Monday, November 3, 2014


Media Week.

For one week, I cut seven forms of media from my life. This was difficult for me, but mainly because I ALREADY do not have a Smartphone, do not have internet at home, and do not have cable at home. Those are the three big ones, so what else do I cut out?

The seven I chose were: texting (ouch!), Facebook, Pinterest/Twitter, radio, television (meaning my Gilmore Girls DVD’s), and all extra Internet browsing.
(I was inspired by the book “7” by Jen Hatmaker)

All in all, and I’ve gone through this week twice now, I love the real connections it gives me with people. When I do a Media Fast, it forces me to pick up the phone and call people. I know it may sound prehistoric, but it so soothing to my soul to pick up the phone just to chat. Remember middle school, when you couldn’t go an evening without talking to your best friend on the phone, catching up about your days, planning what to wear the next day, working on your homework together over the phone? Well, I do, and I’m glad I grew up in the decade I did. So, this last week, my friend Maggie was also doing the fast. And she and I exchanged calls and voicemails EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THE WEEK. It reminded me of middle school, and it was so awesome!

Can I be honest for a second?
I have a really hard time with Facebook. I don’t have a smartphone, so sometimes I feel left out, like I don’t get to post as often as others do, and I don’t get to post as many pictures, so I don’t get as many “likes”. People “like” posts with pictures; it’s just what we do. So when my posts don’t include pictures, I know they don’t “draw the eye”, and I know people scroll past my posts without reading them, and I know people aren’t interested. And that kinda sucks.

Or how about everyone posting pictures of their awesome trips and vacations, or their new cars, or purses, or new babies, or their recent half-marathon? How do these make me feel when I haven’t had a vacation in a while, have driven the same car for 30 years, can’t run a mile to save my life, or had my babies 20 years ago, before I could share their every milestone moment instantly? They make me feel left out, like I somehow don’t fit in, like I’m missing something.

It’s a sometimes difficult, really raw, at times confusing place to be: knowing I don’t fit into the norm, but refusing to do the things to place myself there. Knowing that I don’t have something that 90% of the country has, but knowing in my heart that I never want to have it. Knowing that I will always be missing something, because I can’t change society, or technology, AND that I'm not willing to partake of said technology....

I write this as an insecure, vulnerable person. But the thing is, I’m not the only one out there. At least I’m one of the Insecure who purposefully puts distance between myself and the Pressure of Facebook, and I’m not sitting at home, living through other people, posting attention-seeking statuses, coveting what others have or experience, begging someone, ANYONE to take an interest in me.

But there are such people out there. Impressionable people--kids, teens, young adults.

So what message are we sending to these people, when we tell them, "Get with the times" or "you really need to get a new phone", and just what are we allowing technology to become?

These thoughts may not make sense to everybody, but I'm just sharing here......

Nothing to Give

The assignment this week: focus on possessions, giving away 7 items a day for a week straight (I was inspired by the book “7” by Jen Hatmaker).

I really hate this week.

I actually spent most of the week worrying about how to complete the task, thinking to myself, “I have nothing to give.”

In trying to write about it, some memories came out instead:

Once when I was about 9 years old, my dad said we were loading up his truck with all of our old toys, clothes, books, and stuff.  We then drove an hour down the road to some remote little pueblo outside of Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico.  It was December, shortly before Christmas, and we parked the truck in the middle of the road and called out to the people in their houses.  They ran next door to grab their friends, and soon, my younger sister and I were handing our well-loved Barbies to little girls who were very excited to receive them.  I remember one older gentleman asking my dad specifically for a ball cap that I believe was actually a children’s size, but it fit him, so it didn’t matter.

I never looked at a dirt-road, lean-to neighborhood the same way again.
We visited our neighboring border towns quite often, especially since my grandmother lived in one of them, so I did a lot of looking out the window, wondering about people’s lives, asking hard questions, and worrying.  Yes, between the ages of 9 and 14.

I don’t think my dad took us down there that December morning to make us worry incessantly for the rest of our lives.  But I do believe this memory has remained with me for so long because the event stirred something deep inside of me.

Another, earlier, memory is from California, when I was probably about 7 years old. I’ve mentioned before that we were a migrant agricultural family of sorts.  We spent about half the year in Yuma, Arizona, and the rest of the time in Salinas, California.

From what I remember about Salinas, it was a bigger city than Yuma.  There were more freeway on-ramps, and we seemed to use them a lot to get around town.  Because of the nature of my parents’ work, we always had boxes and boxes of fresh or packaged produce and vegetables (they got sent home with the workers sometimes).

So one day, my dad decided we were taking some produce in the car with us.  I remember sitting in the backseat, holding bags of baby carrots in my lap.  Upon reaching one of the stoplights at an on-ramp/overpass/underpass, my dad rolled down the window and began to hand out the bags of vegetables to the man who was standing on the corner holding a cardboard sign.

When my dad reached back to me, I handed him only one of the bags of baby carrots.  My dad corrected me and asked for the other bag as well, and I reluctantly gave it to him. “All yours, buddy,” he said cheerfully to the man.

“Esta pensando en todos los demas,” my mom said to my dad with quiet, marked realization.

“She’s thinking of all the others.”

I remember knowing, just KNOWING, that I had seen other men like this one, and that they were hungry too, and now I had nothing left to give to any of them.

