Thursday, December 29, 2011

To God


You scoop out my insides like a harvest pumpkin
The vessel must be prepared
Which will bear your tiny tea candle
Flickering and squirming
Ghostly light of a hallowed orange shell

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My Top Books of 2011

1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
I have been recommending this book to any and everyone possible (Sorry to y'all whom I've been pestering, but seriously, you should check it out!). Absolutely True Diary changed my life. This coming of age first-person narrative of Arnold, a Native American teen, honestly depicts the harshness of reservation life and the pressure to fit in & become "successful" in mainstream white society. It is at times heartbreaking but above all heartFELT and honest. Alexie succeeds in articulating the Native American experience with depth, clarity and a sense of humor. He "gets it." I identified immensely with the protagonist, Arnold, God bless him. Reading this book made me proud to be a person of color and it made me feel so much less alone!! Ugh, this book is just amazing. HEART.

2. Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky
This year I experienced the deepest sense of burnout ever in my life. Social work/justice/ethical living completely overwhelmed me and I was extremely unhappy. Volunteering, being a vegetarian, taking public transit, buying fair trade and doing independent research of domestic & international social problems became a burden of responsibility driven by privileged guilt and most importantly, a sense of duty. It took an especially dramatic panic attack during winter quarter for me to finally snap out of it and realize, "Okay, this isn't working." This past summer I took the first actual vacation from volunteerism in years, read this book and FINALLY started to understand what "self-care" looks like. Lipsky stresses the importance of being gentle on yourself and intentionally seeking out ways to nourish body, mind and soul. I feel so much better nowadays, and don't live with the nagging guilt that I don't "deserve" a break (e.g. an afternoon at the spa, a special drink from a cafe, an expensive @$$ fair-trade candle from Honduras). I'm hanging up my savior-complex role and accepting with utmost relief that there are many, many other people striving for just causes & advocating for the most oppressed, traumatized people in this world. It's not all on my shoulders and I don't have to be "working" 24/7. In fact, through this book I learned that it's essential to limit my involvement in social welfare in order to preserve my sanity for the long haul. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Whew. Thank you, Laura van Dernoot Lipsky! I recommend this book to ALL social workers, nurses, MHPs, activists and "overactive-empathizers," as I like to call them (I am one!!!).

3. An Atlas of Impossible Longing by Anuradha Roy 
I am a sucker for authors with uber-precise, jealousy-inducing prose. Anuradha Roy kills! Her attention to detail, her jarringly realistic, tragic protagonists--incredible! I mean, sure, it's an epic "love story," but Roy manages to effortlessly bypass common cliches and make everything fresh. It follows three generations of the same family, much like Steinbeck's East of Eden, but thankfully, the novel is much less dark and creepy, if you know what I mean. The story just pulls you in. She gets to the heart of what it means to be human: insecurity, ambition, greed, pride. This book is a joy to read.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Full Circle

This morning the sun shone brightly, the sky was blue, the landscape palette richly autumnal, the air cool, pristine and soul-cleansing. Walking the Burke-Gilman trail, I thought about how I walked this very same trail, in these very same brown leather shoes three years ago. Although it's the same route, same Physics building, familiar grey armchair with a view of Lake Union, I can't help but feel giddy. I'm such a different person from when I first set foot here. Using my imagination, I remember what it was like, to be both afraid and in wonder of the University of Washington, to be studying my little tushy off, exploring the far-flung, rarely frequented libraries (chemistry, engineering, east asia, law, art) with gusto. Same laptop, same backpack, even.. but I'm not who I was! I mean, duh! But this revelation is really giving me joy today.
Beautiful view from the 6th-floor physics/astronomy "reading room." A quintessential mix of austere nature and urban chaos.
Everything is coming together. I'm studying a subject that fascinates me, I have a wonderful, delightfully small social network and finally feel comfortable in the overpopulated, giant, architecturally stunning University. I feel confident and proud of myself. Sitting here, I remember and feel deeply all of the trials I've endured to be able have this current happiness. For now, everything feels right with the world and Possibility is at my feet, within reach--altogether mysterious and intoxicating.

The providence of God never fails us.
Let us give him thanks and praise!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Yay!

Okay, so HUGE relief: I am no longer going to be interning in Lake City for the year. The commute was monstrous (~1hr 20min one way!) and was seriously stressing me out. Now I am in the waiting game hoping that another agency closer to home will be willing to have me!

It's been interesting living with my grandparents and (thankfully) so far there have been no medical emergencies. It's quite startling, though, to realize how difficult everyday things are for them (washing dishes, picking things up from off of the ground, taking the trash out, cooking, etc.). My grandpa joked about how I could do an observational study on them, charting the body's slow decomposition through aging. I think it's a wonder that they stay upbeat about their lives when nearly everything they do is a struggle.

I've really been enjoying talking with my grandpa about his perspective on life. We've been going to a Bible study on Tuesdays on the Sermon on the Mount, which have been pretty thought-provoking. My grandpa seems to have gathered a lot of insight especially from the crazy difficult times in his life, which makes me wonder about whether suffering is a prerequisite to wisdom & compassion. Anyhow, it sure is great to have him around just to bounce ideas and also lol.

