Wednesday, June 8, 2016

I'm back!

I'm dusting off this blog! I am currently interning at the NC Coalition Against Sexual Assault for the summer of 2016 and am planning on taking some time to blog on topics related to sexual violence prevention and response, rape culture, intersectional feminism, systems of oppression, and more! Fun stuff, right? The two main reasons I have not written much in this blog in the last few years are

1. I have been very busy with graduate school
2. Writing is a lot harder for me than it used to be. I could go into more detail but the short version is that grief combined with my continuous companions of anxiety and depression for more than ten years has had an effect on my writing.

That second reason has had a lot more to do with my not writing than the first. Yes, I've been busy but writing became such a chore, not just for school but I stopped writing in my personal journal as well. Anyway, at a leadership retreat I attended this spring, one of the goals I set was to seriously work on my writing problem. So this summer, I thought a good way to do that would be to start blogging again. After all, a big part of what I need is just practice!

So watch this space for the summer of 2016! I'll also be posting a long overdue reflection on my trip to Cuba this past winter (and hopefully also even more overdue reflections on the Justice at the Border trip I took to El Paso/Ciudad Juarez in February 2015). And I'll probably post about silly things too, even if it's just to break up the heaviness of a lot of the topics I'll be writing about. And I'll probably also write about how great Beyonce is, because, well, she is.

Welcome to Summer 2016! Thanks for reading!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Last Good Day

Mama and I on the Caribbean cruise May 2013

“There's no way of knowing that your last good day is Your Last Good Day. At the time, it is just another good day.” ― John Green (The Fault in Our Stars)

What I would consider Mama's "last good day" was two years ago today: July 4, 2013. Most of the family was gathered in Austin for festivities and we had a great time as a family, as usual. One of the last conversations I remember having with my mom before her final trip to the hospital was about going to karaoke for my birthday. We talked about renting some karaoke equipment for a party. After she died, I was using her computer and saw that her last internet search was for karaoke equipment.

The weekend following July 4th was the beginning of the very end; Mama was weak and exhausted. When we took her to the hospital, after running tests it became clear that this was progression of disease and not just reactions to chemo or pain meds. As a family, we made the decision to transition into hospice care on my birthday, July 10th. She left the hospital on the 12th and died less than a week later on the 18th.

The summer of 2014 I carefully planned out to be in Europe on the Don't Postpone Joy European tour. I find I am wishing that had been an option this summer as well. It was a way to honor and celebrate life, my mother's and my own. I'm not doing anything quite that exciting this July, so it's easier to sit here remembering those incredibly difficult last days.

But her last good day, two years ago, I remember having conversations with her about the summer camp I was working for at the time. I remember her joy, as always, of being with family. I remember her conversation with my "cousin" (not by blood but basically) Timothy about being strong in his faith and continuing his journey to greatness beginning college that fall. I remember her smile.

So despite the fact that the memories of July 2013 are largely painful, today I am trying to focus on Mama's last good day. A day when the cancer was still growing and giving her pain, but she was still able to celebrate being alive and her motto: don't postpone joy. The last good day before the very end and one that I am grateful I could share with her.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Birthday Blog

Despite my best efforts to pretend otherwise, another year since the day of my birth will come to pass next week. I've been feeling a little Peter Pan-like about this upcoming birthday, so this will be the first anniversary of my 25th birthday, because I've decided I'll just stay 25 from now on. Last year's birthday was one of the most fun because I went to Leavesden Studios for the Harry Potter Studio tour. (Yeah, last summer I spent five weeks in Europe. This summer I work at a summer camp with children who don't understand the meaning of an "inside voice.") However, I'm hoping I'll never have a worse birthday than my 24th one, which was the day we realized my gorgeous, amazing, brilliant mother was going to have to transition to hospice care after her fifteen month battle with metastatic cancer. That day I also wore my dress backwards most of the day on accident, which in no way compares, but was a bit embarrassing.

Year 26 culminates a week from tomorrow, and I'll be in Harrisonburg, Virginia for Peace Camp again. My first one in four years and my first without anyone else in my family there. My first since my mom died. It will be the first time seeing many people who absolutely adored my mother and will want to talk to me about her. I don't mind talking about my mother, and I often enjoy it as a way to remember her, but it also wears on me quite a bit being her living memorial. You see, I look so much like her, people who knew her well that I never have known well recognize me immediately as her daughter. And though I cherish that connection to her, it is also a little stab of pain in my heart every time someone says it.

But anyway, I've lived for 26 years and despite all the struggles, I know I am blessed.

