Tuesday, November 30, 2010

blogger love: natalie schlegel photography

All Photos by Natalie Schlegel

I'm sure you've noticed Natalie's name on my blog, because she is the talented photographer behind the majority (if not all) of the portraits of me that I post. Today, I'm giving her a special shout out because I'm not sure that she knows just how much I believe in her! Natalie has an insane eye for portrait photography, a natural talent and ability to capture a person's essence and beauty. You don't have to look further than the examples above to see that she has what it takes to make it big. And make it big I think she will.

I will be forever grateful that this adorable girl came into my life! She has proved to be the best kind of friend a person can have, and a constant inspiration as far as my art is concerned. We began using each other as models to work on our craft over two years ago, and even though we are now separated by 3,000 miles we continue to plan photo projects and swap ideas constantly. Every artist needs a friend like that!

Check out Natalie's Flickr stream here. And be sure to stop by her blog, Natalie Schlegel Photography. Her bubbly spirit, cuteness, and creativity shine through her upbeat posts. And if you are lucky enough to live in the San Francisco Bay area, you can contact Natalie for hire for portraits or events! I highly recommend her! We used her for our engagement shots (one example above), and they are truly gorgeous, emotional pictures.

Love you Natalie! (And you will too as soon as you check her out!)

Monday, November 29, 2010

the most wonderful time of the year?

As per usual, Christmas has exploded across the country. Every year, before our turkeys can even speak their last gobble, we are gearing up for the next holiday. It always feels so rushed to me, except for this year. Our house is intentionally devoid of any sprigs of evergreen, jingling bells or sparkly snowflakes. Half out of convenience and half out of holiday avoidance, Alex and I scheduled our 8 day honeymoon to fall over Christmas break. His work ethic, handed down through the generations of his family, only allowed us to take a few days in Vermont after our wedding last month. We do have the luxury of Alex's 16+ weeks of vacation time he gets every year so I wasn't too disappointed.

This December instead of spending our holiday shuttling around the eastern seaboard in an attempt to spread our love (way too thin) amongst far too many family abodes, we will be heading off to the glorious island of Antigua. Here (below) is the unbelievable resort where we will be relaxing instead of packing our car to the brim with hand wrapped presents, allergen-free casseroles, our sanity, and bags filled with books and DVDs to occupy the many moments we've escaped to hide in a guest room somewhere. Yes, we will be holding on tight to our sanity this year, and I couldn't be more thrilled.

I have to say, the holidays seem to cause more anxiety, stress and exhaustion than they do joy and celebration....at least in my family. There is always the battle over where the event will be held, who will go to which house on what day and for how long, the lists of gift requests that you know you are going to be guilted into buying, but can't actually afford, the awkward moments with relatives or family friends that you inevitably face no matter how hard you try to avoid, the arguments over what to cook because every member of the family has different diet restrictions and food allergies. There are also all the elephants in the corner of every gathering....without a doubt someone has lost a job, ended a relationship, gotten into some kind of trouble, been single for too long, had a falling out with someone sitting at the table across from them that was never actually resolved, passed out at the dinner table from the combination of the wine and the Xanax they needed to take just to get through the holidays. I also find that in my case, being a 30-year old newly married woman, there is the lovely new struggle of overbearing parents who can't quite let go of their "babies." My blood pressure has risen just writing this.

So, instead, I will be enjoying the view from my balcony in Antigua this year.

I am looking forward to spending my days running in the warm sand, snorkeling in the turquoise water, exploring the island, enjoying a massage for two on the beach at sunset, dancing the night away with my incredible husband....ahhh...it's going to magic!

Although, I will feel a slight nostalgia for the pieces of the holidays that I do enjoy, like visiting our warm, cozy house in Maine. It is always buried in deep snow by December, which gives you all the reason in the world to hunker down by the fire, watch the ocean roll in and out over the ice-covered rocky beach, drink hot cocoa to your heart's content, cook and bake the day away, and play some board games with your family.

