Kiva

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The Gift Of Impact

Published July 10, 2014 by Teresa
Me. 35 years ago. :)

Me. 35 years ago. :)

I turn 35 tomorrow. 

Crazy, I know. :)

Anyway, I’ve had a couple of people ask me what I’d “like for my birthday.” And while I appreciate the gesture, and I’m touched that people are thinking of getting me anything at all, I also REALLY LIKE SURPRISES. Honestly, I prefer getting gifts I have no use for but that are surprises to gifts of stuff I need but that I ask for. Surprises are gifts in and of themselves! Even if I never wear the ugly sweater. ;) But usually, people are better gift-givers than they think. Chances are, if you know me at all, whatever you get me will be something I enjoy.

Then again, I never expect anything for my birthday. Times are tough financially, and not everyone has the time to make something. I know there are several people I care about very much that I haven’t been able to give a birthday gift in a long time, because money, because time, because I live so far away…so, I don’t generally expect anything. Usually what matters most to me around my birthday is spending time with close friends or family…and getting to be entirely lazy and self-indulgent for a day (or a weekend).

After all, it’s the only time when it’s legitimately OK to totally celebrate ME! :) So that means only fun things that I want to do, or quality lazy time.

That said, I know there might still be some of you who want to do something to help me celebrate the occasion. For that, I am grateful. If any of you would like to help me commemorate my 35th year on the planet, I would love it if you could send a donation to any of the following organizations: 

WriteGirl: http://www.writegirl.org/
National Alzheimer’s Associationhttp://www.alz.org/
American Diabetes Association: http://www.diabetes.org/
National Autism Association: http://nationalautismassociation.org/
Kiva: http://www.kiva.org

If you choose to give to one of the national organizations, look up your state’s (or city’s) local chapter and give to them! Your donation will have more direct impact if it doesn’t have to trickle down through the national organization.And here’s the Birthday Present Part: When you’ve made your donation, email me a copy of your receipt at theteresajusinoexperience@gmail.com! I’d love to take screencaps of them to make a gallery that’ll show how much of an impact I’ve had on the organizations I care about! :) (I’ll likely be posting pictures and shouting you out on Twitter – #TeresaBday) Please email them to me by this Sunday, July 13th at 11:59PM. :)

That’s it! That’s all I really want for my birthday. I mean, I certainly won’t turn down a thoughtfully picked-out gift. :) But if you’re struggling to think of something, or if you were looking for an excuse to make a donation to a worthwhile cause, here you go!

The International Bank of Bob is Here!

Published March 5, 2013 by Teresa
DSCN0190

Me and my autographed copy of The International Bank of Bob

It’s crazy to think about, but I’ve been a part of Team Bob along for the ride in the process of creating The International Bank of Bob, which is out TODAY (from Walker/Bloomsbury), since late 2010, when my really awesome boss, Bob Harris, was starting to go on his first trips to do research for the book and I started work as his assistant. As photos and story snippets started coming through to me, I knew that this book was going to be something special. Just the notes on the book and the photos I got in my email inbox made me giddy with wanderlust (I love travel, and don’t get to do it nearly as much as I’d like) and excited not only about the possibilities for doing good in the world, but it also reaffirmed that there are people in the world who want to change the world for the better. It can all seem like too much sometimes, but when you think about groups like Kiva and the microfinance institutions they support giving people, no matter what their socioeconomic situation, the chance to support their families and create the lives they want by starting businesses that not only allow them to do something they enjoy, but something that their communities need, it’s hard not to be hopeful.

Two years later, the book is actually a thing, and it’s so exciting to finally read the completed, finished book after years of reading drafts of chapters. The physical book itself is gorgeous (I’m in love with that cover, and if you’ve seen the cover photo on my personal Facebook page, you know I love sunflowers), and the story is a wonderful one. This book takes you all over the world and makes you laugh, makes you think, and makes you hope. But more importantly, it’ll make you act. It’ll make you want to check out Kiva.org. And if not that, it’ll make you think about what you want to do to change the world. More than a travel memoir or a report of Kiva’s activities around the world, it’s a handbook for global citizenship.

