Category: Uncategorized

What I’ve Learned So Far

I was reading one of those Facebook posts about lessons to learn in life and had one of those moments where I started thinking about my 20-year-old self and what an adventure she had ahead of her. So much unknown road ahead. So then I decided that I wanted to kind of write a letter to that girl… I know she doesn’t exist anymore (or does she? What is time, anyway… maybe everything exists at once…) but other young girls do. Sure, you might not listen to some random 34-year-old, or even your 34-year-old sister, the way you’d listen to a 34-year-old-self who came back to impart wisdom. But hey. I feel like doing it, so I’m doing it. And then when I’m 50 I’ll write one to my 34 year old self, and when I’m 80 I’ll be time traveling and saying it in person… but for now, these are some things I would tell her.

 

It’s all your fault.

That’s right. Everything is your fault. You decided to move to _____, you decided to pursue _____ as a career, you decided to date _____. Everything you decide to do won’t turn out the way you’d like it to, unfortunately. And those things you didn’t want to do today, for example practice French or the guitar… well guess whose fault it is now when you’re not that good at it? Not somebody else’s. You decide what to prioritize, what to push yourself with, and every decision you make shapes your future. You decide how your time is spent.

But that’s the good thing, too. You decide. You have control. OK, not 100% control, but your decisions and your attitude determine a lot. When you succeed, it was most likely because you were ready for the opportunity, you took action to meet your goals, and you got out there and met the right people.

Get advice from people who know what they’re talking about, and follow that advice. Be wary of advice coming from people who haven’t achieved the goal you’re aiming for. But backing up to that other advice, also remember that what works for one person doesn’t work for everyone. But try it anyway.

It’s not your fault.

Sometimes things are just out of your control. You can do your best and react to situations, but there are so many factors in an outcome. Don’t beat yourself up over it. All the “what ifs” in the world won’t change it. Learn from it and do better in the future, if you think doing something differently may change the outcome. If you know you did your best, then be OK with that. You can’t do better than your best. It’s not your fault if you get robbed, or assaulted – you didn’t make that happen, they did. Nobody asks to be robbed or assaulted. And if you were acting with good intentions, with kindness and love in any kind of relationship… you did your best, but sometimes when it comes to other people, it just won’t be enough.

Whenever you have honestly done your best… it’s not your fault if it doesn’t go as planned. You may not always have the facts, the knowledge, or the experience to make a choice other than what you made, and other people will also make decisions that will affect you but have more to do with them than with you. Do the best with what you have, where you are.

It’s not you, it’s me.

You control how you react to other people’s behaviour. Your thoughts are a product of how you choose to view the world and the people around you. They may trigger your insecurities, but with a little work you can learn to rise above it.

Because…

It’s not me, it’s you.

Everyone else has issues too. And they may take it out on you. They may not know what the hell they’re doing, just stumbling through life, and knocking you down on their way past. Whatever awful thing they do to you was not about you. Because remember, you’re doing your best, right?! And as you control how you react to others, they also control how they react to you – though they may not be aware of this and may simply be responding to their own insecurities and taking it out on you. Some people (well, most people, you included, at times) simply assume things and don’t bother to clarify, then make their decisions based on this poor judgement. Some people will steal, assuming that you’re rich. Some people will flake on you, assuming that you won’t be inconvenienced or let down. Some people won’t communicate with you, assuming you already know how they feel and that they know how you feel. These people have not done the self-work that I’m asking of you. They simply go along with the flow and behave like the rest of the herd, even if it’s not the kind and loving way to be human.

Not everyone tries their best. Or maybe that is their best, at this point in time. In either case, they’re in their own world. You can’t place the same expectations on them as you place on yourself. And if their best is not respectful, thoughtful, or understanding, then let them go on their merry way, because you deserve better. You need to surround yourself with amazing people. Some people may respond to a gentle wake-up call, but others will not, and you can’t control how anybody behaves. Try as you might to convince someone that they are dishonest, or manipulative, or _fill-in-the-blank_, nobody wants to think of themselves as a bad person, so they will never see what you see. And if they haven’t learned to be honest with themselves, they will find a way to defend their behaviour rather than….

Say you’re sorry.

Don’t be too proud to admit when you’re wrong or you’ve done the wrong thing. Remember when you were little, and you accidentally kicked a hole in Dad’s Chair? What did you decide to do? Yep, you went straight to Mom and confessed. You knew it was better than the alternative. Sure, there were other times where you knew you did something wrong and didn’t confess to it. And what about that time – oh wait, it happened after you were 20, should I tell you this? Well, since this is what you did then perhaps it was because I told you to now! If you should find yourself in a fragile state while in a collapsing relationship, and you get a little too close to another man… take responsibility for it. Tell your partner that you know you didn’t make the best decision you could have (even though who really makes good decisions when they’re having a breakdown?). Be honest without being mean. Apologizing isn’t only about being kind to another person. Apologizing is being aware of your shortcomings. And apologizing is taking your power back. Crazy angry people don’t expect you to agree with them. You want to de-escalate a situation? Be a bigger person and apologize (unless you really think you have no reason to, but maybe you can find something to apologize for that you can mean). That’s usually what they want, and then you can try to move forward.