We went along our way that day, but I remember being a little confused and maybe even a little
angry. Why hadn’t we saved some vegetables (there was celery, too) for other men? Why couldn’t we share more, why couldn’t we help everyone?

I think one of the many lessons my dad was trying to teach me that day was that even when I get this crazy overwhelming feeling, be it guilt, or worry, or panic, or sorrow, it can never cancel out the good deed I am doing right then and there, right in that moment.  And to never let the fear of not being able to fix the whole problem, keep me from taking a stab at the need right in front of me.

To always give what you can, even if it’s a humble bag of vegetables. To never become blind to my blessings, and to always keep unwrapping and rearranging life’s little “extras” and presents, until I find a way to use them to bless somebody else.

Even when the last bag of baby carrots is gone, there is never nothing to give.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Nothing to Wear

“Ughhhhhrhrhghghghg!!! What am I gonna WEAR?!”

“I wore that same blouse last week, I can’t wear it again.”

“Is this dress too spring-y, or can I pull it off with tights and boots? Are these boots too winter-y?”

“No, those are always my go-to nice dressy pants.  I seriously don’t have another pair?!”

These are just a few of the many thinking errors that plague my brain as I stand in front of my (full) closet, saying, “I have nothing to wear.”
And the sad part? I’m not even stressing about what to wear to work, or to a birthday party, or a formal occasion.

I’m stressing about what to wear to church.

CHURCH, of all places.  The place I’m supposed to feel safe and accepted.  And here I am, acting like I’m about to hit the runway at a fashion show, judged for the way my clothes flatter my body.

Now hold it right there, because I don’t think the people in my congregation are out to get me, or shame me for my lack of trendiness. But, in a setting where so many strive to look their best, I do see lots of trends and “fashion”.

I find it interesting that we can’t all just wear plain jeans and plain t-shirts to church.  And the people who do, why are those individuals seen as “casual” or “young” or “relaxed” or, my favorite, “more MODERN”?
Why do we categorize people according to what they wear?  We all do it. Those in heels and fancy coats are labeled “girly” or “conservative” or “traditional”.
(Yes, I think this is definitely an area that women have more experience and trouble with.)

I’ve been on two mission trips to foreign countries thus far: Bolivia and Grenada.  Each of these countries had their own unique customs, including dress.  But I didn’t feel pressured to look or dress a certain way, and I didn’t see anything other than God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit be the focus of their gathering.  Not once in either of these two countries did someone greet me with, “Oh, you look so cute today!”
It’s just interesting to me that this is the first thing out of our mouths so often here in our privileged society.

I suppose it’s nice and considered good manners to acknowledge when someone puts a little extra time into their appearance that morning, and I’m not saying it doesn’t feel good when I do get a compliment.
But do I wish I didn’t care? Yeah, I do.  I wish I could wear my black t-shirt, jeans, and running shoes to church every week, and not have a care in the world.  

I can’t help but think of all these countries out there, some whose names we don’t even know, where there are small churches in the jungle somewhere, where attendees worship and dance around barefoot, in the same clothes they’ve worn all week, their neighbor not knowing any different because they’re wearing their only set of clothes as well.  I want to be that free.

Twice now this year, I’ve challenged myself to wear only 7 items of clothing, for a week straight. (I was inspired by the book “7” by Jen Hatmaker)

 I narrowed it down to: a black t-shirt, one pair of jeans, one pair of running shoes, a set of workout shorts and t-shirt, and pajamas.

I’ve learned that people don’t pay nearly as much attention as I think they do, at church, work, or anywhere else, but I’ve also learned that dress still matters to me.  I’ve figured out that when I have a “spare coat closet” holding all my dresses, both casual and formal, plus any out-of-season cardigans or sweaters; and also a coat closet in my living room holding my actual coats and hoodies----this may mean I have too much.  
I’ve never considered myself to have a clothing problem, but when I think about the children in my city who wear the same pair of jeans for weeks on end without washing them, I feel my contribution to the injustice.  We see obvious needs like food and shelter, but do we stop to think about the insecurity being developed inside the child who wears the same outfits on repeat each week, while watching their classmate Little Suzy wear a brand-new outfit or pair of shoes once a week?* When did the gap grow so large? (And why do Suzy’s parents feel the need to buy her so many new things all the time?)

If I do research on the countries printed on the tags of my clothing, what would I find out? As Jen Hatmaker has paraphrased from a different author, “Am I wearing someone else’s despair?”  What is the story of the person who slaved away to create my dress?

I do buy 99.9% of my clothing second-hand, so I try really hard not to feed the machine.

But if I can find a way to eloquently state that the image we create for ourselves has very little to do with our clothing, and much more with the way we give and show love to others, then maybe someone out there will quit spending thousands of dollars a year on clothes and put it towards a more worthy cause.

Because I don’t care what anybody says, we are not contributing to ourselves or our wellbeing by putting expensive clothes on our bodies. We’re just making it okay for the commercial industry to tell us what we need in order to be accepted.** Let’s all realize that we have bigger fish to fry.

*Of course, I am for teaching our kids that even if they do wear the same outfit on repeat, they still have worth.  But are insecurity, and comparison, and anxiety real things? Yes, they are. Are kids blind to privilege and brand-name clothing? No, they're not.
** Yes, some of this is difficult or awkward for me to think and say, as someone who has ventured into the modeling industry in the past.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Nothing to Eat

“There’s nothing to eat!”