Grandma is great, too, and hugs me before I go to school in the morning. She always makes sure that I have something sweet to pack in my lunch (lately it's been these caramel pecan chocolate clusters!) and am well-fed at all hours of the day. I try and do physical therapy exercises with her as we watch Jeopardy! and Modern Family together--her for her legs and arm range of motion and me for my injured shoulder. Today she's out partying with her buds at the casino so she'll be out until 10pm at the earliest. Haha!

Bottom line: I think that this year is going to be okay. It's not going to kill me. I might just enjoy myself--and learn some things along the way.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Adjusting

The start of the school year has hit me like a train. In a word, college is intense. Already I'm juggling multiple transitions: from living with my parents to living with my grandma and grandpa, from living in the U District to commuting to school & to practicum  from Rainier Beach (this is really upsetting me) and from luxurious sabbatical summer days to academia (textbooks, assignments, etc.). The question I ask myself is, "How am I possibly going to make it?"

Today it was very therapeutic to sing on the worship team for church service. I was able to unload all of the anxiety, frustration, anger and fear I was feeling--just puke it all out for God to see.

This year will definitely be an adjustment and I'm really fighting all of the changes. Being adaptable and flexible is not my strongest suit. Anyhow, we'll see how this week goes. Praying for things to be less overwhelming. I'm thankful for my family & friends who have been so supportive. I need the encouragement!

It's going to be all right!!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sometimes You Just Have to Laugh

Took a morning Pilates class for the first time at the local gym today. The only Pilates I'd ever done before was at 30 minute Mari Winsor tape, and I'd only done that to please my mom. Hahaha...

Oh man, it was a crack up! There were about four diehard women that the instructor, Perla, knew by first name. I mean, these women were crazy strong!! But then in the back there were these three random slacker men that made me laugh out loud every time I glanced their way. We had to do this intense ab exercise--20 reps--and halfway through I was starting to get tired, UGH! But then I looked behind me at those three men and this is what I saw:

Two of them were just lying there on their backs, legs bent, not moving at all. They'd simply quit and didn't care. The last guy, Lord bless him, was doing some form of crunches, but not very successfully.

Oh man, and those four buff women in the front were taking themselves all seriously with their perfect muscle tone and control, not shaking at all as we finished up the last rep.

Just goes to show, the "no pain no gain" attitude is only for type A's. I'm so thankful those men were there today, cuz they added some much needed perspective. I mean, If you're tired, man, just quit. Life's too short to torture yourself for the sake of "fitness."

;-P

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

(re)Discovering My Creative Side, (re)Considering My Vocation

Creativity. Artistry. Imagination. Passion.

I've been reading a memoir by Madeleine L'Engle called Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. Since entering the School of Social Work, I've been completely consumed with the "immediate reality" of a  broken and suffering world, and have had little time to be creative, imaginitive or artistic. Artistic expression at times seems "impractical" and separate from the real world, but I'm starting to see that to be an artist is to follow a prophetic calling. Sometimes it's only through poetry, a melody, the movement of the human body in dance that the true reality of the human condition surfaces, captivates and inspires.

During this sabbatical I'm really asking myself, "Why am I doing what I am doing?" Is social work really something that I want to do? Am I even enjoying it anymore? 

While I'm at school there's this urgent, almost desperate sense that if we as social workers don't get out there and do something about poverty, oppression, trauma, etc. then the world will end. It's a guilt trip gone horribly wrong. I know that I want to lead a meaningful life, to love as best as I can and "be on the side of the underdog," as it were...but not to the point of utter self-depletion and despair.

What is God calling me to? How can I be faithful to his call? More and more I am beginning to see that he is not asking me to be a super heroic martyr and change millions of lives for the better. I have to trust that the work, the community he sets before in each season of life is exactly where he wants me to be. My worth as a Christ-follower does not come from my "successes" (client or situational "improvement"--i.e. improved test scores, financial stability, liberation/"empowerment"), because so much is out of my control. What counts is the effort and the intention behind the effort, which should always be love: love for God and love for others.

I recently finished up Henri Nouwen's Sabbatical Journey, the journal of his time away from his "work" with the mentally handicapped. He just really brings it all home, back to the heart of things, the heart of Jesus.

"A Democratic senator was pondering how to influence people the most--as a politician who is able to introduce laws that can help millions of people, or as a minister who continues to offer hope and consolation to people in their daily struggle?...

For me it is not a question of how we can most influence others. What matters is our vocation. To what or whom are we called? When we make the effect of our work the criterion of our sense of self, we end up very vulnerable. Both the political and ministerial life can be responses to a call. Both too can be ways to acquire power. The final issue is not the result of our work but the obedience to God's will, as long as we realize the God's will is the expression of God's love" (205).

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Sabbatical from Social Work

I'm so relieved to finally begin my sabbatical summer in earnest. I'm currently reading Henri Nouwen's Sabbatical Journey, which is a journal of his year-long sabbatical from Daybreak, a living community for people with cognitive disabilities. I am so relieved to know that it is OKAY to take a break from service and care-giving to care for myself. In the journal, Nouwen writes happily of his "small" life--just as I am reveling in mine.