If you’re trying to do your best, you know when you’ve fallen short. You know when you’ve messed up. So just admit it. Yes, there may be consequences. Deal with them. But always say you’re sorry.

(Also see It’s all your fault)

Never apologize.

But don’t apologize for following your heart, for doing what you know is right. Don’t sell yourself short and apologize in any way for who you are. Don’t rely on the approval of others to define who you are. You’re not inferior. You’re human just like everyone else. Be confident in who you are and what you have to offer the world. Don’t apologize for your existence or your opinion…. you have the right to both.

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

You don’t live in a vacuum, or on an island… the internet can only take you so far. To meet your goals you need to meet and work with other people. Find those passionate, motivated people and collaborate. Make yourself useful, be of service, and widen your circle of friends and acquaintances. Work through your shyness and anxiety. It’ll be worth it.

Never rely on anybody.

Although you need to know people and have friends… never rely on other people too much. People are self-absorbed and people can be flaky. Yes, we have to put our faith in other people, we don’t really have a choice. We have to believe that they’ll show up for work, or do as they say, if they haven’t given us reason to doubt them… but also know that people can and will let you down. They may for example tell you they want you for their film, and that they’ll call you…. and they won’t. Learn to get their number as well as giving them yours. They still may not return your call, but at least you were proactive. They may, in a relationship, talk to you about the future and make you feel loved…. and then simply disappear. If you’ve determined that they haven’t been hit by a bus… you’ve just learned not to rely on that person. Always be able to pick up and continue when someone lets you down. You’ve done your best, told the truth, been reliable and just AWESOME, so keep moving on (and see It’s not me, it’s you). You may cry out “But you SAID _____, how could you do this??” but the truth is, people sometimes don’t know what the f@#k they’re saying or doing because they’re just too self-centered to think about other people. As long as they aren’t getting hurt, they don’t care if they hurt someone else. Wish it wasn’t so, but it is.

Parting words of advice

Some random advice I keep rolling around in my head that probably would have helped you out…

Have courage, and be kind. (Cinderella, 2015)

Give first.

Be of service.

…. maybe I’ll add on more later, since there’s always more to learn. 🙂 Good luck out there.

Panamania

Well, I promised to write about Panama and although it’s taken me a while, I’m doing it! I should have done it sooner, while the memories were fresh and beautiful, but this will have to do! Of course there are many things I’m not including, momentarily forgetting, and I’m sorry about that…

I spent the first part of my trip traveling with the best travel partner I’ve had in years, who shall remain nameless… It was so much better than I had anticipated going it alone. We enjoyed the old town, getting some amazing ice cream on a stick dipped in chocolate, petting random dogs and cats, and generally having an easy-breezy time. Then we hopped in our SUV and headed to the Darien.

Why, you ask? To visit an American missionary family that has been living out there for the past 3 decades. They had some very interesting stories to tell us of some hostilities and life in the jungles of Panama. I can’t wait to hear more (OK, I can wait and have waited, but it’s all very intriguing). Among other things, they have a moringa farm, which I was interested in learning about. We didn’t get to visit the actual farm on this trip, but we did come away with a giant bag of moringa powder, which I’m still using in my morning smoothies and fruit bowls. We stayed at a cute little hotel not too far away, where we watched hummingbirds flit around as we ate breakfast.

Speaking of food, this was a rough journey. You would think in a land where bags of mangos go to waste, fruit would be easy to find. Not so, not so. I can’t even remember what we ate. Eggs. And on the road, fish and strangely unripe-tasting cooked plantains. But no fruit was ever on the menu, or even in the little stores we would pass by. Only once did we find mangos and boy did I stock up. We couldn’t even find fish as a meal at several places. I’ve learned since then that ignoring an empty stomach actually does not get as painful as you would think, and you can survive several days on a few peanut butter cups. Apparently the reasoning is that mangos (and other things) grow so abundantly in everyone’s yard that there’s no point in selling them at the stores!

We spent a few nights a little closer to Panama City and spent hours enjoying a gorgeously clear and warm river (I’ll show you a picture but I’m not telling you where it is because IT’S ALL MINE) before making the trip up to the San Blas islands.

That little dot in the water is me.

We had a vision of being on a secluded white beach enjoying turquoise water…. well. We were first taken to a very tourist-filled beach with no hopes of any privacy whatsoever, and then to a second one that was not much better, before negotiating a deal to be dropped off on an actual deserted island. We had a very limited amount of time to spend there, so we got right down to snorkling. At one point, some people came in a canoe-like boat and collected water from a small spring on the island. The last to leave was an older woman. We were so caught up in just observing (without staring) that it didn’t occur to me until too late that maybe we should have offered her a hand with her jugs. One more thing to feel guilty about. 😛

My first deserted island

We stopped at one more even tinier island before heading back to shore…. this one had a small hut built on it to claim it… and somehow I managed to get extremely sunburned this time. Of course, when I had my bikini top back on. Blah! Tan lines!

