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Remembering Caitlin.

I got a phone call while I was at work a few days ago from my mom telling me that she saw a close friend of mine in the obituaries that morning. With a pain in my stomach and a numbness immediately following, I searched for the obituary. I sat in my office chair staring at it for a long time before immediately going to her Facebook page and then our recent messages, as if that was going to answer my questions, somehow. I left my tea still hot on my desk, work spread across it, and drove home.

Grief is different as you get older. The reality of being human is that every life ends, and it happens to everyone, eventually. Death doesn’t discriminate: it takes us all, and we are each uncertain of when. Death comes and it never stops being difficult for us to comprehend. My grief started as a numbness, then went into disbelief with my mind scrambling around trying to catch up with the fact: she was gone. Following the numbness, came an overwhelming sense of fragility and impermanence. My friend Caitlin was only 30 when she passed. 30.

There is something particularly heartbreaking about losing a friend who was so young. We all expect that we’ll pass in our old age, with over half a century behind us, but when death comes much, much sooner for someone we know, it hits us in an entirely different way.

This blog post isn’t about my grief, however. It’s about Caitlin. And the grief I described is mere proof of the impact that human beings have on one another. The pain in my chest, the constant stream of memories in my mind, and the this indescribable hollowness is the result of how I have been impacted by her, by one single person.

I met Caitlin when we worked together as hostesses at a local restaurant. I was 19 when I met her and she was 21. She was quirky, extremely sassy, but tender and genuine at the exact same time. She was quiet at first, but we quickly became friends. Every night after our shift, we would meet at Nations and order milkshakes and grilled cheese sandwiches and chat about boys, life, and everything in between. Our conversations had no limits, we always talked about the nitty gritty topics and both seemed to give zero fucks about how fowl our mouths were. Caitlin was the definition of a strong woman. She was feisty, fearless, and had a heart that was kind beyond measure. She adored children and talked about them constantly, and she was a hopeless romantic, too. She looked at love in the romantic-comedy-Romeo-and-Juliet way and it was so….beautiful that she saw love in that way. Love was big in her eyes and she chased it and gave it relentlessly.

She was zany, quirky, and FULL of crazy stories of hilarious things that would happen to her and she told the stories in a way that was animated and comical. She was a loyal friend to me, even when we spoke only every-so-often within the last years of her life. She reached out to me often within the last few months and I have wracked my brain thinking about the last conversation I had with her on the phone a few months ago. It was kind of a normal conversation: we chatted about boys and the latest gossip in our lives and romance (because I’m not kidding when I said she was a hopeless romantic). It was such a normal and simple conversation, and I’ve gone over it dozens of times, as well as our last text messages, and any other contact we had within the recent months. I was thankful to read in one of our last text messages that I told her I loved her. It isn’t that I fail at doing so with people I love, but it’s actually really hard for me to tell people I love them. So, for whatever reason, I said it that day. And I was supposed to; I needed to.

Caitlin: I will always remember you as the feisty, intelligent, and kind woman that you were. I will think often of the late nights at Nations, or our slumber parties when we would eat too much cake and watch WAY too many episodes of Sex & the City, or the time when we would just bake the night away (we made Christmas decorated cake and cookies, like, months before Christmas one night),  or the nights when we would just chat at the bar with a couple of margaritas. I will remember it all. Caitlin, there is so much love in my heart for you and I hope that there is love where you’re at, because you had so much of it to give and so much of it that you deserved.

Have your cake and eat it too: how to capture your food in photography.

We all do it. When our food arrives at our favorite restaurants, we immediately reach for our phones to snap a photo. Most of the time, the photo goes up on the ‘gram immediately with a #foodporn right below it. Usually the photo is dimly lit and serves its purpose as a photo of your dinner. But what if you want to really capture your food in a photograph that really shows the food in all of its delicious glory? There are some major dos and don’ts for taking photos of food. Here we go!

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Processed with VSCO with q2 preset (one of my favorite VSCO presets guys!)

Do: Take the photo from above the food.

Taking a photo of your food with your camera or your phone parallel to your food is a really good way to display your food in a way that shows a perspective that is aesthetically pleasing. The bird’s eye view is a flattering view and you’ll be thankful later for the perspective.

