Spray in Blue Sky. And I got to work, praying I wasn’t going to just ruin the whole thing.

Don't mess up, don't mess up....
Don’t mess up, don’t mess up….

I managed to do a good job, but after some wear, it started rubbing off in some places. I don’t know if it would make it through a round in the washer. I also still want to cut the neckline but I’m afraid of just ruining it. I’m not going to attempt putting the silver patterns on this one, because the colour isn’t staying well so I don’t know if it’s worth that much effort. It did give me an idea for the other shirt, and I’m going to see about buying some elastic and altering it, since the other one seems to get bunchy at the top.

Hmmm. OK, last but not least (I think… am I forgetting anything?) The hair. I ordered clip in extensions from aliexpress.com and they’re OK. I ordered them 30 inches long, and I’ve trimmed them a bit because I have trouble with it getting tangled. It takes 15 minutes to braid my hair in the morning. Well, I think I’ve gotten faster, actually. My hair is kind of blue, so I tried to dye a few strands to match, so it would blend to the end. Here’s a pre-blended photo:

Get your hair done!
Get your hair done!

Then, the last detail to arrive before my first photo shoot were these lovely snowflake hair clips (purchased on Amazon). Which you can’t see at all in the photo I’m going to share.

snowflakes

And now….

Wait for it…

This is going to be awesome…

Kendal Brenneman, as Queen Elsa….

 

I can't stop staring... at myself... is that OK?
I can’t stop staring… at myself… is that OK?

So since I know you can’t see everything I made (except the shoes), here are some un-retouched photos so you can get a good look at the front of the dress.

elsa 1

 

 

elsa 2

I know her train begins a little farther under her arms, but mine must have been made for a big-chested girl, so it wraps around me a little farther. Ah well. Overall, I’m pleased with things. I would still love to perfect the sleeves, but I need a rest for now, before the next project….

Queen

Let me know what you think….

I Am Your Queen

So as you may or may not know, I started work on a Queen Elsa costume almost as soon as I hit the runway in L.A. I had originally ordered one off of Aliexpress that I was excited about…. until it arrived. They had assured me that it would fit my 5’7″ frame and 25 inch waist… well the waist was OK, but the rest of the dress was made for someone several inches shorter. It looked like Elsa shrank her dress in the wash (why didn’t she use cold water?!). So I immediately opened a case there (which I am still fighting, because I had such a short amount of time to make a new dress that I decided to use the cape, and we can’t agree on a refund amount. I hadn’t the time to order or make a new one). I’ll let you know how that goes.

My sister couldn't be here today. I have to keep making excuses for her.
My sister couldn’t be here today. I have to keep making excuses for her.

So anyway! My brilliant plan was to not only make use of my blue hair for Halloween (I know her hair isn’t blue, I just can’t get it back to white…) but to have a little part time work walking Hollywood Blvd in costume. Yep, back to doing that. But this time as a princess! THE most popular princess EVER.

I forgot, however, how obsessive I can get about costumes. As of today, I have spent over $300 to create this costume (including about $40 in new make-up. It’s organic). I actually had to order more material to make a new skirt, because I dripped super glue on it, and then the dry cleaners did something to it that picked at all the silver thread and made it extremely itchy. I also think it may have shrank, because that side seam just keeps inching it’s way up….

My new friend!
My new friend!

On the positive side to that is that when I went to Joann Fabrics yesterday for a zipper, I found new Simplicity Frozen patterns (new to me, I hadn’t seen them before and nobody had mentioned them online!) and they were $1 (down from $20! So many parenthesis today!). So instead of modifying a skirt pattern, now I can just use the “real” Elsa skirt pattern. Perhaps it will lay better with the split in the side accounted for in the pattern.

$1? Gimme two! I've already ordered my tiara....
$1? Gimme two! I’ve already ordered my tiara….

I haven’t worked many days on the boulevard, and some have definitely been better than others, but I’m actually beginning to find it enjoyable. As Catwoman, no little girls were running up to you, throwing themselves around your knees, crying “Elsa’s here! I knew she would be here soon! I can’t believe it!” I’m really enjoying the ability to make a little girl’s day. I just keep hoping I live up to their expectations. I’ve even rigged up a levitation trick with a snowflake, but I’ve had problems with it and didn’t set it up this weekend.

Not to mention the everyday weirdness of Hollywood...
Not to mention the everyday weirdness of Hollywood…

I’m actually sad that it’s the “off-season”, and not just because I can’t make money on weekdays, but because now I do look forward to going out there. OK, it’s not my dream job, but I can excite so many people simply by putting on a costume. By becoming someone else. I hear my name (“Elsa!”) every few minutes, people waving from cars, people who haaaave to take a picture with me for their daughter/niece. I start to wonder if this is how it feels to be someone like Kiera Knightley or Angelina Jolie, or any celebrity you might recognize walking down the street. Of course, they aren’t wearing a bright blue, sparkly dress everywhere they go. I’m an easy target.

Though I enjoy brightening people’s days, it can also be a little depressing at times. When people take a photo with you, and you say “we don’t charge for it, but we work for tips….” and they just walk away laughing. Laughing?! Do you laugh at your waiter, too? Oh, silly people, wanting money for services…. And then come the days where the theatre is hosting a premiere. Last week it was Interstellar. From across the sidewalk, I stared at a huge screen where Anne Hathaway was projected in her lovely gown… I looked down at mine. My homemade princess dress. I’m out here asking for tips, she’s over there celebrating actual work. I had to leave early that day. It was hard to go back out there after that. Even getting texts from friends saying, “hey, I just drove down Hollywood Blvd, I think I saw you!” can be a little depressing. They’re on their way somewhere, doing something fun, probably. Heading to the beach? I don’t know. But everyone walking by, and I assume people in the fancy cars, are all dressed nice, wearing heels, dresses, doing something more with their lives…. No part of them thinks, “yeah, I should dress up like a Disney princess to earn some money.” That’s just what goes through my head sometimes. I’m sure plenty of them hate their jobs. :-D

That's just... stellar.
That’s just… stellar.

Perhaps because I feel I’m in a rut I don’t know how to get out of, but this costume has become my life. I’ve been focusing on it almost exclusively. The excuse is that I can use it for work. I have even sent emails to companies that do children’s parties, since they pay well. But really, I think it’s my creative outlet, and also a way to transform myself into the beautiful, magical being that I want to be. Though that beautiful, magical being cannot drive a car in a corset made of sequins and rhinestones….

An Elsa selfie
An Elsa selfie

I think, because of the popularity of Queen Elsa, I will put together a post about my costume, a little “how to” with lovely photos. I’m going to be doing a photoshoot in the next week or so, and I want to include one of those photos to show the fabulousness of it. :-) It may not be a solution to world hunger, or a contribution to world peace, or anything like that, but if I can help someone else in their quest to feel like a princess, well, then I’ll do that.

