10 Things I Love About Me

Before you immediately click away from this page as you roll your eyes thinking “this girl is TOO into herself” let me explain myself.

May is Mental Health Awareness month. 

Now the issue of “mental health” is one that is extremely sensitive to me and very close to my heart. I have a family history of mental illness and I, personally, have issues when it comes to anxiety.  Now, that’s not a bad thing but so there’s much negativity surrounding this topic – from people saying “oh that’s not a big deal” to “mental illness isn’t even a real thing”. Neither of those statements are true. Mental health is real and suicide linked to mental illnesses are extremely real.

So what am I doing writing a list about myself? Mental Illness has a wide range – from mild depression to Borderline Personality Disorder – but no matter what, self-care is an important aspect of life. Sometimes we spend so much time taking care of others that we forget ourselves (both physically and mentally). So I want to encourage everyone reading to consider doing your own “Reasons I Love Me” and you don’t need 10 unless you want to. This is to remind yourself why you are loved, as a way to participate in self care. You can even take it a step further by looking for something that you generally don’t like about yourself and see if you can spin that into something positive.

This is not to trivialize or fix issues regarding mental health/illnesses but to encourage conversation about it and to encourage people who are struggling to reach out for help or talk to someone.

So here are 10 things I love about me: 

  1. Passion – I am, if nothing, passionate about everything that I do. It is my passion that led me to sending emails bugging Kel Muña to volunteer for the film fest in 2011, it is that passion that led to the creation of the world’s first Chamorro soap opera, it is that passion that somehow led me to a place where people actually admire me for what I do. My mantra, once upon a time, was “be fearless” and over time I began to realize that I don’t have to remind myself to toss my fears into the wind anymore. That fearlessness lives within me and it propels me forward, ignited by passion and carrying me through this life. If there’s anything I don’t doubt it’s that ball of fire living within me.
  2. Thirst for Knowledge – My brother used to tease me for being a “know-it-all”, needing to correct people when they get their facts wrong. Honestly, it can come off as elitist…which I get. The root of this is that I have a “thirst for knowledge”. I can’t possibly know everything but if there’s anything I have quite the disdain for, it’s ignorance. If I have an opinion, it’s 50% soul and 50% well-researched. Knowledge IS power, it helps us to think critically in the best of times and guides us to act in the worst. I know how privileged I am to have access to such information so I take my time and make sure to use it well.
  3. Attention to detail – If I come outright and say it, I’m a control freak. However, in the last year or so I began to really appreciate that quality within me. In my job, I often find myself writing documents – press releases, appearance releases, contractor agreements – and I find that because of my scrutinizing behavior, I’m able to trust myself when I finally pass along this work to others. It’s a skill that can go overlooked in the creative industry and since someone has to do it, it might as well be me!
  4. Creativity – I have been blessed with an unsettled creative mind. If you know creatives, you know that if you lock them in a room together they’ll either: 1. Come out having collaborated on something or 2. Come out with nothing because they couldn’t decide on what to make. So I guess it’s a blessing and a curse in that way. To put it simply, I find inspiration in everything around me – from the fleck of dirt on my toe to the way a little boy jumps into a pool. There’s always a story somewhere and I’m always trying to find it. So at least I can rest knowing that I’ll always have content…even if I don’t always have the means to pursue it.
  5. Empathy – I’m extremely hypersensitive when it comes to my emotions. Those who know me well eventually learn to accept that I’ll often cry with no warning. I’m actually scared that everyone’s going to think it’s a gimmick because I’ve already cried twice in front of the media. Now, I also have the tendency to gain my energy from the people around me so I get more emotional than I should about situations that I have no part in. This actually gets weird when someone ends up comforting me about their own situation. What I like about this is that there’s no shortage of empathy for other people. By feeling that person’s energy I feel less at a loss for what to say, like I have a better understanding on how to approach the situation. I might be wrong. But I like to think I do.
  6. Obsessiveness – It sounds unhealthy. It probably is unhealthy. Actually, to an extent I know it’s unhealthy. I have this tendency to become obsessed with things that I like. It always causes me to go far off the deep end. I can’t play just 2 hours of the Sims. I have to play like 7 hours every day for weeks until it’s out of my system. Why is this a good thing? I’m actually unsure as I write this but…these random obsessions have somehow shaped who I have become. Maybe it means I love too hard or I make sure to give my all. Or maybe it’s this obsessiveness that made it so sure that I never got addicted to substances as I got older. Because of how aware I am of this personality trait, I have this fear of substance abuse. I mean, I’d take a whole night of reading fanfics over stomach pumping any day so I’m thinking that’s a pretty big win. Maybe I should just call it “dedication”.
  7. Age – As my frequent readers may know, I’ve had this insecurity about my age for as long as I’ve been working in the media. People often belittled me for being only 20 or underestimated what I had to say because “I’m still learning”. This had such an impact on me emotionally that I still have a hard time telling people how old I am because I don’t want the immediate response to be “wow, you’re such a baby”. It didn’t even matter the amount of experiences I had under my belt, I always left a room feeling like I failed. However, (and I’m not saying this is what validated me) when I was working in Dallas I soon learned that, even though I was freshly 22, I had value as a young professional. I began to grow a confidence in myself and accept more that I will make mistakes. Now, I find it to be a gift to be young and already making my name a respectable one.
  8. Size – So I’m 5’2″ with a small physique and have been this way since I was 12. Now the reason I mention this is not so I can be a model or whateeever. It’s because I like fitting into small places. I’m kind of like a cat in that way. I’ve always been like this and I actually sleep covered in layers of pillows and blankets because of this. I like how safe I feel when there is little room to move so I feel very fortunate to be able to fit into the nearest water cooler.
  9. Anxiety – As much as I hated waking up to panic attacks, having anxiety forced me to pay attention to my body and mind much more than I used to. Instead of grabbing at the nearest screen in the morning, I made myself stop and check in with myself when I wake. During the day, I now have to make a conscious effort to not go through the motions while ignoring how I feel. Sometimes your body & mind know when you need a break and while mine responds by making me think I’m having a heart attack, it’s cautioned me to take things a little slower. It’s gotten better. Breathe. Take a bit. Go.
  10. Faith – Perhaps this seems like I’m taking my own credit away but I don’t think I am by mentioning how much I love my God. I know that He lives in me. I don’t do it all on my own, I lean on His strength and His understanding. But I have to commend myself for remaining in faith even during these darkest days, when it is just so easy to turn away.
You know, this actually took me a long time to finish but I feel so good after doing it. I now have a list of encouragements just for myself. So now I implore everyone to take a part, using whatever internet media you choose and make sure to title/tag it: Reasons I Love Me. Share them with me too!
Don’t worry about what other people will think about you. Don’t worry about coming off as conceited. Don’t worry about others judging you. This is a letter to YOURSELF, saying “hey, I love you and here are some reasons why”.
I once read somewhere that “in humility you still recognize your positive aspects” and that’s absolutely true. It’s so important that we accept ourselves and love ourselves – flaws included. It’s like a love letter to yourself and all I’m trying to encourage right now is self love.