Don’t: Take the photo from an angle where there’s a lot going on in the background.

Having a salt shaker and straw wrapper in your photo isn’t very mouth-watering.  You don’t have to take the photo from above, necessarily, but doing so decreases the risk of having clutter in the background that distracts from your yummy plate of food.

Do: Spill a little.

This sounds weird, but if there are different elements to your food that can be moved around, do it. For the photo above, the sugar is scattered across the plate, which gives the photo an organic look. If it’s a photo of a bowl of berries, take some of them out and place them on the table like you casually eat berries right off the table (I know, it sounds SO weird, but it really does improve the aesthetics of the photo, trust me.)

Don’t: Spill…at a restaurant.

Spilling your food at a restaurant on purpose is just rude, dude. So, if you’re following the above rule of spilling your food a little, do it at home when it’s appropriate.

Do: Try different perspectives.

Taking a photo from above is ideal for food photos, but it’s good to try different angles and different depths as well. Variety is everything when taking photos. Zoom in on the frosting of a cupcake to show the grooves and sprinkles on it. Zoom out and show your hand in the photo next to your food with fork in hand. Snap a shot from the side to show the steam of your coffee against the background.

Don’t: Take photos in poor lighting.

Lighting is huge with every photo you take. If at all possible, try to take the photo of your food in soft lighting (open a window to help achieve this). Avoid flash and move your food into lighting that will give your photo the light it needs to be less-grainy and dark, without the harshness of a flash.

Do: Clear the clutter.

My boyfriend knows the drill when I’m about to take a photo of my food or wine glass and he starts to help me clear the clutter from around my food or beverage. Get the dirty napkins out of the photo, the straw wrappers, and anything else that might be distracting in the photo.  Doing so will give the photo a clean, editorial feel that you’ll love.

 

So, whether you’re a take-a-photo-of-your-coffee person or a take-a-photo-of-my-pizza-rolls kind of person, you can take a good photo of your food that is completely Instagram-worthy. Food is fun, and it’s hard not to want to have your cake and eat it too, am I right?

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What I wish I knew before becoming an entrepreneur.

I know that my online presence paints a very pretty picture about entrepreneurship, but the reality is that behind-the-scenes is a lot messier than my on-the-screen presence. So, let me tell you what it’s actually like to own your own business.

It’s really emotional sometimes.

Even though it seems like entrepreneurs are steady and stable in our endeavors and we try ardently to maintain outwardly that we are confident in what we’re doing, the truth is: we fail sometimes. There are times when our clients aren’t happy with what we’re producing for them. The thing the clients don’t know though? It actually hurts our feelings. Most entrepreneurs pour themselves into their work, so rejection cuts us deeply. If I’m being REALLY honest, I’ve cried on more than one occasion when my clients weren’t happy with my work.

It’s a lot of second-guessing.

It seems like every other day that I wonder if I’m even good at photography and whether or not I should go back to college to pursue something else. The trouble with doing something creative is that it isn’s something that can be measured; it’s subjective. Some people love my photography, some people hate it. So, there are times when I look at my work and wonder if I just tell myself that I’m good at photography (ah, the overthinking is endless!). Now, the majoriIMG_8418ty of the time I’m confident in my work, but the fleeting doubtful thoughts are simply inevitable when you’re the only employee in your business, and sometimes I’d wish I’d known that the doubts were simply…normal.

It can be lonely.

This one surprised me. When I became a business owner, I thought I’d have so much more time for other people and spending quality time with the ones I love, but I actually spend less time with other people. Entrepreneurs tend to be self-sufficient workaholics. So, it becomes incredibly easy to get wrapped up in work and forget to make plans with other people. Plus, we are the only ones who can do our work, so our loved ones sometimes don’t get as much face time with us as our computers do (this is something I work hard to avoid). So, loneliness sneaks up on us sometimes. I’ll be sitting in my room all day working and suddenly realize that, like a dog, I feel like I need to be socialized from time-to-time (did I just compare myself to a dog?).

There are lulls.

Businesses ebb and flow. There are times when business is booming, then for whatever reason, times when business is completely slow (sometimes, not even ONE client). This one is a real shocker during the first year of business because if you haven’t saved for the slow period business, then you totally get screwed (and your bank account does too). One of my biggest lessons as an entrepreneur has been saving money for when times are slow in business, so my bills don’t suffer and debt doesn’t build.