The Fatcats Discuss FATCA

The alarm rings. 7 AM. The room is still dark. I inch out of bed and make a morning smoothie. I don’t know what to expect, where I’m going today.

I take the metro to the other side of the river. I know I’ve found my destination by the small gathering of Americans outside. Once we’ve introduced ourselves (and realize that the door is open), we proceeded into the building.

I look up as we enter to see three clotheslines hanging above, all draped with red and pink clothing.

“Someone likes to wear a lot of red,” I said. I’m told it has a special significance.

We sign in and enter a room with a long table, crowded with chairs. I hang up my coat and hat by the door.

The room is filled with Americans. Americans living in Paris and elsewhere who have come to learn more about the issue we all have in common.

Senator Lee and lawyer James Bopp are introduced.

Why were we here? What is so important?

Mmm Bopp (sorry, I couldn't help myself)
Mmm Bopp (sorry, I couldn’t help myself)

You may not be familiar with the plight of the expat, but once you leave the US, you certainly start learning quickly. Did you know that if you reside outside of the US, as a citizen you still must file your tax returns? Even if you didn’t make a dime on US soil. Even if you haven’t set foot there in years. Even if you have never set foot inside the US in your life. If you are a proud holder of a US passport and citizenship – you file. Not only that, but if you earn over a certain amount you will owe taxes on it. Sure, those double taxation treaties are handy – up to a point, and that point is around $99,000. Which is about 80,000€ I believe. Less, in pounds.

Not only that, but you must declare any bank accounts that you have if you hold over $10,000 (all together) in them, plus any assets. I’m sure there’s even more to it that I can’t remember at the moment. But if you don’t file those papers, you could be in for a fine of up to 50% of the highest value in your account.

This is why were here here. Senator Lee shared his thoughts on FATCA (the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) and the FBAR form (which Mr. Bopp called the FUBAR form), and how they were planning on fighting it for us. The whole thing is just plain unconstitutional. Our own government is picking on a minority of people who don’t even live in the country (so it’s hard for us to fight back, I suppose), and costing not only us but the world more money than they even stand to take in. Americans are being denied bank accounts because of what the US government is demanding from banks. Accounts are being closed. Companies are being urged not to hire Americans. Lives are being destroyed.

I know not many people in America will care, because it’s not happening to them, and perhaps you’ll think it’s in the name of security, or catching tax cheats. OK, so the government is throwing a net into the ocean with the goal of catching one kind of fish, but in that dragnet they are also dragging in many, many other species… animals that they don’t care about, and toss aside. Maybe save them, you can get a little money from them too. Doesn’t matter, we caught our fish, right? (yeah, think about that when you eat fish – it happens).

But what’s next? If they are allowed to get away with destroying the lives of thousands, if not millions, of Americans living abroad… what’s to stop them from getting greedier and applying the same measures to everyone at home? Soon they will also know about where all of your money is, and how much you have. They’ll know everything about you. Although, they probably already do…. but then add to that the cruel and unusual punishment of excessive fines and fees for not “confessing” everything they “need” to know about you.

FATCA, FBAR, and the citizenship-based income tax are all horrible, horrible consequences of being an American who chooses to live in another part of the world. Many Americans are being forced to make the difficult decision to give up their citizenship, for no other reason but that the government is not allowing them to keep what is rightfully theirs – their money, and a reasonable expectation of privacy. FATCA violates not just one of our constitutional rights, but at least 3.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

 

The French people I have talked to about these issues think it is absolutely insane, and they can’t conceive of the notion that a government would be so invasive and greedy, to tax and fine you even if you have never set foot on their soil. Why are we OK with this?

To top it off, bills like this get passed as add-ons to other long, unrelated bills. The Senator told us one bill got passed in the following manner: 1AM on New Year’s Day he received an email with a 150 page attachment of a bill he was to vote on. While printing out page 13, 6 minutes later, they were asked to vote on it. This is how our bills get passed. They don’t even get read. Something is wrong with the way our country is run. Bills aren’t being passed to help you, or me. Our government doesn’t care about us. Last year I earned about $15,000. And if you know what rent is like these days in large cities, you know that over half of what I earned went to rent. The rest to food and debt, basically. And yet, when the accountant tallied up my tax return, I owed the government a whopping $1800. I cried. It was everything I had managed to save. Which was a step better than the year before, when I had to put about the same amount on my credit card. But even that is part of the debt I’m paying off this year. Thank you, America.

But that’s another issue. I just wanted to make you aware of FATCA, and the challenges one faces when venturing out of the US. Those thousands of people who have renounced their citizenship? You know how they’re punished for that? They get a whole month every year to visit the US. One month. Oh, even if you don’t expatriate and you simply live in another country, if you spend over 5 weeks out of the year in the US, you have to have ObamaCare. Yes, you do. Giving up your citizenship also has had a sharp rise in the actual fee, as well. Before this summer, the fee was around $450. Now it’s been raised to nearly $2350 (Forbes). If you are considered “wealthy,” there is also a hefty exit tax. So you basically have to be financially secure enough to afford the $2350 fee, but not too financially secure as to avoid the government deciding to just steal a chunk of your money on the way out. And forget about visiting family or friends for any length of time. Though your foreign spouse can spend several months in the US, if they so desire.

We can’t just sit back and allow our government to discriminate against a minority (though 6 million+ is not a small number!) of our citizens because it’s not a problem that we all face. As human beings, we have the right to live and work and enjoy the fruits of our labour, the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy, and the right to not be punished by a government simply because you happened to have been born in a certain part of the world. Nobody can control where they’re born, any more than they can control the colour of their skin, or their sexual orientation (I know we debate that one, stick with me). So why do we allow this? Why do we allow our government to punish people simply because they happened to be born in a place other than where they want to live? You may not believe in God, but I do, and I believe as human beings, we have no borders. Nationalities are just ideas in the minds of men, and we subscribe to it because we were told we had to. There is no America, no France, no Mexico, no Canada. There’s earth. There are people. I don’t belong to a land mass with an invisible (or barbed) fence around it. Nobody has the right to know where my money is, how much I have, what I spend it on, who I talk to, what I’m doing…. anything. And anybody who wants those rights does not have my best interest at heart.

The government does not see us as people, as individuals. Simply other fish caught in the net. We are little ATMs, little money-making machines that they can use and discard. Because they don’t care if we can pay our rent, or eat. They don’t care. And they are going to keep testing the limits, pushing the boundaries, until we say enough, and push back hard enough.