If you or someone you know needs help, don’t hesitate to reach these numbers:

(Guam) 24-Hr Crisis Helpline                                         (671) 647-8833

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline               1-800-273-TALK (8255)

In the case of an emergency, always call 911. Other useful contacts: http://peaceguam.org/get-help

The Journey of 100 Miles

….starts with one lousy 12 minute one. Today.

If you’re new to this blog then I should tell you that I used to run regularly. It’s hard not to yearn for those days, honestly, or to not look at them with rose colored glasses. I liked it. I liked the feeling of my feet lifting with every step, the wind blowing past my ears. I felt like I could go just about anywhere with nothing but what the good Lord gave me. I liked the feeling of accomplishment and the adrenaline that pulsated through my body, exciting and calming me all at the same time.

But I forget the amount of work it takes to get there. Because running became a habit since I was 17 (waking while it’s still dark out to get a few miles in before school), running anything less than 3 miles was chump change. I never ran a 5k because I could run them for free anytime and not have to worry about ridiculous parking situations. Even when I took breaks, I always started up again at 2 miles.

Color me surprised the day I couldn’t even finish one and how much I beat myself up over it.

Sometime within the last 2 years, I started to have occasional anxiety attacks. If you’ve never had one I can describe them in one word: terrifying. I can’t even explain it other than, “each attack I felt like I was about to die”. After a while and too much stress, I ended up having them almost every day. It took time and outside help before I was able to manage it but by then I’d already been out of the game for over a year. Though exercise was supposed to (and did) help, I couldn’t run. At least not the way I wanted to.

