Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011 Retrospective (Part 2)

As the year wraps up, I am spending a lot of time reflecting on what this year has brought to my life. This is the second in a series of these posts. See also Part 1.

Come August 6th, I was on a plane to California. I officially started JVC that day with orientation in Aptos, CA. It was a gorgeous place, but also so cold. Especially for me--it was 60 degrees and I had been dealing with 107 all summer in Austin. It was an interesting, fascinating week learning all about living in JVC and getting to know my housemates. On the way down from orientation in NorCal, we drove aways on the coast and then went to (most of us at least) our first In-N-Out experience!

The next week came my first week at Urban Compass. The kids didn't start school for almost a month after I began work, so it was mostly a lot of prep work and getting to know the ropes on the admin stuff. And then come September, the kids came back to school and though I may not have fallen in love immediately--I have now, and there's no going back. Read all Urban Compass related posts here.

At the same time, it has been a wonderful challenge to live in intentional community. My house-mates are all incredible people individually as well as a collective blessing to my life. We've had some wonderful times exploring LA and spirituality. These people help keeps me going in the foreign land that is Los Angeles. It's overwhelming at times, and we are all thankful for each other to work through the hard times together.

I have been working on driving again, and I have now officially failed the test three times. And I still hate driving, but doing my best to get my license.

It's a fascinating experience being part of JVC. We are put in such unique positions in many aspects of our lives and made to make the best of it. It's difficult, but especially with the support of my house-mates, church families, family and friends, it is do-able. As readers of my blog, you are part of my journey, and I appreciate each and every one of you. Blessings to you in 2012!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2011 Retrospective (Part 1)

As the year wraps up, I am spending a lot of time reflecting on what this year has brought to my life. This is the first in a series of these posts.

This has been an interesting year.

I would never have imagined on 1/1/11 that I would be living in Los Angeles.

I embarked on this year as a fresh college graduate joining the ranks of everyone else, trying to find a job and figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I spent about two months applying to jobs, interviewing for some, exploring post-graduate service programs and working on those applications. And a lot, a LOT of folklórico. I went to practice every day to have a concrete reason to get out of the house, and since I didn't really have much else to keep me from going. I also started going to zumba at St. Ed's pretty often (blending in with the students...). In January, I had started Weight Watchers, so the exercise went along with my eating better, and in the first half of 2011, I lost 15 lbs! (It has stagnated since then since I haven't been keeping up with as good exercise/eating habits, but I haven't gained it back either...)

Then came March, and I was hired as a temp at the IRS. One of the most interesting two months of my life. The job was... pretty boring. (I say that if my most boring job of my life is at age 21, then I'm doing pretty good). It was tedious work of opening envelopes, restapling, stamping, paperclipping and filing tax returns. That's what I did for 8 hours a day. And I also worked nights. But it paid well, and it was two blocks from my apartment so I could walk there. (David picked me up at night since it was 12:30 when I got off). And the people I worked with were really, really amazing. Don't miss the job itself, but I do miss those people.

In April, I also participated in the Relay for Life at St. Ed's, especially in honor of my friend Madeleine, whose seventh anniversary of her death passed on on April 28th.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Looking for the Light

When a classmate of mine died in tenth grade, a good friend told me to look for the light in my life. I have received a lot of good advice in my life, but this is something I try to always remember when the times are dark.

And tomorrow always comes. There's always a new, fresh day to start over with. There's a lot of things I would change about my life and many that I plan to work on now that I have the time. But there are so many more things that I wouldn't change for anything. I keep looking for the light. And I can always find it if I look hard enough and if I'm not afraid of what I'll see in the process.

It's something I've been trying to remind myself in the last few weeks, where there has seemingly been a lot of darkness in people that surround me. This darkness could affect any of us in a particular circumstance, and it is especially hard to see the young ones of Urban Compass have to deal with some of the struggles that they do. I remember at the beginning of this job, I would mostly just have fun with the kids and then something would remind me of the lives they live outside of us. Lately, I can't seem to forget.

