Saturday, December 31, 2011

Never Stop For Gas In Mclean, Texas (road trip part I)

The entire journey began shakey. As life is unexpected and often suprising, something difficult and truly heartbreaking occured two days before I set out on a cross-country road trip. Leaving my sisters and mother after an incredible time together only made the packing up and heading West even harder. My heart is in Philadelphia. 

That said, this has been one of the most interesting and crazy journeys of my life and we've only been on it for twenty-four hours. 


This past week I've seen so many sunrises. Because either A) I'm trying to be all deep & girly, or B) I have insomnia and way too many anxious feelings and suffer from a deep inset of Italian and Puerto Rican neurosis. I'm going for the latter but pretending it's the former. 

I feel like I need to break up this road trip in a few chapters. Let's begin with chapter 1. 

Chapter One - Middle America, Now It's A Tragedy

People who think Pennsylvania isn't beautiful and full of nice landscape are obviously cracked out on something. Because driving through Lancaster and beyond proves otherwise. But then...ugh, THEN...once you pass out of Pennsylvania you start to hit not-so-pretty states. Like West Virginia. What the heck is West Virginia even good for people? Huh? I have nothing of use to blog about in regards to West Virginia.* 

*might be influenced by Philadelphian hostility, no offense to West Virginians

.. Alas, we truck onward through our first experience with a barren land (West Virginia). 


We hit our first obstacle. The music situation. My car doesn't have a tape deck, none of us have iPod hook ups and Jason is the only one who brought CDs. For those of you wondering, there are three of us on this road trip. Me, en route to my mainland Los Angeles after spending time with family in Philadelphia for Christmas. Then there's Jason, the token ginger, and Josh, the adventurous writer, who are the only two friends of mine crazy enough to agree to accompany me on a last-minute, spur of the moment road trip. 

Back to the obstacle--NO MUSIC. And goodness knows we aren't going to listen to the radio stations in West Virginia, nowhere Ohio and later Indiana. Oh no. Unfortunately, the majority of Jason's CDs are completely RUINED. We listened to his Tupac mix tonight and I'm pretty sure Tupac didn't have a stuttering problem, but eh, who's to say really?

All I can say is thank goodness for Five Iron Frenzy, some random mixes and wahh-lahh! My iPod Home I realized today I had stuffed away in my trunk. Music problem pretty much solved. 

Yesterday we trekked through Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and ended our travels for Day One right outside of St. Louis, Missouri. I managed to capture the Ohio sky sunset:


Not bad, Ohio. Not sure what else you got besides passionate  psychotic football fans, but your susnet wasn't too shabby. 

Can I just take a moment to say that it warms my heart when I look at the back of my car and see Harry Potter books strewn about?


When I'm feeling homesick or tired or cranky on this trip, I just take out my dear friend Harry and it instantly makes me feel better. 

* * * 

We made it to Indiana where we met up with Josh's good friend from college--Jacob. Jacob lives in Indiana and took us out to dinner in Indianapolis. Y'all, I was pleasantly surprised with this little city. I probably sound so pretentious but I just honestly never really thought about Indiana as a state let alone any cities within it, but Indianapolis is home to a cozy Cajun restaurant where we had dinner and it was super nice. Not only was it delicious, but there were a plethora of attractive hipster men. What's better than cute hipsters serving me Cajun rice and chicken? Um, NOTHING!!! It was awesome.


Cute little downtown. 


Wouldn't you love a cute, shaggy-haired, "I definitely listen to Fleet Foxes and journal in a Moleskin and probably ride a bike to work" guy serving this to you? I sure did!

After parting ways with kind Jacob, we were back on the road! Ugh. At this point, my body began screaming for a bed. This is where the travels started to get interesting. We had our first encounter with zombies. 

Seriously, I swear the people at the random Illinois travel stations were zombies. 

Google image "Illinois Zombies"




Ugh I so agree. 

Then we needed something to entertain us, so we turned on the radio station and it was a legit SHERLOCK HOLMES SHOW. It was raining, there was wind, we were driving away from the scary Illinois zombies down a dark road listening to Sherlock Holmes. It was just one of those moments where I had to pause and think, "Yes, this is happening in my life right now."

I wish I could say after we settled in our hotel and enjoyed a well-rested night of sleep Chapter One came to a close. But alas, it continued. We awoke, enjoyed our free breakfast courtesy of the lovely Comfort Inn, and were back on the ROAD!!! YEEHAW. 

Here's a little collage I made of Day Two on the Road, still entitled "Middle America, Now It's A Tragedy."


Right there you have my New Years dinner...McDonald's..., the long road somewhere in Missouri, the Oklahoma sunset and me enjoying wondering if we were going to encounter any more Zombies. Yikes. 
Today we traveled through Missouri, Oklahoma and are finally in Texas. I'm going to skip basically everything because I need to tell you about Chapter Two, entitled:

Chapter Two - Never Stop For Gas In Mclean...EVER.

I learned one thing from this afternoon and that is basically, I never want to live in Middle America. But also, the people are really nice, but I still don't think I could do it. Props to you all who do live in Middle America, but the long roads alone would drive me crazy. I NEED COASTS. I'm a coast kinda gal. 

