Thursday, June 22, 2017

Words of Wisdom from The 16th Dalai Lama - 1st Post

On Friday, June 16th, the San Diego community was embraced by the 14th Dalai Lama and given a key to the City of San Diego from Mayor Faulconer.  I was in the front row thanks to my gracious friends!

The Dalai Lama greeted the crowd as brothers and sisters and completed his greeting with the rationale for why we are all brothers and sisters.  Every human on this planet is part of a great family and by embracing one another, we are embracing ourselves and providing love for everyone.  

The very next note I have (because I was taking notes) is that "Everyone wants a happy life - it's our right".  The pursuit of happiness is literally written in the United States Declaration of Independence.  "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness".  I could dissect this carefully but I'll leave the reader with something more simple:  How do you personally define happiness?  How do you pursue it?  

The Dalai Lama then went on to explain why we now have the problems we have that prevent every human on the planet from pursuing their own happiness and creating a world of brothers and sisters.  It is man-made.  (He added that it is not female-made because then we wouldn't have these issues - but MAN-MADE).  And- it comes from a lack of oneness of humanity.  

I couldn't agree more.  

As I see it, the issue that is tearing up not only our political spectrum but even families in the US society (because I can't speak for other countries), is that- lack of oneness of humanity.  A percentage of our citizens have decided to only care for their own communities, whether that means the town boundaries of where people live, their race, or their own particular country.  

I have had conversations with individuals where I state:

"We're all in this together" - because I truly believe that a team is only as strong as it's weakest member- and this extends to the entire country and planet. 

Only to be rebuked with: 

"No we're not". 

And just like that, one human's life is more important than anothers.

This, to me, brings on more questions.  

I do not believe that everyone who feels this way does not care about others.  Because these are loving people that would bring a meal to a neighbor in need or pray for the health of someone they do not know.  They probably also donate to local causes, shop at local stores and would hopefully help a bloody child at the neighborhood playground. 

The logical explanation is that they believe that by investing in their own communities, they will receive a return 'of sorts' from that investment.  The meal will help the family continue to thrive in the community, providing love (intangible) and a solid economy (more tangible and measureable).  The prayers will provide support within the faith-based community and theoretically heal the health of the ill individual.  

I admire that families, individuals - even voters - want to support their families and their communities.  

I have ran into someone that I graduated high school with while waiting in line to climb the tower of Notre Dame in Paris.  

I have transported clothes from one sister in the US to another sister of the same order in Slovakia.  

I have witnessed the challenges of working in a multinational company hoping to compete against other countries and companies doing the same.  

I have seen the destruction of exploitative companies and governments and the abuses that go along with it.

I fear for another's life when I buy a shirt made in Bangladesh.

I have sent university student who were paying my salary to a friend's restaurant in London.

I know how interconnected our world is.  

I have seen what our buying choices and energy waste can do to another economy and what that means for another community's pursuit of Happiness.

It also has effects locally too.  ("Bring jobs back")

Perhaps this is why the Dalai Lama's words were so impactful for me.  Because I have seen this and know it to be true.  Our 'lack of oneness of humanity' gives way to destruction in other places.  

However, the truth is that the indirect benefits of supporting other communities are visible!  How would the young girl from another town over ever do well in school and become a productive member of society without food?  (read: productive member of society = tax contributor) What about the corn growers in another state?  They need prayers too - and to know they are loved - because how else would we have abundant corn-on-the-cob over the summer?  And, helping a bloody child from an innocent fall at the playground means that they will feel loved, know that someone cares and theoretically be guided out of making not-so-innocent choices that could affect an entire country if joining a force of evil.  (terrorism or otherwise)

These are logical explanations for creating a oneness of humanity.  The emotional explanations are also strong!  If you feel for other humans, you should feel that we are all in this together.  "This" can be defined as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  To do otherwise would make me and others believe that you simply don't care about other humans.

The 14th Dalai Lama implores us to find universal compassion based on a sense of oneness of humanity.  Please take his words to heart - he has lived in exile and has seen and experienced things that are unfathomable in our society.

I will leave you with one more note from His Holiness:

"Different cultures are like different flowers in a garden."

Friday, February 24, 2017

Reflections and Birthday Month Objective

I have failed.

I denied the people of America, my countryfolk, the moments and feelings that shaped me.

I used public funding to attend college and did not share the knowledge.

These past months have shown me that the price our military pays for our freedoms and the quality of life we enjoy is taken for granted by many Americans.

I know that sitting here on a hilltop in California eating a kale salad with filtered water is not something to take for granted.

I know because I've witnessed the alternative.

Because I used United States Department of State funding to tour Auschwitz.

