Tag Archives: lgbt writer

Queerly Me

My favorite thing about myself is that I am Queer.
*That’s partly a joke, and partly not. 

21 years is how long it took to make that declaration, even though I knew much earlier on in life than that, but I was filled with fear and a lot of self hatred. 

You may be thinking “yeah, yeah we know..”…so what is the point of this post? Today is National Coming Out Day – which is celebrated every October 11 since the history of its first occurrence which dates back to 1988. 

October is also LGBTQ+ history month, and you might be thinking…wait? I thought that was in June? Nope. June is Pride month. *I’ll share resources at the bottom for those that are  interested. 

Sometimes I forget how far we still have to go, because often I am surrounded by folks that are accepting and wanting to learn how to be better allies. Then I get smacked in the face with hearing stories of hatred that my friends, kids I know, and my own experiences that happen on the daily. How quickly I get snapped back into reality.

My mere existence, as well as other folks within the LGBTQ+ community, to some is considered to be political. I’m still trying to wrap my head around how who I am as a human being, who I love, and how I am can be mixed in with politics. 

When will we admit that we use our judgements, our prejudices, our ignorance, and ultimately our fear for the unknown and bundle that up to call it “political views”. Political views are for election day, not an excuse of judgement against the identities of others. It is then that we cross the line into hatred without being aware of the hate we are spreading. (In saying all of that it is important to note: As a white Queer who has faced hard times for being Queer, that I still have privilege as a white person and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Queer folks have an even harder time existing in this world.)

Most of us long for a time when “coming out” is no longer necessary – as I am sure our Queer elders dreamed of as they paved the way before us …and younger generations as they become the leaders in reinventing what existing in this world will be like as they continue to grow older. 

Quote from Queer Poet Andrea Gibson
Art Credit to IG: the_body_cliinic

I want to jump back to what I said in the beginning. I love being Queer, it did take me awhile to get to where I am now as I begin the journey of my early 30s. 

Every individual has a different experience and journey when it comes to “coming out” and/or “disclosing”. Some folks know and are out very early in life, some not until later in life, and some never feel comfortable or safe enough to be able to. 

So, this isn’t just a hug to my fellow Queers. This is a call-in to my allies.

I know the importance of being surrounded by positive influences that give reassurance that it is okay to be who you are. Reminding folks that living their truth to who they are is the greatest gift and would save a lot of Queerbies (baby Queers) years of having to unpack any shame. 

Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community is like belonging to a group of long lost family members we have yet to meet. Chosen family is a word that I hold close to my chest for the Queer friends that I have in my life. I am grateful to those that have paved the way for me and those that will make greater change when it comes time for me to take a bow.

There are many other things I adore about myself, which is why I said my favorite part about myself is that I am Queer was partly a joke. Ultimately it is the truth, because I am proud and I am appreciative of the journey I weathered to get to be outwardly proud of who I am as a Queer person.

Take pride in who you are, because there is no else out there like you. Whether you are out and proud or still working on it. Either way, you belong to that long lost family of LGBTQ+ folks you have yet to meet and you are loved just the same. 

And if ever in doubt…dance it out

*Some* resources for further reading:

LGBTQ+ History Month:
https://lgbthistorymonth.com/

LGBTQ+ Pride Month:
https://www.loc.gov/lgbt-pride-month/about/

National Coming Out Day:
https://www.baker.edu/about/get-to-know-us/blog/national-coming-out-day

https://www.them.us/story/the-history-of-national-coming-out-day-contains-both-pride-and-pain

10 Songs to Add to Your Playlist for September

This blog is officially a year old. 

I am satisfied with the base line of what this blog has become within the first year. I did not hit all of my goals of posting consistently, but I didn’t give up on writing when I missed weeks either (that’s a win in my book).

My goal for the second year of this blog is to grow my audience. This first week of September has been a lot of positive self-talk and pumping myself up. 

Remembering to focus on the goal when all I really want to do is give up.

This month of September has been testing me more than usual and it is only the first week.