With the stories these kids tell us, it puts a whole new perspective for me on what it means to have a good childhood. I didn't grow up oblivious to the world's problems but most of them weren't at my house. My home was a safe space, my neighborhood was pretty safe. I had parents that were around and made enough money for us to live comfortably. So many of the kids we work with in Urban Compass are missing out on one or more of those things--some even, all of the above.

So it's been harder for me to look for the light, but each one of these kids is a blessing. I learn from them each day. I hope that we at Urban Compass serve as a light in their lives, which is absolutely what we strive to do.

There's one particular Urban Compass student that has shown a lot of light to me recently. She and I butted heads a lot at the beginning, and she was the one I struggled with working with the most. But she has made so much improvement in the last 8 weeks, and then still seems to like me. And she made me this picture. On the back it also said "Ms B and me are special. Ms B is nice. I am nice. We are best friends."

"Ms B and me"

And I feel like I must be doing something right. 

There's the light.

Monday, December 5, 2011

California Roses: Photo Post

I've been enjoying roses in the fall/winter and wanted to share some of the photos I've taken recently.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Honoring Dorothy Kazel, Ita Ford, Maura Clarke and Jean Donovan

On December 2nd, it was the anniversary of the murders of Dorothy KazelIta FordMaura Clarke and Jean Donovan by the Salvadoran military in 1980. These four women are the namesakes of the JV Casas in Los Angeles--I live in Casa Dorothy Kazel.

On Friday night, Mount St. Mary's College held a memorial service for the churchwomen, as they have done for 31 years. For 31 years, they've decried violence and injustice. For 31 years, many sisters have come to this service memorializing the deaths of women they knew, women that were their friends. 31 years, they have bought roses in December and placed them on the altar.

We had people attend the service from each JV house in LA. My dad and brother are in town, so they came as well. There were many sisters that came to the service, and it was fascinating to hear from these women about their connections to the churchwomen. It was such a blessing to be among them.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello all, I hope you are enjoying your post turkey hangovers, or waiting in anticipation for dinner start. I find myself in the latter group, as the turkey still has about another hour to cook, and then the feast will begin. We are in Phoenix; there are about 30 or so of us here, and all is set for a wonderful dinner--thanks to our fabulous hosts!! Best pre-dinner appetizer has been pumpkin dip. I had to move to the other side of the room to stop eating all of it...

Today I am thankful for many things and I am feeling incredibly blessed. I have such an amazing family and amazing friends, I cannot believe how lucky I am sometimes. I am grateful for the opportunity to do JVC, and really explore myself and the world for a year. I am grateful for my health. I am grateful for the children at Urban Compass, who teach me something new every day. I am thankful for my community, who are incredibly supportive and encourage me to be the best version of myself. And I am thankful that I feel like I am becoming that person.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Originally written 5/5/10

"Though we must accept finite disappointment, we must never lose infinite hope."
-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King
My single greatest value is hope. 
Hope for my own life, that I am able to experience so many things that the world has to offer. That despite my struggles, I will always see a better day. Tomorrow always comes and joy comes in the morning.
And I believe in social change. I don't believe the world is perfect but I have hope and faith that by working together we can see a new world. I believe that we are all a part of this universe and we all have a responsibility to make it a better place. We must respect each other but we also have the responsibility to confront the issues we see that show injustice and need to be changed. It does not mean things aren't wrong if we ignore our problems. They don't just go away or solve themselves. We have to be active in our roles in the hope that things can always be better.
And while I strive to not cause anyone unnecessary pain, I will never be the one to keep silent when I see injustice. Yes, it's hard to see so many problems in the world and feel like I can't solve them all. But that's why I have the hope that working together we can cause real change. And I don't apologize for pointing out problems in the world that others are too blind to see. I should hope I'm not making up problems that don't exist, but I won't turn my head and ignore them.
This is who I am, this is how I've always been. It's one of those things I couldn't change if I tried, and I wouldn't ever want to.
This kind of hope is what got me here today. Got me through the struggles of having one of my best friends die, numerous family members die and church family members die that were also practically blood. This is the hope that got me through my bouts of depression. This is the hope that spurs me on to be so involved in so many things. And this is the hope that keeps my faith strong. There is a better world out there, and I want to be a part of its coming.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Spirituality Night: With Such a Cloud of Witnesses

