Wednesday, August 29, 2012

IDIOT.

Hey ya little jambalayas. 

Do you think that pet name works? Lately I've really been into trying new endearments. Like "ya little dumpling" or "ya big lug" but something tells me "little jambalayas" is just a little too weird. Wonk wonk.

Anyway - 

I realized something today. Had a revelation, if you will, while I was working. Beneath my sheer exhaustion and GREAT hair (I kid) and thinning patience at work, I realized I am a complete and bona-fide idiot. 

Did I already say "wonk wonk?" Well I'm going to say it again. WONK WONK.

I already blogged last post about how I'm a hypocrite. Now I'm going to blog about how I'm an idiot. So for anyone just joining me, PLEASE DON'T THINK ALL MY BLOGS ARE JUST ABOUT HATING ON MYSELF. That's silly and untrue and no, I don't need to read the latest article in ELLE magazine about how much ass I kick as a 21st century gal. I already know I kick a lot of 21st century ass. But I can be an idiotic ass-kicking modern woman, can't I? 

It all comes back to the workplace. I think your true colors come out at work. Because when you're at your place of employment, you are stretched thin and your patience is tested and you're tired and you don't get the recognition you are SO SURE YOU DESERVE and dang flabbit that girl only got that promotion because she's pretty and has huge boobs BLAH BLAH BLAH. The list goes on and on. At every single job I have ever had, I have learned that I can be really, really rude to people and I am so ashamed of this. Sometimes I have a moment where it could bring me to my knees and I lean back and think, "If Jesus were here, right now, standing beside me, would he be proud of his daughter?"

The crazy contradiction of it all is that JESUS ACTUALLY IS RIGHT THERE AND I DON'T THINK HE'D BE VERY PROUD OF ME. 

I deal with a lot of people at my job. It's a people kind of job and I love it and I am so thankful and it is so humbling. It causes me to stand back and really, really think about how I can reflect Christ to the people I meet. I am constantly coming in contact with people from all over the U.S. and all over the world. It is an amazing gift that I can way too easily take for granted. But every so often you meet someone who is just so tender and so sweet and it makes it all worth it. Like today I had a blind gentleman kiss my hand simply because I told him I was Puerto Rican too. He was so happy homeboy KISSED MY HAND, OLD-SCHOOL CHIVALRIC, JIMMY STEWART STYLE. I was so taken aback and so flattered. It wasn't creepy. It wasn't weird. It was so lovely and then I got to walk with him across the street and it just left my heart so full. 

And I realized I can't only be nice to the NICE people. That's easy. Jesus wasn't just nice to his disciples and those who followed him. Jesus didn't even come to be "nice." He came to SAVE. To save real souls, real people, real lives. That is huge and revolutionary. 

I work with people everyday. People with real souls and real hearts. And it's really easy to shrug them off and get annoyed and all of that. But I have to remember that just like God created me in a unique way, God created everyone - He can count the hairs on all of our heads...He knit us together in our mother's WOMB for gosh sakes!!! 

God knows when I'm short and snippy to someone. God knows when I even think short and snippy thoughts. So Lord, this is my prayer: I don't want to think like that anymore. I don't want to think I'm better than anyone because NEWS FLASH 

I'M NOT. 

And you're not either. I don't care if you have a Master's Degree, if you get paid six figures, if you buy your clothes at artsy freaking thrift stores and journal in a moleskin and like only Wes Anderson films - YOU, ME, ALL OF US - we are not better than one another. 

So let's just love each other, mmmk?! That's like such an old-school hippie idea but it's legit. 

Galatians 5:13  For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hi, my names Nina and I'm a hypocrite.

I'm always a little weary to blog late at night because 1. My already non-existent filer is even more non-existent. and 2. I should be sleeping. But sometimes your thoughts race and the hum-buzz of the cars passing by just isn't comforting and you need to just write.

This week has had a theme and that theme isn't really all that nice. The theme of my week was: I'm a hypocrite.

Pretty terrible. HEY AT LEAST I'M ADMITTING IT, RIGHT?

