The Art & the Life
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Thursday, January 22, 2015

I
t is hard to believe that I have been an international traveler for almost ten years now.  My voyages started as a law school graduation gift from my travel pal and aunt named Lea.  We, (as in Lea, her son and I) traveled to her favorite city in the world, Paris.  

The deals back in 2005, were crazy good!  For only $399, you could get airfare and hotel (with breakfast and free wifi) for 5 days.  Nowadays, deals like that are rare but I do manage to stay on top of low international airfares with the daily newsletter from The Flight Deal.

If it weren't for my very thoughtful aunt's reminder that my passport was on the brink of expiration, I would have attempted to board my international flight only to be turned away.  Phew!  That was a close one but it was no easy feat.  It was like straight Hunger Games at the passport agency.   

Now that I've successfully made it through the passport renewal gauntlet alive (with only a few bumps from microaggressions), I thought I’d share some tips for the things they don't tell you or include on the government passport checklist.  If you plan on renewing or applying for your first passport, chances are you will unknowingly find yourself in the middle of a round of PASSPORT GAMES.  


Prepare for airport security

The Seattle Passport Agency, which is where I went to expedite the renewal of my passport is in a federal building.  Upon arrival, you will be subjected to T.S.A.-like (Transportation Security Administration) security procedures.  You will be asked to remove your shoes (yes, so wear socks even if it's summer time), belts, jewelry, watches, show identification and empty your pockets.  One thing you also must not do is make jokes.

The guard, in a very no-nonsense voice, told this woman to remove her child from the stroller.  The mother of the young toddler, jokingly told the guard that removal was probably not a good idea.  The guard stared at her blankly and waited for her to comply with his commands.  It was quite comical despite the guard thinking otherwise.

Leave courtesy at the door

Make your way through security and onto the elevator ASAP.  Don’t bother holding the elevator door for others, either.  I almost made that mistake with the mother and the stroller.  It's a trap.  The cute toddler is a distraction only meant to get in the way of completing the task of pulling a number.  I kept it pushing and hurriedly hit the button to close the elevator door.  Remember, this is a fierce competition to see who can get in and out the fastest with the passport prize.  This is another reason why you should take the early appointment if possible.  I know 8am seems early especially if you don’t live that close to your local passport agency but there will be less people to compete with.

Start times are to be determined...

Call ahead of time to make an appointment.  For renewals that need to be conducted in person, this is mandatory.  Unfortunately, you are really just making an appointment to pick a number to wait for this number to be called.  

The guy in front of me described it as the "privilege of waiting."  I thought that was hilarious but also annoying because he was right.  Arrive about 15 minutes before your appointment time so that you can at least be one of the first numbers called amongst all of the other competitors similarly situated appointment holders.  

I was about 1 of 3, people with a 10 o' clock "appointment."  I didn't make it back to the car until 11:23am.  In the previous post I mentioned that all I had to do was drop off documents.  That's it.  It.  Took.  Forever.    

Warning...hapless environment approaching...

Speaking of waiting…be sure to bring your own entertainment.  I had no idea that setting an appointment was futile and expected to be seen at my designated time.  I was so wrong and hence, ill-prepared but you don’t have to be.  Remember, someone is always watching your every move.  Therefore, you become the entertainment.  Just do your best to blend in and keep your head low and stuck between the pages of a good novel.   

Lacking a good book to read, I opted to engage in some “inner-taining.”  I whipped out my journal and started jotting down my observations.  What I saw inspired this post.  So, you see, efficiency and productivity can be had despite such a hapless environment. 
  

Pay the proper tribute

Feed that parking meter well.  You don't know how long the competition might last.  You don't want to risk parking penalties.  I am constantly surrendering my parking opportunities to Jesus.  You know He is always on time!  Case in point:  I paid for parking up until 11:25am.  Tell me why I made it back to the car at 11:23am!  Won't He do it?!

Another strategy involves taking the bus.  But see the above tip.  You may want to bring a few things for entertainment, just in case you get bored on that long bus ride or you want to send a strong message to other potential bus riders that you are not in the mood small talk.

