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...

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.


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.


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.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

My Brand of Love

In elementary school, I found an injured bunny. The tiny creature was shivering, uncontrollable shudders erupting beneath his blood-splattered fur. I tucked him in my lunchbox to keep him warm. My friends thought I was crazy for taking home a half-dead bunny. He could barely open his eyes. He didn't stand a chance, and we all knew it.

I could've cared less. All that mattered was keeping that bunny safe for the time being.

When I arrived home, I took the muddy, bleeding rabbit out of my lunchbox and cradled him in my arms. I asked my mom if we could bring him to a veterinarian. She sighed at my hopeless optimism, but reluctantly agreed to drive to the nearest animal hospital.

We never made it there.

The bunny died with his head tucked into the crook of my left arm. I then sobbed over an animal I'd known for approximately two hours. My dad helped me bury him in the backyard, because I couldn't fathom tossing the furry little guy in a garbage can.

As an adult, not much has changed; I still choose to love, even while staring into the face of impending doom.

Truth be told, I don't know how to love differently. To me, the outcome is far less important than the bonds established along the way.

If I connect with someone, then I don't need the guarantee of a "happy forever" with that person. I just need a few moments to extend my arms, offer an embrace, and hopefully leave some sort of positive impact.

I've given my heart away several times, knowing full well it would get broken in the process. Walls make no sense to me; I cradled a dying bunny and subsequently mourned the loss. At that time, preserving my own heart seemed silly. Much more important was the task of ensuring the bunny's comfort and safety in his final moments.

Some people don't understand this type of love. It confuses them. Apparently, it also causes them to draw hasty conclusions. I suppose that's natural; human beings seek to justify situations within their own minds. We want easy answers. We crave logical explanations for things that don't make sense to us.

So when I've discussed past relationships, either verbally or via my writings (which I thought nobody actually read, by the way! Surprise!), people have reached their own conclusions. I recently learned of these theories. Unfortunately, they are malicious and destructive. Not to mention completely untrue.

Even worse, these folks have shared their false assumptions with others. People with whom I work, eat, converse, laugh and travel have been poisoned by hurtful gossip which has zero basis in reality.

I refuse to describe, detail for detail, my actions over the past few years. I shouldn't have to. I've already been placed under a (broken) microscope against my will and deemed unworthy...so nothing I say at this point will change that verdict anyway.

All I can do is hold my head high and prove to everyone, through my actions, that I am not damaged or selfish or scandalous just because I choose to love uniquely and without regret. I won't apologize for my choices. I did nothing wrong. And I certainly haven't participated in the activities I've been accused of partaking in.

The next time I find a bunny, I will love him the same way I always have: fearlessly, wholly, and unconditionally. If people assume I'm committing crimes because I choose to speak fondly of someone who exited my life, then that's their choice. They are allowed to think whatever they want to think. They're even allowed to spread hurtful lies to whomever they choose.

But this is my kind of love. I won't alter it, and I certainly won't apologize for it.

I won't stop loving my way just because I've received backlash for it. Matted fur doesn't scare me, nor am I afraid to get a little dirt on my hands. Love is worth any & every price, in my opinion.

To all the people who have heard, believed, spread or perhaps even enjoyed the rumors, I'm not mad at you. Get to know me and I'll gladly prove these accusations false.

My brand of love is idealistic and infinite. It's bigger than the small, restrictive box that these rumors have attempted to place me in. Much bigger, in fact. Let me show you.


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.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Joy, Unfiltered


Far too often, I attach quantifiable terms to unquantifiable things.

“I’ve been a flight attendant for five years,” I say, followed by the hasty explanation (as though this topic needs an asterisk): “But within ten years, I hope to get my books published so I can fly less and write more.”

These statements reduce my life to a series of chronological achievements. Turns out I'm an expert at that! When recalling the diploma I received, I always state the year and the subject. These basic descriptors fail to acknowledge the friendships, global adventures and philanthropic endeavors that paved the way for that piece of paper.

As a writer, this bothers me. Immensely.

My appreciation for words and emotions should, theoretically, make me more sensitive to the fact that some things are timeless. Nameless.  Ubiquitous.

To those I have loved, and lost, and loved again: you were not just a moment in time, a gasp of air. Whether we spent two decades or merely two weeks together, you changed me for the better.

You were your own symphony.

I hear you at night, when I can’t sleep. You also slice through the silence during the day. You provide the perfect soundtrack as I navigate this crazy/beautiful world.

You inspire me to treat others well, and love myself, and choose good…even when the bad is so much more appealing and easily accessible.

There’s no erasing the footprint you’ve left on my heart.  There aren’t enough rulers or stopwatches in the world to measure the impact you've made.