I’m so proud to have been a teensy part of The International Bank of Bob. And I highly recommend that each and every one of you reading this snag a copy. It’s an amazing thing.

BTW – It occurred to me rightthissecond as I was writing this that I hadn’t thought to look in the Acknowledgements section to see if I was mentioned. So, I just looked, and I am. And it’s a really sweet mention. Thanks, Bob! :)

My Boss Is Cooler Than Your Boss

Published November 9, 2012 by Teresa

THE INTERNATIONAL BANK OF BOB, coming March 2013

Why, you ask? Because he’s in the NEW YORK TIMES today. :) It’s a profile all about him and his work, including his upcoming book, The International Bank of Bob: Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan At a Time, in which he tells the story of how he went from fancy-pants travel writer to funder of thousands of Kiva microloans and leader of one of Kiva’s largest lending teams, as well as how he followed the money, visiting countries where he’d made his loans on just about every continent in order to find out exactly how microfinance is helping everyday people and their small businesses all over the world.

I’ve been reading the chapters as they’ve been written, and it’s a really awesome read – part memoir, part travelogue, and part resource on how you can make a difference in the world one small business owner at a time. You should definitely check it out when it comes out.

And I swear I’d say that even if he weren’t paying me. ;)

Anyway, check out the article at the NYTimes, and now that the holidays are about to roll around, use the time to think about how you can give more of yourself and change the world for the better. Not the whole world, just your favorite little corner of it. If everybody did that, BOOM, better world. :)

And definitely check out KIVA. I’ve been a lender for a couple of years, and it’s pretty cool to see that money I lent years ago continues to help people today. Pretty awesome.

The Fray Project: Volunteering How-To (Activism)

Published April 13, 2012 by Teresa

Me at the National Equality March in 2009, Washington D.C. I was marching with the contingent from SWISH. (swishpride.org)

To check out my April 2012 Activism goals, CLICK HERE.

Non-profits and charities need money, there’s no question. They need to pay for their rent, utilities, supplies, and small permanent staffs somehow, and since they’re in it for others and not for themselves, they are not money-making ventures by design. This means they need to seek funds from the general public, or major philanthropists, to make ends meet and get their important work done. So, if you’ve got money to spare, and have a cause you’re passionate about, by all means, cut them a check. Nine times out of ten, you can deduct that donation on your taxes, and you will have given the organization of your choice a very important resource.

However, many of us (especially in this economy) don’t have a lot of money to give to all of the causes that matter to us. What we do have, what we can always find, no matter how busy we are, is time, and extra, volunteer hands on deck are as important as extra funds to an organization. Too often, non-profits and charities can’t afford to hire huge staffs to do everything that needs doing. The donations they receive are just enough to keep the lights on, but not enough to hire employees, or to pay people for their time for special events. So, one of the most important things you can do if you care about something, is to figure out if and how you can donate some of your time.

Part-Time Volunteering

If you don’t have a lot of time, most organizations have a mailing list. Sign up, and be alerted to specific opportunities when they might need you. For example, the photo up above is from the National Equality March in D.C. I marched with an organization called SWISH, a gay-straight alliance that works toward achieving equality for LGBT people. When I was living in New York, I was working a day job, and didn’t have very many free hours to do extensive volunteering, but when I got the call for volunteers to march one weekend in DC, I signed up! Sometimes, especially if the cause you’re interested in is political in nature, numbers are all-important, and having extra bodies present at an event or rally goes a long way toward getting the organization press and showing whoever’s watching just how many people support whatever cause it is. The Westboro Baptist Church was also at that rally, and they had about 50 people there. There were over a million people there in favor of equality. Just goes to show how important volunteers can be! I guess not many people want to volunteer for the WBC. I wonder why? :)

Organizations like GivLA exist for the sole purpose of matching kind-hearted people up with one-time volunteering opportunities, helping organizations meet their volunteer needs while encouraging caring citizens to help out, and helping them be social at the same time!