My days at home are filled with simple tasks: reading, writing, prayer and naps--it's so awesome! Other than that I've been doing some additional activities just for fun and enjoyment:
  • Learning Japanese through Rosetta Stone (onnanoshito wa jitenshen o motte imasu)
  • Playing Dance Central 
  • Learning how to ride a bike (still wobbling around, but making progress!!)
  • Attending hip-hop dance class with instructor, Cinnamon, and zumba with Maria
  • Cooking with my dad (we made some killer bbq chicken the other day)

Oh, this has gotta be the good life!!!!! :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

At Thurgood Marshall, "The Dream Is Alive!!!"

Today was my last day of volunteering at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School. It crept up on me--it's like, just when I feel like I've built up momentum, things get cut short. Yet, as it says in Ecclesiastes, There is a time for everything... Being in Ms. Pan's class every week has been so therapeutic to me! To see the kids smile when I enter the room in the morning is something I'll never forget. There were definitely times (especially when there was a substitute teacher) that I felt so exasperated that I just wanted to sock 'em, but I have surely grown attached to them. But once again, it's another goodbye, and I release them into the Lord's hands. It's like scattering someone's ashes to the wind.. kinda.

I wanted to share with you the "drama production" that the kids performed last Friday called "When I think of a friend." Each of the students were placed into groups and each created a statement of "When I think of a friend.." For each sentence the group made a tableaux, a posed snapshot to capture the meaning of the words:

Group One: Felisha, Galeah, Amiria, Martin and Janelle--
When I think of a friend I think of someone who...
  • helps me when I'm going through rough times
  • will play with me in gymnastics
  • welcomes me warmly
  • is helpful
  • supports and encourages me to do the right thing

Group Two: Kiana, Dez'Wonique, Abdikadir, Jordan and Au
When I think of a friend I think of someone...
  • who can keep all my secrets and giggle with me
  • who cares for me when I get hurt
  • that can be honest with me
  • who helps me score a goal in soccer
  • that dances with me

Group Three: Mia, Halimo, Isaaq and Mohamud
When I think of a friend I think of someone who...
  • helps me with a math problem
  • plays tag with me
  • helps me when I'm dizzy
  • that plays soccer with me
  • plays basketball with me

Group Four: Salat, Arturo, Lavontre, Amina and Katana
When I think of a friend I think of someone who...
  • welcomes me to a new neighborhood
  • is playful
  • helps me stay on my health
  • helps me when I get hurt
  • helps me on a hard problem

Group Five: Ibrahim, Olga, Anaiya, Sergio and Russell
When I think of a friend I think of someone who...
  • can play tag with me
  • will play a game with me
  • helps me
  • cares for me

WHEN I THINK OF A FRIEND I THINK OF SOMEONE WHO WILL HAVE A GOOD TIME WITH ME!!!!!!

Aren't they just the cutest???

To close, here is a picture of the kids out front of the Underground Seattle Tour office:
It was sad hugging them all goodbye today, but I know they've got enough spark to make it through the rest of their lives with flying colors. So thankful to have spent this year with them!!!!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Artists!


So what have I been doing with my spare time now that school's out and I'm chillin' like a villain? Watching videos of the JabbaWockeeZ like crazy. They're just completely AMAZING!! Watch them!!



Sick!!


SO LEGIT.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Last Day of School!

So today I finished up for the school year! I must admit, I feel a bit strange. The hilarious thing is, people can tell. They say, "Wow, you seem really happy." It's a huge relief and I feel so free! I can't wait to take a break from all the dramatic seriousness that is the savior-complex of the school of social work. Lighten up, peeps!

Since everything is wrapping up, I'm getting all reflective... I love to reminisce and be sentimental. Today Hillary & I were walking home from getting smoothies and thinking about all the breakfasts we've made together with Faith. I met with Kristen today and we agreed that it seemed just yesterday that we were getting lunch together at the HUB. The years are flying by.

I <3 Hillary!
As brutal as this year may have been (with dreary weather and faith crisis and burnout), there are definitely things to be thankful for. What I cherish most about this year is all of the friendships! It was definitely tough to leave high school and lose my posse..but it's so cool now to be building networks at UW. I'm thankful for all the wonderful memories with Hillary & Faith--grocery shopping, cooking, playing volleyball, watching movies, quoting them and just talking about life! I once asked them, "Is this what it's like to have a sister?" I have truly learned the value of living with other Christians and sharing in fellowship together. It's been a blast!

Brittany and I are buds..
My peers at the school of social work have just been super awesome, too. It's amazing to be around such passionate, caring, like-minded people. I'm thankful for Tania, who I bonded with on the really discouraging lobby day for immigrant rights/services. I'm thankful for Kayla (who, sadly, is leaving the program!) and Kanchan--I'll never forget going to coffee with the two of them and finally realizing I wasn't alone in my distress because of the class content. And of course, Brittany has been such a wonderful new friend to me, I can't even express it with words! She is a ray of sunshine in my life. When I prayed for ONE friend in freshman year, I was super happy to find Hillary. Brittany, too? I am just tooooooo blessed. From spur-of-the-moment ice skating to earring beading to watching the "Double Rainbow Song" and Mi Pecado, I've just had so much fun hanging out with her!