So push back with me. Stand up for our rights. If you’re an American living abroad, look up AARO (The Association of American Residents Overseas) for starters. Look up Senator Mike Lee of Utah. Write to your senators and congressmen. Vote for the ones who support the Constitution, and our rights.

Don’t wait until they come for you…

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Talk to Strangers

I think I grew up pretty shy. Or at least my grandma kept telling me I was shy. I was nervous to talk to people, hated making phone calls (still do), and wasn’t all that adventurous. And of course I was given that advice not to talk to strangers.

As I grow older, and travel more, that barrier to interaction with others has been slowly breaking down. I had to do some internal work on some of it, a lot of talking myself into doing things, and a lot of leaping before I had a chance to see if the water was cold or not.

Coming to Paris alone that first time, and then moving here, really helped force me out of my shell. I had to talk to people I didn’t know. I had to make new friends. And once I started doing it more often, the easier it got.

But I still face resistance. Many times I will be walking along and notice something about a person that makes me want to just run up to them and say, “I think you’re beautiful!” But I don’t. That would be weird, right?

Last week, I was walking in the Marais and passed a young man taping some beautiful photographs to a wall. Elephants, people… I slowed to look, but kept walking. Something in my brain said, “stop and tell him you think they’re beautiful!” And immediately another voice cut it off saying, “no, he’ll try to get you to buy something, keep walking.” I let the voices debate for a few more minutes as I walked on auto-pilot. I finally stopped, feigning interest in my phone so I didn’t look like I’d totally left planet earth and forgot to take my body with me.

Then I turned around.

Silly voice, saying “oh, you’re going to look dumb, walking back, and then turning around again to go in the direction you came from.” I thought about crossing the street, or going around the block. I didn’t though.

I approached him and asked if he had taken the pictures. To my relief, he spoke English, and we began chatting about the photography. He and a friend apparently make an annual 6 month trip to India to take photos. He is from Germany, but travels around a bit, and likes to sell his photographs on the street specifically so that he can have more interaction with people.

Another man stopped to talk for a few minutes, discussing photography with the photographer, whose name I now knew was Peter.

I finally decided to go on my way again, but not without first exchanging email addresses. You never know! I love to keep in touch with interesting people. I also took a photo of the photographer and his work to share with you here. He does not currently have a website or any photos online, but if that changes, I will update this post so you can admire and perhaps buy one of his prints.

Peter the Photographer

 

Anyway, I felt really good that I listened to the inner voice telling me to step outside of my comfort zone. There are many times I’m in the street and have the thought to tell someone I think their hair is awesome, or I love their coat, or I like their music, but something always stops me. In L.A., I am more inclined to talk to women on the street (or men even) about what they’re wearing, because we’re speaking my native language and I don’t have that fear of simply speaking. But I clam up here. I can’t just say something in passing, because it takes me too long to even form the sentence. And then good luck understanding any response. I’m also told it’s not common here for strangers to just talk to each other like that. As for artists, I feel bad when I can’t buy something from them, or donate. But then again is the language barrier. I am still extremely shy when it comes to speaking French. I need to make much more of an effort to learn and become comfortable with it.

But I really want to. Whenever I think about these things that I “can’t” do because I feel limited by language, it pushes me to work harder. I want to share encouragement with people, put a smile on their faces, interact and make friends, let someone know they’re appreciated in some way, that they’re not invisible and maybe I think they’re wearing a cool hat. I know I appreciate it when I get nice compliments from men in the street (and yes, most of the time they are pleasant compliments! I’ve gotten several on my hair colour, and some on my hats) and I think we all ought to take note that unexpected compliments or words of encouragement are welcomed by nearly everyone.

I know it’s not always a language thing. We can also be afraid of how the other person will react. Or maybe we don’t even know why we’re afraid to talk to people we don’t know. I mean, it doesn’t seem like there are any real logical reasons not to (unless they look drunk/angry/crazy). But I guess what we should try to do is just be true to ourselves and let other people react how they will. Most likely, you will get a positive response (or maybe none. Several times I’d get an unexpected compliment in passing, and be too confused about it to react, other than turning to look at the person and smile. Yeah, I’m slow. I also have to go through the translation process to figure out if something was a compliment or not).

So…go talk to some strangers! You’ll meet some amazing people, and there will be one less stranger in your world. :-)

Our Life is Frittered Away By Detail

How difficult it is to be simple
Or Irving Stone.

We come into the world with nothing, basically. No clothes, toys, bills, we’re even given a break on being forced to file our tax returns for several years. We don’t worry about rent or food (under normal circumstances, I mean).

Then we gradually begin to accumulate. We accumulate toys, and papers, emails and apps, responsibilities, bills, contracts, receipts, debt…

We’re like beautiful, shining stones rolling down snowy hills, turning into snowballs, getting heavier and heavier with snow and grass and dirt until we’re weighted down and can’t even remember what we really are anymore. So many things attach themselves to us and demand our attention, and we do it thinking we’re being productive and responsible.

For me, it’s gotten to be too much. With my wanderlust, I’ve found I have too many things weighing me down. Too many pairs of shoes, too many papers. Too many obligations. My interests are many and my focus is scattered between them, but even the things I have passion for don’t get as much of my attention as I would like to give them, because of the other things I’ve tied myself to. If I were to add up the hours I spend on taking care of things I’ve gotten myself into…!!!

 

“Reduce the complexity of life by eliminating the needless wants of life, and the labors of life reduce themselves.”

~ Edwin Way Teale

 

So this year I have been trying to step up my efforts at simplifying my life. Oh, I won’t stop traveling and doing what I love, but I will be able to enjoy it more once I’ve stripped away the grass and dirt and snow that I’ve accumulated. It’s been a slow process and I’m anxious to make major progress with it, but the main areas I’m tackling are these:

1. Email. See that number there on my phone? Yeah. I have way too many unread email, and too much email in general in my inbox. This comes from all the varied interests I’ve pursued, the newsletters and blogs I subscribed to but then never could keep up with. This area of life, the cluttered inbox, may be more psychologically overwhelming since I don’t need to read the emails and they don’t do harm by being in there (other than using up space), but that’s enough for me to try to organize my inbox. I feel it would help me focus more and waste less time if I really decide what’s important to get updates on.

My Cluttered Life
My Cluttered Life

Action: Every day I browse my new emails for something that I can unsubscribe to. I unsubscribe and go through all the old emails from that sender. I save a few useful ones and am finally making use of the archive tab. But I’m slowly chipping away at the pile of emails and the landslide I receive on a daily basis. That number was actually around 35k a few weeks ago.

