This 4th of July I’m celebrating Americana, cause I’ve got some issues with America.
America’s a hot mess that talks a big game but can never seem to really get their shit together. I need to set boundaries with America, or else they will suck me dry of any spirit or joy. An emotional vampire, toxic environment, straight-up infuriating devil I know. So, yeah, America – we have issues, and I don’t want you to think that my eating BBQ, watching colorful explosives, and enjoying my federal holiday off of work is because we’re friends.
No – I’m celebrating in the name of Americana.
I am celebrating the culture of my home country and place of origin. As a biracial person in America, I’ve reflected on the fact I have no other country. The roots of my family tree trace back to islands in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. So, I drank the “melting pot” Kool-Aid of the 90s cause it affirmed I had a place in this world. Before I knew to be critical of America, I had already fallen in love with the mythology of Americana. I carry a sense of pride over the ideology behind our nation and belief that all men are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights, which among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Men being shorthand for human beings. Men being an antiquated generalized pronoun placeholder representing all people regardless of race, gender or gender identity, and sexual orientation.
To me, Americana is Chuck Berry and the birth of rock n roll. Two immigrants, Levis Strauss and Jacob Youphes coming together to create modern jeans/denim. Mr. Rodgers, Charlie Brown, the work of American puppeteer Jim Henson. Hamburgers, coca cola, and route 66. Disco and large shopping malls. Hollywood glamour and apple pie wholesomeness. All the elements that influence and inform a unique cutural experience and blossomed while America fluctuated between getting it right and horribly wrong. Since my experience on this planet is geographically from an American perspective, I’m curious about the cultural nuances that will be picked up and woven into the tapestry of Americana in another hundred years.
My Bachan’s birthday is July 4th, so growing up, the 4th always had this extra special place in my heart. After birthday cake, we would break out lawn chairs and settle in to watch my Dad and Uncle take turns setting off a box of legal fireworks purchased from a church parking lot. And I would rock a red, white, and blue ensemble for the occasion. After my Bachan passed away, going up to her grave for a picnic became the 4th of July ritual.
At eighteen and the start of her adult life, when one gains a sense of freedom and grows into their autonomy, she was sent to live behind barbed wire in a Japanese Internment Camp by her country. Like me, she was born in America, but since she was of Japanese descent, her freedoms as an American citizen were violated. The trauma my Bachan experienced is not easily healed, and she never discussed her experience. After the war, she wanted to stay in America but was forced to move to Japan by her father. An American woman in a foreign country, it would take her eight years to get back home.
At the end of the day, this hot mess called America is my country and home. I’m rooting for you and hold onto hope that with each decade you’ll progressive forward in a more positive manner than negative. Americana is the sugar that helps one swallow America. It’s what my Bachan loved and celebrated every 4th, the fireworks clearly going off just for her. As a woman, she appreciated that American culture afforded her more opportunities. And her husband, a fellow American she met in Japan, loved country music, westerns, and baseball. Two Americans of Japanese descent writing their own great American story. I spent every 4th with my side of the family that looked a lot different than the homogenous American family sold to us. Still, we couldn’t have been more made in the USA than the manufacturing label on the American Dream.
Happy 4th of July. I hope you’re able to enjoy your slice of whatever Americana means to you.
And remember, unless your Native American, you’re a visitor on this land – so have some respect.
It’s no surprise that the expansion and building of America was done by some well-meaning people and some really heinous people. We can’t change the past; and if it was changed, I don’t know where that leaves me. But it doesn’t hurt to acknowledge our f*d up colonial background, so be humble, and let’s try to right the wrongs of the past. Know better, do better – it’s that simple.
I’ve been struggling to hold on to a sense of myself outside of over-working and burnout. On weekends I find myself lost and aimless on how to navigate the unstructured time—struggling to prioritize myself over the boxes that line up next to my professional to-do list like a Level 10 Tetris screen.