I led Spirituality Night again a few weeks ago, as a combination of day of the dead honoring/remembrance, discussion of who has been influential in our spirituality/faith, and a bit of reflection through Bible verses. I read some passages, we reflected and shared with the community, and I wrapped it up with another passage.

I read Romans 8 first. Some of the most powerful verses I focused on:

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Then I read Hebrews 12.

Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

We then had a few minutes of silence to reflect on the passages, before sharing about our clouds of witnesses.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Red Flags for Abusive Relationships

Here are some red flags from relationships, picked from this list.

  • Your partner blames you for how they treat you, or anything bad that happens
  • Your partner puts people down, including your family and friends
  • Your partner tries to isolate you; control who you see/where you go
  • Your partner coerces you into having sex
  • Your partner cheats on you
  • Your partner is physically rough with you
  • Your partner does not listen to you or show interest in your opinions or feelings
  • Your partner ignores you or gives you the silent treatment
  • Your partner tells you how to dress or act
  • Your partner blames all arguments and problems on you
  • Your partner threatens to kill themselves if you break up with them
  • Your partner calls you names or puts you down

Why I Hate Twilight

There's plenty of reasons people are and aren't fans of Twilight. Mine are mostly to do with dating violence.

First of all, I don't see the appeal of vampires--they are inherently violent and must weaken others to feel stronger. Why is it sexy that someone wants to kill you?? In Twilight, Bella's complete lack of concern for her safety is seriously disturbing. Edward tells her he wants her blood, and she is blinded by love that he won't hurt her.

Which is a seriously not okay message to be sending. If a guy tells you he wants to hurt you, even under the guise of "love"--get out. It is not a healthy relationship.

Bella and Edward's relationship is a model of the typical codependent relationship, under the veil of romance. Bella doesn't seem to have the self-preservation instinct when it comes to being in love with a vampire. She believes that Edward would never hurt her, even though he has told her that she should be scared of him. Bella also has nothing else going on in her life besides her boyfriend, the sparkly vampire, teaching that having a boyfriend is the only thing that is important.

Edward is always very possessive of Bella, which is a red flag in relationships. Yes, relationships involve a certain amount of commitment and accountability, but thinking you have the right to know who your partner is with, where they are, what they're doing, at all times... is not okay. People have lives outside of their relationships--which is part of a healthy person and a healthy relationship.

When Edward leaves her, she attempts suicide. Yes, breakups can suck, but this shows that she was entirely too dependent on him, that she would get to this point.

At the heart of it is a love story, so I see why people like it. But it has such disturbing elements in it, that I can never support it. (Other reasons I don't like it: not very good writing and sexist)

Not to make this Harry Potter vs Twilight, but I love this:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Spirituality Night: Liturgical Dance

Thursday night was my turn to facilitate spirituality night, and I decided to focus on liturgical dance. I have been a dancer my entire life and part of liturgical dance groups since 9 years old.

I started a discussion on any background information my community mates knew about liturgical dance and any experience they had. I then shared a little bit about my experience, and some research I had done. Dance has been a part of Christianity from the beginning; David danced in the Bible. It was during the Reformation that dance and a lot of art got shoved out of the church and it became more of a head-y religion, sometimes at the expense of the body. We are still trying to break out of that hundreds of years later and liturgical dance is one of the ways to show we can still praise God, but in a different way.

