Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Dream I Had

There was a main house. It was pretty big. It was an orphanage or shelter or humanitarian organization's headquarters. We were looking out the window onto the garden/back yard. There was a crazy guy (but not manic) that we knew was a murderer who was in a mini van in the yard. He was kind of being held up in the van by guys that were friends or workers of the organization. They had surrounded the van, but there were only about four of them.

I think we had loaded another van of people who needed attention (almost all children) to go to some hospital or specialty care facility. There was a woman in there with her child. She was black, and she looked to be suffering from AIDS or malnutrition. The sliding door to the van was open. Somehow, I was inside. 

Then, all of a sudden, our murderer in the other van decided to make his move: he quickly shifted from his van to the one I was in. I couldn't believe it, that he was so bold as to come out. He didn't look at us as he came into the van; he was just preoccupied with accomplishing his task. He opened the door and got in the driver's seat (which was on the U.S. passenger side of the car). Once I saw that, I jumped out of the sliding door as soon as possible and frantically tried to get out as many kids as I could. Some got out on their own. I think it was a combination of me knowing how severe the situation was--and they didn't move fast enough out of that van, motivated by fear--and I don't think I could speak their language. They weren't all black; some were brown. I saw one final child, a boy, that was within reach of getting out. I raised my eyebrows and made my eyes big, telling him, "You have to get out, now!" He held out his hands, and I grabbed him under his armpits and hoisted him out of the van, over that mother with her child. I looked at her. There was no time. The murderer drove off in a hurry, taking with him some few children and that mother in his escape. 

Hours later (or maybe days), I saw that mother and her child on a hospital/mortician's table. That was the photo that would tell the story.


I think the fuel for this dream was partly this book that I read a couple of weeks ago, What Matters. It's photojournalism and articles about the top distressing world issues--poverty, AIDS, water--all told through captivating pictures. As I read that book, I also thought, "Where is my place in all this? What can I do? What do I do?"

In my dream, I happened to be able to help tremendously those children, but some got away. I couldn't do it all, and we had some real losses.

Not all of the impact I make in my life will be as clear-cut as my dream. But I would like to figure out my purpose in serving others--what is my niche? Where is my small spot?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Dilemma of Choice

What if you could reduce an object to the status of being just an object?

Too often, we think of possessions as more than what they are. How many people are addicted to their phones or think that they would be helpless without them? The phone can take on the role of lifeline, connection, informant, or devoted record keeper. The phone becomes more than just a phone.

When you pick a mobile phone, there are many hidden options that pop up: What is your wallpaper going to be? How much time will you spend looking for just the right photo, and then cropping it? How long will it last as your wallpaper before you look for another one? On that note, what about the phone itself? How often do you think about upgrading and switching to another phone? How much would the new phone cost? How much would the plan be? What accessories would you need to buy? What will your ringtone be? Where will you buy it from? Will it be what you want? Will you ever be satisfied?

Taking all these options into account, I realized that I was spending about as much time thinking about the maintenance of my phone as actually using it. I also became aware of the thin line I was walking by constantly handling my smartphone while driving (such as changing my music preference every 2.5 minutes). It seemed fulfilling my right to choice was the way I wasted time.

I switched to a "clam shell" dumb phone a year and a half ago. I appreciate the limited connection I have with it. I notice that I see it just as a phone now. I picked one wallpaper, and it has stayed there the whole time. I don't have phone envy. This phone is just right for me.

I have done the same with earrings. When I noticed I was becoming a woman on my mission in Argentina, I got my ears hand-pierced by a woman with an ice block and specially-pointed first-timer earrings. I thought,  "This opens up a whole new world! Now I can wear all those earrings I've been wanting to wear!" I would always look at the shiny stuff in stores (and I still do), comparing earrings, buying many, trying them out, getting rid of them for perceived obsolescence, and trying to find my favorites. But maybe I created a market for options when I didn't have to. In Peru, because of a lack of ideal sanitation conditions, my ears would hurt when I would wear the earrings I brought with me. To eliminate the issue, I bought gold studs, and I have switched them out only a handful of times since then. They are an adequate choice to wear every day, and even though I originally though choice was better, I have since all but eradicated it to give my brain a rest.