I am sharing these 10 songs with you because they have helped me get through this very frustrating start to the month. Enjoy:

Gotta Get Through This – Remix – Daniel Bedingfield

**Listen to this song when you need an early 00’s nostalgic boost of energy to get through something in life

All of the Time – Jungle

**Listen if you need sudden a song that will instantly put you in a good mood

Just Fine – Mary J Blige

**Listen to this bop if you want to feel empowered

Beethoven – Kenndog

**Listen if you are looking for a new rap artist to listen to

September – Earth, Wind, & Fire

**Listen if you are actually happy September is here and ready for autumn weather

Deep Reverence – Big Sean, Nipsey Hussle

**Listen if you are still not convinced you should be listening to Big Sean (because you should)

Lost Ones – Lauryn Hill

**Listen to this song if you need a reason to feel compelled to revisit this *chefs kiss* of an album

Rumors – Lizzo ft Cardi B

**Listen to this song if you are behind in new music, because you should already have this one on your playlist

Bodies – The Knocks ft MUNA

**Listen to this song if you are looking for music that will transport you ahead of time to autumn



It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay – Whitney Houston

**Listen to this song if you need to be reminded that “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay”

What are some songs that have been getting you through this first week of September? Share with me below in the comments!

*Also if you haven’t already, please subscribe to this blog with your e-mail. Part of growing my audience this year is wanting to grow my e-mail subscribers. If you enjoy what I write, tell a friend about my website today – I’ll be forever grateful!*

Grief is Not Linear

Grief isn’t linear and it f**king sucks. 

When I was younger, 8 years old to be exact – I lost my Pop-Pop to cancer. A concept I couldn’t quite grasp and even though I carried that loss with me throughout my life. I think I was too young to fully understand. Losing him did mean that I only had my Mom-Mom left in the grandparents department as I never had the privilege of meeting my Dad’s parents before they passed. 

Grief is different when you’re a child. 

The impact changes as we grow, but as I’ve said before- never linear and ultimately feels like each loss we experience is connected like a spider web. 

I remember the sunken feeling I felt when I was in my early twenties and experienced grief in a different way. The news hit me like a ton of bricks. My childhood friend had passed away at the mere age of 23. A woman I admired, a bright light on this earth with one of the kindest & loving families. 

That hurt, for years and it still does. 

Five years ago last week I lost my Mom-Mom and despite the time that has passed – the impact still comes in tidal waves of emotion. She was my rock, the person I talked to on the phone with every day (on my ridiculous 3 hr round trip commutes to work from South Philly to Germantown via Septa and A LOT of walking), and the woman that believed in me unconditionally & loved me just the same. 

There is a memory her and I both cherished that we reminisced about often. It was from when I was younger and I would stay over at her house on the weekends. One of those days we happened to be sitting out on the porch looking up to the sky and suddenly what felt like magic – swarms of golden monarch butterflies appeared. As they migrated above our heads we counted well over 100. Nature’s work of art.

When she got sick five years ago, it all seemed to happen quickly and suddenly. I remember it was right around my birthday and I was at my sister’s visiting my nephew. I promised my Mom-Mom I would make a stop back home to see her before returning to the city. Something in my gut made me feel like I should surprise her a day early. 

I was twenty minutes from home when my uncle called. They had taken her to the hospital and it wasn’t good. My insides suddenly felt like a million pretzel knots and I lost the ability to remember how to breathe. The plans had changed and I was to meet my other sister at the hospital, so we could go in to see her with my aunt and uncle. 

My gut instincts knew heartbreak was near, and that the time I had left with my Mom-Mom was limited.

For two nights I stayed with her in the hospital, not wanting to leave her side – I wanted her to know I was there, even if she wasn’t completely lucid. I didn’t want her to wake up and be alone. Growing up she made it her mission to know she was always there for me, I couldn’t bare the thought of leaving her by herself.

When the time did come that week when I had to leave to go back to the city, it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do and still to this day that remains true. 

I knew when I looked her in her eyes and she looked back at me. That was going to be the last time we exchanged “I love yous” face to face. And it was. 

Grief is a roller coaster that you ride blindly. 

That week was difficult – being alone was the worst and work was more of a reminder than a distraction. I was able to talk to her twice that week on the phone to hear her voice, which felt like a gift in itself. But then that day at the end of August came and my phone rang. She was gone. 

No matter what people speak of losing a loved one – the hard truth is this: it never gets easier, you learn to live with the grief. 

And there are times when something important happens and I have to remind myself she isn’t a phone call away anymore.

There are no answers, there is just love and the impact of that love that we all carry with us from those that we have lost along the way.

Grief isn’t linear and may be infinite, but the love that remains within us knows no bounds.

10 Things That Got Me Through This Week

It’s August, the month I love and hate. 