Anyway. All day we drove...the sounds of Hanson, Tupac, Yellowcard, Mumford, Nelly, T-Swift.....basically, the most random songs in the entire world, accompanied our ears. Things were going pretty well until we hit...

TEXAS.

As if the wind wasn't terrible enough (I could literally feel my car swerving every which way and tumbleweeds kept rushing past us...yes, actual tumble-freaking-weeds) the part of Texas you enter straight from Oklahoma is one crazy place. It was around 8pm when we started to need gas. At least, I think it was around this time. I'm not really sure since my phone is on Philadelphia time still as is my car and my laptop is California time. Anyway, at some point at nighttime we entered a wormhole. 

I AM NOT JOKING.


google image: wormhole.

Not only were we Rick Rolled on the Texas radio station, but I'm pretty sure we traveled back in time to about 1971. As I stated before, we needed gas. The nearest exit was Mclean...oh Lord, if I had known what awaited us in Mclean I would have braved the few more miles until the next town. 

We were hopeful as we exited the freeway, but it all went downhill from there. First of all, Mclean is a GHOST TOWN. This became extremely evident extremely fast. I felt the hair on the back of my neck prickle and my breath quickened to a sharp pace--I was nervous. I felt relief wash over me as we spotted a gas station a bit ways up the road but I couldn't help the eery feeling that had settled deep into the pit of my stomach. I had never seen so many abandoned buildings. This was New Years Eve! Shouldn't there be some sign of life? But all I could see as we crept down the vacant street were empty building after empty building. This place was the definition of a ghost town. I was feeling nervous but when I saw the creepy motel on our left, I began to feel genuine fear. It was straight out of "Psycho" - I'm pretty sure Norman Bates was hanging around in there somewhere. Of course Jason and Josh vowed to visit the motel on the way back from gas, but I just cringed...this was not a normal town.

We reached the gas station to find that non of the pumps worked. We looked at each other and agreed silently it probably wasn't a good idea to venture into the gas station to ask where the nearest place was. We immediately turned around in the car and headed to where we thought was the highway, but of course we had to pass that terrifying motel. I'm telling you it was this:


Actually, that looks nicer. Jason pulled my car into the empty lot. My heart was racing as the guys jumped out of the car, each filming and documenting the utter sketchiness of it all. I opened my door to loud gusts of wind and immediately screamed. I couldn't help it--it was ominously empty. There wasn't a car in the lot save for the owner's parked by the office. The wind was whipping at speeds that made my hair dance around my face, Josh and Jason were off running around and filming and I was having a near meltdown at the impending doom. Plus, we were running out of gas and FAST. When it became too scary, the guys jumped back in the car and I yelled for Jason to floor it out of there. 

And there it was - the gas light. By now I was practically hyperventilating. What were we going to do if we broke down on the Texas highway with no cellphone service and no internet? My GPS wasn't working, our phones were as good as gone and the wind was picking up speeds. The nearest town was twelve miles away and I prayed the entire ride there. We thankfully made it just as I was about to cry. There was only one gas station and we found it and I nearly kissed the nozzles! My heart finally returned to a normal pace. I'd never been so happy to be at a run-down gas station in a town with a population of about 500 people. My favorite interaction of the night:

Jason: (To gas station man) Is there any fast food around here?
Man: There ain't nothing around here.


Yep, exactly.

What a night. Now I sit here, reflecting over this last year in a random Texas city. Tomorrow we drive to Vegas and then to Los Angeles. I am so grateful I am experiencing all of this. I am so thankful and grateful to God. I can't adequately express all that is going on in my heart and head right now. So much has happened this past week. It's been a really difficult week, emotionally and spiritually. Dealing with the death of a person - a beautiful and young person - is always difficult but when it is truly unexpected it is so hard. I know God is faithful and works everything together for His good, but sometimes I can't help but feel so confused and want to ask Why? Why God? I am on this crazy adventure and all I can think about is being home with my sisters, with the people I love...all I can think about is my friends, new and old...and I wonder. Life really is just one crazy road trip adventure. It could end at any minute, we have no idea which exit we get off. We need to radically live life. It's so easy to say, "Live everyday as if it were your last" or to say things like "We never know what's going to happen, no day is guaranteed" but do we truly understand this? If we did, we would live such different lives.

I pray we can each take our life and appreciate every stop - every strange town, every bump in the road, every sunset and sunrise. I don't care if it's cliche to say those things. Each sunrise and sunset is A GIFT. A precious, fleeting, beautiful gift and we need to cherish it. I'm not big on New Years resolutions. To be frank, I think they're dumb. But that is my life resolution--to just be so grateful for every moment I have here, to truly praise God in every single season. We can't worry about the future and stress out. God doesn't want that for us. I don't think we want that for us. And as my dear friend JK Rowling says, 

"There was no point in worrying yet... what would come, would come... and he would have to meet it when it did."

Too true Miss Rowling. Too true. 


But as the author of life says it best:


“I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:5

Happy New Year's. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

i'd like to stay here a little longer

Home is such an interesting place. I basically sum it up in a quote from Juno:

"I never realize how much I like being home unless I've been somewhere really different for a while."

