pleine de vie

Finding home

It’s only been a day and I’m already learning more about my mom than I ever knew in my 27 years. 

We are in the south in Ho Chi Minh City, which my mom always refers to as Saigon still, because that’s what it was when she lived here. 

She and her family are originally from the north, though. She was born in Hanoi, but when she was only a baby, her father decided it was best to move to Hong Kong, as the communists were taking over the north. So she, her parents, and three of her eight siblings moved. 

The remaining five siblings, who were much older decided to stay put in Hanoi, as they didn’t want to leave their lives: friends, school, work, etc. I wonder what I would have done. I asked my mom what she would have done if she were old enough and she says she doesn’t know. 

They hoped to be gone from their home in the north for only a few years, but it didn’t end up panning out that way. So when they moved back to Vietnam, they moved to the south. Here, in Ho Chi Minh.

Her five siblings who stayed in the north never rejoined them. One of her brothers was drafted to fight in the war and died in combat. 

My mother tells me that her father woke up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night from a nightmare while her brother was away. In the nightmare, her brother was killed and came to him. They are certain that was the night he was taken. Their parents grieved until the day they died that the body was never recovered. 

The story breaks my heart. My mom used to tell me that at night, while lying in bed as a teenager, she could hear the loud sounds of explosions off into the distance. It always scared her. 

“War is sad,” is all my mom would ever tell me when I used to ask questions growing up. “War is sad for everyone.”

So while my mother was born in Hanoi, she spent most of her young life here in Saigon. This is where she went to school. This is where she met her best friends. This is where her memories live. 

For most of this trip, the plan is for my mom’s friends to take us around with a car. But for today, we were on our own and decided to explore by foot nearby. It being my mom’s old stomping grounds, we were eager.

The first mission was to find the place she used to live. 

The weather is not as humid as it can be in other times of the year, but it is definitely hot. The heat hits you right as you walk outdoors, and instantly the little buds of sweat form on my nose. 

There are a range of smells on the streets. Sometimes it is rice and food, other times sewage and God knows what. 

The concrete sidewalks are broken and there is constant chaos of construction you have to weave around.

Outside the many food joints on the streets there are little plastic stools and tables, which appear to be children’s play furniture on first glance due to the bright colors and tiny size. But at lunch hour they are packed with students off school and workers on break, enjoying a cold drink or bite to eat. 

I am so reminded of parts of Bali, as well as parts of India. And it makes me so happy. 

It is loud. Aside from the chatter on the sidewalks, the traffic is probably the main contributor. There are motorbikes everywhere. Being sold, being ridden, about to run over your foot. Literally all over.

The traffic is as mad as you’ve heard, and it weaves and merges in seeming disarray, yet absolute harmony. Definitely reminds me of India, but somehow, more eloquent. 

I got a bit cocky from my experience on previous travels in Asia, namely crossing huge, four way, multi-lane intersections in Bangalore. No zebra crossings intended for pedestrians anywhere. A free for all.

The trick is to slowly make your way forward, and allow a few bikes behind you, and most of them ahead of you, as you slowly but surely ease your way across. As if making your way across a river–the currents surge ahead and behind you, surround you, and never stop. They keep moving forward, and it’s up to you to find a place in the madness. To be aggressive, but cautious and tactful. A mad sort of dance you engage with, you and the traffic. 

But I made the error of looking just one way. Though technically it was a one way, it was a rookie mistake: no one follows the rules here. There are no rules. So coming from the opposite direction, a motorbike zoomed on by and almost took off my foot. Mom pulled me back, then freaked out. Damn it.

It didn’t take long for Mom to get right back into it. She crossed those streets like a champ. 

We went through the grand market, Chợ Bến Thành. Damn my dyed blonde hair for completely distracting from my already subtle of Asian features. Of my sister, my mother, and myself, I was the target for street vendors. The tourist. The sunglasses vendors wouldn’t leave me be. I had to hold onto my mom and not let her go for protection. Quite a stark contrast from when I traveled in Nepal. 

It didn’t take long before mom, going off of pure memory, (and a little asking around) finally found her way to it. 

Here we were, standing in front of her home of 12 years, on what is now, the most expensive street in town. Down the street from the President’s Palace, a few blocks from my Auntie Nancy’s old home, and just a mile walk away from her all girl’s Catholic school.

“That’s the one.”   

They had it split into three separate apartments now.

One was a retail store where they made beautiful custom suits and dresses. We walked inside and my mom talked to the lady as if she were interested in the clothing, but I knew she wasn’t. As the lady spoke about the prices and fabrics, Mom was quiet, just scanning the room beyond the clothes hung in a row. 

She looked all around with this bittersweet kind of look in her eye. I know she was putting pieces together, replaying memories, reminiscing on home as she knew it. 

