52 Things

When I’m in a funk, I create. Whether it’s painting, taking photos, or cooking an elaborate recipe I saw on Pinterest and convinced myself I was capable of, I find that taking my two smaller-than-most hands and putting them to work helps clear my head. 

I work on a computer all day and a lot of my work and its products are digital— or at least start that way. Web design, Photoshop, yadda yadada.. they all live on a screen. There’s definitely an aspect of my job that involves helping people in "real life" but that usually comes weeks or months after (yes) digital campaigns to raise awareness and generate donations. Well aware of but choosing to ignore the very relevant and important debates about where real life ends and digital begins (and if there is even a difference anymore) I’m just gonna go ahead and say that sometimes, it feels good to make real things. 

So, no surprise that when it came time to make New Year’s Resolutions on January 2, the desire to create was a strong influence. The only concrete, firm, this-is-what-I’m-gonna-do-this-year goal I set was this: create one thing a week.   

“There,” I thought to myself— “good job. Firm enough boundaries to be a significant change, realistic enough to accomplish, and vague enough that you can adapt it over the course of the year.” 

A mere two days later, mired in the throes of moving and surrounded by cardboard boxes and one very confused dog, I realized (1) all of my craft supplies had been packed away and (2) I had severely underestimated how much stuff I owned. My calendar for the next 3 days was basically pack, move, unpack, clean.  No time for crafting anywhere in that. 

Okay, so no fun craft this week, but that’s okay, it’s really busy and stressful right now, I can start next week once things have calmed down.

Almost immediately, I had given up on my one resolution. 

For a very routine-oriented person, this week has been a blur. I’ve had high highs and low lows as I realize that things are changing, many for the better. My mind has been on overdrive all week trying to process all of these changes— lifestyle wise, emotionally, and financially.

Today on my lunch, in an effort to better understand my new place and what furniture I needed, I took a piece of paper, a ruler and a pencil into the conference room. I popped in headphones and sat down to sketch out my new room. By the time I finished my coffee, I had created a scale drawing of my bedroom, including the windows, door openings and furniture. It was simple, but did the job-- I definitely could have done it faster on a computer where I also would have had my email open in one tab and Twitter in the other. For that one, single hour, I didn’t think about work, or Instagram, or if my dog will miss me when I move. I ended up with a better understanding of where boxes needed to go and came up with a few decoration ideas. I had a plan where I didn't before, and that felt great. 

As I walked back into my office, I realized that this sense of calm was exactly why I made my resolution in the first place. Almost simultaneously, I realized that I had created something without really intending to. My resolution was still intact, through no fault of my own. 

So, it’s January 4 and my resolution lives. I got lucky this week— for once, current Lauren did future Lauren a favor. This week taught me that moving is stressful but it’s not impossible— I’ve got some incredible friends who’ve offered to help me move this weekend and I know that my dog will have a good, well fed and happily sedentary life with my Dad. 

One down, 51 to go. 

Moving forward, I’m actively carving out time to make one thing each week. They won’t all be as simple as pencil on paper, but that’s the point. I’m trying to find new ways to create and inspire myself this year. 

If you’re in the mood to make something, let’s get down to business. 

Summer 17

Usually when I load a roll of film, I try to finish it that day or trip, or shortly thereafter. Partially because I am impatient, which is an interesting quality for a film photographer, but also because best practices teach that you finish and develop a roll as soon as possible once you’ve shot it. Fresh, properly stored film  = crisper, accurately exposed and saturated pictures, 

I try not to focus too much on creating perfect images when I’m shooting. I find that doing that— trying to replicate an image I saw online or worrying about which lens I should have on-- pulls me out of the moment that I'm trying to capture. One thing I love about film is that it’s kind of messy. A lot can go wrong with film, so it feels great when even most of it goes right. Almost all of my favorite pictures I’ve taken were unplanned— some of them are blurry, some are a little blown out, some were taken 1/2 a second after people stopped looking at the camera. 