I knew Daddy had a temper, but I had never expected to see it flare at those words. 

“What did you just say? See this pantry full of food? There’s stuff in the fridge, too.  Don’t you EVER say something like that to me again, do you understand?”

I was a teenager who was usually respectful and put-together, but for some reason, that day, I felt whiny and demanding.

I don’t know what had triggered my whining.  I don’t even remember exactly when this happened.  I think it was sometime during my sophomore year of high school, about 4 years into my sports-playing, and just as long since I had started to become exposed to the habits and convenient food of my friends at school.  We were a Hispanic family living in Arizona, and I was the first of two who were born in the United States.  There was a lot of learning and adjusting to do.

That whiny day, I saw something in my father’s eyes that told me I didn’t even know the half of it.  I was smart; I was sensitive.  And I knew that I had struck a chord.  Perhaps that day I was in the mood for a frozen chicken breast, or canned chicken noodle soup, or I was pouty because there were no Honey Buns.  But my parents never, ever let us go actually hungry, and in my teenage angst, I wasn’t even aware of or grateful for that fact.

I never even thought about what my parents sacrificed to make sure we had our carne asada, our beans and rice, and our corn tortillas.  I still don’t know.

I wasn’t even thankful for the aromas that fill a kitchen when your mom is hand-chopping onions and tomatoes for guacamole, or when your Nana is pulverizing and blending red chiles for sauce.

I never thought about how many families go hungry.  No, I’m not talking about Ethiopia or some other foreign country, although that is an epidemic of its own.  I’m talking about the people we work with, go to school with, and make eye contact with daily through our respective windshields.

How many dads in Chicago won’t eat tonight because they’re making sure their babies have bread and milk?  How many grandmas in New York are walking blocks and blocks to the market to get tonight’s dinner for their grandbabies, whose mother passed away, a victim of illness or murder, and left them to her, with a limited income and minimal resources?

And yet we whine when we can’t have our soymilk, or gluten-free bread, or quinoa.

This is isn't just me making crazy stories up in my head.  We need to start putting faces to these stories, because they do exist.  Every human life is a story, and we tend to make our food choices so quickly and abruptly, as if we can’t possibly affect our neighbor.  We spend our dollar without recognizing its power, and we are so skewed in our thinking that we don’t even recognize privilege in our lives, even as we are drowning in it.

Did you know that your morning McDonald’s coffee or pop is a luxury?  There is someone out there who can’t afford to spend that $1.08 because she has to keep the lights on at home, so she muddles through the morning fogginess from sleep deprivation, and makes it through her day without a caffeine fix.  Oh yeah, she worked a double –shift last night, too.

Do you know how many parents argue and cry because they can’t do anything special for their daughter on her 12th birthday? How much they would love to take her out to the buffet for some fried chicken and mac and cheese, but they just can’t? And we fling around lunch dates, everyday occurrences, and don’t even bat an eye.  Half the time we’re rude to the wait staff too. 

I get really mad and worked up about our entitled, self-indulging ways, but I’m not just all talk.

Twice now this year, I’ve challenged myself to eat simply for a week straight.  Seven foods and nothing more.  I narrowed it down to beans, rice, lentils, oatmeal, apples, eggs, and barley.  That’s it.  No butter.  No hot sauce.  I wanted to know what it felt like. ( I was inspired by the book "7" by Jen Hatmaker)

Do you realize how often we eat “what tastes good”? How much “fun food” we keep around the house?  Could you, could we narrow it down to just survival?  Why are we so obsessed?
Let me get something straight.  I make less than $30,000 a year.  I am a single gal, and I pay all my own bills.  I already eat simply.  I don’t exactly get to sip on a pumpkin-spice latte every day. 

But yet, I know I am privileged. 

It really is all about perspective.  And fresh perspective?  It can really flip your life upside-down.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

At the Laundromat

I'm at the laundromat right now.  Yup, even laundromats are jumping on the Wi-Fi bandwagon.  In my case today, it's handy because I've been in a blogging mood.  

Anyway, so yes, I do my laundry at the laundromat.  Partially because it's easier for me to do it all at once, and partially because I never got enough money together to buy myself machines for home, plus I was afraid of buying machines because I thought this somehow made me "permanent" in my duplex and that it would be more difficult to move later on, should the time come to find a different place to live.  

(I've actually finally gotten a hold of some machines, but now, I'm just too comfortable with my routine.  After all, I've spent over 2 years doing this! Isn't interesting how we form habits?)

I've used public laundry since graduating from college.  I was fortunate enough to have free laundry at my dorm on campus for 4 straight years (ah, the advantages of a small Christian college in the Midwest!).  Before that, my parents always had machines in the house. I only remember the washer breaking once, ever.

Anyway, I've gotten to observe lots of different people over these 2 years.  Some, I recognize, but not always.  No, not everyone in the laundromat is "dirty".  I think that's a huge misconception, and perhaps even one that I was guilty of having.  No, not everyone in a laundromat is "scary".  Just because there is a single man over folding his socks all by his lonesome, and he may look a little raggedy, doesn't mean he's out to get you (or steal your laundry detergent).  

Once, about a year and a half ago, I observed a rather impatient man.  He seemed very frustrated, and as I watched, I became pretty worked up.  Turns out a different man, one who may have seemed a bit "eccentric" or "different",had accidentally put one quarter into the first man's dryer.
The first man was throwing a fit! He was yelling at the second man, complaining, "Yeah, you just put that in MY dryer" with this horribly demeaning tone of voice.  This guy didn't seem to notice that he had gotten the attention of several of us around him.