We decided to wait to visit her school until our sister arrived and to wait for Dad, as well. 

So instead we wandered. And my mother, who just a day prior told us “No street food, I don’t want you guys to get sick!” – was too nostalgic and excited to care. 

We bought her favorite fresh fruit. We stopped at the spots she used to eat at when she was a little girl with her friends. We had to stop, she said, at the sugar cane cart she comes to every time she is back.

I saw that little girl in the black and white photo in my mom today, and I hugged her just a little tighter.

It’s not all about the pho 

I’ve been dreaming of Vietnam since before I could remember. And I’m finally here.

One thing is blatant upon arrival: my mom’s and my own traveling ways could not be more polar opposite.

I mean I should have known. My mom would cringe when I would tell her stories of where I lived and where I ate while in India. 

She happened to see the video of Jordan and I riding on the top of the packed bus through the winding narrow foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal. She freaked out, and gave me that oh so common lecture. I need to make smarter and safer decisions, this is why she worries so much while I’m gone, etc. 

Last month I got an email from her with a link attached. It was a CNN news article titled: “Overcrowded bus tilts, plunges down a hill in Nepal; at least 30 killed”

I just didn’t respond.

If you’ve traveled you realize that a lot of the overwhelming fear we’re taught in th U.S. is simply not true. Shit happens no matter where you are. I mean, the notion that you’re so much safer in the States than anywhere else is laughable to me. 

You’re more likely to get sick from our GMO-laden food and random animal parts mass manufactured and processed in your meat. And you’re more likely to get shot at a movie theater or at school.

Should you hide at home in fear of those things? No. And we don’t. Why should we hide in fear over the hypotheticals we build up in visiting foreign countries?

Life is too short.

Anyway, so I will never win in that argument against my mom, but I’m realizing how different this trip will be.

She laughed when I made all my DIY bug repellant, because “we’ll be in a hotel, Baby.” That’s how she and her friends roll. 

At this point in my life all my hostel or couch surfing-type living situations have been the most memorable. Where you meet travelers and locals and such. I feel like staying in a hotel keeps everything so distant from the people and the culture. 

That and I won’t get the chance to struggle with learning the language and talking to people (which is honestly one of my favorite parts) because my mom always speaks for us. An advantage, but a disadvantage to the whole experience in some ways.

One of the things I’ve been looking forward to the most is the food.

Last night, when one of my mother’s best friend’s sons picked us up, he asked if we wanted to get pho. I said, hell yes! So we went.

It definitely tasted a bit different but the broth was delicious. As I went to add the condiments and extras, I was shocked. My mom told us not to add any of the fresh herbs, no lime, no sprouts. “I don’t know where it came from and where it was washed and if the water is clean.”

  

Seriously??????

Later that night my mom suggested to us all: Maybe we will stay away from the street food and local food.

SERIOUSLY?????

That’s when I spoke up. I mean, come on! What’s the point? I get that my dad is older and so is my mom. I get that you should always be careful. But I’m eating what I want. I say we live a little. 

I mean, if she only knew the hole in the wall dumps I’d eaten at during my Asia trips. Tiny shacks. Over crowded. Cockroach chilling on the wall over yonder. 

I have a strong feeling that my “let’s live a little/YOLO” message failed to go through. Or was ignored. We shall see. 

Nonstop my parents are clutching their bags and telling us to do the same, as the fear of thieves is a main concern walking through the streets. You know, I know there is truth to this. But the constant reminders and the overwhelming fear is not what I’m used to.

Sophie, the granddaughter of my mom’s friend who also picked us up last night is 18. She speaks fluent English so I spoke to her a bit last night. I had my phone out, taking photos, and she told me to put it away. She said it’s not safe anywhere to have it out the way I do.

Now I can’t take a million pictures like I always do?

So as I laid my head down to sleep last night in my bougey-ass hotel room (A/C broke and mom is pissed), I was only focusing on these negatives and how very restricted this family trip would be with my parents running the show. 

But then I realized: that’s not what this trip is about.

Last night we drove by my mother’s route that she walked to school. She lit up. I told her I want to walk the same path. She showed me where her sister got in a motorbike accident and broke her elbow, pain she still feels in that right arm to this day. That used to be the movie theater I would go to with my friends, she said, pointing out the window.

And suddenly I am coming up with these visions of my mom. 

I remember the old pictures of her as a high school student, with braided pigtails and in her Catholic school uniform. A young, solemn face in that black and white photo. 

But I’m picturing it now, laughing and shouting as she walks with her five best friends home from school. Along these streets, past these stores. Years and years ago.

Where did she live? Where else would she go? What does her school look like? 

How did the war change her life? How did her family split up? How did her friends all find their way back to one another? How does she feel being back?

And this morning I wake up eager to discover more precious pieces of my mom. 