I love it because it’s my birthday month and I hate it because it usually marks the end of summer. 

For that reason this week has been a true struggle.

So here’s a list of 10 things that got me through this week and maybe will help you too: 

1. Buying a ticket to An Evening with James Lapine & Stephen Sondheim only because Christine Baranski was the moderatorlisten my appreciation for that woman is REAL and I feel no shame.

2. Cooking instead of ordering take-out – maybe it is because I’m the daughter of a chef, but being in the kitchen centers me. Also I love take-out, however in DC it is OVERPRICED (as are most things in this city).

3. Washing dishes while listening to true crime podcasts -I love a good true crime podcasts. Recommendations are welcomed.

4. Dancing it out (channeling earlier Grey’s Anatomy vibes)- mostly to 00’s Janet Jackson music

5. Putting music on the record player again – too often I forget how this uplifts me with such pretentious joy.

6. Going for a walk everyday- even if it was to the grocery store or just to get an iced coffee. I hate advice like this sometimes, but it really does make a difference when you’re able to talk yourself into going for a walk.

7. Inspiration from Newsletters- Josh Spector is always offering great advice in his newsletters. One of the latest thing he suggested was a take on how to write fill-in-the-blank-headlines. I’ve clearly taken note: check it out here.

8. Interacting with writers on Twitter reassuring me I’m just at the eeek part of my 30s and it does get better

9. Mindless, interesting, quick fun way to see how you differ from the “average” person (from Josh Spector Newsletter)- link here

10. Sipping tea remembering that despite birthday depression (it’s a thing..I read it on twitter…), I’d rather not be anything but a Leo sun:

What is one thing or a few that have uplifted your spirits this summer?

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make a List

Sometimes life gets in the way. 

I found myself deeply involved in trying to plan the four day extravangzAaa (the obnoxious way I titled our Google Doc of trip ideas) last week that I realized I forgot to write. 

When I travel by myself or with my partner, one of the things I enjoy doing is to research the location. I’m not the kind of person that NEEDS to stick to the itinerary, I’m too much of a “type B” person for that. I am the kind of person that NEEDS and WANTS to do research beforehand for maximum fun. For me it is part of the excitement- like the pregame to the vacation. 

The funny thing is I have a few of these Google Docs created from trips we were supposed to take in 2020 which sadly sit there because well…you know, the pandemic that happened and is still going on.

So, this four day extravangzAaa was actually a last minute change to a road trip to Louisville we were going to take because everything else is ridiculously expensive right now because EVERYONE is trying to travel at the moment. We decided for safety and excitement reasons to switch it up to day trips that would excite us instead. 

Aside from feeling distracted lately, there are a list of things that I have compiled to share with you all about the things that have been bringing me intentional happiness:  

  • Grouplove on vinyl
    As pretentious as it sounds to some… I enjoy listening to certain artists on vinyl more than any other format.

  • Reality TV is BACK: Big Brother and Live Feeds
    I have a deep love for this show. When I was introduced to it back in season 18 I went back and binge watched previous seasons (well the ones worth watching) and jumped on the Live Feed bandwagon. The cast this season is the best that the show has had in a long time and I’ve been loving every second of it.

  • Reality TV is BACK: Real Housewives of Potomac
    I never thought I would watch any season of the Real Housewives franchise, but there is just something about Potomac. The new season just started and although I was sad not to see Monique – I am so ready for the new cast member Mia. My favorite part of this show will forever and always be Ashley Darby’s facial expressions though.

  • Signed up for Masterclass
    This has been a fantastic investment. I’ve only completed Shonda Rhimes’ so far, but it has been informative and the Shonda Rhimes fan in me was geeking out the whole time. I look forward to taking some other classes as well. One thing of the few things I gained was the importance of character development. So, if you are curious about TV writing, a writer filled with curiosity, or a fan of Shonda – go sign up for Masterclass.

  • Tweet, tweet
    I had a twitter way back in my twenties that I got rid of because no one ever needs to hear the thoughts of early twenty year old me (much like my tumblr). Anyway, I realized that a solid way to try to build an audience was to introduce my writer self to twitter. Follow me if you’re on the bird app – tracitaywrites.

  • Food 4 Thot:
    I love this podcast, like a lot..and since I’m not walking to work right now. I find myself listening to this when I am cleaning my apartment because it gets me to actually clean. They are like my sprinkle of Queerness ear candy in the pile of true crime podcasts I listen to.