Me and Mariah the day we met!

Full-time, Committed Volunteering

If you really want to roll up your sleeves and help, there are plenty of organizations who could use you on a more long-term basis. For example, back in NYC, I was a mentor through iMentor, and was paired up with a high school junior in the Bronx named Mariah. I mentored her for two years – being generally encouraging, answering her questions, helping her with homework, setting a good example – meeting with her once or twice a month, corresponding weekly via email, and it was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. Mariah and I are now Facebook friends as she navigates the choppy waters of college. :)

Here in L.A, since helping girls excel and making sure children have decent writing training under their belts are equally important to me, I’m applying to be a mentor with WriteGirl, an organization that pairs professional writers with high school girls who are aspiring writers to help them find their voices and give them professional guidance. WriteGirl has a sister organization in NYC, which is how I found out about them in the first place, called Girls Write Now.

Stuff like mentoring requires a firm time commitment. However, it’s usually something pretty much anyone can work around, with commitments being weekly, or once a month, or on weekends.

My boss, Bob Harris, in Kigali, following his Kiva loan money into the field for a book he's writing on microfinance for Bloomsbury. I can't traipse around the world, but I CAN speak Spanish!

Volunteering From Home

Don’t wanna leave the comfort of your own home? Look into opportunities to volunteer remotely! For example, Kiva is an organization that is near and dear to my heart. I’ve loaned money through them, but I can’t personally make a million loans. However, something else I can contribute is my knowledge of Spanish! I’m signing up to be a volunteer translator, so that when they receive blurbs from clients in Spanish-speaking countries for their website, I can translate them for English speakers. (PS – I’ve been putting off taking my qualifying test for this because it takes an hour. However, I’m scheduling an hour for tomorrow so that I can just do it already!) Once accepted, I will be able to access the blurbs that need translating from home and work at my own pace. They have a six month commitment period, but over the course of that six month period, you can “work” whenever you want. So flexible! And it’s something they need, as their entire operation is based on their website. If blurbs aren’t translated, people don’t give to clients.

So, there’s no such thing as “not having the time!” and “not having the money” matters less than you think. If you care about something, there’s always a way to get involved. Start by making a list of the Top Five things that are most important to you. Look up organizations in your area that cater to those causes. Contact them and ask them about opportunities to volunteer that fit your schedule and lifestyle. Chances are, they will more than appreciate the outreach, and will be able to find something for you to do.

Or, if the task of doing this research seems too daunting to you, leave your Top 5 in the comments below, as well as the city you’re in, and I’ll do the research for you! Let me know what you care about, and I’ll help you show how much you care in a way that won’t break your bank or drive you crazy in a special Activism video here at the blog! Looking forward to creating a volunteering army! :)

Holiday Giving

Published November 26, 2011 by Teresa

Well, it’s official. I mean, Corporate America, with its annoyingly early holiday-themed commercials making a desperate play for your attentions in OCTOBER, was trying to get you to think it’d already started, but as it’s now after Thanksgiving it’s official. The holiday season is upon us.

I’ve started receiving end-of-year fundraising emails from organizations I support, and I’ve been regretting the fact that I don’t even have the funds to get my loved ones the gifts I might like to, let alone the funds to give to organizations I support, no matter how worthwhile. What I can do is share the organizations I support most with you in the hopes that those of you who can support them will. Here’s hoping that these organizations that mean so much to me will inspire you enough with the work they do that you’ll consider giving to them this holiday season.  I’ve organized them into 5 categories for your convenience: “Save a Girl, Save the World,” “Born This Way,” “Small Loans, Big Changes,” “Organizations that Help You Organize,” and “Cures and Services, Please!”

1) SAVE A GIRL, SAVE THE WORLD

It’s called The Girl Effect. The idea that the best way to improve the world economy and eliminate poverty and human rights abuses is to specifically invest in the world’s girls. If you want a focus for your charity giving and humanitarian efforts, girls aren’t a bad place to start. The Girl Effect supports several girl-focused projects through the GlobalGiving platform. You can either make one donation that The Girl Effect will then split among all their projects, or you can look at the projects they support and give to the one that interests you. Also, you can either give online, or you can give via text. However you choose to give, all the info can be found HERE.

