I have written twelve novels. This is the space where I share my stories with the world. There is so much to say in this life, and so little time...

Friday, August 18, 2017

Higher




Yesterday, I lost my temper with an elderly lady. This woman walked with a limp and appeared to have trouble breathing. In the middle of a Dallas park, on a warm and sunny morning, I screamed at a complete stranger over the age of 80.
"What am I becoming?" I asked myself as I walked home afterward, staring at the ground.

Several hours prior to that unsettling outburst, I woke up determined to get some exercise. Thoughts from last weekend swirled through my mind; I couldn't figure out how to wrap my head around the horrific Neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville. More importantly, I didn't know what I could do to make any difference. I don't have a law degree or a position of power. I'm not currently involved in activist or social justice groups.

I do consider myself a fairly decent writer...yet I couldn’t rely on that skill yesterday morning. See, in the wake of perhaps the most alarming display of hatred among those belonging to my own generation, I had no words. Typically articulate, I found myself unable to express my disgust for the extremists I could've gone to high school or college with.
The same questions replayed in my mind: how does this kind of hatred still exist today, has the past taught us nothing about equality/respect for others, who showed these people how to hate minorities so deeply and so violently?

I was appalled, and also heartbroken, that members of my own race felt threatened because their skin color no longer provided them with a guaranteed seat of power, the way it had in past centuries.
So I decided to jog away my wordless anger. The goal was to lose myself in the sunny Texas outdoors and somehow, hopefully, find some kind of peace. Even just for a moment or two.

En route to the Katy Trail, I passed a tree-lined park which contains a statue of a man riding a horse. A small crowd had gathered in front of the monument.
Curiosity got the best of me, luring me toward the crowd. As I got closer, I realized this statue which I'd passed dozens of times was actually a tribute to Robert E. Lee.

The monument shows General Lee riding a horse beside an unnamed soldier. Below, a plaque explains that this soldier represents the valiant Confederate youth who fought in America's Civil War.
I read this plaque for the first time yesterday. Immediately, I discovered that the monument was constructed in the 1930s...more than half a century after the Confederacy had lost to the Union, thereby abolishing slavery and redirecting America's path.

The date of the statue seemed to prove that its donors cherished--and reminisced over--an earlier time.
Furthermore, as I inspected the statue closely, I concluded that Robert E. Lee was posed in the most heroic stance possible. Not only was this man the focal point of the park, he was depicted proudly leading another soldier. His cape even fluttered behind him, giving him the appearance of a divinely-ordained being.
The message was unmistakable: this statue was more than a portrayal of an historic event. It was a way to glorify a man leading the South’s quest to preserve slavery. It was, and is, a public tribute to one the ugliest moments in our nation’s past.
Swallowing, I backed away from the statue. I tried to view this scenario objectively, instead of filtering it through my (admittedly) liberal lens.
It didn’t seem like a partisan issue, though. I just couldn't understand how someone could possibly justify this Confederate symbol without acknowledging everything it represented.
My conclusion was that there is simply no way a person could support this clear abomination unless, 1) he/she denied historical facts or 2) he/she secretly appreciated the statue’s message, and agreed with the inequality it praised.  

I moved toward the side of the monument, where a frail old woman stood, explaining to the growing crowd that Robert E. Lee hadn't owned slaves (which is historically inaccurate). She went on to claim that he served as not only a hero, but also a dedicated educator.
Suddenly, after days of quiet contemplation, I found my voice. In the midst of one stranger's fictitious tirade, I remembered all the words I'd forgotten during my period of confusion and mourning.

And I used those words to verbally attack a human I considered, in that precise moment, my enemy.
I condescendingly asked the lady what economic system Robert E. Lee's army was fighting to preserve, and what type of labor that economic system depended on. I jeered at her, demanding to know which side had won the Civil War. My tone of voice alternated between elitist and derisive.

"Which other war can you recall where the generals of the losing side have statues erected in their honor?" I taunted her. “Do you think there’s a reason we've chosen to put these specific men on display, even though technically they are treasonous criminals?”
I told her there's a difference between rewriting history (as those in favor or removing Confederate landmarks are often accused of) and refusing to heap admiration onto historical figures touting oppression, racism, inequality, and ignorance. At one point, I think I compared Southern generals to Hitler. It all unfolded pretty quickly.