And also, though I can't quite yet articulate it in words yet, I feel as if God has done a lot for me this year to establish me in my faith and prepare me for the future, whatever it may hold. I just have a sense of peace and a sort of inner equanimity about all the "tough things" in the world--like ya, it's going to be all right. Anyway..

I find myself thinking about the things I am going to miss about my life here at UW, living in the Cliff House. Move out day is a little over a week away! I'll definitely miss Ten Thousand Villages (I am SO going there tomorrow!). And the millions of bus routes here. I'll miss hosting kick-@$$ parties with Hillz & Faith. There are so many little things! But until I actually move out, I'm going to soak up every little moment and every little blessing!--like walking home from U Village today as the sun was setting and enjoying the smell of summer, vibrant colors of grass & trees and the happy energy of students exulting in the end of the school year.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I Have a Dream..

 So this past Friday Grandpa & I went to "Be the Spark" Rally at the Tacoma Dome. The purpose was to bring people together as a community, to get pumped up to make a difference! I was so surprised that so many people care, you know??? Because sometimes I can get so cynical--and it seems like the general public is indifferent about poverty and suffering locally and globally. Friday I was overwhelmed to see this perception completely contradicted! Local youth from the schools and YMCA attended and the fact that they're reaching out & volunteering is a gigantic relief to me. Humanity is sinful and flawed and all that stuff, but sometimes people can be so dang SURPRISING in their sincere love and altruism. From the first song I was crying. It was this indie hip funk alt. band playing some awesome jamz but then this incredible black rapper started performing parts of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream Speech" over it all and I just about lost it. I was crying at the beauty of his dream--of peace, of reconciliation and mostly of HOPE. That he could have dared to dream of "the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood" in the middle of all the overwhelming overt racism, hate, history of oppression--I just am not quite sure how he did it.

I've been so afraid to dream this year--for a better future, for good to prevail. All this striving for peace and justice can feel like one giant loss after another. I started to doubt my idealistic visions of wholeness and goodness and progress even, towards a global community. I have had my share of disappointments in seeing the suffering of clients, and nothing changing (e.g. oppressive immigration law), but I don't think that's reason to not expect any change--it sure isn't reason to not expect anything better from God, or from ourselves.

And that's why I think Desmond Tutu is so special. Look how warm and fun and adorable he looks! Every time he laughed on Friday I felt like I could be happy for the rest of my life & nothing mattered anymore. :) He, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., faced intense hatred and oppression. He struggled. He fought. Yet through it all he has maintained his sense of humor, hope and faith in God.

His sermon that night was very interesting. I'd listened to some of his other stuff so I was a bit familiar with his theology. The way he sees it, things are just messed up here on earth. Just plain messed. And he sees God as, in many situations of injustice, powerless. Powerless. Isn't that crazy? That God sees all this icky stuff happening and "all he can do is cry," the Archbishop states. In the following clip he describes it as such: "the omnipotent becomes impotent."


God requires human partners. He relies on us to act in the world. There's a woman in my Sunday school class who shared today, "This is the first time in my life ever that I have said yes to what God has asked of me. And I know without a doubt that I am exactly where I should be." She's a mother of two and is studying to be an RN. I mean, I think this is what God is asking of us. To be courageous. To say yes to him. Imagine the possibilities.

Monday, May 09, 2011

The Burn-Out Keeps Burnin' On..

Basically, this was me today:
I slept in until 11:30am today, and yet three hours later I was drooping and tempted to nap.

Lately, I've just been pretty tired and not very motivated. The smallest tasks exhaust me, from going to Thurgood Marshall to reading a journal article for class to spending time with friends to cooking--even spending time in prayer and reading the Bible. It just makes me tired! Like always, I try so hard to keep up but eventually fall behind.

People keep asking me what summer plans are, and to be honest, I think all that I could handle after this ravaging school year is big fat nothing. I feel bad about not having the drive and the energy to pursue a paying job (it would have been the first of my life), but I am seeing that the burn-out within goes very deep.

It's to the point that I actually dread future service (next school year as an intern at ACRS) because it depletes me so much currently. My energy and inspiration tank is running quite low. So this summer I'm moving home with Mom & Dad and will try to observe some semblance of a sabbatical. I feel a bit of a failure for being so weak as to have to come to this point, but I honestly really need some rest.