In my own life, the church I grew up in had a liturgical dance group, but we only danced in programs outside of the 11:00 Sunday service. And we danced a lot--youth revivals, Easter Program, Christmas Program, Black History program, etc. But it wasn't until Pentacost 2005 that things changed, and we danced in the 11:00 service for the first time. There were only a couple of years I was still there afterwards, but now they are able to dance in the Sunday service often. In my Austin church, I became the choreographer of the liturgical dance group within six months. We danced about once every quarter or semester, depending on the schedule of the dancers and the church.

So, on Spirituality Night, I shared a dance we had done at Mt. Level when I was 13: "Shackles" (MaryMary). I have reused this dance often when sharing liturgical dance with others, because it is fun and simple. Most recently, I taught the girls in Chile on our mission trip in 2009. I showed my community mates that video as well.

We then had a debriefing discussion of how they felt about the dancing as an expression of faith, dancing in the church, what they learned, etc. My community mates were very responsive and totally game for the dancing which I really appreciated :) I enjoyed sharing with them a part of me that is so important. 

I would believe only in a God that knows how to dance.  ~Friedrich Nietzsche

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Community Night: Trash Clean-Up

On Monday night for community night, we decided to do a trash clean-up in our neighborhood. We started right around 6:30/6:45 when we all got home from work, so we'd have some time before nightfall. We each had a grocery bag to serve as our trashbag. I have done some walking in our neighborhood, and there is a lot of trash. However, I was still surprised by how much we picked up! All of our bags were full, and we only went around our block. What I picked up the most of was cigarette butts, so PSA, please don't just throw your cigarette butts on the ground!

We didn't pass many people, but there were a couple men in their yard that saw we were picking up trash, and said, "That's some good neighbor shit!" It was good reminder of how to live as good neighbors and as a community, as well as keeping the earth clean.

International Day of Peace

In honor of International Day of Peace, here are some of my favorite peace quotes.

Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty. 
-Oscar Romero

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
-Mother Teresa

Peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.
-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

There was never a good war or a bad peace.
-Benjamin Franklin

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.
-Nelson Mandela

Peace is its own reward.
-Mohandas Gandhi

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Diez Y Seis de Septiembre

I'm not Mexican. Probably obviously. And full disclosure, I did not know what Diez Y Seis was until Spanish class in high school (I mean, isn't Cinco de Mayo Mexican Independence Day? No? Then... why do we celebrate it...?). It wasn't until I went to St. Ed's that I really understood the holiday fully. You see, Diez Y Seis in 2007 changed my life.

At St. Ed's, because of our very high Mexican-American and Mexican National population, the Mexican holidays are a big deal. There is usually some celebration on campus, and St. Edward's Ballet Folklórico is often part of it. That day in 2007, I happened upon SEU BF dancing and I fell in love with folklórico then and there. I went to the interest meeting, and then started coming to practice. I struggled through the first semester and wasn't sure I wanted to stay at St. Ed's, but folklórico was the thing that made me stay, and it has made all the difference.

Fast forward four years later and three other Diez Y Seis celebrations (all of which I was part of though in 2008 as a photographer due to a sprained ankle), I now live in Los Angeles and work for an after-school program. I wanted to share my love for folklórico with my kids. I hope sometime this year to actually teach a dance, but this time due to lack of space, I had to settle for compiling a video of my different clips of my group dancing interspersed with photos. I wore my practice skirt and folklórico shoes for the program that day. Our crafts were to make maracas and papel picado.

It was a hit. At all times I had 1-4 little girls hanging off my skirt and dancing with it. There was uncooked rice all over the floor from the maracas and pieces of tissue paper from the papel picado. I played the video a few times with mariachi music in the background and every time the kids saw me on the screen, there were excited shouts of "There's Ms. B!" 

