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I relate to this article on so many levels.

Girl Fest San Diego

By Lauren “Lo” Valle

I get amped about social justice issues. I mean, really amped. I’ve tried to pinpoint a moment in time when this happened, but I think I was just born this way.

I remember being seven years old, on the playground with some classmates in line to play handball. When it was my turn, I was supposed to play against a boy named Kenny.

“I don’t wanna play with you. Girls suck. Boys are better at everything,” he said.

At first, I raised my fist at him. Then I remembered how often my older brother was in detention for getting into fights at school, and that I was known by the teachers as “the good one.” So I put my fist down and replied, “Okay. Since this is going to be so easy for you, why don’t you just play me and get it over with?”

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Blink! My eyes are finally opening up has I re-develop a loving relationship with San Diego. I am learning about the many treasures this cozy city has to offer including the women’s empowerment foundation called Girl fest San Diego. It’s a non-profit group that spreads awareness through social events and creativity.

Check them out – http://www.girlfestsandiego.org, and befriend them on Facebook.

Learn! Educate! Get Involved!

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An epiphany fell on my shoulders as I *purposely* played a video game not to long ago. I found myself starting Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 from the beginning again yet was stomped when creating a name for the protagonist. What name do I like? What name do I like? This question pounded my head as I paused the game to think of all the possibilities. On the surface, this makes absolutely no sense. What does it matter what name I choose? It’s just a game…right? Wrong. Like choosing a name for a your business or choosing a name for the characters of your best selling novel, the name is important.  You’ll see the name you chose throughout the game, and this is when it clicked! The game is apart of my identity.

 

In the book Conscious Parent, author Shefali Tsabary stresses how babies already know who they are in this world. I agree. Every single item you own, every single song and book and movie and tv show and/or video game you like, your favorite color, your favorite food, your favorite place, the clothes and accessories you wear, the characters you create,  the type of pet you want or have, the car you have, the people you hang out with, even all the things you hate is all apart of the identity you have chosen for yourself in this reality. It’s all YOU!

Wow! This does put a new spin on the *items* around me.

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The Beginning – December 2, 2010

I was hustling trying to get everything packed and ready for my first trip overseas. I remember telling myself, just make sure to have the passport and tickets. My mind was fixated on traveling; I guess I have a one-track thought pattern in this aspect.

My energy was high. I drove to Los Angeles (LAX) and ate at a fascinating, country-style waffle house. Of course, I ordered the classic waffles. The meal was irresistibly good. The waffles were golden brown, a moist cake-like center surrounded by a delicious crispy exterior topped off with thick whipped cream. Those waffles set the tone for the excellent food to come.

The International Airport…I have arrived. I walked around aimlessly since I have many hours to kill. As I wondered around, I noticed the rich diversity of people the airport had to offer. All of them were waiting to visit another land, just like myself.

Finally the clock was heading toward midnight. It was time for me to redeem my official airline ticket, but suddenly I was struck with a bolt of bad luck. I missed my flight. It turns out my original flight left at midnight the morning before. It was extremely confusing, but nothing was going to stop me from seeing the new world. So for an embarrassing fee, I eased my way on the flight that was leaving now.

My first flight to Beijing, China was 12 hours long. Being in a small place (although this was the biggest plane I have ever been on) for a long period of time is enough to slowly drive me insane. Luckily, I met an interesting, cute fella who was sitting next to me. He was from Venezuela, and I learned he was quite the traveler. He was on the flight to meet his girlfriend who was dancing in a competition in Xi Ann, China. Anyway after hearing many fun stories from my neighbor, going through China’s security, eating a scrumptious Chinese dumpling breakfast, and catching another 3 hour flight to Japan, I was finally in the large city of Tokyo.

Tokyo was chaotic with people in every direction, but it was still very orderly. This oxymoron was my best impression of the big city of Japan. Thank goodness though, many of the locals were studying English and were interested in practicing it. This did emphasize how many of us English-only speakers are spoiled when it comes to worldly communication… or maybe not. The huge downside is that we cannot easily learn other languages. Seriously, I tried to studying Japanese for a month straight and I still cannot say a proper sentence in the language. Sad! But this was beside the point!  Many Japanese citizens were learning English for business purposes since the English language dominates the global market. However, Japan is keen on customer service. Learning English is also used to accommodate many foreign visitors. Relief!

Japan’s customer service wins the gold in my eyes. When I got lost in Asakusa, my home away from home, I came across an older gentleman on a bicycle. He was kind enough to take me straight to my destination, Khaosan Tokyo Inn, which was quite a distance. I wanted to offer money to show my gratitude, but thought it was rude, so instead I stressed the phrase “Arigato Gozaimasu” while bowing heavily. He was definitely a life saver.

