Alcatraz Is Not Azkaban And Other Lessons I Learned In California by Rachel Abrahams

Lone Cypress - Pebble Beach, California

Lone Cypress - Pebble Beach, California

It’s a pretty common thing (I’d say an average of twice a week) for me to say or do something totally random and my husband to just shake his head and (kindly) say to me “You’re SO weird”. When he does, I always remind him he’s the one who picked me and also that he is stuck with me.

When we recently visited California, I had a tendency to say a lot of really dumb things which then I would pre-empt his response and say “Yeah, I know. I’m weird”.  Admittedly, I wasn’t helping my case. I seriously said some really dumb things.

Let me enlighten you on what I said and my own lessons learned so you can be a savvy California traveler. Sharing is caring and I have no shame. Just don’t judge me, please. Well, at least not too much.

Pebble Beach, California

Pebble Beach, California

“Wait, is that a whale? Nope, it's a rock. I need glasses.”

Yup, in my eagerness to try and see a whale while looking at the Pacific Ocean I repeatedly would see things hoping it was a whale but alas, it wasn’t. It was a rock. Lesson Learned: Wear glasses while whale watching.

“Those are the cutest sea otters. Oh, those are sea lions? Whoops.”

There was a definite trend where I didn’t seem to have the capacity to learn the differences between otters vs. sea lions and whales vs. rocks. Lesson Learned: When in doubt, just say things like “Oh my goodness, how cute” and DON’T attempt to identify the animal. Be smooth about it. Attempt casual coolness.

I kept calling Pebble Beach, Pebble CREEK. Repeatedly. To which my husband said "If you call it Pebble Creek one more time, I'm kicking you out of this car."

If you’re not a golf person, you won’t see what the big deal is about this. If you ARE a golf person, I’m sorry. That’s all I can say. Also, it was super gorgeous there even for this (obviously) non-golfer. 

Alcatraz and Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco, California

Alcatraz and Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco, California

On our way to Alcatraz, I said “I am so excited to see Azkaban”. Later, my husband said "Stop calling it Azkaban, weirdo" because I did it 2 more times.

Yup, card carrying Harry Potter fan here. Admittedly I really didn’t mean to call it Azkaban. 3 times. Without realizing it until my husband pointed it out. Completely oblivious. Which makes it very obvious how much my subconscious wishes receiving a letter saying I was selected for Hogwarts was a real thing. Lesson Learned: I never realized how badly I wished Harry Potter was real. There, I said it out loud so everyone will know. No more shame.

“Good lord, those seals smell terrible.” (Phil reminds me they are sea lions). “Dammit, why can't I get this otter, sea lion, seal thing straight?”

Me + nature = not friends. Lesson Learned: Refer back to #2. Be cool. Pretend and just say “Ooh”.

“Oh look, a real live California Pizza Kitchen. I've only seen them in the freezer section.”  

What can I say, this Florida gal has never actually seen a California Pizza Kitchen in real life. I honestly didn’t even know it WAS a restaurant. I just thought it was yet another brand of pizza temptation in the freezer section which calls to me in its siren song “You are tiiirreeed. Coooook meee instead. Piiiizzzaaaaaa is gooooood” every time I pass by. Lesson Learned: CPK is real. The freezer pizzas are pretty delicious. As to whether the real ones in the actual restaurant taste good, I wouldn’t know. We rushed off to somewhere else that day.

These are Sea Lions! Pier 39 - San Francisco, California

These are Sea Lions! Pier 39 - San Francisco, California

“I don't feel like shoveling shit at the elephant show but somebody's gotta do it. Just not me.”

I honest to goodness have absolutely no idea what prompted me to say this. I do remember finding it hilarious at the time I said it and again when I opened my travel log I kept about this trip. I do have some deep thoughts sometimes, I tell ya. Lesson Learned: Keeping travel logs on your phone or in a notebook is awesome. My memory sucks, hence the travel log.