The first time I tried to let my feet carry me over the pavement again, I almost blacked out. Pulsing heart. Shallow breath. Those sensations resulting from an afternoon run were now associated with the constricting feeling of death. Once my body thought it was about to have a panic attack, it actually did. I didn’t even realize this would happen as I was going in and I didn’t know how to stop it once it started.

So I stopped running. I took the time to get my body used to the feeling of exercise again — without the association of sudden doom — through milder workouts and variations of yoga. After this first time, I ran a few more times – putting my 2016 total to like….5…probably. Each run after wasn’t nearly as difficult, especially when I started to be easier on myself internally. They were much shorter than what my mind was used to and it took every ounce of energy not to get myself disappointed. Especially with such a stigma surrounding any kind of mental health, it was hard not to feel like I was a failure or that I’m failing because of how screwed up I am.

But through self care, good company and the grace of God; here I am. I’m ready to start again. I don’t know if I’ll be Ko’Ko material this year but I’ll be darned if I don’t try. And it starts with this: my goal to get in 10-15 miles total for April.

Today was my first mile and I couldn’t be prouder of myself for this. Maybe it seems small to whoever is reading this but you have no idea how much this means to me. It just feels like I’ve really been able to overcome this massive hurdle and it’s so overwhelming how great I feel about it. It was the first mile I was able to complete without looking down, without doubts, without falling apart right in the middle. The first time in a long time, I felt truly able to get up and just go. And so, I shall. 2-3 times a week on the streets of Guåhan.

Now….if only that dog didn’t try to bite my leg. I don’t know where this dog came from and who he thinks he is for trying to come at me in #ghededo, but he better watch it. (lol) But seriously, he grazed my leg with his teeth and I don’t know where this dog came from and I was like 10 feet away from my house. 

 

I couldn’t vote in the plebiscite but I’m okay with that.

I’m going to activate my voice a little bit in this post for a very specific issue super relevant right now: The recent ruling on the Davis case regarding the plebiscite. Heard of it? If you haven’t here’s a nice link for you. Take a minute. And I’ll be here when you get back.

Got it? Okay. Recently, I’ve seen a lot of opinions on this case – both in support of the ruling and in opposition. After reading enough tweets, I decided there are a couple of things that absolutely need to be said so here goes:

Let me really quickly explain to you why the issue of the plebiscite is not about race. As defined by the United Nations, the ‘native inhabitants’ of Guam are in reference to any person who was living on Guam before the Organic Act was passed and their descendants. Yes, this funnels it out to a certain percentage of the island and yes most of those individuals are Chamoru. BUT this would not make it exclusively a Chamoru vote. My grandfather came to Guam from the Philippines in 1951 – literally one year after and not even because it was U.S. soil. If he’d been here just a little bit earlier, I would be able to participate.

This is more based on circumstance than it is on race so don’t get mixed up.

THAT SAID, whether or not it’s discrimination is not actually the point. It actually doesn’t matter to me whether or not I, or any of my Kababayans, can vote. I have zero qualms with this being a solely Chamoru vote and let me tell you why.

The purpose of the plebiscite is to determine the will of the Chamoru people. They were given this right decades ago. This does not actually determine what happens to the political status of the island but what the indigenous people of the island – the people who have been here since ever since – would like to do with it.

EVEN IF IT DID determine what happens to the island’s political status, that’s something we have to come to terms with because….and let me spell it out very carefully: T-H-I-S  I-S  T-H-E-I-R  L-A-N-D.

This is about rights that were stripped away from specific people and restoring it to those people as they rightly deserve.

Understand that Chamoru land is constantly being threatened of becoming taken away and destroyed. They are tired of this and tired of not being heard. This plebiscite was to act as their collective voice – a voice which is constantly being stomped on. They have been fighting for years to be able to make their own decisions – it’s in the books – and still this ability was never fully received. They deserve this one.

This land is their exclusive right and it is their right to fight for it back. When a  country decides to take their land back from a colonizer, it is the native people of that land who decide this and fight for it. This should be no different for Guam and the Marianas.

If the indigenous people of this land are unsatisfied with the way things are, let them be heard.