I know because an immigrant mother with an ill child invited me into her home and there was no sign of kale but plenty of cockroaches.

Because African American families in Flint, Michigan have been drinking bottled water for 3 years.

I know because I became a resident of California so I could afford to take a course in Native Peoples of California on taxpayers dime.

This blog will serve to share some of what I have lived and to provide ideas for what we can all do in our lives to shape America.

This week was the hardest for me in the Trump administration.  New guidelines in Homeland Security, the removal of peaceful protesters in North Dakota and the revocation of rights for transgender students.  To top it off, I received an email from the Office of Student Affairs at the college I work for about two swastikas found drawn on campus - one in the building the Kroc School of Peace is housed.

I was raised Catholic yet it wasn't until a catechism teacher drew a circle with two other circles inside it that represented God, the world, and me - the smallest circle- that I really understood the purpose.  The same teacher brought us to a soup kitchen to volunteer and gifted me a book of Mother Theresa's journals.  It was in that context that I decided to serve the people.  To listen to everyone's stories, to have the courage to show empathy and patience, and to follow in the footsteps of a leader like Mother Theresa.

Along the journey that has brought me to this place, my identity has molded and I have grappled with the various models I've been provided.  I've grappled with the errors of my forefathers; like invading and destroying another's identity.  I've grappled with an American identity that I've had to verbally defend while abroad.  I've grappled with my Christian identity that doesn't always follow the teaching of Christ.  I've grappled with a caucasian identity that refuses to believe that racism still exists.  I've grappled with an Eastern European identity that has lived so much hardship.  Lastly, I've grappled with a human identity that seeks to work together to bring each other out of poverty knowing that other humans are profiting from it.

Unfortunately, my personal grapplings hasn't gotten us anywhere.  Not America, not Christians, not caucasians, not Eastern Europeans, and certainly not humans.

(I'm not going to go down the feminist route here- that's for another post)

Here we are, in a country where our vote is worth more than the lives of the people that were killed in the name of fast fashion in the Rana Plaza collapse.  More than the billions of Chinese migrants flocking to cities to find work and living literally underground.  More than the uncontacted tribes of the Yasuni National Park in the Amazon who are do not bother anyone until we want the resources underneath their land.  In case you don't understand:

Our American vote, a right not provided to every human on this planet; the vote we pay our military to protect, is stronger than all these forces.

Because honestly, nobody raised alarms when the Chinese had to move to underground cities to find work making our products.  The general public did not seem to care when humans decided to drill in an untouched region of the Amazon with more endemic species than anywhere else.  No one thought twice and while the press did report on it - New York Times today not allowed in White House Press Briefings - frankly, the world did not wake up when 1,127 dark-skinned people died in a building making clothes for us.  But when white America's identity is at risk, the vote turns out.

What's more interesting is the policies that led us to this point have usually been those of the free market wielding kind, namely, Republican.  See John Robb's well-made points about neoliberalism and how we got to this point.  Effectively, everyone can now identify as a 'marginalized' person.  This is why my personal identity is again in flux. Everything that made me proud to be an American is now at risk.  It is also why I cannot understand how Donald Trump identifies as a Republican.  (Oh yeah, no more EPA or publicly-funded schools.  I wouldn't be surprised if we see American child labor laws start to be unraveled.  Especially if they can't get lunch or use the bathroom anymore at school- put them to work - no white family wants to be seen working in a field anyway.)

It is because of these issues that I am proud to partake in an activity that has normally been reserved for liberals but should be for every American.  Because there is no 'Us versus Them' in my America.  What the data do not reflect is that Americans of all races want to buy American-made.  Unfortunately, the price point outweighs that desire and here we are asking government to fix it.

I am buying local for my birthday month and everything I consume will be as much American made and produced as labels and internet resources allow.  This means buying American sourced gasoline for my car - which I still have only vague ideas on how to do this - suggestions needed!  I will be checking labels on any processed and boxes groceries, any household items or clothes purchased during the month of March will be made in America, and produce will be meticulously bought at the local farmers' market.  If I cannot find something Made in America that I want to purchase, I do not need it.

This will be a difficult process because our markets are so intertwined, as we all know.  I've lived as a minimalist and have abolished disposables in the past so I am prepared for the unexpected.  I don't know about the rest of the household I now live with.  I will only subject them the food part of this experiment.  The most difficult will be giving up Chilean wine and coffee from other parts of the world.  Luckily, California produces wine, Kauai grows great coffee, and we have plenty of migrants working the fields (as of today) so I can still have organic kale.

In the process of reconciling the fact that I failed to share with the world what I learned, I realized that it is not too late.  I work at a Catholic university, with a Catholic president who has provided me the backbone to have the courage to believe in what I feel is right and just.