Since I was 16 I have been saying, "I'm a Christian." That word is a loaded word. You say the word "Christian" and it can send people running. It contains hurt and the past and contradictions and traditionalism and cringes. For awhile I did the whole, "I don't like calling myself Christian, I'm a Jesus Follower." Well, yes, of course I follow Jesus but also that means that YES I AM CHRISTIAN. There is no getting around it so I have to embrace it. I don't want to hide from it. I am proud of it. But I also feel so convicted lately about how I've been acting and thinking. Let me play out a scenario for you:

I'm driving with my friend Whitney after work last week. We're making a quick stop so I can pick up sneakers for my softball game and I put on some worship music because I've been extremely stressed and anxious. We're listening to a beautiful song glorifying God and then someone cuts me off and BAM! I yell and honk and freak out and I realize, "Oh my gosh, I'm so stupid."

I am listening to a song that is literally talking about the LOVE of GOD and I'm suffering severe road rage. Now I'm not saying as a Christian I should strive to be perfect. That's idiotic. I'll always fall short of the mark. I'm a human. But it's also like, don't I want to live as close to Jesus as I possibly can? Don't I want to love people the way Jesus loves us and loved those He encountered? I want that. I want that so badly. 

SO WHY IS IT SO FREAKING HARD TO JUST LOVE AND BE PATIENT AND RELAX. If you know me, you know I am the opposite of relaxed. The past few weeks I have been struggling with some pretty bad anxiety--which is saying something since this is the same girl who was afraid of butterflies when she was five. (What little girl is afraid of butterflies? This one. Humiliating). But there is a moment when I just have to sit back and be thankful. Dwelling and worrying and stressing and harping on something won't make it better. Do I not believe one of the most famous bible verses of all time?

Matthew 6:34
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

TRUTH. 

I must learn to get on my knees and give thanks to God in all seasons and all times. It's easy to praise God when things are going great - but to really get down and be truly thankful, even through the rough patches? That is faith. That is real, pure, genuine love for God and faith. I want that. 

I can repeat a thousand times to a thousand people, "I'm a Christian." But it is not enough to merely say the words. I must pray, Holy Spirit, move in me. Jesus, I surrender my heart to you. 

I don't ever want to forget what it was like at Lake Saranac in June of 2006. When I sat beneath the night sky with the miraculous and bright upstate New York stars. When I felt a change inside of me and I knew my life was going to be different. I don't want to forget. When I lay awake at night and feel my heart beating and I feel the nerves start to creep up my neck, my breathing in and out, in and out, I want to remember. I want the peace to flood through my body and I want to feel God's arms wrapping around my frame. I want to feel truth. 

And it's so easy to forget. That's the crazy thing about all of this - it can take so long to build a healthy, real relationship with God and just a second to knock it all down. Especially here in Los Angeles. It's easy to forget I'm fearfully and wonderfully made when I pass storefronts that scream at me to buy this shirt or those pants and that will give me validation somehow. In a place that is obsessed with materialism it's hard to remember that Jesus lived among the poor. We, as human beings, are called to love one another and especially the poor and brokenhearted. How often do I pass a homeless person and my eyes immediately dart away? How often do I become impatient with someone at work because they are talking too slow or aren't understanding what I am trying to get across? How often do I feel jealousy for other women's looks or certain relationships or someone's success? The answer is ALL. THE. TIME. 

But enough is enough. I don't want to live a life of hypocrisy and a life of petty aspirations and simple dreams and greed. I don't want any of that. So I'll start small.

And the next time someone cuts me off on the road, I'll make sure I'm listening to Eminem so I won't feel like a hypocrite when I freak out. KIDDING!!!!!

 I won't curse or yell or freak out. I'll simply take a moment and just let it pass. Let the anger flow away and know that God is doing huge things in the world and I want to be a part of that. I want to be a part of the good and the real and the genuine. Practicing something as simple as not cursing when I get angry driving is the least I can start with. 









Saturday, August 18, 2012

that time I went to Zumba aka when I found my calling

If there's one thing I love to do more than eat and learn about God, it's....


DANCING.

It's in my blood (I'm Puerto Rican for Heaven's sake). I've been dancing since I came out of the womb. I'm pretty sure I did the worm right there in the hospital and the doctors were all look,  "Ooooh girl, you got moves!" And I was all like, "DFJKDA;JFKD;JAF;LDJAL;FJDKFA;JFK I'M A BABY!"