That is why I am here.

Stormtroopers off duty

It’s been awhile since we’ve done this. But I think we’ve still got it.

Hope your Halloween was full of sweet jams and sweeter moves. Ours was, clearly.

Prayers for a stranger

The other day, Jordan and I met up here in our hometown of Santa Clarita to continue work on some new, exciting Perception Travel projects.

It was just like all of our other meetings. We meet at a coffee shop. One Americano, one chai latte (used to be two Americanos but I’m sensitive to coffee these days). We each take out our laptops. Notebooks, books. We touch base. Discuss what we want to accomplish. Chat for a bit. Then we both get in our zones and silently get lost in our work.

The cafe we worked at on this day was small, but packed with students as it was in the late afternoon. Most were also immersed in their laptops, books and notebooks strewn across their tables. Everyone quiet, everyone busy, everyone minding their own business.

But on this day, what started off as another average day at the cafe turned real emotional, real quick.

I remember the phrase that pulled me.

“I’ve been really depressed.”

I looked over without thinking, and saw a teenager at the table next to me. He was sitting alone, hunched forward in his chair, forearms resting on the table, one leg shaking anxiously, the hood of his sweatshirt pulled low over his face. One hand to his ear while he talked on the phone, and the other securing the hood over his head. No laptop or books out on the table. Just a closed backpack at his feet beside him.

I quickly turned back to my work. Quit staring, stop eavesdropping, I thought to myself. But I couldn’t help but keep at least one ear open.

He told the person on the phone that he was sexually abused as a child. He told this person that he thinks he is transgender. Whoever was on the phone must have asked about his family. He said he tried to tell his mom. His mom was “abrasive,” he said. She didn’t get it. It’s not that she doesn’t love him, he said. It’s that she doesn’t want to see him go through this struggle and face the type of opposition he was likely to face. It was a very formal conversation, like he was talking to a school counselor. I sat there, and heard this kid’s whole story.

I heard this kid bear all – every challenge, every turning point, every heartbreaking detail. I heard him spill his guts all over that tiny coffee shop table. I felt the shadow of the dark cloud that suddenly seemed to hover over entire cafe, felt the air grow thick and the mood grow unmistakably eerie. That discomfort, that feeling that something is just not right. Yet everyone around seemed unfazed and preoccupied.

I looked up every once in awhile to see if anyone else was as disturbed as I was. No one seemed to blink. I looked to Jordan, who made eye contact with me a few times, but I wasn’t sure if he could hear what I was hearing. But then I knew he was when he whispered to me very seriously, “This is intense.”

“I know,” I said quietly, “I just want to hug him.”

Then a few minutes later, still with his phone to his ear and his head down, he packed up and left. I never saw his face.

Jordan and I looked up from our work immediately and looked at each other, both acknowledging this deep sense of sorrow we felt for this complete stranger, for the unsettling desperation and heartbreak which was sitting next to to us at a mere arm’s length.

“He was right in the middle of this crowded cafe, speaking as loudly as he was. He obviously wanted someone to hear.”

Jordan’s very true statement made my eyes well up instantly.

He was right, and I didn’t even think about it when it was happening. I wanted to get up, to say hi. To very awkwardly say, “Are you OK?” To ask if he wanted to sit with us, to ask if he needed a friend. To give him a hug. But I didn’t know what was the right thing to do. Do I interrupt him on his phone call? Would it mortify him? I should just mind my own business, I thought.

Jordan went down to the front to order food or go to the bathroom or something, and I sat there feeling uneasy. When he came back up to the table, he informed me that the kid had just gotten arrested outside.

We found out afterwards that the kid tried to commit suicide. His second suicide attempt. He was on the phone with a police officer, he was calling for help.

I got the chills. Then I felt sick to my stomach. And then the tears wouldn’t stop.

Thank God the kid called for help, and thank God I saw him, sitting there in the back of that cop car, though his head was down and his arms were behind his back. But he was alive. Well? No. But last night I prayed for him, and tonight I will again.

Jordan and I decided to change locations, as we were both really shook up.

I bawled my eyes out on the car ride over. I know there are so many kids, too many kids, in his same position. It could have been another teen to add to the staggering LGBT teen suicide rates. This poor, lanky, broken kid in jeans and a hoodie sitting right next to me. Essentially screaming for help.

What could I have done differently? What could have been done? What can be done in my community? What types of resources could be in place to make kids like him feel less alone, less scared, less hopeless? More accepted? More loved?

Jordan had the same questions during his car ride over, I found out. Because when I got there, though he had left before me, I saw he hadn’t arrived yet. I called to find out where he was.

“Sorry, I had to pull over to cry.”

I allowed my own tears that were welling up again to flow freely as I told him not to worry, to take his time. Then I went back to my car to cry some more.