And while we’re talking about investing in girls…how about girl writers?

I am one (rather, I was one before I became a woman writer), so maybe I’m a little biased. In any case, it’s no secret that there’s a disparity in just about every segment of the arts, from television to film to theater to publishing, in the number of female creators when compared to male creators. One solution is to invest in girl writers so that they don’t give up before they have the chance to become women writers. This will increase their numbers, improve representation of women in all media, improve gender relations, create the balance the world so desperately needs, save humanity. You know, small stuff.

I recommend donating to Girls Write Now (if you’re on the East Coast) or WriteGirl (if you’re on the West Coast). These sister organizations pair female school-age writers with professional female writers who act as mentors, guiding them through monthly workshops, providing the girls with advice on how to proceed with making writing a career once they get out of school, and giving them outlets for their writing via readings and published anthologies. If you want to support the next generation of women writers, these would be great places to give!

Lastly, an organization that fights for equality for girls and women at every level. Equality Now fights against discrimination in law, violence against women, trafficking, rape, etc, and they do so for countries all over the world. If you not only want to invest in girls to improve the future, but also want to fight for equality for women right now, consider a donation to Equality Now, and sign up for their Action Alerts, while you’re at it. Help them continue their valuable work.

2) BORN THIS WAY

My activism on behalf of equality for all sexual orientations goes hand-in-hand with my activism on behalf of gender equality – for what is homosexuality if not misogyny in a different outfit? It is because the two go hand in hand that it’s important to me that heterosexuals get involved and make issues like gay marriage their issues, too. It is everyone’s responsibility to make the world safe for difference. I got to know SWISH (which used to stand for Straight Women In Support of Homos) through a friend of mine from back in my former life in the theater, Josh Tjaden, a man who has continued to impress me with his LGBT activism and is on SWISH’s Board of Directors. SWISH is a gay-straight alliance that creates opportunities for people of all genders and orientations to get involved in the fight for equality. If creating a more tolerant world means anything to you, consider giving to SWISH.

I would also highly recommend giving to Straight But Not Narrow, a media initiative devoted to reaching out specifically to straight men regarding LGBT activism. I see on their site that they’re including videos from women, too, but this is one initiative that I think works better as a men-only thing. It’s not a difficult thing to get women involved in the fight for LGBT equality. With guys, it’s a little trickier for a number of reasons. I fully support this campaign, and recommend that you support it, too! Hopefully with some cashmoneydollars.

3) SMALL LOANS, BIG CHANGE.

I believe in treating people with dignity, no matter what their economic status. I joined Kiva in January of this year, because I loved the idea of believing in people enough to give them the resources they need to write their own futures. As you might already know, Kiva is a platform that showcases entrepreneurs in developing countries (as well as some in the U.S.), and allows people to lend them the money they need to start a small business that would help them feed their families as well as improve their communities by both providing services that might be lacking where they live and providing jobs to others. Yes, I said lend. This is not giving a donation, it is making a loan – a loan that gets paid back. I love this, because it’s letting someone know that despite their circumstances we trust that they have the intelligence and the drive to better their own situation, so much that we support cheaper financial services for them, because the poverty they were born into shouldn’t dictate their future. It’s treating people with dignity. So far, I’ve given two loans. And I’ve only given $25 ONCE. How does that work?

I contributed $25 along with 13 other people to a $325 microloan requested by a woman in El Salvador who was starting a cosmetics business. In 8 months, I got my $25 back and had the choice of either getting the money back via PayPal, or loaning it again to someone else. I chose another loan. So now, my $25 is helping another person. If I had more money, I’d give more loans. At the same time, it’s pretty amazing that giving a small amount once can continue to help people long after you give it, and you can keep track of how it helps and see the results, because it’s person-to-person. Yes, you can (and should) donate to Kiva directly to support their operating costs, because they provide an awesome service. But if you don’t want to do that, you can still help others by making just one loan of $25. That $25 can continue to go a long way long after you lend it. And if more people did it? One person wouldn’t have to give more loans to make a dent.