I proposed that if we'd like to pay tribute to the South's founding fathers, maybe we should replace this Robert E. Lee statue with a statue of a slave, bound in chains.
Except I didn't exactly say any of these things.

Instead, I shouted them, channeling the same terrifying anger I had seen in footage of the alt-right this weekend. My face was red, my fists clenched. I spoke to this woman as though she were sub-human. Maybe I even believed that, in the moment.

I had become no better than my opponent. In an instant, I embodied the same hatred of those I sought to prove wrong.
The lady immediately spewed venom at me. She wrote me off as a left-wing extremist, a self-obsessed liberal on some phony crusade. She screamed that I was wallowing in ignorance and needed to brush up on my history. Without hesitation, she looked me in the eye and asserted that my narrow-mindedness is the reason this country is on a downward spiral.
At that point, I walked away, realizing the fury behind my outburst had allowed a stranger to label me. My raw aggression had given her justification and resolve.
Hatred breeds more hatred. This isn’t a new concept, but it became especially clear to me when I found myself drowning in animosity...and unleashing that rage on a total stranger.
I'd approached a somewhat rational discussion with the intent to viciously decimate my enemy. In doing so, I had embraced the belief system I sought to dissemble.
Yesterday, my desire for widespread acceptance morphed into antipathy toward those condoning inequality. Basically, I "combated" blind rage with even more blind, unfiltered, elitist rage.

I have no idea how to open bigots' eyes to the fact that stereotypes and oppression are inherently wrong. But what I do know is that hatred hinders progress and education. Hatred is the root of narcissism, not the precursor to justice. I can't defend equality and the intrinsic value of human life by devaluing the human lives on the other side of the spectrum.
There has to be a way to shun prejudice and violence without resorting to its proponents' proudest tactics. There has to be a better way.
Michelle Obama famously stated, "When they go low, we go high."
We have reached a critical moment in history. White supremacy (which has felt somewhat distant in my lifetime) has resurfaced. It's reared its ugly head, and seems to be gaining momentum. This insidious movement has been met with, at best, tepid disagreement from the president of the U.S.
Those of us in favor of freedom and equality can let hatred dictate our actions...or we can go higher, as Michelle Obama advised. It’s possible to oppose a belief system while remaining rational and collected. We can fight racism, genocide and oppression without using the same tactics as its most outspoken leaders.

Neo-Nazis are a new wave of American-bred terrorism. The rage I expressed toward anything/everything they represent was my own coping mechanism for the fear they invoked within me. I can’t let that fear (or the anger it spawns) control my actions. Instead, I need to follow the sage advice of our former First Lady, and rise above that which I view as reprehensible.
Yesterday I went low, which was a mistake.

They have already gone very, very low...and now, while vehemently opposing those hate-fueled beliefs and actions, it is our turn to go high.

Love,
Lisa
 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Yes.


I'm rarely awake to see the sunrise, but today I did so at 35,000 feet above ground. 

It's a much different experience from this perspective; rather than watching a glowing orb ascend from the horizon, at this height, you see a stream of colors dancing below. Gradually, that medley of light rises until it encompasses the plane.

This morning, as the sun gained prominence in the sky, I decided to walk through the cabin. Something sparkled on my finger, illuminating my left hand. I stopped for a moment. Right there in the middle of the aisle, I paused to admire the diamond band given to me exactly two days ago. The ring itself is breathtaking. The story behind it is even more amazing. 

I was never entirely convinced I would meet my life partner. The older I got, the more it seemed that marriage was designed for other people; for me, relationships typically ended in heartbreak and disappointment. 

And then, one day last fall, my mindset changed. People always say that when you know, you know. In the past, I often thought I "knew." Then I would watch that certainty dissolve over time.

I met Derek on a busy day. My entire life was in transition, and he walked me through that messy period with a kind of grace I never knew existed.

Early on, I realized this man is everything I love in this world. And everything I aspire to be.