Our house in Boothbay Harbor, Maine

How much do you love the porthole window??

Something else I will miss: my dad's week-long display of Christmas sweaters and socks.

I will also hold a soft spot in my heart for the Christmas season, because it is when Alex and I fell in love two years ago, and it is when he proposed to me last year. The first thing we did when we arrived at the Maine house last Christmas was pop open a bottle of champagne and toast our engagement. It was one of the happiest moments of my entire life!

Such a blurry, poor quality picture (please excuse!), but it was difficult to capture the night Alex proposed to me given my hands wouldn't stop shaking and the apartment was pitch black, aside from a trail of tiny candles. Love him!

I hope you all survive the next month of holiday preparations (that is if you celebrate)!

Friday, November 26, 2010

an intimate act

Ahhhh, the intimate act. I am a free spirit by nature, but when it comes to this act I am so free I am almost lost; passionately flinging myself into the intoxicating flow, hours passing as if they were mere moments, overwhelmed by insatiability and ecstasy. I've been this way for as long as I can remember. I sometimes find it bizarre that I felt this yearning at such a young age, spending hours alone in my bedroom exploring this newfound world of mine. But, when I discovered this was an act I could share, a reciprocal volley of passion....well, I was hooked. I couldn't get enough, and could never have too many partners, although I will admit I tend to burn out on one person and move on to the next. But, I had to marry my husband because he has by far been the best I've ever had, and I never get tired of......writing with him. I fell in love with him because of his skills and ability to forever surprise me.......with his writing. Wait, what did you think I was talking about?

In all seriousness though, reciprocal writing is truly an intimate act for me. I have struggled with intimacy issues for all my life, coming from a deeply dysfunctional set of parents who couldn't have possibly modeled the necessary behaviors I would need to have working relationships. I wrestled with these issues for over a decade before I began to heal, and eventually began to trust and commit to working through my personal defects. My husband, Alex, has been the most patient and supportive individual in my life as far as that is concerned. But, it's not shocking that I was able to grow close to him and really reveal everything that lurks in my complicated soul, because we fell in love through letters before we fell in love in person. [A funny side note....before Alex, I had listed under "profession" on Facebook: professional pen pal/email therapist.]

Alex and I met when we were just 10 years old, two 5th graders who sat next to each other in our homeroom class. Our lives ran completely parallel, never crossing though, as the universe led us through the experiences, lessons, and adventures we needed in order to become perfectly suited to love and understand one another. It was then that our paths finally crossed (2 years ago). At the time I was living in San Francisco, 3,000 miles away from Alex who was in Connecticut. In a world that runs on technology, we saw each others' faces for the first time in a decade when we became friends on Facebook. It's difficult to explain why or how it all happened, because it was really a cosmic explosion....two passionate writers with similar interests and complicated minds that require an equally complicated mind in order to dance.

We spent hours every day writing back and forth to one another, feeling comfortable talking about all the things that often go unspoken. Given the physical distance and the safety both of us find in writing (as opposed to face-to-face), we were able to let go completely. It was a relationship that seemed devoid of the question "where is this going?" But, it was the one relationship, for both of us, that had a destination. Those months of writing were the foreplay to a love and friendship that sparkles in a way that is evident to all who witness it.

It comes as no surprise that Alex and I are now writing a book together. So far it has been an incredible experience sharing that passion with someone I am so passionate about. Our writing dates are my favorite part of the week! Perhaps I will share some excerpts at some point, little teasers from what I hope will be a successful book. It's an entertaining combination of humor and emotion. Stay tuned for more about our project...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

happy thanksgiving!