Consider giving a Kiva loan this holiday season! And if you want to give the gift of giving – get a Kiva Card for someone else so that they can join the Kiva family, too!

4) ORGANIZATIONS THAT ORGANIZE

Want to give your time, but don’t know how to get started? Well, if you live in New York City, you can sign up with New York Cares, an organization that pairs people with volunteer opportunities all over the city. No matter what your level of commitment or available hours, there are opportunities for you. If you live in Los Angeles, a similar organization is GivLA – although this org, in true L.A. fashion, seeks to combine doing good with socializing! Each volunteer opportunity is usually followed by some sort of party/outing where you can meet like-minded do gooders and have a great time!

Lastly, I’d recommend supporting the people organizing to fight corporate oppression on the front lines as part of the Occupy Movement. If you can’t/don’t want to be out there occupying, but still support the goals of the occupation, a good way to support the movement is to send them the money and/or supplies the occupiers need to keep up the fight. Most occupations are set up to take donations. To support Occupy Wall Street, click HERE. To support Occupy L.A, click HERE. Or to find an occupation closer to you to support, visit Occupy Together, which lists the occupations all over the world along with their websites.

5) CURES AND SERVICES, PLEASE!

My mother passed away from complications due to diabetes. My grandmother (and now, possibly my father) had Alzheimer’s Disease. My nephew has autism. And so these three conditions are all very close to my heart. So, if you are someone who wants to give money in a way that will help cure disease and/or provide services for those suffering with them, consider giving to:

American Diabetes Association: the country’s largest organization devoted to both researching cures for diabetes, as well as prevention education and providing services to those dealing with the disease. You can donate HERE.

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America: a national organization devoted to researching cures, as well as providing support resources for families dealing with loved ones that have the disease. You can donate HERE.

Autism Speaks: a national organization devoted to autism research as well as providing support and care for families with autistic loved ones. You can donate HERE.

Happy giving, everyone! :) And have a wonderful holiday season!

L.A. Year One: Thankful!

Published November 24, 2011 by Teresa

I can’t believe it’s Thanksgiving already! Where has the year gone? This year is a strange one for me. It’s not the first time I haven’t been able to spend Thanksgiving with my family. It’s not even the first time I’ve been in another state on Thanksgiving (in 2003, I spent Thanksgiving in a TGIFriday’s in Ohio, I think, with my castmates/crew in a children’s production of Babes in Toyland with which I was touring. No, it’s not my cast in the video, but I performed that same show – I played Widow Piper.). It is, however, the first Thanksgiving where my being apart from my family and close friends has an air of permanence about it. Like, This is how it’s going to be from now on. It’s strange. Not sad, just weird.

However, one of my new friends here in Los Angeles – the lovely Emily, along with her BF, Phillip – has invited me over for the big meal today, which I thought was really sweet. So, that’s where I’ll be enjoying my turkey.

I love Thanksgiving, because it always forces me to stop and acknowledge the things for which I’m grateful. It’s so easy to forget that such things exist, isn’t it? We spend a lot of time focusing on the bad things, but if we all sat down and thought about it, I’m sure we could each come up with at least 5 things for which we’re thankful. Here are mine:

1) MY BROTHER AND SISTER

I’m grateful for them particularly this year as they’ve supported me through my transition to the West Coast. First, I got the Are You Sure You Want To Do This? talks. Then I got the No, Really. You Have No Money talk. Then I got the Well, You’ve Made Up Your Mind, Haven’t You talks. Then the I’m Worried About You talks. Then, not a day went by when my sister didn’t make some reference to missing me, or me not leaving on Facebook (ie: Well, that’s what you get for leaving New York! Or, You’re leaving! Waaaaah!) Then, on the last day I saw my family before leaving for California, my brother slipped me a $100 bill as he said goodbye to me.

