Just wanted to take a second to say, "Happy Lunar New Year," to everyone! Being Asian American, my family would celebrate Lunar New Year (or Chinese New Year), but I didn't really think much about it until this year when my office celebrated it. I used to go with the flow and think, "We're off to grandma's again. We'll eat a lot, see family, then have food coma the rest of the night." Growing up, we'd put a strong emphasis on new beginnings during the calendar new year (January 1). I knew that my grandparents would stress that Chinese New Year was also a fresh start, but I didn't really let that sink in until this year. My grandparents said that it's probably because I'm older now and not "just American."
At work, I was happy to learn about my family's culture and other Asian cultures. I loved the educational spin on the event and how everyone was able to share family traditions and stories with one another. My co-workers shared their families' superstitions with starting the new year too, like needing to get a haircut right before the new year to make sure the good luck stays in the new year. I knew my grandparents believed in similar superstitions, but it dawned on me that other people do them too... it sounds silly and naive--sure--but it made me appreciate where my family came from more.
This year is the Year of the Dog, which is exciting to me, since I was born during the Year of the Dog too. With that said, "Gung Hay Fat Choy!"
Earlier this month, my brother TREE and I decided to do some spontaneous sibling bonding. We grabbed our cameras and headed to my car and just started driving. Our aunt mentioned to us over the holidays that if we ever had some free time, we should check out the lighthouse in Palos Verdes. So, we plugged it into Google Maps and off we went.
In our family, there seems to be at least one "lighthouse" in each home, whether that's a nightlight or a decorative wall piece. I never really thought much of it until TREE and I tried to find this lighthouse. When we got there, per Google's directions, we parked and noticed that there was a trail that led up to our destination.
While we were walking the trail, he was telling me how he was starting to realize how there seems to be more and more challenges as we grow up. We have to start "acting like adults, paying bills, making sure we think our decisions through, investing our money and time into things that will help us in the long run." People in their young adulthood can easily turn into a ball of stress with trying to meet school deadlines, getting good jobs to ensure bright futures, and making their parents proud. It's a difficult life stage because most of us don't really know what we want, but we know what we like. Often times, a lot of us feel lost and are just trying to make our way to shore. We're trying to find a lighthouse to guide the way.
Lighthouses bring us hope. They provide light in the darkness. Each of us have to battle the waves and times of loneliness, but know that there is a light waiting for you. It might take some time to find it, but it's there. You'll realize it soon enough.
So, I recently joined the events and activities committee at work. It's been a lot of fun meeting and working with people in other departments and doing something a little more lighthearted than my normal daily tasks. I've been helping the committee with designing graphics for internal communications pieces, like posters, email banners, desk drops, and menu table cards.
Here, Halloween is a really big deal. Like a REALLY BIG DEAL. The committee began planning for this day well over a month ago. People volunteer to stay at work into the wee hours of the night to decorate the floors from the ceiling to the ground. The festivities include a pumpkin painting contest, a rubber duck photo challenge, a desk decorating contest (it's more of a marathon, really), a catered lunch, a costume contest, a skit competition, and a lip sync battle.
My department's theme was Harry Potter, so naturally, the night before, I laid out my costume: a white button down with the Gryffindor crest on it, a grey cardigan, a striped tie, black tights, a black skort, and black character shoes. This was perfect since I was supposed to just be on photo duty. Little did I know that in the morning, I would only be wearing this costume for a whole 10 minutes.
