Happy Tears.

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Remember when the whole “Ellen DeGeneres and her Dog” fiasco happened? A re-cap in case you missed it:

Talk show host/ love-of-my-life-if-I-were-gay Ellen DeGeneres had adopted a dog and given it away to a young girl and her family, only to find out she’d breached the contract of her adoption by giving the dog to new owners.  The adoption agency paid a visit to the home of the young girl and her family to whom Ellen had given the dog and reclaimed the puppy, saying it was now property of the agency since Ellen wasn’t technically allowed to give the dog to another family.  The next day on her show, Ellen graced her live audience and millions of TV viewers around the world sobbing in tears.  Explaining what had happened and that she was desperately fighting to get the agency to return the dog to the sweet and now very sad recipient of her pup, she made no apologies for her expression of grief, saying that it just wouldn’t be “her” to act like she was happy when she was feeling so upset. Here’s the actual clip:

I was in awe when I watched this – perhaps because if I were to grace an audience of millions everyday and be that authentic, there would probably be a lot more tear-filled episodes of my show than just the one that Ellen has had. To share who we are with the world, to observe courageous vulnerability as sociologist Brene Brown refers to it, can be a very tall order.   Ellen has always moved me with her courage, and the way she has used it to set other people free.  As a friend of mine put it recently, she gave the gift of saying “Hey. Me too.”

In a world that says “be yourself, except don’t,” I think we’re all feeling that desire to hear “me, too” in some way. It was recently that I realized the only people who I tend to compare myself with and think I need to “be more like” are people who I’ve only met once … or people who I don’t know very well.

In walking around the world recently, I’ve done my best to keep an eye out not for what’s different between me and everyone else, but for what’s the same.  It turns out I always lose in the game of comparing my insides to other people’s outsides, but in being myself – or being faced with others doing the same – I find that I’ve given and received more gifts than I could possibly pay back in return.

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The (fabulous) Family Jewels

Get your mind out of the gutter.  Not those … I’m talking about the Sisco/Berluti family jewels.

I am thrilled to announce that I’ve recently begun doing photography for a fantastic jewelry company known as Sisco + Berluti.  Lisa Sisco and Carolyn Berluti are sisters from a big italian family who began beading bracelets from their home to quench a creative thirst.  Now, their hugely successful company has been featured in O Magazine, INStyle, on the set of Gossip Girl, and on the arms of an extensive list of celebrities from Jessica Alba to Miley Cyrus.  Stay tuned for photos and updates of my work with them, and in the meantime, check out their site to score some fabulous jewels of your own:

www.siscoberluti.com

My fab new stack!

People Profile: Lindsey O’Connor

Lindsey O’Connor, EPHAS’ most recent co-op. Photo CC Laura Max Nelson.

As many of you know, I started this blog as part of an assignment for a class at Northeastern University with Media Nation blogger and Professor Dan Kennedy.  Over the course of that semester, I had the honor of getting to know my classmate and “green queen” Lindsey O’Connor.  We caught up earlier today at Boston’s eco-friendly Pavement Coffee House where she told me all about her most recent ventures, including how she’s planning on changing the world one bite, and even one photo at a time. Lindsey, who has a smile you can spot from a mile away, just scored a position with Every Person Has a Story (EPHAS). EPHAS, a non-profit company which puts cameras in the hands of underprivaged children to spread first-hand perspective on their day-to-day lives, resonates with her intention to authentically share people’s stories and make the world a better place:

“What makes me excited about working there is that I’m very passionate about empowering people. By empowering people, that’s how you really create positive change,” she says. “I feel like the more we raise awareness about other cultures and other people, we’ll soon realize that we’re all human and we’re all the same and we should all just get along.”

Lindsey studies journalism at Northeastern, but while her major hasn’t changed, her focus has shifted.  When it comes to applying her skills, she says it’s more about empowering people to have a voice rather than trying to be their voice.