Friday was my favorite day in Urban Compass so far :) We had such a wonderful time, and I'm so glad I got to share with the kids about Mexican Independence Day and my love for folklórico.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Urban Compass Day to Day

I'm sitting at my desk in my office as I write this, about to start the Urban Compass after-school program for its fifth day this school year. I've learned everyone's names very quickly, which helps that I can call them out immediately by name if need be. My classroom is first and some second grade. If/when we have more kids enrolled this year, it may switch to being just K/1.

A typical day at Urban Compass (though we haven't quite gotten on our scheduled routine yet) starts with Ms. L, Mr. Luis and I walking over to 112th St Elementary from Verbum Dei High School (where our offices are and the program takes place). The kids meet us on the playground at 112th St, and once we've gotten them all, we walk over to Verbum Dei with them. I choose a snack helper from a different grade every day--one who is behaving well and gets to choose two friends to help me set up snack later. We then hang up their backpacks in the office and go out to the field and play.

After roughly 30-45 minutes of recreation time, I call my snack helpers to come help me set up snack. We get the snack and the classroom materials out of the office. Snack each day is a granola bar, a piece of fruit and a juicebox. During this time, I also start setting up the classrooms for homework and enrichment time. I call Ms. L to bring the rest of the kids over for snacktime, and while everyone is eating snack, I finish getting the classroom ready.

Every day except Fridays, we have a period of 50 minutes in which the kids work on their homework. If they finish their homework during that time, they can do educational worksheets (I'm only trying to get interesting ones--none of those drill things!) or math or reading games. Once it's 4:30 (earlier on Fridays), we do some kind of arts and craft or other fun activities. Ten til 5, we start cleaning up. Around 5, Ms. L walks the kids back to 112th St while Mr. Luis and I finish cleaning up and are done for the day!

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I was 12. I was in chorus class in 7th grade. I don't remember what song we were singing, but I remember vividly the other chorus teacher walking out of the office and whispering something in my teacher's ear. Then she told us a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. I didn't even know what that was. I'd never been to New York, and at 12, did not have a concept of what the WTC was. But I knew by the look of horror on my teacher's face that it was bad.

I sometimes get morbid obsessions, even now, and the next few days, I was reading every news article and watching the news at every chance. Not that there was much escaping, since that was all anyone could talk about. I remember carrying around the newspaper all day, mostly just full of images. The one that terrified me the most that day, and sticks with me still, is of a man who had jumped out of the building, perhaps because he knew death was near and wanted to choose how he died.

I didn't know anyone who died that day. But since time has passed, I have met people who have had family and friends who did. I have known people also who have had family members who have been lost in the resulting war in Afghanistan.

It's been ten years. I'm now 22, and have moved across the country. Last night, some of the other LA JV's and I went to an interfaith memorial vigil downtown. There was music, prayers in different faiths, reading of the names of the Southland people who were lost that day, and lighting of candles... over 500. We got there later so didn't have candles, but a few people gave us some. One of the other JV's was holding one, then passed it on to me. Soon after, a photographer started snapping a lot of pictures of me... I was wearing my shirt from the BPFNA conference from 2 years ago: "When there is justice, then peace will come." I haven't found the picture online yet, but will post it if I do.

9/11/01 shook our sense of security. The world changed to terror alerts and war and vengeance. I hope in the next decade we can instead confront our own actions, for we must be the change we want to see in the world. If we want peace, we must work for it.

All week, I've been listening to Ani DiFranco's "Self-Evident". I hesitate in posting it, because it is a little painful to listen to in parts, yet I also feel it captures the spectrum of emotion felt that day.

We all held hands and jumped into the sky.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pro Women's Health

What does it mean when I say I'm pro-choice?

It doesn't mean I'm "pro-abortion" as John McCain liked to call it in the days of the 2008 presidential campaign. It means I think abortion should be legal and an option.

I wonder all the time why the subtlety is so hard for people to recognize.

I am attempting to refrain from showing just how angry I am right now about this whole issue. Which is not just one issue--it's a plethora ranging from lack of actual sex education to lack of accessible contraception to abortions.