Last Thanksgiving I was in charge of shooting a portrait (black & white at top) for my then-boyfriend's family. They are such a photogenic, gorgeous bunch and I had so much fun capturing their lively spirits. Little did I know that, on this day, my boyfriend asked his mother for one of their family rings to propose to me with. It's so bizarre to think that we were not even engaged last Thanksgiving, because today we will celebrate with our family as husband and wife.....I could not feel any more blessed. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

tie dyed mama

My sister-in-law, Nicole, is seriously the most adorable pregnant woman! I am one of those individuals who finds pregnancy utterly beautiful and sacred so it's not surprising that I find her so adorable. She makes me wonder what my tiny frame will look like when I'm carrying a baby....and I have to say, I honestly can't wait to see myself with a round belly. I'm sure all the changes to my body won't be as easy to swallow when the time actually comes, but right now I am convinced that I will love being pregnant. It seems impossible to imagine myself with so many curves, but I'm sure it will be entertaining for everyone to watch the tiny girl grow. Wow, I guess I should put this out there: "no, I'm not pregnant!" I think it's just a biological reflex, given my age, to feel drawn to pregnancy. Someday though! I'm a Cancer, so I won't feel complete until I am a mother....I often wonder if people always know that I'm referring to astrology when I say that. It doesn't often occur to me that the rest of the world may not put much stock into what my sign has to say about me.

I admit, I do believe in astrology. I identify with my sign of Cancer in every single respect and can often be heard responding to people with "oh, well obviously...he's a Sagittarius" or "she'll be the best big sister when you have your baby because she's a Cancer." It's just something that makes sense to me. At any rate, I was in heaven when one of my favorite Etsy shops, The Dirty Housewife, started a line of Zodiac channeling oils. Wow! Totally pulled me in. They smell delightful, and I LOVE the premise behind the oils...."These are blended to match each Sun sign and be inspired by the seasons, birth flowers, spices, and herbs, and personalities. The oils will speak to your most primeval senses and touch your soul on a deep and instinctive level, as we naturally tend to vibrate to the essences of our birth months, or to the essences of the season we are living in."

I also find The Dirty Housewife's descriptions of each of the astrological signs to be more spot on and interesting than your run-of-the-mill horoscope listings. Bellow is her description of a Cancer, my sign, which will tell you all you need to know about me. So insightful. I felt like I understood myself better after reading it, which is bizarre, but true. I truly used to live the life of a gypsy, and was very difficult to pin down as far as relationships and homes. But, once I met my husband I was suddenly propelled into a settled life, longing to find a home to live in for the foreseeable future.

At any rate, I highly recommend the zodiac channeling oils, even if you don't think about your astrological sign as much as I do. I gave Nicole a vile of the Sagittarius blend a couple of months ago and she could not stop wow-ing and smelling her wrist. The scents really do speak to you in some cosmic way, unique in that you've never smelt anything quite like it, but so comforting and familiar. Sadly, The Dirty Housewife is on vacation for the holidays so you can't view her shop until Monday, but I highly suggest checking it out then! I'm obsessed with her products.

"Nobody will ever love you like a Cancer. Nobody will ever nurture you and make you feel like you are THE GREATEST thing to walk the earth like Cancer either! Too bad they do not stick around long enough to do it! Cancer is THE Great Escape Artist of the Zodiac Wheel. These little nomads should have covered wagons and hats. But even a traveling Gypsy has to plant their roots somewhere, and when they finally settle down and do it for good they will realize they had what they were looking for all along- inside their great big hearts. Emotions play a key role for these little crabs wearing their homes on their backs, moving at night with the cycles of the moon as they are constantly in search of the next nurturing nourishment. Cancers generally make the best parents of the Zodiac, and happiest when nurturing the little ones. Home is definitely where the Heart is."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

welcome home

There is a sign that reads "welcome home" as you pull into the garage of my apartment building. When my husband and I first moved in a year and a half ago, we were absolutely tickled to be greeted by the sign every time we came home at the end of the day. We'd even talk back to the sign and say "thank you!" I suppose you could say we found it comforting after spending 3 decades searching for "home." Both of us come from broken families and have seen our fair share of family homes. We have furthered the cycle of constant change in adulthood by living nomadic lives the minute we went off into the world on our own. Ironically, that feeling of "home," that settled feeling we were questing after, was found in one another (aww) rather than a physical location.