Me, if I was a white boy-baby and looked super fly.

It's not that I just love dancing - it's that I need to. And it's not just me, it's a family thing. Have you ever seen my sister Rebecca dance and pretend she's on that one MTV show that was on like, seven years ago, about all the dancers? How about my other sister Christina booty-shaking?

FACT:

One time when Christina was like, a freshman or sophmore in high school we were all hanging out at a mutual friend's home. There was a huge group of us and we made my LITTLE SISTER who was VERY UNDERAGE put on these tights, turn around and POP HER BOOTY AT A RAPID SPEED. It was amazing and hilarious and highly inappropriate and whenever we bring it up Christina gets super embarrassed, so I'm sure she's thrilled I'm blogging about it. Hey, lil' Teenie Weenie, it's super impressive so WERK EHHHHT.

Because of my passionate love of dancing, the natural path of life led me to a Zumba class a few weeks ago. Naturally I was so excited; I could picture it playing in my head as I walked to the class. I would enter the exercise studio a shy, wide-eyed, woodland creature singing, pixie-dust puking gal:


And like the magnificent metamorphosis of a caterpillar to a butterfly, or from 70s/80s Bruce Jenner to 2012 Bruce Jenner, I would turn into this:



Sexy and toned and somehow being able to pull off blunt bangs, all the while just trying to make it out of my rough neighborhood through my connection to dance, whilst befriending a little boy who I somehow inspire.

It didn't quite work out this way but it didn't quite NOT work out this way??

I get to class and by at least 10 years I'm the youngest. I'm like, "Okay, whatever. Let's do this." There's me and a bunch of middle-aged Hispanic women, a shy looking intern, this white woman who looks like she could kick my butt, and one Hispanic man. I look around at the faces and even though we are a hodgepodge of demographics, it's like we get each other. I can see the glint in their eyes and I know it has to mirror the one in mine; we're in this together and we're going to stay together because DAMMIT THAT'S WHAT SOLDIERS DO IN WAR.

The teacher bounces in and she's already super cool. She has a super cool haircut and a supercool purse and she's probably the super cool age of 28. She just looks so toned and care-free you know? Like I bet she buys her yoga pants from Victoria's Secret and has a buff boyfriend with gelled hair. 

"How you guys doing?!" She asks enthusiastically. "You ready to work up a sweat?"

"YEAH!" We all shout in unison, fist-pumping into the air at the exact same time. 

LIES.

There's a collective mumble of "Yes" before she tells us to take our spots. I choose a lovely little corner where no one from the outside world can spot me in case I'm a lot less Jessica Alba and a lot more Elaine:



I feel pretty confident in myself because hey, I'm a good dancer. And then....we begin.

First of all, our teacher is like, super good at sexy dancing which not only makes me uncomfortable but a little jealous? I'm like HOW DO YOU LOOK SO GOOD WHEN YOU ARE SWEATING SO MUCH AND HOW IS YOUR HAIR NOT FRIZZING LIKE MINE?

See, this is one of the top cruelties of the world. Women who look beautiful while they work out. It's not fair that they look like this:


While I look like this:


Homie. What's wrong with us?

The soundtrack to this Zumba class is a lot of salsa and a lot of Pitbull. I've been to several more Zumba classes since this epic first one and I have to tell you, Zumba really loves Pitbull. It's like they have a connection together; take a horrible rapper and stick him with some Salsa music and BAM! It'll really make you want to move and feel great.

The whole entire class my teacher is getting progressively more enthusiastic and it's actually beginning to rub off on the class. I look at the people next to me - the ladies shaking their hips in strange gyrating motions, the shy intern who for a brief pause in the universe gets to rise out of her responsible shell and shimmy a shimmy to rival that of Shakira, the lone man in the back who despite all odds isn't creepy at all but really, quite sweet and jovial.

These are my people, I think to myself as I twirl around in what is supposed to be a Beyonce move but looks more like I'm cracked out on something. This is where I belong.