Amen sistah friend! It's so true. This was such a whirlwind trip home, the kind of trip that was more of a taste and just leaves me feeling really grateful but also sad. I haven't had enough of Philadelphia and its gray skies and the smell of Wawa coffee. I haven't had enough of waking up to my mom barging into my room in the morning chattering happily about something, haven't had enough of yelling at my sisters and then cuddling with them five minutes later. Haven't had enough of the hysterical laughter and chaos of my house that holds four crazy women. Home is everything good and real in my heart but I know it's just a place to visit and I think that's why I love it so much.

Me, Christina, Rebecca and my mom on Christmas morning in a pose that is less of who we are (collected, posed, elegant). This is much more close to the dynamic and essence of my family:


 I have no idea what my mom said to make us look like...well like that. But I love it. 

This is probably my favorite:


We look so deceptively calm and collected! BWHA! We cray. 


 I arrived Christmas morning and it has been nonstop ever since. I want to stay so much longer, but at the same time I am so excited for this new year. So much has happened not only this year but specifically these last few months. It's been crazy! I can't wait to head back to Los Angeles. I can't wait to start my new job at PARAMOUNT STUDIOS!!! So exciting! I can't wait to have a car. God has been blessing me left and right and my whole entire life. I'm in awe. 

There is so much happening in my heart!!! Each day God is growing me and changing me. I would just like to stay here a little longer, but I know it's time to head back and get going on this whole life thing. No matter how much I want to just hang out with my friends and family here, I know God has different plans. But can I just say how wonderful it's been to hang with my cat, my family and see my friends?


 The Worrel basement AKA headquarters AKA the greatest place to yell, laugh, be highly vulgar and wonderful. 


 Laura, my dumpling. I didn't get a picture of Mel and Jeane. But I spent time with them too and it was amazing!!!!!!!!! I DON'T WANNA GO YET. 


 Voldemort Kitty. Love ya boy.

Tomorrow I road trip from Philadelphia to Los Angeles with two of my guy friends....ADVENTURE AWAITS! You best believe there's going to be a major blog post in the future on what shenanigans we get ourselves into. Good. Ness. 

I hope everyone had a blessed holiday. For me what I learned most being home is how important loving my family and friends and people is. Life is SO fleeting - I am so thankful this Earth isn't my home. We can't take each day for granted but instead seize each day as a new opportunity, each morning as a breath of the freshest air from God and say, "Lord, what do you have for me today?" Each day I open my eyes and am in the presence of God is enough. We honestly have no idea how long we'll be here. Not to get all deep and stuff, but it's really true. We MUST think about the bigger things in life, the bigger picture -- we must love others, we must have our hearts broken for the things God's heart breaks for. 

We must also know that even if we don't have familial love and perfect community on Earth, that's okay. Because the Creator of the Universe gives us perfect love, a love so unnatural that it can't be from Earth. It heals and cleanses and takes away the darkest loneliness humans feel. And it isn't from Earth. It's a Heavenly love that never ceases to amaze me. That has been so comforting over the Holidays. The Holidays aren't easy....they bring up pain and loss over the years and sometimes they aren't all cheery and warm. I want so desperately for my life to be like It's A Wonderful Life or Love, Actually but obviously that's dumb and not real. Obviously in this world we suffer and experience loss. But remembering the true meaning of Christmas and of life - that a Savior was born to the world...I just...it is SO beautiful. It is healing. I am so grateful for the love of God. I am so grateful to see Christ shine through people. What a miracle. What a gift! 

I'm sure I'l reflect over the year in another blog, but for now I just sit here in awe of the Lord and my prayer is to continually grow closer to Him. Because honestly, bringing glory to His name is all that matters. 






Saturday, December 24, 2011

there's a lot to shout about

What else is there to do after a terrible night of sleep besides make cinnamon pancakes and blog?


Sufjan's Christmas album is playing, my favorite candle is lit and I am feeling immeasurable peace. 
Can I just say how much I love Sufjan Stevens and his Christmas album? It's magical, there is simply no other way to describe it. Oh Sufjan how I love you! 

My heart was so anxious last night. I woke up at two am, nervous and unsettled and feeling sick. Do you ever wake up feeling like that? It's pretty much the worst. I tried falling back asleep, but it was impossible. This is why I should never stay awake past two AM - ONLINE SHOPPING. 


I may or may not have purchased these boots from Urban at 4am. In my defense, they were on sale. Not in my defense: I do not have much of a guard up at 4am. 

Although I am probably going to regret not sleeping in a few hours, I did decide to brave the early morning cold and see this incredible Christmas Eve sunrise from my rooftop:


Oh Los Angeles, you are still so strange to me. You're like a crush that started off as something fun and new and then turned quickly serious. You're no longer just something I can shrug off--you're becoming more and more of a home everyday and while it is amazing it is so scary. 

I can't believe it's already Christmas Eve. I can't believe my heart is so full, I can't believe how much can change in a year. I know it's completely cliche to reflect during the holidays, but I can't help it. I think back to where I was last Christmas. I had no idea where my life was going (um, I still don't). I had just graduated NYU. I was in a relationship. I saw my life going in a completely different direction--moving to LA hadn't even been a real thought yet, just a faint little knock-knock in the back of my mind. 

