Weekly Photo Challenge: Objects & Oddities

Vintage Chinese Bobble Head Doll

I collect a strange mixture of objects and ephemera: vintage and antique tea tins (especially WWII era, preferably Meinl & some Russian brands), watercolor paintings of circus freaks, vintage and antique illustrated copies of Arabian Nights Entertainments and related books, porcelain from West Germany and Czechoslovakia, vintage and antique Asian jewelry boxes, black & white photographs of servicemen from any army, and odd cultural bits and pieces that I feel particularly drawn to, like a painted brass camel from the 1930s, a Polish mid-century mod wooden St. Francis figure, and now my latest addition, this 1940′s-era Chinese papier-mache bobble head Budai figure.

He was on Etsy, priced at a very appealing $8. He looked so cheery and fetching online, and I happen to love papier-mache items. I just knew he needed to come home to live at my house…or really, to live on my desk at work. He definitely livens the place up a bit, and as his character represents contentment and a mindful understanding of plenitude, I’m very happy to share my space with him.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Community (or the lack of)


I walk to work each morning. It’s only four blocks, but I never fail to see something that makes me think, laugh, or wonder. Today, just a half block from my house, I found tears instead. This cardboard sign once belonged to one of the many homeless people who live under the overpass by my house. They beg at almost every corner, but most people just keep walking/driving/ignoring. It’s mind-blowing. What happened to the concept of community?

The sign was laying in the gutter. I didn’t move a thing, just took a snapshot and kept walking. A few hours later, I conducted my long-awaited interview with a local organization that fights homelessness, and come the new year I’m proud to say I should be working as a volunteer housing specialist. Maybe with some luck and hard work, we’ll have less need for signs like this one.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light (On My Favorite Cat)


Yeah, I know I’ve already posted one entry for this week’s challenge, but yesterday I caught an interesting glimpse of my cat Isabel through the camera lens, and thought it was worth sharing. We’re technically supposed to be sharing a light source, but you’ll have to take this at the more metaphysical level – she’s the light of my life, and also has a way of shining brighter when there’s a camera trained in her direction. I caught her yesterday basking in the brightest spot of sunlight in my apartment, and loved the crazy contrast of this shot.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light

Third Eye Blind, 12/1/13 New Orleans

Though all of my friends started going to concerts when they were pretty young – 12 or 13 years old – I wasn’t allowed out of the house without adult supervision until I reached 16. It was a little longer before I finally managed to convince my mom that live music would not get me pregnant or make me a drug addict, so when the day came that I was allowed out to see my very first concert, you can only imagine how ecstatic I was! On June 6, 1999, I had just finished my senior year of high school, and since I guess my parents realized they couldn’t lock me up forever, I had my day in the sun at the Walnut Creek Amphitheater in Raleigh, NC, to the tunes of Third Eye Blind, Collective Soul & (my favorite of the three) Eve 6.

Luckily, I’ve built up my street cred with much cooler concerts in the years since. But when a friend of mine offered me a free ticket a couple of weeks ago to Third Eye Blind’s 20 Year Anniversary show at the House of Blues in New Orleans, I couldn’t say no. Sure, I felt like I was too old to go gaga over a pop rock band from the 90′s, but you’ve got to enjoy the nostalgia when you can. The concert was last night, and it was AMAZING. I know it’s probably hard to believe, but it was seriously good time, complete with a great light show, surprisingly coherent and tuneful live vocals, and plenty of feeling. By the end of the night, the crowd was seriously worked up – and I was making a mental note to buy their new album. This shot was taken last night during their rendition of “Never Let You Go.”

Behind The Scenes At A Photo Shoot

So it’s that time of year again – time for the Fall Fashion Bazaar. This is the one time of year that I get to do EXACTLY what it is that I love – coordinate an event, make connections (for myself and other people), and help the New Orleans arts community grow and thrive.

The event is a one-day pop up shop, and this year we’ve expanded to fourteen local fashion and accessory designers. It’s a great sale that features a pretty diverse range of items for men, women, kids, and even pets. The best part is that it’s all my baby – I came up with the idea last year, and from finding the vendors to running the social media, it’s all mine (other than the graphic design and the PR copy). I LOVE this. It’s really what I want to do for a living, if only I could figure out how.

But that’s not what I was thinking about today. Today was all about a fashion shoot. In a little under a week, my team and I put together an entire photo shoot, from finding the models (human & four-legged), fashion stylist, and hair & makeup stylist, to arranging for the items to be dropped off, to helping create the looks that would eventually be photographed. It was a crazy, exhausting day, but it worked out amazingly. Everything went off without a hitch, and there are going to be some gorgeous photographs (and video, thanks to awesome NOLA videographer Crista Rock).