I cried on my way home Wednesday.  The same day I attended a Black History Month leadership luncheon with an African American gay man as the speaker who spoke about coming together; introduced by a student leader in the Student Leadership and Involvement Center, whose introduction also included directions to the transgender bathroom in the building.  Only to wake to an email the next morning about swastikas found on campus.

To echo another American president on inauguration day:

"Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." - John F. Kennedy, inauguration address, January 1961

Falls right into place with Trump's "America First and Only" policy in my opinion.

Please, do what's right in the eyes of everything good and do your part in building your community and our country.  I will also continue to follow in Mother Theresa's footsteps while working in a Culture of Care promoting social justice and dignity of every person at the University of San Diego.

God Bless


Friday, September 11, 2015

A Day in the Life of Maximus

On a typical morning on The Chilean Miner I, Maximus stares down his Master, Elizabeth.  SSSSSTAAAAARE  SSSSSTAAAAARE.  Until she wakes up.  Eager with the anticipation of all the delicious treats he'll get on his morning walk, he starts panting.  Elizabeth attempts to slide the dog over to the left of the couch before putting up his ramp, otherwise, his head gets hit by the ramp, which never really seems to bother him but it bothers her.  Lifting the ramp, Maximus gets so excited he can't wait for the carpet to the rolled out.  The carpet that provides him the grip to get up the ramp.  Not the celebrity kind of carpet.  The carpet is rolled out and Maximus is able to climb, with some help from Mom.

YAY!  I'm out!  He gets so excited to go trick or treating on the dock that he can't wait and climbs around the winch to the deck and finds his way under the lifeline, falling rather than jumping to the dock from 3 feet up.  If not for his chest and shoulders being strong, his back legs wouldn't have allowed him to do it.  Not even 2 years ago.

WOOHOO!  I'm free!  Maximus starts to gallop down the dock, almost missing Tony's boat, he slides to an abrupt stop, his back end falling to a stop.  Getting back up he goes down Tony's finger.  Waiting and hoping the staring game will get him noticed, Tony does not show up and he decides to leave.  Bouncing over to Baron's boat, he drinks some water out of the bowl originally designated for the cat, Ito.  This is no ordinary water, Ito cannot drink the tap water, so this specific bowl comes from a bottle.  "Come on boy!" She pulls the leash.  No response.  "Let's go Maximus!"  Nothing  "BUTTHEAD!"

Taking advantage of all the cat's water, he is ready to go when it is gone.

Stopping briefly to see if someone familiar is on the Water Witch, he moves onto the next stop, Don and Carol's boat!!!  Maximus barges right up to the boat, nearly falling in every single time.  Carol sees him and immediately comes out of the boat to get a him treat.  Elizabeth attempts to make Maximus sit, (back when he could hear and was able to actually sit painless) as Carol slowly hands him the treat...  "gentle.... gentle..."

Maximus is thinking, "watch your fingers... watch your fingers..."


Treat is gone in 0.7 seconds!  MAGIC

Making their way down the dock and up the ramp, Maximus anticipates his time to sniff the grass, make pee pee and spend time with people.  (He prefers to stay away from dogs- they annoy him) They walk down to the palm trees, get swayed by the people eating bacon at the sportfishers cafe, a few pets from kids that are always respectful and ask first if they can pet him.  When finally ready, Maximus, AKA Butthead, decides to take his morning poop.  He curves his back and starts walking...  stops and pushes and walks... Mommy prepares the poop bag... a turd!  More walking and pushing... another turd!  More walking... and 2 more turds and he's done.  "I wish you'd poop in one place, dog!"

Making their way around the grass, they return to the sportfishers and get some more pets and a few questions from on-lookers.  Someone has always had a labrador before and has a cute story to tell.  Maximus is getting tired at this point, but as soon as he sees the dockmaster's office, he gets a pep in his step!  John makes a point of coming out to greet us with a handful of treats... and the last one always goes 'to Mom'.  This is so she can lure him away from John.

"Now that you've had your morning treats, let's go eat breakfast!"  Maximus turns to look at John a few more times before reluctantly heading down the ramp... 'fine... I guess...'

Happily skipping down the dock, they arrive at their slip and get some more water before retiring to the cockpit for the day.  Elizabeth pulls the boat to the steps and Maximus hops up onto the deck, into the cockpit and onto his cushion.  Standing in the cockpit, waiting for his food, as it's being prepared he gets so anxious he can't control it anymore and starts drooling...  In a hurry, she mixes the sardines and oil into his food and serves it too him.  Maximus promptly gobbles it up.