“Whew, smells like a lot of people are taking their ‘medicine’ around here.”

We decided to walk around Venice Beach Boardwalk, see the sites, do some people watching, and even swing by the famous gym. What I wasn’t prepared for was how many vendors would be hawking their “glaucoma medication” in dirty lab coats trying to convince every passerby to stop in and get a prescription for weed. It looked totally legitimate (eyes rolling so hard they nearly fall out of my head). I kept walking through some hardcore “medicinal” areas (or maybe the wind was blowing just right). Lesson Learned: Venice Beach Boardwalk was really not worth the time. The people watching was amazing. The crush of humanity and shop vendors accosting you was not cool. We left within 20 mins.

“We're going to Beverly Hills? Maybe I'll see some Kardashians.”

So, if you haven’t judged me too much so far about being a complete nincompoop sometimes, you’re awesome BUT I do realize after admitting this next thing I may be asking too much. Ok, here goes. I am a big fan of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” (huuuuuuge exhale). Oh my goodness. I know. I have no idea why. I am not a fan of reality TV (I’ve never seen Survivor, The Bachelor/ette, Big Brother, or Dancing With The Stars) and yet I am completely sucked into their vacuum. Lesson Learned: Maybe it’s because I’m an only child? That’s all I’ve got to explain it.

Pebble Beach, California

Pebble Beach, California

Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and take these lessons learned to travel around California like an expert. Maybe you’ve decided traveling with me deserves an award and my husband is a superstar. I like to think I make the experience more awesome and unusual. Either way, my inability to stop saying dumb things is here for your pleasure/pain. Just call me Captain Generosity.


Creativity Takes Courage by Rachel Abrahams

NYC - Central Park Bethesda Terrace

NYC - Central Park Bethesda Terrace

I recently dyed my hair purple. Bright Grimace/Barney purple (you remember them, right? Am I dating myself? Did either of those characters give you nightmares too? Or was it just me?). Now, before you go imagining my head looking like a grape, it’s not ALL purple. I mixed it in with my usual copper red and it’s just enough where people look again and ask “Do you have purple in your hair?” and I answer very proudly “Yup”. I know purple hair isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (my husband isn’t really a fan but he also said it’s my hair) but you know what lesson I have learned recently in life? I don’t have to shape myself to other expectations – just what I love. What makes me happy? Having purple hair makes me happy and that’s all that matters.

It takes courage to step outside the normal boxes. It takes having a DGAFlip attitude on the surface and then making sure your insides are along for the ride even when you may be having some doubts about it (fake it til you make it, right?).  That’s true courage, in my opinion. Therefore, I can call myself Captain Courageous for rocking out the purple hair and not caring (I was tempted to rhyme there but I can only nerd out so much before you all kick me to the curb).

San Diego, California

San Diego, California

You know what else takes courage? Creativity. And honestly you can’t be a truly creative individual until you believe in yourself. If you worry too much about failing, about what others think, and about standing out from the crowd - all of these worries will lead to failure. Or not even trying at all.

I hear people tell me all the time they aren’t creative. When people say that to me, I can guess they are either in 1 of 2 groups.

Group 1: They don’t realize something they do often is actually very creative

or

Group 2: They have lost the courage to try

Do you think you aren’t a creative person? Which camp do you fall into?

Maybe you are someone who doesn’t realize you do something creative all the time and are overlooking it. Just because you aren’t putting a paint brush, glue gun, or musical instrument in your hand doesn’t mean you aren’t creative. Do you cook? Garden? Do interior design? Journal? Love fashion? Makeup? Hair? Tattoos? Reading? Karaoke? Pairing your rainbow colored kicks collection with your outfits? All of these (and so many more) are ways you are being creative and don’t even realize. Knock it off. Give yourself a hand. You are not giving yourself enough credit.