  • Little Free Library 
    One of my favorite new things to do is walk around my neighborhood and drop off some of my old beloved books in the Little Free Libraries. It de-clutters my apartment, makes room on my bookshelf (for MORE books of course), and spreads some great literature to folks looking to read more!

  • Iced Coffee Walks 
    I am loving my relaxed summer mornings going out and walking to get an iced coffee. Some days they spark inspiration, most days they just spike my energy level.

That’s all for now, as I go back to distracting myself to everyday life and daydreaming of wishing I still lived by the ocean while I bare this DC humidity for another summer.

A Writer is a Writer

What makes a writer a writer? Does it matter if they are published? Is it possible to call yourself a writer if you aren’t? Are you a writer if you simply write everyday? Is there a requirement that one must write everyday to be a writer?

Sometimes I think artists of any craft are the hardest on themselves. Perhaps it is the way our brains are wired. 

These are thoughts I have been pondering lately as I make a bolder mark on the world with my voice as a writer. 

Whenever I feel lost in my determination, I think back to this particular quote by a writer named Adam Gnade, “Everyone’s a “writer” between the ages of 16 and 22 because everyone at that age is a romantic. This is okay. The key is to keep doing it after the rest of them quit.”

That quote comes from one of his short essay books entitled Do It Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big F**king Sad. 

“Everyone Good is Necessary”-Adam Gnade ,Photograph by Traci Taylor

Part of me believes if you consider yourself a writer – then you are in fact a writer. Similarly to most things in life, don’t let other people try to label what you are. 

If we learned anything from experiencing a pandemic it is that we were almost forced to get to know ourselves and what we want out of life. Or you just felt stuck with yourself and it was a really frightening experience. I’d like to note…one that we are all frankly still experiencing despite the overwhelming return back to a “new normal”. 

What I found within myself during that time was a re-exploration of the writer in me. For years I called myself an aspiring writer, too shy to claim the sole title of writer itself. I recreated a website focusing on the things I love the most (MUSIC, MOVIES, TV, ALL THINGS GAY) and donned myself a writer. 

There are still many times when I feel lost and I need to recenter myself. I either go for a walk and listen to Jim Croce or I return back to that Adam Gnade quote. 

Whatever you decide your calling in life is, if you are already doing or creating – you are already on your way. 

Let me know below in a comment what are some of the things that help you to recenter yourself.

Summertime is Here Again

Summer had a greater meaning to my life when I was younger

Cape May, NJ Beach Photograph by Traci Taylor

-Spending all day at the beach 
-My birthday season (yes I am a Leo sun) 
-The opening of our backyard pool (yes, that meant pool parties)
-Family BBQ’s in the backyard with corn that we would shuck from Legates
-Endless bike rides to the bay just to coast down the big hill
-Wishing oh so badly that my Dad believed in air conditioning
-My hometown going from complete ghost town to overcrowded tourist central
-Nights at the Wildwood Boardwalk

Living in a couple of different cities for almost ten years I can say one thing, summer does not have the same feeling or meaning for me. Give me any of the other three seasons, please – because summertime in the city is not ideal compared to having the privilege of living near the beach in the summer. 

This summer more than ever I find myself trying to rediscover music I used to listen to that reminds me of having my windows down in my Jeep driving all over town. 

I tried so hard to get out of that small town, and now I would give anything to travel back in time to live another summer day in Cape May.

Here’s a taste of music that pulls me right back in to those summertime memories:

Diamonds and Coal – Incubus

There was a whole summer in my late teens where I would only listen to Incubus. I had a deep infatuation with Brandon Boyd. So, for me when I think of summer time music I think back to Incubus and the times my best friend and I went to see them in concert. 

Bad Fish – Sublime

Yes, I had a very long phase of deeply loving Sublime. I had almost every album and a poster up on my bedroom door. There was a time in high school when my friend and I were on the bus coming home from an away lacrosse game singing this song obnoxiously loud (the rest of the team was not thrilled). When I think of the summer and driving around in my old forest green jeep grand cherokee sport – I think of blaring Sublime driving to see the sunset at the bay with my windows down. 

Blue Sky – Allman Brothers Band

I’ve always self proclaimed myself to be an old soul. The music I mainly loved growing up was from the 60s and 70s. By the time I was a teenager I had a fascination with jam bands and hippie culture. The Allman Brothers were very high on my list of songs I loved to listen to on a cool summer day.