I can’t hold you anymore, can’t lean into you. I can't weave my fingers through yours. Your arms don’t wrap around me as I’m drifting off to sleep.

Yet you’re still relevant. I promise you this: you’re as real as shivers that crawl down my spine on a chilly evening. You are everything. You’re my lifeline.

So, moving forward, I will make a concerted effort not to talk about you in terms of time. You’re so much more than the minutes we spent together. You’re a huge part of who I am...and who I hope to become. You are my joy, unfiltered.
Thank you for loving me. Thank you for defying the barriers of time and space. I’ll love you, in my own unique way, as long as there’s blood pumping through this silly heart of mine. 

Maybe even after that.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Storm's Appeal

There may be a devastating drought in California, but you would not have known it that day.

I awakened to a pitch-black apartment, silent except for the rhythmic symphony of raindrops collapsing against my concrete porch. Gone were the homeless folks typically resting on park benches across the street; they'd vanished in search of shelter, of course.

Digital numbers on my once-functional microwave informed me that I had missed the bus to work. Which would've been no problem on a typical partly-cloudy NorCal day. Today, however, I was in a bind: I certainly couldn't afford to pay a taxi driver $40 to drive me to a restaurant where I may or may not earn that money back over the next nine hours, depending on the clientele awaiting me at the bar.

With a sigh, I began the trek on foot. My umbrella lasted two blocks before rebelliously flipping inside-out. I raised my hood in a sad attempt to protect my hair, and continued along with rainwater seeping up through the holes in my well-worn black boots.

By the time I reached Geary Street, I was drenched. By the time I reached Sutter Street, I was more water than human. By the time I reached Broadway, however, the clouds had rolled away in defeat. Out of nowhere, the sun appeared.

Standing there, on top of a hill which overlooked Fort Mason and the Golden Gate Bridge, I had to pause. It was too stunning of a view to ignore or bypass.

I arrived at work a few minutes late, apologized to the owner, and fixed drinks for half-soaked customers the remainder of the night.

Although nearly four years have passed since then, I remember every detail, down to the ripped tights I wore with my jean miniskirt.

I most clearly recall being mesmerized at the top of the hill, as sunlight lapped against my damp skin. An iconic bridge, inspiration for songs and books and countless romantic photos, stretched before me. Water shimmered and pulsed toward the shore. The hills of San Francisco were dotted with quaint little houses which looked like a tribute to a different era.

In that moment, I vowed to always be grateful.

I vowed to never, ever take this world for granted.

I made an oath to enjoy the violent rainstorms which often lead to dazzling, sunny views.

For many years, I was successful; I made people laugh with my ever-present optimism. I exuded pure happiness. I was grateful for a job I adored, an opportunity to live in the tropics, and an amazing network of friends within a five-mile radius of my apartment.

A buddy once asked me it I ever wished I could "have it all." He was, of course, referring to a plush paycheck and the upscale clothes/cars/vacations which accompany that. I immediately responded that I did have it all. Money was irrelevant. I was content, peaceful, satisfied.

All of that changed last year.

Money became very relevant once I went into debt.

More importantly, I relocated for work...and the network I'd spent nearly a decade constructing began to disintegrate. I was alone. As a single 30-year-old, my friends were my family. My whole world. They always had been. Suddenly they felt so distant; I was in a new city...on my own...again.

In addition, work was more demanding than ever before. The fun was gone; I became a zombie, flying around the entire country without noticing or appreciating the ride.

The city with that spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge transformed into my enemy, my aggressor. In search of a comrade, I befriended a loneliness I'd never known before.

Several months ago, my best friend told me that we can either "get bitter or get better." That catch phrase caused something to shift inside of me. I had slipped into a state of despair...but I began to claw my way out.

My friends helped me rekindle some sort of hope for my future. Self-pity is dark enough to be oddly enticing to someone already at a low point. But once I allowed myself to enter that mournful space, escape became difficult.

Yet I managed to find the exit.

I credit those around me, who helped every step of the way...and I can't think of a better way to thank them than by spreading hope to others. Every day, any chance I get.

Things are still far from perfect. Sometimes I cry when remembering how life used to be. There was simplicity and balance before. My social circle was strong. I had a place.

I'm still unmarried, still finding my literary voice, still wondering if I'll ever discover my "forever home."

But I now hope to wade through all these uncertainties with grace and, yes, laughter.

The thankful girl on Fillmore Street is not dead, she just needed a moment to relocate and solidify her misplaced optimism.

So many of my friends have endured struggles far greater than mine. I would like to remind anyone dealing with loss, displacement, or failure that they are not alone. Strong arms carried me through my saddest days, and I'm steadily rebuilding my arm strength so I can do the same for others.