I would like to extend this limitation of choice to other areas in my life. Take clothing for example. My clothing choices reflect my concern to be what others want me to be. I have said various times that if I could wear anything I want, it would be full floor-length skirts and Victorian tops. But I feel my clothing plays a role in my relationship with society. It helps me be seen as not an outcast, as a regular upstanding citizen. I feel like I have to conform, to a certain extent, to what the general public desires of me in order to be "successful." And if I don't feel it from society at large (or rather, from advertising agencies), my clothes-savvy sister will interject with mild comments that I need to update my wardrobe.

When I was in Peru, I only had four tops and three bottoms with one dress. I didn't have to worry about what I was going to wear that day because, one, there weren't many options, and two, I had already trusted those articles of clothing to make me look decent.

When I do end up being critical of how flattering a dress or shirt makes me look, I am almost always disappointed, and label it a reject item. I know I will soon be at the stores again, searching for the perfect item, which always seems to elude my grasp. Recently, however, I have been choosing those decent clothes again, the clothing that is acceptable, but not radical. The clothing that I don't have to spend extra time thinking about. Shouldn't the critical thinking only be confined to the time before making the purchase? Obviously, there are people who see clothing as an expression of opinion, almost an art form for creating. I am not one of those people. I would rather remove the option.

And that's not such a bad idea. After being in other countries, I am astounded at how much choice we have here in America. Just go to any regular store (which is usually a large store), and you'll see an endless assortment of toothpaste options. How is anyone supposed to make a choice with so many available? Many times, we don't choose. It becomes too overwhelming. If there happened to be a smaller number of options, we could spend a proper amount of time researching and comparing the available products to see which one best suited our needs, but that's nearly impossible now. An abundance of choice sometimes makes things harder than they have to be.

And so here is the goal I have set for myself: when I can see a phone as just a means of communication, earrings as just a small embellishment, or clothing just as a means to cover the body from the elements, things become a whole lot simple and clearer. Options just for options sake are not helpful or beneficial. When I reduce something to its basic function, I can see it for what it really is: a tool.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Unseen Accomplishments

I don't want to be prideful, but I have to acknowledge something I don't usually acknowledge.

I went to Argentina to return to my mission. It was a very short trip, in relation to the amount of time I originally spent there 7 years ago.

While I was travelling there, I reviewed some of the papers I had kept from my mission. A few of them were from my mission president, encouraging me to maintain good habits when I got back home. As I read through the lists, and even one that I had made of goals I wanted to accomplish when I got home to 'normal life,' I realized that I had maintained and kept almost all of those aspirations. Things like consistently studying my scriptures, talking with my Heavenly Father in prayer, and going to church faithfully, I was accomplishing.

Just recently my focus has started to shift from accomplishments to strengthening good habits. The later is more sustainable, and can be applied to all future environments, no matter the accomplishments or lack of them. While it seemed as I was visiting my mission again that I didn't have visible accomplishments of my years at home (a boyfriend, a husband, or children, for example), I had maintained my standards. Though members were quick to ask about those outward successes, I didn't receive hardly any questions about my fidelity in the Church or how I had grown and matured at home.

Now that I realize how successful I've been at maintaining my testimony, I feel grateful and blessed. A thought came into my head today: these little efforts are like rowing a boat. Though rowing might seem repetitive, at times boring, or at least not as interesting as doing something else, how would you expect to get somewhere if you stopped rowing?

It's the little actions that make the difference and compound to eventually make up a life of service and sacrifice, a life worthy of marvelous blessings. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Lost Regularity

Sometimes I forget that people are gone.

Sometimes I think that I can go back and all the places and things will be the same. 

I can go back to the street that I grew up on and see Grandma Monson. She can welcome me and we'll talk on her front porch.

I can visit Aunt Pat in Yuma or Grandpa Lindsay in San Luis Obispo at his retirement home. 

These people aren't there anymore, and I feel a sense of loss that I can't easily go back there again. 