The second man just remained quiet.  

I stayed quiet over at my folding table for about a minute, and then I felt moved to act.  In the olden days, Won't Take No Crap Gilda probably would have engaged in a yelling match with Impatient Man.  I felt a little bit of that rage; I tend to stick up for the vulnerable if I see them being attacked.

Instead, I walked over to the Quarter Man, and I said, "Here's your quarter back", handing him one of my own quarters.  He smiled and thanked me.

My heart was pounding a little bit.  Maybe jumping into cruelty like that, with a small act of kindness, is all that has been required of us all along.  

About 2 minutes, the owner of the laundromat, a lady with a long, blonde braid, walked over to me and said, "This is for you.  I saw what you did."  And she handed me a coupon for $2.00 off my next wash at the laundromat.  

It was pretty cool.

I felt such satisfaction in my heart that day.  I knew I had done the right thing, and somehow shown the man that he still mattered, that he wasn't a nobody like this bully was trying to make him feel.

Perhaps I continue to come to the laundromat in the hopes of more such encounters.  Not so that I can receive something in return, but just so that I might never grow so jaded and hardened that I can't see the simple needs of my neighbors.  

After all, people are people.  


Okay, so here it is.

Some of you have heard me say a thing or two about 7.  What in the world is 7? Is Gilda just really fascinated with that particular integer?

I really do like the number, but what ended up happening was this crazy author, Jen Hatmaker, wrote a book called "7", and this book was handed to me by my Number One Kansas Mom-ish Friend, Debbie.  The book was placed in my hands last fall, with the explanation, "You should read this; I think it's kind of how you're wired anyway."

Well, let me tell ya, it is DEFINITELY how I am wired.

I hadn't been too much into reading lately, but I read this book crazy-fast.  It is written in this amazing, fast-paced, full-of-humor way.  It's sort of like a journal, but a very special one.  It details the journey which the author and her family and close friends took over about a 7 month period of drastic change and reduction in their lives.

Jen got together with a group of 6 of her friends and said, "We have too much in America.  We don't appreciate it enough.  We have crazy expectations of everything, and we feel entitled to way too much.  Let's get inspired to fight against it."

So each month for 7 months, they focused on one area.  Food, Clothing, Possessions, Media, Waste, Spending, and Stress.

It's a really great read, and so eye-opening, but mainly, for people like me, inspiring.  After reading it, I felt like I could FINALLY be bold about some of my beliefs and my lifestyle, and it was so energizing to hear somebody else take the words right out of my heart.

The coolest part about reading "7" was how it inspired my Mom-ish Friend to grab a bunch of us and try this crazy experiment for ourselves. Our version was 7 weeks instead of 7 months. But it still did the trick.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants their hearts moved a little bit.  Anyone who wants a new challenge.  Anyone who isn't scared to think outside their comfort zone.

Reading the book and going through the experiment myself really shifted some thoughts around inside of me.  I'm still trying to figure out how to express some of the more ...... bold thoughts I have.  But for anyone who may be a regular reader of my blog, maybe this explanation will help any further writing make sense.

Or maybe I just wanted to get it out and written down in an organized way. Either way, there it is.  I'm hoping for a movement of strong, organized, concise thoughts to flow from this point on, and hopefully let you all a little bit more into my head.

~ G

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Food Warmup

The truth is, we never went hungry in our house growing up.  I now know how fortunate we truly were.  We weren't wealthy either, though.  Not that we knew how much money our parents made, because it wasn't talked about, perhaps exactly the way it should be with children.

I will tell you that the only "restaurant" food I knew in my early childhood was McDonald's, but not in the way you might think, in the stereotypical way we've come to think of families gorging themselves on junk on a nightly basis, with parents who are too "lazy" to cook.

No, McDonald's was a very special occasion, but mainly, a road food.  We were a road family.  I may have mentioned before that we were a migrant farm worker family of sorts, so we traveled long distances between California and Arizona on a regular basis.

During a normal week, our parents cooked.  Just simple food.  I come from a Mexican background, and friends often ask me for "recipes".  The truth is, my parents just cooked food they remembered from their own childhoods.  Yes, there are staples -- chicken, pinto beans, rice, tomato sauce, corn tortillas -- but really everything is just very.... RUSTIC, is always the word I've used to describe it.  However, English is my second language, so if that doesn't make sense to you, please forgive me.  :)

Once in middle school, I had a couple of friends over after school, both girls.  As we rummaged through the walk-in pantry, one of them made the comment, "Everything you have is stuff you have to MAKE, isn't it?"  Most of it was, I suppose, but I didn't know any different.  There had been a period there, after all, during the custody battle, during which my dad fed us lots of Honey Buns, Snickers Bars, frozen chicken nuggets, and introduced us to Frozen TV Dinners (we were ages 10-12).

I didn't drink "dark" soda until 6th grade, when I was introduced to Dr. Pepper by a friend.  I gave it up cold turkey as a freshman in high school, when my cross-country coach told me it was bad for me.  (It may have re-entered the picture in small amounts during/after college...)

Anyway, as an adult now, it's so interesting to think about the different ways I have seen or known food throughout my life.