Should I rest? Watch Netflix? Clean? Organize? Write? Create? What am I trying to achieve? What do I like? Who am I? What do I do first? What time is it? How is it already 8 pm? Damn, the sun is a mind f*ck.
Compound the existential crisis with trying to get in the swing of socializing after a year of living my best hermit life, and I’m like – not awesome. I’m not terrible, but I’m not awesome.
I’m growing at an incredibly rapid rate, and I feel like I have a spiritual camel-toe high-water situation happening. Grateful for the lessons and challenges that I’m experiencing. Each day feels like I’m charging wave after wave in an endless ocean of possibilities riding a tide that seems not to be taking me any closer to the shore.
When I was about 11 years old, I had gone through a growth spurt and, unbeknownst to me, packed a bathing suit that was too small for a pool party. Excited to go swimming, I put on the teeny weeny one piece that wedged up my bum with straps pulled taught like the end of a slingshot determined to make the poly-blend work for me. I’m not exactly sure who recognized or saved me from public embarrassment, but I was set up with an old bathing suit from my older cousin to wear instead. At the moment, I was uncomfortable with wearing a suit that wasn’t mine, but it was made clear to me that I had outgrown the suit I had brought.
Growth is uncomfortable and brings on more discomfort.
Guess that’s just where I’m at, the uncomfortable state of growing into a new person and figuring out what fits.
Sarah Connor, Trinity, Laura Croft, Buffy Summers – I have a thing for badass women who are unapologetic and lethal. It might be my Mars in Aries placement or watching Terminator 2 at an incredibly impressionable age, but I desperately wish I could snap my fingers and automatically be able to know how to take someone down in hand-to-hand combat and hit a target while somersaulting into my getaway vehicle. However, the truth of the matter is, I’m more Jessica Day than Jessica Jones. Despite thinking that my final form is that of a tortured female heroine with trust issues and the stamina to run for miles in chunky boots with a slight heel, the reality is those characters are a fantasy. And if my destiny was meant to be that of a true ass-kicker, I’d be writing case reports for the FBI instead of Facebook analytics. So the next best thing in embodying that boss energy is through my fashion choices. Leather pants have always been a part of my mental closet, yet I’ve never purchased any, and it’s an item I frequently window shop. The latest pair of leather pants I’ve set my heart on is from Anine Bing, which then lead to me perusing the rest of her site and finding more items that inform my heroine’s day to night transformation.
One day I’ll have leather pants. I have a signature leather jacket that needs an upgrade as it was purchased from Forever 21 over 15 years ago and is finally starting to show that it’s from Forever 21. But until I’m able to have the full leather pant and jacket combo, I’ll abandon my add-to carts until I can justify the extravagant purchase
Here are some recent add to carts (didn’t buy):
- Tourmaline Double Crystal Ring (House of Harlow 1960) – $75.00
- The Vanity Leather Crossbody Bag (Marc Jacobs) – $495.00
- Rey Top (Anine Bing) – $399.00
- Eleanor Trouser (Anine Bing) – $349.00
- Jagger Pant (Anine Bing) – $899.00
- Carla Pant (Anine Bing) – $249.00
My favorite discovery this past month, outside of Waterloo strawberry sparkling water, has been Girl In Red. The project of Norwegian singer-songwriter and record producer Marie Ulven. When I heard her tracks Serotonin and Summer Depression, it was like hearing the lines of my adolescent diary entries woven into a bright bopping melody. Girl In Red is refreshingly earnest, capturing the truth of what it feels like to cope with depression while avoiding the recreation of a post-punk drone that mirrors the feeling and feeds the bottomless pit. I wish I had her music to play on repeat as I stared up at my ceiling filled with self-loathing and anxiety, ruminating about if this feeling would ever go away. Perhaps the audio rainbow could have helped me feel less alone while also cutting through the fog.
Music has the power to illustrate the complex emotional landscape one is navigating, either through lyrics or the notes that reverberate off our eardrums and resonate within our souls. Songs act as beacon lights, a north star to describe the feelings we lack the vocabulary to name.