“I don’t feel like I, as a journalist or writer, can go into another culture and really understand whats going on, but im still fascinated by other pople andother cultures and learning about them,” she said.  “I want to help create positive change because I have such passionate feelings about the human race and all of us together. We are one world, one people … I really want to try to bring that message across.”

Although her job won’t start until September, Lindsey uses each day to make a days worth of difference.  A believer in the power of positive energy, Lindsey says it’s really all about passing it on in any way you can:

“I smile to people when im walking down the street, I say good morning to people, I look them in the eye when I talk to them … if you put that positive energy into the world, its going to have this domino effect,” she explained. “Little things like that I think really make a difference.”

Apart from a smile and a wave, Lindsey also continues to remain aware of her environmental footprint, which she’s blogged about in the past.  With Boston being a hub for the green scene, she says it’s easy to take a more concious bite out of life:

“I am like this vegetable, whole grain queen,” she described. “Anything with raw fresh fruits or vegetables and whole grain, I am on board.“

Lindsey says her favorite Boston hotspots for the green of heart are Whole Foods, the Trader Joe’s in Coolidge Corner, Pavement Coffee House and the Copley Square Farmer’s Market.

Taking a whole-grain, veggie-packed bite out of life. Photo CC Laura Max Nelson.

As for the rest of what it takes to find joy in the everyday, Lindsey thinks there’s probably a reason why “following your heart” has become so cliche:

“I don’t want to say follow your heart … because that just pisses me off. But seriously, do whats in your heart. If you’re passionate about something … you will be successful at it.  Whether that success brings you money and fame or not, the fact is, youre going to be happy because you’re doing what you love to do.”

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Passion for Portraits

I recently had the honor of being in attendance the night my best friend, Nico, got engaged. Camera in hand, I took snapshots of the evening that were a conclusion to three weeks of photographs from a long “trip” to New York City. Over the course of my time spent in the big apple, I was also able to follow my friend Emily Rudisill to work and capture her in all of her glory right before stepping into the Conde Nast building, where she works for the one and only Vogue magazine.

When Nico called me this morning elated about how the photos came out, I found myself inspired and in touch with what has been a long-running passion for portrait taking – specifically, capturing people’s essence through framing them in tight shots.  I decided to dredge up some of my favorites (and a couple that some friends took of me!) from the last couple of years:

My dear friend, Rob Mabe, doing what he does best – laughing!

Another side of Rob

Dan Vessely and Nico Padden get engaged.

Nico Padden, singer/songwriter with her new bling.

Upclose.

Nico in her element – laughing and in love!

My favorite ring shot.

Cooking in the Kitchen with Hannah Martin of ELLE DECOR.

En route to work at VOGUE, dear friend and former roommate Emily Rudisill.

Another one of Emily in Times Square.

Me on the bus en route to NYC.

My friend Sue’s new addition to the family.

“Sue and Baby.”

Janet Fink – Reiki master. I love her expression here, and the quote on her shirt.

One of many shots of Marian Daniells. Not hard to capture this one’s innate beauty.

I call this one “Summer with no air conditioner.”

Bahamas 2011 with Marian Daniells of The Boston Globeand http://www.mariandaniells.com

Sun Happy.

Peter Crowley, Boston Yoga Instructor, creator of Freedom Joy Yoga.

My favorite of Peter.

Rebecca Pacheco, creator of omgal.com.

A night to remember with Marian Daniells.

Laughter with Jordan Charlton and Marian Daniells.

Okay, I snuck into this one. Was this winter 2011?

Love me, love me not.


Refreshing words of wisdom from a modern day Yogi.

Are you pushing, pushing, pushing to get yourself into bird of paradise and wondering why you walked into that darn yoga class in the first place? Wasn’t it to find whatever inner peace is?  Or no, maybe it was to have that teacher’s biceps…

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with finding bird of paradise.  When I do “find” it, trust me, you all will be the first to know.  However, I found myself feeling validated and refreshed after reading a deliciously soulful article by Nicole Lineyan on Yoga Modern regarding the relationship between finding your handstand and finding yourself on your mat. Perhaps most poignently, Lineyan remarked:

“It’s all well and good to be able to do tittibhasana. It’s more important to know who you are.”