But I know they continue on, and when I get to where they are, we'll sit on the front porch and tell stories and reconnect as if we hadn't been separated by death.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

On Love

A couple of days ago, I helped walk a dog with a lady  who's very much an activist. We had never met, and so she asked me questions about my life. I got to learn about her life, too. She asked me about future plans, and I said I would like my next endeavor to really open up my heart.

It would be blind and ungrateful of me to not recognize and give thanks for the love I feel for others now and have felt in the past. There are certain people I am just endeared to, and I want to support them with energy and love. But I guess that old vice named Comparison has crept into my brain again. (By the way, "Comparison is the death of joy.") When I look at the awe-inspiring examples of Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, Jr., I feel like I should love more than I do. I even regularly wear a necklace inspired by the words of Mother Teresa: "Do small things with great love."

I admit that I am a naturally selfish person. I think most of us are. And if not selfish, then ego-centric. We worry about what we will do next, what will happen to us, and what to plan for in our lives. But how often do I plan to serve others? That might be the first step for me--consciously making an effort to search outside of myself for someone to show love to. With the aforementioned Greats, love was part of their being, and I eventually want to reach that level, where love inspires everything I do.

What I think makes me a little unique is that I feel I have a lack of universal compassion. It is hard for me to put myself in other people's shoes. I have a hard time connecting with people. When I see a commercial for international children's help, I don't immediately have the compassion that my mother or sister have, for example, of feeling pain for them.

As I am reading a book about Mother Teresa, some questions come into my mind, questions that I'm afraid to ask to other people, lest I should be looked down upon for feeling this way.

  • What is poverty, really? Consider this for a moment.
  • Is poverty not living like the middle class of the United States?
  • Is it only not being able to provide for the necessities?
  • What is our role in alleviating poverty?
  • Can it be eradicated?
  • What about poverty that's not monetary? Many poor people are actually rich in spirit.
  • Am I supposed to feel a desire to alleviate all suffering?
  • Isn't suffering necessary to teach us valuable lessons, lessons that we otherwise could not learn with all our needs taken care of?
  • Is it because I have had every need satisfied in my upbringing that I feel that some suffering could actually do me good?
  • And what of the work of the sister missionaries of Calcutta? What if the recipients of their service are not worthy of it? What if they abuse the gifts given to them?
  • How can I tell when someone is suffering?
  • Really, what can I do?

I learned in Church recently that when trying to comfort someone, you should express sadness that the person is going through what they are, but then bear testimony that it is only Christ that can really help them. (I think this is more for loss than temporal grief. I.E. I'm not going to say to someone with a bleeding leg, "I'm sorry, but there isn't anything I can do for your leg except tell you to lean on Christ." Obviously, there are practical things I could do to relieve that person's suffering.) I was in Argentina once and could see the problems of everyone around me, and it was made clear to me in that moment that I really couldn't do anything to solve their problems, but I could invite them to go to Christ and experience the aid that He freely gives.

So what is my role? Should all suffering be eradicated? Does that change my responsibility?

I was in Cuba recently, and I was painting a door of a church for a service project. I realized there were two ways to paint this door: one could be to look at it as a task to be done, and the other was to put my love into it. My ordinary actions can become more than what I do if I do them with love.

As it says in the book I'm reading, "The [Calcutta] missionaries' absolute conviction that they are serving Christ 'in the distressing guise of the poor' makes their arduous and repetitive labor sacred." Maybe a first step to having more love for my fellow beings is to think of them as Christ. Would I really turn down the opportunity to serve Him if He was standing right in front of me, begging for money? Though I may not outright feel love for that person specifically, I can show my love to my God and do it "unto the least of these."

What about you? Do you have a natural ability to love or has it been cultivated over time? What do you do to serve others? How do you maintain proper perspective when doing seemingly boring or insignificant work?

Trip to Cuba

I got back from Cuba on Saturday night. We had spent about 10 days there. I flew out of Los Angeles with my parents and landed in Miami. On the drive down to the airport from our house, we found out that our family hadn't received visas to get into the country, but we proceeded anyway.