He finds himself comfortably on his cushion until Mommy leaves for the day...  normally staring out over the water, smelling the bacon from neighbors or sometimes just passes out entirely in the morning air.

When it's time to go, Maximus gets woken up yet again after Mommy puts together his ramp and walks him down the ramp onto his soft bed, get a couple of big kisses and goes back to sleep while Mommy is out for the day.

5 o'clock is always a very important time on D Dock.  It's dinnertime and Maximus knows it.  Mommy does her best to get home then because he could very possibly be starving to death!  Sometimes, Maximus is so excited he can't even get out of the way long enough to get the ramp up!  This means he gets knocked in the head, sometimes falls off the couch or ends up getting lifted into the cockpit with Mommy's arms and hamstrings- careful not to sprain her back again!

The dinner cannot be served quick enough!  And it's gone even quicker than it was served!  Whoosh!  A few licks of the bowl to make sure he gets it all and he's ready to adventure on the afternoon walk!
Along the deck, under the lifeline and falling to the dock, he takes off!  WAIT!  He stops for water.  And more water... and more water... and it's gone...  

Tony!  Water Bowl!  Baron!  Water Bowl!  Carol!  

And up to the grass they go, with all the excitement imaginable.  This time, an even longer walk is in order as the evening unwinds and the sun goes down.  Sometimes the walk goes all the way to the Ventura Bridge and sometimes over to the lifeguard station to watch the sunset.

The Butthead sniffs everything, defying the leash every moment he can, hard-headed following his nose always.  Back on the boat, Maximus takes his place and gets ready as Mommy prepares her own dinner.  Sometimes she does meat and he can't simply lay and watch, he has to be a part of the action!

If he's lucky, he gets some human food, depending upon if there are guests or not.  If Grandma is visiting, he gets to lick the plates too!  One more evening walk before the day is done, and Mommy brings Maximus back into the boat where he waits, drooling, for the 3 little treats Mommy gives him every night, if he's been good!  The dog cannot go to sleep without these treats, he knows they are coming every night.  Afterwards, he promptly falls asleep after a long day of treat hunting, water drinking and walking.  Dreaming, he rejuvenates for the another day of the same fun.

Thank you for reading.  I wanted to memorialize him this way because he lived such a great life his last 2.5 years.  This dog never slept on a hard floor since I got him.  And he never went a day without a treat.  Getting a senior dog was actually really good for me.  He organized my schedule, taught me to stop at nothing to get what I want (TREATS), and he certainly kept me selfless with his hefty demands of walks, treats, sardines, injuries, and monthly baths!

There were those times when I had to be THAT person that couldn't stay to work on a research project at school or hang out after work because "My dog is going to kill me if I don't get home soon!"  

And who could forget the time he fell in the water, swam under the dock and then under the finger before anyone even knew he had disappeared!?  Or, the time he stole Cousin Dave's perfectly crafted sandwich from his dock box?  Or, the rare occasions he barked in the mountains, protecting us from the mountain lions?  

Thank you for everyone's support over the years in watching him when I was away, giving him a literally lifelong supply of treats and walking him when I couldn't get home quick enough or was injured myself.  He and I both appreciated it.

Good, good dog.  R.I.P. Maximus

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


What was the grand strategy?

Did the Castro's really believe that capitalism was going to fall?  Were they looking for power or did Fidel want to help his people and therefore built a 'revolution'?  How does Cuba's communism compare to other versions I've seen?  How are the reforms going?  Is their current 'opening' going to cause any environmental destruction or inequalities?  Will Cuba ever have private education?

Truth be told, I admire the regime.  They have done a better job of organizing the country than some Western countries.  From what I could tell, the oppression I was bracing for, doesn't exist.  Of course, I wasn't there in the in the 90s and I tend to believe that the 'not so good' areas of Cuba are hidden from tourists and/or Americans.  Either that, or I'm a socialist. 

The buildings are dilapidated and an urban planner showed us precisely why.  The average salary is $20 USD a month.  A gallon of paint is roughly $7.  That doesn't leave much to live on if you want to feed your family.  The restriction on cars is fascinating.  There are only old American cars from the 50s, a collection of Soviet-era cars and then new ones that Raul has decided to allow in 2008, BMW, Mercedes, Geely (Chinese).  I even saw a few Skodas.  Every dashboard, aside for the well -refurbished ones we toured in for an afternoon, has a mish-mash of parts; made in Czechoslovakia, Cyrillic writing and Honda cooling systems.  And, of course, the highly educated Cubans who are doctors and lawyers are not the top of the socio-economic ladder, it's the ones who work in tourism and deal with the CUC (the currency used for tourist and foreign investors- CUP being the national currency)  We met an English catering gynecologist who was working as a waiter because it pays better.  These are all reasons why the regime has started to make reforms and has invited foreign investment, on their own terms of course.