You rarely wear real pants.

When you become an entrepreneur in a field similar to mine, you put away the fancy pants you used to wear to your office job, and trade them in for something made out of spandex. I wear leggings virtually every single day and it’s absolutely glorious. I have a few (like literally 2) outfits that I wear to photoshoots so I don’t look like a complete slob, but other than that, I’m riding the yoga-pants pony.

 

So, if you’re an entrepreneur and you’re reading this: you are not alone in how you feel and hang in there! All of the struggles of entrepreneurship are intimidating sometimes, but the reward of our work is worth it.

I like to look at my business like it’s the party friend we all had in college: the wild, party girl who always brought you out of the house and got you into some crazy (and fun) situations that you’d NEVER be in otherwise, and right when you think you’ve had it with her shenanigans (and the massive hangovers), she calls you up and says “wanna do it again?” and you find yourself grabbing your coat and hopping in the next taxi into town. THAT is entrepreneurship: your passion will take you places you’ve never been, get you into situations you haven’t prepared for, give you headaches sometimes, but exhilarate you enough to wake up and do it all over again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love is a four legged word.

When Ashley approached me for a photo session for her dog, I was incredibly delighted; I love dog photography. However, her dog Caroline was dying of cancer and this was the ultimate reason that she wanted photos of her. My heart immediately felt heavy, but I knew that I had to do this shoot. Being a dog person my entire life, I know the pain that comes with having a dog as your companion: their lives are fleeting.

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The shoot was beautiful. We went to the Martinez Marina where I met Ashley, Everett (Ashley’s boyfriend), and the sweet Caroline. Caroline is walking around with Ashley on the lawn sniffing at everything and walking at a slow pace. Her whiskers around her mouth and nose are gray with age and her eyes are filled with gentle light. She walks up to me as I squat down to give her a nice scratch behind the ears.

We begin the session slowly, letting everyone adjust to having photos taken at this difficult time. Eventually, Ashley pulls out a purple feather boa and a plastic pearl necklace. It’s so adorable that I can hardly handle it. Caroline lays down and is as happy as can be, laying her head in the grass and grabbing at the purple rose that Ashley had laid down beside her. And she shows me her toothy grin (I swear to you Caroline smiled with her actual teeth, like a human.). My heart is melted. Ashley and call this photo “teefers” because of her signature toothy grin.

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The shoot was lovely, and sadly, Caroline passed away a few weeks after our shoot took place. Enjoy these photos of one of the sweetest, most beautiful pups I’ve ever met.

Sometimes, as a photographer, the circumstance of our work isn’t necessarily always joyous, sometimes it’s sad. But it’s always worth it.

If my work brings joy to someone who is grieving and can capture the life of a loved one, then I will never say no. Photography is about having heart and telling stories that no one else can tell.

Rest in peace, sweet girl. I know you are loved, missed, and your life is celebrated.

Enjoy some of my favorite shots from the shoot below.

 

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5 Reasons to bring a friend when you have professional photos taken of you.

Bringing a friend along on a photo session isn’t really something that people think to do, but I will tell you that it’s a really good decision to do so. Here’s why.

  1. Having a friend present for a photo shoot will make you comfortable.

    Because you don’t usually have a camera in front of your face like Beyoncé, things can get a little…awkward. You’re standing in front of a person you just met and you are expected to look like you’re totally comfortable as a camera snaps away. So, bring a friend. You love your friends, and likely, your friends know how to make you feel comfortable. And simply put: being comfortable makes your photos look effortless and natural.

  2. They know you.

    Your friends are the people who you tell everything: what you love, what makes you happy, and what your insecurities are. So, when the photographer is taking photos of you and the angle being photographed is displaying your “bad side” or your face looks too round because you’re smiling too big and you HATE when your face looks round, then your friend can chime in and remind you that you’re doing “that thing you do that you hate”. You feel me? We all have things we don’t like in photos of ourselves and if our friends are there, they can see what you’re doing and then remind you to adjust to the way that you prefer to pose. Photographers are only human, too. They don’t know you like your friends do and they don’t see you the same way that you and your friends do. So, help us see.