My mom has passed away, and my dad’s in a nursing home. I’ve gotten a lot of the “parental” support I need later in my life from my brother and sister. If I was going to be born to two people late in life, I’m lucky that a brother and a sister came before me. They’ve been like parents to me, and we’ve also become really good friends. I’m so grateful for that. Thank you, Kenny and Janette! I love you!

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2) MY OLD FRIENDS

I have the best friends in the world. Yeah, I said it. I know you think your friends are better, but they’re not. ‘Cause mine are.

Seriously, though, I know amazing people. People I have been able to be completely vulnerable around, knowing they won’t think less of me. People who’ve saved my life in a very real sense by lending me money, cooking me meals, letting me sleep on couches, treating me to nights out, listening to my woes, and keeping me sane as I try to navigate this crazy artist life I’m trying to lead. People who call me on my bullshit.

As I left New York, I stepped away from 32 years of powerful relationships. As I arrived in L.A, I was able to make a little nest for myself in the home of an old friend who is one of the kindest people I know. I’m so lucky to have such quality people in my life. Thank you! I love you all so muc

3) MY NEW FRIENDS

As I’ve mentioned before, L.A. has been very welcoming. I’ve been invited to parties, and mixers, and dinner parties galore. I’ve been given rooms to sleep in, meals, and rides. Lots of rides. I’ve been treated with so much kindness – kindness that couldn’t be repaid, except with kindness – that I wonder where those stories of L.A. folks being excessively self-serving came from. Maybe I’ve just been really lucky. Whatever. I’ll take it. I know good people out here, and I’m looking forward to getting to know them even better. We’re already off to a wonderful start! Thank you, you lovely people!

4) MY WEBSITES

They let me write for them. They give me creative freedom. They listen to me when I make suggestions or have new ideas. They’re really, really nice to the people that write for them, giving them lots of little perks, or treating them to outings/events. But most importantly, they pay the people that write for them. Too often, we complain about the outlets that don’t pay their writers, but we don’t praise the ones that do. So, I’d like to give a shout-out to two of them. Thank you, ChinaShop Magazine and Tor.com! Thank you for being great employers edited and staffed by really great people. I’m a lucky duck to write for such fine folks.

Bob in Kenya. Those kids are all, "So...you've never seen the sun before?"

5) MY “JOB”/APPRENTICESHIP

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’ve become assistant to writer, Bob Harris, who is currently working on what’s shaping up to be an awesome book on microfinance and Kiva for Bloomsbury. I’m really grateful for this relationship, not just for the obvious reasons. I mean, yes, he’s a really cool, genuinely kind person with whom I hope I can become better friends. Yes, he can totally answer my career-type questions as I’m figuring all this writing crap out. But more important than that, he keeps me conscious of how I want to use my art to change the world. Just by watching him work, I remember that it is possible to use the talents I was born with to do for others and to leave the world better than I found it, and I’m inspired to continue thinking about ways to combine my love of writing with my love of humanity.  That’s something that’s always been important to me.  It’s nice to be able to work with someone to whom it’s also important and who’s a walking example of how to go about doing it. That’s the part I’m really grateful for. So, thanks Bob! As role models go, you’re not a bad one.

Wow. I just realized that I’m pretty much thankful for one big thing – the people in my life. This was just 5 different categories of people, wasn’t it? But do you see how lucky I am? I have so many amazing people to be thankful for, they can be organized into categories.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope your holiday is filled with wonderful people, amazing food, and plenty of time to sit around with your pants unbuttoned afterwards. I, for one, will be watching the Lady Gaga Thanksgiving special later tonight. Because I’m also thankful for crazy performance artists who write catchy pop tunes. :)

L.A. Year One: …And I Say Hello

Published September 10, 2011 by Teresa

Why, thank you Santa Monica! You're not so bad yourself!

I have officially been in L.A. for a week. Here are some observations I’ve made in that time:

- The weather in Santa Monica is schizophrenic. It’s warm, it’s cold, it’s hot, it’s cloudy, it’s sunny…

- I should get a car.

- All that schizophrenia still lands on the side of beautiful.