Kids are greedy

Eat before you arrive.  All of the kids with their ample supply of Cheerios, fruit snacks and gold fish crackers will make you hungry.  Oh, and lest we not forget how kids enjoy staring you down while slowly chewing.  No matter how loud your stomach growls, they are simply impervious to the cries of a belly that forgot about breakfast.  They are not too keen on the whole sharing thing either.  Tread lightly.  

Conclusion

I wish there was a separate line, room, office, and/or building for those of us who just have a quick renewal.  So many people arrived without the proper documents and were consequently turned away, only to return another day.  Do not be that person.  You can be in and out by following the tips above.   I hope these tips are somewhat helpful.  Happy Passport Games and may the odds be in your favor!
I
thought I did everything right.  I called ahead of time, made my appointment, printed off the requested documents, arrived early and waited patiently for my number to be called.


It was 3 days before my trip back home to Jamaica.  My passport was on the brink of expiration and I needed some expedited services from the Seattle Passport Agency.

The place was packed as are most government agencies.  Kids were running up and down the dull linoleum floors trying to entertain themselves.  Guards were on deck.  Numbers were being called and displayed on the monitors.

I looked around and found an empty seat to wait patiently for number C368 to be called.  Just as I was sitting there thinking to myself of ways this place could be ran more efficiently, I overheard a perturbed patron state:

So, basically there’s absolutely no point to making an appointment because we just have to pull a number and still wait?!

This is exactly what I had been thinking.  It really doesn’t make any sense.  My appointment was scheduled for 10am and I did not get seen until 10:45-ish.  All I had to do was drop off my documents and pay the fees.  

I just knew I had everything prepared.  I double checked my checklist.  What I didn’t expect was to be hated on for having long natural hair that can defy gravity in a super fly updo.  But they hated on me y’all.

The picture that the Walgreen’s Photo Specialist took weeks prior to my appointment, actually cut off the top part of my hair.  All passport photos must have a border of white towards the top of the image.  My hair in all its natural glory, dominated too much space according to their standards.  


Screenshot from http://travel.state.gov for educational purposes: no decent afro would be deemed appropriate for a passport photo under these current restrictions.


Perhaps, if I had taken it upon myself to oppress my own hair for the photo, that would have been a little more acceptable.  My old passport did a good job of conforming.  I had my hair chemically straighten in that picture and it laid down in obedience. That image was no problem.  But I am not that person today.  I have embraced my hair's natural state and love it to death.  None of that matters though when it comes to an image that represents who one is now.  Therefore, the passport agency would not accept me the photo.  I had to haul ass to the nearest overpriced Fedex and get my money picture retaken.  

Microaggression is a form of "unintended discrimination". It is depicted by the use of known social norms of behavior and/or expression that, while without conscious choice of the user, has the same effect as conscious, intended discrimination.—Wikipedia

Did I mention that I was wearing your typical running errands during the winter Pacific Northwest attire??  Better known as college sweats, Ugg Boots, sweater and my hair wrapped to the heavens.  I had zero makeup on and my brow appointment wasn’t until the next day.  This was supposed to be an in and out operation.  Arrive, wait and drop off documents.  That’s it.  It was never meant to be captured in a Kodak moment.  

They made me wear my locks down so that my beautiful hair could be subjected to the 1/4 inch oppressive off white borders required on top of the photo image.  I am now stuck with a photo that clearly reads struggle, for the next ten years!!!  It doesn’t help that I was half sleep and clearly pissed in the photo either.  No one will ever see my passport photo unless required by law.  You all know I am a cutiepie in person!  This picture does me absolutely no justice.  Ha! 


I can laugh now and make jokes but this little incident has me thinking of things in a bigger context.  I just feel like nothing here in good ol’ Murica is made for my people.  I mean even something as simple as a passport photo requires one to conform to a government approved brand of blandness that literally can leave parts of you cut off and underrepresented

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I
didn't know whether to throw a shower or what?! All I knew was that this moment was definitely worth celebrating.  The whole process felt like a tormented gestation period of too many weeks of waiting for delivery.



Delivery, as in waiting a whole week for UPS/FEDEX to get their lives together to drop off my friggin' baby.  It was the longest week of my life.  The anticipation and the agony was almost too much to bear.  All of these "birthing pains" coupled with the emotional roller coaster the Seahawks had me in during the NFC Championship game against Aaron Rodgers and the Greenbay Packers -- I was a wreck.