  3. They make you really smile.    

    Yes, you know how to cheese it up for a photo, but your friends know how to really make you smile. Chances are, your friends are people that naturally make you laugh and know how to make your smile appear effortless. By having a friend there to talk to while the photo shoot is in session, your smile is going to be the most genuine smile that you have when the photos are being snapped.

  4. They can be your memory when nerves have got the best of you.  

    We have ALL been in those situations: showing up to an important event or interview and you have completely forgotten every single thing that you had prepared. The truth is, most people are very nervous when they are at a photoshoot. Hell, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m one of those people. At least when I’m not behind the camera. So, if a friend is there and you have already discussed all of the shots you want to get with them and with which props and even last minute ideas you had on the car ride over, then your friend will likely be more comfortable (and less nervous) to bring it up in the session because you’re busy “smizing” for the camera and focusing on not having a double chin.

  5. Having a friend there means photos with your friend.

    I can’t speak for all photographers, but I know that whenever a friend attends a photo session with me, I always invite the friend into the photos near the end of the session. I love seeing the connection between people who enjoy being around one another and capturing it is simply enjoyable for me. So, what that means? Extra photos! More material to choose from, and likely, free content of you and your bestie enjoying a day together. Nothing beats that.

     

    Below, is a series of photos from the beautiful Lea’s photo session with me. Her friend Jacqueline tagged along and offered support and good conversation (and lots of laughs!). The result? Tons of genuine smiles from Lea and a lot of fun photos of the two of them, just for fun. See for yourself.

 

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Yes, gimme gimme more.

My biggest fear.

My biggest fear in my journey of entrepreneurship and photography is that I will lose myself in the process. The photography industry tends to paint a very pretty picture for everyone in regards to what a photographer should be like. And the truth is: I am not that photographer.

I am not the sugary-sweet photographer with the Pinterest-worthy home and the outfit that is perfectly tailored to my body and style, nor am I the incredibly artsy photographer who has the moody/edgy photos that can sport a hipster outfit and hat. I LOVE those photographers, I really do. They are some of the most talented and kind people I know. I am not saying that all photographers are the same, either, because that is far from true too. But, I am saying that whatever it is that you think the typical photographer is, I am not her.

The truth about me goes as follows:

I am kind, yes, but I am not outwardly sweet. I’m actually quite awkward in person. My sweetness is not the characteristic that naturally radiates from me.  I tend to fall on the more sarcastic side of the spectrum and my kindness is usually displayed in a compliment followed with a joke that may or may not actually be funny. I am bubbly sometimes, perhaps, but I’m mostly playful. And want to know what else? I curse. A lot. NEVER in session with clients, but the real me has a vernacular that is identical and then some to a sailor.

DSC_0734-2My life is far from perfect and I’m allergic to too many things to be able to post beautiful photos of macarons and donuts like a lot of people out there do, and my co
llection of succulents is sorely lacking. My favorite flower actually changes quite often and I tend to lean more toward leaves, rather than flowers these days (eucalyptus leaves are stunning to me). I am not dainty and I do not stick to just one glass of wine per sitting. And sometimes, it’s not wine! It’s actually mixed drinks. I put my foot in my mouth constantly and have NO idea how to put an outfit together that feels even remotely stylish or suiting to who I am. I still like to wear Vans and I enjoy sparkles on things because I’m five on the inside and I have no idea how to accessorize my jewelry to my outfits. No idea. Like, not even the slightest.

I am so flawed, you guys. I need mental breaks sometimes after a shooting a large crowd of people because I get so easily overstimulated and I sometimes get overwhelmed with how much work I actually do versus how much money the work is actually producing. I am scared at times for what the future holds for my business and am afraid that I gave up a college degree for a huge risk and a blind leap.

But, what keeps me on going will always be this: it is not about being perfect, or being just like other photographers, or even about how much money I end up making. It’s about why I started. I started this business because of connection. I have a never ending hunger to connect with others. It really fulfills me. When the computer is shut and off, the phones are away, and when TV’s become just black rectangles in our living rooms, all that is left are people. Face to face, breathing in the same air as you, sharing the space that surrounds us, reading each other’s body language, using instincts that we forgot we had, forcing us to speak into the silence hanging in the air around us; people.