The LORD works righteousness
   and justice for all the oppressed. (Psalm 103:6)


He tends his flock like a shepherd:
   He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart (Isaiah 40:11)


I have to trust that even as I withdraw from "the scene" for awhile, God is at work.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

It's time for me to bow out for a bit. I'm praying for the strength to make it through the rest of this quarter! Panic attack free, plz. :)

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

To Brighten Your Day

Visiting Seattle Girls' School: Hehe! Look at those cuties! Note Halimo downing her iced tea like a G.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

We Silence the Privileged


This reflection essay I write in response to my time spent in inter-group dialogue (2.5 hr. long weekly sessions with 9 other students of differing "social identity groups" i.e., race, socio-economic status, religion, etc. for the purpose of "mutual understanding," reconciliation and coalition building for a stronger, united human community). Hoping that it might encourage you, whether you consider yourself privileged, oppressed or bits of both.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
We Silence the Privileged
            When my white colleagues kept apologizing for not having “powerful” stories to tell, I sat confused. They minimized their experiences of exclusion, alienation and identity confusion as less relevant, real and gritty. Their self-deprecation caused by the personal guilt of privilege through race made me wonder.
            The School of Social Work encourages its students to be “champions of the oppressed” and to “bring marginalized voices to the fore.” Yet, simultaneously, is it disempowering, denying and guilt-tripping the oppressors? The school teaches that the poor must not be stigmatized or demonized, but aren’t we committing this act of judgment upon the proverbial “white male”?
            As I have continued to sit in my bewilderment I must challenge my assumptions: Do I actually value the utterly tragic stories of the poor and oppressed more than their rich and privileged counterparts?
            Sometimes I thank my lucky stars that I am majoring in social work because I know that the rest of my life will be devoted to knowing “real people”—and by “real people” I mean people who have “gone through a lot”: i.e., the traumatized, suffering oppressed. In my compassion for the poor I realize that I have developed a bias against the powerful, the “oppressors.” I think of them as less than human because I assume that life has been handed to them on a silver platter. I even have that resentment towards the privileged parts of myself: my comfortably middle class suburban life of stability. I consider this part of myself to be illegitimate; I seek to disown it. It is nothing to be proud of; it is rather a source of shame. We downplay our privileged identities because there is no sense of struggle in them. In our privilege we enjoy what we did not earn.
            And I sense that many others hold this bias against their privilege as well. I see it in my white colleagues; the bias is directed against themselves. Yet as they shared their personal stories of pain—of being rejected on the basis of religion, moral values and nonconformity—I can see that their pain is legitimate. Undeniably they have enjoyed much power and convenience on the basis of their race, and yet their complexity shines forth in their experience of simultaneous oppression along other lines. Perhaps they have been shielded from a lot of pain because of their race, but their race has not excluded them from all pain. I cannot pretend that they are not “real people” as they share their loneliness and insecurity. We all carry brokenness within us—even if it may be hidden or suppressed by a façade of privilege.
            Surely, it is a “straw man” to compare suffering and oppressions among individuals. It is also unfair to evaluate people according to the amount of hardships they have endured throughout their lifetime. I must challenge my tendency to discount the life experiences of those who have not “had it rough”—according to my arbitrary standards of who is deserving or non-deserving of “speaking their truth.” I must challenge myself to re-humanize the oppressor. I must remember that the river of pain touches the shores of all lives. I must allow the estuary of these streams to commingle and swirl into one sea. For only in the uniting of our personal pain can we rise together.   

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Some Books I'm Excited About

So with all my social work classes ruining my enjoyment of all types of mainstream TV shows, movies and books (because they represent the "normalized white dominant culture," blah, blah, blah), I've started to explore their "alternative"/indie counterparts. When I look for books, I focus on the last name of the author as well as the gender. Lately I've been favoring female writers of color. It has been so fun to read books written with such different and fresh perspective on reality, life and resilience. They're great because they are semi-autobiographical in nature, so you know they're not bullshitting you--and yet have fiction woven throughout to make everything more poignant/poetic. It's great. And I am only scratching the surface!! Here are a couple of authors I've found so far:

Diana Abu Jaber is a writer in residence at Portland State University and I picked up a copy of her book Crescent because it was on sale at Powell's. After devouring that book in a matter of days (I finished it before we got back to Seattle!), I checked out her other book Arabian Jazz. Although her novels can at times be long-winded, overly descriptive and lacking focus, I really enjoyed them. She is half Jordanian and half Caucasian and explores issues of identity and belonging, immigrant displacement and being "in-between" cultures, managing to effortlessly weave this into greater themes of love and finding meaning in life. So it's not like her books are super "political" and fixated on issues of ethnicity/race. That's what I like about them! Basically, she's great. RECOMMEND!!

Faïza Guène is a French writer, the daughter of Algerian parents and grew up in the housing projects of Paris. I randomly picked her book Some Dream for Fools out of the "choice reads" section of the Federal Way library--her name caught my eye. :) Gosh, I just love books with strong female leads. The book is about a no-nonsense young woman that holds her family together following the death of her mother and the disablement of her father. She looks out for her younger brother, works, falls in love and writes (it's first person from her perspective) in a frank (i.e. lots of expletives--love it!) and insightful way. The book speaks to the universality of the immigrant experience in a Western country. I have her other book Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow on hold and can't wait to read it!

