California Maternity Leave

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*As a disclaimer, I am not an HR professional nor an employment law expert. The following is how I understood and applied my maternity leave benefits in California.

Hurray like me you’re pregnant, but now what… Not only is the prospect of growing, having and raising your little one is daunting, but what are your rights? How do you make sure you are protected and know what the state has provided for you. I wanted to write a post that helps share the information I’ve learned (because the process is crazy confusing) with you.

For any healthy pregnancy (i.e. no need for extended bed rest during pregnancy or reasons to be out of work due to complications after birth), at minimum, you get 22 or 24 weeks of maternity leave (22 weeks for vaginal delivery and 24 weeks for c-section). Not all of that time is paid or when you do get paid you’ll only receive 60%-70% up to a max of $1,218, however this does mean is that you get 22 or 24 weeks of job protection.

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This is the 22 week chart that is provided on the government website, if you get a c-section under PFL you get 2 more weeks paid and that is adds 2 more weeks to the end of your chart.

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I’m planning a 18 week maternity leave, with only two week before the due date, my due date February 4, 2019. I’ll start my maternity leave on 1/21, approximately 2 weeks before my due date. If I deliver normally I plan to be back to work in three months and saving the rest of my 4 unpaid CFRA weeks to use later in the year. I’ve modified the calendar as an example.

1) Starting your disability

First, decide when you want to start your maternity leave. Some take a week or two off before baby is expected to arrive, while others work literally right until the moment they are saddled up in the stirrups. Just know that your 40 week due date is a guesstimate, it is completely healthy to have a baby anywhere between 38-42 weeks. This article gives you the “Top 10 Signs of Labor.”

The 4 weeks before delivery is a “use it or lose it” situation. You don’t get to tack it on later, so if your individual situation allows for it USE IT. Just know that the first week is unpaid, so this is where you put any PTO/Sick time here. You also need to be in a financial situation that you don’t mind the cut 60%-70% cut pay, find out how much you will be paid during disability and paid family leave use this handy calculator.

State Disability Insurance: As a pregnant mom, you can receive up to four weeks of Disability Insurance (DI) benefits for a normal pregnancy before your expected due date. You can also receive up to six weeks (for normal delivery) or eight weeks (for Cesarean section) of DI benefits after your delivery to recover from childbirth. New moms with an active DI-related pregnancy claim will automatically be sent a form to transition to PFL. So if you’re a pregnant mom, start with a DI claim first and transition to PFL to bond with your new baby. To file for SDI you have to create an account on the EDD website.

Paid Family Leave: Only three states — California, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island — currently offer paid family and medical leave. All five states programs are funded through employee-paid payroll taxes and administered through their respective disability programs. The state of Washington passed a paid family leave law in 2007, originally to take effect in October 2009, but the law was never implemented and subsequent legislation has indefinitely postponed its implementation. (See our paid family leave page for more details.)

2) You had your baby!

So if all goes according to play, you’ve had your baby on time. Once your baby is born, your PDL will continue for an additional 6 weeks for a vaginal birth or 8 weeks if you had a c-section; and you’ll continue to get wage replacement through SDI (through a check card that you will need to go to the bank to deposit).

3) Your baby is now 6 or 8 weeks: Now it’s time to bond

Once you’ve completed your 10 or 12 weeks of PDL (up to 4 weeks before birth + 6/8 weeks after birth) – or more importantly, when your doctor has certified you no longer disabled by your pregnancy or childbirth – the clock gets reset with an additional 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to bond with your baby. In order to be eligible for CFRA, you must meet ALL of these requirements:

  • Your employer employs at least 20 people within a 75-mile radius of your worksite

  • You have worked for your employer for at least 12 months (even on a part-time or temporary basis)

  • You have worked at least 1,250 hours (about 25 hours per week) during the 12 months before the leave

Your doctor will determine when you are cleared from disability. While this is typically 6 or 8 weeks after birth, should you have any complications – physical or mental (i.e. postpartum depression) – your doctor can certify an extension to your PDL, and your SDI benefits will be extended along with it.

During CFRA, you will be paid partial wage replacement through Paid Family Leave (PFL) at the same rate as your SDI, but here’s the kicker…only for 6 weeks. This means that while you have 12-weeks of job protection under CFRA, you’ll get partial pay for only 6 of those weeks. The remaining 6 weeks are unpaid, but you can apply any unused vacation or PTO time to offset being unpaid for the remainder of your leave. Also, you don’t need to take your 6 weeks of PFL all at once. You can break it up and take it in hourly or daily increments if you want. However, do note that CFRA stipulates that the minimum duration of CFRA leave is 2 weeks, or unless otherwise approved by your employer. You have one year to use CFRA protection.