 

2. Apps. See above. I don’t even use most of the apps on my phone. I read about them and downloaded them to try since they were free. There are apps for everything! And I find that awesome and very tempting. I even have an app to learn sign language. Which I haven’t opened yet. Apps are so amazingly useful, but I need to limit it to what I will actually use. Too much clutter. Taking up too much space (though not as much as my photo album, which I use as kind of a notepad, snapping pictures of pages in magazines and books, and taking screenshots of things online). I use my phone every day, so I feel it would be best to keep it simple and reflective of the growing simplicity of the rest of my life.

Action: Almost every day, when I have time to explore the apps, I will pop one open and try it out. Right now I’m going through the ones that are there to help me learn French. I discard the ones I don’t think I will be using, and keep the ones that I do find myself using more regularly. I downloaded several free texting apps, since different friends have used different ones, but after going through my French apps I’m going to focus on the social ones and decide which ones I think are the best and delete the rest.

 

3. Clothing. I love clothing, and as someone who occasionally does some modeling and survives with background work when I’m in L.A., a large selection comes in very handy. You could probably say I’m addicted to shopping at Crossroads Trading Company as well. I love getting “new” clothes, and this place is like crack for me. Unfortunately, storing clothing is a pain, especially while traveling. Packing and unpacking, and storing and even this process of elimination has been taking up way too much of my time. I need to really rip through this and be done with it. It’s just not very easy for me. Come on, look at that dress!

 

green dress
Wanna buy my dress?

Action: First I’m going through and selling or donating everything I know I haven’t worn lately and probably will never wear again. I’ve also decided to put together sort of a collection of pictures representing the clothing and styles that I would like my wardrobe to be composed of. I will edit down my closet to be just what I like to wear all the time, with pieces that can be easily mixed and matched. Of course, this depends on what kind of money I have, to create this wardrobe. :-/ I want more skirts and dresses with nice little waistlines. And less jeans. I have too many jeans. Want some jeans? I’ll trade you. This process is moving slowly along. Selling clothing isn’t as easy in France. Garage sale and ebay time once I get back to L.A. I made over $1000 last year selling clothes on ebay. Not too bad.

 

4. My mobile home. I loved living there. But I haven’t for ages, so I keep renting it out… and not at a profit. It’s not my home anymore and it’s become a burden to me with the constant threat of repairs, finding new tenants, home insurance, property tax (even though I don’t own the property….)… I need it out of my life so that I don’t have a mobile home hanging over my head everywhere I go.

Action: Get out of it. I’ve been aggressively seeking solutions to this one, but no matter which potential answer I find, it’s one that I can’t afford. I have an owner-financed loan so I pay my mortgage to the previous owner. It’s lost a lot of value since I bought it though. The two options I seem to have right now are either to sign it back over to him, or to convince him to sell it to one of the people who is interested in buying it. Either way, I will most likely be faced with a massive tax bill to repay the First Time Home Buyer’s Credit (if I knew that this was how it worked, I wouldn’t have taken it…) next year, and on my income I don’t know how I would pay it. I would also have to give the current tenant their deposit back, which basically makes up all I have in the bank. If I were to sign it back over to him, he would demand more repairs be made, which I (duh) also don’t have money for, but if it was sold, I think it would be “as is,” which would eliminate that cost from the equation. I proposed trading it back to him for my initial down payment, but he refused that and just wants it back along with all the repairs I’ve already made($3000+), a massive new shed ($2000+), plus more unspecified repairs. Which seems unfair to me, because then it’s basically like I gave him $12k in 2008, then rented from him for 6 years and paid all the costs of upkeep, taxes, and insurance for him. What a great situation for a landlord. No thank you. No deal. The best (but still not financially ideal for me) solution for everyone at this time seems to be a short-sale, but apparently he used his retirement money to buy this mobile home (why, don’t ask me. Mobile homes have a shelf life, rent rises every year… real property or precious metals would have been my pick) and although he would certainly get enough to buy real property somewhere (like Spain!) with what he would salvage from the mobile home, it seems he would prefer to keep it in a 40+ year old vehicle on land he doesn’t own. I would still lose money, but at least wouldn’t have to pay for further repairs, and if he was generous enough perhaps he could agree to a few thousand from the sale to cover costs of things I did repair and replace (though I doubt it).  He’s made quite a lot in interest over the past 6 years so I don’t know what he’s stuck on…  We’re all a little stuck. But I keep trying. Because I want out.

 

5. Time management. This one is the hardest one of all for me. I like to travel, so I don’t have a regular job that dictates what free time I have and makes sure I have a steady income. My income is very irregular and when I’m in L.A. I have several jobs that make up my income. But no set days or hours for anything. So it’s been very difficult to say “here are the things I want to spend time on, and I will do it for this long each day at this time each day.” It’s near impossible, really. I’m daily trying to figure out how to earn more income, so that I can relax and focus more on the things I really want to do (which may or may not bring an income). Today for example, I feel that I have not done anything very productive. I read a lot of interesting things, replied to some email, dyed my hair, made lunch, and here I am writing the first blog post in months. After this I intend to do some writing on a little book I want to put out on Amazon. I’m really trying to do something that makes me feel like I’m creating and living my purpose. But this still means I have to spend time today working on the website that pays the bills, and piecing together other ways I can earn money for the other debt in my life (and to make it easier to get out of that mobile home!). Oh all the things I want to do. I want to focus on improving my photography, practice piano, learn how to use this music program on my computer, finish the short movie about my dog (which is unfortunately stuck on the broken hard drive, unless I want to start all over again with the editing), write songs, write a script, practice energy healing… shoot. So much to do.

“The waste of life occasioned by trying to do too many things at once is appalling.” ~ Orison Marden

Action. This is the big one that I don’t have an answer for. I sit with my notebook day after day making lists, trying to narrow down what I really love, what I should focus on, a plan of action, a goal…. and I haven’t solved it yet. I feel that I have so many “little things” that get in the way and need dealt with before I can get to what matters. I suppose, in general, my action for this one is to clear away as many of the unnecessary elements to my life so that I have the space to focus more on the big things. Finishing with the email purge, the app purge, getting my belongings down to the basics… once those are complete I won’t have to be tackling them every day. It just feels never-ending.

 

Freedom

 

I definitely have held onto some commitments that perhaps were good for me at one time, but are not good for me now. And some commitments we never even really agreed to, but were just thrust into (like citizenship!). I want to strip away as much as I can, to get to the point where I can carefully choose the things I am committed to. Just dump out the clutter drawer of life so I can see the bottom and decide what goes back in and what doesn’t.

Quotation-Albert-Einstein-simple-simplicity-Meetville-Quotes-216754

 

So now it’s time to move on with my day and figure out what else I can do to progress with the things I love, simplify a little more, and figure out that whole income problem. I’ve spent way too much time in this limbo. I really anticipate getting out and looking around and being able to say, “I feel free!”

 

“Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.”