Here are a few behind-the-scenes snapshots I grabbed today – so much fun!

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A big thank you to models Manon Pages and Jeremy Kennan of Impact Modeling and Talent Agency, Angee Estavez, Trea and Dottie, plus doggie models Ansel & Stevie Pagani, along with our fabulous hair & makeup stylist Cat Vo of Aristocat Beauty, and fashion stylist Laura Keith of Showroom South. Thanks also to Miette for loaning sunglasses (and much-appreciated advice) to the shoot.

Find out more about the Fall Fashion Bazaar at www.facebook.com/fallfashionbazaar.

Another New Orleans Halloween

Getting decked out in costume is a favorite New Orleans pastime, and The Man and I are both particularly keen on Halloween. I was hoping that we’d get to spend our favorite holiday somewhere a bit spookier, like a couple of years ago when we went to Salem, MA for the big day. But that was not to be this year; our budgets and schedules were both reluctant to comply with our wishes.

That’s OK, though. In true NOLA fashion, we still get to have two Halloween nights – a weekend party, and what I assume will be a slightly tamer Halloween Thursday. Here are some photos from this weekend’s adventures.

My last minute costume - a pink haired witch in a top hat.

My last minute costume – a pink haired witch in a top hat.


The Man spent a few weeks creating his costume - a very realistic voodoo doll, complete with pins.

The Man spent a few weeks creating his costume – a very realistic voodoo doll, complete with pins.

Under the mask was this spooky face.

Under the mask was this spooky face.

We wandered down to Frenchmen Street, where The Man was the toast of the town. Everybody wanted to snap a picture with him, including Alf!

We wandered down to Frenchmen Street, where The Man was the toast of the town. Everybody wanted to snap a picture with him, including Alf!

A friend invited us to this amazing and completely unexpected house party in a genuine haunted mansion on Esplanade Avenue. Great music, too - compliments of DJ Kirk & DJ Khan.

A friend invited us to this amazing and completely unexpected house party in a genuine haunted mansion on Esplanade Avenue. Great music, too – compliments of DJ Kirk & DJ Khan.

The bathtub in the haunted mansion. Gruesome, but well-played.

The bathtub in the haunted mansion. Gruesome, but well-played.






Weekly Photo Challenge: Infinite

As I walk around the city, I often find myself stopping to stare, jaw dropped, at the play of shadow and light on architectural fabric. There’s something about sunlight stretching across brick, or living out its last moments, splayed across a graffiti tag. In New Orleans, where many buildings are a century or two old, it’s easy to wonder how many times this precise combination of light and shadow has happened, and who was the last to notice. In a city like this, sometimes the brick and plaster seem timeless, infinite, even in their decrepitude.




Dredging Up The Courage To Lean In

I have a confession to make: I’m tired of hearing the term “lean in” in relation to women and careers. However, I think that might be because I keep seeing conversations where “lean in” is being used to say “go balls to the wall, no more relaxing, don’t stop until you’re on top!” In actuality, the idea of leaning in isn’t just about becoming a CEO of a Fortune 500 (although if that’s your dream, by all means, go and do it). Leaning in is bigger than achieving success in the corporate realm – it’s about following your dreams with tenacity and grace.

There’s also another part to leaning in that isn’t being discussed quite as much in the media, and that’s leaning back. Think about it – sometimes you have to lean into the waves to keep standing, but sometimes the force is just too much – it will break you, and it’s much better to lean back and go with the flow. You might be back a step or two, but you’ll be in one piece, and the stress of getting there will have been negligible in comparison to what it would have felt like to get pounded into submission. Too much leaning in or leaning back is bad for you. That’s the nature of life, yin vs yang, light vs. dark, good vs. evil. The trick is to know when to change direction.

Over the past few years, through hating to make a scene (aka. “cowardice”) and my basic nature to be a “team player,” I’ve refrained from making quite a few decisions that would be good for me, in order to not upset anyone too much. I’ve leaned back time and time again, in both my personal and professional lives, and it’s been chipping me apart, piece by piece, until I barely recognize myself some days. Many days, C&Q is one of the only places I feel entirely like me, because it’s the only thing I control.

The thing is, as much as I love this blog, my virtual life shouldn’t be richer than my life in the physical world. So, starting today, I’m going to make a major effort. I’m going to start leaning in, even though it terrifies me. I want to be truthful about who I am, what I want, and where I hope to be going in life. I made my first step towards that goal this morning when I quit a job that has made me miserable for years, and over the past year had actually started to make me physically ill. I was so scared to quit that I ended up writing a resignation letter instead of calling the boss, but as I wrote, I was able to capture the gratitude I felt for my years on the job, as well as the relief I felt for being released from its burden. I think it’s going to be OK. And if it’s not, that’s OK, too. I deserve to be free.