4) Your maternity leave has ended and you’re back at work

Okay, what I’m about to say next is important! Your “return to work” (RTW) date is determined by when your CFRA ends. Just know that breastfeeding is legal in public spaces in all 50 states and Obama deemed it necessary for employers to provide women with non-bathroom areas for women to pump.

Here are some helpful questions to ask your employer’s HR department.

  • How much PTO/vacation/sick have you accrued?

  • Will you accrue PTO during your time off?

  • Will they pay you during holidays that happen during your time off?

  • What happens with 401k and if you need to stop it during your time off? Do you still accrue and does this effect the maturity date?

  • Make sure you know that your health insurance is covered, you shouldn't be put on COBRA. You might also have to pay back your office for health insurance, during your maternity leave.

  • Make sure you can use sick time during waiting period, as well as during leave if you have left over time in sick. in California it is legal for you to use sick time at your discretion, as well as vacation time during your leave. 

  • Make sure you know process of adding your baby to insurance and deadlines (most commonly the baby must be enrolled in coverage before the 30 days).

  • Talk to your doctor about your plan and make sure you are aligned on your plans, including pre-birth and the delivery.

  • if you guys have bonus or merit increases, make sure you know how you can get it (you would still be eligible) but may have to return to work in order to claim it instead of them sending it to you while you are out. 


Pregnancy Freebies

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Made it to week 25 and I’ve finally come to terms with needing to start buying items for this little bub to be. So far, I’ve been extremely slow at buying baby products just not to jinx the little guy. I’ve purchased this space saving mini crib (just $60 off NextDoor), this baby play mat, and a few baby onesies. We are super aware that baby items are super marked up and the price of purchasing items can quickly add up, so I’m using Facebook Marketplace and NextDoor app to find lightly used products easily at 50% or more off.

I’ve also ordered some pregnancy freebies yesterday, only drawback is that you have to pay for shipping, so I only grabbed the ones that the blogger still felt like was a good deal regardless of it. The free codes are from assorted mommy blog sites Rookie Moms, Krazy Coupon Lady, and Pulling Curls.

The were the free sites I ordered from: 

- Little Wanderers baby shoes 2 pairs of shoes free ($60 value) + $17 shipping / code CURLS333

- Carseat Canopies 1 car canopy free ($49.95 value) + $14.99 shipping / code CURLS333

- Custom Pacifiers 3 free custom pacifiers ($29.85) + $13.99 shipping / code PENNY1 (see picture below)

- Udder Covers 1 cover free ($14.95) + 14.99 shipping / code FREEUCOVER1

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Baby Sling 1 free sling ($40.00) / code AThriftyMom1

Signed up for the Walmart Baby Box (sample subscription where they just charge you $5 quarterly, but you have to cancel) YouTube unboxing - picture on right

- Amazon Welcome Box is free if you sign up for their registry and purchase just one thing off - picture below

- Call ahead to find a Target store nearby that still had their welcome box in stock 

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I'm Pregnant!

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*Random thoughts written on June 7th of what I was thinking and feeling when I found out I was pregnant, this was a planned pregnancy, but still unexpected that it would happen so fast.

This is my first time going through all this, so everything is super new and making me doubt if I’m imagining all of it all together. The thought of me saying the “P” word right now is a bit cringe-worthy, no offense, but it’s just a bit surreal.

Tomorrow I’m going to the obgyn to get a blood test, the doctor needs to check whether the baby is in there or not and how old the baby is. The baby should be somewhere between 4 to 6 weeks old and the internet says at 6 I can hear the heartbeat. The first official doctor visit isn’t until 8-9 weeks.

I’m feeling super sore on top, bloated in the middle, and cramping in the bottom. Not only that the roof of my mouth is sore and feels like I ate too much sugary candy. I’m also feeling nauseous, I feel like I’m standing on a boat in the middle of a storm. It is believed that the more symptoms happening the more your body is adapting for the upcoming changes and your baby will have less chance of miscarriage.

I was listening to Pea in the Podcast this morning where they say it’s really common for a miscarriage, somewhere around 25% and they think even more. This is why the recommendation is not sharing that you’re pregnant until 12-16 weeks pregnant. The cravings are super real and baby is making me crave sugar, bread, lemonade and chicken.

8 things to know if you visit New Zealand

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Kia Ora! New Zealand is now one of my favorite countries in the world. With only having one week to visit, I will definitely be back to visit more sites in the future. Luckily, the country is just a 12 hour flight from Los Angeles and beautiful to visit year around.