When we finally met back up, we felt this sudden sense of purpose. What can we do? How can we help?

We put a halt on the project we were previously working on and took quite a bit of time discussing it. We talked about what could be different. We talked about what it’s like growing up in the suburbs of (mostly conservative) Santa Clarita, what it must be like for kids now. It isn’t always easy to feel different. It isn’t always easy to try to express yourself in a place where you feel like you must fit a certain mold.

We had a really great, meaningful discussion. And even better, we brainstormed ways to take action and make a difference. I’m happy to say that I think we’re on to something.

For now, I am glad the kid is alive. I wonder if he knows I was listening. I wonder if he will come to realize that there are people out there who want to listen. That I wanted to listen, and I wished I came over to say hello.

I’m not sure if anything I would have done would have changed anything. But either way, from now on, I will not hesitate to offer free hugs right in the instant I feel the urge to. I think it would have done more good than harm.

I hope he gets the help and love he deserves.

What I Wore: Good Deed Denim

Today kicked off the New York Fashion week shows. Every year I follow, and every year I have the same thoughts:

1. I wish I could afford that.
2. I wish it was socially acceptable to wear something like that in public.
3. I am so inspired.

While I can’t do much about the first two, I can most certainly do something with the third. My favorite thing to do is to draw inspiration from these shows and figure out how these looks can be interpreted and applied to fit my own everyday life.

And looks like these two from the Assembly New York SS16 collection can absolutely be duplicated. I love it. I’ve always been a fan of chambrays and denims. The more the better. Me –> Major Canadian tuxedo proponent.

Denim Inspo: Assembly New York SS16

In terms of personal shopping, a new question has entered the criteria: Can I feel good about buying this garment?

And by “feel good” I mean, is the answer to the following question a YES:
Is my action of purchasing and consuming this product going to better the current situation?

The current situation can mean many things. Was it produced ethically? Under fair working conditions? Does the company strive to uphold ecological standards?

This is unfortunately fairly hard to come by these days. And because of this, I have turned to shopping thrift and secondhand.

Did you know that if the average life of clothes could be extended by just nine months it could reduce not just water, but carbon waste and footprints by 20-30%?

Did you know that Americans send 10.5 million tons of clothing to landfills every year?

Crazy.

Spotlight: thredUP.

Best Places to Shop: thredUP

I bought this chambray top by Bella Dahl, a brand often worn by the likes of Heidi Klum, Jessica Alba, and Olivia Palermo, as seen above. The fabric is so soft and incredible, and I wear it with everything.

The original retail price is $158.00, but I snagged this gem for just $32.99. Score for the bargain shopper-me.

But the main feel good factor is that it’s secondhand, like everything on thredUP. Meaning a longer life for this article of clothing and one less to go into the landfill. Score for the economically conscious-me.

As a shopper, I like how everything is carefully curated and thoroughly inspected for quality. You know exactly what you’re getting. Not only do I shop the site, but I also send in my clothes to resell or recycle. They make it extremely easy to do – they send you a bag to fill for free, and it costs you nothing to ship it to them. (And all of their packaging materials are made from recycled materials.)

I am happy to say I have discovered a way to buy “new (to me)” clothes while doing something to positively impact the environment. It might seem like a tiny change, but imagine if a ton of us made more tiny changes?

 
 

What I Wore: Not-So-Wild West

You know you’re getting old when the idea of going anywhere that involves paying a cover, drinking excessive amounts of over-prized cocktails, and wearing uncomfortable shoes/heels sounds like the least appealing idea ever. (We used to enjoy this?)

So you can imagine my excitement when my favorite former coworkers and I had a little reunion planned in LA last weekend and none of the above were on the agenda. What instead? Hanging out at friend’s apartment with Jack (Daniels, that is), chatting, talking shit, catching up… Ubering to Culver City for pizza… returning to said-friend’s apartment for a few Dubsmash video recordings, and calling it a night.

Sounds like a great night out(ish) to me.

This is what that kind of night looked like for me:
cotton tank and skirt (comfort > all), fringe bucket bag, FLATS, suede hat and a statement choker, because that’s the extent of your efforts this Friday night.

(Not so) Wild West Inspired

 

Spotlight: PDV Shop jewelry made in Pokhara, Nepal.

I’m so into chokers again – letting the 90s child in me run free. Any of these pendants make for the perfect statement necklace or choker, and even better when layered.

 

 

As you well know, all the proceeds from this collection go straight to Shiva, the artisanal jeweler who created them and who could greatly use your support post-earthquake(s).

Make it about people

It’s World Humanitarian Day. I have a story to tell, like always. And also some things to say.

As many of you know, I have launched my brand’s shop in order to feature and sell jewelry made by my friend Shiva, who I met in Nepal.