NYC - View From Empire State Building

NYC - View From Empire State Building

So, what about if you are in Group 2, where you’ve just lost the courage to try and be creative? Remember how I dyed my hair purple? If I let fear dictate my choices, I’d still be walking around with normal hair (but wishing deep down inside I had purple hair). If you want to be more creative, you just gotta suck it up and DO IT. Harsh words, I know, but don’t let fear of failing or sucking at it prevent you from trying. You know how creative people become more creative? They fail. Yup, they try something and fail and then take those lessons learned and try again – and again – and again – and then hit their stride. In these days of social media, you don’t know this anymore because people only share the awesome stuff.

One of my biggest regrets as a photographer is I spent the first 4 years of running my photography business being afraid. I was afraid to break the “rules”. What rules? Oh, the ones I kept hearing photographers spout on different message boards or comments on Flickr saying things like “too much Photoshop”, “looks fake”, “good photographs need minimal editing”, etc. What if they said that about me and my photographs? So, I tried (and failed) to follow those rules. It’s not the first time I’ve been a failure at following rules. Guess what? Remember that DGAFlip attitude? Now, I make my own rules. More color? YES. Brighter? YES. Blow out the sky? SURE, WHY NOT. If it makes my heart happy – that’s the only rule to follow.

Paris, France - Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris, France - Notre Dame Cathedral

I also was afraid of trying something different and then finding I hated it but realized quickly that’s the only way to grow. I edit photos all the time and then go back weeks/months later and decide I don’t like it and I will just start over. It happens. What do I learn? How NOT to do it. What else? I am refining my own taste.

What does this soapbox rant mean? I swear I have a point. Don’t let your fear of sucking at something prevent you from trying it. Don’t let that be your excuse of why you aren’t a creative person. Cuz if you tell me that, I will call you on your bullhockey and say “WHOMP! Try again. Give me a legitimate reason for not doing it”. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just needs to be attempted. Progress NOT perfection.

What’s the only rule? HAVE SOME FREAKIN’ FUN, people. That’s it. Enjoy it. Laugh when your dessert you attempted to create falls apart from the oven (and then smile in delight when it still tastes amazing despite looking like a literal hot mess). Add alcohol into the equation and make it a friends night together trying something different. If it’s not fun it’s not worth doing.

It takes courage to be creative. You have it in you but it just might take thinking outside whatever self-limiting box you’ve imposed on yourself. So how are you going to do it? You don’t have to dye your hair purple like me (although I would welcome you into the Purple Durple Hair Club with the most open arms ever) but there’s something fun and different you’ve been interested to try. Now is the time. Do it.

P.S. If you are looking for something super simple and low barrier to entry for being creative, try coloring in those new coloring books for adults (no, not THAT kind of adult. As in – coloring books with designs that are less Care Bear and Disney and more patterns and shapes). Here are some examples on Amazon

P.P.S. Did you notice the theme of the photos?

 

Romance Shmomance at the Love Locks Bridge | Paris Photography by Rachel Abrahams

When we visited Paris and saw the "Love Locks Bridge", we had no idea it would be the last time we'd get the chance to do so. Since our visit, it's been all over the news how the locks are damaging the bridges (parts of a bridge collapsed from the weight), making things unsafe, and creating more headaches for the locals than they'd bargained for. So, Paris has taken the locks down and decided to replace them (temporarily) with art exhibits until the final glass panels are in place. 

The Love Locks are a phenomenon that have swept all over the world where many countries (Germany, South Korea, Russia, China, Serbia, Czech Republic, and Italy - to name a few) now have love locks covering various bridges, fences, and anywhere locks can easily be snapped on and then the lovers throw away the key. 

Why did the locks become so popular? 

There's a romantic appeal for the public declaration of your love and dedication to each other. I have to admit it isn't something I understand since my most public declaration of love was at my own wedding and otherwise my husband and I tend to keep our lovey-doveyness to ourselves. For many though, the idea of writing their names on locks, attaching that love lock to a scenic location like the Ponts des Arts Bridge in Paris and then symbolically throwing away the key into the Seine river was an act of public declaration which would ensure their love would last forever.