When I’m in a photo session with someone, I am not thinking about my phone or the likes I’ll get or what to write in my blog or what my next Facebook status will be, I’m thinking about how to capture the connection between the people in front of me. The camera forces people to unplug for a second and be vulnerable with one another and with me so that they can convey something beautiful to hold onto for the rest of their lives. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again, but look at what people photograph to understand what they most fear losing. For some people, it’s themselves, for others, it’s their families, and for me in my life, it is the fear of complete and utter disconnect from other people. And my fear that people will forget how to connect with each other. I’m so fearful that technology and text messages will replace an actual conversation. Who cares how nervous you are to talk in person or if you feel overwhelmed because talking in person is simply hard—-THAT is that beauty of it. Before I was a photographer, I was a poet, and the poetry in life lives directly in the vulnerability and shaking knees between people. To live, is to feel all of the uncomfortable feelings and look back and remember what it was like to feel those memories, not read them from a screen. Photography is vulnerable and there is nothing more human than that. Nothing more fulfilling, either.

So, my promise to you is that I will, from this day forward, ALWAYS be real with you. Whether you are a client, a friend, or a family member.  I might curse sometimes. I might be awkward. I might be funny or sarcastic or quirky, but either way, I will always be myself. Because I can’t afford to lose myself. I’m quite fond of the person I am, and I hope you’ll grow to love her too. 

My favorite trinkets from the dusty corners of my room (and my purse).

This week, I decided to keep things light hearted. To be completely honest, life has been a bit difficult lately and I just need some fun in my life. So, I did a photo shoot with a few things that make me happy from my room, and my carry-on room: my purse. It’s kind of interesting looking at random objects that you love. It’s actually quite intimate. These are things I use everyday (except for my fancy shoes), and they are the little slices of happiness that bring my mood up to where it needs to be.

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This is literally what I carry in my purse: my Betsey Johnson wallet, an NYX matte lip color (I have a million shades), my car keys (duh) to my beautiful midnight-blue Toyota Camry, random sunnies I stole from my boyfriend, and the I Love Lemon Tea that I live and breathe by (I drink this tea at least 3 times a day).

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I decided to zoom in on these guys because they are my faves. Okay, I have a citrus problem. Grapefruit is my favorite fruit and apparently my favorite everything else. I love Burt’s Bees for their super moisturizing formulation and Pacifica Perfume in “Mango Grapefruit” (I got this roll-on one from Whole Foods). It smells like citric happiness and lifts my mood when I’m feeling down.

And now for some other favorites from my room:

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I think this is my third bottle of Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue perfume. And surprise! It has citrus notes that make me feel all citrus-sexy (that’s totally not a thing). The Michael Kors watch is my go-to to make me feel like a grown up who wears a watch. I really do love this watch so much: it matches everything and it was a gift from my brother, which makes it a bit sentimental to me as well.

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I love this little “A” picture holder SO much. My best friend Janae gave it to me as a gift and I use it to carry my business cards. I think it’s adorable and I have it in my sight when I’m working because it makes me smile. Next to it is my little old fashioned alarm clock. It’s simple and I like the obnoxious sound it makes when the alarm goes off. It reminds me of a time when I couldn’t hand pick my alarm sound from my phone.

Now, for the grand finale. Shoes. My FAVORITE pair of shoes.

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This little puppies were sitting among unworthy pairs of shoes in a thrift store. They are a bit tattered and the jewels on them look like they’ve been completely bedazzled onto them, but I love them anyway. They have seen many good evenings and have brought me into more than one new year. And for that, I am thankful for them and the good luck and juju they provide.

This was a simple little blog post, so please let me know in the comments if you were digging this or not, but I enjoyed taking close-ups of things that I actually love quite a bit. They are silly material items, but they give me joy throughout my day everyday. What’s in your purse? Your closet? What small joy brings a smile to your face? These are a few of mine, I would LOVE to know what yours are.

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A letter to my younger self.

Dear 18 year old Analise,

Let me start by saying: going to “the club’ is not cool, freak dancing is not the way to meet your soulmate, and your extremely revealing dress is not doing you any favors.