When we first met him at his shop in Pokhara, we knew he was different. While most jewelers on the street immediately tried to sell us something as Western tourists, Shiva was interested in just talking to us. In fact, he never urged us to buy anything, ever. He was glad to show us around his shop, tell us which stones were which. He had a ton of books on gems and stones and their healing properties, all in Nepali of course. So he would go through pages to translate meanings for us.

Many times we would walk in and he would be working on brand new piece. He would show us what he was doing. He would open up his notebook and show us the designs he had drawn up, and which he was working on. It was clear to me that the guy loved what he did. He was passionate about it.
Most of the jewelers on the street sold jewelry mass produced at the factory – aka how a lot of the jewelry we buy is made and sold here in the States. Wholesale jewelry suppliers and jewelry manufacturers. Made by machine. 

And I could have guessed as much. I had been in a lot of different stores and passed by a lot of different windows, and came to recognize some of the same pieces. I even bought some from the Tibetan refugee women sitting on the streets. Did I buy this turquoise ring because I believed it to be real? Nope. Did the band make my finger green the next day? Yup. But I bought it from her to support her. I bought a few pieces.

Anyway, Shiva did, in fact, have some of these manufactured pieces in his shop. But he was truthful, always. In fact, when I would gravitate towards a piece from the factory, he wouldn’t even let me look. I was his friend. He wanted to make me a piece. He wanted me to have something special. He wanted me to handpick the stone, pick my own design, and he would create it for me.

And he did just that. I loved my piece so much that I asked him to make one each for my two sisters. And he did. I chose the stone, I chose the design. I would come in the next day to see him working on it. And then the next. And then in a few days, he was done with these beautiful pieces that were so distinctly his, so unique in style. So Shiva.

We wondered why he even had those factory pieces in the shop at all, to be honest. His pieces were so much more beautiful and so much cooler than anything else anyone was selling. But it is a business. He needs to have a shop that is stocked to meet the tourist demand. And there’s only one of him.

He was always so laid back about everything. We would ask him how much we owed him for our own custom designed pieces. He would shrug his shoulders, as if leaving it up to us. He never really seemed to care about the money. He just needed enough, nothing in excess. He was always so humble, and even when I started trying to help him come up with his own name and branding, he didn’t even want it. I don’t even know what his shop’s name was. It was just Shiva’s Shop.

We decided quickly that Shiva’s stuff would do crazy well in the U.S. I knew I wanted to continue working with him on a legitimate, sustainable brand for the future. I knew I could help. I knew I could take his business beyond brick and mortar. I knew that taking it online with the proper digital marketing could have the potential to change things for he and his family. Potentially for members of his community.

But right away, while all this was brewing, we worked with him on a kickstarter fundraiser. We helped him to make money for his business to support he and his wife, and unbeknownst to us, his first baby girl, who was protected in her mama’s belly under all those layers of winter clothes. Thinking back now, it all makes sense: Didi never drank coffee when we all sat, chatted, and sipped on hot drinks in his shop. I always offered her mine, but she never accepted.

Fast forward four months. Two 7.0+ magnitude earthquakes later. Over 9,000 deaths and 20,000 injuries later. Tens of thousands of destroyed homes later.

Shiva had a new baby girl and wife to take care of, and though he was blessed to find a store still standing, zero tourists passed by.

Shiva and his family

I saw a different side to Shiva. Not a less friendly version, or less caring version, or less passionate version. Never. But a scared one? A worried father, a nervous husband? Yes.

He reached out to me via Facebook (which we had newly set up for him) through broken English on Messenger. I couldn’t understand much at first, but what I did get was that he needed help. “No tourists,” he said, over and over. He said he could lose his shop, he said he was sending me jewelry. He said he needed help.

To be honest, I wasn’t necessarily ready for it, in terms of my long term business ideas. I’m a perfectionist, and I know what it takes to make brands successful, being a lot more planning than and a lot more preparation than I had even begun to start looking at. And I wanted it to be that, but I knew he was desperate. So I gave him my address and took a leap of faith.

A couple weeks later the package arrived.

I was a bit disappointed with the pieces I received. I guess I had become so accustomed to Shiva’s turning me away from anything other than his handmade, genuine stone, sterling silver, high quality, Shiva-style pieces. These didn’t seem like them.

What it came down to: he simply could not afford to make new pieces, and he could not afford to buy the high quality materials he had always purchased for his creations. He sent me all he had, all he could give me. But I didn’t see it that way at the time.

Unsure about the pieces in front of me, I took them to a highly recommended gemologist in the Downtown Los Angeles Jewelry District. Piece by piece, he gave me the market value (which each is being sold for per his evaluation). I was happy to find it was all sterling silver. But as far as the stones, he told me that the quality varied. I was frustrated. I expected them to be all of the utmost quality, especially if I was to attach these products to my brand, my name, and if I was going to ask my family and friends to put their hard-earned money towards it.