Who says romance is dead? 

Supposedly the tradition began almost 100 years ago in Serbia where a woman fell in love with an officer. They declared their love for each other but when he went off to war he fell in love with another. She died of a broken heart and women have since flocked to the bridge where the couple used to meet and placed their love locks on the bridge to protect their own relationships.  

It was very sweet to walk along the bridge and see the names of couples on the locks, imagining them excitedly picking out "their" lock (whether ahead of time or at one of the multiple vendors selling locks nearby), adding their name and message for each other, and then taking the time to pick the forever location where the lock would spend the rest of its days.

As we walked the bridge, there were a few couples adding their locks to the few remaining spaces. It was a bright and hot day with the locks glittering in the sunlight and adding a surreal effect while moving from one end of the bridge to the other. My husband and I did not purchase a lock (remember - we aren't much for the public lovey doveyness) but I did enjoy getting to walk around and take as many photos as I could.

I've read they have now removed the bridge walls by sections, with the locks still intact, to then recycle the locks and replace the walls with all new glass panels. 

So, the City of Love's most recently trending tourist location has undergone a facelift but it's unlikely those who want to shout their love from the rooftops (or write it in a sharpie on a metal padlock) will be held down for long. I have no doubt that soon enough, a new location in Paris will be selected with a new tradition for couples to share their love with the world. Will it be writing names on heart-shaped rocks and then piling them in front of the Eiffel Tower like a big game of rock landslide jenga? Climbing to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and then throwing paper airplanes from the top with the message of love written inside, to watch them fly around the traffic circle and dodging cars? Or maybe purchasing tiny little gargoyles to paint in whatever colors you want and then give them a home around Notre Dame Cathedral? Yup, all terrible ideas by me which is how you know I am NOT the most creatively romantic person (but if in the unlikely event any of these do become a thing - you read it here first).

The good news is, those who are creative romantics will find a way to express their love again. Look out Paris.  

Anxiety Makes Me Do Weird Things | Getting To Know Me Series by Rachel Abrahams

I am a big believer that our life’s stories shape how we view the world and especially how we create art. I realize although many of you appreciate my photography and enjoy reading my stories, you may not really know all that much about me. Today is my second post in this "Getting To Know Me" series to give you a chance to “see behind the curtain”. You can read thefirst post here.

When my husband married me, he knew (and loved) that there were certain "quirks" about me that came along with the entire package. Things like my penchant for swearing, an overactive imagination (as noted here), the inability to control the volume of my voice while drinking, my obsession with reading books, a nerd culture affinity, my ability to get lost in a paper bag (I thank my stars every day for GPS), and the strong desire to always improve myself.

He also knew there was going to be a third party in our relationship - my anxiety.

Now, when people think of anxiety they get this image of a trembling chihuahua hiding under the covers of the blanket with only their eyes peeking out. Although, yes I've done this when someone unexpectedly knocks on my door and I don't have a bra on, that's not exactly what anxiety overall looks like.

The best description I can think of is I have an extremely rational side that does a daily battle of the wills against my anxiety gremlin living in my brain. As I've gotten older, I've worked very hard to learn tools and activities to Hulk up my rational side so it will be less exhausted and can stand tall against the anxiety gremlin, therefore winning more of the battles, but I am definitely far from perfect. My rational side can get exhausted and will sometimes even quit on me and then the anxiety gremlin, like a toddler, runs rampant with the freedom to just color all over the walls, the couch, and the dog of my brain.

Here are some examples of things I do, which I KNOW with all of my rational self are dumb, but when anxiety wins I can make some very odd decisions.