Abortion is a last resort, and it shouldn't even have to be as prevalent of a problem (at least according to the right-wingers that say it is) if we recognized that there are so many ways to prevent unplanned pregnancies, and actually informed people about them. Not only that, but make it accessible.

I can't deal with all these people that act like it is the absolute end of the world that an embryo is aborted, yet would not have spent the money to take care of that child had it been carried to term.

If you won't adopt, if you don't support comprehensive sex education, if you won't pay for social programs for children, especially poor ones, if you just stand there and judge the people with so many kids trailing behind them... Shut up about abortion.

You don't get a say. It's not your life, it's not your body, it's not your choice.

I hate to disrespect people's religious views, but this is just something I do not agree at all with the church on. There's this huge disconnect with reality, and I can't understand it. Yeah, the church is often behind the times, but we need to look around us and stop pretending abstinence only sex education is actually working. I feel as if the church thinks as long as they stick with it, maybe it'll stick at some point.

And it hasn't. But you know what works? Comprehensive sex education. People are going to have sex. Get over it. Let's stop pretending that it doesn't happen unless someone gets pregnant or gets an STI. Because hey, it's a little too late by then. If we taught people, especially as teens, how to protect themselves and be safe about it, then maybe there would be less unplanned pregnancies. And then maybe, just maybe, there would be less abortions?


This is why I support organizations like Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood exists to provide resources on sexual and reproductive health. They provide sex education to people who have questions (especially since we as school systems and society are failing in that area) and low-cost or free contraception. They also provide cervical and breast cancer screenings. And yes, they do also provide abortion services. A mere 3% of their total services.

I just struggle a lot with the idea that making abortion illegal or practically impossible to get or afford is the answer. To me, there is very obviously a bigger problem at the root here, and somehow, society is still in denial that maybe we're going about this the wrong way.

A recent victory is that the US Dept. of Health & Human Services has mandated that preventative care for women, including birth control and IUDs, as well as cancer screenings and GYN appts, be paid for by insurance companies. Without a co-pay. This shows me that maybe women's health is actually starting to be taken seriously.

But then those "most dangerous place is in the womb" billboards pop up everywhere, and I know we've still got a long way to go before we really start becoming part of the solution instead of exacerbating the problem.

I'm pro comprehensive sex education. I'm pro contraception. I'm pro choice. I'm pro Planned Parenthood.

Most of all, I'm pro women's health.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Quote Wall

When we first moved in to Casa Dorothy Kazel, we were cleaning a lot and also trying to find ways to make DK our own. During orientation, I had filled up the ends of my journal with quotes I had been thinking about. When we moved in to Casa DK, I had the idea of writing down a lot of those quotes, plus others I really liked and putting them in different areas of the house. I started taping a couple on the door and my housemates likes the idea of just sticking them all on the door, so I did that. Yesterday, since we didn't have a lot to do at work, I wrote down a lot more to add to the wall, and added them this morning.

You may have guessed there is one I didn't write since the handwriting is different... but the sentiment was something we'd all been thinking about before we started our jobs a few weeks ago. It may not be the most eloquent way of saying it, but yes, our shit is gonna get rocked this year.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Defying Gravity

This post is dedicated to my housemates. Especially Mike P. who keeps making me listen to this song.

Kevin, Mike P. and I carpool to work at Verbum Dei High School, where both of them work, and the Urban Compass offices are located. (It's actually a renovated closet) The former JV's left some CDs in the car that we have (owned by Verbum Dei that we can use), one of which has "Defying Gravity" on it. I love this song. I went through my phase of having it on repeat but I am now past it. Mike, however, plays it every time we ride in the car. Especially now that I have expressed my annoyance...

It's a good song though, and one that has a great message, especially for us in our year of JVC. JVC is inherently counter-cultural, and we're defying gravity with our choices. Together we're unlimited.

Some of my favorite lines are below.