~ Frederic Chopin

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”

~ Henry David Thoreau

 

For more quotes about simplicity and life, there’s a really good list here! Pick your favourites for motivation. :-)

Are you doing anything to make or keep your life simple? Have any tips for me?

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore, Toto….

Uh-oh, I’m starting to get a little bad at keeping y’all updated here. Sometimes I’m just not sure what to write about. Other travel bloggers give advice and insight, and I don’t always feel like I have that. Others just talk about their journeys… but I always wonder if people really want to hear about everyday life. I started this blog to help me focus on the things I wanted to do… create, learn, and give. To connect with creative minds around the world, to learn about the world, and to give whatever I could, wherever I could. But my financial situation has been frustrating my attempts at this life. I have a lot of exciting ideas, things I want to do, and I pursue them no matter what, but sometimes I have to make sacrifices. Life doesn’t pause for you when you’d like it to! In the back of my mind, I keep thinking I should go live in Thailand where life is cheap, work online, and come back when I have savings.

Instead, I’m back in France, and have been shutting myself in trying to make progress on some creative work and my online work. I’d been looking forward to this time for a while but now that I’m here, I’ve got singers-block or something! Actors-block… everything. I feel so unproductive. I’m still making efforts, but I can’t help but bounce around anxiously from one task to another and wonder what the point of everything is. You know sometimes when you have some big goals but you’re not sure where to start… you start by preoccupying yourself with little goals that make you feel busy? Well, I do. And the past two weeks I’ve preoccupied myself trying to find a specific product for the upkeep of my new hair color.

Lavender blue, dilly dilly...
Lavender blue, dilly dilly…

 

Toner does not seem to exist in France. Here has been the process of trying to find it (and taking my mind off of the other more important things I should be doing). Or you can watch my video cry for help.

1. Locate salon supplies stores (something like Sally’s Beauty Supplies).

2. Visit one called Delorme, purchase blue bleach powder (so there’s no yellow, they tell me!) and developer.

3. Go to another salon supply store after bleaching my roots yellow, in search of toner. I get told I would have to bleach it more but I shouldn’t because it’s damaged. I keep trying to explain I won’t get it white by bleaching it more.

4. Go back to Delorme. Get sold some purple shampoo.

5. Go back to Delorme after the purple shampoo does nothing, and searching again on my own. Found a “blond toning” tube. Figured I’d try that.

6. Go back to Delorme after that doesn’t work and being told by a friend that I need to search for something called an eclaircessant. Salesperson returns with a small jar of purple stuff called “white toner.” OK. So you DO know the word “toner.” Now.

7. Throw up hands in disgust after this toner does nothing as well.

8. Happen to go into a Monoprix where they have a décoloration (whatever) in the hair dye section. Looks like she’s got white hair. I’ll try that.

9. Realize I’ve got a patch of spiky hair on the top of my head after this latest experiment, where I’ve melted my hair off. Clumps of hair like I’ve never seen clog my brush and the shower drain.

10. Brush my bangs back, put in more purple, and call it a day. Finally decide to order toner from the US.

I don’t know how anybody dyes their hair here.

I’m really loving the white and purple though. A real shame that I’ve hurt my hair so much in France trying to keep it up though. I’m slathering on the coconut oil and other hair products, and I think I’ll survive.

So yes. There’s that.

And if you’d like a little slice of French life, I have a story for you (cleaned up from my Yelp review of a certain restaurant…). Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not always a negative person. It was just out of the ordinary. There are plenty of good things about Paris and the people who live here! :-) But I feel obliged to warn people away from places that give bad customer service. I firmly believe in good customer service, and treating everyone kindly!!

So two friends and I went out to enjoy the Fête de la Musique last Saturday evening, and around 11pm snagged a small table at this café from which we intended to order some drinks and fries and enjoy the music in the square. I wasn’t timing our server, but it took at least 15 minutes until we were noticed. That’s OK, we weren’t in a rush, and it was a busy night. When he arrived, he asked if we were eating or drinking, and refused to serve us if we were only drinking. We clarified that we were also getting some fries. This seemed acceptable. He laid out some napkins. He later came back to get our orders. Friend #1 ordered a drink and the 2 orders of fries. Friend #2 wanted a hot drink, but he said they couldn’t serve that, so she continued to look at the menu. I was dying for some water to kill an oncoming dehydration headache, so I asked for a carafe. He yanked away our menus and spouted off a stream of French at us to the effect that he wouldn’t serve us water. We were so shocked we barely knew how to reply, and he walked off. 

For the next 20 minutes or so he ignored us, except when debating with my friends (whose French is much better than mine), one of whom is familiar with the law (having been a lawyer) who told him it’s against the law to refuse water. In the midst of this debate, I watched him wipe snot from his mustache with his bare finger, and go on to hand plates to the table next to us. He got within inches of my friend’s face at one point as she sat in her chair, and she held up her hands telling him to back off. When friend #1 went to find the manager, he took her chair and folded it up, putting it to the side. Friend #2 promptly went to rescue it, and then took her turn at finding management.

The owner of the restaurant brushed her aside several times, and another waitress appeared from behind the counter (at this point we were inside the restaurant, having given up the idea of staying there) to yell in my friend’s face. I was honestly concerned that she was going to get violent. My friend is a lovely, tiny girl, and for our massive server and this other waitress to get so physically threatening towards her was just shocking.

So, after being refused service in this manner, around midnight we left. A whole hour had passed in which he could have served us and everyone would have been content. Our table was as good as empty for that hour. So I could not see the logic in refusing to serve us.

And what is this place called? La Terrasse Sainte Catherine, in the Marais. You’ll know them by their servers wearing overalls.

La Terrasse of No Service
La Terrasse of No Service

 

I would just say don’t go there.

Let’s see, let’s see…. Well, I think this post is long enough for now. I’ll save something for next time! Though I have one more thing for you. I should have waited until I dyed my hair to do this one… But it just came to me one day while I was in LA, and I decided to record it right then and there! I’m really surprised I don’t have more views, Frozen parodies are just huuuuuuge right now! Share it if you like it.

 

A Day in Hollywood

Once in a while, someone will tell me that I should do more video blogs, talk more about my day-to-day life, take you on my adventures… the way I used to on my trips to Paris. The truth is, most of my days aren’t very exciting. I’ll either spend a lot of time on the computer trying to earn some money, or I’ll be doing background work on a show that only requires me to walk back and forth, or sit in one place, and it’s not all that exciting.

But yesterday turned out to be such a Hollywood day. I would love more days like this. And because it was so entertaining, I figured it would be a great thing to share! I apologize for not taking video, it’s not always the first thing on my mind, plus my iPhone has dust in the lens and I’m trying to get that fixed.