  1. Chase Sapphire so you have no credit card fees. Charles Schwab checking if you want to take out cash (everywhere takes credit cards). Priority Pass to comfortably wait for your flight.
  2. American (or written in English) drivers license if you’re renting a car.
  3. An unlocked phone, so you can purchase a SIM card (vodaphone company gives you a free SIM card). A cell phone is handy to have to map to locations and call ahead to places to check if they’re open.
  4. Rent a car! New Zealand's real beauty lies in its inaccessibility and remoteness. Not only is it super affordable averaging $20 a day, but the roads are well maintained. There are also these cars called "Jucy" that you can rent, that you can sleep in. 
  5. Pick up the New Zealand guide from the airport specifically, this has coupons for a lot of the major tourist attractions. There’s a lot of tourist competing attractions, so it’s good to do your research a head of time.
  6. Watch a Maori cultural show. This is a great way to understand the culture of the country.
  7. Bring a reusable mug, if you’re a coffee drinker some establishments will give you up to a 20% discount. The tap water is clean and safe to drink. Bottled water is pricey averaging $3.50 US for an average bottle.
  8. If you go in winter like me, bring winter specific items (snow resistant shoes, hand warmers, warm beanie, etc), such as warm clothes and that includes thermals so you’re able to layer wisely. The winter averages about 45 degrees during the day and about 35 degrees in the evening. It is also easy to buy clothes in New Zealand.

Souvenirs to purchase: Green Jade, Merino Wool, Manduka Honey, and All Black paraphernalia.

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New Zealand: Day 7 & 8 on the North Island (part 2)

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Day 7 - City of Rotorua

We woke up at 7am and had breakfast at the hotel, this was actually quite good. I do recommend staying at the afford Holiday Inn if you visit. The staff even provided us with a congratulatory champagne for our wedding.

After breakfast we journeyed 30 minutes south to Wai-O-Tapu hot pools, the most famous of the viewpoint for the pools. They have the champagne pool, which has a beautiful orange ring and Satan’s pool a bright green pool. They have three paths that take you around the park, however we only had time for the first loop that took 45 minutes. On site they have the Lady Knox Geyser, that they activate at 10:15am daily. This was the first time either of us saw a geyser so this was pretty cool. After this we drove 5 minutes to another part of the pool that had mud pools, this consisted of grey pools of mud, reminiscent of the Labyrinth.

Then we headed to Rainbow Springs Sanctuary to see the kiwi bird. This is the only kiwi zoo where a 100% of the ticket fee goes to the preservation of the bird. The park was relatively small and can be completed in an hour. It had a lot of interesting birds and we were able to see three kiwis. Here’s a few facts about kiwis:

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  1. They are nocturnal.
  2. They cannot fly.
  3. They are endangered due to dogs, cats, and a weasel like animal.
  4. They are the only birds to have nostrils on their beaks.
  5. They are terrible fighters with kicking being their only defense.
  6. The kiwi’s eggs and emu’s eggs are the same size, so they think once kiwis were once large.

After this we headed for the 2:30pm Agrodome farm show, in this one hour show we were able to see 19 different kids of sheep, saw how they were sheared, and were able to pet baby animals (alpacas, lambs, bunnies, and baby cow). Had we had more days in our trip we could’ve easily had another day here, so we could’ve not had such long days in the car.

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Finally we made our long 3 hour drive north to the Coromendel peninsula. The Drive was absolutely beautiful with rolling green hills and the coast line. We stopped on The was and watched as the sun set over the ocean.

The town of Coromendel is tiny and in hindsight we should’ve stayed at the much larger city of Thames. We had dinner at the Red Pepper Inn, I had a seafood chowder and Matt had the local oysters.

We went to the Anchor Lodge Inn a small motel and backpacker hostel. This was a cute and affordable stay, that overlooks the water.

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Day 8 - Coromandel Peninsula

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Our final day in New Zealand exploring the beaches. Coromandel Peninsula has two of the top best beaches to visit, so we squeezed it into our final day. We would’ve definitely loved another day here to just relax on the beach.

The morning started with grabbed our final pies and sandwiches for lunch. On the way to Cathedral Cove we stopped by a waterfall and took a few picture. Then drove another 90 minutes to the cove. The cove was a undulating 45 minute walk from the parking lot. The cove was beautiful and definitely worth the visit.

After this we drove to Hot springs beach, this is where people bring shovels to dig organic hot tubs on the beach. The water was actually freakishly hot and you have to be carful not to burn yourself.

After all this we returned the rental car and headed to Auckland airport to board our flight backwards to Melbourne, before flying home to Los Angeles.

This has been a fulfilling and amazing, but an extremely quick trip to New Zealand. I couldn’t ask for a more beautiful wedding. Originally I was extremely nervous about visiting this country (so close to the South Pole) in winter, however it was beautiful and the climate definitely tolerable. The final day in Auckland was surprisingly warm and in the high 70s, there was no rain or snow on the well maintained roads. Because it’s winter it’s the low season for travel, thus making flights and accommodations more affordable then normal. I highly recommend and would visit again in a heartbeat!