For me, these days, yoga is about coming home to myself.  If “myself” has my feet behind my ears, thats all the better, but in the end, I am looking for that quiet reminder of the strength that lies within. I related to Nicole as she discussed why she practices:

“I practice to connect with that part of me that is untouched by suffering … to remember that no matter what is happening, at my core there is a light that is always shining.”

If you’re interested in checking out the entire article, click here to read “Is Yoga Changing with you?”

Why’d you have to go and make things so caffeinated?

Every morning when I have that blissful morning moment, I ask myself:

Am I having a spiritual awakening, or am I just having a latte?

I have a friend who calls coffee her “liquid sunshine” – she even has it on a list that was approved by a paid professional of “things that make her happy.” I have another friend who has banned the substance altogether, acknowledging its addictive qualities and … well, just saying no to drugs.

Me? I am somewhere in between.  I would say I’m in a highly committed relationship with morning Joe, but I don’t need to see him at all hours of the day. And, it makes me smile when some of favorite Yoga instructors teach class with a cup of Starbucks either in-hand or close by. Ah, to be human.

I decided to do a little research on my drug of choice and see where the experts weighed in on the pros and cons of java consumption.  In the matter of “to brew or not to brew”, the opinions are all over the board. Some websites claim there is nothing even remotely positive about consuming any amount of caffeine, others say coffee is a great source of Antioxidants.  Here are some surprising facts I found America’s lifeblood:

1. Second to oil, Coffee is the second most highly traded commodity on earth. – www.theoatmeal.com

2. Coffee stimulates the same part of your brain as cocaine or heroin, just less. – www.thisblogrules.com

3. Decaffeinated products still have caffeine in them.  According to US regulations, a product needs only be less than 2.5% caffeine in order to be labeled as decaf. – www.thisblogrules.com

4. Coffee is a pesticide, “a naturally occurring compound found in the beans, leaves, and fruit of over 60 plants where it acts as a natural pesticide that paralyzes and kills certain insects feeding on the plants.” – www.wethechange.com

5. Coffee might enhance female sex drive … only if you’re not a regular consumer of java.  – www.livescience.com

6. Most Americans get most of their antioxidants from coffee consumption. – www.livescience.com

7. The US of A imports more than $4 billion dollars of coffee each year. Dayum. – www.coffeemarvel.com

Are you standing in line at starbucks or taking a stand against coffee culture? Tell me your opinion.

An old photo of me in my “happy place” – writing with a cup of Joe.

 

Coming Home.

“Each man’s life represents a road toward himself.” – Hermann Hesse

There’s something about standing at a crossroads that brings all of your sh*t to the surface. Or, at least all of mine.

One of my favorite singer/songwriters, India.Arie, sings in one of her songs about heading across the globe only to find out that all she needed to know was within her all along. Well, sure … But then where do you go? You know, after you’ve found out that it’s all within you, where do you choose to live- across the globe, or in a place you call home? And if you choose the ladder, where is that exactly?

My journey of pulling geographicals as a means of self discovery (or compulsive avoidance) began when I was only six years old. It was then that my mother yanked me out of the center of the universe, otherwise known as Manhattan, to Princeton, New Jersey, for a job relocation (what kind of company someone OUT of manhattan for WORK? One of my many unanswered questions.) Anyways, I bounced back and forth from NYC visiting friends from preschool (the bonds of kindergarten knew no distance) until I was 13, when my mother and I relocated to Houston, Texas. In Princeton I had tried my luck at becoming a more athletic girl – something I used to hide the face that I secretly fantasized about wearing the latest Steve madden platforms to P.E. Upon arrival in Houston, I went into full fledged chameleon mode again when I realized my new Episcopalian school was home to the most beautiful 13 year old women I’ve seen to this day. After spending my first day of class scrambling to figure out how on earth I would return the next day and live up to such gorgeous and glamorous expectations, I expressed my distress to my mother:

“How was your first day?” she asked.
“Mom,” I said. “I’m a minority.”
“Why? Because you’re Jewish?” she inquired.
“No mom. Because I’m a brunette.”