If you’re in a bad relationship or if you’re in one that’s clearly not going to be progressing, you need to move on. It’s not easy. It takes time. But it’s worth it and well deserved. That said if our friend Juan is in a bad relationship we shouldn’t force him to be in a relationship just because we’re good friends with Susan and we’re scared she won’t be friends with us anymore.

This doesn’t mean we don’t get a voice and this doesn’t mean that they’re going to kick us out if the island decolonizes (respetu, respetu, respetu y’all). They aren’t simply saying we don’t belong here, they are communicating that they do and they want us to recognize that. Do I get slightly hurt when someone tells me I have no right to claim this land? Of course. This island is all I know, all my family knows. It’s my home, too. But then I remember my place. I don’t worry about being booted off an island that I respect and revere. Instead, I stand behind these people in their fight.

Do not let this ruling fool you and do not let this man speak for us as to whether or not we should be outraged.

We are not enemies. We are brothers and sisters of Austronesia. We welcome each other, support each other and we always have each other’s backs. Let us lend our support as the people of the Marianas fight to restore harmony to their land.

Note: Read this fantastic piece on our responsibility if you need some more perspective
Edit to include this letter written by another ‘settler’:
 CLICK

 

Getting together.

As of now we’re already a little bit into the New Year, which for a lot of us means that we’ve already failed our resolutions. I myself ended up not completing half of the goals I set last year. NBD. Don’t sweat it. On the other hand, I ended up figuring out a system that helps me get through each week. The reason I don’t normally make year end goals is because disappointment can be harsh if you don’t make it the way you wanted to.

The good news, though, is that I was finally able to get to a place where I was being reasonable with myself in regards to not meeting expectations. That’s the hardest part of setting goals: dealing with yourself after you don’t make it all the way. Some people just don’t. It might not be their fault or maybe it was but that’s beside the point. The point is, whatever the reason is (unless you were being a dillhole) it’s all okay and it’s easily something to learn from. These are four ways that I’ve been able to make it through the week.

Declutter

First and foremost, clear out. All the time. Not just in the beginning of the month or the end of the year. Anytime you have a minute, get rid of all the junk. That includes mail subscriptions (both snail and electronic), things that you know you don’t need but are nice to have, wardrobe no matter how much nostalgia they bring (or upcycle into a quilt or something). Decluttering your life helps to declutter your mind, giving you that much more headspace to think about other things – like taking a poop and cooking dinner.

Check in with yourself

Don’t be too shy to ask yourself how you’re doing. Take some time throughout the day to see how you’re feeling and then figure out what you need & how much time you have to give it to yourself. Sometimes you need a little prayer or meditation in the middle of your day. It might seem like losing time but this could greatly affect how you function for the rest of the day.

This can also include tracking when you go to the bathroom, meals, water consumption. Sometimes we forget to take care of basic human needs, that’s an understatement. It might seem insignificant but knowing how your body is functioning tells you your needs and that’s serious pay off in terms of taking care of your body.

Set weekly goals (attainable goals) 

Give meaning to your goals. Maybe your doctor is telling you to eat more fiber and yeah yeah yeah it’s healthy for you but what does that mean for you?

Each goal should be personal and purposeful. This is not a checklist or a to do list. Weekly goals are small ways of self improvement that you can work on little by little. It’s easier to track progress this way and your goals don’t seem as daunting. I do my weekly goals by setting three areas of improvement: body, mind and soul. Sometimes, I have goals for all three, sometimes two. They range from ‘track 8 glasses of water every day’ to ‘run 12 miles this week’ to read a chapter out of a new book.

You can also work a new year’s resolution into this. For example: Resolution to get fit!

You can start by saying go to the gym for a total of 2 hours this week or try water aerobics. And if you don’t make that goal, ask yourself why and adjust from there. You could either carry the goals over to the next week, cut it down or choose a different activity that could work toward the same purpose. But no matter what you do, never think to yourself what you could be doing if you had. That doesn’t matter. What matters is what you could do to make the goal more accessible to you.

Me time, EVERY DAY

Every morning, I make it a goal to stretch, pray & devotional and eat in the first two hours of my day every day (given that I didn’t wake up late and have to be somewhere in ten minutes). It took me a long time to stop feeling guilty about this, I can’t even tell you.