I must admit, I was very disappointed with my sleeping quarters. This is because I never been in a hostel before, but sharing a dining and bathing area was all too familiar. Hostels remain me of college dorms, and that was not the experience I was going for when staying in Japan. But I was over reacting. I immediately got settled in and strolled through Asakusa’s nightlife, which lead me to my first Japanese dessert, creamy almond custard. It is to die for.

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February 5, 2011

You know, a high-status business typhoon once told me, “young business owners are a myth.” Apparently this person fails to realize that all myths are based on reality.

Tina Harris is a young entrepreneur who created her own online empire called Stacie’s Gifts, and get this! She started only two years ago and is still standing strong as we continue into the New Year. Tina has huge plans for her stylish jewelry boutique, and today I am excited to hear her plans as I interview her on how she created her success story. (All you aspiring business owner; you should definitely take note.)  

Sabrina: What inspired you to be your own boss, and how did it impact your current lifestyle for the better?

Tina: First, I decided to create something for myself while still young.  I wanted to form my own source of income, which would ultimately give me an entrepreneur skill-set that I would be able to use when older.  Second, I had fun both being a local and online merchant. 

From [my experience], I learned there is no security in working for someone else. Going into business with almost no clue, I took a blind leap of faith and have not looked back since.  My security is based on my own efforts and merits, not based on someone else’s business decision.

 

Sabrina: Since you are a service company, what is your customer service motto and how do you initiate it?

Tina: Having worked in customer service for over 10 years, this was not too hard to figure out.  I always put the customers first and make it easy for them to do business.  Customers want reasonable prices, open communication, and a secure shopping experience.  My goal for this company is actually initiated prior to the customers placing their orders.  In addition to having free 24/7 access to the website, customers have the same access to our social media sites.  This provides direct access to communicate with [the staff of Stacie’s Gifts] as well as information that can be used to help them shop online and offline. 

Sabrina: What type of business owner are you, and how do you set yourself apart from other owners?

Tina: You can say I am a business owner that operates in two worlds.  There is the virtual online world consisting of our website and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and there is the “real world” where we also service our local customers.  As most business owners choose between marketing online or locally, I have been able to strike a balance between both worlds. 

Our size gives us an advantage [statement referring to Tina and her staff members].  We have ample opportunity to meet our customers face-to-face, and/or simply form a connection online.

 

Sabrina: Every business starts with an idea, but what is the first step that you recommend for aspiring men and women to take when trying to manifest that idea into an actual business? 

Tina: Now is actually a good time to start a business.  In this recession, it appears that the business world is realigning itself all the way from the fortune 500 companies to the “mom and pop” establishments.  My recommendation is to always start with a written plan.  Test your plans, and adjust them accordingly.  Have your plan reviewed by professional consultants.  Know that there are no short-cuts.  There is no fast track or tricks of the trade.  If starting and growing an enterprise were easy, everyone would do it.  Mentally prepare yourself for an adventurous journey ahead.

Sabrina: What are the three most important aspects of a successful business?

Tina:  Simply put:

One – A written plan with attainable goals and objectives.  Write down what you want to accomplish and how you plan to accomplish your goals in detail.  Keep it simple.

Two –  Happy customers that keep coming back and can put out the good word about your business.  Learn how to provide good customer service.

Three – A high degree of self-discipline and superb organization skills.

Sabrina: Your website is very straightforward, yet very bright and welcoming. How important is design and marketing for a new business, and what is the best way to expose the business to the public on a tight budget?

Tina: First impressions are very important, but there is also a bigger picture.  The best way to expose your business online is getting found.  Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, and even Ning sites are an excellent way to get your site found on an upstart budget.  Search engines like Google provide many free and low cost methods of getting your website out to the public.

Second, make sure your site is easy to navigate.

Last, make sure the site terms are straightforward enough for everyone to understand.

Sabrina: Loving what you sell is crucial for credibility and success. What are your favorite items in your inventory and why?

Tina: There are a few items that are near and dear to me.  The first is the beige Pashmina.  Of course, I own one of my own.  I can wear it with almost anything, and it is versatile enough to wear year round.  The Pashmina is a piece I personally wear on a regular basis.  The second is the Dragonfly necklace.  I love wearing the Dragonfly necklace as I can always expect a compliment, or it can spark up a conversation with someone I have never met before.  It also helps breaks the ice with prospective local customers who end up buying the very same necklace as a gift.

Sabrina: What is your ultimate goal with Stacie’s Gifts?