I arrived to set early today, as I usually do, and ordered a vegetarian breakfast burrito from the catering truck. Base camp was in a church parking lot, and no chairs or tables had been set up, so I ate it standing around with the other background actors (extras).

Once we checked in, we were bussed over to location, which was supposed to resemble a university in Paris. We were French students in a clown school. One of the actors ended up being placed right behind me, so I twisted myself around to chat. In English, though, because I’m still embarrassed about my French. No matter what I want to say, there are so many words I still grasp for.

After “class”, we all changed into our movement class outfits.

Here to save the day.
Here to save the day.

And guess where that class was?

If you cant read that, it says Scientology.
If you cant read that, it says Scientology.

Our holding was in a lovely courtyard, and we filmed in a small grassy area on the other side of the building. I was so curious as to what was inside, but the only part I saw was the lobby on my way to use the bathroom, which smelled strongly like some sort of hand-sanitizer.

So we jumped around like turtles for a while, and then our day was done! And the fun continued….

Earlier in the day, a new friend of mine a friend of a friend) emailed me an invite to a movie premiere and after-party. So I changed as quickly as I could and headed straight down Hollywood Blvd to the Egyptian theatre. I arrived an hour after the movie had begun, and the outer courtyard was looking quite empty, except for 3 security guards and a few star-stalkers. As I was talking to the guards, asking for the person I was supposed to check in with, Amanda Peet exited and encountered the autograph-seekers (a handful of middle aged men who probably sell the photos). Out of the corner of my eye I saw her (reluctantly) take a picture with one of them, as another insisted he had seen her at some certain bar or restaurant or something, while she said she had never been there. As she climbed into her chauffeured car, he protested that yes, that was where he met her for the first time. She still denied it, and left.

Meanwhile in my own world, security told me everyone had wrapped up and gone inside, since the movie had started an hour earlier. I texted my friend and stood on the sidewalk, while security wandered into the theater. I was left alone. I inched my way up to the theater doors, while still waiting for a reply. I could see the security farther inside, and decided to try the doors. They were locked. Another woman soon joined me outside, also late. We stood by the doors until someone else approached and opened them. We explained that we were late, and he let us in. Tadaaaaa! We both found seats to the front of the theater.

After the movie, I tried to find my friend. He had rushed off to the after-party after I told him I had made it in, to see if he could get me a wristband. Otherwise, I wouldn’t make it into the party (and I’d be a little irked that I’d chosen to pay $10 for parking simply to see half a movie). I decided to walk the 9 minutes to Hemingway’s and hope for the best.

On the way, I heard two men saying something about “do you know where we’re going?” and I figured they had come from the premiere as well. I approached them to ask.

“Hey, did you just come from the screening?”

“Yeah”

“I’m going to walk with you, you can be my protection.”

Because walking down Hollywood Blvd in the middle of the night is not exactly something I’m comfortable with.

We walked and talked, and when we got closer to the bar, I explained that I’d have to wait outside for my friend. But my new friends Boyd and Patrick (can I say that? Are you a friend if you may never see a person again?) decided it was worth a shot to try to get me in with them. And it worked. Once inside, we all got free drinks (red wine for me!) and I had to beg off to go locate my friend. Later in the night, I danced a song or two with them, but we didn’t get a chance to speak further.

It was fairly uneventful, just a lot of people dancing, eating little hors d’oeuvres, talking, etc. My friend really wanted to compliment Felicity Huffman, so at one point we went over to her as she was on the dance floor with her friends, and introduced ourselves.

“Hi, I’m Felicity!”

“Hi! Kendal.”

She leaned in.

“Kendal?”

“Yeah!”

“That’s my middle name!”

“Oh, cool!”

It was hard to hear people talking over the music, as we were standing pretty close to the DJ booth. But after short conversation with my friend, she said something about dancing and being old. She had a really warm and friendly personality, and was thoroughly enjoying herself on the dance floor. It’s funny, I only really know her as Lynette on Desperate Housewives, and now this movie (Trust Me). Apparently she and many other people involved in the film were really supportive of their friend Clark Gregg in the making of this film. I think it’s beautiful when people who have the ability to help and support their friends to reach their dreams and goals, do it. I hope to be in a position where I can do that as well. Though first, maybe I’ll be the one accepting some help (anyone? Do I know anyone? Hellooooooo?).

New friends! :-)
New friends! :-)

Well, I suppose the key to having a supportive network is to just keep making friends, and being a good friend! Which is fine with me. As a kid, one of my goals to was to make friends with everybody in the world! That may not be possible, but looking back on my day and all the new people I connected with, I realized that that really is my favourite part of life. Just connecting with other people. It’s like creating a giant web of love and friendship around the world.

My little group left around midnight, and I never did get to say good-bye to the guys who got me into the party. I saw them in the light of their cell phones, with a girl, on my way to the restroom, but when I made my return walk through the room, they were nowhere to be seen. That was the only down part (besides missing half of the movie) of the day, because I was very grateful to them and didn’t want to leave without saying good-bye. Ah well. Perhaps someday we shall meet again, and recall this Hollywood night!

Ubuntu

So a few weeks ago I was approached by a man with a camera about answering some questions about life for a project of his called Operation 365 (that link goes to my video there, actually), and although at the time I couldn’t do it, I emailed him back last week and scheduled an interview! I should have been smart enough to ask in the email what the question(s) were… I remembered him asking what your advice to the world would be to make it a better place, and I just said “Don’t be selfish.” That covers a lot. But when he repeated the questions (“what would you like to tell the world, what can people do now to make the world a better place in 100 years, and what’s one important word you would like to share”) I sat down to think. I came up with a bit of a poem to answer the first question, kind of forgot what the second question was, and dug up an African word I’d heard recently, because sometimes English words just don’t cut it. So here is my interview! Let me know what you think!

And please excuse the horrible freeze frame chosen for the main image. Gah.

I Can’t Afford It

When you hear a friend saying they wish they could do something but can’t afford to, do you jump right into “well, just cut out things like a daily coffee, because $5 a day at 30 cups a month is $150 a month right there!” or something like that?

Whenever I read an article about how to stretch your money, how to save money… they always have ridiculous tips like that.

What if you never buy coffee?

What if you have the cheapest, most restrictive plan for your phone (granted, it’s a smart phone but I’m not giving that up) that you could find, and make calls from Skype to save money?

What if you only go see a movie once a month and only go to a matinee so you’re not paying full price?

How do you juggle paying for the necessities with actually enjoying your life and following your dreams? Life is so short, who wants to waste it working 3 jobs?

Yes, I know that everything we spend money on is a choice. I may decide it’s more important to me to keep flexibility so that I can travel (cheaply…) rather than spend the money going out with friends. I may decide it’s worth it to me to pay $25 for a game that I can play with friends (Cards Against Humanity!) than to have more food in the fridge. They are choices. But just because it’s a choice, doesn’t make it an easy one.