I moved my life from San Francisco, a city perfectly fit for a girl like me, to Stamford, CT a year and a half ago, to be with my husband. Although San Francisco offered everything that I look for in a home, it no longer fit me when I left....but my husband did. Unfortunately, both of us despise the city we live in now. There are corners of beauty and enjoyable times to be had every now and again, but ultimately we stick out like two sore thumbs. Fairfield county is rife with money culture, conservative minds, and not much in the way of nature (other than the beaches, but we are forest people). Don't get me wrong, I'm sure this is the perfect place for someone that fits in, but we don't. We dream of mountain air, swarms of trees instead of high rise buildings, people who look you in the eye and say hello and don't cut you off while driving, and clean land to grow our produce in. But alas, this is our home for now.

The interesting part of living somewhere that doesn't fit me/us is that I am constantly looking for places that do, which fills our life with a great deal of traveling, camping, visits to yoga retreat centers, etc. It's a pretty good way to saturate our lives with the energy that fulfills us (for the time being). My husband and I tend to gravitate toward the same cultures, feelings and locations so it's no problem getting him to plan a camping trip, to buy tickets to 3 Phish shows in a row, or to head off to Colorado, Vermont or the Adirondacks for a week. However, I definitely lean a lot farther toward the left than he does so he's not a fan of all my ideas. I can usually find ways to entice my husband to spend a weekend meditating in the mountains, living unshowered in the woods for a span of days, or even dance barefoot to drum music with a bunch of people with some serious B.O. who flagellate at will (this was only once and he ran away the minute his bare toes started to bleed from the impact). I am not always able to get him on board for some of the more dramatic declarations of alternative living that I am drawn toward.....for instance, my newest obsession: Rainbow Gathering.

Rainbow Gathering has been happening every summer since 1972 in a different United States National Forest each year. It is a group of "families" who come together to live in an intentional community (for those who don't know, it's essentially a hippie commune) for the week surrounding the 4th of July. Everyone is expected to contribute and spend their days helping the community run successfully. When you arrive there are signs everywhere that read "welcome home" and "we love you!" Now THIS is the type of place that I want to be welcomed to rather than a 17-story high rise in the heart of an urban landscape....a gathering of people who assemble in shared love for the earth and to pray for world peace. Mmm hmmm. Most people would roll their eyes, but I am LOVING it!

I won't get into all that transpires at the Rainbow Gathering, but I will share one of my favorite parts. On the morning of the 4th of July there is a silent meditation circle that ends at noon with a collective "Om." I shutter just imagining the sound of such a large mass of people om-ing.

If you love beautiful, inspired images or are curious to see more pictures of this amazing event, check out Benoit.P's photostream on Flickr. It is insane!! Truly some of the most beautiful portrait work I have ever, ever, EVER laid my eyes on. I am absolutely astounded by his talent. I would post the pictures here, but they are copy righted. Here is my favorite, followed by this and this....and this.

Oh, and my husband's response to my wild slideshow and informational rambling about the Rainbow Gathering, followed by an excited "do you want to go to Rainbow Gathering this summer?!!" was, "I think you will have a fantastic time at Rainbow Gathering this summer...have fun!"

Monday, November 22, 2010

buttercup history

I've been obsessively digging through my history lately. This mass excavation has been more than psychological though; I have been scouring my lifetime of files of photos and personal recordings. I have always been one to look back in order to better understand the present, and to intentionally walk into the future of my choosing.....so I tend to revisit my physical history fairly regularly. Pouring through the images of my life, reading my childhood diaries and books filled with my poetry, watching home movies and listening to the music I made once upon a time (not so long ago) has become somewhat of a yearly ritual for me. I deeply value the perspective I gain from remembering where I came from in order to fully realize where I am today.

