Sidewalk
Connectivity, Daily Life, What I Like

What I Like: “Summer Slacktavist” Edition

This summer has passed faster than the Millennium Falcon making the jump to light speed. And we’re not talking Episode V here.

Amid long days at the office, magazine deadlines, work trips, and making sure I got to church mostly on time Sunday mornings, I’ve actually spent a lot of time doing one of two things: walking city sidewalks and watching a lot of television.

So, I discovered this joy called Netflix, which people have been rightfully gabbing about for years. I started “Sherlock” on a Tuesday. Anthony and I finished all three seasons by that Sunday. And I, of course, feel no shame for this incident.

I even caught up on “Arrested Development” as far as I could stomach it, finished all available seasons of “What Not To Wear,” started “Firefly” and watched a few kiddie classics just to reminisce.

To make up for my massive amount of couch-space-hogged time, I’ve been walking three miles once a week. Never mind that it’s to get Jamba Juice. It was official outdoors time—minus the pine trees and the bunny rabbits and all those nature elements we enjoyed in Northern Nevada near Lake Tahoe.

But I digress.

After years of activism and volunteerism, this past month I’ve inadvertently joined the slack-tavist team. And with as zany as finding my place in this big, big city can be, I’m okay with calm for now. We all need some normalcy, huh?

Sidewalk

Today, from my couch, I’d like to share a few articles I’ve enjoyed this summer. Here are my favorite finds. Thank you, Internet.

1. Los Angeles — A Love Story.” As I struggle to find where I fit in LA after my big move last year, Laura Tremaine’s exposé resonated with me. I like the idea that it’s a city filled with “what if” opportunities, where “possibility falls off the palm trees.”

2. “Watch This 27-Second Video the Next Time Fear Lies to You.” In the words of my favorite comedian/business advice guy, Jon Acuff, “You don’t have to be amazing at everything.” Don’t believe it? Read this quick blurb, and watch 50-Cent “throw” the first pitch at a baseball game.

3. “Three Supermoons in a Row.” Science can just be amazing some days, right? Or some nights. Yeah, that too. Get your nerd card, and find out how NASA describes the visual phenomenon behind #SuperMoon2014. Psst! Next Supermoon is Sept. 9.

4. “Comic-Com Readies for the Last ‘Hobbit’ Film.” In light of the trailer debut for “The Battle of the Five Armies,” I’m loving Philippa Boyens’ final sentiments in this USA Today article: “It’s the ordinary, everyday folk, as Gandalf says in the first film, those are the ones who keep the darkness at bay.”

5. “Back Home” by Andy Grammer. Who is Andy Grammer? I don’t know. But I heard this song on the radio, driving home from work one day, and this chorus is meant for me. Right now. In this season.

Thanks for reading about what I like! Let me know in the comments below: What do you like right now? Favorite Internet finds or otherwise?

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Beach + Ocean
Faith

Rediscovering Prayer

There’s a pastor in Santa Cruz named Danny, with straight, blond hair down to his shoulders, who totes around a surfboard and spends hours in the surf. He says, when God speaks him, God calls him “dude.”

Dude, this is what I’ve got next for you.

I like the idea that God speaks to us in ways we understand.

Beach + Ocean

When Anthony and I felt God calling us to move to Los Angeles, do you know what He told us? I never heard the word: “Go.” Not in a whisper. Not in a shout. Not audibly at all.

God speaks to us in ways we understand.

One night, I was praying, hard. Beside me, Anthony was praying his own prayer. Then I got this moving picture in my mind.

In my favorite films, The Lord of the Rings, Frodo tells Galadriel: “Then I know what I must do. It’s just: I’m afraid to do it.”

Gandalf

“Gandalf the Grey.”  Photo credit: Pierre Vinet

Then scene cut. 

Next slide.

Gandalf tells Frodo: “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.

Days passed, and over and over, specific scenes from LotR would come to mind as I prayed.

Could it be that I just couldn’t stop thinking about my favorite movies? Perhaps.

But over time, the recollected scenes tied together. Out of the context of the original filmed story, now together in my mind, they formed a new narrative. And it followed a specific path, hinted at a course of action.

When God gives us a picture, or a thought in our mind’s eye, I’ve found He confirms it with something complementary and concrete.

A word from a friend.

A prayer by a pastor.

A verse in Scripture.

A sense of peace.

After years of youthful praying, God is showing me something new.

I don’t have to sound like David from Psalms when I pray. I don’t have to sound like Moses, or even repeat after Paul the Apostle.



I have to sound like me. Just be me. 

And when I’m just me, then He’s just Him.

And I think we come to understand each other.