It’s been two years since my last long-term depressive episode and over a decade since I’ve felt defenseless in my ability to confront my mental health struggles. Thankfully, I’ve gained tools and learned strategies that help me hear Serotonin and Summer Depression and feel connected without feeling the emotions. Girl In Red’s library is filled with songs that perfectly illustrate nuanced emotions like longing, nerves, falling in love, regret, and more. All those emotions that make life so painfully delicious and rich with meaning.
Also, highly recommend listening to “WTF is Self Care” by Open Mike Eagle — it’s pure poetry.
Notebook people are extraordinarily skilled at justifying the purchase of a new notebook. No ambition is too small not to receive its own dedicated log. Scribbled into several notebooks are our thoughts, ideas, “note to self” reminders, fears, and accomplishments—a group of us notebook people knowing that their half-used notebooks with blank pages outnumber the completed journals. Eco-guilt is pulling at the edges of our stationery-obsessed hearts, so we promise to finish our notebooks before buying another. And our eyes wander to stationery accessories that will enhance the ritual of putting pen to paper—the lure of a fresh notebook itching at the back of our mind.
Here are collection of notebooks and other items I would add to cart:
- Artists Set (Poketo) | $ 117
- Meadows Notebook (Erin Condren) | $16.00 / on sale: $12.80
- Birds of Paradise Lined Notebook (Erin Condren) |$20.00 / on sale: $16.00
- 60s Eye Pattern Notebook (Society6) | $14.99
- Vintage & Shabby Chic – Autumn Harvest Black Notebook (Society6) | $14.99
- Fruit Stickers (Shout&About) | $5.00
- Object Notebook in Sunrise (Poketo) | $24.00
- Self Planner (Poketo) | $28.00
- I Got This Notepad ( People I Have Loved)| $12.00
- Eye Dream Journal in Lemon (Rainbow Vision) | $26.00
- Make It Happen Journal (People I Have Loved) | $15.00
- Rainbow Waves (Papier) |$26.99
- Flower Power Notebook (Rainbow Vision) |$14.00
- Stacked Shapes (Papier) | $26.99
- Joy (Papier) | $26.99
- Pencil & Paper Co. Take Note Pens (Anthropologie) |$14.00
A quick status report of where I’m at today, and 2021 thus far…
Feel free to read it all or scroll to the section of maximum interest.
HUSTLE & FLOW
Back in September 2020, after an innocent conversation I was having with a friend over Instagram voice messages caused me to spiral into a full-blown panic attack, I realized I should hire an expert in emotions to help me move past some major blocks I had been experiencing. At the top of 2020, before the pan dulce, I was extremely agitated when I’d sit down to set goals and have to push through the extraneous stress to even open up my imagination for envisioning a life I’d want to cultivate. I’ve always been a “figure it out as you go type of person” because, at some point in my past, that was what I learned for survival. My emotional brain has struggled to evolve past immediate needs and into being capable of working toward defining my own vision of success, especially when associated with my creative aspirations. In my perspective, my ambitions have thrived more professionally than personally because professions equate to income and stability. But even in that department, I’ve had my fair share of struggles. Since connecting with a professional life navigator, I’ve been able to shift and remove a few of my mental blocks. Allowing my brain to see new pathways for professional and personal fulfillment. I’m genuinely excited for this next chapter because I feel like I just may be equipped to achieve my idea of success for the first time. It doesn’t mean I don’t shake in my brocade boots or that the mean girls in my mind are in detention – but I’m able to acknowledge them and return to the yellow brick road laid in front of me.
Not ready to publicly share my specific goals and ambitions, but to those paying attention, you might start to see them manifest.