It can be argued that the huge influx of American tourists will bring about the ugly changes that no one likes in an overly touristic community (pick-pocketing, swindling, over-charging, etc), but, as the woman of the casa particular I stayed in, who was a very opinionated woman, told me, "We've always had tourists".  It's just the Americans that haven't been around for decades.  We're also the likely candidates to turn in a car once it's passed 100K miles.  Or once the muffler rusts through, or the dash doesn't work, or it's been totaled by two deer.  The Cubans are incredibly resourceful and
just like the cars, they already have in place a Marine Protection Agency, which cites a study done over 40 years of the destruction of the Florida Keys coral and marine life using GIS.  This is according to an Economist who works for the University of Cuba- he may or may not have been simply telling us a story to show they are prepared for reform; I've also heard they have let a lot of the coastline self-degrade. 

The bars we went to in La Habana seemed no different than higher end bars in developing countries.  The Fabrica de Arte Cubana was truly an experience, a place where youth gather, wait in line in mini-skirts, pay a cover, grab a mojito or rum and coke and look at art or dance all night.  Inside, it felt like a combination of the Nacional in Madrid, Double Deuce downtown San Diego and Dali's museum in Figueres.  Nevermind that the bar is a creation of the government.  I only wish I had used the bathroom there, I was dehydrated for the first few days due to the humidity and not having the first world luxury of drinking from the faucet and therefore did not use it.  I can say, however, that myself and two others had stopped into a restaurant/bar on the way home one day to use the bathroom and it was so nice we just had to have a drink inside.  They also served gazpacho and while it was good, it was not as good as mine or others I've had.  That bar, a private bar, was most likely sponsored by a Cuban living abroad and once we stopped in there and then later went there at night with the group, I started to see stickers for the place on cars around town, very clever marketing in a country where Yelp doesn't exist.  It's called Sarao if you're interested and it's in Vedado from what I can tell.

The other stickers found in and on cars, even the old ones, were both Playboy stickers and the Apple sticker.  Peculiarly with the American flag backdrop.  I guess Apple has been clever as well.  Viva California!  Playboy and Apple at least...  and Google... gmail at least is alive and well according to some emails I received.

We spent some time in the tobacco fields (an experience that got me choked up) and on the coast snorkeling on the reef mid-week.  I thought I was being smart by only paying 2 CUC at the gas station we stopped at on the way for a large bottle of water and a small juice box container of rum.  Until I tried getting away with a free pineapple juice from the man on the beach who looked into my eyes and told me how I beautiful I was and then charged me $2.50!!  I put up a fight and he threw in a banana.  (I needed the potassium anyway after having swam out to the reef and back).  I did do an interesting swap of goods at the beach too, my swim googles for a Cuban Red Cross cap and t-shirt, brokered with the assistance of a classmate.  Apparently, my $5 goggles I got from Big Five two years ago are incredibly amazing.  I promptly suggested I organize I triathlon in the area since triathletes care about the environment and would be best suited to bring in healthy development.

Back in La Habana, I finally had a chance to talk to people that I wasn't introduced to and spent two hours in one plaza gathering information.  Normally the people that sell antique oddities, books, coins and stamps/postcards are also relatively old.  However, this plaza was full of young men that were well suited for my mother, if you know what I mean.  Probably because they make more money in tourism than working as an Engineer for the government.  It felt like a Prague square 10 years ago and there were actually hundreds of old Soviet lapel pins.  I bought one from Bulgaria, Romania and finally found one from Poland.  I found a postcard that had been sent from New York City in 1910 to La Habana.  I found a very fascinating piece of propaganda from the 50s that I bought for my post-communist BFF.  And then I found myself in conversation with a man who must have been in his 50s, called Sixto Valon.  He seemed like any normal black Cuban man, he and his younger counterparts offered me a fermented drink made from a root, called pru. 

This man helped me find my way to the Marina Hemingway, answered some sociological and cultural questions I had and then asked me about the police in the United States who kill black men.  Of all the pressing questions, this was on the top of his mind.  He asked me how many times it has happened since Obama was elected, as if his presidency has prompted it.  When I went in to explain the socio-economic reasons and the racism behind it, he was mesmerized.  Luckily for him, I was able to use some of the skills I learned in my Ethnicity class last quarter on the fails of policies directed toward minorities.  Like a proud revolutionary, or a speculating bookseller, he told me that their are no poor areas of Cuba made up of purely blacks or any other minority and these kind of murders simply don't happen.  (Nevermind the human rights violations committed by the Castros)While I couldn't answer his question of how many blacks have been killed by police in the United States since Obama has been president with a solid number, we both walked away with a deeper understanding of each other's culture.  There were many other topics we discussed as well.  In addition, his email address is a gmail.