My second major act of the day might seem silly, but for me it’s really scary. I’m going to post a photograph here that was taken on Saturday by my photographer friend Dave Rodrigue. It’s the best portrait that I’ve EVER had. It looks just like me, like how I look when I look at myself in the mirror and think beautiful thoughts. You can almost see my dreams, floating right there in my pupils. It’s also a great photo because it shows me just how I am – a little irreverent, a little snarky, wearing this armor that says I’m fearless even though I’m often cowering just behind it.

You see, I have a feeling that if my grandmother saw this photo, she’d be disappointed in me. I think that if she sees it, she’ll spend some time telling me how I’ll never get a job with a respectable company, because I’ve ruined my “professional image.” I think that maybe I’m scared that my professional image might actually be ruined by posting this photo. But then I think about it again and I realize that I don’t care. It’s a photo of me, being myself, wearing a funny t-shirt that makes me happy.

Bottom line is that I’m not a harmless little bunny. But neither do I want to be. I am Anna. I am my own compass. I know which way is best for me. And if an organization that I’m not even familiar with just yet sees this photograph and decides that I’m not the fit for their team, then they’re quite right. Because I don’t want to work with people who judge books by their covers, who can’t have a laugh, who’ve never aspired to be an adventurer, just for a little stretch of the road. That’s just life, and when I stop to think it over a bit more, it’s sad that more people don’t have the guts to be themselves in the face of this abyss that is time and age and death and someone else’s profit.

I’m done pretending that I’m someone I’m not, and most of all, I’m tired of the world telling me that I’m not allowed to be multi-faceted. If you want to know how professional I am, invite me to a business meeting. We’ll talk marketing strategy. You’ll be impressed. Otherwise, grow up and find something else to be offended by – like people who don’t recycle, or animal abuse, or unwarranted military action, or systematic destruction of creative impulse in our younger generation in favor of teaching better test-taking. Take your pick – the world’s falling apart around our ears. Which, by the way, is the next part of leaning in. But we’ll get to that soon enough.

For now, here’s me leaning in to being me. It’s a start.


Day 21: Remembering

Twelve years ago is a long time. I can still remember what I was wearing that morning – my green 82nd Airborne jacket and a polyester blend tank top with a black back and a camouflage & rose-printed front. I loved that t-shirt, but it was ruined after that day. Like many kids on the Tulane campus, and at other college campuses across the nation, I donated blood for the first time that day and got a sticker for donating. I accidentally washed that tank top with the sticker on it, and forever after, its remnants clung to the fabric as a reminder of the day’s events.

What I remember most, though, is the panic that hit me. I needed to get home. Even though people were freaking out about getting on airplanes, I booked a flight back to NC for the next weekend. Once I got there, I hugged my parents about a million times, called all of my friends, and went to a birthday party where I was taken advantage of in the worst of ways. Relationships were forever ruined. For me, 9/11 represents a complete loss of innocence, and the beginning of my inability to fully trust men again.

But that’s then, and this is now. Now I’m on this quest to lose physical weight, when much of the weight I’m carrying is no doubt that of emotional baggage. I hope that, besides being a place where I chronicle my daily struggles, using C&Q as a place to finally share some of my deepest secrets is going to help untangle the knots in my brain, and let go of some of the bullshit that doesn’t need to be there anymore.

I don’t know how to transition from telling you guys about violation to writing about self-validation, but let’s just call this the transition and move on, shall we?

Today I weighed in at 158.7 lbs. Last night was kind of crazy, in that I managed to run two miles just before heading to a Bikram class. It was an intense time, but I knew I needed to fit it in somehow. However, today I think I’m going to take it easy. I’ve been having trouble sleeping the last few nights, and also haven’t seen very much of The Man. I’m going to go home, have a nice dinner, and hang out with him, then get back to Bikram in the morning.

My first “pre-weight loss” photo shoot with my friend Dave is on Saturday, and I’m excited about that. I’m just putting two-and-two together, but his shoots are always a little risque but sensitive towards his subjects’ comfort levels. It’s really stressful for me to lose layers of clothing in front of his camera, but I trust him. It’s hard to trust him, just because he’s a man, but I think pushing my limits has been helpful. I’m nervous, but the shots are going to be awesome, I know. Here’s one of the shots from the last shoot – it’s hard to believe this is me!

Anna, Leaning - by Dave Rodrigue