We went as a religious group, headed up by our old pastor from Los Angeles. There were 19 of us from California and Hawaii, mostly from Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco. Almost everyone was Christian. We had the mission of serving temporally, instead of preaching, like most other foreign religious groups do.

"Unto the victory forever."

Cuban History Lesson
Cuba was the first place that Christopher Columbus landed in 1492, and the indigenous population was wiped out in 30 years or so. Different countries have been involved in its history, but the Spanish have had the most influence: everyone speaks Spanish. The United States was heavily involved in its economy in the 50s and early 60s. The then president, Batista, was soaking up everything negative about Western civilization: alcohol, prostitution, and rampant corruption. In the late 60s was the Cuban Revolution, led by the dapper Fidel Castro. He overthrew the Batista regime and everything it stood for and instead created a socialist society for the people. He studied law in school, and his speeches were 3-4 hours long. Fidel subsidized many parts of the economy, thus forcing out American businesses. They could survive because of the backing of the USSR during the 70s and 80s, but when the Berlin Wall came  down, so did the financial support. Cuba then entered the "Special Period," filled with rations and shortages. It was a big struggle. Today, Cuba is relatively stable, but certain things are apparent. The embargo the US government put on Cuba to not accept its imports have left people in a state of conglomeration: US 50s classic cars, Soviet infrastructure, and Spanish colonial architecture. In fact, about half of the cars on the road are antique American-made (with about 2% of the country owning a car). The US embargo is still in effect today.

A cool sign in Old Havana

The first two things I noticed right away about Cuba that are different from other Latin American countries I have visited were the fact that internet access is scarce and there are many Black people there. The Spanish imported many African slaves to work in the fields, mostly cultivating sugar cane and tobacco. I know it's not polite to emphasize race observations so much, but I still cannot get over how many black people there are. They seemed to make up about half of the population. The other grand observation was that it was always hot and humid--no respite, unless you have access to an air conditioning unit.

The whole time, we stayed in churches. The best one was at the beginning of the trip, and the least...modernized was at the end. Half of the time we spent in Havana (also frequently spelled La Habana), but we also went to Matanzas and Varadero on the north coast, about 1.5 hours away from the capitol. Our first project was helping our guides' (Wilfredo and Regla) church a little bit outside of the city. We leveled a dirt pile to make a foundation for a future building, painted the chapel walls, painted the exterior door, did electrical for the visiting pastor's house, and painted the inside of it. It was great because we had so much energy, had the tools necessary, everyone was working together, and the food was so replenishing. The ladies of the congregation cooked chicken and rice, with fruit salad as a snack--the best!

At the nightly cannon firing at the Old Fort

In the evenings, we would meet together to discuss a book with Wendell Berry essays. I had never heard of him, and I would have liked to discuss something religious, since we are a religious group, but we still had good discussion.

The next location was in Varadero, a 12 mile strand of land that is the tourist spot on the island. One time, we went to the end of the peninsula to find mega resorts too extravagant for almost any Cuban to afford. That's the problem with many things. Tourists basically pay in dollars, and locals use a currency 1/24 of that. The best you can be paid doing a regular job in Cuba is $30 a month (that includes doctors). The ones who make more money are those who have their own enterprise and can make money on the side, like chauffeurs. As an example of the $30 a month, certain professions, like medical doctors, don't pay more the more experience you have; all are paid the same in that field. It stresses the socialist idea that not one person or group should be above another. We learned that first hand on a river cruise.

We were going to take a boat up a river to a tourist destination with food, lounging, and water to play in. The workers at the company at first denied our guides from accompanying us because they were not tourist. I'm not sure who paid for them, but eventually they were allowed to go with us. I guess they told the company they were tourists, too. I don't know where all the foreign money is going, but it doesn't make sense to not have it benefit the general Cuban population, since they are so socialist and equitable.

