Saturday, March 8, 2014
Yet, none of that felt right. This year's International Women's Day theme is Inspiring Change. After thinking about it some more, International Women's Day - for me - was an opportunity to honor the strongest, bravest, most significant women in my life. They are mentors, inspirations and friends. They have taught me what it means to give of myself to my community, how to be a strong woman, how to care, and how to live a fuller life. They have changed me.
When I graduated college, I had the extreme fortune of landing one of the best jobs I've ever had. As the Outreach Coordinator for the Bronx River Project, I worked with amazing community organizers, nonprofit professionals, city planners, and many inspiring youth. There are three women who I worked with during that time who fundamentally changed how I viewed the world.
Alexie Torres-Fleming taught me how spirituality and justice go hand-in-hand and the importance of sharing what we can with our youth. While there are too many memories of Alexie, I'll never forget the joy I felt whenever we met at Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, seeing the passion and excitement in the youth, and feeling Alexie's calm strength. And while it took me several years to fully appreciate the lessons Alexie gently taught, I finally got it. When I discovered Unitarian Universalism, I found my spiritual home. And I realized that some of the beliefs inherent in most religions - at least the ones I gravitated towards - shared the same values I found in community organizing and empowerment-based social and environmental justice organizations. Thank you, Alexie.
Majora Carter taught me how to stand up and fight, and how to be a badass whenever necessary. Majora has become an international name, yet she never forgets to email me to see how I'm doing - even though I haven't seen in years. My absolute favorite memory of Majora was from the opening of part of the Bronx River Greenway at a formerly abandoned cement plant that has since been converted to a park. The night before the opening, a gate blocking entrance and exit to this particular section was locked and there were guards placed there. Majora simply said, "I don't care if I have to pick the lock myself, we're having this event." (We didn't.) But the very next day when we showed up, Major took aside all of the elected officials in attendance, and while I'll never know what exactly was said, I've never seen powerful men so terrified. She showed me how to stand up for myself and my community in a passionate, professional way. Thank you, Majora.
Resa Dimino joined the Bronx River Alliance and not surprisingly, after a short time she was my direct supervisor. Aside from being an awesome human being, Resa gave me the opportunity to network with people who would be important to my future career. Whether it was attending the Bronx Ball or taking me to meetings I probably had no business attending, she taught by doing. I learned how to develop a professional persona and how to be more than I was. She always pushed me and never stopped believing in me. Most importantly, she never let me believe less of myself. Thank you, Resa.
Robbin Moore is an extraordinary woman and yet another important woman in my life. Robbin did something wonderful - she held up a mirror to me and helped me see my flaws and how to work through them. She never believed that I was incapable of anything and held me to a higher standard. She also helped me develop a love and understanding of both local and international politics. She is a confidante and friend and she continues to inspire me. Thank you, Robbin.
Linda David is one of the best bosses I've ever had. From the day I started working for her, she treated me as an equal and never took my ridiculous ideas as a joke. She let me try some crazy ideas, some of which crashed and burned, but she never gave up on me and my drive to do as much as I could for the lupus community. And even more important, she tethered my balloon when I pushed myself too hard and was in danger of making myself burn out again and again. And I can't forget the way she included me in her family. I adore here two daughters, husbands and dogs. With Linda and her younger daughter, I ran my first marathon and half marathon. We trained together and I'm forever thankful for that push. Thank you, Linda.
I can't say enough about the next four women. They are my peers, my contemporaries, and they continue to inspire me every day. And I'm lucky enough to consider them my friends.
Jennifer Ziegler - for overcoming the odds again and again and being the best inspiration to kids and teens living with a chronic illness.
Gabby Trejo - The strongest, most passionate justice crusader I've ever met. She continues to awe me with her perseverance and tenacity.
Sandra Mintz - Sandy has one of the toughest jobs in the world and she makes it look easy. Being a nurse in a children's hospital, she could easily become cynical and jaded. But she has the biggest heart. She treats her patients like people and no matter what age they are, she works to have them be partners in their own health care.
Liz Morasso - Like Sandy, Liz dedicates her life helping teens become empowered partners in their own health care and lives. She has her daily challenges but she never lets that stop her from living life to the fullest.
Thank you for all you do and all you are.
Friday, March 7, 2014
I've also started as a contributor for The S-Unit Happy Place which was created by my buddy Suni Szymanski. The whole idea is to share our daily happiness in the hopes that it will inspire happiness in others. That's something I can get behind.