Something else exciting! On Wednesday, April 20th, two Nigerian-born writers will be reading their work at the Seattle Public Library downtown. Sweet! More perspectives. I'm so in need of different perspectives, different ways of seeing the world. Can you believe, this event is a part of "Seattle Reads," "a project designed to foster reading and discussion of works by authors of diverse cultures and ethnicities." Man, sometimes I can't believe how cool it is that public money is used to showcase "atypical" literature. You know, stuff that isn't about bored rich teens being sexually promiscuous..the fluffy, mindless noise to feed the masses. Haha, okay, done with that rant. Pictured her is Uchechi Kalu and she is a poet and activist living in San Francisco. Also reading is E.C. Osondu who published several short stories in a volume called Voice of America. I am also awaiting to receive their books on hold at the library. Cool, huh? After going to hear Tracy Kidder speak at Benaroya Hall I'm sold on the awesomeness factor of going to hear an author read their work and share about why they wrote what they wrote. It makes me feel more connected to the global community, ya know? :) Event info: http://www.spl.org/default.asp?pageID=about_news_detail&cid=1300834902539

So, that's what I've been reading lately. No more wading through the European classics! It's the same dang storyline: the scandal(!)/subsequent "ruining" of a female who dares to defy social norms and have an affair. Whoop de deeeeee. Hahaha..

Friday, April 08, 2011

Foggy

I'm wading through gray, foggy meaningless right now. This statement is ambiguous, I know.

Bad things I'm encountering: despair, doubt, fear, anxiety, disempowerment

Good things I'm encountering: love, encouragement, truth

Truth that cuts through the clouds that have formed an unseemly halo about my head.

Social work is a hard major and a hard profession. I need to diversify my interests and take up a new hobby or something. Whew.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Email Archives

So my Gmail account has been acting kind of funky and slow lately, so I thought I'd clean it out (I'm almost at 50% capacity for storage). Here's somethin' cool!


I wrote to Rachel R. on Valentine's day 2007
Positive loves!!!!!!!!!!!!! We all should be each others' valentines. Our girlie friendships>any boy.


She wrote back to me
boys, you make me tired. not now, todd.


Some things never change. :)



Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring! Give me more (allergy) MEDS!!!

Sunday marked the first day of Spring and for ONCE it was sunny today! Despite my intense allergies to any/all tree & flower pollens in the northwest, I stopped at Seward Park to walk the 2.5 mile loop on the shores of Lake Washington. It reminded me of when I was a freshman in college, back when I had the time to take long, solitary walks on the Burke-Gilman Trail.

The good thing about walks is that it gives you time to think about things that maybe you've put off thinking about--or, conversely, to think about nothing. I was thinking about my current doubts about the benevolence of God and his promise to be "always with us" and to "never forsake us." I'm still puzzling over the experiences I've had and the people I've met that seem to contradict all of this.

At this point I'd be basically lying if I forced myself to believe that there's always a "bigger picture" in the suffering, loneliness, feelings of abandonment, desperation, darkness & imprisonment. And I'm not even going to touch the whole argument that the "bad things" of the world exist so that God's "goodness" can be shown through him rescuing us from them. I mean, cuz if God's "goodness" is dependent on him rescuing people from destruction and death, then he'd be f'd (insert any example of someone living or dead who epitomizes tragedy).

It's just all swirling around me--this great mystery of me not understanding what God's up to in all his "plans" and workings for humanity. My biggest question to God right now is, "Dude, what are you THINKING???"

Friday, March 11, 2011

Being Critical

Boy, oh boy! If there's one thing that teachers have emphasized to death in classes this year it is CRITICAL THINKING. Blah, blah, blah "deconstruction of traditional paradigms," "consciousness/awareness," "assumptions are dangerous," "implicit bias"---------BARF!

But basically what they're ultimately promoting is a form of cynicism toward the world SO GREAT that it robs the enjoyment of even the smallest of things! It makes it so every interaction is interpreted through this "critical lens" of analysis--of others AND self.

Like watching a movie. Gosh.. This grumpy inner voice chimes in, "Oh, wow, there is no representation of people of color in this movie at all," or "Did you see how that character was thought less of because of her emotions?" or "That comment there was completely hetero-sexist and homophobic." It's like NOTHING is good enough... unless it were a movie about a female, disabled, poor queer woman of color. I mean, even then it wouldn't be good enough. Hahaha!!!!!! Ha.

So like, I'm not saying people should be ignorant of the narratives in everyday life, in media, etc. But holy hell, don't let it become a prison for you like I did!!!!!!!!!

I'm just sayin'.

For once tonight I just SHUT OFF the critical little voice in my head and watched a movie--my go to of the quarter: I Hate Luv Storys. Who gives an f--- if it only represents India's elite class and showcases the extent to which Indian culture has been eroded by the mofo-ing West! Goddamnit, I am going to ENJOY this movie for what it is! Goofy, sentimental and completely unrealistic. IT'S GREAT!
 
It can be so easy to get trapped in the mentality that things could be "so much better" (in terms of achieving the impossible utopian post-racial world and all that crap)--but by gum, sometimes we just need to recognize the GOOD already here. Enjoy what we have now...like the first blossomed bud of a cherry tree!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fun Pics from Thurgood Marshall!

Boyz in da Hood!! Back row: Salaat (baby face!), Ibrahim (born in Kenya..WUT???), Mohamud (self-professed class clown). Front Row: Sergio & Arturo (He lent me Diary of a Wimpy Kid to read & I translated for his mom for parent-teacher conferences).
 
Moves Like Michael Jackson. I just love this one cuz Mohamud has the crotch grab down pat.  

video
"Take a picture of us racing, Miss April!!"