I didn't just know that derek was the one for me; I believed it, embraced it, clung to it and celebrated it. There's knowledge, and then there is resolve. I resolved to love him with my entire (bruised) heart. I vowed to try my best because this person was unlike anyone I had met; he was far better than anything I could've ever imagined. 

Last Saturday, I came home to rose petals sprinkled across my staircase like confetti. The trail of flowers led to my bedroom, where Derek awaited with a single question. I blurted out "ABSOLUTELY!" before he had even finished speaking. 

I'm not just content at the prospect of spending my life with this man; I'm honored and mesmerized by it.

So I said yes on on Saturday. I'm thrilled to offer Derek my whole heart, for my whole life. He's my unexpected sunrise, more radiant than predicted. I cannot wait to navigate this world with my best friend and hero.

Let's go get married, baby. Thank you, in advance, for all the decades and memories and adventures that await us.

Love, 
Lisa


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Risk


Dear Derek,

I met you on a really warm night, in a really crowded bar, after a really long day. 

Everything about our first interaction was hyperbolic, from the fact I'd nearly been assaulted in the parking lot to the pleasant surprise that the Cubs were heading to the World Series. 

Lights twinkled and shrieks erupted that night. Fancy urban cocktails literally exploded into flames before our eyes.

You were dressed for a wedding instead of a standard first date. I was wearing a striped sweater, although I would've been more comfortable in a short-sleeved shirt. 

Halfway through my drink, I mentioned how unique Deep Ellum was. It reminded me of my favorite neighborhood in Denver, a city I had left only a few days earlier. There was something new, yet entirely familiar, about your corner of Dallas.

We left the bar and meandered down Elm Street, passing a tattoo parlor that looked identical to the downtown Denver shop where I'd gotten my first--and only-- tat. You gave me a complete tour of the Dallas music district, while I tried to come up with a good reason to see you again. Soon. 

That first night was fast-paced and utterly brilliant. It is the perfect metaphor for our entire relationship. I've grown closer to you in a six-month span than I have ever been to anyone in my 32 years on this planet.

You've approached my insecurities with confidence. You've calmed my fears and repeatedly proven that your support has no expiration date. 

By acknowledging my broken parts and loving me anyway, you've made me feel whole. Less flawed. Adored and admired and appreciated. In truth, you are the gem, my dear...yet all you see is my sparkle.

I came to Texas primarily in the hopes of going to grad school here. Unsurprisingly, I was also searching for my next big adventure. 

Well, I found it in you. You are they journey of a lifetime, Derek. 

Thank you for proving that love can be found in the midst of heartbreak. Thank you for reigniting my hope for the future. I can't wait to be your roommate and travel companion and life partner. You're the best gift I've ever received.

I risked everything by leaving my comfort zone and moving to Texas. Baby, you were worth the risk. 

Love,
Lisa


Monday, October 17, 2016

Pretty Please




Dear Parents,
Please raise your kids to be decent human beings.
As someone with no children of her own, I am begging you: teach your little ones to be kind and considerate. The world is a dark enough place; we need future generations to be better than the present one.

For the record, I'm not making this plea while sitting idle. I promise to follow my own advice.
If I have a baby boy someday, I swear I'll try my absolute best to teach him to respect others. I will use every opportunity to show him this world does not revolve around him. He needs to know that other people deserve fair treatment; regardless of their gender, race, or sexual orientation, they are still humans. They are not pawns in his own little game. They deserve communication and consideration, even when the easy way out would involve "ghosting" them (in the dating world), or rating them (as one particular presidential nominee proudly boasted doing), or teasing them (for being different), or judging them (based on ethnicity or socio-economic status).

We often give SO many social graces to boys. We make excuses for them, and coin cute little phrases like "boys will be boys" to justify deplorable behavior.
As a parent, I will defy these social norms. What separates us from animals is the ability to make conscious social decisions. Do boys mature more slowly than girls? Perhaps. But thank goodness they have a brain. And a soul. Let's hold them to a higher standard, instead of writing off their selfishness and deliberate objectification of others as a product of "delayed maturity."