I've been thinking LOTS about food lately, and what role it plays in my life.  I've got lots to say about it, but I'm not a data analyst or a research scientist; everything I've got to say is emotion and reflection, observations, and lots of questions.

I believe the way to do anything is to start from the bottom and work your way up.  The way I write my "blog" is mainly by studying myself: my history, my habits, my memories.  Then I try to piece them all together to help me understand my present-day beliefs.

So, while every post may not be terribly exciting, it's still a piece of the story.  My story.  And once in a while, it comes out powerfully and loudly.
I think I'm warming up my vocal chords with this one.  

Sunday, September 7, 2014


So, here's something that's been at the front of my mind, and tugging at my heart for a while:
What if we all redefined "enough"?
If we stop believing that we always need more, then we may just start to see the value of everything we already have.

I'm talking about this American lifestyle.

[[Food.  Clothes.  Possessions.  Waste.  Spending.  Media.  Stress.]]

When did it become a burden to cook meals for our families, containing whole and simple foods?
Why do we feel entitled to a second or third car for our family?  Why does it feel "below us" to walk or bike to the grocery store instead of drive? or to have family birthday parties in the parks in the "scary part of town"?
Why do we JUST HAVE TO HAVE the latest version of the latest smartphone?  Isn't just being able to pick up any old phone and dial our friends' numbers enough?
When did it become acceptable to pre-package EVERYTHING, in the name of convenience?  And when did we stop caring about littering our streets with that packaging? And where is that mountain at the landfill going?
Just why is it UNACCEPTABLE to not have internet access at home?  Isn't Internet an extra thing?  Didn't we all live and love and laugh before the Internet?
Why is it okay to have lessons and articles with advice on "How To Take the Perfect Selfie?" and "How to Get More Likes on Your Posts"?  And is this what we want the next generation to be about?
When did stress and worry take over our every decision? And when did it become acceptable for "stress-relief" to include such extravagances as "going out on the yacht" or "retail therapy" or even "blowing some money on poker with the guys" or "racking up my credit card debt to feed my alcohol or tobacco habit"?
All these First-World problems, attitudes, and ideas...It just all feels like too much to me, and I don't think we give ourselves a chance to check our choices.
Does anyone else ever wonder why we get to live in such a privileged country while mommas and daddies around the globe fight to keep their children alive?  Why we make choices every single day of our lives pretending like they don't affect our global neighbors?
If you think too quickly, you'll just toss these words into some compartment of your brain, maybe "Random", "Awkward", or "Weird".
You may think none of it makes sense.  
A lot of it doesn't make much sense, because it's all questions...
But if you stop and give it a chance, you might see how all my questions above are related to one another.  You might see the big picture.  I'm convinced there's a big picture.
I'm sure glad I can see it now, but more importantly, I'm glad that I am finally brave enough to start putting all my observations into words.

Change is coming.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

This Place Called Kansas

August 20, 2014

I’m a couple of weeks late, but earlier this month marked 8 years that I have lived in Kansas.

I’ve had those moments:
“Oh, man! I wish Facebook was a thing when I moved into my dorm!”
“I wish we had taken pictures!" (too bad my family didn’t have a digital camera yet.)
“I wonder what my freshman class’ hashtag would have been.”

Sigh.  Anyway. Then I get over it (my thoughts on technology and social media belong in a WHOLE 'nother category).

A paragraph's worth of backstory: I moved to Kansas after being recruited for the track and field and cross-country teams for Bethany College, a private college in Lindsborg, Kansas.  I left the desert Southwest of Arizona, my childhood, and everything I’d ever known behind, hopped into my mom’s minivan, opened the Road Atlas so I could follow along, and got comfortable in my seat.
(My teammate from high school was recruited after I enrolled and signed my Letter of Intent; I gave the coaches a heads-up about her, she decided she was going with me, so we stuffed our clothes and bedding into the back of the minivan.  Neither one of us owned winter clothing or coats yet; we figured we’d worry about that when we got there.)

I’ve got a LOT of feelings (surprise, surprise) about the actual move itself: facing the fear of moving to an unknown place with no friends or family waiting there to welcome me; to a place with a totally different climate and culture and food and people, and how much I’ve grown as a result.  I’ve got tons of memories of my first semester, my second year, each year for that matter, which I want to put down on paper sometime soon.  Sure, I’ve got advice for out-of-state students, words of wisdom on how to stick it out until graduation, but I’m not sure that was the purpose of my writing for today.

My point today is that, 8 years later, I’m still here.  This place called Kansas has morphed from “the place I went away to college”, from “I’m just here to go to school”, from “Yeah, I could never be here forever” to “home”.

This place called Kansas introduced me to the concept of hospitality; from the team of Resident Assistants who helped us unload the minivan (Darcy, Michelle, and others), to the family who had me under their wing that first semester (Ben Mordecai and family—if you see this, know that I am eternally grateful).  I was hospitalized for a few days with mono and pneumonia, and this family took turns sitting vigil in my hospital room.  I don’t think I was alone for more than hour at a time.  (I seriously could write a small book just on the hospitality from this family alone)

This place called Kansas gave me permission to start over.  I could be whoever I wanted to be here.  Aside from my academics, athletics and music, high school wasn’t the greatest experience for me, and it was amazing to come here and just be accepted (Okay, so basically, I’ve just
always had social difficulties, okay? Let’s reword the previous sentence to read, “People were HARD in high school.”)