Tina: The ultimate goal of StaciesGifts.com is to create a secure future for myself and loved ones by becoming the premium one stop shop for gifts and women’s accessories online.  Our purpose is to provide gift items for any occasion such as weddings, anniversaries, holidays, and corporate events at the most affordable prices.

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This is chapter 2 of my journey, and it’s also the last chapter. After about a week, I finally finished my first art project. I’m so proud of because it came out exactly how I envisioned.

I did experience one tiny mishap during my painting project. I needed mustard yellow, and when I twisted off the cap to squeeze some of this color out of its tube, it was completely dry. Luckily, I had another yellow as back up and added a spot of dark brown to make it more of a golden. Problem solved, but the moral here is: I definitely need to look at the condition of the paints before I buy them.

The whole point of this painting is to take advantage the colors to expose the human psyche, so I began filling in the skin. Both figures in the picture you see above is the same person. It’s the alter egos, and the middle figure is bright red because that’s the exaggerate public personality that others are exposed to. My favorite part of this painting was the hair. I just love making the swirly tips. They’re my signature design, and I made sure my signature swirls were visable in the hair of the blue figure.

Actually, this is not the last chapter to the journey because I want to add more details in the white curly hair, the eyes, and the yellow pedals. But for now, I’m very pleased with my work. Now to continue the self-analysis, the green arm is the connection between the public appearce and the private apperance of an individual. You could say the arm pulls a person back to their original self. The circle formed by the hair and the body is the cycle that an individual experiences on a daily basis, but I don’t want to get too psychoanalytical. It’s just the image I conjured up after thinking about the power of color.

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I really want to try new things for this new year, and one of things I definitely want to master is sewing. It would be so fantastic to make my own clothes, but sewing is too intimidating right now. That monstrous sewing machine, all those fabric selections, it’s all unfamiliar territory, so I decided to take baby steps. I am a writer right now, but I decided to learn how to tell stories through pictures. I’m going to spend my free time painting out my imagination and blogging about my progress.

I'm excited to use every color in my new paint set

The very first step I took was buying some painting supplies: brushes, paint holder, and paint. There was so many variety in paints from water color to oil paints. I was told that oil paints are the worst because you have to buy a special substance to clean up the brush, so I settled with acrylic paints.

You can barely see it, but the canvas is light blue. I'm now allowing it to dry.

So far, I used the turquoise like watercolor just because I wanted to cover up the white spaces. I don’t know how you all feel, but I usually try to cover up white space. Even when I write, I hate leaving a page blank or even half blank because I feel the whiteness of the page piercing at me. It sounds crazy, but an empty white space feels like nothingness. White lacks an emotional connection.

Oddly enough, there was an artist, whose name escapes me, who released a blank canvas as a credible piece of artwork. It was said that  the emptiness of his canvas leaves room for the viewer to imagine their own creation into the space. What B.S.! Then I thought to myself, may be this artist is so ingeniously devious that he was able to convince others that his lack of inspiration is the inspiration itself thus emphasizing the gullibility of his followers. I believe Socrates was referring to this artist when he argued that artists are wizards of deception.

Well, this is chapter one of my journey.

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This

  

Plus This


Equals This

Look at that dog’s face! Christmas fills people with sorrow! Wait no! Scratch that! Capitalism in December fills people with sorrow! I am stressing out about gifts to buy while dealing with other people who are stressing out over the same situation. It wasn’t until now that I realize that the Christmas season needs to die!

Alright! I’m not going to lie. I love Christmas. I love eating delicious food, having fun with family, and of course, receiving gifts. I guess giving gifts is fun too, when it’s done right. There’s a fulfilling way to give gifts and there is a ridiculous way as well. So which is which? That’s start with the wrong way to buy.

As an employee at a retail store, I automatically notice how the company sets up their products to appeal to the consumer. They strategically split female gifts from male gifts and stack them in the front of the store at eye level accompanied with a large sign that says “Great Savings.” Now if you gravitate toward this sign and pick these display items as gifts, then you fell into the trap because these “gifts” are not for an individual. They are for illusions, or I should say, they are for stereotypes. These “gifts” also take advantage of human laziness, so the ridiculous way to buy gifts is to buy out of convenience.

I see it all the time. For females, people usually buy name brand products: perfume, jewelry, make up, and for the younger crowd, New Moon stuff. For men, people also buy named brand products: wallets, cologne, sports products, and for the younger crowd, action figures. None of this stuff is original, yet everyone buys them because everyone else is buying them. Wow! Sounds like Christmas to me.

But there’s hope because I’m going to tell you the smart way to buy gifts, THINK! You read that right! Think about the individual who you’re buying for. What is this person’s interest? What are her hobbies? What does he really want? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, then it’s time to get to know this person better. After you learn how to think, then you’ll buy a successful gift.