HEALTH & WELLNESS
The start of this year has been a little trying on my mental and physical health. Due to an overly ambitious holiday card project, I didn’t have time to set 2021 goals or make a 2021 vision board. Basically, apply all the great knowledge and insight I’d gained by doing the self-work I’d alluded to above. Seemingly innocent, except my inner critic would not let up how this lack of goal setting was a reflection of my self-worth. I fought back the mental bully while finishing up 30+ hand-painted ornament for friends and family. In addition to putting Christmas décor away because, after January 6th, formally cute turns to chaos and raises my cortisol levels. Then the weekend, I’m finally getting everything wrapped up, Christmas tree is being deconstructed, and only six more holiday ornament packages need to be sent out – I come down with the rona. The panna cotta hit home. My husband works at a grocery store, and with the surge occurring in Los Angeles, everyone in his store eventually caught the virus. If you’re curious, I shared the full story on my Instagram the first weekend I felt recovered and saved it as a highlight labeled “storytime“. It’s a little all over the place, but you’ll get the gist.
My husband and I feel very fortunate that neither of us had to go to the hospital and are mostly back to normal. But we’re still experiencing some effects of Covid-19, like being easy to fatigue, and I have increased inflammation in my body, triggering a skin rash all over my abdomen.
EATS & DRINKS
After Covid-19 robbed me of my sense of taste and smell for about a week, I came out of the darkness with a fire in my belly, ready to indulge in all my favorites. Plus, it was my birthday, so I kicked off the top of February with cupcakes, pasta, Japanese fried chicken, ramen, sushi, and the decadence did not stop. My taste buds traveled to several countries from the comfort of my home. I don’t regret a single bite, but the excess and richness exacerbated my post-rona inflammation. Although cute, I’m not trying to have a skin suit that resembles a speckled robin’s egg for the rest of my life. Plus, who knows what damage the long-term inflammation can have on my body in the future, especially as I have a history of rheumatoid arthritis in my family.
So, I’m working on cutting out refined sugar (anything above >1% on the label), dairy, and most meats from my diet. Fortunately, I’ve been using Daily Harvest for a few months now as a quick meal solution on busy days. With this shift in my diet, I’ll be leaning harder on Daily Harvest as my Monday through Thursday breakfast, lunch, and dinner solution. I want to eliminate the window of opportunity for my brain to go, I’m not sure what to eat, or we don’t have anything to eat – so let’s get french fries and chicken strips. My goal here is to set myself up for success, which means knowing my weaknesses and countering them with fool-proof solutions. DH also helps manage food-waste in my home. A DH meal never goes to waste. However, the fresh produce I purchased due to unrealistic expectations for myself cooking it before it spoils is an expensive and wasteful delusion.
I also picked up this SUPER cute Poketo Food Planner. It was sold out on Poketo’s website, but I found it on Nordstroms.com. I’ll be using it to plan what Daily Harvest meals I’ll be eating each day and what anti-inflammatory meals I want to cook for my legally bound life partner and me on the weekends.
HBOMax has been showing up with the light-hearted, feel-good content I’ve needed to escape the weight of 2021 thus far.
Selena + Chef
I’m a pretty big Selena Gomez fan, not going to go into it right now, but let’s just say if I need to stay awake on a long drive home – Selena is one of my go-to sing-a-long artists. I love the girl, so it surprising that it took so long to start watching Selena + Chef. But it was the perfect show to binge when I felt like absolute crap and needed some comfort television, consuming delicious episode after episode with talented chefs and Selena’s sweet determination to learn to cook. The tension is real; in one episode she came out wearing a sweater I thought was awful for cooking in (sleeves for days, kitchen hazard 101 – no loose sleeves), she never lit a sleeve on fire, BUT lots of other shenanigans go down. For foodies and novice chefs, this is a fun show. I’ve been using the French omelet technique to cook eggs since watching episode 1.
It’s a wholesome reality competition involving flowers. The contestants and judges were entertaining, but I was there mostly for the floral executions and occasional takeaway tips on playing with flowers at home. This reminds me, I want to pick up some tulips from Trader Joes this week.
