Measuring 2016 in Joy

So, 2016 wasn’t all bad. Yes, there were a lot of monumental tragedies – the loss of far too many pop culture icons who shaped and influenced us, numerous heartbreaking acts of violence and terrorism the world over, and don’t even get me started with the U.S. election – but for me personally, there were a lot of bright moments, too.

As we approach January 1, I wanted to reflect on all the GOOD things that happened in 2016 and concentrate on manifesting that goodness in 2017.

Here’s a recap of the things that made this year a great one for me:

  1. I tested for my first rank in Aikido, earned my hakama, and served as an uke for an Aikido master (Mary Heiny sensei). Training in martial arts has proven a big challenge for me, but the work ethic and perseverance required have made me stronger and more humble. Bonus – my mental health has improved and my anxiety has lessened drastically.
  2. I had a great publishing year! My short stories “We Share Everything,” “Catch and Release,” Bad Vibrations, “Now You See Me,” “Bad Moonlight,” and “It’s in Her Kiss” all made their way out into the world. And I’m heading into 2017 with a personal essay and two short stories queued up to be published – “Shapeless” in Under the Gum Tree, “Begin Again” in the kINKED anthology by Pen and Kink Publishing, and “He Smelled Like Smoke” in an Ink Stains anthology by Dark Alley Press. I’m also working on a trilogy of magical romance novellas for the Enchanted series by Pen and Kink Publishing, which has been both challenging and a blast.
  3. Kristy Velesko and I created photography magic together. While we were only able to do three shoots together this year (surrounded by flowers, on the beach, and underwater!), they were incredible. I’m so happy she calls me every time she’s in town, because it’s good for me to glam it up and get in front of the camera.
  4. I bought a wedding dress!
  5. I started working for Cognella, Inc., an independent academic publisher, as a content specialist. Not only am I working in my dream industry (publishing), I feel like my work is making a positive impact in the world of academia. Also, the company culture is ridiculously awesome.
  6. My fiance and I launched a website together, 2 Geeks Life, to document all our  nerdy life together.
  7. I rediscovered aerial yoga.
  8. I bought a llama holiday sweater that gives me life!
  9. I became a legit graphic novel collector.
  10. There were numerous cuddle sessions with our puppies.
  11. Bryan and I celebrated one year as San Diego residents.
  12. I attended my first San Diego Comicon!
  13. I SMASHED my Goodreads reading goal – 48 BOOKS (when my goal was 35)!

Not to mention all the food adventures, trips to new locales in San Diego, sweet, romantic moments, laughter with friends, celebrations with family, and the unexpected little joys that make this life wonderful.

I look forward to all the GOOD in 2017. I hope it finds you, too.

Wishing you all a happy New Year!

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Down By the Shore

View More: http://kristyveleskophotography.pass.us/tiffanylajollashores

When I met Kristy of Kristy Velesko Photography at La Jolla Shores for a shoot a couple weeks ago, our session got off to a bit of a rough start. The dress Kristy had ordered for me didn’t fit. She endured a bee sting on the bottom of her foot while we walked to our location – far, far, far down the shore, because the beach was crowded with recent college graduates and their celebrating families. And the June gloom we hoped would paint the beach with moody lighting wasn’t cooperating. It wasn’t cloudy and moody. It was bright and warm.

But even when things don’t go as planned, magic is possible. And magic is 100% what Kristy captured during our session. All we needed to turn this shoot out were a couple clips, some salt water, and lots of laughter.

http://www.kristyveleskophotography.com

 

She Knew I’d Find My Beauty

Photo courtesy of Rachel Hawkinson. Dress by Cleo and Clementine.

Photo courtesy of Rachel Hawkinson. Dress by Cleo and Clementine.