This place called Kansas has taught me how to make friends.  Real friends. I’ve figured everything out about myself here, while trudging through these thunderstorm-y summers and frozen tundra winters.  These days, I sit with trusted friends and have real conversations about figuring out our futures and planning our next steps.  If I had up and left after graduation, I would have missed out on these dear friendships.

I’m still here because this is where my journey has led me.  There are things I miss about my native Arizona, yes. But do I consider going back? Hardly.  Honestly, I’m so into my life and community here that I just go day-by-day.

I’ve fallen in love with wheat fields, summer rodeos, rolling hills, and greenery!  Don’t even get me started on sunflowers or back dirt roads.  I have mastered the art of carefully watching for deer while I drive, especially in the autumn and winter evenings. I am captivated by the change of the seasons, and anticipate the differences each one has to offer.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever leave, if I’m just letting myself get comfortable and settled for fear of picking up and moving yet again to another, new place.  I wonder if I’m scared.  Yeah.  I think I am scared.

But this place called Kansas has taught me that without an initial sense of fear, there’s no adventure.

At this point, leaving Kansas would feel like leaving home all over again.  I don't know what the future holds, but for now I guess I drank the Kansas Kool-Aid.  I used to hate the thought of "being here forever"; I was convinced that the week after my college graduation, I would be moving either back to Arizona or one of the other two completely different states I applied to medical schools in.

I kind of like how my story has turned out, though.  (Thanks to the Big Man upstairs, by the way!)

So thus begins Year Nine!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Desert Diaries, Volume 3

Sooooo, I don't have a smartphone.
This means, among other things: I get to go on vacation and not post pictures every 5 minutes to Facebook (Instagram? don't have one).  I don't feel badly about not "sharing" everything I'm doing every second of the day, but sometimes, I do feel left out.
That makes me mad, though.  I'm like---why should I feel left out just because I don't always tell people what I'm doing? Does that make me antisocial?  When and why did socializing become posting pictures online all the time?  It makes me sad and infuriated at the same time.
I wish, though, that I didn't have to have any feelings on it at all.  But technology has just become this ever-present THING that covers every aspect of our lives.
I've always hated having to keep up with the cool kids.
I've always kind of liked to "boycott" things that others were doing or saying, or buying, or wearing. 
I've also always kind of felt left out and insecure.

It's so interesting what we find interesting.
Or what we find uninteresting.
We've become this extremely visual people, and if someone doesn't instantly gratify our craving for "connection" by posting a picture, and we actually have to READ WORDS to see what someone is up to, it's suddenly become too much work.  The person who doesn't post a picture to accompany their status update is not as interesting as the person who does post a picture.  I think that's awful!
I realize that I am one of those "not so interesting people" on Facebook.  That stinks!
(I'm almost giggling to myself as I write this.)
But I also value my in-person interactions, and my in-the-moment appreciation of the beauty around me more than what people think of me on Facebook. On my most confident days, that is.  :)
I'm not saying that everyone who posts pictures on Facebook with their smartphone, does not value those interactions in their own life, of course.  That would be a hugely unfair generalization.
I'm just thinkin' thoughts over here.
I so admire the individuals who can deactivate their accounts and not care one way or the other about Facebook.  I wish, like I said, that I had no opinion on it, but I do.  I'm human and I'm insecure.
Here's to seeking out ways to combat the insecurity, and striving for fulfillment in the choices I make and relationships I have!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Desert Diaries, Volume 2

I originally wanted to write EVERY SINGLE DAY during this trip.
Yeah, that hasn't happened.
Today, I'm thinking about all the ways I've handled different situations while on this trip.
One of my church friends/mentor ladies told me (paraphrased) "There's going to be lots of ways this week where you will be tempted to respond like the old man inside of you.  Remember that it is now Jesus Christ who lives in you, not the old man."
If you know a little bit about me, you know that my family relationships/dynamics are not the most....traditional.  But I'm really proud of myself for the way I've handled myself and interacted on this visit.  I've helped redirect and de-escalate some conversations at home, and even had some damage-control-type input, here and there.  My mom and I have had some really grown-up conversations about life things, and we've never been able to do that before. I would always let my emotions get the best of me.  Now, I know how to manage them and put them aside, in order to see clearly while I'm in the moment.
I've been able to clarify some things with mom which are huge for my future, and my sister and I have been communicating and brainstorming all week about common goals we have for my mom and younger sister, as far as what we can do to help them.
The communication between my sister and I (don't know if that's grammatically correct---judge me)  feels pretty good.  We have had to communicate about schedules and plans, dinners, breakfasts, DIY projects at my mom's house, and midnight burrito runs.  She has also let me borrow clothes a few times while I've been here, because I'm a crazy minimalist hippie who brings nothing but a carry-on suitcase, and a tote bag full of books.  She has encouraged plans with my friends, and not been overly needy when she has been off work.  And we haven't killed each other yet.
While I don't have a smartphone to snap tons of pictures and post them immediately to Facebook, I have thoughts.  And, I have the ability to write those thoughts down.  Then, I take those thoughts and I look for patterns, and I see what I'm learning, and how it's growing me.  I pay attention to how I feel about each lunch/dinner/coffee/midnight burrito run date I make (midnight burritos are important here in Yuma, AZ).  I feel my feelings; i get excited to see old friends; i smile at people, i think about people, i wonder what i can do to help.
There's this Watermelon Man who sits on the corner with his little pickup truck full of watermelons for sale.  He waves at everyone who drives by, or stops at the stoplight.  Just a friendly wave.  When I see him, I remember, and I am thankful.
I remember growing up, and seeing random produce truck-stands, and knowing this is normal. I remember stopping at many a produce stand to buy corn, watermelon, or cantaloupe with my dad when I was a child.  I remember all of the people who surrounded me while growing up in this city.  I remember how I've always loved all of them, even the strangers.
It is SO the little things in life---and on a trip back home---that make you stop, take a deep breath, and smile.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Desert Diaries, Volume 1