Not only was I frustrated and angry some days, but I was stressed. Shiva was messaging me every day asking if I sold anything yet. I started doubting him, I started doubting the project. I wanted to send everything back.

Whoa. Stop.

Me, me, me. I, I, I. My, my, my.

Here I am typing this on my MacBook Pro, after posting an Instagram post on my iPhone 6. I don’t have this dream career and job, and I’m living back at home. Many Americans, and me at times, would consider themselves to “broke” right now if they were in my position. But am I really though?

I am lucky to be in a position with a great education in a specialized, yet broad enough profession that enables me to secure freelance gigs to pay my bills. I’m in a position where I’m free to roam and have a certain sense of freedom. I am lucky enough to be in a position to switch careers pretty easily, when I want to (I just started up another).

I am lucky that I have family to help me when I need it. To most, I drive a piece of shit, but I am so lucky to have a car to get me from Point A to Point B.

This path I’m on has come with struggles and sacrifices, sure. But compared to what Shiva has endured? Not at all, not even a little.

Have I worked for what I have? Absolutely. Has Shiva worked hard? His ass off. But the reality is, he was not granted the same privileges that I was at birth.

But the thing is, he doesn’t even need a lot, he doesn’t want it. He’s always told me this. He just wants to support his family. He just wants to send his daughter to school.

Perspective. Understanding. Compassion.

I will never understand what the people of Nepal  endured. I will never understand what they are going through.

I will never understand what it’s like to be a 20-something Nepali girl, desperate to get out to provide for her family, only to be approached by scammers wanting her money, claiming to give her a job in the U.S., just after she sends them a quick Western Union transfer (Yes, that really happened to my friend, and she was heartbroken when I told her it was a scam).

I will likely never be in Shiva’s position. I will likely never have to worry about my daughter the way Shiva is worrying about his right now. And I think that every time I see a new photo of his baby girl, who is getting so big every single day.

So my message?

First of all, I want to establish what’s up with the jewelry.

I came up with pleine de vie back in high school, and I didn’t really know what I wanted it to be. Should it be a fashion blog? A travel blog? An opinion blog?

I have decided since returning from Nepal that I truly want this to be its purpose. Something that is a creative outlet, and a place for me to pursue my interests in fashion. But also something that serves a greater purpose. Something that can become a seed that can grow people and their communities. And even if I try and fail, I will keep on working towards it.

But honestly, right now, my priority is not my brand. It’s not about even the jewelry, to be honest. Right now it’s about supporting Shiva. Everything is going back to him. It’s about giving him a boost so he can be in a position to create the pieces he loves to make again.

Don’t get me wrong. The pieces that are up are beautiful, and I would not even offer it to you all if I didn’t think so. They rival any of the brands you can buy here in the States. But I just know that Shiva and I could bring something different and beautiful. I just have to acknowledge that right now is maybe not the time.

My aim for the long term is to go back to Nepal, sit down with Shiva, and collaboratively come up with a beautiful brand based on the creative visions we both have – to come up with those pieces that are so uniquely Shiva. The ones I fell in love with.

My second, and most important message:

Make it about people. Not money, not material things. Make the things you do and the reason you do things for others. When you forget, when you get lost in the you, challenge yourself to look at the bigger picture. You’ll realize how small the you actually is, in the grand scheme. (It’s easy to forget, I’ve realized.)

And you don’t have to fly to Nepal and meet a Shiva to do it.

Whatever you can do to better others, whether it’s at your school, or your community, or your country, do that. If you can show kindness and compassion to a stranger and brighten their day, do that. If you can make a positive difference in someone else’s life somehow, some way, do that.

Let this be your daily reminder.

Happy World Humanitarian Day.

I did not actually wake up like this

I need to learn to take kindly to being misunderstood. To forget about it, to let people think what they want.

But I guess when a message I’m trying to portray is so important, in my opinion, and so often lost, that’s when I feel the need to make it clear.

Ok, so let me start here:

I share a lot about myself. I put a lot of me out here for you all to read…(and by all of you, I mean you, you…the one who birthed me…hi Mom. Perhaps my one and only avid reader…)

No, seriously though, for anyone else out there, there’s not much about me that I won’t put to words on this blog. But there is one thing I never thought I’d share.

Remember when I complained about my really horrible acne? And everyone gave their advice, from home remedies to cutting food from my diet. All very kind advice, coming from the most loving of intentions.

But I don’t think most really knew the severity of the situation. The situation that made people stare, that made my dermatologist’s jaw drop upon entering the room. The situation that caused me to hide from the world, to never want to leave the house. The situation that sent me into something of a depression.