See, women are not given social graces. Some would argue that we females have been granted, by nature, a set of powerful hormones which rise and fall without our consent. However, if we EVER step out of line (even briefly!), we are labeled crazy. Temperamental. Psycho. Needy, clingy, bipolar.
It's so easy to accuse females of being insane. I hear it all the time. Boys are told they're "wild at heart," and immature because of their genetic makeup, and hunters by nature. They're basically allowed to be self-centered assholes because of certain genetic traits. Meanwhile, women are humiliated and ostracized if we use the same tactic...even on a much smaller scale.

Phew. Well, it feels good to finally articulate the uneven scales. The double standard isn't just real, it's dangerous.
Please don't misunderstand; I believe there are plenty of amazing men in the world. There are males who don't make excuses or blame others or act as though the entire universe should bow down to them. I am extremely proud to know such men, including my father. Decent, selfless men certainly do exist. I vow to try my best to raise one...if life leads me down the motherhood path.

Now, if I someday have a baby girl, I will show her that her worth runs far deeper than her skin. Contrary to what the media, pop culture and certain political figures may tell her, her value does not hinge solely upon her sex appeal.
I'll gladly expose her to strong figures, both male and female, who have declared that all humans ought to be treated as such. Whether you love or hate Hillary's political agenda, I hope you'll find truth to her emphatic assertion that "women's rights are human rights." Amen. People deserve to be treated as people. Not objects. Not a set of walking genitals. End of story.

This hypothetical baby girl of mine will be subjected to lots of strong, empowering lyrics; I'll sing her songs like Alessia Cara's "Scars to your Beautiful." Kudos to Alessia, for challenging the music industry and simultaneously reminding women they are more than a half-naked, gyrating dancer in some music video.
She can't see she's perfect
She can't understand she's worth it
And that beauty goes deeper than the surface...
So to all my girls hurting
Let me be your mirror,
Help you see a little bit clearer
The light that shines within...

I'll also share my own painful journey with this potential child of mine. I will show her photos from my college days, when I weighed 107 lbs (ten pounds less than the average supermodel my same height). I'll talk about the most difficult subject in the world for me, the one I often avoid discussing because it's so traumatic to recall those tortured years of my life.
I will inform her that her beauty lies not in her face or her body or her relevance to men. No, her beauty is based on the quality of her character...and it is eternal.

She will never wonder if she's loved. I'll do everything in my power to ensure she doesn't seek admiration from anyone looking to exploit or use her.
I hope my babygirl never aspires to be like all the actresses and singers who hyper-sexualize themselves in an attempt to gain power or make money. Power attained through degradation is not true power. She will hopefully see the value of utilizing her various talents to influence and help others. I’ll try to show her that intelligence is beautiful, too. Courage is sexy. Compassion is alluring.

So, whether I have a male or female child, I want the little one to understand that merit is not attained by placing oneself higher than others. There's absolutely NOTHING honorable about knocking others down. Or using others to elevate your own status. Or fitting into the stereotypical role society has assigned to you.
Instead, I'll encourage my children to treat others well. And love themselves thoroughly.

It's such a simple concept.
Raising kids is a gamble. There's no guarantee things will go according to plan. Admittedly, it's easy for me to judge, since I have no children of my own.

But when I get my master's in social work, and I'm helping strangers on a regular basis, I plan to employ all these tactics. As a society, we are incredibly broken. This is evidenced by the fact that we have let a hateful, misogynistic, racist man become a presidential candidate. I am truly ashamed of our country. And our world, for that matter. I plan to make small changes in any way I can.

As parents, you have the opportunity to raise good humans. Sure, it's far easier to cater to children...or ignore them...or baby them. It’s far more convenient to teach them to look the other way when powerful leaders degrade certain sectors of the population.

But I'm begging you to do the right thing, instead of the easy thing. I'm counting on you. The world is counting on you. So are your kids.

Love,
Lisa

Friday, September 30, 2016

Here Goes Something...



Tomorrow morning, I will drive 800 miles to my new apartment in Texas...thus ending the Colorado chapter of my life.

My mother recently reminded me that when one door closes, another one pops open.