You are not infinite. If I could tell you one thing right now to save you so much pain, it would be that. You are not shielded from pain, heartache, or even illness. The world is an unfair place and you are no exception to that, but you also need to know that you must embrace the hardship that’s coming your way. Because it’s coming your way in a very big way, but they will be the very hardships that will make you a strong person with a heart that is bottomless with empathy.

Your parents are not infinite. Just like you, their health finds bumps in the road and they come along more often. So, be nice to them. They put up with you with minimal amounts of judgement when you wore a “Ramones” shirt when you were 14, despite never listening to the band once and loved you despite your perpetual bad mood and endless vanity during your high school years. They are the reason that you will grow up to be a kind, honest, silly, and motivated person. They have been through more than you can even comprehend and you should keep that in mind before taking them for granted.

Relax. Your anxiety and stress does not give you control over anything, it only causes an unnecessary internal storm. Believe it or not, stress kills and eventually takes a toll on your body. You’ll find this out the hard way: watching your father have a massive heart attack due to stress will trigger the realization, followed up by stress-induced flare ups from a disease you’ll be diagnosed with in a few years. Worrying about a situation does not change or solve the issue, it only gives it power over you. Leave it, drop it, and let it be.

Find God. Whatever it is that you think God is, run–no, sprint–toward it. Do not underestimate the power of spirituality. There is something so much bigger than you out there and it will shake you awake. If you have trouble finding God, first look inward. Then, be still. You’ll find that if you look carefully, God seems to be part of everything; it is my firm belief that whoever God is, that he is not separate from us, he is us.

Do not judge people. We are all so much more alike than we realize. You need to blind yourself completely to ethnicity, gender, religion, and sexual orientation. You have absolutely no authority over those things, and by judging them, you miss out on what makes up the insides of a person. The world can be a hateful place, and you do not have to partake in it’s hatefulness. Fight it.

Stop trying to fit in. You don’t need to look, act, or be like everyone else. Remember when girls would wear those clear bra straps so it looked like they weren’t wearing a bra and you actually thought it was REALLY weird because clear is not equal to invisible, but you did it anyway? Go with that feeling. Your gut is right: you have preferences and you are way too smart to wear a clear bra strap that does NOT make it look like you’re not wearing a bra.

Finally, do not give up. This may be cliché, but it’s the truest thing I know. Like I said, you are going to go through turbulent times, but you cannot give in to the negativity that tells you to throw in the towel. No depression, no disease, no circumstance can become you. You have  so much more strength in you than you can even possibly imagine and the sooner you realize that, the sooner your life will start to rapidly change for the better.

With so much love and happiness from the future,

Analise

 

PS: Your favorite food is STILL biscuits and gravy. Why can’t we branch out?

 

 

Being raised a Japanese American: a story about the versatility of chopsticks, and other cultural things worth mentioning.

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If you don’t know already, I’m half Japanese and half Caucasian. This means that my upbringing was a healthy combination of Japanese culture and American culture, which also means my experiences and current way of life may be quite different from you (unless you’re also a Hapa Japanese American like myself, then this post will completely speak to you). My upbringing as a Japanese American was filled with chopsticks and their multi-functional qualities, the constant confusion between singular and plural, saying “shoyu” instead of soy sauce, plenty of interesting foods, and the ever-apparent struggle of looking completely different from everyone else.

The Japanese side of my family believes that chopsticks are the one-all cure-all for virtually every physical debacle known to man. Just an hour ago, I was using chopsticks to flip my bacon (there’s actually logic to that one, if you think about it). Here’s a small list of everyday accomplishments that chop sticks have achieved:

  1. Getting the burnt bread pieces that have gotten stuck in my toaster.
  2. Stirring my coffee every single morning.
  3. Corn on the cob (chopsticks are excellent as the “cob”).
  4. Cleaning the bottoms of narrow-bottomed cups or vases (I swear to you that I put a little piece of sponge or cloth on the end of a chopstick by securing it with a rubber band and then proceed to cleaning the bottom of said cup or vase).
  5. Chopsticks are something that we eat EVERYTHING with. It doesn’t matter what kind of food we’re eating, we will eat all foods with chopsticks (pasta, chicken, pizza…).
  6. Oh, an almond slipped under the fridge? Use a chopstick. Hockey-stick that little nut right out from under it.
  7. Apparently capturing mice. I swear to god that I was in my aunts car once and saw a mouse (a live one) on the widow sill, and my Aunt Yoshiko yelled “someone get me a damn chopstick, I’ll get it!”. So, there’s that.