- I walk a bit slower here. And that’s not a bad thing.

- The bus isn’t as bad as they say, but…

- The bus rides ARE as long as they say.

- I should get a car, apparently.

- Sepulveda is fucking LONG.

- There are some really quality people here.

- The Santa Monica Library is the best library I’ve ever been to, except for the main branch of the New York Public Library.

- The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf coffee is really, really good (and there’s one in NYC now, apparently!).

- OK, get off my back about the fucking car.

- The bus drivers here are really sweet. However,

- The bus drivers will also hit on me reluctantly. Reluctantly, because they think I’m 19, and are happily surprised by my legality when I say I’m 32.

- I will not be dating any bus drivers any time soon.

- Look, do you want to buy me a fucking car?!

This orange tree is in someone's FRONT YARD. Like, UP THE BLOCK from me. You know, how you do when you live IN A STATE WHERE YOU CAN GROW ORANGES.

The only bad thing I’ve experienced, and it’s not really a bad thing so much as… *sigh*, is the insistence that I need to get a car. It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have to hear it from every single person I’ve met out here. And it’s always good-natured, and it’s always well-intentioned, but still. Annoying. First of all, just because something bothers you, doesn’t mean it will bother me. Secondly, I’m from New York; weirdos on public transportation, 2 1/2-3hr commutes, and unpredictable maintainance are not completely foreign to me. And third, telling someone who just moved here a few days ago, and who’s living with a friend to save up for an apartment and said magical, mystical car-thing is akin to going to a slum and telling the people you meet, “You know, you should really think about getting some food. Your life will be so much easier!” Uh-huh.

To quote Forest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

Bubbles and sarongs: it's How I Roll.

Car issues aside, I’ve been really liking it here so far. I’m so lucky that, in addition to getting to live in one of the more gorgeous towns in L.A., I’ve come into a group of really quality people. Heather, the first face I saw when I got here, since she picked me up from the airport, was really happy to see me! I spent my first night in town with her before going to my semi-permanent digs in Santa Monica. But between Heather and Santa Monica, I went to a ChinaShop Magazine meeting. You know, one of the sites I write for that pays my bills? :) Anyway, we met at The Fat Dog, a really cute place with a great beer selection and amazing jalepeno mac and cheese, and I got to see old faces as well as meet fellow contributors I’d only ever known by their byline. What a talented, fun, welcoming group of folks! One of the great things about moving to L.A. is that I’m closer to these people and feel more emotionally invested in the site, the same way I have been in Tor.com having gotten to know those folks personally. (Don’t worry, Stubby! I still love you!)

But if you wanna talk about warm welcomes, the award goes to my friend, Maritza, and her husband Gregger, who’ve opened up their home to me. This place is awesome, and I couldn’t have asked for a better neighborhood than Santa Monica in which to set up shop. But seriously, Maritza has made me feel so at home. Not only did she provide me with an entire dresser to put my stuff in so I wouldn’t have to live out of suitcases, and not only has she made me feel comfortable about using anything in the apartment that I need to, but she was considerate enough to plan on going away for a few days with Sara, her 2 year old, to meet up with her husband on vacation so that I could have the place to myself for a bit and get settled in and used to my new city before taking on babysitting duties.

And what an adorable little 2 year old I’ll be watching…

Maritza took this just before Nap Time. Apparently, Sara had just said "I'm reading!" :)

Such a sweet, polite, and intelligent little girl. Maritza and Gregger know how to raise little people! Seriously, she says Please and Thank You, “Yes, ma’am” and “No, ma’am”, and can even be reasoned with even in the midst of a not-so-bad tantrum. Also, she’s only 2, but she knows all of her letters, and even though she can’t read yet, she knows how to tell a properly-structured story! She’ll pick up a book, open it, say “Once Upon a Time”, then tell a story she makes up based on the pictures with a beginning, middle, and end! She’s going to be lots of fun, I can tell! :)

In addition to my new roomies, I’ve also been making the rounds of quality geek girls in the area. Some I’ve already met, like Amy, and Geek Girl Diva (whose real name I know but shant reveal under penalty of death!). There’s the lovely Theresa (another one? Uh-oh!), a fellow geek with whom I’d only associated online before, who was kind enough to throw me a Welcome to L.A. pool party so I could meet some folks! I met Vicki and Emily, who are awesome, got to see Jessica again, and met Stephanie. I didn’t see Jess and Stephanie for long, because I arrived late-ish, and they had other commitments to get to, but Stephanie had brought a cake, which entertained us in her stead, and even sort of inspired an upcoming geek girl venture! (Stay tuned!)