My new home if the world doesn’t get it’s act together soon.

It took us longer than expected to get back home, down the winding jungle roads… our hosts were a bit worried about us but we couldn’t get signal to really reach out to them. But we made it back.

We said good-bye in Panama city, and I was left on my own. Well, with my couch-surfing host, who worked at the Panama canal and took me there to see the new canal that was being built.

From there I took a few days, rented a car, and drove west, over to Coronado Beach to stay at the same BNB I stayed at on my first trip to Panama. It’s a great place to just sit and chill, and that I did.

While there, and also while in a high rise apartment couch-surfing, I experienced the loudest thunderstorms I’d ever heard. One knocked out the internet briefly. The thunder was what I would imagine bombs might sound like. My ears actually hurt. And the lightening was crazy.

You could see the storm sweeping over the city.
You could see the storm sweeping over the city.
I wouldn't want to live up here, but jeez, what a view.
I wouldn’t want to live up here, but jeez, what a view.

From Coronado Beach I also drove up to see the Purely Natural farm, where I’m saving up to invest. Gotta think of the future! It was funny… the girl who gave me the tour said she and some of the others were happy at the idea of someone young investing. Apparently only old men seem to consider this. Also qigong. I’m actually writing this blog from China, where I’m taking a qigong workshop. I happen to be the only one here this month, but the teacher said most people who come are over 40. Am I just ahead of my time with everything? I also really loved my vegetables as a kid. Who knows.

I made my way back to Panama City, and then from there drove to Sabanitas where I was once again couch-surfing. It turned out that two of my future cruise-mates were also staying at this place! Thank goodness, because the neighbourhood was a little sketchy to me. We had a good time together (despite the heat and humidity that kept me awake all night long breathing into a cup of ice) visiting a river muddy from recent rainfall, and a nice little beach not too far away. Then I drove on my own farther up the coast to Portobelo, where I would spend the next two nights before meeting my girl friend in Colon to catch our transatlantic cruise!

Scariest buses ever.
Scariest buses ever.

Portobelo wasn’t exactly what I had been led to expect, and a quick trip around the town was enough for me. I stayed in a bed and breakfast which was not currently offering breakfast because the owners were in the hospital expecting a baby, leaving me in the care of a foreign volunteer, 3 dogs and 2 cats. We had a good time together, and even found veggie burgers at a more American place in town. When I arrived at the bnb, I discovered that there was an incredibly steep incline to climb, with a car parked perfectly in the way. And it was raining. So my new host drove me and my luggage up on a four wheeler and we later got my car. Then I was afraid to leave. But I did, once. For internet. Because other than the internet on the cruise, this was the worst internet I have yet encountered. I finally braved the steep driveway and found a seaside bar with wifi on my last day.

From Portobelo I made my way to Colon, to find my cruise ship at the dock. Everyone had warned me, “don’t stop the car! Lock the doors! Don’t talk to anyone!”… apparently it’s dangerous there, so I was a little freaked out at the possibility of getting lost. Which I did, because my GPS kept telling me to drive down streets that all ended at a fortress. A wall. I forget what it was called… a duty-free zone… well I asked the guard where to find my rental car place, found it, took ages to return my car (and witnessed some cruisers pouring alcohol into a giant water bottle… silly… should have taken the Monarch, free drinks the whole way across…), and hopped in a taxi for the 2 minute ride to port. There I met my couchsurfing buddies and my next adventure buddy, an old friend from Los Angeles. The Panamanian adventure had come to a close, and the transatlantic adventure was about to begin….

-Oh no, will I have to raise my arms for all of our photos? -Yes

Island Hopping

I’m a terrible adventure blogger! I’ve been having adventures and haven’t said a peep in months! But seeing as it’s the last day of 2015, I felt it was an appropriate time to play catch-up.

Back in October, I took a little vacation from France to where I assumed would be warmer and dryer. Mallorca. I spent about 4 days there, two of which it rained, but I did get to spend some time at a few little (crowded) beaches and wandering around the city. I was surprised to find several vegan places (including a vegan bagel place), though I ended up eating a lot of pizza and Indian food!

mallorca

I would definitely return, although I would love to see some other parts of the island that I couldn’t get to by bus (I tried – and then that day turned out to be a holiday and the bus schedule had changed). The nearby island of Ibiza is also on my list…

My gosh, I just realized how many islands I’ve been to this year. Three! In Panama, Spain, and the US! It’s a record for me! I guess I finally really realized how much I enjoy tropical water…

 

mallorca ocean

In November came the shocking attack on Paris, and since then I’ve wondered if I wanted to say anything here about it, or not. It was definitely a frightening night. I stayed up until 3am texting and calling and pinpointing my friends. Only weeks later, walking around Republique, did I realize that one of the restaurants that was attacked was on the corner of the first street I landed on when I moved to France in 2011. It was jarring to come face to face with the shattered glass , drooping roses tucked into the bullet holes.  So much ignorance, fear, and hate in the world… so many innocent people affected by it.