While in Varadero, I helped interpret for our old pastor's sermon. I'd like to think I was the #2 person for interpreting. We had a gringo who was the co-leader who interpreted most of the time, but I appreciated the opportunities when I could step in and show my skills. The pastor asked me to interpret her sermon, and I gladly accepted. I did a crash translation of it the night before and then I consecutively interpreted it the next day. We both felt the Spirit, and apparently many in the congregation did, too.

The beach in Varadero

The beach in Varadero is amazing. The sand is pretty clear, and the color of the ocean is a wonderful bunch of blues. And being in the ocean when it is hot and sticky out is the perfect remedy.

Though we didn't serve the whole time like most mission trips do, we were some forerunners to future mission work in Cuba. It's a rocky road to stability, so we encountered some of that along the way. We were eventually allowed to come into the country on tourist visas, though groups usually are only allowed on religious visas. And I must point out, tourism has been going on for many years in Cuba, mostly from Canadians, but it's only been a couple of months since Americans have been allowed to come.

Things went on, hot and sticky, with our energy slowly draining. Our project in Matanzas was painting a church by brushes. We got quite creative with finding places to paint from. On the second story, I leaned out of a window to paint the exterior walls, and my sister stood on scaffolding that had one set of stabilizers a different length than the others. Needless to say, safety wasn't as much of a priority there. My dad actually wondered if he was eventually going to kill someone by taking forced cuts in security measures with the electrical system (forced because of lack of supplies). And that's another thing. Stores are few and far between. It's like you need a Marauder's Map just to find a local store that sells drinks, let alone a grocery or hardware store.

My favorite picture

Our last project was weeding a perimeter path around a church agricultural field. That was hot and hard work. We used hoes and rakes, and our only shade was a tree a few meters away.

Getting home was an ordeal in itself. We were in the Habana airport for about 6 hours, waiting for our delayed plane. We all missed our connecting flights. Our leader had to book all new flights for most of us. We had to find accommodation for that night. We had to wake up early, and our plane made a stop in Denver before coming to Los Angeles. And then we had to drive 3.5 hours home. I wasn't as stressed about that as I thought I would be, but I am thankful to be home and have nice clean clothes.

Last night in Cuba, looking across to the fort and lighthouse

All in all, the trip wasn't as life-changing as my sister had anticipated it would be, but I got to see a different side of Latin America, be grateful for things like internet and corner stores, and see a different ethnic society than what I'm used to. I appreciated getting to know the people in our group, talking with them as we served. I liked observing Cubans and internalizing that they are not very different from me.

More questions surfaced as I experienced life there, questions about my life and what I am going to do with it. I don't have solid answers for people who ask me what I will do in the future.

I gave a talk in the Spanish branch when I got home. It was about love. I was really emotional about it. I talked mostly about the great two commandments and worked my way in. One problem is not loving others as much as we should, especially those in our family. Another problem is not loving and accepting ourselves enough. And the final layer is not loving God enough. But when we tap into the eternal, the sacred, the infinite source of power and love in the universe, we have more to give to those around us. When I learn more about the love of God and what Christ has done for me, I feel more confident in myself and grateful for that gift. Then I have more to share with others: more love, more strength, more joy, more encouragement, more vision, more testimony, more positivity. These things are readily available if we humble ourselves and look around to help others. Let us draw on the infinite power of love to help heal our lives and the lives of those around us.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Family Encounters

I talked with E today. We all met at lunch: my parents, Sissy, T, and E. My mom's brother's daughter is T, and E is her daughter. E has two older brothers, and she is the only girl. I didn't know too much about her life recently--hardly anything, in fact--so I asked her questions as we walked around the city. She bought some $35 earrings, so I knew she had some money. I can't remember what I asked her, but she said she was a brat. I had not gotten that impression at all before. But as she explained things, I kind of got sad.

I think T really wanted a girl, and T is pretty feminine. Probably after the stress of her two boys, she wanted to lavish E's presence. E explained that she gets what she wants. She also answered my follow-up questions, so I learned that she's a senior in high school without a license, she doesn't know how to work hard, she has no clear passion, all of her temporal needs have been taken care of by her parents, and she hardly has any life experience. She is dependent.