Probably my favorite camera to shoot with is my Olympus PEN EE. It’s a half frame camera, which means you get 72 exposures on a regular 36 exposure roll of film. If you ask film processing labs, they’ll scan the frames individually, but I love seeing the frames side by side. I think about pairing photos when I’m shooting, and since the PEN is a literal point and shoot, it’s pretty easy to capture the same moment from two different perspectives in seconds. Kitsch factor aside, most photography purists will discount the PEN since it splits the lowest quality film format in half. (When I called my favorite local camera shop to ask if they had one in stock, the sales associate’s response was— Why do you want that? The image quality sucks.)

He’s not wrong. There are no controls— no focus, no light meter, no zoom, nada. You just set the ISO (100 or 200), look through a tiny viewfinder, point and shoot. You CAN override and use manual mode if you want, but I never do. Shooting a slower film limits the light conditions that you can shoot in, so the PEN is generally limited to sunny, outdoor stuff. Because the PEN isn’t designed to capture perfectly crisp images in the first place, I tend to let film sit in it longer than my other cameras.

I recently got a roll from the PEN developed that I started in August and finished in November. It had a bike ride at the beach, my best friend's birthday, a trip to a brewery, a Dodger game, and a road trip to the Desert on it. My summer in one roll of film. Not all of the images are stunning, or even notable. But they are full of faces and places that I love, and together they tell a story that is sometimes blurry, a little bit of a mess, and never, ever perfect. 

Days Like Today

In my lifetime, there have been 83 days like today (1). At first, there were books about them. Stories of bravery and heroism, sacrifice and inspiration. We pretended to learn lessons from days like today, in the beginning. 

Days like today are surreal. They are so wholly tragic that our bodies slip into autopilot, functioning not because our brain tells them to, but because some faint awareness in the background tells us

get up.
take a shower.
go to work. 

Humans were not made to process suffering on this scale, and yet we are on a seemingly eternal cycle of days like today. 

I can't say I remember all of these days. Some were before I was really conscious in the world. More I was sheltered from, by my parents, wanting to protect their children from that reality, by teachers who thought they could keep their classrooms safe by avoiding the topic altogether, by thoughts and prayers and vague platitudes about how we are better, could be better, will be better.

The first day like today for me was on a Friday in December. I was sitting at my desk at my part time job trying to source candidates for a temp position without a future. By the time I was off, twenty children and six staff members had been murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I sat in my car in silence for what felt like forever until routine told me

turn the key.
get home. 

It rained on my way home. I made it halfway before I pulled my car over to the side of the 405 and sobbed, the sky crying with me as I wondered aloud, who does this to children? The windshield wipers dutifully wiped away the rain. Back and forth, back and forth, over and over and over again until I told them to stop.

At the time, I didn't have a phone. Mine had broken the week before and I had asked for one for Christmas and figured I could wait the three weeks for it. When I got home that day, I called my Mom and asked if I could have it early, because what if this happened at my school, and I couldn't contact the police or get in touch with my family? 

That was five years ago. I was 21. It was the first time I wondered if this would ever happen to me, my family, my friends, my classmate and coworkers. 

Since then, people have been murdered in schools, in Churches, in nursing homes, at nightclubs, on the streets, in department stores, at their homes, at their places of work, and now, at music festivals. Every single one of these tragedies has been followed by a day like today. 

They are frighteningly routine. They are numbing. They are sorrow and anger and disbelief that it is, again, another day like today. They are Facebook posts of parents frantically trying to find their children. They are dark. They are awful. They are miserable. They are knowing that next week, next month, next year, there will be another day like today. 


1: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/12/mass-shootings-mother-jones-full-data/

Seat 14

It's hot. It's August 27. Los Angeles is unknowingly on the brink of a record setting heat wave, and I'm sitting in the sun at Dodger Stadium. 

All season, Dad and I have been watching games together, just like we have every year for what seems like my entire life. Sitting in the living room of our little yellow house, the nights where we both manage to be home and fed by 7:10 are my favorite unspoken summer tradition. Making the trek to the stadium doesn't happen often, partially because of the 110/10 interchange, but also because I don't think Dad has fully forgiven the Dodgers for the Time Warner blackout. 