I know I sound like a broken record, but I can't express how amazed I am by the Lord!! I know, I KNOW I SAY IT A LOT Y'ALL. But I think back to when Chanelle and I first moved here. I literally had almost nothing. No job, no car, no apartment. Just my faith in the Lord and a little (teeeny) bit of money I'd saved up. It felt less like a leap of faith and more like a blind plummet into the strange unknown. For weeks and weeks upon first moving here I cried everyday. I felt loneliness like I have never experienced. I prayed every single day for community, for peace, for direction. I am just so overwhelmed with love for Jesus Christ. I don't deserve any of the blessings in my life. I am weak, I am a sinner, I am constantly messing up...I think of one of my favorite songs, "Come Thou Fount" and my favorite line - Bind my wandering heart to Thee. 

Yes! Lord, bind my heart to You! Why, oh WHY do I constantly stray away from you? Why am I "prone to wander"? It's so ridiculous. I should be falling on my knees every single day. As I sit here on Christmas Eve morning, I just can't help but feel like crying when I think about the baby Jesus in his manger. Oh that beautiful day!! 

"But as [Joseph] considered these thing, behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call Him name Jesus, for He will save His people from sin." Matthew 1:20-21

This gives me chills. For He will save His people from sin. Oh my heart!! One of my favorite lyrics in Relient K's "I Celebrate The Day"

You were born so I might really live. 

This past year has been crazy, but it all comes back to the day I met Jesus Christ. When I was sixteen, unsure of everything, and I sat in a field at nighttime at Lake Saranac and I felt that pull on my heart, like there was something more to life. And I knew in that moment that my life would never be the same. And it hasn't - walking with Jesus is the opposite of boring. It is constantly exciting and scary and terrifying and wonderful. 

Of course, it's not easy. I don't read my bible as much as I want to. I grow impatient, I hurt the ones I love...but I am constantly growing and praying. That is what is so beautiful about the Grace of Jesus. I don't have to be perfect, God wants me just as I am. Goodness. That is the greatest gift of all. I pray that everyone knows this gift. 

Merry Christmas Eve! 




Friday, December 23, 2011

pretty Asian girls are the bane of my existence (and other ramblings while I wait for my laundry to finish)

Pretty Asian girls have this amazing power to make me feel like the bulliest bull of a girl. Especially when they creep up in unsuspecting places like, let's say, 7-freaking-Eleven. Can I just say that when I walk into  7-Eleven, I believe I have the right to show up as frumpy and "I just rolled out of bed" as I want? It's totally unfair to be standing in line, my hair askew, just trying to buy my way overpriced laundry detergent because I'm too lazy to walk to the grocery store, and come face to face with a pretty Asian girl with an amazing body. Oh, how I envy you! You, with your beautiful hair and work-out clothes and buying two large water bottles! I glare at my own purchases--cheap laundry detergent and 2-for-1 pretzels and I immediately wonder how my life got to this.


***

I just think that life would be a little better if we all just cuddled in a warm heap of friendship like they do in Where The Wild Things Are.
Which brings me to my next point: If you don't like cuddling, I just don't know if I can trust you. Cuddling is the single greatest friendship thing in the entire world! See, this is why I need a kitten. I was thinking about it the other night as I lay in bed, dozing in and out of consciousness. I just need a kitten to cuddle with me. DON'T JUDGE I DON'T CARE IF I'M A CAT LADY IT IS WHAT IT IS.


  Google image: Cat Lady. OF COURSE A PRETTY ASIAN WOMAN. ....I'm cursed.

**

Y'all, I don't know what to do about my love of vulgar rap. I think if someone were to look at my Spotify history, they would think I was on crack. I go from listening to Sufjan to Nicki Minaj and Childish Gambino. I don't know what to do with myself :-/ Which brings me to my next point:

I just think Nicki Minaj would throw me the most bangin' bachelorette party ever. I think there'd definitely be a lot of sparkles, crazy dancing and wigs. WHAT ELSE WOULD A GAL WANT IN HER BACHELORETTE PARTY?!

* *

I think, if I could just levitate a half inch off the ground, my life would be so much easier. Especially since I don't have a car. It'd be so nice to just glide everywhere, but it looks like I'm actually walking.

* * *

Well, my laundry is done.


Monday, December 19, 2011

stop it booty! (the blessing and the curse of LOVING TO DANCE ALL THE TIME)

I am in a constant battle of whether to refrain from dancing or not. It's pretty stressful. I actually have no control over my limbs when I hear a beat come on - this is how it has been my entire life. I think it's pretty safe to say, and I believe my friends would agree, that I am the opposite of a wallflower. Of course, I'd love to think of myself as that delicate, ethereal creature that floats into a party and the sea of bodies part and I'm all big-eyed and all the guys in the room are like, "Oooh, who's that, she's so quiet and beautiful and mysterious, SHE'S SO COOL!" And I'm wearing tights and like, a flower headband......