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New Zealand: Day 5 & 6 on the North Island

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Day 5 - A quick evening in Auckland

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I didn’t sleep very well after the excitement of the wedding and woke up around 5:30am, so we headed to town and got some Starbucks. Reheated some meat pies (veggie and steak & cheese) from Fergburger bakery that was purchased the day before. Then we packed up everything and headed back to Glenorchy. We learned that we missed the most exciting part of the town which was 6 miles past the town and was featured in two scenes from Lord of the Rings.

We drove for 40 minutes through a gravel dirt road with many broken areas where we had to drive through water. We stopped at the end where an avalanche covered the road and got out of our car. Hopped a 4 foot wide rushing steam and hiked foranother 40 mins into the middle of Paradise Valley. This is where Isengard was shot in Lord of the Rings. It was pretty breathtaking and a bit ominous being the only ones in this vast valley.

After the valley we headed back to the Glenorchy cafe and had a quick lunch of a sandwich and soup, then drove back to Queenstown. We met up with the rest of the family and flew from Queenstown to Auckland. After getting our rental car, we drove to downtown Auckland  to meet the family for dinner at Mad Samurai in Snickel Lane. For dessert we walked over to the famous Giapo ice cream. It was definitely a fancy assortment of daily fresh-made ice cream, but the flavors were too sweet for my taste. We then headed to the Four Points hotel after saying our goodbyes to the family. 

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Over all Auckland seemed super pricy, it cost us $33nzd to park for two hours and another $25nzd to park at the hotel. The city itself seemed so large and overwhelming after being on the remote South Island. We didn’t feel it was necessary to tour the city and decided one night in Auckland was enough for us.

 

Day 6 - Driving around the North Island

We woke up early and hit the road by 6:00am, so we could get a head start on the busy day. We grabbed a to go coffee from the hotel and an extra cup of hot water for the ramen (my sister had thoughtfully gave to us).

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We drove a little over 2 hours south of Auckland to Waitomo Caves, the most visited spot to see glow worms. Sadly there was a large storm last year and a 1/3 of the glow worms in the cave were wiped out, this will take two lifetimes to regrow this population. The tour we purchased consisted of a 1 hour walking tour of the cave, ending with a 15 minute boat ride. These tours happen every 15 minutes and the earlier you go to the cave, the less crowded it will be.

I highly recommend purchasing a vodaphone SIM card and over 2gb if you’re here for a week, you’ll definitely need this if you’re driving around the island. There were many times that our google maps really came in handy.

We then headed to Matamata where the Hobbiton ser tour is. This was super worth a visit and it was definitely a major highlight. There are 44 hobbit holes, the party tree, and the green dragon pub. Since the insides were created on a set, you can only visit the exteriors. It was neat to see the small and big doors, the big doors to make the hobbits look small and the small doors to make Gandalf look humongous. The surrounding lands were filled with sheep and beautiful green rolling hills. The 2 hour tour ends with complimentary drinks of hobbit ale or ginger beer.

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We drove another hour south to Rotorua, the town known for thermal pools and geysers. As you drive into town you can see the billowing steam from the ground as if there are multiple camp fires alit. The smell of the sulfur gives the town and unmistakable rotting egg smell.

We purchased tickets for the 6pm award winning Traditional Maori show at the  Tamaki village, which included a round trip hotel pickup, haka fighter ceremony, dinner/hangi, and traditional customs (dance, fighting, games, tattooing, etc).

We saw a performance of song and dance both historic and contemporary (with guitar). Dinner included traditional ground steamed meal with vegetables, various meats (lamb, chicken, and fish). The show was definitely worth checking out and I highly recommend it. This ended before 9pm and we went back to the Holiday Inn to pass out from the long day.

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New Zealand: Day 3 & 4 Getting Married

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Day 3 - Queenstown: Day Before the Wedding

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We headed to The Fig, a Lebanese cafe for breakfast. We learned if you grabbed food from the glass case on the counter, usually sandwiches and pies, it was a third of the cost of the food on their menus. We ate a sandwich and a baked tomato dish of shakshuka, so tasty.

We headed back on the road for the hour and half drive to Queenstown. We took a short cut through the mountain pass and on the way, passed by the cutest old hotel called the Coronado. The next time we visit, we are definitely staying there.

We arrived in Queenstown and headed to our gorgeous lake view Airbnb, there we met up with our wedding planner/photographer Warren from Heli Weddings and got the schedule for the next day (our wedding!)

After, we headed down the road five minutes to the Airbnb that my parents, my sister and her family, and my best friend Claudia were all staying in. We grabbed the ladies of the group and headed for a spa day at the Sofitel hotel in downtown. This is where we met up with Matt’s mom and step dad Barry. Matt went off with Barry for lunch and the ladies received a relaxing day-before-massage. After the massage, we went to the Left Bank restaurant in the hotel and had a Parisian lunch.

Matt and I then headed back to our Airbnb to prep for the wedding. Then that evening we met everyone for dinner at a restaurant called Ivy and Lola’s on the waterfront.