I felt like I was looking at a similar version of me. I have more of a drive to live now and to accomplish things, but it has taken a long time, and I lamented that she was raised that way. I guess struggle really teaches you to value life and work hard to accomplish a clear goal, but she had no vigor for such an endeavor. She needed a catalyst--either a radical experiment to teach her to be independent on her own or to gradually accept adult responsibilities (but it also must happen in the time that she wills it and not forced upon her). How can you work with someone who doesn't have passion? Should we not be zealous to live life? Aren't we grateful to have something to work for?

I have never been a fighter. I admire activists who have known what right is and have fought to preserve it at all costs. They have an inner moral compass that steers them independent of popular social belief. I wish to eventually fight hard for something, to know my purpose and to boldly declare it.

I do not doubt that E has that fire within her. But it is kept under many layers. It will take a lot of effort to bring it back up.

I was nervous about being alone with her. She is quieter than I am, so I felt responsibility to create the conversation. But as I opened up about myself and what I have learned, my words endeared her to me. She was grateful I spent time with her.

I hope my words inspired her to act. She must not use her circumstance as an excuse to spiral downward. She much make conscious choices to act, to work her way out of dependence, and to shape her own future, for it will not come to her without effort.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Childhood Discovery

I had commandeered a log from the log pile for the fireplace and sat on it in our living room. It was time to play. The front room had a row of windows that looked out onto the street.

After a while of playing, I eventually stayed still. I looked out the tops of the windows to the blue and white sky. I sat and noticed: The clouds were moving along steadily, enough to be detected.

What? Clouds move? I thought to myself.

I watched long enough to make sure they were moving. I kept my eyes fixed on one cloud segment until it moved from the top right corner of the small window to the bottom left corner. Once it was confirmed, I shouted to my mother, "Mom! Come here!" When she came in, slight alarm hung on her face, and she waited for an explanation.

"Look! The clouds are moving!"

"Yeah, that happens." As if to say, What? You haven't noticed that before? It's a fact of life. Clouds move.

She didn't dwell on my new discovery and soon went back to her activity.

But I stayed, transfixed at the sky, watching the unhurried and silent migration of the clouds.

A prayer with an answer

I thank Thee for what Thou hast given me.
I thank Thee from my heart,
but what am I supposed to do now?
Where am I to start?

So many choices I have,
so many different ways to go.
If I choose and choose amiss,
how am I to know?

What if I make a mistake?
What if I slip and fall?
- Don't you know, my child?
That's the planning of it all.

You were made to make wrong choices,
Heaven knows it well.
You can't expect to be perfect.
That's what I've been trying to tell you.

You have at least one failing,
it's plain to see.
You don't trust the God who made you.
Where's your faith in Me?

I made the mountains and the rivers,
and I even made you, too.
Don't you think that all is in my hands,
and I will do the best for you?

I know your situation;
Every little detail
of your life is right before me.
I won't let you fail.

Use what I have given you,
make your talents shine,
for I will be there with you:
I'll give you Help Divine.

So trust, and hope, and do your best
(there's no penalty for that),
and just remember, I am here
for when you will fall flat

for it's really not a failure,
just a little test
to learn to lean on Me completely,

and then, I'll help you be better than your best.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Mosque Discovery

I went to a mosque yesterday.

I was going to a familiar place in a not-so-familiar city. I took a different way than the one I usually go. I see a huge sign "Mosque of ----." "What? We have a mosque in this city? I have to go and see it." I immediately pulled off the road and crossed the street.

The architecture was amazing. The light green succulents outside the gate were inviting. The inner courtyard was cozy, and I could picture many followers chatting together. Underneath benches in the courtyard were beautiful green tiles. And then there was the front of the building. There were stairs leading up to a massive glass door, and the stairs were flanked by two water fountains. There were decorative metal stencil panels wrapping most of the building that cast amazing shadows on the walls.

