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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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.



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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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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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Ally in Reno snow
Daily Life, Discover Your Dream, Stunted World Changers

Birthing the Dream

Dreams are easy to talk about, but they’re more difficult to do.

A dream must be birthed, then cultivated, cared for. Like a seed in the ground, it needs nourishment—from multiple sources—to break free of the tough dirt and sprout above the earth. A dream needs roots, roots that reach deep and anchor it, no matter the storms. It needs a caretaker, a gardener—someone who will take proactive measures to ensure it doesn’t die, but rather buds, grows, and flourishes.

Deciding to Dream

Ally in Reno snow

Northern Nevada: in my element

In January, I chose “Dream” to be my theme for the year. I’d tossed around ideas like Move, Simplify, and Hope. But Dream was the most daunting. That would require work, and through it, all other ideas would be achieved.

So I decided to dream.

Pretty soon, life began to change. Anthony and I felt our time as residents of Reno, Nevada, would be ending soon. I’d been in that town for seven years. We were involved in volunteer activities, loved our church family and local friends, and even considered buying a house.

But something in the back of our minds—rather in the corners of our hearts—rustled. We prayed and prayed and prayed. And we felt it—we are going to leave Reno.

Succumbing to Fear

Anthony and I debated our initial inklings. I continued to write articles about everything from cocktails to curtain designs to bring in money for bills and keep my freelance writing clients. Anthony continued to come home from his biomedical lab work distraught and drained.

Walden's latteOne Sunday afternoon, we sat across the table from a good friend, Ronnie, in one of our favorite Reno spots, Walden’s Coffeehouse. We’re not moving, we told him. There’s just too much on the line. Anthony has a stable job with good benefits. I can just keep flying to Las Vegas on weekends for work. We like it here. We’ll be fine.

Eyes wide, Ronnie missed his mouth and caught his chin in the milky foam of his tea. He plunked the ceramic mug to the tabletop.

“What I’m hearing right now is just a lot of fear.” He paused, wiped the edge of his short beard, then continued. Wherever you go, he said, whether you stay in Reno or move someplace else, God exists and He’s with you.

Discerning Safety Versus Security

Good friends’ words have a way of sticking with you. It was the challenge we needed. Several Sundays later, confirmation came.

4x4 trip with friends

To follow your dreams, be in community. Here’s part of ours: Ronnie, Colby, Anthony, me, and Claire. Snowballs help too.

An artistic fellow and friend, Colby, spoke with us after church. “I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between safety and security,” he said. Sometimes we choose what’s safe over what we’re intended to do and who we’re designed to become. That sets us upon a trajectory in a certain direction. When you choose safety over security, where does that path lead you?

Anthony and I thought about these words long and hard. It was time to go big or go home, we decided. We’d been going home for far too long. We opted to stop playing it safe.

Dreams Rewritten and Realized

When we chose to dream and we knew it was time for that dream to be realized, we discovered dreams pursued are not easy. They often don’t resemble the dynamics you expected. The framework shifts. The details are rewritten. But the core remains the same.

Los Angeles downtown skyline

Welcome to the downtown LA city skyline.

We dreamt of a place where I could work for a magazine and be surrounded by people to encourage. We wanted an opportunity that also would extract Anthony from a job that was killing him, to instead be in a place that would let him claim his dreams of being a writer—a fantasy novelist, to be exact.

We have found that place. Through a zany series of events, we pit-stopped in my hometown Las Vegas for three weeks, then landed full-time in Los Angeles, California.

It’s different, and sometimes it’s difficult when I think of the people we left behind in Nevada. But as my friend Natalie Rose wrote to me: “Change is hard. God is good.”

Now It’s Your Turn: Pans and Pickpockets Challenge

marigold sprouting

A dream must be birthed, then cultivated, cared for. Then, like a seed in the ground, it will bud, grow, and flourish.

Our dreams are becoming reality. I’d like to encourage you to determine your dreams too.

Start by seeking God with your whole heart. Determine your natural talents, and weigh if your dream is supported by these skills. Become prepared: in your emotional state, your developed talents, and amid a supportive community.

Then, be willing to wait for the right moment when God tells you it’s time at last.

Because the right dream, friends, it’s worth waiting for.

Leave a Comment: Scroll down and leave me a comment below.  I’d like to hear your dream. 

Words: Ally Siwajian

Photos: Ally Siwajian; group photo by Claire Stephens  © 2013

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trash can labeled landfill
Daily Life

You Know You’re a Renoite When…

Reno, Nevada, isn’t a place you move to; it’s a place you get stuck. At least that’s what I heard from a handful of locals while living in The Biggest Little City in the World. But as a seven-years-strong Renoite who recently relocated to The City of Angels (which is anything but), I can honestly say Reno is a place I’m proud to call a piece of home.

Now don’t get me wrong. There are some pretty strange things about Reno. But when you live there, you start to adopt these little habits that, well, you don’t realize aren’t akin to the rest of the West Coast.

A friend from Hillside in Reno once called the Northern Nevada city “The Poor Man’s Portland.” There may be some sense to that. All I can say is: The dream is alive.

A little list of how much of a Renoite I am, despite living in Los Angeles:

Salad in a jar

Yes, it’s a salad in a jar. (Top secret hint: Build your salad from wet to dry ingredients, and it’ll last for three days in the fridge.)