There’s nothing wrong to giving something your whole self (i.e. a project or a job) and everything you got. I don’t doubt that your works of passion aren’t worth it. But think of it this way: if you lose yourself into the thing you’re doing, you might stop why you’re doing it. That’s not something you want to forget. At the end of the day, the person you’re left with is yourself and you might as well get used to it.

♠♠♠♠♠♠

Now, if you’re still not satisfied after a long trial and error, figure out why and adjust. It might be something that you’re missing OR you still haven’t figured out how to handle certain emotions or stressors. In either case, once you get your lead you’re that much closer to self satisfaction. You might need help, through another party, and that’s okay as long as you get there.

The point of this post is to encourage you to encourage yourself. For people like me, we get easily disheartened and the crux of it is easily ourselves. I want you to challenge yourself in this way. Check in with yourself, be realistic when you set an expectation and don’t freak out if you didn’t meet it. In a world that seems to be turning faster and faster every minute, self care is becoming increasingly more important. These are just some examples of how to do that in such a world.

Time after time

Let me start off by saying that I’m not saying that I’m old in this blog. Of course, this is a recurring theme in all kinds of blogs – stuff that we knew when we were young. I know this, you know this: things change as time does. And bizarrely, I’m pretty sure it’s my generation who is the most vocal about it. Everyone gets nostalgic, and everyone flips out when they see a kid on YouTube with bewildered eyes as they figure out a Motorola Razr. And I can basically hear your mind when you see someone listening to music on their smartphone and think “dang kid doesn’t have to worry about their cd walkman skipping”.

This is just a mere examination.

I was cleaning my room. In a certain area of my desk, I’ve stored my old HP tower with Windows 7 (which has blue-screened), a ton of CDs and old electronics. Normally, I pay no mind to any of this and wipe it down with a rag but this time around, I was a lot more active in going through them. I realized that most of these CDs (stuff like printer/camera software and games like Oregon Trail for Windows 2000) will probably never be used again. So digging around, I pulled out the 1st generation iPod nano I bought for myself when I was a tween. I got into a conversation with a colleague and after discovering its battery is still good, he asked me what the oldest song in my iTunes library is. That got me thinking about what it was like for me 10 years ago. So let’s talk about it.

2006.

The internet. 

Back when being on the internet only meant you had access to a computer. Popularity was measured by the number of people who ‘owned’ your profile picture and bands you listened to that no one else did not by the number of retweets or hashtags you jumped on. The internet was all about being the most tragically poetic and emphasizing how extraordinarily different you were, not how viral your selfie could get in two days.

At this point, xanga was still relevant. Most of my friends can say they’ve had one at some point. At the time, I was creating css for xanga and graphics on Jasc software. Customization was trending so people were changing their layouts every couple of weeks, and a number of them included an animated cursor or a title bar that looked *~xX Sumting LyK diS xXxoOo~*. When people began transitioning to Myspace, CSS-creators followed the train making a new formula for the new format. Sometimes people went overboard and going to their page was an actual nuisance but it was actually a thing to go to someone’s MySpace just to see what it looked like: “omgeeee, ur page is 2 kyoot!!! wer did u get ur lyt?? ^_^”.

Communication.

4 words: Five Hour Phone Calls. With as many people as you could possibly get, as long as everyone had 3-way calling. I remember one night, we made it to like 8 people before people started getting disconnected. SMS was the optimal way to communicate with someone on the go….if the message even got through…if you had load. But it was k cause we didn’t necessarily expect a reply within the hour. …plus you were probably using your mom’s phone to text anyway.

Sharing.

Trying to fit in as many songs as you could into a disc that only holds a couple hundred MB. When you only had an iTuned library if you had an iPod…which held 1GB of music. And if you REALLY had to send someone something electronically, email and IM was your gurl. Or if you were really cool (and within 100 feet of someone), bluetooth messaging.

Quick mention of me in high school checking to see if anyone had their bluetooth on so I could send them weird pictures. But I changed my bluetooth name, for anonymity of course.