Here, in the blazing sun, I wonder inwardly if and when the sun will reach our seats. A season ticket holder in the row behind me answers my silent question-- "you'll be in the sun about 1:40. It hits me at 1:30" There are no charts that tell you precisely at what moment the sun hits Reserve Section 6, Row H at Dodger Stadium, but there are season ticket holders. I smile and thank him, unfazed by his apparently psychic ability. 

We don't get beer until the third inning. I don't ask why, but I know it's because we're finally in the shade, and so are our cup holders. Even with the degree altering cover of the shade, it's warm enough that the beer feels cooler and crisper, just like this season feels bigger and better given what came before it. 

My eleven year old cousin marvels at the peanut man as he throws bags across five and up two rows of people. My Dad’s girlfriend, who I know has never watched baseball of her own accord, seems genuinely interested in the game. A 20 something behind me dragged to the game by two of his friends thinks we're playing the Pacers and doesn't know what a foul ball is. The mind reading season ticket holder chimes in now and again with commentary directed at the players but meant for our benefit.

 "Come on Loggie Bear, take away some of my hurt!"

"Wake up them bats, boys, come on!" 

For a moment, we are all together. Drawn from the furthest reaches of the sprawling metropolis that is Los Angeles, we're all here, for 9 innings, 27 outs, the national anthem and the seventh inning stretch. This, to me, is the magic of baseball. 

The Dodgers lose, but it's fine. I know they'll be back tomorrow. And so will we.

About the Author: Lauren is a born and raised Angeleno and as such knows that Los Angeles only has one baseball team.


As a straight person, Pride month isn’t about me. It isn’t about the LGBT people I know or rainbow flags or the corporate goodwill projects of the companies I shop at. 

It’s not even about love really— at least, not in the fetishized emoji hearts and rainbows way. It’s about people, in this country and beyond, who encounter prejudice, hate and physical violence every day, and their right to exist without persecution.  Making Pride month solely about love romanticizes a historically violent fight for equality. As with so many things, we’ve come far, but there is much work to be done.

The past year, I’ve watched my little brother come out to friends and family with a mix of relief and trepidation. He’s lucky enough to have an incredible family for whom nothing changed. He is still our same son, brother, nephew that he’s always been. But we live in LA, in liberal California, and I know that this is not everyone’s experience. 

My heart breaks to imagine Rusty being treated differently at work, at the store, at a concert, planning his wedding. I’d do anything I could to protect him from that. But supporting a community isn’t about supporting the people you know in that community and turning a blind eye to the rest. It means being an ally, for every single person, and standing up for them and stepping in when you witness injustice. 

As a straight person, Pride month isn’t about me and my voice shouldn’t be the loudest, but it should be present. This month, and every month, as a sister, a friend, a stranger, an ally. 

The Land

Cleveland is a sports town. Through and through, from babies in Indians onesies to grey haired women in vintage Cavs gear,  the city loves its sports. It is unified around an almost godlike reverence for the Cavaliers, genuine enthusiasm for the Tribe, and apologizing for the Browns the same way that boys complain about their moms (Yes they suck, but no, you can’t say so). 

Lebron James is as much as part of Cleveland as the buildings that house its nearly 400,000 residents. (It doesn’t matter that he is from Akron— close enough). His likeness is plastered across the city— “James 23” emblazoned on the backs of Clevelanders almost like a bible verse, except there is no chapter 23 of James but if there were, it would be about hard work, loyalty and achieving greatness. More than once, I hear and see maybe Lebron’s most beloved quote— “nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.” Beloved is a weird word to use for a quote from an athlete, but it’s the only one that fits. It’s a line from the last paragraph of an open letter Lebron wrote to the city announcing his return, explaining why he left, but stopping short of asking for forgiveness, because, as Lebron says, nothing is given. Everything is earned.