When the American journalist we met with, who has been writing from Cuba for Reuters for 25 years, told us that Fidel was never after money, only power, I asked if that was why, using my fingers as quotes, the revolution has been so 'successful' all these years.  He questioned my use of words and I explained that as I saw it, there have been no uprisings, civil wars, ethnic cleansing, after 57 years.  Perhaps they have all been hidden from Western eyes and ears HOWEVER, a man living in Cuba as a journalist for so many years wasn't able to give me any reasons aside for the collapse of the Soviet Union causing rafts of Cubans to show up in the 90s and the current 'brain drain' going on among the youth to believe that change will cause violence or vice versa.  (There is an opportunity to quote Petersen's Resistance and Rebellion here to prove that there are not enough oppressed groups to form cleavages that would cause any uprisings)  As a matter of fact, as the Economist we met with explained to us that instead of organizing society using doctors and teachers, the Cuban government is poised to use economic models to organize society using mojitos and Guantanamera players to guide tourism in the way that only a Socialist society can. 

The next 10 weeks is really going to be fascinating, as we are now in the spring quarter and are taking the Cuba; Revolution and Reform class.  I am also taking in conjunction, a Human Rights class and either Mexican Policy Making or Managing a Non-Profit.  Perhaps I should return over the summer.  With some real numbers on those murders on black people in the US. 

This was written with haste and I have been hesitant to write anything since I've started graduate school since my ramblings seem to have less importance than the academic stuff I've been reading and writing.   (This is considered an op-ed and I am by no means a Socialist) :)

Monday, May 19, 2014

I believe in God. I believe in Love. I believe in Humanity.

I have always been someone who takes quotes and inspirational ideas to heart.  In 5th grade, I participated in a play that took place during The Great Depression and we sang a song called, "Nothing's Impossible".  The idea was to instill faith in yourself and in your hard work in order to overcome life's challenges.  I remember all the lessons from that play.  Especially that song.  I can still sing the melody.  Plus, I knew that I could achieve any dream, no matter how possible or impossible it seemed to society.  In addition, I believed and still believe that as a society, we can overcome our challenges together.  (diseases, wars, even poverty...?)

But those intangibles?  Something that cannot be measured in economics, or put into statistics or objectives to be met.  

I knew that in the end, we are all just here floating around, trying to figure something out and then we're gone.  Therefore, what does it matter what we do with our life?  Who cares if there is a God or not?  What's the point?  Especially in our society where we rush to get to work, hate our jobs, rush home to do chores and errands and have weekends full of crap to do.  In a world where I can justify hating my job because others do and also justify leaving my job because I know I shouldn't live like that and don't want to... because... I'll be gone soon... 

Digressing, my point is that I always had trouble believing in both God and Love.  It just seemed like that job.  A dogma.  Going to church and praying is like falling in love and getting married.  Do you go along with society because that's what you do?  Or do you question why we do these things.  Does it matter in the end anyway???

Over the years and through self-exploration, God has become closer to me and I finally feel like he's a friend.  I knew there was a point in praying and just like training for a race, the dogma of doing it has become real. We make agreements, he takes care of me as long as I take care of myself and we get along.  I finally understand the phrase, "Everything through prayer."  I use my time alone to have those conversations and being able to be entirely open with a true friend has become very special to me.  I hope to continue to develop my relationship with God and look forward to getting closer.  Some of the traditional dogma still doesn't appeal to me but I am open to exploration regardless.

The idea of Love has haunted me.  Unconditional love from family makes total sense to me.  But, in a romantic relationship, I questioned it the same as I questioned God.  I've never been the first to say "I love you." because, as much as I enjoyed being with someone, I never felt compelled to declare my love.  It seemed absurd to me.  I felt that they were just obsessed, they wanted something from me or they were trying to manipulate me.  Or just crazy.  

However, there are people that believe in Love but don't believe in other intangibles.  So, that told me that Love is an emotion that logic cannot get around.  Where logic can tell you there is no man up in the sky maneuvering our lives, it's hard to argue an emotion that pulls you towards someone else, gives you butterflies and causes you to miss someone when they're gone.  It's a different kind of intangible.  In some scientific circles, it can be measured as well.  I'm sure there is an equation that measures heart rate, body temperature and other senses to determine the amount of love someone is experiencing.  