Turns out, we were one lip sync battle participant short. Being the newbie, the committee asked if I would participate, so we could still do a "battle." What was I supposed to say?! I quickly dug through my things in my car to see what I could pull together; luckily, my brother was away at college, and I had "borrowed" his gold jacket. I also still had several items that I was going to drop off at a donation center. I landed on doing "Bennie and the Jets" sung by Haley Reinhart (originally by Elton John) and "I'll Make A Man Out Of You" from Disney's Mulan. I completely winged it, and this is what happened:
Video by Stephanie Yomorta
I went on first and did "Bennie and the Jets" then walked off not really knowing what I just did in front of 500 employees. The emcee announced my competitor; it was a group of 3. No one came up. He announce them again. Still, no one came. The emcee then said that their not showing meant that I won the battle and the cash prize! I just had to do an encore performance... Piece. Of. Cake.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to track down a video of the second song, but here are some photos:
Even though the day didn't quite turn out the way I thought it was going to, I'm really glad with the turn of events. I joined the committee to meet new people, and I certainly did that. Other employees came up to me throughout the day to congratulate me on the "win" and to introduce themselves.
If I learned anything today, it's to take up challenges as they come and to just enjoy the moment.
Hope you all have a fun and safe holiday. Happy Halloween, everyone!
One aspect of songwriting that I'll never get tired of is the ability to tell a human story. Three Little Words has such a special meaning to me. This song is about a very personal life event that I know many other people go through as well: losing a loved one and having to cope with the reality. It's a strange universal feeling that most people will have to face in their lives.
For this music video, I partnered with my friends at BuenPaso Collective and Triton Television to produce this film project. I co-wrote and co-directed with René Vargas Madrigal. Stay tuned for more info to come!
P.S. Here's an exclusive 40 second preview of the song. :)
I haven't done any acting in a little while, but I am excited to announce that I will be playing the role of Valerie Han in the new web series, Private Investigations. Valerie is a bright young woman, who has distanced herself and was finally ostracized by her family due to her rebellious nature. After developing a passion for cooking and the culinary arts, she now wants to make amends with her family, especially her sister Victoria, who is a DA. Written by Darryl Vickers. Directed by Matthew Robinson.
More news coming soon...
Pretty much every year since I was little, I've done a road trip to San Francisco with family and friends. This coming weekend, I'm suuuuper stoked to be hanging out at some awesome coffee shops in the city. If you're in the area, let's grab a cuppa coffee/tea and maybe sing a song together! I'll be playing an acoustic set or originals from my upcoming album.
Yesterday, August 5, I did my first interview on the radio to promote a couple of my upcoming creative projects! It was so exciting, and I was sure nervous. We talked about my music and music videos. I could not believe that "Cardboard Spaceship" and "Love of Mine" were played on air too! What an awesome experience and opportunity as an independent singer-songwriter.
Aside from film, we also talked about a new documentary film that I've been working with the BuenPaso Collective for a few months called, Letters From Our Elders. It's a documentary about immigrants from the past, present, and future. It was inspired by the director's curiosity into his grandfather's history of surviving the Holocaust. The director, Aaron Freeder, talked to René Vargas Madrigal about his findings, and they began to discuss the current state of immigration, especially in Tijuana, Mexica. René and another member of BuenPaso, Edwin Cruz, soon became the Executive Producers of the project. René and I met earlier this year, and he asked if I would be interested in helping with producing part of this film project.
After Aaron and I chatted on the phone about his film more in depth, I was game. Especially in today's political and cultural climate, I could see how this project could be more impactful than ever. Aaron kept mentioning this film to be a "living" documentary. By that, he explained that it will take shape as the production continues forward. He didn't have a script outline or structure in mind from the beginning, and he intended to see where people's stories take him.
Watch the whole interview above.
Special thanks to KPFK and Nancy Sanchez for this opportunity.
Every year, my friend Helena and I spend our birthdays together. We started this tradition when we were just starting high school when we were finally allowed by our parents to hang out without their parental supervision. Growing up, we were always excited that our birthdays are just five days apart. This year, we decided to spend the whole day in Venice Beach and just catch up on the good times.
It's funny when you go down memory lane with someone who has known you for so long. Having been best friends since sixth grade, we've seen each other go through each other's ups and downs, awkward and embarrassing phases, as well as major milestones. Here are some of my favorite photos of us from over the years...
Happy birthday, Helena!
Here's to another great year of friendship and memories.
My thoughts, writings, and experiments. Big or small. They're here.