Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Days 28 - 31 (July 6 - 9, 2011) ... These parts of Me ...

I seem to be failing miserably at being able to upload my entries on a daily basis. As such, I've decided to give in and take my entries from daily to weekly. Given the amount of free time and resources I actually have right now, I think it would be much more manageable. However, I'm still going to continue taking a photo a day and using them to illustrate my entries - which was my main objective to begin with. That's why I'm not going to change my project name - it will continue to be a 365 reflection of beauty in my world.

With that... my entry for the second half of the week of July 6th -

When I was at UCLA, I wrote for the Latino newspaper, La Gente de Aztlan. As part of our training, our media adviser gave us the duty of creating a newspaper that reflected who we were.

My end product looked more like a zine constructed in a garage rather than a newspaper. Images pasted together, headlines and pull-out quotes masquerading as ransom notes. My adviser liked the idea. I did too, but I still felt a little apprehensive of my collaged personality.

When I was in High School, I found myself hanging out with a group of students who were of mixed cultural backgrounds. I really enjoyed their company and our discussions that we'd have in the student garden. On one of those days in the garden, one of the males in the group (admittingly, one I had a crush on) turned to me and said "you're amazingly beautiful." It caught me off guard and I blushed, it was an incredible feeling to hear that. Then I came to a point where I felt I wanted to fill the part of me that had a passionate connection to my own culture. I was and still am proud of my family's heritage and history and it's something I had always enjoyed reading about. I connected with a Latino group on campus and went to one of their meetings during lunch. That same day, the "friend" who had, just weeks before, told me how amazingly beautiful I was saw me walking out of the meeting space and approached me to declare "I didn't think you were like that, like one of THEM."

I assume he meant like a person who was a "separatist," as they would often describe some of the cultural groups on campus. I say assume because they didn't speak to me after that day. It was hurtful. I let one of my many pieces come out and suddenly I was an ugly person to them.

I still feel fragmented, made up of pieces haphazardly pieced together and bound by reused tape and clamps. The things I enjoy are varied, the things I'm passionate about spray themselves across a spectrum of personalities. Some people would say eclectic, others would say indecisive, but I no longer think ugly.

The photos above were taken in my apartment, which houses many of my various interests and personality ...errr... traits. I threw in an obscure picture of myself as well, a sort of representation of how I often portray myself in the "real world."

I'm often told "you don't talk much" or "you seem very complex" when I'm sitting at a table full of talkative people. I usually agree and smile. Well, it's not that I'm very quiet, nor that I'm complex. I'm just a bit of everything so showing nothing is sometimes easier for people to understand or accept.

But, this is who I am. I'm constructed of various parts of the world that have been somehow cemented into my being like a strange piece of folk art. I could probably stand in between the Watts Towers and be akin to the giant structures.

As I've gotten older, I've come to accept and embrace the many pieces of me. The top photo, I feel, is very representative of me. I had decided to paint my model doll one day, and couldn't decide what color to paint it nor what face to give it. So I took each "limb" and painted everything that came to mind. If you'd ever want to see me naked - well, there I am. In all exestentialchicanasurrealistnerdgeekglamopunkrockartsyfartsypoorkidtechnofileguerrilla glory.

And it feels fine.

Friday, July 8, 2011

365Beautiful .... Day 27... (July 5, 2011) BRAIIIIINS

It's the first day of summer programming at one of our sites, and this site in particular takes a bit more work than our other site. Mainly because there are more logistical pieces to it involved, including estimating students, lunch costs, numbers of canned corn to buy and evening out the amount of weiners to bun per pack ratio - which is always very puzzling. 

I've been the director of this youth program for two and a half years and I find it very satisfying. I enjoy putting pieces together and creating new things. This position has allowed me to do so and allows me to continue to do so - despite how tired I may feel. 

I was sitting at my desk today, with two pencils in my hair, a calculator on my desk and stacks and stacks of papers on either side of me when my back started to hurt... a lot. 

I sat back and looked around and realized just how immersed I was in my work. But I was figuring things out, numbers, pounds, averages, percentages, probabilities. 

God... I hate math. 

I really do. 

But there I was, doing it all on my own. 

My brain must have been smoking at this point and maybe working a bit on the delusional side because I sat there for a good five minutes with a satisfied smile on my face thinking "gah-dang I have a big brain" 

Ah yes, I may be clumsy and forgetful, but I can crunch the fraction out of the cost of a food program for 160 kids.

Hey Lu, you got a big, juicy, beautiful brain. 

365Beautiful, Day 26... (July 4, 2011) ... Boom! Boom! Boom!

I will admit, I'm not a very patriotic person. I lean to the left in my political and social views and I frankly don't care for the corruption and torture this country has historically spread throughout the world.