However, I pulled it together enough to Google the number for my local Apple Store.  After several phone calls to John at the Apple Store, I finally received the text message that my package had arrived.  Luckily, I was already driving and pretty close to the destination.  I mashed down all of the highways and raced to the delivery room.

All of that hard work saving, especially when there were so many plane tickets I wanted to purchase immediately after Dec. 25th, had finally paid off in the form of a beautiful new life.  I named him Maximillion.  He is absolutely adorable.  One of my students in mock trial was named Maximillion.  He told me it means greatest.  I had already picked out the name before Max (what we call him) informed me of the meaning.  I felt this name was even more appropriate given my technological past.

My previous laptops were a gaggle of virus infected Dells and HPs.  They got the job done but blogging on a Macbook Pro 13 with Retina Display is truly magical.  It was totally worth the many limbs that were forked over to cover this investment.  

You would roll around the floor in laughter if I still had the little beat up envelope I used as my "Mac Fund" to show you.  I don't care what anyone says, that envelope savings/budget method works.  I only dipped into it a few times for very important purchases like an unbelievably low ticket price to Jamaica but other than that I did well.  

There are still apps (some free, some not) to download like the following in no particular order:


  1. Blogo
  2. Xmind
  3. Wunderlust
  4. Final Cut Pro X
  5. Microsoft Office for Mac
  6. Fantastical
  7. Alfred
  8. Instacast
  9. FocusWriter

This list is a work in progress.  If you have some apps you just cannot live without and they make your life better and more productive, please do share in the comments.  For now, I am super content with this preinstalled application of joy!








Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A
s soon as midnight hit, immediately after the countdown, I still hadn't narrowed down my list of accomplishments I wanted to cross off my list for 2015.  Earlier, I came across a list of some of the most popular New Year’s Resolutions people like to make.  I thought it would be fun and a great way to get motivated to dominate 2015, if I did as many of the goals on the list in a short period of time.

Most of the popular goals have a theme of “more.”  People pledge to spend more time with family, find ways to be more organized, eat more healthy foods, serve more volunteer hours, save more money, and enjoy life more.

I took all on all of these goals and conquered them within the first 24 hours of 2015.  I laughed to myself because at the conclusion of January 1st, within 24 hours of the ball dropping, announcing 2015 was here, I had already crossed off several of the goals on the list.  Read on and see if any of these goals made it onto your list.

Volunteer More

You see, it all started when I was asked to volunteer for the New Year’s Eve Bash Presented by the Seattle People of Color Salon (SPoCS).  I enjoy volunteering for art related events and this event was filled with artists of all walks of life.  It was totally my scene and really fun!

Exercise More

The party was at the Washington Hall Building in the Central District of Seattle.  It is a nice brick building with several levels.  It may even be a historical site.  I am sure there was an ADA compliant elevator but I did not see it.  I took the stairs several times as I was checking in with various teams of people to see if they needed anything.  I really got in my beginning of the year exercise.  

Save Money

Most events for New Year’s can cost a few limbs.  The SPoCS event was free to attend.  Right off the bat, I was saving money even if I was not a volunteer.  Once you were in, all you had to pay for (if you chose to pay) was a very reasonable cost for a plate of food and/or drinks.

Eat Healthy  

What I thought was really sweet was the vegan friendly Chinese food the coordinators provided for the volunteers.  With all of the veggies it definitely allowed me to start my 2015, with healthy eating.

Drink Less Alcohol

I was lucky enough to work the super fun and interactive cashier counter for the pre-purchase of drinks and food.  Even though volunteers were gifted with a drink ticket, I chose to only sip some celebratory champagne immediately following the countdown.  Boom!  I intentionally decided to drink less alcohol. 

Enjoy Life More Fully

The best part of the evening that totally took me by surprise was the first song I heard the DJ play immediately after the countdown.  I belted out, the National Black Anthem, Lift Every Voice with my fellow volunteers.  Singing at the top of my lungs in such a carefree manner filled me with a feeling of aliveness.  In that moment I thoroughly enjoyed my life to the fullest. 