Well, this week, I've gotten to spend some time in my hometown--Yuma, Arizona---visiting friends and family.  I haven't been here in two years, and I had been getting pretty homesick/nostalgic.  I don't know that homesick is the right word, because I don't LONG for home or anything like that.  I've gotten to this point where I've accepted and created my home around myself in the state and city where I live now, so it's strange to come back here.
I find myself driving the streets of this city, wondering, "I really grew up here?" Not because it's a bad thing, but because my entire adult life has been somewhere else.
I feel strangely at home, and a stranger, at the same time. While I've been here on this visit, I've gone running on the canal, which I ran 2-3 times a week during cross-country season in high school; I've gone running at Smucker Park, another high school favorite; I've had meals with friends and people I love; I've reminisced on "the good ol' days" and had conversations about my next steps in life; I've been around all my friends' and families' animals, mostly cats and dogs; I've visited and bonded with my Ocean in San Diego (yes, I needed to re-bond with my Ocean).
I've helped with a lot of things at my mom's house, planned and brainstormed with my sister, taught my baby sister card games, and eaten lots of fresh avocado.
I always end up with same panicky feeling: it's never enough time.
There's always someone else I wish I could spend time with, another old haunt I wish I could revisit.  I hate always running out of time.
I feel like at some point soon, I want like a 2-3 week period to come back and visit.  Life feels so different out here from what it does in my little Midwestern city.
I am more present and more appreciative of certain things this time around: the sunshine, the occasional warm (cool?) breeze, the faces of all the people who need someone to acknowledge their existence and say hello.
It feels like nothing's changed, and yet, like everything has.
I'm not the same person I was when I was growing up here.  It's strange to go develop and spread my wings as a person somewhere else, then come back to visit and bring everything I've learned with me.
Life is a really wacky thing.

Friday, May 16, 2014

8 Months Free

May 1, 2014

So it’s been 8 months since I stopped taking any anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication, after 5-and-a-half years of being on them. (Over the course of those 5+ plus years, I took 3 different medications. Number 3 was the one that worked best for me)
 I think it’s time to update everyone (and myself) a bit on what I’ve gained and lost from this process.

I made this decision on my own, and asked for my doctor’s support.  We designed a “taper off” plan for me to follow, which I proceeded to do, and before I knew it, I didn’t have to remember to take a pill anymore.  I didn’t have to call in refills, or budget for the cost of the medication.  When going on an overnight trip, I didn’t need to pack my pill.  I didn’t need to worry about keeping it in my carry-on while flying.  I could stop worrying about all the horrendous chemical reactions going on inside my body.  Shedding all these things made me feel like I freed up tons of brain space.  I gained confidence, for a while, and optimism about my ability to cope with my emotions and stressors using my own skills and strength.

So, how do I feel?  What is it like?  Am I “cured”?
I wish it was all good news, or that I could say I’m all better now.

I feel like I’ve lost my energy, my sparkle, the pep in my step.  I can’t help but notice how much more taxing it is for me to get up early, and stay up late.  I enjoy being active.  For the last two years, in addition to working my full-time job, I had a class, a Bible study group, or something I was volunteering for, at least 4 evenings a week.  Plus, sometimes I work overtime on Saturdays, and was volunteering at my church on Saturdays, and then I added some volunteering time on Sundays twice a month.  Sometimes, I would attend all 3 of my church’s services in a weekend, because I had the energy and desire to.  I enjoyed hanging with friends, and sharing about my life, smiling, talking, and laughing.  
When I stopped taking my medication, one of the first things to go was my motivation for evening commitments.  Out the door went youth group, for which I volunteered as a leader, and Bible study.  I started skipping out on my Tuesday night dinners that I had at a friend’s house.  I lost interest in being around people and making small talk.  All I wanted to do was go home, and be home, with my cat.  (She has been the best companion for the nearly 4 years she’s been part of my family)

“It is like” not really knowing how to get my old self back.  Is this reserved, independent person who I’ve been all along?
“It is like” I have to work really hard and plan ahead all the time, to make sure that I’m going to be in the right mood at the right time, for whatever it is my responsibilities are at the moment, be it work, volunteer, or social.
“It is like” I’m excited about not depending on a drug anymore, but I don’t feel as proud of myself as I used to feel.  
“It is like” every day is just a routine, something to get through, something to accomplish.  
“It is like” I have to work really darn hard to create the life I want, all the time; the feelings I want, the choices I want, the opportunities I want.  

“It is like” all these questions come up.  
“Was that person not really me?”
“Have I been fake for the last 5 years?”
“Do all my friends only know - and like- the medicated Gilda?”
“Does no one want to hang out with me because I’m depressing to be around?”
“Can I even handle my own life?”