Matt’s Mom Patsy brought me a gift of something “old” and “borrowed.” It was Matt’s deceased grandfather’s gold wedding ring with these delicate charms (representing Matt and I attached) tied with lace and made into a bracelet. I heard many stories from Matt that his best friend growing up was his grandfather and on seeing this I was tearing up pretty hard at the dinner table.

 

Day 4 - Queenstown: The Big Day

Oh man today was the day we are getting married! Although I’m a bit older in my life, oddly enough it still feels too young, not sure how others get married straight out of college. Anyway Matt is amazing and I’m a super lucky girl.

The day started with me waking up well before sunrise and us heading to town and getting savory breakfast pastries at a cafe called Bespoke Kitchen. Matt loves coffee, so we grabbed him a grande coffee from the town Starbucks as well (don't judge, drip coffee is hard to come by in NZ). We stopped by a clothing store and picked up duck boots for Matt so his feet wouldn’t freeze in dress shoes at the top of the mountain.

By the time we were back at our place it was time for the whole day to get started. The hairdresser, Tina, arrived at 10:30am and gave me beautiful curls, unfortunately these totally fell out later. Then right as she was finishing, the makeup artist, Yanisa, arrived at 11:30. At this time Matt was all dressed and ready. He left to go buy us a cake to serve at dinner and pick up his parents from the hotel in town.

By 12:30 the whole family, photographer, and film crew arrived at the house and it was complete chaos. We shot our first look on the driveway and grabbed a few family photos at the house. Then we headed to a park near the airport and grabbed more photos of the family. Matt and I got a few moments walking and playing with fall leaves. We realized we forgot our wedding papers and had to go back to the house quickly to pick these up.

After this we headed to the helicopter pad at the airport. The six of us Philippa (celebrant), Matt (pilot), Warren (photographer), Robbie (film), James (slo-mo camera and drone operator) and us boarded the compact 6 person helicopter. We crossed the lake and headed to our first stop on top of the snowy Bayonet Peaks. Although the helicopter was extremely smooth and the view was mesmerizing, the helicopter ride itself was a bit daunting. This was my second time in a helicopter and Matt’s first, I don’t think he was frightened at all. We all received protective headsets with microphones so we could talk to one another, the crew made some ridiculous jokes and it really calmed my nerves.

When we got out of the helicopter at the top it was definitely cold. The snow in some places was up to our knees if we didn't step properly. I was really glad to be wearing sorel snow boots with thermals underneath my dress to keep my bottom half warm. I wanted to avoid wearing a jacket in the pictures, so my top half was freezing. Matt pretty much wore a regular suit with dress pants and no layers, he was shaking throughout. Luckily he bought the duck boots so his feet were dry.

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We found a beautiful lookout on Bayonet Peak and Phillipa started the ceremony portion. She and Matt had worked together to talk about us and our memories, so the ceremony was very fun. After the main ceremony Matt recited his prepared vows. This whole section was a blur for me; I just remember the cold, the tears, and the feels. There was also that daunting yet exciting realization that this was finally it. Then we walked to the other side of the mountain and I said my prepared talk since I didn't want to recite my own vows... this speech made us both cry some more and Matt loved it. We took more photos and videos here then took off for the second peak.

The second peak was on a non snow covered vista called Cecil Peak (we landed on a questionable ridge line). This was an amazing view overlooking the lake below as was setting. We took more photos and videos, popped champagne and signed our wedding papers. Then we descended back down to the airport at 6pm and headed back to our Airbnb.

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I changed out of my constricting wedding dress and we headed to meet everyone for dinner at Josh Emmet’s (New Zealand’s Master Chef) restaurant, Rata. I arranged a pre-fixed feast style dinner that was so incredibly delicious, every dish being unique. Instead of going out after dinner we were both exhausted from the day and headed home to fall asleep.

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New Zealand: Day 1 & 2 on the South Island

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Day 1 - Landing in New Zealand

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Matt and I decided to skip having a formal wedding and “elope” in New Zealand instead. I lightly say the word elope, because 10 of our family members and my best friend decided to join us. I couldn’t bear the thought of going through all the rigorous long term planning that a wedding takes, hearing stories from friend who had to go through couples therapy when they couldn’t be on the same page through joint decision making or the idea spending nearly a 100k on a single day. I completely agree to each their own and I’ve been to spectacular weddings in the past, but it wasn’t for us. We wanted to embrace our traveling spirit by getting married in an exotic location, that also involves us getting married at the top of a 2,000 meter high mountain via helicopter, more on this later. 

We flew Air New Zealand and upgraded our seats to a Sky Couch meaning that we had a row of three seats to ourselves that convert to a mini bed. The flight was 13 hours and we were able to get rest, so the time went by quickly. We landed in Auckland and immediately got onto our next flight to Queenstown.