I shared one of my songs, The Consequence of DNA, a few days ago (the 11/19 entry on my tumblr) and today I have dug up an old performance poetry piece of mine. This is reminiscent of my days in San Francisco, where I lived in an apartment by myself with plenty of time to artistically explode in the comfort of my solitude. I would spend my days painting in my underwear, dancing in my dark living room by candlelight, writing poetry over a dinner of fresh baked cookies, penning my music in the afternoon sunshine.....ahhhhh!

At any rate, you can listen to my Buttercup History on my tumblr page. I wrote this piece of poetry as a performance piece, to be heard rather than read. I was sitting in my quiet apartment one afternoon, looking out my windows across Golden Gate Park with the Marin Headlands and Pacific ocean glowing in the distant background. It was such a peaceful moment in which I wanted to create art, but did not want to lend myself to my darker emotions (the oft visited location for artistic inspiration). So I sat down in an attempt to recall my childhood through rose-colored glasses, bringing up all the intensely joyful moments of being a kid and enjoying life. Buttercup History was the result. Enjoy!

Sadly, I don't have any personal photographs of buttercups (something I've been dying to capture for years!). I did find myself walking through the most perfect field of buttercups in Elizabeth Park last spring with my lovely friend Hannah. Unfortunately, I had to kick myself for leaving my camera back at her house. However, I was able to find some truly beautiful and vibrant Buttercup pieces on Etsy this morning. I've shared those pieces bellow. Check out these amazing shops! I am so inspired by the works of these talented artists!! And I now have my eye on all these pieces....and am scheming to purchase a few!

HAVE TO have this!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

be happy so long as breath is in you

"I would not exchange the laughter of my heart for the fortunes of the multitudes; nor would I be content with converting my tears...into calm. It is my fervent hope that my whole life on this earth will ever be tears and laughter."
~Kahlil Gibran

I have to remind myself that it is okay to be happy....quite often in fact. I can say with such relief that my masochism has dimmed to a tiny flicker that only ignites when an occasional wind coaxes it to burn. But, it wasn't always this way and the psychological reflex is surely still there. There are a myriad of reasons why so many of us feel masochistic (and often act so without any awareness that we are); it's really not uncommon to feel nervous or uncomfortable when we get exactly what we want, or when our happiness feels too good to be true. In Al Anon, we refer to this as "waiting for the other shoe to drop." And, let me tell you, those of us who are the friends, children, spouses, parents, or acquaintances of alcoholics can attest to how pervasive this feeling can be. I think anyone can relate to this problem though. I've seen so many, undeniably including myself, partake in good old fashioned self-sabotage. I used to be the absolute master of it.

I'm writing this today to remind myself to "be happy so long as breath is in me," because I'm feeling that tinge of fear. I'm sitting here on a gorgeous Saturday, my loving husband lavishing me with shoulder massages, kisses, and encouraging words every time he passes by; I am comfortably seated in a warm, beautiful home, a brand new soy wax candle burning the scent of vanilla and sandalwood into the air, soothing Chakra meditation music keeping my anxiety at bay.....all is right in my world. In fact, my life is perfect (in an imperfect way) and fulfilling in every way. Yet, I feel terrified. I know the feeling will pass, I know I'm lucky as hell to be who I am, living the glorious life I'm living......but damn, it's just one of those days.

I'm going to leave you with a passage from the book I read religiously every morning, when I first wake up, Courage to Change. I find that, on days like these, this passage is like a nice bucket of ice cold water dumped over my head. Maybe it'll serve as a good reminder for someone else....

"I've often heard happiness is an inside job, and, much of the time, I can be as happy as I decide to be. Yet I've often found happiness fleeting. I know it's unrealistic to expect to be happy all the time, but I think I might achieve this goal much more often if I made a firmer commitment to my decision to be happy. Instead, I choose happiness and then abandon my choice at the first sign of trouble. How deep can my commitment be if I allow even slight obstacles to rob me of my sense of well-being?