Perhaps a more fitting analogy for my life is this: when one apartment empties out, another one fills with guitar chords, Christmas lights, and the trembling excitement of brand-new adventures.

Last week, a close friend asked me why I move so much. I (half-)jokingly responded with a question of my own: "So, why do you stay in the same city so much?"

The truth is, I'd love to have a place to call my own. But I haven't found my "forever home" yet, so I must continue searching. What else can I do? Staying stagnant and/or unhappy is not my style. I'm terrible at treading water.

Denver has been my home for the past year and a half. I never intended to live here more than six months; Colorado was a brief stop on my way back east. My goal was to buy some time in the Mile-High City...and figure out which direction I wanted my colorful, unpredictable life to veer. All I knew was that I desired warm weather and a sense of purpose in my career.

I don't regret this Colorado detour. Denver folks are some of the most active, philanthropic, and outgoing people in the world. I've enjoyed my involvement in a local nonprofit. I have forged the type of deep, inspiring friendships that people seek their whole lives.

However, my time here has reinforced how much I want to attend graduate school. A master's degree will allow me to help others in a very specific and impactful way. I plan to apply to graduate schools next year, once I establish Texas residence.

For the record, going back to school a decade after earning a bachelor's degree is scary as hell. I'll be balancing my airline gig, life in a new city/state, and homework. Good thing I enjoy a challenge, because I'm about to have my butt kicked on every level.

I'm terrified. And overwhelmed. As with any major life change, so many things can go wrong. This alleged adventure might turn out to be a huge mistake. 

But I've looked that fear in the eyes. I've acknowledged it. Now the time has come to march right past it. 

So here's to taking chances. Here's to NOT having it all figured out, but trying my best to navigate this life and make meaningful connections along the way. Here's to breaking molds & barriers...and constantly striving to be a better, happier version of myself. Most things worth chasing after come with a huge risk. 

Here's to risking it all.

Love,
Lisa

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The City Beautiful



I lived in Orlando for nearly four years.  My time there was filled with laughter, twinkling lights, and lots of Vitamin D.

I remember late nights at Parliament House and free concerts at Lake Eola. I remember "summer" poolside BBQ's in February, with temperatures already reaching the low 80's. I recall thick, juicy burgers at Graffiti Junktion and volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House with my coworkers.

I treasure those memories. Each one of them.

Every time a blizzard hits Denver, or I look at my monthly rent bill, or I make a futile attempt to find some decent Mexican food in the Mile-High City (I miss you, Garibaldi's on Semoran!), I joke that I'm moving back to the House of Mouse. Also known as O-Town. Also known as The City Beautiful.

That last nickname is my favorite. In light of recent events, it holds special meaning. Orlando really is a gorgeous place. The city's beauty lies not only in its majestic palm trees or colorful city lights, but also in the hearts of its residents, who are currently mourning a tragic loss.

I don't think any of us will ever understand the fury behind the senseless act committed last weekend, because we have souls capable of empathy and compassion. The gunman clearly did not.

In my opinion, this type of mass murder can only be accomplished by someone who has forgotten what it means to be human. Only when a person sheds his ability to empathize can he perform an act this grotesque.

The man who opened fire in Pulse caused so much unnecessary destruction. Yet he cannot distort my fond Orlando memories, nor can he remove the solidarity and hope still thriving among MCO's residents.

About half of my friends in Orlando are gay. They are amazing people. I love them for who they are...and they love me for being my dorky, loud, filter-less self.

Like the 49 victims of Sunday's heinous act, we often danced until the clubs shut down for the night. This shooting could have easily happened to my buddies. It could have happened to me.

Fortunately, my friends were not at Pulse the night of this heartbreaking tragedy. Unfortunately, 49 innocent people were killed inside the club. Their friends and families cannot say the same.

I sincerely hope my buddies never have to feel the sting of hatred, or question going to a dance club because of the possibility they'll be targeted by a psychopath. These hopes seem wildly unrealistic, though; the truth is, intolerance still exists in this world. I don't understand it, I don't condone it, and I will not allow it to be mentioned in my presence. But it does exist. Sadly.