Sweet Honey – Slightly Stoopid

When you grow up living by the beach I think it is almost mandatory to have a love for “beach music”. Slightly Stoopid has the same kind of musical vibe as bands like Sublime, Pepper, and G. Love. Light hearted music that makes you wish you were spending days upon days just soaking in the sun on the beach.

The Wheel – Grateful Dead

My love for the Grateful Dead is intense. I’ve seen Bob, Phil, and the Dead in concert many many times – but sadly never Jerry. Those concerts really are unlike anything you would ever experience at another musical event. A community of Dead Heads come together to enjoy music and just dance. My favorite part was always the before when people just hang out before the concert – you meet some great folks at these events. I heard them perform this song and it has always stuck in my memory as one of the most memorable performances I had seen of theirs.

Jamming – Bob Marley

The love and appreciation I have for Bob Marley and his sons is one I could probably never find the exact words for. I admire his music and his story – I had many of his albums. As I grew older though, I started to appreciate the music his sons were creating more so. There is poetry to his music and you can hear how he sings from his soul in almost all of his songs.

The Traffic Jam – Stephen and Damian Marley

The song this album is off of by Stephen Marley is one of my favorite albums. This is not the acoustic version, but I highly recommend listening to the entire acoustic version of this album. I had it on repeat growing up. Fun fact – I was lucky enough to see these two perform on South Street when I was a senior in high school. At the time it felt so surreal to see the two of them in person, and it was a spectacular performance.

Your Love – Dirty Heads feat Ky-mani Marley

This is the ultimate – drink in hand, sand beneath your feet, and nothing but ocean for miles in front of you kind of song. A reminder of late nights with friends and sun burns I would much rather forget.

Baby’s Got Sauce – G Love and the Special Sauce

G Love’s music reminds me of high school summer nights and an age I don’t want to go back to – but I’d relive the carefree-ness of it all if I could. This song is a little playful, and is really meant to be listened to in times of joyous celebration. Fun fact – G Love is actually an alum to a school in Philly that I used to work at, and I didn’t know that until after I moved on to work at a another school.

Try (Just a Little Bit Harder) Janis Joplin

The time to listen to Janis is in any season, but I used to prefer to listen to her music in the summertime. Her voice is out of this world incredible and there’s no one else like her (and I cringe at the Amy Winehouse comparisons, so don’t even try).

Zebra – John Butler Trio

John Butler trio is definitely one of those laid back, beach vibes kind of tunes to listen to. This is one of my favorite songs, but “Ocean” the live version is worth a listen to. Every setting in life has a soundtrack if you think about it and music just like this is what goes along with summers at the beach.


Touch of Grey – Grateful Dead

One of the more high energy Grateful Dead songs that is highly ranked for me. This song was definitely one I had blaring out of my Jeep many many times. When my first nephew was born I used to sing this to him often and it would always get him to smile. He is about to turn six in a couple of weeks and that makes me feel older than I realize. It also makes me realize how fast time can go in a blink of an eye. Somehow though, it still feels like just yesterday I was riding around listening the Grateful Dead either planning a night with friends, headed to the beach, headed to a show, or going to work a double at work. Good ol’ summer days in Cape May.

What are somethings that remind you of summer?

Cape May Beach, NJ Photograph by Traci Taylor

Queer TV Characters That I Love and You Need to Know

Pop culture is everything to me. 

To me, pop culture is: everything relating to television, movies, celebrities, music, and the history of it all…rather broad, but you get the picture, right?

There are few things I love more than television. 

credit: wifflegif

Too many underrated television characters, particularly Queer, that don’t get enough recognition for how memorable they are. So often the same LGBTQ shows get highlighted along with the same characters over and over again. 

I have taken it upon myself to share with you all the gems of the Queer TV character icons that I adore.

Elektra (Pose) 

At first Elektra was not my favorite character on this show, not even close. Then I re watched season one and recognized her for the true icon of a character she is. The latest and final season really gave us a glimpse into the depths of Elektra (which was also probably my favorite episode of this latest season). Let me be honest though, Elektra wouldn’t be Elektra if it wasn’t the fabulous Dominique Jackson playing her. 

Jake Rodriguez
(Tales of the City 2019) 

Image from metro.co.uk

I love the majority of the characters in the most recent adaptation of Tales of the City (based off of the series of books by Armistead Maupin) and the actors who play them. For me though, it is the depth of Jake’s character and his journey throughout the miniseries that made him stand out for me. The actor who plays Jake in Tales of the City, Garcia, really has a way of making you fall in love with their character…or maybe that was just me. 