L to R: Russell (he gives the BEST hugs & is allergic to peanuts), Eden (sweetie!!), Amiria (she likes MATH!), Olga (from Guatemala 'n' we chat in Espanol sometimes), Felisha, Kiana, Anaiya (smartypants!)

Girl Power! Girls who participated in the Global Reading Challenge! The sign says, "Anaiya's team won but our team came in a tie for second"

My favorite picture!!! Back row: Jordan (straight-A student), Jose (super focused but has the cutest dimples ever!), Martin (hilarious kid!), Eden, Au (encourages me to watch Lady Gaga music videos), Amina (highest reading level EVER!), Anaiya (she's going places), Amiria (always is wearing Ugg boots!), Olga
Second row: Arturo, Sergio, Felisha, Abdi (dude, this kid cracks me up!)
w/ blue basketball: Ibrahim

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Seeking Permanency

Definitely time for a post. Thinking so much about various things that I cannot fall asleep! Some things I have been pondering lately:

Do politics really matter? Feeling as if my policy class is pulling back the veil that reveals the Wizard of Oz to be nothing more than a man! Starting to see how corrupt and broken the political system is and how ignorant and deceived we are on a daily basis!! More and more I'm seeing that it all comes down to: POWER, MONEY and SELF-INTEREST.. Tomorrow I am going to Olympia with a classmate to advocate for immigrants and refugees. I think the best part of political advocacy is the sheer number of people that show up to rallys like these. It's so encouraging to know that there are people in the U.S. who actually give a damn. That's the best part--meeting people who care!! Not sure if what we're doing (rallying/advocating) is actually making a difference, but whatever; I have a good time being around passionate people!

Why is Valentine's Day such a big deal? Seems like for single girls Valentine's Day is, like, the WORST DAY EVER. I dunno, I just don't feel that bad about myself for being single anymore. Whereas in high school I was insecure and considered myself "unlikeable" because I did not catch the attention of a guy, I'm pretty indifferent now. I think the coolest thing I can celebrate as a single woman on Valentine's Day is the crazy amount of awesome friends that God has given me. I think about friends I've had for a LONG time (Rachel R.!) and ones I've known for a couple years (Hillary & Faith) and new ones I met just this year (Brittany from the BASW program) and I feel so thankful! And, like, damn, we've got the rest of our lives to be married (if we end up married, that is), so I say, live it up while we can!!! :)

Totes defs missing Mexico.. I'm really missing the families and children in San Miguel de Allende! I have had SO MANY wonderful experiences becoming a part of different communities through volunteer work (Consejo, Villa Esperanza, Casa de los Amigos, Hogar de los Angeles) but the saddest thing is that they all eventually had to end! I had to say goodbye and sometimes I wonder about clients I was particularly fond of.

For example, at Consejo I really connected with an older man named Carlos*, who grew up in Texas but now lives in an apt near Lake City. He's pretty coherent, although sometimes I wondered a bit at what he was trying to tell me--he was mandated to get mental health treatment in order to receive public assistance for housing and food. Anyway, his gift was in art--he did portraits and all sorts of things with nothing more than a crappy set of crayons and colored pencils. I would sit with him and watch him draw and he would tell me about different things he'd bought recently and refurbished, or things he'd like to get for his apartment.

Or I think about Villa Esperanza & the family of Tania* and her three sons Victor*, Alejandro* and Cristofer*. The stereotypical single mother of color with three kids is usually pitied by liberals because she's up against so many barriers, blahblahblah. Well, of course. Tania's a survisor of sexual abuse, English is her second language, etc. But that was one of the strongest families I have EVER seen. I mean, the LOVE, they had for each other was so beautiful! The oldest, Victor, looked after his lil' bros and even his mom! It was obvious the boys all loved and respected Tania... I did not pity that family. They moved out of the transitional housing right  before I finished volunteering and I wonder where they are now.

At Casa de los Amigos I think of Ceferino*. This boy was a prophet full of wisdom and insight and compassion--mature beyond his years (he's only 16!). He came from Honduras, riding trains north through Mexico to get to the U.S. His family back home is super poor and all he wants to do is learn, make money to send home. I mean, damn, he's in this children's prison, not knowing whether he'll be deported or what have you, and he's so focused! I mean, sure, there were days where I could tell the weight of it all was getting to him--that he was thinking and contemplating despair. But jeez, he just fought so much through it all. He took the GED, took every opportunity possible to learn and practice English, was almost always in his room reading.. He was basically the dad of that unit, looking after the other boys and was the first to use his own savings to purchase a parting gift when a kid got adopted or deported. Last I knew he was placed in a group home with other U.S. naturalized homeless youth and seemed to be mostly thriving, although his court case was still pending. He called me the other day, but I never got back to him. I realized too late that giving out my personal cell phone number was breaching professional boundaries.. I wonder, though, where he is and how he's doing.

And at Hogar de los Angeles--so many that I left behind! So many incredible families.. I miss those women and their children terribly! I miss Mexico.. I was thinking about how the woman across the street who ran a bakery let me get sweet bread when I was short 3 pesos, trusting that I'd pay her back later. I don't know, little things... I was moved by that because it'd never happen here in the U.S.