But of course, this was also the height of downloading so you spent the night probably trying to see if your favorite songs could be downloaded via P2P or someone’s xanga. Or even if the whole album could be found via torrent. All the while making sure that the file wasn’t a virus. Sometimes, though you would download a song and it turned out not to be that song but on the other hand, you discovered someone you could be elitist about.  Did I mention that we might be responsible for music not being on MTV anymore? Disclaimer: I’m pretty sure this is not nearly as prevalent now as it was then. Illegal downloading is wrong, yo….although Streetlight Manifesto kinda encouraged it to get back at their label.

Music. Culture. Trends.

I’m squeezing this together because these are all essentially the same thing. I remember specifically coming of age when more was more…clothing style-wise. Quick mention of fringe bangs and raccoon eyes aside…the general style was sleeves, hoodies, ties, gloves, beanies, bracelets, jeans, long socks if you weren’t wearing jeans, and black. Lots. And lots of black. It was a poetic expression of the amount of layers you had to get through in order to really understand the destroyed soul that lingered underneath.

And all of this was influenced by the people we were seeing in the music videos on MTV and TRL (which would still be a thing for a couple more years). Simple Plan. Hawthorne Heights. AFI. Avril Lavigne (pre Best Damn Thing). Fall Out Boy. Taking Back Sunday. Panic! At the Disco. All Time Low. Paramore. My Chemical Romance. Or really anyone who’s screaming the words we keep bottled up for the purpose of angst. Get acquainted with this wonderfully nostalgic playlist.

A time one might refer to as the Millennial Emo era.

♣♣♣♣♣♣

Again, the reason for this little rambling blog is not to put down the kids who entered high school after I had graduated. Or to invalidate their experiences or say that ours was better or more authentic (though I might appreciate my tween/teenhood better than I do theirs). It’s meant to be (a throwback and) a commentary on how different it was, looking back. How much can change in five years. My little sister, who is only 4 years younger than me, rang in her teen years to such vastly different music, trends, different methods of communication. Adversely, my oldest sibling (4 years older than me) and I did not.

And it makes me really wonder how much is going to change. And it makes me even wonder more what the actual name of the era of my adolescent years will be called in 40-50-100 years from now.

What I do know is that I’m going to hold on to that 1st generation, 2gb iPod nano until it becomes so old that I’ll be able to sell to to some hipster on eBay for good money. Assuming that hipsters and eBay will still be relevant then, anyway.

Liesure.

Clearly, I haven’t posted in quite a while. I’m going to start trying harder to update more often than every 5 months. Maybe I’ll put ideas in a hat.

Anyway, it’s summer (well it’s summer on Guam all the time) and everyone who works at/goes to school has been mostly nothin’ doin’ for the last two months. Now, I never had the kind of teachers who gave me summer reading. But with a nerd like me, they wouldn’t have gotten a complaint. I like books. I like people who like books. I like people who like people who like books. I wish I take more time to read books. But if you know me, I try to bring reading material with me everywhere I go. It used to be a messed up novel stuffed at the bottom of my backpack but since I’ve gotten a kindle (and the app on my phone), it’s a little easier to take a library with me.

So, if you’re reading this and you’re anything like me and are hungering for some material, here’s a list of some of my personal favorites. Or maybe you don’t like reading and you want to enhance your literary skills — that works too! Or maybe you hate reading but you keep getting nagged by your parents about how “reading makes you smart”…well…I don’t know what to tell you but I hope this helps?

1. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

“In order to learn how to live, you must learn how to die.”

This is probably my go-to book. I keep it on my nightstand, I make sure to take it when I travel, and I read it at leaset twice a year. If you’ve never read Tuesdays, it’s about an elderly former college professor who’s on his death bed being visited by one of his former students. Essentially, this is one of those “the greatest lesson” kind of books. It sounds cheesy, I know, and I can say it does bring a tear to my eye but this book has given me the most profound advice I have ever received. It’s sweet, nicely written and it really envelopes your senses the way a book should. It’s certainly worth picking up.

I honestly wish I had a copy with me.
2. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

“Learn this from me. Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.”

Now, I don’t want to drown you in a list of Mitch Albom novels, though he still reigns as my favorite author. However, I think this book is important to me because at a time when I was struggling to, I learned to forgive not only others but also myself. It’s such a tough lesson and it’s quite a skill to really be able to forgive fully and completely. I like to read this when I need a bit of a reality check. The reminder that nothing is permanent and that we are all connected. “…the world is full of stories but the stories are all one.”