We landed in Queenstown at 10am and had an hour to kill until our rental car was ready. So in the airport we had some local New Zealand food... a cheese roll and mince meat pie.

We got our little blue Peugeot rental car and headed out onto the streets. The winter weather was clear, cold (higher 40s) and crisp. We drove through Queenstown and headed to Glenorchy which is a small town an hour way. It was beautiful and quaint with a fantastic lake front. We grabbed lunch at the Glenorchy Cafe and had a giant lentil soup, while Matt had a huge pork chop sandwich. We walked to the water to enjoy the serene calm lake and took some great aerial drone footage. After Glenorchy we hopped back on the road and headed to Arrowtown.

Arrowtown is another super small, quaint gold rush town with a few historic buildings, including an early Chinese settlement. Finally we headed toward Wanaka (one-a-kah) and arrived at our ecologically constructed Airbnb at 5pm. The temperature ended up dropping quite a bit and sundown quickly followed at 5:30pm.

We took an hour to relax after our long day on the plane and in the car and then we headed back to town for dinner. We were recommended to go to The White House for dinner but unfortunately it was closed. We stumbled upon Kika, this high end tapas restaurant, which was packed for the night. The food was delicious; beets, fried chicken, salad, and homemade pasta over turnips. We were so exhausted from the long day and delicious dinner and quickly fell asleep after we got home at 9pm.

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Day 2 - Wanaka

We woke up early around, 6:30am, so we had plenty of rest (The sun doesn’t rise in winter until around 8am). We headed to town center for breakfast at Relishes, after two caffeinated beverages each we went out to see the local sites. Today was much colder than yesterday, so we extra bundled up with wool socks, extra layers, and hand warmers. We Followed a tourist pamphlet that took us to a few walking locations plus a few driving ones.

The first interest point was at the dock overlooking lake Wanaka. Then we headed toward the famous #thatwanakatree, Matt wanted to walk and we quickly realized it was very cold and very far away. We walked back to the car and drove to the tree only to find out how beautiful it was. It was relatively close to where we were,  but definitely worth driving.

After that we got in the car again and headed towards waterfall creek on the coast, a local told us that there were better waterfalls up the road because quite clearly, this one was “shit” and he was right.

We got in the car and headed towards where he told us to go only to find ourselves on a dirt road 4 miles into the mountains. We didn’t find what he mentioned but had a beautiful drive nonetheless.

We continued down the road and made our way to the glacier near Mount Aspiring. On the way there we saw deer, elk, reindeer, a herd of sheep in the middle of the road and plenty of cows. We drove until we weren’t able to cross this rushing water with our car and got out to enjoy the view of the mountains here. We later learned that it would’ve been super worth it to hike up by foot for another 15 minutes past this point. 

We were both getting hungry so we booked it back to town and immediately got pies from an award winning bakery (steak + cheese and chicken + leek + cheese) were fantastic. We were still a bit hungry so, we walked down the road to a pub and continued to eat. Matt had a salmon bake and I had a seafood chowder. Matt got a Pilsner and we were finally able to relax. We headed back to the house to take a nap, the jet lag was rough to get over.

We woke two hours later and grabbed a fish and chips dinner at the Lake Bar. We enjoyed Kiwi games of rugby and chariot racing on their sports bar televisions.  

 

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How to be the Ideal "TEDx" Candidate

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Over the weekend I was asked to give a talk on “What it took to become a TEDx speaker” at a “Power Speaker Intensive” conducted by best-selling author Neil Strauss. Since then I’ve been asked to put my speech into a blog so that I could give others these same insights.

 

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Hello Everyone! What an amazing three day workshop this has been, let’s give "The Society" a big round of applause for putting this together. I have reviewed over 800 TEDx applications so that In the next 18 minutes (which is the TED stage standard) I can give you insider tips on how you can be the ideal TEDx red circle candidate.

Like you, I LOVE consuming TEDx talks, I watch them on a regular basis, and I know you do to because there are 1.2 billion videos watched every year, which breaks down roughly to 3.3 million views daily. Which is pretty damn incredible.

Fun fact TED surprisingly isn’t named after a man named “TED.”  It actually stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design which I immediately learned after I was asked to first volunteer. Being a volunteer was not only fun, it was incredibly inspiring to hear so many great speakers. Eventually when I was asked to start hosting the events,  I jumped at the chance, and eventually I ended up being the chapter Lead.

For the past 4 years or 8 events I have been the Lead Organizer of the TEDxCulverCity branch, I’m in charge of finding volunteers, reserving the venue, renting chairs, getting sponsors, selling tickets, getting city permits, managing the website, social media posts.. just to name a few. However my most important and time consuming role, is finding great speakers and working with them to have a successful talk.