Though the building was locked, a man pulled up at the time I was just leaving, and he let me in. As I walked into the foyer, I wanted to take everything in. I looked at the bulletin board to see what kinds of things are displayed in a mosque: a clock with six faces, denoting the daily prayer times; a notice of a house for rent; and a nice letter from a Jewish convert, praising the openness of the mosque during a recent open house that he attended. The man reminded me to take off my shoes to go on the carpet. I did, and I followed him into the main room. On the floor were strips of a repeated pattern: it was the pattern of each person having their own prayer rug, but on one continuous band. The bands were aligned to Mecca, and faced a niche on the side wall of the room.

The man I talked to was a convert who had previously been a less-active Christian. He had some insights for me and gave me about six pamphlets on important or hot topics that the Muslim community wants the community at large to know about. But what I want to talk about is this: as I was talking with the man, a woman came in. The man had told me about her, that she was devout, and that I should give him my email address to give to her to help me stay in contact.

When she came in, I thought she was beautiful. She wore a striped maxi skirt, a long sleeved shirt, and a dusty rose-colored hijab (head covering). As she acknowledged me and we introduced each other, I wanted to blurt out, “I love your hijab,” but I stopped myself. Would she take offence? Would she think I’m stereotyping? After the fact, I thought it could possibly be compared to when my sister told me she was mortified upon hearing about an incident in which a white person was captivated by a black person’s curly hair and asked to touch it.

I told the man after the woman had left to go pray in another room that one of the things that makes me interested in Islam is a movie where two women—a Muslim and an orthodox Jew—become friends. Did I sound way too shallow to compare an entire religion and centuries of history to one bit of media? After watching that movie, I wanted to wear a hijab. If I lived in a community in which it was the norm to wear one, I would, just for culture sake. But this is not just a culture; it’s a religion, and is it disrespectful to want to wear the hijab when I am not Muslim?

I guess these are the questions to ask myself, but also ask an open and trusting follower of that faith. I should find out from her or him what the general community would think, along with their personal opinion. Is it right to compliment about a head scarf? Are they meant to be noticed or are they supposed to be simple and not distracting so that you focus on the commitment and not the article of clothing itself?

I am glad I am fearless sometimes and just latch on to learning a new thing. I am thankful I got to visit the mosque and become familiar with it. I want to learn more because it fascinates me, and I think Islam has much to do with my religion (Mormonism) that I don’t know about.

Is anyone Muslim or know about Islam who can answer my questions a little more?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


I used to climb walls.

I would go in the backyard of our house and get up on the cinder block walls that marked our boundary. This was all before the age of nine. I guess I was a Scout Finch kind of character. My mother would tell me not to climb, but I knew what I was doing.

Getting up was easy. Walking was easy. I didn't crouch or hug the top of the blocks. I walked stoically around as far as I could, rounding the corners with ease. I did it by myself. I didn't need someone's praise.

Sometimes, I would look down at our cat, bathing in the dirt under the bushes. Or I could peer into our neighbor's yard. Or check to see if my dad's grapes were ripe, which they never were.

I was in my element.

Yet, along the road of life, I have become more cautious, resistant, and safe. It was only brought to my attention last weekend that I was the girl who climbed walls. Why can't I do so now? What has made me reverse my role?

My sister, on the other hand, has embraced her childhood self. Don't expect she'll pass up an opportunity to climb a tree. She will say it's begging to be climbed.

Can I get back to that girl?

That fearless girl who stood on the edge of discovery and didn't care about the consequences.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

New House on Wheels

I bought a trailer. 

This has been a dream of mine for a while now. I have researched many a Craigslist ad for a trailer that I could live in full-time for less than $5,000. Well, I found one. It's a 1971 20 footer. It's very dated on the inside (lots of brown), but it's in pretty good condition. I am working on getting it to a livable condition as it sits in my parents' driveway in California.

I figure the trailer is a metaphor. Like Frozen says, "everyone is a fixer upper," and it's definitely true for my new home (yet to be given a name). The veneer is peeling in some places, there's some truly psychedelic carpet in one of the cabinets, and the exterior paint floats away in the breeze. But every piece of work I put into it adds a bit of charm and makes me like it more. It's starting to seem like my property, at least, and not just something I'm working on.