Paris

In December, I headed back to Los Angeles for the month, and also ended up going to Maui for 5 days. It wasn’t originally on the agenda, but how can you say no when you have the opportunity to go to Hawaii? I hadn’t been since 2005, and was thrilled to seek out the rainbow eucalyptus trees again. It definitely brought back memories of my ex and his kids, but new memories were also made, and… a new ukulele bought.

Mele ukulele
How could I NOT buy a ukulele in Hawaii??

It was a lovely trip. Breakfast at the bnb was amazing every morning. The weather was lovely (only a bummer on the day I went down the road to Hana and wanted to swim in some waterfalls but couldn’t because of a flash flood risk). I saw whales for the first time. I saw rainbows every day. The water wasn’t as warm as I remembered it being, but it’s December, so perhaps that’s why. I’ve been cooking coconut banana pancakes nearly every day since arriving home (thank goodness I don’t really put on weight!).

rainbow

And now I have less than a week left before waking up in France again.

Every time I get on a plane, I think about the blank pages ahead of me. Every trip is like it’s own book, with an airplane as the front and back cover. I read it from cover to cover and then tuck it away on the shelf in it’s own special spot. I’m always sad when I reach the end… Yet I always gain something that gives me joy, too.

Part of me wanted to write something about starting a new year, but… every day is the start of a new year. Every day is ripe with exciting possibility. I haven’t been particularly productive this month, but I have so much I’m itching to do. I’m finishing up a little web series (for children). I have a beautiful new ukulele to play with, so much music to make. I have renewed my excitement for acting and film and have new goals and plans. I have new friends. My YouTube channel (the ASMR one) is growing as I put more serious effort into it. And every day I get closer to knowing what my purpose is. There’s so much more… too much more… too much to even remember, sometimes.

Gosh, I don’t know what else to write, right now! Well… Happy new year!!

Happy New Year from Anna and Elsa!
Happy New Year from Anna and Elsa!

The Daily Show, with Jon Stewart

 

Outside The Daily Show

OK, so this is such old news but I’ve been busy/lazy.

When I moved to Los Angeles in 2000, I stayed on the couch of a new friend for a few months while I worked my butt off as a non-union extra (how much did we make per day? I think it was $48/8 at that point). My friend was a dedicated viewer of The Daily Show, and so I became one as well. When I moved out of her house, I moved to an apartment where we didn’t have cable, and I was cable-less for quite a while. Then came the time I was in a relationship with someone who had cable, and we began watching The Daily Show together. Years of Jon Stewart. Oddly enough, Jon actually reminds me of that ex. Both great interviewers with a silly streak. Anywaaaaaay.

When that ended, I was back to being cable-less, but not too long after, I discovered thedailyshow.com .

The Daily Show was, to me, the only show that I was excited to dream about being on. I don’t watch other news shows, or late night shows. I always hoped something I did would pay off and I would get to be on the Daily Show, and meet Jon Stewart. Well, that just didn’t happen.

But while visiting my family in July, I decided that I would regret it, flying through NYC and not at least trying to go see a taping of the show. So I did. I wasn’t able to get a free ticket, but the morning of the day I was going to go stand in line all day, I found someone selling a ticket on craigslist. Thank you, craigslist. $25? Fine. Done. I tucked a little note for Jon (just a thank you and good luck kinda thing) into my purse and headed out. I was about 50-th in line. Safe. I sat on the pavement, gradually inching my way closer to the street to give the person behind me more space, as the sun crept higher and the shade grew. A store close by had cleverly set up business renting chairs for $5. A few people took advantage of that offer.

Got my golden ticket!
Got my golden ticket!

I believe we were out there for about 3 hours before the line started to move and we all shuffled forward to say our names and get our numbers. Then we had an hour or so to go run around before coming back to stand in line again. I took the opportunity to walk to an old friend’s new apartment not too far away, and rehydrate myself.

Back at TDS, we formed small groups on the sidewalk, and were ushered inside, first to use the restroom (I don’t know if I’ve ever been so panicked about what would happen if I really had to pee, because they weren’t going to let anyone in or out of that studio during filming) and then into the studio. I don’t know how the view was from the other seats, but I managed to have a camera crane smack in the middle of my line-of-Jon-Stewart-sight. I ended up watching one of the screens, and his teleprompter, most of the time. Anywayanyway, backing up. Someone came out to rile up the audience… he talked with some people… one man said he worked for Verizon, which got a huge groan out of another audience member. So he was brought down to introduce himself to Mr. Verizon, and say why he hated Verizon. He said it was because they were a monopoly, basically. Anyway!