I now understand why someone would feel compelled to proclaim their love.  The emotion is so strong, they cannot resist the urge to share the feeling with the other person.  Which makes obvious sense but I now have a deeper meaning of what that means.  Which is also why the follow-up question, days and weeks later is always a variation of, "Do you love me".  Because the idea is to share that emotion with the other person.  Otherwise, there is no point of being in love, if it cannot be shared.  That person encompasses and completes you.  So, it needs to be mutual in order to be considered legitimate love.  I finally get it.  

Humanity, well, we have a lot of work to do.  Knowing that we are only going to die and in the end and nothing matters, I have such a hard time accepting the fact that there are entire societies living in utter poverty and suffering while the rest of the developed world keeps going at rates impossible to keep up with.  So we have a polio vaccine.  Too bad parts of the Middle East and Africa are still suffering from it.  But, it's alright since we're creating more health issues to solve in the US by producing food products with less actual food in them and creating more and more sugar addicts.  (I have a product that fights this- from my chiropractor)

However, just like the partnerships of oneself with God and love with another person, Humanity cannot solve it's own problems.  You cannot allow it to go on without your help.  "Be the change you wish to see in the world." said Gandhi.  He refused to sit back and watch society destroy itself.  If you disagree with the way we are evolving, do something about it.  I recycle the water I boil potatoes in.  I know how much water California doesn't have and the Colorado River is not replenishing.  If you want to leave more for the following generations, it starts with simple acts of saving food.  Don't buy more than you're going to eat and eat what you buy.  If you take home your leftovers, which you should, eat it.  And bring your own containers!  Styrofoam should be eliminated like polio.

If we work together on these little things, we will get somewhere.  If everyone threw a piece of garbage out of the window every day, can you imagine how much garbage we'd have everywhere??  So, the positive actions work the same way.  If everyone conserved their food, can you imagine how much food, energy it takes to make the food, money it takes to pay the laborers, and water it takes to feed/water the food we could save!!???

I believe, just as Gene Roddenberry did, (a surrealist version of Spock it sitting next to me at the cafe I'm at), that we can develop into a better society.  One that allows us to believe in whatever God we want, love whomever we fall in love with and trust in one another to bring Humanity to that point.  


Check it out, UNICORNS:
Bret Barrett: -  Spock, Dali and Warhol

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Am I being asked to change or does he actually care about me?

Society presents us with all kinds of ideas on how to behave, what to wear, who to be friends with, etc. We also have to deal with our own feelings on top of it.  It’s a tough battle, knowing that you are probably not doing what society says or what your family believes is right but your emotions are telling you to do something else.  Where do you draw the line?  Are you even conscious of this line?  If you’re a man, you’ve probably never thought about it.  If you’re a woman, you’ve overanalyzed it time and again.  Especially when someone posts an inspirational quote with a beach behind it on facebook, telling you to live the life you want to live and do what you want to do.


I have gotten myself into romantic relationships in the past that have disturbed my image of what is right and wrong.  One that I wanted out of for almost 2 years yet I kept trying to please him, hoping that it would work out eventually and it never did.  The other I wanted to be in the relationship for life and simply did too much for him and jeopardized myself; making myself vulnerable.  Either way, looking back, I realized that I did too much for the relationship than what I was getting out of it.  When we discussed issues, independent of who brought them up, I was the person who was committed to making it work out.  I was told that my ‘selfishness’ was getting in the way, so I moved him up in the priority list, I was told that my problem with his mother was my ‘problem’, so I threw myself in the pit and spent the weekend with her, etc.  FOR YEARS I did these dumb things, thinking that it was the best way to go about these things.

Until I started to take into account all of those comments from women over the years about dating men who simply wanted to change them to fit their image of the woman they wanted.  I dawned on me that I was doing that same thing.  “Why don’t you wear lipstick?”  I made an effort to wear lipstick…  Or, “You use too many pronouns, I can’t understand you.”  I thought I had a problem.  Maybe I did use too many pronouns???  So, I tried to change the way I spoke around him.  Which caused other problems in my daily life, in turn complicating life in ways I don’t want to even think about anymore.  Little did I know it then, but, I was putting way too much effort into relationships than they were worth.  I was honestly getting too little out of them for it to even be worth it.

This is not the problem however.  The problem is that, NOW, I cannot distinguish between a legitimate relationship concern and a boyfriend trying to ‘change’ me.  I am so terrified of someone compromising who I am to even think about their concerns from an objective viewpoint.  I’ve taken the stance to be who I am, no matter who that is and who I hurt.  Which is honestly very sad.  Whenever a subject comes up that concerns the relationship or the needs of the other person, I refuse to listen.  I’ve gone all the way over to the other spectrum where I cannot even listen to the other person’s concerns for my fear of being manipulated and ‘changed’. 