I don’t go to the salon more than 2 or 3 times a year and always look for a cheap one. I don’t get my nails done, I don’t shop for clothing retail – and haven’t shopped at all in months. In fact I’ve sold about half of the clothing in my closet this year.

So what do you say when you have to or want to spend money on something (like a used camera lens, or your dog’s dental care) but don’t have the means? What do you say when friends invite you out but when you add up the cost of gas, food, and a drink, it’s more than you make in a day? How do you continuously say “I can’t afford it, I can’t afford it” without getting depressed about it and sounding like a complainer?

Don't despair. There's no money in it, but I can sell my purse to pay for your dental bill.
Don’t despair. There’s no money in it, but I can sell my purse to pay for your dental bill.

For several years after I moved to L.A., I struggled with money. I moved in with a boyfriend when I could no longer pay my $400/month rent. I was only saved by a $9000 inheritance by a relative, which I stretched to the max after paying my credit card debt and buying a new computer. Because my other one was a 10 year old PC that had just died.

And then came Adsense to save me, and for several years after that, I lived in peace. I could afford a nice place to live. Piano lessons, acting classes, dance classes, elocution classes… I could invest in myself and my career, at last. And I did. And I went out with friends, and I bought Groupons to do fun things, I loaded the fridge with food, which sometimes went bad before I could eat it.

I decided professionally, that I wanted to try France, since although I was putting all this investment into myself, I was not getting work in L.A. So it was time to make the most of life, learn French, and see if the grass was any greener over there.

And then Adsense began to say a long and drawn out good-bye.

I started relying on my savings in addition to the monthly income that was not enough to pay the bills, which were now in Euros.

And eventually that ran out as I struggled to continue to pursue my goals, and I found myself back in L.A., basically broke, doing background work again. I thought it would just supplement my waning income while I tried to prop it up again, until it took one final gasp, and pretty much died. Oh, I still get a little from it, but it’s not going to pay rent. Perhaps with the continuing CPR it may be revived, but not to it’s old glory days.

So I’m left with dreams and goals and the distraction of trying to pay the bills instead of focusing on my real contribution to the world.

I proudly scrimped and saved a few thousand dollars by working and selling off many belongings… only to sit at the accountant and be told that out of that $13,000 I earned… the IRS wanted $1800 of it. I crumbled. I already had taken out a personal loan to combat the crazy interest charges on my maxed out credit card. I was already eating one meal and a smoothie every day. Except the days I worked. I’d been struggling (and still struggle!) to give up the new addiction to organic dark chocolate peanut butter cups, which I could easily spend $50 a month on.

I’ve grown weary of telling friends I can’t afford to join them, tired of not being able to invite people out, depressed because I can’t afford to go dancing, or take classes, or just fund my little documentary by myself, which would only take a few hundred dollars more. I feel frustrated when I think I can treat myself to something (which also doubles as another potential way to earn money, such as a used camera lens, or a better microphone for my camera) and then something “more important” comes up to divert the funds. I feel guilty for telling my friend with the herbal hospital in India, year after year, that I want to come and maybe this year I can make it… but I can’t. I’ve grown tired of the panic and stress that arises when I’m faced with having to spend money I don’t have (on tires, on the vet, the doctor…), and the way I burst out with “I don’t know what else to sell! I don’t know how I can cut back any further on food, I don’t know how I can afford this….” and probably seeming pretty pathetic to whomever I’m talking to.

Websites tell me instead of saying “I can’t afford it,” that perhaps I could say “that’s too expensive and not a necessity.” But how many more things can I say that to? The doctor? The vet? And who wants to live with just the necessities? That’s great for a short period of time, but… months without going out for an unnecessary dinner or drink or show? Other websites assume that you don’t WANT to do the things you’re invited to do. Like it’s easy to say no because “I have a goal I’m saving for.” It’s not easy.

But it’s not just that. It’s not just learning what your priorities are when it comes to spending (which is a good thing). It’s the stress it creates and the time it steals. When the first thought in my mind, all day long, is “how can I earn enough money to be able to meet my goals?” and it never ends… it leaves me little time to unwind and actually work on those goals. To sit and play guitar for a few hours. To read books, to improve my singing or acting, my Photoshop or photography skills. Because I feel the need to spend that time trying to earn money to keep fed and pay off my debt. I feel as if I’m wasting precious time in my life. At 32, I don’t want my main focus to just be paying rent and eating. I want to be using my skills, enjoying my time with friends, giving back because I have enough for me and for others. The struggle has taken away too much of my life.

I realize I’m not the only one. And while it can feel like everyone else can afford the things I can’t, I know it’s not true. I know other people are struggling. And I wish I could help. I wish I was in a position to…

But perhaps this struggle has led me to a position to help. I have a glimmer of hope at the moment. A few months ago, I knew that I would have to save up, and try to revive the website, if I wanted to get back to Paris, and travel more, and be able to focus on my goals and go out with friends, as well. So I started looking online for other ways I could earn money. I’d looked before, when I was doing well, because I wanted to help my friends to live the same wonderfully free lifestyle that I was blessed with. But I never found a way. I tried to help them do the same thing I was, but it wasn’t for everyone, and even I had help. A lot of it! And after the IRS stole most of my savings, I knew it was my only chance. To find something else I could get started with. Otherwise, I would be looking into a future of deep uncertainty. A few months ago, I found something. A location independent potential income, that started working for me. Not right away. Not before the taxes were due. At that point I thought I may still be doomed. But last month, hope started to bloom. I made some money. I found a light at the end of the tunnel.

It was (is) hard to want and need to spend money on things and not be able to, and not know when I would be able to. But now my goal is to work hard this month and have this parachute to catch me as I take a leap away from L.A. once more and leave my major source of income (background work). One more month of saying “I can’t.” I am determined that it be the last month. I am determined that when I get back to France, I will not have to say “I can’t”, I will have the freedom to spend on my creative pursuits. I will have the money for classes when I return to L.A.

I am determined to get to Paris and go out for a glass of wine on a warm summer night, without a worry in my mind about whether or not I can afford it.

So if you’ve been in this position, how do you deal with not being able to afford more than the basics? How do you manage the stress and budget your time between survival actions and pursuing your dreams?

Is Traveling Worth It?

Is traveling worth it?

Worth what? Worth the environmental impact you’re having by getting on that plane, of course!

I got into a debate recently with a Facebook friend, which inspired me to do a bit of researching and soul-searching. He had given up air travel because of the contribution to climate change, while I on the other hand, have no intention to give up flying.

First I’m going to hit you with a little bit of research.