Alice (The L Word) 

Everyone may think of Shane or Bette or Tina or Bette and Tina when they think of the L Word…but without Alice, would there even be an L word? There is so much to love about Alice with her humor and quirks. She loves hard, really hard and there is something relatable about that. Leisha Hailey is a gem, and she continues to portray Alice in the L Word Generation Q where she is still just as lovable as ever. 

Noah (Noah’s Arc) 

Image from towleroad

Noah’s Arc was actually a quarantine binge last year from my partner and I. Neither of us had ever seen the show before, but got instantly hooked and then instantly sad because there are only two seasons (and you can no longer get the movie that follows it up). All of the characters within the show are likeable, but Noah is a stand out in my eyes. Darryl Stephens portrays Noah in a way that you are always hoping things work out for him in the end. 

Marco (Degrassi) 

Too often the Canadian show about ALL the teen issues to ever happen and I mean ALL of them goes forgotten. Unless of course you remember where Drake really started from or you watched his latest “I’m Upset” video where fans of Degrassi got the brief reunion we all desperately, secretly, yearn for. I don’t think it would be possible for me to write a list of TV Queer icons without mentioning Marco. He was my introduction to a younger gay person learning to discover, accept themselves, and be proud of who they are. 

Alice (Good Trouble)

Yes, another Alice. This may be just because I love Sherry Cola (the actor who portrays Alice), but ultimately she is one of the greatest current Queer characters on TV right now. Alice is charming, funny, and quirky (there must be something in the character name). For me, when a character feels like you wish they were your best friend in real life – you know the writing & actor portraying the character have done their jobs. 

Kay
(Banana ep 6 ..also featured in
Cucumber eps 7 & 8) 

This is really just because I love T’Nia and everything she ever acts in (Also see her in two of my personal favorites – Years & Years and Bly Manor). There’s this Queer butterfly flutter that happens when you watch an actor in a Queer role and then also discover they themselves are Queer…that definitely happened for me after watching the episodes with Kay in them. 

Emmett (Queer as Folk US) 

Queer as Folk may be outdated in many many things, but there is no denying how lovable Emmett is. After I finally sat down to watch the series a couple of years back, each episode always left me wishing Emmett was my best friend. Once again, when this happens in a show you know the job was done right. Plus, the actor who portrays Emmett also created one of my favorite shows The Fosters which also brought us Good Trouble (remember Alice from earlier in the list?)…see everything comes full circle. 

Micah (L Word Generation Q) 

One of my graduation gifts from grad school last year was a cameo from Leo Sheng who potrays Micah in the L Word Generation Q…because my partner knows how he is my favorite new character in the reboot series. I geeked out to say the least. The character of Micah brings so much joy to the new series – between his friendship relations and his romantic relations …he really is the most likeable, relatable new character in Generation Q. 

Titus
(Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) 

Last but certainly not least..because there was no order to this list. The comedy, the broadway-esque spontaneity, the radiance…he really is a stand out character throughout the entire series. Not to mention a loyal friend to Kimmy through and through. Without Tituss Burgess the character of Titus Andromedon would not be as flawlessly spectacular as he is.

Who are some of your favorite Queer TV Characters? I would love to hear, let me know below in the comments!

Sunsets, Sunrises, & Relaxation

There are many times I try to find ways to center myself through meditation or just listening to music. This week I learned a 4-7-8 breathing technique from my therapist that I found helpful in the moment. 

First you inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, hold that breath in for 7 seconds, and then exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. I repeated this about four times – and felt my anxiety sort of melt away. This isn’t a guaranteed fix and I am no expert – but when I learn things that I find helpful for me, I think it is important to share just in case it may help someone else along the way. 

Watching sunsets or sunrises used to be my favorite calming activity that left me feeling a sense of relief and hope. I often miss seeing those sights in my old South Philly apartment and definitely miss the beauty of a Cape May sunset in my hometown. 

Which is why I take so many sunset/sunrise photos and the reason behind the photo wall in my apartment. Looking back over those photographs gives me a sense of comfort, almost like I feel at home when looking at them. 