If you feel so led to give me a gift, here are some ideas:
"You still look 25!"
Handmade cards
A yoga mat
Gift cards/certificates to: Amazon, Mod Cloth, Jamberry, Target
Sandals (size 8)
A beach trip
Things with Hello Kitty on them 
Funny birthday videos
More hugs and kisses
Obligatory Facebook post

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Phenomenal Woman

art by Angela Yarber

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,   
The stride of my step,   
The curl of my lips.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,   
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,   
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.   
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.   
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,   
And the flash of my teeth,   
The swing in my waist,   
And the joy in my feet.   
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered   
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,   
They say they still can’t see.   
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,   
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.   
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.   
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,   
The bend of my hair,   
the palm of my hand,   
The need for my care.   
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Saturday, June 7, 2014


I've known Sarah since we were three years old. Both our families' first Peace Camp was in 1992. But neither of us remember each other from then. There's scattered vague memories of being in the children's program during our Peace Camps of childhood, but it wasn't until the summer of 2001 that we really became friends.

The summer of 2001, Peace Camp was in Oberlin and it was our first year in the youth group, in fact, I turned 12 that week. Sarah, Madi, and I, as the new 12 year olds to the youth group, became fast friends. We spent practically every waking moment together at that Peace Camp, and every one after. Madi left us for heaven in 2004, and it was one of the hardest things we dealt with at such a young age.

We remained close friends through the years after, visiting each other's homes, still going to Peace Camp every summer, bridging distances between our chosen universities far away from one another and eventually to the post-undergrad years to the day just a little less than two and a half years ago when she told me about a new guy she was dating.

If you know Sarah, you know she's anti-cheesy. But she could barely contain her excitement and joy at having Alex in her life. Within months, they knew they were in it for the long haul, and about a year ago, they were officially engaged, bringing us all the way to today, when they will be married in front of their friends and family.

Sarah has been my best friend for a long time. We've gone through many life changes about the same time, since we are only a month apart in age. The last few years have been difficult for me, obviously because of my mom's illness and death, and there was a part of me that just felt sad that Sarah was going through this next life step of marriage, and I wouldn't be able to do it near the same time. But let's be real, how nuts would it be to have had two best friends have their wedding around the same time? But even more difficult through all of this has been the imagining of my own possible future wedding that my mother will never be present for. 

But Sarah will be. Because Sarah is my best friend. And I am incredibly grateful that I have her. And I am honored to stand with her as a bridesmaid today. She is an amazing person and Alex is too. They complement each other in so many ways, and I know they will live an incredible life together filled with whatever joys and sorrows life gives them. I wish for them that they always be on the same team. My mom was so excited for you last summer, and I know she'll be watching today from heaven. 

Best wishes to the happy couple! Welcome to the family, Alex, we're all so glad to have you!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

2013: Loss

This is an incredibly late "2013" essay, but it's been a whirlwind beginning to 2014 as well. So here it is anyway.

How else could I sum up last year without using the world "loss?"

Earlier in 2013, I used to have a living mom and a boyfriend. By August, I had neither. Mama died after a fifteen month battle with cancer. The boyfriend, of almost nine months at that point, chose not to come to her funeral. Talk about adding insult to injury. (Disclaimer: the boyfriend is not the villain in my life, and since our breakup, I have realized many other things that tell me we were not built to last, but it would be dishonest to not say how much that choice did hurt me.) I went into August motherless, single and unemployed.

Also at the end of July, I had a glitch in my phone that required me to do a "hard" reset to my phone so it would function normally again. The particular cord I had to connect to my laptop had become iffy and during the reset, it became disconnected and with that, everything on my phone was erased. Most was backed up, such as contacts and photos and apps, but what wasn't were the text messages. I had had that phone for two and a half years and every text message from that time had been erased. Now that's not the biggest deal, but when your mom had only died a week and a half earlier and you no longer could read text messages from her... it was a big deal.

But I took care of the unemployment situation quickly on August 1st, and was hired on to continue with Austin Learning Academy, where I had done my second AmeriCorps year. While in AmeriCorps, I co-teached/assisted in seven different classes, but since September, I've had my own Advanced ESL Class. The last couple of days of July, I even tried to demand of the universe that it be "Good News August'" because of how much crap had happened in July. The job was certainly good news, and my grandmother's health, which had been so precarious in July as well, was improving. August passed with no major bad news, but in September my pet betta fish (who had lived for four years!) died. I cried a lot more than I thought I would.

And then came the flood.

In mid-October, our family was planning on going to the Texas State Fair, and I had chosen to spend the night in Salado the night before we were going.

But the next morning, my dad woke me up to tell me that David had called in the night and the rainstorm had been so bad in Austin that our apartment had flooded... 3 in. of standing water, coming in through the front door and the walls on the side of the apartment where my room is, reaching almost to the back wall of our apartment.

So instead of getting ready to go to the fair, I got in the car and drove back to Austin to see the full extent of the damage.

I am not the neatest person, and we had only moved in to the apartment a month before, and many things were still in cardboard boxes or stacked in piles on the floor. Even of what was in plastic bins, a couple had been turned on their sides for more space-saving storage in one of my closets, so the water seeped in them as well.