 

The contribution of civil aircraft-in-flight to global CO2 emissions has been estimated at around 2%.
In attempting to aggregate and quantify the total climate impact of aircraft emissions the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated that aviation’s total climate impact is some 2-4 times that of its direct CO2 emissions alone (excluding the potential impact of cirrus cloud enhancement).

The IPCC has estimated that aviation is responsible for around 3.5% of anthropogenic climate change, a figure which includes both CO2 and non-CO2 induced effects.

That’s our first quote from Wikipedia on the environmental impact of aviation. It just leaves me wondering what makes up the other approximately 97%?

Modern jet aircraft are significantly more fuel efficient (and thus emit less CO2 in particular) than 30 years ago.[26] Moreover, manufacturers have forecast and are committed to achieving reductions in both CO2 and NOx emissions with each new generation of design of aircraft and engine.

Some scientists and companies such as GE Aviation and Virgin Fuels are researching biofuel technology for use in jet aircraft.[33] Some aircraft engines, like the Wilksch WAM120 can (being a 2-stroke Diesel engine) run on straight vegetable oil. Also, a number of Lycoming engines run well on ethanol.

I understand that planes are a long term investment, and the one you’re flying on now was probably made 20 years ago. So even if they make progress… it may be a while before we see changes. In the meantime…

 

The emissions from taxiing and take-off of aircraft help make airports some of the largest sources of these pollutants and major public health hazards. For example, Los Angeles Airport is the largest source of NOx, a key cause of the region’s copious smog, in California and the third largest source of carbon monoxide. 4 Logan Airport in Boston, MA produces twice as much benzene as the next largest source in Massachusetts. 5 Scientists have found that even small increases in taxi time at airports in Southern California contribute to significant increases in asthma, respiratory ailments, and heart disease in surrounding communities. 6 Scientists also believe that particulate matter emissions from airplanes, along with ships and trains, contribute to 1,800 early deaths per year in the United Kingdom alone. 7 These health impacts also translate into large economic costs for society.

According to flyingclean.com. Yay, L.A….

And according to a research paper (which I did not read, only someone else’s response to it, and the summary below), planes are the worst form of transportation, unless we’re thinking more long term, then take a look in your garage.

Emissions of short-lived species contribute significantly to the climate impact of transportation. The magnitude of the effects varies over time for each transport mode. This paper compares first the absolute climate impacts of current passenger and freight transportation. Second, the impacts are normalized with the transport work performed and modes are compared. Calculations are performed for the integrated radiative forcing and mean temperature change, for different time horizons and various measures of transport work. An unambiguous ranking of the specific climate impact can be established for freight transportation, with shipping and rail having lowest and light trucks and air transport having highest specific impact for all cases calculated. Passenger travel with rail, coach or two- and three-wheelers has on average the lowest specific climate impact also on short time horizons. Air travel has the highest specific impact on short-term warming, while on long-term warming car travel has an equal or higher impact per passenger-kilometer.

If you have an electric car, maybe you’re excused. If you’re one of the people mentioned in The Guardian’s article here, you’re not excused, and you should stop causing more environmental havoc than a dozen people combined. Thanks.

So… that’s just a sampling of the horrors of aviation…. but what would the world be like if we didn’t fly? First, I have to admit that I see travel very differently than the majority of people. I don’t stay in hotels or resorts (not that I don’t like them), I don’t treat my travel as “vacation,” I don’t do many “touristy” things, and I don’t go only to associate with whomever my travel buddy is and never see the “real” _______. You know from my “about me” section that what I want to do as I travel is connect with creative people around the world to work with, and volunteer time to help the community in some way. It doesn’t always work out, and I try not to beat myself up over it, but I do try. When I travel somewhere, it’s to get to know another way of life, and to get out of my bubble. OK, so is that worth killing the earth? I don’t know. As George Monbiot says in a snippet from his book:

…the people who are most concerned about the inhabitants of other countries are often those who have travelled widely. Much of the global justice movement consists of people – like me – whose politics were forged by their experiences abroad.

Would I really know the extent of the petty crime rings in Paris or Barcelona without having lived there? Would it personally affect me to a point where I would want to do something about it? Would the lack of proper sanitation in parts of Ghana be on my mind had I not spent time there? Would the cheerful dispositions of people with much less than me also be on my mind, urging me towards a life of minimalism (good for me and good for the planet as well)? Would I understand things going on in other parts of the world without really being there and interacting with people? Does it matter if I understand?

It depends on the person, I suppose. I could experience something now that I may not be able to act on for another decade, but at that point I could make a big difference in the lives of others. I don’t know, I can’t predict the future. I can only explore, and learn, and grow, and give back. And for me, the airplane is an indispensable tool. I’ve gone on several Habitat for Humanity trips, but you don’t have to be working full time to be giving back and getting involved, and you also don’t have to expect immediate results from every journey. If you’re becoming a better human being through your travels, that’s a really good thing in and of itself. Because the world is made up of billions of us. And many of us are unconscious, selfish, ignorant people. And traveling can change that about a person.

As Matt says at theculturist.com:

If you haven’t experienced a culture personally, it’s easy to write off an entire country as “impoverished” or “politically unstable,” when each place has its own complex history and social structure. Seeing areas’ hardships, customs, and attitudes can inspire you to give back in a variety of ways.

You don’t have to make your vacation an all-out service trip to gain insight and contribute to improving the local economy. Sometimes, just immersing yourself in the culture and staying open to new experiences is enough to achieve a larger benefit.

…. If you open your eyes and see how things are different outside your home country, you have a better understanding of how the world works, as well as what projects or social causes you might support.

 

I couldn’t say it better myself. So I’m going to stop talking now. lol. Almost.

There are some alternative modes of transportation, depending on where you’re going… cars and trains, and sometimes boats… but not all are practical for those of us who may not have a car or the money to rent on, or don’t have a week to make a train trip to get somewhere, and then a week to get back. Some places are very difficult to get to without a plane. Everyone’s journey is different and requires different considerations. Personally, I love making friends around the world, and I enjoy seeing them more than once in my life. I love to experience different places. As a child I would dream about different lives I could live. I knew I would have to choose one, but I couldn’t. Of course, you always have to choose, and I’m living the life I chose. But I always wonder about the other ones. So the best I can do is sample them. And eventually, find the place I want to settle in, while keeping my worldwide community within reach, and using what I learned along the way to make a difference in whatever way I can. Travel (thanks to airplanes) has helped me grow as a person and start really connecting with the world. I’m not saying nothing should be done about the problem caused by so many airplanes in the air these days, but I think a more important issue is being able to connect people around the globe so that the whole world is our community, not just the tiny patch of grass we were born on.

What are your thoughts on air travel?

(Mark Twain wanted to have the first response)

Mark Twain Says