Basically this:


Aloof, but not TOO aloof where people wonder if I have a vague social disability....Quiet, cool, a walkman in my purse with an old CD of The Smiths....

I digress.

So we can all agree that in my head I wish I was the aforementioned person, but in actuality I am this person:


Elaine, I completely feel you homegirl.

I like to think of my personality as endearing rather than annoying. I prefer to not know what other people think because then I will just want to hole myself up in my bedroom and watch Arrested Development all night wondering if I'm the Buster of my own family....in which case, it might be kind of cool to have a hook for a hand....

UGH I DIGRESS AGAIN.

I know dancing is supposed to be something you do in a particular setting...at a wedding reception, in a club or bar, with friends....but sometimes IT'S REALLY HARD NOT TO DO IT. Maybe it's my Puerto Rican genes. Maybe it's my dramatic nature. Maybe it's the fact that it is SO FUN. All I'm saying is, I think spontaneous dancing should occur more often and be totally normal. I'm not talking this flash-mob business. Flash mobs are like the first season of Glee. It started out so good and had so much potential and then all of a sudden everyone was doing it and it got real tacky and real weird REAL fast. (So many people are glaring at me right now. WELL GLARE AWAY!)

I just think I have the right to do the worm in the middle of work if a good song comes on and NOT be classified as a psycho. Also, if anyone reading this feels similar, I encourage us to not over analyze ourselves. For instance, I have this terrible habit of having a really great time somewhere, coming home, laying in bed and freaking out because I suddenly think all these bizarre thoughts like, "EVERYONE THINKS I'M OBNOXIOUS DAMMIT WHY DIDNT I JUST SIT ON THE COUCH AND MAKE MY EYES BIG AND GIGGLE QUIETLY? WHY DID I HAVE TO DO MY 'CREEPY OLD MAN DANCE' AND PRETEND TO SMOKE A CIGARETTE AND CALL EVERYONE A BIG LUG?'"

I know I can't be the only one who does this. Obviously, I think self-awareness is important. And I think everyone naturally over-analyzes their actions. I just think we shouldn't beat ourselves up over it, yanno? And if you're reading this and you can relate, just know I TOTALLY support talking in strange voices and pretending to smoke cigars. Pretend puff away.

So this is to all my homies out there who have no control over your limbs once you hear that song come on. And yes, to all you haters, we might be a bit obnoxious. But can I just say how freaking AWESOME my wedding reception is going to be? There will be no tables. Just one giant dance floor and everyone will have to eat their meal while dancing. And if you stop I throw you out because I'll be the bride and I CAN!

On that note, I'm going to go smell my delicious Yankee candle and listen to Nicki Minaj.



I see you girl.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Awesome Women You Should Know - a new series on the blog!

I have never done a series on my blog before. I think I tried to do one with my old tumblr, but the need to consistently maintain a specific theme in a series threw me off and I quickly disregarded it. But for the past month, there seems to have been one recurring thing in my heart/mind: Inspiring Women. There are tons of women in both my ideal career industry and also outside of my own interests that daily inspire me and encourage me in my own journey. And I decided, why not blog about them?! This blog is a little window to the inside of my mind and heart, and I want to include inspirations on here. 

So wahh-lahh! Here it is. The first in my new series entitled, "Awesome Women You Should Know." Enjoy!

* * *

Jasmine Star & Bianca Olthoff 

Jasmine Star


Bianca Olthoff


Y'all, I can't even tell you how much these twin sisters have been such a source of inspiration for me over the past year. I first discovered Jasmine Star through my love of wedding photography blogs. I KNOW, I KNOW! I'm a 22 year old single Christian girl, wedding photography blogs are like, DANGEROUS. But will anyone believe me if I say I genuinely love them for the photos and the representation of love they exhibit? It's true! They're great. And what's SUPER great about Jasmine's blog is it's more than just about the weddings she shoots. It's about her life and her passion for her work and it is FUNNY. Anyway, I came upon her blog through another wedding photography blog I follow, and I soon discovered she is one of the most well-respected and well-known wedding photographers in the world! Through becoming a huge fan of her blog and following her on twitter, I also then discovered she has a twin sister who is equally as funny, smart AND inspiring! Bianca's blog is incredible. Each post raises difficult and important questions, while still managing to be funny and easily relatable. Bianca also works for the A21 Campaign, an organization dedicated to stopping human trafficking. PLEASE check out their site here: The A21 Campaign.

 These sisters are superstars. AND they're Puerto Rican! I know, that is probably a small detail to some people, but for me it was so encouraging. As a Puerto Rican woman myself, I can't help but be so excited about this. Here are two gorgeous, funny, intelligent, and talented Puerto Rican women have aren't afraid to use the voices God gave them. Y'all, I could go on and on about why I love them. The list is endless. But I'll try to keep it concise. For so much of my life, I always felt like the opposite of what society told me to be as a woman. You know those gentle, delicate, ingenue types that are just super good at all things womanly? That is not me. And for awhile, I thought something was wrong with me. But seeing these sisters who are so REAL - that's what I love and admire about them most. They keep it real. They are open. And they showed me you CAN love God, be beautiful, go after your dreams, be funny and you don't HAVE to be perfect. No one is perfect. But celebrating who you are in this life, the life God has given you and you only - that is true beauty. 