Right now, I believe the best thing the LGBTQ community can do is use this horrific act to build strength and unity. Sure, some people might not stand behind you. But there are TONS of folks who do support you. Including me. I am so proud of the community's response to this shooting. Many people have spread messages of compassion and respect. They have shown solidarity, strength, and hope. The outpouring of love in the wake of this egregious act has been nothing short of amazing.

The response has been so powerful. Yet I have one special request for my friends: please, please hold your heads high. Do not live in fear. Sure, that's easier said than done...but if you let this unspeakable act deter you from fully enjoying your lives, then the bad guys win.

Orlando experienced a devastating loss this weekend; 49 souls left the planet far too soon. This shooting rampage caused so much destruction. However, if the gunman thought he would break Orlando's spirit, he was wrong. The City Beautiful will not be shaken. Orlando (and all the city’s supporters, worldwide) will emerge as strong and stunning as ever.

Love,
Lisa

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Fill Power


My mom teaches fourth grade. On countless occasions, my mother has witnessed classic bullying among her students. While I believe nine-year-olds should know that tormenting one another is wrong, I can understand, on some level, that these kids are still growing, learning, and exploring this vast (and sometimes scary) world. Unsure how to cope with uncertainty and/or jarring self-discovery, some children resort to cruel comments. It certainly is NOT justifiable behavior, but hopefully it's temporary. Experimental. Short-lived.

Recently, however, I've heard people my own age (and older!) comment on strangers' alleged "flaws." From clothing to hairstyles to body size, everything is apparently fair game for jokes, judgments, and jeers--the three j's of bullying, in my opinion.

This concerns me.

I've heard people label others trashy, tacky, and fat. This last one is perhaps my personal pet peeve. I don't carry extra physical weight on my 5'10" frame, but you better believe my emotional weight could rival the physical mass of a sumo wrestler. And I'm not alone in that respect. Life can get tricky, and we all undoubtedly have scars from previous battles. I'm just willing to display mine. And own them. And continually strive to better myself without denying my cuts and nicks and bruises.

So when my coworkers comment on a stranger's so-called lack of will power, I am no longer going to remain silent. "Will power" is such an elitist term. It implies a lack of something crucial...a deficiency that is both deliberate and also somehow offensive to others.

I think this verbiage needs to be tossed in the trash. "Will power" didn't propel me to get healthy when I was climbing into an early grave during my college years. "Will power" didn't keep me in the trenches during my toughest, most frustrating moments at AmeriCorps. "Will power" didn't help me follow through with the most difficult decision of my romantic life (which, by the way, was also the morally correct choice).

In fact, will power is divisive and insulting. Why don't we instead offer folks a little "fill power?"

That's a term I coined to describe words of encouragement and inclusion. These are the deeds, ranging anywhere from minuscule to massive, which inform another human that he/she is valued. Relevant. Important.

Fill power changes lives for the better.

When my best friend held me as tears streamed down my face, he added to my fill power.

When my roommate listened patiently as I expressed my financial and romantic woes, she gave me fill power.

When my boss told me that my writings had provided comfort to those desperately seeking help, he boosted my fill power.

I am a product of many amazing people who have encouraged me over the years. My father is perhaps my biggest hero, but numerous other people have influenced my life in ways I could never describe. Although I will definitely try...by showing that same respect and compassion to others.

Including overweight people. And disgraced folks. And impoverished ones, too. Ones who are struggling with mental health issues, relationship issues, self-esteem issues.

The next time my coworker refers to someone as a "cow," I will speak up. I'll point out that insults are wildly unproductive; they tear others down without offering any opportunity for improvement. Furthermore, they lack grace.

In the words of my roommate, who is wise beyond her years, "a little grace can go a long way." Let's focus on fill power. Let's make an effort to empathize with others, instead of rushing to criticize them. That wasn't acceptable when we were in fourth grade. It is downright reprehensible now that we are adults.

So let's intentionally offer a little more love, a little more often.

That's my plan, anyway. And if you fly/drink/eat/sit/travel/talk with me, I'll gladly prove it to you.

Love,
Lisa