The Great (Hulu)
Fun period piece, drama/comedy, featuring the occasionally true story of Katherine The Great. Costumes are opulent and gorgeous, and watching Katherine (Elle Fanning) navigate assimilation and rise to power in Russia is fascinating, although 99.9% fictional in its depiction. Discard the need for historical accuracy and go for the ride.
A fascinating documentary about the crack epidemic that is heartbreaking and blood-boiling, but I’m a firm believer in consuming content that expands one’s understanding of our society, country, and how the world operates. Documentaries allow for our continued education, helping us to paint a richer picture of our reality and the reality of those who do not have our same experiences.
ADD TO CART
I love fun-size candy and travel-size skincare. Skincare can be so expensive, so I rarely buy a full bottle of something if I can try it out first in a value/gift pack or travel size version.
Here is what I’ve explored recently all as travel sizes:
Good, I like it, nothing offensive – not sure if it’s doing anything, but might purchase cause it MAY be doing something just needs more time.
- GOOD GENES – LACTIC ACID TREATMENT
- LUNA – SLEEPING NIGHT OIL ( I do observe a slight difference the next morning)
- C.E.O. – 15% VITAMIN C BRIGHTENING SERUM
Love it, will definitely be purchasing full-size product
- ICE – CERAMIDE MOISTURIZING CREAM (super hydrating)
- TIDAL BRIGHTENING ENZYME WATER CREAM (perfect daytime moisturizer for me)
- Anti-Aging Body Balm ( on the fence, we’re still dating)
- Ocean Lotion ( hate the smell. thankfully, it fades quickly)
- Undaria Algae Body Oil ( smell good. not easy to use. must have damp skin for optimum application)
Also, while in a corona-fueled moment of cabin fever, I bought the Les Mieux’s Skin Perfecter, which is a $200* exfoliation tool. I really like it, and it’s totally satisfying for anyone that enjoys seeing gunk come out of their pores.
LISTEN [ Hyperlinks go to Spotify]
Still making playlists, this year’s start has been light in development hitting around 40 – 45 mins for both monthly mixtapes.
This radio station has been my go to for the workday –
Good Word with Kirk Franklin – so far, he’s interviewed Pharrell Williams, H.E.R., and Chance the Rapper. Each conversation has provided nuggets of insight around the human experience, reflection on our relationship with God, faith, or church. Chance the Rapper educated me on Chicago’s segregation issues that added colors and context to the conversation around black on black crime. Great podcast – looking forward to more episodes.
Thanks for catching up with me! What have you’ve been eating, watching, listening to, or adding to cart? How have you been hustling and flowing? No winners or losers here, only wins and lessons – got any you want to get off your chest? Let me know in the comments.
The clash of thunder shook me from my slumber and triggered my fight or flight response. Throwing off the covers and bouncing out of bed, putting on my boots, to run outside and remove the seat cushions from our outdoor furniture. A totally natural reaction upon hearing a thunderstorm in the middle of the night – right? Our outdoor furniture has become very important to me this year.
Pandemic party planner wasn’t a skill I was expecting to learn in 2020, but here we are and I feel like Christmas was my graduation show. CDC guidelines pushed my inner host to think in new ways and a spacious suburban backyard made distancing logistics easier. Seriously, just feel incredibly lucky and grateful that my family unit/cohort of eight were able to gather safely during this time. I have two nieces and a nephew of varying ages under 12, and I know the pandemic is going to mark their psyches. Eventually, as they grow older, the childhood trauma will manifest in some weird way like needing to have a linen closet stuffed with toilet paper in order to feel a sense of calm…or maybe nothing at all. Anyways, I wanted to influence their memories of this weird year positively and thus I became a pandemic party planner.
Back in July, I wrote down “plan a perfect pandemic backyard Christmas” in my agenda as an action item. A few ideas scribbled under the bulleted task to set me in a direction. Most of those initial scribbles didn’t come into fruition, but what did materialize achieved the desired objective – make positive memories for my nieces and nephew.
Below is a before and after of the backyard’s transformation from drab to Christmas fab!