I decided then to begin a series of appointments for partial highlights that had me fully blonde by my early high school years. My hair grew bigger at the top and my eyelashes bathed in copius amounts of
Mascara. By the time I arrived in college, I was introducing myself as “being from Texas” and I identified with all things big, beautiful, and hyper-girly. After a move to London halfway through my college career opened my eyes to a new way of life, I returned to Boston to continue my journey of finding the home within. Content with my surroundings, I still felt like I didn’t know where exactly I belonged – an itch to go back to where it all began. Because of my many moves, I’ve had a tendency to think of myself as separate from other people, unable to identify with being from one single place or having pride in one particular element of national identity. I mean, you don’t exactly meet a lot of Manhattan born ex-members of The Jewish Center in Princeton New Jersey who moved to Texas only to regularly open chapel with a sung prayer at her episcopalian middle school. But, you don’t exactly meet a lot of people like anyone else
either. Must be because we’re all different.

My not being able to fit neatly into a box has had me secretly searching to find a box that I fit into ever since I left New York at six. I recently moved to back to New York City on a whim with high hopes that I would finally be able to reclaim being a New Yorker and have just one place to put in the “hometown” section of my Facebook page. I mean, there were other reasons too, but that was a big one.

But why would I do that? Why would erase everything that’s happened between age six and twenty three just to squish myself into something so much smaller than I actually am?

I have been granted the power of choice over where I’d like to spend the next several months or longer – in Boston, NY, or elsewhere. As I spend these next few days deliberating over where home will be for now, I only pray to remember that home is inside me, and so are all of my answers to the question of where I belong.

(Update: I am shipping back to Boston tomorrow! Can’t wait to be back in the place I call home and visit this big apple often as I’ll be helping my best friend plan her wedding!)

Money and the golden rule.

Scarcity can be pretty scary.

When I was a tiny tot, I remember asking my mom how a checkbook worked. When she explained it to me, I asked her why she couldn’t just write a check for everything she wanted and assume that it would all get paid for.

This is why I believe three year olds are the ones who really have it all figured out.

In my adult life, when I feel I am running low on funds or something else that’s necessary for my well-being, I can go to a place of “not-enoughness” as a means of survival. I remember a year or so ago having a conversation with my friend Molly about what happens when I only have one squirt of shampoo left in the bottle – I told her that I would go to the drugstore and, if I had one more squirt left at home, I would abstain from purchasing a new bottle until the old one was completely gone.

I’d say I’ve come a long way since then, but sometimes I can make a visit or two back to that place of scarcity and start hoarding shampoo or whatever, losing faith that the universe will provide for me. It’s an easy thing to do when we’re college students living on a dime or young professionals unsure of what tomorrow might bring. A friend of mine once responded to my money woes by saying “Laura, God has a lot of money.” God, the universe, the angel on your shoulder – whoever, I feel better when i I come to believe that spirit does have infinite funds.

So I noticed today that when I spend a lot of money on others, I end up getting a lot of money in return. It hardly feels natural, but it seems to be working. As I give more freely to the universe, so the universe gives more freely to me. Point being, when you give a little, you get a lot. May I come back and remember that next time I’m in a pinch – to give what I would hope to receive. These days, I get a whole lot more than extra shampoo, but it’s easy to forget that the miracle is coming unless I constantly remind myself and surround myself with others who will remind me, too.

Be it money or food or water- whatever it is, there is always enough. Well, actually, there’s even more than that.

Tales of this Cat.

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Curiosity killed the cat.

Or was it perfectionism?