*Changing names although I'm pretty sure I'm already violating HIPA privacy & disclosure codes, w/e

All this goes to say that I am yearning to be in a long-term community because that is was I really, really enjoy. I want to be somewhere where I don't have to think about saying goodbye, because I'll be sticking around. Like for at least a year, but preferrably two or three. I want to put down roots in the community I'm going to be serving, because I want to show them that I care enough to stay with them. It's such an incredible experience meeting and knowing the poor, being a part of their lives. There is nothing really like it at all.

Until then.. I keep dreaming.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thurgood Marshall Starz

The risk of pity is that it kills with kindness; the promise of passion is that it builds on the hope that the poor are fully capable of helping themselves if given the chance.
-Nancy Gibbs



Just thought I'd share a fun picture from the school I've been volunteering at since fall: Thurgood Marshall Elementary. Every Wednesday I help in Ms. Pan's 4th grade class. The kids are great; they crack me up. Nearly all of them qualify for free/reduced lunch and belong to communities of color. The odds may be stacked against them--statistically they have no chance of overcoming the various barriers to high achievement--but when I see them singing and dancing to Chris Brown, I feel hopeful.

These kids fit the classic profile for "the oppressed." But as a classmate said today, it's not about pity. These kids aren't sitting around feeling sorry for themselves because they were born with the chips stacked against them. They're enjoying life!

And they've got these great new friends! In the picture are girls from Seattle Girls School, a non-profit focused on empowering young women and their communities. They laugh and play games together; it's obvious the kids LOVE being with their mentors.

When we look at any person--homeless, a survivor of domestic violence, a family at a food bank--it's not about the inward thought of, "Oh, poor homeless man" or "Oh, poor battered woman" or "Oh, poor family that can't make ends meet." We--I--need to stop seeing them as victims. These people can reach the freakin' stars if they wanted.

They are not victims. They have power and potential.

Similarly, WE are not victims in any situation or circumstance. WE have power and potential.

Christ looks at us and sees our potential. He knows our power because it's his power.

Aiming to see myself and others with the eyes of Jesus.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Politics: Is It Even Worth It?

One of my main classes this quarter is "Social Welfare Policy." Basically, the course content reviews any and all U.S. policies that affect vulnerable populations. That is to say, pretty much everything. My professor's approach is to look at major issues (poverty, homelessness, immigration, etc.) from the conservative and liberal perspectives.

I can't tell you how many awkward situations have come up in the classroom already. We've got some very dedicated Marxists on the one hand, stark Republicans on the other. Sometimes it gets downright hostile. It's like everyone is trying to impose their opinion on everyone else. I mean, really, it's dumb.

I don't understand politics. I mean, yes, obviously it would be important to advocate for those who don't have privilege and power--the populations I intend to serve for the rest of my life. But I can only take so much of this stupid game of Republicans and Democrats. It's like, can we PLEASE stop talking so philosophically and actually DO something???

The School of Social Work is telling us that as social workers it's our "professional responsibility" to be politically involved. To tell you the truth, I've only gone to two political rallies in my life. They were fun; not sure if they mattered at all. I guess I'm saying that I don't plan on becoming some crazy activist.

I've given up on politics.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Renewal

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.
Isaiah 12:2

It's kind of remarkable looking at my journal entries from only a couple of weeks ago and seeing how much my prayers have changed since then. Last quarter in the School of Social Work left me burnt out, bitter and cynical. It was hard for me to believe in God.

And then this past week it took something drastic to shake me out of my bitterness. As I sat in my room, reading this email about my Grandpa having to go to the emergency room at 1am, feeling myself about to cry uncontrollably, something within me broke. Well, broke open.

I still have questions for God. I don't understand why there's so much darkness and injustice in the world. But I think this week I realized how little control I have over the lives of others (protecting them, keeping them from harm) as well as over my own life. It was really sobering. Despite all we can do to "prepare for the worst" or to prevent anything bad happening in our lives and the lives of those we love, it's impossible.

Initially I was distraught about being "at the mercy of God" in this sense.. and to see my Grandpa at His mercy as well. It's frightening. And although I'm scared I am praying for the ability to trust and surrender. And as I am laying myself at the mercy of God I feel the bitterness and cynicism dissolving.

Curious, is it not?

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Beginning Again..

So, yes, I am returning to the blogging world. It’s been a few years since I quit writing on xanga, for fear that I was becoming narcissistic. Well, I still think blogging is narcissistic, but I am really in need of a creative outlet. So many thoughts in my head want to come out, and refining them into a neat little “post” is therapy; it is process; it is insight!

I’m only inviting people I trust and that know me well. Some of the things I write I may not mean, or may not be true, but it’s how I feel at the time. Or sometimes the way I express myself is unclear. I’ve been misunderstood and judged a lot for either of these two things.

But I know the people I’ve invited into this blog love me enough to give me the space to be myself. Even if we may not agree, or I may be talkin' crazy, I know that every dialogue we open together is built on a mutual respect and care for the other. To have people like you in my life is a gift.

Anyway, onward!

Followers