Words: Ally Siwajian © 2014

Photos: Ally Siwajian, beach image; Pierre Vinet, Gandalf the Grey portrait

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Connectivity, Daily Life, Writing Tips & Thoughts

Changes to the Blog, and With Me

When I first listened to Linkin Park’s A Thousand Suns album after years of Meteora and Hybrid Theory fandom, I wondered if I’d purchased the right CD. The music was … different. The tone less angry, less angsty, more explorative and overall more forgiving.

The musicians told a new bold story—not an anticipated account of pain. Now, lead vocalists called for—in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—“wisdom, justice and love,” examining societal ills but also hope through the lens of (nuclear) fallout. What is the catalyst, after all?

Musicians evolve. Even the most revered bands change course with maturity.

Blogs, I would argue, are worthy of the same treatment.

Bronze Broken Disk

When I began Pans and Pickpockets in 2010, I was a Nevada newlywed and recent college grad, trying to figure out what it meant to be a “traditional” wife who had a predilection for social causes.

Now, in 2014, I’ve given up attempts at cooking in exchange for a communications career, so there go the pans. I don’t participate in protests these days, and I’ve come to realize that social justice stems from attitudes of the heart, not just petitions we sign. So, there goes the pickpockets.

Today, I live in Los Angeles. I work in digital communications at a fast-paced office filled with creative coworkers. I remain married to the same man, who four years later still makes me laugh with his nerdy jokes, Lord of the Rings references and witty puns.

I am me, but I am different. 



I would like to continue blogging, but I’d like to tackle new territory in this space. Will you join me?

Here are some topics I’d like to share in the future:

  1. Writing Tips
  2. Social Media Strategy
  3. Los Angeles Life + Nevada Nostalgia
  4. Links to Posts Worth Sharing
  5. Compassion-Based Social Justice (as best we can define that)
  6. Activism Opportunities
  7. Faith

Let me know in the comments below: Which of these most resonate with you?

(If you’ve bookmarked Pans and Pickpockets, note my new URL: pansandpickpockets.wordpress.com.)

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pancakes on plate
Daily Life, Discover Your Dream

Pancakes Are Sweeter When You Add Syrup

Every January, I celebrate the new year with a stack of homemade pancakes and round tables filled with friends. Blueberry, chocolate chip, even old-fashioned original pancakes—the baked scents reminds me life is good. The year is new. And I have people to share it with.

This year was different. There was only one person at my table.

Instead of celebrating within the walls of a welcoming church I’ve grown to love in Reno, I ate my pancakes on the back patio of well-worn restaurant joint in Southern California.

pancakes on plate

You see, last year on March 4th, Anthony and I moved from our Nevada home to pursue our dreams. I’d chosen “Dream” as my defining theme for 2013, and we reached the pinnacle rather unexpectedly early. In Los Angeles, I joined a creative team of exceptionally talented individuals in the bustling city, and Anthony began to write and revise his fantasy novels, the Shade of Silver trilogy.

What I didn’t know at last year’s start is that to “dream” is to accept change.

In Reno, we had grown deep roots. We had developed friendships, built careers. 

In Los Angeles, we were uprooted. Take a plant out of its pot, and place it on the dinner table. See how long it lasts. Plants need soil. They must have roots, or they will die.

I had been grieving the loss of my Reno roots for a while. But when we ordered pancakes on a Sunday morning, far from the church where we first experienced the New Year tradition, we memorialized. It was a good kind of remembering. We laughed, and we joked, and we reminisced. 

Then we looked across the metal bar that separated us from the sidewalk in this warm “winter” weather, and we knew: We need roots here.

Earlier that morning, at a different church located in Burbank, a pastor named Billy spoke from a slightly raised stage. “If you had a plant that wanted to bear fruit, but it never saw the sun, it wouldn’t grow any fruit.”

I’ve stayed away from the sun lately. It’s a poor effort to keep the thoughts at bay—in which I wonder about my decision to dream.

“Every good renovation starts with some demolition,” the pastor spoke, and for the first time in a long time, I listened. “God is not afraid of the toxic places in your life.”

This year, I want to remember where I’ve come from without wishing for the past. I need this plant to be pruned. I need mildewed leaves removed, and I want to see the sun. I want to make peace with this city, to find the soil and grow deep roots.

As Anthony and I talked about this, the waitress with dark hair and thick black eyeliner delivered our dishes. The golden pancakes on my plate were dashed with powdered sugar and a thick helping of whipped cream. Beside them, a tin cup of warm syrup waited.

Across the table, Anthony grinned at his berry-laden breakfast, and the waitress walked through the diner’s back doorway.