When I was little, I would follow my grandma out onto the back patio of my grandparents’ house during her smoke breaks. I hated the smell of cigarettes, but I adored spending time with her. Grandma Betty was my very first number-one fan. She was the only person on the planet with whom I shared my first “novel”—handwritten on lined pages of a yellow notepad—in grade school. And God knows how many impromptu recitals of the entire Aladdin soundtrack—sung and danced by yours truly—she endured before family dinners together. Of course, she never let on that these performances were probably a burden. Instead, she smiled and encouraged my every move and note.

One day, as we sat on the back patio and smoke curled from my grandma’s mouth, she said, “I could see you becoming a model someday. You’re so pretty. You should do it.” I smiled in response, basking in her compliment, because at the time I felt like anything but the model type. (Note: I would hope very few girls feel like the “model type” in fourth, fifth, and sixth grade.)

In grade school, I was gangly and skinny, all knees and elbows. I was never one to follow fashion trends. I didn’t wear makeup or shave my legs until much later than my peers. I wasn’t super popular and sported short hair when it was all the rage to wear it at long as possible. Very early on, I accepted this notion that I wasn’t “commercially” or “classically” beautiful.

And as I’ve become an adult, I’ve realized that my youthful notion was a crock of shit. Because beauty isn’t commercial or classical or any other description you want to try to label it with. Beauty exists in all things and all people. Grandma Betty knew this. And she knew I’d figure it out, too. I love her for that.

Sadly, my grandma died before I had the chance to formally pose in front of a camera.

Today, photos of me—taken by the amazing and fabulous Rachel Hawkinson—are featured in Chandler Lifestyle magazine. Go to their website, click on the April 2015 issue, and flip to page 26 to me modeling the gorgeous bridal couture of Cleo and Clementine.

I hope my grandma can see the pictures today. I hope she’s peering down through the clouds with a smile on her face, saying, “I knew you could do it. You look beautiful, Tiffany.”

Model(ing) Behavior

Photo by Cori Greener Roberts of Cori Roberts Photography. All rights reserved.

Photo by Cori Greener Roberts of Cori Roberts Photography. All rights reserved.

When offered the opportunity to be a model for a shoot at the Icehouse a few months ago, I was both elated and terrified. Elated because I love getting in front of the camera (perhaps I watched a few too many episodes of America’s Next Top Model in high school and college); terrified because it would be my first shoot in my new skin. You see, because I’m no longer training and performing, my body has changed. I’m a little curvier and a little softer. And my deep seated insecurities weren’t sure how my new body would photograph.

But I’m in the business of doing things that scare me. Growth isn’t possible unless you challenge yourself. And when opportunity knocks, you don’t stay on the couch eating Cheetos; you get dressed up and go out.

Photo by Cori Greener Roberts of Cori Greener Photography. All rights reserved.

Photo by Cori Greener Roberts of Cori Greener Photography. All rights reserved.

And I’m so happy that I showed up ready to work and ready to embrace this new body, because the shots are incredible. I’m proud of them. And I’m proud of me for modeling good behavior, posing my ass off, and regaining my confidence.

Photo by Danielle Daigle of Danielle Daigle Photography. All rights reserved.

Photo by Danielle Daigle of Danielle Daigle Photography. All rights reserved.

To all of the photographers who were so supportive and complimentary that day, thank you for reminding me that I’m damn beautiful and I shouldn’t hide behind my insecurities.

To anyone out there looking for beautiful photography, I would recommend each and every person with whom I worked that day. Each photo in this post includes photographer credits. Jump to the end of the post for links to each photographer’s business.

Photo by Denise Nicole Saucedo of Denise Nicole Photography. All rights reserved.

Photo by Denise Nicole Saucedo of Denise Nicole Photography. All rights reserved.

Photo by Krista Johnson of Krista Johnson Photography. All rights reserved.

Photo by Krista Johnson of Krista Johnson Photography. All rights reserved.

Photo by Krista Johnson of Krista Johnson Photography. All rights reserved.

Photo by Krista Johnson of Krista Johnson Photography. All rights reserved.

Photo by Kristy Velesko of Kristy Velesko Photography. All rights reserved.