James is not Cleveland’s only hero, though he is certainly their biggest. On the banks of the Cuyahoga River in a rapidly gentrifying area of town, there is an iconic shot of teammate Kyrie Irving with the words “Take your Shots, I’ll Take Mine.” He is exhilarated, almost laughing as he shoots the ball, the crowd behind him frozen in anticipation, their blurred faces a mix of anguish and awe. I know nothing about basketball, but it strikes me. My friend tells me that it’s been called one of the greatest shots in NBA history (by whom, I don’t ask) and explains that it’s from Game 7 of the Cavs historic comeback from a 3-1 deficit against the winningest team in basketball. 

A lot of Cleveland is like this; the city sees itself as an underdog on its way to greatness. Whether intentional or not, some of its biggest sports heroes espouse a mentality of determination and perseverance that strikes me, a born and raised West Coast girl, as distinctly Midwest. Work hard to make yourself the best you can be, don't give up, and you will succeed. The preface to that Lebron quote above? “In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given…” 

The Cavaliers existed for 46 years before they won a Finals.. The Indians haven’t won a World Series since 1948, but they got pretty close last year. And the Browns? When they seemed doomed to a winless 2016 season, someone started a Browns Perfect Season Parade GoFundMe to commemorate a 0-16 season. For both the wins and losses, Cleveland turned out 1.3 million fans celebrated the Cavs win at a historic championship parade. When the Browns eventually blew their perfect season by beating the San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers, the creator donated the money raised— an astonishing $10,000, to a Cleveland Food Bank. And the Browns matched it


This is Cleveland— celebrating wins and enduring losses together. The struggles and victories of Cleveland’s teams are the struggles and victories of Cleveland’s people, a unique breed of men and women, working to earn their place in history— whether anyone outside of Ohio recognizes it or not. 

on being robbed

the dog was darting across pacific coast highway, through a line of oncoming traffic. a thick blue collar wrapped around its neck, it was clearly someone's pet. it looked back briefly as it skittered through the lanes and i cringed every time a car passed through the intersection. sitting in the left hand turn lane, i watched it darting around cars, eventually reaching the sidewalk unharmed.

it sniffed around a triangle of grass on the corner and i wondered-- should i pull over and try to see if it had tags? i was running a few minutes over on my lunch, but i work at a church and knew that stopping was the right thing to do and my boss would agree. inexplicably, i wrestled with the decision for the minute that i sat at that light. should i? it felt like, for some reason, i should not. someone else will stop, i assured myself as two bikers passed the dog apparently unfazed by its vulnerability. as the light changed, something in me took over- -was it guilt? fear of how i would feel were it my dog? whatever it was, i decided to stop. 

i pulled into a nearby parking lot, got out of my car and walked over to the patch of grass where i last saw the dog. i was wearing a dress which would've made it hard to bend over and coax the dog towards me and as the wind picked up the hem rippled in the wind. i looked around for the dog but didn't see it. people looked on from their cars wondering what i was doing on the corner, in the wind, my hand shading my eyes as i looked around for some unseen thing. or maybe no one noticed at all. 

it couldn't have gone far, but i couldn't see it anywhere. the feeling from before, the "you shouldn't have done this" overtook me as i walked back to my car. a group of men exited the restaurant i was parked at and made their way to their respective cars. as i climbed back into mine, i thought maybe i saw the dog from the corner of my eye running down the street. but now there were witnesses, and i had to get back to work.


my dad works hard. he always has. he can fix just about anything and if he can't fix it, he'll build a new one. he's earned everything he has and everything he has given to my family. he had the same kindle (a father's day gift) for five years-- a time span in which i saw three phones, two ipads and a new laptop. he bought himself a new one this Christmas but ended up giving it to my brother instead. last week, he finally bought himself a new one.

we live a pretty simple life, in our small house on a quiet street with our dog. dad has lived there for 13 years, me for three. i've always felt safe, at home alone on the weekends or walking my dog late at night because the rain finally stopped at 12:27AM and she hasn't been outside in 14 hours. 

yesterday, our home was robbed. someone walked into our house, past my sleeping dog, pictures of my brothers as babies, and polaroids of a Christmas party and stole over $4,000 in electronics, cash and personal items.