Sure we're a sweaty mess of uncoordinated bodies just trying to find our niche, but somehow there is a community in that. A camaraderie of dance lovers that meet for an hour every week. And it's awesome and fleeting and calorie burning. 

So thanks Zumba. I await the day our paths cross next. 
















Thursday, August 9, 2012

things i wish they actually taught us in college

Most of us paid a lot of money to get our education. Or, let me rephrase that, most of us are in a lot of DEBT because we got an education. I know I'm not the only one who cringes and pukes a little in my mouth whenever I see an email in my inbox from the dreaded "Sallie Mae." Ugh, I hate her, she's the worst.

College is expensive, awesome, and goes by really fast. Now that I'm an actual "adult" living an "adult life" (by "adult" I mean I now get angry at gas prices and by "adult life" I mean no one is yelling at me to clean my room) there are a few skill sets I wish NYU would have taught me. Sure, I learned how to smell a pretend coffee cup and write pointless essays on pretentious topics like, "How To View A Piece of Art In The Non- Admire Me Way Because It's Unfair To The Piece of Art."*

*=actual paper Chanelle wrote. WHAT THE HELL NYU?

Anyway, here are some practical things I wish college would have taught me. Not that I didn't appreciate learning how to view art or going to an exotic cabaret the first week of college, but really, these things could have helped.

WHAT VITAMINS TO TAKE 

I want to start taking vitamins. I feel like, okay, I'm 23 now. Been 23 for a few days. It's time to buckle down and swallow a few fish oils or some omegas or whatever the world that would be. But have you ever walked down the vitamin aisle in Trader Joes? Have you ever even GLANCED in a vitamin shop? 


Exactly. SHEER FEAR! I get anxiety just thinking about it. I can feel my palms sweating and my heart racing and then it's like, it's probably healthier for me to not even take vitamins because I'm stressing out just thinking about the process of buying them. Do I want vitamins to help my hair get all glossy? Or to make my bones strong? Or to have thick eyelashes while my skin clears up and have strong fingernails? IT'S ALL JUST SO MUCH TO HANDLE! How do I even know? Is there a "Taking vitamins for dummies" handbook someone can send me? 

HOW TO PUT A BIKE ON THE FRONT OF A BUS

This stresses me out and I don't even have a bike! I feel like it's one of those things where everyone just knows it somehow, until it's your turn for the first time and you look like an idiot. Like, what if I GOT a bike? What if I needed to put it on the bike rack in front of a bus? Sure, logically you think it's pretty easy, but then you have like 40 impatient people on the bus glaring at you, the traffic of Santa Monica Blvd and your fingers start to tremble and all of a sudden you don't even know how to think. 

COME ON! There should be an entire course in college on how to adequately take public transportation in cities where it sucks. NYU would be great at that. Public trans was perfection in NYC, but stick me in Los Angeles and I turn from this:


Yoda and Einstein mixed from the amount of wisdom and knowledge I once possessed....

to this:


Exactly. No one knows. Everyone's confused and a little grossed out. 

HOW TO AVOID DOING LAUNDRY AS LONG AS POSSIBLE 

I've gotten really, really good at this one. The single worst struggle of a post-college, "adult life" is the warfare against my laundry. It haunts me, with its piles and piles of glaring socks and jeans and blouses. I avoid it at all costs. Luckily, even without a college course on how to avoid doing laundry for as long as possible, I've picked up a few tricks. You know, real world experience that all employers seem to want on a resume anyways. Here are a few tips for avoiding your laundry.

-Bikini underwear. Do I need to explain it? Have a few bikini bottoms lying around? They can at least hold you over for a day until you decide to do the dreaded laundry. For those of you glaring at me, get over yourselves and try it. It'll change ya world.



this dude definitely hasn't done laundry in awhile
-Retro style is in anyway, right? See that T-shirt that says "DUDE!" across the front you thought was only popular in the 90s? LIES LITTLE MINION. It's popular now too! Especially when it's the only thing in your dresser. Throw an ironic cardigan right over that bad boy, an old pair of converse, some thick glasses and BAM! Silver Lake will welcome you into their neighborhood with open arms.
HOW TO DEAL WITH ANXIETY

Hi, my name's Nina and I suffer from MAJOR ANXIETY. Everything makes me anxious. A new bruise, thunderstorms, driving through small spaces, working out, doing my hair...You name it, I stress about it. Adorable, right? Why couldn't there have been a course about helping you deal with anxiety? I would have gladly spent all of my time in college learning how to CHILL THE HELL OUT. Then I could have turned from this:

to this:


My dream. My life. Ahhh.