Therefore, where do you draw the line?  I don’t feel like I can trust my emotions since they’re the ones wreaking havoc on my heart in the first place.  Yet, logic tells me to be aware of men and to be vigilant as to who is going to try to ‘change’ me.  Emotional abuse is a real thing.  I suppose Pat Benatar knew what she was talking about in “Love is a Battlefield”.  For now, I’m going to focus on taking some time for myself, getting to know myself on a different level, without the manipulation or even the guidance of a man.  Although, in the future, I hope to accept advice and constructive criticism from a boyfriend/partner without thinking they are trying to manipulate or change me; while still being aware of the malicious ones.  

Thanks for reading!


Monday, February 10, 2014


I took an online quiz probably close to 6 years ago with inquisitive questions that asked you to relate a color to a person, list how much you like certain animals, etc.  It turned out that family came up first in my order of importance, money being the last... I always knew I am a family oriented person, I grew up close to my cousins, am a 3rd generation lifetime member of Sokol, a family fitness organization and love children.  However, when the answers to this quiz were presented to me, it was right there.  Granted, it's simply a fun online quiz, but these things are powerful for me.

They say how when you start to think about something and you desire it deep inside yourself, those things take shape.  I realized at age 30 that I was getting to that age where most men I were to date would have children or if they had never been married, probably had a reason why or nobody wanted to marry them.  (I've since realized that there are many other reasons for someone to be unmarried...)  However, I decided that I would have a ball dating a man with children.  No more than a month later I met Jorge's kids, Cony and Panchito.  And they were a BALL.  From playing with the continual flow of puppies at their Grandma's house, making slides on the beach or creating our own games, I had a ton of fun with them.  I haven't seen them in years yet I can still hear them calling my name.  Panchito used to come to me when he needed to use the potty- and I loved it!

Since then, I've pondered what it takes to make a family a family.  In my immediate family of parents and 3 siblings, we've remained remarkably close.  In the outer circle of family, we are just as close.  How can you gather 60 people together EVERY Christmas Eve in an outer suburb of Chicago, some people traveling 70 miles to come on Christmas Eve?  We have a Cousin Club Pub Crawl every fall!  We get together for the 4th of July, we go to weddings, we make beer together, my male cousin even put sunscreen on my back on a topless beach in Spain...

We have a family calendar that Emily started doing a few years back, probably close to 7/8 years ago.  In the digital age, this is so important to print every year.  If not, how will my great nieces see the picture of Great Uncle Matt and I running a 50K if it's not printed.  Who knows what will happen to facebook in years to come?  Who will see the text my sister sent me of her dog when we're in our 80s?

With family, it is important to remember that the dynamics will not come together on they're own.  Just like any other relationship, it takes effort.  The chemistry is there simply because of the genes.  But, when there is backlash, you cannot walk away from it like you can a former co-worker.  You'll still need to see each other at family events.  Unless, of course, you convince yourself it's useless to go because nobody likes you or you don't want to see the other person.  And, in that case, you only have yourself to blame for allowing the family to fall apart.  I text with my sisters practically every single day.  However, we have gone through our fights like most sisters do.  We haven't spoken for weeks.  We've called ourselves bad names and bitched about each other to the other one.  But, you better believe it that we'll be there for each other when the time comes. I appreciate my family so much for not only their unconditional love but also for keeping me in line.  It's fascinating that we have matured to a point where we can give each other tough love without getting offended and without pointing fingers and making fun.

However, I've realized over the years that the relationship relies not only on tradition and getting together for holidays, etc, but it's a constant effort.  It's a good thing we have facebook!  Unfortunately, these things would be much more difficult.  However, I still think of the cassette tape my sister made for me and sent to me when I was in Spain and how I got my rolls of film developed in doubles so that I could send them home since I didn't have a digital camera.  It made for a very emotional reuniting at the airport when I finally got home.

That being said, there is something very important to keep in mind as well, regarding knowing when to stop trying.  When you are the only one putting into the family and it starts to destroy you, that's when you need to learn to take that step back and put yourself first.  However, for most families, like other relationships, you're only going to get out of them what you put into them.  We wouldn't have a family calendar announcing birthdays and anniversaries if we didn't upload our pics into a common drive.  Uncle Mike and Aunt Terry wouldn't continue to host Christmas Eve and the 4th of July if no one came.  My mother wouldn't make red velvet Santa bags for everyone if they weren't used and appreciated.

I love my family and vow to continue to keep the lines of communication open, send cards out, appreciate their advice and spend quality time together.  It's not too late to come to San Diego and enjoy some sun during winter!!!!  It's 63 degrees at this very moment, 11:52 pm.  And 3 degrees in Chicago.

Thanks for reading, I had to get these ideas written out...