Awkward Selfie Proof!
Awkward Selfie Proof!

Before the show began, Jon came out for a little Q-and-A! I did not have a Q for him to A, but others did, and I marvel at how some people’s brains put smart things together. And I marvel at the smart responses other people have to these questions. Where did I go wrong?

I am rarely star-struck or excited to see celebrities (although it’s always cool), but this was one of those times. I suppose because I’ve seen him on TV for ages. Hours, and hours… days and days of him…. to see him in 3-D… I just wanted to reach out and touch him. But he was too far away and that’s just creepy. His suit was so nice. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone in person with such a nice suit.

So we watched them film the show! I actually laugh more when I’m watching it at home, and I had to wonder why. Maybe because I could see him better. I could see him part of the time. But when you’re watching from home, it’s as if he’s talking to you. When you’re watching in the studio, it’s watching someone perform. He’s performing for a camera. You’re more aware that there are words, there’s a script, it’s just like what you would do for your own little YouTube video. Or I would. It’s less spontaneous (most of the time) than you would think. But he’s sooooo good at it.

The guest on July 23 was Ta-Nehisi Coates, who I was not familiar with at all. If you’d like to watch the interview… well I shall give you the link below. 🙂

Jon didn’t stick around after the show, and we were instructed to leave our weird voodoo shit with security on the way out, so that’s where I left my good-bye letter before heading back over to my friend’s place.

It’s going to be strange not having Jon around. Some days, when I’m feeling lonely, tuning into The Daily Show is like inviting a friend over. No matter where I was, no matter what around me had changed, I could go online and see Jon. OK, sometimes it was more difficult, depending on the wifi connection. But I tried.

I wish I could be more eloquent in expressing what Jon Stewart and The Daily Show mean to me. I know no news is ever completely unbiased, but watching The Daily Show, I felt like I got more facts and less BS than other sources. I knew that he was not too proud to apologize for errors. I loved to get updated on world news by someone who didn’t really take themselves so damn seriously. I love that they would say what you were thinking, about ridiculous policies or statements that had been made. I loved that I could get updated, and laugh about it, rather than be submerged in all the horrible things that are happening around the world. And it’s just him. Someone could say the exact same words and present in exactly the same way, and it wouldn’t be the same. I will miss him.

At least for now, I can turn to John Oliver once a week, and I will tune in and check out the new guy, but oh the Jon-shaped hole in my life! You shall be missed.

Daily Show Pano
Watch The Daily Show July 23, 2015

Life is a Daring Adventure

Somewhere over the rainbow...
Somewhere over the rainbow…

As some of you may already know, I made a trip to Panama in April. Other than some brief weekends in Cabo, this was my first real journey into Central America.

Part of me feels silly, thinking about what to write, what was the same, what was different, what surprised me… as if I were the first person to discover the country. I didn’t stay there long enough to be able to give a deep commentary on the culture or people, but I feel like I should say something about my journey! I mean come on, this is my adventure blog! A journey anywhere helps us to examine ourselves and discover more facets to our souls, to see how similar we are to humans everywhere else, and to see how different we are as well, reflecting how we were raised and what we were taught. It’s a hands-on opportunity to share knowledge and to challenge one another.

I learned what a cashew looks like on the tree. I learned that junk mail doesn’t exist everywhere. I learned that the ideas of organic, sustainable, solar-powered lifestyles are reaching far and wide. I learned that not far from a city where people can pay thousands of dollars in rent for their apartment, live people in tin huts in the jungle… I still have many more questions, so much more to learn, than could be learned in 10 days.

I spent my first full day in a car, driving with another couchsurfer from Panama City to Bocas del Toro. It was a long drive, and we watched the terrain go from dry and brown, to a Jurassic Park-like lush forest, complete with several rainbows along the way. The drive was long, and we arrived at the docks after the last official ferry had gone. $40 later, we were on a ferry heading to our island. This ferry was not what I had expected (teaches me to expect anything! I keep thinking I’ve learned this lesson…), being a small boat with a motor and a tent-like enclosure that bounced across the black waves towards the faint lights.

Lounging Aqua-rdly.
Lounging Aqua-rdly.

The next few days were spent at a hostel called the Aqua Lounge, where we would observe mostly younger travelers jumping into the ocean pool, partying late into the night, and eating the free pancake breakfasts. The first night however, my travel partner gashed his foot on a barnacle trying to rescue a girls phone from the ocean, and we got the experience of a visit to the local hospital one morning. That experience was enough for me to cross Bocas off of my “I could live here.” list.  But as my first ever experience in a hostel, not bad. The people were laid back and friendly, and it was set up for having a chill time over the ocean. Was not a fan of sharing a bathroom and shower with an unknown number of people (one of whom vomited in the shower during the party night, after I had gone to sleep), but there were no major problems.