Here are a few of my favorite sunset/sunrise photos I have captured with my commentary attached: 

North Cape May, NJ by the bay 2015

This photograph was taken the last time I went to see my Mom Mom before she got too sick. Looking back on this photo always gives me chills because it is one of my favorites for how exquisite the sky appears – but knowing what I know now it also feels like a reminder message to appreciate. This photo brings to mind a quote my Mom Mom used to say to me often, “Ya know those bumper stickers that say life’s a beach? Well they lied. Life’s a bitch, not a beach.”

4th and Washington, South Philly 2014

Without a doubt, this right here is one of my favorite photographs I have ever taken during my time living in Philly. I used to walk all around this city and I captured this on my walk home from a restaurant shift. As a person that grew up in a beach town, I consider myself able to say this… Philadelphia has some of the best sunsets I have ever laid my eyes on. With that being said, most things Philly remind me of Grouplove – and at the point in my life when I took this photo I used to play this band so much it got on a lot of peoples nerves.

Mifflin Street, Home Sweet Home 2015

I really loved this apartment because of the sunset and sunrise views I got. After living in the same house for 23 years of my life, knowing I could never return because it was sold – I never knew if I would feel the same sense of home again. I felt that deeply when living in this city and viewing this skyline everyday. It gave me a lot of hope and reminds me of this quote by Mary Oliver, “Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.

Views from Seattle 2015

My spontaneous 25th “treat yo self” birthday present …one of the best decisions I ever made. A city I often dreamed about moving to since I was 13 or 15. Andrea Gibson one of my favorite poets has said, “Commit to loving yourself completely. It’s the most radical thing you will do in your lifetime.” That is what that trip and that fiery sunset photograph remind me of – to love oneself.

The View of a Mifflin St Sunset 2015

I wasn’t kidding when I said this view delivered sunsets and sunrises to photograph nonstop. In my early to mid twenties living in Philly, I did feel lost and unsure of what the future held – but seeing those bursts of color in the sky made everything seem okay. Sometimes I’d ask myself in Talking Heads fashion though, “How did I get here?”

Balcony South Philly Views 2016

Oh to have a private outside space in the city! And with sunset views that look like a painting? My Dad used to send me this song (Fall in Philadelphia by Hall and Oates) all the time when I lived in Philly, so naturally it is bound to jog my memory when looking at these glorious Philly photographs.

Portland Maine sunrise 2017

First trip to Portland, ME was a solo trip and I fell in love with this town. So much so that I made sure that one of the first trips my partner and I went on was to come back to Portland. This sunrise was a resetting of sorts, and beginnings were right around the corner that I didn’t know were coming yet. Whenever I need a bit of hope, I often will play some Rilo Kiley – that resonates deeply with this photo. A sunrise bringing on many new horizons.

NYC Christmas Eve 2018

The first Christmas I spent with my partner in NYC and it was absolutely magical. There really is a sunset for every special moment in life. After this view we went to dinner and then spent the majority of Christmas Eve in Cubbyhole when Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” came on. That song tends to follow us around, and when I look at this photo I think of my partner and our moments with that song.

Ocean City, MD at sunrise 2018

I grew up in Cape May, but my partner grew up going to Ocean City Maryland (which as someone from NJ that is not the Ocean City I knew). The sunrises we could see from the balcony were breathtaking. I remember during this time having lived in DC for about a year – really needing something to bring me back to myself. I didn’t appreciate sunrises or waking up early until I got a bit older. Truthfully I only ever get up early because of sunrises.

Sunrise Over South Philly 2015

No, this isn’t a painting…although it definitely looks like one. I remember rolling out of bed this morning and seeing how exquisite the sunrise was. I sat there trying to capture the vibrant colors. Hands down my favorite sunrise photo I ever captured living in this apartment. The song that started to play in my mind when looking back at this photo was “New Slang” by The Shins…no clue why, but it seemed right.

South of Spruce Street Harbor Sunset, 2016

Every now and again I would walk from South Philly up to the waterfront right around the time the sun would be setting. Growing up by the ocean I often feel compelled to seek out bodies of water as a sense of comfort or reminder that things flowing along in life as they should be. This sunset was one that brought me reassurance. In the words of Mary Oliver, “I don’t ask for the sights in front of me to change, only the depth of my seeing.” Although plot twist, the sights did change because I ended up in DC the following year.