Weird Thing #1: I will drive to a grocery store that is completely out of my way in order to lessen the chance of running into someone I know. I already cannot stand grocery shopping (who can I pay to do this for me? I am completely serious) and the idea of running into someone I know and being forced into the awkward "Hey, how are you? How's life? How's your parents? How's the job?" conversation makes my right eyelid twitch and my palms sweat. To avoid this, I drive 20 minutes out of my way, wear headphones, and scurry in/out so fast I feel like The Flash. If I forget anything, too bad/so sad, I will make do without it until the next time I am forced to go to the store (that's usually when I run out of toilet paper and don't want to buy the 4 pack at Walgreens. Yes, I will check Walgreens first).

Weird Thing #2: While sitting in a group of people bantering back and forth, I will want to jump in but my anxiety gremlin will barrel in with guns blazing and all of a sudden my adrenaline will skyrocket like I am in fight-or-flight mode. When I do choose to jump in my brain scrambles the frequency and my response will be something like "Farfegnugen" or I will just laugh overly loud like a hyena and make everyone look at me like I am an alien. I have learned I am much better conversing one-on-one and when I am in a group, I stop beating myself up for not participating. I try to sit back and enjoy the show instead.

Weird Thing #3: I will sometimes rehash conversations I had with people years ago and cringe in embarrassment and think of a million different ways I wish that conversation had gone. When I was younger, I would even write down in my journal "next time, I will do x, y, and z instead", like I was prepping for a life strategy battle. I am better about it now and have adopted the "F**k it / it is what it is / quit yer whining" attitude more often. There are times where I get sucked back into that vortex and have to really push to stop remembering the dumbest perceived mistakes I think I have made. I try distracting myself with things like snapchat or acting silly (or snapchatting myself acting silly).

Weird Thing #4: The old me used to say yes to anyone and everything and then I would spend days agonizing leading up to whatever I agreed to do trying to figure out how to get out of it or psych myself into wanting to do it. I spent most of my 20's coming down with a lot of random food poisonings or illnesses. It's a wonder my friends didn't label me a hypochondriac, demand I find better places to eat, or disown me altogether. Being older (but not necessarily wiser) I say no more often now. I check that inner gauge to see how much panic it induces inside me to agree to something and (most of the time) I listen to it and respond with a proper yes or no. There are still times where I say yes, because at the time it sounded awesome, but when the day comes I feel like latching on tight to the door frame with my hands and feet like a cat does when it doesn't want to go into the bath. The greater the number of people expected to be at an event, the higher my barometer of insane anxietygoes. One on one, people - I do better mano y mano. Street parties, festivals, and parties are rare for this gal anymore. When it happens, it's like seeing a pig in a tutu. Better appreciate that shit and let's go full tilt into it and make some memories. Otherwise, I am sitting at home texting you the day of with the excuse peacocks attacked my car and now I have to fix it 

(FYI - That ACTUALLY happened -  3 months after buying my first brand new, never been used, car 2 male peacocks attacked the car because it was black and they thought their reflections were another competing male. I kid you not).

Weird Thing #5: Some weeks are better than others. Most of the time, you can label me a fully functioning "adult". But there are times I will plan all week to go home on Friday and then come back out on Monday. I call it my hermit weekends. On Friday, I will stop at the store on the way home, stock up like the Apocalypse is coming, and rush home to my pajama's and AppleTV. I am fully aware that's not necessarily the most adult way to handle things but sometimes I get a sensory overload and it's how I recalibrate my energy.

Maybe this helps explain me more. Maybe this helps others know they aren't the only ones who do this stuff or feel this way. Maybe this makes you think I am even weirder (than you did already). All I know is, I am fully aware my anxiety can make me act like such a nincompoop and I am, slowly but surely, becoming ok with it.

My new motto?

Most weeks I am rocking it and just trying to keep up the fantabulousness but when I want to go home on Friday and not come out until Monday - that's ok. The Anxiety Gremlin wins and gets to color all over the place until my rational side can get it back together. 

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