So I've decided that Fridays will be a time to post my favorite video of the week. Some are old, and some will be incredibly silly. Some might be NSFW (not safe for work). But I'll warn you.
Right now I'm super into the band Arctic Monkeys. I love the lead singer's crooning voice. It just melts me every single time. This album is also the soundtrack to my writing projects lately. Today's video is the first song I heard from them and one of the first songs I learned how to play on my bass. Enjoy!
#tsuhappyplace #favoritevideofriday #imagreatist #sweatpink #girlsgonesporty #llblog #llbconnect #arcticmonkeys #rumine? #love
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Yesterday, because my stupid lupus body is stupid, I slept all day and most of the night. Well, actually apparently I didn't sleep. I've been using a FitBit the last few days to track my sleep and according to the readings, I slept 4.5 hours last night with 22 periods of restlessness. That could explain why I'm exhausted today.
The plan is to go swimming in a few - my doctor demanded that I start swimming several times a week. Blah.
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Sunday, March 2, 2014
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Saturday, March 1, 2014
Anyway...I'm trying to get through my writer's block by blogging daily. It's not the same process or feeling as my creative writing, but it's getting me back into getting words on paper...er, screen...every day.
Anyone who follows me on facebook knows that I've been raving about the Unitarian Universalist congregation that I recently joined. And if you know me, then you can understand why that's such a shock. I've been anti-religious establishment for the last decade. This stems from growing up VERY Roman Catholic - elementary and high schools as well as participation in church groups. I'm so not willing to engage in a conversation about my issues with organized religions and the Catholic Church in general, so please don't try. Let it suffice to say that as I got older, I had questions, moral and ethical issues for which I could not get answers. I developed strong political beliefs that did not jive with what the papal administration at the time was preaching.
I will say our current Holy Father has impressed me beyond my wildest dreams. I hope and pray that his influence will fundamentally change the Catholic Church, but my pessimist's heart thinks that it will only last throughout his term in office.
Anyway, that's neither here nor there. I found UU in an odd place - in my hospital bed. When I was hospitalized for the second time for my vasculitis (the terrible two week stay) I found myself with a lot of time to question everything I'd ever believed, everything I'd wanted to believe. I found myself wanting to believe in a god if for no other reason than to shake my fist in anger and yell at someone for my current predicament. But see, I don't believe in a personal god who pays attention to me, or to anyone really. But I needed something spiritual in my life to help me make sense of it all. Enter the hospital's non-denominational chaplain. A woman about my age came in to see me, listened to my questions, held my hand as I ranted and cried, and prayed for me in a way that I'd never heard before. She didn't invoke a particular god, nor did she follow any prayer I'd ever heard. It was beautiful.
After several days of meeting, I told her that I really wanted to find a new spiritual home. I'd tried on Judaism, Buddhism, Catholicism (obviously). I meditated, did yoga, etc. But I found myself with more questions. She suggested that I check out the UU congregation in my new town. And I found home. What's so special about UU? Two things - at least for me. One is the covenant to help each other along in our spiritual paths - no matter what that means. That means I go to service with Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, Christians, Jews, humanists, and people who simply just don't know what they believe. We learn from each other. We encourage each other to learn more. More than anything, we strive to remind ourselves to never stop asking questions. For someone like me, that's heaven. The other thing that drew me in is the commitment to justice, the belief in the inherent dignity and worth of every human being. When I learned about that, it woke something in me that I thought had died over a year ago when I was forced to stop working. That phrase - the inherent worth and dignity of every human being - was at the core of my belief system and the reason I chose the work and path I did throughout my career.
So why am I writing about my spiritual epiphany? I'm not, actually. This is more of a discussion of an evolution of consciousness. What the UU congregation did (and does for me) is helps me move my focus of internal suffering (of which there is still a great deal) to the society at large. I'll never lose myself to the outside world again, but I've learned how to balance all things.
Recently, my congregation celebrated a unique tradition called Luminescence. The goal was to help recenter all of us through reflection, refocus and recommitment to our core values, whatever that may be. For me, it was a return to conscious living - living in service to others. The difference this time around is that I committed to making myself whole and happy first. Because for so long I gave so much that there was nothing left of me for me or my loved ones. Raising up the community means nothing if at the end of the day you are a shell of a person.
I always said that I wanted to be remembered as someone who made a difference in the world. My husband, wise as always, said to me that I didn't have to reach a million people - I just had to make a difference in one person's life.