Spend More Time with Friends/Family 

The next day, January 1st, was the 7th Annual Women’s Day.  It is a chance for me to spend quality time with my closest friends.  We collectively reflect on the previous year, make vision boards, write letters one year into the future to ourselves, eat, fellowship, and have great conversation about themes for the New Year.

Manage Debt

Several of my good-with-money-friends offered tips for managing debt in 2015.  You know, I needed to hear that with Sallie Mae’s a$$ all over me, y’all!  All student loans should just be forgiven.  That’s another blog post though.  

Get Organized

I usually take a substantial amount of time prior to the New Year, organizing my thoughts, goals, and themes.  However, thanks to the Washington State Bar Association, I had about 28 Continuing Legal Education credits that I needed to obtain by December 31st.  Naturally, I was tied up in classes, webcasts and seminars.  Much of my New Year’s Day was spent organizing my life so that I could make my vision board.

Conclusion

By the second day of 2015, I jokingly updated my Facebook status with a question asking: How many people already missed the mark for their goals?  I was only half way joking.  Every year 80 jillion people fall off the various wagons they declare to ride throughout the New Year.

There are multiple reasons for this like setting unrealistic, vague, immeasurable goals that are doomed to fail from jump.  Sometimes the memory of failure can be enough to stop a person from even setting goals.  If you find yourself lacking the energy to be bothered with goal setting this year, just do what I did.  Tackle goals early, condense all goals into a manageable time frame, and adopt the most popular New Year's Resolutions to get yourself pumped for your other goals.   



Saturday, January 3, 2015

Excuse me while I continue to reflect on 2014.  It was a good year filled with pretty significant art and blog related goals I didn't know was on the path to achieve.

See, this is how I know you all got my blog's back.  The things I was most excited to write about were the things you all read the most.  Thank you!  We are so made for each other!



The most popular blog posts of 2014 

#9  You all remember how excited I was to win my first online giveaway, right?!  Yes, my post called LOVE AND LIP BALM made the list, taking the number 9 spot.  My lips are still soft.

This next post was inspired by a particular call I received from a good friend no one had really seen in awhile but everyone wanted some answers.  It was during a time when it seemed like only art could convey what was on our hearts and minds. 

#8  Yes, you guessed it.  A CALL FOR ART FROM JUSTICE takes the 8th spot.  It is not too late to submit your social justice themed art work.  The call is open until we reach 31 artists or 31 pieces of art that speak to the current issues our country is dealing with.

#7 Now, this next post really surprised me because it was written almost 3 years ago.  Apparently, it still holds some relevance for people.  I still rememeber how I felt at the time.  THE ART OF THE MORNING NUDGE slides into 7th place.  The biggest lesson is to just get up and take charge of every day, especially in 2015.

#6  Didn't it seem like we lost many lives in 2014?  I know I suffered some personal losses that are still hard to believe are not here to celebrate the gift of life.  MICHAEL BROWN BAG LUNCH: DIGESTING DEVASTATION lands in the the number 6 spot and serves as a reminder of what work lies ahead in 2015.  

#5  On the bright side, 2014 was filled with my new art series called Afro Jazz.  After coming home from the 31AT31 Bon Jour Blog Tour, I was able to compose a list:  31 AMAZING FACTS ABOUT AFRO JAZZ.

The next few popular posts really got me thinking that I could have an exciting career in the world of art reviews for new exhibits.  One post was written from the volunteer's perspective while the other was written as a patron and audience participant.  Perhaps, the biggest honor of my 2014, art life was my appointment to the ArtsWA Board of Commissioners.    

#4  LEST WE FORGET OUR PLEXUS


#3  SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE APPOINTS YOURS TRULY TO THE ARTSWA BOARD OF COMMISSIONER!

#2  "I WISH A MOTHER WOULD" SHARE THEIR THOUGHTS

#1  Coming in at the number 1 spot for 2014, is one of my favorite post because it incorporates my two loves, art and law: 7 WAYS TO IGNITE YOUR INNER SOCIAL JUSTICE ART ACTIVIST [MULTIMEDIA INSIDE].