If you’ve followed along you know I talk about it a lot. I did the elimination diet for months to no avail – cut out dairy, gluten, meat, processed foods, etc. from my diet. Exercised often, made sure I broke a major sweat every day. But nothing seemed to help.

Now? Now, after a month and a half of antibiotics, it is cleared for the most part. And I could not be more grateful.

This is it. Here are the photos of what I went through. This was the acne struggle I told you guys about once I returned home after my six months of travel. The time period spanning between February all the way through May/June of this year:

Cystic Acne

As you can see, this was serious. It was greatly upsetting. And while in this pit of insecurity, I allowed every single other insecurity I’ve ever had to get out of control simultaneously.

Not only was my face terrible, but it was too chubby. I wasn’t thin enough. I all of a sudden felt insecure about my lack of curves again (hello 6th grade through high school all over again).

I remember when it was time to see my boyfriend again, for the first time in months upon returning from my travels. We were going to Vegas for a friend’s birthday.

I was to do so with ^ that face.

I was so nervous to see him. I was so nervous and anxious to see this guy – this guy who I’d known and been with for nearly ten years.

This guy who has seen me at my best and at my worst, who has loved me the whole time no matter what. This guy I never cared being makeup-free around, who was no longer phased by my ugly facial expressions, who I fart around, burp at, who I leave the door open when I use the restroom around. I was all of a sudden worried that this same guy wouldn’t think I was beautiful anymore. That he wouldn’t love me anymore.

I made sure I got to our hotel first, and rushed to my room to do my hair, get all dolled up, and more importantly, attempt to slather makeup on my face. To cover it as much as possible.

I got frustrated.

I’d start, and hate it, then wipe it all off to start again. I was getting worked up, and the beads of sweat on my forehead were smudging away the layers. I would start crying – at first, a few tears streaming through the cakes of foundation. Then I would just break down, sobbing, and look up to see a complete mess in the mirror. I’d look up to see a reflection I hated.

Then, a knock at the door. He was here.

I have never been more nervous to open the door. And when I finally did, the look on his face broke my heart.

Spoiler alert: our relationship did not end because of my acne. Of course he still loved me. And he even still thought I was beautiful, disastrous as my skin was and all. But he was literally taken aback by the severity of my acne on first glance, and I saw it in his face.

I’d told him time and time again prior to that weekend over the phone that it was “bad,” and he would keep assuring me it was “fine.” He didn’t really believe me, I guess. I still remember the horror in his face when he saw with his own eyes that, yes, it was in fact “bad.” Very bad.

It hurt my feelings instantly. I took it very personally. But I know now he was really just upset for me. Because he knows how much it pained me, and how insecure and upset I was over it.

But I didn’t think of it that way at the time. And the entire weekend as we walked around half-naked, gorgeous women, my insecurities spiraled out of control. I compared myself to everyone. Everyone was better than me. Skinnier, bigger boobs, better skin, better hair, more fit, more toned.

We all go through it, don’t we? Especially we women. We compare ourselves, we analyze ourselves, we put our bodies through hell for it to be what everyone thinks it should.

Anyway, like I mentioned earlier, my skin got a lot better. Yes, I have some pretty deep scarring here and there, but honestly, I’m just so grateful for where I am now.

I am so grateful for my body and the way it serves me every day. I am grateful for my health. I’m grateful that everything functions the way it’s supposed to. And I realize I need to stop being so mean to it when it performs so exceptionally in so many ways.

Acne is a skin disease. In no way I am saying it is something that is normal that people are supposed to just feel comfortable with. If you have one or two zits and feel like you want to hide in your room forever? Yeah, maybe a bit excessive. But when it’s out of control, it is a disease, and you should not have to get used to it. You should do what you can to get your skin back to normalcy.

What I am saying, though, is that this one insecurity of mine so quickly elevated all the rest that I have. And I was really disappointed in myself. “I’m 27 years old, for crying out loud,” I’d think to myself.

But I should know better than to think every woman should be rid of her insecurities as they approach their 30s. I have come a long way from my teenage days in terms of how I respond to those insecurities, though. And the main thing that I’ve found that gets me through those insecurities is reminding myself what I’m comparing myself to, what standards I’m holding for myself.

Because what does it boil down to? Society’s rules of beauty. Media’s rules of beauty. Kylie Jenner lips. Jennifer Aniston’s boobs. Kim Kardashian’s ass. Angelina Jolie’s everything. The airbrushed faces of every billboard and magazine.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with Kylie’s lips, Jen’s boobs, Kim’s ass, and Angelina’s whole enchilada. But it’s wrong to think that that is what you should be, what you should strive to have. And the amount of photoshop done in the media is downright wrong. We forget how easy it is for people’s bodies and faces to be transformed by it. We forget and we still compare.

Everyone is different. Everyone is different. Everyone is different for a reason.