The ocean was warm, and there were rumors of bioluminescence (I would ask several people about this, and rainbow eucalyptus), which will have to wait until my next trip for me to discover. I wanted more time, to climb through the tangled jungle trees, to swim in the ocean, to do all the things wood and water nymphs do.

 

I think I can be a wood nymph here.
I think I can be a wood nymph here.

 

Panama beach

On the long journey back into the city, we had to find an alternate route, because the main bridge was still closed thanks to the Summit. The city had nearly emptied during this period, because of all the road closures and hassle it had caused, and I wondered what it was normally like.

panorama2

The film festival had begun, and it was time to pick up my fancy lanyard and other goodies, which included a 6 pack of beer. Because I was in Kendal the Explorer mode, I saw few films, and opted to experience a few days in Coronado at my couchsurfing host’s brother’s hostel (did you follow that?) Villa Lilimar, to try and get my fill of the ocean and a more relaxing existence. We were the only guests at the hostel, and spent all of our time with our host, driving around picking mangos and avocados from neighbourhood trees, buying our dinner at the supermarket (not the organic store, which doubled the price of several items that are currently in my fridge, and did not sell any fresh fruits and vegetables).

Coronado

I enjoyed the stillness, the sun and the calm blue water of the pool, so much that I only went to the beach once. I mean, it wasn’t like the Bocas beach, anyway. It wasn’t freezing but it wasn’t warm. It had black sand (which is really cool! But really hot!). And I was told if you walked up a bit, the waves were calmer. But I was being lazy, and my friend’s foot injury prevented him from getting too crazy and adventurous, so I didn’t mind the relaxing days in the shade by, or in, the pool. We even discovered some giant balloons after a day or so, which became a foot condom for him, and he was able to get in the pool.

black and whitePanama City

Back in Panama City, I walked around the old city for a bit before attending the closing night’s film, Whiplash. There, I tagged along with the only English-speaker I had met to the afterparty. We explored upstairs, downstairs, outside, ate appetizers and drank wine (I think everyone might have been tired of all the beer!), danced to the singers and the DJ, and said hello to everyone he knew. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

art

The next morning, I had a lunch date with a woman I had connected with online, Rosalind Baitel. She’d been living in Panama for about 30 years and ran one of it’s only Crossroads-like secondhand shop, Promises. So of course I had to buy a few things, including a cute pair of pink Ferragamo heels. All profits go to charity, so hey, I was just doing a good deed! Luckily Copa lets you check your luggage for free. We talked for an hour or so, and I got very excited about the potential of Panama, for someone like me. I know “the grass is always greener” and I thought the same of Paris years ago, but this time I have that essential missing piece – contacts. Which I still lack in France.

selfie
Me and my bag of Promises.

 

I didn’t do a lot with the rest of my day, but hung out with my host in the evening while eating some (um, bad) cheap vegan food (basically rehydrated dehydrated seitan – but a take-away meal was $3.60!). Bedtime came fairly early, as my flight was at 10AM…. it had gone by so quickly, and I was a bit frustrated that I couldn’t just extend my stay to explore more… but my pets were waiting, and I have to prep for France, so… it was not to be.

I won’t get into my Panamanian-TSA rant here, we’ll save that one for another day, but let’s just say if anyone out there owns a private jet, I would be so grateful if I could just fly with you from now on. I’ll bake cookies, brownies, a meal, whatever. I’ll pole dance on the plane, just please, please don’t make me fly commercial ever again.

Back to Panama. Yes. I look forward to going back. To seeing my new friends. To making more new friends. To discovering tropical paradises and having new adventures. To figuring out what value I could bring to the country (I’m still figuring that out in regards to France, though I think it has something to do with vegetarianism). To exploring the nearby countries, and the Caribbean (because it’s about time!). And maybe next time, rescuing baby turtles in Costa Rica and visiting my brother down in Chile. I can’t wait.

Panamanorama
Panamanorama

 

If you’re interested in seeing more of my photos from Panama, click on the Instagram link above in the menu! If you want to keep up-to-date with me via photographs, be sure to follow me on Instagram, too. 🙂

_________________________________________________

And heck, while I’m here, enjoy this video, part of which was filmed in Panama. I didn’t have a clear vision going into the making of this video, nor a real cinematographer on hand… it’s a learning process! I also still suck on guitar, have some kind of allergies, and haven’t invested in decent recording equipment other than a lavalier mic that didn’t seem to want to work the day I was working on recording. But I’m not out to make things perfect, just to keep creating, experimenting, learning, (this time, I learned things about Final Cut Pro X, though if anybody knows what on earth this long black/grey track is that is attached to my main clip… email me. It’s making fade-in’s and fade-out’s impossible without exporting to iMovie) and hopefully get better at what I’m doing. Also if anybody is interested in collaborating on anything, let me know. I would love a talented team to work with! It’s really time to start polishing up my own songs… and they deserve REAL music videos.