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I'm through with playing by
The rules of someone else's game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It's time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes
And leap... 

It's time to try defying gravity
I think I'll try defying gravity
And you can't pull me down

I'm through accepting limits
Cuz someone says they're so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try I'll never know
Too long I've been afraid of
Losing love, I guess I've lost
Well if that's love
It comes at much too high a cost

Together we're unlimited
Together we'll be the greatest team 
There's ever been - Glinda!
Dreams the way we planned 'em

If we work in tandem

There's no fight we cannot win
Just you and I, defying gravity
With you and I defying gravity

Friday, July 29, 2011

Photo Post: Trees

I'm a tree lover. And I love taking photos of trees. Here is a sampling.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

2,000 Paper Cranes... And Counting.

I remember first learning to fold paper cranes... it was at Peace Camp 1999, in Vancouver, BC. I had justurned 10 and was BFF with Rachel who was a year older and therefore SO cool. I had sort of gotten the gist down, but I had this really shiny gold paper that was really pretty that I wanted to fold a crane with, buthat paper is a little hard to use when you are a beginner. Rachel helped me smooth out some of the mistakes I had made and together we finished that gold crane. I thought of it as our friendship crane. And though Rachel and I have not spoken since that summer (I've been trying to find her on facebook but have been unsuccessful so far...), that crane brings me memories of our friendship that summer.

here it is, twelve years later

I was in fifth grade that next school year, and we read the story of Sadako. We folded cranes, and I, of course, was already an expert. 

Sometime around age 11, I started folding teeny tiny cranes, tearing my origami paper so I could make those little cranes. I'm not sure exactly whathe draw was; perhaps the challenge? maybe I justhoughthey were cute? Anywaythe summer I turned 11, I decided I would fold a thousand cranes. Mostly justo see if I could do it. And I guess something to do with ~peace~. It was a slow start, but a pretty big undertaking for an eleven year old. I only folded maybe a hundred that firsyear.

In seventh grade, we studied Japan in social studies class, so we approached the subject of the atom bomb & Hiroshima & Nagasaki. As a seventh grade class, we folded 1000 cranes to send to the Sadako memorial in Japan. I donated some of my teeny tiny cranes to the cause, and folded many more, because again, I was an expert athis already.

In eighth grade I was very angsty. Reading my journals from back then is just drama, drama, drama, ~feelings~, ugh my lyf sux, etc. By then, folding cranes had become a calming activity, a coping mechanism. I'd play some music (angsty, of course), and fold. Athis point, I barely needed to look down, my fingers knew exactly whato do.

It was the summer after eighth grade, the summer I turned 14, that I found out my friend Madeleine had cancer. When we departed that summer, we were confident we'd be seeing each other again. Her cancer was treatable, she was young and healthy, she'd be cancer free in no time. I'm not sure when exactly I decided thathe cranes were now Madi's. It may have been right when I came home that summer after learning she had cancer. It may not have been until a few months later when we realized thathis wouldn't be as easy as we'd thought. Nevertheless, I had folded maybe 400 cranes by that summer. And sometime in the next few months I did decide they were Madi's cranes, and it became almost urgenthat I keep folding, that I make ito a thousand.

Time passed slowly or too quickly the next few months, who can say now. Come April, I got a phone call. I answered the phone and the person on the line asked to speak with one of my parents. I shrugged it off, I didn't know who it was. A few minutes later, my mom came to me with the phone. She told me it was Madi's dad on the phone; it was going to be soon. That conversation with bob is up there in the top ten hardest conversations I've ever had. I don't remember much of what was said. I remember sobbing. And I remember bob saying: "She was a great kid, eh?"

After I hung up the phone, I went and sat on my futon. I had 900 cranes. I folded a hundred that day. I sathere sobbing and folding, while each of my family members took turns sitting with me. I made ito a thousand. Madi departed to the heavens a few days later.