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Running TEDx is not my full-time career, I work full-time in advertising coming up with ideas for commercials, I teach yoga, and volunteer at several of different non-profits. So if it’s time consuming, mentally draining, and I’m not getting paid to do it... why do I continue doing this year after year?

For me It is because I love the relationships it creates. It draws a unique crowd of attendees  that yearn to learn more, and I constantly see repeat attendees. I enjoy when people tell me their favorite moments of the evening.

I’ve even built friendships with my speakers and some have even yielded some collaborative projects. I currently work with one of my speakers on a non-profit speaking and performance event called MindshareLA, another I was a guest speaker to her class at Loyala Marymount University, and It was Arthur Samuel Joseph who introduced me to Neil Strauss and that's how I ended up here today. 

What makes TED and TEDx different are the organizers behind the event. TED’s main stage is organized by Chris Anderson who is the head of TED and his team. It features, speakers from around the world, including global change makers, and celebrity speakers. TEDx on the other hand... are community level events and usually features local voices. I'll let Chris tell you more about it...  

We are actually required to show that video at every TEDx event.

Show of hands who here wants to be a TEDx speaker? That’s great. Now let’s talk about talk about how to get you up on stage. This is the meat and potatoes portion, to start, you’ll need to visit this website: https://www.ted.com/tedx/events here you can type in your city and find your local chapter information and even who the host is.

Some chapters may have a speaker form you can submit  on their website while other chapters, you might have to email the hosts directly and tell them what makes you a worthy candidate. Since the chapters work independently of each other,  you can submit to as many as you want. This will help increase your chances of selection. It also doesn’t hurt to follow up with your submissions.

 

What should your submission include:

  • Who are you? Create a bio of yourself, including your list of accomplishments. Do you have a website? Are you in any press articles? This is the time to brag about yourself.

  • What would you like to talk about? Include a short through line about your idea. Do you have multiple ideas that you think you can work? If they’re good feel free to submit multiple.

  • What would you like to perform? Do you have a talent? Many people don’t realize that the TEDx stage can go beyond just speeches. It can be a variety of things... theater, spoken word, music, comedy... the most watched TEDx video is a Beatbox performance

  • Have you spoken before? Do you have prior speaking experience? It’s great to submit a  video of you speaking on a stage, you can even send the one you recorded earlier today. This shows off your stage presence and can be as lo-fi as a home video with an iphone.

You might say “okay sure… I can do the above asks, but what kind of ideas are these organizers really looking for”

The goal for each organizer is to create a great event and to produce good content. We need to find speakers who showcase inspiring ideas that change perspectives.

 

Here are some examples of talks that I have had on my stage:

  • "All Brains on Deck: A new look on Disability" - Dr. Sabine Huemer Cognitive Neuroscientist and her talk wanted us to re-examine how we approach people with Autism. Instead of seeing it as a disability we should see it as a  super ability

  • "Getting the right date" - Ruby Le a professional Dating Coach and Lead Matchmaker at Eharmony. She explains why nowadays people feel like its so hard to find the right date or to be in relationship. She points out that sometimes it's the imperfect person that can make you perfectly happy.

  • "The Art of Human Connection" - Ivan Cash, an interactive artist and film director. His talk explained how he felt that emails were too impersonal… which led him to start a project called Snail Mail my Email. He started asking people to send him their personal emails and the address of who they wanted the email to go to. He would then hand write actual letters and mail them to the recipient. This project took on a life of its own and he ended up using volunteers from around the world to create over 30,000 letters. Needless to say… this project went viral.

  • "Being a Male Cheerleader Changed My Relationship with Women" - Doug Melville, Chief Diversity Officer at TBWA. He uses a personal experience of being told by his college football coach that he would make a better cheerleader than football player, as a hilarious lemons to lemonade story about humility and ultimately recognizing women as teammates. He has taken his learnings off the field and into the work space. 

One thing you may have noticed about all these talks is how they’re pretty different. Most organizers are looking for different topics and perspectives to create a well rounded and balanced event.

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Is your idea TEDx worthy?

Here are some tips on how to filter your idea. First, write your idea down in one or two sentences then ask yourself:

  • Is my idea new?
  • Is it interesting?
  • Who might be interested in it?
  • Is it factual and realistic?

Once you’ve filtered your idea through these questions, bring your idea to someone who you respect and who doesn’t work in your field. If they answer “no” to any of these questions, go back, brainstorm a little, and then refine your idea.

For example Andrew McGregor's talk "How African Rats and Humans are Partnering to Find Landmines." And yes that’s definitely a new idea, yes it is interesting, it passed the people would probably care test, and it’s also 100% factual because he’s actually already manufactured these wearable vests for the rats already.

Who here has that friend that overly brags about their accomplishments (hand in air), ya me too (pointing to myself). It’s pretty tiresome to hear right, well that’s exactly what 50% of TEDx applicants send me. And the other 10% just want to promote their latest book or event, think about how annoying it is for you to hear someone brag about themselves or hock you their latest product.