 

 

Don’t Worry, Be Happy!

Sometimes I feel like a slow learner.

I love learning, I love “self-help” books, quotes from wise people, and try to appreciate it when I learn a hard lesson in life. But I feel like I’m growing so slowly! I look back on my life and think “remember that situation? If I knew then what I know now, I would have been able to deal with it much better.” But I suppose we all grow at our own pace, determined by many factors in our early lives. I know lessons I might have been able to learn sooner (remember my last post? I knew the book The Power of Now existed, way back in 2005. I even thought, “I should read it, so I know what on earth this girl’s character is talking about in this scene.” But did I?) but for some reason they came later. Sometimes I wonder if we pass up chances to learn and grow that we won’t get again. Or if we get a second, third, or fourth chance. If God puts something or someone in our path because we need it, but we say, “no, I’m not ready for that” or “I don’t want that,” and we lose out on this experience that would have shot us forward in our growth. I don’t have the answer to that one. I suppose the answer would be that even if it were true, you can’t change the past, so just keep moving!

Anyway, the lesson I’m struggling with these days is that you need to give to receive. For instance…

I want better friends! Well, it means I have to be a better friend.

I want more financial security! Well, I need to give, believing that God’s supply is infinite and I do not live in lack.

Basically… it can feel like I have to give what I don’t have. Give friendship to get friendship. Give money to get money.

 

"You don't know how to manage Looking-glass cakes," the Unicorn remarked. "Hand it round first, and cut it afterwards."
“You don’t know how to manage Looking-glass cakes,” the Unicorn remarked. “Hand it round first, and cut it afterwards.”

 

But I get it. I do get it. It’s presenting an attitude of love and abundance, which draws more of the same to you. It’s not living in your head, for yourself, always thinking about what you lack, what you want, but focusing on others and how you can improve their world. In the process, yours improves as well.

Some prayer/faith/energy healers say that sometimes when they let God flow through them to heal other people, their own ailments are cured in the process. How could they not be, when love is flowing through you?

One of my favourite poems is one by Saint Francis of Assisi. I try to keep it memorized to recite to myself sometimes, because I think it’s the perfect reminder of how to move through life.

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

I can tell I’m not yet at the highest version of myself, because I can still get quite butt-hurt when I give and give and give and give and then get taken advantage of, or ignored, or hurt in some way. I know my time is finite, and I must be wise in who I give it to, but I also need to learn that I give because of who I am, not because of who the other person is (other than another child of God) or how they will “repay” me. But then that also gets confusing if you do have sort of self-centered motives behind it, such as “be a friend to make a friend.” So my mind runs in circles trying to sort out how I should behave and think.

if-you-have-much-give-of-your-wealth-if-you-have-little-give-of-your-heart-quote-1

 

And when I think of the advice to rely on God, and give of what I have to others who have less, because He’ll take care of me… I think, well, I’m already awfully close to the edge, it’s a pretty big leap of faith to give money when I’m in debt and have no savings… how do I really know You’re going to take care of me? I have to take the leap before I see the net. It’s very hard to let go. It’s hard not to worry about tomorrow, though I know it does no good. Plan, but don’t worry.

worrypeace

One thing I’ve learned recently is that when my mind is troubled, when I’m stuck on a particular worry, to meditate. To pray. To medi-pray. When worrisome thoughts are crowding themselves into my head and I find it hard to breath, I sit down and close my eyes. I pick a phrase appropriate to my situation and repeat it either out loud or in my head. I give thanks to God for everything I have in this moment, and give thanks again that He will deal with this situation. I know that by worrying, I’m not being productive at all. But by radiating love and gratefulness and saying, “Lord, I give this to you, because I can’t control it,” I find myself relaxing and refocusing. Sometimes I nearly laugh at myself. I could start a meditation sit sobbing my eyes out but by the end… I’m cool.

letgoofworry

It’s really saved my sanity, and I believe is moving me forward to being the person I want to be. The person I know I am, underneath all the grim I’ve gathered on the first part of my journey.

So I guess I’ve covered two lessons in this post. Give what you want to receive (even if it feels like passing around the cake before you cut it), and don’t worry. I think these are the big lessons in my life these days. And I’m really excited for the day when I’ve finally, really learned them. What big lessons are you learning at the moment?

 

I Could Have Read All Night

Of all the things I appreciate about Paris, one was my time in the metro. Wherever I went, I usually had either a book or my Kindle with me, and would whip that thing out as soon as I took a seat. When it was too crowded and I had to stand, I would still try to read. This is something you can’t do in a car. Sure, you could listen to audio-books, but how are you going to bookmark or take notes? Here in L.A., I have to be content with reading at home, instead of multitasking like that. But I have motivation! A giant pile of books to read or re-read in order to continue on towards my goal of a more minimalistic lifestyle. Sometimes I get on myself about how long this is taking (and not just with the books, but the 4 bins of stuff I want to get rid of, too), but I guess the process is different for everyone. And every journey begins with a single step, as they say!