My two favorite quotes from Jasmine's promotional video:
"If I've learned one thing, it's to take who I am and embrace it, all of it, and celebrate it."

"I've failed a lot more than I've ever succeeded. I think that's the way life works. You fail a lot more. And the more you fail, the more you'll succeed. So here's to many more failures."

OOOOH girl, PREACH!!! 

And from Bianca's video:
"In moments when things seemed impossible, things were always possible through God."

"I realized that everything I have done and everything that has been done to me, for me or against me has been for a purpose. God has done everything in my life for a purpose."

Chills. Beautiful. SO. REAL. 

I'm not a photographer and I'm not an amazing speaker. I'm in a completely different phase of life than both Bianca and Jasmine, and yet I relate SO much to what they share. Maybe it's this unspoken connection between really loud, crazy, emotional Puerto Rican women? But seriously, I think their transparency is really admirable. Especially about the issue of struggling with their weight growing up - this is one of the things I relate most to. Weight has been a struggle of mine my whole life and is a huge part of my testimony. I know I've blogged about it before, but anyone who struggles with weight will tell you how encouraging it is to hear other people's stories. For so long my weight DEFINED me. I would look in the mirror and I wouldn't see a person and I wouldn't find my identity in Christ - I would see WEIGHT. And it glared at me and made me feel worthless. Overcoming these lies has changed my life, and seeing two other women go through something similar and overcome it and still think about it and TALK about it honestly? It's amazing and I feel like more women should be honest. You know those blogs out there that only show the glossy parts of someone's life and actually just make you feel really crappy about your own because you're like, DANG! how come MY hair doesn't look that good when I'm crafting paper lanterns and also, WHY DO I NEVER CRAFT PAPER LANTERNS OR HAVE THE DESIRE TO? When I read Jasmine's or Bianca's blog, it's pretty much the exact opposite effect. I see real life. I see two successful, beautiful women who make it WORK. Who have taken life and decided to get the most out of it. Who celebrate their own journey. Who don't find their identity in shallow things. 

Which brings me to another point I love about them- they are both married but don't find their identity in their husband. I LOVE this! They both have careers and are so, SO passionate about their work and God! I feel like so often, even though I'm only 22, I feel a distinct pressure in the Christian community to become a wife and homemaker SOON and spend all day finding recipes on Pinterest. But that's not the story God is writing for me right now. It is okay that I packed up a suitcase and moved to Los Angeles a few months ago with literally nothing but my faith in God and my dreams. It is okay that I am PURSUING those dreams of writing and performing, and that I want to have a career and that I want to go to graduate school. And it is even MORE okay to want all of this and to want to be married one day and that I shouldn't find my identity in anything earthly. They also both love their families so much and I can relate to that--I love my family more than anything. The way my sisters and I can make each other literally laugh until we cry, the outbursts of crazy dancing, the way it's hard to get a word in over one another, but I wouldn't trade it for anything--family is so important and I love how they both share this on their blogs. 

Listen, it's no secret that I am a lover of words. Ever since I was a little girl, I have read words and been in love with stories. Words mean so much to me. And women like Jasmine and Bianca who use the words God put inside of them? It's freaking awesome, y'all. I believe so strongly we can't waste these words! We each have our own distinct, wonderfully unique, powerful voice that is a gift from God. We need to learn to use them and to not be afraid. 

So thank you Jasmine and Bianca. For being examples of the kind of woman I hope to be. A woman who is strong and fearless and real. Because that is inspiring. 


***


Monday, December 12, 2011

the diary of a stressed out kid & a still stressed out kind-of adult


Things that gave me major anxiety-induced heart palpitations as a child & pretty much still do now.
* * *

Nosebleeds
If you don't suffer from nosebleeds you are basically one of the luckiest people in the world. Do you know what it's like to have had consistent nosebleeds your entire life? Terrible! I have to always make sure I have tissues and you can sense it--you can literally feel it in your nose when it's coming. Ugh, it's the worst. Also, when you're in class, you have to make sure you sit near the door if a nosebleed should befall you in the MIDDLE of said class. That has happened before and let me tell you, it's pretty embarrassing. Especially in 8th grade science class. I had the creepiest, meanest, most temperamental science teacher and literally used to freak the heck out thinking of the scenario of a nosebleed happening. Talk about stress for a thirteen year old! Guys, I was a mess. Imagine me, 13 years old. Braces. Thinking black eyeliner looked good without mascara or basically any other makeup products on my face. Crazy, curly hair. My eyes darting to the door as I flare my nostrils in anticipation of the impending doom. I can't concentrate on science--I don't even know what 8th grade science entails. All I know is my heart is racing for an entire 80 minutes because I'm worrying so much about my exit should a nosebleed occur.

8th grade was a traumatic year.