But, it's fourth of July ... and fireworks have to be lit.

(Legal notice: the fireworks in the photo are coming from a few blocks away, NOT my parent's front yard.)

My family may, or may have not, lit fireworks on the fourth of July. My nieces and nephew may, or may have not sat in lawn chairs and let out little screams of excitement when colorful sparks flew across the sky.

But we were together, and we did enjoy each other's company.

When I got to my brother's house, my family was all there drying off from a day-long swimming session in the pool. The BBQs were just cooling down and beers were almost all consumed. Despite all of that, as soon as I walked in, my sister jumped up and ordered burgers to be thrown on the grill. My nephew took over this assignment and I was told to sit down.

My mom looked at me and said "don't say that we don't love you."

Jokingly I said "Javier (my nephew) loves me."

She rolled her eyes and told me to "shattap."

Somewhere in between, my oldest brother and I got into some random argument (about cell phones I believe) which is what we typically do when we're in a room together. Argue about something I think is right and he thinks is wrong. Well, to say they're arguments is a little misleading. It's more of a one-liner ping-pong game:

"I don't believe it!"
"It's true"
"Get out of here!"
"Believe what you will"
"Faking Bullchet!"
(My brother usually does the cursing.)

It's more amusing than frustrating, really.

Later, we strolled to the front yard to watch the "uncertified" firework show in Pacoima. As the fireworks went up, I told my nephew stories of when we were kids and how my dad used to build contraptions similar to the ones used in Mexico to hold fireworks. He asked if they had always been illegal and I explained that it wasn't too long ago that they outlawed the firey suckers.

They sky kept going BOOM BOOM BOOM, for two or three hours straight. Everyone was smiling, happy, enjoying the night. Everything negative I felt the week before was being burned away.

I felt content. Everything in my little world was right for the night. If I could only hold on to this feeling...

(feel free to insert Journey jokes now.)

365Beautiful, Day 25 ... (July 3, 2011) ... One in front of the other..

I wish I could have taken some sort of collage-y photo with one foot in one city and the other in another city, but alas, I do not have the equipment to be able to do so. 

So you will all have to stare at a photo of my crazy feet. 

I went to do laundry at my parent's house today. I moved out roughly two years ago now and I've been managing well on my own so far, despite my mom's belief that I might burn down the apartment or some 7ft tall Frankenstein type would be waiting for me at my door every night. 

I moved into a small duplex in Mt. Washington (near Highland Park) and I can't say I regret the move. I feel it's actually made me a better person.

Moving out of my house was an incredibly big deal. My parents are extremely traditional and follow the belief that children should live at home up until they get married. Even then, they should still return home as much as possible. 

We followed this rule pretty well, until it I was the last one standing. 

Now, I love and cherish my parents and am grateful for everything they've done for me... but they were driving me nuts. I felt my relationship with them tearing apart. I hated the way I felt and I didn't want to blame them for it, but tongue just couldn't stay dull toward them. 

I was 30 years old, having completed my B.A., with a pretty good career path and enrolled in a Master's Program and yet, I felt I was not growing. Well, perhaps I was, but I was growing in this strange diagonal direction downward. I was single, not looking to be married anytime soon, not looking to be in any type of serious relationship because I had school on the mind all the time, and I just knew... I would be feeling this for a very long time if I didn't make the move. 

I had planned my move for over a year.

Yes, I spent over a year rehearsing my speech, researching apartments, rehearsing my speech some more, practicing sprinting, dodging and blocking until I finally got the steal nerve to sign the lease on my apartment. 

Then I sat in my parents living room and solemnly said "I have something to tell you..."

I can imagine the multitude of things my parents were thinking, and based on their reaction... moving out was not one of them. 

They were devastated, but accepting. My dad very matter-of-factly said to me "we don't want you to leave, but we also don't want you to be unhappy. Your happiness is more important to us."

So I packed up my things and moved. 

I know my mom still worries about me, as I worry about her, but I also know that she's a lot more understanding of who I am. Now when I go over and see them, I know that I can sit and have a meaningful conversation with her and my dad about anything, without the ugly feeling of resentment and suffocation creeping up on me.

I'm so happy. I'm so happy to be able to write this all down and look at my apartment and look at my home and say, this is where I am, that's where I was... this is where I live, that's where my heart is... 

This is my right foot, this is my left... and everyday I can put one foot in front of the other and... go. 

365Beautiful Days 17 - 24 ... (June 25 - July 2, 2011) EXHALE....

I know this may seem like a bit of cheating on the whole 365 posts concept, but the truth is that this was a bit of a tough week. 

I had written about 3 entries for the week and thought of going back and filling in the other missing days with things I remembered, but it was all a bit muddled. So I decided to write one entire entry for these 7 days, as I've been reflecting a lot on what's happened. 