Needless to say, chopsticks are a pretty big deal.

Next, onto the plural/singular part of this post. My sweet, sweet mother has raised me to be continuously confused between singular and plural. Whenever my mom makes noodles, she asks if I want “a noodle”. Not noodles. Like, just one noodle. Unfortunately, I have also adopted this term and get constant shit for it at work when I’m having “a noodle”. The confusion continues when she leaves to go to the store and proceeds to call it Safeways. Before you get upset with me for making fun of my mom and her use of language, I should also tell you she is also a Japanese American. She was born in the US and doesn’t speak an ounce of Japanese, but has somehow picked up on the plural/singular mixup, just as I have from her.

So, I don’t speak Japanese at all. The vast majority of my Japanese family speaks English most of the time, but one thing that sticks with us is that we have been raised to say soy sauce (which is pretty much like our version of Ketchup) by it’s Japanese name “shoyu”. I spent most of my life ignoring the fact that the there was even an English word for soy sauce at all. I have often forgotten that I was with non-Hapa people and said “hey, pass the shoyu” only to be met with a quizzical look.  Now, since you know this now, you can look at the actual ramen packages we know everyone (Asian and alike) buy and see which ones will have more sodium in them based on the word “shoyu” being on the front (haha, kidding, but not really.).

Since we’re talking about food, growing up Japanese American meant that I had a healthy combination of both American and Japanese foods in my diet. I, to this day, eat noodles (or a noodle) for breakfast, then a good old piece of pizza or sandwich for lunch, followed up by a vegetable chow mein stir fry for dinner. And for dessert? Ice cream or a mochi with red beans in the center (green tea flavor is my jam). That’s the thing about being a mixed race: I have a thorough mixture of cultural foods to choose from. Whether it be pickled ginger (my favorite over rice), or a hearty cheesesteak sandwich, I’m lucky that my tastebuds have known such variety in ways that others don’t get the pleasure of experiencing.

Finally, growing up a Japanese American, specifically a mixed race American, people tend to talk about my looks a lot. When I was a kid, I got made fun of for being Asian. I hate to say this in such a crude way, but kids are dicks sometimes. I got a lot of remarks (and racial slurs) about being Asian and people loved to ask the age-old question: “are you Chinese or Japanese?”, not realizing that Asia consists of actually 48 different kinds of Asians according to their country of origin. Also, not to mention the constant question (which is not a harmful question at all) “what are you?”. Being half and half, I look kind of…different. I don’t have all of the Japanese features of my mother’s, and I don’t carry all of the caucasian features of my father. Some people swear they would have never guessed that I was even Asian at all, while others say that they knew I was Asian right off the bat. So, that always left me feeling sort of strange about the way I looked. It’s hard to grow up in a society where people tend to try and blend in to look like everyone else. Especially when you simply don’t look like everyone else. I have since learned to completely embrace the way I look because it’s actually kind of amazing not looking like every one else, but I do still struggle with finding a foundation that matches my face since my skin tone is directly in the middle of having warm tones and cool tones.

Growing up a Japanese American has taught me so many things: chopsticks are the best tool for all things, singular and plural can get a little confusing, shoyu will always be the only name for soy sauce, the food is good whether it’s American or Japanese, and being half and half makes for a really different looking human being. All laughs aside, I really am so lucky to have grown up in a mixed race household. My multi-cultural household taught me that being different and versed in more than one culture makes you interesting, not weird, or something to be feared.

 

Love, Poetry, and all things mushy.

img_8172Good afternoon everyone. HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! Whether you’re going to show yourself some love (treat yo’ self!) or you are lucky in love with another person, I hope you spend the day enjoying whatever it is that brings love into your life. So, as many of you know, I have an incredible person in my life. But, what most of you don’t know is our story.

So, buckle up, it’s a good one.