“Hey, Anthony,” I said and poured syrup on my pancakes. “Can we use your phone to take a picture?”

He agreed, held out his hand and aimed the camera. We both leaned in. Click.

A&A with pancakes

I won’t stand amid the demolition rubble any more.

This year, I’m choosing to rebuild.



–

Pans and Pickpockets Challenge: What theme will you pursue this year? What’s one word you’d choose for 2014?

Words and photos: Ally Siwajian © 2014

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Discover Your Dream, Influential Interviews

Musician Liam Kyle Cahill Shares “The Key To Happiness”

One autumn evening, I sat at a wooden cocktail table in a humble coffeehouse, and I listened to my friend Liam Kyle Cahill play his acoustic guitar to a small crowd of coffee drinkers and hopeful poets for Open Mic Night. Even with a short set, he garnered applause, and a song called “One Spark” particularly resonated with me that night. Now several years later, I still remember the chorus and its arresting guitar riffs.

Meet Liam Kyle Cahill.

Meet Liam Kyle Cahill, the musician with “The Key to Happiness.”

But Liam Kyle Cahill isn’t playing coffeehouses to build confidence these days. Rather, with his Ode to Wisconsin EP  under his belt and his first full-length album on the way, he’s taken stages across the country to play small shows with a gang of friends and a conglomeration of instruments: guitar, harmonica, drums, bass, mandolin, violin, piano, and even a string quartet.

As an artist, he’s evolved from a singer/songwriter into a man with the mentality of a full-blown producer. And his sound—it’s just as bold. (Think “Mumford & Sons in a bar room brawl with Bob Dylan at a punk rock concert,” as he’d say.) To polish it up, Liam Kyle Cahill’s lyrics stay true to his personable nature and big heart.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview my friend. Today we’re talking about life, his music, and his encouragement to fellow dreamers. So listen up, friends, and learn how to live it well!

(1) You’ve got a new album called The Key To Happiness. So what is the key to happiness?

LKC: Making music really—that’s what makes me as happy as anything! As far as the title, I think it was more about my pursuit of happiness and the lessons I’ve learned along the way…. When you make the choice to be happy, you are! That’s what I’ve found.

Liam Kyle Cahill on stage

Liam Kyle Cahill performs with friends at his “Ode to Wisconsin” EP release party.

(2) You’re following your dream, working in geology by day and writing songs at night. Congrats! Tell us a little more about your journey to pursue your passion for music—not to mention, rocks—and what it’s taken to get there.

Liam Kyle Cahill on stageLKC: Well, I graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, with a bachelor’s degree in Hydrogeology, and have spent the last three years doing exploration geology in different parts of Nevada and Utah. I have always connected with the outdoors, and was immediately drawn to that kind of lifestyle before I even knew how to hold a guitar.

But by the end of my senior year, I started writing my own songs and performing around town. The passion for music had always been there my whole life, but I finally had the outlet to create something that was uniquely me. Once I got a taste of that, I never stopped! Now I’m working to find the right balance, advancing both of these loves simultaneously.

(3) In your new song “Life Before Death,” you talk about that tension between nature and technology—that idea to slow down, “cut your chains and breathe life deep,” and really “live it, folks.” What inspired you to share this awesome message?

LKC: “Life Before Death” is a song based on a poem by John Muir, where he ponders these same ideas and what it means to be grateful for the lives we have. I took that idea one step further, challenging our dependency on technology and the control it has on our ability to be content in each moment that we live. Then I started reading Charles Dickens, and the basis for the song thickened. Dickens urges us to live with purpose and embrace the people around us by opening up our hearts and being vulnerable. And when it all comes down to it, that’s what I think music is really about.

(4) As we pursue our dreams, we need people to encourage us. Who’s been with you every step of the way for this project?

LKC_3LKC: There are a two people who fit that description, the first being my good friend and co-producer Dan Ruben. I met Dan at a show almost two years ago and we clicked instantly. When I first started to envision the scope of this record, Dan was able to bring those ideas right to life with bass, mandolin, and drum parts—and the rest is history!

Then there’s Tom Gordon: sound recording engineer, mixing engineer, co-producer, and friend. Nobody has pushed me to grow as a musician more than Tom during the recording sessions we’ve had this year, where he challenged my guitar playing and singing to become tighter than ever. Tom is like the quality control for the album, making sure we get just the right take before we move on to the next step.

(5) What advice do you have for your fellow dream-followers and friends?

LKC: In one of the last conversations that I had with my grandfather before he passed, I asked him what he felt was the most important advice that he could share about following my dreams, and I must admit his answer surprised me: “Don’t let the bastards get you down!” He lived his life by that rule and explained to me it doesn’t matter what other people think of you or your endeavor—if it’s your dream, then go for it!