Going to the bathroom in the middle of church
Ugh, this is the WORST!!!! I'm plagued with a small bladder. I've even had the nickname, "Tiny Tank" given to me at one point in my life. Too much information? YIKES! But seriously. I have to pee ALL. THE. TIME. I like to think of it as both my blessing and my curse. The blessing part I'm still waiting on (although, it has helped me to have a knowledge of the best public restrooms out there) but I definitely understand the "cursed" part. This tiny bladder issue has produced in me a deep-seeded fear of sitting in the middle of a row of seats...ESPECIALLY AT CHURCH! Just imagine sitting there in the middle of an AMAZING message but you can't concentrate because you're afraid you're going to throw up from how badly you have to pee. Your eyes dart down the aisle at all the comfy, squished people enjoying the message. You think about what the Pastor will think about you when he sees you sneaking off in the middle of the message (I'm pretty sure he doesn't notice, but still IT'S THE FEAR!) You think about how even though you're at church and no one is supposed to judge you THEY ARE ALL GOING TO JUDGE THE GIRL WHO FLEES THE ROOM BECAUSE SHE HAS TO PEE. I always try my best to sit at the end of the aisle so if it comes to it, I can just sneak away. A rough deal guys.

Memories of the middle school bus
It's kind of like that scene in "Sixteen Candles" when Molly Ringwald still has to take the dreaded bus home from school, except I was the frightened little girl huddled in the corner and not the cool sixteen year old that Molly Ringwald was. In middle school, I was the only kid at my bus stop. On the way home it was great, because the awesome bus driver used to just drop me off right in front of my house. We had a little camaraderie, me and that bus driver. He was a dumpling of a man. But anyways. Ask my mom or sisters--I used to have panic attacks in the morning. Not only was I the only kid at my bus stop, BUT I WAS THE LAST BUS STOP GUYS. Do you know the horror?!!? The horror and fright of getting on a completely packed bus stop and frantically praying that there is an empty seat somewhere very close to the front of the bus? This was back in middle school when I didn't have good friends yet and my "best friend" wouldn't save me a seat and quell my anxiety. This seat anxiety carried over into high school on the first full day of school every year when we had to figure out where to seat at lunch. Secretly I LOVED the assigned seating in middle school in the cafeteria because, guess what? NO STRESS! Who cares if I didn't sit with my friends? At least I had a designated seat. I could even take my time down to lunch because I knew I had a seat waiting. Ahhh, brilliance.



* * *
It's funny to think of how I was such a stressed out kid, and how I still get pretty anxious. At least now I can handle it a little better. And at least I don't have to take the schoolbus anymore, although the memories still haunt me. *shudders*

* * *






Saturday, December 10, 2011

stuff yo face at a brisk pace....a how-to guide on eating & walking for the Gal on the Go


Google image search for "gal on the go" aka demon possessed looking Barbies with poofy hair. YIKES!

Going to college in a busy and eclectic city like New York definitely taught me some survival skills. Besides the basic "Don't make eye contact with anyone on the subway after 2am if you're by yourself" skill, I learned to eat while walking at a rapid pace. In general, New York City moves FAST. Everyone is on a mission. Everyone's late for a meeting and everyone has their own agenda. You either sink or swim. If you sink, you'll probably end up trampled or yelled at by angry New Yorkers. So it's best to just go with the flow and learn to move quickly.

During my years as a New York University undergraduate, I had a really busy schedule like most undergrads. I would go to class most of the day, and then have to run to work with only a few minutes in between, and then after that probably sprint to rehearsal. It was a hectic and wonderful three and a half years. Probably the most valuable skill I learned at NYU was the art of eating and walking and it's really helped me a lot in life, especially now in LA that I don't have a car and walk basically everywhere. I'm trying to bring it over to the West Coast to these people who like to "sit down and eat"--BAH! What is this blasphemy of enjoying a meal with friends in a cozy, relaxed setting? COME ON! (shake my head, shake my head). I think Los Angeles needs some good old-fashioned East Coast neurosis. (did I properly use that? do I even care? NO! take that for NYC attitude).

Here's a little how-to guide on the art of eating and walking. You may be asking yourself, "Nina, how are you in any position to create a guide?" Well guys, I'm pretty much an expert on both eating and walking since I do both more than any other thing, so I'd say I'm pretty darn qualified. 

1. Start Small
Like anything, you can't just start something new and go straight to the Olympics. Unless you're not human, in which case I WANT TO BE FRIENDS WITH YOU. But it's not like I started out eating full steak dinners while navigating Union Square. I'm not saying I NEVER did that* but you have to work your way up to the top. Start with simplicity, like breakfast bars or peanutbutter & jelly sandwiches. They aren't messy and easy to put in your schoolbag or purse. 

*I never did that

2. Multi-task
Before you get to the top level of eating and walking, you need to mix it up. So you're getting really good at eating Clif bars and bagels while rushing to catch the bus. Try adding in a drink to the mix. It seems pretty simple, but it's actually a challenge! For instance, even an old veteran like me had trouble whilst walking yesterday, trying to balance my venti iced coffee and sandwich: 

Once you conquer what I've just made up as the "Sip & Eat" you are ready to move onto the final level.