Commitment takes work; it is a discipline. When I make a decision, I must ask myself what I really want and if I am willing to work on it. Old habits are hard to break. If I have a long-standing habit of responding to problems by feeling like a helpless victim, it may not be easy to stand by my decision to be happy. A change of attitude sometimes helps: Perhaps I can look at problems as opportunities to commit more deeply to my choices. In other words, every obstacle can prompt me to assert that I really want it--I do want to be happy."

~ Courage to Change

Friday, November 19, 2010

the consequence of DNA

I must be feeling more comfortable being imperfect in front of an audience, because I've mustered up the courage to share one of Lola Rain's original songs. I have to preface it by stating that this was a one-take, rough draft that I never went back to edit so it is highly imperfect (gulp). The guitar is totally off, and I don't want to even discuss the vocals because with only one take of the song I'm left completely vulnerable and feel quite self-conscious about it. Enough self deprecation though.....you can use your imagination to fix all the flaws and pretend it's perfect. I'm hearing myself stamp this disclaimer onto a piece of my artwork, by the way, and all I can think of is the quote I ended yesterday's blog entry with: "To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong (Joseph Chilton Pearce)." I need to suck it up and work through my fear of being wrong!

About the song: To listen to the song, go to my tumblr page. The song is posted under the November 19th entry. I have been trying to figure out how to add a music player to my blog or within a blog posting all day today, and it's been maddening! I have tried a handful of different music hosting sites and music players and cannot get it to work. Grr. If anyone knows how to do this, leave me a comment!! Please and thank you.

More importantly, I always love to provide some background on my music a la VHI Storytellers. Personally, when I listen to a song I'm listening to the lyrics, feeling the emotion, analyzing the words, and wondering where it all came from. Like a lot of my artistic expression, I found that when I began to write music it was an outlet for my darker feelings and thoughts. The very first song I wrote was super peppy and upbeat, but after that my music began to mirror the difficult pieces of me that had always been locked away and numbed out. Penning the lyrics was an emotional and psychological purging for me, and performing them provided SUCH a release! I had always struggled to communicate or even recognize my pain, but when my guitar was in front of me the words floated up from an inexplicable, mysterious place as if they'd waited all their lives to be sung. It was exactly what I needed. At any rate, this song was written a few months after I learned how to play the guitar when I was in my dark and tormented phase:)

The Consequence of DNA is about my struggle with my inherited genes that have tormented me. However, it's more than physical strands of DNA (nature) that I'm referring to--it's the nurture part of me, the learned behaviors and psychological maladies (such as the good old GAD, my anxiety that I discussed a few days ago). In the past, these things left me feeling trapped in a life I did not want. I will say it bluntly and succinctly: I was raised by an alcoholic mother. The song is fairly straightforward (I think?) once you have that information. It's a large topic, which is why I'm leaving it simple (for now). As a side note, though, I'm currently toying with the idea of writing a book about alcoholism from the perspective of a girl who was surrounded by it all her life, but (thankfully and gratefully!) was never afflicted with the disease herself (only the learned behaviors, thank god for Al Anon!).

Let me know what you think of the song (lyrics below)!

The Consequence of DNA

Can't get outta my head
Can't get outta my bed
apathy is wrapping around me
serpentine and laughing
wish I could talk to myself
put these neurons on a shelf

The consequence of DNA
thought I killed it yesterday
head is climbing up the walls
emotions gushing waterfalls
heart descending to the floor
soul is pleading nevermore

Can't get outta my head
cant' get outta my bed
sabotage is wrapping around me
serpentine and laughing
wish you could just let me be
but I'm my only enemy

The past is creeping in again
just as I began to mend
ghosts are taunting their long reign
voices driving me insane
wanting off this island now
but mama never taught me how