Thank you so much for rocking with me in 2014!  Go back and read these posts and leave a comment with your thoughts.  Cheers to more memories and accomplishments in 2015!  Oh, and be sure to share your accomplishments in the comments.  I want to know what you've been up to and what is on the horizon for this year! 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

J
anuary 1, 2015 is officially on the blog books.  I wasn't sure if I was going to make it to the keyboard tonight.  It's mainly because I intend for blogging to be a major part of my 2015, life.  So much so that this blog is my main focus this year.  It is only right that I blog on day one.


Uh-oh.  I just felt the pressure as soon as I typed that.  For some reason when it comes to blogging and declaring goals about said blogging out loud, I feel the weight of accountability all over me.  It is as if the whole world will know if I fail.  

The funny part about all of this is that, the whole world is totally NOT reading my blog so no need to worry about them all finding out if fail at this somehow.  
What is failure anyway??  You only fail if you quit forever, right?  I have stop and started plenty of times with this here blog.  Every time I learned exactly what I needed during each blogging stint.  Basically, I just need to calm all the way down and focus on what success looks like.  Duh.   

2015, is the year of the blog.  

I'm curious to see what will happen when my creative mind shifts more towards 31 AT 31.  What does that type of focus even look like??  I have yet to pin/pen down the details.  So far, I have come up with these two broad things:

1.  Writing on a more consistent basis is a huge part of it.  Hell, honestly that right there is enough to take up my bandwidth for focus.  I hesitate to commit to a number because I feel like I won't stick to it for some reason.


I am leaning towards 1-2 post(s) a week.  

2.  Returning to writing more about my encounters with the art in my life is another part.  I learn so much about myself through the art I am fortunate enough to experience.  Sharing those lessons in a way that makes you, the reader, feel like something personal applies to you too is what I am going for.


Who wants to grow alone?  Not me.  This art thing along with the fruit that it bears is for all of us to enjoy.  What is your main focus for 2015?  Have you figured out how you will measure your success?    



Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A
nother year bites the dust!  Didn't 2014, just fly by y'all?!  I still think 2013, flew by even faster.  I can recall pockets of time this year, that flowed in slow motion and seemed never ending.  

They say how you end your year is how you'll start your year.  I put in several hours of service for 2014.  This last day will be no different as I volunteer for the Seattle People of Color Salon New Year's Eve Bash.  It should be loads of fun.  

On New Year's Day, I will sleep in and go to my friend's house to eat, bond and make vision boards with my crew.  Planning and dreaming is the best part of starting something new!  What does 2015 hold???  I guess we shall see...but first, I better reflect on the lessons learned in 2014...


  1. Traveling to Paris, France with my mama and sister was definitely a highlight.  I cannot even begin to blog about all the fun that was had there.  I hope to travel with them again in 2015.  It was actually the first time I ever flew somewhere with my mama or my sister.  I usually travel alone.  That was special.
  2. Revamped my teen empowered program called TEENERGY, into a social justice and art program.  This was the moment I pretty much just floated.  Every day working with the teens felt like something far removed from work.  I was even able to employ other artists.  
  3. Made a plan of attack to get my CLE (continuing legal education) credits done in time.  It really felt like a huge mountain of to do but it got done.  It is really a small thing but I feel really triumphant.
  4. Joined the National Blog Post Month 30 day challenge and stuck with it.  I am looking forward to adding some consistency in my blogging.  I really do get joy from it.  
  5. Appointed as a Washington State Arts Commissioner by our Governor.  I really do hope to engage more artist of color at the state level.
  6. Launched my virtual art gallery.  Now that the pilot run was a success, I plan to do even more with it next year.  
  7. Voted as an Officer for the African American Leadership Forum.  There is much work to be done and I feel honored to be a part of it.
  8. Continued coaching high school mock trial.  Our team is growing.
  9. Volunteered a lot!  I can't even count up all of my hours.  I swear it is like a made more time in the day or something.

These are just some of the highlights of 2014.  I am still working on my first 90 days plan for 2015.  What are some things you are planning?  I would really like to create more opportunities for other artists.  Traveling to Costa Rica would make me happy too.  


Cheers to 2015!       

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