my brother's brand new backpack that he let me borrow for a trip. my laptop-- the first big purchase i ever made and paid for entirely by myself. a cleveland cavaliers hat that i bought as a souvenir for my brother at the team store and kept in the bag because i thought it was cool. dad's old kindle. and dad's new kindle. 

people talk about the invasion of privacy that comes with a home robbery. it's true-- suddenly there are two very large uniformed police officers in your very small house, taking notes and asking about the value of what's missing. a forensics unit is coming to your home to dust for fingerprints and take photos and you have seen enough episodes of CSI and Law & Order to know that you have seen too many episodes of CSI and Law & Order but you still don't know if you should put things away or touch anything in your house.

for just a brief moment, you stop and try to see your home as the intruders saw it. did they notice the pictures of you on the bookshelf when they took your jar of change, where you hid dollar bills from yourself, secretly saving for some undetermined future? did they know that the sleeping pit bull didn't wake up because she was born deaf? did they realize that the camera that they took is worth maybe $75 to a pawn shop, but much more to you, knowing your mom shot with the same one 20 years ago? when they grabbed a bag of cables did they know that your external hard drive with six years of research and writing was in it as well? was this their first crime? did they act alone? do they have a family? that moment ends abruptly as you realize that you are trying to reason with evil and find logic and understanding where there is none. 

as you're falling asleep in a room that doesn't feel like yours in a home that doesn't feel safe, you'll smell some foreign odor of rot and unfamiliarity. maybe a neighbor is taking out the trash or maybe you're imagining it, but somewhere in the millions of synapse firings, your brain convinces itself that the smell is trace left behind by the people who invaded your home, a bitter and pungent reminder of everything that they took from you. 


sometimes (most of the time) it feels good to have a reason to feel, act, or think the way we do. some all knowing higher power (god/gods/g-d/etc) or insurmountable influence (society) or someone you respect telling you what to do (mom). 

for me, right now, that is mercury.

people who believe in crystals and auras believe that when mercury is retrograde, the world is askew, spinning slightly off its’ axis, things happening exactly as they should not. i just googled it and i still have no idea what mercury being retrograde ACTUALLY means.  (i did learn that the proper grammar is “mercury IS retrograde” NOT “mercury is IN retrograde”)

but i have been blaming shit on mercury for-e-v-e-r. up until a week ago, when mercury clapped the fuck back and said not today, sista. own your mistakes. on the same day, the *stars aligned* and tequila lauren showed up to party and shit hit the fan. i missed almost all of a concert i had been looking forward to for months, lashed out at someone i hardly know, and spilled rehydrated beans all over my best friend’s car. i know, i hate me too. 

in the aftermath of what can only be described as a shitshow, i realized several things. first, i should drink more water and less alcohol. second, i am an asshole. but the real deal, true blue, youcantavoidthisanymore thing that i realized was that i hadn’t processed the loss of someone i had been convincing myself i didn’t miss for over a year. 

there are good people, and there are bad people. there are really, truly, far less bad people in the world than we let ourselves believe. the world is hardly ever as simple as good and bad— that privilege is reserved exclusively for christian bale movies and cheese (always good, never bad.) but when it comes to people, there are a number of good people that we just meet at the wrong time. it doesn’t make them bad, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less when they let us down, or when our relationships with them fall apart because we want different things from each other.

it’s hard, and it hurts, and it sucks. you wonder if you were wrong for them or if you were just wrong. in my experience, it’s a little of both. but one day you’ll get to a place where it hurts a little less, and then one day, not at all. and you’ll sit down at your kitchen table and write about it because that’s how you process it. or you’ll go for a run and sweat it out, or maybe you won’t do anything because you’re a grown adult who understands how relationships work and nothing is forever and life is fleeting. 

we’re all different. maybe you got there faster than me. maybe you need tequila and some quasi-science bullshit like mercury retrograde to get there. maybe you’re more of a whiskey person. i don’t know you. my point is, you’ll get there. and it will feel great. after the hangover.