The only choice I see is to keep trudging forward.  Because even at a crawl, I’m not waving that white flag.  The only thing I can choose to believe is that it does get better with time.  That I’m (STILL!) not done growing yet.  

Some days, I’m pretty miserable.  I get fed up with people and commitments; I find myself overly critical, feeling envious of those who possess things or live lifestyles different than mine.  There are moments where I let myself start spiraling down the black hole again, being angry at God for my circumstances, placing my worth in other people instead of in what He has said about me.  

Eventually, I distract myself.  I pick a coping skill (usually rigorous cardiovascular exercise) and go with it.  I hope to write more about the methods of self-defense I use against the enemy of the ever-looming cloud of doom.

Am I cured?  Choosing to separate yourself from something is the first step to ridding your life of it.  I work in the mental health field, so I’ve seen and know what Severe and Persistent Mental Illness looks like.  My level of anxiety and stress doesn’t fit that diagnosis, so I don’t know that “cure” is even a correct term (or that "cure" is a correct term for those who DO suffer from Severe and Persistent Mental Illness).  I believe that anxiety and stress should be managed, and if they are not, then they can lead to a chronic condition.

I know that my stress and anxiety have come from years of building certain thought patterns.  I continued to build these thought patterns as I grew up because I didn’t know any better.  So now, as a young adult, I start the hard work of undoing all those patterns of toxic thinking.  It isn’t easy.  There’s scientific research on this, folks.

So the truth is, if you decide that you can beat toxic thinking, and believe with all your heart that you will, it will still be difficult to do so, and take time.

I choose to be public about this because I refuse to be labeled or judged.  If I put everything out there, then there’s no stories people can make up about me, or judgements that people can make about “how it all started”.  And I can be an example of determination and strength.  

So.  Eight months down.  

There may or may not be a huge celebration involved for my 1-year anniversary.  :)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mom-ish Friends


“Mom-ish friends”

I know I use this term a lot.  
I think I may have coined the term, actually.

You see, not all little girls grow up with a mommy to look to for answers to life’s questions, or to pick them up when they fall down.  Some little girls grow up meek and quiet, watching their life go by in a whirlwind around them, across two states, two schools, and two homes, with two parents who were together, yet not, and always seemed to have something to argue about.  

Some little girls grow up with all their basic needs provided - food, clothing, transportation, schooling, pets, even - and so, they never even realize that they are missing something.  They don’t even know what entitlement is, so how can they feel it?

These little girls grow up into pre-teens whose friends want to be all huggy all the time, and they realize this is the first time they remember giving and receiving hugs.  So then these little girls start building their identity around their friendships.

Then boys want to start giving and receiving hugs, and these little girls realize they don’t ever remember hugging their fathers.

But then these little girls get stuck living with their father, while the person who holds the title “mother” is in and out, back and forth, across two states, working, making whirlwind decisions at very loud volumes.

So, trust begins to build in father-daughter relationships, but then mothers get jealous and make up lies and stories and do everything in their power to rip away the relationships that they never cared enough to build themselves.

So then little girls end up confused and caught in the middle of custody battles, not understanding why they have to choose one parent over the other, upset and experiencing separation anxiety when it’s a “mom weekend”, but not sure from which person they feel anxious about separating, the mother or the father.

These little girls eat too much and don’t get enough exercise, but rely on Nickolodeon and Disney Channel for company.  (They fight too much with their sisters to ever get along peacefully for any actual amounts of time)

Dads win the custody battles and little girls continue with schooling.  When boys want to start holding hands at lunchtime, there’s no mommies to ask for advice.  There’s just daddies to hide information from.  

Little girls find their peace in books and schoolwork, spelling and arithmetic, and get a “Good job, mija” when they bring home a good grade, which by the way, is always an “A”.  
Junior high goes by with no more from Mommies than demanding questions and high expectations when they come to visit.  

By high school, little girls have found some more of their identities and escapes in sports.  Building bonds with teammates is easier than building bonds with family members.
The schoolwork gets more intense, and little girls grow more confused and feel more pressure.  By this point, they’ve mastered the “Thank you for cooking dinner, Daddy” and help with housework and take on more responsibility than they maybe should.

By age 15, little girls have seen how some of their friends interact with their mommies.  They’ve seen the hugs, and the eye-rolling, and the kisses on the cheek, and they hear the “Love you’s” and they wonder, “Why is my family so different?” But by this point, they don’t really care.

Because by this point, they’re getting hugs and kisses from boys and doing well with sports, and algebra and biology and theology at their Catholic high schools, and they’re headed toward a college scholarship.

Then Daddy dies and leaves Mommy in charge.

And there’s so much anger and hurt feelings all over the place that little girls don’t even know how to handle themselves.  But they don’t have to, because they get college scholarships to faraway places like Kansas, so they get to run away.

But every time they come for a visit, it’s fireworks, and not the good kind.  And all along, they don’t know who they are, or who they’ve been, or known guidance, or a mother’s love.  For Mommy was too busy figuring herself out to pay any attention to her Little Girls.  
It wasn’t completely her fault.  She just didn’t know how  

Thank goodness for Mom-ish friends, who step in when Little Girls are 20, 25 years old and help answer all the questions; who stand by and offer words of repair and wisdom, gestures of healing and kindness.  For it’s not the Little Girl’s fault that she wasn’t given what all Little Girls should have.

Thank goodness for Mom-ish friends.