As much as I try to focus on everything that is positive in my life and in the world (the whole reason for me taking on this task), I still find myself battling with dark feelings of loneliness, uncertainty and sadness. 

I spent this week doing a lot of reflecting on myself, who I am, who I want to be and how I've gotten where I am. I feel I've spent a good portion of my life trying to please others or live up to expectations I felt others had of me. 

FELT... they had of me. 

I can't seem to pinpoint how I began to do this to myself, to piece together what people thought of me and assign those assumptions to expectations for me. 

I should be smarter. 
I should be prettier. 
I should be more talented. 
I should be wittier. 
I should be more clever. 
I should be, I should be, I should be...

But what am I? 

Well... I'm not perfect. I know this. 

I've beat myself up many times for just not being "that." I'm not that. Why am I not that? 


The end of this week was a bit tough for me. I experienced a bit of tension and confusion. Every time this happens I pull into my shell and mull over every single detail that just happened. Then I think of what I should have done or said. What I should do next. What holes to re-patch. 

Neurotic. Maybe. 

However, on Saturday (July 2nd) afternoon, I sat on my couch watching television and finally exhaled. Perhaps this is all, everything, getting easier with time. Perhaps. 

People who meet me for the first time often tell me I'm extremely quiet. It's true, I am. I am because I like to observe people around me, what they say, how they move, how they laugh and if their eyes match their actions. As a result of doing this for years on end, I've come to become a pretty good judge of character. That's not to say that I'll judge your actions or cut friendships because of faults.... but that I understand. 

I get it. 

I get me too. Somewhat. I'm getting there. 

Every time I exhale after some crazy sort of tea-cup ride spin in my life, I know I'll get it a little bit more. 

365Beautiful Day 16... June 24, 2011 ... Bugs!

The kindergarten kids from the program went on a field trip today and I acted as driver and chaperone, which I always really enjoy doing because it takes me away from my desk. Their destination was the Kidspace Museum in Pasadena and neither they, nor I, really knew what to expect. The central building of the museum housed an intricate climb and slide play area where the kids could pretend that they were ants.


I remembered the multitude of times I squatted in front of an ant hill in the summer and watched those tiny soldiers march in and out of their tiny hilled home. No, I wasn’t a torturous child, I would watch them in awe and wonder just what they were thinking, doing, what the inside of their little home looked like. I wondered if they young ants played and were scolded by their mother and if the older ants felt tired at the end of the day.

I walked around the building taking in all of the other exploration centers that were set up for the kids and found myself inside of a tiny bug zoo. The outside looked like a rock cave with a floor that felt like dense sand. Inside there were a series of glass cases arrange in a circle with a bright black light above them. Most of the bugs were hiding under sticks and rocks, except for the stink bug pictured above. I squatted there for a bit, just like I did when I was a kid and stared at it. It seemed to be frozen in time, it’s abdomen raised to the sky and head charging forward. I’m not exactly sure, but I think it may have been staring me in the eye. For just a few seconds it was me, 5’9”, two arms, two legs, four eyes (I was wearing my glasses) and this stink bug, 2” long, six legs, having a staring contest. 

Then I realized that there was a thick pane of glass sitting between us and perhaps it wasn't a staring contest that we were having, but a silent conversation. 

"How could you do this to me? Why won't you set me free." 

It occurred to me just then how awful and pretentious we humans can be. We go around and collect these living things that are not like us and put them in glass boxes and cages where sticky-fingered children bang on their new home hour after hour. 

I realize that I set up this blog to talk about all of things I find beautiful in myself and the world around me, and what I've just said sounds a bit... bleak. No worries, I'm getting there. 

So I squatted there, like I used to when I was a kid, and stared at this stink bug who at some point in his (or her) life was running under some fallen leaf, gathering food for sustenance when it was suddenly plucked from it's only known existence. 

How easily we go through life and forget that everything around us, outside of us is alive. Trees, birds, spiders and insects and everything else we may run and scream from. We get engulfed in our credit cards and 3D movies, internet connections and dating services. We not only don't make time to stop and smell the flowers, but we don't take a second to realize the world we're living in. 

I used to think I was a bit nuts for saying hello to birds and spiders, perhaps some people think I am. I really don't mind that opinion though, I'm happy to be able to disconnect from my social existence to say hello to my instinctive world. It's a beautiful world under those rocks and leaves. 

Not too soon into my telepathic conversation with this stink bug, two little girls ran into the cave-zoo. I smiled at them and said "say hi to Roger." They looked at me puzzled and asked how I knew that, since it didn't say it anywhere. 

"He told me!" I said, and happily bounced out. 

(post data: I haven't killed a spider since this day.)