Photo by Kristy Velesko of Kristy Velesko Photography. All rights reserved.

Photo by Kristy Velesko of Kristy Velesko Photography. All rights reserved.

Photo by Kristy Velesko of Kristy Velesko Photography. All rights reserved.

Photo by Stefani Bullard of Stefani Bullard Photography. All rights reserved.

Photo by Stefani Bullard of Stefani Bullard Photography. All rights reserved.

Photo by Stefani Bullard of Stefani Bullard Photography. All rights reserved.

Photo by Stefani Bullard of Stefani Bullard Photography. All rights reserved.

Cori Roberts Photography

Danielle Daigle Photography
Krista Johnston Photography
Kristy Velesko Photography
Denise Nicole Photography
Stefani Bullard Photography

Mirror, Mirror

Photo by flickr user "noahwood."

Photo by flickr user “noahwood.”

I had a love/hate relationship with Nike in the sixth grade. All of the popular girls walked around in Nike hoodies. I wanted to be one of them, but I also had enough sense at that age to recognize that labels were stupid. I considered asking my mom for some Nike gear to see if it would change how the girls in class (and the boys for that matter) looked at me, but I never did. The famous Nike symbol wasn’t really my thing and I decided it wasn’t worth it. I came to terms with the fact that I was destined to be “ordinary” by sixth grade standards.

But my absence of swoosh wasn’t the only reason I wasn’t one of the popular girls. I was rocking a Dorothy Hamill ‘do at the time. My growth spurt hit around that age, so I was super skinny, all knees and elbows, even though I ate like a horse (like I’m talking marshmallows, butter, and Rice Krispies out of a bowl). I was a bookworm who was always writing short stories about fitting in and social justice and romance (I was that precocious). I didn’t curl my hair or wear make-up except for dance recitals. I wasn’t allowed to shave my legs until sixth grade and even then, it was only because I came home and told my mom that I needed a razor now because a boy at school had called me a “wooly mammoth.” True story.

When middle school and high school hit, same ingénue, slightly different story. I gained some confidence through dance, friends who were misfits, too (my high school group was affectionately dubbed “The Amoeba”), a prominent role in the theatre department, praise for being a smart girl, and my first boyfriend.

But even then I never considered myself the pretty girl that anyone wanted to be. I was known at school, but not sought after. I didn’t date a lot. I wasn’t invited to parties. I was still taking risks with fashion (who wore black pleather pants to school with a matching jacket – oh yeah, that was me). I’d started wearing make-up, but class was at 7:30am and I prefered shuteye to eyeliner.

I had some standout moments for sure, but for the most part I was just one of the crowd. And that was okay. I was finding my way just fine and I really liked who I was becoming. I started to grow comfortable with the fact that I would never be the proverbial popular girl who was pretty and charming and destined to take over the world with the flick of a well-manicured fingernail.

But luckily, I never got that comfortable with the concept of being ordinary, normal, common, or average. Because I’m not. No one is. Like Nikka Costa says, “Everybody got their something.” You just gotta tune into it. And there are a few things we girls need to learn, to internalize, to really understand.

Ahem…for example…

I’ve learned how to own my quirky, interesting, sometimes androgynous, sometimes other era look.

I’ve learned that you don’t have to be commercial or classic to be beautiful.

I’ve learned that it’s confidence in front of a camera that makes a model, not genetics.

I’ve learned that it’s freaking fantastic not to peak in high school or college.

I’ve learned that being genuine is more flattering than any color made by MAC.

I’ve learned that flaunting what you’ve got attracts opportunities like mad.

I’ve learned that the girl in the pictures below is fierce and gorgeous and motivated and smart. She’s surely destined to take over the world…

And she never had to wear a Nike hoodie to do it.

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All photos courtesy of Eric Fiallos of Bald Pirate Creations. All rights reserved. No copy or redistribution of this work is permitted.

Licensing info for noahwood’s image.