3. Wasteland by Francesca Lia Block

“You were just a boy on a bed in a room, like a kaleidoscope is a tube full of bits of broken glass. But the way I saw you was pieces refracting the light, shifting into an infinite universe of flowers and rainbows and insects and planets, magical dividing cells, pictures no one else knew”

This novel tells the story of two people, their relationship and a journey after tragedy. The reason I like this book so much is because of the writing. It’s not an extraordinarily unique story but the way the author dictates the story is nothing short of beautiful. With metaphor, allegory, and a little bit of magic this is a book I like to turn to when I’m trying to inspire myself to write.

4. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

“What I have since realized is that if people expect you to be brave, sometimes you pretend that you are, even when you are frightened down to your very bones. ”

The first time I read this was in a literature class in the 7th grade. While the rest of the school was forced into Direct Instruction, I was fortunate to have been so well read that I and those like me could not be placed in one of those classes. We read it aloud and I still think about this one on and off. You’ll notice as you go through this list that I like books that accurately portray the roller coaster that is life every day; in Walk Two Moons you’ll experience it all – happiness, laughter, fear, sadness. I think this a perfect balance of “real” for a young adult reader and the characters have so much…character. To this day, I hope that when I get older I’ll be something akin to the grandmother of Salamanca Tree Hiddle.

5. Where She Went by Gayle Foreman

“I’ve become to realize there’s a world of difference between knowing something happened, even knowing why it happened, and believing it.”

The Sequel to If I Stay, the novel in the which movie counterpart starred Chloe Grace Moretz. I don’t know what it was, but I took to this book more than its predecessor, though most people I know who were fans of the first didn’t care a whole lot for the second. Perhaps it’s because I grew up at a time when teens were probably the most outwardly angsty – the millenial’s version of “emo” – and the novel is ridden with angst. (I find it hilarious that we’re all now attempting to be adults) But honestly, I like the way Foreman wrote this much more than If I Stay. I personally found it to be a lot more engaging and developed, and overall felt more relatable. I’m getting choked up thinking about it.

6. Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

“Not everything has to have a point. Some things just are.”

When I began reading this book back in high school I found it kind of bizarre. It’s just that I’d grown up reading to Judy Blume’s books like the Fudge series or Deenie so I didn’t quite expect it to be the way it was. The book follows the friendship of two girls, from when they are children to when they are fully grown adults trying to navigate their way through life. It talks about things like sex and disease and death and friendship and relationships and parenting and love overall. It’s not a hunky dory story about how two girls overcome obstacles in their friendship.  It’s a story about experiences and themes that are just as real to me as it is to them. That level of realism really resonated with me, and I can’t quite capture it in words.
7. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

“Be sure thy sin will find thee out.”

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a detective. Be it from Clue, the Box Car Children, Carmen Sandiego or the Barbie Detective game for PC; there was something about solving a mystery that really lit up my day – probably my innate thirst for knowledge. Even after an adult told me that it was stupid (at 8 years old, mind you) which prompted me to find a new dream, I still couldn’t help but feel drawn to any kind of whodunnit I could find. Enter Agatha Christie. I remember staying up until 2 in the morning, with a combination of too much fear and curiosity to go to sleep. In a way, it was me holding onto something I was certain I couldn’t have. Though, I eventually found that a mystery can be found anywhere if you look hard enough.

8. Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen

“The historian must have no country. —JOHN QUINCY ADAMS”

I read this book as a part of my Advanced Placement History Class in my junior year of high school. This was our textbook and whatever McGraw-Hill text we had in our classroom was used as reference. It was my formal introduction to the idea that nothing is black and white —not even historical events. It reminded me that there’s always more to something than what you read and heard, that there’s always something deeper beneath the surface…or at least in many cases of anything. It’s the reason I make sure to create well-rounded arguments when I respond and the reason I’m not so quick to speak on sensitive or controversial topics. If you’re trying to set the mood for an oncoming school year or just love knowing things as much as I do, this might be the direction to go.