HOW TO DATE WITHOUT SEEMING OVERLY AVAILABLE BUT NOT TOO CLOSED OFF EITHER

Ugh, dating. Gross, right? After college it's like all of a sudden all of your friends just want to go out for "drinks" and "date." Dating is like both the worst and best thing in the world. But how do you date without sticking a sign on your forehead when you're out at a bar or a comedy show or just walking down the street that says "Hey FELLAS! I'm totally emotionally available but I won't obssesively text you and hey, I'm down to cuddle and go on hikes."

Right? It's difficult. That's why in college it would have been great to learn how to properly date in the real world. In college it's seemingly easy. (Unless you went to NYU where there's like 5 straight guys and impossible to date if you are a straight female). But you're always around other people your age and it's just easier to meet people. Stick a person in a city like LA? Suddenly every episode of Criminal Minds is playing over in my head and I'm like, WHO CAN I TRUST YA BIG LUGS. Stress, amiright?!

* * *

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

eucharisteo always precedes the miracle

When I sit down and think about it, I am an ungrateful person. 

I sit in traffic in my car and I think angry thoughts about the person driving like an idiot in front of me. (In my defense, Los Angeles is full of idiotic drivers......and I happen to be one....UGH the lack of fairness in road rage).

I walk around at work or I go for a run and I am filled with jealousy when I pass a beautiful woman. I look at her and compare and immediately put myself down.

I sit in my apartment and I wish I lived in a nicer one.

I wish I looked different,

I wish I was funnier

and smarter

and prettier

and richer

and more successful

and all of this leads to nowhere. 

It's so "in" right now to be sarcastic, bitter, "above it all." Sometimes I don't care. Sometimes I am overwhelmed with such gratitude for the breath in my lungs and my life that everything just fits perfectly together in a sense of wonderment. 

You might be reading this and thinking "Ew, Nina, ya cheesy girl ya freakin' cheesehead." But I don't care. My birthday was two days ago and as I woke up I was so thankful for another year in my life. It can be so overwhelming living far from home and living in a city like Los Angeles. Sometimes in the middle of my day I have this moment where I pull back and think, "WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING."

Why did I turn down graduate school?

Why am I living so far from so many people I love?

Why am I pursuing such an unstable career?

It is so easy to sit back and glamorize a different life, a life of security and comfort and all that stuff that is so appealing. But all I could think about this birthday was how unbelievably grateful I am.

Somehow, miraculously, God led me to Los Angeles and He led me to certain people who have blessed me beyond belief here. On my birthday as I sat around a dinner table filled with women who have been so wonderful to me, I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed! As I served at church in the morning I thought about Reality LA. I thought about when Chanelle and I first moved here and we knew NO ONE and we sat in the back of the church just praying praying praying for direction. For guidance. For an apartment, for a car, for jobs. We had nothing but a suitcase each, God and each other. 

And then it's like, I got to celebrate my 23rd birthday here. WHAT?! WHY? How awesome is THAT?!!! I am just so grateful and Lord, I never want to stop being grateful.

I am reading this book called, "One Thousand Gifts." It is a book that has encouraged my mom and sisters a lot. In it the author talks about how the "eucharisteo always precedes the miracle." When I first heard this I had no idea what it even meant, and then I kept reading. And it made sense.

Giving thanks is what we constantly need to do. I don't give thanks ENOUGH. I think I am constantly entitled to happiness and success and health but I am not entitled to anything in this world. This world isn't even forever, so why do I stress about everything all the time? I need to get on my knees and PRAISE HIM. Praise and give thanks because what else can I do, really? How beautiful of a life it is to just live and love? The way Christ loves us. That is it, really. 

So this birthday and this day and tomorrow and forever I am thankful.