Ladies and gentleman, it is certainly the ladder in my case. As I was scrolling through old entries on my blog tonight, I came across one labeled as a “draft”. In all my cat-like curiosity, I decided to see what it was that I’d written and never published. As I read the beginning paragraphs of a post I apparently never released, I found myself in awe of … well … myself. There was perhaps no other post on my blog more candid and compelling. Yet, ironically, I had chosen to leave this one unfinished. What was I thinking?

Well, I can answer that. I was probably thinking one thought that has caused too much creativity in this world to remain unreleased: “It’s not perfect.”

Was I wrong to believe it wasn’t perfect? No. It wasn’t perfect. But none of it is – and I am certainly not perfect either. I am perfectly imperfect, and I’d like to believe I was made that way.

My best friend’s boyfriend proposed to her last night. He called me in the days prior to let me in on how he would pop the question. When I asked about the ring after screaming for a solid ten minutes, he said something that I believe is true of all of us, something I won’t soon forget. As he explained that the ring was what my friend wanted but with slight differences, I hesitated. He interjected before I could question him:

“It’s not perfect- but it’s me. Not perfect – but good enough. Just like us. Not perfect, but good enough.”

This is not about taking scraps instead of the real deal. This is about realizing the basic truth that allows us to love one another, that unleashes creativity, that reminds us how lovable we really are. We are not perfect, but we are good enough.

Whenever I have gotten anywhere I’ve wanted to be – be it creatively, personally, or otherwise – it has not come from perfectionism (though I do like to keep testing my luck with that route all too often.) It has come rather from acceptance – not from being perfect, but for saying “here I am, take it or leave it- but I know I’m taking it even if you don’t.”

So in honor of myself and all of my other perfectionistic sisters and brothers, here is my imperfect post for the evening. May it be another step in my journey of self acceptance, an amends to myself for the times I’ve summoned my writing to the God forsaken “drafts” folder and swallowed my self-loathing in the form of a chocolate chip cookie. Here it is, take it or leave it.

But I’m taking it even if you don’t.

Hi, I’m Eloise. I am six.

Photo CC Rachel-morgan.com

Someone once told me a story about a man who was feeling beaten down by life.  The man wrote down a list of all of the things he couldn’t stand about his circumstances and put the list away in a drawer.  Later on in the week, the man was in a different state of mind. Feeling chipper, he wrote a gratitude list, thanking God for all of the things in his life he considered blessings. As he opened his drawer to put his gratitude list away, he came across the list he’d made only a few days prior. Unable to remember what it was that was bothering him so much, he held the lists next to one another and was shocked at what he saw – the lists were exactly the same.

I’m of the school of thought that if we view everything in life – every event, every person who comes and goes – as a teacher, life is far more magical.  But sometimes, like tonight, I feel like a child, and I just don’t want to.

Today was tough. One could say there were “teachers” all around me, but I’m finding I don’t care too much for looking at them that way at the moment. I feel like a kid. I would rather scream and kick. Sayings like “everything happens for a reason” make me want to squirm when I’m standing in the middle of pain and confusion.  Then at other times, those sayings feel like the divine truth. This, my friends, is not one of those times.

So tonight, I am six years old, and letting myself act my age. Six. I am stomping my feet.  I am jumping up and down and screaming until it feels like I’m done. And this little entry is a toast, if you will, to everyone (myself included) who is standing in the middle of disgruntled feelings and utter confusion.  You are not alone. I am here with you, aimlessly facebooking away and glued to Hulu when I am probably a gratitude list away from getting myself out of the quicksand and onto dry land. I know the empty piece of paper and pen will be there for me when I’m ready to let go, take off my training wheels and put on my big girl pants again.  And, I guess the beautiful thing is that empty piece of paper isn’t going anywhere.  Freedom is always waiting for me, only a notepad away in most cases. I’ll just get to it after I finish my dark chocolate bar and this one last episode of the Colbert Report, if you don’t mind.