1. I brought my refillable water bottle to work on my first day … and my to-go tea cylinder. Well, it just so happens that So. Cal. break-rooms are ripe with buy-in-bulk bottles of H20. Noted!

2. I make layered lunch salads in mason jars. Wait, why do I do this? *reviews list of Renoite uses for the mason jar: daily coffee mug, candle holder, whiskey jar, flower pot, table centerpiece, spaghetti noodle storage….*

3. I like running … on dirt trails. What, we have to run on sidewalks? This cement will ruin my cankles.

4. I thought Reno’s 395 had rush hour traffic. *sniggers in corner* Oh, hi, I-5! Yes, I remember how fun it was to drive my moving van along your bumper-to-bumper lanes of traffic for two and a half hours. Then my car… and… yeah.

5. I lament L.A. freeway overpasses in need of a good power-washing from decades of smog grime, graffiti, and pigeon poop. To think, I was scoffing at Reno’s city beautification project just months ago. Though I do maintain that butterfly sculpture at the downtown ice rink looks vaguely reminiscent of female organs. Come on, Reno.

trash can labeled landfill

Thank you, chain store coffee shop.

6. I want to be casual friends with my barista. Now I just get confronted by a cold metal can with whether I’ll contribute to protecting the earth or promoting landfills.

7. Bicyclists in Reno wear head-to-toe spandex and aerodynamic helmets. In Los Angeles, they sport straw fedoras and carry enormous striped tote bags.

8. In Reno, I would drive home early to avoid death by iced-over roads at night. But living in Los Angeles, I was told to leave work early to dodge death by Dodgers fans in a traditional takeover of all downtown roads on Opening Day.

9. The great outdoors up north means wide-open space, scenic views, and plenty of solitude. In the big city, it’s a park with graffitied tree stumps. What, I ask, would one gain by tagging a stump?

Lake Tahoe in winter

You just can’t beat views like this. Thank you, Reno-Tahoe, for this moment.

10. I wave at people and ask, “How’s it going?” when we cross paths. I’m sure someone walking along will wave back someday. I mean, with L.A.’s constantly gorgeous weather and no sight of snow, who wouldn’t want to celebrate with me?

Anybody resonate with these? Leave me a comment with how you feel about Reno, L.A., or the differences between your hometown and your latest city. 

Photos and writing: Ally Siwajian © 2013

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desert road in winter
Connectivity, Daily Life, Stunted World Changers

Change is Hard. God is Good.

I used to worry when I heard the sound of a helicopter’s blades whirring and pumping somewhere above my neighborhood at night. It used to be rare—the sign of cops looking for someone who was making himself hard to find. Now that sound is normal.

So are the sounds of sirens. Of music blaring from passing cars. Of children’s feet hitting the pavement in the outdoor hallway beyond my apartments’ windows and of a young girl next door singing. Singing because she sounds beautiful—to her ears—and she hasn’t learned yet to care what other people might think.

I’ve been trying to write this post for weeks now.

How do I encapsulate the twists and turns of a road from Reno, Nevada, to Los Angeles? How can I capture the dreams Anthony and I shared—dreams that came true and yet somehow came so unexpectedly but expectantly.

desert road in winter

In March 2012, Anthony and I drove home from church one evening and sat slumped in our car’s seats in our Reno apartment’s dark parking lot. God has forgotten us, we thought. We bought the lie—that America sells.

We wanted simple: to be, to live and to love. But we had traded it for convenience. Somewhere between rent payments, electronic gadgets, a desire to dine at restaurants instead of cook at home, and a whole mess of being over-committed for all the right reasons to all the right things but to too much at the same time.  We had forgotten how to say ‘no.’ And we felt buried.

Let’s run away and move to Canada, we thought. I have enough extended family there that it just might work. We could live in Nanaimo. Write books. Stay in a little secluded cabin made of cedar wood. We could disappear, and we could be free.

But there’s this problem called relationship. People die of starvation from the human connection.

Dreams of that kind of freedom quickly became overrun with realities of isolation. While utter escape sounded appealing to a couple of introverts, we knew that pace couldn’t be sustained any healthier than our current state of rat-race numbness.

So we stayed.

The college version of myself would have scoffed. Don’t settle, I would have said. Just do something.

But sometimes “just do something” can be just as harmful. I might send myself spiraling as I force my way forward, on the wrong path, misstep, and fall flat on my face.

Sometimes we aren’t called to just do something. Sometimes we’re called to wait. Because when we wait by continuing the slow, steady walk of what we know how to do, we find clarity. Then when the clinging fog clears, you can see the rocks in the road and see the paths you should take.

I waited in Reno for one year. Then seven years from my initial entry point into that city, I knew: It was finally time to go. But when I went to leave, I realized I’d done it the right way for once. I’d planted roots. When we moved, we missed those we left behind. We’d have to start over, start fresh. But that’s okay.

Relationship with people and with God is what I seek in this life. If I don’t jump in—if I instead allow myself to be numb in the waiting seasons—then I’ll never know the joy of stepping into my purpose.

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Leave a Comment: What do you think about waiting? 

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Special thanks to Natalie Heifner who told me: “Change is hard. God is good.” and to Louie D. Locke for showing Anthony and me how to wait but wait well. 

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