9. Little Girl Fly Away by Gene Stone

‘Hickory, Dickory, Dock
The hands fell off the clock
Run from the man, and get away
My legs are gone, so I have to stay’

I vaguely recall picking this book at a used book sale, the spine coming apart and the front cover looking like someone had bitten it. It’s a retelling of the story of Ruth Finley, a woman who was struck by a dissociative disorder (after a series of childhood trauma) and had the entire world following her case with her stalker referred to as “The Poet”. In the end, the pain both emotionally and physically that had been inflicted on her had been caused by herself. It’s more a story than a textbook and it’s not particularly well written but she existed as did her story. There’s a lot of mixed reviews on this book – from people who were captivated by her story to people who believe that she was just super self involved and that there was nothing wrong with her. The latter is quite bothersome to me because the topic of mental health is almost never dealt with properly, and historically has never been which is a disservice to our fellow humans. Nevertheless, I found it haunting and a testament to the possibilities of what the mind is capable of. 
10. 1984 by George Orwell

“Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.”

As I got older and found myself on more liberal ground (not a development but rather a realization), I began taking sincere interest in Marxist theory. So naturally, when I began my expedition on it, Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 were the first places I hit. Now, I know in modern day America the words “communism” or “socialism” are generally taboo and being classified as one hurts your patriotism; however, I spent a great deal of my late high school and early college years researching and…it turns out that communism ≠ dystopia. I was intrigued. I wanted to know more so when I was 18, I read the Communist Manifesto (I’m pretty sure I have a copy somewhere) and I subsequently dove into more research into this misunderstood system. But I’m veering a bit off track and I think I’ll have to get into it on a different post. I think Big Brother is watching.

Side note: The Giver by Lois Lowry explores similar themes so I would consider reading that as well.

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As you can see, I don’t necessarily have a particular taste or preference in genre. I just like something coherent and engaging enough that I’d read it again. There’s an added bonus if I find it quotable. Anyway, the summer only has a few weeks left so you might as well start get used to reading pages-worth of words again.

And no, watching the movie doesn’t count. Teach yourself some discipline and pick up a book.

 

Adventures in #SCIENCE (w/ pics!)

I remember my first science fair. I was a shy, long-haired 6 year old who was dipping tea bags into fruit juice to see if they had iron (fun fact: if they got cloudy, they did). It was an experiment out of my ‘Science Experiments You Can Eat’ book, which I still use to this day. Though I don’t aspire to be a scientist now, until the first time I picked up a camera that was what I wanted to be when they asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I like to attribute this to my immense curiosity and desire to know everything – a trait that has only intensified as I grew older and the internet diversified.

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This filter is called “year 2000”

So once I got the phone call from my sister asking for help on my niece’s Kindergarten science project, you bet your socks I was going to get on that. As an hommage to my glory days (laugh) in elementary school science fair, we decided on a juice density project.

Originally, I pulled from pinterest and saw this “juice layering” project and I thought it would be cool for Soap to see juices layered over each other. I explained that the heavy juices would sink to the bottom and the lighter ones would stay to the top. So she guessed which juice would sink to the bottom in grape vs. apple and so on, and then tested that by pouring two juices in each cup. It was really neat to see where the juice was going to go after pouring it in. Click to see it in action. 

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Pouring juices.

After that initial experiment, we tried to layer the juices in a cup by density…to no avail. After much trial and error (including 2 days where I did it on my own), I couldn’t even figure out how to layer water on top of grape juice. So, I nixed that aspect of the project and had her focus on two juices in multiple cups. This turned out in our favor and simplified the project, which was to understand that some juices are heavier than others and some might mix together because they are the same density.

 

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There was a little struggle in getting her to connect all the dots when explaining her experiment. However, I think that might come with the territory when a child has never been introduced to the scientific process before and I’m not sure that she had. Honestly, I was kind of skeptical that a child should be required to go into the science fair in Kindergarten, especially if there had been no introduction to science experiments prior. She seemed to second-guess herself a lot and ended up not wanting to answer questions because she was scared to be wrong. So I did have fears that she would be too scared to talk to the judges but after some practice she seemed comfortable enough in her answers.

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Did she end up taking a place in the awards? No. But she was happy and sooo excited about the experiment. She told me about talking to the judges and after school, I went and took a picture of her with her board. I think all in all, it was a good experience and I would like it to lead to her becoming more curious about science. Perhaps, we’ll spend this summer working on a few more experiments or just exploring science in general. And maybe she’ll have a career in STEM one day…or maybe she won’t…but at the very least she will understand how important it is that girls become interested in STEM. That’s really all I could ask for.

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SCIENCE is COOOL!