Love, I believe, is at the heart of this change. So to live more consciously, I vow to love myself, because in loving myself, I can love and eventually shape the world around me.
How's that for a light Saturday morning post?
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Friday, February 28, 2014
So 2014...Not bad so far. I'm not going to go so far as to say good, but that's because I"m a pessimist like that. As I recall correctly, the last time I jokingly shook my fist at karma/the universe I ended up having a diabetic seizure a few hours later. So none of that here.
What's been going on?
A two week trip to NY. The husband was sent for work and I decided it would be a great time to catch up with friends in family I haven't seen in over five years. It was an amazing trip on so many levels. I did, unfortunately, spend most of my time in bed at my parents because the cold just slayed me. But the people I did see and the times I did have were so emotionally fulfilling that I can't even begin to regret it.
The flu - I has it. I've had it for like a month now which means I've been quarantined at home. Most of my friends either work or are also immunosuppressed. Since I'm not trying to kill anyone, home I stay.
In January, I decided that this was the year that I was going to write a book. I was on FIRE. 250 pages in 10 days. It was/is TERRIBLE and will never be read by anyone. I can't bring myself to delete it because it was so much fun writing it. Then I started on a short story series based around a strong female character. The goal was to write a story about a woman who struggles to find the balance of having a high-powered career, a meaningful romantic relationship and strong friendships. The story of most women - can you really have it all without sacrificing a part of yourself. The story actually ended up evolving to focus on the male protagonist - and it was a story about how a man can learn to be vulnerable and go against the grain of everything we believe a man should be (macho, never cries, always too strong, not-emotional) without being a wuss.
Sadly, I found that the two characters couldn't coexist within the confines of my story. If one got what they wanted, the other sacrificed. If both sacrificed, there was dissatisfaction. For me, it was a huge disappointment. Why was I drawn more to the male character's vulnerability? Why was it so hard to write about a woman with strength? What does that say about me? What does that say about society as a whole? I'm still grappling with answering those questions and write now my writing is on hold. In a world where I will always make less than my equally qualified male counterparts, in a world where taking time off to have or raise children will set me back significantly in the workforce, in a world where my diseases either prevent me from working or not having the meaningful career I have worked so hard to achieve, why is it so hard to contemplate a strong female archetype?
Part of me knows the answer. No matter how enlightened I believe myself to be, there is the not-so-subtle programming of society at work that manifested itself in my story. I want to find my voice, and a woman who compromises life goals and dreams is not it. So we'll see.
I have two other stories germinating in the back of my mind, but neither is ready to come out. Writing has been an interesting process. I've done everything from outlining and researching to free writing for 250 pages. I am not particularly satisfied with either, so it's a work in progress.
I was going to say it has certainly rained on my parade, but I'm trying to stay away from bad puns today.
Music has become a huge part of my life the last two months. I listen to it constantly, as it helps stave the boredom. I'm playing my bass for the first time in years. Omar found RockSmith - think Guitar Hero using a real instrument. I can actually play songs now! (will post more on that soon). Music has probably been my saving grace. It soothes me, it motivates me and it entertains me. Thanks to my addiction to Spotify, I can listen to pretty much whatever I want whenever I want. So much better than paying for music or just limiting myself to what I already have.
My favorite band right now is Arctic Monkeys and my favorite song by far is "Do I Wanna Know?"
So happy Friday, all. I'm bored and I'm back.
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Thursday, December 19, 2013
2013 sucked. I'm looking forward to starting a new year.
What does 2014 look like for me? The truth is I have no idea. I am wary of making plans because too many have been foiled in the last year. I also don't believe in making New Year's resolutions because I feel that so many of us set ourselves up for failure by creating unrealistic goals. I want my goals and plans to come from a place of contemplation and preparation.
I don't think I want too much. I want to spend time with my amazing husband and friends. I'd like to go on a real vacation. I'd like to stay away from hospitals. I want to get back on track with my fitness goals. I don't plan on running a marathon or anything. I just want to be as healthy as I can ever be. I want to blog more often and stop bitching about my health as much as possible.
That's all I've got. What are your plans for 2014?
I've been MIA for the last month...it's been a ridiculously hard and emotionally trying month. I finished my chemo treatments the day before Thanksgiving, and for that I am completely grateful. I felt as if I was walking in a fog for the last three months and I'm finally waking up. December rolled around and I can't wait for the month, and the year, to be over.