My boyfriend’s name is Danny. He and I met while we were doing the single thing and online dating. I had all of those damn apps: POF, OkCupid, Tinder, Match. Ugh. I went to quit my POF (Plenty of Fish) account and saw my inbox was full of messages (and no, I wasn’t that popular, just bad at checking my inbox). I clicked in the dead center of the messages and came to Danny’s message. I won’t share the entirety of the messages shared between us, but I very much enjoyed the kind of person that he became to me in a very short period of time. We texted each other and called one another for about a month before meeting for a date (because Danny travels for a living and he happened to be out of town when we met).

Now, the first date. One of my absolute favorite dates we’ve ever been on. Scratch that. It’s my FAVORITE date we’ve ever been on. Here’s the cliff notes version of it:

  1. He picks me up with white tulips in hand and a second bouquet in his other hand (white tulips were Audrey Hepburn’s favorite flower and Audrey Hepburn is my favorite person ever).
  2. The tulips are for me and the other bouquet for my mom.
  3. He has a bottle of wine tucked under his arm. He brought that for my dad (seriously, who is this guy?).
  4. I get incredibly awkward and shy and clam up.
  5. We drive to the restaurant together and have a lovely conversation.
  6. We walk into the restaurant.
  7. I freak out because the wall has poetry pages covering the entirety of the walls (if you didn’t know, poetry is my other passion next to photography).
  8. Drinks flow, appetizers arrive, dinner comes around after.
  9. We talk for 3+ hours.
  10. He tells me he has one last surprise.
  11. He opens his trunk and he has packed a table and chairs, with a cooler that has my favorite pie in it (actually two pies, one for me to take home and eat for breakfast for a week).
  12. We eat the pie under the stars at the marina (there were some super ghetto dudes rapping and totally doing some kind of drugs nearby, but that’s beside the point).
  13. We basically fall in love.

 

So, this date was perfect. But, the problem was: we both hadn’t been single for very long. We both felt that horrible urge to “see what’s out there”. So, we ending up staying friends, but dating around.

For seven months.

I had a million (like a total of 7) dates that were mediocre and the guys were nice, but they weren’t Danny. Not by a long shot. During this time, Danny and I still hung out almost every week and I’d call him and tell him my dating horror stories, and vice versa. It was actually quite complicated, because we both knew we only wanted to be with each other. But, because we’re human, there was a lot of hurt that came with seeing each other date other people. And, also a lot of fear.

So, to cope with these emotions, Danny and I didn’t speak for a long time. We felt that the space would help us understand what it was like without one another. And being who I am, I felt this immediate need to express myself, so I wrote. A lot. And because I wanted desperately to talk to Danny, I posted the poems that I was writing, hoping he’d see them. So, here I’ll share the sequence of poems that led up to where we are today.

This was the first:

I can’t remember what it’s like to hold you,

and this burdens me most.

I cannot grasp the taste of your lips

or capture the stillness in our gaze.

I’m scared of this pain,

for it feels less like aching,

and more and more like forgetting:

is an obliterated pain still pain,

or is it merely nothing at all?

I wasn’t sure if he saw this one. I’m sure he did, but he kept silent. So, this next poem is the one that did him in. I wrote it and posted it for my “viewers”, knowing only he would know it was written for him.

If you ever lay awake at night, you can always think of me.
For I think you know with certainty that I wrote this for you to read.

So, as you’re chasing sleep tonight, take refuge in this truth:

I have never and cannot ever,

ever stop missing you.

Yep, he got that one for sure. That night, he got a hold of me. He was flying on a plane when he saw the poem and told me all he could think about in the stillness of the night, exhausted on a plane, was getting home and talking to me. So, he did.

It began. We began. There were some hiccups and bumps in the road, like every couple, but we persist. So, I’ll leave you with this last poem. I wrote this poem the day after I met Danny (promise I’m not a stage 5 clinger, just a hopeless romantic).

All of the spaces left empty

by men I once loved

seems to now be filled

with the matter that your soul is made of.

Ours were the same, our souls,

and never once did I have to search for you;

you were hiding in the shadows of my bones,

you were always home,

you were always home…

 

So, please, enjoy this day. It’s an entire day dedicated to love. So, get out there and show some love to yourself, your dog, your lover, or even just a glass of bubbly (or bottle). Happy Valentine’s Day!

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