3. Eating full out meals without choking and/or looking deranged
This is my favorite. It's that moment in any great eater-walker's life when you eat full-out meals while walking. At NYU, I managed to eat delicious salads while walking to class or home or work. Sure, I got a few stares, but who got the last laugh?! I DID! And so did my belly! So BOO-YA. But seriously, after you eat your first meal on the go, you'll feel such a sense of empowerment you'll wonder, "Why don't I do this ALL the time?!"

So go on little grasshoppers--go out into the world and amaze them with your mobile eating skills!!!!!!!!!






Thursday, December 8, 2011

I'm single and ready to.......DO THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE OF MINGLE I JUST WANNA CUDDLE UNDER MY BLANKET AND READ HARRY POTTER

I don't care if you are the smartest, most independent, wittiest girl out there--we all fall short sometimes. And we all trick ourselves into thinking guys are interested in us when they plainly aren't. Why does this happen? It's bizarre! It's amazing! IT NEEDS TO STOP. Listen, I'm not in any way shape or form trying to write an advice column for single ladies. That's what Erin Foster over at HelloGiggles Single Girls Guide is for. (It's a really awesome series & really practical and funny and honest and brutal. Love it) I'm just writing from a place that I know of - myself. Today it hit me....I constantly talk about how I don't need a man to make me happy, how I'm not one of those girls who reads too deeply into things and gets ahead of myself--but guys, I really am. I don't care if I don't throw myself at men or whatever, I can still think in ways that are completely ridiculous. I'm just doing it on a smaller scale. 

I know we've heard it thousands of times before: If a guy likes you, you'll know it. He'll ask you out. He'll make it happen. Didn't we learn anything from Gigi?


Oh Lord, what a cringe-worthy moment! ECH! 

Why is it so easy to trick ourselves into thinking someone likes us? Or why is it so easy to see through a specific lens? It's so frustrating, on both ends. I've been on the other end too, where someone thinks you like them and you just want to grab them by the collar and be like come on DUDE get with it. If I liked you, I would have told you. But it sucks even more to be on the other end and you know what's the worst? When you have that a-ha! moment. That moment when you wake up and realize, "Gosh. I'm not special to him at all. What the HECK have I been thinking?"

But it's also a really good moment. It's healthy. It needs to come sooner. 

Sadly, friends don't really help us out here. More often than not our friends are the ones who plant these little seeds in our brain. In college, I was convinced this one guy liked me only because all of my friends kept telling me he did. I didn't even originally like him, but because I thought he liked me, THEN I started to like him. Yes, that's probably messed up, but I'm just being honest guys, goodness. And it grew to me having actual feelings toward him and guess what happened? NOTHING. He got a girlfriend and I got a nice dose of a reality check. I just wonder what would happen if friends were honest with one another. 

This is how it usually goes:
Girl 1: I think BobbyJohn likes me. He keeps flirting with me. 
Girl 2: Like how?
Girl 1: He held the door open for me on the way into class.
Girl 2: Oh my GOSH he has a crush on you. Ask him to hang out, and then you all can start dating, oh my gosh you'll be so cute together!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HE LOVES YOU!!!!!**

**might be a bit dramatized

But what if it went like this?

Girl 1: I think BobbyJohn likes me. He keeps flirting with me.
Girl 2: Like how?
Girl1: He held the door open for me on the way into class.
Girl 2: That's not flirting, that's being polite. Did he ask you for your number?
Girl 1: No....but he did say he likes numbers.....
Girl 2: Did he ask you to go to dinner or the movies?
Girl 1: No but we talk about movies.
Girl 2: Just give it time. If he likes you, he'll make a move. In the meantime, don't think about it. Let's go watch Lord of the Rings and eat beef jerky!**

**might be influenced by the beef jerky I just randomly ate and my natural love for hobbits

But seriously. I'm ashamed to admit I have been that friend. That friend that thinks one thought along the lines of, "He definitely doesn't like you" but instead my mouth says, "Who knows! Pray about it! You never know what God can do!"

UGH! That's the worst! I even made it all Christian-y. All I'm saying is as friends and women, we should help one another out. And even our guy friends, you know? It's not just a woman thing. I don't know. All I'm saying is, let's stop falling into the trap of convincing ourselves someone thinks we're special. WE ALREADY ARE SPECIAL. Because God created each of us in a different way. And wonderful and funny and unique. And if that adorable guy who longboards to work and reads Tolstoy doesn't think so, then he's probably (DEFINITELY) not the one. So I wouldn't panic. 

I have no idea where this post even came from. Some of it was sparked by a conversation I had with Chanelle the other day about how girls just read into things way too deeply. It was also sparked from a few articles I read and just personal reflection. I'm not saying all girls are crazy. Well actually, girls are crazy. No, PEOPLE are crazy, so that's an entirely different issue. I'm just saying we need to start loving ourselves enough to know that we really are worth God's best and we need to JUST CHILL THE FREAK OUT. Enjoy whatever season you are in RIGHT NOW. Life is so amazing guys. I don't want to waste this time wishing some guy I hardly even know will ask me out, or if there is even a guy out there for me. I just want to each day wake up and thank God that I am breathing and ask the question, "What do you have for me today? What now Lord?" That's how I want to live my life. Because that's the most exciting.