A week or so after I finished chemo and was up and functioning again I was hit with a colitis attack. It lasted only two days, and thankfully didn't require and trips to the ER or hospitalization. Once I was over that, we found out that our sweet puppy dog Lars had cancer. Just two days after we got the diagnosis, tumors had spread all over his body and he was barely functioning. We went to the vet and held him, sang to him, and just showed love as he went towards his final sleep. He was an amazing spirit, and we're so blessed to have had him in our lives for 8 full and wonderful years. I can't begin to tell you how much we miss him. He was my Bubba. He cuddled and slept with me as I went through chemo - with him I was never alone. I also always had a furry butt in my face most of the time, but it was worth it for the cuddles. He was my walking buddy and just a fun dog to be around. He liked EVERYONE and very few people were able to resist his charm. I know he's in a better place and all of that jazz, but I just miss my Bubba.
Less than a week later, I accidentally took too much insulin and ended up having a diabetic seizure. Thankfully my amazing husband was able to get the EMTs to me very quickly, and they were able to treat me before taking me to the ER to get checked over. The short of it is that my blood sugar dropped too low too fast, and according to the EMTs I was minutes away from falling into a coma. Traumatic doesn't cover it. Thankfully it didn't take much to make me better, and I'm off all insulin. I guess that's my silver lining.
Just a day later, when I was headed to see my doctor about the aforementioned seizure, my fairly new-ish car died completely. I had to get it towed and have the steering column replaced. This was more annoying than traumatic, but it was sort of my breaking point.
A December to Remember...I'd love to forget, but I know I won't.
But as with all things, I am striving to make the best out of this year. I have appointments with all of my major specialists to get checked out before the end of the year. I laughed and cried with my husband over the loss of our sweet boy, and am finally finding peace in this. I am taking better care of myself - I never want to go through anything like what I went through the night of the seizure again. My car is fixed and in good shape.
It will be okay. I'm holding on until the scenery changes. 2013 can suck my big toe.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
I debated whether or not to use the NaBloPoMo prompt, talk about thanksgiving or not blog at all. But I decided that it was important to thank my readers for taking the time to listen to me bitch, moan, find enlightenment, and post random pictures.
I had my last chemo treatment on Tuesday and I was cautiously excited that after the smooth treatment I felt okay. Not just my mood, but none of the symptoms that I usually have, except the persistent nausea. Granted, I was in bed by 6 and asleep by 8. ANd yesterday I got up feeling the same way - I was able to do more than I had been able to do in months. Unfortunately, I was being delusional because not only was I sick, I wasn't responding well to anything I tried. Sleeping, eating, pain meds, nausea meds, meditation - I did it all. The Mr. and I had plans to visit our dear dear awesomely awesome friends, but there was no way I was going anywhere. So I sent the Mr. with the request of a plate of turkey, and tried to sleep. Tossed, and turned and failed.
I started to go down an emotional/mental road that I didn't like. I started saying things to myself like I hate chemo. This sucks. This isn't fair. Why does this always happen to me? 2013 has been one of the worst years of my life!
And in my head I abruptly stopped at the word life. I am alive. My loved ones - friends and family alike - are alive. I live near a national forest with mountains, lakes, etc. I have a place to live and food to eat, a husband who will do anything to make me happy and healthy, I have El Larso, I have some really amazing friends that I became closer to this year, and the list kept growing bigger and bigger.
I then started thinking about how often I go down that dark road and how stupid that was. I am surrounded by love and light from so many amazing people on a regular basis. How could I be anything but grateful for my life?
Please forgive me if I forget anyone: first and always the Mr. for just being there (where? everywhere.) for everything. My parents and in-laws for all the love and laughs, my circle of friends who keep me laughing and sane, my siblings for providing the most interesting stories. My readers, my online buddies, and you.
Thank you for being you. Keep that shit up.
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Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Before we went to my appointment, the Mr. drove me up into the Angeles National Forest, which is only 15 minutes away. We pulled over at a vista point, and it was amazing. I just sat there and meditated and felt so centered and good. I wish I had more time to stay there, but alas, the doctor was waiting. I didn't blog yesterday, mainly because I was asleep by 6pm and didn't wake up until 3am. Thankfully, a friend was online, so at least it wasn't lonely :).
I can't begin to describe the beauty out there, and I think I want to make out there as often as possible.
Tomorrow we're scheduled to go to a friend's house for thanksgiving, but I'm not sure whether or not I'll make it due to my health. If I don't I will likely knit like crazy and find a new series to watch.
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