Now I’m not saint because I was buying blindly too. Like the people next to me at the time, I picked up these fake gifts without thinking about the person themselves. I was thinking, “Everyone loves this!” or “Every girl loves that.” There’s no substance in the gift at all, and how do I know this? As soon as I took the “gifts” home, I didn’t feel good about what I bought. I had to return them. Now I have much better gifts to give.

There is another alternative to buying a fulfilling gift. Make one! Seriously! Think creatively, and come up with something for that significant other. One of my friends is making interesting items for all the people on her list. This is the perfect gift because it’s original, and most importantly, it’s special. Are you stumped on what to make? Here’s some ideas: homemade jewelry (Yes! You can make jewelry from scratch), a sweater, travel plans, the list goes on and on.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m not completely against Capitalism, but I am criticizing it. I’m especially criticizing the people who choose to be victims of it.  So think before you buy, and you’ll enjoy this Holiday season.

Happy SMART Holidays, Everyone!

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This is what we saw when driving to Curry Village

Last year my roommate and I took a trip to Yosemite National Park. This landmark is so big, it has its own city. Yosemite National Park is conveniently located in Yosemite, California, and I had a blast just looking at the park’s beautiful scenery.

Now all this beauty cannot be taken in within a day, so we decided to spend two nights in the wild. Where did we sleep? In a fancy hotel comprised of a community of tents in Curry Village. Curry Village is the perfect hotel for people who want to be surrounded by nature, yet protected from it. Being a city girl, I definitely fit this description since I have limited knowledge of how to deal with wild animals. And speaking of animals, there is one in particular that every tourist must be aware of: the all mighty bear.

Yes! Yosemite is home to the Grizzly bears. At first,  I did not care about this piece of information because I perceived bears as large, but cute vegetarians. Boy was I wrong! Immediately when we entered Curry Village’s lobby, we got a taste of how frightening bears can be.

First of all, bears love human food. I guess there is truth to fiction after all. When I say this statement, I am mainly referring to Dreamwork’s movie Over the Hedge. In this movie, the bear named Vincent stocks up on every junk food imaginable before his winter hibernation. At Yosemite, I learned bears change their entire diets after they get a taste of a potato chip or a piece of candy. This is why they terrorize tents, cars, cabins, and coolers. They become addicted to human food.

So imagine my horror when I saw a statue of a bear in Curry Village’s lobby while watching footage of bears destroying tourists’ cars. I did not sleep a wink the first night. I keep thinking a bear is going to waltz in and bite my lips off because I have a minty smell on my breathe.

Of course, I had nothing to worry about. Curry Village scares off the bears with extremely loud gun shots. No! They don’t shoot the bears. They shoot in a safe location in the air. The sound scares off the bears, and it keeps the residents safe. I slept like a baby the next night.

Yosemite Falls

The bottom of Yosemite Falls

Forget about the bears, my favorite part of the vacation is the hike in Yosemite Valley.

Yosemite Falls

We're half way there.

We hiked all the way up to the top of Yosemite Falls. According to the website, this waterfall is 2,700 feet and 823 m elevation. You can see in this photo how high we had to travel in order to finish the trail. When we got up there, there was an icy cold lake waiting for us to dive in, and we did.

Yosemite was a fun experience, and I would love to go back. It’s beautiful, safe, and filled with exciting things to do. And when I return, I know the perfect place to spend the night.

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Congratulations to me! I’ve just completed my B.A. in Creative Writing. Now what?

The first ideal step is to get an internship in my field, which includes (but not limited to) journalism, publishing, and entertainment. The next ideal step is to work really hard and hope the company hires me permanently. Sounds like a realistic plan to me. So let me get started! Searching…searching….what!? I have to be enrolled in college?

Okay! Some majors are more marketable than others, but that’s not the reason why I’ve been having trouble. It’s because I was very passive while I was in college. I was one of those fools who decided not to take up an involved internship while in school. Now look at where it got me. I’ve been searching high and low for a good internship with no luck. Most of the internships I’ve encountered require me to be a junior or senior in college. My resume could be an issue too.  It isn’t beefy enough, and employers demand a big steak.

So all you college students out there, learn from my mistakes. Be proactive! Your resume is important, and the best time to build it is NOW. Okay! I’m getting too preachy. Let’s turn the attention back on me.

Even though the search is rough right now, I’m a not quitter. I strive for optimism, so I’ll get that internship. I just need to remain patient and persistent. Meanwhile, I’ll just keep on writing and apply for jobs till that time comes.

There’s no where to go but UP from here!

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