I puthose cranes in a box. I couldn't be there for all of her illness, buthis had been how I was present with her, how I had thought of her every day.

Months later, much too soon for me, a classmate of mine died of heart failure while playing basketball. I had never known him well, but it was all too real to have another fifteen year old die. That first day when we heard the news, teachers hardly expected us to do anthing. We made cards for his family, we wrote him letters. I folded cranes. I sent fifteen with a letter to his mom that first week. I had every intention of folding a thousand for him as well, but somewhere in there, time passed, and while I kept folding, I got busier, it went slower, and I had never met his family, only seen them from afar at his funeral. I know that they would have still appreciated it, but I never did give his family the rest of the cranes.

The summer of 2006, it was the 60th anniversary of the bombings in Japan. My aunt and uncle's church did a commemoration, and I folded the cranes for the service.

Time passed again. I grew older, didn't fold cranes as much. I finished Aaron's thousand, had Madi's thousand in a box, and had even more. Last summer, we began packing up the house to move to TX. I didn't know whato do with all those cranes. Madi's would of course, be making the trip. But Aaron and I hadn't been as close and I felt weird keeping them even if I didn't give them to his familyThough they may have been "Aaron's cranes", the truth is thathere was a piece of my soul in every one of them. My pain, my suffering, my tears, my love, my joy, my hope.

That summer we returned to Keuka, NY for Peace Camp, which had been the last place I had seen Madeleine. I decided that I would take some of these cranes and we would have a small memorial service in the lake, giving the cranes to the water we'd had so much fun in at age fourteen. Her biological sister Genevieve, her spiritual sisters Frances, Sarah, Lydia and I puthe cranes in the water. We told stories and remembered our beautiful sister.

cranes floating in the lake
I had only taken some to NY however, so I was still faced with the issue of whato do with all these cranes. My friend Sean suggested: "Use them to make one giant crane, charge admission to see it, and then take a bath in the millions of dollars you will inevitably make. Your welcome." Other suggestions were to make a mobile or donate to a children's hospital. My mom then suggested that maybe we give them out at church. We joined Mt. Level in 1997 just before I turned 8. This church is our family, and I liked the idea of giving them something to remember us byThe last Sunday that all of us were there as people living in Durham (we have gotten to visit a few times since), I brought a basket of cranes, I believe a few hundred. They were all different sizes and colors, people took one or many. After church was over, there were still some left, and we saved them for the kids I had worked with for years in Messiah's House.

We officially moved to Texas. I still had maybe a few hundred cranes left, justhe teeny tiny ones, and I figured I would make art with them or something. My best intentions are often overcome by laziness, so mostly they have just sat in their box.

On the seventh anniversary of Madi's death, I had my own memorial service for her. I wento the grotto on St. Ed's campus, which had been a place of solace for me, especially my freshman year. I used to walk back from the photo lab pretty late, and would stop to chat with Madi a while before heading to my dorm. That day I took 22 cranes, for she would be 22 this year, and laid them athe altar. I chatted with her a while, cried a bit, and remembered my dear Madi.
This brings us to present day. Where are the cranes now? Still in a box. But I am leaving for LA soon, and have been struggling with how to say goodbyto my friends and family here.

And I came up with something to do with the cranes.

Yesterday I spent folding boxes to put cranes in. There is no significant number of cranes in each box, just sort of filled each one. My hope is thathese become prayer cranes. I am going to be especially in need of prayer in this nexyear of my life as I embark on this nexyear of service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. I wanto give you something tangible to remember me by, something to guide your prayers (or positive thoughts, if you prefer) for me. I have also made prayer crane boxes for my new roommates that I will meet in less than two weeks, so we can share this journey together.

If you would like one, please let me know. Don't worry about me running out, I can easily fold more. Also, if you are not nearby, I'm not sure how well these will hold up in the mail, but if you would still like a crane, I can send you a bigger one.

If you have stuck with this entry for this long, props to you. Thank you for being part of my journey.