Born & Raised: Cape May Beach Sunset 2014

Last, but not least and with a classic old Instagram frame added to it as well. This was taken during my first trip back visiting my hometown after my childhood home sold and I moved to Philly. I longboarded down to the beach front from my old work place where I was visiting some old friends just to capture this sunset. My love for sunsets all stem from where I was born and raised – it is often how I hold on to that piece of me as I exist in other places in the world. You’re welcome in advance for this old Al Alberts classic…I guess I love my lil ol’ hometown in NJ more than I like to admit sometimes.

*please contact me for permission to use any photographs or if you would like a print*

Songs to Ease Your Mind

With the way of the world currently it feels important to state this message very clearly: Protect Trans Kids.
Art by: Tray Taylor
IG:: @allusiontoreality

There never seems to be enough time. 

I think that is something we have all felt before or something that we constantly feel. All in all, it may be easy to agree that even in a world where we were given “more time” at home …it still never feels like enough. 

In a year (more like well over a year) of added stress due to a global pandemic and a metaphorical world on fire around us… we should all just keep acting accordingly…right? 

No, no absolutely not. 

We all need space and time to breathe….AND be forgiving to ourselves & the people around us. 

I’ve tried to set a routine for myself a countless amount of times during this past year. Nothing has truly stuck. A few things I always find myself falling back on for centering though are meditation (shout out to the app Insight) and music. 

Here’s a list of songs to soothe your soul & mind: 

Time in a Bottle – Jim Croce

Have I mentioned how much I adore Jim Croce? I’m pretty sure I have, but I can’t gush about this man enough. His music is my favorite to listen to on vinyl. This song particularly gets me lost in his voice…wait wait, who am I kidding? Almost every song he sings I get lost in that gorgeously comforting soft as silk voice of his. In fact when I was trying to think of songs that made me feel calm or centered, I found myself humming this song instantly. Oh the magical power of a Jim Croce song…

Still Sound (instrumental) – Toro y Moi

Full disclosure, my introduction to Toro y Moi was the instrumental album. Which I quickly realized was actually just a re-release of the original lyrical album that was dropped a decade ago entitled The Difference. I stumbled upon Toro y Moi when I was looking for music that was going to soothe the anxiety I was feeling and somehow in my rabbit hole for searching for that perfect album….The Difference instrumental version was what I found. I fully intend to go back and listen to the lyrical version of the album, I just wanted the experience of listening to the instrumental first. For me, I was instantly blown away and of course Toro y Moi has been around for awhile – so I am a bit behind the times. If you are a fan and haven’t listened to the instrumental version of the album, I highly recommend checking it out in its entirety. This was a favorite, but it was pretty hard to pick just one track. 

You Were Meant for Me – Jewel

I once worked with a guy that loved Jewel…other fun facts about him: he also loved dinosaurs and had a vintage motorcycle. Part of me never really understood his deep appreciation for her music, but I think how much he would talk about it randomly every day made me understand the beauty in her songs a bit more. That friend of mine recently passed away a year or so back and I hadn’t spoken to him since we had worked together. Jewel’s songs have a calming spirit to them, but they not have an added meaning for me. In the chaos of life, when a Jewel song comes on – I get to think of my friend and I think that is part of the many facets of beauty that music holds. 

Simple as This – Jake Bugg 

I forget how much I love this song, until I rediscover it buried in one of my many playlists I have created. This is a song that is simply (no jokes intended there) joyful. Part of it is the sound of it makes it seem as if it is from the 60s or 70s when it actually was released in 2012. A real comforting tune for an old soul like myself. 

Place to Be – Nick Drake

Nick Drake for me has a voice that defies odds …because it is seemingly raspy yet soft all at the same time….which is truthfully an exquisite combination. Anyway, Nick is another artist I often find myself reverting back to when I just need to get work done or to calm my spirit. Place to Be is a favorite of mine because it is a song I can put on and get lost within without even realizing until the song has ended. I say all of that, because that is exactly what just happened when I had it playing.

California – Joni Mitchell

Something about this song that no matter the weather outside or the mood I am in – I am instantly elevated for three minutes and fifty seconds. Joni has a way of transporting the listener to a dream-like-state with this song. There is a powerful pull within the lyrics of the song and Joni’s captivating voice that can make a person believe there is sun on the horizon and everything will be okay in the end. Sure a cynic would say that it is just a song about California, but I’ve never been a fan of cynicism. 

Maybe these songs pulled you in and excited you enough to add them to a playlist. Maybe they encouraged you to revisit music that grounds you and makes you feel centered. 

In a world full of chaos, I wish you all to find whatever outlet will bring you comfort.