I completely agree, not only does this make it extremely easier to filter out these applicants, it goes against TED’s house rules. If you google TEDx Rules, you’ll actually find a deeper appendix of additional things you can not talk about. Say you were chosen as a speaker and you did accidently violate some of the rules, the consequences for you is that TED will not post your video. Remember as your create your idea that TED’s vision statement is “Ideas worth spreading.”

I highly recommend not only watching TED videos to see all the different types of ideas, but also attending a local event and meeting the organizers in person.

A quote by Chris...

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I think my talk just proved that smooth talking is not needed. However, I hope it informed you on how to say something worth saying and how to find the right person to say it to. I look forward to seeing you one day on the TEDx red circle. Thank you. 

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Goat Yoga

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Yes! Goat yoga really is a thing. Made extremely popular by Kevin Hart and Khloe Kardashian's video. I don't follow everything the Kardashian's did, but I definitely watched this entire video and wanted to try it myself.  

I signed up for the class at Fauve Yoga Club in Santa Monica for this 2 hour class for $40. This included a 1 hour vinyasa flow class and then follows it up with a 1 hour photo op with the goats. The class was taught by Yogi Maha and it was a challenging both physically and mentally, because all you want to do is pet the ridiculously cute goats. 

The goats were from Party Goats and their names were Spanky and Pippin, 45 pound Nigerian Dwarf Goats, who definitely know their yoga. They run underneath you in downward facing dog, put their hooves on you in child's pose, and will give you a tiny head butt. Of course they're still animals and their could be a poop or pee, but it's good luck. I definitely had a fantastic time with these cuties and got a somewhat decent workout, I was too distracted taking pictures of the goats and being hyper aware where they were in the room. Fauve Yoga will be offering Goat Yoga every other month and their studio facilities are new, clean, great staff, fantastic teachers, with free mats and props to use.

I highly recommend this for yoga and non-yoga fans! 💜

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The California Desert

Over the weekend my fiancé Matt, Milo the dog, and I went on a 3 hour day trip outside of Los Angeles to the spectacular Lone Pine Rocks. This was the first time I had heard this place even existed, after looking a photos we figured why not. Suffice to say we were incredibly impressed with this day and a half weekend trip, it was gorgeous to see all this desert terrain and stop off at fun random stops on the way.

We took off at 6am on Saturday morning and made the drive north. The dog was extremely excited to be included in this adventure and nearly spent the whole drive with his head out the window. After a few pit stops we made it to this gnarly rock filled terrain, that was completely removed from civilization (there is a small town 10 minutes out). Being completely city folks we decided we would try sleeping in car versus the tent and bought some instant food from REI. 

The weather was absolutely perfect when we got there at 11am and we went on an hour walk around where we put our campsite. From about noon to 5pm it was insanely hot and we just took shelter inside our car, watched a movie from the ipad. At 6pm we started to make fire and start cooking our food, which turned out to be surprisingly delicious. Then it wasn't until 9pm did the sun begin to set and we had the most incredible pink sunset. We hoped to see clear stars, but there was too much cloud covering, this will have to be next time.  During the night it was super windy, cold and rained a little bit. 

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We ended up packing up and leaving the next day at 6am and headed into Lone Pine town for a tasty breakfast and coffee. On the way back we stopped by the Red Rocks, Poppy Reserve, Antique Barn, California City, Vasquez Rocks

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Happy Place Interactive Museum

The Happy Museum is the latest place to visit to brighten your Instagram feed. The latest Los Angeles pop-up exhibit is turning the expression "find your happy place" into a reality. The immersive series of themed installations, literally called Happy Place, is comprised of activities designed to make museum-goers smile.

We did a double date at the Happy Museum and had tickets booked for the last showing from 9-10pm on Sunday evening and had the entire museum to ourselves. We were able to take our time at each of the many picture areas, which was a huge contrast from battling others at 23Rooms

 
I want to live and raise my children in a world surrounded by what makes us happy. With the amount of unfortunate events happening recently, I believe that our world as a whole can use more happiness. To make this dream come true, we set out on a journey to create a special place filled with smiles and laughter for all.
— Jared Paul, founder of Happy Place
 
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Experiences include the chance to become a flower in a flower patch, stand upside down, or jump from a rainbow into a giant ball pit. The "Paradise Room" will showcase sculptures designed by artist Steven Harrington, while the "world’s largest confetti dome" will rain 500,000 pieces of confetti down on visitors. An outdoor area will include a lemonade stand (with net proceeds donated to charity), a popsicle truck, lawn games, and a retail store. Even Happy Place's food will be Instagram-bait; an on-site food truck will feature "happy-themed items," including a Rainbow Grilled Cheese.

Read my previous post on the other Interactive Museums of Los Angeles >