It sounds cliché, but it is really so powerful and profound when you come to embrace and accept it. That you were not mean to be any certain way other than a healthy, happy you. And you know deep down what that is. The fact that everyone is trying to look the same and be the same is a problem.

But we get so sucked into it. I do, absolutely. All the time.

So I made this video on Instagram:

My (missed, to some) point?

We put a lot of effort into making ourselves look a certain way. Makeup, angles, poses, filters, even photoshop. We put so much effort into achieving that “perfect” exterior. And it’s easy to do. To look like we lead this perfect life. To look like we have it all figured out. Fronting. We expend a lot of energy to do it. And we want it to seem effortless. Like we “just woke up like this.”

So wait, why did I feel the need to post that video of me made up and made down? And what was the point of my acne photos?

Yes, I like to take pretty photos of myself and post them on social media. Yes, I post pretty sunset photos and pictures of my travels, and some appetizing food photos along the way.

Does money fall out of my asshole (or my parents’), thus enabling me to do whatever I want, whenever I please, and never have to work hard for it? Is my life a fairy tale where I travel the world and go wherever I want and never have to deal with any sort of work or responsibility? Um, no, sorry to burst your bubble.

Is my life easy breezy? Am I immune of struggles and issues and challenges? Of course not, what the hell.

Are me and my boyfriend this dream couple and do we spend our free time holding hands, running into the sunset in a field full of daisies? No way. We have been through hell and back but it’s made us who we are and he’s still the only person I want to be with despite it all.

Do my parents and I always get along? Are me and my dad besties? Yeah, right. I fight with mine too. (But me and my dad really are besties.)

Did I wake up like that (acne photo collage)? At the time, yup.

Did I wake up like this – made up, filtered up, photoshopped up? Hell no.

(But that healed up, acne-free – though scarred, makeup-free few seconds of a face IS how I wake up these days, and man does that make me happy.)

Be kind to yourself. Do not ever be fooled by someone’s Instagram feed, and furthermore, feel the need to compare yourself based on what they appear to be. They may not be as “perfect” as you think. And that’s good, that’s great. That’s reality, people.

And be kind to others. Don’t judge, don’t act like you understand someone’s struggles and someone’s privileges by glancing at their feed from time to time. Everyone is facing his/her own battles.

Here is the rest of the audio clip from Lauryn Hill’s MTV Unplugged performances back in 2002 (spitting knowledge wayyyy before Beyonce’s feminism) that really moved me the other day, that I couldn’t fit in those 15 seconds on one Instagram post. I hope after you listen to it, you understand what I was going for. And I hope it allows you to reevaluate your own life in a few ways.

P.S. You are beautiful. You are worthy. Be you. The world needs you to be you.

Weekend Warrior

In keeping with the pact I made myself to consume less and put a halt on shopping sprees, I have had to be resourceful with mixing and matching what I already have.

I have probably too many black pieces, but I feel like each is so versatile. And I love coming up with new combinations.

What I wore for a Saturday night out in Santa Monica:

All black everything.

1. Black, sheer, short-sleeved button up (opened up).
2. Long, black maxi with high slits.
3. Black, fringe bucket bag.
4. Tall gladiator sandals.
5. Amethyst raw stone choker.

(Psst: Stay tuned for how you can get your hands on #5 straight from Shiva, my friend/artisan jeweler in Nepal. Follow #PDVpreview in the meantime on Instagram.)

Weekend Warrior

I’ve noticed that I’ve taken my outfit choices to a much more bold, in your face, DGAF place. It’s pretty freeing. I think it might be reflective of this point in my life right now.

Also, it appears as thought I’ve officially boycotted bras. Perks of the itty bitties – pun not originally intended but actually awesome.

Anyway, hope your weekend was as fearless (and sheer and open) as this look.

Big moves ahead, new moon intentions

I am finding that with this new moon, there happens to be a lot going on in my life personally.

The last few months have definitely felt transitionary. I have definitely struggled to maintain steady grounding and balance and figure out what exactly this time in my life is meant to serve.

But I am coming to this point where my feet feel more firmly planted, and there are big things head. I am ready to meet them with these new moon intentions.

What’s in store for you?

Speak & Be True

Be & Speak True

Lots of aquamarine to assist in and open communication. Let it flow freely from the heart. Be true, be confident. Your dreams, YOU, are valid. Do not waver. >> New Moon Intention, June 16

Be Organized, Stay Sharp

Be Organized, Stay Sharp

B.O.S.S. lady. Take notes, be on top of your game. Be a step ahead. >> New Moon Intention, June 16


Listen, Learn, Collaborate

Listen, Learn, Collaborate

Strength in numbers. Set aside ego. Join with like-minded individuals. Share, but listen. Learn. Together we can accomplish more. >> New Moon Intention, June 16