If you don't own apple crates, you should.
If you don’t own apple crates, you should.

 

Last year, however, I discovered Goodwill bookstores. And I left with armfuls of books. Three of which, however, have made it onto my “books I tell everyone they should read” list. But I really can’t go back in there again. At least until I’ve read the books I have. I have a lot of books to read… I’m trying to get rid of everything I don’t need, and books are heavy, replaceable items so I’m hoping to shorten that stack considerably.

Anyway, I figured some of you might find yourself on planes, trains, or other forms of public transportation, in need of some mind-stimulation, so I wanted to share what I enjoyed reading in 2014.

 

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

One of those books I should read once a year as a refresher, as it really has the power (well, you have the power, it just helps you find it) to bring positive change to your life. I first heard of it in an acting class way back in 2005, and always meant to read it. Just didn’t until now. A close friend read it last year and got so annoyingly preachy about it that I decided to read it and get it over with, finally. I liked it. And I’ve kept myself from getting preachy about it. Basically, Eckhart Tolle points out that to find peace you can’t live in the past or the future, but right now. If you think about it, most of our thoughts are about things that have happened, or things that we want (or don’t want) to happen. We are rarely present, focused on this very moment. And if we can be present, we can appreciate what we have, right now. He doesn’t use this example, but I keep thinking… what if I woke up today and knew nothing about my past? I only knew what I have right now, and I didn’t know what my future plans were.  What if I could just walk through my life, without carrying the fears and pain from my past? Oh, just go read it, it’s a best-seller. 🙂

 

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

Another one I should read regularly. I put the four agreements in my email signature as a daily reminder (it’s a good place for them, since it can be easy to just snap off an email to someone you’re irritated at). The four agreements are:

Be impeccable with your word.
Don’t take anything personally.
Don’t make assumptions.
Always do your best.

And of course he expands upon them in the book. I think keeping these things in mind really helps with relationships of any kind, and helps to create more peace in your mind. When you realize that everyone else is living in their own heads, has their own problems, and isn’t (usually) out to purposely hurt you, you can focus on what you can control – yourself and your reactions.

 

Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch

This is a book I’d heard about for a while, but growing up in a pretty traditional Christian setting, thought it was probably blasphemous or something. But for $2.99 I figured I’d give it a go. Then I went on to read the next 2 books in the series. I have to admit it’s been a while since I read these and now I’m blanking on specifics, but I thought it was an interesting read, and brought up some questions and answers for me. Like, why do we feel that God spoke to people thousands of years ago, but not today? But then why do some people say they talk to God, or hear God talking to them… but if they were to write it down, or write a book, we would think they were crazy…. It’s like “true” Christians think God is dead. Eh.

Now onto some books I didn’t get at Goodwill.

 

The Writings of Florence Scovel Shinn

OK, this one is embarrassing. Not because of what it is, but because of how long I’ve had it before starting to read it. And the person who gave it to me will be reading this blog. 😀

bookmarks
Photo taken before I finished reading it. I’m done now.

 

I’m finding it interesting because I rarely read books that combine Christianity and the Bible, with the concept of creating your own reality. And this was written a century ago! I’m about to type up a document of all my favourite “affirmations” and examples so I don’t have to bring the book with me to France. But there are so many! With everything I’ve been learning about God, and about the world, miracles and science, I love to see how they actually complement each other when you know what you’re looking for. I think the problem with modern prayer is that we don’t truly believe that we have what we’re asking for. It’s like wishing for blue sky during a storm… you have it. It’s above the storm clouds. It never went away. Believe it’s there. I definitely need to put my faith into practice, and this book is a good motivator.

 

The Findhorn Garden by The Findhorn Community 

This may seem like an odd one. But if you believe in angels, then why not believe in other spirits, too? I’m sure there are all kinds. The Findhorn Garden was a garden started several decades ago in Scotland, in a very inhospitable, sandy spot. But the plants grew to enormous sizes, because the founders would communicate with the spirits of the plants to learn how to make them flourish. Even if you don’t get into that aspect of it, it might make you take a second glance at the world around you. Now when I pass gardeners just hacking away at plants, I almost want to yell at them to stop. When I see how we tear up and cement over nature, leaving struggling little weeds in the depleted dirt, I wonder how we got so far, so unconnected to the earth. I can’t even keep a tiny potted plant alive. So yes, this is a recommended read if you want to feel like more of a connection with nature is possible. I know I, for one, am going to spend some time this summer meditating in the forest with the fairies. 🙂

 

So those are my book suggestions of 2014. I know this post is late. I’ve been lazy about it. I have a lot of books to read right now. 😀

 

So what were your favourite books of 2014?

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. 😀

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.