After finally seeing what was damaged, we had several hundreds of dollars of books either ruined completely or warped by the water, much of David's record collection (that had not been unpacked and were in cardboard boxes) soaked, many of my journals soaked and warped, with whole pages unreadable now, all the letters and cards I have saved, about half of which went to recycling and the rest of which I laid out on the floor to dry. My college scrapbook materials were in a cardboard box, so most of that went straight to the trash or recycling--all of my photographs from my year as a photo student--stuck together.

2013 stripped me clean. I know that I am still so fortunate, but loss was very real to me this past year.

And it has taught me in a practical way the lesson I have long heard: You can't take it with you. None of this is permanent, and there's nothing we can do to make it so.

My grandma told me she was hoping that maybe we could have a Good News 2014 like our Good News August, but it certainly hasn't been great so far. Health problems and phone problems and weather problems and car problems... Can't escape.

But it's not that there hasn't been good news. And though I've said goodbye and good riddance to 2013 two months ago, I know I can't say goodbye to all bad news. I can only keep moving forward, every moment knowing that loss is simply part of life, and that life is just as impermanent as everything else.

But I have a choice on how to live my life.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New Year's Resolutions

Last year, I made a resolution to write in this blog once a week.

I only posted 10 entries in 2013.

In my defense, for the first half of the year, I was working an average of 50 hours a week with AmeriCorps. And my mom had cancer. And I had a boyfriend. Very little writing.

Then to start of the second half of the year, my mom died. No more AmeriCorps, no more cancer or mom, no more boyfriend, lots more grief and depression. Even less writing.

But I love writing. Even as I am in the midst of trying to finish my essays for graduate school, I am thinking about all these things I'd like to write about in this blog. So I made the same new year's resolution this year--I will try to write in here at least once a week.

Today was my first day back in class--as most of you know, I teach Advanced ESL to adults--and of course, part of our lesson was about new year's resolutions. We discussed the tradition, and I had them create a few of their own for 2014.

As for me, I have made new year's resolutions since I was a teenager. They used to be a really long list--like, 50 resolutions (I was inspired to change, but usually only managed to work toward about three of them). I love to make lists. (I also love to read lists, which is probably why I love Buzzfeed so much). I make to-do lists all the time--I have them on post-its in my classroom, varying from things I need to do this week to things I need to get done/want to do in the semester. I have separate lists for types of tasks.

I also make lists in my journal--just for funsies. Lists in my journals as a teen included gems such as "Boys I Think Are Cute But I Don't Necessarily Like" (a list of about 15 boys, one of which I didn't know his name and just called him Las Palmas boy), "The People I Knew Who Were At The Middle School Dance" (there were these for every dance and party I attended in middle school), "The 7th Grade Couples At Durham School Of The Arts In 2001-2002" (if anyone needs a copy of this, let me know), and "List Of Injuries I Have Right Now" (if you knew me as a child/teen.... or even now, you'll understand why this actually took a list). More recent lists in my journal as an adult have been "Dances I Have Choreographed" (that list was over 100 items), "Dances I Want To Choreograph" (not quite as long), "Places I Want To Visit" (ever-growing, though I am slowly getting to work on it), and "How Am I Going To Finish My AmeriCorps Hours?" (sometime we'll have to talk about all the random volunteer opportunities I did during AmeriCorps so I would make my hours). Oh, and occasionally, I'll list all the states and capitals in the U.S. just to make sure I still remember them all.

But back to new year's resolutions.

I've gotten somewhat better at picking actual concrete and attainable goals for my new year's resolutions. Starting in 2011, I've made it a resolution to read 50 books a year. That first year, I made it to 48. 2012, I only read 37. But in 2013, thanks to audiobooks on my commute, I read 51! I think it's a great challenge for me to read more, which I love to do but don't always make time for. Also in 2011, I challenged myself to lose weight. I did, I joined weight watchers and lost 15 lbs. But then I moved to LA and excuses, excuses, point is, I've gained it all back and then some since then.

In January 2012, I even led a spirituality night with my community based on The Happiness Project, one of the books I read in 2011. I focused it on resolutions to make ourselves happier that year.

For years, I made it a new year's resolution to stop biting my nails. I even got a little more creative last year by trying to say I would paint my nails every week (I am less inclined to bite them when they are pretty/nasty tasting polish on them), but nope, didn't work (well maybe it would have if I had actually painted my nails that often).

Resolutions are so full of optimism. We take the things we are most insecure about and try to change them. Or we decide that that thing we've always wanted to do--this will be that year.

As regular readers know, it's hard for me to be optimistic these days. Yet, on January 2nd this year, I went shopping and happened upon a new journal that I fell in love with. I bought it and later that day decided to start writing. But in the front of each journal I've had for the last few years--it starts with lists, of course! Lists of what I want to accomplish that year, lists of habits I'd like to change or maintain, lists of what was good about the previous year, lists of what I'm looking forward to in the year ahead.

So despite it all, I made my new year's resolutions as I do every year. There's eight, but let's be real, thats probably the fewest I've made in my entire life (even last year there were at least 20). I hope you'll send me good vibes as I embark on this journey of positive change and look forward to this coming year--and I send them along your way as well!