One Spark cover art

Buy a pre-release copy of Liam Kyle Cahill’s album, and you’ll receive an immediate download of his single, “One Spark.”

Liam Kyle Cahill is currently raising funds to complete his 2014 album, The Key to Happiness. If you resonated with his story and his advice to fellow dreamers, then stop by Liam Kyle Cahill’s Indiegogo page to hear his music and buy a pre-release copy of his album. November 25, 2013, is the last day of this fundraising campaign, and LKC is giving all contributors an immediate download of the single, “One Spark.” As someone who’s been looking forward to a digital recording of this song since I first heard it in a coffeehouse, trust me: This music is worth the listen.

Words by: Ally Siwajian © 2013

Photo credit: Gary Micander and Alex Fleiner (All photos used by permission of Liam Kyle Cahill.)  

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Belle mug and books
Connectivity, Daily Life, Submissions

“One Day” 2013: Project to Document the Daily Norm

One year ago, I determined to capture the Post-it note pieces of my life that, when placed together, form my life’s story. This year, Laura Tremaine at Hollywood Housewife hosted her annual One Day event again, and I couldn’t wait to join! 

The goal is simple: Capture details of your life that make it what it is. Your nightstand, your makeup bag, your commute, your desktop. Anything you normally wouldn’t photograph, you now have a reason to do so. Because this is “One Day.” And in one day, you receive a glimpse of your life, in those small moments, for 24 hours.

This is my life through my scope on November 13, 2013. This is my story of 24 hours that I may not have otherwise noted, but now have found meaningful even in the mundane.

This is my One Day, 2013 style.

Click any photo to start the slideshow and see complete captions!

Wondering what my life looked like last year? Check it out here: One Day 2012.

Thanks for joining in my One Day!

Words and photos by: Ally Siwajian © 2013

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Bob Goff speaks via live stream
Connectivity, Influential Interviews, Scripture Study, Stunted World Changers

Be Available: What I Learned from Bob Goff’s “Love Does” Talk

What if we told people who they are? Not that we commanded: “Be this” or “Do that.” But what if we honestly told people the talents we see within them, the character qualities we appreciate, the stuff they’re just good at?

This weekend, as author Bob Goff spoke to a church crowd in Las Vegas, Nevada, I couldn’t get his question out of my mind.

“What if we’re the ones who say: ‘This is what I see in you’?” he challenged the crowd and the online audience.

How Bob Goff Became Available

Bob Goff speaks via live stream

Bob Goff laughs a lot! I’m glad I watched this storyteller online for good laughs and good encouragement.

In his short talk on Saturday, Bob Goff told of personal experience that led him to this realization. “I was getting less and less available,” he confessed.

In response, he did something drastic. He gave people his phone number. Not just friends. Anyone.

Bob Goff wouldn’t screen calls. He’d just answer, talk for a bit, and encourage the person. If he was spending time with someone in person, then he’d answer his phone and simple ask if he could call the person back. Then he actually would.

It’s such a simple concept. But I find it’s difficult to do.

A Time to Rest, A Time to Invest—in Others

For me, it’s definitely been a busy season. This spring, I finally scored my dream job. But soon I found I had little time for anything else. I’d arrive home from work mentally spent. My creativity for writing—emails to friends, blog posts, or even text message replies—lacked. I became tired. Then I just wanted to retreat.

Time to rest is good. Time to process and to recharge is vital to our health as people. But at what point did we decide to put up the barriers? To screen calls? To only meet a friend when it was scheduled far in advance and fit in “my schedule”?

Bob Goff said: Jesus, “He had more time for everybody.”

Yes, Jesus rested—he slept on boats, and he went away to mountains to pray. But he also aimed to be there for people. On His way to raise a girl from the dead, He stopped to heal a bleeding woman in the crowd. On His journey to Bethsaida, He paused to feed 5,000 people. Jesus knew His mission.

Pans and Pickpockets Challenge: Encourage People

If I want to be a good friend, then I need to take a lesson from Jesus. I want to begin to be intentional about caring for people. It’s as easy as showing people you love them. Since I’m a person who values words, one of the ways I can do that is just to tell them.

“What if we’re the ones who say: ‘This is what I see in you’?” Bob Goff said.

Let’s start telling people what we see in them. I want to live to encourage others in their journeys. All I need to do is be available.

PANS AND PICKPOCKETS CHALLENGE: How do you like to encourage others? Leave a comment. I’d love to talk with you here. 

Words by: Ally Siwajian © 2013 

Photo by: Ally Siwajian, featuring a live stream from Canyon Ridge Christian Church 

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