Wait. You mean pool parties can happen any time of year here?! THAT'S CRAZY! (clockwise: Theresa, Vicki, Geek Girl Diva, Emily, and Me!)

Emily can't stand looking at the cute as Amy cozies up to Diamond, THE CUTEST DOG EVER. (or she's at least in the Top Five.)

I mean, seriously. LOOK AT THAT FACE.

Heather lounges with Theresa, the hostess with the mostest.

Since that party, I’ve met up with a writer I’ll be doing assistanty things for – Bob Harris, who’s working on a really cool book called The 1st International Bank of Bob (Bloomsbury), about the awesomeness of Kiva and microfinance, his personal experiences traveling the world to see what his loans have accomplished, and how average folks like you and me can, like, SAVE THE WORLD. You know, if that sort of thing means anything to you. But, you know, whatever. :) Anyway, we talked about the assistanty things I’ll be doing, which I’m very excited about, because I’m a huge fan of Kiva and Bob’s lending team is, like, one of the biggest ones they’ve got! It’s like I’ve got front-row seats to Awesome.

I also got to hang with some other illustrious geeks, like Sarah, whom I’d only ever talked to online before, and who is as kind and smart in person as I hoped she’d be. And I got to see Jenni again. You may know her from the time she sang “I’m On a Boat” at karaoke. :) This time, we went to a comics event at the Barnes & Noble on the 3rd Street Promenade for the HC release of Top Cow’s ECHOES by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Rahsan Ekedal, which looks amazing, and I can’t wait to read it. After that, Jenni and I went out for a drink and a bite, and I realized that she’s totes good people.

So, I’ve been seeing people I know, getting to know other people, and having a surprisingly active social life for a girl who just moved to town! What a warm welcome indeed! Oh, and I also conducted my first L.A. interview (Jane Espenson. Cheeks. Husbands. Tor.com. Monday and Tuesday. BE THERE!) that went really well and felt all fancy-schmancy even though I was rocking pigtails and a shirt with Kermit the Frog on it that day. But most importantly, I’ve had plenty of time to WRITE, which is really the point of all of this. And what’s truly awesome, is that I get to write in a place like THIS:

Maritza carries Sara as we all walk to the playground. The playground that's on THE BEACH.

Even cloudy, this is still pretty awesome.

I live 3 BLOCKS from this! That's Santa Monica Pier in the distance. It's overcast, but you can still make out the ferris wheel.

I told Bob that I both feel like I just left New York yesterday, and like I left New York a billion years ago. The reason for that, he said, is because the weather doesn’t change very much. Apparently, it’ll feel like no one ever ages and time passes really slowly, and I’ll feel both like a new arrival and an old-timer for a long time. It’s like something out of the Twilight Zone. Good thing I’m a huge fan of Rod Serling!

Kim, someone I know through ChinaShop and whom I spoke with at the meeting, has been living here for over 12 years, and says she loves L.A., because unlike other cities that define you, L.A. forces you to define yourself. Because, let’s face it, no one wants to let a city known for movie magic and fakery define them. So, you’re forced to define yourself, and it often leads to deeper introspection and a more grounded sense of self. I never would’ve thought of it that way, but the more people I meet, the more true that feels. So it’s like, New York is where you go to follow your dreams, and L.A. is where you go to figure out what your dreams really are?

How’s THAT for some dime-store psychology? :)

Well, thanks for the warm welcome, L.A. I’m looking forward to getting to know you.

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