Speaking of work, I got a part time job here, and when I'm not working, I work on the trailer. I've bought key things, like a new battery, brake lights, and new clearance lights for the exterior. I put some serious elbow grease into cleaning the ceilings and floors. There are some 70s features that I love and I'm going to keep, like the olive green oven, or the faceted glass light cover. The floors are also pleasant: a marbleized linoleum with gold faux cracks. 

When I bought the thing, I could see the potential, and it's growing on me. I definitely effect it, but it works back on me. I wasn't so emotional when I bought it, and I didn't build up fantasies in my mind about how much work it would take for it to get where I want it, but I was willing to make the investment. This can be a metaphor for my future marriage relationship. My husband won't be the perfect person. There are things I would rather change, but every little positive thing I will give to him will contribute to the success of our relationship. 

With the trailer, I almost feel like I should ask it what it would allow me to do. Though it's old and not in pristine condition, I feel the need to preserve some original things, but other things need to be brought up to date. I would really like a desk, but would it appreciate me just sawing into it? If it could communicate to me, which of my plans would it agree with?

For now, I will keep putting my love into it, and soon I will move into it full time, with all my stuff. I hope it all fits, and we can begin a wonderful journey together. 

Full-time living, here I come.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

[Poem] Maine

Hojas de diferentes colores
La luz del sol brillando detrás de las ramas
El suelo suave y sensible
Corro en el bosque para ver el río
El aire intenta invadir mi casaca
Siento mi cuerpo moverse, paso tras paso. Estoy llegando al agua.
De repente los árboles se partan y puedo ver la orilla al otro lado del río
El sol me calienta a mi faz
Cierro mis ojos y me quedo parada
Lentamente abro mis ojos y me acostumbro a mi entorno
Hay una casa a mi derecha y un camino de madera a la izquierda
El faro de frente de mí vigila por los barcos que pasan por el canal
Abajo las olas lamen a las piedras y pasa por mis oídos su conversación con ellas
Paso por el otro lado de la casa y me siento sobre una roca, tratando de absorber el ataque a mis sentidos
Quiero estar en este momento hasta el fin del día,
Pero hace frío y estoy lejos de casa
Por el momento trato de vivir en el momento
Solo hay ahora
No hay nada más de lo que veo
Agua, arboles, tierra. Rojo, verde, azul, marrón
Todo está aquí.
De esto me glorío.

Leaves of different colors.

The sunlight shining behind the branches.
The soft and tender soil.
I run in the forest to see the river.
The air attempts to invade my coat.
I feel my body moving, step after step. I'm getting closer to the water.
Suddenly, the trees part, and I can see the other bank of the river.
The sun warms my face.
I close my eyes and stand still.
Slowly I open my eyes and take in my surroundings.
There is a house to my right and a boardwalk to my left.
The lighthouse in front of me watches over the boats passing through the canal.
Down below, the waves lick the rocks, and their conversation passes through my ears.
I cross in front of the house and sit on a rock, trying to soak up the attack on my senses.
I want to stay in this moment until the going down of the sun.
But it's cold, and I am far from home.
For now, I try to live in the moment.
There is only now.
There is nothing else but what I see
Water, trees, earth. Red, green, blue, brown.
All is here.
In this, I glory.

Written originally in Spanish for my class in Chiclayo, Peru, July 2014. 
Photos from my trip to Maine in October 2013.

[Snapshot] Cañon del Sonche, Huayas, Perú

The wind passing over my ears drowns out any natural sounds that would be hovering over the canyon. The curled tops of the cotton-white clouds contrast with the bright blue sky.
If you peel off the green mask that's draped over the canyon walls, you see a smaller-scale version of the brown and red Grand Canyon. There are tears in the green blanket, though, where the white and red soil is exposed. 
The erosion slides look like giant eggs were cracked above the canyon, and the yolk is slowly making its way to the muddy river at the bottom. A set of waterfalls adorns a neighboring canyon in front of me. 
A majestic condor would not be out of place here, riding the air waves that blast up from the bottom of the canyon.

I'm happy just being here.