Make children have to complete a Survivor-style obstacle course in order to open their presents. For a festive flare call the obstacle course portion of the party, Reindeer Games.
Also, since 2020 will likely be the last year my husband and I live with my mom, I wanted to display all the decorations we had and make the season special. The hodgepodge of items creating our own little Christmas aesthetic – rooted in tradition, textiles, collections, and a bit of resourcefulness. A tour of our aesthetic can be found on IGTV, or maybe that’s why you’re here in the first place – well, if so, thank you for checking out my backyard transformation.
📷: November 1, 2020 & December 1, 2020 – Self Portrait
My end goal of every year is to come out of it a little wiser than I entered.
Roses & Thorns:
- Legit don’t remember and need to keep better track in 2021
Two big brown button eyes are staring up at me, and I keep being gently smacked in the face with a paw. Lou would like me to get out of bed and attend to her needs now. But like all good parents, I am teaching her a lesson in patience. She is awake too early, and as she doesn’t have a concept of time, it’s very difficult to communicate this point to her.
My portrait of this Snail Mail is a mix of November and December. The months have run together in a blur of end of year wrap up assignments, an attempt at a CDC guideline approved social life, and online shopping. Zoom brunches where I can. A backyard hangout distanced six feet apart. Relentless fourteen-hour workdays to prove my value and worth. Shopping to comfort the emotional burn out that is 2020. I did a little “one for you, one for me” action while taking advantage of Black Friday deals to populate presents under the Christmas tree.
I’ve had years where the Christmas spirit has felt absent. But I don’t feel that this year. Despite the fact we are in a global pandemic that has impacted the ability to safely gather for Christmas with all my loved ones ( a reasonable sacrifice given hospitals are being overrun with Covid-cases on top of the common physical ailments that impact our fragile human bodies in otherwise “normal times”) the other special nuances of the season seem to be turned up for me. Like when a person loses their sight, so their hearing becomes supersonic. Hot cocoa is extra cozy and decadent. Inflatable lawn décor is mini art installations embodying the feeling of joy during the holiday season, or for me – the joy of Christmas.
Mid-December, I optimistically barrel forward until I drag my tired bones over the threshold into “holiday” territory. A two-week respite where the collective understanding is that new day-job demands are reserved for FY21. I’m looking forward to half days, end of year organizing (although there isn’t much considering I’ve been doing it bit by bit every weekend this year), working on the painting that I only work on once a year, and a little healthy goal planning for the year ahead.
As for a quick November recap, well, after a year of struggling with my imposter syndrome, I had a few professional wins that serve as evidence for my brain to say, “Hey, you’re not a con-artist; you have earned your spot at this table.” First, I helped contribute strategic insight for a new business proposal, and I dusted off my stage training as I hosted my first official webinar. I love presenting, and it was a fun webinar to host. Afterward, I was given kudos and informed it was the best webinar that the audience had attended. Woot woot!
I’ve learned and grown a lot this year. My end goal of every year is to come out of it a little wiser than I entered. I think I’m tracking towards that
It’s a g*d-d*mn victorious amazing liberating f*kn fantastic day.
Trump was not re-elected.
And to celebrate, I’m cleaning my house.
Cause it’s a day of cleansing — we are cleaning out the White House of the hyperbolic leadership of the last four years, so I’d like to reflect that sentiment in my home as well.
p.s. Sending my gratitude out into the world for all the amazing people who created memes and Tik-Toks filled with funny, and inspired commentary on this past week. It legit got me through Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
p.p.s. Watched this documentary today and holy mf cannoli …
I’m not one to share or talk about politics so publicly. The conversations that involve political themes require more patience and nuance than is ever allotted on the internet. It demands more empathy, compassion, understanding, and willingness to withhold harsh judgment on those that are not aligned with your belief system. I choose to not engage. However, today, in the light of all the pain, heartache, death, and despair that 2020 has endured – I participate in this political conversation and celebrate.